Holding Someone in the Light

When I used to attend Quaker meetings, I often heard the request to “hold someone in the light.” The Christian interpretation of this phrase is as follows:

During or after worship, a Friend may ask the group to hold someone in the Light. The person may be sick, dealing with difficult life circumstances, struggling spiritually, working to serve others or setting out on a new path in the world.

To hold a person in the Light, imagine them being held in God’s loving presence and offer prayers and love for them. Holding an individual or a group of people in the Light is often part of our practice of prayer.

Being an atheist, however, that experience is different for me, especially as it relates to my work as an advisor for students with disabilities.

One of my new advisees is a young man whose beloved sister-in-law is dying of an extremely rare form of cancer. When he came in for his orientation, I thought it would be best to focus only on the accommodations this student needs. “I’d be doing my job,” I told myself. “After all, I’m not a therapist.”

I walked him through the orientation. Once we were done, he thanked me for my time, and there was a pause as I thought, “Wait. I can’t just talk about accommodations and let this man walk out of my office. I wouldn’t be doing my job.   After all, I’m a human being.”

So I said, “So, how are you doing?”

What followed was an incredibly intimate experience of connection in the here and now. Often, when I’m having a discussion with a student and there are a few seconds of silence, I feel uncomfortable and quickly fill it with questions or provide solutions. But with this student, the silence took on a quality of holiness. I said very little, actually.

That is what holding someone in the Light is like for me. And it has changed the way I interact with students. It’s so easy to “stay in my lane” and be problem-solution focused. But now, I make sure that at some point during a discussion with a student, I stop taking notes, put my pen down, look across the desk at my fellow life traveler and ask, “So, how are you doing?”

Sono vostro schiavo,


Deaths in 2016

I started this blog entry earlier this year.  It’s still a work in progress.  

I have to start this entry with the tragically funny “2016” by the comedy team of Tom and Hubert.

I think many of us can relate to Tom’s shock when being told that David Bowie died.  That seemed to kick off the unbelievably long list of beloved celebrities who left us in 2016.  This list in this video stops at December 9th, however.  Had it been filmed on the 31st, there would be several additional names of celebrities whose deaths left us as gobsmacked as Bowie:  we lost George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds in the space of several days.   We were glad to see the end of 2016.

I don’t really follow celebrities.  I have from time to time, but for the most part, I don’t have the time or the inclination to do so.  When celebrities started dying left and right, however – musicians especially – I started thinking back over the course of my life.  The first time I saw Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” music video, or Prince in”Purple Rain.”  Star Wars.  Harry Potter (Alan Rickman).   All treasured memories.

Here’s the strange thing, though.  I was a George Michael fan when Wham! took the world by storm and afterwards when he went on to have a successful solo career.  But I wasn’t a FAN – do you know what I mean?  And yet, out of all the people we lost in 2016, his death hit me the hardest.  I’m trying to make sense of it.

When I was in my mid 20’s, I saw “Rebel without a Cause” for the first time.  My god, James Dean!  I was blown away by his performance.  I watched “Giant” soon after that, probably the same week.  After that, I couldn’t find any more of his movies.  It didn’t make sense.  How could such a phenomenal actor have only been in two movies?   I happened to bring this up during one of my daily phone conversations with my mom, and she told me that James Dean was killed in a car crash when he was 24.  I still remember my reaction.  My eyes filling with tears, I said, “He died at 24!? But Mom, I’m 24!”  I thought about what he could have gone on to achieve, had his life not been cut short, and I grieved for someone who had died years ago.  Read everything I could find on him.  Watched the few television appearances he made.

Fast forward to August 1997.  Princess Diana was killed in a car crash.  Again, someone taken in the prime of life.  Someone who had given so much to the world, and still had so much more to give.  Diana and I were only six months apart in age, so again, her death hit hard.   I’ve lost track of the number of biographies I’ve read and movies I’ve watched about Diana’s life in the years since her death.

George Michael was 53 when he died on Christmas Day.  I’m 55.  I didn’t realize we were that close in age.  That gave me pause.  The manner of his death – and that the coroner was called in to investigate further – became a story that I followed.  I mean, who dies of heart failure at 53, right?  And within the next few days, stories of his philanthropic work were reported in the news.  He never wanted anyone to know.  He just gave quietly.  Gave millions, in fact.  He was a generous, kind man – not a pampered pop star.  I heard also about the tragedies he suffered in his life.  He had serious bouts of depression.  I could definitely relate to that.

