The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are.
This guest post from Colleen Reagon shows that becoming who we are is about connecting the narrative and listening to our heart.
This is the fourth guest post in our Wholehearted Stories series on Quiet Writing. I invited readers to consider submitting a guest post on their wholehearted story. You can read more here – and I’m still keen for more contributors!
Quiet Writing celebrates self-leadership in wholehearted living and writing, career and creativity. This community of voices, with each of us telling our own story of what wholehearted living means, is a valuable and central part of this space. In this way, we can all feel connected on our various journeys and not feel so alone. Whilst there will always be unique differences, there are commonalities that we can all learn from and share to support each other.
I am honoured to have my dear friend, Colleen Reagon, as a ‘Wholehearted Stories’ contributor. Colleen is a long-term reader and supporter of Quiet Writing. We’ve enjoyed regular connection over time via the creative community of Instagram and recently into the coaching realm, where Colleen was one of my first coaching clients. Colleen and I are kindred souls in many ways and I am so appreciative of her camaraderie on our creative journeys.
My sincere thanks to Colleen for the contribution of her story. I am grateful for the original images Colleen shares in this piece – her photography is such a delight. Colleen’s story is a journey around becoming and connecting knowing and doing. It highlights that whilst there are risks in making change and following through on our desires, it can result in us feeling much more aligned – read on to find out more!
Beginning the conversation
Although the desire to live a wholehearted life has been with me for a long time, I’ve only
recently stepped onto the path to becoming who I really am.
My husband and I have spent a lifetime in Adelaide — bringing up children, renovating our
bungalow, running a business and pursuing a professional writing life.
About five years ago, the children grown and flown the nest, I found myself out of step with
life. I’d drifted out of working in our business and given up my corporate freelance writing
work, with plans to change direction. Creative non-fiction was luring me. I read books,
completed courses and wrote lists. But I was treading water in a stagnant pond with no way
out. Although I was unhappy with my lot, inertia and halfheartedness kept me company.
My husband and I talked many times about changing our lives. We made decisions, initiated
plans, then allowed our comfortable life to float along. We didn’t have the courage of our
convictions. The smallest obstacle was enough to thwart our plans. Life was too easy. We
lived comfortably, our business moved along without much effort and we stayed in a rut with
our dreams blowing in the wind.
Until two years ago.
Life was brown — that stagnant pond colour. I felt isolated although I told myself that I
preferred solitude, that I worked well on my own. The trouble was that I wasn’t really
working. I was fiddling around the edges with no real plan and it turned out that my husband
was bored with the business. It was a habit which was weighing him down. We began a new
conversation about changing our life and realised that it was then or never. The change
required stamina and energy and if we left it much longer we might not have the energy.
That summer we made a real plan. Sell our business and our house, find a parcel of land in
the country near the sea, build the dream house and live a more creative life. We pored over
real estate advertising, planned the dream house, and imagined how our lives were going to
look. The perfect life — just the right balance of leisure, engagement and creative endeavour.
But reality has a way of sneaking in. It wasn’t so easy to sell our business, the house needed
work before we could put it up for sale, the perfect parcel of land in the country was illusive,
and I still had no plan for my work life.
I was a writer but I felt a fraud. There were no clients. I finished my courses but hadn’t
submitted one article for publication. Heck, I wasn’t even showing up to the page regularly!
The more I thought about being a writer the more despondent I became.
Discovering what matters
2016 rolled around and summer turned to autumn. We were no closer to our dream of a sea-change. The business wasn’t sold, the house was still awaiting its repairs and my life continued to blow in the wind. The dream was starting to evaporate like all our previous plans.
Searching for direction, motivation, a guide to change, a spark, I was reading three books at once. Mark Nepo’s book, ‘The one life we’re given’, was a catalyst. He says that we are all born with a gift, we just need to find and nurture it. As I read, I felt wretched and guilty. There was no need to search for my gift, it was there. Had been there all along. A passion for words and writing — and I wasn’t nurturing it. He says,” The ultimate purpose of the gift is to exercise the heart into inhabiting its aliveness.” Not much exercising going on either!
Mark Nepo says, “Our dreams, goals and ambitions are all kindling, fuel for the heart to exercise its aliveness, to bring our gift into the world, to discover what matters.” Well, the kindling was piled up—enough to light a bonfire of epic proportions—but the spark was missing. I read on, looking for a simple solution, something to quick-start my heart into aliveness.
And there it was. The words scintillated from the page:
Aliveness shows itself in response to wholeheartedness, when we can say yes to life, work with what we’re given, and stay in relationship — to everything.
These words brought an awareness of what really matters.
The changing season from summer to autumn marked the transition from inertia to action. It
was a busy season. On our annual Italian journey, I gathered material for travel pieces I
planned to write. We cast our net wider and explored the south coast of New South Wales for
a piece of land, and resumed discussions about our dream plan. We began the work to prepare
our house for market, we put our business up for sale. And I said yes to showing up at my
We dared to make some decisions and our plan was finally gathering momentum.
