About today…

After viewing Facebook today with all the negativity, these are things everyone should do (and, yes, I need to take my own advice)….

One: Thank the Goddess you are alive and breathing. You were given another day. Use it wisely. Don’t squander it. Don’t wish harm on others. For that matter, don’t wish on others what you wouldn’t want wished on yourself—in the blink of an eye, you could be gone. You are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Two: Practice kindness, empathy, and compassion wherever you go. Everyone is fighting an internal battle you cannot imagine. Some people are really good at hiding their thoughts, emotions, and tears… only to show them when things get seriously tough or when they’re about to break. Don’t think that they’re strong all the time. No one ever is.

Three: Let go of what you cannot control or what you cannot change. This one is big. BIG. This is every over-thinker’s Achilles Heel. This includes but is not limited to love, friendship, judgment, and hate. You cannot control whom you love, how long you are friends, lovers, or when things will change in your relationships—this is the hardest for people to accept. I’m guilty myself; I try to save them all. Whether you are in that person’s life still or not, love is love. I fight every day with my own thoughts to understand why things didn’t work out in the past with people I love and will love until I die. It doesn’t change how they feel. Love them anyway. You’ll be better for it. You’ll understand and handle emotional pain. You’ll love more deeply too.

Four: Listen to your heart—and wear it on your sleeve. Often. In the last six years, I’ve discovered that love can come and go repeatedly. It hurts. It sucks. And it feels, seems, like it will never get better. It does. No matter who you love, you cannot make someone love you, nor should you want to. You’ll love again. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll only love this one person and never fall in love again. It doesn’t matter. Live with your heart on your sleeve anyway. Sometimes you can’t even begin to understand how or why things go wrong. And you’ll question it for years. That’s okay. Love them until the day you die. Sometimes it feels selfish to want to get a second or third or fourth chance at love. Once seems like enough when some souls in this big old world don’t even get one chance.

Five: You’ll feel lonely. Remain calm, because this will pass. Time changes things. Life changes. Feelings change. “Everything dies baby, that’s a fact. But maybe everything that dies some day comes back.” (Lyric by Bruce Springsteen.) Change is the only constant.

Six: Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

© 2017 Crystal Heidel

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Never Stop Loving

“A relationship should not be measured in months or years. It’s the calibre of the memories that matter. Their impact, their permanence, and the degree to which they change you. I’ve had relationships lasting years I can now scarcely recollect, and hours with others that feel like infinities.” – Beau Taplin

One night, while sitting outside at the Grandview Hotel in Santorini, Greece, I watched silent lightning off in the distance over one of the volcanic islands, a rare sighting in September, and thought about how that lightning’s charges traveled from cloud to cloud, bouncing around, changing over the distance. It was the same thing it was before—lightning—but it was also slightly different in nature. The charges and ions weren’t the same as when they began. Something clicked then, and I felt relief and sadness and happiness all at once.

I looked around at the darkened hotel windows of people on the yoga retreat that I barely knew three days ago, but whom were now friends, people I had come to care about over three days. I was different because I cared for them.

That was the moment that I realized there is nothing wrong with falling in love too quickly or caring too much for people too soon. I realized that it’s okay to wear my heart on my sleeve, that it’s okay to pour myself—my heart and soul—into relationships, whether they are friendship or romantic, whether they fail or prosper. And I also realized that I am not my mistakes, which I had thought included falling too hard and too fast for people.

I used to think, My heart is too big and when I’m let down, the pain is just about unbearable. I used to cry myself to sleep. It exhausted me, wore me down. And the bigger ones depressed me. I constantly judged myself: What did I do wrong? What is wrong me with me? The answer was always a resounding: “Nothing.” I did nothing wrong. I knew that there was nothing wrong with giving your all to someone, but my heart just couldn’t face that answer. It always looked for a flaw in me.

