Worrying the thread of longing

panorama of phoenix from opening of "psycho"

It’s too bad that you can’t be in two places at one time. Or three. Or twelve.

Each of them feels so right when I’m not there: Chicago looked good when I lived in New York; Los Angeles looked good when I lived in Chicago. Now that I’m here in Southern California, the segmenting just gets smaller, the beach looks dreamy when I live inland, but the further-inland entices, too.

But wait, even my tiny living space does not rule out restless longing. When I am at my desk, I wonder if it might not be better to write at the coffee shop, at the co-working space, at the dining-room table, just 1o feet away. And who says longing needs to be anchored in the real world, have you never watched a movie and wanted to crawl inside? I give you Tuscany and its very special sun, the holy Gilbert Triangle, and (irony alert) the Kansas of Dorothy Gale. (To be clear, while these places leave me cold, I am not immune, rather perversely, I know, Phoenix looks good to me when I’m watching the Mid-Century version of it in Hitchcock’s Psycho.)

I’ve moved enough times to get that the problems you think you leave behind will jump into your luggage and follow you to your next destination like so many Manhattan bedbugs. What is the question, really, that’s behind “Where do I want to live?” Is it really how do I want to live? Is that the Big Question that’s at the root of all the questions, especially as I roll up on 5-0, or is it a subtle variation, how do I want to spend my time?

As I continue my casting-off of stuff, I’m finding the smallest bit of room and courage to look at some radically different ways of living out the back 40. So far, it’s been equal measures asking for help and being open to serendipity, so hey, feel free to drop fantastic tools/books/what-have-you that have been helpful. Some context would be nice.


P.S. For the record, I’ve had great success with The Artist’s Way, Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life and Simple Abundance; I’m having ongoing good results, especially this year, with Your Best Year Yet. This time around, something finally clicked between me and Wishcraft, whose contents my friend Havi has long loved. I’ll report back here once I’ve finished it and assimilated the results. (Which brings up an obvious to-do for the blog: create write-ups of each of these as I have for Move Your Stuff, and maybe a comparison grid of some kind.)

Screen cap of opening panorama from Psycho nabbed from the internets.


  1. Hmm… that part about where you want to live being sourced from how you want to spend your time really struck a cord for me. I love the outdoors and dream of moving to a gorgeous place out west, but then what’s the point when my routine of home-preschool-work-home-sleep will be the same? To paraphrase Thoreau –
    “beware of all enterprises that require new home, and not rather a new person in an old home.” So far – old person in an old home.

    1. To paraphrase Thoreau – “beware of all enterprises that require new home, and not rather a new person in an old home.”

      Good paraphrasing. That’s the feng shui way, as well—if you want a new home, for example, you’re supposed to love up your old one. And I’m reading a sorta cheesy self-help book right now that says the same about opportunities—i.e., if you want new ones, you need to make good on your promises, and close the books on the old ones.

  2. Hey Colleen, I’m riding that train to 50 right with ya. I was happy to hear a little reseach the other day that said people tend to feel strong happiness in their younger years and then again beginning at 50. I’m pretty happy now, so I’m guessin’ that ‘joyous’ is right around the corner.

    Thanks for the books recommendations. I am a gigantic fan of WISHCRAFT, especially the exercise around your perfect day. Although it’s a very short project, it really opened up my eyes (heart/ spirit) to a couple of elements that I had not made space for that were important.

    Great fun on the 50’s train. Just remember … in life, ya don’t peak too early!

    1. Well, my stars. I’m reading Wishcraft right now (link to Amazon and to the f-r-e-e downloadable PDF, for those who want to play along).

      Funny, b/c I almost wrote about it in this post, then deleted it. I remember giving it a go a long while ago; this time, something’s shifted and Scher’s words are resonating. Hooray!

  3. Hi there Colleen,

    I totally recommend ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life’ by Donald Miller.

    Through the process of ‘fictionalizing’ his own life story for the purpose of turning it into a screenplay, Donald realizes that his real life can be re-written too.

