Month: September 2016

INTERLUDE: WHAT IS NEXT?

INTERLUDE: WHAT IS NEXT?

TIME FOR AN INTERLUDE in the Voices of Wisdom Series

late blooming writerI hope you have been enjoying the The Voices of Wisdom Series! I know I have been enjoying reading and sharing the stories of these courageous and magnificent women and I’m so grateful to them for taking the time to share a slice of their lives here with you. We will be taking a short interlude while I take a few weeks to travel, finish my book and collect my thoughts.  In case you missed any of the posts, here’s a recap:

Week One: Debbie Gies, Author shared with us her thoughts on gratitude.

Week Two: Kathleen Pooler gave us a glimpse into her dark night of the soul and insights she gained. 

Week Three: I reviewed three memoirs written by women coming to terms with abuse. 

Week Four: Author Joan Rough shares her thoughts on Harvesting Wisdom.

Week Five: Writer and author Lucinda Sage-Midgorden shares a bit of her journey to becoming a writer and author. 

Week Six: Madeline Sharples, writer, editor and author tells us how she turned grief into art.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The series will begin again on October 5th at which time I will introduce you to another group of women with wisdom to share. In the meantime, I am heading west for two or three weeks and wrapping up the publication of my new book. It’s completely done and ready to go, I just can’t seem to settle on a title! It’s really hard to create a cover without a title! I am sure it will happen sooner or later.

[tweetthis display_mode=”box”]“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh[/tweetthis]

I am a Late Blooming Writer. I carried the urgent desire to write in a corner of my soul that I set aside again and again.  I did write, but only for myself. I wrote my first poem when I was five. It was about a daffodil.  School interrupted my creative musings and the natural flow of my life. I did not write again, creatively, until I was in high school. Teenage angst drove me back to pen and paper and began releasing the music within me in private lyrical musings, shared with no one.

I’d certainly learned very early in life that I had “no talent” for writing. In fact, I was pretty certain i didn’t have much “talent” for anything. What a ridiculous concept when you think about it. What is talent after all? We are all gifted in one way or another, but it is how and if our gifts are birthed that matters. Too often they lie dormant, abandoned as the world snuffs out our candle. Just children when it begins. Impressionable, pliable children in need of love and guidance. I digress.

[tweetthis]”We are all gifted. That is our inheritance.” Ethel Waters #quote[/tweetthis]

mask
Mask de Venice

From my teen years on I wrote stacks of journals and reams of poetry. My desire to write lived and breathed even though I lived life as something entirely other than a writer. That is until I midlife when I melted down and dove into the fire of change. It was a metamorphosis. Bit by bit, piece by piece I took off the masks I wore and gingerly stepped back into the world as my true self. My goal, my burning desire, has been and will always be to match my insides with my outsides. This is not easy in a world run amok, but it is worth the effort.  I tell you this for a few reasons.

LATE BLOOMING WRITERS

First, I am ardent supporter of late-blooming writers and have been doing so through the Aging Abundantly Writer’s Meet Up private group on Facebook. I also do private coaching as time permits. Writers desperately need support. It’s a solitary endeavor and it’s easy to lose perspective. I’m also teaming up with Christy Steiger, Writer, Teacher, Editor and every writer’s dream writing companion — at least writers like me. She gets it. She understands the writing process from a practical standpoint and is a wizard at un-sticking the stuck. You can meet Christy now in the Writer’s group. I will be introducing her on the site asap. We will both be blogging about writing and the unique needs of the over fifty writer on the Aging Abundantly sister website LateBloomingWriters.com. If you are a writer looking for guidance, support and inspiration, I hope you’ll join us there and on Facebook.

COMING SOON: Book Without A Title by Dorothy Sander

Stay tuned!

Turning Grief into Art By Madeline Sharples

Turning Grief into Art By Madeline Sharples

Madeline Sharples suffered an unthinkable loss, but her grief was not the end of the story. Not by a long shot.

TURNING GRIEF INTO ART

by Madeline Sharples

Grief

I was 59 years old when my son, suffering with bipolar disorder, took his own life. Following an aftermath filled with guilt and grief, I made the decision to come out of that experience alive, whole, and productive. Instead of doing the expected: getting a divorce, having a breakdown or an affair with a beautiful younger man, becoming an alcoholic, or going into years of therapy, I chose to live and take care of myself as a woman, writer, wife, and mother.

