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.
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?
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.
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.
Okay, it’s no surprise to anyone that I love to write and no, I’m not stopping anytime soon.
And here’s why (they’re Ray Bradbury’s words, but only because he said them first! Or maybe I did, but he took the credit. So I’ll stick with his story so he doesn’t sue me):
“You must stay drunk on writing
so that reality cannot destroy you!”
I am one of the lucky ones who discovered not the frivolity, but the necessity of writing in a journal right from the get-go, because I truly did think that reality might destroy me. As a child, writing in my diary gave me an outlet. It provided me with a safe place to lay my head down on the page with my words. That’s how it felt as an 11-year-old whose voice was silenced, and I came to learn that my voice on the page eventually became my voice in the world. It led me to be who I am today—because I could be true to myself. I didn’t have to please anyone on the page, just say it the way it feels and let it go . . .
Journalling nurtures me when I am afraid. It lets me say anything I want and as many times as I want and it doesn’t get mad and say things, like, “Stop boring me, do you know how many times you’ve told that story? It’s just a story!”
Seriously? Just a Story?
I was at a restaurant the other day and while waiting to be served, I heard part of a conversation at the next table. It went something like this:
Him: “Jodi, get serious; you’re not going to tell them that, are you?”
Her: “Well, why not? It’s the truth.”
Him: “Seriously, what’s the truth anyway? It’s only a story!”
Her: “But it’s my story. Don’t you think that’s important?”
The waiter came to take my order. I couldn’t continue to eavesdrop, darn! But it sure got me thinking: Aren’t we all telling stories all the time? I’ll bet that as soon as Jodi said she was going to tell her story, her friend was running a story in his own head that might have gone something like: “Oh, no. I’m trying to warn her. Can’t she see the trouble it’s going to get her into? Even if it is the truth, why be that honest?” At the same time, she could be running a story such as, “Why can’t he ever support me?” And aren’t I making up a story as well? Of course I am! How could I possibly know what was going through their heads, but there I was creating a story anyhow.
Don’t we all do that? And some of us love to write them down (maybe not the stories of the people at the next table!). But then again, isn’t that what good fiction is all about? Extracting it from real life and then adding our own take?
The Chicken and the Egg
As far back as I can remember, I have been curious about people’s stories, and for over two decades I have been helping people write their own. Maybe this is a story about the chicken and the egg. Is it because I needed to write that I got interested in people’s stories? Or is it because of people’s stories—including the ones in my family that I wasn’t supposed to tell—that got me interested writing? Or is it simply my nature to be curious?
So, yes, it’s true that I started writing as a young girl, but you may not know what inspired me to offer writing classes at the same time I became a psychotherapist. This is a fun story! It started when I read a book that had me captivated because I related to everything the author was saying. So much so that it could have been me saying the very same things. It was one of those aha moments that you can’t ignore.
A Turning Point
Some days later, I went to see my psychiatrist. He was smart, kind, forthright, and a down to earth, cool guy (they should have cloned him). He was also a bit quirky, which I liked. He doodled mandalas while listening to me. Perhaps it helped him listen better. Who knows, but those mandalas were the best I’ve ever seen. I could hardly wait to tell him what I had been thinking about!
Me: “I just read this great book about writing and I believe I can teach writing courses.”
Him: “Hmm. Which book?”
Me: “It’s by Natalie Goldberg and it’s called Writing Down the Bones.
Him: “So, what makes you think you can suddenly start teaching writing courses?”
Me: “Because she writes the same way I do and teaches a method I have naturally used all my life but couldn’t have named it until now.”
Him: “Have you ever done that before? Do you have credentials?”
Me: (Starting to shrivel) “Um, No.”
Him: “Don’t you think that would take one hell of a lot of chutzpah?”
Me: (Stopped breathing. Code blue alert! Desperate for his approval. Final dying words.) “Yeah, I guess so. It was a stupid idea.”
Him: (With a wink and a big smile) “Why would you say it was stupid? If you feel that strongly about it, then you must do it! When do you plan to start?”
Me: (Catching my breath, jumping up to kiss him. Okay, maybe not, but I could have.) “Thank you! Thank you!” (In my mind: smooch, smooch. Also in my mind: “Your sense of humour almost killed me, doc!”)
From that day to this one, assisting people to find confidence in their writing voice is one of my greatest passions! Sometimes, we do need someone else to put a positive mirror in front of our face in order for us to say YES! to ourselves!
What’s Your Story?
What are you doing today that you are passionate about? What got you started? There must be a wonderful story to tell about that. Maybe you can share it with your family tonight around the dinner table. Or with a friend over coffee. Or write about it from where you are today. What circumstances did life put in front of you so that it aligned with your values and your truth?
Or, is there something that you used to be passionate about years ago but you left it behind somewhere? Every now and again does the memory of it surface, and if it could talk, might it be saying, “Hey, what about me? Where did you go? Come back!” And your tummy aches a bit and your heart hurts because you let it go.
It’s never too late! Opportunities are vast. Just open yourself up to be living the life you love and start living that right now. Don’t wait for a life purpose to show up. Your path is already here. You are on a path. In other words, do the things you love to do and be the person you want to be now.
Become the innocent child, ready to explore life with brand new eyes. Get up each morning saying “Thank you for a brand new day” and open yourself to the possibility of beautiful things to unfold.
And remember, you are awesome! You are unique. You have so much to offer. So pull out the stops. Be bold and say “Yes” to Life!
And if I were sitting across from you right now, I’d be emulating that shrink from so many years ago. I’d be doodling Mandalas and telling you to GO FOR IT!
Today I am saying YES to myself and that means . . .
Hallmark and consumerism have made Valentine’s Day into a special occasion for people in loving relationships. But what if you’re single? Do you feel left out? Or what if you’re in a relationship but it’s not feeling particularly loving these days? Do you just wish this day would hurry up and pass? Or, maybe you’re in a fabulous relationship and your love for one another isn’t much different on February 14th than on any other day.
