Books and Media 2022; Looking Up and Ahead

From the top of Schoolmarm, Keystone, Colorado, December 2018

Friends!! Happy Happy Old Year!

So many excellent essays and posts everywhere for the New Year, are you soaking them in? Do they lift you up? What stands out for you from 2022?

I have to say, I’m ready for things to be easier and lighter. These last two years were pretty damn shitty for a slew of reasons… and I don’t necessarily wish for anything different. What doesn’t kill us often does make us stronger, and not always. Some of it just maims and scars, and we could be just as strong and well without it. Whatever, it all just is.

Love and gratitude stand out for me… Also commitment, resilience, and of course connection. Connection, actually, is both the beginning and end of getting through hard times, no? The trust, love, strength, respect, and attention we share hold us all up, bond us closer through crucibles of crisis, and magnify themselves, don’t you think?

Three posts resonate in particular with me this week, which I share below. May they lift or ground you, whichever you need. May you notice and receive whatever else you need as well, to start 2023 in peace and confidence, and to sustain that sense of “I’ Got This,” no matter what comes. Oh and as usual, I’ve included my list of books and notable media at the end. Books in [brackets] are yet to be finished; entries in bold are my favorites. My home Word file denotes romance novels in blue, but I think you can figure it out based just on the titles. There is a theme emerging among the romances I love; maybe more on that later. 😉 I created ‘Inspo’ on Spotify soon after writing the Playlist post last month, along with separate ones for writing and workouts. That subscription is well worth the cost!

ONWARD, my friends. All we have is this one life, with one another. Let us make the most of it all, ya?

Let It Be So

Donna Ashworth wrote the poem “When I Go,” which inspired my post of the same title. In her message for 2023, she reminds us to treat ourselves with a little more acceptance, compassion, and generosity. I wholeheartedly concur–if we can do this better for ourselves, then we are much more likely and able to do it for one another:

“Why do we start a new year, with promises to improve?

“Who began this tradition of never-ending pressure?

“I say, the end of a year, should be filled with congratulation, for all we survived.

“And I say a new year should start with promises to be kinder to ourselves, to understand better just how much we bear, as humans on this exhausting treadmill of life…”

Follow the link to read the rest.

23 Manifesto Rules for the Year

Holding ourselves in acceptance and compassion can manifest in specific practices; we can frame them as resolutions, intentions, hopes, or whatever. For me right now, it all still comes back to self-awareness, self-regulation, and community building… Mindful, peaceful intention in action and interaction, or something like that.

I only recently found Rachel Marie Martin, and her work resonates so far, especially her 23 ‘rules.’ I choose to hold them loosely, some more than others, and I look forward to seeing which ones recur in my psyche over the months to come. If the excerpt here speaks to you, check out the entire list on her Facebook page.

1. Stare fear in the face. So often fear stops us. Instead live fearless – knowing when to stop and when to move and when to be brave.

2. Invest in your friends. Good friends listen and show up. Do the same. Friendship is give and take and give and take. Friends are the ultimate gift.

3. No excuses. You must take care of yourself: heart, body and soul. There is no excuse for forgetting you. Your family needs you to love you with the same tenacity that you love them.

4. Guilt doesn’t need to dictate choices. Don’t let guilt stop you from taking care of yourself. Guilt keeps one stuck.

5. Read real books again. Watch a mini-series. Start jogging. Do something that is not work, not chores, but simply that makes you happy.

6. Love your body. Your aging body. Yes, that. And stop lamenting the wrinkles, but embrace them as another year lived.

Anam Cara

How many times do ‘relationship’ and ‘connection’ occur on this blog, I wonder? More times than most other nouns/ideas, I bet. They are my Why. And yet, they are inadequate words to truly express the depth to which I mean them. So I was especially grateful years ago to find John O’Donohue’s explanation of anam cara, ‘soul friend’ in Celtic. That direct translation hardly captures the meaning, either, and his book of this title is a bit dense and esoteric. So I thank Maria Popova for her long form delve, “Anam Cara and the Essence of True Friendship”. Her essays read slowly in the best way–leisurely yet intense intellectual consideration, like sipping the smoothest bittersweet Belgian hot chocolate. I picture the cafe where my best friend from college (an anam cara, for sure) and I always sat, with all the time in the world, enjoying each other’s company and whatever random wonders occurred to us. Read her post in a warm, comfy chair, including the most eloquent quotes from O’Donohue’s writing:

“With the anam cara you could share your inner-most self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the ‘friend of your soul.’ The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship.

