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Posts Tagged ‘Letting Go’

One day a friend on twitter

Sent me a message.

She said:

“I’m writing for a magazine

And exploring my next memoir.

Each article I publish

Is a chapter from this next book

Would you take a look

At what I’ve written

And tell me what you think?”

 *

I was glad to help

And began reading

The woman’s story.

It was engaging, compelling

And very interesting.

Then one day,

I began to look

At the magazine.

It was called Life As A Human

Life As A Human

And was a very high quality publication.

I was very impressed.

I began to think about

Submitting some of my own writings,

I asked my friend about it,

And she said they were

A very solid outfit,

And that she thought

It would be well worth my time

To submit some work to them.

*

I contacted the editor,

Thinking this was like other sites

I had published in

Where they would let me republish

Posts I had written

For my blog.

I sent the editor a couple of samples.

She replied that they would be

Very interested in publishing my work

But that they preferred

Original content.

That stumped me for a while.

 *

Then the dots connected

And I realized I had original content

That I wanted to explore.

I was writing my next book

A memoir about a healing journey

That I was taking

To overcome the abuse

"Mamaw" and young Danny

Laid on me by

My crazy Grandma.

She had told me

If I wanted to be

A famous writer when I grew up

They would call me crazy

And lock me up.

I had come to realize

That crazy was not too strong

A word to use

About this grandmother.

 *

So I wrote my first chapter,

Polished and edited,

Cleaned it up,

And submitted it to the magazine.

They loved it!

The editor made a few changes

Mostly tightening here and there,

Then we published it.

Why Is This Fantastic News So Scary?

Got astonishing results

Lots of page views,

And plenty of comments.

I got some wonderful feedback

From the readers.

Doing it this way

Helped me stay focused

On the real essence

Of the story I was trying to tell.

Which was helpful

Because this was going to be

One of the most challenging books

I would ever write.

It was a complex topic,

Covering many years,

And I needed this unique method

To help me see

How to tell this story.

 *

I made amazing progress,

I was writing my next book

A chapter at a time

And publishing each chapter

As I went.

I got editorial insight

Feedback from readers,

And doing it this way,

Kept me moving forward.

Later I would compile

All the chapters

And there would be

My book.

A friend reminded me

That this was a common method

In years gone by –

To publish chapters as articles

And later

Make it a book.

Sounded like a plan to me!

 *

Then something unexpected happened.

It was only after

I had published 25 chapters

Just over half the book

With the wonderful guidance

Of the editor

And the astonishing feedback

From the readers

Which continued as they

Watched the story unfold.

I realized that writing

And publishing

Like I was doing

Was actually part of my healing.

*

Sometimes

I call myself

A very gifted

Slow learner.

I will realize a truth

And be astonished by it

Only to discover

That my friends had seen my truth

Long before I did

And no longer found it remarkable.

That’s how it was with

This experience.

How could I not

Have seen how healing

This process would be?

Well, I just didn’t.

But it happened that way!

 *

Writing and publishing

My healing journey

Became part of

My healing journey

And propelled that healing forward

Like few other things I had tried.

Today, as I look back

At the first chapters,

It’s like I’m writing about

Another person,

Someone who had

A serious writer’s block,

And had walked away from

Publishing two books

Because of what

His crazy Grandma said and did

When he was

Eight years old.

 *

I’m not that person any more.

I will publish this memoir

About my healing journey

In two thousand and twelve.

Healing The Writer - Chapters 1 thru 29, in reverse order

It will be called

Healing The Writer

And in a very real sense

That’s what the book did!

**********

Photo Credits:

“Mamaw” and young Danny, copyright Dan L. Hays

Life As A Human logo copyright Life As A Human magazine.

“In Written Memories”  Mutasim Billah @flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

“Good Question” e-magic @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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I would be stuck

Sitting at my desk

With a piece of paper

Unable to write

Not knowing what to say

Or how to say it.

I felt like a painter

Sitting at an easel

Not knowing what to paint

Not knowing how to make

That first brush stroke.

 *

I knew I had a writer’s block

I just didn’t know what

To do about it.

I finally managed to gut it out

And began to write

I wanted to write a book

So I hid out in a library

Way at the back

So no one could find me

Or ask me

What I was doing

It seemed pretty weird

At the time.

I just didn’t know why

I needed to do it that way.

Finally, I finished a book.

Then it was time

To send it to publishers

That felt more scary

Than writing had been

I still didn’t know why,

But I managed to gut it out

And sent my book

Off to publishing companies

*

Then I had that most amazing

Phone call.

