The final word
Spotify had a tough morning. She couldn’t read me, and I think she panicked. There was some Nine Inch Nails trailed by a jaunty little ditty by a bare footed songstress running through daffodil fields, or maybe it was alfalfa —and then I was “Just a Girl” and also a crooning Fiona Apple “Shadowboxer”. I had emo-whiplash. It’s a real thing, involving confusing pop culture intervention for processing complex hurt. It said, “Hey girl, I really want to help you but could you settle into a genre of grief for me? I know it’s early for the whole I wanna f*@K you thing. You haven’t even had a full Coke Zero yet. I appreciate your feedback on the barefoot girl. I get it —you want to trip her and watch her fall, so I’ve hit a nerve there. Gwen is righteous pissed but for the wrong reasons, and that is not going to help you. I am searching for a song that says “You’re reaching for silver linings and flowers growing from fields of death and suffering, but your energy is waning and you’re kind of mad about that guy who broke your heart and you’re second level mad that you’re mad because you are better than that and that is, well, maddening, oh and by the way, doesn’t it feel in this moment like the very foundation of your life is being ripped out from underneath you, winky face”.
Did your playlist choke today? Did it glitch? If so, I am personally sorry. My bad.
She was looking for a song that said “Screw you I loved you and you lied to my face and you didn’t have the courage to be honest and I have too much integrity to do anything but forgive you which I deeply believe in but also it feels like a curse today and also my Mom’s quality of life is 1/10 and she deserves so much more and also my kids are totally displaced by the world pandemic and I have five dependents and a dog to care for” but puhlease don’t tell anyone, shhhhhhhbecause I am ready for a new love, and I don’t want to scare him off. Dealio???? My secret’s safe with you and your bestie, right, oh and maybe your hairdresser and then just that one barista because she is so smiley and always makes sure you get the extra foam.
I want to say in my defense that I really am Daisy. That I will grow with joy toward the sun and I will soak up all the mofo light and I will shine it back at you, boy and girl and gender bending bitches because you are all my people and my life’s work, and it is true. But this morning there was all of this quicksand, muck, mire and BOG, bogging me down as bog is wont to do. Friggin’ bog. And I had a moment of “screw the daisies. Kill the daisies. Daisies MOCK my torment”. Sigh.
That can happen. Even to me. Whimper. I’m sharing because I believe in keepin’ it real.
That is when the dark humour comes out, from the bog, which smells like a stogie and a cheap bottle of Cuervo. I save it for my inner circle. I mean like, yes, of course you are my inner circle. But my inner, inner circle. The one you are not ready for. My sisters and I under the moonlight drinking tequila and resurrecting the dead (Practical Magic reference in case you missed it). And my bestie. She beats me at dark. She’s an Aquarius with a Scorpio Moon. WHAT? All the new age girls turn their heads and all the people with feelings quake in their boots and they should. Okay fine I will invite you next Blood moon when the roses are unfurling their dark wings in the ocean garden and the frogs are multiplying. I was planning to anyhow, geez.
I MUST KEEP IT REAL, so when I am asking you to do all that crazy stuff I ask you to do to fix your shit, you’re just gonna know in your bones that there is a path back to that Daisy and I can water witch it.
I will say this much. It SUCKS to feel powerless. Anger is something I call a secondary emotion. It is hurt, plus powerlessness. And man, some folks out there are super great at making us feel that secondary emotion. Some conditions of the World are super amazing at making us feel sad. Just so very sad. And helpless to have a voice, to be seen for our truth, to be loved as we should be loved. Sometimes we are held under water to test our innocence, if we drown we are sinless and if we live we are hanged for being a witch. Or we are simply tortured into confessing our guilt, and then burned at the stake for it. It’s a neat system and it feels pretty super duper when it’s you and you have no control over the narrative. One minute you’re the hero doing all the heroic things like loving with your little red heart on your sleeve and the next you are on trial and the jury’s hissing and you are praying to your black cat to share a few of her extra lives. No one will even listen to the basic fact that if you were a witch they’d have never made it to the court room alive, like DUH *chews gum with open mouth and rolls eyes* and that also if they believe that mean girl gossip then maybe they should like think twice about killing you, oh my gawd #cursemewithaspoon. Sometimes the very assault to the intellect is worse than the complete ruin.
My goodness gracious Friends. I don’t want that for you! I don’t want you to feel one itsy bitsy spider worth of that shitty bottom of the barrel feeling. I am mad about that. I am mad that you have to be ground into the dust and dirt that chokes your words. I am even quoting my own song lyrics right now circa pre-Covid for those of us who can remember back that far.
The truth is that The World and its favourite Villains and Players are playing out some kind of pain in action. I know it. I really know it. I KNOW that it doesn’t help you to defend yourself, or to retaliate. I know that Karma is a pale comfort, because we don’t really want to meet suffering with more suffering. I know it professionally and personally and historically and presently and emotionally and spiritually and intellectually. But this morning I just want one of those movie moments when they get theirs and are stopped from doing super bad mean nasty things to really good witches who don’t deserve it and really loved them. Today I just want a happy fucking ending already.
But then in that same moment I take it all back and I just want to pack them a lunch with a loving note and tell them how I understand how it all fell apart for them because I am wired to love and forgive and heal, blah blah blah, Lassie blah.
And this is how we get stuck.
Anger is fair and reasonable and you know what? It is also NOTHING. By which I mean like every other emotion it communicates a message. It can’t be RIGHTEOUS. We don’t ever neeeeed to get in touch with our anger. It isn’t precious or an answer to weakness. It doesn’t come in a kit with healthy boundaries and it certainly doesn’t include a free dose of enlightenment for the person place or thing that screwed us. Ain’t that a shame? BUT we also can’t will it out of existence.
Anger is a cry for love.
It’s a cry for a voice.
It’s a cry against oppression.
Anger heralds a lie.
And that lie says “You have power over me”. You have the power to decide my guilt. You have the power to control the narrative. You have the power to steal, hurt, wrong.
If there was no way out of the ways we create and recycle pain, if pain was absolute and I was sitting her in my Mom’s bedroom while she goes through so much of it, and I didn’t KNOW otherwise, the way we know experientially, then I would throw my hands up and my gauntlet down.
But friends, beloveds, hearts of my pissed off little heart, it’s not the truth.
One time when I was pregnant and camping with a toddler in 40 degree heat (no it was not planned, the pregnancy nor the trip where I found out I was pregnant by becoming nauseous and intolerant of heat) I went into the campground camping store to buy my toddler a popsicle, only to find out before leaving the store that the popsicle, one of those long spirally ones, was broken close to the base and impossible for the toddler to hold. I waited in line a second time to explain and the woman there said to me “Sorry you can’t exchange it because I can’t sell that if it’s broken”. “Yes,” I retorted, “you should not be selling it to me, because it’s broken”. Rinse and repeat this chat a few times over and watch my face redden. To my credit, sick to my stomach and with a frustrated toddler and raging hormones, I did not jump over the counter and take a bitch down. She was never going to see. Because of what she had going on in her noggin’ I was never going to be seen or heard, have my basic impeccable logic understood, let alone experience the justice I so justly deserved. I am not so sure this would make me angry today. I’d buy another popsicle and enjoy my child and forgive the idea that this person was wrong or stupid. I would throw them, in my mind toward the heavens in a gesture of ‘this is not for me to fight against’.
But sometimes a popsicle is a heart or a life and sometimes our endurance is just maxed out.
And so if you are angry, I am going to suggest that first you give a voice to the anger. Let it tell you how much it hurts, that he saw it all wrong, that her pain made her cruel, that the goddamned World doesn’t understand, that you had love or joy pried like a teddy bear out of your ruddy chubby little fingers. Don’t fight it and please let me help you not get LOST in the Bermuda Triangle of the nine thousand seven hundred sixty three ways to ineffectively affect justice. Because NOTHING justifies pain and loss and no attempts at affecting justice solve for the unconscious fear that we deserve the injustice, that we are somehow to blame.
Say it all. Write it all down. Scream it all out (where no one can hear you). Email me I have a release exercise I can give you. Hell I will scream it with you.
Tell your story to someone who unconditionally supports you. Tell them the parts that sting. The maddening shitty awful shake your fists and flail parts. Call me up, I will listen. Write it down for me, I’ll read it.
Break my heart and make me cry. With your storytelling I mean, don’t break up with me because you are uncomfortable with uncomfortable feelings, please, I am so over that! Share your heart ache and I will wrap around your hurt until you know it was never you. It was never you. Because my heart was made for all of that bending and wrapping. It’s home there.
If you’re a poet, render it with beauty. Sing me the song. I would be honoured to listen to your song. The irony is that the one who “oughtta know” is probably the only one who doesn’t, but you, Alanis and I can sing it at the top of our lungs, we hope you feel it!
And then ANSWER THAT CRY FOR LOVE WITH LOVE. Whatever that might mean for you in the moment and from that moment to the next. Reach for it. Ask for it. Move in the general direction of it even if your eyes are blurred from non-waterproof mascara or Axe body spray and sweat, and you can’t see East. Put down your weapon. A popsicle stick isn’t going to make the annals of history, “Joan”.
The secret is we love our villains. Because we are made of love. And we can’t snuff that out in ourselves and we don’t want to. So let’s stop trying to simultaneously kill them and save them already and exhausting ourselves in invisible battle.
I already know you’re a witch baby. But you’re the GOOD kind. So climb down from that pyre.
Come over to my garden next Blood moon with some spirits, or a hearty Cabernet.
There is no poetry in justice, but there is justice in poetry.
And you, Love, are the poetry.
— Love Erin
P.S. You’ve been asking me how to get your friends and loved ones the help I’ve been able to give you. We can do that. Contact me and we’ll talk details.
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would pleaseforward it to a friend.
You can tell by the way I use my walk
Insight comes in some interesting ways. And when I say interesting, I mean like, wow, wait for this story.
Some men have what we’re going to call ‘GAME’. You know, they are slick, Rico Suave, charming, charismatic. A woman appears and the flame of challenge ignites within and they are GAME ON, gliding across the cacophony of the piazza in its afternoon vibrancy —or more accurately the Kelowna water-front street which is roped into a pedestrian area because it is Covid— Seniorita! to help a fetching young thing who has dropped her bag of Coke Zero and protein bars (okay it’s me, I feel young today) on the way smiling at an old woman and petting a dog and not sweating. Thank you, NO, I am not the OLD woman in this scenario, he is actually rushing to help me, can we just agree to let me have my moment because it’s been a week, and by week I think you know that I mean year. And BACK to our smooth movers. They waft pheromones in our general direction. They drench their words in honied intensity. They vibe LOVERBOY and our necks feel caressed by mischievous lips, our lips traced by ardent fingers, our Goddess worshiped at her altar, which sounds spicier than I maybe intended but I’ll just leave you to unpack that reference. What else are you doing on Labour Day? Not working I hope.
It doesn’t really matter the ‘move’ per se. You know Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love, how he buys the lady a drink whether she wants it or not, and once he has her inside his DEN he executes the trick from Dirty Dancing where he has her run at him and jump into the air as if to fly, really quite a trust fall, and then after successfully catching her (no offence but he is a trained professional with biceps actually sculpted by Adonis on his day off please don’t try this at home) he whisks her off to the bedroom and makes sweet love to her and she has the “time of her life” because it turns out that Gosling, yes a man named for a baby goose, puts Baby in a corner and then tells her what he’s going to do to her —and that works for him.
It’s not that we are all STUPID, speaking for us women. We don’t want to be played. We can buy ourselves a drink thanks ever so kindly. We can say yes or no. And we don’t want to be one of a dirty dozen, a rolodex, a weekly rotation, in every port, a notch on a belt, and so on. Ew-uh! Also, and this needs to be said okay, NOT all of us are so delicately bird boned that we can imagine sailing into our leading man’s arms without visualizing the paramedic’s stricken face when he hoists us to our feet only to find we have subsumed an entire crushed Gosling beneath our girth. Not the point but kind of unfair, right?
The point, is that we want to be special, so why oh why are the ladies’ men so compelling to us? Why do we say NEVER EVER EVER, butjust this once while we are scribbling out the phone number or hopping into the cab with starry eyed surprise?
Well I will tell you why the ladies’ men have game and why the men who don’t have game don’t and also why those who don’t don’t actually need it, all in this amazing tell all, after this commercial break.
Nom nom, ice cream, nom nom, okay back to you.
It’s NOT actually the smooth, effortless, charisma oozing confidence that woos us.
IT’S THE FOCUSSED ATTENTION.
The piercing gaze, the brooding intensity, the words that undress her with their passion have much less to do with being so blessed with the bounty of manhood as to take from the buffet of woman, or the natural confidence a man emanates in doing so, and so much more to do with HOW HE MAKES HER FEEL.
Like the only woman in the room, or the piazza, as he stares up from the plastic convenience store bag of essential provisions, allow me to help you, meeting her eyes with his own.
Women want this. And if you are a man, and you are reading this and you are dating or relation-shipping, and you don’t already know it and practice it then let me help you along. Women want this. Of course we want to be emotionally validated and to talk about feelings even if we don’t use that word, and so do you because you have them even if the teacher told you otherwise, but that is the stuff that comes later.
If you think she is a babe, if you want to be her cow and give her all the milk around town (that’s from the song Lover in case I lost you), then pay her some attention, celebrate your desire to unlock the mysteries of how she thinks, of what inspires her, what songs are on her playlist, what makes her feel free, what her scariest fears are. Climb inside her nightmare and make it safe with her. Fill up her cup and let her lavish you with all of the best of her, which you loved in the first place so, not a hardship, because she has so much to give. Don’t do it in a creepy way. Don’t steel her eyelashes or her underwear. If you feel the urge to use her phone to track her comings and goings please head straight to the psychiatrist’s office.
One of the most attractive things in a man, what will be a game changer and cause women to dreamily sigh when they hear the sound of his voice is treating his woman like the Goddess that she is.
If you need a muse to inspire you, then awaken it in her. Your wife or your beloved or the woman who dropped her bag on the street.
And you know what some of the side affects of cup filling are? Well she’s gonna want you to do all the things that fill your cup. Go golfing with the boys again baby. Because she feels adored, treasured, invested in. You’re going to feel like Adonis, because she is going to reciprocate. She is going to fill your cup, open your door, do such things to ease your pain and something something with your pear tree as the song goes.
This NEEDS to be said, because the world has thrown some shit at us, because politics and economics and societies and the Kings and Queens have lost sight of each other, and I mean this in the most gender encompassing way. Men are coming out of divorces never having brought a woman to orgasm. Women are coming out not having felt safe enough to ask, or redirect, or point it out. We are scared of each other, and that is not the recipe for bliss.
There are many hats to wear in a relationship. But if it’s a romantic relationship then you need to nurture your LOVERSHIP. You need to explore one another. You don’t have to be good at it. You don’t have to have moves. Your genuine enthusiasm makes you good at it, IF it’s directed at her, and not at some silly idea of what men do in the movies. Your passion for her makes you good at it, if you express that passion in her general direction.
I guarantee that you want to feel like the man who has the key to her queendom. It’s better mojo than being a rock star. That stuff will uplift you and spirit you places.
*Now if the reason you have not been paying her attention is because you actually don’t give so many f*cks (I am gentile today friends with that radio edit) but you are keeping her on a string because it’s nice to have someone who thinks you are amaze-balls, feeding her a crumb of attention now and again when you are bored or scared of being alone well then there is a special place in my master class for you *plays scorching Georgia devil fiddle*. Seriously. I know you are scared and lonely, but don’t be blinded by it. Be braver than that. It’s not attractive, or kind. Also, you don’t want to know what’s going to happen when she gets all Gloria Gainor on your ass and writes a song or podcast about what you did last summer, and the one before that, which is what is going to happen when your spell wears off. Just you wait.
BUT assuming you really actually dig a chick, well know this: You too can be a lover. You don’t want a partner who will fit into your world and your idea of compatibility. You don’t want to stay in your comfort zone, it smells like a gym in there. You want to be surprised. And you won’t be if you don’t even get the wrapping off of the package. Again, the unintended puns are taking a racy turn here friends. You’re welcome.
Which bring us back to the streets of Kelowna, where I found myself a key player in the do’s and don’ts of courting. It was as if I was cast in a part just so as to entertain, but also fix some shit this fine Monday morning.
It began at the resort lounge, where I enjoyed a glass of wine while working on some work emails, and a gentleman approached my table and kindly invited me to share his better view. I declined at first, I was there to work, but he was so earnest in his approach that I stopped by later for a socially distanced chat. I declined his invite for dinner, drinks, breakfast and the offer to pay my tab, because simply I didn’t feel the right intellectual chemistry, but I can’t fault his approach at all. He asked me thoughtful questions and complimented my shoes.
Then let’s talk about my walk downtown, when I was ready to call it a night but couldn’t get through the police take-down adjacent my vehicle, and so went back to eat some ice cream, drink the coke Zero rescued for me mid-day, and watch people Bollywood dancing in the street, which was ever so magical and slightly less terrifying than blood and handcuffs. Was it the pink dress? The fact that I was sitting alone? Friends I am 52 years old this summer, and in the hour I sat eating ice cream and drinking soda and texting on my phone, I was approached by 5 men, ages 25-45. I mean my vibes were happy, but not sexy. The ice cream, wait for it, was bubble gum flavored.
