Category Archives: My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness

Hay House Radio with Dr. Christiane Northrup

I am so absolutely thrilled and honored to be going live with the esteemed and inspiring Dr. Christiane Northrup on her Hay House radio show! 

Wednesday April 6th from 11:00-12:00 EST.  Tune in and give a call if the spirit moves you.  I’ve got a few questions for the good doctor too!  Can’t wait.  Here’s the link!

Here’s what this amazing woman had to say about my book:

“Ever hear about the power of positive thinking?  Ever wonder what it looks like in real life?  Ever run up against some rocky places in your relationship that scare the crap out of you?   If you answered yes, read this book.  Now.  I for one devoured it in 24 hours.  It’s pure real life illumination.” —–Dr. Christiane Northrup, Author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

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Here’s to the Midwest!

Being a gal from Illinois, having spent summers in Wisconsin, and having attended college in Ohio, I simply cannot wait for the midwestern leg of my book tour which is in just a matter of days! The full frontal horizon so honest and straight-forward. The flickering rows of corn reminding me of my father and his farm roots. The little towns and the mom and pop cafes with red velvet cake and grinders. The dignity of its cities. What a perfect way to enter into what will be almost two months of readings and events from coast to coast. A friend from Wisconsin sent me this the other day and it just had me in head-shaking, wide-smiling bliss. Scroll down to take a look! Here’s to the Midwest! yrs. Laura

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
Sewickley, PA
Reading, Signing

THE MIDWEST AND ITS TAVERNS:

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Advice From the Now Writer Me…to the Then Writer Me.

By Laura Munson (in several incarnations)

Published in Author Magazine

Okay.  You know those words that you fling into the ocean and the sinking sun every time you’re standing on an eastern facing beach?  Those sometimes spoken, sometimes thought words that come out like a beggar’s prayer?  I know you’re kind of embarrassed by them, but let’s just fess up.  As an exercise.  Please help me be published to wide acclaim.

Well guess what?  After 20 years and 14 books…it happens.  And I’m here to tell you…it’s not the story you think it is.  Your writer friend was right when he said “The only difference between being published and not being published is being published.”

Really?

Really.

But don’t I feel magnetic and energized and fabulous?  Isn’t it the most fun of my entire life?  Don’t I jump up and down? Doesn’t it feel like Christmas?

I’m a bit afraid to tell you.  But I feel that I must.  It was fun.  For one entire second, when your agent called and told you there was an offer on your book.  You were on your treadmill, and you took your feet off the conveyor belt and you stood quiet and said, “Hang on.  I just need a moment.”  And she waited.  And you cried.  And that was it.  You went back to your fast walk and your agent went back to business.  The fun moment wasn’t so fun.  You took it and you wept.

What about all the readings and the fans, and the media and the limos, and seeing all my old friends?  What about going to all those cities and speaking in all those beautiful rooms and meeting all those amazingly inspiring people?  Wasn’t that fun?

Wasn’t I happy?

Not exactly.  You felt like you’d ditched the part of you that you knew and trusted and loved and had worked so hard to build inside yourself.  The writer.  You felt out of balance and you missed writing.  You missed the work.  There wasn’t time for the work.  You were so set on the idea that you had one shot at it.  One shot at putting yourself on the map as a published, successful author.  And if it meant that you packed on 10 pounds and went loose in the gut, and didn’t eat breakfast, or even lunch sometimes, or play with your kids, or if you lost out on weekends and sleep and social engagements…it was a small price to pay for being a country on that map.  Plus you needed the money.  But it was always about more than the money.  It was about living a myth.  Keeping it alive.  Because surely the myth would somehow save you.

That’s really fucking sad.

Ah…but here’s the secret, and it’s good news if you look at it properly:  Ready?

I’m not so sure.

Tough.  Repeat after me:  There is no such thing as success.  I’m here to tell you.  It’s a lie.  An illusion.  An interpretation of events that feels mostly like total shit, because the self behind the ego knows the truth.

I feel like throwing up.  If this is true…how on earth did I finally understand it?

Glad you asked.

