The Bet goes live ~ launching a new book

The Bet goes live ~ launching a new book

I never thought I’d see this day. Really, I didn’t. I wasn’t even sure I was going to get through moving house with sanity intact, but just to up the ante I decided a while back to set myself a deadline for the publication of this novel. I chose the 29th of September as it is the feast day of St Michael and All Angels, and as it turns out, it’s also a full moon tonight which echoes the picture on the cover. I’m not sure why I chose this day; instinct, I suppose. I wanted a day that was special in the larger calender. There are traditions about this day, and about the great harvest moon that hung in the sky last night, and it’s about both protection and fruition.

It’s taken a long while for me to be ready to let this one go. Perhaps when you read it you may understand why. It delves into deep, uncomfortable subjects, and the hero might well break your heart.

It was also the book that so nearly was never written. After years of banging my head on the metaphorical door of the publishing industry, resulting in some much stress and a sudden life threatening illness, I turned away from writing. I turned away for over eight years. I said, never again.

Never say never again. Shortly after a house move, I found vivid, disturbing scenes and snatches of dialogue beginning to haunt me while I was walking or running. Then it sneaked into other mentally idle moments and became too powerful to ignore. I didn’t like what I was seeing and hearing: a female teacher making the moves on a complex, vulnerable teen-age boy. But it wouldn’t go away. It grew. It became insistent and louder and in the end, an entire story began to flood into my head.

I was faced with a choice. Write it or go mad.

I bought a brand new A4 pad of paper and some pens and I began. I wrote like a woman possessed. I got blisters. But I got the story from out of my head and onto paper.

And I got my writing mojo back, after years of saying I’d never write again.

So what kind of a novel is it? I’ve listed it primarily as literary fiction, and as psychological drama, but that’s so general really. It covers sex, death, suicide, obsession and even abuse. It might make you gasp or even cry. It’ll probably haunt you. I hope so.

I’ve posted the synopsis here before but I’ll do it again now.

Jenny likes a challenge and Antony is the biggest challenge of her life….

Boys like you get preyed upon,” Antony’s father tells him in a rare moment of honesty and openness, but Richard can have no idea just how vulnerable his eighteen-year-old son truly is. From a family where nothing is quite as it seems and where secrecy is the norm, Antony seems fair game to the predatory Jenny. Her relentless pursuit of him originates in a mean-spirited bet made with her colleague Judy, Antony’s former history teacher, who has challenged Jenny to track him down and seduce him.

Jenny is totally unprepared for Antony’s refusal to sleep with her or to have any sort of relationship other than friendship. She’s never met anyone quite like him before and her obsession deepens the more he rejects her. She’s no idea what he’s already been through and as far as she’s concerned it’s irrelevant.

Pretty soon, for both of them it becomes a much more serious matter than a mere bet and the consequences are unimaginable for either of them.



What goes around, comes around ~ compost, Karma and kindness

Greenman by candlelight

What goes around, comes around ~ compost, Karma and kindness

One of the hardest things about moving house is leaving behind a garden you have nurtured and cherished. I used to be a gardener. I am still one inside, but after our last move, from one garden that was far too big (an acre, if you’re curious) to one that was far too small, I lost heart. I found I just couldn’t do it any more. The garden was tiny and the soil exhausted and slightly toxic from overuse in the past of both weed-killer and chemical fertilizers. Turn a spade and nothing wriggled. We tended it but for me it was without enthusiasm.

But diligently we filled our two remaining composters, with teabags, veg peelings and the like. Our garden in Kegworth, we’d had a row of six Daleks and when we left, I gave 4 of them away to a freecycler who also filled some sacks with the beautiful well-rotted compost those Daleks had contained. This year, the composter in use was a glorious mass of wriggly soil workers: hundreds upon hundreds of worms.

So of course, the move became more than speculation, became a reality and it dawned on me that for the umpteenth time, I’d be leaving behind perfect compost. We dug that batch into the veg patch. If nothing else we’d restored that small patch of earth to something like a fertile, healthy soil.

Moving house is up there in the top ten stresses. I’d fretted myself almost into a breakdown by the time moving day came, paralysed by sheer anxiety into a state resembling a rabbit in the headlights. No amount of reassurance made a difference. I’ve been ambivalent about this move for lots of reasons; I suspect some of it is based on deep distrust of the bureaucracy the church can be infamous for, and also because it meant that a certain level of independence would be lost. But sometimes you just have to go where the Wind blows you, and in the end, I let go and just allowed myself to be borne away on that Wind.

