Dreams Of The Past And The Future

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When we were young B and I could never have enough projects. They kept us busy and talking to one another about the different aspects that we needed to consider when we were working together. We tore out the kitchen of a cabin we bought, we built a house in the mountains, we started a winery and built the building to go with it. We were busy, tired, and often content with the manner in which our lives were progressing.

These days B is done with projects. He wants nothing to do with them. I suspect some of this stems from having to leave behind our hard work for others to enjoy when we did not yet have that pleasure. Moving for B’s career made us give up some of these comforts and dreams. Not being able to experience the joy of our labors made it more difficult for B to keep up the hard work, determination, and faith that building requires. And I think that stress at work has limited his enthusiasm for projects.

However, recently we decided to sell a property that we have owned for about seven years. This has entailed ripping our a kitchen and installing new cabinets, countertops and backsplash. We have had to repaint the entire place put up new lighting fixtures and vents in all the rooms. It has been a huge undertaking but it has paid off with some unexpected dividends…a closeness that has been missing and the chance to re-visit all of the amazing things we have accomplished together. This isn’t to say that everything is perfect. It isn’t. But it is nice to experience some of our “old selves” again and it is nice to be engaged with one another once more. I have missed this over the past several years. I have missed just being with B and watching him sweat as we struggle to hang a cabinet. I miss having dreams which are flavored with the smell of hard work and the sweetness of a job well done. I have forgotten how just spending time together made me feel connected and how my admiration for my husband would soar when all we worked for came to fruition. And it occurs to me that the respect I feel for this man, who, when exhausted, keeps giving his all, is immense and inspires me to do my best too.

I wish we could work together more. Find new projects to create together. I don’t know that it has to be building but something… anything that will plant new seeds to understanding, respect and appreciation.  I thirst for finding commonalities again with the man that I love. I understand why B wants to lay down his hammer but for me these undertakings  that we embark on together give me a sense of hope and purpose. And even though I can barely move after a day of hard work I would gladly down numerous Tylenol just to spend quality time with B once again. For when we work together I see deeper more personal glimpses of the man I fell in love with and I hope he sees the same in me and it also feels as if there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.

 

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13 And Counting

I remember the first time I saw Gracie. She was sitting on her foster mother’s lap, so tiny and delicate, that she looked like a doll. She was a preemie so everything about her seemed fragile and small. I fell in love with her right then and there as I stared at the tiny 3×4 inch photo in my computer screen; engraving her sweet face on my heart forever. Truly, it was love at first sight and I was bound and determined that she would become our daughter. I thank my lucky stars that my dream came true because everyday with Gracie has been a delightful dream with a mixture of happiness, joy, and a pinch of awe thrown in for good measure. She truly is amazing!

Today Gracie turns thirteen. It is hard to believe that I will never again be raising a mere child. Instead, I am guiding young adults towards the time when they leave the nest…hopefully for good.

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Since Gracie is a now an official teenager, it means I have four teens living in my house. Maybe I should say co-existing, as war could erupt any minute when you are stepping through emotional teenage land mines which are scattered, undetected, here and there. Gracie assures me that she will not act like a teen but she is already rolling her eyes and using THAT tone of voice which indicates that somehow I have become the absolute dumbest person ever to live on this planet. Forget the 55+ years of experience, the college degrees and my affable personality…I am soon to be regulated to the status of something below pond scum.

While I am excited about someday becoming an empty nester (finger crossed) I do have to admit I miss those times when my children thought I could do no wrong, when they believed I was smarter than G*D, and when the little things I did brought them such pleasure. Those were simpler times though I didn’t recognize them as such. I often viewed them as chaotic with all the meltdowns that two children with autism could bring. But now… well, even the meltdowns don’t seem quite as bad as when I was in the midst of them and I can look back and be proud of how I handled some situations that would tax the patience of a saint. Not to say I handled them all well but I did GOOD ENOUGH and that is just fine with me at this point in the game.

Today is one of those momentous days. Time and perceptions will shift for both Gracie and I as the label of TEEN is applied like a gooey sticker to her soul. May we each grant the other grace and dignity in the coming years as she grows wiser and my brain cells shrink in number. May we create memories that sustain us and may we see the best in each other instead of the worst. For the teenage years are upon us…may we both survive them with patience and our sense of humor intact! And may Gracie happily survive the impact that autism has on a family and a sibling..she has done a remarkable job thus far.

