the blame game

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One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”  Sophocles

Don’t blame love.

Love didn’t make you cry, loss did. Being ripped apart from something that meant a lot to you without your consent. Realizing that the things you wanted for the future will not come to pass, even the things you didn’t realize you wanted. The acceptance of living without. That’s what made you cry.

Love didn’t cut you to the bone, cruelty did. Harsh words from someone you held in high regard. The act of dropping you and moving on as if you meant nothing to them. The casual manner in which they continue, pretending that they didn’t just rip through your life like a hurricane. That’s what hurt you to the core.

Love didn’t make you second-guess yourself, the belief that you’re not good enough did. The crazy thought that because you weren’t appreciated in one instance you won’t be in any other. The notion that you can’t possibly measure up to expectation. That’s what stole your confidence.

Love didn’t make you gain weight, or lose weight, or cut your hair or binge-drink, uncertainty did. The feeling that your whole world was rocked because something you thought was so sure turned out to be anything but. The idea that the foundation you stood on is capable of crumbling. That’s what put you in a spiral.

Love didn’t let you down. Love didn’t punch you in the stomach. Love didn’t hurt you, or betray you.

Love made you laugh. It made you feel invincible and safe. It made you feel at home. It lifted you up.

Love is all of the best parts of your life. It’s family and friends and the reassurance that someone else out there knows what you’re going through. It’s inside jokes and glasses of wine and funny voicemails and stupid text messages.

If you never loved anything, you might never truly feel the pain of loss. But don’t blame love for your heartbreak- whether it came by way of breakup, death, rejection or fate. Love didn’t hurt you on purpose. Someone or something may have, but it wasn’t love.

When you give up on love you give up on life. You give up the possibility of everything that is worth having, feeling and doing.

So- love without regret or shame. Realize that when your world is turned upside-down, it’s never love’s fault. When you’re happy, recognize all of the love in your life.

Know that whatever else happens, love is what makes it all worth it.

how to lose them

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“I felt wise and cynical as all hell.” -Sylvia Plath

This is how you lose them:

The same way you fall in love: not all at once, but piece by piece.

You don’t lose him the day you break up, but in the days and weeks before. You don’t lose her with what you’ve done, but with what you haven’t.

You lose her when you make a casual remark that cuts her down and you don’t notice in the slightest. You lose him when you start to assume he’ll always be there. When you stop telling her about the little things in your day that make you happy, angry, sad.

You lose him when you start to send those ‘good morning’ texts less and less. You lose her when you stop calling her by that nickname you came up with two years ago.

Suddenly, you’re taking her for granted. You’re showing him slowly but surely, through cancelled plans and unanswered messages, that he’s no longer the priority.

One day you’re listening to the radio and a heartbreak song hits a little too close to home. You finally understand the lyric that never really made sense before. You’re losing her.

One day you’re with him and you realize that he’s no longer excited to be talking to and spending time with you. Another piece falls away.

You’ve lost her when things start to seem forced, when she becomes an obligation. You’ve lost him when you realize you’re sleeping in the same bed but further apart than ever.

You lose her when you fail to tell her what you want, what you need. Where you want to be. You lose him when you stop asking.

You lose them when you don’t try any more, because every relationship, every friendship requires some effort, some maintenance. You lose them when you don’t care enough to make them feel wanted.

Yes, you lose them the exact same way you fell in love with them- you do it day by day, week by week, until you wake up and suddenly wonder when it all started and how you got here.

This is how you keep them:

You say “I love you” every day, and mean it.

forgive (don’t forget)

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“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
–Mark Twain

 
How do you forgive someone who has hurt you so badly that the mere sight of them actually causes you physical pain?

People hurt each other every day, but for some reason every time we get hurt it stings just as much as that first time. Sometimes it stings worse than the first time. Sometimes the word “sting” comes nowhere close to doing the feeling justice. So when it comes time to forgive the people who hurt you and move forward with your life, where do you even begin?

