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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Memoir Excerpt

This excerpt of my memoir-in-progress was published in Mothers Always Write this week.  I told this story at a Boston Moth live storytelling event and after taking first place, I went on to perform it at the Moth GrandSlam the following year. It is the story of reconnecting with my alienated mother. The Stranger I Call Mother

Parental Alienation is a form of pathology in which one parent alienates the child from the other parent, typically after a divorce. I have been writing and speaking on this topic as a way to spread awareness and education and to be a voice for the alienated child.

More information on Parental Alienation can be found here:  Dr. Craig Childress blog and here: Dr. Childress on Parental Alienation Dynamics

If you or someone you know has been cut out of their child’s life, please educate yourself on this pathology. Do not assume the parent has done something to deserve this alienation. It is important to understand that a child rejecting her parent is a sign of the brainwashing that occurs in the child psychological abuse that is Parental Alienation.

 

 

Inconvenient musing

It’s ten thirty a.m. and I’m making my way through an already crowded grocery store. I’ve listened to some news (all bad) on the way here and my heart feels heavier than the cantaloupe stacked high in the bin, an avalanche waiting to happen.

I have not felt this depressed since I tried to give up my morning coffee. I am starting to wonder if a weighted blanket might be a good idea. Don’t be ridiculous, I tell myself. But still, it is a comforting thought.

I want to grab all of the sugary things in bakery aisle, but I resist, knowing that self-destruction is not the way out. So I am left to deal with my raw emotions.

I am overstimulated because the crowded, noisy environment is competing with the thoughts in my head. I pull my carriage over to jot down notes on the back of my grocery list. It’s just a stupid essay, I think to myself, but it’s the first time I’ve felt like writing in weeks so I feel the need to capture the moment.

Why does this always happen in the most inconvenient of places? In the shower, while driving, while grocery shopping. Rarely does the muse come while I am at my laptop, fingers poised to capture the flow of words. Nope.

Lately I’ve been staring at a blank computer screen, my insides vacillating between numbness and nauseous churning. No words come out. Nothing seems good enough or clear enough or worthwhile. A waste of time, all of it, petty creative ambitions gone underground while I wait for my heart to thaw. Why does the muse hate me so?  

But today my writer’s block is broken in Market Basket, halfway down the carb aisle. This is why I never leave home without a pen.

Back at home, I sign up for a daily action text.  I text the word DAILY to the number 228466 and am prompted to give my zip code. I will receive a daily text prompting me to make a specific call to my Senator, on behalf of U.S. laws, on Planned Parenthood, on all sorts of rights on behalf of the welfare of the citizens of the United States.

I sort of hate the phone, and initially I worry I’ll be caught in some endless loop like calling Verizona or my insurance company, but I get through on the second ring.  This is easy, and something I can do every single day.

Helplessness and hopelessness is what will keep me down, not action. Action is good.

I go to yoga class and breathe and sweat and stretch and get out of my head and back into my body and my spirit and that sweet space of presence.

But then my mind gets a bit restless again and I have to give it something to chew on, so I turn to books like I always do. I read books to help me understand what has happened and what my part is in all of it.  I read Hillbilly Elegy and I ordered a book that my father has suggested, The Authoritarians. The author, Bob Altemeyer, explains in methodical detail, the roots of authoritarianism and who the authoritarian followers are. The book can be downloaded for free at www.theauthoritarians.com. My husband reads it first.  He’s not typically someone who enjoys psychological analyzing but he says it explains a lot. I put it on my reading list.

I look for Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. I want to understand, I do. The librarian tells me that there are a hundred and seventeen people in line for this book. I don’t think I can wait that long.

Then I decide I need to go deeper, much deeper. I need to rise above politics and read something that speaks to my soul.  Call me dramatic, but this is no small matter. I need an intervention here. I feel we have entered a dark night of the soul, as a country, and we are all in this together. I want to pull my weight. I’ve decided that means taking action toward what I know is right and remembering that there is plenty I could be wrong about.

I remember that I have Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love in my bookshelf.  Before I begin reading it, I look the author up the on social media. I follow her on twitter, thinking she’ll be blissfully calm in the midst of the storm that is our political climate. Not so.

You know we are trouble when even Marianne Williamson is pissed off.

But anyhow, I start reading her book and it does bring me peace. I am willing to see the bigger picture, accept responsibility for my own feelings and actions. She says if you are in disagreement with someone, that even if you think the other party is 90% responsible, you should focus on your 10%.  It’s not anyone’s job to change another or even to change another’s mind. I agree with this.

So I take care of myself so that I am bringing light, and not more darkness, into the world. I save my energy for the things I can do and can change.  I try, and sometimes fail, to be more mindful of my words and my thoughts.

We can’t fight anger with anger or fear with fear. I knew this. I’d just forgotten for a minute. I got scared.

But I am back.  I feel lighter now.

And mostly unafraid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An uncluttered new year

As time passes, I become more and more aware of what a precious commodity it is. I don’t just notice how quickly the years pass, but also how quickly a day can pass. I am not someone who lives for the weekend, or for vacations or holidays. I try my best- and am grateful for this luxury- to make my daily life align with my heart’s desires.

I hear this awareness of the rapid passing of days from others as well and perhaps time’s limit contributes to  FOMO (fear of missing out). It tends to have the opposite effect on me though- it is quite clear to me that we will all miss out on most of what life has to offer. When you think about it, how many careers, events, or anything else that exists to partake in can one possibly fit into a single lifetime? In the big scheme of things, we will miss about 95% of everything! As soon as we grasp this, we can let it go. Then we can focus on what truly matters most to us, without wasting time focusing on the rest.

I am not suggesting that we dismiss things we truly want to do. Not at all. It’s all about choices. Clear the decks. Make room. Declutter your life of all that is meaningless, suffocating, or just not quite meant for you.

A few simple questions help me to determine if the way I am spending my time aligns with my top values.

Am I working on my writing goals and does my writing add value?

Am I doing something that supports or advances my well being, physically, mentally, or spiritually? 

 Am I nurturing my important relationships?

Life is too damn short to do everything. In fact, even the attempt to do it all will surely drown out those inner callings that quietly lead us down our own unique paths.

More of what we love. Less of what we don’t. Wouldn’t that be the best year yet?

 

 

 

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