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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reading in public... ouch!

At long last! Thursday the 13th I finally had my first public reading, in front of 60 or 70 strangers. In the Galway City library, once a month there’s a literary event, so to speak, where a few published poets and writers will give a reading. Afterwards, there’s an open mic and people get the chance to read anything they’ve written, be it a short story or a poem. 

So… there I was… one amongst 12 other writing fanatics, thinking I was ready to, oh so simply, read a poem from my book. Easy done, right?! Just open the book, read the words and sit back down! But, holy smoke… how wrong was I! 

As I waited my turn, the nerves were rising… ‘breathe, breathe, breathe…’ It worked for a few moments, then my heart started thumping against my ribcage… Way too soon my name was announced. I had to take my stand… ‘Okay... I'm breathing, this is okay! I can do this… I’m excited, I’m eager to share, this is easy-peasy!’ And, to generally introduce the book, very briefly, I felt was actually really easy! But then I opened it… ‘Oh god… here we go…!’ 

I let my eyes fall onto the page, and never raised them until the poem was done. I couldn’t look at the audience and was terrified to think of what I was actually doing. I had to do everything I could to keep the poem flowing from my very very very dry mouth! ‘Oh god… Niamh breathe, breathe, take it slowly, enjoy your moment, don’t rush your words… calm calm calm…’ I was managing to breathe, but could hardly move my body… Any movement would’ve interfered with the stream of words. 

As I made my way through the poem, I felt bouts of emotion rising, I felt the silence in the room becoming heavy… I knew everyone was feeling the pain behind what I'd written so long ago (even if I'd chosen the lightest and brightest from the whole book!). My emotions came through however, even if I didn’t resort to tears. Everyone could feel the intensity underlying those lines as I was relaying the words as I continued to seek strength so I wouldn’t lose my stream and consequently the impact I was making on the listeners. 

How can a person be so terrified of losing their words, when the words are written down before them… and nothing other than READING is what that moment requires? Well… it’s not an easy assumption to make… even if it’s what I too had assumed, before taking my stand in front of 60 strangers. Regardless of their warm smiles, friendly nature and their sincere interest in poetry, I felt out of my comfort-zone.

Afterwards, I can’t say I was relieved. Instead I felt emotional, overly sensitive, exposed, I couldn’t hear the applause and I sat back down unable to grasp what had just happened. I guess I was in silent shock! Meanwhile, the next readers were introduced, one by one, each getting a chance to share their work…  

It wasn’t until the event was over, that I started to feel okay again. I didn’t hang around for any feedback. I didn’t need it. I knew my reading had made an impact and I felt I'd given myself enough exposure for that moment. So I shot off. I needed SPACE to sort out what had just happened! And wow… I realized I’d given myself an unexpected shock to the system, bigger than I’d imagined, bigger the book launch even! It was the exposure that threw me off… You’d think I’d be getting used to it by now… I’ve had 5 or 6 radio interviews, I’ve been in the paper a few times, I’ve had a signing… and at the launch I spoke openly as well as reading from my book… But this was the biggest step of all.

It’s quite a delicate thing to do… reading poetry… in public. It’s something so personal and deep… Yet, it can be relatable to anybody, if the moment is captivated. And the moment can only be captivated, if the reader is fully THERE. I was there, and happy to be! Even if I struggled. I realized afterwards that being in a room with people who showed-up voluntarily because they appreciate other people’s talents, inspirations and openness is a setting that actually IS in my comfort-zone… I'm just warming up... and so there's no doubt that the next reading, wherever or whenever that may be, will be easier… I'm not scared off by how intense it was… Nope. I understand the first step is always the hardest, but it sets us on our way every time!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Heavy winter

I’ve been hugely stuck-in to writing, throughout these past few weeks; up at 5am and working through till lunch. It’s been transporting me to other places and in my mind I’ve been travelling everywhere, because of the topic I’m writing about. It’s actually, for once, NOT making me want to board a plane. It’s not unsettling and instead it’s grounding and elevating to be working through this stuff.

