the rubble of American self-righteousness

In keeping with the theme of letting go, and of moving forward, there are several thoughts that have come up with me in the wake of several (additional) crises that have played out over the last several weeks. While Marianne Williamson (yes, her) put some of them in much more succinct terms than I possibly ever could in her Washington Post column, I am sure it cannot hurt to reiterate them, and go on about them, either.

We need all the help we can get.

To start, trash. This will come off mildly humblebraggadocious (eat that, Mary Poppins), but the urge to pick up trash, bits of it lingering on the sidewalk and in the gutter, is a strong one with me. What a confession, I know. But I find it baffling and cannot explain why. It’s a reluctant urge, which I suppose translates to a compulsion, of which I have a slew in my arsenal. So, in the end, most likely I want to pick it up simply because it is there.

It’s a reflex, that said, that is much easier to bypass in my current home of Richmond, where a plastic bottle that’s been run over one too many times is moreso a part of the landscape than it is in my hometown of Sterling (aka Potomac Falls).

Sterling/Potomac Falls is a highly developed area of Northern Virginia, which is a region already defined, all told, by development. In Richmond, the pick-it-up programming can be countered by, yes-but-there’s-so-much damn trash, you-can’t-clean-it-all-up, there-are-bigger-problems, now-keep-walking. Pride, shame—I can’t say this decision makes me feel much of either, because there is only so much one can reasonably do in a city of any size, including of a Richmond-size, and I’ve come away from these mini crusades with enough questionable sludge spilled on my hands to know better.

In Northern Virginia, though, it’s curious. There, my visits always involve long walks in spaces and on trails that look overgrown, and far removed from civilization, when in reality they are about fifty feet from a subdivision. Just recently, one of those walks led me to a well-worn path I used to run up and down all the time while growing up here. As I followed it, I noticed the path, usually so perfectly pruned, was pockmarked with freshly drained and crushed Twisted Tea cans, Meyer lemon-yellow and bright against the crushed gray gravel, two of them dropped at a time at points separated by about two hundred feet of distance.

A story. There was a story there. Or at least I wanted there to be. One of, maybe, teenagers on a late-night outing, a stroll of their own; they were out of school, home for the summer, aimlessly wandering and drinking and swapping stories—

but fast-forwarding through this half-story led to the thought of, I wonder if I should pick those up.

Should, I suppose, is the operative word, and the one that stuck. Should. Another compulsion, more externally imposed this time, because picking up trash is what you’re supposed to do, what we all should do, because it makes everything look and feel better and is good for the earth and the birds and, while we’re at it, builds character, I suppose.

And, sure, it’s a meaningful should. Ultimately, I am not as against trash removal as I sound; in this situation, doing so may have served all of these purposes. But the impetus, I realized, was none of the above. It was to make it look as though the litter in question was never there to begin with. To erase this very ugly human artifact. Which is a very nicely packaged metaphor for suburbia and all of its trappings and how it came to be. And, by extension, the kind of aspirational nature of the so-called American dream.


Growing up in Lowes Island, my particular suburb of Sterling/Potomac Falls, said aspirations were, on the whole, within reach. It’s an interesting place to grow up. Like any suburban area, it is not entirely removed from the collateral damage that comes from development. Like any place now, it has a wide economic gap that seems to have grown an inch wider every time I return. Yet in spite of that edging-away, the expectations of ages ago have remained, and if they were heavy ten years ago, I cannot imagine what weight they have gained since. Expectations of surpassing a 4.0 grade point average, of following a subscribed college-to-career path, of filtering into said path by grade 10 or sooner.

You can embrace all of it or you can decidedly question it. From observation, it seems that sometimes going in one direction leads you to an opposite destination. I guess you’d call that failure, or something like that. I have not yet discovered a middle path—one of being grateful for stability and safety and a good education while otherwise saying sayonara to the incomprehensible blanket standards. But after several years of failure to integrate either way, I am searching.

To clarify, I spent most of my adolescence in a state of irritation, never really breaking rules or going against the grain of the culture surrounding me, but never really being a part of it, either. (Not a path I’d recommend, offhand.) I found a niche and stuck myself in it and didn’t voice my myriad concerns. It might have served me well. Instead, I was the girl who lived in a nice neighborhood and whose parents made decent livings but still had the nerve to sporadically interject such high-horse tidbits into class discussions as: “I think wealth just gives people a false sense of security.” (Which I suppose I still believe to a degree but, I hope, with a little more nuance. And/or empathy. Since some of that security is not false.)

