don’t look back…

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I write a lot on these pages about love and loss and letting go and holding on to hope.  I’ve learned something about myself as I’ve gotten older. One, I am terrible at letting go. And two, I am incapable of giving up.

Those two things sound the same but they aren’t. Here’s the difference.

Letting go is necessary to being able to embrace what’s next. We are, all of us, guilty of holding on to something that needed to be released long ago and we do this for as many reasons as there are people.

Not giving up means that once you release your “stuckness” by letting go, you continue to believe in your worth and your value. You fight for your own happiness. Live the life you imagined (or at least as much as possible minus the million dollars and the mansion).

I held on to a marriage way past its prime. My reasons were good, I thought. I had a family. I wanted to keep it together. I had to learn that the dynamics that develop between two people in a marriage can be more harmful to a family than to break up and live separately, providing two happy households. Exposing my kids to the dynamic between my ex and me was not good for them; it wasn’t healthy for any of us.

When I let go, I did it for all of us. Took one for the team. That was what I did for my family. Yes, it was hard. Yes my ex re-wrote history and hated me. No, my kids didn’t understand cause they were little*.  Ultimately, though, it was the best thing for all of us. It was at this time that many people called me “brave” and “courageous”.

Now, those aren’t words you can generally use to describe yourself. Right? You can’t call yourself brave. You can’t be all, “Look at me, I’m so brave!” But you can decide to be brave. And when I see someone taking action in their life like this, I recognize that it took guts to leave, or change, or grow, or say no, or make the “unpopular” choice within their tribe. I recognize the courage.

So then, can you see the difference between letting go and not giving up? I let go of that scenario, an ideal I had in my mind and heart about what family meant, because I wasn’t willing to give up on happiness – my own, my children’s, and even my ex’s.

I believed, and I still do, that there was a happier life for me, for all of us. I certainly don’t mean to make it sound like once I decided to let go it was clean cut and easy. Not by a long shot. There were times I looked back and thought, did I leave something behind? Did I mean to let that go? (Generally, I’d spend ten minutes with him and go, oh yep, yeah, I meant to drop that like it was hot.)

*Note that while its true that my kids didn’t understand at the time, there were benefits even to them that came from splitting, and that now, at 15 and 16, they do see that and understand.

I am living proof that happiness is meant to be yours if you don’t give up. Finding your path isn’t always easy and it isn’t always clear. There are wrong turns but you course correct and keep moving forward. It’s natural to question your choices, but, when you run a race, you don’t head back the other way – you keep running forward. You left things behind for a reason – the things you left behind weren’t right. 

One of my favorite quotes is from a letter of love advice John Steinbeck wrote to his son, Thom. He said, “And don’t worry about losing. If it’s right, it happens. The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

Let go and keep moving forward. Trust yourself. Trust that the path ahead holds more for you than what you left behind. And trust that your happiness isn’t selfish. It matters – and affects the ones you love too.

*-outlook by Rupi Kaur Milk and Honey https://rupikaur.com

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All That Is Next…

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All That is Next.

The title of my blog was born because while one chapter of my life was ending, I was hopeful about what was next.

At the time, I figured what I really wanted to do with this blog, besides practice writing, was mostly just muse “out loud” to whomever wanted to listen. Mostly I wanted to think aloud about the things important to me – things my friends and I sat around and talked about; our kids, thoughts on relationships, love, friendship. It occurred to me that there was a lot to say about the end of a marriage and the beginning of what comes next. And so, “All That is Next” was born.

I recently found a bunch of files belonging to my ex husband in our old filing cabinet. It was mostly things like old taxes, certificates for classes he’d completed, cards from the kids.  I boxed it up and gave it all back to him. Except for one file: Letters from Dayna. I kept that for a couple reasons. For one thing, I figured if he’d wanted it back he’d had seven good years to ask for it. Yes, technically they belong to him, but frankly, I think these letters have more value to me. Secondly, I really wanted to read what I’d written – a peek into the not so distant past.

Besides that I am an anthropologist at heart, these artifacts are a treasure to me. I have a feeling he’d probably burn them. I wanted to learn from them.

When you end a marriage or partnership, as many of you probably know, there are times that you ask yourself: Did I do everything I could to save it? Could I have done more? This is no more true than when you share children.

Reading through the old letters, I know the answer is yes. It’s all there – the end of the marriage. How hard we fought. I think he’s forgotten, honestly. But we truly fought hard, each of us in our own way, to save it. I know now that some things just aren’t meant to be saved – by hanging on so tightly, we only tore each other up all the more. It would have been so much kinder, so much more graceful to just let one another go. But we couldn’t – because of our disillusionment, maybe our ideals (my ideals? my stubborn refusal to let go?)

