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An End To Emotional Eating

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Because of the topic, I am sending my Friday Story a day early. After a lifetime of emotional eating, I feel like I’ve turned a corner. Just in case there is a nugget in here that will help you navigate a day that can be problematic for many of us, here your are.

I’ve resisted writing on this subject mainly because I refuse to join the dirty team that has tried everything to convince us our appearance equals our worth. I want no part of that. This piece isn’t about weight or dieting. It’s about being true to ourselves and making choices from that place.

Also—I am not a licensed mental health professional, so for those dealing with clinical addiction, I trust that you are seeking help with the appropriate folks. This is strictly for those of us who self-medicate in ways that make us feel juuuust bad enoughabout ourselves. You know how we like to kick our own teeth in when the opportunity arises? That.

So, here goes.

It started in my childhood home where any form of sugar that came in the door was a big deal. My mother followed Nutritionist Adelle Davis, treating her books like sacred texts. Adelle railed against the typical American diet of processed foods and sugar. Whole wheat bread with as many grains as you could stuff in one loaf was the centerpiece of her philosophy. The peanut butter and honey sandwiches I brown-bagged to school had the heft of a shot put and tasted of the fields. In the age of canned foods and TV dinners, Adelle sounded the alarm bells that our physical and emotional health would be forever compromised by making such choices. My mother dutifully heeded her warnings.

When the white bakery bag holding gingerbread men showed up on our kitchen table, we surrounded it in reverent silence. My mother distributed the puffy bodies with delicate icing and each of the four of us went off on our own to savor every bite. We learned to enjoy our sweet indulgences in private.

From those years forward, the sensation of sugar dissolving in my mouth and amping my blood sugar translated as pure pleasure, the total absence of pain. But those moments were rare. I turned this into the belief that to live virtuously, pleasure should be withheld, almost indefinitely. No cookie for you. And if you did indulge, have the decency to hide it.

A half century later, it strikes me that I have both rebelled against this conditioning and followed it to the letter. I am an eater. I’ve dieted but always unsuccessfully—I really don’t believe in deprivation. I exercise regularly and have felt justified in my hearty appetite. But I haven’t been happy with the way I feel in my clothes for most of my life. Over the past few months that has changed. The more I engaged in the following behaviors, the more grounded in my body I felt and the better I became at mindful eating. I feel good in my clothes! Here’s what I recommend.

 

  1. TELL THE TRUTH

Most of my stress snacking had occurred after dinner when all meals and snacks should be done for the day. When I observed my patterns, I noticed that if I had engaged in some harmful people pleasing earlier in the day, I was more prone to self-medicate with food by the time evening rolled around.

The last time it happened here’s how it went down: my son had two sleepovers over a holiday weekend. By the following school day, he claimed he didn’t feel well. I had a full schedule and now it would be interrupted. There’d been disruptions to my work for several days already and I had started to feel panicky.

I let him sleep in, figuring I’d take him to school later and still get most of my work done. When he finally woke up, he said maybe something he ate didn’t agree and he should stay home. Acid reflux had been an issue so it was plausible. But then he bopped around all afternoon, watched funny shows and made quesadillas. I suspected I’d been had.

The minute school ended at 3:30 pm, he enjoyed a miraculous recovery and got dressed to meet his friends for skateboarding. Rationalizing that the exercise would do him some good, I allowed him to go. By 8:00 pm, I was stuffing this incident down with black & white cookies from Trader Joe’s.

The moment this kid had a spring in his step, I could have said the following, “You are clearly well. I have work to do. GET IN THE CAR.”

 

  1. FEEL THE FEELINGS

For as long as I can remember, I have tried to avoid feeling ANY painful emotions and have even attempted to convince my kids to slap a smile on a sh!tty situation. My way has been to guard my fragile heart (and theirs!) against any painful incident, tossing it away like a hot potato.

Take the summer after I started college. All my friends went home, but I stuck around, as usual. No invitation arrived to spend the summer with either of my parents, not that I was surprised. Neither of them figured their four kids into any living arrangements anymore. An empty college campus can be a lonely place. I waited tables all summer but the restaurant was dead. The spots down in Santa Barbara would have been hopping, but I’d have needed a car for the highway miles. When I wasn’t working, I hung out alone in my apartment. Without the funds for furniture, I lay in a sleeping bag on my bedroom floor. Someone had left a little black and white television, so I watched a fuzzy game show or read from the pile of discarded books left by previous tenants. The only pleasurable part of the day was eating 25 cent ramen or Cup o’ Noodles which was all I could afford.

Food was my friend, the solitary feelings the enemy. Survival instinct told me that surrendering to the full measure of loneliness would have crushed me. Back then, I didn’t know there were other ways of taking care of my needs. A walk on the beach would have done wonders.

These days, I seek out all sorts of other sensory pleasures. Food maintains it’s spot high on the list, but it’s among many other non-food items. I must be intentional about feeling an entire emotion (all 90 seconds according to neuroscience) and to unlearn the conditioning to avoid them at all costs. I know if they get stuck inside, I’ll have to neutralize them later with brownies.

  1. MIND YOUR BUSINESS

This is probably the most critical contributing factor to bringing an end to my stress eating. Byron Katie teaches that it is not our business to worry for or about other people. She recommends asking ourselves if the concern is our business, meaning, are we the ones making the decisions or is someone else? There are three types of “business”: my business, your business and God’s business. (If you aren’t a God person, substitute that for nature, the universe, chance, fate, whatever helps you understand that certain stuff is out of our control.)

 

Taking on others’ business has been a major source of anxiety for me. The big ones on my list are: any of my kids falling ill, being hurt or getting into trouble. Sounds weird to say that what they do is none of my business, but it’s actually true. I can do my best as a parent to teach them how to make good choices and manage their feelings, but I control exactly none of how they do it. Oddly, it’s a relief. Worrying about my family has dominated much of my adult life but with this insight, I feel pretty good. Plus, trying to fix it for themwill stunt their growth anyway, so we are all better off.

  1. SEEK SUPPORT AND ACCOUNTABILITY

A few months ago, I tried to help someone going through a difficult time. She had coped with problems by self-medicating with food. She asked for help so I asked around. A trusted friend recommended a Registered Dietician—a woman in town whom I had always liked but didn’t know what she did for a living. Apparently, she was in high demand and only had one spot for months. I set the appointment. Turned out, the time didn’t work for my friend. When I clicked on her calendar to cancel, I realized I could benefit from an expert’s opinion on my choices. My digestion had always been troubled. Energy ups and downs plagued my every day. Extra weight had me feeling uncomfortable in my clothes despite exercise and healthy eating.

