Humility and All That Fun Stuff

In her book Real Love, Sharon Salzberg writes that “you don’t have to love yourself unconditionally before you can give or receive love.”

Thank God for that, because this self-love project is taking forever! It will take a lifetime, and I think that’s just a result of growing up in Western culture. From what I hear, people in Eastern cultures don’t have the problems with self-loathing and negative self-talk that we have here in the US. I’m no expert on any culture but I know that I, for one, struggle with this.

Salzberg explains that you can practice self-love at the same time as loving others.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. She probably doesn’t mean to jump into a relationship asap, but I did pay for a subscription to eHarmony, and I ain’t paying for nothing, folks. Just saying.

Salzberg writes that “love enters our lives unpredictably, whether or not we’ve perfected self-love,” but that once love flows from one realm, it can become easier to spill into other realms, provided we stay open to compassion in the process.

What I want to know is, just exactly how does one exercise self-love? How am I not practicing self-love?

So I did what I do these days, and I consulted Pinterest. This article contains so many inspirational quotes, that I find myself just scrolling down the page and reading every one of them. Just reading these quotes gives me strength.

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My therapist suggested online dating, and my AA sponsor agreed, though my CODA sponsor suggested I “learn how to be single.” I am single and I want my old life back. Minus the painful parts, lol. What I want is to rewind to the time that times were good between Steven and me, or better yet, fast-forward to a time that he comes back to me and we agree to do the hard work together and stay in this relationship and love each other, warts and all.

But wanting something you can’t have is a futile exercise that only leads to disappointment. It’s the opposite of being grateful for what you have.

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Last night I stood in a crowded room while Jay and his girlfriend, Yvonne, stood a few feet away, talking to their friends. From my point of view, and my history, the story goes like this: I met Jay a couple years ago, had a crush on him, then found out he was in a committed relationship with Yvonne. Then I met Steven, who I fell hard for, and we had a passionate, loving relationship for a year and four months, and the last two months were devastatingly rocky (see my last post… or any of dozens of posts I’ve published in the past, lol), so it ended.

Then I run into Jay again, who tells me he and Yvonne have broken up, it’s over, done, caput. So Jay and I started seeing each other, and even though it’s nothing like it was with Steven, and I don’t fall crazy in love, I think, Maybe this is better. Maybe we’ll become friends and have a stronger relationship. Or maybe not, maybe this will just be a casual, convenient relationship, and I’ll find someone I connect with on a deeper level in the future. My big ego made an assumption that I was in control of the relationship, and I did not anticipate returning from spending time with my family in the Carolinas to find that Jay and Yvonne decided to try to work things out. They’d been together for seven years and have a history that includes the same social group, their dogs (her dogs), and he takes care of her. She has everything I want: a comfortable home, she’s provided for, they have the same friends, they have motorcycles and a boat, and all kinds of fun ways to spend their time.

From my point of view, it looks like I did not get chosen. It looks like a series of unfortunate events fell in my path.

But what if I were in her shoes?

First off, I’d feel very unhappy and uncomfortable knowing that my boyfriend slept with a woman standing a few feet away talking to my friends. I’d feel trapped, like I had nowhere to go, because I hadn’t done anything on my own. It’s hard to know how she feels, but I know that if it were me, I’d feel defeated, like I had to stay because I couldn’t afford to leave, that I’d built my life around this man, this town, these friends, and leaving him meant leaving all of that. I wasn’t just divorcing him, but I would be uprooted from the very community I “grew up” in, in AA. I’d be jealous of the other woman who was working on her master’s in nutrition, paying her own rent, making her own friends. I’d wonder if my relationship could really work, or if my partner would sleep with some other girl in a few years when times got tough, if we split again, or if he’d even just cheat on me while we were together. Once when I was in college I had a similar situation but the other girl wasn’t a love interest of my boyfriend’s. She was the widow of one of his close friends, and she came to visit us, and everyone loved her. They had a history of friendship, and her new husband, their friend, had died a year or so earlier in a freak accident in which he got hit by a delivery truck while he was standing outside on his smoke break at work. I was jealous of her, and then felt guilty for feeling jealous because her husband had died, and I couldn’t compete with that kind of grief, because to me at the time victimhood was a competition in which I had to win so that I’d be “loved” more than everyone else. The night she visited I tried to commit suicide I was so jealous and unhappy with my life. Thank God I’m not that girl anymore, though clearly I still have the grass-is-greener syndrome.

In his book, Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, John Welwood writes:

As a result, ‘You have two choices in life: You can stay single and be miserable or get married and wish you were dead,” as H.L. Mencken wrote with a flourish of wry, black humor. Reciting this line at relationship workshops always evokes peals of laughter as people feel the relief of naming this basic human dilemma. When under the spell of the mood of unlove, living alone is miserable because we feel bereft or abandoned. And yet marrying is no cure for this misery, since living with someone every day can further intensify the sense of unlove and make it feel even more hellish.

How to deal with this conundrum? That is the focus of his book, which I’ve just started, even while in the midst of Salzberg’s book, because this girl right here needs a lot of help.

My first practice has been to meditate on the phrase, “May I be happy,” as instructed by Salzberg in her book. Then last night I had an opportunity to be different, to smile and be polite and friendly to Jay and Yvonne, or at least in their general direction, since I couldn’t really look them in the eye just yet. It was my first time seeing them out since Jay broke it off with me a few weeks ago. I had an opportunity to exercise opening my heart, not to show anyone else I’m a badass or to prove anything, but to keep courage and strength, to have self-compassion. I did nothing wrong, and I am a good person. I have a lot going for me. I know that my higher power takes care of me. I am being taken care of.

There’s so much more I want to write, but I’m already running late for work. Just know that you, too, are being taken care of. Everything is going to work out. It’s already working out. Maybe I didn’t get what I thought I wanted, but I am getting what I need.

Welcome, humility.

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Good Guys, Bad Guys, and the Ugly Truth

John Welwood, a writer and psychologist I’d never heard of until reading his article, “Intimate Relationship as a Spiritual Crucible” (in this month’s Lion’s Roar), just became my new spiritual hero. My Kindle is charging right now so I can buy one of his books, because I feel like I just found the answer to my relationship troubles, which is this: at their worst, relationships can bring out the deepest, most painful feelings of being unloved, but when we can face those feelings, accept that they’re there, accept who we are and who our partner is, we can grow spiritually. We must have the breakdown to get to the breakthrough. The key is “not losing our twoness in the oneness, while not losing our oneness in the twoness.”

