Dazed and Confused

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr

For Amira de la Garza

You can’t expect insights, even the big ones, to make you suddenly understand everything, but I figure, hey, it’s a step in the right direction if they leave you confused in a deeper way.” — Lily Tomlin

Lately my dreams leave me rattled.

In them, I unpack a very large cooler — the size of an army duffel bag — full of clothes and books and steak knives and papers.

At one point, I realize I cannot carry them any longer. I figure I will be stopped at security, so I leave my cutlery behind.

I disarm myself. I empty my bags. I lighten my load.


“I try to stay in a constant state of confusion just because of the expression it leaves on my face.” ― Johnny Depp

Given the state of things, doing this makes perfect sense.

Who needs all that old crap anyway?

In the end, I can’t take it with me. We can’t take any of it with us.

So, why do I feel like crying as I carry the garbage bags full of detritus out of the house and donate them to charity? Why do I suddenly remember what it felt like to wear the lithe body of that young woman, the one with silver boots and glossy lips and a purse full of demo tapes?

Why does each stage of life start with this molting, this shedding of skin, this peeling of an onion?

Why do I weep over what I’ve left behind?


“Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die…” ― George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone

More than Skin Deep.

In one of my poems on aging, What I See, I refer to myself as a “thrumming hive/a frayed overcoat beaten soft.” I wrote that while pondering the maps and tributaries life’s etched across my skin over the last five decades.

Still, there’s this roiling life inside us, even as the bodies we inhabit, crease with age.


Pencil drawing by Paul Cadden via imgarcade.com

Pencil drawing by Paul Cadden via imgarcade.com

Look closely. Develop the eyes needed to really see.

I went to see Mad Max – Fury Road* last night with a friend.

Although the movie’s target demographic is clearly twelve-year-old boys, it heartened me to see a cadre of crones in the final third of the movie. They wore leather, post-apocalyptic goggles, and wild silver braids, as they kicked ass across miles of desert, more than holding their own against the evil asshats representing the worst the world had to offer.

Those broads’ craggy hearts were visible on their faces. There’s a wonderful, bloodied-but-unbowed kind of beauty to a face that has circled the sun for that long.

The eyes of that woman show she knows what’s true and what’s utter bullshit.

And she doesn’t care whether you see her luminosity. She doesn’t care if society renders her invisible. She knows things.

She just is. Like the air you breathe without thinking or the sliver of moon you cannot forget, she’s pushing the world into consciousness.


A smattering of far-flung stars…

My confusion, my muddledness, my sense that I don’t have solid ground beneath me, is terrifying. At the same time, I know I am navigating another rite of passage.

Life’s a riddle, a joke, a tragedy, and a trickster.

It purposely unravels you; then it laughs at your unspooled heart.

It encourages attachments and then severs them.

It offers solace and then rips it out by its roots.

The only constant in life is change.

That’s the mantra. Keep going, keep growing, keep sifting through these stones.

Walk barefoot or wear red cowboy boots. Wear long skirts that shift and twirl. Adorn yourself with turquoise rings, coral necklaces, tiny mandalas.

Wear Mr. Peabody glasses and strings of beads and velvet scarves.

Remember every once in a while to sit outside at night and soak up the sight of Jupiter’s glow or Venus’s shadow.

Realize that the wild woman inside you has taken root.

It won’t be long until you meet her.


*Overall, maybe three stars, IMHO.

However, Charlize Theron & her posse of ass-kicking crones? Five stars and two big thumbs up.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.

Word by Word, Ignite Your Life

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via Stocksnap.io

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“A word after a word after a word is power.” — Margaret Atwood

Why write?

To a writer that question is equivalent to saying, “Why breathe?”

We write to unravel our restless hearts. We write because we’re curious. We write because we can’t stop.

We read because we need inspiration. We scour the dictionary and walk through a forest of library aisles because we love words. We love how they sound. We love the way they thunder across the horizon, no matter what direction we look.

We write because we have that spark inside that requires it.

We write because it’s less suffocating than not writing.

We write because we have questions and want answers.

We write because we want to share our secrets/thoughts/ideas/musings.

We write because we cannot stop ourselves.


And to this aching need we have to piece together words, to this call that howls outside our windows without respite, there’s also an incessant chorus of

  • How dare you!?
  • Who do you think you are?
  • Don’t you know that life is just a gasbag of disappointment and a big hash of doing shit you don’t want to do?
  • What makes you think you should get to gallop away, your arms full of words?
  • Why should you get to write while the rest of us circle the drain and ask, “Do you want fries with that?”


