Ok, may be not smashing, maybe not even acknowledging….in fact more like running the other direction only to have resistance circle around and smash into me again. Then to have the newly recognized resistance pair up with an old one, build more strength and smash into me again.
That’s been my month as I grapple with the editing process of my novel. Which editor, why, how much, what can they do, what do I want, why not the other ones, what if the choice is wrong and circle-circle-circle all day and into the night. It has been preoccupying and exhausting. Believing (in my smug self-perceived awareness), I had faced, stood up to, stepped on and over most of my barriers to accomplishing things, I find myself the novice, the newbie. It sucks but is needed.
For decades I have tried to look at my shit. A friend said just the other day said, “We will never arrive….” to which I replied “I am pretty f***ing tired of it and want to actualized right now!” Too bad, not happening and she’s probably right. The best we can do is surround ourselves with people who care enough to hang in there with us, listen intently to our droning, as we climb the mountain finding ourselves looking down, screaming, “I have already seen this, how did I get back here?”, but hopefully now from a higher perspective, one that allows us to keep trekking in this luscious but all too often exceedingly frustrating game of life.
Every.single.time I hear a story about the Suffragettes I am awe struck with admiration. I love when their life’s work anniversary comes around and people remember. It’s not just the decades on decades, they persevered to legalize the women’s voting rights; I am awed they never let opposition presented as criticism, hatred, and even brutality (google pictures of force feeding suffragettes) deter them. Layer that with black women having to find their own way through that movement with their continued fight for their legal right to vote no matter where they lived in the United States.
I always stop and listen to every story, even if I know how it rolls. They did all this for me, for daughters, for sisters, for mothers. They deserve to be remembered.
In the 2017 a Meryl Streep movie, The Post, there’s one line that spoke louder than all the others. It went something like, “I wasn’t just ignored, I wasn’t even seen!” She was speaking of the way women were perceived, more precisely not perceived. Marginalized is defined as treating a person, group, or concepts as insignificant or peripheral. For too long we weren’t even a consideration to some. We were not on the radar.
My mother was born before women were guaranteed the right to vote. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that America was 150 years old before women could vote. I was 10 years old by the time black women were guaranteed the right to vote with the Civil Rights bill. I was almost 40 when the Violence Against Women bill was signed and domestic violence was no longer considered a ‘family issue’. It took until 1994 before men could no longer legally beat their wives!
I came of age in an era when women were once again emerging from being marginalized. Yes, working outside the home had been normalized. This time it was related to male coveted business, and leadership roles. Some may remember when women’s work styles were essentially a feminine version of men’s business clothes. It had be done.
I am sure there were women who grew up with every belief they had the same options as men. I went to a Catholic school in which the religious culture, by its every doctrine, spoke of revering women while at the same time sidelining them.
My mother was a strong, well read woman but silently held limitations and subtilely passed those to me. It isn’t that I was told I couldn’t be something. It was more no one thought or knew to dream of more for me. It wasn’t considered. Early on I didn’t know to dream more for myself. Women’s long worn career paths, if we chose to even take one beyond marriage, were primarily teaching, nursing, or secretarial. Each are important fields but if you check, still predominately female. It’s not about devaluing those but feeding the souls of women as diverse in interests as there are career paths. Not every woman my age was bound by the 1970 established expectations. I had classmates that went on to be doctors, lawyers but hardly the norm.
Messages growing up bombard us from all sides. Our family culture, our educational culture, our religious/spiritual culture, our circle of friends culture, and our broad societal culture each whispering or shouting to us on some level. For me, it was the shifting culture of our society, along with watching my 2 older sisters step into the realm of being more, that cleared the brush for me to see more.
At home my mother didn’t dream of more than marriage and children for me. Attending college was normalized but not specifically for a sustaining career. My educational system didn’t know to dream of bigger purpose for my social, organizational and leadership skills. My religious culture didn’t know to do anything but view me as a support person. I was guilty of falling in line with those unspoken limitations. My eyes were scanning out farther, but I left high school on the secretarial tract and I was quite shitty at shorthand.
