Now let go…

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I have been thinking a lot lately about letting go. Confession: it’s something at which I am not so good. But recently, I had to let go of someone that I love and care for very deeply. Actually, there were three somebodies (they came as a package deal). It broke my heart to let go, I didn’t want to let go. I still have a tiny ache in my heart that I think will probably always be there on some level – not just for this let go, but for all the let go’s I’ve had to do in life. But this time, I think maybe I was a little better at it than I have been before.

Why? Well, I have had a lot of practice over the last six years or so. I got divorced, for one thing. And since then there have been a few potential romances that turned out to not be right for one reason or another. (This particular relationship was in the top 3. Ok, top 2. In other words, hopes were UP. WAY).  Even though I was eventually able to look back (with the ever helpful ‘hindsight’) and see clearly why those things didn’t work, there were plenty of times that I wallowed. I asked why. I took it personally. And ok, I may have even had a dramatic moment or two, as in “Why me, God? WHY?” Let’s be honest. When you’re riding the sadness wave, trying to detach your heart, you can go to all kinds of dark places.

But here’s the thing I think I’m finally learning:  People come into our lives and we may want them to stay forever. But isn’t it true that some people are only meant to be part of your life for a season? It can be so hard to see why they have to go, yet I think we sometimes try so hard to hold on, we lose the lesson in all the struggle. Instead of clinging, maybe what we need to do is just let go. And instead of suffering, maybe what we need to do is grow from the pain.

let-it-hurt-let-it-go

This most recent goodbye made me realize that I must still have something to learn about letting go. Truly, I don’t think it will ever be a strength, but why would I want it to be? I like this about myself. I like that I feel deeply, and that when I love it’s for keeps. I like that I can still fall in love, even though I have been hurt. Falling in love is a risky proposition, my friends. But, guess what? I can’t regret a moment I spent falling for this person, because loving him opened me up…and losing him did too. I am glad I invested my heart. I am glad I jumped in, took a chance, and let myself feel, let myself fall. After all, there isn’t much difference between falling in love and having a broken heart; both crack your heart open wide, let some light in, and give you an opportunity to grow.

I had to let go. Letting go was my only choice.

Except for, wait a minute. It WASN’T my only choice, was it? When it comes to love and attachment, we make all kinds of choices that aren’t healthy (refer to my list above). But that was the difference for me this time. It was the only choice I wanted to make. I needed to sit with the sadness, and the heartache, and the frustration. I recognize that to truly live we have to feel it all, the good and the bad. All those let go’s, they teach you something – if you let them.

Listen, we all get our share of heartache in this life. It comes in all forms, doesn’t it? Sadness is part of the deal. But suffering, that’s a choice. (Please note that I am not suggesting that say, a Syrian refugee is choosing to suffer. There are horrendous things happening in this world every day that cause suffering, and that’s not what I’m talking about here).

What I am talking about is taking your sadness, your heartbreak, your disappointment, and making the choice to feel those things without staying there. To move on …. but without the apology, without the closure, without necessarily understanding why. To let go, to learn, to grow, to know that shitty things don’t necessarily happen “for a reason”. Growing, changing, evolving, and releasing your grasp on “what should have been”, to make room for what can still be.

liz-g-let-go

 

 

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Best Laid Plans

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I keep thinking about happiness, and how it’s a choice. But at the same time how, in reality, we have VERY LITTLE CONTROL over most shit.

But then, I get to thinking about agency, and how important it is to exert power and achieve results; how most of us put in a lot of effort attempting to establish a sense of dominion over our lives. We set goals, we pursue dreams, we map out plans and create expectations about how our lives will go. When we are 18 and naive, we create timelines that detail perfectly planned and well executed educations and careers and personal relationships.

Mine went like this:

“I will go to college because even though what I want is to be a famous Broadway Star, it’s important to have an education to fall back on. So, I will get my bachelors degree by age 22, and my teaching credential by 23. Then I’ll move to New York, where I will live a fabulous single life for a couple of  years, auditioning for Broadway shows. Then, I’ll probably meet the MOMD (Man of My Dreams), and we will move back to California, settling in an idyllic beach town – probably Santa Barbara. We will get married after we date for two and a half years, and four years after that, we will have our first child, a boy, followed by the girl 2 years later. Happily ever after – the end.”

What actually happened was something not entirely different than that, but not entirely the same (the Broadway success didn’t happen by the way) (and neither did MOMD. More just M).

