Puppy Love & Couple Skates

My first boyfriend’s name was Jon Robinson. We were 8 years old.

He was cute, best I remember. And pretty nice. Nice enough to inform me that no, you couldn’t get pregnant just from kissing. Apparently, I’d snuck too many episodes of Days of Our Lives, where the timeline between lots of kissing and having a baby was fuzzy at best.

And it was me that asked to kiss him, for the record.

My clearest memories of him, though, are at the skating rink.

I’ve never been a particularly skilled skater. But what I lack in finesse, I make up for in enthusiasm. The thrill of getting going fast enough to feel a breeze on my face always eclipsed the very real fact that I wasn’t great at stopping. By the time I was 8, I’d (mostly) stopped slamming myself into that little carpeted wall by the DJ booth to come to a stop. But I wasn’t above coasting up to it and casually bumping into it.

I’m sure I looked super suave.

But the thing about flashing lights and loud music is that you can kind of escape yourself out there in the swirl & twirl of it all.

Eight was a liminal age for me. We’d just moved to South Florida, and I felt (relatively) popular because I was the new kid. People found me interesting. I swear 80% of my school hailed from New York originally, and I’d moved to South Florida from Gainesville. Florida. Where there were cows.

I didn’t fit in. But I had no idea how much I didn’t fit in yet.

I was blissfully unaware.

So, I skated with John Robinson. And we’d laugh and wave at each other. We were at the skating rink on a school field trip, so the place was packed with 3rd graders feeling really grown with money to buy junk from the snack bar.

Third grade was the year before I felt self-conscious all the time. So I just got to be. And to enjoy skating (even if I wasn’t that good at it). And to wave at a cute boy and giggle when I saw him fly around the rink with his friends.

I remember him being both adorable and particularly good at skating–but who knows? I’ve learned, as I’ve gotten older, that memories lie.

2 things happened on that skating trip that I remember as if they happened just yesterday:

I got to couple skate with John Robinson while “The Inspiration” by Chicago blared in the background. If whipping around the rink solo is fun, it’s doubly fun when you’re attached to someone else by a sweaty palm, going faster than you’d imagined possible. It’s terrifying and exhilarating. And if I close my eyes and focus really hard, I can conjure it all back up.

Then, right after that legendary couple-skate, John Robinson pulled me aside, over by the lockers where everyone stashed their stinky ‘Roos. I thought maybe he was going to kiss me (why I was so obsessed with kissing at 8 years old is a topic for another time). But, instead he took my hand and looked at me extra-sincere like.

I know you’re thinking that we’re about to get to the really cute, puppy-love part of the story where he tells me how much he likes me. Or whatever 8 year olds do.

And it started out well: he told me how pretty I was (feminist or no, I am a sucker for being told I’m pretty. Always have been). And then he looked even more sincere.

I remember my heart pounding against my chest.

“You’re really pretty, but why do you dress like that?”

Huh?

I looked down. I was wearing my favorite quarter length sleeve sweater, with dark purple trim and rainbow colored stripes running through an off-white background. I loved that sweater.

“You’d probably be popular, if you just dressed more like everyone else.”

I mean, sure, I was still wearing homemade dresses on occasion. And I had to fight my mom about culottes all the time (which she though in some way were “pretty,” a mix between a utilitarians short and an impractical-for-school skirt. Let’s be clear: they were ugly AF), and sometimes she won.

But, here I was in my favorite sweater… and it was, well, wrong. Apparently.

I think I told him I’d try to do better. I’m not sure. It gets a little hazy after that. But I do know that I never felt quite the same about Jon Robinson. There’d been a subtle power shift. The feeling like itty bitty electrical currents when I was close to him was replaced with the subtle knowledge that he was doing me a favor by being my friend. That I was in some way jeopardizing his status as a “cool kid” with my presence, and I owed him gratitude.

I wish I walk up into that skating rink and hug my 8 year old self. And tell her she’s enough, as-is. That being cool isn’t everything. That she still won’t be cool at 45, but it won’t matter to her one iota. But I’d sure tell her to fight her mama harder on those culottes.

And, if I could, I’d couple skate with her. But we’d skate to Whitney Houston. I think y’all know which song.

Ground Control…

In the evolution of parenting, we’ve recently entered the tween zone.

It’s a strange land, filled with Caboodles, lip gloss, ill-applied blush, and an obsession with all things unicorn and glitter.

