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How Liz Gilbert Kicked my Ass.

I have a handful of badass lady authors who I absolutely love. I love them for their realness, candor and unbelievable talent. I love them for their examples of what it means to live authentically without apology, to be who you are, do what you love, and fearlessly bare your soul for all to see. On my shortlist of lady author heroes is, of course, Elizabeth Gilbert.

Elizabeth Gilbert is probably most famous for her memoir Eat, Pray, Love. It’s a beautiful story about getting out of our comfort zone to find out what we’re really made of. And, though I’m always fascinated with memoirs and true life stories, my favorite Liz Gilbert book is not her memoir. It’s a book called Big Magic. In Big Magic, Gilbert talks about the creative process, and how to give ourselves permission to be creative and follow our ideas where they lead us. After publishing  Big Magic, she made a podcast called Magic Lessons, where she talked to people about their creative projects and the roadblocks they experienced. She would then bring in a famous friend to help mentor that person and help them overcome their obstacles.

As a baby author, I was incredibly inspired by the stories in Magic Lessons. It was amazing to hear peoples’ stories and all the different ideas and the absolute confidence Gilbert expressed in everyone’s ability to make their dreams come true. With laser precision, she would identify what was holding them back and why. Then, she would give them homework to do until their follow up. I listened to every episode, then I listened to them again, and again.

I had the fortuitous opportunity to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak in Nashville last night. She’s currently touring with her new novel City of Girls. I’m not even going to try to lie, I was fan-girling super hard. I almost cried when she walked in the room, because that meant that I was in the same room as Elizabeth Gilbert, and it’s not every day you can sit in the same room with one of your heroes and listen to them talk about their life and craft. She was just as I imagined her. Beautiful, poised, eloquent, and sassy. She’s an expert public speaker, and seemed totally at home in front of that podium.

She talked about City of Girls, and all the reasons why she wanted to write a book about women and sexuality, and the loose girl who enjoyed her life without ruining it. She read to us for a  little while, then, offered time for a Q&A. I thought this was a very brave thing, as you just never know what someone will ask in a situation like this. But, she’s Liz Gilbert, and she’s fearless, and somehow always knows exactly what to say.

Naturally, I raised my hand when she asked for questions. I had about one hundred questions for her, this hero of mine. When she pointed at me, I stood to speak and chose one that only she could answer. I told her how much I loved her podcast, admitted that I listened to every episode at least three or four times, and asked if she planned to bring it back, or do something else in that format. Then, maybe without even knowing it, Liz Gilbert kicked my ass.

She thanked me for listening, and said how much she enjoyed the experience of making the pod cast to go along with Big Magic. She explained that she stopped recording the pod cast when her partner, Rayya Elias, was diagnosed with cancer. Of course, I knew this, because she’s freaking Liz Gilbert. But, then she said something I didn’t expect. She said that she’s on an “integrity cleanse”, something her friend Martha Beck wrote about, and during such a cleanse, she has to always tell the truth.

The truth she shared with us, was that she got bored with the podcast, because every story was basically the same. It was someone with an idea, a talent, a project they couldn’t seem to finish. She would help them figure out what was holding them back, make suggestions, “write permission slips” as she says, and set them up with someone she thought might also have good advice or expertise in their craft. After two seasons, she felt that she had said all she could about the creative process.

“People have all kinds of excuses, but it all comes down to fear. It’s about feelings of unworthiness, not being good enough, or worrying too much about what other people think.”

She laughed, pushing her hair aside and said, “What I suggest you do, is listen to those episodes three or four more times, because I’m just saying the same thing over and over.” She joked that she was all out of famous friends, and couldn’t make any more episodes anyway. Then, she admitted that by the end of the podcast, she was starting to resent her time in the studio doing podcast stuff, because it was keeping her away from her true love- writing.

So, there I was, in the same room with one of my heroes getting a big ol’ gut check. She was literally speaking directly to me when she said, we have lots of excuses, but it all comes down to fear. So, I had to ask myself, what am I afraid of? In all of my procrastination and distraction, there had to be some fear.

I know what my excuses are:

  • Time – Our schedule is packed, too many commitments, too busy doing all the crap we need to do to do the things I really want to do…
  • Energy- Too tired to be creative at the end of the day, need downtime for relaxing and writing feels like work, my day job is sucking the life out of me…
  •  Inspiration- Waiting for the perfect time, place, situation to write. Feeling like I’ve said it all before and I’m bored with it. Wondering if anyone will ever read this book if I finish it, or is it all for nothing…

My writing partner and I call our excuses “stomping and lamenting”. If we spent as much time actually writing as we do with all of our excuses to not write, we’d both be able to quit our day jobs by now. Instead, we whine and throw little pity parties for ourselves, and honestly, it’s kind of pathetic. We frequently talk about this, and ask ourselves and each other, “why?”. Why do we cling to our excuses and allow them to keep us stuck? Why do we fill up our days with other stuff, at the expense of the things we say we really want to do with our lives? The answer, as Gilbert said, always goes back to fear.

So, what am I afraid of?

  • The unknown- The publishing process/industry is still a great mystery to me, and I have no idea how to navigate that world. I’m a baby author, not a marketing guru, and the numbers games and selling myself are things I just don’t know how to do. There are no guarantees that my book will ever be published, or that I won’t get ripped off my a scammy publisher, or that I will even finish this thing at all.
  • Success- Who will I be if I become the best-selling author and public speaker I imagine I could be? How will my relationships change? How will our family change? Will Liz Gilbert become my new BFF instead of just my lady author idol? (Call me, Liz!) I don’t know what will happen, how I will handle it, or if I’m even cut out for that lifestyle. What if I get all the things I think I want, and realize I don’t really want them after all? Then what? What if it’s more fun to have the dream than it will be to do the work?
  •  Failure- What if I give my whole heart to this dream and it never works out for me? What if my book sucks and everyone hates it? What if nobody hates it because nobody ever even reads it? What if I crash and burn? What if this is a monumental waste of my time and energy?
  •  General insecurities- What if I suck at writing and this is a stupid dream? What if I’m not good enough, smart enough, strong enough to do all the things I think I want to do? What if it’s too much for me? Who am I to tell these stories? Who am I to give advice? Does anyone even care? Have I lost all my momentum? Did I peak with Elephant Journal? Is it too late for me?
  •  Legal issues- If I tell my whole truth will it ruin my life? Will people freak out and try to destroy me? Will I have to wait for everyone to die before I tell the whole story? Can I do it any other way?

