To anyone struggling with letting go.

Had to share this blog post via Yoga with Jaimee as it resonated deeply with me for a few reasons:

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Photo via Yoga with Jaimee

A few weeks ago I snapped this photo outside of my sister’s house, and shared it on social media.

I captioned it with this quote: “the trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let dead things go.”

The phrase “let it go” used to really irritate me because I didn’t know what it meant or exactly how to do it. And there are times when I still struggle with it a lot.

As an analytical person, I need visual aids and practical steps to help me understand and accomplish things. It’s the virgo in me. I prefer finding ways to compare those lofty ideas with things I can really wrap my head around. In my mind, I connect the act of letting go to that time I was finally able to release both hands from my handlebars while riding my bike. And yes, “letting go” is what happens when I frantically drop a hot pan on the stove after realizing one of the oven mitts has a hole in it. That’s some serious let go if you’ve never experienced it.

But the kind of letting go that involves a conscious choice versus a physical action, can be extremely challenging and scary. It can also be painful as hell if it’s not something you’re ready to do: especially if your heart and mind are singing two different songs. Letting go in this sense is releasing all doubt, worry, and fear about a situation, person or outcome. It’s releasing anything that disrupts your happiness and no longer serves you on your journey.

Letting go is a choice to decide that you will no longer ruminate on things that are out of your control, and focus on what you can control, instead.

Letting go creates space for fresh beginnings: stripping you of what happened yesterday, and enabling the doors of brand new opportunities to open today.

Letting go is about accepting what is happening right now and not worrying about what will come up tomorrow.

It involves much more than just saying you have let go. It’s an internal process that must happen for you to truly feel better and get on with life in a healthy way.

Throughout this year, I’ve been having lots of conversations with people and reading an assortment of spiritual books on exactly how to let go. I’ve come up with these five steps that helps me better understand how to do this thing and could possibly help you too:

As a gentle reminder, it’s important that we honor where we are on our individual journeys of letting go. This is a process that may be more challenging for some than others. Know that wherever you are right now, is okay.

1)  Mind control–The human mind is the most complex tool we own and can either be our biggest ally or worst enemy. Having the power to let things go starts there. Making an intentional choice to no longer let past issues and people who hurt us control the mind is what can break the cycle of unhealthy rumination on these thoughts, ideas and feelings.

For me, what ends up happening when I let my mind go down the dark road of rehearsing painful experiences is I began to create a story about myself that typically follows the lines of “I’m not good enough”, “I’m unlovable” and “no one cares about me”. The more I think about it, the more my mind creates space to allow feelings of hurt, anger and frustration to fester and completely ruin my mood.

Although I’m still working on this, it’s important to constantly be in observance of your thoughts without attaching yourself to what it is you’re thinking. The reality is your thoughts don’t define your value. You are not the summation of your past experiences. Just because something doesn’t work out, doesn’t mean you are now labeled as a failure or you’re incapable of receiving what you desire in life.

The more we can simply watch our thoughts come and go without attaching our identity to them, the easier letting go becomes.

Thoughts are nothing more than thoughts. What we decide to do with them is what can either make or break us.

2) Getting it all out–Having the ability to express your emotions in a healthy way is another step to processing things before deciding to let them go. As a writer, this is also a must for me because it serves as a form of catharsis and creative release. I like to spend time journaling out my thoughts and emotions. While obsessing over the details of what happened in the past is never the healthy route to take (we all do it), it’s important to analyze why you’re feeling a certain way, and how you can show up differently the next time.

There are so many breakthroughs to uncover through self reflection. Other ways to express yourself include talking to a trusted friend, family member or therapist. I have discovered that seeking out counseling is one of the best ways to receive objective advice and support throughout my journey of healing and learning to let go.

Sometimes, friends and family sit so close to a particular situation that they’re unable to provide unbiased support the way in which you need it. And, sometimes they don’t always offer the best advice. Sometimes it’s not always that easy to let something go. Especially if there are old narratives that are lodged somewhere in your subconscious mind from previous experiences.

When we continue holding on to grief, anxiety, pain, and resentment from the past without fully working through each situation, all of these experiences, patterns, and narratives accumulate inside the heart, making it even more difficult to let things go. When this is the case, it’s so important to seek out therapy to help you work through and heal from the inside out.

3) Acceptance–We all want to know why something ended the way it did or how someone could end up hurting us so badly without having any concern about how it negatively impacted us. We believe that we deserve the right to these answers. We want some level of understanding. The painful truth is, we don’t always get that “closure” we think we ought to have.

Not everyone will explain why they did something or even apologize when they are at fault. And I know firsthand that this reality stings a lot. Like someone pouring salt in an open wound. Not getting solid answers and having to move on with life without closure is no fun, but it’s something many of us have to do at one point or another.