It’s a liminal stage. For us and our 9 (and a half) year old.

There are things to be celebrated, for sure: a newfound love of organization, a stab at cleanliness, and an intrigue with the persona she’s carefully formulating.

And then there are things that break my heart a bit: worry that playing with her best friends (both boys, both a tiny bit younger) doesn’t jibe with who she’s trying to be; a letting go of the most obvious vestiges of her childhood: her beloved doll clothes (those dolls were everything for several years. They even had their own bathroom set-up–with a toilet that made flushing noises!); a studied pain-in-the-assness that she believes is a hallmark of the preteen years.

It’s a little confusing for all of us.

But it’s a stage.

The persona she adopts right now is just as apt to change as the socks she put on this morning. It’s a performance. She’s trying to settle on what feels good. And right. For her.

Now, I can tell her what feels right for me. But that’s not going to do her any good. So, I just circle about her orbit, doing my thing: yoga & meditation & truth-telling & book-selling. I am so much a part of her world. But at the same time, vastly separate… something to be observed.

Until she wants to cuddle. Then she wants me to absorb her completely. She cannot get close enough. There is no beginning and end to us. I can feel us breathe together. And it’s never been any other way.

And then I realize that I can’t breathe, because the kid is almost as big as I am (at 9! … okay… I’m not a very big human. But still!), and she’s crushing the breath right out of me.

It’s a push and pull of nostalgia and realism. It’s creating and re-creating. Starting again. Pressing forward.

The thing that bothers me most isn’t Jane’s efforts at self discovery (even if they do mean she constantly tries to filch my mascara). It’s other people’s reactions to it. And those, well, they piss me off.

I can hear the flinch in people’s voices when I tell them I have a tweenish girl.

“That must be so hard,” they murmur. “Girls can be so mean,” they say outright. Or my favorite: the “Oh” laden with what I think I’m supposed to understand as sympathy for my plight.

It’s bullshit.

Girls are humans. They have joys and fears. They try things out. They can be mean. They can be kind. But you know who decides that? Them. Each one of them.

It’s my job to guide this sweet, insightful 9.5 year old toward an adolescence and adulthood filled with meaning and purpose–and hopefully lots of joy. That can, in fact, be done wearing lip gloss and sparkly nail polish. Or she might decide to ditch all that and shave her head and wear Doc Martens.

Cool.

Her form of self expression is just that: hers.

As the ad-hoc navigator of this journey, I get to serve as her touchstone. I remind her that she can be grown (see: lip gloss & blush) and still have fun (see: playing with light sabers in her besties’ backyard). I tell her about what I missed out on because I tried so hard to be someone I wasn’t & took myself way too seriously. I laugh with her when she tries something that she ultimately decides is ridiculous. And, sometimes, I buy her unicorn tank tops just because (so she knows I really see her). When all else fails, I call in my glamorous, childhood-beauty-pageant-winning friend to teach Jane how to apply blush correctly. Because God knows I have no idea.

I want Jane to know that she is loved and accepted, always. I value her for who she is. And she is worthy just as she is. Worthy of love. And acceptance. And all the glitter her heart desires.

Dance, I Said

If I were to run smack into my sixth grade self right now, my first thought would be, “Oh, honey.” And then I’d get straight to work helping me be slightly less of a dork.

The problem was that I just had no clue. Other kids were a little like aliens to me. I didn’t understand how they knew what was cool. I definitely didn’t know how to be cool. And that cluelessness led me to walk into the sixth grade dance believing I was actually there to have fun.

My sixth grade misconception is difficult to square with my beliefs as a parent. Because the parent in me believes things should be fun. That you should do whatever you want & be proud of who you are. That you should 100% let your freak flag fly.

But the realist in me knows that you have to understand the rules to break the rules.

I did not.

And that you have to be hella confident to break from the deeply entrenched social norms of middle school.

I was not.

So, basically, I had no chance of making it out of that dance unscathed.

I feel pretty confident I had on a jean skirt (too long, wrong denim wash). And some shirt that likely looked either too grade school or too much like I’d reached a tragically early middle age (likely my mom would have said it was “pretty.” Which was apparently code for: you are moving at warp speed from anything that resembles popularity). And I had barrettes pulling back the bangs I was growing out. To be clear: I parted said bangs down the middle and pulled them back with barrettes. Tiny barrettes. Very close to the part, because my bangs weren’t any longer than regular bangs. But I was growing them out. So, of course they couldn’t just hang down, or swoop over, or get moodily in my eyes.

