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Carol Adrienne

Your Unfolding Path
October 2003

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by Carol Adrienne, Ph.D.

Carol Adrienne's work and teachings have been a great inspiration to me!  In August of 1998, about four months after my father passed away, I read about one of Carol's workshops in a Learning Annex catalog and synchronistically found her book on a bookshelf at the bookstore.  The themes of her teachings were familiar and comforting, as they confirmed the thoughts and ideas my father had shared with me shortly before his passing.  Her books and workshops ignited my spiritual curiosity, setting me on my soulful life path, which led to the very creation of SoulfulLiving.com!  Carol's participation has been an integral part of SoulfulLiving.com, at its soul level!  Thank you, Carol, with all my heart!
~Valerie, Founder and Soul, SoulfulLiving.com

Writing to Heal

I first met Paula Ramirez three years ago at one of my retreats on life purpose in Sedona, Arizona. Shy, quiet-spoken, and serious, Paula spoke hesitantly about some of her life dreams and desire to write. At the time, she was principal of a new educational facility with the Texas Youth Commission, a juvenile correctional facility. Today, Paula is the supervisor of their English as a Second Language (ESL) program. She is also a published author and a budding public speaker. What happened in the last three years, I asked?

"When I cam back from Sedona, people noticed a change in me. They said I walked differently and there was something new in my eyes. I knew there was something different in me, too."

Where We Are "Stationed" Has a Purpose

"I always felt that I was at the correctional facility for a purpose other than that of being principal. I used to stand in the hall as the students came in and look stern and stoic. I was supposed to make sure that everyone entered the building in an orderly fashion with their hands behind their backs. We had about 350 students and I remember that sometimes I would make eye contact with certain students. Normally, they are not supposed to make eye contact with teachers except to be courteous. It was as if my eyes were calling them and they were looking back. At first, I thought it was because they were Hispanic and I am Hispanic. Once in a while I would talk to one of them. Invariably, they would be one of the youths who had murdered someone. Slowly I began to see the connection."

Two years ago on Valentine’s Day, Paula was invited to visit a classroom to hear students read stories and poems they had written. Many students could only read at a second or third grade level so this was a big event for them. Paula said, "One student stood up and began to read his story. He said something like ‘Because of what I have done [killed a man] a wife will not see her husband again. His children will not know their father. His parents will not get to see their son get older because of what I did.’ He mentioned the gun he used, but he didn’t glorify his actions. He seemed in immense pain.

"As he talked, I thought back to when my own father had been killed when I was four years old. He was killed on Easter Sunday at 12 noon. Tears started rolling down my face. I wasn’t sure I could contain my emotions there in the classroom.

"When all the kids had finished, the teacher expected me to cheer the kids on for their progress. I realized I had never talked to anyone about my Dad’s murder. I was afraid of what the kids and the teacher would think if they found out my own dad had been murdered, when they were on the other side of this. I heard my inner voice say, It’s time to talk about this. I stood up and said, ‘There is something you need to know.’ I addressed the boy whose story had touched me the most. I told him, ‘You are very correct when you said that the murder changed my life and my mom’s life and my brothers’ and sisters’ lives forever.’ I could see the fear in the eyes of those students who were the capital offenders. What I told them that day was that I was no longer angry about my dad’s murder. I said I had learned to forgive. I told them that we can turn around negative situations by helping people deal with their feelings and the consequences. Several students shared that nothing could punish them more than their own remorse.

"That day I realized that the reason I had been placed in this facility was to start a new type of healing. I wrote up this experience as a story. Opportunities started cropping up for me to tell this and some of my other stories about being caught between the Anglo and Mexican cultures, even though I was afraid to be so visible. The first time I went public as at a conference on New Directions in Corrections."

Releasing Pent-Up Emotions Creates New Flow

Life started to open up for Paula as she released the pent-up emotional trauma. Creativity and healing flooded in. Synchronistically, one day her nine-year-old nephew called selling magazine subscriptions for his school She bought a subscription to a magazine called, "Whispers From Heaven." "I like their stories," said Paula, "and they make it very easy to submit stories that have touched people’s lives. I submitted my story about what happened in that classroom and they accepted it. Needless to say I was very excited!"

Once our path opens up, we must keep noticing other hints, messages, or support for our new direction. Not long after Paula’s story was accepted, her husband was transferred to Austin. He kept encouraging her to apply at the central office of the Youth Commission for another position. "I thought he was crazy. Originally, I had not wanted to work for the ESL program, but when I was offered the job of supervisor I accepted. Now I see the deeper meaning of that opportunity, too. This program has been a way to really understand and appreciate my own Mexican heritage. I am more in tune with myself and have a pride that I never had before. It’s as if I am calling back a spirit that I didn’t know I had lost."

