Breaking Open

Had a tough time writing my current post (not yet up) for 50-Something. I tried writing it twice before and it just didn’t work. I deleted the entire post. It could have worked but I was writing about other people and had to try to find a way to be sensitive to that but also get my idea across without censoring myself. It was not easy, but I think I finally managed it.

It irks me to have to tiptoe around certain topics because of other people, but I have done this from the first day of my blog. It’s a pain because these other people I sometimes have the urge to complain about and tell stories on were not sensitive to me!

It’s really difficult to get specific with complaints on a public blog. I worry about the same kinds of things I imagine other bloggers do, but the topic kept bothering me, so I worked hard to figure out a way to say my piece without causing my remarks come back to haunt me in some way, like with a lawsuit. loss of work and thus pay, being blacklisted or getting a bad reputation with people I respect.

Writing fiction is so much easier! I can have my characters say all the stuff I need to hold back.

Click below to read the piece…

Suffering sucks. The only thing that makes hard times tolerable is keeping in mind that with misfortune often comes transformation. In her fabulous book, Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser calls this The Phoenix Process.I’m trying to apply this process to a certain area of my life that has been deeply distressing to me of late. Intellectually, I know that terrible events like divorce, death and serious illness put us in touch with a more authentic self. Strife, Lesser says, breaks us open, and if we allow it, transforms us into stronger, happier people.
It hasn’t happened yet in my current situation, but I have been through divorce, and that actually did transform me, although it took a long time and a lot of distance for me to see exactly how. Years after my divorce, I realized that I had learned how to stand on my own two feet, take responsibility for my own happiness, and become my own woman.

I’m hoping for a quicker, less painful fix this time.

My problem is my job. My husband tells me I’m lucky to teach my favorite subject at the local community college, and on one level, I know he’s right. On another level, I wish I could teach without having to deal with all the personalities. There are a half dozen or so this semester I would like to turn over to Joss Whedon for the the Dollhouse process. If you haven’t seen the show, the characters become blank slates every week and are then uploaded with personalities to fit their particular mission. My problem students need their mission to be “learn what she has to teach” instead of “disrupt the process as often as humanly possible.”

I have been teaching for twenty years, so I know that every class has a clown. Also, sometimes, a know-it-all. Or a critic. Or a sleeper. Who snores.There’s usually some variation of a drama queen. Once in a while there will be a person who disagrees with everything I say, including “please open your books.” Then there’s the person who must constantly call attention to themselves by flipping their cell phone open and shut or drumming on the desk.

It could be worse. I’ve had students tell me to F*** off. A student high on something once threw his desk at me. That was a long time ago. I’m teaching in a calmer environment now. But this semester, I’ve had my share of difficult personalities to deal with, and I keep wondering how I can transform my shot nerves into Nirvana.

I like to be on a friendly basis with my students. I try to maintain the illusion that we’re all equal, that the classroom is a democracy. I crave that feeling of class bonding, as in “We are all here together, we might as well learn how to write.” But a few folks in this group are not falling in with the plan.

To maintain order (and my sanity) in the classroom, I’ve become a bitch. And even though I’m not comfortable in that role, maybe it’s okay. Maybe that’s the transformation I need in this particular Phoenix Process.


  1. I have done this too. Deleted. Half told. Wrote around issues. I have a blogging friend who thinks we should simply write what we need to write and let the chips fall.

    Writing for 50 something gets harder and harder.


  2. Yeah, your characters can say what you want them to say w/o your holding back. And when your novel is published and all your family and friends think they see themselves in your book (even though they were NOT the inspiration) and they yell at you for “making them look bad in public,” you can tell them to yell at your characters not you!


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