(Also, I was quickly shut down by a friend’s response about money meaning you could afford a good security system, which is telling, so that’s where it stopped.)

Yet that left me with the feeling, however untrue, that for some people, this was It. And if it wasn’t my It, there had to be something else. But what?

The question I never really asked—instead of that initial, very usual one—was, what if this was nobody’s It? What then? And if it wasn’t, why not?

And I am wondering if the litter on the gravel path was offering an outright answer, or a suggestion toward one. Or, more specifically, my reaction to those off-color cans held a potential answer. That is: the compulsion to “clean up,” maybe, is often misused, even abused, and that is why this land of admittedly excellent schools and well-kempt roads was not and is not any sort of Utmost. Maybe it was meant for something good, or maybe it was meant to shelter the wealthy from the problems of urban decay. But has all been cleaned and pruned one too many times, sidestepping deeper problems and actual decay too easily, letting the experience of being fallible and human fall to the wayside in the name of so-deemed perfection. Betterment.

Which leads to another question entirely: is there a reason any of us still believes in this strangely distant/nonexistent Utmost?


Today is September 11th, 2019, and ten days ago (already) there was a shooting at a shopping mall in Odessa, Texas. The live coverage was tremulous and terrifying. Even in the wake of Saturday, August 3rd, 2019, which was, if it’s already fallen out of conscious, what some were calling a landmark day in this recent-but-stark history of American mass shootings.

Even to those who’ve become numb to it all, all of this should be at minimum, jarring. It should be a wake-up call. Or it should be a sign—a sign that the turnabout of self-righteousness, that which has become cultural currency, has reached a breaking point.

Another unintended turn: it’s been 18 years since a landmark day of terrorist violence spurred our government toward what else but further violence. And there are layers of self-righteousness in that, too. It still exists: you can still taste it in every word of the exploding-word Facebook-friendly culture that has bred more and more of the same.

Self-righteousness. That’s what it is. But, oh, how bad could that really be? Is that really so integral to these shootings? Because, with self-righteousness, all you really do is think you’re right, even a moral authority. You’re stuck in your ways. How “bad” is that if you’re still “good”? At least you’re not hurting anyone. Stealing. Breaking the law. Crossing the border without documentation.


Until you’re crushing the spirit of someone you care about. You’re taking your anger out on others. You’re judging those you know nothing about.

And then. And then. Someone kills other people with that same fuel. And you look on in outrage, but outrage that is wavering, because deep in your gut, you know that what drove them sometimes drives you, too.

The rubbish scattered on the ground all around them, and around you? That’s been picked up. It’s the shit inside that’s gone unnoticed. Outside, that paved road and that perfect school and, while we’re at it, that Porsche—they’re all still there.

But even with the presence of these trappings, it’s suddenly clear that the cost at which they come is something deep.


In 2004, Lois Lowry published a beautiful, tragic, and eerily prescient novel called Messenger. Connected to her more prominent book The Giver, Messenger features a village that has long been home to people seeking refuge from other villages and towns, those more dangerous and less welcoming. But the village also becomes a place where a strange, malevolent figure appears, and encourages all of its residents to trade away parts of themselves for things they think they want. By parts, I mean traits—of personality, of character. That which makes them human. By things, I mean occasionally, objects; other times, objects of vanity. Youth, wealth. It is all a game to this visiting stranger.

As this village is steadily drained of its kindness and vitality, it becomes a place of angrily construed borders. Yes, those outsiders who were once taken in start to be met with hostility. And the once-open-hearted villagers start to build—if you can believe it—a wall.

So it becomes, you could say, “clean” and contained. Just, in the story, without giving too much away, this so-deemed cleanliness is not without cost. The forest beyond that wall starts turning violent, swamplike, horrid and foreboding. It is as if it has taken on the natures of those who’ve lost themselves. And it is that change, ultimately, that comes with its own cost.

As it always does. It’s a simplistic metaphor, but its truth is sincere and big: we are always a tradeoff away from a new story.


There are so many layers of problem linked to the many massacres that have unfolded since Columbine, and that of gun control is only one of them. By that I mean not to take a stance, because while I have one, it’s not the point here. Rather, my point is to pose questions, because there seem to be several that have not yet been asked (except in the earlier-linked piece, of course).

