Day 8: A Retreat for us…The Writers

 

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Dear Writers,

Allow me to pick your brain. What does the word retreat mean?

It’s safe to say that most of you are probably thinking, ” Well duh, retreat has multiple meanings. It depends on how you choose to use it.” A typical answer for an English major or teacher. Of course you’re correct.

Next question.Which type of retreat did we have?

Oooo. Now you have to think lol. Good for you. I’ll give you a clue. Within these eight days, did you struggle, had a personal epiphany, become more appreciative, meet up with any or all insecurities, have many questions with no answers or many answers but felt lost without the knowing the questions, had a visit from vulnerability or felt energetically inspired?  Wait a minute that was another question. Oh well, just think about it. No pressure but help yourself by being mindful of your answer.

As a verb, retreat means a form of withdrawal , retire, or draw back, especially for shelter or seclusion with or without army/enemy association. As a noun, retreat means a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy.  

I’ll respond in a Meagan-like way. I am all about positivity more so now than I have ever been in my entire life. Whether it may be about the positivity I give or receive, I am choosing it. Within eight simple yet remarkable days, I am understanding that positivity is about a connection. During these eight days, not only have I connected with my classmates, teacher and myself but I have connected on a new level, which in itself is uniquely awesome (for me). I didn’t even second guess whether I would enjoy this course with Dr. Zamora. That was an automatic hell yea and of course. Everything is starting to feel like it’s falling into place (slowly) and this feels like I’m reaching new heights of shooting star amazement.

If someone asked me what I believe in….my answer may shock you but remember it’s a Meagan-like response. At this time my answer may be that I believe in almost everything. Admitting this- is all about taking a huge chance in life.  I choose to live by faith and if that means taking chances here and there, then dammit I got to do it. I choose to grow in grace which means my mannerisms approaching life and what it represents. I choose to walk in love. The concept of walking in love does not necessarily have to do with my involvement with another person. I perceive this as a profound affection for “positively connecting” with the idea of acceptance, gratitude, resilience, family/friends, sun/moon, culture and etc.

Our course is titled Writer’s Retreat but truthfully I disagree. This retreat was exactly that, a retreat. We retreated from the hybrid version of our mundane lives with COVID. We retreated from the stress of our personal burdens. We retreated from the inner voice that tries to pull us back into the dark shadows of despair and anxiety. We chose to withdraw because we deserved a break.

We found a retreat that accepted all of us…the activist, the adventurer, the nurturing teachers, the youthful minds, the poetic souls, the passionate voices, the ones searching, the organizer, the researcher, the friendly-fellows, the optimist, the motivators and the mentors (not necessarily me). Our retreat was our bubble of sanity for the few hours. Our retreat was our time to inhale and exhale. Our retreat was our safe space to cry and release. Our retreat helped us recognize our own essential capabilities. Our retreat presented us with the opportunity to discover who we would like to be, where we would like to go, when we choose to begin, what we may need along the way, why we need this journey and more importantly, not to focus on how it should be accomplished.

For my fellow writers, I write this for me and you. I am not thanking you because I have to. I thank you because you were being you. I thank you for lending me your ears. i thank you for lending me your heart. I thank you for lending me your strength to find my own. I thank you for your consistent positivity. I thank you for allowing me to be Meagan in my semi-preachy ramble. Lol.

Unfortunately, our time during this particular retreat has come to an end. Luckily, the journey to our own personal retreat has just begun.

We may not look like what we are… but we are who we are. We are writers. We are inspiration. We are spiritual connectors. We are beautiful butterflies. And we are all enough.
We Are Already What We Want To Become” - Mindfulness Retreat in Sweden |  Plum Village

I wish you constant joy, patience and positivity.

Your fellow retreater, writer and friend,

Meagan

Till we meet agian

To everyone,

I am thankful for the time we had. It’s our last class, and I’m out of words, I don’t know how to express my gratitude to you all. You’re all an inspiration to me, in all seriousness, and I don’t want any of you to take that lightly.

Before this class, I’ve never really had any real critics, just my father, who is my only critic and the harshest one at that. I take your criticism with me and hope to make my project better. I can’t wait till one day when you guys are famous published authors, researchers, etc., and I can say I know them!

Dr. Zamora, I think you know this already, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say this, you are a beautiful person with a beautiful soul and we cherish, love and appreciate you.

Till next time folks!

