Category: Voices of Wisdom

Lessons In Letting Go & Finding Balance with Sora Garrett

Lessons In Letting Go & Finding Balance with Sora Garrett

Learning to find our balance again and again, is a valuable skill we practice as we navigate life’s challenges. This is especially true during the midlife years when a plethora of destabilizing happenings beset many of us. The blessing that is born as a result of our hard work is multifaceted. Sora Garret joins us today as the final guest in this segment of The Voices of Wisdom Series. In her article she describes this practice beautifully. Sora is a gifted writer with a gentle spirit whose valuable message comes through loud and clear . . .  Be sure to visit her website and check out her books.

Midlife Reflections on Balance, Menopause & the Joy of Being

Sora Garrett

Letting go
Sora Garrett

I’m turning 50 this year, the foundations of my life solid around me, wisdom woven deep from the rich tapestry of a half century of living. Some days I revel in this feel of solidity—the comfort & freedom it brings. Other days I am cast as water, floating in the elusive nature of things and wondering what I am to do with myself now that I’ve reached so many of my dreams.

Most of my life I’ve found fulfillment through action, the fulcrum of my life based in doing. Finding balance meant stealing time for myself so that I could keep functioning as a working-volunteering mother-wife-friend-entrepreneur.

Balance was also a journey of taking myself to the extremes, testing boundaries, exploring edges to find where I belonged so I could be really happy. My outer life was in well-juggled balance. My inner life was not.

A LESSON IN LETTING GO

Eventually life crashed in around me, literally, and forced me to listen. After a major ski wreck gave me a concussion, I slowed down for a few months. The following year…different wreck, same concussion. Only this time I listened more deeply and finally ended a business partnership that was falling apart at the seams.

It was a huge lesson in letting go, and one that started me on the most amazing adventure of my life—the journey into my essential self.

I’m at least part way there, and the dance of balance is different now, though still illusive. There is less I have to do and more I want to give.

While I still have tendencies to over-do, my evolving spiritual practice keeps me well-watered and connected to my inner being. I really know what it is to overflow with giving that comes from a sincere desire to share. These days, I’m pulled (not pushed) to explore my edges so I can stay fresh & awake to wonder.

FINDING BALANCELetting Go

Rather than looking for some miracle balance point that will bring happiness, I’ve learned to shift my balance in the moment as life blossoms around me.

When I engage gracefully in this life-dance, I find a joy of being that is more fulfilling than any accomplished goal or conquered dream. And as I learn to say no to my habits of over-doing, my soul leads me to give in ever more satisfying ways.

Except there’s this one little thing: my changing body is betraying me.

Some days, I barely know myself, the heavy-fuzzy symptoms of menopause casting a dullness over my otherwise radiant world. More sensitive to almost everything, my physical balance point has become so narrow that I keep falling off. And, some days, nothing I do seems to help.

So I just keep doing what I can, showing up as authentically as I know how, and creating new rituals to support the physical changes as they come. My body has become a new learning edge that is inspiring me to pay attention more closely than ever before…to practice a new dance that will serve me as I enter this next new phase of my life.

TUNE IN TO THE SIMPLE JOYS OF BEING

I’ve discovered that even in the midst of the physical or emotional pain, when I tune to the simple joys of being…walking in the snow, getting kisses from my dogs or hugs from my family, drinking in a most amazing sunset, connecting with a friend, sitting by the fire…my balance is restored, at least for the moment.

And I’m learning that sometimes doing nothing is the best way to keep giving.

MORE from VOICES OF WOMEN

 


Sora Garrett is an author, mentor & life simplification guide who just turned sixty. She wrote this article ten years ago and is amazed at how relevant it still is today. While she no longer experiences the intense symptoms of menopause, her highly sensitive nature has given her a gift for helping women s l o w – d o w n to create lives of ease, joy and overflow.

With her FlowLiving® Mentoring programs, Sora will help you embrace the miraculous and find calm in chaos as you create more space in all areas of your life. Schedule a free illumination session, enroll in a mentoring circle, and find her books & blog @ SoraGarrett.com

SORA’S BOOKS

The Miracle Keys: A Conversation with an Angel

Silent Grace: A Celebration (poetry)

Coming Soon: Ignite Your Inner Star: a discovery guide & playbook for creating your most Radiant Life.


