At some point, you just move forward

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Yesterday’s Journal Can Become Tomorrow’s Memoir

New life stories are created in many ways. Sometimes a whole new life story happens itself upon us, and we have to decide how to make the best of it. Often, we deliberately decide it’s time to change our lives for the better and set out to compose a new life for ourselves.

An important part of building a new life story is understanding, healing, and coming to terms with our past life stories. We use our old lives to propel ourselves forward, use them as fuel, use them as compost for new growth.

Rather than denying or hiding our past, we mine it for the surprising and hidden riches it may contain.

Journal keepers and writers already have a wealth of material to draw on. As we look back, we strengthen ourselves by reinterpreting or reframing events of our past. Writing a memoir can become a powerful healing process as we literally become the authors of our own stories.

June 5, 2012   6 Comments

Someone Will Be with You Shortly

I was lucky: my family listened to me and read to me.

I waited in the front yard at dusk for the newspaper man to kick up dust on graveled Main as he threw the Kansas City Star into the yard. I’d rip off the string and run inside as fast as I could to have my favorite comic strip read to me [Read more →]

June 19, 2011   3 Comments

One Solution for Meetings You’d Rather Not Attend

Let’s face it, some meetings are necessary, well run, even enjoyable. Others, well, you’ve surely been to some (as I have) that make you want to stick a pencil in your eye and set your hair on fire. Or at least run out of the room screaming.

Am I exaggerating? You tell me.

In the most horrible of meetings, I’d usually just hunker down and pretend to pay attention while doodling on a legal pad. Try to stay out of any disputes. Just grin and bear it. Tell myself, “This too shall pass.”

The organization was undergoing changes of management, and of course, politics being what they are with each faction warring with the other, there was a lot of bitter conflict among the staff. The daily meetings were agony, just watching the barbed looks and vitriol shot across the room. Nobody wanted to go to them.

Here’s a solution some friends and I dreamed up: [Read more →]

June 13, 2011   13 Comments

Stories about Stories and Stuff, Stuff, Stuff

Don’t know about you, but my life (and life’s work? Work?) is all about stories: listening, telling, writing. I grew up in an extended family of storytellers. Stories, true life and otherwise, could erupt at any time. Often during family gatherings on Sunday afternoons, and always at bedtime tuck-in with one or the other parent.

Those stories encouraged me to become a person interested in almost everything at one time or another, from archaeology and botany to x-rays and zoology. The natural, physical world and a lot in the invisible realms. World literature, the human condition—heart, mind, and soul—all of it. My curiosity knows no limits. Like my family, I’ve been a collector of books, music, hand-made objects, and beautiful things I’ve found in nature: smooth stones, sticks, feathers. Now that my hair is whiter and my glasses thicker, I’ve amassed an amazing amount of stuff. And of course, I would end up marrying a man with the same interests and similar collections. Put them together, and what you’ve got is stuff, a lot of stuff.

All those childhood stories gave me permission to become a generalist, not a specialist. A fox, not a hedgehog. That’s just who I am and what I came here to do. I’d have to agree heartily with E. M. Forster who wrote: “My defence at any Last Judgement would be that I was trying to connect up and use all the fragments I was born with.” So, on good days, I call myself a Renaissance woman. Other days, well, I’m scattered, that’s what I am, especially now that I’m working from home instead of from my downtown office and am sorting through dozens of boxes of books and papers.

Having so many varied interests means I’ve never [Read more →]

June 8, 2011   No Comments

Follow the Thread

What is the thread that leads you safely through the labyrinth of life? Once you know where you are in the great scheme of things (see previous post “You Are Here”), what is the path you follow?

Is it a set of philosophical or spiritual beliefs and practices? A path you’ve carved out for yourself or one given to you by a teacher?

As the saying goes, [

September 19, 2008   1 Comment

You Are Here

What are your most basic questions? My first question has always been “What’s going on here?” Then “What’s really going on here?” Sometimes not easy questions to answer, but important to whatever comes next.

Don’t you love the maps found in large shopping malls or office complexes? The first thing you see is the circle with the X inside it saying “You are here.”

“Oh,” you say, “This is where I am, so now I know which direction to turn to get to where I want to be.”

Without the knowledge of where you are, you can’t know how close or far away you are from your destination. Just so, it’s important to know where you are in the great scheme of things in life. This question presupposes that you know something about the big picture and something about your destination (destiny).

And within these questions: “Who am I?”

My mother always told me, “Just be yourself, and you’ll be fine.” But who is that self? And how do you find out? [Read more →]

September 10, 2008   4 Comments


“Only connect,” wrote E. M. Forster. How to be connected in a world that seems to be pushing all of us toward disconnection with stress, information overload, long work hours, and the breakdown of community social structures that no longer function? In the past, most new acquaintances would be introduced by a friend or close connection so that you knew something about that person and his or her background.

Connection makes life rich. To have happy and nurturing connections is to live a life of joy and fulfillment. Easily said, but sometimes difficult to do. One of the best ways to connect with someone is to listen. Listen with all the resources at your disposal.

That means not interrupting. Paying good attention (not reading the newspaper or playing video games), giving eye contact and “squaring off,” facing another person directly, not looking over your shoulder. You might want to draw the other person out by asking “Is there more?” or “Can you tell me more about that?”

When Frank and I met 16 years ago, one of the first and most important things I noticed about him was how intently and acceptingly he listened to me with his whole being. He mirrored my feelings on his face and provided a comfortable “container” for me to open up and be myself. It was a wonderful, comfortable feeling.

When someone is angry with you, good listening alone can often restore the peace. Just hear the person out. Let them express their feelings freely. Wait. Let the anger dissipate. Only then do you say what you want to say. Give them several chances to get the anger out until it’s exhausted.

And the same with someone who is upset or anxious. Listening is a healing balm. Often that’s the main thing someone wants from you. A good listening.

I grew up with an extended family who all listened to me, and I am privileged to be able to listen to my sister, Charla, as she inspires me by walking courageously and confidently through her cancer testing [Read more →]

September 9, 2008   3 Comments

And In A Moment, Everything Changes

The phone rings. It’s my sister, Charla, with news from her mammogram and other tests. Cancer.

Suddenly nothing is the same.

A new life story for us both as we walk this new path. I want to be with her (at least in spirit) and support her as much as possible. How can I be most helpful? What can I do? I can’t do what I most want to do: [Read more →]

September 1, 2008   No Comments

How Do You Know When a New Life Story Begins?

Sometimes you plan for new life stories, carefully laying the groundwork, planning, getting information, journaling possible new futures, visualizing, taking it step-by-step.

Sometimes a new life story develops gradually, growing and gaining strength beneath the surface. “Roads not taken” often do that. For one reason or another you consciously take a path and leave others untaken, then over the course of months or years, that path reappears, often in a different form giving us undreamed of possibilities.

Sometimes a new life story “happens itself upon us” in an instant. A chance meeting, a letter, a phone call, a change in a relationship, an illness, a promotion, and suddenly everything is different. Everything [Read more →]

August 26, 2008   1 Comment

Did William James Know Something We Don’t?

“If you want to change your life: Do it immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No excuses.”

August 18, 2008   No Comments