Happiness And Success

13 Jul

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Oprah recently had a podcast with the author Sarah Ban Breathnach.

Sarah is known for the bestselling self-help book in the 1990s called Simple Abundance where she talked about how gratitude can transform your life.

The book transformed Sarah’s.

It sold over 7 million copies and soon Sarah was buying Manolo Blahnik shoes, employing nine assistants, and renovating the home in the English Countryside that Isaac Newton once owned.

She had it all. Money. Adoring fans. A wildly successful career.

(Newton’s Chapel.)

Years later, Sarah showed up at her sister’s house with only a suitcase. She had no money. Nowhere to live. A deeply broken heart.

Sarah’s story is the age-old story that I know, I KNOW I know, and yet it’s a reminder.

Sarah lost her money through a series of bad investments, a costly (and awful) divorce, and being ill-prepared for fame, wealth and all that comes along with it. She learned the very hard way the thing that we all learn the very hard way. No amount of

money

followers

books sold

can make your husband kind.

No amount of

success

awards

designer shoes

lead to inner peace. Good decisions. Love.

It just doesn’t.

We all know about Princeton’s study on money and happiness by now.

I don’t need to recap it fully, but I do think about it a lot.

Basically, the study found that after a certain point ($75K), no matter how much more money you make, you aren’t any happier.

Of course, money makes a difference when you can’t pay the bills. When you desperately need it.When the lights don’t turn on.

It’s a privilege of mine to not be speaking from that place.

But I never forget about that 75K.

It’s baffling!

Give me a few million dollars and I’ll SHOW YOU how much happier I am!

Gimme the house in Santa Barbara and free me of the student loan anxiety and I’ll TELL YOU in no uncertain terms your study is wrong!

Except.

Big sigh.

Big breath.

I know that it’s right.

Lauren Graham, in her graduation-speech-turned-book In Conclusion Don’t Worry About It said this:

The fun of doing the daily crossword puzzle with my TV children between shots on the set of Parenthood rivaled any awards show I’ve ever attended. The “success” parts of life look good to others, but the best parts are actually the simple, daily experiences. This is true whether you’re an actor or a teacher or a waitress. I know this because I’ve been all three.

It’s always about the looking good to others part isn’t it?

It comes back to wanting to be seen. Wanting to know you’re worthwhile.

The Fault in Our Stars tackles this beautifully.

Augustus is worried about death because he hasn’t done anything “big” in his life. He’s only 16. The world doesn’t know him.

His girlfriend tells him

I don’t care if the New York Times writes an obituary for me. I just want you to write one. You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you.

That’s it, isn’t it?

I know about you.

I do the crossword with you.

I’ll take you in when you have nowhere to go.

It’s the reminder I need fairly often. The reminder when I’m wishing I had more

money

acclaim

books sold (any books sold!)

That that won’t be the answer.

One of my favorite bloggers wrote about living in small-town Idaho while her husband went to grad school. She hated her job, her pet was sick, they had very little money, and she was trying and failing to get pregnant.

She was miserable.

Eventually they left Idaho for New York where she finally had that baby she had so long desired. Her life changed. She was out of it!

And then.

Her husband took a job back at that same University back in that same small-town.

This time she had the baby. They had money to buy groceries. They had no sick pets.

And yet.

She puts it this way

I am here again, mis-er-able, with none of those ingredients in my kitchen, and yet I am STILL baking that miserable cake!? AND YET!???!!

And yet.

I am quite the gourmet baker of miserable cakes with none of the same ingredients.

Open me a bakery, I’ve got this on lock!

I’m so very good at picking something in my life that will finally make me happy and pinning all my hopes and dreams on it!

When my parents moved after I gradudated high school it was their return that would do it.

(They moved back. I’m so glad they did. It didn’t do it.)

For a long time it was about a romantic relationship that was fairly awful. If that was fixed, then I’d be OK!

I now have a kind, wonderful husband. (I’m so glad I do. And it didn’t do it.)

If I quit this job, or move to this place, or or or.

It’s never done it.

I think I’ve learned this lesson and then I realize that I’m doing it all over again.

That I’m doing it now.

Today, on some level, I believe if my writing career were where I want it to be, if I was publishing bestselling, acclaimed novels, if I was known and regarded and loved for my writing…

That would do it!

