When asked for my best writing advice, I usually say, “Never quit writing,” and it took me centuries to come up with this genius. I consulted vocabulary lists, did focus groups, and finally pulled this sentence from an angelic stream of wisdom.
But seriously, the inspiration comes from the many years of watching writers get discouraged by rejection and the knowledge that good things do happen from time to time in publishing. Not to mention, everyone’s path is different so who am I to say anything other than, “Go forth and multiply those words?” If anything, I’d want to be proven wrong over and over with creativity as a global superpower. There have been times when I’ve thought “this writer should stop” and have turned around to find them soaring on bestseller lists.
The only thing I can say is that the desire to quit writing can be an important period in a writer’s process. I’ve gone through this myself–maybe even a couple times in the last decade. A writer will feel that she has nothing left. It’s over and there are no good outcomes to this craft. All she hears is No and there are limited venues for publishing or getting paid to write. It can be a mind-numbing, thoroughly depressing way to live.
As an editor, I’ve had many heartbreaks over a writer delivering a couple books and nothing after this. I see the struggle and have always wished I could do more. I totally relate–but sometimes, nothing helps. The writing isn’t working. No advice or reference book refuels that writing engine. Sometimes, it’s not meant to be. Giving up can be a freeing experience.
Just think: You don’t have to do this anymore. You can dream about other things again. Think outside of the story you’ve been raging about since forever.
Maybe you could open up a bar/library/cafe. And during free moments, you could write blog posts. Just for fun. But nothing else related to publishing. No more writing, no more conferences, no more pitches, no more asking for someone to read your stuff, and no more “No.”
The desire to quit does mean that something has to change. It doesn’t have to be as drastic as stopping writing altogether. Maybe you need to kick your own butt in a different way. Or the story needs to be put aside–or calls for a radical rethink. Maybe you need to reconsider who you’re sending your projects to. Your characters may not be ready for prime time. Whatever your block, it’s okay to acknowledge the block and look elsewhere for clarity.
Live life normally again. Discover birds. Discover your husband, wife, children, friends, pets!
The only thing I will say is: Observe what happens after you decide you’re done with writing. Are you relieved, even more distressed, or happily taking tap dancing lessons?
Do you see the name of your protagonist everywhere? Does the answer to your plot problem hit you as you’re pouring milk into your Grape Nuts? Do you find yourself on an entirely new–happier–path because you had the courage to set aside a project? Or is your brain not letting you leave that blank page?
You should never give up on yourself, but there are times when quitting can bring you back to what you love: which could very well be writing.
The past six months have been packed with events. So many events–and reunions, confrontations, phew moments, along with minor trips to doctors. Has anyone else been getting reminders to see doctors they didn’t see in 2020? Well, to keep the medical establishment and Aetna afloat and out of an abundance of paranoia, I got another COVID test because VARIANT and I’ll soon be flying for the first time since February 2020.
Before the test, I wondered if, after having a “mild” case of COVID in March, I tempted fate by treadmilling too much at Crunch? Healing from what felt like bronchitis on heroin on steroids took a daily grind of walking/jogging a little farther. Eventually, energy and lungs improved, but how easily it could go away. Turns out, my large dose of antibodies are still there.
One amazing aspect of being healthy again is that my no-time-to-waste feelings are back. More energy means more writing, more running and weights, more trips to Sephora, more listening to my gut, and definitely more reading. My desire to know everything has exploded. See below aspirations for this month:
Reading many books at the same time is common, and this is where I like to reference Barack Obama, who reads about 5 tomes simultaneously. Anyone in school would see multi-book reading as no big deal. Editors, too. But with the soul-crushing topic on everyone’s minds, this past year slowed down for many what had been a steady and voracious reading habit. How could one read when there were walls to stare at and murder shows to watch?
It’s good to have my brain back (for now) to have several reading experiences at once. As a New Yorker, I need the following, not in order of preference except for #8:
1. Subway book
2. Adorable pleasure read
3. Nonfiction, anything from Housewife How-to to Seneca.
4. Literary fiction–for me, usually something old.
5. Something scary
6. The latest big thing everyone is reading
7. Inspiring life or novel
8. Soporific (i.e. Economics for those who flunked this class in college–not naming names)
Reading is a lifeline when you’re just existing or creating, are blocked, needing escape, or just into everything. If you read a single book at a time, savoring each page, you still understand the love. There’s never enough and always time to read and celebrate the worlds that writers create.
