I LOVE this woman! Jeanne is a soul whisperer. She is one story teller who cracks my heart open and reaches in to wrap her love, wisdom, and beauty tightly around my heart. Her words awaken within me the reminder that I am whole, I am enough. She is a gift, an inspiration in my life and I am so excited to introduce her to you!
You: How are you following your life path (dharma)?
Me: I’m glad I wasn’t drinking anything that would sting when chortling! Oh wait . . . maybe you didn’t mean how I’m following the life path that I did or didn’t chart and map out by myself – maybe you mean how am I following the life path that presents before me every day, with all its twists and turns, hills and valleys, blind curves, and speed bumps – the life path that presents all by itself, without asking me for directions. The life path that lands me in a different spot every now ‘n then, mostly in places I least expected to find myself . . .
I’ve got to tell you, Sugar, 2011 beat me up. First, in the space of three weeks, in one of those Surprise! landings I mentioned: we totally uprooted ourselves, shedding most of our earthly possessions (though not nearly enough, as it turned out), and moved from the place I’ve called home all my life – from the place where everybody knows my nickname – to a waterfall on top of a mountain in beautiful western North Carolina. Then, nine months later (Huh. Wow. I just did that math.) my husband was laid off, a layoff that drifted into retirement.
I spent 2012 deeply grieving things like my loss of space (both personal and physical), freedom and independence as I’d known it, the ability to chart my own days. I grieved griefs I’ve spent years – decades, even – trying to outrun. I grieved long, I grieved deep, I grieved thoroughly. I didn’t run away from it this time, didn’t just keeping putting one foot in front of the other, making sure my upper lip was stiff as a board. For the first time in my life, I stayed with the grief. Just plopped my figurative self down in a comfy chair, opened the door, and said to the grief: Come right on in, take your shoes off, and stay a while why don’t you.
Then one morning in November of last year, I woke up and said right out loud: I need some traction in my life. Just like that: I need some traction in my life. I got out of bed, got out my journal, and started mapping. Did some practical, pragmatic mapping and I did some frivolous, foolish mapping. And you know what? The taxi called Life told me to buckle up, and off we went on some pretty amazing trips just in a scant three month period – sometimes with me taking the lead (I have a spiffy new Book of Amazements where I keep track of all the things I Just Have To Do Or Bust using my new color coding system based on the Chakras). Other times I just buckle up and enjoy the ride.
One of the most amazing things, if I may: I have some artwork on exhibit in the Florida Museum of Women’s Art. Artwork that wasn’t even an idea that sparkly November morning. My friend Angela (of AngelaKelsey dot com) submitted my name in December, and a mere six weeks later, I was drinking a glass of wine at the opening reception. Funny how that happens, eh?
You: Have you always had this calling? If not, was it a sudden/gradual shift?
Me: To tell you the truth, I’m not at all sure I know what my calling is. I know that I feel most alive when I’m enkindling a hearty round of chortle, when I’m cheering women in the dressing room of life, when I’m stitching (again, with ink or thread). I’ve been a teacher, an end-of-life doula, managed rental real estate, acted on stage, managed a small theatre company, been a professional speaker/storyteller, a personal historian, writing workshop facilitator – but are any of those My Path? Do they add up to My Purpose? Right now I’m wondering if my calling isn’t to encourage people to think their own thoughts, sing their own songs, wear their own shoes cause I get so worked up over that. I’m all for self expression, you see. Said another way, I’m contemplating giving in to my authority issues and waging a full-out loud and hearty against building or riding on band wagons, striking a bonfire to extoll resonance over conversion. Oh, don’t get me started.
When I look back to The Ancient Ones, I see two rows of women, sitting, their heads down while they stitch, and I think “Of course.” But is making what I call hymns of cloth My Calling? I honestly don’t know. I have absolutely no idea why I’m here walking this beautiful earth, so I just let my head be turned by life, romping first over here, then skipping over yonder. I’ve wasted so much time and energy struggling to find the TaDa that lets me know This Is It, this is Your Purpose, this is Why You Are Here. My face turns red when I tell you that off and on I’ve been kinda’ envious of folks who can tell you in the space of a business card what their Purpose is and how I’ve envied women who’ve had A Career. Shoot, there have been times when I’d’ve been happy with hand-me-down Purposes (You’re finished with that? How ’bout letting me have it then?), when I would’ve paid good money to have somebody tell me This Is Your Purpose and be done with it. But so far, nothing fits like it was tailor made – it’s all kinda’ scratchy, if you know what I mean.
