Ducks in a Row…


I used to be someone who liked all her ducks in a row.

Hold on. Let me try that again. I am a person who likes my ducks in a row.

About twelve years ago, my ducks were not only not lining up, but the little fuckers were flying all over the place and I’m pretty sure someone was shooting at them.

And since then I have noticed that this happens a lot. Almost like the more I try to line them up, the more the universe laughs at me and says “Think again, Lady.”

When I lost my brother, suddenly and for no reason other than he had a faulty heart, I realized this truth – the only thing written in stone is deathEverything else is fixable. Everything else, you can work with. Everything else is – well, not death.

What I learned was something that comes around to me again and again – there is no such thing as certainty.

And fuuuuck me if that isn’t an incredibly hard thing for me, the duck in a row girl, to be okay with.

Unknowns are hard. I’m pretty sure (certain, even…!) that I’m not alone in that sentiment. I think most of us like some assurance. We like jobs with some security, we like knowing what to expect daily and weekly, we like a little predictability. And that’s all well and good and yep, it’s normal. The months and years and seasons change predictably and we cycle through our day to day lives (mostly) predictably.

It’s what we do when life throws us a curve ball that can be so challenging. I want to learn how to embrace uncertainty. I want to remind myself that I cannot know anything with any absolute certainty and I want to learn to be accepting of that.

Instead of trying to predict the outcome and protect myself from “what if”, I want to look forward with “let’s see”.

I know. Scary AS F. Right?

Life can change in a blink. And yeah, it often changes for the worse. Shit happensyou guys. To me, the expression “everything happens for a reason” is pretty much solid bullshit. Because some stuff you just cannot find one good reason for. Do I need to make a list of all the things that have zero good reasons? I’m sure you have your own – and it’s probably close to mine. Babies dying. Cancer. Mass shootings. My sweet friend who is suffering daily with pain bigger than him. My brother dying at 39 years old.    No. Good. Reason.

Bad things don’t come with their own reason built in, you see. The “reason” is only what you decide to take from the experience. What you decide to do with it. How you decide to grow. Or, not.

Life can change in a blink. But often, it changes for the better, too.  And for me, looking forward with an attitude of “let’s see what’s next” feels better. It calms my anxiety, takes my mind off the ducks running amok.

Finding the willingness to accept what is and look forward with an open heart at what can still be is an exercise for me. I have to remind myself to build that muscle. I still want certainty and feel anxious at its lack. At my core, I am a person who listens to her gut and also follows her heart – and these two things can be in conflict which can lead to a trip on the Crazy Train. All aboard!

But this is when I get to practice. Can I predict the outcome? No. Can I control the outcome? Not really (but watch me try…!) Will worrying change anything? So far, not. So how about instead, let’s see what happens. Trust is big here – trust yourself to know better when it’s time to observe and when it’s time to act. But do pay attention to that anxiety. More often than not, it’s your body knowing something before your brain does. Unfortunately, you often have to relax into that anxiety until the reason for it is revealed. Try to observe it without feeding it. Pay attention to what it’s trying to show you, but don’t let it consume you.

How? I know it’s easier said than done. This is why I say “practice”…

Here’s what I do. I acknowledge the anxiety and ask myself if I know why it’s there. If not, I thank it for keeping me aware, and then I make an agreement with it – I will not push it away (pushing it away only makes it get louder, anyway), but I ask for its patience. It might sound something like this: Yo, Anxiety! Please be patient while I observe and gather all the information I need to act. I promise not to ignore you, but I need some time because I don’t know enough yet. So, chill, baby.

Keeping Her Dreams Alive

It might sound a little nutty, but it works. However, a key part of this is trust.

I trust myself.

I trust myself not to ignore my gut. I trust myself to be fair to me and speak up about what I need. I trust myself to listen to my heart and I trust myself to know when it’s time to move on and let something go (oh, that again). I trust myself to be okay.

Because you know what? Looking back at all the wonderful things and people and experiences that have come into my life over the last twelve years since those ducks went flying tells me that so often, it is more good than bad. And the pain I experienced only makes me relish the joy so much more. And it makes me so grateful that I was willing to let it come to me.