I saw his last music video, “White Light” …

Saying this ain’t the day that it ends
There’s no white light
And I’m not through
I’m alive , I’m alive
And I’ve got so much more
That I want to do with the music

Not exactly the best song to listen to the day after he died.

A few days later, I was at work, and decided that I wanted to honor his memory by doing a tribute to the man and his music.  I loaded up a playlist on Spotify with everything George Michael had ever sung, and started listening.

Of course, the good memories came flooding back – “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go,” “Everything She Wants,” “Faith,” “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” “Father Figure,” and so on.  My knowledge of his discography was quite limited though, so there were many songs I was hearing for the first time.  I was working away at my desk, doing my thing, the music playing in the background.  Occasionally something interesting would wander into the present moment, but for the most part, I wasn’t really paying attention.  When I heard “Jesus to a Child” for the first time, I looked over at my second monitor to make note of the song, so I could listen to it again later.  I liked the chord changes.

And then it happened – the moment that started my grieving process in earnest.   George Michael sang a lot of cover songs – a lot of them – including Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”  As soon as that song came on, it crashed into the present moment, forcing me to stop working.  I looked at the monitor, horrified.  Thinking, “My god!  What have I done?!” I started to cry.  His voice was so heartbreakingly beautiful, so poignant, so packed with emotion, that I don’t think I will ever be able to listen to it again.  “How did I not know?” I asked myself.  “How did I let all of these years go by without realizing that this man had the voice of an angel?”  Listened to my George Michael Spotify playlist in the car for weeks.  Had to pull over to the side of the road and weep the first time I heard “My Mother Had a Brother.”

And, as it had with James Dean and Princess Diana, so began my pilgrimage to George Michael.  The news articles.  The videos.  The interviews.  His sexuality (emotionally gay, retro heterosexual: interesting).   His smooth dance moves.  The few times he acted in skits or had a recurring role in a television show.  He played all the instruments on “I Want Your Sex.”  He called his Twitter followers, “My Lovelies.”  He adored his fans, and they him.  And there was the occasional, “Damn!  That is one beautiful man!” thrown in.  I’m not ashamed to say it (well, maybe a little).

I saw the hundreds of grief-stricken fans who paid their respects at one of George Michael’s homes.  So many musicians who acknowledged the contributions he made to music.  Adele in particular was devastated, and the version of “Fastlove”  she sang at the Grammy Awards … nope.  Not listening to it a second time.  Members of the gay community who expressed their appreciation for someone who understood what they were going through – they didn’t lose a pop idol, they lost a good friend.   I feel as if I lost a good friend as well.

Months – months!!!! – after George Michael passed away, the ME was finally able to determine a cause of death.  Yeah, he died from a heart attack – years of depression, drinking, and drugs took this beautiful person away from us way too soon.

More months have passed now.  It’s been a while since I’ve listened to any of the 100+ songs on my George Michael Spotify playlist.  He has been buried next to his mother; his family and ex-boyfriend are fighting over his estate.  Life is back to normal.  I’m at the age where this sort of thing is going to happen more and more – I think, who’s next?  Who will be the next “star” or “celebrity” to pass away, causing this grieving process to begin all over again?   I don’t know.  But in the meantime … Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, you were greatly loved, and will be greatly missed.  Rest with the angels.



Broadchurch by Way of NYC

I don’t know if I’ve ever addressed this in another blog entry, but I’m a huge fan of the Law & Order franchise.  My favorite incarnation is what I call “Old School L&O,” which is the original series (seasons 1-5, especially season two, lovingly referred to as “The Big Daddy Era,” when Paul Sorvino played Detective Phil Ceretta, partner to the much-loved Detective Mike Logan).

I read an article about shows shot in New York City, in which it was stated that one of the characters of Law & Order is the City itself.  That always stuck with me, because it’s true.  Of course you can enjoy the show if you’ve never been to New York City, but if you know the greater NYC area, it definitely adds to your appreciation of the series.  Same thing with The Sopranos – having lived in Bergen and Passaic County made watching the show a lot more fun.

