Emptiness ~ The Dark Unknown

Emptiness
Source: WordPress

Emptiness.

A void waiting to be filled.

Fill it wisely, and be well.

~*~

A path familiar walked for too long a time.

Riddled with old perceptions and prejudices;

Delusions, illusions and self-sabotage.

It was all I knew; all I understood of life

Until one day I finally

Asked:

“Is this all there is?”

*

A wall to the right guides me forward;

To the left, escape.

But to escape is to runaway;

To avoid a truth which

Looks, oh dear, so dark.

Yet, I must know the dark secrets

Of this truth. My truth.

Surely it is more than the emptiness

I feel that suffocates.

I must know. I must make

The uncertain live and die in me so

I might live again.

*

All is uncertain. Even escape drags us

Into uncertainty. An uncertainty

Often darker than our own.

*

At the threshold I stand. Smile.

What is more intrepid; more adventurous;

More exciting than to advance into our own

Mystery with open heart and mind, and a

Desire to plumb the depths of our truth?

To feel what is real. To negotiate the joy;

The terror; the fear; the relief;

The pain; the sorrow; the love; the hate;

The sadness; the history of the ages that

Makes us who and why we are?

In the process, discovering a new self-respect,

A new joy in our being because we have found

What lies beyond the lies that have

Shaped how we perceive our world?

Trade that powerful roller coaster

Of healing for an escape

On a delusional fairground ride into the

Utter depths of another’s darkness?

I think not.

So, with courage and a will to seek

My truth boldly I step into that immeasurable

Abyss. The place from which I would

Run screaming for lack

Of understanding.

Stop. Breathe deeply. Feel its clamp around

My chest. Feel it mess with my mind.

My eyes blinded search for light; for

Relief; for the familiar.

Panic. Fear. The light!

Where is the light? The walls have

Closed in. For a moment I

Suffocate in that

Dark unknown. It cannot

Be escaped. It must be faced; met;

Addressed; wrestled with; felt.

Feeling? What is that? I who have

Numbed my way through life must

Suddenly feel? It is too much; it is

Too much; it is too much; it is …

Light!

Blinding darkness in a twinkling to

Blinding light. With one hand I

Shield my eyes while the other is

Gently held.

“Be at peace, dear one, the truth

Is not so hard when faced together.”

I catch my breath. My body floods

With awareness, or at least the

Desire for it. I am not alone in this

Dark place when the Good Heart

Upon it shines.

“See.

Acknowledge.

Understand.

Accept.

Release!

Be free.”

To be free of my past I must

Face it. And not just

My past, but the lives of those

Who came before and coloured

My world with all their

Grief and prejudices and

Suffering and pain.

Together the Good Heart and I

Walk this straight

And narrow way.

The gentle hand my guide;

The gentle voice my comfort.

No judgment.

My truth revealed in a loving

Way, leaving me weeping for

Joy at my survival of the

Slings and arrows life has

Thrown my way. Somehow

I made it here. And somehow,

Henceforth, I shall thrive.

Fill the emptiness created by a

Self-imposed, protective vacuum that

Had almost sucked the life

Right out of me. Fill it with love;

With beauty; with peace.

I am more than the misery of that

Dark unknown. My truth buried

Behind the heavy shroud of

Others’ suffering; imposed upon my

Will and accepted as my own as

I knew no better.

My truth reveals my authenticity.

Yet, I would never have heard its voice

Without first stepping boldly into that

Dark unknown.

~*~

This is written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words. It started as a free writing exercise, calling upon the memory of a dream I had a couple of weeks ago, an experience in a restaurant where you eat in the dark and years of therapy.

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

More Emptiness from the 1,000 Word Challenge

Memoirs of an Unremarkable Man

Louie Behogan

Lita Doolan

Surrender

Here is this week’s Free Write Friday prompt from Kellie Elmore.

fwf-image-prompt

Surrender

Surrender to

What is.

What else is there?

Follow the course

Prescribed;

Batten down the hatches,

And enjoy the ride.

Toward the light.