One day you were lying in bed on a Saturday morning, at home, before the family woke up. You hadn’t been awake more than three minutes when you realized you had a grimace on your face like you were being pinched, and your shoulders were up by your ears, tight and braced.  You were worrying about a reading in Connecticut that was at a private club where 150 women had pre-paid $75.00 which included a signed copy of your book, and lunch.  You were worrying that they’d be disappointed that they spent all that money just to see you.  You were worrying about the ten pounds you’d gained and what you’d wear—what looked authorly and had success written all over it.  You were sure that you’d be the worst dressed woman there.  And what if you found one of your books in the Ladies room afterwards on the back of a toilet like someone had decided they didn’t want it after all, after seeing you speak in that horrible outfit?  And geez—don’t published authors have enough money to hire a personal trainer? What a let down you were.  Who did you think you were?

And then you started to smile.  And to laugh.  That event already happened!  Almost a year ago!!!  People loved you.  They told you so.  They bought extra books for friends and family and their book groups.  And yes, you did find a book on the back of a toilet in the Ladies room, but you gave it to the woman at the front desk and she wept she was so thankful.  She’d heard about your book and wanted desperately to read it but couldn’t afford a $24.95 hardback.  So there.  You were worrying about something that was not only ancient history, but was also a smashing success.  And you realized you were holding all those speaking engagements in you still.  Hoarding them like you’d need them for later should the end of the world come, aka the end of your career, and you needed ammo, fuel, cover, proof.

And so you decided to re-live each one of your readings.  Starting right at the beginning.  All 50 some odd of them.  You needed to go through them and remember what there was to remember, without judgment, but with a seeking mind and an open heart—yeah, I probably shouldn’t wear a long sleeve shirt and a long skirt if it’s going to be 94 degrees with 100% humidity and the reading is outside under a tent!   Ya live and learn.  Maybe it’s okay to omit the swear word in your book the next time your reading is in a CHURCH, but oh well.  I’m pretty sure God’s heard it before. You needed to unpack that suitcase you’d been hauling around with you all over creation, hot little roller wheels and all, and put it to rest.  Even if it took you all morning.  And it nearly did.

And for the first time in a long time, you breathed a fresh free unencumbered sigh of relief.

Wow.  That sounds exhausting.

Maybe so.  But you’re at the beginning of this adventure.  You have time to change your story.  You don’t have to spend years tormenting yourself, unpublished or published, telling yourself that you need to prove yourself.  Because you proved what you thought there was to prove, and it didn’t solve anything.  It didn’t heal anything.  It didn’t erase anything.  It didn’t change anything about how you feel and how you fear and how you love.  All that proving—yes, that is exhausting.  And you need energy to live your life the way you want to live it.

All that happened is this:  you wrote something.  Somebody liked it enough to put cardboard on each side of it and let a lot of people know about it.  And you got paid for it.  And you are known for it.  Otherwise, it’s just the same as ever:  getting back to work on what you know and trust best.  The writing.

A hearty  p.s.

I am about to go back out on the road for the better part of April and May (schedule is here–come say hi!)…and I have decided that the real reason it’s not all the fun the child in you had hoped for, is because of the attachment to having it be that mythic success.  So it is in letting go, that I journey out on the road this time.  The same philosophy and practice that I write about in my book, but have only recently understood how to put to practice in my post-published life.  And something tells me…IT’S GONNA BE A BLAST!!!)

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The River


Paperback of THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS coming in April to a bookstore near you!

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.  Shelia 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 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 cardsYou need to be appropriateYou 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 from 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 be 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 for my paperback’s book tour, (readings will be posted soon) 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 Shelia).  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.

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The Day After Valentine’s Day

I’ve really enjoyed this back and forth with Tom Matlack of the Good Men Project.  I hope you will pass along his positive energy and the way that he champions men and holds them to their best selves.  Here’s is the last in our series.  Hope you enjoy.  yrs. Laura

In the last of a five-part series on love and relationships, Tom Matlack and author Laura Munson debate the question: Do men and women mean the same thing when they say ‘I love you’?

MUNSON: I have to believe that the notion and experience of love are not gender-specific, nor are they culture-specific. I wrote a book about what happened when my husband told me he didn’t love me anymore and wasn’t sure he ever did. I didn’t believe him and chose to give him room to work through and heal from what I believed was a crisis of self brought on by sudden career failure. And he did heal—and we’re still together. I am deeply grateful for that. Some marriages are meant to end. I didn’t feel that ours was—and it turned out that he didn’t either.