My fierce desire to keep my family together, which I thought at the time was in everyone’s best interest (It’s NOT, People. It’s really NOT) led me to hang on with a death grip. Finally, that realization that we were actually hurting everyone more by hanging on was what allowed me to let go – and I did it for all of us. 

I think your 40’s brings you some wisdom if you’ve paid attention. You give fewer fucks. You expend less energy where it is wasted. You let go of people who exhaust you and don’t feel so guilty about it. You (hopefully) learn to forgive yourself your failures and let go of the shame. I fought hard to keep my marriage because I didn’t want to fail – I didn’t want to fail my kids, my husband, my parents, his parents, my first grade teacher…(I mean, apple polisher for life…) But seriously, the shame of failing ran deep in my bones for a long time. And you see your kids hurt and feel like you caused it. That’s one giant ball of fuuuuuuucked up shit to get over. But staying in a bad relationship doesn’t do them any favors – in fact, that’s worse.

Reading those letters back now, I’m kind of – I think the word I’m looking for is satisfied. Even if we did beat each other up a fair amount in the end, I’m proud of the success of that marriage. We made two pretty amazing people. That’s not failure. Staying in something dysfunctional because you should, continuing to take any kind of abuse or poor treatment to save even a shred of something, maybe because you think it’s all on you – that’s where we go wrong.

Mostly – mostly – I am proud of us for letting go. I might be a little prouder of me here, on account of he seems to hate me…So, I think it’s safe to assume he doesn’t see things quite the same way. But you know what? That’s sort of my point. I know I let go for both of us, and I know it was the right thing. Even if he never sees it that way, I’m willing for that to be the case.

Why? Because I understand something he may not ever be able to:  we could only have had the life we had with one another. And now, we each have lives we can only have apart.

Our marriage served its purpose, and then it was time to move on. We created two beautiful humans and I will love him til the end of my days for giving me that. My children are my heart and soul. I am grateful for the time shared with him, even as I am grateful – truly – that it is done. He is remarried and seemingly happy, which makes me happy for him.

The life I have had since we ended I could only have had because we ended. And it’s been full of love, and happiness, and yeah, even some heartache. And I am thankful for it all because it lead me here.

So as I look ahead, I am poised to accept all that is next – there are things/people/experiences I can only know because of where I am now. It’s exciting at the same time as it’s terrifying, and undoubtedly it will be filled with love, and happiness, and of course, some heartache.

Because that is life – right? We don’t get to control how much of any of it we get. But as the steward of this one and only life I get,  I intend to make it happy, which means embracing all the joy, and yes, all the pain.

Word.

Don’t take that to mean I’m all zen about endings, or completely at peace when I don’t get what my heart wants. I have to work to let go, remind myself to hope. But I want to live this way – to accept the thorns along with the roses…

To let a new life happen…and to truly look forward to all that is next.

(Poem, From Salt by Nayyirah Waheed. Link below)

http://nayyirahwaheed.com

 

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Girl Power and Slasher Flicks

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I saw Halloween last night. I am not a movie reviewer, but thought it might be fun and, hey, I have opinions.

To be fair, I am not a fan of horror/slasher flicks and never have been. I’ve never seen a single film in the Halloween franchise (nor Friday the 13th) even though they were at the height of popularity in the early 80’s when I totally fit the demographic for those types of movies. I’ll admit I was curious about this slasher film because I like Jamie Lee Curtis and it looked like she was gonna kick some ass. I am a fan of the “chicks kicking ass” genre. Even so, I probably wouldn’t have gone to see it, but I was invited by a group of ladies I enjoy, and it’s half off popcorn on Tuesdays so, why not.

Here’s my review: MEH.

This review contains tiny spoilers, but if you can’t figure these out beforehand, you’re not thinking…which is okay. Sometimes I do that on purpose, too, so that I can pretend to be surprised with totally predictable formula. But also, much of this was in the trailer – and the trailer is quite a bit better than the movie. That trailer was filled with potential about what that movie could have been.

