Tag Archives: courage

Sometimes It’s Just Not Possible


I was speaking the other day to my husband about my writing, about how I’m feeling stalled and repressed and my son happened to be within earshot. I said, “I’m trying to come at real stories and topics from a place of peace so I can share them with love rather than continuing a pathetic narrative of how life has done me wrong or how old habits and patterns of codependency float back to the surface and I end up feeling sorry for myself or victimized. I hate feeling victimized; I hate that narrative.” 

Funny. I said “hate” more than I said “love” just now. D’ja see that?  

My husband always has something balanced to say, and I didn’t really count on my son chiming in, but he did. He basically said that sometimes there are people out there who are so unhealthy and so entrenched in their patterns that they don’t act with love or with peace and so even through I’m trying to learn a lesson from it, to find the wisdom in it, sometimes it’s just not possible — other than to distill it through my own wishful thinking filter, which is really hard to do sometimes — to come up with any reasonable or balanced justification for the way people treat other people. Sometimes, he summarized, people are just full of hate and fear. 

“Sometimes, Mom, people are just really messed up and it’s not for you to sugar coat their behavior; that only rationalizes it. And more importantly, that’s not who you are. You’re not a sugar-coaster, Mom. You’re not a sledgehammer [anymore, I added], but you’re no spinmaster when it’s just too plain and obvious…”

He’s right and I know that I haven’t been writing with my intention of it coming from a place of peace because that would be inorganic. How can I try to find the love in an experience when love is absent and fear is the engine that created it? 

I was just talking to a dear friend from college. She and I share similar stories of our lives. She was talking about how she needs to say “no” more often; about how it’s ok to opt out and not do things for other people, especially if your heart isn’t in it. We talked about how sometimes we have to / end up doing things we’re not especially proud of or invested in because we happened to be there at the right time and while most of those experiences were inocuous in their own right, over time in the aggregate, they add up to a lot of “regret pebbles” that we end up carrying around. They encumber us and they unconsciously set us up for more similar experiences and repeated behaviors. 

I listened to her describe some of these experiences. I was patient and when it was right, I chimed in and she laughed in her usual way because she knew I was coming at this from the opposite corner. Not that I’ve figured it all out, but that I do believe that reframing (optimism is my ambition) helps us out. A lot. When we don’t know what to do. 

“Instead of coming at this from an aspect of saying ‘no,’ Bipsy, can you reframe it to include yourself instead of excluding others? Can you come at it from a place of ‘yes to myself’ instead of ‘no to you’?” We both laughed harder because we knew what I was proposing was basically inverting the entire paradigm of how we’ve been conditioned all our lives — because when we say “no” the whole world falls apart; people die; people suffer — to be hyper-vigilant, mistrustful, self-deprecating, and sarcastic… all these behaviors to cover the pain of being raised in a state of chaos by adults who really weren’t the best at “adulting.” 

We, as codependents, tend to have an issue / conflict with saying “no” to people because we want to be liked. But we see now that saying no is essential to our survival as healthy people with healthy boundaries. “Oddly, we were conditioned to say ‘yes’ to people who almost always communicated ‘no…'” I said and we both laughed again. Sort of. And then sighed at the same time. We were almost 3,000 miles apart at the time, but we were in the same space. 

I have no problem saying “no” to someone when my children or my husband or dear relations are at stake. Sometimes, however, it’s those same people I’m protecting that sometimes need to hear “no” from me. Or “yes” to something else. Compromises are the sweet elixir of the recovering codependent. We put that elixir on our ice cream. We indulge in it as liquid courage during difficult conversations. One of the best types of comments I’ve learned from my father to say to someone or about something that we just can’t see ourselves doing is to say, “That sounds like a good idea” — because it does, it’s a good idea to someone, but that’s it.    

I saw a person I used to know several months ago at an event of mutual interest. Our friendship break-off was sudden and horrid. We both chose our children over the other. That’s fine with me. I never will forget this person’s friendship and meaning in my life when we were fast and furious friends, but that time is over and that ship has sailed winded by an unforgivable act of betrayal. I decided at this months-ago event to just bite the bullet and say hello. Chances were very high that we would encounter each other at least half a dozen times in hallways or at the water fountain. We caught up in a superficial way and I dialed in and told her that it was nice to see her and catch up and that I will always hold her and our experiences dear in my heart. She said she missed me and that the ball was in my court about resuming our relationship. 

