Saturday, March 22, 2014

It feels like the feeling might kill you.

I can't watch the Budweiser Clydesdale commercial without tearing up. My heart catches on a sharp and familiar feeling. Check it out:

The man raises the horse from infancy-- training her as a Budweiser Clydesdale. This short mini-movie commercial hits on so many of the emotional hotspots of those who have experienced abandonment:

  • There's the watching the truck come to get her. I feel a tug in my solar plexus. 
  • There's watching him wave goodbye. I'm feeling warm. 
  • There's the sitting alone at the table with a beer knowing the loved one is out there somewhere-- without you. 
  • There's the climax! The hopeful anticipation of reconnection when the Clydesdale comes back to town.
  • Alas! There's that momentary flatline of unfulfilled expectation when the horse passes him by without a sideways glance. 
  • Then there's the resolution! The blissful relief when the man sees the horse come galloping after him, returning at last. He gets to have the tender moment when he knows he has not been forgotten, that he has not lost love!

My heart swells with gladness that the abandonment is undone! That our separations can result in reconnections and requited love. And all's well that ends well.

But that's why television and Madison Avenue hook us.

That's why I could watch this commercial over and over, and probably tear up at all the right places-- every single time. I know the feeling of missing and wishing for different outcomes, and all that fallout from separations. They've got my number!

But my point here is not to have a Budweiser and drown your sorrows, or to keep hoping that those who left will come rushing back, or that you will be reconnected with the dead, or that you should keep waiting for the happy ending.

My point is that our emotions and hurts may not ever vanish altogether, and they may resurface at the most unexpected moments for the rest of our lives. I'm here to testify that all that raw emotion can tear us all to pieces when we find ourselves in the friggin middle of our issues.


There is not a feeling that we can experience that will actually kill us. It just seems that way. We must remember to feel it, acknowledge it, reel from the discomfort of it, then work our way through it.

My novella Salt in the Sugar Bowl is like an abandonment manifesto! Sophia Sawyer walks away from her six children and never looks back. Each chapter visits one of her adult children to see how the separation impacts on how they live and love. Available from Main Street Rag Publishers, at, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, select Barnes and Noble stores. Inquire at your local bookstore.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The you beneath the surface

I'm excited because tomorrow (3/9) I get to talk about abandonment issues and being authentic at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. It's a cool and cozy indy bookstore that has great book talks that promote thought and discussion.

One theme that runs through my novella, Salt in the Sugar Bowl, is that in our media-obsessed era, people can easily lose touch with their true selves. We change ourselves trying to be who we think we should be, who others will deem attractive-- all the while sabotaging our chances of being accepted for who we really are. Because if we alter ourselves trying to fit the images we see, then that's false advertising. Adorning ourselves is one thing, but recreating ourselves according to false standards is another thing all together. We must always remember:

We are not our hair, nails, and makeup.
We are not the car we drive.
We are not the job we have.
We are not the house and furnishings.

We are something much deeper, elemental, and unique. Unless those qualities are shining through, and unless the adorning is reflecting that core person, we haven't laid a foundation for a satisfying life. All the glitz, glamour, fantasies and showcasing are just the surface. No wonder so many relationships and marriages are tremendous disappointments. It's like thinking you're sticking your spoon into a bowl of refreshing ice cream and find it's whipped butter. Nothing wrong with either one, but it wasn't what you wanted or expected.

Salt in the Sugar Bowl is available at Barnes & Noble, Cary, Barnes & Noble New Hope Commons in Durham, and at Quail Ridge Books. Or you can order your copy of Salt in the Sugar Bowl at It's also available from the publisher, Main Street Rag.

Read a review:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Supporting your short term self versus your long term self

Humans of New York's photo.: 

"I wish I'd partied a little less. People always say 'be true to yourself.' But that's misleading, because there are two selves. There's your short term self, and there's your long term self. And if you're only true to your short term self, your long term self slowly decays."

