The next right thing

This poem is the twelfth in a series of poems from the “Write to Recover” group I facilitate. I put them together from phrases that resonate with me while participants read. I add nothing but punctuation and the occasional conjunction. This one is comprised of the words of five participants who were writing on the prompt, “Opening the door…”

waterfall

Do I laugh or cry?
Sliding down the rabbit hole
on tears of a waterfall,
Into a street of bitterness.

My door shuts.
Big black unknown — cold, blistering —
A lonely place where
I wasn’t allowed to grow.

My fear is in a needle,
I give all hope away.

But morning comes,
The door does open again.

Life keeps moving on,
A simple life that works for me,
One hour at a time.

Now I’m capable of being me,
Not some cheap imitation of me.
So proud of who I am, who I’ve become;
A beautiful blue jellyfish
Melting into a river of love.

Hold the doors open to let more light in,
It’s full of glitter and light.
Life can be good if I allow it to be.
Passion is the key to a colorful life,
Not chasing dragons.

Fear is just a silly word;
Love is calling and cheering me on.
I am never alone and never was —
I am fully connected to my inner child.

I understand me to understand another;
I plant seeds and grow minds,
Creating joy for myself and others —
We learn together.

The miracles are happening and
Everything is possible.
I am onto the next right thing.

I have survived

This the sixth in a series of poems from the “Write to Recover” group I facilitate. I put them together from phrases that resonate with me while participants read. I add nothing but punctuation and the occasional conjunction. This one is comprised of the words of three participants.

flowers

As a lost soul I was locked up inside my mind.

It was a lonely place inside my head,

Not knowing what I had known.

~
And that was not OK with my inner self,

The kind soul I know I am, the honest being.

~
I will meet the demons and say good bye,

And instead enjoy days with me in a warm glow.

I learn from me how to be kind to myself.

~
I will take a drink of courage —

I am a courageous woman with every intention of staying strong.

I am capable.

I will try harder.

~
I will not be pulled down,

I will stay grounded in sanity.

Plant my gardens,

Weed out the undesirable and plant the positives.

I will flower on!

~
Because I have survived.


Who ya gonna call?: Your journal, your friend

Originally published in my “All Write!” column in the Rutland Herald, Feb. 22, 2016 under the title, “Your friend at the end of the pen.”

ANTIQUE PHONEI think most would agree that the best kind of friend is the one with whom we can be free to be ourselves — our perfectly imperfect selves. With a friend like this none of the regular rules apply. We can leave the dishes in the sink when they come over, we can be dressed in our hole-iest sweatpants, we can say inappropriate things.

How many of us have that kind of friend? The one we can call any time, at exactly the moment we need them, to listen to our hurts and worries or joys? Who can be completely trusted with deepest secrets and problems?

Even if we do, sometimes there are situations and feelings which we aren’t prepared to discuss with another person (or it’s 2 a.m. and even your best friend wouldn’t appreciate being woken up to hear you gripe about your boss). This is exactly why a journal can be the best friend there is.

Kathleen Adams, author of many books written about the benefits of journaling and expressive writing for the personal writer, the client, the student, and many other populations, wrote in her first book, “Journal to the Self”:

There’s a friend at the end of your pen which you can use to help you solve personal or business problems, get to know all the different parts of yourself, explore your creativity, heal your relationships, develop your intuition…

However, based on what I hear people say to me all the time when I ask them if they write a journal, many are still resistant. Many times that resistance is based on memories of school-age rules — and sometimes rulers on knuckles — when it came to writing. So, let’s look at some of these things.

You shouldn’t write if your handwriting is awful? You can’t spell? You don’t believe you have anything important enough to say? And you have to write every day, right?

Nope.

It is your journal and rules do not apply! You can write whatever, however, whenever you want. In other words, you can be (or discover) exactly who you are and what you really feel and think (as opposed to what you “should” be, feel, and think). Just as you can with that best kind of friend.

