In blind faith, following what she believed was divine guidance, Cathy walks away from her life with no plan, no dreams, into the unknown woods of Wisconsin. During the eleven months she spends at The Christine Center, she walks the paths of her past confronting the issues that have fragmented her sense-of-identity; dissociation, depersonalization, depression, death and grief. Hearing the wind in the trees calling her to the sea, she leaves the woods and goes to the ocean to find her dreams again. In her connection with the ocean, she flourishes into her true-self and discovers the desires in her soul. Through the woods of Wisconsin to the beach in North Carolina, Cathy has taken her life, sharing her experiences in a way that allows you to go along for the ride with her, through every experience, every feeling, and every thought. "I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. What a journey you have been and still are on. I laughed, I cried, I rejoiced in your life experiences." Marie
I lost my sense of self at 5 years old. From that point on I began compromising myself. Even as I discovered new parts of myself I folded them into a package, an image of someone I was creating. I was never being- I was always acting- always recreating a new character- reshaping and reforming her to adjust to perceptions of what I thought I was being told who I was supposed to be. Maybe I had it all wrong. Maybe my perceptions were misunderstandings. In fact, often times I believe now that they were. But as a child one is vulnerable to outside influences. I was stripped of my very self unintentionally but it happened. I began molding a new self from outside direction, interactions and responses. I never developed from within. And my life journey became one of finding my true self, the person I was created to be not the person that was created due to a reaction from an experience in the world. This has been my path to share with others who somehow lose their own identity. From my journey came this memoir in hopes of helping others know that they too can reconnect and find their true self and begin life again living the life they were born to live.
It has happened more than one time in my life. Pieces of life or pieces of myself fall apart. Panic sets in. Confusion and unsettling thoughts. Worries and fears of what will happen next. Or the feeling like I can’t accomplish my dreams or create anything worthwhile. In those day to day moments life was unfolding, I was unfolding. I was entrenched in the journey of becoming. And I did breakthrough The current world situation has broken apart and unsettled parts of me and my life. Still, I am still unfolding even though I feel like I am stuck in a holding pattern again. I have to wonder what the breakthrough will be. What will come in to take the place to replace the missing pieces? I hope some of the missing pieces will return. But what is rising out of the empty spaces? The weaving of myself and my life with the world are beyond my creation. It always surprises me and impresses me. So on days I feel like the outlook is shadowy, and nothing makes any sense and the confusion is unsettling when I am wandering lost in the wilderness. I remind myself that amazing new creations rise out of the empty spaces.
My life revolves around the sea. Every day I wake to the sound of the waves and the view of the blue ocean out to the horizon. My days are planned around the tides and the conditions of the sea. I have wanderlust. Sailing the ocean to far off places brings me alive. Exploring the world by the sea, exploring her shore side villages brings me alive. It is an inner and outer journey of life. It is my life. Right now as I am stuck shore side I crave my days on the beach and my time playing in the waves. While I dream of cruising the world. I become more of who I am. I step more and more into who I am. I am more understanding of others, and of myself. It allows me to step out of my comfort zone, to stretch myself, to be comfortable with the unfamiliar and unknown, to conquer fears, to discover what I am capable of, and who I can be. I become more of who I am. I long for the day that I return to sea. In the meantime, I stay by her side and enjoy her shore-side.
I remember how simple and routine my life was when I was at the retreat center. My life was also simple and routine when I first moved to the beach. As time has gone on my life has filled up with more and more - work, people, events, obligations, fun, friendships. And yet within the more complications and more to do is a routine structure to life and my days. Our life and daily routines for many is now disrupted. People are looking for new routines to fill their day or a new way of doing their old routines. For me my routine hasn't changed much I still get up do my morning rituals and go off to work and return home late in the afternoon. The part of my routine that has changed is my social life. I feel lost without my friends and our times of friendship, music, food and drink. the new alone time is a great time to get back to practicing mindfulness, and gratitude for the simple things of life. For being present with my self and taking care of myself. Time for some of those creative projects that I have put aside. What have you put aside you can do for yourself now?
