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Catching My Breath

By Posted on 24 3 m read 1.3K views

Sometimes life is crazy. Sometimes the whole world is crazy. How are you managing the stress? How are you staying active and engaged, but still caring for your mind and body? I don’t think I’m the only one here who’s struggling with this.


I’m still doing a lot of events and traveling for THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS. Seems like a nutty time to rescue a dog, but… meet Douglas!

These last few weeks have included time with librarians, indie booksellers, fellow writers and readers: Ron Block hosted me at the Cuyahoga County Public Library and showed me all around Cleveland; Carol Ann Tack chatted with me on Merrick Library’s Top Shelf podcast; Joan Galante hosted me at Levittown Library‘s Adult Summer Reading Program (and my favorite bookseller, Carol Hoenig of Turn of the Corkscrew Books & Wine, sold my books there); I read at the KGB Bar with Caroline Leavitt, Jennifer Haupt, and Julie Maloney; the brilliant historical fiction writer, Connie Mayo, hosted a conversation between Amy Wallen, myself, and 40 amazing humans who met to discuss death and dying in Sharon, Massachusetts; Kym Havens, from An Unlikely Story, sold books for us there; I joined up with Books on the T to leave free copies of THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS at subway stops throughout Boston and Cambridge; author Karen Stefano curated a fascinating conversation with Amy and me on her Rarebirdlit podcast, where we talked about our death tour; and Jessica Keener moderated a conversation with Amy and me at Porter Square Books.

I’m grateful to every single person who set up and came out to these events!

4 boxes

I have some fun events coming up at Delaware’s Hockessin Bookshelf, the Syosset Library, Helen Little’s Public Library podcast, and the Montana Book Festival. I’m also starting to find time again for the new book… I’m in research mode, soaking up stories, taking photos, and reading all I can about the setting where my new story will take place!

Oh, and the large print version of my book came out at the end of last month. Very different cover!

radio podcastJPG

Some thank you’s are in order. Thank you to everyone who snapped photos of my book at airports, including Hollywood Burbank, Pittsburgh International, JFK, and MacArthur.


And thank you to Wonderlust travel magazine; Little Miss FuneralLydia Cornell; America Reads; The Nervous Breakdown; the brilliant and adorable Brad Listi and his Other People PodcastWriters ReadRanger ReviewBillie HintonBeyond the Book JacketThe Memphis FlyerNorth Central PA; Marjorie’s World of Books; 730 Book Club; Eudora Watson; My Book, The Movie; Lou Pendergrast; and everyone who posted kind reviews on Amazon. (Did you know you can purchase a book at an indie bookstore or borrow it from the library and then post on Amazon?)


As always, I’ll end by sharing the books I’ve read since my last post:

Ayobami Adebayo, Stay with Me
J. Ryan Stradal, Kitchens of the Great Midwest
John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus
Thomas Lynch, The Undertaking
Sigrid Nunez, The Friend
Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon
Alma Katsu, The Hunger
Eileen Myles, Afterglow
Sigrid Nunez, The Friend
Fredrik Backman, Beartown
Caitlin Doughty, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Taha Muhammad Ali (translated by Peter Cole), Nevermind
Jim Crace, Being Dead


That’s it for now. Talk to me about what you’re doing to stay well, even when you’re super-busy, even when the world feels off its axis.

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  • Wendy Werris
    July 2, 2018

