Archive for Souls Posts

published in Creativity, Death, Habits, Life After Loss, Playwriting, Procrastination, Saviour Play, Souls by Maryanne | October 4, 2017 | 4 Comments

Perilous Playwriting – Let’s Air Some Dirty Laundry, Shall We?

 

 

“Be truthful, one would say, and the result is bound to be amazingly interesting.”

― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Or…rather confusing for all concerned.

Picture, if you will, a boardroom table…

Six strangers are sitting around said table: a playwright, a dramaturg and four actors. All are gathered to read aloud a play script.

What, perhaps you wonder, might this be experience be like – for the (squirming) playwright?

Imagine a big pile of dirty laundry (belonging to the playwright) being dumped on the table and then the next eight hours are spent watching a small but determined group of strangers systematically sift through (and comment on) each and every piece of one’s (not only dirty but decidedly un-sexy) undergarments.

A tad uncomfortable?

Oh, you betcha.

For that playwright was me. The script was Saviour. And the “dirty laundry” was not just my chaotic thoughts and heartbreaking emotions experienced during the darkest days of my life, but also some marital laundry as well, such as two spectacular (but significant to the story) arguments that John and I had about my habit of procrastinating on my writing and my refusal to say no to unreasonable demands placed on my time.

And those were just a few of the facts (and the human response to those facts) connected to the real-life story. Add in a complicated plot, a completely imagined world (what the soul experiences as the body dies as the result of a brain-injury), and four well-developed but overly chatty characters still trying to sort it all out themselves, and let’s just say the script was in need of…some slashing ☹

Here’s a snapshot of Saviour:

Can one soul save another? A young couple, Sam and Adri, have an argument about Adri’s procrastination as a writer and belief in Virginia Woolf’s idea that in order to write well, women need a secure income.

Sam, a police officer, goes to work that night, falls through a roof and hits his head, only to discover it is Virginia Woolf who will take him to the moment of his brain-death. Meanwhile, Sam’s Sergeant guides Adri through the early days of grief – and tells her she will receive Sam’s wage for the rest of her life.

Saviour is about the need to live and die in peace – and just how difficult that can be to achieve. The play promises the audience a fast-paced, imaginative and compelling theatrical journey that has strong links to real-life events.

Though a love story, Saviour challenges the notion of romantic love and suggests instead the staying power of tough love.

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.”

– Virginia Woolf


Although I haven’t yet personally experienced this as a playwright, I suspect a workshopping of one’s entirely fictional play would be uncomfortable. After all, regardless of the story’s roots, whatever we create is an expression of our imagination. It’s our story, our creation…our baby under the knife.

But add in the fact that it is based on personal events and boy oh boy, it can get really uncomfortable.

A workshopping of one’s play can be a very useful exercise (it certainly has been for me) but it is not for the faint of heart. You pretty much have to leave your ego at the door, put on your big-girl panties, shut up and listen.

The problem, of course, is that we can’t really leave our ego at the door. Like it or not, it goes where we do. The solution to this, I have found, is to take notes. Lots of notes. And remind myself, more than once, that I have chosen to be experience this because I am HERE TO LEARN.

In other words, my big-girl panties had to be very big…granny-panties, in fact.

There are times, of course, when the playwright does get to speak…like when one of the actors asked me a question about a character’s journey that I thought was blatantly clear. But guess what: if someone has to ask the question, it obviously isn’t clear – especially if everyone else around the table has the same question.

A good question – and there were plenty of them – is pure gold in terms of figuring out how best to move forward with the next draft.

I learned an awful lot in that eight-hour workshop, both about the Saviour play and playwriting itself.

Which brings me to my next point: I choose very wisely WHO I let sort through my dirty laundry.

I have been working with the Alberta Playwrights’ Network on the Saviour script for nearly a decade. Trevor Rueger, the APN’s executive director (and the dramaturg at the table), has earned my trust over the years. Trevor knows what he’s doing. I know he’s not only going to get the right actors to the table, he’s also going to make sure the workshop is of benefit to me. The learning curve for playwriting is steep…I need constructive criticism, honest feedback and useful guidance on that seemingly endless upward climb.

Yet at the end of the day, it is my play and deep down, I KNOW which nuggets of advice to run with – and which ones to leave on the table.

And how do I know? Because of the resounding “click” I feel in my soul when someone says something I needed to hear…like another little piece of the puzzle was just put into place. And since this particular play is about the journey of four different but interconnected souls – mine being one of those – this makes sense.

That the workshop was on the actual 17th anniversary of John’s death was deliberate. I knew magic would happen. And it did. It just wasn’t the fun, Disneyland kind of magic.

It was better.