I’ve just about emerged from walls of boxes now. Apart from my study most of the boxes are unpacked and the house feels like home. It doesn’t quite smell like home yet but I am working on that. The acid test is when my mum arrives next week and walks in the front door and takes a big sniff. I’ll let you know what she says.

In the first few days, I worked solidly at unpacking but one evening my other half told me something that was a pleasant surprise. There’s an area behind the garage that’s what you might call a ‘service area’ with a compost bin and such like behind a trellis fence. It turns out that there’s a compost heap too. It’s about twelve feet long and about five deep, and 3 feet high. There must be a good metric tonne of well rotted compost here. I suspect that this is about the same as all the compost I’ve left behind in the last twenty years.

There are also a dozen or so apple trees. In the last gardens I have planted dozens of trees (literally) and I don’t think when it comes to apples, I’ve ever stayed long enough to ever taste a single one. We once grew asparagus from seed; by the time we left that garden, it was getting close to being ready to crop. We never got to eat any.

Many years ago, when we had our first garden, a friend asked me why I was bothering to plant things when we knew we’d only be there for three years. At the time I answered somewhat acerbically that what was the point in doing anything when we’re only on this planet for perhaps eighty or so years. The thing is, planting trees that one will never live to see in their prime is a selfless act. One is planting for a future generation, never for oneself. If no one did it, imagine the world in fifty years time.

So seeing both copious compost and abundant apples in my new garden was a reminder that sometimes things do catch up with us. The good we do, and the bad. When you sow kindness, it’s because it’s the right thing to do, and not because you hope that kindness will be repaid one day. It won’t be. Kindness is a gift, once given, and given with no thought of return, which benefits the receiver first. But the giver benefits too, from simply doing a kind thing. Yet at times I wonder if there is some rough balance that means you tend to get back what you have freely given. I don’t believe in the so-called Law of Attraction at all, yet I do believe in grace. You don’t have to deserve it, yet perhaps when we have chosen to do good and be kind, grace finds it easier to find us. Maybe you just notice it more.

I tend to (wrongly) associate the word Karma with the negative, of punishment rather than a redressing of balance, but the principle still seems to be there. The evil we do does come back to roost, in the end. Our problems come when we wish to see the evil of others catch them up when and where we can see if and feel that justice has been done. I’m guilty of this at times, of wanting those who have chosen to hurt me to get their come-uppance and for me to know about it. That’s something I have to let go of. It’s not up to me.

There’s lots of work to do, to make my new home more home-like and to nurture and cherish the new garden, and find a job and so on. But now I am here, I’ve generally slept better (that’s another post!) and feel better. I’ve begun to understand where some of the extreme anxiety had been coming from (again, another post). But the Wind has blown me here, and here I have landed. Time to see what else the Wind may bring.

Mind-worms ~ The Spotters’ Guide

Mind-worms ~ The Spotters’ Guide

We all know what ear-worms are: that annoying phenomenon when a song or jingle lodges in your consciousness and keeps on playing over and over and over again until you want to scream. You can’t turn it off and if you liked the song to start with after half an hour of it morphing into an ear-worm, you hate it.

Let me introduce you to the ear-worm’s frightening big brother: the Mind-worm.

A Mind-worm is an intrusive, unwelcome thought, image or idea that pops up into your head one day and stays there, raising its ugly head every time there’s an opportunity to do so. They’re a feature of some forms of mental distress and they can be devastating. Most of us get the odd one now and then but not to the extent someone in the throes of a mental breakdown can get.

I’ll give you an example of a recent one that burrowed into my brain a few months ago. I’d been doing a tour of Norwich with a group of French students and we’d got to the castle. For a lot of my tours, the only thing the kids find of interest is the gruesome stuff so I did my spiel about the hangings off the bridge in the days when the castle was the prison, and seeing the group engaged I continued. “Of course, our method of execution was much slower than your Guillotine, at least until we mastered the drop technique where the victim’s neck was broken instantaneously. During the trial and error time where they tried to get the ratio between rope length and body weight right, there was one occasion here where the hanged man lost his head…..But the Guillotine was quick and they had a basket for the head to fall into….whoosh, thwop, thunk!” They all winced and laughed. I finished the talk and we went on….but as I stepped out, I had a sudden and all encompassing vision of putting my own head on a curved recess, then hearing the swoosh of a descending blade…. then total and utter darkness and silence. I staggered a little as I walked, returning to the sunlit city shaking and instantly about to burst into tears. For the next couple of hours, it kept coming back, not even when my mind was idling along, but when I was talking with people or trying to give a talk. I don’t know how I got through, to be honest. For the next few days, it came again and again, and even writing about it makes it closer.