So, there’s all of that. Lots of excuses to not be who I want to be, which is perhaps the woman I was born to be. At the end of the day, it’s up to me to choose: either push through the fear and drop all the excuses, or spend the rest of my life wondering what might have been if I had dropped the excuses and pushed through the fear.

Gilbert went on to talk about her own creative process, and how when she’s actively writing a book she has to do it all at once, and with almost complete isolation. “Dogs are fine,” she said, “but no other humans.”

This gave me some validation on my own process, as I also require almost complete isolation, and prefer to just go off and disappear somewhere all alone to do my thing without interruption. When I was single and lived mostly alone, inspiration was with me every day. I had ample alone time, and endless hours with my thoughts, and though my teenagers were in and out, they didn’t need much from me, and were very respectful of my need for quiet time to be creative. Since moving in with my husband and step babies, writing has become much more challenging. I think a large part of that is that I get significantly fewer hours by myself to contemplate life, the universe, and the human condition. Inspiration is fleeting, illusive, and sometimes just plain absent. But, as they say, a writer writes. So, excuses be damned, if I’m going to do this thing and give my heart to it, I have to find a way to move it back to the top of my priority list, and make it work in my new life with my new family.

I guess that brings up another whole set of fears for me. What if everyone thinks I’m a selfish bitch for putting myself first? What if I can’t be everything to everyone while also pursuing my dream? What if I sacrifice family time, and things that are also important, in the name of making this thing happen and I fail anyway? Will I regret the friction that might come from me doing me if it doesn’t work out as planned? Will I embarrass myself and everyone who loves me?

Thankfully, my husband is incredibly supportive. He’s an author, too, so he understands the creative process, and the time it takes to write a book. He is much more accomplished that I am, and has this ability to make writing appear to be effortless and carefree- which is truly maddening! But, also, I think he sincerely loves me and wants me to be happy and successful, which is a lot to take in for someone like me, because I’ve never experienced love like that before. There’s no competition or insecurity with him, no criticism or judgement- just encouragement, and sometimes frustration with my excuses and lack of motivation. But mostly, he gently nudges me back in the direction of the dream when I wander off and get distracted. He always says I’m a better writer than he is, which I completely disagree with, but it’s high praise coming from him, and it makes me feel like maybe I’m not totally insane for thinking I can pull this thing off.

After Gilbert’s talk, we went to dinner together. (My husband and I- I’m guessing Liz had a plane to catch or something, or we surely would have invited her.) We talked about how flawlessly she spoke, how well she knows her craft, and how wise she is about life in general. I asked him if he is ready for his next book tour, and if he would do the terrifyingly unpredictable Q&A at his future speaking engagements. “I think you kind of have to do it!” he said, though admitted that he may not be as articulate as my new friend, Liz. We talked about our excuses, our ridiculous schedule, and how important it is to make sure we both get to bring our dreams to fruition, so we can abandon our day jobs and write on the beach together, forever. That’s when I made a confession.

“I have romantic visions of riding a train cross country all by myself someday, sitting in the little sleeper car all alone, and writing a book while watching the world go by my window.”

“Then, you should take some time off work and do it,” he said. “I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you, too. But…”

“But?” he laughed.

“But, it would just be for a couple of weeks, and I would come right back home to you.” I smiled.

“If it makes you happy, baby, do it.”

And, I realized that even with all my bullshit excuses, and all the fear, I have something most people just hope and pray for. I have a partner who loves me, who will do anything to help me be my best self. Even if it seems selfish, even if he doesn’t love everything I have to say, even if I fail, or if I succeed and our life changes because of it, I know that he’s here, and he has my back, and there is nothing he wouldn’t do for me. I only hope that I can be everything to him that he is to me, and support him as completely as I feel supported.

So, Liz, if you’re reading this, and I just know that you might be, I’m ready. Maybe I just needed you to look me in the eye and tell me that fear is the only thing holding me back. I know that it’s ok to be afraid, but if I don’t push through it, I’m just another person with a half written book and a pile of excuses not to finish it. I don’t want to be another boring episode of a podcast you don’t plan to continue. And, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering what might have happened if I was brave enough to drop my excuses and get serious about doing the things I say I want to do.

I guess this is the beginning of my own integrity cleanse, where instead of saying, “I’m too busy to write today,” I will say, “I didn’t make my dreams a priority today.” Instead of “I don’t feel inspired,” I will say, “I didn’t take time to look for inspiration.” Instead of the excuses, I will acknowledge my fears, and take them along with me on this journey. And, maybe someday, I’ll stand at the podium as you did last night, and give people permission to be creative and afraid, to retreat into quiet to bring forth their masterpieces, and to honor the stories that live inside them.

Today, I choose to stop my pathetic stomping and lamenting, to drop my excuses, and acknowledge that big dreams are scary things to have. I choose to make my writing a priority again, to move it back to the top of my list, and to make sure I have the quiet time I need to create. I choose to push through my fears, so I can find out once and for all how my life will change when I step into the future I imagine for myself. And, when I make it someday, and some journalist asks me what my secret to success was, I will tell them that I had a story to tell, a husband who loved and encouraged me, and Liz Gilbert kicked my ass one night when she was in Nashville.

 

 

 

 

 

What if we Skip the Thoughts and Prayers, and do Something About School Violence?

“I’d jump in front of a bullet if it meant I’d save someone else.”

The words stopped me in my tracks.

“Please, don’t be a hero. You’re my only son.” Was all I could say.

I’d never heard something so brave, or terrifying from my little boy. To be fair, my “little boy” is a man now. He’ll be eighteen in a couple of weeks. Still, he’s my baby, and the words shook me, leaving me in angry tears.

I wondered if my father had said the same thing at the tender age of seventeen when he left high school to enlist in the U.S. Army during the Viet Nam War. The only thing he ever wanted to be was a soldier. He was prepared to do what must be done for his country, no matter the consequences when he was my son’s age.

“I would take a bullet to save the life of another human being.”

Did those words leave my father’s lips as he prepared for war? Could he speak such a thing to his mother? Or, would it have left her in tears, too? Mothers don’t want to think about our young men going off to war or jumping in front of bullets.

When my son said he’d take a bullet, I believed him with my whole heart. The only times he’s ever been in trouble in his young life, he went down protecting or defending someone else. He stands up for the underdogs. He loves his friends fiercely. He will do anything he can to help someone else, even when it hurts him. That’s the kind of compassionate, selfless young man he is.

Yes, my son sounded like a brave soldier that day. But, he wasn’t talking about deploying to a distant warzone. He wasn’t talking about taking a bullet for one of his brothers who fought beside him in combat. No, my son wasn’t going away to war. He was going to his high school in Nashville, Tennessee, prepared to take a bullet to save a classmate in the event of a mass shooting.