In my experience the first step is always forgiving yourself for letting them hurt you. I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Maybe that’s true, but I don’t know if that same idea applies to love and friendship. Sometimes your feelings don’t listen to your better judgment and you let people in without realizing it. Before you know it, your heart is in pieces and you’re pretty sure you didn’t consent to that. Forgive yourself anyway.

Remember all of the people who are still by your side, the ones that never wavered. Those are the people who deserve your time and energy, and that’s where you should direct your attention now. Those who hurt you don’t deserve your tears or your thoughts, your regrets and your sleepless nights. Be sad if you have to, and then surround yourself with the people who deserve your attention.

Go back to your life, to the things that make you really happy. Find joy in the little moments that make up your day. Take every excuse to smile, every excuse to laugh. Say yes more often than you say no. Get up and get out. Soon enough, those happy moments will turn into happy days, and happy weeks and happy months. Give yourself permission to be happy.

 Finally, realize that holding on to pain and anger will hurt you much more than they hurt anyone else. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. Hating the people that hurt you takes just as much time and energy as loving them. Letting go of as much as possible, of a new little piece of pain every day, is the only way to heal. It’s the only way to forgive the people that have hurt you, and the only way to deprive them from ruling your life from afar. Let go, and keep the past from controlling your future.

 Every time we get hurt, the process of healing is the same. And so is the final conclusion, the lesson we learn time and time again: life is too short to spend it with the people who treat you badly.

So forgive. Don’t forget, because then you won’t have learned anything, and your pain will have been in vain. But as difficult as it is, as much as it hurts- forgive the people who have wronged you, especially the ones who don’t deserve it. Because they’re the people that need it the most.

careful.

Be careful with your words, my dear
Be careful with your sighs
Be careful with confessions,
With your omissions and your lies

Be conscious of your promises
Your encouragements and   s m i l e s,
Be wary of the kindness
That is hurting all the while

Take caution with your lips, my dear
Your truths are full of dust
From the disuse of a month, a year-
And I’m all out of t.r.u.s.t.

Your foolish words are empty, dear
You know this to be true
And if you do not take more care
They’ll all catch on to you

patience is (not) my virtue

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“And sure enough even waiting will end… if you can just wait long enough.” –William Faulkner

They say good things come to those who wait. Too bad I’ve never been a patient person. Exhibit A: I was born 5 weeks early. (Life sounded fun, okay?)

All my life I’ve heard it: Slow down, hang on. Wait a second. Let’s save that for tomorrow. Maybe next time.

Being stuck in traffic by myself makes me completely crazy. Long lines are torture. Slow walkers are my pet peeve. The world is big, there’s a lot to see, and technology has made instant gratification that much more accessible.

Long story short, patience has never been my virtue. The thing is, it’s going to have to become one of my virtues, and quickly.

My due date is in four days, and my daughter does not seem to share my sense of urgency. She’s still hanging out and kicking me in the lungs where I would’ve been wearing those onesies weeks ago. (She already has a nicer wardrobe than me, you would think she’d want to hurry up and wear it. People really like buying baby clothes, by the way.)

Every day she has yet to arrive is a new lesson- in patience, in humility, in love- and I’m assuming that will only continue, most likely for the rest of my life.

I can only hope that patience skips a generation and that I by some miracle acquire some more along the way.

I keep reminding myself to stop wishing the time away. To enjoy what’s right in front of me, every single second of every single day. I tell myself things happen when they’re meant to.

Tomorrow, someone else will be here and someone else might be gone. Tomorrow could be your big break or your rock bottom. Tomorrow could be a first or a last. All there really is, is today.

I should’ve learned this lesson by now, considering all of the goodbyes I’ve had to say and all of the unexpected bits of life that have fallen into my lap. It surprises me that I have to keep learning it, yet here we are. (Did I mention I’m also stubborn?)

“All we have is today” should be my new mantra. I can’t tell if that sounds morbid or hopeful. Maybe it’s a little of both, but I think it is, at the very least, true.

