THE GIFT OF VULNERABILITY by Pauline Turgeon

Oxford Dictionary defines “vulnerable” as “injury of a non-physical nature,” I define it as the most terrifying, yet emotionally gratifying gift I have received in my years of recovery from addiction and mental health disorders. When the chance to become a small part of Grit Uplifted was presented to me, I was beyond ecstatic to be a part of it. Not only does my life’s passion encompass all things creative (including writing), since I embarked on my own personal journey to wellness, it has come to include an intense desire to share my story with anyone who will listen. This, in turn, is where vulnerability becomes the essential concept.

Several weeks ago I experienced an incredibly complex and emotionally strenuous situation at home. Despite my total lack of desire, I chose to attend the writing group that day. As I opened up to the group about my struggles, the fact that so many could identify, perhaps not with the situation itself, but with the emotions I was grappling with, I felt an enormous sense of belonging. Later, the sheer catharsis I felt as I put ink to paper was beyond anything I would have received if I had stayed chosen to stay home.

For the gift of vulnerability, my ability to unabashedly share my deepest struggles, and the willingness to end my own internal suffering day to day, I must thank Grit Uplifted and the members who make the group what it is. You have given me an option when sometimes, if feels as though there is no other.

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HOME by Harry Kuhn

So many broken memories,
So many places I never fit.

Too often the guest, rarely the host,
Too many sofa-beds.

So often keeping silent,
So often needing to be agreeable.

Never in my own home,
Never feeling at home.

A stranger within myself,
A stranger in my own skin.

Needing to be alone,
Needing desperately not to be alone.

Where I never wanted to be,
Where I was at home.

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TEMPORAL SPATIALITY by Erin Anderson

My childhood home moved between cities and small towns, stretching from Etobicoke to as far away as Lewiston, New York. After that we returned to Canada, where I lived on Foxwood Drive—my longest ever at a single address.

It was a red-brick bungalow, with builder’s off-white front and garage doors. When we first came to this home the yards were only mud, and my first winter there, I tobogganed down what seemed like a mountain to my eight-year-old self. A mountain of rusty mud and clay, dusted with snow like we don’t seem to get in Ontario anymore. I remember the mounds we had shoveled towering above my mother’s car on both sides. I would stay outside for hours and I don’t remember ever feeling the cold. I tried to get my mom to play outside with me, but she was always busy.

She would make me hot chocolate though, from a tin of powder that I would sometimes climb up on the kitchen counter to reach; licking my finger, dipping it in, then licking off the sticky sweetness. I didn’t dare tell my mother about this habit, and she never mentioned the clumps of powder she would spoon into the trash bin. There was a lot unsaid between us—even then—despite my penchant for chatter.

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Response to Mary Oliver’s Poem “Mindful” by Erin Anderson

Dominant Hand

I

“Prayers made out of grass”

I dream of such a soft world

Which light shines upon

 

 

 

II

I fall asleep there

Under the soft canopy

Mind finally clear

 

III

This is commonplace?

Mary, how I envy thee

For your wise nature

 

IV

For nature always

Will be, the divinity

Which I am seeking

 

 

Non-Dominant Hand

Left hand, right brain.

Thoughts come out too fast

for this clumsy appendage.

I have to check my spelling,

even.

I can respond only to my immediate

experience.

Blurred letters, smudged

by inexperience.

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CONNECTION/DISCONNECTION BY ERIN ANDERSON

Roots. Lifeline of trees and human beings alike. They provide a connection to something outside of ourselves.

Nourishment.

Even in their demise, trees are more than a worm buffet. They invite creatures in to share their warmth. Their scarred bark relays a narrative arc, long since descended. The height of their best years behind them, and to answer your question, No, it is not silent when they fall.

But somewhere along the line we stopped listening. Placing more weight on plastic versus paper. That’s not to imply that no one pays attention. Trees can be each others’ friends and allies. Trees are not lonely. Trees never have to feel homesick.

Only humans would create a word for being uprooted. Trees have no need for such a word. Roots are bonded for all eternity, even once they are connected only to each other, and no longer with our Mother.

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SURVIVING IS NOT PERFORMING by ASHLEY DIANA WREN

TRIGGER WARNING: Writing below contains discussion of sexual assault.