Other Mind-worms I’ve had have been less vivid to express: a creeping sense of total looming personal disaster, surety that people I thought love me, actually hate me. I’m not going to detail them all. They all contain the element of it being beyond my control, beyond my power to eliminate them.

I did a kind of poll on Twitter and asked how others deal with them. Kev @Atomic_Honey said he used a mantra, about being Swiss cheese and it passing through him. Marc said he uses white noise to block them out. Universally, this is a feared and loathed experience of all who’ve ever suffered with them. Often they are what people find the hardest to deal with of all the symptoms of mental and emotional distress.

I’ve been thinking about how I deal with them. Initially I recoil, in horror and repulsion. This can go on for a long while. The Mind-worm usually retaliates by becoming more intense and more scary. This can be especially awful at night. If it pops up at a time when the world is sleeping, it’s much harder to deal with. Then I found that if I let it just do its thing, and not try to suppress it, I found something interesting. The intensity burns out quite quickly. In the case of my guillotine vision, the effects on me lessened, until I could see what was at the core of the vision and its message.

I’ve always said I didn’t fear death itself but more the process of getting there. Turns out I was wrong. I’m scared witless of both. My own existential doubts mean that instead of being able to imagine anything after that moment of personal extinction, all I could imagine is blackness and eternal silence.

Most of my Mind-worms are about fear. Deep down, hidden fears. Fear of being unloved, misunderstood, reviled. Fear of final, personal extinction, fear of all my beliefs being so much moonshine and lullabies for children to sing against the Dark. Fear.

Now fear is an odd thing. It has much to tell us about ourselves and sometimes about the world, but we’re all so bloody busy trying to be brave and fearless that we become incapable of listening to our fear and addressing some of the deep down issues.

Time to make time for my Mind-worms.

“Osiris is a dark god” ~ on open secrets and initiations

Osiris is a dark god” ~ on open secrets and initiations

Incense billows in sweet-scented clouds barely visible in the flickering torch light; behind, in the deeper shadows, the susurration of voices softly chanting sounds like the wind amid the papyrus on the day before the rains come. The air throbs with heaviness, and the ground feels hot under his bare feet. Hot and smooth and swept clean of any grit, it’s unlike any surface he’s ever walked on before, and it slopes ever so slightly, making each step feel longer than expected.

Ahead of him, the priests with their cymbals and musical instruments stop, and stand on either side of the curtained archway. The high priest turns, his eyes gleaming like the finest polished obsidian, and with one hand, twitches the curtain enough to show the blackness within, and with the other beckons the initiate to walk forwards.

The initiate stumbles, his nerves overwrought. His whole life has been leading to this moment and yet, he fears to step within that darkened chamber, for what will he find there?

The high priest beckons again and as he takes a faltering step forward the corridor falls silent. The torches are lowered and the chanting stops. A new wave of myrrh fills the air with its bitter-sweet perfume and other fragrances mingle, deliriously sweet and intoxicating.

He feels the brush of the heavy linen, lined with leather, as he passes into the dark. The floor here feels cool, silky smooth and a shock to his hardened feet. He can feel the high priest beside him and as the curtain falls, a tiny bead of shimmering golden light appears; the priest carries a minute oil lamp, cupped in his hand and hidden till now. He feels the hand of his initiator on his arm, leading him forwards, and a moment later, they are in front of the statue that people might see but once in a lifetime, unless, like the high priest, they have taken extra vows.

In the quivering light of the lamp, the god seems to smile, his eyes glittering so much the initiate recoils, suddenly sure this is no statue at all, but a living god. The skin glows with a golden sheen but its colour is that of ancient ebony, gilded by ages and by the loving touch of initiates like him.

The high priest places the lamp at the god’s feet and produces a flask, and motions the initiate to kneel. He holds his hands out as the priest pours oil, richly scented, over his head and then his hands. As he stands, and extends his hands to caress the god with the unguent, the lamp sputters and goes out.

