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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Love in the Time of Cholera
Remember the plot of Serendipity? The John Cusack movie where he meets the gal and she writes her phone number in a copy of this book that will be sold the next day, leaving it to fate whether or not they will meet again and ultimately be together? And then Fate, after keeping us on our toes while Shit Happens for a solid amount of movie minutes, torturing us with angst at the stupidity of these youngsters having thrown away a chance for that kindred spirit soulful kind of love, eventually delivers?
Well the book in which our leading lady jots down her number before tossing it to the fates is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, and I have been thinking about that book for the last week, because, well, I help with love, and we are kind of in the time of cholera right now. And this weird little thing happened last night when I was chatting with my sister and told her I was about to blog, and I was thinking in me wee head that I was going to entitle this blog after the book. Without telling her a word, a hot one second after seeing the title in my mind, she blurts out “You should call it Love in the Time of Cholera”. Freaky, right? And then she reminded me that it was in fact the book from Serendipity, which I did not remember, but I had been talking about serendipity already. So that was serendipitous. And also synchronistic.
Serendipity is the unfolding of fortunate events that were ‘unsought after’, or brought about by chance. The idea in the film, is that chance is orchestrated (an oxymoron) by the Universe, and that if Sarah and John are meant to be, if they are Universe-endorsed as a couple, then they will be lead back together by the fortunate unfolding of events in their favour while they are busy doing other un-suspect movie worthy activities like setting about marrying other people. I mean I am pretty sure that as an audience we are all rooting for the unfolding. We want to see “fate” in action, meaning we want to believe that there is a divine hand being played in our favour, weaving the seemingly random events of our lives to bring us Love, or benevolence, or meaning. We need a “Grand Plan” as an opposing team for “Shit Happens”, so that even though most of us cannot deny that “Shit Happens” and has a place on the score board, we are rooting for the “Grand Plan” to win the game.
To be a Literal Larry, my sister’s psychic thought about my title was actually synchronistic, and that may as well have been a better title for the theme of the film, because it isn’t chance that favours our leading couple and their union, there is actually a greater meaning behind the events that unfold orchestrated by the Universe, which SEEM to be by chance. Synchronicity refers to coincidence by Universal design. Adorable John and pretty quirky Sarah are “meant” to be together and their “trust” in the divine order to line it all up already (pass the M & M’s) is rewarded.
So “Grand Plan” versus “Shit Happens”.
Cynics will poo poo our magical movies, but we all have a good story in there, don’t we? A magical feel fucking good story, that lights us up and ramps up our willingness to believe and to hope. Those stories sell for a good reason.
We need hope. Yes we do. Do we need it now more than ever? Yes we do. Does it makes sense to have hope, now more than ever? Yes it does.
Hope is a bridge to truth and a pathway to choice which is the home of power.
And here is the thing, those cynics among us who choose “Shit Happens” as their team do so because they are in pain, and they are afraid that pain will be the winner, and so hope becomes a dangerous game in their minds, because Shit is always going to well, shit on it. Or as Eddie Izzard puts it “Hopes are dashed”.
The Grand Plan is not using Shit to teach us to deserve its benevolence. That is not the nature of benevolence. Shit is its own device, a manifestation of pain and suffering that recycles itself in an infinite feedback loop, until we stop laying down in defeat at its feet. When we choose to side or team up with The Grand Plan, we leave Shit to its own devices.
Now when “Shit Happens” is actual DEATH on a large scale across the world, well no one is applauding that or asking for more butter on the popcorn please. But I am here right now today to share with you my secret, that Grand Plan is right on it, spinning this shitstorm in our favour. It’s planting clues and hiding eggs and wielding basic love language that we consider magic. I have always been a “sucker” for magic, but I have always known that it’s not an elusive power or a false promise, or a tiny sprinkle of pixie dust that we’d better use scarcely, it is MERELY the absence of SHIT –and that the same inner cynic that chides us for believing, is the very one who is shaking in fear and has given up its power. And when we are not hanging out with that cynic and the other bad ass kids at the 7-11, well we feel pretty MAGICAL.
Grand Plan’s very purpose is to wake us up and lead us out of harm’s way. To gently shake us awake so that we REMEMBER that we can CHOOSE our side. Eventually we are all going to choose our way out of the dark side, out of Shit, anyhow, because Love will always win over Fear, and you know what?
RIGHT NOW WE HAVE A HEAD START.
Because the currency of Shit is pain, and pain needs separation to exist. And right now in this global isolation, we are no longer acting as separate. We are no longer seeing ourselves as separate parts. We are moving as one. And so the currency of pain is dropping like oil prices.
Which brings me back to our LOVE STORY (audience warning for my beloved friend who is anti-romantic, you’ll want to steady your gag reflex).
Our structures have been torn down right now. And while that wreaks some emotional havoc for us, we all need to know that Grand Plan works for each of us and is leading us all and each, through an escape plan from our suffering, into our greatest good. And romantic love plays a part in that.
We are OPEN in a way we haven’t been in a long time.
So while I don’t recommend we make rash decisions, or break any of our pandemic rules, I do recommend that we let a little sun shine in. Place your heart in the hand of the Grand Plan, and let it lead you along, show you where the warmth is, scatter some signs. Let’s hang on to our Easter baskets kids, and do some treasure hunting. Covid may be a tough school mistress, with her six foot ruler, and her restrictive curfews, but when in history has that ever stopped us? The heart is a mistress of invention.
In the Garcia Marquez story, Love can play the disease itself, striking us invisibly with haunting emotion that is dangerous because it consumes us and makes us feel bat shit crazy (you’re welcome). Or it can play the hero, who tirelessly conspires with its mystical magical ways to bring together our leading couple at long last, late in their lives, against all of the Shit that has happened and all of the hapless happenstance, and satisfies the heart.
That’s an ending we can all get on board with.
— Love Erin
The Safe Way
Victoria was a newborn, and after nine and a half months of pregnancy —which is like 9 1/2 Weeks the film, but slightly less sexy-Kim and slightly more enormous-Erin, slightly less sexy strawberry eating and slightly more ravenous devouring of the contents of the kitchen, slightly less Mickey Rourke on a motorcycle and slightly more get the frick away from me, similar breathing heavy and screaming, but for drastically different reasons —we were let out of the hospital, with a list of terrifying things you must do with proper precision or your wee one might not make it. I remember sitting in the back of the car after an episode with the car seat, and begging my sister to drive no more than twenty kilometers an hour while tears spilled down my face because the world felt so goddamned dangerous, and I felt so utterly helpless to help this tiny precious person whom it was my entire life’s purpose to protect.
Please pass the tissues.
Last night I went into Safeway for the first time after a month of being away, followed by a month of quarantine. It felt kind of like how I imagine bad drugs would feel, which for me would reference anything outside of the acetaminophen family. Or the plot of a movie that the kids would label “too creepy for Mom”. There was NO military order. NO six feet measuring sticks. People were just left to their own devices friends. There was no method for getting groceries into your bag or basket but to TOUCH them. We were all just running wild, handling things with germs on them, breathing the same very possibly virulent air! The blonde lady stands out in my mind because we were kind to one another and equally flustered and confused. I remember her face, and the way she had her hair pulled up in a slightly messy bun that said “best efforts”. We seemed to run into to each other all over the store, taking turns feeling awkward as one of us patiently waited for the other to veer her cart a plausibly safe distance away, only to realize that we had forgotten something that was now back behind the other. Pretending not to need it and circling aimlessly. Smiling from lowered eyes, the basic posture for the entire store, as if to look too closely at another might alert the armed guards that we were failing to take death seriously enough. The mood was somber. And just in case the surreal factor was not ramped up enough, the song playing on the satellite when I entered the store was Live Like We’re Dying. Are you even kidding me?!!! Too soon, Safeway, too soon. I looked around wanting just one moment of recognition, one exchanged glance, one small shared WTAF. Alas, no laughing was permitted.
I remember a tall balding man with broad shoulders reaching for things, faceless for his blue mask. I was married to him for an instant and he was bringing home the supplies, hugging me with his strong arms which felt nice after a month of no human contact, but then he was controlling about how we washed the food, and I felt intimidated by him and questioned the relationship.
A slim woman with bendy curls woven into her mask tended to her garden of purchases with sturdy hands. The flower faced grocery clerk, petite and black haired, interacted with person after person, like an un-swaddled infant and I just stood there, letting her. A man took over for a moment or two. I recall how he picked up three of my grocery items without gloves. I can see the specks of dust on his apron, his shaggy blond beard. They must be clean I reassured myself. We exchanged, “Quite a large order tonight”. “I don’t want to do this again any sooner than I have to”. “That’s the right approach”.
We aren’t used to mistrusting the very air that we breathe.
I found myself shopping like a pregnant woman hunting down a craving, but not quite hitting it, washing down puddings with jarred jalapenos and sour cream. And then I was preparing for my imaginary quarantine body building boot camp the next, with multiple cans of organic beans and a jumbo tub of protein powder. By the end I was holding back tears. Foods took on delirious sentiment. I sized up a row of Dairy Milk family bars in delightful themes of Smores, Rocky Road and Fireworks. Childhood summers in a candy. Memories I made, or would have, if only I could go back for One. Blessed. Day. “Look children, what I found” I saw myself in a peasant dress, a bit of coal dust on my cheek, bringing home a sweet treasure on a day of merriment. The children gathered ‘round my skirts, tugging and exchanging bursting glances with one another “Mama brought plums!” “Oh, Roger, can you believe it. We’re to have a pudding! And some sweets too! What fortune?!” Warmth and laughter abounding, and I the maternal heroine. But then I came to, and I remembered the chocolate chips and how they are all gone now, and yet no one made cookies. And I was the hero no more. Just a crazed woman newly released from the strong arms of mandatory isolation, bringing home diet syrup without pancakes.
I don’t want to tell you how much I spent on groceries between Safeway and Costco, but whatever 288 plus 220 adds up to and you’ll have the loose plot of The Hungry Caterpillar, minus the beautiful butterfly part.
Safely back in the car I felt much more exhausted than I did running a half marathon. I felt invisibly internally naked. AGAIN, and I can’t emphasize this enough, not in a blond bombshell kind of way. And then I was just sad. I was looking into the sky for Mom to drop a soft blanket, or a litter of kittens into the car, pretty sure that I was going to start crying at the sad commercial only without the sad commercial to blame it on, when Lizzo came on the radio reminding me that she was a bad bitch and that helped, even though there are neither salon chairs nor Minnesota Vikings to speak of anymore.
