Saturday, April 13, 2013

Inching Forward

I shared in my last post how I coped in the days after my husband's cancer diagnosis and passing. As I explained, a moment eventually came that caused me to turn my focus from the past and the immediate moment to the future. A friend who knows of my love for the beach had sent me a copy of Sand in My Bra, and as I sat on my front-porch glider and read through each of the amusing essays, I began to consider doing some traveling myself.

I immediately realized this was the first time in over two years that I had thought to the future and not felt an almost-suffocating sense of despair. Close on the heels of that thought was a sharp pang of guilt. How could I begin making plans, plans that might include fun, when my husband's life had been cut short? But the spark  was there -- a tiny spark, but that's all it took. By fits and starts, I began to start designing a new life.

Because I'm a journaler and know I can't embark on a new project until I have all my ducks in a row, I immediately made a trip to Barnes and Noble and bought a cute ecojot notebook. In the past 15 months, I've almost filled that notebook with charts and lists and snippets of information gleaned from various sources. During the first 12 or so months, I merely collected information, but in the past 3 months, I've begun to pull things together and take a few tentative steps forward.

Perhaps you aren't there yet, but the time will come when you realize you need to move forward, that you need to begin making plans for your life from this point forward. So how do you begin?

1. Consider how you do your best thinking, planning, and creating. What strategies have you used successfully in the past? What's your "planning personality"?

2. Think about the specific tools you need. If you are a journaler, what type of journaling do you prefer? Do you sketch, write, a combination of the two? Do you journal electronically, or do you prefer hard-copy? If you chose the latter, are you partial to a particular type or even a specific brand of journal? A dear friend shared with me that she would be lost if Moleskine ever stops selling their large, hardback, blank-paged journals! Perhaps instead of journaling, you prefer to cut out pictures and articles from magazines in a scrapbook or notebook. If you haven't already, check out Pinterest, a wonderful electronic bulletin board.

3. Consider the "aids" that have been helpful in the past. If books inspire you, do you prefer library books, or would you rather have your own copies of books so you can annotate as you read? What about music? Do you have favorite artists or songs, or is there a radio station that plays music that brings you peace and gets your creative juices flowing? Or is a computer and the World Wide Web all you need?

4. Gather what you need. Buy the teal leather-bound journal you fell in love with at the bookstore or grab one of the composition books you have tucked away in your desk, purchase those Derwent sketch pencils, sign up for Pinterest, browse your local library, bookstore, or for appropriate books -- in other words, collect your supplies.

5. Begin. Gather information, journal, sketch, dream, pin, create a budget . . . in short, start creating the framework, the blueprint for your new life.

I was originally going to title this post "Moving Forward" but immediately after I typed the words, I knew it didn't fit. It's taken me 15 months to work through the process I just outlined. That might seem ridiculously slow; on the other hand, you may not be able to fathom completing even the first step. That's okay. You have to work through this process in your own way, at your own pace.

If you haven't yet been able to think about the future, please trust me when I tell you that someday you will. If you've already begun making plans or are already living your redesigned life, I'd love to hear how the process has evolved for you. It's my hope -- and my belief -- that we can all benefit from the experiences of others who are traveling this path with us. So please, share your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. Patti, your words are so comforting. "If" I am "left behind", I pray you are there to guide me through the darkness. Again, you touch my heart with your words. Always, J

  2. What a great idea to just "information gather" until one sees the plan come into focus better. That's not as frightening when looking at the future. And then when a person IS ready to move forward, they can be so much better prepared!

  3. I have heard that a vision board is also a good thing to chronicle. Pictures from magazines, quotes that move you, things you want to do, places you want to travel . . .

    I haven't made the leap of creating a vision board, but it does intrigue me.

    It doesn't have to be fancy or anything--any old block of cardboard or foam board from The Dollar Tree will do. Sharpees and glue . . .maybe a corkboard?

    I think I must do this . . .maybe this could be a project to work on with my daughters. They could have a vision board as well . . .

    Hmmmmmmm . . . . .

  4. That was exactly my experience, Cheryl. It was a non-threatening way to test the waters, so to speak and, quite honestly, my information gathering filled lots of empty evenings. A win-win. I'll post more later (of course lol), but I'm putting inching forward a bit more this summer; I'm taking a road trip to check out the area of the country that I've always dreamed of living in. The information I gathered at the stage I wrote about set the stage for this trip.

  5. You're right about the vision board, Janeen. I've made several of them over the years -- either for myself or with the family as a whole -- and have found them really helpful. This time, though, I wanted something more portable, something I could see, add to, etc, no matter where I was, so I created a few private pinterest "boards". I have one for home, travel, etc. Sometimes when I'm at work grading papers, I'll put one of those boards on the screen and glance at it from time to time -- makes a not-so-fun task a little more bearable. I'll give some thought to sharing my private pinterest boards here if anyone would like to see them.

    I hope you'll make one and let me know how the process went. As far as one with your daughters -- that's a great idea, too. An idea -- don't know if this will work for you or not. One year when my husband knew he was going to be gone much of the next year, the kids and I created a vision board on the refrigerator. We put all the family notes, calendar, etc, on the side (one side was exposed) and used the front to put up pictures, words, etc., showing things we wanted to do while "Dad" was gone -- to fill the time, to keep him involved, and to do on his 2 weekends home a month. Once his departure date arrived, we began doing things; as we did, we took the picture/word/etc. off the refrigerator. We scrapbooked with those pictures/words/etc and photos and memorabilia of the event -- some had a page of their own, some went on a "month" page. We'd work on the pages on a snowy or rainy day, and now both kids have their own book that they still talk about.

  6. Great Idea!! Isn't Pinterest addicting! I love the idea of creating a private board. There are so many things to pin - -almost like a virtual vision board!

  7. Pinterest certainly is addictive -- as if reading, writing, scrapbooking, etc., aren't enough activities. lol But I love having a place to collect ideas without collecting any "stuff" -- pages from magazines, etc.