This is one of my most powerful pieces to date. I only wrote this yesterday and shared this during my writing class. It left people stunned and they didn’t know how to react. But I’ll be going back to Grit Uplifted every week to challenge myself. Hope some of you get a chance to read this <3

GRIT UPLIFTED EXERCISE ON OCTOBER 21st/2017
Writing prompt: Write a first person response to the Emma Forest’s quote, “We all perform. Its what we do for each other, deliberately or unintentionally.”

I know it’s been a week since the Harvey Weinstein allegations came up. As a social media influencer, I see the tweets and posts 24/7. Of course, they
Trigger me, but at the same time I know I need to speak up and act up on this.
Since, I was 5 years old, I was kidnapped and sexually abused by my biological father and was forced to work in the sex trade because of him. Since I lived with him throughout my
Whole childhood, I was forced by him to not say a word. For 15 years, till I left his handcuffs and “snake” torture I got from him, I never was to speak about it. In my culture, incest is acceptable, but sexual abuse is taboo.
At about 12 years old, I came to Canada to meet my biological mother and her husband. I was going through puberty, and found from my mother and stepfather that I was born a hermaphrodite (intersex). (NOTE: I am a person who wishes to reclaim the old gender and sexuality terms)
When she explained that to me that was a complete mind-fuck. I confided to her that I always felt as a girl, since age 5. She took that and used it to her advantage. She ended up sexually assaulting me and she denied everything. She is a child psychiatrist and at the time, had the power to commit me in a mental institution.
In 1993, she send me back overseas to Cyprus to my original abuser.
In 1994, I experienced abuse from a Greek Orthodox priest, who was a friend of my fathers. I began struggling with my faith and decided that I hated the doctrines of Christianity with a passion. Not the people who are Christians. I need to make sure that I make people understand that I don’t hate Christian people. And reiterate that it’s the doctrines of the religion and the people of power in this belief system. According to this priest who did the damage, “Children are lambs and need to be sacrificed for Jesus and God.”
Since then, I have continued experienced multiple assaults, with the most recent one happening February 27th / 2017 under the Labatts bridge by a stranger here in London, Ontario.
I had to fake it for all these years till the latest dreadful experience that I had last February. I said “No mas”, which means “No more” in Latin.
Since June 2017, I joined Opening the Circle, which is a peer support group that I began peer support work with and I began breaking my silence. I am tired right now. Everybody needs to know that times have changed. I as a survivor feel that we shouldn’t perform to please the world. Some of us suffer and hurt during this process, and we need to stop the silence due to the fear of sexual abuse. By telling our stories and enforcing the #metoo campaign we do this for each other. Definitely not deliberately or unintentionally.

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MOTHER OR NOT? By Ashley Diana Wren

The last month or so, I have been taking writing classes. Grit Uplifted has been an amazing group that has been challenging me. This is my way of flushing the past. Through writing. This exercise was something that I have struggled while writing. If you see the options, I chose to do it and base it on my biological mother. This is another of my most personal pieces to date. Hope you enjoy <3

GRIT UPLIFTED EXERCISE : OCTOBER 21st/ 2017
WRITING PROMPT: Write an exercise from a HE/She or They perspective.
The OPTIONS were
1. A parent seen differently through the eyes of his/her son or daughter
2. Someone suffering from insomnia

My mother. She is quite a complicated character, and yet, I took most of my characteristics from her.

I don’t have a relationship with her, but when I saw her last she told me that she despises me because I am the mirror reflection of her.

She was the performer at Ryerson University in the late 1970s. The Latin Queen and star of West Side Story in a theatre production.

She was the empath for all her friends who were dying of HIV at the time. (IRONY would bring it, that I would be diagnosed HIV+ last summer, and yet she hates me with a passion)

She is a child psychiatrist. And she gave me the gene to care out everyone else, but myself. Only she is the opposite; she cares more about herself than everybody else.

I know my stepfather told me about why she now hates/despises my LGBT culture. She caught grandfather in bed with another man. Grandfather then abandoned Grandma and my mom, and the generational trauma began. He went into a domestic partnership with his partner in the 1970s.

When I met my mother in 1993, I thought she would be a nurturing mother. But she was definitely not. She was the second person in my life who would be all about greed and power, and she would continuously “murder” me inside like a female rabbit slaughtering its babies.

Last time I saw her was at my sister’s funeral in September of 2017. She bitched at me and my sister-in-law. Called me and my sister “abominations” She gave me a spiel about how I was a disgrace for transitioning.

And yet, I kissed her hand and forgave her to get closure. I told her in her face and in front of 300 relatives that she was the worst mother for using me as her first-born to gain fame, making me a milk-carton and getting my baby bonus benefits to give education to her other children. That was the first time that I ever got closure for a loss in my life.

