Reckless writer

I stood there in the shower, the water cascading over my head, pondering how I’d say what I needed to say. My thoughts flowed, and I imagined my words flowing as easily and as perfectly.

I considered waiting until the next day instead of getting it over with. It was, after all, something I was uncomfortable doing because I’d never done it. I wondered what they’d think of me, but then decided it didn’t matter. I was going to do it and let the chips fall where they may.

When I entered the kitchen, they both were sitting at the table as though waiting for me. I asked if they had time to talk and took a seat when they indicated that they did.

I took a deep breath, looked toward the refrigerator, then cleared my throat.

“You know, it seems that everything is fine with me,” I said, “but the truth is that it isn’t. My funds are low, and I feel lost. I don’t know what to do or where to go. All I know is that I must leave the farm.”

I said those words, yes, but not nearly as composed as I imagined I would. I managed to choke them out between sobs. It’s a wonder they understood me at all!

When I finished, he leaned toward me and related his impression of me as one floating, anchor-less. He said, too, that I should stop going here and there, that I…

I wrote the above on June 23, 2013, as my “Reckless Writer” exercise from Elizabeth Berg’s Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True. Her instructions were to “think of some event that happened in your life that made a real emotional impact on you. It can be any emotion— anger, fear, sadness, nostalgia— but let yourself remember the event fully, so that you can feel the emotion all over again. Now set a timer for ten minutes and write— very, very quickly— from that place of feeling…Do not chew on your pen and ponder what to say after the first sentence. Keep that pen moving the whole time.”

What you just read is as far as I got in my allotted ten minutes. The story was about my first experience being vulnerable, after which I felt totally and uncomfortably exposed. But it’s gotten easier.

Fast forward now to October 12, 2015.

I spent the evening trying to catch up on a backlog of email, many of which were articles I’d emailed to myself to read later. Interestingly enough, ‘awakening intuition’ and the ‘art of stillness’ were recurring themes throughout the articles and when I sat to read this morning’s devotional, the very first line was “TAKE TIME TO BE STILL in My Presence.” His message clear, I resolved to spend the day being still and listening for what She had to say. Perhaps She’d have the answer to the question I’d posed to the Universe last night about my need for adventure.

My phone and tablet off, I ran up upstairs to retrieve the charging cable for my laptop. While there, the journal I use for my writing exercises caught my eye as did Dancing with the Universe: A Journey from Spiritual Resistance to Spiritual Release by Dianne Rosena Jones—a book I hadn’t seen for a couple of years, retrieved just a few weeks ago, but hadn’t picked up again until today. (Spirit’s synchronicity is amazing!!) I grabbed both and headed back downstairs.

As I leafed through the journal pages, I saw letters I’d written to God and several pages of my first attempts at automatic writing—my efforts to connect with Rachel, my paternal great-grandmother whose story I want to tell. I never met Rachel; she left North Carolina for Georgia when slavery ended, and was dead long before I was born. What little I do about her I learned from the memorial author Brainard Cheney published upon the death of my grandfather “Pa Robin” Bess, Rachel’s son, and Cheney’s “Adam” in This is Adam.

Then I came across the reckless writer exercise. What I’d been feeling as I wrote it back then was all too familiar because, despite the years since, there I was feeling the same thing again! Spirit’s message was clear: “It’s time to do the work, Daughter” [for real this time].

With help from Dancing with the Universe, I began the work, acknowledging that my spiritual practice needs improvement, that instead of awaking each morning to check text messages, emails, and Facebook, and Twitter (yes, that’s my truth!), I must devote that part of my day to Spirit.

I acknowledged, too, that inherent in my “need” for adventure was the need to not only explore but to escape a reality that often feels directionless, a reality that I, because of my perceived lack of resources, often feel powerless to change.

It’s true that when I’m in one spot for a while, I get stir-crazy and start planning my next adventure; there’s nothing like the exhilaration I feel while traveling, exploring, experiencing new things, and meeting new people!! Admittedly, it’s a high but that can’t be a bad thing, can it? After all, Spirit has been instrumental in getting me where I want to go and where She needs me to be. And aside from my trip to Abu Dhabi in February, I’ve managed to log several thousand miles around Georgia and up the east coast since my car was stolen in January. That fact alone confirms that there’s definite purpose to my travels. That fact should also have reminded me that I’m in very capable hands. Our tendency, though, is to focus on the burden of our season (what we don’t have) rather than on the blessings of it.

I can’t say yet that I’ve totally overcome the part of my sojourn that’s been hiding in the shadows, the “secret shame” as it were. What I can say, however, is that I’m determined to shine some light on it, change what I can, and make peace with what I can’t. And if I’m to continue this sojourn empowered and worry-free, I must spend more time with Spirit and less time distracted by the phone, computer, social media, and TV.

Risk it, or not?

Life continually presents us with opportunities to take risks, to operate outside our comfort zone. The question then is do you take the risk, or do you stick with the familiar and stay in what is oftentimes the not-so-comfortable comfort zone?