Guy number one sat innocently nearby appearing to be on his phone. I genuinely didn’t realize that it was a strategy at first, until he introduced himself then chimed in with people watching commentary. He was ridiculously handsome and not offensive at all, so much so that I just thought he was making polite conversation for the longest time. He did also compliment my shoes, pointing out that he doesn’t usually notice women’s footwear, but that mine looked great on me. He also chatted with the 15 year old kid on the nearby bench, until finally mumbling something about coffee the next day then wandering off, only to be replaced by kid’s chaperone, who then introduced himself to me, and asked if my name was Swedish. In case you have forgotten, this is Erin’s Monday Musing, not Olga’s. Chaperone guy emitted lecherous and lazy, a lethal combo, and I exited the chat to answer an imaginary text. The next contender, and this one was my personal favourite and wins the worst pick up line in the history of EVER, for lack of effort, sat down beside me, and I am sorry to all witty intelligent and respectful men everywhere who also go to the gym, but this guy was about 25 with a well muscled physique and a movie star face, and without even asking my name or how my night was going, GRUNTED to get my attention and then romanced me to the heavens with “Wanna ride?” WOW. Just wow. I mean does that EVER work for him? Is he lost inside the idea that women want him because he fits some outward criteria of physical attractiveness? Because even my gal pals who like the pretty ones and are less needful of intellectual connection will not be attracted to THAT.
“No”, I said. With a look of both shock, and horror. NO.
And then came the tiny man with the cap. I could see him sidling over and I was about ready to enjoy some tear gas and good old riot disruption by then (since ice cream and street dancing was losing its innocence). I looked away, I texted with conviction. I shifted thirty degrees West so that even the most zealous eyes could not find mine. “Excuse me”. “Excuse me”. I finally glanced, because I am too polite. “I am just waiting for you to finish and then I will talk with you”. “OH” I conveyed my surprise, “Oh, no. No, thankyou. No. No.” And he left. Was I on a weird game show? Did I have a sign on my back that said, “U pick”?
The last one who came a-leering stood no chance and I called time of death on my whimsical outing. My take away was this though: If you’re looking for a one night thing, sure try your luck, you do you. Unless you actually are Ryan Baby Goose, don’t open by offering a ride. Okay, even you Ryan, should not be doing that. Stop doing that already. And what is your move for curvy girls, show us that in the ‘player stops playing’ sequel. If you’re not Ryan Imma suggest looking in an actual bar for someone who seems at least down to party if you’re in fact looking to party. Don’t single out ice cream eating ladies of a certain age and then treat them like a Cracker Jack prize, you run the risk of becoming a blog ‘don’t’.
To recap, clever and polite will get a welcome response, if not a date. Lazy and lecherous will be rejected. Yes to shoes, no to entitlement. If you can’t pay attention to her body language, or put some effort into approach you aren’t ready for her time, let alone her Goddess.
If you are truly looking for love or looking to sweeten love, focus in. You don’t need to be Casanova, lover of women. But you need to be her lover Baby.
You have it in you. I can tell by the way you use your walk.
— Love Erin
P.S. You’ve been asking me how to get your friends and loved ones the help I’ve been able to give you. We can do that. Contact me and we’ll talk details.
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.
Witchlight and fairy tales
I listen, and have listened, not just to what is wrong in your lives— where you hurt, get stuck, struggle, where old wounds won’t heal and you can’t seem to turn a corner— and I dig in where the shame is and we pour some sunlight in there. But I also hear what you want, what is missing. We look in the places that feel empty or lonely or unsatisfied, and sometimes those are inextricably interwoven with the wounds. We confront the ghoul who lurks in the alleys of your scary dreams, the Muse of Nightmares I like to call self blame, her voice scraped hollow by wind, who whispers I let it happen, I made it happen, it was me.
I have listened to 200 hundred stories in this past year alone, of what you seek in a relationship and what you want to do better, and what you miss. Some of you are single and missing it, some of you are attached and missing it. And if you’re single or attached and feeling fulfilled and safe well that is a blessing and if I helped you get there I couldn’t be more pleased. Sometimes it is the simple pleasure of warm arms, of waking up beside your beloved, or eating toast together. For some it is conversation that rolls the world around, tossing it back and forth like a beach ball, until after a great game it all makes a little more sense. For some it’s a playmate, or a rock to steady them.
But what is fascinating I think we can all agree, is the intangible in romantic love. We can lay it all down on paper, and we do because we are in the online dating age. We create a profile for the App, or the Matchmaker, and we spreadsheet our values and our lifestyle preferences and ideal body type, attraction profile and deal breakers and then our wish list. We let ourselves moon over how nice it was that he loomed a foot taller and made us feel like a delicate thing who could be carried over a threshold or how soft her skin felt and the way the lace slip peeked out when she crossed her legs, and we conjure. A little bit of Rita in the sun, a little bit of Rico all night long. But then we get those matches who are magically our list, our matchmaker is doing the happy dance, but we just don’t feel it and we struggle to say why not. We chalk it up to chemistry, pheromones, past lives. We rewrite our deal breakers. And then when it happens, when we fall in love or find love, we can’t quite pin it to our list, now can we? There are things that don’t add up, but something more important does. Because our heart decides, and our little brain (oh I am kidding here, I know you all have big juicy brains and that is why we hang) tries to understand, to distill the essence and document the formula, how cute, for what is the heart’s domain, until eventually it just defers. Surrenders to not being needed for a while and let’s the happy juice prevail.
Well today is a big day for us friends, because I have discovered the secret ingredient to the alchemy of love, that all the listing and data analytics can’t account for. Sprinkle in a little of this sparkle dust and it’s brought to life. Metal to gold, must love dogs to diamonds.
You see, I have been chilling in a small town for a few weeks recently, as my wee mum has undergone some health crises and during this time I have been reading for half hour or so a day. Reading is the thing you are doing now. I used to do it, once upon a time, in a land far far away, until the triage list exceeded the number of rooms available in my daily life, and then I put it on a waiting list, sort of like getting in to see a specialist in Canada (she says with love and respect and appreciation for her beloved country but seriously). And then because I actually practice my own preaching I prescribed myself this book read as an antidote to heavy serious things and especially to demarcate SUMMER from the impending season of FALL which on account of pandemics and related global crises, is in danger of blurring into the groundhog day of sameness. And that is because we are all lacking levity right now, so that what we experience as sameness is truly a weight we can’t shake off. Well a fantastic antidote for the weight of the world it turns out is young adult fiction. And I think we have stumbled on the recipe for Harry Potter level success and that is —reconnecting us to a feeling of magic, to a way out of the heaviness, always important but I am going to venture more important than ever right now. And probably why with the increasing pressure we put on the young against painful odds ever “in their favour” (sounds like a chime in on the economics of greed and the American dream) they would rather read, game, netflix or snapchat to lightness than play in the garden or wash the dishes.
I have fallen in love. With. This. Book. It does what all stories want to do. It takes the world, distills it to its essence and offers you the missing ingredient. And this is my favourite part, this is where it happened. Page 379. I don’t even have to look that up, I made a point to remember. Go back to this, Erin, I whispered to myself. Read it and re read it. This is what we ALL want, this is what turns the toast sharing into warmth and comfort. This is what paints the honey on the moon. Our author of Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor, calls it “Witchlight”.
The way he looks at her, our antiheroine, with enchantment. Fascination. It’s not about being heard or seen in an emotional sense, validated, supported —that is what you do with your Witchlight. That is how you take care of it, guard it; that is the teachable learnable stuff that I do with you. But the light itself, spins the gold. It’s an enchantment that enlightens. We see ‘God’ in one another. We don’t seek it, emptily, in a philosophical emotional order-from-chaos existential sense. That is not my argument. Rather, we see it. The divine self. We see past the Muse of Nightmares, the voice of shame, to the holiness. We are given a passage into complete empathy. We know his struggles and we want to reach into them and wrap around him like ether, like a loving ghost and lift him up. We want her to see her beauty through our eyes, captivating the mundane. We enter into our beloved’s darkest chamber and lighten it. We fill their rooms with wonder, because we feel wonder for them. We make them the heroes and heroines of the story.
And that is why so much is written on twin flames and soul mates and blah blah how embarrassing for humanity blah blah. Not because we are all sappy and saccharine and drugged up on Harlequin looking for dopamine spikes and oxytocin highs to escape our existential angst. Because we are after this bit. We don’t get it with just anyone. And when we find it it’s game changing. It will make us vulnerable and it will ask us to weave our gift, our magical ingredient with nurturing and care, into gold. To confront our nightmares. To find courage. To pay homage to the heart’s domain with less scrutiny and more celebration.
I know right now you are worried about me. All isolated in a small town claiming to have found alchemy in a book for teenagers about magical kingdoms and angry gods (please scan this musing for encrypted messages from my locked attic and send rescue, or wine and chocolate will do). JK.
I am not trying to tell you that romantic love is the only way to spiritual wholeness. You can’t see in another what isn’t inside yourself. But if someone else leads you to that place, or even follows you there, well it takes two to tango, two to believe, and two to move toward wholeness, because plus one is an addition, it is the direction away from isolation. We want the one who will bring us closer to the light within.
What begets the enchantment, the fascination that evokes profound tenderness? Why Aragon and not Frodo? Why elfin princess chick played by Liv Tyler and not that stately queen woman with the cheek bones (my pop culture references are weakening in Smallville)?
Well I’m going to venture that there are things we are seeking to understand or learn, ways in which we are completing ourselves that our ‘other’ embodies, or holds the secrets to, simultaneously as we do for them. As I once heard a favourite author say, the metaphor is most impactful when it is raw, when it is seeking to understand rather than to teach. Romantic love, that enchanting she-witch is the raw metaphor in which we seek to express and explore ourselves, and expand, to know ourselves without limitation.
There is a lot more I can say about when and how it goes wrong, when the enchantment is entangled with the part of us that needs to be rescued, or when and why the Witchlight is broken, or when it seems to slip out of our hands like a rope worn to sheen. But today I want to bask in the enigma. The beauty of it. Float in the warm lake of it. Soak up its glow and call it summer.
I have felt it. And I would fight for it again, that expression of magic and wonder. To explore all of the secret rooms of someone who fascinates you, to let yourself feel “ineffable tenderness and solemnity”.
With that, I now provide a SPOILER ALERT and share with you some lovely prose from this ever so lovely love story. From page 379. Yes that one. My new favourite number.
“…he had been entrusted with something infinitely precious… the moment his center of gravity shifted: from being one of one—a pillar alone, apart—to being half of something that would fall if either side were cut away…(she) tucked into his shoulder, her forehead resting against his jaw—told him. And when she finished telling and was tense in the circle of his arms, she waited to see what he would say…watched his sleeping face for any flicker of expression that might betray disgust. There were none. ‘I think you’re a fairy tale…I think you are magical brave and exquisite…And I hope you’ll let me be in your story’”.
Somebody that I used to know once said he didn’t want to feel lukewarm in a relationship. He wanted “oh fuck ya”.
So if you’re not busy the rest of the day, let me bewitch you. Let’s fall in love with falling in love, let’s be enchanted with one another and re-enchant the world around us, and want nothing more profoundly than to be each other’s heroes.
We are healed in many ways. There are golden threads lying everywhere, leading us home. But I am sure of this; When we are healed, we are not healed alone.
Thanks for letting me be in your story.
— Love, Erin
P.S. You’ve been asking me how to get your friends and loved ones the help I’ve been able to give you. We can do that. Contact me and we’ll talk details.
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.
Rum and Roses
He rolls his eyes. Here we go again. The feeling creeps over him. Like bugs. Worms. Fever. That god awful flu everyone keeps hyping on about. They can’t just chill. NO. They can’t just do something as simple as going on a freaking vacation. Okay I know he wouldn’t say freaking. He would full f bomb. So I am going to say it okay? For authenticity. They can’t just go on something a simple as a fucking vacation. Vacations are supposed to be fun. Right? Aren’t they? Did he miss the goddamned bulletin where vacation was assigned to be a bloody GRIND? An intervention? A sit-in where everyone sings kumbaya my lord and talks about their feelings? Because he is thinking a little more beers on a patio. A little more extreme sports. A little more ANYTHING BUT ANOTHER GOD FORSAKEN PROBLEM THAT INEVITABLY REQUIRES HIM TO SELF EXAMINE. To have what she is calling ‘insight’. To be, for the love of god, compassionate, validating, understanding. He wants to make it go away, like a mosquito whining in his ear on the brink of a dead sleep. He teeters back and forth on the totter of blanket apology “I am so sorry baby for being a dick, AGAIN” and “What’s wrong with you, let it go already”. He reaches into his wallet for his ready list of transgressions. Typically when he gets to four or five items he exits.
He works up the story. How was he supposed to be happy with that behaviour? She was critical. Controlling. She dissed his house keeping habits. She talked about his ex. There were flags, friends. And they were RED. She made him feel, at times, UNCOMFORTABLE. Nothing was good enough. Nothing was EVER. GOING. TO. BE. GOOD. ENOUGH. Which could only mean one thing. That sooner than later he was going to be exposed as not good enough, and well the ending is always the same. She winds up with the younger hotter guy and he is left. Alone and afraid. Weak and foolish and somehow mortified for giving the kind of fucks that only sorry bastards give.
That is definitely what she was trying to get across when she mentioned that thing about feeling, what was it? Left out? Sad. Excluded from the conversation. Excluded from his big life decisions. When she felt, heard, saw a drift from his WE, their talk of their future, to talk about HIS plan, a drift from his push for her free time, for her commitment, a segue from the urgency that she meet his family to a something between casual indifference to jumpy avoidance. I mean chances are she was screwed by then. By the time she had carefully weighed the behavioural shift, the subtle freeze, by the time she had considered and reflected and cultivated an non-offensive broach to the topic, he had already sold himself on the terrifying narrative, a real Hollywood blockbuster, in order to justify his Escape from Alcatraz.
And then it just doesn’t matter if she wraps it up in soft kitten fur, or in a banner of his greatest accomplishments so as not to trigger him. It doesn’t matter how much jelly in the P and J sandwich she sneaks it into. She can tell him that NO OFFENCE, she just happened to notice that he has disappeared to Narnia and would he mind sending her a quick text during his next break from the intense mission of saving the world from THEIR RELATIONSHIP, so that she isn’t making dinner for the dog, again, and he’s going to say “You’ve crossed the line, Karen”.
Sometimes, communication is NOT the issue. Sometimes it’s just fear, or worthiness, trauma borne of abandonment, and when your beloved gets close to that it’s like an extreme attack of claustrophobia and all they can hear is the sound of walls closing in and they will chew off their own arm to get out of the trap.
But (and I am so sorry to you and for you if you are that lover, if you are a runner—call me), someone needing something from you at some point is actually a GOOD thing. It’s inevitable, unless you want a shell of a relationship that offers empty misery or blows up the first time someone thinks about lighting a cigarette on a warm day.
There are all kinds of communication best practices that I can communicate to you. But I would like to give you something even BIGGER and BETTER than “How Not to Call Your Lover an Asshole 101”.
And that is…wait for it…drum roll and TA DA…a BRIDGE to communication. The recognition that DOING IT is not an easy thing, because communicating is typically an expression of NEEDING something, or FEELING something that has a bearing on the relationship. Which, to some is easy to confuse with criticism or a judgment, or an attack. We don’t usually call daily chit chat or lovey doveiness ‘communication’. For some it is going to feel like unnecessary problem making. It can be hard and that is because of this SHOCKING and NEWSWORTHY REVELATION:
People need things from one another. That is why, friends, we enter into relationship. To RELATE. We do not enter into relationship with the goal of overcoming our need for it, being entirely self sufficient, or mastering solitariness. We enter into it so we have someone to love, to talk to, to share with, to support and be supported by, to laugh with. Have sex with, eat hashbrowns with, or whatever else floats our boat. Chances are (one hundred percent) that what we need will not always line up with what our beloved thinks to give, naturally. And that is okay. I could write you a manual on the different kinds of needs, and how to differentiate from something that is a need within ourselves versus a relationship need, versus a non relationship need that we need help resolving, but today I am stepping back from all of that to talk about the infrastructure that makes it COMFORTABLE to talk about that thing you need in the first place, and that thing you will need a year from now, and that thing that your partner will need five years from now and ten years after that.
Accepting the premise that we need shit, and that we don’t come with a manual delineating all the shit we need for easy reference, what we really need help with and what so very painfully often goes so very painfully wrong, is the whole business of broaching the need.
I am suggesting a CRAZY AMAZING REVOLUTIONARY THING. Which is that you as a couple agree somewhere around date number TWO (JK, but early on) to BUILD A BRIDGE over the communication gap, moat, pit of stinking rotten roiling despair, in order to put less pressure on all y’all selves both to figure it out and deliver it on the wings of angels.
By a bridge I mean a sacred space. A UN delegation with a healthy dose of diplomatic immunity. A regular weekly session or bi-weekly where you check in on one another’s needs, relationship needs, feelings and so on, and/or a White Flag that either one can wave in order to solicit support, discussion, sharing, asking, expressing without Karen or Bob locking themselves in the wine cellar or the panic room. Okay we all know that the wine cellar IS in fact the panic room #covid.
We need to do this, and find a way to do it that we normalize and make feel comfortable, safe, humorous and affectionate in order to break the toxic social conditioning and shaming around feeling FEELZ and needing THINGS and otherwise removing the armour that is there to help us survive, but not to thrive.
Find a way, a place, a tone, a bridge, an acceptance, a friendly code, a safe word that means “Help. We should probably talk about something without blame or judgment.” We want to create EMOTIONAL SAFE SPACE in relationship, to be ourselves and to share ourselves even when and especially when it involves our beloved. Shocking. But true. In the voice of Leonard Nimoy “Believe it, or not”.