Nope.

Barrettes.

So, there I am, in this fashion travesty. And I start dancing.

Like, I’m totally dancing like no one is watching. Except it’s middle school, and EVERYONE is watching. And I’m dancing like one of the nerds at the end of a John Hughes movie, who finally gets accepted for who they are… and all is right with the world.

Which is so lovely. But not particularly realistic.

And so…

I’m dancing (badly). With wild abandon. And this girl approaches me.

I can’t remember exactly what she said. I think it was something to the effect of “What the hell is that you are doing?” I remember her looking at me like she hated me. Really hated me. And I was confused. And scared. Because she shoved me like she wanted to fight.

When I think about it, I can still feel the adrenaline shoot through me. I was shaking. And I remember telling her that I wasn’t going to fight her. Because I had more respect than that for myself & her. Because I was a Christian. (I like that I could throw in self-righteousness even in the face of a beat down. Because let me tell you, that “I am a Christian” business wasn’t about mercy or empathy. It was me telling her that I was better than she was.)

I don’t remember how the whole mess of a situation got diffused. I think I threatened to tell on her.

No one said I excelled in sticking up for myself.

What I do remember is feeling a deep sense of shame that someone hated me that much, thought I was that gross that they’d want to fight me just for being myself. It was one of many messages I got in sixth grade that who I was was, in fact, nothing.

On the ride home (and for weeks afterward) I tried to combat that shame with that tried-and-true parental adage that she was just jealous of me.

I knew it was bullshit then. And it certainly did nothing to ease my shame.

I think about that often: how I internalized that shame, how I believed there was something deeply wrong with me, how I so quickly believed I was nothing.

And I wonder how to do better by Jane.

Fortunately, we’ve got a lot going for us: Jane was born with more fashion sense than I’ll ever have. And she’s developed a self confidence at 9 (and a half) that I sincerely admire.

And, on my end, well I just try to be honest with her. About people. About life (which is both pain & joy). And about working through her own response to other people’s shit.

Here are some things we live by in this house: When people are mean, it’s about them. Not you. It’s not that they’re jealous (because EW. That makes it sound like you believe you are better than they are). It’s that they are in pain. And if you can find compassion for that pain, you can release yourself from their judgement. Because, again, it isn’t about you.

But you also have to give yourself space to work though your own pain, when people spew their internal garbage on you. And to make a choice about how you respond. Because you can’t control what other people do, you can only control your response to it.

And we work on really knowing who we are. So that we can be proud of that. And so we can be people who put more good than bad into the world. And to try to love folks as they come.

Also noteworthy: Jane flips out if I dance in public. So maybe my dancing really IS that bad. Maybe. But that doesn’t mean I don’t do it anyway.

Figuring It Out

Simon would probably tell you that I’m rarely quiet.

We’ve been together for not-quite-but-almost 17 years… so he’s a pretty good authority on all things me.

It is true… I’ll happily chatter on about country music, or any injustice I spot from a million miles away, or about whatever I happen to be pondering that day.

It also may be true that I debrief him on my latest thoughts, feelings, and internal dilemmas first thing in the morning (before he’s even had his coffee. He’s a better listener that way).

And I regale him with stories about my day, my friends, and other randomness when we sit down to watch TV. Which sometimes annoys him. But mostly he’s used to it.

For all that talking, though, I talk at least 50% less than I used to. I’ve learned to think before I speak. To make sure I really think/believe things before they come flying out of my mouth. Trust me, this is a VAST improvement over the stream-of-consciousness he was living with 17 years ago.

It’s also true that some of my friends tease me about being a completely open book. Probably because I wrote about getting sober, my struggles with anxiety, Simon’s transition, my difficulty squaring a lesbian identity with my (super cute, newly minted) husband, miscarriage, and the almost-dissolution of my marriage… all without hesitation.

That’s a lot of sharing. And a lot of vulnerability. But that’s what I value. I tell my story so someone else will realize they aren’t alone. And maybe they’ll want to share their story, too. I believe we all need more connection, not less. We need to be vulnerable with each other and kind as we watch people navigate their own journeys.

But… and this is a real weird one for me… lately I don’t know what to write, because the things I’m sorting out feel both deeply interior and… quiet.

