This is an excerpt from the book Bouncing Back Stronger - Turning - Trials into Triumphs (coming early 2024).
The words were coming at me like a hailstorm, but the sounds in my chest blocked them out. Something about an “attack” drifted through my brain. His leash was limp in my hands, my gaze rested on his ear, torn and oozing.
He was attacked at the sitter by a beagle half his size. The poor guy was standing there when the beagle charged him. (In the beagle's defense, a bee stung him.)
Jake's fine. I’m a wreck.
My friend is a vet, and a half-hour later, she had to write down simple antibiotic instructions because my shocked brain couldn’t compute.
Jake has been there for every one of my tragedies. When this happened, I was 360 miles away, taking my daughter to college.
This incident has all the things – a being I love, guilt over not being there, recognition that he won’t always be there, fear of losing him.
My oldest daughter called me after I texted her the news, and when I told her how distraught I was, she said, “What are you going to do for yourself, Mom?
It’s a gift when our learnings are uttered from the mouth of a child.
So, I started writing. That's what I do to take care of myself. It's a way to bring order to the commotion in my mind.
If you have the same instinct – follow it.
I was writing a mystery novel. Had a first draft. But then my life fell apart, and I had to write about it. First a memoir, and now Bouncing Back Stronger (coming early 2024).
I didn’t open that first Word document eight years ago thinking it would help me heal. I did it because I couldn’t stop. Instinctively, I knew it would help.
Now I know that writing (or any activity that, as Brene Brown says, “makes you forget about time”) will help when we face difficulty - when the wheels come off the bus – like when one of your precious hound’s ears is torn to shreds.
All dogs can sense energy – but this dog is gifted empathetically. When he meets someone with kind energy, his ears spread like he’s about to take flight. When I dropped him off at the vet for ear surgery last week, I was sure that would never happen again. I feared the worst - and was glad I never took those ears for granted and told everyone he "flew for" how special he thought they were.
What has Jake been doing during our crisis? He’s been sitting in the grief chair I bought after my fiancé Mario’s death. Back then, I planned on sitting in that chair and wallowing, but Jake immediately secured it as his own - and has rarely gotten out of it since. It was like he knew it was a bad idea, and he wasn’t having it.
He’s unbothered by his torn ear. Once home, he didn’t whimper once.
Ironic right? This dog is the injured party, and I’m the one that can’t stop sobbing.
That's what writing does. It gives us space to witness our behavior. It lets us interject irony, humor, and wisdom. Express the roiling energy in our bodies and transform it into something beneficial. (Other creative activities work too. Painting, drawing, dancing, cooking, singing, decorating, and gardening.)
And it’s okay if you don’t share your stories.
Writing them is enough.
You can start with a daily journaling practice. In the Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron suggests we write morning pages longhand about absolutely anything. Or nothing.
But if you want to share your stories, there are multiple formats for this effort.
- Opinion pages and print / on-line magazines take pieces of 750-1,000 words in length. Start with your story, then weave in wisdom or lists of to-dos to address the situation. Focus on being of benefit to the reader. This is a great way to build an audience and chip away at a longer work. Before submitting, look at the outlet’s writing guidelines and requirements.
- Newsletters like this are the best way to build your own email list. Social media sites can be taken away, but your email list is yours. I publish this newsletter monthly with this blog (which forms chapters for my books), TV/movie reviews, book reviews, and a list of upcoming speaking, workshop, and retreat events. To subscribe to this newsletter, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Podcasts are another way to process happenings in your life for other’s benefit. You will likely start with an outline based on something that happened to you but end with advice and to-dos as noted in the first bullet. There are plenty of books and primers on starting a podcast. I would start with Matty Dalrymple’s book, Podcasting for Authors.
- Memoirs are a wonderful way to work through trauma or difficult periods. The best book to do this is The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr.
- Novels are another way to tell our stories. Most authors pull from real life for these longer works. They change characters and schematic elements, but the feelings and situations come from their lives. There are many books, courses, and podcasts on this subject. One of my favorites is Anatomy of a Bestseller by Sacha Black and the Creative Penn podcast by Joanna Penn.
If you are interested in learning more about writing your way to healing, I am leading a writing retreat on the subject October 26-29, 2023. Please visit the information site or contact me at email@example.com with any questions. Discounted options end August 31st.
The most important outcome of writing our way to healing, and publishing our work, is others can benefit. (They may even reach out to you and ask how you made it through.)
As a result – we are less alone - and the universe opens its arms, and we are held in its embrace.
“And when we get to where we’re going, turn around and help her too. For there was a time not so long ago when she was you."
Wishing you light and love.