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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Photo by Patrick Smith

Thank you, Susan Faucon,  for including our new creative works in your fabulous variety show – “Voices from the Heart.” (www.killerstilts.com).  I have allowed a few close friends to read selections from my book, but this was my first opportunity for a formal public reading.  I chose introductions from the first three chapters.  The setting is the day of our sentencing for three federal felonies – May 6, 1970 – only two days after the Kent State massacre.

” Escape?  Flee?  Find George, tell him everything and ask him for contacts and money to fly to Cuba?  My stomach churns on acid and water, no food, not able to eat this morning, too conflicted, too afraid.  The fear is unfamiliar, new, a fear for someone other than myself.  I have been so careless with my life, my future….Does safety exist for me?  Can I ever be free again?”

The writing of this book has taken on a life of its own.  It is now a living entity that carries my heart and words but also has an existence apart from me.  Sharing it publicly feels a bit like sending a child off to school alone.  Will she be received well by the other students?  By teachers?

I am grateful to each audience member who listened deeply and gave me feedback.  I am grateful to Susan for the opportunity.  But most of all,  grateful to my husband for his patient and loving encouragement throughout the writing process.  Writing can sometimes be a lonely effort that perhaps no one else will understand or appreciate.  I saw a new level of understanding and appreciation in the eyes of many last night…just as it has been there for years in my husband’s eyes.

How appropriate that this unleashing of my book should coincide with our 16th wedding anniversary and a full moon.

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Tomorrow evening I will be reading from my book The Power of Love at the Voices from the Heart Community/Unity Variety Show.  This is a very exciting moment for me and several of the other artists performing new works for the first time in public.  I am particularly grateful to the producer of this event for offering a similar opportunity four years ago.  Although that event never happened, I was inspired to begin writing my book with publication in mind.  The writing process revealed new themes and a deeper understanding of my own experiences.

So, tomorrow, I come to the Community/Unity Variety Show with a completed book, 39 chapters long.  Of course, I will only read short introductions to the first three chapters.  The setting for the reading is my sentencing for three federal felonies for burglary and destruction of property at the Dow Chemical lobbying office in Washington, DC in March, 1969 as part of the DC-9, a “Catholic Left” anti-Vietnam War group.

“I stretch out my stockinged and healed foot toward the Federal courthouse step and quickly pull it back near its partner.  Should I actually climb these steps that could lead me to 35 years in prison or run down Constitution Avenue and flee?”

I hope those of you in the DC metro area will join us.

Joann doing Qi Gong/photo by Patrick Smith

This weekend we had a wonderful time relaxing at the beach.  I find that there are so many tasks related to writing, building a marketing platform for my book, performing my first public reading from the book next Friday and teaching meditation, that I sometimes need to STOP the work and just relax – even when the work is enjoyable.

Qi Gong has become a good method for me of relaxing on a daily basis, coordinating my physical movements with my breath, calming my spirit and freeing the energy in my body to flow through me.  My favorite place to do it is on the beach, stretching down to the surf and sand, lifting up my arms to the sun and sky, feeling all the energy of the heavens flowing down into my body.  On cold, dreary indoor winter days, I can revive the beach in my mind and heart, feeling the warm sun flowing through me.

Do you find it difficult to achieve balance between activity and rest, body and mind, expending energy and receiving nourishment?  How do you connect your body to your work?  Do you find time to just breathe in and breathe out?

Another major project I’ve been working on this past year – in addition to finishing my book – has been organizing a meditation retreat for women.  A very powerful exercise during the retreat was offered by Ruth Fishel, author of You Can Change (Almost) Anything in 21 Days.  She led us in a guided meditation that prompted us to listen to our desires to change something in our lives.  Then we journaled about the experience and wrote an affirmation about this desire, making sure that it was something PRESENT, POSSIBLE, PERSONAL, POSITIVE AND PASSIONATELY POWERFUL.

I chose the desire to move forward in publishing my book.  The writing has been energizing.  But publishing?  Was it even something I wanted to do?  Would it negatively affect people close to the story?  Would anyone really want to read a 40 year old story?  Was there any aspect of the publishing process I could possibly enjoy? In other words, negative ‘self talk’ threw up barricades to DOing something to move toward publishing the book.  I was STUCK!!!!

So, rather than choose an affirmation about losing weight or cleaning out the attic, I plunged into this difficult area.  With Ruth’s help, I fashioned the wording of my affirmation:  “I am being guided to the next step in publishing my book.” Present, theoretically possible, positive, very personal, and something I wanted but wondered if it might ever be possible for me.

Then I wrote it every day for three weeks, usually changing the wording, keeping it fresh, alive for me, as I watched changes and opportunities arise.  I was experiencing the power of words, of saying them out loud to myself, of making my intention a reality and now of sharing those words and this process with you, my audience.  This blog was one of the direct results of my affirmation.  I am still surprised that it has become a reality.

What is your experience with affirmations?

I am amazed that just beginning this blog with the intention of sharing my writing/publishing process with the world has already had great results.

One of them happened on June 8 when I was interviewed on film about the story at the heart of my book – the DC-9 anti-war action I did as a young nun.   The film – Hit and Stay – focuses on the Catonsville Nine and other “Catholic Left” actions against draft boards and corporations like Dow Chemical that profited from the Vietnam War.  So far, the interviews with men far outweighed those with women.  Hopefully, as I plan to share in my book, The Power of Love: How a Nun became a Revolutionary, my voice will help to balance the film.

There are several other events that have come as a result of letting a few friends know that I am now ready to not only write my story but also share it with the world.   More later.

What is your experience with putting out an intention to the universe and seeing what comes back to you?????

The last question the advisor asked me and the answer that came from my heart changed my life.  She said that a second visit to the doctor revealed that I had only 24 hours to live.  There was no time left to DO much more, so the question was – “What do you most regret NOT having done in your life?”

The answer to that last question came immediately from my gut to my mouth– “The Book! I have to write my story before I die!”

At the time, I was still a full time high school teacher, so most of my work on the book took place during the summer of 2005.  Then in the summer of 2006, a friend invited me to do a reading at a community performance she was organizing.  That goal, inspired by her own courage in writing and performing her music, helped me focus on a deadline.  The morning after her request, I wrote for five hours straight, the emotional high point of my book pouring out of me.  I finally felt like a real writer, writing for a specific audience.

Since retiring from teaching fulltime in 2007, researching and writing the book has become a major commitment.  In 2009, I completed the second draft (39 chapters), again deadlining for a 40th anniversary reunion of the DC-9, whose anti-war action in 1969 is the central plot of the book.

I would love to hear your answer to the question – If I knew I were to die in 24 hours, what would I most regret not having done in my life?

Why this book?  Why now?  The urgency came to me in an interview with a wonderful financial advisor over five years ago.  She asked three powerful questions (which cost me $125 – here to you for free!)

1)   If you had all the money you needed to live comfortably the rest of your life, what would you change in your life now?  (Take a few days to write the answer, before reading the next two items).

2)   You just came from the doctor and got some bad news – you only have FIVE YEARS to live.  What would you change in your life?

Before I share how these questions (and the third, yet to come) changed my life, what are your answers?   I’d love to hear in the comment section.