(It won’t.)

(It never will.)

Interestingly, Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote a follow up book about her experiences post Simple Abundance success.

She called it Peace and Plenty: Finding your path to financial serenity.

On the podcast, Oprah said something like, “Well, it’s not about the money.”

And Sarah kept insisting it was about the money.

They went back and forth a little and I thought wow.

After all this.

Wow.

I think, perhaps, the answer lies in Lauren Graham’s original quote. She says

The “success” parts of life look good to others, but the best parts are actually the simple, daily experiences.

I am conflating success with best. Best with success.

Anyone can have simple, daily experiences. I should be different and special and successful!

Success = best, hello!

 

Except.

Big sigh.

Big breath.

I know that she’s right.

 

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The Elevator Question

11 Jul

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Dolly is, simply put, an unreal creature sent from heaven gracing our lives.

An otherworldly ethereal thing, I’m afraid to get to close to because she might disappear in a cloud of glitter.

I don’t know. Maybe there’s a more succinct way to say it. Maybe I didn’t do her justice.

Dolly is so cute that a friend told his wife, “Hey you know our cat we think is the cutest? Actually Dolly is cuter.”

TRUE STORY.

I swear.

I was there.

She has her little mannerisms, her little personality. She’s a stuffed plush toy with fur as soft of as a cloud and here she comes. Sitting next to you in the bathroom, just because.

She wants to always be near us.

I wake up in the middle of the night and she’s pressed against me. Curled under my legs. She can’t get close enough.

Our little shadow.

She only loves her bed and her mama, she’s sorry.

My Mount Rushmore is Dolly with four different expressions.

Drake himself has written about Dolly, you see.

Things change.

Dolly is proof of that.

I’ve always been wary of animals. Scared of what they might do to me. Scared of what they have done to me.

And if you’re in the same boat as I was, I want you to ask yourself a few questions.

Are the things you dislike about animals:

  1. Fear they might attack you

  2. Picking up hot poop

  3. Jumping/licking/biting/barking

  4. The smell

Well, it turns out, that dogs aren’t for you! And that’s OK.

In the immortal words of Amy Poehler, good for her, not for me.

Get yourself a cat. Preferably a 5 lb rescue thing who looks more like an anime cartoon than a real life creature.

You’ll love her and write glowing things about her.

You’ll change.

Things change, you see.

In writing school we were taught to be hard on our characters.

Put them in difficult situations. That’s where the interesting stuff comes.

One teacher talked about the elevator question.

If your character were to be stuck in an elevator for hours on end, who would they be most uncomfortable with?

Their parents?

Their ex?

The person they confessed their love to who did nothing?

GREAT!

Put them in that elevator. Make them have those conversations. Make them uncomfortable.

That’s the good stuff.

The stuff we want to read.

The elevator question is a great dinner party question. I’ve used it many, many times. Of course, you need to know your dinner party guests well if you’re going to get an honest answer.

This is a dinner party question for your closest friends. The ones you can be really vulnerable with.

And then boom.

Let it all out.

I was thinking about the elevator question recently and I had a bit of a shock.

My people have changed!

For a really long time the same few souls came up when I asked myself who I’d be most uncomfortable around. They were those of the Big Hurts, of the Unresolved Pain. For a while there, years even, the thought of being trapped in a small space with them was enough for me to run fleeing.

For you see, in life, you don’t have to put yourself in that elevator.

What makes for good story in fiction you can, and often should, protect yourself from in reality.

Boundaries and all that.

But.

Change.

I remind myself this with my current hurts. With my current elevator people. The ones who twist my stomach in knots when I imagine confronting them.

I remind myself that 10 years ago I felt this way about different people. And nothing really changed with us. Most of us didn’t get resolution or that important conversation, or, frankly, the very needed apology.

Time happened.

Time heals.

It really, really does.

Things change.

One day you have a little puff ball of a cat sleeping at your feet and you love her and you write odes to her. And you can’t wait for her to wake up so you can play together.

Things change.

Except for my love for Dolly.

That is as constant as the Northern Star.

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I Woke Up At Noon

9 Jul

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I woke up at noon due to blackout curtains and basement temperatures, but mainly due to insomnia.