There are good things that happen every day over here. But quarantine has a cadence that is so familiar that it doesn’t lend itself to new revelations like being out in the world. There are lovely things about this quiet, s-l-o-w time. But not much that’s lending itself to good storytelling.

I feel like the Universe is nudging me gently to look at some old patterns that have resurfaced recently. There’s nothing mysterious about them… sometimes my thoughts get stuck in a loop. And, like listening to as song on repeat with your toddler, the first few times aren’t bad. Time number twenty-five can make you a little bit bananas.

It hasn’t happened to me in a long time, this endless loop. I think, deep down, I thought I had evolved past it. Obviously, the Universe thought I need some humility. So, I’m looking deeper than I usually have to to figure out why Loopfest 2020 happened (instead of trying to just abruptly shove it aside, as is usually my way). This is a level of introspection I haven’t had to hone in on in a while.

This mining process, turning my thoughts, patterns, and feelings over and over… it must use the very same creative/introspective energy I tap into to write.

Because, lately, I feel like I’ve got nothing in the way of stories to tell.

Not because things are bad. But because I’ve been presented an opportunity–the kind that doesn’t show itself every day–to really understand myself. And that’s where my energy is going.

And since I learned to shut-it (at least 50% of the time), and to only put things out into the world that I’ve thought through and believe, well it’s been like a game of Quiet Mouths over here.

Well, for everyone except Simon. Who still gets front row as I process in real-time.

The moral of the story?

Marry well, friends. (Also, probably keep Simon in your thoughts & prayers)

Chaos

In case y’all are keeping tabs on my progression through the pandemic phases, we’ve now reached the “I-Want-to-Create-Full-Blown-Chaos” stage.

Perhaps y’all are unfamiliar with that stage. It’s the one where you up and quit your job or buy a new house/boat/car or get a puppy or cut bangs. You know, something that adds flair and drama and conflict. Because what you’re really looking for is a way to feel ALIVE.

And now that I’ve been in quarantine lock-down for some ungodly amount of days, I find myself feeling that itch.

But I own a bookstore I love. And Simon gives me side-eye if I even look at Zillow (We’ve moved 4 times in the last 8 years. He’s right. I need to give it a rest). He’s also (wisely) categorically said no to a puppy, a goat, and a micro pig. We’re done having kids. Bangs look like shit on me.

And yet, I still crave it. That rush of chaos. The tingle. The thrill of it all.

This is the season, it turns out, where I have to learn to sit with the desire to create chaos. To feel those feelings. And just let them be.

In all times before this, when chaos has come knocking, I have run right toward it. In big ways and small ways. Damaging ways & innocuous ways. This is the first time I’ve been healthy enough to see this desire to shake things up for what it is. And to choose my response to it.

It’s the choice that matters.

To me, anyway.

From the time I was about 16 years old, I’ve beaten myself up with the idea that if I was just spiritual enough (in whatever form I happened to be practicing at the moment), I wouldn’t feel intense temptation, or wrestle with the desire to do completely selfish things, or struggle with feelings I’d prefer not to have.

But I’ve begun to understand that what matters is not that I’m somehow transcendent enough to avoid these feelings, itches, chaos-loving desires altogether. What matters is that I choose to not cause harm. To not leave a wake of unnecessary destruction. To not be the Goddess of Chaos just because.

Sometimes the right choice just comes easily. But there isn’t much triumph in that. The triumph is in the struggle. It’s in the choice.

Alcoholics tend to like chaos–sometimes even in recovery. But I’m learning I can say no, the same way I can say no to a drink.

I get to choose.

And y’all can all rest assured that there are absolutely no quarantine bangs happening over here.

Feeling ALL The Feelings

Whew, y’all. I think maybe there’s this COVID-19 pandemic wall… and I’ve hit it.

Not just hit it… run smack-dab-full-force-into it.

The past 2 days, I just cannot seem to pull my shit together. I feel an absolutely staggering amount of fear & sadness.

Not about anything specific.

It’s a general mailise.

Today, Publix made me sad. Which is odd, because Publix = where shopping is a pleasure. (Truly, I have an unnatural love for Publix. An undying devotion even. And don’t get me started on the delightfulness of their subs. My Florida will start showing…) I told my lovely checkout team to stay safe, and when the cashier said, “You, too,” I almost burst into tears.

