Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Empathy : What I really want to tell you

Happy New Year Writers!!!! How did we get here again so fast?

So... I want to reach out and reassure anyone and everyone who reads this that I'm okay. In the MidWestern Minnesota Nice tradition, "I'm fine." And on some days, I'm not so fine.  Can that be okay? That said, my posts are not meant to worry you or incite pity or concern, but if they do, that's okay too. We get what we need or want out of any piece of writing and I'm not going to stand in the way of any feelings or process therein that need doing. So feel what you must feel; worry if you must!

That said, I am okay. I'm me,  just as always.  I'm me going through a hard time, just like you do from time to time, just like the characters in your novels do. And then, there are balanced moments of bliss and flow, like when writing with you. Or petting my cat, Or laughing. Or.... endless ors...

And I so so so appreciate your care and love. As you know, as I encourage you, I have to write my truth, and sometimes that truth is happening now and it comes out as ratty old rage; some days I feel absolutely driven to document that raw truth because I want to talk to others in my same situation and/or provide a safe (albeit gritty) island harbor for those who may come floating my way, also lost at sea, perhaps a little further or less lost than I. I want to be able to remember this, for all its glory and grit, and to receive it. I want to write it out for me, for you, for others, also, because the duty of the writer, I believe in part, is offering another companion on the page for some of life's mysterious ups and downs.

I can't tell you how much I've been gifted by (lately and always, but particularly lately) the many countless posts I've found online, the anecdotes, the complete narratives, others write about their personal struggles with chronic pain: the joys, challenges, tips to heal, how to deal, words of encouragement, etc. From people I do not know, but have grown to know and invest in just by reading their posts, their joys and struggles. A simple line or two posted on a forum, even from 2008, is a thread of hope, a lifeline, morse code abloom in the dark, my cell phone a portal to possibility, a searchlight for hope, while knowing also that hope is futile because the present moment is the only hope there is, so I come back to that too. Because what else is there ever, but here, now? If I cannot be happy in this moment, in this body, how am I am practicing unconditional love, radical acceptance, for life? For myself? So in acceptance, practicing acceptance, I change.

And that is the moment of change you will find in any memoir or novel or good movie worth partaking. And the hardest conflict to overcome:change. Changing something in ourselves: your mind, your habits, your addictions, your machinations, your destructions, your not so good relationships, etc. Let go, and let in. Not over night; not like in the movies where it's boom boom bam. But perhaps between the inhale and exhale, perhaps a glimpse by the end of the book or story. Even if it's just a small crack, that's mountains. Moving mountains.

But what I really want to tell you is that your empathy for me makes a wonderful point in the case of engaging writing: you feel for me. And now that there is also a conflict (I'm struggling with idiopathic (really great for conflict since it adds mystery) chronic pain), which has heightened your empathy and investment in my story, in my getting better. Why? Because you know me, you read me, you know me on and off the page, you see me in yourself or someone else you know, and most of all, because you're human.

You namaste.

And I you.

See you at writing!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—All I've started and stopped this year, this day

blog posts
yoga at LA Fitness
swimming at LA Fitness
gratitude journal
adoring woodpeckers
teaching my kid how to unwrap and wrap mindfully
nightly meditation with my kid
modeling the proper way to shop for presents mindfully for (and with) my kid
half-assed forward folds
homemade coloring books of my family and neighborhood
growing out my hair
composing a musical
putting in new cork floor in my living room and bedroom
clutter clearing my shelves
selling my baby and kid stuff
selling the books that make me unhappy
Ditto taking the lot to GoodWill
finishing the cedar siding paint job
hiring help
returning shoes in the back of my car to Shueler's
returning a broken water bottle to Target
grieving (but that's okay)
trying to go to bed early
gluten free pumpkin pie making and passion for
worrying about what my friends and family think of me getting elderly so youngerly
faith in Western Medicine
obsessing over what is wrong
growing and harvesting squash with the hopes of cooking with the squash flowers
looking for a decent primary care doc
wishing my dad were here because, really, what could he do?
calling my brother for advice
blaming yoga
blaming my parents
blaming myself
giving up
giving in
sleeping only on my good side
losing faith in my body
soy yoghurt
0 calorie ice cream
0% Deet mosquito repellent
putting my pen down when it's time to stop writing
parenting myself
scaring myself
daring myself
trying to get physically strong, stronger, strongest
forgetting how to stop
feeling the sunshine

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Keep Calm and Love the Food Chain

Today a sweet old lady got into the elevator with me at Tria, all smiles. She leaned in closer to get a look at my T'shirt and said, "What does your shirt say? 'Keep Calm and'..."?

