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My Beautiful Impostor
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me, again and again, to write from the place of my true and authentic self.
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Ph.D., Psychologist; author,
Carrying Joseph's Bones
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Gifts of the Day
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~ Shirley R. McGinnis, author, Sometimes Love Is Enough
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Writing from the Deeper Self is a unique approach to writing that starts from your inner experience, called in by your heart, and only later finds its way into words. Because this process accesses deep inner knowing, it is trustworthy (you don't have to ask, "Is it good?" because your reference point is within you), healing, and fulfilling.
Naomi Rose, M.A., is a Book Developer based in Oakland, CA who works with aspiring book-writers in person, or by phone & email, encouraging & deeply supporting them to write the books of their heart. She has over 30 years experience in the publications field, as well as graduate work in transpersonal psychology and a commitment to the healing process. She was awarded the "Elite Service Award" by Thumbtack.com, and chosen "#1 Editor and Book Developer in San Francisco."
This page features the most recent
Writing from the Deeper Self newsletter,
put out by Naomi Rose to her readership.
To go to the Home Page of the Writing from the Deeper Self website, click here.
To see the earlier, archived newsletter articles, click here.
HEART TURNS OVER TIME:
Reconciled Mother-Love in the Poems of Sharon Olds,
and in Naomi's Experience of Revising and Illustrating MotherWealth: The Feminine Path to Money
As the last Writing from the Deeper Self newsletter of the year, this one offers a perspective ~ and, I hope, a blessing ~ different from many you may be receiving online and in the mail. It has to do with the persistence of love reflected in writing, and how, with enough inner work and time, something that once was a source of pain, trauma, loss, and so on can become a source of tenderness and care. Like water slowly, slowly polishing stones underwater until their edges are smooth and their brown-gold dullness gleams, the strongest bonds and therefore strongest suffering in our human relationships can be polished by our hearts over time, until what is left is an ineradicable distillate of lasting love.
I came to this realization while working on perfecting, and also illustrating, the revised edition of my book, MotherWealth: The Feminine Path to Money. I had originally written it 18 years ago, in 1993; and its message and stylistic gifts kept impressing me over time ~ that is, I wrote something once, in a deep place, that turned out to be true over time. So I decided to revise the book, add a new introduction and back matter, and publish it in January, with a launch date in March 2012.
In the course of doing the revision, I got to put attention on my mother, long deceased; not only because she plays a part in the book, but also because my feelings about her had widened since 1993, and I was aware that I had a great deal more overt love for her than criticism by now. Her plight, limned in the book, touched me. Even her unkindnesses to me as a young person had more of a context. I felt my heart opening to her from that alone.
And then, there was the experience of doing the illustrations for the book. I had been trained as a visual artist in my youth, though that had long taken a back seat to other concerns; and I wanted to do the cover for MotherWealth myself. As I looked again and again at a photo of her and me together long ago ~ she a young, happy mother, and I an adoring three-year-old child sitting in her lap ~ in order to draw this image, I found myself falling in love all over again with that beautiful young woman on whom my life once depended, and whose ways, and ways with me, had had such an effect over decades of my life, even after her death. It was looking at her looking at me, giving me in that flash-freeze-framed moment a black-and-white eternal reminder that once, there had been that immeasurable, foundational, crucial mother-love. Even when it was no longer evident, that it had existed was proven on film.
And to draw it, paint it ~ to let that image move through me, impressing my heart and my eyes and my hand ~ brought me so close to her that I wept, at times: just got salty tears on the paper towels I was using to daub errant paint from the watercolor paper. And these tears were a blessing. There's a Jewish phrase about the holiness of a mother's tears. These were a daughter's tears for her mother who had long been lost to her: first in life, then in death. Paying such concentrated attention as I brought her image back to life, I felt I had gained, and re-gained, something precious that I myself had overlooked for so long ~ or perhaps never before had the space in my heart to take in.
So the cover art came into being. And from that, some black-and-white drawings to illustrate the book. It was all a labor, and a labor of love.
# # #
I thought of this experience when I came across a poem by Sharon Olds in the New Yorker recently. Sharon Olds has often written about her experience of her family, and in my younger years I could easily relate to what she said so poetically about family pain and the effects on the grown child. So when, this time, her poem about her mother was really a love poem, it touched me ~ both the poem itself, and that it was evidence of a heart-shift in the writer, over time.
I'm going to quote that poem here, and then go back in time and show you one of her earlier poems so that you can see how far the heart can travel over the course of years in which one is actually paying attention to the inner life, and letting the waters of compassion polish the rocks beneath the surface into glistening stones. Here's the recent poem, "Still Falling for Her" (from The New Yorker, November 2011).