Everyone has an “adventure” that scares their parents. For me, the below nightmarish night buoys my spirits when I feel lost. This past year, I’ve tried to channel the girl I was in 1978: logical, wary, strong, protective. That girl still exists…but as the title suggests, my mother hates this story.
As Sophia from The Golden Girls says, “Picture it…” It’s winter, 1978. I am about 10, deeply in love with John Travolta from Grease, a badass soccer player on a co-ed team, and navigating my parents’ divorce and remarriages. It’s not The Worst, but my life expands in ways I never predicted.
Every week in Divorcia, I get on a bus, the one that goes from Brockport to Rochester, New York, where my mother lives with her new husband. The custody arrangement is such that I go to school in Brockport, where my dad lives, during the week. On weekends, I see my mom. My simple routine involves benign public transportation between cities.
One Friday, I’m on a bus by myself for that forty-five-minute trip I’ve taken many times. The bus driver I don’t like is at the wheel, glaring bitterly out the window. He’s big, with a fleshy red face, like he sits all day and doesn’t enjoy anything. His eyes catch mine in the rearview mirror, even when I sit in the back.
An attractive woman sits up front, close to him, leans in for a chat. I watch them through most of the trip and think about their wild love affair. She has long brownish-red hair and her pants are super-tight. Her makeup is thick, with dark eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, blush, heavy lipstick. I wonder if she’s a prostitute, because, to me, that’s what heavy makeup and tight clothes mean. Television has taught me many ridiculous things.
As we get closer to the city, the bus empties out. At some point, it will be my turn, right at the end, in the middle of downtown, the department stores, McCurdys, the big fountain in the middle. That’s where Mom always picks me up. It should be noted, chez my father, I relish routine and hard work–even healthy food. At my mother’s, hedonism and sloth are acceptable and I plunge into a slow-moving black hole of junk food and all the television I can stand.
But before I can indulge, I have to get to McCurdys where my mother is waiting. I move up toward the front, knowing my stop will come soon and also reminding the driver about my presence.
“What’s your stop?” the driver asks me. The woman is still there talking to him.
“The last one,” I answer. He always knows. He knows me.
He takes this in, juggles it around in his head, and says, “I’m going to take a shortcut.”
The driver swerves off the main road and I trust that he knows where to take me. The last stop only means one thing. Downtown.
We go down roads I don’t recognize. He and the woman keep talking, laughing, but I can’t hear exactly what they’re saying. Rochester is not familiar enough for me to know where we are. Can I pipe up and ask, “We’re going downtown, right?”
No. I can’t. I don’t want to invite trouble—I have enough already—so I just sit there and trust.
We turn onto a giant lot with a few buses. Next to it is a building, which doesn’t seem populated. Dry reeds poke through Styrofoam snow. Maybe he wants to drop this woman off, then take me on my way, to my mother who must be wondering where I am. I can almost picture her in the car, waiting for me to get off the bus.
“Time to get off,” the driver tells me as the bus stops.
It’s in the middle of nowhere. The sky is gray, darkening. A hint of snow. There might even be tall grass somewhere, empty lots, nothingness.
I’m in a jeans skirt and coat. Nothing to insulate me well for the Rochester snowstorm. Soft flakes start coming down.
“This is not where I get off,” I say.
“It’s the last stop,” he insists.
The woman just sits there, watching me, no doubt waiting for me to leave.
With 1970s technology (none) and no sense of location, I take my weekend bag and shuffle off the bus and into the cold. In the winter, the grasses have long since died and create a patch of straw in parts of the parking lot. I start to walk toward what could be a neighborhood.
There is no thought that I could be in danger. Who would hurt a little kid? A little girl? I don’t think about food, the cold, or that I have no idea where I am. Just walk. Snow hits my legs, which are only covered with tights and a short denim skirt.
I keep walking and the skies turn darker. My fingers start to hurt from the cold. By this time, I should be getting into my mother’s car and going home. She must be waiting. I wonder what the bus driver and the lady are doing now? Does she charge him a lot of money? I invent even more stories about them, how they must be laughing about me.
They are doing crimes, I think. Especially getting rid of me. Everyone wants to get rid of me. There’s the thought that maybe this is what my parents want, for me to disappear. They could have planned this ahead of time. Let Patience wander away forever. This is not what I want, at least not yet.
