Trust the Process (pt 14): The finale (or the beginning)

credit: Robin Russell

credit: Robin Russell

Three years ago, almost to the day, I was sitting on a bed just like this one. Same ugly, motel-like comforter and surprisingly puffy pillows, the same blank off-white walls. But it’s not the same bed, it’s not the same room, and I’m not the same person.

On that day in 2010, I felt forlorn and petrified as I retired to my room for the first night of my graduate career. I had no idea what to expect from the night itself, from the week of residency, or from the coming semester. I scribbled in my journal as if my life depended on it as I tried to assimilate this huge life step I had taken.

But now, here tonight, it’s that “ahhh, bra finally off!” feeling; home again. Having checked off the “live with a roommate” life experience after that first semester, I have roomed alone for the past five residencies, three of them in this very room. It may not be the Hilton, but it’s mine, all mine, for a whole week. The door locks and I can sit here and write with the guarantee that no offspring will spring from somewhere asking for something. And I don’t have to cook or scrub a thing! This is has been my vacation week every six months for the past three years.

Of course, there was always plenty of work to be done: workshops to attend, mind maps to draw, outlines to plan, bibliographies to research, and deep thoughts to be thunk, all leading to that final ‘Submit’ of the Study Plan before heading home to begin the real work. The first night always held a double dose of excitement and apprehension of what the week had in store, as well as – I’ll admit – a (tiny) sprinkling of missing my family.

But tonight, the only thing I’m missing is the worry.

This weekend is about celebration. An acknowledgement of the work I have done over the past three years. And done well. I can pat myself on the back because it’s not braggadocio to admit that I have accomplished and I learned a lot. I worked hard. I did create a new me, after all!

This graduate process has been intense. It has been exhilarating, painful, overwhelming, mind-blowing, and life-changing. I discovered very quickly that what I thought I was going to do when I first walked onto this beautiful campus wasn’t what I needed to do. But once I got out of my own way and let the study and writing lead me where it wanted, magic happened.

So, tonight, while sitting on my crunchy dorm bed, I celebrate. I celebrate “Trusting the Process” because it works.* I celebrate me and the gift I gave to myself. I am a better writer, a stronger, more confident woman, and a more accepting-of-self mother. I am singing again and I can say with pride that I am a Storyteller. I found my voice in more ways than one.

Thank you, Goddard College and all the amazing people who were traveling their own journey along with me and who have been all part of my new learning. I will miss you dearly. Thank you for the ride of a life time! From the womb room I am reborn. I will now go forth into my new life.

*And still working! Ever since I began this work, I have used a rambling, unclear explanation of all the threads of learning I have connected throughout this process, which was always slightly changing as I discovered another piece of the puzzle. But! After working on my graduate presentation for this weekend, a concise statement of understanding of my entire thesis project FINALLY arrived while I was in the shower just yesterday morning.  Magic. It happens.

Read the entire 14-part “Trust the Process: The Goddard Chronicles” here.

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Words in image: Three years of work in a wordle

Oh, this is fun – and fascinating! This is a Wordle (wordle.net) of the almost 70,000 words of my thesis and memoir. (For a clearer version click on the image, this will take you to Wordle.)

voice quest wordleI like this one even better:

voice quest wordle2

Trust the Process (pt 13): Seeing the End of the Road

Cor... get a bus through there!On August 16th, 2010 I wrote my first Trust the Process post. It was the beginning of my graduate school journey. Tomorrow I begin the end.

My last semester. The one when I pull together everything I have learned over the past three semesters into one piece of writing (well, two, actually) so it can bound in a black jacket and placed on a shelf in a dark room on the ground floor of Goddard College’s library.

Will a future student reading my introduction feel the intensity of the explosions that were blasting my worldview to smithereens my first semester? Will she press her temples while browsing my memoir, feeling the anguish of my second semester when I lost my way trying to find something without which I finally realized was within? Will he feel the high of multiple a-ha! moments as he reads my process paper? While photocopying my bibliography, will she feel the hot tears of frustration and mental exhaustion? Glancing over my curriculum, will they know what my students taught me about true wisdom?

