On a mission (statement)

Recently I met with a career coach. My intention was to see how my (rather unorthodox) skills and experience might translate into the “real” world and a “real” job. Well, you know that saying, “Physician, heal thyself”? My session with her was a clear example of how we can be blind to our own needs even while helping others.

Although she used different terminology and visual examples, the ways she suggested I figure out what I wanted to do when I grow up was practically the same as what I have my clients do with journaling techniques. In one word: visualization.

After our session I went home and go out my journal and wrote what was, in Journal to the Self parlance, a Perspective. That is, I wrote about my ideal day, my ideal life — I visualized myself already living the life I wanted. When you give yourself permission to imagine in this way, you allow for things not probable, but possible.

First, after you have acknowledged the things about your current life and career that are not what you want, you can dream about how those things would look different. You can ignore the realities of your present life and the supposed inevitabilities of future bills and car break downs and frozen pipes, and, if one is of an artistic bent like me, the “starving artist” syndrome must also be pushed aside.

This wasn’t a difficult exercise for me; I know exactly what my ideal life looks like. On paper I’m great at ignoring “realities” and “probabilities.” (I say “on paper” because in my real life, the one in which I am married to an idealist dreamer-type, I have to be the realist, you know the one who considers that we might actually need plates to eat off when we go camping or that moving across the country requires careful planning and lots of boxes, not just a truck in which to throw all your belongings in a big pile… )

Yup, on paper and in my head my perfect life trips along happily without toothaches or empty oil tanks or kids home from school due to snow for the fourth time in two weeks, bored and fighting and apathetic of my looming deadlines.

And it was on this paper that it became clear the “real” job I’ve been pursuing isn’t what I really want, but rather a desperate attempt to squeeze myself into a box, the only box I could see as a potential paycheck-producing one. On paper, the grim realization dawned that my most passion-driven, authentic life has no (immediate) guaranteed financial advantage. Crap.

However, one other thing rang out loud and clear as my words flowed across the paper: I had a mission.

Now, I thought I already had established this a long time ago. I knew that I wanted to help others find their authentic life through writing (see, it says that in the header of this blog). What I didn’t realize was that I was being too vague and that I hadn’t yet established a niche or focused in on what I know best.

I have presented journaling and expressive writing workshops and talks to business women, teen moms, tween girls, teachers, guidance counselors, stressed people, spiritual-seekers, and aspiring writers. I have written thousands upon thousands of words for my local paper about my city’s people, events, and businesses. But my personal life, my experiences, my graduate research, and above all, my own wounds all point to my greatest strength and deepest passion: Finding Voice through Writing.

I knew this but yet I have skirted around it, creating workshops of a more general nature, pursuing work that I thought I “should,” and landing myself a freelance job writing about things I care about but aren’t my expertise or passion, and for which I do a lot of brain-wearying head-writing instead of my beloved heart-writing.

The upshot of all this is, while I still don’t know my next exact step(s), I know I must keep writing, researching, and facilitating. And now I can focus — focus on the exact path I want to be on. When an opportunity arises I can ask myself if it fits my personal mission and as time and finances allow I will be able to let those things go which don’t.

And as coaches and inspirational speakers love to tell us, it is when, and only when, we focus on what we are called to do — which is usually, painfully where our own deepest wounds lie — that the people who need us and the money will find us.

So, here, dear readers, is my personal mission (most likely to get tweaked as time goes on):

To help the silenced heal their voice through story, creating new narratives to live by.

Now to stay open to the opportunities wherein I can be the most helpful and find the most meaning and fulfillment… and money; can’t ignore that very basic necessity of life!

For more information on writing mission statements, please read my Examiner article.

Prompts: In my ideal day I would be…

It is my mission in life to…

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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.

Authentic Voice Project: P, Q, R is for Perfection reQuires Release

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

The Authentic Voice Project: Week 18 (New Moon)

P, Q, R is for Perfection reQuires Release

(Six weeks behind… I’m playing catch up on this one!)

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

― Albert Einstein

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

― Thomas A. Edison

IN THIS MOMENT, I AM ENOUGH

There is no such thing as Perfection. Planning on perfection means failure. Guaranteed. You’ll never get there. Perfectionism stunts growth. If nothing is ever tried, nothing, truly, is never gained. But our society is not a big fan of failure. Despite all the quotes by the “Successful,” like those above, telling us otherwise, we still seem to believe that making a mistake is the epitome of failure, from which there is no return. And so the carrot of perfection doesn’t prompt us forward, it stops us in our tracks, destined to sit in the dust of those who braved the unknown path ahead.

Ours is a culture built on the (religious/patriarchal) concept of dualism. Black or white thinking: With us or against us; Us or Them; Good girl or Bad girl; Right or Wrong; Good or Evil; Heaven or Hell; God or Satan; Fail or Succeed. Perfection is a goal in this type of thinking, with Perfection being the Truth. There is no room for in-betweens, for questions, for learning by mistake.