This is always the problem I run into. In the beginning, my partner is my world, which means that after some time, my world becomes small. Instead of having my own friends, my time alone, my hobbies, I spend all my free time with the guy. With my ex-husband, I eventually did my own thing all the time, without spending much time with him, and he did his own thing. It was like living with a roommate instead of a partner. Each of us swam in our own fishbowl. Then I became intertwined with Steven, and none of my free time was spent on self-care, unless it was during a period of him shutting me out during his depressive episodes, and those times for me were spent feeling abandoned and hurt while trying to ignore that I felt that way, trying to spiritually bypass those feelings, which is one of the ways Welwood says we try to avoid the pain of being in a relationship. The other way is to leave altogether, which is ultimately what happens in my relationships, hence two divorces and my current singlehood at 41 years of age.

Another Buddhist whose name I can’t remember once said something that struck me, which was that when you become committed to a relationship, what you must know is that you’re going to have times in which you feel lonely. Being married does not change that. I know this from experience, and I’d say it’s more painful than being single and feeling lonely. When the other person switches from being the one who saved me from myself (which by the way is not the role a partner can realistically/healthily play) to the one who destroyed me, or worse, ignored or did not acknowledge me, or abandoned me—it opens up deep-rooted childhood wounds of not feeling accepted, unloved, unloveable. According to Welwood, everyone has these feelings at some point because everyone has had some kind of disappointment that probably started in childhood, because that’s just life. If you want your relationship to work, you must be willing to get down to the nitty gritty reality and ride the waves when tough times come.

One important point I want to raise here is that one could use this argument as a basis to accept abuse, and that’s one situation that I can’t condone. Also, I feel that both partners must be willing to commit—this can’t be the kind of situation in which your partner constantly breaks it off while you wait around and take them back when they decide they want to return to you.

My first thought as I was reading this was to send it to my ex and tell him that the ugliness that revealed itself in the end was what happens in a relationship, no one’s perfect, I said something hurtful to him that opened a deep wound within him that could not be healed or forgiven or forgotten, and that was this: I felt that you hugged your daughter too much, and it seemed inappropriate because she’s 13 now and getting too old for that.

No matter that I prefaced it with how it was my own issue, that I felt jealous, and no matter that I explained that I have my own childhood issues. No matter that I apologized, multiple times, that I admitted I was wrong, there’s no age limit on hugging one’s child, that I emphasized that never once did I think he was a child molester or that he’d ever even thought of molesting his child. How can a person recover from that? In my case, it wasn’t possible. What I’d thought was that maybe a man should keep more physical distance from his daughter as she grows older, but that because he’d never been a father to a teenage girl before he didn’t know about that “rule,” this rule I’d created, or grown up with, because my family hugs each other but we’re not as affectionate as some families. That’s just it. Some families are more affectionate than others. What I’d wanted was for him to show his kids that I was part of the family too, that I was his partner, but instead I felt like an extra wheel to their trio of unconditional love that happens between parent and child.

My therapist suggested that maybe I purposely and subconsciously sabotaged the relationship because I began to feel it wasn’t working. He’d placed unrealistic expectations on me to skip out on visiting my sister and stepfather for Thanksgiving (right after my mom died) and visit his father in the nursing home, his father who’d abused him and who hadn’t seen in five years, who’d been living in Ohio in a nursing home for the past three years. And he’d wanted me to have telepathy, to just know that’s what he wanted me to do, so he told me it didn’t matter if I went or not, then became angry and hurt when I expressed my choice to visit my family. I changed my mind when I saw how much it meant to him that I be there for him, but the truth was that I just could not be there for him during that time. Resentment grew because I felt that he was putting a time limit on my grief over my mom’s death.

The only thing worse than being hurt by someone else, for me, is knowing you hurt someone else and destroyed the very relationship you cherished above all else.

I want to believe we could’ve gotten through both of those situations, and maybe we could have. But the next hurdle to overcome would be that I need my space and time away from him, and he was not into “sharing” me with other people. I chose to spend my time with him—it was what I wanted, too. But now that I’ve had time away from him, have made my own friends, have my own haven, I don’t want to go back to that. At the time my sponsor told me that reconciliation was possible but it would have to be a different relationship.

The good part that came from all this pain is that I grew spiritually. Oh my God. Tenfold. Especially because my mother had died suddenly a few months prior to this. I’d believed he was my savior, that if I couldn’t have my mom anymore then at least I had a partner to take care of me. But the truth is, no one’s going to save me or take care of me except for me, with the help of a higher power that I call God.

Now I have a better idea of what I want from a relationship. I know–intellectually, let’s be real here–that finding a partner will not fix me. Practicing it is another thing, but I have the knowledge. I’ve spent many months beating myself up over saying those words to my ex, and I still regret it and feel ashamed for having expressed that, telling myself that no matter what I do in my next relationship, don’t ever express jealousy on that level. Writing this here and posting this is not easy for me, because I’m afraid you’ll all judge me, and I’ve wrestled with it for some time, but here it is. The ugly truth.

When I was a kid there was a song that used to come on the radio by Dave Mason called “We Just Disagree,” and in it he sings, “There ain’t no good guys / There ain’t no bad guys / There’s only you and me and we just disagree.” We are each human, trying to make our way. Sometimes we eff up. It’s what happens after that, how we handle it, that matters, where the spiritual growth comes.

I want to give this article to whoever I get into a serious relationship with next time, to say, Look here, buddy. Shit’s gonna happen. Do you want to be in this together or not? And if dude cannot handle conflict—if we cannot handle conflict together—then it’s just not going to work.

So there you go. For anyone out there who’s been following my blog for these past several months, wondering what in the world I could’ve said that was so bad, there you have it.

Now I’d rather feel the occasional loneliness that inevitably happens at some point during a relationship than be single. It’s not that I feel lonely all the time as a single person—I enjoy my solitude. The prospect of being in another relationship feels scary because I don’t want to lose the time I’ve gained building friendships and focusing on my own growth. At the same time, I want to be able to do that while in a relationship. That would be the ultimate growth, or so it seems to me.

