Its Hard To Tell You This News
Dearest friends, (please read to the end)
As I look to the start of March, I find myself in a new, scary, and completely different place than I ever thought I would be. I have had to re-look at my life and business through a new lens and really ask myself what I would usually ask a client, What Matters Now?
Never before has that writing prompt been so important in my life, and I have found myself looking at my own work that I teach others in order to move beyond the dark times.
Over the past several months, I haven’t been feeling well, and approximately three weeks ago, I was given a diagnosis of cancer.
For a long time I have not been listening to The Universe when it has been telling me loud and clear to “Slow Down!” Well, I’m listening now.
The very next thing I want to tell you is that I know I will rise above this and restore my body to perfect health. I am now fully committed to changing my diet, lifestyle, and everything else it takes, including addressing any unhealed trauma with love and forgiveness of myself and others. I will Re-Write My Life and move beyond this stumbling block.
What I ask of you at this time, if you will, is to please envision me as I envision myself – healthy, fit and vibrant – living my life with deep inner peace, and joy. That David and I enjoy a beautiful, long life together. We just got married this past September.
As most of you know, I am a self-employed entrepreneur and as such do not have the benefits of paid medical leave. David also works for himself and we enjoy a simple life within the means we can afford.
My hope with respect to my current health situation is to work with an integrated health system – which employs the best of integrated Western medical practices as well as holistic therapies. Alternative therapies and practices are not covered by BC Medical.
With this in mind, I wish to propose a win-win opportunity for both of us.
As many of you know, I have been delivering programs for mental, emotional, and creative well-being for over 30 years. Did you also know that my Re-Write Your Life program, that follows my book by the same name, has transformed the lives of literally thousands of people? People who were ready to fully and completely put the painful stories of their past to rest and live fully and freely in today. In fact, it remained the #1 Best Selling Programme on the Daily Om platform for writing and healing for over 5 years.
I wish to offer you the same results. Read here for all the details.
By purchasing this program for yourself or a loved one, you will be receiving an evidence-based program which will address the pain of your past, which may be stopping you from living a truly happy and fulfilled life today. By applying the processes and tools taught in each lesson, you will become confident that no matter what life brings your way, you will be able to deal with it. In fact, I am re-reading and applying these techniques and principles to help myself through this challenging time.
Listen to these testimonials: Annie’s Story and Jan’s Story You can expect these kinds of powerful results for yourself in this program.
“Junie Swadron is both a guide and a muse. Her book is a bright lantern, illuminating the often dark and tricky terrain of the soul. Grounded in personal experience, her techniques catalyze the deep authenticity possible to us all.”
JULIA CAMERON, AUTHOR OF THE ARTIST’S WAY
A WIN-WIN OPPORTUNITY
At the same time, your purchase will allow me to purchase the necessary health aids I need to clear this cancer that is currently living in my body and draining my energy.
Last year, in 2022, I certified a number of licensed therapists and healers to become Re-Write Your Life Mastery Certification Coaches. So, if you choose, you can also work individually with a certified coach who will guide you every step of the way. You can find the link to their names and bios further down the page.
If purchasing the Re-Write Your Life healing program doesn’t speak to you at this time, please consider purchasing it for a loved one.
If this doesn’t resonate for you, I have also set up a healing fund and any amount you could contribute would be heartfully appreciated. Click here to access the GoFundMe Campaign.
I invite you all to write with me. Take a long look at your life right now, and put pen to paper. Then consider adding your writing to my Writing Sanctuary on Facebook!
With respect to <whatever is troubling you right now>, what matters now is.…
Let us all live long and HEALTHY lives, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
To our vibrant health and joy!
Link to the Re-Write Your Life Certified Mastery Coaches
By the way, My husband David Halliwell, is having an art show of his paintings at the Gallery Splash in Esquimalt!
503 Park Place until March 7, 2023 between 9:00 am and 4:30 pm. He will also be in residence for the last time this Saturday, March 4th!
As they say about him, David Halliwell’s artworks are the result of diligent research combined with superb draftsmanship and complete mastery of his medium. His paintings are romantic, nostalgic, strikingly powerful and hauntingly real. Hope to see you there!
David’s website: https://www.davidmichaelhalliwell.com
FB Event: https://fb.me/e/NebgQGJe
P.S. I love getting your comments. If you’d like to write a response to this newsletter and tell me what you’ve written from the writing tip above or share how you are feeling these days or tell me your best news ever, I’d be delighted to hear from you. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if things aren’t going the way you would like them to, I’d be happy to talk with you. Book a complimentary Discovery Call and lets see if we can create a whole lot of happy days ahead!
Medical Assistance in Dying: Love and Wisdom at the End of Life
Have you ever had a friend that, without them in your life, your life simply would not be the same?
A friend whose unconditional love, wisdom, compassion, humour, kindness, along with the ability to be real at all times, is enough to make you weep with the kind of gratitude that goes far beyond words?
For me, that person is Judith Rockert. Judith and I have known each other for over 40 years!
Last month she called to tell me that the doctors told her she has a short time to live.
That was enough for me to fly the 3,000 miles from Victoria to Toronto to be with her.
What I didn’t know was that she has a death date. She has chosen M.A.I.D. (Medical Assistance in Dying).
On June 27, 2022, Judith will take her last breath. It’s hard to wrap my head, and especially my heart, around this.
Here is our interview, recorded on June 12, 2022:
This is my first experience with someone who has chosen assisted dying, and what is remarkable to me is that if you were to meet Judith, or even talk to her on the telephone, she is one of the most positive, upbeat, incredibly optimistic people you would ever meet.
She told me, “Junie, I’m not afraid of dying. I’m going onto my next adventure.
I’m afraid of living in a body that is rapidly breaking down, and — God forbid — it would be up to my family to have to take care of me.”
Judith and I speak often, and every time, she is the one who uplifts me! I ask her, “Judith, how are you today?”
Without a moment’s hesitation she replies, “I am in escalating bliss!”
Then she’ll go on to tell me about her day and who came to see her and the incredible gift she has been given to have such rich visits and conversations that are straight from the heart with the people she loves and who love her.
I know all about that. We have had so many of those precious exchanges. And whenever my mental health challenges reared their ugly head, Judith was my champion, my lifeline.
Judith knows a lot about that. Her beautiful son, Mitch, who suffered with schizophrenia, took his life many years ago. You can read Judith’s story about Mitch on my blog.
Even with that — even with the unthinkable grief that a parent endures in the face of losing their child, Judith chose LIFE.
She found ways to re-frame and re-write the story, focusing on the incredible gift of having Mitch in her life as long as she did — a man of great beauty, artistry, love, and kindness. Well, they say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
One day, every one of us will be saying our final good-bye
LIFE IS PRECIOUS.
EVERY BREATH IS PRECIOUS.
Choose to live the best life you have, and let your love be your everlasting legacy.
These pictures are the tombstones of my mom and dad, Minnie and Jimmy Swadron, and my sister, Barbara Freedman. I was able to visit them at the cemetery during my trip to Toronto.
What I wouldn’t do to hug them today! Be sure to tell everyone you love that you love them while you can. And know that You Are Deeply Loved in Return.
We can choose how we are going to live our lives
Judith enthusiastically said “Yes” to this interview. She has the wisdom of the ages, and I know that this interview will inspire countless people with her legacy of love.
We can re-write the stories we are telling ourselves — even if it’s just before our last day on this earth.
None of us know how long we are going to live (unless we have chosen MAID, like Judith), so why don’t we just take the high road now and make our lives magnificent?
PS — If you did not see this interview with my beautiful fiancé David talking to my dear soul sister, Pat Sheveland, about the unexplainable gifts that came from beyond the veil after the death of his beloved daughter Cat, watch now and be inspired.
Re-Write to Reignite Your Life
How to move from Shame, Blame, and Victimhood to Enlightenment
This is the introduction to a book I’m writing now, Re-Write to Reignite Your Life (working title).
When I published my first book, Re-Write Your Life: A Transformational Guide to Writing and Healing the Stories of Our Lives, in 2009, I didn’t dare talk about the one thing that I was too ashamed to talk about. I’m going to talk about it now, even though there’s a part of me that still cringes to share this, as I’ve moved so far away from those times.
Still, I’m not going to skirt the issue. I will not write around it in order for it to sound pretty and poetic, because it was not. And the reason I am writing this at all is to help you go forward in your life if you have ever considered taking your life, have ever gone so far as to attempt it, have lost a family member or friend because of suicide, and/or you have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
If that is you, and you are carrying feelings of guilt, shame, blame, or feeling like a victim of circumstance, this book is intended to catapult you forward to a place where you can choose your own label — such as healthy, empowered, happy, forward-thinker, resilient, resourceful, and an inspiration to others. That’s right — no matter how bad it may feel right now, this book can be an elixir for your freedom. Freedom to come home to yourself.
Let’s get started, because that’s the plan. The plan is to motivate you to become the best you that you can be. And I know how to do it. Not just because I am a counsellor, but because I have lived on both sides of the couch. A younger version of me could often be found moving through a series of revolving doors, in and out of mental institutions — until one day, that version of me ended. A new door opened and I walked through it to become a secure, happy, well adjusted, mature woman, who absolutely cherishes life.
Here’s my story [content warning: suicide attempt]
I began writing my very first book, Re-Write Your Life, in a psychiatric ward after an attempted suicide. It was my 5th attempt. This one was the most severe. I was in a coma for five days, which I was not expected to awaken from. But when I did, I awoke into a state of grace, the likes of which I had never known before, only read about. There was no logical explanation for it. It was as though someone else had entered my body and psyche. There was no resemblance to the person I had been before, swallowing over 100 pills — approximately half of which were prescription sleeping pills, Zopiclone. It was another miracle, in a lifetime of miracles. I am obviously meant to be here. And you will never find anyone more grateful for that privilege than me.
At the time, I hadn’t taken any meds for about a year, as I was trying a natural product that helped others with bi-polar illness. My psychiatrist said she would not treat me if I went off my meds, so I continued to have my prescriptions filled in case she found out. I was so afraid of losing her, even though she only spent about 15 minutes with me every month or two. Still, I needed someone in the medical field who knew me. So, I continued to take the supplements and kept the vials of medicine tucked away in a drawer with no intention of ever taking them. Certainly not in fistfuls.
For many months after I began taking the supplements, I was feeling better than I had felt for as long as I could recall. I even slept without sleeping medication, which I had been taking for years.
Then one day, all that came crashing down. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. Anxiety was setting in with lightning speed, followed by crippling depression. The torture chamber of my mind was in full gear again and I couldn’t turn it off. I thought about ending my life every day.
The day I decided to finally do it, many months after trying to hang on with no escape from the torment, I played a game with myself.
Could writing save my life?
A creative writing course that I had registered for a month prior was happening that night. I thought that since writing was something I always loved to do, maybe if I sat in someone else’s class, I could get inspired, and that maybe writing would save my life. It used to, but I hadn’t written in many months. Nothing was coming out. Every time I tried, I was riddled with anxiety and would quit after half a sentence. The course was starting at 7 pm. I knew that if I left the house even by ten minutes to seven, I’d be on time, as it was being held at a community centre just around the corner.
As the day went on, my anxiety levels were hitting the roof. By 6:30, my heart was pumping so hard in my chest I thought I’d have a heart attack. I could hardly breathe. Still, I kept telling myself that I should go to the writing class. It was Last Chance Saloon, and I knew it.
“Do it, Junie, just get out the door. You must! You must or you’ll die! Please, just go!”
The part of me that wanted to live so badly was desperate and pleading with the part of me who had given up. I watched the clock move from 6:30 to 6:40 to 6:50 to 7:00, and I knew then that all hope was gone. That was the last chance, and I had let it go by.
In that state of mind, nothing is logical, nothing is rational, and the brain is not functional. I had run out of tools. And I knew from years of experience, that when it hits that level of clinical depression, the brain has a mind of its own, and nothing I can do will stop it. I had no desire to call anyone. Nor had I in any of my prior suicide attempts.
From 7:00 pm until midnight, I paced the floor. I cried. I screamed. I wrote a suicide note begging God’s forgiveness, as well as forgiveness from my one remaining sister, Lorraine, my niece Rachel, and the many friends that loved me. I asked for someone to please look after Joey and Jakie, my beloved budgies, and begged them not to separate them or they would surely die.
Next, I meticulously gathered the cheques that I had received from students who had paid me in advance for upcoming workshops that I knew I wouldn’t be delivering. I sat them next to my suicide note, asking that someone please get in touch with about thirty people and tell them the workshops had been cancelled. Then I methodically opened the lids to all the plastic vials containing an assortment of over one hundred prescription drugs. Next I poured water into five tall glasses, lined them up on the counter, and began to swallow them by the handful.
In a prior suicide attempt using approximately the same method, I had felt a physical tug of energy pulling me back from the kitchen counter. That tug had me racing to the bathroom to empty every vial down the toilet. Not this time. The force for good was there all right, and it was strong. It actually knocked me back on my heels. I could hardly believe how strong it was. But I fought it and I succeeded. That’s the last thing I remember.
Later, an acquaintance who lived in the same building told me that she was worried about me because she knew I had been depressed. She hadn’t seen me around in a while and decided to visit. When there was no answer at my door, she went to get her key (she used to feed my budgies when I went away), and found me on the kitchen floor. When the ambulance arrived, they had to revive me, but I slipped in to a coma and was not expected to live. Gratefully, I did not die as the doctors expected I would. Not only were they stunned that I didn’t die, they were equally astonished that I had no brain damage or organ damage. Instead, what I did have was the deepest humility I had ever known. The deepest gratitude I had ever felt. And I was the most alive and awake I had ever been.
It was in this state of mind I began to write my book, Re-Write Your Life, that was published nine months later. When I awoke, they pulled out the tubes and apparatus that had kept me alive during my coma and transferred me to the psychiatric ward (which, from the state I was now in, felt like an ashram), and two days later I started to write my book.
I remained in this heightened state of awareness, and all I could feel was love for everyone and everything. I did not think I was Jesus, going from person to person, blessing everyone. From my seat in the large common room, I observed the other patients around me, all beautiful souls, suffering, lost and in turmoil — just like I had been, before I “woke up” after five days in a coma. As I looked around, I had nothing but compassion for the patients and the staff. I could see their frustration and their own suffering, and how they were trying so hard to do their best. During this time of observation, I felt grounded, centred, and at peace in a way I never knew existed.
This book is not about trying to take my life away. It is about the indelible human spirit. It is about the ability of our species to fall down and get up again. It’s about how I’ve fallen so many times, and so many times I have gotten up or have been helped up in ways that are unexplainable.
This book is about miracles and hope, and it’s about writing and honouring the stories I have lived and telling them as truthfully as I remember them. I will write from the woman I am today, conveying the gifts and lessons that these stories have offered me. How they protected me or enlightened me. How, through trial and error again and again, I was eventually propped up high enough to see another vista, one filled with light and love, hope and confidence instead of fear, uncertainty, and sacrifice.
Yes, in these pages I dare to tell the truth I have been too ashamed to tell before.
Shame and healing
One of the symptoms of surviving a suicide attempt is shame — deep enduring shame. The kind that torments the soul. The kind that keeps you awake all night long. Not only did you not escape a tortured mind that caused you to take the steps to a final exit, you also endure the shame of facing your loved ones who were devastated by your actions.
The “symptoms” that are missing, however, are compassion, love, tenderness, kindness, towards the you who was so tormented that you felt you had no other choice.
And yes, if you survived, there is a gift even here. Not a gift wrapped in a pretty bow. My gift came in the survival — the ability to tell this story, because now I can offer that compassion to myself and I know that in telling it, it will serve every single person who has ever tried to commit suicide and to those who have gone to those places where they just wanted to die. Perhaps it’s even you. Then this book is absolutely for you.
It will also shed light on a topic that is too frightening to discuss in most circles, and hopefully give some understanding to those who have been affected by a loved one’s suicide or an attempt to end their life.
Re-Write to Reignite Your Life is not all about topics as desperate as this. But let’s face it – doesn’t everyone go through a dark night of the soul where we feel lost and frightened, adrift at sea, and don’t know how we will ever find a safe shore?
We have. All of us have. If you are reading this, acknowledge that. Let in the truth that somehow you found the strength to overcome tremendous upheavals, and here you are, at a crossroads, ready to put more pain-driven stories to rest in a healthy way.
We don’t heal the stories of our lives all at once. Even me. I lived in a state of grace for almost a year, where I simply felt love and gave love unconditionally. Where life was virtually guiding my every step. Synchronicities were the norm. I thought of something or someone and he, she, or it would appear in physical form.
I wish I could claim that that state has lasted until this day, but it hasn’t. As I re-emerged into the world, challenges surfaced, and I didn’t have the ease and grace that I had become accustomed to. However, I did have tools, and was fiercely determined to use them, no matter what. No matter what, I was committed to finding my way back to the gate, the open gate that has always welcomed me in, as I welcome you in now, dear reader. Welcome to my story, which is a universal story. The details will be different from yours, as I am not living your life, and you are not living mine. But with certainty, we can say we’ve all “suffered” on this planet.
When people die, when illness hits, when you lose your job, or you find out your partner is cheating (the list goes on and on), there is suffering. But you know what? There doesn’t have to be. Not at all. We can face the most gut-wrenching circumstances and still make room to bask in the glory of a magnificent early morning sunrise. And that is the spirit in which this book is written.
As you read through each story, you can say, “Wow! She survived that!” And if you do, I will be the first to say, not only have I survived horrific events, I am a victorious thriver of circumstances and you can be too! And it doesn’t need to take you as long as it took me.
For over 50 years of my life, I didn’t have the courage to talk about my diagnosis of mental illness or what was defined by the authorities as my mental illness. I was convinced that every single pathological diagnosis they gave me was true. After all, they were doctors, and they had the DSMI, II, III, IV, and V manuals to show me the evidence that there was something inherently wrong with me, and that it would likely always be that way. In fact, the doctors said, there are articles in medical journals that will state that it only gets worse with age, and there’s not much you can do about it.
Well, I dare to differ. And I’m hardly alone on this. At 72 years young, I’ve never felt more well-adjusted, balanced, happier, or inspired about my life as I do now.
I will also tell you; it doesn’t come with age. It comes with knowing what works, what doesn’t, and choosing every day to use the tools that will keep you in charge of your mental health. Tools, that with practice and time, bring about confidence, stability and resiliency.
I can’t believe the same person who was put in straight jackets, screaming, begging, and pleading for them not to drug me, or the same person who suffered numerous bouts of non-stop unbearable anxiety and depression that caused me to try to end my life is the same person who inhabits my body today. How is that possible? There is nothing in my life today that even remotely resembles the person I described at the top of this paragraph.
How Re-Write to Reignite Your Life can help you and your loved ones
As you read this book [once it’s published], you’ll learn how I moved from a life of chaos, to becoming a whole, happy human being on a spiritual path toward enlightenment. I am a spiritual being currently having a human incarnation that is sometimes fraught with challenges, yet have found great strength, resilience, and peace along my healing journey.