Let’s say you are angry with your spouse and you know your words would hurt him/her. Get out your journal and write all those hurtful things on paper. Purge them. And once you are calm(er) you will be able to tell your loved one how you feel minus those hurtful words. This is productive — and loving. You can also use the journal to practice what you will say before you engage in the real conversation.

Your journal can take anything you say, whether it is angry, hurtful, illogical, or downright depressing, and keep it safe. Your journal is a place where you can purge your feelings and thoughts with no fear of judgment or retaliation. Swear, yell, cry, complain… whatever you need to.

Suppressing emotions or keeping them unexpressed is damaging to your health, and alternatively, expressing them in any extreme fashion can be detrimental to your relationships (and maybe yourself). The most helpful and healthful solution is to vent within the safety of your journal.

Writing in a journal is a gift of friendship to yourself, a friendship where you can be yourself completely, without judgment. The journal is a friend to lean on, rely on, and trust, where the rules don’t apply. Especially at 2 a.m.

Prompt: What I can’t tell anyone else is…

This story has yet to see its end

I put this poem together from phrases written in the “Write to Recover” group I facilitate. Writing down phrases that caught my ear (and heart) while they shared, snippets of poems just appeared. We all have a poet inside when we get out of our own way and let the words flow.

booksTrying to get out of this body — childhood prison.

No one noticed me

dreaming of ice cream and donuts, dope –-

brain food –-

kicking my spirits into space.

Uselessness of my imagination,

ideas disintegrate into dust.

Give me a break! Why am I doing this everyday?

It’s all been said before.

But!

I’m letting go of the demons in my head;

stop being who I am and become who I am supposed to be.

I am in control of me.

I feel love, it never left me — there are cracks I can get my fingers into.

This story has yet to see its end;

I’m onto the next right thing:

The best me I can be.

Step into life

I put this poem together from phrases written in the “Write to Recover” group I facilitate. Writing down phrases that caught my ear (and heart) while they shared, snippets of poems just appeared. We all have a poet inside when we get out of our own way and let the words flow.

ocean boat

I was very lost,

But I stepped into life and onto a journey of wholeness,

Seeking treasure.

 `

See God –- water to those who thirst,

radiating energy,

imagination flow,

a teddy bear to hug —

I become part of that ocean.

Total contact of the special healing touch.

 `

I am getting to like myself.

My heart feels good, so much life.

Wind blowing in my hair,

I feel so beautiful.

I am my own best friend, in this together.

`

I am a person, I break the mold

I love who I am

I want to share the joy with other people,

If only we meet for a moment.

Less hate, more kindness.

 `

I was very lost,

But I stepped into life.

I must remember my journey.

Let the river take me

I wrote this poem from phrases written in the “Write to Recover” group I facilitate. Writing down phrases that caught my ear (and heart) while they shared, snippets of poems just appeared. We all have a poet inside when we get out of our own way and let the words flow.

One of those moms

Let the river take me —

Even when it hurts, it breathes with the joy of laughter, undulating.

I choke on life, I’m really here in the world.

I keep trying. I am a survivor.

Manipulate the truth; truth to be heard.

The road to hell is as slow as molasses.

Sometimes it feels like a web of pointlessness — all shit.

I keep trying. I am a survivor.

Let the river take me, to be free.

 

More than you know: Why and how to start journaling

treasure chestThis is an edited version of my “All Write!” column in the Rutland Herald, published January 29, 2016

The most compelling reason to write as far I’m concerned is the ability to access a great wealth of knowledge about yourself.

Dr. Ira Progoff, who is considered the grandfather of personal journaling due to his development of the Intensive Journal method in the 1950s which he introduced to the world in the book, “At a Journal Workshop,” in 1975, wrote:

(Wo)Man does indeed know more than (s)he rationally understands. … (journaling) is a way to connect with the knowledge beyond understanding.

In other words, we’re smarter than we may think! Any artist, writer, designer, inventor, entrepreneur or anyone who has ever had an idea, an inspired thought, an intuition or a gut feeling float or jump into their consciousness from seemingly nowhere knows there are deeper depths than our intellect — knowledge that is beyond what we knew we knew.

prompt bookmark single_Page_2Journaling, or free-flow writing, that is not focused on a perfectly structured sentence, nice handwriting, or even “nice” language, allows the writer to access creativity and intuitive knowledge that thinking too much — i.e. self-censoring — can block.