Becoming a wild writer
Nurturing my gift of writing became my foremost intention. Paying attention to it consistently however, was difficult. I turned to books again. This time, Stephanie Dowrick’s ‘Creative journal writing: the art and heart of reflection’ came to my aid. The title of the first chapter, “Writing a journal may change your life”, was written for me.
Journal writing wasn’t new to me, I’d tried many times but didn’t keep it up. This time however, I felt a new purpose. It was a way to exercise my heart into aliveness.
I bought a beautiful journal, created a morning ritual and sat at my desk every day and wrote. The exercises in Stephanie’s book were liberating. I felt a new freedom to explore what mattered to me, to be creative not only with my writing, but in my thinking about the future. I managed to vanquish my obsession with perfectionism, a hangover from corporate writing and editing days. I became a wild writer. My daily wild writing led me through autumn, in step with our decluttering, repairing and real estate activities. I started a blog and recorded my thoughts as a way to be accountable. I became more present. And I found pleasure in my writing for the first time in years.
A shift in imagination
Autumn moved slowly into winter. I observed my nectarine tree from my desk each morning, the leaves changing colour and slowly dropping to the ground and still some clinging stubbornly to the branches. Then one day, the breeze brought the last of the leaves down, a golden-hued carpet covering the ground. And like my tree suddenly surrendering to what is, I too felt a shift. A shift in imagination. Thoughts which had been cluttering my mind suddenly drifted away and I found myself writing a few simple questions in my journal — the most salient of all: “What if?”.
Asking “What if?” opened the door to new possibilities, and the space created in my mind allowed me to begin to write a new vision for my life.
Writing a journal is an adventure in self-discovery and more: clarity, insight, truth, developing my authentic voice and most importantly, focus, are gifts I have acquired along the way.
And the richest benefit, beautifully expressed by Stephanie:
Writing a journal is a way of honoring your own life, taking it seriously even as you open to the energy and spaciousness that creativity brings.
Mark Nepo was the catalyst for exercising my heart into aliveness. He shone a light on what it meant to be wholehearted. Stephanie Dowrick gave me permission to explore who I wanted to become.
Following my heart
It was another year before our house was sold, the business as well, and a further three months before we made the trek to the south coast of New South Wales. It was twelve months of stressful activity, uncertainty and at times, doubt about our decision to pack up and close down our life. Adelaide was our home for 25 years and to take a leap into the unknown with just a dream and some fragile plans in our pockets was a scary thought if we allowed ourselves to think too deeply on it.
During that time I continued my journal writing — gaining new insights and developing my intuition. I felt a new freedom to extend my creativity. I took more photographs. I started to draw, a desire since childhood which I thought I didn’t have the talent for. It turns out that anyone can draw if taught some basic techniques. It’s like anything you want to master, all you need is the desire and the commitment to practice regularly.
I followed my heart through my journal writing, coming to the conclusion that this new chapter of my life required me to create a new story. One which honours all aspects of my life — freelance writing, travelling and communication professional. It was time to weave all these strands together into an authentic foundation for the person I was becoming.
Creating the new story
I needed help to create my new story and serendipitously another alliance was formed. This time not through books, but in person. Terri Connellan had been busy working on her own major life transition from government employee to coach and writer. As part of her learning, she offered the opportunity of six sessions of career coaching. I believe it was a gift as the result of, as Stephanie Dowrick says, “being open to the energy and spaciousness that creativity brings” — a benefit from writing a journal.
It’s been an invaluable experience having someone to collaborate with, talk over ideas and support me in my quest to find the essence of my new story. I’m weaving the strands of my work life, my travels and my professional writing into this story. It is a strong foundation. When I took the first steps along this path, I was all too ready to discard what came before. Through my journal writing, my reading and my work throughout the coaching sessions, I’ve come to value these rich layers in my life’s story. The process of writing my journal especially, has been fundamental in revealing what matters most to me and has helped me to find a fresh approach to bring these aspects into my new narrative.
On the path to becoming who I really am
Winter has turned to spring, a time of renewal and growth. A perfect season for new beginnings. Our life in Adelaide is a finished chapter. We have moved to our temporary home in New South Wales with its green rolling hills, pristine beaches and clear running rivers. Our transition has been fraught with challenges, anxiety and apprehension. However, our dreams are in place and our plans are spread out before us.
I hold dear many memories of my life in Adelaide — our home with its beautiful garden, children growing up, significant occasions celebrated, the orchard whose abundant harvest I will miss this summer and the rich cultural activities which I probably took for granted. But our new life here has begun. There are summer vegetables planted, we are exploring the treasures this region has to offer and the path ahead is illuminated by our purpose.
My wholehearted story is being created every day as I put one step in front of the other, one word and then another on the page. I’m holding onto quiet hopes of celebrations of dreams big and small. I’m walking the path, becoming who I really am.
About Colleen Reagon
Colleen is a freelance writer and editor who loves words and how we use them. A communication professional for 25 years, she helps clients—especially small business—communicate effectively. She recently moved to the south coast of New South Wales to further her quest to live a passionate life. She has bibliophilic leanings, believes she was Italian in a past life and is often found with a camera in hand. You can find Colleen’s personal stories at A passionate life and photos of things that give her joy on Instagram
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