The beauty in letting go.

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I have to be honest…I have never really understood the idea of “letting go”. I think that I was forced too many times to “let it go”, to “let go”, and to “move on”. I can remember the first time that I consciously recall moving away from the place that I felt was my home, and I was devastated.

My parents’ decision felt like it was being forced upon me, that it wasn’t about choice, and that I was powerless. I hated it. I hated that I had no voice and that I had no say in what was to inevitably happen to my life. And, I think that feeling has always stuck with me to a point. When someone else decides that they are going to change the rules, the parameters, or the expectations…it stops being your choice but it does become your reality.

I am an emotional hoarder, I don’t throw away concert stubs, or little notes, or birthday cards…I don’t want to let go of MY emotions associated with the item, the thought, the event, the experience…so, I have difficulty with letting go of real things, like relationships.

I am so lucky. I really, really am. I have been loved so well in my life. I have been loved by my friends, I have been loved by my students, I have been loved and cared for by so many. I was loved powerfully by my momma, with no conditions, even when I least deserved her love.

But, I have also known pain in love, like we all have. Utter despair and disappointment, questions of what I could have or should have done differently, the classic where did I fail? Those are the questions that haunt me in my internal thinking…the questions that have no answer because they tend to be one sided conversations. Conversations that you can’t have with another person because they left, they walked away, or in some cases…you literally lost them to a fate much bigger than choice.

But, as I age, as I “mature”…(I use that very sparingly because just about every juvenile action having to do with DPOTD makes me crack up)…I am realizing that there are things that I have to let go of with people that I love very much.

I realize that choices and decisions made so long ago can and will have impact today. And, I realize that what I have envisioned as my “sunset” with people that I love won’t necessarily paint the same way in their lives.

I can’t love someone “enough” to stay my friend. I can’t work harder, hold on tighter, or think that somehow abandoning my own dreams and wants and wishes will make anything else okay. And, in spite of all the pain or discomfort, I will not give up what makes me the most me to please anyone.

So, it brings me back to the idea of letting go. I am busy telling my seniors on the daily right now…life is going to change no matter if you are ready…and you will be okay. I tell them that the best time of their life is ahead of them, because I sincerely believe that. I tell them that I will love and support them, that they need to remember who and what they are, and not be so afraid.

So, I better take my own advice. I am responsible for my own happiness. I am going to keep my heart open to love. I am going to insist that others’ around me take responsibility for their decisions, and not attempt to make me carry their burden. I am going to take some opportunities for silence and self care. I am going to love myself.

And, in the process…I’m going to hope to find that it is okay to just let go sometimes.

 

To see 26…

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What a fitting morning, as the rain kisses the ground, and the sun hides…grief reflected in the weather. Life is so full of good, and so full of sorrow…I suppose that is how it must be, in order to remind me to not take the good for granted. And, in all reality, to not forget the sorrow, don’t dismiss loss as unimportant, for it, like good, changes us…

How lucky I am to have been loved by her, even with the grief of every day of 26 years, that love is not lessened. I miss you, my mom.

This, for her….not mine, but such a truth in the telling….

“Kathy’s Song”

I hear the drizzle of the rain
Like a memory it falls
Soft and warm continuing
Tapping on my roof and walls

And from the shelter of my mind
Through the window of my eyes
I gaze beyond the rain-drenched streets
To England, where my heart lies

My mind’s distracted and diffused
My thoughts are many miles away
They lie with you when you’re asleep
And kiss you when you start your day

And a song I was writing is left undone
I don’t know why I spend my time
Writing songs I can’t believe
With words that tear and strain to rhyme

And so you see, I have come to doubt
All that I once held as true
I stand alone without beliefs
The only truth I know is you

And as I watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There but for the grace of you go I

Someone Saved My Life Tonight…

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It has been a very long time since I had the courage to write anything down. I have been struggling with the world, with the chaos created by humanity, with the struggles of others and my role in any relief or resistance. I have spent nights awakened by an intense sense of panic, feeling like the world is closing in, and that things are just simply not okay. I wish I could say that it is better, that I am better, that I am coming out of it, but I don’t think that is true. I am adjusting, I am realizing that this, like most other things is going to be a process.

