Choose to Live

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At a recent writer’s retreat I attended, I was sharing my published books with another new writer friend. An author has to be able to say what his or her book is about in under 30 seconds, one or two sentences at the most. My keynote for my first book is “10 – A Story of Love, Life, and Loss, is an inspiring cancer story. It may uplift and encourage you to live your best life.” I often say “It’s an inspiring memoir/cancer journey/love story.”

Then, my friend asked me a simple question, one I had never been asked before so succinctly.

“So, how do you continue to live a quality life when you’ve been given a terminal diagnosis with no hope of a cure?”

Her succinct question demanded a succinct answer. She wanted to know in a few sentences how my husband and I did it.

I answered her this way, in list form: change your focus to ‘living’ rather than ‘dying,’ live in the moment, live with gratitude, and focus on your abilities, not your losses.

  1. Focus on ‘living’ every day, rather than ‘dying.’ You try to fill your day with as many life-fulfilling activities and people as you can, and you focus on those positive messages and feelings, rather than negative people, circumstances and thoughts.
  2. Live in the moment, with mindfulness, tapping into all your senses. Taste that juicy apple, smell that scented rose, look up at the sky and the clouds floating by, feel the softness of your child’s cheek, listen to the sounds of nature all around you. Often, the simplest things are the most meaningful.
  3. Live with gratitude. Say thank you. When you awake, be grateful for another day given, and when you go to sleep, say thank you for all you received.
  4. Focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t do. In spite of impending losses, you still are capable of many things. Use your time to enjoy doing those things you can still do.

“10 – A Story of Love, Life, and Loss’ is a story of struggle, pain and loss, but at the heart of it, it is a story of love, hope, and strength. It is a story that may help others who have been given a life-debilitating diagnosis, as well as helping their caretakers and loved ones who journey with them.

My book can be purchased at The Bookshelf, Guelph; BookLore, Orangeville; Hannelore Headely Old & Fine Books, St. Catharines and Tamara’s Esthetics & Reflexology, Guelph. It can also be purchased directly from me by messaging me. Buy it online at amazon.ca.

 

A Path to Creativity

Creativity

Back in the mid 90’s I was teaching a Gr. 1 class at a small country school. One of my student’s parents offered to write our Christmas play and so began a new friendship based on our mutual enjoyment of writing. Jane introduced me to a book called The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by the author Julia Cameron.

It was a book on the link between creativity and spirituality and included a 12 week program of basic principles and activities that rekindled one’s latent creativity and helped one to overcome problems such as self-esteem, self-criticism, jealousy, guilt and other factors such as worry over time, money or support, all blocks to our creative energies. Cameron believed that we all are creative beings, that there is not one non-creative person alive. She also believed that the universe is naturally creative and creative expression is the natural direction of life. This resonated so deeply within me as, decades before, in my university years in the early ‘70’s I had studied fine arts, modern dance and drama and experienced a new-found confidence in my own creativity abilities. I, too, believed vehemently that we all are creative beings.

During the ‘80’s, my child bearing years, my life had become very busy with family obligations and yet, during this time, I did manage to work professionally with a dance company in Toronto and returned to university in 1988 to earn a Bachelor of Education. Working full-time, raising a family and working through a difficult marriage didn’t leave much time for dance activities any longer. In the early 90’s my husband and I separated and a new life began. I was longing for a new outlet for my creative energies.

Cameron’s book provided me with that. For 12 weeks, I worked through her book, chapter by chapter, every day writing what she called “morning papers.” Each day I sat down with three blank sheets of paper and in a stream-of-consciousness format, I filled those pages. She said to fill them up from beginning to end, even if all I could write was “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.” She said, if you kept writing, pretty soon something of value was going to come out on that page. I wrote a lot of garbage back then but there were also many true gems of wisdom. I found by writing this way, it released my creative energies and I often found my soul revealed on the page, answering problems that I had fretted over for weeks.