It’s okay to cry. I tell you that all the time friends. Unless it’s in bed for the third day in a row, it’s often BETTER to cry than to hold that shit in and have it come spurting out your passive aggressive hole, or clogging your relationship pipe. In my case, post dystopian grocery drug trip, it’s probably good that I didn’t because like much of the current population I am now 98 percent hand cleaner and that stuff stings your eyes plus it’s hard on the complexion.
WE ALL NEED TO FEEL SAFE RIGHT NOW. We need to build a new internal infrastructure in order to feel safe, because the outside world doesn’t have one, and isn’t going to for a wee bit. We need a little help to sort out where to place our precious energy. We need some help, because it kind of feels like we are all sleeping through the fire alarm. And what makes sense for you right now is going to be slightly different than what makes sense for Pam.
We need a plan, even if our plan is to wing it. Deciding not to decide, giving yourself some free for all time where you just move through things is okay, and can be a very meaningful strategy. It doesn’t require answers and decided action, it allows for reflection and processing. But it is a far cry from the beheaded chicken syndrome, a kind of disgusting metaphor to capture the futility of panic. We are not beheaded. If you lose your head because you have lost your actual head, running around in circles is as good a wind up as any. But shy of actual head loss, it may not be making you feel better.
And for those of us who need a plan-plan, we need a person to help us, hear us out, to weed the fear, the panic, the bullying and the baggage out of our plan. We need to exhale, to say yes that is enough. To feel taken care of, the best we can take care of ourselves right now!
We need some space for unexpected immeasurable grief and confusion. Talking this through, gaining some awareness, or as I said a couple of musings ago “checking our emotional temperature often” is important when we are all in shock. Even if we are in a zone with this all, it’s good to save some emotional space for the invisible space taking that is emotional impact. Don’t fill the schedule, or the day timer, or set up an auto response that you are “FINE” arguably the most misused measure in the English language. Actually proactively talk it out, write it out, feel it out, get really still for decided amounts of time, say it out loud to an emotionally safe person, such as FLUFFY. If your kid said they were FINE in the middle of a crisis (or any old kid if you don’t have one of your own), would you doubt it? Would you want to check in a little more just to make sure, because you are older and wiser and know they are probably being impacted? Well yes you would, and yes you would do well to, for them and for you.
We need some kind of connection. If you are “FINE” but also alone right now with no humans, I am suggesting that you choose a person, the safest possible choice who could be your human contact, should the isolation start to have bad effects on your mental and emotional health. NOT IF YOU ARE SICK, or fall into mandatory isolation, obviously. Many folks are with other folks because they share a household. But some of us are at home and don’t even have Fluffy, or Fluffy now needs therapy because she has been our only emotional support person for a month. There is a difference between a rotation of friends, who tell two friends, who tell two friends, and one dedicated person who shares a safety protocol with you. There are millions if not billions of people having conversations right now, trying to figure out who they can and cannot see, and it can be so confusing and stressful for everyone and take a lot of energy. You need to talk it through with someone who will not judge you, or put you in terror, but also won’t be frivolous with safety.
I am also suggesting a strategy for whom you communicate with and how often. Some of us will burn out and won’t be able to help our friends in distress. Sometimes we actually need alone time in all of this, ironically. Which brings us to…
We need to be at peace with what we are doing, and what we’re not. Help can be silent and invisible. It can be forgiveness or “prayer”. It can be a talk, or taking care of yourself. It can be giving or receiving or asking for help yourself. It can be kindness. It can be donation. But if you are shaming yourself or self criticizing, let me help you NOT. No one wants that. No one benefits from that. This is not your fault and you don’t have to have all of the answers. Choose peace first and clarity will follow.
WE NEED TO ALLOW FOR MIRACLES. What am I talking about? Who can afford to think about miracles at a time like this? Well who cannot? Twice a day for five minutes or as long as we can stand it, we need to take the hamster off its wheel (nicely, because hamsters are under a lot of pressure too) and stop trying to understand or make sense of the senseless. When we stop trying to rationalize pain and suffering, we allow for healing. For BIG LOVE IN THE SKY to fix shit for us, to turn things around, to know what we cannot possibly know from here. For those crazy solutions to problems we feel oppressed by to drop, like chocolate eggs or fluffy bunnies, through our car window on the way home from Safeway. I am choosing that for us right now. The big US, and each one of you.
I don’t want you getting lost in the shuffle or the grocery aisle.
— Love Erin
Can’t buy me…
Today, if you are willing to entertain me, I am going to teach you how to go on a date with money. This will serve nicely if you are alone in your house right now, but happen to have a twenty in your wallet. JK. It’s for everyone! The single, the betrothed, the married, the love adverse. Because even if you are living happily ever after in joint bank account bliss, someone close to you is not. And I am here for you, or your someone, to help them navigate the massively confusing conflicted area of integrating money and security into a relationship in a way that does not blow up the relationship, or strain it, or make everyone sad, or bitter, or confused, or anxious or feeling like they have jumped off a cliff without a parachute, and given up control of everything that ever mattered but shouldn’t but actually does.
I am going to start with this.
It’s okay if you care about money.
I know, I know. It’s a controversial thing to say. Next I am going to endorse sexual deviance. Of course, the movies disagree. They make you a hero for tossing the rare jewel that reminded you of HIM, for forsaking the crazy business deal that cost you gazillions because you prized the game over the dollar, for preserving the sacred historic land that could have made you a tycoon. Or how about that one night in bed with Robert Redford to save your dream house? Don’t even get me started on that mind f@$k. I flung myself into my pillow when Rose threw that shiny ticket to paradise into the SEA. You could at least give the money to charity I cried. But I didn’t mean it. I mean not all of it has to go to charity, right? Couldn’t I just pay off a few bills first, take a trip to Italy? What?! Somewhere in my unconscious I ran a quick comparison between Erin and Rose, and swallowed down some shame.
I know, money can be an asshole. JK no it can’t. But it can be implicated in assholery to be sure. It can be weaponized, dun dun.
We call it “selling your soul” for a reason. Compromising a principle for cold hard cash tends to be judged harshly, or coldly resigned to. Generally, money is guilty until proven innocent in our social conditioning, but then also, because SHIT likes to keep SHIT real, we are under a massive campaign to understand and overcome money’s mystery and elusiveness. To hang on to it if we have it. To have enough of it to give us safety. Mastering money is the basic agenda we dance with our entire lives and for most of us it has personal meaning, even if it doesn’t have inherent meaning.
Unless you have mastered the precarious balance of having lots of it, but not caring about it, and using it perfectly while making morally heroic choices all the while standing on your head, well you’re not getting an A grade or a year end bonus from The World.
I have seen and heard it all friends. Thanks to you beloveds, I have been all the way around the money merry go around. And here is the deal. Money falls under the umbrella of security. How we create it, and feel about it. There are as many approaches to it as there are bodies. I don’t want to judge you for what size your feet are, or how wide your hips, whether you have blue eyes or brown, brown skin or white, or how often you fight with some coloured strips of paper, or your investment portfolio.
We all do money.
We all gaze into the magic money mirror and say things to ourselves like:
Darling you are above this all.
You sexy bastard, look at all of those zeros.
Thank god we don’t have to worry about losing a job right now *lowers eyes and genuflects.
You finally did it kiddo.
Getting better my friend, just work a little harder. Eye on the prize.
You worked so bloody hard for this. You are so legit.
You are not legit. If only this was different.
How did we ruin this? What if this is never better?
I wish I could finally break up with you! What if you break up with me?
Are we doing enough for you, or with you?
Money does not create or solve for security, but lack of money like any other lack, is an experience of insecurity. When we feel that something outside of ourselves has the power to determine our wellness and safety, and we don’t feel we can control for that external circumstance, SHIT HAPPENS and we feel insecure.
So how does this all play into the dating and relationship business?
Well when we get into a relationship, we merge our relationship with money, with their relationship with money. That can take two messes and make them an exponentially hot mess (think Covid transmission). It can make things better and easier for both. But most often, it’s not seamless and can create a lot of painful and also unnecessary conflict.
I have seen many a date and many a relationship die on this hill.
If you’re going to get your love life off the ground, you’re going to have to have a talk with money first, figure out what you want from it, get some inner peace around what it means to you, stop measuring your worth or failure by it, and then dump all of your judgments as to what it means about someone else. BECAUSE, folks are confused my friend.
Even those ‘dates’ who have money working very well for them, are getting hella mixed messages about what you want from them and their relationship with money. Let’s take the man with a wallet full. Is he supposed to care about it or not care, or care just a socially acceptable amount? Should he woo you with his bucks, and then do you pretend to not care about them, but feel secretly appropriately woo’d? If you have more money does it still feel nice to have someone else be the suitor? Can you be a feminist and want to be woo’d, and is he insulting your equality if he sends you bouquets of flowers?
Before we start throwing around words like “entitled”, “pompous”, “materialistic”, or “cheap”; I hear it all the time, I encourage us to take a deeper look at what is going on, and remove the fear goggles. No one is going to make you hand over your life savings on the first date. It’s easy to call someone a money asshole when they may be trying to simply show up and impress, or feel treasured and coveted.
I have talked to so many of you about your money concerns and I have come up with this:
Most of us don’t want to be “used” for money. We don’t want to become part of someone else’s mental or emotional illness and to be supporting them through their shitty treatment of us. And when we have been through it, we’re sensitive to it.
We don’t want dishonesty. We don’t want to sign up for love with someone else who is only signing up for security. Seeking arrangements is fine if you are actually seeking arrangements. There are all kinds of inter dynamics between money and companionship that prioritize money overtly, and can span everything from the person who loves to be generous to the person who wants to buy the arm candy. But many of us want the real deal. We want a soul connection or a kindred spirit. Someone to ‘get’ us, support us, really like what we have to offer, enough to fall in love with it.
We don’t want to have very different expectations or misaligned spending and saving styles. This is not to say we can’t be different here, but rather that we need to build a structure for that into the relationship.
There is a demographic who want to feel romantically cared for. This is dramatically different than “gold digging”; they want love and connection and compatibility and they may be very successful in their own careers, but the wining dining wooing and cared for component of a relationship dynamic is important to them. They feel special, feminine to another’s masculine etc.
