Make a start. See what happens.


Writing about writing

Take a minute

Since last fall I’ve been learning Taichi with a group of fellow beginners in a nearby park. Our teacher is a wise and talented friend with whom I’ve been writing and practicing Aikido for years, and from whom I’ve learned the names of birds and trees. The invitation to learn this beautiful, mindful art from him was a no brainer.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t until I was hobbled by surgery last summer, forced to slow down, that I finally said yes to the invitation. But having long ago regained full strength, I still protect the 8:30-9:30 hour every Thursday morning to soak up the richness of this gorgeous practice and community. To learn the 24-move yang style form, start to make some headway on the 48. White crane spreads wings. Repulse the monkey. Seek the needle at the bottom of the sea. Push through the mountain.

A full sixty seconds

My favorite part of each session comes at the end, during our “cool down” (which these days involves standing in a sliver of sun trying to warm numb hands). After a few movements to thank our bodies, our teacher holds up a finger and says, simply, “take a minute.”  

Heh? The first time I heard him say this I kept my eyes on him, watching for some instruction on what to, ya know, do with that minute. Because it’s a real minute we’re taking. An entire one. A full sixty seconds. I actually found myself mimicking the subtle movements he was making as he stood in his body, in the now.

Eventually I caught on to the fact that this was my minute. One in which I could stand still with eyes closed, or to move and stretch to the outer edges of my space, or to watch the dogs playing on the patch of grass nearby, to feel gratitude or peace or anxiety or longing or whatever is moving through me in the moment.

To let myself be. To let Life be in and around me.

I grew quickly to love the minute itself, and even more so the invitation that leads into it.

Take a minute.

Or not…

This past week has been a swirling dust devil of transition as I step more fully into the work of Soul Writing. Even though I knew it was coming, the disruption startled me. I got spooked, sped up, made stuttering grabs at all that was flying around me, trying to cram it in the neat row of jars I’d arranged, themselves getting perpetually knocked over by the gale.

It’s all so beautiful, what has been stirred up, like a swarm of butterflies. All very real. And just out of reach at the moment. Uncontainable, with plans of its own. There are exquisite arrangements that it will all settle into, eventually, if only I would leave it to its dance. If only I would trust the way Life only ever seeks its own balance, seeks harmony. I wouldn’t be where I am if that wasn’t true. None of us would.

But no. I started frantically chasing all that was suddenly airborne, trying in vain to pin it back down again.

I gave nothing a minute. I made a damn mess.

Practically, it’s looked like this …

There was going to be a Soul Writing series on April. On Fridays. No wait, on Wednesdays. No actually Fridays. Wait Wednesdays. Me, comparing schedules and weighing capacity and trying to determine which airtight container I could cram this thing I love into.

Meanwhile the squall of change continues to blow things up, knock things down.

Then came another Thursday, when the invitation I treasure came once again.

Take a minute.

I absorbed it like the wrung-out sponge I’d become in my concentrated burst of misguided efforting. The words vibrated through my entire being, became a mantra, a beacon, a writing prompt. I let them live in me, steer me—or more accurately, keep me still, compel me to stand and watch in awe as the pieces fly.

I saw that if I give it a minute it the pieces will indeed settle, the storm will abate (hard as that is to believe, living in California right now). Farther out there will be more space, more breathing room, more damp ground for us all to sink into, to write our souls out.

Giving it a minute revealed that April needs be a long minute of watching it all play out (with a li’l’ Mini-Retreat smack in the middle to keep us touched in to this sacred practice). May has already been earmarked for travel and rest.

In June we’ll have our series. That’s what Life seems to be inviting, anyway. I hold all plans lightly. Feathers in my hand, free to blow away if they have elsewhere to be.

In the meantime I stand and behold, with love and wonder, all that moves through and around and above and below us. What this extraordinary minute can reveal.


A friend told me recently that what we do in Soul Writing has been serving them more deeply these days than coaching, therapy, meditation. They’ve been writing their way to insights that have been hard pressed to come through any other way.

Of course this isn’t true for everyone all the time; however, depending where we are in our lives, what we’re working through, and the way(s) we orient to the world, it can be quite the tool for transformation.

This moved me deeply, of course, and I suppose was in the background for me during my own writing the other morning, when I uncovered something big about a tendency of mine, unlocking a flood of compassion for both myself and my dead father. It was a day where I wrote my requisite two pages but didn’t feel finished, so I turned the page and kept going for another two. Here’s what came through.

I ran out of page but wasn’t done.

I ran out of life but wasn’t finished.

