Category Archives: Memoir Project

What You Choose to Write + Create + Share Reveals So Much

My choices have led me to the development of my life’s view. I believe that play can be instilled in every moment of our lives and is the portal to creativity.

When I chose to be a surrogate mother for my psychotherapist and her husband I had no idea that what I experienced during the conception, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum would be so life altering.

Postpartum, Act 4

The story I have been writing in a variety of forms, for well over 10 years, continues well beyond the birth and relinquishment of my surrogate son. My story is really our story, a story that offers in its postpartum, a life filled with play and creativity.

Now that my son and I have made contact by phone and I have shared my version of our story with my son, I believe more than ever, that our story continues to develop in ways that are meaningful and filled with purpose.

My core story starts with a woman who gives her Self, her Soul away. Her initial intention is to Help an Other. She doesn’t consider what life will be like after her agreement has come to its natural conclusion. She is a woman of integrity who never gives a thought to not fulfilling her end of the bargain.

It is not until just after the Birth of her Child that She Recognizes what her Contract is really about. Creating * a Newborn * and a New Life for Herself and Others, a Life of Giving and Receiving the Gifts of Play and Creativity.

The day I returned home from the hospital after giving birth to my surrogate son, I recognized I was being called to Become…

I felt stirred to action. To help my Self and Others:

  • To Play
  • To Create
  • To Laugh
  • To Wholeness
  • To Individuate

I continue to feel the pull to act, to become, to perform my life, to practice the art of playing in the everyday so that I can create a life that comes from the heart and help others on their journeys toward individuation.

What is the personal experience you are choosing to write about?

What are you creating in our life?

How do you feel about sharing your story, your creations, and who you are becoming…?

 

Begin Doing What You Want to Do Now

Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparking like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake… ~Sir Francis Bacon

I’m reading ‘The Vintage Years: Finding Your Inner Artist (Writer, Musician, Visual Artist) After Sixty’ by Francine Toder, PhD

Apparently when the author was well into her 60s she began to play the cello. In her book she tells the story of an 89-year-old woman who took part in Francine’s research project. In return for her participation this woman was given free cello lessons. Seems she took to playing cello and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I have been listening to fiddle music for years. Recently I started asking fiddlers how they began to play, what its like for them to jam with a group of other musicians, and what their advice is on getting started as a fiddler.

Just before Christmas I looked for a used fiddle at the local thrift store but no luck. Then, my daughter surprised me with a used fiddle for my birthday!

I’m all Swing, so playing the fiddle seems like a natural for me. I have played the piano and guitar a bit over the course of my life, even taken some lessons and played a couple of pieces in recital. Fiddle just seems like so much fun!

I talked to a few fiddle instructors locally. One of them said to me after listening to me talk about my long-standing desire to play the fiddle,

Mary Alice, I would just pick up the fiddle and play. Don’t worry about lessons for now. With your playful nature the best approach is for you to fiddle around. Later on you might want to take a lesson but for now just get the feel of the instrument, and play!


Whether its writing, fiddling, painting or any other form of play and creativity:

Begin Doing What You Want to Do Now

 

I WRITE (CREATE) WHEN I AM BUSY, TEARY-EYED, JOYFUL, OR OTHERWISE ENGAGED

I am finding that I can write just about anywhere and under any circumstance when I embrace imperfection.

There are times in my life when I haven’t written in my journal.

One of the longest periods of time of not writing was during my surrogate pregnancy.

Two years after the giving birth and relinquishing my newborn to his adoptive mom and dad, I began to record my dreams, I also started to write daily in my journal. I’ve been writing ever since and have stacks of journals in my play studio that I go back to again and again for reflection and inspiration.

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are and why we’re here. ~Sue Monk Kidd

I spoke to my surrogate son, Bobby, just a few weeks ago. He told me during our two-hour call that at an early age he realized that he looked very different than his parents. He asked about his beginnings. He told me, they just kept putting me off.

As our phone call was coming to a close, Bobby said, now that I know my story I have something I can tell people about who I am.

I asked Bobby if he ever writes in a journal. He said he hadn’t written since graduating from university with a degree in journalism. I suggested that he consider writing again saying, now that you know more about your beginnings you have a story to remember and to share with others.

It took a great deal of courage for Bobby to call me. All his adoptive mom and dad had told him up til the time of our call was, her name is Mary.

Bobby’s courage en-courages me to write imperfectly. To write about who I am becoming and the life experiences I am called to share.

 

That Day Has Come: Play It Forward + Create With All Your Heart

Has that day come for you?

Are you ready to give birth to the stories inside you?

I wrote in September 2016  ‘Writers on Writing’,

I can feel the electricity sparking off in my body. Tears come easily. I feel the need to walk and use this energy to act. I wonder what my a scan of my brain would show in the moment of writing — likely such a scan would look very different when I’m writing memoir versus not writing.