    Dearest Sue – well, of course June was insanely challenging and rageful re: Trump et al. But it truly helped to spend quality time with my family in San Jose with my two baby great-nephews, holding them, cooing to them, laughing at their antics! Love is definitely the great equalizer, eh? It was more than worth it to hurt my back a little when I lifted, held, and carried 15-month old Samuel – who now weighs about 25 pounds! He and his little brother Harrison are the loves of my life. And on one of the days of my visit we went to Facebook headquarters, where my nephew Matt is one of the chefs. The building he works in is out of this world, filled with silliness, color, art, vending machines with free stuff for employees, great open spaces filled with light. I’m so pleased my nephew is working in such a humane environment. Today I told some friends that the key to staying peaceful during the Trump madness is to stay in a mental and spiritual place of acceptance, and gather even closer to those we love. I believe these things will create inner calm. Things are going to get worse for a while. I’ll be taking action on a deeper level of commitment. We must all express our belief in humanity and grace as never before, regardless of the form that takes. Keep going!
    A true sadness for me this week in the death of Harlan Ellison, whom I dated for a short time in 1979 before realizing I was just too young to handle his complexities and belligerence – but we parted lovingly, and stayed in touch after all these years. I was lucky to know the kindness in Harlan, and his loyalty to friends. Rest in peace, dear genius; dear crazy, lovable man.

    • Susan Henderson
      July 2, 2018

      I’m so glad you had time with your great-nephews, time to love and be loved. I’ve heard about the FaceBook buildings before and wonder how they compare to the pictures I’ve imagined!

      I like your thoughts about staying centered with the relationships we love–nurturing them and letting them nurture us. I’ve also been trying to let the rage activate me into being more useful, rather than just reflecting more of it back into the world.

      I love your words about Harlan Ellison. They are perfect. xo

  • Marcia Butler
    July 2, 2018

    Dear Susan,
    I love this space you have created on your website. Your nature is to be inclusive and that is so inspiring to me, especially when the world seems to be fractured in so many ways. I, like many others, struggle mightily, and on a daily basis. But walking helps a lot. I live in NYC where it is hard to find a vista or some expanse that the eye can capture. The reservoir loop has become my daily meditative walk. It gives me the feeling of no boundaries. I think. I cry (and the reservoir is the only place in NYC where you can bawl your eyes out in public and NO ONE even looks at you!). I imagine. I create in my mind. I do nothing at all. I then return home with the feeling of some sort of “re-set”. That’s my story for today and thank you for asking! OX Marcia

    • Susan Henderson
      July 2, 2018

      Yes, walking helps me too. It’s the best thing I’ve ever found for helping my head sort itself out, and it’s good for my creativity too. I’m glad you’ve reminded me of it today. Walking as a re-set. Even in this heat. Think I’m going to take your example while it’s still relatively cool out! xo

      • Susan Henderson
        July 2, 2018

        P.S. I’m excited to read your novel… the cover is gorgeous!

        • Marcia Butler
          July 3, 2018

          You will get an ARC in early fall, Susan. I’d be honored for you to read it. And I’m LOVING the research you are doing for your new novel. OX

          • Susan Henderson
            July 3, 2018

            Yay! And thank you!

      • Marcia Butler
        July 3, 2018

        The re-set button is needed every couple of hours! Or so it seems these days. OOXX

  • Valerie
    July 2, 2018

    J. Ryan Stradal, Kitchens of the Great Midwest: I feel like this book was SO underrated and overlooked. Excited to see someone else reading it.

    Things have been …battering, at work, at home, everywhere. (Not helped by the rink where I play hockey, a major stress release, being out of commission for a month!!) I *am* trying to swim as much as possible – I adore swimming long course outdoors, so am trying for 3-4 times a week. I am also allowing myself to read literally whatever I want for a while which means lots of fluff by some favorite “comfort” authors.
    And this sounds weird, but I give myself permission to not be social. I just don’t have the emotional bandwidth right now. to enjoy being in groups, drinking (I have stopped drinking almost entirely…not on purpose. Just…it seems to cloud me. I need clarity, no cloudy.)
    Although alternately, I attended a protest rally for Antwon Rose this weekend, and that felt good – like I am trying to do SOMETHING , for the love of God, in this crazy crazy world. It felt right to be in a crowd of people all feeling passionate and trying to fix something very very wrong.
    Go easy, dear Sue – I love your new dog, he looks friendly. And I am excited to hear you’re working on the new book. I look forward to it, like everything you write! Give Mr H a hug for me

    • Susan Henderson
      July 2, 2018

      I met J. Ryan (he actually goes by J. Ryan) in LA, and we got along so well, I decided to check out his writing. Loved that book.

