The Gifts of Staying

Walking Lightly Ranch

Walking Lightly Ranch

When I contacted author Laura Munson in July about her Haven Writing Retreats I wasn’t sure I really intended to go. I’m a toe-dipper, not a cannon-baller. I generally take my own sweet time gathering information in order to make a decision. It could take me months to decide what model cell phone or vacuum cleaner to buy, for God’s sake. But after talking with Laura on the phone, I knew. She felt like an old friend. The kind where no matter how long it’s been, you just pick up where you left off. She seemed to understand where I was at and I felt certain she could help me.

I was contemplating going in late September, but there was a cancellation for the August retreat, just over three weeks away. I made the call to confirm I could get my financing in order, and then hesitated. I knew once I told Laura I was coming there would be no turning back and I was scared. The next day I emailed her, “I am both excited and terrified. Looking forward to seeing you soon! I’ll be the one breathing into a paper bag.”

That’s when my old friend anxiety paid me a visit. For the next several nights I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I could vomit. The voice in my head was on a mission. “What have you done? You can’t afford to go to a retreat. What if you need that money later? Besides, you’re too sick. You won’t have enough energy to participate. The travel alone will be exhausting. You should just stay home.” This is not the voice of reason. This is the voice that tries to stop me from going after my dreams. So I listened instead to the voice of my heart.

That’s not to say my inner critic took a vacation. Oh no. That voice never really goes away. So when some of the writing exercises stretched me in ways that were uncomfortable, I breathed through it. When my “I’m not doing it right” story had me wanting to cry, quit, run, I stayed.

“Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” ~Rumi

I stayed because there were ten other extraordinary women willing to bare their souls and share their stories. I stayed because Laura, our courageous leader, showed us by her own example how to ‘lay yourself bare on the page.’ Because I stayed, I walked away with renewed confidence in my writing, a more solid vision for the structure of my book, an author’s statement, and a clearer idea of my writing voice.

But it was so much more than that. I am amazed at how close I became to these women who were strangers just a week ago. We laughed. We cried. We got real. Because I stayed I met all these beautiful souls who don’t seem to realize just how magnificent they are. That astounds me. Until I also realize I am one of them.

This is my author’s statement, which is written on a brown paper bag: “I write to find my way–and to remind others they are not alone.”

So if you are looking for somewhere to explore your creativity on the page, I can think of no better, more nurturing place than Haven. Any time you step outside your comfort zone, it will be scary. It’s tempting to stay on the shore because that’s where it feels safe. But if you can just breathe and trust and stay, your dream will ripple out into the world in ways you never imagined.

Come on in…the water’s just fine.

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I Wanted This to Be Easy

Image credit: happilyalawmama.blogspot.com

Image credit: happilyalawmama.blogspot.com

For years I have said, both to myself and out loud, “I just want to do work I love and am passionate about.” I’ve had more than one job I didn’t like. Those jobs paid the bills, but they sucked the life out of me. And sooner or later I always got to the point of dreading going to work. If you’ve experienced something similar, you know it is not a fun way to live.

I’ve heard of people who just love their work. They say they can’t wait to get up on Monday morning because they’re excited to do what they’re passionate about. I’ve also heard that once you find your passion things will fall into place, doors will open, and it will be easy. Easy! Even Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I am a seeker and I searched for my passion with this expectation I mind. When I find ‘it’ things will be easy.

I went to college, got my first office job, worked for a non-profit, became a virtual assistant, worked from home for a commercial roofing company, went back to college, started a health and wellness business, raised money for breast cancer, worked for an event management company, became a life coach. I’ve read more books than I can count and have done copious amounts of personal growth work. That’s what my paid and unpaid “career path” has looked like over the last 20 plus years.  Turns out I am a high school guidance counselor’s worst nightmare!

Along the way I discovered—or rather rediscovered—a passion for writing. After a devastating breakup almost three years ago, I started this blog. Prior to that I noticed I got a lot of positive feedback on the recaps I wrote of my experiences doing the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk. I remembered my favorite thing in elementary school was creative writing. Occasionally I had heard that little whisper…the one that said I should write a book.

I started to realize I express myself better in writing than talking aloud. I am famous for the follow up email. If you’re not familiar with this, the purpose of the follow up email is to clarify what I said to you in person that I thought about later and wasn’t sure made sense. I can form sentences on the page easier than I can get them to come out of my mouth in any real coherent way.

Still, I had never thought of myself as a writer. I don’t even journal regularly.

But since I started this blog I can see writing is the one thing I feel compelled to do even though I don’t get paid for it. There’s so much I want to share…my thoughts, ideas, experiences, opinions. When I’m in the flow I lose all track of time. I forget to eat, drink or even pee. It was in those moments I started to feel like I finally found ‘it’…the thing I’m meant to do. Woohoo! Finally things will be easier now, right?

Not so fast!

Just getting myself to sit down and write regularly is excruciating. I have been laboring over this particular post off and on for weeks. And I thought when I outed myself on Facebook and gave myself a deadline for my book, that would kick my ass into gear, but it hasn’t. I recently signed up for a writing retreat with a New York Times Best-Selling Author and promptly lost several nights sleep. I have been riddled with anxiety, nausea, and dread ever since.

Where is all that ease, motivation and enthusiasm I’d heard so much about? Wasn’t that supposed to be the reward for finding ‘it’ in the first place? Easy was the carrot I’d dangled in front of myself for so long and frankly I’m pissed that hasn’t been my experience. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. This is the part no one mentions (or if they did I failed to hear). When it comes to actually doing the thing you’re meant to do in this world, it will scare the living hell out of you. And you will want more than anything to turn and run as fast as you can back to something that feels safe, comfortable…easy.

So where do I go from here? I could just quit. Give up the idea of being a writer. I don’t have to put myself through this. No one would blame me for not wanting to deal the anxiety, the self-imposed pressure, the fear of judgement, the feeling that I’m being turned inside out. I haven’t spent all this time searching for something that would make me feel like I want to lose my lunch. I was looking for ease, remember?

But I love writing. Actually, that’s not entirely true. As Michael Kanin said, “I don’t like to write, I love to have written,” and that’s a whole lot more accurate. Though I feel drawn to it, writing itself is mostly hard. Blog posts and book chapters rarely flow out of me perfectly written and ready to publish. It takes dedication and time and discipline (one of my least favorite things). But having written something that touches one other person…now that’s the sweet spot. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.

So I’m changing my expectation. Maybe it will never be easy. Maybe I will always be afraid, neurotic, anxiety-ridden. Maybe I will never wake up on Monday morning and be excited to write. But I’m doing it.

Writing is the one thing I can’t not do (yes, I realize that’s a double-negative…get over it!). Because every once in a while something I say resonates with someone else in this world and in that moment they realize they’re not alone. And that is reason enough for me to breath into that paper bag and keep writing.

“Many of us seek that which we will flee if we find it. I have seen this time and again, both in myself and in others. We seek, we search, and then we find a calling or a relationship that is a perfect reflection of our yearning… we turn away and go back to seeking, almost as though the light of our true-path was too bright for us, too vulnerable for us, too real for us. This is a pattern that we have to recognize and heal or else we will never stop looking for what is already there. True-path is not always around the next corner. Sometimes its right here.”      ~Jeff Brown

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.