Last month my kindred spirit friend and writing coach proposed a road trip to the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts to attend a weekend workshop. The theme of awakening our creative energy was compelling – both of us in a chronic slump of so much to say and nothing to write. Juggling family commitments and selecting the ideal blend of comfortable and stylish outfits appropriate for the ascetic yoga retreat centre became our focus as we counted down to our seven-hour drive.
We arrived in time to join the line meandering along a stretch of metal counter containing bins of salad greens, cooked vegetables, tofu and meat. The babble of three hundred female voices against the echoing clatter of dishes in the cement walled cafeteria was reminiscent of my university days. After dinner we joined another line, this one full of eagerness to get a seat close to the front of the auditorium for the evening welcome program.
Sitting together awaiting the appearance of the two facilitators – profoundly accomplished women and pedigree writers – we discussed our yearning for a spark, a provocative experience that would catapult us back to the empty pages. My pen poised at the top of the blank lined paper in a new notebook, I was ready.
The women spoke from their experience, their hearts, their souls. They began to share their thoughts and plant the seeds of our own self discovery. They reminded me that our western culture compares and assigns value to what I can produce and what I own. It is one of material wealth and cultural poverty. My current of creative energy needs to flow, at present I am drifting. The age-old excuse of no time is feeble – I need to identify what hours of the day are best for me and claim them. These are bullet points in my notebook.
On Saturday morning the real excavation began. Fear is a familiar enemy, one that holds me hostage in toxic situations, keeps me stuck in habits and patterns that I wish were not so, and blocks me from my true nature and proclivities. We were instructed to write a letter to ourselves; Dear Gail, I am your fear, and this is what I want to tell you . . . I only put my pen down when she said that time was up. The value in this exercise was knowing that while these fears are part of my fabric, the only true barrier happens when I let them win. Then I dance with avoidance.
I am less acquainted with the notion of enchantment. Instead, likely to notice a moment of delight and pleasure after it has happened, rarely cataloguing it for future consideration. Just the process of writing a letter to myself from a mindset of joy made me smile as my pen flew across the paper. Walking in nature, writing poems, swimming, looking at the moon, being with animals, skiing in fresh snow . . . any activity that connects me with nature, animals, and my fun and creative spirit. That is my bliss.
A powerful shift occurred for me in the permission letter I was to write to myself. The letter of consent and freedom – as though my high school principal had given me a note to skip a class. In my fantasy authorizations I was granted permission to say what I need, want, and wish for, to decorate my home to match my personality rather than the design magazines, to be authentic and truthful, to take back time to write, to eat chocolate every day, to say no to activities and people that don’t nourish me, and to acknowledge that I am flawed and still loveable. Thank you.
The final and most difficult was to write a letter of unconditional love to myself. There was a whoosh of silent discomfort that landed in the room as we picked up our notebooks – the soft ambient glow now a glaring search light shining down on the empty white paper. The silence crisp and taut as our heads bent over the page. I was to address my Epic Barrier.
I read my letter out loud to the lovely stranger on my right, to my soul sister, and to myself. Each reading was less difficult than the one before. Now, days later, I am reading it again. It is what I want to believe about myself, the foundation of how I want to be in this final quarter of my life, the legacy I wish to leave. This requires that I keep this letter at my writing desk, that I read it often, and that I commit to nurture and cherish who I am. Now.