I started writing seriously at nine years old. And it was very serious for me. I was being abused and I was so frightened that I would go outside and hide behind an old stand of forsythia bushes, sitting cross-legged on the cool earth, my little dog beside me, my red spiral notebook and Bic stick pen in the little bag I always carried with me. In those notebooks I poured my heart out, I wrote stories of little girls who escaped and were happy, and I wrote sad little poems. I still had those notebooks when I got married but as four decades have gone by I have no idea where they are. It’s just as well. I don’t want to remember any of that now, or tap into that sad little girl’s mind. I am past it, but the writing has stayed.
I started teaching journal classes to my natural childbirth students in my early twenties, and the process would evolve for me over the decades. One of the most basic journal exercises, and an especially good one to bring you back to the present, is “At this very moment…” It is one I do over and over in my journal and have for decades. When you don’t know where to start writing start with that. You will center yourself in the present moment and from there you will move out into the vast expanse of your life in every direction. If that is all you ever wrote in your journal, every day, in the end you would have told the story of your life, the moments that you lived, the things that were around you, that were important enough to come up for you as you were writing, the things you noticed in a sea of things you might have noticed. You will end up writing what you need to write. It is a good place for me to start now.
At this very moment… it is 12:56 a.m. on Monday the 2nd of December, 2013. I am curled up on the big, overstuffed couch that I sleep on every night with the four pugs. It is a reclining couch so with the feet up there is plenty of room for all of us and it is very cozy and is my nest. Sleeping in a bed has never felt safe for me and since leaving my marriage in 1999 I have seldom ever slept in a bed. I have a very pretty bedroom with a very nice bed and I try, from time to time, but I always end up back out here. I think that’s just fine. We should live like we need to live, not how we think we are supposed to live.
At this very moment I am listening to four wee pugs snuffling and snoring around me and I am just overcome with love. Sleeping with pugs is like sleeping with soft, warm, living, breathing teddy bears. I have had terrible nightmares all of my life until I started adopting pugs in 2007 and when they snuggled up to me at night, as only a pug can, I started sleeping better and the nightmares went away. Tiny Delilah, my newest rescue, 5 years old, came to me in September, saved from being used as a breeder in a puppy mill, and she is very tiny and was so frightened that she attached to me like a limpet on a rock and we fell madly in love. She sleeps on me, snuggled into my neck or on my shoulder or if I am on my side she will climb up and sleep on the curve of my hip. Just now her head is against my left arm and her soft warm sweet little face is such a comfort. She has a tiny snore, off and on, and I am sitting here smiling, it is so adorable, and soothing.
My sweet old Sam who seems to have gotten past his frightening day for now — The vet said he is just an old man and will have bad days and as long as he is mostly having good ones we are okay for now, and he is, and I am so very grateful. He may have had a small stroke last Saturday, but in the week that has followed he has steadied his course and I have a reprieve. — is right up against my right hip, wee Pugsley is attached to Sam on on one end and against my thigh. It is so sweet sitting here covered in pugs. My sweet baby boy Tanner, four years old now, snores like a truck driver and it is just hysterical. He does get quieter and quieter after he is deeply asleep, but I find his snoring so endearing. People ask me how I can sleep with snoring pugs all around. Frankly I can’t sleep with them not around. Now, a person snoring would drive me batty. I am quite happy with pugs as bedmates!
In this moment I feel such a tenderness for everybody and every thing. Sometimes it just comes over me. I want to hug the world, and hold the hand of the elderly who are lonely and feel forgotten, and mostly I find myself wanting to commune with women my age and older. Women midlife and beyond are the ones I am most interested in, women who have lived a life and have stories to tell, women with experience and wisdom, who have been through the battles and the joys, loved well, and sometimes sadly with a heart aching, but the lessons learned through all of it shine out of their eyes with a warmth that goes straight to my heart.
At this very moment I am happy, and at peace, and grateful for everything in my life. I had a very long, very vivid dream last night that not only stayed with me but seemed to have the answers that I was seeking about what direction I will take with my work in the year ahead. I woke up rather in awe of how it all unfolded and spent the day writing like mad and designing things and charting my course. I have bad days, I get frightened, but I always bounce back. Just now I am smiling because I am proud of myself. On my own with no help really unless I call for someone in a real crisis, I live day after day taking care of the nine animals and the garden and the details of my life and my work with my basket of mental health issues and I do what I need to do and everything always comes out okay one way or another. Not many people who have known me most of my life thought I could do this. Well I’m so much stronger than they ever knew, and it was a surprise to me too. We live our way into things, we do the best we can from where we are with what we have and taking one day, one moment, sometimes one second at a time is the way it gets done. The hard days get taken care of and the next day I start again.
At this very moment I feel the excitement building about Christmas. I am like a little girl inside, all twinkly and sparkly and giddy with joy when I think about the holidays. I had a spate of sadness over Thanksgiving when melancholy nearly took me down, but on I go and I so love my twinkly lights everywhere, and I look forward to baking cookies for the kids, and making little presents AND I am so excited because this year I want to do some of the things I always found enchanting, I want to bring magic back during the holidays, the things that slide away. I AM GOING TO LOOK FOR SPRAY SNOW! You know the stuff in a can that you use with stencils on your windows? I hope they still make it. I always loved that. God help me I am a sixty year old woman sitting here giggling like a six year old at nearly 1:30 in the morning in the middle of a pile of snoring pugs. Truly, could there be any better life than this? I don’t think so.
And now I’d best finish up here and hunker down to go to sleep. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow and it is a Monday. I love Mondays, a whole new fresh week, a clean slate, and on Monday nights my darling daughter Rachel comes over and we visit and watch a movie or a show that we like. Currently we are watching Downton Abbey and in love with it. It is so much fun having her come over, I treasure Monday nights. And it’s already Monday now!
At this very moment I am happy and sleepy and feeling the fullness that comes when we are sitting at the center of our life feeling every facet of it in every direction and feeling, overall, like things are going well, are good, and there is such joy in this. I am so grateful that there are more times like this than the reverse. I am grateful for everything. Right now, in this moment, I love my life. What a thing to be able to say, five decades after sitting under the forsythia bushes with my little notebook and pen…