The Elevator Pitch the Write Way

You’ve probably heard the term Elevator Pitch. According to Wikipedia, it’s “a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization… [and] should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.”

At one Goddard College graduate residency we played on this idea in a getting-to-know-you exercise. We had to walk across the room and tell someone in about 30 seconds with no prep what questions we were researching (Goddard’s Individualized MA program is all independent study). It was very helpful for me to have to summarize the myriad ideas I was looking into and state my one main point of query. One year and much research and writing later, I find I need to do this again. The Elevator Pitch for both my research and my memoir synopsis is rambling around in my head and has become more of an “… and Into the Lobby and out onto the Sidewalk Pitch.”

I saw this link today to a news story from Fox 44 news in Burlington, Vermont posted by The League of Vermont Writers: New Writers Pitch to Literary Agents.

It recounts the League’s recent Writers Meet Agents Event at its biennial conference in Burlington, where wannabe authors pitched their ideas to literary agents in a kind of “speed dating” process. Just reading about this made my stomach turn. I immediately thought, “What on earth would I say (without coming across as a bumbling idiot)???”

Time to get out my journal.

Here’s how one way to focus your ideas, not just for others to understand exactly what it is you do all day, but, maybe more importantly, for you to focus. It gives you a way to gather the harvest of fresh imaginings, colorful memories and juicy research nibblets, and then single out what you need to make the tonight’s dinner (i.e. book, essay, project, etc.).

1. Write down ALL your ideas, angles/layers, questions or descriptions of your project.

Write them in no particular order. Maybe mind-map them. Draw lines between connected concepts. (A huge piece of paper and colored pens might come in useful.) (And, warning! Whole new connections and ideas may arise while doing this.)

2. Circle or make a list of which words, phrases or themes come up most often.

Put the top ranked word/theme (or top two or three, if they are close) at the top of a blank page.

3. Just write!

Start with a prompt such as, “My book is about…” “I am studying…” “The premise of my thesis…” “The theme of my memoir is…,” and free write non-stop for five minutes (don’t stop even if it means writing in ums and ahhhs or oh crap, I have no idea what I’m writing-s!) However, you may find that after mind-mapping all your ideas, your writing flows easier.

4. Chop. Dice. Boil down. Spice up.

Re-write until you have two or three sentences that concisely, creatively, and above all, passionately describe what you are writing (but please leave out the adverbs!).

5. Say it out loud.

Read what you’ve written and then practice saying it until it sounds natural, as if you have such complete and utter clarity about your work (which you do now, right?) that you are just able to reel it off without thinking. Time yourself to make sure it is within the thirty second to two minute range.

6. P.S.  This technique doesn’t have to apply to just writing.

Think Personal Mission Statements. Artist Statements. Life choices even. (You don’t need to end up with blurb/pitch for this one unless you want to, but the process of whittling down options can still be used.) Whenever you have a sense of confusion, overwhelm, and/or lack of clarity, get it ALL on paper and let the pen do its magic.

Photo credit: d3designs from morguefile.com

Do you need a map or a box of chocolates?

I have to thank Mark Matousek, with whom I took a class at the Therapeutic Writing Institute, for his insightful article in Psychology Today: What’s Your Metaphor? Shifting Shapes In The New Year. This post is my response.

Having never asked myself what word or phrase I consider my life metaphor, and how it affects my worldview, I decided to sit down with my journal and investigate.

In many of my blog posts I write about the Path of our life, so without consciously naming it it would seem this is my life metaphor. Is this a positive metaphor? Indeed, not negative, but a little passive. On a path wandering along waiting for things to just cross my way? Partially true. But I also believe that if I trust my feet (my intuition) new avenues will open leading to new places and new people and new opportunities.

I also use the metaphor of a Journey. You need a map, provisions, traveling companions, and a destination. There will be stumbles, detours, and things to see along the way. This seems more pro-active and goal-orientated.

Life is a Path , a Journey? Does that feel true to my own understanding? Do I need to change my metaphor? What are my options? A game. A play. Paint by number. Spiral. Flower garden. Circus. Bitch. How about Forrest Gump’s Box of Chocolates? Something new to taste all the time – some you won’t like but that will make the next yummy one even sweeter. Taste life. That’s pretty good. Thank you, Mrs. Gump. But no, not quite right.

