Dirt in a Glass: The Beginning of a Meaningful Love Story

In my last post about not moving to Salida, I left out a fairly critical thing—quite intentionally. I chose not to mention that a couple weeks before I hit the snag with my loan, I’d met a woman.

She’s breathtakingly gorgeous, vibrant, smart, hilarious, athletic, sweet, and playful (among 80 other things I could say about her). Basically, she’s dreamy. And we’re courting—like, legit old-school courting. She’s masterful at it…and I’m smitten. At this point we’ve been dating for about 6 weeks and I’m just now to the point of ALMOST being able to concentrate on a task for 30 seconds without thinking about her and swooning.

swoon

When I was in the throes of making the to-Salida-or-not-to-Salida choice, she was insistent that I NOT be influenced by her sudden presence in my life. As far as she was concerned, it was all good either way and I should make the best choice for me. While I can’t quantify how successful I was at honoring her wish, I did my best—and that’s why I didn’t mention her in my previous post.

Another reason I didn’t mention her was because, while I’m not generally superstitious, somewhere in my brain there’s a gem of a thought that says, “Don’t write about her!! If you do, it’ll all be over!”

Looking at this in the light of day, I recognize it to be a totally ridiculous thought. And as a thought chaser, I’m intrigued. Where does this come from?

First of all, there’s the obvious: If I pour my heart out about her and then it all goes to hell, I’ll feel like an ass and there will forever be a commemoration of my adoration of her on my blog. Meh, I can live with that. There are worse things than being smitten with a phenomenal woman (such as, for example, being smitten with an a-hole woman, which has also happened).

Beyond the fear of making an ass of myself (a fear which I’m happy to report is falling more and more by the wayside as I near the big 4-0), I realize that it’s simply more vulnerable to write in the present tense because I.don’t.know.the.ending. How can I wrap meaning around circumstance to form cute little giftable bundles of story if I have no idea what’s going to happen?! It’s much easier to look back on situations and read into the signs and circumstances whatever meaning I can glean/craft in hindsight. (I think I was unduly influenced by shows like The Wonder Years and Doogie Howser, M.D.)

For example, if I HAD moved to Salida, the signs would have meant that I was called there—and that would have been true and made for a great story. If things had worked out with the woman I was dating in Salida, it would have been so much fun to tell everyone about the time when we were first dating and both had a katydid (an insect that looks like a green leaf) on our front doors on the same day (and neither of us had seen a katydid in years until that day)! Of course that would have meant that we were meant to be!

sign

I’m mocking myself and the joy I find in making meaning of things to underscore the point of discomfort I’ve achieved by realizing that nothing necessarily means anything. My current woman (I’ll call her Goddess) and I have the START of a beautiful love story—which is SUCH a fun place to be: with the flirting, the verbal banter, the playfulness, the competence of Goddess to return ANYTHING I volley into her court. And with all that, there’s the simultaneous awareness that all I can do to give this the best shot at success—whatever that will come to be—is to be present.

I am being called to be present. I am being called not to make anything mean anything.

The check returning my earnest money on the house in Salida was written with my last name as the combination of mine and Goddess’s. As it turns out, our last names are only one letter off from each other’s. The check writer obviously wasn’t sure which was correct, so she wrote the check to accommodate both our last names. The one letter of divergence was written as a W (mine) overwritten with an R. Or perhaps it was an R overwritten with a W. It was both hers and mine—almost as if to have invented a new letter altogether. And do I want to make that mean all kinds of things about our future together? Hells YES! Will doing that be helpful? Hells NO! Doing that will project me both into the future and into romantic delusion—neither of which is ideal.

I am being called to be present. I am being called not to make anything mean anything. I am being called to sit in the discomfort that being in romantic relationship can create and to allow it and to be aware of it and to use it as a chance to release that which no longer serves me.

Being single is easy. I’ve mastered being single. I’ve mastered doing what I want, when I want, with whom I want. Though I’ve grown a lot in my singlehood—which those friends know who witnessed me in the years just after my nine-plus-year relationship ended six years ago—it’s now time for new growth.

I attended a training this weekend in which one of the leaders likened being in relationship to water filling a glass that has dirt at the bottom of it. As the water pours in, the dirt is disturbed and starts to churn and rise up in the glass. If enough water is poured into the glass, the water will eventually run clear—but first the dirt needs to churn and rise.

