Tag Archives: memoir

Falling to Pieces: Excerpt from Memoir


This is an excerpt from my Memoir

Through the Woods to the Sea: A Journey of Becoming Me

It seems a long time time ago I felt like this. Life has changed several times. Life is changing now as I live day to day. Sometimes moments have these feeling but mindfulness and the changes I have been through help pull me back into the beauty of life. All I have to do is look out over the ocean to remember that life has its waves and flow and eventually the sea will be calm again.

Falling to Pieces

The outlook is shadowy and indistinct. I feel empty and non-existent. Nothing makes any sense and answers are lost in the distant fog. I have been wandering aimlessly for years unable to regain any focus. This confusion is unsettling. Inadequacy and doubt like vertigo distorts my balance. I fearfully wander in a vast and empty, yet deeply emotional wilderness.

As I wrestle with the darkness, a rush of panic rips a hole in my heart. I struggle to catch my breath as I drown in the depths of emotions that are rising and falling, like storm waves of a violent hurricane crashing against a rocky shoreline. An immobilizing lack of confidence and fear has forced me into a junction of significant change.

I find myself in a place where I have lost my sense of identity, questioning the structure and the rules of the world and my faith in God. I am standing in a time of uncertainty with negative thoughts, fears, and judgments escalating all the voices in my head.

My life is falling apart. I am watching my life fall away, piece by piece. I have even helped pack it up and send it on its way. I am about to become an empty nester. My daughters, Nikki, Sam, and Monica are going off to begin their own lives as young adults. It should be exciting to watch my girls all flying off to begin their lives full of new discoveries and adventures.                                                                        

Yet I am overwhelmed with fear. Panic racing through my body and mind. I am falling into an abyss. The only thing that has mattered in my life, my daughters, are now leaving me. The lifeline that held me together, my reason to go through each day is abandoning me. Being their mother has been my focus, the central core of my day-to-day life. I have been nothing but a stay at home mom for seventeen years.

Now I can get back into real life, go out into the real world. Time to get a real job and take care of myself. I dread real life and the real world. I explore job opportunities. Every resume I send out and every response I receive to my queries makes me nauseous. As I get closer and closer to landing a position that would take me back into the ‘real world’ – I get so sick to my stomach that I am throwing up.

I don’t want to live in this so-called ‘real world’ or live the way I am expected to live it. I have never felt comfortable in that world of corporate life and material things. I know that if I take one step in that direction, I will once again fill my life from a place of doing what I am expected to do, and doing what I think I should be doing. I will only be trying to please other people. I will be making choices and decisions based on circumstances and social expectations.

Most of my life I have built around a false sense-of-self or no-self. It was built from outside circumstances, events, expectations, and demands. If I stay here and rebuild my life from this empty shell, I will just reconstruct another false self and false life. I know exactly where this road will take me. I know that I will live in a void of emptiness inside. This thought scares the hell out of me.

I don’t want to continue living this way.  I have been trying to play the part I have created for myself and the part others expected of me. My whole life has become a play in which I have been pretending day after day. I have been a character in the play but have felt like I was in the audience watching my life rather than being a part of it. I fear I am being sucked into the direction of expectations and the responsible path. If I go that path, I will step into a world I don’t like and don’t want to be in anymore.

I know that this person I have been-have become-is a cover, a hard shell around my heart that I created. I fashioned myself from a core that was broken, pushed down and controlled when I was young. From that point on I hid who I really was. I hid in shame of who I was. I have lived my life with a deep-rooted belief that I am not good enough. Who I am inside is not acceptable in the outside world. I believed I had to become who I was expected to be. I never felt comfortable in that shell.

Yet the pull to get sucked into living a facade is strong. I am at my weakest moment. I have always tried to fit in, to make myself into someone who would be liked and accepted. Yet I have never felt accepted. Even the false creations of myself who were fashioned to be the person others wanted me to be, were not accepted. I have felt rejected and abandoned then and now.