No, they can’t know. They won’t feel every pinnacle and every dungeon of emotion I experienced while pursuing this degree. What they will see is another binder, another thesis of another faceless former student. They might read in my words that the experience changed my life, but they won’t know.

They won’t really know what a Goddard education is until their own work is bound up there on the shelf. They won’t know that it is a journey that takes you deeper into your soul than you thought possible. It tears apart your preconceived ideas, gives you more questions than answers and opens your eyes to the beauty of mystery. It is painful and it is beautiful and it is freeing. It is not merely an education, it is life quest that teaches you to think and to be awesome, and to do it with more courage than you thought possible.

I questioned at the beginning whether I truly needed a Master’s degree to have a career in my field. I am a writer and a facilitator, and no, I don’t need this degree to do those things well. But what I did need was the push to dig deep, to think deep, to learn hard, and to connect some very big dots so I could begin to heal my wounds. I needed to experience what I was learning, not just parrot what I was told as I had been taught my whole life to do.

I had to learn to know what I know.

And now comes the final piece: Writing it down so I can find out what it is I know. To connect what I feel to what I’ve learned. To see my new voice – my new self – on the page. And I can’t wait.

Authentic Voice Project/Trust the Process: O is for “O” Moon (Speaking your Full Self)

For redefinition, I was thrown back to myself, to my inner knowing… Marilyn Sewell, Cries of the Spirit

The Authentic Voice Project: Week 15 (Full Moon)/Trust the Process (Part 12)

O is for “O” (Full, Whole) Moon

I write this from the cool (-ish) basement of the library at Goddard College. I’m here for the residency portion of the second half of my G3 semester (I am a half-time student so this means I am 3/4 through my degree work.) For me, this residency every six months is pure joy. I have my own room where I can choose to sleep, read or write without interruption; my food (three amazing meals a day) is cooked for me and I don’t have to wash one single dish afterwards. I never have to bend down to pick up a stray toy or little sneaker, and the only laundry I see is my own small pile that I can ignore for eight whole days! For this mother, this IS vacation.

But also for me, the writer and thinker, being here amongst some of the most intellectual, progressive, compassionate, creative, change-seeking people is like coming home. A family to which I never knew I belonged until I met them. It is here I began the journey towards my authentic voice. It was here that for the first time I realized I had opinions that I could voice without judgment. Even in disagreement there is still love and respect here. I stood up for my own beliefs and hugs were not withheld nor companionable laughter restrained.

I have also learned here that words like “never” and “always” and “everyone” and “should” do not apply. Except in one thing:  ALL are ALWAYS needing love and acceptance. To belong – whatever their opinion, belief, background, orientation. And that is Goddard: A place to be belong. To be heard.

The only way one’s voice/self can be truly heard, it must have something against which to resonate.

First, you must make yourself vulnerable and speak your truth. Others must hear you, really hear you (or maybe just one Other – sometimes that’s all it takes). And if at first it is on the page only (which ALWAYS listens), that is a great start. But once you are heard, acknowledgement and acceptance join forces to produce confidence. The whisper of your voice grows steadily louder until it is all you can hear. The “shoulds” and “oughts” of society become drowned out. At that point you need nothing but your own heart for resonance. If it feels right in your body then it is right for you. Your intuition, your body wisdom, your Self will speak out strongly and with conviction. In turn, the raised energy of your own authenticity will give permission to others to express theirs.

So, on this full moon, the full circle of light – a symbol of wisdom and intuition and wholeness – I urge you to “trust the process” of listening for and speaking from your own place of truth. With your own voice. Listen to yourself, speak for yourself, know yourself; the Whole You. The Holy You. The Divine* You.