I’m in the thick of the rising, churning dirt storm. And it’s okay.

Dirty water

Every insecurity I have is being churned up. And it’s okay.

If I can see myself through to clear water, with the help of lots of love from all around pouring into the glass, I will be that much more present and that much clearer to share all of me. And then, regardless of what happens in the plot line of this love story, love will have won. And I’ll be right there to assign it all meaning…from the future…in hindsight.

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The Move I Almost Made

I’m pretty sure my lot in life is to learn the most obvious things in the most difficult ways. And of course by “most difficult” I mean “really not that difficult, but because I have a blog and I LOVE to exaggerate, I’ll make it sound difficult.”

While you might assume this post to be about dating, it’s actually about the move I almost made to Salida, Colorado.

Salida is a rural town located two-and-a-half hours southwest of Denver. It’s a small Mayberryish town filled with incredibly interesting people. The landscape is stunning; the town is situated on the Arkansas River in a bowl that’s surrounded by mountains.

downtown-salida-colorado

Here’s what the Colorful Colorado website has to say about Salida (these photos are from their site as well):

Salida is the county seat of Chaffee County and its largest city, with a population of approximately 5,300. The city is the service, supply, and tourism center for the Upper Arkansas Valley. Salida is a REAL Colorado mountain town. Beautifully nestled between the Sangre de Cristo and Sawatch Mountain ranges, this central Colorado Historic downtown at 7,000 feet elevation boasts a liveliness driven by artistic minds and outdoor enthusiasts.

People here wear smiles, the sun shines almost all the time, and you can bike, raft, hike, fish, climb, chill, whenever you want, any time of year. The townspeople are diverse so you don’t get just mountain bikers, skiers, and kayakers, you also experience Colorado ranchers and old miners, artists, and farmers, so just about everyone fits into this Colorado lifestyle.

salida-colorado-aerial

I’ll point out that the Spanish word salida translates to “exit” in English…and that certainly was an element of what I hoped to achieve by moving there. Certainly I was looking forward to escaping the cockroachy invasion of 100,000 people each year to the Denver metro area (and that might be a low estimate). Annoyingly, I really like all the recent transplants I’ve met, which melts my bitter native stance a bit. (I’ve learned to have audio books and/or podcasts in my car at all times and to work odd hours in order to avoid the worst of the traffic.)

More than running from anything, however, I was running toward something. I was excited about the lifestyle I would have in Salida: the dog walks up S Mountain (not its real name, but what locals call it), the clean air to breathe, all that room for my spirit to expand and roam free.

My soul-family friend and muse/spirit animal, Jenn, was going to sell me her house. I love this house. It might be considered small by most people’s standards but it seemed HUGE to me (being someone who dwells in a less-than-500-square-foot place now). What I could do with another 300 square feet and a back yard! I had plans to make raised beds so I could grow some of my own food; I would create a nook where I would start every day by sipping my homemade latte and writing; I had a vague idea of colors to add to the walls, and I imagined all my books nestled into the built-in bookshelves. I was fairly sure I would add a pedestal sink to the bathroom along with some wainscoting. I would check for hardwoods under the carpet. Having spent many nights in the house, I knew exactly what it would be like to wake up in the morning and lumber to the bathroom and then to the kitchen to let the dogs out.

Here’s the sketch I made of the house to help me figure out how to arrange furniture (clearly, I was not messing around):

IMG_2389

I imagined what it would be like to work from home. I imagined the few friends I have in Salida popping over unannounced just to say hi. I knew it would take time for my nervous system to adjust to the slower pace. I loved that I’d be able to walk everywhere. I loved that I would prepare most of my own meals, rather than being tempted to drive thru any of the 80,000 fast-food places I pass on my way to and from work every day now. I imagined the inspiration I would get from the landscape. For months I had been living parallel lives: my current life here (in my body) and my future life in Salida (in my mind).

There were many months from when I was under contract to buy the house until the time I knew I could occupy it. This large amount of time was a tricky thing for my mind. It gave me lots of time to worry about whether my choice was a smart one. On the macro level: “Will I miss everyone in Denver and find myself living in Salida but wishing I were in Denver?” “Despite the home being an amazing long-term investment, will buying it make me house poor and how will I feel about that?” “Will my 18-year-old car hold out for all the trips I’ll be making to and from Denver (for work and to see people)?” “If for some reason I needed to find a new job, could I find anything in Salida that would pay what I require to make ends meet?” “Am I committing relationship suicide by moving there?” (I had dated the one lesbian I knew in the area and that hadn’t worked…so who else might there be to date? What were the odds of importing someone?)

