Road Trips and Four Things That Bring Me Pleasure & Joy

One of the benefits of a long road trip, other than admiring a scenic view and listening to a great podcast or playlist, is uninterrupted time with your travel partner to really dig into a discussion. On a recent drive upstate through the breathtaking Catskills, my husband C and I delved into a conversation about the difference between pleasure and joy when he asked how my writing was going.

(For those who may not know, I am working on a coming-of-age memoir that spans ten years of my traumatic experience growing up in a dysfunctional family battling unresolved issues from generational trauma. I struggled with self-worth and emotions of guilt and shame for feeling disconnected from my family and wanting to pursue a different path. In my journey to find a sense of belonging, I made unconventional choices against familial and cultural expectations for a world that wasn’t ready to receive me. After years of self-healing guided by intuition, relationships, and my love of learning, I discovered my purpose and identity.)

I was on a tight deadline and struggled to write that week. But for me, that’s often the case. In fact, I find little pleasure in the process. Eating pistachio gelato? Now, that brings me pleasure. Coming up with the right framework and words to describe something when my head buzzes with a million, often mediocre, ideas, making me freeze in self-doubt and want to give up, is not a physical feeling that brings me happiness. Writing came to me much later in life, and reading in earnest was something I found in my mid-twenties. I accept that I am learning and require an exorbitant amount of inspiration. So much so that I wonder if it’s the same for other writers. If so, why they would voluntarily do this for a living.

I am in awe of past and present writers who persevered and published their gifts to the world. I can’t be sure their process was pleasurable, but I imagine it brought them joy. It’s what I feel when I complete a scene, a chapter, or an article — joy, a state of mind that goes far beyond the momentary physical feeling of doing. I imagine I’ll feel it once the book is done, knowing that my words will be capsulated, alive for others to read long after I’m gone.

Pleasure and joy are worthwhile, and I want more of them. At least I want to recognize the difference when I’m experiencing one or the other, if for the purpose of magnifying it and stretching it, like taffy, as long as I can.

What about you? How would you define pleasure and joy? What examples come to mind?

Here are four things that brought me pleasure or joy this month. I hope they bring you feelings of happiness.

  1. This article from the incomparable Zadie Smith inspired this post and former discourse on the same topic. It’s well worth the read. You may never think of joy and pleasure the same.

The thing no one ever tells you about joy is that it has very little pleasure in it. And yet, if it hadn’t happened at all, at least once, how would we live?

Zadie Smith, JOY
  1. In my never-ending search for inspiration, I stumbled upon Joan Didion’s Why I Write. Such a pleasure to read.

Grammar is a piano I play by ear, since I seem to have been out of school the year the rules were mentioned. All I know about grammar is its infinite power. To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters the meaning of the object photographed. Many people know about camera angles now, but not so many know about sentences. The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind. The picture dictates the arrangement. The picture dictates whether this will be a sentence with or without clauses, a sentence that ends hard or a dying-fall sentence, long or short, active or passive. The picture tells you how to arrange the words and the arrangement of the words tells you, or tells me, what’s going on in the picture. Nota bene.*
It tells you.
You don’t tell it.
* “Note well.”

  1. I recently read the beautiful novel by Xiochilt Gonzales, Olga Dies Dreaming, a New York Times Bestseller and International Latino Book Award Finalist the Kirkus Review describes as a “tough-minded story of a sister and brother grappling with identity, family, and life goals in gentrifying Brooklyn.” In my quest to extend the pleasure of living in the world Xiochilt created, I searched Spotify to see if a playlist existed. It does, at least one inspired by the book, and it’s pretty good! Consider a playlist for a book you read and loved.
  1. La Brega is a beautifully produced and engaging podcast about the “stories of the Puerto Rican experience.” Episodes are done in both English and Spanish, which is terrific for those who want to brush up on their español. Tip: Listen at ¾ speed for your language learning pleasure! A second season was just released: The history of Puerto Rico in eight songs. The show’s producers will release a cover album of the songs this month! Connecting to and finding new ways to celebrate my culture brings me lasting joy.

