I recently got back from my first residency at grad school (which is why I haven’t written much here!) and something has been in the back of mind ever since.
I am studying Creative Writing in a low residency program that meets every semester for a week at notoriously haunted Fort Warden in the northwest corner of Washington State. For whatever reason during this particular residency the ghosts were especially active. Over breakfast one morning, a woman was relating the story of her previous nights haunting and wondered what to do about it. “Just tell it to go away.” She looked at me in surprise “That works?” Shrugging I reply, “It might. They are people – just dead people. Tell them you aren’t interested and to leave you alone”. She walked off muttering, “Huh. Like a bad date….” She was shocked – since the supernatural was so far out of her normal experience, it didn’t occurre to her that she might have a choice.
Later, I was in a circle where big energy work was being done and there was a lot of excess “stuff” flying around. Even though I kept grounding myself, I could hardly sit still. When the man leading the session got to me, the first thing he said was, “You know, you can choose how much to receive…” As soon as I said ENOUGH, my agitation was gone and I was calm and clear. Duh, of course I had the option of saying no! How did I forget this? I don’t have to be a sponge for anything – even positive things. Even though something is winging its way through the ethers toward us, we can still choose.
I get to participate in my reality.
In fact, I get to create it.
I have been experimented with this. While at my residency I realized that the job I was temporarily laid off from was far too stressful to continue fulltime while in grad school. I strategized about how to work fewer hours and make my job less stressful, but by the time my boss called me to come back to work, I had decided I was done. The problem was I couldn’t quit or I would lose unemployment benefits. I wasn’t being lazy, but my priority was to have energy to write and it was in conflict with this particular job and company. Through a series of events that had nothing to do with me, after 8 years they decided to hire someone else. It was as if I had stated what I wanted to have happen and created it. The best part was, that since I had stated what I wanted, not just what I didn’t want, I immediately got a job that better fit my needs for mental health and school.
These days even “normal” people are well versed in the power of manifestation. The language sometimes gets a little woo-woo, but in reality it gets back to that skiing/golfing thing (see earlier post “I am Committed to this…I think”): we hit the target we are thinking about, even if it is not really the one we wanted to hit. Too often I have said what I didn’t want (I don’t want to hit that tree) instead of what I did want (I want to hit the green) . My focus was not on what I wanted, it was on what I didn’t want. It seems like up until recently, I was always trying to manifest things as a reaction to something I didn’t want to happen in the first place – not because I was stating what I wanted to start with. I was always running behind the bus instead of driving it. I have a great quote above my dresser: “Remember to use positive affirmations: I am not a dork is not one of them”. It is a reminder to me to watch my language and my thoughts.
I am learning that I can choose the direction my life was to take instead of being along for the ride.
I made the decision to go to get my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing late one night over a bottle of wine. Really, that is about the truth of it. I had thought about grad school before – in Psychology – and had been accepted once. However, it didn’t work out and every time I tried to get it going again, something happened. I thought that Psychology was the logical and responsible thing to study given my interests. It seemed rather unimportant that it wasn’t my passion. Even though I had been teaching creative writing workshops in the evenings after my counseling practice and integrated writing into my therapy sessions, the bell never went off that maybe I was going in the wrong direction. Writing had always been my love but it seemed pointless to pursue, because what could possibly come of it? I tried to be a “responsible adult” and struggled through all the “adult” struggles in order to pay the bills. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun.
First and foremost cancer teaches you that there is no time like the present. So I began to write regardless of how “irresponsible” it seemed. It was all for fun, right? Based my blog’s tiny successes, I decided to learn more since it seemed I might actually be good at this. I found Goddard online just a few weeks before the admissions deadline, got accepted and got a small scholarship. Wow….someone read not only my application packet and decided I was good enough (or that I REALLY needed the help!) but someone else decided I was good enough to throw some money at!! Maybe I really could do this….
