Dear America,

I’m sorry – for your losses. No, thank you – for refreshed perspective on values. Asking “who am I?” is one of the most daunting doors to open, not because it’s hard to answer, but because inquiry and curiosity are artforms of courage. I don’t know if I’m American anymore, and I mean “I don’t know.” I don’t mean “I’m not.” A crisis is a reckoning, and loss is not the guaranteed outcome; we can win, collectively. The beauty of the American dream is perhaps only known to outsiders. Once you’re inside it’s a nightmare, and once you’re outside it’s an epiphany that “hard work pays off” has also perpetuated some people working hard and other people getting the pay off and increasingly few people in between. And if you’ve never been outside, you might not see that it’s a dream; you might not know whether you’re fighting demons or chasing unicorns; you might not see that reality is part beauty, part shame, and part not knowing. And having all okay for one is not the same as okay for all. What is the American dream? Is it a dream if you lived it without ever consciously noticing? Dreaming happens, and knowing what I dream is called waking up. This is my wake up call, to myself.

I’m sorry that we let ourselves believe the idea for so long that we were the greatest country on earth, not because we’re not great, but because there are so many measures and lifting oneself up doesn’t mean – doesn’t have to mean – putting others down. I’m sorry that our President doesn’t demonstrate this belief. No one wins if 51% feel validated and 49% feel shame, because we’re one body. I believe integrity is presenting things as they truly are, and sometimes that means saying “I could use some support.” Sometimes integrity means acknowledging “I’m not where I hoped I would be at this point.” Dear America, I acknowledge that you are hurt and you have suffered, and this life is not the one that you always dreamed. This acknowledgement is when we can begin to heal. We don’t need to hide from our humanity, which the delineation of self from society inherently means we miscalculate. Recovery from miscalculation comes far easier when we re-assess the whole picture. We can adjust the journey to the goal without changing the goal itself. Taking steps backward or sideways often gives us the strength to step forward. If it’s not moving, don’t force it. If it doesn’t run, don’t chase it. If it’s not wet, don’t wring it out. Build her wheels. Teach him to walk. Collect some water, or wait for the rain. You know: gardens grow where seeds are watered. And we have Earth, seeds, and water, and the intelligence to grow back more sustainably, more responsibly.

I’m sorry – that you’ve pulled from the garden for so long without watering. We stopped visiting. We depended on labor without listening to their warnings. We’re tired. The plants are sick. The inputs dried up before the outputs, and the supply chain is so long that we didn’t notice, I think. And now… what does forward look like?

Rest. Nutrition. Trauma. Healing. Revitalization. Investment. Paying the hard workers, more than “enough.” Enough is enough, but yesterday’s enough is not today’s enough.

The last straw was when a stranger spoke about dentistry in a presentation at work: “Germans have had the Krankenkasse (public health insurance system) for decades, and Americans have had… nothing.” The pain came in the form of truth, realizing that both the red pill and the blue pill encapsulate a hard reality that the past is insufficient. With the blinds and shutters closed for months, I open my eyes to understand I’ve been tossing shit into my neighbors’ lawns. It’s not just adversely affecting their lives. I’m poisoning the hand that feeds me, and the very ground I stand on. Love my neighbor as my… selfishness is directly tied to selflessness, and we’re communal beings, responsible for ensuring the safety of more than our own self-selected. To be human is to accept the question of our own values, and exploring the question means paying a visit to the neighbor’s farm, knocking on their front door, giving out not a hand, but a heart.

The connection of ourselves emotionally helps us see that while skin is a barrier to protect us from the outside world, it is not something that we need to fear separating or distinguishing us. I can feel with my heart what I can’t see with my eyes. I listen with my body what I can’t feel with my hands. We are all sensory, yet so often sensitized to fear one another. We neglect to acknowledge that fear is the very ground that we stand on, what connects us, that our feet walk on one body of land. Nike both brings us together and keeps us apart.

I look at my finances – a simple graph, showing the net worth of my combined savings and investments over time. Thank you, Trump, for building the economy. But, no, thank you. This is not the economy. I opt out of a system that doesn’t work for the majority. Nor the minority. If I gain and the majority loses, there is no winner. (Hello, electoral college.) We can compete without being enemies. We can gain trust and let go of control. We can recognize that what’s in our pockets speaks nothing of what’s in our heart. Yes, we need money in our pockets, but it’s worth far more when we choose where to put it with our hearts. Should I buy my own bread, build my own bakery, or teach my neighbor how to bake as they reap the wealth of their own wheat? There is no answer, but there is the question. Dear America, what do I value?

