Imbolc or Mid-Winter as the seasonal calendar goes, was Thursday, February 2, 2023. As I have made a conscious choice to follow the lead of our infinitely wise leader Mother Nature, this first quarter marker is an opportunity for me to make time to reflect on what has happened during my sabbatical thus far.
Firstly, I can tell you that it has gone by very quickly…with a bit of a slow start that first week of January because the kids were home from school until the 9th.
It is snowing today (Monday, January 30), and cold. It feels like mid-winter and I’m grateful for this weather that fits the time of year it is here in these parts. Winter without snow doesn’t feel right to me. Global warming is a monster we can see and feel, so when winter looks and feels like winter, it kinda helps me feel like things can be better…Plus, the falling snow is so gorgeous and peaceful. My boots have mysteriously disappeared. I have a vision of me putting them somewhere in the house and telling myself ‘remember you put them here, Vanessa’…but do you think I can remember where I put them? Nope. I have boot options, but I think it’s funny that winter is here and my boots are not. My mind loves to play tricks on me, including retrieving things I need to remember. You too? Huh.
I love the sound of the furnace blowing warm air into rooms. She just purred on and the throaty pushing of air into the space is like a meditative soundtrack to these mornings of sacred writing time.
MORNING RITUAL – Prayer & Meditation
I have been getting up to kiss Nick and the kids before they head to work and school. It is a different energy altogether without having to drive the kids to school. I quite like it. I don’t have to get dressed or brush my teeth. I don’t have to manage lunches or timing. It is a gift that Nick takes the kids to school and I am aware of it and grateful. But I think it is one of the main reasons why I am able to create and cultivate my morning rituals.
I light three candles. I burn some sage or incense. I sit on my bolster pillow and I pray. Prayer is me writing out prayers on little pieces of paper that I keep in a prayer box. Plus, I have two prayers I always say as well. One is for healing illnesses of the world and one is for happiness and kindness for all humans. I also find that I’m praying a lot for the stopping of violence/wars, which is something I can’t stop thinking about. Then, I do a 5-12 minute guided meditation.
When I pray, it is for others (people I know and people I don’t) and for myself. Prayers for myself are often born of worries, guilt, and fears. I acknowledge them and ask to be able to let them go so I can do my best to be a good human and put love in the world. I realize that I can worry/fear myself into deep darkness. This is something I’ve done since I was a child. It’s something I am changing. Prayer is helping me trust that I can live beyond the worry and fear. Or at least, live with it, but it doesn’t have to be the thing that guides me.
Prayer has been a part of my life in various iterations and experiences since I was a child too. And I’ve up to now kept it a private endeavour. But the truth is, prayer is one of the things that is enabling this sabbatical and life change.
The candles, the sage/incense, prayer box extend the ritual into the air, into the light, into the world. I firmly believe this because I can feel it.
Meditation has played a role in my life even when I didn’t realize I was doing it. Cleaning, doing dishes, folding laundry – yes, many domestic duties – have been meditative for me. I don’t think too much about how to meditate, I just think about what I need guidance on each morning, google ‘meditations for healing 10 minutes’, and see what the interwebs have to offer. If I find a meditation that I like that has a positive effect on my brain and body, then I’ll do it repeatedly. I’ve been using this one about healing the cells in my body for a while now. It’s helping!
I can feel my spirit reviving. I can feel my insides beginning to zip and zap and vibrate. Some of it is from the steroids I’m taking (see BODY section for more details!), but I can feel the difference between the zipping.
The last thing I do is some gentle stretching. I find myself inverted in downward dog, letting blood rush to my head. Then I hang forward allowing my lower back to have a deep stretch. I bend slightly and slowly stand up, then do a twist to each side. This awakens my body and spirit and mind to face the day.
SACRED WRITING TIME
I’m calling it ‘sacred writing time’ so it exists in my world as such. Words are powerful, as we know! And if I tell myself the time to write each day is sacred, it helps me treat it as such.
I write every day. My goal is to write in the mornings between 9 and 12. I average a solid write for about 1.5 hours during that window. Sometimes I’m in transit to go somewhere to write with another writer. Sometimes I’m doing ‘business’ – filling out my calendar, answering a few texts, taking my daily photo and posting it to Instagram. Sometimes I read. What I know is that I don’t want to put pressure on myself to ‘produce’. The words come and sometimes they’re part of the writing projects I’m working on, and sometimes they’re not. Sometimes I write in my journal for an hour. Sometimes I watch a show or film.
