Writing with my helmet on – by Charlene Biggerstaff

Why me, why blog, why now? All questions I asked myself before sitting here to write…
It started about three weeks ago when I read a tweet about how gluten sensitivities can’t be detected; the article behind it was from an American agency of some sort. I really lost it, over another do this; oh don’t do that food situation. After my 140 letters were done, I decided to cut them out and keep writing. I just had to get it out! Five pages later I was panting and sweating, I’d lost track of time and was frankly enjoying the freedom in this new feeling…. I’d never felt like that before. What was this, a sense of free-feeling writing? What had happened?
They told me I couldn’t write: spelling—forget it, clear thoughts on paper—never knew how. All those Cs proved my worthlessness in reading, writing, and comprehension! Surely the life experiences of failure after failure in English had told me this, right? For years, in public school I was taken to the library for remedial work where I would read a book aloud, then follow along with and listen to the tape, then read the book again at the end of the week, never really getting any better. Hours of enunciation and “take the word D-O-G, take the D off and put FR on, what word do you get?” I am thankful to those teachers.…. Oh so daunting really! Then there was the day that I ended up in well, a special class, (remember it was the 80s and that was what we called it). I was excused from class as usual, expecting to head to the library when the teacher guided me to another room. It was small room at the end of the hall, with not more than six boys and a teacher. As I walked in I recognized the roughness, confusion, anger and distance in the group I was entering into. Why was I here? As sat down, I looked around closer, one kid gazing and chewing on his book as if it were a chocolate cookie, one kid picking his nose like it was his job, another wandering from his seat, making a fuss and sitting back down in about seven minute intervals and one boy was wearing a helmet; it wasn’t Halloween or a wear-your-favorite-hero-costume day at school situation. No, on further inspection, it was his… Oh boy, did I feel odd. I remember a seriousness dropping into my body, my mind in a panic and hearing (I mean no disregard, I was like eight) “Am I this dumb?”, “Do I fit in here?”, “Is my brain this way?”, “Was I misunderstood?”, “Had I been daydreaming….what the hell!!!” Shock set in, I couldn’t say a word, or I don’t remember saying one, nor do I remember a thing the teacher taught. It all moved in slow motion, kind of like the movies when the volume gets all slowed down, funky and distorted. Until the one boy, on one of his fuss intervals, picked up a desk and threw it across the room. In that moment I understood the kid with the helmet a bit better, and wished I had one. I was happy to find out that I would return to the library to listen to read-along books and try to change words out loud.
But that free feeling of writing I had just found, almost erased all of those childhood impressions…..I wanted the free feeling again.
Two weeks later I emailed a dear friend to see if she had room in her yoga and writing workshop, and by god lucky me, there was one spot left! So, I claimed it and I went.
The day was blocked out into small bits of writing time, each with a question, theme, item or picture to draw inspiration from. The writing was easy, freeing, available and fun. The first directive of the day was led with “Ask: What really matters”. The free- feeling writing came: BANG, like a gun at the gate of a pony race and I’d bet a million to one! I had a lot to say on that one! Since my deep and perplexing mind is constantly asking me that question, in the very large quest to help find the real answer for the global good and help find world peace, it is always my undercurrent of rhythm. This was my arena, come on pony! I nearly broke my pencil, I got hand cramp, a blood blister on my thumb, a bit breathless, I broke out into a general dew, all in 15mins….how could that be?? I am not a writer—not me?
Over the day-long course the group was able to share their short verses of spontaneous writings with each other and feedback was given. What a remarkable feeling it was to read something that just came from my world, my view point, my brain, in a raw way then deliver it to the group. Looking up after each reading, the expressions on the faces were unbelievable: caring, honest, open, moved and giving. The times when I was in class and had to read aloud or the times in the library with the sing along books, never gave me any encouragement or acceptance. I wish now that they had.
After a fresh lunch, with as much organic talking as food, we sat for about two hours in comfy places and wrote in silence. This too was a great experience filled with support and no pressure. Concluding the silence, we shared further about our quiet time and the day. What I knew so far was this group of women was dynamic, deep, fun, intellectual, soft, understanding, strong, funny, mad, and open. I could help but to feel that they each represented a little part in me, in some way…. I felt I fit in, I felt heard and I felt accepted in a way that I have never felt before. It was like each time they spoke about anyone’s writing, they were supporting me too. What they had written touched me and I witnessed the process, I was a part of it too. To close the day, I learned a bit more about the group of women that I had shown up with that Sunday morning, who I had shared my vulnerability around writing and reading aloud to. What I found out was the level of the writers in the room; from writers with degrees in writing, writers that belonged to writers’ guilds, published authors and even one published in chicken soup books!!!! I was sitting among these women? So very far from the room with the kid with the helmet. If I had known this any earlier, I would have gone back into shock for certain. It was too late to revert back; they had accepted my new raw work that day.
What they may not know is how they affected my confidence in writing for my life time to come. I no longer feel like a failure in writing, I have my style, perspective and spell check! I may have skimmed by in English frequently; looking back I don’t know if I ever got marked on my ability to express.

CharlenewcentreCharlene Biggerstaff is a successful yoga teacher and entrepreneur who lives in Keswick, Ontario. You can find out more about her programs at www.tenyoga.ca

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