Category Archives: Cheryl Strayed

Something Good

Arthur's Rock, image by Eric

Arthur’s Rock, image by Eric (the zoom on my new camera is crazy good)

So great to be partnering with Wanderlust to share this list with a larger audience.

And P.S., I didn’t realize it until it was already published, but last week’s was the 200th Something Good list!

1. Watch Twilight Zone Creator Rod Serling Discuss Writing and Storytelling.

2. The root of the “food prison” from Isabel Foxen Duke.

3. Overcoming the 10 Biggest Obstacles to Creating on Zen Habits.

4. It’s been 19 months, a beautiful, horrible piece about the aftermath of a sister’s suicide.

5. Entitlement vs. worthiness from Seth Godin, in which he makes a really important distinction.

6. Good stuff on Positively Presents Picks list: 13 Ways Reading Will Improve Your Life and 30-day gratitude photo challenge: 2015 edition.

7. Trust by Maya Stein, one of her 10-line Tuesday poems. You can sign up to have one in your inbox every Tuesday. You should sign up. She’s an amazing poet. The way she lands a last line cracks the whole poem wide open, e v e r y time.

8. Why You Should Do NaNoWriMo…And Why You Shouldn’t on Terrible Minds. It started officially yesterday. Are you? Here’s a pep talk from Chuck if you need it, NaNoWriMo Pep Talk: The Perfect Machine Versus The Art Monster.

9. Take a Walk Around the Lake on Be More With Less.

10. 2nd Annual Awake in the World event. Starting on November 4th, you can get access to over 30 dialogues, presentations, and guided meditations in this FREE offering. “Over the course of 5 days you can explore teachings and practices with the potential to transform your personal sense of well-being, your relationships, your work life, and our society. Topics range from learning how to meditate, to applying mindfulness in everyday life, living with more purpose, getting involved in societal transformation and so much more.” Did I mention this is all FREE?! What are you waiting for? Go sign up!

11. 50 Questions to Help You Foster Gratitude and Feel Good About Life, an excellent set of contemplations from Tiny Buddha that would make great journal prompts or conversation starters.

12. So you want to have kids…A one-sided story of what to be prepared for in parenthood. “You will get poop on you.”

13. What I Wish I’d Known About Miscarriage. There are a lot of really good pieces on Medium about this topic.

14. Margaret Atwood On How Tech Influences Creativity.

15. Wisdom from Brave Girls Club,

Dreamers are not always treated with kindness and understanding. Visionaries are rarely taken seriously. People who seek for what is good and true are often scoffed, laughed at or shut down.

It’s brave to keep dreaming big dreams, to keep posing big questions, to decide not to settle for the status quo. It’s brave to seek for more beauty, goodness, joy and light in a world when it’s often so hard to find. It’s so courageous to keep your heart and mind on the good stuff and to ignore the fears that try so hard to keep us from all that our hearts are begging to have and experience.

16. Good stuff from Austin Kleon’s weekly newsletter: A reminder: If you want fans, you have to be a fan first and The Steal Like An Artist Journal Talk.

17. Simple But Not Easy: The Right Effort of Beginning Again by Sharon Salzberg on On Being.

18. ‘Wild’ author Cheryl Strayed says you need to be ‘be brave enough to break your own heart,’ an interview from The Los Angeles Times.

19. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck from Mark Manson.

20. Good stuff from Bored Panda: Wiener Dog Totally Photobombs Couple’s Engagement Photos, and Never Leave Your Bed Again With This Awesome Japanese Invention, and Colorful Murals Appear On Roads Only When It’s Raining.

21. Something is going to kill you. Life is about what happens before that. “Maybe bacon causes cancer. So does sunshine. Everything that might possibly sustain us and bring joy to our lives only hastens our inevitable deaths.” This doesn’t mean we don’t take care of ourselves, but it certainly means maybe we shouldn’t get so hysterical about every little thing that we miss the good stuff. It’s about discernment, silly humans. Besides, Research links cancer to fruit and vegetables. In related news, Forget the Bacon: Living in Poverty Means You Have An Advanced Risk of Getting Cancer.

22. You can’t pay your rent with “the unique platform and reach our site provides” by Wil Wheaton. Or you could look at it this way: What This ‘Star Trek’ Actor Gets Wrong about Working for Free.