Despite having had multiple conversations like this with myself over the years, despite feeling broken and let down time after time, I always seemed to be able to fall in love. Always easily. I fall in love quickly, without logical reason, without thinking of the consequences. Almost every day. I fall in love with someone’s laugh. I fall in love early in the morning, when someone’s eyes are too sleepy and they’re so completely themselves, without worry wrinkles or frown lines. When someone winks at me with inside jokes. I fall in love with the sadness in someone’s eyes when they talk about what or who they’ve lost. I fall in love with people’s stories, and the way their eyes crinkle when they try not to cry. Or the way they close one eye and squint with the other and look up as they try to recall details. I fall in love with the way someone talks, their isms, the words they string together and their favorite foods and movies and the way they walk. I fall in love with their passions. With the books they read. The shows they watch. The places they talk about most. I fall in love with the way people smile, the kind of smile that makes their eyes crease and shows a beautiful set of imperfect teeth. I fall in love with the freckles on their back, with the way I can see constellations and mentally draw the connecting lines. I fall in love with the way their hand gently touches my body, as if protecting me, even though I know that that hand belongs to someone who has inner demons I can imagine are similar to mine, whose mind can be dark and full of emotions they can’t speak aloud. And still I fall in love with them because that person needs it more than anyone else.

Perhaps the reason I fall in love so easily is because I always fall for the right person at the wrong time. Without fail. And despite all the love I’ve given to people who have never returned it, I’ve never run out of it.

I sometimes think that some people stockpile love because they’re afraid to give it away, they’re afraid of loving too easily or caring too much or too soon. Like I used to be. I feel that in today’s society people are stingy with their love. They shelter it and keep it locked inside, hoping for the perfect person to give it to. But there is no perfect person, there’s only imperfect people who make you happy.

One thing I know about myself, I may drive people crazy, I may push some buttons or become a bit ditzy on occasion (usually when I haven’t had my coffee), and I’m definitely emotional at times, especially when I’m mad or shocked, but I truly don’t believe I can ever stop caring for someone once I start.

Pain makes people change.

Pain makes people change.

I am not the same person I was three weeks ago.

My soul has been transformed.

Who I am now embodies nothing of what I was nine months ago, or a year or even two years ago. The parts of me you remember, that made you feel like there was drama or that angered you or upset you, the parts of me that you decided you didn’t like, or wished were different or wanted to change, no longer exist. I put myself back together differently.

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” ~ Isak Dinesen

Before I left for Greece I was wounded. There is no other word that accurately wraps up all I had been feeling for the previous nine months. Of course I was elated at the thought of the trip but I was also worried I wouldn’t come back. I thought this trip would be my last—not because I would stay if I loved it (because I absolutely would if I didn’t have people and friends and a job I love), but because I felt I wouldn’t survive the trip. It was a feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. I honestly thought I was going to die there. I remember telling a coworker, “Something feels different about this trip.” And though I felt scared, I was also okay with it. My thought: if it is my time, I am ready.

For that last month at work my emotions were in chaos. I was full of insecurities and shame. I felt ignored and isolated. I was incredibly sensitive. Every emotion you could name I felt it at the same time; I was a walking kaleidoscope of emotions. In other words, I was completely and thoroughly unbalanced. I didn’t realize how much I needed those two weeks away from everyone and everything that was causing me to feel that way until I was without them.

That first night in Mykonos, after a light yoga class in a breezy area that had a view of the beautiful Mediterranean, we sat down for a group dinner of traditional moussaka. We drank local wine and shared Greek salads. Then the ten of us went around the table and introduced ourselves. I had had a very long day, a long flight, a longer week, and an even longer year. I was exhausted and combining that with being emotional, I was internally distraught.

I was prepared to say, “I’m only here for the yoga.” But right before me, a friend of mine, Michelle, introduced herself and praised our yoga instructor for her ability to pull people together and heal them through yoga. She began to tear up and I felt the waterworks building behind my eyes. Michelle was right. Yoga healed. Our instructor turned to me and indicated it was my turn. I opened my mouth and instead of saying the words I wanted to say, I broke down into tears. “I need to be here. I need this.” I went on for a few minutes about work and my emotional roller coaster of a year; I can’t even remember any of what I actually said. At some point, when the tears and sniffles were getting too thick and they couldn’t understand me, I stopped.

I fell hard for someone early in the year (I can’t equate it to love, but at the time I could see this person in my future for a long time), and when it ended, it broke me. Instead of facing it, I worked long hours and I put a lid on my emotions and feelings over the summer. I went to the beach often and imagined the ocean was healing me, but I knew it hadn’t.

Over the course of the next five days, we did yoga, got to know each other, and ourselves, better. I wasn’t afraid to get angry at myself, to get emotional, to cry in the middle of practice, to let the tears fall as I stared up at the blue sky in savasana. I knew that the only way to get out of where I was emotionally was to be unrelentingly honest and harsh with myself. I knew that I could not be silent with myself.

