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Nessa McCasey

Writing Our Hearts Out
Oct-Dec 2004

by Nessa McCasey

We are very pleased to welcome Nessa McCasey to SoulfulLiving.com as our newest monthly columnist!  Each month, Nessa will offer a poem or short writing based on our magazine's monthly theme and will provide techniques for creative expression that you can use to explore the topic yourself.

Letting Go and Moving Forward:
Writing as a Map of Progress

To let go is not to regret the past,
     but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more.
     Remember: The time to love is short
          ­-author unknown

Anyone and everyone can have trouble with letting go. I consider Letting Go to be a subcategory of Transition (well maybe almost everything falls under the big heading of Transition). To me, transition means not being where you used to be and not yet where you are going to next. And of course, it’s even more complicated than that! Being with someone and then not being with someone means that you have to let go of not only that person, but all of your dreams and expectations for your relationship with him/her. Losing a job means that you lose all of your dreams and expectations of the benefits to you, as well as the changes you could have made upon the company (or industry, etc.) Whether loss involves losing someone to an illness or a tragic accident or changing jobs or moving to a new location, it will involve letting go of tangible rewards as well as the possibilities of what might have been.

We each have unique losses and varied considerations in letting go of our individual experiences. This is where writing comes in. You can write the questions (and answers) about letting go. How have you experienced the process of letting go in order to move on to another stage of your life? What is your story about letting go? Are you still in the process of letting old feelings simmer below the surface of your daily face that you offer to the world? Is there something(s) that you would like to surrender? Researchers continue to identify how writing serves as a means for processing the emotions related to our experiences. As you write what the experience means to you, expressing the various emotions involved, you move through the event, and then move on, one step at a time, one sentence, one paragraph, one page at a time.

Specifically, writing serves to help the process of letting go flow more easily, more assuredly, and becomes a tool for mapping out the process for us. Here are some examples: Writing is an avenue for memorializing something or someone. Writing is also a way to put things down on paper, instead of keeping them mulling endlessly around in your head. An ordinary piece of paper becomes a safe and contained place to yell or rant or cry or question, and no one needs to “see it.” Of course, it is good to share writings with others, yet sometimes it is very personal and you don’t want to share it, at least not yet. One step at a time, letting go can happen, and writing can help.

How might you begin to let go through your writing about it? Here are a couple of ideas that you can try.

1. Write about what Letting Go is NOT:

For example,

Letting go is not always sad, even though it is always hard.
Letting go is not the ending of something, it is really the beginning of something new.
Letting go is not like a gentle rainstorm, it is like a hurricane, forcing change.

(Any of these statements may or may not be true for you. Change the sentences above to suit you or come up with your own sentences in this format.)

2. Another idea is to write about the feelings that arise out of the topic here. What are you feeling right now? Write these down and explore them as you are able to. You might be able to dialogue with the feelings and ask them what they need from you right now.

For example, write about the fears that you have regarding letting go and moving forward again. Include as much detail and feeling as possible so that you can acknowledge the difficulty of the process of letting go. As you literally see what you are giving up, feelings can arise, such as grief, anger, disappointment, etc. Writing about these feelings lets them have an airing out; this will often relieve their oppressiveness. Feelings are important to acknowledge, and they contain valuable information that we can use for our own healing.

When we write about our feelings and about our circumstances, we make a record that will show us later how we have indeed moved forward. Even the very act of writing down your fears will help you to take a step of moving forward past “holding on” into “letting go.”

Every single day, we must, in reality, let go of who we were yesterday. I say this statement to myself, as much as to you reading this. This includes the Me who breathed in doubts about our world as recently as yesterday. Yet, it is when I feel the freedom of HOPE that I know that I am successfully letting go of many things that aren’t useful to me anymore.

Here’s a poem by past U.S. Poet Laureate, Stanley Kunitz, with some additional writing ideas below.

The Layers
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.
(Copyright Material – Printed For Educational/Therapeutic Purposes Only)

3. Write about the lines:

“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”

4. Choose up to four phrases and/or lines in the poem and use those for starting to write a new poem for yourself.

Remember to care for yourself as you do any of these writings. As we explore difficult emotions, it is especially important to have supportive people around us. Writing to explore our inner world will expand our lives, and we certainly want to grow most healthfully. Writing can be one of the ways we care for ourselves, whether we do this quietly by ourselves, or with others in a group, or with a mental health provider in a therapeutic process. If you would like more information about this, please contact me. I would be glad to offer some ideas to help you find the appropriate supports for yourself.

Letting go of what no longer serves us is a sure way to lighten our load. This, together with powerful positive statements, will surely create a Lightened Way of living.

Letting go of all my worries for this moment, I breathe in, I breathe out; today is a glorious new day!

Nessa McCasey

© Copyright 2004 Nessa McCasey.  All Rights Reserved.

Read Nessa McCasey's Past Columns:

Aug - Sept 2004 - Writer’s Block and Then… Moving Forward Again

April - May 2004 - Identifying Our Crossroads

January - February 2004 - Daring to Dream Out Loud

December 2003 - Joining Together with Our Words of Grace

November 2003 - Midlife Questioning: One Writer's Path to Learning

October 2003 - Can We Write (or Read) Our Way to Serenity?

Nessa McCasey
Nessa McCasey, A former technical editor for NASA, street/performance poet in Denver, corporate writer, single mom, marketing communications specialist, and church music director. She is charting a new path for work and life in the profession of Poetry Therapy serving as a State Representative for the National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT) where she facilitates group or individual poetry therapy sessions and presents poetry and writing workshops to jump-start others in their own powers of creative expression. You can reach Nessa at: poetnessa@writersofwrongs.com


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