Reading & Writing a Life

Carla Pineda's blog


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Gathering Up the Year 2017

IMG_2197Beginning to gather up the year.  I can’t believe I put my hands on all my 2017 journals so quickly.  Often I’m on a hunt all over the house, on bookcases, in tote bags, or who knows where else to get them all in one place.  Soon I will begin to read back through them, highlighting, circling, indexing words, phrases, questions, quotes that leap off the page or that I want to forget I recorded.  It’s another piece of my writing ritual that connects my writing to my life, that helps me make sense of what sometimes feels like random ramblings over blank pages…grateful for my pen and paper and another year.


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Book Review: Hidden Treasure: How to Break Free of Five Patterns that Hide Your True Self by Alice McDowell, PhD.

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This is an excellent read!  I was surprised by the amount of information in this book.  Psychology/self-help books often just skim the surface of a topic.  Or, they are too deep for the reader who wants hand-on practical ways of applying tools for growth.  Hidden Treasure: How to Break Free of Five Patterns that Hide Your True Self is hands-on and practical, not light reading yet so readable for the person on their own journey.  Alice McDowell walks her readers through the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of the 5 character structures she identifies.  She uses questionnaires, cartoons, exercises, and personal narrative to aid in uncovering your true self.  She helps identify how various issues fit into one prominent pattern, often one that stems from an early childhood wound.  Her language is simple, her examples heart-felt as she guides you on a path of psychological growth that empowers healing and a “softening” of life-long patterns of coping that hide us from our true selves.

Dr. McDowell is a therapist, retreat leader, and co-founded Light on the Hill Retreat Center in Van Etten, New York.  She also developed the Hidden Treasure program, a three year training in spiritual and personal growth.  Formerly a professor of religious studies she now leads groups devoted to the inner journey.

 


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Book Review: Baffled by Love by Laurie Kahn

32445648  This was not an especially easy book to read yet I could not put it down.  Laurie Kahn is a pioneer in the field of trauma therapy and knows her topic well.  In Baffled by Love: Stories of the Lasting Impact of Childhood Trauma Inflicted by Loved Ones she tells the stories of her clients who experienced love in ways painful and traumatic.  Yet, they all still long for the “good” kind of love we all long for.  What makes this book different from others I have read about this topic is that Laurie has woven threads of her own story into the narrative.  Her knowledge of the topic (she founded the Womancare Counseling and Training Center in 1980), her deep connection and commitment to her clients, and the transparency of her own story makes for a powerful read.  Laurie has told these stories, adding to the ongoing body of work in this area, and she has told them from her heart.  This is rare in a book of this genre.  I highly recommend it.


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Morning Breaking

Not taken on an Easter Morning but I still see Easter here.  A Morning Breaking over Corpus Christi Bay.  I have seen this event more times than I can count.  Each sunrise is unique, each beautiful.  The water, the sky, the sun take my breath away and remind me to breath all in the same instant.  It is Resurrection, it is Beginning Again, It is All is Well.  Easter Blessings Abound.


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Do you reread your journals?

Do you reread your journals?  And, if you do why?

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There are certain times when I find myself drawn to go back into the pages of a journal to see what I’ve written or to find a line to use as a prompt when I’m stuck for what to put on the blank page of today’s journal entry.

At the end of the year I go back through my journals for the previous 12 months.  I will often circle, underline, highlight entries that “jump” off the page.  It is a wandering through the musings of my mind to revisit, re/member, and remind myself of where I’ve been, who I am, and maybe even to get a glimpse of where I’m going.

I see a spiritual director on a monthly basis.  There have been times when I was a blank slate about what I wanted to address with her during our time together.  I go back through the previous month’s entries, underlining, circling, highlighting words that catch my eye or pull at my heart.  I mark things that draw out a question.  Those are the beginnings of our conversation.

One time I took those marked entries and typed them out, double spaced, poem like and read that to her.  It went from the circling, spiraling thought pattern my mind operates out of to having clarity of where I was in the middle of that messy place.

One of the books on my shelf is Harvesting Your Journals: Writing Tools to Enhance Your Growth & Creativity by Rosalie Deer Heart and Allison Strickland.  It’s a good resource, full of suggestions, on how to harvest, deepen, sow, and find hidden patterns in the line after line of written pages of a journal.  Because I think (and often write) in circular, spiral patterns a guide book is a welcome tool.

One other way I harvest is to only write on the right side page.  I leave the left side blank.  Yes, I go through a journal twice as fast.  That’s why I buy more than one at a time. I always have a blank one waiting on the shelf.  By leaving the left page blank I can go back and pull out those snippets, those underlined phrases, words or connections my mind makes.  In a way it helps me to put one or two of those spiraling, swirling thoughts over by itself and “begin again” from there.

So, wander around on those pages.  Remember, “not all who wander are lost.”.  Mark that journal up, use a guidebook if you need one to give you some direction.  Who knows what nuggets of gold you’ll find to start the next blank page.


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Book Review: Foy: On the Road to Lost by Gordon Atkinson

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This was not a book that was on my to be read list.  That list is piled high of books on women’s memoir, women’s spirituality, poetry, and books on writing.  I was not drawn to read a book about a guy on the road to lost.

So, what can I say now that I have read the book?