If we can make this a foundational process, the whole business of how to say it, when to say it, how not to say it, how not to avoid saying it, how not to piss off our reluctant or sensitive partner, the how not to judge or attack becomes one thousand times easier. If we can AGREE that actually resolving differences and working together to answer need or help our partner feel secure or understood is actually A GOOD THING, and won’t actually threaten our lives or expose us as a loser then we can get to making it easier on one another. We can work with each other’s foibles and sensitivities. We can get good at this and feel good about this, rather than hiding behind our big pile of rocks the second someone wants to talk or emits a vibe of concern. We can have a sense of humour with each other. Hahahahaha. You want to talk about feelings again! How fun, Karen! Okay I jest. I am talking about everyone but ‘Karen’, here.
The point is, instead of hoping and praying that your honey moon phase will stay so giddy and wonder filled that nary a practical concern or moment of hurt will befall your magical moon kingdom and white knuckling through close calls with discomfort by avoiding; instead of shoving your concern about her sudden vacay to Siberia or his mysterious club membership to Men Going Their Own Way down so deep that it is safely weighted by a year of donuts and pumpkin lattes, you might consider giving your Love Fest the advantage of an intentional approach.
It’s not going to save you from The Runaway Bride, or Groom. You aren’t going to unpack someone’s trauma response if it results in relentless insatiable need, or a preference for taking one of those spy pills that kill you before the enemy can make you talk –if they are trauma brain avoidant— but for the rest of us, the in-betweeners it will knock down the programming that confuses differences and needs with grievances and tells us we should be waking up on emotional rose petals with pina coladas for breakfast until death do we part.
Now I am going to get really real with all ya’ll. I think I am going to work it into my vows this go around. Rum and rose petals. It has a certain poetry.
Do I promise to talk about feelings with you, in sickness and in health, as long as the rum is free and the water is warm and you promise to make me laugh?
I DO, friends, I DO. A thousand I DO’S.
— Love Erin
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.
The wrong movie
So, yeah. I’m at a Bougie little place called The Bannock Café in a town called Merritt, B.C. Okay I am practicing sarcasm, but truly it’s a lovely place with lovely accommodating staff, albeit very far from the plan of the day. Like a scene from a movie, Tess chimes in. We have calmed down a bit, from the harrowing passage driving 70 km/hr on the Coquahala, where the speed limit is 120, making NO new friends, friends, hazards flashing while Tess reads me from assorted internet sources the possible problems that could be causing the engine light to flash and the van to choke and jolt at any acceleration beyond, well 70 km/hour. The hour of gridlock leaving the Greater Vancouver area was already what I consider to be an inauspicious start to the journey, given that I had awoken at 6 to run and pack and get on the road in time to land Tess at her GF’s place in Kelowna, in time for them to drive back to Calgary in daylight. Today was to mark day two of my three day summer holiday. Three days in which I almost didn’t work! I am going to say that it takes a lot of work to take time off work. For me it does, and I am not sure it is merited (a pun I am going to endeavour to use as often as possible in the next 1500 words). I LOVE my work, so that is the great big bonus here, but I also know that it is GOOD FOR BRAIN to actually shut it off once in a while, and truly recreate, OR for kicks, sweat blood while you hover over your brake preparing for power loss on a heavily trafficked freeway. It’s kind of like a day at the beach, but different. A scene from a movie where things go wrong but it’s really divine intervention leading you on a magical journey. “Cut” I yell. “CUT! I have been cast in the wrong movie. I repeat, “WRONG movie here.” I am pretty sure magic feels more witchery less fuckery.
We made it to a service center and for a wee 600 we are going to have the spark plugs changed and ready for us today, which should be a holy miracle and maybe it is one, except the tears on both ends of the phone indicate otherwise because Tess’s friend can’t drive in the dark and can’t wait for her, which means that for me to keep Tess for the weekend I will have a reluctant traveler, missing her GF time, and I will have to pay for a hotel because I don’t have camp for two. Sigh. No one is dying and no one is going to jail but this does not feel amaze balls. I am probably due for a new car, and a few other related take-aways.
I tried this time, by George (George is quite the witness) for your sake, inner child. I didn’t do that tricky thing where I promise you time off and then I just get one more thing done. Okay well I did that, but only for the first few days, and then I actually really made it happen. And I was responsible too. I recently had the vehicle fixed and serviced and checked over for good measure. This shit just happened with reckless disregard to our needs and well laid plans, as shit is wont to do.
It’s funny (funny peculiar not funny haha) to contemplate how vastly ignorant my today self is of my tomorrow self’s predicaments. One of my favourite bits of Covid comedy is an interview between a woman’s 2019 self and her 2020 self hashtag you might want to get a dog and invest in zoom. Because we just don’t know what the good old movie has in store for us. The plot is twisty, and just when we think we have the happy ending in the bag Glen Close’s hand comes out of the bathtub making one last grab for our throats (Fatal Attraction).
Life has been tight for so many of us of late, the spirit draining out of those early humour finding days as we persevere through this storm that should be a storm but feels like the new weather. And so I ask:
What would my 2020 self tell my 2019 self? How would I help her?
Well I would give her a big ass hug. I would tell her that I was so proud of her for caring so much. I would tell her that the things she is worried will fall apart won’t but that other things will. Tragically and painfully and unforeseeably. I would tell her that she is stronger than she thinks and I would remind her of her capacity for joy and how it continues to grow. I could give her the knowing wink. The dog will be okay and that Vic is not exaggerating about the world shutting down and no you won’t be going to the pub to celebrate getting through that family ordeal because it will in fact be closed. I could wait for her in the café before she gets the news of Richard’s death and sort of prop her up or hold her hand. I could tell her to keep the happy news to herself because there will be less explaining to do you know, when it suddenly isn’t so happy anymore. I could find her an icon of hell in a handbasket. Or make her a handbill. Or simply post it on a billboard and be done with it.
There are things that I have had thrown at me that I would not want to know, because knowing them would only extend the hurt, and kill the joy of so many other moments.
But at the end of the day, we aren’t here for the moments. We aren’t here to grasp the fleeting and hope it makes up for the death and destruction, as controversial as that may sound to the life is about the moment advocates. We are here to undo the death and destruction so that the joy can expand to take its rightful place in eternity.
I could tell her a bunch of trite nonsense about when one door closes another opens, that everything happens for a reason, which is a misdirected reach for divinity —a divine plan that renders our suffering meaningful. But I know better than to suggest that Love is the architect of Pain. If I have learned anything in my life’s work it is that Pain is the architect of Pain, and that Love intercedes and heals. Love is the antidote and the condition in which pain cannot exist, and if we understand this we can get a lot more comfortable with pain and avoid bandaging it with trite clichés that add shame to injury.
I could tell her that she will have a new unsolvable problem this year, a real Nancy Drew mystery full of ghosts and villains and that it will be a doozy. I could assure her that one day it will all make sense and she will have the answers she needs and get off the hamster wheel of the mind because it won’t fix her heart now will it? But I can’t tell her what day that will be because it hasn’t yet come.
My Saturday self would tell my Friday self that she makes it safely to Kelowna, that Tess will get her ride after all, that it won’t be anyone’s fault. I would tell her about the six am run, the woman living in her van with her dogs and her baby who had just moved from Vancouver getting her workout in while keeping all of her creatures sustained, then running off to a job interview, and the solidarity she felt doing her push ups in the grass, side by side with this woman. I could tell her about the dreamiest beach day, the crash of waves like a primal drumming and the melody of children shrieking with delight. The black skinned women with the cascading hair and bikinis of yellow and red drinking from red plastic cups, the families in circles throwing balls, the mothers and grandmothers sharing stories and scooping up infants, all in and out of the water as the heat rose. The uncoiling and unwinding and undoing. How she felt intimately part of a single living thriving being wriggling free of a tight enclosure, swimming the rushing waves, reading of alchemy and miracles and dreams that choose the dreamer, slumbering in a heat haze.
I would take her to that table where she sat to watch the street musician only to find she had stolen it inadvertently from two men, how they talked about the world gone mad and the power of choice and one’s recovery from his divorce and then they bought her a beer.
I would give her the vision of herself sitting in her beloved client and friend Angie’s living room with the miracle baby we had envisioned all those years ago when she was grieving four miscarriages, now talking about the “upside” of Covid, and asking; What if the manifestation is not world wide fear and despair but a connecting thread through all of humanity, a way of uncoiling and unwinding and undoing as a single being in a choreography that spins grief into joy?
My holy self would tell my human self that she could forgive a little faster and a little more.
When I was eleven years old I was at the public pool with some friends and I had been diving off the shallow board feeling like a mermaid flipping and dipping through the tepid water and the cool air in perfect rhythm —until at some point I looked up at the higher board and felt inspired to give it a try. It wasn’t until I was a few steps out that I felt the wobble beneath me, the instability of the ground and the shock of my arms reaching out to find only air, the way a baby jerks its hands in a dream. I could not move. I could see the short distance to the end of the walk and the water below but I could not move toward it. Nor could I step backwards and set into motion the swaying ground and gravid air, and so I froze. And so did time. A small crowd gathered. Staff yelled things to me, kindly and with encouragement, offering to stand by with various flotation devices. Kids who were waiting a turn and initially impatient found compassion and became part of the rally. They promised me that I would not drown. The world just slowed itself down and waited gently and patiently not realizing that I was not afraid of the water, I was afraid to fall.
You see there is only one way out. We cannot choose the plot from within the movie, but we can choose to love our way out of it. When we choose fear we freeze, but even inside our freezing we are given a chance again. It is there for us, in every heart ache, in every falter, the suspension of time waiting for us to find courage, to choose Love.
What if the entire movie plot is that, LOVE reaching through our terror, surrounding us with arms and legs and voices and colours and families and mechanics and miracle children and men with beer, with waves and sand and yellow and light until at last there is no empty air around us or frightening space between us?
What if my eleven year old self brought all of those players together in a moment of emotional bravery and kindness? What if I joined together the beach goers into a hazy rapture? What if I healed the men with beer, and whispered the secrets of alchemy to Angie and little Everly?
What if pain is merely the ghost that believes it is alive?
There is a line from Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that conveys what is intended to be absurd and ridiculous optimism, endearing in its unscientific wisdom that Love is waiting for us in the wings, in every foible and heartache, conspiring to prove itself.
“Everything will be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it is not yet the end.”
And that’s a wrap.
— Love, Erin
- a pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process.
See you all next week.
— Love Erin
Rules of engagement
Well well well, if I didn’t pick up a copy of a wee little bad car accident of a book called “The Rules” which teaches women how to bag a man and lure him to the altar by…wait for it…that old tradition of playing hard to get. It was brought to me by a beloved client, who asked or my honest opinion on whether she should be subscribing to its maxims. I offered to take a look. And a half hour later I was still sitting at my desk in my running gear, not having left the house awe struck by the substance of the guidance as much as the literary merit with gems like “We don’t know why it works it just does!” To explain why all women should wear straight long hair, hoop earrings, big sunglasses, mini skirts and heels. “Mom, are you still reading that book? Go for your run already”. I was saved by my gal, Victoria. But since that morning it has been haunting me. The sheer audacity of it. The rules have been running circles in my head, double daring me to emanate elusiveness, text with a spreadsheet, and flip my breezy hair while laughing indifferently whether I want a man or not, because I am an A student who is not going to back down from a challenge.
I am at a loss as to where to dig in first.
But here are some first principles.
Because friends, this book has sold an OBSCENE number of copies.
These women have a consulting biz offering hands on for get him wrapped.
Get him to chase you. Don’t share much information or talk much. Be mysterious. End a date first. Don’t answer phone calls. Dress like a model.
Let’s talk about the very notion that “we” as women need to arm ourselves against “your” need to chase us, a ball, or whatever else stirs up your testosterone, and the inevitable heart ache it will cause us when we bore you (men) with our verbosity and emotional depth and get off track from eliciting you to chase us, the shiny ball that we aspire to be. It’s not a very flattering portrayal of either gender.
Do I want to crawl into bed Mrs. Mazel style while my man dozes and tie up my hair and cream up my face to spare him my imperfection? I mean honestly, it’s not about the makeup, I like my mascara, it’s about the AFFECTATION. The pretense. Affectation simply engenders more affectation, meaning games beget games, falsity begets falsity. It is a bottomless pit.
By the time I spend my say, year time line, being “a creature like no other”, texting on schedule, saying very little so as to not overwhelm his capacity and tolerance for information do I even still exist? WHO is actually donning a white gown and posing for photos on my wedding day? Have I met this woman? If you read my musing about crazy behaviour from last week, is this not like luring a man with a fake profile, only by becoming the Unicorn version of your real self? And is that not actually as crazy as it gets, sort of like a plastic surgery addiction, but for the insides?
After reflection I will say this, that I BELIEVE THAT FOLLOWING THESE RULES WILL GET YOU A MAN. But so will the resurrection spell from Practical Magic, where Sandy Bullock and Nicky Kidman bring back the tequila swilling dark heart Johnny Angel, after the aunties have warned them that he may return as something “unnatural”. But hey when you have Nicole’s beauty you look hot even when you are possessed by an abuser and writhing around the floor sucking souls for an evil laugh, that being the end goal and all.
And then congratu-effin-lations, because I have just landed a partner who needs to be eluded, and so what happens when I am no longer elusive, which guess what, I am not going to be able to keep up when we cohabitate so then WHO IS HE GOING TO CHASE??? Should we maybe entitle this book How to date a cheater? How to spend the foreseeable future in a codependent relationship with your partner’s emotional avoidance? Now I am left to follow a second set of rules for this part of the action, for keeping my prize. I’m going to need a nap because that is a lot to take on. No wonder marriage is ‘hard work’.
Let’s just consider this for a moment. I agree that in the initial stages of dating we don’t want to overshare. Not because we as women don’t want to trouble the male brain, but for all genders, we want to nurture along the connection we feel with our new date, or allow an opportunity to form one if we have met online or via a matchmaker. That won’t happen if it becomes all about the past. Also, it’s very hard to fairly express the challenges we may have faced in our past relationships. It’s hard to perfectly understand them within our own minds, let alone to meaningfully share that understanding with another, and not have it come across as confusing, critical, and painful. It may send a message about us that we are not intending, or trigger something for our date that we are not intending. And where all past trauma is concerned, we do not OWE anyone a history, or an explanation, unless it will have a direct impact on them such as a health concern. But even if I have a genetic disorder and my life expectancy is shorter than the average Jane, that is not date one material, that is a few dates in before anyone is too invested, or in some cases something to include in a profile as a heads up, but early on topics of conversation should be conducive to relating and building connection with your new person.
Sure it is fair to say that women tend to share more than men. We hash it out more, we call our besties and our hair dresser and get a chime in. But let’s look at the anecdotal example of the girl who meets a smart man and they talk and text and converse enthusiastically and are intellectually attracted to each other, and then one day he ghosts her, blocks her from social media. The rules coaches say that was her mistake! Too much communication. She fried his man simple can’t handle communication synapse. Are we serious here?!!! This man wasn’t willing to be vulnerable. There are many out there in all genders who go all in and then ditch. If we want to tell all genders hey pace yourself, or beware of too much intimacy too fast, sure there is merit to that. But that is very different from paring down your communication to be light and breezy and not provoke depth of discourse or emotional engagement so that you “get” him to commit.
There is something fundamentally sexist and well just basically shitty about telling a gender to correct for their gender attributes in order to be acceptable to the other gender, to boot. It is one thing to suggest some sensitivity to differences. Fair, he might not want to dig in as much as she to an emotional matter. Our hormones and hard wiring are not exactly the same. There are also differences that are gender role related and socially conditioned. The truth is we actually need to be LESS scared of tricky emotions as humans of all genders. And to mold ourselves into creatures of mystique so as to avoid it all is a recipe for a constant heartache in order to avoid a potential short term one.
It seems to me that “The Rules” teach women how to find themselves married to an emotionally immature or avoidant man, by avoiding conflict or emotional engagement and making the relationship dynamic all about him. And that happens the second we move from a model of how to show up in a healthy way, to a model of how to lure and be alluring.
The REAL PROBLEM, and THE REAL ANSWER, AND THE REASON THIS BOOK SOLD SO MANY COPIES AND IS SUCH A DRUG FOR THE FEMALE BRAIN?
Well that is a no brainer. It feels scary when like or are invested in someone and we aren’t getting the response we want from them, or when we feel like we want more than they do, or when we see or feel an amazing connection but can’t seem to get follow through, and The Rules is like Tylenol for vulnerability. It gets into woman’s head by giving them a false sense of power over a very triggering and dis-empowering experience!!! But it’s not real power, gals. Yes, it is okay to want to be pursued. We can be pursued and still be equals in a relationship. Romantic connection is different than economics and we don’t have to go into a relationship with a “do it all” mentality. It’s okay to be in the feminine receptive side of our personalities (we all have them across genders) and to allow a partner to compliment that side with the equal opposite side regardless of gender. BUT manipulation and affectation are the opposite of true receptivity where we surrender our need to control and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and soft. And the ONLY answer to feeling triggered is to get really healthy within ourselves and answer what we are needing emotionally. That is what will make the difference between sending out those “NEEDY” vibes and not. This happens across gender BTW. It has the potential to feel extra embarrassing for a “woman” because socially we shame emotional pain and need, which drives it deeper and makes it harder to solve, so if we are the more communicative or emotionally tuned in we are often called sensitive or dramatic, which lands us feeling ashamed while simultaneously feeling compelled to solve the need.
