Reflections on Day 6…

Day 6 of the retreat has proved to be yet another day filled with inspiration and hope. I was able to exhale deeply and finally read some of my memoir to my amazing group members! They were so warm and genuine in their responses. I feel rejuvenated and all the insecurities I felt have melted away. Thanks again to the amazing women in my group including Dr. Zamora for being so kind, generous and loving. I’m less afraid and hesitant now to share more of myself thanks to you all. I have to say listening to all your amazing projects was also a wonderful experience. Like I mentioned in one of my past blog posts I believe that listening and hearing someone is a true skill. So I intently listened to and heard all your powerful stories and projects that are in progress. I was amazed at the talent, it was so emotional that we all found ourselves in tears. I’m excited to see this writing program flourish with new fresh faces and such diverse and beautiful voices. It’s exactly what we need! I’m learning so much about myself from all of you, and it’s comforting to know that many of you have shared some of the same struggles as me. It’s true when they say you never really know what another person has gone through, until you hear their story. It makes me feel less alone, more hopeful and I feel a stronger sense of FAITH that everything will be okay. Well I guess as Dr. Zamora would say that’s my shout outs of the day! Bravo to all of you! Thanks for inspiring me and helping me reinforce that I’m heading in the right direction with my thesis project. The Seashell is truly a passion project for me and it means so much to me that you embraced it so warmly.

It was interesting after I read a portion of my memoir to my group I found myself thinking a lot about my past and regrets. Sometimes I wonder that if I had made different choices along the way that my life could be so very different right now. Like if I just didn’t choose to stay with that crappy guy for so many years, or if I never dropped out of college, if I would have moved out of state, or why didn’t I keep around the nice guy who treated me well but had a weird hairline? I could be married right now and off of Bumble! Oh vey why me?! All these questions swirled through my mind in a blur. I actually found myself laying my head back, closing my eyes trying to stop the spinning. The truth is I used to second guess myself a lot more in my 20’s. I was plagued with this idea of past regrets and what that means for my life. Luckily now in my late 30’s finally I’ve come to realize that I’m here, exactly where I’m supposed to be, where I’m meant to be, at this exact moment in my life. Although I’m currently mending a slightly broken heart from yet again another failed “almost” relationship with someone I saw real potential with, (he was so dreamy) I realize even through the disappointment I currently feel and the harsh realization and inner dialogue that washes over me saying: “Hey times running out, this is it kid, you might be doing life solo.” Even through those negatives thoughts and emotions, I still feel empowered knowing that I’m right here, right now, where I’m supposed to be.

See the source image

Even in this shitty, heartbroken, less ideal state of mind that I find myself in today, I’m here. Wow the only cool thing about getting old and pushing 40 is more self awareness and way less self loathing! Cool! I think I felt compelled to write this in my blog post and share it with you all because it shows me the power of free writing. I found myself doing the write for the day exercises and it led me to think about my past, my mistakes, regrets and where I am today despite all of it. I also think sharing part of my memoir with my group also awakened a lot of old emotional baggage and complex feelings within me. I even sometimes wondered if my past mistakes made my mental illness worse? Was it all my fault, my doing? But through a lot of self reflection, deep introspection, through my love of expressive writing and many more healthy outlets I’ve explored over the years, I don’t dwell on my past and all the crappy mistakes I made. Sure it might eat me up a bit inside but I’m only human. I forgive myself for it and I’m much more gentle with myself then I ever was before. I find myself being able to embrace it all and at the same time release it all. Out into the universe. Again, writing wow what a powerful instrument for self love and change. I thank God everyday he gave me the gift and love of writing. I think he secretly knew what a hot mess I would be and decided to cut me a break, so he gave me the talent and skill to write and release all my inner pain and strife! I always knew I had a guardian angel watching over me, I feel it. God is good. Oh and don’t forget it always helps to have a little FAITH! Thanks for that Jada. I posted two of my favorite musical artists below just in case you wanted to take a listen! See you all tomorrow! Xo.

Freedom Leading Me to Claiming Victory

George Michael Sheds the Shackles
Victory is Indeed Mine Too

Today, I choose to share my writing reflection re: “What are the connections between the Writers’ Retreat experience and your future plans.” Here it goes:

The Writers’ Retreat has taught me that my work is necessary for the world. It is has reinforced the notion of holding true to my dedication to banning self-censorship. It has also taught me that I need to be more disciplined. I cannot fall back into the comfortable, warm wave of reading excessively. It is too easy. I, Medea, have something valuable to say.

