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This

                This morning I talked to a friend of mine.  He is a black man.  And also a police officer.  “What is this like for you?” I asked him.  I didn’t have to clarify what I meant by ‘this.’  We spoke for nearly an hour.

I asked him because I am not a person of color, a group that is very hurt and angry right now.  I asked him because I am not a police officer, a group that is receiving the brunt of a lot of this hurt and anger right now.  I can imagine the feelings that both of these groups are feeling but only to a certain extent, because I am a white woman who does not work in law enforcement.  And I wanted to understand.  I wanted to listen.

During our conversation, I told him what it was like to be a woman, the precautions that I take on a daily basis as second nature that might never cross the mind of a male.  It’s not the first time I’ve told a man of these things, not looking for sympathy, but rather just understanding.  I know there’s no way for them to fully know these things that I speak of.  But still I speak, and most of the time, these men listen.  And understand.  However, I wish that just once a male friend or lover would approach the topic to me and say “What is this like for you?”

These are not easy conversations to have with each other.  These conversations involve the possibility of hearing some very hard truths about the ways in which it’s difficult for others to show up and feel a sense of belonging in the world around them.  These conversations require a compassionate sort of listening, one that exists outside the realm of judgment, of the need to be right.  These conversations are vulnerable and ask us to see what emotions are hiding beneath the one of anger.

You know what I’m talking about by now, right?  I’m talking about empathy.  Oxford defines it simply: “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”  Brene Brown does a better job with this definition. She says “Empathy is connecting with people so we know we’re not alone when we’re in struggle” and “empathy is a way to connect to the emotion another person is experiencing; it doesn’t require that we have experienced the same situation they are going through.”

And, my friends, we are in need of this right now.  I think back on some of the chasms that have happened in my personal relationships.  I think of how the ones that have been mended have involved a meeting in that field that Rumi wrote of, the one that lies beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing.  It involved work and asking each other “what is this like for you.”  And the effort was made because the love was there….love and the desire to be happy.

It’s difficult to love what you don’t understand.  Love’s opposite is bred in that place of not understanding.  And hate is not the opposite of love.  Fear is.  Think of the word ‘homophobia’, defined as a dislike of homosexuals, but it’s very root ‘phobia’ telling us all we need to know about where it stems from.

Fear is the scary deep chasm that’s causing so much of the hurt that is happening around us.  Fear is also the thing that is running through us all right now and sending us out into the streets.  We are deeply afraid of what is happening, we are not happy.  We can’t understand.  We are not being understood.  But dear god, we all want to be understood.

“Where do we start?,” I asked my friend this morning.  I’m not so sure that empathy can be taught, but I think we should try.  I would like to think that our collective broken masses would be willing students.  Empathy is a skill but it’s also been likened to a muscle, one that atrophies with disuse and strengthens with practice.

And I know it sounds all puppies and rainbows to say that we can start to heal by just having conversations with those who seem to be and think and exist so differently than we do.  But this violence, though I fully understand that we got here because all other options seemed exhausted, is a frightening place to be.  Maybe next time you think about hitting that delete button on your social media, reach out privately.  This will mean spilling those icky, dark emotions that are lying underneath your anger.  This is saying “This is what this is like for me.  Can you tell me what this is like for you?”

It’s an invitation to the field, and the more people that gather there, the wider it grows to cover the chasms.

Wanna hear a funny joke?  In February, I was really stressed because I was planning out all of my travel for the year and was wondering how I could do it financially, getting time off work, finding a place for Buddy to stay, etc.  I even had to turn down an instructor position at yoga camp because it was too close to two other trips I had already planned.  Man, that sure was some wasted anxiety.  Now, every single one of those plans is cancelled.  But hey, I’m saving a ton of money.

And yes.  I realize this is all very privileged thinking.  But I’m really working on not feeling shame for this pain of mine.  Because a wise woman once told me “pain is pain is pain.”  And this is my pain.  Or more accurately, travel is my tool for moving into a place of joy.  And not having that joy is painful.  In the past, I’ve been able to pull myself out of some dark places by having these little adventures to look forward to, urging myself along with the hope of a really cool concert, a trip to the beach, new sights for my tired eyes, travelling to see friends that are far away.

The other day I was talking to a friend about how sad it made me to think of not seeing any live music this year.  I had three music festivals planned to attend between May and August.  And I started thinking about what I loved so much about the experience of a music festival.  Yes, the music is awesome.  But that’s only part of it.  The other part of it is a term that I heard about seven years ago—I love the collective effervescence of music festivals.

Collective effervescence is what happens when a bunch of people get together in the same space and they’re all getting spiritually fed by the same thing.  It happens at concerts, yoga festivals and sporting events.  It happens in churches and happy hours.  It happens anywhere where you feel joy and you look around and you see other people made joyful by the same thing.  Because that just makes you feel understood, your joy is validated by all the little bubbles radiating off of those around you.  Collective effervescence, knowing that all of our souls instinctively want to lean towards joy and we feel as if we have all worked together to find a way to get there.  We lift each other up further when this experience is shared.

