Sued51's Blog











{July 8, 2020}   What’s in a Purse?

Rumi and the Red Handbag

Before I read “Rumi and the Red Handbag” by Shawna Lemay, I would have answered this question in a very literal way: all the things I think I might need on any given day. I am not a fashionista; my purse is just a necessary tool of life. This book made me see purses in a new way, as a metaphor for life.

“The purse is a diary containing the scattered sprawl and patient sticky grunge of life. It’s a skin, a husk, it holds guts and gizzards. Think of the disruptive depths, the darkness of a purse! The purse is a portal, a hinged door. It’s the heavy burden to the bruised portal of our intimate murky depths, our tranquil and far-off selves. We carry these objects relentlessly, courageously, anonymously, absentmindedly.”

And there is so much more!! Those words are part of a long soliloquy about purses by the character Ingrid-Simone, or I.s. as she is alternately known in the novel. She is one of two characters working in a shop called Theodora’s Fine Consignment Clothing (Lemay had me right there, I once dreamed of owning Theodosia’s Tea Shop in Glasgow KY…it captured my imagination) . Working with each other all day they become friends of a fashion, but though the character telling the story paints us a picture of I.s. as an amazing person, she discovers she didn’t know Ingrid-Simone at all.

This book is deceivingly short or small but so FULL of beautiful language and life lessons — just like a woman’s purse can be.

I have been following Shawna’s blog for a while (Transactions with Beauty) and really wanted to read her book (it came out in 2015). I ordered it online during quarantine. For me, it was like taking a bite of a freshly made truffle, and I savored the smooth deliciousness of it. And, thinking of my own purse, it inspired me to write a poem.

Overladen

Everything in my life is too small.

The purse I lug around

fat with old receipts,

salvaged change, and

everything I think I could need

on any given day.

My apartment and closet

crammed too — bursting with

things I refuse to give up.

Yet, I am frugal to the point

of deprivation;

I clutch tight with claws

and fists and defend,

defend my junkyard life

like a vicious dog.

All my life I’ve known nothing

but making do,

worrying the same old bone,

funneling my needs and dreams

into what I already have —

the only way I know to stay full —

constricting to fit the vessel.

In love too, I’ve shrunk what I want

into you:

someone I see so little,

someone whose life

is elsewhere — you —

holder of my stifled desire,

my dear old bone.

 

copyright 2020 Susan Merrifield Desrocher

 

But don’t be distracted by my poetic efforts…read the 140-pg book, “Rumi and the Red Handbag” which is one long beautiful poem, and maybe you’ll buy a new purse, or write a poem of your own.

 



{April 28, 2020}   Pre-Pandemic Life

A year ago at this time, I thought my life was finally headed in the right direction. Besides working full-time, I was very busy doing things I loved: I was teaching a writing workshop and regularly attending a poetry workshop. One of my poems had been accepted to appear in a book, and the book was coming out. I was looking forward to an event where I would meet the author (Randy Susan Meyers) who had put the book together. And REALLY looking forward to an event that seemed to complete a circle in my life.

The proceeds from the sale of Women Under Scrutiny were going to Rosie’s Place. I was proud of that, because I knew about Rosie’s Place and thought they did wonderful things, and I had met the woman who started it, Kip Tiernan. Here’s my backstory.

When I was in my late twenties I worked with a wonderful editor at Houghton Mifflin named Edie Nicholson. She was a mentor of sorts for me and for many young women I knew. She encouraged my poetry attempts and hung one up on her cubicle wall. I have never forgotten that one time when I was feeling discouraged about the world and said I wanted to go live in the middle of nowhere in a cabin and not deal with anyone, she spoke to me passionately. “No, that is exactly what you can’t do! You need to get out and be an example!” Whenever I feel knocked down and want to run away I still hear her voice.

Well…on with the story. Edie’s long-time companion was Kip Tiernan. When Edie stopped working (she was over 80), we all missed her. One day my husband and I went to visit Edie at her Beacon Hill apartment. Kip was there. I visited with Edie and my husband talked to Kip. He was really impressed with her intelligence and political views. It was a memorable afternoon.