I need to stop admiring other authors so much (that’s actually not true). Admiration, respect and empathy are crucial goals for a reader AND a writer. Dr. Zamora taught us about this in Fall 2019 when my cohort took Writing Theory and Practice (new friends, you are going to LOVE it; make no mistake it is rigorous and challenging, but it is rewarding and we ALL looked forward to Monday nights as a time to be comfortable in peer-learning).

Empathy is a special kind of currency that must be actively cultivated…I digress…The Writers’ Retreat has stopped the raging weed of self-doubt from choking my ongoing expression and taking stubborn root (cue Freedom ’90, George Michael; Cue gospel singer Dorothy Norwood’s Rendition of “Victory is Mine” – hey Satan, get thee behind). I am not an aspiring author. I am an author. HUGE words for me. My friends in the program and Dr. Zamora know that I have a strong work ethic and that I am a bit of a perfectionist. They KNOW I am my own worst critic. However, they encourage to be kinder to myself. I need their affirmations. Listen…I grew up in a family where sharing things outside of the family was verboten. “Boca chiusa. Cosi di la casa non si dicino a nessuno! (Keep a closed mouth. Matters of the home are not to be told to anyone”). Family has seen past challenges as character flaws. You know what I don’t care about my alleged “bad reputation” (cue Joan Jett and the Blackhearts”). It really isn’t a bad reputation. It is just a few in my family think things, challenges, and weaknesses should be kept private.

The Writers’ Retreat has improved my confidence in my future writing about my experiences with anxiety, especially in higher education. As Nives says so well, I will be unapologetic in showing my evolution. I am not completely open yet, but I am getting there. I am starting to feel more comfortable about sharing deeply personal stories. They should not remain under a rock anymore. They will be published. I know I am a great writer. My talent is huge. I’m not going hamstrung by sharing it (I’m going to do better though). It is NECESSARY to get feedback when you write. Hello, drafts? Hello feedback?

Brainy Smurf | Heroes Wiki | Fandom
Medea has been Likened to a Smurf; How very Smurfy!
Me at My Smurfiest! (Mask by Ole Hendrickson, Cold plunge Pore Mask, awesome!)

My sister has always encouraged me to write about family history, which plays a big role in my journey with anxiety. Of course, I know her well. If she looks bad in the story in any way, she will be uncomfortable (she’s going to have to deal with it or guess what, don’t read it). You must understand I am the blue smurf (are there any other kind?) of the family (as my sister puts it). We are different people. I relate to Dr. Zamora about taking her best friend (her sister) in small doses. That is the relationship with my sister. I am effusive, I get excited, I go from zero to “extra” quite quickly. She gets overwhelmed. Well my best friend, my beloved sister, will just have to chillax. My dad funnily enough (and in total keeping with the Italian male stereotype) encourages me to be less expressive with the men I date. Not happening. He is exactly like me, effusive, full of laughter. But it isn’t appropriate for his daughter? That’s too bad. I no longer get offended. First of all, he does not say it in a mean tone, just matter of factly (it is still sexist). I still call him out. Family…so complicated.

Paradoxically, my sister’s children (my Godchildren too) crave my personality. We laugh, I visit them and they literally pull me back and say no, you cannot go back home. We are keeping you. These “kids” are 19, 15, and 11. I am a role model, yet I’m the fun one! I am proud of that. It encourages me even more to write my chapters with with humor, despite the fact that there is a maelstrom of anxiety in there. I also received amazing feedback in my small community.

My nephew (15) said something profound this weekend. We love you no matter what your perceived weaknesses are, the struggles you have faced. Acceptance. It gives me a new sense of freedom in my writing. That is the gift that the Writer’s Retreat has made me so open to.

The Retreat has engendered great excitement (squee as the Brits say) in pushing through with my project. I have received great feedback!

The small writing community group in which I participated was special. I caught the tail end of Diana’s work and I was hooked and I came in the middle of her reading! There was a Polish grandmother who obviously underwent communism asking a butcher how much meat she could have. The grandmother was completely overwhelmed and sobbed at this prospect of plenitude. Now if that is not a scene, I don’t know what is! When I was in my small community today, I got some great feedback on chapter titles I have been working on. It has been difficult for me to narrow my focus. I thought this memoir was going to be about law school. The end. I was wrong. I am exploring so many other issues. I got great feedback from the other authors in the room. Here is the most special thing: my colleagues’ work is rich and textured and important. We gave each other great constructive criticism, led as always by Dr. Zamora. It was a wonderful experience because we stayed in the hangout a little more and discussed issues regarding diversity and sensitivity to writing about issues such as anxiety. Thank you Jennifer! I am so grateful for all of you!

