Monthly Archives: December 2013

Chapter Writers Reflect and Respond


During this month of December I asked for feedback or reflections from all Living Chapters players on what has happened thus far throughout this project. I sent a series of questions to all participants to instigate their thinking and encourage their writing on one or more of the questions. Both of my Boston friends and writers Chapter one: Joe Gallo and Chapter three: Andy Cook replied specifically to several of the questions directly. Below are some of my questions asked and their answers.

Do you think this project/process has affected or changed me in any way for positive or negative? if so how?

Joe: “I’m not sure that this project has changed you any… maybe it has made you become more of what you have always been. You actually seem to thrive under the microscope you put yourself under. Maybe it’s because you are being challenged on a daily basis and seek to meet the challenges your friends have set out for you to meet. I think we said something about the “contract” aspect of this. I never would have jogged for a month if I hadn’t given you my word that I would. And knowing that this was part of the project, made certain things possible. Sort of like people who barely know each other will embrace for the camera… except this is far more natural. The surprising thing is that nothing seems grafted. Your life seems more whole, now that I think of it…”

Do you think this process is helpful or useful?

Andy: “I think this process is a fascinating way for you to challenge yourself to grow while exploring your relationships with your closest friends. The fact that it’s in public is weird, but I guess it creates the accountability one needs to keep a project like this going. I also support any creative endeavor you undertake, especially when it puts you in the spotlight, as I know that’s outside your comfort zone.”

Has this project affected you in any way – if so how?

Joe: I’m not sure. I think the month we spent in mutual participation was a good one and the fact that you came up to Boston during that time was a bonus… but it did confirm one thing. When I give my word to a friend, I most often keep it. (Can’t say always because there must have been a time or three I hadn’t.)

Did you have any expectations of what this project would be? How is it the same or different?

Joe: “At first I had no idea why you would do this or even want to do this. But in a world in which people find themselves stuck, this is really an amazing way to get unstuck, become less self-conscious, and really experience what makes living worth living.”

Andy: “I guess I imagined the chapters would be more narrative, as in, people would be creating stories for you to live out. They seem to me to be more like challenges than chapters, per se. But whatever, its all interesting.”

How do you think the month you participated in went? What do you think I got from it? Or what did you take away from it?

Andy: “I think it was rocky. I didn’t expect as much push back as I got, or for the negotiations between us to be so difficult and stressful. I think we were both pretty stubborn about it, but I’m glad we were able to make the compromises we did. In the end, I think our friendship was only strengthened by the experience… though I wouldn’t want to do it again. I know for me it was an opportunity to pay the close attention to my consumption habits that I always wish I made time for, and it’s had lasting impact. I try to remember the habits I started that month, and while I don’t always stick to them, I do sometimes, and that’s an improvement. My hope for you is that you have a similar experience. I also think it generated some very interesting conversations on my end, and probably on yours.”

Do you have any favorite moments or outcomes from what has happened thus far in any of the chapters?

Joe: “Chapter 6: Interpersonal Relationships. The interviews, and the write-up of the banjo player and the write-up about your encounters with strangers. Interesting that if there is an aim to something, strangers will back off when they’ve fulfilled their obligations. Whereas if you’re just winging it and talking to someone because you happen to strike up a conversation, things can go anywhere. I tend to think that engaging people to get something out of them is a crime. And I think your experience, as mentioned, attests to that.”

Andy: “I liked hearing stories of you trying to communicate via post-its and pantomime.”

What now? Any suggestions ideas or advice for going into the second six months?

Andy: “Several times when talking about the ‘opinion piece’ part of our month, you said things like ‘I know this isn’t what you wanted me to do, but…” etc. When in fact, I DID want you to make it your own and I was pleased with how you did it. I’d suggest you don’t assume people have certain expectations of you in this project (aside from what is explicitly stated, of course). It made me feel like you thought I was narrow-minded, or overly strict or something.”

