Category Archives: Haven Newsletter

These are posts for my Haven Newsletter, an online live chat we do every so often on my blog with a different topic each time. To participate, just enter your name, email address, and state over there on the right and I’ll send you the newsletter. Thank you, and I look forward to chatting with you!

Why We Need a Haven

 

Why We Need a Haven: dahlia
2014 Haven Montana Retreats 

(Now Booking!  email laura@lauramunsonauthor.com)
February 26- March 2
June 18-22
September 10-14, September 24-28
October 8-12, October 22-26

I will also be leading Haven Retreats in Tubac, AZ, and Boston, MA this fall 2013.

I wanted to name a child Haven. But when I met my children in the flesh, it never quite felt like the right fit. I’ve always been attracted to the word Haven; the concept; the practice. To me the idea of Haven comes from a knowing that scary things happen. Big brothers lurk under canopy beds and grab your feet—make shadow hands on the wall until you wet your bed. Grandmother caretakers who are from “good, strong farm stock” fall when your parents are out of town– and you can’t pick them up—and you see what it is to have paramedics in your kitchen for the first time who tell you that everything’s going to be okay.  But you know it’s not. Your best friend’s angel-of-a sister dies of brain cancer when you are six; the last time you see her, she’s bald and you’re afraid of her and you know you shouldn’t be, but you are, and you feel deep dark shame. It doesn’t take long for the average human to understand early on that happiness can turn to heartbreak fast. Things happen. And that’s why your mother cries in church. And why she hugs you extra hard on your way to the bus. And why your father looks so pained by the fact that you’re too heavy to carry up the stairs any more for bedtime. The bigger you get, the scarier life gets. There’s no amount of money or luck or good works that can change that.

But even so, and maybe especially so, we can still create the feeling (never mind illusion) of safety. Of haven.  It can come in a knowing glance from someone you love. Or a familiar smell that radiates from your kitchen most Sundays. Or the feeling of a cool sheet on a hot summer night. I have always slept with at least a sheet over me, even on the most humid mid-western nights. I don’t feel safe without it. It’s silly, I know. But I like the feeling of this kind of safety in small things.

I’ve settled upon that belief along the way: safety best comes in the smallest things. Less to lose. More to believe in. I think that’s why so many little girls love Anne Frank. She found safety during horror, hiding in a small space, writing. Yes, she was hiding. But she was also creating. She could control at least that. When I think of all the places in which my friends and I used to seek refuge…it was always a closet, an eave, a secret trap door that lead somewhere—a root cellar, a crawl space. Or a tree house. A play house. Always small, simple places that felt like uncharted territory. We’d put a poster on a wall. Bring in a candle (kids, don’t try this at home). Bring in pillows and blankets. Flashlights and books and magazines. And we’d sit there in uncomfortable positions, practicing refuge. And for most of us, not much had happened yet in the way of scary things.  Still we sought haven.

By the time we become adults, things have happened for sure. No one can escape the “scary” things. No one. So what do we do with that? Hide? Probably not. We have bills to pay, and people who need us to stand there in the kitchen playing short-order-cook with a smile on our face. They look to us for that glimpse that says, everythdahlia_2ing’s going to be okay. And we give it our best shot. Sometimes we pull it off. Sometimes we make dessert instead and that does the trick. Or not.

It occurred to me about ten years ago, after a tri-fecta personal-life sucker-punch to the girl-balls, that life was scary—really scary…and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. So I decided to change my relationship with fear. The first thing that went out the window was the notion that there was such a thing as safety in the first place. Ahhhhhh. That was a weight-of-the-world purge that brought with it instant liberation. Because if there was no such thing as safety, then there was no such thing as danger. Tell me more, please, oh wise Yoda.

Rather than waiting for the big brother monster under my bed, I decided instead to claim my life. I didn’t want to be run by fear. I wanted happiness to reign in my self-created kingdom. Joy. Peace. I wanted to understand what Grace was. So I re-trained my mind. When I started to feel that ol’ bastard Fear…I flipped my thoughts into Creation mode. What can I create right now in this moment? What can I be responsible for? What can I claim? It felt a lot like the little girl I once was, bringing pillows into her closet with a flashlight and a good book. I was going to create my own yes, Haven, in my mind. Breath by breath. Heart beat by heart beat.  And it worked.

It’s not that I didn’t look down the dark alleys of life any more. Quite the opposite. It was that I didn’t see them as dark. I saw them as chances to find some sort of haven in the midst of the darkness. And the one place I could control that haven, was in the way I thought. I started working with creating that pillow-bedecked closet in my mind. The more pillows and flashlights and cool sheets and good books…the better. I pictured it.  I took solace in it.  I believed in it.  And sooner than later, I found that I could breathe my way into that feeling of haven whether I was on a really bumpy flight over the mountains, or in a hard conversation with a family member, or in a daunting business meeting. I got good at it. Maybe a little addicted to it, in fact. Because it’s absolutely exhilarating to have the opposite emotional reaction to the things that people say and do to you than what society says is the norm. It’s like watching a storm come in hard and fast over the prairie, and get suddenly blown off another direction. And quite when you least expected it…you’re in rainbow weather. That’s what I want.  Rainbow weather.

dahlia_3

So I didn’t name a child Haven. I took my new way of looking at the world and created retreats for adults who likely are looking for the same sort of way to process the “scary” bits of life. My way has been through writing and reading and so that is what I’ve created in Haven retreats. If I could build a series of tree houses and pillow forts and call it Haven Retreats, I would. Instead, at Haven, we go to the tree houses and pillow forts of our minds, digging deeper into our creative self-expression on the page, in a nurturing group setting…that helps us know that yes, life is full of challenges. But we don’t have to look at them as scary. We can use those challenges. We can breathe into the groundlessness of them. We can take a weekend to practice this together on retreat. And we can bring Haven home to our daily lives wherever we are…in the safety of our minds and the words we choose to create that sacred space.Haven_writretr

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Haven August 2013

portrait

2014 (Now Booking!)

February 26- March 2
June 18-22
September 10-14
September 24-28
October 8-12
October 22-26

When this Haven group left, there were tears, new friendships; there was transformation, fierce self-expression, and most of all community.  We need community, especially in our creative pursuits.  I want you to look at these pictures.  I want you to imagine giving yourself your dreams, despite what your inner critic says, or your friends and family for that matter.  Take a stand for what you believe in.  What you want.  What you want to create!  And if that sparks a desire to come to Haven…DO IT FOR YOURSELF!  In the minute of the spark…is the flame.  Come burn.  yrs. Laura

Here’s what a few of my last retreaters wrote about their Haven experience.

