1. Sign up for a weeklong cross-country ski adventure across the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec with minimal training and partial French. Do this with complete strangers, no friends or family along to comfort you in your cluelessness.
2. Once you realize your head is not going to explode from the rapid-fire Quebecois you are attempting to translate in the partial French you do understand, enjoy the nine-hour bus ride from Quebec City to the Parc national de la Gaspésie. The snow-white countryside is beautiful.
3. Find a ski buddy among the mostly 50- and 60-year-olds, the great majority of whom will kick your 40-year-old marathon-trained ass on skis. Get over it, rapidement.
4. When you alone are responsible for forming a clog at a narrow descent from a country road to the Baie de Chaleur, the ice-covered bay over which you will ski, tuck and roll, baby. Tuck and roll.
5. Take advice not to scale cliff at Percé, a town of 100 inhabitants, all of whom have turned out to watch the fool skiers dressed in tights arrive among them. Instead, accept a short skidoo ride to a military truck, which will transfer you to a navette (= shuttle), which will bring you, whether you need it or not, to church.
6. Recognize that in Quebec, all roads lead to church, and you never know who or what you might find there …
While I finish composing the rest of what I imagine to be 12 steps, please join me in your own version:
Using Lorrie Moore’s “How to Be an Other Woman” from Self-Help (Knopf, 1985) as inspiration, turn a personal experience into a twelve- (or more) step, how-to manual.* The piece can be a simple enumerated list, or it can be more detailed, conveying a broader story; but use the second-person, and keep it instructional.
*From Poets & Writers “The Time Is Now,” February 9, 2012