Try-This Tuesday: Who Are Your Peeps?

This week’s task is an examination of the people who play important roles in your life.  It doesn’t matter whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, we are social beings and need relationships in our lives.  If you have a pet you know that these relationships need not all be human.  Likewise, if you are Tom Hanks in Cast Away you know that, should you happen to be stranded on a deserted island for 5 years, a volleyball makes a great pal.  Didn’t you get a little choked up at least when Wilson ended up floating away at sea?  You forgot at that point that you were praying that a volleyball would make its way back to Tom.  It didn’t matter by then that this was a piece of sports equipment, Tom had developed a relationship with the volleyball:  an emotional connection.

I’m turning to this topic today because of the importance of support networks in our lives.  I alluded to this yesterday – how I have been able to ride my bumps fairly gracefully over the past several months because of the people I can count on.

How about you?  Let’s examine the humans in your life (you are free to look at other animate relationships, too, but let’s just keep it at that for this task).  Let’s get a really great visual of who exists in your world and then identify key people as your support network.

I told you before that I like simple charts with rows and columns.  You can experiment with your visual representation so that it best suits you.  Don’t forget to add colour where you want (you can use a coloured pencil, highlighters etc) or stick to black and white if that makes your chart more read-able to you.

This task might be overwhelming to those of you who exchange BlackBerry pins with people you meet at the grocery store.  So, let’s set a maximum number of 10 people you will focus on.

My chart would have the following columns:  Name of Person, Type of Relationship (i.e. parent, friend, spouse, colleague), Length of Relationship, What I Receive, What I Contribute, Key Support Network.

Let’s look at these column titles for a minute.  The first three are fairly obvious.  Under What I Receive and What I Contribute, I would make bullets of short phrases that belong in these categories.  These relationship gifts (what you receive and what you contribute) don’t have to be deep and profound – maybe what you receive is a great night out once in awhile and maybe what you contribute is a referral source for potential business.  Don’t judge (yours or anyone else’s)!  Like I said, they’re all gifts, and appear in our life for a reason.

Sometimes what we receive from someone might be a headache or annoyance factor because we are that person’s sounding board for all of their petty complaints.  Is that a gift?  I’d say “yes” – this person may be in your life so that you are reminded of using your time wisely and setting limits!

So, what do I mean by Key Support Network?  A key support person to me is someone I can trust with my vulnerabilities and someone who I know will celebrate my accomplishments (big or small).  I don’t expect a whole heck of a lot from these people because I know that they have their own lives and demands.  I don’t expect that I am their top priority or that they drop everything to fulfill my needs.  I think I am fairly reasonable in what I expect from a supportive person in my life and strive to provide the same. 

Here’s something important:  My connection with my INNER SUPPORT SYSTEM allows me to be less dependent on and more forgiving of the human relationships in my life.  The phrase “You are your own best friend” is not just a cliché to me.

Someone who gets a “no” in this column is not by any means insignificant to me.  In my life, it doesn’t make sense to have 10 people under key support network.  I would hope that the people who are on my chart are supportive of me in some ways but the word “key” is…well, key.  So, don’t feel bad if you write a no beside your sister.  If she doesn’t fit your definition of key support person, that’s OK.

The purpose of this exercise is to make you aware of the gifts you receive and contribute in your relationships and to identify people who you should be able to count on for whatever you consider to be support.

After taking the time to do this (and it’s fantastic if you were able to prioritize this!), pull out your journal or task binder and write to these prompts:

  • What were your impressions of this exercise?  Was it useful?  Too complicated?
  • How easy was it to fill in your chart?  Which columns were trickier to fill than others?
  • What is your definition of a key support person?
  • Think of the people who you think you provide a lot of support to – write about the type of friend you are.  Is this honoured by the recipient?
  • Do you recognize and acknowledge your key support network?  How do you show you value their friendship?