No, that’s too drastic, too heartless.
They have to love me.
I know enough that panic and fear won’t help. And this also is unreal to me. It doesn’t seem possible that this would be my ending. So I just walk. I start to see people, hanging on the streets. Yes, I’m an oddity, a little flame-haired kid strolling around on her own. They leave me alone.
I don’t take pleasure in the notion of being “lost.” I don’t even think of myself as lost, just delayed. It won’t end tragically. That’s not a reality in my brain, that these two eyes, this body, this brain would shut down.
A deli comes into sight. They’ll take pity on a little girl. I enter and ask the woman behind the counter if I can use her phone. When she opens her mouth to answer me, I see she has no teeth. Her watery gray eyes are focused on me as she hands me the phone. Others walk into the deli and watch me as I dial the number. I start to get nervous, but luckily my stepbrother answers.
“Hi, John. I’m kind of lost.”
“Where are you? We’re worried.”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you go out and look out at the street?”
“Um…” I look around and I feel the attention of too many eyes. “…I should probably go.”
“Where are you?” His voice sounds more concerned, but he doesn’t see that I’m getting too much attention. Can’t say anything out loud and I might get hurt. My gut tells me to run.
“Just tell Mom to meet me downtown. I’m going toward the lights.”
I give the lady back the phone. She asks me if I’m sure and, without answering, I run out the door with my bag.
Go toward the lights.
It’s all I can think as I hustle in the snow. This wasn’t such a good night. I don’t think about thirst or hunger. Just lights. Street lights. A growing sea of lights. It might be hours later, but the streets start to become brighter. Cars in growing numbers until finally, I notice the long stretch of road leading to the center of town.
I am safe.
McCurdys is in sight. The fountain. I go into the department store and they let me call home. A short time later, my mother arrives, her face so solemn I’m almost scared to go near her.
She hugs me and holds me and stares at me with that concerned Mommy face. The whole weekend, I live under her wing, grateful to see her love. I am wanted–by both my parents.
Decades later, Mom says this is the most frightened she has ever been.
Even now, I think about that calm voice that guided me through a city I didn’t know, on a night that could have ended very badly. It makes me hope each person has that knowledge that they too can find their way home.
Friends, I just got my second Moderna shot. What a great feeling and relief to be vaccinated after this long year. It’s not over, but I am so glad to bid adieu to these dreary COVID times in my little part of the world. My last year was not The Absolute Worst, but it wasn’t fun either.
My true pandemic experience began with breaking my elbow last June. It was an embarrassing trip over a piece of wood on the sidewalk. I went splat on my arm and scraped my legs. As a child, I’d dreamt about breaking a bone, but the reality was thoroughly unromantic. First, the sympathy did not come 24/7 and my doctor did not give me a cast–not even a sling. My grandmother wasn’t here to smother me with cookies and ice cream. With a broken elbow on your dominant hand, there were a lot of things that were nearly impossible. I won’t go into details.
During pandemic, certain quirks came out of hiding. Quirks to which my husband averted his eyes. The burlap sac dresses, dreary pajama bottoms, the sudden need for half and half in my coffee. And it turns out, I am a hoarder. When I sit down anywhere, I create piles around me. There’s the yarn pile, laptop and papers pile, the puzzle pile, and the beverage pile. If I don’t have piles, I order them and generate more stuff than I know what to do with, especially books, leopard print clothes, makeup, and paper products. Instagram knows about your piles and pulls you into the product placement time/money suck. I really had no choice.
Since March 2020, I’ve also become what I vowed never to be: a birder. A few times a week, I haul myself to Hudson River Park. For an indoor girl, this is an act of desperation. My flora and fauna are the beige pages pouring off my shelves and onto the floor. Let me be the first to tell you that the flowers, river, and Canadian geese are gorgeous! Their little flippers moving so gracefully under the water are Disney cute. They swim in beautiful lines, sort of like meandering military planes. My husband says the seagulls are the white ones, so consider me an expert now. Against a wintery backdrop, I caught them gliding and soaring in a dance. Why did I poo-poo my aunt’s obsession with all things avian?