When Edie died, I wrote an emotional poem about her and sent a sympathy card to Kip, including the poem. Kip called me to thank me and told me tearily that she wanted to include the poem in the program for the memorial service for Edie. I was touched and happy.

My Poem For Edie

At the time of Edie’s memorial service I was no longer working for Houghton Mifflin. I had been laid-off when they decided to dissolve my department and I was a casualty. The head of Human Resources got up at the service and read my poem. Not planned–she said she just saw it and wanted to read it. I felt a softening of some bitterness about the end of an important period of my life and and a little less sadness for the end of Edie’s.

Fast forward to 2019: When the book excitement happened, a good friend at work told me to tell a man at work that I did not know that well. She told me he was involved with Rosie’s Place and might want to know about the book and hear my story. We had a wonderful conversation!! It turned out his mother had worked there for many years and he was an honorary member of the Board of Directors. He was involved with a big fundraiser gala that Rosie’s holds every May (but sadly not this year). It just happened to be coming up about a month after the book was coming out.

I could not afford a ticket to the gala ($500!), but he said he would try to get me involved as a volunteer. I was so excited! I took a vacation day from work. I worked a very long day beginning at noon doing blackboards for the restaurants that would have tables there, and that evening I worked selling raffle tickets for a diamond ring giveaway.

My Volunteer Handiwork

I could not stop thinking about how proud Edie (and Kip) would be not only for my poem being part of a book that benefited Rosie’s, but for my work there that day. In fact I felt like they had something to do with the serendipitous nature of the whole thing that took over thirty years to happen.

I was sore and exhausted the next day (I was not used to being on my feet for so many hours and I am no longer young), but what a wonderful night it was. I really thought it was the beginning of a new direction in my life. When the circle closes, it feels like some sort of pinnacle, and everything seems to make sense!

But the book faded away without much fanfare and I never met the author. The night of the publicity event was the same night my brother passed away in hospice with our family all around. There is always something more important than my own ambitions. Like a pandemic…:-(




Margaret Atwood Early Novels

My Margaret Atwood books

What better time to come back to blogging than these trying times? And who better to write about than Margaret Atwood? A Canadian Facebook friend, Sherry Galey, recently posted this, and I had to share it.

Margaret Atwood asks us to step back a bit and learn from history. Somehow she always finds a way to look at reality straight in the face, without sugar-coating, and still offer comfort and hope. (Globe and Mail today.)

In her book Payback she gathers ”the six reactions people had to the Black Death while it was unfolding. They were:

  1. Protect yourself.
  2. Give up and party, which could include drunkenness and theft.
  3. Help others.
  4. Blame. (Lepers, gypsies, witches and Jews were all blamed for spreading the plague.)
  5. Bear witness.
  6. Go about your life.

She says: “It’s not one or the other. I don’t suggest No. 2. Or No. 4 – giving up and blaming are not helpful – but protecting yourself, thereby helping others, or bearing witness by keeping a journal, or going about your life as much as you can with the aid of online support systems – these are possible now in a way that they were not in the 14th century.”

Also, an old friend recently sent me an email saying that he had binge-watched “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and also read the book. He was enthralled. He had never read Margaret Atwood before and asked me what other books of hers I would recommend. She has always been one of the first names that come to my mind when I am asked about my favorite authors. And yet, when he asked me that question, I wasn’t sure how to answer. I went to my bookcases. I realized that other than the fact that I had also watched the series with Elisabeth Moss (one of my favorite actresses of the last few years), which prompted me to buy “The Testaments,” all the Margaret Atwood books I owned were from early in her career.

Autographed copy of Bodily Harm

My Autographed Copy of Bodily Harm

This led me down my own rabbit hole (as it usually does). I remembered that I had gone to see Margaret read many years ago and had a book signed by her (not one of her most memorable ones). That also reminded me that when I saw her read, I had written a poem about it. Not a good one, but hey, I was only 23 years old! I went to Atwood’s reading and then went out to a club to see one of my favorite local bands, The Peter Dayton Band. The two sides of me…

Poem about Margaret Atwood's reading

A poem about Margaret Atwood’s reading

 

 

 

 

The first book of hers that I read was “Surfacing” in a Contemporary Literature class as an undergraduate in college. I liked it enough to search out earlier works. As I became more interested in poetry, I read her poetry and was quite taken by it. Especially this one from “Power Politics,”

you fit into me

like a hook into an eye

a fish hook

an open eye

Wow!!

