Say what you need to say…or read, or color, or garden.

One of the things I love best about blogging is the “total strangers turned friends” I have connected with in the cyber-world. I have connected with writers whose path is similar to mine and writers whose path is far removed from my experience. I have been comforted, supported, and challenged. Often, I find humorous posts, which in turn leads me to read more posts…which in turn consumes more time than I had planned on spending in front of the computer… which often results in out-loud laughter…which in turns prompts the “What are you laughing at?” question from somewhere in the school room and my quick admonition, “Do your work!”…which in turn draws me back to reality and to my work. But, I digress. Suffice it to say, there are some really great writers out there just waiting to be read.

My 17 year-old daughter, C, is a writer as well. She can craft an amazing story, but it’s her willingness to excavate herself that has always impressed me. It’s a rare find in a young person. When she was in the 9th grade, she was assigned an “Autobiography Project” in a composition class she took outside the house. It was a really neat project–not your typical “write your life story” type of assignment–assigned by a teacher my daughter really likes. She jumped into the assignment with a writer’s soul and miner’s determination.  In addition to an introduction and 13 optional categories, the kids were given 7 directed and required categories they had to write about: likes/dislikes, personal metaphors, looking back from the future, remembering things past, the perfect present, Top 10 rewarding experiences, and a look into the future through fantasy and fact. At the risk of sounding like a boastful mom, the result is one of the neatest–anythings–I have ever read. It is such an accurate snapshot of who she was at that time–who she has always been–and where she is headed. I remember watching her go through the process; the internal struggle to “take the easy road” but wanting to really “do it right.” She did it right.  She wrote from the heart, deep within her heart, and she gave herself the gift of honesty in her paper. I have read and re-read parts of her story (with permission.) I have seen the baby I held, the little girl I comforted, and the young woman who spent a month in Mongolia. She is there, in those pages, in her own words, beautifully recorded.

John Mayer sings a song, “Say What You Need to Say.” The chorus is like a “call to arms” for writers. Writers write because we have something to say–usually. Sometimes, I write to just plain figure out what it is I need to say. Those times are usually reserved for my journal. 🙂 Writing can help us discover who we are, why we are here, and where we are headed. The beauty of a journal is that there are no other eyes that ever need see the words recorded. They are for you. It is a gift we give ourselves.

At the “Finding Purpose” meeting the other night, (Driving through fog–on purpose), one woman asked how she could “discover her purpose without journaling.” “What?! No journal?!” I recoiled just a bit. Though I didn’t regularly keep a journal until my adult years, it is the primary tool I use to excavate myself–because I am a writer. However, I forget that journaling is not the only tool I have in my box. And, it is not the right tool for everyone. I went home and I rolled her question around in my head, “What would I use if I didn’t write?”

Then, I remembered something C had written in the “Rewarding Experiences” section of her autobiography:

8. Pages and pages of personal opinions: I read, a lot. I am most passionate about manga and fictional novels, but will read most anything. Though I read for entertainment, I discovered that literature has offered me a hidden gift. I have developed an awareness of my own personal tastes. Through books, I have found that I am put off by some things I would not have thought about, had it not been for a story line. I have had an opportunity to gain exposure to “forbidden” ideas and language, tucked in the pages of a book. This exposure has allowed me to explore my personal feelings and opinions around a large variety of topics preparing me for the world around me. On occasion, I find I surprise myself with an opinion I would not have expected of myself. Literature offers many rewards; entertainment, information, and not the least of which is self discovery.

Reading the words of people outside my “little universe” regularly opens my eyes and broadens my perspective. “Wait!” I thought, “I do have more than 1 tool in my box!” It is a tool both of my daughters use as well, leading me to conclude it can be shared.

Though my primary focus is on my transition from “full-time, hands-on mom” to the “empty nest years,” anytime is a potential “transition time.” Transforming ourselves begins with desire and self-discovery, and there are many tools available to help the process.  I brainstormed so that if I am asked again, “How, besides journaling, can I discover my purpose?” I’ll be prepared. Thus far, my list looks like this:

1. Journaling–Oops! Besides journaling–right!
2. Reading–Novels, non-fiction, magazines, blogs–and then, discuss them with others.
3. Make a list–Pick a topic, like “Play” or “Childhood dreams” or “Rewarding Experiences”
4. Create a visual journal–Create the “Perfect Day” from magazines and paste pictures to tell the story.
5.  Art–Paint, draw, sculpt, color. Remember, there is no right or perfect–just play.
6. Take a quiz–There is an abundance online, in magazines, even in the bookstore.
7. Photography–Discover who you are by what your eyes capture.
8. Examine your home–What do you surround yourself with–and do you love it?
9.  Window shop and notice the windows that call to you–Is it the color, the items, the theme?
10. Spend time at the fragrance counter–Which scents please you and/or draw forth memories?
11. Watch a movie and ponder the behavior of the characters–Do you agree with their choices? Why or why not?
12. Meditate–Listen to your own voice.
13. Garden–What do you plant; what colors in your flowers, which vegetables do you choose?
14. Create something–Knit, bead, sew, embroider, etc. and notice the colors, textures, and styles you choose.
15. Pray–Listen to the voice of the one who made you.

We all have plethora tools in our toolbox just waiting to be used. I had forgotten many of my own until I started the above list. Which tool in your toolbox is your favorite? Please, share it in the comments so that someone else might add it to their toolbox. It might just help someone unlock their purpose.