Got Some Good Advice From My Self Today

I woke up to a gray, rainy Monday morning after a gorgeous spell of hot, dry weather.  Maybe some Vancouverites out there are groaning and griping about this on their facebook statuses but not me.  (Thank God somebody’s going to water those poor potted flowers of mine!)  This weather is perfectly suited for my mood today:  pensive, reflective and subdued.  After a quiet breakfast with my daughter, I suggested we sit on the couch and write in our journals while my youngest was still sleeping.  My daughter loved this idea – she has her own “office box”, an emptied diapers box that contains paper, notebooks, crayons, pens and stickers.  She grabbed a notebook and pen from her office box and joined me on the couch.  We spent about 15 minutes side by side like that, in the dimly lit living room.  The window in the kitchen was open; the sound of the rain added to the cozy scene.

I am checking in with my Self regularly because, like the shift in the weather, I am experiencing numerous changes.  In fact, “change” is such a prominent theme for me right now that I have dubbed this season “The Summer of the Butterfly.”  At the beginning of the summer, I had no idea how quickly and intensely these changes would occur.  I have welcomed them, succumbed to them in a way, but that’s not to say it has all been a breeze.  Some of the changes have been physical and include things like purging the contents of my studio.  My friend and I will begin redecorating and reorganizing it this week.  I have also talked about making changes to my work-week to allow for my new priority – my physical body.  Creatively, this blog has added a powerful and spectacular dimension to my life.  Emotionally, I am more connected now than ever with my friends and relatives.  These are all fabulous changes but do you ever notice that with any shift in our state there is that settling stage?  It’s that settling stage that can actually be a little unsettling –as in, I’m not sure how this change is going to affect my life or those around me.  I have to wait it out and see.  Ah, giving up control is not easy for a lot of people – are you feeling this? 

Thankfully, I have had the support to take any bumps in stride; my husband holds my hand through it all and assures me it will be ok.  If it’s a particularly emotional shift, he’ll remind me to protect my heart.  He knows this particular organ/chakra of mine has a tendency to jump away from the rest of me.  I also have deep friendships – women I have been friends with since childhood who are very much in tune with what I am going through right now who I can call and tell all or nothing to.  They’re just always there.

I have also found that the more trust I place in this process, the easier it is for me to navigate the ride.  When I check in with my Self via journalling, I am reminded that turning inward for support is extremely satisfying.  This morning I didn’t know where I’d begin when I sat down with my journal.  Should I talk about my weekend away?  Some emotional moments I had over the past few days?  I started off by doing what I do when I really want to talk about something important; I beat around the bush.  I talked about a couple other minor thoughts that somehow managed to find space in that packed house of a brain I had today.

And then, the words came.  These next 5 sentences are a direct quote from my journal.  They are not sentences I pre-meditated.  I wrote them without regard to grammar or word choice.  I heard them and I wrote them and they make sense to me.

“Things don’t always have to be so deep.  Have a little fun.  It’s not all a test.  It’s for fun, too.  It’s for dress up and shine and dance and laugh and hug.”

I LOVE that last sentence.  It’s totally not something I would write anywhere else but my journal.  Someone else might think, “How old is the person who wrote that?  Five?”  Maybe.  Maybe it was my 5 year old Self reminding my 33 year old Self that it’s ok to not have serious and deep conversations with every single person I encounter.  I know the reasons why those words came to me and that’s what matters.

Do you have experiences like this too when you journal?  I am very interested in hearing people’s experiences with journalling; as you know, I enjoy this topic immensely!

Here are some writing prompts for you today:

  • How can you/do you entertain the kids while getting in a few minutes of journalling?  Does your child have something like an office box to occupy them creatively?  (Incidentally, what a great way to model the importance of self-reflection for your little ones!)
  • What does your support system look like?  Who’s a pillar?  Who’s a wrecking ball?  How much importance do you place on outer systems of support?  Do you check in with your inner system of support enough?

If you are unsure about how to begin journalling, or how to deepen your connection with your Self through this tool, please feel free to contact me with your questions.  It would be great to learn from each other and I’d appreciate your part in this process!

Try-This Tuesday: Play With A Kid (Yours Or Someone Else’s) And Enjoy It!

This week I’m inviting you to play with your children.  If you don’t have a child, borrow one; his/her parent will probably make you dinner.  If you have more than one child, choose your favourite and complete this task.  (I’m kidding!  What I meant was choose the one who is least likely to drive you crazy).  You CAN complete this task with more than one child at a time but I’ll leave that up to you.

