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finding the load bearing walls...

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Years ago on a sabbatical, I experienced a moment of panic.

Everything was planned, signed off on by the Chair of the Department and the Dean of the College. My life was organized just so, the house was winterized, and I was ecstatic to step away for a semester to immerse myself in a project I’d been planning for years.

Two weeks after I arrived at my destination, my entire plan changed due to circumstances completely out of my control... regroup, reimagine, recalibrate, redefine… 


What felt like the worst possible thing turned out to be one of the most revealing times of my life. But it wasn’t easy, and my time away ultimately opened the door to my leaving the position a few years later – hardly the purpose of a sabbatical and certainly not my intent at any point in the process.

Where did I ever get the idea that living is either easy or hard, and not simply about being fully present, showing up in every moment, taking it breath by breath…

(so I can dance some furiously ferocious, gloriously graceful, awkward series of movements that when strung together form a unique and epic choreography that has only one performance...)

Despite this lesson and countless other epic fails in planning, it doesn’t stop me from keeping several calendars and creating lists of things that I need to do in order to meet my own high standards of character.

It’s structure. I like it. Structure means freedom – there are 8 directions of the wind – maps have borders and landmarks – letters form words - black lines with dots hold a language of rhythmic pitches communicable around the world and across generations. 

When structure is missing, I feel adrift. It makes me nervous. And so I scramble in an attempt to pull all the ends together and assemble something I can recognize that will remind me where I am and hopefully tell me how the hell to get wherever it was I meant to be going…

I have no idea how I got this way, except growing up in the Midwest, I was told there are things a girl does and things she doesn’t, jobs have clear descriptions, and when you stray beyond the lines enough people have drawn, there are consequences.

It was a structure I inherited, one I was born into. These signposts. They exist everywhere, not just in the Midwest I’ve learned.

None of this has stopped me from choosing my own direction, but there’s certainly been a fair amount of stress around it because I still see the lines really clear when I cross them… 

Perhaps the real point of all this is to identify which structures help us build sound and extraordinary spaces where there is room for everyone and we can become something we’ve never been, and which ones close us in and keep us confined to old ways that no longer grow us together. Which walls are load bearing and which ones are for decoration only, built by a few people who thought something larger needed to be made smaller.

always in motion, 


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  • Thank you for this. I am married to an architect and we are currently building a house, so the metaphor of the load bearing walls speaks very directly to me. So much is unknown right now at every level, across countries and societies. My friend sent me a video of travel into China just as they instituted their ban on foreign travel. I wanted to share my response:
    This is going to change so much about how we travel, how we live, what we take for granted and the assumptions we make in daily life. It’s going to be a long, bumpy and probably often interrupted “flight” towards somewhere we can’t quite grasp yet. And all we can do is the best we can do – for ourselves, for the people we care about and even the complete strangers who cross our paths continually without us even realizing it.
    I hope we come away learning something valuable about ourselves and what it mean to be part of this interconnected web of life. Thank you for your daily thoughts – they always bring a spark to my day.

    Denise on
  • It was as if we were cut from the same Midwestern cloth. Thank you for penning the words I’ve never been able to quite voice.

    Julie Williams on
  • thank you Fia for your insightful words. Your words are a reminder to me to stay present with the world i am living in and to say Yes to all of it.

    rogers miser on
  • “Ditto and beyond….”
    Thank you, Fia, for putting words to the ever thickening air space within these walls! Not only do I no longer feel quite so “alone”, but theres a bit of a “draft” thats found its way in here from SOMEwhere. thank you…

    Jean on
  • Dear Fia,
    First off, even though I do not know you on a personal level, I feel that you and Brian are cornerstones of my life. Each morning I awake to your drawings and your messages, and a part of each carries me through my days. I sense that you are an ‘old soul’ and I am grateful that you share your ‘old soul’ wisdom, and that you do not sugar coat your realities. Your writings touch me in ways that open me to new thoughts and behaviors, and for that I thank you. Take good care of yourself and I look forward to sharing many more morning wake ups with you. Lois

    Lois Buerk on

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