You: What did you have to give up by honoring your path?
Me: I’ve had to give up so much you’d think I’d wear a smaller dress size: I’ve given up the need to Be Right. Of being able to show my work (except in the case of my hymns of cloth when I give up the reluctance to let my knots show) or relinquishing the need to defend myself. The fear of looking/sounding stupid, of being scoffed at, shoved aside, looked down on, overlooked, misunderstood, or not knowing something that everybody else does. (That seems an awful lot of gunk to let go of when I’ve already said I have no earthly idea what My Path is. And there’s more:) I had to give up wanting to be a Good Girl, realizing that I don’t want my tombstone to say “She helped a lot of people”, rather: “She shipped.” (Steve Jobs is reported to have said “Real artists ship.” It’s time for me to ship, to create my own hymns of cloth and chase my own tales, it just is.)
You: What have you learned/gained by remembering your true nature (honoring your path)?
Me: I’ve learned/remembered to do for myself what I’ve long encouraged others to do: be myownself without apology and often without explanation.
You: What is one thing you do every week to honor your innermost authentic Self (connection to Source)?
Me: You know, I’m just getting into this. After The Year Of Mournings, it seems a rebirth is happening, like I’m starting all over. Like I’ve reached some important milestone or something. I just celebrated a Big Birthday on Valentine’s Day (though this go-round, I’m planning to celebrate a birthday year), and I find that I’m hearing every tick and every tock, each a reminder that It’s Time for me to live my own life. I’m sensing that my purpose is not about what I can/will/am supposed to do for Others, that instead my purpose is simply to live the life bearing my name with hearty gusto and absolute abandon. So I’ve decided to celebrate the entire year, mind you, and I’m making a list of what all I want to pack into it. After a virtual lifetime of ignoring my body, of being embarrassed about it and actually angry with it, truth be known, I’ve started a yoga class, joined the gym, and dance whenever I feel like it. Around the first of December, I got me a door – cleared out the media room and moved myself right in to set up housekeeping in that space with doors that close. I’m setting and keeping studio hours. I declare that I’ll fill a journal a month, that I’ll bring more music into my life, that I’ll live and create by the moon. I’m committed to meditating, writing, stitching these symbols and images into existence, and to researching that thing that happened to my family in 1933. Now that I cay say the word, I want to enkindle a relationship with prayer – the relationship I had as a wee chid before adults (some well-meaning, others not so much) had their way with me – a relationship that allows me, a woman, to pray in my own way . . . in my own ways. I’m memorizing poems and quotes and snippets of books, created a newsletter called Potluck, planning to sing in public without clearing the room, am holding my very own Bushel Basket Burning (I might have to do more than one till I get used to the idea of living out from under that ole’ bushel basket), eradicating the word “but” from my vocabulary (If it’s something that calls for a “but”, it’s nothing that needs to be said.), and I have every intention of rediscovering weekends.
You: What is one treat you can share with us to bring along on our own path towards freedom?
Me: Freedom. “Our own path towards freedom.” Oh, how I do love the sound of those words. How ’bout I leave y’all with something it took me an awful long time to learn: Quite often the very best way to help somebody is not to step in and save them from themselves, but to step aside and let them experience the natural flow of consequences.
I am tickled and honored to be included in this important series of interviews. Such good questions – things I ask myself but with no built-in accountability, without a deadline, I quickly walk away from them saying “later” and never find my way back. Thank you for including me here, Sugar.
You can connect with Wholly Jeanne at her website: http://www.WhollyJeanne.com (There are links to all 3 blogs there.), Facebook: Wholly Jeanne Laughs (https://www.facebook.com/WhollyJeanneLaughs), and Twitter: @WhollyJeanne (https://twitter.com/whollyjeanne).