Sometimes We Have to be Our Own Encouragers.

* Dedicated to my writer friends, especially the memoirists.

You, my dear, are the only one who can save yourself.

Save yourself from the lies.

Free yourself from the distractions and self-created stress.

Lean into what you love. Realign your values.

Ground in. Sit with yourself.

Listen to yourself. Hear your Self.

Look at yourself. See your Self.

Wake up. Wise up.

Come on up out of that fog!

Watch the birds, but work the plan.

Don’t give up, girl. Not now.

Not in the messy middle. This is the home of metamorphosis. In memoir and real life.

In our history—personal and societal, individual and collective.

Past, present, future, it’s all the same.

Inciting incidents. Indecisions, heartbreak and fear.

The f*cking messy middle!

Beginnings taste like taking flight. Yes, it felt like take-off when I started writing my memoir in the Summer of Alice in Santa Fe, NM in 2012, seven years ago!

The middle is like a food coma after consuming a box of donuts and a half dozen cups of coffee. It’s head on the desk, I want to go home! and Where the f*ck am I?!

The messy middle is living in a penthouse on the beach in Cancun while your boyfriend is gone all night doing cocaine.

It’s the juxtaposition that demands decision when all your decision-making capabilities feel maxed, your love story has turned tragic, and you don’t know where or how to get out.

Hello, messy middle!

Hang on, girl. Do your best. Fight like hell for your dream, but don’t make it harder than it must be.

Get on your knees. Get on your mat. Get grounded. Stay seated. At your desk.

Walk in the woods. Drink water.

TV is not your friend. And, even your friends can’t complete this book for you.

Your book is good because you’re a good writer and you have a good story, but you can make it better. Own that.

This is for you, my dear. Make it a badass book.

It’s not about being a bestseller (unless it is), but about putting out your best work for your professional debut on the playing field as an author.

Polish yourself and your baby up. Present yourselves to the world.

Bring your full Self into your new life. Leave your false self, like your first attempts before you changed the verb tense.

You alone must craft your art. Your sister can’t do it for you. Your writer friends can’t impose it upon you. Your parents can’t pray success into you.

But baby, you’ve got a gang of angels at your back applauding, whispering and arranging. They’ve got agents praying for your book and men praying for your love.

Marry yourself to your destiny. Go back in one more time.

Because baby, if it weren’t for the messy middle, the story has no tension, no juice, no life force defying the odds and fighting the obstacles, and going for the glory again, like you did in the beginning.

Babe, you’ve got this.

What the Elders and Sages Whisper in the Woods.

“As you get up in the morning, as you make decisions, as you spend money, make friends, make commitments, you are creating a piece of art called your life.” ~ Mary Catherine Bateson

I made a pact with myself. I promise to fall in love every day.

This morning, I fell in love with a hummingbird, a book, and an author I already loved.

I love her a little more after being seduced by one special passage. She called up my intimate connection to words, how they’ve kissed my lips and danced with my fingertips.

Words! I love words! And baby deer in my yard. Their spots ignite me!

Later, I fall in love with the ecstasy of my naked feet on lush green lawns sewn together by the twin hands of man and Mother Nature.

I listen to the trees tell me secrets of the ages. In the woods, I hear the voices of sages, elders, and wise women who came before, guiding me, helping me, loving me.

In these moments, I fall in love with my choice to take on this human life.

I fall in love with my divine destiny—in all its hardship and agony, desperation and senseless pain.

As a country, we’re like teenagers who keep getting drunk and driving into trees. We’re fighting about whether it’s the car or the alcohol.

It’s the stupidity! It’s the recklessness, the not valuing life.

We must value life again, fall in love with the joy of living, so we may fix what’s broken.

We know in our hearts—most of us—the daily onslaught of personal and collective chaos and sadness that comes with repeated mass murders is no way to live (or die).

We must stop the killing and stop emboldening an environment in which hate is part of the dominant conversation.

Watch enough news, you’ll get depressed and angry, too.

But, how do we turn away from what we know is wrong?

Why did we read Anne Frank and watch Schindler’s List?

Who are we, collectively and individually, as a country? Can we unite?

I alone cannot bring honor back to America again.

However, I can make this commitment: to fall in love with something or someone daily, to keep the love in my heart active so when I go into the world, I don’t stir up hate.

I consciously fall in love with a song on the radio, a new purple pen, or a full moon, bright in the darkness.

I enter the world with the intention to soften the air we all breathe.

One day, I’ll do more, but we must start where we are.

We can keep this commitment: love, consciously.

My resistance against the wretchedness killing our joy isn’t denial, but welcomes us to face the dichotomy of these historical times without shutting down or drowning out truth.

Let’s open the door to love daily. I’ll turn on the light, make some coffee, and let her settle in.

Won’t you join us?