I am here to inspire the joy of a sunrise in you, the delight in a baby’s first steps, the warmth of your hands wrapped around a steeping cup of tea, and the ability to belt out the next song on the radio that frees you from your chair as you dance around the kitchen with passion.
Beyond that, I’ll offer you tools that will bring you from a perceived state of brokenness to the wholeness of who are – who you always were and always will be. It is here, beyond all else, that I extend my hand to you, along with my 72 years on the planet, to give you everything I have personally come to know will inspire the desire to take one more step. And then the next, and the next, that will indeed lead you to live the most meaningful, beautiful love-filled life.
Even if you don’t believe me now, please suspend judgment and just keep reading. If I can do it, you can too. Now, take my hand and let us walk this messy, and yet, oh so beautiful path together. You will see, you are not alone. There is a huge tribe of us walking the planet today that are ready to come out of the darkness of their diagnosis and prognosis and into the light of what is possible.
We are all at different places in our evolution. Some are still so scared to speak out, or even believe that something else awaits them. Others have followed this path that I’ve been teaching in both my psychotherapy practice and my book-writing mentorship courses for decades, have found their voice and their power, and are light years ahead of where they started. You are somewhere on that continuum. May my stories inspire and empower you, and may you rest in God’s Love now and always.
Your next step
Re-Write Your Life: A Transformational Guide to Writing and Healing the Stories of Our Lives, is based on my 8-week program that has changed thousands of lives for the better. You can heal and transform the stories of your life with my guidance, through meditation and writing. Learn more about the Re-Write Your Life program here.
Note: In April 2021 I was a featured speaker on the Suicide Prevention Summit with Jackie Simmons. Jackie has given me permission to share this interview far and wide because of the good it can do to prevent suicide. You can access my interview here.
If you feel that what I’m sharing with you today would help someone you know, please pass this on to them.
Jackie Simmons, my host for the above interview, has a great TEDx talk titled, “Have ‘The Talk’ to Stop Teen Suicide.” Please watch Jackie’s talk, comment on it if you’re moved to, and share it. In her talk, Jackie shares the shocking story of her daughter’s many suicide attempts. Today she and her daughter offer training seminars worldwide with their Teen Suicide Prevention Society. Together we’ll save lives.
For Our Freedom — Remembrance Day 2021
I dedicate this post to my friend and client, Anna Leigh Zirpolo (above), to all our forefathers, and to the men and women today who are still fighting for our freedom.
Anna Leigh Zirpolo is all about truth. She is one of my book-writing students and is currently writing a book called Mining The Truth. Scroll down to read more about Mining the Truth – a book about Truth, Freedom, and Liberty.
Anna is multi-talented, and beyond her book, she has composed a song dedicated to her maternal grandfather, Eben Chesterfield Murray, who she never met. He fought in WWI in France and died there.
Anna says: “He literally gave his life for my freedom, Our Freedom. The morning I wrote this song, I felt my grandpa with me. I am responsible for continuing the fight for Freedom, Liberty, Truth, and Choice.”
LISTEN TO ANNA ZIRPOLO’S SONG, FOR OUR FREEDOM (LETTER TO GRANDPA) HERE:
A few words from Anna: To quote my 90-year-old dad who was eight years old in the north of England when the second World War broke out, “Freedom Is Not Free, and once it is taken it is never given back.”
Seeing all the divisiveness in our beautiful country breaks my heart. Our freedom was not free. It was paid for with the blood of our parents and grandparents — all brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for us. I won’t allow their sacrifice to be in vain. Let us all unite for freedom. And freedom of choice. Love, Anna.
Please share Anna’s song with others this Remembrance Day (simply give them the link to this blog post). It is so important that we remember that men and women have been going to war for centuries, fighting for the freedoms that we have today.
This is my father, Jimmy Swadron, who enlisted in the Canadian army during World War II. He was sent to Iceland and then England. He was injured by flying shrapnel during the Blitz and was in and out of hospital his entire life due to injuries from that time.
Still, my dad never complained. He worked two jobs to make ends meet and still sported a fantastic sense of humour. Always a kibitzer. Never ever did he speak of his time in the war.
David’s paternal grandfather, John Halliwell, lost his leg in World War I in France. He was carrying an injured friend to safety in the trenches when a shell went off that killed his friend, and John’s leg was blown off.
Do you have pictures of family members or friends who fought in the wars? Now’s the time to take them out, look at them again, honour them with your love and gratitude and say, “Thank you.” I know they will hear you, just as Anna could feel her grandpa with her as she wrote her remarkable song. Thank you Anna.
MINING THE TRUTH
A book by Anna Zirpolo
In Anna’s book, she honours the voice of her 90-year-old father, Alan Houliston, and his father, William (Bill) Houliston. One of Anna’s greatest gifts these days is sitting beside her dad as he recounts the times of his youth and life so she can write and capture it in her book . . . so that the truth can be told.
Anna’s book reads like a historical novel, but features 100% of her family’s personal truth. When Anna was only 21 years old, she visited her grandparents in the north of England and found a way to go down a mine to see for herself what her grandfather, and his father before him, along with hundreds and thousands of young boys and men endured in the horrendous conditions they were forced to work under.
Anna exposes the truth about her grandfather’s life after he was wrongly accused while working in the town’s Co-Op. This forced him to go down into the mines from which he never escaped until he was 65. With tenacity and an open heart, Anna was able to help her father to understand the truth.
In Anna’s words: “The story is about the relationship between my dad and his father, and how an inquisitive and determined granddaughter shone a light on their troubled relationship, thus exposing the truth behind their unsettled past.
When the truth was revealed many years later, transformation and miracles occurred. We can change the past,” she states emphatically.
Thank you to all the men and women who have been fighting across centuries, right up until today, as well as everyone who is standing up for freedom in the ways they can. We have a right to be free. And we have a right to choose. We can make our voices heard peacefully and stand united and respectfully in these choices even when they are different. I love how this picture demonstrates just that.
With honour and respect,
PS — If you would like my help to write your memoir, please get in touch for a complimentary call with me to discuss your project. That’s what I’m here for!
How To Write A Book
Do you want to learn how to write a book?
I can show you how, and work alongside you as you do it! I have a few seats left in my fast-approaching author mentorship program; the course starts on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. There’s still time, but don’t delay!
About the Author Mentorship Program:
📚 Are you ready to write your book but don’t know where to begin?
📚 Are you a business leader or coach wanting to make a difference in the world?
📚 Are you ready to write your memoir?
This comprehensive 10-week program will give you everything you need to accomplish your dream of writing your book!
📚 Ten weekly 2-hour group Zoom calls
📚 One-on-one coaching
📚 Publishing opportunity
📚 Free publicity — the opportunity to have an exclusive VIP Interview on The Soul Connection Podcast
📚 Private discussion group to share your writing process
Does this interest you?
If so, click this link to learn more and apply!
Your Life Matters! 8 Simple Steps to Writing Your Story
Do you want to write your book but don’t know where to begin?
Let me guess: You get excited about the thought of writing your life stories, but then, a voice inside your head stops you cold, saying things like, “Who would read it? What could I possibly teach others? Besides, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start.”
With Your Life Matters! Junie Swadron has written a book about human transformation, and she uses her reader’s pen and life story to accomplish this evolutionary task. As an author, psychotherapist, and writing coach, Junie Swadron has guided writers and authors to write their life stories for more than thirty years. Her books, Re-Write Your Life: A Transformational Guide to Writing and Healing the Stories of Our Lives and Write Where You Are, have helped thousands of writers move through fear and writer’s block.
Wendy Kenny was one of the students in the last mentorship program, she and many others are now published authors!
“At first I was not really sure about this workshop but in the end I am happy to have been a part of it. Thank you for opening your home and heart to us. You provided a safe environment and encouraged us—no judgments, but truths. You helped me to believe that I have a story and that it is worth writing down—especially because of the healing that it has brought me. In your sharing it shows how courageous and strong you have been on your journey and that overflowed during our time together. Blessings to you.” —Wendy Kenny
Click here to learn more about how in just 10 weeks you will have written your first book with my expertise!
Your life matters, and your life stories matter too!
Are you an entrepreneur with a great product, service, and brand? You need to get it out there in the world with your book! There’s nothing like having a published book to give you credibility.
How do you want to write your life stories? You could approach your project chronologically, from birth to where you are today, with all the wisdom you have gleaned along the way. Or, you could organize around themes—travel experiences, career, marriage, and children, spirituality, illness, times you were stronger than you thought, transitions and crossroads, teachers and mentors—it can all be done.
The main thing is that Your Life Matters and that you find a way to honour your life so that you can see how every story you have ever lived has come wrapped in gifts and lessons, ready to be transformed and integrated. I can show you how to write your book from the most empowered, joyous place within you so that you’ll be proud to celebrate your legacy out loud—with family and friends or with a wider audience at your book launch!
In Your Life Matters! Author Mentorship Program, you will learn how to:
📚 Inspire others with the wisdom you’ve attained in your lifetime
📚 Achieve your life-long dream of writing your memoir or sharing your entrepreneurial knowledge
📚 Bust through your blocks and write with confidence and ease with eight easy steps
📚 Free yourself from your painful past at last by unleashing your authentic voice
📚 Allow the hard lessons life has given you to become your greatest gifts
We all have fears around writing our stories, but we need to acknowledge that our life is the most important one of all and that the stories we want to tell are worthy.
The intention is that once you learn all the reasons why you CAN write your book, you’ll be saying an absolute YES to joining a group of committed upcoming authors in my Your Life Matters! Author Mentorship Program and writing your book. Apply now, and I’ll see you very soon! Course starts Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
“Junie brings her enormous heart and ignited spirit to each lesson, as well as to each and every person. She is a creative wellspring, inspired and supportive, and that all comes through. Thank you Junie for sharing your gifts and experience with us!” —Patricia Campbell
“I deeply appreciate the way Junie encourages her students to be comfortable and fearless at the same time. I found that I could go further than I’d expected in my writing, and this course inspired me to continue to work at this craft. I hope to take more courses with Junie in the future!” —Melanie Cook
Everyone Should Write a Book!
I interviewed myself today! A friend asked me the first question, and I just kept going. This as a writing technique I recommend you all to try — interview yourself! It will help bring you to so the same point I will be making throughout this reading that everyone should write a book.
Junie, you talk a lot about helping people get their books written. Do you think everyone should write a book?
Well, personally, yes, I do think everyone should write a book! But of course, I’m biased! I’ve seen the benefits of the writing process since I was a teenager, when putting my thoughts, fears, successes, failures in my diary gave me an instant inside story to my mind.
I could see how my mind travelled — how fears were followed to their origins, the dots were connecting of how this event led to that seemingly unrelated one, and I would watch nightmares morph into my best poetry in my morning writings.
Later Julia Cameron, in her famous book, The Artist’s Way, coined the term “Morning Pages,” and millions of people across the planet found out first hand just how powerful a daily writing practice can be.
What kind of writing do you teach?
I teach stream of consciousness writing — the kind where you just “let the writing do the writing,” where you’re not judging and planning and critiquing what you want to say. This kind of writing allows you to access the unconscious mind, and you begin to truly know yourself.
When I write, I feel that there is a benevolent presence sitting beside me, guiding my hand across the page or keyboard. I can’t explain it, but the words just come tumbling out of my fingers from a source I can only call God, words I cannot seem to reach otherwise. They release the muse out of her secret kingdom to alchemize ideas into creative offerings that flow out in myriad ways. Sometimes it’s poetry, sometimes, prose, books, song lyrics, stage plays, short stories . . . Who wouldn’t want access to all that goodness?
But people aren’t always able to discover this on their own if they’ve had their writing or anything else criticized as kids — when they were putting their best efforts onto the page and a teacher red-penned everything:“You should have said it this way.” “You spelled that wrong.” “That idea is impossible, why would you say that?” and then their own mind tightened the grip from there.
That person probably never wants to write again, or they become mute. Or if they do ever summon the courage to write, they often judge it as being awful before it even hits the page, or they mutilate it with their harsh opinions afterwards.
How does the process work when you’re helping people write their books, or their stories?
I firmly believe that everyone should write a book. The 8-step process is where you learn to let go of all those critical voices and keep your hand moving across the page. Sure, there are techniques to employ later when crafting a piece, but the most profound writing comes when you step out of the way and allow what’s been meaning to come out to simply come out. To let your true authentic voice have its say before you cover it over with what you think would be socially acceptable to some random critic in your head to whom you are still giving away your power.
For 20 years, students who come to my Sunday writing circles – who have been afraid to write for eons — cannot believe what comes out of them from one twenty-minute writing prompt. With genuine bewilderment, they declare, “Where on earth did that come from?” “I didn’t even know I felt that way, I am amazed!” “I just got the biggest aha!” . . . and on and on it goes. They genuinely like or even love what they wrote — and I get the biggest joy of all, witnessing a new writer emerge.
So again, should everyone write a book?
If they want to know their mind, they should. If they want to understand their relationships and bring clarity to their life stories, they should. If they want to find out how creative they are, they should. And most important of all, if they harbour a dream to write a book, and the dream doesn’t go away, then of course they should, because it’s their soul’s calling.
Also, if they have people telling them for years that they should write a book, and it resonates true for them, then it behooves them to honour that truth instead of laughing it off, only to regret years later that they never did it. The worst is, dare I say, that they are on their deathbed, when it’s too late to mend any regrets.
I adore working with my book writing clients because even though they may have fears and resistance going on, they do it anyway — and before long, their fears are channelled into writings that go out in the world, and the next thing I know, they’re offering me an autographed copy of their published book!
It’s through this evidence that I’ve seen over and over again that I birthed my motto: “Your soul meets you on the page and something shifts. You strengthen, you begin to stand taller, and one day you notice that your voice on the page has become your voice in the world.”
Finally, there are countless rewards in writing a book! That’s why I wrote one called Your Life Matters – 8 Simple Steps to Writing Your Story. And that book, my dear, will tell you all the reasons why one should write their own.
🌟 🌟 🌟
PS — If you haven’t yet read Your Life Matters – 8 Simple Steps to Writing Your Story, you can easily get yourself a copy at your favourite online bookstore (links at the bottom of this page). And if reading the book makes you want to get coaching from me to give you a boost and get your book written now, well, your timing is great, because my coaching program, Your Life Matters Author Mentorship Program, is open for enrolment right now!
We start on April 6, 2021, and we run for 10 weeks. It’s online, with live coaching calls so that you can get my eyes on your book, and encouragement from a small group of people all working towards the same goals. Why not get your application in now and we can talk about it?
Love Creates Miracles
My dear friends,
I would like to share a story with you about how love creates miracles.
I used to live in an apartment on a peaceful street, and the building I lived in was filled with many friendly people.
Not long ago, on Christmas Eve, I suddenly heard loud voices outside my door. I was startled, as it was the first time I had ever encountered that.
I opened my apartment door, and the neighbour’s door across the hall was ajar but open wide enough for me to see in. The young man and woman who lived there, who I had not met as they had only recently moved in, were shouting and throwing things. Then I watched as he punched her. She punched back.
I ran down two flights of stairs to the manager’s apartment and told her what was going on. She came out as fast as she could. In the meantime, my fighting neighbours slammed their door shut. Frightening screams were heard into the hallway.
We knocked and they wouldn’t answer. The shouting continued. We knocked louder. Finally, they opened the door and the manager, in a loud voice said, “Stop this immediately or I will call the police!” They paid no attention.
At that moment I was inspired to walk into my apartment and get a candle. I opened a cabinet containing special treasures and chose a beautiful white candle. I lit it and walked right into their living room.
In the middle of the chaos, with loving backbone, I declared, “Hey guys, this is Christmas Eve and this is a candle of peace. How about a time out?”
They were stunned. In the pause, I walked over to the man and offered him the candle. I caught him off guard. He glared at me but he took it. He held it awkwardly.
Then I said, “Would you like a hug?” He was shocked. He stood there looking at me with a frozen expression on his face. I looked back with all the compassion and love I could muster. Then, quietly, in almost a whisper he said, “Okay.”
I stepped closer and hugged him and he began to weep. His hands that a moment ago had been formed as fists, hung limply at his sides while I, a total stranger, tried to comfort him. I looked over and Liza, the manager, was already holding and consoling the woman. I think we were all crying at that point!
After a few moments, the man left my embrace and walked over to his partner, took her in his arms and said, “I’m sorry. I am truly sorry.” “Me too,” she answered.
We left and quietly closed the door behind us. Then Liza gave me a silent embrace that spoke volumes. I went back to my apartment, lit a candle for myself and said, “Thank you, God.”
I will never forget that night. The night I heard a message to go get a candle and didn’t think twice. If I had, I doubt that I would have had the courage to go into the middle of a physical fight and try to break it up.
I had no experience with that. But I do have experience with what love can do. I know that love can cause men and women to put down their weapons and go home. Both figuratively and literally. Home to their hearts and home away from the battle fields of insanity.
WE ALL KNOW BEYOND ANYTHING ELSE,
Poetic Reflections on the Dynamics of Change
This is a talk I gave at the Church of Truth in Victoria, BC on November 17, 2019
To Introduce the Topic of the Dynamics of Change; I’d like to recite this Ojibway Prayer
Look at our brokenness.
We know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.
We know that we are the ones
Who are divided
And we are the ones
Who must come back together
To walk in the Sacred way.
Teach us love, compassion, and honour
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other.
Today’s topic is poetic reflections on the dynamics of change
We’re looking at poems about memories and how writing is instrumental in integrating the dynamics of change.
So, what about memories? William Standford wrote this. It’s called:
You Reading This, Be Ready
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along the shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life —
what can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
Your Life Circumstances as Poetry
We can all read the poetry of Rumi or Hafiz, David Whyte and Mary Oliver, or in this case, William Stanford, and have our hearts lifted to the heavens by the simple weaving of their words.
But what if the harshest circumstances of your life were also considered poetry? Poetry in motion. Events, when funnelled through the Heart of Awareness become the alchemy of Grace leading you to transformation, leaving you triumphant — a Phoenix rising ever upwards from its own ashes, the dynamics of change. Poetry in motion.
Perhaps by now you have come to expect the trickster lurking around every corner. God’s secret design to mould us humans into a poetic mosaic featuring all possibilities. Divinity showing off its finest attire. Forcing us to traverse and transcend as we forge through parched deserts and darkened forests, swamps and jungles of heartbreak and grief, loss and fear until we awaken upon sparkling waters and coral colour beaches leading to abundant meadows of dancing wildflowers kissed by sunbeams drizzling through raindrops that transform into rainbows. God’s glorious archway of effervescent colours offering us The Sacred Promise. A Promise Of Hope. A Promise of Coming Home while walking right here upon our Earth.
Yes, Perfect Poetry in Motion.