I find it impossible these days (always?) to end a piece. I have trouble saying goodbye. Ending a conversation. I’m learning boundaries but the hard stop still eludes me. Eyes always flicking to the clock to tell me when something is over because my body never would. My body gets absorbed into the moment, the person, the task. It’s either the time or what’s in front of me. Never both.

I’ve always been one of those people who is obnoxiously [to some; approvingly to others] prompt, and usually early. Pre-pandemic, when I used to go places, I would spend piles of minutes killing time waiting in the car, walking around, doing not much of anything but trying to fill the moments until the thing began, the door opened, the person was ready.

I grew up with a dad who’d have the car running in the driveway while I was still brushing my teeth; who was always itchy to depart, to get there, to depart again. We stayed on the move like grifters on the lam and yet somehow this was tied – in my mind and surely in his – to being responsible, dependable.

No, not in his! In his we were just moving, moving, getting through the day, on to the next. He woke early and slept early and through it al, like a shark, stayed in perpetual motion. In my mind doing the same meant I was doing it right. Only now do I wonder – what was pursuing him? Why did he need to keep moving? He was moved by danger; I inherited the shape but not the threat.  

Still, there is no “taking my time.” Never has been. In some pocket of my mind there is forever a beige Ford Explorer out in the driveway, exhaust emitting from the tailpipe, threatening to drive away without me at any moment. Whatever I am up to must be cut short. Whatever I need needs modification. Life moves fast and it’s on me to keep up. If not, I fail. If not, I’m left behind.

My pieces never have natural conclusions because the end comes too soon, always, and I’m never ready for it. Or I’m rushing the piece unnaturally. Get through it, get to the end, move on to the next thing. Wrap this up, even if you aren’t finished.

When have I fully occupied a piece of writing – or, for that matter, a room, a moment, a relationship, my own body?

The bottom of the page is near – another forced ending, coupled with the clock a few minutes away from my invented 7am deadline. I have no tidy conclusion, nor should I. At least I let myself go on a little longer this morning.

What is a writer?

“Wow, these people are writers. I am not, but it’s such an honor to be in a group with them.”

I hear some flavor of this remark from at least one person after most Soul Writing workshops. I quickly shake off my disbelief and commence my “tish tosh” lecture: “Tish tosh, my good human! You’re out of your brilliant mind! Of course you’re a writer. Look what you did.” I quote their astounding written words back to them. I remind them of the group’s collective amazement at what came through them. I acknowledge how hard that is to believe. I assure them that it is nevertheless true.

I wonder how much of this gets through—mainly because I don’t know that my own writerliness has gotten through to me yet. I confess, I still sometimes sit in my own workshops going, “whoa. These people are writers. What the hell am I doing here?”


I didn’t start calling myself a writer until very recently. I know, why not? If I have been writing my whole life and none of it qualifies me, what on earth does? What about the galaxies of words I’ve amassed, published and otherwise, has me not be a writer?

What the hell is a writer, anyway? They’re not just the novelists, the journalists, the poets. Nor is it limited to the Very Important Job Titles with “writer” in them: screenwriter, copywriter, underwriter. Some of these don’t even involve much actual writing. I’m thinking, for instance, about late-night comedy writers sitting around a table tossing ideas to each other. Someone’s probably taking notes, but I doubt their word count, at least in that role, comes close to mine on a given day. But does being a writer have anything to do with the quantity of words?

See? It’s so damn arbitrary.

Ultimately, I took on the moniker in service to others—when I finally, fully committed myself to holding safe space for folks to do the scary, electrifying work of connecting with their writer selves. If I was going to insist that you are a writer, I supposed it would be easier for you to take in if an Actual Writer was saying it to you.

I understood, too, that nobody else was going to dub me an Actual Writer. I mean, maybe if I had spent years in an MFA program, or had a regular magazine column, or religiously took the stage at poetry slams, there would have been some official christening at some point. Maybe I would have gotten a patch to sew onto my jacket or a digital badge for my website (the writing you see on this blog was produced by an Official WriterTM).

As it was, for the sake of those I long to support, I had to claim it.


Turns out that the rogue decision to acknowledge this aspect of my identity as central changed everything. It’s what aided the pouring through of the manuscript I recently wrote (my first ever). It locked my sights on the memoir I need to write. Each day I watch in wonder and glorious frustration as my life organizes itself around this inevitable center point.  

I see now that it was never going to happen that other way: by waiting for some nameless future accomplishment to qualify me, or for someone who knows more to officially acknowledge my status. Nor was it about believing I could be a real writer, or working harder, or buckling down and finally proving my worth. It was simply about surveying the throughline of my life—the way it all wound around my writer self—and accepting that it was so.

