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Posts Tagged ‘moving on’

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you. ~~~ Lewis B. Smedes

I love a port wine cheese ball. I can’t even fathom a Thanksgiving or a Christmas get-together without a port wine cheese ball being placed somewhere on the serving table. Now, I know this is not exactly elegant or even in good taste — but the port wine cheese ball makes me happy… and why deny ourselves a little happy?

I was at the grocery store recently perusing all the foods that are completely unnecessary because I made the mistake of 1) going to the store hungry, 2) going to the store without a list, and 3) going to the store with the intention of getting a few “special” things. I made my usual long stop in the cheese section and loaded my cart with sharp cheddar and shredded mozzarella and American slices and mini Babybel — and then, as if the seas had parted to show me the way, a plastic tub that read spreadable port wine. Spreadable port wine? In a plastic tub? That I could spread on a cracker and not have to worry about getting all those almonds that usually cover any good cheese ball on my cracker (I hate all those almonds). In the cart it went. I felt utterly satisfied at my find. I could practically savor the goodness of that cheap spreadable port wine cheese in a plastic tub. And here’s where my thoughts jumped from the cheese section of the grocery store and made a flying tackle on my self-deprecation…

Why the hell did I put off buying something that gave me such joy? Why didn’t I just buy the cheap plastic tub of port wine cheese earlier? Well, I think I know why… at least I think I have the beginnings of the “know why”, it came to me right there in the cheese cooler at the store. We get it in our heads that we aren’t good enough for something, that our own happiness has to be put off, that we need a reason to be kind to ourselves. We tend to perseverate on things that have happened and the whys of it all, we beat ourselves up when we should give ourselves a break, we hunker down in our protective covers when we should embrace our lives… ourselves.

It’s the human condition, I suppose — we seem programmed to loathe ourselves… or we aren’t. But, either way, we do… on occasion. We get stuck in a moment and we think we can’t get out of it. We look around for help, for guidance and everyone has walked away — maybe retreating back to their own protective covers. And there, in that moment, that moment in which we think we are stuck and have no way out — we see it… the spreadable port wine cheese in the plastic tub. And we realize… it’s ours if we want it.

I’ve come to the realization, after many ruminations, that thinking we humans (and by humans, I, of course, mean me) don’t deserve certain things in life is more commonplace than not — I don’t know why this feeling lingered for so long with me, really. I’m figuring that part out. I received this comment on a post I did recently from a wonderful new friend and blogger, Michael Lockhart. When I read the comment it made me immediately think about some events that have been taking place in my life recently. It struck me… deep — the mixed euphoria like when you cross the finish line after running a long race and you’re completely spent — you can do no more, but the act of crossing the finish line gave you the strength to think about the next race.

That comment did that for me — it shoved me on a train of thought that perplexed me, forced me to move… I gulped in a deep breath of cleansing air. I’m thinking about the next race, and the next poem, and the next blog post, and the next friend, and the next kid I get to work with, and the next time I go camping, and I’m thinking about all the things I deserve to have in my life — the people I deserve to have in my life. I am buying the cheap-tacky-spreadable-port-wine cheese ball and I am savoring every bite.

I am not without fault. I am not asking you to ignore my trepidations. I am not asking anything of you… I’m asking it of me. I am asking to be… to just be. I’m setting some prisoners free… what about you? Any prisoners you want to set free?

Life is full of these beautiful scary little moments meant to remind us of who we are and who we can be. ~~~ Sheryl Crow

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I had this comment on a post not too long ago. I love getting comments here, all kinds of comments. Those of you who say, “yes, me too”, and those of you who reveal your souls. This comment has stuck with me. The commenter used the name “Confused”, which worried me about the message I was sending here (assuming there’s a message). It made me take pause before I replied. It made me wonder about the words I was leaving here. It made me wonder about my life.

The comment was wonderful, I replied the best I could. He replied… I replied again, and then — we were done. Here anyway. I wasn’t done with the thoughts swimming in my head — the feeling that I might have been stuck in a rut… that I might have been perpetually swimming under water. He hasn’t been back, that I know of (also, I don’t know if he’s a he). Shortly after that, I wrote this post and felt a sense of righteous indignation as I typed away on my keyboard that night and could literally feel my head bobbing out of the water… taking a deep breath and finally ready to move forward. I was hoping “Confused” might come back to see it.

