Journaling

Picturing . . . POSSIBILITY

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
                                                                                            ------  Marcel Proust

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Last month, the One Little Word project had us turning to images . . . to "picture" our word.  So.  What does POSSIBILITY look like?

For me . . . POSSIBILITY looks like this:

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You can't really set out to take a picture of POSSIBILITY. . . but you can find pictures of POSSIBILITY all around you!  Plants growing where they ought not.  Reminders to explore, to wander.  Visible evidence of an emptying out, of making room for something new and different.  Trying new things.  Learning new things.

There are visual reminders of POSSIBILITY all around.  We just need to have . . . new eyes!

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As a side note, I usually struggle with the "creating-a-scrapbook" portion of the OLW project.  This year, I'm finding it quite liberating to just do my own thing instead . . . and incorporate the prompts into my journal.  It still looks a lot like "scrapbooking" I suppose, but it's not a prescribed format.  It's MY format.  And, apparently, that makes All the Difference for me.

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Off the Grid

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One of the things I really like about the One Little Word project is the way it combines multiple "channels" to explore your chosen word each year.  Journaling.  Photography.  Art projects.  Thinking.  Doing.  All rolled into . . . One Little Word.

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Each month, there is a "prompt" -- setting up ways to think about your word for the month.  There is usually a journaling exercise and typically some sort of creative project to go along with it.  If you follow all the prompts, and do all the projects (which are provided in a very step-by-step process, making them do-able for anyone), you end up with a lovely scrapbook at the end of the year.

This is my fourth year to do One Little Word.  In each of the previous three years, I faithfully began the projects, determined to end up with the lovely scrapbook at the the end of the year.

But, at some point along the way - usually about 3 or 4 months in, I always abandon the projects!  I DO the prompts -- I usually journal the heck out of the prompts! -- but I stop when I get to the step-by-step projects.  

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This year, I decided I'd just START the One Little World year . . . off the grid.  I didn't even pretend to want to make the lovely scrapbook.  I just decided to use my existing journal, and let my own creative spirit carry me.  (Which is totally encouraged by the Ali Edwards, the One Little Word creator.)

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So this year, in the midst of my ongoing journal, I have random One Little Word pages sprinkled about.*

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So far, this is working for me!  (I always do kind of like making my own way best.)

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* The pages, above, represent my own version of the February prompt -- about setting actions related to your word.


I Am . . .

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Five years . . .

Five years ago today, I woke up early and headed off for my final chemo treatment.

I've celebrated February 4 every year since . . . as the day I truly began to think of myself as a "cancer survivor."  (My oncologist marks the day-of-diagnosis as the anniversary date of "survivorship."  I note that day, too, but I tend to consider my finished-with-treatment day as the more significant anniversary.)

I've been doing a lot (a LOT. . .) of thinking over the days leading up to today . . . about how to mark this day, how to honor it, and how to celebrate.  It's a bit overwhelming, actually, to think about . . .

Five years.

And then Carole sent out this week's Ten on Tuesday topic.  And I knew just what to do!  Celebrate with me, on this incredibly special day, as I reflect on what . . .

I AM!

1.  I am a SURVIVOR.  I actually despise that term.  But I'll accept it and use it, because it means something to other people.  And because I can't think of a better term (and I have tried).  What it means, to me, is that I went through something pretty awful, and I became stronger  - and different - because of it.  I try to take that strength and apply it to the world around me.

2.  I am GROUNDED.  I have figured out what is important to me - and what is not.  I tend to be less bothered now by things I can't control.  That's not to say that I don't get my panties in a bunch over stupid things.  Because, trust me, I do.  But I tend to be able to get my perspective back pretty quickly, and I tend to roll with situations a little better than I used to.

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3.  I am TUNED IN to my body and my health.  I was active before my cancer diagnosis, true.  But chemo knocked me on my butt in a pretty intense way.  By my final chemo treatment, I found it a challenge to walk around the block.  I got winded going upstairs in my house.  I was hyper-concerned about my white-cell count.  Now, I celebrate my fitness every day.  Running, spinning, jumping, dancing.  I love moving.  Moving . . . is living.

