Friday’s Focus—A Page Is Worth a Thousand Memories

Still deep in the process of cleaning up and boxing for our move, I came across a stack of journals I wrote many years ago while in my late teens, through college, and into the end of my first marriage. The notebooks were squirreled away in a corner of the garage interspersed with high school and college yearbooks. A cardboard box of memories now wrapped in spiderwebs and reeking of mold.

I knew I couldn’t keep them smelling the way they did but I couldn’t bring myself to just toss them either. So I blew off the dust, found myself a seat and flipped through them one last time before they were forever history. I was feeling an odd mixture of curiosity and trepidation—heck, I remember those years. Did I really want to go back there? But instead I found reading the entries again to be revelatory. It’s amazing how our memories gloss over seemingly innocuous details that feel as big as the sun when they first happen. And yes, there were some of those dreams in there that I haven’t achieved but it was okay because I can still say not achieved yet.

There were names and events that I barely remembered, if at all, but the key players were there still as sharply in focus as yesterday. It was fascinating to look back and see how my experiences and feelings shaped me into who I am today. But the most surprising reveal was seeing patters of thinking and beliefs from back then and (deep breath here), seeing and admitting I still have them today.

The patterns of thinking and believing wouldn’t have been so obvious had I not read these journals. Admittedly, it was a little disconcerting to discover how feelings of insecurity, shame, and fear had their seeds in those pages and how they’ve remained as unconscious patterns now. But I also saw patterns of strength, fight, resolve, and determination that also had its seeds back then, and which have also remained to this day, far outweighing the insecurities and fears thanks to experiences and time.

There were some hurtful events that came back in vivid detail, and as they did, I almost felt like a mother to myself, sending the younger me love and understanding back through time. It provided an unexpected opportunity for the healing of my younger self, which in turn, heals my current self.

There were good memories of sun, friends, going down the shore, and countdowns to last days of classrooms and some not so good memories. These were snapshots of daily life and growing up in the typical highs and lows of a Jersey girl moving from her adolescence through her first marriage.

I saw myself from the inside out because it was me but also from the outside in, reading about my feelings and experiences as if they happened to someone else. I didn’t expect this as I started to flip through the earliest book, but before I knew it, I caught myself searching for the girl I knew I was and connecting with her as the woman I grew up to be.

By the time I read my way through to the last journal, I was ready to let them go, but I wanted to do so with some sort of dignity rather then tossing them into the trash, so I let my inner artist come through. I filled the kitchen sink with water and bunch by bunch, tore the pages from the notebooks and soaked them in the water. I watched my handwriting disappear as the ink washed away.

After a few hours, the water now looked like a mini-lake with its blue water and the paper pulped back to its beginnings. I grabbed handfuls of the mush and squeezed them into small balls of paper—no hint or evidence of the words they once contained. As I worked the paper in my hands, I once again took on the role of Mother to the younger me and consciously connected the disconnects. I wasn’t sad about giving up the pages and notebooks now. As a mater of fact, I felt it was a gift to go through them again and cathartic to wash the pages away.

I’m glad I kept them all these years. I don’t think I ever intended to re-read them. Once the last page was filled, up it went on a shelf until I didn’t know when. But now, I do. I’m interested to see what will reveal itself when I read my current writings 30 years from now.

A written page is worth a thousand memories and staying open to what was can only lead to a better way of what will be.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Warning: You May be Hazardous to Your Health

Did you ever put your hand in a cookie jar, and while you’re in there, think maybe you’ll take one or two more (since you’re there already, of course!) only to find you can’t fit your fist back out of the opening? Holding on to things that are bigger than us can be like that. It will keep us stuck in a place and unable to move forward unless we loosen our grip and let go. Even by one cookie.

There aren’t many of us who haven’t been touched by the increasing stresses and demands of family, job, and basic day to day living. These increases seemed incremental at first but lately feel like giant leaps forward, making things feel harder to manage. Our first normal reaction is to hold on to what we have and what we know, not just for a sense of security but for a feeling of normalcy, while we try and understand what’s happening. But working to maintain that control over time can do more harm than good. It’s hard to let go, yes, I’ll admit. Even for people who are seasoned in surrendering to what is, can be caught off-guard by news or events and they, too, can reactively close their mental fist as a reaction to hold on.

We can’t always control our surroundings and our circumstances, but we can control our actions and reactions. One of the ways to do this is to listen to our body. While our mind is busy keeping track and being in control, our body’s are locked into a response of flight or fight. You may think you are in control, but your body is probably telling you a completely different story.