Here is a teensy, tiny question, by this time next year, I will have graduated, can I take this retreat again (on campus hopefully)? I will have finished my memoir for thesis, but hey, am I welcome again? I will have new material of some kind. I really don’t want to be stuck in a cabin with a picnic basket of supplies. I’m intimidated by that…Cue “Under Pressure” by Queen. It doesn’t feel very #writreaty. Be well!

Best,

Medea

Day 6: Healing within the Retreat

Dear Mother Nature,

mother_goddess_earth_04

Guess what I did? I actually worked up the courage to write to Father Time. As I wrote, I realised that he is guiding through a mindful  approach in accepting my weaker side. I’ve previously mentioned to you in our mental chats that I struggle from time to time with her, the other voice. By acknowledging time as a factor for my healing process, I am slowly understanding that the her, I somewhat fear is a version of me.

You wouldn’t believe how smooth he made his message come across. Father Time, is quite the spiritual character. In his own discreet manner, he really got to me. Wow! He helped me to recognize how it does takes time to heal. It does take time to grow. And It does takes time to tell my story. I did something that I rarely do. I made a promise to use him to the full extent and to live in every moment.

I would like to share a quote with you that sits purposely on the top of my dresser. I feel if the words are looking down on me then it feels like you are whispering to me.

“Be yourself. Take chances. Learn new things. Fall in love. Practice kindness. Be generous. Laugh everyday. Respect others. Let go. Be fearless.”

As I type this, I feel myself ready to cry again. The quote says to be myself and right now I guess I’m feeling emotional. You wouldn’t believe what I did today. I was exceptionally brave and decided to let go during my group meeting. Oh my goodness! My group has five great women (including our amazing teacher). I took a chance to embrace my moment and was strangely kind to myself. You know how I get. I hold guilt like a fleece blanket, wear my feelings like cozy fleece socks and I use them a emotional barrier.

I was able to expressive my pain, the deep seeded fear, the lack of faith and how I try to cope with it. Time will heal my wound because things happen for a reason. The other voice pushed me to confront and appreciate my self-power. Mother Nature, do you understand what I’m saying to you? Remember since I wasn’t sure if God was accepting me, I sent my little ones to you. My dream was for them to be reincarnated with Miss Wind and Mr. Sun. As the breeze blows a kiss is planted on my cheek. When the sun shines I feel a warm hug.

As I sob and sigh, I cannot help but feel proud of my journey. I still have many portions of my to share but in time, right? See, I’m listening to Father’s Time. Mother Nature, the weather channel said rain and possible storms all week. I hope it’s not because of me. I no longer what my tears to be connected to sadness but rather help them transition to joy. I know it is possible because I believe in you, the way you say you believe in me. You are my natural artist that inspires me because your work is ever evolving.

Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to vent, as usual. Thank you for being my spiritual guide. Thank you and Father Time for working together.

Earth Mother Nature quote … | Mother nature quotes, Nature quotes, Nature Connect Quotes about Reconnect and Nexus | Mother nature quotes, Nature  quotes, Words Marco Pierre White Quote: “Mother Nature is the true artist and our job as  cooks is to allow her to shine.” (7 wallpapers) - Quotefancy

Your friend and admirer,

Meagan

P.S. Below is what I shared with my group. I know you’re proud of me because I did it in my time.

“ The hardest part of losing a child is living everyday afterwards.”

-Unknown

Dear January 10, 2010

How do I find the words to apologize to you? You came into my life when things were going in all sorts of directions. I was in college full time and working part-time. You knew I was also helping Grams and Gramps. I don’t expect you to understand because you can’t or couldn’t.

I always dreamt of you being around. What you would look like. What you would smell like. How you would take your drink. I always imagined being with you. Helping you. Smiling at you. Laughing with you. I would’ve been so proud to have you near me. I often thought of how I would introduce you. This is my…Here is my…Would you like to meet my… Happy thoughts. Sad reality.

He was still in my life. I doubt he would’ve been around to meet you. At least that’s the impression I got. His jealousy can and was too much at the time. Strangely that wasn’t the actual problem. He never saw me. He never listened to me. He never looked at me without judgement.

He never really knew me. I don’t think he ever really loved me. Love? A four letter word with such an enormous weight. A word I still struggle with. What does it mean? How do you know when you’re ready to love?

I was hoping you could love me. Help fill a void that is hard to fill. Help scratch an itch. Help be the last piece to my puzzle. That would’ve been an enormous weight on you. I miss you and barely know you. I know at least I feel we would’ve changed each other forever. You need me. I need you. That would’ve or could’ve been enough. So why did you leave? Obviously, I panicked knowing you were coming. I was terrified. You could’ve met my mom. You would’ve loved her for sure. She would have welcomed you with open arms. Probably a special party.