On my birthday, that Wednesday, our instructor took us to a little private cove where we all removed our bathing suit tops and sunbathed topless. She begged us to remove our bottoms in the water as well. We swam naked in the cool, crystal-clear, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. For the first time in years, I felt free. It was pure freedom. Thirty-three years before, I thought, I was cocooned in my mother’s womb, protected by her, and now, I was also cocooned in these clear, freeing, salty waters of Mother Nature, protected by her.

That day I was just beginning to scratch the surface of my changing my soul.

Tuesday of the following week, a group of us decided to go hiking next to our gorgeous hotel in Megalochori. The trail winded down through the volcanic soil, years of explosions evident in the layers. Ash. Metamorphic schist. Red clay. The beauty of the island itself was only surpassed by the amazing churches built along the way. On Santorini alone, there is at least 470 churches. They are sometimes in backyards, by streets, or down mountain sides. This one we were coming up to was gorgeous. The view was spectacular. The white-washed building is made entirely of cement and brick. The details are painted blue and the inside I imagined smelled like an old basement from the 1970s. I paused as I neared the church, I wondered who built it and why. Was it a family church? I stepped up onto a ledge near the path. It was built up for purpose of guiding people along the safest route. I pulled my phone out and opened the camera app. I lined up the shot and took a photo. I put my camera back in my sports bra and took a step with my right foot onto the next part of the ledge.

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Within seconds that boulder was tumbling down the side of the volcanic trail that plunged at least 100 feet. Or so it seemed. Everyone later praised me for my yoga training. For my quick thinking. To be completely honest, I wasn’t scared. I didn’t even have time to react. I leapt. My left foot hitting the dirt trail. I tottered before placing my right foot down

In that instant one person’s face flashed in my mind. I didn’t want to say it out loud. It was the person I wanted to forget. The person who let me go. Why couldn’t I let him go?

“Holy shit, are you okay?” Keith, Michelle’s husband, called out from about fifty yards behind me.

“I’m good. That was close.” I wish I had something more witty to say, something quirky or epiphany-ish.

But I was too busy thinking about why the person I cared, who clearly didn’t care about me, was the first one to pop into my head?

Something feels different about this trip, I remember saying to a coworker. A friend recently told me that she believed that before we’re born, we write into our lives various exit points along the way. We are faced with opportunities to take these exits, to cross over. Or we can choose to skip them. Was this an exit point I planned on skipping? Or was it one I was supposed to take and didn’t?

None but ourselves can free our minds.” ~ Bob Marley

A few weeks before our trip I sent my friends Lori and Deb, both of whom were going on the trip, a message on Facebook. I told them that they needed to hold me accountable for taking a plunge off a “cliff” in Oia, Santorini. Deb was excited at the prospect of cliff jumping, and Lori assured me she would be there to support me. That was my main goal going to Greece this time around. Back in 2014 on the Greece Yoga retreat, we had hiked from Fira to Oia and went swimming at the little cove near Ammoudi Bay. A bunch of us swam out to the old, defunct church, and climbed up its steps, walked to the edge fifteen or sixteen feet above the water. I remember standing, looking down, terrified to see the boulders and rocks, even though they were 30-40 feet beneath the surface. I backed down along with another retreater, taking the steps to the lower level in a walk of shame I would come to deeply regret for the next two years.

On Friday of our last week, I woke at 6:45 and prepped for the hike, packing my backpack with water and a towel, but throughout the morning I constantly imagined taking that leap off the church “floor” fifteen feet down into the cool waters. We started in Fira again and this time the hike seemed easier. It wasn’t as difficult as I had remembered. I think my mindset was to just get to the cliff. Just get to the cliff. You need to jump. I remember thinking that. You need to jump. You need to take that step into the air and into the water. You must.

I don’t remember why I kept thinking that. I don’t recall the logic behind it. Though nothing in life is completely logical, nor is it planned.

We stopped at a church at the mid-way point. A local told our instructor, who speaks Greek, that the painting/image of Saint Elias, survived the last eruption at Santorini Caldera. We stared in awe at the glass that never broke during the quakes. I looked this painting over, studying it. No matter where I stood, his eyes followed. I imagined him questioning me. Why do you need to do this? Why do you feel you must jump off this cliff? I wanted to tell him that it is for me. If I do this, I will feel at peace. The parts of me that I didn’t like would die with that jump. The part of me questioning everything, would die.