Click here  and here and here.

Yes

It could happen any time, tornado, earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen. Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That’s why we wake and look out–no guarantees in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning, like right now, like noon, like evening.

–William Stafford

(with thanks to Lorrie…and all the  Haven brave and beautiful souls.  Thank you for your enormous YES!)  This is for you.

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Maybe I Understand Grace Now

Haven Retreat in Montana:

August 7th-11th (now booking)

September 4th-8th (now booking)

September 18th-22nd (full with a wait list)

 swirl

Well, another Haven retreat has passed and I am in that zone again. It’s somewhere between having watched a miracle and wanting more. It’s the place where lofty words like grace and awe and wonder and purity come from. We played. We became more aware of our best selves. And maybe our worst selves. We honored and supported each other. We broke through. We belly-laughed. We are home now. Me included.
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Back to bills and emails and kids not really caring that we just found transformation because they need new shoes, and bosses who are kinda like: yeah…great. Did you join a cult or something? You have a look in your eye that I’m not exactly sure will go over well at our next annual meeting. Whatever.

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After breakfast on the last day, we say goodbye to people that just four days ago were total strangers, and Them, and Better than, or Afraid of, or Worse than…and are now family. It happens every time. We become community. We have been through something together and we are better for it. Maybe healed. Definitely inspired. Braver for sure.

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And after everybody leaves, I lie on my stomach on the dock and swirl my finger in the water, sending out ripples for each person, naming them, one by one, sending them off to their lives from the ranch in Montana to wherever they will land. Watching as the ripples go out and out until they become lake and settle into the world of nature, purpose, intention, mindfulness, reverberation of heart language.

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This time, I told the group that I would be doing this ritual on their behalf. And I got a note the last morning from one of the retreaters. She said, “Read this before you go to the dock.” And I did. They all went off and I heaved a deep breath, fighting tears, feeling joy…and read her note. It thanked me and Haven and Montana and the ranch and the group. And it gave me this challenge: when I swirled out my God-speed, I was to feel it coming back to me. I wondered if I would be able to do that. I readied myself, and I went to the dock. Lay on my stomach. Put my finger in. Swirled and sent for each of these dear, brave, creative sisters.
dock

And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, on an otherwise still day, a breeze came through, across the lake. And just as the first ripple touched the other side of the lake, launching…the ripples came back to me. Until they squalled over and disappeared. And a loon flew over. And I felt perhaps one of the most complete acts of love I’ve known. Thank you to you all. I love you.

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Haven from Home

Even when you live in the wilds of Montana, life is life, and life is busy. So what might be one person’s creative haven, could very well be another’s Grand Central Station. To that end, during this time of my Long Ago: Community series, I have sought haven at a little cabin up near the Canadian border. No heat. No running water. No electricity. No cell phone service. Outhouse. Mountain Lion paw prints on the porch upon arrival. Hip high snow. Miles from a neighbor this time of year.

I thought I’d give my readers some visuals. This is what happens when you realize you bet wrong on how much drinking water you needed. Enjoy!
yrs.
Laura

Snow tete a tete

Wok fried snow

Snuggled snow by the wood stove

“There are certainly times when my own everyday life seems to retreat so the life of the story can take me over. That is why a writer often needs space and time, so that he or she can abandon ordinary life and “live” with the characters.”

–Margaret Mahy

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January 2012 Haven- Small World (A Case For The Trajectory Of Intention)

It is my not-so-humble opinion that people say “what a small world,” too much in not-so-small-worldish moments.  For instance, if you were raised in Montana in a ski town of 2,300 people, and you travel to Seattle and you tell someone you’re from a ski town in Montana…and they say, “Whitefish?” and you say “Yes, in fact!” and they say, “Do you know Joe Schmo” and you say, “You mean Joe Schmo of the Schmo Schmos??? I used to DATE Joe Schmo.  I almost MARRIED Joe Schmo!” well then…I’m not that impressed. There are exactly two ski towns in Montana.  And both populations totaled, it’s about the size of a small liberal arts college.  I went to a small liberal arts college.  I pretty much knew everyone.  And I considered marrying a handful of them.

Now here’s a small world incident that actually does impress me.  It happened this week.  And it happened to me.  And three other unsuspecting characters.

I was minding my own business, going about the post-holiday dig-out from emails, broken ornaments under couches, dried out cedar boughs, and stale headless gingerbread men…and a package came.  It was for me.  I opened the box, figuring it was a tardy gift like most of mine were this year, scanning my brain for who might have me on their list, and lo…it was a box wrapped in purple tissue.  Nothing Christmasy about it.  Two weeks after Christmas, and someone had sent me something.  That someone is my friend Alison.  My kids deemed her Alison Wonderland when they were little, innocently, but it has stuck because she is that friend that remembers every birthday, writes long heartfelt newsy notes, sends gifts to both kids even though only one is her god-child.  She sends hardback books, always age-appropriate, always a Caldecott prize or something enriching.  My kids love Alison Wonderland.  And so do I.

This time Alison outdid herself.  It was a long thin box.  Jewelry.  I don’t know about you, but at age forty-five, I’m beginning to get grandmother gifts.  Pot Pourri.  Room spray.  Soap.  Candles.  As if I smell bad.  Or my house smells bad, like maybe I’m incontinent.  Jewelry is divine.  So I opened it with a little lust.  And there, shimmering in silver, smoothed in leather, was the coolest damn bracelet I’ve seen in a long time.  It was a horseshoe with two leather straps lined in orange ribbon (my favorite color) that snaps.




I don’t know if you’ve seen the cover of my book, but if not, here’s a reminder.

It wasn’t my idea to put a horseshoe on the cover of my book, but it has grown on me.  The idea of strength in hardship.  The illusion of where strength lies.  A steady horse suddenly without a shoe, so suddenly lame.  No, our strength is inside us.  That’s what I’ve learned and that’s what my book is about.  And Alison Wonderland knows that I could use a little strength right now in my life.  So she sent me a reminder.  A talisman, if you will.  I put it on, snapped it, positioned the shoe so that it is on my inner wrist, pointing up, filled with strength.  And when I feel not so strong, I put my thumb in its cleavage and breathe and feel better.  Beautiful gift.  Beautiful friend.  I called to thank her.  She’d seen this jeweler’s work at a fundraiser in Hartford, Connecticut.  Thought of me.

