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My New Project: "Ellis Peace 2.0"

So I have been talking to a few people about starting a poetry group [with an LGBT focus]. It’s finally the time to get back to my roots and I am super excited. I am hoping that people get a chance to bring their stories together and in a collective effort we can inspire each other. Because that’s what poetry is about.

But before I go any further about the group, I want to share a little about my background doing poetry because this is meaningful to me.

Writing has always been my outlet to let out what’s going inside when I had no one to talk to. From writing, I developed this tremendous interest in poetry. The ability to express deep emotions in very conservative language was very fascinating. I used poetry to express thoughts that at times, only I could understand. If I wrote it, I can go back and read it and understand very clearly what I meant. In a sense, it was code writing. It was my privacy.

But the therapeutical aspect of poetry for me has transitioned from the damning relationship I had with my father to discovering my sexuality and dealing with it in school and finally, just finding a place in this world, in writing about topics on religion, politics, you name it. I just used poetry to open my eyes to the things that I am thinking about. Sometimes, it’s only after I write something that I really realize what I am thinking about.

I became a part of a poetry group called Ellis Peace when I was 12 years, just after starting high school… about 10 years ago. Everyone in the group was much older than me. Most of them were retired and they found this amazing group where everyone wrote poems for personal reasons, for books they were publishing, the local newspaper and so forth. I was learning but I found a place where I got to do what I love. I was never judged. These people were mature and experienced. They had seen the ins and outs of life. I remember how this helped me to cope. Writing poetry helped me out of depression and reading my poems, helped me to fight my anxiety. Sadly, the group slowed down after many years after the host had a stroke. She was in stable condition for some time but she managed to host a final group a few months before I migrated here.

I still have a lot of those poems that I wrote when I was 13 or 14 years old, I shared some below.

The virtue of discomfort

Life has worn happiness
It has worn greatness
It has worn delicacy
It has worn joviality

It has worn Charm,
It has been calm
It has been unpredictable
And yes it has been incredible.

But most of all, in all its lust,
It has worn disgust,
It has worn fright
It has been a seemingly an unending fight

Life had been the quintessence of dispassion,
It carries a heavy bag of decision
It weighs heavily on disappointments
And falls short on privileges

But when the day ends,
I ponder on sunrise,
When Sadness appears,
I ponder upon Happiness

For I know the reason why,
Why sometimes laughter and sometimes whimper travels by,
We were given birth
To face what life is worth,

It is not a Cosmo of just merriment
But also of experiment,
For life would be nonsense
If it was simple in all its essence.

Amazingly, this was one of my very first poems, re-reading it brings back so many memories. I remember reading this poem and being asked why I wrote it. I didn’t have a full answer. But now I know exactly what it meant. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Life was a mess, LOL. It’s sort of still is, LOL but this was around the time that I began to learn about my sexuality. I was still dealing my father’s abuse but I was beginning to realize that I was in even bigger trouble. I felt terrible.

I remember how scared I was about writing poems about my father. Back to the ‘code’ idea. But I did write a few and the poem below was a reminder to myself that I was worth something. I have struggled with my self-esteem, but it’s amazing this is how I was able to use poetry to bring so many things to meaning. Today, these poems mean more to me than they did back then.

You are…

Here today and gone tomorrow…
There is an end to everyday

But you are not bound to seas and lakes
But you are bound to the abundance of existence

You are not fingers or toes
Or eyes or nose
But you are an infinite powerful soul

You are a sailor,
Who travels deep seas
You are a soul
That faces a great unknown

You are powerful
You are an everlasting conscious being
You are an answer without a question asked
You are a story with no end

But back to the whole idea of this post, I am really hoping to do what I have been doing for so many years. I want to get back to writing serious poems while working with others. Poetry can be a private thing but it can also be a community effort. I think that we become ourselves once we share who we really are with the world. While we may not only focus on poetry but writing and other expressions, I hope to make this a family thing. That is how successful poetry become life, we bring our stories into it.

So, I am super excited about this. I have been working really hard on getting it started and I can’t wait for it to be.

This is the only way to make JOY up to you – and it’s super-easy.

“Happiness is a butterfly, which once pursued is always beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

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How do you keep your resolutions on a life detour?

If you haven’t, it’s okay. Go easy on yourself.  My resolution was to relax – I haven’t done much of that yet!  February is around the corner, and if you haven’t been keeping your New Year’s resolutions, simplify the rest of your year with one of my favorite mantras:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.

Watch your words, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habits.

Watch your habits, for they become character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Think about the past month. The first month of 2017.  Did you create any habits?  Break any?  If you’ like to learn a bit more about being mindful, check out my post on being in the moment – it’s easier than you think.

