Voice, Part 2: Blah Blah

“I sometimes say that, for a composer, the first thing to do is find your voice and the second is to get rid of it. Mostly I try to get rid of it. ~Phillip Glass

These words from one of America’s greatest composers reminds me of a pair of underwear I recently bought from Walmart. (I do occasionally visit Walmart, because–quite predictably–they carry the widest selection of RV products that this trailer princess can find.) They are made of lavender cotton, with these sparkly letters emblazoned on the ass:


Brevity (written or spoken) has never been my strong suit. So these undies remind me to temper my words. The cheap elastic is super snug, which somehow drives the message home harder.

Of course, Mr. Glass is talking about more than what we say. He is talking about voice, which is a finer aspect of self-expression. Yet both he and the sparkly letters on my ass seem to be saying the same thing: that a little humility and humor can go a long way. Continue reading

Owning It

“You either walk inside your story and own it

or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”

~Brene Brown


“Applause, applause, applause.”

~Iona, Pretty in Pink

 In eighth grade, I strolled into the Laura Ashley boutique at Crabtree Valley Mall and plucked up a flat-brimmed straw sailor hat with a black band. I envisioned pairing it with a long pencil skirt and flea market jewelry, a la Andie in Pretty in Pink. Oh, yes I did.


Instead of boldly rocking the bohemian chic look, I hung the hat on a hook above my bed until high school graduation. While I’d always been a hat person, when it came to the sailor hat, I simply couldn’t own it.

Cut to adulthood, spring 2012: When I moved into a 35-foot travel trailer, I didn’t own it–literally or metaphorically. The rig belonged to my aunt in Oregon, who’d generously loaned it while I surfed out life transition and met financial goals. I was very private about living in the trailer during this time.

Why so discreet? I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! I’d finally realized my longtime fantasy of living alone in a tiny rural cabin, where I could write quietly for a few years. As a bonus, this cabin conveniently had wheels! Long before the Tiny House craze kicked in, my fellow gypsy friend and I had pored over plans for RVs and trailers. Now the dream was manifest, so why was I so afraid to share it? Why couldn’t I own it?

Turns out, it’s hard to own what’s borrowed. That loaned trailer just didn’t feel like mine to share. What’s more, it’s hard to be trailer trash in high-rent Sonoma, where glimmering chateaux sit like jewels in well-groomed vineyards. You may know money and material goods don’t matter, but other people are not always as enlightened: just ask much-maligned Andie.

What I’ve learned (the hard way, natch) is this: While I may never show those people the value of my unorthodox  lifestyle, I must live it no less fully. In modern parlance, haters gonna hate.  Continue reading


Land, ho! Views from a pre-Recession solo spa week in the Baltics, circa 2007.

A popular team building exercise, developed for the U.S. Coast Guard and used in many other workplace settings, is called “Lost at Sea“. The exercise asks participants to imagine themselves adrift together on a raft (you guessed it, lost at sea). Of fifteen items–including useful tools like “compass” and “fishing kit” and seemingly superfluous items like “rum”–the team must cooperate to rank the items that will save their lives.

The official recommended list from the Coast Guard lists number six as: “two boxes of chocolate bars”. That’s right–chocolate ranks above a fishing kit and shark repellent for saving your life. Turns out that a little mood-lifting indulgence (and the related calories) are vitally important. I will never, ever feel guilty eating chocolate again.

Indeed, self-care is a survival skill.  That’s what I told myself last week, anyway, as I slipped into in a local hot spring. Hot springs and spas are my obsession, probably attributable to Scandinavian blood. That the springs bubble from the earth–sometimes gently, sometimes deliriously–is a phenomenon. That they provide some of the most effective natural medicine on the planet is gravy. My limbs turn to spaghetti just thinking about it… cook me up al dente.

Any discussion of work and career would be incomplete without  an exploration of its opposite: leisure and reward. Knowing what we are working for helps shape the very job at hand. A moment of repose refines our action. We all do better after a nap… you get the drift.

Yet self-care is a beast of a challenge–the stuff Oprah’s empire was built on. Most of us either deny ourselves or overindulge. Some weird matrix of guilt and entitlement and plain old need utterly maims our ability to make good decisions for ourselves, especially in crises. So, it pays to consider:

What’s your lifesaver? …and in an emergency, would you hesitate to reach for it?

View from The Wayback

What is the force that drives us ahead–compels us to move forward, even without promise of a safe destination? Where do we find the gumption to keep going when we have absolutely no idea where we’re headed? Does it matter?

I think so. That force–my mom called it faith, but I can’t quite name it– is a fire I want to stoke, to tend carefully now and always.

At the risk of adding to the flood of recession porn, let me offer a half-hypothetical picture, woven from some truths I know: Continue reading