Although I did read some of her middle novels like “Cat’s Eye” and “Blind Assassin,” I don’t own the books; I was mostly using the library then. And I haven’t read any of her “science fiction” novels like the MaddAddam Trilogy. Maybe it is time? (although the library is closed during this pandemic) Or maybe I have new favorite authors? Any other Atwood fans that would want to answer my friend’s question? Or mine?



{June 18, 2019}   Women Under Scrutiny

I have been pretty much MIA in the blogging universe for the last couple of years. I am busy working and trying to make headway with my photography and writing in the real world. And finally I have something to celebrate!

I had a poem chosen to be included in this anthology! I can’t write a better synopsis than this paragraph from the back of the book:

“Women Under Scrutiny is an honest, intimate examination of the relationships we have with our bodies, hair, and faces, how we’ve been treated by the world based on our appearance — and how we have treated others.” All proceeds go to Rosie’s Place in Boston, a very worthy cause!

You can purchase it on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Women-Under-Scrutiny-Anthology-Stories/dp/173209361X

 

A great big thank you to Randy Susan Meyers and Brooklyn Girl Books for putting this together! And for her wonderful new novel “Waisted” about women struggling with the issue of weight loss in our judgmental society.

 



{April 19, 2015}   Dead Poets Make Great Friends

Jane Kenyon

My Latest Library Books

Dead poets make great friends; they let you know they understand, and they don’t reject you or make you feel untalented like live ones do.

Whose quote is that? My own.

After I read Donald Hall’s essays, the next thing on my library list became Jane Kenyon, A Literary Life by John H. Timmerman and Jane Kenyon Collected Poems., because I am fascinated by poet/poet relationships (e.g. Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath). For those who don’t know, She was the wife of Donald Hall and she died tragically at the age of 47 from leukemia.

Although I had heard of Jane Kenyon, I had not sat down and done a concentrated reading of her poetry. WOW…She became a favorite in seconds flat. It could be that reading about someone’s life at the same time as reading their poetry makes for a feeling of closeness that reading the poetry alone does not give. Or maybe having read about her from her husband’s point of view first also adds to the feeling that she is someone I know, a friend that I haven’t seen in a long time.

I put the books down and immediately wrote three poems in my notebook. Hallelujah!

This one was not the best of the three, but it goes with this post. Copying it fresh off the notebook page without editing here reveals my immediate spontaneous feelings without polishing:

TEA WITH JANE KENYON

I look up from a book of your poems

expecting to see your face in an opposite chair,

your cup paused halfway,

like it is floating in the air.

Your words hang in the air too

like an echo, though your mouth doesn’t move.

You look me in the eyes

with first a question, then recognition;

we share a smile, the same smile,

like looking in a mirror.

But I blink and focus

and my opposite space is empty.

I think if I say out loud,
“My grandmother was a Methodist too…

and “she liked to listen to Teleevangelists…”

and “I know that yearning — the need to rebel

against rules instilled by someone you loved…”

Then I hope you’ll be interested enough to walk

back into the empty space and sit down

and talk awhile

and I would not be alone

with my demanding white paper and pen,

a strict teacher forcing me

to write something

over and over

until I learn my lesson

and get it right.

Susan Merrifield Desrocher

But now I leave you with a unpublished nugget from Jane’s college years, quoted in Timmerman’s book:

Today

I got

no mail.

What is it about the world that it wants

my cubby hole

kept in poverty.

My mailbox is bloated with emptiness

its opening —

an orifice

waiting for a word.

Hey.

Occupant,

That’s me.

And, my lesson to learn, this poem…

The Clothes Pin

How much better it is

to carry wood to the fire

than to moan about your life.

How much better

to throw the garbage

into the compost, or to pin the clean

sheet on the line

with a gray-brown wooden clothes pin!

