A Pep Talk For Anyone Who Needs to Let Go

fingers hanging onQuestion: what do you long for, dear friend?

What, in your heart of hearts, do you know you could have if only …

If only, what?

You won the lottery? You had more time? You didn’t have this blasted [INSERT PERSON, PLACE OR THING] holding you back?

If so, then it could be time to surrender — but only if you are willing to let go. (And I do mean completely.)

Here’s the catch.

It’s damn hard to let go.

Most of the time, we think we are all powerful, wielding credit cards, cell phones, tight schedules and big demands. Yet behind all of that posturing is our fear.

We are afraid the ghost of our suffering will catch up with us, that bad memories will bombard us. Or that we’ll run into that former lover, the one we’d do anything to avoid, in the Safeway .

We fear we will lose our steely grip on control and be brought to our knees by circumstance. We are afraid that by losing everything, we will crumble to the ground and die.

Yet when you have nothing — when you finally let go and fall apart — then you are finally free. In that moment, you learn the truth: that all of this resistance and suffering you’ve cooked up is unnecessary. Then you start to see that you can have anything you want … if only you will allow ourselves to trust the Universe to bring it your way.

Ranier Maria Rilke wrote: “Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”

This is the hard part. If we can just relax into that receptivity and stop the incessant striving and pushing, then life can finally, truly turn our way.

Perhaps for you that critical surrender means letting go of a treasured client or contract you’d wanted forever. Without that guaranteed source of income you think you will never make it. You believe you will simply dissolve, and cease to be the glorious You you keep trying to be.
Ah, but friend, what if …

What if the Universe has something better prepared for you that you can’t even fathom?

Can you let go and surrender into that infinite possibility? This is when your heart opens, your love for the world expands and you are finally set free.

When I gave up my 23-year marriage, my big showcase home, my identity as a nice straight lady, and then, subsequently, the woman I thought was the love of my life, I began to surrender and truly fall apart.

For a while I roamed around, staying with friends here and there, not sure exactly what to do. And then, incredibly, my daughter suddenly died. And so, in a curious way, I was reborn. Yet, believe me, I still tried to hold on and avoid the sinkhole that was my grief.

I launched a business only 8 weeks after Teal’s death because I was afraid to stop. When that, and a subsequent business both quietly dried up  … well, then I had to let go even further. By then I was retreating frequently to my beloved spiritual retreat — a hippie haven north of the Bay Area where clothing was optional, and you could float around in the meditation pool for hours gazing at fig trees and the evening stars.

Then my spiritual retreat center burned to the ground in a wildfire. So if I wasn’t free before … well, now I was. Like seriously.

So the big lesson became detachment and taking each day as it comes.

But here’s the punchline — I. Truly. Am. Happier.

And all I had to do was let go. Completely. Unbidden, an abundant writing contract landed in my lap. Then a new speaking career was launched. Just yesterday I had a call from a literary agent asking me to show her my memoir when it’s done. Oh yeah, I found the love of my life — and I even get to marry her.

There is something unexpected and sweet about this state of non-attachment. The usual supports are gone; unusual taboos are being lived. In the chaos you realize you are made of unique and beautiful stuff. So you discover you are loved and supported in ways you’d never imagined.

In that ultimate moment of self-reliance, devoid of all your usual props, you can finally know what you are made of. And what you are made of is love. You are not your judgments, your hurts or your long list of to-do’s. Nor are you your self-criticisms and your relentless drive for perfection.

No, dear friend, you are nothing more than your big, beating heart. The degree to which you can know and live this love is the degree to which you will set sail and honor the path you have been given.

There is no valor in holding back in the name of practicality. Do that thing you have been given to do in the small of your heart – the one that propels you forward with an ‘if only …’. That is where the magic is.

If it means some carefully constructed structures must dissolve as you face your worst fears, then so be it. On the other side of all that loss is simply freedom.

You will survive – and, in fact, you will thrive; I can promise you that. That dream of yours is like a great beam of love waiting to pour out into the world and light your path as it lights others. And in that divine consciousness is all the magic and power in the world.

Why resist, dear friend? Why not just dissolve? For I can tell you right now with a smile and an arm around your shoulders: Not only do you deserve it … we all do.

