Holding My Breath by
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I didn’t know I could hold my breath for so long until last week when I finally exhaled. I was sitting round a fire pit with a small group of (vaccinated) women from my weekly writing group who I haven’t seen in person for over a year…the last time I inhaled. We’ve been Zooming, of course, and reading our work to each other. But this is a group that has met weekly for 15 years. In person. Around a table. In someone’s dining room. It’s a Wild Writing group. Really more like True Confessions. Therapy. (Isn’t all writing?) We all write our truths and read them aloud to each other every week. We know all about the intimacies of our lives; our loves, our frustrations, our joys, our worries, our gains and our losses. And even though we’ve continued to write together and read aloud to the group all year, something has been missing. We get a peak into each other’s homes, wherever it is we’ve set up our computers. That should add something, right? We see each other’s faces, the same faces that have shown up all these years, right? We know the cast of characters, the lovers, the children, the grandchildren, even the pets, right? We sometimes even cry the same tears. But no, something has been missing. A certain soul. The soul that you feel when you are in the same room with someone. Their essence. Their breath. When you read to a live person, you feel their reaction to your words. They laugh (unmuted) with you (or at you), or nod almost imperceptibly, or wiggle in their chair. Or sometimes annoy you with their distracting ‘ding’ on their phone. I used to hate when people brought their raw vegan foods to the table, as if they couldn’t go two hours without a feeding. But it turns out, it is all that that I missed. We all missed it. When we sat together around the fire pit and talked about what we’ve learned about ourselves or our loved ones during this year, about how we feel about stepping out again (fearful, to be honest), about the joy we all felt at exhaling, finally, at seeing one another in the flesh again, we all inhaled deeply of the shared air, the shared soul and absorbed the presence of our special intimacy again.

Profile photo of Penny K Penny Righthand

Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Beautiful, Penny. I agree, all writing is therapy and sitting in a circle of writers is knowing the truth about all. So wonderful that you could exhale at last and be with those friends, colleagues, soulmates again and share the intimacies you describe so well. The world is waiting to exhale with you.

  2. Brava Penny for this beautifully written piece about thehuman contact we’ve all been missing this awful Covid year.

    Here’s to good health for us all, and a return to life as we knew it!

  3. Oh so beautifully said, Penny! Fifteen years?!? You are SO fortunate to have this group. Wondering if the name of it is in any way inspired by Natalie Goldberg’s fabulous book Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.

    I’m also curious as to whether you simply listen to each other’s stories or also comment and/or critique. And do you start with a prompt? I’m in a newly formed writer’s group, and we’re kind of flailing in terms of focus and purpose. Any tips would be very much appreciated!

    Thanks so much for sharing this…I could actually feel that exhale in your writing…and the inhale!

    • Thank you, Barbara! I don’t know Wild Mind but I’m going to check it out.
      This group is run my Laurie Wagner who now also runs on-line Wild Writing programs. She also teaches women to run these groups. We don’t critique or comment but only listen and react. She starts by reading a poem to us, then throws out prompt lines from it, which usually lead us in whatever direction each of us needs to go. She says “write as badly as possible.” No editing. Just let the pen lead. It’s very freeing! We write for 20 minutes then go around the table and each read aloud what we’ve written. Then we do it again. the group meets for 2 hours a week. If you’re interested in contacting her, Laurie’s email address is laurie@27powers.org. I’ve emailed you her online url.
      Good luck with your new class, whatever form it takes. Writing with a group of women is a real gift.

  4. Suzy says:

    Wow, Penny, this is amazing! I agree with Barb that I could feel the exhale as I read your powerful piece. Also agree that I’m envious of your writers group that has met for 15 years. I would love to be in a group like that! Thank you so much for this gift!

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