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The Bookworm Sez: “Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change” by Maggie Smith

Right foot, left foot, right foot. That’s the only way to move forward: one step at a time, even if it’s a baby step. Yes, there are times when even that may seem impossible but when something’s done, when someone’s gone, or when the unthinkable has become reality, that’s what you have to do. Right

Right foot, left foot, right foot.

That’s the only way to move forward: one step at a time, even if it’s a baby step. Yes, there are times when even that may seem impossible but when something’s done, when someone’s gone, or when the unthinkable has become reality, that’s what you have to do. Right foot, left foot, right foot, as in the new book “Keep Moving” by Maggie Smith.

It’s over.

You saw this coming, knew it was going to occur, though you thrashed and railed against it. Smith says that when the worst happened to her, she kept asking herself “What now?” and the answer was always “Keep moving.”

Reminding herself then that the past can’t be undone, she grieved, and made lists of things she was already doing – breathing, eating, blinking – then crossed them off to trick herself into thinking she was accomplishing something. She stopped claiming heartbreak because, despite occasional feelings to the contrary, her heart was beating just fine.

In the first part of Smith’s book, Revision reminds us that change offers “an opportunity to make a new… life.” In the second part, Resilience, Smith says we must take a lesson from lodgepole pinecones: they can’t grow into tall trees unless they first endure a fire. If you’ve gone through metaphorical fire, “You survived; don’t forget that, and don’t diminish it.”

And in the third part, Transformation, recall what happens when you take your hand out of a bucket of water: “‘The water takes back the hand-shaped space.'” You can do the same thing with your life: don’t live with what’s gone; instead, take back your narrative by thinking about the future. You don’t have to forget the past, but reframe it and “let go of the idea that you could have done anything differently.” Be like a caterpillar, Smith says: cocoon, and then believe that you have entered darkness and are “coming out with wings.”

Take a quick scan of “Keep Moving,” and you’ll notice that it’s full of meme-worthy half-pages that might seem…. fluffy. There’s not much inside this book at all, unless you need everything that you see.

And if that’s the case, then this book is golden. Poet and author Maggie Smith’s words ooze with compassion and self-care in a blend of short-short essays and one-to-three-line tiny posters that seem to invite readers to jot down down the sentiments and stick them on the bathroom mirror each day. Smith tells of her personal loss – a divorce – and how she survived, in what seems less like a book of steps and more like a three-season method that makes no demands on time. While it’s aimed, for the most part, at loss of love and marriage here, the words can easily be subsumed by readers suffering other losses and missings.

Not everyone will want to read this book, and not everyone should, but if you’re floundering and spinning and need a nudge forward, you know what to do. Find “Keep Moving” and start tomorrow on the right foot.
***

If you’re in need of advice that’s a little more to-the-point, look for “Escaping Emotional Abuse: Healing from the Shame You Don’t Deserve” by Beverly Engel, LMFT. This deep dive into healing will help readers to gain the strength needed to get out of situations they didn’t ask for, and to find a better, happier future.


“Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change” by Maggie Smith
c.2020, One Signal Publishers, Simon & Schuster
$24.00 / $33.00 Canada 214 pages

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    Bernadette Ulsamer
    February 23, 2021, 3:11 pm

    I love Maggie Smith’s poetry, thanks for highlighting a different type of her writing.

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