To those sad-sack naysayers I’d say, “What’s stopping you?”

And don’t say, “I have responsibilities. I have bills,” like I don’t.

The difference is, I write as my second job. It’s what I do for me.

I take care of my responsibilities but I also know the difference between doing what’s urgent and doing what’s important.

Writing is important to me.

What’s important to you?

If you are not currently putting what’s important to you at the top of your ‘to do’ list, why not?

It doesn’t take much time to add yourself to your ‘to do’ list. It doesn’t take a huge time commitment. It just takes one step. One action. One micro-move.

Small, incremental steps eventually add up.

So, if you are like I was fifteen years ago, and you are daydreaming about leaving your day job and becoming the next big literary sensation, I suggest that first you write a sentence, then a paragraph, then an outline, then a plan. I suggest you write every day, like Julia Cameron suggested in her fabulous book, The Artist’s Way. That’s what got me started. Morning pages. I kvetched about my life on paper.

Then, I started to ruminate and reflect. Then, I started to revitalize and re-think my life. Then, I wrote some poems and got them published. Then, I went to graduate school and sat in rooms with other writers, unpacking my red-faced prose, uncertain of myself but willing to risk being seen.

“To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish for you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” —Ray Bradbury

That is how we follow our dreams. Step-by-step.

That is how they bloom.

We grit our teeth and we open our mouths and we say what we have to say.

Does it take guts? Hell, yeah.

That’s why it’s called work.

Not because it’s drudgery or because it’s only available to a ‘chosen’ few.


Words are the work of our lives. They’re the blood and marrow inside of us.

We have to get them out.

We do it because we have no choice.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.

Finding Oz

Via Pinterest

Via Pinterest

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Click Your Heels Together…

“Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were heading for the shore.” — Ray Bradbury

I am thinking a lot lately about what direction I want to head.

There are still a number of things I want to see and do in this life, so the pervasive feeling is, I’d better get cracking.

That said, I’ve never been one to leave a situation by running away from it. Unless something’s calling me elsewhere, I figure it’s always better to stay put. Changes should be the result of a longing that calls us out into the world, not made in desperation or from a feeling of hopelessness or despair. (Although, sometimes, that’s all that’s on the menu.)

Whenever you run away, you go with you.

In other words, just because you do a geographic (move elsewhere, change partners, leave a job) doesn’t mean you won’t take all that’s bothered you with you.

In fact, you will.

However, if you make a change because you feel your blood singing and your feet turning in a particular well-lit direction, itching to go, you’d best heed life’s call.

You must run toward the life you want.

So, I want to move to Santa Fe.

I don’t know yet how this is going to happen, but I am putting it out to the universe just the same.

I fell in love with Santa Fe in the 1990s when I first visited to attend a ‘Creativity and Madness’ conference through my job, at the time. I wrote a grant and got the King County Mental Health Division to pay most of my way. I took my mother along for one of the only vacations we’ve ever taken together as adults.

We fell hard for New Mexico, and Santa Fe in particular. (I’ve only felt an affinity like that for one other place on earth: London, England.)

Both times I’ve been back to Santa Fe since that first trip simply confirmed that feeling of ‘home’ to me. I feel completely at home there under that big sky, surrounded by desolate pines, scrub brush, tumbleweeds, and adobes.

When I am there, I feel like I’ve found the center of the circle.

I’ve hit the bullseye. Santa Fe suits my soul.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

Work or school has typically driven most of my moves over the past thirty years. Only when I trotted off to London at 18 did I completely follow my heart and soul, my longing to do something others deemed impossible: meet my favorite rock star on his home turf. (Hence, my nickname, Elton John Freak.)

I leapt, trusting that the net was there.

The Signs Are Everywhere.

Now, I find I am seeing the signs again, pointing toward another instance where I must take that leap of faith.

I cannot know how it will turn out; I simply know I must make this running jump.

In the meantime, I am starting my own business — one that I can take with me — wherever I go.

I want to see what blooms, if I plant these riotous, heirloom seeds.

Oz is a State of Mind.

Yesterday I asked my mom about all this: “What would you think about moving to Santa Fe?”

“It would be a dream come true,” she said, her face lit up at the very idea.