In the early 1970s, women were rising up and changing the societal culture. My sisters were listening and talking about it. My mother was quietly listening too. Some teachers spoke words of encouragement to me, but few. Some women emerged, aimed for more and retreated to the familiar. Some emerged and shined light on their own paths. It became a movement of choices. Not that we had to, but that we could, if we wanted to. The latest frontier is women in coding, in science, in math, and surely the highest office of our country. I long to hear, “Madam President….” and not have it be a TV series.
Just the fact there are still men who don’t think birth control should be paid for by insurances tells you there’s still risk. Men who still fear our power and choose to call us names. I worry that young women, in their teens or 20s take much of this for granted. The realm of possibilities has been expanding for many years now. I believe there are those banking on female complacency as they quietly chip away. We must all keep listening to and honoring the suffragettes of 100 years ago, of 40 years ago, of 20 years ago. Today is no time to sleep or rest on accomplishments. There are still too many who can not dream and many dreams unconsidered.
It feels like a different world since I wrote mid-March, doesn’t it? We must be existing in an alternate realm, all having to navigate something new, sadly let go of something valued, but hopefully discovering something surprisingly good along the way.
I wonder if there is a formula for knowing when it’s time to let go of something whether it’s idea, an object, a memory, or even a relationship? If there is, it must have to do with the ‘why’ you have held on to it for so long. It use to be my pattern to feel I’d failed if I let go of something I had set out to accomplish. Every now and then I find that pattern rears up. For months I had a task on my weekly to-do list, and in my head for at least 2 years prior to that. It was something I felt passion for when the idea first wormed into my brain. As I transferred it from one otherwise-completed list to the next, it felt like an anchor keeping me from moving forward. It no longer stirred passion or purpose. I put an X through the word, put away the related file, bid it adieu, letting it fly for someone else to catch. Soon after that step, a mentor made a statement I look at every day-
Let go of what of what you think it should look like.
I have since finished the first draft of my book. I am enjoying the process of revising, recognizing my story doesn’t suck. It is no easy task, letting go of holding on. I believe the universe has been waiting for a pause in my chatter to slip in a new intention. I am listening.
Two journaling activities come to mind during this time of inner and outer chaos. Neither originated with me. I found them both an interesting process and useful for slowing my worries by giving me clarity and a plan of action.
The first, Structured Writing *activity, has saved me MANY times at 2 AM, as I ruminated on an issue and couldn’t shut my brain off with any number of strategies, healthy or otherwise. I was taught this method by drawing lines through a circle, and slicing it like a pie. Write one question in each section.
The second, Nurturing Myself, I learned during a Journaling for Teachers class. I am not sure of its source. It was a surprising challenge when I first did it. I had to put considerable thought into identifying several nurturing aspects for each category of Places, People, and Activities. Identifying one was easy. It became clear I needed to place more energy into these soothing areas.
I wish you the best in calming yourself in these times. It’s not easy and you are not alone.
*Kathleen Adams is a journaling instructor in the Denver, CO area. The name of the Book is The Way of the Journal.
I have been slowly going through decades of photos, memorabilia, and very old journals. You just read the intro to a journal from 1974! If you have followed these posts, you may be getting insight that I am in the ‘at risk’ age group for CoVid 19; I prefer not to say old!
In days past, before I ever had the time, I was convinced I’d write a memoir using some of that old journal stuff I.save.them.all. I currently have 51!! Some are already in the trash. I probably will miss some gem entries, but I simply don’t have the stamina to go through them. So far, I discovered how boringly common my day to day was and that I existed in the ‘chronicling of the day’ phase for years. Who I liked, who liked me, what I said, he/she said, who looked at me a special way. I should give myself ‘developmental credit’ and call it sorting out interpersonal interactions of the day.
Then there are the high school years when I was taking shorthand and began shifting to that, now unrecognizable language of lines, curves and loops, whenever the entry got juicy. Did I ‘do it’, did we at least kiss? I will never know.
Journals are no longer my most precious possessions but they are a concrete part of my history, my journey, my shifts in thinking, beliefs. They have been my adviser, my listener. I can tell I am entering a time when I don’t need to see them, touch them, remember every detail. I don’t need every photo, every symbol of what was important in high school, college and beyond. I wonder if I am inching closer to that nebulous concept of ‘self actualized’? That’d be cool! Something is happening. No, it’s not like I am preparing to die or anything. Enough of ‘past’ me is integrated into ‘now’ me, enough of me has led me to ‘today’s me’ and I am pretty damn satisfied with this place.