Well, no matter what the day signifies for you, here’s a great recipe, with love that is guaranteed to put a smile in your heart every day! In fact, I think Hallmark would be wise to start making cards that say something like this:
Happy Valentine’s Day To My Best Friend and lover, the person who I am learning to adore more than anyone else in the whole wide world, the one who has been with me through thick and thin, no matter what. She (or he) knows exactly what I need when no one else does. I have to admit, she hasn’t ALWAYS treated me as well as I deserve to be treated—in fact, sometimes has been out and out nasty. She has said things that have hurt me. Things she would never say to anyone else! However, I am ready and willing to forgive her and today I am declaring my true love and appreciation in ways I never have before because in spite of her shortcomings, she is amazing!
Valentine’s Day is a fitting time to start my declaration and one that I intend to commit to the best I can. It may not be easy because I’ve held onto so many judgments of her but I want to stop that critical way of being. So I am reaching out to The Universe for guidance because in truth, she really deserves my unconditional love and compassion more than anyone else I know.
It may not always look like flowers, candlelit dinners, or days at the spa. But I can start with small things. Well, actually, why not flowers? Fresh flowers always lift her spirits and as I imagine the smile on her face when I give them to her—well, she’s irresistible! I intend to put a smile on her face far more often because when she is happy, she simply radiates light. She becomes a love magnet putting smiles on other people’s faces everywhere she goes!
She has been so brave and has overcome so many challenges. She hurts easily—and well, I just haven’t listened to her as well as I could have. She has such a beautiful heart and I’m going to write her a Valentine love letter and tell her so. I’m going to read it to her out loud and I hope that she will keep it somewhere safe and read it over and over again whenever she forgets how loved she is. And I recommend you do the same for your true love.
Two Writing Prompts
1. Write a letter to the one who deserves your love and compassion more than anyone else. The one I have been writing about! By now, have you figured out that it is YOU! Yes, YOU! Write the most beautiful, heart-felt letter to yourself, put it in an envelope, and drop it in the mail. You will more than likely forget that you did and when it comes, it will be the best gift in the whole wide world! And don’t be surprised if it arrives on a day that you need to read it the most. In the meantime, buy yourself some beautiful flowers and stick a little card on them from the florist shop that says, I LOVE YOU!
2. Write a love letter to someone else you really appreciate who makes your heart sing and tell them all the reasons why. Don’t hold back. Go for the gusto!
Caveat: Please do the writing exercises in the order listed. This is a matter of putting your oxygen mask on first and Letting Your Love Light Shine for yourself! Then it radiates out naturally to the world. Just imagine—the love you give yourself passes on to the next person and the next, creating a ripple effect that contributes to the critical mass of a more compassionate, loving planet! I’d say that’s pretty irresistible win-win motivation! Love for one and all!
Meet Joey and Madeleine, my adorable budgies. From the moment they met, they were each other’s Valentines. You couldn’t put a toothpick between them and it’s never changed! Joey’s the one getting his head massaged. They do take turns though. S w e e t ! … Oops! Make that T w e e t !
For the past two weeks I have been shuffling, sorting, and grazing through files—clearing out the old to make way for the new. I would love to tell you that I’ve had an easy go of it; however, when you let things slip as long as I have, there’s nothing easy about it.
I imagine most people in business for themselves have a folder or two called “filing”. Perhaps in some cases they are folders with files bursting at the seams, calling out for attention. Mine must have started out that way but I confess, I can’t remember when they went from a symptom worth noting to a chronic condition setting me into a helpless frenzy wishing there was an emergency paper clutter control phone number I could call. “Ahh, here it is. 211”
Man on line: “Hello, Paper Clutter Emergency Control. Can I help you?”
“Oh, yes, yes, pleeeze! I am being asphyxiated. You see, sir…” You get the picture. No such luck! No such number!
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. In my case it was desperation that brought about the perfect solution to my problem and briefly threw me into the category of “genius”! You see, I have a beautiful wicker basket. It’s very large and very deep. It used to house linens and pillows. Well, unbeknownst to them, it was moving day! They got relocated to the linen closet, allowing me to dump umpteen files and loose papers into their old home—a most versatile basket indeed. That was a happy day to be sure! The papers were off my desk, out of sight, and, because they all disappeared into the basket, I could pretend there were just a few things to sort.
But then came that day. THAT DAY! The inevitable day that forced me out of my make-believe state as the tipping point hit. One little paper, and boom… instead of going into the basket, it fell off the top of the heap and onto the floor. For a moment my denial buddy came to visit, convincing me that none of this has anything to do with me. The basket had shrunk! It was flawed! If I had been able to find the receipt under the piles, I would have asked to get my money back. Instead, I put a teddy bear on top of the pile to still my anxiety and swallowed down a chocolate bar for quicker results.
Fast forward to today. MOST of the files have been neatly stored away in brand new file folders with tabs that say what’s in them and each has a happy new home. The filing cabinet that houses them is feeling quite smug, since most of the old, outdated files have been shredded and tossed, replaced by feng shui heaven.
Finally, we get to the title of this blogpost, Uncovering Treasure Troves. The joy of actually doing all this sorting, shuffling, and grazing is finding the amazing treasures we unearth from our very own home, garage, basement, attic, filing cabinet… or wicker basket.
It was my intention to tell you about some of my amazing finds, which probably would have been far more interesting than sorting papers. However, I wrote this, which was obviously forefront in my mind. It is what inevitably happens in stream of consciousness writing. I followed my own rules today and just let my writing take me where it would. I let it have its way with me. I hope you don’t mind.
But in keeping with the title, I’ll share one or two treasures:
Among the many treasures was a beautiful letter I received from my late sister Barbara, dated August 15th, 2005 complimenting me on a talk I had given, ending with, “Gotta run as I just came into the office and I have our year-end to get ready for the accountants. Year-end, month-end, week-end. It never ends!” She was as funny as she was loving and I miss her every day! It was wonderful to find this treasure!
