List-making

I am an inveterate list-maker. There are times that I have scraps and notes floating around the house. This can be disorienting and annoying. A daily list consolidates the people I need to call, the business I need to tend, the gift I need to pack and mail, the cards I have to purchase, the storage locker I need to visit, the art I am currently working on, the classes I’m enrolled in and the groceries I need to buy. There’s always more. A daily list helps me to navigate through the day. A compelling guide that, if I follow it, I’m assured that by the end of the day, I’ll feel accomplished!
Ta dum!

Last week, I took an hour to create a list, a consolidation of other lists and notes that had been piling up on the kitchen counter. It wasn’t only for groceries, but other reminders, desires and necessities–like setting a date with the mechanic to add Freon to the car before the weather gets too hot. The list was designed with noted priorities and was quite detailed–a mini work-of-art in and of itself. My first stop that day was Grocery Outlet in a neighboring town. I drove the ten miles. It was a blustery, wet and cold spring day reminding me that winter wasn’t finished with us yet. I parked the car, wrapped my wool jacket tightly around me as I stepped from the car. My trusty list was in my left hand. As I shut the car door, a very strong and mischievous wind kicked up and snatched the list from me! I watched with my mouth slightly open as the wind carried that brilliant list across the wide street, through another very large parking lot, up and down, over and around. Like a kite in the wind, it flailed, never landing as my neck craned to follow it. The rain and the wind combined would make that list a soggy piece of paper with smeared ink before very long. I thought of getting in the car, driving across the wide street into the neighboring parking lot which is also a truck stop. However, I lost track of where the list was off to–parts unknown.

I felt helpless and like I’d been played with by a conspiring universe. Ha, you thought you had a day mapped out. You thought you had a strategy…a way to approach your shopping and what it was you were going to do next. And now, in a gust of wind, it’s lost. The perfect plan. The perfect unfolding. The accomplishment. The pat on the back at the end of the day for following your list like a religion, unerring. There I was, in the wet and cold and staring into the hinterlands–my list gone, as if it were a recently lost lover. I went into the grocery store and tried to remember what was on the list as best as I could. I mourned the loss of my perfect list as I went up and down the aisles.

Somehow, I got through the day and I remembered, how the best laid plans can go awry. I was also reminded that I do have my own inner north star and what needs to get done asserts itself regardless of a written list. I continue to make a list, but I don’t need be so rigid about following it to the letter.

Within any list, there are prayers woven in for myself, my family, my friends, neighbors and community. And for the world which has a very roundabout way of showing that PEACE is a priority. Is there a list that can take us there? I wonder.

Naming Your Ancestors (part one)

In a previous blog, I discussed having discretion when writing about family members especially if publication is the plan.  I also mentioned the value of doing your personal groundwork in order to lend credibility and depth to whatever you are writing.  And then, the disclaimer–don’t proceed with this if it is too tender of an area for you; and do have support in place (whether professional or a trusted friend). Depending on one’s family history, there are areas where we face challenges–sometimes we aren’t ready for this type of exploration.  Be self-wise in this regard. There is never force when we pursue our own growth.  Take small steps and lots of pauses and retreats when necessary.
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Following is an exercise I’ve borrowed from Barbara G. Walker’s book entitled, Women’s Rituals.   I’ve used this exercise in a creative writing workshop and found it to be deeply grounding.  It is called NAMING. Conducting this exercise outdoors in nature would be conducive, though not necessary, to this experience.

Depending on if you are female or male, follow the lineage of your same sex ancestors to create a list of names.

Women:  List the first names of your mother and your sister(s); going back as far as you remember, list the first names only of your mother’s lineage–grandmother, great- grandmother, your aunts–grand and great aunts.

When you have finished with this list, do the same with your father’s side starting with his mother, your paternal aunts,  great grandmother and go back as far as you know.

Next list any elder women who influenced you, besides your named relatives, when you were growing up.  This could be teachers, friends of your family, soccer coaches, Girl Scout leaders, whomever.  Be as thorough as you can in your listing.

Finally, were there any historical women, public figures or even actresses whom you particularly admired as a girl or young woman.  List their first names also.

Men:  Using the same listing technique, begin with your father’s lineage and write down the first names of the males in that lineage.  Your father’s first name, your brother(s); your grandfather, great-grandfather, great or grand uncles going back as far as you remember.

Then list the first names of the males in your mother’s lineage, as far back as you can remember.

Continue with the first names of any elder men who have influenced you when you were growing up.  This could be teachers, friends of your family, sports coaches, Boy Scout leaders, etc.

Finish your list with the first names of any historical men, public figures or actors whom you looked up to as a boy or young man.

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When you feel satisfied that your list is complete, stand, take a few deep breaths and read the names aloud, slowly.

Be present with these names for a few minutes.

(When I did this exercise with a group, the energy of these names was palpable.)

Recognizing that these are your female or male ancestors with their multitude of personalities and stories, do you feel their presence, their aliveness, their connection to you?  All of this through the act of naming them.  Does this feel like a place of power?

WRITING PROMPT:
Write about this experience of naming.

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