On Missed Opportunities, Anaphylaxis, and Waking Up Alive

Ambulance

On June 12th, 2014 I woke up alive. Not just breathing. Alive. 

This is significant because on the morning of June 11th, I missed an opportunity. That lost opportunity felt like a punch in the gut. It knocked the wind out of me. In fact, I was temporarily consumed with my feelings about it. But not for long. A couple of hours later, I almost died. And that’s when everything changed forever.

The morning started like most weekday mornings start in my house. My partner brought me coffee in bed. Then we moved to the deck and enjoyed each other’s silent company, the early morning quiet interrupted only by chirping birds, rustling leaves, and the occasional sounds of a car in the distance.

And then it was time for her to shower, so I flopped down on the bed and started my work day. Several minutes later, I stopped working to admire her while she got dressed, and she teased me, pretending to be surprised, because this is the morning routine. Too soon, she was dressed for work and ready to walk out the door, and she kissed me goodbye. I didn’t want her to go. I pulled her back for a second kiss. She went into the kitchen to grab her lunch, then came back into the bedroom to kiss me goodbye again. We laughed about the silliness of missing each other when she’s just going to an office less than fifteen minutes away and we know we’ll see each other again at the end of the day.

After she left, I goofed around with the kids for an hour, then shooed them out the door to school, with the little one popping her head back in to tell me “just one more thing,” at least three times.

And then, on this very typical morning, one that was until this point nearly identical to dozens of others I’ve had over the last nine months, I found out about the missed opportunity. It was something I had really wanted to do, an opportunity that felt significant and worthwhile. The worst part was that the only person I could be pissed off at was myself. Shortly after I had been asked to do this thing, some extremely urgent family matters had arisen, and my obligations as a mother totally eclipsed everything else. I hadn’t blown it off. I had good reason for not following through. But I was still mad at myself. Certainly, if nothing else, I could have found the five minutes to tell the other person involved what was going on and why I had disappeared, but I didn’t. I just disappeared.

And now I was wallowing. I decided to let myself wallow for fifteen minutes before forcing myself to get back to work. I went to the kitchen to pour myself a refill of coffee.  I noticed a small square of baklava on the table. We had ordered takeout from our favorite restaurant the night before, and they had tossed a few free pieces into the bag. I had been too full to eat mine.

I picked it up, and without giving it a second thought, popped it in my mouth. I chewed slowly, savoring the impossibly thin, flaky layers of pastry drenched in honey, layered with pistachios, crushed almost into a paste. It was delicious.

And within a few minutes, I knew that something wasn’t quite right. There was a horrible aftertaste lingering in my mouth. It tasted similar to a melted aspirin, and no amount of coffee or water would get rid of it. Soon after, my tongue and gums started to itch and burn. My lips felt like they were on fire.

At this point, I knew that I was having an allergic reaction. I recalled that several years ago I had an allergic reaction to pistachios, but I had eaten small amounts on several occassions since then with no consequence.

I wasn’t scared. I just thought it was a minor annoyance. A small blip on the radar of my day that would be remedied with Benadryl. I checked the medicine cabinet and realized we didn’t have any, so I decided to walk to the corner store a couple of blocks away to buy some. I sent Jena a text that said, “Ugh! I can never eat pistachios again. Not even a little!”

I made it to the end of our cul de sac. After walking just a few yards, my heart was beating like I had been running for miles. Adrenaline was coursing through my body. I had a vague recollection of reading something once about exercise speeding up or exacerbating allergic reactions… or something like that. Walking anywhere seemed like a terrible idea. So I headed back to the house and called Jena.

I told her that I might be overreacting, but I needed her to come home from work. I needed to be seen by a doctor. I must have apologized for inconveniencing her at least three or four times. She heard something in my voice that I was not yet aware of, the way it was getting higher, shrill and raspy at the same time. She said she was on her way and asked if she should call 911. I said no. Just get home.

I called her back less than two minutes later and asked how close she was. Apparently, I was no longer capable of rational thought, or I would have called 911 myself at this point. But I didn’t. I called her and she told me she was calling 911.

I sat on the porch, peeling off my jacket because I was hot and flushed, yet shivering almost convulsively from adrenaline and fear. My heart was slamming against my chest so hard and fast that it hurt. And now my breathing wasn’t just fast, I was having to think about it.