It’s Time to Say Good-Bye

Liberty Hall Museum, Kean University (July 2, 2020)

To My Fellow Writers:

The writing retreat flew by. I looked up, and it was July 1, 2020, already! Initially, I was reluctant to take a virtual writing retreat. I was tired of remote learning as a teacher and as a student. I was looking forward to getting lost in the Liberty Hall Museum, quietly writing in the rose garden, lying barefoot on a blanket, sipping a refreshing beverage, enjoying the tranquility of a summer day. At the very last minute, I decided to sign up for the course to get a jumpstart on my thesis, especially since I will have to return to the uncertainty of school in the fall.

I had modest academic goals for the retreat: get feedback on my research proposal and revise it. However, I have gotten so much more out of this retreat! You, my fellow writers, made this experience truly transformative. I have learned so much from all of you and have grown as a writer and as a person. By sharing your experiences, I was able to reflect on my own experiences as a mother, teacher, writer, and student. I share your self-doubts, struggles, and dreams. You gave me great ideas to bring back to my classroom:

Kate: I am going to create a Safe Place in my class;

Cheryl: I like your Table of Contents, and plan to use it in my thesis; 

Fatima and Kefah: I learned more about your culture; 

Jada and Kathryn: I love your youthful spirit; 

MaryKate: Enjoy motherhood; 

Jason: You are such a fun presence in the class;

Diana: Happy Anniversary;

Tethee: It is finally summer;

Kesley: Good Luck in September;

Jen: Any school district is lucky to have you.

Megan, Nives, and Medea: The Three Mouseketeers. I will see you in September.

(Google Image, July 2, 2020)

Enjoy your summer! Take care.

Why am I so sappy!? I hate goodbyes…

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This last blog post is supposed to be a final reflection on what I’ve learned from this retreat and from all of you during our short time together. If you have read most of my past blog posts I have written an ode to all of you in almost every single one. So forgive me if I repeat myself. Again THANK YOU and a big VIRTUAL HUG to each and every one of you. Even for those who were not as out spoken or vocal during the retreat, I still feel you and hear you. Your unspoken words will be spoken through your work. To those who were courageous to share their thoughts and reflections, I hung on to every single word. Thank you for trusting me and sharing your stories with me. I also would like to say yet again, THANK YOU for embracing my memoir. Your excited exclamations your touching facial expressions and kind feedback after I read excerpts, made me feel ALIVE!

It helped reinforce the fact that I’m heading in the right direction for my final thesis project. It also helped to solidify that after all the trials and tribulations in my life, I’m right here here, where I’m meant to be. That’s a big deal because I was very unsure of myself, of my journey and my abilities as a writer. I had many doubts creeping in as to what my thesis project would be leading up to my final two semesters in this program. But thanks to all of you and this amazing retreat I found the answer! Phew! Insert exhale here! I honestly don’t have enough words to even begin to express how much Dr. Zamora means to me personally and what she means to the entire Kean family. She is a truly remarkable woman. Not only in her professional and personal life but just as an intelligent, humble, kind hearted, compassionate, empathetic and overall amazing human being. I swear when I look at her, learn from her and work beside her it’s like I want to shout: #GOALS #BOSSLADY #BLESSED.

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Lastly I’ll wrap up my final blog post with sharing some of my write for the day responses. I can’t believe this is the last one! I got into such a flow with these! I thrive on routine. So I plan to continue to carve out a little bit of time in my busy days ahead to sit down, take a breather and write my little heart out! I think we can all use a little bit of that especially during these quarantine blues. Writing is therapy, writing is healing, writing leads to new discoveries and passions. I also remember what Mary Kate wrote in one of her blogs that writing makes us vulnerable. That’s so profound and so true, it’s not easy to let ourselves be so vulnerable and raw. But we need to allow ourselves to be fragile, and emotionally open in order to really grow and blossom as a person and as a writer. That’s easier said then done but I know we can and will all get there eventually. As far as my writing beyond this retreat what my main focus will be is revising and adding on to my memoir. I’m in twenty eight pages deep so far. I will begin to break it down into actual chapters, which I have yet to do and will begin thinking of titles for each. I’m also thrilled I got such positive feedback on my title: The Seashell. That’s why I added this cute GIF below of Moana with a seashell.

