Solo Journey: Dream Destination

In last week’s blog post, I told about how a Literary Agent set me on a Solo Journey of Indie Publishing. I knew my dream destination—publication of my memoir, but I felt hesitant to take the first step forward. Like when I approach my yearly solo journeys– the destination is determined but there is uncertainty with how to start. Before each journey, I feel resistance to crossing the threshold of the safety of the known in order to enter the unknown world.

 With my yearly pilgrimages, I’ve developed a pattern of asking the question, “Where should I go this year, God?” and then wait to see what comes forth. After that, it works best to take some action, even though it might not follow a logical order—just move forward on the path and the clues for what to do next will appear. After meeting with the Literary Agent, I took a couple of weeks to consider things and then decided to hire the professional editor that I met at the conference.

When she sent back my manuscript with her remarks, she started her email with, “Don’t be overwhelmed with all these comments. It’s a lot and more than anyone can handle at once. Just work your way through them one at a time.” She was right; I’d never received editorial notes for 210 pages at one time. At first I said to myself, “I can’t do this.” Her edits came the day we were leaving for the beach. I’d deal with them when we returned.

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Forgetting the edits at Emerald Isle, N.C.

I took the next month to make the needed changes. As an Indie Author, I was the boss and would set my own pace.  Like traveling solo, I had no one else to answer to, no need to negotiate how to approach the journey. Doing the rewrites for my memoir was a big task. There were days I’d say to myself, “Keep your butt in this chair and stick with it.” I’d look out my window and see other people enjoying summer and it felt like I was being forced inside to do my homework. But then I’d remember that I chose this and was intentionally moving forward on the path toward my dream.

Further down that path, it was time to hire a cover design artist. Several people at the conference recommended the company 99designs. You submit your request in the form of starting a contest with their international artist community. After you write your brief telling about your story and give details that will help a designer, you wait for proposals to come in. You have a narrow window of time for giving them feedback, asking for preliminary changes, and deciding on the finalists. I wasn’t sure about the process but it was the best option that I had.

The proposals I received in the first twenty-four hours were disappointing. I wondered if using that company was a mistake. There are times on my trips when I feel uncertain, and at times, foolish, afraid that I’m going to make a mistake, especially when it comes to time and money. But after forty-eight hours, I received two proposals that were much closer to what I had in mind. Over that week, I went back-and-forth with an artist in Madrid. With the time difference between Spain and the East Coast of the U.S., I had to pay close attention to the ticking clock of the contest. There were moments I felt uncomfortable with making such an important decision, since a book jacket helps to show your story and to attract readers. But like working through those edits, I’d think about the options, pray, take a walk and sort through the pros and cons. I called on several people who’ve read my book to weigh in on the proposed jacket.

The main issue came with the image of the woman on the cover—the one depicting me at forty-five sitting by Oak Creek in Sedona. After I’d had the artist change the image several times, I still felt hesitant but couldn’t put my finger on the problem.

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I went to bed knowing I had to give the final okay by the following day. I woke up at 3:30 and the woman’s image– sitting on the rock looking at the water, came to mind. Staring at my alarm clock, it occurred to me what was wrong.

Her hair has to look like post-chemo hair, I thought. The woman’s long hair was what I wished I had back then, but was far from the short, curly locks that grew in after treatment. I couldn’t offend my readers, who like me, didn’t take hair for granted after losing it.

I got out of bed and sent an email to the designer. It would be 8:30 in Madrid and she may have time to make the change while I went back to sleep.

Later that morning, I checked for the artist’s response and felt pleased with her new image, the figure with enough hair to show a woman’s silhouette but not the long hair with a flip that didn’t ring true for my story.

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A portion of the cover of my memoir, He Heard My Voice

My solo journey to my dream destination has taken me on a path through edits, and cover designs and other discoveries. There are more challenges ahead. Like my yearly pilgrimages, I will continue to put one foot in front of the other, uncertain of how to walk each section but depending on God and the people in my path to help me.

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How About You?

What is the Dream Destination for your Solo Journey?

What obstacles or challenges might you encounter?

