Category Archives: vulnerability

I am a Success when I…

Summer Clouds © Mary Alice Long

…notice the graces that appear when I need them most. 

…dare to add one word, one phrase, one sentence to my memoir draft.

…begin to write a letter to my memoir project followers.

…read one page of the novel I have been wanting to read for 3 months.

…pick up one piece of clothing, paper, or a treasure and give, donate, or throw it away.

I am a Success

…when I say one kind, loving word to Michael when I am angry with cancer’s effects on our life together.

…when I take the time to prepare nutritious meals, get enough sleep, exercise, and go on regular play dates for self-care.

…when I reach out to to someone who needs support.

…when I take the time to document the Beauty that is all around me.

Love that Color!

I am a Success

…when I write a story and share it on Medium and on other social media platforms

…when I keep trying even when all the evidence says, no way!

…when I say what I have to say without concern for what others may think of me.

…when I can shift my perspective just enough to let someone else in.

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’.

Personal Story, Birth, and the Real Deal We Call Life

After years of writing my personal narrative, many deep, interwoven conversations, visual journaling, and performance…in less than a week…

I will say his name * meet him in-person * hold him in my arms.

January 23, 2017, on what would have been my mom’s 95th birthday, William called me. He told me how scared he was to leave a voice message asking me to call him. He asked me about his story, how he came to be.

Today I booked a flight to visit William in-person. Next week we will meet for the first time. He’s leaving the hospital after undergoing major surgery Monday evening. William’s cancer has moved from his skin, to his lungs, and now to his brain.

The phone rings and William says, They got it all.

He is hopeful and I am expectant once again.

The thing is, he is real to me now. For years, I have been using the phrase, my surrogate son. What a relief to be able to say his name, William, and know him as a person who loves to watch sports, wants to find work as a sports journalist, hike hundreds of trails.

Over the next few days, I will be gathering some of my journals, photos, and other treasures so that I can share them with William when we visit next week. Poems, memoir writing, research from my doctoral dissertation on surrogacy, performance-storytelling.

The first time we meet

Just making the reservations for my shuttle to the airport and flights was a struggle. Crying at the bank, at the pharmacy while trying to get through to the pharmacy clerk who is holding Michael’s medications post-stoke for ransom! Crying in the art studio while collaborating on a flyer for our fundraiser. I am tripping and almost fell yesterday because I have so much in my head and forgot about my feet. I keep reminding myself to ground. I’m wondering if I should rent a car but I am also concerned that I won’t be as focused as usual while driving the Los Angeles freeways.

Feeling the immediacy of the moment. I am grateful for the real deal, live life to the fullest!

I invite you to check in frequently here and on the Play=Peace blog.

Read the follow-up story Sit Back and Enjoy the Trip

Birth is a Natural Process: Breathe & Release

When women are giving birth in the hospital they are often told to hold their breath and PUSH WITH FORCE.A  holistic approach to birthing calls for relaxation, breathing, and release during a time of intensity and swift change.

When I try to push through as a means to an end my efforts ultimately fail me. I feel more in synch when I release what doesn’t serve me and instead embrace what feels natural.

There are so many times in my life when I have pushed myself to do something even when another part of me was saying, REST, BREATHE, AND RELEASE.

It’s getting easier to see the signs (RED FOR STOP) that tell me to slow down, breathe, reassess.

  • tension
  • feeling at loose ends
  • unsettled
  • scratchy throat
  • headache
  • frustrated
  • and more…

I can also see the signs that tell me, it’s a GO! MOVE AHEAD WITH EASE…

  • joy
  • energetic
  • passionate
  • in flow

What are your GO and STOP signs?

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The Dance of ShadowPlay: Creating Meaningful Change

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For 21 years I began to receive recurring dreams where I am criticized, dismissed, and ignored. These dreams include characters who represent members of my play community in waking life.

Being part of of my tribe, these folks are like family to me, and so, the pain at being dismissed lives in my body and influences my everyday life.