It is March. And that is never an easy thing for me. But, there have been several things that I have been thinking about that, rolling around in my brain, that are reminding me about “silver linings”.  In having a conversation with my students about the differences between empathy and sympathy, we talked about the idea behind common experiences, and how common experiences help us to relate to others, that it is those things that we have in common that help us to build empathy in our relationships with others. I have always believed that empathy is such a powerful tool, and that sympathy really serves very little forward purpose.

Earlier this week, my brain was rocked just a little bit…well, to be honest…a lotta bit. I was approached by a student that wanted to have a conversation with me in private. In our conversation, and now in the subsequent conversations that we have had, and I think will continue to have, that student shared with me a very powerful and real part of themselves, and of their own struggles, their own panics, their own journey to true self.

I was humbled that they chose to talk to me, to share with me their feelings and their thoughts. In the process of our initial conversation, my student said to me, “…I think you are an amazing person, and I knew I could talk to you…” Walking away from that conversation on Tuesday, I kept thinking to myself…this student picked me. This student trusts me. I doubt sometimes that I am worthy of that trust. I doubt sometimes that I am strong enough, that I am wise enough, that I can be of good help…but then I thought about empathy.

When you are broken, and you are scared, and you hurt…you build strength, you build resilience, you build courage. I hope that my student sees in me those things, and I hope that I prove to be worthy of their trust, that I use my heart, and my compassion, and my experience to show them that I care, that I love them, that I accept them.

I fully believe that our ability to make connections with other beings is what separates us from our relatives in the animal kingdom. When we connect to others, when we experience empathy and compassion for others, we get the chance to heal ourselves, to share those bits and pieces that once broken, can be etched back together. We are all in some pieces, even those who present to have their shit together….

On Tuesday, as I was standing in Bozeman, listening to Sir Elton John, who always brings me right back to my childhood, to tracing the album art of Yellow Brick Road with my fingertips as my mom danced thru the living room…I paused in the stillness of a space in the crowd, and found that feeling. The feeling of the love of my mother, the safe of that living room floor, the warmth of what it meant to be loved and cherished by her…and as Sir Elton started the first bars of “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, I realized that is the why. Sometimes I have to be reminded of what it feels like to be broken and bleeding, sometimes I have to remember that the pain and the loss has had purpose, and that purpose, that silver lining is my empathy, my shared experience…that I can look at the broken and the bleeding, and say, I see you.

We’ve all gone crazy lately…but it is that human crazy that keeps us alive. So today, we fight the fight to find the strength to give love tomorrow….

“When I think of those east end lights, muggy nights
The curtains drawn in the little room downstairs
Prima donna lord you really should have been there
Sitting like a princess perched in her electric chair
And it’s one more beer
And I don’t hear you anymore
We’ve all gone crazy lately
My friends out there rolling round the basement floor
And someone saved my life tonight sugar bear
You almost had your hooks in me, didn’t you dear
You nearly had me roped and tied
Altar-bound, hypnotized
Sweet freedom whispered in my ear
You’re a butterfly
And butterflies are free to fly
Fly away, high away, bye bye….”

And so it goes….

“In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes alongI spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self defense

And every time I’ve held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose

But if my silence made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break

And this is why my eyes are closed
It’s just as well for all I’ve seen
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows

So I would choose to be with you
That’s if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows…”

