What we do here:

Work on our stuff. Dissolve stuck. Play. Experiment. Rewrite patterns. We take sometimes-heavy things* and we make them more fun, playful, manageable.

I also write about my conversations with walls and monsters, and what it's like to work on a pirate ship. Good times.

* Sometimes-heavy things include: mindfulness and presence, pain and trauma, business-growing, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity


Scenes from a Saturday morning.

Scene 1.

A classroom. Chalkboard. Teacher at front of the room, strict, ruler in hand, demanding attention.

Teacher: Class! Is it or is it not incredibly stupid for Havi — a known Highly Sensitive Person with hyperacusis who is also recovering from [scary life stuff] and deals with PTSD, flashbacks and recurring nightmares — to have embarked on what is essentially a no-plans no-clear-end-date cross-country trip in a camper?

Class: Hysterical laughter

Camera pans out, it is revealed that the class is comprised of Havi’s monsters.


Havi: Present time present time present time present time.

Now is not then. Now is now. Now is better. Now is just reminding us of then.

There is a very big difference. We are here and now. We want to be here and now.

Okay, I need the wisest, calmest, most grounded Havi Bell to come to the front of the V, because right now we’re in trauma state.

Good. Wisest me, I need you to say steady, wise things while the rest of us make internal safe rooms. In the meantime I’m going to go ask Yelp to find us a quiet cafe where we can sit and process. Yes? Thank you.

Wisest me.

Wisest me: You’re doing great, kiddo. We’ve got this. Nothing is wrong. This is completely normal and to be expected.

Twenty four days on the road, not enough sleep, getting a cold and your period at the same time. Not to mention Thanksgiving, which is always hugely triggering (remember how last year we had a homelessness freakout while sitting in the living room of our own house that we own, completely forgetting that now isn’t then?). Plus this big heart-expanding new love-trust-joy thing that you’re going through. It’s a lot.

It’s a lot to handle, and you are doing great. These are normal triggers, we’ve dealt with them before.

You are safe. You are loved. You are doing so well.

All you need to do is keep breathing, one foot in front of the other, we are getting you to safe space. You have safe passage all the way there, hold my hand.

Remember how each time we get triggered we collect more clues? We’re going to have the best clues from this round, the best thank yous. We are equipped for this.

You’re doing great. Just breathe. Breathe into your heart. Yup. You remember. We’ve trained on this. Inhale trust, exhale steadiness. Beautiful. We’ve got this.

Back in the classroom…

Teacher: Let the debate begin!

One of Havi’s monsters approaches the podium. He looks like a ten year old kid, slightly anxious. He consults his notecards. Let’s call him Timmy.

Timmy: (reading) Havi is scared. This is not good. We don’t want Havi to be scared. Havi needs to be safe. Havi should stay at home and have internal adventures instead of going out into the world and having adventures there, because when she gets triggered there is a lot of recovery that needs to happen. Havi needs to always have a place to be that feels safe for her. She shouldn’t have to fend for herself anymore.

Everyone applauds, including me, because Timmy is so earnest and sweet, and he feels so strongly about this.

Teacher: Who wants to give the arguments of the opposing side?

Nervous laughter.

Me: I guess I will.


Debate club.

Me: I mean, they’re not really arguments, and they’re certainly not opposing. Timmy is right. Havi deals with a lot of fear and pain and vulnerability in life, and right now she is having a moment, for sure.

Let the record show that I am completely on board with the Keep Havi Safe Forever agenda. I just want to suggest that right now she is safe, at some level she knows she is safe, and this adventure is not harming her, it is expanding her knowledge that she is safe and held.

Look how well she was able to take care of herself this morning. Sure, there was some below-surface panic. And yet look what she was able to do from within that…

She called on her wisest selves. She did the practices, followed the protocols. She found the perfect cafe, the just-right bathroom, lemon-ginger tea and a crimson couch. She was able to see all the good and say thank you.

She remembered truth: That this is just a life-moment, and that reminded of then is not the same as actual-then. She was able to get herself back to now. Even from the road, even functioning on only a few hours of sleep and dealing with body stuff.