How to Resist without being Resistant.

Alice in Authorland

Go boldly into your resistance.

In the morning, resist the temptation to turn on an electronic box to push your emotional and intellectual buttons—the things that stop you and start you.

Instead, reach for peace, prayer, poetry, and purpose—even before you pee.

Resist unedited thoughts, words, assumptions, beliefs, and reactions.

Resist knowing the answer before hearing the question. Fight the urge to always be right, be on time, and be the smartest person in the room. Even Abe Lincoln and Mark Twain had to learn to temper themselves, to be civil in their discourse.

Resist swallowing news like vitamins. Occasionally, we’ve got to reevaluate the choices, benefits, and costs of what we’re taking in.

Resist the urge to share what you’re unwilling to research. Resist through research.

Resist through writing and speaking. Resist by reading. Read like it’s a habit stronger than alcohol and you’ll never want to quit.


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How We Get Stronger.

Sarah Entrup says, “Getting stronger is a big deal. It takes effort. It takes work. You have to get stronger than your impulse to dive into a ditch.”

Sh*t! I had no idea how powerful my urge to swerve into ditches is. Not one ditch, because baby, I can pass up one, two, three, fourteen ditches in a row. Then, bam!

Like I haven’t done an ounce of work, I get a case of the f*ck-its so bad death invites. Why wouldn’t it? That’s where too many of my loved ones live. I want to go—into that ditch.

No, this isn’t a note about suicide. This is about the realization that yes, we’ve done a buttload of work, but when the call to death and darkness has haunted since childhood, in between seasons of success and joy, the demand for strength Sarah speaks of is as mighty as a Mt. Everest climb.

How strong is our impulse to dive verses how strong is it to climb?

I’m a Scorpio. I’ve gone through metamorphosis a multitude of times. Most of us have or we wouldn’t be here.

Today, I take to heart Sarah’s words about the requirement of strength. I let the idea settle in where the darkness hides in my history and subconscious.

We can’t control everything in our lives. But, I’m willing to take responsibility for the ditches I dove into—willingly, shamefully, secretly, fully. Ouch.

I reclaim my power to rise, not in the way I fantasize—Lalala, livin’ in the love and light!

In this moment, I acknowledge my ability to get stronger with daily practice.

We must make a commitment to ourselves. We start by refuting the claim: “I tried so hard and nothing works!”

We’re trying, and many things are working in our lives if we can just shift ever so slightly to see some beauty, some progress, some good amid the ridiculous chaos and bullsh*t. It’s there, but so are we—planted in this brutiful moment in history.

Sometimes falling apart, individually or as a society, is the path to getting stronger.

We’re aligning with truth and acknowledging lies—the ones we told ourselves and the ones we pretended to believe from others. We set our sights anew.

Now, we see the ditches like I learned to see and avoid the bastards and bad boys while the seduction still kisses me with temptation.

I make new choices, better choices. And, I bet you do, too.

The Third Thing, an Alternative to the Self-Help Madness.

“The gift of it is I’m here like I’ve never been here before.” ~ Sarah Entrup

One of the best pieces of advice my stepmother gave me is “It’s not always one or the other; sometimes it’s both.”

However, when it comes to navigating life from where I stand now, as a mid-50s female in the United States of America, trying to find my footing, I need something more.

Enter Sarah Entrup and Free the She. Like me, Sarah once danced in the self-help, self-improvement, you’re-not-good-enough-yet arena. It’s exhilarating and oh-so tiring.

She also experienced the “love and light” communities. Maybe you’ve tried those methods, too. Aren’t we all seeking ways to care for ourselves and make a difference in the world?

In my 20s and 30s, I loaded my toolbox with Tony Robbins-type techniques. They served me well—back then. I strove for positivity and shunned negativity with transformational vocabulary and state changing. I even walked across 40 feet of hot burning coals and leapt from atop a 50-foot telephone pole. But, the system focused on getting something over there, out in the beyond, like the way a man goes hunting.

As I matured, I craved peace in my heart and didn’t want to chase anymore. “Love and light” caught my attention like a butterfly passing, but I couldn’t capture it. It lacked substance.

With Sarah, I learned there’s a third thing, a middle path. What the hell is that? It’s a feminine, powerful way of entering authentic darkness for the sake of transmutation, grounding in rather than barreling out.

Transmutation is a word born for these times we’re in, in whatever bodies and situations we exist. No denial. No bullshit. And, best of all, not an outgrowth of the overgrown patriarchy.

Free the She meditations and practices open the door for non-airy-fairy enlightenment.

Of course, it still requires work. To become the women we were born to be demands showing up consistently. And when we don’t, we find an open invitation to come back. Come back to our bodies and return to our feminine knowing.

I remember my own solid foundation exists between my legs. What did I just say? Yeah, it’s like that. Divine.