I have heard from people around the world, married and unmarried, men and women, gay and straight, responding with gratitude for my book’s message, which is one of personal responsibility in crisis—one of non-reaction and a commitment to finding the freedom of the moment, no matter what’s going on in your life and no matter the outcome of the ordeal. In an interview with a reporter from Tel Aviv, I asked, “I wonder how Israelis will respond to this message.” She paused and said, “I don’t care where you’re from or what religion you are or what social group, the words ‘I don’t love you’ are universally ones we fear and dread.”

I have found that to be true, so I believe that the reverse of those words is just as universal. We long for the words “I love you,” whether we are women or men. We long for the fulfillment and intimacy of relationships. But that “I love you,” in order to be authentic, has to start with the person who is expressing that emotion. That “I love you” has to begin within. If you don’t love yourself, however are you to love me?

♦◊♦

MATLACK: I’m with you on the ideal of love being universal, across gender lines. But the way we get to that ideal is different, requiring that we overcome gender-specific obstacles. I have no idea if it is genetic or learned, but little girls and little boys grow up with very different conceptions of what romantic love is all about. I grant that there are as many different variations on the theme as there are human beings, but in general, women see love as a thing at the center of their existence and men see it as something to be conquered, dealt with, and at worst lied about. Your husband’s story, like my own, points to the difficulty guys have just being honest with others and ourselves when it comes to love.

When we’re young, a guy saying he loves a woman might just mean he wants to sleep with her. My sense, though I only have secondhand reports on this, is that young women generally perceive that, for guys, sex is an expression of love—rather than the other way around.

Guys eventually warm to the idea that there might be just one woman out there that will meet all their needs—but the word love still scares us. I have heard it too many times to count: guys think that if they fall in love and commit, they are giving up options for other women.

But it isn’t about the sex or about the lack of freedom, it’s about the fear of looking ourselves in the mirror and feeling disconnected to the guy staring back at us. I don’t think guys cheat because they think it’s a good idea to sleep around on their wives and kids. Inability to commit isn’t the cause of infidelity; it’s a product of fear and self-loathing. As you suggest, you can’t hate yourself and love someone else.

Some guys never get there. But by the time we reach 46—which is where both my wife and I are now—we have the emotional maturity to see the true and lasting benefits of love and commitment. Guys eventually catch up with the smarter and more mature gender, to see ourselves worthy and capable of giving (and receiving) love without doubt.

Guys like me know we are lucky to cuddle in bed with the perfect woman—in other words, one who has seen the good, the bad, and the very ugly, and stuck around despite it all. And when we say we are “in love,” it is with an equal conviction to that of our female counterparts.

♦◊♦

MUNSON: I find it so true and so unfortunate that the words I love you are so loaded—manipulation, transference, co-dependence being some of it. I agree that emotional maturity comes with age and long-term relationships. I always tell my teenage daughter that people are not capable of being equal loving partners until they are much older—and to focus on her female friendships. I didn’t make that choice when I was younger, and spent most of my time with longterm boyfriends. While I don’t regret those relationships, I do wish I’d skipped the adolescent drama and focused on nurturing friendships instead. When I said I love you back then, it was very different than the I love you I offer now to my husband of 20 years. That I love you is loaded in a different way. It means Thank you, I respect you, I believe in you, I believe in us.

♦◊♦

Tom Matlack and Laura Munson debate other questions about modern love:

Why do young women and older men get along so well?

Are stay-at-home dads macho?

How important is physical appearance to longterm fidelity?

What’s more important to a good marriage—great sex or fighting fair?

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Anthropomorphizing a Boot


I have one thing in my wardrobe which feels like a friend. The truest of the bluest.
This item has been with me to most every major American city this year.
It’s been up and down steep smelly service stairways in hotel after hotel, and it doesn’t judge me one bit for my
elevator phobia.

It has kept me out of chiropractor’s offices.
It has elicted compliments and to my surprise, even did a convincing impersonation of thigh high patent leather F*** Me boots on
national television.
I am in love.

To my boots:

You don’t have a pretentious bone in your body.

You don’t go cheap for style when it comes to your better sense, and that’s:  function. 

You are kind to my L5. 

