All the Keys Open All the Doors

I went to San Miguel looking for answers.  Direction, really.  A jumping off, or into, point for the next chapter of my creative expression.

Would it be writing? IF so, what? How? Where?

Or maybe photography? I have a decent eye, but could I master the technology?

Drawn by the colors of the buildings and the streets, the photo of Andrea on the winged chair; the email said two spots remained for the workshop, and I claimed one.

Thirteen adventurous women and one brave man joined our leaders, Andrea & Laurie, for the adventure.  We claimed all the rooms in the colorful Casa Carly hotel, ate breakfast, lunch and dinner together, explored the city in photo walks, relaxed in a lithium hot spring, and wrote.

The photography was easier every day, as I learned each new lens for my just out-of-the-box camera.

The writing – much harder.

So hard to get out of my head.  To stop self-editing, to keep the pen moving, to say something real. To dive deep with the prompts:

It doesn’t have to be beautiful.

Write as poorly as possible.

Almost everything amazed me.

This is what Life does.

This is what I want you to know.

If they chop open my body.

Permission granted.

We wrote and we shared.  With every line read by someone else, the voices inside me grew louder. ‘SO good.’ ‘Ooh – honest.’ ‘So VISUAL!’  Until it was all just a buzz in my head, and I was once again floating outside my body.  I could only see how far I was from where they were, how far I had to go.  In comparing myself with everyone else, I lost whatever truth wanted to come out through me.

“What I really want you to know is vastly different from what I’m willing to let you know. A chasm exists between the two.”

Those were the most honest lines I wrote last week.

They applied to the group, and to many other parts of my life.  How I show up with colleagues, with friends, with family, and in love. I’ve known that many times I don’t feel safe to be seen, to be visible. That the neglected and criticized little girl inside me grabs the reins and runs away if I let her.

I’ve heard it said that we love ourselves the way we were loved; and others reflect back to us how we love ourselves.  If we change the way we love ourselves, we change the story of our lives.

Casa Carly had many unique qualities.  One we learned mid-week.  Each room had been given only one set of keys, despite two, three or even four occupants.  ‘Could we get more keys,?’ came the question.  There was, in fact limited quantity…but, here was the secret: All of the keys opened all of the doors.  As long as you found anyone with a key, you had access to your room.

I didn’t find the clear, concrete direction for my next chapter of creative expression.  But I found a reflection of where I am now, and the knowledge of where I can go. It’s a practice, it’s a process and it’s real work.  To write well, to live well.

It’s up to me to make the choice to go there.  I’ve got a key to every door.

If I Had a Blog

Last Thursday evening the Accountability group I’m a member of met to discuss the book we’d been reading, “The Obstacle is the Way.”  Each member of the group has a goal that we’re each desiring to accomplish by the end of the program in April, and naturally we’ve all encountered obstacles.

For me, the last week had felt less like an encounter and more like I was sucked up and spit out by my obstacles.  Distraction after distraction had snapped up my focus, my energy and my time. As others shared about significant, concrete events that had gotten in their way, I wondered if I was the only one falling prey to something as silly and seemingly inconsequential as distraction.  Finally, as the meeting was winding down, I offhandedly brought my obstacle up:  Distractions – ugh!

Our fearless leader/coach/Mama Gazelle cut to the heart of the matter:  Do you know what’s behind it?  Yes, I said – Fear.  I know it, and I see it as my obstacle, something I just have to get through…and I come to the edge, but I can’t seem to make myself jump.

Have you ever gotten quiet and sat with it, she said?

Why, yes.  Yes, I have.


It had to be either late 1997 or early 1998.

I was 33 years old and living in Lawrence, KS, working in a job I hated, and wasn’t even good at.  Ready for something more, desperate to move on, searching for a purpose.  What was mine to do?

I don’t even have to close my eyes to see the light in my apartment that afternoon, when I pleaded with God/Spirit/Life for direction, for guidance….and I heard the voice say, “Write.”

It was so loud that at first I thought there was someone else in the room.  So loud, so clear. Startling.

As my 53 year-old self sat on the couch last week, remembering, I realized I’ve spent the last 20(!) years looking the other way. Ignoring…pretending…forgetting.


Oh, I dabbled in writing — in writers’ groups, in workshops, did some freelance work, had a poem published and wrote scripts at work.  And journaling had saved my emotional life time and time again as I worked so many life events on the page.

But the minute anything got hard, or criticism came, I abandoned ship.  I wrapped that edict up tight, like it was stolen, and tucked it deep inside my heart.  Outwardly, I changed the subject and quickly moved on.

After last week’s meeting, all the running and avoiding and abandoning came flooding back.  Waves of regret.  A tsunami.

How does one ask for a mission, and then turn one’s back on it for two decades?!

Of all the aspects of myself, why is being a writer so hard to accept, so hard to take seriously? What am I so afraid of?

Failing.  That’s crystal clear as well.

I’ve tried to pretend that not trying is better than trying and failing.  But we all know what a cop-out that is.  It’s the person who is in the fight who matters, as Teddy Roosevelt so famously said — “who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Our fearless leader/coach/Mama Gazelle often reminds us to think about our 80 year-old selves when it comes to decisions.  Would mine want to look back on a ‘cold and timid’ life – hell, no.  As I left the meeting that night and walked to my car, I muttered out loud that I just need to “grow a pair.”  Misogynistic, at best. But clearly it is time – past time!

Enough ignoring, waiting, over analyzing.  Enough staying safe and small.  And enough breaking promises to myself.  Because that’s really what’s going on here.  I’m disconnecting from the essence of who I really am:  a writer.  And aren’t the promises we break to ourselves the worst violations of all?   Would we let someone else trample on our hopes and dreams the way we do when we just give upon ourselves? If we won’t believe in and honor who we are, how and why should anyone else?

What does all this mean?  Where do I start?  What does it look like?  And perhaps most importantly, how and where do I get the support so that when the going gets tough this time, I don’t duck and run again. How do instead I work, get better and hone a craft.  How do I write, like it matters….like I matter?


Are there any parts of yourself that you’ve abandoned along the way in this life?  Any clear messages you’ve ignored?  Any small ways you turn your back on what you know you know in the day-to-day?  How, and why?  I’d love to know.