Every time I have tried something new and attempted to do the “adult” thing it has fallen apart. Surely, this leap into complete irresponsibility and self-indulged ego-centric dreaming would also cause me to crash to the ground. The week before I was supposed to go, I waited on pins and needles for something to happen that would keep me from going. Getting in my car, I thought I might get in an accident. On the ferry ride over I worried it would sink. I thought maybe I would get lost or sick on the drive to the Fort. But I arrived safe and sound and here I am, 2 months into it, successfully churning out well-received work and still very much alive.
The funny thing is that ALL obstacles were removed when I decided this is what I really wanted to do. This has NEVER happened to me before. In all these years of asking for a sign from God telling me I was on the right track, no matter how hard I worked, suffered or sacrificed I never heard a peep about if I was headed in the right direction. Now I step into the ultimate act of selfishness by spending more than an entire year of income to learn how to write better with no certain pay-off simply because it makes me “ happy”, and suddenly God is in a neon jumpsuit with brightly lit beacons guiding me down the runway to my dreams.
Part of me wants to shout – “Where the hell were you when my children and I were hungry? Couldn’t you have made life easier then????” But I wonder if it was me making my life harder than it needed to be because I had strayed so far from what I was really supposed to be doing.
A friend and I were talking about this and I heard myself say, “As ‘spiritually progressed’ people trained in manifestation, we set out goals and intentions and announce them loudly so that the universe will hear what we want and give it to us. We ask for guidance and help and proof of Spirit’s existence while we bumble around. We think God doesn’t listen when we don’t get whatever it is that we think we need. Or we think we are on the wrong path and change directions since if it is not working out, clearly it is a ‘sign’. Or we think that if we work hard enough our struggle with make everything okay. We keep reacting to our failures, trying to figure out what the right thing to do is instead of what the thing we really want is. We wonder why in the world God is not listening; we ask if s/he could PLEASE give us a sign. We wonder where we went wrong.
But maybe, just maybe, a long time ago we whispered out hearts intent and the universe DID listen. And maybe all along Spirit has been trying to give us what we asked for. We have forgotten our deepest desire in the middle of all the other things we think we ought to have or be doing. But God didn’t. And She has been waiting all this time to help us get there.”
I never did the ONE thing that I knew made my happy because I was afraid to fail. I was afraid the dream was not worth it, that I was not worth it, that it was selfish and that it didn’t matter. I was afraid to do what made my heart sing, because that didn’t seem like a good enough reason to do something. Having cancer showed me that there is no time to worry about any of that – the only thing we can do is throw our dreams to the wind and see what happens.
For the first time in my life, I am making the choices, not simply reacting to the spinning of the universe around me. It is a big difference to choose instead of to react. Choosing is an act of believing that you are worth the effort to pursue something. Reacting is the “shit happens so how am I going to deal with it this time” mentality. I have been far more guilty of the latter than the former. And I am remarkably good at not only dealing with “shit that happens” but making some pretty interesting things out it! But that is not how I want to live my life any more. I want to choose.
By choosing to put myself first in line for what I ultimately wanted – even when I was full of doubts about the worthiness of it – I created the potential for it to happen. My dreams are happening. The target that I want to hit is to write and to make a difference in people’s lives. I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet, but I am trusting that things will unfold along the way that will give me more knowledge to make more choices and better define my direction. I am not going to let my own ghosts – or anyone else’s, get in the way of my focus on how I want my life to go. That doesn’t mean that every day or every event, works out well. But it does mean that I am not spending my life reacting to what I don’t want. I am picking my target and keeping it in mind the whole time – not thinking about what can go wrong. And I get to choose – it is not chosen for me by anyone or by misfortune or chance. It is my decision.
Obviously, I am only beginning to see how this new shift in my perspective changes my life and creates opportunity and happiness for me. I don’t know if it works, any more than I knew that telling a ghost to go away would work. But it seems like it should…..our experience is our reality after all, so if I shift one, the other must follow. I will let you know!!