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Change

Change

ChangesChanges

Change

What is change?  Why do so many of us fear it? 

In psychology, change is viewed as a positive aspect of a crisis as it provides the opportunity to do things differently.  Yet, people fear change.  Change of jobs, neighborhoods or schools.  As life occurs, we inevitably experience change.  There is the natural process of change, infant to toddler, school age child to adolescent and young adult to older adult.  There are the biological changes and environmental changes.   Some changes are self-generated and under our own control.  Some changes can be dependent on encounters with others – family, friends, colleagues and intimates.  Many changes occur as a result of circumstances or fate, the proverbial “date with destiny.”

Change is inevitable and it can disrupt the usual flow of our lives, but it also provides the opportunity to examine our lives and decide whether to stay the course or to change our direction.  We can meet the change with acceptance and gratitude or with bitterness and resistance.  If we deny ourselves the opportunity to explore the change, to understand it and to decide how it will be perceived and processed in our file of life, we can be deprived of the invaluable gift in powerful lessons. In the Psychology Today journal, Dr. Abigail Brenner wrote, “Change without transition may only serve to recreate old scenarios and reinforce old patterns of behavior – for change to have a salutary effect on us we need to learn – to effectively work with it and not to run the other way when it presents itself.”

When my son was 4-years old he began to cry when he found out that I traded our propane tank for another one.  I wasn’t able to find a replacement for our current tank, so I resorted to trading in my empty canister for a full one at my local grocery.  My son noticed the subtle differences between the one we had and this new “borrowed” one.  Through his tears he voiced that he did not get a chance to say good-bye to it and that he would miss it.  Change.  We continually move toward it, looking to better ourselves, to improve our lifestyle, but yet, when change stares us in the eyes, we shutter at the prospects of what it will be, what this stranger offers, and if it can be trusted.

For many of us, even the idea of change is often overwhelming and anxiety-provoking. For some, change is something to be avoided at all cost.  It is important to recognize those transformative moments and find the valuable lessons in your change moments.

Writing Prompts:

  • Write a list of changes in your life.
  • Identify which changes were self-generated changes.
  • Identify which changes were out of our control.
  • Make a list of all the perceived negatives from this change.
  • Make a list of the valuable insights you gained.
  • Make a list of all the powerful lessons learned.
  • Finally, choose one of the items from your change list and write about it in detail. Maybe you were not able to see the gifts at the time of the change but now you can write through that change memory to identify the gifts now.

Writing example

 I recently had a new stone patio put in my backyard.  There had been extensive water damage that required the removal of the deck.  Once the drainage was addressed and a beautiful new stone patio was complete, I asked by 3-year-old grandson if he liked this new patio.  His response surprised me. “No”.  He informed me that he missed the other one, the wood one with the rotting boards and uneven planks – he missed that one.  The wood deck was all he had knew.  It was that wood deck where we played shaving cream games, tossing hands full of the thick white foam at each other, smearing it into each other’s hair and making designs and faces in the foam.  The wood deck was where we sat on summer mornings and drank some chai tea, clanking our mugs together shouting “salud” as we giggled and took our first gulp.  The wood planks became roadways for his Tonka trucks, that he raced back and forth for hours, crashing them into the side of the house while laughing and declaring a winner of the race.

The deck had several tears from the previous owner.  She had an above ground -pool and the tears were like steps leading to the pool.  I removed that pool my first week living in the house, not wanting to be a slave to the maintenance and winter care.  The tears are now dangerous if you are not watching your step.  But for my grandson, they were mountains that he would jump off of to the lower level.  He was so proud of himself for the great height he concurred and demanded applause from all of us.  Those variations in height became cliffs that his trucks would drive off and an ambulance would rush to the scene and magically fix the trucks and declare that no one was hurt as they were returned to the higher level of the deck once again.  For my grandson, his mountains were removed, the cliffs were gone and possibly, he feared, that memories attached to those rotted wood planks, to the uneven deck that sagged under our feet were also gone.  Change.  He voiced not wanting the change, not being happy about the change.

