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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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This Too Shall Pass….

A few weeks ago, I completed my final interview for the book I am writing.  I was feeling like I had just wrapped up the most transformative year of my life.  I felt changed and accomplished and happy and hopeful.  I felt like I had finally gotten my shit together.  So then of course the Universe said Oh hey, take this.  I imagine an evil laugh accompanying those words.

In California, the place of my final interview, I went to see a healer whom my friend had recommended.  I had nothing to lose and a heavy dose of salt.  But then this woman started to be real spot on some things.  Like, real spot on.  After doing what was essentially a reading in which she consulted all of my spirit guides (I see you rolling your eyes, but again……she was real spot on), I laid down on a table for an hour of reiki, sound healing and guided mediation.  And some stuff came up.  And my shit fell right back apart.  I contacted my therapist the day I got home and told her that I needed to come back.

My therapist told me to try to put all of this in a box for a while because she knew I had my cousin’s wedding in New York coming up.  I was there, in a strange place, surrounded mostly by strangers, when I got the news that my friend Crystal took her own life.  My box grew a little larger.  My car was parked at the Asheville airport (long story) and so when my flight was delayed and then cancelled from Charlotte to Asheville on the way home, I took a two hour Uber ride.  It was worth every penny…..as my choices at that point were $120 for an Uber or me collapsing into an incomprehensible puddle in the middle of an airport.

I slept in the back of the Uber and at one point I awoke to see our driver was navigating through a fog thicker than I had ever seen.  And I don’t do this often….but I prayed at that point.  I drove home the next day from Asheville and it rained the whole time, sometimes in torrents that flooded the roads.  What are you trying to tell me?  I asked the Universe out loud, my hands clenching the wheel.  Get home and take care of your people….and more importantly, let them take care of you, she said.

Crystal was a pretty new friend in my life; we had only started hanging out a couple of years ago.  But we had this immediate, special bond.  We were both Leos, we were both navigating post-divorce dating life.  And my heart still fucking breaks when I think about never seeing her walk into my yoga class….or texting me to see if she could spend lunch break on my porch.  My heart breaks for me and for the rest of us…..but more than anything my heart breaks for her and what a terrifying place her mind must have been in those last days.

I think I will probably always want to play out some sliding doors, clicking my heels fantasy in which I was a better friend to her the past month or so and she would still be with us.  My life has been chaotic lately and I’ve loosened the reigns on a lot of my connections.  I know that many others are in this similar place of regret and confusion.

One of the first things I did upon hearing the news of Crystal’s death was go to her Facebook page But she was smiling and think about the last time I saw her She seemed so happy and the last text she sent me This too shall pass.  I was trying to get answers to questions that can’t help but to be asked, but have no real result on the outcome.

Crystal was so, so loved.  And for absolute good reason.  She was caring and fun and smart and intuitive.  I truly celebrate the time I had with her.  I’m joined in this sentiment by so many people that not even the four walls of a church could hold us all.  It’s just this cruel trick to think that someone so loved could feel so alone in some moments.

And I get it.

So I’m gonna get real transparent here.  For all of my life, I have battled depression on and off.  Bet you couldn’t tell that from my social media, could you?  And I don’t say this to elicit any sort of sympathy or worry.  I’m saying it because I am not ashamed of it.  I say it because everything I have been through in this life has shaped me into the woman I am today and I am proud of her and I am hopeful for her; even if she’s done some really stupid things in the past.  But my god, it’s been a journey and it ain’t over yet.

But these are the things that we don’t talk about when all we see is the pretty pictures on Instagram.

When I was in yoga school, I had a major realization that scared me straight.  We were working on our chakras and it was root chakra day.  In our bodies, this is our home of ‘right to be here’.  We had a yoga session focused on this chakra and then we were told to observe silence.  As I wrote in my journal, the words that came out were: I have no sense of survival.  Though I had never been seriously suicidal, there were certainly times in my life where death seemed like a more peaceful option than dealing with my pain.  Some weird stuff happened that day that involved my aunt’s spirit visiting me and an earthquake while I slept but that’s neither here nor there.  But that’s the day when I knew I would start fighting for myself.

These days I have a therapist, a psychiatrist, self help books and at times, healers and tarot card readers.  It takes a village, y’all.  I know that I need support for my mental and emotional health so I’m gonna work real hard to seek it out.  It’s really no different than seeking medical doctors, dieticians and exercise coaches to support your physical health.  When you see me out and about and I’m happy and spunky, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m lying…it means that the final product is not always easily won.