Yes,

The light

And the end of a

Long, unforgiving

Storm.

Prepare to be delivered

To your destiny.

It awaits.

~*~

As adrenal fatigue storms inside me my experience of life is small.

Socializing is not part of my matrix at the moment, and as the party month proceeds, I am confined to a few moments of jollity among friends separated by days of healing isolation. I must measure every encounter. Leave buffer zones between events. Learn to be my own best friend; to take care of myself appropriately as this lengthy storm passes through.

The storms bluster manifests within 12 hours of any over-stimulating event. Doesn’t matter if it’s fun or stressful. To my body it’s all the same. It must surge. Headaches, nausea, vomiting on and off for 12 hours batter this boat, my system expelling stress it cannot hold.

There is light on the horizon. I can see it. But for now, I must surrender to the healing storm, batten down the hatches, and hang on until it passes.

I will be the first one to rejoice when it does.

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

#FWF: Spirit Bear

A girl after my own heart!

Source: We Heart It
Source: We Heart It

(This image is so full of meaning for me I hardly know where to begin.)

~*~

There are no coincidences. This is something in which I have firmly believed for some time. For good, or ill, life gives us what we need to learn and develop as spiritual beings in a mortal experience. It also makes available the tools we need to negotiate each challenge. It is up to us to be open of mind and heart so we can recognize them when they appear.

Here’s an example from my own life.

As all who follow this blog will know I have a horse whose registered name is “Shakespeare.” This is a beautiful and meaningful name in its own way, however it’s a bit cumbersome as an every day name at the barn.

So, while I was waiting for him to come home for the first time nearly eight years ago, I spent a bit of time noodling over what name I could give him that would evoke his larger than life personality, cuddly nature and solid physical form.

The name “Bear” came to mind fairly quickly. My home is populated with several collectible bears, and “Bear” includes a letter formulation of “ShakespEARe.” On the surface it made perfect sense, so I soon decided this was going to be his barn name.

Still, I had no idea of the deeper meaning to be held here.

During my trauma-filled childhood I comforted myself with stuffed bears. I’ve always had them around me. I guess they are, and always have been, a totem of some kind.

A couple of months after Bear came home and while I was studying natural horsemanship, I was introduced to the idea of the bear’s spiritual meaning. When I considered the trajectory of my life and the healing that was already in progress, things began to make sense.

According to www.spiritanimal.info the bear can be described spiritually as follows:

Bear Meaning

The bear has several meanings that will inspire those who have this animal as totem: 

  1. The primary meaning of the bear spirit animal is strength and confidence
  2. Standing against adversity; taking action and leadership
  3. The spirit of the the bear indicates it’s time for healing or using healing abilities to help self or others
  4. The bear medicine emphasizes the importance of solitude, quiet time, rest
  5. The spirit of the bear provides strong grounding forces

~*~

Let’s look at the list again and how it relates to my experience.

The advent of my horse, Bear, acknowledged a significant time of healing in my life (no. 3). A time where I’ve had to go to ground (no. 5) and practice solitude and get rest (no. 4). Doing this has brought a greater sense of self-awareness and helped me to reclaim my life. Mr. Bear, as he is often called, has helped me to find the strength I need (no. 1) to smile in the face of adversity (no. 2) as I take action to manage, and heal from, the traumas released by therapy. And he’s helped me to find the confidence (no. 1) I need to move into a new and exciting phase of personal growth.

Bear is an incredible catalyst for positive change. I throw my arms around his neck and thank him every day for the beautiful healing role he plays in my life.

Is it a coincidence my beautiful dream-come-true should attract a name that represents healing on so many levels? I think not.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, our passion ~ whether it’s golf, sailing, horses, knitting, music or whatever ~ is our teacher. At a deeper level it speaks a language that touches our hearts and can heal us. All we need to do is choose to listen and respond in ways that lift us up, not tear us, or our passion, down.

My teacher, my catalyst for positive change is my horse ~ my Spirit Bear.

I am blessed.