I believe there are other shows that have “characters” which, like Law & Order, are not actual people.  I’m thinking in particular about the gloriously delicious series Broadchurch.  I have described Downton Abbey as “Masterpiece Theater on crack” in order to warn people who haven’t watched it.  I think Broadchurch is even worse.  It’s The BBC on crack – yes, I’m trying to be funny, but I’m also quite serious.  One episode and you are hooked, like put on a tourniquet and start tapping your inner arm for a fat, juicy vein hooked.

There are two “characters” in the show in addition to the cast: the location, and the soundtrack.  The story takes place in the fictional town of Broadchurch, which is located in the Dorset West Bay area of the UK.  It.  Is.  Gorgeous.  Stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful.  Like the Pacific Northwest coast on crack (apparently I will be referring to crack several times in this blog entry).

The main plot revolves around solving the mystery of who killed young Daniel Latimer, the eleven-year old son of Beth and Mark Latimer.  One of the Latimer’s best friends, DS (Detective Sergeant) Ellie Miller is assigned to the case along with DI (Detective Inspector) Alec Hardy (more about the actors who play these characters in a bit.)  As is the case with any small town, everyone has secrets, and the residents of Broadchurch have much they need to keep hidden, for a variety of reasons.

I believe the  location for the series is crucial to the plot for several reasons.  The story is as dramatic, stark, and arresting as the coastline.  The beauty of the area is in direct opposition to the ugliness of the secrets that threaten to (and actually do) tear families and lives apart.  Just when you think the scenery can’t be any more exquisite, a camera shot of the cliffs or the shoreline leaves you breathless.  Just when you think you’ve figured out whodunit, another tidbit of information confounds you even further.  The story and location work hand in hand.

Your Honor, Defense would like to enter into evidence Exhibit 1A:


And then there’s the soundtrack.  It is beautiful and haunting – lingering in the viewer’s mind like the intimate touch of a lover.  The soundtrack was written by Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds, who perfectly captures the mystery and darkness of the story and characters with a string quartet, piano, a smattering of electronic instrumentation thrown in (and in the case of one song, a bass drum loop that is absolutely sick!).

There are two songs with lyrics – and here’s what is so unique (and fun, and delicious) about this soundtrack, and why I consider it to be an important character in the show.  The titles of the songs are, “So Close,” and, “So Far.”  Chris Chibnall, the writer for the show, penned the lyrics for both songs, with the goal of leaving clues about Danny Latimer’s killer!!

Exhibit 1B, Your Honor:

The missing piece I yearn to find

So close

Please clear the anguish from my mind

So close

But when the truth of you comes clear 

So close

I wish my life had never come here

So close 

I must digress to talk about fellow Icelander Arnor Dan, the artist who performs both songs.  His voice is packed with tender, tortured emotion.  I am listening to “So Close” right now with my super-duper use-only-for-transcribing headphones on, and I am almost 100% certain that in between verses, he’s whispering the words, “so close.”  It’s barely perceptible, but it’s there.  And it’s sexy as hell.  The other thing about Dan’s performance that sends me over the edge is that he doesn’t care about the “don’t let them hear you breathe” rule of singing.  This is something I find fascinating (and sexy as hell), and I think it’s because I’m asthmatic.  Proper breathing escapes me with activities I dearly love, such as running and swimming (proper breathing can be a challenge in general when I’m having an asthma attack, come to think of it).  So I love to hear singers breathe.  It takes me into the realm of “the human voice as instrument,” which is an important switch for me to be able to experience, being that I play physical instruments, which I feel can be limiting in appreciating using one’s voice as an instrument.

I have to discuss a few members of the cast, which is an amazing collection of talented actors who deliver powerful performances, many of which were captured on the first take.  David Tennant, the beloved tenth Doctor Who, plays DI Hardy.   Arthur Darvill, another Doctor Who alumnus (Rory Williams, one of the eleventh Doctor’s companions), plays Reverend Paul Coates.  So that’s a fun connection.  Olivia Colman, who plays Ellie Miller, blew me away.  There is one scene in particular in the second series where the viewer sees Ellie step into her power, and Colman commands the scene as a force of nature.  Beautiful and terrifying all at once, I watched it with tears streaming down my face and laughing at the same time, shouting “You GO, girl!!”

