Writing Through Grief

Yesterday marked 15 years since my grandma passed away. Letting her go after her sudden heart attack was a difficult process; she was a significant mother figure to me and an important teacher. Through her words and actions she taught me about resilience, faith and the power of a great story. Losing her was a shock that I worked hard to move through during my second year of marriage and grad school but the show did go on. Over the years I have remembered her fondly, kept her photo in my writing studio, and smiled to myself at memories that hover briefly like hummingbirds.

the writer and her grandma

Two days ago, however, Grief showed up and filled the entire doorway. Barged in without a knock. Pinned me to my desk with giant hands pressing my shoulders. I couldn’t move. I wasn’t permitted to do anything except feel my heart ripping again. From deep inside me, from the fleshy parts where memories reside, spilled tears I didn’t know I still had for her. I sobbed with my head bowed. I had no choice but to succumb, understanding that this would pass but, for that moment, Grief was calling the shots.

When I was done, when I could inhale and exhale without dissolving again, I reached for a blank sheet of paper and wrote:

Tomorrow is 15 years since I said bye to Maa. If it’s true, if there is such a thing, then when I see her next, I’ll be stepping off an elevator around the corner from her second floor apartment. Before I see her, I will know her door is wide open and she is waiting in the doorway. I will hear her hood fan, smell the spices. When I round that corner, I will see her ear-to-ear grin, her crinkly eyes, her outstretched arms. She will call my name and I will rush forward, feel her soft body, hear her chuckle in my ear. I will lean back so she can plant kisses on my cheeks. She will usher me in and then feed me omelette with cilantro, and decades of untold stories.

Essayist Anaïs Nin said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” I had a chance that day to taste those moments with Maa again. My eyes, my nose, my cheeks, my hands had recorded every greeting with her at that apartment, and on a day that I faced the gaping hole she left, I was able to stretch out a memory and play it against the darkness like a movie screen.

If this is it, then – if this is all there is – I am thankful for it. If I never round that corner after stepping off the elevator in some other dimension where loved ones live, then at least I can do it on the page while my mind’s eye travels over the loose skin on Maa’s hands and my body remembers her.

Taslim Jaffer writer

The Key To Being Happy

There was a long period of time when I felt like happiness and I were at two different ends of the room. Trying to catch up to happiness was like weaving through a crowd where nobody was parting the way – meanwhile, happiness kept changing location.

It was frustrating.

Over time, it’s occurred to me that happiness is not at the other end of the room or in any location outside of me, but actually exists within my perspective. I know, I know. I’ve read the memes and been to personal development conferences. I was fed a steady diet of Wayne Dyer growing up. But it’s one thing to hear the words and another to really, truly understand them.

I’ve always found journaling to be a source of reflection which helps me see things in a different light. I could start out writing about how terrible I feel about myself – maybe I’m having a yell-y mom day or feel overwhelmed when comparing myself to others – but once I start writing all of those thoughts in a space that is free of judgment and allows me to be totally real, my tone starts changing. I start talking to myself like a friend. Encouraging myself, reminding myself of the wonderful parts of me, and really helping me focus on being authentic and making decisions from that place. That ability to express freely, to reflect without bias, and to write down the loving words that come from deep inside me has kept me connected to happiness.

Yes, happiness is found inside me.

I’m also conscious of placing the responsibility of keeping me happy on myself rather than anything or anyone else. I have a great network of friends who I enjoy being with but they don’t govern my happiness. My kids – I love them to death. But God knows, in day-to-day moments, if interactions with them were the sole things that made me happy…well, my emotions would be all over the spectrum. My husband is my partner in every way and I love him deeply. But again, if I relied on him to be happy, I’d be off the mark.

While my relationships and my thoughts can sway my emotions, who I am as a person, my gifts, my talents, my dreams, my faith in goodness, are like the rocks at the bottom of the fast-moving river that can’t be budged.

