The Art of Letting Go

Nothing will sabotage the present more than a preconceived notion of what your future should look like.

This is exactly what torpedoed my last relationship. He was still holding onto the idea of the future he’d created in his mind with his most recent ex wife. This revolved around the big house out in the middle of nowhere that was purchased in order to create a comfortable life for 5. It didn’t hit him until after he began the process of selling and moving that he was still living in the past. The wife left, one kid had been at an out-of-state school for a few years, one graduated high school this year, so he was left with 2 people, a lot of space, a lot of house, and a lot of memories.

Attempting not to make the same mistakes again, he held himself back from any sort of emotional connection or growth. I kept going as if everything was normal until I couldn’t.

Mistakes aren’t all bad if we can learn from them, and luckily, I was in the position to learn from his as well as my own. It was as if a light switched on in my brain. Just like that, I decided to let go of any and all preconceived notions I had about my future and just started LIVING. Sure I’ve led quite an interesting and exciting life thus far, but there were a few ideals in my subconscious that I still clung to. I’d wanted kids. I’d wanted to be married. And even though I watched a lot of my friends suffer through a failed marriage or 3, I still found myself seeking out the big endgame, sometimes in spite of where the relationship should have gone. Too many times I used the power of sheer will to make things work long after they should have ended. I saw things in people that simply weren’t there. And this led to mistake after mistake.

The square peg will never fit the round hole.

I never knew what it truly felt like to JUST LET GO. And now, there are still some times that I have to quiet the inner voice that reminds me of what I thought my own life would look like when I got to this point. But they are fewer and farther between.

A few weeks passed and I started talking to a guy I’d met who lived 3-hours away. Although the sparks flew when we met, we attempted to ignore them because of the distance.

Now he’s my boyfriend. And I couldn’t be happier. We’ve made vacation plans through September, and that’s the only future I see. No preconceived notions. Just fun. Every 3 or 4 days, he drives here to see me… because we can’t stay away from each other any longer than that. It’s a feeling I’ve missed. When you’re no longer forcing or trying to control things, the best things can happen. They just need the space to do so.

We’re taking my dog to the beach in August because he’s never seen the waves and sand. I honestly just wanted to see his reaction, but I know that whatever happens, I’ll love every minute.

It’s a great place to be… in the moment. And it’s something that has always seemed so simple, yet has always eluded me.

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I can tell you one thing… I’m going to enjoy every moment that I’m given. That’s a promise.

Our first weekend together. He didn’t flinch when I said “Let’s do mud masks!”
Even my dog loves him
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Your Best Self

Recently I started working out with a personal trainer. I first met him over 10 years ago when I made the decision to learn a little something about fitness. Working out with him has been the only thing that has really worked for me, so after 10 years of denial, I’m back in the gym building muscle again.

In the interim, I tried every “quick fix” I could get my hands on. From Herbalife to Plexus to It Works! I tried it all. I was a Lululemon-wearing, green juice-guzzling Barre snob for a little longer than I should have been. I even went to a “weight loss doctor” who discovered that I was hypothyroid. After that she did nothing more than require bi-weekly visits that consisted of a tiny bit of small talk, a weigh-in, and a shot in my butt that was supposed to boost my metabolism. I left each visit $180 poorer with a pocket full of pills that made me hungry, irritable, and anxious. And then I quit.

I had all the excuses: No time, no money… blah, blah, blah. But when I compared all the time, effort and money I’d wasted possibly making myself even more unhealthy, there was no contest. Sure, personal trainers are expensive, but so is everything else. And nothing can equal the satisfaction of accomplishing goals and breaking through barriers.

Before I met Wade I’d never set foot in a gym. As a girl who had grown up never having to worry about her weight, I knew nothing about diet and even less about exercise. Instead of sports, I chose art and music. I had no active hobbies. My mother didn’t cook, so I learned how to survive on fast food and junk food. And it caught up to me. It took its sweet time about it, but it finally did.

When you need something fixed, you consult an expert. Wade has always been that for me. He knows I lack motivation and discipline, so he works to counteract that. He prevents me from sabotaging my progress. He keeps me out of my own way.

As you may have guessed, I’ve decided to move this whole “Year of Yes” thing in an even more positive direction. I’m definitely not missing any opportunities, but I’ve also decided to incorporate being my “best self” as well. I’m not a fan of stagnation or negativity, so these concepts have been an ongoing theme.