So here’s the other side.  In the same conversation with the same friend where we were talking about the live music, we also spoke of the dark energy we had been feeling of late, the general malaise that hung humid in the air around us.  It was the second of such conversations that I’d had that day, finally opening up to friends telling them of this spiritual, emotional funk I was swimming in and them telling me that they felt the same.  We blamed the new moon, we blamed covid, we blamed the weather.

But alas, it’s kind of in the same vein as collective effervescence.  Knowing that others shared my experience, even though it was far from those sparkly little joy bubbles, made me feel known….validated.  I hated that my friends were feeling this way, but it got me out of the loop of my own brain when I voiced my emotions to them and they expressed that I was not alone.  And I hope that it worked the same way for them.

In collective effervescence, we are experiencing joy and the people around us say “Me too!” and we know we are on the right path.  In darker spaces, we are feeling pain and if we open up, we might hear others say, “Me too” and realize that perhaps we are not so much on the wrong path, but rather just in the process of finding our way to better paths instead.  And we find the people who are willing to walk beside us to get there.

In either case, allowing the ‘me too’ moment requires vulnerability, the showing of our true selves.  It’s throwing our arms into the air and dancing around, moved by the music and not caring whatsoever how it looks to others.  It’s stripping down past the masks and the walls, baring your soul and your tears and your fears, and not caring whatsoever how it looks to others.  Your people will find that in the crowd and dance with you.  Your people will find you in the dark and cry with you.

The times that surround us seem to lean more towards that icky stuff.  Joy is not in the places we are used to finding it.  We have to learn to look in more creative places these days.  And we can still comfort others without wrapping them in an embrace.  But it’s all still there, the little bubbles of human experience rising up to meet ours.

There have been so many days that have played out for me during this crisis when I’ve just felt….numb.  I’ve felt unfeeling.  It’s as if this suit armor I’ve built for myself over the past 41 years of my life on this planet and all she has done to me….well, it’s finally come in handy.  Now I’m a fortress.  Now I am an island unto myself.  As we all might be led to believe right now.

But none of this is right.

In reality, I’ve got a lot of emotions during these days.  I will name them here.  I am anxious.  I am sad.  I am grateful.  I am scared.  I am hopeful.  I am angry.  I am loved, loving, love.   I am tired.  I am bored.  I am comfortable.  All of these emotions are most likely present in me every single day at some point.  Sometimes, I catapult from one to the other so quickly that I’m sure I would come out of the other side with whiplash.

So I wonder if it’s not so much that I’m numb but more that all of these feelings are meeting at some center point in my body and cancelling each other out.  Kinda like if you take a bunch of different colors of paint and blur them together…..all  you would have left is a gray puddle.

And then, just a bit ago, I decided to check out the video that Josh Ritter put out a few days ago where he played his album “The Animal Years” in his living room.  We all are in our living rooms these days, after all.  This album starts with a song called “Girl in the War.”  And my emotions have absolutely no defense against this song.  They never have.  They never will.  The numb of a national crisis/pandemic/trauma cannot stop the power that this song has over me.

In the brief few minutes that I sat in my bed listening to this song today….my mind flashed to all of the other places I had been when I had heard it.  This song I have sang at the top of my lungs while driving around with the windows open, in a mood that could be taken down by no man or beast.  This song has seen me at the depths of heartbreak, my eyes like champagne, sparkling and bubbling over.  When I saw Mr. Ritter do this song live for the first time, I was at a crowded music festival in a big city, my arms rubbing against strangers, my hand holding that of a man whom I would break up with that very night.  (Remember when we could do things like go to crowded music festivals?  Doesn’t it seem so far away now?)

That particular heartbreak was a big one.  It took me a long while before I got over it. There were some sticky things involved…if you’ve read my book you know the whole story.  But alas, for months and months it seemed as if it was a pain that would live forever in my soul.  It seemed as if permanent damage had been done.  I amassed large sheets of armor for that one.  Nothing will ever be good again, I thought in those dark times

Just so happens that yesterday I was downtown I saw this man from a block away.  Wanna guess what I felt?  Nothing.  Nada.  And it wasn’t the numbness this time.  It was just that  the slow unwinding of some very complicated knots had finally been processed.

That’s what time does.  It makes things better….eventually.

And you know what else time does?  It keeps going on.  It marches.

I’m not saying that we won’t come out of this with some scars.  We won’t.  We are all collectively suffering a really shitty breakup.  We have all been dumped and ghosted and cheated on.  And the worst part is that we are doing going through this without being able to go see our best friends and cry in their arms as they tell us that we are going to be OK….that far better things wait for us on the other side.  And though we might not believe them at the time they tell us these things….one day down the road we see that they were right.

Until then, we talk to each other over long wires and we let musicians sing to us from their living rooms to our beds.  And we allow ourselves to feel and trust all of those different emotions.  We take those emotions and we use them like paint and we create this masterpiece that is new and terrifying and uniquely ours.  One day it will be history.  One day this will be past.  One day we will have new heartbreaks that make us forget this one.  But we will have joys that provide the same amnesia.

