Archive | March, 2010

What To Do With Struggle

30 Mar


“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” -Anne Bradstreet

Recently I was reading something by someone who repeatedly repeated that she essentially had it all together in every area of her life and had never really struggled, and I went from feeling mildly irritated to totally enraged.  All the areas in which she had it all together, I struggle with, often daily.  And I got really pissed off and wondered if some people are just tapped on the head at birth with this struggle-free magic wand, and glide through life with everything going their way and birds singing on their shoulders as they throw open their curtains in the morning, while for others, life can sometimes feel like such a struggle every step of the way.  And why the heck did I get stuck with the struggle version of Life?  Where were MY birds perching on my shoulder and singing me off into another easy breezy day where everything goes my way?

This is one way that I deal with struggle – HATE IT!  Just feel like it’s unfair and I don’t want it and throw a little (or big) temper tantrum in my mind (or in reality).  WAH!  But as Carl Jung said, “What you resist persists,” and anything you put so much energy into fighting, has a good chance of sticking around for a long, long time.

This is the other way I deal with struggle – LOVE IT!  Just grow attached to it and define myself by it and think of myself as this person who things are always hard for, who just struggles all the time.  SIGH.  But anything you become so tied to has a good chance of sticking around for a long, long time.

There’s got to be another option!

Two things happened as I continued to read about this perfect person’s perfect life:  1)  I want to barf and 2)  I started to feel proud of my struggles.  Not in a I-define-myself-solely-by-this-and-want-cling-onto-it-forever kind of way, but in a compassionate and accepting way where I didn’t want to deny them and push them away from me anymore, and I stopped wishing for some made-up idealized barf-inducing version of Life where everything is always easy.  There are things in my life that have been hard, but this has given me so much – for one, my desire to write and teach.  I don’t think I would be so compelled to grapple with the things I do in my writing and teaching and life if everything was always easy breezy for me, and I just lay around all day hanging out with the singing birds, popping grapes and sipping Pina Coladas. 

In books, I like to read about characters who have obstacles and overcome them.  Or at least strive to overcome them.  Not characters who have no obstacles, and not characters who have obstacles and sit around all day complaining about them but not doing anything about it.  And in life, I like to be around people – imperfect, flawed, messy, real, human people – who have obstacles and are working to overcome them.  And I have grown and am growing to appreciate and like being this kind of person, too.  I’m learning through trial and error what to do with struggle in my life – not always attaching myself to and loving it, not always resisting and hating it – but sometimes, finding and being in that perfect balance where I can appreciate what struggle gives me – the layers and texture and bitterness and sweetness that it adds to my life to make it so rich.  And imperfect.  And messy.  And REAL.

I went to an Amos Lee concert a week and a half ago and he said, “Some people just have dirt under their nails, and in their souls.”  I love the idea of getting dirty in your life and having some grit in your soul.  Of just rolling up your sleeves and digging your nails in and workin’ stuff out.  And how, when something doesn’t come easy for you, when you finally do get it, after days or maybe months or maybe years of struggle, your success will taste all that much sweeter to you because of what you have overcome.  And why, after a long, cold, snowy winter, followed by days upon days of chilly windy rain, those first rays of spring sunshine feel so damn good beaming down on your face.

What do you do with struggle? 

Happy Spring!  When the sun comes out, take some time to bask in those rays!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxo

Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Garam

Writing Workshop at The Educational Alliance on May 11th!

29 Mar

I am super-excited to be teaching an upcoming writing workshop at The Educational Alliance on the Lower East Side!  WRITE NOW: Writing for Women will take place on Tuesday, May 11th from 6:30pm-9:30pm, and will focus on breaking through blocks, finding your voice, and using writing as a means to get off autopilot, actively engage in your life, and nurture yourself!  Pre-registration is required, for more information and to sign-up visit this website:

Hope to see you in class!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxo

Amos Lee on Reliving the Pain

19 Mar

“The emotional situation is passed, but I have to relive it every night for you guys.” -Amos Lee

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to see more live music, and one of the musicians I most wanted to see was Amos Lee, so when I saw that he was playing at The Bell House, a small, intimate venue in my very own neighborhood, I jumped on it and got a ticket right away.