I think Havi is doing great at keeping herself safe during this adventure. Maybe this experience good for her.

Pausing for thank-you time.

Thank you, beautiful cafe that was the exact right place for a Havi, and only two blocks away from where I was staying. Thank you for reminding me of my favorite places in San Francisco and Tel Aviv.

Thank you, comfortable red velvet couch and wildly over the top, just extravangantly voluptuous armchair that was just so insane it could have been a baroque parody of an armchair. You made me smile.

Thank you, beautifully clean bathroom of generous proportions and lovely green door.

Thank you, periwinkle walls: steady and calming. Thank you, unexpected chandeliers for reminding me of Max. Thank you, wide pink columns, for being audacious.

Thank you, Saturday. Thank you, laptop. Thank you, brown bag. Thank you, cozy grey sweater. Thank you, everything that brought me to this moment.

A thousand thank-yous in my thank-you heart. Even when everything feels unsteady, look at all these ways I have what I need.

Back to Timmy.

Timmy: These are all very good arguments. However, I still stand by my original point that what Havi needs at all times is Safety. Not just testing the boundaries and discovering that yes, she is safe. She needs to perceive and feel that she is safe at all times.

We are not helping her experience this by putting her in situations where she doesn’t know where to go, where she has to run away, like today.

Maybe it’s time to just accept that she is kind of broken. She can’t live a wandering life, and that’s just the way it is. Let’s work around that, not try to break through it.

And then I have to cry a little, because sometimes when monsters say well-meaning hurtful things, they sound so true even though they are often not true: they are distortions based in fear.

Wisest me takes over.

Wisest me: Timmy is right. There is a time for extreme measures, extreme safety, extreme hiding, extreme recuperation and recovery. This is, or can be, part of the healing process, and it has been very good for Havi.

At the same time, this does not have to be true for all of time. Havi is a magical unicorn. She holds many aspects and qualities. She is courageous, beautiful, wild, glowing. She is Bell West, adventuress. She is the star of the seven seas.

Absolutely, we need to take wonderful care of her, to support her in learning to take wonderful care of herself. And we also need to let her try things.

This is very different from Then, when she didn’t have resources, a support network, tools for healing, or the ability to be honest about her feelings and needs, whether with herself or with the people in her life. She also didn’t have people around who could handle that kind of honesty.

This is an entirely new life. She lives by Radical Sovereignty. She’s in a beautiful Not-A-Relationship aka a So-Much-Better-Than-A-Relationship aka The Wild Affair of Joy-filled Presence with someone committed to practicing this with her.

Her life is filled with support, kindness, people who care. She can’t fall, and if she did, a hundred nets of grace are right there for her. What if we let her experience what it’s like to bounce, to be held, to fall and laugh instead of fall and cry….

Timmy’s vote.

Timmy: That actually might be worth trying. We could take some notes for the next trip too…

Teacher: Consensus?


Teacher: Who thinks that is an actual likely possibility?

One hand goes up.

Teacher: Yes, Stephanie?

Stephanie: It isn’t likely, but if it did happen, it could be so damaging! On the other hand, maybe building this collection of “oh right still okay” and “yup, still okay this time”, maybe this is a slow healing. I’m not sure. It seems like Havi needs freedom to be able to try things, but she also needs a lot of stability.

Teacher: Good point. Who wants to go to the science lab and come up with some fun experiments to combine Safety and Stability with Adventure and Play?

All hands go up, to a chorus of “me me me me me me!”

How we play here. You are invited.

Safe space online is such a rare and precious thing. To make that work, we lovingly commit to two intentional practices: not giving each other advice and not care-taking.

We try to remember that we all have our stuff (pain, fear, doubt, grief, history), and we’re all working on our stuff, each in our own way and our own timing. It’s a process.

So we tread gently. We don’t make assumptions about anyone else’s experience. We meet ourselves and each other with warmth, patience, presence and love, to the best of our ability. We play.

You are welcome to share anything sparked for you, to process your own process, or play in whatever way feels comfortable for you. You can also leave pebbles that mean “I read this and I’m listening and I’m here”. You can leave breadcrumbs of reminders for past you or future you.

