Tag Archives: brave

Haven Winter Series #8

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.50.07 PMHappy Valentine’s Day! This is the eighth post of my winter writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What? 

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

Haven
by Yve Sturman

I’ve always been a little bit strange. I’ll admit it. I was always that kid going the other direction on the school field trip. The kid that was a proverbial thorn in the designated chaperone’s side. If we were in the woods, I’d find my own path. If we were in a museum, I’d wander off alone into exhibits tucked away in dark corners. Back then, I was driven by curiosity and a sense of adventure. Fear was the last thing from my mind. I had this same sense driving down the long winding driveway of Walking Lightly Ranch in Whitefish, Montana in June of 2013. Recapturing that feeling made me grin like an idiot. This was a feeling I lived for, a feeling I loved.

I was there to spend a week writing with eleven strangers and one author of a book that I had picked up in a moment of personal crisis several years prior. In a moment of adventure fueled bravery, I had sent Laura Munson some samples of my sporadic writing. I had kept quiet track of Laura over the years and had read about her Haven writing retreats. They had always been “on my radar”. “Maybe I can do that one day?” I dared to wonder. Now just a few short phone calls and several plane tickets later, I was slowly rolling toward the main ranch house in the steady deluge of a Montana downpour. I was equal parts nervous and excited. “I can’t believe I’m doing this!” I thought.

Those five days spent hold up next to a roaring fire as the Montana rain softly fell outside, were to prove life altering. I rediscovered a voice within myself. My voice.  I was writing with wild abandon and I was doing so amongst the company of eleven other adventurous souls. Every single one of us grew in those five days. We could see it in each other. We grew braver and bolder within each other’s company and we became bonded in a way few will understand. I left Montana much closer to the adventurous spirit I once was.

I may have physically left Walking Lightly Ranch, but I carry Haven with me. I still write freely with wild abandon. I sit with my coffee and my laptop and again wander off into dark corners relishing what I find there. I grow and stretch myself with each keystroke and I have found my voice to the point where I have started to tell my own story in the form of a memoir. It’s a story I needed to tell and it’s proving to be quite a journey. A road paved in healing and light. A road that requires me to be brave and work hard. The “writer’s experience” Laura calls it.

I recently returned to Montana. I spent a few days indulging my inner adventurer. I got lost in Glacier national park and emerged with several new stories to write. I reunited with Laura. We talked about many things but my favorite moment was sitting across from her at a kitchen table. As we chatted, I had a moment of realization. We were talking about what it means to write and the trials and tribulations faced by writers seeking publication. In that moment I realized that my fire for writing now burned hotter than ever. I wanted this challenge. I was once again forging my own path. I had rediscovered myself and I was ready for this journey, wherever it led me.

Right Time
by Betsy Gibson

My Haven Writing Retreat came at just the right time for me, and I was certain that I would take what I’d learned and start to examine my life in exacting detail. I’d figure it all out in writing. I’d become more relaxed, more disciplined and more focused than I’d been in years. And if I got lucky, maybe I’d find something interesting in my voice. Profound, even! Yes!! Maybe I could even become the next “OH, I LOVE HER!!!” writer (notice that I am not so presumptuous as to say “author”). Stranger things have happened.

Well, a year has now come and gone, and I have failed to examine my life. I have figured out nothing—or nothing profound, I should say—and I am not one bit more relaxed, more disciplined or more focused. What happened? After all, I had thought about my Haven Retreat every day for the past year. I was still excited about the prospect of “figuring it all out” through writing. So then, How had I not acted on those thoughts? The thoughts that urged me to write. BEGGED me to write. The thoughts that said, “Come on, just pick up the legal pad and start to write!!”

Something was seriously wrong. I started to wonder how and why I had seemingly just thrown away such a wonderful, life-altering experience. I spent a good deal of time furious with myself for not fulfilling my newest “life assignment” (I view the act of writing daily as an assignment- -as a Total Type A, I love having “assignments” and tend to look forward to working on them and completing them in a way that makes me feel as though I’ve accomplished something positive). At some point, though, I realized that being furious with myself was not the most positive course. So, rather than focusing on how I had wasted an entire year on “not writing”, or on writing things that resembled what I imagined the periodic rants of a very moody teen girl might have looked like, I decided to write something real. Or to try to write, I should say. Yes, maybe that would be my ticket to understanding my dismal failures when it came to my writing life (and my failures when it came to my inability to change from a Type A, always busy, always stressed former NYC lawyer to the completely Zen-like and utterly calm and seeking soul that I had planned to become through my writing). An ironic thought, yes. But maybe it would work.