Happy Birthday My Sweet, Talented, Gracious, Fun-Loving And Hard-Working Baby Girl! You are my Superhero!

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WE

 

We have built houses together

Planted a vineyard and gardens

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Raised six kids together

We have survived your mother

The death of parents

And your brother

We have moved

Numerous times for your career

Starting over again and again

Just knowing each other

In a city of a million faces

Finding comfort and love in that

And we have stuck together

Through so much adversity

Pain and sorrow

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We have traveled the world together

Had much happiness and joy

Done things as a couple

That brought us closer

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We have struggled

Raising two boys with autism

Put their needs ahead of our own

Done everything possible to give them

The best chance for a good life

So why it is now

After all the hard years

After all the time we have sweated and pushed

And fought the school system

After life and death

Hardships and pain

You want to abandon

Our future

And all the good times

We dreamed about

For so very long?

We’ve slogged through

The Rough Times

Taken so many wrong turns

But you don’t want to share

In the best that is to come…

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The walking along the beach

Holding hands

Visiting Grandchildren

Kayaking the rivers

And taking art classes

Working to save the river

And the seals

Old age sex

And wrinkles

And watching with a tender heart

Fingers intertwined

When one of us takes our last breath

Being there for the other

As one passes to the other side

To the unknown

The other left grieving and lonely

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We’ve been through the hard times

Why can’t we share the reward

Of all we worked for together?

When life is finally getting easier

Why should a future wife

Get all the benefits

Of our hard work?

I do not understand

I will never understand

And don’t expect me to…

Don’t ever expect me to!

 

 

Yesterday I had a private therapy session with our third and final marriage therapist. He was highly recommended by my therapist and she believes he can help because he does in depth therapy examining both partners pasts and seeing how they effect the dynamics of the relationship. He looks at attachment in childhood and how that influences attachment within the marriage.  I think he is a good fit but I was exhausted after our session. I felt like I had run a marathon and got run over by a truck at the end. Working on psychological/relationship issues is hard work if you are honest with yourself and others.

Recently I have been reading the book Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. The book jacket says ” Forget about learning how to argue better, making grand romantic gestures, or experimenting with new sexual positions. Instead, get to the emotional underpinnings of your relationship  be recognizing that you are emotionally attached to and dependent on your partner in much the same way that a child is on a parent for nurturing, soothing and protection.” It is an interesting book and I see B and my relationship on so many pages and it saddens me. But we both keep trying.

 

 

50/50

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The other day when we came close to calling it quits (and for all I know maybe you still are) I asked you how content you were with me. Your reply of 50/50 stunned me and knocked me flat to the ground. I never would have guessed that you are that miserable with me especially because I do not believe that I make life that unbearable for you or our family.

I remember when we were young and newly married I always thought that to have a happy relationship you had to feel content with your partner 90% of the time and at that point in our relationship I think we were. Perhaps I was unrealistic in thinking that 90% was the magic number to ensure happiness, but, frankly, I tend to still believe it and based on your 50/50 number it makes me realize that there may not be much hope for an enduring relationship with that low of a percentage.

If you are not content with me that much of the time then I can only say that it appears you have chosen to be unhappy with a life that I believe most men would be happy to live. If you are unhappy more than you are happy or close to it seems to me to be a waste of time. In fact, I would say that it is a squandering of the life you have been given. I have to believe that everyone on this earth should be content with their partner a heck of a lot more than that for love to be able to be shared at an emotionally deep, spiritually fulfilling and meaningful level. A level that stirs the heart and soul. A level that provides peace and introspection. A level that excites you and leaves you hoping for more and waiting with a sense of positiveness and  excitement of what the future holds for the relationship.