That was when I had to go with my gut. As much as I meant all the things I said to her in that moment, I didn’t have to say them. I felt like saying them because it’s what I was trained to do: take a shitty situation and make it better. I sipped from the elixir and I shouldn’t have. When I remembered why she and I were in this state of non-relationship it became clear again as to what happened and why. So I simply said, “Yeah. This is where we are. I loved you, but I don’t see it changing ever. My kids need to feel safe.” And that was that.   

It’s never to late to start to say no. 

I feel strong as a parent when I say no or choose us / me. Saying ‘yes’ to health and intelligent living doesn’t have to look like ‘no.’ It doesn’t have to feel exclusive. Because it’s not. You’ve weighed the options and decided to follow a certain decision. 

Take drinking, for instance. I don’t drink at all like I used to. Rarely do I have more than one glass of wine and if I happen to have two, that’s it. Socially, I will have a beer or a wine or a G&T and generally that’s it. This is at home, too. I’m not stupid: I’m genetically fucked. I’m primed to be a world-class alcoholic and if the way I feel — lighter, warmer but not hot, relaxed & easy like a Sunday morning, smooth in the muscles, sign here and everything will be taken care of to your liking, I’ll take another with a straw this time — less than 2 minutes after drinking a beer or a halfway into a glass of wine are not an indication that I’m playing with fire, nothing is.   

So I drink less. Or not at all. I try to stay present. I don’t let people pour for me without my awareness anymore. I don’t like waking up and feeling like shit. I don’t like not being able to fall asleep because it’s too hot it’s too dry it’s too hard it’s too soft it’s too much. Nothing –to me– is worth that feeling anymore. Will I slip up? Will I have three glasses of X? Yes, rarely but yes, and man, I tend to feel like a newborn the next morning. You’ve seen newborns, straight from the womb?

So instead of saying “no” to my friends or the booze, I say yes to a restful sleep. I say yes to remembering the evening. I say yes to acting responsible. I say yes to not terrifying my children. I say yes to my peace of mind. Should I falter, I have been very good though about no longer emotionally beating the shit out of myself. What’s done is done. You can’t nursing a bell, says Dr. Phil. I realize that beating myself up for something I can’t undo is a complete waste of time and mental bandwidth. 

But beating ourselves up sure keeps us in the spotlight, don’t it? So stop. For everyone’s peace of mind: stop flaggelating yourself. It’s embarrassing. It’s cyclical. 

I’m losing my train here. The point of this was to share that it’s hard to write or approach things from a place of love when you’ve been hurt. I try to paint a lot of stuff with rose tint but I think that’s more codependency at play. 

I saw a Mary Oliver quote the other day and it took my breath away. It was in a post at a blog I follow, “Adventures in Overthinking” titled Crescent Moons and Critical Morons.  

What is it that we plan to do with this one wild and precious life? 

I am going to be kinder to myself and write things the way they present themselves to me and I’m going to be ok with not always arriving at a conclusion that makes it all ok. Because sometimes it’s not. Sometimes when you’re treated like crap by people who are supposed to be your family, the anger is too much and it all feels waaaaaaaaay too familiar. As though you’re on a treadmill of your childhood’s worst possible moments because these are more people who have told you to count on them, despite all the flake flags you’ve ignored for years. 

So you try to talk to them about conditions, the situation, but you’re frequently interrupted by your host’s constant narrative of victimization and drama; the imprisonment of the golden handcuffs. They say they “hear” you and that they are your soft place to fall, yet instead after driving 460 miles they make you or your child sleep on the hard floor for three nights in a row. You cycle in your head about how they strung you along for months preceding the event, constantly changing the agenda  — and they connect with you about their time in Hawaii when their baggage was lost and they had to sit on the beach outside their condo for hours waiting for it to arrive. 

You try to discuss their reactivity, how the cellular reception is wonky and that you waited almost three hours for them to show up but yet they expected you to read their minds and you hear back from them that they bought all this expensive organic and healthy and non-GMO and locally produced food that’s gonna go to waste because you never showed up (because you were never instructed to). You try with love to listen sympathetically to their monologue about “bad” friends and betrayal by lovers in favor of those friends yet you remember watching them all open two bottles of Veuve Cliquot at 9am outside the window of your room. 