I have seen this growing tendency to want to correct for all of the confusion and judgment by dating those in the same financial bracket. But do we really want to limit ourselves to only paramours with equal financial footing so that we don’t have to experience discomfort or ask questions or take risks?
I guess I am warning against writing someone off, because their relationship with money doesn’t add up on the first date — it’s not a fixed asset. For some a prenup is the most practical necessity in the world and a no brainer, for others the very word is a crushing blow to all that they hold dear about love. It’s like “Will you marry me, BUT…” Until we peel back the judgment and the fear and the meaning that has been attached to this piece of paper, we are in trouble and we stand to feel hurt and miss out.
For most of us if we are coming from a place of earnest discovery, of caring and affection and interest and emotional investment, there is room to come together and find a way to work with money so that it serves our relationship rather than eroding it.
But to get there we have to take it a bit less personally.
We have to give it a bit less power over us. Enough that we quit sweeping it under the rug and throwing shade.
And we have to engage emotionally, WHICH IS THE RECIPE FOR CREATING A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP ANYHOW!!!
You don’t make your zone comfortable by making it smaller, you make it comfortable by getting comfortable with it.
Money won’t buy you love, but you don’t want it to cost you love either.
— Love Erin
Just keep swimming
Well, shit. You know that whole e=mc squared, what goes up must come down thing? Fair, one is energy and has something to do with how fast I am eating my cake and the other measures how hard I fall down after drinking too much wine, and by the end of quarantine I will likely have my own integrated theory of what happens when you eat your cake washed down with wine. Genius, that is what! Which brings me back to gravity, and my important theory of EMOTION, formed by years and years of working with it, which is that big emotional impacts actually IMPACT us. Gasp. Some happen right away, with audible immediacy, like my sister slipping in the shower this morning and nicking herself with the razor at the exact moment the water went cold and if you’ve never heard my sweet little sister swear it goes something like M!@#F%!**S!*%B$%!! Then there are other impacts, like me in the car accident in my twenties when I was like, well there’s no blood, off I go to aerobics class, and a week later I was in a sling on disability with permanent nerve damage in my arm and neck.
Well the whole business about an unprecedented event of global magnitude is that even those of us who are emotionally healthy (which is NOT the same as having a high EQ) do not have a precedent for the emotional impact of fear, heartache, loss, illness, death, upheaval, freedom, heroism, connection, isolation, loneliness, and confusion taking place simultaneously on a global scale.
This is a GLOBAL TRAUMA and, like it or not, WE ARE ALL IN SHOCK. And, as we process some of the shock, NEW IMPACTS keep rolling on out. We’re junked up on adrenalin, I’m thinking Patricia Arquette in the fight scene from True Romance. We can take a punch, and we’ve got a solid FU for C19 but as much as we glam it up, when the juice wears off we’re not looking so pretty.
And we are attracted to the drama. Crazy coach lady been drinking too much wine say what?!!! MOI??!!! I know you’re giving me the side eye and bristling like Fluffy that time she met the vacuum. Yes, you, me and Mother Theresa. Not because we are messed in the head. It is simply because we don’t want the adrenaline to wear off. We want the sheer protected feeling of the shock high. We don’t want to come down. This effect may be intensified to the degree that catastrophe was normalized for us as a child, but even the Waltons and the Brady Bunch are not wrapping this one up with a bow or a yoga class. We don’t want to face the sickness, death, financial ruin, loneliness part. We want to stay in the unified holy shit safe space where we are holding hands with the world. And sister to that emotion, we don’t want to come back to all of our ordinary stupid problems and our own personal isolated burden of solving them, alone. Not as they were, and certainly not now that money is threatening to run off with her secretary and leave us with three hungry children and a crop in the field. It feels better to have one inglorious bastard enemy whom we are all united against, than to return to a world of frenemies, to be pitted against each other, compared to one another, and left fending for ourselves and against ourselves.
THERE IS A DEEP AND HIDDEN EMOTIONAL SOLITUDE THAT HAS BEEN CRACKED OPEN BY A WORLD WIDE EVENT. And every time statistics run higher we are protected from the eventuality of returning to it, so we have a renewed stab of panic juice. But then also we stab ourselves with a reality check that says “What the douce, Ian you sick fuck, these are people’s lives at stake here. These numbers are lives.” Well, Ian, I am here to tell you that you aren’t sick in the head, you’re just having an inappropriate reaction to trauma, which it turns out is quite appropriate. But also confusing.
Add to this our social shaming of ALL EMOTION as Dramatization, the baseline of our conditioning, which has us all minimizing the pain we really need to be answering, neglecting ourselves, and then Jonesing for a drug strong enough to escape all of that we minimized, shamed and suppressed. Then BAM it’s real and it’s affecting our lives, or its surreal and we spend our days in an emotional soup that feels like someone melted your favourite holiday in a pot with a funeral, getting fired and being stranded on a desert island.
For some of us the first wave of shock comes to an end when a loved one has been lost. Or when we wake up alone again and the triumph and heroism is giving way to fear or sadness. When we have worked our asses off for something and it’s tenuous now.
BREAKING NEWS THIS JUST IN: Right now I am working from my bedroom, aka, new apartment. I have been interrupted in my creative process about 8 times if I resist hyperbole, in the past two hours, because one daughter has an important study to participate in and her computer is not working and she has to be on video and needs her hair cut and wants to use my computer and I am in UN level negotiations with my other daughter to borrow hers so I can NOT have my creative process interrupted yet one more time and this is upsetting for her because she wants to play the game she got for her birthday in quarantine which is her small joy right now and not give up her device for the evening which makes her feel mean but also there are questions of privacy and standards of equipment care and by the time I have counselled all parties, including the dog, drafted the twenty three page contract with appendices and arranged the transaction my irritability is up and I am hyper aware of the fact that I am actually sick right now and while I don’t have a fever I do feel a smidge gross and really need to get on the stationary bike and get some circulation going in my body before I can say anything more meaningful to all y’all and my current forecast for getting this blog out has moved from on schedule to approximately eleven at night which means that my plans for this evening are shot and I can’t for the life of me figure out how anyone has time for anything when it took me 2 hours to vacuum 2 days ago on my hands and knees with the shop vac, leaving the disgusting smell of pine and vomit all over my house, because the central vac is broken and no one is allowed inside to fix it, and now I can see that the dog hair is already back, and if you’ll pause five minutes I’m going to go cut my daughter’s hair, light the carpets on fire, work out and then finish helping you understand the hidden emotional impacts of the world pandemic #theanswerisinthequestion.
We are moving and breathing under water right now friends.
Practically, it takes videos and pictures and instructions and recaps and confirmations to accomplish an errand. I feel like I am either the surgeon walking the civilian through a tracheotomy (oh Lord that was unintended don’t let it come to this pls), or that I am the civilian and I’m like, sure I can land a plane once I am done cutting the hair and setting the carpets on fire.
Emotionally we don’t know what hit us. Some of us still don’t know we have been hit.
I sure don’t say that to scare you. I say that to offer protection. To give you a prophylactic hug, because in my experience and I have some, you need one. You need to throw out the rule book for what to expect of myself or how to be a perfect citizen right now, because there is no such thing as a perfect or practical response to trauma.
I am just going to go ahead and give you permission to feel whatever it is you’re feeling or not feeling or don’t know you’re feeling, yet.
And I am going to remind you, because you ask me to, it’s my raison d’etre and my day job.
You don’t have to be a hero. You already are one.
You can’t force an epiphany, even though it’s not wrong to want the smashing open of one reality to reveal a better one.
If it helps to put on your Eye of the Tiger theme song and practice your sumthin sumthin at dawn, great. Just don’t do it at your own expense.
Allow some silver linings, but don’t go crushing yourself with the force of a thousand alchemists because you’re afraid that if you don’t come out shining like a diamond you have somehow fucked up pandemics 101.
They’re telling us to treat our symptoms like Covid, well I want you to treat your emotional symptoms protectively as well. Assume that this is affecting you, because the laws of emotional gravity tell me it is, and DON’T RUN OFF TO AEROBICS CLASS WHILE YOU’RE IN SHOCK. I mean emotional aerobics class. There are not real aerobics classes to run off to, we all know, not just because Covid, but also because, and I am sorry if you’re not ready to hear this, it’s not 1985 anymore. WRAP YOURSELF IN A BLANKET. TREAT YOURSELF GENTLY. CHECK YOUR EMOTIONAL TEMPERATURE OFTEN. Not because you’re fragile but because it’s okay to feel your feelings.
SLOW YOUR ROLL.
And now I am going to conclude with something very very important.
Not only are we not fragile for feeling, we are NOT weak erasable things. We are not dots, or specs, or drops of universal matter or ocean. We are more than this. Big, eternal, significant. And while I will never try to console your grief by telling you your loved one is not a body and therefore what’s to cry about if their body up and disappears –I get that we are very accustomed to finding each other at the exact coordinates of a 5’6 brunette named Erin, or a 5’11 grey haired gent named Dad, and no part of me is okay with having to light candles and get out my Ouija Board to ask you or my other beloveds how your day went. But we need to HEAR, DIGEST, ABSORB, ASSIMILATE AND KNOW, that we are not this virus. We are not ruinous or ruining or temporary, whether you would like this delivered in spiritual, emotional or philosophical language. What we really are is LOVED and LOVING, WHOLE and STRONG, GOOD and PURE, and that is unassailable. It’s a little bit of what we feel when we unite even if in the movie plot we are currently NEMO in the fish bowl, and “Dad” is out there and wants us to come home, and we have lost the way a thousand times because we hired Dori as our scout.
Today, let me join Ellen and be the 1001, the 51’st date, the tipping point, the push over the threshold. Let me help us all hold hands until together we can remember where we are going because together we remember who we are.
We can’t fuck up LOVE. Turns out we’re made of the stuff.
— Love Erin
The C word
Welcome to my Monday Musing. If you are new here this is where I write hilarious and meaningful things to help you feel “less heavy, more happy” because gosh darn it I can’t stop loving you. This week for no reason at all I present you with the following flow chart.
I would like your insight on coping with the “c” word —> CLICK HERE
I am saturated with the “c” word and would like to hear about a completely different topic —> CONTINUE READING
Such a thrill.
