Who are you and what inspires you today?
I’m a middle-aged woman who woke up a couple of years ago to a fast approaching perfect storm. My marriage was ending, my ‘baby’ was about to graduate and leave the nest, my parents were aging rapidly, I was bored with my job as a market trader for 13 years, and I yearned for a different life where I could be creative, still make a living, and feel fulfilled.
I didn’t think I could handle the cliffs up ahead, but as I began to give attention to the details and peel back layers of fear, I noticed the biggest shock I was facing was the endless hours of free time in the future. This fear disturbed me to the core of my being, How would I deal with being alone?
It didn’t just frighten me, it paralyzed me for about a year. I also knew that I would experience my last daughter leaving the nest as a death, as I did when my older daughter left for college. I had no idea where I would find my new purpose. Questions plagued me and sent me straight to bed with a depression I had no choice but to face.
As I mourned the deaths up ahead, I combed through my childhood losses - a brother who left home at 15 years old and never returned, and another brother who committed suicide three years later when I was a teenager.
I had never really mourned these losses. My father was a violent alcoholic and inherent in this type of family, nothing is talked about, talked through, or discussed in a rational manner.
I dealt with my pain through the use of drugs and alcohol until my early twenties when I married. Life goes on, and you roll with it, was more or less my motto. No one escapes an alcoholic unscathed, but I locked that part of my life away in the dungeon, and no kidding, often dreamed at night of being in a dark room or visiting my dead brother in a cave.
Occasionally, I was drawn back to childhood memories, while raising my daughters, but it always made me depressed and I would ‘give up’ dealing with the issues. Revisiting these old wounds at this time in my life allowed me to view them from a mature, more compassionate perspective.
I didn’t want to close off my heart and just plow through my dimly lit future. Deep down, I knew I had to return to the past, relive the childhood wounds, mourn the losses, and mine them for silver linings so I could move ahead with my life. There was a vast, unknown future on the horizon, and I had no idea which direction I was headed or how to begin to choose.
I decided to treat it like a business venture. I took stock of my skills, the things my brain and body loved to do, and I took stock of hobbies I enjoyed over 30 years, hobbies left behind, and the ones that held interest for me in the present moment. I turned to art and nature to feed my soul while I did my inner work.
Eventually, this led me to a most satisfying ritual of drinking my morning coffee from my upstairs bedroom window, eyes to the morning sun, birds coming to the feeder, and a reading of Sri Chinmoy or Parabola to start my day. It centers me, fills me with joy and appreciation for my journey, my family, for the gift of Mother Nature, and my heart beats with anticipation of the future ahead.
How to know which direction to go? Get silent, at least an hour a day. Get serious, and get silent. Then follow the messages your heart sends you. What do these messages look like?
In the midst of my grieving, watching the birds come to the feeder, my mind slowed to nature’s rhythm and my hands started itching. The itching continued for two days, and following my gut feelings, I went to the local art store and bought pastel charcoals and tablets.
I came home and sketched for a solid year. Energies that I needed to move through, parts of me sealed off and left behind decades ago. I returned to journaling and I believe it helped move the healing process along more quickly, because sometimes when I wrote, the words came through my mind so quickly, I could not write fast enough. Stored energy poured onto the pages.
For a full year, I sketched and witnessed the child in me struggle to express deep sorrow that felt centuries old. I saw parts of myself emerging from the shadows, shut off years ago with various traumas, coming out of the shadows of my mind, no arms and legs or organs, but parts of my Self that wanted acknowledgement. In doing so, I began to heal.
Last year, I joined the local writer’s group. There is something very healing about writing, or any type of creation, and it being heard, or acknowledged, by others. To my surprise, any residual pain associated with my childhood stories dissolved immediately upon the reading. Taking the risk is the hardest part, but the reward is greater than I ever imagined.
I began to notice my feelings when I entered a room, and if my heart could not feel good energy, I gave away items, or collaged them to give them new life. My heart yearned for new energy and collaging helped me turn a corner and move in a new direction. The five opaque windows in my bathroom had driven me crazy for years because I could not see the forest behind my house. It had reached the point where I was ready to take a hammer and knock at least one of them out just so I could breath and my heart could see the trees, so I decided to remodel my upstairs living quarters.
To maintain my sanity during the remodel, I began cutting out photos from magazines I had saved over the years. Photos that resonated with me without knowing what I was going to do with them. One day, cleaning out a closet, I came across an old leather box that didn’t work with my present décor, but I didn’t want to part with it. Instead, I collaged it and it turned out beautiful. One thing led to another, and collaging became my therapy, my meditation, my joy. In the process, I began to find myself.
