Bright Side of the Road One never knows how one thing may lead to another, the synchronicity of it all. My neighbor called to talk about removing a fallen tree branch on our shared property line. I asked how things were going, she hesitated a moment and said "well my sister just had a double mastectomy."

We talked a bit more and then I offered "I have a wonderful book to share with you from a friend of mine, Anne Marie Bennett, a writer and SoulCollage® facilitator."

Breast cancer touches all of our lives, I lost my teacher/sister/mentor Ellen to the disease in 2005…in honor of Ellen I am glad to share Anne Marie's book "Bright Side of the Road" as part of her blog book tour…

Michele: We are in the surrendering time with the Scorpio energies. Your book is all about letting go, going with the flow, and your inner struggle with that. Any insights?

Anne Marie: Yes!  You nailed it right on the head, Michele!  My Bright Side of the Road journey with breast cancer was really one long trail of incidents that helped me to let go of my resistance to what was happening to me. I had to let go of how I thought I should feel, act, and look.  I had to let go of the direction I thought my life’s journey was leading me in. I had to let go of any ideas of what I was supposed to look like. I had to let go of preconceived notions of where my support would come from.

I recently came across a Deepak Chopra quote: Happiness is a continuation of happenings which are not resisted. This speaks to me of the magic of acceptance, which was one of the key factors on my Bright Side journey.  Surrendering to what is. There is real magic in that, even if (maybe especially if!) what you are surrendering to seems awful and dark and scary.

Michele: The story of breast cancer touches so many of us these days.  What has Breast Cancer taught you?

Anne Marie: The best thing that my breast cancer taught me is that I’m not alone. Seems like an obvious fact, but let me explain.  When I received my diagnosis, I had a loving husband who was there for me every step of the way. I had my brothers and their wives, my nieces and nephews. I had friends and coworkers who meant the world to me. But all my life, my tendency has been towards isolation.  Somewhere in childhood, I learned (most likely from my mother, a stubborn Yankee!) that I was strong only if I could do things myself. On my own. Not needing help from anyone else.

So my breast cancer was a huge wake-up call for me in that regard! Suddenly, I COULDN’T do everything myself. I learned that just because I needed help making dinner and taking a shower and remembering who I was, that I was still a strong woman anyway. I learned to be open to what others were longing to give me: love, friendship, support, encouragement.

But most importantly, I learned that I wasn’t spiritually alone. I had been isolating myself from Spirit for several years when my breast cancer came along. This is the very best lesson I learned: that the Divine (which I choose to call Spirit) is with me always.  Always.

Michele: The divine feminine is all about the breast, nurturing the self: body mind and spirit.  How are you Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz?

Anne Marie: I was working at a regional music theater at the time of my cancer journey, and we produced “The Wizard of Oz” when I was going through my radiation treatments. I remember sitting in the audience on opening night, moved to tears so many times. I couldn’t figure out why this show was making me cry!  Later, processing it in my journal, I realized why. Here is an excerpt from Bright Side of the Road about this:

There is Dorothy in her blue gingham dress, carrying Toto tucked under her arm.
There’s the Scarecrow who thinks he doesn’t have a brain but in reality is the smartest one of them all.

There’s the Tin Man, complaining that he doesn’t have a heart when he’s really the most loving of them all. And there’s the Cowardly Lion who so dearly longs for courage.

When I see him trembling with fear, I know exactly how he feels. I know how they all feel. Especially Dorothy, who simply wants to go home. I find myself moved to quiet tears several times during the show. Four characters following the Yellow Brick Road in search of things that seem so out of reach when in reality they already possess them. I see myself in every one of them.

Michele: How did you find your way to SoulCollage® from this experience?  

Anne Marie: Living with breast cancer helped me to re-prioritize my life. After my treatments, I went back to work at the theater part-time (instead of full-time) so I could focus more time on my art.

I attended an Art and Soul Retreat in Oregon in 2005, so I could take workshops in Altered Books, Mixed Media Collage, and Watercolor from leading teachers in those fields. One of the classes being offered was SoulCollage® and for me, it was love at first card!

This was three years after my breast cancer journey, and there were still feelings and fears going on inside me about it all.  Almost immediately, I sat down and created several SoulCollage® cards about my cancer journey. Making them and writing with them was one of the best things I did. You can see and read about my Breast Cancer SoulCollage® Cards here.

Michele: Right now we are in the fall time of the year where we harvest seed intentions, what are you working on now?

Anne Marie: Well, right now my main focus is finding ways to get Bright Side of the Road out in the world to more people!  I’m also busy with my SoulCollage® business, KaleidoSoul, as well as my part-time job at a bookstore, and my fabulous husband and beautiful grandchildren.

I love autumn more than any other time of year, so I’m really loving this season. For me, my biggest intention right now is to give myself some time and space every day just to BE, time and space to stay connected to myself on a deep level, and to stay connected to Spirit as well.  For me, the best way to do this is journaling, art journaling, and writing with two of my SoulCollage® cards every day.

When I am connected like that to myself and to Spirit, community connections become much easier and more loving.

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Anne Marie Bennett is a writer, self-taught collage artist, website goddess, cancer survivor and SoulCollage® Facilitator. She received a BS degree in Education from Southern Connecticut State University and has taught people of all ages throughout the East Coast. Anne Marie lives in eastern Massachusetts with her middle-aged husband (also a cancer survivor), two elderly cats and one very playful dog who keeps all of them young-at-heart. She is happiest when she is reading, writing, breathing salt air, dancing, and hugging her beautiful grandchildren.  For more information about Anne Marie’s book, Bright Side of the Road, please visit this page: http://www.annemariebennett.com  Bright Side of the Road is also available on Amazon.com.