What better time than NOW, on this fine Monday of March 2020, in the middle of just an average ho hum afternoon where nothing significant is “going on” in the world to talk about the controversial subject of COLD HARD CASH ? Now, when our priorities are definitely just everyday ordinary priorities. Tra la la, ho de doh. Wink wink nudge nudge. Ya, so, cutting to brass tax: What is money and how does it affect our relationships? Does money buy you love? Should you have a prenup? Is it smart, or uncool, or rude? Should the monied only date the monied? Does money make you cheap, plastic, superior? Does it matter HOW you got your money? Is some money holy? Is it only meaningful if you made it yourself? Should it be old or new? Does it make a man out of him or a woman out of her? Should you support her? Should you support him? What even is gold digging? What if you had some and don’t anymore? What if you lost some to that awful jerk the first, second or third time around the merry go around? Should you go dutch or is that unsexy? Why do women want you to pay? Is it entitlement? How not to be a ‘nurse and a purse’? Should you save or spend? And finally, if your true love imagines Suzie Orman while you are making love, is that bad, or good?
Well I am going to lift the veil on money and what it has to say about you and your relationships, TODAY, for you friends, and then when I am done I am going to clean out the junk drawer, just because, that is what I always do after working hard all day. I clean something. Because I looove to clean weird obscure areas. In my home. Alone. In my lounge wear. While drinking wine from a sippy cup #manicmonday.
I begin my chat about money by reminding you beloved friends of a favourite truth of mine, and yes here I go, quoting myself while I polish my fingernails and cut my own bangs, for no reason at all doesn’t everyone cut their own hair because that is just a normal thing to do? Anyhoo, back to my quotable quote, that ANYTHING CAN SERVE LOVE AND ANYTHING CAN SERVE FEAR. Or better phrased :
“Anything can serve love, and anything can serve fear”, Erin Butler, shit fixer, and own bang trimmer (for no reason because things are normal and I am engaging in normative social behaviour, except that it’s not really social behaviour per se).
Money is nothing.
I know, I know. You think I mean that money is nothing now, because sidebar in the past few weeks it has lost eighty percent of its value. But that is not what I am talking about.
Shockingly, money is actually nothing even when it’s not worth only a fraction of what it was worth last week. Or this morning. Or since I typed the intro to this musing.
Money is actually, dot dot dot, a symbol of a symbol of a symbol. It doesn’t have inherent value. At all. Unless you are in the middle of an international situation, like you know, I dunno, you think of something that would affect everyone all over the world because I am fresh out of ideas!!! But let’s say you did have an international or global situation and it caused you to, like, run out of I don’t know, maybe toilet paper (so random!) Well, then money would have inherent value because you could like, wipe your butt with it #whatwouldmacgiverdo OR, let’s say you were in the middle of an international situation that caused widespread fear and feelings of despair or ruin, AND you were like Canadian. Well then you could load your pockets with it and swim into the cold river, because our money is heavy. So again, in this case, money would have inherent value #darkeconomics.
But generally, it doesn’t.
I know, speak for yourself you say. Fine.
Are you ancient like me? Do you remember the Howells from Gilligan’s Island, running around trying to bribe dangerous indigenous islanders (no racial stereotyping there at all) with stacks of money? Or all of the schemes to buy their way out of cast-off living? Remember how funny that was? #funnynotsofunny
My point is that MONEY, can play the villain in our lives and it can play the hero.
It can be sexy as frigg, eff, f@#K, okay FUCK. This is no time for senseless censorship. Monday. Monday is not the time for it. Nope it’s a good day for swearing, because of the great tradition of the Mons. And also because Money Day shortened is Monday, get what I did there? (Hang on I just need to refill my sippy). Money can be a sexy beast, and it can be Mama Theresa. And it can be a Horrible Boss patting the chair next to you with a salacious grin.
It gets a nasty rap. Like the bad boy that women lust after but know will drag their heart around. We want it, we’ll do anything for it shhhh— we don’t want our friends to find out.
But thunder only happens when it’s raining and money isn’t a player unless we’re playing. I’m taking some liberties, but you’re picking up what I am tossing into the change jar.
I mean let’s just cut to the Quaaludes scene from Wolf of Wallstreet. That is what we are taught, isn’t it? That if we get into bed with money we’re going to end up driving over a the family hamster in our Lamborghini and blaming it on the babysitter. And yet there is part of us that’s like, surely there is a way to like have all of the sexy sexy money and not be as asshole, go to jail, or ruin lives, because those pool parties!
Being better at money means something, but having money doesn’t mean you are better at money.
But if you are good at money, and you have worked hard or played savvy to get yours, there is this whole confusing stigma that goes with it, and makes you feel that you have to defend yourself for having as much as you do, for spending any of it, for how you spend it, for having good taste, for which charities you donate to, for not solving world hunger and finding the cure for cancer, and from association with those ostentatious elitists who wear their money like a gold sequinned suit #myhamsterisdressedfancierthanyourhamster.
AND THEN THROW LOVE INTO THE MIX!
Here’s the deal. If money is getting in your way, then it is serving fear.
If you are expecting yourself to have lots of money, make money, be money savvy, not care about or even notice that money is a thang, not identify with the money you have made, and also be somewhere between generous and selfless with money, well that is a tall order for a small chocolate shake, hold the chocolate.
In a perfect world we would all have lots to throw around, and economics systems would not require haves and have nots to rise and fall and repeat.
There is no arbitrary perfect relationship with money. You do not get a Golden Brick Award for having lots but not caring about it, for Mother Theresa-ing the shit out of your money, but with just the right amount invested in your personal style and beauty so as not to make anyone else uncomfortable.
And if you don’t have as much as you need or want, that also, does not make you a loser, or a less than. And your experience of lack isn’t purified by vilifying money and dressing in recycled ethically farmed burlap.
I met a lovely young gentleman in my travels of late, after which I am enjoying a strict policy of no contact with other humans because I just thought of that myself from my own personal creative genius. Really it’s for mysterious spiritual reasons. If you want to study with me it will cost you one gazillion dollars and one cent and we’ll have to do it by Skype. Anyhow, back to my homey in my home away from home. He was a poet, well I guess he still is one, even if his poet-ness was in my recent past, so let’s just say he IS a poet and nothing dramatic has changed in the world that would suddenly make him something else. While we were chatting about creativity and writing he abruptly interjected that he does not care about money. It went like this “Oh you work at such and such, do you write?” “Yes I write” “Cool what do you write bro?” “I write poetry” “Oh cool poetry I dig it bro” “Ya.” “I wrote some poetry way way back and also some other creative writing solidarity bro” “Oh ya that’s also cool by the way, I DON’T CARE ABOUT MONEY”. BAM! There it was.
I mean is it possible that I exuded some kind of “I am looking for a thirty three year old tech billionaire to sweep me off my feet and upgrade my Kirkland to Charmin so soft that a thousand Persian kittens leap whenever I wipe and the ply is so robust that I need wider pipes to flush it down” vibe? I guess. But to me it is unlikely. I mean yes I may be on the prowl for stimulating conversation, especially when I am in isolation, which I got a solid one month head start on friends, prior to my post travel sit-in. But I was not giving this kind young fellow the side eye. Maybe I did exude a sentiment more like “I remember the romantic days when poetry was the toilet paper, aka currency”. I mean I hope I wasn’t leaking an anti starving artist pheromone. Or portraying that instant of silence when your parent holds the worst poker face of all time while preparing to say something that masks their judgment and disappointment in you in encouragement. In any case, he blurted. I just kept talking about the subject at hand. And then when I came in to buy the book, which he suggested that I do, he chimed in again with a tortured grimace what a shame it was that art should be made into a commercial enterprise.
AKA, I am a dirty whore for selling you my art.
Would it have been sacred somehow if he simply fumbled gently for his journal mid-chat and whispered me a verse? Maybe. Maybe not. We write to be read, because we have something to share, and cold hard cash is a means of accomplishing the exchange.
The problem for Mr. Poet, can be discovered in the maxim “I couldn’t care less”, which ironically, people often misstate as “I could care less”. Funny because when we are announcing that we could not care any less, as an expression of our disinterest in a person or situation, we usually DO care. We are angry. Or hurt. We wish we didn’t care. What we are really saying is “This hurts me.” OR “This offends me”. “I don’t wish to be associated with this.” “I wish this didn’t hurt”. “I am irritated by your assumption of your importance to me”. But truth is, if we didn’t care, we wouldn’t say we didn’t. We’d be off thinking about other things. People, hey? Gotta love us. Mr. Poet definitely cared about money. He found it at least distasteful. Money was a villain for him; perhaps a sleazy friend who made him look or feel bad or weak. It’s not for me to say.
Here is the thing. There might be room for improvement in YOUR relationship with money.
And by association, your relationship with your partner’s (current, future, ex, imagined, or avoided) relationship with money.
Maybe it’s time to forgive yourself for having some money and putting rules and limitations on the hows and wherefores of using it to create meaning and joy for you and yours.
Or for the fact that the toilet paper, the shitty kind and the velvet kind, are traded for money and we all need toilet paper. It’s OKAY that we need toilet paper. And fear and shame over it just leads to some poor lonesome granny getting taken down in isle 3 on a Monday, no less.
Money doesn’t buy love, but lack and love are hard to reconcile. It’s hard to kiss over a noodle if you’re so hungry that you find yourself strategizing ways to suck it from your lover’s face #ladyandthetrampouttakes.
There is no perfect way to ‘money’. Yep, I’m making it a verb now, because you know what, that’s what you do on an average Monday. You throw away the old limitations and you get brave and make up new rules. Laws of fear aren’t going to get us out of “just an average non-crisis ridden Monday”, are they?
There is, as it turns out, a way that is best for YOU A gold brick road that will lead YOU back home and it is paved with love and forgiveness. It’s not poetry. But it’s true.
I’ll be back next week with more on making money your bitch (JK friend) in dating and relationships. But in the mean while, and it’s getting a little heavy on the mean, if you’re sick of cleaning cupboards or you’ve thought more than once about practicing bang trimming on the family hamster, you might wanna run a scan on your own relationship with money and search for viruses. Spend some of your crazy on forgiveness. I hear there’s lots to go around.