And … check this out … people believe it! They have no reason not to. It’s what they’d been assuming all along anyway.

So I guess what I’m inviting is this: If Being A Writer is important to you, next time you find yourself in a place where two or more have gathered to write—and where everyone in that group is a Writer but you (because you said so)—try extending that assumption to yourself. I am writing. I have written. I am a writer.

Say it. See what happens.

I promise you, whoever put it in your head in the first place that you aren’t a writer—the 6th grade teacher who was ‘disappointed in your use of punctuation,’ the college professor who told you your essays were ‘all over the place,’ the ‘helpful’ peer who tore your burgeoning novel to shreds—isn’t going to going to suddenly materialize beside you and laugh in your face, though it might feel like they will.

Your voice, not theirs

What these people said to you feels real because they were trying to anchor you (and themselves) into the Real WorldTM: an airtight box into which the wiggly wonder of your imagination was never going to fit. They were never looking for your voice, your essence, the unique creation that is yours to bring into the world. They were looking to rules and precedents and standards: the structures that we assume are holding us together, but in cases like this are suffocating us.

And here’s a little more air for you to breathe: you’re never going to write like so-and-so in the group (ya know, the really brilliant, actually legitimate one, says you). Nor are you going to write exactly like your favorite poet or author or lyricist. Of course you’re not going to. You’re you. Can you rest into the freedom of that?

This is the most miraculous thing about Soul Writing—what I am willing to fly my own “I’m a writer” flag in service to. The writing, yes, but also the collective acknowledgment of each writer’s unique voice, creation, soul. A writer pulls a piece through, and the rest of us welcome it, bow to it, stand in awe. Yes, yes your voice is real, we say. Your words are valid. Your life, your creation, you are affecting me. You are changing things. You are a writer.

Yes. This. Yes.

Maybe you’d like to get [re]acquainted with your writer self… join us to do just that at an upcoming Mini-Retreat.

Set your writing free

The best gift I received this season was Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights. There’s lots about it that is, well, delightful (you did it, Ross!), but the element that’s inspiring me most this first time through is the simple fact that he wrote a short essay by hand in “smallish notebooks” every day for a year.

Ross admits up front that he let go of “daily” pretty early on, skipping a day here and there. He doesn’t [need to] go into detail or justification as to why he didn’t get to the page every single day. I suppose one reason is that he’s human. Also it’s my impression (this book leaves lots of space for impression, which is marvelous) is that the structure may have been a bit too forced and stringent and, since this is writing on what delights, he had to be freer to find his joy in it. And structure is often the surest way to find freedom. Maybe he found a gorgeous middle way. Who knows. This is all conjecture. All impression.

(Also, since we’re admitting things, I will confess that as of this writing I am less than halfway through the book, so it’s possible that what I say about it at this point might be addressed or refuted in later pages. I just couldn’t wait to say what I loved about it, and to share it with you.)

The spirit of the essays—a pared-down selection from among the hundreds he did write—is one of flow. The man didn’t have to rack his mind to come up with the day’s subject of delight; it was always right in front of (or in) him. Which of course is one purpose the book: pointing out that there is something delightful in every day, even if—especially if—the subject matter is intense. Often a noticing leads to a heavy truth (cancer, guns, accidents, alienation) that he writes with, if not always lightness, at least a movement and flexibility that transforms the notion, the memory, the reader.

There’s palpable healing in these pieces, though rarely a resolution, which I find wonderful. For one thing, if something is resolved, what’s left to write about? Plus generations of heartbreak and injustice aren’t going to be resolved any time soon, but breathtaking art keeps getting made—addressing, rewriting, reclaiming, turning horror into a kind of beauty. Quieting, maybe forever, a few pieces of a few hearts, a few hundred words at a time.

These essays are gorgeously imperfect, grammar be damned—or at least set aside in the name of delight, of play, of joy. One essay celebrates the very delight of writing by hand: the way, for instance, run-on sentences are allowed to exist without the temptation to edit, or liberation from the perennial condemnation of spell check.

The pieces vary in length, too. If Gay gets his incisors in something he may go on for four or more pages, but more often than not they cover no more than a single spread. A mercy—a delight!—for the reader, who may just want to dip in for a minute or two of richness and contemplation before turning to their own day’s delights. It reminds me that we don’t have to labor over a piece all day for it to have impact.

In these and so many other ways worthy of celebration, Ross Gay has compiled—readily, honestly, quirkily, and yes, delightfully—a book. A body of work. I was not in his mind during the publication process but get the sense that he released this thing into the wild in the same spirit: unattached, merrily, as an offering. Giving freely from his abundant garden (gardening a theme that crops [heh] up regularly throughout). There’s no possibility of, and certainly no point in, keeping it all for himself.

