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Blog Break Divorce Hawai'i Reading Reading & Writing Self-help Teachers Woman. Warrior. Writer.

Hawai’i: Getting Out of Town

I went to Pūpūkea for a few days to write. I love the cooler climate and the silence. It’s always good to get out of town. When you tell people you live in Hawai’i people immediately conjure an image of an empty beach, not Honolulu.

I did some work on my manuscript (working title) BREAK: Learn Your Truth, Write Your Divorce, and Author Your Life. My book is about how to write a divorce story for your legal and personal file. It’s a self-help book. I designed a story structure outline that will enable any woman to confidently write her divorce story.

I have a specific and ambitious goal with this book: my aim is to shift perceptions on how women conceptualize divorce and selfhood, and to teach women to use writing as a means of empowerment to rethink their lives during and after divorce.

Valhalla on the North Shore is a beautiful place and I recommend it for those looking for some quiet.

 

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Belief and Philosophy Break Divorce Educators Health Self-help Teachers Woman. Warrior. Writer.

BREAK: Marriage and Divorce and How to View a Sculpture

How to View a Sculpture

I would like to explain a few ways that we can think about the practice of observation that might help us come to terms with the way we see ourselves within the construct of marriage and divorce.

Here’s the famous Venus de Milo (photo by tabitha turner) an ancient Greek sculpture displayed in the Louvre. She is a symbol of Western beauty. There are many tales surrounding her beauty and interpretations of her appearance. I am unaware of an Asian equivalent image of a woman that is as significant on a global scale. There’s a meta element to her existence as a sculpture that also interests me: the physical element that socially distinguishes an individual and determines personal navigation is the face, the next are one’s hands. What we move, carry, sculpt, shape, stroke, create, carve and more, determines what we do in the world. She has no arms, no hands, so we look at her body and face…but let me continue.

When I was sixteen my parents sent me to France for the summer to learn French. I stayed with an acquaintance of my father’s, a medical doctor’s family, which I did for a few weeks in their summer home in the south of France. It was eye opening for me: large meals of rabbit stew at noon, a Pink Floyd blasting grandmother, a tennis playing aunt with a deep tan wearing a bikini that displayed tufts of her pubic hair, and a bucolic estate replete with a vineyard and peacocks pecking about the front lawn. There were other teenagers, but I was an admittedly difficult teen, bookish, and easily bored and not the best social companion, and so, within a short period of time found myself alone on a train to Paris where I spent the remaining part of the summer attending classes at Alliance Francais. I was terribly lonely and wanted to return to the US, but refused to do so out of pride. Determined to stay on, I decided to be purposeful, and so I set myself the task of going to every single museum in the city. 

As anyone knows, there are countless museums in Paris, but I covered many of them, an admirable ambition and a reflection of what I recognize now, as a sometime dutiful and obedient nature. I wandered about with my guidebook and recorded my observations in French in my journal as I downed cups of hot chocolate and cut my way through pastry after pastry. One day I met an older man—I no longer remember his name or even what he really looked like, although I seem to recall dark framed glasses and hair, and a leather briefcase. He saw me wandering around outside the Louvre, introduced himself, and then kindly proceeded to take me on a tour of the museum, pointing out significant art, and commenting in a way, I realize now that suggested someone with an abiding passion for art. After we drank coffee in a nearby cafe and chatted about what we saw, although I politely declined an invitation to meet him again. There are all kinds of ways we can read this encounter, but suffice to say the lesson he imparted to me that day about how to look at sculpture was probably one of the most significant I learned in terms of observation, one that I have carried with me and added to, and have passed on to students throughout my life.

When we look at a sculpture face-to-face or face-to-shape a single look from one angle does not suffice. Modern life is hurried, but when we slow down and look carefully, we experience art in new ways. To take in a sculpture in a way that evokes a relational response to the art and artist, we observe the piece from multiple vantage points, address the three dimensional material object at various angles. We might walk around it, do a 360 degree stroll. We squat down and look up, as if to be a small child beholding the world above. We reach out and touch it. Lean against it, if we can, press our own body against it, feel its surface. We stand up on our tiptoes and then look down upon the object. We tilt our head sideways and maybe even upside down. Most significantly, we look at the piece of art at different times of the day to observe how the shadows change, how the light and dark are cast across the shape, and note what this does to the object. The shadows tell a story. A sculpture does not look the same at dawn as it does mid-day. We must interact with it at different times, note the miracle of how it changes, to really see what the sculptor might have been communicating.

