Living from a Softer Place

For as grateful (and amazed) as I am that I’ve completed my book, it is an incredibly odd thing to place it in someone else’s hands, to know it is no longer in my own. I’ve been writing its words and pages and stories in some way, shape, or form for nearly two decades and so, without it, I feel a bit wobbly, out-of-sorts, and slightly disconnected from myself.

I am rhetorically and repeatedly asking what I’ll do next, what I’ll create, what writing will yet be mine.

No answers come.

It’s not only about the writing. It’s also about time. What do I do now? What do I not do now? How do I fill up the empty space? And with what?

Still no answers—at least not any that are immensely helpful, generous, or grace-filled.

And so, as one does, I turn to Google.

I thought about asking “what to do with extra time” or “how to manage a slightly existential crisis” but both of those felt just a tish too broad. Instead, I asked, “what to write when you don’t know what to write.” There are lots of helpful tips and techniques to be found but none were quite what I wanted to hear. So, I looked at the books on my shelf, thinking maybe something would inspire me. Nope. Then I got out a deck of cards I’ve had for a long time, but rarely use: Writing Down the Bones Deck: 60 Cards to Free the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. I thumbed through the first ten or so, and came across this one:

” . . . there’s nothing you feel like writing about. Don’t pop up or pull a different card. Sit there for ten minutes, feeling your breath. Allow everything to be as it is. Just now I’m asking you to be.”


On the back of the card, she says this:

“Now write what you can accept with no judgment, no criticism . . . What else can you accept? The more we accept what’s around us, the more we can accept what’s in us and what comes out on the page. Let’s face it, we are all a little odd, maybe demented. From another angle, delightful. For our ten minutes of just sitting, we can put our arms around it all and write from a softer place.”

We can put our arms around it all and LIVE from a softer place. 

That sounds lovely, doesn’t it? To live from a softer place.

If you’re at all like me, you are immediately looking for the how-to manual. Apparently, Natalie Goldberg anticipated this:

  • accept what’s around you
  • accept what’s in you
  • no judgement, no criticism

Deep breath.

I have a hunch that were I able and willing to do this—accept, accept, accept—my writing, creativity, time, and life itself would, indeed, be softer. 

This is what I want.


There’s an ancient, sacred story told of two sisters. One was busy with all the details connected to hospitality: cooking, cleaning, serving. The other sat at the feet of their guest and soaked up everything he had to say.

The striving one complained, “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Their guest responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

There’s plenty I chafe at in this story. But at least in this moment, I’m accepting the wisdom it offers: to live from a softer place is the better choice.

The better choice—and—in my lived-experience, the harder choice.

It is easy for me to stay busy. I know how to work hard. I am actually quite comfortable with efforting and striving, thank you very much. *sigh* What is not easy, what I do not know how to do, at least as well, is to let go, to wander, to wonder, to sit still, to accept what is, to be.

It strikes me that my first step is accepting even this. Allowing it to be as it is, me to be as I am. Putting my arms around it all. Taking another deep breath. Letting these ambivalent places between work and rest, striving and ease, knowing and unknowing, even writing and not writing, be a softer place to land . . . and live.

How about for you?

Whether you are a writer, or not, it is well worth your while to spend some time with pen and paper (or, like me, keyboard and screen) and these questions. No urgency. No wrong answers. Allowing. Embracing. Soft, remember?

  • When you look at your circumstances, your surroundings, your relationships, your work, your world, what is yours to accept? Not accede to, but name honestly with deep breaths and no stiving.
  • Where, when, and with whom do you notice your tendency to strive, to effort, to push, to labor? What if you didn’t, even for a time?
  • What yet longs to be accepted within you? How can you put your arms around it all?
  • What would happen if you let go of judgment and criticism? How would you feel? What would change?
  • If there were a softer place to land and softer way to live, what can you imagine that would look and feel like in the most specific of ways?

And for us?