A publisher called me back.

“I loved your book.  I spent

the entire weekend reading it.

I couldn’t put it down.”

You’d think

That was really exciting news

For a writer.

Instead – I was terrified.

Crippled with fear.

It seemed pretty weird

At the time

I just didn’t know why that was.

 *

Then a second publisher was interested

I tried to gut it out

And keep moving forward.

I couldn’t do it.

I told myself

“I’ve just lost touch

with the project.

I need time to reflect.”

I walked away from the book

And the publishers.

 *

I got so frustrated,

That at one point

I wrote a poem about it.

*
“The desire to express,

I was taught to repress

Has caused me a block

I wish to unlock.

 *

I pick up the pen,

I start writing again,

I feel the flow,

And then I stop.”

 *

I went on my way

For a number of years,

Then felt led to write a second book.

It was to be a novel,

About a part of

My Dad’s healing journey.

Writing that book led

To a grand adventure

That included

Working on wheat harvest

To explore my Dad’s path.

I came home

I managed to gut it out,

And wrote that novel.

Again,

Publishers were interested

And I felt déjà vu

As the whole thing happened again.

I walked away from that book,

Saying

“I’ve lost touch with the project,

I need time to reflect.”

 *

By this point I was so frustrated

I decided

If I couldn’t get past this whole

Writer’s block,

I would just take up golf.

And at one point,

I did just that.

I bought some golf clubs

Determined to leave writing behind

Forever.

 *

But the desire to write

Was just that strong

I had to keep going.

It led to a most unexpected place.

Back to my grandmother’s house

When I was eight years old.

I remembered something she had said.

She had asked me

What I wanted to be

When I grew up.

With the joy of a child I said

“Oh, I want to be a famous writer.”

She frowned, and said,

“Oh no, you don’t want to do that.”

Puzzled, I fell for the bait,

And asked: “Why not?”

With an evil grin on her face,

She said,

“Because if you do that,

They’ll call you crazy

And lock you up.”

*

So there it was

The reason

My writing

Would get locked up

The reason I hid in a library

To write a book

The reason I wouldn’t

Let my books

See the light of publication.

 *

Now as an adult,

I could write off

What she had said

As the ramblings of a somewhat

Nutty old grandma.

But when I was eight,

I couldn’t figure that out,

Especially when she told me

“Don’t talk about this.”

 *

And later I remembered,

She hammered the nails

Of her evil intentions

Into my heart

With extremely vicious

Lies and actions

Abusive and cruel,

Which built a wall

Around my writing

That I couldn’t overcome.

*

But by bringing to the surface

What had locked up

My writing for

Forty five years,

At least

I had something

To work on.

It led to a lot of hard work,

Releasing the pain,

Overcoming what had been

Burned into my soul.

I knew I had made

A lot of progress,

When I published my first book.

 *

Now I am writing

My next book

The story of how Grandma

Tried to poison my soul

And my journey

To overcome the writer’s block

She gave me.

I will expose those lies

To the light

And let them wither up and die

Like lies deserve to do.

**************

Photo Credits:

Images From – The Microsoft Office Clip Art Collection

“Pen on Paper” Completed in 2004 to serve as the basis for the publicity of a retreat for authors entitled Writers Refuge. jlseagull @ flickr.com Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Attack of the Lunesta Moth (cropped)”; original by Maxintosh @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Self Portrait, Walking Away: On one of the jetties at Gräsvik” Misteraitch @flickr.com Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

“The Wheat Harvest” the slowlane @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Mud Golf on Orcas,” by wiselyb @ flickr.com.  Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

“Scary_04″ Aliwest44 @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Locked Up” Derekskey @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Big Chain” Shaycam @flickr.com Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

Book Cover copyright by Dan L. Hays

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Then there were times when

    The poetry flowed.

My words fell on paper,

    My creativity glowed.

*

The writing was easy,

   The meanings were clear.

My inner child,

    Always was near.

*

Then came the hurting,

     The word flow did cease.

I spiritually died,

    I knew no more peace.

*

Long years of silence,

    By my poet child.

I tried to be happy,

    Inside I was wild.

*

It grieved me to hear,

    The silence within.

I wanted so badly,

    The words to begin.

*

Years of discovery,

    Led me to causes.

I worked and recovered,

    Without many pauses.

*

I went back to Tulsa,

    My dead father to see.

To tell him I loved him,

    To set old hurts free.

*

It’s now a year later,

    The word flow returns.

Creative freedom,

    Again mine to learn.

*

Now there are new times,

    When the poetry flows,

The words fall on paper,

    My creativity grows.