I am finding that when I fall asleep, my brain/characters speak to me and tell me what to write the next day. Or I’ll have a dream, extremely vivid, where I’ll get messages about what to write or what to work on. It’s quite a magical occurrence that started happening the first week that I started giving myself sacred writing time. I think it’s my openness to be led/guided by the power/light/love/dark of storytelling. And a deepening trust with spirit/love/creativity that I can do it – write, read, be creative.
I lost connection with this trust. I was too scared to do anything but self-protect which showed up as me closing my spirit under piles of heavy fears and self-sabotage. But I am writing and creating through it. The ‘Everything’ that was ‘Before Sabbatical’ is slowly opening its cavernous mouth so I can excavate, and purge those parts that no longer support my spirit.
“The problem with “everything” is that it ends up looking an awful lot like nothing: just one long haze of frantic activity, with all the meaning sheared away.” pg. 19.Wintering by Katherine May
It’s true. In order to endure that ‘Everything’, I began a numbing, a squelching, a choking, a silencing (oh the silencing!), a stopping of the things that had for so long kept my spirit thriving. It was survival-by-shriveling.
No more. No more.
One week, I wrote nearly 10,000 words, writing a little each day barely realizing that I was actually doing it. I go with the flow of what my mind, heart and spirit want to write about. I engage the emotions that swing in each day, some of them wielding swords. I go with the flow of my medications because they very much affect the chemistry of my body’s energy. There were mornings when the meds were so tough on me, I couldn’t write. Couldn’t concentrate on anything but the zipping vibrations of steroids stomping in my blood.
BODY, MEDS & HEALING
Journal excerpt: Thursday, January 12, 2023
“Prednisone day. Ugh. I can feel it moving inside me, zinging in my blood flow. I took it about an hour ago and it’s like I’ve been plugged into an electrical power. But it’s tricky because I also feel so heavy and tired. My thoughts are a mess. I cried…for what? Who knows? My throat feels tight…and my voice is low again. I can hear this kind of…internal wave, like a machine hum, in my head…and buzzing but like a blanket of it in my ears, sort of pressing the sound in waves…”Journal entry
I’ve been taking prednisone for a full month now and I am having positive results! My eye is getting a bit better each day. This is a huge advance in my healing as ‘seeing’ on every level is a key part of feeling healthy! I can now look up and left and not see double. The muscles in my eyelids and eyeball are getting back to their natural strength. Looking down is still wonky, but I’m hoping that in time, this will heal as well. I have to be careful going up and down stairs. I kick and/or trip on things all too often because my depth perception is still a bit off. But it’s healing!
As far as the spiritual implications of ‘seeing’ are concerned. I believe that since I closed the writing room, revived a spiritual space in my house, and am on sabbatical this year, the idea of ‘two paths/double-vision’ is clearly subsiding. And, I have an amazing healing team of support that continues to expand and cultivate. From my naturopath, Dr. Vincenza Rotulo to chiropractor Dr. Michelle Hebert at Midtown Chiropractic to Dr. Deans, eye guru, to KerriPrema at The Cave of the Heart Holistic Centre & Yoga Studio to Yoga with Kassandra on youtube to the collective of wise women who I share meals, daily motivational texts, and long healing conversations with to the treadmill in the messy storage room to my amazing family who are very patient and heal me with laughter…I am ever grateful for the power of community and love to help heal.
My back injury is fully healed. My neck injury is fully healed. My body feels stronger every day. My flexibility is getting better each day. I am sleeping better (especially when the husband wears his anti-snoring mouth guard. Hi honey! I love you!), though my dreams are still extremely vivid and I still wake up in a burst of some giant emotion. (Yes, I’m still dreaming about mega-movie stars who ‘need my help’ in some way. Also the recurring high school dreams have also returned…) I am making pretty good choices when it comes to food as I continue to learn about my immune system and how it works. And I can finally see my chin hairs and pluck them out because my eyes can focus so much better!
I am reading ‘Deep Immunity – Understanding Your Body’s Immune System’ by Anthony Godfrey PhD, ND and it is blowing my mind.
“The real power of immunity comes from being true to ourselves – each of us to our identity…The symptoms of ill-health are a language that the body, the mind and the spirit speak to us to indicate that something in our life is out of balance.” pg. 2Deep Immunity – Understanding Your Body’s Immune System’ by Anthony Godfrey PhD, ND
The relationship between my identity and sense of self, and my immunity and balance of health makes absolute sense to me.
