Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


As I’m not yet ready to establish a new routine, I find myself reading more than writing. I also find myself whining…a lot. The Boy is hearing some of my lamenting, but I’m thankfully able to keep most of it confined to the space between my ears.

My brain hasn’t caught up to my alleged desire to lead a simpler life, to give up those things I do not need and to avoid buying any more of them. After I paid off all debts, built up a nest-egg and took on a higher paying job, I was once again able to buy almost anything I wanted. Thankfully, I saved more than I spent and invested mostly in new experiences and in a computer that was desperately needed.

Still, now that I am working from home, my brain is tempted by the new catalogues displaying jeans in soft spring colors, cashmere sweaters, and leather ballet flats in the perfect shade of turquoise. How can I possibly move to an island without such things? my mind pleads, even though I’ve been through the fad of colored jeans many seasons before and know that’s exactly what it is–a fad. No matter how nice the colors, those pants will look dated within a year or two, just in time for the next big thing. Not to mention that when your co-worker is a cat and you can spend all day in your pyjamas, it might not be the smartest time to invest in new clothes for the already bursting closet. But old habits die hard, and a part of me is now convinced that spring won’t be spring without a pair of turquoise ballet slippers.

This lust for more things, for more stuff, had me longing for the security of a regular pay cheque, no matter what that pay cheque may cost me emotionally and spiritually. It’s the security most of us are accustomed to needing, the insurance that promises us we’ll be taken care of no matter what happens.

And then, in the reader’s notes of the book I just finished, I found these wise words:

“Neither one of us believes in the myth of security. I think a person can chase safety–in a relationship, a job, a house, a bank account, any number of things–for all his life, as though safety were life’s entire goal. As though there was some prize for arriving at the end of life with all that ‘safety’ intact, even if one also arrived not having lived that life, never once having walked to the edge.”

The woman who said those words–Marlena de Blasi–gave up her “safe” life in the States to live a much different existence in Venice with the man she fell in love with. And then in Tuscany, where she feels she truly belongs, where all the things that made her odd are commonplace and accepted, even embraced.

This myth of security resonates with me. I am surrounded by it, residing in a place where many people are unsatisfied but stay because of the relatively low cost of living. I rejected Curacao as the location of our future home mainly due to concerns about safety (more on that later). The Boy once told me that no matter how much money I had in my bank account, I would never feel secure, and I suspect he’s right.

Marlena also says this: “And the smaller we made our life–no job, no house, not much money–the larger it became in terms of appreciation. There is a sense of privilege rather than of deprivation which comes from simplicity. Bread and oil and wine are a feast. A length of silk is a treasure. None of this is to say that in dreams there are no responsibilities. All dreams, at least the ones you really want to come true, begin with work. Simplicity is not for the faint-hearted.”

I have a friend who has lived the simple life since I’ve known her, not due to choice but to income. I’ve always secretly envied her, but one day when I was happily showing off that I’d known exactly which dress she was going to wear, she thought I was making fun of her limited wardrobe. Far from it–in her closet, she had a few things for each season that she truly loved, while I had a ton that I didn’t, to the point that I’d even forgotten that I had most of them. I was raised to believe that too much of anything–be it food, clothes, shoes, money, friends–kept the wolf from the door, and this is something I still have to struggle against daily. It’s experiences, not things, that make a life. Intellectually I know this, but there’s still that part of my brain that won’t be satisfied unless I gather more and more.

While I may still covet those aqua shoes…I’m not gonna lie…I will resist temptation and keep working hard, hoping that embracing the simple allows me to discover I’m exactly where I always wanted to be.

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  1. Snickles

    “…where she feels she truly belongs, where all the things that made her odd are commonplace and accepted, even embraced.” I have to love that. Hugs, eh?

  2. Story Teller

    I believe there is a place like that for everyone. Kind of like we’re all searching for our “family” and we’ll know when we find them. For Marlena, it was a community of people just as obsessed as she is with cooking, eating, and baking bread…may we all be so lucky.


  3. Anonymous

    Welcome back, Holli. The best of good fortune on your chosen path.
    This article reminded me how much I enjoy reading your insightful posts.

  4. Story Teller

    Thanks so much, Jocelyn. It’s good to be back. Having no time to write was weighing heavily on my shoulders. If it doesn’t work now, I have no one to blame but myself.

  5. Mystic_Mom

    When I say the Lord’s prayer I’m struck by the line: thank you for our DAILY bread. Not weekly. Not monthly. Not lifetime. Daily. If we have enough it is enough. If we have more to share, then we are blessed!

    That our society lures and tempts us with ‘stuff’ is a sad reflection on our need to consume and our fear of not having enough.

    Great post and so glad to see you writing again!

  6. Story Teller

    Very good point, Mystic Mom. It’s a challenge to be thankful for what we have instead of always wanting more.

    I’m glad to be back, and it’s great to talk to you again too!


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