Quest? Looking, searching for Something. That’s it. Seeking. Seeking Self. Yes, Life is a Quest.

On a quest you must ask Questions to discover you own truth and your own authentic self. Questioning everything you “know” to be true, questioning authority- those old and new external voices telling your who and what and how and when, questioning your own emotional reactions, and questioning fears and self-perception. Yes, life is a Question within which, just as Rumi said, the Answers lie.

So, as in the fairy tales and ancient myths, I could be the heroine of my own story, riding through dark, scary woods of emotional unknowns and entering bright clearings as I discover new things about myself. Using my talents to create my own path towards the enlightenment at the end of the tunnel – the (w)holy grail of human existence.

This is my New Year’s Resolution: To travel with the questions and celebrate every step of the way. And maybe take a few chocolates for the road.

Prompt: My life is…?

An open letter to those who are human

C.P. Estes (author of Women Who Run With the Wolves) always addresses her readers as “Dear Brave Souls.” I do not know her exact reasoning for this but I can guess that she knows how much courage it takes to live in this world, to face the pains and heartbreaks, unknowns and setbacks. But even more than this, it takes a strong heart to live as a “wild” woman (or man), that is, one who steps out from behind the mask – our persona – shadow and all. It takes strength to live authentically, saying what we truly know, doing what we truly love, and loving how we need to be loved. So, taking a page from the book of the beautiful soul, Ms. Estes, I too shall address my readers so.

Dear Brave Souls:

I am not a psychologist but I am lucky enough to be human. I have my very own persona, ego, unconscious, authentic voice – and shadow. I have to live with myself on a daily basis and I know that I am far from perfect. But no one is! There is no such thing! I have biases, I make unjust judgements, I have anger, I have selfishness, and I also project the unwanted, uncomfortable, painful, most repressed parts of myself onto others. But I also have love and concern and hope and dreams. And I believe it is my responsibility while on this human-life quest for self-actualization – on the path of my potential – to choose love over judgement. And to be honest with and to myself. Every aspect of myself.

I doubt there is a soul in this beautiful but confusing world who does not have anger in their heart. Everyone of us have had experiences that hurt us deeply – tragically. We cannot compare one person’s pain to another. Each of us is a medley of our experiences which blend to make us the unique beings we are. Yes, we are angry, we feel rage sometimes, but these are the voices of our past. They are old recordings from our frightened egos which try to keep us safe from things no longer a threat. But our heart, our soul, knows the truth.

All emotions are messages. Anger is a particularly strong message. And those we are angry at, our mirrors. We must look at – and accept – our anger because, yes!, it is real and should not be denied or ignored. But look at it closely. Look in that mirror. There, peering back at us, are the dark parts of us we’d rather not know (and of which we may not even be aware). That is our Shadow. It tells us things about another person or event that have nothing to do with them. We are not angry with them, we are angry with ourselves. It is our own pain speaking.

Smile at those silly shadows because they are tricksters, making us believe in illusion. The reality is there can be no shadow if there is no light! 

So our Shadows are also there to teach – if we are willing to learn. We must listen to our Shadow – it is there in that scary place that we will also discover our Light. We cannot be whole until we can integrate the dark with the light (just think of the moon).

And we have tools* to help. We have the ability to listen to our true strength, our inner wisdom, our higher self, for it knows the truth. We have to listen hard and with an open mind – it may not tell us what we are used to hearing. But it is our own truth – our own healing truth. It is our truth that can take our rage and turn it to proactive outrage. It is our truth that can take our pain and turn it to strength and compassion.

We are all in this together – everyone of us. And we must forgive those who, like us, are also learning to listen to their truth and inner wisdom.

*One of these tools is to write. Expressive journaling – meaning, to write freely without thinking or editing – this accesses deeper wisdom and allows us to discover our own truth. Once we become aware – and accept – our own truth we live more authentically, and therefore, with more joy.

Prompt: One truth I know is…

Burning Rage

This is a very personal post. It is the result of trauma that occurred because my voice was muted. I see this “dream” and the writing of it is as the whisper of my returning voice (a loud stage whisper, perhaps?). 