 

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Maybe if the movie hadn’t held itself so accountable to the slasher film tropes it would have actually been good. Come on, Jamie! I’m sorry, but weak sauce, Lady! So disappointing. This is the best you’ve got? You’re gonna stand with your back up against the door when you KNOW he’s right outside, so he can break through the door and grab you? You’re gonna leave a room full of stupid mannequins for him to hide behind? Or wait, no, I see. That’s right. We needed those to “build suspense” and make it “scary” – because they are WHITE mannequins, just like his creepy ass white face. Also, you’re going to trap yourself in each room, turn by turn, THEN cordon the rooms off with these amazing traps you built. Why the F not just run up and trap off all the rooms, then blast his ass between the bars you so ingeniously installed?

And that spiffy hidden cellar. LOVE THAT SHIT. Brilliant and I would very much like one of these. But, why, oh why, would you keep leaving the remote that opens it right next to it? Also, the dude can withstand being hit at 30 mph by a truck, shot at, and falling from buildings…and you really thought a little old plywood and tile island was going to keep him out.

This movie didn’t do anything to redeem slasher flicks for me, despite my hopes. I don’t like watching people get killed in ever more gory ways, especially people who don’t deserve it. (I won’t deny that a “bad guy” getting killed is not as difficult to stomach). But my problem with these films, really, is they overt misogyny. It’s not even veiled misogyny. The women are killed with particular glee and relish. They are hunted like prey, tormented, and typically we are treated to more detail with their deaths. The men tend to get killed swiftly and with less attention to detail. Yes, to be sure, dudes get killed too, but usually only because they are in the way, not because they’ve been hunted. Quick and easy (though not less gory) death for the guys, and often, we just see the guy after he’s been stabbed. Presumably it’s not as fun to watch a man get murdered by a homicidal maniac. It’s only fun to see his head roll by.

I wanted Jamie Lee to go after Meyer’s ass, hunt him down, lure him in, trap him, beat him at his own game. They didn’t use her nearly enough. Instead she spent a lot of it waiting, powerless in her own “trap” as she ends up being at his mercy. The ending was supposed to be satisfying, as Jamie Lee, her daughter and granddaughter finally get him. That was supposed to be the “girl power” moment. I wanted to be on the edge of my seat, cheering, punching the air and gritting my teeth as they use their wit and power of solidarity to beat that bastard! But, they kind of just got lucky. Yeah, she had a “plan”… sort of. But again, meh.

For my money, I found the ending of The Quiet Place much more satisfying. Now, there’s a lady who is completely out of fucks. She is tired of it and not taking any more shit. She is going to defend her family with everything she’s got. She lures that monster in and kicks his alien ass.

Nowthat was girl power. Unknown-3Unknown-1

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What If You Fly…?

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Leap Of Faith

An Essay on Hope

So, falling in love and not being psychic? Massively inconvenient.

Totally. Not. Fair.

In the famously viral NY Times article by Mandy Catron (To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This), she explores the the “36 Questions That Lead to Intimacy” (as presented in Dr Arthur Aron’s Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings. )

Question 13 asks: “If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?”

Not so long ago, I did this experiment with someone I liked. And, yes, we fell in love. (But, full disclosure, I think we were already on our way to in love before we did the questions). I recall my answer to this question was something along the lines of “Maybe it’s better not to know. Maybe it’s better to just discover life as it happens and let things play out as they will.”

Was I full of shit, or what?

Obviously I was all pie-in-the-sky-glowing with new love. And now, I totally take it back. Yes, I want a crystal ball! And yes, I want to know how this all turns out! (I mean, I want to know other stuff too – but I promise I wouldn’t get too carried away with my crystal ball powers. It’s not like I’d use it to win the lottery…too many times…)

Let’s face it, People. Falling in love is a huge risk. It’s scary. Cause no matter how much you love and care for another human, you don’t get a guarantee that they are going to keep loving you back. You don’t even get a guarantee that them loving you back means you get to actually be with them. And falling in love in your 40’s, with kids and divorce and custody and exes – so many moving parts make it particularly challenging to get all the pieces to line up for an actual life together.

The reason those 36 Questions are so intriguing is we all want to be seen – truly seen – and loved for exactly who we are. And yet, opening up to someone and putting your heart out there is terrifying because we can’t know for sure what they see will be what they love. Or, as has been the case for me with a few men I’ve dated, that they will even try to really “see”you.

The man I fell for, I fell for because he sees me. And he sees me because he wants to see me. And I see him. Truly and beautifully. To be seen and loved is nothing short of a miracle.

But, yeah. I still want to see into the future with my damn crystal ball!

Here’s why. I’m officially amazed at two things in life: one, that anyone has more than one baby, especially if you’ve experienced natural child birth, and; two, that we keep risking our hearts after having them pulverized. One bad heart break should be enough to keep us from ever wanting to go through it again. So how do we keep taking that leap? How do we have the courage to let someone in, be vulnerable and open and hopeful – knowing that at any time, that person can choose to walk away?