So here’s the small world part, and I’m telling you:  I really think angels exist.

Two days later, I’m sitting at my desk going through my morning emails with my green tea, and I see a note from a friend of mine in Italy.  I met her in Seattle years ago, not because she was a friend of a friend, not because either of us were from Seattle and had gone to school together or because we were part of some sort of work environment.  I had lived in a house in a little alley in Eastlake and had moved next door.  I was on my new front stoop.  She was on my old front stoop.  I said, “Hey, I used to live there.”  She invited me over.  I saw that her only furniture was a piece of plywood over two sawhorses and a computer, said, “Oh…you’re a writer.  Me too,” and there began a friendship that probably has totaled less than ten hours in physical vicinity.  She lives in Rome now.  She writes and teaches.  I live in Montana.  We keep in touch via email.  She’s a kind supportive open soul.  The kind you carry with you as you go but that doesn’t demand much.  We all need friends like that.

So…I’m always happy to get a message from her.  This one read:

“Because the world is ever smaller, the other day I was chatting with my dear friend Jessica who used to live in Rome (and Montana) and she recounted to me that she had designed a horseshoe bracelet as a gift for a writer in Montana … and that she was now reading her book and wanted to get in touch with her … And then she asked if I had ever heard of the book and it’s author.  Well, of course you know the answer!”

Head to toe chills.  You’ve got to be kidding me!  Now THAT is a small world.  It turns out that her dear friend Jessica is a beautiful jeweler and lives in Providence, RI.  (And is my new friend, because you don’t blow this s*** off!)  I’d like to introduce her to you, because she is the perfect example of turning a dream into a reality.  And when “coincidences” like this happen, far be it from me to keep them to myself.  From intention to intention to intention, crossing oceans and the Rocky Mountains, a chain of thoughtfulness and deliberate living.  Let us remember the power of intention and how it can unite kindred souls.

Meet Jessica Ricci:  

I make jewelry. This is what I tell people when they ask me what I do, but I always feel strange when I say this, as if I am not telling the complete truth. 

The truth is, I am kind of making this up as I go along, and how I come to a finalized piece is much less than a master craft and much more than a product.

In my former life (I mean life before 30) I worked and studied to be a journalist in Rhode Island and then New York City. In one of those moments that are hard to recreate, I moved to Rome with a vague idea of becoming a foreign correspondent, but taught English instead.

Maybe to keep my mind off of this perceived “failure,” I began visiting the weekly Roman flea market, finding myself rustling through dirty boxes of bric-a-brac, collecting things that had no business cluttering my medieval apartment. I did this with the kind of passion you see in stamp collectors or bird watchers.

I became especially obsessed with the antique Italian prayer cards that depicted saints who met their mostly grizzly demise in the face of belief. By the time I unearthed them, they arrived tattered with intentions, scribbled with prayers left by generations of old Italian women in black.

The prayer cards and other obscure objects I found there seemed to me like beautiful slices of life that should be more than discarded formerly important things that travel from flea market to flea market. I wanted to freeze all that they mean — all those thoughts from all of those people.

Jewelry was the most obvious way and something I had always dabbled in. In a process that happened in two languages and languished in Roman pace that seemed to move backwards at times, I taught myself a version of a an ancient craft that I practice today. It has taken me back to the United States to a life I had not intended.

As a child I didn’t see myself trading a digital watch for a Masai spearhead in a Tanzanian market, but I am never more confident, honest, and tenacious than in the moments I get off the plane and eventually into an area of possible finds.

This summer I had the opportunity to add another adjective to this list.

I spent a month in Puglia, Italy in a remote one-church town called Martignano without a car unless road tripping to a market. I was left without an option but to bike from tiny town to tiny town if I wanted to see such dazzling theatre as the village priest blessing all the animals, from dogs to chickens.

It was on one of these twenty-mile bike rides that I had an overwhelming feeling of what I have come to describe as self-reliance.  The impetus wasn’t just being okay with being alone; it was more like being assured that I have everything I need.

I took this wave of self-reliance with me as I scoured the markets that were full of charming old horseshoes that the locals would hang for good luck. I thought that the horseshoe would be a perfect motif for the Puglia collection, but the likelihood of finding a small version was slim.

Like most of my good finds, it was at the end of the day — just when I had given up on finding the perfect piece — that I stumbled onto a shack replete with little horseshoe charms.

Back in my studio in Rhode Island, while carving the wax I created from the horseshoe, I thought about the self-reliance that anchored me as I went where I wanted to go, did what I wanted to do, with no one watching. I gave this particular piece this “intention” in a way, in a hope, that like the pieces I find in the markets, it will contain what has come before. 

 

 

 


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Haven Newsletter April 2011- The River

People ask me what it has been like this last year touring the country, talking so intimately about a rough time in my life. While I find it odd, after all these years holed up in Montana writing fiction, to be the main character in a book and to be “professional” sharing something so personal, I also love how people meet me with their own intimacy, as if in the act of my sharing in honesty and compassion, they feel permission to do the same. It has been a great gift. Ultimately, it’s between the book and the reader, but if I can be there as a messenger, then I am honored.

This month’s HAVEN is a blog piece I posted a while ago which got a deep and profound response. Some of the responses were so personal, that people wanted them to be kept private. I have chosen to reproduce that post here, in hopes that it will inspire dialogue between you all about our inner critic and what it tells us. I read recently that we have something like 60,000 thoughts a day and 80% of them are negative. I don’t know where those numbers came from and if that test actually occured, but I believe it’s true. Why is it that we choose such negative self-talk, rather than self-love and perservation? We talk in ways to ourselves that we would never think to speak to a family member or friend. It is my hope for us all that we can learn how to be kind to ourselves. On Facebook recently, I challenged my “friends” with this exercise: before you get out of bed in the morning, think of three things you love about yourself. You may be surprised just how hard this can be. I give you that challenge and hope you find new ways to see how spectacular you are. yrs. Laura

The River by Laura Munson

Originally in Author Magazine

As many of you may know from reading my book, I am keenly aware of my inner critic. I didn’t used to be, but through years of feeling really bad about myself for not having career success and the subsequent pain and suffering from that way of relating with myself and the world…and then a few solid years in therapy and in other fields of self-work, I learned how to hear that inner critic, and I learned how to deal with her.

