W.O.R.D.S: God, Goddess, Godde (or Cleaning up Pee)

The W.O.R.D.S. Project (Words Open Resonating Depths of the Sacred): An alphabetical search for questions.*

Granted, it’s easy to live connected to the Source when the sky is

Open and the sun is shining, and the flowers bright. But when life

Dumps reality on your head a hundred times a day…

Damn it!

Every day is a lesson in remembering what we so easily forget.

I’m a mother. I’m more familiar with bodily fluids, especially little boy pee, than I ever could have imagined. This past week as I was down on my knees once again wiping up my son’s attempt at aim, I thought:

I’m more than this!

There’s a question that has been nagging at me for a while: How can one be spiritually-minded — in the moment, at one with The All … however you personally choose to define it — when there is all this life?

Oh, I’ve heard it before: Make folding laundry a meditation, pick up those little stinky socks like its a service of love for the greater good, pay the bills with non-existent money as an invitation for more “wealth” to come your way.

When you’ve bent down for the 9th time in 5 minutes to pick up another red, plastic foot-lancet, when the bug hits when the deadline is looming, when the officer is at the meter at precisely the moment the time expires, you’re not exactly ready to come over all Rumi.

In Christian circles, such as the one in which I was raised, any sadness, overwhelm, despair, frustration, anger… any “negative” emotion, was a clear indication of one’s lack of faith. “Pray harder,” “Take it to God,” “Ye of little faith…” In non-Christian, new(old)-age circles, this attitude tends to manifest in language such as not living in the moment enough, not mindful enough. “Just pray!” becomes “Just meditate!”

I rebel against this attitude. I don’t find it helpful because it feels like just another reason to feel bad about one’s “imperfect” self; that I’m not trying hard enough, that I’m not enough. But I am human after all, and I am going to get frustrated at life’s little annoyances.

And to those who will say, meditation/praying does work: I know this. Journaling, creating mandalas, walking are my forms of meditation and they do calm me. But I do not want to feel I am not doing it enough or right, or that if I was doing it better I wouldn’t feel the way I do. That demeans my feelings, my emotions. I refuse to judge my emotions.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to feel calmer, less anxious, less angry, and less grossed out by yellow-stained bathroom floors. And that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer to live knowing I’m part of a bigger purpose; part of a bigger Something, a pulse in an energy with which we are all vibrating.

If I could know, really know, in my deepest depths that I am connected to everyone and everything on and around this planet, both living and beyond, would that late payment charge bother me? I really can’t say.

Source, spirit, god, goddess, godde, nirvana, transcendence, love… these, in my opinion, are all one-in-the same: something one can experience. That opening of the heart when one realizes we are all connected. It can happen, it does happen, to some more than others. It is what makes us part of the divine.

But what makes us human is the constant forgetfulness that keeps us asking questions, keeps us on our toes… and in the end makes even cleaning up pee an opportunity to laugh at our human inability to aim correctly all the time.

