The Journey Of Letting Go Through Journaling.
This weeks tune to compliment the [field note] can be listened to HERE as you read, sing, jam out or do what you please. (Estimated read time: 6 minutes)
“I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias. We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.”–Maya Angelou, Letter To My Daughter
There was no possibility of taking a drive that morning. A hit and run car accident totaled my Prius into nearly half of its original size. I had plans of moving from my studio overlooking the Hollywood sign the very next day, but with aluminum and plastic remnants spread across the hot blacktop, I’d come to a complete stop.
At this point, I had said goodbye to 90% of my possessions accumulated from tween to 20-something: almost every piece of furniture, clothing, knickknack and toiletry. I even chopped off all my hair to find its natural color again. The more I donated and recycled, the more I was starting to see what I truly needed and didn’t need, and this included more than just objects.
The remaining 10% of what I owned was supposed to pack into this Prius perfectly after doing one last walkthrough with my landlord. But one handshake with a cop, a hustling tow-truck ride and hours of elevator music from the insurance companies’ direct lines later, I was faced with moving day, and having to reconsider a new plan.
Luckily, there hadn’t been much of a plan beyond said move. I didn’t necessarily know where I was going to move to, or what I was going to do when I got there, wherever ‘there’ might be. All I did know is that I was ready to start life anew.
You see, the road less traveled became far more appealing than what seemed to be chasing money to buy more things that I wouldn’t have time to enjoy, only to pay more in taxes and insurance with growing to-do lists and endless responsibilities. Unlearning what I’d been instilled to obtain as “The American Dream,” I was reminded that all I ever really wanted is quite simple; to have space for making a life more than a living.
Yet truth is, this dream of mine was far from glorious as I walked up three flights of stairs that felt like fifty, only to unlock the door to my now empty apartment. Lined up along the brick wall was not much more than a suitcase, a hiking pack and sleeping bag, a rolled up yoga mat, a few file cabinets and one last cardboard box labeled “journals” in a bright red Sharpie.
Considering there were no remaining chairs in what I once called home, I decided to sit cross-legged beside this unopened box. Cutting through the boxing tape with now useless car keys, I felt as if this was as good as my Kumbaya moment would get. Impatiently tearing the remainder of the tape off the cardboard flap, there it was, standing apart from all the other journals, a small green notebook starring back at me.
Opening the journal as if it were the wardrobe door entering into Narnia, I stumbled upon an entry dated back to 2012. It read, “If I win the $30,000 lotto, I’m going to join the tiny house movement.” I continued to explore more.
“To build my very own tiny house on wheels --- what a fulfilling accomplishment it will be! To have my piano and potter’s wheel, fresh herbs to cook with and a bread maker to bake with... A reading and writing station to organize my concepts and creations… To dedicate my waking hours to such mediums of creativity, and where everything has its own poetic place with a sense of purpose, down to every nail and piece of wood, to each thread of fabric.”
I’m not sure what lottery I was referring to, but these words resonated to my core. Furthermore, and to my surprise, I’d have that exact amount of money after my car settlement with the accident. This was my chance, if ever, so that day, it was decided upon that I’d embark on a journey in attempts to build a tiny house, with no prior construction experience, a tad bit of stubbornness, and a dream (re)discovered from a little green notebook.
Landing to my roots of ancestors and cheese in The Northwoods of Wisconsin, I decided to camp under old-growth hemlocks in a canvas tent. Wandering barefoot on the soil, I pondered aloud to the company of a friend that I was thinking of naming the tiny house “Swan Studio.” In that moment, we looked up and saw two confirming white swans in the distance as if they were the first creatures we’d ever laid eyes on.
I have a special connection with swans, just like my connection with the black journal. It started the day I was born, with a plant that was gifted to me in a swan vase. It continued when I was told that my ‘animal guide’ is a swan. Not necessarily knowing what this meant, I disregarded it, until I heard it again from a different source; a complete stranger in a hospital parking lot nonetheless.
My newfound hospital acquaintance went on to say that he believes there’s certain, subtle guidance that animals offer, available to all of us and that we can learn from them.
Continuing on, the bearded man said, “We are a-part of the animals, not apart from them as humans. When an animal shows up on your path, you can ask what messages they have for you, and symbolically relate them to your life, a situation or circumstance within it.”
With a mildly confused look, I thanked him for his time and deemed him as an interesting, and possibly wise fellow.
“Oh, and one last thing,” he chimed in with a grin, “A white feather... It shall come into your life!”
Fast forward three years, I was on a walk when my curious eye spotted a man with a makeshift Indiana Jones hat, pulling a huge piece of cardboard out of his rusty car. It appeared he was headed into our community coffee shop, ‘Twiggs,’ and as he carried this poster of sorts that was much too large for his two arms and hands, I noticed he’d suddenly dropped something.
Without much thought, I ran to collect what had fallen in the wind and called out to the man, “Sir! You dropped this.”
“Ah, my brown feather!” he enthusiastically proclaimed. Thanking me with twinkling eyes, he then proceeded to ask if I’d wait for a moment.
So I waited for a moment.
I looked around for a moment.
I went from twirling my fingers to placing hands in my pant pockets for a moment,
and I looked down at my feet to contemplate how fast I could run in flip flops, just in case.
Before I could think or do anything else, he was on his way back over to where I was standing. Ever so gently, moving his two hands forward from behind his back, he presented me with a white feather.
In retrospect, I remember it well, when I first wrote in the little green notebook. I found myself at the ocean, feet submerged into the sun kissed sand with clouds filling the sky above. As I began to write, thoughts flowed out onto blank sheets of ivory-colored paper. Lists were made of all that I wanted to do when the tiny house was built. Upon the thirteenth hour, the last sentence of the last page got filled. I glanced back at the now clear sky, and only one cloud remained. It was one that looked all too familiar, in the shape of white feather.
I can now say that I’ve checked off everything that was listed in that little green notebook. However, it wasn’t necessarily because of going through the so-called “life-changing magic of tidying,” taking a yearlong traveling sabbatical in the wild, building a 302 square foot tiny house on wheels or wearing nothing but a 9-item capsule wardrobe for nine months.
I know, because I’ve done all of the above, only to find a much simpler route we can take when it comes to making space… one of these ways is through the art of journaling!
There are many valuable journaling prompts and exercises for different circumstances, but the most important thing is to get thoughts out of the head and down onto paper. A good way to start, is by allowing yourself to free write.
The simple 3 steps? Set a timer for 5 minutes. Set an intention for your writing. And then begin!
There are no rules to free writing, other than to not over think it. A lot of times, I see people getting all the right tools for journaling with their pretty journal and a favorite pen, yet when they sit down to actually write, they're scared to mess up the blank pages!
A trick to not getting stuck anytime throughout this writing exercise is to keep the writing utensil on the paper throughout the duration of the time you set for your practice. Always keep the pen/cil moving, and if you're not sure where to start or keep going, come back to your intention that you set in the beginning, and write that!
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