For instance:

Beyond that of why guns remain accessible, why are they being chosen in the first place? Maybe because they are the fastest, the loudest, the most domineering of weapons. Maybe because, not only do all of those traits translate to effectiveness, they also have come to serve as thoroughly American.

Maybe because fast, loud, and domineering have stayed ingrained as some people’s idea of freedom.

Save for family history, I have so little experience with guns, I scarcely am positioned to say much about them as objects, as tools. However, there is a family history: my great-uncle, for example, knew how to make them, and he kept them on hand for protection in his isolated hillside Roanoke home. He would certainly be, were he still living, firmly in the camp of retaining access to firearms because some people use them for those purposes. And I can see why, when I take his perspective and recall the contexts in which he lived and grew up.

But yet, in so doing, I am reminded that two separate cultural contexts have bled together, or rather, have always been blended while still at odds, and they are as follows. There is the idea of an America where everyone starts with nothing, and everything earned is deserved. And there is the reality of an America where nothing is equal but everything is supposed to be.

Not everyone has reconciled these. It is all too easy to cling to an idea. And if the competing voices are loud enough, you can bet a great many people will remain confused for a very long time, and let their confusion turn into something worse.


With the rhetoric both on and of racism that has poured forth lately, perhaps it is finally okay to say that these mass shootings both are and are not about guns. Even if it is not, I was hoping for a space to say: perhaps this both is and is not about guns.

I know how helpful that comes across. But, bear with me for a moment: for better or for worse, guns and the right to own them are very, culturally anyway, American. And for better or for worse, guns themselves serve as extensions of the self for many people, apparently. They are tools, but they are also outlets for aggression and for action, and they package and concentrate these forces and send them forth to burst out and cause whatever result they may. Sometimes that result is damage and death. They are a manifestation of the Manifest Destiny, and some people love that, and use that manifestation as a means to hunt and for sport and, I suppose, to feel alive.

Others use it to express fear.

And then a few others, as we’ve all seen, channel that fear into action. By which I mean, bloody murder.

All of this, at least when it comes to heritage, is, again, very American. And that leads to the part about why this is not about guns. Because, on a larger scale, it is still moreso about the reasons they are used. That need for force, and domination. At this point I could repeat every song-and-dance about why this group of mostly young white men believes they need force and domination anymore, and why they are seeking to grab it for themselves, but it would make no difference, because you know those rhythms inside and out, and anyway, all of those reasons have only proven to translate to racism and violence and hatred, and everyone knows that now, even if they pretend not to know.

That is the part that needs guns to survive, yes, but is not about guns.

(Do you see the distinction? There is a distinction. And both thoughts need addressed, but distinctively. Separately.)

That part of this problem that needs guns to survive is about ideology that, for a breath, for a fraction of a second, I nearly called “dead” in this sentence, before remembering it was a misnomer. It obviously has never died. Shadows, after all, loom larger when left unexamined. And most of us, myself included, can be too self-righteous to look past the surface-level trash, and the pockmarks, of which gun violence is one.

What is so terrifying about looking deeper, though?

Perhaps it is that getting to truly know thyself is a long, hard, painful process. One to which the temperament of the United States is not so accustomed.

If the supposed American ideal is little more than a superficial veneer, and such problems as this one are equal to rubbish that mars that veneer but alludes to a deeper difficulty… then there is a lot of work to be done.

But we all know this. And we all know that gun control is not the only solution thereby. Of course, to stop the bleeding from the deeper wounds, urgent action in the form of legislation is needed. That tourniquet can keep an awful thing from worsening.

What, then, is the next layer? Is it mental health? If our national discourse on mental health were not so wanting, then perhaps it could be. But there’s a defiance, seemingly, around deepening it, and freeing it of paid opinions and research, and including elements of the social, spiritual, emotional landscapes.

(Some people are actually doing this but they do not seem very accessible by the average person. There is still so much misinformation and mythology out there.)

Is it mental health, or is it something beyond that? I know and hear quite a few people talk about how central the family unit is, how its state of recent instability creates chaos in this manner.

But that comes from somewhere deeper, too. It is not standalone. It, too, is systemic.

Systemic. That’s a word we hear so much lately. What does it mean in this situation/anymore? Because systemic, by definition, means “relating to or affecting an entire body or organism.”