What supports do you have to help you walk through each section of your journey?

 

Leaving it All Behind

This week I’m remembering my solo journey to Michigan. Right before that trip, we’d had a stressful move from our home of twenty years in the country to our downsized house in a neighborhood in town. The negotiations of selling our home and buying the new one came at the end of my year as a school nurse, that hectic period from mid-May to the beginning of June. By the time the moving company drove away, I was exhausted.

What reminded me of that move was starting into my yearly project of clearing out, of de-cluttering my home and attempting my belated spring cleaning. That summer four years ago when we moved in, we could hardly walk around our house for all the packed boxes. I’d decided during the winter that I wanted to go to Michigan– a place I’d never been but yet it seemed familiar from hearing about it from several coworkers. In the cold of winter, I’d thought a long road trip to a cooler-than-North Carolina-climate in July would be fun. I’d contacted my cousin in Toledo to say I’d stop by for a visit, but with my tiredness from the move, inertia set in. I looked about my house at all that needed to be done and thought taking a trip seemed unreasonable.

How can I leave this mess and go on a journey, I asked myself.

I told my friend, Paula that I was considering cancelling my plan, that I didn’t think I had the energy to pull a trip together.

“You have to go,” Paula said. “That’s what you do.”

I trusted her wisdom because she’d been my friend since my first journey to Sedona. She’d seen how they impacted my life, and how sharing about how God used that time away had encouraged others.

A week before I had to take off for Michigan, I rushed to make reservations at the few hotels that were still available during peak season– since there were no hostels in those areas. I packed quickly and pulled CDs out of one of the boxes, choosing a random assortment for the road.

The morning I headed out with my bike on the back of my rental car, there was a terrible storm that seemed like the final barrier. Besides my tiredness from the move, I was more aware than usual of friends and acquaintances struggling with serious problems; a young man waiting for a bone marrow transplant and a young woman with advanced breast cancer; a father with an opiod addiction, a couple trying to free themselves from cocaine, a mid-life woman overusing her prescribed anxiety meds. Even the news coverage of people in distress after a recent plane crash in Asia seemed to be pressing down on me, feeling the weight of the world in my vulnerable state.

I realized I was bone tired and soul weary.

Driving slowly in the rain for almost an hour I was finally relieved to be out of it and able to pick up my speed, planning to make it to Charleston, West Virginia for my first night. I liked that during a road trip I could slowly release the people I left behind, the chores unfinished, the things I forgot to do. I prayed for the journey, the people and places that would be in my path, but I found it harder to let go than on previous trips. I thought a good night’s sleep would help, but I felt little relief the next morning.

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Dinner in Charleston, West Virginia

Driving out of Charleston, I looked at the small, frame houses that hugged the hillside, and wondered how the people who lived in those homes struggled. The ones that I’d been praying for who were dealing with substance abuse and cancer came to mind. I felt weighted down and put in a CD by Nicole C. Mullen, a contemporary Christian singer I hadn’t listened to in a while. Her words spoke to my heart when she sang in her soulful voice the song, “Come Unto Me” and the line “all who are weary bring the load you carry and I will give you rest.”

I need to let go of all this. I’m carrying more than I can bear.

Releasing tears washed down my face as I sang along. Her music was what I needed.

The road continued on into Ohio, through a valley of farms with barns and silos. The fields of corn were a verdant green and along the highway there was Queen Anne’s lace and a lavender wildflower I could’t name. My spirits improved as I felt the relief of laying down my burden.

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On the Road going toward Ohio

I needed to go on this journey to disentangle myself, I thought. I was suffocating under all those boxes in my home and there was no way to relax and be restored except to draw away for a while.

The journey proved to be very meaningful, visiting my cousin and exploring the new territory of Michigan. I was glad that I’d just taken off, that my rational mind had not won out with the things I should do.

And when I returned from my journey, I was rested and ready to make my house into my home.

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The Stunning Beauty of Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes

Find more of that Michigan trip in these previous posts:

Distant Cousins

Fog Gets in Your Eyes

Not Like Me

How About You?

