Is Your Fantasy Self Wearing You Down? (Guest Post at Miss Minimalist)

You know what’s really tiring, what drains the life out of so many of us each day? The belief that we should be someone we’re not … a fantasy self, if you will.

Our fantasy self is the one who will read all of the books in our backlog and cook all of the fancy magazine-style meals.

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Cross Everything Else Off Your List, Leaving Just This.

the true meaning of the holiday season

Photo: Brian A. Taylor Photography. Used with permission.

Friends, the weather outside is frightful, so I’m glad to be here in my writing room, sharing this post on the true meaning of the holiday season.

I’m also glad that we have central heating this winter. Happiness really is the small things, like not having to wear a hat in the house.

And this reminds me of another story about four girls backpacking through Europe. It’s one of my favorites, because I was one of those girls.

Now, I could tell you a lot of dramatic stories about that trip. I could tell you about the time we were (politely) thrown off a train in Pamplona, two weeks after the running of the bulls. I could tell you about how we slept in a public park, how two American soldiers stood guard over us.

But the story I want to tell is a quiet one.

A Train Ride to Remember

We were riding an overnight train from Spain to Monaco, or Monaco to Italy. (We did this often, to save money.) We were tired – we were backpacking, so we were always tired – but it was one of those nights. A night in which the world is edged in magic, and you want to stay awake and see it all.

friendship, the true meaning of the holiday seasonEven so, we knew we needed rest. So my friend Sarah took out her Discman – this was in the days of Discmans! – and put on a Norah Jones CD.

She handed me an earbud, and we listened in one ear each. We had to position ourselves carefully so that the cord would reach across the bunk beds, but we managed it.

An odd configuration, true, but it was utterly peaceful, listening to those lullabies. It was one of those times when – all of the sudden and seemingly out of nowhere – you find yourself thinking, I will remember this for the rest of my life.

I can’t remember much of the magnificent interior of St. Peter’s Basilica, but I can clearly picture that Discman of Sarah’s. It was bright yellow and black, like a bumble bee. That’s memory for you. You can’t reason with it. It just goes ahead remembering what it loves.

Six years after that trip, I fell in love and got married. When I did, I asked my friend Allison to sing “Come Away with Me,” at the wedding. And when she did, I heard everything come together.

I heard that old Discman playing in the past, Allison’s lovely voice resonating in the present, and a promise illuminating the future: Come away with me and I’ll never stop loving you.

The True Meaning of the Holiday Season

What we want most this time of year is as simple as one friend handing another an earbud, as ancient as making a promise to love. We don’t really want more gifts and events and hassle and running around. We just want to share our best music with one another.

We just want to experience beauty together, to hear a sweet voice telling us that everything will be all right. We just want to fall asleep with the knowledge that – even if we’re apart for much of the year – for this one night, we’re traveling on together.

So that’s what I wish for you this holiday. Not glamor and glitz or everything on your list. Just shared music.

And when the music fades, I wish for you the silence at the heart of a holy night.

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What do you think is the true meaning of the holiday season? What are you enjoying this year? Share your story in the comments section below!

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Launch Day: I Was a Stranger to Beauty is Here!

Oh, happy day!

Thanks to ThinkPiece Publishing, my new Kindle Single* is here! It’s entitled I Was a Stranger to Beauty: A Story of Special Needs, Simplicity, My Brother Willie, My Friend Miguel and A New Way of Seeing the World. (I’m fortunate to have a fantastic publisher who shares my affinity for ridiculously lengthy subtitles.)

*If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry! You can read Kindle books with Amazon’s (free) Kindle Cloud Reader. If you have Amazon Prime, you can also borrow the book through Amazon’s Lending Library.

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This book is the story of a family moving through a terribly difficult time, and (eventually) arriving at a place of acceptance and love.
In a way, it’s all of our stories.

It’s the time you got back up … even though you didn’t think you had the strength to stand.
It’s the time you trusted … even though you’d been hurt in the past.
It’s the time you opened your heart … even though you were tired and wanted to go home.

We’ve all been strangers to the beauty in our own lives.
The question is, will we stay that way, or will we learn to open our eyes?

Curious? Watch the video to learn more.


(A clarification: Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader is free. The new Kindle Single is $1.99. I might have used the word ‘free’ one too many times! Forgive me, it’s an exciting day.)

Thank you in advance for taking a moment to …

  • Read the excerpt below. If you like what you read …

  • Buy the book for just $1.99, and support a great cause too. As mentioned in the video, 5% of proceeds from the first month’s sales go to L’Arche Washington DC, an amazing caregiving organization that provides homes for life for adults with special needs. Also, please …

  • Share the news with those in your network. (Friends, family, nosy neighbor.)

The excerpt is below; thank you again for your support!

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At root, a pearl is a ‘disturbance’, a beauty caused by something that isn’t supposed to be there, about which something needs to be done. It is the interruption of equilibrium that creates beauty. Beauty is a response to provocation, to intrusion.”

~ Julia Cameron, The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch

I’ve always felt a special connection to pearls. They’re my birthstone, true, but it goes deeper than that. Here’s what I love: the idea that an object of immense value can arise from an annoyance. A grain of sand slips into an oyster’s shell, and the oyster’s defense mechanism swirls around it, gradually taking the shape of a pearl. The unsuspecting oyster is provoked by a minuscule intruder, and, over time, that intrusion becomes a thing of beauty. Likewise, my story starts with provocation and intrusion … but in my case, the irritant was much more significant than a grain of sand. It was my younger brother, Willie.

Willie is my only sibling, and he was diagnosed with autism as a toddler. Like most brothers and sisters, we have obvious similarities—a tendency toward obsessive-compulsiveness, a penchant for politeness, highly sensitive natures—as well as some differences. Willie is a gifted musician, someone who can hear a new song a few times and then walk over to a piano and play the melody. He has a photographic memory; he can watch a set of film credits once or twice and then type out the entire list of names on the computer. He’s got a great sense of humor, too, one grounded in purposeful mistakes. He loves to take quotidian phrases such as “A wish come true” and alter them on purpose. “I’ve been dreaming of a wish come … clear!” he’ll say, and burst out laughing. “What about a wish come … blue?” I’ll counter, and he’ll crack up again. When we were growing up, it was always easy for me to make him laugh.

Willie also has a gift for mischief. When he was two, he walked out of the house early one winter morning. My parents panicked at his disappearance, but they soon discovered why he’d vanished: to prance about in the freshly fallen snow. When they opened the front door, he was stomping cheerfully around the yard wearing nothing but a T-shirt and snow boots. When he got older, he’d run away on a regular basis; he was fast, and he had a knack for slipping out of sight. He’d be swimming in the duck pond at the park with policemen trying to coax him out before anyone knew that he was missing. My childhood is peppered with memories of riding in our Volvo with my mom both of us scanning the sidewalks for Willie. The car’s leather seats would stick to my legs as a combination of fear, excitement, and annoyance swirled through my veins. When we’d find Willie at last, his blue eyes would be half-sheepish and half-triumphant.

Buy the book and read on!