A Nasty Bite

Things I Know for Sure


I joined a writing group for women in November called Act Like a Big Grrrl. It’s the grown-up version of Act Like a Grrrl, an autobiographical writing program for ages 12-18.

The founder of these groups, Vali Forrister, runs Actors Bridge Ensemble, and has training in performance of personal narratives as a means of personal and social change. She’s freaking cool, and I’m glad to know her.

During the program, which ends with a performance in August, she sends prompts and then we gather to read and discuss our work. The first week’s prompts were “The Women I Come From” and “Things I Know for Sure.”

I resisted the latter exercise at first, because I don’t feel like I’m totally sure of anything. But Vali reminded us that we’ve all had lessons. I decided to make footnotes to give credit where it’s due, and that made me feel better.

Here’s my list (from Nov. 14):

Intuition has the right answer when we’re quiet enough to hear it and brave enough to follow through.

Getting divorced and quitting a job can feel similar – it’s hard to explain why it happened to outsiders, and it’s a blend of “Oh shit, what have I done” and “Hallelujah, this bird’s gonna fly.”

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

You really can “decide what to be and go be it.” [2]

“You gotta have more ‘want to’ than ‘don’t want to.’” [3]

It took me a while to figure this one out, but it’s okay to not want a baby. And I don’t even have to give you a reason why.

It’s best not to compare your behind-the-scenes footage to another person’s highlight reel. (And Facebook is a giant highlight reel.) [4]

In being honest and delivering bad news, it’s often the other person we worry about most. But people are strong. They can handle it, and they’ll rise to the occasion.

“Sometimes when people have lost a loved one or are in despair all you can do is take them a bowl of potato salad and tell them you’re sorry…But there is great power in that simple act of compassion.” [5]

Things are usually easy when they’re right.

As a newspaper writer I learned early on to avoid reading the online comments (on the advice of my editor who said she would read them for me and address any real issues if needed). I think that advice applies to other areas of life as well. Things are rarely as bad — or as good — as you think they are.

My favorite prayers: help me, help, help me and thank you, thank you, thank you.[6]

People are going to believe what they want to believe about you, and they not always going to bother finding out the truth. So why waste energy trying to change their minds? Just act right, believe in yourself and keep on loving.

If your life is a glass of water, you can pour it into a casserole pan and touch lots of things but never really go deep on anything. Or you can pour it into a champagne glass.[7] I want to live in a champagne glass.

People don’t always remember what you say, but they remember how you make them feel. (No footnote but credit goes to Maya Angelou).

Everything dies.[8] Make the most of it.


[1] A woman named Shawn taught me this one. She used to teach yoga at the downtown YMCA. She turned me on to yoga and new ways of thinking. I went through a yoga teacher certification program because of her.

[3] My friend Kevin learned this one from his father.

[4] My friend Emily (and Kevin’s wife) taught me this one on a road trip to Mississippi.

[5] One of my role models John Egerton said this to my friend Drew Robinson, who wrote about it in this piece. (And sadly, John died one week after I wrote this list.)

[7] From a talk at TedX 2013

[8] I read these words while looking at a book on Buddhism. It seemed scary at first, but it is true.








(From Maira Kalman’s “Principles of Uncertainty,” a beautiful book I can’t stand to keep bound. I’ve torn out some of the pages and hung them on the wall.)

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