I believe, as Dr. Progoff did, that we have all the answers inside us and writing is a way to access those answers. When you start writing from a prompt, such as “I am feeling…” things will come out that may be unexpected. Journal workshop attendees invariably say, “I didn’t know I was going to write that,” or “I don’t know where that came from!”

In our technological, left-brained, prove-it-to-me society, intuition and connection with our inner self has been lost. We are not taught to trust self. However, writing (as well as other creative activities such as drawing, dancing, etc.) allows us to discover our inner workings. Through “thoughtless” writing (quickly without thinking) we can write down things we did not know that we knew.

Kay Adams, founder of Center for Journal Therapy, writes that her journal is the “.79 cent therapist” in which you can “scream, whimper, thrash, wail, rage, exult, foam, celebrate.” And if that isn’t enough, in a study by Dr. J.W. Pennebaker it was proven through blood tests that writing for only 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days increases your immunity for six weeks! The writers also reported fewer visits to the doctor for stress-related illnesses. Now that’s impressive!

So you want to start a journal? But you’re not sure how to begin? Or what you would write? Or afraid it will become just another unchecked item on your to-do list?

You don’t have to be a “writer” to journal. This isn’t the writing you learned in school — no one will be grading or judging you. Spelling, handwriting and grammar have nothing to do with it. It is purely the action of putting pen to paper and letting your subconscious flow.

Writing a journal need not be a huge time commitment. You can write for as little as five minutes (your gratitude, for example) once a day, week, month, year.

Journaling does not have to be one particular style of writing; it can be anything from lists to doodles to mind-maps to poems to stream-of-consciousness flow writing. There are no rules on what constitutes a journal.

“But what do I write?” you ask. Start with who you are. That should be easy! Here’s your prompt to get started:

I am…

So, if you want to begin expressing your private thoughts and accessing your internal dialogue, do not be afraid of the page. Just let your pen go — don’t think, just write. For five minutes. That’s all it takes to get you started. Find yourself a new notebook, blank book, even a cocktail napkin, and a smooth flowing pen and a comfy place to sit (your car in the carpool line?) and just begin.

Writing a personal mission statement

This post is an edited version of my 1/9/16 Rutland Herald column, “All Write!”
IMG_4018Last week I offered some ideas and prompts for envisioning and planning your future. In this post I will continue on the theme of setting intentions through personal writing methods, this time by discussing personal mission statements.
I have found, as many others have, that writing something down gives it more power (or in some cases, as with fears and anxieties, less — but that’s another topic for another post). Writing down plans, goals and steps forward (as in a weight-loss regimen) makes them more real, concrete and provides written evidence of progress which, if only small steps, deserves recognition and celebration.
(This reminds me of two helpful and proven-for-well-being daily practices: writing gratitudes and acknowledging what you did accomplish on your to-do, not what was left undone. This helps keeps the motivation going.)
This is why businesses and organizations write mission statements: to determine and make concrete their intentions, their purpose, their raison d’etre. A mission statement also lays a metaphorical path, maps a route and provides an itinerary. Without a clear idea of why and where you are going, you can get completely lost. Yes, it is fine to wander a little, but as long as you keep your sense of direction you will have a more successful journey.
This is true for individuals as well as businesses. To identify and clarify personal values, wants, needs and dreams, writing a mission statement can help give life direction. And once it is written down and placed where it can seen regularly, when life “happens” and you get distracted or discouraged, it can serve as a reminder of what you truly want out of your life, prompting you to do your best to get back on track.
There are various approaches to writing a mission statement; one is to assess the various ways humans inhabit this world:
  • Physical (physical body and health)
  • Mental (thoughts and learning)
  • Social/Emotional (connection with others and our own feelings)
  • Spiritual (connection with a higher power or inner wisdom)
For each area determine your values and wishes. Spend some time thinking through what you want out of your life and the direction you intend to go. If you are having a difficult time with any particular area, use your journal to free write — that is, writing without judgment or self-editing — about it first.
Ask yourself where you are currently regarding your physical self, for example, and what you’d like to be making progress toward. (Focusing on steps made forward, i.e. enjoying the journey as opposed to fixating on some far-off destination, is very important to feelings of overall contentment, or in new-age terminology, staying the in Now.) Or start with a prompt such as, “Right now, emotionally/physically/etc. I am …” From these written explorations you will discover your own thoughts and feelings about each area of your life. Alternatively, the mission can be also divided by the various life roles: wife, employee, father, board member, business owner, etc. “In my professional life, I would like to work toward … .”
A statement can be long or short or in any format wished: A sentence, paragraph, bullet points, even a collage of pictures. A family can have a statement also. Gather around the table, and as a committee, co-write the family’s purpose and intent for a meaningful life. Determining and writing a mission for your business, organization, your family and/or yourself, will help clarify your values and intentions for the future, thus increasing your ability to make successful decisions and be open to opportunities that are in line with those intentions.
Prompts:
  • In this (____) area of my life, I am …
  • This is what I would like to work toward …

