Category Archives: Memoir Project

My Northwest Body

Will loved hiking and playing outdoors. We talked about his hopes for a trip to the northwest. He imagined me as his Mom cooking him meals and taking him to places that are special to me on the Olympic peninsula.

No one’s Story is Finished ~Rachel Naomi Remen

The northwest is home. I feel her dampness in my bones. Rain cleanses and heals as I focus on each present moment.

My Rainshadow Body

…is no longer afraid of the Boogie man, running home breathlessly in the dark.

…climbs trees and over fences, loves dogs and horses.

Will © Mary Alice Long

My Animal Body

…is also a red-tailed hawk, raven, sparrow, robin.

…a black-tail deer, Roosevelt elk, harbor seal, orca, sea otter, Olympic marmot.

My Tree Body

…is Douglas and subalpine fir, salal, cedar.

…is boundless and has clear boundaries

…is a dreamer.

Rooted Map © Mary Alice Long

Olympic Peninsula

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Each moment that I bend down to lightly touch a wildflower on the meadow’s edge, look up and notice the clouds drifting between the mountain peaks, or listen to understand Raven’s call brings me happiness. It’s all I need. No more.

Each moment that I…take a photo of subalpine fir tree roots, dig my toes into the sand following a storm, witness a doe leading her newly born twin fawns into the woods, sit by a pond and wait as witness to the unfolding I am remembering.

Each moment I am. The soulfulness of playing. Help me remember.
Rooted Map 2 © Mary Alice Long
Hurricane Ridge Spreading Phlox © Mary Alice Long

Practicing playing in the everyday is not difficult. Do you take your thoughts seriously? We all do. Hold those serious thoughts of yours with a light touch and bring yourself back to each precious moment.

What [moment] is it?” asked Pooh. “It’s this [playful moment],” squeaked Piglet. “My favourite [moment],” said Pooh.

in Gratitude to A A Milne

Want some help in how to embrace everyday moments in your life?

Mary Alice Long, PhD is a play-based, depth-oriented coach, writer, and artist who practices and teaches the ‘Art of Playing in the Everyday’.

Our Playful Impulse is to Create

When inspiration wakes me and the impulse to create is present its best for me to ‘get on with it’ and move into the playful impulse to create.

My usual practice when I wake up in the middle of the night and remember a dream is to write it down in my journal. When I go back to sleep without recording my dream I often lose the threads of my dream story and landscape and as a result I am unable to play with my dream gift later on during my waking hours.

Over the years I have created play lists of what I want to try on in my life and have written hundreds and hundreds of pages long-hand in my journals. These journals fill my bookshelves and drawers. My computer’s backup drive has many files stored there with writing and projects that I have yet to share.

Do you come up with creative ideas that don’t see the light of day? or How do you take action so that your creative ideas can be shared with others?

Play is the portal to creativity. When we honor our playful impulse to create we are honoring our playful, creative Self.

Listen to The Art of Playing in the Everyday Part 7: Our Playful Impulse to Create:

Want to learn more or work with me as a mentor and creative coach? I’d love to talk with you!

Sign-up for ‘Play Notes‘, our bi-weekly newsletter and receive a free downloadable copy of  ‘The Art of Playing in the Everyday’ e-book.

Please leave a comment following this post/podcast or post a comment on the Play=Peace Facebook page.

Its Summer: A Playful Season of Celebration and Transformation

Its Summer!

Are you feeling confidence and feel a new sense of clarity in every cell of your body?

I hope so. Life follows you wherever you are and in whatever season of change you find ourself. Challenges and difficulties may still be with you. What can you do?

Can you feel abundant while still facing life changes (illness, death in the family, divorce, sudden change,…)?

I believe you can…

Like many of you, in my personal life there are many challenges and at the same time a feeling of great abundance and gratitude.