Bear and me
Bear and me

~*~

This is my response to this week’s free writing challenge with Kellie Elmore. Slightly off the beaten track, but I don’t question these things in a free writing format. 😉

Thank you for stopping by,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Traces of Them; Traces of Me

Traces of Them

We are admonished by some that history belongs in the past. And perhaps it does.

I’m here to offer, however, that we ignore history at our peril, especially as it pertains to our family. The people who preceded us were shaped by world events and their experiences. How they were shaped, shapes us.

I believe that if we are to be able to move forward positively with our lives, and leave history behind, it is important to examine the past, how it effects us, and make peace with it.

Allow me to demonstrate, albeit scratching the surface, with my own experience.

~*~

I am well acquainted with my family history.

After a considerable amount of time spent in my early 20s researching through old family documents, records libraries and history books (in the days before the Internet, I might add), and with the help of professional genealogists, I managed to trace branches of my family tree back to the Middle Ages. Perhaps, more importantly, I began to see the ancestral story that is the backdrop to my life and learn to appreciate, for good or ill, its impact on me.

I began to recognize the sources of prejudice and the pain, of strength and courage. Began to see the talents and traits that had passed down the generations and landed on my doorstep. Ideas, beliefs and emotions that had been programmed into me and that I could examine, accept (or reject) according to my own sense of truth.

This is the story in a nutshell. You’ll likely notice some recurring themes:

My illustrious German and English ancestors settled in New England in the late 1600s, and made lives as magistrates, farmers and politicians. At the time of the American Revolution my branch of the family tree sided with the British (United Empire Loyalist (UEL)) and fought with the notorious Butler’s Rangers. With all their lands and possessions confiscated the remaining family walked from Poughkeepsie, NY, to Niagara, Ontario (Upper Canada at the time) to start a new life. My direct line ancestor was the first white settler in Middlesex County (the area now known as London).

Irish PastoralA couple of generations down the road this family linked up with my Irish ancestors who, in the 1850s, fled the effects of the great potato famine to start a new life as farmers in southern Ontario. My Irish great, great grandmother is purported to have been mad (which looks about right when I consult the old photo in the family archives). Her mental instability left its mark on my great grandfather who grew up to be a rather unpleasant man. The upside ~ being Irish, of course, music was part of the way of life so wherever they settled they became a part of the local music scene. In northern Michigan, where they were farmers for a time, they proudly played in the local brass bands.

A generation or two later, in the late 1800s, the family left Michigan and trekked west across the northern US, helping to build the Great Northern Railway along the way. Eventually they settled in Montana, where the railroad ended, and successfully ran a railroad cafe. My great aunt Margaret, an artist in her own right, studied painting with iconic Western painter, Charles Russell. (A little name dropping never hurts. 😉 ) Her natural forté, however, was apple sculpture.

Around 1920 my great grandparents headed north to Canada, settling in southern Alberta. My great grandfather owned a barber shop and pool hall in town as well as farmed. They did well for a few years before losing everything during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 30s. This took a terrible emotional and financial toll from which they, and their three teenage sons, including my grandfather, never fully recovered. They, like many other families in the area, moved hundreds of miles to northern Alberta to clear more land and start again. Music was the main social outlet and a positive focal point in a home filled with strife. My grandfather, a charismatic (mad) drifter, could play any instrument you handed him.

Alberta PrairieIn the early 1920s my genteel Scottish great grandparents, well into middle age, left their comfortable life in Glasgow, Scotland, to give their eight children a chance at a better life in Canada. (My great grandfather was a retired soldier in the Black Watch.) With a 100-acre land grant from the Canadian government at their disposal they made the uncomfortable journey by boat across the pond and then by train across the prairies to begin a new life as homesteaders in northern Alberta. (I am told that my great grandmother once confessed that if she’d known how hard the life was going to be she would have stayed in Scotland.)