Just in this moment (I swear I did not plan for this, I simply wrote my way here this morning) I realize that I am committing to show up daily at the page and write my delight, or some other topic that wants my attention. Isn’t that handy, given that a fresh new January is mere days away now. I haven’t done this for a long time and a year is a lot to commit to, but heck, I write every day anyway, why not select some sacred prompt and devote myself to it?

Whether or not it becomes something I wish to offer the world, I hope to at least write it in that spirit: offering. Not showcasing, not entering into a contest, not presenting for viewing. Not writing with an audience in mind, but rather to see what the writing itself wants to become. And most importantly being in practice—for the sake of keeping my writing loose and joyful, staying unattached to outcome, and remaining connected to this art that I adore.

If it feels at all juicy to you, I invite you to join me. Pick a topic or a prompt—find one in the #prompts channel on the Soul Writing Slack workspace, or in a book, or anywhere in the world, really. Sit down at the page every day. Set a timer for ten minutes (or less, or more, whatever feels in balance), and write something. Share it here if you’d like, or email it to me at Regardless, know that you are creating a body of work that, even if it’s not out in the world, it’s out of you, on the page, and now you know you can do this.

What’s more delightful than that?

Dismantle Grammar

Right now, much of the world is taking scythes to the hedges and corn stalks that have, for generations, trapped us all in a maze of excruciating conformity, very much including the arbitrary rules of English grammar. The way I’m seeing this necessary demolition show up in Soul Writing workshops is pretty cool. 


Having spent my adult life in a torrid love affair with the English language—specifically the written word—I’ve remained blind to its flaws: namely, the way it, like so many tools of white dominant culture, serves to control and oppress. It has constricted many a brilliant voice before—or worse, shut it down before it’s had a chance to say anything at all.

At the tip of this awful iceberg are the otherwise privileged native English speakers who, for whatever reason, couldn’t onboard the rules drilled into us in school, and therefore don’t know when to use ‘your’ versus ‘you’re.’ Who the fuck cares? Is any of this not a reason not to write? 

Yes, for many, it is. It’s precisely what freezes us up. It’s where the self- or other-imposed label of “I’m Not a Writer” gets slapped on our little sweater, and the world is instantly deprived of a powerful voice, probably forever.

More tragically, awfully, evilly, there are folks who did not grow up speaking, let alone writing, ‘proper’ English. They either struggle and strain to learn and use it, or are dismissed and rejected if they can’t.

In her Huff Post article, Are You Asking Me to Talk the ‘Right’ Way or the ‘White’ Way?, Jolie A Dogget says, “Proper English elevates whiteness while reinforcing the inferiority of everyone else. Anything that deviates from that is wrong and needs to be corrected. This reinforces for privileged white students that they’re the default and that everyone else has to conform.”

By the way, I’m learning that whiteness doesn’t refer just to skin color. It is a vast societal structure designed to elevate some and oppress others. It has its own set of rules to which we conform or not, and therefore determine how successful we are. (One of those rules is actually termed “Worship of the written word.” Yiiiiikes.) This is the water we swim in, so distinctions like these can be jarring when we first encounter them, especially to folks like me who have benefitted from this system their whole lives. If you are feeling the quite natural discomfort that comes with wandering into this territory, I invite you to join me in getting curious and reading up about it.


Anyway, in part, Soul Writing is an attempt to dismantle this and repair the damage this has done to all of us, and the courageous folks who show up are doing just that, it in amazing ways. When we bypass the mind, the critic, and the rules hanging out in our psyche, the most unexpected and moving combinations of phrases come through. There is so much beauty in the sentence fragments and the made-up words, or when a writer’s inner eight-year-old suddenly grabs the pen. If we’re lucky, occasionally someone will gift the group a piece written in a language other than English. While maybe we can’t track the meaning of the words with our brains, there’s plenty that moves and impresses. Our hearts and guts follow exactly what is going on and have plenty to say by way of celebration.

This is ‘good’ writing. This is healing writing. This is the writing that frees us.

It’s an imperfect attempt at dismantlement, of course—I myself am very much in recovery. I made it through the merciless obstacle course that is the mastery of written English because I started from a place of privilege and, through a ‘fortunate’ combination of brain chemistry and desperation to conform, absorbed all those random rules right into my marrow. My mental and emotional bandwidth has been known to get clogged with trivialities like misused apostrophes and hanging prepositions. It used to be a point of pride—as though my knowing how to ‘properly’ punctuate a sentence was something that made me desirable, superior. (Shudder.) It gave me a leg up. Still does. But I see it now, at least. I see how ugly it is, how unhelpful, and how truly harmful.