I woke up at noon.

My mom and I went to lunch. Over salads and bread bowls we talked about my sister’s wedding and my wedding and how generally I hit the lottery with Rob.

(I really did.)

(I struggle to put it into words sometimes because I really, really did.)

We went shopping for the week and discussed what I want to do to be more environmentally conscious, and what ingredients I like in my smoothies and how the two overlap.

I ran into four people I know. Well three. And one who knew me, and I had no idea who he was all smiles and “Oh my gosh what are you up tos?”

That’s Utah for you.

My mom says when she’s in California it’s kind of nice, she can be anonymous. But in Utah you go out for a few hours and suddenly you’re reconnecting with old neighbors and making plans with friends and there is no anonymity.

There is only you in your mumu and wet hair.

I got myself one of those monster Diet Cokes with all sorts of tasty add-ins.

My parents and I watched the Great British Baking Show and laughed a lot.

It’s hysterical to watch television with my parents. We put on the season finale of the Good Witch together and between my mom’s commentary and my dad’s teasing the whole thing was next-level interactive theater.

Boo

Hiss

Mild conflicts

Some time in the middle of it all, a friend showed up with Mexican food.

 My mom baked us treats, like we were back in middle school.

And soon the kitchen filled with my best friends and we ate and ate and there were cheese puffs and movie theater popcorn and chocolate ganashe and we ate and ate and talked and talked.

We took the enneagram test and marveled at its accuracy.

I mean, the buzz words alone for me

Expressive

Dramatic

Self-Absorbed

Temperamental

There were shrieks of shock and a moment where we said, “I am understanding you so much more” to a friend and she responded “I am understanding myself so much more.”

And eventually it was late. Way too late, really, and we packed up and I promised to send an article on celebrities having babies in their 50s and I felt so known.

So known and so full.

I woke up noon.

It was a really great day.

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A Big Gumbo Of New Orleans Thoughts

9 Jul

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I’m going to New Orleans and I’m exactly like you Jill. Where should I go? What should I do?

Well thank you for asking, Jill. I am an expert in all things Jill, one of my few real shining points. I don’t expect praise for this, but I do appreciate it

comma, Jill.

Here are some things you should do, Jill:

1. Eat the beignets at Cafe Du Monde. You can get them to-go so the line isn’t that bad. Eat them hot. Let the powdered sugar flutter down your breezy, natural-fabric dress.

2. Get a tarot reading outside Jackson Square. Choose a psychic with chairs and umbrella and 13 years experience working at a witchcraft store. Bring cash.

3. Watch The Princess and the Frog. Marvel how much it means now that you’re catching the little references. (Also, it’s Oprah! Oprah is her mother!)

4. Go on a swamp tour! Get lucky and get a tour guide who grew up playing in the swamp and who brings his pet alligator Alli on the ride.

5. Get a snow cone at Hansen’s. Top it with condensed milk.

6. Walk the Garden District. Check out celebrity homes (Hi Beyonce, Sandra Bullock, the Mannings, Anne Rice, John Goodman ETC)

7. While you’re in the Garden District, stop in Anne Rice’s favorite bookstore. Afterwards, grab a roast beef poboy from Parasol’s. Maybe the roast beef fries too? Those are really, really, really excessively good.

8. Speaking of really, really excessively good, New Orleans has queso! At many places! 801 Royal is a starting point.

9. Get tea at the Tea Witch Cafe while walking and vintage shopping on Magazine Street

10. Go to Bourbon Street at night and watch whatever parade is happening. Catch some beads. Dance.

11. Check out a Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. Buy some beads. Ask some questions.

12. Talk to the owner of Faulkner House Books about Faulkner and what he did during his time in New Orleans. Revel in all those little pieces of literary history you didn’t know about.

13. Try the famous turtle soup at The Court of the Two Sisters (This was also interestingly a room service option for me? From Court specifically?)

14. Never wear a bra.

Love you, Jill

Love, Jill

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If I Were LeBron James, The Decision Round II Would Be Easy

18 Jun

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If I were LeBron James facing The Decision Round II, it wouldn’t be a difficult choice at all.

I know how I would proceed and what I would prioritize.

Revenge

Revenge is how I would proceed.