Is there an activity that your child loves to do that you aren’t a huge fan of?  Maybe there’s a mess-factor involved (glitter-glue, paint, mud) or maybe a set-up factor you dread (covering up all your nice furniture with sheets or moving the patio chairs out of the way).  Whatever it is that you tend to say “No!” to, do it this week.

My daughter loves to paint.  Like LOVES to paint.  I’m not too concerned about the mess factor with her because she is very responsible with materials and takes her painting very seriously.  It’s her “work,” as she calls it.  But I do get annoyed when I have to stop what I’m doing to set it all up (which really takes 2 minutes) and it also takes a lot of restraint on my part to NOT tell her how to do her work.  I am much better at this now, but I used to feel that as her mother I should teach her how to paint the way I taught her how to scoop up food in her spoon – with demonstration, step-by-step instruction and re-direction when she did it wrong.  Oops!  But it’s the truth.  If you were a fly on the wall in my studio, you would have heard me say things like “You don’t have any paint in this corner, you need to add some colour here.”  Or “Don’t keep painting in the same spot over and over with all the different colours.  Now it’s just a brown puddle!”  (It really was, but maybe she wanted to make a brown puddle?!)

Getting over myself and submitting to her creativity and joy has been a huge burden off my shoulders.  It’s actually one less thing I need to manage!  The best part is that it frees up my energy so that I can paint alongside her! 

I can stop critiquing her work and start creating my own. 

So, what are YOU going to do this week with JOY and LIBERATION that you normally do with dread and frustration?

After you complete this task, take a moment to reflect.  Grab your journal or your task binder and answer the following questions (also found here):

  • Why did you choose this particular activity?
  • What was your favourite part?  Your least favourite part?  Did any of this surprise you?
  • What expressions were seen or heard during the activity?  Think about the look on the child’s face or something he/she said.
  • How about you?  Did you crack a smile?  Laugh out loud?  Glance at the clock often?
  • If you were to do this again next week, would you choose a different activity or stick with the same one?
  • Can you generate a list of activities you think you could really enjoy with a child?

I’d love to hear what kinds of creative adventures you had – we could all use some inspiration!  Post your comments below!

Revelations On A Dance Floor!

To say my mom was the best caregiver in the world is an understatement.  She wasn’t just a “care” giver; she was a love-giver, time-giver, prayer-giver, gift-giver, and SELF-giver.  When she was diagnosed with a terminal auto-immune disease at the age of 53, she continued to give what she could.  Her final and most valuable gifts to me were the following:

1)      A deep understanding of the relationship between our thoughts and our body:  Auto-immune diseases are literally our bodies attacking themselves in reaction to subconscious messages/thought processes.  When we give, give, give and don’t honour our physical body and our Self, our body seems to get the message that we are not deserving of good things and treats itself accordingly.

2)      The ability to look at a woman, ANY woman, and see her beauty:  I’m not just accepting of the way a woman dresses, her body shape, her physical appearance…I am UNaccepting of people who put a woman down because of these things.  I looked at my mother lying in the hospital bed a few days before she passed and I saw the most beautiful woman in the world.  I thank God I had the words to tell her so at that time and that she was able to respond, “So are you.  All 3 of us, we’re the same.”   (She was including my daughter in this unforgettable statement.)

3)      My passion for helping others follow their passions was turned on and it has been refined in the years since her passing, as I realize more and more how life-altering and even life-saving a passionate existence can be.   If I can help other women, and men, find joy by connecting with their Self then I can share my mom’s final gift with others.

Last night at a party, my 4 year old daughter, as always, was the first one on the dance floor!  As I watched her shake her little bottom and throw her hands up in the air, I had mental images of what my mom must have looked like as a little girl, dancing her little heart out.  Dancing was a life-long love of hers but such a small part of her life as time went on.  In fact, I don’t think I understood the full depth of this love until recent years.  You know what they say about hind-sight.