Here’s what happened:

After an intense session of brainstorming in the afternoon, Trevor called for a break. But the actor who read the part of Sam (the character based on John) and I continued chatting. Or rather, he continued chatting. I scribbled in my notebook what he had to say.

Prior to the break, we’d all been discussing WHAT it would look like for Sam to achieve peace. Sam’s goal – what he had to achieve by the end of the play (which is the moment of his brain-death) – is to be at peace with his sudden death at the age of 32. But the group had been brainstorming about what specific outcome had to happen so that Sam could be “at peace” when he died.

Here’s what the actor who played Sam said to me on break:

“I think what would give Sam the most peace is seeing that Adri is okay…and by that I mean she is taking her writing seriously and that she does, at long last, believe in herself. He needs to see that she has become empowered by him, and his sudden death, to do what she needs to do, which is write. And when he sees that she is empowered and does, finally, begin to write three months after his death, he is able to die in peace.”

I nodded and continuing scribbling like a madwoman as this total stranger summed up Sam’s journey as it relates to Adri – and therefore, of course, John’s journey as it relates to me.

And the actor had more to say.

“Oh, and I think,” he added, “that’s what the connection to Jesus as Saviour is about, too. It was likely not the intent for Jesus to come back and single-handedly save humanity with a magic sweep of his hand. Rather, his job was to be a role model to empower people to save themselves and each other.”

So I HAD hit the mark!

I just need to make the story less convoluted. Easier said than done…but certainly do-able.

After the workshop, I returned to John’s sister place, where I was staying, and collapsed on their couch…overwhelmed and exhausted. I stayed there, staring at the ceiling and processing the day – until a steak dinner got me back on my feet.

The next morning, I woke up, dusted off my bruised ego and jotted down a summary of the key insights. Thanks to the workshop, I now have a clear idea of what needs fixing, why…and how to fix it. My imagination will take care of the rest 😊

You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes and failures. 

– Elizabeth GilbertBig Magic

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life

 

 

Channeling 101: Hello…Is Anybody There?

 

“When someone’s got a direct line to the Universe, their words have such a profound resonance, you immediately recognize them as truth.”

– Martha Beck

My Dad was a Devout Atheist

He did not believe in any sort of Divine entity. He despised organized religion. And he most certainly did not think there was an afterlife…when the body dies, it’s all over.

So when he passed away six months ago (in February), I was very curious as to what his actual post-death experience was. Did his existence just…fade to black and that was it?

Or (much to his surprise and perhaps dismay) did he discover that something – our consciousness, soul, spirit, essence, etc – does live on after the death of the body?

Now, my personal experiences in life thus far have demonstrated to me enough evidence to support a belief that there is something after the death of our bodies. Not sure what, exactly…but I strongly suspect our souls do continue to exist in some capacity.

But I must say, in the three months following my Dad’s death, other than a sense of feeling that his spirit was close (mainly in the increased clarity of my thoughts), I did not receive any sort of tangible “sign” that his soul was…you know, still in circulation 😊

And then, wouldn’t you know it but three months after his passing (on Mother’s Day, oddly enough), I had the strangest experience. I woke up at 4 a.m. because I could hear a man’s voice saying, “Dad…Dad…Dad…”

It was not my Dad’s voice. In fact, it didn’t sound quite human…close but not quite.

My room was pitch black but it sounded as if the voice was coming from a few feet to my right. At first, I thought I was still dreaming, so I blinked my eyes several times. But the voice kept repeating the word, “Dad.”

Then I thought (hoped!) it was my dog, Sadie, snoring. But I held my breath and listened carefully. Nope…I could hear Sadie breathing and the voice saying, “Dad.” By this point, I was wide awake…and starting to freak out a little.

I didn’t think there was actually someone in my bedroom…at least, not a person. I was freaked out because I was pretty sure I knew what I was hearing – and it wasn’t something I would be able to see when I turned the light on.

I finally reached over and switched on my lamp. Sure enough, there was no one in my room. And the voice stopped instantly.

Now you can either choose to believe me – or not. If you don’t, I wouldn’t blame you one bit because it is pretty weird.

But here’s what I think was going on: I think what I heard was the soul of my Dad learning how to communicate with the living (he’d had three months to get over the shock of realizing there is life after death!). It sounded as if he was practicing how to “speak” as a soul by repeating the word, “Dad.” And it makes sense that it wouldn’t be his voice I heard – because he obviously no longer has his human voice.

As for why it was three feet from my head that his soul was practicing his newfound communication skills? Well, it’s not just because I’m his daughter and he loved me very much (although I’m sure that’s part of it). Rather, I suspect it was me he chose to practice on because he knew I would get it.

Why?

Because I have just spent fourteen years working on my Saviour play script. And what is Saviour about? The soul of Virginia Woolf – who is dead – teaching “Sam” (the character based on my real-life husband, John) – who is dying – how to die, why he is dying so young, and how to communicate with the living.

