Journaling – A Journey With Soul

Last week I was asked to write a guest post on journal writing by a wonderful woman who is an internationally known author, singer, and creative mentor who uses and teaches journal writing as a healing modality.  My post will be published on December 13th, but because it will be under my real name – and I write Anonymously here – I won’t be linking up.  However,  I can publish it here and now.  Because it had to be 600 words or less, I edited quite a bit out.  Maybe in the future I’ll expand on my own journal practice in future posts.

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20161129_054136_resizedIn 1969, for my 12th birthday, I received my first “Diary”.  A hard-bound book covered in daisies, it contained pages of blank lined paper and,  most importantly, a lock and tiny key.

Diaries! That place where your secrets were kept, secrets needing to be protected from the watchful eyes of parents and snoopy little brothers.  I can still see myself laying on the bed, my bedroom door closed, filling pages with big loopy lettering made in No. 2 pencil. I wrote about other girls, first periods and first bras.  I poured out my heart when I wasn’t invited to a party.  I chronicled my parents fights, and that night I accidentally discovered them naked in the pool.

I wrote about boys.  A LOT!

There was something exciting about each new diary started.  They whispered of POSSIBILITIES. NEW BEGINNINGS.  FRESH STARTS.

I’m not sure when diaries became ‘journals’.  Little hard-bound books were eventually replaced by steno pads and spiral notebooks.  It didn’t matter what they were called, though.   That FRESH START feeling didn’t change.

In the 70’s, I wrote out all the angst and longing of a teenager that didn’t feel like she fit in and so desperately wanted to.  In the 80’s, my journal absorbed the crazy-hot desire of a single 20something trying to make her way in the world, where I often waxed poetic.  Words poured out of me, filling empty hours and a deep-rooted need for self-expression.  I wrote about other girls, who was dating who and the heartbreak of not being invited to a party.  I chronicled the liberation of not living under my parents’ roof.

And I wrote about boys.  A LOT!

It was after my first child was born in 1986 that my “Morning Time” was also born.  Working full-time, I found it easier to stay awake after his 5 am feeding than to go back to bed for an hour.  It didn’t take long before I discovered the treasures to be found in the quiet solitude of Predawn.  I would sit at the dining table with my coffee and journal, gazing out the window while body and mind awoke.  I watched the changing seasons of my life reflected in the big Maple tree in our backyard, and I wrote and prayed.  Intentions were set for the new day, my head and my heart purged, and blessings counted.  During the brief periods when I didn’t practice it, I felt the difference – and not in a good way.

30 years later, I can still be found in the wee hours with my journal and coffee although, thanks to menopause, it’s more like 3 a.m.  (I wrote through THAT, too!).   While the hour and view has changed, my journaling journey hasn’t.  It’s still the best friend ready to listen without judgment, the husband who never zones out, the psychiatrist who doesn’t requirement payment or an appointment. And perhaps, most profoundly, it’s the Ear of God that’s always Present.

After nearly 50 years, I’ve journaled my way through marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and more sorrows and joys than I can count. Most recently I wrote my way through a breast cancer diagnosis and 18 months of treatment.  Frankly, I don’t know how I would’ve survived without it.  Writing is healing.  It’s cathartic.  It’s revelatory.  It’s doesn’t care if I’m happy or scared, strong or weak, or blonde, bald or gray (smiling).

A journal is unconditional in its acceptance of all the Flawesomeness of my life.  All I have to do is show up – authentically and faithfully – to reap it’s magic:

The Alchemy of my Soul.

Letters From Home

woman-writing-vintageEven after all these years, it never ceases to amaze me when – at just the right moment – I stumble upon the EXACT thing I need to read or hear.

That happened to me earlier today when I opened a little devotional booklet that I like to read in the mornings, and read these words:

“I AM trusting God with the desires of my heart.  He knows what’s best for my life, and I give Him complete control over all I am and all I have.  Any worry, fear or frustration, I turn over to Him.  I’m at peace knowing that He will get me to where He wants me to be, and I will never be disappointed.  This is my declaration of who I am.”  (From Joel Osteen’s work, “I AM”.)