“I’d charge down the hallways at some asshole with a gun if I thought I could stop him.”

His words filled me with pride, and dread. These are thoughts my brave, sweet son should not have in his seventeen-year-old psyche. These are things kids just shouldn’t have to think about at all.

When I was a kid, we had fire drills to make sure everyone knew how to get out of the building in case of fire. We had tornado drills to make sure everyone knew how to get to a safe zone to tuck and cover. We had evacuation drills on the bus, to learn how to get out quickly in an emergency. We did not have active shooter drills. Active shooter drills did not exist when I was in school.

Back then, our faculty watched the perimeters of our campus. They made visitors sign in with the office, and made sure the dangers of the world didn’t make it to our halls and classrooms. It was easy then, because the bad guys with the guns were outsiders. They were easy to spot because they were out of place inside the walls of our school building.

Back then, the bad guys with guns weren’t students.

Tomorrow, my son’s school district has closed in response to the most recent school shooting in Florida. They want to gather all of their staff, faculty, resource officers, and leadership to revisit and revamp our school safety protocols and policies. While I appreciate the proactive approach, I absolutely hate that it has to be this way.

Naturally, I went to social media to talk to other parents about the school closures, curious if we were the only district, or if others had done the same thing. Our district stated in an email to parents that there have been eighteen shootings in the past six weeks in American schools. This began a Facebook debate about what exactly qualifies as a “school shooting” since in some of the eighteen instances in which a weapon was fired on a school campus there were no injuries to students.

What in the whole, entire, holy actual fuck are we doing, America?

Have we become so numb to the violence in our culture that we now need to quantify in bloodshed or lives lost what “counts” as a school shooting? Or, can we just for a minute agree that if someone is firing a weapon on school property, that’s not ok? Even if no one was hurt, the potential for danger was present, and real, and for fuck’s sake— why is having a gun in a school ever ok?

And, before we jump on the gun control bus, let me state very clearly my position on that. It’s basically the same as my position on everything: power to the people. The more you try to take guns away from the good guys– the law-abiding citizens who go through the proper channels to purchase guns legally for protection, recreation, or hunting– the less good guys we’ll have with guns. But, the bad guys? They’ll still get their guns on the street, or by force, or however they can, just like they do right now. Unarming the good guys is not the way to take guns away from the bad guys. And personally, I’d like to know there are some good guys out there with weapons, just in case we need them.

Every time there is another school shooting, the gun control debate ignites. And, while I think it’s important to have that conversation, I also think we’re missing the actual root cause of the issue.

It’s fine for responsible adults to own guns. It’s not fine for kids to have access to them without adult supervision. Period. That’s one question I need answered. How do the kids who shoot up their schools get their hands on these weapons in the first place? Do their parents know their children have access to deadly weapons? Do the kids get the weapons from the parents? Where are the parents?

Right after the gun control debate, we go to the other, classic question. Where are the parents? It’s easy to judge, to assume they must be absent, or abusive, or just plain irresponsible and reckless. But, what if they’re not? What if they are just like us? What if our kids aren’t so different from their kids?

This isn’t an us and them issue, as much as we would love to put that space between ourselves and the parents of the kids who have done these terrible things. We have to stop blindly blaming them. We actually, really need them. We need their knowledge, their insight, their shock and regrets. We need to know what they saw, what they experienced living with their children before they become the kids who killed their classmates. Their stories might be the key to predicting and preventing the next horrible act of student violence.

Are these kids abused when they’re little? Are they bullied by other students, or treated unfairly by teachers? Are they mentally ill? Strung out on drugs? Are they desensitized from years violent video games, movies and television shows? Do they just snap under the sheer weight of their lives?

Maybe I’m naïve, but I just cannot accept the idea that any child is born with this kind of malice and hatred in their precious little heart. I have to believe they learn it. Maybe it comes from bad guys who inflict pain directly upon them. Or, maybe they absorb it from the rampant disregard for humanity that seems to dominate our bullshit culture. Maybe there’s something even darker at work here that I can’t fathom. I don’t know how it happens. I just know we have got to figure it out. We’ve got to fix this, and now.

How do these kids become the kids who murder their peers? And, how can we reach them before they become school assassins?

That’s the conversation I hope our school district will have tomorrow. Are there warning signs? Can they tell which students might have violent tendencies? Is there any way to predict an event like this?

How do the kids get the guns in the first place, and how to they get them into the school building?

Do we need TSA style security checkpoints in all entrances of our public high schools?

What will it take to end this madness, and keep our kids safe?

This is the discussion we need to have. All of us. School officials, law enforcement, parents and maybe most importantly, the students. How can we all work together to make sure our schools never end up on the evening news?

My son will graduate in a few short months. He should be focused on his grades and getting ready for college in the fall. He should be thinking about prom, graduation, his birthday celebration and plans for the weekend. Instead, he is planning how to strategically take down an assassin in the halls of the very place he should go every day to feel safe, and concentrate on his future.

Why is my son talking about the halls of his high school like a soldier preparing for war?

 

 

 

Why Planning a Wedding in your Forties Rocks.

“You must be so stressed with all the wedding planning!”

With our May wedding quickly approaching, I’ve heard this from just about everybody. I don’t think they even believe me when I tell them how stress-free and fun the process has been. Traditionally, weddings can be quite stressful. They’re expensive, there are lots of personalities involved- and it’s impossible to make every single person happy- there are so many decisions to make, and an unspoken expectation that everything must be absolutely perfect. This can be overwhelming for couples at any age. But, there seems to be something kind of magical about tying the knot in our forties.

First of all, we’re real grown-ups now, which means we get the bill for the whole thing. While this might sound like a downside, it is actually wonderful because it means we have complete autonomy. We don’t have to choose the venue where so-and-so got married, or use the caterer who went to hair school with our mother, or settle for silk when we really want fresh flowers in our centerpieces. We get to be in charge, which means we get to make the day whatever we want it to be. We get to choose all the special little details that will make our wedding unique and personal, without any of the stress that comes from having other people run the show via their checkbooks.

Because we’re a little older and wiser, we’re better at setting boundaries. We don’t have a problem telling Aunt Edna that we don’t want to get married in her church, or choosing non-traditional dessert options instead of the expected wedding cake. We don’t have a problem doing some DIY to save cash on the big day, so we can have a fabulous honeymoon, and don’t care what anyone has to say about that. We know who we are and what is important to us, and get to make decisions that make us happy, without trying to please everyone else.

