What is inspiring you? I hope that you can ask, in the dormancy of winter: what would happen if I took a stand for myself?
This is the last in a series of nine guest posts: For the last few winters, I’ve offered up my blog as a place for writers to share. I believe in generosity. I also know how important it is for writers to write. To that end, I’ve spent a few weeks posting the alive and brave words that people who have come to a Haven retreat are willing to share. Read these words. Consider this experience. Play around in curiosity and wonder. I hope that my blog will honor all of us who sit in the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing.
That’s what I’m doing. Quietly. For these weeks. Please think about taking this time for your heart language.
The Power of Taking a Stand – Jacquelyn Jackson
The Haven Retreat had ended just seven minutes earlier. I could still feel the warmth of the goodbye hugs we shared after breakfast, a gentle Arizona sun at our backs.
At breakfast, I picked at an egg-white omelet while Laura read to the eight of us gathered for our last meal in the Tack Room at the Tubac Golf Resort, 20 miles north of the Mexican border. Laura talked about accepting what was and was not within her control.
“Our happiness,” she read from her book, “Our ability to love, to be in a place of harmony with ourselves and beyond – is not outside ourselves…it’s all here. In us. It always was.”
Tubac offers a haven of earth, air, fire and water: elemental grounding that made it easy to release anxiety and doubt. The sentry strength of the Santa Rita Mountains, rugged and ancient, protects the eastern border. Blue-sky-fluffy-white-clouds, straight out of central casting, demonstrate the artistry of spun air. Candles fired our way each day and water, so spare and revered in the Sonoran Desert, shimmers in man-made lakes and the nature-made Santa Cruz River meandering to the east. This elemental beauty, laced with Laura’s words, beckoned us to take a stand for our deepest truths.
While we were invited to share our work only when comfortable, Laura mandated to those who arrived with a stuck-book inside a written one-sentence book statement.
I have researched and written extensively on the female body; I executive produced the documentary version of The Body Project, a book by Cornell Historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg. My writing has focused on the impact of external female body obsessions on internal health and well-being. The burning question I have pondered for years: How do we revere internal over external and more deeply respect and heed the body’s innate wisdom.
Despite, or maybe because of, my years of pondering some form of “body” book, I struggled to write one concise sentence. Rewriting, striking out, groaning and starting again, I finally wrote this: My story of overcoming fear and finally and fully returning home to my body and voice.
After the retreat, I mulled my statement, especially “overcoming fear.” I googled “women and fear” and a litany of collective fears spilled forth: aging, rape, violence, feminism, not being liked, loving too much, power, obesity, leaning in, success, failure. And these from other parts of the world: death for driving or revealing an ankle in public.
In 2011, my life was slimed with fear and anxiety. On a bright blue January morning, I witnessed the mass murder of dear friends in Tucson when one insane man came gunning for Gabrielle Giffords. I escaped death by seconds but did not escape watching the gunman kill and maim my friends. Eleven months later my beloved brother went from running 10K’s to dead in seven days. A brain tumor we did not know he had.
I was faced with two choices: survive the terror and feel my way back into my body, or give up. I chose breath work, yoga and therapy. Writing the book statement helped me see, in one declarative sentence, the heart of my story. Fear, I realized, has been lodged in my body for many years. The acute fears of 2011 led me to unearth older fears that lingered deep inside. The act of excavation strengthened my body and voice.
And now it is three months after the Haven Retreat in Tubac, and one month into a new year, and the courage infused by the Haven Retreat has exploded in my world. In this first month of 2014, I gave notice, landed a weekly column, sold our house, bought a new, smaller house and got a dog – Benny – a white fluffy mix who was found wandering the mean streets of Tucson. I still have not lost the 15 pounds I want to let go of but I am a bit cocky about the stand I am taking.
I doff my hat to Laura, whose X-ray vision sees within what we sometimes cannot see for ourselves. Her warmth and sincerity are like a gentle flame, luring us out of ourselves. Her fierce spirit exerts a midwifery force, compelling the creative inside to birth itself into the world.
I am heading to Montana in June for one more slice of the Haven pie. My advice: take a stand for who you are and what you know – the results are delicious.