First, I named her. I called her Sheila, and I don’t know why. That’s just the name I chose. And then I opened my ears and listened for her. Sheila was LOUD. And I realized that she was running my life, megaphone to my brain. I heard her every time I looked into the mirror. I heard her in most every one of my in-between times—driving to pick up the kids from school, lying in bed in the early morning, trying to get to sleep at night, working out, walking the dogs. She was remarkably quiet, however, when I was in the act of creation. When I was cooking, for instance, or gardening, or writing, or playing the guitar, or playing with my kids. That was a place no one could touch, not even Sheila. That was my sacred space.

I started to think about the power of the created moment, and I started to work with the idea that all our moments are created. It’s not about just being occupied—lost in the pressures and obligations of the day. It’s about being aware of the energy which drives us in the first place, deep within us, that must begin in self-love. And it’s about powerfully choosing our thoughts and emotions rather than living into the lie that they control us. We create them, after all.

For a while I wanted to exile Sheila. Nail her into a pine box and send her off to Timbuktu never to be seen again. If she died a violent death by shark, I didn’t care. Good riddance. But that didn’t work. Not at all. Because I had created her. Sheila is me. In wanting to exile her, I was declaring war against myself. So I started to let her talk, the way you do a scared little girl. And I realized she wasn’t even all that mean. I had misunderstood her. Kinda of the way people misjudge a shy girl in high school for a mean girl. I like to think that I was someone who knew the difference, then and now, and behaved accordingly. So I gave Sheila that same gift of understanding. I started to love her with maternal comfort. And she got quiet. I guess in a way, I loved her into submission.

Lately, she’s come back and she’s loud and she’s mean—doesn’t seem so shy, after all and she doesn’t seem to want a hug. She wants blood this time. It’s confusing and blind-siding. She’s telling me all sorts of things that have to do with how wrong it is to have written a memoir and to be so vulnerable in public, and that I need to be on “my game” as if I’m playing a game in the first place. Even now, she’s screaming at me to leave this to a journal entry, and not to post it on my blog. Sheila is hollering: chest your cards. You need to be appropriate. You need to not embarrass yourself. Or anyone else for that matter. And maybe she’s right. Who do I think I am?

A new friend sent me this today:
“Many of us feel uncomfortable revealing to others–and even to ourselves–what lies beneath the surface of our day-to-day consciousness. We get out of bed in the morning and begin again where we left off yesterday, attacking life as if we were waging a campaign of control and survival. All the while, deep within us, flows an endless river of pure energy. It sings a low and rich song that hints of joy and liberation and peace. Up on top, as we make our way through life, we may sense the presence of the river. We may feel a subtle longing to connect with it. But we are usually moving too fast, or we are distracted, or we fear disturbing the status quo of our surface thoughts and feelings. It can be unsettling to dip below the familiar and descend into the more mysterious realms of the soul.”
Elizabeth Lesser—Broken Open

I was so thankful to read this, because it reminded me: I have always known about that river. I have created space for it in my life since I was a little girl and it especially fuels my writing. I went to it and drank even when it looked strange to others. Along the way, I learned that society does not want to consider the river. It lies to us and tells us that the real river is experienced in occupying our minds with things we can control. I have never had any tolerance for that, and I suppose it is no surprise that I have spent the last 17 years in Montana—a place which is all river. Even when I try to deny the river, it pulls me to its side and asks me to drink. To sit beside it. To swim in it. To swim in it on a horse and lift off its back, holding on to mane, riding it all.

I have been quiet for a long time in those waters. Alone and yes, sometimes lonely.

And then one day a year or so ago, I took what I created in that sacred space of writing, and went out into the world with it. It has been disorienting. And it has been beautiful. I have been afraid of what the world of a different river would have to say about my honesty. Family. Friends. Institutions I’ve left. And what I’ve found is that the human heart is hungry for truth. It wants to being fed. It wants to swim in its true river. It needs to be reminded, wants to be reminded about the river. But being a messenger of that is confusing and scary and full of Sheila telling me that I have no business doing this. At all. That I’m an imposter. Or in it for the wrong reasons. Or that I will fail in all my trying.

This morning, I woke to a new early spring-spun light. 5:00. I couldn’t go back to sleep. My heart was racing. I am about to go back out on the road to promote my paperback, and speak to many people about what I have learned from a time of crisis, how I have become aware of Sheila, how I have committed to the river. And this, from a woman who has been writing fiction for all these years, not memoir. Not life according to me. My characters have full rights to speak, and to speak wisely. But not me as the main character (so sayeth Sheila). I have been pooling my personal power for so long, learning what it feels like in quiet creation. Now to share it…is fraught.

But this quote reminds me of the mysteries of soul. I have always loved mystery. I find it holy. I love reading the work of mystics from different religions because they are in the river finding love, not fear. Maybe my problem is in trying. Maybe the answer that Sheila needs is simply this: get out of the way and let the river flow.

Crosslinked with Author Magazine

My schedule is as follows, and can also be found on my website:

April 6, 2011 4pm
Denison University
Herrick Hall
100 W. College St
Granville OH
Beck Lecture Series

April 7th, 2011 7pm
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
2692 Madison Road
Rookwood Pavilion
Cincinnati, OH
Discussion, Signing, Q&A

April 8, 2011 7pm
Books & Company
4453 Walnut St
The Greene
Dayton, OH
Reading, Discussion, Signing

April 9, 2011 1pm
Penguin Bookshop
420 Beaver Street
Sewickly, PA
Reading, Signing

April 12, 2011 7pm
Bronxville Public Library
201 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, NY
Reading, Discussion, Signing

April 13, 2011 7pm
Harvard Coop
1400 Massachusetts Ave
Harvard Square
Cambridge, MA
Discussion, Signing, Q&A

April 14, 2011 4-7pm
Matsu
264 Newbury St
Boston, MA
Cocktail Hour Discussion
Please RSVP (617) 266-9707

April 16th, 2011 2-4pm
chill general store for hip people
presents Laura Munson
Westwood High Amphitheater
200 Nahatan Street
Westwood, MA
For more information email Wendy Hill
222chill@gmail.com