A quiet reclaiming

As welcoming as the Soul Writing process is, I know there are lots of people who stay away from it because, for all the ways the world has effed with our natural flow, their “I’m Not a Writer” identity is so deeply embedded they wouldn’t go near anything writing related in the first place. 

Makes perfect sense. Still, I’m guessing there are things that want to be said through you. If you’re not ready to write or share in a group, maybe you can sidle up to the page on your own today. See what comes out when you’re letting the words fall through you. What language are they in, what order? How did you write (or draw, or dance, or think) before you found out there were rules to conform to? Before you understood that there was only one way through the cruel maze of our broken society?

Take up your own scythe, your pen, your sharpie, your spray paint can, and write just one sentence in your own voice. Dismantle grammar. Say what you need to say.

You are always welcome to join us to practice more.

Can you be a gentle reader?

I’m finishing up something I’m hoping to publish and, as part of the process, will soon send it out to a few folks to read. Thinking about how I’m going to frame it, a few requests come to mind. I’ll ask that they only point out anything that is glaring in its ignorance or obtuseness or confusion. That they don’t compare it to the great literature they’ve read (after all, I have no training, no degrees, no academic grounding whatsoever in what ‘good writing’ is—and anyway, this isn’t written in that spirit). Mostly I want to know how it impacts them, or if it does.

Above all, I’ll ask that they be gentle, please. This is a vulnerable new creation that needs to be handled with care. Naturally I will pick people who are likely to do this regardless of my requests. It is so essential to have safe people around our creations, at least to begin with.

This puts me in mind of those old-timey pieces addressed “Dear gentle reader.” Surely it was a nod of respect, referring to the reader as a gentleperson/woman/man. In this moment I’m moved to reclaim it as something more literal. I want to invite us all to be gentle readers.

Cultivating a posture of receptivity

There is room in all writing, all art, all the world, for scrutiny. It’s the posture most of us walk around in all the time, with which we approach everything: price tags, newspapers, social media posts. Attention spans are short these days. Not to mention how poised we all are to be offended. The metrics are “is it worth my time?” “Is it entertaining me?” “Am I pissed enough to respond?” If something doesn’t prove to be one or all of those things within the first few words, generally we move on. So in a way it’s natural that we’d approach others’ work the same way, regardless of context.

Part of what we’re doing in Soul Writing workshops is dismantling this automatic way of moving through life. We first encounter each other’s work by listening to the writer read it. We do this gently: energetically we’re standing back a few paces back from the piece and its creator, letting the words wash over us, and noticing what sticks in our mind, arises in our heart. What soaks into our skin and imperceptibly enters our bloodstream. What changes us.  

This wouldn’t be possible if we were hunched forward in our chairs, foreheads close to the zoom screen, eyes squinting, brows furrowed, pen clutched in hand, poised to capture the first inconsistency we hear and spit it back venomously at the writer as soon as we can.

To make sure there’s no trace of this, we shape ourselves differently to start with, beginning each session by connecting with ourselves, with our feet, our spines. Sitting straight in our chairs, shoulders dropped, attending to the space in and around us, observing how it shifts with our intentions for it. We do nothing, will nothing. We simply notice. And this carries through to how we write—often watching with wonder as words fill the page as though through us—and of course how we listen and respond to each other’s work. Through this practice we become trustworthy stewards of our friends’ vulnerable new creations.


I started learning taichi recently and what struck me immediately is that the empty space surrounding me is not empty at all. It is palpable. There is a definite something I am moving through. There are molecules to visit with every millimeter of motion. It has me—even after just a handful of lessons—moving around with a new attention on the space immediately around me. Noticing how it responds, welcomes, even pushes back if I go too fast, try to breeze past it.

Can you shift your attention to this way of noticing? Can you assume a posture that allows you to simply behold the air you breathe, the writing you read, the people you talk to?

Granted, it would be naïve and even harmful to be this way with everything. There are things written and said that are wildly misleading, hateful, and ill intended. This isn’t an encouragement to look at everything through a lens of blind acceptance.

Still, I wonder what is possible when slow down and take a broad, soft focus of all that is coming in, all that we’re moving through. Maybe if we take a beat to notice how it affects us, we might even get better at discerning what is and isn’t ‘good’ – not objectively (there is no such thing), but for us. Regardless we become more generous in our lives, meeting with kindness what is offered to us, freeing the other to give more, express more, become more alive.