One look at what was going on and Dianne explained that the dried fruit I snacked on with regularity spiked my blood sugar and sent me into a crash. My temperamental belly had been not so silently objecting to the amount of beans I consumed. They had always been a major staple of my diet. Due to my daily breakfast of oatmeal and maple syrup and then a turkey avocado sandwich for lunch, I’d chosen a diet perfectly tailored to weight gain. My body required way more vegetables, more protein and loads less sugar. I followed what she told me and now I don’t crave sugar and enjoy steady energy. I feel better than ever.

Not that you asked, but since today is basically our national holiday for overeating, I will share Dianne’s advice: “fill 3/4 of the plate like this: protein, vegetables and salad. The last 1/4 of the plate with other traditional foods high in carbs like stuffing and potatoes. For dessert take small tasting pieces on a plate. The key is that Thanksgiving is a wonderful meal, not a weekend, so beware of leftover starches and desserts.” Ok! I may do most of that, we’ll see. That little kid in me who hates to be deprived is still in there after all.

5. CHOOSE YOU

In years past, feeling bad about myself and really wallowing in it paired nicely with poor food choices: it could be something with sugar (brownies and chocolate chip cookies), or highly processed (ALL the chips). My vacuum cleaner style of eating had very little to do with actual hunger. I felt entitled to console myself with food and there was no scolding parent here to stop me. I felt trapped in this little kid thinking.The more I ate, the worse I felt—perfect.

That’s no longer what I want for myself. When making choices, I now take a mindfulness break to focus on one my senses: breathing, music, or touch (rub index finger and thumb together feeling the ridges of your fingerprint). It puts me back in my body to make choices that will feel good to me. I feel more responsible for the person who will wake up tomorrow and reflect on what I did today. I don’t need another opportunity to beat myself over the head. Lord knows, I have done enough of that.

Today, I choose me.

When your body and mind are integrated, you feel whole. No morsel of food anywhere feels as good as that.

Happy Holidays.

Love,

Elizabeth

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up!! Click on elizabethheise.comand subscribe today. You are also encouraged to come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on the gram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

 

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Time To Level Up

 

 

After a hard week, an old friend wandered into my thoughts with that funny saying: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.” I used to have a lot of those friends. Who am I kidding, I have been that friend. Attending a gossipfest is like going on a boozy bender. You know you’re gonna feel bad about yourself afterwards, but screw it,you drink up anyway.

 

There are worse vices, but indulging in that kind of talk keeps us mired in negativity. That old friend had a particularly vicious streak when it came to the flaws she saw in others. When I became more aware of my own behavior, I got an inkling about why she might be doing this. When we don’t like ourselves enough, we are particularly hard on other people. And when we don’t take care our own needs, we place too great a burden on others. Of course they don’t meet our expectations—no one does.

 

For some of us, this is a lifestyle. We blame the collective them for everything. I have done this with bosses, friends, my husband, my family of origin. Not even the driver in front of me is safe from what I think he should be doing instead. People are only capable of being exactly who they are, every minute of every day. Accepting this fact leads to a far more peaceful life. I know this for sure and still, I catch myself feeling angry at people for not being my preferred version.

 

When the gossipy friend came to mind, I took it as a sign that I had gotten stuck in that kind of thinking again: why does everyone suck. It had been a while since I’d taken an all-inclusive trip to expectation station. I hadn’t met my own needs and then looked around for others to blame for not doing it for me. When I’d had enough of how terrible this made me feel, I cleaned my energy and let go of those crappy thoughts.

 

Pain is a wonderful teacher but hopefully, the day comes when we are sick of feeling meh and disappointed in others. On that magical day, we can choose another way of being in the world. Every one of us has the power to manifest the life we actually want. We can stop being pushed by pain and feel the pull of joy instead.

 

When it comes to “manifesting,” however, the word has been a bit triggery for me. In the past, I’d accomplish a difficult goal and my mom would say something like, “that’s so great the way you manifested it.” Um, no, I worked for it. I hated the idea of giving “the universe” credit for my labor. But then I stopped resisting the whole idea and learned that it’s about our own energy and what we are drawing into our lives.

 

 

 

Here’s the catch: the only way to be in flow with all the good stuff is to be the space for it. Sounds very hippie kookoo but just go with it for a sec. The clearest explanation of how to BE THE SPACE for your highest potential is available on the November 10, 2021 Super Soul podcast interview of Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith: Manifest the Life of Your Dreams.

 

 

 

Beckwith explains that many of us live in a victim consciousness, wondering why life is just mediocre, no matter what our circumstances. We ask the universe disempowering questions: why does this always happen to me? Why can’t I have anything? Why did they do this to me? But here’s what most of us don’t realize: the universe answers all the disempowering questions we ask it. If you mine your experiences for evidence that the deck is stacked against you, you can assign a negative meaning to your whole life. We go around telling this small story on a loop. Take the first draft of my book, for example. From the school principal harassing me as a first grader to walking in on my boss snorting coke on the top of the toilet seat, I had a million examples of how my life had been unfair. We tell these sad stories until we decide to stop.

 

To break out of this self-sabotage, we must spend time outside our limited thinking. We create space inside us that is free of those small minded thoughts. Establishing a practice of meditation, gratitude, daily affirmations, visualization, daily prayers—anything that breaks out of the negative thought loop will do it. I personally vouch for meditation. After so many years of it, I realize my difficult experiences have benefitted me greatly. I’ve done other work to change my mindset, but I am convinced meditation opened the space for all the good stuff to come in.

 

 

 

Once you have made a little room in there, it’s time to fill it up with possibilities instead of problems. These higher vibes are critically important because we draw in the vibration we most put out. There is some spooky talk out there about how negative thinking draws bad experiences. There may be a little dot of truth to that but Martha Beck* teaches that positive thoughts are far more powerful than negative ones. She gives the example that an unlit candle in a sunlit room has no ability to dim the light, whereas lighting a candle in a dark room illuminates the whole space.

  

So, in practical terms what does this shift to a higher vibration look like? First, you change how you talk to yourself. No more I have to do this and I have to do that. Everything you do, you are choosing to do—no one is forcing you. You might have some consequences if say, you decide to forgo feeding your children or cat, but you actually don’t have to do it. Knowing that everything we do is a choice helps us live a more intentional, more powerful, more positive life.

 

Then, you change what you are saying about your life to others. Rather than complaining about the difficulty, you focus on what you are going to do about it. You talk to your friends about the new approach you plan to take with a problem. And if you are still in the kvetchy stage, give yourself some grace. You will move on when you are ready and not a moment before.