I found the doubts creeping in. My enthusiasm for the idea slowly and very subtly started to wane. I could hear it in the way I was or wasn’t telling people that I was planning to move soon. By then I was committed, though. I was under contract, I’d had the house inspected, my boss had given me permission to work remotely, I’d mentioned to my landlord that I might be leaving, I had my mom on board to put me and the dogs up whenever I was in Denver…

And then about 60 days from close, as I was in the process of locking my loan rate, the process hit a glitch. Not a totally insurmountable glitch, but one that could pose danger to my friend’s ability to buy her next place if I couldn’t overcome it. And the most telling thing for me—the information I most required from my own soul—was the full-body sense of relief I got when I heard I might not get the loan. It was the weight of the world lifting off my shoulders. It’s exactly the feeling I got when my ex and I finally decided to call it quits on our relationship. It’s a feeling that unmistakably means this is the right thing.

And this is where the hard part came in: letting that feeling of relief be all I needed to know. My mind felt left out! It chimed in very loudly about many things—mostly with worry about how to tell Jenn that I’d changed my mind. On the positive side, I knew that she’d make way more on the house by putting it on the market than by selling it to me, and I knew that telling her right away would give her plenty of time to find a new buyer. I also knew that telling her would be the end of the dream—one that she and I had co-created together.

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. She took the news like a champ, because a) she never ceases to amaze me, and b) she’s an Aquarius and can roll with literally anything life throws at her. I mean, she runs a circus for a living!

It took a couple weeks to stop waking up every morning in Salida and to stop walking my dogs up S Mountain on my lunch break. I had to let my future life in Salida slowly recede from my mind.

Here’s what my heart had to say about the choice NOT to move there:

You can draw on the energy of Salida any time; it is a supportive energy for you… Change is good and moving is not necessarily required. You could do a major purge of your apartment, a deep clean, maybe get a new desk to write at… Your apartment is a blessing until the next EASY thing comes along. That which you imagined creating for yourself in Salida you can do from where you are. Cooking your meals, maybe doing yoga, long walks with the dogs, writing…

Ahhh, so here was the obvious-not-obvious wisdom in all this: I can be NOW everything I projected into the future Salida Erin. I can be Salida Erin in Denver. I can create a space and a ritual in my daily life for writing. I can draw on the inspiration of the energy of Salida at any moment I choose. I can merge the parallel lives (current Denver Erin and future Salida Erin) back into Erin-Being-Present-in-Her-Life Erin.

And the other huge lesson: I came to be even more grateful for what I currently have in my life. I have an apartment where I’m allowed to have my animals. I have an apartment I can afford. It’s near one of the most beautiful parks in Denver. I have a job working with great people I’ll still get to see every work day. I’ll still get to have weekly date nights with my bestie Michelle to watch crap television. I’ll still be near my other bestie, Katie, whose existence in my life has shaped my life more than I’ll ever truly know (and who I dislike the idea of being far from).

And most importantly, I still have Salida. I can go there whenever I desire. And when I’m there, I’ll get to spend time with my muse/spirit animal, Jenn, soaking in everything about her that inspires me and helps me live a more authentically creative life.

So thank you, Project Move Erin to Salida, for being everything I needed you to be.

It’s Okay to Loosen Your Grip

In my mid-twenties I worked for a brief six-month stint on the graveyard shift at the local blood center. Two things remain with me from that time.

First of all, I still cringe when I stumble across Public Radio International’s The World on Colorado Public Radio. I was awakened for every shift by its theme song:

This music inspires within me a wave of adrenaline and a wave of dread—simultaneously. It wasn’t my favorite job and the overnight shift took some getting used to. Waking up at 10:00 pm to go to work? Ugh!

But there was this one night…

The back doorbell buzzed, indicating a delivery. It was common for couriers to deliver body parts at all hours of the night in little coolers (usually eyeballs, as I recall). One night while I was signing in a cooler, the courier observed, “Wow! You hold your pen really tightly when you write. It looks like you’re actually cutting off circulation to your fingers.” I said, “Oh…yeah, I do have a tight grip. That’s just how I learned to write, I guess.”

