It’s December. Holiday season. Cheer, cheer, and more cheer.
I’m trying—hard—to access that jolly, ho-ho spirit. But friends, I’m feeling more ho-hum.
The past few months have been wearing me thin.
The violence in the world is horrifying.
The hatred in the world is horrifying.
All the death, the torture. They’re impossible to wrap one’s head around.
And the hate. It is flowing–freely, wildly–way beyond “the river and the sea.”
I have been feeling that hate—personally, viscerally—and it’s terrifying. Since October 7, I’ve felt the need to reevaluate many of my connections with people whom I’d always considered friends and with spaces where I’ve always felt at home. Progressives have shocked and disappointed me. Sadly, many in the literary community have similarly made me feel like a target of their rage. (I LOVE this powerful article by Simon Tedeschi. If you have a few minutes, please read. I think it captures the feelings of many Jewish people these days.)
In response to all these responses (and lack thereof—sometimes, the silence hurts just as bad), my body wants to fold in on itself, roll into a ball for protection. I am sad. Heartbroken. I often go to sleep anxious and wake up anxious too. Sometimes, I don’t feel much like getting out of bed.
But I do.
Let’s Face It. Sometimes Holidays Can Be Hard
Holiday time is hard for many people for all sorts of reasons besides the state of the world. There are people we miss at holidays. There are people we have to see whom we’d rather do without.
And what about the pressures of finding meaningful gifts? (That is no small thing!)
If you are all good right now and in pre-holiday bliss, YAY for you!!!! Truly—and PLEASE share your secret!!! (Chocolate Santas and Hannukah gelt? I just landed on this yummy webpage filled with holiday cocktails for those of us who might like to imbibe!)
If you’re having some trouble, as I am this season, you might want to check out one—or all—of these suggestions. They’re helping me bring some peace and joy in my life at this very trying time.
And to all those who are already feeling the joy—you might like these as well!
- How about beginning or rekindling a yoga practice? I gifted myself a subscription to Yoga International, which offers a wide variety of online classes, teachers, levels, and time commitments. Got 10 minutes? They have classes! 20 minutes? Even better! Those 20-minute boosts feel just right for me, as do some of their 30-minute videos.
- Get outside and get those feet moving! Nothing beats a brisk walk if you want to lift your mood! I feel blessed to live among ducks and herons and lizards (although my condo community has contracted with an extermination company to “remove the iguanas by airgun.” Don’t ask. I’m sick about it.) But I remember my NY walks and enjoying all the squirrels and dogs, dogs, dogs! I’d love to know if you walk, when, where, and what/who you see on your jaunts.
- Meditation anyone? I attend a morning “sit” every Monday-Friday from 8:35-9:00 a.m. EST, led by Jessica Litwak (a wise, generous, caring, kind woman I hope to interview one day soon). It’s offered through Romemu, which describes itself on its website as “a welcoming, experiential, irreverently pious Jewish community engaged in spiritual practice that connects the heart, mind, and body to foster human flourishing.” You don’t have to be Jewish to join in the sit. Everyone is welcome! I zoom in, but you can participate live on Facebook (or watch the recordings and meditate later). I also LOVE any guided meditation by Jon Kabat Zinn. (Here’s one on youtube. They’ve got lots of others.) And Yoga International offers many too!
- Maybe cut down on scrolling. I’ve taken a huge step back from social media, which is a real thing for me, and I can’t tell you how much more relaxed I’ve been since.
- What to do with all that extra time? READ! Yes, remember reading? I’m reading more—a lot more. How and why would I have ever cut back on the time I spend turning beautiful pages? (I still love holding a book in my hands—never quite got into the whole Kindle thing. How about you?)
- And of course, there’s the Tarot! I just received a new, GORGEOUS deck called Witches Wisdom Tarot. Can’t wait to start practicing with it, but I still use the Hanson Robert deck as my daily go-to. Today I picked this beauty: Three of Rods (or Three of Wands in most other decks). According to Biddy Tarot—my very fave website for everything Tarot—Three of Wands is telling me this: “you must stay committed to your path and be prepared to stretch beyond your comfort zone, knowing your best hopes lie outside of your current environment.” The message feels right—and right on time. I am puling back from many of the literary spaces which used to feel welcoming but no longer do. I need to be open to what might take their place. Change is always hard—and scary—and often comes to you unbidden. I will keep you posted on where I land!