I believe that the primary part of our life’s purpose is to allow God to operate in, through, and as us in order to “do something”, to intervene in not only our lives but in the lives of others.

I’m recalling the risks I’ve taken over the past several years, some of which I wasn’t fully aware and others to which I consciously surrendered.

Yesterday, the Universe presented me with the opportunity to take yet another risk: Letting go of the stuff that’s been stored in my sister’s basement since December 2011, or continuing to hold on to it for fear of not having it when I need it.

Here’s the thing. My sister is embarking upon an amazing journey herself and was moving her things from her basement to a storage unit yesterday. As we contemplated whether there’d be enough room for both our stuff, I considered letting it all go, except for those few boxes containing those items of sentimental value, e.g., my son’s first blanket, shoes, t-shirt, etc.; photo albums; the collector volumes of novels featuring my Grandpa Robin Bess as Adam; some limited edition artwork; and, of course, the two tool boxes brimming with my beloved tools and several power drills.

Just a few hours earlier, new friends had left with stacks of books that I believed I could live without. Strangely, though, a few of the books they didn’t select somehow made their way back into a box I’d previously taped shut. “How could I have put them in that pile in the first place?” I wondered.

Later, as a stood in the basement deciding the fate of my stuff and feeling excited at the prospect of letting go, I shared what I was considering with a few of my friends via text message.

My life coach friend Cassandra Nkem-Nwosu (@livingtheiam) shared with me her experience with having done the same: “I did something similar years ago…stored some things at my sister’s house, didn’t even bother to go through it–I just let it go!”

Shortly thereafter, a wave of sadness engulfed me as I faced the reality of no longer being able to dig through the boxes looking for those items I believed I couldn’t live without. Having my stuff, as little as it is compared to times past, gave me that familiar sense of security from times past and from which I had endeavored previously to detach. But here I was again, using stuff instead of God as my security blanket.

Cassandra added, “be present to whatever you’re feeling” as she also pointed out that our attachment to stuff oftentimes keeps us attached to ideas that no longer serve us.

My friend Linda responded with “….think I better let it go…let it go baby..looks like another love TKO….”, a line from a Teddy Pendergrass’ song, ‘Love TKO’.

My wellness coach friend, Star Waters (@grannygoneraw), responded with “That’s an amazing strength you have!! Surrender is awesome!!”, and I felt empowered.

My author and teacher friend Dianne Rosena Jones (@dijones247) weighed in with, “I know that’s right. “Let it go, let it go….” I’m singing the theme song from the movie Frozen.”

So, feeling empowered by having decided to let it go, my nephew John Micah loaded those six boxes onto the truck, leaving the rest to be dealt with later.

A few minutes later, my sister, nieces and I began the two and a half hour drive to the storage unit down near the farm and Mama.

On the ride back to Atlanta that night, I kept hearing “former life”, and as I thought about certain pieces of my stuff, I felt that I didn’t want to be surrounded by stuff from my former life. That whatever my new beginning is, I want it to be wearing a fresh coat.

Awake early this morning, I opened Bill and Beni Johnson’s book Walking in the Supernatural: Another Cup of Spiritual Java to the chapter bookmarked and titled, ‘He Gets to Do Something’, and it seemed to confirm my decision. Author Kevin Dedmon talked at length about how our pursuit of the seemingly impossible affords God the opportunity to intervene in our lives and circumstances by working on our behalf, which is precisely what my journey has been about since leaving my job, selling my house a year later, driving cross country for five months, living on the farm for nine, and with family and friends since then. What a ride it’s been!!

But instead of busying myself with getting rid of all my unnecessary stuff, I spent today reflecting on my decision, writing this blog post, and nursing this horrendous cold. Yes, I feel pretty miserable, but as another friend observed this morning, it’s giving “you the opportunity to get some much needed rest.”

Yes, I am indeed blessed!!

Included here are the few pictures I made while down home yesterday.

Dancing to Anna Maria Island

Many thanks to Dianne Rosena Jones, my friend, sister, and author of ‘Tragic Treasures’ and ‘Dancing with the Universe’ for the opportunity to dance with the Universe a few days ago on Anna Maria Island, Florida.

Anna Maria Island City PierThe invitation came late Thursday and by Saturday afternoon, I was on the island. It felt good being on the road again, driving through towns I’d never visited, and seeing sights I’d never seen. I had no idea that olives grew in Georgia until I passed Georgia Olive Farms in Lakeland.

But it was during a chance encounter Sunday morning that I experienced firsthand the importance of being in the moment and open to dancing with the Universe. Dianne and I were out on the pier for the express purpose of capturing the sunrise. With the sun on the horizon, however, Geri, Bob and pup Maxmillian III approached and asked if I’d photograph them. Geri was so engaging that I was concerned I’d miss my shots. I clearly recall the moment, though, when I let go and became one with it. As a result, I captured an amazing sunrise and the added bonus of a most inspiring encounter.