*

Yet it seems like a new world,

    My heart is at ease.

Not flowing from hurting,

    My words are at peace.

*****

This poem was written in 1999, but I’m having this experience so strongly now that it’s really relevant today.

Photo credit:

“Inspiration” photosteve101 @ Flickr.com Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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I had just been

On an amazing adventure

I worked on

The wheat harvest

To follow my Dad’s path,

To walk in his shoes,

To find out

What had led him

To change his whole life

And reclaim

His soberness

His family

His job

His life.

 *

Combine cutting wheat

I had returned to Houston

After spending the summer

From Oklahoma

To North Dakota

Following the wheat

Living a nomadic life

Exploring new worlds.

Combine moving to next field

*

I had been writing letters

To a number of friends

To stay grounded.

I had called

Whenever we stopped

At a place where

There was a phone.

One of my biggest

Supports was Donna.

We’d been friends

For many years

And she had been there

Whenever

I needed her.

 *

So when I got home,

We planned to spend time.

She wanted to hear

All about my experience

What it was like driving

A big truck,

Pulling a wheat combine

Combine on a trailer behind grain truck

On a trailer.

I had described it

In letters,

But it wasn’t the same

As being able to

Spend an evening

And tell someone

All  about it.

*

I called her.

She said

And I remember

This vividly:

“Say, I’d love

To get together.

I’m house sitting

For some friends,

I have to watch their dogs

I have to do a couple of

Loads of laundry.

I’ll cook you dinner,

And get a couple of movies

And we can watch those

While we visit.”

*

The whole thing

Just felt wrong.

Too many moving parts,

And no place to

Really talk.

I had presence enough

To say

“Donna, that feels

awfully busy.

Why don’t we do it

Another night

When there’s more time

To just sit and visit.”

*

She acted sort of surprised,

And a bit put out.

Like she had been

Doing me a favor

To offer me the time slot.

We never rescheduled.

She never found out

What my journey

Had been like.

 *

The only thing

I can figure out

Is that she didn’t

Really want to know.

Ouch!

Why?

I couldn’t guess.

*

We were never the same

After that.

**************************

Photo credits:

Photos by Dan L. Hays Copyright, all rights reserved.

“Good Question” e-magic @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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My Dad disappeared

For about a year

When I was seventeen.

The last I saw him,

We left him

Passed out drunk

On the living room couch.

Relatives came and got

My Mom, sisters and me

Leaving Dad

Who wouldn’t quit drinking

Who wouldn’t accept help.

I thought

I might ever see him again.

 *

Later

He returned to our lives

A changed man.

He sobered up

Got back his old job

Built back his old life.

*

But twenty years later

After he died

I realized

I never knew what happened

When he disappeared.

When he was on the edge

Of killing himself

With the drink.

Rumor had it

That he worked

The wheat harvest

Something he had done

In college.

Wheat Harvest

*

I started to write

The story of what I thought

Might have happened.

I realized

The piece I was missing

Was what it would be like

To work on

The wheat harvest.

*

I said to a friend

“Someday…

Someday,

If I ever want to

Really explore

My Dad’s story.

I might just have to

Work the wheat harvest.

My friend Pat

Listened quietly.

 *

Later he said

“You’ve talked about

working the wheat harvest

three or four times.

I just want to mention

Someday – if you want

To work the wheat harvest.

I have relatives in Oklahoma

Who do that each year.”

*

I did what I do

When hit with

The unexpected.

I sat there

Numbly,

Quietly.

And then said

“Thanks for telling me.”

Talk about upping the ante

On a spiritual quest

To walk in

My Dad’s shoes.

My friend had

Certainly done that.

Now I was left

To put it all out there,

Or leave it as “someday.”

*

I finally called Pat

And asked if he would

Do me a favor.

Check with his relatives

To see if I might

Join their harvest crew

For the summer.

*

Meanwhile,

I tried to figure out

If this was

Completely nuts.

Quit my job,

Go off and work

On a harvest crew

To find out about

My Dad’s story.

I checked it out

With Scott – a good friend

Who was really grounded.

He’d give me a solid answer,

Besides, he was

An accountant.

Logical, linear.

I later realized

I was secretly hoping

He’d tell me

“This idea is crazy”

So I could give up

The whole thing.

Instead he said

“Makes a lot of sense

I think you ought to do it!

It will be part of

Your healing.”

Major gulp!

*

Two months later,

I was living in a trailer

In Lone Wolf Oklahoma

With six high school farm kids

Learning to drive a huge truck

Used to haul grain.

And following

My Dad’s story.