The more we connect to our true values and have the courage to express them in our life, the more life gives us opportunity to expand. The key is to look for people, places, or projects with which we resonate. For example, a year later Paula felt drawn to attend a conference for women in juvenile justice, and wondered what lay in store for her there. She met five women from different states who were the first female wardens in the juvenile justice system. Now retired, they were speaking about writing as a way to find one’s voice. Paula was fascinated. "One of the women, Tekla Miller, wrote The Warden Wore Pink. She used a pink pen, wore pink clothes, and the cover of her book was pink. I thought this was great. They had been very encouraging to continue writing. When I returned from the conference I was walking on air. I felt really good about writing—lighter."

Be Patient With Your Unfolding Purpose

Sometimes a development takes time to become obvious. In Paula’s case, it was a few months later that author Tekla Miller sent her an email letting her know about an opportunity to submit stories for an anthology with a publishing house called Red Rock Press. Again, another story, My Paula, was accepted. Paula, searching the Internet, continued to send out her stories, despite receiving rejections.

During this period, Paula visited Ojo Caliente, a small town in central New Mexico. In a gift shop she overheard several women talking. One of the women turned around and said to Paula, "You are not here by accident. We are all here for a writing workshop. Join us tonight." Despite her polite objections, they insisted, particularly after they found out she spoke Spanish and their teacher was a Spanish-speaking shaman. That evening she was introduced to the shaman, and listened to the stories written by the women. "There was a lot of pain in their stories," said Paula, "But I was struck when the teacher said that the real joy of writing comes from what happens after the story is told or what happens after the painting is done. Suddenly, I realized that was the message I needed to hear. It helped me to move forward faster with my writing, which began to take a different tone. I began to think about what life is after the pain we have suffered.

"I was reading Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, and doing the morning pages [daily writing exercise]. I started thinking about my childhood working in the fields. Because my mother had no job skills, all we could do to put food on the table was to go out in the fields. My most vivid memory is of working in the cotton fields. I remember how I used to be so embarrassed to show up at school with scratches on my hands from picking cotton. I sat down at my computer and started writing the stories my mother would tell me while we were working in the fields. I also included experiences we had with the Border Patrol--times when I didn’t know what was going on and was petrified. This is when the book title, Cotton-Picking Life Lessons, came to me. I remember calling my mom and saying, ‘Guess what I’m doing?’ She couldn’t believe that I was writing about those days in the cotton fields when she was teaching me to survive and make life better for myself."

Reclaiming the Creative Content of the Past

I asked Paula what her mother told her. "Her recurring theme was that because her father had not educated her, our only option was working in the fields. In those days, it was generally thought that a woman didn’t need to have an education or job skills. She didn’t even need to know how to read and write in either English or Spanish because the man was going to do that. My grandfather didn’t realize that his daughter might get divorced or that her husband might get killed. Her message to me was get an education, be independent, and be happy with yourself and by yourself. If you get married, then more power to you, but don’t depend on a man to make you happy. She was always so positive about it. That was the message she built into every story she told me.

Ironically, Paula has been married for twenty-two years to a wonderful and supportive man who urges her to keep moving out of her comfort zone towards her dreams. Recently Paula’s sister, following an intuition, introduced her to publisher, Cassandra Castellanos Bell. Eight months later, Bell contacted Paula’s sister to find her. Paula was ready to share her dream about helping women transform their pain through writing, and told Bell about Cotton Picking Life Lessons. Bell loved the idea and agreed to publish the book, which is coming out in 2004. "We are adding a component so that I will be able to talk to women who feel a calling to write but don’t know how to get started. I want to work with women who may not be able to read or write so that they can have a voice. I am so excited because I am also scheduled to speak at an international multi-cultural conference next year.

"Cassandra also wants to get the message out to pre-kindergarten and grammar-school kids. She is extremely talented at converting stories into simpler, rhythmic language with music for younger audiences to let them know that they can be whatever they want to be. To be proud of their culture, and live their dreams.

Paula’s website—now under construction--is www.writingconnections.com. Her email is Paula@writingconnections.com.

© Copyright 2003 Carol Adrienne, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Carol Adrienne, Ph.D., is an internationally-known workshop facilitator and author whose books have been translated into over fifteen languages. Her latest book is When Life Changes, or You Wish It Would. Oprah hailed, The Purpose of Your Life: Finding Your Place in the World Using Synchronicity, Intuition, and Uncommon Sense a must-read. She is also the author of The Numerology Kit. An electronic copy of Your Child’s Destiny—a numerological guide for parents is now available at www.CarolAdrienne.comm. Carol is available to for keynotes, workshops, and seminars and can be reached at Carol22@sonic.net or (510) 528-2226 weekdays 10 am to 6 pm PST.



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