A New Chapter

It started with a conversation about the shifting winds.  A talk about how this fiscal quarter feels so different than the last — about the things that have already changed or are about to change, the major shifts that could happen as early as this summer.

“It feels like a new chapter,” I remarked.  And thus opened up both the can of worms and the rabbit hole: the concept of a new chapter.

Perhaps it’s the writer side of me: the side that is always trying to find and piece together narratives, even when there isn’t one.  I know I have to be careful with that: it’s the same part of me that seeks out the story like Don Quixote and his windmill giants.  It’s the same side that’ll exhaust my soul in the effort to find the happy ending, even when the ending has no choice but to be ambiguous and unsatisfying.  It’s the same side of me that can attribute personality traits and personal motivations to people when the opposite proves to be true.  The side that will assume things are far deeper than they actually are.

But it’s not just the writer side of me.  Chapters can act like milestones, like moving pieces coming together, like markers to show you just how far you’ve come in the grand scheme of things.

New chapters used to be very clear and crisp for me, if only because life always seemed to happen at once.  Graduate college, start new job, get engaged (start chapter).  Get married, move to a new state, quit old job/start new job (end previous chapter/start new).  Leave job/career field entirely, purchase first house, move to the country, start yoga teacher training (new chapter).  Tableaus in my life so neatly delineated that they practically could be brand new books.

But what happens when new chapters stop feeling so black and white?

A new chapter.  Truth be told, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.  I know there was a time not too long ago when I was desperate for a new chapter — desperate to put as much space between me and what had turned out to be the most difficult, heart-wrenching, heartbreaking, infuriating, necessary time in my life.  So desperate, that I’d secretly relish when any change occurred — when even my teaching schedule would change, when classes were added or canceled, when entire studios closed down — because it meant one fewer relic from the past hanging onto me in the present day.

A new chapter.  So eager and anxious to put it all behind me — so hard-lined assertive that I’d never be made to feel the way I did in the old chapter ever again, never allow myself to repeat any part of that in any way, shape, or form — that I’d seek out any proof that I had finally turned a page.  I’d notice when something was different, when there was a shift in the energy, and I’d immediately go, “Is this the new chapter?”

And then something would happen — a chance of fate, an interaction, a becoming of the fly on the wall to something that indirectly involves me, an echo that had a few sound waves still left in it — and I’d scramble.  Because, clearly, I was still stuck in the old chapter, the page had not yet turned, and I needed to do whatever it took to change things.

A new chapter.  I seemed to be looking for it the way one might look for a building leveled by explosives.

Perhaps it was because I was worried about referencing old scenes again.  I know I have a tendency to do that — to flip back to previous pages, go over the lines.  Simultaneously beg the main character to be a little more on the ball and berate her for not wising up faster.  Reread all the sad parts, the bad parts, the cringe-worthy parts.  Shake my head at lines of dialogue, at the things that could’ve been said instead. Reference the actions of side characters, lest I ever forget any betrayal, lie, or manipulation.

“You can’t keep referencing the past if you want to start a new chapter,” I had told myself.

But what is a new chapter?  The book I’m currently reading treats chapter breaks like a pause to take a breath.  The boundary between one chapter and the next so small that sometimes you’ll still be in the same scene, with the same characters, as Chapter 12 turns into Chapter 13.

The thing about new chapters is that you usually get all the returning characters, most of the same scenes.  And even if the chapter were a true blank slate, you’d still have the main character, who is still experiencing the world through the same set of eyes.  And even if you toss away the book and pick up a brand new one, the reader is still the reader.

So perhaps the concept of new chapters should feel less final, less severe — less like a wall constructed but more like an evolution.  The same way we never feel our new age on our birthday — how it’s never like we went to bed and woke up with our skin completely shed and a new identity staring at us in the mirror — chapters are not synonymous when clean cuts from the past.

(And, really, that’s what I was chasing after — not a new chapter, but a clean cut from my past.  But I already knew something like that was impossible.  Run from your past, and it’ll find a shortcut to catch up with you.)

I’ve noticed an uptick in the Cranberry’s “All My Life” on the radio as of late.  Across multiple stations, I hear it with a frequency that doesn’t match its previous airplay.

Oh, my life is changing everyday in every possible way.  I take pause when certain songs come on the radio, or when certain songs are played at almost absurd levels.  I’m just crazy enough to take it in as a message.  Bare minimum, I use it as a chance for a thought experiment: on the off-chance I’m wrong and I’m just projecting out a hope that it’s the Universe/God saying something, why is it that this song gives me pause in the first place?

I’ve been doing a lot of comparing and contrasting — especially in regards to the ways I respond to things now, versus how I would’ve responded not even a year or two ago.  Recently, I found my new sense of self put to the test.  I found myself knee-deep in one of the most infuriating, mind-boggling email exchanges of my career, perhaps my entire life.  I walked away with tears in my eyes and elevated blood pressure and me scooping up my kitten and bemoaning, “People are such garbage sometimes.”  But I also walked away realizing how differently that exchange would’ve gone a few years ago.

Instead of falling into old habits, I had stood my ground.  I was calm, but I took no shit.  I wasn’t going to collapse under the first sign of aggression, nor was I going to feel guilty for having a grievance.  Old me would’ve collapsed, would’ve buckled under even the hint of aggression, would’ve been made to feel ashamed that she dared to feel negatively about something.  But that was the old me — and she’s not me, anymore.

All my life is changing every day in every possible way.