I will never forget the morning the window installers removed the old windows in my bathroom. One after the other, a slow unfolding of beauty, greater than I had imagined opened up before me as if I were seeing the colors of green and a million leaves for the first time.
My soul breathed deeply. The green tree limbs at my fingertips, the vast blue sky, the sound of birds twittering – I was in heaven, I was in the treehouse I always dreamed of as a child.
Immediately, I redesigned my bath and put in a freestanding tub that takes full advantage of the view. I dream now while in the bath and my soul/heart is deeply satisfied and, oh, the surprises! Like the 10 o’clock morning sun is different from the shaded afternoon bathing experience, and the evening bath with candlelight is different from without candlelight.
For people who cannot replace their windows so they can see nature, I recommend hanging a mirror at the foot of the tub and look at yourself while bathing. I was amazed and appalled at the harsh judgements my mind threw at me about my body. I would look out the windows and dream, bring my gaze down to the mirror, see my aging body, and cry.
I didn't bother trying to understand how these judgements originated, I only knew they came from my mind, and as I continued my baths, my heart grew stronger, and the voices of judgement began to fade, then disappear altogether. Judgement does not enter my sacred space anymore. I have come to love me as I am.
What is the main thing that you have needed to heal in your lifetime?
My brother’s death, my father’s violence towards my family.
What is your greatest strength as a result of that healing?
Most of my life, my greatest strength was in advocacy work. I understand what children go through in abusive homes, the abuser’s behavior, and since my 30s, I was drawn to volunteer work to help change children’s lives who could not speak for themselves. It was a way for me to take the sadness of my youth and turn it into something positive.
I am an advocate for the underdog, the less fortunate, the children who live in dysfunction and cannot change their circumstances. Sitting at the window watching wildlife, taking photos of animals so I can bring them up close and see the details of the feathers as if I was holding the animal in my hands, is deeply satisfying to me. My heart opens immediately, I relax into the child’s delight, I feel loved, alive, and my creative passions emerge.
I used to paint on canvas, it brought me great pleasure, but one day, I found myself staring at a blank canvas for weeks on end. My daughter began to ask me repeatedly, How long are you going to stare at that thing? Finally, I realized the passion had gone out of painting for me. I never dreamed of collaging until I was remodeling.
If the major healing theme of your life had a book or a movie title what would it be called?
Coming Home to Myself by Marion Woodman
How has your past pain informed your life purpose?
Endings are important to me, and with my daughter leaving this summer for out of state college, I paid close attention to our remaining time together. We enjoyed our dinners and morning coffee trips, visiting the grandparents over the summer, and catching up with each other daily, before bedtime. Much like we used to do when she was younger. We were attentive to one another.
She, too, began to collage during the remodeling, and it enhanced our communication and understanding of each other. Instead of fear and feeling the loss of an ending, we focused on love and discussed the joys and anticipations about our futures. We had a beautiful ending – which isn’t an ending really, rather a new beginning for us. My purpose now is to help traumatized people, children and adults, understand spending time with Mother Nature is a realistic way to remain connected to their heart and can help heal the wounds of the past.
My dream is to make videos from my photos of wildlife and nature, and get these videos into CPS shelters or schools that traumatized children attend.
For children who have witnessed or experienced horrific abuse, to send them to detention hall or solitary confinement to stare at four bare walls is not helpful.
They are hurting, wounded, and they need Mother Nature to soothe their wounds and help them stay connected to their hearts.
Most of the kids are crying out for attention, they long to be heard and validated in the midst of their parents’ madness, their parent’s absence. I believe a dose a day of Mother Nature would be very helpful to children with traumatic backgrounds. Growing up in an abusive household, your soul turns inward to protect itself. Year after year, we bury layer after layer of hurt feelings, disappointment, and fear on top of it. Soul cannot blossom under these conditions.
First, you must clear away the debris, till the soil, and plant seeds. It requires hours of conscious labor for the preparation, but when the seeds begin to bloom, you get to enjoy a lighter heart in the beauty of the flowers, or the beauty of whatever you planted. One day you look in the mirror and you see the blooms are you! You worked hard, you changed your life, you healed your heart. You bloomed!
Create your own quote to inspire others on their life journey.