At this time, my friends, as all times, reach out to those you love and to those who love you. Know your peeps. Find new ones. Tell them you care about them and are thinking of them. Sharing that love is the greatest gift one can give.
Thank You, Dear WomanPause Readers!!
Yes! Thank YOU, readers! I’m sending you HUGE love! I can’t express how much I appreciate all your support and engagement. We’ve really created a wonderful, caring community here. I feel so blessed and am truly grateful.
As another year draws to a close, I am looking ahead for the blog. I’d love you to join me. Please let me know what kinds of content you’d like to see more (or less) of. How can WomanPause serve your needs better? I’m all ears!!! (And eyes—send me an email or a comment.)
While I can’t solve the problems of the world, I hope to continue providing a safe space, where women can lift and inspire each other.
And … In addition to suggesting you share your heart, I can help you with the task of finding other meaningful presents. Buy books!!!
Maybe consider ordering a copy of Awakenings: Stories of Body & Consciousness, the new book I edited, published by ELJ Editions. Where else will you find a gorgeous foreword (written by Gayle Brandies), a heartfelt intro (written by yours truly), and 49 brave and beautiful stories about bodies written by 49 brave and beautiful contributors?
Awakenings is already in its second printing!! YAY!! You can order yours here!
(Book Club people—Awakenings would be an amazing choice–I know I’m biased but I mean that with all my heart!!! And if you’d like, I’d be happy to join your discussion with a zoom visit! Just let me know!!!)
There are so many wonderful books out there! I’m going to highlight just a few below, all written by WomanPause interviewees! You won’t go wrong picking up any (or all) of these as gifts—or putting them on your wishlist!
Here’s a partial list of books out by WomanPause interviewees! While some authors have other titles available as well, I’m just listing their most recent, along with the descriptions listed on Amazon.
Alison McGhee’s latest children’s book! It’s so lovely. I know at least one tyke who can’t get enough of it!
Baby Be: Dads of all varieties bounce and groove with their babies, letting them know the best thing they can be is themselves, in this exuberant picture book ode to the joy of fatherhood.
Phantom Limbs: Part celebration, part elegy, Phantom Limbs is about living fully, arms wide open, despite or perhaps even because of repeated loss. Each depiction is grounded in survival and yet there is often unanticipated joy juxtaposed with heartbreak as the collection reveals intimate moments from childhood trauma to marriage, divorce, parenting, terminal illness, disability, caregiving, widowhood, remarriage-mortality itself. These poetic encounters are a reminder that while every literal or metaphorical birth signals an unpredictable and inevitable end, endings themselves often have the greatest capacity to impart beauty and knowledge. Just as each poem in Phantom Limbs closes with hope, the collection itself reverberates with the belief that while life may sometimes become a jagged quest for survival, it is also always something to savor and embrace.remarriage, mortality itself. These poetic encounters are a reminder that while every literal or metaphorical birth signals an unpredictable and inevitable end, endings themselves often have the greatest capacity to impart beauty and knowledge. Just as each poem in Phantom Limbs closes with hope, the collection itself reverberates with the belief that while life may sometimes become a jagged quest for survival, it is also always something to savor and embrace.
Roots of the Banyan Tree: Kathryn Silver-Hajo’s debut novel paints an unforgettable portrait of the life of young protagonist, Noor, as she navigates the dangers of civil war in her native Lebanon and the challenges of life in the diaspora in the New York City of the 1970s. Silver-Hajo deftly portrays the tragedy of a country torn apart by sectarian conflict, but also the excitement of the teenaged narrator’s coming-of-age adventures. But when her mother reveals a closely-held secret, Noor is shaken, yet wiser and more determined than ever to define her place in the world. The characters and events that animate Roots of the Banyan Tree promise to burrow deep in readers’ hearts and refuse to be forgotten.
