Grace Notes: Walking Back to Myself


The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

I need to get back on the horse.

I need to lick my wounds and get up off the floor.

I need to remember that this is the only way out – through the dark woods of my life. There is no straight path. There is no rescue.

I am the only one who can change things in my life.

That’s true for me, and it is true for you.

We raised our hands and volunteered for all of this in a previous lifetime.

We said, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll do that,’ when we were asked who would battle self-doubt or depression or toe fungus or congenital heart problems. ‘I’ll do it,’ we said, blithely, unaware we were full of bullshit and bravado volunteering to overcome cancer or cure AIDS.

Then, we promptly forgot all those promises.

When the obstetrician slapped our asses and got us breathing after we entered the world anew – red faced and jam-covered from the ride we’d just taken into this particular life, we’d completely left all our promises outside the door.


This year has been all kinds of horrible.

Trump. DAPL. Drug prices. Fires. Floods. 102 million dead trees in California. Drought. Hate crimes. Police brutality. Misogyny. Intolerance. Fear. Racism.

This year has been all kinds of horrible.

Yes, it has been beautiful, too, but much of it has felt as though I’ve been munching on broken glass.

Two of my aunts died. My cat had to be euthanized.

My property taxes doubled. I needed surgery. I broke my wrist followed by 8 weeks of physical therapy which took me five hours to get to and from each week.

So I forgot myself for a while.

I was humming along, grateful and jazzed (or so I thought) and then, Wham!

I found myself on the pavement, seeing stars.

I lost my footing and I lost my way.

I couldn’t muster the usual courage or wisdom.

I couldn’t see how this might contain even a sliver of light.

So, I got completely, resolutely still.

I watched the light outside change. I watched the leaves fall. Then, snow and rain.

I listened to my rain barrels fill with water and watched birds fly south.

I sat at home by myself.

I simply let myself be.

And when I did, I found I hadn’t lost the capacity to laugh and feel joy.


The day after Thanksgiving, I took my best friend to Ten Thousand Waves spa for her 60th birthday. We blissfully soaked with a bunch of other naked women, under old trees and a mackerel sky.

Afterward, we hit the showers, lathering up our hair, shampoo and conditioner smelling of grapefruit and flowers, feeling the last of the tension we’d been carrying, recede. We toweled off and got dressed, slowly coming back to our bodies.

I’d forgotten what it felt like to unwind, to completely relax, to let go.


None of what is happening ‘out there’ can be changed by my despair. Nothing in the world will shift because I sit at home weeping about it.

What will change things is for me to focus on what I can control and manage: my life, my relationships, my work, my writing.

I cannot do a damn thing about anything outside my immediate environment.

However, I can have a tremendous effect on those I talk to and spend time with (and vice versa). I can be transformed by what I do, day-to-day, as one woman in New Mexico, sitting under a spackling of stars, writing in my journal until my hand hurts. I can do something here. I can do something now.

I can julienne veggies and make a fiery Pad Thai for dinner. I can lie on my back and watch the blues of twilight swallow up the day. I can read and plan and write and daydream.

I can change my attitude to focus on what I want to see in my life rather than what’s missing.

I cannot do a damn thing about what others tend to or think about – except in the context that if more and more and more of us begin to focus on what we want instead of what we fear – we will start to see the world shift to reflect that.

So, even this bruising late fall is full of gifts.

Yes, I needed surgery; however, I have great medical insurance. Yes, my cat left me to navigate this planet without him – but not before he completely changed my heart and reminded me that loving someone (or something) doesn’t mean we will never have to let it go. I can feel f*cked up over the state of our fragile union and our glorious natural world and still know that I will not go down without a fight.

So, bring it.

Bring this life to my doorstep.

Bring all this salt and brine and sorrow and love and joy.

Fill my plate. I want to taste it all.

I said I would.

I promised I would.

And so did you.

So pull up your chair, fill your glass, and do this.

Let’s live.

Let’s do whatever it takes to cross the river of death without regrets.


Everyone has a book inside of them. Everyone has a story. Wouldn’t you love to share yours with the world? Get your free writer’s toolkit, packed with tricks and tips to get you started. Just do it. Don’t wait. Don’t die with an untold story inside you.

Copyright 2016  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved


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4 thoughts on “Grace Notes: Walking Back to Myself

  1. This was so beautifully written. Thank you for helping me understand even more than I already knew about this year. So many people are experiencing “all kinds of horrible” thank you for your beautiful writing and perspective. ‘Your writing helped me. May your cat visit you in your dreams and fly free but be felt by you when you most need him. It is so hard to lose those unconditional balls of purr and fur. I really needed to read this tonight.

  2. Hi Shavawn,

    I just wanted to let you know how much I love this Wonderland File! We have chatted before a few years back and I thought I would say hello again and express my gratitude for your sublime, full frontal words!

    All the best, Angel Curtin

    [image: AngelCurtin Director 251-423-7535]

    On Sun, Dec 4, 2016 at 7:52 PM, The Wonderland Files wrote:

    > Shavawn M. Berry posted: ” The Guest House This being human is a guest > house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some > momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain > them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violent” >

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