Prompt: “I always forget…”

~~~
*This project is an off-shoot of the work I did for my graduate degree where I used Words to help heal from my negative indoctrination from “The Word.” Words are powerful agents for transformation! (Thesis/Final Project: Calling Little Gypsy Home: Reclaiming Voice Through Expressive Writing and the Sacred Feminine; Memoir: Sing from the Womb: Leaving Fundamentalism in Search in Voice.)

I drove through sadness

I drove through sadness today.

Tears from clouds and tears in ravaged river banks.

Tears, rips, and gashes. Gutted, graded and gored. Rutted, raked and ruined.

As I drove along Route 107 between Pittsfield and Bethel, Vermont for the first time since Tropical Storm Irene, I cried for my home state. Yes, I had seen the seemingly endless stream of pictures of devastation in the immediate aftermath, and I wept for Vermont then. But six months later, despite mind-blowing road and bridge repairs, to see the land so… so…wounded – it hurts.

It is raw. Scoured. The land torn open in gaping welts. And not even a new, white bandage of snow to cover its wounds. The pain of the land and its people exposed. Mud where trees should be, rocks where there should be grass. Houses once in a field teeter on the edge of cliffs. Or crumpled in a ditch. Farms grow nothing but silt and stones. Hillsides are mudslides. Trees are tangled masses of sticks. And the river…

The river runs through it all as if nothing is amiss. Barely restrained and rambling wildly in places, serenely in others, it is like a temperamental child, unaware and uncaring of the chaos it leaves in its wake.

And there, on his newly river-fronted property, a man standing alone, gazing over the water. What is he thinking, I wonder? Cursing God or Mother Nature? Thanking them for saving him and his home? Maybe he was feeling as small as I against the awesome power of nature, attacking so suddenly and so violently. But I believe he was crying for this land – I felt his sadness. It hangs in the air and descends with the cold rain.

—-

P.S. Strength comes in the wake of a storm: “I do matter.”

One City, One Prompt

On October 29th, 2011 I am honored to be facilitating a community event in Rutland, Vermont which is part of a larger national/international* project called One City, One Prompt (see Events tab for more details). It is a project of the Transformative Language Arts Network (tlanetwork.org), which in this, its inception year, is taking place in more than 70 communities around the States (and in Japan and Egypt!). I am a Masters student in the Transformative Language Arts concentration at Goddard College, who is underwriting this project, and I will be facilitating this as part of my field work.

I am particularly excited about this event because the theme this year is Community and I have chosen the sub-theme to be Transformation, which I think are two vital words for my community right now. Local people will have the opportunity to voice their feelings about our community in any written form they wish. The resulting creative works will be shared with the country/world on a website maintained by TLAN. The Rutland Free Library is sponsoring/hosting the event and the Rutland Herald will be providing media coverage.

I have set up a Facebook Page where I will be posting details and you can ask questions or share ideas. The prompt itself has not been determined yet and I will most likely to looking for input from the community. So please “Like” so you can be a part of that.

* To find out if there is an One City One Prompt event in your area this fall, visit http://onecityoneprompt.org/

Here’s the promotional video so you can get a better idea of the project:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_l02OTW9Ag

Danger: Toxic levels of self-bashing

This post is a bit of an off-shoot for me but as I write it I will somehow figure out how to make a journaling prompt out of it. And I also know many of you will relate to what I am about to say.

I got rejected.

By a home-cleaning professional.

Let me explain. I don’t like chaos or clutter. My preferred living arrangement is tidy and beautifully decorated; OK, it’s more eclectic than beautiful, but everything has a place, everything in its place. That’s how it is supposed to be, however, I have two young kids: Clutter Happens. I am a Virgo: I don’t like doing the same things over and over.

I JUST vacuumed this rug, did you HAVE to bring a plate of rice crispies (a plate? of cereal? seriously?) in here and lick them up like you’re a dog? Seriously?!

And I hate, hate, hate to clean. I was absent the day they were giving out the cleaning gene. Consequence: My house is a mess! Yes, I go through when I can no longer see the floor daily and pick up the socks, toys, shoes, wrappers, escaped rabbits, backpacks, papers strewn around and get the house looking marginally like somewhere I might enjoy living. But to be honest, once the rabbit-trapping game is over I have no energy left to get out a dust rag. In fact, I don’t even have the energy to even see the layer of dust that is holding the piano together. In other words, if you come over you may be impressed by the cozy furniture arrangement, art on the walls, and homemade pillows on the couch, but please don’t look too closely at anything. Let’s put it this way, there might as well be a Spider Safe Zone sign on my front door. No arachnid need fear for their life here: my home is your home, Mr. and Mrs. Legs. Dust bunnies are also welcome to multiply to their dust bunny delight.

