When I am – not to get morbid here but I guess I will – laying on my deathbed, there will be two memories that stand out. One is, the day I discovered Natalie Goldberg.
I was visiting this older lady named Maude. She was very small, very old, and she had a beautiful horse and she lived alone in a tiny studio apartment and she drank a shot of tequila every afternoon. She had lived with an abusive husband for years, but she eventually divorced him. She had a nice son. And she was happy with her life as it was with her horse. I don’t know how it came up but she handed me this book Writing down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and it was one of those books in my life that I couldn’t put down until I finished it. Like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
I loved it for many reasons but mainly because it finally gave me permission to write. Write my drivel. Write whatever came out of my brain. But write. Up until that point I knew that writing could lead me in positive directions. I had intuited this on my own. But to hear this come from another writer was spectacular. And writing has become such a huge healing part of my life since then that I would not be who I am if it weren’t for that day.
The other memory is an exercise she wrote about in her book where she asked a classroom full of kids to each unwrap one Hershey’s chocolate kiss and put it in their mouth and close their eyes and only open their eyes to write down the sensations and thoughts and feelings that came over them as they let the chocolate melt (don’t bite it!) in their mouth. I loved that image and I use it from time to time with my students.
Savoring the little moments since that’s all we really have. Knowing what you love. That’s all that really matters.