Revenge is what I would prioritize.

(All my Slytherins out there say WHAT)

LeBron has a solid family. He is able to bring even the most pathetic teams along with him to the NBA finals. This would not be a decision about family or championships. This would be a petty decision.

The type of petty to go down in Petty History.

(All my Slytherins say HEY)

Now, I don’t know LeBron’s heart, so I only have guesses here. But my personal choices for where LeBron should take his Petty Party are

1. The Celtics

2. Golden State

Let’s start with The Celtics.

As we all know, Kyrie Irving fled The Cavs to get rid of LeBron. Kyrie has a big ego, and on LeBron’s team that just doesn’t work. You’re always going to be number two, buddy. The number two player in the world is going to be number two next to The King. Get over it. Get excited about being Scottie Pippen or get out of town.

Kyrie got out of town.

Now is LeBron’s chance to say, hey Kyrie, you know who is still more valuable than you are?

I am.

And to show you that, I will sign with the Celtics on the stipulation that they drop you like the hot potato you are. Maybe you can land somewhere soft. Like bad movies based on commercials?

BURN.

From a practical standpoint, this decision makes sense.

The Celtics are great. They’re up and coming. LeBron could definitely win a championship or five with them, vacation with LeBron Jr. on Cape Cod, and still get his revenge.

Every box checked.

This feels like a great scenario.

Do I even need number two?

OK, you convinced me.

The second option for LeBron’s Petty Party is Golden State.

You saw this coming.

I already told you.

The conversation with Golden State would go like this: So, I am going to come here and Kevin Durant is going to leave.

This might be a harder sell. Kevin Durant is good. Like ALMOST as good as LeBron good.

Almost being the key word here.

Yes, Kevin works well with their current dynamic, and yes he’s really good. But almost.

Almost.

BYE KEVIN.

Maybe you can go back to Oklahoma and fight with Russell Westbrook the rest of your career in your personal version of The Bad Place.

PS Rihanna still doesn’t want you.

BURN.

The beauty of this scenario is that no matter which of these two teams LeBron chose, he could still burn both men.

Say he chose Boston. LeBron could send Durant the recording of Golden State being willing to drop him.

Durant is a petulant child. He would not recover.

Say he chose Golden State. A quick text message to Kyrie letting him know just how loyal Boston is and Kyrie would be scrambling for more movie roles.

Win, win, championship rings on every finger

WIN

Yes, if I were LeBron James facing The Decision Round II, it wouldn’t be a difficult choice at all.

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NBA Finals: Game One Recap, Cavs 114 Warriors 124

31 May

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I love LeBron James.

I love how he muscled 51 points on a bloody eye and made it look effortless. I love how even Rihanna, the girl who regularly turns down DRAKE, is after him. I love how he can rattle off every turnover he made in a game like he’s in a movie about a basketball savant.

Maybe most of all I love that he campaigned for Hilary Clinton.

That the undoubtedly best player in one of the most macho professions in the world stomped for a 70-year-old grandma running for president.

Because it was the right thing to do.

Oh yes. And I love this tweet.

IMG_3051This tweet alone would make me love LeBron if I already didn’t love him.

But you see, I already loved LeBron.

Did I mention that?

Game one was painful to watch. So painful. In overtime I left the room to go tweeze random hairs off my face in panic and anger. Not after the 51 points! Not after the bloody eye! He didn’t deserve this!

Golden State makes it worse, of course. They show up half trying. Durant always looks like a petulant teen mad his parents forced him to play.

Listen to me and listen to me close, Rihanna. If we’re going to win this thing we need you back on the first row trolling Kevin. He loves you like he loves no one else and you love LeBron like I love LeBron.

Together, we’ll love LeBron to victory.

I don’t really know how the finals MVP trophy is handed out. It feels like anytime LeBron plays he’s a the best player on the court so why isn’t he always winning everything?

But I do know this.

If the series looks like tonight and Golden State wins despite their entitled “we stacked a team of All Stars and now don’t need to play” attitude, then LeBron sure as EVERYTHING better win the MVP of this series.

He outplayed everyone, a hundred times over. He outplayed them, and he wanted it more than any Warrior on that court.

And I loved him today, like I love him always.