The Americans, who don’t think anyone can do it better than they, have come out with a US version of this show called Gracepoint.  It’s probably unfair of me to even mention this, because I haven’t watched it, but I’ve heard it doesn’t hold a candle to the BBC version.  Why can’t we just admit that when it comes to crime drama, the Brits have it all over us?

Suffice it to say that having just completed binge watching series two, I can hardly wait for series three.  The second series ended with the major plot and subplots resolved (somewhat) while leaving viewers wanting more.  In the meantime, I will have to satisfy my cravings by listening to the soundtrack, entertaining fantasies of being a lone figure with a story to tell and secrets to hide, walking along the shore in Dorset …

Sono vostro schiavo,


It Works!

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan, but I do like Julia Cameron’s books. The Artist’s Way was so good, I’m going through it again, this time with two friends. Currently, I’m reading The Prosperous Heart. The setup in Cameron’s books is a 12-week series of exercises or activities, with the goal of unleashing one’s creativity, embracing gratitude, etc.

In the book I’m going through at present, there are five activities one must complete every week, and I’ll address three in this blog entry. Morning Pages is something I’ve been doing for several years now, and can’t imagine my life without it. Writing three pages longhand first thing in the morning helps keep me sane (well, approaching sanity, anyway). So I was very comfortable with that requirement over a 12-week period.


“Do nothing for five minutes, once in the morning, and once in the evening.” Being so driven to always be doing something, I really struggled with this. It has been such a challenge to stop the busyness of a morning or evening to sit down and do nothing! “What is the point?” I thought. I’m in Week 10, and I’m just now starting to see the benefit of this exercise. I was actually able to settle into silence the other morning, and it was lovely. I’m beginning to want to sit for longer than five minutes, which is something I didn’t expect to happen.

I thought the third activity would be a no-brainer: twice a week, go for a 20-minute walk in nature (that was the easy part) and be open to any epiphanies or aha! moments (*record scratch*).

I love to walk, but I really, really resisted this. For me, walking is exercise, and exercise is Fitbit activity trackers and Runkeeper exercise trackers on my phone and I gotta have tunes when I exercise and … and … but being open to anything creative or spiritual? Not when I’m exercising.





And then this morning, it happened! I was walking along (and yes, I had my Fitbit clipped to my sports bra, Runkeeper and Pandora running on my smart phone), when out of nowhere, this question popped into my head:


Because, you know, it’s all about “feel the fear and do it anyway.”  That’s the kind of attitude that will help you grow in leaps and bounds as a person.  So they say …

Now, this question was posed to me before the spider web incident on Wilson Street [Facebook post after I got back home: I love going for a walk through my neighborhood, but this morning’s walk … I almost walked into two spider webs that were connected by the trees on either side of the sidewalk. Granted, the spiders were the size of electrons, BUT STILL. I got off the sidewalk and continued walking in the street. *shudders*] …

Anyway, the answer that came back – immediately – was this:

Reserve time at one of the piano studios at LCC, and get Bach’s Inventions back under your fingers again.




Where on earth did that come from?  Even more amazing was the feeling of missing playing the piano, the craving to sit down and practice!   Which is just … astounding.

So, I think that in time, I am going to swear by doing nothing for five minutes, and going for 20-minute walks for inspiration as much as I do Morning Pages. Because this stuff works!


Childhood Memory

My writing partner, Bobbi, recently wrote a lovely piece about a childhood memory, centered around her grandparents, baking, and banana ice cream.  After she shared it with me, we had a discussion about the creative process – her essay was the result of a very short guided meditation (for want of a better term) that a writing instructor did with her class, and how she was able to build from that, which was amazing enough.  But even more amazing was that she, like many of us, did not have a Beaver Cleaver childhood – and yet she was able to put this sweet memory on paper.

I, on the other hand, scoffed at my ability to do something similar to this.  I’m a adult child of alcoholics, and by and large, we ACOA’s don’t remember our childhood.  There are years – years – that just aren’t there in my memory, and what I do remember, I’d rather forget.  Bobbi challenged me to let go of those painful memories and what comes with it – resentment, anger, sadness, depression, being stuck, embracing victimhood – and instead, focus on the good that happened in my childhood.  This blog entry is my attempt at doing just that.

