In addition to the morning pages and artist’s dates were weekly readings and exercises. New doors were pried open as I explored thoughts and feelings I had never questioned – or even been aware of – before. Amazingly, Julia seemed to know exactly what I needed and when! At the time I often felt as if she were reading my mind! I am now certain this was not by accident, but rather from skillful knowledge of and experience with the process.
Anger was one of the first responses released from the vault I guarded so well. Anger was familiar. I had watched anger erupt on a daily basis from as far back as I could remember – until I left my childhood home. Anger had learned to dance with fear. Fear of making my father mad, fear of disapproval, fear of expressing my real thoughts and feelings, fear of not being good enough to be loved – or maybe even liked. And the greatest fear of all was fear that the roar of my own anger would break past the steel walls it was locked away in.
Then there it was, in capital letters on the first page of week three – Recovering a Sense of Power: “ANGER IS FUEL. We feel it and we want to do something…But we are nice people, and what we do with our anger is stuff it, deny it, bury it….. anger is meant to be listened to…anger is a map… shows us what our boundaries are… use anger as fuel to take the action we need to move where (it) points us…anger is the tool, not the master…not the action itself… action’s invitation.” I accepted the invitation and started allowing small bits of ancient anger to creep onto the morning pages. Facing the monsters head on, even for just a sentence or two, deflated the fear. Then curiosity bubbled and I explored with a newly opened eyes.
Sometimes I flew from the pages into action. Action felt good, and I craved the breeze it brought to stale corners of my life. Other times progress seemed buried under boulders, or my feet felt stuck in mud up to my knees. Patience wore thin quickly, threatening a slow suffocation of all I had gained. Then a reading on growth appeared: “Growth is an erratic forward movement: two steps forward, one step back… Growth occurs in spurts. You will lie dormant sometimes… Think of it as resting.” Resting? Who has time to rest? But beyond my denial of the truth in those words, the strained sensation of needing immediate action began to slacken, like the loosening of a noose that strangled my ability to relax.
I had left my job of 17 years a few months earlier. Guilt about not contributing to the household income caused self-esteem to dip below already dangerously low levels. Ron and I had come up with a plan on how to handle the loss of my salary prior to my leaving. But my own need to justify my time use by defining and completing valid activities, made ‘free time’ feel more like a curse than a gift. I was desperate to find other professional work – more to maintain my value as a person then for the value of a paycheck! I felt lost without definition to my days, and without definition of who I was without work at the core. I kept exploring through writing and reading the lessons. One day the following sentence appeared in chapter five: “Recovery is the process of finding the river and saying yes to its flow, rapids and all… pry ourselves loose from our old self-concepts and find that our new, emerging self may enjoy all sorts of bizarre adventures… this newly positive attitude is the beginning of trust.” I realized I was struggling through choppy waters, looking for the flow, looking for that emerging self. Trust was one of those rapids. Trust in others, but even more so, trust in myself – in my basic worth. I started allowing myself to feel bits of appreciation for unstructured time, to savor the freedom and trust that another job/adventure would find its way to the surface soon.