Nothing close to how she welcomed him.

He left when I needed him. He left when you….Well it happened and look where we are now. Funny, I thought about the countless advice I could’ve given you. Me in protective mode.

Imagine that. There were many times I couldn’t remember your name. Oh, the tears that came down. How could I forget your name? What kind of person am I to forget you? I cried for you and I barely knew you. I guess I cried for the opportunity

I wish I could hear you. I wish I could feel you. I wish I could smell you. Kisses. Warm hugs. Loving smile. Crying!!! The truth is you’re not here. You were taken from me. That guy up there took you away. He and I haven’t been on speaking terms for years. How could you allow that to happen? What did I do to deserve that? That pain. Whatever fraction of my part that existed broke.  I fell into a dark and lonely hole. He was supposed to be there for me and I couldn’t talk to him about you. How do I find the words to apologize to you? I couldn’t protect you. I didn’t know how to fight for you. I didn’t know what to say to make you stay. You left me and I’m still sad. I knew who you were. I knew who you were supposed to be. I think I loved you and haven’t met you. This New Year would be damn near a decade since you could’ve existed. I felt you and you felt me.

You were my beloved little one. My baby. My boy. Now you are my January 10, 2010. My memory. How do I find the words to apologize to you?

I am so sorry,

Love,  Mommy

P.S. Tell your sister I will write to her very soon. She will be my forever October 7, 2013.

Writer’s Retreat Day 6

Gloomy summer days are the best days. I know some of you might be reading this thinking is she crazy? But picture this, the temperature is nice and warm, it’s a tab bit humid, but then there’s a subtle breeze that runs through your hair as your walking your dog down the block, who is yet again chasing another squirrel. Today you don’t mind being dragged by your dog; you actually enjoy the walk because for once, it’s not scorching hot. You then reach home and decide to sit outside to write because it’s warm enough, and you also enjoy a cup of hot tea because it’s cool enough; it’s the perfect in-between kind of day—end scene.

Is it me, or is there just something about nature that inspires you. As I sit out here to write my blog, I wonder how class would have been if we were on our campus, which is impeccably beautiful. Nonetheless, my backyard does the job, and ever since quarantine, I’ve seen all different types of birds and animals, I swear I saw a gopher or at least that’s what I think it was.

Besides googling and learning about every bird and animal I see as I sit out here, through this experience, I have also learned a lot about myself, it been an enriching journey. Not am I only learning about myself, but I am also learning that every writer experiences the same hardships and sentiments I feel, and that makes me feel a tiny bit better. I am just feeling totally blessed to be graced by such amazing writers but also just amazing people overall. As per my project, I am experiencing major writer’s block again; I think I’m going to watch some Netflix for now and come back to it in an hour!

The animal I saw looked just like this!

What a Wonderful World

Tuesday, June 29, 2020

Day 6: Recharging 

By birth order, I am a caregiver. I am the oldest child who was given the enormous responsibility of caring for my younger siblings while my mother and father worked long grueling hours. As an adult, I am a mom who makes sure that everyone is fed before I sit down to eat my meal. At times, I feel as though I am Atlas, holding the weight of caring for my family’s well-being, the uncertainty of returning to school in the fall, my career pivot, and my educational dreams on my tiny shoulders.

(Google Image, June 29, 2020)

I am exhausted! Too tired to think, too tired to write, too tired to socialize. To help me cope with my bouts of negativity, I need to be mindful. I remind myself that this blue period shall pass, and I need to set time aside to recharge. That is why Teethee’s post on hanging out with friends and going to the beach reminded me of the need to relax and to replenish myself. I am running on empty, and need to refill. Yet, COVID complicates my plans, especially when I am living with the lingering fear of What if I get COVID and affect my high-risk husband? (Damn, I resent COVID.)

Then Fatima, with her gentle smile, gifts me with poetry and jazz to uplift my soul. Her blog on jazz reminded me of one of my favorite songs, “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.

Yes, I have a wonderful life. I have the opportunity to pursue my dream; in fact, we are all pursuing our dreams. We share common goals of getting published, earning a Master’s or a Ph.D. degree, and finding our passions. For some of us, our dreams were interrupted by children, family, illness, finances, or some other reason. However, we have never given up on our dreams. We hold it dearly in our hearts, waiting for the ‘right’ time. Do not listen to the naysayers who say, “You are too old” or “You’re not good enough.” Langston Hughes shows us that it is better to try, then never to try at all.