 

Beckwith suggests asking the universe empowering questions instead. I took this theory out for a run a couple times this week. After I’d gotten a little distance from my house where I don’t know the neighbors, I threw up my hands and told the big blue sky, “I AM OPEN TO WHATEVER YA GOT.” As I ran, I asked the universe: what if all my needs were met? What if all my challenges have lead me to my greatest potential? A lightness and a sense of excitement filled my spirit. I was the smiliest weirdo out there at 6:30 a.m.

 

When you fill your mind with the possibilities, inertia will go towards them. What we focus on, we get more of. Every good teacher has said some version of this. Dr. Beckwith suggests we keep the possibilities in our mind and on our lips. Talk to select friends, even talk to the potential, talk to abundance, talk to prosperity. If you do that enough, you begin to talk from it.

 

And for those of us who are currently in a hard place, he provides some guidance too. The best question to ask is: if these circumstances were to last forever, what quality would need to emerge to have peace of mind? He believes that if you focus on that powerful quality rather than the suffering, you move through it faster.

 

When you create a space for your own unfolding and then surrender to what is for you, you get the sense that it’s going to be far better than okay. The possibilities are beyond imagination.

 

Love,

Elizabeth

 

WRITING PROMPT: Do you notice when you are vibrating high or low? How do you switch it up?

Do these Friday Stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up!! Click on elizabethheise.com and subscribe today. You are also encouraged to come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on the gram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

*Martha Beck’s November 18, 2021 Podcast The Gathering Pod pairs nicely with Dr. Beckwith and Oprah’s conversation.

 

 

 

 

Copyright © *Elizabeth Heise, LLC* *2021*, All rights reserved.

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What Is Your Destiny?

 

What a question! Seriously though, I am not alone in the belief that each of us was put here for a reason. The trick is to figure it out before it’s all over. So how do we do that?

Your body gives you some big hints. You know the thing you are so excited to do that you wake up thinking about it? That little thrill is your clue. The stuff you dread: so not your destiny. Don’t have any of that enthusiasm? Follow your curiosity and you’ll trip right over it. A tiny, nearly imperceptible spark can open up a whole world—if you follow it.

The hard part in discovering your true path is getting caught up in the “shoulds.” Obviously we all have responsibilities. I’m not suggesting you quit your day job and go live on an Ashram to find yourself. But trust me on this, we were not meant live in drudgery.

My life as a lawyer was exactly that. The profession seemed like the right choice to make lots of money and finally be somebody. I had come from divorce, dysfunction and financial hardship. I put myself through school and got some therapy. I also figured I should help people who didn’t feel as much agency as I did to help themselves. As a result, I felt burdened to solve the problems of every needy person on earth,no pressure. I took on pro bonomatters in addition to my regular practice. If I’d gone to work solely as a do gooder for legal aid, I wouldn’t have been able to pay down any of my student debt. My daily practice was about helping big companies keep all their money.I was a decent lawyer but I found the work tedious.Not my destiny.

Cut to all these years later and I have a TON of enthusiasm for most of my work. But there’s a problem. At first, writing the book got me out of bed with a spring in my step every morning.  Revisions have now become a joyless exercise. The one iron-clad rule of storytelling is that if you aren’t thrilled about writing it, you sure as hell can’t expect anyone to be excited to read it. I poured my heart into that book and the process truly changed my life. Putting my story down on the page delivered me straight to my life’s purpose. But now that it is in the overhaul stage (always necessary with a solid first draft, don’t kid yourself first time authors) I just. Don’t. Wanna.

 

What do we do when we feel like something IS our destiny but it’s hard and kind of…sucks? That’s where looking outside yourself will help you. No matter what you are facing, you will be guided by BOTH an inner voice and outer signs. Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, says to “look out for the omens.” With that in mind, I walked around with the thought bubble ‘what do I do about the book?’ I sh!t you not, the universe answered.

In my weekly Writer’s Bridge Zoom call, the host said something like, “to build your author platform, you have to be scrappy.” Then, one of my favorite podcaster/writer/editors, Brooke Warner on Write Minded called someone scrappy too. Just last night, Dan Blank on The Creative Shift talked about a band called Scrap-o-matic. Close enough!

So clearly, Scrappy doesn’t want me to give up. But what about doing the work? I need to be pumped for it.

At this stage in my revisions, I am reorganizing the narrative. The new outline contains one tight container with lots of flashbacks. My developmental editor sent articles on how to work with leaps in time. I scampered down the rabbit hole on this bit of craft work and ordered the suggested stack of books. That means more non-writing time, but that feels okay.

So now I will study flashbacks, write this weekly piece and delight in my Wayfinders Program. Only a few weeks in, I already have a deeper understanding of myself. We are learning a technique that helps you figure out a problem in just a few minutes as opposed to weeks, years or never. It is mind-blowing. By the time I’m done in July, I’ll be ready to revise the book. I have a hunch that the experience will make for a truer version of me as a writer and as a human. SCRAPPY LIVES.

When you follow both your inner and outer guides, your destiny awaits! Not only is it going to be okay, its going to be fan-freaking-tastic.

Love,

Elizabeth

WRITING PROMPT: What inner and outer signs are guiding your path?

Do these Friday Stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up!! Click on elizabethheise.comand subscribe today. You are also encouraged to come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on the gram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

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Guest Post from Dawn Lauren Anderson

Curiosity Fuels Joy
Dawn Lauren Anderson

“The first night I settled into my North Carolina home, the image above appeared exactly like the photo: a serene night sky with the moon peaking through. Yet I didn’t see it that way. Rather I saw a hideous green security light that ruined my view. My default reaction was anger and resentment.

With the passing days, curiosity for my new surroundings grew. I walked around the neighborhood and met the next door neighbors, a lovely family of four who are renting while building their own home. The father is a police officer, his marked vehicle a fixture during his off hours.

I didn’t ask about the security light coming from their property. It no longer seemed important. That same night as I lay in bed, I thought about the day, seeing a heart on my ceiling. It was extra bright due to the full moon. The blue orb I’m so familiar with now has a green hue. If you are familiar with the chakras, green is associated with the heart chakra. Perfect.

Tips for Cultivating Curiosity

The next time your feel sad, angry or upset about something outside yourself, I invite you to try this:

  • Excuse yourself to a comfortable, safe location
  • Sit, stand or lie down
  • Close your eyes or lower your gaze
  • Take one or two deep breaths
  • Ask yourself, “What am I missing in this situation?”
  • Gently open your eyes fully
  • Slowly move your head and shoulders back and forth
  • Notice the objects in your view, stopping for anything especially pleasing
  • Be open to your intuition
  • Practice patience with yourself, then others

Curiosity fuels our inner joy when we invite it in.”