      Fascinating how both you and Marcia zeroed in on physical exercise to reduce stress. Sorry you won’t have hockey for a bit, but I love how you didn’t let that stop you from giving your body a challenging workout. I have to remember that. When something interrupts my favorite forms of exercise, I need to find substitutes.

      Yes about the emotional bandwidth. That’s always something I need to balance… giving myself alone time. And I need to remember to give myself downtime too. Maybe I should get over my fear of bathing suits and find myself a pool to swim laps in.

      Antwon Rose’s story just broke me. A reminder we have to balance self-care with actually mobilizing and speaking up and not turning inward. Oh, this world.

      Glad you’re here, Valerie. xo

  • Eudora Watson
    July 2, 2018

    When I am slipping on the slope of stress enough to leave behind writing in the morning, or walking slowly, or rubbing the dog’s belly that he has kindly offered up for me, I am sometimes rescued by my old habit of tucking random things in books and notebooks. This morning I came across a chapbook of a friend and read as though for the first time two poems that slowed me, pulled me towards another way of being, of thinking, and in turning to her thoughts on the page returned myself to my own. The heat wave is still here, the boxes from our move have not unpacked themselves, the political scene is grinding on, but I am steadier, more likely to smile, better able to give, and take, care.

    • Susan Henderson
      July 2, 2018

      Oh, wow, your words just gave me the lift I needed. I like the idea that being steady makes us smile more, give more, care more. Yes to dog bellies and books. Tell me more about tucking random things into books. Trying to imagine what that means…

      • Eudora Watson
        July 5, 2018

        Sometimes a sweet birthday card I’ve left in view gets scooped up as a bookmark and has a long stay between the pages when I’m done with the book – the card is there, perhaps years later, to bring back to me the pleasure I had on first receiving it.

        And more generally, I’m not very good at putting things back where they ‘belong.’ I bring things together for one reason or another – tracking down a thread of thought, for instance, and I spread those things on the nearest surface. When I go to reclaim that surface, I’m casual in my approach, and odd pairings occur. Most recently I unpacked a box and found a 3-ring binder with notes for a class I took years ago. I opened it for the pleasure of seeing again the precise, helpful comments of my teacher and friend, Anne Malone, written in her neat hand. And there, too, tucked in, was Viki’s poetry chapbook – 3 years younger than the notes, but there, somehow, nonetheless.

        In a sense I create, unawares, time capsules of my reading life. When I come across one, it brings me a pleasure renewed. And often, that’s enough to bring me back to a self I want to be.

        • Susan Henderson
          July 5, 2018

          Awww, love hearing about these surprises and the idea of time capsules! I’m going to start paying attention to things like this… really lovely.

  • GC Smith
    July 2, 2018

    Great new puppy! He’ll find he has a great new home. It sounds like you’re having fun traveling and touting Flcker. That, I’d think is stressful but in a good rather than negative way. So, enjoy the privlige.

    I’m stress free having myself enjoyed the last few months of working with Mimi to shape up our new home. Lots of carpentry, some electrical work, some plumbing, some (ugh) yard work. All of the major projects are done and I’m kickin’ back. I’ve joined a new golf club and will go back to whacking the little white ball this week. I haven’t written much lately, just a few poems and a few flash pieces, and some mouthing off about Trump and his idiot minions. But I’ll get back to more substantive writing soon. I’ve a novel in mind tentatively titled The Back Of The Moon. It’s a story of a former farmer who builds a golf course on his farmland and is enjoying the new use to which he’s put the farm. Golfers who play there are rednecks, black men, immigrants, maybe a witness protection protectee or two, a retired cop, a small town lawyer and other oddballs. The waterfront property is on a sound, almost oceanfront, and is coveted by unscrupulous resort developers. The owner won’t sell and the covetous developers take to playing nasty. The goofball golfers band together to save the property and their club. The book as I envision it will be a simple story of evil pitted against good and should be character driven. Hopefully I’ll have the characters to carry the story.