 

“SOMEDAY” IS TODAY with Sunny Lockwood

“SOMEDAY” IS TODAY with Sunny Lockwood

“Someday” begins with a day just like today.

No one knows this better than Sunny Lockwood. This morning I”m happy to introduce you to Sunny  in The Voices of Wisdom series. Sunny reached out to me and said she thought Aging Abundantly readers might be interested in her story. I agreed! I hope it is as much of an inspiration to you as is was to me. There is no time like the present to live the life we’ve always dreamed of living. It can begin today. After all someday is just a day like today.

Al & Sunny Lockwood
Al & Sunny Lockwood

 

My husband and I have always been sort of workaholics. Like others with fulfilling lives, we dreamed of things we’d like to do someday (perhaps when we were older and life had slowed down a little).However, on a Sunday evening in July in 2012, as we waited at a red light, our life changed dramatically.

It was a perfect evening. The blue sky held a golden sunset glow. We’d been to the beach earlier and the pounding surf still filled our heads as we waited for the light to change.

Suddenly,  a texting driver slammed full speed (60 mph) into us, totaling both cars in an explosion of glass and metal. I’ll never forget the grinding, screaming metal as her SUV tore through the back end and then the side of our Toyota Carolla. Although seatbelted, we were tossed about as our car crumpled.

Both vehicles were totaled. Fortunately, we suffered no broken bones. But we were bruised and banged up, and our summer was ruined as our days filled with doctor appointments, wrangling with insurance companies and trying to find a replacement car.

We ached for weeks.

I complained loudly about drivers who fool with their phones, wishing I could get them all arrested and thrown in jail.

But my ranting gave way to the awareness of how lucky we were to be alive.

If we had not been wearing seat belts. If our airbags had not inflated.  So many ifs. Yet, here we were. Alive.

The realization that life is fragile and brief changed our lives. It woke us up.

We realized anew how all the little gifts we take for granted — the sweet fragrance of roses or lilacs, the welcome chill of ice cream on a hot day, the comfort of prayer, the pleasure of a kitten’s purring, the delicious smell of newly cut grass or fresh-brewed coffee — all these everyday blessings can be snatched away in a moment.

You can be doing nothing more risky than sitting at a red light, and the next moment you could be hooked up to monitors in a hospital, or lying cold in a morgue.

Everyone knows the truth that life is temporary. But until we take that truth seriously it’s just a distant theory as we rush through our busy days.

Al and I suddenly took that truth to heart. As we focused on how lucky we were that the wreck didn’t kill us,  we decided to start doing some of the things we’d dreamed of doing. It’s not like we had great life goals we’d been putting off. But we both enjoy travel, love seeing what’s over the next hill or around the next curve in the road.  We’d camped up and down the west coast.

And for years we’d toyed with the idea of taking longer trips, perhaps a cruise to somewhere interesting. But we’d talked about such travel in a dreamy, someday sort of way.

Now, feeling grateful to be alive and whole, we decided to actually take part in that “someday” travel.

First on the bucket list was a cruise through the Panama Canal. Al is a retired engineer, and he’d dreamed of going through the canal (one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century) since he was a child.

Online research revealed a 17-day cruise through the canal that we could afford and we signed up. The trip from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale was fantastic.

Traversing the famous canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic in the same way ships have been traversing since 1904 was a thrill beyond compare.  The trip was so amazing that we actually wrote a book about it: Cruising Panama’s Canal, savoring 5,000 nautical miles and 500,000 decadent calories.

So what began as a dream come true trip, grew into a writing/publishing venture.Today is Someday

Cruising Panama’s Canal was named an Amazon #1 best seller in 2014 and continues to sell in both paperback and ebook formats at Amazon.com

Since that first cruise, we’ve taken other wonderful trips and have written three more travel memoirs.

One of our books, Cruising the Mediterranean, was named an Amazon best seller in two categories: Senior Travel and Venice Guidebooks and Travelogues.

Readers from around the world have written that they love our books. We’ve been asked to talk about our travels at retirement communities, senior centers, book stores and service clubs.

Making our travel dreams come true has been fascinating and fulfilling. It has led to new endeavors — writing our travel memoirs, speaking about our travels. And our adventure continues as we schedule more trips and write about them.