*Thank you for your beautiful guest post, Dawn. I so appreciate this lovely reminder and I know my readers will too. You can find out more about Dawn below. See you next week!*

WRITING PROMPT: How has your perspective shifted when you got curious?

Author Bio:

Dawn is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in New York City. Her personal essay, “Leave an Abusive Relationship” can be found in “Give Yourself Permission Magazine” and the book “Give Yourself Permission Anthology” both edited by Priya Rana Kapoor. You can also find her life-changing story about her father’s last moments, “My Father’s Love: You’re One of the Good Ones”, on The Mindful Word in 2017, both available on https://dawnlaurenanderson.com

Social media links:

Twitter @dawnoutside
Instagram @dawnoutside
Facebook Dawn L. Anderson

Copyright © *Elizabeth Heise, LLC*, All rights reserved.
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Seek Delight No Matter What

 

 

A while back, one of my children used the term toxic positivity to describe how I deal with problems. Refusing to acknowledge suffering and pretending everything’s fine makes people feel worse. When a kid of mine is hurting, it is so uncomfortable for me that I’ve tried to encourage them to consider the pain a lesson–to stop feeling it so I don’t have to either. You’d think I’d be more aware of not causing others to feel invisible, having felt it a time or two myself. I’ve only just realized they didn’t need me to feel the pain for them. All they were asking for was the space to process the emotions themselves.

 

This urge to run away from hard feelings is difficult to look at in ourselves, especially when it’s damaging to others. Who wants to admit we’ve hurt someone already in pain by trying to convince them to deny it? Whole lives have been lived in denial. It’s more popular than Disneyworld.

 

 

 

Denying physical pain is at least more obvious. I remember when my then tiny son sliced his lip on a glass table during our stay at a friend’s house. She had thoughtfully arranged for all the kids to make s’mores by the fire. As a mother herself, her annoyance with his injury came as a mild shock. She brusquely announced we should go on with the planned activity. To her displeasure, I stepped away and called the doctor. At first, I was angry that she discouraged me from seeking medical attention for my child. Then I realized how difficult it must be to live in a world with no room for pain, delay or flexibility and my heart softened toward her. A little. Don’t mess with mama bear’s precious cubs.

 

Pain can trigger old business. Most of us handle it in the way we were conditioned by our families of origin. But if we want it to go away, we must acknowledge it. Physical pain needs action—stop doing what hurts. Tend the wound. Emotional pain wants to cycle through us. Without the process, we end up trapping it somewhere inside our body, causing more trouble than if we’d faced it in the first place. Ignoring pain all together silences our body and tamps down our intuition. We need that inner voice loud and clear.
 

 

But what do we do if a crappy experience is ongoing—if we have to grieve or endure a long term illness? During Covid Times, some of us have had our whole world shaken like a snow globe, except it was more sh!t storm than pretty snowfall. How do we allow the feelings to cycle through if the circumstances remain? How can we be happy at all? 

 

Jack Gilbert’s poetry provides a road map to joy through the sh!t storm. I first learned of him through author, Elizabeth Gilbert’s work (no relation). Despite his extraordinary talent, he chose to live in obscurity so that he could enjoy his days traveling the world without the heavy trappings of traditional success. His poetry reflects the belief that even in the midst of most dire circumstances, we are hard wired for delight. And we must seek it out, no matter what.

 

A Brief For The Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Jack Gilbert

 

And that, dear reader is why the artists have been put on this earth. To delight us with their creative genius, to move us to tears of joy, even in the midst of suffering. Particularly during Covid, some writers hesitated to put out work that was light and fun, concerned that it might be viewed as disrespectful or insensitive. If you subscribe to Gilbert’s view, it is dismissive of the suffering not to go full throttle towards delight. Joy is a human imperative.

 

I know of at least one such writer who does not have it in her to hold back her talents for any such prohibition on joy. Vanessa Leigh King is ALL GO in that regard. Her debut novel, A Certain Appeal, due out November 2, 2021, is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in the burlesque scene of modern New York City. This is a story near and dear to my heart. My own family name duo, ‘Elizabeth and Jane,’ my daughter and me, resulted from my Jane Austen superfan status. At the very height of Covid, Vanessa succeeded in doing what some of us writers considered the impossible: finding a publisher for her magnificent, joyful, delight of a book.

 

If there is an ounce of justice in this world, A Certain Appeal will be a New York Times Best Seller. It is that good. The retelling has all the romantic tension and chemistry as the original, but King’s modern twist is distinctly empowered, body positive and inclusive. The main character, Elizabeth Bennet, comes into burlesque at a low point in her life, and for her, the scene was an immediate source of joy and fun and strength. Being cheered for while onstage makes her feel she’s someone to be celebrated, and that’s an energy she takes into her life offstage. At the same time, performing has Bennet and her friends —intentionally—putting themselves in a situation where they might be jeered or put down, but this too can be a source of strength. They face that fear head on. The end result is living a life less less likely to make decisions out of fear.

The characters are so true to life that I am dragging out finishing the book because I am going to miss them all. They are my friends.  ​

 

Because her art serves humanity in this most fundamental way, Vanessa King will be my guest today, Friday October 29, 2021 on my Instagram Live Series Tell Me All About it. Come check us out at NOON on @elizabethheise.writer. If you can’t catch it live, it will be saved on my IGTV.

 

We will talk all about the book of course and also get to know Vanessa. She came upon her knowledge of this scene organically, having spent two years picking up the peelings of the best in the NYC burlesque scene. Apparently she has the glitter in her pumps to prove it! Vanessa will be coming to us from Austin, Texas where she lives with her Ron Swanson-esque husband, paper craft-obsessed daughter, and an elderly feline gentleman whose life she’s plotting to upend with the introduction of a kitten.
I can’t wait to talk to Vanessa all about her amazing book and her delightful self.

 

As a special treat, I will be giving away a copy of her book to the first person to comment “I want A Certain Appeal!”

Join us.

 

Love,

Elizabeth

 

WRITING PROMPT:  Where do you find joy even in difficult circumstances? 

 

Do you subscribe to these stories? You are invited at elizabethheise.com. You can also find me on instragram at Elizabethheise.writer and Twitter @heiseelizabeth1. Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Stories

Put A Little Pep In Your Step

 

A friend recently confided that her daughter, a high school freshman, had been slogging through her days like Willy Loman. With a mountain of homework and more with each passing day, she questioned the point of it all. She’d be prepared for college in three years but she had nothing within reach to look forward to. Everday life just sucked.