Around the same time, I saw this picture on Kind Over Matter,

I thought to myself, “What would I do if I had no fear? Well, I’d write a post about setting myself on fire for starters.”

But, for a while, I’ve been thinking about this picture, about that post I wrote, and about “Confused”. It’s been a challenging few weeks. I thought this might be a good time to do a gut check to see if I was moving forward or if I was perpetually swimming under water. I started thinking about what I would do if I had no fear.

I know I would start a blog, if I had no fear. I would go to the edge of losing control and then turn around and come back… I would invite conversation with those who have a certain disdain for me — if I had no fear. I would open up my heart when I should keep it closed and I would open up my mouth and let the words flow freely instead of pausing and walking away and I would invite new people into my sometimes uncertain world — if I had no fear.

I would wrap myself in doubt and walk out the door anyway, I would beg for understanding when I know all you’ll remember is the begging, I would continue to show up at the party hosted by agitated strangers and enjoy the company — all, if I had no fear. I would put myself and a sleeping bag and a cell phone in my car and head out to my favorite camping spot… I would seek clarity even when it proved my actions were muddied with spite — if I had no fear.

I would raise my children to question those who speak contemptuously about others who don’t act or speak or live the same as them and I would take my kids to the fair when I should have paid that bill and I would accept the brutal honesty you offer and I would set myself on fire… daily, if I had no fear.

I would do the things I’m doing now. That’s how I know I’m moving forward, that’s how I know I’m not perpetually swimming under water — that’s how I know. How do you know?

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Today, I’m taking stock in the things I love. I’m thinking about the people and the things and the pets that I love. Here’s my list:

  1. My kids. All 3 of them… all the time. Even when I don’t make their favorite meal. Even when I take away their cell phones. Even when I say “no” because it hurts me to say that but…
  2. My sisters and my brother. All 3 of them… all the time. Even when we don’t see eye to eye on politics or movies or religion or clothes or cars or… you get the idea.
  3. My dogs. Both of them… all the, umm… most of the time. Even when they bark just to incite a barking dog riot in the neighborhood. Even when they trample across my treadmill with their muddy feet. Even when they want to be fed at 5:30 am (even on Saturdays).
  4. My “work girls”. All 6 of them… all the time. Even when we don’t see eye to eye on… well, a lot of things. Even when we are a part.
  5. My treadmill. It has transformed my physical body and my mental state. Even when it goes too fast. Even when it says I’ve only ran 2.3 miles when I KNOW it was 3. Even when it yells at me to get on it when I’d rather be here…
  6. This blog. Even when it hurts to push publish. Even when it hurts to read the comments. Even when I wish I hadn’t said all of that…
  7. My car. Even when it makes me spend way too much money to fill it up. Even when it makes me get pulled over because its brake lights don’t work. Even when it lets a tire go flat.
  8. My card making crafts. Even when I think it looks kind of stupid. Even when I think I’d like to send a card to someone but know I can’t. Even when my daughter finds its hiding place and makes me the most special of all cards.
  9. My vacuum. Even when it doesn’t pick up all the dirt it is supposed to. Even when I wish it was purple or green or had some type of cyclonic action. Even when it makes me dump its contents all over the floor I just vacuumed.
  10. My friends… all of them. Even when I forget to email them back. Even when they forget to call on that day that was so hard. Even when they are far away… because my heart is always here.
  11. My life. Even when I mess up. Even when I wish I could move on but my feet are planted so solidly. Even when I think about the ending I wanted but will no longer have.

Well, that’s 11 for me. There’s a whole lot more — I just didn’t want to overload you with the “taking stock” thing. But now… it’s your turn. What are you taking stock in right now?

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I think there is a part in each of us that begs to escape, to run away. When you think you may have ventured too far from the path. Things start to look so unfamiliar that you pause and step back, trying to see the whole picture — only for it to be obscured by the “right now”. I don’t think I’m a courageous person, no more than anyone else. I think luck has put me in some situations where I needed a calm demeanor — I drove up on a fatal wreck, I stopped a man from choking, I put myself in front of a man trying to stab his girlfriend, I performed CPR on a dying child. I don’t know why I was there, in those situations… not all turned out okay. I think everyone would just react, just go with their natural instincts in demanding situations.