She also told you to take an “artist date” once a week. It could be anything: go visit a fabric store, walk along a quiet river, visit a museum or go watch a parade. You were allowed to do anything at all that helped to rejuvenate, replenish or inspire you. It was to be done solo, was to be fun and festive and was to be filled with play. She said that we work so hard at being artists that we need to give back to ourselves and find the play in our creative process once again.

At the end of the 12 weeks of exploration, Cameron challenged you to set a creative focus for yourself that would work in your life. You were to set a basic goal, the steps you would go through to achieve that goal, and the time frame it would take you. You were to find a mentor that would encourage, guide and prod you along and you must meet with your mentor once a week until the goal was achieved. I chose to focus on writing, to have something published, even if it was only in a small way and I met with my friend Jane in her home, once a week. I continued to write morning papers and we had a lot of fun giving each other small prompts for creative, spontaneous writing and sharing these with each other. At the end of my weeks with her I did achieve my goal and an article on creativity was published in a provincial drama educator’s newsletter.

Cameron’s book opened up a new world of writing to me. I had always enjoyed writing but she inspired me to explore my writing further and she gave me a means of goal-setting and finding success with my chosen creative field. I would recommend this book for anyone who feels blocked in their creative field. If you are willing to work through her program from beginning to end, you will achieve success – and have a lot of fun doing it. Get those creative juices brewing. Go play.

Good Grief

Barb Heagy GGP Book Launch 003-001We had a very successful book launch. Thank you to all who came out. Here is my speech:

The first thing I want to say is how honoured I have been to be a part of this very special book, Good Grief People. I knew none of these authors, except for a slight acquaintance with Donna Mann, until we began working on the manuscript last year. Glynis M. Belec, Carolyn Wilker, Ruth Smith Meyer, Donna Mann, and Alan Anderson, I now count you as best friends, my BFF’s, and I admire and respect you all so much. My friends have taught me much about death, dying, and the grief process.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what ‘good grief’ is. And now that I see the book in its final form with all our stories and poems, I think I would have this to say about good grief.

Good grief is about bravery, sensitivity, acceptance, and a generous, fearless attitude to life.

Grief is much like falling in love – to do it well, we have to drop the barriers holding us back from fully stepping forward into it. Yes, it’s a powerful emotion, as powerful as love. But that’s what grief is – love. When we have loved deeply, we grieve deeply.

Good grief means facing the fear, the anger, and processing it in good faith. It’s about examining one’s life and finding new purpose and a new identity. It’s about a willingness to live and find a new you.

Like a woman in labour, who works with her body and mind to embrace the pain, to release it instead of fighting it and bottling it up, when I grieve well, I learn to ‘go with the flow’. These stories have taught me that I can birth myself into a new identity. It will be a world without you, a different world, but I will still be in it and will find my new life.

Grief is like a wounded athlete who learns to work through an injury, strengthening the other muscles and joints to heal an injury to regain our health and wholeness once again. Grief can be like an amputation, and when you think about it, losing someone dear to you is like losing a part of yourself. But even through that, we can learn to do things in a new way and go on.

Good grief is the fork in the road, and although we may hesitate, we choose to take it in good faith. It’s the willingness to continue the journey, a journey into the unknown.

Good grief is the willingness to accept the end of one story and move on to the next chapter or book. We all have our favourite books and stories that we just hate to see end. We stretch out the best parts, savour it, read it again slowly, or even stop reading because we can’t bear for it to be over. But it does come to an end. And then we move on to the next story, but not until we have placed that story in our ‘favourite books’ shelf for safe-keeping and re-reading. We know that we can return to it again and again, but we know too that it will never be the same as that first time experience.

I hope that our book, these stories, will help you find hope in the midst of despair, comfort from the pain, joy in the sadness, strength out of the weakness and acceptance in the midst of denial. They all sit on the same plate. We can learn to live with both.

Good Grief People Book Launch

Book - Good Grief People - Invitation and Poster

COME HELP US CELEBRATE!

We invite all of you, family, friends, public, to come ‘Meet the Authors’ and join us for our GOOD GRIEF PEOPLE book launch on May 6th.