23. A Room Of My Own, on the importance of making a space for yourself.

24. I lead, they teach from Laurie Wagner. This is about writing, but it’s also about the importance of community, and how even virtual community can be real. I take one of Laurie’s Wild Writing classes, and she’s totally right — it’s fucking magic.

25. “You Are Fat.”

26. 10/10 Would Be Fat Again from Meghan Tonjes. She did a really great cover of the new Adele song too.

27. A video by Jess Blank with a special thanks to Roz The Diva. Defying body-norm-expectations with her inspiring athleticism and determination, she’s reclaiming an activity many consider objectifying.

28. I have finally isolated the problem, wisdom from Anne Lamott on Facebook.

29. A Week in the Life of Maira Kalman. “The illustrator reads the obits, wanders New York City and embraces an attitude of gratitude.” This is so simple, so beautiful.

30. I’ve been wanting to tell you… from Tiffany Han. Just trust me, you need to go read this. Go ahead. Go now. I’ll wait.

31. Wisdom from L.R. Knost,

Life is amazing. And then it’s awful, And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful and relax an exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soulhealing, amazing, awful ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

32. 15+ Brutally Honest Illustrations Perfectly Sum Up Adulthood, which led me to my new favorite Instagram account.

33. Wisdom from Liza Palmer, “Angry is just sad’s bodyguard.”

34. Cracking the Codes: Joy DeGruy “A Trip to the Grocery Store.” So important.

35. No, it’s not you: why ‘wellness’ isn’t the answer to overwork. “No amount of multivitamins, yoga, meditation, sweaty exercise, superfoods or extreme time management, as brilliant as all these things can be, is going to save us from the effects of too much work.” Amen. Oh, and while we are at it, there’s no such thing as work/life balance — it’s all your life, silly humans.

36. Video: Taylor Phinney discovers his love for painting. “Phinney broke his leg in a crash at the 2014 U.S. nationals last May and has been on the mend since. He discovered his hidden talent of painting four months after the incident.”

37. ‘Ridiculous Fun’ Helps A Blogger See Through Depression’s Darkness.

38. Of naphopomo and the advent of light, two really great offerings from Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks.

39. Flow to the Music With This Trance-Inducing Playlist. I’m loving it, might even put Spotify on my phone so I can play it at my class tomorrow morning.

40. Feel-Good Yoga: 10 Poses to Feed Our Souls on Elephant Journal.

41. This Site Will Make a Stuffed Animal Clone of Your Pet. I’ve also seen felted mini clones, which I like even better. I need some.

42. A Healing Technique to Release Old Wounds on Elephant Journal.

43. Fiery Sweet Potatoes recipe. I need to try these. I read the list of ingredients and all I could think was “get in my mouth.”

44. A blessing from Elizabeth Gilbert and Rumi on Facebook.

45. HAES is Not Spooky, but Bad Research Methods Are on Dances with Fat.

Something Good

springsnoweric02

What Spring looks like in Colorado: flooding Poudre River, a little snow, and a lot of green (image by Eric)

Those

Those ropes are what kids use in the summer to swing themselves into the water, which is much lower (image by Eric)

1. A Note from the Universe,

Courageous is the soul, Jill, who adventures into time and space to learn of their divinity. For while they cannot lose, they can think they have, and the loss will seem intolerable. And while they cannot fail, they can think they have, and the pain will seem unbearable. And while they cannot ever be less than they truly are – powerful, eternal, and loved – they can think they are, and all hope will seem lost. And therein lies their test. A test of perceptions: of what to focus on, of what to believe in, in spite of appearances.

2. Good stuff from Alexandra Franzen, How to cleanse your calendar & life: part one [the easy part] and How to cleanse your calendar & life: part two [the hard part], which she introduced in her newsletter this way,

Socrates had it right. Being “busy” may provide a temporary hit of fulfillment, but when your life is choked up with commitments that don’t feel meaningful or energizing, that’s a pretty barren existence. It is difficult, if not impossible, to evolve into the person you want to be when you are so busy and burdened that you can barely breathe.

3. Meditating on Love – a Daily Dharma Gathering event, which happened live yesterday, but the video is available to watch for the next seven days — Susan Piver, Lodro Rinzler, Sokuzan and angel Kyodo williams in a special 4 hour retreat.