Undelivered

Years ago Alanis Morissette penned a song called “Unsent.” It was a musical nod to a handful of her ex-boyfriends, based on the premise that if she could say anything she wanted to them, what would it be? I related to it then just as much as I relate to it now.

When a relationship ends, no one ever really gets the last word… and why would they want to? But sometimes, after the smoke has cleared and the ashes have settled you’re left with a few things you’d like to say, but never will.

For instance, I saw that fool who broke things off by sending me a photo of the belongings I’d left behind last night. I was with my best friend and the guy I’m seeing at a concert. He was across the room. I’m sure if he saw me, he probably beat feet out of there as fast as his legs could carry him.

If I could say anything to him, it would probably go something like this:

You didn’t break me.

Despite your best efforts to the contrary, I’m fine… great in fact.

I did see you last night at the Dorothy concert. You were alone without a drink in your hand. I was most surprised by the latter.

I may never know the real reason behind what happened, but each day I care less and less. Just as you threw me away, you too will soon be erased from my memory and none of this will matter.

But most of all I’m grateful that you ended things the way you did. It was awful and you were a complete dick, but I’m glad I got to see it earlier rather than later. You did me a favor. If you hadn’t, I might still be there… fooling myself.

I hope you do resolve whatever internal struggle caused you to blindside me that day, not because I have any interest in what happens to you, but because everyone deserves to be happy.

I’ve written my fair share of letters to people who didn’t appreciate them. At the time, I thought all those things needed to be said. I was probably dead wrong about that, but I did it anyway.

I once wrote a poem and left it on a guy’s car in an effort to woo him back after he broke up with me. I have no idea what happened to that guy… or the poem for that matter. At the time I thought I was a GENIUS!

I’ve also had poems written for me. I can remember this one stanza verbatim:

You’re beautiful, you’re funny.
You make every day bright and sunny.

It was terrible. And I’m pretty sure I made fun of it with my friends. I was kind of an asshole. Of course, this didn’t make his writing any less terrible.

Skylar Grey wrote a song called “Words.” It’s an open letter to her grandfather who passed away before she could say goodbye. If you get the chance, give it a listen. It’s one of the most beautifully-written songs I’ve ever heard.

I’m fortunate to still have both parents, but this song makes me think of a few things I want to tell them before it’s too late.

Mom & Dad,

Words cannot express how much I love you and how grateful I am to be loved by you. You put everything you were into raising me and I need you to know that your efforts have never gone unnoticed.

I’m your child… equal parts of both. I got it all, the good, the bad… everything. You taught me to be honest and fair… the difference between right and wrong… I inherited your even temperament and charisma. You gave me the courage to start over time and time again. You were always there to pick me up whenever I fell and most of all, you taught me how to love because you provided an environment where there was so much of it.

I know I’ve leaned on you more than I probably should, but one day you’ll see that I can take care of myself as well as you’ve taken care of me. As scary as it is, I’m finally growing up.

Thank you Mom, for marrying such a good man. He’s raised the bar so high that I’m hard-pressed to find anyone who can compare.

And Mom, you lived vicariously through me. You always wanted me to have the best of everything, even it required sacrifice. You wanted me to have everything you didn’t. Your love was selfless and unconditional. I’ve learned a lot from you.

We’ve surprised each other, disappointed each other, laughed with each other and were always there for each other. But most of all, I just wanted to make you proud.

Tomorrow is never guaranteed. I’m grateful for each day I get to have you in my life, even if I don’t always show it. I get carried away with the daily minutia and don’t tell you these things enough. We all do. That’s why I wanted to take this moment to thank you. I hope you’re as proud of the person I’ve become as I am to be your daughter.

I love you,

Ann

525,600 Minutes

A lot can happen in a year. It’s funny to think that I started off the year recovering from a relationship that made me feel like a prisoner. I took the necessary time to put it behind me, then made 2017 my Year Of Yes. I spent most of my time doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. I went to a TON of concerts. I hired a contractor to transform my house into a place I could thrive in, instead of the place where I keep all my stuff. I spent time with so many friends, made new ones and caught up with old ones.

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I opened myself up to the thought of another actual romantic relationship, which was a terrible idea, but I’m only wiser as a result. I fielded crazy texts from crazy boys, but they were well outnumbered by the pleasant interactions. I graduated from the Citizen’s Police Academy. I said “YES” to a musical project that my guitarist from Cherry (a band I formed in 2008 that had a successful 4.5 year run before I went to esthetician school) put together for the purpose of playing a HUGE venue with Biz Markie the day after Thanksgiving. Now we’re playing again and have someone opening FOR US! For our second show ever, this is monumental. Especially since our opening act is the talented Chris Hendricks, currently of Castle Wild.