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Ask and you shall receive it is said, yet, I persist on asking you questions like, “How content are you with me?” Finally, I am beginning to realize that these types of questions are self-defeating because they set me up for automatic failure and a sense of self-loathing due to disappointment in the answers I receive from you. Upon examining this phenomenon, I have begun to understand that I ask because I am a woman and as such I was raised to try to understand the emotions of others. I thought my job was to intercept the unhappiness that may be floating around and destroy it. I was taught that it was my responsibility to make my husband happy, my children happy, and, yes, even ensure that the dog is tail waggingly happy. That is not to say that I have always done this well just that I thought as a woman it was what I should attempt to do.

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Yet,  I am slowly beginning to understand that I should not ask you those types of questions because your answer could change in a minute or an hour or a day.  And with this realization, I am beginning to ask myself why I choose to give you the power to crush me with your words. In all honesty, I think it is because I hope that by knowing these answers to these questions that somehow I can make it better. That I can try harder, be more, do more and all the other impossible quests that I have attempted to try an improve our relationship and to try to get you to love me again. To try to make you see that I am somehow worthy of your love because that is how women are raised …to be the caretakers, the heart tenders, and the mind openers. And if by some sort of miracle, everyone in our family is happy, that it is a reflection on me. That I have done my job well and that others contentment should make me happy too.  But I am beginning to let it settle into my soul that happiness in an individual thing. That I can no more make you happy than I can make the moon sing. Yes, I can contribute to your sense of well-being and happiness but I am not responsible for it.

Which brings me to my true thoughts on this matter. If you are 50/50 content with me then that is your choice and it most likely is not due to my actions the majority of the time. Frankly, I radiate a heck of a lot more than 50% happiness and contentment on a daily basis. For I am loving, kind and supportive, nurturing, content and enthusiastic a heck of a lot more than 50% of the time. That has been proven because we have so much good together including much laughter, great sex and a shared love of many things including adventure, discovery and travel. We have worked together to get what the boys need and have raised children that we can be proud of.  I can’t say that about very many couples I know who have been married the number of years that we have. So this tells me that you choose to see who I am and how we interact in a negative way despite whatever good it is that I do. And that how you choose to see me may be a result of what you want to see to justify a “maybe divorce” rather than how I truly am. Your negative mindset about me and our relationship has been an ongoing thing for the past several years and I am beginning to comprehend that is yours to deal with and not mine. That you choose to take what I say as being “disappointed” in you rather than just allowing me to express how I feel which may have nothing to do with you at all. Frankly, sometimes I believe that this “disappointment” you feel gives you an excuse to emotionally opt-out of the relationship because you can “never make me happy” rather than the fact that you will not be happy because you are choosing not to be of your own volition. You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be unhappy and only you can do that.

 

Therefore, in the future, I will try to refrain from asking those type of questions.  Because I am finally realizing that your perceptions may be skewed towards making your visions of what you  THINK you want your life to be, inconsistent with what our life together truly is.  Because it would appear that no matter what I do, no matter how our relationship evolves, that this marriage is not what you want for your future.  That I am not what you want for your future.  I cannot change that. Meanwhile, seeking answers that make you “question” things in our relationship that maybe should not be questioned is the one thing I can still change. And even though I still believe that “good” personal relationships seek enlightenment from that relationship by asking questions and examining the resulting answers; I am beginning to understand that good/growth/awareness can only come from these types of conversations if that is what the other is seeking too.

So take your 50/50 and ruminate on it a bit. As for me, I will choose to make myself happy even if it is without you. Because I have only one life to live and I intend to live the rest of it with a sense of well-being.  And starting today I will practice choosing to see the ordinary as extraordinary and that the world is a better place because I am in it. So sorry you do not choose to do the same.

 

Preservation

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When I visited with my therapist this week I told her about an incident that happened while we were in New York. I wanted to explore it a little deeper because I knew that it was important and while I thought I knew why it needed to be tackled, I wasn’t sure that I had all the pieces I needed to fully understand why I did what I did.

On Sunday, our son West, was telling us we should sell a piece of property that we own, to which I replied:

“Honey, we can’t do anything until Dad and I know what is happening with this relationship and if we are even going to stay together.”

I think that is what is called starting to pound the nail in the coffin or maybe torching the bridge.

“So, why did you do it?” my therapist asked. “Why did you open the EXIT door and go right through it when you said that for six months you would not talk about divorce?”

“Because I felt like West was confused,” I answered. “Here we were so happy and yet we have been teetering on the edge of divorce. I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea.”