Are there things you need to leave behind in order to get away to renew yourself?

How can you release what is weighing you down?

Free to Be Me

During the week in which we celebrated our country’s independence, our freedom, I think about what it means to be free as an individual– not to say and do things that hurt others, but to be my unique self. It seems that much of my ability to just be me has been limited by my self-consciousness, my over concern with how I appear to others. I’ve lived with too much fear of ‘doing things wrong,’ as if there is some standard of doing things right that I’m being judged by.

Now, at 63 years old, I’m learning to let go of those things that have bound me. In my part-time position as a research nurse, I’m working with a group of staff who are mostly forty-and-under, employment counselors, none of them nurses. They have a much more relaxed view of work than what I’ve been accustomed to as a professional nurse for the last forty years. There  are some things they can learn from me, but overall, I think now we live in a different time and I need to change to adapt to my new working environment. I can learn from these ‘young people’ who would probably tell me to, “lighten up.”

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Even in the writing community, through speakers at conferences and on podcasts, their sage advice is to remember, “It’s not about you. It’s about your readers.” At first I thought, “What? I’m doing all the work of getting things onto the page. It’s not about me, my story?” But later, as I considered myself as a reader, when I’m engrossed in a good book, I’m applying my perception to that story, my interpretation of everything I read is through the lens of my life, not the author’s. I also consider that if I keep this in mind, I can let go of some of my worry with writing the perfect post or chapter. Instead, with each time I sit at my computer, I can think of you and before I start writing I pray that through the muse that God’s given me, I’ll construct something that will speak to you. It helps me to be free of the burden of outcomes.

This morning when I walked, it was cool and raining and reminded me of my solo journey last September to Iona, Scotland. There I lived in a faith community at the Abbey for a week. The night before I was to check in, I stayed at a B & B across the sound from Iona. That Saturday morning, watching the ferry approach, I was suddenly gripped by fear, by not feeling ‘good enough.’  I said to myself, “Who am I to go to this international pilgrimage site?” Surely those I’d join would be more theologically educated, more international, more of something. I thought of my small-town-roots, my Southern accent, my tendency to hang back, my fear of the spotlight being thrust on me.

As the ferry workers motioned for us to approach the boat, the answer came, what felt like God’s still small voice speaking to me.

You are my child and that is enough.”

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I walked forward, feeling awkward but assured that I was at the place I should be.  Throughout that week, with seekers from all over the world, I continued to feel assured, through my interactions with individuals and in our group discussions, that I was where I should be.

On Tuesday during our group pilgrimage across the island, we stopped at the bay and threw a rock into the water to symbolize what we were leaving behind. Now that I reread that post from Dec. 31, I see that it was a step in letting go to be free, that I’m revisiting at the half-way point of this year. It is a process. After that rock was flung into the bay, I was interviewed on camera that was a first step of letting go of what others’ thought of me.

 

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Pilgrimage across Iona to the most noted sites

When I go back to my pictures of that journey, I see a video that I made while riding on the ferry from Oban to the Inner Hebrides. I’d planned to do videoblogs through the trip, but partly due to time and being in a new place, and perhaps due to my discomfort, I never posted them.

Now, as an act of being free, able to let go of my hesitation and concerns, I’ll share a video on my Author Facebook Page– Saved by Sedona since I haven’t learned to embed videos on WordPress. The video reminds me of that excitement of anticipation, wondering what lay ahead during my week at the Abbey.

It reminds me that I am Free to Be Me.

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The Tall Cross of Iona, See post “Packing Grandma for Pilgrimage” Aug. 27, 2017

Post for Dec. 31, 2017  “The Things We Leave Behind” located at

https://wordpress.com/post/connierosserriddle.wordpress.com/4444

How About You?

What do you need to let go of in order to be Free to be You?

What step can you take to move forward in that process?

