When I Am Brave

When I am brave, I will face the page every day with excitement and expectation. I will build a pile of pages, some connected by thoughts and themes, and some individual ones, standing alone with a purpose. A poem. An essay. A journal post just for me.

When I am brave, I won’t be afraid of writing just for myself. I won’t expect to be published. I won’t hope to be published. I will simply write because it brings me joy. Brings me purpose. Brings me a shape to my days.

When I am brave, I will write the hard stories. The stories about death and betrayal and how it feels to be left behind. To not feel loved enough. Good enough. Special enough. I have experienced all these emotions, as turbulent and as harsh as they are. They have ripped up my heart and damaged my psyche, but they have made me who I am: someone who loves so hard, accepts people for who they are…until they wound me again. I can forgive a lot, but I can’t forgive myself if I allow myself to be hurt repeatedly. I have a duty to protect my soft inner child, the one who didn’t understand why my father left me when I was 6 for a woman with a small son, why he came back but slowly drank himself to death. Why he didn’t love me enough to quit drinking. That still hurts all these years later.

When I am brave, I will forgive myself for the choices I made when I was young and didn’t know better. The choices made when I thought I knew what I wanted out of life, and how I got out of relationships I didn’t want to be in any longer. I will forgive myself for hurting the people who hurt me. And I will forgive myself for hiding behind my excuses, my reasons, and accept that I did what I wanted to do, and I don’t need to sugar coat my actions to make other people feel better. To make myself feel better.

When I am brave, I will look at my life with wonder and appreciate that all the pain and hardship were worth it. And I will love myself for surviving. And thriving throughout everything. I will count through the years and realize I am who I am because of the pain, that I would be an entirely different person if I hadn’t experienced those hardships. I love myself, so my life has been a good one, even if it didn’t seem that way at the time when the tears ran hot and my heart was broken and the stress made me drop 10 lbs in a month and I made even worse choices when I was hurting so much.

When I am brave, I will own my grief and my anger. I won’t apologize for who I am.

When I am brave, I won’t wait to start living my best life. A creative life.

When I am brave, I will know I am brave. Right here, right now.

I am brave.

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Creative Writing Support

Do you think you might be a writer, but you’re afraid to say it out loud to anyone?

Do you need help taking those precious baby steps towards making a more creative life?

Do you feel you’re called to write, but answering that call terrifies you?

Then this is the place for you.

I was once in your shoes. Twenty-five years old and terrified to share my fiction at the first writing group I’d ever attended. Held at a small, independent bookstore in my hometown, this writing group was where I announced (very quietly) that I was a writer. I shared my short stories each week, learned a lot from some gentle critique, and gradually gained confidence in my ability.

I had found my creative home.

I continued to write for years after that, following the guidance of Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron and Anne Lamott. But I was still scared. I would write for a few weeks, then my anxiety around creativity would suck the life out of me. It took me 5 years to write a novel—which was really 6 months of writing and 4 and a half years of procrastination.

I was stuck. I was terrified of failure. And I was miserable. I knew I was supposed to be writing. I knew it was the most important thing in my life, but it was also the thing that I kept pushing down and avoiding. I was sabotaging myself and my happiness.

I had put writing up on this sort of pedestal. I was convinced it was my life purpose to be a writer, so I had to be perfect at it, right? I had to be a famous, traditionally published author or nothing at all.

So of course, I had chosen “nothing at all”. I stopped writing, kept plugging away at my day job, and ate my feelings, all the while still wishing and dreaming and knowing I was a writer.

And then I realized (duh) that I was overthinking the whole thing. I could write! I could write every day.! I could bang out 500 words in twenty minutes! The writing was the important thing to me, not the results. Hallelujah!

If I can overcome my fear of writing, so can you.

If you want to embrace your identity as a writer, I can help. We can be writers together, taking those precious baby steps towards a creative life. I can help reduce the terror you feel each time you face a blank page.

I coach writers of all genres and help them move forward. Help them stay on track. Help them reduce their creative fears. With kindness. With love. With understanding. And a few great writing tips, tricks and exercises.

Send an email to leanne (at) joymagnetcoaching.com or call/text me at 226-201-0790 EST to get started.

