Pardon all the pronouns but Whitman was right: I am vast. I contain multitudes.

Heidi, for the love of all you love, do not do another thing until you write. And definitely, most definitely, do not talk to him —or anyone, for that matter— until you write. And also? Permission not to believe any of your thoughts, especially the conclusions your mind jumps to when you’re anxious. And, under no circumstances make decisions right now, promise?

OK. But there’s so much and it’s all a-jumble and I don’t know where to start—

That’s OK. Just write it how it is. Just start. That is all.

OK. It’s like this…

~ * ~

There’s how I go all know-it-all on his ass when, thing is, I don’t really know. I mean, I do, but when I get all know-it-all, it’s not Heidi-that-knows, but a part of me that’s scared.

The me that knows is calm and clear, and knowing is not a big deal to her. She is strong, but she never needs to act strong. There’s no need for her to defend or argue, or be pushy and bossy about what she knows. After all, she’s in no hurry and she knows that deep down everything is OK. If she’s not happy with something, she simply moves on. Or changes it, no muss no fuss. Or goes home. Or simply leaves the room. Simply, is key.

But not so with know-it-all me, who really just knows how to sound like she knows. When really, she’s scared. And secretly she wants to cry. Like today, about how much she wanted him to hold her last night.

She’s also afraid she’ll mess up and do something stoopid. And believe me, she knows from stoopid.

And too? She is prone to hyperbole. Basically, she does whatever she thinks it takes to maintain connection. But, her estimation of things is always clouded by fear and the action that comes from that is, necessarily, conflict-ridden. And certainly not clear.

Why hello there, Sweetpea. Come in from the cold. You look like you could use a warm meal. Here… we’ve a place for you at the table. But first, let me get you a cozy sweater and some flannels. Oh my, your left leg is all wet… If I didn’t know better I’d say you’d been lying on your side in the snow!

Then there’s this other part who’s ashamed.

Now, you and I know that shame never helps —not really, although it means well. What shame actually does is make people go into hiding. And there, in hiding, things cannot get better. Know why? Because shame tends to hide in closets. Or attic crawl spaces. Or basements. And, know what all those places have in common? Yep, they’re cramped, for one. For two, there’s no fresh air. Nada. Zippo!

Hiding places of shame are stuffy and damp. Not to mention dark. And there, in the company of shame, one’s thoughts tend to go all merry-go-round. Minus the merry. And there’s a good reason minus-the-merry-go-rounds never made it into amusement parks. Ahem. So, in short: with shame you go round and round, minus the merry, in a cramped, dank, dark space.

Hiya! Come in. The more the, uh… merrier!

“Oh god! I got here as quick as I could. Know-it-all has been up to her shenanigans, and if I don’t take her into hiding quickly she’ll get all dramatic and mess everything up.


Yes! Heidi’s relationship, and her work, and her life… I’m so worried. I don’t ever want her to ruin things again. I don’t want Heidi to end up alone, and surely she will if I don’t stop this part.

Ahhh… you’re all out of breath and oh my but you look like you’ve had no sleep in days. Let’s run you a tub. There’s a lovely claw-foot porcelain bathtub upstairs and the towels will be warm from where they’re hanging over the stove by the time you’re done. And then, if you want, you can join us for dinner. We’d love to have you at our table. What do you say? Want to come in for a spell?

~ * ~

Tara Brach taught me to ask it like this:

If I weren’t feeling self-righteous, what would I be feeling?

Powerless. Vulnerable.

If I weren’t being defensive, what would I be feeling?

Scared. Afraid all the love will disappear.

~ * ~

The therapist lady said this:

“Extreme need and distress brings about extreme action.”

They’d been talking about That Thing from more than 20 years ago. That Thing with the repercussions. That Thing with the regret she sleeps with. That Thing she wants to understand.

It wasn’t like she woke up one day and said ‘today I will make this thing up.’ If anything, she was obsessive about telling the truth.

It wasn’t as if she wanted to hurt him. Although for sure, she sees now, she was angry. And anger was not acceptable then.

It wasn’t that she wanted to tear her family apart. It wasn’t that she wanted her parents to stop being missionaries and for her dad to get a job delivering spring water.

It wasn’t like that. And yet it was.

More on this can’t be written out loud, except for that bit. Not yet, at least. But there it is, somehow related to everything. She’s piecing together the clues. She’s the detective of her life. And, if nothing else, That Thing has made her plumb the depths of herself and look in the places where monsters tend to hide.