This was a needed change but certainly not one I openly embraced because of the extensive work and expense to resolve the water damage.  It was a change that came from necessity and safety and at a time it determined when it would be addressed – not me.  I do, however, love the ease of movement now, the freedom of setting up my patio, arranging my furniture any way I desire without level constraints or safety issues. I love the solidness under my feet. The shades of burnt sienna, crimson alizarin, burnt umber and black stones remind me of the rawness of the desert landscape that I once enjoyed.  My grandson has now moved his attention to the hill in the yard and rolls down it and sends his trucks flying down.  Both him and his Pitbull sister, Raven, happily chase them and romp about racing to reach the truck first.  He appears to have discovered another source of fun, reaching beyond the borders of the old wood deck and creating new play scenarios and even making space for his dog to join in.  Change.

Dottie

Road Signs

Road Signs

Road Signs

One evening after work I was out walking my dog, a small terrier – mix named Pumpkin. I suppose that Pumpkin has forced me to take more mindful walks due to her short stature. I now notice things around me that I wouldn’t ordinarily notice because I would be more focused on distance and cardio level.

As Pumpkin and I were strolling, I noticed how many signs fill our neighborhood. Signs with directives, instructions and absolute orders: “no passing on the left”, “one way”, “no parking here to corner”, “bump”, “one way”, “stop”, “do not enter” and even playground instructions or “play smart rules”.  Signs with the name of streets and even signs in people’s yards showing a dog squatted to poop with a circle and a line through it, often with the word “PLEASE” highlighted above the dog image.

I began to think about all the messages that these signs project to the community.  I wondered if we could flash a sign, perhaps on our foreheads, that would provide information to others. Information about our needs, requests, wants and even warnings. How nice that might be.  No need to explain, argue or feel bad for asking questions.  The message merely lights up on our foreheads and others need only obey the directives or simply be informed.

Think about some of the bad dates you might have had.  Don’t you wish that your date bore a sign like; “be prepared to stop”, “exit only”, “hidden driveway” or “keep left”?  How many “I told you so’s” could you have avoided?  I wondered about all the conversations that felt more like monologues by the other person.  Wouldn’t It have been helpful if they had a sign that said something like “one-way street” or “no U turns”?  How extremely helpful that would have been – not to mention, a great time management tool.

How many of us have missed the sign for the “Recharge Vehicle station”?  Instead, we continue to burn energy with work and commitments to friends and family until our engines stall and we find ourselves stuck on the side of a remote street.

Sometimes we might not see the sign before we enter into a situation, but the signs do present themselves and it is important that we do acknowledge them. I have heard many people talk about the “red flags” they were aware of but had ignored at the time.  Perhaps they were preoccupied by the scenery and did not fully grasp the meaning of the sign or they did not trust what they saw.

I began to think about these signs and the ones I would like to have available in certain times of my life or particular times of the day.  When I am sitting at the computer and am pulled out away from my body while writing and then someone knocks on my front door or decides to ask me a question.  I wish I had a sign “road closed”, or “caution” or “no parking.”  When I am playing with my grandson, I need the sign “beware unfenced road for next 150 Km” or the squiggly arrow for a crazy ride!   There are some people that need a “do not enter” sign and others I would like to see have the “share the road” sign”.

Think about the people in your life and what signs you would like or need to light up on your forehead when you are around them.  Or what sign you wish would light up on someone else’s forehead to warn you or welcome you.  Have fun with this and as always keep your pen moving and “no parking.”

Some sign examples: “stop”, “yield”, “R/R”, “dead end”, “no U turns”, “no passing”, “do not enter”, arrows pointing in various directions, “pedestrian crossing”, “parking” and “no parking”, “one way”, “slippery road” or “sharp curves”, “give way”, “wrong way”, “traffic light”, “bike route”, and “trash sign-Pitch in”, “construction ahead”, “caution”, “road under construction”, “speed limits”, “food and gas signs”, signs “warning of falling rock in mountain areas” or “animal crossings”, there are even “social distancing” signs now, and of course signs with “rules at swimming pools, playgrounds and parks”, “avalanche area”, “no vehicles beyond this point”, “pavement ends”, “blind corner proceed with caution”, “cross traffic ahead”, “hard hat area”, “private driveway”, “road may flood”.  Look around as you walk and notice signs and imagine how and when you might use that sign.