I had never thought of us that way until I was invited to do this talk, but as I considered it, it makes perfect sense. After all, as God’s Children — and even more — inhabiting the spark of God within us — we are that! The absolute poetry of God. At our core, we are creative, expansive, exquisite beings of Light and when we tap into that aspect of us, the purest poetry is born, birthed in a million forms, just as we are billions of people and among billions of species on this planet, each a different expression of God’s creation, one part of the vast tapestry of the One Mind. The One Heart.
And those of us of the human kind, when we fall away from our connection to our Divinity, well, the Trickster moves in to get our attention. True? So that we can grow from and out of the inevitable painful set of circumstances that are delivered to us, reflecting on the dynamics of change, only to lead us back home to the Garden once again, to The One Heart of Creation — The One Heart of God.
As Rumi so stunningly penned, “Come even if you have broken your vow a thousand times, come, yet again, come, come. Come, come again, whoever you are, come.”
Yes, the invitation is to move beyond the sorrow and back to pillars of joy! Our true natural state. Come, come back again. Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.
Rumi also wrote:
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
One of the greatest sorrows that entered my door at the tender age of 20 is written up in a short passage from my first book, published 10 years ago, called, Re-Write Your Life — A Transformational Guide to Writing and Healing the Story of Our Lives.
Re-Write Your Life, Chapter 2, p. 9: “One day my mother sat me down . . . ”
I would like you now to listen to a poem that no one can recite better than the author himself — David Whyte. This is Sweet Darkness!
Now, I’d like to read you a poem I wrote which emerged from darkness, giving me a horizon further than I knew I could see. It was in the darkness that became the sweet confinement of my aloneness where I truly learned that anything or anyone that does not bring me alive was too dark for me. Through the dynamics of change, this poems emerged on the page:
You can talk about yesterday or talk about tomorrow
You can talk about the falling dollar, talk about your sorrow
You can talk about chemicals and how they’re poisoning the earth
You can talk about how bad it is and how it’s getting worse.
Or you can take this moment and softly close your eyes
Breathe a breath from deep within and do not compromise
Take another and then another and in the stillness feel
The wonder of this moment — can this too be real?
Stay within the silence and notice what you hear
Listen with your heart and watch your fears all disappear
For in this very moment a miracle is due
If you listen with your heart there will be a message just for you.
A child is being born right now; can you hear the sound of life?
In a little church just down the way, vows are being made as man and wife.
Somewhere on a hilltop a traveler has found her way.
And the dew upon the morning grass has welcomed a brand new day.
Stay within this moment for the miracle is here
There’s nothing that you need to do, nothing but be sincere
Life is bursting forth in every breath; And in the stillness find
A place to love, a place to join with every heart and mind.
Rejoice, for in this moment you can send blessings near and far
Rejoice, for in this moment you are a living star
And every time you feel afraid and wonder what to do
Come back to this one moment and know the miracle is you.
Transforming Grief to Joy, Scarcity to Abundance, and Fear to Love
The beauty of being human is that we are the only ones on the planet that can actually change our states of being through our intentions and our actions. Using the dynamics of change; we can transform grief to joy, scarcity to abundance, and fear to love. Other life forms can only respond to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Knowing that we have been given this gift by The Universe, this absolute privilege — our gift back is to change our state, to move from sadness to joy, and to intend to live a fully, loving, joy-filled, loved-filled magnificent life!
And now for another of the world’s greatest poets and musical geniuses, listen to this song by Leonard Cohen: Anthem.
My way through has always been writing. It brings me out of despair into a place of hope, into the place of all possibilities. It’s bizarre. I know that writing does that for me — yet even today, there are times that it’s not the first thing I go to in order to move through a challenge. Sometimes, it’s the fridge to toast another bagel. Or two!
I know I’m not alone. We all have our drug of choice. Me, I can’t help it. I’m Jewish. So it’s not my fault. When I was born, my mother, being a good Jewish mother, threw a dozen bagels into the blender and fed it to me as pablum. When I was teething she’d shove a whole bagel into my mouth — usually pumpernickel — until they came out with lox and cream cheese, my fave.
So, now you know why bagels are the number one comfort food for Jews across the planet! But me, I like to find ways to improve my bad habits, through the dynamics of change, so I went to a 12 step program for bagel addiction and — I thought I was at synagogue! There wasn’t one Christian or even a Muslim in the room! I have a strong suspicion that the person who set up this particular meeting place, also a bagel addict like me really doesn’t want to quit. And she doesn’t want us to either. All our meetings take place in the room above Mount Royal Bagels with the waft of sesame, pumpernickel, lox and cream cheese and everything bagels — moving through the floorboards and into each of our olfactory senses — throughout the entire meeting. So, you can hardly hold it against us when we relapse after every meeting. What can we do? Nu?
Putting Humour and Poetry Together with Music
Anyway, writing . . . poetry . . . poetry in motion. Song lyrics are definitely poetry in motion. And humour and poetry put together into song can be a spectacular way of movin’ and groovin’ out of the blues! We all know the truth of this. Put on a favourite dance tune and within seconds your body can’t sit still. Right?
So, going back to my earlier years, after many trips in and out of mental institutions, I met lots of people as screwed up as me — and didn’t feel quite as alone. We all had fears and phobias of one sort or another so I simply wrote a poem about it which is now going to be part of a musical I’m writing. My friend David just wrote the tune for it. It’s appropriately named, “The Phobia Song.” I’d like to leave you with this song.
Here is THE PHOBIA SONG, inspired by people everywhere — and all our conditions!
THE PHOBIA SONG
Lyrics by Junie Swadron
Music by David Halliwell
Fear of Dying and Afraid of Life
Fear of Flying and Afraid of Strife
Fear of Losing and Afraid to Win
Christ Almighty — Where do we Begin?
Are we crazy? — No We’re Not
We’re Simply Concerned By What We’ve Got
Fear of Anger — Afraid of Fat
Wars, Chores, and Doors — Imagine That
Claustrophobia, Agora Phobia
Phobias we can’t spell
Pathophobia — Xenophobia
We know em So Well
Hydrophobia — Zoo-o-Phobia
What’s Your Favourite? — Do Tell
Every Day is Crazy
And Life’s a Living Hell
Are We Crazy? — Well Maybe Yes
You Decide — It’s anyone’s Guess
Are We Crazy? — Well Maybe Not
Isn’t it Something Everyone’s Got?
Fear of Cats — Afraid of Snakes
Fear of Laughter — For Goodness Sakes
Fear of Getting Old
Or Getting Too Tall
Fear of Waking — or Sleeping In
Fear of Pleasure — Afraid of Sin
Fear of Being Seen
In Your Own Skin
We’re Not Crazy — We’re Not Crazy
We’re Happy to Tell All Our Friends
We’re Not Crazy — We’re Not Crazy . . . exit stage left!
©️ Junie Swadron and David Halliwell, November 2019
My prayer for you: May you be perfect poetry in motion and co-create a magnificent, safe, loving, peaceful beautiful life of Joy, Peace, Grace, and Harmony!
Writing Prompt: Your Turn
Is there a story in your life that you could transform? Can you re-write it so that you can benefit from its lessons and feel free to move on? Try your hand at transforming grief to joy, scarcity to abundance, or fear to love. Write your story!
If you like, share your writing in Junie’s Writing Sanctuary (if you’re not a member yet, just ask to join and I’ll get you in as soon as I can).
Want to write your own memoir?
Start by downloading a free digital first chapter of my latest book, Your Life Matters! 8 Simple Steps to Writing Your Story.
“Bipolar Babe” The Story of a Remarkable Woman
This week it is my joy and privilege to feature Andrea Paquette, most often referred to as Bipolar Babe. If you live in Victoria and you travel in the mental health circles, you will have undoubtedly come upon her name, especially in the fields of youth, mental health, and recovery.
Andrea and I met about seven years ago when a mutual friend suggested we meet. I invited Andrea to my home and we shared some of our “war stories” from earlier years from the perspective of self-compassion with an exclamation of “Good for us, look how far we’ve come!”
Together we watched the DVD of my play, Madness, Masks and Miracles, a play to dispel myths and stigmas about mental illness, and immediately shared an unspoken agreement to become friends.
Soon thereafter, Andrea joined my 10-week Re-Write Your Life workshop, and currently she is engaging in my one-to-one author mentorship program. She is writing the stories that shaped her, some of which have never been publicly told.
Her soon-to-be-published book demonstrates her profound transformation from harrowing experiences which threatened her life, hospitalizations as a result of psychosis, and depression leading to wanting to die and making a serious suicide attempt, to becoming a genuine heroine and gift to the planet.
In spite of her painful (to say the least) past, Andrea aka Bipolar Babe is an award winning mental health activist, educator, facilitator, writer, speaker, and—Executive Director of the charity she founded, the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia.
- Andrea is the named 2015 Courage To Come Back Award Winner in the category of Mental Health given by Coast Mental Health
- She won the 2013 Mel Cooper Citizen of the Year in Victoria Award
- She is also the Winner of the 2013 Award for Mentorship from the National Council for Behavioral Health in Washington, DC.
Andrea was born to a mother with a kind and gentle nature but her bipolar illness caused out of control behaviour which resulted in frequent hospitalizations. Her parents separated when she was only eight, and she was also separated from her best friend (her sister). Andrea went to live with her father and her sister stayed with her mom.
In her teens, Bipolar Babe dropped out of school, did drugs, drank alcohol daily, and hung out with a criminal crowd. After just one too many harrowing experiences, she decided to turn her life around.
She moved to BC from Ontario and attended the University of Victoria on a scholarship and immediately fell in love with political science. By age 25, Bipolar Babe was approached by a federal party to run for nomination for Member of Parliament. Although she lost, the taste of politics gave her the impetus to sell everything she owned and drive to Ottawa in her 1996 Neon, hoping to become an MP’s assistant.
From Hope to Devastation
It was then that everything came crashing down. Her bipolar illness started to manifest itself. First as hypo-mania, which included a crushing psychosis leading to unrelenting depression.
In her hypo-manic state, Andrea wrote an election strategy: a 33-page document that poised her to be the next Prime Minister of Canada.
Bipolar Babe’s illness escalated to a higher stage of mania and psychosis and after a series of painful events she was admitted to the psychiatric ward in Ottawa. After her release, she had no money, job, or friends, and her roommates kicked her out. Even her political contacts failed to answer her pleas for help.
“We treat broken minds and broken bones differently in our society.”
She felt stigmatized. She felt that if she had had a physical ailment, she would have been able to get help and compassion from others. Andrea often shares that “We treat broken minds and broken bones differently in our society.”
Although she was finally able to rent a room in a home with kind people who made her dinners and was eventually able to get work, she was paranoid now and stopped taking her meds. She left Ottawa feeling broken.
Back in BC, she suffered the other pole of the disease — severe depression and anxiety. Andrea could not even pick out food in a grocery store, and the smallest chores and tasks such as taking a shower felt like building her own house. During one of her darkest days, she attempted suicide. This hospital admission brought her face to face with a caring psychiatrist who helped her apply a new regime of wellness.
Andrea chose to teach in South Korea for two years and upon her return she secured a job with the BC government and made a decision to better her life in every way possible.
The first time she was invited to speak to a group about having bipolar disorder, she realized that she did not have to be ashamed and it became her mission in life to share her story to help others.
Bipolar Disorder Society
of British Columbia
Andrea launched her blog and the Bipolar Babes website, which gives people a place to connect, find valuable information and support.
She is now the Executive Director of the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia and speaks to students, non-profits, doctors, businesses, and other groups on a regular basis. Bipolar Babe shares her personal story of struggle and triumph since her diagnosis in 2005.
Andrea is passionate about educating today’s youth on the stigma surrounding mental health and additional societal stigmas that negatively affect people’s perceptions of themselves and others.
In five short years, this extraordinary woman has presented her story at over 150 schools, workplaces, community organizations and events, reaching more than 12,000 people.
Stigma-Free Zone Superheroes
in Greater Vancouver
In January 2016, Andrea launched a new and exciting Classroom Presentations Program called the “Stigma-Free Zone Superheroes” in Greater Vancouver with the collaboration of co-founder Dave Richardson, President, Octaform Systems Inc.
As mentioned earlier, Andrea hired me as her writing coach, excited to share her personal memoirs, including some of the most intimate details of her life.
No Matter What Our Challenges,
We Can All Live Extraordinary Lives
In her powerful message, she encapsulates that “No matter what our challenges, we can all live extraordinary lives.”
If anyone can live up to that truth and be a mentor for all people affected by mental illness, it’s my special friend, Andrea Paquette.
Andrea, bless you for your extraordinary contributions to the world.
Write about a time in your life that you knew you had to change the circumstances you were in because it was too painful or too destructive to stay where you were. The idea of making a change scared you but you did it anyway. What did you do to turn the circumstances around? Looking back at it from distance, what did this time in your life teach you about yourself? Describe the details.
As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.
Miracles, Mishaps, and Musings
The Day of Miracles
Nothing short of a miracle, mishap, and musing happened in our life! Our beautiful one-year-old budgie, Jazz, flew out the door and was lost on Wednesday, July 8, 2020 — and it’s a miracle she was found five days later, July 13, by children at a water park — about three kilometres away! Jolly, her mate, was feeling bereft, as were David and I. As you can see by their picture, you can’t get even a toothpick between them. They are so in love.
When Jazz flew out the door, I immediately enlisted the help of ROAM (Reuniting Owners with Animals Missing). Within minutes of my reporting that she was lost, ROAM had posted it online, informed other agencies, given us the contact info for all of them, AND created a poster for us, ready to print! WOW!
David and I and our friends must have posted 150 of them, and we posted on our Facebook site to engage prayers from all our friends and family . . . and just when my heart was starting to give up hope, ROAM called! Jazz had been found!!!
It’s a Miracle That She Was Found Safe!
Jazz was a long way from home. She was found at the waterpark by some great kids who helped her get home to us and her “bird of a feather” Jolly.
How she flew from James Bay to the Esquimalt Recreation Centre, we’ll never know. Above is a map showing the walking route (blue) and Jazz’s route (yellow) in my imagination. As the budgie flies, it must be about 3 km — and across the ocean!
Jazz endured five days of mostly rainy, cold and windy conditions, and then she was found by children! A true sign of her miracle, mishap and madness.
Meet Sarah, whose three children found Jazzy wandering around the grass and then flying into the wading pool to drink the water!
Jazz was tired and ready to come home, because she walked right up to Sarah’s shoe!
Sarah was able to easily capture her and keep her safe in a shopping bag till I arrived. We went into the change room and put her into her cage.
I poured the food onto the bottom of the cage and we were off to the vet, where we found that all vital signs were perfect. She was good to go, so I took her home to Jolly. A bit of good loving from her mate is the best medicine ever.
The first day, she mostly slept, regaining her strength, while Jolly massaged her head. Her sweet loving mate.
I can’t say enough about ROAM. They were all so kind, genuinely caring, and fully results-oriented.
Bless them for the beautiful work they do.
Another incredible part of the story is that Sarah, whose children found Jazz, went to school with my friend Astri’s daughter Ariel. Sarah called Ariel to tell her about finding a budgie at the waterpark, and they figured out that I was the Junie that Ariel knew!
I came bearing gifts of my books to give to Sarah and her children. The next day, Sarah wrote and told me she was up all night reading Write Where You Are — and it was apparently just what the doctor ordered. We have scheduled a playdate for her and her kids to come over and meet Jolly, now that Jazz has fully recovered. It’s a happy story indeed — the rescuers have become our friends!
David and I totally relaxed at lmagine Cafe after “our baby” Jazz came home.
While we were at the cafe, enthralled with the days miracle, we mapped out our newest project on a napkin — a colouring book for Children of All Ages: Jazz Came Home, a true story of miracles, mishaps and musings.
I’ll write it, and David will illustrate it. We’ll keep the joy of this story happening! Let me know if you want to purchase an advance copy. It’s going to be spectacular!
Just days after Jazz was safely home and we were breathing peacefully as a family again, I had a ‘freak’ accident. An overweight can fell from the top shelf onto my foot and fractured a bunch of bones. I am now in a walking cast for six weeks.
But you see, this story could easily be written in the above category under “Miracles” as well. Why? Because I was clearly not listening to The Universe’s messages to SLOW DOWN. So God, in her infinite wisdom, delivered me a message I could NOT ignore: “JUNIE, STOP!” So, stopped I am. Well . . . much more than usual, anyway. Pain will do that. Your body requires sleep. FULL STOP.
I never thought I’d be one who’d be sitting and reading a book while my partner does everything! Everything! Hmm . . . one could get used to this! Well, maybe this one. Possibly not David. However, he’s chosen to be my full-time caregiver in every sense of the word without one indication of resentment.
The Miracle and Musings
So, one could ask the question, “How DID Jazzy make it home? What caused that miracle?” I honestly don’t know if what I’m going to say next is arrogance or truth . . . but it’s something I’ve thought about.
David and I live our lives in appreciation and gratitude every day. We keep a joint gratitude journal, and every night before going to sleep, we’ve been writing what we are grateful for that day. We have limited it to five things or we may never hit the pillow.
We see the goodness in everything AND we are human and feel the pain of so much as well. Especially in these unprecedented times of Covid.
Generally speaking, we hold the energy of love, compassion, and joy, side by side with grief and sorrow. On this day the feelings were paired with the feeling of bliss and true miracle.
We both know in our core that everything that happens, happens FOR us, not “to” us. It happens for our soul’s evolution and growth. And we are also quite aware that the miracle of Jazz’s return has to do with the prayers that came in from far and wide from friends and family. Thank you all!
Without my fractured foot, I would be still be carrying on like the Energizer Bunny — rarely slowing down. Although I meditate every day, my days haven’t been balanced. They will be now.
I’m paying attention! This isn’t a temporary healing job — that in six weeks, I’ll be back on the dance floor of life, jitterbugging my way into programs and non-stop activity. My intention — that I am stating here, out loud — is to choose to live in inspired action, be in nature EVERY DAY, do my Life’s Mission, of course, because it’s what feeds my soul, and say, Thank you, God — for this lifelong lesson.
Where in your life do you need to either slow down, re-evaluate, or change a life-long habit before it becomes a two-by-four (or a heavy can) that forces you to make that choice?
Here’s your writing prompt in two parts. Start your timer and write for at least 20 minutes:
1. What I know in my heart I need to change in order to find true peace and freedom is . . .
2. The steps I shall take are . . . and I am willing to set that intention now.
I’m still going ahead with Sunday Sacred Writing Circle on Zoom. Why not join me? I’ll show you the budgies and my foot! Here’s the link to register.
You’re also invited to join Junie’s Writing Sanctuary on Facebook, where you can continue the conversation.
Tell someone you love them. Today.
The Letter That Made My Day
This week I’m sharing something very personal, a letter that really touched me.
We don’t always know who we will touch when we simply show up with our hearts.
The other day I received an email from one of my very first therapy clients ever – 30 years ago!
Without my knowing it, she found me, subscribed to my newsletter, and wrote me the letter below. I had tears streaming down my face as I read it.