We were not meant to be fortresses.  Our efforts to connect with one another during this strange time prove this.  We were never meant to wear armor.  It’s too heavy.  We were meant to dance in crowds….and one day, we will again.

(If you’re looking for something to read and want to know more about the aforementioned story, my book “The Intimacy Interviews” is still available on Amazon is paperback and e-book)

 

 

 

Once upon a time, in a time that could be many times but is particularly this time, and in a place that is particularly this place but could be any place, a man and woman were confronted with the fragility of life.  In this time, and in this place, there was a virus spreading rampant.  And in this time, and in this place, they loved each other.  Or most likely they were just in that beginning phase that feels like love but most likely isn’t there yet.  There’s a word for it…limerence.  It sounds shiny just in its name.  And it feels shiny, this feeling.              When one pulls it up in an internet browser, it is defined as a state of infatuation, it is stated to be involuntary.  Further down on the internet browser are a list of suggested questions: Is limerence real love? How long does limerence last?  What triggers limerence?  And finally……is limerence a mental disorder?

It certainly feels like a mental disorder sometimes, thinks the woman, who could be any woman who finds herself in this state.  It is like a sickness.  But not like the type of sickness that is sending the people around her heading to the store buying toilet paper and chemicals that will kill the invisible thing that they are scared will, in turn, kill them.  At least this limerence crap can’t kill me, she thinks, knowing that she has certainly felt like it nearly has in the past.

I don’t have time for this, thinks the man, who could be any man who finds himself faced with this inconvenience of this feeling.  He sees the world in chaos, all things that he can’t control.  He can’t control the travel bans and the quarantines.  But he can wash his hands, he thinks, he can wash his hands of this virus and he can wash his hands of this crazy thing he’s feeling for this woman.

And there’s this.  The man and the woman are both hearing the news around them that they should stay at least six feet apart.  They shouldn’t touch their own faces, much less each other.

But there’s also this.  At this time, at this particular time, it would feel so good to hold each other.

The woman, who is a believer of things mystical and unseen, thinks that this might be a sign. The universe conspired this whole crazy sickness to show her it’s not safe to open her heart.

The man, who is not a believer of aforementioned things, thinks that this is simply not a rational time to fall in love or in limerence.  There are more important things to worry about.

But in isolation they only yearn for each other even more.  Perhaps it’s a case of wanting the things you are told that you can’t have.  Perhaps the need for connection is more primal.  Sure, a kid wants whatever toy another kid has that he doesn’t.  But I bet his mother’s hug would make him forget about all of the toys in the world.  We are wired for connection, she thinks.  We don’t know what the future even holds, he thinks.

In their separation, they move in individual rhythms.  She dances, alone, feeling out the music and letting it hold her the way she wishes he would.  He runs, alone, always away from her but his steps feel heavy and her pull feels strong.  Her breath labors until she collapses.  I don’t know how much longer I can do this, she thinks.  His breath labors until he once more finds his steady pace.   I could do this for a while longer, he thinks.

When they finally see each other, out on the streets that bring to mind those old western movies with tumbleweeds, they are both wearing masks.  The man can’t see the woman’s lips quivering, but he can see the sheen of tears starting to form in her eyes.  And the woman can’t see the man start to smile but what she sees in his eyes tell her all that she needs to know.

She reaches out her hand.  He sees an invitation, and also a very real possibility of danger.  This virus is very contagious and so is her energy.  He weighs it all up in his mind but by the time he decides that she is worth the risk, he is too late.  She is turning away.

He reaches out his hand.  He grabs her shoulder.  She turns around and sees that he is taking off his mask.  She sees an invitation, and also a very real possibility of danger.  She’s always felt invincible until he came along.  She takes off her mask.  This contact could lead to sickness.  But this limerence could turn to love.  And that seems worth the chance.

They are closer than six feet apart.  They are touching.  But they need to be closer.  The words of warning seem so far away right now.

In his kiss, he whispers all of the things he has been wanting to say to her.  She places her hand on his heart in reassurance.  And there is no going back.  They spend the rest of the quarantine wrapped up in each other.  When it is over, the rest of the world returns to normal, the people come out of their houses, start booking vacations, sending their kids back to school.  The rest of the world unaware of this momentous shift that happened when this man kissed this woman.

The rest of the world will look back and tell stories about this time and this place, when they were pushed to be in isolation.  This man and this woman will not tell the story of this time, when they ignored all of the government’s safety precautions and the screaming of their own amygdalas.  They won’t tell the story because it is theirs to hold private and sacred.  But if they did, they would tell the story of how they could no longer fight, or flee.  They would say that their bodies had both fought off the virus, but the rest of their beings surrendered to that other sickness, which they would soon call love.  And they spread that freely for the rest of their days.

You know no one actually lives happily ever after, says the woman to the man.

I know, says the man to the woman as he pulls her closer, thinking he will just have to prove her wrong.