But to be suddenly jolted back to the present moment, is always quite shocking; especially to look out the window and see those grey skies (that are becoming way too familiar…) 

Those skies are also the reason for me to be wrapped up in a blanket keeping warm. I’m in and out of feeling cold, at the moment. And it's draining at the best of times. My body feels quite contracted and tensed too. But I’m totally accepting it and I wouldn't trade places with anybody! This whole 'cottage experience' in the winter time, is quite a learning curve. I'm realizing just how big an effect a season can have on a person and their overall frame of mind. Therefore it’s perfect that the writing is transporting me. Because, without it, the winter would feel to be suffocating me and the darkness would be sitting on my head. I’m doing all I can to avoid that from happening. Most days it’s almost effortless, but on others, I have the strangest feeling of… being a hermit whose storing, waiting patiently, refuelling, possessed by words and shifting motions inside that throw me off my course for a short while, until it’s time to do what I can to get myself back in the flow again.

It’s been 2 years since I’ve had such dark days and I was never living in the countryside with only ‘me, myself and I’ for company. Every other winter in Ireland so far, I didn’t HAVE to step outside the front door to connect with people face to face – and only now am I realizing that it’s definitely what a person needs when their 'work' is to be stuck inside their own head, writing about deep stuff, for 5 and 6 hours a day.

I have to be so careful, not to let myself become too disconnected from where I am. I have to have a balance. I can only maintain that by ‘finding’ local people to greet on the street. And, luckily it happens every time. I must say, the people here are the friendliest you’ll find anywhere in Ireland. Anytime I seek something of a connection, I’m greeted by every single stranger I pass. They’re so warm in fact, that an outsider would be daunted by their friendliness. So I feel quite at home, here in the town, yet I’m not a part of it. Just like I feel quite at home here in the cottage, yet I’m not a part of this tiny ‘community'. I’ve not had a conversation with any of the people living around me so far. It’s not that I don’t want to connect, on the contrary! It simply hasn’t happened. People come and go, doing their daily business, just as I do. If it so happens that I bump into any of the neighbours, it’s in brief passing or from a distance and a conversation hasn’t really come of it. But that's fine too... If I'm meant to meet them, I will. And until then, I'll keep making the effort to connect and feel uplifted by the openness and warm hearts of the ‘village people’!
Isn’t it crazy how a simple ‘hello’ can become a word to save a person from falling way too deep into a disconnected world of doubt? And when it happens, I thank the heavens above that I’m in Ireland, even if the skies are grey and my toes are blue. None of that matters, when I'm able to count the sparks that come from the people on the street who smile and ask ‘How are you?’… I’m actually always tempted to spill how I literally AM feeling in that moment, when they ask this… But that’s not why they ask of course; it’s just their way of giving another person recognition. Little do they realize just how much this person needs that friendly gesture. God, how appreciative a ‘hermit’ can become, for such a recognizing ‘how are you?’ to remind them that they're still a part of this world here on Irish soil! 

For now, I'll keep things going as they are, taking it one day at a time. And at the end of next week, I'm off to Holland for Christmas. After that, I'll be going on a 10-day meditation course to Belgium, which won’t see me back in Ireland until the 6th of January. Hopefully I’ll have most of the first draft on paper before then – without putting myself under too much pressure. So the temporary hibernation-mode is needed… for now.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The first signing... Insights all around me!

December 1st – the first book signing. And how did it go? Well, different than expected. Actually, I’m not too sure what I’d expected. Rows and rows of people falling out of the sky, eager to ‘meet the author of…’? Is that what I had in mind? Well, considering the fact that nobody knows me from Adam, no, that’s not what I’d expected. But this morning, before heading out the door, I just hoped that I wouldn’t be sitting there like a lost soul on a deserted island without anybody in sight. And that didn’t happen! What I’d also hoped for was for those who did just so happen to stroll on by the little table at which I was sitting, just outside Eason’s bookstore in the Bridgewater Shopping Centre in Arklow town from 11.30am this morning, to at least be interested in knowing what the book is about. And that wasn’t really what happened… Or maybe from a distance people were paying an interest, but up-close and personal, it wasn’t really the case. Most shoppers/browsers seemed daunted to come up to the table and see the book that’d been written by someone from the town. It was as if they were scared, for whatever reason; scared they’d ‘have’ to buy the book or simply uninterested and distracted by the hype that was going (Santa was in the Shopping Centre too, so there were lots of kids. I actually thought that would be a good thing, but on hindsight, maybe not).