To which I want to tell all y’all: There is no shame in feeling invested or wanting a response or liking or loving someone. Rom coms don’t sell half assed love. We want to feel and invest and engage. Where it goes off is that there are needs within in us that blend with fears and ideas that are toxic and we need to sort that shit out so that we don’t feel compelled to ask another person to solve it for us. And when we truly dig into this we will emit the emotionally safe vibe (which the ‘rules mystique’ emulates) but it will be genuine because we will actually FEEL safe, and we will say and do the things that will get us a healthy relationship, if the other person is able to meet us there. The same healthy vibes that will cause it to blow it up if they are not. WHICH IS ACTUALLY WHAT WE WANT. We want it to blow up at month 3 if they are not available to go deeper. That is how we avoid losing twenty years to a painful empty marriage.
Understand that his or her sabotage or avoidance or unavailability is not yours to solve or own and you are POWERLESS OVER IT. But that doesn’t mean you have to be dis-empowered by it.
I came across a client fifteen or so years ago who had subscribed to a version of rules for men, although I have no idea what the source was entitled and whether it was an actual book. But it taught manipulation. It taught him how to wield power, essentially with mind games. It was ugly. I could feel the pain leaking out with his words. Because essentially the message to him was “whatever you have deep inside yourself is not enough to be worthy of attraction or love so you’ll have to resort to dishonesty”. He was not happy and I helped him understand exactly why not. When he came back to me a few months later, oh my goodness gracious he was lovely. Kind charming smart. He physically looked more attractive because the vibe he was putting out was self loving and accepting and gracious and calm. AND he had met a creative, intriguing beautiful woman and started a relationship with her. That was a heart happy moment for me.
Let us draw the natural conclusion of a world where all women wear mini skirts heels and long straight hair with hoops, it’s a slight variation on The Handmaid’s Tale, me thinks. Like a modern harem-training where we are bred to be attractive to the male brain and we are calling that a recipe for happiness. Do we want to be a unicorn at the expense of our humanity, and is that actually empowering women or men or humans or donkeys even? Lord no.
Can we tease a few good bits out of The Rules self help? Well I think there are areas where they overlap in result with basic emotional health principles:
- I am not going to overshare because it’s not healthy to overshare.
- I am not going to be hanging over my crush’s every word and attention because I have inner fulfillment.
- I am going to have things going on in my life because I am engaged in life.
- I am going to be vulnerable because I want a meaningful relationship.
- I am not going to dominate a relationship dynamic because I want an equal partnership.
- And if a person ghosts or avoids or seems less than fully present I am going to throw that fish back because I am choosing to cultivate a healthy emotional dynamic in a relationship and not everyone will show up with that level of readiness or maturity.
- And you know what, regardless of what gender you identify with, if you feel really super intense five minutes into a relationship, you probably need to work some of that out for yourself so as to not come in swinging a bat or solving problems that aren’t there.
But as soon as you go down the rabbit hole of affectation, as soon as we throw emotional truth under the bus well we know that the House always wins the long game, right?
Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m popping over the mall to get me some hoops and some stilettos. If you need me text me and I’ll get back to you with a one line answer within twenty four hours, unless you send a paragraph then maybe I’ll send two lines, OR maybe I won’t because I am Rhiannon and I rule my life like a bird in flight *tosses silky mane over shoulder with easy breezy beauty and disappears in cloud of mist.
— Love Erin
You say I’m crazy
This one is for Richard, my friend who passed away in February this year, right before the entire world lost its mind. You left just in time. I hope you are riding a bike up there, like the one you won in that contest and had to give away, and that you are sculpting beautiful things, and shaking your head and pronouncing the Michegas (Yiddish word for crazy) that has befallen all of us down here who languish beneath your twinkling starlight. I love you dearly.
Crazy Town is a hot topic of late. It came up in the amazing podcast I was invited to be a part of last week. If you missed it check it out here. It’s called The Village Confidential and it will entertain you and engage your clever mind. It’s “juicy”! Ernest, Brad, Christine and I touched on boundaries and jealousy —a lot of the stuff that makes us feel unglued in our dating and relationship scenarios. I shared a story of a lovely woman, and trust me she is a woman of strength and character who has helped so many she is for sure getting a statue in her honour any old day now, who lost her shit for a while. What did she do? Well she created a fake profile to tempt the man she was seeing into cheating on her, with ‘her’. But not just her, her with a flourish. Unicorn her. Her with a direct line into his wants, desires and idiosyncrasies.
Entrapment! The men cried. Bro-codes were passed around secret tables, improved, revised. Motions were passed and sworn in with dark rites and rituals. Women snapped zee’s No he didn’t! because we are just so tired of hearing about all the wild accidents that land penises in vaginas with zero culpability on the part of the penis #oopsytripped. And it’s not that they are wrong, sigh, BUT I am here to chime in and say that it just didn’t matter by the time dude agreed to bed ‘fake her’ because by that point ‘real her’ had already blown it. He just showed up and played the part she had written for him. I mean we all like to believe our beloved is starry eyed for us and would “just say no” in any circumstance. But it wasn’t just that she created a new and improved version of herself that was the problem – a fantasy, a perfect storm with an ingredient that real life was never going to repeat for him and therefore the test failed – it was that In order to “test” the relationship she had to divest emotionally first. She broke trust. She decided not to share her fear or vulnerability or ask for what she was needing; reassurance or honest conversation. I mean I’ve got to give her credit because she went all in with this sabotage. She didn’t half ass it. And she lets me tell the story. She could shoulda woulda said “Hey I am scared” and given him the opportunity to reassure her, or share his own fears, or grow together, and maybe that would have moved them toward the relationship he would have chosen over the imaginary Unicorn.
The truth is we really are all crazy waiting to happen.
The vulnerability that is required by love is like crossing a bridge naked with spotlights on our squishy bits and secretly having it broadcast on national television all the while waking up the ogres that live beneath. Well that is discouraging Erin, you’re telling me. I don’t like the sound of that! But hear me out. My point is that we can’t outsmart our vulnerability. We can’t have the trust fall without the fall. We have to choose the possibility of the other person meeting us at Love Town or at the top of the Empire State Building in order to get our “happy ending”. We risk that they won’t show up, but we can’t get there if we stay home. And our scared inner child is going to scream and kick and yell a lot of “you can’t make me” once in a while on this trip.
It’s scary because it hurts when we aren’t chosen. It’s scary to fall. And for some of us it’s extra scary because that child has been through the emotional equivalent of a thousand rejections by parents or caregivers, which amplifies all of the hurt and the need.
The CRAZY happens when we let this toddler who is having a meltdown make the decisions for us.
That is how we end up with the fake profile, or talking him into dating another woman in case he might have been interested in her so we don’t look a fool, or how we wind up with a second girlfriend who is now going to blow up our reputation just in case the first one was going to leave us for that younger hotter guy, or waiting for him outside the pub because he doesn’t want to talk to us because we picked a fight about his work when we were really upset about feeling excluded, or accusing her of putting her kids before our kids, or inventing a 1001 scenarios that are terrifying and then sending a quick Dear Jane because you know, someone somewhere once upon a time got played, used, cheated on or taken for a buck.
The inner child panics, we react. Or worse we play THE GAME. This is our inner child dressed up in a leather jacket with an upturned collar trying to out-cool the other kids. Don’t let ‘em know you are interested or see you sweat, play it cool or play the field. It’s offense instead of defense, but the best offense ever is only going to get you a longer, shittier game. Someone has to lose, which means that everyone loses. It will NEVER and I repeat NEVER get you fulfillment because you will never feel safe or real in your depth of feeling for another human being or in your capacity to receive love.
The only way to love, and I don’t just mean romantic love, but yes it all plays out here friend, is to cross the naked bridge. Someday, somehow we got to face the music, we have to look Shrek in the face; the fear that we are green and ugly and not enough, and just say no. Or I love you you green bad bitch you. And we will face it over and over again, through love and life until we learn THIS ONE THING.
Now, if your scared child has been through more than their fair share of shit, the Ogres are going to be greener and the pit of hell under the bridge is going to look deeper. You may need some support healing old wounds before it’s even fair to approach the bridge.
But one way or another you’re going to have to get real.
There will always be the chance that someone you love will stop holding out their arms and you will hit the ground. Even when you have been doing it daily for twenty years.
But if you hurt first, if you come out swinging, you only guarantee hurt. You lock that shit down. And you shut out the room for love, safety, growth, openness, intimacy, joy.
Which means the practical answer in all of this is to:
- Allow your child to be scared and love them through it. Don’t leave them alone with Amityville Horror playing in the background.
- Have honest communication with your beloved. When you share without judgment or attack, which sounds a lot like I feel things or I am trying to solve things that are not your fault please help me, you invite them to dismiss the Ogre with you. You invite them into your safe space and allow for support, rather than driving a wedge between you, or causing a conflict. Be fucking REAL. For the love of all things good and beautiful the flowers the sun and the puppies, don’t play games. They don’t give you power. Power over is not power, it’s a form of powerlessness. It doesn’t work. Never. Ever. EVER! We don’t want to keep someone we love guessing, or someone who loves us guessing. No one gains, we all lose. We do not avoid discomfort. We create it.
- Choose love. And remember that it is always a choice. Don’t trick yourself into believing otherwise. Be forthcoming. Choose to show up and share with your partner. Choose bravery over cowardice. Choose trust. Choose compassion. Choose joy. Choose your beloved. Choose yourself. You are worthy of them. Make choices that reflect that.
Part of the crazy factor is that LOVE IS BLIND. We cannot see straight when we are the ones who are vulnerable. Not even the most level headed of us. It cannot be done. All can be coming up roses, and we will see things that aren’t there. All can be headed to hell in a hand-basket and we will be smelling roses. It’s the nature of the game. We cannot solve this alone. We need to team up, be allies. Throw your partner a rope if they are dangling from the vulnerability bridge by a pinky. Don’t step on it with your boot for Pete’s sake.
On flip side of crazy, we all have the potential for CRAZYMAKING. Crazymaking happens in conjunction with a little thing we in the counselling world like to call “emotional avoidance”. For some of us it is super duper scary to feel our feelings, let alone talk about them, and we would rather be doused in gasoline and run through a forest fire being chased by a grizzly than actually share an insecurity or ask for something we need. Better to hide and then call her a bitch for not getting the psychic message that something was freaking us the fuck out and light the whole thing on fire #closecallIwasmeanttobealone.
Crazymaking (by which I am referring to the lesser version and not the behaviour of the full fledged mentally ill) happens when we don’t want to deal and so we leave the other person to guess, to wait, to feel like they are the ones who are the problem because they are doubting us, even though we are causing them doubt with our behaviour.
The human brain wants to solve equations, and when it is missing a variable, it will try out all 5743 permutations and combinations of the equation available, and then start again. And while we are NICE people and we don’t want to cause human pain and suffering, THIS my friends is an acute form suffering wielded by our avoidance.
It is why we need to share. And not ghost. And not deflect. No matter how hard it feels for us to put on our big kid pants, and how much life is grinding us down, we can sit with our beloved or our date and say “here is the problem” rather than let them lose their goddamned mind to the missing variable.
Tell them you found them attractive but then they didn’t want kids and tried to make it into a casual relationship and that killed the attraction for you so they stop looking so sad when you walk past them at the bar.
Tell them you don’t feel romantic feelings for them, preferably before they think you are exclusive.
Tell them that you are scared they are going to leave you for that younger one, not because you are a crazy creep but because you are crazy for them. They want you to be crazy for them. They do not really want you to be indifferent.
And let me share with you friends that if you are the one obsessing because you are short a variable this does not mean you are crazy, even if you actually considered that she didn’t call you back because she was a secret agent called away to a mission in Uganda. It means you have been made crazy. Ghosting does this. Lack of closure does this. Emotional avoidance does this. It’s not your fault and you’re probably going to need some holy intervention to get over it.
Regardless of just how batshit you have become, regardless of whether it is caused by their immaturity or your history or a perfect storm of all the fuckery, your crazy is safe with me. I will help you over the bridge. Preferably call me before it’s your ‘one call’ from jail, and we’ll laugh and cry our way to sanity, you sexy unicorn version of the already sexy fabulous you.
— Love Erin
Your broken heart
For a very special reason I am sending you Monday’s musing today. I invite you to take a listen to this amazing new podcast that I was asked to be a part of, with a group of smart, classy and edgy thinkers who are doing something a little different. Their brand is “raw, relevant and unapologetic”; The Village Confidential. It’s an inside look at Calgary entrepreneurs with a unique adventurous spirit in terms of content and humour. I was honoured to be a part of it, and would be so thrilled if you would take a listen and pass it on.
I am a runner, and because I love to run outside and I am out there every day and I live by a bird sanctuary I get to enjoy these Snow White moments. I have meditated on a rock and had chickadees hop up and down from my legs to my shoulders, I have had deer lazily saunter by close enough to touch, I have had an Eagle swoop by so close we almost collided. I once saw a Bald Eagle scoop up a Canada Goose by the neck and carry it off to dinner. And so WTF did it mean when the swallows started dive-bombing me? I am going to confess, it knocked me down from my princess of the forest fairy tale into a Hitchcock plot twist before you can say Cackaw. I was admittedly sad, when I realized the bird that had skimmed my hair had not actually lost its bearings, but was after me. Of course the swallows were nesting and using a complicated system of watch bird calling to attack bird, but after a week of daily dives I was feeling singled out and wondering about past-life Karma (a philosophy I don’t subscribe to, except when birds are attacking me). I was given advice that I should carry a stick with me to wave in the danger zone, and this system did seem to work in that the bird would not swoop lower than the height of the stick and my face was thus protected. So one day I head out and before I get anywhere I feel a sharp stab on my ankle. I move the tongue of my running shoe and a wasp flies out, leaving two red sting marks. I don’t know if any of you are running junkies, but a girl’s got to clear her head. So I kept on running. It was a bit of a run-hop on account of the sharp stabs of pain. Before I was consciously aware of it I was praying. Please let me have this run, as if some nasty God was doling out parking ticket quotas for the day and I was begging for a break. And then it occurred to me to recite a line from A Course in Miracles, which if you don’t know it, is a jaunty little 617 page read with a year long workbook, but it’s pretty fricking top-line training in undoing your Ego if you’re into that kind of thing, like how to undo pain and suffering, which is my jam, just a more holy jar of it. So I am reciting the following, which I share in spite of my embarrassment to do so, because if you don’t know the ins and outs of it sounds like religious mumbo jumbo, and it is just not: “I am the holy son of God, I cannot suffer, cannot be in pain, nor can I fail to do all that salvation asks”. But because the pain is escalating SO is my volume. And it all comes together in a beautiful moment where I am ducking from killer birds, waving a stick frantically and screaming curse words alternating with holy mantras as my neighbours jog by, seemingly unnoticed by the bird-team that has singled me out. I am basically as crazy as it gets.
The miracle at the end of this crazy, is that all of the pain of my wasp stings went away within five minutes and I ran a long painless run. When I got home and my family asked to see the damage expecting me to be writhing and limping, there were only two red holes but no actual suffering to go with them.
This is what I aim to give you friends. Sometimes there is nothing I am going to say in fifteen hundred words that is going to lift your pain enough. Because when you’re feeling it, it feels really really scream out loud bad. But know that I am connecting you to all of the loving hearts that are connected to mine, and they are connecting you to all the loving hearts connected to theirs and we are making a chain this way, so we can pull you out of that sludge that is far too heavy for your now immobilized limbs. You can let yourself break, you can lie in a heap and give up for an hour, or a day, or a week. I mean too much more than that and we’ll need to intervene. But for now, blow your snot into my sleeve and I’ll get the Ben and Jerry’s and run the bath. I even have some old beer at the back of the fridge you can cry into, as long as you stay away from my Amarone.
Hurt hurts. And while I am going to enthusiastically share with you a much better way to approach life and relationship so as to create less hurt, hands down, and how to unravel hurt so it doesn’t create more hurt, I cannot stop another from throwing a punch. I mean I can wrap you in clouds of Charmin, I can teach you to duck, and I can get you back up in the ring with a full set of teeth, but sometimes you are going to get KNOCKED. THE. FRICK. OUT.
I am so sorry about that friends.
Sometimes the punch hurts because it says we are not worthy.
But sometimes it hurts because it erases joy, with very little warning. Like having your teddy bear thrown off a train.
Some of you right now have achy breaky hearts. And if you didn’t before that song reference got you there real quick, didn’t it?
Some of you have had a lot of BIG THINGS dumped on you lately, and Covid is the pile of sticks on your camel’s back. You’re tired. The adrenaline has worn off. Nothing lights you up. It all feels hard and heavy.
Some of you have been dumped. Period. Plain old non-Covid related dumped. How unimaginative!
Last week I wrote about sabotage; that terrible horrible painful wreckage created when someone who feels unworthy blows up your relationship. Some of you are watching this train heading straight for you.
Sometimes life throws the sucker punch. Life takes away your job, or your security, or your health. Plays you for a fool.
The man you were going to marry breaks up with you by text because you inconvenienced him with a painful emotion wrapped in a soft blanket and set down gingerly in his general vicinity.
The job that was your brilliant accomplishment evaporates in a puff of virulent smoke.
Or you’ve been slugging it, slugging it so hard, for so long, nothing feels fun anymore. You can see the bridge to happiness, but you just can’t get up from the sofa, let alone drag your Covid ass all the way over there.
Sometimes we do all of the right things, and look sideways for a brief second and it all comes crashing down.
We don’t get to the good stuff with out risking. It takes two people entering into vulnerability to create a relationship.