“There’s no direct translation of “la brega” in English, but for Puerto Ricans, it’s a way of life. To bregar means to struggle, to hustle, to find a way to get by and get around an imbalance of power. It’s got a creative edge, a bit of swagger; as Puerto Rican scholar Arcadio Diaz has observed, it’s a word that belongs to the underdog. Hosted by New York-born Puerto Rican journalist Alana Casanova-Burgess, La Brega tells stories of an island and a people trying to cope with too many challenges, and who deserve and demand better. The series is created by a team of Puerto Rican journalists, producers, musicians, and artists from the island and diaspora; a co-production from WNYC Studios and Futuro Studios.”

Consider your next road trip a mobile garden to fertilize the marvelous world of imagination. Thank you for taking the time to connect with me here. It brings me both pleasure and joy to be in community with you.

With love, 



pistachio gelato in Florence, Italy – a pleasure & a joy
working manuscript, 160 pages

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Lost in Repatriation: Where Have the Writers Gone?

It’s been three months since my husband, Craig, and I settled in Manhattan. While I understood it would be a challenge and take time to make meaningful connections here – everyone seems to scurry from one place to the next in hurried determination – I didn’t expect it to be this harrowing.

After all, I had no trouble making friends when living abroad in two foreign countries. I had built-in opportunities through the boys’ schools and sports clubs, my workout groups, and neighbors. It’s true that we are new empty nesters, and our sons are now grown and live in different cities; we can no longer count on the ease of meeting other parents through them. But why am I surprised that I haven’t made a single connection on an island of 23 square miles and 1.63 million residents?

I partially blame myself. 

Since our return from Europe, living in Stockholm and London for over eight years, we have been focused on work and reconnecting with friends and family in neighboring states, gathering for celebrations we would otherwise miss if we still lived across an ocean and a six-hour time difference.

I’ve also been spending too much time inside our apartment. I didn’t set out to pass my days sitting at a small desk in the guest room, but I needed a private space, a room of my own if you allow, to establish a routine as a new writer. Writing a memoir is a soul-searching endeavor that requires you to revisit and examine significant moments in the past, some of which can shake and bring you to tears. Until I was more comfortable with the process, I wouldn’t consider venturing out, although I fantasized about living a writer’s life in the city. (There’s also the fact that I often talk aloud. Something about speaking the words makes them real and helps with editing. Not sure the public would appreciate my practice, but then again, this is New York City 🤓.)

My online writing community and work as a property manager and board Co-Chair for a national nonprofit kept me from noticing that I hadn’t yet made a friend IRL. I had grown accustomed to my routine and wondered if I had unknowingly become an introvert. (The answer is brilliantly clear for those who know me well.) I even retook the 16 personalities test to see if my source of inspiration and energy has shifted these past years, especially as I spend a good portion of my days in isolation. But, I am a person who needs the energy of others to be at my best.

So, I searched earnestly for fellow writers and ponderers in local cafés. Many coffee shops I visited did not invite lingering, as evidenced by the limited seating and lines of nomophobics edging toward pick-up counters. Admittedly more of a fan of their community outreach than coffee, I imagined spending mornings in the creative buzz of a Starbucks, fueling on their milder Veranda coffee blend and tapping away on my laptop. I wandered to several of their renovated stores near my apartment and saw similar changes where they notably traded their inviting nooks and tables for the digital convenience of preordering and take-out.

I’m wondering what is left now that this beloved Third Place for writers and creatives doesn’t seem to exist in brick-and-mortar. Surely there is something I’m not considering. If London has local pubs, Stockholm cozy cafés and Fika, undoubtedly something similar exists here.

In the meantime, I want to be intentional about making friends I can give my energy to while discerning the kinds of people I want to surround myself with. I’ve thought about this for some time: how we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. In an exciting city like this one, I’ll need to think differently about ways to make connections outside of writing and step out of my comfort zone.