Standing completely still, he waits. The surface under his hands seems to pulsate as if a living heart filled that skin with blood flow, and he is sure that as well as his own ragged breath and the steady breath of the priest, he can here a third being inhaling and exhaling, long and slow and deep.

The warm hands of the high priest grip his upper arms and draw him into an embrace, and he can smell the ritual honey on the breath of the man who holds him as he whispers into the initiate’s ear.

Osiris is a dark god.”

And it is over.

Despite my best efforts to find an original source for the title quote, I’ve not been able to trace it. The sentence “Osiris is a dark god” appears in various books, and is said to be the words whispered into the ear of each new initiate to the ancient mystery cults of Egypt and elsewhere. I’m pretty sure it’s mentioned in the writings of occultist Dion Fortune and in the vampire novels of Anne Rice, but since I’ve not been able to locate the exact places, I’d rather not be quoted on those.

An open secret is something that many people know about but which is not talked about. Bit like Fight Club, actually (The first rule of Fight Club is you never talk about Fight Club. My bad). It’s a passage to a kind of membership, the knowing of this secret. I read an account somewhere of the rites of passage of Mormons when they are baptised; according to what I read, at a certain point in the proceedings, each candidate has their true name whispered in their ear. Some people never discover that there are only two names, one for women, and the other for men. They take that secret to the grave, never realising it was an open secret.

Rites of passage are few and far between now in our culture, but open secrets are still very much a part of it. You have to pass certain rites and rituals to be entrusted with them.

A number of years ago, I was sent to the breast cancer clinic after some worrying symptoms occurred by doctor thought needed looking by someone with greater expertise. At the time the unit was housed in a series of temporary buildings, porta-cabins of sorts and I discovered that some thought had gone into the set-up. There were two waiting rooms. One where you could wait alongside your husband or boyfriend. This was light and airy. After the initial paperwork, you were offered the option of sitting in the women only waiting room. This was a darker, more intimate area, with soft seating and diffused light. This is where the oracles sat, the scarred cheerful ladies who’d been several rounds in the ring, and who were relaxed and unperturbed to find themselves here again.

The thing is, the first time I came here, I was terrified,” offered one. “I didn’t know what to expect. Now I do. It’s only a word, you know, love. Cancer. That’s all it is, a word.”

At this point, the other newcomer in the room bolted back to the light and her boyfriend, the mention of that word too much for her. I sat and listened and took in much of what was said. The tales of chemotherapy, drug trials, mastectomies, hot sweats and other problems. The dark quiet of the room and the low voices felt like I was being initiated into some clan. I was soothed by these tales of survival and humour and vitality and strength. They were telling me the open secrets of that cancer, ones people don’t talk about publicly because there is a fear and a dread of mentioning it.

I was called through for my consultation, and after twenty minutes I could go, with a clean bill of health. They never adequately explained what was actually happening, but as far as I was concerned, that didn’t matter as long as it wasn’t the feared outcome.

The thing was, you went OUT a different way to the way you came in. You didn’t re-enter that darkened sanctuary and see those women still waiting; you went out via the main waiting room with the light and the ladies sitting with their menfolk.

Initiation is a strange thing. You often don’t realise what you have been initiated into until much later, because the open secrets of what you’ve learned are not to be spoken of, discussed and pulled apart. The words are yours to ponder and muse upon but not to be lightly spoken.

Osiris is a dark god

Cancer is just a word

Your true name is Sarah

Seals, saints & soul friends ~ unravelling my Celtic knots


Seals, saints & soul friends ~ unravelling my Celtic knots


The seals sang to us the first evening on Lindisfarne.  We went down to the beach after dinner to watch the sunset and I was stunned to hear this plaintive, mesmerising sound emanating from a sandbank not far off shore. Softer than wolf-song and not as melancholy and bone-shivering as whale-song, the sound echoed along the shore line while the singers remained unseen, too far off in the gathering dusk to be visible. We picked our way across mussels and rocks to St Cuthbert’s island and stood breathing in the magic of the place till we saw the tide was covering more and more of the rocks and we scurried back to the mainland before it became impassable. The next morning, before much of the island was stirring, we returned to pray, to reaffirm our marriage vows some 25 years after we made them. Our witnesses were the seals and the sea-birds who watched us and called their blessings on us. I cried.