Obviously, I need a break. But it’s hella hard to take a break from a pandemic. It’s a little… ever-present.

I’m tired. I miss hugging people’s necks. And being able to clear my throat without wondering if it’s a harbinger of this damn virus.

We’ve been in relatively strict lockdown for over four months. And it’s wearing on me.

But here’s what’s helping me through: the knowledge that it is okay.

It’s okay that I’m overwhelmed. It’s okay to feel fear, without trying to shove it away. It’s okay to admit that the world feels wildly out of control, and it’s scary as fuck.

It’s okay to cry.

The world will not end if I admit that I’m not feeling like a ray of sunshine right now.

The amusing part? I’ve spent years learning how to sit with my feelings. And now I don’t want to sit with them… because they aren’t the feelings I want to have.

Isn’t that just always the way it goes?

But literally, the only thing that has slowed down the rush of anxiety, put me back in touch with my own body, brought me back to this present moment, is acknowledging my emotions as they arise. Looking at how I really feel–not how I want to feel.

I often have a list of shoulds in my head. Things I should be doing. Things I think I should be feeling. Right now, I’m trying to release the shoulds & just focus on what is.

Yoga makes me feel really good. So I’m leaning into that. I’m reading a novel about a nuclear apocalypse, which is surprisingly good escapism from this pandemic clusterfuck. And it’s a small act of rebellion, since I’m reading Alas, Babylon instead of the book I should be reading for book club–because I want to. I’m hugging my kid a lot. She’s cute. And funny. And almost as tall as me. And I like her. A lot. So she gets extra love. And I go outside as frequently as I can without melting, because I always have better perspective when I’m outside in the sunshine.

Turns out that maybe this is my moment to lean in to being kind to myself. And to take things a little slower. And just to be–whatever that looks like right now.

So, enough about me… how’s your pandemic going?

A Lesson in Letting Go (Remix)

Owning a small business during a pandemic is one lesson after another in letting shit go that I can’t control.

Most recent on the list: anger.

I’ve always been prone to grudges. I like to hold onto my anger, poke at it a bit, reignite it occasionally. But, honestly, that doesn’t serve me well. Never really has. Holding anger close takes a lot of energy. And, I find this pandemic exhausting, so I’m trying to keep as much energy for the good things as I can.

The details of the anger-inducing situation aren’t super important: there was an issue at the bookstore that cost me several (s-e-v-e-r-a-l) hundred dollars. The management company communicated nothing about the problem, or the solution they employed without my knowledge, to me. A charge–a big one– just showed up in my bill.

To be real clear: they did nothing that was not legally appropriate. But that doesn’t make it right.

As one might an expensive and incredibly frustrating situation, I got angry. And, increasingly, I felt pinned in and helpless to rectify what I saw as a grave injustice. So I got even more angry. To the point that every single time I thought about the situation, I could feel my entire body tingle with rage.

This had been going on for over a week.

Yesterday, my concerns and frustration were roundly dismissed by said management company.

And that was it.

I was done.

I opened Facebook Messenger, shot off a message to a friend that deals with the same shiftiness from the same folks and told him precisely how I felt, just because I knew he’d understand. And it always feels good to really be seen.

And then I paid the management company their money, and I let that shit go.

And although it was both emotionally & fiscally taxing to let go of that money, once I hit “send” on the payment, I felt so much more free.

I believe we invite in to our lives what we put out into the world. Anger invites more anger and frustration. Gratitude invites goodness and light. For real.

So, I choose to be grateful that the amazing friends and customers who donated to our GoFundMe for the HVAC raised enough to cover this additional cost, too. I’m grateful for our Bookshop store, which brings in extra revenue to help pay the bills (even these weird, unexpected ones). And I’m grateful for this bookstore that keeps me connected to my community and provides me a place to give & serve & love the folks around me.

And I choose to let all that other shit go.

Busy, busy, busy

I’m not a huge fan of being told what to do (that’s a tremendous understatement).

This is a for real problem.

The books we pick for book club at the bookstore that I own? I procrastinate reading them until the absolute last minute. Why? Because someone told me I had to read them.

Yep, even the ones I pick myself.

Told you it was a problem.

I mightily resist to-do lists. Calendars? Nope. Not gonna happen.

But my kid?

She loves a damn list. Grocery list. To-do list. School supply list.

All the lists all the time.