You then try to walk around the challenges of how they put drug-addled near-strangers ahead of you because they’re afraid of losing their love interest with the healthy investment portfolio (oh yeah, it’s getting real right now) and how they somehow managed to accuse you -hissingly- to third parties of taking their children to dinner, as if it’s a war crime. And how on your final night of “we can’t take it anymore” they somehow thought it ok to place their hand in the face of North America’s Kindest Man, my husband, when he tried to smooth things over — because that’s what he does, he’s The Smoother — and then drive away in a Neiman-Marcus grade huff of self-righteous indignation and fury, leaving their children -again- for you to shuttle back to Hotel California. But woe upon you, family relation: when you lose the endurance of The Smoother, may God have mercy on you. Because that’s when I get involved. 

I got involved because I’m done. Because as I mentioned in my post about our cat being stolen, that when I step in, you can almost count on it going nuclear and being totally FUBAR. I was ready because I was not going to do this again.  

This person made my husband swear and say, “That’s it. If it weren’t 11:45 at night and we had somewhere to go, we’d be #)C%!>@ leaving right now.” I unleashed the shitstorm of reality that people like me (tired of sipping the elixir of codependency and expecting different results) unleash. The results of unleashing that shitstorm can never be predicted because when you start your conversation, no matter how challenging, no matter how uncomfortable the details of how it all went pear-shaped (because very little of it had to do with me, it was a lot of projecting, looping and recycling of weird childhood feelings this person has NOT resolved), it’s very possible that you’ll be left standing amidst a cloud of gravel dust and disbelief in a driveway watching the driver of a European station wagon haul ass to Mommy. 

The Mommy who enrages them. The Mommy who doesn’t “get” them. The Mommy up the road.   

Those are just the highlights. 

But I won’t bore you with this story despite your pleas. I’ll incorporate it into my memoir or a “fiction” instead. 

Suffice it to say that this summer we opted to surround ourselves with people we love and people who love us and we hightailed it to North Carolina for an absolutely beautiful experience. While I was there I had two dreams about my mother. In one of them this relation and the father of this relation appeared at an event I was apparently hosting and serving a well-known (to my family) classic meal. I was approached and admonished by this father whose boisterous persona when alive was just as unfettered in my dream. He shouted at me in the dream the same strange, tribal id-chant he used shout when things got out of control to him. He was red-faced and utterly furious with me for behaving the way I did toward his child, reprimanding me for and accusing me of picking a fight…. I remember seeing my mother in the dream and she made fists and her jaw became set and she stared at him from behind with squinted, wild eyes. She was maybe 70. I said in the dream, “[TRIBAL CHANT] BACK TO YOU, MORTIMER! And what the hell are you doing here? You’re DEAD! You don’t belong in this dream!” And my mother (who is also dead) stood up and shook her fist and her signature bangles and said, ‘Great! Get ‘im, Maaal!” He bellowed at me, “This is not how you treat family!” And I bellowed back, fearless, “If you knew the whole story, you’d be on a different team, I promise you that, Morty.” My eyes darting between him and my mother, “We were NOT treated like family … or [hissing on my own now] maybe WE WERE…” and he and my mother both vaporized. They knew when to bolt.    

I’ve been told that it’s gossipy, uncouth and coarse to write about impolite things. But what if what you write about is people who treat people horribly? Doesn’t the story deserve venting? Doesn’t the fault lie more with the precipitating jerk than it does the person who decides to share the crappy behavior and end the delusion? What about when the person who recites the martyr narrative about the luggage in Hawaii and the expensive baby-dandelion-fed veal burgers is really the Veuve Cliquot-sipping despot? An inverse narcissist? Don’t roll your eyes.   

I can’t not write because I’m afraid of upsetting people. I read recently in Mother Land by Paul Theroux (awesome thick tome which reminds me of my mother and of the aforementioned relation): “At the end of his memoir, Family History, John Lanchester comments, ‘Once my mother wasn’t able to read my books, I finally began writing them.'” Theroux also continues to write about Miller, Wharton, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Lawrence, and others about how they dealt with their families’ and friends sentiments of their writing. It is empowering and it brings me back to Mary Oliver… what are we going to do with this wild and precious one life? 

I think the first thing we do is stop saying “no” and say “yes” instead. Yes to things that quicken our pulse. Yes to things that scare us. Yes to things we’ve not done before. Yes. 