Sure, this year had a lot of ups and downs. Without them what would life be?

If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t have hired a matchmaker. When it comes down to it, no one knows you as well as you do. Expecting someone to be able to find a match for you based only on information you provide is illogical. We all put our “best selves” out there when we are trying to get selected for anything in life. The guys my matchmaker selected had done just that. She had found them in a database based on my criteria. They were the best in the bunch in her opinion. (Of course, it’s also possible that they were the only guys within a 50-mile radius of me as well.)

I could have done the same thing myself. There are plenty of apps bursting with people looking for “Mrs. Right,” but most are looking for enough “Miss Right Nows” to fill the gaps in their schedule. It takes time and effort to actually get to know someone. Eventually, they will show you everything. It’s just a matter of whether or not you choose to stick around for the whole show. Sometimes you see enough in the previews to know that the movie will be a complete flop.

“Show me your crazy, so I can avoid it”
– Me

I’m also learning a lot about the home renovation process. (I painted my cabinets TWICE before I saw that Lowe’s carries paint specifically for cabinet refinishing… Duh) I hired and fired some excellent (albeit overpriced) lawn people. I also purchased a lawnmower. (It’s still in the box because my shed is full of contractor tools) The whole process has made me feel more in control of my surroundings, even though there were certainly parts of the process that no one seemed to have control over. At least I’m ending the year on my own terms with a clear idea of how I want this project to be completed. Yes, it’s been ongoing since May. No, I haven’t killed anyone yet, but I’ve gotten more than a handful of people fired.

I choose to end this year on a high note. Looking back, was 2017 everything I wanted it to be? Yes, except for a few minor hiccups, it absolutely was. I’m a little older, a LOT wiser, and perhaps a little worse for the wear… but I made some amazing memories with the people I care most about in this world. That part, I’m going to keep. And to be honest, I think I’ll continue this “Year of Yes” thing (with discretion) right through 2018 as well. I did, in fact, get a late start this year after all.

Vegas Love Story

I was only home a few days when news of the recent tragedy in Las Vegas broke. Amid the many rumors, it was reported that the music festival I attended was considered as a previous target. This made my blood run cold. The stage that I called home for 2 straight days was his intended target. I can’t even imagine.

The Life Is Beautiful festival became a special part of my life in 2015, when I attended by myself. The lineup was INSANE!

Life-is-Beautiful-Festival-2015-Lineup

One night when I was checking the tour schedule for Twenty-One Pilots, I ended up on the Life Is Beautiful website. Within a few days, I’d spoken to a friend who lives there and purchased airfare/hotel for myself. He worked at one of the casinos on the strip and told me he’d be able to get a handful of tickets.

Two days before my trip, he became unreachable. When I arrived in Las Vegas, there was no one to greet me. Luckily, another friend saw my Facebook post and just happened to be in Vegas attending a business convention. He was kind enough to pick me up and take me to dinner while I began to sort things out. Long story short, I was able to hang out with him during non-festival hours and met some concertgoers from Utah who hung out with me a bit during the festival. The friend I’d originally planned to see never connected with me.

I’d come down with a cold the day before I left, which only got worse as the festival went on. I’m still mad at myself for missing most of the bands I came to see, but that couldn’t be helped. I did, however, get to ride the zip-line which encompasses most of Freemont Street.

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We’re such tourists. I like this photo because you can’t tell I’m deathly ill. I must have taken SO MUCH COLD MEDICINE that weekend. And in my excited state when I was purchasing airline tickets, I didn’t realize that my departure date and time would cut the festival short. Thankfully, I had the chance to return 2 years later.
I did, however, get to see X-Ambassadors, Awolnation, Lindsey Stirling, Weezer, and Big Data. I was also there when The Killers made a surprise appearance as part of Brandon Flowers’ solo set. I saw Rosario Dawson’s talk from the second row (I love her) and stumbled right into the Duran Duran Q & A by accident when I was attempting to leave, take medicine and get some sleep.

By the last day of the concert, my Utah friends were nowhere to be found. I ran into one of them when I was leaving who said they’d all caught a cold. Ooops… I never told her that I was the culprit.

This year, I made my friend Bill go with me. This was the lineup.

LIB-Lineup-2017

Okay, you’re right, he was pretty stoked to go. And he’s an ex-military GIANT, so I felt the safest I’ve ever been.

