On Losing Love

“Grief is love’s souvenir. It’s our proof that we once loved. Grief is the receipt we wave in the air that says to the world: Look! Love was once mine. I love well. Here is my proof that I paid the price.”- -Glennon Doyle 

“Grief is love’s souvenir.” My darling wee girl, while part of me hopes that you never have to wave the receipt of grief in the air, hopes against hope that everything and everyone that you love will magically stay with you, always…another part of me knows that this is not possible no matter how hard I hope it might be.

And so, I wish for you instead that you will carry grief proudly, a symbol of loving hard, loving deeply, loving courageously with your whole heart.

And celebrate this love, whether it is fleeting or enduring.  

Living a life with an open heart is the biggest and most important gift we can give to ourselves. Loving bravely and boldly is the most important thing of all, because, as I’m sure you already know, “love wins. Love always wins” (Mitch Album).

I don’t want you to think back through your life and wonder why you were afraid to love. Afraid to hold love’s hand and dance, if only for a brief few moments. Afraid to open your heart to another, whether for the first or fifteenth or fiftieth time.

I want you to wave grief high up in the sky and say “look how deeply I loved. How deeply I still love, even and especially after all that I have already loved and lost in my life.”

The sun will keep shining. I promise you. The flowers will keep blooming because the rain that comes with grief makes it that much more possible for them to bloom even brighter.

And the stars? The stars will still take your breath away, as you wonder at the miracle that has happened: and even after all that, after every single thing that happened to you in your life, you were still able to take a leap when your heart said yes. And even if your heart never says yes to anyone else again for the rest of your life (although I believe this to be exceptionally unlikely), you can still hold your heart and your head up high and say “I listened when my heart said yes. I loved bravely and boldly even when everything in my body was so scared. I listened when my heart said yes”.  

Because that brave act of listening to your heart always, always makes all the difference.  And then, in the midst of grief, you can say to yourself these comforting words: at least I tried.  And knowing those words will give you the courage to try again the next time your heart says yes.

Because Love Wins, dearest girl. 

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Anne with an E

There is a bit of Anne (with an “E”) in all of us.  A feisty, opinionated, independent young soul who doesn’t want to conform but desperately wants to belong. – from the Anne of Green Gables DVD box set insert 

My dearest wee bee,

I could just leave that thought up there for you (and all) to ponder and wonder and think over, because it is so particularly perfect in how it sums us up, as humans.

When we arrived at our sweet little cottage, in Cavendish, PEI, mere moments away from Green Gables National Park, and I ripped off the plastic wrapping on our Anne DVD boxed set, I would never have guessed that that sentence would have even been included within all the facts and figures and plot lines that are explored in the little DVD booklet.

But there it was, staring right back at me, in all capital letters, as if to say: yes, you’re not alone in this struggle.  You’re not alone in wanting to belong.

This feeling of being on the outside, looking in, has haunted me for as long as I can remember.  In fact, it’s even more than that.  Because this feeling has led me to twist and turn and contort not only my physical body, but also my core beliefs…really, the core of who I am, deep down in my soul.

I know I’m not alone in this.  I know there are times in our lives when we have all said to ourselves: “well Self, this really really  isn’t who I am, but it couldn’t hurt and it just might help because this feeling of not belonging is just awful and maybe, just maybe, if I go along with ______ (fill in the blank with whatever the cool kids are doing) someone will let me in, someone will feel like I can belong.”

And if we’re sharing lists of what we’ve done in an effort to try to belong, believe you me, my wee bee, I’ve done plenty (not every single possible thing, but plenty).  There is no need to feel shame about those things we do in an effort to belong with the crowd, because almost everyone has done something at some point that didn’t feel really really good or even remotely on track with who they are.

But…these things we do? Each one is like a trespass against our souls.  And while I have found it easy to forgive those for whom I trespassed against myself, I am still learning how to forgive myself, because while those other folks (the cool kids, the romantic partners, the not quite friends) didn’t know that I wasn’t doing what felt right to me, the truth is that I feel as though I ought to have known better. 

And yet…I’m realizing that it’s a vicious cycle, because each time we turn away from who we are, it becomes harder and harder to remember who exactly we are in the first place.  And then, when a situation comes up, it’s hard to say if it rings true with us because who we really are feels lost in the shuffle, even hurt beyond recognition.

And yet…somewhere deep down there is a voice (Noni calls it my Magnum P.I. voice– one day you’ll know what that is) that is hiding underneath all of the wreckage, all of the trauma from trespassing against ourselves, and it says: Yes, please…dance to the bagpipe ceilidh music in your kitchen.  Yes, please…sleep with seventeen different crystals under your pillow.  Yes, please…reread all of the Anne of Green Gables books as many times as necessary to give you inspiration and imagination for the journey ahead.  