To offset my influx of nature, I obsessively tuned in to everything about the pandemic and presidential election. A giant weight lifted from my shoulders on January 20 and I kicked my news addiction. It’s hard to wean yourself off Maddow, Anderson, Lawrence, Brianna, Brooke, Don, Capehart, Acosta, Cabrera, and Nicolle, but baby steps, you know? Better to focus on the impressive rollout of vaccine. First for my parents, then me and my peers.
Sam and I started to think about life after COVID, like maybe we can go places, take a real vacation, and envision happier times. Getting actual COVID was a big wrench in these plans as I tested positive exactly one year from my last day in the office, March 12. I was sick–not hospital sick, but enough that I checked my pulse oximeter a few times a day. I didn’t think I would die, but you just never know, right? After feeling better in the second week, I realized once again how lucky I am. But who gets COVID a year after the pandemic really begins?
This resulted in a few more orders to Sephora and City Cakes because we all deserve it. But there comes a time to stop and ease back in to what really matters. It is not the latest Urban Decay eyeshadow or obsessing that you can’t wear sparkly makeup anymore. Maybe you don’t need eight pairs of pajama bottoms, 41 rolls of toilet paper, or a sewing machine. It’s time to come out of the comfort cove.
Like everyone, I am ready for some serious fun, good work, and three-dimensional people time. With the blessing of these shots, let our healthy roaring twenties begin.
Ps. The vaccination side effects are *nothing* compared to actual COVID and so worth the ability to hug your loved ones.
It’s almost funny how little I want to type this post. The thoughts are in my head, but the idea of full sentences is too much. You need to plan out the subject, verb, predicate. Have a snack. Vary sentence structure. Go on to Sentence #2. Consult Chicago Manual of Style as to whether you capitalize “sentence” in previous sentence. Find stills of Nicole Kidman’s hair in The Undoing, costarring Hugh Grant on HBO. Watch Practical Magic.
You guys, I made it to the second paragraph and even included a GIF! So what next? Right. Let’s see. The last eight months have been shit on a stick for everyone. Creativity can’t thrive in such environs. Or can it? Writers are supposed to be depressed, understand the inner workings of…something. All the greats were bozonkers! But there’s depressed…and *depressed*.
So, how does one shake out of it?
I really don’t know. No one does unless they’ve survived the 1918 pandemic. They didn’t have the same “therapeutics” or mental health resources as we do, so we shouldn’t complain. That doesn’t lessen the suckiness, does it? COVID-19 has been so long lasting, so global, epically shitty (I said it again, Mom). Forming new sentences seems at the bottom of our lists of needs, just below Sprite.
Even though the idea of writing strikes me as impossible, a few tools kick me further toward a butt-in-chair situation. I know I’m not alone in this, so I hope you can relate, and if not, never mind.
Work while your spouse, friend, child, colleague, pet is working (or sleeping). My husband starts remote teaching at 6:30 pm, so that’s when I write. The sound of his voice lulls me into a relaxed state, which is how I can type this now.
If you can’t write, read books or watch movies that are related to your story. Because I’ve been writing a women’s fiction novel (with twisty suspense), I’m reading about jewelry, Structuralism (I don’t really know what this is), Paris, New York…and lots of celebrity stalking. So if I can’t write, I can read until the wee morning hours and feel on track.
Set a low, achievable word-count goal. For me, this is 1K words. Easy peasy. Even if it’s a pile of crap, as Anne Lamott says. Bird by Bird is a must read, btw.
The obvious: Reward yourself often with things that please you. Wouldn’t it be funnier if I said, “Run at the wall headfirst until unconscious?” Seriously, I appreciate whatever makes my surroundings beautiful, like Essie nail polish. I take an hour to do my nails or watch a makeup tutorial. My husband likes to cook and go on bike rides. What do you like to do?
Suspense-aholics: For months, I’ve been making the mistake of over-watching Snapped, Dateline, other types of murder shows. Pace yourself since the awfulness of crime can rattle your psyche further. Temper bloody knife-waving with a little The Office, Hallmark Channel (as much as possible), Ted Lasso, or dramas where the acting is so good it’s like a happy story.
This is a hard one, and I promise I won’t buy another leopard print blouse or eat the rest of my “share” bag of M&Ms, but the impulse purchases and naughty food is a poor substitute for writing. Maybe on a Monday or Tuesday. And Wednesday.