Fully accepting the situation as it is without constantly wishing it would be different is really the only way to getting on the road to being okay. And this isn’t only about accepting situations. We have to start accepting people for who they are as well and believing them when they show us their true character. Because they aren’t lying.

4) Forgiveness–To truly let go and move on, sometimes you have to forgive people who aren’t even sorry. Sometimes you have to accept an apology you’ll never receive. That takes so much strength and courage and humility. While it may seem unfair and backwards, sometimes, that’s how the chips will fall. There’s nothing worse than holding onto resentment about someone or something for years, while they happily move on with life.

And the reality is, doing this only hurts you.

The most important thing is that we also have to learn to forgive ourselves. This can be done by writing a letter to yourself, replacing self-loathing with compassion, and deciding to make better choices next time.

5) Stay present–The present is all we have. We can’t go back and fix the past, and what happens in the future isn’t here yet. We must make an effort everyday to remember that and allow ourselves to open up and enjoy what is unfolding right in front of us: all parts of the journey both easy and hard, good and bad.

A friend of mine once said to me “you are right where you are supposed to be”, in the midst of a very rough season. My initial reaction back to that was filled with frustration and confusion. I didn’t want to accept the fact that he was probably right. Because life is full of so many teachers and lessons. Sometimes you will be the teacher, and other times you will be forced to learn a hard lesson. This year has found me in the role of the student on so many occasions: pushing and encouraging me to let go of old narratives and painful pasts.

This year has inspired me to work harder at letting go of self-loathing, insecurities, hurtful people, unrealistic expectations and timelines, comparing myself to others, and obsessively worrying about things far beyond my control.

I owe it to myself to be more kind to me.

Everyday, I am consistently reminded to embrace the present and all it has to offer: a new opportunity to begin again. No matter how much I may stumble on this journey of letting go, the present is always here to remind me that I don’t have to stay stuck on yesterday, or worry about what will happen tomorrow.

I trust that this opportunity is open for you to receive it too.

Everyday we have a choice to keep holding on just a little bit longer, or conclude that today is the day we will finally let go.

 *If you were inspired by this post, please share it with a friend who could also benefit from it.*

P.S. What is something you are working to let go of this season?

 

 

Today in things that shouldn’t be…

Screen shot 2015-05-06 at 9.50.54 PMJust the other day, a friend of mine posted a mini-rant on Facebook about men who, under the guise of saying “Good morning,” are really just trying to get you to engage in a conversation, and how, when she doesn’t return the greeting, or God forbid, smile, she, at times, gets a nasty response. The backlash on that particular morning? “At least you could smile, bitch.”

Yes, it goes without saying, not all men are this way. (Isn’t that common sense?) But this kind of thing happens far too much. And it sometimes feels (to me, anyway) that the backlash is much worse than the fake greeting/catcall/harassment, whatever the situation was.

Predictably, my friend was deluged with comments, many of which were of the #NotAllMen type, but a few were pretty mysogynistic:

“Well, you’re hot (she is), but women who aren’t should be thankful.”
“I really am saying good morning. What’ the harm in that?”
“Maybe if women didn’t walk around all stone-faced and just said ‘Good morning’ back,” and so on.

One guy even tried to say he greets strangers on the street equally. Yeah, ok!

Debate ensued.

But the following is an example of something that just SHOULDN’T BE:

Police are still searching for a man suspected of slashing a woman in a downtown Manhattan subway station over the weekend.

According to the NYPD, the incident occurred at 5:40 p.m. this past Saturday, May 2nd, at the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall stop: “[The] suspect attempted to engage the victim, a 34-year-old female, in conversation. When the victim ignored the suspect, the suspect spat at the victim, who then began to laugh at the suspect. The suspect then took out a sharp instrument, slashed the victim in the arm and then fled the station.” (Read more on Gothamist.)

Imagine that: A violent response to being ignored by a woman who dared to ignore a man trying to engage her. This kind of shit shouldn’t happen. Maybe if more (#NotAll) men empathized, just put themselves in our ‘heels,’ and realized, sometimes, we just want to get where we’re going — quietly — we wouldn’t have to fluster your sensitive little feelings into a debate on Facebook. 🙂

Here are some other links that appropriately fit this headline:

A Nebraska woman who claims to be an ambassador for God and his son Jesus Christ is suing all gay people on Earth. (Daily News) — waste of court time, if you ask me!

In Chicago, it isn’t the cops who tortured who will dole out $100 million to victims. That’ll be the taxpayers. (Fusion) That’s a lot of taxpayer money. Now will people see why there is a problem with police brutality?

Cop bites man’s testicles on Cinco de Mayo. (Death and Taxes) What is there to say, really?

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (When our parents age)

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Excerpt from “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” by Roz Chast of the New Yorker.

“I was just talking to somebody yesterday who said the worst thing for a parent is to have a child who’s a writer.”New Yorker cartoonist, Roz Chast.

I would like to write about my parents.