We write to encourage others. Everyone carries dreams within their hearts. The dreams may be small or large, but often they remain Someday is Todaylodged inside. Al and I want to encourage readers to grasp those dreams and make them come true.

Whether it’s earning a college degree, or traveling to a far away place, we encourage you to do it. Do it now, while you can. Tomorrow is not promised.

Believe me when I say that making a dream come true is deeply rewarding. How satisfying it is to achieve something you’ve always dreamed about. That accomplishment comes with enriching memories and stories to share. And you can never tell where your dream will take you.

Ours has taken us on cruises and tours, to book stores, libraries and travel clubs. It has enlarged and enriched our life as we’ve shared our travels through our books and presentations.

Who knows where you’re dream will take you?

A few photos from our trips:

Someday is Today
Venice’s Grand Canal was a busy and beautiful highway.
Someday is Today
he Parthenon in Athens, Greece, was spectacular.

Today is Someday
We stayed in a small hotel close to the Rialto Bridge.
Someday is Today
One of the many stunning sights in Istanbul.

 

SUNNY LOCKWOOD has been a newspaper editor, magazine editor, daily newspaper reporter and newspaper columnist. She holds degrees from San Jose State University and Santa Clara University.

AL LOCKWOOD is a retired electrical/mechanical engineer. He is a fine art film photographer, a ham radio operator and an enthusiastic traveler. The sweet photograph of Sunny & Al, at the top of the page, was taken in an Athens coffee shop in 2014. Al and Sunny had ducked inside to escape a sudden downpour.

Visit Sunny’s website 

Connect with her on Facebook.


MORE VOICES OF WISDOM

 

 

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.

 

To purchase CD:
For more information, visit
If you would like to participate in the Voices of Wisdom Series, please contact Dorothy via email.  Guest Post Guidelines. 
Moving Forward by Lucinda Sage-Midgorden

Moving Forward by Lucinda Sage-Midgorden

GOOD MORNING FRIENDS & VISITORS!

Welcome to Aging Abundantly’s Voices of Wisdom Series

Moving Forward
Barn owl at night by Kovács Anna Brigitta – Original watercolour

This series is about providing both the space and opportunity for women over fifty to tell their story and to share a bit of wisdom they gained in the process of living it.  If you would like to be a guest writer, please take a look at the Writer’s Guidelines and/or reach out to me via email.

Today’s guest, Lucinda Sage-Midgorden has been enthralled with the power of story since she was a child.  She grew up in a family who not only loved watching movies together but enjoyed discussing them. Another favorite family pastime was reading.

Lucinda’s interest in all things “story” led her to pursue first a B.A. and then an M.A. in theatre. She took those degrees and ran with them as a theatre artist, drama, and English teacher. In recent years, she has turned to writing her own stories. her first published book is a children’s story, Scottosaurus The Little Dinosaur originally written for  her six-year-old nephew Scott.  Her first full length novel, The Space Between Time, is to be published at the end of 2016.

You will find Lucinda’s weekly blog on her website Sage Woman Chronicles. She is also on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and She Writes.  Thank you Lucinda for sharing your story with us today.


MOVING FORWARD

by Lucinda Sage-Midgorden

Moving Forward“I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question

finally getting tired of their own bullshit.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

 

Sometimes I get stuck in a rut but not for long. I don’t know if it’s in my DNA, the fact that we moved a lot, or just my personality but eventually there comes a time when I just grit my teeth and make a change. I do this because it is much more comfortable to change than to stay stuck. The process is still scary because it requires me to do things I’ve never done before. Yet, years of experience have taught me that moving forward is preferable to the alternative. Let me give you some examples.

When I graduated from high school, I decided to work for a while until I had a better idea of what I wanted to do with my life. The first year I joined a Peace Corps kind of group sponsored by my church. For a year I worked as a volunteer teacher’s aide at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary school in Portland, Oregon and assisted at family and youth camps teaching classes, leading campfires and the like. I learned so much about myself that year, and gain confidence, something I was desperate to find. Teaching was a blast. I loved the children and the classroom atmosphere and that set me on a lifelong path of teaching in a variety of settings.

At the age of 22 I finally enrolled in the college sponsored by the church in which I grew up. On one hand it was a fantastic experience, on another traumatic because I became a religious studies major, the only woman in the program. That caused a stir and some students tried to convince me that I needed to change my major. I’m so grateful I didn’t.