Rage, which is a socially unacceptable emotion, especially for women, is coming forward and yelling very loudly. By envisioning it (and other emotions) as tangibles, I am acknowledging it, and learning to accept it. I must integrate it so it no longer pins me down but lifts me into action – and voice. I also see it as my body starting to speak to me, and so become part of me, as I begin to notice its pains and tightness. My body and  my psyche (one in the same) are speaking up as they work towards healing and wholeness.

~~~~

I awoke with rage lying heavy on my chest like, what was it? A steel plate. Thick, heavy, reddish brown with rust, like what you see at construction sites, pinning me to my bed. Heavier, denser than anything I had experienced. Rage. Burning rage. It stretched from my neck to the bottom of my ribcage. I was shaking from the exertion of holding it there while trying to breathe. When I woke I was curled into the fetal position, and I could not move. Didn’t want to move. I knew I had to stay there, to acknowledge this plate of anger, this shield of rage. An impenetrable, metal protective shield over my heart.

“I feel you,” I told it. “What do you want me to know?”

As I focused on it I knew I must somehow destroy it. Release my heart and lungs from this burden I had carried for too long. But what can destroy an element as thick and strong as steel?

Fire. Only fire is capable of transforming steel to something malleable. In the half-world between sleep and waking, the image of a furnace slowly evolved. I tried to fit the metal plate into its ferocious red-orange mouth. But it would not go, it was too big. I forced the fire entrance larger and larger still until finally the metal began to disappear into its depth. As it did so the image began to shrink away, further and further into the blackness at the back of my mind. And then it was gone over the horizon of my conscious.

But the rage had not. As I watched, a small slit in the center of my chest peeled open, and as when a piece of wood slowly surfaces from the below the water or a rock begins to emerge from beneath the melting snow, another metal plate crested, pinning me still. This time I was able to summon up the furnace and feed the metal into it with more ease. The heavy rage was gone but lying in its place was a straw or hair mat thick and prickly with anxiety. A goat appeared and I offered it the mat. I cried with relief as I watched – and felt – it disappear.

My chest and my heart was visibly freed of weight. My more coherent mind yearned for my body to feel the difference. Still wrapped up into myself I pictured my heart lifting and opening with its new freedom, but I could not feel it. Then I noticed more pains around my body. First, it was my upper back. Rusty, red epaulettes fit over my shoulders like a piece of Roman armor. This metal was lighter than what had pinned my chest but I recognized it as the anger I hold there. In my trance state, I quickly removed them and flung them into the furnace.

Then immediately, my lower belly. This time it was a small, blue bowl. A Japanese soup bowl filled with spaghetti and meat. I knew this to be sadness. Despair. How to abolish this? I decided not to try to destroy it but to take it in. I would eat the meat and envision it filling my body with new energy. I pictured doing this once and then again. Then the bowl filled with popcorn. I flung the kernels out into the garden and allowed the animals – the rabbit, the woodchuck, the deer, the cats – to absorb my pain. My whole body sighed in release.

My lower back began to ping. I focused on it but nothing came to me. But I had to turn from it as a deeper, heavier pain dropped into my stomach. A rock. A boulder. A lump of sorrow and fear and worry and anger sitting directly under my ribs where the two sides of the cage join. I asked it what I must do but no answers appeared. No ideas arose as what can be done to destroy or absorb a thing as solid, as ancient, as grounded as a rock.

Still curled around the now even-denser obstruction in my belly, as if it was a growing child I needed to protect in my womb, I woke fully. In my mind’s eye it was so perfectly round and near the surface it seemed I could reach in and take it out. I would be able to hold it in my palm much like a grapefruit. The sensation of its presence was making me physically sick. I longed to pull it out and throw it far away.

I wanted to feel different when I left my bed. I wanted the sensation of weightlessness on my shoulders and light around my heart. I wanted to feel my breath fill the deepest corners of my body. I hoped joy had replaced the sadness in my belly. But instead I felt shaky. Like electric pulses were running through my veins. On edge. Tears. Like I had just experienced something physiologically disturbing; an operation, medication, an accident. Trauma.

As I write this the emotion is close to the surface. Typing the words and images brings the event, the sensations to life. It was not a dream. I really cried. Tears rolled down my face and into my pillow. I felt the shudder of physical release. I may not feel free right now – my shoulders are still tight, my chest heavy, my stomach jumpy – but I know I found, and will recognize soon, some healing in the images and symbols that my unconscious offered me. It was physical pain that I felt as I imagined my rage as a physical weight on my chest. My body hurts because my psyche is in pain. The symbol of the metal plate is the psyche’s way of communicating to me in terms I can understand. In my “dream” I burned my rage and it disappeared. I may still be feeling the trauma of lying so long under its weight, but I will heal.

My heart will lift and my breath will flow freely.

Prompt: Envision or write to your painful emotions as a “thing” which you can discard or transform into something more positive.


Resume the Stability of Tension

This is a post from a couple of years ago. I am re-posting it because this phrase – Resume the Stability of Tension – keeps popping back into my mind lately. Although I am in a completely different life situation now (I left my job very soon after this post and started grad school a year later), I am paying attention to it. The “naggings” of our unconscious are important to listen to, they hold messages.