We talk so much about systemic racism, about making amends and reparations for the slavery-ridden past. But there is still so little action. And I wonder if that action is stalled because that long, hard, deeper look has not happened. Because there is still a majority of people saying, “I am not the problem, I’m sorry. I have to step out of this.” Because there are systemic qualities that led to slavery and racism, not unlike, mind, those qualities that are tearing people’s spirits in half.

Like self-righteousness.

But you cannot convince anyone that they are part of a problem until they are willing to do so. The only reason I know this is because, before I knew myself better (cannot claim to know myself as well as I want to), I was willing to absorb the beliefs of the people I thought were, I am ashamed to admit, more powerful by way of their knowledge. I thought for myself, but only to a degree. I already tend toward malleability, anyway, and a loss of self in favor of connection that can be as dangerous as it is freeing. It has taken, and continues to take, a great deal of inner work and outer growth to change that.

But, clearly, I am not alone in all of that. Maybe it is less a personality trait, and more of a survival tactic.

And no matter how much we as a people progress, in the end, survival is all some of us think we really want. Even if we have deeper needs than that.

So I do not pretend to have any answers beyond the idea of a massive collective self-examination. Or an attempt at one done top-level for the culture at large. But until there is any sort of reciprocation or return on doing so, who can say what will lead people there?

Usually—and for me, on a personal level, it was like this—it only happens when the pain of living into what is not right is great enough.

Are we there yet?

re-publish alert! this has never happened before

to those who regularly happen upon this space! please be aware that “let go for dear life” is also viewable at The Urban Howl as of today. that site is such a magical platform that i’d be remiss to not encourage going in that direction and exploring — so, please go forth and explore!

for personal purposes and maybe others’ interest, here is the re-post:

“For You Who Have Known Hope and Grace, Let Go For Dear Life”

(full-on article title their doing, but i quite like it.)


a very American anxiety

on letting go | an introduction called

a very American anxiety

Turbulence is the tone and timbre of late, here in America but also globally, and no reprieve has been promised. No end seems to be in sight. No captain is coming over the loudspeaker to let us know that this is just a brief foray, please fasten your seatbelts and hold tight, this will all be over momentarily.

I’ve heard it said before (and/or seen it on quotable cards) that peace has more to do with being in a place of chaos and staying with yourself than with finding a lack of chaos somewhere else.

Challenge accepted, I guess.

To go with the rising tide of chaos, anxiety is reportedly more and more common lately. At least on a clinical (?!) level (whatever that means). Anecdotally and statistically, though, this seems obvious. Here and here are a few interesting treatises on the matter, as a sidenote. (Skewing more cultural, for what it’s worth.)

As a lifelong anxious being (is that a curse I just put on myself? never mind), I am not all that shocked. I’m more impatiently here for it. Finally, I am not alone at this party.

I don’t mean to come off as cute in saying that. But when Sarah Wilson shared the nugget of wisdom that “if you’re not anxious, you’re not paying attention,” I felt that heavily. Sometimes that sense of disorder is a cue that something is wrong. Whether it’s a past or present something.

So if you are sort of already wired to pay attention—and if there are more people thusly wired these days—since there are more people overall—

Yeah. It’s something of a perfect storm. A gut-churning, eyelid-twitching, muscle-gripping, 4 AM-waking storm.



I really wanted this to start off on the level of a big, gushing waterfall of a reason for all of us to be anxious. Or for anxiety to threaten. But there are and have been so many such reasons over the last few weeks. So let’s start with two.

We’ve got the whole slew of recent women’s health related lawmaking events—that-which-shall-not-be-named. I say this mostly because I don’t even know what to call such a fiasco. Our Collective Almost-Handmaid’s Tale? Is that too melodramatic for this space?

We’ve also suffered the loss of a writer wildly influential to so many, myself included. Rachel Held Evans passed away at the end of April and left a void that is unbelievably vast.

I want to talk about both of these things because that’s what you do. It’s how you survive.

But also because there is no turning around from this.

There is no turning around because the coinciding of both events puts in stark relief the fact that there’s a lot of nonsense in what we are doing anymore. The old-world sort of stance of trying to legislate something very private, intimate and personal—an action which, mind, contradicts the original philosophy behind said stance—is getting very old and tiresome and sad. Humans have physical and emotional needs foremost, and how did we all forget this very basic thing so quickly?!

(Not to sound too surprised. Clearly most of our institutions and ideas were started with a foundation of ignoring said needs for most groups of people.)