There were sirens drawing closer, and I felt a mix of relief and embarrassment as the ambulance pulled up in front of the house. I was relieved because I knew deep down that I was in real trouble. Embarrassed, because some small, irrational part of my brain was still certain that they were going to give me Benadryl and tell me I could have just waited to go to the ER on my own.

That isn’t what happened. Instead, they asked me a few questions and got me on a stretcher. They rolled me into the back of the ambulance while I wheezed something about my partner being on her way home, how she should be here any minute.  He reassured me that we would probably still be at the house when she arrived, that they were going to start an IV with Benadryl before we rolled out.

I was relieved when I saw her car pull up behind the ambulance. She climbed into the back and squeezed my hand and tried to ask a few questions, which I’m not sure I ever answered.  She asked if she should ride in the ambulance or follow in her car. The paramedics told her to follow in her car, so that she’d be able to drive home later.

I didn’t want her to follow in her car. I didn’t want her to leave my side. I know her well enough to know that had I said so, she would have refused to budge. But I didn’t say so, because all of my effort was going into breathing.

I felt a pang of despair as she climbed out of the ambulance and they shut the door behind her. I watched her get into her car. And then we pulled out onto the road, and I lost sight of her.

While we were rolling down the road, I glanced at the monitor displaying my vitals. My heart rate was astronomical and climbing. The paramedic sounded sharp when he told me not to look at it. When I couldn’t keep my glance from returning to the screen, he flipped it around so I couldn’t see it.

Time lost all meaning. Had I told her I loved her? I couldn’t remember. I hoped that I had said the words out loud, not just thought them. I wanted to call my kids to tell them I loved them. I glanced down and saw my cell phone, still lying on my belly where the paramedic had placed it when he put me on the stretcher. I wanted to tell them I loved them, but I didn’t want them to hear me like I was. And anyway, I couldn’t bend my fingers, let alone pick up my phone to make a call. I prayed.

And the man apologizing as he pulled down my pants and jabbed an EpiPen into my thigh was telling the driver to call the hospital. He was calling out my name and date of birth and the situation. His face was calm, but his hand was shaking.

And then he pressed his hands down over mine and told me to relax them, to breathe with him, and I did. And it felt like it took a very long time, but eventually my throat loosened, the air passed through with less struggle on each breath, and we pulled into the bay at the emergency room.

Several hours later, I returned home with EpiPens, steroids, my life, and a major paradigm shift. The Meaning of Life, revealed.

And what is the Meaning of Life?

Speaking only for myself, the meaning of life is that we GET to do this.

Life is not something that is happening to us, which we are forced to endure. It isn’t a slog or a burden, and even when it feels like it is, it is still an extraordinary privilege.

We get to be here. We get to live these days. This life. Not some life that has already happened to us and ended five years ago. Certainly not the imaginary ones we conjure up in our heads and call The Future. This life. Here. Now.

And when it’s all on the line, you’re not going to give a second thought to stressful deadlines, or the housework. You’re not going to feel sorry for yourself that your bank account isn’t as large as you had hoped it would be by this point in your life. You won’t be worrying that anyone will see your stretch marks or that hair on your chin that you forgot to tweeze.

The Meaning of Life is, “Did I remember to tell her I love her?”

There are a million opportunities to love. And for every opportunity, there are a million ways to blow it, too.

Honestly, my business didn’t cross my mind while I was in the back of that ambulance. The missed opportunity that has felt like such a big deal earlier that day left my mind entirely. But when the threat of imminent death had passed, I thought about it a lot. Over the past month, I have assessed and reassessed every aspect of my life, and what I realized is that I don’t want to miss anything that matters.

We can’t have it all, true. But we can have everything that matters. Life is fleeting. I don’t want to waste a single minute on things that don’t matter. I don’t want to strive for some ridiculous, fictitious work/life balance.

Your life is not a series of compartmentalized boxes. Your work is your life, and more importantly, your life is your work.

If you spend the vast majority of your hours doing something you hate, you are not loving the vast majority of your life. If the vast majority of your hours are not spent doing something you really, truly believe in, why are you doing it?

I am lucky that the vast majority of my work time is spent doing things I love and believe are valuable to other people. On occasion, I take side work that I feel are neither, because I value taking care of my family’s needs more than I value ’round the clock emotional fulfillment from my work. It’s a choice, and it is one that I don’t regret and I refuse to complain about.