“First of all it isn’t West’s business and you didn’t owe him any explanations about where you are in your relationship. But I’m not sure that is all there is to it. Anything else come to mind?” she chuckled.

I stared back giving her my best evil eye. She laughed again. I squirmed.

“Okay, I guess I was feeling scared. Everything felt so wonderful and right this weekend. It felt too good to be true. I just couldn’t trust it and needed to put it back in the place I am used to…limbo.”

“So you went ahead and made sure it was too good to be true for everyone involved. You undermined your relationship which gave you a plan of escape. You abandoned the people you were with because you went through that EXIT door. Your plans and words gave the impression of wanting to escape. Why not have a plan to preserve your relationship instead?”

YIKES. WHY DON’T WE TAKE A LESS PAINFUL WAY THROUGH THIS PSYCHOLOGICAL CRAP …FLOGGING MIGHT BE A BETTER CHOICE.

“Think of it this way. There are many ways to preserve food. You can use a water bath, you can freeze-dry,  or dry it like jerky, or even pressure can it. Some things need to be preserved in just one way and some things can be preserved in many ways. But the object is the same: preserve what you have so you can enjoy it on another day. That is what you need to start doing with your marriage.  You can’t preserve your relationship if you are so busy running away through the EXIT door that you can’t stay in the kitchen to get the tasks done which will keep you and your relationship healthy.”

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“So, this week I want you to think about the things in your relationship with B that need to be preserved so they don’t go bad. Or think about those things that have been neglected and need to be revived. How do you go about preserving them so you have something tasty and good in the future? What work do you need to do on YOU that will allow your relationship to be preserved and ultimately flourish, instead of becoming moldy and rotten?” Are you going to leave the food out or are you going take care of it so it lasts a long time?”

As I headed home I stopped at the fruit stand and bought a lug of strawberries. On a lark I decided to make jam. So I cut,  smooshed, cooked, and added just enough sugar to make the syrupy fruit sweet. Everything in the kitchen was sticky to the touch as I lifted the jars out of the waterbath and as the jars started cooling on my counter I began to contemplate what my therapist was trying to convey. And then it happened… I began to hear the sound that all canners long to hear….the tinney POP of the lids as they seal in the freshness of what is put inside the jar. A POP that tells you that you did everything right and what is inside is preserved.

It was hearing those tiny little pops that made me realize that I wanted to put the best of what we had into our jars to keep what was inside fresh and free from contamination. After 30+ years of marriage, the good the bad and the ups and downs; I finally recognized that someday our cupboard will once again be bare and we will need what is preserved inside those jars to sustain us.

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Understanding

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If you have read this blog before you know that I have been struggling with B’s decision to take a “business” trip to Asia without me. For the past several years we had gone together to try to build closeness in our fragile relationship. I appreciated those times together, the shared experiences and, of course, time away from the kids. So I was hurt when he said he was going alone. Then when I asked about something that seemed odd he admitted he was going somewhere else too. I fretted and wondered if he would have even told me about this new itinerary and I felt betrayed because it brought back past business travels in which odd things had happened. But it was more than that, this anxiety I was feeling, anxiety that felt all consuming and I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Until one night I realized it was rooted in fear from the past. Fear because the last time we were apart for 10 days, when I arrived home he wanted a divorce and it brought me back to two years ago when I lost my rudder. I can only imagine this is what PTSD feels like. Bleak, scary and uncertain.  And while I knew that our relationship wasn’t in the same place it was back then my raw emotions couldn’t process that fact for emotions are funny things and whether accurate or not they pull at the soul and can stretch you out of shape.

So now he is away on “business”and not a “vacation” as I insist it is. And B didn’t bother to tell me that even though he would arrive in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, he wouldn’t actually be engaging in any sort of business activity until Tuesday. I’m sorry, in my mind that is a vacation. Now I could be really upset about this. Not that he wasn’t really doing the business that he insisted he was but upset because once again the pattern of 1/2 truths has appeared to prevail. But this time I am working on really trying to see this in a different light…I hope I can succeed.

