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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Hold On to Let Go

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You know how they say that the universe will keep giving you the lesson that you need to learn?

First of all, I don’t know who “they” are, but I bought Oreos today, you guys. And I only buy Oreos on two occasions: when I go camping or when I’m eating my feelings. I am not going camping.*

(*and technically I’m not really eating my feelings either, as I’m openly expressing them here. But I needed an excuse, so please don’t deny me that!)

As readers of these posts may know, I am not famous for my Letting Go Skills. I held on to a dying marriage for many, many years. I still have a bag of folded up notes that my friends and I used to pass back and forth in HIGH SCHOOL. And I have moved an old water softener to 4 different houses and not hooked it up at any of them. That’s painful to admit.

Hoarding tendencies aside,  I think letting go of ideas and expectations is the hardest of the let go’s, and this is my personal albatross. The last six or seven years have given me so many opportunities to let go – of people, of things, of expectations. I don’t know that it’s something I will ever be good at the way some people are. You know how some people – they’re called “minimalist” – never seem to have extra paperwork or mail or too many clothes or shoes or any stuff? They seem to have zero crap lying around. I walk into their space and I’m like, “Ooooooh yesssss”. I would LOVE to be like that. You guys, I am NOT like that. I will likely NEVER be like that.

But I’m not a total lost cause. I have gotten better. I’ve expunged material items (yes, the garage is the final frontier…but I did just post that water softener on Let Go. Not kidding! I mean, look at me let go!)

I’ve let go of toxic people in my life and that’s a GOOD let go. That’s a “what the hell was I waiting for” let go! That’s an F YES let go!

Most importantly, I think, is that I have learned to let go of the idea of what my life “should” look like and embraced my life exactly as it is. And that’s been the best part.

That’s not to say that I don’t still want or long for certain things. That’s not to say I don’t still strive to gain those things. I’m just not as attached to the ideals that once took up so much space in my head.

And that’s not to say I don’t fight back at times. I’m not all Mama Zen, floating perfectly along like, “Oh, you guys, it’s okay, just trust the journey. And here, have some glitter”.Image result for throwing glitter gif

Oh, no. I have to keep reminding myself about that. I have to keep looking back at my life and seeing that all the times I held on super tight to something was usually when I most needed to let it go. I have to keep looking back and seeing how the life I’ve created didn’t just happen because I magically got everything I wanted. The life I created happened because I course corrected along the way. I held on. I let go. I learned. And here I am.

So, yeah, this is a letting go of something I want. The difference is that I see clearly that I can’t have it now and I see clearly that this is okay. I see clearly that all I can do is accept and embrace this path I’m on and celebrate the experience. Life is constantly presenting us with hard choices, providing us with lessons and giving us opportunities to grow.

So, I let go. Let go. Let go.

Accept that “what’s next” is unknowable, but suffering is a choice. I choose not to suffer.

Accept that loving someone really does mean giving them space to follow their own path. I choose to love in spite of not having a guarantee that love will stay. Love and loss are intertwined and that’s a fact.

Accept that letting go is the way to acceptance, and acceptance is the way to peace. I choose peace. I choose to trust.

And I choose Oreos. At least for today. Yeah, I know Oreos are not the answer. Tomorrow, it’s back to camping only, I promise.

*Art Credit: https://www.artmajeur.com/en/art-gallery/gioia-albano/400105/trust-your-path-healing-art-painting/10166356

 

 

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A Word About Dick Pics

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Ahhhh, The Dick Pic. A relatively new tool (ahem) in the single (?) man’s arsenal of … um…courtship strategy.  Or an opportunity for perverts to cast a wider net. Or a novel approach for the exhibitionist. Whatever, but The Dick Pic has become a thing. (ahem)

For those of you who aren’t in the know, i.e. haven’t been in the dating world for the last 10 or so years, you may be wondering, “Why would anyone want to send, or receive, a pic of a dick?”

