Unearthing The Surprise of a Lifetime

surprise of a lifetime

If there’s one thing I have learned by now, it’s to expect the unexpected. Still, I didn’t see this surprise of a lifetime coming.

I’m not talking about COVID-19, although the virus has precipitated a time of collective and personal upheaval and change. Times of transition expose our strengths, vulnerabilities, and cracks which let the light in to reveal new possibilities, if we dare.

Since last mid-October, I’ve been in a contemplative mode, spending most days in relative solitude, stillness, and meditation. Inexplicably I sensed the onset of a time of major transition between one cycle ending and another beginning. I had no idea what the new would be, only that I needed quiet and stillness to hear it.

My 2014 quest, related in Crash Landing, sought to understand how the stories of our ancestors shape us, and how the stories of the land we’ve come from live in us. I realized I’d explored the former but the latter was outstanding. That probably, but not necessarily, meant a sequel work.

In any case, I knew whatever awaited involved deeper excavation of stories that lived in me. I started exploring ways to bring them to awareness.

As it likely involved writing, it seemed prudent to take a writing course to expand my creativity. I began relearning German, my first language and the language of my ancestors for centuries. The language of our culture connects us to our past and therefore our present and sense of self.

I also spent time with old photos I’d found in boxes inherited when my parents moved from their apartment. Who was that fiery little red-headed girl and what creative potential did she possess? What gifts did she bring to share with the world? What stories and well-intended, accepted cultural and social expectations had usurped them, sending them into hiding, sealed beneath layers of protection? I’d unearthed many of them but I knew more clamored for expression.

It felt like a cycle of nature—going into hibernation after a long season of tending and harvesting, and allowing the land to rest until spring. At the same time, I hadn’t lost sight of the distinct calling I heard in Alberta’s Writing-On-Stone Park in September, telling me I needed to return; that the land had stories I needed to hear and share.

Of course, I have no idea what I’m going to hear. And stories get shared many ways other than through the written voice. But write fiction? I write non-fiction! Yet, that’s what I’ve heard in the stillness, accompanied by an image of a sunflower sprout poking its head through the spring soil. That creative energy has waited a long time to sprout and if not now, when? Now it’s up to me to nurture and keep the weeds out, knowing help is always available for the asking, and listening.

It’s exhilarating, liberating, daunting, and terrifying. It evokes the feeling that overcame me in 2003 as I headed west on my motorcycle along the north shore of Lake Superior. It was Day 3 of a two-month road trip, off to parts unknown that time too. I’d just liberated myself from a marriage and corporate career, both well-past their Best Before Date.

My parents read us many stories but quashed artistic interests, other than music. Artistic creativity was frivolous, not valuable, and impractical, especially at the expense of survival.

There are great erudite works that have changed lives, spawned personal and collective positive change, and created meaning in their readers, but there are also a lot of poorly written books cranked out. I admit to a general bias against the intrinsic value of fiction works and their writers, as artists, not beings. Of course, all the same could be said about non-fiction. These are stories I need to unravel and be aware of lest they get in the way of my creativity.

I’m starting with short stories and loving it, even though I have no idea where this road is taking me. Finally, the inherent creativity in the little red-headed girl has voice. It’s going to take time to get the feel of this and even longer to get up the nerve to share, so don’t expect to see anything too soon. And it may change again. But for now, let’s see what emerges!

I’d love to hear if you’ve had similar surprise of a lifetime experiences. Please share them in the comments.

Photo credit: ikewinski on Visual hunt / CC BY


Healer, author, and motorcycle aficionado Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery. No helmet or jacket required.

8 Comments on “Unearthing The Surprise of a Lifetime

  1. Good luck. Sounds exciting. I too have always contemplated trying my hand at fiction. I’ve always put it off, imagining that when the time is right I will know. (To be fair, I do use my poetry to spin narratives. Here I am 69. Well, maybe I should get started! I am inspired by your example and look forward to what you come out with.

  2. Good for you! I have been wondering why takes so long – for some of us – to find a voice, or to finally let the voice come out. I have been exploring ways to let my voice expand…always loved to write, poems, very short stories but they have been closed in drawers and hidden in folders in my computer. Recently I took a course in poetry and have the courage to share a couple of poems with other people. It was scary, but I am happy I did it. I write stories for my grandkids but there is this craving to do some more and there I stumble… hoping the online course (“light your creative fire”) I just enrolled will help a bit, maybe a surprise will emerge from that! Looking forward to read more from you, fiction or non-fiction!

    • We speak the same language Cecilia. Once we recognize that heart calling, there’s no turning back. It doesn’t go away no matter how much we try and hide it. Something meaningful awaits and the only way to explore it is to let it out. One thing I do is to think about how I’d feel if I got to a stage in life where I hadn’t followed that nudge, and now it’s too late. How would I feel? All we need to do is say yes, take a step, and stay open to the possibilities. It doesn’t need to be grandiose. Once we release our works (or actions), we don’t know where they’ll go or who they’ll touch. I can’t wait to read your poetry!

  3. Paul Theroux said: “Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us.” I think that’s too negative, or pessimistic, or assumptive that ordinary life is not in itself eloquent. Maybe go with Virginia Woolf: “The truer the facts, the better the fiction.”

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