Before

Before

This launched us into a conversation about graphology and I learned that this sweet white-haired man was trained in handwriting analysis. He didn’t need to analyze my handwriting, though, because he knew everything he needed to know about me from watching me hold the pen. He left me with [something approximating] these words: “I promise that your life will change when you learn to hold the pen more loosely.”

When he said this, I had that thing happen that happens when I’m hearing deep truth. It’s a split second of time standing still with a bit of fuzzy eye focus and lightheadedness. This means, “Erin, pay attention!”

I heard him. I heard his gentle implication that my tight grip on the pen was a manifestation of my mistrust of life. (That liberal arts degree pays off when attempting to discern subtle implications!)

I didn’t yet know that I don’t have to be in control of everything—that I CAN’T be in control of everything.

I won’t lie. It took me a long time to re-learn to hold a pen after almost twenty years of using a death grip.

After

After

My handwriting suffered greatly for years but has finally found its way back to being legible. I still resort to the old way if I’m holding a crappy pen that won’t write, though I’m quick to notice it. I’m also now a pen snob and eschew any pen that’s not gel. I assume that as I grow more eccentric, I’ll one day be using an ink bottle and quill.

So why am I sharing this? Because during a recent coffee and coloring date with friends I realized I was using my old strangle-hold technique. My friends were holding their colored pencils oh so gently as we chatted, their arms and hands and shoulders relaxed…while I was overexerting and muscling and bullying. (Coloring loses a bit of its therapeutic effect when doing it the way I was doing it.) I became aware that I‘ve worked to write differently but not to color differently, which lit my mind up with questions.

In what areas of my life am I exerting too much control?

In what areas of my life am I in total allowance, trusting that I am fully supported?

Which areas of my life are in color? Which are in black and white?

What am I holding onto too tightly that I need to release (literally or figuratively)?

And, in case you’re wondering, the courier driver/graphologist was correct. There has been a pretty significant shift in my life since learning to lighten up my grip. It has lightened me up in other ways and it allows a greater flow of goodness into my life. I’ve been blessed with numerous situations in which letting go and trusting allowed just the right job/person/animal to enter my life…exactly on time.

And now for a quick coloring break…to practice lightening up.

A Transformational Tool for 2016 and Beyond

I paid roughly $12,000 for massage school (give or take a couple thousand) and I can’t tell you the last time I gave a massage. Despite having zero desire to be a professional in this field (except for maybe reflexology), I gained so much more than the legal right to touch people therapeutically in a nonsexual way. I also walked away with the following:

  • Lifelong friendships. Massage therapy school is like quick-drying superglue for friendships. Those of us who tracked together through the program shared laughter, energy work, insecurities, laughter, awkwardness, nervousness, laughter, physiology notes, and so much touch. Did I mention laughter? The level of comfort we developed with each other was amazing. Disrobing anytime anywhere became no big thing. I only have to think about a massage-school friend to feel relaxed…and want to get naked.
  • Many thousands of dollars’ worth of massages. I never did the math, but given how many hours of massage we each received, school was almost worth its weight in massages. And it’s safe to say that we all needed to touch and be touched as much as we were. There is little as powerful as the loving (therapeutic) touch of another person.
  • The love and wisdom of one of my favorite teachers ever: Judy Harper. She had the pleasure and responsibility of teaching the night students their first hands-on massage class. She got to cover logistics like how to get undressed privately in a room of ten other people, how to properly undrape different areas of the body while keeping the private parts private, and what to do when a client farts on the table.

Judy and Eric

This sweet goddess of a teacher was infamous for renaming people. I was Eric (instead of my given female name, Erin). In addition to Judy being oblivious to my real name, the squirms it sent through my classmates was hilarious!

Aside from points 1 and 2 above, I could have quit massage school after Judy’s class and been quite content with what I’d learned. Her class was better than any expensive self-help seminar I’ve been to (and I’ve been to many).

Here’s one golden nugget from Judy that will stick with me always:

“Cancel, clear, forgive me.”

Any time Judy thought or said something that was not supportive of herself or someone else, she would say, “Cancel, clear, forgive me.”