And I understand the opposite perspective. Really, with all my heart, I do. It used to be mine. But there is no getting to a deeper place spiritually or morally without reconciling with this piece first.

Furthermore, a very eloquent and measured writer who was part of the community that arguably planted the seeds of this conflict—which I’ll just go ahead and say because I used to be/am sort of part of it, too—is gone. She cannot chime in with wisdom and guidance regarding this mess.

This turbulence is for the remainder of the flight. This plane is not turning around.



None of this is meant in a battle-cry sort of way, but then, maybe it is. Because all of this, frankly, hurts, and on several levels. Personally, I am so sick of false lines being drawn that pit people against one another, and for people controlled by their fear and their pasts getting to make the rules, letting people stay stuck in cycles from which they may never emerge. It’s ridiculous: don’t we all want the same things, deep down? To be safe, known, loved?

Someone like Rachel Held Evans was in a powerful place: she knew how to cross those lines. We have so few people in that place: people willing to be unafraid, and who are unshaken by the fact that things are not as they should be.

That willingness is the only coping mechanism that counts, in the end.

Because there are so many coping tools we lovely anxious humans cling to, and if you’re only getting anxious now, these may be quite new to you. We get irritable, combative. Or addicted—to people, to substances. Or we freeze up, check out, dissociate. I suspect that last one has become incredibly garden-variety. Complacency—it’s a straightforward choice. Scrolling can be the sweetest thing.

Of course, when life keeps being scary and unpredictable, some of us get less complacent. That righteous anger bubbles up. Words are volleyed. Action is taken. Whew, that was a doozy. Now that’s over.

No. It’s not. This just keeps happening.

And so with these last several doozies, well, what do we do?

What, I’d ask instead, do we not do?

If life itself has truly become this ill-suited to everyone then a holistic overhaul is clearly due. Environmental reform. Maybe the kind that starts from within and works its way out on several levels.

I have no idea how to make that happen. That’s the goddamn million-dollar question, isn’t it? But this cycle is the unfortunate equivalent of trying many different kinds of band-aids (like an abortion ban! like a march in DC!) when the bleeding is internal.

And maybe it’s also to say, I’m aggrieved and exhausted of this national dysregulation—this existential crisis—and if you’re reading this, perhaps you are, too. Maybe all of these attempts at ideology are just twisting us more thoroughly into something not-us. And maybe we all need to take a breather from the way things should have been and used to be.

Maybe that’s the only road toward something better. Toward being all of who and what we can possibly be.


Changes, mayhaps


The name of this blog has always, to me, been about living in the balance between planning and improvisation—about finding a harmony between practicality and spontaneity. I’m not always good at marrying the two (really, it rarely happens, I fall more into the former camp in both instances), but I’ve seen a lot of magic happen when the two approaches are allowed to exist together, for me and for others.

So I’m using that as justification for attempting to steer this site in a different direction. Only a slightly different one, mind, but I thought doing so deserved a post (assuming, lol, that anyone is reading this).

What is it we are trying to do when we write? What is it we want? To express ourselves? To tell stories? To seek connection, or some semblance of immortality, or something deeper? Or is it all of the above?

Does it matter what avenue we take to sate this craving? And what is the purpose of sharing the words that flow from us? This thing we call the Internet is a bona fide means of doing so every second—a fountain of letters and numbers and words upon words upon words. Why, with this in mind, does anyone write at all?

(and hasn’t that particular question been asked and answered thousands of times?)

There are ideas and thoughts to be shared, to be sure. There is information to be distributed. There are opinions to be stated.

And yet, with all of this filtering out through every paragraph that is displayed on a screen or printed on a page, I find that there is still not enough understanding in the world. Of ourselves, and of one another. Talk of worldly and cultural divides is sort of a daily phenomenon lately. Yet there are, too, many divides within us.

How do we begin to bridge those gaps? It seems an impossible task. Yet there is no shortage of ways, most of them involving, yes, words. Stories. Poetry. Movies. Video. Music. Podcasts. Theatre.

Maybe these outlets are where we go to escape, but they are also where we end up confronted with ourselves, if we are so open to the possibility. This is not a profound idea; it’s probably spoken to much more eloquently at the Oscars and/or in AP English classes. But it’s still valid, and it still means something, and I would like this space to be one that has such purpose and possibility. Maybe one day, one that features not only my own work of that nature, but also that of others’, and of their unique perspectives.