~~~

[June 18, 2009] A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar by my journal-writing/therapy mentor, Kathleen Adams. At the time I was at the height of my distress over my job. The idea of a whole day writing and learning more about journal techniques from ‘the master’ had momentarily calmed and uplifted me. Then Kay asked us to finish the following statement, “Right now in my life..”

I wrote frantically for five minutes. It poured out of me. After the writing sprint we were asked to write a sentence or two of feedback to ourselves: “As I read this I notice…” This personal feedback was what we shared with the group (if we chose). I told them that although I was calm before the write I was now a nervous wreck! I had traded a relaxed attitude for hunched shoulders and a stomach of jumping beans. Kay told me I might want to explore this in an exercise we would be doing in the afternoon.

At lunch Kay and I shared a table, and the conversation – which was intended to be about my upcoming journal workshops – became a mini therapy session. I was still shaky and Kay, being the experienced therapist that she is, asked me all the right questions. The word “loyalty” came up.

That afternoon, Kay told the group about Alpha Poems. I was already familiar with them as they were a fun portion of my workshop training. I chose to do a poem based on the word Loyalty. Here’s what came out:

Limits myself, always
Open, always
Yes, never no
Attitude
Limits the way I go
Take the road to
YOU

Wanting to play some more I chose to do a poem using the entire alphabet.

Always
Bending to others
Cutting out the
Day to
Everyone but me
Favoring
Goodness
Hating
Irresponsibility
Judging myself
Knowing how
Loyalty is my
Mantra
No one is happy
Open the door
Pursue the
Quest
Resume the
Stability of
Tension
Undo the
Values
(e)Xplore
Yourself

I didn’t think about what word or phrase would come next, it just happened. I didn’t even know what word I was going to write until I began writing it. It is a magical thing!

Anyway, the phrase that immediately jumped out at me was the strange, “Resume the Stability of Tension.” Now, I am a tense person and in my experience, that is not a good thing. I have even taken drugs for it. Hubby frequently asks me in utter frustration as he runs out of door 15 minutes before he needs to, why it has to be “so tense around here in the mornings?” I couldn’t put my finger on what it meant, exactly, but I loved the sound of that phrase and had a feeling it had something important to tell me. I played with the idea in my journal, even wrote more alpha poems around it. Still not knowing how to decipher its meaning, I decided it would be my new mantra.

Then a couple of days ago, I read this in Christina Baldwin’s Life’s Companion:

… you need to envision a lifeline between [where you are and where you want to go]. It needs to be tense, like a tightrope, something you can walk along. The necessity for tension requires we develop a different attitude about tension: this is creative tension. Creative tension is what creates the path. When we lose tension, we wander without focus (my bolding). We have to decide over and over again to stay close to the tension, to walk the wire.

I was wandering without focus. I was trying to split myself between a job that was sucking the life out of me and the longing to pursue a writing/teacher career that was “dragging me about” (again, I quote Christina Baldwin; she *is* me). I needed to Resume the Tension (Focus) to gain Stability.

I put loyalty to my boss and my job aside and I chose to put my longing back in charge. Together we will walk the high wire of creativity – up where Potential and the Higher Self lives.

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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Julia Cameron on Morning Pages

 

Read an interview with me about how The Artist’s Way and Morning Pages changed my life at Creative Voyage

 

The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal

 

Steppingstones to a new life

Yesterday morning in my journal I wrote:

I am blessed with abundance. I am blessed with the answer. I am a magnet to all the resources I need. What is the answer? I need to know what path to go down today.

This morning I wrote:

Oh, lawd! I feel like a puzzle piece just snapped into place. Thank you! Yesterday I wrote that the answer would come. Yesterday I didn’t know… but today I have my next step in life.

