Afternoon sun over the Missoula North Hills on July 12, 2021. Photo: Sylke Laine

Me proudly posing next to my boat after having successfully re-written the story in which I sucked at rowing. Photo: Derek Laine

Last week, I rafted down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River through the Frank Church––River of no Return Wilderness in Idaho.

Before we got in the car to get on a plane to get on a boat to get on a river, we had been packing for days, planning for weeks, looking forward to this for months. But much had changed since we were first invited to join this adventure in early March.

Close friends dropped out for various reasons. Both my and my husband’s physical strength was weaker. The water levels were ridiculously low for July, so we…

Swans on a Rhine river beach. Photo: Sylke Laine

with their big black feet
swans stroll along the river
all like: “change? what change?”

I am sitting on a bench in downtown Wiesbaden. To my right, there is a chain coffee shop where one of my favorite boutiques used to be. On the way, I passed a Five Guys. A Five Guys! I don’t remember what store used to occupy the beautiful space in the beautiful building from the 1800s. I do remember it was not a U.S. burger chain.

I am catching myself thinking that everything used to be not just different, but better. …

Three portraits of my father, framed for display at his memorial service. Photo: Barbara Ritter

“I remember the day when he told me the truth about my maternal great-grandmother. He talked so matter-of-factly about this big family secret I didn’t even know existed.”

That was my cousin’s answer when I asked her for a spontaneous memory of my father when we were sitting together after his memorial service. My other cousin’s wife said (with a side glance at her father-in-law): “He was the first of his generation to immediately welcome me into the family, so kind and generous.”

Other things I heard were: “he helped me…,” “he showed me…,” “he trusted me to….” People remembered…

My essential self is happy behind the oars, floating down the Clark Fork River at sunset. Photo: Derek Laine

When someone asks: “Who do you think you are?” (usually with a passive-aggressive undertone that implies the addressed ought not to think of themselves very highly), they probably aren’t interested in getting an honest answer.

But what if they were?

Who DO you think you are?

Would you tell them?

Or would you share with them the version of yourself you want others to see?

And then there’s the real question: Who are you? Are you who you think you are?

A spaceship cloud hovering over the grassy Lincoln Hills in Missoula, MT. Photo: Sylke Laine

Whether on the road or on the river, I am usually the first to notice any wildlife. We have actually turned the car around because other passengers did not believe that there was a moose (which is totally worth turning around for). There are two reasons why I am good at wildlife spotting: I am constantly scanning for it, consciously or not, and I am good at pattern recognition (colors, shapes, movement).

The one reason for those two things being true: my father, who died a year ago this coming week. While there were various flaws in his fathering, he…

mrslaine, skiing at Discovery in Montana on a Thursday afternoon. Photo: Derek Laine

I posted the image above on social media recently with a text that talked about the investments I made to have the kind of life that allows me to go skiing on a Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t giving stock market or real estate advice. I mused about the courage and money I invested in my well-being when I decided to work part-time in my early thirties — 20% of my salary for one day off. You can read the Instagram version here.

The post got more reactions than usual. Some from people who made similar choices, some from people who…

The first yellow bell in the North Hills, Missoula, MT. Photo: Sylke Laine

Migrating snow geese, flying over Lolo Pass on the Montana-Idaho border in March 2019. Photo: Sylke Laine

boldly unimpressed
by opinions, fears, and doubts
geese trust the Knowing.

While I was always careful and never considered myself particularly courageous I have made some bold decisions. Well, they seemed bold from the outside. I was simply following my instinct, though, or what Glennon Doyle calls ”The Knowing”, and I didn’t worry about them too much.

Two years ago, my coach at the time had me look at stand-out moments in all different phases of my life and I realized that there was a phase in my life when bold and courageous was simply over. For a few years…

Me, full of innocent confidence, in the Tyrolean Alps in 1976. Photo: Probably my late father.

“Connect to your innocence,” she said. “Connect to the time before you felt judged by other people or yourself. What does that feel like?” Strange is what it felt like. Vulnerable, rare, and raw. And sad. I cried a little last Sunday when, instead of skiing (which I wanted to do), I supported a friend by showing up for one of her meditation classes (which, clearly, I needed to be doing).

The other day I came across a binder with a collection of my childhood art…

Sylke Laine

Self-Disruption Coach, Writer, UX Designer. “How to Start Wasting Time and Become Less Productive” →

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