The Stone Path

by Donna McLaughlin Schwender

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Last Monday, I was schlepping my bulging luggage from Penn Station in New York City to the Port Authority building located ten blocks away. It was the final sweaty stage of my weeklong journey to Atlanta (which actually involved a higher percentage of moisture loss via cleansing tears than it did putrid perspiration). For most people, that might not sound like a big deal, but for this small-town homebody whose last traveling adventure was to Kentucky in 2008, it was HUGE.

I’ve been meaning to blog about all the amazing things I learned at the inaugural Design Your Life Camp, but whenever I sit down to process everything and to journal my thoughts, I find myself staring off into space – sometimes with a little bit of spittle forming at the corners of my gaping mouth. The only conclusion I’ve reached is, to try to summarize the event into one blog post would be impossible. That…and I should keep my mouth closed when I’m thinking.

When people ask me to describe the experience, the one-word synopsis that does easily spill over my lips is “life-altering.” Even that seems like an inadequate definition though.

So why this blog post after having not checked in here for the last ninety days? Because it’s time to get back to my OWN page.

In the last year, I’ve not only completed three levels of the online VerbTribe writing course that forever changed my life for the better, but I’ve had seven pieces accepted for publication. A year ago, I never thought any of that would be possible.

It’s been a year of learning about process and product and finding a balance between the two. Not for one second do I think I’ve mastered anything, but I’m finally at peace with the path of my life. Maybe that’s because I’m now on a path of my own creation – one where I’m no longer embarrassed when I describe myself as a writer.

And that brings me to the stones in the photo above. As part of our goodie bag at camp, each camper received two unique rocks that I like to think are pertinent to where we are in our individual lives. I confess that my first two thoughts about the “let go of judgement” stone were (1) “Oh my God…they misspelled judgement!” (I subscribe to the judgment version) and (2) “Oh dear…it has a chip of paint missing!” [Insert “light bulb moment” here!]

I was home for two days before I even noticed that both rocks had a heart theme – one with a heart painted directly on it and the other heart-shaped. [Insert second “light bulb moment” here!] How does someone who professes to be a heart-stone hunter – so much so that it’s part of the title and tagline of her own blog – MISS such a thing???

What this says to me is I’m entering a much-needed period of refinement and refocusing. For too long I simply refused to acknowledge my desire to write. When I finally did, I reveled in being a part of the big picture – learning, experimenting, reaching out. Camp’s focus on creativity, courage, and community was a massive injection of “you got this” mojo juice.

And now I sit here asking myself, “What do you want to do with all of this?” The key words being “you” and “want.” What I know today is that I will (try to) not be judgmental about any decisions I make and I will (try to) love my life as it continues to unfold. For today, that’s good enough. In fact, it’s damn good…