It also means that when my smile is a mask, I have those around me who know the truth because I have let them in.  They get me to the other side.  There have been appointments with my therapist at real low points in my life where I have been asked to promise that I won’t do anything to hurt myself in the time that exists until our next appointment.  I’m nothing if not a people pleaser; so sometimes this is just what I need to hear in order to start trying to heal myself a little bit.

And then, days, weeks, months, years later…I find myself on the other side.  Sometimes I have to squint real hard to see it.

But here’s the thing.  We have to start talking about this shit.  I know it’s weird and uncomfortable and super foreign to do but, my god, I swear it might be worth it.  And you might feel like you’re intruding on someone’s privacy by checking in constantly.  Check in anyway. You might feel like it’s offensive to ask if they are thinking about hurting themselves.   Ask anyway.

And if you’re on the other end—on that deep, dark hole side of things…I know that place.  Every single number in your phone seems impossible to dial.  Just pick one.  Some demon is telling you that you are not loved and that no one would miss you.  Fuck that guy.  You are so unbelievably loved and your absence would leave an unfillable hole.  And if you don’t have a number to call, use mine.

Take care of your people…..and let them take care of you.

 

 

 

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A year ago I published a letter on this blog.  I want us to talk, I said.  The responses started coming in droves, their content as varied as the women sending them.  And it appeared I had a project on my hands.  And so I began interviewing and I began writing.

It all started with a trip to a music festival last summer.  It actually started with a come-to-Jesus incident that happened right before that but you’ll have to wait for the book to come out to read about the details of it.  But at this music fest, I danced with friends and entertained the idea of quitting my jobs to follow LCD Soundsystem on tour.  And then I met up with a couple old friends from Aspen, one planned….the other pleasant surprise.  One of them asked about my life as a single woman and yoga teacher.  The other asked when I was going to write a book.

And then, somewhere along I-64 East, between the rises and falls of those quiet hills of Kentucky, I had this idea.  And it lit my soul completely on fire.  Because I feel quite sure that this is the story that I am meant to tell.

As I drove to interview the first woman for my project, just days after my 39th birthday, I wondered wtf I was doing.  And then I went into a stranger’s house, sat on her couch and we talked for hours about love and heartbreak and the crazy little tricks that the universe has up her sleeve.

So I kept on going.  My age range is from 18-83 years old.  I have interviewed straight women and gay women and everything in between on the sexuality spectrum.  I’ve spoken with divorced women, married women, single women, widowed women.  I can no longer keep track of the tears spilled during these interviews, but oh, how there was laughter too.  There’s a chapter about online dating.  There’s a chapter about surviving an abusive relationship.  I could never have imagined the breadth and depth of the stories I have heard.  I promise to honor you joys and your sorrows and your truth, no matter what package they come in.

In the blink of an eye, a year passed and I found myself back at this same music festival.  I danced with friends and entertained the idea of quitting my jobs and following Arcade Fire on tour.  I told that old friend from Aspen that I was finally writing my book.  I told her that it was part memoir about my struggles in and out of relationship; I told her the other part was telling the stories of some really amazing women.

And when I got home from that festival, the craziest thing happened.  Somehow, this project felt complete.  I’ll be doing a couple more interviews.  But I’ve got 300 pages written that I’m really happy with.  My 40th birthday is coming up here in a few weeks and this book is my gift to myself.  But it’s a gift that I want to share.  And though it’s going to be by far the most vulnerable thing that I’ve ever done, I am ready to put it out there for the world to read.  Things tend to lose the power that they hold over us when we speak them aloud.

I’ve got a couple of next steps coming up….namely, hiring a proof editor to cross my t’s and dot my i’s and creating a website and a marketing plan to start gathering an audience for this book.  I’m leaning towards self-publishing so that I can control the final package of this project.  But it’s gonna take a village, y’all.  Both aforementioned next steps take money that I simply don’t have right now.  I’ve attached a link to my gofundme page and all donations, no matter the amount, would be very appreciated.  Or, if you are interested in helping some other way, I’m all ears.  I kinda suck at marketing myself.  But I promise, you will soon be holding my book in your hands.  It’s a promise I’m making to myself and to all of those reading this right now.

https://www.gofundme.com/4g7hd4g&rcid=r01-153298720713-50a5498a299b4d98&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

 

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By the Way, I Forgive You

A few weeks ago my feet started itching from staying in the same place for too long; my gypsy soul started stirring so fast that I could not longer quiet her down.  And so I made plans to take a short trip down to Charleston, SC to do an interview for my project.   After conducting a three hour interview, I met a friend out at a dog-friendly bar.  And in this case, dog-friendly meant that it was a giant dog park with a little bar attached.  There was a bluegrass band, a food truck slinging delicious pizzas and a fire pit.

