Tag Archives: wisdom

Birthday Wisdom and Tank Drift 2016!

Quick note… I went to the beach to watch the sun go down on the Solstice. Which is also, frequently, also Father’s Day and my dad’s birthday.


Summer Solstice was accompanied by a full moon, which hasn’t happened since the year my dad was born. To make an already memorable day even more fantastic, we saw three whales and a dolphin, spouting, tail-flipping, and more than one breach. The clouds looked like an oil painting, casting a rose-colored glow over everything. I wish I could have recorded it all, to convey the depth and breadth of the open beach — the pine and sea smell, the waves, and birdsong — and yet feeling cradled by mother nature in perfect peace.

Each year, I request wisdom rather than gifts for my birthday. Here are the collected thoughts and musings of 2016.

  1. Get off the line of attack, blend with the force directed at you.
  2. The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.
  3. Be as kind to yourself inside your head as you are to your friends.
  4. Plan for success as well as you plan for failure.
  5. Live as though the world were the it should be, to show it what it can be
  6. We have as much power to sculpt reality as environment and situation provide, though we can always grasp further.
  7. It’s okay to realize that some responses are instinctive rather than considered, especially once you become aware of that.
  8. You can’t save other people. They can only save themselves. You can only help. You can save yourself. You should ask for help.
  9. Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.
  10. Show people you love them while they are here.
  11. Being ethical in your business conduct is more important than making money.
  12. Obituary columns are filled with love, while most of our lives are filled with minutiae. Tell people what they mean to you while it still matters. Also, if you really like a bit of wisdom, neck-tattoo that mofo asap!
  13. The Girl Scouts have a saying, that we should leave a campsite in better condition than it was when we arrived. It means, as we bravely forge a new path into the wilderness, not only do we have a responsibility to tread lightly and avoid doing damage but make a place better by our presence.
  14. Force and flow. Sometimes you need to use force to move obstacles in your life, but sometimes you need to just flow around them. Be the river, which is both. 
  15. As you go through life, ask yourself, “What am I doing to positively impact the world?” I have struggled with this one, and it took me years to realize that “the world” doesn’t mean it needs to have a global impact, but really means to think beyond yourself and see the impact you make around you. This can be on any scale: global, national, regional, local, your community (whatever form it may be), friends, and/or family. When I’m having a bad day in one area (at work, for instance) I think about where I may be having a positive impact somewhere in the world (bringing joy to friends on FB, providing housing to local bees, being a loving pet parent).
  16. Focus on what you love, and what you can control. Keep trying. Surround yourself with kindness.
  17. The hardest part of any task is starting. It gets easier after that. Also, the world is full of bastards and backstabbers. Never let them grind you down.
  18. You can have anything you want, you just can’t have *everything* you want.
  19. Things are never as bad, or as good , as they first appear. It is amazing how as we get older, mature wisdom begins to resemble being too damn tired. Don’t sweat small change.
  20. The Dick abides.
  21. Never date a man who owns a white van or knows all the words to Monty Python.
  22. Dear sister! I learned from Terry Pratchett that as soon as you finish writing something immediately, without pause, wrote at least a little of the next piece. That way you don’t get stuck between projects.
  23. Only you can make yourself change. Also, everyone gets Stuck. It takes a lot of work to get Unstuck, but the work can be done in little pieces. The best way to get something done is to begin.
  24. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, no matter what troubles you encounter in life… there are nine hundred million people in India who really don’t give a shit. So you might as well be happy.
  25. No matter how cold and wet you are, just as long as you’re warm and dry…
  26. Kelly Shiflet Treat yo’ self! Especially with high tea, warm scones and cream!
  27. When faced with big decisions think about others and then yourself. Also, syrup is good on pancakes and everything else.
  28. Elders ‘taught’ me (sometimes with a sledgehammer…) that it isn’t about achieving what you want or acquiring things or attaining goals, it is about thinking and doing the right thing in the moment of decision that is Now. Most everything else is an illusion.
  29. This is a simple one, but when I wanted to go backpack around New Zealand and Australia for a year and was getting overwhelmed by everything I needed to do to do that, my mom told me “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” I’ve kept to that motto for the twenty plus years since.
  30. Three pieces of wisdom from the same brilliant source: 1) there isn’t any dream so huge that it can’t be divided up into manageable steps; 2) “Because if you are yourself as loud as you can be, you’ll only find yourself in places where you’re accepted, and then good things will happen….. LIKE WHALES!”; 3) “so feel your feels the way they feel/ and don’t fight them too hard/ all the flowers plants and cacti too/ all have their place in the yard.” Oh and this one, from the same brilliant source as the above. Reduce your tolerance of fuckery yearly, possibly with treaties and a fuckery reduction council. If you are approaching your fuckery tolerance limit, it is sometimes acceptable to share with friends who have not yet reached their fuckery quota, but proceed with caution and the understanding that we all need to gradually eliminate our reliance on fuckery and make the transition to a zero-fuckery-powered society. And while we will probably fail in the short run, in the long run this will be better for everyone. This has been a carefully considered attribution with commentary.
  31. Honestly, Yoda. “Do or do not. There is no try.” That’s gotten me to finish more stories than anything else. And while I’ve never seen the marked-up drafts of the Empire script, hidden away in a Lucasfilm vault as they are, I have always deeply suspected that line was one of Leigh Brackett’s.
  32. Remember why you do what you do…and tell the people you love that you love them.
  33. Always consider the alternative point of view. And fail a lot — you learn better that way.
  34. Dance.
  35. It is never too late to have a happy childhood.strawberries
  36. Tell the people in your life you love them. Every chance you get. Also be as positive as you can. You will have bad days but when you share something Positive, it helps others too. You never know whose lives you have touched by being a positive light in the world. Yes it is sappy but true. I know because I have had it hit me when I was told “You inspired me to do X.” That’s the best. And very humbling, too.tank girl
  37. Always create. The time will go by anyway. Create even when you doubt. You never know who you are inspiring.
  38. Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself – just a bit better than you would feel about yourself without them.
  39. When you feel like you really get it and your technique is working, you are not learning, just practicing what you’ve learned. When you are struggling and confused, that is when you’re actually learning. One of many useful lessons from my Aikido instructors. It’s helped me to be patient with myself through the learning process (on and off the mat), which is often daunting.