It’s hard not to think, “I wish I had this understanding when it might have made a difference in her life.”  But these thoughts are not going to get me very far and it’s the same as returning a gift to the sender.  It’s a slow process but I am coming to accept that the Plan was perfectly executed in the way it was meant; every action I take now with my final gifts from Mom is making her dance a little more in Heaven.  That’s a sweet picture!

So, what about YOUR mom?  Whether she is around or not, do you know what her passions are?  What gave her joy and fulfillment in her very soul?  Does she/did she pursue these interests openly and often?  Did she have dreams that she kept aside for “the future”?  What are your thoughts on the way she expressed her Self?  How has this shaped you as a person?  As a parent?  Record these thoughts in your journal or task binder.  Sometimes this type of material will spark a revelation about why you are or are not taking steps toward your creative goals.

If you’re lucky enough to still be able to take your mom out for coffee and chat about these things…do it!  If you think this is not up her alley, you may surprise yourself.  Better yet, you may get her thinking about this important topic and start something really great for the both of you.  You can find these questions on the Writing Prompts page as well.

I’d love to hear your comments – other readers will benefit from them, too!  And thank you to all of you who send me private messages.  They fuel my work and I accept them as gifts!

A One-Way Ticket Out Of Blah-dom

When my first child, my daughter, was just under the age of 2, it became evident to me that I needed to do something outside of taking care of her and working as a speech therapist.  I needed to break away from the mundane, to really enjoy something that made me feel like I was separate from the roles I was currently living.  Because I am.  My whole life I’ve been a writer and a lit lover.  At birthday parties, when everyone else was excited about the candy they found in their loot bags, I was clutching the little notebook and pencil that were thrown in there.  I wrote my way through university and started attending poetry readings just for fun.  And that’s what I considered writing to be:  fun, not work.  Therefore, writing was not a viable career option.

As I told you before, speech therapy is not my passion.  It is a line of work in which I feel comfortable practicing; I have been in the field in some capacity for about 12 years.   I do have enjoyable moments – my favourite part is the people I meet and work with.  But that’s not enough to fuel ME.  I would not happily and voluntarily get out of bed at 6:30am to work with a client…but I do jump out of bed at dawn to write – and I am excited to do it!  I also have a set number of clients that I feel I can work with while still being true to ME…but with writing, I feel like there is no ceiling on how much I could handle.

So, just before my daughter’s second birthday, I googled “poetry readings in Vancouver” and stumbled upon a wonderful organization called Pandora’s Collective.  I couldn’t believe that such an accessible, creative group existed; for anyone in the community and FREE of charge, the volunteers at Pandora’s Collective offer fun and stimulating programs for writers of all stages.  I went to my first Pandora’s Collective event, Word Whips, in April 2009 and was hooked.  I decided to go to a writing event once a month and to start sharing my words with other members of the writing community.

A couple months later, I was blessed to learn I was pregnant with my second child, my son!  While the children I bear are the most treasured beings in my world, I am not a happy pregnant woman!  My second pregnancy was even tougher and it just wasn’t feasible for me to attend anything “extra”.  Getting through the day was what I was aiming for!

A few weeks after my son was born, I started thinking about how I could get involved in the writing community.  I was looking for a way to prevent any downward spirals to what I call blah-dom.  The Universe seems to like sending me messages via email; when my son was about 6 weeks old, I received an email from Pandora’s Collective (I had signed up to be on their mailing list) asking if I had time to volunteer with this dynamic group of artists.  YES!  I had time, or at least, I knew I had to make time!  So, when my son was 7 weeks old, I took him to my first volunteer meeting and now here I am:  I actually host a Word Whips chapter near my home and I fundraise year-round…another passion of mine I had never pursued.

For me, a great way to remember who I am is to be with other people who remind me of that, other people who are like-minded and like-spirited.

Think about the passions you know YOU have.  Do you spend time with other people who have the same passions?  If you like reading, are you part of a book club?  Are you a knitter who meets with other knitters?  Do you get together with friends who enjoy cooking to put together a lavish meal and then share laughs while enjoying it?  There are formal and informal ways to engage in activities of your passion.  Are you doing any of them?  Are you happy with your creative outlets?  If you are not doing anything you consider fun for YOU, why not?  What’s blocking you?