"Love Bunnies," I said, proudly puffing out my T-Shirt. I just love sweet old ladies, especially animal lovers. "My son—my 11-year old— gave it to me for my birthday. He just loves bunnies and has one of his own named Louie..."

"Well," she said, "we used to have a lot of cute little bunnies in our yard..."

"Oh yeah? Awww..." I pictured a little bunny circus, with happy kids dressed in pastels and bonnets  running through an apple green lawn.

"But now we have co-yotes and fox so no more bunnies."

"Oh," I said. "I suppose—hmmm."

"So that put an end to that. So long!"

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Which Writers' Mythology is keeping you away from writing?

I still hear a lot of guilt from some of you about not writing, not getting around to it or prioritizing it like "real" writers do. I'm not sure where all this writer's mythology is coming from, but anyway, is it helping? Has it ever?

I'd like to remind you that summer is for living our lives, living stories so we have something to write about in the dark days of the MN winter. Of course, that may be a Minnesotan writer's mythology, but it also might be true.

There are a few other writers' myths I've (we've?) heard over the years. Some of them may be true and even helpful, yet some of them are old stories serving harmful rather than life giving purposes. You would know for yourself which is what; how does the narrative you tell yourself about what being a writer is impact your writing process? For better or worse?

Do these sound familiar?

Writers are misfits.
Writers are tortured.
Writers drink. 
Writers write every day, all day.
Writing is always hard.
Real writers don't take breaks to do the dishes or clean the house.
Real writers publish.
Writing is not going to make me any money.
Being a successful writer is going to solve everything and show them.
To be a good writer, I have to be published at the good places.
Well written emails or texts don't count as writing.
No one cares about that. No one will read that.
Someone else already wrote that.
I don't have a writing voice so I'm not a writer.
Etc, etc, etc....

Again, how does the narrative you tell yourself about what being a writer is impact your writing process? For better or worse? What if they were or weren't true?

Is it time for a new narrative? A more welcoming storyline?

So! What are you excited about writing? What do you loooove writing about? Sometimes not writing has to do with summer and sometimes it has more to do with losing touch with what you want to write about. So, try these:

I am afraid to write about...


Someday I'd love to write about...   but I need to finish working on ..... first before I can write what I want to write which is.....

I keep putting off writing about.... because....

If I had all the time in the world to write and could write whatever I wanted to, I would write....

What would help me feel more peace about writing and being a writer is...

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Thank you writing practice!

For the first half of my writing life I wasn't that into it. I did it because I had the option to write creatively (verses academically) about what I was learning at MOBOC, the Open School I went to for 6th and 7th grade in LA. Occasionally, I enjoyed it purely as an act of love, a sublime way to escape and broaden my own company, until I was encouraged by others (bless them) and I started thinking about it, doing it writerly, doing it literarily, doing it in hopes of someday doing it for money. And all of those external things, of course, had their place and time.

It wasn't until I was miserable in grad school at the U of Minnesota for my MFA, that I found my true self again, on (and consequently off) the page. I happened across Brenda Ueland's "If You Want to Write" and every word she wrote was for me: write your truth. Write like you, not like them. Don't bother with competition or perfection. Write because it feels good. Write because you hunger for your own stories, the comfort and caress of your own words and rhythms. This was exactly what I needed to hear in grad school, where I'd lost my way. Of course this coincided with my first of thousands (and counting) of yoga classes and the two went together well for me at the time. And the rest is history.

Today I find myself more grateful than ever for my writing practice, both alone and together with you. In this always insisting world of to dos, trying to keep up with who I "think" I am, who I "was," to stay present, is challenging to live up to in a body unexpectedly slowed by neuropathy, pain and limitations I foolishly reserved for my much much much later years. Though I often attribute all good things to my yoga practice, the thing that pulled me out of hell and back into life, the thing I relied on for 20 years to keep me sane, I often neglect my writing practice in that attribution. But now that I am currently limited to only a few poses, it's enough: I'm not falling apart. I can still write myself all over the place: in body, out of body, through body, toward body and when I need to, away from body.

Like breathing, I can write myself back here, now, to this tired, life times walked, overstretched body, and realize it's all okay.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Happy Birthday to me/This is how it's done!