We love to tell ourselves that we have no choice, but that is false, and it is self-victimization. Make no mistake, there is almost always a choice. Nearly every moment of every day of our lives is comprised of a series of choices.

Yes, there are things we can’t foresee. Yes, there are emergencies and tragedies that leave us with no choices, other than how we respond to them. That happens.

But these are exceptions to the rule. Most of our days are not comprised of series of tragedies and emergencies in which we are helpless to change our circumstances. And thank God for that.

The thing is, we rarely have any forewarning about when they’re coming. and in what form. If we did, I wouldn’t have eaten the baklava.

I won’t give you a long list of all the things I think you should or shouldn’t do, based on my experience. Most of it wouldn’t be relevant, because we aren’t the same person. We might have different value and hopes and dreams. As we should. That’s what makes this big crazy world so beautiful.

There’s only one thing that I learned from nearly dying that I know with complete certainty will apply to you.

This is your life. Your one and only life. This day is happening. Choose carefully.

The Past as Prison: Burn It, Bury It, Leave It Behind

d9690d573ad77fbea7340de43607eb58Whether you’re into the woo-woo of the supermoon or not, it’s hard to deny the allure and power of a moon as big and bright as the one we saw last Saturday. One line from the various interpretations we read that night stood out at me: Whatever your prison, you’re preparing for a daring jailbreak.

It got us talking, and asking each other this question:

What parts of yourself or your life do you perceive as prisons?

  • A feeling of powerlessness to change conditions you perceive as less-than-ideal?
  • Getting mad instead of feeling the vulnerability of hurt?
  • Spending energy talking yourself out of your feelings rather than feeling them?
  • Working to change your perspective on circumstances you don’t like–rather than just not liking them?
  • Wanting to control things that are simply beyond your control?
  • Not having enough (time, money, patience, talent, luck, discipline…)
  • Fear that you aren’t a “real” ___________, and one of these days everyone will find out?

One place I imprison myself is the past. For me, it can be a black hole for creativity, a total 180º to the glory light of a full moon.

While going over and over the past can take many forms–regret, guilt, nostalgia, and revision–it can also serve as a powerful reminder and affirmation of how you got here. It can fuel your creativity and renew your faith that everything happens right on time and for a reason. Or it can hold you back in ways both apparent and subconscious, from taking risks, from taking action in the directions your heart longs for.

Living in the past can keep you from really living.

As a child and teenager, then well into my 20s and 30s, I collected mementos and tchotchkes and notebooks and journals; it was as if I needed to surround myself with evidence of who I was and what I was. Even now, after many periods of purging–out with the old, in with the new–I still revisit how things happened, wondering or worrying about other people’s feelings long after the fact, or reliving moments of intensity and change.

Ruminating on the past is a kind of addiction. And it is a shield, against fear–fear of what will happen if you truly leave it behind.

External, material representations of the past can be imprisoning; if your home is a Living History Museum, how will the future to find you?

There is no room at the inn for change, for discovery, for creating, when your primary relationships are with younger versions of yourself or previous chapters of your life. It’s funny, some people read and re-read their favorite books, whereas when I read and love a book, I devour it in a day, bask in the glow for another, and then promptly forget everything I just read, remembering enough only to say, “I loved that book.” If I don’t love a book, I can’t for the life of me finish it. And other than poetry, I rarely re-read anything.

So, the night of the supermoon, after some internal mulling, I shared something Big and Scary with my beloved. I told her that the ketubah (Jewish marriage document) from my first marriage was rolled up in our bedroom closet. It wasn’t that I had concealed this from her so much as I had stashed and ignored it. Now that she and I are preparing the text for our own ketubah, knowing it was there, that some part of me had been holding onto it, felt extremely significant. I teared up as I spoke to her about it.

The glass that encased that paper was smashed four years ago, a stand-out among many painful moments. My divorce was finalized nearly two years ago. And Monday marked the two-and-a-half year anniversary of a one-night stand that turned into a life commitment to the woman I will marry in just over two months.

Holding onto that relic of the past, crammed between bins filled with other relics of the past, no longer made any sense. It felt like being a voluntary hostage to vestiges of guilt or betrayal or loss, an inadvertent withholding of the heart that beats in my chest and in her hands. So while I may already have done the work of “letting go,” clearly there was still something that needed to be done.