The night we arrived we met and befriended Zowie Bowie, apparently the best cover band in Las Vegas. I inadvertently picked up the keyboard player, who was a total sweetheart. It’s nice to talk to someone who has so much in common with you when you’re so far from home.

The next 2 days were spent sequestered at the front of the main stage. (At least for me they were. Poor Bill had to take breaks from all of that standing and being pushed up against by thousands of our closest millennial friends.)

After I got to see Muse from the front row (which was the pinnacle of my concert journey), I decided it was time to relinquish my spot. The third day Bill & I roamed around trying to do everything we’d missed the 2 days before. By about 9:30pm, I’d learned that perhaps 3 days is a little much. I passed out well before MGMT and The Gorillaz made it to the stage.

But my point…

My love affair with Vegas began ironically when I was abandoned by my friend who lives there. I was welcomed by every concertgoer I met with open arms. Everywhere I went, I befriended someone new. I never met a stranger.

I remember standing in the middle of the crowd, watching Awolnation and thinking how amazing it all was. There was no place on earth I would rather have been at that moment. Everyone around me was smiling and enjoying the music… just like me. They loved the band… just like me. The whole atmosphere was so positive and peaceful. It was my musical Utopia.

When I went back, 2 years later, it was exactly the same. Everyone was amazing. Total strangers would make a point to compliment me and each other. We were all connected by the same thread… the music.

And it was beautiful.

I’ve attached my favorite images from the experience. Enjoy!

Dream A Little Dream

I had a nightmare last night. Maybe it was just a bad dream, but unlike most of my dreams, I actually remembered this one and woke up believing it was real.

First I have to give you a little backstory…

A long time ago in the MySpace days, I was asked to do restaurant reviews for a local publication. At the time, I had just finished reading The Between Boyfriends Book by former SATC writer Cindy Chupack and had pitched an idea to the editor of the Dating & Love section. In the last chapter, Chupack discusses the BAD/GOOD date ratio: how many bad dates a girl must endure in order to get to a good one. My idea was to pick an eligible bachelor at random from MySpace and have him accompany me on each restaurant review meal. I would write about my experiences using aliases. By the second date, I had decided to focus my attention solely on the guy I’d chosen and table the article.

I’d been peeking at this guy’s MySpace profile for a while, so I wrote him. I realized that the head shot on his profile was done by a photographer friend of mine who’d hired me to do the makeup and hair for that corporate website session. The guy was shy and I remembered talking him into letting me put a little product in his beautiful, thick hair to give it a little texture. (To be honest, I didn’t recall this detail until I’d been on a few dates with him, but it was a better story than the whole truth, so I told it whenever people asked how we met. Not that I’m encouraging half-truths, but since online dating was terribly taboo at the time, I rolled with it.)

I was tasked with doing a review for a local sushi restaurant. Knowing myself, and my fear of eating strange things, I knew that I had to find a more adventurous, more culunarily-cultured counterpart. This guy just happened to have a photo posted of him eating something strange and raw with chopsticks, so I used it as part of my opener. I sent him a message asking if he would like to accompany me on my reviewing adventure. He accepted. Soon after, we were seen all over town enjoying dinners, drinks and the occasional hockey game.

He was the first guy in a long time that I looked up to. He was smart and enterprising… owning, running and selling several companies and one restaurant. And he was the first guy I’d ever met who could tell me that he was an “Entrepreneur” without making me cringe and immediately think he was selling Amway. I respected him. He had an interesting life of his own and we never had a boring interaction.

Flash forward to present day.

We’re still in touch. We’ve both been through our share of failed relationships. The last for both of us ended last year. I still see him occasionally, as friends… Friends with a history.

I have no idea what spawned my subconscious to create the images it did last night, but they’re still vivid in my mind and I’m still a little shaken up by them.

Years ago when we were in the heat of our off-again on-again relationship, I never asked him to define what we were to each other. He’s one of those people who isn’t fond of PDA or discussing feelings of any type. When he took me to Puerto Rico, he spoke of a long relationship that recently ended. It was the first time I heard any sort of emotion in his voice, so although I really wanted to, I didn’t pry. He was a bit of a conundrum. I loved and hated it at the same time.

Because we never defined “US,” we found each other getting into other relationships, then coming back to each other. Although I kept looking for signs that I would be the next bona fide relationship, I never was. Instead, I was just the person he sought to fill the space in between. Evidently, this has affected me more than I thought.