“Stress of any kind will weaken our immune systems. Stress, or more correctly, the nature of our response to challenges which tend to disturb or unbalance us, can come in many forms…the most devastating influence of all is negative self-talk. When we allow ourselves to embrace negative beliefs about ourselves, when we fall into despair and lack of self-esteem and become resigned to these judgements about ourselves – in other words, when we lose our identity – that is when our immune system is most in need of support.” (pg. 14)Deep Immunity – Understanding Your Body’s Immune System’ by Anthony Godfrey PhD, ND
I can tell you with certainty that my negative self-talk hit a pinnacle last year. When I awoke on September 15th seeing double, petrified and trembling, I was the weakest I’ve been in my life. I internalized the Bully’s words. I let in the lies and accepted the despair of Not Good Enough. No one made me. But it happened. And even though I was also loved so deeply by friends and family, my inside, my mind, the voices in my head, my heart – had been transformed. I know now that if I hadn’t made the changes I made, I would have ended up in hospital.
What is incredible is that inside, shouldered up against the negative self-talk was the wolf, the wild woman, the matriarch, the crone, the Marys, the Nonnas, the daughters…the ancestors of light and love holding me up. With every Bully word, they held up a shield and howled and bayed my dignity into action.
But the damage to my immune system had been done. And I miraculously managed to let dreams go. Close dreams. Box dreams. Dance away the past and then ask for help, more help to heal.
My body, the vessel of my soul, of my dreams, of my mind – including all those present therein – is in a deep, beautiful, terrifying, extraordinary change. And I can breathe and laugh and cry and learn through it now because of the changes I chose to make. Oh, sweet paradox! Oh, delicious dichotomy! Here we are in the light and the dark, more equally now than ever.
I am 44 and I (finally) don’t hate my body. I have been able to let her be. To trust her messages. To not scowl at the new marshmallow roll above my rib cage. To embrace the blood flow when she comes, if she comes…to trust the rage and desperation in the hot flash…to see stars in the throes of an immaculate orgasm…to enjoy the food, the water, the bones of this vessel that I get is here to be strong and able to love.
I want to be vibrant and vital to this living. For my kids and their kids. For the words. For the dreams still unlived, or imagined. For the dreams nearby…brewing.
I trust that healing includes nature and light, traditional medicine and herbal/natural medicine. That there isn’t one fast, easy, all-in-one pill that will ‘fix’ me.
This is the body I am in now. This is the body I want to love and respect and heal now.
My purpose is…like a busted up island. It was for so long clear, concise, calm and confident. That changed. I still feel that part of my purpose is in the writing, in the words. My deep desire to write is still there, still alive, but it is different. It is…less rooted, or the roots are less intensely held in the ground. It wants to float. It wants to turn its back. It wants to skitter away and not be told what to do. And it has become a part of a collection of pieces of The Entire Purpose.
I am so much more attentive and present with my family. When I am doing home things: cooking, cleaning, sharing time and space with my family, it feels different. I am not worried about ‘work’. Or at least, I am not stressed about work. I have few deadlines, and the ones I do have are scheduled so that I don’t feel the weight of them. This is something I’m really focusing on. Saying yes is an exercise in mindfulness.
I don’t hate doing the dishes anymore. I don’t panic when I have to do groceries (though food inflation is mind boggling and we’re working hard to shop mindfully, waste less and enjoy our food together). Domestic happenings are an island of Purpose now.
Trust is an island. Trusting the flow of time. Trusting that Love (god/goddess/spirit – what’s your word?) will guide me. That I will see and understand and receive the messages gifted to me and know how to make decisions. Trusting my intuition which has become a garden of wild flowers, reaching and stretching and swaying for information and support.
Patience is an island. It needs the most tender loving care. I’ve realized that I am not a naturally patient person. (Is anyone?!) But I think I didn’t notice it because I am also a just-do-it person, so if there was/is something I don’t want to wait for, if I can, I just create it or do it myself. I’m trying to, again, be mindful about this. And letting the impatience exist/be, let the discomfort come and figure out what it means.
Sleep is an island. Is that odd to have sleep as a purpose? Ha. I just can’t tell you how important sleep has been to me. I think it’s one of the healing leads in my life. I love it very much.
I hope very much that I can rid my purpose of fear and the still clawing grips of the Bully. It is a wild phenomenon. There are days when the Bully’s voice/face is not in my mind, but those days are few and far between. The Bully is with me now as I write this, tossing daggers at me. The Bully’s pulling on my confidence like it’s a piece of toffee. Part of my purpose is to revitalize my purpose – whatever it may be, and to do so, I know that means I have to find a way to handle the Bully’s presence in my mind/soul.
I am trying to be gentle with my Purpose. Accepting that it waxes and wanes, fulls and news like the moon, embracing all the degrees of darkness and light as it shifts. It’s okay that my Purpose looks and feels different now.
Oof. Like my Purpose, my dreams are changing. When I think about Big Dreams, they live in the future in a kind of hazy out there-ness that I can see, but not touch or feel or taste or hear. They are not all isolated…what I mean by that is, some dreams aren’t solely mine.