I am no longer living at the retreat center but people are still front and center in my life. I now work in a local grocery store I see individual characters every day. I spent so much of my life keeping distance from people. Now everyone I meet is a character in my life. I guess I am a character in their life too. Being myself and being true to myself sometimes makes me the character that others see. Dancing as freely as I do, I think I am the character more than others are the characters to me. I see each person as a unique expression. It makes us all characters in life. I don't make up characters as I write non-fiction so all the characters in my books are real. But all that reality revolves around myself. No need to make it it up for life brings our individual character to life and we share it everyday Sharing who we are enriches life.
Most of my life I thought I didn’t have a life. I just existed, mostly invisible. I took up space. Nothing significant happened. I didn’t do anything worth mentioning. Then one day I was asked what my story was. I told my story. Several women were interested. It began to question my perspective on my life. I wrote and told my story. My story expanded. I told more of my story. How that changed everything about how I see myself and my life. I know as a writer that how you tell a story – the perspective is how the reader gets to know the characters and how the reader sees and becomes a part of the story. You show them what you want them to know, experience, feel, think and understand. I just never thought about how it could change the story of my own life. Perspective is what changes everything. How we perceive an event or experience is how we experience our lives and ourselves. It’s simple but sometimes it takes someone else to point out a different point of view and you have to be open to it and receive it. I know all I need is a shift in perspective of what is happening in that moment and it magically changes.
Other authors, I have read and in my community have inspired me with writing, becoming myself and living my dreams. There have been many who have offered me encouragement, knowledge or wisdom along the way. One author in particular inspired me profoundly. Joan Anderson encouraged and lead me as I began a slow journey into finding myself even though I was deep into a life I couldn’t see my way out of. She gave me guidance as I step out of my fears and took small risks and then bigger ones. Her books, A Year by the Sea, A Walk on the Beach, and The Road Back to Yourself: The Second Journey opened up possibilities and gave me courage to believe I deserved to connect with who I really was and what I really loved. It gave me the courage to walk away from a life that no longer suited me-that didn’t fit anymore. My first step was in stepping away from my life. Deep into the woods where I finally heard that deeply buried call to the sea. And when I arrived at the sea, I wrote my story Second Journey and becoming me. Today I am celebrating living by the sea for ten years now. Thank you Joan Anderson, for helping me find my way to the sea.
When I began my own personal journey many years I ago, I began with those questions of what if…. What if I knew who I was? What if I could be myself? Who would that be? What would I be like? My memoir is really the journey of wondering what if…and then stepping into living those what ifs. As I leaned into each what if to discover the answers many more what ifs emerged. It wasn’t an easy journey. Wondering the what if was easier than stepping into the possibilities of living the what if. It was the dreaming about what if….that lead to trying to see if the what if was possible and following steps towards living the what if that lead me to discover the answers. The what if…was no longer a what if because I knew the answer. It is in wondering what if…that leads me down the path of life to fully living and being. Discovering the answer to what if opens a door to possibilities of what ifs expanding life is ways I can’t even imagine. What if you followed your what if where would it lead you? The only way to know is to lean into then step into your what if.
It is hard to believe that it is almost 10 years since this first holiday away from family. That first year was a blessing. I experienced the holidays without the traditions that were holding me hostage. Once I moved to the beach I begin starting my own traditions with a few of the old ones I loved. My first Christmas at the beach I spent with one of my daughters. And another of my daughters came for New Years for several years. For the last several years I have enjoyed wonderful friends’ holiday celebrations. It has been a blessing to have such a community of friends during the holidays when family is so far away. This year, however, I am very much missing family. My three daughters Sadness flowed out of me as I often chocked up in tears. I am missing being away from them at the holidays. Friends are my savior this year with all our gathers and celebrations of friendship Thanksgiving was spend at friends among friends. It was a heartwarming fun evening I do not know where I will spend Christmas but I will be in the company of love that will hug me through the missing of my family. And I look forward to the time we can once again celebrate together.