Cool, Compassionate Thoughts

I feel preemptively fulfilled imagining that I could take at least one conscious breath and mindfully observe one heartbeat every day of the rest of my life. This imagination brings so much peace and relaxation to my mind and body. Like damn…. I’ve thought about it for a week, and it still feels profound, beautiful, and aspirational. And I’m really grateful that I’ve now conditioned my mind to automatically initiate a deep breath in certain moments of false crises. (Real talk: I don’t need to panic when the audio or video is shifty on a conference call.)

Many of us are living, breathing, moving, feeling, and thinking in a world that works quite differently than what we’re accustomed to. We might be uncomfortable at times, and as I learned in Jordan, it’s not so easy to step outside our comfort zone when we’re not so comfortable in the first place. I’ve taken to therapist Esther Perel’s in-progress weekly broadcasts. (Watch live Wednesdays 3pm EDT / 9 pm CET, or watch recorded versions on YouTube). While I don’t relate to all the challenges that she describes of kids and partners at home in quarantine – on the contrary, I’m either alone or with newly acquainted flatmates – I especially like that she counters “working from home” by suggesting we’re “working with home” and all the accompanying and challenging factors. Similarly, I’m as big a fan as ever of Brene Brown, and my recent highlight from Mama B’s new podcast program is her reference to FFTs (f*ing first times), acknowledging that yes, it’s hard to do new things, and it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. Cool – let’s learn something(s)!

My first conscious realization that the sky is always blue, after capturing the midnight summer sky on Lake George, NY, USA, August 2010.

To shift beyond discomfort, I feel inspired in response to these thoughts:

  • The sky is always blue. Yep, even when clouds cover the atmosphere or when the sun sets at night, the sky itself is still blue. I try not to let the weather choose my ‘tude.
  • The breath is always present. I can choose to breathe voluntarily or let the subconscious operate; either way, I’m always breathing!
  • The whole world shares one moon (and one sun, but it’s not so healthy to stare in awe). For those of us at significant distance from anyone we love or like or think of, just take a gander at the big cheese ball in the sky, and remember someone else is looking, too.
  • Oh, and “discomfort” isn’t pain. Discomfort is being without strength (Latin: fortis); discomfort is my body and mind giving me feedback that I’m exercising something new.

I guess there’s a theme here: unity. We’re all – humans, plants, animals, fungi, viruses, bacteria, etc – in this life/world/earth/moment together, and it’s nice when we choose to take care of ourselves and one another. Care means something different to each of us, and it changes from moment to moment. I’ve learned in reflecting on relationships that we all need doses of compassion. In some circumstances, two parties each need compassion, and both feel like the other needs to step in to support; that’s hard! When I find myself “stuck” in a conflict with someone/something/myself and looking for compassion, I try to consider whether I might step forward and give compassion first.

  1. What are some of the compassionate actions you’ve received or would like to receive recently?
  2. Consider the last person you spoke with: what might it look like for you to give compassion to that person?

Peace Within.

Writer’s note: I’m not certain (ha! what is certainty?) whether this piece is complete. I would love some comments and questions about what could tie it together. How can my words be more wholesome?

With the exception of the most critical responders, all of us are asked to turn inward. To stay home. To commute our attention from home to work and back, without leaving home. To meet fewer people. To rely on ourselves for more meals at home. To be stationary and forego transience. We are invited, in a commanded way, to commune with ourselves.

What a time to be alive. The thought that repeatedly crosses my mind. I have the sensation that I’m in a virtual reality experience, moving through a world with real sensation but where everyone is participating in different stories. To come together in a common story as is inherent in humanity, I believe we must first come to know, love, and nurture ourselves.

Spring is awakening the Earth, in the northern hemisphere. The temperature oscillates from dawn to noon to dusk to night. With each cycle, the daylight hours grow longer. The plants are gifted with a bit more sunlight and warmth to fuel themselves back to life. Each cell takes what it needs, not more. Each plant nurtures itself and shares benefits to co-exist with the others. The sunlight is plentiful, and moisture returns each morning. Hibernation fades away; nature’s conscience breathes movement from a sleeping vibration to a waking rhythm. The process is slow to the observing eye, and if a tree sprouts in the forest, and no one is there to watch it, yes, it still sprouts.