This is the theme of my life, trying to please everyone and pleasing no one in the process. It runs through every choice, every decision I have ever made. Because of these deep-rooted feelings I have isolated myself from life, others and myself. Everything within me is telling me this is the moment to break free but can I? The conflict of following the ‘right path’ and following my soul is paralyzing me. All I can feel is fear and panic.

 My soul has been crying out for years. I have done what I can to pacify it. The thought of continuing to live with this emptiness inside is unbearable to my soul. I don’t want to do that anymore. It has become too painful. The truth of the matter is that I have wanted to run away from my life for years. I have wanted to get out and get away but responsibilities and obligations have kept me trapped. Fear has kept me from doing anything about it. If I stay here, I will drown in the sacrifice of myself. I’ve already given myself away but sacrificing myself knowing full well what will happen to my soul is suicide.

It is time to do some deep soul searching to go within. It seems scary to turn inside when it was in turning inside myself that forced me to live outside myself. How could doing the very thing that sent me into this empty chasm of a person be the solution and answer to becoming my true self? As confusing as this seems I am being drawn into this idea that this is the way out.

Through the Woods to the Sea: A Journey of Becoming Me

For a while I was putting up chapters here but then I got so entrenched in the editing process that I kind of neglected that. After several rewrites and many – many edits and a  title change my memoir is done.

It was published at the end of April and we have been doing a soft release. As I get ready to put it out into the world it is scary exciting! This is after all my life, my story, events and details.

Why would anyone want to read about me? my life?

I hope that in sharing my story other women who have been through challenges, lost their sense-of-self, felt empty or gave up on their dreams to meet the demands of others or the world will feel connected and not alone. I hope it inspires you to believe in yourself and follow your dreams at any age or stage of life.

It is never to late to become your true self and live the life you dreamed about in secret.

It has arrived. Come along and be a part of My Journey of Becoming Me!
Get it on Amazon.com
or at The Mermaid’s Purse and Sugar Island  Bakery              on Topsail Island


update Memoir CoverIn her Memoir, Through the Woods to the Sea: A Journey of Becoming Me, she shares her story, her life, and her journey of stepping out of life to create one. It is one of emotion, hope, perseverance, letting go and beginning again.

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. What a journey you have been and still are on. I laughed, I cried, I rejoiced in your life experiences.” Marie


I’d love to hear your story – send me an email at cathyt@cathyteoste.com or jump onto my facebook page

Step Deeper into Your Dreams

Today is the day I take another step into my life – deeper into the sea of dreams, desires and journey into the next adventure.

My new book, Through the Woods to the Sea: A Journey of Becoming Me is now available. update Memoir Cover

Sharing my story, my life with the world is scary exciting!

Writing being an author has been a long buried dream of mine since I was a little girl, but like I pushed aside my love of the ocean, I buried that dream because I was told it was impractical and unrealistic.

It took fifty years of my life to dig it up and resurrect it. It took almost another ten to write it and find the courage and confidence to rewrite, edit, and publish it.

After writing the rough draft, fear took hold. A friend suggested I test the waters and write a short book on my love of the ocean. That is how Dancing on the Beach came about. A collection of essays expressing deep love and connection to the wisdom of the ocean (501x800)

Rewriting my life story was a long emotional process. I would work on it, have a reader or editor look at it, think about the suggestions then finally rewrite. I went through four different versions and formats before I found the format that fit my story. In hindsight, it was the most logical choice but it took me a roundabout way to get there.

It is my way I guess, I never seem to approach anything in a linear fashion. I love jumping around here and there to see what side trips might be interesting or what I might see or discover.

When I thought about becoming a writer, I never thought about writing personal essay but it is where I found my voice. Writing my own life story wasn’t in the plans either but years ago a teacher had suggested that I write about my experience with dissociation. Years later as I was in the midst of my midlife free fall, other women I shared my story with asked me to write and share it when I arrived.