The Essential Truth I Discovered

The truth is I was able to survive this tragedy. Even though the effects of my son’s death have never left my heart and thoughts, this tragic event provided some wonderful gifts.

  • Paul left a little black suitcase filled with the music he composed, played, and recorded. Listening to Paul’s music is like having him playing here at home. And even though it still makes me well up, it provides an inspiration for my writing work.
  • I became much stronger by sheer will. I met and interacted with people who had been through similar experiences; I was obsessively persistent in dealing with my grief and becoming a productive person again.
  • I also became physically stronger. Exercise keeps me sane and healthy physically and mentally. And the payoffs have been terrific. My body is trim, I have an athlete’s heart rate, I have a lot of energy, I don’t have aches and pains, and I don’t have osteoporosis.
  • My marriage survived by a combination of my drive to deal with the pain, suffering, and loss, and my husband, Bob’s willingness to wait until I got better. We realized early on that our grieving processes were different, so we were patient, we gave each other a lot of space, and we respected each other. A big plus is we don’t worry about the small stuff anymore. A loss as great as ours put what’s important into perspective. Most important, we are still very much in love and best friends. I can see that love in Bob’s face. His eyes and whole face soften when he looks at me, exuding love from every pore. This love has been the glue that has kept us together—glue stronger than the trauma of Paul’s death. We’re together in it for the long haul—richer, poorer, sickness, health, and a son’s death. We celebrated forty-six years last May.
  • I created a wonderful relationship with our surviving son and his wife. I now have a terrific bond with Ben. We spend time together. We support each other’s work—I’m even helping him with his scriptwriting. And that he and Marissa chose to have their wedding in our family home meant so much to me. That created a very special bond between us and provided a very happy memory to supplant the bad memories of the past years.
  • Of course none of these gifts can replace what my family and I have lost—our beloved son Paul. However, discovering the gifts that followed such a tragedy has enabled me to move on and still keep Paul’s memory alive in my heart.
griefWhat Led to My Discovery of These Truths 

First, I went back to work. I wrote grant proposals and led capital campaigns for non profits for awhile, and then I went back to the full-time job I had retired from several years earlier—as a technical writer and editor and proposal manager for a large aerospace company. This job provided the routine and socialization I needed—getting up at the same time every morning, dragging myself to the gym first thing, dressing in business attire, putting on make-up and doing my hair, and interacting with groups of people on the job every day. I thought about my work almost twenty-four/seven, leaving me no energy or time to wallow.

However, I still had enough time to hone my creative-writing skills. Instead of taking creative detours into drawing and painting, sewing, quilting, and needlepoint as I had done in the past, I went back to writing, a love I discovered in high school and college.

How These Truths Unfolded

I took writing classes and workshops, I got into the journaling habit, and I began writing poetry to keep my son’s memory alive. I created a memoir about living with my son’s illness and surviving his suicide, called Leaving the Hall Light OnThrough this process I found that writing became my therapy and a way of healing.

In a writing workshop just four months after Paul died I found that poems came spontaneously out of my pen. Since then I’ve honed my skills by participating in workshops and poetry groups, resulting in many of my poems being published.

Both poetry and journaling are still my companions and my saviors—things I can turn to any time, any place. I can put my grief and tears on the page. After a loss such as mine, writing has become a healing balm.

I also moved on to a career I’ve always wanted to have. Paul’s death has given me the gift of a new career and mission in life. I created a book with the goal of helping others who have experienced a loss like mine, I have a new writing career as a web journalist, I’m busy writing a novel, and I discovered my mission for the rest of my life: to work to erase the stigma of mental illness and prevent suicide. If my writing helps attain that mission, it will all be worth it.


Madeline Sharples’ Bio 

During her 30-year professional career, Madeline Sharples worked as a technical writer/editor and proposal manager in the aerospace business and wrote grant proposals in the nonprofit arena. She started to fulfill her dream to work as a creative writer in the last few years. Her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicidewas released in a hardback edition in 2011 and re-released in paperback and eBook editions by Dream of Things in 2012.

She also co-authored Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994), co-edited the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1, 2, and 3, and wrote the poems for two photography books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer). Her poems appear online and in print magazines, recently in the Story Circle Network True Words series, the 2016 Porter Gulch Review, and the Yellow Chair Review’s 2016 ITWOW (In the Words of Womyn) anthology.