I also found some writing from my dear friend, Deborah Millar, who I wrote a blog about. Deborah, a world-renowned singing coach, was hoping to compile her works into a book and, unfortunately, she passed away from cancer before she had the chance. I have many of her writings because I was mentoring her through the process during that time. Her writing was as stunning and beautiful as her heart. What a shame she did not live to see her dream to fruition. Read the story I wrote about my love for her.
Two weeks ago I facilitated a retreat called, Unleash Your Passion, Creativity, and Highest Potential. Soon you will be able to see a video montage of that day that my dear friend and videographer, Jeremy Vargas, is putting the finishing touches to.
But what I want to say about that workshop is that it was about bringing your talent, your voice, your precious heart-desires into the world. Having just re-read Deborah’s works and the tragedy that befell her—and so young! PLEASE… don’t leave this planet with your song still inside you!
Do WHATEVER it takes to make it happen. What can you do today? Not tomorrow or the day after. Today. What treasures are still hiding in your heart waiting to see the light? Perhaps it’s singing or performing. Perhaps it’s the next chapter in a book you are writing. Perhaps it’s the next and most fabulous chapter of your life to date!
Writing Prompt: “Sometimes I think about my natural gifts. Sometimes I keep them a secret. Often I just want to bust loose and take the leap, go for it… but I get scared. Right now, I am willing to listen to the whisperings of my heart. I must. And this is what my heart, my wisdom, my truth, is telling me…”
Let me ask you something. It might sound strange coming from me, but do you hate writing? Does the mere thought of it make you cringe? Do you ever wonder how it is that so many people seem to actually enjoy the process? They talk about their journals as if they’re the Holy Grail! Do you ask yourself, what do they actually get from it and if it’s so great, why is it so distasteful to you? If so, you’re not alone! Here are 8 reasons why some people would rather do anything but write:
Reason #1: Shame
One of the most common reasons is because they were shamed in school. Their essays or short stories got marked up with red pens—they weren’t in the right order, their grammar was poor, and so on. They learned that in order to write, they had to do it perfectly. Imagine toddlers saying their first words and being criticized for not pronouncing them correctly! Yes it’s ludicrous, but that’s what happens to children when they write their imaginative stories for the first time and they get ripped to shreds. Mark Twain said, “If we taught our children to speak the way we teach them to write, everyone would stutter.” Many adults are still plagued with shame from their youth for not doing it right.
If you have had an experience like that, throw out the rules and write about it. Write an angry blaming letter to the teacher or whoever it was that put you down. Get it out of your system. You are not what that person said about you. Feel compassion for your younger self and let her/him have their day in court! Let go of perfection and go for the jugular! Don’t be surprised at what might get released in this one piece. Note: this letter is not to be sent!
Reason #2: Afraid of thoughts and feelings
Everyone judges themselves and others. Often the judgment comes from those described above who shamed us in the first place, and we end up thinking we can never do anything write. Oops, I meant “right.” See? Judging ourselves is the biggest crippler in our lives. “How can I think that? It’s not nice of me.”
While writing, if we’re afraid of our angry, less-than-loving thoughts, we’ll want to cover them over with flowery words, make it sound pretty and poetic. We may succeed. It may sound poetic. But it won’t be authentic and we won’t reach the deeper parts of us that want a voice. That part may be angry, frustrated and rebellious or somewhere between bored and apathetic because of our betrayal of her/him. Whatever s/he is, there’s deeper energy inside awaiting expression. Follow it compassionately. This is what the page is for.
Right now I am feeling….
Reason #3: Afraid someone will discover what they wrote and read it
This can be a legitimate fear when you’re writing a journal or anything else you’ve written. You want to protect its sacredness. Our writings are our babies. Protecting them is protecting your most innocent, creative voice. Besides, if you think someone may be reading what you’ve written, it will inhibit what you write. In your journals you can write on the front page, “Please do not read this. Put it down. It is personal.” Or, if you prefer, write, “Read at your own risk!”
Don’t leave your writing on your coffee table. If you do, you might as well surrender to the fact that it’s probably going to happen. And if it does, can you really blame that person? After all, you’ve opened up the temptation. Of course you can share it with whomever you like. But here’s the key: Be discerning. You don’t want to share it with someone whose approval you’re looking for. Share your fledgling pieces with people whom you trust and who support you.
Do not leave your journal on the coffee table!
Reason #4: Can’t spell, don’t know proper grammar and punctuation
An amazing number of people won’t write because they’re not good spellers and feel embarrassed and feel the same way about punctuation, grammar and style. Stream of conscious thought doesn’t care if you can’t spell, you don’t use grammatically correct speech or punctuation. Or use any punctuation at all. Me bee in countree hole bunch long time. I bet you understood that. Do I really care if it’s not written well or it’s got a bunch of spelling mistakes? No, I don’t. And I don’t want you to either. Not during the creative process. Find an editor later. Creativity demands that you do not try to stop it with rules. Kids paint outside the lines. We get to write outside the margins if you know what I mean.
Deliberately write a few sentences with bad grammar, spell things wrong even when you can spell them right and at the end of it, have a good laugh. It’s not that serious, right? Remember that during the creative process. Laugh when you can’t spell something instead of judging it. Your judge will throw away the pen and you’ll inevitably go find a donut to munch on.
Reason #5: Afraid if they put it in writing, they’re bound by it
There’s always been an aura around the written word. It’s like a law or contract that can’t be changed. “Gee, I wrote it this way so how can I say it that way now?” Well, you can. That’s poetic license. It’s also being human. We change our thoughts, our minds, our perceptions as we learn and grow. You can write something and stand by it today and change it tomorrow if it no longer resonates with your truth.
The irony is, as soon as we write the truth of where we are in the moment, the energy shifts and allows for another truth to seep in. We’re not frozen in our fury, for example. Most often once we’ve spilled it all onto the pages, we hit a deeper emotion—hurt, for example. We discover that under the rage lies a hurt inner child who hasn’t had his or her needs met. With this awareness we can then do some nurturing—we can write ourselves a love letter. Sometimes this process takes several days. You may just need to stay with the anger for a while. Write it out and let it rest on the page. Read it out loud so you can feel the full impact of your feelings. Then go do something physical. Go for a walk. Turn on some up-beat music, dance. Exercise. Breathe. Get the endorphins flowing. And feel proud that you have released what you’ve been wanting to say for weeks!