April 20, 2011 6pm
*Address Change*
The Greenwich YWCA and Greenwich Library
present Laura Munson
Greenwich Library
The Meeting Room
101 West Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, CT
06830-5387
Reading and signing
Admission Free
Please pre-register

May 12, 2011 10:30am
The Metropolitan Club presents Laura Munson
640 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA
Coffee, Lecture, and Luncheon
Event cost $55, includes a signed 1st edition hardcopy
For reservations please email Amy@McNamara.net

May 17, 2011 7pm
Annie Bloom’s Books
7834 S.W. Capitol Hwy
Portland, OR
Discussion, Signing, Q&A

May 19, 2011 7pm
Pacific NW Writers Association
University Bookstore
4326 University Way NE
Seattle, WA

May 21, 2011 5pm
Vroman’s Bookstore
695 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA
Discussion, Signing, Q&A

May 23, 2011 11am
MORE Magazine Reinvention Convention
Los Angeles Convention Center
Concourse Hall
1201 S. Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA
“Relationship Reinvention” with Laura Munson and Mel Robbins; Moderated by Judy Coyne

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Pilgrimage

SONG OF THE LARK by Laura Munson
When I was twenty, I had a summer internship at the Art Institute of Chicago in their Prints and Drawings department. In the afternoons, we’d assist visitors who wanted to view certain works of art in the by-appointment public gallery, and in the morning…we had the place all to ourselves. There were five of us, all wanna-be one day art historians, and about as many Phd curators who were happy to stop what they were doing and answer questions. So our days began in a vault full of stacks and stacks of boxes in alphabetical order. You name it—if there was a famous artist who put writing implement to paper, they very probably had a piece in this collection. Rembrandt. Rothko. Mary Cassatt. Matisse. Michelangelo. DaVinci. It was absolute manna, so typical of Chicago’s long line of artistic patronage. They had Cezanne’s sketchbook, for Lord’s sake. With his grocery list and his son’s drawings in the margins. I loved those mornings.

I’d spent the last school year in Florence, Italy after all, feasting on the Renaissance. I was in a place of artistic glut. Dizzied by an embarrassment of riches in the way of visual art and inspiration. So it was no small mistake that in that year, I decided to write a novel. Just as an experiment. I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t consider myself a writer. I considered myself an artistic person who wasn’t good enough to be an actual artist, so I’d be a champion of artists. It seemed more practical. More the sort of thing my North Shore parents and friends could relate to. More the sort of thing I’d been raised for. Maybe I’d work at Sotheby’s. Maybe I’d own an art gallery. Maybe I’d go back to school and get my Phd and become a museum curator. The only thing was…none of those prospects really appealed to me. Not when I was sitting in that vault deciding between Mary Cassatt’s aquatints and Matisse’s Jazz book.

Sometimes, I’d bring my journal in there and just write, feeling the hearts and passion play of those artists throbbing in my body. I was writing more and more, all about this girl who was a painter, living on an island in Greece, who had fled her life of higher education and societal expectation. The first line of that first book was “Claire sat on her patio wondering what to paint.” I was sitting in that vault, twenty, wondering who I really wanted to be. Who I really was. I felt trapped by my future. I was angry. And lucky for me, I was restless.

Each day at lunch, I would shove down a sandwich and head up to the main galleries of the museum, and I would wander them, memorizing their placement so that my emotions would surge in anticipation around each corner. I knew those galleries. I loved those galleries. But there was one painting that took my breath away, quite literally, every time. The Song of the Lark by Jules Breton.

The image is of a peasant girl, barefoot on a dirt road, holding a sickle in her hand, looking skyward as a bird flies by, the sun low in the sky. I was that girl. My true self was stuck in the wheel society had carved for me. Only mine was in no way the life of the peasant. Quite the opposite. Somehow though, I related with this girl. I was made of dreams that quite possibly would never come true too. And, like the girl, I was going to do something about it. There was no way that girl would be on that road in that peasant’s skirt and bare feet much longer, holding that sickle in that fist. She was going places. Probably that very night she was going to run away from home and hop on a horse going west. I’d follow her. What kind of lie was I telling myself? I wasn’t the person behind the art. I was the artist. I had things I wanted to put down on paper. Only they were words. So I spent that summer writing that novel in every free speck of time I had. And I haven’t stopped since.

Whenever I return to Chicago, I make a point, like a pilgrimage, of going to the Art Institute and standing before The Song of the Lark. It still takes my breath away; it still gives me chills. But the way I have come to look at it surprises me. Now I see something different in the girl. She did not leave. She’s still there. Another day in the field. She is not free. But the bird…the bird is free. And she’s raising that sickle, not against her lot in life, but against that bird. Against that freedom she will not know. Her fingers are drawn up like a fighter in both hands. Her mouth is slack like she’s been sucker punched. She is bound by that painting to which Jules Breton committed her. Where she once was my heroine, she now smacks as a willful slave. I am sorry for her, and I am sort of ashamed of her.

That’s what art does when it’s true. It’s alive in the heart. And we make it our own. At least I do, with this painting of this girl. I have needed to. I have needed to see that I have grown out of rebellion and into freedom. She is my reminder. The last time I went, in fact, I could barely look her in the eye, for all her victimhood. She couldn’t leave. You can always leave, I wanted to shout. No matter what your lot is in life. You can. And coming from privilege doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. So much to lose… But in the end, I learned that I am not bound by the painting that was painted for me. I am only bound by myself. I left that bondage, and I wrote and I am not that girl in the painting. I am, dare I say, the lark.

The beauty of it is that I’m sure there is a twenty year old girl somewhere, probably in Chicago, who comes to this painting and sees her fight and sees her flight and realizes it, in part, because of this girl’s raised fist and sickle. And maybe she will get on the horse and get out of town. Or maybe she will stay and paint her own painting of herself right where she lives, because that is possible too. That is perhaps more than I had the guts for.

And yes, maybe she will return one day, the fight out of her, and relate more to the bird in the sky. I hope that for her. I hope that we grow in the seasons of our life and that in the deliberate act of moving through them, we find ourselves with new pilgrimages to take and new ways to see.