I’m on eHarmony because the guys there want to be in a relationship, and because we each get to be honest and open about who we are and what we want, up front. Not that I put on my profile page that I’m a sober alcoholic, but I did write that I don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs, ever, and am looking for someone who’s the same. A light or occasional drinker is okay but if there’s someone out there who loves to learn about craft beers or visit wineries, they can move right along and that will be fine with me. it’s not a secret that I’m a sober alcoholic but the guy can meet me first and then decide if he thinks I’m a train wreck he can’t deal with, because I know I’m not. Guys with small children or even teenagers are a no-go for me at this point. Honestly, there are a lot of no-gos for me at this point. The most important part is that the guy not be a commitment-phobe. Don’t drag me into something that you hope will develop into something more only to realize that not only can I not fix you but I have the power to destroy you—or rather, you may feel destroyed, but you’re not. I sure as hell felt destroyed in the end, but that’s just the point at which I hit bottom, which was the necessary place to go before I could emerge a stronger, more resilient person, capable of loving and being loved. Maybe one day he and I can forgive each other, and I must say there’s no way in hell I’ll ever tell another guy he hugs his kid too much or that it’s inappropriate, but I’ll probably say or do something else that cuts his heart, just as he’ll do for me, but I believe that it’s when you can grow together through the painful times that a deeper love can develop.

So maybe I’m codependent but I am determined to learn how to be in a healthy relationship, which is why I go to Codependents Anonymous. AA saved my life—faith in God saved my life—and I’m grateful to have found a new way of life compared to the hellhole I used to live in. Maybe online dating is a distraction for me to feel better about myself by looking outside of me when the solution lies within. And I am looking within, too. After having been rejected a second time, after the ex, by a guy who uses spirituality as a means of emotional detachment, I’ve decided to give eHarmony a shot. I don’t seem to have a good “picker,” as they say in the rooms, so I’m letting an online dating algorithm do it for me. Because my picker lately seems to choose men who do not want to commit, after having chosen men who put me on a pedestal, who I wasn’t that into but knew would never leave me. It’s time to find someone in between those extremes.

Today is a good day. I’m off to Zumba here in a few, and later I’ll get to hear Sharon Salzberg speak for Tara Brach. Salzberg has written a lot of beautiful, powerful words about loving-kindness, compassion, and living life on a spiritual basis, and I feel honored to get to see her in person tonight.

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Opening Your Heart and Finding Gratitude

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(The above quote was taken from notey.com.)

In A Path With Heart, Jack Kornfield writes:

As we notice our thoughts in meditation, we discover that they are not in our control—we swim in an uninvited constant stream of memories, plans, expectations, judgments, regrets. The mind begins to show how it contains all possibilities, often in conflict with one another—the beautiful qualities of a saint and the dark forces of a dictator and murderer…

…This dualistic nature of thought is a root of our suffering. Whenever we think of ourselves as separate, fear and attachment arise and we grow constricted, defensive, ambitious, and territorial…

…To heal, we must learn to step back from all the stories of the mind, for the conflicts of our thoughts and opinions never end… The mind thinks of the self as separate, the heart knows better.

Meditation and Buddhism in general can seem like a good way to detach oneself, to believe in the story of how none of this matters—and these things are true, to an extent—but I can use that as an excuse to disengage from others. But really it’s about getting in touch with the heart, which starts, or works in conjunction with, loving oneself while loving others more deeply.

And all these stories in our head are just that: stories. As I re-read Kornfield’s words, I’m reminded of how everyone thinks like this. Over the past few days, I’ve been feeling separate, all because of stories in my head, stories based in fear, fear that there’s a limited pool of opportunity accessible to others that, when they receive this opportunity, it becomes somehow unavailable to me. Comparing myself to others, sometimes in a way that’s self-aggrandizing and other times puts me beneath everyone else. When really we are all just people, each of us trying to make our way. If I were to get what that other person has that I want, I’d find problems with it. As Kornfield writes, we’re wired to be dissatisfied. From what I’ve learned over the years, the key is to practice gratitude, and to do so on a regular basis. As Kornfield writes, we never become fully successful. I have a short-term memory, and I’m a slow learner, and I don’t think most or possibly all other people are any different. If I want to gain self-love and self-compassion, I must practice it, and exercise it repetitiously.

Specifically, what I’m alluding to in my life is the fact that my fling with a guy recently ended. There are a few different ways to tell this story: I got dumped, he left me for his ex, it didn’t work out, it wasn’t meant to be. I found myself feeling isolated. Here I am, six months new to this area, beginning to make friends, beginning to feel more comfortable in my skin, and there they are, fixtures in this community, long-time members with roots. Where do I fit in? Do I avoid outings because they might be there? Do I go to different meetings, ditch these friends, and try to make friends elsewhere? And why couldn’t I have what she got: an old-timer boyfriend who scooped her up from the start of her journey into AA and took care of all of her needs and wants: love, shelter, food, community, entertainment. Somehow, they became stars of the community in my mind. A friend told me, If you had all of that you’d feel trapped. How true. Why? Because I didn’t do it for myself. I remember once, in the beginning, when we went out and I looked around and noticed most of the people there (really only a few) were his friends, that this was his world, and I felt like a disposable accessory. But one of my friends reminded me that I have friends in this community, people who want me around.

And how do I know for sure that’s how her life looks to her? Her being his former ex, his current girlfriend, or wife is more like it. How do I know for sure that she has everything she needs and wants? It’s just a story I made up about her to compare myself to an unrealistic ideal, based in fear that I will not be taken care of. Constantly I’m looking outside myself to be taken care of, when the very thing that will take care of me is inside me, and it comes from a higher power that I call God.

God takes care of me. I take care of myself. During this time I’m growing, possibly more than ever. It’s so painful sometimes. Growth for me doesn’t happen without pain. At first I lamented over the fact that my ex didn’t come back to me in the way that her ex went back to her, that I didn’t get from my ex what she’s getting and has gotten, which is for all of her needs to be taken care of. I kept thinking, God, I don’t want to do this by myself. In reality, I do want to do it by myself, and I am doing it by myself—with God’s help and the help of my friends.

All of this comes a few days after setting up profiles on Match.com and eHarmony. Because let’s be real, folks: I want a boyfriend. A husband, or partner really. I’m codependent, remember? But I’m also human, and humans are social animals. My therapist had suggested it, my AA sponsor agreed, and my CODA sponsor said no way, that I need to get comfortable with being single.