Imagine a world that is not endlessly embroiled in arguments, political tension, and seemingly constant fights over gun-violence and abortion rights and same-sex marriage and racism and ableism and sexism so much more. Acceptance does not mean we look the other way where injustice is concerned; rather, it means we see and name it for what it is. We respond from a place that is clear, succinct, and even devoid of judgment and criticism. It means we are compelled by courage, desire, and hope. And collectively, that would create a softer place for us to live—together.

Deep breath.

May it be so.

In Praise (and Pursuit) of Normal

I turned my book’s manuscript in to my publisher just over three weeks ago. It’s a bit of a shock, given that for the past year, I have had a minimum of two full days per week blocked for nothing but writing (not to mention the 20-some years I’ve been working on this thing!) I now find myself with days that are blank, open, spacious . . . and admittedly, a bit daunting.

Part of me revels in this reality. I (mostly) appreciate that I am not busy, pressured, or stressed; very few demands are placed upon me. When I can stay with it, it feels “normal,” somehow. This is rare, even strange, when compared to how much of my life has been shaped-if-not-defined by exactly these things: busyness, pressure, and stress (as a mom, a single mom, an employee, a laid-off employee, an entrepreneur, and far more hats-worn than I dare count).

“Normal” is in fierce opposition to what our culture endlessly pushes and promotes: messages to respond to, emails to answer, feeds to scroll, exercise regimens to enforce, meal plans to obey, days that are never long enough to get everything done, planners and calendars to purchase, time-management systems to master, success to achieve, money to make, more to buy, more to do, more to become . . .

We live in a world that does not honor, esteem, or support “normal;” rather, it demands just the opposite.

It’s no wonder we struggle to rest, to breathe, to loosen our grip, to *just* be.

Given all this, you can imagine my response to this quote:

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, savor you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.” ~ Mary Jean Irion

As you read her words, I wonder: do you exhale in gratitude? Or do you feel a sense of longing, an “I wish” that rises up within?

Me? I feel a bit of both. I want this to be true — treasuring normal days — AND it feels foreign, sometimes even slightly impossible. I’m way more familiar with the “quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.” Not so much as it relates to a singular day, but the quest for perfection in and of itself. Ugh.

Yes, I know better, but it hardly stops me from fantastical thinking: if I could just do/get/attain/manage/accomplish X, Y, and/or Z, then surely everything would come together, fall into place, and be . . . well . . . perfect.


It feels worth naming that when we stay in fantastical thinking, the pursuit of perfection, and the grind of the day-in-day-out Hustle (which pervades everything we see and hear around us), we forget what “normal” even is. Worse, we no longer see it as “treasure.” Instead, normal becomes something to avoid at all costs: Who wants to be normal? Who wants to live a normal life? Who wants to settle for *just* normal? 

Uh, I do. Desperately.

I’ve spent a lifetime captivated (“confined” is more accurate) by the climb, the challenge, the race, any and every effort to do and be more/better/all that I can be. It’s incredibly seductive! Which explains why, when I have time on my hands, I feel restless — like something’s wrong or “off.” I wander around (especially in my mind), trying to come up with what I “should” be doing, what will accelerate and advance, what will move me forward. Because CLEARLY, “normal” is not nearly enough!

Except that it is!

I get glimpses of “normal” every once in a while: moments, even a stretch of them, in which I am satisfied by very little, by something small, by doing nothing. I am able to let things be as they are vs. demanding they be different. I (miraculously) give myself permission to not do something else — one more thing — and even more after that. Steps in the right direction. Bit-by-bit. “Normal” as intentional choice and oh-so-gentle pursuit.

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, savor you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.”

I have more to think about and MUCH more to practice when it comes to embracing and treasuring “normal” in my life. I know this with complete certainty because even in this very moment I am wondering what more I should write in this article to make sure it is pithy and meaningful and deep and . . . well . . . perfect. *sigh*

I’m making myself stop.

These last thoughts (for you and me both):

  • Reflect on how you might define and express “normal” in relationships; with time, money, and work.
  • What if you let go of every “quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow”?
  • Consider a C- as a completely acceptable grade.
  • Believe that you are already and always enough, that no more is required of you to be worthy, valued, and loved.
  • Normalize “normal” in every way you possibly can, knowing that you’ll never get it completely right, completely perfect, completely anything . . . which is exactly the point!