Noah Riskin is a new friend of mine. He’s a writer and a photographer, a former national and international champion gymnast, an MIT teacher, and much more. He too knows what it is to take a stand for himself and to throw himself, in his case, truly out in the wilderness to find his way. And he too knows this very painting. Please enjoy his beautiful story and images. And may you be inspired to take your own pilgrimages. Maybe you already have, and maybe you want to help inspire others to do the same. I’d love to hear about them at THESE HERE HILLS. Yrs. Laura

PILGRIMAGE By Noah Riskin

“Pilgrimage to the place of the wise is to find escape from the flame of separateness.”
–Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

I remember writing down the dream; the thrill and fear of what it meant as I sat inside the glow of a candle, 3AM. Somewhere on one of these shelves sits that journal. And, closing my eyes, I can still see the dream–at least the heart of it: I’m on a mountaintop. Not a snowcapped peak but a jagged outcropping of rock bordered by snow, high above tree line and domed by a pale blue sky. She is next to me; a young, ruddy-faced woman with fire-red hair and cerulean eyes. She is showing me how to make art straight from the earth.

I sat with this the rest of the night.
And, finally, after freefalling in my life for many months, I knew exactly what to do.

~

Now, twenty years forward, and for all of the work, travel and teaching positions
–to be honest,
I’ve lost my way.

~

At that time, life was relatively simple and so I doubled up on work (some welding and bread baking) and saved my pennies. I bought a sky-blue ‘78 VW minibus with camper top and a richly illustrated mechanics guide. In the weeks that followed I overhauled the engine and worked the interior into a living space/studio on wheels. The day before I left, I filled Mason jars with millet, red beans and rice and slipped them into compartments I’d built beneath the seat that folded-out as my bed. I filed painting canvases into a slotted carrier lashed atop the bus and filled the riggings inside with all of my gear. Early September I rolled out of the driveway, picked up the Mass. Pike and headed west.

Cocksure, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

That first night I made it as far as upstate New York. And, sometime after dark and a long fumbling with the camp stove, I lay curled-up in the bus on the edge of a Walgreens parking lot, cold and slowly losing it to a growing terror. The howl of a distant train, big rig thunder from the highway, a sickly cast of orange light that edged the lot and bus–what had I done? So, I sat there in the dark behind the wheel and pulled a pack of Camels as I decided what to do. I wasn’t going back to sleep. And, somehow, I wasn’t going back to Boston. With Store 24 coffee between my legs, I drove on into the predawn chill.

From here things moved faster:

Picture sky-blue minibus running long stretch of highway across western plains…
See sky-blue bus scampering distant mountain ridge,
zigzagging switchbacks,
winding river valley,
wandering lost roads…

Three weeks in and I still had no idea what I was doing. But, I knew how I might find out. It went like this: I’d choose some faraway place on the map and drive there on roads that feathered away, dirt to brush. I’d pick a place to park, make camp and then spend the evening planning hikes. Backpack loaded and a little nervous, I’d head out early morning hoping for some spot that would speak to me, a place to make the work like in the dream. Sometimes I’d leave the bus for a few days and camp on-site. Other times I’d hike to and fro, dawn and dusk, as if going to work. At night I’d sit in my union suit, boots and hat with a shot of whiskey, book and bowl of rice, the curtained camper lit round by a candle lantern. What I learned was that the places did, in fact, tell me what to do. And soon, I was making the work.

Using a heavy string I floated stones over a glacial lake. I climbed trees and suspended quartz pieces in a wave marking sunrise. I painted straight from the desert floor and walked spiral meditations in Colorado sand dunes. I made such pieces over two or three days, photographed them and then left things as found. So unfolded a collection of extraordinary moments, some inspired and some an insult to the species as I plummeted from a treetop, careened down a snow covered pass in a bus without brakes and jumped out of the camper into a stand of bison just the morning after seriously pissing-off a rattlesnake. The list goes on.

A few months later, while wandering through some small town, Wyoming after weeks in the bush, I rounded a corner and came face to face with a wild-haired and grisly version of me in a shop window so feral it scared me. But, I saw something else too; something she’d taught me. I was doing it. I was stepping into the world–into the present, naked as could be and, somehow, making myself whole. I could feel it.

Months later still, after looping the north and southwest chasing the warmer weather, I was in Chicago. I remember slipping into the bathroom for a shot of minibus-trip whiskey before the Art Institute interview. There I sat in a small office showing the Department Head slide after slide of my fieldwork. When he tired of me talking the cryptic nonsense I thought necessary to make it into graduate school, he stopped me with a simple question: Why? We both sat there in the silence until I muttered the only thing I could mutter: I told him about the dream and how “…it’s what I had to do.”

Weeks later, back in Boston, I was scrubbing around a toilet when my mother called. An envelope had arrived from the Art Institute. Should (could) they open it? And so, we listened together to hear that I’d won a full scholarship.

The trip continued on.

It was during my initial few weeks at the Institute, walking the stone-dense halls of the museum that I first stood before the painting. In The Song of the Lark by Jules Breton a peasant girl stands barefoot in a field at sunrise. She’s clutching a sickle and is utterly seized by the bird’s call. And, there I stood, clutching a sketchbook and utterly seized by the sight of her.

It was then that I understood a little something about the work I’d done; a little something about the work we all must do…

Now, cloistered atop a brownstone with pen and paper upon a mountain of past, I feel like I’ve lost my way. Everyday I get up at dawn and work the fields. But, the lark;
I think she’s flown away.

It’s not about going back. It’s not about finding another minibus and tracing the same route. Life doesn’t work that way. Besides, there’s something wrong if you’re not tearing it up a little wild in the world at 25. And, there’s something wrong if you’re still doing it at 45.

It’s more complicated now.

Or, perhaps,
it’s really very simple.

Later, walking to the store in search of some dinner, I watched, listened a little more closely to the world for some small hint of my future self.

BIO: Artist, educator and writer; identical twin and former national and international champion gymnast, Noah Riskin lives and works in Brookline, MA and is currently finishing his first book, The Art of Falling: Coming Back to Earth in Search of One’s Self.

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Haven: Endings Bring Beginnings

Haven Newsletter January, 2011.

Sign up here to get Haven Newsletter delivered to your email doorstep. 

This month I am featuring the author, Susan Pohlman of the beautiful memoir Halfway to Each Other (Guidepostsbooks 2009) which is set in Italy during a time of transformation in her marriage and in herself.

Our Theme:  With Every Ending, There is a Beginning.