It was a rude awakening from Old World charm to New World insanity ~ clearing fields, building barns and log homes, battling hungry mosquitoes in the summer and enduring long and fiercely cold winters. It was a difficult life that tested the family in many ways. My grandmother, an independent spirit and therefore considered the “black sheep” of the family, adored her horse and sang like a bird. She married the charismatic (mad) musician of Irish descent and endured 27 years of emotional abuse before leaving him and striking out to successfully rebuild her own life. It was at this time she discovered her talent for oil painting. (Theirs is a compelling story that I started to put in a novel some time ago. I might finish it one day.)

They had one daughter, my mother, who excelled as a singer and miraculously found her place on the international operatic stage based in London, England, which is where I grew up. You’d have to know her parents’ story to understand why it was such a miracle she had this career. I wish she’d write a memoir.

My Hungarian roots were planted in southern Alberta in the 1920s. Peasant stock seeking a new life in a new land. Hardworking but dysfunctional. My nagymama was not allowed to learn English. I recall, however (and I only saw her twice when I was a little girl) she had a lovely productive garden, was a wonderful cook and created the most beautiful lace work. Still, like my other grandmother, hers was a troubled marriage. Nagypapa was a troubled soul. My father ran away from home when he was 14. He became writer; a musician; jack of all trades and master of none. A deadbeat dad. (Though I doubt he’d ever see it that way. If he ever disputes me on this I’ll be happy to engage.)

~*~

Again, this is the tip of the iceberg but, perhaps, you notice the general themes: a lot of starting over; a lot of emotional and financial hardship. Good, hardworking, industrious people with their share of trials and tribulations. People of courage, strength and character. Music, the panacea; the source of joy, of laughter and relief.

Traces of Me

And here I am ~ a veritable melting pot of all of this, plus everything I brought to the world, plus all the things I’ve experienced since I was born.

The marvellous thing is that understanding my family’s story has helped me to understand myself.

Dance Like No One's Watching
Dance Like No One’s Watching by Dorothy Chiotti

Coming from a long line of musicians, artists and writers has been a great blessing. I have sung in one of the world’s great symphonic choirs. Performed in my own vocal group and recorded three CDs. I have been a commissioned animal portrait artist and produced a number of veil paintings. I have written all my life and presently pour my creative focus into the writer’s path.

I have a passion for the land because it is in my blood. We were never city people. My passion for horses rises from this love of the land.

Several years ago, while I was going through divorce, I had an intense dream about my ancestors and awoke in the early morning to write a 20-page journal entry about family history. In the process I realized my purpose ~ to stop the pain. To give myself a chance of a new life unencumbered by the weight of the past. In the ensuing years I have worked tirelessly to make this happen.

As I have no children (my brother and I are the last twigs on this particular branch of our family tree) my focus must be to blossom to my full potential while reclaiming my right to thrive. To go out in a blaze of glory, honouring my place in the world while remembering those who came before and made my journey on the planet possible, is my sincere desire.

Me and BearI have worked extremely hard over the past several years to release the past, so the traces of me that live on in the lives of those I influence are positive, uplifting, meaningful and joyful.

My own journey of moving on and rebuilding a life is not, perhaps, the arduous geographic and physical challenge of my ancestors. Nevertheless it tests my mettle and proves my character, and it is my choice to reclaim the triumph of spirit demonstrated by generations past who lead me by their example.

My mother and late grandmother, each in their own way, escaped emotional tyranny to rebuild their lives on their terms. They are my inspiration as I continue to rebuild my life and endeavour to inspire and move, through art, music and the written word.

Traces of me leaving traces of inspiration in others.

At least, that is my wish.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Other Traces

WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE: FADING TRACES AND OLD MEMORIES | SERENDIPITY
Traces | Kansa Muse
Breadcrumbs | Master Of Disaster
The Art of War | K beezy is viral
Wet cement | Margaret Rose Stringer
She was a memory | thinkerscap
Traces: DP Challenge | Lead us from the Unreal to the Real
Arrogance Insults My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
The Lavender Flowers | Stories From My Mind
Trace | MindMeld
Lavender and Rain | So This Is Writing?
Like Flowers on a Grave | loveletterstoaghost
Day Twenty-Four: Veteran At Death | Clearing My Voice
it’s veterans day | Musings of a Random Mind

#FWF: Life Changers … My Sarajevo

Here is today’s prompt, courtesy of Kelley Rose, for Free Write Friday:

free-write-friday-kellie-elmore

” … what was that pivotal moment for you [in your life], and most importantly, how did it change you?”