May it be so.

I hope the days ahead offer you generous opportunity to let go of any and all expectations/demands of “more,” that you can *just* be, and that normal reigns. Ahhhhhh.

Two P.S.’s:

1) I recently came across the idea of C- (mentioned above) when reading Reclaiming Body Trust: A Path to Healing and Liberation by Hilary Kinavy and Dana Sturtevant. I highly recommend this book. It is challenging SO much within me and it feels hugely significant, even critical.

2) Worth reading one more time: “Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, savor you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.” ~ Mary Jean Irion

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About My Book

It feels WAY too far away to actually talk about, let alone celebrate, but still, I’m naming it:

On 10.3.23 my book will be published! Rewriting Eve: Claiming Women’s Sacred Stories As Our Own

I am relieved beyond words that 20-ish years of writing — and my deliberating and editing and doubting and pitching and starting over and sticking with it and frankly, just sheer endurance — is, at last, making its way into a book that I can hold in my hands . . . as can you. 

I can also tell you that it would be just like me to bypass every bit of this, to not note the significance of today’s date, to not let myself revel — even for a moment — in what I’ve accomplished, to not celebrate at all.

My dear friend Tanya Geisler talks about this often:

“[T]he Imposter Complex and its relentless requirement for perfection and certainty tries to keep us from celebrating our accomplishments, because what has been done is ‘not enough.‘”’ Or it could have been done better, faster, or more . . . something.

And so many of us have been conditioned to believe that celebrating our own accomplishments is far too much. Far too audacious.

And who are you to be larger than life, anyways?

Listen, I won’t lie.

Taking up the space the universe has carved out for you is not for the faint of heart. It takes tenacity and resilience and a reverence for ourselves that transcends the wee space around our toes. It takes boundaries and a willingness to rewrite the stories that were originally written to limit you and others like you. It takes support and a clarity of vision and a relentless fidelity to the promises you have made . . . to yourself as much as to others. It takes discernment and care and a trust in your ability to wield power in generative ways, even if you haven’t seen it modeled well before. It takes audacity. 

You can read her whole post here.

She’s right of course.

I feel the heat rise to my cheeks because I know that every bit of this applies to me, that she’d say exactly these words to me (and few choice others), to be sure. I hear the voices within that natter on: “It’s not that big of a deal.” “Don’t get ahead of yourself.” “Almost a year away yet?!? Sheesh! Let it go.” 

I don’t like admitting any of this. 

But I know it’s needed: my own truth-telling. I also know that when I name my patterns and proclivities — with empathy and large doses of grace — I become more aware, more awake, more myself. 

I also know that every bit of this beyond-ironic. 

My book speaks EXACTLY to Tanya’s words above and my own: truth-telling, believing I am enough (and not too much), “. . . rewrit[ing] the stories that were originally written to limit you and others like you.” It’s what I have done in 60,000+ words. It’s what I’ve been doing for the last two decades, at least. And every page of it is about what it means to see ourselves as sovereign, glorious, and amazing. It’s a celebration of women, their stories, their wisdom, and their lives: the ancient, sacred ones, yours, and mine. 

And still, I struggle to celebrate myself! *sigh*

So today I’m making an effort. I’m giving focused attention to unravelling the messages within. I’m trying to do just the opposite of what I’m predisposed toward. I’m choosing to celebrate this “small” thing in preparation for what’s coming in another 330-some days. 

In the same blog post linked above, Tanya quotes Caroline McHugh:

“[There] are individuals who managed to figure out the unique gift that the universe gave them when they incarnated, and they put that in the service of their goals…

And when we see these people, we invariably call them larger than life. Life is large, but most of us don’t take up nearly the space the universe intended for us. We take up this wee space ‘round our toes, which is why when you see somebody in the full flow of their humanity, it’s remarkable. They’re at least a foot bigger in every direction than normal human beings, and they shine, they gleam, they glow. It’s like they swallowed the moon.”

This is the ache and the invitation, isn’t it? Not just for me, but you as well.