You are balancing to my sometimes weak knees when the hard questions get asked and there’s a large audience waiting for an answer with meat, grace, and wisedom.  You get me.

And so to you, my black leather Dansko boots…deep thanks.
May we travel well in 2011.
And if you’re really good, I’ll take you to Italy after the paperback book tour and introduce you to cobblestones and fields of fig trees.

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What Does it Mean to Let Go?

I have a piece in the Huffington Post today which is in response to the question I get asked the most when I’m out on book tour: what does it mean to let go? How do you do it? Well, I don’t profess to have the answer, but I do have some strong thoughts about how to get in touch with our pain and to use it. How to reframe pain and restructure our thinking around it. I’ll include an excerpt here, and would love for you to stop by the Huffington Post today to comment. It is such a vast platform and I’d love to share my work there with its wide audience. Your comments will help drive interest to this piece and future pieces I write on my Huffington Post blog. Thanks and may this day feel new and light. yrs. Laura
Read my essay here

Excerpt:
In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I’ve asked myself a question lately about the human relationship with emotional pain: at what point do we acknowledge the pain in our life and decide to end it?

Is it only when we’ve endured great agony that we see its perils and decide that we don’t want to feel that way anymore? Is it only then that we change our perspective and start to choose happiness?

Or can we arrive at a commitment not to suffer simply by relating with life and its low-grade hardships as part of the whole? As not bad or good. Right or wrong. Just what is.

It saddens me to think that the latter is the exception and not the rule.

For me, it took 14 unpublished books, my father’s death and a near divorce to finally see that happiness is a choice. And one I was hell-bent on making. But it meant that I had to let go of suffering once and for all. And suffering had become my “normal.”

How is this possible — this letting go?

I believe the answer lies in the present moment.

We hear the phrase: live in the moment. But what does this really mean in its practical application? How do we achieve the freedom of choosing to let go of the future and the past and commit to the present moment, when life throws us curveballs and even grenades? How do we not worry or rage or micromanage? (read more)

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Letter to a Young Blogger

Recently a blogger wrote to me asking for advice, feeling desperate and raw the way that every writer feels. I get a lot of letters, for which I am deeply thankful, and have learned that I have to be economic with my response time in a committment to finishing my current novel. I started writing her what I assumed would be a short but honest letter, hoping to find just the right words…and realized that what I had to share was an old fashioned, long, heart-in-the-hand, letter. And as I opened up to that and my words increased, more and more impassioned, I realized that I really was writing to myself and all writers everywhere. I’d like to share it with you, with her permission. And likewise, I’d like to share her response. Hope it helps. yrs. Laura

12/11/10

Dear, Nikki.

I know people don’t use “Dear” anymore in emails, but to you, from me, sisters in words, it is “dear.” Thank you for reaching out to me in your very candid and honest letter. It takes guts to reach out to published authors, especially when their work has touched you. I have a whole file of letters I’ve written over the years to my favorite author, but was too shy to send them to him. Finally one day I exploded in desperation and wrote 20 years of writer’s woe into a letter, and sent it to his editor thinking he’d never in a million years actually get it. But it felt somehow good just to know that I’d finally spoken my truth to the person I most respect in the literary world: and that was that I was terrified I’d never get published, that I knew I was a good writer and had written good books, and that I needed help. He emailed me a few weeks later. We ended up meeting for drinks that spring in a small border town in Arizona where I was camping with my family. We ended up becoming friends. And he ended up putting in a good word to his editor for me. The book deal fell apart anyway. Writers can’t really help writers get published. Even wickedly famous ones such as he. But we can share our feelings and we can make suggestions and we can help guide one another.

You said you weren’t sure why you wrote me, only that you were so ready to launch your career that you were afraid of being “Over done.” “Burnt to a crisp.” That’s to me a way of saying, “Help. In any way you can. Just help. I can’t be alone in this one more second.” A cry for help—not necessarily on-the-ledge kind of help, but maybe on the soul’s edge. And all you really want is an echo that says there was a meeting point out there in the world that heard you and bounced it back to you in a game of mystic catch. You’ve been witnessed. You are not alone. You’ve been met. I have some things I’d like to say about that and I hope it finds you, if nothing else, met.