 

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Wild, Wild Love

I have a wild, wild love of possibilities. Of change. Of starting over. Especially of starting over in a new place, not running away per se but new beginnings. A new house in a new town, new friendships, new stores to shop in, new roads to walk. To wander around a place where I have never been before. Where nobody knows me. I am a ghost. A cypher. Where I can be who I really am without the burden of expectations. I could move anywhere and start over, get a job in a coffee shop, not know a soul, and be happy doing it. To take the time to discover what I want this life to look like, to feel like, to smell like. How each day would roll out. Coffee in my huge indigo mug. Reading curled up in the soft morning sun in my largest, most comfortable chair. With hours spread open ahead of me, no obligations, no duties. Just a few dishes to wash and a couple of dogs to feed.

But instead of possibilities, my real days—the days I experience right now—are filled with burdens and worries. Hours spent searching for this next home. This next town. And it doesn’t feel like freedom at all. It feels like pressure. Like perfection. Like I have to find just the right house with just the right yard. With lots of trees and space to spread out. Room for guests and room for me to have a writing desk and room to read. My own space.

So many criteria, which limits me. I find one house, a sweet gorgeous renovation that fits our physical needs and my esthetic for beauty but it’s right in the middle of a town with a town’s yard. Not enough trees. Not enough space. Then I find the perfect yard filled with a forest, but the house needs too much work and it smells weird.

So I begin again. And on it goes until I circle back to where I am. Where I lay my head at night right now is perfect after all. A forest at my backyard. Room to write and read and live. Room for guests and blooming friendships with neighbours. The soul of Lake Erie just a short walk away with wave-worn stones and hard-packed sand. Driftwood scattered along my path.

Even though my heart aches for my childhood home, my home is here in Port Stanley. And I am at peace with that. It feels good and I am happy to be here. Happy to have what I have. And that is a huge accomplishment for me: to realize I like what I have, like where I am. I am satisfied. It is enough.

I look forward to the possibilities right at my doorstep and I don’t have to leave here to be happy. And I wouldn’t have known this unless I had gone searching for something different.

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Kelso Beach

I grew up near Kelso Beach, a small beach only a block or two away from my childhood home in Owen Sound. No, really, a tiny beach, but it had a picnic pavilion and public washrooms and a creek winding to it and willow trees dipping their roots into Georgian Bay, long arms twisting in the wind.

The water never got warm there. I would step off the shore and ease my way in, my breath gasping with the cold as my feet grew numb and I had to suddenly plunge under, or I’d never get in at all. My body slowly getting used to the temperature as I swam further out until I couldn’t reach the bottom any longer. But never any further than that.

I still have a scar on my left knee from when I was swimming there at age 10. The water was murky that day, dark and cloudy with sand, and I dipped underwater, coming up suddenly with a flash of pain, the skin on my knee jagged and open, blood pouring out.

I hobbled to shore in tears, and a lady helped me stop the bleeding while my friend Sarah ran to my house and got my parents. Luckily, the woman helping me turned out to be a nurse, so she cleaned my wound as best she could and kept me calm while we waited. Gave me a can of soda to drink and made sure I didn’t panic when the blood keep oozing.

Twenty-two stitches later, my knee was wrapped in gauze and I couldn’t bend my leg for a week while the wound heeled. Even after the wrapping was off and the stitches were removed, I didn’t bend my knee for days, scared of opening the wound again. My grandmother wondered why I wouldn’t bend my leg, which made me feel small and dumb because she couldn’t understand why I was afraid.

For years after, the scar flared to an angry purple any time I got cold, any time I swam, like it was a beacon warning me to stay safe: Don’t leap into the dark again or bad things will happen.

I used to spend a lot of time alone, walking the gravel path to the beach and sitting on the boulders at the shore along the way watching the waves and listening to their peaceful song. Red-winged blackbirds flitting through the tall grass and the cries of seagulls flying overhead.

I was a loner those years with only a small klatch of very good friends. I never felt part of the neighbourhood kids, but I hung around them a bit, always feeling like an outsider. Even then I needed more connection to make a friendship. It wasn’t enough to simply live on the same street — I needed a reason to be your friend. Something in common. The two friends I liked the most in the neighbourhood both lived in the same stately Victorian red brick house at different times. The house was our common connection.

Home is always the connection.