Daily Bread at Tibbett’s Point

It was June and I was celebrating being a 10-year Breast Cancer Survivor, a decade since I’d heard the words, “You have cancer.”  I wanted to take my summer journey to a special place, the seventh solo trip that had turned into yearly pilgrimages.  Thumbing through a resource book for hostels in the U.S., I found the perfect place, described as a location with the most beautiful sunsets: Tibbett’s Point Lighthouse Hostel. Located in Cape Vincent, New York, where the St. Lawrence River flowed into Lake Ontario, the hostel was in the former lighthouse keeper’s house.

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Looking at the map, when I drove from the Buffalo airport to Cape Vincent, I’d travel through the Genesee Valley, an area I’d first learned of through the writings of Henry Nouwen. He was a Catholic theologian and I liked his down-to-earth-way of writing about faith.  He’d stayed at the Abbey at Genesee, living and learning with the monks and wrote about it in the book, The Diary of Genesee.  I decided to take a side-trip off the NY Thruway and go to that same abbey– pick up a copy of the book and loaves of Monk’s Bread to take as a ‘pilgrim’s gift’ to the hostel.

The evening I arrived, I was amazed at my first glimpse of the sun setting over the St. Lawrence River, an orange orb sliding down the back side of the dark blue sky.  People were sitting in Adirondack chairs near the lighthouse, facing west and witnessing together the closing of another day.  I knocked on the office door and was greeted by Bea, the 83-year-old woman who was filling in for the current manager.

After she showed me around, Bea invited me to join her and two other women along with two college-age guests at the kitchen table.  The conversation flowed easily, with folks telling about experiences in different hostels– all solo travelers.

“This is what I love about hostels,” Bea said.  “Everyone sitting around the table like this, sharing all their adventures.”

Later, the two college-age guests left and Bea, Ruth– who was also in her eighties, and Coleen, sixty-three, who was Bea’s friend from down the road, continued talking, including me in their familiar conversation.  I unpacked my food, including the two loaves of Monk’s Bread.

“Here’s something I brought to share with everyone,” I said, and placed the loaves on the table.

Coleen pulled one over and read the ingredients.

“I love cinnamon bread. I don’t often buy it because it’s expensive and I live on a retiree’s income,” she said. “Think I’ll try some now.” She took a slice, bit into it, and smiled.

For the next five days, I made my home at the hostel.  At breakfast and dinner, I enjoyed getting to know Bea, Ruth, and Coleen.  I came to think of them as the ‘Golden Girls of Tibbett’s Point’ as their personalities reminded me of the other Golden Girls on the old t.v. sitcom.

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(L to R) Bea, Coleen, Ruth, Me

During the day, I explored the area– writing in a Cape Vincent coffee shop, trekking over to Kingston, Canada, and taking a boat tour of the Thousand Islands. One evening when I returned from observing the sunset, Coleen and Ruth were sitting at the table. Bea was measuring flour into a bowl.

“Come join us, Connie,” Ruth said.  “We’re watching Bea work.”

“I’m making cookies with my Grandmother’s recipe,” Bea explained. “She never wasted anything.”

“You won’t believe how good they are,” Coleen said, “even with chicken fat.”

Chicken fat?” I asked, thinking I must have misheard.

Coleen smiled, “They really are good.”

We waited around the table, while Bea added sugar and a lot of pumpkin pie spice.  After a thorough mixing, she spooned the dough onto the cookie sheet. Waiting for them to bake, we talked about all we’d done that day and their company felt so familiar to me, like being at my aunt’s table. Ruth put the kettle on for tea.

While the cookies were still warm, Bea placed them on a plate and passed them to me.  The three women waited for my response.

The sweet, cinnamon-based, fall-flavored taste had no hint of chicken fat, that had been completely covered by the spice.

“You’re right. They are good,” I responded, feeling that sweet satisfaction of the warm carbohydrate treats, like what Bea had known from her Grandmother’s cookie jar.

Bea and the other Golden Girls of Tibbett’s Point smiled and reached for their cookies.

Of all the places I’d stayed over the decade, I’d had more satisfying meals at that hostel table.  Whether it was eating breakfast with toast made from the Monk’s bread or evening cookies made with chicken fat, sharing food and friendship had been the heart of that kitchen.