So, the dye has been cast.

I put out my request.

At some point during the next days or months, the road to Santa Fe will open.

I feel certain.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.

Song Sparrow & Other Surprises


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Hey, Wonderland Followers!

If you want to start to receive my monthly e-magazine, Song Sparrow, please sign up using the Work With Me tab at the top of my website, http://www.shavawnmberry.com/contact. The subscribe button is on that page (scroll down to see it.) I will be publishing my first issue on June 1.

After that, issues will be emailed to my mailing list on the first of each month.

Every issue will include links to some of my latest work, some of my ‘classic’ pieces, a writing prompt or two, and links to my webinars and online classes (coming soon).

Each online class is limited to 12 participants for a four week workshop, including a 30 minute Skype/Google Hangouts session with me during the final week of the class. Sign up early for the early bird pricing and you’ll get some extra goodies (surprise!)

Also coming soon: a Kindle book and lots of other Wonderland loot.

Sign up!

Just do it.

You know you want to!



Zombie Apocalypse


Photo via Pinterest

Day 26: A – Z Challenge

I am the Walking Dead.

For the past 26 days, I’ve blogged until I felt like I might drop.

I’ve plumbed my depths and dug up the bones of my past. I’ve reflected and researched, reviewed and rewound my life.

I’ve looked for connections and missed connections. I’ve written and edited and revised and proofread to the point that my hands became bloody stumps.

If you look closely, you’ll see the evidence. Look, I’m sloughing off my pale skin —

Just kidding. 

I got your attention though, didn’t I?

My feet are bloated, my eyes are bloodshot & my hair’s a haystack.

I need a vacation.

But I did it.

I wrote something new and published it every day this month while teaching, grading, going to conferences, traveling out of state, teaching at a prison, writing letters of recommendation, and nominating my students for awards. I did it in addition to grocery shopping, paying bills, watering plants, taking out the trash, emptying the cat box, and cooking for and taking care of my mother.

I. Did. It.

I kept my promise to myself that I would write every day.

Therefore, it is official:

I am Wonder Woman.

Not really.

More like crazy woman.

However, there’s something to be said for simply putting writing out into the world.

People think it’s easy, but it isn’t.

Sometimes you’re raw. Sometimes you spill your guts. And sometimes the reaction to what you say is underwhelming. But, when it’s good, it’s very, very good.

Although that’s not why you do it.

You do it because you cannot not do it.

You do it because it makes your blood sing.

You do it because it is who you are and you need to honor that.

So, if you are feeling like a zombie in your daily life, ask yourself why.

Why are you not engorged and enlightened and inspired by your life?

Why do you sleepwalk through your days?


Via Tumblr

“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”—Larry L. King

Make a decision right now, just like I did at the end of March: For the next day/month/year, I will write every day.

No excuses.

No whining.

No complaints.

Just pick up a pen and write.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.

Young at Heart

a girl and her elephant

Photo via Pinterest

For my Mother

Day 25: A – Z Challenge

“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”Robert Frost

Remember Your Sense of Wonder.

As I get older, it gets more difficult to match how I feel on the inside with how I look on the outside.

There’s an aspect of child-like wonder that directs my life, even as I sit squarely in mid-life. It seems impossible that the girl I am inside, is no longer evident on my face (unless you have known me a long time.)

I don’t know about you, but aging feels strange.

It’s odd to have such clear recollections of the sights, sounds, and smells of childhood, and yet be abruptly confronted with the realization forty years have passed since they took place.

I still feel like a ten-year-old child riding my bike through the sweet onion fields of Walla Walla, Washington.

I can still smell the sweat and dirt. I can still feel the damp air.

Yet, if I visited that place today, I’d find most of the onion fields gone. Instead, wineries now exist where Bird’s Eye used to grow beans and asparagus.

Our house — the one I sometimes visit in the dream state — is still standing; however, I doubt I would recognize it as the place I once knew. Ghosts of my father and grandfather might gather around to remind me, but otherwise I’d pass it and fail to notice.

It exists in a netherworld, a blurry snapshot I tossed in a drawer, twenty or more years ago.

Don’t Ever Grow Old. Don’t Ever Lose Your Wanderlust.

“As long as I am breathing, in my eyes, I am just beginning.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy

How do we recognize ourselves as we grow older? How do we manage to keep that child we were, nested and warm, inside of us?