Truth is arriving at one point just sends me off to another point on the horizon I see. Life is like that. We are never meant to arrive and stay long term just for a while and then to move forward towards something more.

So I have shared my story in hopes it inspires you to free fall or jump into becoming your true self and share it with the world in whatever expression that is for you.

We live life in our experiences expressing our spirit in the present moment

Step Deeper into Your Dreams!

Memoir: Running into the Woods

This is an excerpt from my Memoir

through the Woods to the Sea: Stepping into Myself, Stepping into My Life

By Cathy Teoste

The Woods

Running into the Woods

I have done it. I have run away. I actually got on the plane and flew to Wisconsin. No turning back. No looking back. It is September in North County where the leaves of the trees are already turning, red, yellow, orange and brown.

I have spent the last couple of days visiting with my friend, Myra.  Myra is the reason I am here. This was her suggestion. Several months ago we were having a phone conversation where I said, “I am tired. I can’t deal with all of these changes around me. I just want to go to a retreat center and hide out for a while, but I can’t afford to do that.” Leave it to my friend Myra to find a way. Not two days later she sent me an e-mail with a link. “This might be the answer”, she wrote. “This place sounds just like you and they need volunteers- you can stay for free for 30 hours of service each week. And if you don’t like it I can come and get you and you can stay with me for as long as you need.”

I looked at the website. It looked perfect, but Wisconsin? Why would I go to Wisconsin with the winter coming? The only time I had been there was to visit with Myra. For several days I would return to look at the pictures on the website, but quickly log off, I did not want to go to Wisconsin. One day without thinking I downloaded the application, filled it out and sent it off and forgot about it, until that day of Divine Intervention.

Now Myra is driving me down a highway that is surrounded by woods, nothing and no other car in sight. No signs of any kind of civilization. Our eyes are alert for any sudden movement between the trees. We are more likely to run into a deer then another human being. I have lived in the woods for many years now, but nothing could prepare me for this ride deep into a forest of trees. How far in are we going? Will I be lost to civilization forever?

Finally Myra turns off the paved roadway onto a dirt road heading into the retreat center. We turn a curve, pass a few small cabins, up a small incline and are greeted by an empty parking lot and a silo. I love the woods but what in the world am I doing here in the middle of nowhere? I asked God for a miracle. I have been divinely led here. Why here in the middle of the Wisconsin Woods? I have no idea but I am about to find out.

I walk into the building and into an equally deserted hallway. The silence is deafening. My footsteps echo. I am greeted by a tall thin grey haired women, Sr. Cecy. She shows me around the main building then I follow her down another dirt road to the cabin that will be my home while I am here.

Opening the door exposes everything there is to see. A simple cabin with two twin beds, a small lamp table, a small dresser, a lazy boy chair and a small desk. Hidden behind the open door is a port-a-potty. The cabin has electricity and a gas heater but no running water. It is about 12 feet by 12 feet in size. Much smaller than my bedroom in the four bedroom house I just walked away from. Everyone back home who thought I was crazy would be convinced of that now if they saw where I am going to be living! I much prefer this than remaining there in that empty life or rather the life that they want me to live.

As I unpack the few personal belongs I brought, I pull out my Angel pins, my crystal Angel and my Angel cards. I have believed in Angels all my life. My faith has centered more around Angels than God. Is this another sign that I am staying in a cabin named Holy Angels?

“Angels, lead me, guide me, and show me the way. I really need your help here. I have so much to figure out, so much to heal. I have taken a leap of faith. I am placing my trust in you. Please be with me. If I am to heal and move forward with my life I am going to need your help.” I rub my crystal Angel and hang it on the bedside lamp. I am leaving the past behind while putting the future on hold indefinitely. A future I am not yet ready to face and so I have chosen to ignore it and run away.

