My name is Susan Michael Barrett. I’m a teacher, writer, and bird-watcher with a remarkable job. I listen as people unravel personal difficulty using open-ended questions. Here is a two-minute hello.
And, a little more.
Twenty-some years ago in a crack-of-light-seeping-through sort of way, I began to notice that my unresolved experiences negatively affected other experiences. I felt uncomfortable, sort of like sitting on a sand burr but pretending it wasn’t there. The ever-so-slight, constant prick became a deeper discomfort caused by my inability and unwillingness to sit with unpleasant feelings.
Then something happened: my son died unexpectedly.
With the help of family and friends, teachings*, therapy, workshops, books, silent retreats, and the gut-honest and spunky-real courage of others who use personal adversity as a gateway to insight, I began to look within, feel and heal.
Raw and vulnerable, I created a list of questions to face my problems. Hesitantly open and a little curious, I began a question-guided writing practice.
- I wrote about experiences such as lying to myself and others about how my son died and then seeing how that denial helped me initially survive. (He died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs obtained illegally.)
- I wrote about becoming aware of and acknowledging my part in difficulty.
- I wrote about my heart-hardening despair and a conscious choice to soften, which allowed me to grieve and connect with all others experiencing loss.
- I wrote about feeling weighed down holding onto my son’s things and then an inner lightness when I let them go.
- I wrote about feeling disconnected and then exhilarated and connected when a hummingbird flew into my classroom and landed at my feet.
- I wrote about the mysterious experience of hearing a woman crying in an airport bathroom—her son had just died—and wordlessly holding her as she wept, realizing that there are some things about life I just do not know and cannot explain.
Writing responses to the questions changed the way I see, work with, and respond to my experiences. That writing practice is what I now call Wonder Anew.