We live our lives, and we learn to adjust our dreams and expectations as we go. Dreams change, we find ourselves on a path we never imagined, and we shift our hopes and expectations because: healthy. We set goals, and we cross things off our list of accomplishments. In this way, we exercise agency in our own lives, and we learn that when we want something  we have to do the work to get that thing. We make it happen. College degree? Check. Advanced degree? Check. Husband? Check. Career? Check. Babies? Check. Marathon? Check.

But, things happen as we go along checking off our lists. Things that remind us that, at the end of the day, control is an illusion. Death of a cherished loved one, divorce, car accident, injury, natural disaster, terrorist attack, mass shootings…

In other words, SHIT HAPPENS. 

Shit happens. We are always thinking we have all this control over the future – and then something happens to just rock your world, trip you up, and fuck with your whole plan.

BUT. Does that mean we should just give up? Just throw up our hands and stop trying for the things we want most?

Hell no!

We owe it to ourselves to take control of as much happiness as we can. We aren’t handed a “Happiness Guaranteed” card when we are born. No, we have to FIGHT FOR THAT SHIT. We have to create as much agency as we are able in spite of no guarantee. We have to RELAX, NOTHING IS UNDER CONTROL while at the same time we CHASE OUR DREAMS and know that HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE.

Because otherwise, what’s the point?

 

 

 

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How to Love Me…

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Someone asked me recently about my love life. It was someone I don’t know well, yet I found myself admitting that I prefer to be adored, but in the way a cat prefers to be adored: when I want it, sometimes from afar,  and with a fair amount of space to do my own thing.

My friend replied that I seemed rather worthy of adoration and naturally I agreed, saying maybe that’s why I had chosen the single life for so long.

But it got me to thinking: How do I need to be loved?

I have fallen in love a few times in my life, of course, and I’ve been infatuated even more times than that. Interestingly, a few of the men I have fallen for maintained a bit of indifference towards me throughout the relationship (excepting my last boyfriend who was so crazy about me he would literally sweep me off my feet when he would see me. In hindsight, I don’t recommend that kind of feet sweeping. It does not last…)

We have all been guilty of getting caught up in that one guy or girl that makes us swoon, where the chemistry is off the charts, but who, alas, we can’t quite get. Chemistry is important, sure, but chemistry alone isn’t always the best predictor of a sustainable union. However, chemistry with someone who thinks you’re the bees knees just might be the magic mix. (READ: it’s a given that you must adore this person right back. Duh.)

I realize now that any time I have fallen for a man, I was actually kinda falling in love with ME. Stay with me here…see, the more he fell for me, the more I fell for him because I was ALSO falling in love with myself as I saw me the way he saw me. Obviously I am not suggesting that JUST because a man fell for me I automatically fell for him in return. There’s just something intoxicating when you’re seeing yourself reflected in another’s eyes. Feeling adored and cherished for who you are makes you sort of go, “You know what? I AM a total bad ass and who WOULDN’T love me??” ~  while at the same time you are looking at him thinking, “Oh sweet Jesus –  he’s so cute when he’s looking at me thinking I’m so cute!”

That’s some love potion.heart eyes

So, moving forward into the rocky terrain of potentially falling in love and partnership again, I am thinking about what makes me feel *most* loved.  How does someone earn my love, make me feel loved and adored, and inspire me to fall for the both of us? How do you love me???

By the way, there is a whole book about this called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. (Learn more about that here). But this is my own personal list (informed in part by reading said book)..

Tell me. Words, words, words! This is not to say I want someone constantly fawning all over me, telling me how spectacular and marvelous I am. Going back to the cat theory, I am likely to get a little annoyed over too much doting, particularly if it’s disingenuous.  On some level, someone who is too effusive is hard to believe. But to be told occasionally, and in as many words, what makes me special in his eyes…well, it’s like an elixir. If he shows appreciation for what I bring to his life, and tells me, that makes me feel recognized, special, like I matter. And feeling that way makes me a better partner in return.

Touch me. One thing I know I need is to be touched affectionately. I mean, think about it…what feels better than not being able to keep your hands off each other? If he reaches out to brush my hair out of my eyes, reaches for my hand when we walk down the street, comes up behind me, moves my hair off my neck and kisses me like he means it….Meeeeow!!! I think it’s just the simple act of “reaching for me” that makes me feel loved. Reach for me, grab me, love me! Can’t get enough of me? Tell me, and then – Don’t get enough of me!! Love me up, and let me love you up, Mister!

Protect me. I think most women want to feel safe in partnership. I’m not really talking about protecting me in the physical sense, although it is nice to feel like your man could fight off say, a bear maybe, if you happened to be attacked while camping or something. No, I’ve been on my own a while and I don’t need a savior. I want a man who cares that I am well-nurtured, loved and looked after, and I need a partner who looks out for me because what matters to me matters to him. I will protect him right back, natch.