— Love Erin
Rules for Emotional Survival
- No sympathetic suffering. Your suffering does not abate someone else’s. You can care and act in a loving way without taking on more hurt. One time when my youngest was like 2 years old, all tiny spriggy piggy tails and freckles and frocks, I opened the car door with her itty bitty finger caught in the small space between the door and its frame, and smooshed it. It looked flattened and crushed, bone and all, and I lost my ever loving mind. Because I had done this to my child. So there I was waiting for paramedics because it was a small town and there were no clinics, sitting in a chair in the nearby grocery store, sobbing hysterically while my sister held my child, when this lady knelt down in front of me, made eye contact with me, and very gently, kindly told me “You are scaring her”. And in that second I realized that in fact, my distress was not actually helping my daughter, the one who was hurting, even though I felt truly kicked behind the knee by what felt like my failure to protect her (from like my own carelessness). And just like that I caught my breath and picked her up and held her until we got things taken care of. Baby bones are bendy, so while it was gross to look at, it was not actually even crushed! The point is, your hurt over their hurt doesn’t help their hurt. And if you are actually enjoying the break from your back breaking workload, or whatever the fall out of Covid has been for you, if it has corrected some imbalance in your life it’s okay to feel better, or joyful. That does not make you cruel and indifferent to the suffering of others. Joy heals suffering. Period.
- Throw out your garbage. Not your actual garbage, silly. I mean you might want to throw that out too, simply because you don’t want to be stuck inside with whatever weird foods you are stress eating on day 779 of your confinement (okay whatever, day seven, I am using hyperbole thanks). I mean the other garbage, the judgments you make against yourself and your life and your relationships and your world. Clear the slate, shake the Etch a Sketch (man wish I had one of those right now). Pardon. Forgive. Embrace, emotionally not physically we know the rules. Do it while your liquor cabinet is still full friends. We have the power to make this a giant do over, while still respecting the grief of those who have lost loved ones and while doing our part to protect everyone. I mean doesn’t it make sense, to forgive all of that old emotional debt —to save hearts while we are saving lives *wipes a tear from her eye and steps down from the podium. Just don’t drunk text your messages of forgiveness.
- Do not hold yourself to traditional standards of efficiency. Are you working from home? Without your usual resources, tools, leadership or coffee supply? Does your job even make sense anymore because oil has no value, or because it’s hard to conduct a physio appointment via telephone? Are you struggling to get a straight answer from the cat? It’s okay if it all feels weird and futile right now. Do what you can from a place of love and blind faith that giving something makes sense. And take a few more breaks than usual. Take a coffee break over the phone. Pretend you’re Matt Damon in The Martian. You need encouragement because it’s awfully hard to do a job well when the infrastructure of the job, industry and world has temporarily collapsed. Now is not the time to pressure yourself or evaluate your worth vis a vis your traditional markers of accomplishment. It’s okay if you don’t save the company and the world between the hours of 9 and 5 with an old tube of mascara, some fishing tackle and your good intentions #dontletthecatdecide. Which brings me to our next rule of survival.
- Do not make decisions that can wait. Remember Jerry McGuire? The memo. Well now is not the time to marry your ex or your Facebook crush. Now is not the time to make big commitments because your fear factor is ramped up to level Scorpions, Lions and Scaling Tall Buildings. What makes you feel safe today may not actually land you peace and prosperity tomorrow. You might not survive quarantine with your ex. Jail may seem like a fun party now when Fluffy gives you the piss off stare, and then when you sober up and realize you don’t actually have a cat, but it won’t be fun, later, when the world is not ending. #Orangesithenewblack
- Know the difference between fear mongering and protective behaviour. I know this one is hard friends! Should I be afraid, running around in fear, planning for my dystopian future? NO! But the whole business about staying home and handwashing ETC. is actually not perpetuating fear, it’s lovingly stopping virus transmission to the vulnerable populations AND to those who will become vulnerable with enough lung scarring. Fuck. We are so pressed to rise above and tough it out that we walk around with this warrior mentality but beating this thing requires us to dump that mentality STAT. Do it for love, not for fear. But do it. Be vigilant about protection. Overachieve that. So we CAN get to the place where we are like “it wasn’t as bad as it could have been”.
- Do not neglect YOURSELF. It’s okay to not wear pants. But at some point you’re going to wanna wash your hair, because you look at you. And more than your hair, you’re going to NEED some help feeling okay, because all of those scary feelings are looking for nooks and crannies to hide out in. You think you’re fine and then the dog barks and you feel like the guy in that game Operation, and someone has just touched metal trying to remove your femur. BZZZZZZT! You try to reason with the dog, explaining that there is a world pandemic, and that while you are managing just fine, if she barks one more time you’re going to send a report to GOD and there won’t be any bones for her in heaven, and then you cry and cry because that is just plain mean and what is next? Farming Dalmatians for a new coat? You’re going to need to make up a night off, find a creative outlet, do something KIND for your inner child.
- Do not put all kinds of weird pressure on yourself. I know you’re stuck at home, but the last thing we all need is to expect ourselves to channel our stress into doing every chore that has been left since forever, write the next best novel and solve world peace while keeping sane and supporting our loved ones, or our company, or Fluffy.
- Do not performance review yourself. Unless it’s like this: Hey there little trooper, good job not losing your shit today in the face of so much shittiness. You look good with those new bangs and skinny without pants.
- Forgive yourself for snapping. How fast did the dog forgive you? Well that is your new standard of self forgiveness. Immediate. You can do no wrong in your eyes.
- Forgive everyone for snapping. How fast did the dog forgive them?
- If your Higher Power is an asshole it’s the perfect time to upgrade. This one is SUPER IMPORTANT. GOD, GODDESS, PRINCE, GREAT SPIRIT, MOTHER EARTH AND YODA, DID NOT SEND CORONAVIRUS TO PUNISH YOU FOR SLACKING ON YOUR COMPOST OR FORGETTING TO VISUALIZE GREATNESS. Yes, some shit may get corrected through all of this. But that is LOVE taking your hand and saying “Hey, let’s find a way out of this calamity”. If you signed up for a MEAN GOD, it’s time to renegotiate the contract. Truly, you’re allowed right now.
- If you’re a leader, you don’t have to be perfect but you do need to include yourself. You can accept help and support and feel vulnerable. The best you can give your people is encouragement. ENCOURAGE them to be their best, bravest, kindest strongest selves. To SEE the everyday hero within, to FEEL worthy and good. And don’t give power to their fears or their shitty behaviour when they stray. We all need to know that we are not our worst fears. Give them a value to stand behind, like we tell our kids, like our family stands for kindness. They are part of a whole. They belong. And so do you. You don’t have to be the ocean, just the ocean whisperer.
- Reach out. It’s kumbaya time. Warm and fuzzy the shit out this virus. Smother it with love. I have lots to share if you’re running low.
So I am on my run from North Beach to the Golden Gate Bridge my last day in San Francisco and it’s pouring rain, and to paint the scene for you we’re in the middle of a world pandemic crisis. What?!!! You hadn’t heard? You legit had something else to talk about at the dinner table, over your sprig of asparagus and your canned legumes rationed into the most efficient ratio for keeping your household members from using too much toilet paper through the foreseeable decline into Armageddon? Well colour me purple and shiver me timbers. Yes, there I am running in the misty foggy rain, past the people with masks, on the quiet streets and I am like congested in my lungs. I am NOT SICK, because I don’t feel sick and I have no fever and no sneezing and no aches or pains but I do have asthma and when it kicks in and then lets up I get this congestion, I know, too much information but it’s not gratuitous I promise. People hear me cough and they scatter, even though I am not sick. But I am like running a small script in one of the tabs that I have open in one of the many mental browsers that I have open, and that script is saying, “Obviously you are dying and you must take no one with you.” And while this script is per-mutating all of the ways I will tend to my clients and obtain the groceries and nurture my people from within a plastic bubble upon my return and competing for my attention against the other 999 scripts in my 999 open tabs in my 222 browsers, my I-phone, which is plugged into my head via my headset, ready for a client emergency or a friendly chat or a bureaucratic nightmare that I can solve during the 90 golden minutes I am not otherwise scheduled to be in a meeting or on the phone, BLASTS —without warning— the sound of …drumroll…ACTUAL DRUMS.
And here is where I jump in with a little back story, and the back story is that since the advent of parenthood in 1998 I have not listened to my own music. I used to, back in the early nineties, research and explore and experiment with musical genres and new talents and take pride in creating what we now call playlists for my self (mix tapes), but then my greatest joy became making life magical for my wee ones and it was all about discovering music that made them light up. Recall the road trip when we listened to Paper Bag Princess until I was literally praying for an alien invasion to interrupt my stereo system with white noise, even if it meant the small sacrifice of my frontal lobe to alien science #interspeciessymbiosis. And then as the kiddies grew older they became the music scouts and they have remarkable, impeccable taste. So except for some brooding Egyptian music I downloaded for dance choreographies some years back and that free U2 album, there is no music even on my phone, let alone a usage history. That is the takeaway. Also, because on this particular day I am in the pouring rain and mentally running a checklist for departing US to Canada after a very intense month doing very mysterious things whilst pondering pandemics, I am deep deep in runner’s reverie. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K and it is already surreal inside my wee noggin when the drums start to play. And whatever the sorcery going on with my phone does not randomly turn on the music and leave it, no no, no. It cuts in and out, which creates the effect of a loud “Dun Dun” tribal and fierce sounding from the surreal pandemic world. Remember friends, I do not know that the sound is coming from my own headphones.
I brace involuntarily against the DUN and then look around for WHAT NOW!!!??? There is no choate formed thinking but in that instant I am ready for the unimaginable. Something deadly falling out of the sky. God ripping open the horizon and yelling down at someone to wash their hands. God ripping open the sky and yelling down would you please forgive each other already.