All I have is today, so here goes my attempt to slow down a tad, to be a little more patient and a little more appreciative of the quiet moments, and of the waiting game. There’s nothing wrong with excitement, anticipation, and spontaneity; but there’s a lot wrong with neglecting to enjoy right now.

As our friend Ferris taught us, life moves pretty fast (I never thought I’d be a mom at 23). I’ve got to stop and look around, because I don’t intend on missing anything.

I do believe that good things come to those who wait. Exhibit A: I’ve been waiting for this little lady, and she’s going to be extraordinary.

choosing change

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“Be in love with your life. Every minute of it.” – Jack Kerouac

What do you do when your whole life is about to change from everything comfortable and familiar to everything you never expected?

Sometimes you have the luxury of foresight; the second you stepped onto a school campus, you knew graduation was the inevitable end to your time at that place. Sometimes, you don’t have any warning and life changes more quickly and quite differently than you ever would have thought.

Either way, planned or by surprise, changes can be exciting or scary, positive or negative, simple or complicated. In most cases, all of the above.

The critical question is this- what do you do when nothing will ever be the way it was again?

Ultimately, there are two kinds of people – and two ways to answer the question.

There are those who are paralyzed by change and those who are propelled by it. There are those who embrace their future and those who cling to their useless plans of what they thought the future would hold.

There are those who continue to write the story of their own life, and those who obsess pointlessly about the typos and mistakes they made along the way.

Some people might be hardwired to respond to change in certain ways, but at the end of the day we each choose which of these categories we fall into.

If everything in our lives is predetermined, I guess that’s an easy way to blame fate for our problems. Maybe some things are meant to happen to us.

But I have to believe that, even if that’s true, we can choose how we will respond to what life throws at us.

We can choose whether to meet the challenges head on or to curl up and let them wash over us.

We can choose to respond with love and an embrace of life’s insanity or to respond with defeat, exhaustion and fear.

We can choose to blame the stars and the fates for our difficulties or we can laugh and learn from our mistakes and our past to make them a meaningful part of who we are.

When your whole life’s about to change, there’s only one course of action that makes sense-

Be grateful for where you’ve been, and never forget the things you’ve learned and the people you’ve met on your journey to the tipping point. Even the ones who hurt you played a role in getting you here.

Remember that the best laid plans are wiped clean in an instant for tons of people every day, and that you are not composed solely of your mistakes.

Take courage in the fact that although you can’t control what happens TO you, you control what you’ll do about it.

With a deep breath and the acceptance that you will never truly know where your life will be tomorrow, choose to embrace whatever life brings your way with conviction.

Deny yourself neither happiness nor sorrow, love nor loss.

Most importantly, be in love with your life. Every minute of it.

go ahead- break their heart

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“The heart was made to be broken.” -Oscar Wilde

That guy from your art class. The girl who comes in every day for her coffee order. Go ahead.
The guy you met yesterday. That girl you’ve known your whole life. Go ahead.

Go ahead- start the conversation. Compliment their shirt, tell them their hair looks nice. Commiserate about the morning commute. Laugh.

Go ahead- make plans. See a movie, get dinner, have coffee, hang out. Get to really know each other. Be surprised by the things you both like, and don’t. Look forward to them. Have fun. Be happy.

Go ahead- fall harder than you intended. Be afraid, but do it anyway. Become incredibly and irrevocably important to each other. Share things you don’t share with many (or any) other people. Connect. Understand. Grow.

Go ahead- get comfortable. Memorize their pizza order and their favorite beer. Get addicted to their tv shows. Steal their Netflix password. Become genuine friends with their friends and learn to love those people as much as they do. Quit censoring yourself around them. Expect them there for the important and unimportant stuff.

Go ahead- fight. Get (a little) jealous when you’re supposed to. Be upset when they’re not paying attention or giving back. Call them out on their bullshit. Let them do the same for yours. Learn when to let it slide, and when you shouldn’t. And when you can’t.

Go ahead- try. Make the effort to keep it together, with everything you have. Do nice things for each other, and check yourself when you’re getting overly annoyed at the small stuff. Revisit the early times and the old jokes, the things that bonded you together. Take a deep breath.

