Thinking Inside the Box

20180623_124724Long before I ever had a laptop, back in the day when I was tapping at keys on a typewriter, I kept various writing notes in a decorative box, the kind you find at a craft store for keeping photos or other treasures in.  While I was raising young children and my writing time was limited, it got my creative juices flowing just to take the box out and hold in.  I always knew I’d get back to my work-in-progress when I could steal time again and often that was enough to keep me satisfied.

My daughters have grown and moved out, and like Virginia Woolf, I now have A Room of My Own in which to muse and write and pile up essays and book chapters on my laptop. But despite the space and all the technology available to me today, I have not outgrown The Box.

My box has changed in size and type only, having now upgraded to one I found at Staples that fits my 4×6 index cards full of notes, quotes, and ideas. It comes with matching dividers and an adjustable follow block, keeping all cards upright and orderly. If one can fall in love with a box, I surely have.

I store essay and blog ideas, memorable quotes, notes from books I’ve read, and anything else that may inform my writing.  For jotting down notes away from home, I simply carry a little green index card holder, one that easily fits into a purse or a book bag. Notes from this can be transferred into the box later. 20180626_105010

Why not just store all these notes digitally? Because I often read in bed and want to be able to write on a 4×6 card rather than record info onto my laptop. But mostly because, whether working on an essay, blog or book, I want to be able to move the cards around, rearrange them while I am referring to them, build the piece I am working on.  Having so many tangible ‘moving pieces’ to work with gets me to the finished product, the whole thing, in a way that feels so satisfying to me. It’s all part of the creative process.

I see my oldest daughter, now a mother of two babies, struggle to find time to create.  I recently reminded her of her art journal, of the importance of getting her ideas down on paper, of not letting them fade away like a poignant dream that can no longer be recalled.  Whether in a box, a journal, or digitally, capturing our ideas in a way that we can easily refer to later, is half the fun and half the progress.20180626_145743

Place holders of inspiration. Nuggets of information. Parts of the whole, pieces of projects, even with small pockets of time, bit by bit will bring the dream into focus.

 

 

God, Are You My Mother?

If I were to look at my life through an old fashioned movie reel, there’d be two frames that’d stand out above all the rest, and in stark contrast to each other. The first frame would show the worst thing that ever happened to me: being torn from my mother at the age of four. The other frame would be the best thing: the day I met God.

I’ve written about the worst thing many times. My mother loss is the soul wound that I’ve tried to patch up, wanting to be whole with all my might. Page after page, I’ve been trying to piece myself back together. It is a labor of love, using whatever love I can muster up for myself. That I was taken from my mother, that is painful for people to read. But bad things happen and people believe it. It is true. My mother loved me. I loved her. She was good and I was told to believe she was bad. She was alive and I was expected to pretend she was dead.  It has been scary to tell my truth, but how could I not tell it?

But the good thing, the best day, the day that I became whole, well that has taken me over fifteen years to even contemplate writing about.  I recall that day with  just as much clarity as the worst day; so much clarity in fact that it is almost blinding to my senses when I recall it, even now.

Why didn’t I write about it sooner? For one thing, what if the telling makes it less real? What if I am giving something away that was meant only for me? But also, there is only so much I can expect people to believe.  It might sound unbelievable to some, especially those who don’t believe in miracles.

Which brings me back to God and the day I met Him. Or Her. Or perhaps more accurately, All That Is.  Creator.  Higher Self or Inner Being.   I am not a particularly religious person in the traditional sense. I don’t go to church. I’ve never read the bible. But when you think you’ve been broken, eventually you turn to God to fix you. I prayed, I meditated,  I did God my own way, which was privately, quietly, and with my whole heart.

Then one day God showed up like a Mother. I mean he showed up in a Very Big Way. I had gone to bed the night before distraught over something, the details of which are not important, but that had everything to do realizing I was not  yet whole. I felt desperate to be whole. Desperate. I could not undo the past. I could not fix myself. I had all the material things I needed, and I had true love in my life.  I also had my writing, my passions. But I still had that gaping hole where my wound was and that night I really felt it. That night, I lost hope that I could fix myself, so I turned it over to God. I turned my un-whole self over.  I recall that I  surrendered, completely and intentionally; I am talking Jesus take the wheel surrender. And then I fell asleep.