We gathered our backpacks and continued on the hike, getting lost and found in Oia, finding our way to the bottom of the town and Ammoudi Bay. I didn’t waste any time, streaming past stores and restaurants. I ignored the shop owners begging me to come inside. I muscled my way past tourists taking their time along the cobblestone streets. Must jump. I paused only long enough to take a photo of a blue-topped church overlooking the caldera. I raced down, past the castle, down the donkey steps to Ammoudi Bay.

I waited for the rest of the group to arrive. We did yoga and walked to the swimming cove.

“You gonna do this?” Deb said.

“Been thinking about it the entire hike.”

“I think I’m going to go, too.” Keith said.

I felt relief. Not that a guy was going, but that someone else was being supportive.

I wasted no time getting into the water. It was cool in the air, but the water was refreshingly warm. I made a b-line for the church. The current was strong and I turned to see who was following me.

Deb. Keith. Erin.

Lori was already waiting with her iphone, ready to take photos.

We found a rope in the corner, used for climbing out of the water. I hoisted myself up, Deb wondering if I needed help. You couldn’t get me up there fast enough. I needed this.

You may be thinking I was suicidal, not being able to wait to leap off a fifteen foot old church platform into 30+ foot of water. I wasn’t. I wasn’t anywhere near suicidal. But I knew some part of me, the part that had been breaking over the last month, that part of me, would eventually fall apart and die after I jumped.

I climbed the steps, hearing Deb not far behind and Keith and then Erin. At the top I walked out to the edge, pausing to locate Lori before I stepped up to the ledge. I looked down. Don’t think, I thought, just jump.

I looked down, my toes curling over the ledge. I remember looking down. Don’t think. Rocks were crystal clear through the water. They looked so close. They seemed to glisten as if they were able to pierce the surface, if I tried, I might be able to touch them. Don’t think.

I leaped into the air. I don’t remember the exact thought going through my head as I was falling, all I know is that it was liberating.

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The retreat was called ‘soothe your soul’ but my soul needed no soothing.

I’m not the same person I was three weeks ago.

Pain changed me.

It made me put myself back together differently.

Why you should date a girl who writes.