Well it’s too late now. I’ve already signed up, and I am single. I’m a single woman dating, and I’m taking my time. There’s no rush, and I’d rather take it slowly to find someone I really connect with, rather than try to force something to work that’s not there. Possibly it’s foolish to be doing this now, when I barely have time to do anything outside of school work in my free time while staying on top of my not just physical but emotional sobriety by going to meetings and doing the footwork and self-care that living a spiritual life requires. But honestly? This is my life. I can’t spend all my free time making a guy my higher power like how I did with my ex. I got shit to do. He should be taking care of his own shit in the meantime, and not smoking pot or drinking beer or being a workaholic or watching TV all day like my other exes.

Next week I have a coffee date with a bankruptcy lawyer who feels like he missed his calling as a therapist, who looks good in some pictures but just okay in others, and who, most importantly, has kind, familiar eyes. But Ted Bundy might’ve had kind eyes to some people too, and bankruptcy and law are boring to me, and a therapist could be someone whose crazier than the rest of us, in ways that I cannot deal with.

You may have noticed that I first defined this guy by his job, a common mistake. I hated it when people defined me by my job when I was working in marketing, and now I don’t even want people to know I work in a grocery store because I don’t want people judging me… all because I judge myself. Sometimes the things we can’t stand in others are the very things we can’t stand in ourselves. My goal is not to judge someone or define them by their job but rather by who they are as a person.

On a deeper level, I look for in a man what I want for myself, which is someone who has their shit together. I want to be on the right path. And guess what? I am. Maybe I’m still not quite where I want to be, but I’m okay with that in this moment. All of this is an ongoing process that doesn’t end until the day I die.

Today I am right where I need to be. I’m grateful to have woken up an hour early (just by chance! Thank you, God!), to write this post, to have my friends and family, to have a nurturing workplace environment, to have healthy food and a comfortable living space. I am grateful to be on this path, to have guides who help me along the way, to have an opportunity to be a guide for others. I’m grateful for my readers, and for your posts on self-love, self-care, spirituality, positivity. Most of all, I’m grateful to be aware of God’s presence in my life.

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Peace and love,

TCH

 

Change the Way You Feel

Change the way you feel.

These are the words that woke me from a dream, words that I slept-talked from a dream that had seared its way into my subconscious, that I’d gotten from Tara Brach’s meditation talk last night about how neurons that fire together wire together, that we were designed to focus on the negative, to have a fight or flight response for survival, but that we can create new neural pathways in our brains (neuroplasticity) to focus more on the positive, on gratitude, on compassion, on love. And to have all of these feelings for ourselves too, first and foremost.

I had a revelation: my life is pretty friggin fantastic today.

Gratitude is the antidote for jealousy. Jealousy–that ugly feeling that there’s a limited pool of opportunity unavailable to me when it lands in the laps of others–it’s is a useless feeling.

It’s my perception of what others have that creates the jealousy; not the truth of the situation. The truth is that I would feel trapped if I were in Johanna’s shoes. She doesn’t make enough money to go anywhere else, she can’t live alone, she has five pets who would have nowhere to go, she’s done nothing with her master’s degree, and she depends on Jay for all of her needs. The biggest “need” (or want) she has—or that I have, really, because I have no idea what she wants–is for someone to take care of me, to have an emotional connection with one person who is my everything. How unreasonable of a demand is that? I want a partner who I share friends with, who entertains me, who supports me financially. And I can have all of that. But at what cost? Her entire sober life has been built around him, as far as I can tell. They started dating when she was new in sobriety about seven years ago, and now she lives in his house, they have the same circle of friends, he supports her, takes care of her dogs, bought her a motorcycle, provides her with entertainment. The one thing he cannot give her is the only thing she needs—or rather, without it I could not have a real relationship–and that is an emotional connection. None of that other shit matters without an emotional connection.

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I have forged my own way through a series of mishaps, bumbling into one mistake after another, distanced myself from my original group, only to float around to other groups and not feel a part of them either. Then I moved back here where I started, this time without the non-AA husband, and instead became entangled with this dude, “Mr. AA” (yeah, right), who’s been around for 27 years, lived in this area for 57, who knows everyone, who’s viewed as the meditation master, and it’s all bullshit.

People like to hang out with him is because he has a boat and can take everyone out on it, and he has skis and tubes and he can provide entertainment for everyone. He’s a nice guy, so that’s not to say people only want to be his friend because of his boat. And he’s not the king of spiritual living just because he has 27 years of sobriety and meditates every day. He’s just a guy, and there are tons of those out there. If I want a boat to entertain my friends on, I can go get one. (Okay, so maybe I’m too poor right now but I am sure I could find one somehow, or borrow the money and add to my debt.) But who wants to deal with the upkeep and financial burden? A friend of mine said the two happiest days of your life are the day you buy your boat and the day you sell your boat.

By the way, this is not to say that no one else has forged their own way through a series of mishaps. I mean, we’re all doing that, aren’t we? Isn’t that just life? And it’s not to say that my perception of their relationship is what’s really going on. Maybe she’s not dependent on him, maybe he offers her emotional support, maybe she really loves him and does not feel trapped by the life they’ve built together, that appears to me to be the life he built for her, but maybe she built her own life. But here’s the thing: it does not matter. What matters is that I be real about how I’d feel if I were in her place, the situation I’m so jealous of. If I truly got all that I thought I wanted, I can guarantee you I’d find something wrong with it. I’d beat myself up for not having done it myself. Honestly, that’s the one thing I’m most proud of. I am my own person. And let me tell you: I did not get here because life was one big carefree, breezy path with no pain. I got here for exactly the opposite reasons.

My friend Kathleen suggested that four of us, without Jay or our crazy friend–the one who had an episode, stole a car, sent disturbing texts to all of us, who needs help we cannot give him outside of being his friend–Kathleen suggested that the four of us get together for a game of cards. She’s dying to play Euchre, and she enjoys our company–she enjoys my company. Personally, I like the four of us better than the six of us myself. Mike is the funny one, Spencer and I have become good friends in the past few months, and Kathleen is fun and sweet. Jim’s another story. My heart goes out to him but I can’t help him. Plus he’s in love with me, and Kathleen thinks he might be a stalker. I think he’s harmless but one can never be too careful. Anyway, there are others in the extended group who hang out with us, who are fairly new to the group, women who are my friends. Now that I think of it, I think I’ll reach out to them more.

