354: Chesting My Cards

 30 September 2016

As you know, I lost heart for writing about professional dress in the conservative workplace and simply stopped writing. I was glad to have turned my posts from a few years back into Sweet Baby Lover; I’m still in love with that cover and I’m still proud of that book. But I was not at all energized at the thought of turning the posts about dress into something more tangible, probably because I could sum the whole thing up in four principles:

  1. Two things on top
  2. Focus on the face
  3. Equal power
  4. Dress for the body you have

“Okay,” she said, brushing the dust from her hands. “Here’s where I’m going next…”

But before I answer that, I have to tell you where I have been, which is in Montana, with nine other women at a writing retreat. When I tell people this they hear “riding” instead of “writing” and think that I spent time on horses. I actually did spend some time with horses but that’s another story.

I was afraid to go on the retreat and didn’t realize that until I found myself in my typical avoidance/numbing behaviors—ice cream, potato chips and chocolate, preferably all at the same meal, sometimes as the meal. Marla, the woman who occasionally counsels me on what I eat, would be mortified. She would hook me up to her machine and tell me that the amount of water outside of my cells rather than within the cells has dramatically increased and that I must turn myself around.

My fear could be summarized as, “I am afraid I am not a real writer, I had only one book in me, I can write about someone dying but that’s all, and it’s time for me to pick up my pilot pens and my Rhodia notebook and put them in the cardboard box for Goodwill.” It’s fascinating how easily we minimize our gifts. There was once a little girl who didn’t engage in mental debates about whether she could or she couldn’t, she simply did. Where did she go?

Laura Munson, who created a safe space for me to find that little girl who simply did, led the retreat. The workshop was a well-designed learning experience and I should know because I’ve spent a Master’s degree and twenty years of my life designing adult learning experiences. When the least little thing isn’t well thought out it makes me a horrible participant. It makes me fidget. In this workshop, I never once fidgeted. Instead, I relaxed and wrote and so did everyone else. We wrote and put our hearts on the page. I recommend the Haven Writing Retreat to anyone who has ever dreamed of writing anything… a novel, some poems, a memoir, anything.

So, that is what I am going to do—write. For myself at first, to have fun with writing again. Since leaving the retreat I’ve already written a short story and I want to do more of that. It’s fun and I want more fun in my life. I won’t be posting the stories on this blog because I’m going to “chest my cards,” which is a term from bridge or poker that I learned at the retreat and it feels right for me right now. I do promise all ten (I think it’s ten, I have to check) of my remaining blog subscribers (an exodus occurred with the clothing posts) this: When I do put something together, some assemblage of writing, you’ll be able to have it for free, in gratitude for your fortitude. I know I will do this because I like to make things. I like to make things and hold them in my hands.

In addition to the writing, I plan to revise my blog. It doesn’t fit me anymore. It needs new clothes.

What the blog did for me, and it is not to be underestimated, is provide an accountability mechanism. So, I plan to use the blog to hold myself accountable. But since there is no reason to inundate you with blog posts that say “I wrote for two hours this week,” I’m simply going to annotate the bottom of this post. That should prevent any email triggers yet still provide the accountability bonus. Fingers crossed.

Thanks for reading.

With my cards at my chest,


PS: At the retreat we each clarified why we write. My reason is this: I write to explore the wild and noble territory of the human heart and to leave behind a brave and honest map.

  • 1 October: wrote for 2 hours
  • 8 October: wrote for 2 hours

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