I don’t need the tangible reminders of the sadness, the joys, the anger, the journey. Everyone needs to decide that day for themselves. I now know, you just know it when you get there.
“They would have heard the knock at the door but were distracted by the washer thunking when the load unsettled. The slim blonde boy waited for a few minutes, then turned and walked away.
We rarely get a glimpse from the bird’s eye view showing the impact seemingly inconsequential acts have, but when we do, we clearly understand the web of life and energy we are part of.
If I had that bird’s eye view, I would have seen the boy walking down the dirt road toward his ‘for now home’ where he was being foster cared for. I would have felt his sadness of knowing it was just one more house of people not buying his cookie dough for the school’s fundraiser. There others easily sold boxes on boxes to the grandmas, aunties, and uncles but the slim blonde boy had none of those. He was one of the group feeling a failure in yet one more arena.” ***
I am a ‘looker downer’. There are others like me and we do it because it grounds us. Keeps us, kinesthetically, in touch with our world. I often find nails on our dirt road. The ones that won’t end up in someone’s tire because I saw them while looking down, and picked them up. I claim, “I save my neighborhood!” I missed Matt as he plodded by, too discouraged to try another house. I wonder if I miss too many Matts’ because I am looking down, or just slogging along. I would have SO bought many boxes of cookie dough.
Finding nails is a silly, but noble enough every-day-cause, we all have them in our microcosm. The part we play, and how we enhance it. I just don’t want to miss too many “Matts”.
You know how, when you’re young, and someone breaks your heart, every. single. song seems to be speaking to you? The words pierce your heart and you wonder, “How did they know?” I have been experiencing this with my writing.I’ve always believed in messages. Remember the book, Celestine Prophecies, “There are no coincidences”. I mostly believe in that too. I recall sitting in a high school classroom, praying, “If ___ wants to ask me out, send me a sign.”
I don’t request signs much anymore, but I DO watch for them. I don’t have many passions but writing has always been one. I won some essay contests as a kid. Had a few vignettes published in a local paper. Wrote killer reports as a Speech Pathologist. I have never thought I could write a book. A memoir, for sure. A short story, maybe. A book, uh uh no way. So many self doubts, including minimizing what I could create. “too many fragments”, “nothing important to say“. Then I started getting little signs.
The yoga instructor paraphrased one of SnoopDogg’s acceptance speeches thanking people, “And finally I would like to thank myself. I want to thank myself for not giving up on my dream when no one else believed I could do it; I want to thank myself for showing up everyday and putting in the work.” How many times have I asked myself, “Is it worth my time???”
In Neil Gaiman’s introduction to American Gods, he writes, “Something started in the back of my head. There were unrelated ideas that I knew were important and yet seemed unconnected.” Precisely what I feel. He put the ideas together into a masterful book. Self sabotage 1, gone.
Another message came while watching the newest Little Women. Jo states something like, “Nobody wants to read it, it’s not important.” Her sister replies with, “Maybe it’s not important because nobody’s written it.” Wow. Barrier 2 challenged.
The final message was a kick in the pants– making, no, allowing myself time to write. Last May at my retirement party, I casually mentioned I wanted to write more in retirement. 8 months in, zero action. About 3 weeks ago a former, but little known colleague, started texting me, asking how my writing was going, what had I written, what did I know about writers groups. It was so frequent I started to wonder what stalking felt like, but then one day I put my writing envelope on the couch, the next day I reviewed writings, and the next I sat down and wrote for the first time in 2 years. My mind shifted those texts from peculiar to pure angel. Just like those break up love songs, “How did she know?” I will be forever grateful.
I leave you with something we might say to students on the Autism Spectrum (or to any of us introverts), “Look up and look around.” Observe, pay attention, be ready, be open. Positive messages may already be slipping your way.