This is my life. I have my own friends. Who cares what Jay and Johanna are doing? Who cares if they’ve been in this group for years with deep roots and established connections? I’m in the process of making my own connections, and having fun while doing it. These friends really like me too, if I do say so myself. We all make each other laugh and have fun together. If I get pushed out of the group it will only be because I distanced myself, not because no one wants to be my friend. And honestly? Jay and Johanna are nice people, but in my opinion they’re boring. A boat is fun, but I got personality, my friends. Which means I am judging them as boring people with no personality, and obviously their friends don’t feel that way, which is good for them. But that’s my opinion, and this is my life. They have their lives, and I have mine. I don’t need to worry about theirs. Fuck this whole jealousy thing.

And one more thing is this: if I were in Johanna’s shoes right now, I’d feel incredibly isolated and alone, stuck in a rut. I’d have been friends with all these people for years who might be great but who aren’t fresh and new anymore, and some of whom have moved away, others who I may not even feel that close to, and/or who I’ve had conflicts with, and I’d be thinking, Is this all there is? Even worse is that some other younger woman (only by two years but I look even younger than that), who’s more attractive than her, who’s well-liked by everyone in the group, who’s working on her own master’s degree for an interesting career she’s interested in, that will pay well and be rewarding (we hope all these things are true), slept with her partner of seven years. You think I would feel secure in my relationship and go running back to the dude if that happened to me? Hell no. In that light I feel compassion for her. In most lights, I feel compassion for her. She’s a nice person, though I’d understand if she’s not too nice to me in the future. But they were broken up for eight months, and she had moved out at one point (that had fallen through because the couple whose basement she was living in decided split, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t fall through again for related reasons, because she was going to move back into the same place in September where she’d lived before).

My therapist suggested that it’s possible that this one-eighty happened because Johanna has nowhere else to go. Before I left for North Carolina Jay told me that Johanna was due to move out at the end of the month, and a few days later when I returned, Jay told me that they’d decided to get back together, that it was totally unexpected, but they were going to try to make it work. My response? Oh, good for you. That’s good for you. Y’all have been together for a long time. You’re very lucky. He replied, Are you sure? I said, Well of course I’m bummed but what choice do I have? He said, Yeah I didn’t think you’d be all broken up about it.

I cried for the next few days as though Steven and I had just had a conflict–not like we’d broken up because that was devastating–but I just felt sad. And it was embarrassing because I wasn’t in love with Jay. Friends would remind me, You weren’t that into him. It didn’t matter. No one likes to be rejected. I mean, how dare he break up with me? It bruised my ego.

I don’t need to hide or disappear from my group of friends just because I feel rejected by one guy.

Blessings and prayers to those suffering from the damage caused by Harvey. To learn where to donate, how to avoid donation scams, and links to animal shelters for how to help animals (who couldn’t just get into a car and evacuate), the New York Times and NPR have some articles posted online. Please send money if you can afford it, even if it’s a just a few dollars.

I’ll leave you with this song by Robyn and Royksopp that I find inspiring. My interpretation is that it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. I got my own thing going. My favorite line is this: “Play some kind of new sound / Something true and sincere.”

The F Bomb Post on Growth Through Grief and Heartache

My friend’s dad died last night.

He’d been living in a nursing home, or “assisted living,” as we call it these days, for a while now, and suddenly in the past couple of days he took a turn for the worse. He was barely conscious, barely breathing. Spencer saw him Sunday afternoon and he slept the whole time, but all seemed okay. But when his brother got there yesterday their dad still had not woken up, and when we saw him yesterday he already looked like a corpse, with his mouth is hanging open and his eyes half open. He was unresponsive. He hadn’t eaten in five days, and looked like a skeleton lying there with an oxygen tube across his nose. It was a shock for Spencer to see.

If a person decides they don’t want feeding tubes or IV fluids once the dying process has started, they basically die of thirst. Eventually one or more of their organs fails and that’s it. It can take up to 10 days, maybe even two weeks. This LA Times article describes this process as painless, and the experiences the medical professionals describe seem plausible. Who can really know unless they’re going through it themselves, and if you’re going through this, your body is unresponsive and you’re not talking, so you can’t exactly tell people how you feel. I often wondered how much my mom could comprehend when she lay unconscious in the hospital, hooked up to a ventilator that was breathing for her. Was she in pain? Nevertheless, this article certainly made me feel better; prior to this, I felt uneasy thinking of how we basically let people starve to death. Turns out maybe it’s one of the most peaceful ways to go. This article from pbs.org explains the various life support options for those who are at the end stages of life.

As emaciated as Spencer’s father looked, I knew he probably wouldn’t make it another day. And sure enough he passed last night around 2:30. It comforts me to know that this was (most likely/God I hope) a peaceful process. It was an honor to go with Spencer to see his dad, to be a part of that, and I had a chance to spend a few minutes alone with him, which may sound weird but it was something I wanted to do. Here was a man who was dying, at the end stages of his life, about to pass into the next one, or wherever it is that we go after this. While it may sound morbid, I consider it a privilege to be able to sit with someone going through this process, to get an opportunity to comfort them. I told him what I’d want to hear if I were in his place, which was that he’d be home soon, and it was okay to let go, that he’d had a good life, he’d been a good man and a good father, that he was loved. Our friend Mike had met him before and had said he was a sweet man, and he looked like a sweet man. Spencer told me he’d always done the right thing, he’d been a dutiful man. I held his hand and kissed his forehead, stroked his hair, put my head on his chest—lightly, because he looked so frail. These were all the things I did to my mom, that we all did to my mom, and we told her how pretty she was, we kissed her cheek and her hands. We warmed her feet with our hands, and cooled her arms with our chilly hands. Maybe it all sounds weird, but no one cared. At that point I was beyond caring what I looked like to anyone, or how uncomfortable anyone else may be. They could just get over it.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with death. It’s not for me to judge. I have no idea how I’ll be when my dad dies.

Spencer’s mother died a couple of years ago. She’d been living in a nursing home and had been given two weeks to live, so she was transferred to hospice. Two days later she died in the middle of the night, and when the hospital called Spencer and his dad, no one answered because they were asleep. They didn’t get the message until the morning, but by that time the hospice had transferred her body to the morgue, and they couldn’t go see her.