Yes, we can strive for the best – YOUR best. That is your perfection, not someone else’s definition of it. Working towards – practicing – your Potential and the instant gratification of societal “Success” are two very different things. And in order to journey towards, to go on a quest for, your own idea of perfect, you must RELEASE. Let go. Question.

Release all expectations. Release certainty. Release fear. Release discomfort. Release those voices in your head which are not your own. Release debilitating perfectionism. Ask yourself what is your truth. Change “Perfect” to “Enough.”

Whether you are suffering writers’ block, fear of failure, or even fear of success, as you step out of what has been the status quo, know that you are learning and in this moment, you are enough.

Prompt: I am learning to…

Photo credit: blondieb38 from morguefile.com

More thoughts on Authentic Voice (and writing)

Authentic Voice is that which longs for interconnectedness, looks toward growth and actualization (as opposed to purely “defense” needs and “elemental drives” such as eating, sleeping, finding shelter, having sex [Eisler, 190]), and is not “encased” by societies’ rigid hierarchical gender roles and stereotypes. It is not selfish or self-centered, but a recognition of “our essential interconnectedness with all humanity.” (Eisler, 190)

Authentic Voice is the one yearning for connection – love – and as such is the spiritual voice. Self-actualization cannot occur when living in fear or under suppression, and Authentic Voice cannot be heard in those states either. Love cannot be heard when there is “fear” of an “enemy” – within or without. “Hierarchies… require defensive habits of mind.” (Eisler, 190)

Authentic Voice is the suppressed “feminine” voice of the psyche – that which yearns for connection and affiliation with nature, others, and self – held down by fear in order to keep hierarchy in place. Releasing this “feminine” aspect through writing gives voice to the other half of our psyche and to our natural selves – our actualized self and helps bring us into balance.

So, like a mother does for her children, we write to vanquish the fear, to build self-confidence, to empower ourselves, so we can empower others (by realizing we are the same and not enemies). And to enter states of mind, i.e. whole, balanced, meditative states that increase “flow’ and feelings of connectedness. When we write we are fostering our own psychic growth towards actualization which in itself moves us “toward a different reality: the ‘peak experience’ consciousness of our essential interconnectedness with all of humanity” (Eisler, 190).

Writing allows us to tap into our own symbology, it uses both sides of the brain – this is whole “seeing.” It accesses body wisdom – the unconscious memories and collective unconscious. It balances the psyche, which fosters growth through creativity. Creativity is new ideas brought together in a “non-conventional” way to envision different forms of beauty that can initiate change. Creativity is insight – into self, into others, into new possibilities. Authentic Voice is our source of creativity and a path to self-actualization.

Source: Eisler, Riane Tennenhaus. The Chalice and the Blade : Our History, our Future. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995. Print.

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…

A prayer for my readers

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This post was inspired to this article by Molly Gordon, “Why you should pray for your clients.” As writing is my mediator to both the inner and higher sources of wisdom, I offer up this open letter as a prayer and meditation in honor of my valued readers and clients.

Namaste!

I do not know many of you personally but knowing you are there reading my words and sharing this journey called life brings me joy and encouragement. It is a blessing to know I am not alone.

I truly appreciate those who visit here and who occasionally comment. The thoughts and ideas you share and the gratitude you express brightens my day and gives me hope in this world that at times causes me despair. There are days, when the media is yelling, Be afraid!, the marketers are yelling, Buy more crap and feel crappy like everyone else! and my children are yelling, (S)he hit me again!, that I want nothing more than to crawl into my bed and not arise until war is over, big business is dead and my children have figured out they love each other. But through this blog and my work in the real world I meet people who inspire me and give me a glimpse at a changing – more loving – world. I thank every one of you for that.

It is my hope – my wish, my prayer – that as I continue to share my thoughts and experience that I will say exactly what you need to hear at the exact moment you need to hear it. I pray that Serendipity and Synchronicity will step in and allow us to meet, whether online or in person, just when you were looking for me (whether you realize or not!). I pray that you will come into my life and teach me something too, exactly when I need you. I learn from and am inspired by my readers, students and clients and I am so grateful for that!

Together as grateful, self-aware, self-confident and loving people, we can radiate a little more positive energy into this world.

So, I thank you, my dear readers, students and clients (current, past, and those whose paths I have yet to cross) for venturing along with me. And I thank the Great Good for giving me the courage me to walk – nay, dance! (and sometimes stumble) – along this path of my Potential and Purpose.

But above all, I pray you will find your own right path – the one that allows to find Flow. Believe in your talents, gifts and dreams and they will carry you far.

joanna

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