Love is

Love is driving through sickness to hold her when she’s sad.

Love is calling to sing her a song in the middle of the night.

Love is driving to spend the weekend with her family.

Love is making her dinner AND doing the dishes.

Love is doing things you’re nervous about because you know she wants you there with her.

Love is putting yourself first.

Love is going to bed too early.

Love is learning to trust that “I love you” can be something gentle and patient.

Love is holding your nephew as often as possible.

Love is answering the phone when you want to let it go to voice mail.

Love is asking for support.

Love is sitting quietly while you both take time to think and to write.

Love is learning to be patient when you want a turn to talk.

Love is listening to the soundtrack of a show you’ve never seen, just because she wants to share it with you.

Love is dressing up in fancy clothes to take her out for a date.

Love is picking him up at daycare when she needs a little time to herself.

Love is saving her the best seat in the show and sitting one seat over.

Love is telling her what specifically she says and does that makes your heart feel full.

Love is waiting for a turn.

Love is trying new things just because you know she loves them.

Love is waiving the debts from loved ones when you can afford to do so.

Love is pausing whatever is going on so you can hear her voice and say goodnight.

Love is listening to her stresses even when you’re battling your own.

Love is choosing to stay home alone when you need to.

Love is watching her eyes to see when she needs space and giving it to her without her needing to ask.

Love is finding a lucky penny and giving it to her.

Love is collecting stones and stories to remember your adventures together.

Love is setting aside your projects just to listen sometimes.

Love is saving her the last bite.

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Love is, I think, a collection of moments. Most of them small and seemingly insignificant. Tiny toothpicks stacked together, reaching up into the sky. Small moments of making coffee and tidying the living room and looking at photo albums and writing cover letters. Moments of reassuring roommates and picking raspberries and washing clothes and paying bills. Moments of setting up a projector to watch the LEGO movie in the living room. Waiting for your computer to restart and looking over the top to see her tousled hair and furrowed brow and wondering at how life presents you with such gifts – such exquisite moments of loving her and seeing your life shift to become our life. Taking one small step sideways to see the view has completely changed and now an entire vista has opened before you. You’re looking at the same world through the same eyes you’ve always had but somehow everything looks so different now. Colors are brighter and more vibrant. Things that might have driven you crazy before no longer have the same hold over you.

You can breathe easier and let things go.

Waiting for What?

Some weeks ago, one of my best friends invited me to go with her to attend a performance by Bread and Puppet Theater. I’d been hearing amazing things about Bread and Puppet for years, but this was the first time I found myself in a position to attend a performance. I assure you – this will not be my last. Breathtaking costumes, a mix of intense drama and lighthearted poking at the Establishment, their style and approach had me hooked from the first moment.

We want you to understand that theater is not yet an established form, not the place of commerce you think it is, where you pay to get something. Theater is different. It is more like bread, more like a necessity. Theater is a form of religion. It preaches sermons and builds a self-sufficient ritual. Puppet theater is the theater of all means. Puppets and masks should be played in the street. They are louder than the traffic. They don’t teach problems, but they scream and dance and display life in its clearest terms. Puppet theater is of action rather than dialogue. The action is reduced to the simplest dance-like and specialized gestures. A puppet may be a hand only, or it may be a complicated body of many heads, hands, rods and fabric.

We have two types of puppet shows: good ones and bad ones, but all of them are for good and against evil. -Peter Schumann

One feature I found delightfully accessible was the “cheap art” available for sale after the performance.

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During intermission, Anna and I perused the cheap art for sale in the lobby. I found a piece of art that spoke to me and garnered a bit of surprise from Anna. She saw what I wanted to buy, gave me a perplexed look and said, “but you never wait.”

waiting for what

She certainly isn’t wrong. When I meet a girl who seems somewhat close to my ideal, I dive in and try to make things fit. I don’t wait patiently for the “right” girl to come along, but adapt and contort myself until my prezeled state prevents me from remembering why I stepped into the relationship in the first place. After relationships inevitably end and I gain some perspective, I see the vast chasms between who I am and who I tried to become to meet the other person where they were.

By spending so much of my energy on adapting myself to meet a partner where they wish to be, I postpone the joy of finding my own path; setting aside my desires and my passions to prioritize finding a girl to share them with.

What am I waiting for? I’ve been waiting to actually live my life while I searched for a partner to share that life with me. I’ve had this all backwards! I need to take that “don’t wait” energy and apply it to my own life first. I need to go and do things, to take chances and climb mountains and experience life. Only then will I find a partner to share these adventures with me.