      With a hot toddy in hand (to fight a pesky earache), I felt that long lost urge to write again after my summer-long hiatus from writing. And though it’s not for a scene in my next book, I let my thoughts take me where they wanted to go:
      Date a girl who understands the power of the written word, how they can twist and tempt, for she will tell you exactly how she feels, especially when she’s alone with you. She may whisper it to you in the middle of the night when the lights are out and she can only hear the sound of your breathing, even if you are sleeping. It may take her a little while to process her emotions, to think it all through, but she will tell you. And though it sounds like a contradiction, sometimes the words won’t come easy for her and she’ll say things she doesn’t truly mean because she was fumbling through her thoughts, trying to piece together her emotions in the heat of the moment. It may take her days or weeks or months to figure something out, even if you’ve already forgotten all about it, because writers remember everything.
      It’s ingrained in them to remember. She’ll pick out unique details and use them to set mood and emotion and setting. She’ll use memories and moments from her life to write magically. She’ll remember what you wore on your first date, the things you said, and the hints at the future. She’ll remember how you may or may not have kissed her goodnight or may or may not have asked her to stay the night. She’ll remember the whispers at the bar as you leaned closer, the warmth of your breath, the gentle tone of your voice when you say “sweetheart” or “babe” or “darling.” She’ll remember the tender gesture of touching the small of her back or the top of her knee as you excuse yourself from the bar. She’ll remember the seductive, midnight talks and embraces and for-lovers-ears-only phrases. She’ll remember the ways you caressed her skin, and the feel of your lips on the back of her neck, or the fact that you don’t like her hair in your face. A writer will remember all the beautiful phrases you told her, but also the ones that cut deep. She’ll write about them—about you—because it’s important to her. Because you’re important to her. And she’ll learn from her mistakes. They will change her as much as they changed what you thought of her.
      And because of that, she’ll work hard. She doesn’t give up easily. She knows that the first draft is shit. She knows that not every sentence, not every well-placed word will end up in the final draft. She’ll make cuts. She’ll delete words, rewrite entire paragraphs, and scrap entire chapters if it doesn’t help the novel. She’s willing to work on it until it gets better. And she’ll apply this same philosophy to your relationship. IF you give her the chance. She’ll grow and change and become malleable, learning how to connect with you on a deeper level. She’ll think about how to do this because she cares about you. And she wants to grow with you so that when you’re old and grey and doubting her love, she can pull out her journal and show you that she cherished all those moments, every fight, every laugh, every kiss.
      Writers think things through carefully, with caution. Sometimes she’ll even over-think. This is not a flaw. She thinks deeply about life, about love, about how things could be better. She thinks about how she can change herself to make the world better, to make your relationship with her better. She sees your highest potential, and thinks of ways to bring that out of you, to make each day count for you and for her. She wears her heart on her sleeve because she is attuned to how fragile life is and how each moment must be captured so as not to be lost or squandered. She writes about this because she is exploring life’s mysteries. She sees beauty in the mundane world around her because she is, at heart, a romantic. Don’t ever tell her she shouldn’t be.
      She will be vulnerable but that means she does not fear her emotions. She will feel them. She will allow them to pass through her and then she’ll write about them. And some of them may even be about you, and they may or may not be nice or kind, but it is how she processes things. Don’t think that just because you are in a one of her written pieces that shows a different side of you, that her feelings for you have changed. She knows that you cannot fully love someone until you’ve seen their darkness. And if she still wants to be with you after she’s seen it, don’t let her go. That’s rare today.
      And though it seems it, she is not crazy. She may be eccentric. She may infuriate you on occasion, but her soul is filled with magic and adventure and beauty and a touch of madness. However, life with her will never be dull. She loves to learn and will always be willing to try something new. Because of this, she will always read. And the more she devours books the more she realizes she doesn’t know everything and that just makes her insanely curious, craving knowledge. She cannot stop wanting to learn. So teach her something new. Talk about something she knows nothing about. Challenge her intelligence. This will make her love you more.
      And yes, she will eventually choose writing over you. Be okay with that. Be okay when she’s awake at 2 AM on a Tuesday morning, writing in her notebook with the lamp on in the living room, glasses she hardly wears perched on her nose, a blanket tucked close around her, so she didn’t disturb you. Chances are high that you were her inspiration. So let her write. She’ll come back to bed, refreshed, clear-headed, happy and ready to spend the rest of the night snuggled next to you. Because writing, like breathing, is the only way she can survive, which means she can be easily distressed, a little depressed or equally elated. So give her space, be supportive, but don’t make accusations, because as gorgeous as her magical soul is, she can be dangerous. Words are her weapon.
      © Crystal Heidel, 2016

Split Second

I was driving home this evening, in the pouring rain, and I decided to switch lanes, to slow down so I wouldn’t hydroplane (even though I think it’s fun A.F.). I glanced over into my right sideview mirror, checking the right lane, and saw no cars, but as I was turning my head back and aiming my wheel to the right, lights flashed in my face. In that split second, I swore I was going to be struck by another car. I really thought that the lights, fragmented and blinding, hit my eyes head-on, would be my last.

And then there was darkness. And I was still breathing. Still driving. I blinked, making certain I was still there. Those lights I thought were going to hit me weren’t moving; they were only stopped very close to the edge of the road as my car slid into the right lane.

Yet in that moment, in that fraction of a second where there was only blinding brightness, my only thought was ‘I never told them.’

I never told those close to me how much I cared for them. I’m sure they know. Who wouldn’t know I care? I show it in little details, in tiny ways every day. I do those things because I want to; buy lunch for someone, give away items that I no longer need, design something for free because I want to do something nice for someone. I never expect anything in return (after all, expectation is the mother of all evil). I give. I’m a giver.

If I care about you, I only want to spend time with you… watching a movie, having a glass of wine in silence, telling stories, or just laughing. Seriously, when was the last time you spent a moment just laughing with someone, nothing else? If I care about you, I’m going to remember when you say things and give you something that relates to that. If I care, I will find your laugh contagious, your smile endearing, and your soul beautiful, whether you think it is or not. I have spent the better part of two years getting to know myself enough to find and discover this ‘giving’ side of me. It wasn’t easy and it certainly hasn’t come without resistance, but for me, it is so worth it. I give because I am kind, because I want to.

I recently spent a bit of time with a great man. This was someone I never thought in a hundred years would be anything but a friend to me, yet over the course of two months, I was taken by surprise. I was comfortable with him. He made me feel happier than I was—and I was certainly happy to be alone, but I enjoyed his company as well. In the two months before we stopped spending time together, I discovered more about him that caused me to care. I found the way he yawned when waking in the morning endearing, the way he’d tell me to drive safe and let him know when I was home sweet, the way he settled his arm over my hip at night a safety, the way he made sleep come easily to me… I thought he knew these things, these little, tiny things that made me care. But I never said, “I care for you.”