I recalled when my daughter Jane had felt daunted in this way. It had intensified during the year and a half of Covid house arrest. Up until then, the reward of a celebratory senior year had served as motivation. Instead, fun was cancelled until further notice. She then had to put one foot in front of the other in cement boots.

Channeling Tony Robbins, I delivered the only pep talk I had in me:

“Visualize exactly what you want for your future in the clearest possible detail. Imagine yourself doing exactly what you want, where you want, with whoever you want. Feel how amazing it is to be right there.”

 

In Jane’s case, all she wanted was to end her days as a shut-in and live like a real teenager. She pictured herself at a big fun college, taking in a football game, having a blast with a bunch of new friends.*

I passed the same advice on to my friend, but her daughter’s dilemma lingered in my mind. Her situation was different than my kid’s. The timing was off and, as we all know, timing is everything.

 

Her dilemma brought back how I felt about having written a book. I finished the draft and thought, it will be published, badda bing badda boom, I’m done. The dream played on the big screen in my mind: author Mary Karr introducing me, looking very bohemian in a black turtleneck, at the cozy bookstore, Three Lives & Company in Soho, a beaming crowd of readers, each with a red-jacketed copy of Scrappyin their hands.

 

The first draft was completed last August. It is currently in slow-going revisions. The work is emotional and hard, but rewarding and necessary for the story arc. There is no badda bing badda boom about it. My friend’s daughter and I have that in common—no gratification coming anytime soon.

 

As luck would have it, I happened to catch The Gathering Pod by Martha Beck*, a weekly Instagram/Facebook Live at 4:00 p.m. each Sunday that becomes a podcast. Last week’s topic, How To Keep On Keeping On addressed the difference between what Jane went through and what my friend’s daughter and I are currently experiencing. Jane was months away from realizing her goal, so motivating herself with that visual made sense. Staring down four long years of high school and writing a book required something else.

Martha’s advice went against not just my own instructions but against our entire cultural conditioning. Our whole lives we are prodded to gogogo! Reach for the stars!  Martha says no. When the only thing worth living for is in a galaxy far, far away, the present moment looks bleak.

So how do you re-energize with no end in sight? She offers three ideas.

  1. Build the goal that speaks to you, then put it to the side of your consciousness. It’s hard to keep pace when your one goal is years away. Keep it in the periphery, but focus on what means something to you right now. For me, it’s these Friday Stories—they are a delight to write. It’s like my own personal high five every week. Yes, spend time working towards the far off target, but nourish yourself on the beauty that surrounds you, the art at your fingertips, nature outside your window. Whatever you love, be present with it.
  1. Leave some gas in the tank. Don’t work until you are depleted. It may sound funny but Martha literally says don’t try too hard. (Can you imagine?) For real though, some of us do go overboard. It reminded me of my daughter’s junior year of high school when she continually suffered from two major illnesses together (strep and mono, etc.). She worked until she had nothing left. It’s not about today’s accomplishments, it’s about every day persistence. Leave yourself some space to be a human.

  1. Put more reward than punishment in your life. It’s the same as training an animal. When you offer rewards, the animal learns and also loves you. With punishment, it won’t do either. Martha puts rewards in two categories: disconnecting from others and connecting with others. Introverts may gravitate to music, nature, drawing, and solitude to nourish themselves. Extroverts can watch dramas with lots of human emotions, read memoir, or enjoy a call or get together with a friend. However you refuel, do that.

My default is to be pretty stingy with the rewards. I could work all day with a break just for exercise and food. Disconnecting comes easily but connecting with others not so much—it requires a mutually convenient plan. I like to combine as many of the things I enjoy together to make the experience that much richer. My favorite is a long walk/run with a friend out in nature or inspired yoga under a tree with my precious yogis. I have set the intention to do more of what I love. The book will be done when it’s done.

When you find small ways of rewarding yourself and see the beauty in the present moment, no matter how far away your big goal may seem, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.

Love,

Elizabeth

WRITING PROMPT: Do you have more reward than punishment in your life? What do your rewards look like? What are some ways you enjoy disconnecting from others? How do you like to connect with others? Tell me. I’m interested.

Do you subscribe to these stories? If not, you are invited at elizabethheise.com. Tell a friend! You can also come find me on Instagram @elizabethheise.writer where I post essayettes and announce my IG Live series Tell Me All About It. There’s a super fun one coming up this week with author Vanessa Leigh King! You can also follow me on Twitter @heiseelizabeth1 for random musings. Thanks for reading.

*Ya. Martha Beck will be featured a lot over the next months so please excuse the already overused references. We love what we love!

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Stories

One Compassionate Witness

 

Your Friday Stories turn one year old today and boy have we covered a lot of ground!

The impact of doing this work has completely taken me by surprise. First, I didn’t expect to be writing almost exclusively about personal growth. I have long held the belief that self-help is not my thing and that admitting I didn’t have it all together was somehow weak. Before I started telling you everything, my former therapist was the only one who knew the truth about my life. After I wrote the book*, something cracked open and the truth flowed out. If reading my stories has done anything for you, trust that it has done far more for me. And I am working on a way to thank you for being here.

To honor our year together, I have chosen a dozen insights from the last year. For those of you who have hung in there with some of my longer pieces, these Cliff’s Notes** are for you:

  1. If you want deep connections with other humans, there is no way to avoid your own vulnerability. You must let people in. No skipping the hard parts.(https://elizabethheise.com/it-was-the-moment-i-had-been-waiting-for/10/16/20)
  1. Self-knowledge is the greatest power you can harness. (https://elizabethheise.com/want-more-joy-in-your-life-yes-please/10/23/20)
  1. To keep sane, we need a daily practice. I share my rituals of meditation, journaling, movement in nature, breath work, and gratitude.(https://elizabethheise.com/six-tips-to-save-your-sanity/11/6/20)
  1. Living in times of uncertainty requires giving ourselves a little grace. It can help to laugh, listen, accept that we all handle hardship differently, and make future plans with stubborn optimism. (https://elizabethheise.com/how-do-we-live-with-uncertainty/ 11/20/20)
  1. We can’t have equality in the world without fostering it in our homes—this continues to be a WIP around here. (https://elizabethheise.com/welcome-to-the-2020-sexual-revolution/11/27/20)
  1. We can tame the inner critic by becoming keenly aware of that mean voice and then making the sweet voice LOUDER. (https://elizabethheise.com/silence-the-inner-critic/2/5/21)
  1. We learn far more when we don’t get what we want than when we do. (https://elizabethheise.com/take-a-chance-on-me/2/2/21)
  1. Our greatest growth comes through freedom. (https://elizabethheise.com/feed-your-soul/  3/8/21)
  1. It is possible to let things go. The chemical cycle of a feeling lasts only 90 seconds. After that, suffering results from our need to attach a negative story and hang on tight.(https://elizabethheise.com/let-it-goooo/5/28/21)
  1. Healthy boundaries are essential self-care.(https://elizabethheise.com/housesofdreams/ 7/9/21)
  1. Byron Katie is the most effective work I have ever done and this piece gives a detailed description of it. (https://elizabethheise.com/come-home-to-yourself/9/10/21)
  1. After a year of personal growth, I managed to let go of the core story that has brought me misery for forty years and it is total liberation. (https://elizabethheise.com/the-only-truth-is-love/, October 8, 2021)

