TSP Book Club: Scared of the Dark

She wanted to play hide and seek.
In the dark.
This child of the light,
who loves to stride and run her way through life,
she wanted to go into the closet,
turn out the light
and, ‘shhh…be quiet,’ 
and hide from her beloved Poppy.
So I picked her up, held her close and shut the closet door.
She turned out the light and urged me to go further in.
Very carefully –
because it was dark in there! –
I backed us up into the furthest corner,
and waited.
“I can’t see you, Nana,” she whispered.
“I know. I can’t see you, either.” 

She wrapped her arms around me a little bit more
tightly, touching her cheek close to mine.

“Your glasses seem scary in the dark, Nana.” 
“I’m sorry, honey. Can you feel them?
They’re just my regular old glasses.
Nothing to be scared of.” 

“They look scary,” and her voice quavered just a little.
But here is what she did:
as she got more frightened,
she clung to me ever more tightly.
More kisses,
more strokes,
more nestling. 

We had failed to let Poppy in on the game, 
so he never did come find us.
We turned on the light,
opened the door,
and went back to our usual Wednesday happiness –
tea party, books, lunch, nap.

Later that day, as I thought about that 
sweet moment in the darkness, 
I think I finally began to understand something 
of what Julia Cameron has been trying to teach us
over at the TweetSpeak Poetry Book Club.
For the last six weeks, we’ve been exploring,
“The Artist’s Way: 
A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.”
And I’ve been fighting it hard,
regularly resisting the Morning Pages,
generally keeping myself on the edge of things,
watching curiously while others test these waters.
It feels like the dark to me, you see.
Reaching into the muck that is too often my mind
(especially in the morning),
feels strange; it feels scary.
Yet I find myself resonating with much of what Julia says,
nodding at the need for self-care,
agreeing with her call
to creating space for creativity in my life.
I particularly like this sentence 
from our concluding week’s assignment:
“Creativity is a spiritual practice.” (pg. 182) 
I believe this with my whole heart.
I have encouraged creativity,
 in my kids,
in my home,
in my church,
in my ministry life.

Why, then, am I frightened by this ‘artist’s way?’ 
Maybe because even familiar things can take on 
strange forms and shadows 
when we’re operating in the dark. 
Maybe because I’m not sure what I’ll find if 
I hang out in that dark for very long. 
Maybe because I’ll discover a big
audacious dream in the middle of the muck,
and I’m not sure I can handle that. 
Maybe because I’ve forgotten to cling to what I do know,
to cling to Whom I know,
and to trust that who I am – 
even in the dark – 
is held,
A little more nestling may be required.
Joining with Lyla and the gang over at TweetSpeak, with Emily for her last-for-the-summer Imperfect Prose, with Jennifer at God-Bumps and  Ann’s Wednesday group:

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The TSP Book Club: Taking Heart

 She lied.
It turns out we ARE supposed to read these morning pages.
Well, I’d love to see her try and read mine,
paltry though they may be.
I can’t read them – that’s how bad my handwriting truly is.
We’re talking big-time scribbling here.
Well . . . I can read . . . a little.

And, as much as it pains me to admit this,
I think she just might be onto something 
with these dang pages. 
I’m still not very faithful about it.
I am keenly aware that 
the Rebellious Resistor is still around.
But . . .
what I can decipher is just the teensiest bit interesting.
It does appear that I have successfully vented on occasion.
And I do see some recurring ideas/insights/areas of concern:
I am distracted by my mother’s health;
I am distracted by the number of interruptions 
made by people that I care about a great deal;
I am laden with guilt simply because
I’m trying to listen to that Voice that moves me to take fingers to keyboard and WRITE. 
A lot of issues from long ago are rising 
and in not very pretty ways.
Things I thought I had already worked through
are making their presence known with a vengeance.
 It’s beginning to feel like an epic battle some days:
I struggle to learn more about how to get these words,
these words that are wrestling within my spirit,
 to flow down my arms and out my fingertips.
And as I struggle, I find old enemies,
recently revived. 
Enemies like these:
assuming personal responsibility 
for the happiness of others;
carrying personal guilt whenever
said others are unhappy;
fighting the call of God (and muse?) 
to stillness and solitude;
choosing to do almost anything but what I say I want to do;
resorting to ‘loud’ and nasty name-calling inside my head,
about 95% of which is aimed directly at . . . me.
I am slowly working through the tasks listed at the end of chapter 9, the one titled:
“Recovering a Sense of Compassion.” 

