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Sugar is breaking my heart

May 20, 2017

If you are afraid of reading something that will break your heart into a million pieces and then clean it up and then break into a million more, then ignore this post. 

Otherwise, run to your nearest [insert whatever means you use to get books] and read “tiny beautiful things” by Cheryl Strayed immediately. 

This book is breaking my heart. 


With profoundly-titled chapter names  like ‘The obliterated place’ and ‘The known unknowns,’ Sugar (aka Cheryl Strayed) showcases the deepest empathy and toughest love most people could ever expect in their lifetime. 

It is a compilation of letters Cheryl received and responded to when she penned an online advice column. The questions she fields are heart wrenching in themselves. Her advice is the same. 

People are asking her to tell them how to move on in their lives after they’ve lost a grown child or an unborn child or lost their own childhood to abuse and other atrocities. Strangers share their darkest fantasies and ask her to tell them it’s ok or ask her how they can move forward. In response, she shares her deepest feelings and own horrid experiences in a show of empathetic advice nearly no one else could muster. Sugar is exceptional. 

I am new to the world of audiobooks and this is my third. I couldn’t say if her words would be more or less powerful if I were reading them to myself. But something about her voice delivering her wise words is so damn heavy. 

She tells it like it is, but with a perspective that is deeply insightful and honest. I need emotional breaks from his book. 

Sugar had a tough journey, as I am learning through her advice to strangers. And she is paying it forward, turning her hard-earned lessons into help for others in pain. I wish I had known about her column while she was writing it. I can think of a few meaningful questions on which I’d appreciate her viewpoint. It’s too late for that. But I am gleaning much from her powerful letters. 

Cry me a river

May 19, 2017

Yes, I did quote Justin Timberlake here. If you are following along, you’ll know I consider my life through song. But what I really want to talk about today is a bit more profound.


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While I do agree with this, I won’t accept it blindly. Because I find that I, and most other people, first need time. Something bad or sad or crazy making or just really, really annoying happens. If it’s just annoying, then ok, get over it and yourself and move on after 5 minutes.

But sometimes things are sad. Really very sad. And we, humans, need time to grieve, to process and to FEEL it. Perhaps this is just a point on which the Stoics and I are split.

The grieving or processing time is a personal, completely subjective thing. Other people in your life may think and tell you that OK, it’s time to move on. You’ve done enough grieving, you’ve had enough time to be angry. More than enough tears have fallen. It’s not for them to decide. It is intensely personal.

Can you view yourself objectively? Can you tell when it’s gone on long enough? You may tire of it. You may be sick of all the tears. It’s time. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, adopt your stoic stance and press forward. Always forward.

And yes, there may come a time when you are unable to snap out of it on your own. When you are tired of feeling sad or sorry for yourself, but you’ve forgotten what to do. There may come a time when it feels too long even to you, but by then you are stuck and cannot lift yourself up. Then, the reminders and the pushes may help you. Ask for help. It is there for the taking.

On commitments and gentleness

May 18, 2017

Keeping commitments. Holding promises to yourself. Its important. When you ask other people to participate by reading, answering, looking, you have involved them then in your commitment.

Being gentle with yourself. Acting kindly to yourself is essential. We all need loving kindness, even if on some days it only comes from ourselves.

And what if being gentle with yourself involves breaking a commitment to yourself? Am I being obtuse? Incoherent?

What I mean is, if the need to be gentle with yourself causes you to break a commitment that you made to yourself, with which other people may or may not now be involved, is it OK? Or is this not the time nor place to invoke said gentleness? Is this not the time to be kind to yourself, to cut yourself some slack? Because, dammit, you made a promise.

It’s funny because it’s true

May 17, 2017

And will be even more so if our government gets rid of Obamacare. Disastrous. 


Via The New Yorker 

Practice does not mean it will ever be perfect

May 16, 2017

Meditation is a practice. Yoga is a practice. Mindfulness is a practice. In our current world where many of us are bombarded or seek out daily reminders of how to live a kind, intentional life, we are also reminded of how many things we need to work on.

Empathy can be learned. Skills can be taught. Capabilities can be adapted. Practice, practice, practice.

Practice does not mean it will ever be perfect.

You might never be a master at this valuable, intangible characteristic or skill that you rehearse over and over again. Yes, even if you put in your 10,000 hours. (How the heck can you find 10,000 hours?!)  Even if you get your 15 minutes of fame. Even after all that, you may still find inconsistencies in your behavior, gaps in your knowledge, others who do it better or differently.

Writing is a practice. That’s what I’m doing here, as if you couldn’t tell. It’s not always obvious if, or whether, you are getting better. Still, the practice, the time, the doing, is valuable.

At what point do you stop judging yourself so harshly? When will you give yourself credit for having achieved some semblance of success?

Practice. What isn’t a practice? Even love, which often comes to us organically and freely, can be hard to muster up on a particularly difficult day. We sometimes forget how to love our partners as we used to. We need to practice. Kindness, particularly to strangers, can be a hard muscle to flex.

And empathy? Empathy often comes easy to me, Except it doesn’t come easily for me. I am not as gentle when judging myself as I tend to be with others. And empathy in the heat of the moment? Any moment? That continues to a vital area for practice.

So is all of life a dress rehearsal? Is the joy in the practice, the doing, the getting there? For many parts of life, I say yes.

I don’t need to practice relaxing, curling up with a book and unwinding. No rehearsal needed for a Saturday afternoon wiling away the hours on a sunny porch with a beer and some buddies. Sitting on the couch on a lazy Sunday, singing a song we just made up or acting silly. No effort required and the moments are what keep us motivated for the rest of our practices.

Necessary reminders

May 15, 2017

Just yesterday, I was telling friends how valuable I’m finding the daily emails from The Daily Stoic. That there are things in my life and my behavior that I need to work on, and these daily reminders are beneficial.

And then today, I got this:

So the next time you feel pain—whether it’s a broken arm or a bout of depression or the sting of a rude remark—say to yourself: I don’t like this, I wish it hadn’t happened but I am at least learning what pain is. I am exploring my tolerance for it. I am growing because of it.

And it reminded me of this, because pain is different for everyone: It feels real because it is real.

Pain is OK. Disappointment is OK. Good or bad events, fear, sadness…all are OK. Because what truly matters, what will chart your course and get you moving on to the next, is how you handle it all.

Oh mother

May 14, 2017

I can feel the vibrations from him bounding up the stairs. His high-pitched voice talks excitedly and quickly as he comes inside the front door and tears off his shoes. Suddenly, the door to the room where I’m sitting bursts open. He smiles. He says “this is for you!” He thrusts a brown paper bag stapled close onto the counter next to the sink. 

“Why?,” I ask. 

“It’s for Mother’s Day.” He’s still smiling. He turns and walks out, pulling the door halfway closed behind him. 

I finish peeing. 

Welcome to motherhood. 

#HappyMothersDay

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