One of the greatest gifts I've received this year (in addition to the daily gifts shared in writing with you) is this sweet, wonderfully written article my neighbor Linda Jennings wrote about me in our neighborhood newsletter (how cool is that?!), The Minikahda VistaIt's humbling and awkward to see myself in print, but she's a darn good writer and journalist and so I actually kind of like it. A lot.  

So... as a reminder, if you happen to write something about someone you know, please share it with them. It's the best kind of gift you can give and get these days. Hoodies and yoga pants I can always use more of, true; but seeing myself on the page through the heart of another, well... that's presence. 

Thanks everyone for another great year writing together at The Beach! Can you believe it's been a whole year at the new Beach, the Minikahda?  ❤️

Happy to Be Here...

You can learn and be inspired when you have coffee with a neighbor like Rox (Roxanne) Sadovsky. A Minikahda Vista resident since last summer, Rox has been successfully reaching out through NextDoor and The Vista View newsletter to connect with her new neighbors.

The Los Angeles native came to Minnesota by way of Washington, where she got her undergraduate degree (Evergreen College) and graduate degree (master’s in counseling psychology from Antioch University in 1998). Rox worked with troubled teens in the Seattle area a few years, then determined it was time for a change. Her artist mother encouraged her to pursue more education.
Rox landed in Minneapolis, at the University of Minnesota, where she enrolled in the master of fine arts program in creative nonfiction writing. Of her studies at the U, she says, “I loved every minute of it.” Writing and teaching, she discovered, were her true loves.
Even before she graduated in 2004, Rox joined the Loft Literary Center staff to teach Intuitive Writing and the Healing Memoir.

She continues to teach at the Loft and also has developed a private healing practice (Writing with Rox), Wild Women writing retreats/groups, classes in creative expression, and more. She covers a variety of writing genres — poetry, creative nonfiction, song, journaling, email, and more.

“Writing honors who you are and helps you find aliveness and joy,” Rox says. The simple act of writing allows people to slow down, she says, and connect from the heart and mind.

She points out that participants in her writing groups come together not knowing each other and with a certain amount of “Minnesota reserve.” After they start sharing their work with each other, it’s not too long before they empathize with each other and become like family. Both students and teacher gain life-changing rewards.

“Writing helps us deal with the difficult times in our lives,” Rox asserts.

Expressions of gratitude for Rox’s mentorship are evident in the writing classroom in her home, from the table on which students use a marker to leave a lasting statement to a handcrafted quilt created by a student to honor Rox’s instruction and inspiration.
Students also provide feedback on Rox’s blogspot (http://writingwithrox.blogspot.com/p/what.html) using “kind and gentle,” “encouraging” and “supportive and constructive” to describe their instructor. One student suggests, “(The) class should be taken like a vitamin supplement to enhance any other writing or creative endeavor one is involved in.”
As I leave her home on a chilly day, I think this is not sunny California, but Rox is happy here — in this neighborhood...in this world. A good place to be.
-Linda Jennings
Watch for Rox’s writing in upcoming issues of The

Vista View.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—The Logical Song

I spent half of my childhood in the car. In LA, you had little choice, given the thick lanes of traffic and the unwalked sidewalks, mostly occupied by the homeless pushing their barbed grocery carts stuffed with debris. One time a homeless woman we regularly saw cruising Little Santa Monica near to where we lived, ripped my dad's turn signal right out of his car at a stoplight. 

It wasn't all bad stuck in traffic. It all depended on Ma's mood—where she was in her cycle, or how long it has been since she'd eaten—and/or where we were headed: therapy, drum lessons, the market, a dental appointment, the beach. No matter, if the radio happened to play the right song at the right time (which we had shared custody of, Ma and I: she opted for talk radio psychologist, Dr Toni Grant, whereas I shifted back and forth between KROQ, KMET, and KLOS), all was perfect.

So that  day in early February, just past my brother's 10th birthday when he was gifted Supertramp's "Breakfast in America" record, the Logical Song came on the radio and alone with her in the car, away from my brother and his friends, I could ask the questions. What does it mean, Ma? What does "sent me away' mean? What's a vegetable? I pictured this poor guy banished, lost in a boat on a river beneath marmalade skies, along with all the lonely people: Father McKenzie, Penny Lane, Bad Bad Leroy Brown and the rest of the misfit folks I'd gotten to know through the countless records we spun at home over the years. 

"Well honey..." she'd begin, "it's about growing up."

I tried to picture it. I couldn't. "But how does that make you  a vegetable?"