4. Beyond Mindfulness, a free online event. “Beyond Mindfulness will feature top thought leaders, social visionaries, and wisdom holders in dialogue with one another, presenting practical teachings for living a more mindful, compassionate life, and leading guided meditations. Presenters and hosts include Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Joseph Goldstein, Kelly McGonigal, Ken Wilber, Rich Fernandez, Rick Hanson, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Shastri Holly Gayley, Richard Reoch, Acharya Fleet Maull, Susan Piver, Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown, Lodro Rinzler, Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams and more!”

5. How to Overcome Victim Thinking: 3 Powerful Steps for a Happier Life.

6. Vanity’s Other Name from Rachel Cole.

7. ‘Alone time’ is really good for you. Duh.

8. May You Be Present and Clear from Be More with Less.

9. Bad Responses to Bad Fat Shaming – Starring Keath Hausher and Tony Posnanski on Dances with Fat. And in related news, I Was The So-Called Unhealthy Fat Woman At The Cardinals Game.

10. Good stuff from Susannah Conway’s Something for the Weekend list: Tired of having to wear a thick skin? Try this instead and Shades of Sensitivity.

11. Diet fads are destroying us: Paleo, gluten-free and the lies we tell ourselves.

12. Why diets don’t actually work, according to a researcher who has studied them for decades.

13. 23 Amazingly Ridiculous Things You Can Buy At Anthropologie.

14. Why We Need to Stop Hating Ourselves, Once and For All.

15. An Open Letter To All Of My Friends Who Take Selfies, (shared by Kirsten).

16. Wisdom from Valerie Estelle Frankel, (shared by Jen Louden),

While the hero journeys for external fame, fortune, and power, the heroine tries to regain her lost creative spirit… Once she hears the cries of this lost part of herself needing rescue, her journey truly begins.

17. What’s the Truth About Sugar Addiction? from Eat to Love.

18. Wisdom from Dita Von Teese,

You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.

19. A Photo Essay: A Creativity Reboot on Rowdy Kittens.

20. My Terrifying Tornado Story from Elizabeth Gilbert.

21. 6 Words That Are Guaranteed to End Picky Eating.

22. Why I quit dieting.

23. Cute bunnies working in an office.

24. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Truth in Nonfiction But Were Afraid to Ask: A Bad Advice Cartoon Essay.

25. Mourning the Death and Celebrating the Life of Dave Goldberg.

26. A Woman Uses Art To Come To Terms With Her Father’s Death.

27. “Mind creates the gap and then the heart crosses it.” Wisdom from Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (by way of Susan Piver),

28. Good stuff from Bored Panda, 23 Before-And-After Photos Of Pets Growing Up With Their Toys, and This Rescued Pet Rat And Dog Are The Best Buddies Ever, and Sad Vacation Guy Wins Second Vacation, Takes His Wife And Baby, Has Much Better Time.

29. How We Grieve: Meghan O’Rourke on the Messiness of Mourning and Learning to Live with Loss on Brain Pickings.

30. Welcome To “Bestie Row”: Lifelong Friends Build Row Of Tiny Houses In The Middle Of Nowhere.

31. This Kid Says A Lot Of Hilarious Sh*t And His Dad Gets It All On Camera.

32. The ‘Painful Personal Toll Lung Cancer Has Taken on My Life’ by Cheryl Strayed.

33. How not to say the wrong thing.

34. Lemon Blueberry Muffin Bread recipe.

35. 8 Body Positive Activists To Put On Your Radar, Because They’re All Badasses.

36. Stephen Colbert shocks South Carolina schools by funding every single teacher-requested grant.

37. In Which I Critique Your Story (That I Haven’t Read) from Terrible Minds.

38. Good stuff on tickld: 25 Of The Best Anti-Jokes Ever. #11 Is Gold. and Little Boy Gives The Best Response Ever. This Man Should Be Ashamed.

Something Good

snowmoon1. Miles for Milo: Run or raise $ for Milo’s spina bifida costs. I’ve met little Milo, and it’s no lie that he’s smiley, kind, warm, and adorable.

2. The Bravery To Be Vulnerable: An experiment in #100DaysofVulnerability on Medium.

3. my study of thriving on Chookooloonks. Be sure to check out the gallery.

