Rearview Mirror

Every year, I go on a week-long retreat. I take my journal and Bible, but no other reading materials. I usually spend a lot of my retreat time writing in my journal.

One time, the retreat director suggested I spend my retreat trying to express myself through a medium other than writing. She explained that the retreat center had a large art room and I was welcome to use any of their materials.

I felt an involuntary shudder. No writing? How could I go for a whole week, and a retreat week at that, without writing?

I write almost every day. I started keeping a diary when I was ten years old, and I have been faithfully journaling ever since. At times, I have had stacks and stacks of journals, the piles only kept manageable by moves from apartment to apartment and city to city; at moving times, I would reread old journals, save anything significant and discard the rest.

So the suggestion that I spend a whole week without writing caused me some distress. But, I moved against my resistance, put away my journal and went to the art room.

I first tried watercolors, with limited success. I fared a bit better with pastel pencils, mostly filling blank sheets of construction paper with bands of color. I did notice that as the days passed, my drawings went from darker to lighter colors, which I took as a good sign.

By the middle of the week, though, I found my voice through collage. I scanned dozens of magazines and catalogs, cutting out pictures that caught my eye and then assembling them in ways that revealed my inner thoughts. By week’s end, I had created a huge collage that tracked my spiritual journey over the past year.

One image from my collage that still stands out for me was from a car advertisement—a picture of a windshield and rearview mirror taken from the driver’s seat. Through the wide windshield lay an open vista—the future; in the rearview mirror was the receding past.

I am in a time of transition now and feeling somewhat disoriented and vulnerable as I start to build a new life in a new place. I can easily get stuck looking in the rearview mirror, remembering wistfully what I left behind.

This image from my collage is a reminder to “consider not the things of the past” as the Prophet Isaiah says, but to look ahead, to keep my eye on the vista that is opening up before me.


8 thoughts on “Rearview Mirror

  1. Heather

    Wow, Madeline. 🙂 I have routinely thought that are lives have been intertwined this year, despite the distance between us. Sometimes, it is as if I am reading what I am feeling when I receive your posts. ‘Am in Utah now, traveling across the country with my paints, my tent and my backpack; attempting to now look through my own front windshield instead of the rear-view mirror. 🙂 Thanks for continuing to post and share your experience. It has been very helpful in my own journey. A lot of love to you.

  2. Marie Morrissey


    Your reminder about looking forward instead of the rear view mirror was a good reflection for me.  The last week or two I keep going back to Pat’s last days with us.  Her one year anniversary will be on August 16th.  As the month of August is nearing, I’m experiencing more emptiness than I have in  this past year.  I’m going to try to keep the words of Isaih in front of me to keep looking ahead.

    Are you in your new home yet?  You are in my daily prayers that in time you will adjust to all the new encounters you have had recently.  I’m sure Father Jim is whispering in your ear to keep looking ahead and be open to what lies ahead.

    What are your dates that you will be at Gwynedd?  I’m sure you will be busy but if we could meet for a lunch or dinner it would be great.  Please let me know.  If not, I understand.


    1. Madeline Bialecki

      Marie, loving thoughts and prayers go out to you and Pat’s family in the upcoming month. I know how difficult this time can be.
      I am at Gwynedd August 2-4, but with very little free time. September might be a more likely time for a visit. thanks

  3. Mary Ann Fiebert

    Madeline, Believe it or not I am just getting around to finding your “journey” and although the timing is a little late it turns out to be perfect. I have a friend who is going through what you experienced. Her journey is just beginning and I can’t wait to share your insight with her. Thanks for thinking of me and sharing your link. Your entire journey will now be on my reading list. I am sure it will be inspiring.

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Thanks Mary Ann. I have finished a first draft of the book of my journey with Jim. Reading about what we went through brings it all back–but with less intensity and a little less pain. Time does heal–or at least gives me perspective.

  4. Marie Russell

    Hi Madeline
    Popped on for the first time in a while today. been thinking about you a lot with Detroit in the news. Your musings will be good for my Dear Ned who has been having a whole succession of health challenges and having difficulty looking ahead. Also remembering that this month was the beginning of what became our Dear Father Jim’s final journey. He was such a gentle but powerful force in our lives. I’ll add prayerful because that popped up when I misspelled powerful, and it’s so true! Hope you are in a peaceful, loved place. Marie

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      It can be so difficult for me to look ahead instead of looking back, especially when the future is clearly unclear. I hold Ned in my prayers. I hope to be moving into my house this weekend, and I am looking forward to some peaceful, reflective time. Madeline


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