"Oh for Christ Sakes, Roxanne."

But how could Ma begin to answer these questions, to translate the age of experience (logically), to the age of innocence, where I was still living "joyfully," when life was still "wonderful, a miracle"? She did the best she could and the best she could, was the best she good, because bless Ma, with her ERA bumper sticker,  fearless claiming of her space in fierce LA traffic ("up yours you creep! Those fuckers better get the hell off the road!") and her open minded heart, she kept answering those questions that kept coming day after day, week after week, year after year until I was old enough to get out of her car and drive away on my own in my own car and roll down the windows and blast the radio and wait for the day when The Logical Song came on, as I sent myself out of innocence, sent myself away to learn the answers first hand, to see for myself how to be logical.

And that's what Ma was trying to tell me that day in the car as the melodies swirled deeply,  keening callingly, addictively, between us. She didn't say it exactly, but she was trying to tell me that if ever there came a time "at night, when all the world's asleep, and questions run so deep," like they did for that simple, aching, longing, searching man in The Logical Song, it meant I was normal and that I was going to be okay. Painful as those questions would get, they would eventually lead to light, perhaps even back to innocence where life was so magical.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Guest Prompt from a dear friend about her 11 year old boy and his love of animals

When I read my friend's email last week, I asked if I could post it and she said "sure honey," somewhat dismissively. I think it's pretty darn fabulous, don't you? Sometimes we forget how "literary" a simple-day-in-the-life email can be. 

Something so sad happened...

After our school's spring fair, we were outside doing some yard work and watering, and after a while, I went in and a few minutes later, I heard N yelling in the backyard. I ran to the window, and saw him, visibly shaken up, yelling toward the tracks, "DON'T HURT THE BUNNY! DON'T HURT THE BUNNY!") I ran out, afraid that whoever he was yelling at might hurt N. There was a young teen (maybe 14), crouched down, petting a wild rabbit. N ran into the house, and I went over to the tracks and asked him what happened. I don't think he spoke English well. He got up and walked to his bike, and I could see the rabbit's back legs were hurt. I tried to talk to the boy, but I didn't think he was understanding me well. I went to check on N, and the boy rode away. 

N was sitting on the coffee table, crying and shaking. He told me the boy threw a rock at the rabbit, and stomped on him. I hugged him and he cried on my shoulder, and I told him how proud I was of him for standing up for what's right. He got ready for bed and I went out to check on the rabbit, and N stuck his head out the door and said we should bring him a carrot. I told him the rabbit had gone away. N got into bed, and I told him again how proud I am of him and also told him that not everyone has been taught to love animals the way he has, and sometimes, kids may not always treated well by the adults in their lives and sometimes they take it out on something weaker, like animals...but hopefully this boy saw our concern for the bunny and will make a different choice next time. 

He's having a lot of trouble falling asleep...I let him keep his door open, I even turned on the radio in the living room, but he keeps getting up. I know how his mind works, and I think he's replaying the incident in his mind, preventing him from being able to fall asleep, as well as being worried about the bunny.

I am trying to embrace this as a life experience that helps him grow, and I am so proud of him...it took a LOT for him to yell from his gut like that at a complete stranger.

Has anything like this happened to your kiddos?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Guava Withdrawal

My absolute favorite thing about Mexico is guava. I eat my weight in the smiling pink darlings—and then some. Just looking at the innocent ovals of succulence never fails to make my heart scream with happiness and when we reunited only a short while ago, I felt a forgotten gratitude so deep I nearly wept. 

And then I ate them up. Day after painfully passing ocean blue day, I rolled them and stacked them and balanced them atop my too full plate... after plate after plate. The abundance was a luxury. If only I could stock my countertop with always blossoming guava, I'd be forever happy. I felt better. I walked along shore, sand, and cobblestone. I swam with turtles. I felt good. Guavas are loaded with vitamins and super juice. I looked better. I could carry more. I slept like a baby to the guava breast, nourished by her ever flowing madre love.

Now that I'm home, I'm miserable. It's white out. It's cold. There's no ocean. No fresh pescado. No sunshine. And the worst part is there's no guava. I'm pink with pain. Yellow with withdrawal. What have I done? Me and TCF even ran over to Marissa's Bakery on Eat Street who import the little queenies from time to time, but alas, they were fresh out. Cactus they had, but the guava tree was no more. Why? Because I ate them all.

I keep saying I'll never go back to Mexico because it's too hard to come home. I forget, of course, and head out every other year or so. Why oh why do I do this?