Free the She combines Kundalini yoga, meditation, and energy work with the emphasis on fully empowering every woman who’s ready for something more, even if she doesn’t know what that is.

It’s the third thing, the middle path that no man, no child, no job, and no money can give us. Haven’t we tried those?

The third thing calls us to rise from within, rather than chasing something outside.

It’s saying me too if that’s true, but not stopping in the despair. Not lashing out but aligning and embodying ourselves as strength and possibility in the face of individual and collective imperfection.  

My words can’t tell you what freeing the she within you feels like. But, if you ever tasted the rush of meeting goals and going for it or the hope of affirmation, this is to that like a blazing sky of stars is to the flashlight on your cell phone.

The third thing unties us from old societal norms, which were never created by or for women. I love the way Sarah unites women as a catalyst for change within ourselves and our communities.

For me, it’s not one or the other, or even both. It’s all of it and none of it. I set aside my old tools and rules created by others.

I find the middle path, my path.  Sarah shows me the third thing and it’s me. I’m not awakening a giant. I’m coming into my own—as a queen.

A Dad, a Daughter, & a Bike.

I was around 11, hanging out in downtown Los Alamos, NM. On my way to Pizza Hut, I spotted a bike in the front window of Strings & Spokes. That bike spoke to me. It sung to me and wooed me. This wasn’t just any bike. It was my bike. I decided I had to have it, in the way a young girl does with fierce determination.

That night, I told my dad about it. “It’s a mini ten-speed! It fits me! It’s blue, but not just any blue!”

As if not understanding the importance of color, my dad asked me what brand this bike was. I didn’t know how to pronounce it, but I knew how to spell it: G-i-t-a-n-e.

Really, in my mind it was: A-L-I-C-E.

“Well, we can go take a look on Saturday,” he said. 

I assumed he was just trying to appease me. I knew he had no intention of buying the bike, but he had to! I longed for that bike like a new best friend. I’d never been blessed with a brand-new, out-of-this-world bike that was my size. I felt destined to be on that blue baby.

While waiting for Saturday to arrive, I took three trips downtown (probably hitch-hiked because that was the town and the times we lived in). I said I was going to Pizza Hut but found myself window gazing and daydreaming in front of Strings & Spokes like it was my elementary happy hour.

On the Saturday that stands out, my dad said, “Let’s go see this bike.” He asked the salesman a barrage of engineer, Consumer-Reports, guarantee-type questions while I feigned patience.

My dad said, “Alice, that’s a lot of money.” I knew it! Here we go!

Then, to my surprise, he said, “Tell you what. I’ll pay for half, but you’ll have to earn the other half.”

What a perfect moment. His parental direction aligned with my determination. We cut a deal. With money from my paper routes, I matched my dad, and the blue baby came home with me. I rode her to freedom (my mom’s house, East Park swimming pool, downtown, friends’ houses, and T, G, & Y.).

I haven’t thought about that for decades. How could I forget such a sweet memory? And how did it arise anew in me?

Well, that’s another chapter. I’m now in my mid-50s and my dad’s in his 80s, although still an avid biker. By avid, I mean he and my stepmom road their bikes from Virginia to Portland, spinning those wheels and sitting on those seats every day for three months.

Granted, that’s been many years. Still, his 80th birthday bash included several group rides in Santa Fe and Taos. My parents dedicated an area in their home for bicycles. As they upgraded to the latest technology, they kept their old bikes for visitors. My dad maintained a small workshop for the bikes, where he spent many late nights working on them for family and friends to ride safely.

Recently, my parents made the move from their sprawling home to an apartment. They gave possessions away to people who could use them. Uh, I could use a bike.

They agreed. They’d give me one of my stepmom’s old bikes. Two challenges arose. First, my dad (who I may take after) is a professional procrastinator and perfectionist in areas such as this. He asked which tires I wanted on it—the road or mountain? Did I have a helmet? Did I think my new male friend still wanted to go bike riding with me?

Like when I was a girl, I practiced patience and pressed down my giddiness. My stepmom suggested I keep asking and give my dad a deadline. She feared he’d never get the bicycle to me in Ohio from New Mexico. Ah, shipping, challenge number two.

I had an idea. (I’m getting a bike!)I asked my dad if when they flew to Michigan to visit their first great grandbaby, could they check the bike?

It sounded like a stretch. He wasn’t sure he’d have time to get it ready and then he had to get the right box and he didn’t know the airline regulations…

Who knows how many nights he stayed up beforehand making sure the bike would be in working order for the adoption. I can safely assume he gave up plenty of sleep for me, as is his tendency when it comes to fixing ski bindings or car engines or computers.

He called me on his way to the airport to say he’d gotten the bike apart and in the box. He headed to the airport early, assuming the airline would force him to return it to the car, but he’d try. I faithfully told him it would be fine, like when I told him I’d earn my half of the money.

