#FWF: Life Changers … My Sarajevo

Here is today’s prompt, courtesy of Kelley Rose, for Free Write Friday:

free-write-friday-kellie-elmore

” … what was that pivotal moment for you [in your life], and most importantly, how did it change you?”

~*~

Interestingly, I addressed this at great length in my last post ~ A Life Unravelled.

If I have to zero in on one life changing moment in my recent history, however, I guess it would be this.

Sarajevo

My Sarajevo

A war-torn urban landscape

Potholed and Bullet-ridden.

Skeletal remains

Of blasted buildings.

Ghosts.

I can’t look, yet

Cannot look

Away.

Derelict remains

Of panic and pain.

Haunted eyes

Reflecting lost

Ones lost

Forever.

Sadness.

Grief.

*

Anxiety; panic

Drafts me. Terrors

Arise from

Depths unplumbed,

Besieging;

Overwhelming.

My broken-ness

Revealed by another’s

Devastation.

Much like the great city,

Rebuild I must.

Take action.

Make

Peace with my

Self.

Heal my own

Sarajevo.

~*~

Sarajevo

The broken city that forced me to face my broken self. A catalyst for positive change in my life.

One week in February 2009, amongst the physical and emotional scars of the war torn. Evidence of the Siege of Sarajevo everywhere to be seen.

Panic attacks the reverberations of my own inner battles rising to the surface; stating cases I could no longer ignore.

Buoyed by the spirit and quiet strength of the citizens of that ancient city, and with professional help, I rise to the challenge of reclaiming my life.

Thank you, Sarajevo.

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

A Life Unravelled

A Life Unravelled

I am of an age

When the formative years

Speak.

“Remember me?”

They ask.

It starts with

Music.

A song.

A memory.

A feeling.

Hmmm …

I had forgotten.

Lost in

Tumultuous times of

Twenty-plus years.

Tumult covered by more

Tumult.

A child overwhelmed;

A teenager confused;

A twenty-something

Ungrounded,

Until in the thirties

Unravelling begins.

As it must ~

Or die bitter.

~*~

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m seeking professional help to unravel and make peace with my life.

Starting in my late 20s I began to experience wake-up calls. People and events emerged to shake things up, most often sending me into an emotional tailspin.

My initial response was always that of the victim.

“Why me? What did I do?”

Then one day something started to happen.

I started to wake up.

My grandmother’s death when I was in my early thirties snapped me out of a career malaise. Instead of being bitter about the loss of someone I loved I was going to honour her memory by honouring my heart’s desire.

I embarked on my true journey with the horse. Granny would like this, I thought, as she was also passionate about horses. More importantly, however, she’d want me to be happy.

My two years as an equestrian coaching intern were a refiner’s fire. The veneer of my “happy” married life began to be stripped away until I could finally see the truth of its dysfunction. The victim was alive and well and absorbed into the drama of another who, I quickly realized, resembled my emotionally distant, self-absorbed and delinquent father.

Within a few years we divorced. I sought my first round of counselling and avoided dating once I realized I was attracting variations on a negative theme. I was determined to relinquish emotional baggage and find a healthier way of being.

My eyes were opening.

Eighteen months later I met my future husband. A kind, gentle, thoughtful, caring and emotionally mature man. (What he was doing with me took me a long time to understand.) The road was rocky. I’d had no experience being with such a person. But  unlike the previously dysfunctional men in my life, he was genuinely interested in my well-being and demonstrated through deed, and not just word, his devotion.

I learned to accept I might be worthy of something different than my normal experience.

My eyes opened further.

Two years later, tragedy in the riding arena as a school horse I’d been riding died following a freak jumping accident. Getting back in the saddle was difficult. The silver lining came a few months later with the opportunity to part-board a beautiful thoroughbred mare, Murphy. This lasted nearly three years.

And then Murphy died of cancer. More blinding misery, but the courage to look for a silver lining.

Five months later, a dream come true when Bear entered my life. Finally, a horse to call my own. But I wanted to be an aware horse owner. I wanted to build a relationship based on trust. I turned to natural horsemanship and enrolled in Chris Irwin‘s Train the Trainer program. While I was fine tuning my horsemanship skills the horses were reflecting back to me how broken I was, my insecurities rearing their ugly heads and demanding my unbridled attention.

Another wake up call; another realization that I needed more help.

Wise Old Equus

Enter art therapy and meditation. I became more grounded and a beautiful collection of veil paintings was born of my unburdening. This journey lasted about 18 months.

