I’ve Been Holding Back

I’m always holding back. I hold back my writing, because maybe I’ll use it somewhere else someday. Maybe there will be a better time or place to put my words out into the world.

I hold back feelings of hope in a futile attempt to tamp down the potential for disappointment.

I hold back feeling joy, in an effort to stave off feeling sadness.

I hold back love. I’m not sure why I hold back love. I sense it has something to do with trying to keep chaos at bay. For me, love and chaos were once intimately linked. At the very least, I know I hold back love when my world is at its most chaotic. For example, whenever my youngest son’s health issues creep into the forefront of our lives, as they have this fall, I fold deeper into myself. My capacity to show love to those in my life declines. My life becomes singularly focused on trying to control the uncontrollable: my son’s health.

Early morning ramble at the retreat.

I attended Kate Hopper’s Motherhood and Words writing retreat in northern Wisconsin two weeks ago. It was my fourth time attending this retreat and I always come away with new insight and new words. I’m still shaping some of the essays I started at that retreat and I’m mulling over the direction I received from Kate, other attendees, and my inner guidance: Overhaul your entire manuscript. Begin again. Rewrite it a fourth time. This time, actually retype the whole thing. I’m kind of resisting the direction right now. I know this because I started applying for editorial jobs. Wouldn’t it be better to be an editor again, rather than a writer, I ask myself. I ignore the writing contract that I made with myself last May, when I graduated with my MFA, when I agreed to let my “writing self” have a year before my “get-shit-done self” stepped in and told writing self to get a real job.

Even in my resistance, I’m still thinking about the rewrite and how it will be done, how the manuscript will be shaped so differently this time around. I’m reading about five other memoirs right now (not unusual–I live my life juggling numerous books). Reading to observe structure, more than to absorb content. That said, I’m sucking the marrow out of Claire Dederer’s Poser: my life in twenty-three yoga poses. I’ve come late to the Poser party, but am so glad I came.

Another bit of wisdom I brought back with me from Wisconsin is an idea that another writer shared. This writer shares a first name with me, so it’s only natural that her wisdom would resonate deep within. She told us she was trying to move from “ego writing” to “soul writing.” She described the difference. Ego writing resists going deep and, instead, slips safely along the surface. Soul writing, in contrast, dares to reveal the shadow side, dares to become all it can be. In other words, soul writing doesn’t hold back.

It feels scary to me, but I am going to watch for the places where I am holding back. In those places, once observed, I will ask myself if I can give a little more. I will take small steps until it no longer seems so scary to give myself to my writing, my loves, my life.

The fog always lifts, eventually.

Like birds do, I want to enter each day with a feeling of abundance and generosity. I’m tired of living small; I’m tired of holding back.



Pinup World: Sting, Bono, and Ponyboy

Ponyboy, as played by C. Thomas Howell in the film version of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsider’s, that is (that crush burned out quickly, I’m afraid). These were the three faces that covered my walls when I was fourteen. I was a Police fan even before I was a U2 fan. I’d haul home Police albums, in vinyl, from my local library. It was impossible to act cool while listening to The Police in my parent’s living room, on my parent’s cabinet stereo. By the time Synchronicity came out, however, I had a little funky blue plastic boom box (if I’d have kept it, it would be worth some good money now in the collector’s world) and could listen to the album in the privacy of my own room. The Police imploded before I was able to get to the big city of Minneapolis for a concert. I did, however, see Sting live at smaller venues, such as the Orpheum Theater, in the late 90s and early 2000’s. I missed The Police’s reunion concert, which happened in 2009 at a large stadium in my hood, because I was very pregnant with my third child. I didn’t want to waddle through the crowd (and, likely, pee on the floor while dancing because I always dance at concerts).

I never thought I’d attend a concert at the Myth Club in Maplewood, Minnesota. Never (which kind of sort explains why I was a bit of a righteous idiot and never saw Prince play at the Myth and now it’s too late). Even more, I never thought Sting would play this venue. Never . But when–last fall–I heard that Sting would be there on March 2nd, I promptly joined the Sting fan club (which would have been a much more logical development back at age 14 than now) so that I could purchase tickets that allowed me special early entrance to Sting’s soundcheck. Yes, I paid way too much money for the whole experience, or so I thought. After the soundcheck, however, but before the concert, I used a phrase my seven year old is now using: mic drop. I’d already received my money’s worth and more. The soundcheck experience was that good. It was worth it to have a private “introduction” to Sting’s supporting cast: his long-time guitar player, Dominic Miller and two musician sons of note. Joining Sting and Dominic on this tour were Sting’s oldest son Joe Sumner (doing back up vocals and guitar, and a brief warm up set for Sting) and Dominic’s son, Rufus Miller. Joe looks like a taller, more burley version of Sting. He sounds like him too. Rufus looks like a younger twin of Dominic, but he has wonderful 70s-era headbanger hair. And can he ever play guitar. Rufus channels Jimmy Page. And, to be quite honest, I kind of developed a crush on him throughout the evening. I’m considering starting the Rufus Miller fan club. (The below video features lots of Rufus–check him out!)


We weren’t allowed to record during the sound check. Sting, ever the perfectionist musician, did lots of fine tuning with all of the different musicians on stage. I was located, however, dead center, right in front of Sting. I made sure I danced like crazy. I was the only one dancing like crazy. Do you think Sting noticed? The only true disappointment of the evening: Sting didn’t grab my hand and pull me up onto the stage like Courtney in Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video. But okay, I got over it because Sting was kind, convivial, and gracious throughout the soundcheck (well, throughout the whole evening really). He seemed quite a bit less serious than he had in his earlier years. Sting even played predominantly different songs from his concert set list, so we’d have a unique viewing experience. That was nice of him. Even if he didn’t want to dance with me.

After the soundcheck ended and on the advice of two fellow fans that my husband and I met at the soundcheck, we moved up to the next tier surrounding the floor, to stand against a metal bar, which was a few feet higher than the floor. We relocated before they let the throngs in for the show. In this manner, we avoided the mosh pit, but had fabulous seats (“stands” actually–standing room only at the Myth) where no tall person could stand in front of me, as they always do at concerts. I leaned over the rail to get this shot of Sting playing his very ancient base (I had wanted to ask him during soundcheck if it was from the 70s, from his Police days–but I was too shy, in spite of the dancing).


Anyway, it was great to get to know the key players of the evening, including the main warm-up band, The Last Bandoleros, during the soundcheck. The Last Bandoleros played with Sting and Sting played with them; between the soundcheck and the concert, Sting was on stage for about five hours straight (what stamina! his yoga and vegan lifestyle really has paid off). And, in consequence, my 46-year-old body danced for about five hours straight. The fact that I could hardly walk the next day, however, was immaterial compared to the glory of this concert. I’ve been to many concerts in my life (far too many) and this concert comes in at number 3 on my top ten concert list. Number one was a U2 concert in 2001; Number two, a DMB concert in 2008, when I earned front row, dead center, seats at Alpine Valley–because of my seniority in the DMB fan club (long long term member of this one).

So why was this concert so awesome? Because Sting finally, after all these years, played his Police songs. It was like seeing The Police, but better because Dominic Miller and Rufus are such fine musicians. Here, have a listen and see what you think?