4. Wisdom from David Deida, “If you are waiting for anything in order to live and love without holding back, then you suffer.” (Thanks for sharing, Lise).

5. In case you missed it the first time I posted, Dear Sugar is back as a podcast.

6. This Man Walks 21 Miles To Work And Back Every Day, And Now Others Want To Lend A Helping Hand.

7. Comedian Tig Notaro on What It Was Like to Perform Stand-Up Topless.

8. Good stuff from Be More With Less: Maybe Variety isn’t the Spice of Life and 7 Things to Consider if You Hate Your Job.

9. The Emotional Milestones of Writing A Novel: A Handy Guide! from Terrible Minds.

10. do you make time for down-time? on the Community Questions column from Mabel Magazine.

11. Wisdom from Brave Girls Club, “When we clasp our hands around things, waiting to let go until they make sense, our hands are too full and can not be open to the things that are waiting for us.”

12. A Biggest Loser Contestant Reveals What We All Already Knew on Nourishing the Soul.

13. Proof that kindness matters on Superhero Life.

14. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

We can put our whole heart into whatever we do; but if we freeze our attitude into for or against, we’re setting ourselves up for stress. Instead, we could just go forward with curiosity, wondering where this experiment will lead. This kind of open-ended inquisitiveness captures the spirit of enthusiasm, or heroic perseverance.

15. PRI, #WomensLives … and me! Yay, Kirsten Akens!

16. The Practice of Ruthless Compassion from Sandi Amorim.

17. Loving Your Body Doesn’t Mean What You Think from Kimber Simpkins.

18. The Price I Pay to Write.

19. Wisdom from Geneen Roth.

Compulsive eating is only the symptom; believing that you’re not worth your own love is the problem. Go for the love. You’ll never be sorry.

20. 9 Things You Should Be Able to Say About Your Life from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

21. My house of belonging from Susannah Conway.

22. Mary Oliver — Listening to the World, a rare interview with On Being, the podcast.

23. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook, Fierce self-accountability and Self-kindness.

24. Please don’t punish yourself from Danielle LaPorte.

25. Photo Battle: Allison McCann vs. Hilary Parker.

26. You Do Not Have to be Good from Julie Barton.

27. New Adventures New Lessons from Tracey Clark.

28. Why You Hate Work on The New York Times.

29. Self-Soothing, a list on PsychCentral.

30. The Things That Get in the Way of Doing on Zen Habits.

31. My Weird Morning Ritual and Why You Need One Too on Medium.

32. cheers to the weekend: saturday morning scones, a yummy looking recipe on SF Girl by Bay.

33. Podcast: TT 008: Tammy Strobel on Life, Creativity and a Tiny House.

34. black bean butternut squash quesadillas + chipotle lime crema recipe.

35. The Happiest States In America In One Map (INFOGRAPHIC).

36. This makes me so angry, a size 12 model being called “plus-size” is going to be the cover model for the next Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She says, “I don’t know if I consider myself as a plus-size model or not,” Lawley, who is represented by Wilhelmina Models, says. “I just consider myself a model because I’m trying to help women in general accept their bodies.” REALLY?! Explain to me HOW exactly you are trying to help me “accept” my body?!

37. This is What Happens When You Decide To Create Your Own Food Security.

38. A mantra from Rachael Maddox, “My fears melt into nothingness in the presence of perfect love. I am love, you are love, we are love. Everything belongs.”

39. Wisdom from Omar Khayy, “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

40. Fat is Not a Feeling.

41. Stop Eating. Everything is Bad for You.

42. Words for the Day // No. 57 from Lisa Congdon.

43. Wisdom from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “Love mixed with space is called letting go.”

44. Kai and his girlfriend Ellen. So cute.

An Evening With Cheryl Strayed

chloewildcardWhen we first entered the room for the reception before Cheryl Strayed’s main talk, there were only five other people in the room, four women and HER. There she was at one of the little cocktail tables talking and laughing with a small group of women, one of whom is a new professor in my department, a poet, thus doubling the number of women in that small space who intimidated me. My friend and I were nervous to meet Cheryl, so we took our free drink tickets and went back out to the bar, to give ourselves a little time to process this new information — that we really and truly were going to get to meet her, talk with her directly — and to allow time for more people to show up.

