I’m a writer, speaker, and peace activist living in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts. After graduating from Middlebury College, I spent eleven months trekking across the United States with a sign on my pack that read “Walking to Listen,” recording interviews with the people I met along the way. I co-produced a radio documentary about this project that was featured on Transom.org and This American Life, and my book, Walking to Listen(Bloomsbury, 2017), tells the tale of the journey.
Drawing from the experiences of my year-long initiation on the road, and from the abundance of lived fodder that comes from an active contemplative practice, I offer my work as a contribution to the collective project of learning how to be human together with love, by listening—united by our diversity, empowered by sharing the inherent vulnerability of being alive, and freed by opening to truth.
This work comes in three ways: I write, putting my wonder to words. I speak, spinning stories and mining them for insight. And I teach, exploring the practice of listening as a catalyst for connective presence, personal transformation, and peacemaking.
In 2014, I broke my back. Broke my spirit. Became depressed. Lost all of my light, my hope, my sense of self. I didn’t know who I’d be without a healthy back. Without a clear sense of how I could show up in this world. Without a clear, secure, understanding of where my life was going and how I’d contribute to it. Through that dark dark time I was met with so much love, care, and acceptance from my community. They did not love me for my healthy back. Nor my successful career. Nor my strong sense of security in the future. They loved me merely for being me. And I learned I needed to do the same if I’m going to survive this. That I needed to love and accept ME no matter what. I learned that my offering is not just in my output but in my heartbeat. In how I love. And that injuries cannot change that. In fact, injuries, setbacks, major life disruptions are the very things that have shown me love can still be a choice. Love can still prevail.
In 2018, my fiancé and I broke off our relationship. Broke my spirit. Became depressed. Lost some of my light, my hope, my sense of self. But not all of it like I had in 2014. And again, my community showed up for me in my brokenness, my sadness, rage, resentment, shame, confusion. Again, so much love. And not because I was in a successful partnership. But because I am worthy of love. And I listened again. To the lesson I was being taught. I can always choose love. Choose to love myself. Choose to love my ex-fiance. Choose to love my life as its unfolding. Not as I wanted it to unfold. But as it is.
I’m young. There will be more lessons. There will be more times when I’ve forgotten that love is always the choice. That I am worthy of love no matter what and that accomplishments, security, success, and fame are ever changing winds and not to rest my purpose on.
This work, questing into the unknown. The unknown of working with groups of men. Asking them to look deeply into their hearts and the hearts of their teammates, brothers, coworkers. This is my current challenge. My next discovery of how I choose and don’t choose love. How I respond when I’m afraid and overwhelmed. How I show up when life deviates from the plan.
This is my greatest joy. That I get to do this work. That I get to sit and listen to the beautiful hearts of our young men today. To hear their joys, their pains, anxieties, fears, sadness, betrayals, wounds, gifts, overcomings, victories, triumphs, wishes, dreams, tenderness and strength. We are a powerful lot, us men. And I am learning and remembering that my power comes almost always from my humility, my heart, my care, my acceptance of myself and others.
I am lucky that I have been giving all these opportunities to learn and relearn these lessons. And I imagine there’s more to come!