Allow your writing to teach you things. Learn as you write. Grow as you learn. Let it be a progression, not a fact. There is an endless well of wisdom that can come to us from invisible places that the pen just seems to know how to locate. Nothing’s written in stone. And if it is, eventually someone will pick up the stone and skip it in the water and something new will get invented in its place. It’s called creativity, imagination, and freedom!
Reason # 6: Don’t know what to say—afraid of the blank page
Sometimes not knowing where to begin can seem like an insurmountable task. Just begin to write where you are. Describe where you are, your environment, the colours, the sounds, the people, or lack of them, and let this be a beginning. Or give your editor a voice: if it’s saying “I don’t have anything to say…” write that. Write it again and again. Eventually it will change. Stay with it and stay focussed on your intention. At the same time keep your hand moving across the page.
The last time I had nothing to say, I…
Reason #7: Afraid of what you might learn about yourself
Writing takes you into the deeper recesses of your mind, turning over the soil of the unconscious and bringing light to what’s been buried for a long time. If there are things you don’t want to face, don’t want to deal with, you will avoid writing about them because the truth usually surfaces and makes you look at it. Don’t be afraid. Be curious instead. When you stay with it and write to the other side, you will gain clarity, answers, healing and release.
What I want you to know about me is… (you are writing this to yourself… it’s about you getting to know yourself) ☺
Reason #8: Competition
You’re afraid to do anything because you’re always comparing yourself to others. You’ll never get the novel, play, article, song published. “So and so graduated at the same time as me and they’re already way ahead and even famous. It’s stupid to even bother.” Comparing ourselves is very damaging because it stops us from moving forward. We ask ourselves the wrong questions, and so we get the wrong answers. We say, “How come she can do it?” or say, “No wonder he’s successful; he has a rich father”, instead of asking ourselves, “What are my goals and what can I do today towards them?”
Writing Exercise & Tip
Take one writing project that you have on the go—or want to have—and get to it! There are no tricks. Just roll up your sleeves and write. Once you have started, you will know the sheer joy of moving forward and it will motivate you to come back tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. And when you get stuck, write your truth about it in your journal. It will free you and you’ll be able to continue.
If you haven’t been writing and the above reasons don’t apply to you, or you have other reasons why you are stuck, please tell us your reasons below. If I can help you find a solution, and it’s likely that I will, you’ll be writing again in no time!
This is it! The last seven writing prompts of January’s 21-Day Writing Challenge. Congratulations to everyone who took up the challenge, even if it was for a day or two. And it’s never too late to start! All 21 of the writing prompts will be here for you on the blog whenever you need inspiration. As always, please leave a comment below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary.
Day 15: SHE TURNED THE CORNER AND…
Set your timer for 20 minutes, put on your sleuth hat, and follow her around that corner.
Day 16: PICK A SENTENCE FROM A BOOK
Today’s idea: grab a book off the shelf, open it to a random page, and copy down the first sentence you see into your journal. Let that sentence be your writing prompt. Write for five minutes, then, as you read over your writing, underline a sentence that speaks to you and let that be the starting sentence for your next five minutes of writing. Continue! Let us know where it takes you…
Day 17: THE FOX
Here is a stanza from the Mary Oliver poem October. Please take it from here:
“One morning, the fox came down the hill, glittering and confident, and didn’t see me—and I thought… “:
Day 18: DO YOU HAVE THE DISCIPLINE TO BE A FREE SPIRIT?
(Gabrielle Roth in Sweat Your Prayers). It’s an interesting question Gabrielle Roth poses. Where does it take you?
Day 19: WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Everything. Tell us what your name means to you. Some of us like our names; some of us change them. I chose to go from “June” to “Junie” because my mom called me “Junie” when she was in a good mood, and guess what she called me when she wasn’t? Now when people call me “June”, I don’t get upset. My mom loved me even if her tone of voice didn’t always sound warm and fuzzy. Tell us what your name means to you. Also, my last name was Schwadron; we hailed from Austria and five generations of orthodox rabbis. Our family broke the mold!
Day 20: I CHOOSE LOVE
Here’s a treat. Enjoy the music video “I Choose Love” by Shawn Gallaway, and then, you know the drill… write from wherever it takes you:
Day 21: SHALL WE DANCE?
We did it! Congratulations! I wish to thank all of you who participated in our 21-Day Writing Challenge. Whether you wrote consistently for 21 days or not, even if this exercise got you writing just a little bit, it has done its job. I celebrate your efforts. The 21st prompt is: Shall we dance?
And that’s a wrap! Remember you can always come over to Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join us in our private Facebook group to keep the momentum going. All you need to do is request to join and I will open the gates for you. Join the fun, the audacity, the vulnerability, the creativity, the daring and hopefulness, the challenges… everything we writers go through when putting pen to paper.
Writing can be a lonely activity, but not at the Sanctuary. It’s a place to share your writing, your process… to be seen and heard. At the Sanctuary we all show up wherever we are, fledgling or seasoned writer, blocked and frustrated or flowing with personality, creativity, and magic. Let’s interact and be part of a community that writers and all artists crave.
Also, I’d love it if you would leave comments below to let me know how the writing challenge worked for you.
We are well into the 21-day writing challenge now, at the end of week 2. Below you’ll find the writing prompts for days 8-14. Enjoy, and see you next week! As always, please leave a comment below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary.
Day 8: Time out
What are your favourite ways to keep your cool, stay sane, balanced and healthy when the demands of the day want to take over?
Here’s my entry for Day 8:
It’s hard to believe that we are finished our first week! That we are eight days into our 21-Day Writing Challenge. Wasn’t it just Christmas? Weren’t we just planning the holidays?