I think younger couples fall into the trap of trying to keep up with the Jones’ with their weddings. Because so many members of their peer group are planning weddings at the same time, younger couples may feel enormous pressure to have that designer dress, the most coveted venues, and the most over the top parties. This pressure only adds to the stress couples feel while trying to plan a wedding that will stand out from the rest.

In our forties, none of those things are as important to us. Our biggest wish for our special day is that it is fun and easy for everyone. We chose a holiday weekend to make it easier for people to travel and not have to use vacation time at work. We chose a beautiful venue that is just a couple miles from our home, and very nearby to lodging, shopping, and food so our guests will have an easy stay. We hired a wedding coordinator to make sure all our vendors show up and do what we need them to do so nobody has to worry about that on the big day. We chose elegance over extravagance, and casual over fussy, because we want everyone to come relax and enjoy with us.

There’s no drama in our friend groups. Planning a wedding in your twenties can be a nightmare, because of everyone else’s immaturity and poor life choices. This is not the case in your forties if you’ve surrounded yourself with awesome people. Our people genuinely love us and want to see us happy and thriving together. There’s no jealousy or infighting, everyone gets along, and everyone is ready and willing to step up and help with whatever we need. Having a circle of supportive people who are genuinely happy for us and want to help make our day special makes such a difference. We are super grateful for our tribe of mature, rational, generous, beautiful people.

Having a bit more life experience keeps things in perspective. When you plan a wedding in your twenties, it’s a huge undertaking. We don’t necessarily understand how everything works, or what we really want versus what other people make us feel pressured to do. For the young couple, the wedding might be their only focus for months as they obsess over every detail, and by the time the big day comes they are totally over it.

In our forties, we have day jobs, kids, schedules and all kinds of balls to keep in the air. While the wedding is definitely a big ball, it’s one of many. Since my fiancé proposed to me, we have built a house, moved, remodeled and sold a house, I changed jobs, sent my son away to college, his daughter started high school and we’ve had all kinds of things to do.

On New Year’s Day, we had a day off with nothing planned. I got in the bed with my laptop and a bottle of champagne, and scheduled a month’s worth of tours and tastings. By the end of January, our wedding was basically done. We had a blast visiting venues, bakeries, and caterers, and didn’t stress over any of it. We knew what we were looking for, we had discussed our budget and knew how much we wanted to spend, and genuinely enjoyed the process of everything coming together. The decisions were super easy, because we worked together to find options that made us both happy.

That’s probably the best thing about wedding planning in our forties: we just want to make each other happy. Younger couples might get stressed out and start fighting about the little things. We tend to focus on the bigger things, and work  to make sure we are both getting what we want. We communicate well, and don’t mind taking our time and exploring all options before making a choice. At the end of the day, we realize that our relationship and commitment to each other is more important than the party we are planning to celebrate it, and would not allow silly things like place cards, musical selections or rented folding chairs to come between us.

Getting married in our forties is super awesome because we both know what we’re doing. We’ve been married before, and endured painful divorces. We’ve both been single parents, and worked tirelessly to give our children nice lives. We both understand the commitment we are making to each other, and neither of us takes that lightly.

Our relationship is strong and supportive, and much like the wedding we’re planning, it’s easy and fun. We know that the party will be exciting and special, but the after party is where the real focus should be- and I’m not talking about our honeymoon. The next fifty trips around the sun together are the main event we are preparing for, and at our age, I think it’s much easier to keep our focus there. We have solid priorities, common goals, and great big dreams for our life together. Our wedding is just the beginning.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Wait. Life Happens Now.

I lost a dear friend this week to a sudden cardiac event. It happened without warning, leaving us shocked, and so very sad. He was not an old man- just a few years older than me. He was not the guy you would look at and think, “oh, he’s a walking heart attack”. He was fit. He ate well. He loved people with his whole heart. And, finally, he was happy in his life, married to a man he adored. The world will never be the same without his light. Precious few souls on the earth are as kind, generous and sweet as he was. I hope there is a heaven for him, full of wine and kittens. And, I hope he knew how much he was loved and admired while he was here on the earth.

I’ll never forget the way we became friends. We lived across the breezeway from each other in a little apartment building in the suburbs a few years ago. We had a terrible ice storm, and were iced in for a few days. By the third day of being trapped in our little apartments, we were all stir crazy. We couldn’t get our cars out to drive anywhere. But, there was a little Mexican restaurant just about two blocks away. My girlfriend in the apartment below and I bundled up and walked there for tacos and Margaritas. As luck would have it, there was also a Kroger in the same shopping center. We filled a shopping cart with beer and snacks, and pushed it all the way home. We knocked on every door in the building and invited everyone to my place for game night. 

Jim was one of the neighbors who came to our little snow day party. He showed up with a bottle of Fireball and a nervous smile. We drank and played cards, and for the first time ever, we all talked and really got to know each other. We were all in transition phases of life. One couple newly wed, another couple expecting their first little one, myself still healing from a difficult divorce, and sweet Jim starting over after his divorce, too.

Later into the night, after much drink and laughing, one of the gentlemen began boasting that he’s very good at reading people. Jim piped up and said, “That’s great, but you didn’t read me very well.” They went back and forth for a minute, the other gentleman repeating that he knew Jim was a great guy, he was a professional type, probably a nerd…

“Well, sure. But you missed something ,” he said. “I’m also gay.”

He stammered, “but… you have kids?”

“Yes. Two kids. I was married to a woman for thirteen years.”

My jaw hit the floor. “Oh my God! You, too?”

He looked at me confused. I explained that my ex-husband is also gay, we also had two children together, and were also married thirteen years.  He put his arms around me and right there in front of the whole group, we cried together.

He was the first person I had ever met who had lived through the same twisted confusing hell of unraveling a life that was never meant to be. I had so many questions, and so did he. Though our experiences were very different, there were so many things that were the same- and so many things for us to talk about. We were friends from that moment, and Jim quickly became one of my favorite people. 

I’ve said before, there is nothing more healing in the whole world than realizing that you’re not alone in your suffering and struggles. I wholeheartedly believe that the universe conspired to bring Jim and I together so both of us could heal and move forward in our lives. And, that’s just what we did.

We both advanced in our careers, our financial situations improved, we both found love, and eventually, we moved out of our little transition apartments. We cheered each other on through the growth and change that came. Somehow, we ended up on opposite sides of the city. We stayed in touch, but regretfully, hadn’t seen each other in months when he passed away. 

We spoke occasionally, always ending the conversation with, “we should get together soon.” And, certainly, I think we both meant it. We loved and missed each other. We had every intention of meeting again. We were both planning weddings. Both needed to talk and laugh and cry and drink wine and look at cat memes. But, sadly, we will not meet again in this lifetime. This is my deepest sorrow in losing my friend. I let days turn into months of “we should,” but never did. 