When I lowered myself to the floor while stretching I went into the fetal position breathing as deeply as I have ever breathed before. I’m anxious. I’ll keep breathing knowing that I can keep writing and be with my anxious self no matter what comes up. What’s the worse thing that could happen? I won’t die if I keep writing. Actually the opposite — I’ll live life to the fullest, I am a writer.

As with all things in my life I playfully write. I bring the same playful attitude to writing that I instill in washing the dishes, riding a carousel, or jumping in mud puddles with my grandchildren.

When I write I play full out. I dig a hole to china and then dig some more…

I write in the company of all the writers who have come before me. I write with all my heart and share with openness and as much generosity as I can muster.

As Isabel Allende says, Write about what should not be forgotten.

Write about what you would rather not know. Write about your fears. Write about what you love. Write about what fills you. Write about betrayal and regret. Write about your shadow. Write about what you don’t want others to know. Yes, write especially about your shadow–what you cannot see and must see to become, to perform your life, to write and share your life stories with heart.

Some journaling prompts to help you play it forward:

I wonder what I would feel like if I wrote about…

Something I have never considered writing about is…

If others knew about ______________ they would not want to…

Writing for me is…

When I create something new I want it to be…

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Remember Moments

Many of you undoubtedly have read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing from the Bones. Natalie’s book is celebrating its 30th anniversary and sits on a special spot on my bookshelf.

Indeed, when I visited Taos I sat and wrote in the very chair that Natalie uses to sit on and write.

One of the writing exercises that I have used as a prompt for years is:

I Remember…

Let me give it a whirl right now:

I remember when I walked to St. John’s church hall hoping to find someone there so I could sign-up to become a brownie (girl scout) and no one was there to do sign-ups. I remember my disappointment.

I remember making love in a hollowed out tree in the rain forest.

I remember the ‘White Hawk’ dream that woke me on the morning of my wedding day.

I remember when my oldest daughter gave birth to her daughter and my first grandchild.

I remember when I made a special trip to go visit periwinkle and say goodbye before I moved from the Northwest to California for a second time.

and that’s just for starters….

Now its your turn:

I Remember…

 

Do You Notice that the Same Stuff Keeps Spiraling Around

Falling apart is alchemical, a process of dis-memberment that promises repair, re-membering, and growth.

Re-membering what is important, what matters most, what you are called to attend to, what to love, what to share with others lovingly again and again.

Starting over again and again offers me continuous opportunities to play with, cycle through, spiral around what is not completely done with me.

Do you ever notice that the same issues keep coming up again and again?

What are the issues that you re-play over and over?

Throughout my life I keep spiraling around:

  • Not Being Heard and Seen by Others
  • Recurring Dreams of Betrayal, Woundedness, and Criticism

 

Being Seen and Heard

A few years ago I was in an ongoing dance group. During one dance someone in the group started to shout, I want to be seen and heard! This proclamation was followed by others until we were all shouting out what we needed most, I want to be seen and heard!

It seems there is a human need to be acknowledged. To be seen and heard. Really seen and heard for who we are and who we are becoming… (not for what others want us to be).

Recurring Dreams of Betrayal, Woundedness, and Criticism

For many years I have been receiving a recurring dream where other dream figures representative of my tribe criticize and berate me. I have just begun to write about my shadow (what is hidden from my conscious view) and how my recurring dreams are helping me to find my way to acceptance and forgiveness.

Some Prompts for Reflection on What it Means to ‘Fall Apart:

What if, falling apart is …

In my world falling apart is…

I feel like I’m being ripped wide open when…

I am…


WANT A WAY TO ADD 21-DAY ‘START WRITING YOUR MEMOIR’  IMAGES AND PROMPTS TO YOUR JOURNAL WITH EASE?
   $12  Buy Now

I also offer one-on-one mentoring & creative coaching:

WORK/WITH MELEARN ‘the ART OF PLAYING IN THE EVERYDAY’

Find out about our MEMOIR PROJECT

 

I Like Showing My Wild Side

Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. ~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

In 1996 I recorded my dance of the selchies (seal woman’s) story juxtaposed against my own personal story of being a surrogate mother for my psychotherapist and her husband. For months prior to filming I worked with a choreographer and practiced my dance during dance class, on a private beach on California’s central coast, and in a dance studio. When the day of the shoot finally arrived, I danced on a stage that was built from hard metal puzzle pieces. Rivets held the pieces of the stage together. As I danced over  the 4 hours of recording the costume that I was wearing was torn and my body bruised. When I finally returned home after we had finished for the day I discovered that my body was covered with bruises.

I remember thinking as I went to bed that night that I was more seal than woman. I had gone onto land and birthed a son while being separated from the waters of my birth and my natural wild Self.