I wrote a couple of columns about my father’s Parkinson’s when I was a newspaper reporter for the Home News Tribune, and I’ve blogged about his illness on this blog once or twice. But I would like to someday write stories about them, their childhoods, and especially, how my dad was pre-Parkinson’s.

And as for my mother, that’s more complicated.

I’ve never been the super close daughter (the type to talk about every single detail with her mom) that she was with her mother. (My grandmother is still alive, but she has Alzheimer’s, which means my mother has lost, in essence, her best friend.) Add in the fact that she is stressed because she’s my father’s full-time caregiver, and it’s even more complicated.

Thankfully, our relationship is a bit better (much less bickering) since I’ve lived on my own (after a separation and subsequent divorce that she didn’t agree with at first) but, like all things, it could be better.

I have some things to work out, or talk about (?), in order to make that happen. And then I hope to write about them more, especially my mother, since she’s not very open about her feelings (hey, maybe we are alike, after all!) because as the most hardworking immigrants I know, my parents have some interesting stories that deserve some pixels on the Internet.

Now back to cartoonist Roz Chast. I learned about her latest work via a wonderful interview on “All Things Considered” on WNYC:

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Roz Chast

“The longtime New Yorker cartoonist is an only child and became the sole caretaker for her parents, George and Elizabeth Chast, when they reached old age. In her new, illustrated memoir — Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (Bloomsbury USA, 2014) — Chast mixes the humor with the heartache. It’s about the last years of her parents’ lives and her relationship with them as their child and conflicted caretaker.

“They never had what’s known these days as ‘The Talk’ — an acknowledgement that their deaths were inevitable. As a result, Chast says, everyone was in denial and actively avoided the subject, even as it was staring them squarely in the face.”

“Chast’s parents — who were both born in 1912 — lived independently in Brooklyn up until their early 90s. Things started to go downhill in 2005 when her mother fell off a step stool at age 93. ‘She was in bed for a few days, and it was clear that what was going on was more than the fall off the ladder,’ Chast recalls. ‘That was the beginning of their sort of slide into the next part of old age — you know, the last chapters.'”

My parents are in their late 60s, early 70s. I can’t imagine it getting to this point Chast describes, but I guess my brothers and I should prepare ourselves sooner rather than later. And today, after reading this story in The New York Times, about a man who is 111 years old, I agree wholeheartedly with Chast:

“When people talk about extending the human lifespan to 120 it bothers Roz Chast. ‘That upsets me for a lot of reasons,’ she tells NPR’s Melissa Block. ‘I feel like these are people who don’t really know anybody over 95.’ The reality of old age, she says, is that ‘people are not in good shape, and everything is falling apart.'”

Though my parents aren’t in their 90s, my father has a chronic disease that renders him pretty immobile, and so, I too, can’t imagine wanting to live to 111. (God bless this man who has, though!)

Listen to the entire interview with Roz Chast here, and read an excerpt from her illustrated memoir via The New Yorker.

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Man Rejected

Image via http://www.pipubs.com/
Image via http://www.pipubs.com/

Re-post from Lindsay Brooke Davis’ blog:

Good afternoon, friends! 

Oh, what a day it’s been so far. Some of you follow me on Facebook and may recall an update about a man who Googled me on his iPad while we were on his second date, found some footage of me reporting from SXSW and proceeded to google the model/presenter who set up the segment so we can look at her in a bikini. 

This inspired me to finally create a web series I had been thinking about for over a year called Bad Dates in the City, currently in pre-production! #LBDinNYCProds @BadDates 

After I decided I had no interest in seeing this man again, I ignored his three texts “Did you take the bus home? “How’s it going?” and “Hello”) which came over a span of a week and a half until I opted to text him back this morning to the polite tune of, “Thanks for the other night and it was nice meeting you, but don’t wish to chat further. Thanks and good luck! Best, Lindsay” 

Well, here is how this Ivy league grad with an MBA that I met on JDate responded:

Read the rest here

NY Times: That Loving Feeling Takes Lots of Work

imagesBy Jane Brody
New York Times Jan. 14, 2013

When people fall in love and decide to marry, the expectation is nearly always that love and marriage and the happiness they bring will last; as the vows say, till death do us part. Only the most cynical among us would think, walking down the aisle, that if things don’t work out, “We can always split.”

But the divorce rate in the United States is exactly half the marriage rate, and that does not bode well for this cherished institution.

In her new book, “The Myths of Happiness,” Dr. Lyubomirsky describes a slew of research-tested actions and words that can do wonders to keep love alive.

She points out that the natural human tendency to become “habituated” to positive circumstances — to get so used to things that make us feel good that they no longer do — can be the death knell of marital happiness. Psychologists call it “hedonic adaptation”: things that thrill us tend to be short-lived.

Read more of Jane Brody’s piece in the New York Times’ WELL blog here.