Category: letting go

Let Go

Let Go.

I had to share this post from one of my favorite bloggers, Behind the White Coat, because it so perfectly mirrored my own thoughts as I watched my daughter plunge ahead of me on the sidewalk yesterday. She doesn’t want to hold my hand any more, but wants to forge her own way through the world, armed with her knowledge to stop at driveways and look for cars, and to always, always stop at the street and wait for me or her daddy to hold hands.

I want to hold her hand forever. I want to feel her little hand, so warm and soft in my own, with the knowledge that if her hand is in mine, I can keep her safe.

But little girls get bigger, and little girls want to learn how to stand on their own two feet, and to see their moms looking back at them with a smile, not a constant look of terror.

Because when she runs ahead, with a carefree bounce in step, I am constantly imagining a car coming from nowhere, jumping the curb and taking her from me. I’m imagine her bobbing hair, her head turning and those innocent happy eyes looking into mine as she’s ripped from my world. I imagine her broken, dying, in my arms, and all the terrible things that could happen in that moment when’s she just out of my reach, and I’m plunged into a dark place. I want to run to her, pick her up, caution her that the world is a scary place, and she must always be careful of all the terrible things that could happen in that moment when she turns her head to beam at her mommy. But then I think, if she’s obeying the rules, if she’s close to me, why should I put my own fear of all the things that COULD happen into her?

I see her joy and it lifts my spirits, but my fear of letting go of that little precious hand and letting her discover the world on her own, with her own two hands, not just one – that terrifies me.

I let go, I smile and laugh and enjoy her exploration of the world around her, point at the things we’re learning at together, but each time I feel like I’m holding my breath, waiting for the moment when she comes back to me. When her hand is in mine, or I’m carrying her, her head resting on my shoulder.

Saying the Right Thing

To start off, I’ve been reading a new book on cognitive therapy entitled “Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time.” To say it’s life altering is something of an understatement, especially for people like me, who have borne the nickname “Worry Wart” and “Guilt-Monster” for almost two decades. I beat myself up over EVERYTHING. Did I say something that could be interpreted wrong and hurt someone’s feelings? What if that thing that seemed so innocuous at the time causes something horrible to happen in the future, and it will be my fault when everyone I love dies?

A high school friend used to joke, “Yes, Rambler. The mere fact that the sky is blue is your fault. When the sky finally falls, everyone will look around and say “Rambler?! Where is she? It’s all her fault!”

I take errors on my part very seriously, in part, because I always want to improve myself and be a better person – the person I believe I owe it to my mother to be. I don’t want to be the person who discourages someone from achieving something great – I don’t want to be that mental roadblock that makes someone feel bad about themselves. I make mistakes. Errare humanum est. So what? Prior to reading this book, I would have fretted over every mistake. I would have made a checklist of doom, ensuring my own defeat, because my checklist of “ALL THE THINGS I SHOULD AND SHOULD NOT DO” is endless. Impossible to memorize, but very possible to beat yourself up over if you fail and remember the failure, and then create a mantra of all your failures as a “reminder” to do better in the future. Sure, that’s gotten me by until now.

But, this book has opened my eyes to my guilt-laden ways of thinking. While talking to my sister earlier this afternoon about love, marriage, and a more positive worldview, I mentioned how funny it was that I often talk to people who will say things like “I loved that post about x” and I look at them confused because not a single person hit “like” on the FB post. The world is crazy busy and not everyone is an obsessive compulsive FBer like me. I recognize and understand this. But if you’re able to take the time to tell someone you like something, why are you so hesitant to do so online?

On some level, it comes down to privacy. Online, there is no guarantee that something you “like” will be private. When you’re online, you have to be cautious, you have to be wary of saying the wrong thing, lest prying eyes discover something you don’t want them to know. Or, perhaps it’s become the new popularity game.