Hear meYou know when you get the feeling that someone isn’t really listening to you? And so you sort of keep rambling, because maybe what you’re saying doesn’t really matter to them, so you get in this loop of just talking and talking because you’re sort of embarrassed that they aren’t really listening but you can’t shut up for some reason? Yeah, that won’t work for me. I want to be heard, I want to be listened to, I want to be treated like what I say matters to him most of all. When a man says, “I remember you told me that,” or shows up with the type of cookies I mentioned casually as being my favorite, he is showing that he is listening. That counts. Big time.

Know meI think what all of us really, truly want out of partnership is to be known. Truly, deeply, intimately known. Those nights you stay up til 3 am sharing secrets and being vulnerable, feeling safe enough to admit you’re afraid of being bad at something, or revealing old hurts and letting them go with each other…these are the moments that make you a “couple”. To know and be known in a way that you share with no one else, to feel like you’re known and loved for exactly who you are. Exactly. Flaws and all. Perhaps this is the most important part of feeling loved and adored. Belonging to each other by choice. Yes.

Love and partnership isn’t easy. We find someone we like, we start spending time together, and then if that goes well, we start thinking about merging lives. But then most of us, we just sort of  *expect* our partner to know how to love us. Really, that’s kind of asking a lot, you guys.  I think “do we have what it takes to create a sustainable partnership” should be part of the discussion.

I shared this list with one of my closest girl friends and I asked her, “So, how do you love you?” And you know,  she needed to think about it, just like I did. Maybe knowing how you like to be loved is an important element of entering into partnership. If you don’t know, how can you expect someone else to know? That shit doesn’t come in a manual! (Well, unless you count The Five Love Languages, then yeah, it kind of does…and you can take a little quiz here if you want to find out).

So. Let me ask you. How do you love YOU?

 

wrapped in love

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Enough

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 This is a post I published on Facebook last fall. It was a piece written very much from my heart, and it resonated for a few of you. Since this blog is one of the ways I am pushing myself past my own fear of not being “enough”, I think it’s appropriate to post it here as well. 

At what age do we begin to feel “not enough”? Not tall enough, fast enough, thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough…I could go on, but you get it. Where do we develop that idea, that we are somehow deficient? Do we innately begin to compare ourselves when we reach a certain age, or is there something bigger in our culture that feeds us the message that we are somehow not enough?

My son shared with me last night that he worries that he isn’t “guy” enough. He doesn’t like to use his body aggressively. Not in soccer, and not otherwise. He flinches when the ball whizzes by his head, he avoids charging other players in a game. And off the field, he’s never been a rough-houser. He wasn’t the kid that tackled his uncles or beat up his sister. He’s a little afraid to climb too high, or go too fast.

I told him the story, again, of when he was three, and he stood on the side of a carnival bounce house yelling at some older kids he didn’t know to “take it easy, Guys! You’re getting a little rough!”

I knew then he had more courage in his little outstretched index finger than a lot of those kids had in their whole bodies. And I figured he’d either grow up to be class president or get his ass kicked a lot.

It takes more courage to lead than to follow. It’s not easy to stand up and do your own thing when what the crowd is doing doesn’t feel right to you. That little three year old boy didn’t even know he was being courageous, and he didn’t know to feel somehow “not enough” because he didn’t want to bounce rough like a dude.

But now, my son, more class president than punching bag, doesn’t feel “man enough”.

I’m well versed in the ways in which my daughter may come to feel inadequate, naturally. I fight my own feelings of not being enough this or that. But in a culture where men are shooting people because they aren’t “man enough” and want to prove something to the world, I’m particularly interested in what we are doing in our society to breed this feeling in our boys.

One thing I know those shooters lack is courage. They are afraid to lead. They are afraid of all the things they lack, and this “epidemic” of shooting is simply another way of following, isn’t it?

So I told my son to think about that little 3 year old boy, and to recognize that one of his strengths is that he is not a follower. He didn’t “join” in the bouncing just because everyone else did. He stood up to a bunch of kids he didn’t even know, and told them to calm their shit down. He held up that little index finger and demanded that they pay attention to him.

As parents, how do we teach our kids to strive to be their best, while also accepting that we can’t all be superstars at everything? How do we teach them to work hard, but not to hold themselves to anyone else’s best? How do we encourage them to find worth in who they are, to understand that sometimes, good enough is just that? It’s enough.

Can my son push himself more as an athlete? Definitely.

Am I glad he has a strong tuning fork for potential danger? Duh. I’m a MOM, People.