Time and again, I’ve dived deep and rested on those rocks through journaling. It really helps me understand what I want, what I don’t want, where I’m at, where I’m not at, and how to be content with it all. Most of all, it helps me bring to light the things I wouldn’t trade about myself for anything even if those things mean nothing to anyone else. Even if those things don’t make me look successful or flashy or important. Because being anchored to those rocks means that I know what I value. And I think that is part of what keeps me happy.

So, the key to being happy? For me: know myself, make decisions based on what sits well in my soul, and spend time doing the things that please me. Life can be chaotic and unpredictable. But those rocks…they’re amazing places to hang out.

What keeps you happy?

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

Add Self-Discovery To Your 2017 Through Writing!

As we approach a new year, many of us are thinking about what we’d like to add to our lives to make them more fun, more relaxed, more simple…but how do we know exactly what it is we need? What is it really that would make our lives exactly what we want?

Only one person can know the answer: YOU. And writing can be one way to uncover it.

On Monday January 9, I’m starting a 4-session Writing for Self-Discovery class at South Surrey Arts Centre for anyone who has some experience journaling already and would like to go deeper into the practice. We’ll specifically be focusing on using journaling as a way to know yourself better and make decisions that will increase what you want, and perhaps kick to the curb the things you don’t want. The class runs from 6:30-8:30 pm.

It’s a Level Two class, but all this means is that you have some experience with journaling. If you are unsure of whether this applies to you, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

For more information and to register, please visit Semiahmoo Arts or ask them about Writing For Self-Discovery Level Two by calling 604-592-6970.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

 

Writing For Legacy Is For Everyone – Yes, You Too!

Legacy sounds like something reserved for someone who’s lived a long time or has had something incredibly remarkable happen to them. Or maybe someone who started a foundation to benefit a group of people. Someone who has something to leave behind.

Well, I happen to think we all have something to leave behind. If you think back to your life over the past 5 years, wouldn’t you say you’ve gained at least one valuable lesson that others could benefit from? I don’t think you necessarily have to be in the end stage of a typical lifespan to know that there’s something important inside of you that could very well be passed on to those you love, or the world in general.

I’ll also go further and say that I think it’s part of our purpose here to actually share those stories. I mean, why else are we going through them? Why the tough lessons if there isn’t the beauty of helping others? Sharing our stories helps others feel like what they are going through is relatable, and gives them hope that they will come out the other side. And not just survive the feat, but thrive afterward.

I first started sharing snippets of my life, and the lessons that came with it, after my mom passed away in 2009. Like, literally two weeks after she died I wrote my first blog post on my old blog. I’ve continued talking about the trials and blessings I’ve encountered in my life on this blog, in various inspirational anthologies, and other online and print publications. And every time I do, I have a sense of release, growth and satisfaction.

Is this enough to call my legacy? Yes, I think so. I think it’s definitely part of what I will leave behind. And it doesn’t have to be left till the late stages of my life to get down on paper.

My kids and family will always have a piece of me through my words, and in the public ways I share my writing I know I am passing something on to someone else. Even if one person comes away from something I write with the feeling that they are not alone, that they will be ok, that is a great gift to them and to me.

I believe in this so much that I’ve created a course called Writing for Legacy and am offering it through Semiahmoo Arts in South Surrey, B.C. It’s a short 4-session introductory course in a small group, where we can have 1:1 conversations and group discussions during sessions, plus lifetime access to a secret Facebook group for my writing students. It’s as fun as it sounds!

During the 4 weeks, I will help you uncover some gems you’d like to share and help you get started on writing them down in an engaging, inspirational way.

The class runs every Monday from November 7-28, 2016 from 6:30-8:30 pm.

If you’d like more information or want to see if this is the right fit for you, please contact me. You can register here or call 604-592-6970.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

When People Ask Me ‘What Do You Do?’