I burned it. In the front yard, under the midnight full moon.

Watching the paper crinkle inward and up, smoke pouring through the center of the scroll, all I could think was, “Thank you, thank you.”

Gratitude to what that paper once meant to me, and how the years it hung in bedrooms long gone witnessed so much growing and becoming. And gratitude, too, for the readiness to stop grieving ghosts and turn fully towards life as it is.

Walking away from a self-perpetuated prison where I hoard objects and memories opened something in me. Something honest and vulnerable and strong and empowered. After we went inside, she asked if it was hard. I felt quiet. No, I said. Not hard, but beautiful in a way that didn’t call for elaboration.

To break from the past is to be free. A thousand poets and survivors have said it better–that the only prisons are the ones we create, the ones we chain ourselves inside of, lamenting or angry or bitter or sad.

Sometimes you have to visit in order to sift through what you left behind. And there also comes a day when you can stop visiting, when the past can rest and the present can breathe. 

A daring jailbreak sounded good to me on Saturday night, to light a match and walk away after the ash smoldered and the flame went out.

To claim freedom is not to disown but to honor how you got here, and to create space for what wants to come into being.

What prisons are you ready to break out of? What symbols of the past could you burn or bury? What are you holding on to that you could put down, making your hands available for whatever creative work is calling you?

What is Broken is What God Blesses

Jimmy Santiago Baca1952
   The lover’s footprint in the sand
   the ten-year-old kid’s bare feet
in the mud picking chili for rich growers,
not those seeking cultural or ethnic roots,
but those whose roots
have been exposed, hacked, dug up and burned
		       and in those roots
                           do animals burrow for warmth;
what is broken is blessed,
       	not the knowledge and empty-shelled wisdom
       	paraphrased from textbooks,
           		not the mimicking nor plaques of distinction
		           nor the ribbons and medals
but after the privileged carriage has passed
	       the breeze blows traces of wheel ruts away
	       and on the dust will again be the people’s broken
                            footprints.
What is broken God blesses,
       	not the perfectly brick-on-brick prison
	       but the shattered wall
	       that announces freedom to the world,
proclaims the irascible spirit of the human
rebelling against lies, against betrayal,
against taking what is not deserved;
	       the human complaint is what God blesses,
	       our impoverished dirt roads filled with cripples,
what is broken is baptized,
       	the irreverent disbeliever,
	       the addict’s arm seamed with needle marks
                   is a thread line of a blanket
       	frayed and bare from keeping the man warm.
We are all broken ornaments,
              	   glinting in our worn-out work gloves,
		        foreclosed homes, ruined marriages,
from which shimmer our lives in their deepest truths,
blood from the wound,
                              broken ornaments—
when we lost our perfection and honored our imperfect sentiments, we were
blessed.
Broken are the ghettos, barrios, trailer parks where gangs duel to death,
yet through the wretchedness a woman of sixty comes riding her rusty bicycle,
		       we embrace
		       we bury in our hearts,
broken ornaments, accused, hunted, finding solace and refuge
		       we work, we worry, we love
          	       but always with compassion
		       reflecting our blessings—
			    in our brokenness
			    thrives life, thrives light, thrives
				 the essence of our strength,
				 each of us a warm fragment,
				 broken off from the greater
				 ornament of the unseen,
				 then rejoined as dust,
				 to all this is.

Two Heads Are Better Than One

It is time to dust the cobwebs off the blog and announce the reason for the sudden lapse in blog posts. Partially, it’s because I almost died of a freak anaphylactic episode caused by an innocuous and unassuming looking square of baklava and used that opportunity to assess and reassess every minute detail of my life. 

And partially, the absence has been because of the restructuring that arose from the assessing and reassessing. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering who you are, why you’re here, and if life has any meaning, a near death experience will clear it all up for you in a hurry (although I suggest trying every other method first and then resigning yourself to uncertainty if you’re still not clear). 

There’s a blog post brewing on this topic in a more specific way, but this one is less about death and pastries than it is about the future of Dominate.

Dominate is getting married. On September 27th, the day before my 37th birthday, I will be marrying the woman of my dreams. She’s hella smart, outrageously good fun, just the right amount of touchy feely, and pretty much all around the best person I’ve ever known. This is good news for me. It’s also good news for Dominate, because after a lot of soul searching and making sure even after we knew we were sure, we’ve said, “I do,” on the business front, too.