Discover her or rediscover her during National Poetry Month…you won’t regret it! And maybe. like me, you’ll feel like you have found a new friend. 🙂




Donald Hall, "Essays After Eighty"

Donald Hall’s latest book

Why would a fifty-something-year-old woman relate to the essays of an eighty-something-year-old man? Does that say something about him, about me, or both of us? This is not really a review, but a review of sorts; my stream-of-consciousness emotional reaction to his latest book. In all reality, just what a writer really wants…a confirmation of a connection made, not just an intellectual criticism of the writing.

I have always liked Donald Hall’s poetry, and when I read John Freeman‘s well-written interview with him in Poets and Writers (Nov/Dec edition) and read the excerpts from the book, Essays After Eighty, I was burning to read it. So off to the library I went.

Sitting down to read the first essay “Out the Window,” (without a window in sight) I can see what he sees — the old barn, the snow falling, the birds at the feeder — because he describes his view in vivid language, in a poet’s way. But I also feel what he feels — the isolation of New Hampshire in winter (having just been through the worst winter in my life in MA), feeling unable to do what used to be easily accomplished, and feeling abandoned by contemporaries and left to spend time with the ghosts of old ancestors (those to be joined sooner rather than later). His writing just seems to add credence to what I already know…why? Because my best friend right now is my mother, who is 86. I talk to her daily. She watches out the window when she can and has dreams of cooking and cleaning and doing things she can do now only with difficulty, so I understand the mindset and the feelings. That, and the fact that timing and circumstances took me out of challenging but ultimately satisfying work too young; I have felt abandoned by a changed world that no longer values my skills and my abilities ($9 to $10 an hour to proofread…really?), and no longer believes in my beliefs.

Donald Hall describes old age and aging as “…alien, and old people are a separate form of life. They have green skin, with two heads that sprout antennae…If we forget for a moment that we are old, we are reminded when we try to stand up, or when we encounter someone young, who appears to observe green skin, extra heads, and protuberances.”

And though I have some decades to go before I officially get to his age, I feel the separateness as he describes, as if I went to sleep and woke up on a planet I didn’t recognize, where I was suddenly an outcast, where suddenly people could see my antennae.

Well, that is easily rectified you might think: study the creatures of this new world and remake yourself to be like them. Hide those antennae or — better yet — cut them off. But I can’t do it, ugly as they seem to be, all of my beauty is there. And all the positive personal development books I read tell me to value them. They represent that last crumb of hope I still possess that someday another alien will show up at my door with their own antennae displayed in all their glory, smile, and come in and sit down for tea. Maybe that being will tell me of a colony of others like us, which still exists, and that my isolation has kept me from finding. And we will set out together, where the warm sun and exercise will make me feel 50 again. The gears of my mind will squeak and groan, at first reluctant with pain, but begin to chip off the rust and neglect, and then revel in something too long lost and left behind. But I digress…as old people do.

The book also contains an essay entitled “A Yeti in the District.” Each of the essays in the book ends with Hall’s tongue in cheek, a wry twist on what has come before. This one made me smile from ear to ear. Its truth reflected in my librarian’s reaction to my checking out of the book.

Mr Hall reminisces about trips he made to Washington DC over the years, including the year he was Poet Laureate, and the most recent trip to receive a National Medal of the Arts from President Obama. Let me be clear: the author is “scruffy” in his advanced years, but it doesn’t bother me (he looks much like my own brother!) In the “Yeti” essay, the author writes of the picture published in his local paper of him receiving the Medal. “Top of the first page was a photograph of the President looming over me, hanging the medal around my neck. My mouth is open in life’s widest smile as I confront the neatly dressed Obama in my sports coat and khakis, with my frizzy hair and reckless beard.”

He goes on to tell of the picture then being picked up by a blogger for the Washington Post named Alexandra Petri. “She identified me, called me a poet, and assured her audience that I was not a yeti. She announced a contest for a caption.” But of course in this age of Internet bullying, the picture brought in entry after entry “…gleeful with ridicule. Then there were reactions. I was praised and Ms. Petri was scolded. I was defended as a poet, and flattered despite my appearance.” He ends the essay with this: “…With our increasing longevity, Ms. Petri should live to be a hundred. May she grow a beard.”

