Update: January 2015
Terrible or not, difficult or not, the only thing that is beautiful, noble, religious and mystical is to be happy. — Arnaud Desjardins
My tribe has flown the coop. Single again, with no children in the house, time is mine to fill. I choose to live simply, to write, work and workout, to nurture relationships and to be happy. Family and friends are my greatest blessing. Traveling is my dream come true.
The Back Story:
Let the story that is in you come out.
Writing is about slowing down.
One with life; life is now.
Who put the honey in your heart?
If I position the laptop just right, the notes hang like pink and yellow flags above the screen, gentle reminders of what matters most: to write, to move through life with mindfulness, to stay present, to connect with love, kindness and compassion.
Twenty-five years ago, a friend invited me to a journaling class at a local community center. Earlier that summer, my adopted baby daughter, Ali, had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. I was in a marriage sliding toward rock bottom. A jogger since graduate school, I was running longer and harder distances but still itchy in my skin, restless, scared. I felt called to a life that looked nothing like the one I was living, but had no idea how to find it. An artist herself, my friend suggested writing as a place to begin.
The journaling teacher introduced us to Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, her first book about writing. Like thousands of aspiring writers, I connected with her process. I clung to her forgiveness of the slop and chatter that comprise 90 percent of what we write and practiced connecting heart to paper by keeping the hand moving. A short bio on the book’s back cover said that Natalie lived and taught in Taos. I inquired about her workshops in a postcard and addressed it to Natalie Goldberg, writer, Taos, NM. The year was 1989.
My world of achievement and perfection had been blown open by a child who wasn’t sitting at a year, wasn’t babbling, couldn’t hold her head upright for more than a few minutes. Natalie’s response came in the form of a flier announcing a workshop in September at the Mabel Dodge Luhan house, an artist’s haven in Taos. I interpreted its arrival as a sign, and registered.
The week in Taos was transformative. In the company of other writers, I experienced the palpable sensation of coming home to my self in a land heralded as enchanted. All these years later, when I dream of freedom, the setting is often Taos. I hardly slept that week, writing during the day and devouring books about writing at night. I knew nothing and somehow everything. Like the Zen master, I sensed there was nothing to be done yet no time to lose. I left New Mexico with the awareness that if I could just step out of the way, life would unfold in ways I could trust.
Two years later, my divorce final, I left the Chicago offices of Conde Nast and moved with Ali to Denver. After a short stint at an ad agency, I joined a nonprofit founded by photographer Katy Tartakoff. For eight years Katy and I documented through words and images the lives of children and families living with life-threatening illnesses like cancer and HIV/AIDS. With the support of The Children’s Legacy, we published four books and several touring exhibits. We talked about living with differences in schools throughout Colorado. The work was gratifying, intimate and even sacred, but also wearing. Yes, there is great value in learning to celebrate life without regard for circumstance. But no one grows accustomed to terminally ill children. Watching and, in our case, documenting what families go through never gets easier. When my mother’s breast cancer relapsed, I needed to put some distance between what I was living and the content of what I was writing. I left The Children’s Legacy in search of neutral ground, and in 2001 launched a freelance writing business.