And I was still working with Bear ~ the experience of self-awareness around him bringing greater depth and meaning to our relationship. A new self-confidence was emerging; the victim was beginning her retreat.

And then my eyes opened some more.

A week in Sarajevo in February 2009. Panic attacks. Anxiety. My inner personal hell rising to the surface and reflected in the sad, unhappy state of a recovering war-torn city.

Within weeks I was sitting in a therapist’s office, the depression and anxiety, the feeling of being stuck and weighted down by things beyond my understanding more than I could bear.

The true work of unravelling a lifetime began sitting in a chair opposite a stranger whose only desire was to help me along the road to wellness.

The pain, anger, bitterness, grief, shame, the trauma of abuse laid bare. The broken-ness of my life lying before me like the scattered pieces of a puzzle waiting to be re-assembled, but with awareness.

Eyes ever opening.

And with this a sense of liberty. The freedom to begin to see myself differently. The triumph of survival and a new-found understanding of what it means to thrive. The tools to rebuild the puzzle of my life into something more functional. An opportunity to create a clearer picture of who I really am while releasing the illusion forced upon me when I had no concept of self and no choice but to absorb and reflect the drama and dysfunction of the adults around me.

A life unravelled.

A life reclaimed.

~*~

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Do you fear the dark place?

It’s Free Write Friday (okay, I’m a couple of days late).

Time, once again, to let loose the imagination.

Here’s the prompt …

i-fear-the-night-tso-1

Here’s my response …

The Dark Place

What fun

To step into the dark

For just a

Moment.

To sense with open

Mind and heart

Another world unfamiliar.

Through the veil of my

Fear into the dark place

I am led.

Black as black can

Be, My hand before my

Face I cannot see.

My breath I

Cannot find as

Oppressive air a

Smothering cloak

Arrests me.

Disoriented eyes beg for

Light; for escape.

Fun becomes overwhelm

Becomes fear becomes

Panic becomes

“Let me out of here!”

I do not belong

In this dark place.

“Let me out … please!

Let me out!”

*

A voice. A guiding

Hand.

“Come, follow me.”

Trust I must.

And to the light

Once more am led.

Beyond the heavy

Shadow of my doubt …

And breathe.

~*~

Comment

What fun, I thought, to dine in the pitch dark.

The concept was intriguing.

Dans Le Noir is a novelty restaurant with locations in several major cities worldwide. When we were in Paris a few years ago we thought it would be fun to have a culinary experience where the enjoyment of the food is enhanced by the fact you cannot see it.

Check your phones and digital watches, cameras, etc. at the door, enjoy a glass of champagne, select your menu option and form a human chain to be lead through several layers of heavy drapes to absolute dark by a visually-impaired, i.e. blind, waiter.

Not a speck of light, anywhere.

I lasted less than a minute. Didn’t even make it to my seat. Claustrophobia swarmed me almost immediately and I had to be led out again.

I recovered my dignity, and ate alone, in a fully lit bar while my husband and his daughter enjoyed (endured) the experience without me.

Like all writers worth their salt I immediately wrote my experience and feelings down on a bar napkin, filling every scrap of space with imprints of my terror, panic, relief and a, yes, food review.

Do I fear the night? The dark?

Hmmm … I believe it would be more appropriate to say I embrace the light. 😉

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

~*~

free-write-friday-kellie-elmore

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Broken Record

When we embark on our healing journey it’s a bold step. We are energized by the idea that with appropriate professional help we can wrap our past up in a neat little package and fire it off into a universe where we need never meet up with it again.

And perhaps if we did not think this way we would never take that first liberating step toward a new way of being.

The truth is, while we travel the bumpy road to wholeness we bump into our old selves all the time. With guidance and growing strength we are able to tip our hat to that old part of ourselves and keep moving on.

Sometimes, however, we can get stuck in that old place ~ that old way of being that says we aren’t good enough; no one cares; you belong in the shadows; asks “who the hell do you think you are?” … and on.

I’ve been going through a bit of that lately, and have remained largely silent as a writer because of it. These moments get in the way of my creativity and my sense of place in the world.

Today, however, following an intense tête à tête with my amazing therapist yesterday, I’m ready to step out of that malaise and get on once again.

Doing my best to remove that broken record from the turntable of my life.

Herewith a verse inspired by this experience.

Enjoy and thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

Broken Record

Old familiar

Broken place

I let you go …

Honestly!

Yet, here you are …

Again, like some

Broken record

I’d forgotten.

