Archive for June, 2010

Not long ago I was doing some much-needed clutter clearing in my office. I have a horizontal file cabinet with a large drawer packed with carefully filed papers I hadn’t touched in years. They represented many years of successful, interesting work so I kept shying away from the idea of tossing them.

On the other hand, I also had stacks of beautiful art paper that I use for making greeting cards that were rolled haphazardly into large bags. I had to move the bags to get to the filing cabinet. One of those little annoyances that impact us more than we realize. Plus a big “don’t” from a feng shui perspective.

So I spent a couple of hours going through the papers and managed to ditch about 90% of them. In went the art paper and suddenly that whole section of the room felt lighter and even friendlier somehow.

But here’s the best part: as I was sorting files I found an unlabeled folder with Smokey the Bear on the cover. (I’m a big fan of Smokey: saw him when I was six and to this day use “his” pocket  calendars. In case you’re interested, his 66th birthday is on August 9th. )

Imagine my surprise when I opened the folder and found a drawing of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. I let out a squeak and started going through the papers and it turned out to be a Creative Career Coaching class from the University of Texas continuing education series (soon to be ditched, I believe, which is a real shame).

The class was in April, 2003. And suddenly I came across page after page of alternate handwriting! I had completely forgotten anything about it, I swear. I’ve always thought I’d only tried it in response to a few questions in a self-help book.

Wrong. The teacher had us go through several different scenarios using AH. I got a kick out of this one and thought you might, too. The teacher called AH our “inner brat” and encouraged us to let rip against our “inner critic.” We made a list with our dominant hand of negative words and “can’t” messages, then answered back with our alternate hand.

A dab of background: when I took this class I’d been running a statewide nonprofit for nearly seven years. I was the only staff and responsible for all fundraising, including my salary. This job would go down in flames two months later. I knew on some level that I was fighting a losing battle but was too stubborn to give up.

Here’s the list of “can’t messages” and responses:

Dominant Hand: not making enough money

Alternate Hand: how much is enough

DH: too critical

AH: stop

DH: too bossy

AH: some people need to be lead

DH: drive people away

AH: good riddance

DH: let myself be dominated

AH: not very often & figure out what buttons they’re pushing

DH: afraid to send books to publishers

AH: why

DH: not daring enough

AH: pretty damn daring playing without a net

DH: set in ways

AH: ways work pretty well all things considered

DH: can’t raise money

AH: I’ve done it all myself for almost 30 years

DH: not generous

AH: it depends

Only when someone I respected told me that my AH ability was  a rare talent did I take it seriously. Too bad: I was definitely on to something back in 2003 and life would have been easier if I’d kept writing. As you’ll see in Circuitous Route to AH in Pages. I’ve posted Part 6.

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For those of you who are or will be in the Austin vicinity on June 25 or June 26 and would like to hear me talk about the whole-brain connection and alternate handwriting, here are two events:

June 25: Wisdom at Work 4th Friday Luncheon at Marie Calendar’s Restaurant from 11:30 – 1:15. Reservations and directions are at www.wisdomatwork.com

June 26: Austin Center for Holistic Healing and Yoga Grand Opening from 11:00 – 4:00. Lots of demos and food. Directions and schedule are at www.holistichealingandyoga.com

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Evelyn hates to write. She’s a very busy woman. In the past she’s owned a bakery and a tee-shirt company, both highly successful enterprises. Now she’s establishing a new business.

She needs to write a website. She needs to write a brochure. She needs fliers for her classes. She hates to write but she needs to write and keeps putting it off. Evelyn is very annoyed with the whole concept of writing.

When I first mentioned alternate handwriting, she was unenthusiastic, to put it mildly. Wasn’t I listening? She hates to write! She has too much to write already! Why would she want to do more writing?

Evelyn is also kind-hearted and generous. She had spent several hours leading me through whole-brain psychological “exercise” classes. She knew I wanted to repay her for her time and expertise by taking her through an alternate handwriting session. (See previous blog re: grim financial situation. It continues but I can barter with the best of them.)

So, more as a favor to me than because she wanted to, which she didn’t, Evelyn agreed to try AH. And here was a new response: absolute hilarity. Her handwriting took her directly back to her childhood, when writing was a game. She talked about learning how to write in cursive and how exciting that had been. She said the letters looked like artwork. She giggled the whole time she wrote with her alternate hand.

She actually wrote something about strangling her sister, but she laughed in delight as she wrote it. She looked at me happily as she read aloud what she’d written. She told me stories about her family, how they changed their Eastern European names when they emigrated to the U.S. many decades ago to escape the pogroms. Then continued to change the names until they sounded WASP enough for the very WASP-centric city where they settled.

“This is so much fun!” she exclaimed several times. When I asked if she wanted to write more about dealing with her sister she said no, she already knew how (and it didn’t include murder). She thanked me several times and her face and posture were noticeably lighter.

Responding to the act of writing, rather than to the content, allowed Evelyn to go to that part of herself that loves making “artwork.” Back to the days when writing was an adventure, a playful activity.

She’s holding onto that sense of delight. She recently told me that AH allowed her “to feel really creative… like getting my fingers into the clay as a kid.” As for the writing she needs to do: she’s found someone to do it for her. Evelyn is no slouch when it comes to bartering, either.

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Part 5 of Circuitous Path to AH is in Pages. Thanks to Mr. Springsteen for the photo and many years of stellar music.

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I’ve mentioned the micro job a couple of times. I took it because my financial situation is, to put it mildly, grim. I’m wobbling along that fine line between equal parts of effort and trust. As in: do whatever I can to bring in money and know that Loving Kindness is ultimately in charge, not me. This flies in the face of decades of feeling fiercely independent, completely responsible for every aspect of my life. Tough pattern to break.

It’s coming down to the point of seriously considering selling my home of 25 years. I know there are many, many people in this situation or in much worse ones. After all, I have a house to sell. And I’m fortunate enough to live in Austin, where the housing bubble, although a lot smaller and closer to the ground, is still tenuously floating.

Oh, but I love my house. That’s a photo of my entryway above. If you look hard, you may be able to see Mattie sitting in the doorway. Like a little ghost.

You probably won’t be surprised that all of this has been the topic of many alternate handwriting sessions. In one, my dominant hand wrote, ‘I’m so tired of making decisions, even small ones.’ To which AH replied, give yourself much credit for keeping momentum going, even if you feel it’s in circles!  LK [Loving Kindness] waiting patiently, eternally. eager to help you.

My fretful left brain retorted, ‘But why do I have to ask? I sound like Mom [who always used to say] “I shouldn’t have to ask.” In her case, we were supposed to read her mind. This isn’t the same!’

AH: mind has nothing to do with it! didn’t with Mom either: all is heart

Dominant Hand: How do I ask with my heart — oh, is it accept, not ask?

AH: you just felt difference in spirit. let down walls and let love in. why not let LK take on these burdens? all burdens? why do you want to carry them when you don’t have to?

I felt soothed by that response. Of course I’m still fighting (you fight everything) but sometimes I get those glimmers of letting go, surrendering. Then again, I find myself holding onto things, unable or unwilling to part with them. Here’s a ‘dialogue’ that made me laugh:

DH: I feel sad that “our” old pink [mechanical] pencil, so perfect, seems to have bitten the dust.

AH: don’t be sad! did its duty & you have other pencils. saving it for future museum exhibit seems a bit much.

Delusions of grandeur, anyone?

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For those reading my new story (Circuitous Path to AH), I’ve posted Part 4 in Pages.

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