This is a very self-loving and self-affirming practice. It brings awareness to our thoughts and words and acts as a prompt to help us think something different when our thoughts are hurtful to ourselves or others.

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can have the biggest impact. Don’t let the simplicity fool you!! This is pure genius.


My intention for 2016 is that it be a year of transformational self-love (transformation by means of self-love). I will be using “cancel, clear, forgive me” to cancel, clear, and forgive the words of my inner trash-talker and to stop it in its tracks.

And if I choose not to stop it, I’ll choose to love the part of me that likes to trash-talk myself and I’ll find out what that part of me needs that it’s not getting. Befriending the shadow? Feeling my feelings? Whoa!! Stay tuned!!

How Hairprint Ended My Struggle

I’ve been going gray for many years. And while gray hair can be beautiful, I’ve also seen it make people look WAY older than their years. It can make someone otherwise youthful in appearance look drawn and wan. Knowing that I would likely be unable to recognize when enough was enough, I had entrusted a few friends over the years to tell me when the gray was too much, but that’s quite a burden to put on someone.

My first indication that I might want to take action was when I was dating a woman who was considerably older than me (15 years) and she stated that she liked my graying hair because it closed the age gap in our appearances. Say what?!

Then the next woman I hung out with stated that she thought gray was cool and had considered dying her own hair gray. I didn’t even know such a thing could happen…nor do I understand why it would. As Suzanne and I often joke, “Does not compute.”

My hair stylist has been very sweet about the whole thing. I asked her to tell me when the gray had gone too far and she said, “I absolutely respect your decision to do whatever is best for you. I would never pressure you into it. It’s not something to be taken lightly because once you start, it’s hard to stop.” Were we talking about coloring hair or doing drugs?!

The struggle has been real. The thought of putting CHEMICALS on my scalp (near which is my BRAIN, which already doesn’t hold onto many memories) was just never something that made sense to me. Women the world over do it without a second thought and yet there I was…giving it a third thought and a fourth and a fifteen-hundredth. I have never been able to make that beauty choice add up in my head to “worth it.” Nor, quite frankly, is it in my budget to pay someone to do it well.

Now enter Hairprint. Here’s a picture of the box. Even the BOX is beautiful. (That’s a box joke for my friend Maureen D.)

boxI discovered this product quite by accident while strolling around the interwebs one day. I started reading it with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. Could it be true that my hair dilemma has a nontoxic solution?!! YESSSS!!

As the website explains, this is how Hairprint works (and it’s only for naturally brown- and black-haired people):

Hairprint creates a process whereby the natural pigment in your hair called eumelanin is recreated in the hair shaft. Eumelanin is arranged in the hair in a pattern unique to each person. We coined a word to name that unique pattern: Hairprint. That pattern determines how we see color.  When eumelanin is restored to the shaft of the hair, your innate hair color returns.

There are EIGHT ingredients in this product and it’s totally nontoxic. And the coolest part: the color it turns my hair will be totally different from the color it will turn someone else’s hair (because it does not work like chemical dyes).

So…my friend Suzanne took some extensive time out of her day to play hair with me. She very patiently led me through the entire process and here are the results:

Before:

side view gray 1top view grayside view gray 2

After:

side view dark 1top view brownside view dark 2

The lighting in these photos is tricky because I was standing under a fluorescent light, but I think they capture the gist. For a first attempt, I’m thrilled with the results. I still have some sparkles where it didn’t take completely, but overall it’s nothing short of a miracle to see my original hair color restored. I’ve always loved my dark brown hair. Even my brother has always been envious that I got the “good hair,” as he calls it (his is much lighter and thinner). And no joke, the treatment left my hair soft as a baby’s butt. And it was an added benefit that Suzanne has salon-quality shampoo and conditioner that left me with that just-from-the-salon smell.

So, my friends, the war has been won. The battle that still remains is learning how to apply it by myself so I won’t have to bug anyone else to help me. I think with a little practice and a lot of patience, I’ll be fine.

If you’ve been waiting to find a nontoxic solution for your graying hair, please check out the website. It even gives instructions for how someone who has used chemical dyes in the past can transition to Hairprint. This stuff is pure brilliant. I would become a salesperson for the product if they’d have me. Thank you, Dr. John Warner (of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry in Massachusetts) for inventing a solution to a very real problem. 😉