"How others will react to this quarantine is none of your business. Make a commitment to change and not forget. Make sure this storm shakes you up so much that it completely revolutionizes your life." ―Elena Bernabé, Indigenous Peoples Cultures. April, 2020
My life was ticking along with great workshops scheduled in March, April and May. Enter the wee virus that came with a destructive intention. Just like that we were all introduced to staying home and social distancing. All my workshops cancelled and businesses except essential services shut down.
In my seventy one years I worked hard to create my own reality. And pouf, covid dared to classify me as elderly. Although I did recognize I had much to be grateful for - living in a beautiful home in the Rocky Mountains.
Then on the 9th of April an email labelled ‘manuscript submission’ arrived in my inbox. “Dear Wilma, Unfortunately it has been decided not to proceed with your manuscript……..” - my seventh rejection letter in two years. I told myself, I am strong I can handle this. When pains in my right hip and thigh announced sciatica, I consulted my long time guru Louise Hay. In her book ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ I read the negative belief under sciatica was, “Being hypo-critical. Fear of money and of the future.” This rang a bell. Rejection, self-criticism, not good enough, comparing myself with others have been my floating subconscious for many years. For a few days I repeated her positive affirmation “I move into my greater good. My good is everywhere and I am secure and safe.” Along with stretching, and ibuprofen the pain left.
Next I consulted Dr Google a brilliant psychiatrist, on how to deal with disappointment. His first piece of advice, “Do what makes you feel better” was a challenge given our endless winter of cold and snow and skiing banned due to our friend the virus. The second suggestion, “Time by myself” was a no brainer in covid isolation. The third piece said, “attach yourself to your desire not your goal.” Now I had been writing my memoir for so long I had almost forgotten my original purpose - to share my travel experiences of exotic people and places. However as I delved deeper into the writing process I learned a good narrative is not about ‘we went there and took a photograph,’ but about tension, suspense and yes conflict.
When both my editor and a friend asked me if my manuscript was about my mother I rebelled. It had never been my plan to write about mother. Nevertheless I am sure that somewhere in my subconscious I was indeed trying to show her I was right in pursuing my truth not hers. What is/was my true desire?? Approval from others? Money? A career? Telling the world how it should be? Or hard it was/is for mothers?
This led me to days of introspection. I remembered how in the fall at our women’s writing retreat, deeply buried under my nice girl persona, tears in my eyes, I uncovered my profound shame of my words. To grow up in Presbyterian Scotland without being shamed was impossible – smacked over the knuckles in grade one, humiliated by my French teacher, mother burning my book The Naked Ape and feeling abandoned by father’s death at age 10.
Some years ago hiking in the Rockies, it came to me that I was in a cocoon and my writing self barely a teenager. Recently as I meditated on a Medicine wheel I recalled projects and life itself were seasonal. My writing needed the fall to let go, winter to hibernate, spring to sprout new life and fruit would arrive in the summer.
Back to the internet, “Disappointment is helping you become a stronger individual, with new awareness and growth.”
From experience I have learned to watch my thoughts like a cat catching a mouse, that ‘love is letting go of fear,’ and the comfort of a hot bath. To me freedom is rooting myself hiking by rivers, in forests and mountains.
As I contemplated the benefits of writing I appreciate the passionate people I have met who encouraged me to know myself. The classes that I taught that make me feel as if ‘I was born to do this.’ I have slowly learned be compassionate to my erroneous thoughts and my immature writer on her growing edge.