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I also need to research and read more about the memoir genre and see how I can improve in particular my dialogue, scenes and most of all the pacing throughout my story. I learned that pace is very important when writing a memoir, and so far in the process of writing mine I can see why it matters. I wish I had the time to read more aspiring memoirs like we did in our spring class. I will try my best to do that, the more inspiration I can get from others is a benefit to me and my project. As far as where and when I plan to write beyond the retreat, well the WHEN will be in between Summer II class and in between work and my full time Fall class load. As far as WHERE most likely my backyard. Where I enjoy to sit, watch and listen to nature. I watch the birds excitedly gather around the new bird feed house I bought for them. Carefully watching them happily play, joyfully splashing away in the bird bath. I don’t know why but watching them dance and frolic makes me so very happy, it’s a lovely distraction. Well guys, this isn’t goodbye it’s see you later. Take care. Xo.

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I am Compelled to Write

Happy July 1, 2020 (My Penultimate Blog)

At the end of the Author’s Chair today, it felt like Virtual Happy Hour with old friends, reminiscing about old flames, failed relationships, and dating. Ending with Kesley’s “Jackson: Good Ol’ and Reliable” was perfect, the cherry on top. Her light-hearted tone allowed us to relax and to let our guard down. We bonded as writers and as humans. We, an eclectic group of writers from different racial, religious, and cultural backgrounds, connected on academic, philosophical, and humanistic levels. If the tumultuous world could see us today, pouring our souls to each other, revealing our buried gifts, supporting each other, listening to each graciously, and laughing out loud. Today is a reminder that art can connect people regardless of color, political affiliations, socio-economic status, so forth.

Sadly, I know people who are quick to self segregate, to be around people who look like them, think like them, and vote like them. They do not want to take the time to get to know people who are different from them. I chose not to self-segregate. My children are a beautiful blend of two distinct cultures; my best friend Robin is from Barbados; I am from Vietnam. In my life, I seek inclusion, diversity, open-mindedness, human connectedness, and truth. 

Growing up, I was taught the conventional narrative of the American Dream, of going to college, getting a good job (with medical insurance), buying a house with a two-car garage, getting married, having children, taking vacations, retiring with a golden parachute. Don’t get me wrong, money is important, and Virginia Woolf teaches us, women, that we need to be able to financially support ourselves so that we can write and pursue our passions. In order to have a room of one’s own, one needs to be able to pay for it. Therefore, I am aware of my privilege of attending a remote writing retreat during COVID; while others are on the front line wearing surgical masks for eight hours a day, perhaps working two jobs, struggling to pay the taxes, and the mortgage.    

Today, I am reminded of my privilege when I stopped by Wegmans, picking up California rolls, King Salmon rolls, shrimp rolls, and carrot cake when the tired young cashier looked at me and said, “My mother loves sushi.”

I looked at her, and smiled, “Yes, buy the rolls for your mother. They are cheaper and better-tasting than the ones in the restaurants.”

I do not resent people who do not have the luxury, time, or money or to bond with diverse people during a writing retreat. Then, I wonder, How do we connect with people who are different from us so we can learn, grow, and evolve as society? 

So, I write. I share my stories to show people that I am more than a stereotype and that I am not an Oriental (as in a rug or vase) and that I am not a model minority and that I am not a math-science-tech person who works in IT and that I am not a China virus.

Reflections on Day 7…

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Oh no say it ain’t so only one more day left!? It saddens me but I know all good things must come to an end. Nothing lasts forever, maybe that’s as it should be. Sometimes I wonder and contemplate how different life would be if we knew the exact day we would leave this earth? How much more productive would we be? Would we chase our dreams harder? Accomplish more goals faster? Hug and kiss our loved ones just a bit longer? Maybe we would take more risks! Who knows? Sometimes I wonder, but quickly shake the thoughts from my mind. I’ll now share some of my write for the day responses with you all. The first prompt asks the question: Write a list of what you urgently need answers to. Well the truth with living with anxiety and OCD is that we learn through a lot of blood, sweat and tears (and lots of therapy)that there is NO REAL URGENCY. A specific and debilitating symptom of the disorder is this feeling of urgency. Your mind plays tricks on you and toys with your logic and reason, by consuming you with unrelenting anxiety and discomfort until you give in. Give in to whatever urgent thought, action or feeling you have or believe you must perform in order to find relief.