    Transplanting the feathers from a snapped arrow to a limping one.

    Transplanting the feathers from a snapped arrow to a limping one.

  40. Get a kitten.
  41. I don’t do wisdom, but always remember you’re awesome and ther
    e are people who get you…not everyone, but then some use different definitions of the term.
  42. I’ve always lived by this “koan” from British humorist Spike Milligan’s science fiction play, The Bedsitting Room: “Happiness is egg-shaped.”
  43. All things in moderation. Especially Moderation.
  44. If you try to be anybody but yourself, you’re going to fail. Be you. Be the best you possible.
  45. You can’t “should” people into doing what you want them to.
  46. You can’t bully someone into loving you.
  47. Think carefully on the negative archetypes within your own personality. What positive aspects do they have? For example, an addict’s determination and perseverance.
  48. If someone were to ask you why you work hard in those areas, and if you were to answer “to give to others”, how would you respond if then challenged with the question, “Then what are others here for?” This year on your birthday, think long and hard about what things you accept as virtues, and why it is you see them as such. Who in your life reinforces the perception of those things as virtues? Do those virtues truly serve you or do they serve the people who perceive them as virtues? …In short, look for the most subtle ways in which others might be exploiting you, and put an end to it for a while, just to see how it feels.
  49. Much satisfaction can be found in the intersection of the serenity prayer and the oracle’s command to Socrates.shuriken
  50. (In response to, “my sail has become a tablecloth/my shuriken have become coasters.”  They –and you — exist in both states. Shuriken were hidden as belt decorations and deadly weapons. We are, none of us, just one thing at any one time.
  51. Perhaps they (and you) are not so much domesticated as lying in wait for the next opportunity.
  52. What I should have had was a plan. What I should have done was examine why I felt so small that I had to prove anything at all… There’s a god in you. Be like him. He’s the coolest motherfucker you will ever meet. The more you act like him. The more you become him.

Finally… these are the two bits I figured out on my own and want to remember this year.

First, the only difference between the heroes of good and evil is that evil has resigned itself to what must be done. Good mourns.

