Along with my blog partner, Vhairi, I’ve been working through Julia Cameron’s book “It’s Never Too late to Begin Again,” posting here what I’ve “learned” from each week of morning pages and self-examination exercises.
All went smoothly until Week 5 – Igniting a Sense of Honesty.
This was a tough one. This involved looking at the years of my life (23-29) when so many big changes happened: university, marriage, moving away from friends and family. This was taking the time to really see myself then, the decisions I made (or didn’t make), what was important to me and what wasn’t.
Going through the first of the questions Julia poses for this chapter of the book, I soon realized that I can be angry at my ex for all the bad, mean, thoughtless, hurtful things he said and did, but (in all honesty) I allowed him to treat me that way.
When I came to that realization, this dark force of anger swept through me–howling anger at myself for being the frightened, unconfident, weak 20-something I was back then.
So much anger that I actually wrote these words: I hate myself.
For three weeks, I stopped doing the morning pages, stopped cleaning the house, meeting with friends, going for walks. I went back to my old pre-divorce habits of cheese and crackers for dinner, two glasses of wine, fall asleep watching TV.
For three weeks, I was lost in a fog of anger-fuelled self-destruction.
So much of my life, I just “went along,” lacking the confidence to reach out and choose a different course. I allowed my husband to treat me badly; I allowed him to make all the decisions.
Finally, after talking it over with Vhairi, I forced myself to open Julia’s book again and try finishing the “Honesty” chapter. The final exercises involved looking beyond that past so full of mistakes and self-delusions and into today’s possibilities.
One of the exercises: Write down five imaginary lives I might have led that would have been fun, no matter how “out there.” (Okay, mine weren’t very exciting, but they were what came to me first)
- Teach young people to write creatively, express themselves “honestly.”
- Be a clothing designer using recycled materials.
- Open an upcycling business, visiting thrift stores and finding “treasures.”
- Refinish furniture, make old things beautiful again – as they once were.
- Write a play, stories for the radio, write a TV show.
All those goals revolve around creative expression, renewal, but what really surprised me was that I have been doing these things in one form or another throughout my entire life despite all the bad choices and missed opportunities.
I was shocked to realize that all those years really weren’t “lost” years. The loving, creative me, was always there. Keeping a low profile, but she was there. She did the best she could at the time, better than I had thought.
Maybe I don’t hate myself after all.
I started clearing out my basement in preparation for fixing up and selling some old bits of furniture. I went to a meeting of a local writing group and am going to enter a short story writing contest. And I found a part-time job that involves helping young children learn to read.
It is very difficult to face the past honestly, but I learned that for all the regrets and should-haves there are an equal number, maybe even more, of positive and joyful memories and accomplishments.
So I am once again forging ahead into the next chapter of Julia’s book – Humility.
Who knows what I’ll find out about myself next? I’m still scared, but at long painful last, I am gaining some confidence and yes, pride in who I am.