When I was about 5 or 6 years old. I was at the pool with my brother and sisters, summer break was usually spent lounging at the community pool. I had never gone off the high diving board — it seemed so high. I can remember standing at the foot of the steps and looking up, so scared and so filled with want at the same time… I would inevitably walk away. Then I would jump in the water and look up at the board from underneath, gauging the distance — wondering how far down I would go… if I jumped, wondering how long I would need to hold my breath… if I jumped. I repeated this scene many times that summer — staring up from the steps then from the water, and each night I would go home and say, “… tomorrow”.

Summer was half way finished and I still hadn’t jumped — I remember the day well. My brother had purchased some Lemon Head candies from the concession stand and said if I jumped, he would share with me. I loved Lemon Head candies. Without thinking, I made my way to the ladder and climbed up — never stopping. Once I reached the top I walked slowly out to the end of the board and looked down — it was so far down. I turned to go back down the ladder only to find it was packed with anxious kids waiting their turn… no way out. I looked at the lifeguard who was motioning for me to jump. I looked down in the water at my brother who was holding up the box of Lemon Heads. I calculated how long I would need to hold my breath, I calculated how long it would take for the lifeguard to save me, I calculated how many Lemon Heads would be left if I waited too much longer — and I jumped. My eyes were open the whole time, fixated on the water below. My breathing stopped — not because I remembered to hold my breath, it just stopped… and there was silence all around me. I could feel my heart beating, strongly… but I couldn’t hear anything. The water seemed so far away… I remember thinking it would be over soon, surely it would be over soon. Then I broke the surface and sank slowly to a halt. With one quick kick, I  popped up and swam for the edge. It was over. I was all at once filled with the want of going again and the longing of having that feeling of weightless silence return — but the dread of the unknown was no longer there. I was laughing. Everyone was laughing at the little daredevil who just jumped off the high dive for a Lemon Head.

I think the daredevil might be around, somewhere…inside. Maybe here on this blog, maybe out there in a world that sometimes confuses and hurts, maybe when I feel like I’m being kicked in the gut so often that I forget how to stand up straight. Maybe the daredevil is remembering how to stand up straight. Courage is in us all, we just have to be willing to let it see the light of day once in a while… and when we do, marvelous things happen. Books are written, blogs are started, friendships are formed — life is lived… we stay in the “right now”, courage is in us all.

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” ~~ Mary Anne Radmacher

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I’ve been remembering an image that brings me to my knees with sorrow and pain and worry and longing and dread. The picture of his face has been prevalent in my mind for the last several days — I don’t know why. Perhaps a story I read, a video I watched, a memory that won’t go away.

When my father was in the hospital for the last time, a few days had passed since he had been flown by life-flight — he was stable and coherent and… alive, he was alive. The doctor made arrangements to meet with the whole family to discuss his case — in a waiting room down the hall from my father’s room. I thought this was odd that the doctor wouldn’t include my father in this discussion… I didn’t think it should be a mystery to my dad. The waiting room was filled when the doctor arrived and we all watched him and waited. He explained that my father was alive but it was only temporary, he would die. In a few days, in a week, at some point in the near future, he would die.

I can remember when I was about 7 or 8 years old, there had been a couple of significant deaths in my family at that point — death was a mystery and it was scary and it was unknown. But… it made the people who were alive so sad, so alone, so lost. I would lay in my bed at night and cry thinking about my own death, cry silently and think about death and how scared I was of it. It was the unknown. It was the sadness. It was the finality. I would lay there thinking… I wanted out of that particular journey.

It’s occurred to me recently… my fear is not of death. My fear is not about the unknown. My fear is not about leaving people behind… they will carry on when my time comes (hopefully when I’m 103), just like I’ve carried on when I’ve watched someone I love take their last breath. But, I think, I’m more afraid of what will be left. Who will comfort the people I love when I can’t anymore? Who will take away their sadness? Who will make them red velvet cake and buy new tires for their car and give them financial advice and talk about books and call on their birthday and hug them… who will hug them?

After the doctor was through talking to us about how my father was going to die, my mother and I went into his room and sat down. He never looked at me. His gaze remained on my mother the whole time. His lip quivered in that way it does when we are just about to cry and the thought of crying is taking over our face and our body and we can’t control it. His eyes were red and bloodshot with tears that he was trying so desperately to not let fall down his cheeks. His hand reached out for hers. And there we all sat, in silence — pondering an imminent death.