Working in the school system, I definitely know kids show the exact same emotion in multitudes of ways. Some clearly, some make ya guess, some productively, some not so much. While listening to a webinar about anxiety in school-age students, the speaker described the manifestation of what we see… disconnecting, overload, walking out, or quiet, hidden. I add the doodler, because it’s not always boredom that starts them drawing. The quiet or shy one, from all outward appearances, says all is well in the world. “I’m good.”, is what you hear. Is it ‘shyness’ causing them to sit quietly and slip inward? Hoping to go unnoticed is all too common. This profile particularly struck me when I realized she was describing me as a child!
I was outgoing with trusted friends, and most would describe me as very gregarious, particularly outside the classroom. I am not even sure they had the word anxiety and doubt anyone would have applied it to me. Whew, when it came to asking questions in class, seeking help I needed, talking with unfamiliar, older students, bombs of butterflies and loss of words consumed me. If trying to communicate difficult or complex emotions, forget it! I had both articulation and language issues as a child. My kindergarten report cards has ‘sometimes’ for “Speaks in complete sentences.” I am sure the embarrassment of not being understood, meagerly formulated ideas, lingered around me long after the concrete struggle was gone. I remember feeling wonderful when a high school teacher telling me after I’d shared one rare day, “That was great, what you said. You should speak up more often.” Not sure I did.
You are wondering, “What’s all this rubbish got to do with journaling?” Writing my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions on paper became my voice, my release. The presenter suggested helping the reluctant, the anxious student send an email to the teacher, asking for help, explaining what’s hard. I grew up in the wrong era. I would have been all over that! Ha! The teacher probably would have blocked me due to over use.
As a young adult, communicating complex feelings was still a challenge. Ever found yourself crying as you are trying to explain your feelings? That was me every.single.time. My compensatory strategy (as we call them in the schools) became writing a letter to the person, revising and revising until I figured out exactly what I felt and needed them to hear. It seems eventually everyone got a letter from me, (insert eye rolling emoji)
Yeah, I believe journaling is for absolutely everyone. That’s why I am here, because I believe journaling can save the world! Consider slipping that journal, that piece of paper in front of that child that manifests any of those anxious profiles. Oh, I have come to terms with journaling doesn’t please everyone and surely I know that child may need much more than a piece of paper. Could be a start. It might help someone you know. It might just save the world one child at a time.
Happy New Year. This is the 11th year my husband and I have been answering 6 questions which make us think back over the year’s events. Sometimes things pop up one of us had completely lost site of. Other times we have very different answers to the same question. This year feels a little harder but maybe more important. We lost a brother-in-law who was as unique as he was wonderful. We also lost a friend I had known for more than 30 years.Those kind of events have a way of carrying more power over our memory.
I post these questions most years on social media. One year I felt chastised by a friend because of the hard year she and her family experienced. I offer these questions with only the highest of intentions to bring back a bit of good from the year. You know if now is the best time for you.
I have no recall where I initially saw these questions If someone reads these and can give credit to the source, that’d be wonderful. Here it goes:
What gave you hope this year?
What legacy work did you do? (Open to any action that helped or brought some joy to another, or any action which may have had an impact on something or someone. Don’t feel it needs to be grandiose. Remember the simplest act can cause far reaching ripples.)
What was a moment of surprise or delight?
What was an unexpected gift?
What was a time you loved being in nature?
What was a highlight of the year?
Wishing you a year that finds you smiling more than crying, hopeful more than worried, and is dotted with many moments of joy.
“Not everyone wants to think as much as you do.”, were wise words my sister told me years ago. It’s true. It helped me broaden my perspective of others. Although most people know I love a good party, it was the reason in my 20s, I had a difficulty engaging with people, whose conversation, didn’t seem to go deeper than their favorite beer or the latest joke. Over the years I learned to lighten up, enjoy the frivolous as much as the deep, become less restrictive. These days I can find myself needing the frivolity, not languishing in the deepness as much. Maybe there comes a time when one has exhausted the serious or is exhausted from the weight of the seriousness. I am just entering true aged-ness so it’s new territory.
As I review my own posts, I am reminded of my sister’s, words and the fact it would be useful to spend more time creating the lighter parts of my journaling. I think I will begin to dog ear those pages that have shown my joy.