How is that even legal? How can someone think that’s okay?

When my mom was laying in the hospital bed there in the trauma unit with a ventilator breathing for her, I did not want to leave her side. I’d been up all night, first to wait for Steven to come get me to drive me down there, then in the nine-hour drive to make it there. It was the longest night of my life. I was so distraught, and everyone in my house was asleep or gone. Of course, the first thing I’d done was check flights to get to North Carolina from Maryland, but by the time I’d get there on a plane I could’ve driven there. I was so full of anxiety and confusion I couldn’t think straight, and my right eye was extremely dry from some bizarre eye infection that I only had then and never again. Even my tears couldn’t keep my eye from feeling like sand, and I had to keep it closed. If it hadn’t been for that eye, I’d have probably driven myself down there. So I just sat in my room vacillating between crying and staring into space. It had taken forever to get Steven to wake up and pick up his phone because he’d recently had back surgery and had taken some pain pills to sleep. And I really, really wanted Steven to be there with me. I did not want to be alone. I thought he was my soulmate, and that we’d be together forever. If I’d known we’d break up a few months later, I’d have just gotten a flight. But at the time I wanted Steven’s love and comfort, which he gave to me, all week, and for weeks and even months after, at least until Thanksgiving, when I think he just got tired of my depression, and thought that it was time I was there for him, to visit his dad in the nursing home with him. He needed something from me that I just did not have to give at that time.

It was hard to be grateful for him being there for me until now, given that he left me a few months later, because at first my memories of my mom’s death were tied up in my memories of Steven with me. How pissed off I was for such a long time that he had the privilege of being there with my family and my mom as she took her last breath. But now, as I’m typing these words, I’m realizing that I often don’t think of him when I think of that week, of her dying—not in a negative way, anyway. I absolutely do think of how heartbroken I was New Year’s and for months after we broke up, and how sad about it that I still am some days. It sounds cliché but how could something that felt so right be so wrong? I’m pretty sure that’s a song.

If everything happens for a reason, maybe the reason I had him was to help me during that time, because he did a lot for me during that week of trauma for me, and for my family. And for months after, until the Thanksgiving incident. His presence alone was comforting. He knew how to say the right words. He gave sweet hugs. He drove me down there and back, and it’s not a short trip. In fact, he drove twice, because he had to go back to work during the week.

But I am so tired of writing about that anymore, and even more tired of thinking about it. I imagine y’all are tired of reading about it. But everyone has their thing, and I guess this just has to be my thing, for a while anyway. This thing has just been going on too long, that’s for sure. Because you think you’re over it, and you have to wonder why you spend more time ruminating over your broken heart than the loss of your mother, the one who brought you into this world. And by you, I mean I. Until someone comes along with a promise to distract you from your broken heart, with all kinds of fun things to do, and a whole set of friends to go with it, who all make you laugh. Deep, belly laughs. And then that same person turns around and says, Nevermind. I’m going back to my ex, who I’ve given everything you wanted from your ex, and I’m doing everything you wanted your ex to do for you, except I’m doing it for my ex and not you.

In the midst of all of my self-pity yesterday, it occurred to me that now is my opportunity to look at this differently. This is the hardest time to exercise this practice, but it’s also the most important, the most effective.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Jay was enamored with me, and gave me the world. There’s one thing he can’t give anyone, and that’s the emotional connection so crucial to relationships. He’s conflict-avoidant, and tells lies to avoid hurting people’s feelings. It takes one to know one, and now I can see how infuriating this approach is. Just tell us our numerous group texts are annoying instead of waiting until someone asks and then giving a lame excuse that the phone hurts your eyes. You stare at your phone the entire time we’re at the diner so don’t pretend the phone hurts your eyes. We’d all much rather you say, Hey I don’t need 55 texts when I’m trying to work. Then we could all have a good laugh and leave you alone. His lack of honesty and emotional connection would never work for me. I’m tired of living my life that way, and I sure as hell don’t want to invite someone else into my life who hasn’t figured that one out yet.

Let’s also pretend that Steven came back to me today. He showed up on my doorstep and said, I’m sorry. Let’s get married. What would change? Nothing. He’d shut me out during his depressive episodes. He’d become angry and resentful when I didn’t provide the response he wanted for whatever situation that may arise. He’d complain about how wrong the world had treated him, how stupid his co-workers were, what assholes his brothers and parents were, how annoying his ex-wife was.

I don’t need that in my life.

Hopefully for his sake he’s found help. Who knows. People can change. He’s only behaving exactly the way I used to behave, and still can sometimes—let’s be real. Isn’t everyone like that at times? But it’s not up to me to try to make someone else be different.

Now is my opportunity to look at reality. This is what has happened. This happens to everyone at some point. Steven is not coming back to me. My mom will not come back to life. Jay is not interested in me. He’s going back to his ex.

The question now is, How am I going to deal with it?

Jay and his ex are just going back to something that did not work. She gets her life back: a home, her friends, someone to care for her dogs and cats… and a man who will most likely never be emotionally available. Steven has to live his life with an emotional disorder that makes relationships even harder for him than everyone else, plus he has to deal with the depression, anxiety, and possible delusions that arise, as we’ve seen with our friend Jim who went nuts this past week and stole a car. Jim clearly has his own issues, and is lucky to have a place to live that’s not jail, and Spencer has to deal with his father’s death right now. Jay has to live his life not understanding why or how to connect to people.

So life could be much worse for me today.

Right now I’m doing the hard work. I’m getting through school, working. Going to meetings, talking to my friends, writing, praying. Getting through it. One foot in front of the other, and it gets easier every day. Some days are harder than others, like this distraction with Jay, who may be a wonderful person but who sure as hell is not worth what precious time I have in this world, time that can be spent on loving and being loved by others who are willing and able to share their love with me. I have a lot to offer, and if he and Steven can’t see that, there’s nothing I can do about it. Someone else out there can and will, but when they do, I’ll get to re-learn that that won’t save me either. The only thing that can save me is faith. Call it faith that things will work out, if you want; I call it faith in God. And knowing I can have an attitude of kindness and helpfulness when I go in to work today, and I can be there for my friends. There’s so much to be grateful for. Why waste what little time I have on this earth pining over men who clearly don’t give a fuck about me? I am worth much more than that. I have friends and family who love me, and who I love. I have a friend grieving the loss of his dad, and I get the opportunity to be there for him. What more can I ask for? That’s what life is all about. Being there for each other.