Most of the time I turn a blind eye to my greasy microwave and be-crumbed counter corners, but once in a while it all comes uncomfortably into focus and I tearfully bemoan my lack of housewifery skill. That’s when Hubby and I have the conversation we have had countless times before: Let’s get a cleaner. OK, OK, I’ll make some calls… but I never do. Why? That is a mystery only my therapist can help me unravel. But at last this week when I admitted it was crazy to be putting myself under so much pressure to do something I detest and frankly, suck at, I made a call.

So, she came over. I promised not to clean up before she came. The house wasn’t in too bad a shape to my eyes. Well, it was tidy, at least. Still it felt like she was peering into my unconscious and finding it to be a scary place. She looked around, we decided on a number of hours and what exactly she would be expected to do. Thanks for coming by, hear from you soon about starting date? Yes, nice to meet you too. Yes, goodbye.

Two days later I got The Call. She was going to have to pass on the job. The time slot she was planning to give to me didn’t open up as she was expecting and she had to be honest with herself about her own schedule and energy level. OK, no problem. I understand. Good for you for looking after yourself. Bye.

Suddenly I feel rejected. Was my house even too dirty for a house cleaner?? Seriously, do I suck that badly? I was taking it personally. Because I’m not very nice to myself.

As I scrubbed my kitchen counters and swept the floor this morning I realized there was a bash session going on in my head that I hadn’t been invited to:

You are a TERRIBLE housewife! You can’t even keep the counters clear? Look in that corner! And under there! And, oh, good job on cleaning the oven… I can still smell the smoke from the burnt piece of, what was that? Last week’s pizza? And what the hell is that mush in the back of the fridge? Ugh!

On and on it went as I wiped and de-crumbed. It was kind of like having a drill sergeant in my head: What is it, Young? Scared of a little cleaning? You wuss! You failure as a woman! Drop and give me 50 scrubs of that floor!

But then I stood up straight and fired back at that ugly, yelling fathead. I don’t HAVE to be good at this. So there!

Just because I’m a woman it doesn’t mean I was born knowing how, or liking to scrub toilets. It’s not required. No one expects me to know how – or want – to paint a picture, build a house, fill potholes, or solve global warming. But for some reason cleaning house (and cooking – don’t enjoy that either) is a requirement of my gender. I pay someone to do my taxes, fix my car, and cut my hair, why should I feel any different about cleaning my house? Worst of all, I put this expectation on myself.

Someone once said: Don’t get good at what you don’t want to be doing. Right then, I won’t! I want to be writing and studying. I want to be a happier, less stressed mom and wife. I want to live in a clean house that fills me with contentment not reminders of my “failure.” I want to be authentic! Do what you love and leave the rest to someone else. I’ll make another call. Someone out there is looking for work. I can be a happier failure as a housewife, get my own much-enjoyed work done, and help someone else. Score!

And here are your Prompts (told you I’d find something to journal about!): What are you getting good at but would rather not be? What’s your drill sergeant saying? Do you believe him/her?

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.
Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

We plan. Life laughs.

Well, here we are. Five days into 2011 and I am finally getting to my computer. I had big plans. My goals for work, school, housework, and this blog were all spelled out in my January 1 journal entry. I had my running shoes on and I was just waiting for the starting gun, i.e. the roar of the school bus as it carried my eldest child away for 6 beautiful, peaceful hours. But first I had to pull myself out of bed, clothe and feed two bouncy children and get them out the door to drop the youngest off at pre-school. And that’s when my best-laid plans withered like the poor plants on my window sill.

Puffy-eyed, make-up challenged, and with my mop of hair mashed under my winter hat I said good morning to the too-awake teacher. As I hugged my son goodbye I heard her say, “Did you know you were scheduled to be parent helper this week?” I looked up to see which unprepared mother she was addressing and realized with horror it was me. “And you’re responsible for snack too.”

If I were in a cartoon I would have shook my head to clear my ears because surely I had not heard this correctly. I wasn’t scheduled again until spring. “No, Mrs. Young, it’s right here on the calendar that we gave you at the beginning of the semester. Young. See?”

So, after rushing off to get my eldest to school and then back home to raid the cupboard for a toddler-approved snack (for 15), gulp some coffee, and attempt to do something with my hair, I returned to pre-school, tail between legs, to observe dinosaur vs. race car war games, baby dress-up, circle time, and the nightmare of 15 four-year olds attempting to self-attire in snow-suit, coat, hat, glove and boots. Trying to find the positive in my sabotaged morning, all I came up with was, “One down, only two more mornings to go.”

Then I got sick. It felt like someone was smashing the back of my eyeball with a rock. I woke coughing in the night and my sinuses were goose-stepping behind my face. Then the kids got sick. Croupy coughs echoed around the house. I was going to have to call pre-school and tell them I couldn’t help. I felt guilty. But on a positive note it would be a nice, quiet day reading in bed while the kids lounged around recuperating.

Ha!

While I attempted to breathe through my nose they threw off their croup and began bouncing on the sofa, calling for drinks and snacks, pummeling each other, and asking why we can’t go out for lunch. After I croaked my way through two story books, I decided it was movie time. So, here I am. Finally in bed and all is quiet.