But if you have to spend the day in Michael’s getting fun beads for necklace-making, consider that there’s a book waiting to be written. You have all the time in the world, no pressure…but it’s there. Break it down into small steps. Make a promise that one day you’ll return to the extremely rewarding and not-at-all-challenging world of writing.
And yet, no one can tell you what to do. Especially now. As South Park‘s Cartman says to his mother, “I do what I want!” Genius truth–Life is too short.
Doomscrolling, not a word 13 years ago. While my grandparents faithfully watched The Love Boat and Fantasy Island with me, along with several soap operas, Grampa Smith said that it was a “waste of time.” So is Doomscrolling. Forget that, I love it too. But it sucks.
Romanticizing past productivity and the evils of technology can be your depression-go-to–and you can also venture out into a semi-normal world and do something as ordinary and normal as filling out a ballot, which can lead to a desire to tell the world (which is officially writing). I love Mondays, so I set out today with my new sneakers (impulse purchase).
With so much change, there is much to be grateful for (and totally pissed about). Getting to this end of this post is my win for the day…and finally voting. However you strive for inspiration in these not-normal times, it sounds good to me. I hope you find little pockets of creativity and can share it with us–along with pictures of COVID impulse purchases in the comments.
Wordsworth wrote that the world is too much with usto bemoan how the iPhone has eclipsed our love of green grass, ducks paddling in formation, soft moonlight on our faces. Confession, I thought it was a James Bond title, until I Googled then Wiki-ed it. Confession #2: I get Wordsworth confused with Walt Whitman. So, I may mean Whitman when I say Wordsworth.
Seriously, what’s happened in the last three months is beyond any words I could offer, but I will try. My will to post has been nil until the speeches at John Lewis’s memorial service. Before that, from my safe perch, I watched weeks of coverage of George Floyd’s murder (and Breonna Taylor’s and Ahmaud Arbery’s — the list is endless), the protests, the violence inflicted by these new stormtroopers, and, more recently, a family forced onto the ground at gunpoint by police. Floyd’s suffering and that of billions over the last 400 years has always been in front of us. Racism is an atrocity that thrives every day in the U.S. You would think a country like ours–with its sickening abundance, history, and brainpower–could treat everyone with respect and kindness.
I have donated to organizations that support Black lives and am spending my time listening, reading, and sharing my appreciation of diversity every day–to support diversity itself and because it enriches my life.
There’s only been this on my mind these last few months–though also the raging virus, the upcoming election, and when I can hug my mother again. I broke my elbow, too, but this has an easy fix: Avoid tripping like a jackass over things on the sidewalk.
I hope you are all taking good care of yourselves and your loved ones. Wishing you good health and a whole lot of good writing (even if it’s bad).
Today, I was supposed to get on a plane to Las Vegas to see Duran Duran in concert tonight, then Gwen Stefani tomorrow night. It would have been two orgasmic concert dreams come true and in one of my favorite cities. But hey, what can you do when COVID strikes? You can stay New York Tough.
No matter what plague is hitting, I will go on a celebrity adventure. Last week’s trip was to the land of all things Prince. My greatest music regret is the I never saw him play live. Friends tell me it was an experience you never forget.
My rabbit hole began with the Grammy’s Tribute to Prince a couple weeks ago. I discovered the majesty of H.E.R. and bought her self-titled album (a new obsession is born). Hearing Susanna Hoffs’s silky voice brought tears to my eyes before Usher summoned Princeness to a goosebump level–and with a gasp-inducing final five seconds. Seeing Sheila E., The Revolution, Morris Day and the Time gave me such warm fuzzies that I had to continue further down the hole. Wait, back up. I have to watch Sheila E. again.
As with many, Purple Rain was the soundtrack of my teens. I feel every song on that album and no matter what’s going on, I can tune in to the genius. I blasted Purple Rain on my Walkman while training for soccer. It always helped me get around the track because fresh air sure didn’t. But, tragically, it was also the album being played during the most terrifying 90 minutes of my life. I never thought I could listen to it again, but I did–over and over and then moved on to his next albums. Before I go on, let me watch this one more time.
I first heard about Prince in 1982 thanks to Anita, who lived on my hall at boarding school. While I put up a chaste poster of a tiger swimming, her walls were all Prince, even the topless ones. She didn’t care. Anita played his music and kissed his posters. Sadly, both of them left this earth way too soon. I like to think that she’s cozying up to him right now.
