Love vs. Fear: The Experiments


I know. I know. You’ve heard the concept of love versus fear about a trillion times, so I’ll just let Oprah boil it down briefly: “Every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear.”

This idea has knocked around in my head for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I pulled it from the recesses of my mind to conduct a little experiment:

Every time I go to make a decision, I have to ask myself if I’m making the decision out of love or fear.

Experiment #1:

A few weeks ago, I wanted to go to a new farm-to-table, upscale Southern restaurant with people I love more than anyone on the planet. They said they wanted to go too. Later that day they opted for Olive Garden. (Let’s put aside my disdain for chain restaurants momentarily.) They were getting ready to move and were sticking to a budget—something I totally get.

But I so wanted them to experience the taste of the strawberry balsamic shrub on their tongues—the notes of vinegar, the seeds of the strawberries, the tangy, tart, weird sort of yumminess of it all. I wanted them to cut into a piping hot, fried green tomato and have the light batter crunch in their mouths, and I wanted them to watch as the butter melted into a pool on the iron skillet cornbread.

It wasn’t just about farm-to-table versus chain. It was about experiencing this food with people I love. It was about dining on the porch in the late summer sun. It was about watching them taste some of this stuff for the first time. I asked myself if my budget would allow me to help pay for dinner. My Inner Bastard went crazy:

Me: All the bills are paid. More money’s coming in. Let’s do it!

Inner Bastard: You’re one fried-green tomato away from the poor house and you’re gonna “end up eating a steady diet of government cheese and living in a van down by the river.”

Me: That’s ridiculous. I’m fine. I’ve got savings. I don’t even have credit card debt.

Inner Bastard: You better save the strawberry seeds from your shrub ’cause that’s all you’ll have to eat for the next few weeks.

I stopped myself. That was fear talking.

I redirected: Does it feel like love? Really, does it FEEL like love to take these people you worship to this restaurant and help to pay?

The answer was a resounding yes.

We went, and it was everything I hoped it would be, minus the fly that wouldn’t leave me or my spoon alone. (Let’s set that aside though as well, shall we?)

Experiment #2:

I’m tired.

Just plumb worn out.

Summer sometimes does that to me.

It’s like the first time I went to Europe, and I packed my bag so full that I ended up zipping my favorite gray cable-knit sweater right through the zipper. To boot, there wasn’t room to take anything back, so I had to buy a whole new bag while I was there to schlep all my new stuff home.

Summer feels like that—like cramming in too many trips, parties, barbecues, and concerts, until my very soul is stuck in the zipper. No wonder we hibernate in the winter. We’re exhausted.

Summer should be long, lazy, and sloth-like with space to sit around a campfire and try to remember all the constellations you learned in Astronomy 101 decades before. There should be time to head up to your power spot on the mountain, top down, with the pups in their carseats as their long, pink tongues flap in the breeze.

I told my family I would come visit them for my birthday. I keep asking myself if it feels like love or fear.

I’m afraid the answer is fear. I’m worried they’ll be hurt if I don’t come. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just want to nap, and read, and nap some more.

The jury is still out for me on this one. I’m torn. I love them beyond what I can express, so that part feels like love. Taking another summer trip doesn’t. My Inner Bastard doesn’t help:

Inner Bastard: They’ll never speak to you again. When you die, they won’t go to your funeral, and when your mom sends them little vials of your ashes, they’ll end up rattling around in the bottom of the grand-niece’s toy boxes underneath the Happy Meal plastics.

Experiment #3:

Nothing feels more like love to me than summertime reading. Or wintertime, springtime, and fall-time reading.

And… admittedly, I have some quirks around reading.

You see, I go in spurts with things. It’ll go something like this: I read every fiction book I can find that’s set in WWII/Nazi Germany until I can barely lift my head from the sadness, and I’ll only have eaten one single, solitary, sliced olive over the course of two days. Books like: Sarah’s Key, All the Light We Cannot See, The Book Thief, The Nightingale, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Ooh… pie? I immediately switch genres and read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and I fall so deeply in love with Flavia de Luce that I read all seven novels in Alan Bradley‘s series in just over a month. Once finished, I’m bereft. I sob. I grieve. I resign myself to waiting for book eight like all the other sad sacks in the world.

After a day or two of mourning Flavia, I remember one of my other favorite characters in literature: Scout Finch… Thus begins my annual binge of Southern/Southern Gothic fiction with young quirky characters in an epochal Bildungsroman (Coming of Age): Bastard Out of Carolina, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, The Secret Life of Bees, My Last Days as Roy Rogers, Whistling Past the Graveyard. And… on it goes until I find myself on a witch kick or a fictional Mary Magdalene obsession.

This is all a long way of saying that deep in the heat of summer I always come back ’round to my Coming-of-Age-set-in-the-South books. I inevitably end up worrying that I’ve read all books of the kind, but then I find: Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, which leads me to Because of Winn-Dixie… because ice cream leads to store. Literally and figuratively.