Tibbett’s Point had been a great place to celebrate my 10th anniversary as a survivor.  How sweet it was to think of all the memories of special times I’d experienced since that day when my world was turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis.

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How about you?

 What milestone in your life deserves a special celebration?

How would you like to celebrate?

 

It’s About the Future

I sat on a rock overlooking the Great Smoky Mountains on that Sunday morning in September.  In the stillness that was shrouded in fog, I felt the burden of trudging through cancer treatment and my toxic job.  I prayed for God to lift me out of that pit, and waited for some sign that God was listening.  Eventually, the answer came in that ‘still small voice’ in the words, “It’s About the Future.”

I continued sitting there, wondering what this message meant for me.  I thought about the future when I was first diagnosed, asking God to spare my life.  With my aggressive treatment regimen, my oncologist was confident that I’d be okay—and I believed him.  But where I mired down, was in feeling that my future would continue as daily struggle with my health and my career.  It was hard to look beyond my present.  How could I see the future when I was consumed with dread?

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How could I see the future when I was consumed with dread?

The answer didn’t come that morning on the mountain.  In fact, that message became a question that stayed with me; what is it you want me to see in the future, God?  There was a sense that I wasn’t to stay in my present state of anxiety.  While that conversation with God didn’t change the fact that I had to return home to chemo and work, I did feel lighter—like God was starting to pull me up from the pit.

I continued to look for the meaning to be revealed.  It seemed that God was showing me to avoid getting bogged down in the negative climate at work.   It was a temporary place. I was to do my best while I was there, but eventually I’d move on.  With my cancer regimen, I should focus on the treatment in front of me, engaging with the infusion staff and the family and friends who accompanied me.  I would be present to the moment but moving toward the future.

By April I’d finished treatment.  I was tired from the radiation, but now I could fly to a research meeting in Arizona.  Afterwards I took my journey to Sedona then traveled on to the Grand Canyon.  That evening, I watched the sun setting over the South Rim and was reminded of that morning in the Smokies.

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Watching a hawk flying near the canyon walls, I remembered the message, It’s about the Future, and this time there was more:  Don’t be weighed down by what’s happening now.  Get through today but look ahead to the future I’m providing for you.

I remembered Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Hope and a Future.  This was a promise of God’s faithfulness to see me through, to pull me from the pit and place my feet on a solid rock.  I couldn’t see the future God had for me, but I did feel assured with that promise.

Eventually, a way was provided from that job to one in a healthy environment.  The cancer treatment was successful and I’ve had years of being cancer free.  There have been times I’ve gotten bogged down again, but I hear that same message and know to keep moving.  Those steps forward have led me to solo journeys that have become pilgrimages for my soul.

Years later, in my future, I sat on the banks of Lake Champlain in Vermont and remembered that message.  The answer had now come to me fully;  Stay in God’s presence each moment and He will lead you to the Future, one that is filled with Hope.

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What about you?

Have you had times of being so weighed down in struggle you couldn’t see a hopeful future?

How could you find your way to greater hope?

What resources are available to help you when you feel overwhelmed?

 

Frontier of Silence

Last summer I took my solo journey to Kentucky where I had a two-week writer’s residency at Artcroft.  It was very quiet there in the countryside without the noise of television, wi-fi, or conversation– since there was no other artist joining me.  The only interruption to the silence was an occasional bird call, mooing cow, or vehicle passing by on the dirt road outside my gatehouse.

The days I stayed in to write instead of driving to the Paris-Bourbon library, I felt myself slow down to the pace of silence.  It reminded me of a word I first learned when I read the book When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd.  In her story, she tells of her season of waiting– as if she was in a cocoon and knew she couldn’t rush the process.  She learns from her mentor, Dr. Beatrice Bruteau, the meaning of the word entrainment.

“It’s the phenomenon of two rhythmic beings gradually altering their movements until they’re moving together in the same rhythm,” Dr. Bruteau tells her and gives examples of pendulums, crickets, and people talking.  “We tend to align ourselves with the rhythm and pace around us.”

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We align ourselves with the rhythm and pace around us.