How I have written this play, I have no idea. But I strongly suspect I have had an awful lot of help from…the other side.

At any rate, wouldn’t you know it but on the very same day as my “Dad” visitor, I already had a session booked with a woman by the name of Lanne Rice. Lanne is an artist and energy worker, who has the ability to “channel.” Lanne helps people see the truth to any question they may have by channeling the direct answer.

What is Channeling?

According to the Crimson Circle website, “Channeling is a natural form of communication between humans and angelic beings, nature spirits, non-physical entities, or even animals and pets. A channeler is very similar to a language translator or interpreter. They allow themselves to sense the non-verbal communication from another being and then translate it into human words.”

A channeler can also help someone get in touch with their own soul…their higher self.

For the record, I have not spent time with a channeler before. Truth be told, I have enough weird stuff happening to help me on any given day that I don’t feel the need to go looking for answers! But I had met Lanne at a couple different events over the past few months and had clicked with her. I trusted her.

So when I met Lanne for our channeling session a few hours after hearing the “Dad” voice, I told her about the experience.

She was delighted but not particularly surprised…that is, after all, her world.

Lanne then asked me if I would like to know if my Dad was, in fact, around at the moment – in her studio.

“Sure,” I said.

A few minutes later, we got an answer. Yes, he was there with us – but he did not particularly like being “summoned,” because he felt he was being put on the spot. So if it was okay with me, he would prefer to just hang back and listen in.

Cool.

And so, the session went from there. I won’t bombard you with the details but I will say this: I cleared out a lot of old stuff in my heart and head in that hour…literally. I mean, I visualized boxing up all sorts of thoughts I no longer needed and putting them outside the door of my mind – very similar to what I had been doing at home, in preparation for putting my house on the market: getting rid of all sorts of old stuff from the boxes in my basement.

“Your Dad is helping you,” Lanne said at one point. “He is taking the boxes of thoughts you no longer need and throwing them away for you.”

I looked at her and raised one eyebrow.

“He really likes helping you,” she said. “He wants to help.”

Three weeks later – before I had even put my house on the market – my neighbour’s realtor knocked on my door. A developer was keen to purchase both our properties…was I interested? You bet! Within twenty-four hours, I had sold my home for significantly more than if I’d sold it on the open market…and, of course, much less hassle.

My real estate agent was thrilled but a bit baffled. “Nothing surprises me anymore in this business,” he said. “But I must confess I didn’t see this deal coming.”

Oh, and did I mention…my Dad had worked in commercial real estate for years. He loved making deals 😊

And guess what the developer chose as the closing date? September 29th – the anniversary of John’s death.

You can take what you like from this blog. But I shall leave you with this quote to ponder:   

“Generally when we pray, our highest power doesn’t get right back to us – but that doesn’t mean we can’t find answers. Some earthlings can listen so deeply that they actually hear the divine. They receive guidance and comfort to share with the rest of us, like spiritual receptionists passing along messages. Of course, there are plenty of frauds who only claim to hear wisdom – but I’ve found that when someone’s got a direct line to the Universe, their words have such a profound resonance, you immediately recognize them as truth.”

– Martha Beck, O Magazine, July 2017

I think Lanne Rice is one of those special people who do have a direct line to the Universe. Mind you, I think we all do…we just might know how to listen.

Related Blogs by Maryanne

Tempus Fugit – Bahamas Reflections on My Dad

Soul Survival – Do You Believe in Life After Death?

When Opportunity Knocks at the Door – Literally

 

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.

Lanne Rice is the owner of Broken Heart Studio…a broken heart is an open heart. Lanne is a coaching artist who guides people in the process of creating their own original piece of abstract art. She is also an energy worker who helps people see the truth to any questions they may have. Lanne has the ability to channel the direct answer to questions, over the internet or in person. For further information, please visit www.lannerice.com.

published in Death, Family, Fatherhood, Grief, John Petropoulos Memorial Fund, Peace, Souls by Maryanne | March 14, 2017 | 2 Comments

The Invisible Connection – When Our Heart & Soul Knows Something Before We Do

 

“I’d like to imagine we are all of us a part of a many-chambered construct that love is continually building.”

– Rebecca Gummere, O Magazine, April 2017

At the end of February, I spent a very powerful work weekend in a Mississauga hotel.

The Threads of Life charity, that I am a volunteer with, was holding its annual speakers bureau training session. The mission of Threads of Life is to help families heal through a community of support and to promote the elimination of life-altering workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.

I was getting trained as one of their speakers. I was developing a slightly different presentation that incorporated the story of John’s death as well as the workplace safety messages of both Threads of Life and the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund.