Drawing Breath: Drawing Breath: Essays on Writing, the Body, and Loss, PEN/Bellwether Prize-winning writer Gayle Brandeis’ essays explore both the writing life and the embodied life, along with potent intersection between the two. From the title essay investigating the connection between writing and breath to the final essay, which delves into Brandeis’ experience with long-haul Covid and its impact on her creative voice, this collection is infused with the urgency of mortality, thrumming with grief, authenticity, and a deep love for both language and the world of the senses.
Unleaving: In a book that is both urgent and timely, Melissa Ostrom explores the intricacies of shame and victim-blaming that accompany the aftermath of assault.
After surviving an assault at an off-campus party, nineteen-year-old Maggie is escaping her college town, and, because her reporting the crime has led to the expulsion of some popular athletes, many people―in particular, the outraged Tigers fans―are happy to see her go.
Maggie moves in with her Aunt Wren, a sculptor who lives in an isolated cabin bordered by nothing but woods and water. Maggie wants to forget, heal, and hide, but her aunt’s place harbors secrets and situations that complicate the plan. Worse, the trauma Maggie hoped to leave behind has followed her, haunting her in ways she can’t control, including flashbacks, insomnia and a sense of panic. Her troubles intensify when she begins to receive messages from another student who has survived a rape on her old campus. Just when Maggie musters the courage to answer her emails, the young woman goes silent.
Nurturing the Light Inside: A compassionate memoir about overcoming the shame that fuels addiction and a practical guide to learning to love yourself.
This honest and raw collection of essays reveals the author’s struggles with alcohol abuse, body image, and unhealthy relationships as she found the path to the new life she’s built in recovery. It also provides thought-provoking questions for readers to explore their own stories and beliefs about themselves.
Sherry Danner—a former marriage and family therapist with specialized training in addiction and trauma—recalls her own teenage sexual assault, the memory of which was triggered by listening to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings; a love affair that started in rehab and ended in tragedy; an intense female friendship complicated by alcohol that ended messily; a spiritual awakening that kick-started a hundred-pound weight loss; and an unconventional addiction-recovery method that led to freedom from a decades-long battle with alcohol.
Questions designed to be used as prompts for writing or small-group discussions follow each essay, inviting readers to consider their own lives from an empowered point of view and to challenge limiting beliefs they may hold about their own self-worth. In the final chapters, Danner shares practical steps for overcoming the perfectionistic, shame-based thinking that fuels addiction and codependency and offers suggestions for cultivating self-love and setting healthy boundaries.
Making an American Family: A Recipe in Five Generations, the progressive story of one family is told through five generations, beginning with their journey into the United States during the Mexican Revolution, and culminating with their posterity, attending school online during the COVID19 pandemic. A family memoir, told through a chorus of voices, invites the reader into the multi-sensorial experience of memory and story.
At first glance, Rodriguez’s family memoir is a unique culinary journey, but upon closer examination, it’s a picture of erasure and homogenization through generations, as illustrated by the faded pictures in the cover. Rodriguez is faithful to show how her immigrant family, like most families who came from Mexico in the early 20th century, were systematically stripped of their language, heritage, culture, and their given names, all for the price of “becoming American” in the USA. With passion and precision, Rodriguez serves the reader a family feast of memories, a microcosm of the American family.
Woman of Valor: After a devastating breakup with her college sweetheart John Hogan, budding journalist Sally Sterling dives into her work at Chicago Magazine to escape her sorrows. When her editor assigns a series of feature stories on local ethnic communities, starting with the Orthodox Jewish enclave of Skokie, Sally stumbles into a world she never knew she needed. Although her mother is Jewish, Sally was raised in a wealthy Christian suburb of Detroit as the daughter of one of Michigan’s prominent senators. Religion was the furthest thing from her mind.But as the women welcome her into a world that feels more like home than anything she’s known, Sally is hooked. A year later, she meets Barry Lieberman on a blind date and falls fast. Over the next eight years, Barry and Sally build a happy life full of passion, partnership and parenthood. She even reconnects with her Jewish grandparents, who move to Chicago to be closer to her. While so much about her changes, Sally retains her passion for running along the shores of Lake Michigan.And then, Sally’s life takes an unexpected turn. John Hogan finds her online. While Sally’s reconnected with friends from her past, this feels like crossing a line. Still, she’s curious about why John reached out. At the same time, Sally learns that her eldest son, Donny, has been physically abused at school. While Barry is equally angered, they have different ideas about what to do, putting them at odds for the first time in their marriage.Lonely in the rift with her husband and exhausted from battling the community grapevine, Sally seeks distraction in John’s apologies. When she realizes her mistake, Sally tells John to leave – but he won’t. What happens next throws everything into a tailspin.Will Sally lose the happiness she so carefully constructed? Or could this shakeup be just what she needs to finally define her life for herself?