I am grateful beyond measure for how transformative this year has been and I heard something this week that explained how it all could have happened this way. I truly have never felt better and, according to Martha Beck, here’s why:

All it takes is one compassionate witness to create the conditions for healing. All we need is for one person to see us and hear us. In my case, all of you, dear readers, have done that for me. You have given me far more than I could have ever given you. There are no words that could adequately express my thanks.

What I can do is develop a streamlined way of achieving this for you, if you like. We all need to be seen and heard, to have that one compassionate witness. (Maybe you already have this, in which case, skip to the writing prompt below!) As you saw over this last year, the way I did it was through journaling—digging into my subconscious for what was bothering me—then exploring it through writing and sharing it. The sharing part was the key. Being seen and heard is EVERYTHING.

So. From now until July 13, 2022, I will be learning from Martha Beck how to help others uncover their inner wisdom and take inspired action, with the belief that each of us holds the key to our own right life, our own true destiny. Her methods have been called “simple, practical, and incredibly powerful.” I chose her program because her literary and religious references deeply resonate with me, plus she is very funny and that is my whole entire jam. Will it be a workshop, a course, a book or individual coaching, I don’t know! But I do know it’s going to be amazing and super useful.

So psyche up for all the insights that will come your way during this training and stay tuned for what takes shape next!

When we act as a compassionate witness for one another, we achieve true healing and are left with the certainty that it’s all going to be okay.

Love,

Elizabeth

WRITING PROMPT: Do you have a compassionate witness in your life? (Thank you again for being mine!)

Do you subscribe to these Friday Stories? You are invited at elizabethheise.com. Come follow me on the gram @elizabethheise.writer and Twitter @heiseelizabeth1. If you know others who might be interested, feel free to invite them too! Thank you for reading.

*SCRAPPY is in revisions but it COMING!! Much sausage making in writing a book as it turns out. What is true in writing a book is also true in life. There’s no skipping the hard parts.

**Happy Friday dear Randye! And I refuse to call them Spark Notes—Cliff’s Notes is the OG.

 

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Stories

The Only Truth Is Love

The day before my birthday, I received a mysterious email from my husband.

Letter from your mom arriving today.

It had been nearly a year since we had spoken. I clicked on the attachment to find the mugshot of an envelope addressed to me.

How did you get this?

He had registered for a daily digest to track important correspondence coming to the house.

After a terrible argument nearly a year ago, she’d decided to cut ties. From then on, radio silence—the emotional bookend to what I’d felt as a kid when my parents divorced and she moved away. In the decades since, that cavernous ache had dulled. But here it was again, weighing me down anew.

In the many months since we last spoke, I’ve come to accept that this pain was mine to process. I was responsible for cleaning up my own energy and figuring out how to heal. In the pre-dawn hours each morning, I set out on foot, gathering strength from the towering trees and expanse of sky. I breathed in the infinite power of the universe, took it into my heart and sent love to my mother. Friends and family who needed some too flashed across my mind. I sent it to them as well, keeping a big poof of pink cotton candy love for myself.

On her birthday last July, I’d replied to a group email of other family members wishing her well. I sent a lighthearted story about our babysitter making me a sugar sandwich without her knowledge. Back then, my mother had insisted on only the healthiest food for her four young children. At the time, she would not have been amused, but she was now. She’d liked it well enough to share it with guests at her dinner. We’d exchanged good wishes but nothing after that.

In the week before my birthday, I had decided, as a gift to myself, that I would reach out to her with the following message:

After holding onto hurt feelings about you for forty years, I have finally figured out how to let them go. Over time, I have made many attempts, all unsuccessful. The need to protect that little girl inside me persisted. I somehow felt that if I left the past behind, I would abandon her along with it. After carrying the burden for so long, I finally realize it serves no one. I have chosen to shift to a more beautiful perspective in which I might offer you an apology instead of expecting one for myself. I am sorry for dragging past hurts into the present and not allowing you to move on from a difficult time in your life. For as far back as I can remember, it has been more important for me to be right than to be free. I have finally decided I want to be free. I want us both to be.

Before I got a chance to send the note, however, her card arrived in the mail. The pretty pink envelope didn’t look at all like the mugshot. It was the same color as the love I had sent her every day.

We tell ourselves stories about why people do what they do to make sense of what has happened to us. It’s human. But we don’t really know. We sometimes don’t even know why WE do what we do. I have finally let go of the story that my mother doesn’t love me. I have let go of the old story to allow her the dignity of her own journey. And I am enjoying my new found freedom.

When you finally choose to let go of old pain, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.

Love,

Elizabeth

WRITING PROMPT: Have you been able to let go of past hurt or are you still hanging on? How have your feelings about it changed over time, if at all?  

Do you subscribe to these stories? You are invited at elizabethheise.com. Feel free to share with friends you think might enjoy these as well. And come check me out on insta @elizabethheise1 and Twitter @heiseelizabeth1.

 

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Stories

The Cure For Birthdayphobia

Since TODAY is my birthday, I’ll ask my questions up front: how do you feel when your birthday rolls around? Has it changed over time? Mine sure has.*

My problem with birthdays has had nothing to do with wrinkles, getting “old,” or any of the usual crap people fret over. It started early—way before those concerns would have applied to me. In my family of origin, I was the outspoken kid, ticking off my list of needs without reservation. But there were four of us. When I unfurled a scroll of requirements, the weary look on my mother’s face told me I was too much. When she left, I stuffed those needs all the way own into my big toe.

In my adult life, the feeling of  too muchness has crept in during the days ahead of my birthday each year, registering as a hollow ache. I dreaded the one day a year I was forced to confront my unmet need to be singled out as special. It has always felt childish to me so I never shared this with anyone, just attempted to quietly deal with it on my own. The task to fulfill this demand has resulted in the most unfun, unfestive pressure you can imagine. Knowing it was an ancient wound didn’t mitigate the damage.