My sophomore year I found theatre and in my mind studying religious thought and theatre went hand-in-hand. Eventually, I added theatre and speech as a second major. Later I received an M.A. in theatre arts from Portland State University. Both have helped me understand human desires, motivations, frustrations, and triumphs.

After college my husband and I  moved out west and became deeply involved in a congregation. However, after a few years it became clear to us that what the church wanted of us and what we wanted were two different things. Both of us felt drawn to ever deeper spiritual growth. It was a tough decision, but eventually we left organized religion all together. Doing that was the best decision of my life because now my spiritual journey doesn’t have to fit into a doctrinal box.

Still, I’ve made plenty of mistakes on my way to where I am now. I followed false paths thinking they were leading to my life’s purpose. Though it was difficult to admit I’d been mistaken, I’m not sorry I took any of them. I no longer believe life is meant to be easy.

“If you’re making mistakes it means you’re out there doing something.” ~ Neil Gaiman[tweetthis]“If you’re making mistakes it means you’re out there doing something.” ~ Neil Gaiman [/tweetthis]

When I was younger I felt like I was odd, a misfit, because we moved so much. All those people I met who had lived in one place all their lives I thought were lucky because they made lifelong friendships that sustained them through all of life’s ups and downs. I thought they knew their purpose and were completely happy. But as I grew, I discovered that wasn’t always the case.

Finally when I turned 30 and was still struggling with my identity and purpose in life, someone suggested I read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. The first sentence is: “Life is difficult.” When I read that, it was as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and knew that I could move forward making mistakes along the way and it would be alright.

And it has been, even during the darkest of times because all those twists and turns I took finally led me to becoming what I always wanted to be, but didn’t allow myself to pursue for all the usual reasons. Finally I’m proud to say, I’m a writer. In fact, I’m about to publish my first novel. It won’t be perfect, though I’ve worked extremely hard on it. But as Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Big Magic “Done is better than good.” Finishing this novel and publishing it is so much better than having a file cabinet full of unpublished manuscripts because those thoughts and feelings on the pages might be just what someone else needs to help them put another piece into their life puzzle. Denying, or keeping our creativity hidden does nothing to change the world.

I don’t know if anyone will get anything of value out of my novel. That doesn’t matter because I’m already moving forward on the sequel and on a fantasy story, and my blog, and any other writing that attracts me. It seems to me that always moving forward no matter what happens is the true meaning of life.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016


PREVIOUS GUEST POSTS

Harvest Wisdom by Joan Z Rough

A Dark Night Brings A New Dawn by Kathleen Pooler

The Value of Gratitude by Debbie Gies

WRITER’S GUIDELINES
HARVESTING WISDOM by Author Joan Rough

HARVESTING WISDOM by Author Joan Rough

I’m excited to introduce today’s Voices of Wisdom feature contributor Joan Z Rough.  I met Joan through her wonderful blog where she writes regularly about life and “harvesting wisdom”.  I was drawn to the honesty of her voice and our mutual struggle with PTSD. Her voice of wisdom is strong and growing stronger with each passing year. I can’t wait to read her memoir Scattering Ashes, A Memoir of Letting Go will be available September 20, 2016, already receiving great reviews.

Joan describes herself  as “a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, blogger, gardener, artist, healthy food nut, and someone who loves all creatures, especially dogs.” She’s addicted to books, good movies and most especially her grand-kids. There is so much more to Joan that what she does. I will let her tell you the rest of the story. 

 

HARVESTING WISDOM

by Joan Z Rough

Harvesting Wisdom

By three methods we may learn wisdom:

First, by reflection, which is noblest;

Second, by imitation, which is easiest;

and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

Confucius

Pearls of wisdom are things we harvest like grapes. We crush them into small bits, allow them to ferment, remove the waste products, and set the rest aside, allowing the resulting liquid to age. By the time we are elders, what we have is a rich, vintage wine, heady with notes of contemplation, emulation, and awareness.

We begin harvesting wisdom the moment we are born. We learn about the world from the way it tastes, smells, looks, and feels.  By the time we’re two or three years old the feel of a wet diaper may begin to annoy us. We follow our parent’s example, and begin to pee in a toilet. If we hold it for too long because we’re having fun playing with our favorite toys, we wet ourselves, and are then made fun of by friends and/or siblings. We suddenly understand that in order to keep from being humiliated, we need to pay attention to the messages our body sends us so that we don’t have to suffer from insults.