Last night as I got ready for the concert, I was feeling tired and sad, had a headache, and was not particularly energized or enthusiastic, but I popped two Tylenol, drank coconut water to replenish my electrolytes, and pushed myself to go because I knew that I would feel better once I got there, and I did.  Standing with my friends a few feet from the stage listening to Amos Lee sing, I looked up at the high wooden mountain-lodge-like ceiling, the chandeliers hanging down rocking slightly, the dust swirling in the spotlights, and I was pulled out of my melancholy mood.

I was just kind of soaking in the whole atmosphere, when Amos said with a smile, “The funny thing is, the emotional situation is passed, but I have to relive it every night for you guys,” and I looked back onstage and paid extra-close attention as he launched into singing “Careless” in a way that felt like he was pouring his whole soul into it, and really was reliving something heartbreaking in that moment.

A large part of why I was feeling sad last night was that I’ve been writing something that is incredibly painful for me.  It is a tricky thing, because it’s very sticky – writing about it pulls me in and it is so not easy to get out, even after I’ve stopped writing.  And though I love writing and feel compelled to tell my stories, sometimes I question why I am doing this and putting myself through this torture, and think that I’d be a lot happier if I wasn’t.  After all, the emotional situation is passed.  I don’t have to still feel this pain.  It would certainly be easier if I didn’t.  Why not just leave those painful times far far behind me and never look back?

But hearing Amos Lee say those words and then sing that song was the reminder I needed about why.  Why anyone would choose to relive their pain, and transform it into something else, something that reaches out to connect with other people.  Because even if I haven’t had the exact same experiences as him, I know that feeling.  And writing and singing and reading and listening can make us all, at different times, and in different ways, feel less alone.  And that is why.

So when he’s singing, or when you want to write about a difficult time, there’s no getting around it.  We have to dip way down into that pain, just immerse ourselves in it and feel it and relive it, so we can transform it into something else – a song or a passage or a picture.  And then just do the best we can to untangle ourselves from it and come back out to where we are today.  It’s Friday, March 19th, 2010.  It is 68 degrees and sunny in Brooklyn, NY.  I saw an amazing Amos Lee concert last night.  The emotional situation is passed…

I Wrote Love Letters to Corey Haim in 1987

15 Mar

Corey Haim in “Lucas”

When I was in 6th grade, I saw the movie “Lucas” and fell in love with Corey Haim. One of my best friends, Gillian, loved Corey Feldman.  I remember that year, wearing two different color GAP t-shirts layered, with the sleeves rolled up so both colors showed, and two different color pairs of GAP socks also layered and color-coordinated with the t-shirts, hanging out at Gillian’s house, quoting “Lucas” and “The Lost Boys.”  We’d walk to the Paper Shoppe in town after school and before jazz dance class at the VFW, and buy Pop Rocks or Candy Dots or Big League Chew chewing gum and most importantly, issues of BOP magazine so we could read about the Coreys.

On the back of my bedroom door, I had a taped-up collage of pictures ripped out from BOP, of Corey Haim who I wanted to date, and Alyssa Milano who I wanted to be. And also a few of Kirk Cameron, my back-up boyfriend. We read that the Coreys and Alyssa hung out at a place called Alfie’s Soda Pop Club where they served New York Seltzer, so we’d buy Raspberry or Black Cherry or Vanilla Cream New York Seltzer after school at Amjo’s Deli, and eat Hostess Choco-Bliss-es and sip our sodas while walking home on a spring afternoon.

Another one of my friends wrote a fan letter to Alyssa Milano and got a glossy autographed headshot back in the mail, and that gave me the inspiration to write to Corey Haim. So I wrote him letters, at least 12 of them. I poured my heart out, and wrote about being upset that my parents were divorced, and how it was hard for me that my Mom was dating, and about how alone I felt, and like no one understood me. Sitting in my bedroom, I wrote long letters on pages and pages of blue stationery with matching envelopes, and I sat in front of the TV in the family room sealing them, addressing them, and licking stamps.

I never got a letter or a glossy autographed headshot back in the mail, but that was OK. Because at 11-years-old, while I was writing to Corey Haim, I felt like he would understand me, and like I was less alone. And so although he never knew it, he helped me get through some painful middle school times, by giving me a reason to put my BIC ballpoint pen to sheets of blue paper, and write out my thoughts and feelings.