Because the deeper truth, my wee girl, is that while twisting and turning and contorting ourselves in an effort to belong to others will never ever in a million trillion years work, the one person to whom you will always no matter what belong to is yourself.  

And once you realize that, you’ll realize that no matter where you go or what you do, as long as you stick with what feels right to you, you’ll always be home, even if you’re halfway across the country visiting Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island…you’re still, somehow, home.  Because you belong to you.

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When in doubt, Love

“Love Wins”– many a wise person

My darling wee girl,

When not one but two dear friends ask you how the writing is going and you realize you haven’t written anything in a good long time, in spite of the fact that writing is a significant and driving passion in your life, it makes you wonder: why?

Why haven’t I written? Why haven’t I shared? 

Sometimes the powerful forces at work in our lives take up so much energy and time and solid effort that the idea of writing about this magical and miraculous process takes a back seat.  Occasionally, it takes a back seat so far away that it is in a different car, in a different city entirely.

And while it pains me to write this, there has been so much change that I forgot about the writing.  Forgot about writing my love letters to you, my dear beauty, because I’ve been deep down in the trenches of soul shaking work.  Or maybe it’s Soul Reclaiming work, because, as Simon and Garfunkel sing, “after changes upon changes we are more or less the same.”  And I feel as though I am finally, finally, finally back to the girl I have always been, finally making my way back to the girl who’s been there waiting, all along. 

And now, as I climb my way up the glittery pink ladder out of those trenches, that I’ve built with my own two hands, I can tell you this:

When in doubt, Love.

You see, my wee bee, it is precisely when you doubt that you need to turn towards Love.

Fear thrives in those places where love has been forgotten.  It hides in the dark and shameful and painful corners, not just in the world but even and most especially in ourselves.

Fear, in whatever form it takes (coming from your own self or those around you), has this incredibly insidious and nasty nasty way of making us feel like we NEED to control ALL the things, immediately and forever more.  But this just breeds more and more and more fear, because if I am the one in control and I have no clue what I’m doing, how can I be trusted?

When others are mean, when they bully, when their words threaten to pull you back into those fearfilled places, when they make you doubt…Just Love.  Meet them in the middle, send them love, and keep on dancing.

And just as importantly, when your own fear and doubt creep in, turn towards Love.  Surrender to it, to the very deep truth that when we trust in Love, when we trust that we are deeply, deeply loved by the universe (creator, God, or whomever or whatever you choose to believe in), everything will work out exactly as it is meant to be.  When we hand over the reins to trusting in Love, in this greater power that is taking care of us, then fear has this incredible way of slipping away as it is no longer necessary, because we know, deep deep inside, that every little thing will be alright.  Or even better than ok.

When in doubt, Love.

Because, my dear Zoe, love always wins.

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On Hope in an Uncertain World

I wish I could make you feel as strong and as loved as you are. You’ll find your way, because of that, and because you have the thing that so often wavered in me. You have faith. Not in God necessarily, but in the thing with feathers. You are brightness, Bee. You are hope. No matter how far down you get, you’ll always have it.- Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

My darling wee girl,

This world we live in is an uncertain place.  Just when we think that we have everything we’d ever hoped or dreamed of within our reach, it can be taken from us, in what might feel like an instant.  Life changes.  Friends change and move away, or back home.  Seasons spin around and around.  We grow older, and sometimes wiser.  Love is lost and then found and then, maybe lost, again.

For most if not all of my life, I have wished that there was something certain with which to anchor myself.  Something to hold onto, when life gets rocky (which it inevitably will- if there are any guarantees in this world, it is that things will shift and change and spin, sometimes seemingly out of control).  And in all of those years and years of searching and wishing and hoping for something to cling to, I wasn’t able to find anything except a pattern of reasons to fear the future because all I could sift out was that bad things seem to happen to me.  All I could see, when I examined life, was hurt and pain and trauma– not just in my own life but in the lives of those around me and the within the world itself.  I began to expect that the world was full of hurt, instead of full of hope.  Even writing this is painful because it is a truly horrible way to go about being in the world: to be fearful, scared, afraid.

I think, if I’m being perfectly honest here (which I can be with you, my darling girl)…I think that it is so much easier to believe in the bad instead of the good.  It is so much easier to become cynical, or jaded, or scared.  But the world doesn’t want us to live small and afraid.

The world wants us to ride the waves, the dips, the valleys…and then rise up, dancing.