Personally, I think it’s the same thing that keeps us timid, and keeps us from saying the positive things we think about other people private. When we say something nice, we expose something of ourselves, which in turn means we open ourselves up to some form of attack or critique. Part of this discussion really comes from a post my sister wrote about Mr. N, my 4th grade teacher. Mr. N was my lesson in telling people honestly all the nice things he thought about people. It didn’t matter that my mom was an impoverished single mother of four, who worked two jobs, lived on foodstamps, and whose kids often wore threadbare clothes from Goodwill or clothes drives… Mr. N always had something nice to say to my mom. And not just to her – about her, in front of other parents at Parent’s Night. In a world where my mother felt like nothing but a failure, he took the time to simply be kind. And that shaped not just her world, but mine. I wouldn’t be who I am if Mr. N hadn’t taken the time to recognize and see my mom. I can only imagine how tough it must have been for a teacher in an alternative school comprised of mostly well-off, extremely educated parents. But that’s who he was. And it’s who I want to be. My mom wrote Mr. N a letter when I was 17, because Mr. N continued to be an amazing role model in my little sister’s life. I may post the entirety of the letter at some point, because it shares so much of my mother’s soul, her pain, and how much those few kind words can go to help someone when they are hurting and alone… But until then, here’s an excerpt my sister posted.

I know that I will be eternally grateful to Mr. N not only for sharing his memories of my mom at parent’s night, but for sharing that letter with me. I cried the first time he showed it to me. When he gave me the original and two copies, I was so extremely touched that I didn’t know what to say.

I think, when it comes down to it, the issue is that we’re afraid.  We’re afraid of opening ourselves up for attack or criticism. We’re always looking for the right thing to say, whether it’s at work, online, to our friends or to our family. In this age of easily accessible words, most people think “less is more”… They’ll only “like” things if they are unafraid of any potential repercussions.  Which is fine – the internet, FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc, they’re all there for self-expression. And can I really blame folks? I mean, in the age of celebrity mishaps, it’s difficult not to learn from the impulsive, knee-jerk trends on the internet and reality TV.

But as I read this book, I realize just how important it is to take those simple steps to ignore the voices that keep telling you that you need to be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. You will eventually say the wrong thing. You will do the wrong thing. You will probably fuck up horribly quite a few times while walking this mostly green and blue earth. And you know what? That’s okay. Because, to err is human, and, as the saying goes, “to forgive is divine.” I told this to my mom before I went to Cambridge, when she asked me to forgive her. I told her I had nothing to forgive, and that she had my love. I can’t remember my exact words, but I know I had just read Paradise Lost, and told her that to forgive is divine, and that included forgiving herself. She seemed to think about it, but I don’t know if she knew how, in the face of the laundry-list she kept of all the things she thought she had done wrong.

So, as a note to myself, I’m throwing away my own laundry list. I’m going to hit “like” on anything that makes me smile, laugh, or just generally moves me to hit “like”. I am also going to forgive myself when I say or do the wrong thing. I will own my mistakes without being burdened by them.

In the end, saying the right thing really just means saying something. Acknowledge the beauty, the positive, and the light. Fight the urge to be negative, because it does affect you and everyone around you. It pushes people away, keeps them at a distance, whereas letting yourself say the wrong thing on occasion? Well, that just helps you see who your real friends are. 🙂

-The Rambler

Letting Go

Well, I apologize, it has been a few weeks since my last blog entry. Things have been pretty hectic in this Rambler’s world. The Rambler family just got back from a trip to the East coast, and it was action packed! What a wonderful trip. I have so much love for this amazing family of mine – and that laughing baby girl and her two sharp little teeth!

That being said, this wouldn’t be a post of mine if I didn’t include a few random segues, so here goes. Earlier today, I was driving and just feeling so incredibly blessed. Things are strange at work, sure, but that stuff comes and goes. Overall, I’m happy where I’m at, and happy to have the family and friends that I do, even if being a new mom means I don’t get to see them quite as often as I used to.

While these thoughts sort of tumbled around in my head, I started to think of this blog. Keeping a blog can be kind of intimidating. I mean – what do I really have to say that no one else can say, perhaps better? So, topics for the blog drifted in and out of my head. I am still trying to find my groove editing Waking Dreams (ie: how many times should I edit the prologue before I just move on to the next chapter?), so there’s really no news to report there. As the jumble cleared its way out, I remembered what got me into writing Waking Dreams in the first place. At first, it somehow became an exploration into the nature of fear. Me? I’ll be honest, I’m not afraid of getting hurt (well, no more than is healthy). Monsters don’t really scare me (I mean, what are you going to do if a monster rears its head and roars at you? Run like hell, sure, but what’s the point in being afraid of monsters? It’ll eat you, or you’ll get away. No point sweating the in-between, I think.)