Windows by Laura Munson

Part of the beauty of having a published book is meeting other writers who have long been hard at work at your shared craft, swapping stories from what otherwise is a very insular, quiet life– except of course, during book promo. My new friend Susan Pohlman knows all about both. But more than that, she knows what it is to write a memoir about a rough time in her marriage. To have taken the very deliberate journey not only to move her family to Italy for a year in hopes of saving her marriage, but to have written through her pain and discovery in her wonderful memoir: Halfway to Each Other.

We spoke on the phone yesterday for almost two hours, and one of the things which sparked a host of sharing and collective understanding had to do with the notion of endings being beginnings. People ask me all the time how I could possibly not take my husband’s words, “I don’t love you anymore” personally. How I could keep from engaging the drama around those words, and how I could practice empathy and even forgiveness with him. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in this year of interviews and subsequent reflection. Yes, I loved this man. No, I did not believe he truly had run dry of love for me. Yes, I saw this as a crisis of his own soul brought on by years of career failure, fear, and desperation. But there’s another component of this that I have left out of most of my interviews, and which perhaps I’ve only just now landed upon.

In that moment when he made that heartbreaking proclamation, I felt a deep sense of relief.  And even of gratitude.  He had come to the end of something.  And when we come to the end of something, that’s when things happen.  For good or bad.  That’s when there is a window in which change and healing can take place.  Susan and Tim had come to the end of their marriage as they knew it and they took a stand for it by changing their lives– selling their house, surrendering their belongings– going on an epic journey together with their children.  There are people who talk about that sort of drastic move.  And people who actually do it.  They did it, and it provided that window and that healing.

I didn’t want to be with a man who was telling himself inwardly that he didn’t love me anymore. When he spoke it, it gave us that window.  We healed through that time right here in our own home, but it was still a deliberate act he performed in speaking those words.  And a deliberate act on my part to give him the space he needed to work through his crisis.  It might seem cowardly or cruel of him to utter those words, but I never viewed it like that.  He was putting the end to a stage of our marriage that no longer fed him.  And in that act, he found a renewed love.  When I told him that I didn’t buy it—that I really felt this was about his relationship with himself and that he was transferring his own feelings toward himself onto me, he could have said, “Nope.  I don’t care what you think. I’m out of here.”  But he didn’t.  He saw the window.

Where are the endings and beginnings in your life?  Where are the windows and what would happen if you opened them and took in that first breath of transformation?  Please enjoy this insightful essay by Susan Pohlman, and feel free to share your own stories and questions. We will both be here to read and reply. Yrs. Laura

Marriage in Tough Times
Letting go by Susan Pohlman

Writers need other writers. We are called to the same tribe on this lovely planet, scribes who have been given the exquisite burden of capturing the human condition in all of its glories and shames on paper. We can’t help ourselves. Sometimes our stories are thrust into the general consciousness of society, and sometimes they sit quietly in drawers and upon shelves waiting to be summoned.

Our genres connect us. It is a thrill for me to find another writer who is inspired by similar truths. Like hikers who have traversed an unexplored canyon from opposite sides, we have arrived at the same meadow. Sitting down to talk of our journeys is one of the experiences that makes the long hours of pecking away at the computer well worth it.

I had the pleasure of chatting with one such writer, Laura Munson, author of This is Not The Story You Think It Is. What was supposed to be a quick phone call of introduction turned into a lengthy conversation that I will hold close. We shared our experiences of family life and why we chose to fight for our marriages rather than flee when bitter disillusionment came knocking on the door.

I loved her book. I loved that she held firm to her own core. Like the strong mast of a sail boat in a raging storm at sea, she did not break. Though she would endure conversations that no wife wants to hear and rejections that pierced her heart, she understood that there are times when a spouse’s words reflect the pain in his own soul, not hers. She was willing to give her husband time and space and did not internalize that decision as weakness. Rather, such choices exhibit great emotional and spiritual strength and a willingness to surrender to outcomes unknown. The exact qualities that marriage takes sometimes. It is familiar territory.

In May of 2003, while hosting a business trip to Italy, my husband and I took a break from entertaining clients and walked along the Ligurian sea where Christopher Columbus had learned to sail as a boy. The elegant beauty of Santa Margherita lulled us into silence as we ambled along, lost in our own thoughts. We had been married eighteen years, had two beautiful children, and a cozy home on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

From the outside, our lives were idyllic, but on the inside we were painfully disconnected and confused. Neither one of us could figure out (and trust me, we tried every avenue known to man) why we had become so miserable and lonely together. I knew that our days were numbered since I had quietly, and with paralyzing despair, hired a lawyer prior to our trip. What I did not know was that a mere five minutes in the future my husband, Tim, would utter the phrase that would open a window for us, and change our lives forever. He stopped, asked me to move my empty gaze from the blue of the sea to the blue of his tear filled eyes and said, “I could live here.”

These four simple words began a gut wrenching, two day conversation that ended with our signatures on a year’s lease to an apartment in Genoa-Nervi. Tim would quit his job, we would sell our house, and move our family to Italy. We would choose to regard our past eighteen years together with reverence even though our emotions were roiling below the surface heated by years of accumulated hurts and disappointments. We would start over. Maintaining the sanctity of our family, we decided, was worth trying. It was irrational, ridiculous, reckless and the best decision of our lives.

Two months later we were living in Italy. Our children, Katie (14) and Matt (11) were doubtful and fearful at first, but as we slowly slipped out of the constraints of our fast-paced Los Angeles lifestyle, we found something far sweeter. We traded in the American Dream for a dream of our own as we slowly realized that our lifestyle in Los Angeles had started, at some unknown point, to work in opposition to the values we held dear. A fine line that we had failed to notice as we ran across it, to-do lists in clenched fists.

By drastically simplifying our lives, struggling to learn a foreign language and navigating our new Italian village lifestyle, we learned what it felt like to be a family again. The challenge put us all back on the same side of the fence. Teamwork and active problem solving in a new culture provided opportunities for intimacy and abundant humor. It was both therapeutic and exhilarating.

We realized that over planning our family’s life had stifled the excitement of discovery. Dawn to midnight schedules that had filled each day extinguished any possibility of happenstance. Letting go of shoulds and musts and adopting an attitude of “let’s see where this takes us” allowed for the rebirth of enchantment and delight, two important elements that feed one’s soul. Adventure became a surprisingly powerful and restorative way of life. It forced us to live in the moment and be present for each other.