Time is so mysterious. There are still 24 hours in each day, yet every week seems to fly by faster than the one before. So much gets packed into one day. Surely there must be more time for time out. Well, not if we don’t make time.
Yesterday, I downloaded Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindfulness bell app onto my smartphone. I have programmed it to ring every hour as a reminder to stop whatever I am doing and B R E A T H E.
There is another thing I have done to honour my time to stop and breathe. I have opened my home every weekday morning from 8:15-9:00 for a silent drop-in morning meditation and writing practice.
It’s something I do most days anyway but I thought how wonderful and rich it would be to experience this practice with others. For me there is nothing like having the energy of a prayerful group filling the spaces we are in. So, on Monday morning, I woke at six o’clock and prepared my living room with candles, lavender in my essential oil diffuser, and soft meditative music. I boiled the kettle for tea in preparation. The doorbell did not ring. No one came. Nor did they on Tuesday, Wednesday, nor today.
It is a joy to notice how far I have come over the years. At one time I would be terribly disappointed that no one showed up. Not now. I love doing this for me. On one hand, it’s a stretch; I would rather linger in bed another hour or so. Yet, having made this commitment, I am motivated to show up, and frankly, making my home warm and lovely, cozying up on the sofa with a candles burning, ready to meditate and write this way, is a wonderful thing to do.
Up until now, my practice was writing in bed in the morning but it didn’t always happen in spite of my best intentions. I’d fall back to sleep and deny myself the most important staple for my daily soul diet: pen and paper.
Opening my home for others to join me is a sure way to inspire me to stay true to my practice. And I would love for you to join me. You will find me on my sofa, sipping tea, pen in hand, devotedly awaiting your arrival.
Day 9: Lover of leaving
Wow, we’re already into week 2! Congratulations to those of you who are still on board. And for all of us, wherever we are in the writing process, let it be OK.
Here’s one of my favourite Rumi quotes: “Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshipper or lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.”
Write whatever shows up after reading the quote. It could apply to your writing practice or it could be, as I imagine Rumi intended it…a returning to The Beloved.
Day 10: Self love—how can I serve you?
Today, and every day, put your hand on your heart and ask your heart, your beautiful innocence, “How can I serve you?” Then, listen to what the whispers of your heart wish to tell you. This is definitely, for me, a light my candle moment as I take out my journal and pen.
Day 11: Life’s unsuspecting gifts
It’s impossible to live on this earth without undergoing challenges. Some are heart crushing and we wonder how we will ever survive them. But somehow we did. Somehow we were stronger than we thought and hopefully the justice in the pain and despair is the wisdom that came afterward.
What do you consider the most unsuspecting gift you’ve unwrapped (although it didn’t come with a pretty ribbon and bow) from one of your greatest challenges? What did you learn, and have you been able to share your learnings with others who may going through similar struggles?
Day 12: A song of the heart
Is there a special song you have in your heart and when hear it, it brings you back to that person, that event or “the good ol” days? Please tell us all about it.
My favourite song for many years was “Smile”, sung by Nat King Cole. It was the song my best friend Suki and I sang together when were children. Suki and I were inseparable until we were 20 and travelled to Europe together where we had our very first argument ever and it separated us for 43 years. Over the many years we were apart, whenever I heard that song, it made me feel so sad. Now, I can’t stop myself from smiling! I published our story on my blog; if you would like to read more, here it is:
Day 13: City lights
City lights…where does this take you?
Day 14: Home
My friend Tim Morley sent me the following poem today. The poet lives on Whidbey Island near Tim’s home. What does this poem evoke in you? I challenge you to write a poem about home: Your home today, or a home you once lived in. A home that turned out to be a house devoid of the essence of home, or the home that only exists in your heart.
by Judith Adams
It is the resting place from impermanence,
asylum for authentic conversation,
for reconstructing heaven,
for unraveling from the world.
Our pots and the art that moves us
are only the archeologist’s proof of
existence, of how long the
apprenticeship lasts until we surrender.
The tyrannical self tires of the
uncompromising honesty of a true home.
In the end we give away everything
that saps our energy.
At the window the feminine moon
is slowing down, and at the sink
we survive our mistakes, our grief,
our joy, with robust
celebration, the door open,
the kettle on.
Remember to come on over toJunie’s Writing Sanctuary to join us in our private Facebook group and jump into the challenge! All you need to do is request to join and I will open the gates for you. You will see what the others have been writing. Join the fun, the audacity, the vulnerability, the creativity, the daring and hopefulness, the challenges… everything we writers go through when putting pen to paper.
Writing can be a lonely activity, but not at the Sanctuary. It’s a place to share your writing, your process… to be seen and heard. At the Sanctuary we all show up wherever we are, fledgling or seasoned writer, blocked and frustrated or flowing with personality, creativity, and magic. Let’s interact and be part of a community that writers and all artists crave. Let’s come out of the cave where the lone wolf resides.
ALSO, I’d love it if you would leave comments below to let me know how this is working for you.
Happy New Year! For the next three weeks, my readers get a bonus: not just one writing prompt per week, but seven, as we work our way through the 21-day writing challenge in Junie’s Writing Sanctuary. Please join us at the Sanctuary (our private Facebook group) and jump into the challenge! All you need to do is request to join and I will open the gates for you. Or, scroll through the first seven days below and find something that gets you writing. I’d love it if you’d leave comments below to let me know how this works for you.
Day 1: January 1, 2016
As you enter this brand new year, I thought I would begin by offering you four questions. This is a favourite exercise of mine; it can help us become crystal clear about how we want to bring writing into our hearts and lives this year.
Write each of the following four questions down and answer each question ten times. Take the time to listen deeply and write down what you hear. If the same answer comes up for you more than once, it just means that it is indeed important to you.
Although these questions may seem straightforward, your answers may surprise you:
Regarding writing, what do I want?
Regarding writing, what do I need?
Regarding writing, what do I fear?
Regarding writing, what do I hope for?