Pull out your journal or task binder and explore these questions.  They will be logged with the other prompts for your reference.  Your comments and feedback are always welcome!

Try-This Tuesday: Stand At That Door!

One of the tools I have used on my own personal journey out of the depths of blah-hood is to ask, ask, ask for what I want and trust that what I need will show its face when the time is right.  Sometimes I am looking for support, sometimes I am searching for wisdom.  Often I don’t know exactly what form the response will take but I trust I will recognize it.

I picture myself standing at an open door and casting my questions into an abyss.  It’s a liberating image; I am essentially offloading my worries and uncertainties into a wide open space – and just like a bungee jumper trusts that her rope will hold, I count on a Greater Power to do its part.  It’s not always easy to trust in something you can’t see, but really, what do I have to lose?

As I mentioned previously, I don’t think I have super powers or that I am the only person with this kind of reciprocal relationship with something Greater.  I think the difference between someone who receives answers/information/guidance/support and someone who claims they don’t is the ability to recognize these gifts when they are granted.

Here’s a beautifully simple quote from author Stella Terrill Mann “Desire, ask, believe, receive.”  Essentially these are the steps I have outlined above.  They are powerful verbs – but how do we translate these into actions we can take in our daily lives?

Enter today’s task!  I had a fun time planning out this week’s activity!  Usually when I throw my questions out into the abyss, I scribble them into my journal and then launch into a free-writing session.  Or I ask the questions mentally when I find myself having a quiet moment, like when I’m breastfeeding my son.  The answers sometimes float toward me from that abyss via the words I am writing in my journal or as thoughts.  But there are other ways to incorporate this question-answer activity in our daily lives that might be a little more fun.

Grab a container of some kind: again, as in the journal, don’t get so hung up over the container that you end up stalling this activity!  Your container is going to hold little scraps of paper so even an envelope will do.  Take 10-15 minutes today and write down 2 questions or worries (anything you want to offload from your system) on separate scraps of paper.  Here’s an example of a thought that plagues me:  Where can I find more patience for my daughter who I love so deeply (or why don’t I seem to have any in the first place)?

If you’re wondering where you’re going to find the time, here’s a quick idea:  whatever it is that you do before you go to bed, stop doing it 10 minutes sooner.  Use those 10 minutes to write on your scraps of paper.  Stick them in your container and then look at your daytimer for the coming week.  Choose 3 days, and specific times on those days (i.e. first thing in the morning, morning coffee break, while the kids are at their after-school lessons, just before bed etc).  On 2 of those days you will do this next step:

Select one piece of paper from your container, read it and then:

A)     Sit quietly and run your mind over the words of your question or worry.  What thoughts are stemming from this contemplation?  DON’T DISMISS THEM NO MATTER HOW STRANGE OR UNRELATED THEY MAY SEEM!  After a few minutes of just listening, jot down some of these key thoughts in your journal or task binder.


B)      Pull out your journal or task binder and immediately start writing down the thoughts that come to your mind when you ask yourself the question or read the worry to yourself.  Your thoughts may not seem profound and you may not hear a booming voice giving you clear directions, but please, just write!  Try to focus on the question but don’t be concerned about your grammar, sentence structure or word choice.  Keep that hand moving!

On your third scheduled day, read over your questions and your “responses”.  See anything valuable in there?  Anything curious?  Does something trigger a reaction of some kind?  Would you try this again?  Which part of the process (desire, ask, believe, receive) do you find easiest?  Most difficult?  Explore these reactions in your journal or task binder.  Keep your mind open and your eyes peeled over the next little while to see if you get more responses to these questions in other forms.  I’ll log these prompts with the others for your reference.

I would encourage you to keep adding to your container over the next few weeks (and indefinitely if you find this helpful) and to practice this activity at least weekly to give it a good try.  It’s a great way to strengthen an already existing relationship; it forces you to become conscious of the process.

If you have any questions or feedback, you can leave a comment here or send me a private note!

Try-This Tuesday: Take Notice Of The Extraordinary In The Every-Day

The majority of us would like to release our creativity and free our Selves from the structure of our daily routines.  Time is a big issue for most of us and this was addressed last week in Time To Make A Change and Try-This Tuesday:  Gaining Control Of Your Time.