It was like Billy Joel was telling the story of my broken heart. I know this song is a love song, but there is no way to discount that love comes in all forms, and that this will always be a song that when I hear the first strains of Joel’s broken heart as the piano starts, I will think of my momma. I will think of the completely broken, bleeding heart of the little girl who I still am in many ways, and the death of the person who’s chin I carry, who’s spunk and attitude live in the set of my determination, in the kindness of my heart, in the gold of my green eyes. I am my mother’s daughter. I am a lost daughter of a dead mother, gone too soon. I am both her survivor and a casualty of her battle.
I clearly remember, the night of her death, as I was fighting to sleep, fighting to turn off the images in my very tired brain, that I looked at my godmother, my Bunnie, and said…”what will I tell people when I grow up?”….feeling every bit the small, wounded child. She had no answer for me that night, as her pain was surely as devastating as mine.
And, as I have walked the steps of my life, sometimes forward, sometimes in a circle, and even falteringly backwards at times…I have carried the weight of her loss with me towards a horizon that I didn’t know if I would ever reach.
When you are child, a day seems like an eternity. When you are a woman, a day is a gift. And, I have been gifted with so many days between the child of her death, and the woman that lives because of her. I have always seen on that distant horizon the clouds looming of being 42. I can’t explain that I have in so many ways known this birthday would come, but been so frightened that it wouldn’t. I am days away, on the edge of always living longer here than my momma did. Of always being older than she would ever be. She is frozen in time, at 42…and I will never be younger than her. I will beat her to old age, I will beat her to brittle bones, and frail steps, and crows’ feet…I will outlive her. I will age with the grace that she was never afforded in her death.
I can’t explain it. I can’t explain the gravity of this. But, I will find my new normal. The me that will age, and will outlive her always. I have spent many years knowing that this day would come, and even realizing that I needed it to come, that I needed to care for and about my body in order to reach this day…but it was still in the distance.
It is no longer a distant, looming horizon…when the sun rises and sets on my 42nd birthday, I will be kind, loving, generous, thoughtful, determined, intelligent, belligerent, non-compliant, sassy, head strong, curious, unsettled, accomplished, unfulfilled…I will always be her child, but I will also be the woman that has lived through her, without her.

Monday. Happy Birthday to me.

Gratitude in the act of saying Yes.

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This weekend, I had the chance to spend time with some very special people in my life. While I was enjoying their hospitality and generosity, we were discussing summer adventures and life changes. When I left their house, to head back to the real world of work and responsibility, I was thinking about something that we discussed, what it means to say yes, to be open to new possibilities and adventures. I have decided that my summer was simply the preview of what I am going to dedicate my 42nd year to…the year of Yes.

I am committing to saying yes to stepping out of my comfort zone. I am committing to saying yes when friends say, do you want to…I am committing to expanding my palate, and my palette, I am committing to taking risks and talking to strangers. I am committing to giving myself permission to be adventurous, and risky, and silly, and loving, and kind, and to living, like I did all summer long. If it is in my power, and doesn’t require selling my soul…(Hello New Orleans, I miss you)…I’m saying yes.

One thing I realized this summer is that when I am adventuring, I am more of the me that I love. I laugh more, I smile more, I find myself looking at the world, and those around me as a golden opportunity for learning. Why, in my “daily” life, when I am in my career, and in my “home”…why am I not that person? Why am I the person that gets so heavily focused on the tasks, both dreaded and inevitable? Why do I get myself away from the me that I really love? Why not start saying yes more often, to letting my opportunity to see people I love pass me by for work? Why do I hesitate to show the joy on my face, the true appreciation I have for being alive? Why NOT smile at the stranger in the grocery store?

I suppose this isn’t a huge revelation, but more of a preparation. I started blogging as a mental exercise in preparation for my 42nd birthday. I challenged myself to live a life that was more full of gratitude. To be grateful for myself, for my health, for my friends, for my true blessings, and for my experiences, to be grateful for the love in my life, and to focus on how to be brave in this life that sometimes is scary…and sometimes, hurts…but sometimes surprises you at the grace, the joy, the beauty, the kindness, the love….

In a little more than 10 weeks, I will always be older than my Momma…I will walk longer on the planet, but, I don’t want my time here to be a time of scared…nor a time in which I didn’t live the life I most want. So…here is to more yes. Whatever that looks like today and tomorrow, and for the tomorrows to follow…

 

Grateful for Lighthouses…

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For someone who was born and has lived her life in a landlocked state, I am not sure where my fascination with the ocean comes. Maybe it is the fact that I did grow up in a landlocked state, and have such vivid memories of the first time I recall seeing the ocean, feeling small and very powerless as the vast blue gray stretched out in front of a 9 year old me. Whatever it is, my love for the water, for the vast, for the sea is very, very real, as if salt water runs in my veins.