A couple days ago, my family and I were out with some new friends on their boat (always nice to make friends with people who have a boat). Out in the middle of the lake, the wind whipping our hair about, my friend held onto my little girl on her lap, leaned in and asked, “Does she go to preschool this fall?”

“No,” I replied. “She’s still in daycare. She just goes twice a week so I can get some work done.” I realize that I always explain to people why my daughter goes to daycare, and that she only goes a minimal amount of time. Isn’t that strange?

“Oh, so you work part time?” she asked.

“Yup, from home. I’m a writer.” I felt that familiar buzz flow through me as I said the words. It still is rather dreamy to say out loud. And then I braced myself for the follow-up question because it always comes and I never know how to answer it.

“What do you write?”

And I don’t know, dear Readers. Maybe it was the fresh air. Maybe it was the sun glinting off the lake and throwing itself all over me. Maybe it was just being so present in that moment, and truly in love with what was happening right then. But the words came.

Some of them may have gotten lost over the motor and the children’s laughing and our husbands’ chatter from one end of the boat to the other. But the words came out like one big exhale.

I’m a blogger, and I write about living a creative, authentic and kind life. Through my blog and social media, I work with brands to promote ideas and products that my readers care about. I also do some freelance writing for my local paper, and I enter writing contests. And this fall, I’m launching writing classes through Semiahmoo Arts; I’m teaching people how to use writing as a way to connect with themselves.

Hallelujah! It’s like I found myself out there on the water. I didn’t trip over my spiel, or minimize what I do.

If you’re having trouble answering that question – or any other question, may I suggest you get as far away from it as possible and take a look at it from a distance? It’s a lot easier to see the whole, big, beautiful thing.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

How Writing Heals

I think people shy away from the idea of writing being a healing tool because they believe it requires some sort of pre-existing experience in writing. It doesn’t, really. It’s a practice that you can develop.  (And grammar doesn’t count either so go ahead and sigh a big sigh). It’s like turning to yoga as a way of nourishing your body and soul; you don’t need experience to begin. You simply start taking classes and grow into it. You can do the same with writing. If you have a desire to examine your current circumstances, or your past, and if you want to find the courage to look forward, then expressive writing could be for you.

Right now, I’m typing away at my desk. Every so often a delicious breeze wafts in from the open window to my left. When it does, a little chime hanging in the doorway of my French doors rings its soft bells. This is a beautiful place to write. But I have also scribbled furiously on the floor in my closet at dawn so as not to wake my husband. And that’s the other wonderful thing about this therapeutic tool – you can pull it out at any time, any place. It’s there for you.

I recently wrote an article about this idea for Hello Creative Family. If you’d like to read about what I mean when I say writing is a healing tool, what it heals and how effective it is against illness, grief and loss, please hop over to the article and have a read.

From the fall, I’m dedicating more time to teaching because I strongly feel that sharing this gift with others is a purpose I need to fulfill. It’s actually beneficial for me too because I learn so much from everyone I try to ‘teach’ 🙂 Mostly I am filled with gratitude that writing came to me so early and easily, and it makes me want to show everyone else how powerful this kind of connection can be.

If you are local to Surrey, B.C. I’d love to see you in one of my classes at the South Surrey Arts Centre. These are classes for adults, 18+, and will be held at the Turnbull Gallery on Monday nights from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Writing For Self-Discovery

Join award-winning writer, Taslim Jaffer in this empowering workshop where you will take guided steps on a journey of self-discovery through writing exercises and discussion. Unearth lessons learned throughout your lifetime.  This course is perfect for writers of all levels, focusing on how to use writing as a tool for your own benefit.

Sept 12 – Oct 3 (4 sessions)

$75

Registration begins July 25, 2016

Writing For Legacy

What do you have to offer the world? Uncover and capture your life-gained wisdom, no matter what stage of life you are in. Through written exercises and discussion, award-winning writer, Taslim Jaffer will teach you how to write about your personal legacy. At the end of this course you will come away with several pieces of writing that can be the basis of a longer project.