Well,let’s just say once I started the book I could not put it down.  I was drawn to Foy’s journey, walking through his questions, searching for answers, trying to find his way.  I guess we all are a little bit lost and we don’t even know it.

I love Gordon’s simple, yet deep dialogue.  I love the transparency, the honesty, and the humanness of his character.  I love his sense of humor.

I can think of a few folks I will share this little gem with and I eagerly await the next book of Foy stories.


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Book Review: Running on Empty by Shelley Pernot

One of the topics I like to read about is mindfulness.  I have the books by the masters, the “gurus” on the subject, the names many of us associate with the topic.  I have them marked up and refer to them often.  But, what a surprise to find a book on the topic that was just a bit different to say the least.

Running on Empty: The Irreverent Guru’s Guide to Filling Up with Mindfulness  by Shelly Pernot is the first book on the topic that actually made me laugh out loud.  Shelly is a life coach, speaker, leadership development trainer, and founder of True North Development. (http://www.truenorthdevelop.com)  Her “bio” says she is “dedicated to helping folks shake off the boring and blah and put on the passion and purpose.”

This book was such a fun read.  It made me laugh, it made me ponder, and it made me want to get out my pen and do the worksheets she provides throughout the book.

If you’re like me and can’t take a big chunk of time off to go “find yourself” or or consider yourself a “non-monk” check out this book.  It’s practical, provocative, it takes mindfulness out of the clouds and brings it down to earth level.  And, like I said, a fun read.  My copy is well marked up.  I’m anxious to dig back into it and see where it guides me.  I’ll keep you posted.


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List Making

The other morning I woke up at 4:30. This is too darn early, with my mind on warp speed, obsessing on things that have no need of being obsessed on. Yes, pondered on, wondered about, processed but not obsessed on. The stuff of life that needs dealing with doesn’t go away or change. The issue is with how we deal with it, how we approach it. If you breathe into it you stop the reactionary response. Then, make a list of “the stuff”. Making a list “lists” things in linear fashion, takes them out of the knots our minds make of them. A list will help untangle the whirl of thoughts whizzing through the gray matter.

Slow Down. Breathe in Peace. Breathe in Calm. Exhale the Tension, the Tightness.  Grab that journal and make that list.  It will help I promise.


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“Anything worth thinking about…”

“Anything worth thinking about is worth singing about”

Bob Dylan

I think I can write.  Wait, yes, I can write.  I just don’t always know what to do with what I write.  Maybe just putting the flow of words on the page is enough, for me, for clarity, for questioning.  I struggle with what I put on the page, this blog entry, my journal, being enough.  I get caught up in my own internal measuring stick of expectations of self that freeze me in my tracks.  I pre-order what goes on the page.  I embed it in the stone of expected perfection.  My pen freezes and that’s the end of it.

“Anything worth thinking about is worth singing about” says Bob Dylan.  Well, I can’t sing, just ask my kids!  But, is anything worth thinking about worth writing about?

I would have to answer yes.  To write is to write.  The struggle to value my voice, to find it, again and again, on the page, even between the lines that manage to find themselves flowing from a pen unfrozen by I know not what is worth it.

Do not be your own worse enemy.  Do not silence yourself before you even put thoughts, ideas, questions, revealings on paper.  You may find yourself writing things you don’t remember writing.  They may be “first drafts” or need to go straight to trash and that’s ok.  Yet, they may hold a thread of something wise, witty, or revealing.  Exercise with your pen in hand.  Just write!

Who is your writer?  Sometimes you may not recognize her.  Other times there may just the tiniest hint of knowing her.  You may ask, “Is this me?”  “My true self?” “Where did she come from?”  “How did she come out from hiding?”

She comes out, I think, when I realize I’m less in charge of her and I realize I am her scribe and she writes the words, not me.  Note to self:  Just write!  Every day!  Is it worth it? Yes!

 


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Saturday Morning…

It is a very quiet Saturday morning at my house.  I am on the couch, my end of the couch, indented from the times I spend here.  It is one of my favorite places to “nest.” This morning, it is me, my journal, Mary Oliver, a computer and a few other tools for reading and writing my life.  It is overcast and finally looks like fall here in central Texas.  They say we are due some rain and I am more than ready for it.  The ground is parched and so is my soul.

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One of my favorite authors is Mary Oliver whose words wet my soul and often bring tears to my eyes.  I’m in love with her new book, Upstream: Selected Essays.  The first sentence on the opening flap, “In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed”  takes my breath away.  Somedays on the cusp of turning 65 I still feel that way.   Who can relate?

“I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be”  she continues.  And, again, I get it.

I often laugh and say I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.  It’s funny but then not so much so.  When we try to fit parts of ourselves into places we  just do not fit in and wondering why we’re out of sorts….well, fill in the blanks.  It’s cause for much grief, unhappiness, discontent, and discouragement.  Yet some of that does have a  good function.  It helps us flesh out what is and what is not.  But, being stuck in being “such a stranger to myself I hardly existed” is the other side of the coin.

So, where is the balance,  the sweet spot in the tension?  Where is the place where we can live in the world but not be consumed by it?  The place where we know not what we want to be when we grow up but who we are!  And, as an old saying goes, “where our insides match our outsides.”  I’m still looking!  I’ll let you know what I find.