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Hemingway Talks About Love

We ate well

And cheaply

And drank well

And cheaply

And slept well

And warm together

And loved

Each other

–   Ernest Hemingway

She wanted the print because it contained a quote by a famous author and featured a typewriter, so she thought the quote was about writing. She had never really looked at it before, had never actually read the words on the page rolled out on the typewriter. But when she did look, when she did pay attention, she realized the quote was actually about love. A simple relationship that circled around food and drink and sleep. The essentials of life.

Could these physical needs also be the essentials of love?

She noticed Hemingway didn’t mention sex in this list. Was this an oversight or was it another part of the book that wasn’t printed on the typewriter’s page?

Maybe he was saying sex wasn’t essential for love. That when you came right down to it you needed these other physical things to share and sex didn’t even really matter in the equation: food + drink + sleep = love

Could this mean that you could love anybody then? As long as you had these simple pleasures you could love each other? That was ridiculous. A good life together was more than these three simple things. These three things didn’t add up to the fourth. They didn’t add up to loving each other. Loving each other was the fourth point. The most important point.

The message wasn’t about writing and it wasn’t about eating and drinking and sleeping. It was about loving each other. She wondered if her subconscious had picked up on this after all. The print had been a gift from her husband after all. Her sweet, kind, steady, honest and loyal husband. Her best friend.

She had always thought people were exaggerating, lying, stretching the truth when they called their spouse their best friend, but now in her fifties she knew her husband was her best friend. And instead of being boring and predictable, marriage was peaceful and safe, and she could trust him. He was the first man she could trust even though too many had come before him. She knew she wouldn’t need another one to come after him. If god forbid, he died tomorrow, there would be no other man. No other best friend. Love would end with him and she would not have another romantic relationship. No more searching for another love.

She would spend the rest of her years with her daughters and a parade of dogs and books and writing and walking in the trees and along the shoreline. She would spend hours alone and she was fine with this prospect. She had had her sweet love, her best friend, and the memory of his warmth and his smile and his steadfastness would be enough. She had been lucky to have that.

But if she was really lucky, he would live to a hundred and she’d have him for decades to come.

She hoped she was really lucky.

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It Feels So Good To Write About Clarity

It hit me the other day when I had just finished reading a YA novel by Nina Lacour.

I remembered how big everything felt when I was a teenager: happiness was bigger. Jealousy was bigger. Anger was bigger. And all of these emotions were me centric. Everything was about me and how I felt. What I thought.

I have always been so hard on myself about my teen years and how selfish I was. How I was so wrapped up in what was going on with me that I wasn’t there for my dad in his last months before he died. And I tore myself apart feeling so bad about this. That I was a horrible daughter, a horrible person, to be so self-centred while his health failed and he was living alone in a small apartment while all I cared about was breaking up with my boyfriend and starting to date another guy and how I wanted money for school clothes because it was so important to me to be stylish and pretty.

Well of course I was selfish and self-centred. I was 18. And I suddenly realised that my brain had not finished growing and maturing. That my prefrontal cortex was on fire and that made my emotions flare so much. It was NORMAL for me to be wrapped up in myself, that nature had designed humans that way and I WAS NOT a horrible person after all.

What an eye-opener. What a relief. What a sense of grace this gave me. And I didn’t have to beat myself up or even forgive myself for being that way when I was 18 because I hadn’t done anything wrong. I wasn’t a horrible daughter.  I wasn’t a horrible person after all. I was just a teenager going through an incredibly hard time.

And then dad died, and I had to move on. I think being so young when it happened actually helped me recover. Being in the beginning stages of a new relationship actually helped me grieve. Gave me something else to focus on, something more than the pain of dad being gone. The pain of having to deal with mom’s drinking and my sister’s drinking, which were both in the highest gear at that moment in time.

It wasn’t denial. Being in a relationship didn’t make me forget my grief, didn’t make me forget my father, but it did give me something else to think about. Something fun to look forward to. A new direction.  And the fact that I jumped, leapt, CATAPULTED even into marriage at 19 makes perfect sense. Between an immature brain and an unhealthy home life, of course I ran away. Of course, I got the hell out of Dodge! I needed peace. I needed a home. I needed emotional stability. And I got it with my marriage.

That’s not to say it was the best idea. Or that he was the best spouse. But it was a way out. And I took it.

This clarity has been amazing. So freeing. I see things in such a different way, and it is a weight off my shoulders. Off my soul. And having this self awareness gives me an inkling of understanding for other people. To not be so judgmental of what they do, what they’ve chosen to pursue, or the decisions they make that are so different than the ones I would want to make for them.