I can think of other blocks that I put up for myself.  (Note:  a block is only a block if you make it a block and in general, blocks can be removed as much as they can be put up!)  Maybe you can relate?  One such “block” is that my life is fairly routine and the activities I’m involved in don’t include jet-setting, extreme sports, serving in ashrams or hanging out in different parts of town, meeting strange and wonderful people.  It’s hard to imagine that I could find inspiration to feed my creative Self when I am toting the kids to their extracurricular activities or play dates, cooking dinner, feeding them etc. 

But I can if I want to.  If I can just get outside of my own head long enough to notice a moment – a verbal or facial expression, a determined beetle crawling in and out of the sidewalk’s crevices, the sunlight filtering in through the trees in my backyard – I can twist any of these experiences into:

  • A character sketch for a great piece of fiction
  • A storyline for a children’s book
  • A poem
  • A journal entry
  • The first sentence of a free-writing session
  • A writing prompt for my monthly writing group
  • A sketch
  • A painting or colouring activity with my daughter
  • A song to make up for my son (who really doesn’t care what I’m singing or how I sound as long as I’m smiling at him)

How’s that for a list of ideas for creative exploration?

Sometimes it takes an extra step to get out of our heads or to shake things up a little so that we are able to notice these little moments that can bring forth masterpieces.  And yes, I think a silly little ditty about a beetle looking for a playmate can be a masterpiece!  People make their livings writing and singing about such things!

So, what can YOU do to consciously notice the extraordinary in the every-day?  TAKE A PICTURE!!   With the luxury we have of digital cameras, teeny-tiny picture snappers that can fit in coat pockets and purses, we can’t think of many excuses to not carry one around.  Not to mention the fact that most phones now come with a camera.  Take one day this week and decide to take your camera around everywhere you go.  Give yourself a quota of how many pictures you’d like to take.  Make 3 your minimum.  Snap pics at the grocery store, on your walk, in your living room, anywhere you go.  Do it consciously and think about what you are capturing as you do it.  Is it the raindrops on the spiderweb or the spider itself?  Is it the spaghetti sauce on your son’s face or the mischief in his eye?  What is the remarkable component that speaks to you?  In other words, why did you take the picture? 

At the end of the day, view the photos you’ve taken (on the camera or on the computer) and see if you can use that picture to inspire any of the ideas I generated above.  Not sure where to start?  Pull out your journal or your task binder and ask yourself:

  • What caught my eye about this moment?
  • What is the theme embedded in this picture? (Remember we talked about themes previously.)
  • How did it feel to be consciously aware of my surroundings?
  • Do I see myself doing this again at some point?

These questions will be logged with the other prompts.  Need help or have a question?  I’m listening!

Introducing: The Old Man Who Lives In My Head

Everyone’s got one; some of us know ours well, others of us are just getting acquainted.  I’m referring to what Julia Cameron calls the Censor in her book, The Artist’s Way.  She describes it perfectly as “our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic” (p. 11).

Censors have voices and they say awful things.  Their sole purpose is to take us down!  They make us feel inadequate and discourage us from continuing on, even in the face of success.  They invade our thoughts during our creative process – when I’m trying to think of a great way to write something, my Censor will tell me that someone else has already said it, and has said it better.  How rude!  It’s a horrible thing to hear when I’m sitting at the computer, full of hope that my words will reach people.  I can’t tell you how many times I hear mine telling me I am too old to start a new career, or that I’ve lost my chance to get to the level of fitness I’d like.  It’d be nice if I could evict my Censor from that logical left brain of mine where he’s made himself comfortable over the years.

I’ve discovered that getting to know him a bit – why he is the way he is, understanding that what he’s saying is NOT coming from a place of Truth – has helped me stick my tongue out at him when he shows his face.