4.  I am HUMBLE.  Once you lose your hair, well. . . you find out what a minor part of yourself that REALLY is!  Yes, I used to spend a fortune on my hair.  Covering the grey.  Highlights.  Lowlights.  Standing appointments.  Thousands of dollars.  What a waste of time and money!  Now . . . grey hair.  Au natural.  Easy and cheap.  I am comfortable leaving the house without makeup.  I wear hats in the winter -- even if they mess up my hair.  It doesn't mean I don't like dressing up and making up -- it just means I've learned that I am fine As Is!

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"Graduating" from Chemo

5.  I am GRATEFUL.  I couldn't have made it through chemo without the angels in my life.  (And, believe me, the slog of chemo really reveals the angels!)  Five years out, I need to acknowledge those folks who slogged through it all with me every day:  the friends who didn't get "creeped out" (because many do. . .) and helped keep it "normal" (Cheri and Sue, especially); the friends who were in the same boat and became my "cancer posse" (Florence and Joel and Lissa and Ted); Dr. Liepman, my oncologist, with her no-nonsense approach to the whole experience; my kids (all THREE of them that year -- Erin and Brian and Dominik) who didn't freak out and just let me keep being be a mom; my sister (where do I even BEGIN with that one!) who sent me flowers after every.single.chemo treatment (and that was only the beginning); my mom and dad who cared for me, Tom, my kids, my dog, whatever I needed and whenever I needed it (and especially that One Day); and Tom.  Oh, Tom.  Beside me at every appointment.  Every treatment.  With his little laptop, researching treatments and drugs and taking notes and oh . . . I just can't begin to express my gratitude.  But I think you begin to get my drift.

6.  I am OPEN.  My cancer experience made me hyper-aware that time is limited.  For all of us.  Every day.  Don't wait.  If you want to do something . . . or go someplace . . . or say something . . . DO IT.  Go for it.  Just make it happen.

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7.  I am AWARE.  I am far less private than I was before my cancer diagnosis.  I used to hold back.  I didn't reach out.  I didn't say what I wanted to say.  But that's not true anymore.  Now I know that connections matter.  And I try to make them whenever I can.

8.  I am REFLECTIVE.  You could say that I've always been one to follow an inward journey, but I am even MORE that way now.  I think about who I am and how I want to interact with the world.  I want to figure out how to make the most out of my life.  I am sort of obsessed with self-reflection.

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9.  I am IMPATIENT.  I know that life is fleeting; that "normal" isn't forever; that the clock is ticking for all of us.  I have little tolerance for bullshit, subterfuge, waste, and manipulation.  Life is just too short.

10.  I am STEPPING AWAY FROM THE EDGE.  Every day.  Finishing cancer treatment is both exhilirating -- and terrifying.  That terrifying part is tough for family and friends to understand.  Chemo, terrible as it was, was my lifeline.  It made me better (by making me worse); it, ultimately, gave me my life back.  So. . . what happens when it's . . . done????  Will the cancer come back?  Will "normal" ever return?  Family and friends want the treatment to be the End of It.  Time to celebrate.  Time to get back to normal.  And . . . it is.  It surely is.  But.  It's also never going to be same again.  Because . . . now you know about The Edge.  You've come right up against it.  You've danced on it.  Maybe you've even teetered right there.  About to go over.  But you step away.  A little farther every day.  Until, after 5 years, you feel pretty safe.  (But it's there.  And you know it.)

So.  That's how I AM today.  Happy to be here.  Happy to be five years out.  And happy to share this post with all of you.

 


Happy New Year!

I celebrated my own, personal version of Rosh Hashanah on Sunday evening.

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I'm not Jewish, and I have never celebrated Rosh Hashanah before. 

