It is a new year. Inside Vermont’s women’s prison, the sense of change, of review and renewal, permeates the circle as we meet for the first time since the holidays. We open with John O’Donohue’s powerful poem, “For a New Beginning” (see Prompt of the Week for full text). The women nod vigorously, underline phrases that hold their attention, vie to be first to share their understanding of the poem. Clearly, they are eager to grab their pens and spend 20 minutes writing their hearts out. And they do. After which we read our writing around the circle.
Each face tells how spellbound its listening owner is as we take turns sharing our desires for our own new beginnings. One of the women observes how everyone has something they want to change; and yet how different the things are, how differently they are written about.
Waiting moment by moment to hear “today!,” JL continues to bide her time prior to release – a day she has been anticipating for a couple of weeks now. Meanwhile, she joyfully joins the circle which, in her words, ‘opened a lightness and ease of the anxiety I had been holding for the unknown.’ Below, her writing from the evening’s group:
‘HOLD NOTHING BACK; LEARN TO FIND EASE IN RISK’
from ‘A New Beginning,’ by John O’Donohue
How is this possible? Doesn’t the word ‘risk’ itself evoke feelings of danger, insecurity, and fear? It’s risky to dive off a cliff into water below. How do I know I won’t be crushed by rocks unseen beneath the surface of blue?
Holding nothing back is still, however, my greatest desire for this year. I want to live in this skin, this beautifully tangled mess of eccentricity, imperfection, and emotion. I want to let my light shine. I can feel the glow growing, warmth, humor; a spectacular array of characteristics that have made me the person I am today.
I want to risk things larger than a cliff-dive into the ocean: living my dreams, allowing myself to accept that I am a writer, growth without a man to fall back on (or to have to hold up, which has generally been my life’s scenario). I want to be at ease with the fact that I love myself, and don’t need or care about the way others perceive me.
I want to be courageous and prove the doubters wrong. I have been burning for far too long; I have scars so deep they reach my soul. With all that burning, there must be a light of some kind and I see it . . . through my sober eyes, through my laughter, through the reflections of loved ones beginning to see possibility in me once again.
So, how is this possible? I may not have all the answers yet; but ask me again next year, because that is exactly what I intend to do . . . release, unclench, believe that anything is possible. This is my new beginning.