How do you be in the moment? See things with new eyes…

Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul. —W. Somerset Maugham

One of the coolest things about being a human is that we get to make choices. It can also be one of the scariest things.  In each moment, we have a choice to make our day whatever we want it to be.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but we truly do. if you’re having a bad day, you can make a choice.  Maybe your choice is to grab a cup of coffee.  Maybe your choice is to run into a corner where no one can hear you and screen.  Choices can be really simple.

Simple doesn’t mean easy, though. It’s hard being human…because sometimes there seem like way too many choices to choose from! (…like the amazing food spread!)

But sometimes, the most empowering thing is to just know we DO have a choice. There is always something we can do to make any moment more pleasant.

Remember – freedom is a verb.

Medically, I still have my ups and downs – and on my blog, I try to share as much of that as I can, because things are always easier when you can talk about it. 

But at even the darkest of times, I try to remind myself that joy can be up to me. Check this out!

My super-secret joy formula is…(by the way, I have tons more of this in my upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour)

JOY – “IT’S UP TO ME” NOW

I – I create the quality of my life with my ongoing thoughts.

T – The choice of joy or the opposite is mine.

S – See, hear, and feel the way joyful people see, hear, and feel.

U – Unjoy is created by negative T.W.A: thoughts, words, and actions.

P – Perspective makes me happy or unhappy.

T – Talk to yourself the way you would if you were a master of joy.

O – Oneness of humanity gives me many opportunities for kindness.

M – My unconditional joy & love creates a magnificent life.

E – Every moment of joy is stored in my awesome brain and I can access those moments whenever I choose.

 

It’s my drive to find joy wherever I can that has gotten me this far, I believe.

And it can get you there too.

Safe Travel, Detourists!

Amy

(Interested in seeing Gutless & Grateful in New York, or a few other states this year?  Check out where I’ll be!)

Theatre is the Best Mental Health Teacher

As people, we all have stories.  And as actors, we tell stories constantly.  I first told mine over five years ago.  Not only to myself, but to complete strangers and New York theatregoers.   Fresh out of my 27th surgery, I performed words from journal entries I wrote years ago as a way to pass the time between the endless series of medical interventions.  Every time I “perform” what happened to me, I find myself somehow transformed in the process.

Theatre has the power to change lives, both for those directly involved and those who watch. Theatre teaches us we’re capable of anything – and usually tells us this at times we need it most. And that’s why theatre is the best mental health resource I can think of.

10 Ways Theatre Proves We’re Capable of Anything

  1. Wishing we were someone else is okay sometimes – It plants a seed for what we can ultimately become, if we keep wishing.
  2. When others believe in you, you feel capable of anything.
  3. Getting to learn about other people’s stories is inspiring and empowering.  It makes us realize what we can be capable of.
  4. You are capable of making an impact on even those who have impacted you.  Don’t get intimidated by those you admire.  You just may have something to teach them!
  5. When others believe in you, you feel capable of anything.
  6. Don’t be afraid to speak up, be aggressive or to ask for what you ned..  You are capable of making an impact, so flaunt what you’ve got and know you’re capable of being amazing!
  7. My show talks about my life, but it’s not a show about me.  It’s about us, our stories, keeping hope alive, and staying healthy in our minds as well as our bodies.  That’s why I couldn’t be prouder to be able to help others.
  8. You’re always capable of making a comeback.  Just come back.
  9. It’s okay to take a break, but don’t give up.  You’re capable of a second wind that lasts.
  10. Think no one can relate to your problems?   No matter how “unique” your detour is, you’re not alone.

Performing theatre showed me what I’m capable of, but more importantly, that we are all capable of understanding each other.  That’s how theatre creates empathy, fights stigma, and creates a world based on compassion.

Now get out there, see a show, do a dance, and make your mark on this world.

Finding-My-Way-Home

Amy will be performing Gutless & Grateful, her one woman musical on February 5th and March 26th in NYC at the Metropolitan Room. If you’d like to perform Gutless & Grateful as a student, send a playwright inquiry. Learn about her mental health & leadership programs for students, and find out how to take part in the #LoveMyDetour movement, fighting stigma with stories

The Messiest Way to Mental Health…

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I just don’t feel like myself anymore?”

I’ve felt like that at times too. There are certain days where I feel like I’ve lost that spark in me. I feel numb, hazy, like I don’t know who I am…or where I am. I feel like I’ve lost my “fire.”

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How do we keep our inner fire alive?

I realized that there are two things that help me: an ability to appreciate the positives in our life – and a commitment to action.

How do we start doing this? Every day, it’s important to ask and answer these questions: ‘What’s good in my life?’ and ‘What needs to be done?’

What you focus on in life is what you get.

And if you concentrate on how bad, wrong or inadequate you THINK you are, if you concentrate on what you can’t do and how there’s not enough time in which to do it, isn’t that what you get every time?