Now back to my librarian. She handed me the book and said, “That’s quite the cover art,” with what I sensed as some distaste (and perhaps a little insult to me for wanting to read it??) I said, “well, yes, it is a bit of a close-up.” I chuckled to release the sense of “judgment(?)” I felt. And she went on, “Yes, I wouldn’t want to put that on my bedside table.” (I hadn’t read the book yet or I would have questioned whether she knew Ms. Petri?). This time I didn’t answer. And she still went on, “Yes, I wouldn’t want to put it on my bedside table because I would feel like someone was watching me.” I then made a judgment on her in return…You are a librarian and you are passing judgment on a Poet Laureate and Medal of the Arts winner???? But again, I digress.

Bottom line is that I enjoyed the book because I enjoy Donald Hall’s writing, his irreverence, and his sense of humor. I’m glad that after eighty he is still writing. And I hope there are plenty of people who won’t judge a book by its cover!




Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Imperfection

 

Does this happen to you? Books seem to appear just when you need them? And they all tie together?

A co-worker dropped this off at my cubicle with the caveat: “My friend loved this book and gave it to me…it didn’t do anything for me, but I thought you might like it…if you don’t, pass it on.”

I will admit that my co-worker and I have had book discussions, so she has some idea about what books I like to read, but…I REALLY needed to read this book…NOW.

I have been struggling to embrace and accept my imperfections for a while (including the blurry photo at the left, which I took several times. I figured as long as you can see it and read it…it doesn’t have to be PERFECT). It fulfills its purpose as is.

I recently had a get-together with some wonderful supportive friends who love me and see me as gifted, talented and creative. I read some poems for them, including one I had recently, with trepidation, brought to a workshop. I was sharing with them some of the comments (which actually were mostly good and quite helpful). I told them “when it was finished” I was going to submit it. They thought it was fine the way it was. We laughed about how nothing was ever “finished” for me. I now know why: I believe that there is ONE thing I will create that will be THE thing that will prove my worthiness…if I keep working at it and never finish it…then the magical piece of work might still exist (like believing in Santa Claus…or the Elusive Comic Book!) I guess it is my way of believing life can change overnight. Though this appears to happen to some people, it is for the most part, not true. It certainly is not something I can will or force to happen. Life happens when you live it.

This book helped me understand why I can’t create a body of work. Perfectionism is a big, bad monster for me. I am “hustling” for my worthiness as Brene Brown says in her book. (I LOVE this phrase…I picture myself walking the streets, begging people to appreciate me.)

The book is broken into ten guideposts that represent ways of thinking you need to let go of in order to embrace your imperfection and believe in your own worthiness. Guidepost #2 is “Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism”.

And my favorite (V8…knock in the head) moment while I was reading the book was when the author wrote, “I think everyone should read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist — I try to read it at least once a year. It’s a powerful way of seeing the connections between our gifts, our spirituality, and our work…and how they come together to create meaning in our lives.” WHAT?! I recently wrote a blog about that book!

I just love when the dots connect!

BTW…I submitted the poem last week…with some of the workshop suggestions. 😀



{February 22, 2014}   Survival Lessons

Survival Lessons

Survival Lessons

A friend recently recommended this book to me. I like Alice Hoffman‘s writing very much, so I got it out of the library.

I like to read thought-provoking or spiritual  materials in the morning. In the preface, Alice Hoffman describes her book as a guidebook for going through a life crisis; in her case, being diagnosed and fighting breast cancer. She said she wanted to write the book that she was looking for at that time, but couldn’t find.

It took me 1 hour to read: the time it took me to have two cups of tea and a couple of pieces of toast, so in effect, I devoured it. I would definitely recommend it as a “breakfast time book.” As I read it,  I could think of many friends I would love to give it to, people with loved ones going through battles with the big C. All of that being said, when I finished it, I thought, “If she wasn’t already a successful writer, this book wouldn’t have been published.” Not because it was wasn’t worthwhile, but because it was so simple. Some thoughts about life thrown together (not in a bad way), like having a good conversation over breakfast with a friend or reading some of the well-written blogs out there, complete with uplifting quotes and pictures. The reviews were quite good, if you would like to read them, but this is not a review…it is where my mind went after reading the book.