Like, when I think about a potential dream, say, about movies. I see myself, I see Jett, I see Nick and Miller…I see our family all engaged and parts of a big whole that is like this massive outburst of creativity. That Old Dream of winning an Oscar is flickering. It might be Jett who wins it, and I’m there with him. Or, maybe I’m in his film and I’m nominated for Best Supporting Actress. It’s funny…my dreams in the movie realm have really expanded over the last couple of months. I am feeling the pull that I used to feel when I was studying film in university. When I truly believed that I was Hollywood-bound, and closer than ever to meeting Tom Cruise and working with him. I feel like that dream is more vivid than ever. And yes, I also feel that there are many changes…upheavals even, in the film and television award systems, but my dreams still include them. I think, at the heart of it, is that I have dreams that are to be expressed as films and I want to be a part of that storytelling world with those people whose films I’ve watched and loved and who’ve helped shape and invigorate my desire (purpose?!) for filmmaking for decades.
I can see myself on television talk shows holding up The Book. My book. It is funny and ‘sweeping the nations’. People are curious about what I’ve written and why. And The Book is provoking and kind and making an impact, a positive impact on…gulp, The World. This is a dream that I’ve had, but it went quiet for many years. It’s back again. And in the visions I am older and my gray hair is long and wildly braided. And my smile is so big it hurts. And I’m just so happy to be there…in all the places to talk about The Book. I finally get to talk to Tom Power and meet the Q team on CBC. And I don’t care about book awards. Like not.at.all. And that feeling is so freeing. And I can’t see my bank account which I’m making means that the money part doesn’t matter at all. The joy, it’s the true payment and I am overjoyed in every moment.
I see Gertrude’s Writing Room as ‘mobile’.
I see myself standing, clothed in flowery/flowy clothing, my hair long and wild, in breathtaking places…open fields, rocky mountains, beaches being kissed by large mouths of water…I am healthy and strong in body and mind.
The Dreams are not pushy or desperate. They are alive and breathing and patient.
They are here and busy and bursting. I am grateful.
I am writing prose. I am writing emails and texts. I am helping others in new ways. Community is expanding so beautifully. I am trying new things and engaging with different people. It is supporting the outpouring of words.
I am shy to submit, but I am still paying attention to calls.
I am working extremely hard on writing for the joy of writing. To live in the power of the expression. Of giving into curiosity and letting the characters walk into me, my mind and tell me what they want to say.
I have vivid dreams that guide my writing. I have been visited by my Nonna and Nonno. By friends. By famous people. It is…unnerving at times, but I understand that my dream life is a throughway for storytelling between me and the characters.
I wrote three poems on January 26. Three bursting diamonds of poetry.
“Oh me! Oh poem – awakenStanza from ‘Oh me! Oh poem!’ by me!
my ability to love you again
to swallow you like rain
down my parched throat &
conjure the harvest of your
I will write more poetry. That bucket is filling up.
The words are also attaching to very different modes of expression. I am having a fantastic time recording Art Kitchen – Feeding Your Creative Soul, a podcast, with Karen Morand. I have plans to create videos for writers (that’s all I’ll say about that now…!). I am drawn to the sewing machine, to needle and thread, to embroidery, to canvas and visual art…It’s like this whole new part of my brain-soul connection is exploding with creative content. And the words, the sweet words, are always somehow involved.
I am beginning to feel like A Writer again. I am taking back my bumper stickers and typewriters. I am rebuilding my confidence in the creative fires that beginning to burn within me again.
Other Lovely Things
The dogs. Books. Candles. Incense. Food. Snow. Lamy pens. Ink. Tea. And Dandy Blend (not allowed to drink coffee whilst on the meds!)
Thank you for reading this far. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your kindness and generosity. May happiness and love fill your heart and soul. Namaste! Happy mid-Winter!
3 thoughts on “SABBATICAL – Mid-Winter Reflection”
Sent from my iPad
Hi Vanessa, I’m so happy to hear you are making progress, especially with your eyes, and definitely with “ your spirit! Keep on ! You’re doing great!
Sent from my iPad
So glad to hear that you’re healing from many issues. Prednisone is not a new medication to me. I have had it so many times while in an asthmatic crisis growing up. Not so much, to better meds. I found your letter cathartic. Thank you. I’m on the road to recovery. Three weeks in from a total knee replacement surgery on the left knee and doing well. It was something that I had to choose for better quality of being. I’m glad it’s behind me and look forward to a complete recovery! Sending you warm thoughts, hugs and blessings! Burning sage is part of my native daily routines. It sure helps me focus and cleanse my body, mind and spirit. Keep writing, Vanessa!