This is it! This is the moment we’ve been waiting for! If you’re not there yet but you want to be, we can do it together. We just have to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel while we wave at the moon. 

Thank you.

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 11: #voicemail #memories #warped #courage


Welcome to Day 11 of “30 Days of Brené Brown.” I’ll be honest… these are starting to get on my nerves. It’s all courage blah blah vulnerability blah blah truth blah blah…courage …  I am getting Brenéweary. I am Browning out. Here’s today’s quote:

Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. ― Brené BrownDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Just so you both know: it’s hard to write every day about something like this.

It’s hard to fall out of bed, crawl in the darkness to my bathrobe, pull it off the hook without tearing it, roll around on the floor to put it on, crawl into my bathroom to brush my teeth, slither over to my son’s room, wake him up without actually waking myself up, make him get dressed and eat food and be nice, walk him to school and smile and nod at people I barely know, drop him off and come back home and sit here and write about Brené Brown and her vulnerability research.

Writing this post reminds me of the prep scenes in “Rocky” waking at 4am, drinking raw eggs, putting on dirty sweats, going out into the cold Philadelphia darkness and running for no reason and punching at shit that wasn’t there. I feel like I’m whiffing all over the place with these quotes.

Indulge me: Someone I know in flesh and blood said that she looked forward to my writing about Brown’s stuff because Brown has a tendency to REPEAT HERSELF CONTINUOUSLY.

I know, there are people (sssh, they’re everywhere) of all ages who are completely asleep and have no clue about their personal train wrecks, but I think it’s time for Brené to write about something else.

I’d like to totally give up on this quote but I won’t. I am a fighter. I’ve got this.

The book cited, Daring Greatly, does have to do with parenting which is so important and so hard to do. So I’ll keep on keeping on. I learned how to parent as a child.

While it’s easy to screw up at parenting, it’s also easy to make up for that screw up. Kids are forgiving but they’re not stupid.

All you have to do is own it.


Fix it and change.

Speaking of apologies, I have a message on my cell phone from my mother on the day after my 45th birthday. I can’t remember how she got my number because I tried to never call her from it because she would then call it incessantly and I’d never get a moment’s peace. No joke. I once had to block her.

yes. all true.

yes. all true.

Do you know what it’s like to grow up with a mother who calls you constantly and obsessively about shit that you couldn’t even beGIN to care about?

And when you tried to talk about the things YOU cared about, you were dismissed or fought with?

Of course you do, you’re still here.

Look, no one is perfect, we’ve got that. But … ok, back to that message.

I’m fairly certain the birthday phone call started with her pretending to be Marilyn Monroe when she sang to JFK and then I said, “Thank you, thank you. Please stop now… thank you…heh heh <nervous laugh> please Mom, stop now.”

Then she would say what she always said to me (but I learned on Thanksgiving that she never said to to my brother), “It’s my birthday too because I did all the work!”

I’d laugh and my stomach would hurt from the nausea and bile.


for leslhugs.

Then she’d conjure a fictional memory so as to make my past seem less chaotic. Or, she would cull a true chaotic memory and somehow rationalize it. I’m pretty sure the conversation went pear-shaped from there.

If patterns hold true, I likely said something about the recollection being inaccurate and thanked her for calling. Nice but with a jab.

Then she would’ve likely said, “You’re mistaken. It happened the way I said it did…” or “You’ve lost your sense of humor,” or “That’s too bad you don’t remember the good times…” and then my blood would boil (at newly 2 5 8 9 10 11 13 14 16 17 19 20 22 26 32 33 34 36 40 41 43 45).

Then I’d grow fangs. I’d say something like, “You do what you need to do to insure your happy brainwaves. I will hold on to my memories unadulterated by your fiction” (we really loved each other, I swear).

And then she would groan and say something like, “Oh Maaally. Well, I’m sorry you don’t remember it that way. I’m sorry I was such a failure. I’m sorry I was such a disappointment. I’m sorry you don’t see the good times and I suppose that’s my fault too because I didn’t work hard to help you remember them; you only remember, Maaally, what you want to remember and that can be the way you cope… I’m sorry for whatever it is you said I did, OhhhhKAAAAAY?  … Maaally.”

‘Help [me] remember them…’ Mmmmkay.