“Where you begin in life does not have to dictate where you end up or how you live your life along the way. Conscious effort is required to rise above low self-esteem, impoverished soul, or painful wounds from the past. You can change your life. You can choose to live an abundant life every morning when the sun comes up.”
Please tell me a favorite story about your childhood?
My youngest brother was born when I was 9 years old. He brought the sun into our lives with his arrival. He was everything to my mom and me. Period.
*A few weeks later, a final review of these questions, I have a flash of insight after reading my answer above. I saw a circle: half of it dark - my father, the other half was light - my mother. The opposites combined and produced me – a perfect balance of the two of them.
I am perfect.
I sit back in my chair to think about this. I have never felt ‘perfect’ in my life. Am I being childish? Too much ego in the answer? Too simplistic? The morning sunlight is shining through the windows as I reflect on my answer.
A spec of dust floats in the sunbeam to the left of me and draws my attention to it. A spec of dust large enough for me to see it is shaped like an egret in flight as it turns towards me and slowly drifts across desk, my computer screen, as if it were saying, watch me.
At the edge of my desk, it makes a left turn and floats toward the dusty window screen and to my utter amazement, passes through a micro-mini size hole without the slightest hitch and drifts upward on a breeze that will carry it towards the trees. Did you see that? The child in me delights! Did you see how easy that was… to get from darkness of the past to something positive?
Healing can take place in a heartbeat.
Was there anything in your past that caused you pain, struggle or hardship?
I never felt I was good enough to belong in any group, even if I did belong, I didn’t feel like I was one of them. I always felt I was different from others – they knew it and I knew it. I had accepted that I would never ‘fit in’ anywhere and was determined to suffer through my remaining years.
These past two years as I have allowed closed off parts of myself to emerge, I feel I am whole for the first time in my life and that I can be fully present and participate in a group with a valid opinion and without qualms about acceptance.
If relevant describe a difficult event or circumstance in your childhood, teen or adult years that caused you to "act-out" or "act-in" in a detrimental way.
How has your emotional pain been a wake-up call for growth? The death of my brother has been a tragedy I have spent my life yearning to understand and correct, and continues to this day.
What is your favorite creative healing modality? What makes you feel alive, passionate and whole?
Now, my favorite creative healing modality is photographing wildlife and nature and writing – something I enjoyed as a teenager but left behind in my early twenties. I look at nature, and I see me at my best. It’s like I have internalized the beauty of Mother Nature and that is my core now, rather than the darkness of my past.
How has your past pain informed your life purpose? How do you specifically want to contribute to life?
I feel my life has come full circle. Some days, I think I wanted my childhood to matter, to turn it into something positive, and thus, I chose activities that allowed me to do that. Other times, I think it was intended for me to have that childhood experience, so I could know what I am talking about when it comes to advocating for traumatized children and what is in their best interest.
What strength-based inspirational advice would you give someone who has similar challenges?
Educate your brain, force it to stretch and learn new knowledge, new behaviors. The brains of traumatized individuals can become stuck in the minefield of emotional wounds and ruts, so we have to step far outside our comfort zones to open new pathways and find relief.
Give yourself at least an hour a day amidst Mother Nature to feed your soul, or devote the time to artwork through whatever medium your body chooses. Don’t condemn where you are in life and don’t label yourself a victim. Focus on healing your heart, and the rest will take care of itself.
If you cannot recognize your heart nudges, just step outside your comfort zone so your brain will begin to stretch and grasp for a new path. Be patient. I believe at our core, the heart always wants to heal, to keep beating, because each beat is life affirming.
The heart takes the emotional punches and responds like any other part of the body that has been wounded - only the heart takes longer to heal. This is when you need Mother Nature’s embrace.
What famous inspirational quote sums up your life journey?
If you see yourself as no one worth looking at;
if you believe you are not worth listening to;
if your parents didn’t find you worth listening to;
If they told you,
That’s not what you saw,
not what you heard,
Not what you think,
You cannot trust yourself.
You are lost.
Don’t look to others to others to find you,
to love and take care of you now.
You’ll suck them dry.
No one out there is responsible.
Go back and find your soul.
Be mother and father to yourself,
Until the divine parents arrive.
~ Marion Woodman, Jill Mellick, Coming Home to Myself, Listening to my Soul pg. 284
Short Bio: Middle aged woman facing perfect storm wakes up just in time to find her Self, prepare for the cliffs up ahead, and remain fully engaged in life as it unfolds in each precious moment.
Visit Pam on her Facebook Page: Heartbeat of Mother Nature