P.S. This week I was informed, and I am honored and excited to say, that my workshop proposal has been accepted by The Center for Journal Therapy conference. I am humbly asking for support to enable me to go. All donors over $10 will receive a copy of my workshop, “Mother’s Song: Nurturing Body-Voice through Expressive Writing.” For more details and if you are willing to help, please visit gofund.me/8sj8v7k4. With much appreciation, I thank you.

Envisioning a Write New Year

This post is an edited version of the first posting of my newest column in the Rutland Herald called “All Write!” which ran January 2, 2016.

 
pen journalWriting isn’t only my career (something for which I am extremely grateful), but also has been my lifeline since I was a teenager. I started writing a diary at age 12 and began what I now call expressive writing, or journaling, a decade later while reading Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” The benefits I have personally experienced I now share with others.

In the spirit of the New Year, I offer a slight twist on typical resolution-setting: writing to help you envision your hopes and intentions for the future. There is something magical about dreaming and envisioning what you want out of your life. But it is also

Buy it now

as necessary and practical as a map (or GPS) on a long road trip.

In “Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest,” Christina Baldwin writes:
Before we can do something significant with our lives, we have to do three things: imagine it clearly so we know what we want, be willing to want it very, very much and take action that moves us to attainment … focused vision, focused longing and focused action.
To begin this process, you must first know where you are now, here in the present. Writing about your current situation and emotional state — what’s going on at home, work, with family, in the world — helps you to get a clear picture of your life and hopefully clarifies what things are working for you and what may not.
jtts
To then look forward to how you may want to make some changes, you can write about a currently unknown future. “Journal to the Self” author Kathleen Adams recommends a journaling technique called “Perspectives,” which is to write as if it is already a future date.
Writing from a different perspective can … hurtle you forward in time, allowing you to create a visionary picture of what you want your life to be like. This can be a very important factor in aligning your will with your unconscious desire, thus helping to ‘create your own reality.’
Allow those “impossible” dreams to have their say. This is your road map to the future. The trip may not take the exact route you thought it would, and you may end up somewhere slightly different than you imagined, but just be open to the journey.
Once you know where you are starting and you have decided on your destination, you can plan your first steps, or your action items. And think baby steps. Don’t overwhelm yourself with huge goals. Start with making one phone call or getting your resume in shape or buying a new set of paints. Just start the ball rolling, get the car started, put the walking shoes on. Starting is always the hardest part, but just do something, anything, no matter how small. And then celebrate each step.
New Year Writing Prompts:
  • “Where I am now in my life is …”

  • “It is January 1, 2017, and …”

  • “The first steps towards this future are …”

Happy New Year! Here’s to a 2016 that’s just write!

So you want to be a TLA (writing for healing/change) facilitator?

