“I see you!”

What are you seeing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think you see in this wintry window?

The other night I watched David Feherty interview former President Bill Clinton on the Golf Channel. They obviously talked a bit about golf, but Feherty’s interviews are so interesting because he covers a broader spectrum of topics with his guests.

One topic they covered was the work funded by the Clinton Foundation, which is working to bring humanitarian aid and economical education/training to areas such as Haiti and parts of Africa.

Mr. Clinton noted that while in Africa his hosts took him up into the mountains, and the roads along the way were dangerously narrow and treacherous at times.

When another traveler approached them his hosts would call out to them, sawabona, which means, I see you.

Instead of the customary greetings we here in America use, such as hello or hi–it was simply I see you.

The response came back, ngikhona, which means, “I am here.” It is more involved than that, however. It tells the other person that you feel you have been seen and understood and that your personal dignity has been recognized.

That’s a rather neat trick, don’t you think?

I had to read more about this, of course. The members of these African tribes go about their day with this personal validation from all they encounter. Everybody is being seen by everyone they meet.

That must feel good.

Back to the interview. Mr. Clinton said he wondered how often during the course of our day, our lives, do we fail to see others because we either don’t want to, i.e., the panhandlers on the sidewalks, the homeless sleeping on park benches, or someone we don’t want in our social group because of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc, or because we are so wrapped up in our immediate lives, we can’t be bothered to look another human in the eye and acknowledge them in one tiny moment.

It is a point well taken, and not a comfortable one to pose to ourselves.

I’ve come to realize that journaling is like that. It is seeing yourself on the page. And it doesn’t necessarily go to rampant neediness, although we all have a level of that, but I believe it points us to greater aspirations and deeper self-realization.

Before I finally decided to vacate the standard business world and turn to writing, I felt like I’d become invisible; not only out there among that every day, supposedly normal business world, but definitely to myself. It was not a good feeling. The fact is, I learned that women who approach that 50-something mark, one day find themselves not quite as highly valued in the American workforce. I can’t speak for other countries; no experience. Sorry.

I’m glad to say I finally figured my way out–the hard way. If you aren’t living your days doing the thing that matters most to you, you are going to get soooo lost to yourself.

Sooooo . . . . my online journaling class/exercise I signed on for these 6 weeks turned a wee bit a’challengin’ this week. I confess I am behind on some of the prompts due to other required writing I had to finish for a deadline, but I kept up with what the group was called to attempt.

I realized that journaling is greeting yourself on the page. And I’m not a newbie to this pen and paper act, but after listening to the Clinton interview it dawned on me that frequent journal writing provides a chance for me to say, I see me today.

What the hell–answer yourself back while you’re at it. It’s nobody’s business but yours.

And as one of my journal mates commented: “I feel calmer when I’ve finished.”

That is not a bad way to start—or finish—a day.

I’ll close with this:

If I handed you a sheet of paper and told you to make a list of 100 things you like about yourself, could you do it?

“J” is for Journal; “T” is for Thawing

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“Out of clutter, find simplicity.”

-Albert Einstein

In last week’s blog post I told you about the 6-week long journaling class I’m taking with writer Susannah Conway, and I promised I’d offer up “bits and bobs,” as Susannah puts it, of the experience.

Six years ago, a writing friend introduced me to the trendy idea of choosing a theme word for each New Year, as it related to our writing life/goals.

My log list reads thus:

2008 – persevere

2009 – believe

2010 – continue

2011 – expand

2012 – push

2013 – (no word chosen)

2014 – reassess

That blank in 2013 is probably the reason I signed on to do this life journal class. I can’t tell you why I didn’t choose a word last year, and frankly, it wasn’t until I started writing in my classy new journal for this session that it occurred to me. Life turned bizarrely hectic, messy and sad in 2013. That I didn’t have presence of mind to choose my word is proof.

Susannah provides us with many prompts and suggestions each day from which to work in our journals. Journaling longhand is not a new concept for me, as I have a number of them in process on my shelves. But the idea of working in a cyberspace classroom with 79 other women from around the world in a common vein added the touch of discipline and connectivity I realized went missing last year. That came out in my writing this past week.

It’s startling what your mind and hands lay down on the paper while you look on, and honest journaling will take over like that when you finally cut yourself loose.