The far-too-short trip down the Prince rabbit hole ended perfectly last Sunday. I went onto Facebook for random scrolling and stopped on my musical genius friend Jon’s live concert. Thankfully, he is entertaining us during this COVID nightmare. Not knowing about my Prince-themed week, he plays “Starfish and Coffee” right as I tuned in. Sam thinks it’s just a coincidence. I think it’s Prince.
Our friend had a once-in-a-generation mind, wrote books, taught, and sat at my family’s dinner table often. While most in my parents’ entourage liked to argue about important ideas, he was quieter, taking in the scene while his synapses fired on multiple planes. His measured tone brought down fiery tempers and made me feel better about my academic-lite thoughts (about Duran Duran, the Kardashians, cake). I didn’t know him well, but he is one of those regular characters who is now gone, likely from the virus. He inspired great affection in my family. Blessings on his coming and going, as my friend Lou says. We will remember him fondly and often.
Now over a month in seclusion, Sam and I take the one-day-at-a-time approach. Me, I have work as usual, which is awesome (and therapeutic). So, home is like any other day, but if you go outside, wear a mask and stay away from everyone. My mental health is solid due to decades of introverting. The goal is providing extroverted Sam with sparkling conversation, household tasks, and cooking shows. Netflix suggestions welcome!
Positive things we’ve done:
I learned how to use my new sewing machine and have made eight masks (poorly).
My Prince Charming has cooked every day for me since March 12. I’ve never eaten better in my life. There’s been okra, mac & cheese, artichokes, meatloaf, chicken, halibut, stew, pot roast, mashed potatoes, pot pie (not POT pie) and just plain deliciousness. A good meal is so satisfying. Who knew?
Am reading Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior for the first time. Also got Untamed, which I believe just came out. Love her hide-nothing writing. My current numbness to emotions makes me AMAZED that anyone feels this much. Mindfulness is paying off since I only notice my hand typing this and not the germs hovering in this city’s every crevice. Maybe in six months, when this could be over, I’ll explode with anxiety, but I won’t worry about it yet.
Sam has become the King of Teaching Online. Knowing that this could be long-term, he immersed himself in tutorials and now makes it seem effortless. His French classes are front-row entertainment.
We’ve been watching The Great British Baking Show and there’s nothing like cooking in a tent in a beautiful part of the world (where you are not LIVING ON TOP OF millions of others).
Gotta go. Sam thinks he dropped a Band-Aid in dinner. Crisis.
Patience has asked me to write a guest blog, or “golb,” as her stepfather would say in palindromic fashion. Palindromes are much more entertaining than pandemics, although really not that much. I have been resorting to more sarcasm than usual these past few weeks and suppose that that is owing to a higher-than-normal level of anxiety. It’s hard to narrow down the source of the latter, which might sound silly, given the fact that we are all more or less confined to our homes because of the coronavirus — new and improved!
But as one train hides another, so does one traumatic event another, and another, and another.
Oh, where to begin? The birth canal? It was a tight squeeze, Ma, but I made it! Honestly, while I don’t remember that one, there are others that come to mind, in particular the summer of 2006 when crude Russian-made rockets rained down on Haifa for a month. There were air-raid sirens, like the kind you hear portrayed in World War II movies, and bomb shelters, neither of which would do you much good if you were in the wrong spot at the wrong time. And people died and you heard about it in the papers and on tv.
I suppose that fear is not such a bad thing. It is the natural adaptation that prevents most of us from standing too close to the edge of the cliff, pinching the cheek of the child soldier who stops up us at the roadblock or, today, leaving our homes without a facemask. That is not to underrate courage, without which we could never overcome our fear. If we lacked either, it’s safe to assume we would die off as a species. If firefighters were too afraid to fight fires, we would really be in a pickle; and, if, we threw caution to the wind and stopped looking in the rearview mirror before merging onto the interstate…. Well, you get the picture.
Without that delicate balance of hesitation and derring-do, we would hardly be of much use to one another, as couples, families, neighbors, citizens and human beings, in general. Living in close quarters – and I hope that Patience agrees — we learn to temper one another’s fear and courage. “Should you really be doing that?”, and “I think that’s okay” are really sometimes the only words that one needs to hear, bringing a loving perspective to the imperatives of day-to-day physical and emotional survival.