Many of us who have attained a certain age (ahem) lament that today, most children are not experiencing the fun, carefree childhoods we had.  For example, they never go outside and play!!  They’re inside, in their rooms, or on the couch, eyes glued to a glowing screen.  The only “exercise” they’re getting is overexertion of their finger and hand muscles as they play a mind-numbing amount of video games.  Whenever I overhear or have this conversation, I think, “Well, that’s one thing about my childhood that was good.”  I was out and about with my neighborhood partners in crime.

This is a list of some of the things I remember doing and experiencing:

Lightning bugs (you might call them fireflies):  My cousins and I used to collect them in jars after it got dark, and watch them light up.  There was something magical about cool summer evenings being pitch black and then – right there!  Did you see it?  A tiny bright light, and then more, and more, until it seemed as if the stars had lowered themselves down from the sky just to dance in front of you.

The ice cream truck:  At 52, I still get excited when I hear the childlike songs of an ice cream truck.  I remember my mom giving me money before going off to work.  “A whole dollar!!  What could I get with that?!” I would think excitedly.  My favorite ice cream was the rainbow flavored sherbet that had – gasp! – a gumball at the bottom of the cone-shaped container!!  It was like two goodies in one.  I never go out into the street when the ice cream van comes around.  I should, next time – I’d probably be shocked at the prices, though.

Riding my bike:  Oh, the adventures I had riding my bike with friends in the neighborhood.  And there wasn’t a helmet among the group of us either.  E.T. was a magical, classic movie for many reasons, but how many of you were simply thrilled at the bike chase scene because it tapped so clearly into your childhood memories?  That moment when the Elliott, his brother and friends come skidding up, one by one?  And you felt like, “Aw yeah, the shit’s about to get real!”

War:  Well, card games in general, but War in particular.  One day, a bunch of kids in the neighborhood played a huge game of War.  I can’t remember how many decks of cards we used, but as I was the only one in the group who could shuffle cards efficiently, I do remember having to shuffle deck after deck.  We were so excited, waiting for that moment when every single one of us would put down the same card, thereby calling simultaneous wars.  And when it happened?  Sheer pandemonium and terror, as we each placed our three cards, saying, “I-de-clare” and then bam!  “War!!”

Can’t for the life of me remember who won that round, though.


Do Nothing for Five Minutes …

I am currently reading Julia Cameron’s The Prosperous Heart:  Having a Life of “Enough.”  I completed The Artist’s Way about a month ago, and that book was so life-changing, I decided to read as much of Julia Cameron’s as I can get my hands on.  I thought the exercises and practices in The Artist’s Way were challenging enough, but they were child’s play compared to The Prosperous Heart.  The reader has five activities to complete every week:

1.  Morning Pages – three pages of stream of consciousness journaling done first thing in the morning, written in longhand.  I’ve been doing Morning Pages for several years now, so no problem there.  As a matter of fact, I’ve gotten much better about rolling out of bed (half an hour early) and just getting it done.  Well, I roll out of bed, roll to the kitchen to make coffee, and then roll to my desk to write.

2.  Keep track of what you spend.  This is a habit I’ve wanted to establish for some time now, and I’ve been able to do it for the past few weeks.  I think what was keeping me from doing it was not having a system in place of where I would record this information, but I’ve got that figured out.  So I’m fine with this activity.

3.  Walk for twenty minutes, twice a week.  I live in Oregon.  It’s May.  It’s beautiful.  Case closed.

4.  Do not debt.  This is not a problem as I am not actively attempting to get any loans.  I don’t use my credit card; Ralph has it (my decision).

5.  Here we go …

Once in the morning, and once in the evening, sit and do nothing for five minutes.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I could sooner run a marathon twice a day than sit and do nothing for five minutes.  Or listen to nails on a blackboard.  Or have my teeth cleaned.  Or give blood.

I hate it!!

It’s only five minutes, but it feels like such a waste of time!  (Interestingly enough, I could spend hours on Facebook and that doesn’t feel like a waste of time.  Hm …).  I just sit there on the couch, or lie on the bed, and I say to myself, “Alright, now what?  What am I supposed to do?”  Oh yeah, that’s right, nothing.  But I can’t just do nothing.  Julia Cameron says this activity is supposed to help you get in touch with the gentler, kinder side of yourself.  She suggests using the time to count your blessings, or pray.  I can gladly engage in the practice of gratitude, but as an atheist, the prayer thing … not feeling it.