Sounds awesome, right?  Well, I gotta tell you something.  My dog Buddy?  The one that looks so sweet and cuddly all the time?  Yeah, he’s kind of an asshole.  And definitely not dog park material.  So we walk into this bar/dog park and about twenty dogs are running amok off leash.  Both times I went to the bar to get a beer, a giant St Bernard kept trying to hump Buddy.  It was a bit distracting.  At one point, I left Buddy in the care of my friend and went to the bathroom with my phone in my back pocket.  Can you guess what happened next?  Yup, phone in toilet.  I fished it out right away but it was already spazzing out on its way to death.

So there I was, in a strange city with no means of communication or GPS.  Hey old farts like me…..remember the days when we carried atlases in the car?  Or printed out MapQuest directions before we left on a trip?  Fortunately, my friend volunteered to let me follow her in her car back to my hotel.  I stopped at the grocery store next to my hotel to pick up a bag of rice to try to salvage my phone.  When I got to the checkout line, I opened my wallet to find that I had left my debit card at the bar/dog park; which I also blame on St. Bernard humpies.

With the help of the front desk at the hotel, I called the bar/dog park to make sure that they had my debit card and located the nearest AT&T store.  The next morning, I went there first thing and picked out a fancy new phone.  A woman named Harley helped me out and she and I talked and talked about my project and dating and life in general.  She was super cool; so I didn’t even mind when she broke the news that since I hadn’t backed up my phone since August 1, 2016, nothing stored after that date would carry over to my new phone.  Gone were so many pictures, and phone numbers…….and the previous day’s three hour interview.  Then Harley asked how I wanted to pay.  And I just started laughing at her.  And dug out my never used business debit card.

One might think that all of this would put a little rain cloud over my trip….having to deal with all of that.  But one doesn’t know what happened to me the morning of the phone-in-toilet-debit-card-at-bar incident.

So let me tell you.

The last time I had been in Charleston, SC was three and a half years ago.  I was in the center of a white hot heartbreak so I did what I always did when I find myself there.  I run to the ocean, hoping that her waves will take it all from me.  Three and a half years ago, I rented a little cabin on Folly Beach with just me and Buddy.  I spent my mornings stalking the shoreline and went to a yoga class every day.  I turned off my social media over those four days and tried to work this thing out of my system.  I went out to dinner by myself, and felt pity in the strange faces that surrounded me.  Not because I was alone, but probably because my pain was radiating off of me in sad pulsations.

And so the other day, I found myself once more walking on those same shores.  While I was walking, I started to think about that time three and a half years ago, that time when I thought my battered heart would never mend.  I thought about where I was in the present moment.  And I began to laugh and laugh.  And then I started to cry.  They were tears of gratitude.  I was so, so grateful to the gentle hands of time for doing their job.  I was so grateful that this, too, had passed.

In that time when everything was happening I was caught in a vortex of self pity.  I tried everything.  I wrote letters I would never send and then burned them in fire ceremonies.  I talked it to death with friends (my apologies to those who know who you are).  I ran and ran and punched heavy bags with boxing gloves.  None of those were a magical cure.  Because I’ve discovered that for some kinds of pain, the only antidote is time, and sometimes lots of it.

In 1914, Thomas Edison lost half of his plant to a giant fire.  The plant housed his ideas and inventions and his life’s work.  As the story goes, as flames consumed the buildings at a rate too rapid to be contained, Edison turned to his son and said, almost gleefully “Go get your mother and all her friends.  They’ll never see a fire like this again.”  And then the next day, he got right back to rebuilding.

The point of this blog is not to compare the loss of Edison’s plant to the loss of my phone….though it’s quite tempting.  Rather, it’s to talk about how three and a half years ago, I had never seen a fire like that before.  And how it’s only in retrospect that I can look back and see how beautiful it truly was; the way it lit up every single corner of my heart so that I knew I could indeed love again, the way it burned away debris so that I could see what was truly important.  It burned hot and furious for a while; and then got smaller and smaller until as time passed and passed.  And then suddenly, it was just a spark within me……which I keep as this beautiful token of my resilience.

This time around in Charleston, I meet people….on the beach, while shopping, out at breweries.  I am no longer this beacon of pain to be avoided in case it’s contagious.  I am all smiles and purpose and lust for life.  I am completely lit up from all these sparks within me.

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