Perhaps the greatest lesson I can take from this tragedy, is that tomorrow is never promised to us. Tomorrow is a wish, a dream, a whisper of what might be. We spend our lives taking tomorrow for granted, expecting that it will always come. But, sometimes it doesn’t. This is why we must live every single day we’re alive. We must love those we love every day, and express our gratitude for their contributions in our lives. We must do the things we’ve set out to do- chipping away at those long held goals, or illusive dreams- lest we die with our songs unsung, our books unwritten, our mountains unclimbed. 

Losing a friend so suddenly has me facing my own mortality, health, and relationships. I’ve been in survival mode too long. My days are better spent in pursuit of wellbeing and service to others than in pursuit of money at the cost of everything else. All the things I’ve dreamt of doing “someday” must make their way to my calendar now- before I run out of somedays. All of the people I love need to know-  today and every day – how important they are to me, and how much I value the ways they shape my life. And, all my dreams need to be placed permanently at the top of my list of priorities, so I don’t leave this earth with my story untold. 

Tonight, I will celebrate my friend, Jim. I’m so grateful for his friendship, his impeccable pet sitting services, his ability to steal my cat photos from social media and turn them into hilarious memes before anyone hit the like button, his kindness, openness, and dedication to living a life he loved. It’s my greatest sadness that his time here was cut short- right when his most authentic, happiest life had begun. 

Tonight, I will wrap my arms around Jim’s husband, Billy, and right there in front of everyone, we will cry as we remember the great man that Jim was. We will cry for the somedays that never will be, and the dreams that will leave the earth with Jim’s sweet spirit. I will tell Billy, “we should get together someday,” and I will make damn sure that we do. 

Life is short. Don’t waste a minute, friends. Life is now– now is the only guarantee we get here.

Godspeed, sweet Jim. You will be missed more than words can say. Thank you for helping me heal through some of the toughest years of my life. Thank you for sharing your unmasked truth with me, and always listening so compassionately. Thank you for leaving me with these lessons, though I wish they could have come another way. You were a very important person in my life, and I will always remember you.

 

 

 

Resolution Revolution

As the new year quickly approaches, many of us are preparing for the same old, tired resolutions as every year before. Most of us probably want to lose weight, quit smoking or drinking <insert applicable vice here>, pay off debt, save for something special, or accomplish some illusive goal we’ve had our eye on. Here’s the thing: That whole “New Year New You” thing doesn’t work. We don’t magically become different people because we threw away last year’s calendar and hung up a new one.

We’ve all been through the process of setting a resolution, starting strong with changes on January 1st, and returning to business as usual by the middle of February. No matter how well intended, our plans for change often do not lead to the new lifestyle we seek. We find all the excuses we need not to follow through with the commitment that seemed like such a great idea in December.

Why is it so difficult to follow through on our New Year’s resolutions?

Usually, that thing we want to change is something we spent a long time enjoying. Our habits, routines, and patterns don’t just happen overnight. Just as it takes a long time to learn and reinforce our “bad” habits, it takes time to unlearn them, and replace them with “better” habits. When we make that resolution to change on a dime, and don’t find immediate success, we may become frustrated, throw our hands in the air, and pick up that cigarette, glass of wine, or donut, or whatever our thing is. Sometimes, gradual change through a series of  carefully calculated baby steps is more realistic and attainable.

A goal without a plan is just a wish. Just making the resolution is not enough. If we want to make a change, or accomplish a goal, we need a plan. We need to know what steps to take to get where we want to go. This might mean reading up on different eating plans, researching the different smoking cessation programs, or learning about new investment options. We may need to  break our big goals into smaller steps that feel manageable. We need a timeline, and benchmarks, and ways to measure our success along the way. And, dammit, we need some little rewards built into our plan to celebrate our progress, and our continued commitment to our goal. Like, if I get my office cleaned and organized, I can go to the used book store and shop until my little heart is content. (I do not recommend rewards that are counterproductive to your long term goal, like food rewards for weight loss or spending sprees for debt reduction.)

Many times, our resolutions are things we intend to accomplish all by ourselves, so we plan to go it alone. When challenges come, and they will, we need the support of our friends and family to keep us going. Sometimes, we need advice from professionals, mentors, or experts. Whatever our intended change, it will feel easier if we assemble a team to keep us going. This might mean picking a workout buddy so those long nights in the gym don’t feel so lonely, choosing a meal plan that the whole family can live with, or setting up accountability check-ins with a friend. This might also look like hiring a financial advisor, attending a workshop to sharpen a skill, or finding a group or class to join.

Resolutions aren’t always authentic. Sometimes, we make resolutions to change the things we think we “should” change. Maybe, we decide to change for a parent or a partner. Maybe, we feel pressure from a specific person in our life, or from society, the media, or another external force. Maybe, we’re getting drug along on our partner’s resolution, or making a resolution with a friend that we are less passionate about than they are. Here’s the deal: You have to want to make the change for you. It has to be your commitment to do something to improve your health, quality of life, financial security, or sense of life satisfaction. No amount of prodding from our loved ones is going to motivate us to change. Our motivation must come from within.

Resolutions are typically negatively focused. We want to quit something. We don’t want to be overweight. We don’t like something about ourselves, or our situations, so we decide to change it. Shifting to a positive focus can help us become more successful in meeting our goals. Instead of beating ourselves up with propaganda from diet culture, “earning our meals” in the gym, and otherwise starving and beating ourselves into shape, what if we just make choices each day that support our health? Instead of a list of forbidden foods, what if we focus on the foods we know make our bodies healthy and strong? Instead of workouts we dread, why not find ways to build physical activity into our days in ways that we look forward to? Instead of cold turkey, white knuckle, giving up that thing we’re addicted to, why not start by setting some limits and gradually working toward quitting for good? Focusing on the benefits of the change, and ways to do it that feel nice will always yield better results that trying to force ourselves to give up what we love and do stuff we hate.

Finally, big changes happen in little steps we take every day. If we want to make changes that last, we have to build routines that support them. This takes time, patience, consistency and commitment. Diving into something this January full force is great, unless we’re burned out with it by March and go back to our old habits. If we want to see real results this time next year, we have to plan little steps we can make each day, to meet our realistic short term goals we’ve set, that will eventually lead us to the big goal we desire. Yes, this likely means making some sacrifices, forgoing some short-term pleasures, and maybe even walking away from some things we enjoy. But, if we focus on the satisfaction we will feel by accomplishing that big thing we want to do, the short-term sacrifices are worth it.