STILL FALLING FOR HER
The phlox in the jar is softening,
from the sphere of it a blossom flutters,
and the whole sagging thing makes me think
of my mother's flesh, when she was elderly, and it was
wilting, keeping its prettiness
in its old-fangled gentleness.
It's as if I'm falling in love, again,
with my mother, through the gallowsglass of my
own oncoming elderliness, as if,
now that she has been gone from the earth
as many years as a witch's familiar
has lives, I can catch glimpses of my mother, at
moments when she was alone with herself, and would
pick up her pen, and her Latinate
vocabulary, and describe what it
was like, on their last cruise, when she rose,
by invitation, from the captain's table,
and stood beside the black, grand
Steinway, in the open ocean,
and sang. I do not need a picture to
remind me of the look on my mom's
face, when she sang—extreme yearning,
a yearning out at the edge of what was
on a ship like that, and you could also see
how happy her face was, to be looked at,
and you could see her listening to her own voice,
to hear if it started to go flat, or anything
she needed to do to get the music
to its hearers intact as itself, I am falling,
and I do not feel that there are rocks, below,
I think I may go on falling, like my own
flesh, for the rest of my life, and maybe I'll
still be falling for my mother after
my death—or not falling but orbiting,
with her, and maybe we'll take turns
who is the moon, and who is the earth.
Isn't that touching? Olds acknowledges her mother's narcissism ~ undoubtedly a source of pain to her early on ~ and yet holds it in a context of love and care, and at the end of the poem coming to an acceptance of their eternal bond in the heart despite the attention she (probably) never got as a child, and offering this beautiful conciliation: “orbiting,/with her, and maybe we'll take turns/who is the moon, and who is the earth.” It is a gift to her mother, and to herself to have enough within her, now, to see clearly and love anyway.
To show you the journey Olds had to take to get there ~ because, in my observations of myself, sometimes a seemingly simple, easy-to-do expression has required years, maybe decades, to get to that point ~ here is an earlier poem she wrote about her family, somewhere between 1980 and 2002. You can see the difference. You can feel the pushing away of the parents into some place that the poet's heart seems to be too bruised to care for, for good reason. It is a very different inner place, indeed:
I GO BACK TO MAY 1937
see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
From Strike Sparks Selected Poems , 1980-2002. (NY: Random House, 2004)
The fact that this poem is also based on a family photograph, as my cover-art image was based on a family photograph, is a meaningful coincidence to me. Sometimes, in the first flushes of opening up an adult awareness of childhood pain, photographs are all we have of that frozen moment when things seem good; and we know from bitter experience how things fell apart after that moment of hope freeze-framed.
So to realize that I, as well as Sharon Olds, had actually come to some more loving, compassionate place in my heart towards my mother ~ after all those hard and lonely years ~ made the goodness in the photo something I could honor as real, perhaps the realer part of this person who was my mother. Life asks a lot of us, perhaps more the more we awaken; and having grown older than my mother was when she died, and having met some of what life has asked of me, my heart could take in how hard it was for my mother, and the resources she did not know she had, within, to draw from. This turning of my heart, this thawing of my tough defenses, while pushed away for years and years was actually something I longed for. And now, in this time of my life, I am grateful it could happen.
I share this with you not only to share this turning in me, and in the poet Sharon Olds, but to say that there are some ways in which deep writing and deep-feeling living help each other to happen, to be real. When you write from the unexpected depths of your heart (and there are usually always more depths than you expect, some of them joyful), your life is altered by that. And your then-altered, deepened life inspires, touches, and permeates your writing. It is a collaboration, a co-creation between the depths of your heart and the life you get to live.
If it is your wish, then I wish for you that in 2012 ~ which some say will be a time of great healing and upliftment ~ that you get to do the kind of deep writing that promotes deep-hearted living, and the other way around as well. If I can play a part in that, it would be my joy. This is my work: not just the writing, but the unfoldment from the deep listening, the inner attunement that seeks to express and be known. That books and so on come out of this is a wonderful thing, but perhaps the outgrowth, the fruits, of this inner attunement process ~ as the birth of a child is the fruit of lovemaking.
May your expressions be true, your heart be wide and deep, and your coming year be fruitful. Thank you for being part of my journey in 2011 through these newsletters.
Copyright © 2011 by Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.
To find out more about MotherWealth: The Feminine Path to Money, soon to be in print, click here.