This evening I was asked by one of my online students how to start a TLA (Transformative Language Arts) — Writing for Change or Healing — practice/business. That is a big question and not one easily answered. There are too many factors to consider: location, niche, experience, education, personality, and financial situation, among others. So, instead I will tell my story, as briefly possible.

How to (possibly) start a TLA practice:

journal-with-lock

  1. Start a diary at age twelve. Keep writing daily through high school. Stop writing during college except for sappy and maudlin poems after break-ups with each new love of your life and consequently completely lose sight of who you are.
  2. Read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and artistsway-tstart writing “Morning Pages” like your life depends on it. (It kinda does.) Fill binder after binder with complaints and dreams for the next few years. Start calling yourself an Aspiring Writer as you write (embarrassingly pitiful) stories and essays early in the morning.
  3. Leave your job and the state to become a stay-at-home mother. Get bored real fast and design a journaling workshop and offer it at the local bookstore. Discover the Center for Journal Therapy and start the instructor certification.
  4. Move again and take part time jobs while finishing the certification and caring for two young kids.
    JTTS_Instructor_Logo
  5. Finish the certification, get marketing materials (business cards, fliers, website, social media pages) together, and start offering workshops at the local wellness centers, bookstores, coffee shops (including a monthly one for free to get your name out there).
  6. Contact/join writing groups/centers, networking and social service organizations, colleges and schools, and get your name on a list of alternative practitioners.
  7. Keep offering workshops despite low turn-out and cancellations. Get posters up wherever you can and blast social media. Do this for … years.
  8. Keep writing. Finally get the courage to call yourself a Writer. Get published. Start freelancing. Put your “facilitator” in your mini bio at the end of each article.flyer_Lower Stress Write Way
  9. Ask, and accept invitations to speak at networking, wellness, and writing events. Collaborate with other facilitators and organizations.
  10. Discover there is a Masters program in this field in your home state (at Goddard College) and spend the next three years transforming your life in the most amazing way imaginable.
  11. Open your own writing center and offer weekly workshops. Start getting more name recognition, more speaking engagements, and more writing work.

So, that’s my story in a very small nutshell. But my journey from designing my first workshop to today was a not a short one — at all. My daughter was two when I began and she is about to turn thirteen! And it has been almost seven years since I got certified and I am only just beginning to feel I am “making it.”

Here are some factors specific to my situation which I believe have helped along the way:

  1. I live in a small town. I know many people.
  2. I live in a small, rural state and am one of very few who does this kind of work.
  3. I said yes to every opportunity until I found my niche (I can  adapt my work to many areas and populations).
  4. I am a freelance columnist. My name is in the paper every week.
  5. My connections through the Center of Journal Therapy,  Goddard College, and the Transformative Language Arts Network have allowed me many opportunities.TLAN-Banner-940x198

Here are some factors specific to my situation which I believe have hurt along the way:

  1. I live in a small town. There is not a huge population to draw from.
  2. I live in a small, rural state. Writing as wellness is not considered a mainstream activity.
  3. I said yes to every opportunity and took a long time to get focused enough to find my niche and in what/with whom I worked best. My “brand” and “elevator speech” have therefore been unclear — trying to be too many things for too many people.
  4. (Related to #3) I don’t enjoy marketing myself and may have not always used the most successful methods.

What I believe you don’t have to do that I did:

  1. Get a MA or other advanced degree in this field. Experience is the best teacher.

What I believe you do need to do:

  1. Be passionate about this work.
  2. Do the work yourself. Be introspective and Write. Write. Write.
  3. Have some training/experience in ethical and successful facilitation practices. Creating safe space for your clients is a priority.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the theories and modalities of TLA/Writing for Change (through the TLA Certification, for example.)
  5. Collaborate!
  6. Find your niche(s). Find your people. Stay focused. (But be willing/prepared to puzzle-piece your career together with lots of different projects and collaborations).
  7. Be confident that your work is of value and you should be paid accordingly.

But my number one piece of advice:

Never stop believing you can make this work because if you can’t imagine doing anything else, you will.