The irony is that I’ve heard about the benefits of doing nothing for years and, like tracking what one spends, I’ve longed to make this a part of my daily (and spiritual – yes, there are spiritual atheists) routine.  So now I’m doing it, and it just feels wrong!

Apparently, I’m not the only one who struggles with this:

do nothing for two minutes

That’s right.   There’s an actual website, http://www.donothingfor2minutes.com/.  All you have to do is show up, relax and listen to the waves.  For two minutes.  Easier said than done.

Here’s another website that challenges people to do nothing for five minutes:

do nothing for five minutes

The article Taking Five Minutes to Do Nothing Could Offer A Reset suggests that one’s “take five” could be something as simple (nope!) as sitting quietly, hand on the heart, and breathing slowly, to watching the birds in your back yard in the morning.  It’s all about – and this is why I struggle – being present and in the moment.  We tend to live in the past or in the future, but rarely in the present.  So while it sounds simple, do nothing for five minutes, if you stay in the here and now, it’s damned difficult.  And really, the only way to get better at it is to just do it.

I must admit, I am improving.  There are times when my timer goes off and I’m shocked.  Has it really been five minutes already?  Or I am able to get into a meditative state.  It is a wonderful opportunity to practice gratitude and really take the time to consider just how blessed I am.  It is a struggle, but it’s worth the effort.

I’m going to put on my DJ hat now, and take us out with Dave Brubeck’s classic and ultra-cool “Take Five”.  You won’t begrudge him the extra thirty seconds …


New Writing Partner!

I met with my new writing partner on Saturday, and wow!  It was a great session.

Spurred on by Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, I set the goal of finding a writing partner several months ago; what I had in mind was something similar to a workout buddy – if you know someone is waiting for you at the Y for that 5:30 Yoga class, you’ll drag your tired, sorry ass out the door – and be glad you did.  My idea was that if I met with someone at least once a week, I would be forced to write.  But once we got to the coffeeshop … then what?  Just write separately?  About what?  Do we share what we wrote?  That was the nebulous part of my vision.

My first writing partner already had an established writing practice at home, and she was in a poetry critique group.  As much as she enjoyed getting together with me to write, she was already set, and with a busy summer schedule expected, opted out of further meetings.  So I posted to Facebook to see if anyone else would be interested, and my friend Bobbi answered the call.

Bobbi is going to be a great partner for me.  She comes to writing while being completely in the moment.  On Saturday, she had no preconceived ideas, and was willing to just explore and create – something I’m not comfortable doing, so the pressure was on (in a good way)!  But I followed her lead, and I am shocked at what I came up with.  She suggested actually collaborating instead of writing separately – she just looked out the window, saw all the trees around us, and came up with the idea of a tree and an elderly man having a conversation.  I took the role of the tree, and wasn’t sure how what we wrote separately was going to fit together, but amazingly, did have some overlaps.  We’re actually thinking a book might come from our beginning drafts.

Another thing I enjoy about writing with Bobbi is that she’s so excited about writing.  She’s on fire!  She even created a homework assignment for us – which, eternal student that I am, I absolutely loved.  As someone who embraces the freedom creativity brings, Bobbi is, in a way, a mentor for me.  I get so stuck in outlines and grammar and doing research – and of course all of that is vital to a writing practice.  But first and foremost, you have to get your ideas down on paper, sans censorship – and that’s where I believe being partners with Bobbi is going to be very beneficial.  Our discussion before we started writing, in which we talked about what kind of writing we wanted to do, topics we were focusing on, etc., and the actual writing process we experienced help me realize that nothing is off limits when expressing one’s creativity.  I feel like that’s the point I’ve been missing since I’ve started working on establishing myself as a writer.

I am giving myself permission to open my mind, and pour it out on the page.




200-500 Words? Really? Yikes!

I’m reading a book on how to become a freelance writer.  I skipped ahead to the section on blogging and learned a few things, one being that blogs should be around 200-500 words in length, otherwise you lose the reader.  I don’t think I’ve ever posted anything that short – but I’m going to be doing that for a while.  It will force me to make my writing tighter, and focus in more on a specific subject instead of just spouting rubbish.  I’ve set a goal to write daily, and I’m going to blog three days a week: Tuesday, Thursday and a mystery day.

