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.

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.

Shifting Gears

Rams Head on UrnIt’s a New Moon in Aries today.  A Super New Moon at that.  The Elephant Journal has a great article out today on this new moon, “Trust in the Magic of New Beginnings.” 

In it, the author says, “Sometimes the best thing we can do is close our eyes, hope for the best and jump.

What a statement!

My natal moon is in Aries, as well as 4 other planets.  So I tend to take anything in Aries pretty seriously, especially when it seems that my life is reflecting something – mirroring – the archetypal energies in the sky. And I always take the moon seriously.  Which is why, for the last few days, I’ve been working on my Vision Board.  It’s been about 4 years since I made the last one, and it was time.

The inspiration was carried to me on some new energy flowing through my home over the last few days. It’s got a clean, life affirming vibe. Putting my Vision Board together just sort of ‘happened’, and it was fun and relaxing – not a task on my To Do list.  And even though there are some challenges going on, I find myself walking around with a huge grin my face at the oddest moments, like while vacuuming, or cooking.

I experienced huge shift earlier this week while out for a walk,  Feeling kind of heavy-hearted,  I asked Whoever Was Listening, “How to I shift out of this?” The answer came fast and super simple:  Gratitude.  Ah, of course!  I know all about the Magic of Gratitude so I started expressing thanks for the good things I could see – the beautiful day, the ability to walk, the Turkey Vultures.

And – just like that – SHIFT.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?  Back in August, after my 2nd or 3rd round of chemo, I began sewing again.  It was something enjoyable I could do throughout the day as my energy allowed.  And since I tend to pick simple things to work on (I sew a mean straight line), I decided to work on some market bags

My intention was to “try one” to see if I liked making it.   Before I knew it, I had made, sold and given away a bunch, and My Hope Totes was born.  If you’d like to see a portfolio (all the bags shown are sold), you can find them HERE.

I thought the name was catchy…a play on one of my favorite movies.  And HOPE, well, it’s been my Anchor Word for the past year –  right up there with TRUST.

When I am feeling HOPE and TRUST, my heart opens, like a lotus towards the sun.  I can feel when it’s happening, that unfurling.  It’s such a beautiful sensation, I’ve taken to cultivating it with much more intention these days.

Whether it’s the Spring, or my recent birthday, or the way Moon is aligned, my Heart Lotus is opening.  I sense it in odd moments while I’m putzing around my house.  My smile usually gives it away.  Embodying the message of HOPE is really what I feel I’m here for.  Like, HOPE is my purpose.  I know what it’s like to feel hopeless, and I know what it is like to have someone there – be it human, animal or event – at just the right time with just the right word to lift your spirits.

I experience that daily, and I want to be that for others.  I’m surrendered into the Service of Hope.  And, the more I give away, the more I feel it myself. Like Magic.

Losing Control

hangmanI noticed several things immediately yesterday, on my First Day On The Job:

One – The Old Woman was compelled  to tell me all about of her accomplishments, all about of her credentials, right out of the box. (and they were impressive!)

I wondered if she forgot the only reason I spoke of my accomplishments and credentials when last we met was because I was on a “job interview.”

It seemed that she was telling me all this stuff about her wonderfulness because she wanted to raise my opinion of her.  She needed to tell me that she was Somebody.  She had Import.  She was Special.   This was all tied into how important the job was to her – to keep her active and “with it”.

At this point, I literally told her:  “I didn’t come here to take your job.”

Two, The Old Woman also went out of her way to emphasize various reasons as to why I wouldn’t like the job.  “It won’t be exciting enough for you.” “There’s nothing creative about this job.” “I told The Boss (her son) that you would be bored here.” (That one was said multiple times.)

*ahem*  OK.  Thanks for that.

And Three, as she was showing me the ropes, it was obvious that she is a Control Freak.  A nice one, to be sure, but a CF just the same.  I lost count of how many times she said, “I do it this way…..” – even down to how to separate the pages of triplicate style form:  “The Whites HERE, the Pinks HERE, and the Yellows THERE.”

Are you fucking KIDDING ME right now?

After a while, I just stopped doing things the way that I would naturally, and followed her instruction EXACTLY.  NOT because I thought it was the best way….but because I was so tired of hearing about HER way.

Maybe she realized what she was saying because a number of times, she back pedalled: “But when you do this, you can do it your way.”  Really?  You’re giving me permission to separate a form “MY” way?

