Writing Our Hearts
by Nessa McCasey
We are very pleased
to welcome Nessa McCasey to SoulfulLiving.com as our
newest monthly columnist! Each month, Nessa will offer
a poem or short writing based on our magazine's monthly
theme and will provide techniques for creative
expression that you can use to explore the topic
Letting Go and Moving Forward:
Writing as a Map of Progress
To let go is not to regret the
but to grow and live for the
To let go is to fear less and love more.
Remember: The time to love is
Anyone and everyone can have trouble with letting go.
I consider Letting Go to be a subcategory of Transition
(well maybe almost everything falls under the big
heading of Transition). To me, transition means not
being where you used to be and not yet where you are
going to next. And of course, it’s even more
complicated than that! Being with someone and then not
being with someone means that you have to let go of not
only that person, but all of your dreams and
expectations for your relationship with him/her. Losing
a job means that you lose all of your dreams and
expectations of the benefits to you, as well as the
changes you could have made upon the company (or
industry, etc.) Whether loss involves losing someone to
an illness or a tragic accident or changing jobs or
moving to a new location, it will involve letting go of
tangible rewards as well as the possibilities of what
might have been.
We each have unique losses and varied considerations
in letting go of our individual experiences. This is
where writing comes in. You can write the questions (and
answers) about letting go. How have you experienced the
process of letting go in order to move on to another
stage of your life? What is your story about letting go?
Are you still in the process of letting old feelings
simmer below the surface of your daily face that you
offer to the world? Is there something(s) that you would
like to surrender? Researchers continue to identify how
writing serves as a means for processing the emotions
related to our experiences. As you write what the
experience means to you, expressing the various emotions
involved, you move through the event, and then move on,
one step at a time, one sentence, one paragraph, one
page at a time.
Specifically, writing serves to help the process of
letting go flow more easily, more assuredly, and becomes
a tool for mapping out the process for us. Here are some
examples: Writing is an avenue for memorializing
something or someone. Writing is also a way to put
things down on paper, instead of keeping them mulling
endlessly around in your head. An ordinary piece of
paper becomes a safe and contained place to yell or rant
or cry or question, and no one needs to “see it.” Of
course, it is good to share writings with others, yet
sometimes it is very personal and you don’t want to
share it, at least not yet. One step at a time, letting
go can happen, and writing can help.
How might you begin to let go through your writing
about it? Here are a couple of ideas that you can try.
1. Write about what Letting Go is NOT:
Letting go is not always sad, even though it is
Letting go is not the ending of something, it is really
the beginning of something new.
Letting go is not like a gentle rainstorm, it is like a
hurricane, forcing change.
(Any of these statements may or may not be true for
you. Change the sentences above to suit you or come up
with your own sentences in this format.)
2. Another idea is to write about the feelings
that arise out of the topic here. What are you feeling
right now? Write these down and explore them as you are
able to. You might be able to dialogue with the feelings
and ask them what they need from you right now.
For example, write about the fears that you have
regarding letting go and moving forward again. Include
as much detail and feeling as possible so that you can
acknowledge the difficulty of the process of letting go.
As you literally see what you are giving up, feelings
can arise, such as grief, anger, disappointment, etc.
Writing about these feelings lets them have an airing
out; this will often relieve their oppressiveness.
Feelings are important to acknowledge, and they contain
valuable information that we can use for our own
When we write about our feelings and about our
circumstances, we make a record that will show us later
how we have indeed moved forward. Even the very act of
writing down your fears will help you to take a step of
moving forward past “holding on” into “letting go.”
Every single day, we must, in reality, let go of who
we were yesterday. I say this statement to myself, as
much as to you reading this. This includes the Me who
breathed in doubts about our world as recently as
yesterday. Yet, it is when I feel the freedom of HOPE
that I know that I am successfully letting go of many
things that aren’t useful to me anymore.
Here’s a poem by past U.S. Poet Laureate, Stanley
Kunitz, with some additional writing ideas below.
I have walked through
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.
(Copyright Material – Printed For
Educational/Therapeutic Purposes Only)
3. Write about the lines:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
4. Choose up to four phrases and/or lines in
the poem and use those for starting to write a new poem
Remember to care for yourself as you do any of these
writings. As we explore difficult emotions, it is
especially important to have supportive people around
us. Writing to explore our inner world will expand our
lives, and we certainly want to grow most healthfully.
Writing can be one of the ways we care for ourselves,
whether we do this quietly by ourselves, or with others
in a group, or with a mental health provider in a
therapeutic process. If you would like more information
about this, please contact me. I would be glad to offer
some ideas to help you find the appropriate supports for
Letting go of what no longer serves us is a sure way
to lighten our load. This, together with powerful
positive statements, will surely create a Lightened Way
Letting go of all my worries for this moment, I
breathe in, I breathe out; today is a glorious new day!
© Copyright 2004 Nessa McCasey. All Rights
Read Nessa McCasey's Past Columns:
- Sept 2004 - Writer’s Block and Then… Moving Forward Again
- May 2004 - Identifying Our Crossroads
- February 2004 - Daring to Dream Out Loud
2003 - Joining Together with Our Words of Grace
2003 - Midlife Questioning: One Writer's Path to
2003 - Can We Write (or Read) Our Way to Serenity?
Nessa McCasey, A former technical editor for NASA, street/performance poet in Denver, corporate writer, single mom, marketing communications specialist, and church music director. She is charting a new path for work and life in the profession of Poetry Therapy serving as a State Representative for the National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT) where she facilitates group or individual poetry therapy sessions and presents poetry and writing workshops to jump-start others in their own powers of creative expression.
You can reach Nessa at: email@example.com
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