The next morning, well, how can I tell you about this? How do I frame it?  I was new.  Real.  Whole. And so very alive.  I remember it all so clearly, so I will tell it clearly too. There were five feelings, or knowings, – there were five things that I awoke to find myself being – without even trying. There were just these five ways of being that took me over. Nothing at all was new on the outside, but I was suddenly different on the inside.

Presence  I was completely in the moment. My mind was not on the past or the future. I remember the phone ringing and not wanting to answer it, because I absolutely did not want to be pulled out of the present moment. I was totally, completely, there, mind, body and spirit. Instead of overthinking, worrying, and analyzing, I was simply being. I spent much less time in my head, and more time in in my body where my heart dwelled, where my feelings could flow through me. Instead of thinking, thinking, thinking, I was living. Life was now.

Joy  I was completely satisfied with the moment. Whether I was doing a jigsaw puzzle with my children, or taking a walk alone, it was joyful. I had no craving, no desire for something different. I was enjoying life in the purest sense of the word.

Love  I was filled with love for myself and others. I was overflowing with love. I was love.

Self-Care  I recognized and met my own needs, moment by moment, simply, and directly. When I was hungry I ate. When I was full, I stopped.  When I was tired, I laid down.  I exercised moderately and without fanfare or much planning. I just did it.  And I accepted my body completely, knowing I was giving it whatever it needed, without obsessing or even thinking about it, really.

Belief  I knew that anything was possible. I had met God. God was within me.  My self-imposed limits vanished. I knew that the more I “let go”, and allowed myself to be guided into right action, the better chance of achieving whatever I wanted.
And that is it. That is all of what I felt, and all of what I became that day that I met God. I was living, not in my head, but in my Whole Self . I was whole and it felt amazing. But before I lead you astray, I must confess something.

This did not last.

IT lasted a few days, or a week at most. And they were the most glorious days. But slowly, my doubt came back. My distracted mind returned. I judged people again, including myself,  and I neglected my own care, or expected others to meet the needs that were mine to meet. Bit by bit, I gave my power away without meaning to. My ego woke back up.  I got busy and overwhelmed. I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t check in with my Self. I started to lose my way again.

 

But  the really good news is that I know what to strive for now: To be more present, to find joy in my life every single day, to love and care for myself and to find the best in others. To believe that all of this is possible. Every. Single. Day. 

My dreams are possible.

So are yours.  

 

I aim to feel this way every day now and I fall short, every single time, but sometimes I get close. And God always meets me in the middle.

 

Perhaps I was meant to tell you about the day I met God.

Maybe the story was never mine to keep.

It does not feel less real, now that I’ve given it away, now that I’ve told you about this.

It feels more real.

And I feel more real.

I am whole, just like you. I was all along. I’d just forgotten.

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The Whole of Writing

It was a busy and fulfilling spring with opportunities to speak in New York City and Boston at the Erasing Family Documentary fundraisers. In addition, I was invited to attend and speak at a meeting at the Massachusetts State House, and got to meet Dr. Childress, a psychologist renowned for his work in the trenches of parental alienation.

Now that I am back in my writing cocoon for now, I have taken inventory of what needs to be done next. If I take that all in at once, I am completely overwhelmed and feel certain to fail at accomplishing anything further at all. So I prefer to break it down in clear, manageable chunks and write it out. Here it is, along with my accompanying thoughts.