So I wrote. I started with a lengthy Facebook post. I didn’t mean to, but I just couldn’t stop myself. Yet the post, too, had all of the markings of a teen girl caught in the midst of a rambling barrage of words. It was the worst thing I had ever written, and I (wisely, I think) deleted it soon after I had posted it. Why was I writing like this? What was going on?

When I looked at the Facebook post after its completion (and deletion), I had the answer as to why I had been failing myself in my writing life. And in my “life life”. It was amazing! In my post, I saw a totally overwhelmed woman who was juggling two tremendous life changes at the same time, with other severe stressors lurking in the recesses of her mind. I saw a woman who didn’t “fail” by virtue of not having fully examined her life during the past year, and who didn’t “fail” by not writing (or by not writing like a rational adult would write). No, amazingly enough, I did not see a self who had failed at all!!! I saw a self who simply had not had the time she’d needed to fulfill her goals. Thank God for small favors. It wasn’t “me”, it was the whirlwind of life all around me that had prevented me from proceeding according to schedule.

I realized, for the first time, two things through reading my stream of consciousness, “subject/ verb tense error” filled post. I realized (or was reminded) that I am, first and foremost, human. And therefore, not in the least bit perfect. Not even close. Even more telling, I realized that I am currently, and have been for the past year, fully invested in something much bigger and much more important than myself. The subject matter of my post made it clear to me that I was wrong to bemoan my inability to fulfill my particular goals. Instead, my focus over the past year had been exactly where it should have been: on the people I love and love taking care of. My focus should never have been on myself. Or on any sort of detailed analysis of my life. And I realized, in reading the post, that I hadn’t wanted it to be. That explained it. Instead of working on myself the year after my Haven Retreat, it had been my time to step up my work in the incredibly important job of fully immersing myself in my role as mother, wife, sister, daughter, daughter in law and friend. Other people needed me during that year after Haven. More than ever before. And my focus needed to be on those other people, each of whom I love unconditionally and without hesitation and without whom I would be lost. So right now, thanks to that horribly written, now deleted Facebook post, I understand why I have not been able to reach my (overly lofty) goals. I’m no longer plagued by the daily nagging questions: Why can’t I get it together? Why can’t I get all of my various legal pads together and try to weave my story into something cohesive? It’s because it’s simply just not my time yet. But when my time comes,

I’ll get there. And in the meantime, I have decided that I will write what I can, when I can, where I can. If that writing is akin to a teenager’s (or even a preteen’s!) emotional diary entries, then so be it. If it is akin to a Trust Indenture, so be it. If it’s in the form of a Facebook post or an email to my mother or sisters, well, at least I’m writing SOMETHING. I may be working in the “Haven Lite” mode right now, but at least I now understand why. And my time will come. I know it. And Haven will be with me as I put pen to paper and finally begin my journey. Of that, I am sure.

 

 

 

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Haven Winter Series #2

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.51.25 PMThis is the second post in a series I’m calling I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What? Every winter I hand my blog over to other writers for a few weeks to explore a theme. Today, Carol writes about what the future holds after her stroke and Emily writes about writing through grief. If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!Click here for more info.

You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

Living the Life We Are Given: CTA- Etiology Unknown
By Carol Wooten

I didn’t choose my life purpose, it chose me. A sudden vice like pain at the right occiput hijacked my attention away from the conversation I was having with friends at a summer patio birthday party. Interesting, their words sounded as if they were coming from a TV in the next room at a cheap motel. If I made a BIG effort I comprehended them. More compelling was the absence of the feeling of knowing we take for granted. Was I was leaning over or sitting upright on the picnic table bench?

“Would you like to go inside? “ asked Pam.  “Yes,” I said. However I couldn’t get my body to follow the intention to stand up. Blessed to be in the presence of nurses, all of whom had been in Vietnam, two came to my side. Each supported an elbow lifting and guiding me up right. OK, standing up. Now what about walking. My left foot felt rooted. It required a nudge from Pam’s toe to prompt it to slide forward. I stepped right, nudged, slid left foot, stepped right. One slow careful step at a time.

To safety – the living room couch. Only it wasn’t safe. I was swamped by forceful dramatic waves of nausea. My friends, some former group members, will think I’m drunk, I mused. I did my best to keep every part of me still even my lidded eyeballs as if I could prevent the waves of upheavals. My friends kept me overnight, thinking it must have been the heat or too much to drink. I was right. They called my husband to tell  him I would spend the night. They brought me to the ER at 6 AM after I toppled to the floor. They saw me try to crawl to the bathroom: my left knee, arm, torso failed to support me or to move. I collapsed on my tummy, felt like a beached whale. I suspected I had had a stroke.