So being that there are apparently 112 days in January, I have had ample opportunity to do a lot of self-work that I had been putting off for a long time.  This was my plan for the month.  And it feels really good.  I’ve been staying in more than going out and keeping excellent company with myself.  I have been working a lot with manifestation and taking a good, long look at different aspects of my life in what feels like a very productive manner.  I have this whole day planner that I started for 2020; each day I write down what I am grateful for, or what I have learned.  I have been living intentionally and trying to direct my energy towards what I want to bring into my life rather than those things that serve to only weigh me down.

And then I met this guy the other night.  Perhaps one day I will detail this encounter in a future book but for now, in the interest of both the length of this blog entry and the whole not-putting-energy-into-icky-things concept, I’ll just say that I discovered he was a lying asshat, who, when confronted, fully admitted to his douchebag ways.  He apologized, he said he wanted to be friends.  I told him I appreciated his apology but that I had enough friends.  Boy bye.

But the whole thing put me in a really crappy mood yesterday.  I told a couple of friends the story.  I told them that I kept wanting to believe that there were good men/people out there but that I kept getting proof to the contrary.  It’s frustrating to say the least.  It made me wonder if my internal manifestor was operating in a completely faulty manner.

But anyhoo, I had to work at the bar last night.  I was grateful for the opportunity of distraction and during the first part of the evening, a bunch of my friends came in.  It’s like the universe knew that I needed some of my favorite people to show up and smile at me.  It helped more than I could ever really express to them.  Maybe my manifestor wasn’t totally shot.

However, at the end of the night, I was growing tired and there were a group of men in the bar who were sort of invading my personal space by crowding in the service area, so that whenever I actually had to go out from behind the bar for anything, I had to squeeze past them.  (Tip from your favorite friendly bar tender:  don’t do this).  At one point, this one man ordered a beer from me and, as he did so, he touched my shoulder.  I completely recoiled.

Now, a word here.  I have been in the service industry for a long time.  I have been touched in harmless and also inappropriate ways by men I don’t know time and again.  I worked for one summer at a members-only cocktail lounge in Aspen where it happened multiple times a night.  It’s not OK.  But unfortunately, it just becomes part of the territory of holding such jobs sometimes.  That’s not to say that I don’t speak up for myself when a line is clearly crossed.  And to be fair, I am sure a lot of these things that might come across as inappropriate to me have been done with harmless intention.  And sometimes, it completely depends on my mood on how strongly I react.

So my recoil last night….I know that the man meant no harm by touching my shoulder.  I also know that on a less emotionally volatile night, it wouldn’t have phased me.  But, alas, he touched my shoulder.  And I recoiled.

About an hour later, the man was getting ready to leave and he approached me.  He told me that he noticed my reaction to touching me and that he was truly, truly sorry.  He said that he knew he was in the wrong and didn’t mean to upset me.  For the second time in a short span of hours, I accepted an apology.  But this one felt different.  It didn’t feel like a bullshit apology.  It came from a place of true remorse.  I told the man that I had been having a bad day.  His eyes got sad.  He told me that he hoped that things got better for me soon.  I nearly cried on the spot.

I slept hard last night and I woke up this morning and realized that the universe had sent me both a gift and a lesson in this interaction.  The gift is that a stranger’s kindness made up for the earlier events of the day.  Wrapped in that interaction was the universe gently whispering that I didn’t have to give up on the idea that good people did exist; because they did.  And the lesson lay in what I chose to focus on…would I focus on the empty apology of someone who in not worth any more rental space in my brain?  Or would I focus on the apology that came when I wasn’t even expecting one, from a man who could have just as easily written it off…or worse…not even noticed that any harm had been done.

I will never see either one of these men ever again.  They were both passing through town, and through my life.  Yesterday was just one day in my life.  And when I look back on it, I choose  to only remember that kind interaction, that sincere apology, and a stranger’s wish for my happiness.

Mouse Traps

The other day, a friend of mine was asking our group text for advice on what kind of humane mouse traps she should use.  I gave her the advice that my dad gave me years ago.  “The humane ones don’t work.  You have to kill them to send the other ones a message.”  Now, a word on my dad….he’s the most humane dude that I know.  He’s the man that gave me my love of nature, taking me camping and hiking in every corner of West Virginia when I was younger.  Sure, my mom hasn’t actually asked him his stance on adopting the past five out of six of their pets, rather just bringing these rescue creatures home as a surprise.  But all of these pets had him smitten by the time the day had ended.  He discovered the tenets of Buddhism before I did, which even further evened his keel.

But he’s also realistic.  The humane mouse traps simply don’t work.

Eight years ago, I found myself living by myself for the first time ever.  Previously I had lived with parents and then friends and then boyfriends and then a husband.  Post-divorce, I moved into a small garage apartment and my dog Maggie and I settled in nicely.  She found new napping spots and I was able to decorate for the first time without worrying about if my décor would match someone else’s.  I was there for only a few weeks, sitting on the couch with a book, when I noticed a movement in the corner of my eye.  It was a mouse.  Maggie picked her head up from her nap, watched the mouse run across the kitchen and then beneath the sink; she promptly went back to sleep.  I called my dad.  He gave me the aforementioned advice.

