The gift you give yourself

Sage CohenThe life poetic10 Comments

Happy holidays to you! I hope this finds you warm and well, steeped in the company and traditions that delight you most.

I want to propose that we all give a very special gift to ourselves this holiday season. One that is hard to know how to identify and even harder to know how to give.


Permission to be who we are. To write what we write. To live how we live. And to come even more authentically into balance with the constellation of desire and demand by which we live our lives.

Historically, I have chosen a word for the year. But the parting of ways with 2013 seemed to call for something a bit more substantial. As I stand at the threshold of 2014, I have chosen instead a mantra: I am allowed.

Even in the past week as I’ve started saying this to myself, I’ve surfaced stories I’ve lived by—about how being pleasing to others makes me a good person. About how keeping certain secrets keeps everyone safe. But I am a writer. And telling my truths will not be pleasing to everyone. And secrets are the opposite of safe. I am allowed to write my way through it all to whatever stories await me in that untravelled territory of self. And you are allowed, too.

Somehow, this new sense of permission has surfaced several childhood passions that once gave me ballast and great joy. As a little girl, I spent endless hours in my pink bedroom playing Donna Summer songs on my handheld tape recorder and making up endless dance routines embellished with leotards and baton twirls. I’ve given this practice up along the way as adult life has required greater and greater specialization and left me smaller and smaller margins for play.

I am calling this primary passion back to the stage of my life this year. I will choose a Song of the Year and make up a dance routine to go with it. Maybe I will invite friends to help me choreograph it. Or maybe they’ll dance their own “I am allowed” dances. We’ll do a dance performance. Maybe it will be in someone’s bedroom. Maybe it will be on a stage. All I know is: It will be. I will dance. I am allowed.

What will you give yourself permission to do in 2014, and what mantra will you live or dance or write by?

10 Comments on “The gift you give yourself”

  1. Oh Sage!!! How powerful.
    I’ve been absorbed with Anne Lamott again – re-reading “Bird by Bird.” And read this today:
    “Good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.”

    I like the word “species” in that sentence.
    This is a VERY inspiring post at just the right time. THANK YOU!!!!

    1. Niya, there’s nothing on earth like sharing your species! : ) Here’s to truth and understanding in 2014!

  2. Thank you for this Sage. Brings back many memories of dancing and laughing. More of that would be wonderful!

    1. Are you a Portlander, Gypsy? Looks like we have a little ensemble taking shape if you’d like to join us!

  3. I’m giving myself permission for two things. To grieve the passings of 2013, both in the way of people and in the way of innocences I’ve allowed myself in my relationship with the larger world that I am no longer willing to accept. And to accept the gifts that come to me from my chosen people, my tribe. I feel how my tribe holds me in its tender breast pocket. I’ve got permission to inhabit that gentle space. It’s good to be alive to our vulnerabilities and to say yes when someone else’s care and support and love might make them less. Life happens in those tender passings of presence that I will no longer ask myself to turn away from.

    1. Sara, this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this with us. It makes a little more room for all of us to stay present with those tender passings…

  4. “Prove my worth” comes to mind… 🙂

    Dear Sage Cohen, I’m in the middle of “The Productive Writer” and just had to thank you for this work of inspiration and “Order”.
    As for “templates”; I plan, (as my New Year’s resolution) to use your book as mine!
    Acorns? I got them out the wazoo, but I didn’t know what to call them! Not only have you provided me a useful map for writing, but also a clear language and powerful imagery to help me create meaningful order out of my chaotic “twigs” of prose. Wishing you all the best in 2014. Thanks again!


  5. Doug, I”m so thrilled to hear that The Productive Writer is proving good company for your journey. May your meaningful order serve you well in 2014 and always!

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