My biggest fear had always been loss. Perhaps my ambivalence about the usual fears (spiders, monsters, fires, falling, etc) can be traced to the violence I was raised with – watching my mom get beaten, hiding my own black-eyes at school, the bruises, and explaining away the oddly headshaped holes in your bedroom wall that you try to forget happened because you looked at your parent wrong…. Surprises can make your heart beat faster, unpredictability can leave you feeling shaken, but loss… You can recover your balance, and your heart beat will usually slow back down, bruises will fade, bones will heal, but loss? Things lost don’t come back.

I don’t know why I was so morbid, even at an early age. My earliest nightmares were about haunted houses and forests, but I wasn’t afraid of the ghosts. I was always afraid of what they would take away from me. I would clutch the hands of my siblings, trying to drag each one of them to safety, only to look around and see that I had lost one or all of them. That I had let go of their hand, and they were gone, experiencing some unimaginable horror.  As a child, I used to stand on my tiptoes on a chair by the window in the living room, poking my eyes to the tall window so I could watch and wait for my mom to get home. Every night, I was convinced it would be the night that I wouldn’t see her beaten clunker’s headlights round that corner. That would be the night she didn’t come home and someone would come to tell me she was gone. I expected loss, but was so afraid of it.

I think this is why I was so persistent with my mom’s mental illness – all those nightmares of me on the outside, watching her drown as I beat against the glass wall, trying to break it and free her;  standing alone in a murky forest, calling her (or my siblings’) name, and suddenly turning to the dark part of the forest, the FORBIDDEN part, and knowing to the depths of my soul that she had gone there and that if I followed her, I would never come out… I always woke up just as I stepped into the fog, my heart racing, like those dreams that force you awake because you know you with certainty that death is approaching. I always stepped into the mist in those dreams, because standing on the outside wondering felt so much worse – I couldn’t stand the thought of someone I loved lost, hurt and wounded, and me standing idly by. It wasn’t just my mom I dreamed about – it was the same dreams over and over, with the characters constantly changing. My mom, my siblings, my husband, everyone I cared deeply about, they came to play a role in these nightmares. The House dream was one of the worst. Sometimes I lost my little brother, sometimes it was my little sister, sometimes everyone. For some reason, in the dreams where my older sister was lost, in those dreams, everyone died. I think she always seemed the most able, so if she floundered, I knew I had no hope.

The first dream about the House, it was my little brother I lost (I realize now that my little sister hadn’t been born yet, which dates this first nightmare to my being 6 years old) – I was looking for my mother in this large antique house with ornate carpeting. I went down a spiral staircase and saw her standing above a seated man, talking to him and laughing. I’m about to yell in relief at having found her but then I see the man’s face – it’s rotten and skeletal, flesh dripping and one eye hanging from its socket. I muffle a scream as I realize that my Mom is lost to this dead, rotting man. She’s succumbed to this creature’s magic and I know full well that am too little to drag her away. Then I remember that my sister and brother are in the House, too. I need to find them and drag them out the front door, before the monster’s magic somehow steals them and traps them in the House forever. Somehow, I find them, grab their hands and pull them down the hall way that seems to get longer and longer, the carpet coming alive and twisting, grasping at our ankles. Somehow, my panic keeps us going forward, and I pull and pull, trying to drag my siblings to safety until I feel hands slip through my fingers and my brother sinks into the carpet, and I watch his screaming face disappear with feeling of utter failure and loss….

That fear drove me, powered every fiber of my being for such a long time. Only now, so so many years later, do I realize that it wasn’t loss I was afraid of. It was letting go.

Luckily, with loving friends and family and a sweet husband who assures me that he is just tardy, so I don’t need to call him every 30 seconds to make sure he isn’t lying in a ditch somewhere – well, I’d like to say that I am cured of my fear of letting go. But that would make me a liar. And I hate lying. I feel heartache that my mom suffered through her mental illness so alone, but I don’t feel responsible any more. I can kiss her fingers and let her walk into that shadowed forest, knowing she could have found her way back to me. She wouldn’t have wanted me to enter the dark to find her – all I needed to do was wait at the edge for her, and she would return to me. It’s the same with my siblings and my husband – I needed to learn that I could trust people to come back, trust that they would tell me if they were hurting and alone, and trust that if I just let go… they would be all right.