So I have to say for me personally the answer is that I have NO urgent questions that need to be answered. I try my best to live day by day, moment to moment. It took me years of trials and tribulations to figure that out. But once I began to surrender and let go, which I know is a reoccurring theme in many of my blogs, I was able to find more inner peace, self love and stability. All the things I had always prayed for. I’m far from enlightened trust me. I can’t even go into yoga without getting annoyed that my poses are just not right. Ugh isn’t the point to relax, stretch and become one with yourself? Yeah ok, not happening! So see I’m still a work in progress. But I’m getting there, baby steps! The second question that was asked for write for the day was: What inspires me? That’s a thoughtful question. What inspires me most is my struggles, my triumphs, my fears, my hopes and my dreams. My family also plays a big role in my inspiration and aspirations. Growing up in an Italian immigrant, first generation household learning about the tough tales and struggles of my parent’s immigrant experience first hand is nothing short of inspiring. You can’t help but want to fight and fight hard for a better life and future. My older brother and I made sure that my parents struggles were for the good of our entire family and that all they sacrificed for us was well worth it. We both hope and pray that we made them proud, and achieved the American Dream.

Lastly I’ll close my blog with a reflection on today’s author’s chair. I was filled with fears and insecurities about sharing my work. As I’ve mentioned before this is a true story, a story about me. Having to share such personal details about such a dark time in my life was difficult to say the least. My own Mother was even hesitant for me to read it aloud to all of you. I was hurt when she first admitted that to me. Was she ashamed of me I wondered? But I soon realized that it’s still hard for her all these years later to come to terms with my complex mental illness and more so the tough journey she saw me go through. That is what effects her the most, seeing her youngest daughter and best friend in so much agonizing pain over the years. She felt helpless, crying to me countless times that she would trade places with me in a heartbeat. A Mother’s love is so very strong. I forgive my Mother for not always understanding, or for not saying the right things in the moments that I needed it most. Mental illness was a taboo topic for my Mother’s generation, the baby boomer generation. She even openly admitted to me that she suffered some mild to moderate postpartum depression when she had my older brother in 1974 at the age of 23. She was paralyzed with fear, sometimes afraid to take him out of his crib. She had no one to turn to. Not my Dad, not her own Mother, her siblings were no help. There was no therapist at her disposal. I was heartbroken when she admitted this to me. I was old enough to understand how terrifying and lonely that must have been for her. As a grown adult woman now I empathize more with my Mother. She’s not just Mom she’s a human being with her own flaws, fears and insecurities. Learning to forgive her has helped me heal and move on with my life. Her sharing her struggles with me about her own anxiety brought us even closer. Now if only I can figure out how to get her off my back about my weight!? Hmm maybe one day I mean miracles do happen.

Shifting gears now, a big final THANK YOU and VIRTUAL HUG to all of you for being so kind, warm and loving to my memoir reading today. Thank you for accepting me and my story. Thank you for caring. I’m grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity to have met you all. I’m a better person for it. Years ago I never envisioned myself writing a memoir about these struggles of mine. I’m excited to say I’ve come so far and now I’m able to proudly tell my tale with no shame, guilt or regrets. Lastly, I want to remind others that mental illness has no face, no particular look to it. Mental illness is insidious and shows no bias towards race, religion, age, gender or socioeconomic background. It manifests itself in so many ways. People close to you could be suffering and you may never know by just looking at them on the outside. That’s why it’s important to be aware and take the time to educate yourself about mental illness and what it really encompasses and in what ways it effects us all. As a society, as a nation and as human beings on this tough journey of life. Thanks again for another amazing day! See you all tomorrow. Xo

Day 7: The Butterfly’s Retreat

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Dear Meagan,

You may not know me as well as I know you. I know everything about you and so far I feel deeply connected to you. I was blessed with the opportunity to admire you from afar. You and I have accomplished a lot in a small time frame.  It’s safe to say you and I are one in the same. There have been countless times when you doubted, hated and burdened yourself with so much pain, fear, guilt and etc. For so long I’ve been wanting to ease the pain or at least take it away completely. Surprisingly you have found a way to rise above and direct it towards building a strong foundation. Good for you.

I’m sure you’re curious to know who I am but this is not about me. This letter is to you and for only you. Consider me an admirer. What you feel, I feel. What you think, I think. You created mini mantras to remind yourself of how precious and special you are. Then please allow me to share my thoughts.