We’re a great team. We’re very much alike in all of the ways that matter, with shared values, vision, and an over the top love of life and all things creative. But we’re different enough that this blog and our future clients will benefit from our unique perspectives and personalities. 

I was going to write this post tomorrow morning after a good night’s sleep. In all likelihood, it would have been much longer than this, and probably more coherent, too. But then Jena said, “I thought it would be nice if we made the announcement today, since it is our 2.5 year anniversary.”

So I’m posting it tonight. It is our 2.5 year anniversary, after all. And don’t tell anyone, but I secretly enjoy giving her pretty much anything she wants that I am capable of providing. I love it when she gets her way.

In Honor of Maya Angelou

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“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”  - Maya Angelou

I’ll never forget the first time I encountered Maya Angelou’s poetry.  I sobbed through that first reading of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, not because of the grief of it all, but from relief. And that relief grew by leaps and bounds as I devoured every piece of writing by this magnificent woman that I could get my hands on.

As a young girl, reading Maya Angelou’s work, learning about her life and the multitude of ways she had triumphed over what many would consider to be insurmountable odds, I took it as irrefutable proof that outside forces could never detain or control the spirit that refused to be dominated by circumstance.

Of all of the gifts I received from Maya Angelou’s work, the most important lesson I took from her was this:

There is a difference between living a life that has known tragedy and living a tragic life. You get to decide.

Or, in Maya Angelou’s words, “No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”

It’s the sort of gift that can never be repaid, only paid forward. Each day that we’re still alive is a chance for spiritual revival, and rather than mourn her death, I am celebrating her life, because she lived each day like it mattered. Her days mattered. Every single one. So do mine. So do yours.

 

Thank you, Dr. Maya Angelou, for the courage and tenacity of your 86 years. Thank you for doing what you loved. Thank you for persisting, overcoming, encouraging, and speaking out so boldly and relentlessly. Thank you for every single life you ever touched, the people you knew and loved intimately, and the hundreds of thousands of us you never knew, but forever changed.

When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

 

Book Review: How To Sing When People Cut Off Your Head And Leave It Floating In The Water, by Michael Collins

HowtoSing

 

Please note that this is not a sponsored post. The only payment I am receiving for this review is the pleasure of sharing the work of a poet whose words leave me speechless.

It took me a long time to circle around to writing this review. It’s been weeks since my first read-through. Since then, I’ve read this chapbook four more times.

Yes, I’ve read this collection of poems five times. It’s worth noting that I rarely reread anything. Anything that I’ve read more than once qualifies for a very special place of honor on my nightstand.

You might be wondering why it would take me so long to write a review for a book I love enough to read five times in a matter of weeks. To be frank, it’s because I don’t think God Damn! as a stand-alone qualifies as a book review.

Until now, that’s all I was capable of getting out when I tried to talk about it. I’m not going to do justice to Michael Collins’ poetry, and that pains me. It deserves more.

How To Sing When People Cut Off Your Head and Leave It Floating In The Water is street corner blues and ancient mythology, shaking hands over a bridge of timeless relevance. It’s irreverent laughter and the type of grief that keens and wails like a warning in the night.

Michael Collins has succeeded in producing a body of words that will remind you that poetry can be simultaneously deep and easily accessible; a rare feat in a field of publishing that sometimes seems to be dominated by the masturbatory work of academic poetry, written for the sole purpose of flaunting the author’s intelligence (or access to a dictionary and a perverse love of obscure words). It’s a reminder that brilliant writing is meant to clarify, not confuse.

You’ll have plenty of questions after reading this book, but blessedly, “What the hell was he getting at?” won’t be one of them. Michael’s poetry is open to interpretation, while also being refreshingly straightforward in tone and content.

If you’re looking for poetry that is fresh, digestible, and most importantly, actually enjoyable to read, you can buy How To Sing When People Cut Off Your Head And Leave It Floating In The Water on Amazon.