If you have any questions, be sure to ask me and feel free to share your answers below or comment about how the process worked for you.
Day 2: Don’t go back to sleep
Did you remember to create a sacred writing space, one that beckons and seduces you into the parlour of your muse? Did you light a candle, are you playing soft music or do you simply reach for your pen and your journal, your eyes still sticky with slumber, knowing no matter what, the magic is about to begin?
Today’s prompt is from Rumi: “The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell. Don’t go back to sleep.”
When I read this, I thought it would be a good thing for me to frame on my wall for its literal meaning.
How often I have wanted to rise early in the morning and walk along the rocks and sand on Dallas Road beach but I do not. Even when I am conscious enough to have that thought float through my mind, even though I know how much I would benefit from the secrets I’d be told by the breezes and the sea lions gracefully swimming by, I am seduced by the warmth of my bed, its down comforter and another invitation to dreamtime.
Where do Rumi’s words take you? Set your timer for 20 minutes and feel free to share your process or what you have written.
Day 3: Are you feeling reticent?
Are you still feeling reticent about starting the challenge? Do you feel that if you didn’t start on Day 1, it’s too late? Well, please let me help you lay down your burdens of self-doubt and recrimination.
Even if you are reading this on day 5 or 9 or 15, it’s still not too late. It’s not too late until we’ve taken our last breath!
So I invite you, wherever you are, to jump in or simply tiptoe in. Just start from wherever you are.
Think of a time when you made a commitment to something you wanted to have happen. You weren’t sure how you were going to stay the course. There were circumstances, obstacles, hardships that showed up which made it almost impossible for you to continue, but you did. You did it!
Remember that time and begin to write about it. Bring in all the details. Remember, one of the first rules in writing is show us, don’t tell us. So describe the circumstances.
Where were you? Do you remember the year? What was it you wanted so much you could almost taste it? What was happening in your life at the time? What made you feel so passionate about it? Were there people there who were supporting you? Who were they? What was their role and their relationship to you?
Maybe there were naysayers, wet blankets, the people who said, “Forget it. It’s impossible. Or, it’s impractical or…” Who were they? How did you deal with it? Describe the challenges you faced? How did you manage? What strengths did you draw on? Bring in your feelings, your fears. No holding back. And write what it was like for you when you stepped over the finish line. Then write how it feels for you as you recall that story today. Have fun!
Here is one of my favourite passages written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:
The Power of Commitment
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth—the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans—the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events, issues and decisions, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no one could have dreamed, would have come their way… Whatever you can do or dream, you can begin. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now…”
Day 4: Write from “I Am Divine Mystery”
Today I decided to pull a card from a deck called “I Am Divine—Affirming Our Divine Nature in Everyday Life” created by Barbara Burke Luminous Creations. The card says, “I Am Divine Mystery. If you receive this card today you are being invited into a very powerful space, that of Divine Mystery. Being in the mystery allows for limitless possibilities. Allow yourself to be open to total surrender and know that in that place is where you access your true power.”
As always, set your timer for 20 minutes and write where this passage takes you.
Day 5: A handwritten letter of love
Are you old enough to remember when writing letters was what we did in order to communicate with friends and lovers far away? Emails? Skype? Texts? Excuse me? There weren’t men on the moon yet either! Well, just.
For me, letter writing was a sacred ritual that spawned intimacy and connection. I took the time to carefully craft each letter from my heart. As I wrote I could almost feel that person sitting beside me, and my heart opened even more. It felt private and beautiful.
The sweetness didn’t stop after placing the letter in the post box. No, after that came the fantasy of my dear one opening my letter and being moved by it, possibly even enchanted. Next was the wait. The delicious anticipation followed by the immeasurable joy of receiving his or her letter in return.
Today’s writing challenge is to write a special handwritten letter to a certain loved one who you know would absolutely adore receiving such a gift. One letter, one envelope and one stamp, from your heart to their heart that becomes a sacred keepsake forever more.
Please share your process with us. Or, if you like, write us too about a particular letter you once wrote or that you received that is still a precious memory.
Day 6: Your sacred self
Imagine that you are a baby kissing yourself in the mirror, and beside you sit the sacred scrolls, written through your pure heart. What does your unfettered heart of love say? As always, please share.
Day 7: “I remember…”
This is one of my favourite writing prompts, as we never know what is going to show up. Of all the gazillion experiences we have had over our lifetimes, what will the pen reveal when we give ourselves over to 20 minutes of “I remember…”? Have fun and please share!
Remember to come on over to Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join us in our private Facebook group and jump into the challenge! All you need to do is request to join and I will open the gates for you. You will see what the others have been writing. Join the fun, the audacity, the vulnerability, the creativity, the daring and hopefulness, the challenges… everything we writers go through when putting pen to paper.
Writing can be a lonely activity, but not at the Sanctuary. It’s a place to share your writing, your process… to be seen and heard. At the Sanctuary we all show up wherever we are, fledgling or seasoned writer, blocked and frustrated or flowing with personality, creativity, and magic. Let’s interact and be part of a community that writers and all artists crave. Let’s come out of the cave where the lone wolf resides.
ALSO, I’d love it if you would leave comments below to let me know how this is working for you.
A brand new year is approaching, the holiday rush is over, you are alone with your thoughts and begin to reflect upon the past year. You think about your successes, those things you had set out to accomplish, and you did them. You think about the things you wished to accomplish but did not. Ask yourself, do I put more weight on what I was able to achieve, or on what I wish I had achieved? Rather than get upset by what didn’t happen, know you have not failed. YOU ARE ENOUGH JUST AS YOU ARE.
Let’s commit to making 2016 the year we stop judging ourselves. Let this be the year that we put our hands over our hearts and commit to loving ourselves more than we ever have before. Would we not treat a child in who is hurting with compassion and love? Let us give more love, not less, to the parts of ourselves that are lying awake at night anxious and worried.
Let us stop the barrage of judgments, criticisms, the ‘not good enough’ statements. Instead, let this be our New Year’s resolution—a resolution for each and every day, to feed our tender hearts with reverent kindness.