Have I runaway to find me and my life or just to escape myself and my life? I do know that I am running away from the person I was in danger of becoming if I had stayed. Will I ever go back? Do I want to? Can I really leave the past behind? How much do I want to leave behind? Is there anything worth keeping? Can I really do this? Am I brave enough? Am I capable? I hope I have done the right thing running away like this and putting my life on hold. Is it really a wise decision to step out of life to create one?


The Christine Center

The Christine Center is an interfaith retreat center. It is located in Willard, Wisconsin. It is about 50 miles east of Eau Claire. It isn’t exactly in the middle of Wisconsin but it sure is close. It is run by three nuns, Sr. Johanna, Sr. Cecy and Sr. Henrita. (This has changed now since I’ve been there. There are two more nuns on the core team now.) It is run strictly on donations.

Here one can get lost in the natural environment, the meadows, fields, ponds, the wildlife, and the trails through the 122 acres of woods surrounding the center. People come for a variety of reasons, to rest, relax, and renew, for quiet reflection, do deep inner work, or to participate in one of the many programs the center offers in spiritual deepening and global transformation. Cabins or hermitages as they call them are either modern or rustic. The rustic cabins have electricity and a heat source either a gas heater or a wood stove but no running water. The modern cabins have water and hence have bathrooms and kitchenettes as well. The hermitages are scattered around the property. Volunteers stay in the rustic cabins. The center does have an office staff, cooks, dishwashers, housekeepers and a maintenance crew some of who you will come to meet in these pages.


Mindfulness: Nowhere but Here

What a beautiful day, cloudy with the sun peeking in and out. Warm for this time of year. The leaves have all turned now. They crunch under my feet as I walk the trails alerting the deer and all the animals that I am coming. The sun is a huge very bright white light sitting in the sky. I have never seen the sun so brilliant. As it sinks into the trees a green light then a pink magenta light flood into the clouds and down into the horizon. Then it is gone as quickly as it appeared and dusk arrives. It easy living day to day. I am lost in each moment.

I am completely living in the present moment. Nothing outside of this community exists. There is no past or future just right here now. I think I could live this way for a long time. I feel at peace, I have peace of mind. The only time I reach out into the outside world is to check in with my daughters. When other communications reach me they are an unwanted and unwelcome intrusion.

I have put everything I have left behind out of my mind. Being present and enjoying every moment, working, walking in the woods, socializing, getting to know everyone and just being. I realize that I have not had one single tension headache. Not one! What does that tell me? Here I am miles away from everything and everyone I know among strangers in a strange place and I am not nervous or anxious or tense. How can I be relaxed and happy in this situation when I have been so anxious and unhappy in my own home? I am living completely in the present moment and loving it.

Maybe my life is simple here. I know others think I am being selfish and irresponsible focusing on myself. But the only life I can control is my own. My life purpose is to contribute what I have to offer. What more can I contribute except to be myself, and share and give of myself? I am helping out here while I figure out who I am and what I might have to offer. It is the best I can do right now. I need this safe haven because I have failed to figure it out while I was out there in the outside world.

My daily life has become my mindfulness practice. I am only here. My mind does not wander to the past, to what I left behind or what might be going on outside my daily experiences. Nothing outside this center exists for me. I spend my days working, doing whatever chores I am asked to do.

Routine it seems is the structure of my day. Up at 7 am, breakfast at 8 am then I begin my daily chores. Stop at 12:30 for dinner as the noon time main meal is called here. Work some more. A light supper of soup and salad at 5:30. By the end of the day I am so physically tired I could fall into bed. Yet not wanting to be alone I stay up in the main building in the library on my computer or reading.

I have formed a relationship with a guest, Trish. She is a nun from Australia on sabbatical. We spend hours in the library talking, watching movies and laughing. I can’t even remember when I laughed before. Now I laugh every day. I have never laughed as long and hard as Trish has me laughing! This is what keeps me from sheer exhaustion.