Prompt:

  • Find as many signs as you can and write them down.
  • Begin to make a list of people you feel you need a sign for to either welcome them or to keep them distant.
  • Imagine you are able to have these signs light up on your forehead when you encounter these people. What would they state? Who would you need the sign’s for?.
  • Write about what that would look like and how that would feel.
  • Write about the signs you wish someone else had on their forehead and how that would have been helpful.
  • Write a list of situations where you could use a special sign (in social settings, walking your dog, on campus or at work).
  • Write about a sign you wish was on someone else.
  • Create a scene where every character has a sign. Maybe it is a first meeting or a job interview. Imagine how that scene would play out and write your scene.

Example:

When I was in high school, I was invited by a very popular boy to our senior prom.  I was not one of the popular kids. In fact, I was surprised he even knew me.  I was very excited of course but also nervous since I had not dated anyone in high school. I worked at an equine center to earn riding lessons.  I worked every weekend and a few nights a week mucking stalls.  While everyone else was “hanging out,” I was working.

I told my mom that I was invited to the prom and she took me shopping for a dress.  We looked at only a few stores and I was acutely aware of the need to keep in a budget.  I did find a dress that fit well, and I was comfortable in and so my mom put the dress on layaway. She was to pay the balance and pick up the dress 3 days before my prom.  I could see her hesitation on getting the dress, not because she didn’t want me to have it, but I think she knew something was not right.  I wish that her thoughts could have been displayed on her forehead. The ones I saw in her eyes said, “blind corner, proceed with caution”.

Three weeks later and two weeks before the prom, this popular boy stopped me in the hall at school and asked what the color of my dress was so he could order flowers.  I told him blue – not a deep royal blue, but a robin’s egg blue, soft and innocent.  Four days before prom night he called me over to his locker and told me he was not going to take me to the prom, he said he was taking someone else that he really wanted to go with.  I wish that I had seen the sign on his forehead before this, a sign that stated, “U-turn”, “Dead end”, or “bridge out do not enter.”  I stood there leaning against the grey metal locker, #105.  I don’t really remember what I did or didn’t do but the appropriate sign would have been the yellow crime scene tape. Or “detour”, so that I could have remained frozen and everyone could have gone around me, left me there invisible.

I did have to tell my mom, so she did not pay for the dress still on layaway.  I chose to tell her I decided not to go.  I put up a sign that stated, “drive slow saves lives”. She never asked me about why I had decided not to go or to try to fish for the real reason.  But I imagine my mom went to the store to get her money back for the blue prom dress with a sign on her forehead stating, “private road no thru traffic”, or “no idling allowed”.

Birthings

Birthings

Birthing’s are almost always associated with having a child, but they are not always defined by the generative process

There are thousands of ways we “give birth” in our lives, such as birthing an idea, new artwork or plans for something novel in our lives.   I have experienced many different birthing’s of myself over my lifetime.  Some more painful than others.  Some bearing more fruit or a fuller and much healthier result. Other birthing’s were wrought with much loss like divorce and the death of family and friends.  Some were lower on the pain scale like when changing jobs or schools. Many others were very simple, quick and over without a pause between the before and after. Several birthing’s took a lot of planning, editing out some fluff and whittling down the initial expansive idea to a more workable and achievable reality.

We are constantly birthing and re-birthing ourselves throughout our lives as we learn new perspectives, travel and our experiences increase.  In Composing a Life, by Mary Catherine Bateson, she explores the lives of several woman who were very successful in their careers’ but later in life they changed their professional direction.  All of these women gave birth to completely new careers’ requiring them to re-define themselves as women, mothers and partners.

After several years of growing and nurturing the concept of Airmid, the labor ended, and she was birthed.  Airmid is now in the world, conceived of all the dreams, ideas and hopes for her presence in the world.  My partners’ and I held hands as we stood on the precipice of change.  We each left full-time jobs with paid vacation and health plans, to bring forth this labor of love and passion.  As we stood there, silent, hands clasped together, and our eyes speaking a mutual fear and joy, we jumped off the cliff and into a new unknown.

We birthed and rebirthed Airmid daily, nurturing her to her full potential as a mother does her child.  Those daily birthing’s, although, laborious, almost go unnoticed as do many of the smaller birthing’s everyone experiences from day to day. Today I invite you to remember, and in remembering, to honor, all the birthing’s you have had in your life. There are the birthing’s after a loss and the ones meticulously planned for, but none the less they are birthing’s.