“A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you… The one you love, your anam cara, your soul friend, is the truest mirror to reflect your soul. The honesty and clarity of true friendship also brings out the real contour of your spirit.”

And she puts his words in 21st Century context with crystal clarity of their profound, countercultural importance:

“…being an anam cara requires of a purposeful presence — it asks that we show up with absolute integrity of intention. That interior intentionality, O’Donohue suggests, is what sets the true anam cara apart from the acquaintance or the casual friend — a distinction all the more important today, in a culture where we throw the word “friend” around all too hastily, designating little more than perfunctory affiliation. But this faculty of showing up must be an active presence rather than a mere abstraction — the person who declares herself a friend but shirks when the other’s soul most needs seeing is not an anam cara.”

It’s all so much, isn’t it? So much stimulation, emotion, tragedy, possibility, uncertainty, profundity, incredulity, and so much more. *deep breath*

Maybe one of the more important life lessons, that can only come with living it longer, is to hold it all with stronger yet looser conviction. To realize my own mission and have it validated gives me confidence. It also frees me to let go those who can’t see, don’t come along, or even reject it. We all walk our own paths; you don’t have to come on my journey. If our paths cross in a ditch or other obstruction, or your trail looks more interesting or efficient than the one I’m on, I can change directions and choose a new route for a while. There are infinite ways to get to where I’m going. I can just really enjoy and revel in the view as I walk.

To the New Year. Another cycle begins. Bring it.