It has taken me a while to realize that not everyone loves us in the way we think we need or in the way we would like. Often, they just love us in the way that they are capable of loving us often to our disappointment or dismay. If life were ideal I would have complete and utter honesty but that is uncomfortable for B because he grew up not being allowed to express his feelings and he doesn’t feel he can express his feelings to me.This hurts though I have brought some of it on myself. B feels that to express his needs is shameful or selfish and as a result he hides them to himself and from others. So while I would have loved for him to be honest and say “I don’t have any meetings until Tuesday but I have decided that I need a few days to relax and have a few days of ME time,” he couldn’t allow himself to do that even though I asked him to just be honest and admit he wanted time alone.

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So instead of being upset about the fact that he was a little less than honest I am trying to see his actions as those of a man who cannot ask for what he needs. A man who does not believe he deserves time alone. A man who believes anything he wants that does not involve his family is selfish on his part. Sure, I wish he had just been 100% honest but if I look through into his soul I know he is incapable of focusing on himself. And so I am trying to let go of the fact that he cannot love me as I wish but instead loves me as he can. It is flawed and sometimes it hurts but at this point in life this is how he loves. So I can choose to be angry or I can choose to accept knowing he is doing the best he can at this point in time. Today I choose acceptance…I hope I will choose it tomorrow too! For I deserve it and so does he.

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B’s List Of What He Wants

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Yesterday I posted what I wanted/needed in my second half of life. Today I am posting B’s.

First of all, just so you know, I asked B if it was okay to post this. To my surprise he said yes. This is his list of what he wants in the second part of his life with me. It won’t come as a surprise to those who know us that his list is very different than mine. Much more compact. Remember, I’m the one with the words. Yet, what he wrote touched me deeply because I knew it was from his heart and soul. All of it.

The morning we were to go to breakfast to discuss our relationship; I got into the car and our wedding picture was there along with some flowers. B said that before we went to breakfast he wanted to read what he had written and so with tears in his eyes and a catch in his throat this is what he read:

Letting Go Again

It’s been going on for over a week now.

“I’m nervous!”

“I won’t know anyone there!!!”

“What if I get lost???!!!!!!”

“What if there is nothing there for me to eat?”

“What if I land wrong on the board and hurt myself?”

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This is what I have been hearing from Gracie lately and it intensified as the day drew closer for her to attend diving camp at a large university four hours from home. These are the words of a child whose age is between the first double digit and her teens. Excited but scared to death especially because she knew no one who would be attending camp with her.

She’s good at what she does so I wasn’t worried about that aspect. She has accomplished in three years of doing her sport what it has taken of most of her competitors 6-8 years to do. Learning and practicing wasn’t the issue but being away from home was.

Gracie has always had difficulty separating herself from us. I often wonder if she would have been this way if she had been born to us or if her adoption has played a role in it. Not knowing if people will come back to you or if they will stay with you does tend to put doubts in your head. And as we spent last night together in the city she looked as if she might cry. But I knew that she needed this camp to teach her about courage and accomplishment not so much in her sport but in life in general. That’s what we are suppose to do as parents. We should give our children experiences which allow them to separate with confidence so they will be able to be independent adults when they go off on their own.

Waking up this morning was hard. Her nerves were bouncing all over the place and I was watching as a “bad hair day” started to unnerve her even more. I said all the right things and did all the right things. I asked if she was okay and told her since she could do double rotations she had nothing to be afraid of.  Finally, it was time to go and check into the college dorms. Now, I was getting a little hesitant.

We drove over in near silence with Gracie taking in everything around her. After unpacking and making her bed I saw that Gracie was beginning to get her groove back. Her confidence began to soar (or at least she wasn’t going to let anyone know anything different just like she does when she dives). Just before she was to go to the pool with her group she remembered she had left her water bottle in the car so we dashed off to get it. As we walked back I took her into my arms and said, “You’ve got this baby. You will be okay.”

And with that she lifted her big brown eyes, looked up into mine, let go of my hand and said, “Geez mom, you worry too much!!!”

It was at that moment I knew she would be just fine and that in releasing my hand she was letting go of so much more.