When we went back in, there were a few more people, but there never were more than about 15. The tickets that included the reception were twice as much and there was a book signing after, so I think most people decided that would be good enough.

Someone in our small reception asked if Cheryl could sign our books now, rather than later, and she agreed. I felt a bit awkward about it, couldn’t get over my caretaker instincts, wanting her to be able to simply relax and chat before her big event, but got in the short line anyway.

Here’s where I tell you part of the reason I’m nervous to meet people I admire: As much as I love someone’s work, their online presence, their persona, and whatever else I know about them, that doesn’t always translate to real life. I have been heartbroken in the past to meet someone whose work was so beautiful, so powerful, only to find out that in person they are a real jerk.

This was not the case with Cheryl Strayed. She is more genuine, more vibrant and friendly in person than I could have hoped. I was so nervous when it was my turn, but she smiled and held out her hand, said “Hi, I’m Cheryl.” It wasn’t that she thought I wouldn’t know, but rather a true offering of connection, grounded and kind — genuine.

I took her hand and told her “I’m Jill, I wrote the Open Love Letter.” She said “oh!,” her smile got bigger, and she reached out and hugged me, thanking me again for what I’d wrote. As she signed my books, she told me how sweet it was. I explained that I’d been fussing for days about what I was going to say to her if I got to meet her and finally gave up and wrote the post. At one point she touched my arm. I confess, I was so freaked out that I’m not entirely sure what all I said or exactly what else she said, I just know that it was wonderful.

cheryltouchsignedwild

meandcherylstrayed

what I look like when I’m stupid happy

Happily, Cheryl is coming to CSU in April, so I didn’t feel like I had to fit everything I ever wanted to say to her or ask all into this one event, and when it was time for her to leave our smaller group, I could easily let that moment go, no regrets and no attachment.

The Lincoln Center seats almost 1200, but there weren’t nearly that many there, so the KUNC director came out after most everyone had settled in and invited those further away from the stage to fill in down front. It was so sweet to see how excited people who’d been way back were to get to sit up close, and it made for a much more intimate, cozy event, more like we were sitting around someone’s living room than a large concert hall.

One of the first things Cheryl said was, “I love when people gather together in a room and listen to an author talk about books — especially when that author is me.” Throughout the night, Cheryl kept saying that she was telling us things she hadn’t before, much more than she’d revealed at other events, and with a smile swore us to secrecy. She also said at one point that “If I had known that many people would read the book, [Wild], I wouldn’t have written half that shit.” Cheryl Strayed is one of the best sorts of people — smart and funny and compassionate and honest and humble, even after they are met with success.

At one point, Cheryl talked about how when she was six years old, when she learned to read, she felt called to be a writer. Even telling you that now, kind and gentle reader, makes my chest and throat tighten and tears well up in my eyes. This is my story too, and yet, here we are only a year apart in age and she’s so much further ahead, so much more successful, maybe more than I’ll ever be. The thing blooming in my chest sometimes threatens to tear its way out like the creature from Alien. There’s such grief that comes up for me about how silent I’ve been, how stuck, all the times I abandoned myself, smashed myself to bits, how much there still is left for me to do, how deep and fierce my longing. She also said at one point that “most of us who want to be writers resist writing,” and as silly as that seems, I’ve lived the truth of that.

signedtiny

And yet hearing Cheryl talk about her life as a writer, listening to her tell her story and talk about her perspective on memoir, gave me so much hope, was so inspiring. She spoke about how the power of literature is to “build a bridge between my experience and yours, the human experience,” and that it took so long to write about hiking the PCT Trail because she first had to figure out what her story might mean to a reader, to figure out how to tell a story that was bigger than just her own personal experience, and that when she did, “I was writing about you from my vantage point, telling you a story about you too.”

Cheryl also talked about suffering, which she defined as resisting what is true, saying that “to surrender and accept what is true is a radical thing.” This is just where I am at this moment in my life, in the thick of suffering because I still resist what is true. I know what comes next is to surrender and accept it. I gave Cheryl a card that night, with a feather Ringo had found on our morning walk and a poem, a set of lines that I am just now realizing are for me too.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.
~Rilke

An Open Love Letter to Cheryl Strayed

wildcovertammy

image by Tammy Strobel

Cheryl Strayed is a master of the opening line. She doesn’t hesitate, but rather drops you directly into the dead center of the story. In her essay “The Love of My Life,” she starts with “The first time I cheated on my husband, my mother had been dead for exactly one week.” In her piece “Heroin/e” she begins with “When my mother died, I stripped her naked.” Her novel Torch begins simply “She ached.”