Even more complicated, maybe I did meet the right girl already but I missed it because I wasn’t focused enough on living my life to the fullest.

I think it’s time to let go of waiting to live my life. New mantra: No more waiting – time for living.

Wait for a Simple Solution

In November of 2011, I participated in my first ever National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is this: Write 50,000 words of a novel in the span of the month of November. It was a bit of a last minute decision to jump in, and not only did I participate but I actually “won” by completing my 50,000 words. That’s not to say it was all amazing writing – much of it is less than fabulous – but it’s remarkable how hard it is to just crank out that first draft. Once you have something to work with, you can edit, revise, hire other people to edit and so on, but while the story exists only inside your head there’s nothing you can do but WRITE.

I set the book aside after NaNoWriMo and have picked it up a few time over the years, but each time I found myself stuck on a small but vital detail. The story hinges on the protagonist’s ability to travel between the real world and multiple dream worlds and I couldn’t figure out how to describe the primary dream world, which is essential to the second half of the book. I had many ideas and thoughts and tried and forced and pushed but the way to tell that piece just wouldn’t come.

Last week, a very new friend sent me a text essentially asking “what are you doing this weekend.” Fast forward a few days and I found myself driving to Boston with him for the weekend to participate in a Sacred Harp all day sing (and yes, I had to Google “Sacred Harp Singing” because I had absolutely no idea what he was asking me to do). At 11 pm Friday night, I found myself curled up in a twin bed in a stranger’s apartment, having traveled there with a friend I have known for only a few months, and only just recently have started to hang out with outside of choir practice. I was amused at my conservative risk taking – several people knew where I was and my sister lives very close by so I could call her if I needed anything – but also was pleased I was trying something new and outside my comfort zone.

Lying half asleep in that bed, letting my mind wander without much direction, I suddenly sat up straight and dove for my writing notebook. At a time when I least expected it, I figured out how to write the dream world so it would connect to the real world in the way I wanted it to. Interestingly (or perhaps not so) it was a simple solution: I had been embellishing to a degree that the dream world was feeling forced and contrived. By letting it go and by lessening the specificity I found the gentle solution I’d been looking for.

tiny storiesI think this is often a tendency for me.  I try to force things to fit and contort myself in the process so even when the pieces are linked together, I’m bent so impossibly that nothing is comfortable. I need to take a deep breath, step back from whatever is going on, and make sure I’m doing the right thing. Am I happy with this situation? Am I changing myself in a way that is healthy for me or am I bending over backward to meet someone else’s expectations or wants? If I just let things be and let them evolve, the answers will come to me; the solutions of what to do next and how to make this work will come if I don’t force them.

Today I’m letting go of trying to force things to fit. Whether it’s a story I need to tell or whatever is next for my life, I need to take a deep breath and just let things happen. I can still go for what I want in life and not shy away from making things happen for myself, but I need to let go of forcing things to fit, when they don’t.

Please Step Away from the Drama

A few weeks ago, I said in passing to my roommate that I don’t like drama. She stopped in her tracks in the middle of the kitchen, turned to look at me, raised both eyebrows and said, “do you really think that’s true?” I squirmed a little and acknowledged that at present I do seem to be pretty well surrounded by other peoples’ drama. On our way to a fundraiser last Friday, my friend Roya overhead a phone conversation which led her to also question me about the drama swirling around me. She listened for a while then asked me, “What are you really doing?” I again squirmed a bit, but she waited patiently for me to admit out loud that I’m intentionally placing myself in situations where I can lose myself in the chaos.
If I’m distracted by someone else’s drama, I don’t have to dig into my own self work and the discomfort of examining my own demons. If I’m sufficiently distracted, I don’t have time or energy to think about what I’m actually afraid of. What am I avoiding right now? I’m avoiding examining my fear of being alone and my fear that I’m not good enough. Phew. Deep Breath. Admitting it out loud is a step in the right direction, right?