The reason I am sharing it is two-fold (probably more but I’ll keep it to two). ????
One: Because during the Covid period, my moods have been fluctuating all over the map. I’ve been here, there, and everywhere. Gratefully, mostly grounded and happy! Still, I want to be transparent and tell you that it’s not 24/7. Even though I am very capable of showing up for others, and do my work successfully, I have had some serious knee-jerk reactions to triggers that have brought up things from my past.
People in my present-day reality have said and done things that unconsciously reminded me of someone in the past — but they are NOT that person. This has brought up things for me to heal. Oh boy! Luckily, I have the tools. If only I had used those tools as trigger action plans before the event, though, I could have prevented the pain I caused.
Still, it’s how we all learn, grow, transform, and ascend the rungs of that spiritual spiral ladder we are on. We can only grow when we become conscious of our pitfalls and take action steps to correct them. One step at a time. Fall. Get up. Forgive ourselves, others . . . whatever it is. We know the drill.
If you see yourself in what I have described, take out your journal and write. Write into the truth of whatever has come up for you because it will free you! Punctuate it with a forgiveness letter to yourself and/or the ‘other,’ and a loving letter from The Universe to You, reminding you that you are perfect and whole, just the way you are!
Two: I’m sharing this because I would like you to think of someone you can write to this week who has changed your life for the better. Tell them. Please let them know. It will make their day, perhaps their life!
I was carrying so much shame for my recent explosion, that it was very hard to find the goodness in myself. When this email from my past client came in, it reminded me that I am so much more than my judgments of myself. We ALL do this to ourselves and it is not necessary!
I have since written back to my former client Diana and thanked her with all my heart for reaching out to me.
With Diana’s permission, here’s the email she sent to me after she watched the interview I shared in last week’s newsletter. If you haven’t watched the interview yet, it’s not too late! You can view it on YouTube here.
Letter from my client from about 30 years ago (circa 1990):
“Loved the interview Junie. (Junie still sounds strange to me as I have thought about you for years as June!) It was superb. There was no place to comment or I would have done.
I think you were new to the business when I saw you. And I was new to psychotherapy. Your apartment was so welcoming, cats and all, and so were you. Of course.
You got out your application form and I sat across from you and at about the third question I broke down. You then abandoned the form and encompassed me. I sat by you and sobbed out my story about my addicted son, a heroin addict, and you heard me out.
My sessions with you saved my life at that awful time. I had not shared my grief with anyone close to me. Always trying to be the go-to person to everyone else. I hardly shared with my husband the horrors of the day when he came back from the office.
You taught me that I needed to share with him as I needed his help. You taught me a lot as probably one of your first clients. And you had me write a diary or journal. So the seeds of your future were always there.
Writing. Enhanced by your work as a psychotherapist. Bravo, Junie. You came across in that interview as a totally amazing person, an angel in fact, a person anyone in distress would want on their side, in their corner.
I am stunned by the number of different jobs you have done all the while fighting your own battle with bi-polar disorder and abuse as a child. I remember you sharing that with me, too, about your being locked up in a psychiatric hospital. That sharing is so helpful, in fact it is beyond words is what it is.
Please use this letter in any way you need in order to further your work.
Your hair was blonde and you wore a motorcycle jacket when I knew you.
I prefer your silvery curly hair now. It suits you to the ground.
I became a writer, a writing instructor for the Toronto Board, a social service worker — but that got cut short when anything I wrote became published. I did every kind of writing imaginable.
In 2003 I wrote a book of short stories for teenagers which were well reviewed and placed in the top ten teenage novels of that year by the Canadian Library Association. Despite this it died on the shelf!
But I had an email from a high school teacher a few years ago and she said two of her students had been able to come out because she used a coming out story in the book in her grade 12 class. Would you like a copy? I have a lot!! And if so please send me your address.
I hope you live forever and continue to help those in need. You are in fact an angel. And still stunningly beautiful, June.
Want to find out what writing from the heart can do for you? Join us on Sunday mornings for Sacred Writing Circle. Here’s the link to register.
You’ll find a lot of friendly writers in Junie’s Writing Sanctuary on Facebook as well, where you can continue the conversation.
PS — Here’s the interview that Diana watched ⬇️
Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
This is one of the most important songs written about the absolute senselessness of war. You can listen to songwriter Peter Seeger sing it at the end of this post (along with a version by Peter, Paul and Mary).
Today is November 11th and a time to pay tribute to the men and women who fought for their countries — often giving their lives as well.
I was talking to a friend last night and he was telling me that a favourite uncle of his who fought in World War II was now elderly and dying. Throughout his life, he never talked about his time at war. About three days before he died, while family members sat around his bedside sharing stories, his daughter asked, “Dad, is there anything you want to share about your time at war?”
Suddenly, tears welled up in his eyes and he began to sob. Once he got his composure, he started sharing the stories and the details that he had kept inside all through his life. Everything he had pushed down — deep down but not buried.
Every now and then he had to stop and catch his breath as more tears and sobs were released. His daughter was sorry she had brought it up but later realized that her question had given her dad a chance to finally heal his heart. Three days later he passed away, finally unburdened. At peace at last.
Over the years I have known many people just like my friend’s uncle, including my own dad who fought in the Canadian Army during WWII. He never spoke of it. My dad was a gentle man with very few words, and I was too shy and afraid to ever bring it up.
Do you have a family story of someone close to you who was a soldier in years past? Have they shared their experiences with you? How was that for you? Perhaps they’ve never talked about it but you sense they are still burdened with memories and even nightmares.
If you are a currently serving your country, how do you communicate your own inner feelings and navigate your inner terrain when living in war-torn countries — or knowing that you could be sent to one any day?
I remember a therapy client I had several years ago. He was an American Vietnam veteran. I saw him about two years after a car accident that almost took his life. He was driving along a highway and a car muffler backfired and he swerved his car — at 90 kilometres an hour — to the right, and down an embankment. The sound of the tire backfiring had triggered memories of machine guns going off.
How many people suffer from PTSD and get triggered by unrelated experiences? Not necessarily war, but whatever the trauma, it’s war inside our psyches if we don’t recognize the symptoms and get help.
At the moment I’m housing a friend of mine who was a TV journalist for close to 30 years. I met her at an author mentorship retreat I was hosting. Her book is about toxic stress — the slow drip kind that can lead to PTSD. How? In her case, it’s from decades of delivering the most current news, breaking tragic events while maintaining a near stoic demeanour, which was the expectation of the news station. She didn’t realize the toll that was building in her body and psyche from day-to-day vicarious trauma.
My journalist friend is writing a book to bring awareness to the countless numbers of people in so many different professions — first-responders, caregivers, even lawyers and court clerks — everyone who is required to just show up, do their job, go home, feed the kids, go to sleep and start again the next day, not realizing the stress that is building up in their bodies, psyches, and hearts.
Perhaps that’s you. It sure was me for five years of my life when I worked at Toronto City Hall as a court reporter. Every day I scribed verbatim the goings-on in adversarial situations — from parents fighting over custody over their children to men or women waiting to hear if they were going to be sentenced to prison for anything from drug dealing to murder. Every day I showed up listened and transcribed. I stayed five years even though I knew the first day on the job that it wasn’t for me. That I was too sensitive to be impartial to the goings-on and simply transcribe them.
Yet I stayed for five years because it was paying my way through school as I was studying to become a psychotherapist. After a while, like any other occupation, you simply do your work and “get used to it,” not realizing the invisible accumulation of the slow drip, drip, drip symptoms that may one day break into uncontrollable aggression, cancer, or suicide.
I invite you, this Remembrance Day, to take time to pay tribute to the millions of men and women around the world who, in days gone by, fought for their countries and have suffered post-traumatic stress in the years to follow.
Honouring the soldiers for who they were — each individual person who had a life, a home, a family, friends, hopes for the future — “now lie dead in Flanders Fields,” and in fields across our earth.
It was the veterans coming home from the Vietnam War that awakened psychologists to the fact that there was a very real condition that was needing to be addressed. Before that, there was not even any awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is now among many recognized conditions in the DSM.
As you know, I’m a strong proponent of the healing power of writing. If today’s Remembrance Day post brings up strong emotions in you, I invite you to take a few moments to give love and compassion to the tender parts of you are calling out to be acknowledged, nurtured, and held. Take out a notebook and write without stopping, allowing whatever wants to come out to emerge on the page. Then share your writing with a trusted friend, partner, or therapist.
Do not let deep feelings of pain sit inside you, silently releasing stress hormones into your bloodstream.
The day we honour our veterans is part of your life story. If this 11/11 story makes you want to write your own memoir and you would like to discuss it, please know that I am available to help you. You can begin by downloading my latest book, Your Life Matters! Learn to Write Your Memoir in 8 Easy Steps.
Here’s Pete Seeger singing his song, Where Have All The Flowers Gone? (he starts the song at the two-minute mark):
Here is a version of Peter, Paul and Mary singing Where Have All The Flowers Gone? This is at their 25th year anniversary concert: When will we ever learn? When will WE ever learn?
Here are some comments I found on the internet following their song:
I am 71 years old, I served with 1st Calvary in Viet Nam. I still cry when the flag is raised and I still cry when I hear this song. P, P & M were simply the best.
I found out I have cancer today and I’m just listening to this and doing art because my soul is wrenching out of my heart, and this is the only song I thought of when I found out.
George Vreeland Hill:
If we listened to music, I mean really listened to the words, then the world would be a better place. This is a song that needs to be listened to. More than ever.
70 YEARS OLD? ME? YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?
Yup, I am kidding. I’m 70 Years YOUNG! And that is the absolute truth. I feel younger today than I did 20 years ago. I think I’ve found the Elixir to the Fountain of Youth. It’s called Self Love! Gratitude, Creativity, and Loving My Life No Matter What! (Or at the very least, appreciating and grateful to be alive … even if things aren’t seemingly going “my way.”)
How did I get this smart? Trust me, a year ago, I couldn’t even say the word “seventy” without coughing, gagging, stuttering and choking it down again. Today I am celebrating 70 and all the ways that I have come to love my Life!
I realized that each decade-birthday has had huge significance for me. This is the best so far — and some of the others have been downright awesome too (not every year in-between, though, that’s for sure) — but if this is what 70 looks like, bring it on!
So! Seven decades on this planet. (If you’re impatient and don’t want to read all the epiphanies of each decade, scroll down to the bottom and see how I’m celebrating this one!)
Or if you like stories, here’s mine:
Age 10 — To be honest I don’t remember what happened at age 10. I have very few memories of my childhood.
However, at 20, I travelled to Europe with my best friend Suki. It was 1969 and we planned on being away for a whole year. We flew out of Toronto and into New York, boarded a student ship sailing 10 days across the Atlantic Ocean and dropping us off on British soil and into a future neither of us had bargained for. We did stay a year … just not together. (We re-united 43 years later. Here’s the story.)
At 30, I returned to Toronto after a decade of travel, having lived for months or years at a time in different cities and countries, including England, Israel, Vancouver, Florida, New York, and Montreal. When I came back to the city of my birth, I put my big girl panties on and started my own freelance business called, “Write For You,” doing ghostwriting.
There was a huge recession and I couldn’t make a living at it. So I went back to school to learn how to be a court reporter and started working at City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square and hated it! I am too much of an empath to be in an adversarial environment every day. But it paid well so I stayed and used the money to pay my tuition at various institutions that ran night schools until I earned the appropriate accreditation to put up my shingle as a psychotherapist in 1993.
When I turned 40, my beautiful (late) sister, Barbara gave me a spectacular birthday party. When I told her that my guest list was getting too big for my two-bedroom apartment and thought I would take it outside to the park across the street from where I lived on Chaplin Crescent, in Toronto, which to me was an awesome idea, she would have none of it.
Instead, she threw me the most elaborate pool party in her backyard and I have the video to prove it! Oh dear, she rented tables, put centrepieces on them, and prepared the most amazing buffet of food for 100 people!!! (Yup, it was more like a wedding.)
I had friends from my youth, from court reporting, from school, from well, lots of places. And wouldn’t you know it! At some point on that hot muggy night, the clouds started getting darker as they raced across the sky and then BOOM! CRASH! LIGHTNING! SPLASH!
That didn’t stop Barbara. Being her gracious self, she simply moved the party indoors and resumed without batting an eye! Bless your beautiful soul Barbara! Gosh on some days I miss her fiercely! (She was diagnosed with cancer and six weeks later, on March 30th, she was gone. Just three weeks earlier, she had turned 65. That was 11 years ago.)
In my 50th year, I moved to Vancouver after having travelled back and forth many times since my first visit in 1970 when I hitchhiked across the country — as all young hippies did at that time. I was off to see my old high school boyfriend, Bo, who was then living off the land on Texada Island. It was only supposed to be a two-week visit!
Instead, on my way back, I visited Vancouver and I fell in with a bunch of musicians. We were on a boat in English Bay, I was writing a poem, one of the guys started strumming music to it and soon they passed around the pipe, christening me “The Pen” — and I became gainfully employed as the lyricist for their rock band, Lead Feather. After that, I made a couple of phone calls: “Hi Mom, Hi Dad, Hi Work, I’m not coming back!”
It’s been 20 years. At one point, I thought I would move back to Toronto. A few years ago I was there for a whole summer and was a love fest — family and friends were coming out of the woodwork. But I when came back to Victoria, I started grievin’ leavin’.
The land and the sea are so much of my blood that, even though I have no family here and I miss them terribly sometimes, I am grateful to have the friends and the work I do that sustain my mental and emotional well being.
On my 60th birthday, I published my first book, Re-Write Your Life, and received an endorsement from my hero and muse, Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way.
You probably felt the earthquake when her endorsement came in! I jumped up and down so hard, it went right off the Richter Scale and apparently sent ripples across the globe. She had this to say, “June Swadron” (I was June then … as opposed to Junie) …
“June Swadron is both a guide and a muse. Her book is a bright lantern, illuminating the often dark and tricky terrain of the soul. Grounded in personal experience, her techniques catalyze the deep authenticity possible to us all.” —Julia Cameron, Author of The Artist’s Way
So, what do I have up my sleeve at 70? On June 6th, I’m launching my new Re-Write To Re-Ignite Your Life online program. I am very excited and proud of this program. It’s a self-study course so you can go at your own pace. All the details can be found here.
My MOST EXCITING news about turning seventy is this:
It’s called ACHA — The Academy for Creative and Healing Arts. It’s a FUNdRAISER and you can read all about it in a sec. Wait for it! Wait for it! I’m a storyteller. Indulge me please. Or if you can’t … here it is. And here’s the story:
A few months ago when I knew I was going to show the world (or at least show myself) what the new 70 looks like, I rented The Community of Conscious Living hall in Victoria to hold a 70s dance party. There was going to be a 70s theme — wear your favourite bell bottoms and dance the night away to our old 60s and 70s faves. But it didn’t land.
Next it was going to be a lip sync party like my friend Millie had on her 60th which was a hoot. Then it was going to be a Mardi Gras costume party. Next, a black tie event, a formal evening — and then I remembered no man in this town owns a tie — let alone a black one. However, what did land, which propelled me from my bed to the computer at 3 am with fingers speeding across the keyboard was this:
Drum Roll Please! Building a holistic centre to transform mental illness to mental health — Namely: ACHA, The Academy for Creative and Healing Arts.
It’s a Dream Whose Time Has Come. It’s my dream. I put it out 8 years ago and it’s been incubating on my website ever since. Now it’s only 2 ½ weeks away and I can’t believe the momentum … It’s a Yes from everyone I speak to about it. The Academy for Creative and Healing Arts for People with Mental Health Challenges (and everyone) is being carried on the wings of angels and unicorns, and everything magical. Ease and Grace is the way it’s unfolding.
If you are in the Victoria area, please come. Don’t miss it!
If you are a relative or a close friend from out of town, surprise me! Be my personal birthday present. Hey … at 70, I can ask for what I want right? And if you can’t come — please, not to worry, I understand. I put ALL my wishes out to The Universe — some privately, some out loud like this one. Then, I simply let go of the outcome knowing that the Universe is unfolding exactly the way it is supposed to. I will be grateful to see you whenever that might be!
More amazing news: More drum rolls please: I am writing a new book. The publisher has a deadline for me for June 30th! It’s about writing memoirs, your memoirs — your most important stories.
AND on June 30th, the very same day, I am moving from the one-bedroom apartment that I have been living in for 12 years to the main floor of an exceptional house with my very own garden — a block and a half from the ocean!
There’s a lot on my plate. Some days I’m totally wiped out! And at the same time, I acknowledge that I am also living in the most inspired way. Synchronicities abound, magic is everywhere — I could use a bit more sleep — but it seems that I am more grounded and happier than ever before. Thank Goodness I meditate and journal every day. Both keep me sane.
Hope to see you at ACHA on June 21st. Summer Solstice. Now SAVE THE DATE!
P.S. If you are unable to join me to celebrate my 70th and the launch of ACHA, your donations are greatly appreciated to help ACHA become a dream come true. Here’s the GoFundMe page for your donations.
Jan Falkowski — writing into forgiveness sets you free
A few years ago, Jan Falkowski, a man in his 50s, arrived at my Re-Write Your Life program. He was just starting to come out of a long darkness after the death of his beloved daughter, Jessica.
Jessica was only 19 years old when she died. As a high school graduation gift, Jan’s sister and brother-in-law took Jessica to Australia. After a couple of weeks seeing the sights, Jessica’s aunt and uncle returned to Victoria. Jessica stayed on because her best friend, Erin was flying in to accompany her. They intended to enjoy a summer of adventure before returning to university in the fall.
Erin arrived only to learn that the evening before Jess had been in a serious car accident and was lying in a coma in hospital.
Jess had been at a party. She left with a male friend who, unbeknownst to her, had been drinking excessively. Their car crashed.
Upon hearing the news, Jan caught the next flight to Australia. He arrived at the hospital to find his beloved daughter hooked up to life support machines. He was informed by the doctors that Jess would not likely become conscious again and, even if she did, her brain was damaged beyond repair and it would be a life-less life.
Jan left the hospital and took a long torturous walk. When he returned, he made the unimaginable and unbearable decision to take Jess off life supports and donate her organs to others.
Six years later Jan joined my group . . . six years that he described were filled with rage, hatred, alcoholism and a spirit that had died along with Jess. Guilt pervaded his every day as he had a 13-year-old daughter to take care of.
Sixteen years before this latest tragedy, Jan had lost his wife after a long battle with cancer, leaving him to raise their girls alone.
After attending Re-Write Your Life and applying the principles and receiving the love that is present in a sacred circle from each of the participants, Jan, for the first time in six years, began to feel a sense of hope, of new possibilities.
One day he came to class and read a letter to Nick, the man who was responsible for the death of his daughter. It was a letter of unconditional forgiveness. In this letter he expressed a desire to one day meet, put closure on the pain they were both feeling and move on with their lives.
