Begin again.

My friend texted me a video.

Twenty-two seconds in a sunlit room. Dappled light through the window and white curtains. Her. Playing the piano. Hesitantly. Tentatively.

She said: “It’s been 26 years since my fingers even touched a piano.”

She played about ten keys. I stared into my phone, watching, and cried.

To me, those ten halting notes sounded just as beautiful as a professional pianist playing “Nocturnes, Op. 48: No. 1 in C Minor” by Chopin. Because those ten notes felt like the sound of optimism. The sound of renewal. The sound of trying again.

It’s never too late to try again.

Many times in my life, I have fallen into a slump. Tired and lethargic. Mentally clouded. Disconnected from my physical body, from the pulse of creativity, from God, from the wonder and awe that’s available all around, at every moment. Disconnected from hope.

And yet, to reconnect, all it takes is a quiet decision–the decision to begin again.

Play a few notes. Make a new checklist. Write a few words. Lace up those sneakers. Unroll that yoga mat for the first time in forever. Smile at someone from across the room and maybe even say hello. Rise again. Open again. Try again.

Today is not over yet.

This life is not over yet.

And it’s never too late.

Even after 26 years.


There is no rush.

It’s been one year since B and I ended our relationship.

“The end” was a gradual unraveling that took several months. A great deal of unwinding and various matters to be sorted out. The house. The stuff inside the house. The money. The dog.

August 11, 2018 was the official last day.

That was the day we sat side-by-side on the couch in his new apartment—a space designed for one, not two. We tied up a few loose ends. We cried. We held each other one last time, cried more, and finally, with great agony, peeled ourselves apart.

The very next day, I bought a one-way plane ticket to Hawaii.

I figured a change of scenery might help to soothe my pulverized heart. Saltwater and sand. Sea turtles and sunshine. Definitely couldn’t hurt.

I landed at the tiny airport late at night—starlight, a soft tropical breeze, and the sound of Coqui frogs all around.

A friend picked me up. Asked how I was doing. All I could do was sob, heave, choke, mucus running down my face. There were no words to express how I felt.

She understood, and told me, “There is no rush.”

There is no rush to “get over it” and be chipper and cheery. There is no rush to “get out there” and start dating again. There is no rush to be “okay.” No rush at all.

She didn’t know it, but those four words—there is no rush—were precisely the words I needed to hear. I’ve remembered those words daily. All year long.

A few days after I moved to Hawaii, we got slammed with a hurricane of historic proportions. The strongest cyclone on record. Trees fell. Homes flooded. Power down. $42 million in damage. The street running perpendicular to mine became a roaring river, emptying into the sea below.

I boarded up my windows, then recklessly stood outside in the thick sheet of rain. Rain like a liquid wall. Like a solid mass. Rain like I’ve never seen. Thunder shattering the sky. I stood there, drenched. Sobbing. Laughing. Thinking, “Is this actually my real life?” Realizing, “I have control over almost…nothing.”

We plan, and God laughs, am I right?

. . .

A month or two later, I met with a Hawaiian healer and she told me, “Grief is like giving birth to a child. You’re giving birth to a new life—your new life. Your next chapter. Just like childbirth, you are not in complete control of the experience. You don’t get to decide, ‘the baby will be born at precisely seven p.m.’ or ‘I will be done grieving exactly three weeks from now.’ The timing is not entirely up to you. Yes, you can do things to alleviate some of the discomfort—you can breathe deeply, try to relax, meditate, visualize, hold someone’s hand—but ultimately, the process takes as long as it takes. It might be three hours. It might be thirty. Surrender and let it work through you.”

It is what it is.
It feels how it feels.
There is no rush, and,
It takes as long as it takes.

. . .

Friends ask, “How are you doing?”

The truth?

One year later, I am still grieving. There’s a lot more space between each wave of grief (hours of calm in between waves, instead of seconds) but the waves still come.

One year later, I still think about him every single day, at least once. I still cry. I still feel a thousand different emotions. I still have questions that will probably never be answered.

One year later, I am not—not even a little, not even .0001%—ready for a new romantic relationship.

Some days, I judge myself very harshly (“Why can’t I just be ‘fine’ already? What’s taking so long?”). But in my compassionate, patient moments, I remember, “There is no rush” and, “It takes as long as it takes.”