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The Dance Lesson- A Positive Post

The other night we took our first dance lesson. We had been looking for something fun to do and this just seemed to fit the bill. We picked something that was not fast or sassy like the Rumba or Salsa. The Slide didn’t generate much interest nor did the Polka.  We decided that the only prerequisite was that the music needed to be old and slow …just like me… and most of the other students who showed up. In short that left us only one dance…the Waltz.

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For those of us who know me and before you howl in laughter let me assure you that this waltzing stuff is hard work. YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER:

Eyes up..keep looking over your partner’s left ear.

Left hand held high…but not too high…not too low either.

And keep in mind that your right hand must be seen at all times in order to prove you are not goosing your partner.

And those feet…keep them out from under your partner.

Make your steps smaller.

Make your steps bigger.

Go slower

Now faster

And ladies, to make this dancing stuff even harder… you will be moving BACKWARDS!

“Okay, I’ve got this,” I thought after doing the box step about a dozen times. By then, B and I had stopped fighting about who got to lead. But then, horrors of horrors, we were told to switch partners! It had the effect on me that an orgy would…get me the heck out of here!!!

Now I know I said for the next week I would only write positive things. So here goes: I am positive I have two left feet and should be banned for dancing forever. By the time we were done I think my other partners believed so too. I looked like a teenage boy at his first boy-girl dance in Junior High. Graceful was not in the cards but stress induced acne was.

My first partner smiled big as I slipped into his arms. His smiled disappeared the first of the seven times that I stepped on his toes. “Stop trying to lead,” was his helpful advice.

When I arrived before partner #2 I laughed wickedly and said, “I was a teenager of the 70’s. I either danced alone or did the BUMP.” I saw “CHALLENGE” flash through the man’s eyes. We had only gotten three steps into the box when he said in a superior and slightly uptight manner “Stop trying to lead.”

Partner #3 was obviously a professional dancer. I tried the BUMP conversation again at which point he said, “Hogwash, I can make any dancer look good.” Turns out he was wrong. He waved me on to the next man with a “Stop trying to lead” tripping off his tongue as I inadvertently did the same over my own foot.

Partners 4, 5,6, and 7 all had the same thoughts and “stop trying to lead” became the mantra of the day.  This dancing stuff was tough and not necessarily because of the movements and coordination that was involved. Truth be told it was the fighting each man to lead that was doing me in.

I think at this point I should confess that  I do like to lead in all areas of my life. Frankly, I am a natural born leader and a forward thinking kind of girl. I try not to look back in life with too many regrets and apparently this going backwards stuff while doing the waltz  didn’t leave me without regrets either.  I soon began to ask myself, “What am I doing here?”

Finally after being paired with so many different partners, I arrived back into B’s arms. It felt good and comforting to be held by someone so familiar and suddenly I found myself moving backwards with ease. In retrospect, I think it has something to do with trust and for those few moments I had an abundance of it as B waltzed me across the ancient hardwood floor.

I wish it was that easy in real life. It must be amazing to just let go and get swept up in the moment, gracefully put one foot in front of the other, and in time to whatever life throws your way. It must feel marvelous being able to trust your partner and to know without a doubt that they won’t bang you into any walls or waltz you right off the stage. To know that your back is covered and your feet are too. And it must be awesome to move with your partner to life’s beat without constraint and without a care in the world.

I hope dancing will teach me all of those things and more. I am even more hopeful that dancing will allow me to finally recognize something even more important:

That following doesn’t mean giving up the lead…it only means you’ll tread on fewer toes!

 

 

 

Believe

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Today is Gracie’s big diving competition. As a mom, I hate when she struggles. As a parent, I realize struggle is a part of it all but nonetheless one only wishes it all would come easily. It doesn’t.

Last night she cried and I just held her. “Hey, if it is this stressful we don’t have to do it. It doesn’t matter to me how you do, I will love you no matter what. Just cry baby, I am here for you.”

Said all the right words that meant nothing to her at the moment. This morning I sense doubt which I would love to just erase.

You can do this, baby. You have what it takes. You have worked so hard. Believe in yourself. Believe in your talent and hard work. Believe that your body has done this so many times it is almost built into your DNA. Believe that in 30 years it won’t matter and you will not remember your scores. Believe this is fun. Believe that your biggest fan is me and that YOU are what matters to me. And believe that you can do anything you set your mind to.Believe. Just believe.