My Six-Word Memoir

| By Paul | | Comments (24)

I was planning on simply including my contribution within this month's Expressive Arts Carnival and I was going to publish it today. But I am going to hold off a couple days on the carnival and instead talk about my "memoir."

Off and on for the past month, I thought about what my six words would be. Then, in one moment of internal understanding, it came to me. This past month or two has been mainly about "living my life," so I was sure that was going to be my main statement.

The questions are, for me: What living my life means? And what is the route to accomplishing it?

Over the past three years that I have been on a new healing trajectory, I have amassed a collection of healing words that have been significant to me. And these number many more than six! These appeared in my Contract of over a year ago and I have used many of them as touchstones to keep me on the path. When I fall off the path, those words (and what they mean to me) are there. And I think this is how I have learned to develop some measure of resilience, strength, hope and achieved a good deal of healing.

Before 2008, my one word touchstone was basically "think." It worked some times, but it had severe limitations. Most everything having to do with feeling was kept separate. It was not a healing configuration.

In 2008, I had one word that was my touchstone: "Breathe." It was a start of a new direction.

In 2009, I had a mantra: "Relax, Breathe, Feel, Accept, Listen, Choose, Allow."

In 2010, I started adding to this mantra such words as: "Love", "Heal", "Safety", "Trust", "Responsibility", "Live." All are important and all have been explored in various ways.

In 2011, I went back to a single theme: "Balance." Balance is hard for anyone to achieve, yet is crucial to those of us who have had chaotic lives and struggle to heal the aftermath of abuse. Dissociation and post-traumatic symptoms are not very compatible with balance. So, for many of us, balance is an extremely uphill climb.

Before I started working on balance so directly, I learned that one cannot have any chance of achieving even some unless there is acceptance. While I have luckily never been an alcoholic, I have admired Alcoholics Anonymous' incorporation of The Serenity Prayer. This quote (from the AA "Big Book" p. 449) is particularly helpful to me:

"And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment."

For so many years, I had tried the solution of willing parts of me away. For so long I had tried the solution of willing my abusive past away. I failed to realize that lack of acceptance was an enormous obstacle to my healing. I failed to realize that acceptance of the past and present can lead to positive change in the future. That was a breakthrough for me.

My sixth word could have been "change," but I decided to make it "evolve." Change can either be positive or negative. Evolving is about growth and I try not to pay attention that evolution is about "survival of the fittest!" Instead, I try to think of evolving as incorporating past knowledge so one can gain wisdom and insight. I fully remember nearly three years ago when "My Healing Guide" said that healing could mean that parts of me could evolve. At the time, I scoffed at her. Oh, how things are different now.

And, so you have it. My six-word memoir:

"Living My Life... Accepting, Balancing, Evolving."

If you have been holding off on submitting to this month's Expressive Arts Carnival, there are now a couple days extended to the deadline. I will publish it on Sunday late afternoon.


OneSurvivor said:

Thank you for explaining this. It is nice to see how things come about and "evolve"!

Paul Author Profile Page replied to OneSurvivor:

Thank you OneSurvivor. Writing this today seems completely counter-intuitive to me. Seems unnatural, that I have been completely blocked in being able to do this, was in a really bad place this morning, yet several hours later this comes out. I honestly don't understand all of this. I'm a bit overwhelmed.

OneSurvivor replied to Paul:

I felt very challenged with mine, too. Just could not seem to come up with something... and then... it just sort of clicked.

I have had pieces that I did not feel I could do again. It is like I am in a particular mindset for each one that I may not be in again. The same thing happens when I write poetry. I am either into it or I am not.

Sorry to hear you were in a really bad place this morning. Hopefully, you are better now. Perhaps, this is part of the "evolving"?

I notice you use green for "evolving". For me, green signifies growth. I also think of evolving as growing. It is one way I connect to this piece.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to OneSurvivor:

@OneSurvivor: Interesting you related to the "just clicking" thing. I will ask if anyone related to that when I post the Carnival. I know I chose specific colors, but I didn't write about why. That was sort of something that happened "on some other level" so to speak.

OneSurvivor replied to Paul:

The colors I chose are symbolic. I did not really share that on my post, though.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to OneSurvivor:

I suppose I can share my thinking. I chose blue, black, red, and green. Blue for "Living my life" because I felt it was a cool and safe color. It's a grounded color for me. Red is for accepting, and while I work to accept all parts, I know that accepting parts is often hard, and a lot of the emotion and anger are held in parts I have trouble with, and many of them associate with red. So, it was my way of saying that I accept the "red parts". Evolving I also associate with growth, so green. Balancing is black. This one is the most interesting. Black is the absence of all color, but that wasn't meant in any harsh way internally. One would think that if it were balancing all parts, then the color white should be there (as the presence of all colors). But that's not really what balancing is about. Balancing is a tricky subject and so with black is was a statement about how hard it is. I often talk about how hard balancing is when we have to deal with what we do. So, black sometimes means you are balancing without colors at your disposal. I talked once about balancing being like walking on a tightrope, backwards, blindfolded and chewing gum with no safety net.

castorgirl said:

One moment at a time Paul...