It takes two wills lining up to create all that is meaningful in our hearts and lives.
And when that force seems to break, when one of those two parties to a trust fall drops their arms, we hit hard. There is a period of shock before we can get to understanding our pain and solving for it.
We can’t control for that piece. For Karen screeching the brakes. For the ground rising up to meet our face.
But there are so many other arms reaching out, when it seems like you have lost one that matters.
We offer you the blankie fort.
We send in the guardian angels to wrap around you and keep you protected.
My team of holies and I will stand watch over all of the things you can’t seem to get to.
All of the ends you are letting slip.
All of the efforts you can’t make.
We will be the love in which you forgive.
The light in which you see.
The mind in which you think.
And the strength in which you trust.
Lay in a heap, but keep your heart open.
You’re too tired to close it off anyhow, remember?
And it’s not your job right now to make sense of the pain.
We’ll be behind the scenes, waiving sticks and screaming holy mantras and f bombs, all for you.
We’ll get you to the bridge.
You can rest in us.
— Love Erin
You know the scene in that truly gripping edge of your seat film (spoiler alert), where Denzel has landed the plane with jaw dropping awe inspiring heroism, but shit-ass drunk, and he is to be interrogated at a tribunal hearing because someone somewhere gets a hold of an alarming tox report? Then he finally gets his shit together and gets off the booze and you’re feeling good. You’re feeling optimistic. A bit of sunny house painted yellow open the windows kind of hope. It’s as tense as legal dramas get and ALL he has to do is just show up sober to the hearing and life as he knows it as the heroic pilot he is can continue…And we the audience are all sweating blood BECAUSE we feel what is coming. We feel, IT. Even those of us who don’t know what IT is, are squirming in our seats, averting our eyes, grabbing our movie buddy’s shirt sleeves and twisting with twisty squirmy anguish.
Denzel is in the hotel room. The world is quiet. Nothing is wrong on the outside. Nothing is wrong on the inside. Except we see that single bead of sweat. And there is the rub, friends. That single bead of sweat.
Denzel is waiting it out. It’s just him and some minutes, and the presence of the locked mini-bar lurking in a seed of awareness, someone forgot to take out of his way. The mini bar — the weapon of choice. HOW he’s gonna take himself down. Crash the plane.
The itch to light it all on fire, when you get close to safety. Close to yourself. Close to love.
Sabotage is extremely painful to watch.
And it’s staggeringly painful to be on the receiving end of.
When it’s not Denzel, but your beloved. The one you have cradled in your arms. Sunk deep into. Been intimate with. Bared your SOUL to. Confided your secrets in. Loved with giddy hope and reckless abandon. Stripped down naked for, I mean naked. Physically and emotionally and spiritually, let yourself be seen by. And then TRUSTED. To embrace you, and all of your shy, secret places.
You feel it trickle. You smell it. You taste it. It wrests you from slumber. It creeps into words, familiar words, words that we know and welcome and sharpens them at the edges, pushes them a little farther apart, carves something out of the warm middle so that they ring with a barely discernible echo. A little quicker to hang up, a little slower to text. A phrase, dangled mid-air that could just be a phrase, harmless, meaning a thousand different innocent things. But you detect it. It’s acrid, sour. It twists the face of a loved one into something different. It erases. Kills even. Traceless dissonance. Poisonous pulling away.
You don’t want to see it. You oh so gawd awfully don’t want it to be true.
And so you do the thing that we all do.
You try to outsmart it. You go to war.
Not just any war. The war of your life.
Because you are fighting for the person you love, with the reckless beautiful love that is the stuff of relationships. You are fighting for them, against what I call “LESS THAN” them.
You are fighting against the voice of their abandonment, an escalating silent scream, that is sounding at the place they were left in the lurch, the roadside, the schoolyard, the empty hospital room. Small and alone.
You, little one, are not worthy of love.
Love, little one, is an unsafe place.
And that voice is insidious. It speaks in riddles.
It looks to DIVIDE, DISTANCE, MAKE DIFFERENT, VILIFY.
It veils love with fear.
It lies like a bitch. It is in their ear like a gossiping friend:
She doesn’t have time for you.
He needs too much attention.
It will never work.
She is making a fool of you.
You are in different places.
She’ll home in on your guy time.
He’ll want to change you.
He expects too much.
You are destined to be alone.
She was never going to fit in with your friends.
He doesn’t see you for you.
It hurts, willfully and skillfully and without mercy. It goes for the jugular and rips at the throat, because your hurt proves its evil, it’s right to run like fucking hell, to outrun the pain of seeing its worthlessness.
It takes stupid actions. It blocks and deletes. It calls up an ex lover. It flirts and plays games. It disrespects and deprioritizes. It sanitizes all of those scary feelings with SPACE.
It kills before it exposes itself. Wields the machete at the first rustle in the jungle dark.
You know the bill of goods it is selling your beloved. Because you LOVE THEM. TEARS OF JOY kind of love. You could probably hand them the script, of all painful ironies.
And so you see, with the ugly curse of foresight, what no one else around you can, the car spinning out of control. The switch flipping. The sweat dripping.
It’s not you. It’s oh so perfectly NOT you.
You may know that, friend. With your super smart braniac head you may know it.
Even if it triggers your shit.
But I am going to remind your heart.
It’s cold comfort in your living room. I know, but you need to hear it. Play it on a podcast. Sprinkle it on your breakfast cereal, because this shit hurts. Kicks us in the back of the knees kind of hurt.
It’s not you.
If you’re healthy, you’re going to move on, and you’re going to be loving someone else, the day they wake up and the sun pours in and the sheets are soaked with sweat and they know what they have given up. Stevie Nicks is not wrong; Dreams of loneliness like a heart beat will drive them mad. You see this too. And if you’re like me, you are already holding them, that scared self. Cradling them in your arms one last time, telling them it’s not their fault, and that you are SO very sorry they lost it, and how worthy of love you know they are, even though it won’t be yours.
Or maybe you get lucky and win the war this time.
Maybe you lean into the curve, and outcrazy their crazy, you Jennifer Laurence bad ass bitch (Silver Linings Playbook in case you’re not up on the box office hits).
I get it. Denzel is a babe in that story.
The hero who needs a little saving. We all want to sweep his tox report under the rug. Just a little bit, come on admit it. Not that we want a drunk pilot. We just see past it. We see his good.
And we see yours. Our saboteur (If this is YOU and you are Denzel please call me up and I will help you).
If you are going to fight their instinct for flight, if you are going to war, you need to be the sage commander. You need The Art of War and A Course In Miracles in a blender with some added protein.
If you are going to take your enemy, take them whole.
Don’t hurt them. It will hurt you.
Don’t attack. It will diminish you both.
Don’t cause them to defend themselves. This is like handing ammunition to their “Less Than” voice.
Don’t diminish them. Because you love them and your goal is to heal.
Use your environment to your advantage. Stop trying so hard and let the rock roll itself down the hill.
Confuse and distract them with kindness.
Let them defeat themselves, aka, the voice of pain and loss, defeat itself.
Don’t give the crazy power. Pretend to, but just don’t.
Be willing to SEE past their “Less Than” to their Whole self. Wrap your arms around them until the hurt has quit kicking and screaming and collapsed in your arms.
And forgive the IDEA that somehow you are not enough.
You have ONE shot at this. ONE.
To “outcrazy their crazy”.
But beware that plots are for twists.
You need to believe in your bones, but be prepared to kill (do I need to emphasize that this is a metaphor?). And for your ego to die and that is never pretty my friend.
Many of us aren’t ready for that.
If we are unhealthy, we get lost at battle, and the war drags on for 8 years.
In other words you can take a flight risk head on, but never twice, or you are codependent and you’re both going down with the plane. If your “LESS THAN” gets in there, if ego corrupts your vision, well Silver Linings can get Jerry Springer in a hot five minutes.
If war is not your art? Or your daytimer is just too full for ninja level shit?
The alternative is to hand it all over to your holy holies, and do what I do.
Apply as much love as you can, recklessly, in the face of fear. Pour it on. Saturate the place.
Fill all of those tiny airline bottles in that god forsaken mini fridge with one hundred proof LOVE.
And thank Heaven that you don’t have to land that plane alone.
— Love Erin.
Must love alligators
It should be easy, right? Things should just fall into place, click, be all Sympatico. You should ‘meet cute’ on a colourful city sidewalk where you are distracted by a street vendor hollering today’s deal on hot dogs and they are leaning over to pick up the package an old lady just unwittingly dropped, and you trip over one another to find that their chocolate has cleverly landed in your peanut butter. Two great tastes that taste great together. And then you’re off! You get each other’s jokes. You finish each other’s sentences. You get caught in the rain, and kiss for hours. You both love that weekly quiz on page 9 of the Wall Street Journal. She lies around in his work shirt sipping coffee and he makes eggs, and the rest of the world just fades away as the curtain lifts and the credits roll.
We are told by well meaning friends, by the world and our favourite movies to measure love this way.
Worried about whether they are into you? It shouldn’t be this hard. Disturbed by that judgy thing they said about your friend? It shouldn’t be this hard. Feeling criticized judged misunderstood confused scared or irritated? It shouldn’t be this hard. You should be calling up your pals with stories of magic and wonder and sprinkling Pixie Dust wherever you go. This can’t be the one if you have to fix something ALREADY.
And then we are warned with equal enthusiasm delivered with a somber tone dropped to an octave reserved just for this topic that marriage is dun dun dun HARD. Relationship is hard. Hard as nails. Hard as a HELL. Prepare yourself. It’s work. It’s compromise. It’s sacrifice. It’s the god forsaken toothpaste cap, All. Over. Again. It’s a black sludge of problems bleeding into one another and dragging everyone DOWN.
It should frolic like a rom com and delight you with its simplicity and then knock you to humility with its difficulty and need for digging in, buckling down and persevering. Expect it to be light, but don’t take it lightly. Is that a contradiction? Or are they saying that even the most auspicious and film worthy love stories are destined for the dank swamp, the dark bog, the slough after the honeymoon. Are they right?
Well guess what friend, you can put down your battle axe and your cans of Love Attractant-Repellant, because I am going to call BS on this paradox, and break Tinkerbell out of Mordor.
Sometimes it is just that easy. Until it’s not.
And what if it isn’t that easy, until it is?
What do WE even mean when we say it should be easy?
What we mean, is that we are experiencing conflict and we don’t know how to resolve it and it is causing us discomfort. And FEELING discomfort in no way determines the viability of a romantic relationship. There are infinite variables that contribute to conflict in relationship and there is one way to solve it. We have to learn to differentiate between what we are feeling and the meaning we are attaching to that feeling. It’s like I broke it down for a ten year old client (whose parent I have helped with relationship): when we don’t deal with scary feelings they become scary thoughts which make our scary feelings worse!!!
Of course we all want the GOOD stuff, the box office worthy scenes dripping with butter and handfuls of colourful M & M’s. We want the high, and the playfulness and the mooning swooning giddy, as much as we want the deep abiding love, the emotional safety, the partnership and the intimacy.
But the conflict that we experience when something isn’t feeling good, does not mean we are with the wrong person. Saying that something should feel easy and using that as our measure of viability is going to land a lot of babies in the bathwater swamp. So that is kind of a disgusting metaphor my point being please don’t throw out your babies. Again, how did that one ever become a thing?
Sometimes it IS easy. And that can be on account of compatibility. It can also be because both love interests don’t want to rock the love boat and so they sweep conflict under the rug. They don’t want to see what’s not lining up, let alone talk about it. Sometimes conflicts take a while to surface. We start to integrate our lives and there are actual differences to make room for and changes on the table.
But they are not a BAD THING. We are most likely going to have some, because we aren’t the same person as our love interest, unless we are solving problems from complete Buddhist style enlightenment, where we are one and there are none, which begs the question.
Sure sometimes we want it more than they do and we are not an equal match for partnership, and that can feel like too much work. But so often, and I can say this with the authority of a woman who is navigating a hundred relationships at a time (I’ve started to talk about “our weddings” and yes I want to be seated at the head table); we confuse fear and hurt and vulnerability with red flags and we don’t let a relationship breathe, grow, and become it’s own beautiful unique thing because of that confusion.
Even for the perfectly matched:
- Somebody is not going to call you enough, or at the same time they did last week.
- Someone is going to criticize you, or fail to be super interested in that thing that is important to you.
- Someone is going to be scared and pull away, even for five minutes.
- You are going to imagine something that isn’t true, and so is your love interest.
- Someone is going to see a gold dress and someone is going to see a blue.
And it turns out, that our ability to navigate and resolve conflict becomes the foundation of our relationship, and the means by which we avoid creating the EVIL EMOTIONAL SWAMP that turns the wedding ring into My Precious and your friends into Orks and you know where this is going, marriage into Mordor.
Marriage, or long term relationship, does not have to feel hard. It does not. Fact. Yes life can deal us some shit, for sure. But partnership can actually lift us up and build us up. It can make us healthier and stronger. It’s hard to deal with emotional pain because we have been taught that it is scary. But to blame relationship for that, to blame love for that, and to blame one another, robs us of our capacity for joy. So please, don’t sell yourself this swampland in Florida, don’t jump into that slough. Not on my watch. And for the love of all things good and beautiful, don’t throw your babies into it. There are alligators.
Sometimes all of this sorting out that happens at the beginning of a relationship that we want to call effort, is all the really good trust, intimacy and communication building. And it can actually feel pretty damn good to do. Like stretching out that hip that has you driving your golf ball into someone’s fancy barbecue or the swamp. There are so many swamps friends.
It’s okay to need help with it. It’s fine if your well meaning loved ones want to support you. But if they can’t because they don’t have the tools for relationship building, because they are too close to you and want to protect, because they don’t know how to help you see what has triggered you in a safe way and how to get your needs met without sabotaging your relationship, then it might be time to get some help from ME, or someone like me, who has spent her entire adult life sorting this shit out.
You get to choose what your relationship is going to look like, even if you haven’t met the person you’re going to build it with yet (WE ARE MAKING THESE CHOICES RIGHT NOW AND IN EVERY MOMENT). And emotionally investing in your choice is a very different feeling than having your fairy dust wear off over the Kepler Mire.
— Love Erin
The long play – an oldie but goodie
Enjoy this pre-COVID oldie but goodie.
Here is the nightmare; it’s Christmas Eve and you are at the mall. Wait, no, that’s not it. It get’s worse. It’s Christmas eve and you are at the mall and you can’t find the gift that you need, and you keep running from store to store, but everything just feels meaningless, un-special. Nothing gives you that glow, that magic that says I will light up my person’s face, and you really need to feel you are lighting up your person’s face, for one hundred thousand complicated reasons that no one else really has to understand and that everyone else might judge terribly, with all kinds of sentiments and platitudes as to how it’s the thought that counts and the cult of materialism, and your obviously sold soul, and how you evidently don’t care much at all about this person because you could have found a gift one of the other 364 days of the year and now you are doubling down on your sell out because you are missing actual prime real estate family time which chimes, no, blares, no, GONGS in your head so aggressively that your inner genie of gift giving is careening from wall to wall like a drunk elf and cannot hear herself whimper let alone slip out of the bottle in a shimmering vapour cloud and grant a wish.
But it’s not Christmas, it’s summer. And I am writing to you today about a different kind of shopping. Shopping born of the technological age. The online dating age. It’s called relationship shopping. I hear all kinds of complaints about “perpetual shoppers”; the instant gratification of the swipe; the impersonal, dehumanizing nature of the process. Some have it down to an “art”, they have systems, and best practices and codes. They have defense mechanisms, and rules, and judgments, and reactions. Guidelines. “Street cred”. But underneath all of that business, somewhere somebody has a real live beating heart that’s getting ‘Macy’s on Black Friday’ trampled, and somebody isn’t making it home for Christmas dinner.
Because the thing that online dating has introduced is the element of selection which might be better understood as the illusion of control. There are some superior aspects to the selecting process. In addition to accelerating the permuting and combining of meet up variables, that is to say, the role of “chance” or “destiny” in landing you beside someone at the grocery who happens to attract you or feel attracted to you enough at the right instant, in which one of you practices 3 seconds of bravery and doesn’t end up sadly pining over a post in the “I saw you” section of your latest trending e-zine, it also allows you to screen, cull, and vet. Skimming profiles allows you to categorically weed out by job, or interests, or life goals, or history, or IQ, or charitable donations, or number of hamsters, or ability to skillfully answer a skill testing question without knowing the question in 3 different languages not including pig Latin. Okay, well not everyone is forthcoming about their deep and abiding affection for the noble hamster, but you get my drift.
You decide who you are willing to get in the grocery store line up with, and then scan for possible chemistry, rather than letting the wheel of spontaneous attraction determine your dating pool for you.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
Well, friends, I am here to tell you, all of that overachiever zeal that boosts us up the corporate ladder doesn’t always translate into relationship best practices. And that is because relationship isn’t a competition, it isn’t a test we must pass, and it when it has gone badly in the past this is not because it was a test that we failed and now must over-correct for. You can’t redeem yourself for dating Susie or Johnny by flagging all the S’s and J’s and sending them to your junk mail.
This is not to say we are judging you for not wanting to date the guy who is living in his parents’ basement, or the guy between jobs, or the woman who calls herself the Black Widow just because she has a girl crush on Scarlet Johansson.
Have you made some less than savvy relationship choices in the past? Did she sleep with your best friend and then put him through dental school with your alimony? Did he sit on the sofa crushing brewskies and belching while you hustled, brought home the bacon, fried it up in the pan, and dragged your tired ass to Pilates only to endure drunken sloppy groping that missed your happy place by a margin of 3 fingers if you’re being generous with your calculations?
