I've had a lot of change the past six months.

It started last March on the vernal equinox, that time when day and night are equal, green buds tremble with potential, and the robins return to sing in Minnesota. That week is symbolic to many spiritual and religious traditions--Pagan, ancient Mayan, modern Christian--a period of potential resurrection after a winter of dormancy. In a very real way, I found myself living that process of transition and rebirth: struggling to find balance, choosing hope (light) over worry (dark), and shrugging off the itchy skin of a previous life. Specifically:

  • I uprooted my kids and moved us all to Minneapolis. My house sold in three days--too soon! we have nowhere to live--and then the buyer changed his mind--whut??? how can we move if our house doesn't sell? We found a new buyer, that's how.
  • I got married in April, suddenly, surprisingly, to Tony. Well, it was not so surprising that it was to Tony because we'd been together for three years, and we were engaged. What surprised me is that when I leaned over to him in our hippie church right around the vernal equinox and asked him if he felt like holding the ceremony the following Sunday, he said "yes." Seven days later, we tied the knot in front of 70 of our nearest and dearest. How they all made it on such short notice, I'll never know.
  • I now live with Tony and our kids. I've been a single parent for 17 years. I am CRAP at compromising. He is great at bringing playfulness into my overbooked life...will report back on this one.
  • My 17 yo moved to Chicago to start college. She is brilliant, feisty, funny and will thrive. But she's my baby...
  • My agent sold the closest thing to a memoir that I've ever written, an intimate, instructional, how-to-transform-life-experience-into-a-powerful-novel guide that rips the lid off of treasures, pain, and fear that I've been sneaking water to for decades. The book, Rewrite Your Life, comes out May 2017. I'm gonna be vulnerable. I will walk away from the experience stronger than I entered it.
  • I delivered a TEDx Talk on my experience transforming fact into fiction in the wake of my husband's 9/11 suicide. I walked onto that big stage on June 22. Me, who was raised to be intensely private, stood emotionally naked before the world. I was profoundly honored and more even profoundly terrified, but I did it. Turning fact into fiction is a magical process, both for personal healing and for crafting incredible novels, and I don't get to keep that gift to myself because I'm scared.
  • And, the grandest news of all--I am starting a new endeavor with the beautiful soul known as Allison Quaid. I reached out to Allison because I felt overwhelmed with all the unkindness I was seeing in the world, with all the demands on my time, with a sense that I could never do enough or be enough. I wanted to make a difference for myself and for others, but where? How? When I found Allison, I discovered she and I have an incredible shared vision for creating a healing, laughter-filled, creative safe space for women to recharge, reconnect with their passions, make lifelong friends, and travel the world. We also have a ridiculously aligned skillset. When it's right, you just know, you know?

A lot of change, all of it good, but still...change.

I happen to know the secret to navigating life changes: celebrate what you had (even if what you had was a too-small life, it still deserves acknowledgment), release it (this is super uncomfortable and feels exactly like the wrong thing to do, which is why your ego will come up with all sorts of fancy-sounding reasons why it would be stupid to release the familiar), and surrender gratefully to the future. Can I give you an example of how bad I am at letting go and surrendering to the future? Two hours into heavy labor with my son, I convinced myself that if I kept my knees together and didn't make eye contact with anyone that I could maybe avoid the whole messy process. (I was wrong.) So, I claim no particularly grace in this field.

Yet, here's what I'm learning: you can grip the familiar so tightly that your fingers bleed, as I do more often than I'd like, or you can let go, slap a smile on your face, and enjoy the log ride, coming out at someplace wonderful beyond your wildest imaginings. It's gonna be scary at first. The butterfly is the symbol for transformation, and there are a ton of aphorisms about how wonderful personal metamorphosis is, but you know what? If you stuck a tiny microphone up to a little green caterpillar's leaf-chewing mouth and asked him if he wanted to be a butterfly, he'd say, "Pass. Hard pass. I like it just fine where I am."

Because you know what? Moving into the unknown--house, next level of a relationship, new style of writing, a TEDx Talk, acknowledging that you've got some life work to do, signing up for a retreat with strangers--is terrifying.

The only thing that keeps me going is that NOT evolving is even more frightening. Really. In case I doubted that, I received a call this morning letting me know that a coworker, the best teacher I've ever met and a woman my own age, is having emergency surgery and will not be backthis semester. I’m sending her and her family a heart full of love, and I am reminded of how we must live large, each day, stretching, pushing, falling down in spectacularly embarrassing ways, rising, laughing as we dust each other off, and stretching some more.

I hope you decide to join Allison and me on one of our phenomenal retreats. It's easier to leave our cocoons together, and there is a big bright beautiful world out there waiting to see our wings.

--Jessie

butterfly on wild pink thistle