I felt that Dr. Bruteau became my mentor, too, as I read that book and considered the frenetic pace of my life.  As a nurse in a middle school, I worked in an environment of constant adolescent chatter, as well as staff and students rushing about the chaotic hallways.  When I left work, I played music on my drive.  Once home, I often turned on the television to watch the news or listen to some show while cooking dinner.  Sometimes on my evening walks, I made phone calls.

I keep myself immersed in noise, I realized.  No wonder the quiet of my new Kentucky home was so unfamiliar.  At first, I was a bit restless, wanting some background music to keep me from feeling unsettled and alone.  It reminded me of the awkwardness I experienced when I began taking solo journeys.  Over time, with each successful trip completed, the unfamiliar became familiar and even comfortable.  Silence could be the same way.

Once I let go of my restlessness, I saw that time seemed to expand when you allowed the day to be quiet.  I paid attention to nature’s cycle with the sun rising and setting, and the moon announcing the end to my day’s labor.  I could dive deeper into writing my memoir without distracting sounds.  Years before when in college, I discovered that I studied most efficiently with better recall when isolated in a library study carrel.  All these years later and I was rediscovering the benefit of solitude and silence.

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My new Kentucky home

During my stay at Artcroft, I grew more comfortable with silence.  I wasn’t startled by the sounds of animals or the occasional car traveling past my home that interrupted that still space.  The days when I used the library wi-fi, I noticed that compared to the house, the library was almost noisy.

When I traveled back to North Carolina, I realized that the boon, or blessing that I returned with, was a new capacity for silence.  I planned to be more intentional in how I created the space around me.  It took going west to find a land of silence and I wanted to make that discovery a part of every day of my life.

What about you?

Do you keep yourself immersed in noise?

How would it impact your life to have more silence in your day?

What are ways you could take control in creating a more quiet environment?

Toxic Takeaway

He helped me pack up my office that afternoon, my last, at The Research Company.

“You know it’s not you, Connie,” he said and placed the last of my belongings in my trunk.  “Just be glad you’re getting out of here.”  He was the only co-worker I could trust.

Later, I wondered if I really did know it wasn’t my fault.  How could I land in a place, after twenty-three years as a professional nurse and things go so terribly wrong?  I was totally unprepared for dealing with that toxic work environment.  I’d never been in that situation.

The half-mile road through my neighborhood became my track of travail as I walked back and forth, attempting to process my emotions, thinking through the issues, reviewing the complaints they had against me.  It was hard to let go of my anger and to understand how God could allow me to go through cancer and that job at the same time.

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the road through my neighborhood became my track of travail

After a couple of months of job interviews, I decided to return to working as a school nurse.

 

While I thought that I’d left the negative impact of The Research Company behind, soon into my new job, I found I wasn’t as far along as I’d thought.

The Assistant Principal came to my door.

“Connie, could you come to my office?” she asked.  “I need to talk with you.”

I felt my heart race and was lightheaded with anxiety.  What did I do wrong, I thought and felt like I’d been called to that final meeting at The Research Company.

“You know the boy you saw this morning, the one in the fight?” she asked.

My mind raced through the students, trying to focus in spite of my panicky feelings.  Finally, I recalled the 7th grader she was referring to.

“Yes, I remember.”

“What’s your take on what happened with him and the other boy?” she asked.  “I have to call his mother.”

She just wants my opinion, I thought and felt so relieved.

That incident made me realize I’d been on edge, especially when I sensed my competence was being challenged.  It was more than my temperament of being sensitive, it was like my self-confidence was damaged.  I’d seen students who’d been abused and were always in a defensive posture, watching for potential danger.  While I tried to understand what it was like for them, I’d never been in that situation.

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my new workplace

Now I saw, that even as a grown woman, with a great work history, advanced degree, supportive family and friends, the two years I’d stayed in that toxic work environment had torn me down.  How insidious those undermining comments, favoritism, disrespect that were the daily norm at The Research Company.  While it wasn’t like the physical abuse of a student, it resembled that less-easy-to-identify emotional abuse that had just as harmful an effect.