Every day I feel like I’m learning my own survival lessons, though I’m not going through a crisis of Alice Hoffman’s magnitude. Perhaps if I was, I would have gotten more out of it. I have been sick all week and I have been struggling through each day, unable to take a day off. Ok, I admit I was feeling some self-pity. I don’t have anyone to take care of me, and I live so on the edge financially that illness means a lot of money spent that I don’t have. It is a minor disaster to have to buy kleenex and medicine.

As I walked into the lady’s room with a coworker yesterday, I complained a little. She said, “what you need to do is talk to someone who is worse off than you.” Now, I have been told that before…and yes, sometimes it does the trick. But at what point does being surrounded by people with disasters in their lives make you suffer survivor guilt or give you a vision that life just contains too much pain and too little joy? A bit later I overheard her talking with her daughter on the phone and I knew she was suffering her own problems. I got up from my chair and went over to her, “That person worse off than me that you were talking about…was that you?” I said. Her eyes teared up, she gave me a quick synopsis and I gave her a hug.

A little bit later I had a conversation with another coworker who is in the process of finding out whether the cancer she just had removed is anywhere else in her body. She is extremely anxious about it, which is understandable, and I feel for her.

I said, “Ok God, I got the message,” and I shut my mouth because I didn’t deserve to complain. But I do have some bones to pick with the “do what you want to do” attitude portrayed in positive message blogs and in “Survival Lessons.”

Alice Hoffman recommends a lot of things in her book, one of which is to go on a trip to someplace wonderful: she chose Venice. And where does a normal person who is surviving one day at a time get the money to finance such a trip?? The people in crisis I know are lucky if they can pay their mortgage or afford their medical procedures. If I thought I was going to die soon, would I spend my retirement money? Yes. But, my grandmothers lived to be 102 and 96; unless the unforeseen happens, I have to be responsible and prepared to be able to take care of myself for many years to come, so a big “dream” trip is not reality for me.

I see people post wonderful blogs about doing all the things you want to do. I applaud them for doing what makes them happy, but I’m not a risk-taker so I’m not going to jump out of an airplane, and to be honest, I have no desire to. Even watching the skiers and snowboarders at the Olympics do the crazy things they do, gives me the shivers. So how does someone who doesn’t have big dreams or financial means celebrate life?

In very small, not particularly exciting ways. I enjoy walking, reading, blogging and playing with my cats. I am glad to say I have times when I feel content. But when I see others actually getting “excited” about things, I think I’m doing something wrong. I have convinced myself I don’t need much and really want for nothing, which is healthy, but is it real? I sometimes miss my younger days when a new CD or going to a show made me gush. Nowadays I don’t think anything is important enough to keep me from getting my sleep (including the Olympics).

So… “Survival Lessons,” I think I have achieved a passing grade: I am surviving. I have learned to appreciate each day in a quiet and grateful way, but sometimes I ask myself, am I living?



{December 27, 2013}   The Best Book I’ve Ever Read

The wording of the title seems to imply I have a definitive answer. Yet on any given day my answer might be different. My lack of conviction on this and other “favorite” questions has often felt like a problem to me: one that indicated that I had no core, no strength of conviction, or no knowledge of myself. I either assumed my lack of an answer was because I am too wishy-washy (when I was feeling bad about myself) or because I am too intellectually curious (when I’m feeling good about myself).

Many books have vied to be the answer to that question for me over the course of my life: Leaves of Grass, Wuthering Heights, Tuesdays with Morrie, A Gift from the Sea, Simple Abundance, The Artist’s Way…the list could go on and on because reading has always been a staple in my life. And I have always had this crazy concept of commitment when it comes to reading that if I start a book, I have to finish it. This creed results in my slogging through books at times (I have done this lately, making me think that I no longer liked to read).

Book cover for The Alchemist

Then the other day when I started reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. TODAY, this is my answer to the question/statement of this blog’s title. I know I’m arriving late to this party: the book was published in 1988, and the number of translations and books sold is staggering…but it is brand new TO ME. It came to me on a free table at work, and it appeared for me exactly when it needed to appear.

I have recently been in a dark place…a very scary place. For someone who has LOVED Christmas her whole life to want to turn her back on it forever, sleep through it (or skip it as John Grisham wrote — the comedy movie version of his book is what I watched yesterday trying to get out of my bad mood) is not a good sign for holding onto a joy of living. I was also finally considering giving up on this blog, one of the few things that has brought me joy and kept me going the last couple of years. But during this time I was also reading Paulo Coelho’s book.