I like to spend some time in contemplation and prayer at our little kitchen table in the mornings, journal and coffee at hand, with a candle burning.  It’s a time for seeking God’s Will and His Presence, and something I started doing 30 years ago as a new mother.  There have been seasons when I neglected this precious practice, or when the nature of that time was something other than it is now. I noticed that life doesn’t flow as smoothly, that my burdens seem heavier, and my attitude crapier when I miss these moments.  It is something I always come back to at some point.  My default position.

One of the blessings from the breast cancer journey I went through is a renewed commitment to my personal spiritual life – a Coming Home, if you will. I’ve winnowed out what works and what doesn’t work for me, what spiritual ideals and practices fit and which don’t.  Certainly, I don’t fit the mold of a typical fundamentalist Christian, and I’m good with that. I am a believer in, and a follower of, Jesus the Christ and look to the Bible for much of my inspiration and direction.  After all of the miracles I have experienced, after all the times when I literally felt the supernatural touch of God on me, I couldn’t be anything else.  And I’ve tried.

In this Season After the Fire, when my “New Normal” is being normalized, I spend even more time than usual thinking about, talking to, God.  For of all things that I desire – it is the desire to live out God’s Will that burns within me the hottest. Whatever that may look like, I am completely surrendered.

I think. (smile)

But deciphering God’s Will and plan for my life isn’t always easy for me.  Sure, there are times when divine direction is so obvious, I just want to slap my forehead and say, “Duh!”

Other times, however, the direction isn’t as clear, or doesn’t feel like it is showing up at all. and I am left contemplating the idea that what DOESN’T happen is the Will.  I am being led by what prayers AREN’T answered (or, perhaps, were answered with “No”.)

Times like when interviews prove fruitless, or the promises made to me by others don’t come to pass.  Other times I end up hitting brick walls, when the path I am on leads “nowhere”.

I’m in one of those times right now and it’s like trying to find my way out of a maze.  My view is obstructed and progress seems as at standstill.  It’s hard not to feel trapped.  Lost, even.

But I know – from experience – I am anything but.

This is a time when my faith is being stretched.  My desires, honed.  Growth often takes resistance, and I’ve learned that struggle isn’t a sign that I’ve blown it.  It could be that the struggle is producing the strength I need for the next part of my journey, much like a butterfly needs the struggle of exiting a cocoon if it is to be healthy and strong.

After months of Maze Walking, it was a real comfort to received a Word from the Lord this morning assuring me that His Hand is guiding me.  That His plans and purposes WILL prevail in my life.  It is important that I keep this in mind I can’t let discouragement weigh me down, or worry to steal my peace.

I just need to be patient and allow myself to be led through this season one step at a time, and trust that He is with me and that His plans for me are good.

The shift IS coming.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go.  I will counsel you and watch over you.” – Psalm 32:8

Save

Save

Save

Oooh, Child

It’s a cool drizzly morning here in So Cal.

Everyone is off to work and school.  There’s chicken in the oven for later, smelling up the house with yumminess, and all is quiet except for the sound of the sprinklers outside my window.  For the first time in almost 2 weeks, I have the day at home all to myself.  Even with all the chores I have to do, it is a much-needed oasis of solitude.

It’s been months since I’ve blogged.  Thank you to those that reached out to see how I was doing.  Up until, literally, the last couple of days – it’s been kinda crazy.  Over the Summer, while my girl still had her own apartment, I was taking care of my grandson one week a month, and some weekends in-between.  She got a great new job with the school district back in June, but it came at a price – specifically, a significant pay cut.  But she has a firm and reliable career path now, awesome benefits, and all kinds of perks that working for the district includes.  So for me to babysit one week a month to help keep financial life and limbs afloat (hers and ours) was a no-brainer.

School had just gotten back into session when, over the Labor Day weekend, we moved them in here with us.  Moves are hard and tiresome.  It took me a couple of weeks, but every room – every drawer, closet and corner – was thoroughly gone through and reorganized to make space.  However exhausting, the timing was Divinely Perfect as it coincided with the end of her lease and the end of my Unemployment Benefits.  Days before the move, I had another biopsy in my left breast after my first post-treatment 3D Mammogram showed “something” that needed to be looked at.  Jesus, I was scared…but I held on to the promises that I got way back when this all started – that the Lord had cured the incurable, and that I was healed.  I broke down and sobbed, falling to my knees, when I got the results. God showed up in a seriously miraculous way (maybe I’ll write about that another time), and the results of the biopsy were negative.