And I also have the chance to build a life for myself, which I am doing. Right now. On my own.

How empowering is that?

Let me tell you: it’s pretty fucking empowering.

I have a lot of love in my heart right now, and no way am I keeping it to myself. You get more of it by giving it away. And so that’s what I’ll do at work today, and afterwards at the diner with my friends, and eff Jay if he feels uncomfortable or doesn’t go because I’m there. I can be kind to him but I sure as hell don’t need him in my life, as my boyfriend. So there.

My favorite part of this song starts around 3:15, and ends with these lyrics (written by someone in the Evangenitals, not sure exactly who–maybe Juli Crockett?):

Fuck em when they tell you that you gotta go to work
Fuck em when they tell you that you’ll always be a jerk
Fuck em when they tell you you don’t make enough money
Fuck em when they tell you that your jokes aren’t funny
Fuck em when they tell you that you gotta get a girl
Fuck em when they tell you that you’ll never see the world
Fuck em when they tell you that you don’t know shit
Fuck em when they tell you that you’re never gonna get it

What I like about this song is that it expresses a determination to prove the naysayers wrong. Those naysayers could easily be the negative voice in my head that tells me I won’t make it. But guess what? I’m going to make it. I am making it.

And you can too.

Love and peace,
TCH

PS: My apologies to anyone who doesn’t like gratuitous f-bombs. I think of my niece and nephew when I write this. Who are actually probably dropping f-bombs all over the place themselves right now. But I have decided, fuck it. These are the words that express my emotions in this moment.

Twerkin, Butt Graves, and Getting Right With God

Jay left me for his ex-girlfriend. If you could call what we had a relationship. Nevertheless, it hurts. The old me would’ve felt sorry for myself, wondered when do I get my piece of the pie, when do I get a man who’s done what he’s done for her: he gave her a home, rent-free, took care of her dogs, built a life for her. He gave her everything but his emotions, which he can’t give anyone, and so she left him. But now, for whatever reason, she has decided she wants him back. It’s coincided with the time she was supposed to be moving out a second time, and she had a hell of a time finding anything in the first place, eight months after their break-up.

I’ll be honest: the old me is still here.

None of that really matters, all the stuff about why she left or came back, except that I often wonder what makes people tick, and what changed for her. Did she really love him and want to make it work? Or did she settle, telling herself she’d accept him for who he is, because she’s poor and has no place to go, no job that pays well enough, and no way of keeping her dogs without him.

I cried. A lot.

All I kept thinking was, Why? Why did Steven leave me. Why did I have to say those words that hurt his feelings so badly. Why did that have to happen that way. Why could he not be there for me when I needed him, when I was grieving the loss of my mother.

Because this is not about Jay. If Jay was a choice, I might have taken him, even as an emotionally unavailable partner (even though I found him hard to love because of that, but remember: I’m codependent and extremely adaptable), if I believed he loved me. But he told me from the start that he was unavailable, just a distraction, that he didn’t want to get married or live with anyone, and I believed him and decided I felt the same.  Sort of. Steven had told me that too, and I’d hoped he’d change, though I became willing to live apart as long as he could commit to me emotionally, which he could not do.

The new me is trying to break free from the prison I’ve lived in. Feeling sorry for myself because I’ve worked my ass off my entire adult life with no sugar daddy or parents to bail me out of whatever bad financial decision (a master’s degree in creative writing, anyone?) I’ve made, no one to give me a car, or a motorcycle, or my own house, to walk my dog when I had one, to take me out boating. I opened my heart to someone who couldn’t commit to me, and then I opened my legs for someone who wouldn’t commit.

The old me says, Eff them all. Figuratively speaking. This heart stays closed, and no one’s getting sex from me, ever. Celibacy is what this woman right here is all about right now. I can’t WAIT for menopause. I am so DONE with men. And I ain’t interested in women either.

The new me knows this is not the answer, but I sure as hell don’t know what the answer is. I know that I’m building a life for myself. But it’s fucking painful.

Meanwhile one of my friends went nuts, stole a truck, got thrown in jail, then to the looney bin thanks to his bipolar disorder, a relative who’s a cop, and a new county ordinance in which mentally ill people get put in psych wards for rehabilitation instead of jails where they just learn to become violent criminals. This particular friend was a member of my group of friends who I was having so much fun with until Jay decided to spit on the heart that Steven had ripped out of me. We’ll call him Jim. Jim started sending bizarre group texts that only I seemed to understand because I speak the language of crazy. Here’s what the first text said:

“Commander C: what is it with your default morbid reflections grotesquely Southern twerkin’ butt positions aerial reconnaissance photography? I command that thou’st, after 3 or 4 or 5 mea culpas, watch Harold and Maude 16 times in reverse. And remember: I’m much better looking than Maude. And unlike Harold I have tried to hang myself at High Noon only 19 Johnny Unitas times. Or maybe we should kill them all. Report back before midnight or I’ll commit you to Section 8 with me forever. PS: did you know that Hemingway his own self was a spy himself in some previous war or another? Unlike the us he didn’t have a problem with evil. He just hated Fascists, whoever those sorrybastards might be. Again the midnight oil burns bright in Washington, Land of the Free. Amen.”

Let me translate for you, my dear readers.

Commander C is his nickname for me.

I’d taken this photo at Harper’s Ferry and sent to the group a week or so earlier, with this caption: “Here lies Butt.” My inner 12-year-old found it hilarious. My apologies to anyone out there with the last name “Butt.” If it makes you feel any better, people make fun of my last name too. A lot of jokes are and have been made with my last name: Honeycutt. Honeybutt. Honeyslut. Honeycunt.

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A month or so ago, Mike told us about how he’d gone to the restaurant we frequented one night and much to his horror, people were twerking to some loud music that was playing in our normally quiet and sleepy Mexican restaurant, where the loudest noise came from our laughter.

Harold and Maude is a cult film about a young guy who falls in love with an elderly woman and tries to commit suicide several times over her.