“Extreme need brings about extreme action.”

~ * ~

The bit that happened yesterday afternoon…

You handed me an olive branch. I couldn’t look at you —I felt shy and I was still licking my wounds from our fight, from being all defensive— but I nodded. It was my best yes to your branch.

Then you rubbed my back with potions. Then you wrapped me in the comforter and I fell asleep, I think. When I woke up you were outside shuffle-ing, as you say it, the remnants of another installment of Winter 2011: the year of the weekly snowstorm. And playing with Jennie, the Shepherd.

I looked out and felt myself soften then tighten again. Then I went to the kitchen.

Two eggs were in the pan sunny side up. A plate of guacamole on the counter. I knew you’d left them for me. I ate quietly, looking at you through the window.

Finally I bundled up and went out and the three of us —man, dog, and woman girl— went for a walk in the snow on the frozen lake.

I was quiet. I felt at the mercy of things very old and I didn’t want another round of reaction. I didn’t want to be defensive. I did not want to be self-righteous. And pretending never agreed with me. So pretty much I was quiet.

And then I felt like crying. So I told you to go ahead, that I wanted to take my time.

I watched you walk away… Jennie, stopping to look back at me every so often before turning back to catch up with you, her master.

And then I lay down in the snow. And I looked at the bare trees in the setting sun. And I thought of Mary Oliver and the line in that one poem about sleeping in the forest, about how the earth took her back so tenderly… And that’s what made me cry: the kindness of it.

And I said, to no one in particular, “I just don’t know how to do it.” I was referring to relationships, of course.

Whoever I was talking to answered back, “Join the club.” They didn’t say it meanly, but just like that, matter-o’-factly, “Join the club.”

I went on, “But it’s hard and I’m no good at it. Pretty much I suck.”

And again, “Join the club.”

I lay there for a few minutes watching the last light playing on the treetops. A secret part of me wondered: Would you notice? Would Jennie ever run back for me?

~ * ~

She’s been around for a while. The me, that is, who wondered those things as I lay in the snow. For sure she was there 20 some years ago. She’s very young. And she so wants to be noticed. To know she matters. For kind eyes to see her. Really, I’m the only one that can take care of her, even though sometimes I wish you could. But it’s not your job. Good thing about My Inner Council. They’re a big help. I wish I’d had them 20 years ago.

Um, excuse us, Sweetheart, but we were there.

You were?


Well then why the hell ever did you not speak up! Whyever did you not let me know? I could have used a little help, thankyouverymuch.

Aww, Sweetie, you couldn’t yet see us. You didn’t know how to look inside. And you couldn’t hear us. You really didn’t know how to listen yet, remember? You had no idea. It wasn’t until you read Letters to a Young Poet that day in the bookstore that things started to shift a wee bit. You glimpsed inside, and you got curious. And even though Rilke had written those letters a century before to a young man in the army, he might as well have written them to you. He described the world inside. He got things you’d never talked about with anyone. And he told you about the rooms with the locked doors. And to not worry so much about trying to pry them open. And he told you to love the questions. What a notion that was. And what a relief, remember? Because being desperate for answers when the answers aren’t ready to be understood can take its toll on a girl.

Wait. Rilke is on My Inner Council, too?

You should know. We’re your Council.

But why didn’t you tell me I could call on you for help!

Oh, Sweetie. Remember how literal you were? I mean, you still believed in an actual lake-of-fire hell. And in a heaven with streets of gold and mansions floating in clouds.

True enough.

But we were there.

When else?

Remember the Morning Glories?

Of course. But they were for realz, flesh and blood ladies. Not just inside.

Oh Sweetheart, inside, outside: same, same. You’ll see. You already are.

~ * ~

Postscript. Last night:

You: “I took a picture of you earlier.”

Me: “When?”

You: “You were lying in the snow. I thought you might want to remember.”

~ * ~

Comment Zen:

I would love your company. Pull up a chair, there’s always room for one more at the table. Bring your parts, your me’s, too, if you want. And love notes. And mugs of magical spirits. And stories or thoughts of how you can relate. And feel free to pull out your ukulele. But please, leave your shoulds at the door. Here’s some cozy slippers for while you’re here. Thanks for stopping by.