My Censor looks like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.  He’s 100 years old, gnarled and warty with a look of evil glee every time he spouts a new put-down at me.  Since getting to know him, I’ve learned he is lonely, unloved and bitter about his own existence.  His derogatory comments don’t really have anything to do with ME so what he’s saying is not true.  I just happen to be the lucky recipient of his anguish.  This makes him way less intimidating, doesn’t it?  It doesn’t make it easier to hear the things he has to say, especially if it’s feeding my own fear, but it does make it more possible to ignore his comments.

I would encourage you to notice your own Censor and see him/her/it for what it is.  What does it look like?  What kinds of negative things does it tell you?  What is your reaction when you hear them?  It’s worth exploring your Censor in your journal or in your task binder – whatever you’ve created to help you in your journey.  Sketch a profile of your Censor if you wish.  Some people like to keep their Censor visible where they work creatively…marked with a big, fat, red X, of course, to remind themselves that their Censor is actually someone to be censored!  I’ll log these prompts with the others.  Any questions or comments?  I’d love to hear them!

The Best Love Letter I Ever Wrote

When my friend came to me with questions about journalling, I was thrilled to have a chance to talk about something I am so passionate about.  For me, writing in my journal is the beginning and the end.  I started keeping a journal in 1988 at the age of 10 and continued writing through high school and much of university.  I didn’t feel my day was complete or that I was grounded until I pulled out my journal and a medium point pen.  I carried my journal with me so that between university classes when I had 2 or 4 hours to kill, I’d have a chance to connect with my thoughts.

High school was a trying period for me.  A lot of people go through some kind of angst during these hormonal, often lonely years; I definitely would not go back for anything.  But what kept me from feeling completely alone was my writing, because every time I opened up my journal I was saying hello to a non-judgemental, loving friend – someone who accepted me for who I was.

Just as in university when I felt pulled to sit down and make a list, in high school I had the same urge to sit down (literally, in the hallway) and write myself a letter.  I pictured myself as a 5 year old child and wrote loving, comforting, gentle words – kind of a verbal hug – to this sad, lonely little girl.  I praised myself for things of which I felt I was deserving, I told myself it was OK to feel the way I did and I reminded myself that I would one day have more control in my life to be who I am inside.  After writing that letter, I felt a peace blanket me and it helped me carry on with my day.  Actually, remembering that moment makes me extremely thankful that I had somehow innately known of this tool and that is why I am so passionate about spreading the word, so to speak, about the therapeutic effects of writing.   Now I can see clearly why, when I unconsciously turned my back on writing, I really felt the loss.

If you journal, what does this type of connective writing mean to you?  Who are you talking to when you write this way?  Have you ever written a letter to yourself as a child?  If not, would you consider it?

If you haven’t started journalling yet, what reservations do you have about it, if any?

I’m happy to hear your comments here or via the contact page.  I’m just as happy if this prompts you to start thinking about connecting with your Self through the written word!

Try-This Tuesday: Gaining Control Of Your Time

Since the launch of this blog, and even prior to that when I began coaching a friend in journal writing, I have heard expressions like “I hope I can find time to do these tasks”, “I wish I had the time to make a list”, and “I’ll have to see if I can schedule it in.”  Well, here’s a fact:  if you want to do something, you can.  If you want to find the time, you can.  I’m not saying it’s easy or that it’s not work.  I’m just saying it’s do-able.  The first step is having the courage to say you are willing to do it, along with the work that it entails.

I work full-time, mostly from home.  My work week is Monday – Sunday (because really, what parent has a day “off”?) and it consists of the following:

  • Being a mother to a 4 year old girl and a 1.5 year old boy – this includes everything from daily living care to appointments to activities to providing entertainment and learning opportunities etc.
  • Being a speech therapist to a small caseload of clients who I see from my home office.
  • Being a writer – I have 3 blog-babies as I call them (The Artist’s Loft, The Finer Things in Life and of course, Let ME Out!!), I recently snagged my first freelance writing gig, I practice my craft through exercises and by entering contests and I check in with my Self regularly through my journal.
  • Being a volunteer event host and fundraiser for Pandora’s Collective – I host a monthly writing series, write grant applications and fundraise for our annual festival.

I also really value my family and friends and spend a good deal of my time maintaining these relationships.

Your week is equally demanding and you wear just as many, if not more, hats.  No matter what we do professionally and recreationally, finding time to sit down with our Self and check in or engage in personal development activities can be challenging!