I’d like to tell you that I’m doing them with enthusiasm.
I’d like to tell you that I’m doing them with alacrity.

But I can’t do that.

Instead, I can tell you that I am,
at this moment,
attempting to do these two things with 
sincerity and honesty:
Take Stock.
Take Heart. 

And I’m also trying to give myself a little bit of credit.
Maybe, if I do that,
that stubborn ol’ Resistor will relent a bit.
I remain ever hopeful.
Only one rose blooming in my yard this week,
but it was a doozy.
I’m sure there’s an application there somewhere.

Adding this to the list over at TweetSpeak Poetry as we’re working our way through Julia Cameron’s, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.”
Next week we finish – if I survive that long! – and do THREE chapters.
I have yet to begin. Oy vey.

Backsliding – The TSP Book Club

It has been a very strange week.
Last week felt so full,
so productive,
so rewarding on lots of different levels.
And I began to see some connections between
those feelings and the work that we are doing
over at TweetSpeak Poetry as we plow our way through
“The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,”
by Julia Cameron.
I began to think that the Rebellious Resistor
had left the building.
No such luck.
Apparently, it doesn’t take much to discourage me.
I did manage to catch up with the reading,
skimming through the two chapters for this week.

It was the end of last week’s assignment,
the chapter on, “Recovering a Sense of Possibility,”
 that cut hard this time – 
and in many ways, I do believe,
inhibited my ability (willingness?) to move forward
through the muck with alacrity.
She said that working through the dang pages,
(otherwise known as The Morning Pages)
should lead us ‘to treat ourselves more gently.’

She said that we are ‘learning to give up idolatry.’ 

She said that, “many of us have made a virtue
out of deprivation.”

And the thread she drew through those three phrases
followed the needle right into my psyche.
“The Virtue Trap,” she labeled it. 
And I wrote an all-caps, bright blue,”OUCH,” next to that one. 

Because I know all about making nice.
I know all about martyrdom.
I know all about this one right here:
“Afraid to appear selfish, we lose our self.”
And I have done a whole lot of inner work around these issues. 
I’ve studied the Enneagram and realized that I am a #2 – The Helper.
I once said through tears that I never would have answered
God’s call on my life to be a pastor if my husband hadn’t made enough money so that my schooling would not be a sacrifice for anyone in my family.
I know this crap.
Yet, I resist the dang pages.
(So I won’t be more gentle with myself?)
I still have to fight the urge to put my closest human relationships before my relationship with God.
(So I won’t have to learn more about trusting the only True God?)
 I fall too easily into the trap of the false self, the one that
‘is always patient, always willing to defer its needs 
to meet the needs or demands of another.’
(So I won’t have to risk being who I truly am?)
I’m not sure I know the answers to these queries.
I’m not even sure I like the queries, to tell you the truth.
Finding my way to truth with a capital “T” is an ongoing process, 
one that requires me to be ruthlessly honest with myself, 
to be ruthlessly honest with God,
to be willing to say,
“I need some time alone – maybe a lot of it,”
even if it makes the people I love unhappy –
this is no small thing.
No. It is not.
At this end of a very ‘dry’ week creatively,
I am wrestling with what’s going on inside me.
I am wondering how to cut through the noise and hear the Voice. 
I am feeling the need to cultivate a sense of possibility. 
Joining this strange set of musings with TSP and Lyla and the gang who are reading along. I think tomorrow is the last family graduation for a while (Gracie passed kindergarden!) and there are no scheduled drives south for about a week,
so maybe I can carve out the time I need to breathe, think, pray and create.
Anything is possible, right?
Do you see this ‘ts’ right here? That is all that shows itself on my blog when I paste in a copy of the TSPoetry Book Club button. Here in the draft version, I can see the full HTML tag. On the blog itself? Only the ‘ts.’ Weird, right?