Hence this change. I have a renewed certainty that the only enemy in the world is neither the self nor the other, but rather, fear. And when we work to eradicate it, we do more than we realize. We make it possible for new stories to be told, and create a sense of hope and light—of understanding and of possibility.

So, all this is to say: creative hope that navigates the chaos. That’s what I want Mayhaps to mean. Mayhaps it will, sooner than later.

[And all that said: first related series soon to come!]

Making friends with mountains

Between Georgia and Maine, the Appalachian Trail winds its way along the spine of the mountains, cutting through Eastern towns and highways, bringing people from one edge of their lives to the next. Between Georgia and Maine—almost smack in the middle—is Virginia—and in Virginia is McAfee Knob, an overlook that is apparently the most-photographed spot on the AT. (You may recognize it from this movie poster if you have not had the pleasure of visiting.)

overlook 3

McAfee Knob is just outside of Roanoke, where I went to visit an old friend and take on the trail alongside her. By which I mean this section of it, starting in Catawba and ascending to the apex in question. The whole AT? No, though that may have to be an adventure for another time.

There is not much I can say here to do justice to the state of flow in which we found ourselves. In movement, in ascent, in a criss-crossing wind through the rocks and trees and flora and fauna, there was a sense of moving closer to authenticity, to purity of thought and speech. Our words flowed as effortlessly as a river after rain, our thoughts unencumbered by the physical and mental walls that surround us from day to day.

And we sweated. The southern Virginia summer is back, in all its humid presence, and so we sweated. In so doing, we also sweated out at least a few of the hot-blooded demons trying to drag us down—the kind that try to drag you from direction.

trail view

When we reached the peak, we were immersed in blue and green: sky above, rows of trees below on the sloping Blue Ridge mountains. That old growth, humbled by time, was welcoming. We breathed it in: relieved, joyous. So far from where we started, and yet so at home.

This surprised me, feeling so at home, when I thought about it. Sometimes arriving at such a peak or point brings incredulity—a sudden sense of being thrust into the unknown. Yet this was one of those other times, when you arrive and something in your spirit settles down. It says you were meant to be there all along. The place seems to have been always waiting for you. You are here, or there, and you can believe it.

Maybe, perhaps, it is related to awe. Though rather than coming from a fearful reverence, it comes from a place of respect, one that acknowledges the obvious nature of a place’s beauty and majesty. In this case, that of the Blue Ridge, and the Appalachian trail, and southwestern Virginia’s beauty. It’s funny—I grew up driving through it often enough, yet so easily I forgot how striking it could be, this environment. Standing on that overlook was such a poignant reminder of what is here.

But it made me wonder: am I taking something for granted in this here that I know so well?

overlook 1

I wondered, because, for a contrast, on my first trip to Utah, which was also my first trip to a non-coastal Western state, reprieve and calm were not what I would say came over me. Rather, the sheer bigness of the sky, and the majesty of the red rocks and canyons, overwhelmed me. I was overjoyed, unable to contain neither that joy nor my enthralled girlish squeals of it.

(My apologies to Dave Blakkolb, wherever he is; he had the job of driving the car in which I, riding shotgun, did so incessantly. May your ears be at peace.)

Utah is a gorgeous state (yes yes, pun entirely intended, &c.). There’s no denying that. Yet I found it interesting that, when I visited O’ahu for the first time a few years later, it was the calm that came instead. My gut instinct was a sigh of relief: the ocean met the sky, and then they both met me, and it was as if they were expecting me all along. How kind of them to be so hospitable.

So, what changed? Did anything change? Are these reactions really so different?

Yes, the overlook was a place of rest. Yet while we hiked, everything seemed eye-catching and marvelous; verdant, green, and bright. As I write this, I am reminded of an oft-passed-around quote on living as if nothing is a miracle versus living as if everything is. (Attributed to Einstein usually, but I’m doubtful about this, just for the record. I’ve spent enough time on That’s Not Shakespeare.)

It seems maybe there is a middle place of knowing the extraordinary lives within the ordinary, and of being at peace with those extraordinary elements.

It seems simple. But simple ain’t easy. Everything ordinary seems exhausting sometimes, and I wonder: do I do this? Do I let my days be intruded upon by small marvels?

The Utah experience was one of amazement, and typical awe. I was less accustomed to what the earth had to offer then, in all its shades and shapes and varieties. Yet becoming more accustomed, surprisingly, has not meant losing this sense of joy. Rather, it’s granted the privilege of being able to appreciate beauty from a place of stability. A sustainable, un-drainable place.