And she loves to be told what to do. Or–more accurately–she feels confident and secure when her entire day is scheduled out.

I would die, y’all.

But not Janiepants.

In fact, she flounders without a schedule. And it had been like hard-core, old-school summer vacation up in here since mid-April. Truth be told, even when she was still technically “in school” at the end of last school year, she’d get up, finish her homework by 6:30am, and have a whole day unfurling before her.

Which she always thinks she wants. But she doesn’t. Like, really, really doesn’t.

I mean, sure we had stuff that she was supposed to get done every day. It wasn’t total anarchy. She had an online checklist (I cringe at the thought). But somehow–magically–things would get checked off without actually getting done. Or she wouldn’t even bother to check them off–perhaps her dad & I weren’t super great at keeping track (we sucked at it).

But after months of lolling about aimlessly, this past weekend baby girl crossed a line.

I asked her to tidy, dust, and sweep her room.

And then the gates of hell opened.

There was screaming, and stomping, and throwing herself on her loft so hard it looked like the whole damn thing was going to fall down. It was such an epic fit that I kept getting the giggles. Because what the actual fuck, kid?!?

They are chores.

They will not hurt you.

She, obviously, felt otherwise.

Later, when her father and I were recounting the absolute burst of insanity that had unfolded in our otherwise relatively harmonious home, I had a stroke of brilliance: the kid needed to be busy. Like really, really busy. Zen monastery busy. Focused. Productive. Contributing to the greater good. And that need to work & have a purpose could be channeled into a much cleaner house.

Look, it’s not selfish. It’s just practical. Everyone’s a winner!

Now, literally every moment of Jane’s day from 8am to 5pm is scheduled out. She gets an hour and a half free time during the day. The remainder of the time is researching (we’re going to plant a garden), or playing guitar, learning Spanish, reading, doing yoga, creating a video for a Warrior Cats Club (it’s a thing), and–yep–cleaning.

Honestly, I was a little worried I had her over-scheduled. But yesterday, I came home at 5:30 to a happy kid, not that moody, aggravating, stompy human that had been holding us hostage with her increasingly simmering rage.

The kid just needed a purpose. Work that really meant something.

Don’t we all, really?

She’s just real, real lucky we live in the city. Otherwise, she would have found herself with a pet cow to milk every morning at 5am. It would’ve been the first thing on her list.

Pity Party for One

Yesterday, a woman with two wiener dogs made me cry.

This is notable primarily because I rarely cry out in the wild because someone did something to upset me. Not anymore, at least.

Here’s what happened: I was trying to deliver a book to a customer that lives in an apartment on the second floor of a huge, gorgeous house. There’s no interior access to this apartment–just a steep, narrow flight of metal stairs on the outside of the building. It had been raining, so everything outside was wet. No real overhang to speak of. And y’all know I wasn’t going to let that book get wet.

So, I’m looking around for an common interior space. Or at least a space that’s covered. But I’m not really finding anything that looks viable. I see an open garage space that is dry, but I don’t know the protocol for leaving packages or even if these tenants are on friendly terms with each other. I don’t want to leave a package in the wrong space and start some turf war.

Wiener dog lady is looking at me from inside her house. I don’t know she has wiener dogs yet, but I do know she looks vexed. At me, I suppose. But I’m really focused on this book, so I’m not paying much attention.

As soon as I exit screen right to examine the porch on the front of the house for viability, she walks out with her two yapping dogs. One immediately escapes the leash. She’s yelling for the dog, and I’m scurrying stealthily away. I have no desire for my ankle to be chomped on.

Not today, Satan.

I’m also growing increasingly frustrated–at myself primarily. Why can’t I decide where to drop this book?!

Fed up with my own indecisiveness, and realizing that this lady has re-leashed both dogs and they’re happily sniffing things in the yard, I decide I’m going to ask her about a shared common space.

I approach her with a “Hey, can I ask you a question?”

She looks at me like I’m something stuck to the bottom of her shoe. “I guess,” she says.

I promise you, I don’t remember when I met this kind of distain from another human.

“Is there a…” I start. Her dogs, seemingly noticing me for the very first time, immediately start yapping again.

“I can’t HEAR you,” she says.

And I know I’ve been summarily dismissed.

I head back to my car without another word. Before I even get to the car, I’m crying.