I remember that look and his quivering lip. I remember thinking he was afraid and there was nothing I could do. I remember thinking I just wanted to opt out of that particular journey. But… that option didn’t exist, so I was there…until the end, in every moment. And I sometimes fear my children will one day be standing over me, seeing my quivering lip, wishing they could comfort me — not knowing what to say, pondering an imminent death. I wonder if they’ll wish they could opt out of that particular journey. I’ll want to tell them to stay there, in the moment… every step of their journey, because sometimes the journey seems too hard and sometimes I scream at the top of my thoughts, “I want out!” — but the mystery of this journey looks better when I stay connected to it, unveiling it myself — a little at a time.

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When there’s nothing left to burn… you have to set yourself on fire.

I’ve seen this quote many times. I’ve never understood it. I googled it to see if that would help me. It didn’t. I found out that it is a lyric in a song and that it is loosely tied to a young Czechoslovakian martyr who set himself on fire to protest the Soviet-led invasion of 1968. But what does it mean?

Recently, my journey has taken many twists. I have leaped and there was no net to catch me. I stepped out onto the path of the unknown and found myself lost in the dark. It was scary and it was exhilarating and it was breath-taking. I’ve cried and I’ve laughed and I’ve assessed the damages that I caused and the damages that others should take ownership of.

I attempted to draw back into my shell. I attempted to rebuild walls that were torn down. I attempted to harden my heart so no more pain could ever seep in. And when I looked around at the mess I was standing in, I was alone — and nothing had changed. Then I realized there were cracks in the mortar and it’s always that one small unassuming crack that allows the most beautiful of sunshine in — and there I was, allowing the sun to peek through the cracks and pull me up again. And it occurred to me… what it means — “when there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire”, it means this — all of it. You have to put your whole being into something if you want it to change, if you want to succeed, if you want to move-on in the journey.

I don’t want to search for any more excuses as to why what I want doesn’t matter. I don’t want to look for any other reasons as to why my wishes are less important than anyone else’s. We all should get a say as to what happens in our lives… in our journey’s. If I want something, that matters too. If you want to write a book, just do it. If you want to sing a song, get on with it. If you want to dance, get out of your chair. If you want to love and laugh and feel, open yourself up. Set yourself on fire.

So, I’m here. Letting go of those who toy with my emotions, holding tight to those who recognize my friendship, moving past the situations that reduce me to tears and laugh at me while I’m on the ground. I am here… writing words in a blog that should probably stay hidden. I am here, making new friends and making plans with old ones. I am here, saving a seat for those of you who want to be on the front row. I am here, learning… just learning.

I am here, setting myself on fire because there is nothing left to burn… and I like the way it hurts.

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I’m dating now. Wow — releasing that from my thoughts and onto this page made me break out in hives and a small pimple has just erupted on my chin. No… this isn’t going to become “Becky’s Dating Blog”. Chances are I’ll never actually write about a date — so, all you potential suitors… relax. Although, I can’t guarantee I won’t call up my best friends late in the evening and gossip like we are 13 year-olds just home from our first school dance. And the reason I would even say that I’m dating has nothing to do with actually going on dates — it’s just the feeling. The feeling that something new is happening. The feeling that butterflies are dancing around in my lungs, preventing me from taking a deep breath. The feeling that newness is wonderful and scary and awkward and amazing.

At this point, it doesn’t seem like too much time has passed since I needed my best friend to make that initial approach to a boy. The one where she asked if he thought I was nice and pretty. I would wait anxiously for her to come back to me with the news — back then it was easy… check yes, no, maybe. If the news was bad, I would send her off to the next cute boy. I think I was much better at being the liaison for my friends then they were for me. I remember coming back to tell them good news much more than they told me (I will say this is because of my cool wit and charm when I was speaking to the boys for them). Having a friend make that initial approach seemed vital then — we were all so awkward and afraid and unaware of what our own feelings meant. Having my best friend do my talking for me was the greatest thing in the world.

I picked my daughter and her best friend up from school recently. They’re freshmen now — a time when everything is new. When my daughter got in the car she asked if I saw “him”.