More backstory: The day before I am talking to someone about coyotes, working up to telling my scary coyote story, about the time when I am running in minus 17 with gusty shrieking wind, snow snaking and swirling over the asphalt and around ankles and slithering up pant-legs, and through the ghost white I see the form of a robust coyote standing and facing me on what is a narrow pathway enclosed by frozen river and steep untraversable hill. I have been coached to be brave but I forgive myself for no longer believing that he is more scared than I am, and I turn around to slink off the other way, tail between my legs only to find, DUN DUN, there is Another. Large coyote. Behind me. And then, because it’s always fun when life resembles the plot of the scary movie and you are the stupid character making bad life choices, I slip out my phone to call for help (not 911 help, moral support and hey girl you’ve got this kind of help) but my phone on cue, on account of not liking the cold, dies sadly in my mitten. I am going to tell this story in San Francisco because the subject of coyotes has come up in organic conversation, when suddenly there is one. A mom and her two babies in fact. This seems to set in motion a stream of synchronicities, friends. Talking about children and looking up to see a street sign named Child. I am beginning to feel part of a larger choreography, though I don’t know what I would name the dance.
DUN! A single drumbeat sounds again. And the music cuts out.
And then I realize that in fact the sound is coming from my headphones.
I laugh at myself, with myself, a strange relieved and embarrassed laugh. Oh, hahaha, it’s my music! Hahaha.
I glance around, but no one else knows how weird it just got.
And then for the next ten minutes or so I just let the music play.
What do you got for me HP (that’s an acronym for Higher Power)?
I am amused by the unusual soundtrack to the current state of affairs.
Up the hill, a little tabla. Down the hill, silence. Across the marina, a few bars of a stormy U2 song.
Now I am going to intercede this broadcast of the life and times of Erin to share that:
I am NOT amused at all that our loved ones are in jeopardy.
That our family members with weakened immune systems are in jeopardy.
That our economic systems are shutting down.
That we have endured real and tragic and painful losses.
That while we are working to undo cycles of pain and suffering in ourselves and our world, this shit is going down.
Things feel surreal until they are real, regardless of our views of reality.
So I ask this. I come back to this, in my strategizing and my understanding and my support:
What is loving, and what is helpful?
For those of us who are helpers as a profession, this means guiding our people make their decisions, the best decisions. Getting them out of toxic fear, while staying protective. It means unwinding the toxic knots of history and of family and of the world that create chaos. And healing those emotional wounds that drive them toward unconscious compensation and wield them around an endless carousel of frustrating outcomes. It means helping leaders take care of their hearts and minds so that they can lead from a place of strength and health, and no one is martyred or thrown under a bus or a goat.
But I do want to talk about THE SURREAL for a moment.
Because there is something to be gained from peeling it back just a little.
Surreality lifts us from the mundane. This is why they call it ‘LARGER THAN LIFE’.
It elevates us from our own personal daily struggles
It connects us to.
It reunites us with.
It loosens NOT just the pressure we feel to be a little drop, doing the job of the whole ocean.
It makes us invincible in our collective vincibility.
Our individual burdens shrink, or at least they are suspended for a time.
We become heroic, because we are no longer pitted against one another. Except in the toilet paper isle at Costco. I’m not ready to muse on that.
We become sympathetic because we are no longer pitted against ourselves.
We are asked to suspend normal.
And it turns out that for many of us, on a very wide scale, normal is very hard.
Normal says “Hey it’s on you!” To solve your problems, burn through your day-timer list, run your company, parent successfully, find love, say the right thing, take care of others, fix your body, invest wisely, and feel generally happy. Yep, don’t EFF IT THE EFF UP!
That is Normal’s M.O.
That is how we go about it all.
But when Mother Nature cracks down, the big ol’ Goddess of the earth and says “You’re grounded”, well we don’t HAVE TO anymore.
All we gotta do is LOVE one another. Try to help.
It’s not on us, because it is bigger than us.
We call responsibility “adulting” because it feels lonely, and hard and divisive. It lacks nurturing and union and connection. It lacks the kindness and importance with which we at least strive to treat a child.
In a world wide crisis we are still doing all of those same challenging things, but we are doing them for love.
And that makes ALL of the difference.
So when this all dies down, when we are wandering through the rubble and the ruin searching for the pieces that broke, when we still have the clean up but we’re missing the other 7.8 billion drops that somehow felt a part of us for a time, let’s remember this and reach for it.
At least let’s try.
When we’re allowed to hold hands again physically, let’s not let go so fast emotionally.
I am stronger and safer when I am made of you.
When I returned from my run I was locked out of my rental. Beep beep DUN DUN, the code had expired. A miscommunication about check out times and I was standing in rain soaked running gear, with no access to everything I owned in the United States of America and no way to reach the airlines. I remained calm, then I panicked, then I remained calm, then shit got sorted and there I was, at last, in an airport which looked like a ghost airport, but silver lining had no line ups and I squeaked through on time.
I arrived home safely to Canada to find DUN DUN that my home refrigerator is broken, the groceries my daughter had just bought had to be thrown out, and I am to stay isolated until testing can be completed #pleasedropwineondoorstep.
I phoned in because the guidelines indicated that I should, and I let them make the decision about my asthma related symptoms, knowing that there is a teeny tiny possibility that my asthma has kicked up because I am fighting something off.
Because I am fine but I don’t want to be the reason your grandmama does not make it, or your kid ends up in the hospital.
We have a lifetime of “TOUGHEN UP, TOUGH IT OUT” training.
We are taught that tough is noble and we are thrown into survival camp which requires us to toughen up. Which is why we are all used to working sick. Circle back to adulting and going it alone. Now is the time to throw away that training.
So this week I am asking all ya’all (favourite new expression learned from time in America) to help me do the LOVING thing. Many of you live in other places and are accustomed to working remotely with me. Our magic carries on as usual. But for those of you who like my perfume, or your weekly hug, or need a reason to get away from your children, let me hug you a little harder from my heart. It’s sacred in there. Pretend that I don’t look pixilated on skype. Call me from your car or your locked bathroom. Let’s do whatever it takes to talk about your decisions and your fears, safely. We all need support more than ever. And let’s support each other in throwing away TOUGH for smart and wise and loving and protective.
Forever and for all.
Love and forgiveness. Let’s spread ‘em around.
— Love Erin
P.S. If this crisis is extra emotionally hard on you right now and you need support I will bend to help and accommodate your needs. Drop me a line.
Catch and release
I’ve met someone. You say it with a dose of giddy in your inner voice. It’s not the same as some rando hitting on you at the brunch club or the night club or as you stride by them on a busy street. It’s not the same as a flirtation, or interest, or a suppressed crush on a business associate, or an ask. It has POTENTIAL. You feel it. You likey. They likey. There is that infamous connection. There is requisite chemistry. You are going to see each other again, and then again, and then, wait for it, AGAIN!!!
That is how it has to start, right? Something goes right, enough times in an actual row. Which means you can call it something. A thing!
And so you greet the day with a bit more sunny in your disposition. Pep in the ol’ step. Your bros catch you smirking on beer and game night, you are noticeably less mercenary in your meetings. You smile a dreamy Marsha Brady lovestruck smile as you pour milk outside the glass. Your vitals are disturbed when a text pings. You are distracted a little from your cool. You slip names into conversation because you might just want to moon about it.
Then, just like that, overnight it seems, you are officially seeing someone. I mean it may be your super secret. Maybe you’re planning dates with a few back ups so that you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Or maybe you’re a ‘one at a time’ dating style. You do you! But things are swimming along and there are both hope and endorphins, possibly some Oxytocin, even some Oxycontin, again depending on your dating style (I prefer a nice Cabernet) but still you’re all doped up on happy juice.
And then it happens.
Your date, the new person you are seeing, dating, hanging with or whisking away to Vegas for Elvis themed nuptials officiated by the dead King himself and including a free breakfast of oxygen and egg McMuffins, does a thing (or says a thing) that YOU. DON’T. LIKE.
I mean not the little thing he said about your pet hamster, RUDE! or the fact that her dream car is a minivan, PUHLEASE. But an actual THING. A thing that suggests a different value, or a distasteful thing. A thing that makes you think, Ah-oh, if this all goes well am I going to have to live with that, like foreseeably forever and ever until death do we part? And just like that you are All Shook Up and lawyering up with the best money can buy to loophole out of spending a Vegas eternity with that Hound Dog. Maybe they do or don’t like Donald Trump. Or they throw money at every problem and even though you both have lots of it do you really want to raise your kids that way #vercuccasalt. Maybe she made an offhand remark about all the things she could do with the space, and it flashed before your eyes, your new living room with the pink silk sofas and the fluffy rug with one of those ridiculous purse dogs perched with folded paws and a pink frilly smock and a bow on its stupid little head to complete the vignette. Or like he made a JOKE about laying off the chocolate donuts and gave your butt a love tap, which was so funny to you, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH *turns head to reveal full Joker makeup* that you make a mental note about the next time he’ll have access to that cute, donut deprived little booty of yours and it’s somewhere around the year Twentyneverfuckingeveryouasshole.
Or maybe they didn’t make time for you, or cancelled plans last minute, or didn’t text you at text o’clock, because that definitely happens. Maybe you foreshadowed loneliness, or inequality, or only one of you getting satisfaction, or feeling like a needy bitch like you did with Nancy all over again.
Fear, no one’s favourite ice cream, presents itself in fifty different flavours and the only thing that makes sense is to avoid becoming one of those Red Flag ignoring fools and throw your Red Flag waving little fish back in the deep blue sea, where as we are promised by all of the dating apps, there are plenty of other, better, less dangerous fishies.
Oh, and there are. So many other fishes. And guess what?!!!! Forgive me if you were like all believing in Santa and Prince and the Easter Bunny and I’ve gone and wrecked it for you, but all of those fish in the sea are all going to pick up a Red Flag or two, or seventeen, David, and waive them in your face at some stage of the fishing expedition.
Here is the breakout news friends.
There is no fish that is just going to check off everything on your list. There is no one who is just going to appear, flawless, and fail to rattle you, scare you, alarm you, and depart from your expectation of what you want and need. AND THAT IS OKAY.
It’s okay precisely because a relationship, a good, great, grand relationship, a healthy wealthy and wise relationship, is not created by lining up two perfectly aligned candidates. WHAT!? Well then what is the point of anything, don’t take away my hope that I can choose better this time, I beg you, Erin.
Yes, of course the lining up part matters. And that is why we have apps, or for the more discerning, matchmakers, to help us match. But our matchmakers are not actually putting on a Martha Stewart apron and baking us up the perfect man or woman at 350 degrees with premium sifted flour and double extra chocolate chips (how do you like my booty now, David!??) so that he or she gets us with zero effort at all on our parts.
RELATIONSHIPS ARE PRODUCT OF THE LOVING ATTENTION WE GIVE TO THEM.