The needle slipped

To a broken,

Repetitive

Debilitating

Groove

That torments,

Taunts and

Irritates until

I can no longer

Bear your

Broken voice

Telling me over

And over how

Broken I was

And still am …

Am … Am … Am …

Not!

Enough!

I remove the needle

That pierces my

Broken soul

And smash that

Broken record of

My Self. It is

No longer my

Truth. Time to

Dance to a

Different tune.

Play on!

Carefree

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, All Rights Reserved 2013

Dear Critical One: The Fourth Letter in a Series …

From: Dear Me: A Collection of Letters Addressed to Various Aspects of My Self … ©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

~*~

Free SpiritThe fourth in a series of letters addressed to my critical Self. The date is the actual date it was written as a free writing, and freeing, exercise.

July 11, 1013

Dear Critical One ~

Why is it that you are the first one to greet me in the morning?

I awaken to a beautiful day after a night of broken sleep; I look at the clock and it’s later than I’d like, but instead of allowing me to be grateful for the fact I have the luxury of sleeping in if I need it (which evidently I do this week) you clime in “You should have been up two hours ago … “?

And that’s the problem ~ you’re unrelenting and “shoulding” me to death!

You “should” the smile right off my face.

“You should do it this way” or “you should have done it that way.”

Instead of allowing me to enjoy the process you question and nitpick everything I do. You make it almost impossible for me to be happy with anything I do or achieve.

And I say almost because things are changing.

I’m changing.

Your power is becoming less potent though I feel it more acutely. In your desperation to hang on to whatever power as you suppose you have over me your methods become more grasping.

Would you really criticize me for spending some of my precious time cleaning up after my sick dog?

Criticize me because I am not spending it writing which, as you know is what I really want to do.

Don’t you know that when you do that you interfere with my right and ability to nurture what I love?

This is true of my writing also.

Every time you wholesale delete something I’ve created from awareness you make me feel as if my voice is of no importance and no one should hear it.

I know at some mislead level you’re trying to protect me, but what you need to understand, and I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this, is that you are actually strangling my ability to express myself … and it’s just not on!

Do you have any idea just how negative you are?

Have you not understood or, rather, observed how I have, during the past several years, divested myself of the negative voices around me? Those voices that fed you and funded all my insecurities?

They are gone.

You “should” be feeling weaker. And perhaps you are. Perhaps now you are hanging on for dear life, going down kicking and screaming.

It’s difficult for me to love you into submission. You’ve been so damaging and I see that I am still angry about it.

But you will submit, make no mistake. I’m standing up to you and your bullying ways. I know what’s good for me, and you are not among them.

Look inward, dear Critical One. What’s eating you that you feel the need to eat away at me?

Lovingly,

Dorothy

~*~

Letters to The Critical One

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

The Critical One: The Third Letter in a Series …

From: Dear Me: A Collection of Letters Addressed to Various Aspects of My Self … ©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

~*~

Free SpiritThe third letter in a series addressed to my critical Self. The date is the actual date it was written as a free writing, and freeing, exercise.

July 10, 2013

Dear Critical One ~

Perhaps you have noticed lately that I am making the conscious effort to release the need to be perfect.

I know you’ve noticed, actually, because I can always feel you nagging away at me to …

Fix it! Fix it! Fix it!!!

You’re always nagging at me about how I use my time, asking … have I done enough; have I presented myself well enough? The sad thing for me (and disappointing for you) is nothing I ever do is enough.

You cast your critical eye over everything I do, and when you’re feeling particularly obnoxious about it you simply delete my efforts as if they never existed at all.

I would agree that learning to let go is a powerful tool for wellness, and I have adopted this rather well into my current way of being. Still, when you “let go” of something I have created, you annihilate it! There’s no loving it away. It’s an act of terror that leaves me feeling stunned and legless.

How many times have you killed the Creative One who, though she rises again like the indomitable Phoenix, must endure again and again your lust to satisfy the Perfectionist?

The Perfectionist kills authenticity.

The pursuit of something unattainable is exhausting, debilitating and hopeless. You must stop listening to the Perfectionist lest one day she stabs you in the back because YOU are not good enough.

Allow me to love you into a new way of being.

Be my ally. Embrace acceptance.

Lovingly,

Dorothy

~*~

The Critical One: The First and Second Letters in a Series …

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

The Critical One: The First and Second Letters in a Series …

Free Spirit

As part of my healing process I’ve been writing letters to different aspects of my Self that need resolution.  So far I have published a complete series to “The Panicked One.” Another series to “The Guarded One” is in progress.