    So, life is good and brings me enough to be stress free. Let’s hope that it is and will be the same for you.

    • Susan Henderson
      July 2, 2018

      Yes, it’s good stress, and I’m grateful for all of it. Also, nothing is better than falling asleep with a dog in the bed.

      How wonderful you’re in the new home, making it your own. I’m seriously loving your tentative title… hope it sticks! The story seems like it might work onscreen as well.

  • Cathrine
    July 2, 2018

    I read :-).
    I eat healthy foods.
    Walk in nature, take photos.
    I make sure to get good sleep.
    I get a massage and go to acupuncture.
    I do yoga 🙂

    I wrap ill up in stillness 🙂
    Small, soft steps

  • Janet Clare
    July 2, 2018

    Stress you say? Worried that our Union my fail to exist? Daily. Makes for headaches, aches and pains, phantom or not, feelings of unease and impending doom. And, yet and yet, I’m excited as I finish final edits on my first novel. Does our work matter in the face of our dire situation in this country? I think it must, just as caring for our family, our friends, our neighbors…is what we can do! And, RESIST! VOTE!
    Thank you, Susan, as always, for your wonderful posts!

    • Susan Henderson
      July 2, 2018

      I’m glad you brought up how the stress moves into the body. I think the barrage of news, worries, busy schedules can take such a toll. I’ve loved reading through the comments and learning that I’m not alone and also that there are a lot of good ideas here. And I share your belief that, even in dire times, we can still create art, love our family and friends and neighbors, and celebrate the big and small joys in life. Congratulations on your edits… how wonderful!!

  • Ric Marion
    July 5, 2018

    Late to the game, as always.
    Stress? What’s that? The lovely Regina, my massage therapist, says she loves to see me come in because she can concentrate on a relaxation massage since I seldom have any issues. When I apologize for not giving her something to fix, she says no issues are a welcome change.
    Sitting on my front porch, watching the wildlife in the yard, bright orange orioles coming to their grape jelly, hummingbirds stopping to see if my colorful shirt might hold nectar, Bunky the groundhog digging beneath my quince bush. You know, it doesn’t get any better than this.
    Bills are paid, kids are all doing great, yard could use a little work – but I’m becoming okay with the ragged look, sort of a jungle/residential area.
    About the only stress around here is my Mother, who at 95, is ready to get on with her next great adventure. Her body is slowly shutting down, the folks at the Home are on top of it, Hospice is keeping a close eye on her. And I’m not really stressed about it. It is time. Dad went 19 years ago and it has been a lonely existence for her with the love of her life gone.
    In high school, my Mom’s best friend grew up on a fox farm, raising fox for those fabulous coats popular in the ’20’s. When Mom started having some issues, a red fox appeared in my backyard. First time I’ve seen one in the 33 years I’ve lived here. So at sunset, we watch the fox, and her three kits, rollicking on the grass. Kinda makes one wonder if her friend is calling her home. I like to think so. And that knowledge eases my fear of losing her, or missing her sense of humor, and, instead, relishing the childhood she gave me, the sacrifices she made so I could blossom and grow.
    As to other areas of stress, I lived through Nixon and Reagan, how bad can this be? If things continue, I may have to rethink that position.
    So happy, Susan, that you have found a way to enjoy and even embrace your book tour. Your smiling face in all those pictures brightens my day.

    • Susan Henderson
      July 6, 2018

      Thanks for giving us all a seat on your porch for a moment. And just reminding us how to pay attention to the peace and the beauty that was there all along.

      I’m also moved by the way you speak of your mother at the end of her life… having heard you speak so lovingly about her over the years and now being at ease with her coming to the end of her life. Amazing, the story of the foxes.

      Thanks for being here. Always appreciate your perspective and your stories.

Susan Henderson