Since that time and while writing my memoir I have revisited my selchie dance and my personal story many times over. I opened Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype today and found some notes scribbled onto a magazine page that I had inserted into the pages of the ‘Homecoming: Returning to One’s Self’‘ chapter. The torn magazine page has two images of women dancing and the word SPEECHLESS set in the middle of the page.

Estes writes, we lose the moleskin by becoming too involved with the ego, by being too exacting, perfectionistic. or unnecessarily martyred, or driven by a blind ambition, or by being dissatisfied–about self, family, community, culture, world–and not saying or doing anything about it SPEECHLESS or by pretending we are an unending source for others, or by not doing everything we can to help ourselves. 

Two words I wrote and tucked away in the pages of the selchie story around the year 2010 are PASSION, DREAMS

The wild woman is fluent in the nature of dreams, images, passion, and poetry.


The power of Mary Alice’s story is the heart connections that connect us all while honoring our unique experiences and beliefs.

Muriel Percy, Ontario, CAN

You made it clear that getting in touch with, and living from the heart is natural and simple…. though quite hidden, and perhaps scary for most modern people…..  And a sometimes struggle, ….but something which can be taught/discovered and shared together, playfully and creatively. Here is my bravo…. but the story is ongoing…..

Betsy Wetzig, Allentown, PA

**Below you can watch both the selchie dance and 1 of a series of memoir project performances**

How are you fluent in the language of dreams, images, passion, and poetry?


WANT A WAY TO ADD 21-DAY ‘START WRITING YOUR MEMOIR’  IMAGES AND PROMPTS TO YOUR JOURNAL WITH EASE?
   $12  Buy Now

I also offer one-on-one mentoring & creative coaching:

WORK/WITH MELEARN ‘the ART OF PLAYING IN THE EVERYDAY’

Find out about our MEMOIR PROJECT

Play On. Hearts Beat. There is Life. Write from the Heart.

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Write from the Heart

Inspired by Melodie Ramone’s writing:

Open up. Don’t listen to other people’s opinions. Write in your unique voice. Write standing up. Write when you are sad, depressed, and couldn’t care less. Write when you are feel joyful, hopeful, and willing. Write on torn off pieces of your journal, on paper napkins stained with coffee, in the books you read. Paint on rocks and share them with others. Write and read your writing out loud to yourself, to your best friend, to your dog, to Tree in your backyard. Write down your dreams and listen. Write down what your dreams are telling you and then change your dream by writing some more. Put on costumes and march to a different drummer. Share your writing. Don’t be afraid. It’s all good. Listen to music and write. Dance and write. Take a walk in the woods and sit down on a log and write. Get down on your knees in the sand and write. Write with your children and grandchildren. Write as you are not who others think you should be. Write fearlessly. Write courageously and often. Write because you must. Write it all down and then say some more. Write as if you are writing a letter to your best friend. Write and don’t hold back anything. Write and pulsate as you tap on the words on the computer. Write rhythmically and when you feel like it push the river. Write as if you aren’t afraid of a broken heart. Write with as much of your life force as you can muster. Write as the BEAUTIFULLY BROKEN WIDE OPEN PERSON YOU ARE. ~So Much Love, Mary Alice


WANT A WAY TO ADD 21-DAY ‘START WRITING YOUR MEMOIR’  IMAGES AND PROMPTS TO YOUR JOURNAL WITH EASE?
   $12  Buy Now

I also offer one-on-one mentoring & creative coaching:

WORK/WITH MELEARN ‘the ART OF PLAYING IN THE EVERYDAY’

Find out about our MEMOIR PROJECT

A Love Affair with Writing and Creativity (Not Knowing What You are Doing)

Sometimes it just drops in * active possibility * writer’s advantage

As I was sitting on the couch this morning writing I began to wonder,

What does it feel like to fall in love?

I continued to write in my journal and realized that I am in love. In love with writing. In love with my playful, creative journey.

My own experience is that falling in love has the quality of dropping down Alice’s rabbit hole.

Besides my own experience of falling in love, I have witnessed many of my friends become suddenly and seemingly out of control * acting crazy * not knowing what they are doing.

When you are falling in love your beloved is unique to YOU.

When you are falling in love adversity brings you closer. You get all fired up! You want to be together all the time and you can do this because you are energized and motivated to be together.

When you are falling in love there is an attraction * commitment * an investment that can seem like an obsession like no other.

Becoming aware that I am falling in love with writing and my own playful, creative process is no small matter. My state, this crazy state of being in love, means that I am open to dropping down into the depths where, it is possible, I may remain without opportunity for recovery. That is, if I enter into my love affair and lose myself entirely to that liminal space.

Right now I am available and open to a commitment. I’m willing to invest my time because I am committed to creating new pieces of writing. There is an attraction, a calling that I can’t dismiss.  Writing and creating new projects energizes me when I am tending what is unique only to me as the writer and creator.