Recently, I embarked on a series of letters to “The Critical One.”

I know I am not the only person who struggles with this miserable character, so I have opted to publish these letters in an ongoing occasional series of posts as well as store them in their own page in the menu.

If The Critical One stands in the way of your self-expression and dreams I hope you will find this even mildly cathartic.

I welcome any constructive and positive feedback.

Be well,

Dorothy

~*~

From: Dear Me: A Collection of Letters Addressed to Various Aspects of My Self … ©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

~*~

The date of each letter is the actual date it was written as a free writing, and freeing, exercise.

Herewith the first two letters to …

The Critical One

Perhaps one of the most devious and undermining aspects that requires addressing is The Critical One.

In fact, it’s hardly worth addressing the other aspects and hoping they’ll heal without also taking to task this damaging menace.

~*~

July 5, 2013

Dear Critical One ~

That is a harsh name, isn’t it?

Is this why you are so unhappy?

It lends itself to your unforgiving and harsh assessment of The Creative One and The Guarded One your, dare I say, fairer sisters.

Are you bitter?

If so, why?

Who rained on your parade?

The Perfectionist? That cruel mistress of illusion?

Ah … this makes sense.

Really, you must learn to let her go. She is phoney ~ the weaver of lies; the standard bearer for the unattainable; the spinner of unhappiness.

How can you even listen to her?

When you can let her go we shall re-name you to something more positive, softer like … not sure yet. We’ll need to think about that.

In the meantime, you have something to think about.

Perhaps, like your sister, The Panicked One, you should consider retiring.

You, like she, have exhausted yourself by serving as my “protector.” It’s time to release the manic need to control my interactions with life so as to keep me, supposedly and in your estimation, safe from, well, criticism, rejection and the like.

I can take care of my Self.

Please give this some serious thought. I have your, and my, best interests at heart and I can feel you need a permanent break.

I need a permanent break from you …

Pick an island. I’ll pay your one-way fare.

Lovingly,

Dorothy

~*~

July 7, 2013

Dear Critical One,

You always seem to find a way to get in the way.

And I would love you away …

Surely you have exhausted your resources. Are you not yet spent in your need to nit pick everything I do, say, experience?

Your need to control these aspects of my life must surely end at some point. Aren’t you tired of having to be in control all the time?

Have you not yet learned to trust me?

If not, I wish you would.

In your effort to “protect” me from the criticism of others by undermining me first, you actually do more harm than good.

Let me enlighten you …

Every time you nit pick, second guess, question, dismantle, dissect and just plain destroy my self-expression you destroy a part of me. You curtail my confidence, stifle my voice so I can barely hear myself never mind engage my thoughts, feelings and opinions with others.

While you maintain the stance of being helpful you’re actually being counter-productive.

Sometimes I think you must actually dislike me to be so cruel.

Why are you so cruel?

What did I ever do to you?

You don’t protect me. You prevent me.

And don’t harp on about the past. The past is just that ~ past. Gone. No longer relevant to who I am, or who you are today.

You need to adopt a new attitude ~ an attitude of acceptance. In fact, I would be happy to anoint you as The One Who Accepts if it would help you to see yourself differently. Wouldn’t you like to see yourself in a more positive light?

Please … relax your need to cling to the lies The Perfectionist has whispered so manipulatively into your ear.

She is not your friend.

She is our enemy.

The Perfectionist weaves her web of lies and ensnares the unsuspecting and you, dear Critical One, are just such a victim. The lies she tells you are the lies you unload on me … and I’m not taking it anymore!

So, wake up before it’s too late, before you are so deeply bound by The Perfectionist’s deception that there is no escape for either of us.

You don’t need to be a victim, and I don’t need to be victimized by you.

I can help you to be free. And the amazing thing is that once you are free I am too.

Kiss The Perfectionist goodbye and walk with me in the more supportive role of The One Who Accepts.

It’s never too late to let go of the damaging old ways and embrace new affirming ones.

You can trust me on this …

Lovingly,

Dorothy

~*~

To be continued …

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Trust and the Broken Four-Year-Old

~*~

A free writing exercise inspired by a dream …

Trust Bear

Trust and the Broken Four-Year-Old

The light had gone from her eyes by the time she was four. A vacuous wary stare filled the big, dark eyes with an expression of distrust.

“I cannot trust you,” she seemed to say.

Not a word was spoken but I could tell, as she gazed vacantly in my direction, that nothing was registering. It was as if she was looking right through me, her gaze distant; her aspect disengaged.

