1. Allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free.
2. Allow (something) to move, act, or flow freely.
(Definitions from Oxford Languages)
For many of us, November is a month where we witness the trees releasing their multi-hued leaves, making room for rest before new growth in the Spring.
Several years ago, I was moving through a process of intense change within my sense of self. There was so much I was releasing and the grief and uncertainty of it all was overwhelming at times. I remember long walks through my neighborhood, my head and heart heavy with all I was carrying, and savoring the sounds and sensations of dry, disintegrating leaves crunching beneath my boots.
It was an immense comfort to me at the time--seeing my own process play out in the natural world.
If trees can release, I can release.
If leaves can fall to the ground and cease to exist, I can let parts of myself and parts of my life fall away.
Release didn't come easy to me then, though, and it still doesn't some days. I've got a stubborn streak that can make me tenacious when I need to be, but that same stubborn streak can also keep me clinging long past when it's time to let go and move on.
The longer I've been a therapist and the more I've grown (up) as a person, the more I've come to appreciate the necessity and beauty of the act of release. In the definition of "release" I've included above, the word "allow" appears twice. When we "allow" ourselves to let go of what we expected or wanted or once thought was essential, we're cooperating in a process of change as natural as what the trees move through every Fall. When we struggle against this sort of release, it's usually like swimming up stream; it takes a lot of effort and energy to hold onto what wants to slip away from our grasp.
To give a concrete example, a couple of years ago I set a goal for myself of writing a book. It was a goal I'd always had in the background, but I decided to bring it to the foreground and hold myself accountable to it. I hired a writing coach, set deadlines for myself, and wrote a pretty voluminous amount considering the time I had available.
But then...the book I thought I was writing shape-shifted and I suddenly found myself reconsidering everything I thought I wanted to say.
And then, a few months later, the pandemic hit and threw my whole life structure out of balance. And then, just as life was becoming predictable again, I started to struggle with (fairly routine) health issues that impacted the time and energy I had to write.
In all of that, I held tight. I was not going to let anything take this book goal away from me. I would make it happen, no matter what (hello stubborn streak).
But then...I started accepting my life as it was instead of as I had planned for it to be. I listened again to my hopes and dreams and realized they had shifted. I began to trust that what had unfolded and what is continuing to unfold, and I decided to cooperate (allow!) that unfolding instead of swimming so, so hard against it.
That release made room for me to write you this note.
That release made room for me to embrace and expand my hopes and goals for creating and sharing journaling resources and experiences.
What will you release, fellow journaler? What will you allow? What room will you create?
This months journal prompts invite you to reflect on just that. Happy journaling!
In our prompts this month I've intentionally left the idea of release quite broad to give you lots of room to decide for yourself how this theme fits within your unique circumstances. I'm using the word "something" throughout, which can mean anything you'd like, but here are a few ideas to get your thoughts flowing.
The "something" named in these prompts could include:
1) What is something that are you currently holding tightly in your life that is consuming a lot of mental or emotional energy? What impact is this act of holding on having on other areas of your life?
2) What is something you'd like to release but haven't been able to let go just yet? What fears, concerns, or worries are contributing to your difficulties releasing this?
3) Close your eyes, then make a tight fight with each hand, then slowly open each hand, noticing the sensations you feel in your body. Repeat several times. What did you notice about how it felt to move between closed and open hands? How might this connect with how it feels mentally and emotionally to release something?
4) What is something you released in the past that has made room for something you're grateful for in the present? How did this release come about? What difference has it made for you?
5) Imagine you spent a whole week accepting your life exactly at it is, without putting any effort or worry into a desire for you or your circumstances to be different in any way. What would you most appreciate about a week like this? What would be most challenging about a week like this?
October is here and with it, lots of opportunities for play.
In my corner of the world, this month holds the best weather we have all year with sunny days, crisp air, supremely comfortable temperatures, and gorgeous sunrises. It makes it easy to get outside, explore, and just be present to the little pleasures life holds for us.
I've already got my calendar of fun lined up, including visiting a pumpkin patch and meandering down a spooky trail beautifully created by our local art museum. At some point, I'll for sure put on my favorite fuzzy bat costume, which looks precisely silly enough to make me feel carefree and a little wild.
If I'm honest with myself, though, play is not as much a part of my life as I'd like for it to be a lot of the time. It's easy for me to fall into patterns of taking myself and my responsibilities too seriously, squeezing out opportunities to lighten up, get imaginative, and let loose.
Can you relate?
When I think about the last year plus and the turmoil we have all lived through (and continue to live through), it seems to me many of us have grown more serious, heavier--and that fun, play, and adventure have more often gotten buried beneath the weight of it all. Even without all the added stress of a pandemic and more, adulthood can easily feel like a series of chores if we're not intentional about leaving some things undone to make room for delight.
So I'm inviting us to intentionally play this month, in our journaling and in our living. We are more than what we get done in a day--we deserve to treat ourselves to play, don't we?
Play that opens us, play that frees us, play that brings laughter bubbling up from our bellies, play that enlivens us, play that reconnects us with our fabulously messy humanness...it's all so worth it.
Here are your monthly prompts, one for each week. Feel free to journal them as ordered or in any other way that works best for you. I hope this prompts bring a little more play, fun, and even silliness into your days this month and onward!
1) When did you last "play", meaning did something purely for fun rather that for any serious or practical purpose? Describe what you did and how you felt during and after that activity as best you can. What does this experience tell you about the role of "play" in your life?
2) What is a motto or mantra (a simple, memorable phrase) about play that you want to live by? This could be inspired by a song, a quote, an image, or just spring up spontaneously from within you. What would be different in your life in this motto or mantra were to guide everything you do?
3) We're going to go ahead and play IN our journal with something imaginative here: If you could be any animal for a day, which one would you be and what would you do? What would you most enjoy about being that animal?
4) As you look back on the past two weeks, how would you rate your overall experiences on a scale of one to ten, one being "completely serious", ten being "ridiculously fun"? Pick a number and write it down. What contributed to that balance? What balance would you like to aim for over the next two weeks? Pick a new number and write it down.
Hi there, I'm Laurie, a private practice therapist and an avid journaler. I write about the intersection between journaling and therapy, helping you cultivate greater emotional and relational wellness via journaling pathways filled with self-compassion, self-nurture, self-discovery, & self-trust.