Confession: I Miss My Security Blanket

I had a security blanket until I was about ten years old.

I might still have it today had it not disintegrated into small pieces. I don’t even remember it being an actual blanket. Supposedly it had Winnie the Pooh on it and was given to me by a friend of my mom’s. I only know this because every year when her Christmas card arrives, my mom says, “that’s who gave you your blanket.” It wasn’t a blanket in my memory, but a nubby grey piece of cotton with a tail that smelled equal parts fabric softener, love and safety. Its pieces broke off one by one over the years, until there was no security left to speak of.

The largest piece was lost during a week at the Jersey shore, in a house we called the Amityville Horror because it was falling down, looked like a place where bad things might happen, and made noises that sounded like it was sighing at night. It was during the summer I was too sick to go to the beach for almost a week but it didn’t matter because the beaches were closed from the hypodermic needles that had washed ashore. This was New Jersey in the 80s. I spent long, hot days in my parent’s bed with my blanket, listening to Whitney Houston and lamenting all that I was missing until one day the blanket was just gone, just another sacrifice made to the Amityville Horror house.

The tail piece was lost after finally being surrendered to the washing machine, at this point both grey and dirty. My mom tried in vain to recover it, even calling in a professional to help with the job. The repairmen could not distinguish my old blanket from the grey lint that had already accumulated in the dryer. It too was gone, another piece of my beloved blanket and another piece of my security lost, strewn throughout my childhood until nothing remained but memories.

I would still wish longingly for my blanket when I needed comfort over the years. When a friend’s son died. When I didn’t get into the college I really wanted to go to. When my heart was first broken. When my parents divorced. When I fell into a deep financial hole. When I thought I had failed at work. When I moved across the country.

When I stopped feeling safe.

All I would have needed to do was pick up that grey blanket, nothing more than a rag really, and smell it to be comforted. To know that things would be ok.

Lately I have found myself wishing for that blanket again, while not wanting to acknowledge to myself what that really meant: that I had stopped feeling safe. That what had started to feel like a safe space now confused me. I have been on uneven footing, unable to find balance with a broken toe and a fractured sense of self. Grasping for something to hang onto, to right myself, to regain stability. But where I had found reassurance before, there was none. Where I had once found support, I came up empty. Where I had previously been understood, I now felt misconstrued.

I see how others react to feeling unsafe, with anger, or sarcasm, or tears. I almost wish for those emotional outlets. But I mostly just felt confused, unsure of what would bring that feeling of safety back. I sought comfort in brownies and wine and cross-country flights. That didn’t work. I was left with jeans that were too tight, headaches from the hangovers, and some extra frequent flier miles. The security eluded me though.

So instead I slowly retreated, back into myself and into my thoughts, and waited. I waited for someone else to see. I waited for the inevitable conversation, the “what’s wrong?” and the “are you ok?” that I was sure would come at any minute. I dreaded that conversation, dreaded admitting how off balance I felt. And then it didn’t come, and it turned out that was even worse than what I had been anticipating.

I left the room and no one noticed. I stopped speaking and no one missed my voice. I walked away and no one stopped me.

I made myself irrelevant and unimportant and then I was.

Until someone did see, and pulled me back into the room. And reminded me that when you can’t find safety in the usual suspects, you just need to look harder. When you think no one is listening, someone is. When you think you are invisible, someone sees you. When you think no one understands, someone does. When you stop feeling safe, someone is there to tell you that you are. And that person can become your ratty grey security blanket, smelling like fabric softener and love and safety.

Although you also recognize now that much as you love that blanket, and that person, you don’t need to hold it tightly, willing it not to get lost this time, willing it to just stay with you. You don’t need this grimy old piece of cotton to feel safe. At ten years old it may have been your savior, but at 35, you can save yourself. You understand that you may sometimes lose your footing, or your sense of self, but that you can always right yourself. And that there will always be someone there to hold you up until you feel stable enough to manage on your own.

Confession: I Am A Control Freak

(as seen on MindBodyGreen)

I’ve been anticipating my upcoming summer trip to Italy forever it seems. I began buying sundresses six months in advance, started an official countdown at the three-month mark, and made my to-do lists blanketing the entire month leading up to my departure. Each day was accounted for. I had sunscreen and hats to buy for the hot Italian sun, walks and hikes to get me ready for strolling around the Tuscan countryside, and extra yoga classes to take before I put my body through twice-a-day classes there. Everything was going smoothly and according to plan.

And then, three weeks before I left, I broke my toe. A “hairline fracture,” the doctor explained to me with her optimistic smile, but broken nonetheless. Broken, just like it had been a flimsy string holding together my carefully laid out plans. Fractured, just enough to throw everything out of alignment. Cracked, just enough to cause everything leading up to the trip to change.

I do not do well with change.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived my life ruled by the appointments entered in my calendar. Schedules and structure make me feel safe and in control. Routines calm me, timelines comfort me, planning soothes me. Crossing an item off my to-do list triggers an almost sheepish feeling of satisfaction that I relish, and now, because of a silly injury, I would have an entire to-do list that was undone. It almost caused me to become undone. It feels ridiculous even to me that this little interruption in the regimen threatened to unhinge me. But so it was.

I went through various stages of grief as my carefully constructed plans slipped away in front of my eyes. I threw a bit of a tantrum, first with anger at myself (how could I do something so stupid?!), second with tears. Then a slightly longer pity party (I was the only attendee; everyone else sent their regrets). Bargaining followed (I will do anything to make this foot better!). Next came the questions, asked to myself out loud, and answered in a voice that sounded irritatingly like one of my friends.

Why me? (Well, why not you? Why should you be exempt from accidents?)

What if this ruins my trip? (It will only ruin your trip if you let it.)