I’m just going to break my own narrative here and tell you that I know people suffer much greater indignities than this daily. That, really, this wasn’t a big deal. That the fact that I was so stung by her dismissal is a sign of my own privilege.

Yes.

I also know that I cried for the next 15 minutes. That I was so swamped by shame, and hurt, and self pity (oh my good lord, so much self pity) that I could hardly breathe.

I just kept thinking, “You never know what people are going through. You should be nicer.” But I wasn’t thinking I should be nicer, or more compassionate, or have broader perspective. I was thinking that woman should be nicer. She should think about what I was going through. She should think about how hard I’m trying right now.

It has been years since I felt that particular way: so overcome with feelings of being misunderstood, so in the throes of self-pity because people are mean to me, so self-centered that I could barely function.

That, right there, that feeling is why I used to drink. This oppressive cycle of self that I couldn’t seem to escape was how I lived my entire life. I was always upset because people didn’t understand me. I always was the victim. And I felt perpetually sorry for myself.

The reasons I ended up in that shame-cycle of self-centeredness yesterday are myriad. And crying it out was the only way I was going to escape. The release was cathartic.

But what stuck with me the most was realizing, even as I was swamped down in that moment, that if I felt this all the time, I would certainly drink. I could hardly stand feeling that way for a few minutes. I needed to escape. I need emphatically to not feel that way.

And I used to live in that space of pain, shame, and self-pity all the damn time.

15 minutes of that yesterday launched a full-scale internal gratitude campaign about my sobriety. I’m grateful that I’ve spent the past decade or so cultivating a world-view that (tries to) decenter my self. That my spiritual practice is about compassion. And that I realize that self-pity and self-compassion are most certainly not the same.

Today, I’m left with these 2 things:

  1. the thought that perhaps I should cry a little more freely when I’m frustrated or overwhelmed, so as not to give all the power over to random ladies with wiener dogs, and
  2. a tremendous tenderness toward what other people are reckoning with: those who are still sick and suffering, folks navigating their own shame-storms, people with emotional & logistical challenges big and small… and yes, even ladies with wiener dogs having a bad day.

Do I Need to Take Out a Billboard?

When the Universe wants to tell me something, it practically takes out a billboard.

Right now, there’s a flashing, Vegas-style “SURRENDER” billboard front and center in my psychic landscape. Which, incidentally, is a desert-scape. Even though I’ve never, not once, been to the desert.

I’ve been fighting a lot lately.

It’s exhausting.

I’ve been waging this intense internal war against outside factors I may or may not be able to change. This isn’t foreign territory to me. I’m kind of a control freak by nature. But I’ve gotten better, these past 11 years, at letting go.

It’s progress not perfection up in here.

But the past few days, I’ve just been mad. I’m mad at the pandemic. Mad at the landlord for the shop. Mad at myself for being mad.

By yesterday, I’d worked myself up into a frenzy (for about the third time this week. And it was only Tuesday). And I just wanted to sit in my own anger and self-righteousness.

So, I didn’t meditate. Didn’t do yoga. Didn’t run.

Because all those things would’ve helped. And I didn’t want help.

I was mad as hell, and I intended to stay that way.

And so I did.

Which sucked.

Then chose to engage with someone who always sets me off–always makes me feel less-than, like I’m competing to prove I’m smart enough and capable enough to be taken seriously by them.

Which is the stupidest thing ever.

But I fall into this trap every. time. I. engage. with. this. human.

By the time I was done with that conversation, I just wanted to come home, give away all my belongings, and paint all the rooms white.

And that’s what psychic surrender looks like for me, by the way: clean slate. All the rooms white. And spare. Open and airy.

So, I took a little scooter ride. Came home and did some yoga. And just let that shit go.

I talked to some friends last night–honestly, with no pretense. Admitted I was struggling. Which, you know, feels a little like defeat. I want to be all Zen. And I was the antithesis of Zen yesterday.

But so it goes.

And then, this morning, the Yoga Camp mantra was I Surrender.

Okay, Universe. I hear you.

When I first encountered the idea of surrender, I confused it with weakness, with giving up.

But surrender is about accepting what is. I have to stop fighting and take stock of the situation, so I can move forward with sure footing. Surrender is rest and peace in the middle of a complete an utter shitstorm of life being life.

And, for me, surrender is believing that the Universe has only my best interest at heart.

Only good, even when I don’t get my way.

Only good, even when things look dire.

Only good.

I surrender.