As someone who loves to write, one of the most satisfying parts of my day is with the practice of what Julia Cameron calls Morning Pages:
What are morning pages? Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness ” they might also, more ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions.
—Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way
My morning pages spin off to different things, sometimes ideas for my business, sometimes coaching essays for my clients, sometimes articles for Talking Story, sometimes sections for a possible book I am working on, often letters (handwritten correspondence is such a lost art, don’t you think?) and most often just for the joy and introspection of journaling.
I wrote this section I’m about to share with you a few days ago, on the last morning that my son Zach (my youngest child) was home, before flying that night to Arizona for his new adult life as a college freshman at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. At the time it was for my journal and for sorting out my own thoughts, so at first it seemed off-topic for Talking Story. However today I am with Zach in Arizona, for ERAU offers an exceptional Parent Orientation, and I had read this entry again, once more writing in my journal during a break.
This time my thoughts meshed with those of how we strive to manage with Aloha throughout our working lives so that we will reach the point of making some kind of meaning of our life, leaving some sort of legacy behind to mark the time we are on this earth. Sometimes we allow the question to nag at us and haunt us, and other times we slowly will begin to understand that things we consider small successes—like sending your children off to their own adulthood, or mentoring those we manage on a particularly vexing problem—are really the big ones we were supposed to achieve; the ones that matter most. These are the ones which also serve us as the catalysts for our larger potential, giving us the confidence, willingness, and pure energy to do more.
As human beings we are special, and often we have to remind ourselves that we are. We are capable of achieving more than any other species known. I coach my clients to write their goals with a four-fold view of their capacity—intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical—can you imagine any other mammal doing so?
So I share this personal writing with you to urge you: Look for the meaning in every small thing you do, every marker in your life which is actually a chapter for your own big book of life’s true meaning. Draw your strength and your inspiration from your ‘ohana (your family) and your love for them.
When you share your Aloha with others, feel good about the impact you are having, no matter how small it may seem at the time. You’ve no doubt heard this phrase before, however seek to understand it for your own time on this earth: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. And as said in Managing with Aloha, about the Hawaiian value of hope and promise;
Ka lā hiki ola. It is the dawning of a new day.
Make it the best day ever.
From my morning pages;
This morning I very quietly stole into Zach’s room and watched him sleep. I thought back to all the times I did this when he was young, and I savored the moment, just watching him breathe and trying to imagine what he might be dreaming about whenever he moved and reshuffled the length of his body for more comfort, more sleep.
I remember when he was born and I did this countless times throughout the day. Auntie Ronnie came to visit on one of his first days home, and as we both watched him sleep in his crib, she had told me that when babies smile or murmur in their sleep we know they are talking to God and the angels. It was such a comforting thought that even as a baby not yet able to speak, Zach could draw from much greater wisdom than mine. He was with those much more qualified to care for him than I was; even in sleep he was not alone.
But then I also thought about that awful time his sleep was very alarming to me, and I questioned God and those angels. I remember crying as I stood in his room and yelling at them out loud, “Enough! Give him back to me!” and he still didn’t wake up. Zach was sleeping too much, and in my anxiousness and helplessness I would have sworn I could actually see the angels cradling him in their arms, swaddling him tighter, and keeping him away from me. Thankfully I did listen to my instincts and I scooped him out of his crib and took him to the hospital, telling the nurse at admittance, “I know babies Zach’s age are supposed to sleep more than not, but I somehow know this is way too much. Please help me wake him.” The nurse tried to assure me, but Zach still slept through it all, and I would not leave until Zach’s doctor came. The angels had become selfish, and I wanted my time with my baby back.
My instincts had served me well; Zach would be in the hospital for four days. Now I know that was the only way the angels could talk to me when I was awake. Although he never discovered what the problem was, when he knew I could handle the diagnosis Dr. Chock finally told me that I probably had saved my child from being another SID syndrome statistic. By that time Zach was much older and his crib long gone, but Dr. Chock’s words brought me back into Zach’s room at nights and in the mornings so I could again watch him sleep. My own sleep was not important, and well, it just wouldn’t happen anyway. I began to spend so much more time with Zach, painfully aware that he’d soon be the one to ask for distance when his waking hours did come. Work could wait, writing could wait, everything in the rest of life could wait. I was his mom, and this was what I was supposed to do, this was where I belonged.
Eighteen years ago, and only yesterday in the most vivid memory. This morning I stood there watching Zach for a very long time, watching his chest rise and fall with each life-giving breath, amazed that the intensity of my eyes didn’t wake him—and that I didn’t start crying again. Sure, I always knew this day would come, but I haven’t thought about it enough, and now here it is: This is the very last time I can do this with Zach being my child, and not the adult he has become in his own right. Have I done enough to prepare him? Or maybe a better question is this one; have I done enough to prepare me?
As Ashley and Zach have grown, Kerwin and I would kid each other that we’d get our own lives back when they became 18, or maybe 21. Before then, we were simply the stewards of theirs; anything else we managed to fit in was gravy and we best realize it and be okay with it. Well “then” is here. Now what?
Here’s the beauty of it: Now a lot! When I think of all I, we, have going on right now I am amazed and filled to overflowing with mahalo. So much good stuff, and Ash’s 21 and Zach’s 18 are just more markers on our way to all which is still to come. Time for a new and different parenting, for it will never end. Time to go back to work, to ho‘ohana. Thank goodness I’ve learned to define “work” in the way that I have, about passions, about purpose, about meaning, about love and aloha, about strengths and values, about giving through learning and coaching, and about pure, unbridled joy. Palena ‘ole, without boundaries.
If Zach has learned that too, I’ve done pretty good. He has much to wake up to today. So have I. Ka lā hiki ola.
Postscript: I did add a sentence or phrase here and there so that this would make sense for you; stream of conscious journaling normally only has to make sense for the writer, and it is filled with much assumption of kaona (hidden meaning). Kala mai (please forgive) all the run-on sentences!
About you writing for you: It is quite therapeutic and helpful, and these three books are exceptional; I highly recommend any one of them.
The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual path to Higher Creativity
by Julia Cameron
Bird By Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life
by Anne Lamott