Then I’d lose it and we’d have a nail slicer of a fight and I’d end up having to get off the phone because I was about to break something and she was so passive “My, you’re quite worked up.” Or she would say, “Well, it’s too bad you don’t understand how it was for me…..” -about it all or “You’ll be sorry you said that when I’m dead…” -kind of thing (she said that all the time) and then we’d disconnect. Only this time on the phone.

I’m sure she called me back to try to bridge one of the many crevasses. So what started out as some sort of olive branch eventually morphed after the first 30 seconds into a back-handed apology: “I think you’re a little emotional because it’s your birthday and I really don’t take a lot of what you say very seriously…” and she’d fade out or the TV volume would increase and that was the message.

I still have that message.

My father wants me to delete it. I don’t think I will. I can’t really. Why? Because I need it to remind me that despite my sadness over her death, she was really, an incredibly difficult person to be around and that I need to keep it for balance during my bouts of false guilt. I also need it because I really miss her voice, it was a lovely voice, full of depth and range. I can hear it now… saying nice things.

There were times when it wasn’t always so bad, I do know this. But even then, I felt like she wasn’t always listening to me. That’s the part that hurts. That’s when I do my best to suppress the fangs.

Her self-absorption was another entire entity. Seating for me and her at a café (which never happened) would require three chairs and a bag of salt.

Gah, I’m all over the map today. Those memories hurt. I can’t believe I’m actually sharing it. That’s part of the stuff that’s going to go in my memoir, which I’m 10 pages into.

So, yeah, as a parent and as a human being, I’m showing up, listening to others. I’m doing my utmost to break some sick cycles. I’m letting myself be seen. Are you?

As for the memoir, I’m not speaking ill of the dead; I’m just reporting. It’s a goal, that if I ever publish it, to help other people who’ve grown up in a world similar to mine. There isn’t a lot of content about this from the surviving child perspective. A lot of it is clinical and self-helpish. Sometimes people just want to know they’re not alone and sometimes they need to laugh to remember they can. I know I can do that for people.

In the end, I came to accept her more, expect less of her, see her more three-dimensionally just before she died. The last time I saw her was so different from all the others. There was a softness to her that was reassuring and foreboding. That acceptance of her is what matters to me. I wonder about the timing of it all… that that was what she was supposed to teach me: learn to see limitations, not to expect so much of things and then have it slip away >poof!< like that. I dunno. I could do this all day…. bore you to tears with my meanderings. Save it for the memoir…

Back to Brown: show up and be seen. The inverse: stay back and be invisible.

Thank you.

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 8: #faith #spirit #mystics


Welcome to Day 8 of “30 Days of Brené Brown.”

After wrenching through writing yesterday’s post (which I am glad I did because I got some kind feedback and my world has not yet crashed around me for going as far as I did there, which in my estimation was quite tame), I am eager to write about this quote.

Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Faith. Isn’t it amazing? Mom used to say that faith is the greatest mystery of all. Why we rely on others, why we trust them, why we (some of us at least) rely on an unseen deity to usher peace and satisfaction in our lives, is truly one of the mind’s greatest spiritual gambits and communions.

This entire “conversation” reminds me of the post I wrote about Jung when I referred to my mom’s painting techniques. She used to say that sometimes we had to turn something upside-down to see all its dimensions. She used to also say that how a person sees another person is not how a mirror shows us to ourselves but as a three-way mirror would work: a reflection of that reflection. So, to be less obtuse, I’ll say this: I’m going to go at this from a different angle and first discuss my perspective of the omission of faith.

As far as I’m concerned, without faith, we have only ego. But then there’s an irony, for me anyway: when things go wrong, often we tend to blame outside circumstances: our history, the weather, a headache, the president, the car… whatever. When things go right, we tend to ascribe credit to   

Nope. It’s not working for me. There’s too much static in my head. I’ll just go straight in.

Faith is The Thing that keeps me going. For some reason, “giving up” is never an option; there is always a way through (not around). As much as I’d like to say my ego is the only thing that keeps me going, it’s really not. It’s much more my belief these days that things are unfolding as they should.

It’s simply much harder for me now, after the yoga retreat, the EMDR, the navel gazing, Mom’s death and cheap-seat views of my life to say that there’s no reason for any of it. I wrote about that here. All of it has a reason.

That’s the beauty of it though — it’s at that point that we can decide to analyze it to death (as I tend to do sometimes) or simply let it go. Doing both, to me, are acts of faith. Scripture tells of Thomas the Apostle who doubted Jesus. I dig that about Thomas. He was willing to go there and mete it out. Meting it out doesn’t mean you don’t believe or are absent of faith, it just means that you need a little more.

