Easy, breezy...right? Well.....not so much. Looking inside, being vulnerable about ourselves in front of others, struggling with conflicting "wants" and "needs", trying to hold on and let go simultaneously, feeling the crush of grief, the stomach churning grip of fear, the confusion of not knowing.... This is courageous work. Try it some time.
Our gentle and encouraging facilitator provided us with sketch pad journals, a set of pastels, skill in leading meditations and a sense of safety for exploration. Before each session, we had a time of guided and silent meditation, then he led us in a variety of exercises that used drawing, writing, and collage to explore our past and create a short-term goal for our future (...."and what will you do by Tuesday?").
One of my favorite exercises was to look back on the "chapters" of our lives and come up with a title for that chapter and draw a picture to illustrate that. Here's mine:
The Childhood Years -- Hiding in Plain Sight. The "story" of a quiet, good girl who was invisible much of the time.
The Teen Years -- Filling Out and Fitting In -- The story of a girl who got some attention from boys (nice/confusing) but couldn't seem to fit into the "popular girl clique".
The Young Adult Years -- The Rebel Breaks Free -- The story of finding feminism, breaking free from expectations, and establishing an identity not based on "should".
The Early Middle Years -- Call to Duty -- The story of accepting responsibility, engaging in activism, supporting a husband, raising children, running a household, finding meaningful paid work.
The Later Middle Years -- Emerging Self: Grieving -- The story of exploring an identity not defined by roles; and letting go, letting go, letting go: empty nest, aging/dying parents, leaving the work-world.
Now (Early Later Years?) -- A New Beginning....
It was interesting to briefly thumb through these chapters and get a sense of what was most important in each for helping me become Me, and to think about what those experiences meant for what the future holds.
The final chapter is still to be written, but I am not at that final chapter yet (well, we never really know, do we?). It excites me to be able to actively create the pages that will lead up to the conclusion of this journey. I think it will have something to do with intention, with healing, with presence, with mindfulness, with family, and with friends....
Because in every stage, in every chapter there have been many, many, many scenes of grace, of grief, of laughter, and of connection. I can't imagine that changing. I can imagine I will learn not to struggle so much, not to try to control so much, to just "be" more, and to live more fully in each precious moment of this precious life, seeking connection to heart, to love, to acceptance, and to joy.
At least, that's the view from here....©