Introduction . . .
There are no mistakes in the universe. Everything happens for a reason. These words are meant for you to read right now, where ever you are in your life.
My life tested me and made me stronger. Even when I felt I was broken, I discovered courage, resilience, and compassion I did not know I had. In hindsight, then, no “negative” experience is actually “bad” and I am exceptionally grateful to be the person I am today.
I was born creative and I was aware early on that I was a little different. I imagined, I read, invented stories and songs, painted and sang. As a girl who didn’t feel like she fit in, I was relieved that music gave me a place to land. Singing gave me a community of people in choir robes, and as long as I was in their company, I belonged somewhere.
The arts also were my therapy. I was a victim of a sexual assault as a child and did not say a word about it for almost a decade. To say that I suffered with low self-esteem is putting it mildly. Basically, I took all the blame for being a crime victim and hated myself. Writing in my journal helped me to process my feelings and it still does.
My parents encouraged creativity, practicality, scholarship, and hard work. I thought they would love me more if I tried to be “more normal.” I tried to suppress the feelings that were the source of my creativity. Stuck with negative, unexpressed emotions, I needed to get away from myself. I didn’t want to be in my own skin and I didn’t want other people to know that I felt like a fraud. I silenced the nervous babbling in my brain with drugs and alcohol. Of course, that was a poor solution.
When I sobered up the first time in my early 20’s, I settled down, got married, had babies and maintained a neurotically clean house. Life crashed when my husband of only five years committed suicide. I was 29 years old. I was devastated. I needed income and a job that allowed me to be a mom to my preschool-age children. I knew I could write, so I started a newspaper. Then I started another. For the next 20 years I was a bonafide workaholic. Shortly after I moved to the Seattle area, I earned three college degrees while working full-time and raising three kids. I became an administrator in medical, legal and governmental industries. Staying busy was not filling the void I felt, though. I was anxious and lonely and I started drinking again. And, then I could not stop drinking. Eventually the combination of alcohol, poor quality relationships and overwork leveled me body and soul.
Acknowledging that I needed help was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I admitted I was lost and hopeless. Because I didn’t love myself, I had lived from the unconscious belief that I had to earn affection and was unworthy of it. Because I did not trust myself, I sought validation and spiritual connection outside of myself. Because I was disconnected, I hurt others and myself in a hundred ways. I didn’t recognize myself at all.
A very dear and wise friend told me: “You walked twenty miles into the woods and you’re not going to get out on the same path.” Indeed. I felt like I was looking at an unmapped trail marker that said “You Are Here.” I had no idea where “here” was and I had to sit down and wait for the flashlight guidance of others.
Becoming holistically healthy requires that I live in the moment and be calm without having a clue about how to be a healthy person. Once I was willing to accept my humanity, I learned that my experience was actually a strength that could be of service to others.
As I was learning this, I was journaling daily and I thought, perhaps, I could get back into publishing when I wasn’t working 60 hours per week (obviously). In March, 2016, I was preparing for a job change that would give me more free time when my elderly mother called to ask if I could come to California to help her with a medical problem. Upon arriving, it was clear she needed more than short-term help and I stayed.
My old, familiar rat race stopped so suddenly I could practically hear a screeching brake. It was a massive adjustment. Life was suddenly gentle.
In my mother’s kitchen, there is a photo of myself as a child playing in a treehouse. Looking at that child, I realized I had everything within me to be happy. So, today, I paint, I write, I read, I water plants and listen to birds, I meditate, I hug people, I feel intensely. I have been given an amazing gift. In this safe, loving place, I have been given a do-over.
What I have learned recently is this: Absolutely everyone has a talent to do something. The talent, itself, is “grace” because we did not need to earn it or ask for it. We were just born with it. When I started using my artistic gifts again and then giving away what I created, miraculous things started happening. I think this is what people mean when they talk about “divine purpose.”
I was given life challenges and the grace to write. I am giving this gift to you.
The contents of this book were written contemporaneously and reflectively over a span of 40 years and are deeply personal. These poems and journal entries are grouped into three parts. The first section talks about childhood trauma. The second section talks about the grief of widowhood, seeking escape and validation, depression and hitting bottom. The third section is my path into self-awareness, forgiveness and love. You will notice that awareness is not a linear process. Like most people, I knew, then I forgot, then I found the thread again, tangled it, lost it… Lessons learned through time and change are the only constants here.
Thank you for allowing our paths to cross on these pages. I hope these words touch you deeply. Whatever it is that you feel, remember: emotions are the only words your soul knows.
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