2019 is our year to revolutionize the resolution by replacing our empty wishes with real life action plans. If we can take our big dreams, break them into small, reachable goals, and commit to baby steps, in the form of little changes to our daily routine- there is literally nothing we cannot do- especially with the support of a few good friends. Shifting our focus away from the things we do not want, and toward the end result we desire will help ensure our success. Your best life is right on the other side of your comfort zone. This is the year to go get it.

 

 

 

 

Choosing my legacy- the saddest funeral ever.

“She made the best chocolate chip cookies.”
Everyone in the room agreed. Her cookies were the absolute best. They were the perfect ratio of crispy edge to chewy middle. Soft, but not doughy. Crisp, but not too crunchy. Buttery and sweet, with just the right amount of chocolate chips. If you wanted the perfect cookie, she was your girl.
Normally, this would have been a kind compliment. But as we sat in the cold little church that November afternoon in rural Michigan, it was nothing short of tragic.
The words still haunt me today.

“She made the best chocolate chip cookies.”
My aunt lived a difficult life. She did the best she could with all of her challenges- that’s all any of us can do. She raised four children without a partner to help. She worked her whole life beside her mother and sister at the family business. She lived in poverty, and did what she had to do to survive as a single mother with no education. She was tough as nails, but sadly, addiction ruled her. She lost her life to an accidental opioid overdose, just years after losing a son to suicide.
When she died, a handful of friends and family gathered in the tiny corner church near my family’s farm to say goodbye. The minister of the church gave an odd little service- a mix of things from the Christian Bible, and Janis Joplin music. (She would have loved the second one.)
When we reached the part of the service where the preacher asked if anyone would like to stand up and say a few words about the dearly departed, the room was silent and still. We looked around waiting for someone speak.
The preacher began coaxing us. She was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend. Surely, someone there wanted to stand and share something– a memory, a story, something we would miss without her presence on this earth. Surely, after approximately fifty trips around the sun, somebody wanted to say something. Anything.
“She made the best chocolate chip cookies, ” someone finally offered.
Heads began to nod in agreement. “She sure did,” someone added.
Her surviving children were called upon to speak briefly about their mother before we were ushered into the little room behind the sanctuary for the Midwest version of a covered dish supper.
I stayed behind for a moment with my sister. We approached the little box on the altar that held my aunt’s ashes. I was so sad– not because she died. I was sad because in those moments I realized that she never really lived. She left the earth in debt and disease, having scarcely ventured past the corners of the family farm. Her legacy was a cookie she made from a recipe printed on the back of a chocolate chip bag.
When I returned to Texas after that sad trip home, I began thinking about my own legacy.
What will people say about me when I die?
Will I have lived a life worth remembering?
Will my children have fond memories of me?
Will I have made a mark on the world that will last when my physical body is gone?
Will my life have meaning and purpose beyond my front door?
In my heart of hearts I know my aunt’s life had purpose and meaning beyond her cookies. (Did I mention they were damn good cookies?) But, when it really mattered, on that cold day in November in a tiny country church where my family gathered to remember her, “She made the best chocolate chip cookies,” was all we had.
More than a decade later, I’m starting life over again, again. This memory came to me as I was feeling lost and unsure of what the next stage of my life should look like. I want to make my next steps with clear, focused intention, because in those steps, I know I am building my own legacy.
The workaholic, burnt out, tired, crabby, disconnected person I see in the mirror is not the woman I want to be. And so, I must choose carefully a better path. A path to happiness, health, and prosperity in every area of my life- and leave this worn out version of myself behind.
I want to be remembered as a cheerful wife, who loved my husband selflessly with my whole heart and soul. I want to be the mother (and step-mother) who had my babies’ backs through every stage of their lives- a teacher, a friend, and an example of what it is to be a strong, educated, independent, successful woman in the world.

I want to embody compassion, empathy, and love.

I want to share my experiences with the world in a way that brings comfort and validation to others who share my struggles.
I want joy, peace, creativity, and freedom to be part of everyday I spend on this earth. And when I die, I want people to say that I lived and loved every single day I was here.

Beyonce- I Was Here

What if we skip the thoughts and prayers, and do something about school violence?

“I’d jump in front of a bullet if it meant I’d save someone else.”

The words stopped me in my tracks.

Please, don’t be a hero. You’re my only son.” Was all I could say.

I’d never heard something so brave, or terrifying from my little boy. To be fair, my “little boy” is a man now. He’ll be eighteen in a couple of weeks. Still, he’s my baby, and the words shook me, leaving me in angry tears.

I wondered if my father had said the same thing at the tender age of seventeen when he left high school to enlist in the U.S. Army during the Viet Nam War. The only thing he ever wanted to be was a soldier. He was prepared to do what must be done for his country, no matter the consequences when he was my son’s age.

“I would take a bullet to save the life of another human being.”

Did those words leave my father’s lips as he prepared for war? Could he speak such a thing to his mother? Or, would it have left her in tears, too? Mothers don’t want to think about our young men going off to war or jumping in front of bullets.

When my son said he’d take a bullet, I believed him with my whole heart. The only times he’s ever been in trouble in his young life, he went down protecting or defending someone else. He stands up for the underdogs. He loves his friends fiercely. He will do anything he can to help someone else, even when it hurts him. That’s the kind of compassionate, selfless young man he is.

Yes, my son sounded like a brave soldier that day. But, he wasn’t talking about deploying to a distant warzone. He wasn’t talking about taking a bullet for one of his brothers who fought beside him in combat. No, my son wasn’t going away to war. He was going to his high school in Nashville, Tennessee, prepared to take a bullet to save a classmate in the event of a mass shooting.

“I’d charge down the hallways at some asshole with a gun if I thought I could stop him.”

His words filled me with pride, and dread. These are thoughts my brave, sweet son should not have in his seventeen-year-old psyche. These are things kids just shouldn’t have to think about at all.

When I was a kid, we had fire drills to make sure everyone knew how to get out of the building in case of fire. We had tornado drills to make sure everyone knew how to get to a safe zone to tuck and cover. We had evacuation drills on the bus, to learn how to get out quickly in an emergency. We did not have active shooter drills. Active shooter drills did not exist when I was in school.

Back then, our faculty watched the perimeters of our campus. They made visitors sign in with the office, and made sure the dangers of the world didn’t make it to our halls and classrooms. It was easy then, because the bad guys with the guns were outsiders. They were easy to spot because they were out of place inside the walls of our school building.

Back then, the bad guys with guns weren’t students.

Tomorrow, my son’s school district has closed in response to the most recent school shooting in Florida. They want to gather all of their staff, faculty, resource officers, and leadership to revisit and revamp our school safety protocols and policies. While I appreciate the proactive approach, I absolutely hate that it has to be this way.