Neither one can win alone. That sore throat may not be the beginnings of a cold or that sneezing fit may be more of a stress reaction than an increase in the pollen count.  Our bodies will give us clues to the level of stress we’re experiencing even if we feel that we are in control and handling everything well. The physical signs of stress can be very subtle and easy to brush off as symptoms of other things: catching a cold; getting older; something eaten or drank that’s not sitting well; a bad night’s sleep; not enough sleep; and explaining eczema and skin rashes away as  reactions to a new laundry detergent are just a few examples.

While these signs could be genuine indications of deeper underlying physical problems, if you experience any of these longer than you think you should, it may be time to do an honest mental and emotional check-in to see if there is something you may be blocking or burying but your body won’t let you. It’s also a good idea to also consider the words we use in our thinking. When we tell ourselves “I’m so sick of my job” or “I’m so tired of so-and-so’s drama”, it can have a physical impact. Sick and tired. Those are the words your body intuits, understands, and listens to.

Studies have shown that by paying attention to our breath we can “check in” where we are and use it as a means of re-connecting body and mind. I’ve used this countless times on myself. It’s an ideal gauge of where we think we are versus where are bodies are telling us we really are. For example, shallow breathing is an indication of fear, however conscious or unconscious that feeling is. Long-term shallow breathing reduces the amount of oxygen to your organs, resulting in a myriad of problems including cloudy thinking.

Pay attention to your breath. Pranayama is one of the most important self-cares you can do in times of stress. Without breath we have nothing. Our bodies can survive without some organs, limbs, loss of senses, but it cannot survive without breath. Conscious breathing will not only feed the body with oxygen but it pulls the attention away from the mind, away from the stress, away from the worry at least even for a moment. Practicing pranayama brings the mind and body together and reconnects any disconnects.

It’s absolutely natural to hold on and try and retain some sort of status quo especially these days in the midst of so much tension. Living in our modern society and current levels and outpouring of demands can be hazardous to our health if not approached well. Attempting to control situations and outcomes may seem to work in the short run but no good can come out of it in the long term.

Those that do, miss out on a lot more than the amount of control they gain. So take a moment, and catch your breath!

#takingitdeeper #healingourselvesfromtheinsideoutIMG_0613

Friday’s Focus—Something From Nothing

There are some days, as a writer, it feels like I have nothing to say. The muse is off playing with the dog or helping some other writer slouched over their keyboard. Sometimes all that seems to fill a page are half sentences or phrases that start out hopeful but stop short of being anything more than a glorified bunch of nouns, verbs, and adjectives and the paper is littered with the glitter of wanna-be quips and stories.

For me, the way ideas come and thoughts develop into whatever they want—stories, poems, essays, doodles—changes depending on the medium I use to bring it forward with. It’s been interesting to notice how characters change and the endings shift depending on whether I use a computer or a good old-fashioned pen and paper. Hands down, my favorite way to write, or at least get started, is using pen and paper. I’m an admitted paper-a-holic and just can’t resist blank notebooks; paper that just begs to be written on. The pen also needs to be right and together, in the right combination, it’s as though the story is already there and the ink simply reveals it.

Writing with a pencil gives an entirely different feeling. I find my writing takes on more of the feeling of a doodle and I tend to edit more. The words feel “sketched” and less “committed” than ink. Writing with ink is like changing your Facebook status to “in a relationship.”

Finally, there’s the keyboard. I find that writing on a computer releases a completely different stream of consciousness. This may be the easiest of all to write with but it is also the coldest and least personal way of working to me.

Of course, I can, and have begun writing something with one medium and switched over to another (beginning with pen and then moving to keyboard) and every time I do the story changes—for better or for worse. I’m not talking about editing or revisions but rather that fact that I experience a distinctly different flow with each medium and the words just come out different.

When I began to write today’s post, I couldn’t find the rhythm no matter what I tried to write with. In a last attempt, I opened my laptop and like a Seinfeld episode (which is really about nothing), I began to write about nothing, but it ended up turning into a something (which is still about nothing). So this is my Seinfeld post; one that is really about nothing except to say whether you’re a writer, an artist, a musician, a chef, or you do anything that’s creative, if you’ve found your usual way of doing things isn’t working so well and you feel that your muse has abandoned you, try things from a different angle and see what happens. Don’t stop. You never know what something will come out of your “nothings”!

Have a great weekend!

#takingitdeeper

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