Madeline’s articles appear regularly at the Naturally Savvy website. She also posts at her blog, Choices and is currently writing a novel. In addition, she produced a CD of her son’s music called Paul Sharples at the Piano, as a fundraiser to help erase the stigma of mental illness and prevent suicide. It was released on the fifthteenth anniversary of his death in September 2014. 

Madeline studied journalism in high school, wrote for the high school newspaper, studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin, and received a B.A. degree in English from the University of California at Los Angeles.

 

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ENERGY – WAKE UP WITH MORE OF IT – Create A Happiness List!

ENERGY – WAKE UP WITH MORE OF IT – Create A Happiness List!

EnergyThis morning I woke up with zero energy.  I was tired and draggy. Too much something or other in my diet, or too much gardening precipitated by the nice weather. Either way, my body felt like lead and my mind like slogging through mud.

I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to read my email. My plan for the morning was to tackle a few important things on my to-do list. I’m almost finished with formatting my new book, Aging Abundantly , Essays on Midlife Change, Growth and Survival, but I just can’t seem to wrap it up. Conflicting feelings, the push/pull of a psyche that lacks confidence is wreaking havoc on my energy around this project. Or, more succinctly,  I’m irritable and cranky because I just want the damn thing finished but can’t get myself to do it!

Do you know what I’m talking about?  I hate it! 

The Universe will not let me feel sorry for myself! What’s with that! 

In fact, The Universe is having its way with me, in spite of myself. An hour later, sipping on my second cup of java and my attention still very far away from formatting, I stumble across exactly what I need! Two things, in fact. Synchronicity at it’s best! Thank you, Universe.

The first was a book I’ve been wanting to read and had forgotten about,  Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life by Judith Orloff, M.D. Her work is foundational for another book I’ve been working on for a year or so. It’s about energy. Orloff is doing exciting work in the area of the body, mind, spirit connection and learning how to manage our energy. In this book she presents psychological strategies for maximizing positive emotions and minimizing toxic ones with an eye toward decreasing suffering and increasing well-being. I listened to the intro while placing my Audible order and the creative juices started to flow. As a result, my energy levels skyrocketed. All I have to do is read about what’s going on in the world of healing and my spirits lift.

DO YOU HAVE A HAPPINESS LIST?

Next, I read a blog post by one of my new favorite writers, Susan Mary Malone called Do You Have A Happiness List? How could I not read it?? It was especially relevant to me in light of my attempt to do a 365 Day Journey of Gratitude. I you read my post about it you know I was a) smoking something that day, or b) really serious about developing a gratitude practice. I did okay with it for the first few weeks and I even had a couple of people threaten to join me, but life has a habit of getting in the way. My sister-in-law, quite unexpectedly join in and is hanging tough with me. In fact, she’s the only thing keeping me honest! (Thank you, Lisa!)

AVOID ENERGY DRAIN

Posting a gratitude was one of the things on my to-do list today and it felt like an albatross. Talk about energy drain! I’ve been discussing the issue with myself incessantly, as I clearly have conflicting feelings! I want to keep my commitment to myself and I want to develop a gratitude practice.  I don’t like feel constricted, inhibited and I end up feeling anything but grateful! Not the intended result. I even wrestled with the difference between appreciation and gratitude. Yikes! Who cares?  I know it goes deeper and that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.

So, Malone made it easier for me. She helped me let go of some toxic energy and turn toward a source of positive energy. A Happiness List, according to Malone, is a “list of things that elate you. Twenty of them,” she says. “Write them down, keep it by your bedside table, and read it before you even get out of bed in the morning.”  I could have used that list this morning, what about you?!

“Rather than just appreciating what’s in life, instead this (a Happiness List) makes you smile at all the things that bring you joy.  And memories surface as to why.” ~ Susan Malone

I think this is gratitude as well, just in a different form. A Happiness List creates energy in me, whereas, a daily gratitude feels like drudgery.  So today, I will create my Happiness List. Tomorrow morning I will read it before I get out of bed and in this moment I am grateful for a new perspective.

Creative minds, like Malone’s and Orloff and the women who are contributing to The Voices of Wisdom Series, are at the top of my Happiness List. Their work, their positive energy feeds my soul and liberates me from the weight of negative emotion.

What would you put at the top of your Happiness List? 

[tweetthis]“Happiness is when what you think,what you say,and what you do are in harmony. ”Mahatma Gandhi[/tweetthis]