I am recovering as a woman who gave her Soul away as the result of a core experience. I reclaimed my Soul through the depth-oriented, play-based work of listening to my dreams and taking playful action in response to dream guidance, journaling, the wisdom of nature, PLAYING * CREATING * BECOMING… and yet, as my life story unfolds there are many unanswered questions. Awe, yes, the questions!

There are many ‘ways to play’ and celebrate the everyday moments of your life this summer. Gardening, playing outdoors by hiking, camping, walking in your neighborhood; traveling to new locales or visiting towns or natural settings nearby your home, attending community festivals, parades, outdoor concerts and other community gatherings. Depending on your location you may want to spend time outdoors during the morning hours when it is cooler. Self-care remains important. Journaling or art-making while sitting on your patio or at a picnic table at the park can be relaxing and bring you new insight during this season of change and transformation.

Enjoy your summer and allow time for the ripening of who you are becoming.

Listen to Summer is a Season of Play and Celebration:

Want to learn more or work with me as a mentor and creative coach? I’d love to talk with you!

Sign-up for ‘Play Notes‘, our bi-weekly newsletter and receive a free downloadable copy of  ‘The Art of Playing in the Everyday’ e-book.

Please leave a comment following this post/podcast or post a comment on the Play=Peace Facebook page.

Grief Has No Time Table: Patterns of Remembering & Awakening

When I wrote this post in 2016 I hadn’t yet recognized that the patterns in my dreams were giving me a ‘heads up!’  letting me know that my surrogate son would be calling in the new year!

Resource: Uma Girish interviewed me recently as part of her ‘Grammar of Grief’ series. I invite you to listen to our interview.

June 24, 2016 Dream:

GUIDELINES TO HELP ME PASS THROUGH A DOOR TO MY MEMORY

I’m in an Alzheimer’s facility. My sister, Patty, is standing beside me. She is a tall, big woman (my sister in waking life looks very different from this dream figure representing my sister, shadow). I’m wondering when Michael is going to come visit me at the Alzheimer’s facility. A female staff member is ready to go home. It is just about 6pm. As she prepares to leave she grabs her black purse and slings it over her left shoulder. I talk with her briefly about whether I can walk outside. I don’t know the rules or guidelines yet.

The words that call me are:

  • separated from Michael
  • what are the guidelines
  • passing through the door to the outside
  • standing beside me
  • ready to go home

Credit- Gary Hamburgh
Elwah

Credit- Gary Hamburgh

I received my dream after asking for dream guidance. My dream stays with me and is helping me to re-member the importance of what is just outside my door, through the portal:

IMG_2981
Hurricane Ridge Road

July 3, 2016 Dream

RETURNING TO GET WHAT I NEED 

I’m walking down a paved urban sidewalk. I see three yellow school buses coming my way up the hill. Looks like I will miss the bus because everything I need is at home. I jay walk across the busy street (while being careful not to be hit) and make my way back to the right side. Looks like I will have to drive to school after I retrieve what I need at home. 

Memoir & Ambiguous Loss 

I won’t see him again or I may

Pauline Boss is an expert in ambiguous loss. She works with people following events like 911, Japan’s Tsunami, and other life changing losses like divorce and adoption,  In her On Being interview with Krista Tippett, The Myth of Closure, Pauline says:

  • there is no such thing as closure
  • the media does great harm to people when they write or talk about closure
  • grief has no timetable

Pauline also talks about how people cope when there is no funeral to go to or a place to visit after the death of a loved one. [someone is missing but may be found, a child is adopted and the birthmother may see him again].

It helps to be able to say:

I won’t see him again or I may

Everyone of us has experienced losses that are a part of the fiber of our being.

Carl Jung wrote about the tension of the opposites

When you can say, “I won’t see him (her) again but I may”, and hold that tension you can unite the two in a creative, transformative way.

Inconsolable Grief

When I started writing this post in 2016 I hadn’t yet seen the patterns in my dreams calling me home.

Patterns that I recognize about how I am developing. Who I am Becoming.

Home is where I write and re-member my own inconsolable grief. My own sense of loss following the adoption of my surrogate son.