They are malleable. You won’t know the potential of yours if you aren’t willing to ask them politely to stop eating crackers in bed, by which I mean chocolate, obviously.
The point is, that landing a great one requires more than just the landing part. We then need to come together, to integrate, to build. We need to invest, in understanding ourselves and our emotional needs and triggers, and in expressing actual needs to our partner in a way that invites resolution, or teaming up rather than judging, and finding ways to support one another in all of our idiosyncrasies, rather than picking each other apart for them.
We need to take all of the connection and chemistry and build on it to create a great relationship, not just sit in a corner with our judge cards out waiting for the person we couldn’t get enough of last week to fall short, or piss us off just one more time I dare you before Shark Tank I’m out.
Oh David, it’s not actually that hard. Certainly no harder than white knuckling through your longing for companionship, someone to eat breakfast with in the morning, arms around you at night, a thought partner to co-navigate dreams or challenges, a partner in taking on or staving off the world. To feel we are in it together, to play at life with. I will be the first one to tell you that a solo romantic life is not an empty life —there are all kinds of relationships that create meaning for us and through which we create meaning. But I will venture to say that most of us don’t want that. We simply want a relationship that gives us the good stuff without a lot of pain and heart ache. And you can tell yourself that it shouldn’t be hard work, or that it is hard work, but then you’re missing the point.
Relationship is hard in relation to how hard it is for us to be vulnerable.
Expressing and asking and being vulnerable isn’t that hard if you come together to make a safe space for it. It CAN feel hard at first if you’ve never done it. We make that space, first within ourselves, and then we practice it in relationship.
I know that we all have our histories, and that they get in the way for us. But at some point we just need to deal with them, to heal them, to outsmart them. Otherwise (and I will speak more on this topic in it’s own dedicated musing) we might as well just invite them over for dinner already, because we are still dating them, it’s just in our head with none of the perks like someone to do the dishes or curl up beside us. NO, don’t REALLY invite them over. I am using sarcasm to make the point that you need to resolve your past relationship issues and if you need help with that well, hello, go ahead and reply to this email because that’s my day job.
I know there are really really really good reasons why you ended up here. Your parents may not have had the skills to teach you, bless them. The WORLD gives everyone a complimentary handbook on dating I like to call “Hand basket to hell”. It’s not your fault. But it has become your job.
And once you lift off all of that shame and grief that tells us we are shameful and not worthy and last to get picked for sports day, well vulnerability doesn’t feel so hard after all. It rewards us. With things like affection, and love and trust.
Sometimes we put ourselves out there and we don’t get what we need, or any willingness to hear it let alone dive into it. And that is when we throw the fish back, my friend.
But then we still get rewarded…with the knowledge that it didn’t fail because we were running or hiding behind our shopping list. We know that we fought for it, showed up for ourselves and advocated for the relationship we are committed to building. We didn’t just throw a seed a patch of grass and cross our fingers. We watered and fertilized and gave it conditions for growth.
*Caveat. Please don’t stay with someone who is hurting you, using you or abusing you. Get out, get safe and then we can figure the rest of it out.
A relationship is a product of an inner process expressed outwardly.
At least give her your instruction manual, take his, and sit down over a dinner or some donuts to see if you can’t get them to sync. If you’re not the gardening type try engineering it a little.
Before you run screaming that they contravened rule number 80, part b, on page 471, and leave yourself at the altar for the 221st time, not that I am counting.
Your love life should not resemble the plot of Finding Nemo or that sad day Fluffy ate Susie’s guppy and you went to forty pet stores looking for one that had the same orange stripe across it’s left wing.
If you’re waiting for someone with the same manual as you, that doesn’t shock you, or piss you off, or elude you or confuse you or ruffle your gills, then you’re fishing for one.
— Love Erin
P.S. You know that I live and breathe underwater for solving your relationship and dating woes, right? Well if you need a new manual, or help to figure out the one you’ve got drop me a DM. I am all over it, from what went wrong the first hundred times to what to text when they say that thing they’re going to say. I’ve got you.
You can’t operate on your own back
I have given this guidance so many times this weekend to so many folks I thought it was worth a repost. Enjoy!
You can’t operate on your own back.
Even if you are a leading surgeon in your field.
I mean, I’m not trying to hold you back (damn those unintentional puns – it’s a gift and a curse), but there are limitations, and I think it’s fair to say that your health and well-being would be better served in this instance by involving a buddy, probably one with a degree like yours and some assorted back-operating-on credentials.
I said this once to my PHD psychologist client who came to me for relationship help.
“But Erin I should know this. I get paid to help people with relationship problems. I feel ashamed”. Yes, you do – get paid to help. BUT, needing help doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to help, it doesn’t nullify the help you have given, and knowing how to help someone else doesn’t mean that you can have that insight for yourself. Or that you can’t benefit from another’s knowledge and skill set.
Even those of you who are KILLING IT, CRUSHING IT, one-woman one-man one-gender-fluid armies of world sock-knocking-off, star-shining self sufficiency, can kill and crush harder, better, faster, or in a more meaningful soul-satisfying way should you want that, with some actual real live support.
Yet, many of us tend to do this funny thing when it comes to getting ourselves help. We push it to the absolute bottom of the list. I, for one, have to talk myself out of, talking myself into, NOT buying bandaids for myself, or Advil, or freaking running shoes when I am running 12k per day and have burned through my sneakers and am making actual toe to pavement contact. It is part of my “savvy” training. I will wait a little longer. I will find a way around it. But I don’t. Because I can’t. Running shoes cost money. They don’t grow in the garden, or the snow. AND THAT IS OKAY! It is okay that things cost money. We are not getting any brownie points for overcoming money and resisting expenditure. Having major problems with your feet, legs, and IT bands costs way more in terms of time, health, joy, and emotional grief than spending $150 on the main pair of footwear you will be wearing for the most demanding part of the day for the next six months.
We are inundated with this notion that if we are smart and savvy enough we will find a way to figure it out ourselves. BEWARE OF THAT VOICE, because it usually does NOT have your back (I swear it’s not conscious). It tends to add to your proverbial plate the solving of something that, if were actually reasonable to solve solo, would have already been solved. That, is not a solution. And it’s not economically or emotionally smart.
Buying the generic instead of the brand name? Well sure that can be savvy. Unless maybe you have a good reason to need name brand – like symbolically it represents worth to you, or making it, or not growing up on the poor side of town. Then for you, name brand might be the way you empower yourself; your declaration of worth. That is up to you to decide. But what is NOT savvy? Deprivation and frustration are not. I have a confession to make. I CAN AFFORD BANDAIDS. Shhhh. Tell no one. Least of all my thrifty shopping self. Band aids cover up my blisters and help me run more effectively. So what in hell goes on during the fifth trip to the drug store where I convince myself that they, oh I dunno, can wait until next time.
You don’t REALLY need those Erin. The spending stops here. You must have one lying around somewhere in an old purse. Remember all of those famines and wars you lived through in your past lives! You can make your own band aids, out of string and eyelash glue. You’ve got this!
Do I feel more in control if I buy everything everyone else needs, and then just tough it out for myself one more day? Well, yes, friend I do. Is this behaviour actually giving me more control? No, friend, it’s not. It’s wasting time and energy and health.
Now, if this goes on with teeny tiny drugstore items, what about the larger scale needs? Programs, training, trips. Those things that have the potential to make a BIG JUICY difference for us? What happens when we need more than just a band aid solution?
Well I am going to tell you yet another embarrassing story. And then I’m going to have to ask you to sign a confidentiality agreement because you know much too much (It’s like there is no length I will not go to to make you feel better in a relatable way. Whose idea was this blog, really?!!)
Here it goes. Two years ago I had a string of clients who left my care declaring that they were going to change the world with what I was teaching them, so blown away were they by the lack of availability of this kind of help and the pervasive need out there among their kind. I had been thinking the same for years. I saw it. I thought, yep I am gonna do that, after all it is kinda my baby. But then my actual babies were a handful, and by the end of a long day, well pizza, laundry, occasional sleep. Then as it usually does in my stories, some shit went down, and I decided to MAKE IT HAPPEN. I needed a website. I needed social media. I needed other unnameable things I did not know I needed. So I called up my sister for some pro tips on Instagram, and FIVE hours later I had my first, shitty, unreadable postcard style Instagram post.
“Oh Mommy,” the children said, with sorrowful, pitying but also baffled looks on their faces, like I was a small wounded bunny rabbit they weren’t quite sure how to help. “Five hours?”
There was a year of that. A year of effortful wheel-reinventing, wheel-spinning, band aid avoiding drive. I produced one very shitty website and a handful of posts. Sigh. And then, well, divine intervention happened. I went on a trip, I met a friend, the friend told me how everyone in her family fell into this mistaken idea that she liked owls and she never spoke up, and she had a houseful of owl art because of it, and then I was in a bookstore waiting for my girls and I picked up a book flipped it open and it told the same story, about the owls, like it actually happened to the author’s friend too, and I was like “What, freaky!” And then I decided to buy the book because of that, although I did debate whether I should be spending the $15, which makes me L.O.L. because the book was all about the $85 grand this woman dropped on coaching to get her business to fly, and I was like, oh, I see. Good one Almighty, Goddessy, Oneness, Higher Love, Higher Self Thingy! I am picking up what you are putting down. YOU CAN’T OPERATE ON YOUR OWN BACK.
So, I spent my version of $85 grand (band aids being our reference point here for splurge spending). I paid $500/per hour to get an expert to help me build a platform to bring this life altering process to the people, so that my clients don’t have to try to do it for me (as if they have that kinda time). It was a BIG DEAL for me. It felt like ripping off my arm and offering it in exchange for services “I’d like some business help, please,” my voice at the pitch of one of Alvin’s chipmunks squeaking through an awkward forced smile while blood poured freely from my empty arm socket. Sorry for being gross.
BUT, here is what happened after I sold my arm:
Every time I didn’t have to make a confusing decision alone I did a happy dance.
Every time I Iearned something it would have taken me eons to learn alone I did a happy dance.
I was able to do 1789 SUPER SCARY THINGS, without being super scared, and with someone really cool, smart and nice holding my actual hand, which it turned out, like my arm, GREW BACK. Which translated into oh so much more efficiency and progress, and happiness.
I was and am super happy with my results.