I went to social media to talk to other parents about the school closures, curious if we were the only district, or if others had done the same thing. Our district stated in an email to parents that there have been eighteen shootings in the past six weeks in American schools. This began a Facebook debate about what exactly qualifies as a “school shooting” since in some of the eighteen instances in which a weapon was fired on a school campus there were no injuries to students.

What in the whole, entire, holy actual fuck are we doing, America?

Have we become so numb to the violence in our culture that we now need to quantify in bloodshed or lives lost what “counts” as a school shooting? Or, can we just for a minute agree that if someone is firing a weapon on school property, that’s not ok? Even if no one was hurt, the potential for danger was present, and real, and for fuck’s sake— why is having a gun in a school ever ok?

And, before we jump on the gun control bus, let me state very clearly my position on that. It’s basically the same as my position on everything: power to the people. The more you try to take guns away from the good guys– the law-abiding citizens who go through the proper channels to purchase guns legally for protection, recreation, or hunting– the less good guys we’ll have with guns. But, the bad guys? They’ll still get their guns on the street, or by force, or however they can, just like they do right now. Unarming the good guys is not the way to take guns away from the bad guys. And personally, I’d like to know there are some good guys out there with weapons, just in case we need them.

Every time there is another school shooting, the gun control debate ignites. And, while I think it’s important to have that conversation, I also think we’re missing the actual root cause of the issue.

It’s fine for responsible adults to own guns. It’s not fine for kids to have access to them without adult supervision. Period. That’s one question I need answered. How do the kids who shoot up their schools get their hands on these weapons in the first place? Do their parents know their children have access to deadly weapons? Do the kids get the weapons from the parents? Where are the parents?

Right after the gun control debate, we go to the other, classic question. Where are the parents? It’s easy to judge, to assume they must be absent, or abusive, or just plain irresponsible and reckless. But, what if they’re not? What if they are just like us? What if our kids aren’t so different from their kids?

This isn’t an us and them issue, as much as we would love to put that space between ourselves and the parents of the kids who have done these terrible things. We have to stop blindly blaming them. We actually, really need them. We need their knowledge, their insight, their shock and regrets. We need to know what they saw, what they experienced living with their children before they become the kids who killed their classmates. Their stories might be the key to predicting and preventing the next horrible act of student violence.

Are these kids abused when they’re little? Are they bullied by other students, or treated unfairly by teachers? Are they mentally ill? Strung out on drugs? Are they desensitized from years violent video games, movies and television shows? Do they just snap under the sheer weight of their lives?

Maybe I’m naïve, but I just cannot accept the idea that any child is born with this kind of malice and hatred in their precious little heart. I have to believe they learn it. Maybe it comes from bad guys who inflict pain directly upon them. Or, maybe they absorb it from the rampant disregard for humanity that seems to dominate our bullshit culture. Maybe there’s something even darker at work here that I can’t fathom. I don’t know how it happens. I just know we have got to figure it out. We’ve got to fix this, and now–and no amount of thoughts and prayers is going to cut it. Enough with that. We don’t need anymore thoughts and prayers. We need action, and real, dirty, horrible conversation about the process that converts an innocent little child into a cold-blooded killer.

How do these kids become the kids who murder their peers? And, how can we reach them before they become school assassins?

That’s the conversation I hope our school district will have tomorrow. Are there warning signs? Can they tell which students might have violent tendencies? Is there any way to predict an event like this?

How do the kids get the guns in the first place, and how to they get them into the school building?

Do we need TSA style security checkpoints in all entrances of our public high schools?

What will it take to end this madness, and keep our kids safe?

This is the discussion we need to have. All of us. School officials, law enforcement, parents and maybe most importantly, the students. How can we all work together to make sure our schools never end up on the evening news?

My son will graduate in a few short months. He should be focused on his grades and getting ready for college in the fall. He should be thinking about prom, graduation, his birthday celebration and plans for the weekend. Instead, he is planning how to strategically take down an assassin in the halls of the very place he should go every day to feel safe, and concentrate on his future.

Hearing my son talk about his affluent high school like a warzone really made me realize how much trouble our kids are in. I’m proud of our school district for taking time out to make sure they’re doing all they can to keep our kids safe. I just hope they’re going beyond rules and procedures, and getting to the heart of the human element of this kind of violence.

The schools can’t do it alone, and they don’t need our thoughts and prayers. They need our support, and our candid conversation. They need us to be active and engaged in our kids’ lives, and the lives of their friends- to be present enough to know if they are struggling with something. They need us to show up, and talk to our kids about the hard things none of us want to think about.

 

 

 

It’s ok not to be ok.

“Fine.” It’s the superficial answer we give when someone asks how we’re doing today.

“Fine.” It’s the word we choose to describe something when we don’t want to get into why it isn’t horrible, but probably could be better.

“Fine.” It’s what we tell ourselves when we don’t want to expend the necessary energy it would take to fix the situation that deep down we are certain is absolutely not “fine”.

“Fine” is part of the mask we wear. It’s the lie we tell ourselves and others when the idea of sharing our true selves feels too heavy. It’s the way we avoid vulnerability, and thereby connection and authenticity. It’s a way we allow our denial to suppress our truth and keep us from becoming all we were meant to be.

I wasted far too many years trying to convince myself and everybody around me that I was “fine” when I was dying inside. I worked so hard hide my bleeding wounds, I could never heal them. They just festered under the surface until I was ready to get real and face them.

We live in a culture that makes us feel like perfection is the only acceptable standard. Perfection is all around us- look at any nearby screen and you’ll see it. But, it goes beyond the photo shopped images we’re bombarded with. Just looking perfect is not enough. We’re expected to have our shit together at all times, too.

Vulnerability is seen as weakness. Admitting that things aren’t perfect can be the hardest thing to do when we are programmed to be positive all the time. I’m here to tell you that expressing painful emotions is not negative. We have a right to our emotions- good, bad, and ugly. It’s not negative to express how you feel honestly. But, unfortunately, people usually just can’t handle that level of realness.

Why?

Well, we learn it from the time we are small children. When we whine, cry, criticize, or lament the cruelties of our lives as children, there is always an adult around to tell us to stop crying and get our shit together. They shush us. They tell us that what we need or want in that moment is not important. They tell us to be good little girls and stop complaining. To take what we’re given and not ask for more. And, we carry those lessons with us for the rest of our lives.

Essentially, we learn to put the comfort of others above our own needs, desires, and feelings. That’s what we learn from the adults who shush us when we are little.