This morning I read this:

“Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him,” his heart said. “We, people’s hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them…few follow the path laid out for them — the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed to be a threatening place.

“So, we, their hearts speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won’t be heard: we don’t want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts.”

“Why don’t people’s hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?” the boy asked the alchemist.

“Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.”

The alchemist then told the boy…”What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’

“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”

When I read this, I recognized the place where I am; I could hear my heart again (which had become quiet) and I came back to the keyboard and back to the blog. I have read a lot of inspiring and positive blogs and books recently trying to light my way out of the black hole, but for some reason, this spoke to me in a way that nothing else I read did. I believe it is because it was what I needed to read and it was put there to help me on this part of my life’s journey.

Now I feel that it is fitting that the answer to the question, “What is the best book you ever read?” can change throughout your life. Because the best book you ever read is the one that touches you and communicates to you when you need it. Today I give a hearty “Thank You,” to the person who put this book on the free table to share it, to Paulo Coelho for writing it, and to the Soul of the World for communicating it to him.

P.S. As I sat down to write this, I realized this was also the topic of the Daily Post prompt today. It was my moment of clarity for what has been bothering me…if that isn’t a message from the Universe, I don’t know what is. 🙂




inspirational books, midlife books

My Navigation Manuals

I mean this in more ways than one. Literally, it IS time for me to rewrite the brief, third-person “about” page I wrote when I started this blog almost 4 years ago, when I had no idea what I was doing beyond reaching out desperately for a purpose in my disconnected desert of a life. But…I am also at the stage of my life when I have been struggling to find out who I really am (better late than never!). If you are into labels, there are many — menopause, mid-life crisis, empty nest syndrome — and just as many ways that it can play itself out in life. Sometimes it is a brief sense of vertigo where you lose your footing for a moment but get right back up with just a scraped knee; sometimes it is like suffering a stroke and having to learn to walk and talk again. We don’t choose the path; it appears before us. It is almost always a time of loss of some sort, but it can also be a time of renewal; it depends on how you approach it. As Christiane Northrup, M.D. writes in her book, “The Wisdom of Menopause”:

At midlife, I, like thousands of others, had to give up my fantasies of how I thought my life would be. I had to face, head-on, the old adage about how hard it is to lose what you never really had. It means giving up all your illusions, and it is very difficult. But for me the issue was larger than where, and with whom, I would grow old. It was a warning, coming from deep within my spirit, that said, “Grow…or die.” Those were my choices. I chose to grow.

I’m making that choice as well. I have had days when I literally felt like I was fighting for my life; dark thoughts were demons I allowed to hide and survive in the “gloom and doom” inside for too many years, and they came at me with ferocity. But I proved equally fierce. The time had come to break open the caves and let in the sunlight, sending them racing off to live somewhere else. To this end, I have been meditating and reading a lot. The aforementioned book is one that has helped me. “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach is another. And these books appeared on a “free table” at work, calling my name; others were given to me. I MUST CONCLUDE I HAVE A COMPANION ON THIS JOURNEY WHO IS HELPING ME ALONG. And I am comforted by that.

For years I have been questioning why the things that used to bring me joy do not anymore, as if it were a sign of an illness or disease, distressing myself all the more, not knowing how to “cure” myself. Reading Christiane’s book made me feel more relaxed about it, made me feel it is not something “wrong” with me, but a normal part of a growth process. Sarah Ban Breathnach gave me the “discovery journal” and “personal treasure map” as navigation tools for my journey. She says it better than I can:

Pray your journey be a long one. Savor the stops along the way. They make the search marvelous. Meaningful. Memorable. Find and honor your own pace. There are still so many harbors to be seen for the first time. You’re headed for someplace you’ve never been before. Keep your thoughts held high….Set your course for Authentica. Legend has it that once you reach her shores, you’ll not leave the same woman.

I’m set to enjoy the journey. For those new to my blog I hope you’ll want to join me and enjoy it as well. For those who have been with me for a while…I hope you are enjoying it…there are still so many harbors to be seen…don’t get off the boat!



et cetera
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