So… aside from sharing my unequivocal reading neuroses, which may land me in a padded cell with no books whatsoever, I do have a point. I finished Because of Winn-Dixie the other night and felt profound yuck. How was I going to find my next book? I’ve read them all. I fell asleep with a lone tear barreling down my cheek.

The next day, before I’d finished my first cup of coffee, I had performed an exhaustive search on Google for books in that genre. Next thing I knew I had purchased The Pecan Man, The Secret Sense of Wildflower, and Orphan Train —-> because, clearly, I’ll be jumping tracks to orphans fairly soon.

Yes, I’m still getting to my point. Really. Just one more thing. Have I ever let leak the fact that I have over 200 kindle books? 75% of which I haven’t yet read? Or… did I fail to ever mention the fact that my bookshelves each hold double stacks of books that I haven’t yet read? I’ll bet you I have over 300 books in my “to-be-read” piles/shelves/whole bookcases.

And here we are, finally, at the point. When I performed that exhaustive search and bought more to-be-read books, I was acting wholly out of fear. Fear that I wouldn’t feel the same feeling with a single one of those three-hundred books I already have. Fear that the books I was searching for would suddenly be out of print. Unavailable. Not for me.

My Inner Bastard had nothing to say on this one. He was buried under a pile of said books.

I had forgotten to check in before I clicked buy. I hadn’t asked myself the question. Am I buying these books out of love or fear? Typically, any type of book buying for me is a love thing, but sometimes it’s not. This time it was not.

The next day I told a dear friend about my experiments, and all about my thoughts on love versus fear and how it’s everywhere. Every. Where. And how it’s the foundation of everything we do in our lives.

She asked, “So what’s next for you?”

“Practice. That’s it. Nothing big or grand or deep. Just practice.” I told her, as I stroked my Kindle.

For my visual peeps out there:


What I Learned from Falling in Love…


“Gamble everything for love, if you’re a true human being. If not, leave this gathering. Half-heartedness doesn’t reach into majesty. You set out to find God, but then you keep stopping for long periods at mean-spirited roadhouses.” Rumi

You can try to avoid love all you want. You can decide you’re not ready to date after an OkCupid meet-up gone horribly meh. You can hole yourself up in your house, working like a fiend, watching reruns of Frasier, reading Fifty Shades of Grey and Rumi, eating buttered noodles and asparagus, and love will come knocking on your mother-fucking door anyway. Literally.

“Knock-knock, Motherfucker.” Or… in my case: Ding. Dong, Motherfucker.

Once you’ve opened the door you have to just let it in. Grab that dusty toolbox from the garage and keep those pliers handy because you’ve got to keep your heart open. I don’t care how often and deeply your heart has been broken in the past. I don’t care if you’ve been married twelve times to raging, abusive meth addicts. Those exes are not this new guy. No projection. No clamming up. No shutting down. Take those pliers and pry your heart open. Clamp it with a cold metal speculum. Use duct tape if you have to. Keep your heart open when he doesn’t text. Keep it open when you’re getting mixed signals. Keep it open when he’s reminding you of your past dudes. Keep it open when it feels safer to lock ‘er back up.

All relationships will hurt. Even if you’re dating Mister Rogers of the neatly folded sweaters and soothing carmel-coated voice. You still might trip over his well-placed black dress shoes. He still might tell you he’s feeling conflicted and unsure about the depths of his love for his ex; the utter opposite of you on the human scale. He might decide that your lack of sheep’s clothing, abundance of tattoos, and devil may care attitude aren’t for him. The fact that you jump in rain puddles might freak him out. Your adventurous spirit in bed might send him running to a shower of holy water and bended knees at the altar.

Connections may not mean to him what they mean to you. You may see the magic and wonder in your meeting. You may be floored by the way you’re already finishing each other’s sentences and have the exact same favorite food and how you orgasm at the exact same nanosecond. You may feel the tingly bits of electricity when you touch, you may marvel at this soul that feels like a comfortable, worn-in pair of Converse that you’ve walked in for a thousand years. Honoring that connection and being fully present in the gifts of connection may be totally lost on the other person. Or, they make recognize it and give a voice to it but, let me tell you, it takes a certain size of balls and ovaries to give yourself over to that connection – to ride it out. Taking the comfortable road of known paths, free of briars and brambles, with a topological map may feel more safe for him. The fact that you’re wearing your purple galoshes and a blue peacoat, standing on the edge of a precipice so you can jump when you hear the call of the wind doesn’t mean he’s willing to do the same.

All relationships will end in hurt. Forget the connection, forget the love, forget the feelings. Let’s even say you reside in the relationship for fifty-plus years. Eventually one of you will die. It could happen tomorrow. There are no guarantees. There’s no “100% organic, certified safe” stamp on a relationship. Whether it lasts ten days or ten years or ten decades it’s going to end in hurt. If you’re trying to protect your gonads with a dixie cup you’re gonna fail. If you’re trying to play it safe in case it doesn’t end well, it’s still going to hurt. As Mirabelle Buttersfield says in “Shopgirl” it’s a simple choice, “Hurt now or hurt later.”