Before we can go further then, we need to analyze where our time is going!  You have 1440 minutes in a day – how are you spending them?  Things change day to day and week to week, but on average, what does your typical weekday look like?  And your typical weekend day?

THIS WEEK’S TASK encourages you to sit down and chart an average weekday and an average weekend day – accounting for all 24 hours (so, yes, make a note of when you sleep!).  Add some more looseleaf paper to the binder you started last week with your list, or grab the notebook you are keeping all of your tasks in, and chart in whichever way is most comfortable.  Me, I prefer a good old-fashioned chart of two columns 1) time and 2) activity.  Other people may like plotting their days on a pie chart, a graph or incorporating their words within a doodle.  Use colour if you like!

Once you have the data in front of you, see where you can take small chunks of time out here and there.


OK, I can hear you asking me where you are supposed to find the time to do this activity!  Here are some suggestions I put together based on my own life.  If you have other suggestions or would like to share your personal tips on how you find some ME time, please share them here as a comment or contact me.  Thanks!

Here they are:

  1.  I wake up even 15 minutes earlier than I normally do – if I take 5 minutes to use the bathroom and drink a glass of water, I have 10 minutes to write!  This doesn’t throw my day off significantly and I’ve just started the day off doing something that’s just for ME!  However, as noted yesterday, I have children who are very light sleepers so sometimes this backfires on me and my day ends up starting earlier only so that I can take care of my two munchkins for an extra 15 minutes that day…so, really, I’m not counting on my mornings every time.
  2. When the kids have gone to bed at night, most nights, my husband and I have about 2 hours together before we’re ready for bed.  Of those 2 hours, half an hour to 45 minutes goes into cleaning/housekeeping/paying bills etc and the rest of the time we watch TV or talk.  I can take 15 minutes at least out of this time (especially the TV time) to write.
  3. The high school babysitter – what a great invention!  Cheap but quality childcare!  I have a high school girl (highly recommended to me by a trusted friend/mom) who comes over for 4 hours a week and plays with the kids.  She even feeds and waters them while I get time to work without a child hanging on to me.  Our babysitter has energy, creativity and a wonderful way with both kids.  They are happy and so am I.  The key for me is to make my writing a priority.  Writing is my passion but it is also my work.  I enjoy it so much that I used to feel guilty for “indulging” in it.  I used to feel bad that someone else is watching my kids while I have fun!  It is way too easy to justify getting everything else done (laundry, dishes, cooking) but I know that if I do that, at the end of the day I am annoyed that I didn’t give myself a chance to write.  NOBODY IN MY HOUSE WANTS ME TO BE ANNOYED!  So in order to not spend my babysitter time cooking, I make Wednesdays “easy-meal” night or I make enough dinner on Tuesdays so that we have leftovers the next day.
  4. Grandparent day!  Tuesdays are a piece of heaven for me when my dad comes over shortly after breakfast and stays through dinner.  In fact, Tuesdays are a weekday highlight for everyone involved, including my husband.  Yes, he is at work while my dad is watching the kids but he comes home to a happy wife which makes his workday just a little less stressful, too!  While my dad is here, I see a speech therapy client or two and do some of my non-profit work.  Tuesdays are also my prime writing day (Try-This Tuesday was strategically selected!)
  5. I send my husband out to play!  Specifically, to play soccer.  This happens 1-2 times a week, usually after dinner.  I love him to bits and value our time together which is why when he’s around I don’t always feel like spending hours in my studio.  BUT if he is out, and the kids are asleep…well, that’s a no-brainer!  I’m heading STRAIGHT for my studio!

So, looking at your data, can you skip a particular TV show to take a knitting class?  Can you limit your time playing video games so that you have an extra half hour at the end of the day to read a novel?  Maybe press snooze one less time and use those beautiful 9 minutes to sit in silence at the beginning of your day?

HAVE FUN WITH THIS!  This is not just a homework assignment – this is your time to be creative, learn about your Self and do something you don’t typically do!  And if you take the time to do it, you may benefit by finding more time during your typical week just for YOU!