We have the lovely Aboyne Hall rented in the beautiful historical Wellington County Museum and Archives between Elora and Fergus, Ontario. Our plan is to have a short program of welcome and then lots of opportunity to meet all six authors and have your book signed if you would like.

We are very excited that our only male author, Alan Anderson, is travelling with his lovely wife, Terry, all the way from British Columbia to join us. (And it’s their 39th anniversary, too!)

And come hungry. We will have a luncheon and a door prize, too.

Can’t wait. So excited. Looking forward to seeing all of you.

Mark your calendar and bring a friend. We would LOVE to have you join us and help celebrate the official release of GOOD GRIEF PEOPLE.

Consider yourself officially invited!

 

New Year’s Resolutions

As 2016 as left us and 2017 has rolled in, I have been contemplating my New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s Day seems to be a good time to reassess your life and set some new goals, or so the world seems to be telling me.

I agree. It’s good to re-evaluate your life once in a while, and New Year’s Day seems to be as good a time as any, but I have learned that I need to be doing this on a continuous basis. I can set a goal, but then I need some steps to achieve that goal. These become my signposts along the way. It’s not just goal setting, it’s goal building. If I don’t have these mini-steps along the way, I’ve learned that I probably won’t achieve my main goal in the end.

Even at that, with a guiding map with significant stops along the way, life will probably throw some curveballs into it that threaten my steady progress. That’s when I stop and re-assess. Perhaps there’s a major storm happening, perhaps the road has crumbled or is under construction, and I have to choose another path. But if I hold true to my chosen destination, I will find another way. It may mean just a short respite from my travelling or I may have to choose a whole new path to circumvent the problem but if the goal was worth setting, it’s worth finding another path to it.

I lie to myself. I realize that there are different ways to try to meet my goals. One way to achieve a goal is to express it as a ‘hope’ – “I HOPE to feel better in my body.” But said this way, it really comes down to me saying to myself, “I INTEND to meet this goal.” These kind of goals have a built-in ‘out’ to them. I’m not committed to anything. I just hope I will achieve it. As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I admit it. I ‘intend’ to continue to feel good in my body, which means regular exercise and good dietary choices. This is something I have been working on in the past, but I realize that I can do better. In fact, it seems my body is telling me, I must do better or suffer the consequences. I will go to the gym today and continue to hold this goal in front of me so that I feel better. It seems I have a million interests and obligations that continuously try to sidetrack me from meeting this goal. I need to bring my goal to the forefront and adhere to the regular steps along the way to achieve it fully. That means getting out and exercising at least 150 minutes every week. I need to set the dates and do it with full commitment. If something diverts me from fulfilling that commitment then I need to find another time and day to do it.

Another goal I have set is to give myself a new learning opportunity. It’s a short term goal, the kind I prefer. I tend to be a sprinter in life, and less like a long distance runner. It’s easier for me to fulfill a goal that has an end in sight. I have registered and paid for a week long getaway to attend an international dance camp. In a totally unique way I am looking with interest to improve on the skills I already have in dance, writing, travel and spiritual growth. I see it as the next step in my self-development. This is a goal that will improve me without necessarily knowing where it will lead to next. That’s okay. I’m going to enjoy doing it and I know I will be applying my new-found experience in future projects.

Another way I use to meet my goals is to work backwards and set a final date and goal and claim it publicly. When I set a goal like this, I don’t really know the path it’s going to take to meet it, but by publicly declaring it, I am assured that I will meet it. I am committed. It puts pressure on me. Without asking for it, I have enlisted the help of my community to ensure that I get the job done. For if I don’t meet my goal, I have not only let myself down, but all the people that believe in me. I’ve done this many times in the past by setting dates for future performances and it works well for me. This year I have done it by co-authoring a book called “Good Grief People” and we have set the date of February 28, 2017 as the probable launch date. I say ‘probable’, because we did set this goal before we knew the absolute route it would take to get there but we are aiming for February 28, 2017. I know we will reach our goal. We’re going to do it together.

So, my 2017 goals of ‘feeling good in my body’, ‘building my dance skills’ and ‘writing a book’ are well underway. I hope you have set some goals too. Good luck to all of us.