* To Divine: To know by inspiration [to breathe into body], intuition [body wisdom], or reflection [look into self]. Divine: Magnificent, Beautiful, Godlike. Individualization: the gradual integration and unification of the self. (The Free Dictionary)

Prompt: Like the full moon, I am divine – whole, magnificent, all-knowing – and wish to be heard. One truth that resonates with me today is…

Trust the Process (part 11): Re-turning

The Silo Room (aka The Womb Room) at Goddard College. Credit: Robin Russell

On the eve of my fourth residency at Goddard College as a IMA-TLA student (Individualized Masters in Transformative Language Arts), I am sitting on the upper level of a gym as my son and two dozen other miniature humans are noisily jumping, swinging, rolling, and springing below me. Might as well be another planet from where I will be in 24 hours time. To pass the time, I was checking my blog stats and there I found an incoming link to my blog from worldsofchange.com where my very first “Trust the Process” post from August 2010 is published. Strange – that seems so long ago now. And me, so different. I can even read a subtle change in my writing.

I am particularly nervous to go back this time (or am I like this every time and I’ve just forgotten?) because I am returning after a semester off. It is time to commit again, get back to the discipline of 20-ish hours per week researching or writing (when I’d rather be doing anything but) and to face the reality that this degree is going to happen – and going to be a lot of work. But I am excited! I waited a long time for my life’s work to make itself known to me and it was worth every panicked journal entry,  every incorrectly colored parachute, and every “wrong” turn. I now know I am doing exactly what I was called to do, what I was born to do and – no matter how much work and discipline it will take – I will have a grand time doing it!

People always say you shouldn’t take a break from school because you’ll never go back, ya know. Well, I have done this twice now. When I left school after a disappointing freshman year, I did so because I knew I wasn’t doing the authentic thing. During high school I went through the motions of applying to college because that’s just what you did. When I suddenly found myself on campus the fall I turned 18, I thought, what just happened?! I struggled through that first year studying for a major I wasn’t suited for because I hadn’t known what else to do. When my grades reflected my confusion and discomfort, I took a break. And everyone said, you won’t go back, ya know. But six months later, I was back and raring to go. I now knew what I wanted and I flung myself at it and graduated with honors. I just needed that break to check in with myself.

And now, 22 years later, I have done it again. I had gotten off track with my grad work, lost in what I thought others thought I should be doing. My own authority, my authentic voice, had momentarily been drowned out. But not completely. It was there tugging at my  hem: Mama, are you listening? That’s not what I wanted! So I took a break to give my voice a chance to grow and tell me what she did want. I had turned away from myself, but now I have re-turned, back in the direction of my potential and purpose.

It’s OK to take a break to make sure you are doing the right thing, the authentic thing that will make YOU happy, not what others think will make you happy – or worse, what will make THEM happy. It’s OK to admit you might have made a mistake or gone off track. Listen. Listen hard. Take a break so you can really hear. And then re-turn back to your dreams and make them happen.

Prompt: If I listen to my own voice, it tells me…

Trust the Process (pt 10): Hiding

My natural inclination is to introversion. I usually choose to be alone rather than in a crowd. However, at my first two Goddard College’s residencies for the Individualized Master’s program I went against my own grain. I squeezed in around full lunch tables, joined in conversations in lounges, and laughed over movie showings late (for me) at night – and had a great time doing so. But at this last residency I regressed a little to my former self. While I still joined lunch-time and workshop discussions, I quickly ran back to the silence of my own room to retire early or to brainstorm over My Question. I fell (fitfully) asleep to the laughter and discussion of my building-mates whose joviality was evidenced by the growing number of wine bottles in the recycling bin each morning. At breakfast I would listen to further laughter over inside jokes from the night before and I’d feel a tiny touch of jealousy. But my need to be alone found me frequently in the garden, folded into an Adirondack chair, notebook on lap. Thinking.

Too hard.