“When you love big, you grieve big,” another friend said to me.

And I loved him very, very big.

. . .

Of course, nobody enjoys being in pain.

When grieving, we want to know, “What can I do to feel better? What steps can I take? How can I lessen the distress so I can navigate through the day—so I can work, earn a living, keep a roof over my head, get some sleep, eat a vegetable once in a while, you know, function? And, so I can heal? What will help?”

So many things have helped me.

Yoga and meditation.
Driving my old VW bug convertible with the top down.
Walking. Running. Sweating.
Therapy.
Music. All kinds. Heavy metal. Reggae. Chorale. Classical. Dubstep. All the sounds.
Laying in bed while mom sat nearby.
Watching the sea for signs of whales.
Braiding my friends’ hair.
Purchasing a semi-financially-irresponsible number of massages because sometimes, dear Lord, you just need to be touched and soothed by another human being.
Laying across Grandmother Rock and asking for guidance. (I got bitten by a stingy, acidic little ant…does that mean something? Ha).
Asking dozens of people, “What is the point of life? Why do you think we’re here?” and curiously listening to their thoughts. Turning my attention towards big, cosmic things—bigger than my own individual pain.
Writing. And not writing.
Drinking. And not drinking.
Cookies. And kale.
Being with people. And being alone.
Less tech. More nature.
Reading memoirs written by Holocaust survivors. Restoring perspective. Remembering that things could be one trillion billion million zillion times worse. Remembering that human hearts are incredibly strong and resilient.
Mental reframes. Telling myself a new story about what’s happening and why. My favorite reframe: “It’s not a break-up. It’s a break-upgrade. This is a chance to upgrade and improve every aspect of my life.” (One of my next books will be called The BreakUpgrade.)
Making a daily checklist. Creating positive new routines.
Small moments of beauty—lemon slices in my water, a flower by my bed, gold hoop earrings, looking up at the sky instead of down at a screen.
Trying to find the humor in everything. Laughing in bewilderment at the madness of it all. Complete silliness. Mama Hotdog!

These things, and many other things, have helped me.

This last year, in particular, I have learned that there are many forms of healing medicine. Sometimes you need a boxing class. Sometimes you need to ignore all of your emails and go to the beach and swim next to a turtle. Sometimes you need to order various leotards from Amazon at 2 a.m. in the morning for some inexplicable reason, and it’s all okay.

. . .

If you are grieving a loss of any kind, I wish I had the perfect advice, recipe, or seven-step process for swift healing. I don’t. All I can offer is my own story, which is still unfolding.

All I know is you’re not alone.

All I know is you will laugh louder than ever, and cry harder than ever, possibly all within the same afternoon.

All I know is being near/in the ocean helps. Salt water and tears are so cleansing.

Well-intentioned people may urge you to “hurry up” (“Just go on date, sleep with someone new, c’mon, hasn’t it been long enough?”) but you don’t have to do this. Your internal soul-clock moves at its own pace, nobody else’s.

When you’re ready, your hut (heart + gut) will tell you. You will know.

Until then, breathe, hold a friend’s hand, surrender, let the waves and contractions move through you. It’s all happening. Lava cooling into rock. New earth being born inside your cells. What seems like a “loss” may eventually feel like “more than before.” This might take awhile. Tiny steps forward. One day, the ice will melt. Try to take good care of yourself. You’re doing a great job. There’s nowhere to be except here, nothing to do except this.

There is no rush.


Because of you.

I laced up my faded blue sneakers with tremors in my belly, surprised by how nervous I felt.

It was time for the “Dri Tri”—an indoor triathlon. Three events. Dry land. First, 2000 meters on a rowing machine. Next, a circuit of exercises on the floor, like pushups, squats, and burpees, with 300 reps in total. To finish things off, a 5K run on a treadmill. No break in between sections. Keep moving. Finish at your own pace.

“Why on God’s green earth are you doing this?” my mom had asked earlier that day, dunking a shortbread cookie into her tea. “It sounds horrendous.”

I mean, she’s not wrong. But I explained, “When I do something really hard, I feel proud of myself. I like that feeling.”

The morning of the event, I set a modest goal for myself: “Try to finish the 5K in 30 minutes or less. Also, try not to die.”

Coach blew the whistle. Away we go.