But this year, I decided it was time. . . to partake, at some basic level, in the Jewish New Year!

So I ate my first Honeycrisp apple of the season.  With some honey (and, truth be told, some peanut butter, too).  And I set about writing my goals and resolutions for the coming year.*

  • Freshen up
  • Pare down
  • Sharpen tools
  • Get out
  • Keep moving
  • Big stretch
  • Make room
  • Try things
  • Pressure OFF
  • Consume responsibly
  • Explore faith
  • Create light
  • Express myself
  • Eat well

Happy New Year!

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*Writing my goals has actually been a month-long journaling project.  I'll spare you the details, but just know that each of the two-word goals listed above has a corresponding "story" and set of sub-goals. . . deep in the heart of my current journal!


On Everyday-Ness

When I was young, it seems I was always waiting for . . . something.  The Next Big Event or Special Day or Turning Point that would mark my life and make it "special."  I was totally bored by the ho-hum, everyday cadence of my life.  I wanted Big Things. 

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As I grew older, I started to get it.  I began to get a glimpse of what was actually behind all those "life-is-a-journey-not-a-destination" quotes and inspirational posters.  That Special Days . . . were special, sure.  But they weren't . . . everything.

And then I got cancer.

All I wanted, then, was Everyday-ness.

I craved the ordinary, "normal" pace and cadence of life.  I wanted to feel a breeze and drink some wine on my patio and pet my dog and see movies with my husband.  I wanted to talk to my mom on the phone and send cards to my sister and hug my kids and cook a plain, old, ordinary dinner.  I wanted to meet my friends for coffee and sit through committee meetings and sort the mail and pull weeds.  I wanted to put gas in my car and run errands and vacuum my floor and watch tv. 

Yes.  That kind of excitement. 

Sometimes, you have to have the absolute wonder of Everyday-ness threatened. . . to completely appreciate its value and loveliness.  Or . . . that's how it worked for me.

Back in January, in that flurry of goal-making so common to a fresh, new year, I stated that I wanted to "Celebrate the Ordinary" as one of my annual goals.  I try to do this every day.  I really do!  But I was looking for a way to do this with more intention.  Then, a while ago, I saw a new online class being offered by Big Picture Classes called  31 Things. 

31 Things . . . is a class designed to to celebrate the everyday-ness, right now, right here . . . through 31 daily writing and photography prompts.  It's a class designed to help document, understand, and celebrate the routine, daily stuff of life. 

When I read about the class, it seemed like a perfect fit for me!  Not only did I find the content and the structure appealing, but the timing actually works perfectly -- tucked neatly between the end of a very busy work time and my upcoming travels.  I signed up right away!

Day One started yesterday.

So now. . . I'm immersed in 31 Things.  I'm still figuring out how I'll share the process on my blog.  I know I will.  I'm just not sure in what format*. 

Stay tuned!

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*There is also a scrapbooking component to the class.  One thing I know for sure . . . I am not a scrapbook kind of gal!  Although I'm often inspired by the scrapbook journals other people put together, I have found that the scrapbook format does not work for me.  Rather than becoming an extension of expression, scrapbooking becomes a barrier for me!  So, I will NOT be participating in the scrapbooking element of 31 Things.  Just sayin'.

 

 


Shining Images

Each month, the One Little Word project leads you through a guided exercise to help you connect with your chosen word in new and different ways.  For February, it was all about images. . . connecting with your word through photographs or other images that represent your word.

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I had a lot of fun with this exercise!  I enjoyed looking through my photo files and finding those that "spoke" to me, in some way, about my word.  I ended up with quite a collection of photos that said SHINE. . . and then I winnowed it down to just nine.

After I chose my images (or maybe. . . I let them chose me. . .), I started reflecting on just why they said SHINE.  What, exactly, was it about each image that so represents SHINE for me?

Well.

Sometimes, something is incredibly beautiful and delicate and fine.  But you don't always notice it until the sun shines and catches it in the light.