Home is the Olympic Peninsula. The place where I want my ashes scattered. Where I want my children and grandchildren to remember their Mom and Nana.

Home is where my dreams reside and I re-member what I am called to BECOME.


Thank you for showing up and being here. I’d love to hear from you. I never know where my writing will take me when I begin any one post. The big ‘C’ words, closure and completion, have been replaced with focus and freedom.

Some questions to consider. I’ll be standing right beside you as we consider these questions together…

  • Are their patterns that you have found through your journaling, understanding of your movement styles, dreams, or through your relationship with nature that you recognize as helpful guides in your development?
  • Is closure possible after the loss of a loved one who you will not see again? or after the loss of a marriage or adoption of a child?
  • Does our ability to bring closure affect our ability to play and create?
  • What happens when something loss is found? How does that change who you are becoming?

Want to learn more or work with me as a mentor and creative coach? I’d love to talk with you!

Sign-up for ‘Play Notes‘, our bi-weekly newsletter and receive a free downloadable copy of  ‘The Art of Playing in the Everyday’ e-book.

Please leave a comment following this post/podcast or post a comment on the Play=Peace Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Go Create.

This is for us who sing, write, dance, act, study, run and love

and this is for doing it even if no one will ever know

because the beauty is in the act of doing it.

Not what it can lead to.

This is for the times I lose myself while writing, singing, playing
and no one is around and they will never know
but I will forever remember
and that shines brighter than any praise or fame or glory I will ever have,

My body remembers what it feels like to write in flow….in my play studio or outdoors sitting on a log in the forest or on the beach. While writing I am also having a conversation with my playful, creative Self about the joy I am feeling. In the past I would tense when I realized my Friend was slipping away. Now I know that She will return to offer me more moments of joy as a writer.

I remember dancing solo in the middle of a group of dancers on a studio floor. Suddenly I felt the sensation that I was free!  I traveled to destinations I had never visited before. My movements were effortless. 

I remember leading a group ritual and a young woman in the group called out for us to move to the deck facing west to watch the sunset. I walked out on the deck with others in the group and I started to sing…effortlessly my voice raised itself in what was to me a melodious sound filled with light energy.

I remember painting with watercolors just after my breast cancer treatment. The colors I choose and the images that form are not prescribed but come out of the moment of inspiration and reflection. 

This is for you who write or play or read or sing
by yourself with the light off and door closed
when the world is asleep and the stars are aligned
and maybe no one will ever hear it
or read your words
or know your thoughts
but it doesn’t make it less glorious.
It makes it ethereal. Mysterious.
Infinite.

I am remembering Rumi’s,

Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.

Writing in the evening, hmmm?  I am a morning person. I love the quiet of the morning which offers me an opportunity to begin my day slowly, reflectively. I walk up the stairs to my play studio in our 100- year-old home and I close the door. In the morning or evenings often I can see the stars or the moon rising from behind a cedar tree or playing peek-a-boo with drifts of clouds. When I sit down to write sometimes I sit in my rocker and sometimes at my desk in front of my laptop. My words tumble out using pen or my fingers to tap on the keyboard. As a writer I am checking in with my morning and evening body and e-motion-al rhythms. I write when I am feeling playful or depressed, tearful; resistant or receptive. 

For it belongs to you and whatever God or spirit you believe in
and only you can decide how much it meant
and means
and will forever mean
and other people will experience it too
through you.
Through your spirit. Through the way you talk.
Through the way you walk and love and laugh and care

When I write, dance, paint, share stories, play the fiddle as a beginner, lead a workshop, perform, learn something new, deal with a prickly issue, face my dragons…I am practicing ‘the art of playing in the everyday’. In my world view, everything can be playful. Play and Creativity go together. Can’t have one without the other. 

So go create.

Write, paint, sing, make something, relate, improvise, share stories, innovate, problem solve, re-search, and choose to act in ways that lead to meaningful change.