The next day, I went out and bought snapping mouse traps and set one in the cabinet beneath the sink, baited with peanut butter.  The day after that, with great trepidation and only one eye open, I looked to see if I had caught a mouse.  I was conflicted.  I wanted the trap to be empty, but I also didn’t want to live with mice.  The trap was not empty.  I closed the door, gathered my courage, grabbed a plastic bag and donned an oven mitt.  And all by my damn self, I picked up the trap holding the dead mouse and put it in the bag.  I gave the mouse a prayer of apology, possibly cried a little, and then dumped it and the oven mitt into the trash can outside.

I’ll never forget how proud I was of myself in that moment.  For the first time in my life, I was solely and completely responsible for a domicile; anything that had to be done to keep it up, I would do myself.  And gosh darnit, I did it.  The days, months and years that would follow post-divorce would be chock full of moments like this, moments of reclaiming my independence and becoming a woman who belongs to only herself, who cares for herself in the way she once cared for others.  But this was the first one.

I set another trap.  It worked again.  But opening the cabinet door, I saw that this wasn’t a clean kill like my first mouse.  Oh, the mouse was dead for sure.  But it was messy.  I called my dad and he came over and disposed of the mouse for me.  And I didn’t feel an ounce of shame in that.  My request for help did not cancel out the fact that I could have done it by myself.

So this mouse trap text came from my friend on the same day that I was reading in a book about having needs.  It was a synchronicity of the type which I am certain is not a mistake.  Synchronicities are never just random mistakes….but that’s a whole other blog.

What I read that morning was a piece about how, in these present times, we are made to believe that having needs somehow equates to being less-than in some respect.  “When we try to pretend that our needs don’t exist, or treat them as though they were pathological, we only feed the hunger in our hearts that much more intensely,” wrote the author.

When my last relationship ended, I admonished myself back and forth for being ‘too needy.’  Sure, it was partly because that’s the message I was getting from the man I was involved with; but to be honest, it was mostly me making myself wrong.   It took a lot of therapy and journaling to figure out that it was simply a case of my needs not aligning with his.  Because I was not asking for too much; he probably didn’t feel as if he was either.  But I couldn’t fill his needs and he couldn’t fill mine.  “You’re not needy; you have needs,” my therapist said to me.  It was the kind of advice that hit me deep.  I have since repeated it to friends and I can tell it hits their hearts too.

Because to be human is to have needs.  And to be in loving relationship with others is not only giving them what they need, but also allowing ourselves to have needs…..and then asking that they be met.  And if we find ourselves constantly asking in vain for these to be met, or much, much worse, pretending that these needs aren’t important and stuffing them inside, well, then perhaps we need to take a look at who we are asking to fill these needs. And if we are constantly in relationship with people who refuse to honor our needs, then perhaps we should take a good hard look at how seriously we are able to admit, respect and honor our own needs. If we deny ourselves our own needs, labeling them as ‘needy’ or ‘too much’, how do we expect others to treat us?

 

I know I am an independent woman who can do things for myself. I’ve had years of practice and never lose that sense of delight when I accomplish some household task which I could have asked for assistance doing. However, I’m becoming much more comfortable in also creating space for allowing myself to need others. I’m allowing myself to create a list of what I honestly need to feel loved and safe in relationship with others. I’m allowing myself to not only ask that; but to demand it. And if that is not what is being served, then gracefully leaving the table. I can clean up what was left in the trap; I can also ask for assistance when it becomes more than a one-woman job.

 

(I’ve lived in a couple of different apartments since that first one and have not had mice in any of them. Recently, I thought there were mice in my current apartment but it turned out that it was a bat. Which is beyond terrifying and completely justified a 2am Facebook post pleading for help. But I digress.)

Have a Nice Life

Last September, I was standing outside of the airport in Albany waiting for my ride that would take me further into upstate New York for my cousin’s wedding.  I began talking to another woman who was standing outside trying to figure out how to work her new cell phone.   A third woman came outside for a smoke break and we became a brief trio of strangers brought together by small coincidences of time and place.  We chatted, the subject matter unimportant and now forgotten, and the third woman finished her cigarette.  As she went inside, she said words that I would never forget and which would seem prophetic after the next days of my life would unravel in a way that I could have never seen coming.

“Have a nice life, ladies,” she said before she disappeared through the swoosh of automatic doors.

I smiled a little bit then.  That phrase I had only heard used in this sort of bitter sense.  I never want to see you again, have a nice life.  But no.  This lady knew that the small coincidences that had brought us together were coming to an end and that we would never, ever cross paths again with nameless strangers that we passed ten minutes of our existence with.  I will never see you again so my hope for you is that you have a nice life.

It was just hours later that I received news that would shape my existence from that moment on.  It was a loss, it was a heartbreak, it was the swoosh of automatic doors that dropped the bottom out from under me.  It was grief stepping up to my side and telling me that we had to dance together once more.  Two days later I remembered that stranger’s words and I wondered how to have a nice life with this current dancing partner who was stepping on my toes and putting his hands where they weren’t supposed to be.