God be praised, Who is rich in mercy, strength and healing grace!

No sooner was that crossed off The List, my husband had a surgery he had been putting off for far too long because of all my shit.  The surgery was successful, but I was elbows deep in urinals and bed trays for a week while he recovered, sleeping on the couch for a couple weeks so as not to jostle him.  Eventually he was back to work and  I was just exhaling,  thankful that September was almost over when – just like clockwork – the third “THING” popped up.

A week ago this past Monday, my girl called me from the emergency room in serious distress and ended up staying in the hospital for the next 5 days.  It was awful, as they did test after test and couldn’t uncover the source of her pain.  I put in 12 hour days, getting my grandson ready and to school, driving the 40 minutes to drop him off, making my way to the hospital, then staying there with my baby until school was out.  Another trip to pick up our guy, back to the hospital to spend dinner time with Mommy, then home between 8 and 9 p.m. In between was a lifetime of prayer, staying all Mama Bear on the doctors and nurses trying to get her relief and some answers, and trying present calm and control for our little guy. While a firm diagnosis still hasn’t been made, the pain specialist is treating it as a nerve issue…a Myalgia of sorts.  It might even be a couple of things. But after a week of nerve specific medications, she is back to work just this morning, and I am so thankful.

Wow, I feel exhausted again just writing all of that. (Smile) Yet, here I am this morning, my heart full of gladness and a deep sense of God’s presence.  Things have been hard – in more ways than just physical – but here we all are, together.  The crises have passed.  The weather is cooler, the chicken smells delicious, the house is decorated so cute for Halloween and life is taking on more “normal” proportions as of 30 minutes ago.

Things are definitely looking brighter.

A Pocket Full Of Feathers

They’ve been popping up everywhere.  Slightly curled and snow-white, some small and downy, others larger and a bit more robust.  I find them laying in our yards, and scattered all along the walking trail, like angelic bread crumbs.

White Heron feathers.

It’s my habit to put things in my pocket when I walk, and the feathers are no different.  A small handful in a dish sits in my living room where I can see it regularly.  These feathers are a reminder.  An affirmation.

Having walked this neighborhood for three years, finding an abundance of these particular feathers everywhere is unusual although seeing the birds themselves isn’t.  There are several waterways nearby and herons fly over head regularly.  I caught this big guy – a Blue Heron – hanging out with a couple of buddies a few months back.

Herons are rich in symbolism and no one does Animal Speak better than Avia over at What’s Your Sign.  If you have a moment, hitch a ride over to her place on this LINK and check out the full spectrum of Heron Symbolism.  You’ll understand why finding so many of these feathers is nothing less than supercalifragilistic during this season in my life.

Today I wrap up my first week at Habitat For Humanity, and – in a word –  it’s been AWESOME.  The work itself is rewarding and fun.  But more than that, it’s the people I’m working with that is so exciting.  I’m still getting to know everyone but I can already tell these are some great folks.  Most of them are volunteers, under 30, and really love what they are doing.  After a decade working in a toxic waste dump, this is like heaven!

I also attended the first of The Write Page writer’s group meetings.  Held 20160511_200607_resizedat the Katie Wheeler Library, an old Victorian built by an Irish immigrant who turned out to be the grand daddy of our county, it’s a combination of so many things I just love! About 30 of us ranging from 18 to 80….newbie college kids to old-time journalists and representing at least a half-dozen nationalities…all share the common bond of loving the written word.  I’m already learning so much and can’t wait for the next meeting!

My tribe – my NEW tribe – is coming together.  My new life is coming together, too.  The feeling is indescrible after such a long, solitary and difficult season.  Sure, there are still bits to add to the picture – a great paying part-time job, for one – but I know it’s coming.  I know.  Grace is surrounding me.