Also… There are people that will make me feel not only unloved, but unlovable. That is not a reason to change. That is a reason to get as far away from that person as possible.

tank drift

Happy birthday. Happy Solstice. Happy 2016. Despite its brutality, despite the losses we’ve suffered, hold close the truth that the planets do align… and there are whales.



The Unbreakable Strength of Humility

What would you like to do?

There are a million bazillion writers out there, it’s true. It’s an intimidating thought, but it doesn’t have to be. The reason for this fear is a sense that we won’t be able to distinguish ourselves. Fact is, there’s something you have to say, in a particular way, that no one else can. Your writing (like all your other life choices) are influenced by your experiences and perception. That’s entirely yours. One way to mitigate this fear is to think of your end game. What would you like to do?

In your wildest most whimsical fantasies, what would you like to do? What kind of stories do you want to tell, and what kind of reader would you like to reach?

This is a marketing question also, but that aspect is for another day over another beverage.

This is the time to consider what you’re immersing yourself in. What are you reading? What kind of feedback are you getting? Are you enjoying yourself? Most importantly, are you challenging yourself, learning and growing?

Echo-chambers, whether they’re full of encouragement or full of disdain, don’t really serve you. The truth and reality of your skill is as valuable as the “you are here” sticker on a map. It sucks at first, but the value is immeasurable. Look at yourself and your abilities. Look how far you’ve come. Now look where you want to go. The only way to get there is to keep an eye on the goal. To use the parlance of the earthy, holistic practitioners I’ve been hanging out with lately: The quality of what you consume affects the quality of crap you produce.

You consume your environment. Not just the location; but the weather, the people and the energy there.

The right environment and access to the tools you need are smack-dab at the intersection of luck and boldness. Sending out query letters isn’t the only brave thing you have to do. You have to seek out new stories, and other writers. Listen to short-story podcasts in your genre. Sign up for Duotrope and see what else is out there. Blog. Get on Google+. Look for those you want to emulate. You’ll find a lot of material that’s much better than yours.

That’s what you want. Seek it out with sincerity.

Read. Study. Ask. When you encounter something you like, find out how it was made. Ask to see more. Acknowledging the gulf between your talent and theirs is only the beginning. It doesn’t end there. Lift your eyes. It’s much easier to build a bridge across that span if you can see the other side – and even easier if you have a buddy over there to catch the first rope.


It is much more valuable to look for the strength in others. You can gain nothing by criticizing their imperfections.”

― Daisaku Ikeda


In the land where excellence is commended, not envied, where weakness is aided, not mocked, there is no question as to how its inhabitants are all superhuman.”

― Criss Jami

Birthday Wisdom 2013

Here is the summation of wisdom I received on my birthday two weeks ago.

Names have been changed for my amusement.

Phoenix Swords: Leaving behind my twenties was wonderful and butterflies taste you with their feet. 

Weezbo:  Shared pain is lessened, shared joy is increased. Thus, we refute entropy – Spider Robinson.  Also, the moon smells like gunpowder.

Sempai Gin: “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.”

Razzlestorm:   “If you travel abroad and eat potentially tummy-upsetting food, yogurt is typically a commonly available probiotic that can settle your stomach. Eat some yogurt each day and you’ll be able to resist foods better.”

Ferd: “Plastics. But seriously, learn something new every day. As long as you learn something that you didn’t know beforehand, no matter what it is, your day would not have been wasted.”

Australis:  “Don’t eat anything until you’ve seen a local eat it first.”

Magician:  “Everything you haven’t done yet? Do it now. Not because you don’t have time to do it but because you’ll wish you did it sooner.”

Mom:  “See a dentist once a year at least. Use an electric toothbrush. Healthy teeth = healthy life & friendly smile.”

Panko:  “Do not regret what you have done in the past – simply do not repeat those mistakes in the future. And always love openly and honestly – never hide it.”

Wandering Physicist:  “Surround yourself with people who try to be honest with themselves… it will make it much easier to be honest with yourself.”

Crow Mother: “The Universe is a short-order cook with no imagination. When doing self-talk, order right the first time.”

Smiling Biologist:  “Laugh loudly and often. It help with stress and anxiety and to see the good when things are not going well.”