My bike is on its way! So, on the Michigan family visit, my dad spent much of two days in my nephew’s garage putting the bike together, riding, retesting, and perfecting the gears and safety.

All this—not just giving me the bike but staying up all night to pack it in that box, going to buy a tool he has at home but forgot, putting the parts together, making sure it’s just right, asking me to hang out and talk with him in the garage even though he needed to concentrate—hit me hard.

Gratitude engulfed me. This is one of the best ways my dad shows love. I let that settle into my heart like a favorite meal in my belly. I felt full and nourished.

On Sunday, I got to ride my bike and practice shifting. I need practice.

This is a special bike. My dad researched, bought the Tomac 98 Special Black frame and other high-end parts, and built it with love for my stepmom. It’s the bike she let me ride when I visited. I rode their generosity. And not just me. Dozens of people have ridden the bike which now belongs to me. It carries a legacy of hospitality and shared memories.

Yet, once I got it home, I resisted riding, like joy I refused to unpack. My dog recently died and what I really wanted was to go for a walk in the forest with her. Plus, it rained so often. And, I wanted to ride with my sister, but her bike is at her boyfriend’s.

As Father’s Day neared, I knew I’d call my dad and he’d ask if I enjoyed riding. Someone suggested I lie. Uh, no.

Yesterday, before the rain came, I strapped on the helmet, filled up my water bottle, and wheeled away in search of a trail my neighbor told me about. I couldn’t find it.

I found something better: exhilaration, the thrill of riding a bike down a random road, tires spinning, wind blowing against my body housed in a florescent-yellow shirt with pockets on the back. I rode in circles and down neighborhood streets I never noticed, all with a smile on my face that almost felt foreign. But, it was mine. I recognized it from when I was a girl.   

It’s not the same transportation freedom I tasted as a kid, but instead a freeing of something inside that through life got tied a little too tight. I loosened up. I laughed.

My dad (and stepmom) gave me a bike and I rode it home to myself.

Conversation with my Younger Self.

I’m calling on my 28-year-old self, the one who rose at 5 am, trained, and ran the Chicago Marathon.

The one who travelled solo, wore power suits, and slept with married men.

I’m not calling on her morals. I’m calling on her fearlessness, her fire, and maybe even a bit of her recklessness.

Here’s what I really want from that girl (and she was just a girl): her life force energy.

The kind that had been whittled hot every time someone belittled her. The life force energy that allowed her to practice CANI (constant and never-ending improvement) while denying bad in the world and in her wake.

It was the 80s and I was all in. I knew how to do my hair and carry my briefcase. I walked into meetings with old white men and warned them not to call me honey or baby, “unless you’re saying that to Bob or Nick or Michael.”

I was my mother’s daughter and she stood proud.

I want to be the woman I was before my mother died and I opened my eyes to the suffering of so many. Before then, I didn’t know 1:4 people at the mall, on highways, at my favorite restaurants, face cancer.

I felt my loss compounded by the collective. The knowingness of cancer’s prevalence and pain pushed on my heart, but I bounced.

Over the years, lessons and decades weigh me down like a 50-pound backpack I don’t want to carry anymore. It’s not just cancer, but the underbelly of everything.

We’ve been washed in vulnerability and femininity, but also burned in the fires of a heartbreaking society while singed by individual and collective grief.

Unbreakable I once called myself. And I believed it. Where is she?

Now, I call on my 28-year-old fierce, tenacious, that won’t take me down, badass self.

At 28, being true to myself was all I had to do.

That’s all you need to do now, I hear her say.

I see you. Don’t claim the collective shattering as your excuse for not living full.

You called on me. Here I am. Now, get the f*ck up! You think I didn’t want to die?

Don’t forget the chapters I skipped by playing small.

The key is never stay down too long. Yes, cry. Heal the wounds I ignored.

But know this: being true to yourself—even at your age—is the most important rule.

It’s just that now you know being true to yourself involves being of benefit to others. Even when that benefit is simply your presence, just being there. I didn’t know that at 28.

Sometimes you just need to sit with yourself. Other times, you need to get over yourself!

There’s work to be done. You’re doing what I always wanted and never had the courage to do, even at fierce 28.

I always wanted to be a writer. You’re doing that, even when you’re procrastinating or believe you’re doing it poorly.

Now, you’re surprised that might not be enough? Sh*t! Nothing’s ever enough for us!

Hello, Scorpio! Transformation is our game.

Get back in there. You’re making me proud with all this expansion and compassion.

You just need to infuse passion into your actions. It’s in you. It never left.

I can’t return to you something I never took, something you’ve always had.

The life force energy you yearn for asks only that you stoke it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 28 or 55. Be f*cking alive!