I like smiles and hearts and soup.

Wish 282: hearing both the question and the answer

very personal adsPersonal ads. They’re … personal! Very.

I write a Very Personal Ad each week to practice wanting, and get clarity about my desires. The point isn’t getting my wish (though cool things have emerged from wishing), the point is learning about my relationship with what I want, and accessing the qualities. Wanting can be hard, it is easy to feel conflicted about it, and the reasons for that make this a surprisingly subversive practice…

It’s right there in the name.

So I’m still on the road, on Operation Tranquility Recovery Magic.

Day 25 if you can believe it. This op is kind of just taking as long as it takes, which makes sense if you think about what its called.

We ended up staying in San Diego much longer than planned, not that we had plans.

We camped out in Molly’s backyard and ended up just staying there. I know Molly because she was at a Rally (Rally!) a few years ago. I’m pretty sure at this point that all my friends are Rally people. It is quite possible I only have friends from Rally.

The first night we were there, Molly asked me some sort of ridiculously simple question, something like “what do you want to be doing with your life?”


And I really heard this question instead of just lalala catching up with friends.

I answered completely truthfully.

And I heard what I said as I was saying it.

I want to do this all the time.

I mean, that’s Radical Sovereignty.

Being completely present with my feelings, needs and desires. Present with them, clear about them, and upfront about them, both with myself and with the people in my life.

Expecting the people in my life to do the same with me.

Aiming for resonance and clarity. Saying a yes and knowing it is my Whole Hearted Yes, no more hanging out with the sort-of maybes.

What do I know about this?

Hearing both the question and the answer involves quiet. Getting quieter and quieter, in all ways.

It involves JOY and PLAY, and I have access to both of these, because they live inside of me.

It involves curiosity and receptivity.

It involves a commitment to sustenance and sustainability.

These are all things I want anyway. So nothing needs to change. I don’t need to change course, because I’m already on course.

I just need to breathe and remember.

And ask this question more often.

Hilariously I ask this question every week.

Right here.

That is the question of wishing. What do I want? What do I really want?

Or as I’ve been asking it lately, what do I know about what I want?

Here’s what I’m actually asking:

What do I really know if I’m being completely honest with myself?

Other questions I’m loving right now.

  1. What would I want to be doing if money, time and external expectations weren’t an issue?
  2. What helps me be more of a bell?
  3. What enhances my ability to experience my light, and what diminishes it?
  4. What needs to be eliminated? And what needs to be illuminated?
  5. What would I be doing if I didn’t care at all how anyone else would react?

What do I know about this?

Pretty much any question can be the right question, if I’m listening and being honest.

What do I know about what I want?

The words coming up right now are OPEN and VULNERABLE.

So basically it’s a lot like love.

Maybe everything is a lot like love.

What’s next.

I’m not always going to have a Molly moment where the right person is there to ask the right question.

I need to be that person for myself.

This means a return to the practice of stone skipping, something I am missing now that I don’t have Rally.

I need to remember that it doesn’t really matter what the question is. If I had amnesia, or could only bring one question to a desert island (there’s a question or two in that, why am I on this island and why can I only bring one question!), I wouldn’t need more than the wishing question.

What do I really want?

Over and over again.

What do I really want to be doing with my time. What do I really want from this moment, this interaction, this blog post, the experience of eating this apple, this walk down the produce aisle.

What do I really want?

I want to retire and just be an eccentric writer.

And yes, I kind of already am doing that.

But there it is. That’s what I want. In all of its raw truth. That’s what I told Molly.


I am in a climbing gym.

People are incredibly high up in the air and somehow, impossibly, no one is screaming. I’m pretty sure I’d be falling apart up there. I do not like heights, and I need my hands to talk.

Anyway, I’m watching, admiring the way people do not seem to be overly concerned with their mortality. I wonder what that would be like.

The beautiful boy is bouldering. I can’t see him but I can picture his graceful agile movement through space, I actually feel the arc of his movement from here, as if a shape sketched through air has a physical sensation to it.

It does right now.