Geri shared her “love at first sight” moment with the man she married ten years later and to whom she remained married for 54 years. Widowed just over a year ago, she was continuing the tradition they started over ten years ago: visiting Anna Maria Island every year. She was truly inspiring!

Later, we brunched with Marsha and Norman. It was our first time meeting them, but it felt more like being with old friends. They recently relocated to Florida after sixty plus years in Illinois without prior plans to do so. Having decided to dance, however, “things just fell into place” and they’re loving where the dance has led them.

At their suggestion, Dianne and I decided to view the manatees at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach. The manatees must’ve been dancing elsewhere that afternoon because we didn’t see any. We then followed the dance to Tampa where we had dinner at Bella’s Italian in Hyde Park. It was there that we experienced the best ginger beer and ‘Pazzo Pazzo’ pizza ever!

We left the island Tuesday afternoon after breakfasting at Peach’s where they serve peach cobbler in mason jars. They were out of cobbler that morning, though. I visited family in Jacksonville and Savannah before heading home Thursday.

It was a fantastic six days but I can recall the time when I would’ve found an excuse not to accept such a spontaneous invitation. Thanks to the power of release, though, I can now embrace the dance and experience how grand life really is.

Sunset on Anna Maria Island

Sunset on Anna Maria Island

Sunrise on Anna Maria Island

Heron on Anna Maria Island

Pelican on Anna Maria Island City Pier

Challenges and opportunities

I’ve blogged lately about how wonderful it is being home on the farm. As great as it is, though, my visit here has also presented a few challenges that are giving me the opportunity to resolve some issues. It often feels like I’m walking back in time learning things I missed the first time and unlearning a few things that I did.

The challenge isn’t a problem most days but on the days that it is, I find myself asking, “What am I supposed to take from this experience?” The answer is clear but the process isn’t so easy. I won’t go into detail about it but sometimes I resent having to go through it. I know that once I do, though, it’ll be behind me and I’ll be a step closer to my destination.

I spent yesterday cleaning the deck and chairs then washed my car. During that time, the challenge showed up and rather than confront it, I distanced myself from it. That in itself was a switch because previously, I would’ve cussed and fussed about it. Now, I choose to maintain my peace instead.

I got up a bit later than usual this morning and decided to spend the day away from the house. I didn’t go to a park but found inspiration instead while reading a paper my son asked me to proof for him. I recall not so long ago when he, too, was a challenge. I worried that he was ruining his life by not following the path I’d laid out for him, and I did all I could to redirect him. After months of unsuccessful efforts, I finally accepted that he has his own journey and “let go and let God.”

It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done as I witnessed him go through things I didn’t think he needed to experience. I was tempted many times to rescue him and recall one night in particular when my resolve was tested. I won’t share his story but what I will say is that it was the dead of winter and right after declining his request, I started formulating a rescue plan. Before I could complete it, though, I fell asleep. When I awakened the next morning, I trusted that things were as they should be and was at peace.

I had planned initially to leave for my cross-country road trip during the spring of 2011. As fate would have it, however, a few challenges delayed my leaving until January 2012. The first was my mother’s sudden illness and the second, my son’s return home. But here again, these challenges turned out to be opportunities.

We brought Mama to Atlanta for medical treatment and since I transported her to many of her doctor appointments, we spent quite a bit of time together. My relationship with her had been strained for many years but her being here provided me the opportunity to see that I really had released much of what I’d carried for so many years.

During our drives, we talked and laughed; we admired Atlanta’s skyline, something I’d taken for granted the 26 years I’d lived there; we admired the foliage, lunched at various restaurants, and sat by the Chattahoochee River. We even visited my favorite lake at Indian Springs and she met my good friend Diann Wilhot, owner of Mrs. Lee’s Stagecoach Sweet Shop.

Mama’s being in Atlanta was also my first opportunity to let go of what I refer to as my long worn Wonder Woman cape. I had begun to feel that my road trip would be delayed indefinitely, or at least until Mama had fully recovered.

I was feeling especially down about it one Sunday afternoon when a good friend telephoned. She sensed something was wrong and before I could even finish explaining what I was feeling, she stopped me. Diedre (Jenkins Rankins) went on to remind me of the time when, at 14, I began repressing my needs and that it was time now for me to live for me. I will always thank her for remembering my story and for saying what I needed to hear that Sunday afternoon. After our conversation, I was at peace and knew that not delaying my trip was as it should be.

As for Wade, I initially saw his return home as the continuation of our earlier challenges. But what it really did was afford us the opportunity to heal our relationship before we both embarked upon the next phase of our journeys. As I read his “Introduction to Victor Thomas” today, I saw that he has embraced his journey and found the “spoils of war” that my friend Dianne Rosena Jones wrote about in her book, Tragic Treasures: Discovering Spoils of War in the Midst of Tragedy. His goal, he said, “is to touch lives and help as many people as I can both financially and spiritually.” What I also saw today were answered prayers. Again, I was at peace.