Wow.  Thanks for that.

I also  noticed the office spaces – and there are a bunch of them – need to be cleaned up…organized…updated.  The Old Woman has been using the same plastic baggy to hold stamps in for 15 years.  It’s torn and old.  The desk drawers are full of crap. There are funky Christmas decorations lined against the wall among some other unidentifiable paraphernalia, and it looks like someone dropped them “temporarily” only to have them stay there for years.  Decades old papers and catalogs sit on the shelves, and so much wasted space! All of this spoke to me of something hugely important:

CHANGE doesn’t happen here.

It wasn’t a horrible day.  5 hours went relatively quickly even though – by and large – it wasn’t very productive.  The Old Woman moves and speaks slowly, and goes off on little tangents.  Me?  I am a DOER, and like to GSD (get shit done).

So why would I go back after all of that?

This the question I ask myself this morning…..

Should I just do it for a few weeks for the extra cash?  It was an easy $150, that’s for sure.

Do I want to stay for the practice of getting back into the working world?

Do I stay long enough for my hair to grow back a bit more, so I feel more “Presentation Worthy” in this world where employers will make up their mind about you in the first 30 seconds of a job interview?

Do I stick around to “See What Happens?”  I know that The Boss needs me, and I can already tell he would like me to do things The Old Woman and The Collage Girl (his daughter) either cannot or will not do.  I could really assist him.

And I would love (as in L-O-V-E) to get in there and organize things.  Disorder and junk make me uptight.  I am a  Put Things Right kinda girl.  An “everything in it’s place” sister. I mean, how about we recycle the big old copy machine that doesn’t work and is being used as a table for potted plants?

No question, I could give the whole office space the total Feng Shui-ing it desperately needs.

But would The Old Woman “allow” it?

Would The Boss override her objections so that I could?

…….

I’m going in for another 5 hours today.  It will give me a better sense of What’s What.  This is definitely a case of Progressive Revelation, on all counts. The True for me today is, I have the time to be there right now. I am making some money. And there’s really nothing else I really need to do today, no other job offers coming through (yet), and I am kind curious because I don’t believe in accidents or coincidences.

Who knows? Maybe….just maybe…..

I Am The Change they’ve been needing to see in their world….

Oh, What A Tangle

Spider WebWhile out for a walk yesterday, I spotted this spider web from across the street strung and had to go check it out.   Strung up over a neighbor’s unused back gate, it was HUGE – 2 feet tall at its widest point – and, from the looks of it, it’s been there awhile.  While I shudder to think about how BIG the spider might be that made this, it would totally make a great prop for a haunted house.

Nature is already decorating for Halloween and I’m digging it!

The web holds a certain beauty for me.  A certain fascination.  There’s the obvious hole where, perhaps, a bird flew through it or a rock was thrown.  There are the thin sections tightly strung and precisely uniform, and then there are others that look like Mama decided to get busy after a few dirty martinis with the girls.

Something to remember: Friends Don’t Let Friends Spin Drunk.

Friends…. a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.     This breast cancer journey I’m on A couple of love bombshas taught me SO much about friendships.  I’m a Facebooker, and it’s been miraculous and astounding how my friends – some who I’ve never met in person, and others that I haven’t seen in years – have circled around me with support, encouragement and love.  I am still, 9 months after my diagnosis, periodically receiving cards and gifts in the mail – the latest one just a few days ago.  I like to call them Love Bombs and they always show up right when I need a boost.  Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am if it weren’t for these people.  They hold space for me like I’ve never experienced, and I don’t know how I can ever repay them – except to be strong. battle on and help as many others as I can along the way.

But it’s not all been Love and Light.   I now have an Ex “Bestie”.  Yeah, that happened a month ago.  But it wasn’t a complete surprise.  I’ve known something was afoot for months …since April, in fact.  It began after it turned out HomeGirl wasn’t going to be there for my first surgery due to vacation plans with her kids.  The same thing happened for my second surgery a month later.  And even though I told her I understood,  she swore she would “be there for me 24/7” when I started the hardest part of a hard journey, the chemotherapy.  She wasn’t.   So, I made other arrangements.