I am deeply grateful for my community beyond state and country lines and virtually, including you. Thanks for taking the time to read and share.

In the spirit of friendship, I am curious if there is a facet of your life that can benefit from contemplating or thinking differently. What would stepping out of your comfort zone look like?

With love,



Morning bite at a London cafe before writing

Ultimate Mannequin Challenge

I woke up and realized it had been more than two months since we entered the second lockdown here in the UK. (For those of you who don’t know, it’s been a strict lockdown where not only non-essential shops are closed but we’re required to remain in our homes, leaving only for a limited time to exercise, alone or with our household, or to shop for medicine and food.) My first thought was: Damn that was fast! After all, we had been busy moving into a new house, preparing for the holidays, which in a blur came and went, and settling into our routines. I noticed a faint pressure in my chest, but I didn’t think much of it, so I got out of bed and continued with my day.

After lunch, I watched a Youtube show I forgot I had subscribed to, Ofyr (pronounced oh-fire): a cooking demonstration channel for people who own one of their outdoor grills. This episode happened to be recorded in Stockholm, a city I lived in for over five years. Watching the chef cook Gothenburg’s prized langoustines on the hot metal ring, the old town’s silhouette behind him, I escaped for a moment to take in the crisp Swedish air and smell the fresh brackish waters of Lake Mälaren. A fleeting yet lovely respite and travel back in time to life pre-Covid-19.

I’ve been living in London for two years – the first half settling in and taking care of the required bits of moving to a new country, the second under some version of lock down. There’s a world to explore out there, and I can’t help but feel I’m frozen in a Mannequin Challenge.

It’s been okay though. I’m rather proud at how I’ve managed myself and my loved ones throughout this pandemic, keeping our locked-down lives as positive and productive under the circumstances. (Not sure I could say the same if I had little ones to homeschool. Hats off if that’s you.) I decided that even though I’m in a freeze frame I would enjoy this unique time to self-reflect, focus on health and family (here and distant), and plug away at work, steaming ahead with confidence we’d soon unfreeze and resume a more normal life outside these four walls.

In the afternoon, I joined a zoom yoga class. The instructor, an Australian friend from our Stockholm days, began practice with a question: What does connection mean to you?

We were to take time, sitting cross-legged with our eyes closed, to think about this, to see what surfaced. What I saw behind my black lids were images of people and places that are seared to my heart. As I watched the reel play, my heart tugged and ripped to fold into itself. I used my breath to move through the pain and to acknowledge its existence, until I could return to contemplate the question. Again my head filled with memories that felt warm like the glowing sun these grey skies have hidden.

I sat with the pain, breathing it in and out of my body. Accepting it as loss, as the heartache that comes with missing friends and family. I could feel my heart swell with gratitude for what I hope soon to reconnect with, the simple things in life shared with family and friends: enjoying a long walk along a wooded path; sharing a cup of coffee and diving deep into meaningful conversation; cooking a meal together and lingering at the table hours into the night; the hearty laugh-tears and side-rocking bear hugs that come with a shared laugh or cry; celebrating traditions; volunteering; being trusted with a personal story; the awe of first-shared experiences discovering art, food, wine, a new park, village, or distant city. These are the things that make me feel connected, experiences I look forward to living again. They are the yang to my yin, the yin to my yang. What roots me to the soil and my place on this earth.

The end of the challenge is near. Vaccines are being administered, and there’s a real push to unpause life. In June we will move back to the US and begin another chapter, repatriating after eight years abroad. In the meantime, I will try and savor this experience as much as I can, living in the moment (frozen or not) and ever grateful that no matter where I may be, I’m connected to what matters most.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What does connection mean to you?

Thank you for sharing and for listening.



“Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.”

– Harriet Lerner
River Thames, Chiswick – Photo Courtesy of Craig Johnson