Do I do this? Do I live there now, even when the marvels are smaller, less noticeable?

Am I grateful to the forests and the flowers for being there? Are we friends? Do we live alongside one another, as if both of us can belong?

Is this something some of us know how to do? And if not, how do we start to learn?

Maybe it starts in this sustainable, un-drainable place, emptied of ego and full of love for what pulses with life all around us. Open to it, unafraid of it, authentic in its midst, and immersed. Inside, outside, wherever, in every circumstance.  It seems simple. Maybe it is that simple.

Finding your legs (again)


bit of a preview. also, forever thank you for this, parks and rec.


The river is running strong in this rainy season, its rapids gushing, and its movement is so enviable, something I crave. How refreshing would it be, I wonder, if our daily energy and movement were so rampant and wild?

We cannot literally have rivers running within us, as reviving as it would be. Yet that is the kind of momentum we need. And we especially need it in the face of that certain inertia that rises like a wall when spring arrives, as the cold air dissolves and is replaced by too kneejerk of a warming, of a humid overlay.

When everything seems stagnant, how do you find it? How do you choose the movement that works for you? I mean this physically, but also emotionally, and maybe even spiritually, too.

Recently, I started to more deeply re-engage with running, my movement of choice, after an injury forced me to cut back. I sort of forced myself to get back into the swing of it by ponying up for two race registration fees. The shame of getting dropped by the fasties in a 5K is that traumatic.

(Also, aforementioned fees are ridiculously expensive lately! That happened while I wasn’t looking.)

We’re in an interesting place, running and I. For a long time our relationship was somewhat forceful/codependent, i.e. I was the codependent one who needed it, and tried to make something special happen. If you are a runner reading this, perhaps you understand. And you probably also know that all of this is entirely unintuitive considering that, typically, we first start running because it is exhilarating. Because love is really what leads to speed.

Running fast offers something not unlike the sense of power—of autonomy—that comes with the relief of outside air—there is a freedom there.

It does not come as much from recklessness, though, as it does from balance, and from paying attention to momentum and inertia. A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest tends to stay at rest.

dash lululemon

Lately, when it comes to running, pushing myself to the extremes I did before has been, shall we say, unrealistic. But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that something in me doesn’t want to go there right now. Being extreme is cool, but unsustainable: it’s something we should definitely do, but more so in moments.

There is a strange freedom in going out in the morning to “bound” (jog?) rather than run. Or maybe, in clearer terms, to be out there and simply run instead of race myself. It’s an embrace of that old sense of effort-meets-ease. If it’s still running, it’s for different reasons.

That’s not to say it was easy to get there.

When I was in college and running was more about competition for me, I was like many an athlete in picking up a few unhealthy habits—though mine were more internal. You can get obsessed—borderline addicted—quite easily. This did not crop up immediately; it was gradual, and always mixed in with the more positive side of the sport, so it was tricky to pinpoint what exactly was going on. But I developed this constant vigilance, this layer of stress that wouldn’t go away, rooted in the idea that maybe I was not ever doing enough. Rather than acting on this idea by running too much, I did so by running too hard, and not resting enough—and overall by thinking about it way too much.

That kind of stress can affect your performance as much as physically overdoing it can. You can’t, I believe, always gauge whether someone is overtraining by how she looks, or how many miles she runs per week. If running is a mostly mental sport—90% mental, as one of my coaches put it—then how, and how much, you think about your training matters. And when those thoughts are tainted by anxiety and fear, it’s more than a little bit of a detriment.

These fears were mostly of inertia. I was a sure that, if I did not stay in motion, I would prefer entirely to rest. That if I did not run with as much intensity as my body could handle, I would turn the other way and become unable to pick myself up and go. I couldn’t take a day off unless the calendar said to. I couldn’t take training out of the forefront of my mind, because that would mean I was being lazy. I could not include people in this pursuit of so-called “greatness” and make it fun, because that would mean I was not working.

These beliefs came into full bloom during the tail end of my four years of college track, and it’s easy to see, in retrospect, the emerging pattern: that is, one of need.

I needed it. I couldn’t let it go. You could probably call that an addiction.

When I graduated, this turned into trying to grip my “career” (a term I use rather loosely) with both hands—else it would lose its meaning, and so would I. I fully intended to try and keep racing on my own terms. But in having this intention, I failed to comprehend the strength of the support that had surrounded me before. Nor, I suppose, had I wanted to, because all of this came down to avoidance. Something in me needed to avoid the truth: that I was—am—weak.