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There can be plenty of color and passion and beauty . . . even at the end of the day.

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Take time to smell the roses!

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Embrace each new day.

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Quit putting your dreams aside.  DO the things you've always wanted to do.  SEE the things you've dreamed of seeing.  Find a way.

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It's a beautiful world we live in.  Get out there.  Notice.

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Even when things are in shadow, or you just see an outline, remember. . . the light is shining behind you.

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Go for it!  Sip a café crème on the Champs-Élysees!  Follow your dreams. 

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Every day is a gift.  Embrace your birthday.  MORE candles; more light; more chances to SHINE.

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And, as a final reminder, I included a large image of the Holstee Manifesto - one of my favorite reminders to SHINE.

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One Little Word. 

SHINE!


Shine On

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When I finished chemo (nearly 3 years ago now!) and started . . . living my life. . . there was a certain sense of . . . Newness.  Freshness.  Shiny-ness. . . all around me.  It was like I had been polished; like whatever had been hidden beneath (from all those years of lliving. . . instead of LIVING) had been suddenly exposed.  A little raw, surely, but also fresh. . . and. . . new. . . and shiny!

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The colors seemed brighter; contrasts sharper.  My senses were heightened.  I was more aware.  Of everything.  And the world felt more . . . mine.  I didn't want to wast a minute!  I wanted to DO and GRAB and BE.  I wanted to SHINE.

I really liked that feeling. 

Having cancer sucked, no doubt about that.  Chemo is just plain creepy and unpleasant.  It is shattering to pull back the Veil of Illusion and know, deep in your bones, that your life really IS limited (maybe not now, but . . . eventually).  I came out of that experience, though, with a new attitude.  A sense of . . . Freedom.  Appreciation.  Newness.  Clarity.  Prioirty. 

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For a while, I really did live a shiny, new life.  Little things didn't bother me.  I was joy-filled and open to new things.  I felt free-er and happier than I had in a very long time. 

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And, in most ways, that is still the case.  But.  I can also tell that some of life's "tarnish" is building up on me again.  It's been long enough (and that's a gift in itself!) that I'm losing some of that . . . shine!

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So I think the word SHINE started coming to mind . . . as a way to remind me of what life felt like in that first year after chemo.  To encourage me to buff off the tarnish building up on my life.  To let that fresh, exposed me SHINE through.

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One little word.

SHINE

 


Unwrapping: The More Things Change. . .The More They Stay The Same

Last week, I explained that I have been a "journal-er" for a very, very long time. 

When I was a young girl, I loved the notion of keeping a "secret diary."  I was totally enchanted when I got my first diary -- the kind with a locking tab and a tiny key -- for one of my birthdays (probably when I was 9 or 10).  I remember it was gold, and it was embossed with some flourishes and the words "My Diary."  The key was tiny and silver-colored, and I kept it in my jewelry box. 

I loved writing in my little diary.  I remember tracking "important" things -- like what I ate for dinner, what I was going to buy with my allowance, why I hated Certain People at school, and how I wanted a dog.

It seemed pretty magical at the time.  I don't know what ever happened to that particular diary.  I know I kept writing in it - off and on - for several years.

A few years ago, I was going through some old boxes of junk at my parents' house, and I stumbled on to this . . .

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Gulp.

It's my journal from 1975!  I was 15 when I started writing in this journal; a sophomore in high school.  I gotta tell you. . . it is humbling - and slightly nauseating - to read what you wrote when you were 15.  Mortifying. . . yet compelling.  I mean, there I was -- raw and uncensored -- on the pages of 1975. 

What did I write?  Well.  Most of it, you just don't want to know. . . but,  I suppose . . . just what you'd expect to find in a 15-year-old's diary.  Lots of He Said-She-Said (to the point of actually documenting dialog).  Hopes.  Dreams.  Heart-wrenching life.  WAY too much about boys and cheerleading and swim meet results.  (Really.  WAY too much on the boys.)  Excruciating details about who-I-saw-where-and-what-they-said-and-what-that-probably-meant.  Real-life drama about learning-to-drive and daily updates about my summer job at the Dairy Queen. 