Ira Progoff calls them Steppingstones. They are the moments, the decisions, the experiences that have carried you to the place you are today. Today, the dissonant notes of my life came crashing together and fell into perfect harmony.

I was raised in a fundamental church. As a child I felt loved and cherished surrounded by many “aunties” and “uncles” in a family which segregated itself from, while living and working in, The World. But by the time we moved to America in my early teenage years, the shiny veneer of this community had begun to tarnish.

The next fifteen years were ones of anger, grief, denial and pain. I do not exaggerate when I say I was experiencing the after effects of trauma – emotional trauma. By my early 30s after much reading and self-exploration through journaling, I had finally come to a place of peace and acceptance. I was still searching for meaning in a spiritual sense but at one with the knowledge in my heart that I believed in one thing – Love.

And then last week someone said something to me that ripped my wound open. It became very clear to me that I needed to purge this pain and grief once and for all. But how?

From age 5 I wanted to be a writer. From age 13 I kept a diary. From age 22 I kept a journal. At age 33 I began to call myself an Aspiring Writer and realized I wanted to teach others how to journal. And at 35 I told the world I was a Writer and a Certified Journal Writing Instructor. Two different things. Similar in their love of words but not the same. I started two blogs, one just my musings and the other for journal prompts. I’d write personal essays for various outlets and then I’d go out into the world to share my love and passion for the power of journal writing. I want to empower everyone I meet and I am passionate for them to believe in their dreams, their talents and their potential. Two different worlds: words for me, words for you.

From the moment I was handed the certificate that claimed I had a Bachelor of Arts degree and all the “rights and privileges pertaining thereto” I wanted to go onto grad school. Problem was I had no idea what to go for. 16 years, two states, 5 houses, 7 cats, 2 children later, and approximately 5012 journal entries later, I finally figured it out.

When I finished my certification as a journaling instructor I thought I wanted to go on to study journal/poetry therapy but the medical implications of that did not appeal to me. But I also wanted to write – creative writing. How could I tie my two writing worlds together? I wasn’t sure what to do next.

Then I discovered there is such thing as a self-designed degree in Transformative Language Arts. Very few colleges in the country offer this program and the one recommended in my field just happens to be in my home state, only two hours away from where I live! And because it is self-designed I can incorporate both creative writing and journal writing. But how exactly?

Yesterday while pondering in my journal the next step with my journal workshops I had written that there might be “a slight pull towards religious people.” Why on earth?! Because I want to understand the thinking and maybe help those who have experienced the similar “religious trauma” as me. I wrote, “I’ll look into [grad school] today and see if this is the direction I want to go. What new worlds could that open???”

Then today: Light Bulb! I could write a book as my Masters study – my religious trauma and the healing I get from writing about it and how I could then help others with similar issues.

Stopped in my pen tracks! Fear. Excitement. Doubt. Overwhelm. Combination of both worlds. One giant therapy session! Yesterday I didn’t know I’d be able to combine this curiosity about religion and a degree. And today I have an answer. THANK YOU!

Steppingstones. When you step from one to the other you may feel like they are islands, isolated and disconnected. Just a way to get from here to there. But then you reach a new shore and you turn around to see, that although they are all different – some big, some small, some wobbly and scary – they were all leading to the same place.

And when you bring your journal along to record each step, it can serve as travel agent, telescope, compass, map, and travel log. Today mine is a celebration of self-exploration. Where to next?

Prompt: What are the steppingstones in your life that have gotten you to where you are today?

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On a quest to find the truth

I’m sitting here in this hotel room and suddenly I’m struck dumb. No fighting children to break apart, no dinner to prepare, no responsibilities. I could write all night if I so wished. But nope, nothing. Too quiet, no time limit.

But I’m not here to write this blog post anyway.

Truth is, I came here for two nights alone to uncover something. It’s something I have long known was waiting for me but I have pushed it away – so far away and so long ago that I’m not even sure where to start looking (or what I’m looking for.) Years of therapy have not helped, rather only frustrated and alarmed me. Even my journal has not taken me where I have needed to go because I haven’t allowed myself to. I was not ready. I’m not sure I’m ready now. But I had to try and it had to be in place far away from my family, my home, my life, in order to come to terms with the past before I return to the present.