 

Writing Prompt #1

  • Make a list of all your birthing’s, in chronological order or in thematic order (i.e. family, work, relationships) or in the order in which they occur to you now.
  • Choose one of the items identified on your list and write about that.
  • Continue to move through your list and write about each of the birthing’s you identified,
  • Write about birthing your dreams, a new business or relationship.
  • Think about times in your life that you may have changed directions professionally, academically, socially or creatively. Often one birthing can lead to many others like where you go to college could lead to where you work and start a family.
  • Write about leaving an old identity and venturing into a new one.
As always please feel free to deviate from my prompts and write about anything that emerges as you read through the above prompts. Keep your hand moving, even when the internal critic tells you that you are wasting your time or that what you are writing is meaningless – keep writing through that and into a deeper relationship with yourself.

Birth your story and have fun with it,

Dottie

Burying The Dutch Oven

Burying The Dutch Oven

Burying The Dutch Oven

       I once heard the phrase “burying the Dutch oven” in a writing group I was a part of years ago. The writer used this metaphor to describe getting rid of something that once represented positive emotions and memories in her life that now only held sadness.

      When I was selling my home in Arizona in 2008, the real estate market had taken a nose-dive.  I had a timeline for getting out and moving so I felt desperate.  I read about placing a St Joseph statue upside down in the yard to help sell a house quickly.  Of course, I immediately went to the religious store in Tucson and bought 4 statues.  I buried one statue upside down on all four sides of the house.

      In my lifetime I have buried both my parents, my brother who was a Vietnam veteran, aunts, uncles and friends.  While still in Arizona, I buried a hamster named Hammy, two cockatiels, Feather and Valentine and I held a memorial for my son’s turtle, Buddy, who we assumed was “relocated” from our back yard by a hawk and never returned. 

      Later, after moving to Pennsylvania, I buried another hamster, Chuckie, in my new back yard.  Then my poor old Dusty, the corgi passed leaving our other rescue dog Zoe, mourning for a wee. Zoe would not eat, drink or leave the bed that belonged to Dusty.  Then one morning she came into the kitchen looking for her breakfast.  She was done mourning.  She allowed the release of her friend and companion, then reentered her life with us.

      It was several years later that I adopted Pumpkin, a small 10lb Dachshund/Jack Russel -mix who Zoe welcomed with firm loving boundaries. They became friends and Zoe, a whippet mix, would protect Pumpkin from any danger.  When Zoe passed and joined all our previous pets, Pumpkin then mourned her as well.  She refused to sleep in her dog bed but rather insisted on sleeping in Zoe’s bed.  In fact, she destroyed her dog bed – completely tore it up – giving me a very clear message that she was done with the little brown bed and that larger bed, Zoe’s bed, now fit her life. 

     I have buried, burned, smashed and torn up many items after my divorce, which brought me much pleasure then.  The emotional release of an object and its importance to me felt like it created an openness inside me. I once wrote about burying all the nasty and judgmental statements my ex-mother-in-law would say to me.  In this piece, I wrote a complete eulogy about the toxic nature of each syllable she uttered.  I created a guest list and even the casket that these words would be laid to rest in. 

      It was a healing – albeit – grim -exercise, but it provided me the opportunity to finally lay those words to rest.  In that same writing, I imagined that beautiful flowers bloomed over the burial ground and that each of them contained a positive affirmation, a kind word and even some beloved poetry.

 Writing Prompts #3

 – First, find an object in your home that may have been given to you by someone you care about or no longer care about.  It can be an item you like or don’t like.  Imagine that you are going to give it away or bury it to symbolically sever the ties it has to your life.

 – Write about the object, how you came to have it, where it is in your house.

 – Write about the purpose it may have served in your life or the story that accompanies it.

– Write about things people have said to you that were critical and how you will release them.

 –  Write about why it may be time for you to get rid of it or bury it. 

 –  Write about what you once liked about the object. 

 – Imagine the burial and who you would invite and not invite.  Would it be a cremation or burial?  Where would the ceremony take place?  Would anyone speak at the service?

 – Write about how it feels to let go of that object

 I encourage all of you to have fun with this and fully indulge your imagination with these prompts presented this week.  As always, feel free to ignore my prompt and write about anything you would like!

 Keep your pen moving!

Dottie