I have been absent from my everyday life as the storms of the sea have interrupted and disrupted my life and many people around me, Now people I do not know are also risking the dangers of living by the sea. Hurricane Florence moved over our island and sat here for days it seemed. Having been evacuated it seemed an eternity before I could return and see what might be left of my life. As we began to pick up the pieces and shift through what remained we have barely begun the recovering process when Hurricane Michael headed towards the gulf coast and beyond. We watched in disbelief. As I write this Hurricane Michael is still coming toward North Carolina. For our island this is more of a wind experience rather than the rain that we had with Florence. But inland they are getting more rain and water they don't need. For so many our lives will be changed from these two storms both on the outside but also on the inside. Storms have a way of making life altering changes upon the land and upon the spirit. The strength to rebuild is within. As a community and with help we will return to the beach that is the heart and soul of our community, life and spirit.
I had never contemplated the fact that I had not conceived any of my self or life by by own hands or from my own being. When this question first appeared I wanted to avoid it but it began incubating within me. As I stayed present with myself it open the passage way to see myself in a new perspective. It opened the door for the past to finally come unraveled. It opened the door to be able to finally see myself from a different perspective. I could move forward again present and with myself, my being,and my soul that was covered up and hidden inside the outer shell of the person I created. How much of your life have you allowed to be contrived by culture and the expectations of others?
Most of life I felt distant from others with no connection. People were just on the surface of my life. I felt.alone. Now everyone I meet touches me or reaches me in some way. What an amazing shift. It has enriched and enhanced who I am and my life in amazing ways. I bonded with strangers at The Christine Center. I now live in an amazing island community that has become family to me. My family now has me whole and connected in their life even as we live miles apart. This week I have been reminded that people are inherently good, generous and kind. Three times this week I have watched a stranger pay for someone else's groceries in the local grocery story. Local's helping out a tourist, tourist's helping out a local. I have family and friends I know I can count on for anything I might need as they too know I am here from them as well. It is such a lesson to know, feel and experience when the larger world around you wants you to believe otherwise. Connecting with family, friends and strangers has changed me. It has changed my life. And with this book I share my story to connect with you knowing it will enrich my life and hope it enriches yours.
It was this one defining moment of my life that changed who I was into who I became. I became someone who was not me. This moment that I misunderstood changed the direction of my life. I sometimes wonder who I would have become if I had not become someone other than the person I truly was inside. Yet it opened doors into worlds I would never have traverse and taught me lessons that I never would have learned. In becoming two different distinct personalities it actually expanded who I have now become. I had created parts of myself that I might not have discovered if Mary hadn’t emerged from within my mind. It is why I began this journey into learning about feelings, connections and becoming my authentic self. Do you have one defining moment where the direction of who you were changed who you have become?
When chaos is going on inside me or around me or in my life the only answer is to become present. I learned this a long time ago from Jon Kabat-Zinn but sometimes I get so wrapped up in either the past or the future and feel out of control. Be here now- it is what balances me. The answers only come from being present with myself and in the moment. Life is always just fine there. The best part is - is that once I get into the present moment and be where I am right now- when I am at peace and focused on the now- the answer to whatever it is that I am struggling with or fighting with in my mind always comes, sometimes it is a thought or a clear answer but sometimes it just unfolds in daily life. It comes in the peace, in the silence, or in the joy of the moment that is happening. This one thing alone changed my life – It can change your life too.
We are taught to get through whatever is happening, and get on with life. There is no time to stop and absorb life changes; graduating school, getting divorced, moving, or changing jobs. It doesn't matter that we need to absorb the changes or what is happening to us or how it is disrupting out lives and our sense of being. I stepped back and paused out of fear and panic not because I was allowed to step away and rest. But it is an acceptable choice. It is a very valid choice. I have come to believe in this idea of pausing and rest. It is more than that just stepping back, or stepping away, it is regrouping and focusing on present moment rather than getting stuck trying to live in the past or rush into the future. Reflecting, contemplating and just coming to acceptance of what has changed and what you are changing. It is important. A pause or retreat doesn’t have to be a year. It depends on the life changing event or situation and how you feel or what you need. I believe that it is vitally important to step back, step away, and pause before you rush forward into the next chapter of your life.