Does he need to ram into things with his head to feel like he’s guy enough? It’s not for everyone. So I’m going with no.

More than anything, I want to teach my children that they are ENOUGH. As they are. I think all parents “want” that, but we might need to consider the ways in which we push our kids as a society. And the ways we push ourselves. And maybe that needs to be part of this bigger conversation…

ENOUGH.

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Naked

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Absence by Patrick Palmer

 

My dear friend sent me an article from Elephant Journal called “Are You a Naked Person?” ( Read the Elephant Journal article here). The article posits that we are, all of us, either “naked people” or “not-naked people”, and that we display certain characteristics depending upon into which category we fall. Your comfort with your literal nudity hints at your comfort with metaphorical nudity – or the exposure of your inner self.

“Naked” people tend to be, as you might guess, a little less concerned with what others think of them. This isn’t to say “Nakeds” are running off to join a nudist colony, but they probably walk around the house naked, and don’t cover up in embarrassment if a close family member or friend walks in on them. Being comfortable in your nakedness equates to being easygoing, extroverted and open. “Not-Naked” people, on the other hand, worry more about being judged as “reckless”, or inappropriate. They tend to be more cautious, and don’t fly by the seat of their pants – which they are absolutely wearing in your presence. They cover up in front of their spouses, their children, their siblings. The article is careful to say that “Naked” peeps aren’t any better than the  “Non-Naked” variety. It’s just a different way of approaching life.

So I got to thinking. Am I a “Naked”? Or a “Not”?

I remember a time when I was very little, maybe 6 or 7. My brother and I had these big, green bean bags we’d sit in to watch TV with my parents. It was time to get ready for bed, but we didn’t want to miss whatever we were watching, so mom brought us our jammies to change into. I got undressed, but then I just sat there, naked in my bean bag, watching the rest of the program. I think it was my brother who said, “What the heck are you doing?”, and all of us cracked up.

When I got a little older, I covered up the important bits around my dad and brother, but I still walked around the house mostly naked. When I had roommates in college, I think I made an effort to cover up, but didn’t freak out about sharing a bathroom with 3 other girls. And when I got married, I did a lot of naked walking around.

When you have kids, and when they are little, you don’t have a lot of choice because you don’t have a lot of privacy. They walk in on you when you’re in the shower, when you’re getting dressed, when you’re on the toilet…And as they have grown older, I have not covered up because I decidedly want them to see what a real woman’s body looks like (as opposed to unrealistic images they are exposed to in the media). As my son has gotten older, I have been conscientious to, again, cover up the essential bits, but generally bra and panties = covered.

Metaphorically speaking, I would say that I fit most of the “Naked” characteristics in the EJ article – I’m outgoing, I’m open, I’ll share my food with you, sure. Yet…I also have some “Not-Naked” qualities, too. I like my ducks in a row. I don’t want to be viewed as “reckless” and I do care about others’ opinion about me. I certainly don’t want to be seen as “inappropriate” (Really, who does?).

But, literally speaking, I am only a partial naked person because I care too much about how my body looks. And I don’t love all of it. And I am afraid of being judged by others the way I judge myself, which frankly, isn’t always that nice. I would never judge anyone as harshly as I judge myself, and I think most of us are probably that way. It’s hard to silence that inner voice that critiques all your flaws mercilessly, and most women probably battle that bitch every day.

For me, personally, I stopped walking around naked in front of my husband (ex) when I no longer felt safe and loved. I probably stopped being metaphorically naked with him about the same time. And can’t honestly say that I have felt safe enough in any relationship since my divorce to cruise around in the raw, but then again, I haven’t gotten metaphorically naked either. I haven’t gotten close enough to anyone to feel that safe.

I have a very dear friend who shares a special ritual with her husband where they sip bourbon in the buff. They don’t do it every week, but either one can declare a Buff Bourbon Night at any time. What a beautiful way to stay connected. And that, my friends, is what I want. I want to be so wrapped up in love that I don’t think twice about being naked on Tuesday on my couch with my man and some tiny bubbles.

My friend who shared the article with me pointed out that he thinks I am a “Naked” at heart, and that some wounds of the past have made me less willing to expose my vulnerabilities, literally and metaphorically. I think he’s probably right, and isn’t it interesting how Naked = Vulnerable. Something to think about – what hurts in the past cause you to cover up, close off, protect yourself? What makes you feel safe enough to be exposed? Which one are you? Naked? Or Not-Naked?

And which do you want to be?

 

*Art Credit, Patrick Palmer (link below)

http://www.patrickpalmer.co.uk/

 

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