In her book, Journal to the Self, Kathleen Adams writes of a weekend after a devastating break-up where she went away by herself. She wrote for two days. She wrote and she wrote. And she cried, and screamed, and swore, on paper and out loud. And then she was done. She purged her sorrow by dealing with it head on. And then she was bored with it all and walked out of that place ready to move on.

That is my plan. I haven’t had a chance to do this until now. And now I’m here and I’m scared. Scared of what I might discover under the surface of my mind, but at the same time scared that I won’t be able to get there. While I don’t really want to know the truth of my past I know I must face it in order to live my life to the fullest. Whatever is hidden in my memories – stuffed away long ago for self-protection – is actually hurting me. While I do not truly understand some of my actions and reactions on a day to day basis, I do know that my Subconscious is seeing life through the lens of those memories. I must now align my Conscious and Subconscious eyes.

We hold all the answers inside. We have the inner wisdom we need to heal ourselves. Just as Jewelweed grows in close proximity to the Poison Ivy whose sting its leaves and juice sooth, so too our pain and its balm live side by side in our Subconscious.

So for the next day I will open my journal, my mind, and hopefully my memories. I hope I am prepared for what I will find there. If not, I must trust that I will get through it with the help of my journal.


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Quoting Natalie: Getting close to our genuine self

Writing is about getting close to our genuine self and the authentic way we see.

– Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning

When I a junior in high school my journal was a chunky spiral-bound notebook with ‘1988’ written in big black bubble letters on the cover. I don’t recall much of what I wrote but I know that if I pulled it out of my parent’s attic today I would be so embarrassed by how soooo in love I was, and how totally awesome or completely unfair everything was. One thing I remember clearly though is the words I wrote to myself on the inside cover:

BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

16 years old  and very aware that I was too easily influenced, too gullible, too eager to please, and so afraid to have an opinion that might set me apart or disqualified for not being cool enough. I don’t believe I was conscious of what being True looked like, sounded like, or acted like, but my journal did. My words may not have openly reflected this authenticity for which I was searching (wouldn’t be nice to have a manual to ourselves?) but I do know this: it worked.

I’m not saying I was no longer a shallow, self-absorbed teenager, but I do know that I made through those difficult years without completely compromising my values or my style.

While my classmates were sporting their uniform of rolled Guess jeans and oversized sweatshirts, I refused to wear jeans (except on Fridays). Instead, I wore perfectly matched outfits complete with vintage jacket and a brooch at my throat (OK, so I was a bit of a prude) or long “hippie” skirts and shirts belted low on my waist. While the other girls were hanging for dear life onto their shiny, plunging necklines, I floated through my choir solo and proms in beautifully home-sewn high-necked Victorian-styled dresses (thanks, Mum!). I was the first in the entire school to grow out my bangs (even though I could then be, technically, called a “slap-head”) because the look better suited my face than the monstrous hair-dos of the 80s. I hung out in the choir room. I was in drama club. I didn’t drink, go to parties, or wear a class ring. I was proud to be different.

(I do have to admit here that a lot of my “individuality” came from the inability/refusal of my parents to buy me Guess jeans or a class ring, along with the restrictions of the religious home I was raised in. However, I firmly believe that these “difficulties” were made easier to bear and adapt to because I wrote a journal. I was more self-aware and therefore confident enough to pull off the not-fitting in as not giving a damn, er, I mean, darn!)

Back then I had no idea that my journal was helping to form the woman I was meant to be. All the whining and complaining on those pages was my escape from the stress and unknowns of everyday – little did I know it would be my life line. While I could say exactly what I wanted in the journal I was unknowingly shaping the opinions that would suddenly fly out of my mouth in later years, surprising both me and my family.

I was also laying down a path to my future which was 20 years in the making. How could I have ever known that through my hopeless romantic teenage and 20-something musings I was actually creating the life I saw for myself as an writer/artist/”something out of the ordinary”? Scribbling away in my tiny bedroom imagining my life as a driven artiste brought me to the place I am now – a driven artiste and business woman.

At 16 I didn’t know who or what I was exactly but the whisperings were there. The inspiration to write those words “Be True to Yourself” – despite the fact that at the time I admonished myself for not following my own advice – was actually my Genuine Self tapping me on the shoulder.  It wanted me to listen carefully to what my Subconscious had to say. And I even though I didn’t know it, I was listening, and I started very slowly to look, speak, and act like myself.

Prompt: Dear Genuine Self, am I Authentic and True to you?

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