Little wonder then that my gut chose the word reassess, because clearly there was a need. (I still can’t believe that I didn’t at least try for a word in January 2013. Ah, well.)

You see the colorful, but messy array in the picture? That’s my creative notebook journal in process. That is the second part of this winter adventure. Others are calling their notebooks their creative dream journals.

I have a pretty good handle on what my dreams are. It’s these blasted U-turns and detours life keeps handing me and mine that need sorting through.

My 3-ring journal will be titled, Life View, and it will contain pictures of family and friends, pets, beautiful party tables, skies (I love sky pictures), food (of course!), ticket stubs, handwritten notes and cards from friends, journal fragments, and various other bits of my writings; even some of my poems. Elizabeth Bishop I am not, but, hey—this is my journal after all.

I’m not real artsy-fartsy when it comes to the paper crafts/ scrapbooking concept, and I was not even going to try this 3-D part of the course, because after all—I am a writer. I was planning to dive back in with one ink pen in hand, and two more in my back pocket and give it everything I had. But Providence evidently thought it would be good for me.

Allow me to report to you: I think Providence was right, and I think I’m in love.

The play time with my 3-ring binder and all those doodads, stickers, fancy scissors, multicolored card stocks, and the drawing up of page layouts all while looking at pictures of my family, my friends, all those fun times we’ve had already . . . I mean, come on! It’s positively engrossing. Not to mention, cheering.

Observing where you’ve come from goes a long ways in helping you reassess where you go from here.

And then there was this revelation: the other night, as I wrote and played, it occurred to me that my head, heart and soul were thawing out.

Whether we freeze up to protect ourselves from the hard times, or to make ourselves be strong role models for the sake of those around us could be a topic for debate.

All that I can tell you today is that it feels good to have the ice breaking away, and I owe this to a new journal, a group of honest, like-minded women on the other side of the pond, and a whole lot of brightly colored clutter scattered all over my dining room table.

I know there are people who think they don’t need to do any of this self-examining journaling crappola, but people, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

You may never be the same.

Einstein nailed it. Out of my clutter, I am finding simplicity, and from there I will be able to reassess.

Talk to you next week–

Random Acts of Musing.

I never like to be without paper.

The small blue book in the upper right of this picture is a little notebook I carry in my purse. I use it to jot down random things that present themselves to me. (And no, I do not try to capture something while I’m hanging on to the steering wheel). A casual sampling of some of my scratchings on the inside read like this:

 Hawaii – Feb. 2006: Mudra: reassurance/dispelling fear

The full recipe for Walnut-Filled Muffins that I copied from a magazine in my doctor’s waiting room

“Tim Bits” (from a donut shop in Flint, Michigan owned by a Tim . . . Yeah, I know–at first I laughed at the inference, too!)

Are musicians freer than writers? Somehow it seems so. Why? Musicians can jam; but how could writers do that? It’s different . . .

Plaid shirt; engineer-look, tucked into pants, a little too neat—a little too tight. Nerd alert—and yet he drinks Fat Tire Beer. Never judge.

The small pale blue Holly Hobby book on top of the stack of journals in the picture belonged to my mother. It was her little Bible. She couldn’t leave home without it because she kept all of her important phone numbers and addresses in it, in addition to other morsels such as:

The full recipe for Broccoli Chowder (that she probably copied while waiting in some doctor’s waiting room)

The mailing address and hotline number for the Los Angeles Rape & Battering Center. (She was going to order free “HELP” windshield signs for my sister and me—just as a safety precaution.)

The word “masectomy”—spelled wrong. (I figure she was probably trying it out for the first time, as she was a breast cancer patient.)

Another recipe for a “green” cleaner: 1 Gal. container: 1 pt rubbing alcohol, 2 cups clear or cloudy ammonia (No lemon), 1 cup w. vinegar, fill with water. (I seem to remember her saying this was supposed to be THE ultimate window cleaner.)

The phone number to her oncologist’s office written in her substantially altered and shaky handwriting as the cancer progressed.

I use Composition notebooks for airport writing; fancier journals for coffee shop writing and girlfriend discussion groups. And still another notebook with Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow picture on the front, exclusively for the summer trips a friend and I take.

I don’t worry about what will happen to them after I enter my dirt nap, as I will have had what I need from them by then.

Do you have any such little writing gems in the making?