Go ahead- admit it isn’t working. Talk it over with your friends, but make sure you make the decision yourself. Sit on it for a few days. Really think about what it means. Man/woman up, and choose.

Go ahead- break their heart. Recognize that if you’re in it for any reason other than love, you’re not doing them any favors. Loyalty, pity, fear of loss, jealousy- understand that these are not reasons to stay with them. Be honest. Don’t tell them you can still be friends if you can’t (hint: you probably can’t). Hold them when they cry, and leave when you have to.

Go ahead- miss them. Miss them even though you don’t think you have a right to. Don’t get mad when you see that they’re okay- you knew they would be eventually. Know that letting them go was the best thing you could have done for them and that someday, when they find out what you two were lacking, they’ll know it too.

Go ahead- try again. Learn from the last one. Don’t forget a single feeling, but don’t be too afraid when you feel it all again. Don’t feel guilty if it’s been three years, or three months, and don’t let that be the thing that stops you. If it seems worth it, give it a shot.

Go ahead. Life is for living- if you do it right, it’s gonna hurt. It’ll surprise you and knock you on your ass and make you indescribably happy and miserable. And if you do it right, it’ll be worth it.

So go ahead- text her. Screw that, give her a call. Tell him he’s funny. Agree to a date, and give it a whirl. You might end up never seeing her again. You might end up having to break his heart. But you might not.

Go ahead.

dear mary: an open letter to my college-bound little sister

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Dear Marybear,

There are a few reasons being four years apart in age hasn’t always been fun- we never got to be in high school together and sometimes we’ve been on completely different pages. But now you get to (hopefully) benefit from the fact that we’re both graduating this year- besides the money we’ll save by combining all of our Class of 2014 paraphernalia.

Not that you need my advice, but maybe if you remember a few of the things I learned in college, going away in the fall will be a little easier. Here it goes.

I know people almost always make you roll your eyes, but give them a chance, Mar. You’re about to meet some of the best friends you will ever have. You’re also about to encounter some of the dumbest people you’ve ever met, but I know you’ll have a golden response to everything they throw at you.

I know new things are scary, but find the thing you love and do it with all you have. Join something that makes you smile. You know the newspaper changed everything about my college experience, and I want you to find the thing that brings that much joy and pride into your life, too.

I know it’s hard to put your foot down, but be with the people that make you happy. Sometimes the friends you meet the first day stick with you, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes some of the most important people you know won’t surface until junior and senior year. But your time is too short to spend it with people who make you feel any kind of bad about yourself.

I know you hate getting out of bed, but go to class as much as you can. You’re like me, I think, in that it hurts your pride a little too much to do poorly. You’re the smartest person I know, but trust me when I say going to class will make your life a lot easier.

I know that boys are fun and so are boyfriends, but be careful with your heart, cutie. I can tell you with conviction that it’s better to have loved and lost, but the losing can be hard. You’re too young to be anything but happy in your relationships. Just remember you deserve the best, and accept nothing less.

I know that alcohol is fun too, but trust me on this- if you think you’ve had enough, you have. Don’t let anyone else convince you to do anything you don’t want to. Real friends want you to have fun and be safe, and you have to be able to trust each other. Take lots of pictures, but don’t put them all on Facebook. And remind me to teach you about privacy settings.

There are going to be times you make mistakes and miss home and want to cry but feel awkward about it because there’s really nowhere to be alone in your dorm. You’ll want to quit because you have too much homework and a hangover and you miss the cat and mom and dad. But there are also going to be times you try new things and meet new people and get really excited about the opportunities ahead of you. You’ll want to take on the challenges and go to the parties and wish that college could continue just a little (or a lot) longer.

Most of all, remember that you’re smart, you’re beautiful, and you are unimaginably loved. Remember that I am always only a phone call away- and that whatever “it” is,  I’ve been there and done that, and you are never alone. I’m so proud of you, Mary.

Good luck. Have fun. Be safe.

all the love I have,

your big sister. xoxo