Over the years I’ve treated these dreams like bad food — better to eliminate the poison and try to not eat that same poison again. I have a ‘from the toes’ reaction — Shadow — a part of my psyche that is uncomfortable — and so — I flee!

Never daunted my Shadow arrives again for another visit.

I journal regularly and record my dreams. Taking action to honor my dreams is important to me. Unlike other dreams that I receive as gifts, I’ve been dismissing my recurring dreams because the betrayal, rejection, and criticism I feel when I wake from these dreams is painful.

What I dismiss insists!

Not only do these folks appear in my night dreams but in my waking dreams as well. I am reminded of them in social media, in emails that I receive, and in daily conversations. For the most part I haven’t played with these folks in-person for years. Nevertheless, when I see their photo online or hear their name the feelings of betrayal, rejection, and dismissal are very real.

I’m ready to meet my Shadow and play. To that end, I’m going to be sharing my recurring dreams (in non-sequential order) and explore ways to partner with the characters that appear in my recurring dream in a dance of forgiveness.

1.) Dream — Critical Kris Kringle

I’m at home with Kris. She is there to criticize me. I am holding one large sheet of pastel blue paper with comments and notes. Kris finds one other large sheet of pastel violet paper. She says, “it says that you tucked your chin in” — she follows me around and criticizes that posture and other things about me.

I’ve had enough and go outside. She follows and continues to criticize me holding both of the large sheets of paper as she walks behind me.

It occurs to me following my dream that many birds tuck their bills into their shoulder feathers for protection.

Aha!

Some of the characters in my recurring dream return often to criticize me. However, as these dreams have continued to arrive, in some plots I am affirmed and applauded for my efforts by the same characters who have betrayed or dismissed me.

Being supported by the very characters who have wounded me gives me hope that there is a way to find resolution, a new dance, a new way to partner.


2.) Dream—Poem Speaking To Me

I am with other women including Cindy. I am running around doing things. Cindy is about to leave. She comes up to me and as I move forward to give her a hug, she says,

“What are you doing, you aren’t doing anything!” I say, “what do you mean?”

I know when I ask that question that I have impacted many lives. (I stand up for myself and don’t take in what Cindy is saying.)

There is another woman there who comes up to me and hands me a beautifully crafted poem that she has written. The poem takes the form of a chart with lines that are very exacting. She reads the long, involved poem to me in Dutch. Another women asks if she can substitute uncommon words for the Dutch words being used so that more women can understand. I enjoy what she has written.

Clearly I’ve influenced this female poet. She’s brought her poem to me to read and share what she has learned from me. I’m appreciative and ‘all ears’ realizing the depth of her poem and the sincerity of her impulse.

Could I have a copy? (Dare I ask for one?)

Following my dream I connect the dream’s themes with my memoir writing.

Cindy (Shadow figure) is a woman who has tremendous influence over me. In this dream she offers me the opportunity to stand up for myself after being criticized. Her words do not support me so I release them.

*[Cindy in waking life criticized and shamed me in front of my tribe. She wounded me and left me in a pool of tears on multiple occasions many years ago.]

In my night dream I am able to *release what doesn’t serve me and take in what nurtures and supports the sharing of my gifts with others]

Another woman poet (Shadow figure) helps me to see what I have *given to others. One choice I can continue to make is to be gentle and open, be vulnerable (while standing up for my natural Self).

[I was a surrogate mother for my psychotherapist and her husband in 1987 and gave them a newborn son. My experience as a surrogate and the deep and ongoing longing that I carry has helped me accept loss and live life playfully and creatively].

*In this dream Shape takes poetic form.


3.) Dream—Three out of Six Hours

I am in a big, rectangular-shaped studio with a dance floor. I am dancing with a large number of women are moving around the dance floor for the first time. Cindy is dancing. I move to her and lightly pull on her clothing. She moves backwards and then forwards with me. I feel in flow and went to keep moving for the three hours we have the space for (we have the space for 3 out of 6 hours). Some of the women on the dance floor walk through the door to the outside. They don’t want to continue dancing-playing. I think that they do not have-know the basic forms to continue to play and enjoy themselves.