That was a mistake because I thought he knew.

I thought my family knew.

I thought my friends knew.

And maybe they do, but I have been so wrapped up in my life, my job, my mind for the last month, I never even uttered the phrase, “I care about you” to anyone. Because I haven’t had “the time” to do or say these things.

That’s all I ever wanted to give to the people I care about. Time.

Time is defined as “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.”

My time is right now, only here in the present. And I realized I’ve spent most of it thinking, wondering, being confused and frustrated by things beyond my control, people I didn’t or don’t understand, than actually spending my time with the people I care about. And it took a pair of headlights shining in my eyes to make me realize all this.

So here’s to spending time with the ones you care about, be it friend, family, or significant other… tell them you care. Time is not guaranteed to any of us. Use it wisely. Don’t hesitate. I’m going to try to take my own advice here… I hope you do the same.

Closer to me.

The late Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

I had read this quote many times before, but today, for some reason, this resonated with me. You see, I love yoga. I love that it calms my mind, because it seems that my mind never turns off, never stops. But over the last couple months, my love of yoga has drifted away from me.

This morning, as I pulled my mat from the car, and dragged my tired butt into the studio, I was looking for change. I was looking to get back to ME. Closer to me. I was expecting one of my favorite yoga instructors to be teaching, hoping for another teacher, and was a bit relieved to find neither. This yoga instructor changed things up too… you see where I’m going with this? Change.

“Face the blue wall today. Not the mirrors.” What? I thought, the blue wall? The back of the room? But we always start facing the mirrors. Okay, I told myself, just go with it. This is change. “Start in savasana, an active one. Keep your eyes open.”

I rolled down onto my back, feet facing the blue wall, relaxing my arms and legs into corpse pose. I gazed at the ceiling. This is a hot yoga studio, so there’s a heated room, and people sweat; we make it humid… so there is moisture in the air. Normally, facing the mirrors, the moisture stains on the one tile were strange and I couldn’t make anything out and they looked like blobs. This morning, I saw a face. A woman, head tilted a bit toward the sky. She looked happy. But this, I reminded myself, is a tile on the ceiling, a water stain. And that is when Wayne’s saying popped into my head: Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. I realized, staring at that tile, that I had been stuck for the last two months, looking at things only from one perspective: what I wanted, not what I needed.

A couple months ago, I went to a movie and dinner with a friend. I ended up having a bit much to drink and staying at his place. I wasn’t too drunk to remember things, but I was drunk enough to know I wouldn’t have been able to drive home safely. Throughout the night we snuggled. I didn’t think much of it, being half asleep and still slightly intoxicated. The next morning, we slept in, waking every so often, snuggling together. To me, it felt right. I had never looked at him as anything other than a friend, but that morning, waking next to him, it felt different, yet right. Eventually we rose, went to breakfast, and he dropped me back at my car.

We started texting more, hanging out more. I started giving up my yoga practices through the week, my writing time, my ME time, to spend time with him, because I was starting to see him as more than a friend. The more time I spent with him, the more I discovered we had in common. The thing was, I had always promised myself I would not be ‘that woman.’ The one who was always available, dropped other things to spend time with a man, yet I found myself doing that more and more. I had broken one of my most cherished promises: I had forgotten to take care of me.

I realized that I had drifted further away from who I am, away from the woman with whom he started spending his time. I had felt distant from myself. I realized that without my thrice-weekly yoga practices, and running, I was losing myself. Some people practice yoga as a form of exercise. I practice yoga because I need to; it balances me, makes me focus, it makes me who I am, it helps me write better. It makes me ME. For me, it is a spiritual practice that calms my over-active mind. And being away from the spiritual side of me for weeks was not good for my body, my soul, or my mind. Being a writer, I tend to read into things more than I should, because in novels, everything needs to be in the story for a reason, and if there is no reason for it being there, you cut it. Without my yoga practice to balance my mind, body and soul, I began to over-analyze everything… texts, conversations, glances. Not just with him, but with everyone. I felt like I was going a little bit stir-crazy… just a little.