I am sitting on a fantastically ugly couch. I had to sign a waiver to sit on this couch. Both of those things are enough of a reminder of the vulnerability of life for me. I do not feel any particular need to be suspended from a rope. I will find my quiet and my grace in other pursuits for now.

What do I really want?

Same as the past few weeks. To trust my instincts more. To trust my yes and trust my no, and act on that trust immediately.

Me: Hey, slightly-wiser me, what do you have for me?

She: The reason you were able to hear Molly’s question is that you have spent the past two years working with the concepts of This Moment Is Right and Where Is The Treasure.
Me: Okay…
She: That’s a skill you gained from everything seemingly going horribly wrong, and the Spectacular Flailure (yes) of your new business which ended up with you being in charge of a chocolate shop that you do not want. This is how you learned to become the person who pays attention to a moment because that moment is right.
Me: So you are saying that the solution to the challenge resides in the skills received from experiencing that challenge?
She: That’s pretty funny, right?
Me: Yes, yes it is.


I shared what I really, really, really want, and Calais said: “This Is The Right Way To Live. This Is The Right Way To Live. Just keep repeating that.”

Just keep repeating that.

The superpower of wearing my crown.

We’re in the month of Sovereignty, with the superpower of I do not wait in line for my own swing.

Current sovereignty challenges: Standing in my strength, unapologetically glowing, trusting what I know, trusting that doing what is obviously good for me is also good for everyone else involved. Acting on this steady truth.

The neighborhood where I stayed for several days last week had a Triple Crown pub, in case I needed another reminder about that.

Ongoing wishes.

Seeds planted without explanation, a mix of secret agent code and silent retreat. Things to play with someday.
  • Everything is easier than I thought, and look, miracles everywhere.
  • I have the best time dancing in my ballroom.
  • This doesn’t require my input!
  • My body gets the deciding vote.
  • Ha, it’s so perfect that it turned out like this. Past me is a GENIUS
  • I have what I need, and I appreciate it. There are resources to do this.
  • Trust and steadiness. I can see why this moment is good.
  • I am fearless and confident. I do the brave things, I state my preferences clearly, calmly and easily, and it is not even a big deal, yay.
  • I am ready to come into my superpowers, including the superpowers of knowing that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, receiving gifts that are winging their way to me, I Am Okay With Being Seen, Everything Enhances My Superpowers.

Taking care of these seeds.

The intentions have been planted, the sails are set. Whatever intel, fruits or flowers emerge will be just right, whatever they are. Thank you in advance.

Now to nap on it, dance it, write it, play with it, take notes, skip stones, walk the labyrinth. Deep breaths, purple pills, getting quieter and quieter until I hear what is true. And a good costume change never hurts. Also eight breaths in eight directions:

Trust. Release. Love. Receive. Anchor. Crown. Glow. Boldly.

Progress report on past Very Personal Ads.

So. Last week, aka Clues everywhere, may I see them and laugh…

Yes, this was an exceptionally good week for clues. I got a lot of clarity, and, much to my surprise, an astonishing amount of work done. I trusted myself this week.

Love more. Trust more. Release more. Receive more. Thank you, writing. Thank you, me who asked.

Attenzione! Attention, AGENTS.

I wish to whisper a whisper about the Monster Manual! It comes paired with the world’s best coloring book, which does so much monster-dissolving magic that even if you wait to try the techniques, you’ll still feel better about everything.

Self-fluency is hard enough, we need ways to to interact with the thoughts-fear-worry-criticism that shuts down creative exploring. And when people get the manual, I am able to me spend more time writing here. So if you don’t need help with monsters, get one for a friend. Or plant a wish that someone gets it for you! And bring people you like to hang out here. The more of us working on our stuff, the better for all of us. ♡

Keep me company?

Consider this an open invitation to deposit wishes, gwishes, personal ads. In any size/form you like, there’s no right way. Updates on past experiments are welcome too, as is anything sparked for you.

Commenting culture: This is safe space for creative exploration. We are on permanent vacation from care-taking and advice-giving. We are here to play and throw things in the pot! With amnesty. Leave a wish any time you want.

Here’s how we meet each other’s wishes: Oh, wow. What beautiful wishes.