My peeps and a pocket full of feathers.  What a great day to be alive.  Think I’ll go for a walk before work.

Who knows what I might find.

Magic Made Easy

20150619_144216_resizedA long time ago, there was a young girl – aged 10 or so – who spent hour upon hour alone in her room . This wasn’t a bad thing, really.  Alone was a comfortable way for her to be, even though she sometimes wondered what the other little girls in the neighborhood were doing.

Were they playing “house” or dolls or swimming at the beach?  Were their heads bent close together, conspirators sharing secrets about boys and their changing bodies and their common dislike of the new girl?

Sometimes, thinking about the other girls made her sad.  But mostly, she didn’t mind being alone in her room at all, for it was there that something quite magical happened

She became Someone Else

The Magic started the minute she carefully gathered all of her dolls and stuffed animals, and put them in a circle.  Once they were seated just so, she gave each of them a name.  There was Sally and Mark, Kathy and Susan, Brian and Diane.  Each had their own name, with their own “desk”, and their own writing paper with their names written on it in big, bold crayon letters.

The girl spoke their names often to the dolls and animals.  She wanted them to know that they were important to her, and acknowledge that she saw them.  Being “seen” is a very special gift to receive.  Maybe the best ever   When someone sees you, you know that you exist.  You know that people want you around and that they like you.  It makes you feel special, and maybe even a little bit taller.

Oh, and having someone call you by your name was extra special – especially when it was pronounced right! She knew this because, more often than not, people called her by the wrong name – sometimes over and over and over again, no matter how long she had been in their class or heard it pronounced correctly.

And whenever she was called by something other than her own name, her heart dropped.  She imagined it happened because she wasn’t important enough for the person to remember to spell it right and to say it right.

This it made her feel very small, like there was something wrong with her.  Something Weird.  And being Weird was awful.  Weird kids didn’t have many friends, and were picked last for the handball teams.

So when she was alone in her room, she would give herself a new name.  One that was easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other girls.  It was a name that would get her invited to slumber parties, or asked to play.  It was a powerful name because it

Made

Her

Fit

In

She called herself  “Jane”.

Miss Jane was the best teacher in the whole world!  Not only did she remember the names of each of her students correctly, she carefully prepared papers with dashed lines and math problems so they could practice drawing their letters and adding numbers.

Sure, she might scold one for talking too much in class, but she hugged the children a lot and carefully glued innumerable stars – red and green and gold – on their school work so they knew how special they were.  Stars told them what a good job they were doing.

Naturally, all of her students loved her, and knew her name, too.  Miss Jane was their favorite person in the whole world!  It wasn’t until after those magical hours came to an end, when she left the safety of her bedroom to go to school, that the little girl was reminded – over and over again – how different she was. How weird.  How she didn’t fit in.

She was reminded by the snickers when the teacher would stumble over her name for the millionth time.  She was reminded when all the other little girls, save for her and “retarded Kim”, were invited to an after-school party just down the street.

She was reminded when her mother and father asked her to be quiet, to go play in the other room, and to leave them alone talk and to drink.  Or when she had a bad dream, and no one came to comfort her.

When she grew older, the woman used a made up name – one easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other women – when she met new men in bars.  At least the ones she knew she wouldn’t spend more than just the night with.

When she grew older still, and married a man with a weird, unusual last name, she had children.  The woman gave those children names that were easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other kids.  There wasn’t much she could do about the last name, although she hoped her daughter could eventually change hers through marriage.

When she grew old,  the woman grew to appreciate her name and to cherish it’s uniqueness – correcting or ignoring the mispronouncing of it, depending on her mood.  And even though she’d spent innumerable hours alone in her room reading and writing, learning and  healing her broken bits (you know the ones…the ones that make you feel unwanted and unimportant), she still found herself making that certain magic at times.

It happened every time the barista asked for a name to write on the paper cup, or when the saleswoman asked her name so she could write it on the dressing room door – to make her shopping experience more personal…to make her feel special.

It happened every time she placed a fast food order, created a user name, or was in some situation where it was just easier to be someone else.  To be more common.  To be more like others.

She told them, “Jane”.