  1. When I first began writing my memoir, I included italicized entries at the beginning of each chapter. This entries were my present day thoughts. Partway through, I doubted this format and stopped adding those. After taking some space and time from editing this memoir, and doing some deep thinking about how to approach what is left to do, I have gained some clarity. I am putting the present day entries back in to the memoir, but focusing them on healing from old wounds, choice by choice.  This feels right to me, so onward I go.  Also regarding this memoir, I need to add my latest speaking engagements into my proposal, and start sending this updated version out into the world of literary agents. Secretly, (or not so secretly anymore) I’ve hoped that an agent or publisher would come find me, and I think that any writer who is putting herself out there in the world has every right to hold onto that hope, but we mustn’t depend on it! So onward with the tedious task of proposal writing and “hooking an agent” with dazzling queries and all of that. No matter how I come to find mine, I know she (or he) will be the perfect match for me and my writing. I cannot wait to meet!
  2.  I am preparing to create podcasts for anyone dealing with parental alienation. I am approached a couple times a month, usually by email, by a parent who is desperate to know what to do to reconnect with their child.  And recently an alienated father has sought my help in urging a trusted family member to somehow  bridge the ever increasing separation from his children “before it’s too late”. What I typically offer these people (who always seem like the kindest, most loving people who are absolutely deserving of their children) are suggestions for resources such as the blog and You Tube videos of  Dr. Childress, along with hope and my own thoughts and feelings and experiences from the point of view of the alienated child. Occasionally, we speak on the phone and I’ve gotten to meet a small number in person at various meetings or events. And nothing will replace those coffee dates I’ve had with a couple of heartbroken but amazing alienated moms who I now consider friends. But I’ve decided that it might be helpful for many, and in some cases more efficient, for me to create podcasts addressing the issue. As much as I would like to whip these up quickly, because there is urgency in this, I am feeling a bit compulsive about saying the right and true and helpful things so that the podcasts stand the most chance of being effective.  I want the first one or two to address the bystanders- the family members and society at large- the people who cannot change the alienating parent, but who may be able to do seemingly small things that could ultimately help the child and the targeted parent. I will also have episodes specifically for the targeted parents, and beyond that, I am not sure..maybe adult alienated kids (though I know the challenge in getting them to listen- or even know that this is relevant to them!) For those of you waiting for these podcasts, thanks for your patience, and I am on it! I will post them here for anyone to listen to and share as they wish. To the parents suffering (and I’d add to the kids too, but I doubt they are reading), I love you. I care about you. Even when I write about lighter things, because it is for the greater good that I keep my own heart light enough to move forward, you are on my mind and in my heart. You are all amazing because you keep showing up to life and putting one foot in front of the other, and you are always trying.
  3. Lastly, my oldest daughter and I are coauthors of a new blog, Highly Sensitive Material.  Mother is the common thread that is woven through all of my writing. The early loss of my mother (a living death if you will), did not stop my desire of wanting to become a mother myself, not at all. Somehow I knew it was part of my destiny and in fact the universe seemed to offer up all the love and resources that I would need to stand a good chance at this endeavor and maybe even heal at the same time. I think that the alienation from my own mother planted the seed in my mind of : For God’s sake, whatever you do, be a good mother.  Sometimes, oftentimes, this worked well, but I think if I am being honest here, I’d have to admit that  this is at least partially a fear-based thought. I am calling bullshit on the old adage What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  What didn’t kill me made me doubt my self-worth with every mistake. What if the whole point is to choose love more and more, including for ourselves? Maybe even especially for ourselves so that we can give it away. In my perfect re-do, I would have done all of my healing in early adulthood, faced the fear and the demons, and kicked-ass with personal growth. If that had been true, I would be amazing by now, at age fifty! I would be nearly perfect! And I wouldn’t have just been a good and loving mother, I would have been a perfect mother! But alas, this fantasy of mine must be set aside for the truth in all its imperfections. That is what my memoir is and that is what this blog, Highly Sensitive Material is about: Truth. It’s an honest, creative project that includes my life as a mother.

So this is what I’ve come to ask myself, day by day, in my writing and my life.  Is this choice out of love? Out of fear? Am I being truthful with myself? With others?  Will I ever get over feeling responsible for the reactions of others? And the fear-will I just act in the face of fear or will the fear go away some day?

My writing is my humble gift to the world, that makes me whole. It’s like putting myself back together, page by page.  It’s an act of love. Love can be scary. 

Welcome

After decades of writing and blogging elsewhere, I have finally created a home base for my work and my thoughts. My posts will cover a range of topics, both broad and specific, from creativity and simplifying, to yoga, mindfulness, healing old wounds, conscious parenting, high sensitivity, and parental alienation. I will also post updates on my memoir, and eventually share thoughts on my other book ideas.

In my mind, these topics are all interwoven and fall under the category of authenticity. I promise to be real and true every single time that I come to the page. I hope that you will be as honest and open in reading and responding.  I would love to hear from you, to know who you are, but if you prefer to just stop by and read, that’s fine too. As long as I am growing this site organically, and creating a space where people can take what resonates, then I am satisfied.

If you would like updates on this blog as they are posted, there is an option to follow.  Thank you for visiting. I hope you come back often.

~Dana