Eric first brought home a hardback copy of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild from the “Here & Now” collection at the library a few months after it was released. He loves stories of climbing Mount Everest or sailing around the world alone, so a book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail seemed like something he’d want to read. But it’s not really a book so much about hiking as it is a story about, as Cheryl says, “learning how to bear the unbearable,” a story about acceptance, her journey from lost to found. Eric really wanted to read about hiking the PCT so lost interest, didn’t finish the book, handing it to me one day saying, “It seems like the kind of book you’d like.”

You see, kind and gentle reader, I love memoir — coming of age stories, stories about finding oneself, narratives about becoming, about coming undone, about catalyst and transformation and salvation, about what it means to be human. These are my favorite kinds of books, the journey from lost to found. And my favorite ones are written by women who aren’t afraid to tell the truth, even when it doesn’t make them look good, who talk candidly and elegantly about the brilliance and the mess. Writers like Anne Lamott, Dani Shapiro, Caroline Knapp, Mary Karr, Laurie Wagner, Christina Rosalie, and Elizabeth Gilbert.

So Wild is exactly the kind of book I’d read, but I hadn’t read it yet. It was too popular. When that happens with a book, I find myself avoiding it. It’s something about being an introvert. When everyone is reading and talking about it, it feels too crowded somehow. I want my experience of it to be private. I want to be alone with it. It’s why it took me years to finally read Eat, Pray, Love. I had to wait until things got quiet.

But Eric had already checked out the book, and the “Here & Now” collection is limited to seven days so I started to read. Once I did, I could barely stand to put it down.

I confess, at first I was irritated by Cheryl’s story. The deeper she dug herself into the hole she was in, the more my discomfort grew. By the time her story got to her decision to have an abortion, I wanted to stop reading. I couldn’t stand to witness it, the self-destruction, the suffering she was generating on top of what she’d already been given. And yet, this was a book that I just couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t help myself. I had to stay with it, had to “keep walking” right along with her until the end, no matter how painful.

Having lost so much to cancer myself made some parts of this book especially difficult to read. Many times I had to pause because I could no longer make out the words through my tears. This is the impact much of her written work has on me. I’ve given away 20+ copies of her book Tiny Beautiful Things in the past few years, always with the warning “don’t read this in public if you are uncomfortable letting people see you cry.”

One night when I was getting toward the end of Wild, I was reading in bed and Eric, who sometimes can’t sleep with the light from my book lamp, asked “can you be almost done?” I did something I never do: I got up and went out into the living room so I could keep reading. I had to finish. The memory is still fresh of being alone in the living room, sitting in the gold chair in the corner wrapped in a blanket, finishing the story, closing the book, and sobbing. That weird and wonderful mix of wishing so hard that none of those awful things ever had to happen to her, to any of us, but also wishing they’d happened to me so I’d have that story to tell.

Cheryl Strayed does not shy away from the truth. She tells the whole story, even the parts that might make her look bad. And yet, she doesn’t add things for the sake of drama. Telling readers about her heroin use isn’t done to shock, or to make the story more exciting, it’s there because it’s essential to the narrative — tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal. And when she’s telling the truth, she does it with an elegance that presents the truth in its full measure, all its brilliance and all its mess. She says things like “Healing is a small and ordinary and very burnt thing. And it’s one thing and one thing only: it’s doing what you have to do,” (in her essay “Heroin/e”). I confess that the library copy of Wild I read was returned with corners of pages bent down, a sign of my need to mark the shiny places.

In the introduction to Tiny Beautiful Things, Steve Almond says, “With great patience, and eloquence, she assures her readers that within the chaos of our shame and disappointment and rage there is meaning, and within that meaning is the possibility of rescue.” He’s talking specifically about what Cheryl did in that particular book, but I’d argue that’s what she does in everything she writes.