What Shows Up

Cell Phone Photos - ALL 169The “job search” continues.  About 40 resumes have been emailed since my lay off last month.  On most days, I cruise CareerBuilder and Monster, possibly Craigslist, looking for a couple of new opportunities.  I’ve submitted a bunch of applications directly online at company websites.  I updated my LinkedIn profile . I registered at CalJobs.  So I’m legit.

(Side note: I made an interesting discovery:  I’m now considered “disabled” in the job market, because of having a past diagnosis of cancer. Me?  Really?)

Anyway, I’m doing all the right things – mechanically….

But my heart isn’t in it.  Far from it.  The thought of returning to the 8 to 5 grind, sitting at a desk in an office all day, just doesn’t excite me in the least – no matter how “awesome” the work itself was. Even thinking about it, I start feeling stressed out.

Since this whole crazy trip began a year ago, I felt Something New calling to me at the end of my breast cancer journey.  Something so totally different, I wouldn’t recognize my life at first.  I believed this message with my whole heart….as in a “God Told Me So” way.  It helped me get through 4 months of chemotherapy.  It kept me going through 35 days of radiation.  It was my LIGHT at the end of long, black tunnel.  Daily I would affirm I could “do it” knowing “that” is waiting for me!

So applying for the same type of a job I’ve done for 4 decades feels grossly at cross purposes.  However, much like voting in the Presidential elections in November, it’s a necessary evil.  Especially when my heart is saying, “Oh hell NO!  Not this shit again!”

But I do it, to do the right thing with Unemployment.  I do it out of habit, a bit, too.  But more importantly,  I do it because I trust that the Universe is directing my steps. Each and every one of them.  I believe there are doors with my name on them, and they will open at just the right time, in just the right place, for my next career move.   That is….IF they open.

What if they don’t?  I haven’t received a single call from any of the places I’ve applied. A ton of calls from recruiters, staffing agencies and insurances agencies to be sure (is Insurance the new MLM scam?  What is up with them calling??)  But not a peep from the people I’ve sent my info to.  And that reminds me…

Closed Doors are answers, too, aren’t they?

That new life?  The one I was promised?  Maybe it doesn’t include a job like that at all!  Maybe that was the end of an era, as much as the end of a job.

Could it be I’ve actually (finally) arrived at those blessed years called “retirement”, quite by accident and certainly not in a way I was prepared for?  Could this be it?

Closed doors are answers, too.    What shows up IS the ‘answer’!

The other day I had an “aHa!” moment.  Take the whole B.C. issue away.  Just looking at my life, I realize I now have so many things I prayed for, for years and years.  All through the baby years.  All through the junior high and high school years.  All through marriages, divorces, births, deaths.  Now I have them, and all because I now have time.

TIME: Oh, blessed time.   It makes me giddy thinking about all the free time I have!  These days when I’m enjoying my quiet time or putzing in the morning, I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to get ready for work!  Sure, there’s the odd appointment now and then.  But by in large, I determine the times for those, for when they suit me.  I’m FREE! No one to answer to.  No one expecting me to be at their beck and call.  No resentment, frustration, stress.  I have all the time I need take walks, to cook, to read, to spend time with girlfriends, to take classes.  To NAP!

I have TIME to live and it’s fucking incredible!

No longer chained to a desk for 40 hours a week, my body is THRIVING on the movement it gets every day.  (who knew I naturally have a waistline and a little junk in my trunk!)

No longer having to report for duty at 8 a.m., whether or not I slept the night before, the dark circles under my eyes are gone and I look younger.

I don’t have to worry about missing work to take care of my grandson.  I can visit my elderly mom during the week.  I can cook up something for dinner earlier in the day, to have it all ready before I run out of steam.  I can have lunch with a friend at the spur of the moment, or attend a morning pottery class, or read a great novel.  My garden looks well tended.  My home is maintained.  I can rest when I’m tired, and eat when I’m hungry.

TIME – Rather than trying to squeeze my “real life” into stolen moments allowed around working My Job, my real life IS my life.  And I gotta tell ya. It’s taking some getting used to…this feeling of relaxation about my days, this easy flow, but I am.  I’m finally catching on  I’ve had a paradigm shift like having a kid is a paradigm shift.  Everything changes.