23 Responses to Pardon all the pronouns but Whitman was right: I am vast. I contain multitudes.

  1. O Heidi, I am so glad you are back. Thank you for sharing all this.


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by simone bernhard, Heidi Fischbach. Heidi Fischbach said: Pardon the pronouns but Whitman was right: I am vast. I contain multitudes. […]

  3. Liz says:


    Feeling such tenderness for Heidi-of-long-ago and Heidi-of-today.

    What a beautiful bit of introspection. Thanks for sharing!
    Liz recently posted..New Year’s Resolutions and Getting Over the HumpMy Profile

  4. wow Heidi, pronouns, Inner Council, monsters–blessings to all of ye.

    Your tender sweet offering puts me in mind of icicles, sharp, could almost be dangerous and yet they are melting. Soft drops one by one nourishing something new yet to be imagined.


  5. Heidi this is haunting and beautiful as a snow angel….
    Barbara Martin recently posted..Dreading the Year End ReviewMy Profile

  6. Wendy Cholbi says:

    Dear Heidi: Here is a love note.

    You got me. You got me with “we were there.”

    Because what if there are voices I don’t yet know to listen for yet?

    The fact that I am asking this question (and dammit, tearing up while doing so) makes me pretty near certain that there are. Which means that there is a future me who knows how to listen and has heard something.

    And that means I can be hopeful and curious (I wonder who might turn up on my version of an Inner Council?) and at the same time sad and a bit lost.

    Thank you for reminding me, and for holding out the hope that the future-me’s and the past-me’s are not something I have to wait until Someday Maybe to listen for and talk to. They’re here.

    Oh, and here are some marshmallows to float on your mug of magical spirits.

    Love, Wendy
    Wendy Cholbi recently posted..Being a grownup is highly overratedMy Profile

    • Ah, Wendy. Yesssss: “Which means there is a future me who knows how to listen and has heard something.” Also, I’m probably stating the obvious, but all that noticing? Er… uh… present tense!

      Sharing a mug of magical spirits. With marshmallows! <3

      Also, if you’ve not read Letters to a Young Poet, I think you might love it.



  7. Briana says:

    Heidi, wow. Mmmmmm. To me this reads like the best kind of storytelling. And fairy tales full of depth. And smooth, thoughtful, wonder. You are so much.
    Briana recently posted..Work Party Wednesday- We were on a breakMy Profile

  8. Grace says:

    You really are something amazing and special, you know?
    Grace recently posted..Why your “elevator pitch” is supposed to feel uncomfortableMy Profile

  9. Oh, Heidi, this is SO lovely. The places you can take me with your writing, filled with such tender sweetness it’s like butter cream smoothed over the soul.

    I especially love that last bit. “You were lying in the snow. I thought you might want to remember.” What a sweet thought that was! But he probably didn’t realize that you already were remembering.

  10. Megan L says:

    So many heart-stopping phrases! You write like velvet. *furtively copies favorite parts into big notebook of favorites*
    Megan L recently posted..Weekly Thought Five Ways To Celebrate Black History MonthMy Profile

  11. a l l w a y s … permeating kindness :]
    joyce lukaczer recently posted..PierpontMy Profile

  12. Julie says:

    Oh, my dearest Heidi. This is so lovely and tender and honest and brave. Sending you love and hugs as you continue to be curious.
    Julie recently posted..You’re doing just fineMy Profile

  13. Lindsay says:

    Lovely, in that way that only the saddest of things also have their beauty.

  14. Juno says:

    I have so much trouble accepting my own multitudes, my own hugeness, accepting the eggs and guacamole from others. It’s nice to not feel alone with that.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Feeling so much tenderness and love for the you-of-then and also the you-of-now – and also for me as I am reminded to love the questions.
    Elizabeth recently posted..a lovely specialMy Profile

  16. Bec says:


    Bec recently posted..The work of an artistMy Profile

  17. Chris says:

    I felt at the mercy of things very old…

    Poignant. And perfect.

  18. Louise says:

    Oh, learning to love the questions. This is such a beautiful post.

  19. Oh, Heidi, thank you for this. Like Wendy said, reading about voices I can’t hear yet? It’s one of those moments when things start to shift again.



  20. Oh my lovely one. This is poetry.
    I also love and agree with Megan’s description, you write like velvet.
    Velvet poetry.
    Also strong, brave and sharing your vulnerable underbelly with us.
    I melt as you do. So grateful. xx

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