Cheryl Strayed is coming to Fort Collins on Thursday, and I’m going to see her. In preparation, I’ve been on a Cheryl Strayed bender these past few days — rereading her essays, watching videos, surfing her website, finally reading her novel, and considering what I might say to her if I get to speak to her directly that won’t make me sound like either a total idiot or a creepy stalker. If we were sitting down over a cup of coffee, it would be so much easier. I’d ask if she was an introvert or an extrovert, how she’s been coping with being away from her family and traveling so much, what was it like to meet Oprah, if she goes to the beach often and if so where exactly does she go, does she know where Waldport is, has she ever heard of Sublimity, why did she move to Oregon, how does she like it, does her family still own the 40 acres of land she grew up on, does she have pets, what are some of her favorite books or authors, what’s she working on next, and after telling this particular story in so many different forms does she feel like she’s fully processed it, is she done with it, what is her writing practice, her process like, aren’t marionberries wonderful, what do you love, what’s hardest for you, where does your struggle live now…all things that would make so much more sense in the context of a longer, more relaxed conversation.

So instead, I write her this open love letter. I’ll email her the link, but have no expectation that she’ll see it, come read it. And that’s totally okay. In the end, I suppose all I need to say to her if I ever get the chance, in order to tell her everything, is simply: Thank you for telling the truth, for making a map, shining a light where it’s dark. It helps me cultivate the courage to tell my truth, my story. I adore you.

An update: She read my post! She responded!

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Something Good


1. Wisdom from Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche,

Compassion is the spontaneous wisdom of the heart. It’s always with us. It always has been and always will be. When it arises in us, we’ve simply learned to see how strong and safe we really are.

2. Forgive yourself, and Turning passion on its head, from Seth Godin.

3. Note from the Universe,

When you understand, Jill, that what most people really, really want is simply to feel good about themselves, and when you realize that with just a few well-chosen words you can help virtually anyone on the planet instantly achieve this, you begin to realize just how simple life is, how powerful you are, and that love is the key.

4. Good stuff on Medium: The Price of Modern Life Is Depression And Loneliness?, and The Micro-Dwellings of Hong Kong, and Navigating By the Stars, and Seat 21A: A window seat reminder of humanity.

5. Heroes (Vocal Mix) by Cazzette.

6. Call Me Cupcake. Warning, this blog will make you swoon with 14 kinds of hunger.

7. Effective marketing for introverts from Paul Jarvis.

8. Of curtains and climate change and compromise on This (Sorta) Old Life. If everyone made choices so thoughtfully, so compassionately, we’d come much closer to easing suffering, in ourselves and in the world.

9. Bridging the gap from Life is Limitless. I’ve been following Caroline’s journey for a long time, since back when she quit her job, sold all her things, and started traveling. I am so loving the things she’s creating right now.

10. Hello, Wonderful with Mara Glatzel. I just got my first email this morning — so good. And there’s still time to sign up, 12 days of love notes. Even if you don’t sign up, you really should subscribe to her newsletter, because this: In Celebration of Your Quiet Revolutions and this: In Full Bloom.

11. You do not have to be good on Writing Our Way Home.

12. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön. She’s talking about meditation here, but I think it applies to all types of practice.

We’re encouraged to meditate every day, even for a short time, in order to cultivate steadfastness with ourselves. We sit under all kinds of circumstances—whether we are feeling healthy or sick, whether we’re in a good mood or depressed, whether we feel our meditation is going well or is completely falling apart. As we continue to sit we see that meditation isn’t about getting it right or attaining some ideal state. It’s about being able to stay present with ourselves. It becomes increasingly clear that we won’t be free of self-destructive patterns unless we develop a compassionate understanding of what they are.

13. Why I’m Done With Dreaming Big on Create as Folk. Amen, Laura.

14. Yoga, Meditation in Action, a podcast interview with Seane Corn at OnBeing, (thanks for sharing this, Tammy). “Breathe, and everything changes.”

15. Wisdom from Shanti, “At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.” (Thanks for sharing, Dani).

16. Why We Tell Stories from Laurie Wagner. This, “The biggest boogy man was always you.” Oh how I adore her…

17. Good stuff from Viral Nova: Puppy Approves Of Her Soon-To-Be Baby Sister and This Loving Couple Built The Home Of Their Dreams…And Ours.