And I can know, with great warmth in my heart, that I loved them, trusted them, and, even if something horrible happened, that that love followed them wherever they might go.

And that’s all right.

– The Rambler

When you know a friendship is toxic

Now that I have just one short week until I can begin editing Waking Dreams, I have been musing on a friendship that recently ended after quite some time. I have really struggled with this decision, and it did not come lightly.

Over the weekend, I was on a hike with an amazing new friend and we began to talk a bit about our pasts. Something this new friend said really hit me. She talked about how funny it is that we women are always so concerned about the effect our decisions have on the social group, that we often sit back and take a lot of BS for fear of rocking the boat.  A light went off in my head. I have been angry at this other former friend for quite some time and my fear of “rocking the boat” in my social group has had an effect on me. I sat silently and then reacted poorly to a lot of things, but now… I just don’t care. My family is more important. And I want it to be extremely clear that I do not condone the behavior of this former friend (hereafter “NPD”).

I struggled for a while wondering why NPD had behaved in the way he did. Why did he continue to harass my husband and I, in spite of my repeated requests that he stop? Why could he not go a single conversation without implying that my husband had terrible clothing choices, was inept at taking care of himself, and me and was going to be a terrible father? Why did he think it was appropriate to then turn to making fun of my daughter, who had yet to be born? Why did he think, even after we asked and told him to stop, it would EVER be funny to joke that he was going to have sex with our daughter? And when we responded with a “WTF?! Don’t EVER say that again” – why did he laugh at our response and say “What? I’ll wait until she’s 18”? And when we said that was still inappropriate, why did he continue and say “What? I”ll have had a vasectomy by then!” Apparently our horrified response was exactly what he was looking for, since he continued to make the joke another two to three times. Maybe he would have made it again, but we stopped seeing him by then.

I will not stand by and tolerate someone who takes me aside to tell me what a horrible wife I am (while I was pregnant!), and then makes me listen to him complain about how his wife is a psycho bitch. Then, when I defend her, have him rally and tell me I am being mean. At the time, I was boggled. I had no idea what end was up or down with NPD.  Sometimes he was so nice and charming, that I forgot about all the other crud. Then it would resurface and I would feel like crap all over again. When Nick pointed out that he thought our daughter came early because of all the stress of dealing with this person – well, that highlighted for me just how unhealthy the relationship had become. Now, I just don’t care. I am still a bit angry at NPD and partially at myself for being so slow to realize how toxic the friendship had become. Better late than never, right?

I do not know if NPD behaves like this with other people, but I know that this is how he behaved with us. Given how he’s twisted what I’ve said and what others have said to suit his own version of the truth (i.e. whichever version makes him out to be the good guy), I can’t trust him.  I do not know what’s real with him, or what he says just to get attention, since he seems to want attention all the time.

Mostly – I will not gamble my daughter’s emotional or physical safety on what I already know to be an emotionally unsound person. I will not have her think it is okay to make fun of people in the way this person thinks is okay.  I have already placed my friends in the awkward position, and I am truly sorry about that. I will see NPD at social events, but that’s it. Our interactions will be minimal, and I will never leave my daughter alone with this person. Ever.

The epiphany was that I do not need to hide my feelings. I am happier when I am open about who I am. I want to put my foot down now and let my daughter know that it’s okay to cut people out who hurt you repeatedly. I hope she would have the strength to walk away if she’s ever in a relationship with someone who abuses her emotionally and/or physically. Cut and run, because YOU are more important than any potential social fall-out.

So, what do you do when you know a friendship is toxic? If it can’t be repaired – accept the loss and move on. Profit from my experience! Don’t spend months mourning the loss and wondering what went wrong! Accept the fact that just like all those other vices (junk food!), they may make you laugh or feel good every now and then, but overall, if they make you feel crummy, you should probably leave them by the wayside.

Thanks for listening, and I apologize for the high drama content of this post!

-The Rambler