Well, my good good souls, it’s time to forgive yourself. It’s time to shine a light on your dark chamber of secrets and work a little magic “IN THERE”.
Or else every box, ticked or unticked, is going to threaten you with the fallibility of your own decision making.
Remember that scene in The War of the Roses, when Katherine Turner meets Michael Douglas and they steam up the screen with a lusty rendezvous and lying in his arms she declares “This is either the most romantic night of my life, or I am a total slut”? Well, the shaming of women for their sexuality wouldn’t fly today, thankfully so, but that memorable line reveals so much more. Like how we make a decision, such as following our desire for fun and passion, but then retroactively condemn ourselves based on the outcome of the decision which we could not possibly know or control for. We are arbitrary and tyrannical with our poor little joy seeking decision making selves.
And that has us running around with our little (and by little I mean ten pages before appendices) shopping lists and spreadsheets for finding the perfect partner.
Which doesn’t solve for, oh you know, the real reasons we end up in those shitty and painful relationships in the first place. Doh.
And it doesn’t leave much space for a little BIG thing I like to call, connection.
It’s good to be intentional about what you want.
It’s good to steer the ship away from the iceberg and towards paradise island.
Two weeks ago I was on a road trip involving a lot of road with a tiny bit of trip in between, all alone for the first time in a gazillion years BC, by which I mean Before Children. There were no teenagers to run the Spotify or manage play lists. I was just this dinosaur, in a world of small agile reptiles, like lizards and newts. After a couple of hours of meditative silence I was all, Zen? Check. Mindfulness? Check. Empty silence? Solidly caught up. And I fumbled around for a CD I may have had hidden in the console. And that is when I found it. Another CD, not my own, not a band I felt particularly interested in road tripping to, or with. Alas, we were stuck there, alone, together, the hours of highway snaking into oblivion. So after pressing a few (twelve) buttons, I figured out how to load the CD. The first song was crap. The third song I kinda liked. Five or so songs in there was a ditty I recognized from eighties radio play. Nineteen songs later I thought, well, let’s start over and listen to the few we actually liked. Instead I just let the whole thing play again, more on account of driving safety than enjoyment. The third time I developed a strange crush on that first song. It came out of nowhere. I flirted with song three. I lingered over five. I was smitten with 8. Exchanged vows with 12. I fell in love with that band and that CD, and by the end of my 20 hours on the road, it was with stupefied awe that I contemplated my reluctance to give it the time of day ten hours before. How could I have underestimated so strongly? How could I not have known? And what if love was like that? (It gets deep on the highway friends).
The problem with the shopping afforded by online dating, is that it doesn’t leave room for the extended play; the magic that can happen when you listen to the B side, let someone grow on you, allow yourself to be surprised by the x factor you didn’t even know you wanted that now has the power to move you through mountains.
Not everyone will serenade you into Lalaland.
But you don’t need a Fort Knox built of boxes to identify a red flag (toxic, emotionally unhealthy unsafe behaviour).
What we all want is that kind of connection that is greater than the sum of all of the boxes, checked or unchecked. We don’t want to fit someone into our cramped little comfort zone, as much as we may try to convince ourselves that this is true. We want someone who inspires us to get out of it.
Then we don’t need to be doing the math, or adding up the pros and cons, or prevaricating.
We just say yes to the dress.
So my guideline for the online dating matchmaking modern age set up? Go ahead and have your list, but don’t forget when you’re making it to consider how you want to feel in that relationship you’re conjuring. And when you make it out to the lounge or the café, when you are sitting face to face with this actual real live feeling human being with a real live beating heart somewhere beneath their polished exterior and their best seven o’clock hair, a person you may or may not want to hang out with for the foreseeable future? Well, leave your spreadsheet at home. Pretend for twenty minutes or an hour that you met at the grocery store. Listen to the B side. You don’t have to have all of the answers. You can’t protect yourself from vulnerability with all of the strategy under the sun. So you might as well enjoy the music.
At the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather be trying to explain to your lovelies why what shouldn’t work just does, than listing all of the reasons why what doesn’t work should?
— Love Erin
He takes off her dress now
I’ve never used Botox, but I think jealousy can be likened to the neurotoxin. In very small carefully placed and managed doses, it helps us. I mean it feels good to be wanted. We want our paramour to see us as desirable, to know that other bachelors/bachelorettes find us desirable, and to give some general fucks about having us to themselves. Even if we have a healthy self esteem and sense of personal worth and we score a perfect ten on the latest EQ assessment tool and the descendants of Ghandi are dialing us up for pro tips on peaceful revolution, sexual desirability is a THING. It’s not unenlightened to enjoy it. It’s part of the mystery of romantic love, which if you want to get all spiritual and philosophical about you’ll have to slide into my DM’s and buy me a glass of wine first. So yes, toxic jealousy is arguably redundant. Yep we know it’s toxic but a small dose of that tension makes us feel a little prettier and if we’re lucky cures a migraine. So I am saying that it’s okay to relax your forehead wrinkles, or to tell them about the hot bartender half your age who thinks you’re a god/dess. But too much of that youth juice and no one’s smiling anymore. Literally. For months.
The truth is, I don’t want you to hurt. Not one tiny little bit because I love you. I don’t want you feel excluded, or unimportant to me. I don’t want you to feel disrespected or uncomfortable. You are the object of my affection and my sexual desire and I want you to feel fucking great about that. I don’t want you to sincerely question your importance to me, or how my stomach does that flippy thing when you do that Tom Cruise jaw muscle flex, or toss your Julia Roberts tresses behind your back with a sparkly laugh. Hurting you hurts me.
Provoking jealousy as a weapon is manipulative and passive aggressive. You see it most often when someone feels hurt, or isn’t getting their needs met, and doesn’t feel emotionally invested in by their partner. It doesn’t solve anything and just creates patterns on patterns on patterns that no seamstress is going to get the pins out of.
Toxic jealousy (which I will now differentiate from Botoxic Jealousy) is born of deep insecurity but more importantly it is a form of possession and control. I need you to feed my bottomless pit of insecurity and need for worth and self love, neither of which can ever be fed by another person, and you are therefore constantly emotionally drained by this process, which usually plays out somewhere along a spectrum of constant reassurance to high drama conflict fights and aggression, and always escalates and erodes emotional safety. If this is your dynamic, your relationship lacks a solid foundation. Your partner needs help from a professional. Hands down.
So what about all of those in between situations? What are the relationship best practices for navigating the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY areas of what it means to be faithful, and create emotional security in your relationship? Well let me start with an easy ‘slide-rule’ guideline.
WHEN IN DOUBT PROTECT THE RELATIONSHIP
You’re going to tell me that it’s okay to have friends, and that you have no intention of crossing any lines. Maybe you are not attracted to said ‘friend’ at all, sexually. Maybe it fits the bill for generic safe friendship. There is nothing wrong with going for coffee everyday at break time, or texting about a common interest. And maybe you are right. Maybe you know, deep down in your innermost place of deep secret thoughts, that there is no way you would EVER feel or think flirty thoughts about this person, and therefore you are in the clear, right? And your partner should be okay with it right? And so any discomfort is his/her problem, right? A sign of MISTRUST, or toxic jealousy. You stand to lose something and your fight response is rightly provoked.
And I am going to say WAIT A HOT MINUTE.
The problem with this thinking, is that even the Nicholas Sparks worthy love stories, even the Romeos and Juliettes are not going to have access to your innermost place of deep secret thoughts. So, the chances of them feeling discomfort or pain, even if they trust your motives or your commitment, are high. Maybe not every time, or in every circumstance. But they are high. AND if you make it about trust, then they are effectively not allowed to feel, validate, express or work through their discomfort because it is seen as an attack on your integrity and motives. And this creates fissures in the relationship dynamic.
Our own trustworthiness is not the measuring stick for taking really good care of our relationship. It’s a gift to really like or even LOVE someone and have them feel all of those things back for us. It’s a gift to have fucks given about who we spend time with and give our attention to. So how do we take care of that and protect that?
- Firstly, we pay attention. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a friend or an interaction with someone. But we can do it in a way that is loving and protective of our partner. We can take care to assure our partner without them having to ask us about the nature of the connection or the interaction. We can take an extra measure or two to keep it above board. Meet in neutral environments. Conscious and intentional sensitivity will go a long way, and when we see and understand it as a way to kindly and lovingly protect our gift and the person we love, it feels pretty damn good to make those choices. We aren’t buying into the narrative that we are losing out, or losing ourselves. Strings and blurry lines with exes and friends don’t keep us from losing ourselves, they keep us from investing and from true intimacy.
- Ask, is this appropriate? When I was engaged to be married my husband-to-be chimed into an otherwise innocuous conversation that he was planning a camping trip with his ex-common law girlfriend of six years. Just the two of them, tenting in the woods, for several overnights. Now before you ROFLYAO, I knew the history of their relationship, and I knew that any attraction to her had long since faded, and I knew that he felt some sense of compassion, wanting to make right his departure from the relationship by being a supportive friend. I didn’t actually feel worried that he would cross a line, or stray, or anything of the sort. But it was not okay with me. Not one tiny bit. Because it was inappropriate.
- Does it look, smell or taste like behaviour we engage in as a couple? Does it look, smell or taste romantic? Then it’s probably not doing your relationship any favours. Because it’s stepping into the intimacy that is reserved for our primary partnership. Because even with best intentions those types of engagements DO open us up to unexpected romantic connections, so even if this time is an exception and nothing comes out of it, it’s not a best practice.It’s not going to feel comfortable or safe or prioritize the relationship. And if you look for your partner to “okay it” because they should trust you, you are creating a potential for disconnect and strain.
- Does it disparage your partner? We all need to vent and talk through our challenges but we can do this in a way that doesn’t paint them in a disrespectful light or cross a line in terms of privacy, or intimacy.
- Does it create romantic intimacy with someone else? Don’t talk shit about Susie to Linda, unless you and Linda are lifetime platonic friends and she knows the love and respect you intend behind your rant of the day. Definitely don’t talk shit about Bob to Gary if Gary kinda maybe has a bit of a crush on you, even just a wee emotional one because that creates intimacy with Gary that is romantic territory, even if you don’t plan on bedding the guy.
- Is it serving the greater good of your relationship, your emotional health and your life? If it’s a really important friendship then it’s worth navigating sensitive areas together. But do you really need to flirt with Bob at the company party? Do you need to make friends with the cute office admin? Are you really giving up by taking lavishly great care of your primary relationship? And sometimes we ARE in fact crossing a line, self deceiving, and the best thing we can do is be honest with ourselves first and figure out what we are needing and why, so that we don’t get into a hot mess, or break something precious. Divorce courts are full of good good people who got lonely or were afraid to ask, or never healed that old betrayal.
And if we can acknowledge sexual desirability is desirable for most of us, then we can allow for that Botoxic Jealousy that makes us all a bit crazy at times, and cut our partner some slack. Let them be a little crazy for us once in a while, give them a veto card that let’s them say no you can’t do that perfectly innocent thing just this once because I feel a bit crazy about you.
Finally, we are all grown ass adults here and we can make up our own relationship rules and practices. I do suggest involving your actual partner in the rule making if you’re taking some creative liberties. It’s never fun when one person is in an open relationship and the other is not #shedugherkeysintothesideofhisdirtylittlesoupedupfourwheeldrive. I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong or that you can’t make it up yourself. I’m just here to make sure you don’t go in for a little zhush and come out with another face.
“Now I’m falling asleep And she’s calling a cab While he’s having a smoke And she’s taking a drag Now they’re going to bed And my stomach is sick And it’s all in my head But she’s touching his chest now He takes off her dress now Let me go And I just can’t look, it’s killing me And taking control”
from Mr. Brightside by The Killers
— Love, Erin
What have you got to lose?
Susan and Jim, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then come marriage, then comes Jim, pushing a baby carriage…
Let’s face it. We have a love hate relationship with L.O.V.E. We want it, we yearn for it, we seek it out, we risk for it, and simultaneously we pride ourselves on NOT needing it, on being content with our selves, on NOT depending, on being whole, or evolved or “going our own way”. We write out our name with his last name, we ROM COM (now a verb), we wonder how we will meet someone, will we ever, is it me we ask when the solo years roll by, am I too SOMETHING? An asshole, a bitch? Too demanding or critical? Do I need botox, or stronger glutes? A sexier job title? More hair?
We stack our boxes and zhuzh our profiles. We engineer the perfect mate on a spreadsheet, and he is ten percent bratty bad boy Gerard Butler stirred in with fifty percent ruffled hair self deprecating wittty Hugh Grant wanting to devour us with his paint brush through the eyes of Javier Bardem circa Vicky Christina. She is forty percent Jennifer Anniston girl next door with a hint of Julia Roberts sparkle, stirred in with some Scarlet Johansson pouty lipped superhero badassery in the bedroom. We map out careers and body types and character and values and also the secret sub category that is “everything we hated about Susan/Jim and will run from at Olympic speeds to avoid”.
On Mondays we are independent and fierce and we march to the beat of our own drum and on Fridays we are dragging our ass to the party or the restaurant or the meet up, scanning the face of the world for the face of our new beloved, a little too excited when the fortune cookie promises a new crush.
And then…it happens. We MEET SOMEONE. We feel, something. A tingling. A connection. HOPE HAPPENS. We have a pep in our step, we see their face, hear their voice, replay that thing they said to us that made us feel like the most desirable date in Date-land a few hundred times. We can’t help but work their name into conversation. We make our beloveds roll their eyes. We are smitten. We check off our boxes, or we throw the whole damn spread sheet into the garbage, because whatever was on there can’t compare to this feeling. We try to make up a new one based on everything we never knew we wanted, and then we throw that out, because our heart has already won the war. Love is in the air.
And then…the OTHER thing happens. They hurt us. One moment it’s running through meadows of daffodils. The next it’s the tease that holds a slight edge about our snoring or our loud voice, or we try to tell them something important and they don’t seem to hear us, or there they are out at the pub with that loser you know has a thing for her and it’s not that you don’t trust her but what if she’s into him and just been stringing you along this whole time? What if they get up from the table and he puts his hand on her back?
Up come the walls. The walls, oh the walls. The walls of Fort Knox, the North Walls, steel maximum security prison walls with the screaming alarms, the walls of “fuck vulnerability” which so readily turn love into a war zone and your paramour into the enemy who you must now outsmart and your heart into the triple agent you must now take down, and The Avengers of your hurt are climbing into costume for the next blockbuster called ROM COM MUST DIE.
And that is why you have me on speed dial, love. Joking, but so not joking.
Here is the thing.
Somewhere between Cupid stabbing you with his arrow and walking off into the sunset, something is going to hurt.
Because you are two different perspectives.
Two different histories.
Two different ways of managing the toothpaste cap.
And I gently suggest to you, that there are pros and cons to having the cap off for easy access and time saving, and having it on so you don’t get crusty bits on the end that you have to wipe off.
We have personalized walls. The Susan and Jim walls. The he shouldn’t have she shouldn’t have walls. The abandonment wall. The fidelity wall. The ever so popular “I don’t want to lose myself” wall. The “I can’t be successful and manage a relationship” wall. The shitty boundaries wall. The “I’m not a priority” wall.
Walls are fun. They are cute. They are the emotional equivalent to telling someone to “be careful” after you watch them trip down the stairs.
Walls are an attempt to close off, to separate, to defend emotionally. But we erect them when we are already hurt. And they don’t actually fix the wound. They heal nothing, grow nothing, build nothing and help no one. Separation does not work. When we erect an emotional wall we make our love interest into our enemy.
And The World, our audience, is right there behind us snapping a zee, telling us ain’t no self- respecting man or woman gonna put up with that BS so we better wo/man up.
And sometimes they are right. Sometimes it is BS. I am not saying you should have to live your life with messy toothpaste, or peace out while the person who holds your heart in their hands stares across the candlelit table at someone who is NOT YOU, by the way but I AM going to ask you this.
WHAT IF *drumroll* we actually burn down our walls?
WHAT IF, we approach LOVE differently?
WHAT IF, instead of asking how they might hurt us, or how we can protect ourselves from hurt, or what we stand to lose, we start asking how we can collaborate to protect one another’s hearts?
Take all the amazing things that I am to you, and all of the amazing things that you are to me, throw them on the table and arrange them in a way that is greater than the sum of the parts?
What if I become your ALLY in taking over the world? What if I walk with you into your hurty places, your closets of monsters and I turn on the lights? What if we laugh together at it? What if I build you up and mirror your beauty and your strength?
What if we stop asking how we can be unaffected, invulnerable, and self protecting and we reward vulnerability by protecting each other? Instead of asking how I can lose, ask how we can win *crowd cheers *throws confetti *waves peace flag.
I know that not everyone is ready for this. I know that some of us are too far from love, inner love, worth, and emotional safety to get this healthy. And some relationships can’t get off the ground because of this. And we have to throw those little fish back for now. We have to gently throw those fish back.
BUT there are so many AMAZING potentials with pretty damn healthy folks that get tripped up and off course and confused and suffer needlessly, because the world tells us to arm ourselves. And we are all running around like scared children/US Presidents trying to block out our own humanity and our greatest gifts and assets with some sticks bricks and stones. We don’t save ourselves by walling out the world.
It’s okay to be hungry as long as you don ‘t starve yourself.
It’s okay to feel hurt, as long as you don’t leave yourself bleeding in the ditch.
Hurt doesn’t hurt us, funny enough, if we answer it.
