Awakening: 1. a moment in which clarity or insight is gained
The Adventure Begins-Fate Might Lend a Hand
I offer you this story, the origins of finding my authentic self, and, of knowing I could no longer play it
safe. I share with you, the seeds of this book and the adventure of my life. It was 2001, and I was adrift, my inner compass was broken. I was going through an early mid-life crisis of sorts. My career path had not been a linear one. There was not going to be 30-years of service and a gold watch for this woman. In the realm of life callings, it always seemed like there was one more magnificent opportunity just over the horizon. I had no regrets about any of the choices I had made in my life, as with each of them a challenge or opportunity was experienced, but I was the most disillusioned I had
been in a long time. I had already experienced several incarnations of careers: photojournalist, rubber-stamp mail-order artist, and T-shirt designer. Right along side each of these was an ever-steady paycheck received from work as a psychotherapist.
It was the psychotherapy career that was weighing on me at the time, and although I had tried to bring the arts, as a healing element, into my work with clients in mental health settings, I was yearning to
create the practice I had always imagined. I was out of alignment with my values and true beliefs about how to help people. My work was beginning to feel like an old itchy skin that no longer fit. The problem was that every time I attempted to shed that old skin or think about what might be next, what I refer to as the Venomous Toad Committee, would croak up their fears and what-ifs. To keep me towing the line, the committee would round me up and lead me to the edge of the cliff for a view of the
BIG BLACK BOTTOMLESS VOID—land of the unknown. Inevitably, I would run screaming from the edge, back to the safe career, with benefits.
As a life and creativity coach, I believe there comes a moment in our lives when we have to ask the age
old, yet important question, “Am I truly living the life I have always imagined?” Or to paraphrase the poet Mary Oliver, “If I could put fear and doubt aside, what would I really want to do with this one precious life?” What if I followed my heart, not my head, and one day—without really knowing it was on the way—that moment came for me?
In September, the Twin Towers crumbled, I lost an old friend in the tragedy, and as a native New Yorker,
the event hit my psyche in a way I did not expect. We were living to work, our priorities felt skewed, and
there was little time to support the people we loved. I had submitted a proposal to open a wellness and healing arts center in an old home, which my husband and I were going to purchase. The house had it all—three car garage out back for studio space, several rooms for practitioners and even room for a healing garden out front. In the end, the city planners denied our proposal, citing, “not enough parking.” I was absolutely crushed; it was, for me, the final blow—compass glass cracked, dials pointing nowhere. I came home in tears and said to my husband, “What now?” He answered, as he often does, with something that immediately elevates my heart rate, “Why don’t we just get out of here for
awhile—hit the road for a year?” “What?” I stammered, “That isn’t what I meant at all!” And that my friends, is the moment the course of my life was altered forever.
Over the next few months, we bought a 24-foot travel trailer, learned the language and skills of RV life,
discarded most of our possessions, packed up what was left, and rented out our home. It was a whirlwind and I have to say, I was still not convinced; I was terrified. Let’s remember the timing: Our country was living in fear. Each day we were being told to trust no one, to look at our neighbors as potential criminals and enemies and to be alert at all times for new dangers. Was it a yellow, orange or purple day? How could life change so drastically in an instant? The bombardment of messages wore on my soul like sandpaper.
When the time came to break the news to friends and family, the reaction of each person we told was like a Rorschach test of my risk-taking stamina. Parents; You’re going to do what? Grandma Elsie; You always were a free spirit. Go follow your heart! Friends; How can you quit your jobs? The Toad Committee; What are you thinking, your private practice was just starting to be on an even keel. What did I do? I drew from my inner resources. I knew that I had faced the unknown before and THRIVED! At different times over the course of my life I had faced addiction, a divorce and moving away from everything and everyone I had ever known. Now, here I was again, facing the unknown, but somewhere
deep inside there was a very tiny voice saying, “This has the ability to change everything, just believe and keep walking forward.”
So we did. In September 2002, we pulled out of our driveway with our beloved fourteen-year-old lab
and hit the road for a year of adventure and personal transformation. It’s a great story, but that’s for another book. What I will tell you is this, during that year I was stripped down to the core and my authentic self was revealed. By the end of that year, I knew exactly what I wanted with the rest of my life and I was no longer willing to deny it. By diving head first into the unknown,
I was able to step fully into the life I lead today.
Before we left, on our trip, I facilitated a couple of workshops in our area, using Carol Lloyds book, Creating a Life Worth Living, with her blessing. With Carol’s permission I designed and added expressive arts and journaling exercises to her process. The teaching bug took hold. Those classes gave me a taste of what was to come. Now, I was committed to the idea of becoming a live-your-dreams coach and workshop leader, designing my own curriculum based on my personal experiences, but I had almost no idea where to start. I began with a single question, “What do I believe about teaching
women to realize their dreams?” Asking myself that one question opened the door to imagining new possibilities for my life.
Creative Awakenings is my answer to that one very powerful question. I hope you will begin to ask
some questions of your own and glean some answers in response, within these pages. As with most dreams, this book began without my knowing it, as a tiny seed in my heart. Creative Awakenings
is a workshop in a book, based on a class and retreat I have been teaching for almost ten years, called
EnVIsion The Life of Your Dreams! The classes support clients and students in uncovering, discovering and creating a vision for their lives and businesses. For many participants it is the first time they can share a dream aloud without someone telling them it’s impossible. As a result, our groups become safe havens, a cheering squad if you will, filled with DREAM SPIRIT! I will be your dream ally, workshop facilitator, outfitter and cheerleader, from afar.
Creative Awakenings will invite you to honestly ask and answer your deepest questions. It will give you a
safe place to begin to imagine the life you truly want to create, a way to look beyond what you can see now with creative exercises, tools and techniques to use along the way. Your journey begins here in this moment. I invite you to let the chatter and negative voices fade away, and allow your heart to open to the possibilities this experience will offer. Like you, I have walked many miles along life’s highways, through some treacherous territory, along slippery slopes. It is my deepest hope that this book will make your journey a little smoother. There is a story inside you, waiting to unfold. The seeds of your dreams lie dormant, awaiting water, sunlight and nourishment.
Blessings for the journey,
Excerpt from the book, Creative Awakenings: EnVision the life of your dreams through art by Sheri Gaynor, LCSW, REAT. North Light Books, 2009. ©2009 Sheri Gaynor, all rights reserved.