 

In the Spotlight: Marybeth Bonfiglio, Creatrix of Our Word

BrautiganTrunk

For nearly a decade, I have had the pleasure of watching Marybeth Bonfiglio expand, create, and transform, all while remain perfectly, inimitably herself.
With the creation of Our Word, she has offered up the opportunity to be your own, true, perfect self, changeable and unchanging, within the support of an online community. 
Show up. Be seen. Be true to Your Word. – Mani
How did Our Word come to be? And what does it mean to you?
I created it because I wanted it for myself.  Isn’t that how so much of life works? And doesn’t it feel so real that way?  Writing can be so isolating and alone and quite honestly, can drive you a bit batty if you are doing it not only for your creative process and joy, but also for work- which is what I do.  I was doing so much writing work for clients and also doing all the story branding for Amulet, the field guide I publish-  that I felt I was losing my own voice {which isn’t always bad because finding a new one is always exciting}. I wanted community around this- the highs and lows of writing.  I wanted to gather writers, as guides who hold impeccable and raw space, because I needed to be held.  And I wanted to invite those who were ready to claim their Voice because I was so ready to re-claim mine.  So I asked, and I got a hell of a lot of yeses. And so I knew it was meant to be.  And it means the world to me. Like, I am almost wordless around it.  But I am smiling. And clutching my heart. And nodding my head yes. And maybe even holding my fist in the air. 
There are so many different types of writing courses available online, and each of them have their own unique offerings and worth. Tell us what it is about Our Word that makes it unique? What will people experience in this course that they can’t get elsewhere?
What makes this special to me is that there is no “teaching”.  There is no right or wrong.  There is no workshopping. There are no deadlines.  There is no end result.  This course is truly about the process, and that the process is the reward, the fruit, the jewel, the healing, the best kind of writing for our soul’s awakenings.  It’s about intuitive writing which to me means the writing that sits bubbling under the surface of the skin, that courses through the blood, that lays dormant in the hips.  And when we unleash it we are kind of in awe about what we have to say, like,  “Holy fuck! I had no idea that I felt that way or needed to say that or that I believed in that…” etc. Another thing I love about it is that there are 5 guides, myself and 4 other incredible humans/writers who are not there to teach but to subtly hold space and offer spectacular stories, content, and prompts each day of the weeks.  So you get a lovely variety of people, real diversity.  This session’s “themes” spanned from Place, Truth, Naming, Embodied, and Vision.  And really, it all boils down to the One Truth anyway, ya know?  It’s just so much fun to take different paths to it.  
Also, you can take Our Word on your own time or you can do it with a group of us who gather together on a private forum.  You can share your writing or you don’t have to share your writing.  You can show up or you don’t have to.  The point is WE all trust the process, that is what we are all about: trusting this process. You wanna be a writer? Well you are. This doesn’t mean ‘writing something amazing every day’ or even to write every single day.  I think that’s all bullshit.  Writing is an art, it’s creation’s breath, it’s the stories of our lives and the lives of the multiverse. It’s a spiritual practice. It is prayer. Mantra.  Intention, in my opinion, is bigger and bolder than writing brilliant words every single day.  The intention that your intuition guides you in writing truth. For me,  that’s the golden key to writing bliss, that right there. 
I’ve heard so many people express that they’d love to take a writing course, but they’re afraid. Afraid of being out of their league, afraid of being the least talented person in the group, afraid of being revealed as not a “real” writer. If someone is feeling that way, and they’re wondering if Our Word is right for them, what should they know?
We have people in the class from age 17 to age 70.  We have people who haven’t written their entire lives.  We have people who have haven been published and are read internationally.  We have some seriously badass wordsmiths.  And we have people who are bursting out fire and brimstone and messy, raw beauty.  This is a collective, a space for us all.  This is not about good or bad.  Right or wrong.  This isn’t about publishing. This is about showing up because it’s something you want.  The tenderness and kindness and compassion that Our Word participants and guides offer is like heart-splitting.  I am humbled and honored and blown away by how we all have each other’s back.  And we all do our best to share the love.  And really, when you write unapolegeticaly, it’s always amazing, right? I encourage everyone to share their raw, unedited stuff {as well as their revised stuff}.  This is about voice.  How can voice be ‘real’ or ‘unreal’? It’s Voice. It’s the vibration and form we put to our experiences.  Sometimes it ain’t pretty.  But it’s always magnificent and alive.  If you sign up for Our Word- you are a real writer and every one in the space honors that.  We don’t throw around pedigree in there.  We are all peers, and are all in the dark, mucky bog, as well as walking the illuminated path together.  And it’s beautiful.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What type of people will get the most out of Our Word?
People who enjoy throwing words around.  People who are looking to cultivate or expand their Voice.  People who are looking for community, to share their process, and give support to others.  People who want to create space and time in their lives to write and tell stories. People who love.  People who pay attention.  People who believe that stories can heal, blow-up blocks, and turn the world inside out.  I think it’s for anyone who wants to practice writing. And anybody how knows how to be truthful, kind, respectful, and creative.
You wear a lot of hats. You’re an entrepreneur, a writer, a yogini, one hell of a dancer, a woman, a partner, a mama… and I know I’m missing dozens of things; that’s just a small sampling. How do you balance it all? Do you balance it all? Do you even believe in work/life balance? What the hell does balance mean, anyway?