We too must allow ourselves to understand that the way we observe, define, any object, idea, institution, state of being, or whatever we encounter as humans, depends on our vantage point and may dramatically shift throughout the course of a day, over a number of years, as we weave our way through a lifetime. This perspective is derived from where we are physically, emotionally, or in time. How we see and why we see is fluid. It changes depending on the light or dark, on our moods and priorities, on what came prior or after.

Our responsibility then is always to understand, and if writing, to record and detail what we know when we know it, forgiving ourselves for what we cannot possibly see at the time we are observing, or if we dare say, participating, responding, or dancing with the art or idea. We might be generous to ourselves, allow ourselves flexibility as we move to a new insight closer into the seeing and knowing of how and why, nurturing or answering our questions as we linger and skip. It is impossible to take in all angles at once. Maybe there is a spot where we gaze beyond the sculpture, and so the object becomes framed within the background, or the object comes forward, the background receding. We touch the shape, feel its ease, roughness, and smoothness, its temperature and crevices. This moment is all that we take from the experience of looking at the sculpture as we remember it later, trying to recall and feel again what we felt. Somehow, removed from that moment, we feel a bit differently, and we say in our hearts that the art was more expansive at that time, at that place. Maybe it was. Or not. We have to have a little faith in ourselves, that where and how we are seeing at the moment is one perspective and it is fine, we are doing our best, we are seeing what it is we are supposed to see. When we look back at the moment, we are also doing our best, recalling what we can with all that we can muster. 

Truly seeing art, understanding an idea, feeling, person, place, concept, requires us to be compassionate with ourselves. Seeing involves being seen–specifically, we must see who we were and are, and this will allow us to envision who we can be. Slow down. Take in the sculpture. Allow yourself to see. This practice of seeing will help you to see others and yourself.

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Belief and Philosophy Blog Break Divorce Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

BREAK: Learning to say NO

I think the most important lesson I acquired from my divorce was learning to say NO.

NO, I do not want to be respected in this way. NO, I do not have to accommodate this decision. NO, I will not do this to placate. NO, I do not want to make up for your feelings. NO, I am too tired to be cheerful. NO, I do not feel like smiling now–in particular, upon demand. NO, I do not want to make small talk with people who are unpleasant. NO, I do not enjoy watching people get fall down drunk. Sorry that bores me. NO, I am not going there because everyone else is going. NO, I am not going to that place either. NO, I don’t want to watch that show. NO, I do not want to pretend, ever again, that I am enjoying myself when I do not. NO, I am not staging anything in order for another to appear better. NO, NO, NO.

One can say NO, THANK YOU, if you feel so inclined to soften the NO, which, coming from most women, is usually met with some resistance.

Saying NO allows one to say YES.

  • YES, I want to live authentically.
  • YES, I make mistakes and I am OK in life.
  • YES, I can experience joy.
  • YES, I have boundaries.
  • YES, I am here to be who I am.
  • YES. YES. YES.

What I noted was that I had to get comfortable saying NO before I could get to YES. For some, saying YES first and frequently, squeezes out the NO, so it makes NO a bit easier to say. Best to figure out what works for you. I believe that YES proved to be more confusing to me because women are taught to accommodate and say YES at their own expense, so I had to get comfortable saying NO.

Say NO to say YES. Figure out how many times you say YES when you really mean NO. If you start thinking about it and realize you never wanted to say YES to begin with, but felt pressured to do so, you need to think about why and how and with what frequency you say YES. It’s one thing to say YES if it’s a rather small ask. It’s another thing if saying YES chafes against your personal beliefs or narratives.

BREAK: Write Your Divorce Workshop will be held on November 14 SUNDAY 7-9AM (HST). Learn about how YES and NO affect the story you tell yourself about your divorce. This workshop will give you the tools that you need to write your story for your legal/personal file.

 

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Belief and Philosophy Blog Break Divorce Hawai'i Health Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

BREAK: Waves and Board Art

Inessa, my board, and Me with a lotta sunblock. The Kid told me his friends said, hey, I think I saw your mom in the water. She wears a lot of sunblock and wipes out a lot. LOL.
Symbols inspire understanding of the bigger ideas created by a writer. One of the tasks assigned to students is to seek out the symbols in a book. I’m sure you did this in English class! How do symbols emphasize what’s happening? What is the writer saying through a symbol? Is that bird in a story really a bird? Or is it about the heroine yearning for freedom?

After my divorce I began to learn to surf. I live in Hawai’i and while it was a place I came for family visits, I never learned to surf. I’m still learning. There are certain aspects of understanding this process that have come to symbolize my journey.