Driving through fog–on purpose

Many days, I feel a bit like a living oxymoron. I am a “Social-Homebody,” an “Introverted-Extrovert.” I love sharing time with people, but I also love being home. I love being with my family, but sometimes I wish they’d all go out and leave me home alone. I am a walking contradiction. I think most women feel that way at times, like we are living a dual-life. If I was in a James Bond movie, I might be the “double agent.” Life in the Colorado suburbs isn’t that glamorous. Besides, I don’t think any of the “Bond Women” were in their late-40’s. And, truthfully, I’m not accustomed to defending myself against anything other than the occasional teen “snipe.”

Yesterday, we had snow. Not tons. Not enough to cancel events or create “closures.” But last night was one of those nights I could have easily curled up in front of the fire, bowl of chili and a blanket on my lap and mindless programming on the TV. It would have been an easy night to stay home–again. But, I had signed up for a program at our library “to help me grow.” There was a local author coming to speak on finding purpose in the throes of motherhood. I didn’t sign up with a friend, just me. There was no one else I was accountable to. I watched the snow fall on and off all day. I vacillated on going. It was cold and it was only going to get colder after sunset. The roads would be icy–perhaps treacherous. (I live a whole 5 minutes from our library.) Maybe she wasn’t really addressing moms like me; “transitioning moms,” moms that are past the elementary years and looking at the “empty nest” years. I checked her website. No exclusions listed; she didn’t discriminate. I checked the library website. Maybe the author had cancelled. The phone rang. The caller I.D. showed the library’s familiar number. “Whew!” I thought, “They are calling to cancel. I didn’t back out–they did!” But, they didn’t. The gal at the other end was calling to let me know the program was still on and to confirm my attendance. It was decision time. Perhaps I was still whirling from a Halloween sugar high, but I am certain the proverbial Devil and Angel appeared on my shoulders screaming, “Stay home!” and “Go!” into my ears. The consequences of a dual life.

Well, as the story goes, good triumphed over evil. I left the chili on the stove, the blanket on the couch and my family in front of the TV. And, I was really, really glad I had! (Getting over that threshold always seems the hardest part for me, but I am usually really glad when I get to ____________.) The group was small, only 6 women plus the author. The author’s two children are close in age to mine (a year apart on each.) There was another mom, the Director of the Children’s Library, who has children older than ours. The other 4 women were all in the “little years.” It was a good group; diverse, but bonded by motherhood. It gave me a new appreciation for how fast the years have passed.

Some hours last days and others last minutes. This was one of those fast hours. The author, Cindy Skerjanec, is a dynamic speaker. She is charismatic and her passion and light fill a room. She began by sharing her story, her journey to finding her purpose that lead her to pen her first book, Finding Purpose at the Speed of Motherhood. She passed out a worksheet to help us follow along. I nodded so often I fear I looked like a bobble-head sitting in the front of the room. (Another oxymoron: Restrained-Cheerleader.) Had I heard some of what she had said before? Yes. But, somehow it felt new, fresh. I believe that we often hear the same message over and over so that when we are ready, we can internalize it and make it our own. There were things I heard last night that I knew I was ready to make my own. It was worth the cold drive. I had been stirred. I ruminated on her message as I made my way home.

On the drive home from the library, I pass a pond. Last night, a layer a fog had crept from the water’s surface and settled across the road. I could see it from the distance as I approached. I watched as the tail lights in front of me disappeared in the murky layer of mist. I felt my hands tighten around the wheel. I would rather drive on ice than through fog. I have always disliked the feeling of not being able to clearly see what is in front of me. Yes, I know, it’s tied to that “control thing” I have. I focused on the road in front of me and the messages of the evening’s talk.

As I entered into the fog, I felt a strange sense of calm blanket me. Coming from the Bay Area, I have driven in fog many a time, but never have I felt such a calm. I saw clearly; the fog was the perfect metaphor for the evening. As I inched my way through the mist, using my skills and a large heaping of trust, I found my way to the other side, where the cloud lifted and clarity awaited me. It was an Oprah “Aha!” moment.  Driving through the fog mirrors self-discovery and “purpose excavation.” Sometimes, you can’t see very far in front of you, but if you just keep inching along, and trust, that clarity will come.

Sometime back, I wrote A mother’s pearls . I wrote about “pearls of wisdom” my mother had shared with me. I hadn’t planned on buying Cindy’s book last night. I have a stack of books I have yet to read. It’s not in the budget. I have already started the journey to discover my purpose. The list of excuses “not to” had begun before I stepped foot in the library. Then, I spent an hour with Cindy. She had pearls to offer last night. She has pearls to offer in her book. I heard the little voice within say, “Invest in yourself–even if it sits for 6 months.” (Which it won’t. Started it at 5 this morning.)

I’m at a really great point in my mothering journey. It’s an exciting time. The possibilities are limited only by my imagination. My “baby birds” are still in the nest, preparing to take flight. And, this mama is getting ready to take flight, too.

What might you do to start finding your purpose, today?

To learn more about Finding Purpose at the Speed of Motherhood, visit the website at:

http://momsfindingpurpose.com/

Or, visit Cindy’s blog at:

inspiration, Moms Finding Purpose Cindy’s Blog