Within a couple of weeks he put the letter in the post. Nick, still in prison, responded with deep and unabashed gratitude. Since that time there has been a string of letters between them.
How awesome is that?
We can all heal our lives from past wounds. We just need to be willing. And why wouldn’t we be? Our life depends on it.
Tapestry, a CBC Radio program, featured a 20-minute documentary with Theresa O’Leary on Jan’s healing journey back to life.
You can also watch and listen to Jan reading part of this letter on The Daily in an interview with Karen Elgersma.
Read more about Re-Write Your Life.
Check out Re-Write Your Life as a self-paced online course!
Colouring Your Dreams Come True
Life is miraculous right now. I’m pinching myself, saying, “Seriously? Another dream come true? I didn’t even do anything. It just happened.”
Upon reflection, I realized that’s not true. These wonderful manifestations haven’t ‘just happened.’ I intentionally co-created them with The Universe. It was hard to acknowledge that at first because I wasn’t used to seeing almost instantaneous results from the ideas I had in my head to the physical reality where I could touch them.
I was carrying skepticism about what would come of my actions in the so-called “big picture” meaning, beyond my life now. Those doubts caused a blip on the Big Computer Screen in The Sky, i.e. The Universe . . . because I was sending It mixed messages. I didn’t stay steady in a receptive mode. In short, I didn’t trust. Then I recollected that it is only, in my life NOW, by living the way I want my future to look, can these dreams come to pass. I needed to feel the feelings that these things I wanted would give me. Of course, the first thing would be JOY!
Quickly my living room became my dance floor where my bird Joey and I would sing (chirp), and dance (flutter some wings), up a storm. I can’t think of one thing that can change one’s mood faster than music! Right? Bring on the Rock n Roll!
So folks, whether you feel like it or not — feel into how YOUR DREAMS will may you happy and start being that.
If you’re not up to dancing in your living room with your budgie bird, cat, dog or hamster, set an intention. Intentions are very powerful signals to the Universe. And you deserve to be happy!
Dance is also a metaphor for anything and everything that brings YOU Joy. Don’t get trapped in the, “I’ll be happy when . . . ” syndrome. You can be happy now! Intentionally. Get out and take that walk, that bubble bath, see that play, invite a friend for dinner, say “No” when you need to and “Yes” more than you have been and look for the good everywhere! Then get ready for synchronicities to fly from the sky right into your so-called ordinary day! Then I dare you to stop smiling!
I am no longer skeptical. I am seeing result after result and I want that for you too. And it can. I know this to be true. My life used to be a revolving door in and out of mental health (not so healthy) wards for long periods of time (years!) because of my diagnosis. I lived being terrified of my shadow . . . and I had a very plump shadow. But I learned how to bring light to it and my life has no resemblance to what it used to be. And because of it, I live in humility and gratitude every day. I mean every day. When you know what clinical depression feels like and it’s not haunting you anymore, is there any other way to feel than grateful!
One thing I know for sure, if I can dramatically turn my life around, so can you! No matter what your circumstances! And it doesn’t have to be difficult to do! If every single person on the planet could know this, I would be ecstatic. And so would they and so would Jolly-Beam.
Who’s Jolly-Beam, you may ask? He’s the main character of the book I just published, called, “Colour Your Dreams Come True, A Bedtime Story and Colouring Book for the Child Inside Every Adult.”
Yup, it’s a storybook AND a colouring book all in one. In it Jolly-Beam brings curious adults to his home in the Higher Realms to experience Pure Bliss. And they do. Once they are satiated and relaxing in the magical flower garden, Jolly-Beam, J-B, for short gathers them close and tells them his story. He shares that he used to be an earthling once before entering into a time of no time. He tells them how his life had been a series of struggles, that he could hardly make ends meet, was lonely, often ill, had hardly any friends until one day . . . That One Precious Day when he was led to Universal Wisdoms, that he practiced which brought him to the very top of the Mountain of Joy. It was then that he was unexpectedly summoned by The Elders and proudly given the name Jolly-Beam along with a mission.
His mission was to impart these truths that he learned to the adult inhabitants of Planet Earth. The children already knew these things. The adults had been children once but had forgotten. So, he Beamed out his Jolly-ness across the Nation becoming The Pied Piper of love.
Now let me tell you My Little Secret. Jolly-Beam came to me in a meditation in 1976. Over 40 years ago! I saw and felt it all — but on my own human journey, not knowing how to sustain those teachings, I suppose I needed to fall down and get up many, many times before I could embody his teachings. I guess until I was tired of repeating that pattern.
Fast forward to only a few months ago I was serendipitously introduced to Siri Stiklestad Opli, in Norway, who brought my Jolly-Beam to life. Before her magical illustrations, he was a story lingering in space without a place to land. Thank you, Siri!
What is YOUR JOLLY-BEAM story? Yes, you do have one. If you’re not experiencing joy, it’s because you are not living your highest purpose. We all have one. Inside our doubts and insecurities, afraid what people will think syndrome, we have dreams. Meditate to remember what they are. Get back in touch with the creative you. Write all about it in your journal from 5 years from now when it’s already happened and all the magic that’s come to you as a result of it. Don’t let any usurpers come in and spoil your dreams. Keep it to yourself or only tell those who support you 1000%.
In our imaginations, we birth our dreams into reality by being really clear about what we want. So Dream Big! Believe it! Claim it! Embrace it! Fall in Love with It! It’s all yours for the asking!
Now get ready to Colour Your Dreams Come True!
Find out more and order your copy of Colouring Your Dreams Come True.
School Dayz Gone By
Do you remember a time when the summer holidays were over and it was the first day of school? And from all your first days of school, can you remember one in particular where you started with curiosity, enthusiasm, and excitement, yet also with trepidation coursing through your veins?
I do. I was an adult. I had quit school after grade 11 and was now 30 years old, and it was the beginning of the 1980s. I spent the entire decade of the 70s travelling and exploring different cities and countries, meeting new people, learning the ways of new cultures, and living a mixture of jubilation and heartbreak, being lost and being found again.
I returned to Toronto in 1980 ready to make a brand new start. But at what? I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur, a freelancer, and opened a business called Write For You. I was going to be a ghost writer— anything from writing ad copy to writing people’s books for them. With all good intentions, it didn’t fly, and I was broke.
My oldest and dearest friend, Alan (Bunny to those who knew him as a child), was a young lawyer and suggested I train to become a court reporter. He said, “Junie, it’s steady, the court room is always exciting, and the pay is excellent.” So that’s what I did.
I registered for the course and found myself in the hallowed halls of George Brown College at 30 years of age among 19- and 20-year-olds. I was obviously the oldest person—a whole decade older—and I felt it. But not for long! Once the learning started, I was no longer identifying with my age and separating myself from the others. I was loving what I was learning and was equally enamoured with sharing thoughts and studying with the young vibrant minds of my classmates.
Geography was my favourite subject. Who would have guessed that it was being offered in a curriculum of court procedures? However, it soon made perfect sense. We were about to be working with people from all across the world because Toronto was teaming with new immigrants from seemingly every country, and it was important for us to learn about the people and their cultures.
My favourite part was writing and sharing my essays and listening to the others share theirs. All the while I was discovering a brand new me! I found out that I loved school. I loved being in an environment teeming with possibilities. Simply put, I loved to learn! And best of all, I was good at it. A far cry from the me that floundered in every grade from kindergarten until finally throwing in the towel in grade 11.
But the pièce de résistance, the icing on the cake for me, was that while I was learning the rules and regulations of the court room, I was also spinning discs as a DJ for the school radio. Every single day at noon, I would play my favourite songs and called my program The Tune Down with June Hour.
In an era of heavy metal, I’m not sure the “kids” appreciated my selection of people like Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Ella Fitzgerald, Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers, and Elton John. And of course, The Beatles! The resurgence of these greats came later. I love watching and being with young people today, grooving on the same tunes that we baby boomers found “groovy” then.
Music was and still is “my thing”. What wasn’t my thing, as it turned out, was court reporting! I learned very quickly I was not cut out to be in an adversarial environment every day. But Alan was right. The pay was excellent and for five years it paid my tuition in the night schools of other hallowed halls.
This led me to putting up a proud shingle on my door as a psychotherapist. This gave me an opportunity to do what really matched my sensitivities and make-up. Then, the same year I started up my practice, I brought in my other love—writing—and facilitated my first writing workshop called Write Where You Are. And here I am, some 30 years later, still doing both! Gee, I guess I must love it. Yup! Sure Do!
Find a quiet time to write and . . .
Think about a September in your life when you were starting a new school year. Were you a child, a teenager, or a young adult? Or were you returning later in life? Consider, no matter what age you were, what were the stepping stones along the way? Who were the people you met who made a significant impact in your life?
What were the subjects that jazzed you?
I’ve got a full line-up of the subjects that still jazz me in the form of courses for YOU (see the Workshops & More tab). I’m still teaching Write Where You Are, along with a Write Where You Are afternoon “playshop”, an Author Support & Mentorship program, a book writing retreat, and that’s not all! If any of them ring a school bell (no exams!) in your heart, please join us. It’s back to school—adult style!
Carlie Kilduff—a woman on a mission
It gives me tremendous joy to introduce you to Carlie Kilduff. Some of us have the privilege of meeting someone and immediately knowing that we’ve met a friend for life. That’s how it was for Carlie and me. Carlie is a spoken word artist, and my friends thought she would be a perfect fit for my fundraising event, Eyes On Talent. They couldn’t have been more spot on!
Carlie not only agreed to perform spoken word, but as an event organizer, she offered to help me bring the details of the evening together. It would take me too long to describe the heart and soul of this woman and her brilliance as an organizer (and former high school teacher). I simply know is how blessed I am to have met her and call her my friend. Here now is her story:
I had no idea what was in store when I first met them. They were a group of rowdy, unruly grade nine students with a reputation for sending teachers on stress leave. Some of their teachers were referring to them as “The Sweat Hounds” but I call them “The Class”.
I was not supposed to join the roster of teachers assigned to them in September 2011, but with a sudden change of fate I found myself welcoming them into my classroom a few days into the new school year. I was supposed to teach Social Studies, but since I had never taught this subject before, I begged to have it changed. I did not want to add the stress of a new subject to an extremely challenging class. I was granted the opportunity to teach English. I had never taught English either, but since I loved to read and write, I was much more keen to accept this mission.
It could not have come at a worse time in my life. Hard stories from some of my family members were spiralling out of control, I had just landed back to work after two years of leave from the birth of my first son, and I was trying to conceive my second child with some difficulty (no wonder why!). The way that I had always prided myself on perfectly planning and staying on top of every little detail was being chipped away day by day. Looking back, it was my “perfect storm” and many great and amazing things have followed.
The bell rang that morning and I braced myself as the class came bursting through my door. There was an energy about them, alerting me that I’d better pay attention. In my years of teaching, I had worked with some very tricky students and classes, but this was a whole new level. They trickled in, a slow parade of teenage hormones and the smell of Axe cologne.
One girl in particular seemed to be in charge so I watched her intently. She pulled a desk out of the lines that I had arranged and placed it beside her friend’s desk, right at the back corner, and threw her legs up on top of the desks with purpose, placing her head down in her arms with a look that said: “Go ahead and try me.” I was familiar with students trying to make hard-core first impressions before but every one of them had previously taken a step back when I approached them with kind firmness and gave them a cue of my expectations. Not this girl.
When I asked her to separate the desks and sit up properly, with full respect and gentle guidance, she said: “No!” The show was on and a few eyes and ears perked up as I had to quickly adjust my strategy, trying to offer her a doorway out of our confrontation, by suggesting that perhaps she was not understanding that I was serious and would have to send her to the office if she did not cooperate with me, making for an unnecessary first experience together. She very slowly and reluctantly did as I had asked, with every ounce of resistance and attitude she could possibly muster while still towing the line. I knew at once that this was going to be a gruelling hour.
It was a few weeks before I was able to teach a full lesson with the class. Managing their behaviour was a massive job, and keeping them emotionally and physically safe was a priority beyond curriculum. This also fell in the midst of terrible conditions due to teacher job action. Teachers and administrators were not communicating functionally, making everything much more difficult.
This was a class full of high needs. On paper there were far too many with various learning and behaviour challenges, but in reality, there were only three or four out of thirty who would be classified as “typical” and who seemed keen and ready to learn. Poor kids. All of them.
No matter where they sat, it was always at risk of fights breaking out and I would have line-ups of students saying that they must be moved because they could not sit near so-and-so or so-and-so. There was not enough space to hide the dysfunction and damage. When I dug into their family stories I was horrified to learn what had shaped them. Collectively, as a class being together for many years in the school, they had encouraged several teachers to leave them due to stress. Individually, they were a motley crew of horrendous pain stories.
It all made sense even if it was overwhelming. Since my life was a series of pieces falling apart at this time already, I was finding my own health and well-being to be on a slippery downhill slope. I had been diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder in my early twenties. I had been on medications for many years, weaned off, was back on, and was off again when working with the class. Since I was trying to conceive a baby, I did not want to get back on medications or I would have to postpone the conception, seeing as it would be developmentally damaging for a fetus.
I was riding a tight line. I was keeping careful watch on my own health and professionalism. The stress was beyond anything I had ever experienced. I had always kept up with a busy lifestyle very well, being highly organized and hardworking, but the seams were falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it.
As this was happening, a small voice seemed to assure me that it was alright. I found a calm place in the storm and began to hang out there. It wanted to tell me some very important things. Letting the outside loosen, I was able to dive into this new space and it was here that I began to investigate what these students needed from me and how I could possibly give it to them.
It was a call for self-love, for compassion and nurturing in ways I had never known in my own life. This was the missing piece. There was a form of love that they needed, and school had been far too busy and preoccupied to offer it to them. Life in general does not teach us about this kind of love. Excited to have put my finger on it, I found myself at a loss for how to bring them this love, since I was also without it.
My mission from that point became one of learning how to love myself in this way so that I could love them and teach them to love themselves.
Things in the classroom radically changed and we made some serious transformations. It was surreal in many ways. Young lives were deeply touched but none more than mine. This was the defining moment of my life.
After some forward movement with the class, I had calmed down enough to conceive my second son, and with a tiny growing life in my womb, I was aware that my health was still at risk, so I had to make a tough decision to reduce my teaching load before taking maternity leave. Sadly, I had to say good-bye to the class. I had avoided it as long as I could because I did not want them to think that they had scared me away, I wanted them to know that everything we had been through together was real and true, and most of all, I loved them.
There were many tears as I wrapped up with the class. I continued teaching part-time until taking my leave to prepare for the birth of my son. My pregnancy had been hard and I needed some rest and self-care.
My beautiful son was born on June 20, 2012, making me a momma for the second time. Rather than experiencing post-partum depression like I did after my first birth, I hit the ground running. Something had touched me to the core. I was a new creation, and I had work to do.
Many amazing stories have come from and through the class. It has been a mixed bag of emotions and stories. Since working with and learning to love them and myself, I have embarked on a journey of self-discovery and self-healing. I have transformed from the inside out. This is a process still underway . . . it never ends!
I have resigned from teaching and am now offering spoken word poetry shows at local coffee shops in Victoria. I share powerful and passionate messages of love, joy, peace, healing, shifting world, and self-value. My work is deep, moving, and electric. Many people have connected with it and lives are being changed.
I encourage you to find my videos on YouTube (go to YouTube and type in my name). Please take the time to watch. If you like what you see, will you please help me spread them far and wide through your social media networks and word of mouth? This is not a business, but rather it is a ministry of the heart. I am a truth seeker and speaker. Our world is starving for truth but many are reluctant, and so I need all the help I can get in connecting these messages, delivered so beautifully through my spoken word poems, with those who need to hear them. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Carlie to Come
I have sensed a change of direction, or a deepening of mission for a long time. My show series has come to an end for the summer. I plan to do some busking downtown for fun and when September rolls around, I will begin anew. I am not sure exactly what is to come, but I can feel it creating within me. I will continue to share my spoken word poetry, but I see myself doing more speaking and advocating. I will be calling myself a Spiritual Health Educator and Advocate. I feel called to take on some very gritty topics like “The Voice of Depression and Suicide”, “Reconciliation with Religion”, and “This Game’s Not Fun” (about bullying).
We are always becoming. We are grown from the moments that we experience. I am forever grateful for the class and all that has come from them and the messy lessons they have taught me. Now, everybody who is touched by my work has been blessed by the class!
Be sure to watch Carlie’s Spoken Word Performance, Beauty Redefined:
As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.
She fell again and again. Then she got up. And stayed up!
Meet Pamela Sylvan
I met Pam Sylvan approximately two years ago. She had just recently arrived in Victoria and happened to walk into a Sunday morning service where I was the speaker. Afterward she told me how much she appreciated my talk and asked me if I would like to write an article for her new online magazine, Downtown and Around.
That article soon became two, then three, then four, and finally a “Dear Junie” column.
What impressed me was how savvy Pam was. Having JUST stepped into this city, knowing no-one, she was taking Victoria by storm! She was quickly learning who’s who in a host of industries from art and music to the best restaurants to eat, the most popular events taking place and putting them in a magazine she was creating as she went. Pretty impressive for being the new kid on the block. Chutzpah or mojo? Pam is all about mojo and is the self-proclaimed Mojo Maker, teaching others how to get their own mojo working!
Pam Sylvan is someone who is the epitome of what the Re-Write Your Life series is all about. She’s a woman who had a very rocky start to life. She underwent some harrowing experiences and she was living her life according to what she learned from them. It was when she almost lost her life and doctors were scurrying around to save it, that she made a conscious choice to turn things around and made her life about learning how to do that. Now she does what she knows how to do best—help turn life around for others who don’t have the know how, confidence, or courage to know where to begin.
Here’s Pamela in her own words:
Today, I’m known as the Mojo Maker. It’s my way of signalling to the world that I’ve taken on the task to help those who are ready to spiral their inherent power and use that defined energy to tell their stories. As well I offer them the necessary tools that will attract people to their businesses and messages and to build the courage necessary to be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise. Basically, I’m a publicist that knows how to move a person past their blind spots, turn them on to their uniqueness, and point them to where their audience awaits.
I wasn’t always this person. Actually I started out as the most afraid and self-limiting person you would ever care to meet. The belief that drove me went something like this, ‘ . . . everyone else is better and more deserving than I am’. That simple sentence shaped my life experience.
Where did I get that belief, you may wonder? I come from an upbringing of fear and violence. Needless to say, I prepared each day to meet the noise that arose from my parents’ battles. That noise created a belief that life was unhappy and unsafe which fostered an unhealthy dose of shame since I appeared to be the only one among my friends living in such a bubble.
This was the first half of my life. Survival, shame, oppression, and self loathing. Quite the load for one so young, but not uncommon from what I later learned. As I grew into adulthood, those early messages came right along with me. Because there was no counselling opportunity for me to appropriately deal with the interjects of my early training, life was hard and happiness very fleeting.
