Rising From Dark Places

Recently, a perfect storm of events collided in my life and, stunned, I slid into a dark place I’d not visited for more than fifteen years, when I’d been severely assaulted by a client in the residential program I then directed. That time, anxiety, flashbacks, and a long slide into some old, dark waters kept me home from work for two weeks. The wounds that re-opened this time swept me swiftly back into those murky waters that I thought had been cleared, and again I was on the couch for more days than I would have chosen.

I’m in the end stages of completing my memoir and taking steps toward marketing; have a small, productive garden; more than an acre of grounds, my small home, and my three cats to care for; as well as lots of wholesome cooking and preserving to do. Everything came to a grinding pause for three weeks. (Please know I did feed my pets.)  I resented this precious time stolen from me today by other people’s violent actions long ago.

I think of our military men and women daily: the violence so many encounter in horrific experiences in foreign lands, and the trauma so many have endured. I’m grateful our military hospitals are doing a better job with diagnosing and treating PTSD, yet also know there’s still a long journey ahead with the monumental numbers who need treatment in our overcrowded system. My heart goes out to anyone, particularly our veterans, with this diagnosis; I know good treatment makes an immeasurable difference.

As I slogged around the house in my own aftershocks, I looked for something to do to occupy my hands as my soul worked at healing. My eyes landed on a small pile of fabric pieces I’d purchased months ago to make a small quilt. Listlessly I cut out a few strips, then soon stopped, depleted. The next day I cut a few more, and the next day a few more than the day before. In a pace matched only by a sluggish turtle, all the quilt pieces were finally cut, and I sewed a few together. They looked so lovely; I could feel some energy returning. By the end of two weeks, the quilt top was complete and I was thrilled with the outcome.

I still need to sew a muslin border on the edges, and later this fall, I’ll layer the top with batting and backing. This winter, when I’m homebound on my mountain and it feels so cozy to have a quilt on my lap, I’ll quilt it. Meanwhile the quilt top graces the back of my kitchen loveseat in my tiny reading nook. Each time my eyes are drawn to those beautiful autumn colors, they bring deep appreciation for their soft beauty, and a wave of peace through my body. They also remind me that from dark places, it is possible to bring healing and silent splendor.

Autumn Quilt 001

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About Mary Jo Doig

At the turn of the millennium, I arrived at a cross-road that brought me to a splendid, if unforeseen place, almost as if I were a traveler on Robert Frost's The Road Less Traveled. I was single again, my three children were grown and building their lives, I'd experienced a health issue and was working on an improved lifestyle. I also ached to do two other things: (1) change my long human services career in upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, where winter seemed to be at least seven months out of every year, and (2) move to a warmer place in the universe. My decision: did I want to continue on the path I'd been following pretty much all my life, or could I gather my then-fragile courage and start life brand new somewhere else? These were scary thoughts for a single woman in her late 50s. Five hundred miles away, though, I fell in love with a new mountain range, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where I knew not a soul except my daughter who was attending college in the Shenandoah Valley, and I moved. I rented a tiny cabin on a mountain in the woods and lived there in solitude for two years, working in a new career by day and, when home, communing with the incredible natural beauty that surrounded me. There I also began to write my life stories, which were aching for release. I joined the Story Circle Network in early 2001, a rich place in cyberspace for women life writers, where I strengthened my written voice and began sharing my stories. I found so many opportunities to grow: 10 year facilitator for an online writing circle of women writers across the country; thirteen year editor of the "True Words from Real Women" section of the quarterly Journal; a reader and reviewer of women's memoirs for the SCN Book Review site; program chair for two Stories from the Heart national conferences in Austin, T. Presently I'm teaching Women's Life-Writing and Older Women's Legacy workshops in my part of the world in Central Virginia and facilitating the ongoing Circle of Memories Writing Circle (formerly an OWL workshop that continued on) at the Crozet Public Library. I am blessed with three wonderful children, a son and two daughters; a small, huge-hearted family; dear friends; my beagle Addie and cat Button. My hobbies include reading, writing, editing, cooking, gardening, quilting, knitting, biking, and simply being with the profound beauty of the mountains that embrace my small two acres in the Blue Ridge. The life stories I began writing in 2001 have grown deeper with time, re-writes, and personal growth. All these years later, I'm scheduled to publish my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life, in 2018.
This entry was posted in Courage, Gifts, Gratitude, Quilts, Simplicity. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Rising From Dark Places

  1. Linda says:

    One step at a time, Mary Jo. So often I forget this simple lesson, so thank you for the reminder. We don’t need to heal all at once and in fact we can’t. Sometimes we take two steps back for one step forward, but we just have to keep taking that next step. When I’m snowbound this winter, I’ll think of you in your cabin, quilting and smiling.

    Like

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