When I wrote the first draft of my memoir, Saved by Sedona, I’d shared quite candidly about my struggle with breast cancer.  But there were only veiled references to my work at The Research Company.  I’d buried my shame of losing that job so deeply that it took years of healing before I could acknowledge it.  Now, I had to go back and tell the whole truth.

I’ve rewritten Saved by Sedona.  When I recently attended the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’ Conference, we had to dress as the main character of our book.  For the first time, I publicly acknowledged that toxic job and cancer, dressing in my solo journey hiking attire and wearing a backpack with a toxic waste sticker of The Research Company and a Breast Cancer Ribbon.

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I proudly stood on stage in that huge auditorium and spoke into the microphone.

“My memoir is my story of leaving behind a toxic job and breast cancer and journeying toward a new life of solo journeys.”

Thankfully, after what I’d gone through at The Research Company, my return to the school system had landed me in a healthy work environment.  I would never take that for granted again.

 

How about you?

Have you ever buried a truth that was too difficult to face?

Were there ways that you continued to be impacted?

How could you tenderly work through this issue and fold it into a whole view of yourself?

 

 

 

Golden Light

There’s a unique beauty in the magical moments at twilight, when just after sunset there’s a golden glow to the earth before darkness arrives.  Last year when I had a two-week writer’s residency at Artcroft in central Kentucky, I spent most nights observing that hilly acreage as my final act of the day.  It occurred to me then that the word gloaming, which is a less familiar word for twilight, sounds like what it means—a golden light that glows.

At the gatehouse where I stayed, there was no wi-fi, no television, and no other residents to get to know.  This opened up space for me to live in the luxury of silence.  I could feel the rhythm of each day, and somehow, I felt grounded in my season of life.  The quiet of that house was like being at my Grandma Smith’s for a week in summer when I was a girl; located on a rural road where my heart quickened to the sound of an approaching vehicle; paced by nature with outside activity in the cool of the day; led by my natural energy instead of external demands.

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My day started in the kitchen, opening the door to morning coolness since the house only had a window air conditioning unit upstairs.  Stepping onto the stoop, I often spotted a rabbit at the edge of the grassy lawn.  While I filled the coffee pot with water I looked through the double windows to a bank of wildflowers including chicory with lavender blooms.  Throughout the morning, I watched those flowers to see at what point the sun became so harsh that the blooms gave up, pulling in their petals and calling it a day.

The kitchen table became my morning office, with devotional books, references on memoir writing, and pen and paper for drafting the next chapters of my sequel memoir.  There I worked at a steady pace, drinking coffee and occasionally going to the door to check on my rabbit friend.

Around noon, I’d eat lunch then drive to the next county to enjoy the air condition and wi-fi of the Paris-Bourbon County Library.  I watched as families came in to check out DVDs for children home for summer, old folks read the newspapers, and others—like me, came in to use the free wi-fi.  I stayed through the sweltering afternoon that sometimes-produced thunderstorms.  When the day was exhausted of the heat and I had used up all my concentration and ability to create, I returned home.

I passed farmers on tractors who were finishing up, cows cooling in the pasture stream, and commuters returning from their jobs in town to their country homes.  I’d eat dinner in the quiet of that kitchen and listen for the occasional passing truck or car with a muffler in need of repair.

When the air finally cooled, I’d head out for my evening stroll.   A dirt road ran from the gatehouse to the estate that was at the highest point of the four-hundred-acre property.  I’d walk for a while, then stop to observe the changing sky at sunset—an artist canvas of colors behind the Kentucky hills.

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Almost to the estate house, I turned to look at the expanse of Artcroft and think about the day– the rabbit at breakfast, calming silence of this solo journey, the work I’d produced without the distractions of housework that I would’ve had back home.

And then, in the golden glow that is the gloaming, it was as if all that had been was burned into beauty and light just before darkness pulled its blanket over the day and sleep prepared me for another.

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http://www.artcroft.org/site/about-artcroft/#history

What about you?

Have you experienced that magical light?

How can you allow yourself to follow a more natural rhythm in your day?