The thing about each new dance with grief is that it tends to remind us of all the other songs that played before; even way back to the first one when we weren’t even certain our feet would move in that sort of way.  And, sure, the steps get learned.  But they never get easier.  And our feet tire from dancing.  And sometimes that song plays in the trickiest of moments.

I’m not even going to pretend that this part of life is supposed to be nice.  It’s not.  But, nevertheless, it is life in the most, purest, unabashed form that life has to offer of itself.

And as this cursor sits blinking even now, I’m not quite sure why I’m writing this, on this day as the rain falls outside and my dog sleeps quietly at my feet.  Except that last night, my friend gave me the advice that I need to start embracing the unknown.  And that last night, I went to sleep and asked my dreams to give me guidance and I woke up feeling disoriented.  And then I listened to a podcast in which Elizabeth Gilbert spoke of grief.  And as that song started playing in my head, it was right next to those words.  Have a nice life, ladies.  And I was right back to being that lady outside of an airport on a crisp day that just whispered of fall who had no idea what was going to roll into her path on the hours and days and months that would unfold in front of her.

Because what would I have done?  Would I have run back into the airport and bought a one-way ticket to some tropical island while ditching my phone in a toilet so that life couldn’t contact me there?  If I had done that, I would have missed one of the worst nights of my life.  But I would have also missed the next day, where I got to see one of the most important people in my life marry a man that loved her so endlessly and completely.  I would have missed the heartbreak that consumed my springtime but I would have also missed the falling in love of the winter months.

The word that Elizabeth Gilbert kept using today when describing the dealing with, the handling of , the survival of grief is mercy.  Mercy is the compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.  It is the dance we do with ourselves, day in and day out.  It is a plea that our soul speaks to our heart and our crazy, whirring minds, to just simply be gentle.  Be gentle with this moment, with this situation, with this loss and with these gifts.  Be gentle with this chasm of space that exists between what is known in this moment right here as your eyes sweep over these words and the moments that will appear to you as this day and this life unfold.

My ex-husband always told me that I was a terrible person to dance with because I refuse to be led.  I always found it funny.  And I still do.  But now I think of the spins that I take with grief and loss and wonder if I would get my toes stepped on a little less if I simply granted my partner the mercy of being present.

And when the song ends, I thank this partner for his time and his lessons.  I gently remove his hands from the small of my back and allow myself to breathe normally again.  I leave the dance floor, in a whoosh of automatic doors.  It’s not a tropical island on the other side, but it is life.  And I know it will be a nice one again.

 

Dear Ashley,

I forgive you for falling for him.  He played a good game.  He gave you just enough to make you believe that you could be different from the others.  But he also gave you some red flags that you weren’t so easy to see, ones that you didn’t want to see.  But now you  have those recognized for the person that really matters.  Promise me you will never get to a place again where you have to feel insecure about telling someone you miss them after three months.  I know he appeared to you as grounded and thoughtful and charming.  But I think you know that he never followed through on scratching the surface.  And that his way of being would not have made you happy in the long run.  You work hard to be happy and you want someone who is willing to do the same.

And I forgive you for mourning so hard for him.  He played with your heart and your head and then made you believe that you were the reason it ended.  Ashley, you WERE patient with him…probably too much so.  And you WERE trusting…you always put your heart all in with people.  The reason you didn’t fully trust that he could love you was because your intuition told you that he had no love to give you.  And then he showed you that you were right all along.

I forgive you for those months of standing still and living in that place of hurt, sweet girl.  You want so badly for others to have the big, open heart that you have.  You give them the benefit of the doubt.  This man’s heart was simply incapable of holding yours.  It only wants to recognize pain at this point in time.  So, unfortunately, that is what he shared with you.

They say that the amount of grief felt after a breakup is equal to the amount of love felt.  He was lucky to have that bold love while he did.  And you might never know why he rejected it.  But you know in your heart that that kind of love is meant to be shared with someone who will hear your needs and not be so stuck in his own that he refuses to inch towards you.  You told him your fears and he used them against you.  And that’s the opposite of love, my dear friend.

And I know you feel like an idiot because here you’ve been hurting and he went straight to someone else.  He could have told you the truth about the breakup but he danced around it and then blamed it on you.  You did nothing wrong.  Your friends have been telling you this for months.  Can you believe it now?  Can you believe that the only thing you did wrong was see this man for the potential of who he could rather than what he was showing you?  And you wanted so badly to help him get there.  But you’ve given him enough, sweetheart.  You gave him more than he gave you in the good times.  And you gave him far more than he deserved after he pushed you away, even when he denied you the one thing you ever asked him for.

But, dear god, you’ve risen before and I know you will this time.  Perhaps the height of the rising will be equal to the depth of the low.  I know you thought he was your soulmate.  And, in a way, he was.  He brought your wounds to the surface to heal.  His hands weren’t strong enough to do that job.  But yours are…I promise they are.  And the tears you’ve cried have not been in vain.  They have been slowly unclogging the confusion he left you with.