The majority of my major life decisions were tainted with the belief that I was unredeemable and because these choices were made in my unaware state, they greatly and negatively affected the quality of my life going forward.
Despite all of this, I count myself as one of the lucky ones.
My mother is one of my greatest fans
. . . Not because it’s her duty as my mother, but from her witnessing me fall down time and time again, refusing to be beat and to somehow keep going. She remains a close ally even though at one point during my teenage years, I gave her an ultimatum to leave my father or I would disappear never to be seen again. At that point I had had enough of the violence and even though young, I summoned up the courage to take a stand. Of course this courage unknowingly was beyond my awareness, and I continued to see myself as powerless and unredeemable.
One of my major unconscious choices was my choice of spouse. We did not suit as a couple. Our temperaments differed greatly and my unhappy state continued. My one joy was the creation of my daughter.
At this point in my journey I was still unaware that I was attracting my life experiences based on my beliefs, expectations, and attitudes.
Again, I had to summon up courage to change course in life. I began to dive deeper into meditation and reading. That’s when I found direction that came from within. There was no need for opinions from those outside myself; I had the answers I needed. I listened and made the necessary moves. But first, I was laid on my behind in order to hear the wisdom coming from within.
A Wake-up Call
It seems dreamlike as I share this now. It took a bout of extreme illness for me to listen to my inner voice. Basically I was laid out so I could hear myself. I landed in the hospital nearing a stroke. As the attending medical staff rushed around me, I quieted down internally and had a conversation with myself. I realized that the reason for my illness was my inability to take the necessary actions to change my life. In that moment I made a promise to life and to myself that I would do whatever I had to do to ensure I lived and lived fully.
Today, after leaving my hometown, home, family and friends, I have restarted my life setting a new course with the decision to do so coming from a place of power instead of guilt, shame, and hopelessness.
It hasn’t been easy. At the age of 50, starting over is a bit tricky. Coming to a new town with only two suitcases, no friends, connections, or prospects was daunting, and I am still working out the finer points of new beginnings. Most of all I’m learning about myself and the inherent power I call ‘Mojo’. It’s all about knowing one’s strong sense of self to meet all challenges that show up.
We all have this ability, the difference being whether we are aware of it or not. When we wake up to ourselves there is newness to life and what seemed difficult and stressful is not there anymore. Life is not challenge free, only the knowledge that whatever shows up will be handled in divine timing.
I now lead a growing company that includes a magazine, a radio show, a boutique PR agency, and mentoring practice, all designed to help others find their own sense of power and success in what they do.
My journey has taught me a few things: it takes courage to be happy; happiness is found in the ‘now’ moment; we all have the necessary power to live the life of our dreams, and practicing extreme self love regardless of the thoughts of others is the most important thing an individual can do for themselves.
You can find Pamela on her MojoMaker FaceBook page.
Her motto is, “Your power is a secret hiding in plain sight.”
As well as at Downtown and Around Victoria:
And on her very own Mojo Talk Radio show:
All of us are called to wake up from sleep, from living a life where the same old things keep happening. The players may change, but the events, well, they just keep on miserably repeating themselves. Sometimes we become aware through a gentle epiphany, such as in a meditation when we are still enough to hear our inner guidance. Other times the dramas are a lot louder than our heartbeat, so Life offers us a wake-up call in the form of a two-by-four.
Can you think of a time when you were either gently awakened from inner guidance that whispered, “take this road instead of that one” and you listened and found yourself moving with the tides? Or can you recall a time when you woke up from a bad dream only to realize you weren’t dreaming? You, in fact, were hit by a two-by-four and had no choice but to change your thinking and your ways. Which one of those two scenarios speaks to you at this moment? Pick up your pen and write about it, and then consider what you learned from that experience. Reflection is good (and even necessary) for the soul.
As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.
Releasing the Shame that Binds Me
When I was almost 50 years old I finally let go of masses of shame that I was carrying about having bi-polar illness. I stated it in public—on a stage in front of 400 people for God’s sake! It was the premiere presentation of Madness, Masks and Miracles, a play I co-wrote to dispel myths and stigmas about mental illness. I thought I would die doing it. I was terrified I’d lose my credibility as a therapist and as a mental health worker. Having recently moved to Vancouver, I also feared I’d lose my new friends. I kept questioning why I was blowing THAT whistle on myself. But I did. I had to. And it liberated me. Telling the truth does that. Eventually. Besides, if I hadn’t told, I’d have been swallowed up in sea of shame and trust me, that’s no way to live. I had done it for almost half a century.
Yet I have carried another secret which I did not reveal until about three months ago. It was just as frightening as exposing that I had bi-polar illness 15 years ago. I confessed that all my life I had been unable to read properly, and had been hiding it to the best of my ability. For some it might appear that I enjoy airing my “stuff” in public. In fact, I don’t like it! But it’s not for the sake of sensationalism that I do it! God no! It’s because I know the value of helping someone else with similar issues to find their own voice. Am I comfortable doing it? Hell no! At least not yet.
And here I am following it up with a story of what I experienced in school as an 11-year-old child that explains a lot of things. And when I remember that, it makes it easier to share this with you because I have tremendous compassion for that younger me and for all the children that are currently facing similar struggles. I have shared my vision challenges with you when I started to help raise money for the treatment at www.gofundme.com/junieswadron.
Now that I am learning the full extent of what my condition means, and that it is actually known as the “hidden epidemic” of Binocular Vision Dysfunction, I am joining hands with the Visual Process Society to help raise awareness about it at our Eyes on Talent FUN-d-Raising Variety Show. If you will be in Victoria on June 26th, 2016, I hope you will join us.
The story you are about to read is an excerpt from my book, Re-Write Your Life, about my hero, Mr. Logan, my grade six teacher who brought me from a place of suicidal ideation after Miss S. had continually berated me and had failed me the year before. Only now do I know the full significance of that story and the truth of why I wasn’t able to learn: I had Binocular Vision Dysfunction.
Mr. Logan, an Angel of Kindness
by Junie Swadron
The following story is about loving-kindness and a time when a true angel appeared in my life and lifted me from the depths of darkness into the realm of hope and miracles. I dedicate this story to my Grade 6 teacher, Mr. Logan. Mr. Logan was the first person in my young life who consistently reflected back to me that which made me feel good about myself. Before him, was a teacher of a different kind, Miss S., the one who crushed any self-confidence I may have found.
I was 11 years old and the youngest child in a family that was grossly dysfunctional. In between the good days, which I prayed would last, would come the inevitable barrage of fighting, followed by days of angry silent rages. My parents fought over not having enough money, my sisters dating non-Jewish boys, my brother being a rebel, and me and my laziness and depression. I hated life. I hated school. I always wanted to run away. But at eleven, where to?
The terror of Miss S.
I was a terrible student and Miss S. made sure I knew it. I had already honed the habit of dissociating, fantasizing, daydreaming, going far, far away—certainly never at my desk paying attention. I wished I had been one of those kids that poured all their pain into their schoolwork, burying themselves in books and acing everything because it was the one place in the world they could excel. But that wasn’t me.
Reading wasn’t encouraged at home and I didn’t seek it out. I seemed to be afraid of everything and it showed. And Miss S. used it to humiliate me. When I failed a test, she would announce it to the class. When I didn’t have my hand up, she’d choose me to answer the question. This would cause me to tremble and shake because she’d come over to my desk and put her sharp fingernails into my ear and squeeze. Then she’d pull me up out of my desk that way and demand an answer. Finally when she knew she wasn’t going to get one because I could hardly breathe, she’d release her nails from my ear and shout for me to stay after school.
She’d tell my classmate Mark to stay after school too. He was berated as much as I was. When everyone had rowdily left the classroom, she’d make us both stand up straight in front of her. Then with a look of pure disgust and sarcastic intonation, she’d admonish us with these words: “You two are pathetic and stupid! You’re an embarrassment, a disgrace. I promise you I will fail you both. Now, get out of my sight!”
This happened on a regular basis. That sort of behaviour would not be tolerated today. The teacher would be taken to task and probably fired. But in those years, they allowed “spare the rod and spoil the child” rule.
Mark and I would leave the classroom and walk outside with our heads down to avoid the perceived stares from the kids playing in the schoolyard. We’d walk quickly past them, shrouded in shame, wishing we were invisible. Once on the street we’d walk together in silence. When we got to the field, we parted ways. Mark continued down Baycrest Avenue. I needed to cross the field and the creek to get to the street where I lived. I walked slowly, hoping to delay whatever was waiting for me at home.
Anyway, true to her word, at the end of the school year, Miss S. marked
“F A I L E D!” in big red letters across my report card. Mark found the same thing on his. It was one of the worst days of our lives. We both dreaded going home.
I don’t remember what my parents said or did when they read my report card. In my fantasy mom was reassuring and comforting. I often had those fantasies—it was what I yearned for. And sometimes my wishes came true. Sometimes she was remarkable. She could be so nurturing, so kind, so wise. But inevitably, her undiagnosed bi-polar illness would flare up and I never knew what to expect. Dad was rarely home, and when he was he rarely spoke. However, his facial expressions spoke volumes. (Aside: later in life they were my champions, but growing up, they just didn’t have the skills, as they were dealing with their own unhealed wounds.)
A summer of apprehension
Now it was summer. School was out and I knew the other grade sixes in my class were excited about going on to Ledbury Park Junior High School in the fall where they would have their own lockers and get to change classrooms between periods and have different teachers for every subject. I could only imagine how excited they’d be. Not me. Not Mark. We’d have to trudge back, shame-faced, to the same public school, back into grade six again with kids a whole year younger.
And then it came: September—and with it, the first day of school. I hardly slept the night before. I was planning my escape. Had there been street kids in Toronto in those days I’m pretty certain I would have been among them because it was a familiar notion to run away. Even when I was eight or nine I would run away from home—but never too far. I’d hide in the stairwell of our six-story apartment building. It was as far as I could go because it was late and dark and I’d be too frightened to be out alone in the night. And here I was, age twelve with the same sickening feeling to run as I thought about going back into Miss S’s classroom. This time I wanted to run and never come back. But somehow I walked to school the next morning instead.
The miracle of Mr. Logan
Once there I was instructed to go to room 6-B. I did and a miracle awaited me. At the front of the class stood the well-loved Mr. Logan. I knew from the previous year that kids in his class always seemed to be happy. He had the best reputation. He was also young and handsome and wore a warm, genuine smile, laughed easily and exuded an aura of kindness. It seemed too good to be true that he would be my teacher. I was afraid they made a mistake and I would be sent across the hall to Miss S.’s class. Once everyone was seated, Mr. Logan did a roll call. I held my breath. He was going in alphabetical order: Sammy Olstein, Sylvia Peters, David Rosenberg, June Swadron, Deborah Timberley . . . Oh, my God! Was that really my name he called or did I imagine it because I wanted it so badly? It took a moment to sink in but yes, it was true. He did call my name and then he called Mark’s too. We looked at each other and both breathed a deep and grateful sigh of relief.
And so it was. Mr. Logan became my teacher that year and it was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Not only was he kind, but he was also joyful, gentle, patient and sincere. On top of that he made learning fun. And best of all he liked me. This I knew because of his constant kindness, praise, and encouragement. He took extra time with me after school on subjects that I found difficult. I became inspired to read and conscientiously do my homework—something I had never done in the past. I wanted to learn and I did. Soon my schoolwork started to improve. I was beginning to find out that I could learn and that I wasn’t stupid after all. And as my marks improved, my confidence grew and I was able to stand a little taller. At the end of the year I held the highest percentage in that grade 6 class—a feat I wouldn’t ever have believed possible.
I will never ever forget you, Mr. Logan. In a sea of pain, you were my refuge. More than anything else, you made me believe in myself. You gave me hope and the courage to go on.
So sir, wherever you are, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. That 12-year-old girl who still lives inside me, the one who was given back her life all those years ago, will never forget you. You were my heaven-sent angel. My gift from God. My mentor, my teacher. My friend.
Today, I try to do my best to live up to your way of being. My intention is to always motivate, encourage, and care for others in my teaching and therapy practice by offering kindness and respect. I know that our souls flourish this way. I also know only too well how we shrivel, back away and die a little more inside every time we are criticized and judged. The young child in me couldn’t have known back then that Miss S. must have been a very unhappy woman to have treated children that way—but as an adult I can recognize it as such and know that every act of cruelty and aggression is a call for love.
A million thank yous, Mr. Logan, for teaching me the value of every-day human kindness.
What stories have you been carrying and burying? What secrets and shame that bind you are you now ready to release? Write about it in your journal. Share it with your therapist or a loved one, someone with whom you feel completely safe, someone who loves you unconditionally! And if you wish to go deeper in your healing process, allow me to extend my hand to you.
As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.
From Bored to Awakened
In today’s Re-Write Your Life installment, I have the privilege of featuring Tom Evans.
I met Tom via Skype approximately three years ago. I had just returned home refreshed after a wonderful carefree vacation spent with family and friends in Toronto.
Now back in Victoria, I was falling victim to my never-ending to-do list. Grace and serendipity led me to Tom’s online program, “Living Timefully”, and it couldn’t have better timing or better medicine. It wasn’t about traditional time management. I was actually learning how to bend time using mindfulness meditation techniques and slowing down the speed and nature of my thoughts. Not only was I getting more done in less time, I reframed my “to-do list” to a “to-love list” and I was no longer pushing to get things done. I was moving through my day with ease and not falling into bed exhausted every night.
Tom moved from being an engineer to being a modern day mystic and healer. You can read in Tom’s own words below how that happened.
Over time we have become friends and I have admired him for his ingenuity and his selfless contribution to humanity . . . and budgie birds. If I had been at all skeptical about long distance healing, I would have put that to rest immediately when he healed my budgie Joey via Skype, all the way from his house in England to mine in Canada.
My sweet bird had lost most of his feathers, was hardly eating anymore, and he sat motionless on his perch. It was getting worse and worse. A bird expert told me to add Omega 3 to his water. My veterinarian, after many examinations and procedures, told me there was nothing else she could do and said it was time to consider euthanasia.
That’s when I approached Tom and asked him if he could heal budgies. “I don’t know, but I’m willing to try, he said confidently.” I asked Joey what he thought of the idea. He said OK but didn’t exactly pose or dress up for the occasion. He was as listless as ever as Tom was offering his love transmissions over Skype.
But within one month, Joey had gained weight, grown back all his feathers, and started singing up a storm. More than that—he was flying again!
Although I want to attribute the entire miracle to Tom, I have to give credit where credit is due. It’s that “birds of a feather” equation factor. His girlfriend Madeleine never left his side. She comforted him day and night.
Before long, the two budgies were racing to see who could fly faster from the cage to the curtain rod. Madeleine didn’t stand a chance. Joey forgot he was a budgie. He thought he was an eagle! Thank you and God bless you, Tom Evans!
You can listen to Joey and Madeleine share their personal experience in a future talk on Tom’s podcast, The Zone Show. Tom is currently learning to translate Budgie to English. I haven’t mentioned that to him just yet but I wouldn’t put it past his capabilities. In the meantime, you can click on the links below to listen to some enlightened conversations with enlightened thinkers on The Zone Show. So, here in his very own words, is Tom Evans!
From Bored to Awakened:
The (re-) birth of a modern day wizard
Before I awakened in my mid 40s, I was a pretty happy and successful guy. I was talented in what I did, as an engineer and consultant, in the broadcasting industry. I was feted and in demand but essentially bored and a bit frazzled. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to edge and come back from the brink as a part of my mid-life crisis. It was more of a mid-life hiccup in my case.
Someone told me I looked stressed and that I should learn to meditate. At first I resisted and said I didn’t have time and couldn’t make my overactive mind go quiet. I persisted though and as a result then all kinds of weird things started happening to me. I started to channel and discovered I could heal. I learned I could ‘see’ through time and see past and future lives in peoples’ auras. I partially levitated once and fully levitated another time. Since then I’ve spoken to several people on my podcast who have done these things too so I suspect, and hope, I did not go mad.
My first instance of channelling occurred on a 747 somewhere over the mid-Atlantic. The whole of what became my first published book, 100 Years of Ermintrude, came in from nowhere. I was in floods of tears and discovered later this is what happens when we get touched by the angels.
Healing-wise, I discovered that I could ‘see’ a body part back in time when it wasn’t afflicted and get it to replace the affected part of the body. I also found that some ailments, like rashes and allergies, were more like entity attachments that could be persuaded, with love and kindness, to ‘move on’.
As an engineer, I became intrigued about what was going on and set out on a mission to research what was happening to me. Initially, this research was a personal exploration. I had no idea that it would lead me to a new career and down an entirely new path.
So I went on some courses to learn about hypnotherapy, past life regression and channelling and signed up with two esoteric schools to widen my horizons. I still study with them today.
As part of this journey, I became an author’s mentor and writer’s unblocker. I found that all cases of writer’s block were actually life blocks. The writing had just brought them to the surface. I discovered how to clear any blockage and to tune people into their Muse so they too became a channel.
Typically, someone might have got a bad mark for an essay and as a result, later in life, would ‘fear’ publishing their work in case it got a bad review. Personally, I got demoted from playing Joseph in the Nativity Play when I was seven and took a fear of public speaking into my mid-40s. I discovered four types of fear were in operation—the fear of ridicule; the fear of the unknown; the fear of failure, or the fear of success. Once a writer understood the underlying source of their procrastination, and embraced it as a protector, they could move on.
Sometimes the writing itself was cathartic and I would encourage writers to switch from first person to second or third person, so they could use the memory but not get sucked down by it. Other times, we translated the action to a family of animals and used them as metaphor.
At some time, whilst busying myself in what I thought was my new calling as an author’s mentor, I was gifted four DVDs of esoteric information from someone who I can only describe as an Earth Angel. They told me I would know what to do with this information. This set me down a new path. The result was two books that deconstructed the Major and Minor Arcana of the Tarot and explain them in a contemporary framework—Flavours of Thought and Planes of Being. This led to more and more books on philosophy, mindfulness and the nature of time.
Becoming a ‘spiritual engineer’
I became a ‘spiritual engineer’; I started to create courses on how to channel, how to bend and stretch time, how to heal, how to move to heart-based consciousness and how to have ideas ‘off the top of your head’. I also moved to a new place where I had never earned less money but never been happier. Money worries disappeared; I was giving most of my stuff away free or very inexpensively. Yet, if I needed any actual cash, some would pop along, just in time. At first this way of living was scary but, with some trust, I got used to it.
At the same time that this new modus operandi kicked in, I was given access to more esoteric tools and ‘told’ how to decode them for a modern day audience. As a result, I channelled in a method of what can only be described as ‘death-less’ reincarnation that allows someone to evolve to a higher state of being and awareness, without the inconvenience of death and rebirth. This involves energizing and unifying the chakras such that higher chakras open.