Be You, Love You

When I overdo things I find that at some point I have to back track and re-group.

My home pattern energetically is Swing and I love diversity and playing with interdisciplinary ideas. I fully embrace my propensity for multiplicity and my very human need for nurturing.

Nurturing Self

Years of struggle, dips, and turns have led me to the realization that I can rely on my ability to nurture myself, to give myself what I need.

I spent the last week with 3 of my 5 grandchildren–Chase & Jenny (7) and Bailey (2). I love them dearly and we have great fun playing together. In fact, they are my play mentors!

Our days were busy with trips to school and daycare, meals, homework, and playing outdoors at the park. While the kids were at school and after they went to bed for the night I dove into my work–writing, planning, and creating. I am super excited about Flora Bowley’s ‘Creative Revolution’ e-Course and I brought along my memoir’s edited manuscript, a few books to read, and a huge DESIRE TO CREATE.

Today I have a runny, stuffy nose and achy body. I am staying home knowing that my body is calling me to slow down and rest following an intensive week. I realized during the week spent at my daughter’s that I was feeling frustrated. My creative muse is calling and I want play with the creative exercises, paint, try out some new art materials, meditate, dance, listen to some great music ++ I am committed to completing my memoir and sending a book proposal off to a publisher and literary agent.

Whew!

During the week I was aware of two strong feelings:

  1. This time with my grandchildren is precious.
  2. I want to spend time creating.

Push & Pull

So today I am nurturing my body, spirit, soul, heart. All of me.

I’m writing and playing with paint.

I’m musing and exploring passages from books that call me to open them.

What about you? How are you nurturing your writer? your artist?

What is your creative muse saying to you?

What one thing do you need today?

Write Badly

I am drawn to writers and artists with imperfect styles and quirky combinations of form.

My memoir is not written in a linear fashion. Instead, it is a juxtaposition of story, letters, and dreams.

I have any number of books in my library that I love because I can start on any page and dive right in at that point without skipping a beat.

I’m really having fun with this!

Playing with writing tools and materials…a variety pens, pencils, notebooks, journals. Watercolor paper…watercolor paper of different sizes or canvases to write on and then add paint, oil pastels. Trying out new materials that I have never or infrequently used–like using a feather or a stick from the beach or woods to paint words on a canvas…well, I have all the permission in the world (my own!) to go wild and just play for play’s sake!

I’ve started to intentionally try to write badly….to let colors run together. Lets see–what colors am I drawn as I sit looking at a palette of watercolor or acrylic paints. Who says this color goes with that.

Who says that prose needs to be written this way and poetry doesn’t include long sentences that run together??

I remember…attending a weekend poetry workshop a number of years ago. The poet leading the workshop brought along her publication filled with her poetry. She used her poetry as the model for how we should all write poetry. When I talked to her individually about my poetics at the time she said, “oh, this is lyrical.”  [I took her statement “oh, this is lyrical” as a HUGE CRITICISM and stopped writing poetry for a while.]

Now I intentionally write bad poetry. My own unique form of poetics. I still attend poetry workshops from time to time. The difference between now and when I was told, “oh, this is lyrical” is that I enjoy my style, sharing my unique voice, and I have learned that ‘not all criticisms are worth being listened to and acted on.’

I have a lot to learn about bad writing, moving counter to the music, or letting colors run together as I paint. I’m excited about the many possibilities that will rise up as part of that learning curve.

Want to give bad writing a try?

Pick up a pen, pencil, paper, notebook, or journal…

Start writing with the intention of writing badly…notice what happens.

There are no limits or rules for what materials you can use…

If you want, add a splash of paint, paste an image or two into the mix that you have torn out of a magazine, doodle, draw a quick sketch and add some more bad writing.