It’s a fair question.  And I’m not sure I can answer it. But, let me give it my best shot. (…ahem.)

First of all, for those of you who have not dated in the last ten years, do I need to tell you dating has changed? Like – a lot. Texting, Facebook, Snap Chat, Match.com, OkCupid, Tinder., Bumble – these things have changed the landscape completely. So when I dipped a toe in the pool six years ago, I couldn’t have known what to expect. I ventured into the world of online dating and I kept it a secret. There was a stigma attached to meeting someone online. It was the equivalent to taking out a personals add in the 90s.

But smart phones and technology put online dating on the Fast Track. The inter-webs have virtually transformed the way we seek and find relationships. There are so many dating apps and websites, the stigma has all but disappeared. “Where’d you meet him?” On Tinder. On Match. Eharmony. OkCupid. Bumble. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are over 7,000 dating sites online, and of the 54 million single people in the US, about 49 million have tried online dating at some point. It’s a massive industry with annual revenue in the billions. (for more amazing online dating statistics, go here)

And not only that, but 17% of marriages in the last year started online, and one-fifth of committed relationships also began online.

So, where do the dick pics fit in? I don’t know why, but some men seem to find it exciting to “show the goods”. Is it a form of harassment? Absolutely. Are these men exhibitionists? Perverts? Predators? Maybe. Hard to say.

I just wonder, do they really think, “Hey, I know! A dick pic will win her over! Wait’ll she sees THIS!”

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SPOILER: Not. Won. Over.

I still remember the first Dick Pic I received. I’d been emailing a man from Plenty of Fish. He was nice and seemed interesting, and we decided we’d meet for dinner. We moved off the site and started texting. Here’s what I recall:

Him: Where shall we meet?

Me: How about (Local Restaurant with amazing flatbread)?

Him: *dick pic*

Me: stunned emoji face

Him: Sure, that sounds great. 7:00?

Me: You just sent me a pic of your dick. Did you mean to do that? 

Him: I just thought you’d like to see what you’re getting.

Me: AT DINNER?

Him: …

Me: I think I’ll pass. I’m afraid I’ll reach out to shake your hand, and…

This wasn’t a so-called hook-up site where we’d began chatting. There hadn’t been any flirting or any reason to think I’d somehow signaled him to send a pic of the goods. It was 100% unsolicited. It was the first – but not the last – dick pic I’ve received over the last six years. There has even been a dick video over skype. That was…neat.

If you do a quick google search of “Dick Pic” you will find a whole culture appears to have popped up around the phenomena. (Okay, I did that one on purpose…) There are sites JUST FOR DICK PICS. It has its own hashtag! #dickpic is a thing! There are Tumblr accounts, Twitter accounts – even a “Critique My Dick Pic” page (I am not including that link. You’re on your own, there). You can find How-To advice (How to Take A Dick Pic That Actually Looks Good), Cautionary Tales (click here), and an app that apparently lets you locate the men sending them, ostensibly to put an end to the unsolicited variety.

A word here about “sexting” vs. #dickpic. There is a difference between consenting adults sending one another sexy texts, which may or may not include pictures or videos, and the kind of dick pic I bring up here. Couples at any stage of dating, courtship, or even commitment may find that technology can enhance their sex life and you’ll get no judgment from me.

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For the most part, I’ve handled (I just can’t stop with the puns) the dick pics I’ve received and carried on, not feeling particularly threatened or even assaulted. Over time, it got the point that it wasn’t even surprising. I usually just delete the offender. Or I might say, “Oh, sorry, you sent  a pic but I can’t quite make it out.” Let them worry about what I mean.

But I have to imagine that many women are deeply offended and even traumatized by receiving such a pic. For anyone with sexual abuse or assault in her past this could be a trigger. Not that any of us want that dick pic. But sending out random dick pics for shock value is not just ballsy, it’s an odious use of technology. But I suppose that’s the point for some of these offenders.

And you don’t need to tell me that #dickpic is part of the #metoo conversation. But that’s another post.