Thirty people. Side by side. Rowing fervently as “We Will Rock You” blared through the speakers. Time blurred. One song faded into the next. One by one, we migrated from the rowers to the floor to the treadmills.

During the 5K, I found myself sandwiched between two people.

On the treadmill to my right, a svelte man who looked like he sprinted out of his mother’s womb and never stopped running. He charged ahead at lightning speed, barely even breaking a sweat. Practically leaving smoke trails in his wake.

To my left, a woman slowly jogging, occasionally walking, progressing much slower than anyone else in the line of treadmills. She was red-faced, drenched with sweat, her chest heaving—obviously struggling. But she never stopped moving. She wore an oversized t-shirt with a logo for a cancer research organization. I found myself wondering about her story. What’s going through her mind right now? Why is she here today? What has she survived?

One by one, each participant completed the event—gathering in the back to claim their participant medals, free water bottles, and complimentary juice samples.

Eventually, every single person was done. Except for one. The woman who’d been to my left. While everyone else was posing for victorious Selfies by the water fountain, she was nowhere even close to the finish line. Still slogging forward on her treadmill with about 2K to go.

Coach hopped onto the treadmill directly next to hers, matching her pace, walk-jogging by her side so she wouldn’t have to finish the journey alone.

A crowd formed around her, calling out encouragement, urging her to keep going.

As her digital screen ticked closer to the 5K mark, more and more people gathered around to watch and cheer.

A count-down began. 10. 9. 8. 7…

When she triumphantly crossed the finish line, the whole room erupted into whoops, hollers, and high-fives.

She made it. We made it. Nobody left behind.

Walking home from the Dri Tri, I felt euphoric—and I felt inspired by every single person in the room, for different reasons.

Inspired by Coach and his genuine, heartfelt enthusiasm, care, and concern for every single person in the gym.

Inspired by the gazelle-like man who finished in first place, lightyears before anyone else, displaying incredible physical power—honed through years of disciplined training.

Inspired by the elders in the room, older athletes defying cultural expectations about what a 50- or 60- or 70-year-old body is “supposed” to do.

Inspired, most of all, by the woman who finished last. The woman who endured more physical discomfort than anyone else, and who never, ever stopped moving forward. Even when she had to slow things down to a crawling pace, she never stopped. The woman who refused to give up.

. . .

Olympic athletes who claim the gold are very inspiring. But the person who comes in “last” can be just as inspiring, if not more so.

Showing up is inspiring. Trying is inspiring. That first shaky step after a setback, relapse, injury, heartbreak, or humiliation—that’s inspiring. Stumbling and asking for help and then trying again for the second, tenth, or hundredth time—that’s inspiring, too. 

There are billions of ways to be a source of inspiration.

Whether you’re leading the pack, finishing somewhere in the middle, or absolute last, know that you are an inspiration to someone.

You are significant. You are influencing people’s lives in small ways and big ways, too. Someone notices you. Someone hears. Someone needs the message that your life story provides. Someone needs the specific type of medicine that you and only you provide.

Someone’s eyes are quietly brimming with tears, watching you.

Someone is inspired to stand up and try again.

Because of you.


Mama Hotdog!

I don’t enjoy typing into my phone. So, when I text people, I often use the voice-to-text feature. I speak aloud and the phone transcribes my mouth-sounds into electro-words. Sometimes, this works out perfectly. Other times, not so much.

Recently, I was in a hurry, and I sent (what I thought was) a totally clear text message to my assistant. Blah-blah-blah. Click. Send.

Here’s what the phone thought I said:

“Mama but hotdog, will buy flour, whatever.”

What I actually said was…literally nothing even remotely close to that. It was something about how much she should charge for a proofreading project. Hahaaaa.

We both cracked up. She designed a fake book cover and fake inspirational poster with this glorious sentence inscribed upon it, which made me sob from laughter. “Mama Hotdog!” has become our new favorite thing to say. It’s useful in practically every scenario.

Your friend enters the restaurant, glowing from head to toe, looking absolutely radiant.

“Mama Hotdog! You look amazing!”

You have a really stressful day and nothing’s going right.

“Mama Hotdog, I’m exhausted.”

You watch the sunset over the ocean, blazing rose and gold across the heavens, and contemplate God’s majesty.

{Nodding thoughtfully, awestruck} “Wow. Mama Hotdog.”