As a beginner, one of my challenges revolves around catching a green wave. It looks intimidating given that up close, it’s an unbroken wall of water, yet if you can get over its appearance, it can offer a smooth ride. There are different sizes of green waves, but they share that they have not been broken. In contrast, white water or foam is more approachable, but its turbulence can make for a rough unstable ride. The foam looks easier for it’s a wave that has broken, a bit tried and true, or at least less scary, but in the end, it’s choppy and can be hard to ride. Still, there’s that element of fear, to try what has never been tried.

When a friend told me the green wave is easier, I thought of how we are often afraid of what is new and untried, and our timidity and sense of caution urges us to the white water because it seems safer, already broken, only to find ourselves tossed upside down in the water by the chaos simply because we feared trying something new.

I ride a lot of white foam. But I’ve started to try to catch green waves. I want to try to catch what hasn’t been broken. They don’t have to be big ones, but I know that allow myself to go beyond what is familiar is how I learn.

Divorce is going for the green wave.

I met Inessa Love right before my divorce process began. She too had divorced and had a teenager and it was reassuring to me to see another woman who had undergone this journey and who had thrived and made an incredible powerful new life. We first hiked together and now we surf and catch some yoga classes. I always admire how Inessa engages with life.

As a young woman she immigrated from the Ukraine and truly manifested an incredible life. In addition to being a top economist and professor who hikes and surfs, she paints and gardens, writes poetry and plays pickleball, does acroyoga (that’s right, that upside down turnaround yoga stuff!), teaches tai-chi, and now, she paints surfboards!

Check out  @aumakua_board_art on IG. I asked her to paint a wave on my board. I love it! I can even wax the board so it curves along the paint of the wave. Sometimes I look down at my board when I’m out in the water and it makes me happy to see it. I think of waves and the Pacific as where I have come to understand the privilege of what it means to be alive and a part of the natural world.

Lucky Come Hawai’i.

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Belief and Philosophy Break Divorce Reading & Writing Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

BREAK: Divorce and Voice

When writers, readers, and critics speak of a writer’s voice they are referencing the writer’s chosen words that reveal the writer’s self, how she perceives and moves in the world. Voice is the writer’s soul and spirit, and how the writer brings this to the page is the writer’s voice. Being honest to our voice, to who we are, is the key task in the writing of a story, and our life’s most significant mission. If we cannot be who we are, then who shall we be?

When we refer to a writer’s voice, most telling and daunting is that there exists a distinctly proscribed way of conveying written text codified by primarily male writers. It has been this way for centuries. It will continue to be this way. In the process of trying to convey our story, we quiet or even lose our voice because we are fearful. We strive to appease or appeal to people who judge us according to an unknown or mysterious standard that often, we can never achieve as it is rather subjective. And yet, it is imperative that we persevere and risk writing who we are as otherwise, our voice is silent, and if ours, then many other women who are out there too. When we are courageous about our voice, we pave the way for dozens of others to follow suit.

We must have faith in the story. Believe in our right to write. While writing is a learned skill, the ability to reveal who we are is directly correlated to our willingness to be vulnerable on the page. Our words are meaningful because our story matters. The voice that we summon is one that acknowledges our full self. This voice is the beautiful, courageous, resilient, complete self who has declared her right to live as a one who wants to set the terms of her own life.

Whoever controls the text controls the story. A delivery through the medium of writing often prompts a different reaction because texts impart a permanence. Words on a page compel an undeniable respect. Every major cultural, religious, legal, and creative institution’s laws and customs are upheld, reinforced, and codified by text. Someone writes the text; another person interprets this text; yet another person writes a story based on this interpretation. We are readers of a story several layers away from the primary text. Imagine what remains and what changes. Given this truth, it’s important to throw your own voice into this layered chorus and write with everything you are. You are your voice. Write your truth to power.

 We may feel inhibited about the physical act of putting words down on a page. An easy solution is to simply pretend that we are speaking to someone: talk to the page! For accuracy, we record our voice with a phone or device, and transcribe the spoken words. Edit for clarity. Speaking and writing use different parts of our brain, but know that communication is linked, writing inhibition is real, and however we get our words onto the page will be fine. The vast majority of the globe’s illiterate are women, but our wisdom transcends what is written; this is how we have survived through the millennia. Know that through the power of our oral storytelling we write a story on the page—for those of us who cannot write we put our words down on paper. We do this by recording our story.