A week before Christmas 1951, Dr. Ralph Russell risked everything to voluntarily enter a locked federal drug-treatment facility known as a “narcotic farm.”
Sixty-five years later, Dr. Russell’s granddaughter Debbie suffers a debilitating crisis of identity when her father (Dr. Russell’s oldest son), always her biggest fan, is accepted into hospice.
Debbie’s investigation into her paternal lineage reveals family secrets and ignites her mother’s volatile outbursts, propelling her into therapy.
When therapy fails her, the grandfather Debbie never knew saves her, and she collaborates with her dying father one last time to make her biggest dream come true.
Crossing Fifty-One pulls back the curtain on the internal struggles of midlife and provides a blueprint for redefining one’s self beyond the constraints of addiction and dysfunctional family dynamics.
A Brief Natural History of Women: Sarah Freligh is the author of five books, including Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the 2015 Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis, and We, published by Harbor Editions in 2021. Recent work has appeared in the Wigleaf 50, New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction (Norton 2018), Best Microfiction (2019-22), and Best Small Fiction 2022.Among her awards are poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Saltonstall Foundation.
A Constellation of Ghosts: A ghost is not what you think it is, says Raven. A ghost is a commitment. When Laraine Herring receives an unexpected colon cancer diagnosis, her father, thirty years dead, returns to her as a raven, setting off a magical journey into complicated grief, inherited trauma, and ancestral healing. As she struggles with redefining her expectations for her life, she slips further and further underground into the ancestral realm, where she finds herself writing a play directed by her father-as-raven. Raven says, It will be a cast of only four: you and me and my mother and my father, and we will speak until there are no more words between us. And then you can decide the ending. Tick, tock, write. A Constellation of Ghosts takes the reader into the liminal spaces between one world and another, where choices unspool into lives, and the stories we’ve told ourselves fall apart under the scrutiny of multiple perspectives like flesh from bone, reminding us that grief is the unexpected ferryman who can usher all of us back together again.
The Last Year: “The moments that change us, the ghosts that follow us, the memories that slow us down or keep us afloat – Jill Talbot has found the language for all of that. Talbot, a longtime single mother, hopes she was enough as she prepares to launch her daughter into the world. Anyone who has ever loved a child will recognize themselves in her mirror. I didn’t want this book to end.” – Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Daughters of Erietown
Daisy Woodworm Changes the World: Thirteen-year-old Daisy Woodward loves insects, running track, and hanging out with her older brother, Sorrel, who has Down syndrome and adores men’s fashion. When her social studies teacher assigns each student a project to change the world for the better along with an oral report, Daisy fears the class bully—who calls her Woodworm— will make fun of her lisp. Still, she decides to help Sorrel fulfill his dream of becoming a YouTube fashion celebrity despite their parents’ refusal to allow him on social media.With the help of her best friend Poppy, and Miguel—the most popular boy in school and her former enemy—Daisy launches Sorrel’s publicity campaign. But catastrophe strikes when her parents discover him online along with hateful comments from a cyberbully.
If Daisy has any hope of changing the world, she’ll have to regain her family’s trust and face her fears of public speaking to find her own unique and powerful voice.
Dancing with the Muse in Old Age: Dancing with the Muse in Old Age uses current science to present old age as a potentially happy, creative, and productive time. Numerous models-including many elders active in the arts-illustrate the possibilities.
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please write a comment or send me an email.
Wishing you all light and love. I hope you get to hug your loved ones this holiday season and spend some precious time together.
See you in the New Year!
For one-on-one support in uncovering your voice on the page, please consider working with me! I’d love to join you on your journey!