If I am honest with myself, things have been shifting for a long time.  Shifting in a positive way.  Maybe not in the ways I was desperate for one, two, three, perhaps even upwards of four years ago, but they’ve been changing in the way I believe they’re supposed to.  In accordance to whatever plan God/The Universe has for me.  And I don’t realize how much has shifted until something happens that references back a previous chapter, and I see just how different things are — how different I am.

And what is more important: the feeling of a new chapter, or the feeling of a new me?  A turned page, or a rebirth?

A great book has realistic character development — development that creeps along, rising with the story arc and sliding into place as the tale winds down.  It usually doesn’t appear in the blank spaces, the page breaks, the space between the last paragraph and the words “Chapter Two”.  And perhaps instead of constantly looking for a new chapter, I should just keep on ahead, relishing the words in front of me, seeing in real time what’s in store for the protagonist, and resisting the temptation to see how many pages are left in this particular chapter.


Insomnia and Mirrors

And so it is that I’m up at 1 in the morning, writing about mirrors.

These wee hours of morning. For a few weeks now, they’ve been my consistent companion. Whether I find my nights stretching into their territory, or I’m awakened in the middle of the night as if to be reminded of their presence, I find myself here. As a naturally early sleeper, I take pause when this happens. Such a disruption of my circadian rhythm is usually a sign something is afoot, or evolving — or, bare minimum, wants me awake for it.

But, yes, mirrors. Metaphorical mirrors. Perhaps I’ll start small and go from there. Continue reading



Let’s set the scene: I’m in high school, and left in the wake of yet another terrible relationship.

The relationship had been a special kind of toxic, the kind that should’ve heralded a warning: that this was the type of guy I would keep on attracting until I could actually find some self-worth.  I’d been treated like dirt, cheated on, and unceremoniously dumped.  He’d eventually return and I’d take him back, because it’s amazing how far you can bend over backwards when you don’t have a spine to stop you.  He’d dump me again, this time with a pocket full of insults instead of another girl waiting in the wings.

Let’s set a more specific scene: I’m in the car with my mom, sitting both passenger side and in the wake of the final break-up, venting about the newest set of verbal sparring — the terrible things he’d said about me, the things I’d said to friends in response, the anger and repulsion felt towards a guy I once thought I’d loved.

I look over and my mom is smiling amusedly.

“Oh, you two will get married someday.” Continue reading

My Voice

“Everyone can sing.  It’s just a matter of finding your range.”

“I’ve heard that before, but I don’t know if I believe it.”

It was one of those conversations in passing — a few lines before the dialogue shifted to something else — but it echoed a little bit in the back of my head.  It bounced off the cylinders that always seem to be running — the introspection and self-analysis, always trying to crack the code, always trying to reveal what might still be hidden. Continue reading


You don’t realize how stale the air is until you open the windows and let the spring breeze in.

It reminds me of something Melissa Febos says in her memoir Abandon Me: some burdens can only be measured by their relief.  I’m sure there’s bigger a tie-in for that quote somewhere, but, for now I just let it simmer, hanging out in the smell of melting ice and shifting winds.

Spring has been shyly introducing itself over the past couple days, and it is through this thawing that I realize how stagnant I feel. Continue reading

The Day Has Come!

The day has come!  Now you too will know what to do in the event the flower girl explodes!

(…or, kinda.)

It’s been a long six years — from inception, to editing, to trying to get an agent’s attention, to my Kindle Scout campaign, to today: release day.



You can get both the paperback and ebook on Amazon (currently two separate pages, but they’ll merge any minute now).

So what is the book about?  In the Event the Flower Girl Explodes is a biting comedy about weddings, love, communication, and family. The book touches upon the subtle and all-too-real heartbreaks that happen when we attempt to protect those we love. The main character goes through obstacles that are familiar to every twenty-something struggling in the real world.

But, don’t take my word for it:

My Best Friend’s Wedding with a rainbow twist! From the first page, readers will be sucked into Nicole Winger’s world. Smart, funny, new-grad Nicole wrestles with territory all too familiar to twenty-somethings… An entertaining read for anyone who enjoys their black humor with a side of substance (and a little frill).”
-Sara DiVello, bestselling author, Where in the OM Am I? One Woman’s Journey from the Corporate World to the Yoga Mat

“Abby is a fresh, relatable voice,” – Carina Stikus, author of Grandma’s How-To List for Getting Through Life

In the Event the Flower Girl Explodes is an amazing coming of age story that truly captures the feelings that build when we don’t know how to communicate about them. It culminates in lessons learned and renewed faith in oneself,” — Sarah Woodard, author of Adri’s Big Dream

“You will read chapter after chapter without noticing it,” – Ruty B, critic, Reading, Dreaming

So… go buy it!  Or else you’ll never know what to do in the event the flower girl explodes!  (Or…something.)

Just Not-Bad Enough

As I quickly learned, cleaning out your closet feels a lot like digging something up.

I had long-ago dropped the former-teacher narrative: not the story of my time as an early education teacher, but the tale of my quitting of the field — and quitting far too late, when the burnout had left indelible grit under my nails and a lingering cough in my throat.  It had taken a few years, but eventually the radioactive dust from the fallout of quitting had dissipated and the air had cleared out again.

But something always lingered.  The gnawing guilt, simultaneously over leaving and over not leaving soon enough — because I didn’t stick it out, and because I stuck it out when the best thing I could’ve done was leave.  Like any wound that didn’t get a clean cut, it festered and reinfected and took years before it finally scarred over. Continue reading