Her characteristics and attitudes may be instilled in me, but I know that I am not fully “her.” I’m better than “her.” She may have the wealth and luxuries, but she doesn’t have the concept of respect and dignity down.

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The Melody of Panic by Pauline Turgeon

The feeling I get when I am on stage is what I imagine peering into a pool of rapacious piranhas would feel like. Fear alone keeps me standing upright. The lights are turned down low and the air is tinged with the subtle scent of the aging wood that frames the space. The small crowd is peppered with young people in their trendy dark-rimmed glasses, crocheted hats and chewed jeans. My right leg quivers along with my voice as I try to hold my notes.

Over several months, (we’ll call him) Balding Guitar Buddy, and I were accountable to our weekly guitar jams – far, far away from any semblance of an audience. Only one person to appraise the output of creativity, aside from my own biased misjudgment, was cathartic to me but the crippling fear of eating that critique sandwich in front of a hungry crowd has paralyzed me since I was 12. Balding Guitar Buddy has played in a band for ten years. He coaxes me as though it should be easy. The crushing self-doubt is too much to endure for an artful klutz like me.

Adulthood as a complete coward has taken its toll on my perception of the conquests suited to my potential. Balding Guitar Buddy plays the role of emotional pep squad. His perception of my abilities transported me into the temperature-controlled room (shrine) of the music store, where acoustic guitars hung in a coquettish line, begging to be caressed. “Money is just paper,” Balding Guitar Buddy said, “you’ll have this guitar for life.” She’s a Taylor 314 cutaway electric acoustic. I call her Nova.

I desperately want to believe that I can overcome my fear of being ostracized. The trepidation in my forward progression in music – in life – is becoming an obvious handicap. Thirty-eight years and I have only just begun to peel the fear away, one veneer at a time. The distance between the edge of the stage and the yawning void of flesh-eaters, is a tangle of rubber-coated cords. Below the entanglements are hints of glimmering life.

I play the first notes and feel the energy of the crowd feed the next notes and those after that. An all-encompassing stillness dissolves my uncertainty into the lilting of my song. The chaotic mane on my head begins to fall around my face, hiding eyes that surely look panicked.

“I’m doing this”, I say to myself as I peek through the tendrils at the crowd, determined to feed the piranhas. The decision to honour or to combat my fear is an ongoing crusade. Balding Guitar Buddy, Nova, and Fear help me stand, but only I call heads or tails on whether to cower or fight back.

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Meet Pauline!

My name is Pauline and I am ecstatic to be working with Grit Uplifted and all its members for the next several weeks. I, like Erin, am also a mature student at Western University and am nearing the end of my degree. Writing has always been my passion and what better way to connect with the community than to do what I love most? Wordsworth so poignantly said to “fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” Besides my role as mother to four incredible boys, I am on a journey – like most participants in the group, I suspect. I truly believe that self-discovery begins with words on a page. I’m excited to see what the future holds for myself as well as for the kind folks at Grit Uplifted. Every moment spent working on this project will have a significant impact on the road ahead and for that I am truly grateful.

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Weekly Check-in – Erin

Today was my first time participating in the group, and I can already tell that it’s going to be one of the highlights of my week over the next few months. I have a feeling many of the other writers I met today feel the same. What a rare treasure it is to be in the same room as so many others who share your passion for language and storytelling.

During check-in, I got a small glimpse inside the lives of a room full of strangers, who have been kind enough to welcome my group mate, Pauline, and I into the space, and we shared how writing has impacted our week (even if it’s the nagging guilt we might feel if we weren’t able to write anything). The nicest part about a creative writing group, if you ask me, is the time, space, and encouragement to just write. As a full-time student and mom, I consider those three things to be a luxury, and I don’t take them for granted.

Meg is a terrific facilitator, and offered engaging prompts to the group. My favourite was the second one, where she read an excerpt from a novel I hadn’t heard of, and asked us to either respond directly to the excerpt or create our own resolution to any of the number of conflicts the narrator was experiencing. Since the focus this week was on plot, creating conflicts for our characters is a necessary tool, and one I have been practicing in my writing courses this semester. It’s interesting when the crossover becomes apparent. I believe this experience will compliment what I am studying in the classroom, and vice versa. Overall, it was a great introduction to Grit Uplifted, and I’m looking forward to next week already!

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