Walking Slowly

“Your experience of being alive consists of nothing other than the sum of everything to which you pay attention. At the end of your life, looking back, whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment is simply what your life will have been.”

– Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks: time Management for Mortals

Walking Guy

I first saw him about 15 years ago, way up in the hills where I lived. Wispy light-blonde hair that hung between his shoulder blades. Jeans, t-shirt, a bomber jacket either worn or carried in a loose fist at his side. Converse sneakers. Skinny. In his 30s, or his 50s.

He was walking. Just walking. Not decked out for exercise. Not (as I concluded after several months of encountering him in different spots) headed anywhere. He walked. His face always neutral, looking in no particular direction, never acknowledging passersby.

I started to wonder, of course. Where did he walk? For how long? And of course … Why? I wanted to follow him. I actually entertained the thought that maybe I was the only one who saw him. That he was some kind of urban bay-area yeti.

As humans do with mysteries (and as I do with absolutely everything), I made it about me. This dude must have a message for me, I decided. Why else would I keep seeing him? Was he my white rabbit? If I trailed him would I end up somewhere mind-bending and marvelous?

There was something about his vibe, though, that made him decidedly un-trailable. He wasn’t hostile, but there was a certain impenetrability—one that told me that if I was to engage him, even at a distance, I’d be violating something sacred.

Years after I’d first seen this fellow, I started dating my now-husband and told him about my possible hallucination (he might as well have all the questionable facts up front, right?). Then one day we saw him together. Now I had a witness, someone to wonder with me. He became Walking Guy in our shared lexicon.

One time saw him talking to someone and our minds were blown. Walking Guy is a person who knows other people! OK then. Another day we saw him walk up the front steps of a house, unlock the door, go inside. It was his house, we realized. WG lives in a house. Not some rabbit hole or mysterious Brigadoon. Moreover – buckle up – the house is on the next block from ours. Walking Guy is a neighbor.  

Of course, confirming WG’s humanity and proximity did nothing but make this more of a mystery to me, and further convinced that there was something I need to learn from him.


On days that feel particularly overwhelming, the question that comes to quiet me is, “what if all I ever did was walk and write?” WG certainly certainly shimmers into the periphery of my thoughts in these moments. Sometimes he actually walks by.

I’ve always loved to walk, but it’s tended to be a don-spandex-and-march-up-the-hill endeavor, always following the same route. It’s a task, a goal, the point being to work off the calories consumed that day, or to earn (yes, earn!) a good night’s sleep. If I wasn’t walking with a friend, I’d have a podcast or audiobook shouting into my head, or getting a phone call in, or …

You know. I was being productive.

Since getting back on my feet after having surgery in June, I’ve had no choice but to stay close and walk slowly. At first it was just moseying to the end of the driveway with my elderly chihuahua, the two of us taking a full two minutes to shamble all of 30 yards. From there I began teetering cautiously around the block, not realizing just how hilly these ‘flats’ I supposedly live in still are. Nor did I realize how beautiful they are. How teeming with life and beauty and care, from the well-tended gardens to the awesome graffiti to the wild things growing up signposts and out of holes in water main covers.

Still, hanging over my gratitude for such a swift and steady recovery, for all that I’ve come to see and appreciate in my state of near-motionlessness, have been the threatening storm clouds of All I Must Get Back To once I’m fully well. Even as I amble, the steep hills loom symbolically, beckoning me to strike out for them just as soon as I can.

The project

To be clear, my life is not especially overfull. I’m not ambitious. I don’t neglect my relationships for the sake of achieving more professionally. I am naturally easygoing, and am at my best when things are simple and spacious. And against the backdrop of a world in dire need of saving and ambitious folks passionately committed to doing so, I’ve felt more than a little guilt over this.  

Hence my other priority: fixing myself. Most of my adult life has centered on self-development, which, in my current forced slowness, I have come to see as one big project to literally repair what is wrong with me. I’ve been endeavoring to transform myself into someone who leaps out of bed every morning, joyfully driven by some singular purpose, who has the stamina to juggle an impossible amount, to make everyone happy, who is lithe and strong and fierce and influential and makes a whole lot of dough.

That if I am not that, I am broken.

The project hasn’t been without its benefits. I have become inarguably more embodied, grounded, bolder. But it hasn’t really helped anyone. It’s been largely self-serving. A vanity project, really. An attempt to blend into the surround, in my case the San Francisco bay area, where everyone with the privilege and resources to do so is up to something huge and impressive.