I’m glad I have this clarity. This self forgiveness. This peace. I have grown and changed so much since I was 18 and I am a different person. But I love the person I was back then. She did the best she could with a difficult situation. And she was energetic and spirited and smart and pretty and full of dreams.

I am still that way. Maybe I still am that same person after all. Just wiser.

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Poem: March 27, 2020

I  almost forgot to write a poem today

Wrapped up in coronanews: more deaths reported

Expect more tomorrow

I am thick-waisted with carbs, my skin perfumed with rubbing alcohol

Absorbed

With the fullness of solitude

I pick up my pen, peace blooms at my fingertips

Each line a prayer

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Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Went out for a walk last night and the world felt heavy

Clouds hanging low, pressure pulsing on my chest

A jogger waved on his way past

And a lady walking her dog

But one couple didn’t look at me

Eyes averted, my body a risk

A quick trip to the grocery store this morning: no toilet paper no eggs no bread

Wheezing breathes distrust

The old man in the soup aisle, damp fingers poking at the cans of chicken noodle

Your birthday comes, I mail the gift

I love you so much I stay away

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A year of transformation

This has been a hard year and I won’t be sad to see it go.

My sister died on March 29 at the age of 59 from complications related to her acquired brain injury and my mother died on April 25 at the age of 89 from complications from diabetes. Both were in long term care, so I wasn’t responsible for them day-to-day, but I did carry the emotional weight of helping them — my sister for the past 9 years and my mother for 4 years. I was tired and stressed and angry and resentful about the obligation. I was not a gracious caregiver a lot of the time, and I feel horrible about that. My family was very broken, very dysfunctional and filled with alcoholism, depression, and occasional violence. I did not grow up in a happy home, and to have the caregiving obligation weighing on my soul wasn’t good for me. I didn’t want it, but I also didn’t want to neglect the people who needed me. I shouldered the burden and buried my anger as much as I could until I erupted, spewing toxic emotions to my sweet husband who tried to make me feel better as best he could.

I grieved their deaths, saw a counselor for a few months, and started to feel good again. I was lighter emotionally, full of hope and joy. I finally had time just for me, without obligations to anyone else.

Now it was time for me to figure out what I wanted my life to look like.

My husband and I decided to move back to my home area, which is very surprising because I’ve griped about my home town for many years, but I want to snuggle into a life where I’m surrounded by people who love me. It was actually a very easy decision to make. Driving 3 hours each way to look at houses, listing our current house for sale, and getting ready to (hopefully) move has taken up most of my headspace these past few months. I haven’t worked on my fiction at all, but I’ll get there.

“Life’s too short to be miserable” has always been my mantra and I don’t want to waste any time doing things that aren’t meaningful to me. Next year will be a time for new beginnings, for joy, for peace of mind. I don’t make resolutions, but I like the idea of a theme word for the year and my word for 2020 is “meaning”. I will focus on creating a life that is meaningful for me, and this includes creativity, art, writing, helping others, beauty, and family because these are the things that make my heart soar. I have decided on a niche for my coaching business — which has been on hold for years — and I’ll be building this business from the ground up.

I recently purchased the rights to present the Life Purpose Boot Camp course created by Dr. Eric Maisel, which is based on his book by the same name, as well as his Deep Writing seminar, and I’ll be sharing this information through workshops and coaching. I can’t wait to get started!

I’ve been transformed this year, the proverbial Phoenix rising from the ashes. It’s been hard, of course, but I feel great.

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This Is What You’ll Get

This is what you’ll get when you mess with us

Unmovable stubbornness no matter how hard you push

Turning away the more you grasp

Alone

Arms of branches, wisps of willow

Holding hope for a minute there

I lost myself back in time to when she needed me

Held me back held me dear

You can’t make her do anything she doesn’t want to do

I like to think she got that from me

It’s easy to see resemblance and imagine that’s all there is

Eyes

Bones

The shell of an ear

But more than just a body grows when it blooms inside the darkened spaces

Karma swims up in the soul tasting the salt

Of tears, red-faced and screaming until the miles stretch out and

Alone again

Pictures remind me of who she was when I knew her

I lost myself, I lost myself

This is what you’ll get when you mess with love

 

(With thanks to Radiohead)

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