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Emails to my Therapist:
On God, Sex, Death, Love, Life Changes, Fears, Desires, Writing, and Anything Else on My Mind

Franc Payne Harry Payne, skiing, fear,

Tolerable Levels of Fear

March 16, 2018
Dear Nicholas, Almost all of my anxiety is about screwing up, causing harm or committing moral error, rather than flying or public speaking or sinister clowns. But there’s one physical activity that does scare me and yet I keep doing it. It gives me an experience of tolerable levels of fear: a sort of set point […] Read More

My Family History: A TV Surprise

March 9, 2018
Dear Nicholas, I was already in a where-did-I-come-from roots-researching mood and then a few weeks ago, TV station WECT in my hometown of Wilmington, NC, aired a bit of my family history that I’m very proud of. A Startling Moment The story popped up and surprised my mother, who, a few days short of 96, […] Read More

Sabbath day daffodils

My New Fabulous Fascinating Sabbath Day Experience: Part 2

February 27, 2018
  Dear Nicholas, I’ve now observed a Sabbath day twice  since my recent resolve, which was inspired by taking part in a  Jewish Shabbat dinner. I’m so happy and surprised by the outcome. The second Sunday was when I felt a startling effect: timelessness. All The Time In The World Or more accurately, for sixteen […] Read More

New: Launching My Sabbath Rest Experiment

February 20, 2018
Nicholas, For decades, I’ve been telling myself I really ought to declare one day a week free of all work–writing, critiquing, housework, taxes, etc. A Sabbath rest. I haven’t been able to get myself to do it until now. What has persuaded me is the lovely Shabbat dinner I had this past Friday with my […] Read More

How To Avoid Mammoth To-Do Lists

February 14, 2018
Dear Nicholas, I’ve stumbled onto a new tactic that’s helping with head-clearing, when I can bring myself to use it. Rather than collecting lengthy to-do lists with items still not crossed off, I’ve adopted a new mantra: Let’s Take Care of It Now. I came to this after a writer client took out his checkbook […] Read More

Caught a Bug. Let People Down.

January 31, 2018
Dear Nicholas, Doc thinks I have the flu. So I’ve cancelled commitments for the next few days, which is to say I’ve let people down, six of them to be precise. That’s what has bothered me about this, messing with their plans, breaking my commitments,  even though I have been massively assured by each one […] Read More

Rancho La Puerta

“Navel-Gazing,” Pros and Cons

January 17, 2018
Dear Nicholas, A commenter on a post of mine about dealing with death, The Age of Others Keeling Over, wrote, “Baby Boomer navel-gazing always astounds me.” I don’t think it’s navel-gazing to react to the increasing number, as one ages, of deaths of friends and family. However, she does have a point. I lead a […] Read More


Bechira–A Personal Reckoning at a Turning Point

January 8, 2018
Dear Nicholas, Roughly a year ago I realized at a dramatic point that I was in the process of making a baffling turn–not by choice and not sure in what direction. Artsy-gorgeous environmental magazine Orion recently introduced me to the term bechira point: “an internal turning point, or ‘a moment of choice between continuing to act […] Read More

New Year’s Theme, “Ode to Joy”

January 2, 2018
Dear Nicholas, The New Year got off to an unusual start for Bob and me: an Emergency Room trip, but one that quickly turned out well. After about five hours, they sent us home–and, appropriately, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with its “Ode to Joy” played on the radio for most of the drive. What Happened A […] Read More

Christmas eve church sanctuary

A Bookish Christmas Card: Peace on Christmas Eve

December 20, 2017
Nicholas, Here’s my bookish version of a Christmas card: a troubled minister’s moment of respite on Christmas Eve, excerpted from my novel Revelation: The Christmas Eve service alone would be enough, Swain thinks, to keep me in the ministry. Troubles always go away, at least for that hour. Now the opening music and stirrings have passed. […] Read More

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