Friday, February 23, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—But if you try sometimes...

I cannot tell you how many times I have written about my first concert—The Rolling Stones—since the long ago day in 1980 when I was ten. And I cannot  tell you what joy it brings me every time I write about it, despite it not being a very pleasant evening. I could write about that night a million different ways with a million different details and it would still make me smile. 

I don't know why it happens every time, but it does. I mean really... what's fun about the 1980s anyway? What's fun about feathered hair, the LA Coliseum, the nosebleed seats, the drunk, raunchy Dead Head who squeezed my ass on the way to get Nachos, the roach my boyfriend's mom passed us in the limo, the puke in the gas station outhouse on the way there? What's fun about waiting for your preppy boyfriend to kiss you all night, the loneliness of coming home to an empty house and having to kick in the door, shirtless Mick Jagger in lemon yellow tights worming around the stage, and the foreboding echo of You Can't Always Get What You Want careening through your innocent, almost adolescent mind?

But never mind what I wrote. My-soon-to-be-famous-in-my-opinion students wrote about first concerts put on by their kids, the excitement of an upcoming Dessa concert, Bon Jovi, the bittersweet memories of listening to records of Judy Collins and Bob Dylan... As we listen, we relate; we laugh, we long, we regret, we remember... our hearts beat a little faster. We might cry. But why do we bother with all this? Aren't there better things to be doing with our time?

But somehow when we write and share—for better or worse—in addition to making us stronger writers, it feels good. It's deeply satisfying in ways I will never understand. It's fun! We can reframe old stories and take control of new ones. It's a deep cleansing, honoring, and remembering. It takes you back. Or forward. You get to hear yourself again... or for the first time, only with a gentle voice of experience looking back on innocence, on that one evening or moment in time and being able to say to your little(r) self, "hey, I'm back. I'm here. I've been here all along."

And if you do this long enough—this writing and sharing—you just might find...all these years later... you get what you need.

Oh yeah.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—My cat gives me Reiki

Happy Valentine's Day Writers!

Now, now... before you go saying saying about Valentine's Day, remember that this day is loaded with prompts because no matter how you slice it, it's about the heart. And no matter what you write about, it's really all about the heart. And the heart is always up to something.

It's been all over the place, hasn't it? It's fallen hard, broken in pieces, gone missing, gone into hiding,  stripped, dressed up, run away, danced with you, given your blissful rhythm, the chills, the drunken nerve, beat so fast you thought you'd pass out... and here it still is,  beating in time, reminding you that a heart connection is still always right in front of you.

When we write together and share, we connect from the heart and it comes naturally (which is why it feels so good most of the time).

Lately, when I need it, my cat Lola jumps on my lap and puts her paw on my heart. I kid you not. She just sits there, looks me in the eye, and rests her white gloved paw heart center. She senses something. She is wise in ways of the heart, a constant reminder that my heart is always primed for opening. Even if my mind is up to something else, my heart can always be opened.

Sometimes I forget that and I engage a little less alive with life, I give less, I receive less, I think more... and my writing sounds... off... sort of like those Valentine's heart candies with the messages that get more and more cryptic every year: "H&M?" What the heck is that and do I really want my kid reading these things? "Smoo Mes"? Er....? "Lympy?"

Of course we get a good laugh about it and that opens the heart. So you can't stay annoyed for long.

What opens your heart?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Every Wednesday, 4pm

Happy February Writers!

Today I am feeling happy that there is sunshine outside and that we can feel it on the couch in the corner of the living room where the kitty likes to lie out.

I am also satisfied by a full day of writing with you, always nourishment. "Welp, another morning totally wasted," one of my dear students likes to joke after our monthly morning group, the same group that has been writing together for several years and experiencing the same inexplicable magic that happens when we write together and see ourselves in the words of one another, because we can all write about our cars or going to the dentist or the clutter on our tables or what we had for dinner last night and have a deeply moving life changing experience.

I am also sad today because for forever and a day, Weds has been my day to finish off the work day with yoga at One Yoga with Amy and those familiar bodies I took the same class with for years and years (though I think I was there the longest). I miss those familiar limbs in triangle poses and warriors and downward dogs and the corpses that kept me safe company in Savasana.

Even though it's been almost a year, today I struggle to accept that I cannot go and do what I have done for 18 years at 4 pm on Wednesday, what is so familiar. I want it back so much I embarrass myself with the inability to grow up and accept myself where I am. I suppose if I could be okay with not being okay and not accepting where I am than I might be okay with where I am. I might be onto something.