I think it’s one of life’s great mysteries, to be honest. Love and loss go hand in hand, and yet we continue to put ourselves out there, to hope, to try, to seek for love in a world that offers us no guarantees. In a life where the only thing you can truly count on is change, it’s a brave and courageous leap of faith every single time you offer up your heart. And the truth is, many, many of us carry the scars and build walls out of a desire to prevent feeling the pain of heartache again.

So, as I dare to put my heart out there, I do want that crystal ball. I’m big on self-preservation.

And, yet…

And yet, there must be something in me – in all of us – that knows taking the leap is the only way to live. Right? Somehow the pain of the past isn’t enough to keep me from wanting to go forward and experience love – great love – again. Or, maybe even for the first time.

That thing in me, in you – it’s hope.

There have been times when my heart has been so hurt that I’ve thought, “You know what? That’s it. I’m not doing this again. I cannot risk this again – to hope for love and have it not work out is just too painful and disappointing. I’m done.” But I admit that even as I’ve thought this, I’ve known on some level I’m just being dramatic. I don’t even mean it, even though I’ve wanted to mean it sometimes.

I think that’s why this is one of my favorite poems:

There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask, “What if I fall?”

Oh, but my darling,

What if you fly?

Man, that little poem makes me weep. There is so much wrapped up in those five little lines. There’s fear, there’s pain, there’s hope, there’s promise. Life is in the living.

Take the leap. Love. Hope.

Fly.

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White Knuckle. Open Palm.

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White Knuckle Open Palm

Essays on Letting Go

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.

                                                                       –Rumi

The great Sufi poet, Rumi. His words have helped heal my heart, give me hope, lead me to clarity, and better understand some of my greatest joy and deepest suffering. Like most of us, when I look back over the last twenty years of my life, I’ve experienced my share of both. I like to focus on the joyful times: my wedding day, finding out I was pregnant with my son and then my daughter, watching them grow into the beautiful human beings they are today. But mixed in with all those happy times, there’s heartache and loss. A crumbling marriage that ended in divorce, the death of my only, very dear brother, and a couple very painful break-ups.

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Reading back the essays I have written over the years, clearly the thing I struggle with most is letting go. My readers will know this to be true; it’s a common theme. Basically, I keep writing the same essay over and over a little differently. I’ve written about it so much because I am always trying to figure out how to do it better.

That toxic marriage of mine. Truth is, it wasn’t always toxic. It was happy for a lot of years, until it wasn’t. And I know I was unhappy way before it occurred to him to be. He was just existing. When I finally did let go, it was one of the hardest things I’d ever done – and I had to do it for both of us. He wasn’t ready to let go either. And he didn’t really let go for a number of years.

So, this being bad at letting go thing? I’m thinking I’m not alone. That’s my point with this particular letting go essay.

I think people hang on to things that have run their course, expired, are toxic, quit serving them, no longer make them happy or even make sense anymore because letting go is, in a word, excruciating. The irony is every time you do actually let go, you feel so much better (eventually) I don’t know why we aren’t a lot more quick to release.

I wish we could all just learn to put effort into people who actually deserve it. Don’t waste time on assholes. You’ll be much happier. And at the end of the day you’re only responsible for your own happiness. Forget about the impossible to please people. Let them find their own happiness and leave you out of it.

Usually, not being able – no, not wanting to – let go is borne of fear, plain and simple. Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing what you think you have. Fear of loneliness, loss, pain, jealousy, anger…it all comes down to being afraid. We white knuckle it – holding on so damn tight because we can’t seem to recognize that when we let go we open up to so much more. We get so comfortable in what is we can’t imagine what might be.

Letting go with grace is something I’ll always have to work to overcome. I need to say, though, that this is the cost that comes with a trait I happen to like about myself: I attach to people. If I love you-love you, I love you for real. I don’t go tossing that shit around to just any old Jack or Joe. I also feel things deeply, so I risk getting hurt deeply by letting someone in, and letting someone go.

But, when I look back at all the ways my life has blossomed over the last several years I know I will keep loving the way I love, keep creating the life I want, and keep making room for all that is next. Because there is always so much more ahead than what we leave behind. Open palms.

In the words of another great (modern day) poet, #Atticus:

“Don’t give up now. Chances are, your best kiss, your hardest laugh, and your greatest day are still yet to come.”

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