Why is important that we do so?

Hope exists for the young at heart.

The guts and marrow of life rests in remaining hopeful. We must awaken with the sense that life is teeming with possibilities, no matter how old we are.

Life ain’t over until it’s over.

May You Stay Forever Young.

Via Tumblr

Via Tumblr

My mom turned 80 in January.

Even so, every morning, she gets up early to greet the new day. She drinks hot tea, listens to the birds, feeds the cats and dog, and then settles in to quilt, sew, read and journal.

She sketches her ideas out and sorts through her fabric.

I can almost see the wheels of her creative mind turning as she works out how she will piece something together or how she will unravel the latest mystery she’s reading.

She’s interested in politics and Buddhism and her grandbabies. She writes letters and makes fresh squeezed juice.

She takes walks, even with sciatica, and other aches and pains.

She talks to strangers and enjoys greeting every yowling dog in our neighborhood.

There is nothing particularly shy or retiring about her. 

And that’s a good thing, in my estimation.

“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” ― George Bernard Shaw

My mom’s maintained her sense of wonder; her sense that life is fascinating and brutal and beautiful all at the same time. She’s still certain she has more to learn.

And I learn about grace and wonder and timelessness, just watching her move through her life.

She’s a constant reminder: it’s never too late to be who you might have been.

It’s never too late to try something new.

Until you close the book on life, it’s never too late to launch your dream.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.

X Marks the Spot

women nature forest sleeping beauty 1366x768 wallpaper_www.wallpaperto.com_72

Women in Nature Wallpaper via Jun.C

Day 24: A – Z Challenge

“You are searching the world for treasure, but the real treasure is yourself.” — Rumi  

Where you are is where your mission is.

If that weren’t true, you’d be somewhere else.

So, if you are not focused on mining the gold beneath your feet — even if it appears to be a total shit shop of disappointment and darkness — you are missing your opportunity to ‘turn poison into medicine’ as Buddhism encourages us to do.

Everything harbors some sort of gift, lesson, or realization under its wing. Everything.

Yeah, yeah. Easier said than done.

I often have to remind myself of that story about a child who repeatedly asked her parents for a pony.

On the morning of her birthday, she was greeted, not by the gift she wanted, but instead by a big pile of poo in the driveway.

She ran outside, absolutely thrilled, and dove in.

As she dug gleefully through the dung, her gobsmacked parents heard her saying,”There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

And she was right. All signs pointed to a pony.

There has to be a pony.

There is always a pony, if you are willing to look.

So, if X marks the spot where you stand, believe that there is treasure to be found right there. Without doubt.

Start by focusing on what there is to be grateful for, what’s good, what works, what feeds you in the situation in which you find yourself.

Sometimes what’s good is what lights a fire under us to make a change and get out of a situation that we no longer love.

Sometimes what works is standing strong in the only spot on earth where we can contribute our particular brand of wisdom.

Sometimes what feeds us, what consoles us, even in hard times, allows us to feel empathy for the suffering of others.

In order to transform our lives, we must, at times, be scalded raw by circumstances that feel beyond our control.

At times, we’re surrounded by braying asses. At times, they might even teach us something.

Find the gift and unwrap it.


Small Changes Ripple Outward.

A few days ago, I watched a Ted Talk by Shawn Achor.  Shawn Achor is a psychologist with a Master’s degree in Divinity from Harvard with course work in Christianity and Buddhism. In his short talk, he discussed five things you can do to become happier.

I found his ideas about creating positive change so encouraging. I hope you do, too:

  1. Find 3 things you are grateful for each day. Write them down.
  2. Journal about your life, your feelings, the things you are working out.
  3. Exercise to increase your joy.
  4. Meditate to create stillness and peace.
  5. Do a random act of kindness each day — such as sending a letter or card to someone you’re thinking of, or dropping a meal off for someone who’s ill or shut in.

So, wherever you are, bloom. Riotously, with a burst of wild color.

Do what you can with what you have right now.

Begin to see the place you are as the place where everything can change, everything can shift, everything can open up.

You know it’s true: the ground beneath your feet is a gold mine.

Start digging.

© 2015  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

Feel free to share this post with others, as long as you include the copyright information and keep the whole posting intact. If you like this piece please share it with others. You can like me on Facebook  or Twitter to see more of my writing and my spiritual journey on my website  at www.shavawnmberry.com.