Yes.

But…when you think about how powerful you are, and when you think about what you have left to contribute, and when you think about the difference you can make on this planet, you feel that fire within you and know that you are capable of anything.

It’s not what happens to you; it’s what you do about it.

We do so many things to squash our emotions. So many people have a hard time feeling anything at all. Art is a great way to check in, and better yet, no art experience is required – or wanted at all!

Being an artist just means starting with “beginner’s mind…”

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Here are some exercises to get you started. All you need is a blank piece of paper.
Don’t Think. Just “Art”

Interpret the world “push”, draw it.
Pour your breath, and any worries into a cup of hot tea. What would a birds eye view of your cup look like?
Draw the ugliest scribble you can manage. Make it so ugly it hurts to look.
Paint your morning intention
Interpret a poem, put yourself in its landscape
Doodle to music
Draw the smell of bread baking. (Yum!)
Learn about a country, paint my stay there, write as if I’m there
Draw in a different language. Draw characters from a language you don’t know.
Find your way home. Draw a map.
Look at the world as a puzzle you determine the meaning of. Draw one puzzle in that piece.
Draw comic strip with two stick figures going on an awkward date.
Doodle an entire page with red crayon until there’s no blank space left.
Make 34 random dots with marker on a piece of paper and then take a pencil to connect every dot. Color in the spaces between, or whatever shapes you can find.
Trace the first thing you take out of your junk drawer.
What’s the point?
Don’t think about that. Allow yourself the surprise of not knowing. Get lost in fun, purposeless, whimsical expression.
The Takeaway?
Anytime I choose a thought that gets my emotions expressed it supports my aliveness.
How is YOUR fire feeling today? Express it.

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Art is intuition at play. So just go with it.
Start with art. It’ll get you somewhere.
Or, it will just be a beautiful detour…

Download a free creativity e-book at amyoes.com/create!

4 Hard Core Detourist Survival Skills to Get Through ANYTHING – Part 1

Who knew that mental health first aid was as simple an inspirational wall hanging?

Survival – Simplified.

Surviving – and “thriving” – through any setback, obstacle or ”detour” in life can be that simple.  I learned that from over ten years of “detours” in and out of hospitals, where every road sign said “uncertain path ahead.”

detour paint

Now I like to share what helped me through my stressful traumas with others, because whether it’s surgery, traffic, a disappointment or…well, anything that you don’t expect – life can sure be stressful.

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The latest stop on my “detour” will be the Mental Health America Conference next month!

Hardcore Survival Skills

After my show, I like to talk about the four “hardcore” survival skills that helped me through this huge detour in my life.  They were not quick fix solutions, a treatment plan, talking to a stranger in a tiny room, or a prescription from one of my many doctors. These were skills I learned as I went. I call it “self-service therapy.”

russs

To put yourself in my shoes, I was discharged from the hospital because I was medically stable after a plethora of emergency stomach surgeries, but I was missing one tiny little thing… a stomach.

So doctors sent me home, asked me to check in periodically, and when my wounds had healed enough from the previous handful of surgeries, they’d try to reconstruct my digestive system.

Creating a Survival Strategy

Look at this like any other unexpected “detour” in life – and believe me, this was very unexpected at 18 years old!But so is a flat tire, a lost job, a breakup, or a breakdown. We all need to learn how to cope with things in life we don’t expect.

chasing blue hope

I like to share the four essential “hard core” survival skills that honestly saved my life.

Four Simple Words

These four words might be easily confused with inspirational wall hangings you see in home decor stores, or whimsical words in bubble letters on the cover of gifted journals you’ll find at the bookstore.

But that’s what makes these “survival skills” so great – they are basic, long-term mindsets that anyone can foster.  Which means we are all capable of surviving and “thriving” through any detour in life!

I’ll only be sharing the first “hard core skill” with you today.  Stay tuned for the rest in this four part series!

Four Survival Skills for Any Detour in Life

1.) Gratitude

When you know what you’re grateful for, you know what you’re about.  Try keeping a daily gratitude list. When you see what’s makes you feel grateful, you’ll see what is important to you, and in turn, what your values are.    Your values act like arrows telling you what direction you need to take on your detour. When you know what your values are, you know what moves you – literally.

The reason why we have trouble knowing where to go on a detour, is that detour shakes up everything we thought we knew. We lose our trust in our world and in our selves.  Make a gratitude list as a daily practice, and you’ll see your value start to emerge.  Once anchored in your values, you’ll know intuitively which way to go on your detour. 

So that’s #1. What do you think the other three might be…?

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Comment here – but definitely stay tuned!  You can follow my adventures on my blog at amyoes.com, or tweet me @amyoes!

And remember – there are a ton of amazing “hard core” survival resources at Turning Point CT!

Safe Travels!

The Detourist