Old Newsletters and Silt

To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.

-Agnes De Mille

This week I’m in clean slate/fresh start mode, purging old files and documents. And in the process of digging through my hard drive I’ve unearthed some old newsletters that I wrote in years past.

Yes, back in the day I used to send out a quarterly newsletter, two-sided, on colored paper no less. Every three months my husband and I would meet at the dining room table for a folding, labeling, stamping party. We’d turn up the music and get a groove going. After a few hours we’d be rewarded with a healthy stack of newsletters, all ready to go to the post office. That was our final destination of the evening, and it was always thrilling to feed my little babies into the mouth of the big blue mail box.

As fun as those times were, I’m extremely grateful for the technology that now allows me to share my thoughts immediately, with the press of the “publish” button. In fact, it’s made me wonder – are there blogging business owners who also send out newsletters?

I’ve played with the idea of adding a monthly newsletter, but I’m somewhat baffled about how to differentiate it from my blog. So I’d love to hear from you if you have any clues, or even thoughts on the type of content that would be newsletter-worthy. You can leave a comment here, or email if you’d prefer: bechtoldlifework@sbcglobal.net.

Anyway, back to my main point. I dug up a newsletter I wrote five years ago that seemed to hit a note at the time. That got an unexpected response. So I figured, why not bring it over to my blog? Read on…


Recently I spent a weekend kicking back, catching up with a few movies I’d been meaning to see. One of my selections was Shall We Dance? I’d seen the original and was curious about the remake. In this incarnation of the story Richard Gere plays John Clark, who, according to the film’s synopsis, “has all he could ever ask for, including a successful career and a loving wife. Even so, he can’t find true happiness.”

So he decides to sign up for ballroom dance classes, and by the end of the movie feels a whole lot better about his life. But not before a few missteps, chief among them failing to tell his wife that the reason he’s out so late is because he’s learning to rumba.

Halfway through the movie I realized that Gere was embarrassed to share his growing love of dance because he was suffering from what I call I-Should-Be-Happy-With-What-I’ve-Got Syndrome, also known as Shouldn’t-I-Love-This? (SILT Syndrome, for short). I like the SILT acronym because silt is a sedimentary material that builds up and causes obstructions.

Similarly, when we’re in the grips of SILT syndrome we obstruct our own growth or movement.

How do we know if we’re a casualty of SILT syndrome? We might feel bored, restless, blah. Perhaps we even find ourselves thinking, “is that all there is?” But we compensate for the internal discomfort by telling ourselves one of the following:

  1. I’m really lucky compared to a lot of other people
  2. This is the life I used to want so I should still want it
  3. I have to learn to be content with this because change is just too hard at this point.

And with that we manage to derail the yucky feeling and shut it down. Those words we repeat during a SILT episode are certainly comforting; they console us and keep our world intact, sort of the adult equivalent of making a scraped elbow better by kissing it and moving on. But then we find ourselves needing to kiss that elbow more and more often, and the scrape just isn’t going away, is it?

No wonder Richard Gere was freaking out a bit in the movie.

You may be too, if you’re in the grips of SILT. But you’ll be glad to know that you’re in good company. Millions have gone before, millions will come after. In fact, millions of words have been written about what you’re experiencing. And the wisest words seems to point to this as a time to seriously pay attention to the deeper you – your core, substance, spirit, inner self, soul, marrow, essence – whatever you choose to call it, and truly allow that part of you to live in the world.

In many ways the journey, if you allow yourself to take it, will ultimately bring you home to yourself.

And yes, it might be hard, because, well, because change is hard. But as one of my friends says, it will be “good hard.” And in the words of author James Hollis, “Just when we have achieved a measure of stability, we may be undermined from below and called to a new direction.”

Paying attention to that new direction and taking small steps toward it is one surefire way to conquer SILT syndrome, even if that means taking ballroom dance lessons.


So what do you think? Ever been sidetracked by SILT?

I’m laughing, at myself, upon realizing that I’m wading through it right now. Do you think that’s why I was moved to reprint this? I’m reminded of that old adage – you teach what you need to learn.

Here’s the deal: As much as I love my home and garden, I’m almost ready to move on. I need to downsize my life and simplify. Reduce my carbon footprint. I don’t need so much space, and I want out of suburbia. I’m longing for a smaller town with a big heart and sense of community. A walkable neighborhood (I’m shooting for a Walk Score over 90), near public transit and within shouting distance of some of my favorite places.

Seems lovely, doesn’t it? And yet, the SILT keeps coming…But look what you’ve created here! But you used to love this! But why shake up your life! But you have it so good!

Then I remember. I can live my life with gusto right now. Enjoy every day that I’m here. Extract as much meaning as I can from it. And when the time comes to move in a year or two, there will be no SILT left to stop me. There will just be me, dancing my way to a larger life.

How about you? Any of this sound familiar? I’d love to hear your thoughts!



12 thoughts on “Old Newsletters and Silt

  1. Had to comment on the walk score. I’ve lived in two places with a score above 90. One scored 97 and the score neglected a terrific, large grocery store only blocks from my place. But you’d have to move to Portland.