I know this seems unending.  But I can’t wait for the day when you laugh because you are so grateful that he removed himself from your life.  Because you had everything to give to him.  And he had nothing to offer in return.  You’ve come way too far to accept a shitty bargain like that.  And you know this. You are loved, you are important, and you are enough.  And you will find someone who is not scared to tell you these things; you deserve someone who wants to shout them from the rooftops.

Until then, be gentle with yourself.  Be gentle with your anger and your sadness.  Let them pass through you, honor their existence and then allow them to leave.  You’ve got bigger things to see.

 

So yeah, I wrote a book. And then I stopped writing.   I suppose I felt like I needed a break. And there was something else…if I wasn’t writing a book, if I didn’t have an end goal, then what was the point? It’s a question I’ve been getting asked a ton—‘what’s your next book going to be?’ I know this question comes from a good place, from people enjoying “The Intimacy Interviews” and wanting to read more of my words; I always answered that I was still trying to digest the first one. I was…and I am. But perhaps it goes a little deeper. I was happy; I had just written and published a book goshdarnit. And I was dating a really great guy whom I felt very settled and secure with. I don’t tend to write much when I am happy, settled and secure. I write when I’m feeling confused, putting words to paper or screen tends to help me work stuff out in my head.

Can you guess where this is going? Yep, I got dumped. It’s a long story but the bottom line is that it’s not me, it’s him. I had expressed a fear to him that one day he would wake up and realize that he didn’t want me in his life. Weeks later, that feels like what happened. I’ve had a lot of days and evenings of tears, of replaying events over and over in my head….some of this accompanied by wine.

So there I was, drinking wine and feeling sorry for myself and I was searching Expedia for flights to LA. I had a friend who had planned a trip there and invited me to share her room. I bought the ticket. And then made sure that I booked it correctly the next morning, because, well, wine.

I then booked another session I had with the healer that I saw the last time I had visited. Prior to my appointment with her, my friend and I had an early dinner and I was that person who was crying in public. I’m not usually that person. Especially not at a hip and trendy restaurant in LA where all the beautiful people were putting on their best displays. But alas. Kimber and I had barely gotten past our hellos when the tears started again. I’m like a freakin’ faucet—-when I start crying, I can’t turn them off.

Kimber did an akashic reading with me. If you haven’t read my book (and why not?), it’s a little hard to describe what this is but basically, Kimber channels all of the angels and guides who have been with me on my soul’s journey. And then I ask them wtf I am supposed to do. Regarding this ol’ heartbreak of mine, they told me that this evisceration I’m feeling in my heart is a beautiful thing. Oh, really? Screw you, spirit guides. It certainly doesn’t feel like that. It feels like there is an elephant standing on my chest; that’s how I’ve been describing it to others. Kimber reassured me that this is just what needs to happen; it’s the heart cracking open and the walls breaking down.

I wrote about this in the book, how every relationship is a portal to an important lesson, that pain felt is healing in the making…..and suffering, if moved through with respect to all the emotions involved, is growth. In the past couple of weeks, I have wanted to throw something at the chick who wrote that. None of this felt beautiful and I’ve grown quite enough, thank you very much.

However, I’m getting to that point. It comes in spurts, ones that grow in duration just a little bit more every day. I’m sure there will be more of the sadness and self-pity and fruitless replays. Heck, maybe there will be another wine-fueled last minute trip (anyone else booking a great vacay and want to share their bed with me?).

It occurred to me that a lot of my pain came from the deep discomfort, of not knowing ‘the end’. And that it was much like how I hadn’t been writing if it wasn’t attached to an end goal. Patience has never been my virtue and I’m constantly wanting some sort of crystal ball to see what the other side looks like….what lies on the other side of this good ol’ heart shredding? What is my next project going to be? Who knows…..but I’m going to start writing again anyway.

But what about this so-called beautiful evisceration?   As I began to write this piece, it hit me that my favorite deity is Ganesh, the remover of obstacles. He just so happens to be an elephant. So I guess I’m OK with him standing on my chest for a little while longer.

Andi—Off the Mat

Andi’s email to me is entitled “Support, Insight, and Catharsis” and in the body she tells me that she has a hard time getting out of her head when it comes to her relationship with her fiancé Rob. Her head is a place of insecurity, of seeking perfection in herself and sabotaging her own happiness. I know what she’s talking about. It’s a place that I probably visit quite often in my own head.

The relationship that Andi now has with Rob is not one that came easily. It was full of fits and starts and a few misunderstandings. The two of them began as friends and after a year of this friendship, Andi decided that she was in love and when she professed this love to Rob, he shot her down. They became friends again. And then friends with benefits. And then they were nothing at all after an incident in which Rob really hurts Andi’s feelings.

Years later, Andi and Rob reconnected after he reached out to her and expressed his desire to see her again. They stayed up all night talking on that first night back in each other’s presence. They eventually became a couple. And then engaged. Rob is Andi’s first committed relationship; but all along she had a feeling that he was the one for her.

But now Andi is in front of me crying as she tells me that some days she feels like she will never be ‘enough’ for Rob. And the list she gives me is long. Perhaps she is not smart enough or philosophical enough. Her cooking skills make her feel incompetent.