I also learned about something called a splog, or spam blog.  According to Wikipedia (which is the source for the quotes in this blog entry), a splog is a blog, but it’s used “to promote affiliated websites, to increase the search engine rankings of associated sites or to simply sell links/ads …  the articles are fake, and are only created for search engine spamming.”  This is not to be confused with spam in blogs, which is a type of spamdexing, which is the “deliberate manipulation of search engine indexes.”  Spam in blogs occurs when the so-called blogger posts, “random comments, copying material from elsewhere that is not original, or promoting commercial services to blogs, wikis, guestbooks, or other publicly accessible online discussion boards.”

The book also suggested having a purpose in mind for one’s blog.  Don’t just be writing all willy nilly.  That’s where I have made my mistake, I think.  In a perfect world, my blog would be something along the lines of the way David Sedaris writes – essays on stuff that happens, and you learn something profound from it.  I will get back to the eventually, but for now, I’m going to try this leaner, more laser-focused style of writing, and see where it takes me.  It feels much less overwhelming, which has been a problem for me.  Not every blog entry has to have the complexity of War and Peace


“Don’t Move Until You See It.”

As a devotee of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I have incorporated the practice of “Morning Pages” into my daily routine.  Morning Pages is a commitment to write three pages long-hand, first thing in the morning, without censorship.  I’ve been doing this practice for about four years now, and I continue to be amazed at the epiphanies and flashes of insight I experience as a result.

I was, however, lamenting the lack of aha! moments as of late.  All I seemed to be writing about was feeling stuck, rudderless, unsure of what to do next, what meaning my life had, if I was on purpose.  “Why am I even writing these pages?  I’m not getting anything out of it,” I wrote one day last week.  Of course, that was an invitation to the creative gods to prove me wrong and wow, did I get a sound thrashing.

In the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, Josh has his second lesson with Bruce, his chess teacher.  Bruce places various pieces on the board, and challenges Josh to work out checkmate in four moves.  He instructs Josh, “Don’t move until you figure it out in your head.”  Josh looks up at Bruce pleadingly, but gets no sympathy.  “Don’t look to me for a hint,” he says.  Josh says that he can’t figure it out without moving the pieces.  Bruce encourages him by telling him that he can, and that he should clear the lines of men in his head until the king is left, “standing alone like a guy on a  street corner.”  After Josh spends some time frowning at the board, Bruce says, “Here, let me make make it easier for you,” and dramatically sweeps all the pieces onto the floor.  At first he’s shocked, but after staring at an empty board, Josh’s face lights up, and he calls out the first move.


There’s a point in the climactic showdown chess match between Josh and and an arrogant child chess prodigy. During the game, Josh’s opponent makes a mistake.  Bruce, watching the match with Josh’s parents and Josh’s other teacher via remote television, realizes the mistake.  “Look deep, Josh.  It’s there.  It’s twelve moves away, but it’s there.  You’ve got him,” Bruce says, and begins talking Josh through, move by move, to the game’s conclusion, as if Josh can hear him.  As this is going on, we see Josh looking at the board, scanning the pieces.  “Don’t move until you see it,” is Bruce’s last piece of advice.  “I can’t see It,” Josh whispers back.  “Don’t move until you see it,” he says again.  “I can’t see it,” Josh whispers, even more timidly.  “Don’t move until you see it,” Bruce says a final time.  “I’m sorry, Dad,” Josh says, his voice full of defeat.  “Here, I’ll make it easier for you,” Bruce says – and instantly, we’re taken back to that earlier scene where Bruce sweeps the chess pieces off the board.  Once Josh uses that technique, as he did previously, he does “see it,” and goes on to win the match.

Now, I don’t know what confluence of events took place, I don’t know if I had put extra cream in my coffee that morning, I don’t know if I hadn’t gotten enough sleep, but for some unknown reason, as I was writing my Morning Pages one morning,

this scene popped into my head – more specifically, the sound of Ben Kingsley’s and Max Pomeranc’s voices.  I heard the back and forth in my mind:  “Don’t move until you see it … I can’t see it …”

“What on earth,” I thought, “does this mean?”  The answer came to me like a flash.  “Here, let me make it easier for you.”  Whoosh!  Chess pieces fall to the floor.  There’s an empty board.