A Letter to My 8-Year-Old Self: The TSP Book Club

At 6.5 years old, they’re not quite 8 yet. 
But they are amazing creatures, full of curiosity, eagerness, spunk and just enough vinegar to be really interesting. 
They are cousins, born one month apart at a time when our family needed reminders that life is constantly being renewed as well as ending. Writing a letter to myself reminded me of just how precious this time is – and how formative. 

I am beginning to fall behind on our readings for TweetSpeakPoetry. We’re wrestling through Julia Cameron’s wildly successful artistic-recovery-handbook, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” doing two chapters each week. 
That is a whole lot of chapters. 
Because each one is filled with projects/assignments/self-reflection. 
And all of that takes TIME. Time which I haven’t really had a lot of this week, what with graduations, traveling with my mom, and the demands of daily life. Which may well mean that I will not have a contribution for next week – I’ve still got one chapter to read from THIS week. 
So…for today’s response, I will post one of the assignments from the chapter entitled: “Recovering a Sense of Integrity.” (By the way, the main ‘ask’ of this chapter is something that is IMPOSSIBLE TO DO when you’re reading 2 chapters per week and this chapter is the first one – we were asked to undergo a week-long reading deprivation. Uh-huh. Like THAT’s going to happen. Clearly this book was written LONG before internet activity took over the living of life.)
This is a letter written to my childhood self. And I will grudgingly admit that this exercise – and much of what we were asked to do for this chapter – stirred a lot of stuff. And may, in fact, be at least partially responsible for two posts written earlier this week that I feel are among the strongest I’ve ever put here. (The first one can be found here, and the second one, here.) But…that’s just me. Being grudging. 
So…forthwith, a letter to me…many years ago.

You have no idea how remarkable you are or what kind of life is ahead for you. None at all. Enjoying 3rd grade, walking to school with pride and a growing sense of independence, embarrassed by how tall and ungainly you believe yourself to be. And the skin problems? Don’t even get me started about how constricting that is for you.

But here’s the thing, honey. NONE of that is going to matter at all. Not.at.all. 
I know, I know. It’s tough to believe that. Especially when you carry around all your mother’s anxiety about yourself. I know your heart, young one. I know that you believe you are both ‘too much’ and ‘not enough.’
Too tall
Too smart
Too bossy
Too duck-footed
Too strong-willed
Too different from what your mom believes you could/should be
AND, at the same time…
Not graceful
Not coordinated
Not picked for the playground sports endeavors
Not pretty like Sylvia
Not popular like_______(fill in the blank with any of about a dozen names from that era)
Not mold-able, at least on the inside 
Please hear me when I say this:
     You are exactly who you are supposed to be…
 …and that is a glorious thing. 
Glorious, do you hear that? 
Yes, indeed. Glorious. Full of curiosity, a daydreamer and  dawdler who takes the time to both look – really look – at the world around you, and to imagine all kinds of worlds in that head of yours.
You imagine that the milk bottles left in the rack on the back porch are a family, that they have names and they carry on quite the conversation after the household has gone to bed. 

You believe that if you just dig deep enough, you will end up in China one day.
You write a short story about peas in a pod – and the interesting family life they lead. 
You are affirmed by teacher after teacher for your creativity with words and ideas –  yet – you don’t believe them. You don’t treasure those words. Why is that? 
I think it’s because your parents, good people and loving and generous – I think it’s because your parents are so deeply afraid of your getting a ‘big head,’ of thinking yourself worthy of acclaim. 
They deliberately play it low-key when you get good grades and kind remarks. They are proud of you – yes, you know that they are. But they are cautious, circumspect, sincere in their belief that flattery is a tool of the devil and never to be trusted. 
And you are a very good learner, especially…especially when it comes to intuiting the feelings and moods of others. So you soaked that fear of theirs down deep into your pores. Even at your tender age, you don’t trust anyone who says something nice about you
So, if I can just say this to you right now, with all the love I can muster for how tender you are at this age, how malleable and open to wonder – if I can just say this:
You are totally unique – one of a kind – none other in this world is exactly like you. And YOU, dear girl, are God’s gift to this world in a way that no one else ever has been or ever will be.  
You are not your mother and  you do not need to be like her. You are not your father and you do not need to be like him. You can learn from them – and you will! – but YOU are the only Diana Ruth Gold on this planet. The only one that looks like you, thinks like you, dreams like  you. And that is pretty great, kiddo. 
That is pretty darn great.
With lots of love and gratitude for who you are right this instant,
Your older and more seasoned self.
And I can just imagine that YOU might make this very face at me about now.
Oh, how I hope you would. Because I LOVE this feistiness and I’d like to think it’s a generational gift.