Alone does not equal lonely

2014-01-17 22.14.46I have so much to be thankful for. I have awesome friends, a loving family, a great job with several coworkers that I also consider to be good friends, church friends, fun opportunities and as much connection as I could ever want. A romantic relationship is not a requirement for me to stave off loneliness, nor do I need to contort myself to meet others’ expectations of who I should be just to keep them in my life. I have a long list of people I can choose to spend my energy on and I don’t need to adapt and accommodate to “fit in” – I actually need to make an effort to choose relationships with the people that feed my soul, and let go of those who stir up drama and distraction. I don’t need to place my energy in working to fit in, because I don’t need to fit in at all. I need to feel worthy inside my head and heart exactly as I am. I don’t need to wait to be “fixed” or better; I need to learn to accept myself as I am and actually believe that I am enough.

I can do better

Today I realized there is another dangerous side effect of my distraction strategies. They have worked marvelously to prevent me from making significant progress on my self-work, and they have also made it difficult for me to complete my professional duties to the best of my ability. I sat down with my supervisor this afternoon and told her I know I’ve been distracted lately and that I don’t feel I’ve been doing my best work. I owned out loud that I can do better, and told her I will step up my game. I also asked her to please let me know if she notices I’m dropping any parts of my work so I can ensure things are completed. I desperately wanted to fall to pieces and ask her to reassure me that I’m doing a good job, but I didn’t bring this up to ask for her reassurance. I brought it up to admit that while I am completing my work, I know I’m not doing the best work I can do. This is an area I can focus my energy and my attention with a very beneficial outcome.
One thing builds on another, after all. I struggle with feeling unworthy and unlovable and I cope with these feelings by distracting myself with the chaos of high intensity people in my life. In distracting myself from these feelings, I effectively distract myself in all areas of my life – I have difficulty sleeping, struggle to concentrate on my work, and find it difficult to focus on anything well. Not only do these distractions have the very real consequence of compromising my ability to do the self work necessary to heal and move forward, they also compromise my health and well-being.

Today I am letting go of unhealthy distractions. Some distractions are great, when they are engaged in with intention. I am going to focus more fully on engaging in whatever activity is present for me. I will work harder when at work; I will focus more intentionally on my friends when spending time with them; I will focus on self care and on self work so I continue to heal and become stronger. I will intentionally walk away from situations where I’m surrounded by drama, and away from people who drain me but don’t give energy back.

I am worthy, just as I am. I also can make the choice to be better – I will do my work more fully and intentionally, I will  care for children more actively, I will focus on keeping my energy to feed and care for myself and for the people I love. I will also be patient with myself when I slip backwards and struggle with these goals.

Change is the Way

rivendellIf you spend a few moments perusing my bookcase, you will find dozens of books waiting to be read. Some are resting fitfully until their turn as one of my 42 books, but many others are biding their time until after I finish the project (just don’t tell them it will likely be several more months until that point). Even though I already own several unread books, I can rarely resist wandering through my very favorite used book store, Rivendell Books in downtown Montpelier. Tightly packed with an assortment of current bestsellers, romance novels, general fiction, Vermont nonfiction, children’s books and a vast array of books belonging to miscellaneous topics, I could easily wander their uneven floors for hours.

As I strolled through Rivendell this weekend (doesn’t that sound idyllic?) I snagged a copy of Melodie Beattie’s Journey of the Heart. I own a few of Beattie’s books and find her writing about codependence to be both clear and approachable. While I haven’t personally struggled as the partner of an addict or alcoholic, her work on “how to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself” resonates deeply for me. Journey is set up so each day of the year has a few paragraphs to focus your attention and a brief meditation for the day. Here’s what I found on the date I brought the book home:

Just as the world around us changes and evolves, so do the circumstances and situations in our lives. We live in a universe that is alive, vibrant, and constantly evolving. Change is the way nature, the universe and the Divine move us through each period of our lives and into destiny. We are led to our next lesson, our next adventure. There’s no need to deny change, to fear it or fight against it. Change is inevitable. Just as the earth is constant motion and transformation. So are we.

Melodie Beattie, Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing your Soul

I’ve been feeling unsettled and uncomfortably adrift of late. I recently described it to a close friend as a feeling of anxiety because some of my anchors are not holding me steady. Some are as firmly rooted as ever – my family, my friends – but a couple of the major ones have come loose and are not tying me down the way I like them to. There are changes to the grant that funds my job and I expect the next few months will see a great deal of change to the way I do my work. I recently applied for a different job (unrelated to the grant change – it simply seemed too perfect an opportunity to pass up) and while I received indication that I was one of the top choices, I didn’t get the job. I will be moving in the next month to live with one of my closest friends and while I’m very excited about many aspects of this new plan, there are buckets of unknowns as we move into this new living arrangement.