For my international readers: Section 8 is the “Housing Choice Voucher Program” in which private landlords rent decent homes to poor people at a lower cost. It’s not easy to get. I’ve tried. In the counties surrounding the DC area, you get put on a waiting list and then you hear nothing unless your name gets drawn from the lottery. My name never got picked so I don’t know what happens then, ie, if you get the place you wanted or a place that was chosen for you.

The rest of Jim’s text is irrelevant. But here was my response:

“I’m not sure what you’re trying to say there but I try to take people at face value and to communicate the same myself. I hope you won’t try to commit suicide a 20th time, I won’t be killing anyone–on purpose and hopefully not by accident–and my plan is to buy my own tiny house. And I’ve already seen Harold and Maude. Your text would make a good short story or film. To answer your questions about Butt graves and twerking: I thought it was funny, and Mike brought up twerking at Villa Maya.”

In short, I won’t be participating in or encouraging homicide or suicide in any way shape or form, no matter how casual the reference, nor will I be moving into any kind of housing with anyone else, certainly not Jim.

Soon after Jim called me from the psych ward and told me his roommate had given him Devil’s Claw, an herbal supplement for pain relief, and it put him into a manic state, after which he stole a truck and wound up in jail and then the hospital. Somehow he managed to get out of the hospital and has since been sending dozens of bizarre group texts that I haven’t responded to. I spoke to his brother who told me he’d told him that we were in a relationship and had gone for coffee together, both of which are untrue, and I’d told Jim before that I was seeing someone. His brother told me he has bipolar disorder and has done this before and they’re just glad he’s safe and he’s sorry Jim bothered me. What I want to know is why the psychiatrist thought it was okay to let Jim out, and how it is that he’d committed a felony and isn’t in jail.

Regardless it gives me a good reason not to hang out with the group anymore. No one needs to know about my brief saga with Jay, and I can and will make friends elsewhere. I’ll miss these particular friends—though not Jim because now I’m freaked out by him—but the rest of them were fun and I had a good summer. I’ll probably spend more time with other women and focus on my sobriety, spirituality, and school, and let these other women deal with these asshole men who don’t deserve my time.

My time with my family this week was surprisingly wonderful, and I’m grateful to have had that time with them. I had a good day on the eclipse, which marked one year since the day my beloved beautiful mother died. More on all of that later.

I’m off to work now, and I’m grateful to be working with my boss-friend who I love, and who’s going to the Tiny House Expo with me in October. We both have a dream. And it will come true one day.

I’ll leave you with a common theme you see along the roadsides in the South. Can I get a amen?

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The Eye of God

This time a year ago I would’ve been sitting in my room, writing, oblivious to what would unfold 12 hours later, when my sister would call me at work to tell me that our mother had had a stroke and that the outcome did not look good. That was the worst day of my life.

Today I’m driving back to North Carolina again, this time to visit my stepdad, my sister, my best friend, and then tomorrow to South Carolina to visit my dad and his wife. Tomorrow we’ll look at the eclipse, a once-in-a-lifetime, awe-inspiring event. I think it’s so cool that tomorrow is the anniversary of mom’s death. I read in this article in which an eclipse enthusiast, Rick Brown, describes the solar eclipse as the “eye of God.”

Yesterday I came across this article that was in my school’s newsletter from tinybuddha.com. A good reminder to have gratitude. The negativity I sometimes find  engulfed in does not serve me, or anyone else. It just sets in my brain and keeps me down. What I like about this article is the idea of taking something that bothers me, and seeing the positives of it. Even if my job doesn’t pay much, I’m good at it, and I like my job, which is more than I can say for 99% all my other jobs. When I feel alone, I must remember that I have family and friends who love me, and who I love. Last night I got to hang out with my friends, and today I get to visit my family for a few days. I may be slightly stressed about visiting my family, but how lucky am I to have family. And I include my stepdad and best friend in that, and I love them all very much.

Now I hope to God for my dad’s sake alone that there’s not a cloud in the sky when this eclipse comes tomorrow because my father has been planning for this event—I kid you not—for about five years now. He rented a cabin years ago, bought the glasses and everything. He determined on a map the latitude and longitude of exactly where we need to be for maximum visibility, and he has a backup plan for where we can go if it’s cloudy (not sure how that will he, but he does have a backup plan).

In light of recent events–and just because–I’m mildly anxious about visiting my family next week. My dad loves Robert E. Lee and the Confederate South, though I will say in his favor he doesn’t love the slavery and racism of it. Probably like many Southerners he dismisses that crucial piece of history as being something white people just did at the time. I’m not saying it’s okay or that I agree with it, because I do not, and for the record, I do not love Robert E. Lee and I’m glad the South did not win. However, I do not want to get into a discussion or argument about it with my dad (or anyone else), nor do I want to hear him rant. An innocent person got killed, many others injured, and Trump’s reaction(s) was/were horribly inappropriate, and that’s just my two cents. But again, I’m not interested in talking about this with my dad, who’s crushed that people want to take down memorials of his hero. I love my dad. We just don’t see eye to eye on most subjects. He’s a bit of an Archie Bunker, but he’s endearing and quirky in his way. And he’s my father.

School starts back soon and my free time won’t be free anymore, so I’ve had a bit of the end-of-the-summer blues these past few days. But isn’t this a wonderful time in my life, right now? My job’s not that stressful, and I get to learn so much every day. Now I get to see the eclipse, which my dad planned for, making it so easy for me. Otherwise, I’d have stayed home and probably worked. I’d have missed out on this.

I miss the people who once were in my life but are no longer anymore. But I believe I’ll see my mom again one day, and she lives forever in my heart, today. As for my ex-boyfriend, who I loved more than any other guy I’ve ever dated or married–and there have been a lot–I know that one day I will find someone I love just as much or more, and who will love me the same. Right now is time to focus on me. On learning and growing. School. Spirituality.

I know this post is all over the place, and I want to write more, but I haven’t even started packing, and I don’t want it to be dark out by the time I get to the middle of nowhere western North Carolina tonight. Everyone on this side of the country seems to be driving to South Carolina today so traffic will probably be heavy.

I just want to say one last thing. It’s significant to me that my mom died a year ago tomorrow, the day of the solar eclipse. What a powerful time for the one-year anniversary of her death. Not that her death is anything to be celebrated, but rather, her life is. Rest in peace, Mom. You’ll be forever loved.

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