I wonder how I might have come to this place more genuinely, joyfully, and whether I ever needed to crack a whip over my own back to become who I am today.

As with all such shifts in perspective, this one was fomented by a major event that has forced me to stop everything and simply watch as the false narrative crumbles like an apocalyptic cityscape. It’s been overwhelming, confusing, peppered with doubt. It is ongoing. The rebuild will take the time it takes. It’s also, I must keep reminding myself, happening smack in the middle of a life of astounding privilege. Nothing in this world is working against me… except me.

The next slow step

For now, I’m experimenting now with putting down the whip, seeing what growth can be if left to nature, wandering in the direction from which I hear life call. As I take my slow walks, I recall the question that has asked itself to me, persistently, for years: “what if all I ever did was walk and write?” I conjure Walking Guy and, when I do, I instantly feel the alignment that comes with being right where I’m supposed to be. Maybe that’s why WG’s space feels so impermeable. Integrity will do that. When we’re not fractured or seeking or hiding—when we are genuinely lined up with ourselves—it becomes very difficult for anything we don’t want in our space to barge in.

I’ll start adding things back in as it feels right to do so. For now, I write, I do writey things (like hang out with you fine people), I work, I eat, I sleep for a devilishly unearned 8 hours, and … I walk. Quite literally just put one foot in front of the other. I let my body tell me how fast, how far, and when it’s time to stop. I acknowledge the inner voices who still scream, may never stop screaming, “It’s not enough!” I give thanks for the privilege that allows me to live this way, and for the genuine joy and kindness with which I feel able to greet all who do approach—which feels far more healing for the world than throwing myself hard at life. I endeavor, simply, to do no harm.

And that feels like plenty for now.


What question, or person, or apparition, or symbol, has persisted for you? When you get really quiet, what is consistently there, pointing you back to yourself?

Set a timer for ten minutes and keep your pen moving in response to the prompt: “It was always right there.”

Postcard from a pixelated self

Here’s 10-minute free write I did a few days after a recent surgery, when I was still drug-hazy, largely inert, incisions still hidden under gauze. It’s a messy, staccato, close-in memory of the day: itself a fleeting moment compared to the span of time that has ensued. Kind of a postcard from where I’d been, written and sent to myself to retain the essence of what happened. I don’t know if I would remember any of this by now had I not scribbled it from within the fog.

Complications during the procedure left me with five incisions—which I’ve been gigglingly referring to as ‘stab wounds’—and a bladder injury. It’s all healing well and pain has been minimal. Still. Life these past weeks has been … surreal.

We usually don’t know what the biggest moments in our lives are til we’re long past them. We adapt and we forget. Which is why it can be important to write from inside those moments, to get down some notes, just in case. No matter how pixelated you are. No matter how much your body is hurting, or your heart. Write just for a couple of minutes. Just sentence fragments. It doesn’t have to be for anyone but you.

I wrote in response to a prompt from a deck of cards authored by Natalie Goldberg. I had no idea where I’d go with it. We never do when we write this way. That’s the point. That’s the beauty. 

“What did you bring—in your purse, on a trip, to a party, in your suitcase, in your book bag, in your car?”

ID, Kaiser card, form of payment. All in a little purse the size of a pants pocket. Phone just in case—lifeline. Nothing else. Wear no makeup, lotion, scents, they said. Not even chapstick (that may not have been a directive but I took the advice to rather an extreme).

PJ pants, green t-shirt, hoodie. The last time I’d walk swiftly and upright for weeks. Unencumbered, bouncy, nervous. “May I use the restroom?” A last nervous pee. The last – no, the penultimate – one that would go from my body directly into the toilet until the next calendar month. I brought a full bladder instead of a full purse. Travel light, pee heavy.

I brought my friends in spirit, my family’s love, my nerves. High blood pressure when they first took it.

“Are you stressing?” the nurse asked. She reminded me of my friend Christy. Put me at ease.

“I am a little nervous.” (A little?)

“We’ll let you settle. Check it later.”

In the meantime getting piled on by people bearing equipment, all kind, all meant to heal, to care. Those circular pieces of white tape slapped on my chest to monitor heart rate and who knows what else.  An IV, first to draw blood (she spilled some—is that normal?) then to push whatever was needed. Fluid, drugs, anesthesia.

“First you’ll get a drug that feels like a cocktail. It’ll make you feel good, relaxed.” The anesthetist was Ray. I remember it made me feel a little dizzy. My body felt no fear anymore but my mind still had questions. They were answered by darkness. A few hours of it felt like a few minutes to me.