The CT Scan confirmed my intuition: a blood clot blocked a tiny artery in my cerebellum. Blood thinner was given, followed by an extensive diagnostic work up - CVA: Cardio Vascular Accident, etiology unknown. It was 1985. I was 38. Then came rehabilitation.

My attention wandered. I did my best to graduate from Stand Up class, brush my teeth, dress myself in sweats: ADL’s.  Activities of Daily Living filled my day. Exhausted after dinner, but not too tired to swap stories with friendly fellow patients in the “dining room.” Jack’s wife, an attractive well groomed woman, told me she was a figure skating champion and teacher. He worried she would have to take care of him and lose time on time on the ice. He wondered if he’d fly fish next summer. Arnold, an accountant who worked so hard to get his thin body to stand. He failed to graduate from the Stand Up class. He refused to join us in the dining room. I understood why.

Each patient at Saint Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco had a private room. Mounted on the wall at the end of each hospital bed was a TV over which hung a crucifix.  If this were a movie, I’d have changed the channel by now. Who wants to be stuck in a Grade B melodrama? Not me. A Jewish woman from New York City, a former high school history teacher, a new Psychotherapist.  “I” planned to build a thriving practice and a dynamic career in the non profit sector by age 40. Then my husband of six years and I would have our first child. Maybe another or I’d get a PhD. Looking at the crucifix I understood “I” was not in charge.  “I” had to surrender, welcome this thing called stroke.  IT became my teacher. Now, my work is Keeping Hope Alive for other folks with strokes by passing on hard won lessons.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
–Joseph Campbell

Gift of Haven
By Emily Janowsky

Paint with beauty and boldness on the page, Laura’s words echo in my mind as I recall the four days we spent in that serene Montana wilderness, basking in the warmth of a cozy lodge and the nurturing, supportive atmosphere that can develop quickly given the right conditions – in this case, ten diverse but like-minded, creative women and a very skilled and encouraging facilitator.

Show me how big your brave is.  Why is it I somehow hear this exact phrase of the Sarah Bareilles song when scanning through my pre-set radio stations.  You could say it’s just a coincidence.  After all, I’m in the car a lot, shuttling my kids around and doing errands, and the song does still get a lot of airtime even though it’s been more than a year since its release.  But I don’t believe in coincidences anymore.

I don’t believe it was a coincidence that my plans to celebrate my mom’s birthday fell through on the exact day I first saw Laura’s announcement on Facebook that she had limited spaces available for her Haven retreat a short month away.  And of course, that retreat would be held on my mom’s 75th birthday, a milestone to which I’d ascribed a huge amount of meaning, feeling inspired to mark the day in a significant way given she couldn’t do so herself.

Show me how you big your brave is.  I hear my mom’s voice, gentle but strong, and see the love in her face.  She was always there, behind me or beside me, offering words of encouragement and support.  You can do it, Emmaline.  I heard this voice for forty years and it became enmeshed in my psyche.

You got this, I tell myself, trying to fill the void that has existed since my mom’s death three years ago.  I’m learning to give these words the same weight I gave hers, and it hasn’t been an easy process.

“Brave” is a word Laura uses frequently to describe the women who come to Haven.  I have to admit, there were times in the beginning when I didn’t feel brave.  Most of us had come alone, called to retreat for different reasons, whether a major life event or simply a gift to oneself.  We came with our stories, our experiences and perspectives, and a willingness to share them.

Is everyone a writer, even at some level?  We all have stories within us.  What compels some of us to share them on the page?  For me, I’ve always loved hearing others’ stories, have always been drawn to memoirs and biographies over other genres like fantasy, mystery or sci-fi.  The human experience is what interests me, and as I get older, I find myself more willing to share my experience with others.

My mom’s death from cancer three years ago and the ensuing grief have shaped me as significantly as any other major life event.  I know that would surprise many people, but losing her is right up there with becoming a mother myself.  In fact, I’d put those two events at the top of my list in terms of transformative life experiences. So, I guess it’s no surprise that I find my writing focused on grief, loss, healing, life and death.  I was a grief rookie who now considers herself an advocate for the grieving process, with lessons learned that I want to share in the hope of helping others.

Being at Haven was a gift because I left the retreat restored, energized and even more committed to my writing project: Grief, Grit & Grace.  Yes, it takes bravery and courage and discipline to make this project a reality.  But I view it as both the final stage of my grief journey and a way to honor my mom’s life.  I got this.

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