Posted by: scintillatingspeck | March 2, 2017

What I learned.

When I started writing this blog post, I thought I would try to do a comprehensive overview of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in this western-Massachusetts-dwelling chapter of my life, from 2004 to 2017.  On the cusp of moving to the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, it felt important to me to contemplate and summarize what I’ve experienced, how I’ve changed, and what hard-won lessons I’ve incorporated under my skin.  I thought I’d tell the stories that brought me to where I am today.  And of course I would do all of this in a mere hour, yesterday.

Ha ha ha ha ha.


This is going to be the short version, the Moral of the Story without the story.  Because that’s what I can take on right now.  Maybe it won’t make any sense without context, or maybe it will spring forth especially vividly without it.  In any case, if you find that you really want me to elaborate on why/how I learned a particular lesson, please say so in the comments, and I’ll see what I can do.

I’m imagining these lessons spoken in the voice of my Inner Wise Woman.

What I Learned

Go ahead and jump into strange, new situations.  You’re not a born daredevil and it’s not as if you’re heedless of danger; the bigger danger in your life is playing it safe, playing it small, withdrawing, vanishing.  Don’t vanish.  Show up.

Nothing is more important than love.  Nothing.  We are our relationships to people, the land, the universe.  That driving, creative force of love is the spirit that enlivens us.  Love is worth all journeys, those chosen and those foisted upon us.

Sometimes you will be naïve and think that you have a situation figured out, a path planned, a cat in the bag.  Then you must gently remind yourself, with great compassion, that you are not in control.

Sometimes people will hurt you terribly.  You will remind them of some past trauma, or they will remind you of some past trauma, or both at the same time.  You will cry and ache and try to make sense of it for years and years, and with luck and time, the ache fades, the insights come, the larger picture of how we transmit pain to each other becomes clear.  Protecting yourself and maintaining compassion are not mutually exclusive.

Don’t trust institutions.  Trust the sweet, wild heart of living beings.  Trust that you and they can reveal truths, vulnerabilities, powers beyond the scaffolding of artificial systems.

Don’t trust the voices in your head that say you are unloveable, a failure, a fraud, an unmitigated embarrassment, profoundly unattractive, pathetic.  It’s a coping mechanism gone horribly awry.  Your belief in your own awfulness will not protect you.

The psychiatric establishment and the drugs they prescribe are not your friends.  You are healthier without them.  You know what you need to be healthy: good food, water, sleep, exercise, love, friends, touch, light, freedom, wandering in nature, meaningful work, meaningful play.  Sometimes getting basic needs met in this culture is brutal and despair-inducing; it’s true.  Keep trying to get them met.  Keep trying to help other people get them met.  Your sensitivity and emotional vacillations are not problems to be fixed.

When flattened by despair, perform a small act of service.

Sugar is a substance you need to avoid.

Open yourself more radically than you thought was possible, and love will rush to meet you.  Contract and withdraw, curl around yourself in pain, and love will still be there, tender and patient.

You may often find yourself alone, but you are remembered and cherished.

It’s possible to discern when to accept circumstances as they are, and when to go to enormous lengths to change them.  A lot of people will urge you to accept when your heart is telling you otherwise.  Listen to your heart.

Everything requires about 1,000 times more patience than you originally expect.

You are not obligated to say yes.

Acknowledging the omnipresent reality of death and honoring and supporting grief are sacred acts.

Accessing your deep reservoir of playfulness is a source of exquisite joy and a blessing to the world.

Don’t put off any apologies, expressions of gratitude, or declarations of love.

Stand in your truth no matter the truths of others.

Even when you are stricken with sadness and disappointment, know that not a single effort or moment was wasted.

You are already home, everywhere you go.





  1. Beautiful!! Thanks for these. ❤

  2. this is all so beautiful, and this, especially, touched me:

    “Open yourself more radically than you thought was possible, and love will rush to meet you. Contract and withdraw, curl around yourself in pain, and love will still be there, tender and patient.”

  3. Wow, Jen, you could access all of that in 1 mere hour?! You’re a good role model for me. I’ve been out of the habit of journaling – or making any concerted effort to take stock of my life – that I’ve lost my center. I’ve been resting on my laurels for a long, long time, and lots of things are shaking me out of my complacence, including reading many of your insightful and heartfelt posts. I’m here cheering on your moving prep, your parenting, and lots of other things you write about that are not coming to my muddled brain this morning.

    • Thanks for your cheering, and I’m glad to help shake up complacence!

      • Now that I have more time, I want to add that I found 2 of your life-lessons especially valuable.

        First, “When flattened by despair, perform a small act of service.” I love the idea of lifting oneself out of a constrictive head-space by doing something helpful and expansive. I’ll have to remember that one!

        As for knowing when to accept things and when you need to follow your heart and strive for change, that’s one of the most important lessons I continue to impart to my daughter. It saddens me to see how many people don’t realize the agency they can have over so many circumstances that they complain about. I’m repeatedly impressed by Kristen’s ability to navigate life and realize her desires and dreams at a relatively young age (almost 25 now), though you never would have guessed she’d be such a force of nature when she was Lily’s age. I think our kids absorb what we model more than we realize when they’re young. Maybe it’s more obvious when you have the kind of connection that you and Lily seem to, judging by examples you’ve posted.

        Anyway, thank you for sharing these insights. I can imagine you originally wanted to share the context for each in order to feel more “seen”, but I think they stand alone just fine.

      • Sorry it took me a while to reply to your comment. It’s heartening to me to hear about Kristen realizing her own power and resourcefulness. I really can’t predict how Lily will be in the future; I can hope, though. It’s good to hear, too, that the insights stand alone, even without context.

  4. I wonder if some future version of yourself is waiting in the new place to welcome you with new dimensions of wisdom, insight and joy that are already waiting for you! I can’t wait to hear about your new home.

    • I am really looking forward to Future Me welcoming me! More to come. Thanks for reading, Jenny.

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