Having said that… almost everyone who strolled by DID at least take a second glance, just to see the author outside of Eason’s. God… I was delighted when some people ‘dared’ to come over, look at the book and accept a bookmark from me! I mean, am I that scary? Hummmm… Then it clicked: Ahhhh…. Niamh… you’re not scary, but the topic of the book is a ‘sore’ and ‘sensitive’ subject. I mean, come on, I HAVE to see things from other people’s perspective too…

This book is about anorexia… People, especially if they’re insecure for whatever reasons, can easily be taken-back if they come to stand face-to-face with somebody who is happily sharing their story about an illness that destroys and even takes the lives of thousands of people. Whereas I’m sitting there, giving myself full exposure, not giving 2 hoots, just wishing to make a difference... As if I’ve not a care in the world, as if it’s the lightest of books to read, as if I’m promoting a story of fictional magic that’s accessible to anybody and everybody and doesn’t bring people to face their fears! And, realistically, if anybody IS experiencing any degree of insecurity, they’re hardly going to come up to a table that’s in the middle of the busiest place in Arklow and ‘expose’ themselves as having interest in a book about anorexia! God… Duuuhhhh!!!!! It’s something that’s such a taboo…

As well, we all know what it’s like when we go into a bookshop, we buy a book, and if it’s on ‘bad’ days we can feel self-conscious and judged by others who are browsing or even by the staff, simply because of our choice of book – regardless if they actually are or aren’t judging us. As I’m writing this, I'm mainly having visions of youngsters; those who know that something’s wrong with their habitual behaviour or compulsive need to unhealthily control their lives, but are too ashamed, self-conscious and scared to own-up, open-up and take tiny steps in changing their ways.

Another thing struck me today too, as I sat there. Holy smoke… (what a day of insights I’ve had… simply for sitting at table… ‘signing’ the odd book!) I realized: Wow! THIS is what I’m standing up and placing myself in the public eye as BEING! (even if the ‘public eye’ is still only the eyes of the Arklow) I know I’ve been over this a million times before… But today it clicked once again: With time, as things take on more of a direction, this really IS the ‘thing’ I’ll be recognized for: Anorexia, Recovered. Wow! Is this me, labelled for life? Will it travel with me? Or will I be leaving it in the past, by setting it free in the world, as I continue to stand beside it and reach the people? Hummm… 

But by standing by this book, I’m not actually letting it go? Or maybe, I’m just changing the ‘relationship’ with ‘it’, with the eating disorder, with that chapter of my life. Yes… I see how it is! For nearly 6 years it’s been a part of my life (in 2006 it started setting in). It tightened its grip until 2008, then it loosed and released and I kept it loose for quite some time. Then it took up a different space in my life: it brought me to write Digesting Wisdom. Suddenly it tightened its grip again (in China) and I’ve been loosening it ever since. And right now, where I’m at is that it’s bringing me to write again! Through it all, it’s been teaching and guiding me, even as it manifested and was destroying me. It’s been such a huge part of my life, for years – and I have to see how the relationship needs to keep changing, as it’s turning into the purest of forms. Letting it go… passing it on…

I know now that if I don’t continue to stand by it, let it go and make something pure of it, the disorder will STILL be with me, but the power it then holds will, once again, become destructive. This is what I've learned over the past 3 years. So, for my own sake, I have to keep standing by this every-changing relationship, on every level. I have to see how, yes, it’s been my demon, but how it’s become my gift – whether or not others are terrified of what I’m willing to be recognized for. I have to see how it’s been my teacher and has put me on this amazing path. Even if I can feel exposed, and at times, terrified. But that’s fine! It’s a process of change and clearance. I’m teaching myself and growing beyond this and becoming stronger than such a false power. The lessons I was meant to learn, as a result of anorexia, are STILL on-going. I’m still teaching myself, through writing, and if it’s possible, I’ll continue to share these lessons as time comes to pass.

It’s all a process of change that unfolds one step at a time. Nothing is instant and nothing should be forced, whatever those around me may say. After quite some doubting and questioning, I’m now certain that I’m not letting anorexia dictate who I am, in the eyes of those who I come to cross paths with, but I’m letting anorexia be a part of who I’m still becoming. And what or who that is…? Maybe somebody who is simply seeking a balanced, happy, inspiring, creative and loving life. Isn’t that what everyone wants? I think so… therefore I’m no different. At the source, we’re all the same, we’re all in this game, playing the hand of cards we’ve been given so we can make the most out of our time here on earth. And that’s all I’m doing. So I continue to let go. Thank you thank you thank you and love you love you love you love you love you!!!!