July 31, 2018: Still Lingering

It’s been a couple days since ACTIONWEEK (the annual poetry therapy intensive) ended, yet I’m still feeling its impact very strongly. I go about my day, handle work tasks, yet the emotions that swirled around me that weekend still lingers. This year, it’s Johanna’s absence that makes things particularly difficult.

Johanna made it a point to attend the intensive every year, be at every session. Now, her thoughts and laughter are no longer with us. The silence that came with this realization was heard by everyone.

July 30, 2018: Body of Work

I’m really getting back in touch with Maya Angelou’s work lately. She was such an amazing storyteller and poet. Her poems were raw, spoken from someone who endured painful and powerful life experiences. I find myself turning to her work during times of great stress and hardship.

Maya’s poems were frequently used by Johanna and I when we ran groups. I feel like we drew from the strength her poetry always radiated on a regular basis. Using her guidance, we provided our clients with the emotional and spiritual support they were seeking.

Maya Angelou will always be a valuable poet to me. In the days ahead, I know that her poetry will be a source of support throughout the next few weeks.

July 29, 2018: I Rise

When I began my studies in poetry therapy, an important thing I learned was to take note of your strengths in the face of extreme challenges. Of course, this task is not easy to learn right away, as doubt and disbelief always finds its way to creep in the mind. Eventually, your strengths come to light, like a switch being clicked on, and you realize that yes, you are indeed strong.

This year, It took me living through my most challenging days to reach this realization. A month ago, I was at a low point emotionally. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong in the span of a week. I didn’t know if there could be any resolution in sight.

Then, things slowly shifted. I began to breathe, and take note of what I needed to do in my life at the time. I slowly came to the realization that yes, I will shine through this. I am strong. I had Andy’s undying support, and Maya Angelou’s poem ‘Still I Rise’ going through my mind like a mantra:

You may write me down in history

with your bitter, twisted lies,

you may trod me in the very dirt,

but still, like dust, I rise.

Like a switch, my resolve returned. While there are more challenging days ahead, I take comfort in knowing that I will endure these bumps in the road courageously. Through the hardships I move ahead knowing that life has many more gifts and blessings in store for me.

**Quote is from the poem ‘Still I Rise’, from Maya Angelou.**

July 28, 2018: New York Weekend

Currently on my way to New York. It will be so exciting to meet and share with my poetry therapy community. It certainly won’t be the same without Johanna, but it will be good seeing the other members who could attend.

The journey to NYC is pretty eventful. The large crowds and crowded surroundings are all too common once travelling close to the area. As much as I don’t enjoy it (who does, really), I appreciate the diverse conversations and action taking place around me. Certainly different than what I see in daily central NJ life.

I constantly wish that I could be up hee more frequently. Stay connected to what I left behind four years ago. Sadly, it’s still a work in progress. The motivation really needs to kick in.

July 27, 2018: My Thoughts on ‘The Lovely Bones’

‘The Lovely Bones’ tells the story of Susie Salmon, a fourteen year old girl who was killed by a neighbor back in 1973. The story is told in Susie’s perspective, beginning just before the crime takes place. The book then follows the lives of Susie’s friends and family, and how they handle the loss of such a special person. Susie is viewing her loved ones from her place in heaven, longing to guide them through their events and struggles, but unable to intervene.

‘The Lovely Bones’ is a very emotional story. It was difficult at times for me to read certain parts due to the intense conflicts among the characters. At the same instance I couldn’t put the book down. The story being so raw and moving, and I eagerly awaited the fate of Susie’s family members as they navigated through life without her.

I enjoyed reading ‘The Lovely Bones’; it’s been available in stores for a few years, but I finally came across it at a nice bookstore in Wildwood, so I decided to pick it up. I’m glad I did!

July 26, 2018: New York, Always

Only a couple more days until I share poetry with friends in New York. I’m glad I can come by and be with my community for the weekend. Visiting NYC on a regular basis has not worked out the way I had hoped since moving back to NJ. I miss the moments I had with good friends. I wasn’t able to communicate as much with Johanna while she was still living and working there. While she was still alive. I deeply regret that.

When I visit New York this weekend, I will honor Johanna’s memory while connecting with the group we cherished so dearly. They’ve always been there for me when I needed them the most during my times of need. Now, while looking back on Johanna’s life, we need to be here for each other.

July 25, 2018: Tending to the Self

Sometimes on crazy days, I need to take a deep breath and have a moment. It can be in the beginning of the day, before work begins. You know you’re heading into unpredictable situations, so this time to meditate is needed.

You can take a moment during the work day. It’s good to step out for a few minutes for some ‘quiet time’, especially when you feel like you’re on the edge of hysterics during the day.

When it comes to a point where work related stress is at a breaking point, it’s okay to take a ‘mental health’ day. You need that time to regroup, refocus on what’s important in life.

There is always time to tend to tasks and work responsibilities. What’s most important is tending to the self.

July 24, 2018: Photographers

Andy and I found a wedding photographer. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to find someone close to our area, whose payment plan was reasonable. But yesterday we discovered Cherryville Photography, a studio a few miles away from where we live. After a brief phone conversation over the weekend, we met up with them after my work shift ended. They seemed very pleasant, and their payment plans were something we can deal with. Now that that’s squared away, I can now focus on more details, like the dress. I’m a little nervous about that…the prices go all over the place, and my dress size keeps changing every year. It will be great to see the selections though!

Today has been not too wild (so far), and I actually took my group outside in the playground. The fact that it wasn’t raining was a miracle.

July 23, 2018: Rainy Days and Books

It’s pouring out there this week. All morning there were torrential downpours, and it seems like the afternoon will bring more of the same. I’m doing my best to keep the children busy. It’s likely that we’ll be indoors all week. Sparks of sunshine gives false hope, since that accompanies the rain also.

I finally finished reading ‘The Lovely Bones’ yesterday! It was truly an intense novel, very ‘coming-of-age’ while grappling the reality of losing a loved one. I will write more about it on my next post.

What I would love to do is take on a read-a-thon. I’m discovering these large book communities online, and they all share about the love of reading and book challenges. Currently my work schedule won’t allow that, but I hope that soon I can make time to begin reading my next book.

July 22, 2018: An ‘Inactive’ Kind of Day

Usually Sundays are spent admiring the scenery in the area. After church, Andy and I take some time to explore, viewing the beautiful farmland and wildlife Hunterdon County has on display. Today is a slow, ‘relax at home’ day though. Sometimes you just need afternoons like that. We don’t have lots of cash to spend anyway, so some relaxing time at home it is.

I’m already looking forward to next Saturday. I’m spending the weekend with my poetry therapy community. It happens every July for 10 days, but I can only attend the last 2 days. As I mentioned earlier, my current work schedule & finances severely limit me from attending events often. So it will be a wonderful time to see my poetry therapy therapy friends and colleagues once again.

The rememberance session for our friend Johanna will take place this week. Johanna was a constant fixture every year during this time, and her absence is truly felt by everyone. It truly won’t be the same, but we’re all holding on to the memories we’ve created with her.