What am I going to do now? (I guess you’re either going to sulk and be miserable about it, or you’re going to get over it.)

And with that, the final stage, acceptance.

When even your own voice, the one that sounds like your friend who wants you to stop complaining and gain a little perspective, tells you to get over it? You listen.

You start to let go.

It was like releasing helium-filled balloons into the air.

First to go was yoga and those hikes — impossible with a foot injury; I let go of that string and the balloon floated swiftly away from me. Next released was the carefully constructed schedule — with a bum toe, standing at happy hours or combing the aisles of Target for travel-sized toothpaste were not a priority; that balloon practically jumped out of my hand.

Hardest to part with was the control I felt I had when my calendar was full and my life was planned. Liberating that balloon took, ironically, the most strength; my fingertips were painstakingly pried open one by one, before I could finally let go, exhale and wave goodbye.

My balloons gone, I was left without a plan.

And for the first time, it started to feel okay. I adjusted. I took care of myself. I even looked forward to a day stretched out by lack of obligations. I let myself just… be.

When I returned to yoga to test out my foot, I was amazed. Bewildered even, at how this little injury had impacted me. My mind and my body were more in tune than I can ever remember them being. My movements were slower, more deliberate and more intentional. There were limitations, of course, things I simply could not do with a still healing toe. But for once, my mind heard the cues my body gave, and actually listened to them, resting when necessary and easing up at just the right moments. I felt at once stronger and lighter. For one hour, all I did was pay attention (which, coincidentally, was the theme of the class). It was a truly wonderful moment.

Breaking my toe was physically not much more than an annoyance and some minor pain. Breaking the cycle of trying to control and plan everything in my life was the unexpected and clearly much needed side effect of this little accident.

It’s amazing how even the smallest break can cause the biggest breakthrough.

Confession: I Have a Dream

Last night I had an incredibly depressing sex dream about Bradley Cooper.

Yes, apparently that IS possible. I’ll let that sink in for a second.

We were on the set of a movie in Vancouver, though it remains a mystery why I was there. Bradley Cooper and Keri Russell played star-crossed lovers in a politically charged 1960’s drama. They couldn’t be together in the movie because they worked for opposing campaigns. They couldn’t be together in real life because she is married. He was in love with her. It was written all over his face and in his puppy dog eyes. The crew members looked pityingly at him, at BRADLEY COOPER (!), in love with a girl who would never return his love, on screen or off.

So instead he settled for me. He invited me into his trailer, made halfhearted efforts with wine that was too spicy and candles that made me sneeze. He went feebly through the motions, almost maintaining eye contact, almost convincing me that it was really me he wanted. I accepted this. I didn’t ask more of him. I didn’t show him who I really was.

I was the stand-in for the woman he really loved, and I knew it. Who knows why I stayed, in this dream of mine. Sometimes it’s just easier that way. Sometimes it’s easier to settle for what we’re offered than to fight for what we deserve. Sometimes it’s easier to ignore that little voice that whispers, “You are more than this”, to pretend we don’t really hear it, to imagine that it must have been speaking to someone else.

I can’t go back and ask my dream-self why I stayed. What I know is that I shouldn’t have. What I know is that it’s terrible to not stay true to yourself and what you know you really want.

What I know is that it’s pretty awful to be a stand-in in your own sex dream.

I went to dinner earlier this week with some of my favorite clients, including a few I have known for over ten years, since the very beginning of my career. One of my faves was celebrating her 55th birthday that day, and we were lucky enough to share it with her. She radiates light, and glows with energy. You just feel better when she’s near. We spent much of the evening catching up and telling stories about the “good old days”, when she turned the conversation more serious with one question for the rest of us: “Who and what do you want to be when you are 55?”

I sat there silently, watching everyone else’s faces as they thought about who they wanted to be at 55. I could see it was not easy to articulate. For some maybe this future was too far beyond what they had yet considered. For others maybe they found themselves confronted with a present that was not what they wanted it to be. I tried to listen to their answers, but my mind was racing, wondering how I would be able to share just what I wanted for myself, the way I hadn’t been able to do in my Bradley Cooper dream.

What if all of my dreams are ridiculous? What if they thought so too? What if what I want is just too much? What if they thought I was crazy for even thinking they were possible? What if they really weren’t possible?!?

What would happen if I just…put them out there?

We never made it all the way around the table for me to share that night, and a part of me was rather relieved. But the other part actually wanted to see what would happen if I admitted, to myself and to my friends, who I wanted to be at 55. Who I want to be now.

It’s safer to keep your dreams inside, hidden from the world, secrets stashed away in your heart. If no one knows about them, they won’t know if you fail at them. They won’t see rejections and steps backwards and knockdowns and heartbreaks. Of course, they also won’t be able to offer condolences, support and love along the way either. They won’t realize how much it means when you start to pursue and then achieve them.

And I’m now realizing that the likelihood of any of them actually coming to fruition while they’re squirreled away somewhere, unseen to the world, is probably pretty slim. This is where you have to take the chance to make the magic happen. This is where you have faith that your friends and your family and the Universe will listen without judgment. This is where you trust.

So here goes. Who I want to be at 55:

I want to be in love.

I want to be a world traveler.

I want to be an accomplished novelist.

I want to be a mother.

I want to be comfortable in my body.

I want to be singing.

I want to be someone’s first choice.

I want to be happy.

And there it is. It’s out there.

What happens when you admit what you really want? What happens when you refuse to be someone’s backup plan? What happens when you say, “this, what I am now, is not enough for me?” What happens when you open yourself up, take the leap, and accept what comes?

I guess I will find out.

Oh and just one more to add: in my next sex dream, I want to be in the leading role. Preferably with Bradley Cooper as my enamored co-star.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” ― Anaïs Nin

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”
― Langston Hughes