I walk down the hall and see a man standing in the laundry area starring confusingly at the washing machine. I feel pain oozing off him. Hurt. The energy is so strong I am strangely drawn into it not sure what it is but if there is anything I can do to ease it, I have to try. His back is to me, I approach slowly, “Can I help you?” I ask. He turns around and looks at me still deep in thought.

“I was going to do laundry but I don’t have any detergent. Do the sisters have some in the office they sell or I can use?”

“No they don’t, but here use mine.” I say as I reach into my locker and pull out my jug of laundry detergent.”

“I couldn’t, that’s ok. I’ll just go buy some”

“Please just use mine, it’s no problem Just put it back here in this locker when you are finished.”

“Thank you” He pauses then continues, “If I don’t speak to you next time I see you, please understand that I am here for a silent retreat. I will just acknowledge you he says as he brings his hands together in prayer form and bows his head, “Namaste” I replay in kind.

The next few times I see him we acknowledge each other as we pass in silence. This happens often here as people come to be in silence and do deep meditation and contemplation. I now notice he is wearing a wrist brace on his right hand.

On his last day he comes out of silence and joins us for a meal. The sisters are intrigued by him especially when he mentions that he is a musician and plays the guitar. Despite the fact that he is still wearing that wrist brace, Sister Trish asks him if he will play for us. The rest of the sisters’ jump right in requesting him to play. Not wanting to disappoint the sisters, staff and guests, he agrees to play a few songs.

An impromptu concert has everyone excited. A half hour later a group of women are drooling over the romantic musings of Raymundo. He has this group of nuns, staff and guests mesmerized. Everyone is hypnotized as we watch and listen to him strum and sing ballads that has stars in everyone’s eyes. The pain in his wrist gets to him and he finally begs off. He asks the cook if she can get him some ice so he can ice his wrist.

Sitting in the dining room I offer to do Reiki on his wrist for him. He asks me what Reiki is.  I tell him that it is an energy healing. “Sure, not sure I understand or believe it will help but I’ll give it a try.” I place my hands around his wrist and focus sending healing energy to his pain. He feels the heat coming from the palms of my hands. I tell him that this along with the ice, heat and cold should help ease the pain some. After about ten minutes I stop. He thanks me. We all once again tell him how wonderful he plays and thank him.

The next morning as he comes to say his good-byes, he stops me. “Look I don’t have my brace on. I don’t understand what you did but it worked. I can move my wrist without it hurting so much. Thank you.” After all the good-byes he heads off back into civilization.

I am spending much needed time with adults. I realized that I crave socialization. It may be that I am just avoiding being alone but I also haven’t been around adults much during the years I was raising my children.

I ran away from my life hoping to rest but I find myself deep into the mundane chores of life. If I wasn’t so exhausted and in so much physical pain I would be laughing at the irony of the situation. If I needed to rest when I got here I will need to rest when I leave. Still I am happy.



Memoir: Divine Intervention

This is an excerpt of my Memoir Manuscript

Through the Woods to the Sea: Stepping into Myself, Stepping into My Life

By Cathy Teoste

Divine Intervention

Bittersweet that’s what these last five months have been. All of my daughters have gone off to begin their own lives. Monica, my youngest daughter, in her youthful wisdom said, “Mom, go have your own adventure.”

I don’t know if I have the courage or the strength for that. I don’t know if I am capable. I am not that young adult stepping out excitedly into the world for the first time. I am already supposed to have a life but for years all I have been is their mother. Now that role has diminished. It has become one of letting go and letting them fly on their own. I have given them wings to fly but my wings are damaged and broken. I am not sure I can fly on my own. Unlike them I am not moving on to some wonderful new adventure. I am running away from the life I would be left with if I stay. I am running away from being alone with myself because I don’t exist.  People talk about the empty nest syndrome. It has all happened too fast. I was not prepared for this.