I had planned that my first post of the year would one of new positive thoughts for a new year – a fresh start. But life has a way of letting us know we have to roll with whatever is sent our way, be it involuntary volunteering, the croup, or a blizzard on your wedding day. I am searching for the positive in this delayed start to my new work/writing year… and it is that I got to read to my kids by the fire and I have the chance to write about my silly “misfortunes” while in my jammies and eating Christmas chocolate. The early evening sun is pouring through my window onto my bed. I would have been battling my way through the grocery store aisles on my “planned” day. I have to learn to slow down and take each moment as a blessing. It may not be the moment I had planned for but it is still a moment I have been given to be made the best of and thankful for.

Prompt: The positive in my latest “negative” is…

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.
Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

My interview with Tara Sophia Mohr

A few weeks ago I was honored to be interviewed about the benefits of journaling by writer and life coach Tara Sophia Mohr at Wise Living. Here she blogs about “living more intentionally in order to create a vital, peaceful, joyful life.” I thank Tara for including me in this journey.

Here is the full post:

Interview with Joanna Tebbs Young

Here is a direct link to the audio of the interview:

Joanna-Tebbs-interview

Thank you, Tara, it was a pleasure!

P.S. There is one thing I wanted to add to my answer to Tara’s question about why journaling works: When we put our emotions into words we are using a different part of the brain. When we use both sides of the brain we understand and process the event/memory in a way that promotes healing.

“Once [an event] is language-based people can better understand the experience and ultimately put it behind them” — Dr. Pennebaker

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.
Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

Trust the process, part 6 (Procrastination)

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I have to admit this post is an act of pure procrastination. I have two book annotations to write for my next packet of graduate work. I am still in my jammies at 10:21AM and the house is quiet except for the fish tank trickling, the bunny crashing around the play room and Pandora.com playing a piece by Henry Purcell. I am enjoying my newly re-arranged den made cozier in preparation for the steadily approaching cold weather. I have written in my journal while eating creamy, homemade oatmeal. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? Well, it is. And – rare for me – I am living in this moment without much thought for anything else. Which is why I felt the need to put the moment into words.

For some reason though, I am hesitant to begin writing an essay on one of the most influential books I have read in a few years. Here are a few of the others (note: many, many books have influenced me, these are just the truly life-changing ones):

Katherine, Anya Seton (When I first became fascinated with medieval history and costume on which I wrote my undergrad history-honors thesis and was first introduced to Women’s History as a formal subject and a personal interest.)

The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron (How I began journaling and realized I AM an Artist and Writer and have a right to call myself so.)

The God We Never Knew, Marcus Borg (When I first discovered that my own ideas on God and religion were not crazy and that there was more to it (and me) than my church had told me.)

A Voice of Her Own, Marlene Schiwy (Put together my first journaling workshop based on this book – it beautifully reinforced the power of personal writing for women.)

Leaving the Fold, Marlene Winell (Helped the healing process of working through the damaging affects of dogmatic, fundamental religion on my Self and self-worth.)

And now, I can add Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd.

I read this book like one enjoys a fabulous meal with a friend: the sensuous pleasure of different tastes and aromas mingling with intelligent, friendly conversation and that delicious feeling of becoming more satisfyingly full with every luscious, nutritious bite.

Ms. Monk writes her thoughts, feelings and experiences and they resonated on a deep level with me. She introduced me to new, enlightening thoughts and ideas. I felt like Dorothy in the Land of Oz when she opens her eyes to see before her a foreign land full of color and fascinating inhabitants. And much like Oz, in this new land there were also some slightly frightening and intimidating elements – because they are as yet unknown.

Sacred Feminine.

Never given that any thought. But yes, now I do. It is as some part of me as a woman was missing. Raised in a God the Father, Jesus the Son religion where woman is the source of evil while living in a patriarchal world which has not acknowledged a feminine divinity for over 3,000 years, and which continues to rape Mother Earth and degrade the natural beauty of her and us, her daughters, I mourn the imprisonment of the Sacred Feminine – mine and that of all women. (Did you know the origin of word mother is “matter” – of the earth?)

Kind of a big subject – and so I procrastinate. What is my resistance? (Resistance is a powerful message, pay attention to it!) What am I scared of? Unformed thoughts? Still raw emotions?

How do you write about a journey to a just-discovered destination while still just marveling at the brochures?

Prompt: I procrastinate on_____ because…

_______

 

Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.

Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.