Last night I dreamed that we’d been seeing each other just like we used to when one day he decided to tell me that he was in a new relationship, so we couldn’t continue. I was crushed. After all this time, I let it happen again. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as I held back tears while trying to communicate. This time was different. He actually told me face to face instead of just ghosting me. Everything was the same, yet so different. And I was different. I finally found the words that I needed to say.

I told him “I was good enough to have fun with, but not good enough to be your girlfriend? That’s what hurts.” In fact, that has been an issue all along. I kept thinking that one day he would wake up and see me differently, but he never did. Perhaps he never will.

And although I know how much I have to offer, there’s a chance that some people will always blind to it. I was beating a dead horse, and although it’s my horse to beat, I don’t ever want to feel that way again.

I’ve had dreams that were premonitions. I’ve also had dreams that made no sense at all. But this one, although it was difficult, taught me a valuable lesson. My worth has nothing to do with how people treat me. I was tolerating behavior that made me feel less than, and I needed to move on. And just like that, the pedestal I put him on for so long is gone and I’ve finally found my voice.

Voice

MY Year of YES

There’s a subscription box group for Female Entrepreneurs that I belong to. I joined it on a whim when I was feeling a bit stuck. Although I haven’t had time for a lot of the free training sessions that have been offered, I appreciate the books, office supplies, tools and other useful stuff that comes with being a member of this elite little society. There’s a Facebook Group and the Founder is taking her wares on Shark Tank since this tiny box has taken off so exponentially. (It went from a small operation she put together in her living room, to a box she’s now outsourcing the curation and delivery of.)

I was overjoyed when I opened last month’s box and out popped Shonda Rhimes’s “The Year of YES! (How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person)” This book has been on my list for a while now and I couldn’t wait to read it. Unfortunately, my schedule is a little crazy, so I resorted to grabbing the Audible download and adding it to my collection as an accompaniment. Yesterday I began reading.

This is MY year of YES.

  • YES to putting myself first
  • YES to doing the things I’ve always wanted to do before it’s too late
  • YES to cultivating meaningful relationships
  • YES to knowing that I don’t need to change to be loved
  • YES to taking good care of myself and those I care about
  • YES to listening to my own inner voice

I’m doing a lot of things that are taking me out of my comfort zone, but for the first time in a really long time I’m also perfectly fine and really happy. Although societal norms dictate that I’m supposed to have been married and popped out a few kids by now, the thought of having someone to answer to (besides my parents) isn’t one I have a desire to explore.

My last boyfriend needed constant reassurance and validation. By the time that relationship ended, you could look at pictures of me and clearly see the life had completely drained from my eyes. Now that I’m getting back on track to becoming the person I’m supposed to be, I refuse to revert to anything resembling that shell of a person. It’s not what I want for myself. I want so much more.

Don’t get me wrong, I WILL say YES to love, but only when I know it’s what’s right for me. It’s never pleasant to fail. And one of the worst failures of all is to have a failed relationship that ruins a lifelong friendship. At least I know that now. Postponing the inevitable is probably what drained the life force from my eyes. The stress and worry of the impending failure weighed a few million tons.

Since then I’ve:

  1. Started a series of renovations on my house (everything I’ve always wanted to do and HAD to do)
    • Complete remodel of guest bathroom
    • Partial remodel of master bathroom
    • Foundation repair
    • HVAC line & box replacement
    • Screened in patio with built-in wet bar
  2. Purchased tickets to the Life Is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas (I went in 2015 BY MYSELF and the lineup was EPIC)
  3. Went to Raleigh’s FIRST EVER SuperCon
  4. Saw Jump Little Children and am seeing them again in October
  5. Saw and met K.Flay!
  6. Got published in an e-zine!
  7. Got promoted!
  8. Saw Bowling for Soup
  9. Graduated from the FIRST EVER Citizen’s Police Academy
  10. Went to my first “Great Cover Up”
  11. Saw Kevin Smith
  12. Had a Bride featured in Borrowed and Blue

If all goes well, renovations should be finished by my birthday (August 27, fingers crossed) so I should have some great photos to post by then. Otherwise, expect some of the usual stream-of-consciousness ramblings and photos to tide you over.

Most of the things on this list are things I would have held myself back from if I’d stayed in the same place life was going last year. I was disappearing. I was hiding from life. I was shying away from everything I really wanted because my insides were full of conflict and doubt.

NO MORE!

  • YES to knowing better so I can do better
  • YES to saying lots of YES, but knowing when to say NO so that I can take the time to recharge

Just so much YES. It feels so good each time I say it.