Many trees sprout.

I see people panicking. [Digression: psychologists have found that when people perceive that they are losing control, they buy more “functional” products that they think will give them a sense of control.] Is panic contagious? Since last summer, I’ve started to see trauma in others’ physical expression (almost everyone, really). Now especially, I see a mass of mess of miscommunication. I see instability and chaos, in my world and in the broader world. Yet I feel (almost) completely stable and grounded, and this makes me feel comfortably out of place. I find comfort knowing that we are mutually and equally uncertain of the future, and certainty rests merely in each breathing moment. It’s normal to panic, and these reactions merit validation.

Yes, this perception is partially rooted in the global outbreak of whatchamacallit. It’s fascinating to watch the people of the world trust in institutions that we take for granted, to see that we’re all let down and disappointed by these institutions, and to observe that people still wait for the institutions to advise how to act. Perhaps we are well to remember that “corporation” comes from “corporare,” corpus, to combine in one body, the human, an entity made of us. To trust in the other, can I first trust myself? To stay safely at home, we must find the home within our physical body. I #stayhome when I fully inhabit – and dwell in – my body and my mind.

Some seedlings grow tall.

I’ve long believed in the importance of religion, because – I hypothesize – society would be a mess if everyone would think for themself. The viral outbreak has led me to think that government holds the same importance, that people – including me – need to be told how to think and act, and that when we fail to secure our collective health and wellbeing, we fail to acknowledge our human consciousness. Lack of planning often constitutes an emergency, and an emergency that is perceived as a threat to any individual will trigger the brain’s fight/flight response and the sympathetic nervous system. And when we learn to recognize this animal response, we have the possibility to train ourselves how to return to conscious, rational thinking. The emotional response – in the physical body, the mind, and the spaces between – and the rational thoughts deserve equal validation.

We have a choice to not panic, even in the face of uncertainty and insecurity.

Breathing is one method of restoring the mind to a state of peace. In the German language, atmen means to breathe, and in Sanskirt, ātman means inner self, spirit or soul. Both come from the PIE root “etmen.” In a shift from involuntary to voluntary control – when we choose how to inhale, hold, and exhale – the breath can control the mind and pull the brain from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. The SNS controls responses to threat with a hyper-aware mind and body prepared to react; the PNS enables rest, digestion, and homeostasis. I hypothesize that the physical activity and conscious control of the body that yoga offers correlates with a stronger confidence and trust that I can control my safety and security, even in vulnerable moments. Aside from physical fitness activities and yoga, how often do I consciously choose to engage tension and relaxation in different body parts? Rarely. Therefore, I learn to find comfort and rest in tension in my yoga practice.

For all trees, rest and shedding layers are cycles of life.

My stability in chaos is healing an affliction in my current circumstances: between physical living arrangements, constantly transforming interpersonal relationships, waiting on official legal paperwork, being employed in a strong-but-threadbare start-up. Factually, many of the major variables and aspects of my life feel uncertain. Amidst this, I take 100% ownership and acceptance of my reality, and I’m not afraid. I have been afraid. I know what fear feels like, physically, in my body. Right now, I don’t feel afraid. And if I feel fear later, I’ll continue to breathe, to peel away the layers of my mind, and to find peace within.

Guest Blog: Atolla Skin Stories

Thank you to Atolla’s team for trusting my words and giving me a new platform to share my writing talents.

This is the first in a series of skin stories written by Atolla users about their relationship with their skin. Stephen, a cyclist and yogi, shares his journey of learning more about his skin with Atolla.

In Stephen’s words:

On the cusp of understanding my skin sequence with the help of Atolla, I find it helpful to digest and process my skin story. It’s my skin, the literal face that I present to the world, and no doubt, the world around me signals that I belong when my skin is clear, smooth, evenly colored… no blemishes, no bumps, no discoloration or patchiness. Since my early teenage years, I’ve struggled with a variety of skin experiences. 