Books

  1. Pathways to Possibility by Rozamund Stone Zander
  2. Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray
  3. 52 Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner
  4. Useful Delusions by Shankar Vedantham and Bill Mesler
  5. A Little Hope by Ethan Joella
  6. The Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary McBride
  7. Be Water, My Friend by Shannon Lee
  8. Summary of Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, by Readtrepreneur Publishing on Hoopla Digital
  9. Curious by Ian Leslie
  10. The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean
  11. The Other Dr. Gilmer by Benjamin Gilmer
  12. The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely
  13. [The Mindful Therapist by Daniel Seigel]
  14. Plays Well With Others by Eric Barker
  15. [Atlas of the Heartby Brené Brown]
  16. High Conflict by Amanda Ripley
  17. The Lightmakers’ Manifesto by Karen Walrond
  18. Power Moves by Adam Grant
  19. Mentors by Russell Brand
  20. I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy
  21. I Must Say by Martin Short
  22. Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi
  23. Be Quiet, Be Heard by Susan Glaser and Peter Glaser
  24. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  25. Buried Deep by Margot Hunt
  26. Dirtbag Anthropology by Kate Willett
  27. The All or Nothing Marriage by Eli Finkel
  28. [The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion]
  29. Welcome to Your Teenager’s Brain by Abigail Baird
  30. The Way Out by Peter Coleman
  31. Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
  32. A Republic, If You Can Keep It by Neil Gorsuch
  33. The Egg and Other Stories by Andy Weir
  34. The Fix Up by Kendall Ryan
  35. Playing For Keeps by Kendall Ryan
  36. Part-time Lover by Lauren Blakely
  37. The Ruthless Gentleman by Louise Bay
  38. Delayed Gratification by Lauren Blakely
  39. Instant Gratification by Lauren Blakely
  40. Kismet by Lauren Blakely
  41. The Dream Guy Next Door by Lauren Blakely
  42. Never Have I Ever by Lauren Blakely
  43. Private Player by Louise Bay
  44. Not Until You by Corinne Michaels
  45. If I Only Knew by Corrine Michaels
  46. Satisfaction Guaranteed by Lauren Blakely
  47. Consumed By You by Lauren Blakely
  48. One of Those Flings by Lauren Blakely
  49. Your French Kisses by Lauren Blakely
  50. P.S. It’s Always Been You, Parts 1, 2, & 3 by Lauren Blakely
  51. Special Delivery by Lauren Blakely
  52. Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely
  53. Cocktail by Lauren Smith
  54. Bossy Brit by Kendall Ryan
  55. One Hot Scandal by Anna Durand
  56. Melt For Him by Lauren Blakely
  57. Portrait of a Thief by Grace D Li
  58. Lethal in a Kilt by Anna Durand
  59. The British Bastard by Anna Durand
  60. Irresistible In a Kilt by Anna Durand
  61. The Pretending Plot by Lauren Blakely
  62. One Hot Christmas by Anna Durand
  63. One Hot Crush by Anna Durand
  64. One Hot Chance by Anna Durand
  65. One Hot Roomie by Anna Durand
  66. Heired Lines by Magan Vernon
  67. The Bromantic Comedies by Erin Mallon
  68. Royally Endowed by Emma Chase
  69. Brit vs. Scot by Anna Durand
  70. One Hot Escape by Anna Durand
  71. The Duke’s Twin by Lauren Smith
  72. Forever Be Mine by Lauren Smith
  73. Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
  74. Royally Matched by Emma Chase
  75. Rory In a Kilt by Anna Durand
  76. One Hot Rumor by Anna Durand
  77. Sweet Liar by Laurelin Paige
  78. Sweet Fate by Laurelin Paige
  79. Incendiary in a Kilt by Anna Durand
  80. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not by Iris Morland
  81. My Rebound by Carrie Ann Ryan
  82. Devastating in a Kilt by Anna Durand
  83. Two Pretty Lies by Kelleigh Clare
  84. Rivalry by Laurelin Paige
  85. Ruin by Laurelin Paige
  86. Revenge by Laurelin Paige
  87. [Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabriel Zevin]
  88. Rising by Laurelin Paige
  89. The Break-Up Album by Lauren Blakely
  90. Big Ben by Nana Malone
  91. The Benefactor by Nana Malone
  92. For Her Benefit by Nana Malone
  93. Work For It by Talia Hibbert
  94. Justice Falling by Audrey Carlan
  95. Perfect Chaos by Jodi Ellen Malpas
  96. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
  97. The Opposite of Woe by John Hickenlooper
  98. Relentless in a Kilt by Anna Durand
  99. Humble Pi by Matt Parker (started in 2021)
  100. Beginner’s Mind by Yo-Yo Ma
  101. The Earl of London by Louise Bay
  102. Unzipped by Lauren Blakely
  103. Cheeky Royal by Nana Malone
  104. Cheeky King by Nana Malone
  105. Royally Remembered by Emma Chase
  106. [Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison]
  107. Misadventures With a Time Traveler by Angel Payne

Podcasts

TED Radio Hour

–What Leadership Looks Like  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ted-radio-hour/id523121474?i=1000559059996

Hidden Brain

–What We Gain From Pain  https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/what-we-gain-from-pain/

Separating Yourself From the Pack  https://hidden-brain.simplecast.com/episodes/separating-yourself-from-the-pack-AXNnRTlI

–Reframing Your Reality Part 1  https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/reframing-your-reality-part-1/

–Reframing Your Reality Part 2  https://hidden-brain.simplecast.com/episodes/reframing-your-reality-part-ii-WQxXOCRz

–How to See Yourself Clearly  https://hidden-brain.simplecast.com/episodes/you-2-0-how-to-see-yourself-clearly-YFbSe_NE

–Making the World a Safer Place  https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/making-the-world-a-safer-place/

Peter Attia Drive

–DBT Skills  https://peterattiamd.com/shireenrizvi/?utm_source=podcast-feed&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=220822-pod-shireenrizvi&utm_content=220822-pod-shireenrizvi-podfeed

Other Media

David Epstein, on Breaking With Your Tribe https://davidepstein.bulletin.com/the-bestselling-author-of-high-conflict-explains-what-it-takes-for-someone-to-break-with-their-political-tribe/

Peter Coleman, On Abortion, Now Is the Time to Talk

–Michael Bungay Stanier, 5 Questions to Deepen Trust Audio Lesson https://www.mbs.works/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/5-Questions-to-Deepen-Trust-Audio-Lesson-by-MBS.mp3


Spotify Inspo playlist

On Labor Day

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For a New Position

May your new work excite your heart,

Kindle in your mind a creativity

To journey beyond the old limits

Of all that has become wearisome.