I’ve tried to meet the need for the right kind of celebration and the perfect gift in all the ways. It sounds so awful and spoiled, now you know why I never told anyone! I’ve attempted to slay this beast with a big gathering out at a restaurant, a spa day with a pal, even a big party once. I found a way to ruin them all without indicating to any party goers that this was going on in my head. At the table full of friends, I obsessed over the mix of groups and forcing them all to engage in my most hated form of communication: small talk. The guilt! The amount of work I had to do for the big party had me wallowing in self pity as I hung red lanterns up on a ladder in my living room—barfily pregnant—for my Chinese-themed fete. I finally gave up and tried to spend it alone, asking my husband for a day free of all humans. That way I would be prevented from expecting anything from anyone and avoid the inevitable disappointment. That one resulted in crushing invisibility: my worst idea yet. I couldn’t soothe the annual ache, no matter how I tried.

When you carry around old pain from the past, people in your life find themselves fighting your demons with a blindfold and both hands tied behind their back. The battle is lost no matter what. Even my former therapist joked that I required a “cake, card and coronation” to enjoy my birthday. Show of hands whose had a coronation thrown in their honor. That’s what I thought.

So what finally filled this bottomless pit? It had nothing to do with cake or parties or anything external from anyone. We never get enough of what we don’t want.** I finally figured out how to give myself the gifts I so desperately needed to feel whole. I went to work on my mindset and examined the story I told myself about who I am. It worked. I now expect nothing but the air I breathe. No pressure on anyone, not even me. FOR REAL. I have cultivated a garden of these precious blooms:

  1. Saying NO to the rest of the world is a YES to myself. I am living so much more of my life in the present moment where there is no regret for the road not traveled or anxiety about the future. Right here is where the peace is and I am finally enjoying it.
  1. I accept myself and others for where we are right this minute. Before I began questioning my thinking, I spent all day every day judging people and situations right and wrong. We all do it. It’s how we learned to survive as a species—is this plant good or bad to eat? Is this animal friendly or dangerous?Neuroscience has taught us that the survival brain is useful but it’s no place to hang out all the time if we want to connect with other people, with our own creativity or access our personal potential. Right brain living is my jam and now I know how to get there. Meditation, breath work, cleaning my energy and sending love to everyone who needs it from the unlimited supply of the universe. If that sounds kooky to you, try it sometime. And I always reserve a heaping helping of pink love energy for myself.
  1. I have learned to speak from the heart, share truth with compassion (the majority of the time). I am not afraid of revealing who I really am. It wasn’t so long ago that I was a lawyer paying cash at therapy to avoid insurance records of mental health counseling. I’d sneak out of my building and drive twenty-five minutes to Broward, leaving the office for ninety-five minutes. I ate at my desk most of the other days. My secretary probably thought I had taken a lover. I now share my life unreservedly. I can’t care what anyone else thinks.
  1. I no longer feel guilty. In years past, when my eyes popped open in the morning, I did a gut check for what I had regretted saying or doing. Instead of my morning cup of dread, I wake up excited for the day (4:08 a.m. today, people!). A dear friend talked about how she’s found freedom from being ‘the pleaser’ by listening to her own voice for the first time in her life instead of projecting other’s opinions onto her decisions. Her intuition has rewarded her by becoming LOUD and CLEAR. How freaking great is that?!
  1. I can apologize to my children and own up to what I did wrong. That is so huge and has changed everything. I would have killed to enjoy that kind of empathy, but clearly I got what I needed. It lead me here to this beautiful life. The work I have done took time. Luckily, I did it before every last bird had left the nest. (All thanks to Byron Katie and her foot soldier Melanie).

  1. I have stopped being critical of my appearance. I remember when I had just finished undergrad and hitched a ride up from Santa Barbara to Sebastopol where my mother lived. I had plans to leave the country and needed to stow some things at her place. When I hoisted a box out of my friend’s trunk, a graduation photo fluttered to the pavement. My mother picked it up and considered it. She complimented me. I’m too embarrassed to repeat her words. Until then, I didn’t know she thought I was pretty and I certainly didn’t feel it. I only started to really see myself when I began to override that critical voice who picked me apart so quietly and systematically. That voice is now silent because I made the sweet voice MUCH louder.
  1. I am an equal in my home and marriage. From the moment I stepped into Mark’s professionally decorated Coral Gables home as a law student with garage sale couches back at my apartment, I felt like a charity case and considered avoiding him all together. I didn’t want to merge my identity with someone already established. I didn’t want to disappear myself. All these years later, I finally realized that his accomplishments don’t make him better than me. He’s lucky to have found ME too. I have learned that if I feel resentful, it is about an unmet need of my own, not about him. Those thoughts don’t serve me. I question them and let them go. I am no longer the source of my own misery and I don’t give other people that role in my life either. I stand guard at the gate of my mind. Plus, I have one more degree than Mark, so. 😉
  1. I have found my true voice and share it with the world. Thank you. I love you, dear reader.
  1. I have stopped emotional eating and feel so much better. The insatiable need for something outside myself drove my stress-snacking at night. Feeding my soul satisfied my hunger for brownies. Who knew?
  1. I no longer feel the need to be sure about everything. I change my mind. I realize there is no such thing as knowing something for sure. We have our theories, but for the first time ever, I hold my beliefs lightly. (Therapy taught me that.) I have so much to learn and I am here for it.

Honestly, the list is endless. These are just my top ten. Thanks for coming to my celebration. I look forward to 52 more years of growth and expansion and you are invited.

When you take stock of how far you’ve come, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.

Love, Elizabeth

WRITING PROMPT: how do you feel about getting older? What are the gifts it has brought you? Thanks for showing up to my birthday story and happy birthday to YOU the next time around!

 

*Let me preface this piece with an acknowledgment that even having this discussion is a tremendous privilege during these insane times. I could say that about every piece I’ve written in this space over the last year, I suppose. It just dawned on me to bring it up because this is so focused on ME today and I feel self-conscious about how lucky I am to even give attention to this topic.

**My friend Gabi reminded me of this Wayne Dyer quote this week, thanks mama!

Do you enjoy this Friday series? Know of someone else who might too? Consider this your friend’s personal invitation and send it on over! And if you don’t subscribe, you are invited to join me at elizabethheise.com. Come check me out on Insta @elizabethheise1 and Twitter @heiseelizabeth1.  Thanks so much for being here and sharing this great space with me.