I’ve long had an affinity with seals, and with many creatures. I rescue worms. I cry over dead birds. I talk to frogs (and anything else for that matter). And I know that probably makes me as mad as a biscuit in the eyes of many. But it would seem I am in good company. Cuthbert kept vigil on that rocky islet, up to his knees in icy water, and was guarded and warmed by wild seals and otters. It only takes a short trawl through the lives of the saints to find that many Celtic saints experienced extraordinary encounters with wild beasts. Hagiography aside, these stories have a ring of truth. Once, some years ago, we found a young seal who was undernourished and storm battered and I sat for 5 hours on a freezing beach waiting for the RSPCA to arrive. The seal slowly made his way up the beach to sit next to me, leaning his bulk against my leg and gazing up at me, and singing his lonely song.

While we were away, I read a book called Water From An Ancient Well, which was about these mad saints of the Celtic world and found my own faith in that strand of spirituality reignited. I’d turned away because the external trappings had become more important (or so it seemed) than anything deeper. But I began to think again about certain aspects of this deep, ancient and life-affirming strand and found that it chimed ever more deeply with my own experiences. God-in-everything, that panentheism that many Christians disdain or denigrate or even demonise, seems to me so much more relevant that it did even ten years ago. To care for the environment, for the living beings around us is so much more vibrant when you encounter it with the realisation that they are as sentient, as alive and valued as we are. My new garden has frogs(we move this week but took our bees there last night) and tiny ones no bigger than my thumb abound. I scooped one up, and after she climbed out of my closed hand, pushing her cool nose through the loop between finger and thumb, she sat on my thumb, watching me, bright eyes shining with life. That something this small sits blinking on my hand makes something long buried deep within me leap for joy.

One of the other features I began to look at anew was that of the Anam cara, the soul-friend. I’d read the book of that name years ago, but had let a lot of the thought behind it slip away. A soul-friend is hard to define but it’s someone with whom you have a deep, mutual connection that goes beyond either the usual bounds of friendship or even that of blood kinship. There are many examples I could give of such a friendship, but this would become a vast and unwieldly essay verging on a thesis. A soul-friend is someone with whom your connection is so deep that time and distance matter little; there is something eternal about them. There can be a phase where one is the teacher of the other but the relationship is also mutual. It’s a love than is quite different to either a romantic love and yet can be too easily mistaken for it. Many marriages though can be between soul-friends, because having one does not preclude the other.

We live in a time when communication has been easier than at any time in history, and yet there is a deep loneliness in society. I have long thought that a growth in understanding of this ancient form of connection would ease this burden of loneliness; indeed, I talked a great deal with someone I believed to be a soul-friend about how it might be possible to create a renewal of this to act as a powerful soul medicine, or therapy. That friendship ended (devastating me) but not that kernel of thought of how to bring back and encourage others to seek their own Anam Caras for the solace of all.

I’m going to be working on it.


10 Days in Nicaragua: Lessons in Human Nature

 Some times you come across someone whose ideas and ideals resonate with your own.  This guest post from Jonathan who writes the Serving Others blog is from very much such a person. Over to you!

10 Days in Nicaragua: Lessons in Human Nature


by Jonathan Lareau


“The greatest risk in action is the risk of revelation, and that is also action’s greatest joy. No one can know us fully, not even ourselves, but when we act, something of our inner mystery often emerges, and it can shock or delight us when it does.” –Parker Palmer



I knew it would be a challenging experience, but I could never have imagined the extent to which it would push all of my boundaries, and how it would ultimately expand my mind and soul.


From March 9-18, 25 people—from various parts of Ontario, Canada—travelled to Nicaragua to work in Granada, of the poorest neighbourhoods of the capital city of Managua. Ten adults and 15 teens coming together for a common purpose.


The trip was led by, a social enterprise that improves the lives of the people there. In 10 years, more than 1,000 participants from Canada, the US, and beyond have made this trip to Nicaragua, still one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere with most people living on less than $2 per day.


In the six months leading up to the trip, our group talked about what to expect. But nothing could have prepared us for the complete assault on our senses that would occur, challenging our reality and everything we were accustomed to. Young kids sleeping on the street. People living on garbage dumps. Barbed wire everywhere. The heat. The smells. Most people live on next to nothing, on dirt floors and in tin shacks. Natural disasters, corrupt governments, and wars have torn this country apart over the last 40 years.