I would have to say the theme of this residency for me was Thinking. And trying not to. I’d get myself alone in my room and I’d start thinking, “what is it I need to be thinking about?” Then I’d remember that I am trying to Feel More, Sense More, so I’d say to myself “stop thinking!” which has the annoying effect of creating the exact opposite reaction. I’d start thinking about NOT thinking.

I didn’t write in my journal too much this residency, whereas in the precious two I wrote copiously as I tried to assimilate all that I was learning and experiencing. And feeling. This time I made a conscious effort to just feel what I was feeling. This required much alone time with not necessarily satisfactory results. Now home, and very much not alone (almost five-year old boys seem to need Something on a excruciatingly frequent basis) I am trying to consider all that I felt and feel now about the residency and my graduate “career” in general.

I am questioning now if going into hiding this residency was actually what I needed. Most of my a-ha! moments actually came to me during conversation or listening to others talking. I live in my head too much and plain old social-ness might have pulled me into my body – and my emotions – through laughter, silliness, togetherness, connection, friendship, conversation and mutual respect. If laughter is medicine I sure didn’t take mine while seriously mulling away in my cavern of a single room. Sometimes our “natural” inclination is a defense mechanism – to protect us from feeling too much – rather than a healing one. And what we resist the most is most likely exactly what we need.

Prompt: What are you resisting? What behaviors do you automatically resort to which might actually be furthering your lack of self-awareness and healing?

Trust the Process (pt 9): The Body Knows

As I enter the final week of my first year of graduate school I wonder if, as all Goddard College advisors urge, I have truly trusted the process?

This semester has been a rough one time-wise, emotionally and physically. Those of you who have kept up with this blog over the last couple of years may have noticed a major decline in my postings. And I have missed it. I have missed writing just for the pure joy of it. Don’t get me wrong, my grad work is thrilling and I am writing more than I have ever done before. But there is still that academic standard and deadline hanging over me whenever I write an essay or memoir piece for school. My blog was the place I have always loved to go because writing is my first love. But I have had to neglect that love a little in order to give myself the self-care I needed. As we used say in England, writing this blog became a bit like a busman’s holiday.

And truth is, every time I tried to write something here I immediately gave up. I was thinking too much, wishing myself to write something because I probably should. “Shoulding” on yourself is the best way to get in deep do-do. “Should” implies a standard that “ought” to be met, a criterion to be attended to. I decided to give myself a break and to trust that when I was ready – and needing – to write again, I would, and could.

Yesterday I had to write something for school. I didn’t want to. It was an emotionally-charged piece and I had been avoiding it for weeks. But it was time, no more weeks left to put it off. I recently read John Lee’s Writing from the Body where he suggests doing some physical exercise to get the inspiration flowing (literally, breath-in). When we think about our writing we can get blocked because our real, deep, truth-filled writing comes from feelings, not thoughts; from our body, not our ego. When we write from our bodies, where the breath goes, we are resonating with it, and so then will your readers. Your readers intuitively know when you are writing your truth. So, despite the fact that my Ego was screaming at me that it is only considered Work if you are frowning at the computer screen, I got off my duff and went for a walk.

Having two young kids, walks around the block or into the woods usually include no pensive moments whatsoever. For the first time in years (I’m not kidding!) I walked alone, just my body and my thoughts feelings. After half an hour I felt a strange bubbling inside and my eyes welled up. No specific emotion was attached to the tears but it felt like something had come unfettered and was now free. As I turned back onto my street, I had the first sentence of my memoir-essay. I walked in and wrote (rather, it wrote itself) for the next two hours. I didn’t think  about it at all.

I see now that “Trusting the Process” is really more than that. It is about trusting yourself and your own ability to say what you need to say, learn what you need to learn, and let go of what you need to let go. I left my Head behind when I pulled on my sneakers and headed out the door, it wasn’t needed. Ego, with regret I must inform you that your invitation has been withdrawn.

I wish I had figured that out a year ago! But there has to be a process, a journey first, else you never know you’d gone anywhere.

Prompt: Go for a walk, put on some music and dance, jump… then write whatever comes up.

 

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