 

May this work challenge you toward

New frontiers that will emerge

As you begin to approach them,

Calling forth from you the full force

And depth of your undiscovered gifts.

 

May the work fit the rhythms of your soul,

Enabling you to draw from the invisible

New ideas and a vision that will inspire.

 

Remember to be kind

To those who work for you,

Endeavor to remain aware

Of the quiet world

That lives behind each face.

 

Be fair in your expectations,

Compassionate in your criticism.

May you have the grace of encouragement

To awaken the gift in the other’s heart,

Building in them the confidence

To follow the call of the gift.

 

May you come to know that work

Which emerges from the mind of love

Will have beauty and form.

 

May this new work be worthy

Of the energy of your heart

And the light of your thought.

 

May your work assume

A proper space in your life;

Instead of owning or using you,

May it challenge and refine you,

Bringing you every day further

Into the wonder of your heart.

 

–John O’Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us

 

I know Labor Day is not about doctors, but I’m thinking about all workers and how we each relate to our work.  I discovered the poem above earlier this summer and loved it.  Rereading it this weekend, it resonated even more deeply and I shared it with some friends.  Since taking on a new leadership role about 20 months ago, it feels like I have really lived into these aspirations, as if the cosmos has held this blessing for me a while already.  I was primed for the call; I summoned every skill and insight I already possessed; still the learning curve has proven steep.   And no success is achieved alone!  The steady, honest, and loving support I enjoy from so many humbles me beyond expression.

Our practice recently welcomed new physicians and staff, and I will soon share this piece with the whole team.  Even for us veterans, it never hurts to look at our everyday work with new eyes, as if approaching it for the first time.

I hope O’Donohue’s words above speak to you in your chosen vocation, even if your occupation does not fulfill all of these lofty ideals (it’s kind of a lot of pressure to put on a job).  I wish you work that is much more meaningful than stressful.  If that’s not the case, I hope for you an effective and peace-giving way to reconcile this and find great meaning elsewhere in life.

And I thank you for the work you do, whatever it is.

 

 

Out and Back: Coming Home

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Meadow Creek Trail, Lily Pad Lake toward Frisco, Colorado

When you hike, do you like loop trails or out-and-back trails better?

What metaphors for life can you make from hiking?

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Ptarmigan Trail, outbound, Silverthorne, Colorado

Out and Back

I used to think out and back trails would be boring.  What’s so great about getting to the end of a path and then going back the way you came?  Wouldn’t it be tedious and redundant?

But the more hikes I take, the more I realize how valuable it is to retrace my steps, especially on the trails with big elevation gain and diverse landscape.  The same path, going uphill and then downhill, heading north at daybreak then south at mid-day, is a vastly divergent experience.  It is a concrete, tangible exercise in perspective, if ever there were one.

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Ptarmigan Trail, looking toward trailhead from same point as above

Looping

On a loop trail, you get to decide at the outset the way you will go.  If you choose clockwise, you miss out on the counterclockwise experience—until next time, perhaps, when you get to choose it.  Or maybe you always go the same way?  That feels safe—you know what’s coming, perhaps?  But on any trail, especially in the high country, you just never know what you’ll encounter.  Time of day, time of year, recent events (wildfire, thunderstorm) all alter the path—you could actually never walk the same trail twice—whether it’s out and back (hereafter abbreviated “OAB”) or a loop.

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Meadow Creek Trail again

In life, do/can we ever really go back?  I’m reminded of the quote attributed to Heraclitus:

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

Whether you choose OAB or a loop, when you arrive at the trailhead again, is it the same as when you started?  Are you?  And regardless, why hike in the first place?  What does it do for you, what do you gain?  Why step out from where you live every day, all the time?

Here’s what insightful writers I’m reading lately have to say about it:

John Gardner, in Self-Renewal:  “As the years go by we view our familiar surroundings with less and less freshness of perception.  We no longer look with a wakeful, perceiving eye at the face of people we see every day, nor at any other features of our everyday world…  That is why travel is a vivid experience for most of us.  At home we have lost the capacity to see what is before us.  Travel shakes us out of our apathy, and we regain an attentiveness that heightens every experience.”