So, the moral of the story? If you’re a woman and you’re dating for the first time in a while, you’re probably going to get a dick pic at some point. Or, maybe not. Maybe by the time you read this, the #dickpic will be passe.

I won’t be sorry to see it go.

And if you’re a man reading this here’s the message: if you’re wondering if a dick pic is a good idea? Let me help you out. No. No. No. Never. No. Thank you. But, no.

 

 

 

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Destination Unknown

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Just returning from Writers Conference, and I’m simultaneously coming down from the high and nursing the exhaustion that accompanies these types events. This was my fourth- and easily most valuable – conference. Every year, I gain some nugget of wisdom that rejuvenates me, rekindles my inspiration, reminds me why I love this particular brand of creativity. And this year, I left feeling utterly hopeful.

I always say tutoring pays the bills but writing feeds my soul. It’s true. Although I find my day job immensely rewarding, it’s the writing that sets me free. This has been more and more true over the last 6 years as my life has taken a number of turns. When my children were little, I found it tricky to carve out time for creativity. But as they grew and my marriage fell apart, I (happily) embarked on a new path. The call to create never left me. It waited, patiently, for me to be ready. 

As I build my tribe and learn more about this process, the take-away for me this year is this: the destination is unknown and it’s not even the point. No one sits down knowing how to write a best-seller (except maybe Jonathan Maberry). If you’re only looking at that as your endgame, you’re missing the point. I don’t sit down and write every day because I think I’m creating the next Harry Potter. Or that my brilliant prose will surely and certainly be noticed and hailed by Oprah. (Okay. I’m lying. I might fantasize about that a little bit…)

I write because I love it. I love creating. I love the challenge. I love that it’s not easy, that it’s fun, that I can make something original and tell the story that’s unique to me. And maybe some people will think, hey, that’s cool. And maybe no one will, but the point is I enjoyed the process.

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So much of what I’m learning about writing and my creative process I can apply to life in general. We humans can be a little “Once I get (fill in the blank), I’ll finally be happy.” Or, “If I only (lost ten pounds, had a million dollars, made partner, had a cute boyfriend, got married, wrote that bestseller, lived in Italy…) life would be complete.”

Right?

Dear Reader, you don’t have to admit it to me, but do you have a fill in the blank? A thing you’re thinking will solve all your problems if and when you finally get it?

Between the wish and the thing, are you enjoying the life you’re living?

I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago that asked this very thing. I’m nodding along…yeah, that makes sense, and yeah, I do a pretty good job of enjoying life without having everything I want. But then, he specifically used dating as an example. And I’m all “screeeeeeech”.

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Hmmmm. Dating. Dating? I have to LIKE dating? Because this is a process I can’t say I love. Especially: online. Sure, there are aspects of it that are fun. And I have met some great people – two of my best friends in the world actually grew out of online connections. But, mostly, I find online dating a chore.

So I struggled with this one. And it kept nagging at me. To be clear, I don’t think “finding the one” will be the answer to all my prayers. I don’t need someone to complete me or fix me or make all my dreams come true. But, I simply don’t enjoy dating.

But wait. Who says the process of being single is exclusively about dating? And which parts of the process do I actually like?

I love that there is something to look forward to. That I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m excited. Almost like waiting for Christmas! I like that it could happen any time, and won’t that be a lovely surprise? I like that my plans are my own. I can decide to go out, or I can decide to stay home. I can stay up late, or go to bed early. I can sleep-in, or get up early (usually I sleep in…) I can watch TV, or not. I can decide I’m gonna run in the morning, and then decide to roll over and turn off the alarm. I can plan a trip to wherever I want to go. I can go out with my friends as much as I want. (Well, not really, cause I have kids, but still). I can sleep diagonally in my bed. I can pick the restaurant, the movie, the concert, the whatever. I can eat hummus even though that sometimes – okay, always – results in some unpleasant after effects. I can watch Friends more than any human probably should, but I can do it and no one can complain (except my kids, but this is Mama’s House).