I’ll be seventy-four in November and have been harvesting wisdom all of my life. However, you’d never know it based on my behavior through the years. As a child, I was willful and stubborn, yet filled with fear and shame. As an adolescent I became a practiced liar, sneaking about, disobeying, and avoiding my parents as best I could. During most of my adulthood, I carried the scars and the dysfunction that both of my parents bequeathed me; a life built of shame, anger, hate, blame, fear, and victim-hood.

“I believed there was something terribly wrong with me.”

I’ve been unhappy for a good part of my life. Periods of sheer joy and happiness were often washed away by unfathomable depression and torrents of fear and anxiety. I didn’t know why. I believed there was something terribly wrong with me. That I was broken. Damaged goods. Undeserving of anything more than what I already had.

It all came to a head when I became my mother’s caregiver during her last seven years of life. Except for her last six months, she lived with my husband and me. Mom held tight to her fear and denial of death while I tried my best to make life as pleasant as I could for her. When memories of her mistreatment of me as a child began seeping out of the hiding places I had tucked them away in, I grew to hate her and found myself more depressed and anxious than ever. It wasn’t until after her death, that I realized that something had to change in order for me to be happy. If I didn’t I’d go to my grave a sorry soul, hauling my past with me, like a trunk of old clothes that no longer fit.

My goal was to remake myself into a whole and happy human being and to let go of old memories that had almost destroyed me. I took time to examine where I had been and what I had done with my life. I was diagnosed with PTSD, and began seeing a therapist, whose specialty was trauma. She helped me understand that I had been an abused child. That the belief that I had a normal upbringing was a fairy tale, and that I could be whole and happy if I chose to be.

“The more I wrote, the more things came to the surface.”

Harvesting WisdomAfter unending months of digging through the past and trying to find medication that might help me over the panic and overwhelming feelings I carried with me, I began writing out what I knew. The more I wrote, the more things came to the surface. They were things I had hidden from myself because they were painful. Taking an excruciating look back through the years, I saw myself being beaten by my father, while screaming for my mother to stop him. I finally understood the basis for my contempt for her. She never stopped him.

Along with the unearthing of the past, I found acceptance for who I am. I discovered the words and experiences that can trigger negative reactions in me. I began navigating through my days more easily, choosing between what made me feel good and what brought on my anxiety. I questioned my parent’s lives when they were younger, and uncovered the massive extent to which my mother had been abused by her mother. I already knew that my father suffered from PTSD due to his experiences during World War II. But it wasn’t until I myself was diagnosed with the same disorder that I found compassion for him, as well as for my mother.

Regrets followed. I wanted to go back and make it all better. But equipped with tools and knowledge my parents never had, I was better prepared to realize that they had done the best they could. Though I knew I couldn’t change the past and could never forget their mistreatment of me, I let go of my victim-hood. I found love, forgiveness and a deep understanding of them, myself, and the human spirit.

When people hear my story, some comment on what a hard life I’ve had. But I always let them know that though it was tough at times, without the adversity I’ve lived with, I’d never have found myself and the peace I live with now.

It isn’t through sitting in the sun and smelling the roses that one learns and gathers wisdom. It’s through hard knocks, the fermentation and aging processes that we learn how to change ourselves and the world we live in. 

Here’s to the good life, both yours and mine!


Harvesting Wisdom

CONNECT WITH JOAN:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

LINKEDIN

WEBSITE

SCATTERING ASHES, A Memoir of Letting Go
will be available wherever books are sold on September 20, 2016
and is now available for preorder on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

 

WHAT EARLY READERS ARE SAYING:

“A brave story, beautifully written in an authentic, raw voice that strikes a universal chord about mother-daughter relationships, breaking the cycle of childhood abuse, taking the responsibility for one’s own healing and finding forgiveness.” KATHLEEN POOLER, Author of Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse

“In this well-wrought memoir, Joan Rough shows us the beauty of becoming the alchemist of one’s own life. What happens after she invites her elderly, narcissistic mother to move in to her home will often set your teeth on edge. The amazing ending, however, will leave you standing in awe at the power of love.” SHIRLEY HERSHEY SHOWALTER, author of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World

MORE ABOUT SCATTERING ASHES