I have been writing personal narrative and my memoir since the 90s. There is a certain amount of obsessiveness related to writing about my personal experience and story. Thoughts of the son I relinquished in 1987 have preoccupied me over many years. I wrote my doctoral thesis on surrogacy and also created a selchie dance and video which shares my personal story through the lens of the selchie (seal-woman) myth. As I continued to write I began to write a more detailed version of my story in 2004 in the form of a memoir which now is an edited draft manuscript. My memoir is now part of a larger memoir project and I am working toward completing my story this year. I am performing my story and being transformed through the writing and performative process.

My writing and core life story are coming around full circle. The son I relinquished almost 30 years ago has contacted me. He now knows his story and my story is being flushed out in ways that are magical, healing, and transformative. There is magic in new beginnings that happen to us moment-to-moment. When anyone falls in love with their creative process, their muse, their beloved, it is certain to be a crazy time of upheaval and uncertainty and also a time of meaning, and purpose, and transformation.

Some writing * creative prompts for you to play with:

  • I want to spend all my time ________________.
  • I feel renewed and highly motivated when I…
  • I am committed to…
  • I am open to ….

WANT A WAY TO ADD 21-DAY ‘START WRITING YOUR MEMOIR’  IMAGES AND PROMPTS TO YOUR JOURNAL WITH EASE?
 
   $12  Buy Now

I also offer one-on-one mentoring & creative coaching:

WORK/WITH MELEARN ‘the ART OF PLAYING IN THE EVERYDAY’

Find out about our MEMOIR PROJECT

Make It An Adventure: Let Your Soul Lie Down in the Grass THE WORLD IS TOO FULL TO TALK ABOUT

When our family is going through difficult times or when we feel challenged we say, “wonderful, another grand adventure!

I like to think of my life as one big, playful adventure. Play, for me, includes everything that life presents moment-to-moment. Today I’m inspired by Rumi’s wisdom:

Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. When I listen and attend to what I really love I am in flow. I ‘forget’ and ‘remember’ what I am called to become, to perform–nurturer, dreamer, playful spirit, writer, storyteller, warrior, magician, creator, dancer, physical body, intellectual body, steward of nature, humane educator, and so much more…
The wound is the place where the Light enters you. I have just begun to write a series about my recurrent dream. In these dreams I am often wounded by a member of my tribe. I have been recording and listening to the guidance of my dreams for many years. At the start my recurrent dream was only filled with criticism, betrayal, and woundedness. As I continued to dream the dream on, playing with the dreams characters and dialoging with them through active imagination and dreaming, I found that I started to receive nurturance, acceptance, and applause for my efforts from the same characters who berated me earlier. Light enters in when I meet my Shadow with open arms.
 
Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form. Some time ago I wrote about the ‘Myth of Closure‘.  Prior to listening to Pauline Boss’s ‘On Being’ interview, I had named the myth, inconsolable grief. When I relinquished my surrogate son to his adoptive mom and father I didn’t realize the impact of this void. Yes, there is a softening over time but as Pauline talks about in her ‘On Being’ interview when there is a loss and there is a not-knowing that perpetuates and cannot be resolved there is no closure. What remains is inconsolable grief. Anything you lose comes around in another form–My story of relinquishing a newborn to a couple as a surrogate has now been rewritten. I have received a call from my son and he now knows much more about where he came from. The threads of our connection take on another form and promise. There are many news reports of parents who have lost their children through traumas of various kinds, spouses/partners who lose their lovers through drunk driving accidents or disease–many of these parents and spouses/partners courageously go on to create charities in their child or spouses/partners name. Many people, myself included, dream of those who have passed before us. Anything you lose comes around in another form.
 
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. When I meet my Shadow, the parts of me that I cannot see or acknowledge consciously, I seek to find all the barriers within that protect me from the very thing I seek–LOVE. As I write and attend to the work I am called to offer others I am aware that the most effective way to becoming who I am meant to be is Shadow-Play. 
Woundedness, Dreaming, Grieving, Writing, Shadow-Play… are all part of my life’s adventures.
Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. * The wound is the place where the Light enters you. * Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form. * Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. * Let the beauty we love be what we do. * Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.  * Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along. * When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. * Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open? * If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished? ~Rumi
Some writing/creative prompts for your writing and visual journaling: 
  •  What I really love is…
  • My wounds tell me that…
  • My grief surrounds me like a ….
  • I create barriers for myself and they…

WANT A WAY TO ADD 21-DAY ‘START WRITING YOUR MEMOIR’  IMAGES AND PROMPTS TO YOUR JOURNAL WITH EASE?
   $12  Buy Now

I also offer one-on-one mentoring & creative coaching:

WORK/WITH MELEARN ‘the ART OF PLAYING IN THE EVERYDAY’

Find out about our MEMOIR PROJECT