And I am enjoying a laborious text exchange with Ma who is across town trying to understand exactly what sort of feminine product I need her to pick up and were it not for her many questions, it would never occur to me how difficult this was, how words fall short, and how many feminine products there really are

I am also baffled by how much  harder and more complicated things are given how easy things have become and how many options there are

For some reason I can never remember what floor I am supposed to get off at my clinic because there are two main floors

especially on Wednesdays

because I think part of me is always expecting to get off on the floor with the yoga studio

It is Wednesday at 4 pm and instead of doing yoga, I am doing this. And isn't it  really the same thing?

What's your Weds at 4p?
What do you miss and long for like a petulant child?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—May your narrative arc be simple

Happy New Year Writers! 

Wishing you and your writing journey happy 2018, with much love, peace, and adventure on and off the page! Thanks to all of you for your continued support, stories, and commitment to the page and the many, many gifts you offer each time we write together. I am grateful! Whether it’s been a while since we’ve written together or as recent as yesterday,  I hope that you are all continuing to find that sacred, unconditionally present, wide open space that is there for you, waiting, every time you sit down to write. The page is always your companion, your portal, your reminder, your present moment. And I look forward to writing together soon! 

Oh... and guess what? After chasing the beginning of the end of my memoir (or at the very least, the antagonist), I have at long last figured out what's been eating at my legs and turning my life upside down and brought me to my knees (less painful in headstand, more humbling on the ground) for the past ten months. Hallelujah. The view from the tip of the arc is grand.

Much much ever so much love, Rox


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Regulate thyself among others

A dear friend sent me this today... and bow howdy, don't I know it! These days, my daily writing groups—some of which are brand new, some of which started more recently, and some of which have been ongoing for ten plus years—are grounding me in ways I could have never predicted or couldn't possibly explain, ironically, in words. Whenever I consider cutting back on my workload, given this mysterious illness and the rerouting of my life as of late, I remember why that's not an option every time I sit down at the table to write with you. 

So trust me, if you need a limbic boost, come write in community! The proof's in the page, the piano... Enjoy!

Hi Roxy,

I thought of you when I saw this recent research article that talks about the benefits of writing in community (and choir singing).

Arts-Based Activities Boost Emotion Regulation, Study Finds
Arts-based groups increase positive emotions for people from all walks of life.

Source: Pixabay/Public Domain
As the father of a 9-year-old, I know that nothing brings my daughter more joy than making art, expressing herself creatively, or performing "Musical.ly" with a group of her peers. Unfortunately, as adults, our participation in arts-based activities generally falls to the bottom of our priority list. Most of us (myself included) probably don't make an effort to participate in creative writing groups or sing in the local choir. But we should, according to a new study which found that choir singing and creative writing enhance emotion regulation for both healthy adults and those suffering from mental health conditions. These findings were published July 18 in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology
The researchers found that all study participants who participated in arts-based groups reported a significant increase in positive emotions along with a decrease in negative emotions during and immediately after an arts-based activity. Notably, adults with chronic mental health conditions such as schizophreniabipolar disorder, and substance use disorders (SUD) also derived emotional benefits in comparison to a control group of healthy adults. The researchers conclude: "The clear demonstration of positive emotional effects produced through participation in arts-based groups in the community has implications for mental health practice and policy.”
Genevieve Dingle of the University of Queensland School of Psychiatry, who is the lead author of this study, described the findings in a statement: "People with chronic mental health conditions tend to experience difficulties with emotion perception and regulation, which can have a big impact on their social relationships. These symptoms are not well treated with medication or psychotherapy. The findings of this study are exciting because they clearly show the potential for participation in arts-based groups to influence emotions and emotion regulation in positive ways.”
Having an arts-based activity scheduled on the calendar appeared to provide a focal point in the day and was something that study participants looked forward to during the week. Doing something arts related with others as a group also brought hedonic pleasure and eudaimonic reward based on individual achievements and those of the collective.
From a psychophysiology perspective, previous research has found that choir singing benefits the autonomic nervous system by reducing "fight-or-flight" stress responses and increasing vagal tone (VT) of the vagus nerve. More specifically, a 2011 study, “Cardiac and Respiratory Patterns Synchronize between Persons during Choir Singing,” reported that interpersonal oscillatory couplings resulted in phase synchronization in both respiration and increased heart rate variability (HRV) while singing and afterward.
In the July 2017 study, Dingle and colleagues report that art-based groups provided social support. This is consistent with the theoretical concept that distracting someone from negative rumination about his or her life by shifting focus to positive stimuli in a social context can improve emotion regulation in depression. These findings dovetail with the recent trend of "social prescribing" in which a link worker creates a non-medical prescription of community-based activities tailored to fit a person's lifestyle and individual needs.
From a clinical perspective, the latest research suggests that participation in arts-based groups can improve subjective well-being for people from all walks of life. Whether or not you are currently experiencing mental health issues, scheduling time on your weekly calendar to create some type of art in the presence of others is likely to enhance your emotion regulation and boost positive emotions through individual and interpersonal processes. 