“Who?”, I said.

“Him”, she said, “my boyfriend — the one I was walking with.”

Well, the boy she was walking with was actually walking about 30 feet away from her, no eye contact, not even a glance in each other’s direction. When she and her best friend got settled in the car, the best friend started receiving texts from “him”, and she would relay the message to my daughter. This made me laugh — and it made me miss my best friend. The thought of doing this alone…

So, now I’m dating… again. I’m talking and meeting and learning and embracing the fun and joy and horror of it all. But… I can’t help but wish my best friend was standing beside me. Helping me with that initial hello. Prodding me to say “hi”. Letting me know which boy is going to laugh when she says, “guess who thinks you’re cute”? Letting me know which boy has a bad reputation and which boy doesn’t do well in school and which boy smarts off to the teacher. Something about going at it alone this time around makes the knots in my stomach swell up even worse.

But, here I go. The newness, the awkward pauses, the nervous dinners. I think I’ll enjoy the talks and the walks and the laughs — but, mostly… I’ll enjoy the late night chat sessions with my best friends to tell them which ones like me back. So, if you promise not to panic… neither will I, and we’ll never have to speak of this dating thing again (unless I have your phone number).

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I guess it’s fitting that right after I did a post on physical appearance and women being kind to one another and the quest for beauty and believing in yourself (you got all of that out of that post…right?) that I experienced a bit of a set back in my quest to be healthy and like myself. Here’s a bit of the sordid story:

It was a day like any other day… no, let’s start again!

I indulge my children, sometimes. I have changed their eating habits along with mine. We very rarely stop at a fast food restaurant, very seldom order pizza, whimsically go out for ice cream. Once in a while, I make brownies for them. I’ve been very good about staying away from such treats and enjoying just watching from the sidelines — it’s never bothered me to not indulge. I think that can be attributed to a certain amount of calm that I’ve been feeling as of late. But as we know, sometimes a storm follows a nice calm.

My storm came in the form of brownies. I decided to make brownies for my kids a few days ago. I actually was thinking about how good and chocolately they would taste just looking at the box. It was not necessarily the best time for me to be attempting to be so close to such a powerful drug as chocolate — I had been experiencing a bit of emotional stress. But, I found myself there, with the box of brownie mix in my hand — tempting fate, pretending that I was in control and wouldn’t try to fill the void with a nice treat.

It started with a quick taste of the batter, who can resist brownie batter? I kept telling myself that just a little indulgence would help me feel better, just a little indulgence would fill up that empty space, just a little indulgence. I managed to get the brownies into the oven and once they finished baking, I thought that adding just a touch of chocolate frosting while they were still hot would make them extra gooey — for the kids of course. So, I continued to pretend that I could work past my emotional void, that I wouldn’t need to fill that empty space with the ambivalent treat gloating at me from the kitchen counter.

Just a taste, I thought. Just a taste. My void after all, I needed to fill my void — I needed to feel.

So, I indulged in a brownie. And although you may say it was not that big of a deal — it is. It signifies a set back. It signifies a need to fill an emotional void that I was hoping would leave me in peace. It signifies a lack of self-control and a belief that I was in control. And, as usual when we attempt to fill a void instead of face the issue head on — it meant I had to start over.

Starting over is hard. It wears you down. It wears those around you down.

I attempted, as I so often do, to correct the wrong… to wipe out the mistake — the only way I know how now, my treadmill. I put on my exercise clothes, filled up my water bottles, and climbed on for a much-needed therapeutic 6 miles. I think correcting our mistakes is necessary. I think recognizing our weaknesses is necessary. I think starting over is necessary. I hope I don’t need to start over many more times… I hope I don’t have to say oops too often… I hope.

I can’t decide what I love more — the haunting melody of this song, the incredibly poetic lyrics of this song, or the amazing video for this song — you tell me, okay?

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I guess it comes as no surprise to some and a big surprise to others that in a few days, I will be officially single…again, after nearly eighteen years of marriage. I’ve made a point to tell only a few people, those that I have a bond with or those I have felt comfortable sharing such intimate news — the words are sometimes difficult to form. They sometimes don’t want to leave my lips. They sometimes get stuck in my throat. Not because I’m unsure of this particular path down which my journey through life is leading me — I came to grips with this a while ago, but more because of the way it is perceived by others.

My best friend had been separated from her husband and on the verge of divorce for months before she told me of their marital problems. She was embarrassed to admit that “she failed”. That’s what divorce is in our society, a failure. So when my turn came around to disclose information to her  — I was less than forthcoming as well. I held off on some important details until after our initial exchange on the subject…I sent her a text message that said, “I’m getting divorced and need to talk to my best friend”. She called within minutes and we talked of marriage and divorce and friends and life — and there were no questions I didn’t want to answer and there were no judgements I didn’t need to hear.

I don’t view my divorce as a failure or as a mistake or as a mid-life crisis or as an act against God (more on that later) — it is a choice to continue, to grow, to leap. I think some things in life come to us without offering a choice — they just are. Those are the things that really shape us by forcing us to make decisions about ourselves — we can’t really decide to change certain things, but we can decide to change ourselves. Somethings aren’t always about changing — somethings are meant to stay the same and we are meant to change… to avoid, to circumvent, to move past.

I don’t necessarily think the things or the people that we encounter in our lives are wrong in their steadfastness — we each are responsible for our own outcome. They simply choose to remain stuck and we choose to move forward. Sometimes we move forward in huge bounds and sometimes… sometimes much more frequently, we move forward by living daily in the small victories. Small victories that have meaning to us… and that’s the way it should be.

I think, for me, I’ve been stuck in the “big picture” and not realizing that the small daily victories have been leading me on and comforting me. Small daily victories like seeing a familiar face or hearing a comforting voice or reading carefully chosen words or writing… sometimes, just sometimes, the small victories add up and make the huge leaps seem much easier to navigate. Life isn’t always about the “big picture” or the enormous leaps. I’m beginning to take the small victories and embrace them, I’m beginning to take the small victories and cherish them — I’m beginning to notice the small victories. Small victories, the greatest wish of all.

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I would tell her, I think, standing here in the hallway, as I feel the damp spread of tears across my cheeks, that life is limitless, that fear is conquerable, that if you stay concealed in the shadows, you’ll never be seen. That spending the better part of your days trying to fix people might be admirable; no, in fact, it is admirable, but only when you’re not doing so to avoid fixing yourself.

This is one of may favorite passages from The One That I Want, by Allison Winn Scotch. I could do nothing more than list favorite passages from this book to you here, and you’d be fulfilled by her words, by the way in which she brought these characters to life — to existence. And most likely, listing these passages would undoubtedly make this a mind-blowing blog read for you, but there’s more to it. More to the words of a great writer, more to the way she makes you care about what is happening in the lives of these strangers, more to the story then I could possibly reveal for you here. I would encourage you to follow the link and buy this book — today. But, that’s not why I’m here talking about this book today. I’m here today because this story affected me.

There’s a question that reverberates throughout the story, “…aren’t we all stuck?” It seems like such a simple question, really. Who wants to be stuck? I think we all fall into the habit of doing as “Tilly”, the protagonist in the story does. She envisioned the perfect (for her) life and then set out to attain that life — in fact, avoiding her life, her reality, in the process. It’s so easy for us to fall into the habit of putting blinders on so we avoid derailing the vision at all costs, we avoid change, we avoid reality — we avoid.

I think I felt stuck as well, in a life that really only existed in thoughts and outward appearances — I never wanted to be the one to just “get over” things… things that should never require “getting over.” Marriage is a business, but, that shouldn’t be all it is. And somethings aren’t meant to last forever, somethings don’t fit nicely into the vision of perfection.

I would tell her many things, I think, before I finally steer myself away. Mostly, I’d tell her that it isn’t too late. That the years are long and the road is winding and that dreams float out there to be captured, but only if you’re brave enough to reach up and grasp them.

So, perhaps it’s time to reach up and grasp some new dreams. Perhaps it’s time to move-on. Perhaps, it’s just time. Because being stuck, can change. We’re not all stuck, after all.

I feel very fortunate to have stumbled onto the path of Allison Winn Scotch. She is an extremely talented writer — but, that isn’t what defines her, I think. She’s funny and caring and pretty damn cool and I’m glad she and I are friends (if only virtual for now). So visit her blog, follow her on twitter, join her Facebook fan site. But mostly, purchase this book — you’ll thank me later!

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