My results keep coming.
I now want a coach for everything. JK. But I do find myself open to where I can streamline like my whole life by getting some actual help with things that other people are really good at.
Here is the shocking news. Money. We use it to pay for things. Really cool things are going on all around us that cost it. For many of us it is a revolutionary act to spend money on ourselves. But I have discovered that it feels really freaking good to invest in yourself and your smarts and your happy. And happy is productive. IT’S SAVVY EVEN!
Turns out struggle is not. It doesn’t squeeze the juice out of your happy fruit.
Maybe it’s ME you take the plunge with, and you and I get to be the explosion of goodness my coach and I were together. Or maybe it’s something or someone else. Maybe you’ll take that Masters program after all. Or take up synchronized swimming with your favourite pet. Maybe you’ll just buy yourself some Hello Kitty band aids.
Be smart about your resourceful tendencies. Like pair the Old Navy sweats with the runners that save your joints. Or whatever works for you.
But if I can save you that thousand hour, bunny-soul-crushing learning curve that wins nothing for no one???
Well my work is done here folks.
Now, I’m gonna band aid up. It’s time for my run.
You’ve got the look
So I find myself in San Francisco, for very mysterious reasons, doing very mysterious things, because, as it turns out, I am a very mysterious person. An enigma, really *tightens knot in scarf and adjusts sunglasses for eluding paparazzi. Currently I am at Trieste Café, with its brilliant history of renowned authors and artists and musicians hanging out drinking flavourful coffees or shitty wine, probably engulfed in clouds of illustrious smoke back then, talking incessantly about super important things (I kid you not this is happening right now minus the smoke) then traipsing on over to Vesuvio (think Ship and Anchor but less tattoos) after working a shift at the eclectic bookstore, City Lights (Dylan, Ginsberg, Kerouac). I came here the first time and well every time, to support a loved one through some major shit, and fell in love with the place, not for its writerly vibe, though who can argue, but for the best of inner city living —staggered hills that make no sense, quirky buildings painted into hillsides, every square inch of space jam packed with abodes and restaurants, businesses that somehow pay the rent doing quirky as eff shit, and meeting spaces. Fire escapes fall from every façade (my own line from a song I wrote first time I was here), spires rise from ornate churches, bells ring over squares. I don’t know what it is about a small park in a square in the inner city. It has none of the beauty of a Canadian park, but because greenspace is scarce here and actual people spend weekend afternoons camping out enjoying the green grass amidst the bustle, it is so very appealing. I feel very purposeful spending an hour SITTING AT THE PARK. And then the whole thing, the icing on the triple layered, smartie infused, double chocolate cake, is the ocean, counterpointing all of that condensed humanity with infinite emotional space. Waves crash, sandy beaches stretch and flaunt sailboats and titanic vessels and red bridges that touch God.
True confession is that I love to run. You wouldn’t know HOW MUCH I love to run by looking at me. I don’t have one of those sinewy stringy body types (because curses). Other women would be struggling to keep up with the caloric expenditure that happens when I run. Not me! I mean you know self love and I am beautiful and blah blah blah, but seriously, I console myself with musings such as “well without it I would probably be 300 lbs”. I know what you are thinking right this very second, you’re thinking, how much do you actually eat? And the answer is, fuck off. JK. But seriously, the prettiest part of the run here is the ocean part, and I have to run a full run to get to the oceanside run, so I just keep running which makes for eleven miles or so, or 17 km. Daily. And then there are days like yesterday, when I am required to “pop” downtown for supplies, downtown being a 1.5 mile walk each way. If you’ve met me, you’ll know that I am not the best with conventional directions (my memory is visual), so I called my lovely sister in Calgary and hopped on the headset guiding me through the streets of downtown SF. “It’s like you’re God!” I said as she chimed in with “You should be seeing a Denny’s on the right in about a block”. It was much less lonely friends with her in my ear. I had to pick up some products, I won’t tell you what they were, again because I am so mysterious, but they were heavy. Heavy like a bag of bricks. And after about a mile and half of walking around picking up bricks, sandwiched between 3 miles of to and fro my destination, God chimed in with “Hey I know a shortcut home”. Well that sounded fantastic, because as much as I like my exertion I was feeling solidly done with it by 8pm.
Now, TBH I did have an inkling of concern. Something in me somewhere said Erin, shortcuts are potentially a bad idea. But I couldn’t quite recall why. And God was telling me I could avoid backtracking, which made so much sense. Yes, avoid backtracking. Be PRACTICAL Erin. Trust God. She has not steered you wrong. And so God and I began a journey of the most DIRECT route to home. The problem, friends, with direct routes in SF, is that GPS (God’s navigating tool) does not recognize HILLS. So, if you don’t count for seventy five degree angles, taking Mason Street to Mason Street makes a whole lot of sense. BUT, if as luck would have it MASON Street is actually not at the top of Mount Olympus, but over the top and then half way down the other side, well, direct route is less, direct.
We figured it out though. At the top. After my cries of woe. After, after (yes, it’s a lot of after) running 11 miles and walking 1.5 there and 1.5 around, I enjoyed my final 1.5 nearly straight uphill carrying the weight of 15 litres of liquid in one of those shitty plastic bags that cuts off your arm circulation for the next five or six hours. Obviously I wasn’t carrying drugs. Drugs are light and fit in small places, like purses or vaginas. I know from the movies. Anyhow, back on track, I reached the crest and then saw the way down. God was so sorry, when she could stop laughing long enough to catch her breath. Sixteen miles, a couple uphill carrying contraband. I mean not quite a Boston marathon. More like an episode of Survivor SF.
There are days here where I feel the mystery and the magic, even under the circumstances. Where I feel something great and grand is at work behind all of it pushing my life into a glorious outcome, a wheel of fortune with love at the helm. Laughing with my sister at the top of that hill was one of them. And then, with the flip of a switch the enchanting streets are cold comfort for the homeless; the odour of urine wafts up from the pavement. I am lonely, spent, aging. I am not the adventurist with a taste for finer things, I simply squander all of my fitness on candy and bread and wine. I know. It’s cruel and wrong that voice. Beeeatchy. Unfair. Trying to take away ALL OF THE GOOD STUFF from sweet little me. And all of that meanness ends up with my sad face featured in an anti-adulting meme. I don’t wanna play. And I don’t. No one wants to play when mean is the rule of the game. So what brings it on? This flip, this painful switch? Bad lighting at the mall. A sprinkle of dust from the evil fairy of feeling shit and perpetuating problems. Tinkerbell catching the Coronavirus (ummm is this an imported beer issue?). Well, you know what you are not supposed to do when the light wanes and you hear the voice of shit hitting on you from across the bar, suddenly demoted from alluring foreigner to skeezy stranger? You are not supposed to speak it out loud in earshot of your daughter. What!? True. The professionals say so. It’s not good for them.
You are supposed to say “I love myself the way I am. I am beeeeautiful, inside and out. I accept the lumpy bits and the wrinkly bits because they are demonstrations of my history and my lessons and my rich life lived”, blech, furball, blech. I mean don’t get me wrong I didn’t talk about ‘fat days’ with my young impressionable girls of a tender age. But there are moments when it feels like someone turned on the “everything is ugly” lights on LIFE ITSELF. We don’t want it to be so, and goodness knows I know how to hit back like the best of ‘em. But it happens. The gold dress becomes the blue dress becomes the “fat” dress in a poof of WTactualF.
All that we have worked for becomes the losing showcase in an episode of “Let’s Make a Deal” (it was a game show when back in the dark ages when I was a wee lass).
No one wants to spend too much time beholding the bad showcase.
I like to believe that when my eighteen year old hears me scrapping with those ideas like a bad bitch in a bar fight that it’s the exception. And that what she really sees and hears is that shit goes down, and shit rants and vies for territory and that when we feel knocked down by it we reach out and we say “Help me! I’ve fallen and the lights in this change room make me feel like the biggest loser, not of weight but of life”. But then she also hears laughter and ridiculously (dark) humour at times that takes the piss out of the shit (wow my swearing game is strong and inventive these days friends). And she revels not in the power of the scary blue mumu dress, but in the camaraderie of the reach out and the vent and the cry for help. And then the celebration of life that continues. The healing things, the choice for joy and hope and forgiveness and bravery and connection and did I mention love? That is the gist of it, the veggie bacon in lieu of the meat.
I know that y’all have the same issue. For the most part. I mean some of you are large manly men and some of you are twiggy chicks, but the perspective issue. The cinema lights flicked off and your life appearing as a Canadian commercial for a sale at the Brick #lessthanjoloathalftime
Some of you, if not everyone, have had those moments of struggle that seem to hit us out of nowhere, that paint all of our efforts into a corner. There are reasons for them. I get the reasons. Scary invisible ideas that we are a broken ruinous thing that we really are not. From this terrible place the lifeboats are someone else’s ruin; he is less fit, she is poorer, they screwed up bigger, imagine being them. Garbage from the pain dump that we don’t really mean or want as a comparison or a reason to feel better, even as it presents itself to us mwah ha ha. Don’t let me be the only one! To which I reply, Let every last one of us out of this dump together.
There is a relationship between the number of times the lights shut off for us daily and the hurt we carry around. There is a relationship between the number of times the lights shut off and our inner world. There is a relationship between the number of times the lights shut off and the access we have to a LOVING VOICE. But unless you’re Jesus and you’re walking on wine (because 2020 Jesus should up his efficiency game and give us a bogo on miracles) you’re going to have to flip the breaker or relight the pilot, now and again.
You’re going to have to hold on for dear life, and call and friend when the magic cape looks holey and smells bad. And when you accidentally travel 16 miles uphill you’re going to need to God in your ear, cracking obscene jokes, or the coach you can text at stupid o’clock because she is your loving wise friend and has learned to live without sleep. JK.
I ran by the church today and I heard a woman say to her friend outside of service “It’s like a mother taking you into the safety of her love”. I don’t mean that in a religious sense at all. But I mean it. That is the measure of truth.
Tonight I wore a yellow blouse which made me feel like a flower. I walked into the café and overheard this commentary: “I don’t need anymore stimulation; that politician stimulates me, the news stimulates me, that woman stimulates me (he gestured to me, because of course I was looking very desirable in my yellow flowery blouse and my mysterious air). I glanced back and smiled at no one in particular.
— Love Erin