And that’s when I “saw” it.

We let so many things get in the way.  There are so many pieces on our chess boards – so many distractions, so many negative, toxic voices and thoughts swirling around in our heads, that we become paralyzed, unable to make a decision, to move forward, to trust ourselves, to believe that we know what is best.  We don’t see what we can do.  We don’t see or realize the opportunities, the possibilities, the myriad choices we have.  We look to others for help when in reality, we have to look within.  We have to sweep the board clean, clearing our minds of all the obstacles and roadblocks, the voices of the naysayers (which often includes our own voices), until that one light, that one voice of truth, that crystal clear picture – that king  – is left standing alone, like a guy on a street corner.  Only when you see it can you move forward.  Only when you get that intuitive yes! can you advance.  And we have to trust this process, trust that while it may take time to figure out the next move, and the next, and the next – gathering information, preparing, planning, visualizing, meditating – we must also remember that, like a chess match, there is a time limit, and trust that we will know when and how we must move …

but don’t move until you see it.

Sono vostro schiavo,



Lent Day 10: Freewrite

Very often when I start a blog, I don’t know what I’m going to write about.  As I go through the writing process something will emerge, but it’s intimidating, staring at a blank screen waiting for that to happen. In looking back over my blog entries since the beginning of Lent, I realize how little I’ve written about myself – what’s going on with me, what I’m thinking or feeling.  To be honest, I’m not sure I want to share anything that intimate in a public forum.  Not that I have tons of traffic here, but …

We have different personas that we present to the world.  Currently, I am in “transcriber persona” – professional, friendly yet detached.  I’ll have this mask on until I get into my car for the drive home.  I don’t know what persona comes out then – “speed demon,” maybe.  Depends on if I’m listening to music or not.  I’m listening to an audiobook on clutter at the moment so … 55-60MPH.  When I’m at home alone, I guess my true self comes to the fore – who is that?  Still trying to figure that out.  I go into Wife Mode when Ralph gets home.  If I check email or Facebook, I have appropriately matching personas for those outlets as well.

I am wearing some sort of mask almost all the time, it seems.  And I don’t know how I feel about that.  Granted, some things you want to keep to yourself.  But there are aspects of who I am that I do to share with others, except I worry about the reception I would receive.  So I keep those parts of myself hidden.

Therefore, I am not authentic.  

That doesn’t do wonders for my self-esteem, needless to say.

I really admire those people who just put it all out there.  They don’t care what other people think.  I’m not there yet.  It’s almost as if I am stuck in an earlier time, when I had to live under the confines of familial and religious obligations, both of which were extremely limiting and soul-crushing.  My soul is still crushed and I fear sometimes that I don’t have the courage or even the ability to break free from those rules which were originally thrust upon me.

The thing is, now that I can break through, I’m consciously choosing not to. I tell myself, I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up (I’m friggin’ 52 years old; I’d better figure it out right quick), but that’s not true.  I know what I want to do.  I know what I need to do in order to be happy.  I know what I have to hold on to, and what I have to leave behind.  But I “can’t” do it.  Which is the coward’s way of saying I consciously choose not to do it.  I consciously choose not to do what millions of people do every day – be who they are, unapologetically, and do what they want or need to be happy.

I need to give myself permission …

To come out of hiding.

To speak my truth.

To pursue goals I want to achieve.

To say no.

To say yes.

To take off masks.  And there are so many, many masks.

To think before I speak and make sure what I’m about to say is what I truly believe is in line with my beliefs and values.

To examine my life, determine what no longer works for me, and excise from my soul what holds me back, replacing those attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors with those that are more self- and life-affirming.

The question is, HOW?  And WHERE?  How do I go about doing this, and where do I find the courage to do so?  How low is rock-bottom for me?  Because despite how uncomfortable it is to live in my skin, I still find joy and happiness with my life, with who I am, with my career and in my relationships.  I just know I could do more and be more, and that is what nags at me.

If I ever do figure this out and make these changes, I won’t blog about it.  I’ll write a book and share my experiences with the world – because I know I’m not the only one who feels like this …