As an author’s mentor, I became known as TheBookWright and that’s my main moniker online. For a while I ‘hid’ behind this persona while the real ‘Tom Evans’ lurked in the shadows. I’ve finally come out now as a wizard, mystic, healer, temporal alchemist and a generally good bloke to have a beer with. TheBookWright moniker persists historically though but these days I primarily work on the ‘book of a persons’ life’ by helping them remember why they came and assisting them to fulfill their life’s purpose.
What goes around comes around. So, by way of thanks and recognition for what started this all off in me, I have made many of my own meditations available free of charge on an app called Insight Timer. My mission these days is to help the planet awaken to a new level of consciousness by getting everyone meditating, one person at a time.
Visit www.tomevans.co for my books, courses, and mentoring.
Listen to The Zone Show for enlightened conversations with enlightened thinkers.
Go to www.insighttimer.com and get the free app and search for my meditations and loads more free stuff from some wonderful teachers who I now find myself rubbing shoulders, hearts, and minds with.
Here are some podcasts you might enjoy:
End Note from Junie
Tom first interviewed me on The Zone Show two years ago. Here I share some of my story and at the end, prompted by a certain question, I talk about my dream-vision, which still rests in the heart of me today. I just need a team to build it! Let me know if you are interested. It is for a centre called ACHA. That stands for The Academy for Creative and Healing Arts for people with mental health challenges.
In the video below, Tom and I discuss Re-Writing Your Life in Retirement. We refer to Retire, Re-Wire and Re-fire. I first heard the words “Don’t Retire, Re-Wire” from my friend Dr. Melba Burns, who is writing a book on that subject.
Tom Evans added Re-Wire because in fact, we do need to re-wire our brains from thinking that retiring is the end of life as it often was in our parents’ generation. Now that we are living so much longer, staying healthier and alive so much longer, re-firing our mindset is a fabulous choice to make. That’s what I’m doing and my life has become more exciting than ever!
Here is the video on my Re-Write Your Life in Retirement webpage: https://junieswadron.com/re-write-your-life-in-retirement/
Is there someone who has come into your life who has changed your perception of things, like teaching you to ‘bend time’, or heal your pet from across the ocean, or anything at all? Were you convinced that the world was flat and the atlases were all wrong? You know, something along those lines. You can be as silly as you like while writing it as I am being now. Or serious . . . or anything in between. You know the drill, just write. And if you aren’t sure how, make sure you attend our event at 7 pm on June 14th for tons of tips: Everything You Want to Know About Book Publishing.
As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.
Living Well, Loving Well, and Letting Go
Re-Writing a Story of Grief in Just One Day
On Wednesday, I put out a Facebook post asking for unconditional love because it was the first day in as long as I could remember where I didn’t want to get out of bed and face the day.
The outpouring of love and kindness I received was beyond what I could have ever imagined. I learned again that the energy of love, prayer, and kindness travels unseen from the hearts of those who send it directly into the hearts of those who are ready to receive these blessings.
My heart was fully open and receptive and I am blessed beyond measure. My well of gratitude knows no bounds. Here are some of the things I was reminded of and I hope they will, in turn, serve you.
First, it was essential to take the day off for my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Mental — I gave my mind a mental break by choosing not to engage in the dozens of projects I have on the go. When thoughts of ‘must do’ came up, I consciously replaced them with ‘not now. I will come back, I promise.’ Acknowledging that I will return to those tasks allowed my critical mind to feel reassured and to soften. I gave that part of me (my ego) an official break as well. It didn’t need to stand on guard endlessly reminding me that this and that are awaiting my attention.
Emotional — My heart was heaving with grief and sorrow. The sudden passing of my dear friend, Joseph Martin, triggered anguish that has been sitting in my cells seemingly forever. I was feeling grief not only about those who have passed, but also about the dangers threatening our world today, from a man like Donald Trump who disrespects everything that upholds truth and justice and equality, to the state of our beloved Mother Earth, the air, waters, the animal kingdom, our plants, our inhumanity towards one another, wars that don’t end. I found myself ruminating on the lyrics to Where Have All the Flowers Gone? My heart felt like it was being split open as I recited the Ho-‘opono’pono prayer, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.
I also let the tears fall freely as different people appeared sporadically throughout the day on the screen of my mind. Some have left the earth plane, some have left because of disputes, family members who I thought would be the closest have been the furthest away, and others have left and never told me why. The last two were the catalyst for my deepest sense of heartbreak, triggering memories of abandonment from my earliest days.
As each memory arose, or even when it was simply a felt sense with no memory attached, I offered up what I, myself, was asking for—unconditional love. I also wrote a letter of apology to someone whose heart I hurt last week through hurried, unconscious behaviour. I asked Joseph’s spirit before I went to sleep the night before to write the letter for me. I know he would have done so with a full and open heart. I listened and the words spilled onto the pages of my journal which I transcribed verbatim into an email which evoked a heart-felt response in return.
My day and night ran the gambit of love and fear. Of aloneness and yearning, intermingled with acceptance, gratitude, and long sought out peace.
Physical — I allowed my body to rest. To meditate. To sleep. To eat comfort food. To listen to soothing music. To walk to the beach in the early evening without my phone. I felt blissfully at peace as I sat upon the rocks allowing the ocean winds and waves to cleanse and heal the melancholy that inhabited my body and mind.
I had an instinct to take my gaze away from the mesmerizing sway of the waves and look up. Directly above me was an eagle swooping unusually close. I felt like he was waiting for me to notice him and when I did, he soared and circled above me for a very long time. I was captivated by this gift, this miracle, this totem of freedom that came into my life at this exact moment. I laughed out loud and gleefully shouted out, ‘Thank You. Thank You! Namaste! Thank You’.
Then, I practically skipped home, stopping only once along the way to buy epsom salts to add to my long, luxurious bath of lavender. I settled for popcorn and a movie instead. Go figure! Then, just before turning out the light, I read another chapter, from Wayne Dyer’s book, I Can See Clearly Now. The book I have been savouring since he died.
Spiritual — Every breath, every thought, word, and action is spiritual, is it not? How can it not be since the omnipotent and omniscient presence of Love is always here? God is present in the pain and the glory. I knew I was being held in the arms a divine presence while I cried out my tears, just as I knew God’s hand was at play when the eagle soared above me, inviting me to hop on his wings of freedom. In fact, a part of me has always known I am never alone and never have been.
A perceived sense of separation is part of human existential yearning to go back to the garden. I have felt since I was a young child that the earth was not my real home. But I also know now what a privilege it is to dance on top of the earth and there’s no place I’d rather be.
In summary, I can say that I am happy I was able to reach out on Facebook and tell my truth. It took a lot of courage, I must say, to have reached out publicly in that way.
I also believe even if I hadn’t reached out, reaching inside, asking God (or whatever name you wish to give that which gave us Life) for guidance, or calling a friend, or reaching for that one book that is a touchstone to our spirit—that can be the salve we need to heal our melancholy.
There so many ways to look after ourselves. And it’s essential that we do. Please see the writing exercise at the bottom of the page and tell us what yours are.
I am reminded that feelings come and go. That nothing stays the same. And that I need not be alarmed when they come up in wells and swells so deep and I wonder, ‘how can this be? Haven’t I dealt with this many times before? ’ And the answer is, ‘Yes, I have’. And this is simply another layer and it doesn’t take days, weeks, or months to process. It moves through so much faster when I just honour what is and let go.
How well did you love, how well did you live, how well did you learn to let go?
I have a tapestry hanging in my hallway. Embroidered upon it are these words, ‘In the end, what matters most is, how well did you love, how well did you live, how well did you learn to let go?’ On Wednesday, I did it all. I just need to remember to repeat it on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and every day, to the best of my ability. One precious day at a time.
Thank you for sharing in my journey. May you have the most awesome day and for all the days and nights that follow, may you be blessed. Love, Junie.
Re-Write Your Life
Most of the time it’s better to let people say things in their own words rather than trying to paraphrase and explain.
Please watch these videos to learn about the profound transformations that completely liberated these people as a result of participating in my Re-Write Your Life signature program.
You will hear Jan Falkowski share his riveting story of how he went from blind rage to being able to fully forgive the man who caused the car accident where his daughter was killed.
Next watch Annie Lavack as she talks about her fears and insecurities of not knowing what she wanted to do in her life. She states that it was the processes that she learned in Re-Write Your Life that enabled her to reclaim her voice. Today she is the Minister of the Centre for Inspired Living in Victoria.
The next video that Shaw TV filmed some years ago will show you what happens in a real group setting.
The program hasn’t changed, nor have the results. What has changed are the people who have made the commitment to go forward with their life in this way.
After watching the videos, take some time, then ask inside whether you too are ready to re-write the painful storms of the past and make peace with them. Every story, no matter how painful, can become the elixir of healing, transformation, and ultimately joy!
Above: Jan Falkowski’s experience with Re-Write Your Life
Above: Annie Lavack’s experience with Re-Write Your Life
Above: Shaw TV’s The Daily visited a Re-Write Your Life class
and interviewed participants
Re-Write Your Life
An 8-Week Workshop That Will Transform
Early Bird Price extended to Monday, May 23rd!
Wednesday evenings 6:15 – 8:45 pm
NEW: Beginning June 8th
Early Bird: $345
Find more information and registration here.
Write a list, or better still, draw a mind map, about the different ways you do or can take care of yourself when you are feeling sad, lonely, loss, grief, or despair. Then write about a time you did take action using one or more of these tools and what the outcome was. I just wrote about mine. Your turn!
As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.
One Can Never Consent to Creep When One Feels an Impulse to Soar (Helen Keller)
Teya Danel’s Story
I met Teya in 2005. It was approximately one year after her close to fatal car crash where she’d had to learn to walk all over again, something the doctors weren’t sure she’d be able to do.
What I can tell you for certain about Teya is: don’t ever tell her there is something she can’t do. She’ll say, “Oh yeah, watch me!” And seriously, you should watch her. On a dance floor! It didn’t take long after she started walking again that she was dancing. This woman has an indomitable spirit stemming, no doubt, from her Francophone roots. I’d even go as far as saying she has an obsession to be healthy and happy and her joie de vivre is infectious.
This is what she said about that time.
“Totally committed to regaining full use of my hand and body, I found the creative process of making jewelry to be a very effective tool on my healing journey. My heartfelt desire is to inspire other people to never give up and use their own personal artistic expressions as a medium for their own healing and recovery!”
You can find Teya at Victoria’s Bastion Square Public Market from May to September where she has been a jewelry artisan for the past seven years. Look for the woman with the big infectious smile standing behind her booth called, Dangles—Simply Elegant Jewelry. And tell her Junie sent you!
Here is Teya’s story about how she did whatever it took to walk, be productive, continue being an amazing single mom, and change her career from massage therapist to jewelry maker:
An Almost Fatal Car Crash That Changed My Life Forever
by Teya Danel (excerpted from Junie Swadron’s book, Re-Write Your Life)
I’m floating in space and all of a sudden find myself in a restaurant I worked in. Everything is twilight and surreal. I step into the restaurant and see one of my former coworkers. There is a sudden understanding that I cannot possibly be there physically. I see lots of flashes of bright light and they seem to swirl and twirl around me moving in and out of consciousness. Where am I? What is this place? I drift back into unconsciousness.
My eyes are closed and I start to stir slowly. Again, where am I? Everything is hazy and I can’t move my body. A sudden paralyzing fear hits me: Oh my GOD, I think to myself, where’s Daved? What’s happened to him? Is he alive? My heart is aching and beating hard. I become full of apprehension. I vaguely remember him being with me but cannot place my finger on it.
The realization that something really terrible has happened slowly enters my mind. As I open my eyes the first thing I see is a railing on the side of my bed with a photo of my eight-year-old boy taped onto it. He is sitting in a hospital bed surrounded by my relatives and I see a big smile on his face. Huge relief flows through my body. He’s okay. He made it. I take a deep breath and I start to cry with relief and gratefulness—he’s okay, we’re okay. I’m still here. Where exactly is here? Where am I? I look down my body and I see contraptions on my legs. My whole body feels numb and I recognize that I’m in a hospital and I’m sensing I had a car accident. I wonder how long I’ve been here. I can hardly believe the state I’m in.
It’s August 6, 2004 and I’ trying to make sense of my condition. All I know is that I’m lying in a hospital bed just about broken to pieces and very high on morphine. I’m in very rough shape and my face is all swollen and I look like death warmed over. Thank God for modern technology and pain relieving drugs. I can’t imagine what kind of pain I would be in if I could feel my body.
I learn that I’ve had a very close call and in fact, it is a miracle that I’m still here. I’ve just been through a 14-hour tandem operation with surgeons working on saving both my legs and my left arm. There is so much damage that they can’t deal with it all at once. More surgery is scheduled. I’m in ICU and fade in and out of consciousness. It turns out that there are multiple breakages in both my legs. They went through the floorboards of my car and my right leg is off by 10 degrees. My left elbow has splintered like chicken bones, a number of ribs on my right side have been broken and the right side of my face, which hit the steering wheel, is caved in and black and blue. I’m lucky that I still have my eye.
I find out later that on my way to Nanaimo to pick up my older son, I went through an intersection, up and over an island and straight into a post that scrunched my car on the driver’s side. Much later when I get to see the pictures, I can hardly believe that I’ve come out of there alive. I’ll never really know what happened that afternoon; I have no memory of it whatsoever. In fact all I can remember is leaving the house. The rest is blank.
But there I was sprawled over the steering wheel in deep shock and not even conscious. However, the mothering bond is so incredibly powerful that even in the midst of such incredible trauma, I managed to somehow inform the police that I have a 14-year-old son arriving at the ferry terminal. Don’t ask me how I do that. I ask him a year later about his experience that day and he tells me that when he heard his name on the speaker at the ferry he intuitively knew something was terribly wrong. The policewoman takes him to the hospital in Nanaimo where he sees me and his brother in pretty bad shape. I’m screaming and have not stopped since they pulled me out of the car. I can imagine how horrifying it is for a young 14-year-old to witness his mother and brother in such an unbelievable condition.
He ends up being taken under the wings of a woman who runs a volunteer organization called Victims Services, which I’ve never even heard of. When I hear the story of his journey I say a prayer of thanks to that woman who took my son home with her, gave him a bed that night and money the next morning so he could board the ferry back to his father who is here in Canada to enjoy a holiday on the Sunshine Coast.
Meanwhile, back in the hospital, my sister Mona comes to visit every single day. She takes good care of me. She makes sure I’m comfortable and washes my hair every few days in a special little basin that sits snuggly under my head. Having lived in Vancouver, I still have a good number of friends there and they start to file in and offer support in whatever ways they can. My adopted mom luckily lives only a few blocks from the hospital and she visits me almost daily. Having my friends and family around me offers me much comfort, courage and hope that I’ll make it through all this.
Will I ever lead a normal life again? Will I ever walk? I cannot even bend the middle finger of my left hand and am unable to feed myself easily as my one hand does not reach my face. I was born a left-handed and learned, with my grandmother’s prompting, to write with my right hand in the days when it was not proper to use the left hand. Anyway, I’m grateful for my ambidextrous skills now, because I’m going to need them to feed myself. It’s about the only thing I can do for myself at this time. Being unable to take care of my basic needs is quite humbling, to say the least.
I feel a very strong sense of determination and commitment to do whatever I need to get back my life and heal my body. I believe that I can and I hold on to that thought with all my heart and soul, even though a small part of me has huge doubts given the nature and extent of my injuries. The mere thought of spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair is completely overwhelming. I begin the long journey of rehabilitation and healing and there are no guarantees being offered as to what the outcome will be.
I end up spending a month in Vancouver General, and when I am well enough to make the journey I ask to be transferred back to Victoria where the Royal Jubilee Hospital will be my home for the next two months. The surgeon who is taking over my case, a fine man by the name of Michael O’Neill, informs me upon arrival that I’m a very lucky woman. He says to me “not that long ago, you wouldn’t have made it” and I know in my heart that that is the truth. As I lie in my bed, day in and day out, I am astounded at how strong and grounded I feel. I can barely move and yet I feel totally powerful instead of powerless, which one would kind of expect, given my circumstances. My spirit is strong and my will to live and heal is just as strong. I make peace with my situation, totally surrender to it and accept what is.
Every day I get better and better. Even the pain and the long sleepless nights seem somehow manageable. As I start to get stronger I learn to shuffle my butt slowly as I inch my away across my bed and into my electric wheelchair, which offers much me mobility and a change of scenery.
Every day I am working out in the rehab section of the ward named RP2. I remember being taken into the rehab section one day and with the help of three therapists I was able to grab onto a pole and stand up on my good leg. My right leg was damaged the most and I’ve been told that I cannot put any weight on it for at least three months. So here I am standing on one leg, holding onto the pole and having a realization that there is yet some hope for me to walk. Before too long I graduate to a walker and make great progress, one day at a time. I come to realize how much of my daily life I’d taken for granted and in my present state, I truly begin to appreciate every small thing that I can accomplish on my own. You have no idea how humbling it is to have to have your bum wiped for six weeks—to not even be able to take care of the basics.
I’ve learned that out of so much adversity, so many gifts have come. The biggest one being a deepening of the bond between my sister and I. I learned, big time, not to sweat the small stuff and to be grateful every day for my life and my healing abilities. I know now that I’m going to be okay. I can see that I am an inspiration to many of my friends and acquaintances. They tell me they feel strengthened by my courage. I acknowledge myself for having reclaimed my life and my body.
Now, 3 ½ years later, I’m waiting for my last small surgery, which is an implant in my face and after that, it’s clear sailing. I am astounded by the progress I’ve made and pretty soon you won’t even be able to tell that I had a broken body. I will never look at a disabled person in a wheelchair or scooter ever again in the same way. I’ve been there done that, and my compassion and love for people has taken on a whole new dimension.
I am free and standing tall and so very thankful for who I am. I know in my heart that sharing my experience will help a lot of people. I really believe there are no accidents in life. I was meant to have this experience, to get through it and learn so much from it. It has been a huge gift, the importance of which I am only now able to even fathom. I see life very differently now and have learned to never, ever again take anything in my life for granted. I am excited and await all the new adventures that are coming my way with great anticipation and joy. I have a new appreciation for life and intend on living it to the fullest from now on.
One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.
What does this quote from Helen Keller conjure up in you?
As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.
I Love You. I Love You More.
Our relationships with our mothers
In last week’s blog post, I wrote about mothers and wanted to give you time to process anything related to your mom that was unresolved before Mother’s Day, which is on Sunday. I hope that you were able to do that.
“Thanks, Junie, I had a healing, loving, virtual chat with my Mom who’s in a care home with advanced Alzheimer’s. I gave her freedom from me to go and be with Dad, her parents, brothers, etc. on the other side. We also shared forgiveness, although I didn’t think of much that I needed to forgive her for.” WG
Another person wrote:
“Thank you Junie. Before last week’s newsletter, I had been thinking – oh, no, another mother’s day is coming up where I have to fake it. I took your writing exercise to heart and I can hardly believe that by the end of it, I was able to see my part in our discord and invited her out to brunch. I feel hopeful that for the first time that there’s a space, an opening and it’s going to be OK. I really want that and I know in her heart, she does too.” LF
In case you missed it, here is the writing prompt I offered:
What words of love would you want to tell your mother today? And if you don’t feel loving toward her, write a pretend dialogue between you and your mom. Tell her everything you have always wanted to say. Imagine her listening to you in a way that she never has before, and that she answers you through the wisdom of her Higher Self, the part of her that loves you unconditionally.