One of the best ways I know to do this is simply by being honest with ourselves. Instead of slapping down a whole bunch of affirmations for the New Year that do not ring true, bring yourself back into this moment instead and write down what is true.
Let writing become your meditation—a place to rest your heart on the page with your words, your truth, your hopes and dreams. It is private. You do not need to censor yourself or please someone else. Let writing be your key to the kingdom of self-love. Your journal is as close as a hand’s reach away, ready to reveal the deepest insights and wisdom you could ever ask for, possibly even the seeds of a book in you that is gestating there, ready to be birthed. Dream your biggest dreams and may the universe bless every one!
Take an hour alone. Light a candle and set an atmosphere of serenity and beauty. Write a letter to Your Higher Self, God, your Guardian Angel, The Universe. Say everything that’s on your mind and in your heart. Next, write a letter back from that deity or your Guardian Angel, or Higher Self. Don’t engage your monkey mind and start to think that you’re making it up. Simply listen, breathe and allow. Know that your words have been heard and that you are being responded to with love and grace. Know that you are loved beyond measure.
Writing Tip Yesterday, in my Sunday Afternoon Sacred Writing Circle, we were writing about living our highest vision. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote: “I always knew, even as a child, that somehow I was protected. When I was given my first diary at the age of eleven, it wasn’t just a place to write down my thoughts, it was a place to commune with God. On the pages I have always been met with an omnipotent presence ready to love my tender heart.”
As you write in your journal, allow whatever you believe is All-Loving to be present with you as you write. Perhaps God is not a word you would use. Maybe it is Universal Intelligence, your Guardian Angel, The Beloved, Nature. Or perhaps it is someone you know who loves you unconditionally. Imagine as you write that that deity or person is with you as a benevolent witness, cascading you with compassion and love.
How did this work for you? Please leave your comments below, or join and contribute to our private Facebook group, Junie’s Writing Sanctuary.
Today’s story is about accessing the kid in us—the one who keeps us honest, and we know the truth shall set us free if we would only give it a chance. Many years ago I had a deep yearning for something but I didn’t quite know what it was. I knew there was a lack in my life but couldn’t figure it out because on the outside I was doing all the “right” things.
It was not tangible. I had a felt sense that it had to do with what I was like when I was very little. It was an energy inside me that was unencumbered and free. I remembered the summers when I was a small child and could hardly wait to play outside because of the new discoveries I found every day in the field just beyond the apartment building where I grew up.
I would lie back in the tall grasses looking up at the sky and be totally mesmerized. I loved watching the cloud formations turning from prehistoric animals into human faces and angels with billowy wings. Or I’d turn my attention to the ground and be very quiet and still in order to watch the praying mantises. I really thought they were praying!
Or I’d skip past my best friend Suki’s house to the creek and watch the tadpoles and baby frogs. I’d make up stories and write songs and sing them to my pretend friends, and sometimes real friends, and it was the quality of this time that I was missing so fervently in my life as an adult. It was like an ancient dream had died with growing up. Where did my innocence, spontaneity, and favourite pastime—daydreaming, go?
Of course, it got replaced with schedules and responsibilities and “important things”. But what can be more important than play, than leisure time, and stopping long enough to experience and appreciate what’s actually in front of us in each moment? I realized that I had conformed and bought into society’s expectations of me and in doing so pretty much lost my playful, fun-loving inner child who cracks me up when I let her.
Back then I came up with an idea and approached my friend Janice, who I believed would help me. If I was having so much pain around the lack of spontaneity, joy, creativity and fun in my life, there must be others just like me also wishing to find a way to bring it back. Sure enough, she loved my idea and we went about creating Re-awaken Your Sleeping Child, a play shop for adults. I was right. There was indeed a big need for it. People kept signing up. It was a definite hit!
I don’t believe that need has changed. Perhaps there’s an even bigger need than ever with so many of us stretched to the limit every day with those important to-dos which all but eliminate leisure and play. I know this need in me has never waned. Do I always give myself time to kick back and have fun? Embarrassingly the answer is “no”. If I did, I guess it wouldn’t be a need. But my motto is: if you fall down, you get up. So, this is one of those times I’m acknowledging my need to play is on the FRONT burner.
In last week’s Sunday Afternoon Sacred Writing Circle, I wrote about tossing in the towel of responsibility and hangin’ loose. It was a very passionate piece that even had me surprised. It bought me relief and freedom and that truth set me free. Last night, in the dark winter cold and blustery winds, I threw on my warm winter jacket, hat and mitts and set out to experience the exuberance of a wild sea. Fully inspired, I continued walking around the neighbourhood enjoying the holiday flavour of houses alight with Santas and reindeer, or peering in windows to see the lit up Christmas trees, tinsel and bobbles.
Then I remembered how fabulous the magical coloured lights and ornaments that line Government Street are so I marched right downtown to see them up close, returning home some two hours later, feeling exhilarated. My little kid thought she had died and gone to heaven. Why would that be with something so simple? Because I just don’t let her have her way when it’s cold and dark all that often. I clearly need to renegotiate the hierarchy of decision-making. There’s no question she has much more sense than I do! And it takes so little to please her.
I had simply said “Yes!” instead of, “No, it’s too cold. It’s dark. You’re tired. Watch a movie, go to bed early.” Instead, I listened to the kid in me who wasn’t tired at all. She was ready for adventure and it turned into a magical night of simple, easy fun.
Are you ready to listen to the inner promptings of your inner child? I invite you to take a one-minute break right now. Be still and listen. What is he or she asking for? This is the voice of your innocence, creativity, spontaneity, and intuition, the one who will never steer us wrong. I’m re-committing to letting this voice steer my ship from now on. I only know this: when I let go of control, when I listen and am led, I am moving with the flow of The Universe. And what could be better than that?