*

Bunk trailers and work pickups

Cara - the grain truck I drove on harvest

It was the adventure

Of a lifetime.

We followed the wheat

As it ripened.

Living like nomads.

It was a world

I had never seen before.

Living in an old house trailer

In one place for two weeks

Then moving,

Trailers, trucks, combines

A caravan

To the next farm

As the wheat ripened

From Oklahoma

To North Dakota.

Combines and tractors

*

Combines dumping grain on trucks

I learned many things.

I grew up in the city

But had the heart of a country boy.

I love driving a tractor

Or a wheat combine.

I don’t do well on little sleep.

Living in a trailer,

Farm boys are not

Particularly neat

When Momma’s not there

To clean out the tub.

When pulling wheat from

A plugged up combine

The dust really itches,

When it gets down your neck.

 *

And special things happened.

    I got to visit the filmsite

From Dances With Wolves.

We saw Mount Rushmore,

Me at Dances With Wolves filmsite

My first pic of Mount Rushmore

Both affected me deeply.

All in all

It was a magical summer.

*

It gave me the truth

About what I believe

Happened to my Dad.

How he had

A spiritual awakening

And realized

He had to return

To clean up his past.

I finished the story

I wanted to tell.

I wrote it as a novel.

It will be called

“Nothing Left To Lose.”

 *

But as I look back

What Pat said

When the idea

First came up

Turned out to be the truth.

He had said

“Dan, you think you’re going

On the wheat harvest,

To learn about your Dad.

I think this trip

Will be about you.

You will learn about

Yourself.

Heal yourself.

Claim your own power.”

*

He was right!

I often look back

On the wheat harvest experience

As a turning point in my life.

When I claimed the truth

Dan the writer

Of my path

Not to follow the business world

   Of my Dad and my friends,

But to claim my birthright

As a writer

Dan the writer

A teller of stories.

And a country boy.

I am completely convinced

I did the right thing

In going on harvest

To walk in Dad’s shoes.

Because I found – myself.

********************

Photo Credits:

Photos by Dan L. Hays Copyright – all rights reserved.

“The Wheat Harvest” the slowlane @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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Being true to yourself,
Can involve losses,
Things don’t ever
Stay the same
As I evolve
Sometimes things change
Friends drop off
Along the way
Why do they leave?
Sometimes they don’t say.

But one person said,
“It just wasn’t that important
To talk to you any more.”
Well ain’t that the shits?
She and I had been friends
For ten years,
Been through tough times
Supported each other.
Then I felt
Her pull away.
I still don’t think
I know the real reason
Why she left.
I suspect
She doesn’t either.

I tell myself
That it’s OK
But that is to
Protect myself
Because it hurts like hell,
When it happens.

Sometimes its gradual
Time spent together
Grows less
Interest in your world
Grows less
Then comes a point
Where you sense
They are listening
Out of politeness
And not because
They care any more.
Don’t disrespect me
By faking nice.

What can you do?
Try to hold on?
Won’t work
If someone is intent
On leaving.
Just gotta let go
But it hurts
One less person
To be there for you.
One less person
Who’s got your back.
The group gets smaller
That you can call friend.
You feel the twinge –
I feel lonely.
Well that really sucks.
It is what it is.

The other side of it,
There’s room in my world
For new people
To flow into my life
And as surely as
The old friends fade away.
New friends are emerging.
Being there.
Honoring my writer
Enjoying my poet.
Hearing when I speak.
I really like this part.
Life feels more rich
Because of the new friends.

*******

Note: I read some of my older poetry at an open mic event last Saturday night. I came home and wrote this poem. I went back and read it this Saturday night at the open mic event. I think they call that generativity! 🙂

Photo credits: Courtesy of Stephen McCulloch, Kevin Higgins.  Creative Commons via Wikimedia.

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In the fall of 1990, I had a vision – I wanted to write novels of hope. I had taken a 19th Century American literature course, and the teacher had said, “in 19th century American novels, you expected a happy outcome.  In 20th century novels, you typically expect a negative or unhappy outcome.”  I didn’t like that trend, and wanted to do something different.

The movie Dances With Wolves had just come out, and it really sparked something in me.  I realized that I wanted to explore a time in my Dad’s life I knew little about.

In 1967, when I was 17, we were living in Oklahoma City when my Dad’s drinking hit bottom. My aunt and uncle came and picked up my Mom, my 3 sisters and myself, taking us back to Fort Worth to live with my maternal grandmother. Dad disappeared for a while, then later returned to Fort Worth, somehow changed.  He sobered up and got into recovery, and reclaimed the world he had lost.  I never knew what had happened to him during the time he was gone, other than a vague comment my Mom made about him going and working on the wheat harvest, which he had done in high school.  I never thought I would see him again, and later wondered what his life had been like during the time while he was gone.