Joe: “That you should live happily ever after…”


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

Thus Speaks the Maestro

maestro violin

The Living Chapters Maestro, Eric Imhof, has not only been contributing songs each month adding to the soundtrack of these life chapters but he has been creating an ongoing soundtrack for my life now for almost 9 years.  Eric was the person who convinced me to actually start using the medium of “blogging” which before I started this project sounded more like a disease to me than a hobby. In his words below, Eric introduces himself and gives his brief reflection on the Living Chapters process. Eric has contributed to many blogs and is currently writing this one “Coming Soon: A Vast Desert” which I recommend checking out. Oh and his birthday is next week. Happy B-day Eric! – bb

Dear bb,
Let me first say that I, too, was hesitant to start a blog (and only did so originally to continue writing about soccer, er, football), mostly due to the caricature of the misanthrope in the basement eating cheese doodles while anonymously trolling people who’s only crime was attempting to make something of value. Although, yes, I proudly claim the attitude of the misanthrope, I didn’t want to be the kind of one that sadly and silently stews. And besides, who has time to blog?

At least that’s what I originally thought, but have since found the routine of posting something—anything: a picture, a quote, a poem, a small chunk of original writing—to be not only therapeutic, if that’s the right word, but also adventurous and mind-opening, even (or especially?) in its quotidian discipline. Having to write daily makes one have to think daily, and that’s no small task.

Thus, having hated the thought of it initially but then completely embracing the idea, I thought a similar transition might happen for you, being a like-minded Decemb’rist. And since we met through writing (I left some paperwork or something in your mailbox and asked you to write something funny in reply, remember?), and wrote even when we could fly a paper airplane from one’s apartment to the other’s, and have since kept in touch through writing, I thought it fitting that this chain of sorts would continue in the digital world– not as if all the posts are letters to me personally, but letters to everyone, or to the air… or to yourself in the future?

And besides, you had/have such cool stories from so many travels and collections and oceans and alleys and… you get the idea. How can one go on with all those fanciful tales all bottled up?

I guess adding some songs to the yarn along the way is my little way of crouching in the margins of a fun-to-follow life, chirping in every once in a convenient while, as a sparrow flying through one open window and directly out another (to quote Bede). And, while I don’t think it’s necessarily worthy of the phrase “coming clean” to admit that I don’t participate in all the challenges you have set before you, I do, from a safe distance, think about what the challenges may teach you/us, and then imagine tossing similar—but more introverted; I am not talking to strangers—hurdles into my own path, just to see what would happen (and who knows?). So while I’m not doing yoga any time soon, I am thinking A. isn’t it nice that someone is trying yoga? and B. what would an equivalent activity—physical or mental—be for me in the coming weeks?

As to the music: The particular songs I choose are (hopefully) apropos to something you wrote. I also think the occasional song should be something way outside your spectrum, just as the thought of blogging was to you initially. “Backstage with the modern dancers” was a reminder to breathe and let yourself get more comfortable with practice. It was also a nod to exercise. “Swim until you can’t see land” needs no explanation really, except to say that it’s generally good advice in writing and living. “I don’t care—I love it” was at first a joke (although I actually like the song; it reminds me of the London Underground), but looking back was totally what you needed at the time! “Clay pigeons” was written for you, c’mon. “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings” was a poke at conventional wisdom—like the idea that nobody writes letters anymore.

While I’m at it, here’s the next one! —A song that Ran Prieur (who writes one of my favorite blogs, which I try my best to copy) says is better than “Waterloo Sunset”:

The winter’s lovely dark and deep!

– e.


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

this ship is shipping on…


Looking back at the the prologue, the first entry I posted before starting to live out any chapters, I noticed that I wrote about the idea of “letting go”. I wanted to let go of control, and of planning my life in a detailed way. The goal was to learn to trust and to watch life roll out in an organic way. I was curious to find out if it was possible to be guided by instinct or inner direction, (or in my case my friends) while at the same time be able to continue to make distinct and direct decisions for myself.  Through trusting my friends and trusting the process and also by addressing my resistance and fears, I do feel that I am just starting (after six months) to understand the balance that is needed for this to happen. Maybe with another six months practice, I will be able to utilize these lessons to help me move forward.