I’m re-reading the quote: “…to believe in something we cannot see and the strength TO LET GO(!)” [emphasis mine] — since when does letting go require strength? This quote has so many twists and layers.

It’s like spiritual lasagne.



Pass the tray.

Can we see fear? Why do we believe in it so much or allow it so much sway in our lives? What is it about fear that keeps us back, keeps us from seeing ourselves and our potential and from moving forward?

Strength to let go.

Yikes. Yes. Right?

What about another inversion: strength to hold on to fear? Tendonitis. It’s a crutch… fear is a crutch. This is flying at me so fast right now that it’s not mine. It’s coming from somewhere else.

I’ve said this before — that fear is a crutch. It allows us to stay angry and resentful. It harbors our darkest parts of ourselves for community. It’s truly the misery that loves our company. 

Standing still is one of the hardest things to do. To stand fast in the face of fear instead of run from it. That takes strength. Don’t believe me? Try standing fast — not locking your knees, eyes focused, arms at ease at your sides. Breathing. Try it for one minute without moving one millimeter. Soldiers are TRAINED to do this. It’s not so simple, so easy and so natural to stand fast and ready for anything. In yoga we call it “Mountain Pose” or Tadasana. You are encouraged to feel the earth with your bare feet, ready for anything: to act or to stand fast. After about 10 seconds of it you can feel your pulse. Then you hear your pulse. Your breathing slows, your gaze softens, your muscles at once firm and relaxed, experiencing what it means to Just Be.

Wake up! Back to Brown.

What is it about the unseen nature of faith that makes some people roll their eyes at the concept of giving one’s problems (control issues) and gratitude for life’s gifts (seen and unseen) up to a higher power?

What is it about the unseen nature of fear that makes some people nod their heads and murmur “Uh-hunh.”?

Why do we scoff at one, but allow the other?

Why do we allow the painful and inhibiting one but dismiss or feel undeserving of the joyful and liberating one?

Look, I’m not suggesting that we all run out into the streets and proclaim that we’ve given it all up to God/Universe/Fate/Spirit  what about faith in ourSelves? We’ve gotten this far, right? Sure we’ve had bumps, bruises, wrecks, mistakes and missteps. But we’re still here!

(Someone slap me.)

Fear of uncertainty.  Other than knowing that nothing is certain, ever, please… someone show me how being afraid of something that we can count on — uncertainty — gets us anywhere.

I am just saying that I think we ought to give ourselves more credit than allowing fear to run our lives.

Who’s with me?

Thank you.

ps – to yesterday: i’m going to go ahead and write the memoir. i don’t know about publishing. ha. look at me not caring about what i don’t have to care about at the moment.

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 4: #imperfection #worth #value #relationship #community #struggle


Welcome to Day 4 of “30 Days of Brené Brown” wherein I will take the top 30 quotes as determined by Goodreads. Who is Brené Brown you ask? She is a research professor at the University of Houston, author of several books on emotional health and authenticity and all-around bad-ass when it comes to shame and vulnerability research. But more importantly, she is my “if you could have dinner / evening out with anyone you don’t know who would it be…” -person. Go here to learn more about her. In each post I will try to limit myself to 1,200 words.

Today’s quote:

You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.
― Brené Brown


This reminds me of the Declaration of Independence. Y’know, the real one. That awesome document that ushered a war and released us from the bondage of British Imperialism and freed us to become the Americans we are today!! Who’s with me?!

‘Cept when I look at America now, I’m not so sure we know what we’re doing.

mine. please don't steal it. make your own.

mine. please don’t steal it. if you use, then cite me.

So let’s narrow our view back in and look at our basic selves and our core group of people and how we interact and interrelate with them all. I’d like to break down this quote, as short as it is, even further:

“You are imperfect,” — this to me is like a license for experimentation. I like to think of children, how we can’t (or shouldn’t really, for a whole host of neurological and developmental reasons) walk before we can crawl. Before we walk well, we fall down a lot. We are meant to fall down a lot, hence the next part of Brené’s quote:

“You are wired for struggle,” — which basically means: count on having a shitty time every once in a while at this stupid game of life. I see this as a good thing: if we weren’t wired for struggle and adversity then we’d also not be prepared for greatness and success. We would never know when we are successful. When we are successful we can enjoy ourselves, we can trust ourselves, we can love and be part of a tribe of …

But … oh.