Nov 7 – Nov 28 (4 sessions)

$75

Registration begins July 25, 2016

You can also register by calling 604-501-5100. And of course, if you have any questions about the course content, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me. I will be sharing more details over the next couple weeks, so stay tuned!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

 

 

Coming To Terms

This post is going to be short (I hope) because I am starting it dangerously close to school pick-up time!

Today I’m thinking about ‘coming to terms’ with things that change or change our world…events, people, situations. So, I’m wondering if maybe that’s something you’re thinking about too?

Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes we can mentally, logically come to a realization and accept it, but that doesn’t mean our heart completely follows suit.

Stuff happens to us, right? There’s loss (either through death or separation or disconnect). Friendships change. Kids move on to the next phase. People we think will be around forever, aren’t. And situations that we long for don’t necessarily come to fruition. So then we come to a point where we have to grab hold of the present, take stock of what we do have, what we have not lost, who is still part of our lives.

For me, it always helps to talk about it. Ask my husband. I can Talk. About. It. And then I talk about it some more with a couple trusted girl friends. But what helps me to take that next step in the healing process is always picking up my pen and writing.

I’ve been journaling since I was 10; I never knew it would become what it has. I didn’t know how well it would serve me. Or maybe some part of me did know and the rest of me is still in a bit of happy shock 🙂

What do YOU do? When you need to come to terms with something. What do you turn to? What’s your ‘go-to’ when it comes to taking the next step in the healing process?

I always love reading your comments.

And now I’m off into the gray, wet afternoon to pick up my kids and spend the rest of the day with them!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

Ignoring What I Think They Are Saying About Me And Giving Myself Permission To Create

I’ve renewed my vows with Creativity. I’ve given myself permission to love It and spend time with It and do the whole give-and-take thing with It. Simply because I am in love, and have always been in love, with creating.

Not everyone who loves creating chooses to make a career out of it, and of course, it’s not necessary to do so. But things aligned for me in a way that made it possible for me to at least try.

My primary role which I have had to learn to love over the last few years is Domestic Goddess. Ten years ago, I would have said, What? That’s what you ‘do’? That’s your primary role in life – to cook and clean? I probably would have been a little disheartened. So, it was a struggle to embrace this role and it’s really just been in the last year that I have fully come to love it. Never have I had to grow more as a person than in this role of Domestic Goddess.

But on the side, I’ve done all kinds of writing: some paid and some to ‘build my portfolio.’ I’ve dabbled in everything from writing magazine articles to contributing chapters in anthologies, to developing my own personal development workbooks, to creating web and social media content. Last year, Creativity boldly stepped in and presented an opportunity to teach a poetry workshop at a drug treatment centre. I grabbed that opportunity and it set me on a more authentic, defined path that incorporates my love of writing and my passion for teaching. This has led to a new chapter in my journey that I will be sharing with you in time to come.

And that is all well and good, professionally.

But to create for the sake of creating…I was bumping up against some issues with that. I had started ‘writing for fun’ on my first maternity leave which is how I remembered how important writing is to my sense of relief in this human form. But then once I decided to take my creativity and turn it into a career, the focus became the career, and not the creating. Suddenly, creating for the sake of creating became frivolous. What would the end gain be? With my limited time, did it make sense to write stories that I didn’t know would publish? Bottom line: did it make business sense?

Because who has time to be a Domestic Goddess with 3 children (2 in school, 1 in daycare twice a week), who cooks from scratch at least 5 days a week, has kids in activities, volunteers sporadically at the school, blogs, and has a writing business? Well, after looking at my schedule, I realized, I do have time to create for the sake of creating. I simply had to take out my two biggest time-suckers: T.V. and mindless Internet surfing.

Now I have a chunk of time in my day (rather, night) at my disposal. It means no T.V. And I hide my phone (I already have the notifications turned off during the day). Yes, sometimes that time gets invaded by piddly things like filling out book order forms or field trip forms. Or those other miscellaneous life things that I can’t think of right now because I just want to get this out to you! But mostly this time is for me to write that story, research that book, practice my handlettering, read an article on creativity etc.

