A Synchronistic Meeting

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After I retired, I joined a spirituality forum held at our local senior citizens’ center. A few members of the group gathered for a brown-bag lunch following our two-hour meeting. One day a new member joined us and during lunch mentioned that she was writing her memoir. I said to her, “I’m writing mine, too. We should become writing partners.”

Nita agreed to give my suggestion a try. That was in March or April 2012. With few interruptions until recently, we met every two weeks. This provided a structure to move forward. Every two weeks, I needed to have written something to read to Nita for her critique and vice versa.

As I listened to Nita’s story, it became clear to me that she was just the kind of woman I expected to judge me. Her marriage is fulfilling, her husband is supportive, she has four high-functioning children, and she developed a successful career. Of course, she faced challenges. Otherwise what would she have to write about in a memoir. But she handled her challenges with wisdom and skill.

My story is full of family challenges that it took me a long time to learn to handle with wisdom and skill. As we began meeting, I carried a great deal of shame and it took every ounce of courage I possessed to read some of my chapters to her.

Nita gave me excellent suggestions for improvement without an ounce of judgment. We developed a ritual of giving each other a hug as we came together and before we departed.

After we had been meeting for a year or so, I wanted to send Nita a card by snail mail. I searched for her zip code through google. Up popped a whole page of entries about Nita. I sat back in awe, exclaiming to myself, “Wow, she’s a famous artist! I had no idea.”

That gives you a picture of Nita’s character. She is confident and humble and doesn’t have a need to flaunt her success. In fact, she may not be happy with my writing about her success in this blog post. But, to me, it is an important part of our synchronistic meeting.

One day, after reading a particularly painful part of my story, Nita said, “I think I was chosen to hear your story.”

I replied, “It was definitely Divine guidance that brought us together.”

Recently, Nita and I were forced to put our memoirs on the back burner and take a break from meeting. My daughter’s healthcare crisis and her subsequent moving in with me took first priority. Nita’s publisher wanted her to put together a thirtieth anniversary edition of her first book, Exploring Color, and she needed to focus on that.

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Links to Northlight and Amazon

My daughter is stabilized now and Exploring Color is out in the world to enthusiastic acclaim, so Nita and I are meeting again. Our memoirs are written and in various stages of editing. We no longer need to read passages for critique. But we find each other’s support invaluable as we continue the process toward publication. We still hug upon greeting and departing.

When I suggested to Nita that we be writing partners, I had no awareness that a “magical” connection was being made that would propel my soul’s longing forward. How blessed I am that Divine guidance chose Nita to be the first to hear my story.

A Gift of Grace from the Universe

The telephone rang, interrupting my brooding about the abrupt alteration in my life circumstances and whether or not I needed an anti-depressant to deal with my situation more effectively. I suspected I was depressed because I was loosing interest in working on my memoir. What worthwhile do I have to say anyway? I had wanted to write something on my blog, but couldn’t find the words or the strength. I couldn’t even post updates on my Facebook page or update friends about the latest in my daughter’s and my saga. Talking with friends took more energy than I had to spare. Watching mindless TV was about all I could handle, often falling asleep in the middle of a program.

I got up from my recliner and ambled from the meditation room to the phone in my living room. Picking up the handset, I checked the caller ID and didn’t recognize the name. It’s probably a wrong number. I clicked the talk button. “Hello.”

“Is this Linda Marshall? Did you teach at Port Clinton High School?”

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My mind scrambled to make sense of this call. Yes, I had taught typing, shorthand, and office practice at Port Clinton High School in 1964-65. It was my first teaching assignment right out of college. Why would someone be asking about that long ago time in my life?

When I responded that I was that Linda Marshall, the woman on the other end of the line began to cheer. “Hallelujah, I’ve found you. I’ve been looking for you for years.”

She went on to tell me the story about how she came to be a shorthand student of mine and wanted to know if I remembered her. I have to admit, I have few memories of that year in my life. I didn’t tell her this, but the humiliating memory I have retained is being given a negative evaluation by the principal in the lunchroom in front of the other teachers. I was under the impression I hadn’t done a very good job teaching there.

Her memories were vivid. She recounted dropping home economics and signing up for shorthand. She said I was so strict. My memory of the details are fuzzy here because she was pouring out her story faster than my brain could take it in. I remember hearing about two “F’s” and she was ready to drop the class. She said others had and I let them. But when she came to talk with me about it, I encouraged her to stay. I said, “You are going to get this.” She said I had been right. The next grade and those that followed were “A’s.”

She told about I threw away any typing papers that had errors erased on them. She said I explained to the students that employers would make them type letters and documents over again if they contained mistakes like these. She said the experiences she had as a secretary had proved me right again.