The world wants us to look for the sun behind the clouds and the rain, splashing in puddles with extra tall boots as we go.

And so, to prove this very point, the world gives us spring.  The world gives us seeds to plant, never knowing if they will grow.  (In fact, as we used to sing at Camp Allsaw: the healthiest way to gamble is with a spade and a handful of garden seeds- oh yes indeed!).

I would argue, dear Zoe, that whether or not the seeds grow is not the point.  The point is to go out into the world, in all of its uncertainty, year after year after year and say:

Look at me, world!  And even after all that has happened, I am planting seeds, again.

And even after all that has happened, I have Hope.

Hope doesn’t come from harvesting an incredibly abundant harvest, year after year.

Hope comes from planting a million seeds and having one or two or three or even none grow, and trusting that next year, one or two or three more will grow if I plant again.  And then planting, again.  Over and over and over.

In an uncertain world, the only thing we can be certain of is Hope.  Trust that the world is taking such good care of you, if only you will let it.  And while anything in life could possibly be fleeting, if you have Hope…you really and truly have everything that you might ever need.

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9 Years and 1 Day

Dearest Wee Beauty–

“525 thousand 600 minutes…how do you measure, measure a year?”- Rent

9 years and 1 day ago, I woke up, determined to beat this thing called an eating disorder that had a stranglehold on my life.

So now it’s been 525,600 minutes times 9 years (try that as a math problem!), plus 1 day, since I woke up with the thought of “I’m ready to eat, again.”

But looking back, I now know that what I was really saying is:

I’m ready to try this thing called life, again.

Life is funny, you know.  There are these ups and downs; dream-filled days and sleepless nights; flashes of joy and rivers of tears.

More and more and more, I realize that we don’t get to choose what life throws at us.  We can’t say: no thank you, grief, I’d like some more happy, please.  We only get to choose how we want to live.  We only get to choose what we do with that grief, those tears, that bad day,  or even that extra incredibly good day.

And although it’s taken me these nine years plus one day to figure this next bit out, I’m going to whisper it to you so you’ll carry it with you, always:

Wake up each day, and marvel at the miracles.

And when you rest your head, give a big sigh of thanks for that, too.

Regardless of what life happens to toss your way, you can’t go wrong with marveling at the miracles and giving thanks with a little dancing mixed in (because…dancing!).

And to those of you who are reading this and battling against ED (an eating disorder), I say this: when in doubt, choose your life.  It will never let you down.

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A Gift

I guess it goes to show that you just never know where life will take you.  You search for answers.  You wonder what it all means.  You stumble, and you soar.  And, if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while- Amy Thomas

My dearest girl,

Today is my birthday.  And birthdays always get me thinking about gifts.  And although I love a good present (sparkly -silver -converse -with -pink -laces -meant- for -dancing I’m looking at you!), it is the gifts that we find in the midst of times that are not necessarily so joyful that hold the most meaning, in my humble opinion.  It is the constant tiny flickering stars in the middle of a dark and stormy never ending  night that give us hope that the sun will come again in the morning (*which it always does, no matter how much it feels as though it won’t) that shine most brightly when we most need to see their light.

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.- Mary Oliver

We all carry these boxes full of darkness at some point in our lives. Sometimes, when we’re knee-deep in the muck and murkiness, we forget that others carry their own boxes, too.  It is especially easy in this instant-gratification, filtered to perfection, social media driven world that not everything is as it appears.  It can make you feel as though you are the only one who carries such a box- and while you are the only one responsible for carrying your own meant for you box, it can help to remember that others have their own, too.

And trust me on this, little one, when I say that this box can be your greatest gift.  Maybe this box will push you to make big or small changes in your life that will make all the difference.  Maybe this box will make you appreciate the joyful light of those tiny flickering stars.  Maybe this box will help you turn inward and support yourself, or turn outward, asking for help when you swore you would only travel on, alone.  

And maybe this box will take you on a journey to reclaim your life, in the only way you know how: by going to Paris.

I had such a Year as this– incredible soaring highs and stumbling, crawling on my knees growth as I came face to face with past traumas (which is a post in and of itself for another time) and realized that I had to do what I had to do…embrace this box, take back my life…and reclaim Paris (yes, I do mean that across the pond Paris).

The best things in life are almost always never easy (sidenote: being your mum is incredibly easy though!), but that’s why they become the best things- because you earn them, piece by piece, tear by tear, tooth and nail.  You fight for them and thus learn their worth.