Puzzledancer:   “Wear sunscreen.”

Quietude:  “You are the average of people you surround yourself with…surround yourself with people that have the qualities that you admire.”

Miri-Miri-Miri:  “Always retain a sense of wonder about the world and never stop playing.”

Frog Witch:  “One can read, listen, and learn much about the ways of the wise. But knowledge is no substitute for experience.  I will also say that at 28 I looked back ten years and said, “Wow, I was dumb! I’m so much wiser now!” At 38, I looked back ten years and thought, “I was so immature then. I’m so glad I’ve grown out of that!” Life is about learning – you just keeps getting better! Well, maybe not physically. That keeps getting worse!”

Chemist Viking Husband:  “Character is what you are in the dark. -John Whorfin”

Healer Cousin:  “25mg of Gratitude twice daily, taken with meals, and plenty of water.”

Listening Aunt:   “Always be yourself… unless you can be a dragon… then always be a dragon. Also, you’ll never be too old to be loved by your favorite auntie.”

Rock-climbing Carnivore: “Note synchronicity. Find joy in strangers, music, and movement.”

The Power:   “Surround yourself with brilliant, fierce people who challenge you to be more yourself even as your self evolves. Memorize poetry, song lyrics and fairy tales in case someone puts you in confinement. When opening a bottle of champagne, point the cork away from your right eye.”

First Friend in New Land:  “Pillage, then burn 🙂 “

Burly-Q Superstar:   “You find what you’re looking for when you stop looking.”

Countryman:  “In work, there are no better assets than a closed mouth and an observant mind. In love, it is better to be alone than unappreciated. Socially, always be civil to your enemies so as to instill a false sense of safety within them. However, ALWAYS keep your friends closer than your enemies and be consistent about keeping their secrets.”

Raven:  “Get your hands dirty once in a while. Plant a garden, volunteer for a state park work party, or something similar. Manual labor is good for the soul.”

Warder:  “Actions and deeds depict our honor, the truth and lies of ourselves are part of this honor.”

True Brother:  “Wiggle your toes in the sand, breathe salty beach air into your lungs, climb more trees, and once in a while try to find a place dark enough to get lost staring up at the stars. Hope your day is filled with realized dreams. Love from the desert… sincerely a jerk, his wife, and two monsters.”

Hardcorelei: “Never take anything excessively seriously. Whimsy is way more important than most people realise or admit. Make sure to crash your roflcopter at healthy, frequent intervals; and lastly, wopti.”

Comic Mixer: “Wisdom? Okay…”In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.” –Stephen King

And an extra: they weren’t kidding when they said, “Wash Whites Separately.”

Cohort:  “Remember, always sneak attack!”

Revolutionary:   “Alright, this one I had heard from one of my mentors: “A wise person is one who does not get into something that an intelligent person cannot get out of.”

Kidney Puncher:  “Magpie! “Demand Joy! Settle for nothing less! Roar!” You said this to me in a post card. Is that cheating? Maybeh, kinda’. But I liked it. Sometimes we need reminding anyways.”

Finding the Right Mentor



The Japanese word sensei is often translated as teacher. If you take apart the kanji, it means “[one who was] born before.” The implication is that this person has something to teach because they’ve been there and done it before you. It doesn’t mean they are inherently superior.


Worship Smothers Growth
For the last forty years or so, there have been lots of pop-culture ‘gurus’ who propagate their teachings as an image or product. They fall in love with themselves as the conduit, and insist they have all the answers. At their core, they are narcissists. Narcissists don’t have friends or students; they have slaves. Bad teachers will spoon-feed you answers in exchange for your worship, and never ask you grow or understand.

Growth Replaces Worship
A true mentor/student relationship is based on reciprocity. The master applies his intuition, skill, and careful listening to help the student grow. The student asks new questions incessantly, helping the master re-examine his craft and exercise new levels of patience. With no ego or worship on the line, both feel free to exercise their craft. You wind up progressing and co-creating together. A good mentor doesn’t want you to be them, they want you to be you. A great teacher will help you reach the next level. Learn well — that teacher will be you sooner than you think.

Don’t follow in the footsteps of old poets, seek what they sought.”
― Basho

Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”
― Bruce Lee