He died before it ever occurred to me to ask him about it.  I began working on how to tell that story, and after I wrote the first two chapters, I suddenly realized – if I explored this thread fully, I had – a novel of hope!  It was a tremendously empowering moment.

In the spring of 1991, I quit my job, went up to Oklahoma and worked on the wheat harvest, to try and imagine what my Dad’s life was like after we left, and what might have happened to him.  How I got there is a story of its own: Dances With Wolves Filmsite.

The book I wrote in 1993 was my best guess as to what happened.  It was entitled Nothing Left To Lose.  It was a novel,  written from a very loving and generative perspective.  But how did I get to that loving place in describing a man who had been violent toward me when I was a teenager?  I later realized that I needed to flesh out the back story.  I will do so in several books, beginning with my first published memoir, Freedom’s Just Another Word, about the time around his death and my healing process.  The reason I never published this novel will be the topic of the second book I will publish – Healing The Writer; writing that book freed my creativity!

I now plan to publish Nothing Left To Lose, the novel about my Dad written from a loving and healed perspective.

The novel begins like this:

Chapter 1
Eyes downcast, he trudged along, conscious of the uneven surface along the shoulder of the highway, stumbling occasionally on chunks of gravel or small pebbles. He looked up periodically at the cars speeding past, as if to keep his bearings. His face was lined and weary and his entire body ached. He was wearing a worn brown corduroy jacket, a wrinkled plaid flannel shirt, dark blue polyester pants, white socks and cordovan loafers.

It was about 5 pm and the sun had just set. Night was approaching rapidly and the chill of February in 1967 was harshened by a brisk wind which picked up in gusts as he walked. He tried to walk faster, his hands deep in his pockets, but had to step carefully so not to turn an ankle on the uneven surface beside the roadbed. His vision was limited by the flash of oncoming headlights.

He had been told there was a boarding house in town where he could get a room for the night, and he plodded on, the directions vaguely held in a corner of his consciousness.

“We’re sorry,” they’d said at the detox center, “but all we can do is provide you a place for 5 days. We just help people dry out. Then we have to give the bed to someone else.” They had directed him to the boarding house, wished him well, given him back his clothes and money, and sent him on his way.

His feet hurt, his whole body ached, he craved a drink but knew that he must make the most of this chance. There was another pain, too, an emotional void when he thought of all he had left behind, all he had lost. He wondered where they were now, but he knew he could do nothing for them. Yet he longed for their voices, for any source of warmth and comfort to relieve this coldness, and the blackness in his soul.
——————————–

Sitting and looking out the big picture window at the front of Miss White’s Boarding House, Peter Sanders watched the occasional car pass, and a few blocks away he could see the busier traffic on the main street. Busy, he thought, for our town. Cornell, Oklahoma wasn’t exactly New York, he chuckled to himself, but it was rush hour here, with cars heading home to supper.

At the corner of the main road where it intersected his street, he saw a figure hesitate, look at street signs, and uncertainly begin to walk toward him. Another drunk out of the center, he thought to himself, betting that the man was headed here. This was where they mostly came when they had nowhere else to go.

Peter got up, stepped to the door of the kitchen, cracked it open. “Miss Vera,” he called.

“Yes, Peter?” she replied.

“I think we got a visitor coming in.”

“Alright. Send him through to me.” Miss Vera stepped wearily into the living room. She had seen so many come through her doors that the novelty of it had long since worn off.

Peter sat in one of the overstuffed chairs in the living room, extending his feet toward the large space heater in the corner. Miss Vera went back into the kitchen. The man opened the door.

Ben Hays, my Dad, in 1971.

“Step in and warm up, stranger,” Peter called. He stepped quickly and gratefully over in front of the space heater, holding his hands out over it, shivering slightly. Peter studied him. He was about six feet tall, slender yet sturdy, with dark circles under the eyes, sunken cheeks. He had dark brown hair, cut short, rumpled and uncombed, and his clothes weren’t heavy enough for February. The clothes looked of good quality, but were tired from overuse. His hands looked soft. There were no calluses or marks, so he was probably not a laborer. His shoulders slumped wearily, hands twitched, and he had an almost nauseous look on his face. Peter imagined him to be a businessman gone to seed – gone down far and fast, too. Peter knew the look – he’d had it himself recently enough.

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