I so deeply understand where you are in all this. Having so much work and wanting it to be read and wanting to be respected for it, and wanting to be paid for it. It feels so helpless and hopeless– like you’re working so hard to mine your life and bridge human hearts with honesty, empathy, compassion…and yet nobody really sees you or cares. Like you’ll somehow fall between the cracks. Any of this ring a bell? (sorry for all the mixed metaphors, but we writers need lifelines—basic full frontal flung floatation– and well-worn metaphors can sometimes feel like just that!) As you know, I’ve written many books that are not published. Not all good ones. And not all ones which I’ve submitted to my agent. In fact, I’ve really only submitted four or five, and she’s only shopped so far three of them. In three years of hard-at-it submissions, her New York City hardened fist to the pavement, only one of them got published. It was crushing.

I’d been told many times that getting an agent was harder than actually getting a book published, so when I finally landed mine, I had high hopes. Even in this economy. Even with the publishing industry in shambles. I still had hope because I had someone who believed in me even when I didn’t. After both books were considered seriously by two different big time editors, both of whom were willing to work with me on the sly to get my manuscripts in the best possible shape so they could come into their editorial staff meetings guns blazing…and after both were still in the end rejected, my agent decided she wouldn’t even send my work out any more. I needed a platform. I’d sent her my memoir, the one that just got published, the one that ended up on the New York Times bestseller list, and she said, “I’m sorry. I’m just not sending your work out. You’re too good of a writer to keep falling through the cracks. You need a platform.”

So there I was, feeling completely hopeless. Because wasn’t having a top notch New York agent in the first place, sitting on three polished and what I considered to be powerful manuscripts, proof enough of my writing moxie? How did a girl prove herself even more than that? “By getting into the New Yorker or the New York Times,” she said. Ugh. I’d tried that. I’d failed at that. I honestly had never felt more bereft. Never in 20 years have I had writer’s block, or faced a blank page without butterflies in my stomach. Never had I lost a lick of hope. That day, I got off the phone and put my head down on my computer, and wept. I really, for the first time, saw clearly that my career, at 42 years old, very well might never launch. The ship wouldn’t come in. I’d be bobbing in cold waters so tired of clutching that life preserver, that I finally might just let go, and become fish food. I felt myself, for the first time in my life, beginning to let go.

And something miraculous happened. In a flicker of a moment, sort of how they say that you see your life flash before you just before death, I had this deep warm feeling of knowing. I’d write the short version of my memoir, the one my agent wasn’t going to shop, and I’d send it to the New York Times Modern Love column. I’d just had two rejections from them in tandem the week prior. At least I was fresh in the editor’s mind. So in an hour, I wrote the essay. It flowed out the way I suppose one’s last breath flows. One long rattle. And I sent it, left the house to pick up the kids, and forgot about it. That was going to be the way things went from now on. I would have to train myself to forget about it. To take the future out of my brain and heart. I didn’t know what that meant. Would I stop writing? I couldn’t fathom that death, so I let it go. And it was just me alone in that sea. The alternative was to thrash. And I couldn’t do that any longer. I was too tired of thrashing.

The next morning, I got an email: “This one, we’re going to take.” It was from the editor of the Modern Love column. And you probably know the rest of the story. That essay was the number one most read article on The New York Times website for weeks. The responses crashed the site. It went viral all over the world. I heard from ministers, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, mothers, wives, husbands, fathers, sisters, brothers…you name it. People wanted to hear that particular message which was simple but hard to apply, especially to a marital crisis, which was my essay’s entry point. The message was: you can find freedom in crisis by focusing on the present moment, getting rid of the destructive voices in our heads that have us reacting in a place of fear, to love those voices into submission, to take responsibility for your own happiness no matter what’s going on in your life. To let go and just be with the pain of life, using the pain of life, breathing through the pain of life. Simple. I’d applied this philosophy to my marriage, and now I was finally applying it to my writing life. And that’s when everything happened.