There were 12 speakers getting trained and 4 staff members from Threads of Life doing the training. Each of us speakers, and most of the staff, shared a common thread: we had all been significantly impacted in some way by a workplace fatality, serious injury or life-altering illness.

So as perhaps you can imagine, it was a rather emotionally intense weekend. However, since I have been delivering presentations about John’s death for quite a few years now, I don’t tend to get emotional during my presentation anymore.

As the presenter, I take the audience on an emotional journey for the purpose of leading to behaviour change. But I am very cognizant of not personally re-experiencing all the sorrow, hurt and trauma each and every time I deliver a presentation.

There wouldn’t be much left of me if I let that happen over and over again.

However, I do still have a heart 🙂 and I must say that listening to some of the other people’s heartbreaking presentations was quite something. But thanks to the wisdom of the Threads of Life staff, they set up the weekend so that we didn’t have to listen to everybody’s presentation. That would have been beyond exhausting!

Instead, we were split into small groups and after much preparation and guidance, the time came on Sunday afternoon when we were to deliver our personal presentations to our group.

I delivered my presentation first and it went well. Then another woman – also a widow due to her husband’s workplace death – delivered her presentation and it was excellent.

Then a third woman – a mom whose son had died at work – delivered her presentation. And this is where things went wonky 🙁

I’m not quite sure what happened but for some reason, this mother’s story managed to cut through the rather thick protective shield around my heart and hit me hard.

After she finished speaking, I put my hand up.

The woman looked at me. “Yes?”

“That,” I said, “was amazing.”

She smiled. “Thank you.”

And then I burst into tears and began blubbering like a baby. I couldn’t stop crying! The Threads of Life staff member looked at me, rather concerned.

“I NEVER CRY!” I wailed. “But I think I finally kinda get what John’s Mom went through after he died.”

Everyone else turned to look at me. I continued sobbing. Why stop now?

I looked at the woman who had delivered the presentation. “Your speech,” I said, tears still streaming down my face, “is VERY impactful. You made me feel what it is like to lose a son as the result of an easily preventable workplace incident.”

And then my tears stopped as quickly as they began. I took a deep breath, blew my nose and smiled, feeling significantly…lighter.

Then I went to my hotel room to recoup before dinner. There was a voicemail message on my cell phone to call my brother. Our Dad’s health had taken a turn for the worse.

Oh wow. Was that why I had been so profoundly impacted by the woman’s presentation?

Had I, on some deeper level, been aware of the sudden change in my Dad’s situation? 

I took a few deep breaths and called my brother back. My Dad had lost consciousness and was likely going to pass away soon. He’d been suffering from dementia for a few years but had otherwise been in reasonably good health.

“Would you like to talk to him?” my brother asked.

“Yes,” I said.

So my brother put the phone up to his ear and there, in the Mississauga hotel room, I said goodbye to my Dad for the last time. I told him I loved him and that it was okay for him to go now.

Then my brother got back on the phone. “He moved his little arms when he heard your voice, Googie. It’s all good.”

I smiled and hung up the phone. I didn’t cry. I don’t think I had any tears left to cry, thanks to the presentation I’d just heard.

I made the decision not to fly back to Calgary to be with my Dad as he passed away. My three older brothers, younger half-brother and some of their families were with him, as were the wonderful staff of the care home. He was surrounded by people who loved him.

So I accompanied him on the final stretch of his journey from afar. By the next evening he was gone. Then I had a good cry.

And wouldn’t you know it, I was given the incredible gift of being able to go to the Bahamas right after that…to think, reflect, remember, write, read and rest.

Two weeks later, back home again in Canada, I was reading the April 2017 edition of O Magazine and I think I found the answer to my question: “Had I, on some deeper level, been aware of the sudden change in my Dad’s situation?”

The article was entitled “Cooper’s Heart” and it was written by Rebecca Gummere. Rebecca’s 6-week-old son, Cooper, had died suddenly from complications of the heart.

“There is no answer. But there is love, the kind that binds us to each other in ways beyond our knowing, ways that span distance, melt time, rupture the membrane between the living and the dead.”

– Rebecca Gummere

“I’d like to imagine we are all of us a part of a many-chambered construct that love is continually building…and from time to time an unheard sound comes from another room, noiseless, beyond our comprehension, received as a tug, a flicker in a dream, a vibration along the invisible threads that connects us,” writes Rebecca. “We are troubled, we are stirred, and we are not certain why, but something in us answers.”

Wow.

Over and over again, I am reminded of just how connected we are to each other by these invisible threads. Perhaps it is no coincidence that I was at a Threads of Life event when my heart and soul felt the pending death of my father before my brain received the news?

Related Blogs:

Tempus Fugit – Bahamas Reflections on My Dad

My Dad is Off On His Next Great Adventure

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.