I am willing to be. I am willing to be with. I am willing to be without. Letting what comes, come. Letting what goes, go. I am willing to be. 

Artwork: Keeping Her Dreams Alive, Shawna Erback


Destination Unknown


Just returning from Writers Conference, and I’m simultaneously coming down from the high and nursing the exhaustion that accompanies these types events. This was my fourth- and easily most valuable – conference. Every year, I gain some nugget of wisdom that rejuvenates me, rekindles my inspiration, reminds me why I love this particular brand of creativity. And this year, I left feeling utterly hopeful.

I always say tutoring pays the bills but writing feeds my soul. It’s true. Although I find my day job immensely rewarding, it’s the writing that sets me free. This has been more and more true over the last 6 years as my life has taken a number of turns. When my children were little, I found it tricky to carve out time for creativity. But as they grew and my marriage fell apart, I (happily) embarked on a new path. The call to create never left me. It waited, patiently, for me to be ready. 

As I build my tribe and learn more about this process, the take-away for me this year is this: the destination is unknown and it’s not even the point. No one sits down knowing how to write a best-seller (except maybe Jonathan Maberry). If you’re only looking at that as your endgame, you’re missing the point. I don’t sit down and write every day because I think I’m creating the next Harry Potter. Or that my brilliant prose will surely and certainly be noticed and hailed by Oprah. (Okay. I’m lying. I might fantasize about that a little bit…)

I write because I love it. I love creating. I love the challenge. I love that it’s not easy, that it’s fun, that I can make something original and tell the story that’s unique to me. And maybe some people will think, hey, that’s cool. And maybe no one will, but the point is I enjoyed the process.


So much of what I’m learning about writing and my creative process I can apply to life in general. We humans can be a little “Once I get (fill in the blank), I’ll finally be happy.” Or, “If I only (lost ten pounds, had a million dollars, made partner, had a cute boyfriend, got married, wrote that bestseller, lived in Italy…) life would be complete.”


Dear Reader, you don’t have to admit it to me, but do you have a fill in the blank? A thing you’re thinking will solve all your problems if and when you finally get it?

Between the wish and the thing, are you enjoying the life you’re living?

I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago that asked this very thing. I’m nodding along…yeah, that makes sense, and yeah, I do a pretty good job of enjoying life without having everything I want. But then, he specifically used dating as an example. And I’m all “screeeeeeech”.


Hmmmm. Dating. Dating? I have to LIKE dating? Because this is a process I can’t say I love. Especially: online. Sure, there are aspects of it that are fun. And I have met some great people – two of my best friends in the world actually grew out of online connections. But, mostly, I find online dating a chore.

So I struggled with this one. And it kept nagging at me. To be clear, I don’t think “finding the one” will be the answer to all my prayers. I don’t need someone to complete me or fix me or make all my dreams come true. But, I simply don’t enjoy dating.

But wait. Who says the process of being single is exclusively about dating? And which parts of the process do I actually like?

I love that there is something to look forward to. That I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m excited. Almost like waiting for Christmas! I like that it could happen any time, and won’t that be a lovely surprise? I like that my plans are my own. I can decide to go out, or I can decide to stay home. I can stay up late, or go to bed early. I can sleep-in, or get up early (usually I sleep in…) I can watch TV, or not. I can decide I’m gonna run in the morning, and then decide to roll over and turn off the alarm. I can plan a trip to wherever I want to go. I can go out with my friends as much as I want. (Well, not really, cause I have kids, but still). I can sleep diagonally in my bed. I can pick the restaurant, the movie, the concert, the whatever. I can eat hummus even though that sometimes – okay, always – results in some unpleasant after effects. I can watch Friends more than any human probably should, but I can do it and no one can complain (except my kids, but this is Mama’s House).

You get the point. I’m getting a lot out of my journey and I can and will continue enjoying all of this, partner or not. (Okay, maybe I shouldn’t watch Friends so much, and maybe I won’t always get to pick where we go. I’m not unreasonable. And maybe no hummus because that’s embarrassing. But most of the stuff stays.)

Well, would you look at that?  In my quest to learn more about writing, I learn about life. And that’s kind of cool.

Between the wish and the thing, life lies waiting. Destination unknown.