Photo: "I wish I'd partied a little less.  People always say 'be true to yourself.'  But that's misleading, because there are two selves.  There's your short term self, and there's your long term self.  And if you're only true to your short term self, your long term self slowly decays."

Now that there is the truth! That's why I'm up doing my job before my job to catch up for all the time I spent partying when I was younger. And some of it was worth it, but a lot of it was me just acting out my "issues." Young'uns, take heed!

It behooves us to reflect on what we love and why we love it, and spend some quality time developing ourselves in that direction. Partying is fun and all, but it's not a whole life. A whole life is about balance. Satisfaction is about feeling in balance. There's a lot of satisfaction to be had from working through those issues that make us want to just party all the time. My issues were about escape. I had a lot of residual pain from experiencing too much death and separations in my early life. I kept moving, kept living for a good time (that usually wasn't all that good, but what was supposed to be fun), and being pretty half-assed with reaching my goals. And I was smart, but not committed. Had goals, but not enough discipline. 

So I want to just say you're never too young to learn about commitment to reaching your goals and cultivating the discipline to reach them. It might even be part of the prescription for overcoming those issues because it'll make you feel so good about yourself.

Come to my Salt in the Sugar Bowl book talk at Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh on Sunday, March 9th at 3 pm.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Acceptance: You'll be done when you die

I've been busy. I get up early to do what I call my job before my job. I write and I teach. I also promote my novella; otherwise it will sit on shelves gathering dust instead of broadening the discussion about abandonment issues and self-awareness-- which I contend are critical to our well-being in a very complicated society. So now it's like I have three jobs. But this isn't just my situation; so many people have alarmingly busy schedules:

- Teaching, tutoring, and raising kids
- Teaching full-time day school followed by college courses in the evening
- Commuting two hours to teach, followed by writing, submitting, & reading other people's work
- Working out of town and returning on weekends to carry out all the necessary domestic duties
- Working several part-time jobs to make ends meet
- And if you're in a city-- driving to the ferry, riding across the water to board a subway (I did this for years!)

The scenarios are endless!

A few weeks ago, I was in low-grade panic mode, sort of scaring myself about all that had to be done and feeling overwhelmed.

Then I started to meditate.

Something dawned on me: It's how we approach it that matters. There are only so many hours in a day, so at some point we just have to go to bed. When we get up, most of what we have to do is still there. So we begin again. And that's the rub.

It's like we are programmed to think that we should hurry up and finish so we get to this period of blissful, open-ended, smooth sailing. Not so. This is life. Busy. Too much in it. New things coming out of nowhere-- a funeral, a humongous bill, a party, a new assignment, jury duty, sick kids, whatever.

This is what I understand since my meditating epiphany:

- Contentment comes when we accept, day-by-day, the things that are on our plate. Resisting, complaining, and wishing things were different makes us feel bad while having to do it anyway.

- When we resist and feel negative about what we have to do anyway, our minutes and hours take on an unpleasant, stressful quality-- that we're waiting to get through.

- Having that stressful attitude is actually creating an unhappy life experience because these appointments, working hard, and long "To Do" lists are what make up our lives.

- Acceptance is about having the best emotional experience we can while doing what we have to do.

If you want a visual to understand what I mean, watch the 1922 silent film Nanook of the North. It's a documentary about the daily lives of an Inuk family. At one point the family was literally building their igloo/house on a daily basis after a day of hunting! And throughout, they are smiling!

Nanook Of The North Full Movie - YouTube

So I conclude this post by saying that my acceptance of my busy lifestyle has made me more joyful as I work. I am also more present as I'm doing what I do because I'm not stressing about what I have to do next.  I'm walking slower and remembering to take deep breaths. As I've heard on many occasions, "You'll be done when you die."

On Sunday, March 9th at 3 pm, I get to read and discuss Salt in the Sugar Bowl at Quail Ridge Books & Music, a very cool independent bookstore in Raleigh. If you're in the area, please drop by... and tell your friends! 

You can buy Salt in the Sugar Bowl from Main Street Rag Publish Company's website, at Barnes & Noble @ New Hope Commons in Durham, and at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.