Anyway, back in April I felt her pulling away from me. We never did talk on the phone much  (something I particularly dislike about the Texting age), and so when her texts started to come less frequently, and her interactions on my Facebook page all but vanished, and our visits grew farther apart, I just “knew”. A huge Red Flag went off inside of me when she was 30 minutes late for a lunch date – something that never happened before in all the years I’ve known her.  It wasn’t a matter of a busy schedule – it was her day off and she was at home.  It’s just that she just didn’t leave her house in time to be on time, and THAT spoke volumes!

HomeGirl stopped sharing important moments in her life in that “you’re the first to know!!” way we once had, and what texts I did get were shorter and shorter.  The last one – in response to my lengthy apology for having to cancel our visit for the next day because I was feeling too sick from Round 3 – was all of two words long.  Two.  “OK, thanks!”

And I haven’t heard from her since.

My daughter and husband have borne witness to my tears and my confusion over the last several months as I tried to deal with her “withholding”.  I remember early on thinking, “She’s going to find some “issue” to get pissed about so that she can feel justified in ending our friendship.”  And sure enough, that is exactly what happened.  Maybe I didn’t make my journey enough about her.

Guilt does funny things to a person.  So does jealously, insecurity and resentment.  She broke up with me once before, as some who are long time readers here might remember.  It was about 6 years ago.  But unlike last time (which was also without warning), this time I won’t go after her.  Last time, I would periodically email her to see if I could find out what had happened so we could work things out.  This went on for 3 years.  Not once did she tell me why she ended things.  When we did finally reunite about 2 years ago, she said – both of us with tears in our eyes – that she couldn’t remember, and swore we would NEVER break up again.

Today, after being the victim of her Scorpion sting for a second time, I’m calling BULL SHIT.  What kind of person ends a sister-like friendship, pushing away all attempts at reconciliation, over something so unimportant they can’t remember it? For THREE years?

Sheesh!  I’m laughing at myself here. Wake up, Grace! Why I didn’t see this before, I’m not sure.  I do know that – in the past – I’ve tried for too long, giving up too much, to make certain relationships work.  I don’t hold grudges, and I am a huge believer in Second Chances.  But not today.  Not any more.

I am changed in ways I am only now seeing.  Why would I WANT someone like this as a friend?  Why would I go after someone who intentionally tries to hurt me with the things she says, as seen in some recent Instagram posts (thank the Social Media Gods for the “UNFOLLOW” button!)

The truth is, I don’t.  Someone like that doesn’t belong in my circle.  We obviously don’t Vibe in the same frequency any more.  After looking a little deeper at “us”, I realize we don’t really share much in common any more, and it’s possible that much of what was holding our friendship together was “What Was”, not “What Is”.

Come to find out, after doing a little Googling around, that there are other women out there who have lost a Bestie while fighting breast cancer.  Who knew?  One would think that at a time like this, relationships would grow closer…that these BFFs would step up like never before.  But sometimes, unfortunately, they don’t…and they bail. Who knows why this happens. Maybe the Bestie is scared or can’t cope, or feels left behind in the whirlwind of surgery, treatment and doctors appointments.   Whatever the reason, it happens and it can be devastating.  The cancer patient feels abandoned in their time of greatest need.  Betrayed and let down.

Most of all, they feel unloved.

Thankfully, I know – and can feel – the great circle of love around me.  I’ve never gone without support and concern.  Turns out there is always someone waiting in the wings to help me.  These people are in my life at this time because they are the Right Ones for Right Now, and I am so grateful for their presence.

Another lesson learned: What is REAL will last and everyone who is meant to be in my life is still here, with more friends added all the time.

In Rememberance of 9/11 – The Unsung Heros

Tumbling Woman”, by Eric Fischl. Officials at New York’s Rockefeller Center kept the sculpture from public display after complaints from onlookers who found the image disturbing.  Google image.

Having just dropped the kids off at school, something the guy on the radio said caught my attention.

It took a good 60 seconds before the words sunk in, and it was tone of his voice – the shock – that hit home first.  An airplane – no, TWO airplanes, had hit the World Trade Center Towers in NYC, and the top floors of the buildings were ablaze. My mind struggled to grasp words so surreal, I actually shook my head trying to get clear.

But even before the words sunk in, I could feel it.  Something bad was going down.  Something real bad.

Taking the driveway way too fast, I slammed the car in PARK, ran into the house, and yelled at my husband.  “Oh my God, come here!  Something horrible has happened!”  Together, standing barefoot in our jammies, we watched as the most horrific day in U.S. history unfolded on our TV screen in real time.  When a newscaster shouted, and the scene flashed to the Pentagon, I started to shake all over and I don’t think I stopped shaking for weeks.  The unthinkable had happened:

America was under attack.

