While packing boxes last night in preparation for our fast-approaching move, an envelope fell from an upturned book of word search puzzles (yes, I realize this ages me by at least fifty years…) and spurred memories I’d like to share with you.
I’ve always believed that everyone lives their story and should be allowed and encouraged to share it. Writing (and self-expression in general) is cathartic no matter the form it takes; this very fact enables people from all walks of life to participate.
During my eight month stint in Victoria, British Columbia, I pursued an opportunity to co-chair a writing circle for aging women with cognitive and physical disabilities (i.e., dementia, Schizophrenia, and the like) founded by the contagiously optimistic Lindsay, volunteer coordinator for the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA). This prospect came at the perfect time, as I was in a psychological “funk” over a recent decision to formally withdraw from my graduate program in Educational Psychology and in turmoil over what my next step would/should/could be. Writing isn’t second nature to me – it’s first. It is the foundation of who I am and to be able to share that deep connection in a new way gave me just the jolt I needed.
I can recall setting foot into Shelmarie Rest Home – a 21-bed character house nestled in the heart of charming Oak Bay – wondering what the hell I was doing there. It sounds insensitive to say, but it’s the truth; I’d only ever worked with children with developmental delays and never imagined myself seated in a room with seven women who were old enough to be my grandmother. By the end of the first hour, however, any doubts had disappeared; the women in our writing group, struggle as they may to vocally articulate themselves, were so receptive to each writing prompt or technique we proposed and produced such eloquent prose and poetry that it left me speechless.
As I read the card last night, gifted to me at our last session prior to my return to Saskatchewan, my decision to be a part of this initiative was affirmed.
Below is a short poem written for me by a woman who will remain unnamed, but one who left a lasting impression. In person, her speech and mobility were impaired by dementia, yet each week the words she put down on paper were pregnant with rich emotion and meaning. She was a textbook example of “a poet who didn’t even know it!”
The bird sings,
Though her branch may be breaking
For she knows she can fly.
Very fitting for my circumstance at the time, no? It’s as if she had a mind’s eye into my soul.
So for those of you self-doubters who argue you “just can’t write”, I hope you will be inspired to think twice. It is my dream to bring a similar initiative to our Saskatoon Health Region, but as you may have guessed, I have lots of dreams and need to pace myself to be sure each one gets the attention and (hopefully) success I believe it deserves.
Sincerely inspired and appreciative for every word I wrote with the women at Shelmarie,