“I get scared because I think he’ll get bored and see that I’m not what he wanted to invest in,” says Andi.

“How does he respond when you bring that up?” I ask her.

“He tells me ‘I wish I could see the you that I see.’”, she says.

I ask her if she realizes how beautiful that is…to have a partner that is soft enough to receive this offering of vulnerability and strong enough to respond lovingly. I think about how I’ve never had this sort of partner in my life. But then I think about how I’ve never given a partner the chance to be that person. Have I had these thoughts that I’m not enough and that one day the man I’m with will wise up and see that I’m not that great? Oh hell yeah. Have I ever actually expressed this to a partner? Oh hell no.

I don’t know if it’s so much of me being scared to admit my perceived weaknesses, or if it has more to do with my lack of delegation skills. That’s right. Maybe I make up some of my weaknesses but this one is spot on. I’m very much a “if you want something done right, do it yourself” type person. I suppose it stems from a need to control the outcome, or a lack of trust in others; most likely it’s a combination of the two.

I can easily see how the inability to delegate has made my life more difficult when it comes to my school and work life. But I’ve never paused to consider how it might be affecting my love life. When I’m in my head, when I’m insecure and scared and worried, I keep it to myself. I went for a long time without a partner and I’ve lived my whole life as an only child. I’ve learned to take care of myself. I yearn for a partner who wants to help me carry some of this weight. But have I ever allowed one to do so?

As Andi had outlined the course of her relationship with Rob, she briefly mentioned the possibility that maybe the fact that he ended their friendship so abruptly all those years ago made her insecure. I ask her if she is holding on to that part of their history and she says that she thinks that she has let it go.

“It’s an issue from the past and I’ve put it to bed,” says Andi. And then she pauses and the two of us sit in silence for a bit. “Maybe I needed to hear myself say it’s put to bed. If it ends, it ends. People grow apart and I think that knowing we’ve grown apart once, I guess it could happen again.”

“From the outside it looks like you have a great love story,” I say. “But you’re already writing the ending. You’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy so that if he leaves, you get to be right—you’re not enough. You’re the only thing that’s standing in the way of this relationship.”

I can see the ‘aha’ moment light up from behind Andi’s tear-filled eyes and, sure enough, she tells me that hearing me say ‘you have control over you’ stuns her. I tell her that she is fortunate. So many things could stand in the way of a relationship’s success (addiction, infidelity, etc.) that she would have no control over. But in this case, she can do something about it. Andi tells me that she doesn’t know how to do it. I tell her she doesn’t know how to do it…yet.

The addition of this small word has been a game changer for me, personally. If I tack those three little letters on to the end of a thought that I have about things I can’t do or things I don’t know how to do, then those three little letters add hope. I don’t know how to have a healthy relationship…yet. I can’t seem to figure out how to be in a relationship with a man without giving up a part of myself…yet. I haven’t met a man who allows me safety in the folds of vulnerability…yet.

And it’s here where I meet up with all of my self-fulfilling prophecies. By me saying that I don’t know how to fall in love without losing myself, I create a situation in which I don’t even allow myself the possibility of doing so. If I say that I can’t find a partner who will allow me to exist in the full realm of myself, I will continue to pair myself up with those who don’t give me the chance. And if I say that love just simply doesn’t work for me, I write a thousand sad endings, over and over.

When Andi and I part ways after our interview, I give her a big hug and in that embrace, she feels a little lighter. I spent more time talking in this interview than I have in previous ones. In front of me was a woman who needed a little grounding and centering, a woman who needed someone to provide an outsider’s perspective of things. I gave her that; and in my advice, I also gave myself a little shift and a new viewpoint from which to observe my own issues.

The two-way flow of energy that happens during these interviews is starting to become so apparent. And I don’t think I ever doubted that would be the case; because it’s something that happens every time I teach a yoga class. There are times when I feel like I have absolutely nothing to give to a class full of students—I’m in a bad place in my head and my energy is bouncing around wildly in my soul. But because a job is a job and I can’t call in crazy, I show up. And I teach. And without fail, I leave the class feeling a little more at peace than I had before. It’s not that I passed on my bad juju to the others in the class; it’s simply that, in guiding others to find a little space and healing, I managed to find my own along the way.

During my time with Andi, I had suggested that she try yoga. I told her about all of the goodness in my life that I had received from the practice. I told her it was a practice that allowed me to accept where I was in the present moment…because in that moment, without past bullshit or future stresses, everything is simply enough. I told her that it was a practice that taught me that I didn’t have to look like anyone else in the room.   Heck, I didn’t even have to look like the person that I was on the previous day. I just had to show up and accept who I was in that slice of time. I told her that the more I practiced these things on the mat, the more naturally that they came to me off the mat.

I’m still working on all of this stuff. And that’s why we call yoga a practice. Our stories fall apart and then weave them back together again. But I think that this project is finally allowing me to clearly see the role that I am playing in all of my own endings. And when I think to myself ‘but I don’t know how to write anything but endings’, I’ll just whisper to myself those three little letters. Yet.