And running from hurt that hasn’t happened does.
It wounds us. And steals our ability to love and be loved.
So STEP ONE to Loving and being Loved is to ask “How can we put all that is good here toward making this better?”
If we start there, what do we have to lose?
This week I would like to pay forward a request that came into my inbox asking me to take the time to read and honour the story of a person of colour.
I could think of no one better to ask then my beloved client, friend, colleague and beautiful human, Patrician Goulbourne.
Patricia has a unique and powerful voice, full of grace, and a gift of healing to share with the world.
Please enjoy this story in the artform of the Kasala.
One day I hope to invite you to hear her speak it aloud.
From my heart around the globe to yours.
I am The Question to The Answer
I am Curiosity-Teach
I am Warrior for Healing
I am Guardian-for-Nonjudgement
I am Keeper-of-the-Circle Made sacred by the stories
I am Liberate-Natural-Creativity
I am River collecting precious tears
Allowing them to crash against my banks as they flow away
I am Waterfall steadily streaming allowing HER to observe move towards take of the overflowing rush
and choose to pass through when ready the pain
I am SHE-Bringer-of-Wisdom SHE-Who-Filters to mitigate pain suffering crisis
I am the Baobab Tree LIFE demonstrated
Calling HER to safe space journey surrender innermost HER belonging
I am The Circle of HER
Brave Space created Brave Embrace cultivated and so I honor Sisters HER
I am Black
I am woman
I am African decent
I am strength defiance resilience survival
I am roots trunk leaves blossoms of my ancestors
I am their legacy standing tall firmly planted on this earth here and there surviving thriving
I am I belong and I take my rightful place
I am African Diaspora
I am ritual
I am colour of rhythm
I am taste of the drum
I am manifest of the embers of the molten magma of mother earth
I am language unspoken in a multitude of dialects simultaneously
The sacred stories of the heritage that connects and binds the women of World-tribe
From newborn to elders to unborn
I am the long awaited HER in the center of the Circle of HER
I am freedom healing enslaved African Heritage through embodiment and movement
I am colour of dance
the dance of the embers
I am friend mother grandmother teacher leader connector influencer inspirer healer founder pioneer ambassador of my heritage
I am whisper
I am silently loud boom of the ancient ones
I do the soul’s work
I am ritual I am legacy I am symbol I am strength of my heritage
I am the Story Of HER
I introduce Me Myself I am African -Jamaican – Canadian
Keeper of Womens stories past present future
I am Sacred Essence Storyteller
I am I Heal as I am guided to help others heal
I am Kasala animator
I am Sister-HER Patricia
Note, the Kasala is a genre of poetry of that is the celebration of life. Praise poetry of yourself and other. It is derived from an African oral ritual. It gains more strength, significance or power from being spoken aloud.
Blessings, Joy & Peace-filled Empowerment
I don’t know about you, but today friends I am tired of feeling vulnerable. Maybe I need a day off of emotional bravery.
I feel kind of suspended. The innermost part of me, the one I have forged a deep abiding love and loyalty to over the years is patiently waiting for care-giving me to come to her senses and counsel her. She needs to hear that she has made some incredibly brave choices, and taken some unfathomable risks. And that they were hard and brave because she didn’t get to look good to the world for them. Because she had to give up control, of her environment, of others’ judgment and of her own. She needs someone to hug her and say, fuck I am proud of you for that.
But I don’t want to. I am hurt and angry that I am being judged by people I love. And I don’t want to play. I want to fix the outside right now. I want to scrub floors and paint and spend money and make the exterior of my world into a glossy Pinterest perfection. I want to run twenty miles (it’s important not to use metric when being dramatic because it feels less dramatic), get some Botox and I want to work a few more hours a day, I want to fire up some Eye of the Tiger and pull a full before and after life makeover, until I am perfect in all of those areas in which I have given up perfection. I want to time lapse photography, movie montage the shit out of my transformation and arrive in an hour and fifty five minutes at the top of the goddamned box office.
Do I know that you don’t feel judged unless you’re judging yourself? Hell yes. I know it.
Do I know that at the end of the film the innermost me will still be waiting for the hug? Yep.
Blah blah woopty do.
Should the curator walk into your life and proclaim you a genius, and direct everyone to revere your life’s work, to clean up the paint splatters and wash your brushes and bring you tea?
Rather than the inspector walking in and after you just gave up all the shit you were working so hard to solve because you were needed somewhere else, like really life and death needed and then calling you a low rent messy bitch—
WOULDN’T THAT BE NICE?
But guess what I have learned?
I am the curator.
I think some folks live in a blaze of glory. They have an audience or enough “credit in the straight world” to reference Courtney Love, which is about how I am feeling about both my Covid fashion and my yard right now, that they just forgive themselves their shortcomings.
But then there are those of us no one else is going to see, or validate or recognize or clap for. And that can be a tough row to hoe and a jagged pill to swallow, especially if you are trying to swallow the pill while hoeing the row and also talking on the phone.
Today I just want to throw it at the pavement. I am tired.
I have a loved one who is in crisis. A Covid casualty, not because she contracted Coronavirus. But because she was already MAXED OUT by life and Covid just ripped away everything that made her able to cope and pushed her past her mental limits.
And I am sad.
And I feel misunderstood.
And like no one will ever truly see me or know me.
Even if I’m like highlighting an Erin map with a colour coded legend.
I am sharing this because I know I am in your ear all of the time, helping you cross that bridge to your needful self.
Helping you elbow the inspector HARD in the ribs and bring in the curator.
But I want you to know that I get it. I get how it feels.
And it’s okay if you need a day off, to just tell everyone to go to hell.
The truth is that I leave diet Coke bottles lying around the house. When I work and create I am a thousand percent focused to the exclusion of all else. And then when I want to run around and clean and polish because I REALLY like clean and pretty, someone needs something from me that I value more, OR, there is more work or I eventually need a break and I choose that, to see a person I care about, to get some sun, and here it is friends, sometimes I can’t get to back to the rest. The bottles just sit there. For whole days.
I file my taxes late and I am painfully necessarily optimistic about how much time things will take to a fault because I lovingly want to do ALL THE THINGS FOR YOU, and I want to squeeze every drop of joy out of life. And I don’t hire a housekeeper because I used to be one in University and I am really good at it so I feel I should be able to do it myself but also because I have people who need extra care and that care is just expensive. And I really want to delegate, but in the year 1342 I forgot to plan ahead and so the only one who really has the emotional bandwidth to be my support staff is Juno, and she is a 71 pound Border Collie Pyrenees who would be happy to clean out the summer crap from my van including her own hair, but she is short some opposable thumbs.
In the middle of all of this pandemic madness, I whipped up a class for some of my gals who were super isolated and needed to be grounded in something more than their daily challenges. It was a heart smart choice for me. Last week we did this “flower reading” exercise, and it was truly wildly magical. The gist is that we all blindly chose a flower and let it soak up our vibes and then we read each others’. We had an outside person run it so that no one knew whose flower they were reading. So here’s the funny part. All of the flowers were these gorgeous white Roses with billowing petals, fuschia Peonies in full bloom, sun drenched Daisies in bold yellow, very Pinterest worthy. Except mine. I don’t know why I chose the flower I did, but it was from my Mother’s Day bouquet, and it was a little Mum, a white one that was hidden behind the rest. It was quiet and soft and had wisps of petals that were a bit wilted. It sat on my bedside for two days, while I struggled to help my person out of crisis and dreamed of vacuuming the carpets that it’s no secret I wish to light on fire. And my reading, by someone who was very worried she would have no insight to share because she has a scientific mind, told me (again she didn’t know whose flower she was reading) that my Mum was pure and fragile, overlooked and intimidated by its environment, and that its vulnerabilities were truly its strengths. So I am just going to take a moment to say, Wow. If you don’t think you have an intuitive bone in your body think again. Because that message hit home.
On the other side of this bridge to our needful self it’s really all quite beautiful.
We can be fragile, delicate, soft, ethereal and somehow protected.
We can allow ourselves to make quietly heroic choices.
We can be seen.
The truth is that no one MADE me feel this way. It’s no one’s fault. I made choices and I would make them again. I would choose love over order and love over money and wish that it didn’t have to be a choice and work for a world in which it didn’t have to be a choice, but in the meantime, I would prioritize love, and blind faith and then get busy forgiving the fall out.
So when I get up out of the cold grass and find the courage to cross over that bridge, maybe around five pm today, or after a Forest Gump long kind of run, I will forgive all pain and the ideas that I am not enough, again.
Maybe have a picnic.
When you feel up to it, I would love you to join.
You bring the napkins, I’ll spill the wine.
P.P.S. If you would like me to give a talk or teach a workshop to your group or at your special event I am happy to help. Contact me here and we’ll chat about it.
P.P.P.S One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.
I forgive you
I forgive you. What?! You say. What could you possibly need forgiveness for, you haven’t wronged me. In fact you say nice things to me and about me, you spend your precious time reading at least some of the things I say, and basically you are pretty freaking stand up as humans go, except for that time you got in a fight with your sister when she was ten and you were kind of mean and then you also ate the rest of her ice cream all of the time, but it’s not like she was going to finish it and well if having a sweet tooth is your worst vice somebody go ahead and SUE. I know. You have worked hard to be you, and that is a really big deal, whether working hard means just dealing with the shit life has dealt you, or whether it’s achieving your way to a big job or a big paycheque, or showing up for some people who love you and need you, or taking care of everyone when balls are being dropped like New York on New Year’s Eve.
I forgive you.
I forgive you for all of the suffering you have been through in your life. All of those gut wrenching moments of loss, when your heart was sucker punched and your knees buckled and you thought “I can’t do it”. I forgive that howling wind that shrieked through your hollow places “It’s you. You brought this on yourself.”
I forgive you for all of the shitty things you think you did, and that you are afraid you are. You know, the judge and jury in your wee head that bicker back and forth building and then dismantling the case against you (sometimes in different accents, or played by Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt) working you over, beating you down when you’re tired. Because you really could have saved all of that fruit for the compost, what’s a few thousand fruit flies anyhow. They deserve love too, don’t they? Because technically somewhere along the line you cheated someone or something according to someone’s rules. You had to, because the rules collide and oppose, and shift in the wind (#wearamaskdontwearamask).
I forgive the idea that all of this living business defines you, that it means something about your SOUL, that your chakras need bleach, that who and what you are begins and ends somewhere in a story that Hollywood is writing, only they’ve hired Tommy Wiseau to direct and produce.
I forgive you for everything that you believe in but can’t seem to do perfectly.
I forgive the oh so bloody tired you who rises to the top only to feel attacked and knocked down, and not enough. Tired of problems. Tired of pandemic. Tired of hand sanitizer. Tired of tired. Tired of finding the silver lining in the ratty ass dress you wore to prom in the eighties.
I forgive those vulnerable bits that you don’t want to share with your new love, and maybe not even with the priest or the tarot reader (okay that’s a joke I know you can share everything with her). Not because they MEAN a bloody thing, but because they make you feel broken and damaged and like you should have known better. I am so sorry you went through that in the first place. It’s not your fault already.
I forgive you for all of the BULLSHIT nasty judgment thrown your way by sick people; the narcissists, the bullies, the cruel ones, the drama Kings and Queens, the shit disturbers. The ones who project their guilt onto you and paint you to be something so far from your truth that you shouldn’t care, and you oh so badly don’t want to care, but you do care, dammit all to hell, because they are super skilled at making you care and getting under your skin, which should be oh so thick by now but it’s more like a tender grape than a bad ass coconut. I forgive you for caring. I forgive the tiny mad idea that they have something on you. I forgive you for defending yourself. I forgive you for hating them, but then still caring about them, and for being confused by them and then loving everyone including all of your enemies. I see your candy ass and raise you a little lamb.
I forgive you for feeling like you have to show up and be a saint on any given Monday, when you just want to eat some brownies and get a pat on the head from Big Sky Daddy telling you you’ve a good kid and he is so very proud of you so you can run along and play.
You know what?
You’re a good kid and I’m proud of you. Here are some brownies. Run along and play.
I know you are good.
I KNOW, god only knows, that you DID THE THING, the really fucking high road thing and that you’re not getting any credit for it, and that ON THE CONTRARY, they actually have the audacity to take your deep digging high road give until you bleed efforts and throw shade on them and you, and that just feels like a stab in the back, gut, needle through the chest, kick in the back of the knee betrayal. I’ve got more terrible awful metaphors where those came from! UGGH.
So can we just agree today together in this tiny moment of sharing that you’re so much more Saint than criminal. And that criminal you is just a game the ego likes to play to keep us buying in and betting the fucking emotional house again?
Today, on me friends, take a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card.
No expiry date. Unlimited usage.
You have been calling me up. And you’re tired. You need a nap. On a beach with a fruity rum drink hold the fruit. You have been carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. And you’re feeling kind of sad. Like it’s all a house of cards.
Well forget about your house of cards (cue Radiohead).
You are good, Baby. And good is good enough for me.
Take a rest. Dig in the sandbox and put an umbrella in your rum.
Let joy look up your address and come knocking on your door.
Let it wake you up with some good news for a change.
I’m sending it on over to a theater called your place.
You don’t have to prove yourself to me.
P.P.S. If you would like me to give a talk or teach a workshop to your group or at your special event I am happy to help. Contact me here and we’ll chat about it.
P.P.P.S One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.
This weekend I had the pleasure of giving a talk for a lovely group of Moms from all over the globe who were needing some support and insight in dealing with some of the heavy of momming during this current state of the world. I have written these insights into this week’s musing, FOR EVERYONE, because we are ALL deeply affected and shaped by our mom relationships and the way we care for ourselves.
There will never be a more emotionally vulnerable experience than motherhood. I would like to just to acknowledge this for all of us. We will never have our hearts stretched beyond capacity by LOVE and concern and a MAD desire to GIVE EVERYTHING and then MORE THAN EVERYTHING to another human being, or beings in quite the same way. It’s a wild ride. It’s a heart wrenching breaking filling and opening GIFT. I’m a gonna need some serious curse words to truly convey it, to you who already know it, because you are living it, and to you who are the daughters and sons and children of mothers, and I mean all mothers, not just mothers in blood, because you are all touched by it.
Motherhood brings up our greatest bloody courage.
And it brings up ALL of our hurty places; our unhealed spots.
Sometimes we pray to the goddess of all things good and beautiful, that we will NOT become our mothers. Because maybe they hurt us or let us down. Maybe they weren’t healthy, or able to crawl out from under a cycle of pain and suffering. Sometimes it was really bad, ugly, sad. Sometimes it was or is just that they mirror something in us, or love us in a cloying interfering way, or see us as a version of ourselves we really need to climb on out of and heal from.
Momming can be complicated as fuck.
Sometimes we lose our moms. To death, to addiction, to violence or depression or illness.
And we lose our capacity to let love in for a while.
Motherhood is beauty. It’s softness and gentleness and wisdom and power.
When we are moms, we stand in the face of judgment and we get stronger than it because of that power.
I used to joke that as I mom I would never become “enlightened” because my children have a direct line to my EGO; to my scared self that loves them so much she can’t bear to fall short, and will crumple at their crabbiness, disdain, criticism, and button pushing, no matter HOW MANY holy mantras I repeat beneath my breath, or scream at the top of my shrill ‘mama’s gonna lose it’ voice —a cue for them that says hey we could have a little fun with this (omie womie schmomie Gawd dammit).
And children are like little ninjas. They are given an immersion education in our wiring, and our short circuiting. They have the time, and nothing to lose, like little prisoners they can learn how to carve a weapon out of a spoon, and stab it directly into our Achilles heel while smiling sweetly from behind their pigtails and eating a lollipop.
You know how many times I have called my Mom up as an adult, to deeply and woefully apologize for judging her? Because I could see AT LAST how loving and strong she was and I could see at last over my very real but absolutely ridiculous teenage attitudes which were totally NOT my fault because teenagers are wired to rebel and judge and take out all of their insecurities and struggles on their parents who are a SAFE PLACE for them. But only as a Mom do we realize the special HELL that is being on the receiving end of our beloved child treating us as incompetent, foolish, ridiculous and stupid. Lordy *closes eyes and crosses self.
So there is that.
Motherhood is heart filling and wrenching and brilliant and tragic.
In a WORLD that does not teach us to nurture.
It teaches us to go to war.
With our selves.
With each other.
It strands us, and leaves us motherless within.
It teaches us that someone else has it worse.
And that if we hurt we are lacking in gratitude.
We are taught a model of emotional debt, in which we are always struggling to live up to. To be worthy. To be enough.
And we try to parent within that, often running on emotional empty.
Even our self help becomes something more we have to accomplish, pile on, push toward. Must meditate, must practice mindfulness, must…rest, the subtext of which is “I can’t even rest right” (ugly cries into facemask).
AND THEN ADD COVID to the mix.
To every simple decision.
To economic security.
To our children’s daily lives.
To our children’s futures.
To our emotional plates.
Just sit with me for a moment, and lets’ take in what a doozy that is.
We are caring for our children, whatever ages they are, in a world that is not physically or economically safe right now, as a baseline. And there is no perfect way to do that.
I want to laugh cry over a tub of Ben and Jerry’s just typing about it.
So today I would like to pay homage to the nurturer in ALL of us. MOMS, CHILDREN OF MOMS, FRIENDS OF MOMS, MOTHER FIGURES.
To encourage her. Lift her up. Help her be strong, forgive herself, and know her own capacity to feel. To remind HER that WE need to create EMOTIONAL SAFETY within ourselves, so that we can share this with our children. A sanctuary in which we can grow with our children, whatever age they may be and whatever the world might dish out.