~*~

Interestingly, I addressed this at great length in my last post ~ A Life Unravelled.

If I have to zero in on one life changing moment in my recent history, however, I guess it would be this.

Sarajevo

My Sarajevo

A war-torn urban landscape

Potholed and Bullet-ridden.

Skeletal remains

Of blasted buildings.

Ghosts.

I can’t look, yet

Cannot look

Away.

Derelict remains

Of panic and pain.

Haunted eyes

Reflecting lost

Ones lost

Forever.

Sadness.

Grief.

*

Anxiety; panic

Drafts me. Terrors

Arise from

Depths unplumbed,

Besieging;

Overwhelming.

My broken-ness

Revealed by another’s

Devastation.

Much like the great city,

Rebuild I must.

Take action.

Make

Peace with my

Self.

Heal my own

Sarajevo.

~*~

Sarajevo

The broken city that forced me to face my broken self. A catalyst for positive change in my life.

One week in February 2009, amongst the physical and emotional scars of the war torn. Evidence of the Siege of Sarajevo everywhere to be seen.

Panic attacks the reverberations of my own inner battles rising to the surface; stating cases I could no longer ignore.

Buoyed by the spirit and quiet strength of the citizens of that ancient city, and with professional help, I rise to the challenge of reclaiming my life.

Thank you, Sarajevo.

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

A Life Unravelled

A Life Unravelled

I am of an age

When the formative years

Speak.

“Remember me?”

They ask.

It starts with

Music.

A song.

A memory.

A feeling.

Hmmm …

I had forgotten.

Lost in

Tumultuous times of

Twenty-plus years.

Tumult covered by more

Tumult.

A child overwhelmed;

A teenager confused;

A twenty-something

Ungrounded,

Until in the thirties

Unravelling begins.

As it must ~

Or die bitter.

~*~

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m seeking professional help to unravel and make peace with my life.

Starting in my late 20s I began to experience wake-up calls. People and events emerged to shake things up, most often sending me into an emotional tailspin.

My initial response was always that of the victim.

“Why me? What did I do?”

Then one day something started to happen.

I started to wake up.

My grandmother’s death when I was in my early thirties snapped me out of a career malaise. Instead of being bitter about the loss of someone I loved I was going to honour her memory by honouring my heart’s desire.

I embarked on my true journey with the horse. Granny would like this, I thought, as she was also passionate about horses. More importantly, however, she’d want me to be happy.

My two years as an equestrian coaching intern were a refiner’s fire. The veneer of my “happy” married life began to be stripped away until I could finally see the truth of its dysfunction. The victim was alive and well and absorbed into the drama of another who, I quickly realized, resembled my emotionally distant, self-absorbed and delinquent father.

Within a few years we divorced. I sought my first round of counselling and avoided dating once I realized I was attracting variations on a negative theme. I was determined to relinquish emotional baggage and find a healthier way of being.

My eyes were opening.

Eighteen months later I met my future husband. A kind, gentle, thoughtful, caring and emotionally mature man. (What he was doing with me took me a long time to understand.) The road was rocky. I’d had no experience being with such a person. But  unlike the previously dysfunctional men in my life, he was genuinely interested in my well-being and demonstrated through deed, and not just word, his devotion.

I learned to accept I might be worthy of something different than my normal experience.

My eyes opened further.

Two years later, tragedy in the riding arena as a school horse I’d been riding died following a freak jumping accident. Getting back in the saddle was difficult. The silver lining came a few months later with the opportunity to part-board a beautiful thoroughbred mare, Murphy. This lasted nearly three years.

And then Murphy died of cancer. More blinding misery, but the courage to look for a silver lining.