I saw this post as an attempt to reconnect with the good and healing work that you've been doing. Look at how your healing mantras and quotes have shifted over the years, there's huge strength there. In what seems a simple statement, there is a wealth of subtle and obvious meaning.

Sending you positive thoughts,

Paul Author Profile Page replied to castorgirl:

Thank you CG. I think today's post was about reconnecting. I think it is about resilience. And since the safety net or healing net is so large now with so many parts holding onto it, it just makes recovery so much easier. Or, another way of saying it, is that the skills I have to help myself are so part of me now, that they are much more easy to call upon. That doesn't mean at all it's acceptable to self-harm, but I think that not only is recovery easier, I think that it helps to heal it all and keep myself safe.

Kylie said:

Great post. It's really interesting to see how much you have grown and 'evolved' with each of your mantras/words over the years.

I often find that there are some very healing words that are grounding, but I have never really paid attention to what they have been at different times. I am a little disappointed because seeing the way you have looked back here seems a great exercise.

I really love your memoir and can really relate to it. Each of those things (accepting, balancing and evolving) are things I really struggle with but recognise they are things I need to do.

Thank you for sharing! I cannot wait to see what everyone else has done this month.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Kylie:

Yes, thanks Kylie. Why are you disappointed? You did a great job with yours. And you can always revisit it for yourself.

wantstorun said:


Thanks for sharing the progression of your memoir. I really like the part about acceptance. I heard myself saying, "I can't wait to get where he is," when I was reading. :o)


Paul Author Profile Page replied to wantstorun:

@Wantstorun: We are all at different places on our journeys. Personally, I think it's good for those of us who are healing to see people in different places. It's not about comparing (because I'm against that), but more about being able to put things into perspective.

wantstorun replied to Paul:

Hmmm, having to ask around inside whether I was falling into the pit of comparison, or whether it was more of an optimistic statement of where we are going/want to be - I think there can be a difference. But, I do tend to be my harshest critic sometimes, so thanks for pointing out that I could have been doing an unhealthy comparison.


lostinamaze said:

I love the idea of healing words. After reading this I'm going to try this myself. It's interesting to see how your words have evolved over time. I can really relate to what you have written about 'willing your abusive past away'. I'm finding it not so easy now.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to lostinamaze:

@Lostinamaze: You should definitely try it yourself. And if you want, you can submit what you do to the Carnival. You still have time. The activity is here: Activity 9 and I would need submissions by Sunday morning (US Eastern time).

castorgirl said:

The configuration of the words is interesting. You mentioned the colours used, but not their arrangement. The word balance seems closer to your opening statement, yet your other words seem close to each other, but a little distant from the others. Might be incidental, or it might be meaningful. Only you can decide.

Interesting memoir, and back story as to how you got there.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to castorgirl:

CG: I was totally lazy. I didn't lay them out myself, which I could have done in Photoshop. Because I really didn't want to have to think too much about those details. Instead, I did it in Wordle in the advanced mode where I set the colors and the font weight. Once I settled on "horizontal only" and the font, I just simply kept hitting refresh and taking a screen shot, like about 50 times. Then I just went through them all and found the one that resonated most with me the most. I chose this one based on what I felt about all the others. It seemed more appropriate this way. When I saw this, I knew I wanted "Living My Life" up top. And I wanted "Balancing" to provide a counterweight to the other two. And I chose "Evolving" on top of "Accepting" because I saw acceptance as the "base" so to speak.

Ivory said:

BRAVO! I loved this! I have taken a similar path, but my steps led me to realize that I am internally chaotic. I have to be okay with that.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Ivory:

Ivory: I refuse to believe that.

Tracie said:

I love seeing the process behind your six word memoir. What you shared about balance was especially touching to me right now, as I have been realizing the past few months that it is something I need to seek out and find for my life.

This was such a great idea for the EAC and even though it has been a month, I'm still thinking through some of the things that I learned through doing this "assignment" in my own life.

Thank you for sharing this with the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse!

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Tracie:

Thank you Tracie. Being now a month old, I included it in the Blog Carnival because I was thinking more people could see this activity and find it helpful. Thanks for your comments!

Gail said:

Thank you for sharing, I can appreciate how much inner-work it takes to arrive at such an empowering six word memoir.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Gail:

Thanks Gail. I never thought of it that way... that it took a lot of inner work. The work has always been, just necessary. But, yes, I suppose you are right. And thank you for saying that.

This is so smart, Paul! I can especially relate to "balance." That's a big one for me. Thanks for sharing this with us...especially for the blog carnival.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry published on March 24, 2011 2:27 PM.

Living and Perspective was the previous entry in this blog.

Expressive Arts Carnival No. 9: Memoir is the next entry in this blog.

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