We are loath to take up more space, to shine, to gleam, to glow. We WANT it to be true about us AND we struggle. Both at the same time. 

This? Being a woman who has figured out the unique gift the universe has given them? Putting it in service of your goals? Looking like someone who has swallowed the moon? It’s what I want for you, more than nearly all else. It’s what you deserve.

And yes, me too. 

May it be so.

The truth is almost always personal

I recently read Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, by Beth Kephart. On the back cover are these words: 

It is almost always personal – and consequential – to tell the truth. 

And . . . right alongside the risk of truth-telling, is the possibility, the benefit, and our hope:

“Every word a woman writes changes the story of the world, revises the official version.” ~ Carolyn See

I’m back and forth between these two bolded statements because of my own writing of late: the final edits of my manuscript. It’s not memoir, but still, personal – and consequential; not memoir, but certainly compelled by my dogged desire to “change the story of the world.” (Or at least the way we have been telling the stories . . . )

On the one hand, I am reminded that it’s not truth OR consequences (a reference to a very old TV game show – if you are too young to remember); it’s truth AND consequences. On the other hand, I am compelled by just how important it is that I write, that I speak, that I trust the ways in which my words, my truth, do change the story . . . my own and others’.

Writing and me aside, the same is true for you. All women sit in the tension these two statements elucidate.

We are caught between the risk of our truth and its impact, its cost and its significance, our fear and our yearning.  



Another recent read has been The Book of Essie. I stumbled across it while looking for an epigraph quote — a couple relevant keywords in Google, plus “quotes” and this is what showed up:

“It’s men who trust they will suffer no consequences for their actions, while women suffer no matter what they do.” ~ Meghan Weir

No surprise: I immediately went to Amazon for details, then my online library app for the audio book. I won’t spoil it for you, but again – no surprise – it deals with exactly what I’m naming here: Women reside in the impossible tension between telling the truth and changing the(ir) world.  

It shouldn’t be impossible.

As I was lost in the pages of Essie’s story, I thought back on my own — the places where I knew my truth, but wouldn’t take the risk and couldn’t bear the consequences (or so I thought). I thought of other times in which I spoke my truth, how everything changed, how it was impossible to go back, how most of the time I wouldn’t have gone back even if I could, and how painful it was to move forward. And I thought about how this is the reality for most every woman. Past and present. Not just once, but over and over again.

If we weren’t so familiar with it, we would feel crazy (and often do)! It’s become par for the course, second nature, what we know how to do extremely well.

Weigh the costs
Consider the outcomes
Put ourselves second . . . or last
Long for change
Wonder if it’s even possible
Speak up
Take it back
Wish we were stronger
Get stronger
Step forward
Risk everything

I’d be elated if we could jump directly from “weigh the costs” to “step forward,” “risk everything,” and not only “survive,” but thrive.

There’s no simple “answer” to this conundrum, but I do have some thoughts.

We alleviate the consequences of our truth (or at least our fear of such) by telling it, by building our capacity to do it even more, by trusting ourselves.

The way in which this messy and excruciating world will change is by women being unswervingly committed to their truth – and its out-loud expression.

Our courage to tell our truth and change the world is exponentially increased when we are surrounded and supported by stories of other women who have done the same – whether Essie, Eve, or countless others.   

I had “maybe” at the start of each of the three sentences above. A dilution of my own truth. A fear of being misunderstood or too bold or too outspoken. And a way in which the change I long for on my behalf, yours, and the world’s, is slower to occur, harder to imagine, and that much further away. I guess it feels important to acknowledge that even though I am the one writing all of this, I am often stuck in the same bind – over and over – in the most insipid of ways.

And then there’s this:

I know telling your truth is hard. I know it is scary. I know there are consequences. And I’m sorry. 

I also know that your truth, the know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within, is worthy of being heard, that your story is, that you are. Written. Spoken. Allowed. Celebrated. Lived. And when that happens — as it should and as it must — it’s definitely world-changing, story-changing, life-changing . . . changing everything. As you deserve.