To find a community-based writing group in your vicinity, check out this List of Writing Groups by State or Region resource guide. ChoirMeetups provides an international registry of local choirs that sing various genres of music and can help you locate a singing group in your area that fits your preferences. Both of these services are free. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Nostalgia in the making

My son has a keen sense of smell, perhaps dog like, sniffing out the familiar. "I smell Liba! Why does it smell like Liba's house right here?" he'll proclaim at a random spot along the bike path. "And you smell like bananas, Mama!" he'll tell me first thing in the morning when I wake up, or sometimes, if I'm lucky, banana bread. And sometimes he smells other people and places, like suddenly out of the blue—in the mall, in the winter, in a corporate hallway, in the night—"I smell preschool! I smell the beach in San Diego! I smell Granny!"

And the truth is, sometimes I wonder if the time will come when he says "I smell Mama," perhaps years down the line, when he has kids of his own, grandkids even, if he will still have the innocence to proclaim such things with loving authority—for to stop for a moment of your busy life, pausing to smell and identify, to link the moment with memory, is to love.

Perhaps walking in the woods, in the middle of a dance class learning to Lindy Hop or Hip Hop, perhaps sitting in meditation or in Warrior 1 Pose,  swimming in the ocean, or singing loudly in the car, or perhaps when I'm long gone, in and among the many things and places we've together traversed over the years, he'll suddenly smell me in the trees—"I smell Mama!"—a wordless knowing, like bananas, like love and longing, like childhood.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Thoughts I wish I wasn't thinking: (Voice of Innocence)

It won't get better
The PT is wrong, just like the other one
You don't know how lucky you are riding your bike on this golden day
Why does that person over there smoking and yelling at people get to walk when I can't?
You've got nothing to complain about: your broken ankle will heal
I have nothing to complain about: look at the guy over there
Why can't I run, too?
You'll probably end up like that guy over there at this rate
Maybe not knowing is a good thing
Good things don't happen to me
I'm getting fat from lack of exercise
The yoga is wearing off
I should've never stayed in reclined bhada konasana for so long: that's what did it
Should I test for MS?
Should I test for Lyme?
7 months of this; it's not getting better
I'd give anything to go for a walk
I'd give anything to walk fast
Will I ever have faith in my leg again
or the ground beneath it?
Will I forget how to trust my own body?
What's the use in being back in your body if it's not safe right now?
Breath work worked for her, but not me
Can I cut out the nerve? Kill it?
Why does no one have any fucking clue why this is happening?
What they say online is true: I'm fucked
I'd be completely fucked without my friends and family
Am I going to end up in a nursing home?
Will I ever drive again?
Do I have to go? I don't want them seeing me with a cane.
Don't look at me like that.
So many people have it so much worse
Why did I ever complain about anything ever?
It's Sunday and everyone else is out enjoying it: walking, running, hiking, standing, biking: I'm sitting here getting fat and taking two hours to get down stairs and back up again, carrying one thing at a time
You're lucky Too Cute will carry your purse
It's not fair
Why is that guy walking his dog so grumpy looking? He can walk: doesn't he realize that's all that matters?
A lot of people would kill for the excuse to not be able to walk to avoid exercise
I should handle the pain better
This good mood will leave as soon as I stand up
I would get so much more out of this lovely moment if I could also look forward to hiking later on
Why can I walk and run and hike in my dreams so easily?
How will this end?
When will my voice of experience come back?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Testing

Soon there will be testing at my son's school. Serious testing. So begins the life of serious tests, serious waiting, the serious relationship to the results. The serious, serious results. The not knowing. The life-of-its own life form that not knowing becomes, a fungus, but not always the good kind unless you're the further-along-the-path kind of Buddhist where not knowing is all there is.