We were divided up into groups of three or four and hosted by various Nicaraguan families, interacting with our hosts mainly over meals. Despite the language barrier, we managed to communicate, with lots of effort on both sides. We were divided into smaller groups and assigned specific jobs in Granada, based on our experience and how we could best contribute. Some were put on house-building teams. Some taught English. Some painted huge, colorful murals. Others went to work building a security wall around the school—digging trenches, mixing cement, laying stones, and building reinforcement bars.


After short stints chipping stone, moving rocks and debris, and building re-bar, I finally found my niche—building book shelves and room dividers with Jack, a retired minister and experienced carpenter. We all worked alongside local Nicaraguans. They—and we—were somewhat guarded, skeptical, and distant at first. It is human nature to distrust and fear what you don’t know. But within a day, once we got to know each other, the language and cultural barriers just melted away. It didn’t take long before we were laughing and joking together, and making real progress on all fronts.


Perhaps the most powerful moment of the entire trip for me was when we first arrived at the school on the first work day. All the school kids, families, workers, and teachers were gathered to greet us. As I sat with these people—the bright-eyed school kids smiling up at me, fascinated, watching my every move, trying to connect—it really hit home why I was there. I felt love and goodness in an almost dizzying way, unlike anything I have ever known.


The schedule was intense and relentless—between the job site, group outings, discussion, preparation—we were on the go for 15 hours a day. I would discover that the total cultural immersion and letting go of “my” ways of doing things would lead to incredible growth.


On the fourth work day I decided to stay late to prep for the next day, when the local workers began to congregate around me for some reason. Against my usual nature, I forced myself to stop planning, and simply be in the moment with the others, and just hang out with them. Turned out to be one of the most communal and connected moments of the trip as we let off steam, laughing and joking with one another as if we’d been friends for years. It’s amazing what happens when you are present and paying attention.


Although both cultures seem so different at first, once you scratch the surface I discovered that there is a commonality that binds us together. We all respond to love, kindness, enthusiasm, and smiles. The more you put yourself out there, the more you get back. If nations and governments were to put the same kind of effort into listening and understanding each other, perhaps the world would be a different place.


At the end of the final work day, we toured all the projects to see the progress that had been made. Three houses had been built and about 400 feet of the security wall erected. Two beautiful murals had been created. Six shelving units and four room dividers were completed. But most importantly, a whole lot of love and respect had grown between two very different cultures in a very short time.


When it was finally time to say goodbye, it was an incredibly heart-wrenching experience and it hit me much harder than I expected. In a few short days we had become so close with these people. Lots of tears all around.


On the final night with our host family, they threw a goodbye party for us. A simple and modest affair by our standards, but they all make such an effort and are so proud. It is not what they have, or how much they have, but rather the people and relationships they value the most. Unlike North Americans, this culture values living in and for the moment. They have so little, and have been through such hardship, yet they seem happy and hopeful.


After the group left, I ended up staying another week to see more of the country. But how empty, self-indulgent, and meaningless it all seemed, sitting on the beach or walking up a volcano, compared to the intense and rewarding time I had with my co-workers at the work site. Paradise, no matter how beautiful, is not a place, and can only be found in your heart, through meaningful interaction.


A few other things struck me during this trip.


In North America, time seems to move very quickly, days and weeks merging into the next as we go about our routines. But 10 days in Nicaragua felt like two months. The continuous assault on my senses, with nothing routine or predictable, seemed to slow everything right down. I felt like I was squeezing every last drop of life out of every day.


We spent a lot of time driving through the streets of Managua, to and from the worksite and other locations. If you think driving in North America is bad, a few hours on these roads makes our drivers look like angels! Yet not once did I see or hear anyone honking in anger, or giving someone the finger! There was patience, understanding, and peace amidst the chaos.


I travelled thousands of kilometres to help a small community in need. But there are so many people in need everywhere, it’s almost paralyzing as I think about where to start. It also makes me wonder if I am doing enough for those who need help closer to home. The simple lesson for me is to become involved in some way, any way. Separation breeds indifference, unity produces compassion. And when I serve others, I do not hurt them.


I know these experiences will fade, but I also know that I have become more conscious—I cannot simply slip back to life the way I knew it.


While I was in Nicaragua, I felt hyper aware and in the moment. I have never felt so incredibly alive. I know I brought the best version of myself on that trip, as well as openness, enthusiasm, and a willingness to stretch way beyond my usual comfort zone.


And above all, I will remember the incredible power of people coming together for the common purpose of doing something positive.