I met Mags Thomson a few years ago when we did the same business course together—a course run by, none other than, the fabulous Jo Gifford (a.k.a Dextrous Diva). Our mutually dorky sense of humour and similar emotional healing journeys made for a solid foundation on which to build a friendship.
We also share the same politics. Part of which is the conviction that there needs to be more representation of people of colour, queer folk, disabled peeps, and women in, well, everything. We even came up with a bit of a hack to try and fix this problem in our own way: a line of alternative art which included a lesbian couple on the front of a birth announcement card, and a superhero birthday party invite with a boy in a wheelchair. While this idea caused major flotation of our respective waterborne vessels, the timing was off. So it was relegated to the back burner while we went about doing our own thing.
My First Project with SwanWaters
Cut to a few months ago, and I find out that Mags has written a book called Finding Your Wings: A Journaling Journey of Abuse Recovery. She does this, ‘Oh, I have an idea for something useful’, turns the idea into actual reality, then has it ready for people to use in a heartbeat. I admire this quality because I don’t have it. Mags is Capoeira and I am Tai Chi if you will (insert Horse Tosses Mane here). And I was absolutely delighted to have her ask me to work on this project as editor. The kind of trust that a writer puts in their editor is huge, and I was touched that Mags was allowing me to do this for her.
So in true Capoeira-like, hustling solopreneur fashion, Mags had the manuscript in my inbox like that. From here, I began the process of reading this already wonderful project, and then taking it to the next level so it could be everything it had the potential to be.
The Big Sister I Never Had
Over the years, I have come to see Mags as a big sister. I’m the eldest of 6 so I adore those special few who come into my life and, essentially, function as the older siblings I always wanted. I have gone through things over the course of our friendship which Mags has already been through herself. Her story, her friendship, and advice have been so helpful to me. And as I began reading the manuscript for Finding Your Wings, I began to see how important it is that what she has to say gets out into the world. She has been through a lot. I mean A LOT a lot. And she has come out the other end of the same.
We’ve had Skype sessions where she has told me about some of the most horrific moments in her traumatic past, and—while my mouth is hanging open because of complete shock—she just laughs and says, ‘It’s made me who I am now.’ Then she’ll make a fabulously morbid joke about it all—to break the tension I created with my sadness—and we both end up cackling with laughter. This is how Mags approaches life and her writing.
While she has been through more than her fair share of suffering, she never—not once—unloads her pain on her readers. And, based on what I know about her from our friendship, she’s only really shared the tip of the iceberg—when it comes to her personal suffering—in Finding Your Wings. Because it is not about her. It is about the reader. And it is this quality that made me fall in love with the book. Because, throughout, she is essentially saying, ‘I’ve been through awful things. You’ve been through awful things, too. Let me share with you what’s helped me, and maybe you’ll find them useful. If not, no big!’
Skeptical About Journaling Books
In all honesty, I have always been skeptical about books that could teach me how to journal for healing. I’ve been journaling since I was 14 so I’m a pretty seasoned get-my-feelings-out-on-paper kinda gal. But a few pages into working on Finding Your Wings, I started to feel a shift in my perception because I began to realize that it’s not always just that you journal, it is also about how you journal.
Don’t get me wrong, journaling is, in and of itself, a powerful and healing process. I do that occasionally (and need to do it more). If I’m ever in an all-consuming and chaotic emotional state of being, I generally whip out my pen and notebook then write three pages. If there’s a problem, I will generally figure it out by the end of it. If there’s not a problem (but I simply needed a way of expressing how I feel in a way that is not harmful to me or other people), then I generally feel pretty good on the other side of that process, too.
But in Finding Your Wings, Mags has countless pages of helpful tools to deepen the journaling experience so that people (even those of us dealing with complex trauma) can heal some of their pain, unlearn some negative ways of thinking, and develop boundaries in their relationships.
As someone who has spent the last four years healing and rebuilding my life after a lifetime of consecutive traumas, I would say that this book is a great way to supplement the work done in therapy—as well as having a good support network. And, for people who cannot afford therapy or feel isolated, this book—while not being a complete alternative—is something that could make the difference between getting through tough times or not. It is affordable, easy to understand, and written with compassion.
I am biased—not gonna lie. But I also wouldn’t be endorsing something that I don’t believe in.
So, please, if you need support in your healing journey, this book is well worth the time you spend reading it and applying its wisdom.