Rising back to half consciousness with all the accessories gone – the shower cap, the monitors, the compression socks. My glasses were back on my face. Sea sick. Helped back into my clothes, the drawstring plastic bag that had held them now full of medical supplies we didn’t know we’d need. Alcohol wipes, extra tubes.

I was bringing home a catheter attached to a urine bag attached to my leg. I was bringing home a battery of meds to help me not feel anything. “Whoa,” said the recovery nurse when she saw the the pile of bottles.

I brought my uterus. I left without it.

An invitation from the planets—and from me

Adorably, since posting this the first time, Mercury shuffled things on me and I had to change the date of the mini-retreat. Until and unless Life decides differently, I’ll now be holding workshops on June 11 and July 9.

Dear friends,

Those of you who are astrologically inclined (or who are, like, on Instagram) know that Mercury is in retrograde at the moment. Astronomically, that means the planet Mercury appears to be moving backward in the sky. On Earth, it’s a lot of spinning beach balls on computer screens, dropped calls, traffic detours and misunderstandings.

Mythologically / energetically, Mercury is the god of (i.e., embodies the energy of) travel and communication, so its apparent reversal messes with our incessant human desire to move forward, forward, forward.

In fact, I’m writing this on an airplane because the TVs and WiFi are both inexplicably busted. (I may have had something to do with this, actually. Knowing I’d be traveling this week I bargained with Mercury that it could have the entertainment systems in exchange for flights being on time. I hadn’t thought of the parents with little kids who need their iPads. Sorry about that folks).

This is sort of the point though. I don’t know about you, but in order to write I need to be in a place where I’m free of the tyranny of technology and efficiency. Otherwise I’m constantly abandoning what I’m working on to respond like a well-trained dog to the email ding. Or taking a quick break to see what’s up on Instagram. Or rushing through an otherwise spacious evening to get to the ‘finish line’ of plunking down on the couch to watch Better Call Saul.

One of the gifts of Merc Retro is being stirred from this hypnosis through interruption. Our plans are thwarted. The voices constantly flowing into our ears become staticky. The delivery method of so much (the Internet) is spotty.

Sure, we can fight it and get miserable, which I’ve already done a good handful of times in the last week — like when my Very Important Errand was thwarted by a city-wide road race that made it literally impossible to get where I needed to go. My hand and throat were sore for a full day after from screaming and punching the steering wheel. Of course the errand was never that important. The urgency I felt was, yet again, the itch to get away from myself.

What if instead we allow ourselves to trust—versus dread—that whatever we attempt may go sideways in this next little while? Can we surrender to the apparent direction we’re being nudged in: to give ourselves moments to simply sit and listen, and see what emerges from deep within, from the void of not-knowing? 

Here’s what invites us to look at it as part of a fantastic, orienting article:

Mercury’s retrograde cycles, however disruptive they may be at times, offer us the ability to gain greater objectivity in a particular area of life. In normal waking consciousness, and in an increasingly over-scheduled, distracted world, we have left ourselves precious little time for reflection. For many, once we are on a given path, we can end up myopically married to it, losing all perspective; viewed in the right light, Mercury retrograde becomes an opportunity to re-approach important aspects of our lives with renewed vision.

Whether or not we ascribe to this particular orientation*, and regardless of the position of the planets, there are always steps we can take to free ourselves from this myopia and find renewed perspective.

You might experiment with a media fast: 24 hours of not letting anyone else’s stories into your ears and eyes and heart. No TV, social media, articles, books, podcasts. I know, terrifying. But when I did this last week I was in awe of how the hours stretched, how much time I had to just be human, to take in what the world actually is beyond the miasma of noise that usually has my attention.

It doesn’t have to be this extreme of course. You could simply allow yourself ten unassailable minutes every day, maybe when you first wake up, to be with yourself, be with the page, be in contact with what you know to be true beyond the world’s insistence.
And for now, while we’re in this strange period of being forced to a halt anyway, see what liberation you can find in just … going with it.
One way is to join me for an upcoming mini-retreat (how’s that for an inelegant segueway?). The next ones [are now on] June 11 and July 9. Merc will be direct again by then, so the opportunity will be competing with lots else you could be doing on an early summer Saturday. Your soul, your fellow writers and I will be honored if you end up choosing us.
Wishing you ease (and surrendering to typos),

* I am not astrology obsessed by any means, though I do think there’s a lot to it. For those who dismiss it as utter poppycock, here’s how I heard a friend explain astrology to a hardcore scientist some years back. If the moon – the teeny tiny celestial body that it is – can do what it does to the oceans, and if the average human body comprises 75% water, how can we not think the planets hold some sway over our lives?  

Blog at

Up ↑