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Stories

A Flash Of Anguish

 

When my first child was born, the days stretched out before us, interrupted only by nap time. Fast forward to the ramp up for college and every moment was consumed by preparations: the studying, the volunteering, the stressing. It all culminated in one momentous drop off. But what came afterwards was a little mysterious. I mean, I’ve had people I care about disappear from my everyday life, but zero of them left under happy circumstances. And none of them were my own kid.

To me, summer camp didn’t serve as a useful simulation, although I hear it does prepare the kids. We parents are all so different that the ‘first kid to leave for college’ experience doesn’t have the same impact across the board, but I’ve been open to pointers.

Usually, I turn to books and experts when I find myself in new territory. Whole forests have been flattened to supply the pages of parenting books. So what did I find for this stage? In the words of my nana, bupkis. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but the only two books on this topic were one from 1999 that reviewers criticized as outdated. The other was Christian faith-based which is fine but if I hadn’t asked myself what Jesus would do about my problems until now, I wasn’t about to start.*

So, I went old school and relied on the advice of smart friends.

 

“Whatever you do, don’t go in her room when you get home. Trust me on this.” -Ingrid

I noticed her door ajar from down the hall and asked her dad about it. I know her brothers didn’t open it because they’d been threatened with bodily harm.

“I wanted to see her room,” he said.

“She told me she wants the door closed.” She did say that, but I didn’t walk backwards down the hall and reach behind me for the handle to close it necessarily for her. (This photo was taken years ago btw.)

“It will hit you in unexpected moments. Like when you find yourself ordering one pound of turkey breast instead of two, because she’s not there to eat half.” -Odette

I didn’t remember the grocery store thing until I stood in front of a display of pickles, Jane’s latest obsession. A sob rose in my chest. The muffled effect of my mask and the covid disguise provided good cover. I let it out and it passed. I have never experienced such intense moments of sadness only to have them depart in the next minute. Like I could totally wail like a baby and then just stop. It’s truly bizarre.

After the flash of anguish I smiled, reflecting on the pediatrician’s advice to use more salt after she’d had a bout of fainting. He added that she shouldn’t skip meals and recommended an earlier bedtime. From then on at dinner, she reached for the salt before she’d even tasted her food. “Doctor’s orders,” she’d chirp, with no acknowledgment that this was the one piece of Dr. Floyd’s advice she ever followed.

“When I set the table and it’s only the three of us—that’s when I miss her.” -Rosana

 

Our set up is weird now because we have a narrow, six person table. When it was our full family of five, the vacancy had provided a spot for guests or a place for serving dishes. We now have a sitcom arrangement so the studio audience can enjoy an unobstructed view. I am going to suggest we do a four top in the center. This configuration bums me out. We need to make eye contact with each other for Pete’s sake, especially now that one of us won’t be showing up.

I wondered what other intel I could gather by word of mouth that would help with this experience. Another wise friend had recommended the parents’ Facebook group for my daughter’s university. I thought about that, but I didn’t do it. I tend to feel like an outsider around that level of parent involvement.

 

Most of the time, I have wondered if I’ve provided my daughter enough support while she grew up. Due to how I was raised, I bucked the trend of over-involvement. At the age of ten, I walked a good ways to the city bus to get to school each day. At dismissal, I roamed through downtown which worked out fine, minus the time my six grade friends and I were flashed by a guy in a trench coat. Not great, but also a reality for women and girls no matter where you are.  I worked food service jobs throughout high school, paying for most of what I needed myself. At seventeen, I became financially independent, paid my way through college, grad and law school, taking out the minimum student loans. Sometimes I held down multiple jobs while I studied. On occasion, this caused paralyzing stress which I would never wish on anyone. I think the angst was more a function of missing the emotional support than the financial, however. That aside, I became a woman who had proof she could handle anything.

 

During her childhood, I felt like I had to manufacture experiences to foster independence. Given the hovery state of modern parenting, it’s more the norm to infantilize our kids. Jane reported that many of her college-bound friends don’t know how to gas up their own cars, that the parents do it for them. I wanted her to gain competence handling her own problems. I sent her on elementary school trips I didn’t chaperone to deal with her nut allergies herself, with an Epipen. It was a little scary but necessary. She had to be vigilant about what she ate and the only way to do that was to understand it is her responsibility alone. Despite my attempts, well-meaning parents stepped in and informed restaurant staff for her, robbing her of the chance to take charge. Of course I am grateful for any kindness shown to my child, but still. Everything takes practice. As a teen, she has traveled domestically and internationally on her own, even to pistachio and cashew-loving Israel. I know she understands that her own choices, not mine, dictate her health and safety. And she is prepared for any contingency.

I recall my former therapist mentioning how many kids of clients came for a session during college when they should have been away at school.

“They are depressed because they can’t manage life on their own. The parents have been handling everything and once they were left in charge, the life skills weren’t there. They have no agency. They are like feral cats, not responsible to anyone or even to themselves.”

My kids’ piano teacher said the same thing. He was having to make room in his schedule for students who’d left for their first year of college and returned home after a few months.

Since my kid decided to go to school 2,376 miles away, I know she feels ready for everyday life without her family. I only hope I have shown her the love she needed as well as the opportunities to grow.

In the week before she left, I completely abandoned my “do it yourself” attitude. A little rash you say? Let me text my dermatologist friend and ask her to squeeze you in RIGHT NOW so my precious baby girl doesn’t have to make her own appointment or wait even one day. You don’t love your highlights? How about I pull some strings with a master colorist to create the blond halo of your dreams.Want to binge watch a show even though I have a sh!t ton of work to do? Sure! Anything for you, kiddo. All the things I’d usually say, do it yourself, pay for it yourself, handle it yourself, I did it.

I have to say, it was a delight to finally be that parent!!! I got to dote on my girl ’til my heart’s content. Maybe this is what grand parenting will be like. (Not that I intend to find out for MANY YEARS.) You just shower them with everything, caring not one whit about what they are learning of the world. It’s the best.

So, now I understand that sometimes parents do all the things because THEY LOVE THEIR KIDS SO MUCH. I finally have some empathy around that. I’m sorry I judged you, hoverers. I was one of you for like two weeks. It was really fun but now I have two boys I gotta put through the school of hard knocks. It will be a different kind of challenge now that I’ve learned so much from my first guinea pig. (Sorry Jane, along with all the attention you get as the first kid comes the unenviable task of breaking in rookies.)

When you finally let go of all the parenting angst and self-judgment for not doing right by your kid and just love them up before they fly the coop, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.

Love,

Elizabeth