By this I mean, when we are human, we are weak. That’s it. When we do anything in an honest or vulnerable way, we show our weaknesses. And this is good. It’s necessary, but it’s certainly not easy.

Sinking into inertia is easy, though. Or at least, it happens easily. It starts with a week of late mornings where your body and mind definitely need the extra sleep, and morphs soon thereafter into two or three additional weeks of, “well, this is still happening, so that must mean I still need it. Right?”

(Rationalization is quick to respond with, “Right-o, my good fellow!”)

But the thing is, falling prey to inertia is about fear, too.

Fear that, maybe, control would slip away again if I started to constantly move again. That injury or imbalance would rear its ugly head again. Or that I would get too attached to movement and be unable, once again, to let go.

That reversal came with its own set of unintended consequences, because, though rest is important, it can also turn into less of a springboard, and more of a trap, or mire.

byrd park run

That’s when I had to wake up, and realize: it’s time to learn to move again. No: to move in a new way.

Not an easy lesson, by any stretch. Fear and old habits are potent. But facing down fear, thank goodness, is even more so. Because the thing is, I do truly love to run, and I am finding that there is more than one way to show it.

Sometimes you find that new sense of movement, and of vitality, by clambering through stupidly wide mud pits at an outdoors festival. Other times, it’s by admitting on the Internet or in counseling that you were once, in simplest terms, an exercise addict. And other, other times, it’s by giving yourself permission to enjoy yourself, and accept yourself, rather than try to be the best at every single thing in every single moment.

No one ever said giving up control was safe, or simple. But I’ve heard it’s worthwhile. And I’m counting on it.

Acquiring fire

If you can’t start from scratch, how do you fix a broken system? How do you shift into new practices? How do rediscover a part of you that seemed lost?

These questions echoed in the back of my mind while moving through two seemingly disparate experiences last week. It started with the Arrabon conference, a time of discussing racial and socioeconomic reconciliation when it comes to faith communities as well as the community entire. A firemaking workshop followed (held by Owlcraft Healing Ways/Blue Heron), which was a time of, frankly, learning how much I don’t know, how easy it is to ignore what your intuition knows (and how challenging that makes your life), and that I am perhaps a bit more out of touch with Nature than I realized.

How do you rediscover a part of you that seemed lost – that part of you that knows we are all connected, even when your monkey mind dwells in fear that it’s not so?

I don’t know the answers, at least not out of any place of logic, but what I have realized is that “acquiring fire” is not quite it. It’s not all about brusquely seeking out that fiery energy.

What do I mean by this? The instructors of this workshop said it best – you don’t “make” fire. You invite fire to come and be with you. And this posture informs not only the lay you set up, but also the way you do so. The climate, weather, and environment inform what of the Earth’s offerings you use.

After that, all you’re really doing is creating space.

So to me, more than anything else, the act of making and tending a fire is about awareness. What materials have you been given? How can you use them to create a hospitable place for warmth and light?

What’s interesting is, the same could be said about the topic of “race, class, and the kingdom of God” that was the focus of the conference. Reconciliation is less about making an inner fire that bids one to fight injustice and more about, instead, creating space within you for that fire to catch – because the fire already exists.

It is about creating space for warmth and light to radiate from a new way of relating to people. A new way that is, actually, an old way that already exists.

And perhaps this fire is a different kind of fire than one would expect. Perhaps it is the kind that does push against injustice, yes, but from a place of understanding exactly what tools are needed to do so – the tools of narrative, of cultural context, of frameworks that are not your own. The tools of experiences from people who have already learned about this over and over again.

It is a fire that comes from a place of desiring to see the world and other people (who are not so “other,” of course) in a better way.

That’s really the only way to make these changes: a mindset of generosity. Be generous with yourself, forgive yourself for the past, and be willing to receive new experiences. Be generous with others, and what you perceive their intentions to be; be willing to make space for them and their reality in your own reality.

This seems simple but it is not always easy. For me, it is a process – a journey. But it is a journey that will be well worth making, I am certain. No matter how bruised my knuckles get while trying to strike flint with steel; no matter how bruised my heart gets in trying to strike up hard conversations.

There is a thread of love and light that draws us back to who we were, the world that once was, and I am starting to feel it draw near. Can you?