The experience was beyond our wildest imaginings and taught me many things. Some are the same truths that Laura and I shared on our phone call. Besides the fact that we both found Italy to be the land of enchantment, we agreed that sometimes beginnings are disguised as endings. That relationships are not a destination but about transformation, and if we choose to see the closing of a chapter for what it is, it doesn’t have to destroy the family.

The ending may be the end of a dream, the end of a career, the end of a lifestyle, or the realization that reality doesn’t quite match what we always thought our lives would look like. And that ending might be messy. It might throw the family off its axis as it hurls tough words and inconvenient truths across the very room where your first child was conceived. But endings end, too. And that’s where the magic can happen if we open our hearts to possibility and unforeseen circumstance that may decide to just lay its beautiful self before us like a furnished apartment overlooking the Ligurian Sea.

Endings and beginnings are two sides of the same coin. Sometimes, especially when the stakes are great and we are deeply hurting, the only thing that keeps us from flipping the coin over is fear. It is important that, as couples, we cultivate courage and embrace the whole of marriage. Appreciating that the good times allow for celebration and the tough times offer unimaginable opportunity for growth.

Susan Pohlman is a freelance writer living in Scottsdale, AZ. Her essays have been published in The Washington Times, Family Digest, The Family, Raising Arizona Kids, Guideposts Magazine, Homelife Magazine, AZ Parenting and Italiannotebook.com.

She has written three, award-winning short films. The Toast received two awards in the 2008 TIVA-DC Peer Awards, and Here,There, and Everywhere received awards in four categories in the 2009 TIVA-DC Peer Awards. The Misadventures of Matilda Mench won best screenplay in the 2010 Baltimore 48 Hour Film Project and the 2010 CINE Golden Eagle Award for best Independent Fiction Short.

Halfway to Each Other is her first book and winner of the relationships category in the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. It has been shortlisted for the Inspy Award.

You can reach Susan at: http://www.susanpohlman.com 

Blog: http://susanhpohlman.wordpress.com/

Twitter @susanpohlman

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Until 2011

Hi friends. I am taking a bit of a hiatus for a few weeks to play in the snow with my family here in Montana. Normally, I respond to each of you because I consider you gifts and because I learn from you and because when we share back and forth, something always happens in the way of abundance. I wish you all a joyous New Years and I’ll see you back here at THESE HERE HILLS soon. I will be reading your lovely comments and taking each one to heart.

In the meantime, I’m still offering ad space to my blog readers for a special rate, so if you have a business you would like to promote here, I promise to champion you and to feature you here, as well as in my cyber presence. I know what it is to feel like you have something you care about so much and not necessarily the platform to give it wings. I’m happy to use whatever platform I have to help. Let me know here and we can email about it.

Stay tuned for my January HAVEN newsletter which will feature the writer Susan Pohlman, author of the memoir HALFWAY TO EACH OTHER. We will be writing about the subject of endings bringing beginnings. Sign up on the home page of THESE HERE HILLS, or on my website: http://www.lauramunsonauthor.com in the left column of every page but HOME to get HAVEN, and come here to comment and share with Susan and me.

yrs.
Laura

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Following Up: Techniques for Combating the Inner Critic

I had so many responses about the last HAVEN Newsletter which mused on The Inner Critic with the wonderful therapist and writer Stephanie Baffone, that I asked her to write a follow up blog post. People wanted specifics. And while I have worked hard to become aware of my own inner critic, name her, send her packing or in some cases, love her as the scared child that she is…I’m not a therapist. I remind myself constantly that I created her. So I can teach her to be nice. I like nice people in the real world. Why must I pollute my interior world then? I don’t have to. Maybe it’s as simple as that.

In the following post, Stephanie gives some concrete methods which I hope help. yrs. Laura

From the therapist, Stephanie Baffone
My guest column last week about our inner critics struck such a chord that Laura suggested I follow up to provide some additional hints about how to manage these challenging parts of our personalities.

Laura makes a valid point when she says she is “teaching her [inner critic] heart language.”

In my work as a therapist, I find the most common denominator in those that seek therapy is the longing people have to feel heard. Our inner critics are no exception.

Take a message and other techniques
One exercise I suggest to my clients is to keep a notebook, pad of paper or even smart phone handy. Each time that cranky voice starts yammering, take a message. Remember those pink message pads? Tell your inner critic their input has been noted. As a counterpoint, jot down something that makes you beam with pride. Up against even a modicum of success, the most recalcitrant critical voice slinks away in shame.

Another exercise I used personally and that is now a part of my therapeutic repertoire, comes out of Gestalt Therapy.

Eleven years ago, I was nearing the end of my graduate work and the time came to take the comprehensive exams. In order to graduate, I had to pass, and that spring, my “Debbie Downer,” considered this demanding period open season on doubt. Whenever I cracked open my books to study, she sauntered into the room and pulled up a chair.

One evening while reviewing material with a classmate and friend, it became apparent that any further attempts to study productively would be thwarted by Debbie if I didn’t assuage her.

My girlfriend guided me through the process of describing in detail what Debbie looked like, sounded like and even smelled like. We explored ways to silence her for the coming weeks, so I could study without her intrusive and destructive influences.
On closer examination, it was apparent Debbie and I could not co-exist. I needed to exorcise her. I brought her to life on paper then grabbed her by the scruff of her neck, and tossed her into a brown paper bag that my girlfriend dragged home.
The ritual of physically ridding myself of my inner critic was constructive. I breezed through my studies and aced the comprehensive exams.

Joining others in doubt.
Every now and again, when Debbie lurks in the corners of my psyche, I sit her down and say, “Debbie, do you want to go back to that paper bag?”

When she gets mouthy and responds, “I don’t care,” I use a practice I adopted from Mary Piper, therapist and author of the breakout book “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls.” In her memoir, “Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World,” Mary writes about her practice of offering up a prayer for all those who might be feeling the same self-doubt or anxiety she is rather than engage in emotional self-mutilation:

“Prayer is vastly superior to worry. With worry, we are helpless, with prayer, we are interceding. When I am troubled I will say a prayer that asks for relief for myself and for all those who suffer as I do. ‘I pray for all other people who feel anxious and edgy at this moment’….May they be happy and free of suffering.’”

Regardless of which techniques you find helpful in combating your inner critic, the best approach is to be proactive. Be prepared. Put a plan in place. In the meantime, I’m offering a one-way, no-cost exclusive group rate for cantankerous inner critics to a desolate island with no vegetation. Takers?

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