I love LeBron James.

I think I may have mentioned that.

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Letters From Grace

24 May

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Once upon a time, my therapist suggested I start writing letters to myself from grace.

It makes sense.

I am a words person. A words of affirmation person. A words-are-the-best-thing-in-life person.

It makes sense I should be writing to myself.

Grace is a very new second language to me. It is unnatural and uncomfortable and sometimes I forget I ever started to learn it in the first place.

And so I practice with words.

April 20th

Hey there.

Wow.

OK.

You know that was beyond you, right?

Like, that was a tsunami. An earthquake.

And you are human. You were swallowed whole.

Be gentle with yourself in the aftermath. Treat yourself like a friend who survived something tough.

What do you need?

What can you give yourself right now?

Even some kind words like

I still like you

or

I still love you, too

You’re doing WAY better than you think you are.

xo

Grace

I don’t know how to transition this part of the blog post.

I’ve tried.

Again and again and again.

I’ve tried so hard that I started to wonder what grace would say about it. Would it tell me to just publish the mess and give myself grace?

Or would it tell me to set it aside and that itself is an act of grace?

Both are potentially right answers.

Both sound like grace.

April 22nd

Hi there. Me again.

Yes, you need me twice this week.

I’ll let you in on a secret:

You actually need me FAR more often than that.

And guess what? That’s totally normal. Totally human.

This sensitivity you have isn’t a curse or a weakness, it’s a wonder.

You’re a wonder.

It’s true!

That whole list you have, of everything wrong, everything so far away from where you’d like it–your health, bank account, career–there’s also another list. The other side of things, the things you do have — health, bank account, career (LOVE).

You’ve got this.

xo

Grace

The creators of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text are doing a Little Women & Writing as a Sacred Practice retreat.

It’s the sort of thing I would go to immediately if money weren’t an object.

The description of the event says:

We will spend three days asking ourselves one key question; what role do we want writing to play in our lives?

We will ask this question of ourselves, of each other, and of Louisa May Alcott’s classic work of genius, Little Women.

The thesis of this trip is that writing can be a form of prayer. This trip is not about writing for publication, but writing as spiritual technology that we can use to live full, actualized, joyful lives.

I’ve read and reread that description a few times, feeling myself shift through the words alone. Grow a little more solid.

Writing as a sacred practice

These letters from grace are exactly that.

A form of prayer.

To myself. To the universe. To a God.

Let it be so.

Let me treat myself better.

Please, let there be grace.

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I got a text from my friend Bailey.

It said this:

Hey Jillo,

SUP?

Hey gurl guess what? Today’s a free day.

I mean, I know you have to work, but beyond that free day!

What does that mean? It means you can have all the cups of tea you want. Until you start to shake then maybe step it back and switch to fizzy water.

AND THEN! You get to go home and see Dolly and Robby! <3

And then it’s weekend time. Even if you have responsibilities this weekend, let’s not think about that right now. Let’s just be like, “Hey it’s Friday. Not Monday, not Wednesday. Friday. Almost Saturday. Holla.”

OK I gotta make sure your fellow sisters and brothers are showing themselves grace, so off I go. Call if you need me.

Love,

Grace

(It spread.

My letters from grace spread.)

It’s Thursday night.

Maybe write yourself a note from grace?

Maybe start it out with something like

You’re doing way better than you think you are

or

I like you

and

I love you

Maybe start wherever you are?

That’s always a nice place to start.

A few breaths for transition?

xoxo

Jill

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I Am Not Exempt From Life

11 May

IMG_2827Rob Bell talked about The Rock’s Rolling Stone interview on his podcast.

Apparently, at the beginning of the interview, The Rock recounted a story. How he finished work at 2AM and was exhausted. How there was a strange noise coming from his hotel room. How no one could identify it and after an hour of trying everything (including earplugs) he had to move rooms at 3AM.

“It was a whole thing,” Dwayne said.

Rob laughed as he recounted it.

No one is exempt from life.

No one is exempt from life. From those 3AM inconveniences, those mystery noises. You can be The Rock, the highest paid movie star in the world, and you still have to do life.

No one is exempt.

The past few days I’ve had annoying life problems pop up. Paperwork. Unexpected bills. You know.

You really know.

