Helen Haskell Remien operates The Joy Center in Ishpeming, Michigan.
It is a creative sanctuary for Body. Mind. Spirit.
I’m Not Too Much For Me!
I’ve always known that life is a wild ride, that it is meant to be fun, that we are hard-wired to feel good. I knew this as a kid growing up in coastal Maine. The sea and its shores were an expansive playground for a little girl, and, from an early age, I felt an equally wild playground inside of me. I was a kid with an abundance of energy, and, sometimes, roaming outside on the rocks and the seaweed, bounding through the rolling waves, screeching with the gulls, I was in my glory, definitely not too much for me! Other times, however, on rainy days, confined to our box of a cottage, not knowing what to do with all this boundless energy, I sensed that I might be too much for my sensitive mother.
And, later, at school, I learned to not be too much, to quiet the inner voice that said that it is fun to color outside the lines, to talk sometimes in a loud voice, to let your mind wander at other times, quiet and deep and undisturbed. I learned to follow the rules, to go for the A’s and the gold medals, to channel all that exuberance into swimming and studying and playing it safe – except when I didn’t, when it would leak out in a show-off remark at the dinner table that would send my siblings into peals of laughter, or, in school, in a whispered joke or a paper airplane sent flying or a note passed to a fellow student. How could a girl sit still or keep from chattering or singing off-key or showing off all of the time?!? And these energy leaks, these spurts of unbridled life, reminded me that there was something else, something outside the box of propriety, that there was an ocean of laughter and life ready to bust itself free.
And that has been my spirit-driven quest these past thirty years – to welcome the spurts of unbridled life into my body, my being, to listen to something deeper than the voices that have told me that it is too much, that I am too much, to listen instead to my own inner voice, the voice that says, “Life is too big to fit into a box of rules, that it is a wild ocean of creativity, a joy-ride adventure, and, it is up to each one of us to navigate its waters. Along the way, I have discovered practices that not only keep my vessel on its course, but also help me explore wider and deeper worlds of what is possible. Since little girlhood in Maine, I have played outdoors daily, with gusto and vigor, and this adventuring, near and far, is one of my most sacred practices. And for over twenty years, I have traipsed through the inner landscape as well with a daily writing practice, in time, acquiring a masters degree in creative writing and several publications and a wealth of satisfaction. It has been especially satisfying to share this practice with others in my teaching as adjunct at the university level and, later, in a multitude of workshops. The practice of yoga, another way that I play in the wild inner waters, has also been a joy to share with students these past ten years. And the joy is ten-fold as I, Helen of Joy, have dreamed into being a Joy Center, a gorgeous box of a cottage nestled in the woods and open to community, a place where we can bust down our boxes of what we thought our lives were supposed to look like, and, instead, listen to what we, from the inside, really want our lives to be like. Joy Center is a place where we can play and dream and be loud and quiet and realize we’re not too much – and that we can be so much more.
But, it was four years ago, when an inner voice nudged me up onto the stage, cheered me on to share those stories and poems and adventures, my quest for living life full-out, that I found my glory again. I was in my element! This was a blast! This was as fun as straddling the bow of my father’s lobsterboat, as fun as the time I swung through the air on the bar of a trapeze! This was a quiet contemplation and an uproarious whoop, a way to expand and explore and grow. And, over time, this thing that was so much fun evolved into a one-woman show, I’m Not Too Much For Me!. And, because I am ever-evolving and continually checking in to see what feels most alive in the moment, the show is ever-evolving as well. Each performance has become my living breathing edge. And each performance is an invitation for us all to step out center-stage in our lives and ask ourselves, “What brings me most alive?” “What are my edges of the moment?” “How good can I stand it?”
Each performance is an invitation for each one of us to proclaim with conviction, “I’m not too much for me!”