That’s the essence of the next part of the quote isn’t it?: “But you are worthy of love and belonging.”

We need to give ourselves that permission to belong — did you read my Declaration of Imperfection above? You’re already a member of the human race! You’re already in! You already belong! We all just need to remember to be kinder to ourselves and firm in our love so that we accomplish what we are here to do!

So, yay! Right?

The good news is that you’re worthy of love. The bad news is that it’s likely gonna mean hell must happen first before you realize it. Are you in hell now? Are you struggling? Well, get in line.

Every day millions of people — very likely all people, even the brand-new ones, no! especially the brand-new ones — experience a crappy moment: loneliness, confusion, isolation, heartbreak, loss, desolation, fear, anxiety, regret,  frustration … but on the same coin, there are all the same people (just not the babies because they don’t get it) who, thanks to perspective and reason possess the ability to turn that negative energy inside out and try all over again or … if they are willing and able: to reach out, maybe share their story and meet compassion. Even if it’s from a complete stranger and it lasts five seconds!

Case in point:

Friday after Thanksgiving, as I walked to my car from the CVS after getting alcohol wipes for my niece’s blood sugar reader, I saw an elderly disheveled man leaning against his old pick-up. He was in bad shape emotionally from what I could see. When I approached my car’s door to open it, he looked over, seemingly ashamed of his condition. His eyes averted mine, but I stood for a moment and waited for him to sense my hesitation. He looked up at me, with his own hesitation and I smiled and said, “Hello, I hope you have a good day.”

I wasn’t Mother Theresa, but I wanted to be human with him. I wanted to have an exchange, no matter how fleeting, to let him know that someone, anyone, saw him and saw his struggle.

His face brightened for just a moment, almost in an obliging way and his posture perked up. He nodded and sniffled his nose. Then he gestured his hand and said something that I will admit was completely unintelligible and he turned to close his truck’s door and moseyed toward the ABC store. That completely bummed me out, it was an imperfect experience and I felt like Leslie Knope from NBC’s “Parks & Recreation.” Hopeful and idealistic, but ultimately crushed.

I wanted the story to be different. I wanted to say that he said, “Hey, thanks. Yes, I do too. And thanks to you, it will be because you were nice to me! Here’s a check for $500,000! Go buy those shoes you love!”

No. It didn’t happen that way. It barely happened at all, but I did what I felt urged to do — to see that man. I saw him because I’ve felt like how I think he felt: down, isolated and frustrated. If we don’t tap into our own shit then we can’t see anyone else’s. I won’t suggest that it’s my mission to find that guy and take him to an AA meeting because maybe that’s all I was supposed to do that day, but I suspect if I do see him again, I will be just as kind as I was last week.

I am imperfect. My house is not always clean, my moods are unpredictable, I don’t always like to cook, I have wrinkles now at 46 that I would really rather not have, my body is nothing like it used to be yet it hasn’t let me down yet, my hair is mostly gray I fear and I loathe being a slave to that nag of a colorist (me) and stuff is happening to my skin that you don’t wanna know about. But I’m here. I can choose to make my imperfection my anvil or my buoy.

As long as we have breath in our lungs, our struggles are not over; that’s OK. Who knows what will befall us? For me: as imperfect as I am and as allowing as I am about that imperfection, that if I don’t get the hell out of my own way, I will also be responsible for most of my struggles.

How did I get off track? (I blame the old man.)

Here’s the dealio: regardless of our imperfections and our struggles, there is community for us. Love is out there for us — all of us: wrinkled and old, or young and insecure, hesitant or confident and we do belong. We are here, on this planet — we belong on it. We belong here.

We have to be willing to put ourselves out there in order to feel the struggle and know our imperfections and succeed despite them — or maybe by virtue of them!

Count on being imperfect and bask in its flexibility! Allow yourself to be kinder to yourself! Thank your wrinkles because that means you’ve expressed emotions and have felt the sun’s warmth! Thank your gray hairs for they’ve stayed in your head! Know you are not alone — and even if when you look around after reading this, and you might still feel alone, know this: that at the end of a very long day, you really do belong to yourself and that’s the best declaration of independence I can think of.

Thank you.