John O’Donohue, in Anam Cara:  “Hegel said, ‘Das Bekannte überhaupt ist darum, weil es bekannt ist, nicht erkannt’–that is, ‘Generally, the familiar, precisely because it is familiar, is not known.’ This is a powerful sentence. Behind the facade of the familiar, strange things await us. This is true of our homes, the place where we live, and, indeed, of those with whom we live. Friendships and relationships suffer immense numbing through the mechanism of familiarization. We reduce the wildness and mystery of person and landscape to the external, familiar image. Yet the familiar is merely a facade. Familiarity enables us to tame, control, and ultimately forget the mystery. We make our peace with the surface as image and we stay away from the Otherness and fecund turbulence of the unknown that it masks. Familiarity is one of the most subtle and pervasive forms of human alienation.”

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West Overlook, Ridge Trail, Dillon, Colorado

When patients see me for their annual exams, I imagine it can feel tedious and redundant.  But it’s always fresh and interesting for me, because I haven’t seen or heard from them in a year.  And I’m continuously learning, so I often have new questions and queries to apply.  They may not think much of the past year, it goes by so fast; I get to be their fresh eyes, and lend them new lenses.  What’s the most interesting thing that happened to you since we last met?  What do you want to focus on this day we are together?  When you look back at your life a year from now, what do you want to see and say about it?  I feel like a ranger at the common trailhead of inifinite paths, checking in with my hikers as they loop and retrace their ways back to me, stopping to debrief before getting back on the road of living and growth, of evolution and development.

Mei lakeside July

Chicago, IL

Homecoming

I was born in Evanston, Illinois, when my dad was doing his PhD at Northwestern University.  We moved to Colorado when I was six, and for as long as I can remember, I have considered that state to be my true home.  I go back every chance I get; I savor it, relish it, drink it in with fervor.  When I return to Chicago, where I have lived for all but those 12 formative years before I came (back) to NU for college, it’s always with a gnawing reluctance, even a little resentment.  I never call it ‘coming home.’  Last night when I arrived at my house after a week in the Colorado Rockies, I did feel myself relax, ready to settle into life as usual.  But I still longed to be home for good—back in Colorado—my only real home.

That perspective changed today.

These last days I have thought deeply about my life path.  I’ve really only lived in these two places, these vastly different places.  Until this morning I thought of my OAB trailhead unequivocally as Littleton, Colorado, where I grew up.  My plan is still to go back for good someday.  But this morning on the way to church, as I crossed the intersection onto the NU campus, I felt at home.  We left our house late and drove through a thunderstorm to get there, and like a flash of lightning, I recalled when I came for my campus visit in the fall of my senior year of high school.  It had also rained cats and dogs that whole weekend.  But I’m pretty sure I wrote to friends at the time that it felt like coming home.  I was born here after all.  It is my dad’s and my alma mater.  I met my husband here during New Student Week my freshman year.  I’ve brought my kids here since they were born.  Our church here is my spiritual home, no question.

We were late today, arriving toward the end of the homily, in the chapel across the street, as ours is being renovated.  From the back, I first saw the silhouette.  Then I heard the voice.  Then I listened to the words—always words of connection, truth, service, and love.  I was overcome with emotion when I realized: It was Father Ken, director of our church from my sophomore year until I first became a mom.  He led my RCIA class for confirmation.  He nurtured my early adult development as only a pastor could, and has known me through inspiration as well as struggle.  I have only seen him rarely since he left, and missed his calming, comforting presence. Seeing him and hearing his homily today made it suddenly crystal clear to me: This, Chicago and my life here, are also my home, wholly and without question.

I can claim and love both—the places, the people, the cultures, the memories.  The mountains and also the lake; where my parents made their life and also where my kids are growing up.  Colorado is not the same now as when I left in 1991.  Chicago is not the same today as it will be when I finally return to Colorado.  Which is the Out and which is the Back?  Doesn’t matter.  Finally, after all this time feeling conflicted and divided, I really am home.

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Dillon Reservoir, Dillon, Colorado