Several months ago while visiting my sister and brother-in-law, my propensity for frequent moves came up in conversation. My brother-in-law made a comment about how I enjoy moving, and I think my jaw actually dropped open. If you asked me, I would tell you I hate moving and that my twelve bazillion moves in the past 15 years were all because of reasons. Crazy roommates, divorce, too expensive, too small, awful neighbors, no parking, need a change – those are all reasons, right? Though I dismissed it in the moment, as the time approaches for me to make my next move I keep thinking of his casual assumption that I enjoy moving and I wonder if there might be some truth to it. Certainly, the reasons were real and there were uncomfortable and borderline awful situations to extract myself from, that’s not the whole truth.

This time of year, many people engage in spring cleaning – clean out the basement, pull out the clothes for warmer weather, move the furniture and clear out the cobwebs. Maybe that’s a piece of why I move as often as I do; rather than moving the furniture in my room, I uproot the furniture and move to an entirely different space to gently tuck myself into the new soil. I may not know the details of what my job will look like come July 1, but I have a job I enjoy, that I’m good at, and I work with people who value and appreciate me. I may not know exactly what hurdles I will need to jump with the new apartment, but I have signed the lease and I am starting to daydream about how I will set up my spaces and how we might set up the shared spaces. I’m working to channel the excitement and potential for greatness in the change, rather than the anxiety that grows from clinging to what I’m comfortable with.

Today I am letting go of my resistance to change. Change will always happen, even within the happiest and most stable of circumstances. I will focus on letting go and changing with the world around me, on taking care of myself and on giving myself room not only to allow for change, but to enjoy it.

Keep Moving Forward

When I began my 4(2) Days of Letting Go, I imagined that for 42 days I would write about one thing per day, finishing six weeks later with a lovely list of 42 things I could let slide off my shoulders. Life, of course, rarely follows the straightforward path I frequently imagine. Instead, the path curves in unpredictable directions, doubling back on itself, sometimes skipping up the side of a mountain or hiding irritably in a pool of mud for a while. As my 42 Days have roughly followed Lent, I should be wrapping them up sometime this week, while in reality I’ve only posted 14 up on the blog so far.

Deep breath. Today I’m letting go of the past, so I can keep moving forward.

Several years ago my mother gave me and my sister each a ten year journal. The journal has ten entries per page, one per year for a specific day. This way you can write on April the 21st of 2014 and see what you wrote on April 21st four years ago, and on this day for every year in between. My mother and my sister diligently write in their journals, scarcely missing a day. Mine looks more like a block of Swiss cheese, haphazard entries here and there and large gaping holes throughout. I actively ignore this journal on a regular basis. It squats, toad-like on my bookshelf, staring me down and reminding me that it should be gathering more than dust each day. My internal stress from the journal’s inactivity (see Day 3: Letting Go of Guilt) hunches my shoulders a bit, but I’ve found the journal imparts more stress when I try to buckle down and write in it every day than it does from its lurking on my bookshelf.

There are many reasons why – distaste from seeing the shenanigans of my life over the last several years, discomfort at seeing how lackadaisical I am at completing this seemingly simple task, and the internal pressure I place on myself to try to remember to write in the damn thing. I think the main issue with the ten year journal is every time I pick it up I am quite literally faced with how I’ve often failed at this before. I see the empty pages, scattered entries, and all the times I didn’t write in the past, which makes it more difficult to actually sit down and write today.

Did I manage my 42 days of letting go? Not according to my original plan, but I’m not giving up. I’ll keep plugging away until I complete my list of 42, and I will keep working to let these things go. five minute journalI’m hoping that by fleshing them out into longer blog posts I’ll be able to maintain my momentum and finish off the list, even if I do it at a slower pace.

Based on the recommendations of G+ friends, I’m also thinking the Five Minute Journal might be a good next step to push myself to journal daily, with each day as a new blank page ready for me to fill.

Music as a tool for letting go

I often get stuck inside my own head. Busy with questions and possible answers, fears and worries about things that will likely never come to pass, unnecessary analysis of the inner workings of my world. One way I can break myself out of this none-to-helpful cycle is with music.

Today my go to is the Chad Hollister Band – their song “The Answer” has played on repeat inside my brain and you can listen to it here. I couldn’t find a version of it on YouTube, so I also included a video of one of the Chad Hollister Band’s other songs that is equally fantastic. Enjoy 🙂