Decades later, I remember my best friend’s mother handing me a washcloth on a teenage sleepover, and hearing for the first time that I should wash my face every night, then feeling a burning sensation and thinking that, maybe, the washcloth was too abrasive for my sensitive skin. Decades later, I remember sitting in a doctor’s office with my mom and being prescribed steroids for folliculitis, when the follicles on my upper leg hairs spontaneously inflamed. I fearfully thought I had a “freak” second episode of chicken pox. I remember asking the same doctor for help managing acne, and subsequently taking a low dosage antibiotic and topical until the zits and blackheads subsided. I felt guilty when the towels discolored and wondered why I needed multiple prescription medications for my skin to be “normal.” I remember seeing my near-retirement father manage minor breakouts and wondering if that would be me in thirty or forty years. In more recent years, I remember finally establishing a strong relationship with a dermatologist, who truly took the time to understand my needs and my lifestyle. He helped me understand that, yes, my bike helmet’s foam comfort band was potentially holding bacteria from my sweat. He helped me understand that I’d be best to look for non-comedogenic sunscreen and products best for sensitive skin. Sensitive? Was that my skin type…? 

I felt guilty when the towels discolored and wondered why I needed multiple prescription medications for my skin to be “normal.” 

I remember taking a friend to a boutique skincare store and both of us being confused, not having the vocabulary to answer “how would you describe your skin?” I mean, how would I describe my skin if I had no education in skin…? How would I describe the texture of my living room walls or the shape of the clouds in the sky? I felt ill-equipped to answer this. Skin talk isn’t small talk.

And then I remember, after hearing about Atolla, understanding that oil and moisture were two separate concepts. When I took the Skin Health Test, I skeptically realized that my skin’s pH would matter; until now, pH was grade school light-the-bulb-with-produce science, not part of my morning routine. And did I want a water- or oil-based serum? What’s a serum? Something I should do between cleansing and moisturizing? As far as I knew, it was cleanse then apply toner, which subdued my acne but left my skin feeling dry and warm…

The most confidence-inducing realization was that Atolla could help me manage all this learning, from the comfort of my home, without me needing to book follow-up appointments and go to multiple skincare aisles to read products that I didn’t understand the ingredients. Being mobile – traveling regularly, living with small bathroom spaces, sometimes showering at gyms or away from home – also means that I don’t want to carry five bottles of soaps, lotions, oils, and emergency topicals. I wanted simplicity and confidence, and Atolla keeps delivering. 

In the past few months, I’ve reduced my facial skincare to basic cleanser, serum, and moisturizer. I no longer have the curiosity to explore other products in the dense and overwhelming skincare aisles. I don’t need to ask another shopping center kiosk full of plastic bottles, testers, and airplants “what do you think maybe might be good for my skin?” and “why would that product be good for me to try?”. I won’t take home a 2-3 day trial sample, begrudgingly knowing that skin is environmental and can take weeks to adapt… 

The most confidence-inducing realization was that Atolla could help me manage all this learning, from the comfort of my home, without me needing to book follow-up appointments and go to multiple skincare aisles to read products that I didn’t understand the ingredients. 

Now I know my skin type:

I started at B-5443, moved to B-5553, and my latest test shows B-5653. This means breakouts are my primary concern; my skin’s oil stays in the upper-range of healthy; my hydration has increased toward healthy over the past four months; I’ve stabilized my pH level at 5; and I continue to sometimes sunburn, and slowly tan.

Now I know that skin can take several months to acclimate to new products. Now I don’t worry about buying extra products that I might not use completely and don’t know where to dispose responsibly. Now I trust that my skin can stay healthy and look young, without believing my face might fit the pre-pubescent stereotype at any moment. Now I have one consistent routine with a small set of products. Now I have the support of Atolla’s team whenever I am ready to update my skin test or have questions about my results. 

Now I want you to try a free month of Atolla, tell your skin story, and refer your friends.

Starting Over

Failure is the inadmissible normality of the western economy, an unattractive result within societies that constantly seek “up and to the right” improvements, the avoid-at-all-costs stepping stone to crossing the stream of success which necessarily feeds the achievers’ egos. Failure is also the critical and inevitable element of problem solving. What would a jigsaw puzzle be if not for its cracks and crevices? What would make a door or window, if not the opening? What would be a tree if it didn’t shed its leaves to sleep and prepare for regrowth? All solutions with cracks as part of their naturally-accepted design. Perhaps the fault of my human world is failing to recognize the necessity of breaking, braking, and taking a break.

I ended my final bachelors degree memo with the sensation that I failed to fail. I hacked the secondary and post-secondary education systems with flourishing grades, maintaining interest in most subjects, understanding the testing methodology, and unequivocally learning to learn. I did well in school, but I was also good at school. (There’s a difference in grammar and in meaning.) I knew that some classmates did not enjoy the same privilege and luck of my psyche, but in the classic fashion of achievers, I rode my own success without coattails, without empathy, and without concern for lifting those around me. Not only did I fail to fail, I failed to help those who failed, leaving them to fend for their own fortitude.