True Confessions: The TSP Book Club

 Okay, it’s time for the weekly check-in.
We’re reading Julia Cameron’s, “The Artist’s Way”
over at TweetSpeak Poetry,
under the fearless leadership of Lyla Lindquist.
then you already know that I am
a Rebellious Resistor
to this methodology.
Which, I am told – as I read further this week –
is actually to be expected as one tries to
free one’s inner artist.
So much for originality.

 I am still resisting the Morning Pages part of this experience,
or as I referred to them last week, ‘the dang pages.’
I believe I did them exactly once. 
I am totally embracing the Artist’s Date concept.
I think  you might even say I’ve gone a bit overboard
in that department.
The floral pictures in this post were taken during the second
(or was it the third?) daytime treat experience of
the week just past. They were taken at a local garden,
a wondrous place called “Seaside Gardens,” 
where our kids had given their dad a gift certificate for his birthday.
Oh my, did that light my inner creative fires!
(Or course, I had to break the rules a little – 
I didn’t  go alone.) 

I did, however, take myself out to eat at a favorite restaurant,
with my book in hand.
AND I squeezed in a visit to a grandson’s kindergarten
play, where he played the role of:
The Big Bad Wolf
The Three Piggy Opera.
(here he is rubbing his hands together gleefully while
singing, “I wanna big, fat pig to eat…”)
 The scary thing for me in all this is –
I am beginning to see a pattern.
A life-long pattern.
And it’s nowhere near as pretty as the one
that showed up in this Norfolk Pine at the Seaside Gardens.
No, it’s not pretty. At.All.
I’m beginning to see this thread,
a twisty, unattractive thread
that weaves through a lot of my life.
And it goes like this:
I get scared of something or someone 
who threatens me in some way.
Or…I get tired/frustrated/overwhelmed
by expectations – mine and/or others.
Step Two? 
I get angry inside.
Pitiful, really.
Sort of carpy, cranky, testy,
defensive, self-righteous,
You get the picture.
Not a lovely one, is it?
And thirdly? I try to hide what I’m feeling
or what I’m frightened about.
And you want to know how I’ve done that for most of my life?
By eating too much.
By covering myself in layers of insulation.
By hiding all the fear and all the anger
beneath a protective covering. 
(Did you notice that I went out to eat for my Artist’s Date?
And that my grandson was singing about eating??
I jest…but only a little.) 

I’ve had some success in the last year or two with 
shedding pieces of that covering.
But I gotta say,
this book is bringing out the worst in me.
How childish is that??

I mean, really.
What have I got to be angry or defensive about?
She asked us to make a list of favorite things we like to do
and then to write down when we did them last.
And almost all of them I’ve done in the last week,
3 or 4 of them as I was making the list!
And my ‘Life Pie,’ which one of our chapters this week 
asked us to draw?
Aside from confirming the fact 
that I cannot draw a pie to save my life,
my six areas are in pretty decent balance.

And the list of 10 small changes we’d like to make
in our lives?
Perhaps this says it all:
Item number 10 on my list?
“I would like to wring Julia’s neck.”
I wish I could report that I’m making great progress,
leaps and bounds kind of progress,
in letting go of this resistance.
But as you can see,
I’m not leaping and bounding anywhere,
except perhaps straight into the Slough of Despond.
One tiny ray of light, of hope this week?
I did enjoy writing down 5 childhood characteristics
that I like about myself.
I share this with you very hesitantly, however,
 as it probably tells you more about me
than I really want you to know.
But here they are:
1. Inquisitive
2. Bossy 
(bossy? who puts bossy on their list?)
3. Responsible
4. Lighthearted
5. A voracious reader 
Truly, dear reader, do you think there is any hope for me?

Joining once again with the gang over at Tweetspeak, hoping they will not give up on me just yet.
You can check out the other posts in this collection by going here:
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