Balance as something to “achieve” is an illusion.  This is interesting that you ask.  I was at the beach last week with 2 beautiful sisters, doing a releasing ceremony around a totally illegal beach fire.  And during the ceremony I pulled a card that was Balance.  Balance is a practice. There is no end result that is actually balanced.  I think it’s about leaning into this and then leaning into that.  Then rocking this way and then rocking that way.  I think it is putting things down and picking things up.  I think it’s about walking away and walking closer.  
In general,  I am scattered. Chaos. Wildfire. Do too much.  Need to slow down.  But also, my arrow is steady.  I have vision. And so I do what it is front of me.  I breathe.  I sway.  I try to grow roots down into the earth so I don’t fall.  When I do fall, which is very often,  I get back up. Also, your advice on making a big master list, working in 90 minute intervals, and doing my work early in the morning has helped me feel so much saner. 
So yeah. Balance.  It’s like dancing. I think balance is just going out to dance more and also sitting alone some more and also knowing how much to carry at any given moment. 
Putting together any sort of class, especially one held online, comes with its own set of challenges. What are some of the challenges you faced while creating this amazing course?
Seriously? I don’t think I had any challenges. I know it sounds crazy, but the women I asked to guide last Fall and this Spring showed up fully, and delivered content that cracked my brain into a thousand pieces.  I had amazing technical support from Danielle at Elevated Synergy, making sure the website was doing what it was supposed to do, and also, I have a Virtual Angel/Assistant, Pamela Rudisill, who just knows exactly what to do when I feel like too many emails are coming in or Mailchimp isn’t working.  
Okay, so, being honest, I need to say this- I was challenged.   I worried I was not worthy of creating this.  I was worried I wasn’t “good” enough or that people wouldn’t want to do it.  I had to really work through that.  Because much of this course is about my life work of holding space for Voice to be be Born. And so of course, it was big for me, and it was deep, and it was scary. And I had to work through a lot of my own bullshit to remember that I wasn’t the best writer, or best guide, or best anything at all, and that was okay.  But that this was important. And needed. And that who was meant to come into this circle would.  It wasn’t easy for me to release that doubt.  But when I did, it was like all unicorns and rainbows and whiskey + gingers, for real. It was all love.  
I know that the current Our Word course is already in session. When is the next one happening?
My intention is to do every fall and every spring.  So I am thinking right around the beginning of October will be the next session.  
There are a lot of people out there putting their creative needs and desires last. I see this across the board, but in particular with mothers. All too often, it’s thought of as a luxury. It’s something that gets squeezed in while running from here to there, putting the needs and wants of children, partners, the household, friends, extended family, and the dog first. Do you have any advice on making the creative process a priority?
Oh girl.  It’s so hard.  For a really long time, pregnancy, birth, nursing, mothering, and cooking was my creative process {and blogging}.  I think that there was this natural and organic process that happened when the kids started to need me a little less.  And I created the space in those times when they didn’t need me.  I created space to create.  And that could look a million different ways: yoga, a hike in nature, lying on the beach, alone with my journal, diving deep into my tarot cards.  It isn’t a luxury.  It’s a necessity.  That I can say for sure.  Because when I am creative on a level beyond mothering {although mothering is a source of all my creation, that is my truth} I am a better human and I am living my path.  And i want my children to see that me.  By not giving myself that time, and not allowing them to see me grow is a disservice to them.  So when I think about my creative work, I think of it not just for myself or the people I am offering myself up to, but I think about how it is a gift to them- that they can receive a mother who is on the path of Wholeness, a whole person.  And that will give them permission to be whole and creative,  and really, to be who they are.  And that is all I want for them, is for them to be who they came here to be.  So it’s full circle, really.  We are all One.
Music for the Muse. What do you like to listen to while you write?
Fleet Foxes, Big Star, Superchunk, Warpaint, Bon Iver, Laura Marling, JJ Cale, The National… I like mellow music that doesn’t jolt me.  This isn’t the kind of stuff I like to dance to, or drive to, or cook to.  But I love jazzy, bluesy, acoustic stuff that just flows, to write to.  My friend Courtney has an AMAZING playlist I am listening to right now as I type called Music To Work To.  She has curated the flow so that it all feel like one lovely ride, without any tempo shifts or loud changes.  Let me know if you want her spotify info because she’s my favorite spotify dj! Big Up, Courtney! 
Tell me something good. Anything. Whatever pops into your head in this moment.
Oh my god, I want buttermilk fried chicken in this moment so badly I can taste it. And I want to dip it in wasabi ranch dressing.  I want another tattoo right now, on my right hip.  I want to go swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean.  Also, I cannot wait to go to New Orleans at the end of this month with Beyond.  I can smell that place as I type these words.  I am literally tingly down there thinking about it! 
And also. I love you. You are such a muse. 
Well, damn. I am so glad I asked. I love you, too. Mutual love and muse-dom all up in here right now. 
MB
I am a mother, writer, teacher, alchemist, and lyrical gangster.  I throw down tarot stories and rattle broken bones back together. Chicory root in the morning opens my eyes, and caramel in the fall turns me right on.  I happily weave back and forth from the mossy, lady ferned forest to the heavy bass and downbeat of the city against my bare legs.  There is something about both blood and fire that pulls me back and forward and makes me want to know more about the things that have been hidden, the secrets. There is something about it all, everything under the sun, that makes me open my palms and place them over my heart in pure devotion.
You can read me at all these places:
www.marybethbonfiglio.com {where you can find more out about Our Word}

