Mary Lou Sanelli
Mary Lou Sanelli

Well, if Michelle Obama can admit to feeling blue, so will I.

At first, I didn’t want to read her interview. Clearly, I thought, there are things I am not ready to hear. But after reading it, I realized that it’s become more than the lurking virus. It’s that living downtown has begun to take nerve. It’s a lot less intimidating to stay home and reorganize the closets.

But no amount of decluttering will make the latest shooting not feel like the final straw. Again and again, the shootings. With barely a breath in between.

How slippery the edge of a neighborhood can feel.

Only blocks away, it’s another world. It’s also a leafier world. So each new round of sirens prompts another walk up to Parsons Gardens on Highland to restore myself, to breathe in the stillness, to feel the peacefulness pool around my nerve endings, the calm that comes when there is less likelihood of violence. When my friend Raye ends our call with “stay safe,” I cannot resist the urge to say, “Easy for you. You live in Greenlake.”

I envy my neighbor Amal. She is devout. She believes it’s all up to Allah. I wish I could think that so I wouldn’t have to wrestle with what I believe. She raises her hands to the sky so I raise my hands to the sky. And it does make me feel better. But that’s the thing about better. It’s more fleeting than worse. Will the neighborhood ever bounce back?

I lose myself in work. I am devout at losing myself in work.

Somewhere I read that writers are preoccupied by their own competing minds and that they can’t forget that they are preoccupied. One mind just wants to live, while the other keeps commenting on how well, or how terribly, they are going about it.

There is so much truth to this. And while I don’t think it’s the only reason I write, I do believe that you can turn this competition into a sense of guidance for yourself.

So, while one of my minds knows that my friend Stephanie is, by now, sitting in our rooftop garden and that I could go up and bother her, the other reminds me that this is the point of her day when she likes to stare out at Elliott Bay, smoke her allotted cigarette and be grateful that there is nothing more she can do about today.

Fortunately, both minds know not to interrupt her alone time.

Our rooftop has become the epitome of alone time.

But there is great news! Kamala, when I cast my ballot, I am voting for YOU. 

And get this. I just heard that my first children’s book will be published this spring. I should celebrate. I will. I promise myself that I will.

Because even if I haven’t yet felt like celebrating the moment, I do need to celebrate the triumph.

In fact, I wish that I could have reached across the Zoom cosmos this morning to give a good long,  triumphant hug to one of my dance students when, mid-plié, she paused to say, “You’ve written a lot of books.” 

And for a little while, after she said that, I did feel like celebrating. 

Because I have. 


— Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker and dance teacher, lives in Belltown. Her column has been a part of The Queen Anne & Magnolia News since 2009. For more information about her and her work, visit