  1. I am enough. But of course you are darling. I understand at times it may never seem that way. You aim to not necessarily please others but to care for them. With a natural nurturing instinct, you make people feel at ease within their own minds.  You strive to soothe their souls which is the inner energy source. It’s amazing how you do it and don’t realize. Although you accept compliments, you never believe them. What you do for friends, loved ones and strangers is enough. Every cannot and will not be pleased but that is not your issue nor is it about you. Please don’t take on what is not yours to bare.
  2. Magnet - Grant me the serenity... - inspired livingI am in control. You have more control than you realise. I know the Looney Tunes version of the Tasmanian Devil reminds you of yourself. Hate to break it to you, but you are not alone. Everyone feels as if they cannot get a grip. I also know you don’t want to hear that it’s a common feeling but it is beyond true. Focus on handling what you have the power to control. During the moment it becomes your strength. God only grants you things you, yourself  can handle. Faith steps in to take over what you need to release. Inhale to ready yourself of your own tasks. Exhale what is not for you to control.
  3. Roger L. Basler de Roca on Twitter: "Fall in love... first with the idea,  then with the process of becoming the very best version of yourself - first  step: love what youI am worth it. You bet your ass you are and so much more. Why do you think I or someone else would admire you? Duh!!!! You, my precious girl are far worth more than the sparkly stars in the sky. If I could make it rain: love, respect, inspirational, humourous, wise, warm-hearted and much more, then these wonderful qualities wouldn’t suffice. I consider you what a butterfly represents in multiple cultures- change, hope, depth, power and life. When I say butterfly, I mean all stages of its life. As the caterpillar, you don’t worry about whether people accept your looks because you appreciate you. The inner and outer are equally grand.  You appear with a mission and see it through to the end. The real metamorphosis of life. When you are ready because you have learned to work with time, you decide to show/share with others. You are worth more than what they see and assume.

 

Meagan, the best is yet to come. All you need to do is continue to be patient and continue moving forward to accomplish your dreams. Mother Nature sees you. Father Time hears you. I’ll always with you.

I am simply empowered by your strength. It’s time for you to realize that it does exist. You can into this retreat with a tiny idea. Now it’s blooming before your eyes. If you have to fight then fight for a positive cause. If you have to shout then shout for joy. If you have to cry then cry. If you need to take a moment or two then take any many as you need. There are no limits. If you have to smile then smile because you are learning. If you have to  If you have to grow then grow to heal.

But….if you have to write then write to for you.

Remember I admire you from afar. Whenever you need me just whisper and I’ll be there. Regardless. With unconditional love

 

Your admiring friend,

Your voice (the other her)

 

Quotes Empowering You to Use Your Voice - Higher Level Living           sound of your voice | Tumblr

Writer’s Retreat Day 7

Today I’m quite sad. I’m sad it’s almost over. There is only one more day of writing into the day, only one more day of hearing Dr. Zamora’s wisdom as she hones into each writer’s work, and only one more day where I’m held accountable for the progress, I make towards my project.

I am a responsible adult, sometimes. The real concern is, do I trust myself to complete my project on my own? Hell no. But that’s a hurdle I have to overcome. I have to stop relying on people. I’ve relied on people for as long as I can remember, in the weirdest ways, let me explain…

I usually go work at my local Starbucks, not now, obviously, but when it was possible, I would go there because most of everyone that was there, was there, to work. So the strangers kept me on track, how would it look if I was the only weirdo that was watching Netflix on my laptop while everyone else was hard at work? Like a freaking weirdo, that’s right. So I had no choice but to continue to work.

Recently since I can’t go to Starbucks, I have found myself working where ever my dad is in the morning until he leaves for work. Because man, if you take a break in front of this man, he will show you work that’s been pending, so if I’m around him, I know I have to keep busy to avoid doing his work. I’m not a terrible child, I swear! He just always has some type of work ready for me on cue, it’s never-ending, go to the bank, email my lawyer, fax a document, etc. So when he’s around, I literally can’t stop working, and in a way, that’s a good thing for me.

So you see, I rely on people to keep me on course even if they don’t know I am doing it. I know it’s pretty weird, but that’s just how I’ve operated my whole life. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing, but it is a bad habit. My dad leaves to work around noon, and my mom doesn’t come back from work until 2 pm so that in-between time when I’m alone, boy, I am so distracted. So you see why I need this class and why I don’t want it to be over. But I am thankful for the time we had, and I can’t wait till next summer to retake the class, whether it fits my graduate school plans or not!

I just want to end by saying it’s funny, this feeling because I remember as a kid, and even as a teacher now, when school comes to an end, I am ecstatic. But I don’t feel ecstatic, not anywhere near that.

How I thought I’d feel when this course was over:

How I feel: