Confession: I Am Beginning To Let Go

Two years ago, when I bought my condo, my bosses sent me a beautiful white orchid to commemorate the occasion. It felt like a celebration of my arrival at adulthood, becoming this person with a mortgage and a car and something I needed to keep alive. I would stare at that orchid and feel the heavy weight of obligation on my shoulders. Keeping that orchid alive seemed symbolic: if I didn’t kill the orchid, I was maybe ready for other “adult” responsibilities (Next Stop: Marriage! Pets! Babies!)

But a few months later, unsurprisingly, the orchid began to wilt, its soft white petals first hanging down, limply, then falling to the ground, one by one. I moved it around, first to sunnier spots in the apartment, and then to darker ones. I watered it more, I watered it less. I pleaded with it to return to its former beauty. I yelled at it to grow (because THAT works). All to no avail. The orchid lost all of its petals, and no amount of coaxing or begging or forcing could bring them back. It was time to let go.

I’m good at letting go of things.

The sweater I once loved that now has moth holes, the pillows on my couch that flattened over time and faded from sunlight, the shoes that aren’t worth one more trip to the repair shop; they all get thrown in a bag and dropped off without a second glance at Goodwill, soon to become someone else’s letting go decision. I leave clothing and accessories scattered across the globe on every trip, in order to lighten my suitcase for the flight home. “Things” are easily released.

It’s the ideas that are tough for me to let go. Like the idea that I killed my orchid. It died in a manner similar to many of my relationships, and I was filled with the same confusion and regret. I loved it too much, or I didn’t love it enough. I suffocated it, or I abandoned it. I couldn’t decipher what it really needed. I didn’t know what I did wrong but that orchid died and it was my fault. And that was something I could not let go. I moved the orchid to my balcony, because I could not face throwing it away.

I have been holding onto these ideas and pressures about how my writing should be progressing as well. It has seemed like it needed to be specifically defined. How many times I needed to write a week (3 seemed ideal), how many sites I should be writing for other than my own (again, 3 felt right), how many new places I should be pitching to publish my work (3 has always been my lucky number!). The idea was that I needed goals, and timelines to reach them, and outlets to help me get there , or somehow my writing (and I) wouldn’t be worth as much.

Unfortunately these ideas are doing nothing to motivate me; they simply give me additional reasons to call myself lazy, or untalented, or a failure.

It’s almost like I’m setting myself up for this failure. It’s almost like I’m looking for a reason to beat myself up. It’s almost like I enjoy it.

I don’t, of course. Who would? But it’s comfortable. It’s easier for me to criticize than to praise. It comes naturally to look for faults.

Except it’s exhausting, and it’s bringing no good into my life. There is no reason to keep hanging onto this pattern. It serves no one, especially not me.

As my beloved writer friend, Jen Pastiloff, has eloquently said, “And then it was time to let go.”

It IS time to let go. Of the criticisms, of the self-imposed writing schedules, of the guilt when I do something else, of the impatience to get there, get somewhere, faster, of all of the ideas that my writing needs to be anything other than what it is: an outlet through which I can connect and understand.

My balcony floor is being refinished this week, so I had clear away everything that has been thrown out there over the past two years in fits of “I can’t look at this anymore!” The extra paint cans, the grill utensils, the toolkit I’ve never opened, the dead orchid.

Except the orchid wasn’t dead. This orchid had, somehow, on its own, come back to life, with three beautiful blooming flowers and several more buds almost ready to open. It didn’t need to be watered, or moved to the sunny side of the room, or implored, or belittled.

It just needed to be let go. Let go to grow on its own, in its own time, in its own beautiful way.

Perhaps if I am able to let go, my own flowers will begin to bloom once again.

The Second Coming of My Orchid

The Second Coming of My Orchid

xx,

Katie

A Letter of Closure

“Wow, she’s gained so much weight.”

“She really looks terrible.”

“I can’t believe how big she is.”

This is what I imagine people say about me when I walk out of a room.

When I get up from the table to go to the bathroom. When I go to get my car from the valet. When I walk to the bar to grab another round of drinks. Even when I am still sitting right there in front of them, the words run in a scroll through my mind, a news ticker only I can see that broadcasts what I am so certain everyone must be thinking.