Were you able to do that? What was the outcome? Do you feel more relaxed, healed and at peace around her? Or are you still carrying some hurt and resentment? If so, I highly encourage you to consider re-writing that story so that you are no longer walking around in pain for things that happened in the past. We can’t change what happened, but we can change our attitude toward it.
My sincere wish for you is that you and your mom have a loving, respectful, and honest relationship and that you will celebrate Mother’s Day in a wonderful way!
My story, my truth
My relationship with my mother was as tumultuous as they come. But when it was good, it was the most loving, most engaging, most beautiful love I have ever known. And because I knew how it felt to be loved so deeply, when she withdrew her love, which could happen on a dime, I suffered unbearably. My mom, like me, suffered from bi-polar illness. Unlike me, however, it was never diagnosed, and therefore never treated. So my mom did not have the skills or know-how to make the demons go away. Oh how I wished I could have waved a magic wand and made her demons go away. I wanted that so badly—for her, for me, for my dad, and for Lorraine, Barbara, and Howard, my siblings.
Read on to hear about our mixed up, crazy, profound, and beautiful love. This is an excerpt from my book, Re-Write Your Life. Today, and on this Mother’s Day, I dedicate this story to her, Minnie Swadron.
I Love You. I Love You More.
by Junie Swadron.
Mom, Mommy, Minnie, Minnie-Mouse, Moth–er! Mimi, Memes, Mindle, Ma, Minerva, Mama.
She was all of the above. Each a different personality. Still, she was my mother. Minnie Swadron. Born in 1919 in the miniscule town of Shaunavan, Saskatchewan; first born child of Romanian immigrants, Joseph and Lily Lazarus.
I remember being at the hospital and holding mom’s hand. She didn’t know I was holding it. Or perhaps she did. Who’s to say what a person in coma knows or feels or perceives? Sometimes I would hold her hand a few inches above the sheets and then let go of it – let it fall. It was an eerie feeling but I did it hoping the sudden drop would wake her up. I wanted so much for her to wake up and smile up at me with her beautiful green eyes.
And yes, there was that day––the day that you did open them mom and you recognized me right away. And you held your hands out to me and I bent down and you kissed my face. You kissed my cheeks, my forehead, my chin, my eyes. There was a desperation to it––an aching, a pleading, a hanging on. A memorizing of every feature: the shape of my eyes, the smell of my hair, the feel of my breath upon your face as you drew me into you. Soul to soul. And I loved you more than ever knowing how much you loved me. No holding back. In those kisses, you gave it all. You kissed me with an aching need to hold on which caused my heart to split open but I understood. I needed to hold on then too. It was a moment of truth. Just us and the love––no-one else in the room. No-one to criticize your love for me. Like T. who was embarrassed by your displays of affection.
I used to be embarrassed too. I hated it when I was in my teens or twenties and even thirties and we would go to the Lawrence Plaza or for walks anywhere and you insisted on holding my hand. I guess it reminded me too much of being a child sitting next to you on the couch watching TV and you would want me to scratch your legs. It used to repulse me. But the queasy feeling left once I moved west and went back for visits. Of course I was middle-aged by then. And last October when I stayed with you after your surgery and you seemed so little and vulnerable, I would have done anything to make you feel better. So I actually heard myself offering to massage your back. I did and as much as you cooed expressions of delight, it was me, I know, who benefited the most.
And now you’re gone and I remember those Toronto days traveling the T.T.C. There was snow piled high on the ground when I took the bus from your apartment on Chaplin Crescent to the Scarborough General Hospital. Sometimes there were blizzards as I walked and waited for the bus. I hate being cold but I loved the snow. It held me. It supported me. It reminded me of so many other Toronto winters.
And the times you and I spoke with glee on the phone from our respective homes after the first snowfall, loving the beauty, the stillness, the freshness in the winter sky. We loved so many things like that. Standing on your balcony or mine mid-summer when the thunder storms crashed through the sky and the rain came down in torrents and splashed heavily onto the pavement below. We loved the drama. We even loved the humidity. And I remember when I was a little girl living on Neptune Drive when you took me outside during the rain showers to wash our hair or catch the drops in our mouths. And we’d giggle and dance in the puddles. Those were on the good days. And those are the ones I care to remember for now.
Last night in my writing group I wrote:
I’m here with you again mom. Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten you because my days get full and I don’t remember to miss you and I’ve gotten used to not calling you every day. Used to it? I don’t know. Buried it is more like it. Sometimes lately when I’ve spoken about you, I talk about how crazy you were when I was a child. I don’t talk about the summer sun shower dances or my teenage years when I’d walk in the door after school and Dick Clarke’s American Bandstand would be blaring from the television set. I’d breathe in the comforting smells of dinner cooking on the stove and then be greeted by a happy you in your hot-pink summer short-shorts and freshly ironed white cotton blouse. I’d toss my books on the table and in two seconds we’d be jiving to Elvis Presley or twisting to Chubby Checkers. And I wouldn’t talk about the numerous times my teen-age friends gathered in our living room to be with you even when I wasn’t home. They came because you offered wisdom or encouragement or simply because you were fun to be with.
No I haven’t been mentioning those times at all. And then it struck me the other day why not. It became as plain as day. Simply put, I don’t have to miss you. I don’t have to yearn for you. For your gentle words. For the unconditional love you have had for me whenever my illness struck. Without fail you’d rally round no matter if we were face to face or oceans apart. Your tenderness caressed me through the phone lines, comforting me with loving words, reminding me how courageous I am, how I’ve beat this time and time again, and how I will this time too. And you’d remind me how many other obstacles I’ve faced and how I fought and won. And you’d talk about the beautiful life I made for myself and my successful therapy practice––how I helped others when I couldn’t see that I was or when none of it had any meaning for me. And you’d remind me of the constant flow of friends I’ve always had who love me to pieces. And you’d talk to me and talk to me and even when I couldn’t imagine there could be any more words left you’d find more to convince me not to give up. You were my champion mom and possibly the reason I’m still on the planet. But the irony was you also passed this hideous illness down to me. Even though you were never formally diagnosed, it was blatantly obvious. But you fought too, mom. You fought too. Differently than me. You locked your doors. You judged and blamed and eventually scared everyone away.
But I don’t want to go there now. Because in my heart, I know you were hurting. And perhaps that was the bond between us from the early days on––well that and the laughter too. All of it. Perhaps in some strange way it’s what kept our hearts intact – beyond the madness when you got too crazy to be around. Or I did. Funny, how we held each other on a pedestal which of course, never lasted. Before long, we were side by side on the floor scraping to help each other up again. And we always did. We did it with laughter, we did it with tears. In the end, we always did it with love.
I still carry you in my heart wherever I go and on some days I miss you fiercely. Whenever I see something beautiful or funny, touching or strange, I imagine you beside me, laughing your infectious laugh or smiling your beautiful smile or making a witty comment or a judgmental one. No doubt if it’s judgmental I’ll give you my ridiculous self-righteous lecture. Inevitably, you’d take a deep drag on your cigarette, look me directly in the eyes and say, ‘Junie, don’t use that therapy voice on me’ and we’d both burst out laughing.
I still have messages from you on my answering machine, mom. In one you say: ‘I miss you, Junie. I miss you honey. That’s what I do, I miss you.’ And I feel your lonely, aching heart. And now it’s my turn. Such irony. But as I type this now, a peace has washed over me. Perhaps it’s because you’re here with me. Yes, I feel you here and yet ironically I sense you telling me that it’s time to let go. Like the vivid dream I had only weeks after you died where you came to me and said, ‘It’s time to let go of me now.’ And I fought with you. I said it was too soon. And I didn’t know if you meant it for my sake or yours or for both of us.
And I am ready to do that. It’s been almost a year since Lorraine called me with the news. It was 8:30 in the morning. I was awake waiting for the call. I knew you had died. Still, I got off the phone and started wailing. Wailing! And when I stopped, all I could remember were the parting words we used in our daily telephone conversations.
‘Bye, mom. I love you.’ And you would always answer. ‘I love you more.’
So good bye, mom. I love you. And you know what? It’s my turn to say it now:
I love you even more.
Think of your mom as a woman, apart from her role as your mother. What do you think are or were her hopes and dreams? Do you think she fulfilled some of them? Are there are others she never did? What do you think are some of the most significant things she has taught you? Open yourself to the love in your heart for your mom, the woman who gave you life and begin to write the story of your relationship. Consider giving it to her on Mother’s Day as a beautiful gift or reading it to her even if she has passed away. She will hear you still.
As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.
Mothers, Viewed Through the Eyes of their Children
Mother’s Day is just around the corner
How do you feel when you think about your mom? Is it warm and tender or is it something else?
Every child craves a loving and nurturing relationship with the person who carried them in her womb and gave them life. Yet, as no two mothers are alike, we may fit somewhere in the spectrum from almost never to almost always having our needs to be loved and cherished met and satisfied.
If we were truly blessed, we grew up feeling treasured, respected, and adored. We knew we could come to our parents, and for the purposes of this article, our moms, for anything and she was always there for us. She listened, she dried our tears, offered encouragement, and was our champion along the path.
Yet many people had a mother who was unable to go beyond her own wounds to show affection and may have unwittingly projected her fear and anger onto her children instead. Children do not know that the way they are treated has nothing to do with them. They only know how painful it to be ignored or ridiculed or something else that causes hurt or shame.
Fast forward to adulthood
If you were one of those children who was left to your own devices to figure out how to feel safe in the world, it’s likely, if you have not healed your heartbreak, you could still be harbouring feelings of regret, hurt and confusion. You may feel angry and tired, depressed or empty. And you may be projecting those unhealed wounds onto your own children or in other relationships in your life. I hope not, but you will know if this rings true for you.
There is a strong correlation between the way we feel about ourselves and behave in the world and the way we were raised.
Choose change before the universe chooses it for you!
Sometimes, it’s not until life becomes unbearable that we either open ourselves up to change, or in many cases, life circumstances force us to. I know that was certainly true for me. After being in psychiatric hospitals time and again because of circumstances related to my bi-polar illness, I decided not to let that spoil my life. Specifically, I did not want the labels attached to my name to identify who I am. I knew I would have to re-write that story of mental illness if I were to go on and have a meaningful, productive life.
What it could cost not to change
It was my desperate need to stop the drama, my willingness to reach out, and my earnest wish to heal the pain from the past, no matter what that took, that brought me to the teachers that helped me transform my life in healthy ways. I instinctively knew what it would cost me if I didn’t do whatever it took to turn things around. It was simple, really. I saw myself remaining in unhealthy relationships, making poor choices, being in and out of psychiatric wards, having to start all over again, feeling hopeless and unworthy of love.
Thankfully, I listened to the voice of my inner spirit, even though it was only a whisper, and even though my ego was loud and enticing. I chose a path of inner peace. And when I stumble and fall, I know how to find my way back. I simply brush myself off and keep going, but with more insight in my toolkit.
Living a life you love
Today, and for many years, I have been living a life that I love. I also no longer regret the past. Those stories not only shaped me, but offered gifts of strength, insight and wisdom that I couldn’t have learned any other way. This allows me to confidently and compassionately share what I have learned with others.
I am not stating that it was a picnic climbing the ladder. It was bloody hard at times. I wanted to give up and did many times. The hardest story to find peace with was the one with my mother.
Back to mothers
I know my mother loved me. She showed me time and time again with hugs and kisses, with loving talks and was my number one champion when my bi-polar illness took hold. Unfortunately, she also shared my illness but was undiagnosed. So I grew up in a home where we never knew if mom was going to be in one of her loving moods or raging ones.
In my path of healing, I forgave my mother long ago. In fact, I love her to pieces and tell her so often, even though she passed away seven years ago. I was able to remove the label and role of “mother” and see her as a woman on her own path, often a heartbreaking one, and she did not have the know-how to make it better. That still saddens me. It hurts me to the core. She was an amazing woman, but she just didn’t know it. Her insecurities, which she used as ammunition sometimes, simply didn’t allow her to go beyond the camouflage of comfort she hid behind.
I feel like telling again, right now. Mom, if you can hear me from Heaven, I love you to the moon and back and I pray that you are at peace.
Folks, soon it will be Mother’s Day. Let your mom know how much you love her. If she wasn’t or isn’t the kind of mom you would have asked for, take the high road anyway. She deserves more love, not less. And so do you. Find it in your heart to forgive her for any transgressions and make this the happiest Mother’s day you have had up until now.
What words of love would you want to tell your mother today? And if you don’t feel loving toward her, write a pretend dialogue between you and your mom. Tell her everything you have always wanted to say. Imagine her listening to you in a way that she never has before, and that she answers you through the wisdom of her Higher Self, the part of her that loves you unconditionally.
Today I am featuring two women whose stories are in my book, Re-Write Your Life. You will be touched as you read the stories of their inner journeys with their mothers in the most poignant, real, and beautiful ways.
by Judy McIllmoyl
When I heard of our topic for this writing, I knew I had to write of you. I don’t even know your name. My eyes have never been blessed by the sight of your face. I long to know you—a longing deeper perhaps than I have an understanding of. You are my link to the past. To the love that brought me into being. You have a legacy that I will never know. What made you dance with joy? What were you most passionate about? What did you fear most, in the depths of your despair? When you awakened in the morning what were your first thoughts? When you caught your reflection in a shop window, did you ever catch your breath and think of me?
Many years went by when I did not let my thoughts come to rest on you. That wasn’t allowed. Everything was as it should be. I was with parents who loved me. Enough said. But was it enough? While never given permission to mourn the loss of the living you, you were lost to me. Where were you when I was so alone and so afraid? Is my fear your legacy to me? Is it my gifts, my deep love for nature and all things delicate and tender and easily broken?
As time leaves its etchings on me, I look in my eyes and wonder who you are. I do long to know you…as one soul knows another; not by name or even a shared past, but by an honouring of each other’s presence here on earth. You gave me life. I was once a part of you and I still am; as you are still a part of me, even though I don’t even know your name.
Masks, by Sharon Pocock
I step out of the shower and do the things that women do. Towel dry, moisturize, put products in my hair that promise the Hollywood look and god knows it could do with a little help. Wash my face, then comes toner and more moisturizer. Do I really believe I need a separate cream or gel for under my eyes? I’ve no idea but the package was cute and the jar looks elegant on the washstand, promising its own patented fountain of youth. I dry my hair and then the real work begins.
Concealer, just a touch under the eyes and hey, if I need it there, it kind of suggests the eye cream is the snake oil I always suspected. A little foundation, not all over, just on the bits that need it. Hmm, maybe it should be all over. A little eyeliner, maybe olive, or grey, or burgundy, or black if I’m in a Dusty Springfield mood. A little blush, just a touch, a suggestion of heat and then the final touch – lipstick. When I was younger it was bold colours, making a statement in a too pale face, but now in my more somber, if not more sober years, I’m safe in natural, and taupe, and suede and all the other names the marketing men created to mean the same shade of dull. It’s taken me years to hone these skills. To know which colour to hide behind, what creates the desired mask of the moment. But it wasn’t always the case.
I think back to a small, shy girl, tongue-tied in the face of boys. More at home on horseback than at a teenage party. I didn’t know the code words. Couldn’t crack the body language and the secret handshakes that make the closed world of a popular teenager go round. I remember standing, self-conscious in a pair of sage green dungarees that I’d coveted for the longest time. I thought I was the bee’s knees. I thought I was the kick. I walked into the party and thought that I would die.
The room was wall to wall with tight jeans and tighter tops. With hair styled within an inch of its life and lipstick in every rainbow colour. I stood there in my token flash of blue eyeshadow, clutching at my coke and wondering if I could pluck up the nerve to speak to the boy I liked. Finally I took my courage in both hands and made the move and he smiled and talked about our homework and then he walked away, leaving me stranded in the middle of the floor. I know that people watched and people whispered and probably laughed, but I didn’t hear them as I stood frozen, locked in my own humiliation. But I didn’t blame him. He was a teenage boy and that’s how they were. I blamed you.
I blamed you for not teaching me the language, not teaching me the code I would need to open this new door. I blamed you for not talking about lipstick and blush, powder and eyeliner. I blamed you for letting me think that my prized dungarees were suitable armour for a teenage party. I blamed you for all these things – for not giving me the weapons I needed to survive in shark infested waters. I was your daughter and you were my mum and I loved you so much, but I blamed you for not helping me become a woman. For not helping me understand.
I made so many mistakes in those black years; fell over my feet in so many ways. I look back and shiver and think of the deep pools I almost drowned in – putting myself in positions where the worst might have happened because I didn’t understand the subtext.
That was then and I grieve for the skinny girl, so unsure in her own skin, desperate to understand and be understood. Desperate for entrée into this adult world of sophistication and sexual knowledge. But this is now and I finally see the girl for what she was. And I see you in the same blinding light.
I was fifteen when he went away and you were drowning, clutching at straws to keep you afloat and I was your anchor in that long turbulent year. Your love had turned his back and found new pastures and my brother didn’t want to know. What nineteen-year-old boy wants to admit that the father he worshipped had feet of clay? So he withdrew into the strange dark world that teenage boys inhabit and left us two to cope.
We floated in our homemade life raft, keeping each other warm. I cooked and cleaned and I shopped and played housekeeper and counsellor and nursemaid. And by default you became the child in that time and I became the adult. I put away childish things and entered the adult world. The year passed and after more false starts than I can count, he came back, cap in hand and you finally smiled again. But I continued to cook and shop and be your sounding board because I was now an equal in your eyes.
Looking back, that was the root of the problem. In that long year I grew up, concentrating on the mundane struggle of getting through the day. At the end I had crossed the Rubicon and couldn’t cross back. My childhood, my teenage years of growth and learning and experimentation had gone—disappeared without ever really being explored, every unanswered question buried in a shallow grave with a sprig of rue on top.
I couldn’t go back, so I walked forward into life, ill-equipped to deal with the nuances of this strange, new world. But it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t realize that I hadn’t asked the questions. You’d been lost and I bridged the gap and when you looked again you saw a woman, an adult and I allowed you the deception.
So I stand here and look in the mirror. Picking up cleanser and tissues I start to wipe away the mask. Stroke by stroke, bit by bit, the walls come down and then tissue is dirty with beige and red and black. I stand and stare into the mirror, my face clean and bare and finally, I see myself with all my flaws and faults and I’m happy with the reflection. And as I look, I see you too. I finally see the person—not the mother or the wife, but I see the woman, with all your fears and insecurities and joys. I see you and know you did the best you could and I don’t blame you anymore.
As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.