Basically, I have given myself permission to create just because I am not a whole person without it. Away from the burden of it needing to make money. Oh, like a hobby! Yes, creating is also my hobby.

So here’s what I bump up against – which is not as easy to work out as the ‘where do I find the time’ factor: I think that people who know I am writing for fun, or practicing handlettering without having an end financial goal with it, must think I am lucky. And why is it a problem to be lucky? Because lucky people don’t have it rough. And why is it a problem to not have it rough? Because people who don’t have it rough aren’t grateful. They’re child-like, they’re ‘takers’, they’re simply lazy.

I think, they must think I’m mooching off my husband who is basically the sole income provider right now. I think, they must think I’m not ambitious because I’m not some kind of big decision-maker in a very important company. I think, they must think I’m not intelligent enough to be doing whatever it is they’re doing.

You know what else I think? I think I am going to just focus on my commitment to Creativity and stop caring what other people think. (They are probably not even thinking about me at all anyway).

When I’m 90-something years old on my deathbed, if I look back on a life of not creating simply for the sake of creating, I will leave this world a very sad person.

It sounds dramatic (isn’t that a sign of a creative person?) but it is so incredibly true that along with eliminating T.V. and mindless Internet surfing, I think I’ll also take off ‘care what people think about my creating for fun’ from my list of time-suckers.

Yeah. That’s what I’ll do.

If you struggle with the same sort of inner dialogue, or are looking for permission to create for the sake of creating, here it is. And I’d like to give a huge shout-out to one of my favourite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert, who recently did the same for me through her book, Big Magic.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

 

 

“Do Less, Focus More” ~ Guest Post By Jamie Dunlop Khau @jamiekhau

Good morning and happy Monday! Yes, Mondays can be happy – especially when on my to-do list this morning I have ‘share Jamie’s guest post.’ I’ve decided to ask some of my favourite people and bloggers to visit Let ME Out!! this month and talk about their intentions for 2016. I know there’s been a lot about intentions and guiding words all over the internet for the past few weeks, but as you know, in the Let ME Out!! community it’s always a good time to talk about creating joyful lives. 

I started this blog to provide you with insight and suggestions for a more creative, authentic and kind way of living. And today’s guest, Jamie Khau of Styling the Inside, is a shining example of authenticity. She is currently a Notable.ca nominee for best blog in B.C. for her work around creating a life that ‘feels good on the inside.’ I hope you take a moment to visit her blog or say hi to her on social media via the links provided after her post.

And now…here’s Jamie!

Making resolutions can oftentimes lead to disappointment, especially if the resolution is unrealistic. For this reason, I’m setting intentions rather than resolutions for 2016. One of my biggest intentions for this year is to do less and focus more. Last year I spent a great amount of time ‘doing’ however, because I became so busy with everything I was ‘doing’, I ended up feeling distracted, overwhelmed, and ultimately depleted.

In order to instigate this change in my life I’ve been saying the phrase DO LESS FOCUS MORE. A mentor of mine texted these words to me one day; they immediately resonated and have now become my mantra.

Oftentimes we get so caught up in being busy. This busyness in many ways makes us feel like we’re on top of our game and conquering the world. Consequently, this “I’m doing everything” status can create distraction, loss of focus, and unwanted stress.

Moving into 2016 I’ll be using these guiding words to ultimately help me stay focused on my top priorities which align with my values. Using this “Do less, Focus More” mantra will help me stay positive, and keep things in perspective when I feel pulled to do more.

My top priorities this year include putting my self and self-care above anything else. Saying no to things without making a long excuse as to why I’m saying no, and trying to avoid the guilt that comes along with this. In addition, I’ll be working on managing my time more effectively.