As I’ve written this today, I’ve wondered how it will land for you — whether you will feel desire or tension, a deep knowing or a shoulder shrug; if you will be proud of where you’ve boldly and bravely told your truth or lost in your memories of truth-avoided.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I long for you to trust your truth and your power to change the story of the world . . . of your world. If I could wave a magic wand or say a prayer or cast a spell or maybe all three in one, this IS what I’d wish, hands down, every. single. time.

May it be so.

Daily Life and the Spiritual Journey

I read and highlighted these two sentences recently:

The spiritual journey is what the soul is up to while we attend to daily living. The spiritual journey is the soul’s life commingling with ordinary life. ~ Christina Baldwin, Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice

I love this. No doctrine or dogma. Open to broad and expansive interpretation. Rich. Practical. Mystical. True. I could write paragraphs and pages, to be sure, but instead, an invitation:

Re-read the quote above and then notice what shows up for you. Where do you feel resistance? Where do you feel resonance? Where do you feel desire? For what? What makes you curious? How so? What’s under the surface of any/all of your responses? What else?

That’s it.

Believe me: your thoughts about this are far more vast and beautiful and poignant and powerful than mine could ever be. Because they’re yours! Expressions of your soul and your journey. So incredibly sacred and so amazing.


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Not practicing what I preach

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my desire. No. That’s not quite true. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my lack of desire — my resistance to it. Not across the board — but in particular areas of my life.

This awareness has come as a surprise to me, quite frankly.

Desire is hardly a new thought or topic in my world. I’ve learned to follow its impetus and wisdom more times than not (after many decades of just the opposite). And I’ve certainly written and talked about it a ton — redeeming Eve’s story in ways that reveal her as inspiration and model of desire — in the best and most perfect of ways. Our blueprint, our forebear, our legacy! She calls us, beckons us, invites us to desire; she reminds us that our desire is good, that we are!

All this said, you can see why this is a conundrum for me, this chasm between what I practice and what I preach!

A dear friend came to visit me. We sat in my living room and talked of many things — among which was our respective books. She told me about just recently turning her completed manuscript over to a designer who will now create the book itself in preparation for self-publishing. (It’s going to be magnificent.) I spoke of my own manuscript, my timeline, how I am (mostly) pushing past my resistance. And we bantered back and forth — sometimes lightly, other times with much more angst — over the whole world of marketing, publicity, and promotion that yet remains. And all with no guarantee of “success.”

In the midst of all this, I said, “What if I just don’t care? What if I just write the book because it deserves to be written, because I want it written, and then let it go? What if don’t worry myself with the outcomes, the numbers, the success (or not)? What if it’s really about the creation of it — not what happens once it’s finished?”

To which she replied, “I suppose that’s one option, Ronna. Or you could actually acknowledge that you do desire so much more. If you’re being completely honest, you want your book to be wildly successful. You want your work honored, your voice heard — not just by some, but by many. Maybe you could let yourself have that: all of your desire — whether it happens, or not.”

Record scratch.

That was weeks ago. I have been sitting with her words ever since.

Actually let myself want? Really acknowledge my desire? Open myself up to that kind of dreaming — even though it feels completely unrealistic and outside the realm of possibility?

If I don’t desire — at least not in amazing and vast and extravagant ways — if I tamp it down, then I spare myself that pain. Sort of. Not really.

To let myself desire — honest, raw, and unedited — means that I allow disappointment instead of trying to avoid it.


Every bit of my resistance (and yours), every emotion that rises to the surface for me (and for you), invites me/us that much deeper and further in — to our stories, to our soul, and yes, to our honest, raw, and unedited desire. Which, of course, is good…and amazing and vast and extravagant. Really.

When Eve bit into the apple, she gave us the world as we know the world — beautiful, flawed, dangerous, full of being… All we know of heaven we know from Eve, who gave us earth, a serviceable blueprint: Without Eve there would be no utopias, no imaginable reason to find and to create transcendence, to ascend toward the light. Eve’s legacy to us is the imperative to desire. ~ Barbara Grizutti Harrison, Out of the Garden: Women Writers on the Bible

The imperative to desire.

May it be so, yes? For you and me both!