Often in my blog posts I refer to expanding awareness of ourselves, and the world around us. In my new, soon to be released, book, Your Journal Companion I ask readers to engage in this process through personal writing. One of the ways to enter into greater awareness is to “free write” – allow one’s self to put pen to paper and just let the words flow, so that the concerns or challenges held deep within the mind and heart are given a voice on the page. And, often wonderful insights and even solutions are revealed.
Recently, my sister Elaine, my facilitation partner at Your Liminal Space Retreats, was asked to do a free writing exercise in a class she is taking at the New School in New York. She had just finished reading Atul Gawande’s thought provoking book, Being Mortal, and the issues of aging, ill health and mortality were stirring within her. She gave me permission to share an excerpt of what she wrote.
Aging – the fear monger of the Western world. Our fear of death, the regret of a life not lived, the fear of afterlife, the fear there is none, the fear of losing control of our bodies and our minds all rule life for the aging … Growing older is a privilege denied to many … I am one of the privileged. I am free from the responsibility of work and child rearing, and can now devote myself to people and things I love with few obligations. I have become a library of the many stories of life. I can share those with others. I can share my material wealth. I can share my experiences on marriage and motherhood, and as a feminist, therapist, traveler, homemaker, expatriate, sister, daughter, builder, gardener, friend and more. I hope this sharing comes from some wisdom, some perspective, and some fun.
Although my hearing is somewhat impaired, and I have lots of winkles that my grandchild describes as “soft” but not fashionable, I can still study what I like, I can still go to the theatre, and I can still walk forty blocks. Yes, I get fatigued more quickly, my bones ache and sometimes my mind is a blank, but I know how to use Google and Word and Canvas and Uber and read books on Kindle. I can spend hours on the phone or Skype and keep up with friends and family all over the world. Yes, it is true that I no longer have a life partner or a sex life but, on the other hand, I mentor several women and I have sleepovers with my grandchild. Things are not too bad, really.
I read obituaries and think about mortality. I fear poor health. I dislike the deterioration of my body as it leaves me fragile and vulnerable. At the same time, I am deeply at peace with my life and enjoy everything from a good glass of wine to an adventure in a new country. But I do find myself bringing up my age when it is unacknowledged by others? Why? Of course, I know how this culture sees aging as something to hide if possible but I want to rebel against that value. Each time of life has its own purpose and its own challenges. I want to own and live this part as thoroughly as I have lived the other parts of my life.
Wow! Note that she started with a “world view” and then went on to discover and validate her own personal view in a vulnerable yet courageous, honest way. And when she shared her writing with me, I felt enlightened and encouraged by her thoughts.
However, personal writing is not so much about sharing with others – though one can do so if she chooses – rather it is about sharing with and informing oneself. In this piece, Elaine became empowered by her own words and gave voice and validation to what she knows at the core of her being, but which actually may never have been articulated in words.
Journal writing is a profound personal tool for self-awareness and support, and a great agent for issuing change.
I look forward to sharing Your Journal Companion with you soon. The book gives tutelage on several writing techniques and offers a host of prompts to help you develop a rich and informative writing habit.
And, if Elaine’s reflection stirred something in you, please consider reading Gawande’s book. Whether you, yourself, are in your later years or have others in your life who are aged or facing into the winds of death due to terminal illness, this compassionate, informed author challenges readers to consider a different view on how humans truly want to take leave of this life.
Click on this link to fine the book on: Amazon.com
And consider this, too … start journaling!