I want my own life but I am not exactly sure of how I want to live that life. What I do know is that it sure doesn’t match anyone else’s idea of what my life should look like. I don’t know what is right for me I only know what isn’t right for me. I don’t want to get caught up in a life of busyness, work, chasing money and collecting material possessions filled with stress and emptiness. I don’t want to live in yet another creation of a false self. But what choice do I have? Do I have another option? What could it be?

I am tired. I just want to rest. Resting isn’t allowed. Taking a break from life isn’t allowed. You are expected to move from one phase directly into the next, from one situation into the next without pause.  Inaction is laziness. Inaction is unacceptable. Inaction is irresponsible. I hear all these words over and over in my head. I know that silently people around me are whispering them about me.

I asked for diving intervention. It was Fourth of July weekend. It was the last time I would be with Monica and Nicole before they left. We went to visit with my family. I decided to just relax and enjoy the few days. Leave my search and concerns for the future in God’s hands. I prayed that the solution and answer would be waiting for me when I arrived back home.

Returning home I went through the mail, nothing. I checked the phone messages, nothing. I went to the computer and checked my e-mail, nothing. Heaviness started to fill my body, I felt dejected. I walked into the dining room and wrote on a piece of paper. “Dear God, I expected a miracle today. Where is it? I expected that you would have sent me a sign, guidance as to what I am supposed to do? Where is it?” I folded the paper up and threw it onto the middle of the table and walked into the kitchen. I made a cup of tea and retreated to my rocking chair by the living room window.

The sadness overwhelmed me, panic was swirling around me getting ready to grab me and take hold. I felt forsaken by God. All hope seeping out of me. Faith lost. Then the phone rang.

I got up, went into the kitchen and answered it.


“This is Sister Johanna from The Christine Center. Is this Cathy?”


“We would love to have you come. Are you still interested?”

“Yes” was all I uttered in disbelief.

“Will the date on your application still work for you?”

“Yes, I can be there on Sept. 7th:

“Are you sure you don’t want to think it over?”

“I don’t need to think it over. I will see you then”

Inside I was thinking, oh my god, this must be my answer, this must be my miracle. Maybe just maybe my prayer has been answered. This has to be divine intervention. What else can it be? I have no idea why this is my answer or why this is where I am to go but there is no reason to hesitate.  I must grab onto it and go for it.

I have spent most of my life trying to accept and create the vision of what others said life should look like. It seemed everyone around me except my girls thought it was high time I was responsible and got a real job. But for years my only job was being a mother. The war that was raging within and without had taken such a toll on me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually that I have no energy, no strength left. How can I find the courage to do what is right for me? I have never really been responsible to myself. But being responsible to myself now means I will have to be irresponsible in the eyes of others.

Most of my family and friends especially my mother think I have lost my mind, gone crazy even. I hope not. Strangers think I am brave and courageous. I am not. I am panicked and scared but I am finally being responsible to myself even if it means being irresponsible in the eyes of others.

I am relieved. I am at peace with my decision. I am taking a leap of faith into the unknown and uncertainty of who I am or who I want to be. It is not courage that has pushed me across this threshold into the middle of the woods but panic. I am afraid of being alone, of the voices of others, of my own voice. I need to get away from all that has held me strangled, the emptiness, the buried hurt, and all the reminders of what I have lost and am losing.

I have given away just about everything I own. I have kept only personal and sentimental items.  I am walking away leaving unfinished business I can’t resolve or handle. I don’t care if I lose everything else that is left because in reality what does it all matter anyway?

Mid-life and all its changes has handed me the opportunity to step away from my life and away from the world to journey into all the hidden depths of myself and to begin to unravel the past that has held me down, rendered me empty and invisible. All I know is that I am braking free of the chains that have held me tight. And so I am leaping without looking and am heading deep into the woods out into the unknown hoping to find myself and to begin a new life.

This is an excerpt of my Memoir Manuscript

Through the Woods to the Sea: Stepping into Myself, Stepping into My Life

By Cathy Teoste