Five months later, a dream come true when Bear entered my life. Finally, a horse to call my own. But I wanted to be an aware horse owner. I wanted to build a relationship based on trust. I turned to natural horsemanship and enrolled in Chris Irwin‘s Train the Trainer program. While I was fine tuning my horsemanship skills the horses were reflecting back to me how broken I was, my insecurities rearing their ugly heads and demanding my unbridled attention.

Another wake up call; another realization that I needed more help.

Wise Old Equus

Enter art therapy and meditation. I became more grounded and a beautiful collection of veil paintings was born of my unburdening. This journey lasted about 18 months.

And I was still working with Bear ~ the experience of self-awareness around him bringing greater depth and meaning to our relationship. A new self-confidence was emerging; the victim was beginning her retreat.

And then my eyes opened some more.

A week in Sarajevo in February 2009. Panic attacks. Anxiety. My inner personal hell rising to the surface and reflected in the sad, unhappy state of a recovering war-torn city.

Within weeks I was sitting in a therapist’s office, the depression and anxiety, the feeling of being stuck and weighted down by things beyond my understanding more than I could bear.

The true work of unravelling a lifetime began sitting in a chair opposite a stranger whose only desire was to help me along the road to wellness.

The pain, anger, bitterness, grief, shame, the trauma of abuse laid bare. The broken-ness of my life lying before me like the scattered pieces of a puzzle waiting to be re-assembled, but with awareness.

Eyes ever opening.

And with this a sense of liberty. The freedom to begin to see myself differently. The triumph of survival and a new-found understanding of what it means to thrive. The tools to rebuild the puzzle of my life into something more functional. An opportunity to create a clearer picture of who I really am while releasing the illusion forced upon me when I had no concept of self and no choice but to absorb and reflect the drama and dysfunction of the adults around me.

A life unravelled.

A life reclaimed.

~*~

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Dear Critical One: The Fourth Letter in a Series …

From: Dear Me: A Collection of Letters Addressed to Various Aspects of My Self … ©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

~*~

Free SpiritThe fourth in a series of letters addressed to my critical Self. The date is the actual date it was written as a free writing, and freeing, exercise.

July 11, 1013

Dear Critical One ~

Why is it that you are the first one to greet me in the morning?

I awaken to a beautiful day after a night of broken sleep; I look at the clock and it’s later than I’d like, but instead of allowing me to be grateful for the fact I have the luxury of sleeping in if I need it (which evidently I do this week) you clime in “You should have been up two hours ago … “?

And that’s the problem ~ you’re unrelenting and “shoulding” me to death!

You “should” the smile right off my face.

“You should do it this way” or “you should have done it that way.”

Instead of allowing me to enjoy the process you question and nitpick everything I do. You make it almost impossible for me to be happy with anything I do or achieve.

And I say almost because things are changing.

I’m changing.

Your power is becoming less potent though I feel it more acutely. In your desperation to hang on to whatever power as you suppose you have over me your methods become more grasping.

Would you really criticize me for spending some of my precious time cleaning up after my sick dog?

Criticize me because I am not spending it writing which, as you know is what I really want to do.

Don’t you know that when you do that you interfere with my right and ability to nurture what I love?

This is true of my writing also.

Every time you wholesale delete something I’ve created from awareness you make me feel as if my voice is of no importance and no one should hear it.

I know at some mislead level you’re trying to protect me, but what you need to understand, and I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this, is that you are actually strangling my ability to express myself … and it’s just not on!

Do you have any idea just how negative you are?

Have you not understood or, rather, observed how I have, during the past several years, divested myself of the negative voices around me? Those voices that fed you and funded all my insecurities?

They are gone.

You “should” be feeling weaker. And perhaps you are. Perhaps now you are hanging on for dear life, going down kicking and screaming.

It’s difficult for me to love you into submission. You’ve been so damaging and I see that I am still angry about it.

But you will submit, make no mistake. I’m standing up to you and your bullying ways. I know what’s good for me, and you are not among them.

Look inward, dear Critical One. What’s eating you that you feel the need to eat away at me?

Lovingly,

Dorothy

~*~

Letters to The Critical One

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013