Now, a year later, I’m sitting here on a Saturday morning in December with my husband and children skiing, trying to work on a novel. I’d like a novel to be published next. I worry about being pigeon-holed as a memoirist. It’s the novel that is my deep love; the craft at which I’ve been “hearkening and hammering,” as Rilke said (who wrote his own “dear” letters to another writer), for all these years. And I find myself putting this philosophy to play all over again. My inner voice wants me jumping through hoops and walking across coals. The dread blank page. The likelihood of a novel getting published in this industry. Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe it was just a rogue nerve that I hit the way my anesthesiologist did when he was giving me my epidural before my cesarean. “I’ve hardly ever done that,” he said. And like you, I’m asking those old questions: what if this really is just my three minutes. And the clock is ticking. Never mind the simple fact that we need money, badly. To keep our house. To regain health insurance and life insurance and pay our bills after years of career failure. I honestly don’t know how we’re going to pay for Christmas this year. And the kids with such long lists.

I think that the single most dashing aspect of being a writer is feeling so alone. So the help I can give you is not the lifeline, but the simple act of catching the echo, your voice to mine, mine to yours. Even though my book has been more successful than I ever dreamed as I sat here at this desk a few summers ago writing my way through a hard time in my life, not even all that sure that I’d one day submit it to my agent…I still face what you face. The loneliness, the fear, the sinking hope. I wasn’t sure my marriage would make it through that crisis and I wasn’t going to give it an even larger burden if in fact it did. But I wrote with all the compassion and honesty I could, responsible to a rule I made to myself and that was: not to vilify my husband. Not to play victim. Not to expose things beyond what felt necessary to the memoir. In the end, my agent sent out the book. In the end I got that long awaited book deal. The book tour. The national television. The NPR interviews. The positive reviews. The fans. The pay check. The New York Times bestseller list. The opportunity to have written something that is helping people. All the things I’d dreamed of.

And here I am, having spent a year of my life running around creation talking to people about that book and that time in my life, trying so hard to give people hope, especially writers. And I’m here to say that the whole reality of success is a myth. There is no real destination there. You’re just “seen and heard” that’s all. And it feels so good after feeling so unseen and unheard for so long. But it also feels disorienting and a little wrong. Like you’re really supposed to be back in that office, staring at the blank page, doing the work. Not being a travelling salesperson/social networking whore/motivational speaker. As another writer friend so perfectly put it a year ago, “Enjoy this initial bliss. In a matter of months, your cherry will be popped and you’ll realize that you are at the end of the day, not a writer, but a businesswoman, caught in a machine.” I didn’t want to believe that she was right. To a degree, she was. But no one can take away the writing. In that place, I completely trust myself. In that place, I am floating, surrendered, riding the waves, not thrashing, not a bit of future in me, watery dark ocean’s bottom or helicopter rescue.

So it’s my pleasure to respond to you and share what I’ve learned, having gone to the other side so suddenly this year. The “platform” I’ve wanted most of all is the one from which to help writers persevere. I’ve wanted this desperately for a long time. Somewhere along the line I turned around and realized that I was an expert on the subject of perseverance. I knew how to do one thing well: start books and finish them. Start essays and finish them. Start short stories and finish them. I wasn’t as good with submissions, and that was part of not yet wanting that “cherry” to be popped. Something deep in my psyche knew that I had to learn my craft. To understand that intersection of mind and heart and craft that is writing. To build that body of work. And yes, now the business of it is upon me. I’m trying to look at it like a game rather than a tragedy about to happen. I’m trying to look at it as a numbers game, or a pie chart, or something simple and practical. I write something and I submit it to these three places and I forget about it. And if I do that on Monday and Tuesday, and spend Wednesday on blog posts and researching grants and residencies, then I have Thursday, Friday and part of the weekend to work on my novel. Simple. If I strip it down, moment by moment, and not get stuck under the miasma of “what if.”

As my favorite writer said to me at that bar in southern Arizona, “Somebody has to get published and why not you.” So I pass that on to you. You are not alone. And you are alone. And that’s not bad news. You are a part of a collective sisterhood and brotherhood of writers who trust themselves best at the intersection, otherwise why else would they put themselves through this writing life. All those blank pages. All that rejection. I wish for you, and for all of us, that flicker of a moment when we finally let go, and get to the depths of compassion, empathy, and yes craft…send off our work surrendered, and somewhere have it received, met, echoed back in e. e. cummings world of Yes. Yes is a world. May we know it as writers, first deep in ourselves. And then from the world.

I wish you all the very best, Nikki.

Yrs.