In this dreamscape I initiate a dance with Cindy. In other dreams Cindy criticizes me. Here I pull on her clothing gently. We dance as a duet, a shadow-dance. I feel in flow. free * authentic * in the moment

There are women who do not want to play, to dance. They leave through an open door. I want to dance in the fullness of the time allowed.

I can continue to play, to dance because I know the basics, the basic forms. Now I can play and dance in the fullness of the three (3) hours given.

Beginning, Middle, End

Body, Soul, Spirit. 

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Memoir Project: Dusting Myself Off, Putting my High Boots on & Going Back In!

After a lot of procrastination I have published three excerpts from my memoir in revision. I’ve also shared several writer’s notes over the last few days. You can find Memoir Project entries HERE and a couple Writer’s Notes HERE

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I had full intentions this morning to continue to write and revise my memoir’s manuscript this morning but I was stopped in my tracks by an event yesterday that kept me awake last night. It all started with:

You Should Have…

After tossing and turning in bed and making every effort to disavow what is roaming around inside of me I decided to put my high boots on and step back Into the arena. The arena where I bring my vulnerability and courage.

Vulnerability is the most accurate measure of courage. ~Brene Brown

I realized this morning as I sipped my coffee that I have been in that same arena immeasurable times in my life and that over the last few days I have been standing naked and left my armor behind. 

I’m showing up in a big way.

and so are all of my anxieties and concern about being killed on the field as I share my story and who I am. The real deal with no armor to shield me.

Yesterday I stepped out and was hit by the the same criticisms and shame that have kept me from writing and sharing what I am creating over the course of my lifetime. I asked myself this morning,

How is this critic similar to other critics that have voiced their disapproval of how I look, act, what I do, who I am??

I came across a photo of Mary Alice (circa 1954). I am just over a year old, standing with my Easter bonnet, dress, and coat. Looking ahead in a focused way. Even then I had a sense of who I am suppose to be and started to give away the parts of myself that didn’t fit that ideal.

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Today I’m breathing deeply in a fetal position on the floor, dusting myself off, and continuing to create and share. On this Autumnal Equinox I feel like I am falling, breaking down. As I continue to play and create my life and life’s work I give myself permission to stay home for stretches of time and also to explore outside the edges of my experience.

I will continue to create and share here, on the Play=Peace blog, and on Medium knowing that as, Brene Brown, says,

if you step into the arena, you’re going to get your ass kicked

Every one of you has a Critic’s seat reserved in that same arena. See you there. Will you be fully armored or nakedly sharing your vulnerability and gifts with us all?

Saying No, Means Saying YES!

Saying no to one opportunity

brings open space and creativity.

Saying no to some one else’s want

brings flexibility and self-respect.

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Saying no to fear

brings en-couragement, openness

vulnerability.

Saying no to judgment and criticism

brings playfulness and receptivity.

Saying YES to my Swing! Nature

Playing in the Everyday with some New Things and Growing what I’ve already started:

  • Global Play & Local Collaborations
  • Contra Dance, Learning to Play the Fiddle
  • Musical Inspiration with Army Jazz Band, Janiva Magness, Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts, PoetryMusic
  • Playing with my Grandchildren at the Beach & Pool, always a De-Light!
  • Creativity Calls, New Creative Adventures
  • Spending time with Friends
  • Producing–Arranging a Special Showing of Michael’s Watercolors
  • Bird Watching
  • Facilitating Full Moon Earth Day Ritual with our Drumming Circle
  • Soul Motion
  • North Olympic Land Trust Crew
  • Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge Volunteering
  • Hiking and Nature Photography
  • Drawing & Painting
  • Writing with a Partner, Singing, and Recording Children’s Songs
  • Singing out of Key
  • Swing!

Are you saying NO, so you can say YES?

I’d love to hear about it ALL! Comment or write to me, share your story! (its been proven beyond a doubt that when you SHARE your story you GAIN BEYOND MEASURE!)

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