A woman’s voice is often considered dangerous. How often are women accused of being shrill? The numerous complaints about a woman’s voice—her accent, her tone, her articulation are familiar to anyone follows the commentary about women in the public spotlight. There are no end of complaints about the actual pitch of a woman’s voice, but what most dig at is a particular woman’s willingness to use her voice in an arena that women rarely participate in.

Breaking silence is looked upon as disruptive and to break the silence about our marriage, enshrined across the globe as an institution to maintain stability within a system of patriarchy, is considered at best poor taste, and at worst, a display worthy of public condemnation. Marriage is considered private. Personal. And it is. But to dismantle a marriage through divorce requires outside documentation (just as marriage did), and to write the details of this break-up potentially place women in the position of being seen as dangerous. We may or may not be the very first woman in our family to divorce, but it is highly likely that we are the first woman who records the reasons for the divorce. It is inconvenient, if not unpleasant for most people to be presented with anything that disrupts the norm. The truth is the details that prompted your divorce are unimportant to most, but they are important to you, and therefore worth writing.

You may be quiet, someone who is reluctant to expose your private happenings to anyone, but you have a right to exercise the use of your voice. There is no reason for your silence.

Write your divorce story. Discuss the inclusion of your divorce story in your legal file.

Write your story. Change your mind. Author your life.

 

 

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Belief and Philosophy Blog Break Divorce Reading & Writing Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

BREAK: Don’t Hold Your Breath

When you are divorcing you are scrambling to check off everything you need to do to get to the next step. You understand there’s a safe harbor out there beyond the horizon, but it’s as if you are setting off to sea with no clear map, only an idea of the destination. There are also rumors milling about that the globe is flat and you have been warned you could fall off at any time.

You don’t know how you do it, but you manage to move forward. You ask people for help. You figure out the steps. You are moving to a resolution and you are aware that you have to get to the end. You would like to sprint, but are starting to feel it’s a marathon ahead.

Remember that as this process is unfolding you have to take time out to simply breathe.

I’ve taken different kinds of physical exercise classes in my lifetime, from dance to martial arts to yoga to weightlifting. At one point or another, they all address the idea of breathing properly.

I’ve been told to breath in with my nose, out through my mouth

Count my breaths.

Touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth on the exhale.

Quickly exhale from my lower belly.

Slowly exhale from my lower belly.

Breathe in and out through my nose.

Breathe in my breath and focus on sending to other parts of my body.

Close my eyes and breathe in.

Open my eyes after I breathe out.

Breathe fast.

Breathe slow.

Breathe in the dark.

Breathe and imagine my third eye.

Relax my shoulders and breathe.

Take big breaths.

Avoid breathing in and out through my mouth.

Make a sound while breathing out.

They are all correct. About a month ago I realized that after I popped up on the surfboard I was holding my breath.

I have since corrected that, but I sometimes remind myself to breathe by using an exhale sound a Tang Soo Do instructor Master Jang once taught me, it’s a bit like this on the exhale: SHHOOOOOPPP.

I was fascinated to discover that for months I had been popping up on my surfboard and frequently not breathing. It explained a lot. It also made me think about why I would do this.

The truth is we hold our breath when it feels unsafe to breathe and we know we will be able to hit the surface and find space to relax. Holding our breath is never meant to be permanent. It’s a momentary action, an anticipation of eventual release.

Existing in terrible marriage before divorce was like holding my breath. I was drowning, but refused to surface. If you have been used to holding your breath you often don’t believe that the air is available.

For me, to divorce was to breathe.

When we begin our divorce we can finally exhale—we are free of the indecision surrounding whether or not to divorce! Then comes the second breath. We may have to think about our second breath. And third.

Eventually, normal breathing returns. But there are places and moments where we still hold our breath.  Because this is body memory at work. For me, there was no history of surfing while married. But I realized that I was holding my breath surfing because once more, I was in a situation that I felt I could not control. Holding my breath stiffened my body. It limits fluidity and agility. Indeed when the air and water that exists within you becomes porous with the exterior world and achieves an equilibrium wherein you become inseparable from the very moment and state you are in, this is the ideal state. Holding my breath created a protective wall between my interior and exterior world, but it did not allow me to relax.

Take some time during the divorce process to think about your breathing. See how a minute of being conscious of your breathing feels. You will do all that you need to do and holding your breath will not keep you safer. It will not make the divorce go more smoothly. Holding your breath will only make it more difficult for you to feel in control—your body stiffens.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Everything Will Be Fine.