During the past nine months, I have been living on a boat upon Spa Creek in Annapolis, MD living as fluidly as I could taking each month as it came written for me, one day and challenge at a time.  The Living Chapters guidelines that I set up for myself, pre-project, somehow made this floating lifestyle seem much more manageable.  The rules and outline of the project gave me a distinct structure that I have been following as closely as I could.  If I found myself doing something that seemed a little out of the ordinary or questionable (like jumping rope in the airport in Boston or hanging out in an isolation chamber) I could point directly at the project outline for an answer to why this was happening and it just didn’t seem that strange anymore.  I was accomplishing a task rather than making an “odd choice”. And even though I have been asked by external sources to do all these tasks, the self-created guidelines reminded me that it was my choice to follow through with them whether I liked it or not. I sometimes even chose to elaborate on them.

Deciding to live on the boat before Living Chapters began, was in a sense creating a space and such a guideline to start out this adventure: giving myself a physical structural reason to live without excess belongings, a place to create new habits, to adjust to a more simple life style, and allow myself financially to continue working part-time only. Somehow diminishing my living space and eliminating the excess stuff, opened up new opportunities and new ideas. This choice brought me personal freedom and time to explore different ways of living. I feel that the process of living out these chapters openly is doing this as well.

Living on water, has been the closest that I have been thus far to the physical realization and feeling of “letting go”. I have enjoyed floating and respected the dwelling for its practical, simple, and independent living.  The boat itself as a home base has kept me strangely grounded in these changing months.  Like the rules of the project, it has given me a structure for being here, and it has held a place for me in Annapolis.  But as the seasons shift and winter arrives, I have decided to depart, drift away from the dock for a bit and metaphorically sail south. It is time to practice letting go just a bit more and take on the spirit of “saying yes to what life throws at you”. I have been given the opportunity to try out a new living situation and have decided to take it.  As of the end of November, I have abandoned ship and will be floating between staying at homes of friends and loved ones for this reflection month of December.  And although sad to leave “Morning Star” and the marina in general, I am excited to see what the warm air of the new year will bring.  In January, I am taking a hiatus from my job and will be setting up camp on a tropical island for a while. So in the first few months of 2014, you will find me living out new chapters on the island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands.  Exactly what will manifest there and how long I will stay is still unknown. Only time and possibly the next few chapters will tell.

me on morning star


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

December reflections


In December there will not be a chapter submitted on the first of this month. I think that there should be a way of marking the halfway point in the Living Chapters project. An intermission or reflection period seems to be the best way to do so. The last month of the year is as good as any to take a moment and look back on what has actually happened during this past six months. Where did I start at the beginning of this project? Where did I start at the beginning of 2013 and where am I now at the end of 2013?  What have these “Living Chapters” taught me thus far? What do I hope 2014 will bring?

Instead of running with a new chapter this month, I think it would be wise to take some time to let the lessons and adventures of the past six chapters sink in.  I want to start the second half of this story in the new-year with a fresh outlook and new knowledge.  Let’s see if I can use the collective guidance from the past six months to help me make some of the life decisions I will be making in the next four weeks (without directives from a chapter writer) This is the month of the year that I am allowing myself to make my own new year’s resolutions and reflections.

Chapters will resume as usual on the first of January 2014. I will return to each theme explored in this past six months with new writers, new wild cards and in a new location.  If you are not too busy hibernating or holidaying this December please check in here this month for a few protagonist reflections as well as other Living Chapters players.  I am also accepting guest posts about the project overall. Please contact me if you would like to share your ideas or thoughts about the process thus far. I welcome and will post questions, observations or comments that Living Chapters readers may have.

Thanks for reading,

Beth Barbush


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.