Famous choreographer and dancer Twyla Tharp says in her book, Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit, “Venturing out of your comfort zone may be dangerous, yet you do it anyway because our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable.” If so, then I have been growing a lot lately – maybe you too? Writing is uncomfortable and awkward and I rewrite a lot. A part of me really loves feeling uncomfortable again after years of complacent writing.

Another part of me is terrified.

Have you heard the term “accountability partner”?  According to Wikipedia this is a “person who coaches another person in terms of helping the other person keep a commitment” — which just goes to show you that I am not original at all when it comes to this anti self-help truth theme (though I did grab the gmail address). 

Perhaps a simpler way of being an accountability partner is to say, “I’ve got your back.” 

Love makes you bold
I have had some role models in this. One of the earliest ones was when I was in elementary school in Madison, Wisconsin, and I fell in love with a Turkish boy named Ercument. (I still remember his name. Maybe because it was first grade and it took careful concentration to spell.)

  So smitten I’m blind with love while Ercument is casually cool in the front row

So smitten I’m blind with love while Ercument is casually cool in the front row

Our families lived in the married/international student apartment complex just off the University of Wisconsin campus. All of us kids had parents that were grad students so we would mass-congregate on a lawn between the apartment buildings to plan elaborate multi-act plays or cluster, jostling with spoons, around a big bowl of cookie dough or wander with blue-stained fingers like migrant workers through wild blackberry groves. 

Both of my parents decided to take the grad school bit by the teeth and pound through their graduate degrees at the same time. With money tight they found a 2-bedroom apartment in the complex and wedged us four kids into two tight bunkbeds in one bedroom (the younger kids’ bunkbed was in the closet) while they took the other. The beds were multi-purpose: launch pads for awesome midair summersaults and battlefields from blanket-draped forts. Once we moved an abandoned refrigerator cardboard box into the room to be a cool third fort but then only my little brother Dan could get into the room so we dragged it out again.  

Later my mom said she know she must’ve walked through some of the ’60’s sit-ins on the UW campus but honestly she was always hurrying either to class or to the library or back to us four kids and so was oblivious to the anti-war demonstrations. My six-year-old memories don’t have sit-ins either, but I do carry images of Ercument.

Ercument had curly brown hair and was one of the kids we saw every day. And I loved him. I loved him so much that I wrote him a love note. I wrote “I love you Ercument with all my hart.” Then I slipped it to him…and RAN. And then HID FROM HIM, and AVOIDED HIM because that’s what you do when you're really in love. 

So Ercument was having logistical difficulty being my accountability partner until one day he snuck up behind me and whispered close to my ear, “I know you LIKE me.” and that was a relief because I could be normal and friends again. So in this way he had my back because he was kind and chose to restore international relations with me by making the first move and restoring my dignity. 

First signs of warming
Some years later President Nixon did the same thing. He must’ve been inspired by Ercument because in 1972 he historically restarted communications with China by meeting with Mao Zedong. More recently President Obama broke a 55-year impasse with Cuba by meeting with Raul Castro. And just last month Chinese President Xi Jinxing crossed a 66-year silent divide by shaking the hand of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou.

Ercument’s been busy.

I recognize these international handshakes are not simple. There are lots of pros and cons in these relationships and one meeting does not a friendship make. Still. It’s pretty impressive that despite decades of built-up hurt feelings and self-justification frigid relations have begun to thaw.

Ercument and my romance never got cold (or hot for that matter) after that. Following his example I have some accountability partners today that are helping to unthaw frozen promises I’ve made to myself. Somehow you think there will be lots of time and then just as suddenly years have passed. The items crossed off my list: attend a writer’s retreat, make a good pie crust, see the Hearst castle, take a girls’ getaway trip, create a video for my daughter, visit Patagonia — to name a few.

  Stark beauty near Cape Horn on our Patagonia trip

Stark beauty near Cape Horn on our Patagonia trip

And here’s a fun discovery about bucket lists - the more you cross off, the more you add! The sense of accomplishment breeds new ideas. Take even a small item, cross it off and it’s a wonderful feeling to have kept a promise to yourself. A frozen list starts to loosen up as it warms to fresh possibilities. And the items can get bigger too!

One warning about bucket lists though. It’s important to enunciate. After yet another exuberant outburst of announcing a new addition to my bucket list, my husband turned to me in astonishment, “Bucket list? Did you say ‘bucket’ list? That’s a relief. All this time I thought you were saying f*** it list!” He. He.

On account of you promised…
It’s your turn now. If you’d like, send in a note with an item that’s on your bucket list. Even better if it’s an item that feels pretty frozen right now. We can all be each other’s accountability partners.

Wikipedia called the term “accountability partner” a neologism, which means it’s not considered a real phrase yet because it’s not used enough and may not stick.

What do they know? 

Thanks for reading,


P.S. If you read the last newsletter, you may wonder whether I baked a pie for Thanksgiving. I did not. But I did whip up some awesome appetizers.