    You mentioned being baffled by how to differentiate a newsletter from your blog. It sounds like you’re wanting it to be a public document, rather than one mailed to clients, so I’d recommend considering not differentiating it. As the mood strikes, write a column and post!

    • Hey John – Welcome! So nice you popped in for a comment. Must have been heaven to live in those walkable neighborhoods, but as I recall you saying, the weather in Portland trumped the walkability. No, don’t think I’m moving there (I’m feeling blah just after this last week of fog/gray that we’ve had in Sac). About the newsletter, I actually was thinking of something to send to clients each month, like I used to do. Maybe using a newsletter program. But what would it be? A highlight of blog postings? Something different altogether? Let me know if you have any thoughts about that. Thanks!

  2. Hi Patty! I’ve been going thru SLUGE not silt – haha – cleaning closets and doing much what you are, maybe early spring cleaning? I don’t know. Done it before. Will do it again. Honey, at 62, I must warn you, SILT will come visit you like a college roommate you never wanted to see again! Every few years – like it or not. It’s all about change and shaking things up – I think we NEED to – it keeps us (and our homes) fresh! My dream of ultimate simplicity, bare bones living, is jusssst around that corner………

    Newsletters can be posts, can’t they? I’d write what comes……..and we who love you will read whatever it is! I don’t know anything about this really, so I’m wondering why I’m even commenting on this portion of your post. SILT and SLUDGE I know about, haha!

    Just breathe!

    • That’s great, SuZen – “Like a college roommate you never wanted to see again!” Ha! I think you’re absolutely right. Hmm, now that I’m thinking about what you’ve written, maybe SILT actually serves an important purpose: to keep reminding us not to get too complacent. Thanks for the insight!

  3. Hi Patty.
    Your are living and that means change. Nature is forever changing, things are forever growing and so are you.
    That means shaking the status quo coming from inner knowing about ‘what is so’ and ‘how can it be?”.
    Looking at your newsletter idea, ‘what is so’ about that?
    Want more work, more attention, what do you want to achieve with them and would you like to receive a newsletter from SuZen or me for that matter?
    Feel how you feel about writing them and then going through those motions. Excited, go ahead, feeling some resistance, keep exploring the feelings.
    About moving, for the sake of what do we move and if it does make our heart sing, we will move.
    I hear your mind chatter and I hear your feelings stirring deliciously. When your feelings win, life moves, you move, you dance.

    • Ah, thanks for your excellent questions, Wilma. I actually want more connection/community with the 400 or so people on my mailing list. I’m not sure how many of them read the blog; I haven’t been much in contact with them in the last two years as I was in a period of transition and stopped doing the regular newsletter. And then I started blogging a year ago. So I think I will reach out to them and see what they’d like. Maybe they just need to know about the blog. As for moving, yes, it does make my heart sing, but there is also that pang. As in most of life, the two exist together. For me, that’s the essence of transition. And life, really. Living in the paradox.

  4. Whether SILT or Sluge, you’ve touched a common nerve. I think it is worth pondering why we so often need someone or something else to motivate us to stir up that silt or better yet, move to a cleaner stream and start building up new silt. My question never seems to be “shouldn’t I love this?”, but rather, when am I gonna stop settling into the silt? Contentment is one side, but discontentment is what creates movement. I am intellectually and emotionally trying to come to grips with the Law of Attraction because this idea (an old one refashioned in many new guises) says essentially, my own paraphrase, if there is silt accumulated, then I have drawn it to myself. If I don’t want silt, change the attraction and change the results. Just a slightly different idea to chew on perhaps.

    Oh, newsletter … I think it is an idea worth pursuing, online, perhaps through email subscriptions to a blog.

    • Now that’s brilliant – “move to a cleaner stream and start building up new silt.” I love how this conversation is pointing towards our actual NEED for silt (or whatever our version of it is). You so eloquently recognize the advantages of discomfort, how it lives alongside comfort. And I do think I experience the silt more acutely now because I have a arrived at a place of great comfort; too much, in fact. And that’s the way it is with my clients, too, especially those who are very entrenched yet want to make major life transitions. I’m having an ah ha. I don’t know much about the law of attraction (I usually stay away from anything with law, rules, or should in the title; plus clients have told me that it has made them ask, “what’s wrong with me that I’m attracting ‘bad’ stuff?). But, if it is true that we attract the silt to ourselves based on this comfort/discomfort scenario, isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t it a teacher of sorts?

      I really like your idea about the newsletter. I could combine my blog email subscribers with my mailing list, and it would be one big happy family. Nice! Thanks much.

  5. I’m forwarding your post to a friend who has both a blog and a newsletter. Funny you should write about “going home to oneself”, that the topic of my next piece (posting tomorrow). We should never feel guilty about wanting more. That’s how great discoveries happened. Listen to the voice inside. She knows best. Love, Maryse

    • Welcome, Maryse! Thanks for your lovely comment and wise words. I appreciate you forwarding it to your friend.

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