I am becoming that butterfly.  FINALLY! The free one.  The one with the beautiful wings.  The one that moves with ease and grace through her days. I’m just getting my coordinates, and I hardly recognize myself. But it’s time.

This is it.

I Chose Me

il_570xN.557874558_aln1When I walked into The Boss’ office yesterday morning to pick up my pay, I could see he was down. I had called him Tuesday morning, after much angst, deliberation and a quick phone call to the Husband, and told him I wouldn’t be back.

So much for The New Job.

Turns out, after everything I’ve been through – after all of those months of seeking Divine Guidance and Strength –  I really just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that this New Job was where I was supposed to be.  The Old Woman had convinced me – by her very presence, if not by her words – that there was something more….something better….waiting for me.

Had I forgotten everything I went through last year?  Everything I learned? One of the main issues in my life – the one that manifested itself as a breast cancer last year – was my life long tendency to sacrifice myself to make others more comfortable, to make others feel good.  To make things easier for them.

I’ll never forget one morning shortly after the diagnosis.  I was sitting in bed reading “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” by Dr. Christiane Northrup when I read that as far back as the 1800s, the medical literature has noted associations between breast cancer and women with an “overdeveloped nurturance gland”.  (check!)  They have a tendency toward self sacrifice (check!), and are more apt to have a coping strategy characterized by engaging with the problem, confronting it, focusing on it, working on a plan, and lobbying for emotional support in the process. (check! check! CHECK!)

In other words…ME!

It was a huge ass Aha! Moment, and I broke down wept.  Like the woman in the book, I realized that I didn’t have to “get sick or to die in order to rest”.  Right then and there, I promised myself that I wouldn’t do that again.  I would live in balance.  I would take care of me…REALLY care for me.  And I would stop trying to Save The World.

And yet, here I was!  Faced with a job that was FAR from something  soul satisfying and fulfilling, it did meet my financial needs but that was it.  Sure, I could go in and  Save The Day.  I could see that I could have a huge impact for the better, and alleviate a lot of The Boss’ problems (if the Old Woman “let” me.)  But at what cost to me?

So HAD I really gotten it? Or this was a test to see if I had actually made the internal shift needed to so I could go to the next level of my destiny?

Isn’t that what I had been promised over and over again this past year?

I just couldn’t do it.  My head, my heart and my gut wouldn’t let me. So I picked up the phone and called my husband, telling him what was on my heart.  If it were just about money – I would go.  But not for long and not because I wanted to.  That seemed unfair to The Boss, as well, paying me to be a short timer.

He totally got it.  So I hung up, made one more call and chose ME.

When I went to see The Boss yesterday to pick up my pay, The Old Woman wasn’t there and we had a chance to talk.  It sounds like my decision was a disappointment to her as well, and maybe – just maybe – she’s feeling guilty about things.  The Boss admitted he didn’t tell his mom all the reasons why I wasn’t coming back, so I encouraged him to do so – in a nice way, at the right time.  She needs to know that her actions and her words were not only why I didn’t want to come back, but  were jeopardizing her son’s business as well.

Speaking our truth, in a loving manner, may hurt someone’s feelings but we can’t let that stop us.  Not when we know deep in our heart that a change for the good must be made.  I feel for him.  She’s his Mom.  But she is also an employee – one that really isn’t doing her job the way it needs to be done, and it’s taking him down. She’s 80.  It should be okay for him to ‘retire’ her.

We agreed that we would keep the communication lines open,  and who knows? There might be something there for me down the road AFTER The Old Woman has her moment of enlightenment. And maybe – just maybe – The Boss will chose himself and the welfare of his business over protecting his mother’s feelings.

I’ve felt good – GREAT – ever since.  I feel energized again.  Full of hope and anticipation.  I let go of What Was – and an entire old way of being in the world –  so that Something New has space in my life.  And it’s possible that by deciding not to sacrifice myself and my dreams, by putting my well-being at the front of the line, I actually did fulfill my purpose there.

I chose me.

Now, maybe the nice Boss Man will to do the same.