You get the point. I’m getting a lot out of my journey and I can and will continue enjoying all of this, partner or not. (Okay, maybe I shouldn’t watch Friends so much, and maybe I won’t always get to pick where we go. I’m not unreasonable. And maybe no hummus because that’s embarrassing. But most of the stuff stays.)

Well, would you look at that?  In my quest to learn more about writing, I learn about life. And that’s kind of cool.

Between the wish and the thing, life lies waiting. Destination unknown.

 

 

 

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Right Where I’m Supposed to Be

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Things have been a little rough for my girl lately. She’s 13 and as if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s been having a hard time with someone very important in her life. I’ve watched her struggle for a year or more with how to deal with it. I’ve listened to her express sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, and hope. I’ve seen the result of her efforts backfire, and I’ve witnessed her making hard choices.

Because it’s a situation in which I can’t totally intervene, I’ve tried to give her the tools to deal with it. I’ve suggested ways to approach the problem, encouraged her to set boundaries and ask for what she wants. I tried to offer ways she might handle the potential reaction of the individual.

But neither of us expected the response she got. And then I watched my little girl cry, heartbroken that someone she adores appeared to be turning his back on her.

What an age to learn that lesson. To learn that the people we love are sometimes incapable of loving us back in the way we need. To learn that someone you thought you could count on can’t actually be counted on.  To learn that expectations are a heartbreaking thing to have.

It’s painful to watch your child learn life’s hard lessons, isn’t it? But I gotta say, I am incredibly proud of my girl and how she handled herself. She expressed herself articulately, she asked for what she needed, and she offered a possible solution to the problem. She avoided speaking in absolutes, and she tried to “meet halfway”, asking for a little time to work things out, together.  And I’m sorry to say that the recipient’s response was no where on the scale of empathetic or compassionate, leaving little room for a productive conversation.

My girl has persevered, with lots of talking and encouragement, because I believe this relationship should be saved if at all possible. I don’t want her to look back and regret a rash decision – but she’s been done about 100 times.

I have to admit that one of my fatal flaws is that I give too many chances, I allow for too much, I keep searching for that good I know is there. I keep hoping that thread I’m holding on to will be enough, and that at any minute, the realization will dawn on the object of my hope ~ and they will see! At last, they will realize and the light will get in and we can have a break through and everything will be okay!

And while in this case I am still holding on to hope for her that things can and will get better…well, sometimes you have to let go of people who don’t have the capacity to love. Or, at least they don’t have the capacity to love you. 

This is someone who does, indeed, love her. But I need my girl to know that this says nothing about her worth, or rather a lack of it. This is just a person who is operating at capacity – he is loving her the way he is able to. It’s her choice now to accept that or not. And that’s a brutal lesson for a thirteen year old, isn’t it.

Recently, and directly related to this situation, I made the decision to let go of someone who once mattered very much to me. In fact this woman was very important to me and I loved her a lot.  But the simplest way to say why I let her go is that she didn’t have room for me  in her heart, and that was no longer okay with me. I will always be appreciative for the relationship we once had – or that I thought we had – but our time is done. And that’s okay. When it’s time to let go and you do, it’s an incredible gift to yourself.

Wisdom comes from experience, and when you allow yourself to learn from your past, you get a lot better at walking away from things no longer meant for you. I’ve never been terribly good at this. I sometimes SUCK at it. But the past two years have given me lots of opportunity for practice – and realizing I can actually disengage from toxic people rather than continue to place myself in their path has been freeing. Kind of like this:

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I don’t know how my daughter is so wise without the benefit of experience.  Then again, plenty of people have a lifetime of experience, yet no wisdom. There have been big lessons for our little family of three in all this, and I am learning as much from them as they are from me. What I do know is that I’m not worried about my kids and who they are becoming. I’m proud of them, I respect them, I believe in them and I trust them to trust themselves.

What I also know is that I am right where I am supposed to be.

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