Mind Mapping with Flare: Gather a bunch of coloured markers and create a mind-map. Give it this title: “Things the Child in Me Loves to Do.” In the middle of the page, draw a circle and write the name you were called when you were a child. Then start creating spokes off that circle of all the things that little kid loves to do or used to but hasn’t for a very long time. Make it colourful. Have fun! When you’re finished, tape it to your fridge like you do for kids’ drawings. This one’s yours and should be front and centre where you can see it often. Then, choose one of those things each week and just do it. You can say, “Little Junie said so.”
After you have gone on your first play date (which could also include a bubble bath, candles and soft music), use this prompt: “I feel—choose one of the following adjectives or better yet, name your own—alive, elated, fantastic, happy, at peace, mellow, rejuvenated—now that I…” Be sure to show all the sensual details of your experience. The first rule of writing is to show us, don’t tell us.
Please scroll down and write a comment. Tell us what you did and give us ideas we can add to our own!
Today’s story and writing prompt are centred on a personal situation. I hope you will enjoy them and write from wherever my story takes you.
Currently I am in Toronto, the place of my birth, which I left in June 1998 to follow my life-long dream of moving to the west coast, where I still reside. I have come back to Toronto many times over the years and I have always loved it—except after my sister Barbara died, and then my mom, nine months later, about eight years ago.
In 2013, I went back for two months and I could not describe my visit in any other terms than a full-on love-fest! First, I had eight luxurious weeks to reunite with loved ones instead of trying to fit everyone into a week or two and go home tired and frazzled. Within that time, family and friends that spanned a lifetime seemed to be coming out of the woodwork to spend quality time with me. I returned to Victoria feeling nourished, nurtured, and full.
This time it is not that kind of visit. I am here because two family members are very ill. One is my sister’s husband of over 50 years, and the other is my niece’s young 18-year-old daughter Hannah who was diagnosed with cancer just over one month ago. She was in Jerusalem at the time, starting her first year at university. I anticipated a depressing time before I got here, but it is not the case. Sad—oh my, yes. Unbearably so sometimes. But what I want to say is that I am learning so much about resiliency, strength, and love.
My sister is a very loving, caring woman, and yet our relationship hardly ever consists of long conversations and the sharing of memories. I am pretty much an open book, whereas Lorraine is very quiet and private. She was my best friend when I was growing up. She is 9 ½ years older than me; I was her baby sister and she couldn’t have loved me more had she given birth to me herself. The deep bond we share has never wavered, in spite of our differences. With her, I have learned about the kind of comfort that is present in silence when true love is present. Although this is one of the hardest times in her life, simply being in her presence, spending quiet time together, is rich and intimate for both of us.
I am staying with my niece and her family. Rachel and her husband David have four children. It is shocking that their 18-year-old has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. Yet, in spite of the gravity of the situation, this is not a depressing household. Instead, it is light and love, laughter and tears that make up the day-to-day life under this roof. I can’t say it is life as usual, because of course there is an underlying fear of the unknown. People’s nerves are frayed and it can also be messy at times.
But let me tell you what else exists here: The house is filled with kids and their friends coming to visit or staying for dinner or a sleep-over. There are relatives and rabbis, neighbours and friends dropping by to share their love and support. I have been delighting in 10-year-old Shawndra’s natural theatrical storytelling talents, and admiring 15-year-old Jacob for his humility, even though he is knowledgeable and wise beyond his years. I love my neighbourhood walks with Sprout, their gentle collie-terrier. Sometimes after a long day, we’ve all cuddled on the couch to watch a movie and laughed a lot at the funny parts. Ariel, the oldest, has been coming home from Queen’s University on weekends and what a joy it is to see how all the kids gather around her, smothering her with hugs and kisses. That’s my favourite part—witnessing the demonstrative expressions of love and affection that are simply natural to this family.
On Shabbat we sang songs, discussed Talmud and philosophy, literature, and music. We’ve sipped lattes together at the Second Cup around the corner. I am probably coming home carrying ten extra pounds (no joke) thanks to Rachel’s incredible culinary skills!
And occasionally, when time has permitted, when Rachel hasn’t been driving her kids to and from extracurricular activities, dentist appointments, and Hebrew studies, we’ve been able to sit down and have meaningful talks about what’s going on.
And Hannah—well, even with an uncertain future, even though her magnificent waist-long, thick black hair has been shaved off, she continues to be a shining light and inspiration for everyone who meets her. Her faith has not wavered; her thirst for knowledge and passion for life are as fierce as ever.
So what am I learning here? I am learning what it looks like to be part of such a family. To be able to give my love in whatever ways are needed which is all I want to do. I am learning how to be in a situation like this and be part of a home that is spirited, resilient, loving and real! Perhaps what I am learning the most is how much family means to me. And I am finally beginning to take in how much I mean to them. What a privilege it is to be here at such a time! I love and I am loved.
In two days I will be back in Victoria. Back to work. Back to my single, independent life. I wonder where my journal entries will take me next. What insights and wisdom will show themselves on the page? And now… I would like to see yours.
Please WRITE WHERE YOU ARE. That’s the prompt—today’s only writing prompt. After reading this story, where does it take you? What thoughts or feelings arise as you read it? If you need a lead in, perhaps you can use: “After reading about Junie’s visit to Toronto, I…”
Today’s Writing Tip
Don’t think! When you think, you’re judging, editing, and planning what to say next. Creative writing asks you to step aside and allow your pen to reveal what your heart and mind wish to say. Writing is about listening. You learn to become a conduit, taking dictation from an inspired place within you. Marion Woodman, in an interview in Common Boundary said, “After much thought, I realized the trouble I had writing that bleak Friday afternoon was due to my approach. I was trying to analyze, trying to explain rationally. I was failing miserably because I was approaching the task through my head. I had to drop into my belly.”
To share your writing, please leave a comment below or head over to Junie’s Writing Sanctuary, our private Facebook group. It is not a place for criticism. Instead it is a safe sanctuary where what you write is held in the highest regard. It does not need to be polished. It’s a place where we can express our creativity as well as lay our hearts on the page with our words. See you there!