And for the past few days I’ve had a bad attitude about them. An “Are you kidding me?” “What a nightmare!” “Why me?” attitude.

Today I was able to take a deep breath. Begin what will likely be a long process of figuring them out.

Take a step.

Today I was able to say, this is life. I’m not exempt.

Rob Bell continued. He said that, to him, people who are successful generally are people who

Keep going

Pay attention

Are open

I like that.

It’s not completely on topic, but it’s not off either, really, is it?

I am not exempt from life.

Keep going.

It’s going to be a whole thing.

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Life Lately

8 May

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Life lately is a lot of Dolly Purrton.

Our little

cinnamon bun

toasted marshmallow

cappuccino of a cat

with a pink heart nose and cotton ball puffs for paws.

Dolly Purrton who is gentle and talkative, whose favorite spot to snuggle is the bend in my knee, who follows us everywhere because she wants to be in the room where it happens.

Our little croissant who runs to the door to greet us when we come home from work.

Our baby.

Life lately is missing Utah in unexpected ways. In going to 7-Eleven and feeling a hole in my heart that can only be filled by a chocolate chocolate Dunford Donut.

In wanting a really good, really full Diet Coke with fresh lime and settling for a mediocre-at-best Subway bleh.

A friend told me she misses the flowers of her hometown. It’s crazy, she said. I’m in LA. We’re full of flowers.

But there’s nothing like your mother’s lilac tree in the spring.

There’s nothing like a Utah Diet Coke.

Life lately is going to bed at 11, 10, 9. At finally giving in and saying OK. If this is my schedule I can no longer be a night owl. OK, sacrifices must be made.

And so I go to sleep early.

I go to sleep early and that whole part of me of me, the part that people could rely on to be up at 3AM, has shifted.

That identity is asleep.

For now.

Life lately is creating boundaries with church service (a girl can only do so much).

(And there is so much to do.)

It’s wearing pink tassled slippers and loud, crazy sunglasses. It’s ordering lunch ahead so I don’t have to pack anything in the mornings, and realizing that that is worth it. Not having the stress of making a lunch is worth it all.

Life lately is thank you notes on Beyonce stationary.

It’s less TV, not on purpose, just because.

(Because I’m sleeping, most likely.)

Life lately is a lot of Dolly Purrton

Did I mention our baby?

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Here In Your Pain

7 May

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Years ago I went through a breakup.

I should say, years ago I went through many breakups with the same person, a sort of Groundhog Day nightmare I feel lucky to have made it out of partly intact.

But heartbreak it was.

On one of these occasions I showed up at my friend’s house. I had told her what happened and when I arrived she stood at the door with a notebook.

She handed me a pen.

Would you like to talk? was written on the first page.

I checked the box for NO

Would you like food?

I checked the box for YES

And down the flow chart we went. Without saying a word I communicated what I needed right then. We got food. We were there together.

I don’t know what else we did. But I’ll always remember that flow chart. That notebook. That response.

I’m here.

I’m here in your pain.

In the book Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle says

We think our job as humans is to avoid pain, our job as parents is to protect our children from pain, and our job as friends is to fix each other’s pain. Maybe that’s why we all feel like failures so often–because we all have the wrong job description for love. What my friends didn’t know about me and I didn’t know about Amma is that people who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witnesses. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpless vigil to our pain.

A couple of months ago my grandfather passed away.

It was sudden and shocking and a very difficult for me. For my family.

The day before my grandfather’s funeral, a friend texted me. “Hey, me and B are coming to the funeral. We’ll watch any young kids so people can be there for the service.”

I didn’t ask them to do this. I didn’t even know they planned on it. They got babysitters for their own kids. They took their personal days off of work for a man they met only briefly.

They did it for me.

After the service I stood with them among wooden blocks and plastic trucks and let some of it out and they listened and they said

No problem

Of course

I’m here in your pain.

I’ve been working on inviting my pain to the table. Witnessing it, if you will.

When I feel something uncomfortable I slow down.

Hello there anger

Sadness

Jealousy

Fear

Shame

Regret

Come on in. Here’s a seat. What kind of tea would you like?

Would you like to talk? Check for YES

I’m here

I’m here in your pain.

(I’ve learned from the best.)

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