    We are all writers of our own destiny, we are all storytellers – but often forget the power that gives us to live the life we dream of.

    Really inspiring, and beautifully written in his signature, raw, personalized style.

    Love you blog btw – keep ’em coming!
    SJ :)

  4. Mr. Bolton was spot on. The trick to not longing for somewhere else…is looking around your home and truly loving where you live. It’s amazing how giving out a loving vibe to your home makes its appearance improve.

    Then again I live in a little resort town that’s totally quiet which I moved to when I was 48. I took action on my longing. Have I ever regretted my move. No. Because I have the best of two worlds.

    A slow pace in my surroundings and the excitement of doing business on the Internet.

    Plus in Soap Lake, WA., my expenses are one-third or less of what they would be in your area.

    1. Okay—I googled “Soap Lake, WA” and was blown away. You moved to Tiny-and-Remote Land! I may have to swing by on my PacNW way. If you have the big Lava Lamp by then.

  5. For help moving that c*cksucking boulder up the motherf*cking hill, I recommend Steven Pressfield’s the War of Art. I believe conquering that particular notion is a major component to living the good life at whatever age…it is the key to being true to the heart of you, what you were created to do, instead of simply passing time in passive activities.

    To see my illustration of the boulder, go to my blog:

    Your song, and Mildly Creative’s blog, inspired it.
    You inspire me.
    Thank you so much!

      1. That “ancient essay” is what put me on to The War of Art–a book that positively *reverberated* throughout my skull. (And oh yes, the nice blurb from YOU on my blog is never coming down either!)

        But I had something else to say: I love–LOVE I say–the way in which books (or any other creation) live in the world. A book read at 20 is very different from a book read at 40, and often someone else’s take on a book can change your mind about it, cause the penny to drop, or at the least get you to take another shot at reading it to see if you can’t get something new out of it.

        I re-read Wishcraft a year or so ago and I remember, quite distinctly, the chapter on growing up in “a family of winners”, because I most assuredly DID NOT grow up in a family of winners. At least not by Sher’s definition. At the time, I fixated on this aspect of the book and it caused me to feel a lot of resentment toward my parents and my family environment–probably not an outwardly helpful thing, but likely a necessary step to move through nonetheless.

        Anyway, I made my way through that space and now I am very much at peace with my past. My parents are lovely people who did the best they could. It was their job to raise me well and keep me safe, and they absolutely accomplished that. Nowhere is it written that they were also supposed to assure my personal success and lifelong kick-assedness. They are only human themselves after all (a fact that Sher herself probably points out in the book, but one which I wasn’t able to hear at the time).

        And I do like the book. I remember it had good things to say, but unfortunately at that time my mental space was such that I focused negatively on the winning-family thing.

        So please be sure to tell us all about the new ways in which Sher’s words are resonating with you. I, for one, still have the book on my shelf because I know it’s a living thing that has a great deal more to teach me if, and when, I choose to flip through its pages once again.

        Long comment, I know. Chest now free and clear.


  6. Hey, Colleen!

    I hit the 5-0 Station on the train end of last year, and it’s surprised me what an impact it’s had on my attitude/mood/perspective, so watch out! ‘Course, it probably makes a difference Mom died young at 51. Skews things a bit, like in the Fun House at the carnivals: unexpected dips and turns with strange reflections from odd mirrors. (Hmmm… There’s a post in there. I can feel it composing in my gray matter.)

    I, too, have been purging and reorganizing. And just last week I got a baby kitty, in part so I won’t be alone when the 14 year-old finishes wearing down. For me, so far, 50+ is simply about the choices I make being more thoughtful and determined, with a lot of letting go for all the right reasons.

    Love your posts and poetry!


    1. Mine died at 57 (I think—it’s been a while, and I should check) so I get what you mean. I was old enough by then—33—to feel like that was young, but now I’m all, That is YOUNG.

      I’m happy for your baby kitty. I’m working my way to a dog, myself: once I’m not quite as restless, and a bit surer of where to put down roots. Meanwhile, the purging is great, ain’t it?

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