The gift of being able to reclaim my life again is this miraculous thing that keeps on giving.  I find myself dancing while waiting for the subway even when it is late or marveling at the glitter littered all over our carpet from whirlwind craft adventures with you  or gazing up at the darkest sky to stare at a sea of stars with my love, bright eyed and full of wonder and thanksgiving.

Because, you see, the thing about these boxes of darkness is that they make you realize how truly beautiful life is.  Even if sometimes that means traveling all the way to France and back to discover it.

So on this day-my birthday- my heart and my toes are dancing with thanksgiving and joy: for the gift of you, for the gift of life, and, especially for the gifts of my box of darkness, which brought me home again, back to myself, in Paris.  It truly is my city of light.  And it is always, without fail, a good idea.

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On Love…Part Two

“George, it’s not that it was hard to believe, I wasn’t ready to believe. Nothing I had met in that world had prepared me for your possibility”- Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

Sometimes life surprises you, Zoe. Actually, often life surprises you. Just when you think that it’s spring, you get a doozy of a snowfall in April (here’s looking at you-know-who-you-are who changed his snow tires already!). Just when you think Gilmore Girls will never be back on tv, Netflix announces 4 extra special Stars Hollow-filled movie length episodes. Just when you think your wee girl will love bacon (who doesn’t?!), she passes it over for olives and goat cheese (actually not so surprising at all).
But those surprises are easy to handle: pull out the winter boots (that you don’t ever officially put away until at least June); hunker down on the couch with a cozy blanket and your favourite GG for a Gilmore Girl-fest; and stock up on goat cheese (hold the bacon) at the farmer’s market.

But some surprises? Some surprises throw you for a complete loop, because they’re just so far out of the realm of possibility that not only do you not have the extra goat cheese, but you don’t even know where the closest farmer’s market is located to pick some up.  

And sometimes, life tosses you a curve ball in the form of perfectly imperfect genuine heartfelt love, and it is so outside your own personal realm of possibility that you might not know what to do. It is so far from what you’ve been expecting in your life that you’re left scratching your head as you laugh until your belly aches while dancing all over the crumbs on your kitchen floor with the one who has cracked your heart wide open.

Will it be scary at times? Absolutely, 100% without a doubt. Will it be perfect? Nope. Life isn’t perfect and neither is love. It will be messy, guaranteed. How could it not, because the beauty of life and love is found knee-deep in the muck. Will you be ready? Who knows…but I do know that we’re often more ready than we feel we are, and maybe less ready than we think we are. I also know that “being ready” or “not being ready” do not seem to matter with important things like love…because love creeps in when it is ready for you.

Almost two summers ago, I wrote to you about love. About how you are the star of your own love story. About how supporting players will come (and maybe go); about how there will always be another supporting character who will come along and join in your love, but there is only one You.

What I didn’t write about, Zoe, is how to know if the person who comes dancing along into your life is worthy of a supporting role.

First of all, are they dancing? And do they come equipped with rubber boots for wading through (and hopefully later splashing in) the rain?

Do they listen to what you have to say without judgment, even and especially if your words make you or them feel vulnerable or afraid? Do they trust you to listen to what they have to say, too, holding it close to your heart?

Do they respect the things you cherish, even if they don’t fully understand why (for example, your kitchen chairs that you painted kelly green and the glitter-dipped feathers that you hung on your wall)?

Do they pass the friends/family test: do you want to introduce them to your nearest and dearest and do you want to meet theirs?

Do they give you space to be yourself, loving you simply because you are you, never asking you to change but holding your hand if (when) you do experience growing pains (which inevitably happen when you are in a solid, substantial and loving relationship, be it with yourself or with another)?

Do you laugh, often and lots, until your belly aches and your cheeks hold permanent smile creases, reminders of the last words they said that made you smile?

I could go on and on and on, dearest girl, but I hope you will notice what’s missing from this list: the fancy cars or big houses or classic good looks or impressive profession or stereotypically attractive body or influential friends in high places. Flash is all well and good for Hollywood, but you want substance, through and through.

The long and short of it, my dear girl, is do you trust them with your heart? Do you want to hold their heart, too?

You will know, deep in your bones, when you’ve met your perfect (for you) match, at that moment, in that space and time. And just because it’s completely outside the realm of anything you could have ever imagined–because maybe love hasn’t been in your world ever before or maybe it has appeared already and you thought that you only had one chance at love–doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible, either for the first time or again and again. Nor does it mean that you don’t deserve it. On the contrary: we all do, just because we’re here, on this planet. So believe in it. And be sure to stock up on extra goat cheese and maybe some bacon, just in case (*and they may not like olives…but that just means more for you).

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