Everyone has something to say

Published 10:41 am Wednesday, September 24, 2008

“When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life.” — Brenda Ueland

Brenda also said “Everyone is talented, original and has something important to say.” I think I was well into my 50s by the time I read her book “If You Want to Write,” a book about art, independence and spirit. Carl Sandburg called this book, “The best book ever written about how to write,” and she was a Minnesota woman who lived on into her 90s living an active and vital life until her death at the age of 93, in 1985.

It wasn’t so many years after her death that I was employed at Gerard as a therapist. Part of my responsibility was conducting a group of adolescent girls. This was about the time I was reading “Writing Down the Bone” by Natalie Goldberg, and I was using this method in the group. I also shared the line with them — “Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” What one of the residents wrote about was quite remarkable and helpful in her in treatment. And when she was about to be discharged she described the impact of the words, “everybody is talented…”

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Brenda also said, “We must try to find our true conscience, our true self, the very center, for this is the only first-rate choice-making center. Here lies all originality, talent, honor, truthfulness, courage and cheerfulness. Here only lies the ability to choose the good and the grand, the true and the beautiful.”

My favorite stories of Brenda come from “Strength to Your Sword Arm selected writings: Tell Me More and Discipline and Children.” Here she says she has always thought that there is nothing in the world as bad as scolding. She concludes this writing: “Yes, I know that parents who discipline (so called) their children, make them dull, break their spirits, extinguish their ideas, initiative and creative energy and are just getting them ready to be afraid of all employers and bullies and mean husbands and wives of the future.”

Regarding “Tell Me More,” Brenda writes how people sometimes cannot listen because they think that unless they are talking, they are socially of no account. She says to try to learn tranquility, to live in the present a part of the time every day. Sometimes say to yourself: “Now. What is happening now? This friend is talking. I am quiet. There is endless time. I hear it, every word. Then suddenly you begin to hear not only what people are saying, but what they are trying to say, and you sense the whole truth about them.”

Brenda suggests that women have the listening faculty more than men. She says they lose it because of their long habit of striving in business, of self-assertion. And the more forceful men are, the less they can listen as they grow older.

Today we have many good examples of forceful men at all levels. I would think most political men are forceful men, and I would think lobbyists are right up there with them.

My old friend the cowboy would often say when facing some kind of dilemma: “Hard times in America,” and we would laugh and continue to toss the Frisbee out in front of the complex on Larchwood. Duggar was a “man of garbage” when I met him. He had been a salesman earlier in his life and married with two kids.

We made some sorties to Ensenada, Mexico now and then. Then there was the trip to the Colorado River once when he was driving his little bright orange VW with the sunroof. Traffic was thin that stretch of the two-lane road. He stood up on the seat extending him though the roof while I steered and managed the gas pedal. This was a short distance one-time event.

Back then there were a pile of us living in the Larchwood compound. Duggar occupied the little built-in apartment in the back of Annie Lu’s place.

Now he harbors down by San Diego with his dog whose name escapes me, living next to the fairway where he has seen Tiger Woods and snuck on.

I sometimes used to walk down to the end of Larchwood and make my way around to the top of the gully overlooking a small rural farm with cattle right there next to the boulevard reminding me of Minnesota. Now it’s fenced in, the gully that is.