In elementary school, I can remember reading a story about a sailor, at the time when I started to devour books at a pace that made my teachers proud. In the story, and the name of the book totally escapes my aged brain, the sailor is lost at sea. The peril is real, and he is attempting to navigate his way back to safe harbor. In his journey, the sailor is fooled several times by lights that he thinks he sees, until finally, he finds and navigates to the shore because of a lighthouse, standing strong on the rocky shore, leading him in.

As I adventured this summer, on my epic, awesome, soul awakening roadtrip, I spent as much time as possible at the water. I explored the shores of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, ran the beach at Ogunquit, Maine; I walked the beaches at Provincetown, Massachusetts; I camped on the shores of Acadia National Park in Maine, watched the sun rise over the South Carolina shore, slept on the beaches of the Florida Keys, and played on the gulf coast shores of the Florida Panhandle. Happy, content, at peace, and at ease is how I feel when my toes are on the shore, the sounds of the sea humming in my ears, with the smell and taste of salt on my lips.

And, at every opportunity, I sought out the lighthouses; like a sentinel standing watch on the shore, leading in the lost, those in peril, those in need…I climbed those I could, finding the view from the top to be so worth what some would consider to be a too cramped, too hot, too many steps kind of climb. And, for those that I couldn’t get to the top, I looked up to see the light, to see what it might look to find that light, that Fresnal reflection guiding you in….I drank beer atop some, sat in quiet reflection, and let the feeling of safe fill me. It was real, and a bit surreal at times.

So, I find myself back in that landlocked state, both in reality and in state of mind. I am missing the ocean. I am feeling adrift. And, I can admit…I’m feeling a bit lost and untethered. I trust that at some point, my proverbial ship will right, that my winds won’t feel quite so tempest…but, I am struggling. And so, I am looking for the lighthouse.

Yesterday, I had the chance to spend a few precious minutes with someone that I love very much, who I have been lucky enough to have coached, taught, and now, have as a friend in my life. And, her seas are a bit rocky right now too. With her strong heart, she admitted that she is struggling over the real loss of someone that she loves, and trying very hard to not sink in the waves of emotions, anger, pain and heartbreak. As I put my arms around her, I reminded her to look for the lighthouses. To look for the people that will be her sentinels, her guides, her beacon to know that the shore is in reach.  I reminded her that her family, her friends, the people who love her, me…we would be her lighthouses, and to take the waves, but to trust that she can navigate, even when it seems too much.

So, I have to do the same. I have to trust that there are lighthouses on my own shores. And I have to continue to navigate, even when it seems like I am too far away to see the light. I’m going to keep looking, and I am going to have just a little bit of faith in the fact that even when I am not sure that the lighthouse is there, I need to keep navigating as I just might catch a glimpse of the light.

 

 

Grateful, for all 10,347 miles.

 

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I have really been struggling with how to sum up my summer adventure, my Independence Roadtrip, in one simple blog post. I am not frequently at a loss for words…but, in ways, I am at a loss because the words may not be big enough to capture my emotions, my experiences, my adventures…

So, here are a few things that I learned about MYSELF as I was wandering:

I learned I like to refuel at half a tank, it might seem excessive, but when you are in the middle of an insane rainstorm (complete with thunder, lightning and sheets of rain) in Wisconsin, it sometimes saves your sanity to pull off the road, and take a break for a tank of gas.

 

I learned I can survive on peanut butter. And apples. And peanut butter. I mean, I really, really love peanut butter, and you can make it a meal with just a little bit of creativity…and a spoon. Oh, and Lobster…every, chance, I, get….

I learned that roadside fruit stands are a great place to practice your bargaining skills. There is nothing wrong with asking if prices are firm at roadside farmer stands…after all, you don’t want your peaches too firm, or your price too steep. I found that when you are in Virginia, and the person running the stand is afraid you will walk across the busy four lanes of Highway 1, the steep price on that fruit just might come down.

I also learned…when you are on a roadtrip…pack a paring knife. And a cutting board. And a container of some sort…it just makes everything easier, and much more delightful. There really is nothing like fresh, summer fruit.