I stopped into my New York office before leaving for a two week trip to Italy. I obsessed for weeks in advance about how I would face colleagues I hadn’t seen in six months, and what they would surely think of me once they saw me now.  I anticipated conversations where I could plead with them, “Remember, I didn’t always look this way?! Remember, I used to be thin?!? Please, remember???”

The lingering rational part of my mind reasons that most likely no one is talking about me. And if they are, it’s probably not about the pounds I have gained.  But still the thoughts cut through rhyme and reason and stick there, adhered to my brain and seared into my heart.

I arrived in Tuscany last week for my second yoga retreat, this time with my extra literal and figurative baggage. Set amongst rolling hills, with a view of the Monteriggioni castle, Ebbio is an 800-year old farmhouse complete with roosters who function as alarm clocks, wild horses who nuzzle your hand looking for food, and a tree-covered trellis that is suspended above the communal table where all food is served. It is, in a word, picturesque. It is, in a feeling, home.

It is also, as I settled in, the place where I would fully face the demons that have become my daily companions of late.

The fears from New York remained; multiplied perhaps. This group would see beyond even what those in my office saw.

I couldn’t hide a fuller stomach under a blousy dress, just as I couldn’t hide my shame with self-deprecating jokes. Here, it all shows. Amidst the yoga pants and the bikinis, the massages and the acupuncture, the tears and the laughter, everything here demands to be seen and felt. Here, you wear your heart on the outside.

It took me until the last day on my first retreat to say the words: I have an eating disorder. They came out on the first day at Ebbio. I surrendered. I can’t trust that what I see in myself is real. It is time to let others show me the truth.

When we wrote our 5 Most Beautiful Things about each other, none of the letters from my friends mentioned weight or pants size. When we were asked to describe ourselves as others see us, the words “fat” and “gross” were not among those used. It is time to remove those words from my vocabulary. It is time to end this book, finally, and begin another. It is time to say goodbye.

On our second class, on a Sunday evening in the middle of asanas and flowing and opening up and crying and sharing came the directive, “Write a letter of closure.”

And so it follows, the beginning of the end.  

Dear Eating Disorder,

This is a Dear John letter. The time has come for us to say goodbye. You have been a loyal companion since my teenage years. We were high school sweethearts I guess. Though at times I made attempts as finding love elsewhere, I could never forget you. I always returned. You worked your way into my heart and my soul back when they were still discovering what should actually be there, and you convinced me that I could not live without you. And naively, I believed you. You tricked me. You lied to me. You made me hate me. Sometimes I even hated you. But I was never ready to close the proverbial door on you.

It is time. It was time. It was never time. How did you ever even get here in the first place? It doesn’t really matter now.

You will be moving out soon. You can take the flat screen tv and the fancy chandelier and even the complicated wine opener. You can take it all. You don’t deserve any of it, of course, but I will give them to you in order to ensure your leaving.

I don’t wish you well. I don’t hope you will find a soulmate in someone else one day. I don’t pray for your future happiness. I’m sure you understand. Or maybe not. That’s fine too. It doesn’t matter anymore, as long as you are gone.

Please leave the keys when you go. I am still going to change the locks, because I don’t trust that you didn’t make copies, and I suspect you will show up and try to let yourself in again.  But it’s symbolic, so leave them behind on the counter with the garage door opener and my heart. 

It’s over. This is your eviction notice. Your contract will not be renewed. We are done. 

Do not call. Do not write.  Do not text me for a booty call at 1am on a lonely Saturday night. Don’t tweet me. Don’t tag me in your Instagram pictures, attempting to make me nostalgic. Just go, and stay gone.

It. Is. Over. É Finita in Italy.

PS—I know it’s customary to say, “It’s not you, it’s me.” But it IS you. It’s NOT ME. And that’s why this must end now.

xx,

Katie

Letting Go in a field of sunflowers in Tuscany.

Letting Go in a field of sunflowers in Tuscany. “May you always be this happy. May you always be this free.”