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Here, on Friday, June 6 (the last day of school), if you squint really hard (because I'm just too mortified to actually show the whole page. . .) you can see that I was having a "red-letter"-day --- because (a) I got my driver's license; (b) I got a job (DQ); and (c) "Kevin saw me drive."  Now, I don't remember the "Kevin" I was referring to ---- but it was, apparently, a Big Deal (a really Big Deal) that he saw me drive.

You might also see. . . if you work hard at it . . . that the rest of the entry is a list of the resolutions and goals I had for myself that summer.  Yeah.  I know.  #1 is "get a great tan" (and I did!).  I was 15.  And vain.  And most of the other goals are equally . . . trite.  But.  I also had goals about reading and sewing and working hard at my swimming and keeping up with my French.

Funny.

Sort of . . . like me. . . now.  (With the goals in general; not the back handsprings in particular.)

The other book in the photo above -- the one with the maroon cover -- is another type of journal I started when I was a senior in high school and continued through college.  It's not so much a journal. . . as a collection.  Of quotes and "sayings" and poems, song lyrics and doodles.

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I remember loving this "blank book" -- the first I had ever seen back in 1977.  No lines!  You could just . . . draw or write anything you wanted.  Free form!  I loved it!

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It is full of . . . all kinds of silly things.  And even though it's not a "journal" detailing the day-to-day of my life, I can look back on what I wrote and what I drew and remember who I was and what I was thinking.

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The most amazing things about looking at my journal from 1975 (once I get past the mortification) and my "quote collection" from my college years . . . is . . . how much like ME now. . . I was then.  How I used my journals - then - to work out frustrations; to test out new ideas; to think through goals and hopes and dreams; to record poems and quotes and ideas.  Just like I do now.

Some things change (thank god).  And some things . . . just don't!


Unwrapping: Working It Out On Paper

For as long as I can remember, I have been . . . a documentor. 

As a girl, I kept secret diaries.  As I grew older, I was drawn to journaling.  As a mother, I tracked my kids' daily antics on calendars with big date-spaces.  As a gardener, I maintain detailed notes and drawings in dirt-covered notebooks.  Until recently (when I "went digital"), I documented my entire career in day-planners.  I have kept a family Christmas journal since Erin's first Christmas.  Now, I have this blog.  I'm not sure why, but I am drawn to recording my life.  Documenting my actions.  Committing it to words.  Working things out on paper.

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This stack of journals (each one absolutely crammed from beginning to end) covers the period of my life from 1999 through 2009 . . . about the time I started this blog.

My journals are private.  Not that I write about private matters, necessarily.  No, they're just . . . for me.   My own space.  A window on what's going on in my mind.  My journals are much more than writing, though.  I tape in pictures and cards and quotes I especially like, or mementoes like ticket stubs and program books and postcards.

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I include dreams and goals and frustrations and disappointments.  Plans and hopes and fears and wonders.  I tend to be a lot more. . . grumpy and neurotic. . . in my jounals than I am in "real life."  (Maybe that's because I get through it in my journals?)

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I really do a lot of thinking . . . through writing . . . in my journals.

It's much different (for me, at least) than blogging.   I mean, I'm pretty frank in my blog posts.  I share a lot about my life and my joys and my fears; I think it's pretty clear . . . who I AM.  But.  I'm hyper-aware that this is all public.  That anyone can read it.  That anyone can know me.  So I'm very intentional about what I include in my blog posts. . . and what I don't!

Journaling -- on paper -- offers a release and a "place" that my blog just can't.

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My journaling has declined since I started my blog.  Lately, I've been feeling the pull to begin journaling again - in earnest.  Not instead of blogging, but alongside blogging.

Now, I need both outlets in my life. 

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After all . . . I am a documentor!