 

I learned I love driving over bridges. I drove over some of the most phenomenal, and even scary at times, bridges and roadways this summer…and I LOVED it! Coming and going at the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I experienced for the first time, driving over a bridge in which the roadway was actually at level with, and in places, lower than the water level around it. At first, it was a little scary, but when you relax, and just go with it…it is amazing. And, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel…well, that is it’s whole own adventure…as I was driving towards the CBBT, my internal (and sometimes external) dialogue was this…”Is it a bridge? Is it a tunnel? How can it be both??”

I learned that there is lots of good beer to drink when adventuring. Along with my diet of peanut butter and peaches, I am going to be honest…I drank a WHOLE LOT of BEER. Some of it was good, some of it was great, and some of it was the kind where you think…I could move here simply to drink this beer. Oh, Rocker’s Peach…I will see you next summer… (And, when having to introduce yourself to a group of strangers that you will spend 2 weeks with…if you reveal the fact that you love to drink beer…two things will happen…1) some will judge and tag you the instant alcoholic, and 2) others will embrace and say…I would love to drink beer with you.) Beer…making strangers friends since the dawn of time.

I learned that running in new places is the best way to see it. I ran 198.70 miles on my summer adventure. In the heat, in the humidity, in the streets of Atlanta, the beaches of the Outer Banks, the French Quarter of New Orleans, the quaint streets of Bar Harbor, the main street of Manchester, the suburbs of Burlington, along the Ohio River in Queen City Cincinnati, down by the St. Croix River in Minnesota, Prospect Park in Brooklynn, on the bulkhead of Charleston, and so many places along the way. I adapted to the heat, and to the humidity, but every day was an absolute adventure. And, you get to see a whole different part of a place when you run the streets, run the beaches, run the alleys, run…run…run…sometimes, you see things that make you stop to take a second look, sometimes you think…better keep going, and sometimes, the humanity of a place looks you right in the eye, and you either blink or you stare back. I saw a whole lot of humanity on my morning runs.

I learned that friendships make for warm beds, and fresh laundry. I was reminded of how blessed I am with the friends that hosted me along my adventure. The friends that opened their homes to me, it was about being at home for me, even for just the moments, hours, or sometimes days…baking and doing dishes in the kitchen of my sweet Melody’s home was so easy, loving her and her beautiful Alexus. I was at home with my dear friends Cassie and Kyle, and their girls, Avery and Clover, enjoying the morning sun with an Irish Coffee handmade with love by Kyle. In a cozy, crowded bed with MY Jordan Larsen, sharing beer and pizza on the streets of NYC…And in the home of my girls Helena and Samantha, where I really am at home, because my heart is most certainly there. And in my Casey’s home deep in the heart of Texas, where I am never a stranger.

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I learned that while it might make other people uncomfortable…I enjoyed the alone time. Bathroom stops on my schedule, no one to judge my peanut butter addiction, run when I want, stand and look at street art, sit and enjoy the view with a beer in my hand…come and go at my very own pace…alone is how I liked it best.I learned that even when the GPS says make a U-turn, I don’t get lost. Not driving, not running…I just don’t. Even on the streets of a city, I don’t get lost. There is no such thing as lost when you aren’t so worried about the destination, and are willing to take some side roads.

I learned I can always find a friend. Here is some advice…Sit at a bar, talk to a stranger, say hello when you walk down the street. Our world would be such a better place if we could all just be a little more kind. And, I believe in the kindness of strangers…and in being a kind stranger. I am so damn lucky. I have plenty. I have more than I need. If I have it, and you need it, it’s yours…I will buy two lunches, and give one away as happened in Atlanta (yes, I admit, the first day it was just me giving my lunch away, but I figured that shit out…), I don’t ignore the plight of other people…I was reminded in so many ways of how absolutely blessed I am.

Finally, I learned my summer adventure did not solve my wanderlust. I know that what it did do is prove to me that I am bound to wander. I am brave. I am confident. I am beautiful. And, I am a mermaid…my time on the beach, and in the water, and breathing in the salty air is just proof that I am a mermaid…bound to wander, bound to love, bound to be happiest when my depths are challenged….and that when you are unsure, you just keep swimming.

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Cheers to one hell of a roadtrip.