Laura

Here is her response:
Hi Laura,

The other day I tried to compose an email to you, and it was a challenge to even do this. I was unable to write anything, and then a couple days ago I woke up and realized why. My soul will not allow me write from the place of ego- you know that small, weak place of wanting to write for attention and following and publication and approval. There was a time I only wrote for me, and as I have moved out to share my writing and wanting to make a living from it, my ego perks up its head and pushes me with its demands. It is wonderful to realize I cannot write, at least well, for those reasons. I have to write for something deeper.

I am so glad I reached out to you, and again I thank you for your letter. It will be something I keep and read when I need that support. I am grateful it inspired a letter to all writers and I would be honored to have my name displayed. There is so much for us to learn within the writing process. Recently I began writing another blog dedicated to this and it helps, as you say, warm up for the writing day ahead.

Thank you for saying my blog is my platform. This brought such relief. And I am receiving more requests for potential money making with ads on my blog and like you I want to maintain integrity. As far as blogher, I signed on with them a couple of years ago. I have had a good experience with them. The only issue is when I change my blog design I have to make sure the ad is near the top. They have requirements of where the ad should be. I can’t remember how I signed up with them, but I am sure the site walks you through. I know you can choose what kind of advertising you want, and if there is a company you are opposed to, you can customize settings. There will be an html code to add and then it should appear. They will also share your posts, which helps get more people to your site.

Thank you, honestly for being the echo, and holding the space of my desperation. This, especially in these times, is essential. I, like you, hold our vulnerable moments the most sacred and we need people to hold that space for us, and honor it. We also need people to show us by their example we can persevere and do what we love. I think what was most valuable to me in your letter is knowing even with your success you have not arrived. I shared a story in my local paper- and it speaks to this- recently I climbed a steep mountain, at least for me coming from Minnesota, it was steep, and while I climbed I had moments of terror, where I just didn’t think I was going to make it, but what kept moving me forward was wanting to see the view from the top. I also wanted to know I could make it. When I arrived, there was not the breathtaking view I imagined or was there the path I had hoped for to bring me back down so I wouldn’t have to roll down the way I came up. Instead there was another climb ahead and these tiny flies buzzing around my head.

My dad shares this message with me- everywhere we go there is the Buddha and flies. I found both, and more ground to cover. I feel honored to walk into this possibility of success holding this knowledge. As you say success is not a destination. It is an illusion. Even you, with your best seller still goes to her writing space and climbs another mountain. And now you are stronger.

I do hope we will stay in touch. I, too wish you all the very best. We are here to express everything that is our potential- that world of “YES.” Isn’t it wonderful to know and experience, especially when shared.

Namaste, Laura.

Nikki

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Filed under "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear", A Place For Writers To Share, My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, My Posts

Great List of Books for Married and Divorced Folks and Parents

The kind people over at stylesubstancesoul.com have honored me by choosing This Is Not The Story You Think It Is for their list of helpful books in the fields of marriage and parenthood. It’s in good company, that’s for sure. Check out these inspiring books and this inspiring website here And feel free to leave a comment. yrs. Laura

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Filed under "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear", Motherhood, My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness

Free Love

I’ve been asked to answer countless questions in the last year from radio, newspaper, and magazine interviewers– mostly about how to take care of yourself during a hard time. Sometimes the interviewer is trying to turn my story into one of “Holding onto your man” which irks me because that’s not what my book is about. It’s about letting go. It’s about empowerment. It’s about not letting things outside your control define your personal happiness. But when this writer approached me for her article, I was intrigued. Her question was unique: what kinds of gifts can we give our partners that do not have a dollar value on them? I liked being asked this question because I love my husband, and it got me thinking. How do we gift our loved ones? Especially in this season of giving. Here’s what EXPERIENCE LIFE magazine has to say about it.

Excerpt:
Gift 3: Allow Space for Solitude
When author Laura Munson and her husband got married, their ceremony included a quote from the poet Rainier Maria Rilke, which read, in part: “A good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust.” Almost two decades of marriage and two children later, Munson’s husband began to have doubts about the marriage. But instead of begging him to stay, Munson took Rilke’s quote to heart and gave her husband the emotional space she felt he needed to reflect and reconnect with himself.

read more here.

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Filed under "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear", My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, My Posts