Dominate: The Mini-Con Welcomes Doug Anderson

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Doug Anderson’s first full length book of poems, The Moon Reflected Fire, received the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Blues for Unemployed Secret Police, won a grant from the Academy of American Poets.  He has received awards and fellowships from many organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, The Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Massachusetts Artists Foundation, Poets & Writers, The Virginia Quarterly Review.  His memoir, Keep Your Head Down, about Vietnam and the 1960s, was published by W.W. Norton in 2009.  He is also a visual artist, and teaches in the Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College in Boston.

Collaboration is an important part of the creative process, but it doesn’t always come easily. For many artists and entrepreneurs, myself included, the line between our endeavors and our Selves is thin.

We pour our hearts and souls into our work. We aren’t just offering an inanimate thing to our customers and clients, we offer up pieces of our being. This is good. This is what makes our offerings worthwhile.

But it can also be scary. Especially when we open up beyond just giving ourselves to the work, but including other people in our process. It’s a statement of faith and a handing over of trust.

When I came up with the idea to hold a mini-con this summer, I immediately knew that I didn’t want to be the only guide. I also knew that if I decided to invite other people to offer workshops, I needed them to be people I know well and trust implicitly.

I love my job. I care deeply for the people with whom I work. Before you’ve even told me your name, I am thinking about how our time together will affect you and your work. I care that you receive something valuable in exchange for your money. I care that you feel seen and heard. I care that you are treated with respect and kindness. Anything less than that is less than I want for you.

I had zero hesitation about inviting Doug to teach a three-hour writing workshop. The decision was as solid and crystal clear as a diamond. I know Doug’s writing. I also know him as a friend. I trust his skill and his character implicitly. I would trust him with my life, and I trust him with my clients.

Not only is Doug an accomplished writer and respected teacher, he’s hella good fun. His wit, intellect, and kindness, combined with his professional and creative background, make him a perfect fit for our weekend together.

If you’re feeling any sort of hesitation or fear about writing in a group setting, relax your shoulders and take a deep breath. It doesn’t matter if you’re attending this conference because you want to write a novel or you knit sweaters for a living, I promise you that this writing intensive will be worthwhile.

I’m so excited to have the opportunity to invite you to learn with Doug Anderson. We’re going to have a blast! Join us in July.