Thursday, November 27, 2008

Some Realities About Writing to Heal

I've often written about the importance of writing to heal: from keeping a pen and paper near the sick bed to writing down your concerns and complaints for your caregivers. My recent hospitalization and nursing home stay (a total of nearly six weeks) should have provided an excellent opportunity for me to practice what I've preached.

It didn't quite work out that way. For one thing, I did not have easy computer access. I did, however, have a pen and a notebook. So why didn't I write much? Yes, I had a roommate and nearly continuous TV. However, there are other reasons, too. For me, writing is a reality of my life, and I seemed eager to escape from reality. I drifted into the routine of the institution, not thinking much about my "real" life. Writing was something I planned to do after I got home.

Did I write anything while I was in the nursing home? Yes, I wrote down a few notes for future writing, and then I wrote three rictameters. For me, an experienced user of this odd poetic form, this was tha perfect way to express myself. My three rictameters were "Kindness," "Patience," and "Painful." All three appear in my two blogs, this one and "Never too Late!"

So what is the message here? Poetry can be brief, direct, and meaningful (see "A Good Review Brings Cheer," below). When illness or injury makes one reluctant to write, a short poem can express a lot. As I look back, I notice that my three rehab rictameters tell the story of my experience better than more extensive writing might have.

If the thought of writing at length, especially in difficult times, is depressing, try writing simple poems: rhymed, unrhymed, free verse, or whatever. I found my magic in the rictameter, but there are many other possibilities. The idea of most poetry is to say a lot in a few words, and that's what I did. I seem to have redefined my understanding of writing to heal.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Testimonial to the Importance of Writing

I am always elated to find experrt references to the power of writing. I just discovered another that I would like to share:

In the November/December 2008 issue of AARP magazine, Dan Buettner's article "Find Purpose, Live Longer" discusses ways to get, or stay, connected with life at any age. "Finding that 'something more' in your life can mean a big health boost." Suggestions include "Keep Working," "Find your Flow," "Explore Religion," and "Volunteer," but of most interest to me was "Take Stock of Yourself." How? One important way is to keep a journal.

According to Gregory A. Plotnikoff, M.D. of Abbott Northwestern's Institute for Health and Healing in Minneapolis, writing in a journal can be a big help, especially after a major life change. "When a spouse dies, you retire, or your kids leave home, you interrupt your personal story. If you can figure out how this episode fits into the plot of your life, you'll be one step closer to seeing its purpose--and yours." Plotnikoff suggests writing at least thirty minutes per day. Write about crucial events in your life and how they made you feel. "Discovering purpose is like uncovering patterns. If you understand the first chapters of your life, you're in a better position to write the next chapters. We all need to be part of a bigger story."

Thanks, Mr. Buettner and Dr. Plotnikoff, for another reminder of the importance and power of personal writing. I've tried it, and it works.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Monday, November 17, 2008

Patience: Another Rictameter from Rehab

I wrote three rictameters while I was in rehab at a nurising home. See the first one below and the second in "Never too Late!" This is the third and last


Prime need here in
Rehab hell. Everyone
Does her best to get things done, but
Waiting is required for help with all those
Things I can't do myself. I long
For independence, but
I need to wait.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Friday, November 14, 2008

Kindness: A Rictameter

Soon after I was transferred from the hospital to the nursing home for rehabilitation, I was feeling alone and desolate. Along came a member of the Clare staff to offer help. Here is the poem I wrote in honor of her comforting visit:


Rachel came to
Offer help, advise, to
Care that I was helpless, hurting,
In despair. She answered questions, offered
Clothing, stamps, and cheer to make my
Day in this, my time of
Need. Thank you for

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Good Review Brings Cheer!

As many of you know, I've been away from my computer for nearly six weeks recovering from my double knee replacement surgery. Now I'm back. I'll be writing about my recent experience soon, probably first in "Never too Late!"

Right now, I want to share a good review that cheered me as I returned home. Sincere thanks to Irene Watson of Reader Views.

Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters
Marlys Marshall Styne
Lulu Publishing (2008)
ISBN 9781435717718

Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (11/08)

After forty years of teaching at a college, Marlys Marshall Styne turned to writing and what a pleasure it is to read her work. In her third published book Styne offers a glimpse at her life in “rictameters.” However, it’s not only her life she creates poetry about; it’s the life for many of us as we move through the years of maturity.

Styne starts off with:

“Elder Expectations”

Human need and
Common quirk that makes us
Dream, expect, look forward to that
Bit of news, that unexpected sign that
Still we live, we matter, someone
Cares, remembers, sends us
Cheer to live on,

Deep and profound, many of us that are elder can relate to this as we wait for our children and grandchildren to contact us, to tell us something exciting, or to just chat.

The rest of Styne’s book reflects on many experiences we have, like “First Day of Spring” and “Household Tasks.” I thoroughly enjoyed “Elder Expectations” not only because I’m an elder, but because Marlys Marshall Style was able to capture the reality of life. Her writing is sweet, her feelings are deep, and she reflects on paper the thoughts many of us have.