Then she told me about her career. Again, the details are fuzzy, but she was promoted several times and reached high administrative assistant levels working in governmental agencies.

She went on to say that I had influenced her more than anyone else, made her into the person she is today, and would not have had the career she had if not for me. She recounted the steps she had taken over the years to find me, discouraged by so many dead ends. Her class will celebrate their 50th reunion in September and there are several of my former students who want me to be there.

I sank back into my recliner, my eyes watering, as I took in this gift of grace from the Universe. I told her, “I can’t tell you how much it means to me to hear you say this today. I’m going through a rough time in my life and have been feeling depressed.”

We acknowledged that she had found me at just the right moment.

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This was the best anti-depressant anyone could have given me. I could literally feel the energy of aliveness returning to my exhausted and weary body. I had made a difference in someone’s life. A false impression I had carried about myself for fifty-one years was transformed. With that, I returned to writing. I do have something worthwhile to say. Thank you, Universe. You continue to surprise me with the mysterious and awesome ways in which you work.

Monarch

Synchronicity: Anonymous Gifts from the Divine

I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art, and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence when we think we are alone.  ~Charles de Lint

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the journey I’ve taken in writing my memoir. With amazement, I noticed several synchronicities that tell me a power beyond my own is supporting me in writing and publishing A Long Awakening to Grace.

Julie and Linda

Julie and Linda

I never intended to write a book about my life, but there was this nurse who emphatically told me I needed to do that. My July 5, 2014 blog post is about Julie. It took me eight years to heed her encouragement. Once I made the decision to do it, synchronicities began to emerge.

First, the title came to me and seemed a gift from the Universe.

Then, in 2012, I found the perfect writing partner for me at our senior citizens’ center. I wrote about Nita and some of our adventures together two years ago today, on April 27, 2014. She has been such a gift to me and if we hadn’t met every two weeks to read our work aloud to each other, I never would have made it to the editing process where I am today. Writing a memoir is quite a task. My friends keep asking, “When am I going to get to read it?”

All I can say is, “I’m getting closer to publication.”

In addition, without Nita’s support, I probably never would have had the courage to pitch to a New York agent. Rita Rosenkranz’s comment about my story having a compelling narrative arc has kept me going at times when I have doubted myself.

Being introduced to Brené Brown’s work is another synchronicity. Following her modeling and guidance, I have developed the shame resilience needed to tell my story honestly, even the parts that reveal my less than desirable qualities. Next to learning the craft, this is the hardest part of writing a memoir and will prove the most challenging once it is published.

Local writer, Jude Walsh, introduced me to the Story Circle Network (SCN), an online organization for women writers founded by New York Times best-selling author, Susan Wittig Albert.

Susan founded SCN because women write better in community. Jude recommended me for the Works-in-Progress discussion group. Two major synchronicities have followed from that.

Susan Tweit, one of my sisters in the SCN Works-in-Progress discussion group, provided one of them. Just at the time I needed to find my core message, a spirited discussion about this topic arose in our group. Susan’s contribution helped me dig deep. What a joy it was to meet her in person at the SCN Conference this month (April 14-17). When I found her waiting for the shuttle to the Austin hotel where the conference was held, I literally jumped for joy, shouted Susan, and ran to give her a big hug.

In addition, I found the perfect editor for me in the SCN Works-in-Progress group. In October 2014, Judy Plazyk talked about how she works with authors. I was impressed with her commitment but my manuscript was not close to being ready for editing. When she talked about being her author’s biggest cheerleader and greatest fan, I was sold. She and I have developed the perfect author-editor relationship. I feel so blessed to have found her. (Unfortunately, I have no picture of Judy to share with you.)

Then, I think I’ve found my publisher at the SCN Conference. Brooke Warner, one of the founders of She Writes Press, was our keynote speaker. I am so inspired by what she had to say about She Writes vision and mission, (Click here to see what inspires me).

Brooke’s keynote took me back to 1975-1976 when I was a student in seminary and women were knocking on the door of the church, a male-dominated institution, and saying, “Hey, we are called to serve as parish pastors. Let us in.” I am proud to have been a pioneer in that movement.

She Writes Press has been founded to champion women writers, as has SCN. Women’s writing and life stories are not valued in the publishing industry. A gender bias has existed for centuries and even today extends to awards, prize winners, book reviews, and job opportunities. How exciting for me to be a part of a movement to address this inequity. I find it immensely rewarding. That makes She Writes the perfect publisher for me. We’ll see if that is what the Universe has in store.

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. ~Joseph Campbell

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