Category Archives: Memoir

UnBounded: Limitless Joy

© Mary Alice Long

Boundaries. Borders. Barriers.

What does it mean to be bounded? To set limits? To have limits that you find difficult to overcome? To live knowing that there is a barrier to something or someone you want desperately to get to?

Some of the words that rise to the surface when I explore boundaries today are limits, crossing, tied up, safety, clarity, decision-making, reassuring, borderline, cut off, threshold, NO.

By the time I was pregnant as a surrogate mother I had built many barriers to joy. Everybody else’s needs were more important than mine. I felt resentful and angry.

After Will was born, my naivete vanished when following each of his birthdays I was left without resolution–without a word of his well-being.

Over time, my life experience and my dreams helped me to see that I had given away too much of myself and that I had to take steps to bring joy out of the chaos. I came to understand the need to forgive myself and others and to take responsibility for my life.

Crossing the Borderline from Chaos to Joy


When I write I am often aware or working intentionally within the bounds of a beginning, middle, and end to the story. There is, however, no set way for me to write within that familiar progression. As the creator of my story I am the ONE who chooses the container for my words.

When ideas come I write them down in my journal or add them to my notes. When I sit down to write on any given day I look to these drafts. Each title has an energy behind it. It’s easy for me to begin and soon I am into the writing process.


Movement meditation leads me to joy and stillness. I feel a sense of arrival. Instead of movement to change an outer event I am experiencing an inner opening of the gates. Acceptance of what is and letting go of expectations leads to a joyfulness in my process of becoming. Joy moving into stillness brings me back to Self and Self-ishness. I am at the threshold of my experience and grace spills me over into the next moment and the next. My movements reflect my life and help me change my perspective just enough to allow in pain and joy, failure and success.

Making a Rainbow

Often the smallest packages bring the greatest joy.

Yesterday I opened a sealed, well-packed box. When the sun shines during the day and early evening our dining and living room walls fill with the colors of the rainbow. A prism in Ed Nesteruk’s glass art piece makes rainbow colors.

When the sun comes out to play, a variety of colors make our day!

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.

~ Rumi

P.S. I would love to send you my weekly letter.

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’.

Memoir Writing: A process of discovery

Love is the Thing

There are many underpinnings that lend support to the structure of my story. Every room in the house that I have been building through my storytelling is filled with love.

The Gift of Play

By the time I reached my mid-30s and gave birth as a surrogate mother I had forgotten much of what I knew about play. Thank goodness my dreams persisted and helped me to understand how important play is to my well-being.


I need look no further than my dreams to understand that in my lifetime I will only touch the surface of what is possible. There is so much more to experience.


My journals are a testament to the fact that I love to write story and create, making something from nothing. I write morning pages, haiku, and respond to writing prompts to get me going. I write down words that I want to look up later, my dreams and what I notice about the setting, characters, and actions that visit me as I sleep or during my waking hours as daydreams or visualizations. My journals are also visual and contain just about everything in my life–paintings, drawings, lists, projects, calendar, planning, my intentions, what I do, what I am most passionate about in this moment and the next.

I write everyday in my journals or if for some reason I am not carrying my journal with me, I will find a napkin, torn off bit of paper, even my hand, a fallen leaf, or a stone has acted as a blank slate for my writing.

Because I’ve kept my journals over many years I can explore my past dreams and experiences through the threads of my writing. The patterns that I see are notes that have consistently helped me to understand my life experiences in greater depth. These patterns come with an attitude that my life experiences are not done with me and will continue to inform my life for as long as I care to pay attention.

Archetypal Forces

Without conscious awareness there are energies that can be dangerous.


My life experience and reflections have led me to an understanding that I am happiest when I accept what life offers from one moment to the next. When I am faced with things I would rather not do, when fears arise, when challenges emerge, I remember that I have the tools I need to play and create something new from the muck of life and from the wellsprings. Choosing ways to play in the everyday moments of my life continues to be transformational as I continue my daily practice.

Patterns Broken

I can and did break old patterns no longer needed. I continue to make adjustments. Each time there is a deepening and integration that takes place.

The One Thing

Each of us carry our thing into life circumstances. Whatever our family deal is climbs on for a ride and comes along. So for me, what I carry into all of my relationships is ‘I have to have a voice and freedom to play with all of it.’


Staying with what I know and am comfortable with is not always the best choice.

Are You Ready to Deepen your Life Experience?

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’.

Record a Life: New Insights about Bodily Symptoms + Letting Go + Integration

While enjoying a lunch break with Michael I began to think about my morning…

My day began with writing in my journal, stretching in my studio, and broadcasting. I haven’t been feeling well going on 6 weeks. My lack of energy and over all ache has led me to slow down, hibernate, retreat. I have been handwriting entries in my journal and realized only in the last few days that developing a relationship with my bodily symptoms will help me to understand their language.

My lack of energy and general disease in my body has slowed me down, helped me let go and schedule time off from some of my responsibilities. I am exploring new options for a healthier living, taking afternoon naps, and drinking lots of water. I am focusing on one thing at a time which is very unusual for me given my love of diversity. Tending to the soulfulness of everyday things is becoming rooted in a spiritual practice that I can’t define but identity as central to my life and life’s view.

Just before lunch after taking my golden retriever puppy, Will, for a bit of outdoors play, I made my way to my upstairs studio to begin the process of clearing out my file cabinet that has remained untouched since settling into our new home 4 years ago. I set my timer for 30 minutes and began to go through the files one by one in one of the large drawers. When the timer went off with the familiar ‘Playtime’ I could hardly move my locked knees. I stretched, moved around my studio, and stumbled my way downstairs to prepare lunch for Michael and I.

Lila, our Bassett Hound, wanted to go outside and Will, who is now over 6 months old, settled in under the dining room table. With each spoonful of soup, I began to think about each piece of paper that I had placed in the recycling bag. I began to associate each dated file, resource, and entry with my son, Will, and the age he would have been during that year. One of the first files I found (remembering its now 2018) was dated 1998. Will would have been 11-years-old. With my recognition came tears and stiff, almost immovable muscles across my shoulders and back. I realized that I have been holding onto these files and other things in my studio. Could keeping these items over the years be a way of holding onto what was lost to me over the years?

For almost 30 years I was in the dark as to my son’s life. It was only last year that I heard from him by phone, was able to meet him in-person, and then less than a month later learned of his death due to progressive cancer.

Recently I began to transfer some of my memoir’s handwritten journal entries in to a computer file. I have started to transfer my newest journal entries. I have high hopes that I will be able to sort through the many other entries I have in multiple journals related to my memoir story. It all seems very chaotic. It helps me to remember that I carried around similar feelings when I was working on my doctoral dissertation, Surrogate Mother: A Phenomenological Naming of Who She Is–Personal Story, Mythology, and Dance. Eventually I was able to put the puzzle pieces in place to create a complete picture of story, myth, and dance.

As I go through my existing memoir journal entries and write reflexively in my daily journal I find myself dragged into the underworld where I am asked to see both the dark and the light, the tension of the opposites. I find my Young, Mother, and Aging Self there.

With my new insights, I am moving forward knowing that it will be necessary for me to continue to breathe into my bodily symptoms and find ways to come to a visceral understanding of the cycles of change and my part in them.

For you, the reader, it is my greatest hope that through the sharing of my story you will find your own unique ways to find soulfulness in the everyday of your life (which is also the soul of the world). More than ever it is important for me to understand that change happens in the everyday moments of our lives.

An almost imperceptible accumulation of daily change ~ Jane R. Pretat

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!

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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 ….

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