The Mama Hotdog book cover is now…my iPhone wallpaper. I love it so much. It reminds me to fret less, laugh more, and not take my life so seriously.

The emails. The sales. The deadlines. The SEO optimization (I’m still honestly not sure what this even means.) The meetings. The invoices. The petty annoyances of the day. The big things, too. Betrayal. Heartbreak. Grief. Loss. Ultimately, we’re all riding a spherical rock that’s roaring through the infinite mystery of the cosmos. So many things are bewildering, unfathomable, and—at least, on some level—pretty hilarious.

Mama Hotdog, am I right?!

You’re doing a great job.

It’s probably going to work out just fine.

Try to keep laughing. Try to be kind to yourself and others.

And if you mess up, or if things don’t pan out perfectly, Mama Hotdog loves you anyway.


Ice.

Do you ever feel like you’re trying and trying and trying…and nothing’s happening? You feel like you’re working so hard, putting in the time, making a heroic effort, and yet, you’re not seeing results.

In Atomic Habits (one of my favorite books released in the last year), author James Clear describes the process of water shifting from solid form to liquid as a metaphor for how change happens slowly over time. (Often, much more slowly than we’d like.)

To paraphrase Clear’s ice cube analogy: Imagine you step into a room. It’s extremely cold inside. Say, 10 degrees Fahrenheit. (That’s about -12 Celsius.) There’s ice everywhere. Frozen solid as a brick. You adjust the thermostat a tiny bit, bringing the temperature from 10 degrees (well below freezing-point) up to 11.

You return the following day. From what you can tell, nothing has changed. The ice is still frozen. You adjust the thermostat again, this time bringing the temperature from 11 to 12 degrees. You come back the next day. Nothing changes. You repeat the same process. 13 degrees. Nothing changes. 14 degrees. Nothing changes. 15 degrees. Nothing changes. Frozen. Frozen. Frozen. And so it goes. Day after day.

At this point, you might feel discouraged. All this effort. And it seems like absolutely nothing is happening!

Most people give up at this point. (Or much sooner.)

But what if you keep coming back to that ice room? What if you continue just a few more weeks or days? What if you didn’t give up?

Eventually, with persistent effort, one day you would reach 30 degrees, 31, 32, and then…Boom. Whoa. Whoosh. Once you rise above 32 Fahrenheit, that’s the magical temperature where ice melts into water. Suddenly, you see motion all around. Thawing. Pouring. Flowing. Things are happening. Finally—a big change that you can see and feel. You worked steadily. Patiently. Now the moment is here.

This is the funny (and frustrating) thing about change. Often, it feels like nothing is happening, nothing is happening, nothing is happening, until one day…something is happening. And that’s when you realize all those tiny steps weren’t pointless. All those tiny victories were quietly accumulating in the background. Building, rising, leading towards an exhilarating breakthrough.

I couldn’t run a mile without wheezing and gasping like I was about to expire. Until one day, after lots of training, I could.

I couldn’t sit patiently and write an entire novel. Until one day, after lots of practice, I could.

I didn’t have a publisher. Until one day, after 30+ rejection emails and lots of trying and trying again, I did.

Recently, I’ve begun a daily meditation practice. A few minutes every day. My intention: To release the painful emotional residue of my last relationship, thaw the ice around my heart, and feel better—you know, more “glorious angelic light” and less “garbage truck.” And so I began. “Is this working?” 28 degrees. “All this meditating, day after day—why don’t I feel unconditional love emanating from every pore??!” 29 degrees. “When will I feel different?” 30 degrees. “How long will it take?”

I had doubts that “anything was happening.” 31 degrees. But I kept meditating. 32 degrees. And then today…a miracle. I felt something soften in my chest. Nothing huge. But the beginning of something. Like ice melting. A door opening. A change.

This is why we must keep turning that thermostat knob. 1 degree today, or 2, or whatever you can manage. Tiny goals. Tiny victories. It all helps. Tiny efforts add up to big things.

Keep writing. Practicing. Emailing. Pitching. Lifting. Running. Training. Forgiving. Trying again.

Trust that the ice is getting closer to that beautiful melting-point, even if you can’t see it yet.

Trust that you will be rewarded for your courage, your consistency, your devotion.

Don’t give up before the ice has a chance to melt.

Nothing happens until one day, it does.