I was so focused on the main theme of identity and sense-of-self and finding and becoming my true self that it took my sister to point out that the underlying theme is this mother-daughter relationship. I believed that I took my identity from my father - that I was like him, associated who I was to my relationship with him - that I didn't see that my relationship with my mother was a huge factor in my denying my identity - denying and hiding who I was inside. My identity or lack of a solid strong identity and connection to myself was entwined to my relationship with my mother and with myself as a mother.
Each time I faced a moment of fear and panic, I felt weak and incapable. Yet in those moments of fear, somewhere there was some inner strength that pushed me through. My sub-conscious counted on others who believed in me to push me into that inner strength I couldn't see. It is in looking back that I now see where I was strong and when I was strong. Though in that moment I didn't see it or recognize it. When in your life have you had inner strength that guided you through a difficult situation? Who supported and believed in you when you couldn't believe in yourself?
One day I decided to take a walk on one of the wooded paths at The Christine Center, When I got back I wrote a poem describing what I had experienced. That poem became the foundation of this chapter. That walk began the journey into excavating the past. The insights I gathered from the trees, and the woods were the first step into acceptance that the past was still holding me back. I don't know what it is exactly but outside in nature I seem to hear and see things that come to me from someplace other than my mind. The insights and wisdom or information seems to come from deep within yet from some unknown source without. Wherever it comes from it only happens outside when i am surrounded and connected to nature. It is an awareness of myself and of life. .
I began my Memoir in the middle- where it all finally broke apart. Everything came crashing down yet I wasn't ready to face it all yet. Instead I stepped out of life to a spiritual retreat center. There I focused on the present moment until the pieces of the past finally unraveled. Writing this book has been a long process of trying to put all the pain and joy into words. In this book I expose my life, myself - or lack of self. My journey had many starts and stops along the way. The blessing were inside the dark moments as well as the people I met along the way and the experiences I had that have led me to find my one deep connection with myself. In finding that connection I have transformed myself and my my life. I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride. In my story I hope you find your story of personal transformation.
Through this collection of essays expressing my deep love and connection to the ocean and my own inner spirit. I hope to inspire you to connect with nature and your own authentic essence, hear your own deep inner wisdom, discover your own song in your heart and dance the steps to your own unique dance fully embracing life in all of its wonder and awe. Through these essays you be inspired to: • Become centered in present moment • Connect to nature and your inner spirit • Awaken your senses, learning to experience life through all your senses in every moment. The wisdom of the beach has guided me into my own inner wisdom found deep in my heart and soul and leading me to learn to hear the song of my own soul and the steps of my own joy. I am now learning to dance beyond the breakers.
When I hit a wall either with my writing when the words won't flow or anything in my life that is not flowing creatively and smoothly, I need the ocean. There I can reconnect with the wisdom within. I hear the ideas as if on angles wings. Whispering softly to me. As I dance they become more expressive and flowing. It reignites and inspires me. The emery returns that send my creative flow moving again. And the words begin to flow. Excitement send me to my notebook or running back across the dunes to the house and my computer. Nature and movement bring me into alignment with myself. It is the combination combination of being at the ocean, seeing the ocean, smelling the sea air, hearing the waves, and moving with with the music of the earth and of my inner self that give rise to the return of my creative flow.
Humor has never been a big part of my life I don't see the humor in many things other people find funny. For me humor is in the moment of fun, the smile, the delight, the magic moment. Play is humor for me. It is where I find something to laugh about or joke about even if I am the pun. Watching the Dolphins play in the waves, watching the children running in and out of the waves laughing in glee, I laugh. Humor is in the fun of the activity or the magic of the moment. I must admit right now I am finding it hard to find the dolphins at play or feel the laughter of the waves. Yet every day after I return from feeling unsafe and stressed at my day job. I come home and look out at the sea and know that the dolphins are out there somewhere playing for me until I can join them again. And I smile and feel a moment of laughter. Their playful spirit sets my humor free.