And to help create a sanctuary of emotional safety —I share the following insights:
No model of parenting is wrong.
One of my favourite strong brave loving moms made a decision to be a full-on career mom. To hire a live-in nanny to be part of her family. To give her everything after hours but to leave the domestic front to her live-in support.
One of my other favourite strong loving moms decided to stay home full time and “mom the shit” out of her kids, from baking to crafts, octopus level “hands on”.
One of my favourite strong brave loving moms decided to do both, because she was born with a fierce level of energy and can both rock her career and make life look like a Pinterest board, with a little support.
One of my favourite moms gives no fucks about dishes and rules, but is loving as hell, cooks up a storm and does it all while managing some serious health challenges.
I myself gave my kids all of the best emotional support, wisdom, caring and nurturing twenty years of experience could offer. But dinner was a la carte, sporadic, and involved everyone eating something that was convenient for my work schedule and their very diverse palates (vegetarian princess versus exotic chef). There were no family commercials for “dinner together” bonding going on at my house. Nope. And true confession, I still both stand by my choice and also forgive myself for not somehow fitting in three hours of dinner prep and clean up on the daily on top of all of the tasks of healing the world and living life because every so often I feel pangs of loss and guilt that I couldn’t just do it all, darn it ta hell, because what the hell is “it” anyhow?! Elusive illusionary perfection, that is what.
The model of parenting that is right for you, is the one that feels LOVING and HEALTHY for you.
Be the warrior, or the academic, or the giver of beauty, or the nourisher. Make YOU work for you.
There are thousands of ideas out there, foisted upon us as expertise, about what matters, about how to affect our kids’ behaviour and manipulate their currency, but at the end of the day, what we really care about is that our kids THRIVE and experience WELLNESS, and are HAPPY. AND, funnily enough, we can’t create for them what is missing for us. So, we’re in the get happy program together. Happy always trumps right, especially when Dr. Spock and Dr. Phil can’t see eye to eye.
Expect for not from.
When we stop PILING and PUSHING, and start asking what will support us and encourage us and help us we change the game. We are less exhausted. Fear, the motivator behind “you should and you have to” depletes morale. It is inefficient. It drains. It disconnects us from inspiration and intuition.
As soon as we start to encourage ourselves, to have patience, to ask ourselves what we need, rather than what we need to do, to start expecting FOR ourselves instead of constantly trying to live up to our worth, we can experience being enough already.
We need to realize that our to do lists tend to be comprised of things we struggle to get to, because we feel tired, overwhelmed, maxed out or undecided. They are lists of the hard stuff. And if we are measuring our success by our ability to ADD to our existing daily repertoires, a bunch of hard emotionally taxing stuff, we are slipping into bullying, and we are overlooking ALL that we do on the daily. I once wrote myself a list of all that I had done in a day for every new one I created. I was astonished at how much I was DOING already that I simply did not give myself any credit for, because it wasn’t on the newly impossible list.
Leave emotional space in the day timer.
AND when we are performance reviewing ourselves (which should always be only encouragement and unconditional love anyhow) we need to remember that we are NOT MACHINES, we are emotional beings, and emotions take up time and space. We need a set of stickers for the day timer that say things like “cried for two hours” “couldn’t get myself to function” “spent the day worrying about everything” “felt randomly sad” “tried not to yell”. Feeling feelings is essential to emotional health. It takes time and space. And that is okay, and we need to give ourselves credit for it, rather than shame ourselves for it, or judge ourselves for not cleaning out that closet while we were ugly crying and wiping snot onto our pajama sleeves, of course after which we snorted hand cleaner, ate a tide pod and bathed in comet #stayingsafe.
Would you say it to them?!
I once had a client (well there have been many over the years but one stands out) who was in a loveless marriage and deeply conflicted. She reasoned that she needed to stay in the marriage and forgo love and joy for the sake of the security of her children.
I asked her if she would hold her child to the same decision. Would she tell her child that they needed to choose between love and security in life? That they would have to resign to living loveless, when they were in obvious pain and turmoil and loneliness?
Whether it’s a big life decision, OR a small one that feels bigger because we are putting so much pressure on ourselves, we need to let ourselves off the hook. If it’s not good enough for our children, it’s not good enough for us.
And if we choose it for us, turns out, we are choosing it for our children. Even when that is the last thing we mean to do. Oops a daisy.
Last but not least. Choosing love is an antidote to what happened five minutes ago, when you lost your shit and screeched at your teenager like a two year old. It’s an antidote to what happened when life had you by the kahunas and you lost your way. It’s an antidote to the enormity of what you need to do in a day. It’s an antidote to Covid (not to be confused with a vaccine) and it’s an antidote to FEAR. And the choice appears for us and reappears for us once an instant.
Over and over.
It is always there.
It never expires.
It’s a way out of every hell.
Turns out we are made of the stuff.
And when we choose the brave strong loving MOM inside of us, when we side with her, and keep choosing her, everything less than starts to heal, until we can’t remember there was ever a doubt.
So, to the Moms in our lives and the Moms in our hearts during this time of honouring, I am choosing love with you and for you. We’ve got this.
— Love Erin
P.P.S. If you would like me to give a talk or teach a workshop to your group or at your special event I am happy to help. Contact me here and we’ll chat about it.
P.P.P.S One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.
It’s not a tumour
Well it’s about time I told you this story.
It was 1982. Ninth grade. I was in my friend’s parents’ basement, killing time on the sofa while she executed her daily ablutions in the bathroom. We called it, much like the kids today, “getting ready”. Ready for us, like kids today, meant achieving maximum attractiveness to all potential objects of our attraction, which on any given day could constitute boys from school, boys from the neighbourhood, boys from the mall, boys from the Dairy Queen, boys driving by in cars, and including but not limited to, boys in our imagination or granted by a randomly appearing wish granting genie. Getting ready was similar but different than kids today, and typically involved the usage of a solid half bottle of Final Net Hairspray, which if you’ve never had the pleasure of encountering, is essentially composed of 70 percent isopropyl hand cleaner and liquid gum, or as my daughter puts it, Oh my god I’m gonna puke that shit smells like straight tequila!
The goal with the Final Net application, as per the fashion of the day, was to produce a volume of hair to face ratio of 2:1 for day wear, 3:1 for a school dance, making our faces appear lost in space, or as we saw it through the cloud of spritz, delicate and beautiful. Want a small, cute turned up nose? Well frame it inside 73 centimeters of hair circumference. Getting ‘ready’ was a time investment. No one could accuse our generation of laziness. We may not have willingly loaded dishwashers, but that was because we had prioritized our efforts. We worked smart, friends.
So, while clouds of products and perfumes were wafting from Sally’s bathroom, I answered my restlessness by reaching for a Reader’s Digest from her parents’ coffee table reading selection. And that is how I came to learn about Andrew (I am changing names to protect the innocent here, and by innocent I mean me, from my ailing memory as it’s been a few years since I was 14). Andrew was a healthy and happy young man, who one day OUT OF THE BLUE, discovered a lump in his wrist. Andrew sought medical attention. He consulted with doctors. Several as I recall it. Because he was pretty pissed that all of his doctors poo-poo’d his concerns. And now, by the time he was writing the article, he was actually dying of cancer. Terminal. Unsavable. All over a small lump in his wrist. And as I sat there, contemplating this terrible awful morbid news, I glanced at the date on the magazine, and fully realized that Andrew’s few months were recently up. This was his last Fuck You to those who had failed him. He was dead.
Andrew followed me around for a few days. Not in a REAL LIVE CASPER THE GHOST kind of way. That started WAY later. But in a somber, think about mortality and injustice, haunting jarring kind of way. You may be shocked to hear it friends, but I have always had a bleeding heart and penchant for correcting injustice (hence the whole law experiment). Anyhow, there I am boy hunting with Sally, and also Andrew, strolling the sunny streets, being picked up by space ships because our bangs function as actual antennae, smoking our cigarettes, drinking coffee all day, and shit mix when we can get our hands on it at night. Hanging out at the hockey rink freezing our asses off in the stands so that Robbie and Jim will check us out as they skate off the ice. But all with a twinge in my heart.
Which brings us to the fated day. Get ready for this. It’s morning. Now, if you think our hairstyles were cray cray, they had nothing on our pants wearing. I want to say we wore them tight. But that just doesn’t cut it. You see, our denim was not the forgiving bendy stretchy stuff of today’s skinny jean. No. Our denim was thick, heavy, stiff and damning. Virtual plywood. We needed utensils to get into our denim. The tighter the better. If you could see the outline of your hip bones, that was sexy. If you didn’t have protruding hip bones because candy, denim provided you with the opportunity to sculpt some. The preferred method for applying denim was always a tag team approach; always a safety buddy. But it wasn’t always practical, and some mornings you just found yourself alone, on your bed, lying down, slathered in Crisco and wrenching up your zipper with a coat hanger, knowing that you were sure to lose a pound or two by end of day because your pants would be too tight to eat lunch in, and NOT AT ALL EXPECTING that Andrew was hanging back in the room, like a spider on the ceiling ready to drop from a thread awaiting the moment your hand accidentally grazed the intersection of your left thigh and your young lady parts, and you found it. The Grim Reaper. The harbinger of your young death, and the end of carefree existence as you then knew it.THE LUMP.
I mean you knew what it was, because it was the exact way Andrew had described it. Same size. Same consistency. Your face was hot with panic. You don’t know what kind of superpowers got you the rest of the way into those pants, or backcombed your hair, or focused on anything in English class, but your attendance was checked off so you must have made it there. You weren’t going to the doctor, DUH, because the fleeting thought of having to gesture to your nether regions and then have this middle aged man in a white coat actually INVESTIGATE the place where no other human had actually investigated was TEN THOUSAND times worth than your inevitable death. You weren’t going to tell your Mom because you knew that that would just lead to the middle aged doctor, and you weren’t going to tell your friends, because you simply could not locate a established category of acceptable conversation, not even secrets and confessions (I let Bobby feel me up in the alley after the dance didn’t juxtapose well with I have a lump in my underwear).
So, you just accepted. The panic wore off, and you just began to see the world through the lens of I am fourteen and I am dying. Which made you feel separate and apart, and very alone. I think it’s fair to say that both secrets and death make us feel very alone. And there is a sad story in here. I am sad for the way we are, and for how many young people are trapped in fear and confusion and the inability to be helped. But the sad story I am sharing with you today, is not about my loneliness and fear for a time.
Because, once I came to terms with my plight, I began to plan. You know when you imagine winning the lotto? Like if it’s one million you’ll pay off your mortgage; 5 million you’ll buy your Mom a house and fund your Dad’s biz; 100 million definitely world peace. Well, I had my own version of the life lotto. I formulated the one year, two year and five year plans. But five year was my favourite. I mean Andrew had a few years on me when his disease took him, so I figured I might have some wiggle room. This seemed REASONABLE, to my 14 year old death addled mind. In The Five Year Plan, I would attend Law School. I would have a child (I was a bit young to register that this might not be an ideal outcome for the child). And this plan felt good friends. It felt HOPEFUL. It felt, dare I say LIBERATING.
Because, when I became THE DYING GIRL, I no longer felt pressured. I no longer felt BURDENED. I no longer had to figure out how I was going to get the grades in high school to get the grades in University to be one of the five percent of applicants who made it into law school. I no longer had to figure out how I was going to starve my way into my very very unforgiving skinny jeans, sculpt protruding hip bones, and meet the very very questionable beauty standards of the day. I no longer had to answer the question “What are you going to do with your life?” and the ensuing interrogation as to HOW to ever loving God with my meager fourteen year old skill set I planned to overcome the 9,999 hurdles in my way, SO HELP ME GOD, as if I was a bloody fucking embarrassing fool not to have arrived at how to OUTSMART the competition, the other children, the future, THE WORLD and the remaining cast of The Hunger Games, thirty odd years before its time.
And that felt closer to peace. It felt lighter. It felt like I could eat a French fry. A year was doable. On a good day, a strong day, five years was even doable.
I could just want something and plan something free of all of the LIVING UP TO, because I was in fact DYING. And it turns out that that, beloveds, was a better way to live.
So what does that tell us? What does it tell us that a fourteen year old girl has to receive a death sentence in order to get out from under that kind of pressure? Because 1982 was definitely to blame for big hair and tight pants but it didn’t take a patent out on pressure. Pressure just keeps piling on. The STATS, get stattier. The odds are EVER LESS in our youth’s favour. And while it may be oh so exaggerated in our young, we all have her inside. A young vulnerable emotional self who needs to be let off the fucking HOOK.
And if not NOW, when? COVID, my friends, has thrown down the gauntlet. It has given us our death sentence (sadly for some of us like Andrew a realized one). But for some of us it is a wake up call. Not to smarten up. Not to try harder or practice better hygiene and gratitude. Not to PILE more onto the pile. But to stop bullying ourselves. To stop interrogating the fourteen year old girl, and instead give her some fucking encouragement. Teach her that she matters, because she is part of 8 billion parts that all matter.
When we are all holding hands six feet apart, I am not thinking about how I am going to rise above or be enough. Even if I don’t know how any of us will survive recession or depression or a ventilator. I feel in it together. And that is the safety inside of the danger.
I have found you, and I am not prepared to give you up.
So maybe let’s tell “her” (you, me, all of our vulnerable places) that she isn’t in it alone.
That she doesn’t have to rise above anyone.
Because they are all here to lift her up.
We are all here to lift you up.
I am sure you have run the math and worked it out that I did not in fact have an actual tumour. Struck by thirty seconds of bravery when death had at last taken too much of a toll on my young life, I visited the middle aged doctor by my wee self, without telling a soul. He declared that I had a blocked gland caused by wearing jeans that were too tight, a common medical disorder at the time. But emotional isolation, and separation from one another that causes us to divide and compete and act as adversaries? Well that is the disease, and that is the sad story.
I don’t remember much after that, except that I had written a short story for English class about a young girl who is dying of cancer. My teacher gave me 100 percent and commented that she wished she could write like me, with a P.S. I hope this is fiction. And I left it in the drawer and went off to law school. Because how are you going to survive The Hunger Games with a piece of paper and a pen?
Dog years and groundhog days
Yep, while we are living out the same days, same routines, or slipping into the abyss of routine-less-ness (taking some liberties here friends) our inner worlds are undergoing a tectonic plate shifting kind of upheaval, gradual and massive. The emotions keep churning, even though we are doing our very best to outsmart them. I myself have joked that 2020 feels like a kind of like Ayahuasca healing, which NO, I have not done, but there’s a lot of magical visions and throwing up word has it, which sounds about right to me as metaphors go.
I KNOW we are healing. However messy, overwhelming or underwhelming that might feel for us, and possibly all in a five minute pendulum swing. Something that we have been needing help with, is being helped, because we are all a bit raw right now, and a bit more open. Praise the sunshine.
I have been talking this all through with you all, and we have discovered some interesting truths. Like the jar of rocks theory of relationships; the big ones are your primary close people, the pebbles are you extended circle, and the sand is everyone else. You told me it was important to focus on the big rocks, and we came to the realization that for many of us, we are all in quarantine with only our big rocks, and that is a lot of pressure on those rocks! I for one have moments where I just want to stand in a sweaty crowd, or have drunk strangers tripping into me and spilling a little beer on my personal belongings. Oh the sweet nostalgia.
It turns out that death is serious business for the living. And we have had some talks about that whole business; cultures that avoid death like the plague (I know) stepping over cracks and toting pockets full of amulets to ward off the evil eye. About nursing homes and who wants to wind up their glory years stooped over some cold porridge that it takes a team of nurses to help you negotiate.
We have talked about “FINE” a catch all word that now means “I’m not in ICU, nor is someone close to me, and I still have groceries”. That’s a lot of pressure on a word and a lot of pressure on us. You know what, your feelings matter. They matter to me. Your perspective maters. It matters to me. Your plans matter, and your fears matter, and your teeny tiny itty bitty hamster sized concerns matter to me. And your BIG ass really tough, I want my mommy challenges matter so so much to me.
We have talked about love. Should you, would you, could you? What we are learning about ourselves that is going to allow us to LOVE, and do it bigger, better and badder than we thought we were capable of.
In this time of RULES and heroes, shout out to everyone everywhere who has made me laugh, or with whom I have shared a laugh. And you friends, make me laugh all of the time. You are my heroes. Thank you for laughing with me. Let us take more time for laughing, and less time taking ourselves so seriously. Which doesn’t mean don’t feel, it means DON’T PUT SO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOU. Let yourself be lifted up. It’s okay to make your mistakes, to not have your answers, to just let go of all of the control for a while and float. You’re not going to head in the wrong direction. I’ve got you. And so does almighty LOVE.
I just want you to have that reassurance today. I am asking you to do me a favour, and the world a favour, and humanity a favour and just give me one of your burdens. Send it in an email; a word or a line or a page if you want. Write it down and I’m going to take them all and stick ‘em in a bowl and douse ‘em with some Eye of Newt and red wine, and then light them on fire. I’ll do it on video (don’t worry I’ll keep you anonymous) and I’ll send it out so we can all share in the sweet release of TRUSTING. Each other.
I’ve been doing this thing. I’ve been trying to smile at someone and look them in they eyes, to share some warmth that is bigger than “We need to be scared of each other”. If I can hug you with a look, if I can give you some comfort and some light, it’s a good day. And right now, I am looking at you, I am smiling at you. Give me some sugar, I am your neighbour! In each other’s hearts, we are safe.
— Love Erin