 I'm not very Buddha about not knowing these days. I'm retaking the test for enlightenment every day and I'm failing. What does Ram Dass say? "If you think you're enlightened, spend a weekend at home with your parents"... is that it? Well, you ought to know by now, Rami, that the proper rebuttal to an assumed state of enlightenment is "then spend a weekend with a serious disability." But I suppose both are true and not too long ago, Ma was in town, so you can imagine how that went. Nope. A being of enlightenment I am not.  A being of enlightenment does not more or less tell their insurance company to fuck off. Downright uncouth, I am.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—Hardware

Because cleaning and shopping are what I can control

I'd rather truck to Home Depot even though I hate the place can hardly walk from the paint aisle to the flooring department where anti fatigue matts cost less than

                   at the smaller quaint hardware stores owned by well intended families
where the dogs roam the aisles and they charge way too much and follow you around and want to be helpful and know all the everything of your hardware plans that are never well thought out so you're forced to come up with one on the spot

but this is how it is now and where I must go in a pinch

for a little distraction and little daydream about fixing up the house and home improving and

occasionally an impulsive need for a sharp tool strikes.... "oh, and where are the paint scrapers?" because I realize if I could only scrape the shit out of something, crucify the lingering grime, break open some rotten cork, pulverize a centipede, dislodge the tile, obliterate the old paint, scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape  scrape  scrape  scrape  scrape scrape scrape scrape scrape, scrape...off out over away... anything really...

"Sure, right this way, Mam..."

Dear god, Just tell me where they are—

I don't need an escort... just tell me what aisle... oh shit, the dog is coming now too... "okay, thanks very much. okay this is good, thanks"

What size are you looking for?

"Oooh, I don't know.... but I'm good, this is good. I'll just browse. This is great. Nice selection. Thanks so much."

What do you need it for?

What do I need it for? What do I need it for?        Is that really something you want to know?

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—In hindsight (voice of experience)

My massage therapist telling me, "Your feet are fucking tired! You are on your last lifetime!"

My left foot going funny in triangle pose

My right hip not dropping in triangle pose

My yoga teacher walking toward me upside down, funny face, saying, "are you aware that you are balancing on the side of your head not the crown? 

I am?

You better come down

The legs and feet aching so much I have to hold myself up over the sink using my core muscles when doing the dishes

the times i thought I stepped on glass in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the hallway, in my bedroom, wondering how I possibly managed to litter chunks of glass that I couldn't find

the many many ways I could always blame fibromyalgia and take more Ibuprofen

darn those flat, flat, fallen feet

my podiatrist, years ago warming me to never ever go barefoot or wear flats, no matter how comfortable it was: ditto my podiatrist last year

screaming pain in the Prius, left side back, but only in the Prius

the vaginal cyst
the emergency c-section
the warning labels
you're being a woos; stop complaining
you are not in pain
your relatives suffered a lot worse
no, you do not have to go to the bathroom again; we're not stopping
the invincibility
the up all night crushing raw pelvic pain (Were you sexually abused? Hmmm... I don't think so)
the bulimia
the trip to the er in my early 20s for crippling calf pain
the time my dad had to carry me and my skis down the Mammoth Mountain hill cause of the calf pain

Calf pain
         calf pain
                       calf pain
                                      calf pain: calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain
calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain calf pain                                      calf paincalf paincalf paincalf

posterior tibial something or another
                                                            plantar fasciitis, broken bones

born blue

and the every day gratitude for being able to walk, to dance, to run, to bike...

 because I didn't know what I'd ever do if I lost my ability to walk

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Writing with Rox WEEKLY—What is the title of your summer?

Today in Wednesday Writers, we happened upon (as we Wednesday Writers tend to do: happen upon) this prompt.

Here are a (paraphrased) few, given my memory these days, which could prompt another title for my summer: "When Spinal Stenosis Steals Your Memory":

"Hobbling Around in Paris"

"In Hindsight, it was Pretty Nice"

"Hurry Up and Wait"


and a few I wish I could remember that went something like

Blank Blank about Gardening
Something Something about kids and outside in nature
Something sparkly about traveling....

all loaded with delicious prompts and a heck of a lot of fun besides. Thank you Wednesday Writers, which you would think, after all these years, might deserve a better title like the "Wednesday Wacko Writers" at the very least.

Anyway, try the summer titles prompt. It's juicy. Like a good orange. Like summer.