All of these things will help me de-clutter and calm my mind, which will in turn help me feel good on the inside. At the end of the day, this is my number one intention: to create a life that feels good within. If what I’m doing isn’t making me feel good on the inside, then it’s probably time to re-evaluate. 

That said, I highly recommend using a guiding word, mantra, or phrase to help you instigate the changes and intentions you’ve set for 2016. Meditate on these words, write them down, hang them up, heck you can even “Instaqoute them!”

These powerful intentional guiding words can be impactful, and using these words to help us shift our thoughts can lead to positive change in our lives.

Wishing you all the best for 2016.

jamie dunlop khau, notable.ca, award nominee, writer, blogger, styling the inside, do less focus more

Visit Jamie on:
taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

10 Gifts To Make The Writer In Your Life Love You Even More

Make the writer in your life speechless this Christmas by gifting him or her with these awesome ideas. Then leave them alone so they can wear stretchy pants, curl up under a blanket and get back to the novel they’re reading (or writing).

One: A shirt with words on it.

It’s pretty much a given that writers love words. We like our words on everything, especially if they’re empowering and make people say….yeah, that’s awesome. May I suggest a shirt or two from West + Wind? I have this one that says Like A Boss, but I could always use another.

like a boss, west + wind, local shop, vancouver, buy local, t shirt, writers gifts

Two: A notepad for when the ideas strike!

But not just any notepad, because we have too many of those. How about a waterproof one? You know we get our BEST ideas at the most inconvenient times, showering being one of them. With Aqua Notes, you can’t go wrong.

Three: Scrabble, but not Scrabble…Bananagrams!

We writers already have Scrabble, but would love a word game that we can take anywhere and not have to worry about a playing board. Look at this awesomeness in a banana-shaped bag! We can grab a word-nerd friend and shut the world out for hours.

bananagrams, amazon, let me out creative, writers gifts, scrabble, word nerd

Four: A book…about writing!

I personally recommend Stephen King’s On Writing awhile back because it’s totally inspiring. It’s the kind of book that makes a writer kick back into gear, or offers a novice tips on getting started. Intertwined with King’s memoirs, this book will be a hit with any writer (if they haven’t already read it yet, that is. Get a gift receipt – we love those, too, because then we can go back and choose any book we haven’t read).

Five: A gift card to a local bookstore.

This is ALWAYS on my list. The only problem with it is there are so many choices! But I do love the flexibility of buying something off my long list. Never a bad idea.

Six: Writing-related jewelry.

I can’t wait to finish this post so I can resume drooling over this Pinterest board FULL of jewelry ideas for writers. Holy smokes.

anne of green gables tea, etsy, let me out creative, writers gifts

Seven: A gift card to a healthy, gourmet frozen food joint.

Writing can be very engrossing. It can take us away from activities like sleeping, eating and wearing appropriate clothing. Don’t let the writer in your life wither away – get them a gift card to a place like batch. They can order meals ahead of time to store in their freezer and then when they realize it’s dinner time, they will thank you while their meal warms up!

Eight: Inspiration…via dice!

Here’s a little something I found while snooping around on Etsy. (Writers call that research). For those moments when writer’s block creates a vast void (and a blank page), all your writer friend has to do is roll the dice and have a story prompted right out of them.

inspiration, dice, inspiration dice, etsy, writers gifts, let me out creative

Nine: Tea.

Or coffee, I suppose. But, say, if you were buying for THIS writer, you’d buy tea. Like DAVIDsTEA or Tea India. It just pairs well with all things literary: reading, writing, wearing shirts with words on them.

Ten: Tickets to a play.

Just like we like reading other people’s words, we also like seeing them played out on stage. So drag your writer friend out from behind their computer screen or away from their notebook and treat them to a night on the town.

There you have it! My personal wish list  holiday guide for your favourite writer makes your shopping easy and your writer friend’s eyes light right up!

Happy shopping – and don’t forget to grab a little something for yourself.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative