A Story of Love and Friendship

Phyllis in her Colorado home this summer.

The story of my work is always, at its core, a story of love and friendship.

I met Phyllis Mathis when I was 22 years old. I had been married for less than a year, and out of college even less than that. I still remember every detail of our meeting--the metal folding chairs we shook hands across, that curious banter you do with strangers, the way she stood with shoulders back, head high, her face radiating warmth and welcome. It's as if some part of my memory-making mind woke up and said, Pay attention. This moment is important.

Not long afterward I attended a retreat Phyllis led and as she spoke one morning I was overcome by this strong sense of kindredness which I wish I could say happens to me more often than the rare times it actually does. I thought, Something about the way her mind works and the way my mind works feels the same. Our journeys have been entwined ever since.

Years later, when the first thread gave the first tug that began the unraveling of my life as I then knew it, Phyllis was the first person I called. She sat across from me and watched in real time as all the pieces I had so carefully crafted and constructed fell to the floor and shattered.

She later said it was one of the most beautiful things she's ever seen.

There is not a secret in me that she has not held. Not a single place she has been unwilling to journey with me, no matter how dark or embarrased or unfit for public consumption I become before it's all over. Her friendship has been a safety net that has caught me and reassured me and given me courage time and time and time again.

Cover photography and design by Liz Kalloch, lizkallochdesigns.comThis week we're sending our collaborative project into production, and today as we do the finishing touches, I'm so present to the depth and richness of the wisdom and stories we've mined in over a decade of friendship, the ways we've helped one another weave in and understand even the stories which began long before. It's the most epic piece of work I've undertaken yet, and I am just humbled beyond belief to be able to share it with you soon.

I'm a big bundle of feelings in the meantime: excited, a little nervous, very tender, but most of all deeply grateful for this woman and this friendship which have shaped and comforted and guided me all along the way.

The Iconic Self (available now for pre-order) releases January 24, 2012.