Once the connection is severed and the relationship has inevitably ended in hurt and pain there are a few things that are vastly helpful in getting over it.

  • Now that you’ve let go and are out of the haze o’ love think about all the reasons you’re not right for each other. Suddenly remember how utterly perfect the Universe is – how it brings people into your life as a mirror. Stare hard at the reflection. Note the water spots. Learn. Grow like a stink weed. Be grateful that this person who didn’t work out, didn’t work out. Sappy, yes, but everything happens for a reason.  As Lissa Rankin says, “You may be asking the Universe for a Pinto when the Universe is trying to give you a Rolls Royce.” Aren’t you glad the Universe didn’t let you keep that Pinto? That shit blows up when you hit the backend even slightly. You don’t want someone who can’t handle a bit o’ rear end action. You don’t want to end up with someone who crumbles at the slightest ping of life. Right? Of course, right.
  • Thank him for breaking you open. Thank him for ringing that mother-fucking doorbell because the fact that you opened it means you’re ready. It means you’re not dead, cold, and entering the beginning stages of rigor mortis. It means that love is still out there for you. It means that despite the reruns of Frasier, buttered noodles and asparagus you can still feel deeply.  You’ve been shaken loose. Be grateful. Be YOU at the expense of loss. Get clear on what you want and then embody that. Attract someone with the hugest set of balls you’ve ever seen. Find someone who honors connection.
  • Listen to music, particularly Sade. Cry over love songs. Revel in the feelings of heartache. Read Rumi. Watch sappy romances. Fantasize about Johnny Depp. Join a trapeze class. Wake up. Love YOU more than you loved that other person.  Hold yourself tight and drink in the gorgeous soul that is you with your unique traits and attributes that someone else will someday truly appreciate. But… you don’t need that. Appreciate you yourself. Fall in love again. With YOU.

Whatever you do, keep those tools handy, you never know when love’ll come ’round again.

With a crowbar,


Soul Mates: Fact or Fiction?


I need your guts.



I need your gut instincts, your intuition, your introspection on a subject that keeps coming up for me.

Soul mates. Fact or fiction?

You see, I met a guy about ten years ago. I had no interest in dating at the time. I had just left a ten year marriage and was sewing my wild grains with a top o’ the line industrial sewing machine, threads of sinew, and my liver.  But I felt inexorably, inexplicably drawn to this person. We went our separate ways after our first meeting but we kept running into each other. Over and over and over. It was like “moth to a flame” shit. I would think about this Dude. Every. Single. Day. And… according to him, his words, his experience was the same.  It made no sense to either of us. When I looked into Dude’s eyes I was lost in some time-space continuum of I don’t know where or when. But our relationship was rocky, dysfunctional, messy, overwrought, too much. It was like Disney on an icy glacier after a couple bowls of meth. Read more

Glimpse of a Life Through Lyrics


So I speak to you in riddles
‘Cause my words get in my way
I smoke the whole thing to my head
And feel it wash away (1)

Words speak and choose
make sense and lose
capsize the tall tale, but always fail
words speak and choose, make sense and lose
forfeit the tall tale, I always will (2)

I am colorblind
Coffee black and egg white
Pull me out from inside
I am ready
I am taffy stuck and tongue tied
Stutter shook and uptight
Pull me out from inside
I am ready
I am fine (3) Read more

The Royal Wedding: Fairy Tale or Fucking Fromage?


I was driving to school yesterday listening to what BBC coined their “Royal Wedding Disco” when the DJ pulled out Journey’s classic “Don’t Stop Believing.”

I almost ran my little Beetle right off the road.

How apropos. You see, I myself stopped believing in fairy tales when I was fourteen. My mom had recently married a man who would wake me each morn by yelling, “Wake up and piss, the world’s on fire,” through the railing of my bedroom loft. I would roll over and wonder what my mother saw in this vile man whom, with bitter irony, would get so plastered drinking Milwaukee’s Best that he’d forget where the bathroom was and piss next to the coal burning stove. That pretty much put the royal kibosh on any romantic idyllicism that I had up to that point. Read more

You Won’t Find Your Inner Child on a Milk Carton


Dedicated to Jen Lyman – May you find your Selves and gather them together in love and safety and may you wholly heal, both inside and out.

I was told recently that part of me is missing.  I wondered, what exactly does that mean?  I have all of my limbs, my digits, my hair, though I am short a few internal organs.  So hey, perhaps I am a bit disjointed.  Aren’t we all?  Apparently I misunderstood.  I was told instead to imagine that we each have a number of different selves within us determined by how long we’ve lived and depending on our life experiences.  Say, for me, I have five selves.  (God forbid I’ve left any out.)  For example, I have myself as a child, a teenager, a married self, a divorced self, and my current self.  Well, unbeknownst to me, my inner child is on the lamb. Read more