So I practiced yoga last night before going out to see a band. It made me less self-conscious, more like me, and I danced to the band all night. I made myself go to yoga this morning, even though I was tired from last night. And I feel twenty times happier, less stressed and healthier. I’m feeling more like myself now than I have been in the last month. And when we ended class today, back in savasana, I thanked the Universe and my yoga instructor, for changing things up and reminding me that I needed to get closer to ME.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

The YES Project

A little over two months ago I decided that I need to go on a “YES” mission. Anytime anyone asked for my help, for advice, or if I should do something or say something, I would say YES (some of the time it sounded like, “Yeah, I guess that’s a good idea.”) I called it the The YES Project.

Normally I would weigh my options, the outcomes, the pros and cons. I would mentally make the list then check off the appropriate boxes with my imaginary red pencil (and I hated that pencil color—but it’s the only one that made sense when making decisions). Most of the time, my mental list was quick and easy: Yes, it would make me more money, but it would be a headache, so “Nope, not doing it.” Yes, I would feel better doing it, but I wanted to spend my time writing, so “No to the project and yes to writing.” And yes, saying this or telling the person this right now, would be a mistake that you’ll play over and over in your head. So “NO. Definitely do not say that. Write it down, burn the paper, but don’t say it, don’t tell that person what you’re really thinking, because you know it will haunt you. You might not regret it—and you shouldn’t—but you’ll replay it over and over until you go insane.”

Some of this comes from being an author. In the span it takes me to process a request, I have played it out in my head; I have played out every twist and turn, answered every question you may have. I have had multiple conversations with you before you even take your next breath. It’s a problem I think most authors have; it’s because we tell stories. Most authors want happy endings. But real life is not full of happy endings. Especially for writers. (However Hallmark and Disney would have you believe otherwise.)

I was tired of saying “No.” I was tired of rehashing conversations and questions and wondering “What if?” I was tired of imagining how things might play out, but not taking the risk to do so… So I decided to make my life a YES challenge for a few months. If someone asked me to do something, I said, “Yes,” with as much enthusiasm as I could muster (and some days that sounded like, “You must say yes. Do not say no. DO NOT say no.”)

At the beginning of the first month, I had said yes to dinner with people I didn’t want to have dinner with (and it turned out to be amazing!), and I had agreed to design a fellow Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild member’s book cover (still working out all the details, but it’s going well). I had said yes to a weekend away, having a book club meeting in October at my cousin’s. I met amazing women, answering great questions, I got drunk, slept in, and hiked a beautiful trail. But as the first month closed, things got interesting, stressful, and poignantly (and ferociously) confusing, very quickly.

Let me tell you, I made my fair share of mistakes. I started caring for people I now believe I had no right for which to care. I said things I should not have said and crossed lines I probably should not have crossed. In other words, I was human.

I told people how I truly felt. I let my guard down. I let people in I should not have let in. And I rescued myself from feeling stupid on more than one occasion. But some occasions happened. Those occasions came in like a bat through the gates of hell, wings on fire, crying like a banshee. I look back now and reread conversations/messages I’ve had with people and I will point at a paragraph or a text and nod. “That. That moment right there… That sentence. That’s what I should NOT have done. Remember this for next time.”

It’s not regret. I don’t regret anything I said or did because it was all true and you can’t regret something you wanted at the time. You can’t regret saying something that is true. But I do sit back now and say, “That moment pushed that person away. And that’s on me. I went too far. I asked too many questions.” I went full-on these last two months, saying YES to everything and I ended up pushing away a lot of people.

But I also gained a lot. I gained knowledge and understanding. I gained a new-found love of hiking and traveling. I gained new music to enjoy. I gained a new-found love of giving. I fell in love with life and wonder. I gave 100% of myself to the people who asked me to help them, whether in donating time, money, or my advice, or being a person to vent to, or a just a friend to them, and I enjoyed every damned second of it. Sometimes it was not pretty. Sometimes it was more than ugly—it was downright painfully ugly. But it was oh so rewarding.

My “YES” to everything is coming to a close, but I will probably say yes more likely than no from now on.

Yes gave me time with my thoughts, with truly getting to know people, and where I stand. Yes gave me a better handle on my life; I juggled, struggled and pushed myself to limits I didn’t think I had in me, but they were the most rewarding weeks.

And yet as I begin to close this last “YES” month, I feel sad that I’ll be skipping some moments of pure, frustrating, beautiful joy, but I will continue growing. And I can always do another Yes Project/Month.

Now, back to writing, and living and loving.