Tuesday, May 10, 2016


A few weeks ago I received an email from my friend and mentor, Ronna Jevne. She was offering an overnight writing retreat at a lodge in the country, and even though common sense told me that the very same email was sent to dozens, maybe hundreds of people in her network, I couldn’t seem to rid myself of the conviction that she was aiming that retreat directly at me. “Ridiculous!” said Common Sense. But I was not listening. “Look,” I said to Common Sense, “there is a ton of evidence pointing to my conviction that this retreat is being offered especially for me. The title of that workshop is Grit, grace and Gratitude, three things I could use right now. And the lodge is only a little way out of the city, so I can take a cab if I can’t get a ride. I’d only need to be away for about thirty hours, which is certainly within the realm of possibility. And you know, Common Sense, I haven’t been writing much lately. In fact, I haven‘t put a word on The Hope Lady blog since some time back in 2015. Yes, when I put it all together, it seems pretty clear that this retreat was designed specifically for me.” “Ridiculous!” said Common sense. I didn’t listen. Life can be pretty dull if you spend too much time listening to Common sense. “You haven’t been writing on your blog,” said Ronna, when I emailed her the news of my pending registration. Her tone was more affirmation than accusation. “See,” I said to Common sense. “I knew it. She’s been checking up on me!” “Just send the money when it’s convenient,” said Ronna, “and I’ll get you a ride.” Ronna and writing and I have a long and storied relationship. Our first encounter happened back in 1993 when I asked her to be my thesis supervisor. “Can you write?” she demanded. Truth was, she needed a Master’s student about as badly as she needed chicken pox. “Yes I can,” I declared with conviction. I needed a thesis supervisor as badly as I needed food for the rest of my life, and Ronna was the only desirable person in the department who hadn’t yet turned me down. “I don’t want to be nagging you,” she said. And I had a supervisor. At the time, I really intended to be self-managing. “I don’t want to hear you whining about how you can’t write,” she said. “The sign on my wall says NO WHINING!” Apparently she’d already had enough whining students to last her a lifetime. “I won’t whine,” I promised. But she did have to nag me, after the fog descended on all my good ideas and the only way out was to disappear and pretend I’d never started a Master’s. And she did help me, even though I whined. “Is there something I can do to move you forward?” said her voice on the phone on a day when I had accidentally answered a call from her. I couldn’t think of anything she could do to help me, so she had to do her own thinking. She praised me when I wrote a little, and laughed when I was funny, and bragged about me when I wrote more. And she published hope work with me, and hoped I would be a writer, which I’ve never turned out to be—though I do love writing when it calls to me. So I’m blogging again, out of gratitude to Ronna for keeping my name on her email list, even though the retreat is still sixteen days away. And Ronna has shown the grace not to utter a word of complaint, or let on that she might be groaning under the weight of responsibility for the good mental health of former students who require more attention than they have earned. I am promising, as you might expect, to write at the retreat without uttering a single whining noise. At this point, it is not clear to me where the grit comes in, but if there’s grit to be uncovered, well, I guess that’s what we’ll find out in sixteen days.

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