I am trying. My goal for this writing retreat is to seek feedback on my research proposal and to revise it. I look forward to researching the intersection of equity and educational tools such as laptops, printers, internet access, and online grammar checkers. Furthermore, I want to learn more about grant writing to secure a grant for students like Daniel, who want access to Grammarly Premium. That is enough. 

I have done enough.

Writing is Cleaning: It is Never Done

Monday, June 28, 2020 

Week 2 of the Writing Retreat: Peer-Supported Learning, Feedback, and Revision

Google Image (June 29, 2020)

After writing a 25-page research proposal replete with a Literature Review and an Annotated Bibliography, I now have to revisit this proposal, seek feedback, then revising, which is a daunting task since writing, just like housework, is a never-ending task. Allow me to digress: At this point in the writing process, all of my high school students would stop the writing process, usually after one draft (if I am lucky). However, I do want to instill in them that at some point in their academic or professional life, they will need to compose multiple drafts of writing work (i.e., college essay, recruiting letter to a coach, business letter, letter to a judge, so forth). Revision is such an important aspect of writing, perhaps the hardest, at least for me.   

Therefore, I am appreciative of the feedback that I received from my fellow writers and Dr. Zamora today during our intimate group discussion. During the meeting, I asked, “How long does my thesis have to be?” 

“It is up to you,” Dr. Zamora responded.

That simple statement is quite liberating! I did not have to follow a protocol? My Master’s thesis does not need to be 100 pages, with 50 sources, an Annotated Bibliography, so forth? In terms of length, it is up to me? 

So, this afternoon, I did a lot of thinking and rethinking, trying to reimagine my research proposal. On the one hand, I enjoy research and reading research proposals. I like the idea of entering an intellectual conversation and sharing my perspective. On the other hand, some people may consider online grammar checkers a boring topic. Yet, I feel as though there is a void in this type of research, and I would like to explore this void. Let me further clarify the purpose of my research proposal. Let me also ask, Is this topic boring? Is it worth pursuing?

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THEORETICAL UNDERPINNING

Writing an autoethnography about my experience with grammar is an act of rebellion (Ellis & Bochner, 2011). As a Vietnamese boat person and now an English teacher, I offer my experience with grammar as an ESL (English-as-a-Second-Language) learner and now a writing teacher. Although I have a B.A. in English and am pursuing an M.A. in English Writing Studies, I would not consider myself a good writer. What is the origin of this insecurity? In retrospect, I trace my identity as a writer to elementary and secondary school, where my teachers were quick to point out my subject-verb agreement errors with their red pens. Many students, like myself, felt the impact of the symbolic red pen, and new research shows that corrections do not improve students’ writing skills; in fact, “they may have a negative effect on students’ attitudes” (Semke, 1984). In other words, the affective (emotional) factors are just as important as cognitive factors (Semke, 1984). The corrections-only approach may have a detrimental impact on students for the rest of their lives. However, there are teachers who are “Language Police, Syntax Snobs, Usage Nerds, or SNOOTS [“Sprachgefuhl (or the character of a language) Necessitates Our Ongoing Tendance”) or (“Syntax Nudniks of Our Time”)] (Wallace, 2011). In faculty rooms across the country, one can hear the SNOOTS’ war cry: “These students cannot write! They do not know grammar!” On the battlefield, the English teacher takes out her weapon of choice, the red pen, to correct the grammatical errors. In a way, the pen is symbolic of the power the teacher wields as she corrects her students’ errors (Freire, 1970). After correcting the paper, she tops it off with a low mark, leaving an indelible mark on the novice writer who feels a sense of inadequacy and bitterness toward writing, the teacher, and the entire educational system. The student feels demoralized, yet the teacher feels that she is doing a good job. There is an obvious disconnect. Why would a writing teacher uphold such an oppressive pedagogical philosophy? Writing theorists point to unconscious bias in part of the teacher. Paulo Freire theorizes that the authoritarian teachers who focus on correcting students’ errors want to maintain power over their students; he argues for a pedagogy of liberation where there is a shift from a teacher-center classroom to a more democratic, student-centered classroom where the teacher is more of a facilitator of learning rather than the ‘sage on the stage.’ In terms of writing pedagogy, Lisa Delpit postulates that white teachers are teaching “other people’s children”; these teachers may lack empathy because the students they are teaching do not look like their children. Delpit argues for process writing rather than skills-oriented writing, so the focus is on the students’ effort and not on their errors. Consequently, John a. Powell and Stephen Menendian (2017) argue one of the major problems in the 21t century is “othering,” which is a type of prejudice where one group may see another group as different from them, thus, marginalizing them. Othering occurs because of the desire for power and unconscious bias. In the case of teachers, they may be a desire for intellectual authority in the classroom and perhaps unconscious biases.