Last week I shared a three-step process for creating a map of your life, and invited you to try it.
I also said I’d follow that process myself and share what I discovered from doing so.
Here’s What I Did
Using Diane Morrow’s three prompts:
- Where have you been?
- Where are you now?
- Where do you want to be?
I drew three pictures, using a sketchpad and pastels. I am no artist, but that doesn’t matter in doing this exercise.
Looking at each picture in turn, I wrote for about 20 minutes altogether, letting the words come without trying to shape them in any particular direction.
When I was done, I put everything away for a couple of days, letting the images and words sift and sort in my unconscious mind. When I next got them out I wanted to also use my VisualsSpeak cards, choosing two cards for each prompt. And so I did!
This time when I wrote I focused on some of Morrow’s “stepping stones” to explore each section of the map.. Beginnings and endings, births and deaths, moves, relationships, and one of my own – illness.
What I Noticed
I won’t share the very rough expressive writing that I produced. It’s fine for me as an audience of one, but it’s not in a form that would make a good read for you!
This in fact is exactly what we do in my expressive writing workshops and mini-retreats. Our writing remains private, and we discuss what we noticed and learned from the process of doing it.
I noticed that it was far easier to write about the past and the present than about where I want to be. At one time I could have easily drawn written about that, but now I feel like I can’t see beyond the next week or two. How can I picture where I want to be when I can’t imagine what the future holds?
Where I’ve Been
The “Where Have You Been” section of the map holds my life up until the pandemic arrived in the US. There’s so many years, filled with changes, moves, beginnings and endings, births and deaths.
This is the place where I shaped my passions into purpose and created a path that let me live them out.
Along the route through this part of the map, with its many twists and turns, I got married, became a mother, got divorced, and eventually (as in decades later) married for the second time.
My parents’ deaths are marked along the route: my father’s in 2006, my mother’s in 2011, and my stepmother’s in 2014, just weeks before John and I married.
This part of the map charts many other changes — geographic moves, career shifts, serious illness.
This last, the cancer I was diagnosed with in 2016, was a very personal catastrophe that in some ways prepared me for the global pandemic we’re experiencing now.
Where I Am Now
I’m right where you are, and where then rest of the world is – at the edge of the chasm in the midst the “I Don’t Know” Land that’s been created by the COVID19 pandemic and the way our national leaders have mishandled it.
In some ways life goes on as before. I eat, sleep, exercise, read. I take care of our home and pets. I work, and I’m grateful to have something of worth to offer that benefits others in this unsettled time.
But even as I carry on, nothing is the same. Each day brings dystopian reminders that the route I’m on is filled with detours, barriers and hazards.
Our larger context changes rapidly and unpredictably.This is echoed by my inner instability with its unpredictable spells of anxiety, worry, sorrow, anger, and grief. These emotions are there for a reason, and they deserve respect, acceptance and soothing, which I give them.
I seek these out and focus my attention on them, not to deny the difficult emotions but to counterbalance them with uplift and positive energy.
I wish I’d never had cancer. I wish no one ever had cancer. But the experience is offering me some help now. I reach for the Visitors Guide to Cancerland (that’s a nonexistent book that I might write someday) to find some knowledge that can help me handle this unstable time.
- Step away from the US’s mainstream culture’s emphasis on relentless positivity. It can become toxic. Trying to ignore or escape unpleasant emotions can actually increase discomfort and anxiety!
- Accept emotional struggle, and show yourself compassion for experiencing it. It’s a natural part of the current situation.
- Find ways to express all your emotions — those that are challenging or unpleasant, and those that are uplifting.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Offer help when you can.
- Surrender to not knowing. Not in the sense of giving up, but in the sense of accepting what is. Look inward to gain insight and new perspectives.
- Take action and advocate as needed to protect yourself and others.
- Acknowledge that you can never know what the future holds.
- Release what doesn’t serve you, Thats makes room for what you value most.
Where I Want to Be
If I’d responded to this prompt before March, my drawings, image card choices, and writing would have described a clear picture.
The abstractness of the images speaks to the difficulty I’m having seeing a detailed map of Where I Want to Be. It also expresses acceptance. If this is as much as I can see, that’s the way it is right now.
A reader commented on last week’s post that while she can’t say where she wants to be, she can describe how she wants to feel.
I’m with her on that. I think that is what I was really expressing through my drawing and the images I chose. Here’s what I want to feel:
Did You Try This Exercise?
Comment here or contact me if you’d like to share what came up for you.
Would You Like More of This?
This is a time for turning inward, seeking insight and new perspectives. Join my next online mini-retreat for a creative, relaxing experience that renews your energy for inner work, and for focusing on what you want to do for the world around you. We’ll use guided visualization, facilitated expressive writing, brief discussions, and distant Reiki, all designed to bring you what’s needed in these times — uplift and strengthened resilience.
Source and Credit
Diane Morrow (2016). One Year of Writing and Healing. Guest House Press
Photos: NL Seibel, 2020. All rights reserved.