Dance has always been in the foundation of my life, of myself. I may have started dancing because Mom had me taking tap dancing lesson at 3 years old but it became deep rooted in me. The form of dance has changed and evolved over my lifetime. Still I find myself dancing on the beach, even in the rain.This little book that I just wrote from my feelings while I struggled with writing my memoir taught me about myself. I have been amazed at the reaction I have received from others how it lifted their spirits or inspired them. What I learned the most from this book is to continue to dance to my own true self no matter what it looks like on the outside to others. So I dance when my friends play music and I dance to the sound of the ocean on the beach. It is where Freedom is for me. It is where Joy finds its way into my heart when it is raining outside.
Once again a storm is disrupting everyday life at the beach. Living on the coast-on a barrier island has with it certain uncertainties of storms. Yet those of us who live and work here still would rather deal with this disruptions of everyday life for the beauty of the ocean. Last year this week I was cruising in the Caribbean to come home to the chaos of hurricane evacuation. Now one year later, I am evacuated again while another hurricane is heading along the coast. We are hoping it stays out to sea but it looks like it will pass dangerously close. It gives me time to pause & evaluate where I want this storm to take me. I find that I just want to be on a cruise ship! I want to cruise all over the world. I want to experience different ship and discover new ports of call. Yet the comfort of my homeport is important to me. It is here I can dream new dreams and enjoy the routine of the beach life including friends and community. Storms just make me love the ocean even more. They may cause disruption and even some destruction of my homeport but the friends and community hold together even stronger and better each time we unite in riding out the storm.
I have been writing all my life. But I never called myself one. As a little girl it was mostly poetry where I expressed the feelings that were buried inside me. Emotions I couldn't express. Afraid to feel anything I wrote words on a page yet I didn't "feel" them. I gave up the dream of being a writer as a teenager. For years my only writing was in a journal. When my kids were little and I was lost, I wrote a story that poured out of me. I hand wrote it in notebook after notebook..That manuscript is still in a box in my closet. Then years later after my children were grown I was telling my story of my journey to strangers in a dining hall and was encouraged to write my story. When I began to write it I was struggling wondering if I could write it and finish it and actually ever publish it. Another friend challenged me to write a short book and publish it. She even gave me the title, 'Dancing on the Beach' because I never walked the beach I always danced down the beach. And so 'Dancing on the Beach' was the first successful step into being able to say I was a writer.
Rain, Rain, Go Away is what everyone is saying right now. It has been raining everyday for a week now. Sometimes it is a steady rain but most often it is wild thunderstorms rolling across the sky. It is summer at the beach after all. I have had to be inside and often where I can't see the lightening or see the storm clouds rolling. I love thunderstorms and they make me feel close to my dad whom I miss very much especially at this time of year. Today I realized why the sadness seems to be lingering inside me. I haven't been out in the storms where I can feel its energy, its strength, its power. It revitalizes me and connects me with my dad. I need to dance in the rain! Time to go Dancing in the Rain! And watch the storms release its magic powers and wash away the sadness within me. .
Since I was a little girl I have loved storms, thunderstorms in particular. I would run outside watching the clouds and the lightening. It would frighten my mom. She would yell at me to come inside. My dad would come out and we would end up watching from the porch. When I was 19, on a cruise from Boston to Bermuda, the ship got caught up in a hurricane. No matter how the captain and crew tried to avoid it the hurricane seemed to come back at us. It was the most exciting experience of my life. I loved every minute of it. I would go to the bridge (back then you could) and look at the charts of the ship and the storm. I would go out on the inside promenade and watch the waves go over the ship, feel the ship be engulfed by the wave and then bounce back up upon the sea. I live on an island off the coast now. My first approaching hurricane I headed to the beach and watched the storm clouds roll in and the tossing and turning ocean approaching the shore. I stay out on the beach watching until it is unsafe to do so. Well unsafe in my eyes but I probably push it a little too far sometimes.
I have always heard the call of the ocean in my being. It gives me breath and life.The ocean is where I need to be whenever I need nurturing or care. For many years I lived in the woods and didn't understand why I felt disconnected with myself. Life changes sent me further into the woods where I heard the ocean waves in the wind. And I knew I had no choice but to go to the sea. Once I arrived at the shore I knew I was home. this book came out of my affinity with the ocean and how she revived me to myself.
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