18. I Quit Eating Only Salad or Eating Only Cake — Because I am Worthy, Loved & Beautiful on Rebelle Society.

19. Why BMI Is a Big Fat Scam on Mother Jones.

20. On the Private Heart from Dani Shapiro.

21. “Authentic” versus “Cool.” (Thanks to Mary Anne for sharing).

22. Redeemed, Amitava Kumar interviews Cheryl Strayed.

23. Wisdom from Geneen Roth on Facebook,

Words like should, shouldn’t, right, wrong, good, bad, they don’t work. They don’t work, because that’s not enough of a heart inspiration. Because, unless you know what you want, you will flip and flop from one to the other.

So ask yourself: What do you want? Who do you want to be? What matters to do? And move towards. In order to truly change, it takes moving towards, not moving away, because moving away is not good enough.

24. On loving an addict.

25. Wisdom from Cassandra Clare. (thanks to Pixie Campbell for sharing).

Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy — all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but YOU are the light inside.

26. It’s a mitzvah for others to help, a voice memo from Andrea Scher.

27. This Rescued Elephant Playing with Ribbon is the Best Thing You’ll See Today on Twisted Sifter.

28. 9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow on Elephant Journal.

29. Tiny Home in the Woods. I want to go to there.

30. The hours become like a dream, the days like liquid one swelling towards the next from Christina Rosalie, truly one of my favorite writers.

31. 11 Ways to Solve Rape Better than Nail Polish.

32. 20 Vivid Hummingbird Close-ups Reveal Their Incredible Beauty on Bored Panda.

33. Fig Tart with Goat Cheese and Pistachios. Holy yum.

34. Zen garden kitty, on Reddit.

35. Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass. This song gets stuck in my head.

Something Good

1. No Time to Think on The New York Times, Sunday Review, (thanks to Jeff for sharing).

2. The most useful business advice you’ll ever get from me from Paul Jarvis.

3. Amazing images of nature from Bored Panda, This 144-Year-Old Wisteria In Japan Looks Like A Pink Sky and 10 Tree Roots Winning Their Battle Against Concrete.

4. Homeless man who sold sketches of his dog on the street and is now popular artist says his dog transformed his life on Dog Heirs.

5. Wisdom from Rumi, “There is a morning inside you waiting to burst open into Light.”

6. These Amazing Before-And-After Drawings Show The Real Value Of Practice on The Huffington Post.

7. On Illness, Belief, and Saying Yes, an essay by Andrea Gibson on The Body Is Not An Apology.

8. Turn on the f*cking faucet, a voice memo from Andrea Scher.

9. How to Create the Quiet (because it’s noisy out there) from Be More With Less. I adore the quote she starts with, can’t read it without placing my hand on my heart.

10. Can’t Hold On, a beautiful poem from the beautiful Sunni Chapman.

11. What I would tell you if you were here with me from Jennifer Louden.

12. If you love to read like I love to read, you’ll love this list from Lindsey, The Best Books of the Year, So Far on A Design So Vast.

13. Exposed by My Children for What I Really Look Like on Huffington Post.

14. A Note from the Universe,

Eternity is a really, really, really long time, Jill. I think we’ll be able to squeeze everything in. Relax.

15. Some Things Take Time: Slow Down and Stop Pushing on Tiny Buddha.

16. Living the Simple Life on Zen Habits.

17. This quote, shared on Positively Present Picks,

“You’ll become known for doing what you do. It’s a simple saying, but it’s true…The only way to start being asked to do something you want to do is to start doing that thing on your own.” ~Jonathan Harris

18. Everything You Can’t Do When You’re Not A Toddler on Huffington Post.

19. I Am Willing, from Jonathan Fields.

20. A quote from John Green about why we should make stuff, shared by Austin Kleon.

21. Shared on Happy Links from Rowdy Kittens, 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 8 (Don’t Wish Your Life Away).

22. Not Responsible For Other People’s Success, from Justine on Allowing Myself.

23. An Evening with Cheryl Strayed, at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins. I’m in.

24. How To Become An Enablist – A New Ethos For Creative Collective Change from A Big Creative Yes.

25. Wisdom from Anne Lamott on Facebook.

26. The Cure for Writer’s Block: Start With the Last Thing You Learned, from Chris Guillebeau.