She would not be hurt again.

At least I could see this was her intent. But, sadly, it was not her truth. For even if she were able to defend herself completely from the predators that prey on such as she, her defences would also seperate her from those whom might help; might love.

But she trusted no one.

What choice had she but to take care of herself the only way she knew ~ like the tortured animal fight back, run, hide ~ anything to stay out of harm’s way.

It does not make her happy.

It doesn’t even keep her safe. For though she might avoid the demons without, the demons within linger, and torment. They are already there ~ already telling her she’s not good enough to be loved; not pretty enough to be adored; not smart enough to be successful; not loud enough to be heard.

The well-meaning voices she doesn’t trust out there cannot quell the dissenting voices she hears in here.

She searches for her truth, but cannot find it cloaked, as it is, in a blanket of carelessly woven lies that have already, at such a tender age, defined her destiny.

The burden of it suffocates her, and yet she has no idea ~ yet ~ that she cannot breathe. Breath means nothing because it is as if she is not living. She exists. She already survives. She bears the weariness of the aged … and she is four.

I can see in her eyes how she longs for release. She longs for something she does not understand; doesn’t know … yet.

She longs to trust someone but doesn’t know where to turn.

She turns to me.

“Can you be trusted?” she seems to ask, silently, vacantly, as if she’s already made up her mind that I cannot.

Will she understand that if I reach to hug her and say “Yes!” that this is truth?

Our truth together?

How long does it take to reason with a broken four-year-old?

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Letters to The Guarded One …

Free Spirit

Six weeks or so ago I had a dream.

It remained vivid in my consciousness after I awoke so I wrote it down and shared it later with my therapist.

It occurred to us both, during our discussion, that this dream was introducing to me another aspect of my Self looking for some resolution. This time one of mystery I’ve dubbed The Guarded One.

Click on the image above to connect to The Guarded One.

This series of letters is an ongoing exercise and I will notify you of further updates as they roll out.

A third series, this time addressed to the Critic, is due to begin soon.

Please feel free to spend some time with these letters. Though personal I believe they deal with universal issues to which we can all relate to one degree or another.

Perhaps something you read here will resonate with some lost part of you.

Be well,

Dorothy 🙂

 

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Dear Me: A Collection of Letters Addressed to Various Aspects of My Self

Free Spirit

How often has your life with all its good intentions and dreams been hijacked by some aspect of your Self with whom you just haven’t been able to connect?

Mine has. Many times. So many, in fact, that four years ago I finally enlisted the help of a good therapist to lead me to a new level of self-awareness. I was tired of being middle-aged and feeling broken. Something had to change.

Recently, as part of my therapy, I started writing letters to my Self. This exercise is helping me to connect, through the written word, with the wounded parts of myself that are, subconsciously, getting in the way of my ability to lead a full and happy life.

At its most basic this is a free-writing exercise connecting me to my subconscious.

My issues are not unique.

Abandonment, rejection, isolation, neglect, loss, etc. are universal issues we all experience to a greater or lesser degree. How they manifest, how we act out and how we respond to them is what sets each of us apart.

Finding the strength to look in the proverbial mirror and make the changes necessary to help us heal and move from survivor to thriver is stressful in and of itself.

We build our individual worlds around the way we’ve been programmed. Changing that programming takes self-awareness and courage.

These letters are written with the intention of reprogramming aspects of my Self that are working under old protocols that no longer serve.

For some reason I feel prompted to publish them. Maybe they’ll inspire, in some way, other’s looking for answers. I don’t know. I’m just doing as the muse moves.

This project is entitled ~ “Dear Me: A Collection of Letters Addressed to Various Aspects of My Self.”

The first series of letters, “Dear Panic, is posted in the menu as a static page.

The series is complete as is unless Panic crashes my party again and I need to spend some time talking her down.

Two more series are in the works. Rather than wait until they’re “finished” I’m going to publish them on an ongoing basis. Together we can observe what happens as the series unfold.

When a new letter has been posted to its relevant static page I’ll send out a notice via a post to let you know.

Life is too short to allow emotional pain to be our driving force. Our wheels spin and become stuck in a rut of our own misery.

We either tune up, or tune out.

The choice is ours.

Please feel free to explore these letters. Maybe they’ll resonate with you … maybe not.

Regardless, there is no formula, just a sincere desire to become whole and live my life with my best Self forward.

From my heart to yours … please take care of your Self.

Be well and thanks for visiting …

Dorothy 🙂

~*~

Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013