I would love to hear how this experiment turns out for you. I’m excited!

p.s. this blog post is bad writing!?**#

 

The Gift of Your Unique Voice

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. ~ Martin Luther King

Today I am finding it difficult to get to the point where I can dive in and engage in my writing practice. Often I start writing in my journal and at some point my writing turns in a way that tells me I am in flow and going for it.  I can feel the difference between the start of writing and a deepening in the way my pen feels in my hand pressed to paper or how my fingers fly across the keyboard.

Since that flow is not happening right now I think I will approach my writing counter-intuitively.

What if I don’t care about creating meaning for others as a writer?

What if I am only sharing my writing for ego’s sake and don’t see any higher purpose in the words I scribble or type on the page?


I’m struggling to write and that struggle is even more so when I consider writing without regard to the call I feel as a writer and artist to help others on their playful, individuation journeys.

The secret is to release, start over again and again, and give voice to what matters.

Some writing prompts to consider using:

When I release I…

I am struggling to …

When I stay with my writing (creative) practice I…

My unique voice in the world is…

Seasons of Change: Stillness, New Growth, Abundance, Harvest

Winter is the season of stillness. For many of us it is a time of slowing down and renewal.

The seasons of winter, spring, summer, and autumn do not necessarily match what we are feeling in the depths of our soul. It is winter but I am feeling more like summer.

I am celebrating a recent phone call from my surrogate son and the opportunity I was given to help him learn about his story and fill a gap in his life that can now be healed and transformed.

I am actively working on completing my memoir, I Would Have Named Him Peter, for publication and continue to be engaged in the larger memoir project which includes my written memoir, performance, images, dreams, and letters.

I am creating new programs that fill me with anticipation in what is to be…moving ahead with a joyful heart this winter knowing that I am exactly where I need to be, attending to what I am called to offer through my play-based, depth-oriented writing and practice.

If you were to choose the season you feel most alive in now, which season would that be?

What can that season help you understand about your writing and your unique playful journey?

Don’t Hold Back, Write About What You Feel

Each moment brings an opportunity for play so why not playfully write in those moments that string into minutes.. and then hours…I had a journal with a key to lock my journal as a girl and I loved putting pen to paper and writing even then. As a child, I got the message that my brothers and sister were not suppose to make a sound at home so as not to disturb my dad. As a result I didn’t feel heard and listened to…writing gives me the opportunity to express myself. One of many art-forms I use to play and create with..

Louise DeSalvo’s quote, Repressing our Stories Can Harm Us, sent me to Google to look up repression, to revisit the word and attitude,

Google says, repression is ‘the action of subduing someone or something by force’. Re-visiting assumptions is valuable…I’m taken by the word ‘force’ in this definition of repression.

  • Am I using force to hold back my stories?
  • Do I forcefully stop myself and others from sharing theirs?

Do you believe in writing as a way of healing?  I sure do..

Writing has been instrumental in helping me to integrate my dreams and experiences in a way that transformed my life. In my 30s and during the time that I offered to be a surrogate mother for my psychotherapist I often said, ‘oh, whatever you want‘ when asked what I preferred in any given situation. I most often placated the other person to avoid conflict or criticism.

I had very little sense of boundaries and attracted people into my life who were more than willing to take advantage of my leanings. (my psychotherapist being one of the willing takers).

The woman I was at the time of my surrogate pregnancy and that same woman today in my 60s are very different.

When I write and speak about learning ‘the art of playing in the everyday’ its more about the approach and practice than it is about the form play takes. When I or anyone else brings a child’s wonder and curiosity to any experience play happens. Writing about my dreams and experience has brought a life filled with playfulness and creativity. Laughter and joy.

After writing in my journals and continuously focusing on the art of writing for many years,  I have found that I am beginning to write and not hold back.

As Betsy Wetzig, my friend and collaborator, wrote me after witnessing one of my memoir project performances and reading my writing over a period of time:

I now have a deeper understanding of how playfulness can be a medium of understanding…. for one thing it can help us deal with the “scaries” as it lets us interact with ourselves.

There is value in writing about our personal experiences and what we feel. what is real.

  • Don’t hold back.
  • Be open.
  • Be courageous.