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What sustains you?

What are the things you do, every day, on weekends, when you are weary and need inspiration? What are those particular activities that support you?

Does it look like sharing a meal with a friend or spending time with a paintbrush? Is it being in your spiritual community; attending church, meditating with others, practicing yoga? Do you go for a walk in the woods or sit with a good book on the backyard swing? Do you create a delicious meal, a colorful quilt, a lush flowerbed? What are the activities or ways of being that soothe your soul?

Whatever your playful activities may be, when in the depths of mourning a great loss, these things can slip away. It seems like we actually forget to seek out the very things we need the most; the things that feed our spirits.

Writing down the bones

One of the things that has sustained me across the losses in my life has been writing. Early writing practices included journaling. Journaling is about showing up at the page—pen and paper or keyboard—and reflecting on… whatever. If someone were to read my journals they might see something about the morning’s weather next to a reflection on a piece of scripture or poetry. They might find an angry record of a difficult conversation or something that would appear mind-numbingly mundane now but that was important to me at the time.

Through a program called Women Writing for a Change, I have written poetry, short stories, essays and memoir material. I have found my personal writer’s voice. My stories shared in the circle are wide ranging—from childhood memories to reflections on experiences to small losses such as having a tooth pulled. I have followed prompts provided by poetry or our facilitator—and have learned to hear the voice of my own muse. I have learned to show up at the page and as Anne Lamott suggests –tolerate the process of shitty first drafts. And I have plenty of material to work with should I move towards another book project.

But perhaps more importantly, the writing has been a creative resource for tapping into my story and my inner resilience. I have found my way past the deep sorrow of my losses and into an open meadow where the losses may remain present but are not the sum total of my inner and outer landscape.

My own writing has also connected me to the voices of others writers. To their stories—to listening and honoring the stories that are within all of us. To seeing in stories the bigger themes of resilience, wholehearted living, the connection of our humanness, and the unfolding nature of living after a loss.

Connecting after a loss

After a loss, you may find that something that has sustained you in the past no longer does so. Or at least temporarily you don’t feel the same level of satisfaction as you once did. Still, it is through opening to your creative juices that you will find your resilience and hidden wholeness. Look for that—that one activity that can help you open to your inner and outer juiciness. It may be something entirely new. Or it may be something you loved from childhood. Whatever the case may be, you can connect to yourself through creative outlets and in those creative outlets discover your new normal. Your whole heart will slowly become available to you again.