Coffee with a Ghost Writer
The word “Becoming” is very meaningful to me as it is the word I chose to describe the process of life change that I realized I had discovered really works. I first articulated it in my book “Surviving Cancer and Other Tough Stuff.”
This was the result of coming through the experience inside my feeling self it as well as observing it from a more detached perspective, as if from the outside, documenting it and journalling about it. What was I doing that was making such an awful experience bearable and even meaningful? Self-teachable and self-learningful? What was I teaching myself? How was this like previous successes in navigating life changes?
Later, I knew I had come up with something useful to readers and received lots of feedback to confirm this, and presented some related workshops at places like Unity churches. But cancer is such a scary word. Most people who DON”T have cancer are not going to pick up a book with the c word in the title. So I extracted the essence of the Becoming Process and created an illustrated pocket guide (“The Becoming Process: A New Paradigm for Life Change”).
Later, I applied the concept in a book about weight loss (“Lose Weight in Alpha State: Weight Loss as a Joyous Spiritual Journey). I still use it in writing and coaching, not because it is a strict form that I worship or expect other people to worship. But because it’s practical. It works and it’s alive within me as an archetypal process. As I’ve been taking a fresh look at it lately, when the word “becoming” showed up in a friend’s post about a letter, it got my attention. Especially so, because I so resonate in my beliefs, life and writings with these words: “You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.” That is what “becoming” means to me.
Here’s the whole letter to a high school class written by one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut:
Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.
Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
Thank you, Mr. Vonnegutt! Your books inspired and excited me, made me laugh and think, and encouraged me to be my wryest, weirdest, and most spiritual artist self. I know you were a coffee drinker, because I remember those “I’m a coffee achiever” ads. When you showed up in one, I thought you must be having a really fun time cashing those whopping checks! Hilarious; and way to go! So, for this and a multitude of reasons, I hoist my mug of dark roast to you. And if perchance you feel inspired to whisper cosmic jokes and whimsical notions in my ear, I want you to know, I’m listening.
Your friend across the imaginary veil,