The Year of Living Dangerously


“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”Philip Pullman



There’s a lot of grief and sadness surfacing now. I’ve been pushing, pushing hard all year. Since the end of the summer, I’ve had little to no time to devote to taking care of myself, something I sorely need to do. While I sleep, and just beforehand, is the only downtime I have. Anyone who knows me well knows this is less than optimal for someone like me. I thrive only if I have enough solitude. I am not certain how to carve out time for myself (since I started to take care of my mother, who now lives with me full time) but I have to do it. I have to grab moments whenever I can — at the bus stop, during my office hours, late at night, early in the morning. I have to allow myself to stretch out and take up all the space I need.

I long to soak under the stars.

I long to lick the cake bowl clean.

Life and Death.

“Every death is like the burning of a library.” ~ Alex Haley


My beloved teacher and colleague, Lynn Nelson, died on November 6.

And I never got to say goodbye. I never got to say thank you or tell him how much he changed my life, changed my DNA, changed my bones and marrow. He changed my heart: as a person, as a teacher, as a writer. What a huge heart that man had. He had this incredible capacity to throw down the Welcome mat, and invite anyone who wanted to come in, to come in. He reminded me it is OK to feel what I feel. To dive deep and dig in the muck. To mulch and seed. To rake and prune and plant. He valued even the smallest, most quiet message that spirit sent him. I keep visualizing him sprawled out on the ground in his backyard, dog tucked in close, watching a swirl of stars as he let the day go.

They drummed at his memorial service. They sang and split us open; left us raw, full of wonder.

Heart Broken.


I’ve been white knuckling it, scared senseless, health in peril — flush with all the shit I haven’t been willing or able to feel.

I blew up — blood, fluids — my legs swollen, aching. My ankles — bruised trunks — running with too much sap, too much river water.

Engorged with tears, I couldn’t cry.

I couldn’t sit down. I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t sleep…

I heard the news today.


Both of my closest friends have cancer.

One found out in October. The other yesterday. Ovarian and breast.

Ever since I heard, my heart’s been pounding, furious. It’s slamming its fist into a wall.

God damn. God. Damn.

In lots of ways I feel so much, I don’t know what to do.

It terrifies me, this wound.

It also makes me human.

Taking the Long View.


I look for the silver lining. I look for the sense I can find. I look for the jagged pieces I cough up.

Surely, they’ll form some sort of pattern, some shape I can read, like tea leaves or a rune cast.

Lost Souls.

I keep encountering others who are lost. We meet on the road through hell and nod in recognition. I know them. I see their bones poking out through their skin.

Sometimes they’ve left part of themselves in a ditch by the side of the road.

Still, some of them maintain they’re on track. “I know the way. I know where I’m going,” they say as they snarl and shift shape.

They cannot even welcome themselves in from the wilderness.

Let Go. Let God.

I learned how much trouble I have letting go. I scratch and claw. I hang on by the skin of my teeth. Everything hurts, even joy.

Nothing makes sense, unless I’m writing. Unless I am soaking in words, I’m bereft. Again and again, stories save my life.

Burn, baby, burn.

I think about kindling. Bits of string. Old versions of myself ready to go on the funeral pyre.

Life is about change, loss, death, birth. A cosmic joke. A sublime riddle.

We’re here to love each other.

Soon everything will burn, even you. Even me. We’re here to stand in the sunlight and the rain and learn how to love each other.

We’re here to marvel under the stars and love each other.

That’s it.

© 2014  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

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3 thoughts on “The Year of Living Dangerously

  1. Not that it helps… it doesn’t always help to know that you are not alone, but you are not alone. I had a year like your’s, 3 years ago this December. The other day at my myofascial therapy (MFR) I had a moment of clarity, when I realized that the changing of the weather, the chill of December, the beautiful lights, all the things that I love and enjoy about December… also remind me of trauma. They remind me of a time when I couldn’t find the time to self-care and be mindful, when things fell apart… So, now that you see it all and can put it in such exquisite words, find a few moments. Lie in that hot tub and release the tears. Bath in the salty water and feel that broken heart beat. It’s all you can do, when you’re IN it. Compassionate and empathetic hugs, sent your way.

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