Eventually, after six years of full-time work and not enough respect for non-working hours, I broke. I found the frayed and scathed fringe of burnout, a notion that I previously degraded to conceptual publications. Come to find out: while some burn strong and long, every fire dies. Even an eternal flame starts somewhere, takes new fuel, and is not the same blaze from start to is eventual finish. There’s always the possibility to rekindle old flames. And – via my ever-acquainted soul-mama – I’m learning that it is only through the darkness that we can begin to see the light.

One of the beautiful aspects of taking a break is that the journey transforms. Each heartbeat pumps different cells: some young, some dying, and with every single beat comes a new heart. There’s fault, too, in the story of Hallmark greeting cards that champion every sunrise offering a fresh canvas; truthfully, we can start anew at any moment we choose.

Truthfully, I don’t know where I am in the spectrum of rebuilding and rebuilt. Am I renewed or renewing? I’m content with what I’ve built, but I can’t predict what the future will need nor offer. I softly finished my sabbatical in the fall, found several clients to consult part-time, and took the coincidence of the holidays to invest my time for my family. I felt really good about taking this time.

Meanwhile, I had the good fortune of meeting someone who catalyzed me to re-think leaving Berlin. In the midst of telling my handful of close friends that I would be moving on and starting over, I second-guessed why I would leave them behind. Why uproot myself? There was no good reason. What if neither a place nor its people would define my happiness, and what if I let my blood type, my attitude flow with – and not toward – the greatness I desired?

I started to think of today’s return to Berlin as v2, trying again, another chance with a refreshed attitude and more clear understanding of what I’m walking into. For a few weeks, I’ve intentionally left open a tab on my browser; Brad Feld’s blog reminded me to Simply Begin Again, a concept also familiar from a guided meditation that I – and Brad – discovered this fall. Probably there are scenarios in life where it’s too late to start over, but this isn’t one of them. I’ve passed through one valley, and I’m back on the trail, hiking familiar terrain with fresh feet, clean socks, and a different vision for what benches to rest on in the forthcoming moments.

The End of an Era

Merry Christmas! As some of you know, my family sent a Christmas letter and annual family photograph throughout my youth. As the kids aged, we got involved and often invoked a creative writing theme. 2008 recounted the year in numbers 1-12. 2009 presented multiple geographic moves as the Nock Family Adventures. 2010 rode the social media wave with my brother beautifully crafting a “nockbook” profile with a stream of posts. 2011 went back toward print, publishing Nock Geographic with each of us reporting on someone else. 2012 turned inward, as we each wrote about ourselves. 2013 presented a recipe for replicating our year(s).

And that was it. With all the kids graduated and living independently, Mom and Dad sent their own letter, and each kid took their own direction. I’ve continued writing and snail-mailing letters with a sampling of photographs. The past few years have also waxed my existentialist nature and I have questioned the very nature of an “annual” letter. If I believe time is structured abstractly, why do I send a letter according to a socially constructed definition of the “year”?

Update: I don’t.

I’m going rogue.

This week – tonight – marks the official end of my sabbatical. I took four and a half months off from work, with a variety of goals to focus on restoring myself and aligning my doing with my being. Truth be told, I’m still very much on the journey of self-discovery, and I think I’ll stay on this journey – though not unemployed – for the remainder of my life. I’m committed to exercising conscious awareness of how I experience the world. To the chagrin – or delight – of those around me, I can talk at length about the importance of the capital-s Self and the capital-t Truth, contemplate the motivation in human behavior, advocate for verbally communicating emotions, or teach the yogic philosophy. But I digress…

In closing the pre-determined sabbatical and entering into an undefined future, I want to reflect on what I’ve learned throughout the past months’ experiences:

  • It’s hard for me to just “be”. It’s also “new” for me to be. Hard = New, in many cases. New things are hard. I knew going into this that I hadn’t had four months to myself in… ever, ignoring my pre-kindergarten days when all my time was free. I spent years in school, with 8-10 summer weeks spotted with structured and unstructured time. From the age of fifteen, I held summer jobs and part-time jobs while in school. When I graduated, or changed jobs or cities, I started immediately, without time off in between. I didn’t know how to rest. Now I do, though it’s still challenging to my instinct. And that’s okay. I’m enough for who I am, without what I do.
  • There are a lot of people who don’t work 9-5 every day. When I sit in parks and cafes, or commute on public transport, or whenever I leave my apartment, I see other people who aren’t at work. (I also see the ones who are at work, but not in offices.) I like that it’s okay to break the mold. It’s only when people ask how I spent my week or weekend that I remember whether it was a conventional workday or not. Every day is equal for me. I am ready to start working, AND I liked detaching from the work routine.
  • The world is full of distractions. My challenge and growth are in the focus. I remember telling a friend on a run in early 2017 that if I had a superpower, it would be to slow down time. I think I have. All I aspire for is to be aware of what I experience as my life happens. The past doesn’t exist. The future doesn’t exist. I only have the present moment. I exercise constant effort to be present: to be listening to whoever I’m with; to be reading without a wandering mind; to meditate and let thoughts pass; to run, bike, or swim and be in that action. My self awareness is what makes a day fulfilling. I’ve de-activated Instagram, which instinct and data tell me consumed several hours of every week. I’ve shifted away from constantly checking my to-do list and my inbox. I am often trying to make sure that I spend every moment where I am, not guilting the mind for wandering to the past, future, or elsewhere. The first step in focusing is to be aware of distraction.
  • Living sustainably and non-materially is challenging. In these months, I became more aware of the impact of my consumer behavior and choices on human and planetary health. Sometimes, I feel that I have no responsible option. I learned about the overwhelming emissions generated from flying. I started exploring a non-meat diet almost two years ago. Now I have validated my choice after seeing shocking numbers about the inefficiency of meat as protein. Meat sucks water and nutrients out of the food chain while pumping carbon emissions higher. There are responsible ways to produce meat, but mostly we don’t, and the world has a lot of people to feed. With so much free time, I move more slowly. I don’t jump from thing to thing, place to place. I can be more aware, and I’m shocked about how much non-processable waste I produce and how difficult it is to reduce this. Some things only come packaged in plastic, and it most likely won’t – or can’t – be recycled nor reused. My main choice is to reduce, but I’m only one in eight billion.
  • Physical movement and breath form the foundation of my well-being. I am more calm, present, and alive when I take time to move my body and focus on breathing. I’ve gone deep into a yoga teacher training, then fluctuated between routine and non-routine practice. I know, from experience, that breathing and moving are the best way for me to start my day. I will continue cultivating and nurturing my physical body for the remainder of my life.
  • Internal conflict may be eternal. I’ve decided to leave Berlin, and I still feel conflicted and uncertain about where to go. In the past 19 weeks, I’ve traveled from Berlin; to Portugal; to parts of Denmark; to Stockholm, Sweden; to Amsterdam – twice; to Seville, Spain; to Rostock, Germany, on the Baltic Sea; to Boston, Nashville, Toronto, across eastern Canada, and the southern coast of Maine; and I spent many days and hours exploring pockets of Berlin’s beautiful summer. I felt varying degrees of home in all of these places. For me, home is an elusive concept. I feel stimulated, energized, and enriched when I explore new environments. Yet perhaps these are all distractions; if so, from what? I don’t know, and that’s okay. I’m being patient.
  • I think everyone is afflicted with trauma. Everyone. You. Me. Yes, you. I see it everywhere, especially in Berlin. I’ve explored what trauma could mean in my past and read literature about the varying degrees of trauma throughout society. I want to break the taboo and encourage social dialogue. Maybe I’ll formally study psychology someday? Many people exercise to relieve stress or build self confidence or purely from an addictive habit, and people pay for gym memberships or fitness classes. I will re-iterate a past hypothesis: we might live healthier, more fulfilled lives by investing in mental health (counseling, therapy, emotional awareness) before or alongside physical health. And caffeine and alcohol are drugs, as much as marijuana, cocaine, heroine, you name it. They’re just socially accepted – and maybe less severe – forms of numbing reality.

I’d planned to write this Christmas letter for weeks and to mail some copies when I was in the US last week, but I didn’t. And I’m following suit with living in the moment. And Brené Brown taught me the importance of shitty first drafts. And this is everything that’s on my mind now.

So, thanks for your support. I’m extremely grateful, despite bouts of uncertainty. And I wish you a moment – however long it may last – of deep presence with your current reality. May we all embrace whatever era we’re in.