Then, when things get tough, we take over where our grown ups left off- telling ourselves to just be grateful for the scraps we’ve been given and stop asking for life to give us what we really want. We hold ourselves back, because at the end of the day, we just don’t feel like we deserve anything more.

But, the truth is, we do deserve more. We deserve to have every single thing we desire in this lifetime. We were not born to struggle. We were born to shine. We were not meant to hide our negative emotions. We’re supposed to listen to them, and follow them where the lead so we can find our purpose.

Despite what we are taught, negative emotions are not a bad thing. They are powerful teachers and guides. Without some frustration, anger, irritation or sadness, how would we ever really find our bliss?

Negative emotions help us to determine what we don’t want. And, usually, that’s a huge step toward figuring out what we do want. Without that contrast, how would we ever know which direction to move in our lives? Without some pain, how would we really know where to find pleasure?

Too often, we conceal our negative emotions for the comfort of those around us, and we pretend that everything is fine. Maybe we don’t want to look weak. Maybe we don’t want to burden someone else with our problems. Or, maybe we would rather just stay in the land of sweet, sweet denial where we don’t have to deal with our shit.

But, when we go around pretending that everything is great when it isn’t, we actually rob the people we love of the opportunity to be there for us. We keep our true selves hidden from them and sell them a lie. The fake smile, the small talk, the superficial interaction is really just bullshit. They can never connect with who we are when we are hiding behind our mask of perfection.

But, if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and honest, we create more depth in our friendships. Being authentically who we are can only create space for others to be authentically who they are. When we share our imperfections, pain, mistakes, regrets, and dreams with another human being, it often inspires them to share with us as well. This is the foundation of an honest, loving supportive relationship.

Our masks may feel like little security blankets, but really, they can only push people away and keep us from the sincere connections we so desperately crave.

At the end of the day, it’ ok not to be ok.

It’s good, healthy, and honest to express our emotions for what they are. And usually, when we open up and share those scary things, someone is waiting to help us see our way out of whatever hole we’ve imagined ourselves into. Real connection begins with the courage to drop our masks and share what’s going on with us just beyond our “fine”.

 

 

Photo: Odd Stuff Magazine

The Intuitive Language of our Dreams

I was sailing a small boat out on the ocean, alone. Except, I wasn’t really alone. Another small vessel followed closely behind me. It approached the side of my boat, and I walked over to say hello.

On the other vessel, was my ex-husband. He reached a hand out toward me, I took his hand, and we held onto each other for a moment. Our boats moved easily beside one another. The water was peaceful and still. We stayed in that moment until something caught my attention over his shoulder.

I looked past him, out into the water that surrounded us, and saw a group of orcas approaching. Excited, I pointed to them and told him to look. I was in complete awe of the beautiful creatures.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” he shouted, scrambling to adjust his sails.

But, I didn’t want to leave. I walked to the back of my boat to lean over the side, where the orcas greeted me. One by one they took turns jumping up out of the water to meet my outstretched hands. I would caress the enormous creatures, and kiss each one that rose from the water to connect with me. My boat spun in a gentle circle, as the giants swam around me. It was a magical experience. I felt completely at peace there in my little boat, surrounded by killer whales.

When I glanced up to see if he was watching the amazing thing that was happening, he was gone. His boat was disappearing into the horizon where the sun was beginning to set. In his fear, he ran away, and missed out on an incredible experience.

This powerful dream came to me not long after our divorce. We were still navigating our new normal, and creating new boundaries. I was getting reacquainted with myself after years of being only wife and mother. To say that I was right in the middle of an identity crisis would be an understatement. That’s why I was so grateful for the clarity that came with these amazing symbols.

In our dreams, water is often symbolic of emotional and spiritual cleansing. It is also an indicator of the emotional climate of a situation in our waking life. The calm, peaceful water in my dream was showing me that there was no need to fuss or fight about anything. I could just stay in the flow of my life and allow things to unfold until my transformation and healing were complete. I didn’t have to do anything to bring the orcas to me. The ocean brought them to me when I needed them, the same way that life seems to always deliver exactly what I need when I’m tuned in and allowing myself to receive it.

Being the captain of my own sailboat was huge. It showed me that I had taken control of- and responsibility for- my own life and choices. After years of being bound together in an unhappy marriage, we were free to be individuals again. When he chose to sail away, he didn’t try to drag me along with him, and I did nothing to make him stay. When he left, I was surrounded with love and protection, sent to me by the ocean itself. I was never alone, there was nothing to fear, and life was spectacular.

I felt the orcas rising up out of the water to connect with me was symbolic of the reconnection that was happening inside. I was getting to know myself again, connecting my emotional and physical bodies more soundly to each other. I was becoming aware of my own connectedness to the universe, and the other beings who inhabit it. I was expanding, becoming aware of something much larger than myself.

I knew when I woke that morning that our friendship would soon end. And, though that was not what I wanted, I trusted that it was the right thing. I knew that I would be completely supported through that transition, and just as the ocean sent the whales to me, life would continue to supply everything I needed. When he eventually started to pull away, I let go, and let our twenty-year friendship die.

Through the death of our friendship, I found a truth I’d not considered while I was clinging to it. To be friends with him, meant continuing to wear the mask I wore in our marriage. It meant bending to fit his expectations of me, and trying to keep him happy. To be friends with him, I would have to give up being my own best friend, and go back to the people pleasing, weak woman whose soul atrophied almost into oblivion while in his care.

It was time for me to let go of the attachments I had formed in the early days of our separation when we made promises from a place of fear and pain. It was unfair, unkind even, to make promises to each other in that emotional state. The things we promised were not realistic, an in the end, I realized how unhealthy it would have been for me to continue holding onto that friendship.

I was grateful for that dream, because it helped me prepare for the final cutting of our emotional ties to each other. In my heart, I know that I could only be a reminder to him of the man he didn’t want to be. His fear of that truth made him run away over and over until I stopped trying to pull him back. Watching his little boat disappear and feeling completely at peace was so incredibly powerful. I knew that I would be ok without him, after what seemed like a lifetime of believing that he was somehow necessary for my survival. When I got really honest about our relationship, I was shocked at how truly toxic we were together. What was I holding onto?

Our dreams can bring us all kinds of important messages about our waking lives. Often, our subconscious mind speaks to us in dreams when our conscious mind is not ready to process something, or if we’re ignoring or avoiding something that needs our attention. If we take time to listen, and study our dreams, we can learn a lot about ourselves. Sometimes, we can even predict how a situation will work out, or see the outcome that would be best for us. The more we trust these messages, the stronger our intuition becomes.

PhotoPixabay

 

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