Over the next month, I sat glued to the TV during every free moment and usually found myself weeping uncontrollably…deep gulping sobs of grief, fear and anger.  I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t want to leave the house, and I didn’t feel safe.  The sounds of a plane overhead was enough for my heart to leap through my chest, and I tried to tunnel what was going on inside of me by painting a huge “God Bless America” sign for the front yard, and participating in neighborhood vigils, and praying like I had never prayed before.

9/11 changed my life – just as it did 100s of 1000s of others lives – and changes it still.  Something deep within both my personal and our collective consciousness shifted.  My world…our world…tilted on its’ axis and has never been the same since.

It’s not my intent to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 with my strong opinions about what’s happened to the US as a result of the “War On Terror”.  Anyone within arms reach of me – either virtually or in real time – knows I’m Pro-Peace, and believe all of the wars we’ve engaged in are illegal, immoral, and a means of profit for those who run the Military Industrial Complex.  I support the troops by being vocal about ending these wars, and advocating for more services for our Wounded Warriors.

And don’t get me started on things like Homeland Security, TSA, NSA, the Patriot Act, and Executive Orders.  The only thing I’ll say is this: we are no “safer” now, nor is the world safer, as a result of them.

Back to 9/11. Of all of the images I watched from the morning of September 11, 2001, it was the ones of people falling – or jumping – in an attempt to escape the blazing infernos that remain on the forefront.  At first, as the TV cameras caught the images in real time, my mind shied away from acknowledging what I was seeing.  But eventually, the horrible truth pierced through.  Those falling – objects –  weren’t pieces of the buildings.  They were PEOPLE.  About 200 in all, as it turns out.  These people, seared into my psyche by the branding iron called horror and disbelief, will forever be a part of me.

In remember of those unsung heroes, please watch this video.  It is a documentary based on an article by Tom Junod (Esquire 2003) about a photograph (by Richard Drew) of a man falling from the World Trade Center.

We Will Not Forget

Where The Light Is

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“The Warrior of the Light is a believer.  Because she believes in miracles, miracles begin to happen.  Because she is sure that her thoughts can change her life, her life begins to change.  Because she is certain that she will find love, love appears.” ~ Paulo Coelho

I took this photo the other morning while out looking at my garden beds.   Even though I’ve been growing them for years, Milkweed – and their seeds – have really captured my attention in the last couple of weeks.  All of the plants are currently filled with pods bursting with beautiful potential. On any given day I’ll find their seeds clinging to the tomatoes vines, climbing the lemon tree, or sitting on the earth like a little angel, just waiting for Someone to bury it.

To me, these seeds are particularly beautiful with their tiny filaments that help catepillar1.jpgthem “fly”.  How apropos, since they’re the sole nourishment for Monarchs.  Without these common, easy to grow plants, Monarch caterpillars wouldn’t have food.  Without Monarch caterpillars, there’d be no butterflies….and how sad would that be!?!?  Monarches are already disappearing by the millions. So even though I only have a few of them, growing Milkweed is one way I can help them survivr.

Seeds are miraculous.  Take pomegranates, for example.  A single pomegranate seed, planted at the right time, in the right soil, with the right care, will produce a tree.  That tree will eventually bear fruit – lots and lots of fruit – and each of those fruit will be packed with more seeds! Like, an average of 680 seeds!  That’s amazing!

We’re talking about 10s of 1000s of seeds produced in a single growing season from a single tree and it ALL comes about because one little dot was sown.

What mesmerizes me most about this photo (taken with my cell phone and unfiltered) is the little ball of light at the juncture of the filaments to the seed. It’s almost as if the seed is alive with energy.  I’m sure there’s some logical explanation for it, but I don’t care.  To me, this is miraculous.  I literally cannot stop looking at it.

Every seed is programed to become a specific plant, each after it’s own kind.  It’s impossible to plant a watermelon seed and get a zucchini.  And given enough time, a single seed can reproduce itself a million times over, feeding other life forms who – in their own way, and according to their own kind – will produce their seed and multiply.

What starts out so tiny and singular…something that could easily be overlooked, stepped on, mistreated or eaten (smiling)….has the potential to change the world.

Just like a single thought can change a life.

Thanks, Paulo.