We truly do long for your gifts. So will you just surrender?

Why Women Over 50 Know How to Kick Butt

honey.blogIf you are a woman of a certain age … let’s say 50+ … you may have noticed something. You no longer give a damn what other people think.

All that ‘model behavior’ we are taught just has to disappear at a certain point. I’m talking about those culturally-approved cues we learn as young girls in our pre-teen years.

For those of us who grew up in the 60’s, we had models like TV spy Honey West and those chic girls from The World of Henry Orient. I also had my older sisters Sarah and Lisa, who showed me how the world worked.

Sometimes being appropriate required a certain amount of lipstick (but never orange because that would make our uber-stylish mother plotz.) Sometimes it required we sit decorously and listen to the men drone on for hours.

In my case, it also required I be straight instead of gay — something I knew about myself at age 20 but managed to successfully hide, even from myself, for the next 30 years.

I counted on role models to show me the way. As a kid, I loved Honey West because she was powerful, authentic and real. (Okay, she was hot, too.) My Honey West doll even came with a tiny black plastic revolver that she could tuck into the belt on her cat suit.

Tellingly, Honey West’s creator, G.G. Fickling was a pseudonym for Mr. and Mrs. Fickling because they didn’t think the wife’s name should be on the work. Even though Mrs. Fickling’s job was to provide Honey’s ‘style sense’ – as well as everything that made her a dynamic, but believable female character. (Gloria Fickling, thank you … wherever you are.)

So here we are today, and I can safely say not one of us wears a girdle. We may have left our marriages; we may even live alone and love our lives just the way they are. Or perhaps we’ve staked out ‘our turf’ in our marriages more completely.

We get, on some level, that this is it. Our last hurrah has arrived so we’d better damn well make the best of it.

Recently I published a novel, Transformed; San Francisco,  in which the female protagonist comes to terms with her long suppressed desire to be a professional dominatrix. She’s given up her position in New York society; her marriage was tattered to shreds after her husband found our she’d been domming around with six of his friends.

And why? Because poor Electra had to sneak around in order to be who she really was. Yet,Transformed cover thumbnailTINY when she changes her name from Pamela to Electra and moves to San Francisco to finally BE that dominatrix … she stumbles.

Can Electra really have what she wants? Like … really?

It’s almost hard to believe you can have what you want when you’ve been culturally programmed to defer to others again and again. Especially if what you want is way outside of the box.

So it becomes a question of giving up on ourselves. Will we? Or won’t we?

In 2010, I, too, came to San Francisco to seize the rest of my life. I left behind my 25-year marriage, came out as a lesbian and found my way to the real deal.

Sacrifices were made, but I am now happier in love and life than I’ve ever been. Mainly because I finally get to be me. 100%. Completely.

This is our opportunity as women at mid-life. And frankly, I couldn’t think of a better age to be, wrinkles and muffin tops notwithstanding. Unlike our younger counterparts, we have had more of an uphill climb, but look what we gained in the process.

Like Honey West, we are not afraid to kick butt when we have to. So we can finally, totally be ourselves.

Thank frigging God!

PS. Please feel free to add to the conversation. Have you had your own Honey West moment?

The Five Minute Antidote to Your Fear

wheel-of-dharmaThere came a time not long ago, when I felt like I was on top of the world. My work was going well, my relationship even better – I had a spring in my step as I climbed out of bed each morning. I simply couldn’t wait to unwrap another excellent day.

But now it’s another story.

Today I am fresh out of minor surgery, which means I’m limping around with a black plastic ‘boot’ on my foot. I feel immensely sorry for myself. I’m also battling some age-old demons in my head as I launch my first novel in 25 years.

I feel vulnerable, weak and afraid.

So when am I going to get this right, this slippery, disorganized thing called life? When am I going to finally dissolve into that place on the horizon where money and health are abundant, the weather is always  excellent, and me and my pals are relaxed AND have plenty of time to chat?

Oh yeah … that would be never.

Sometimes I just forget.

The Buddhists say this is one of the Four Noble Truths – the notion that there will be suffering. They even have a name for it: Dukkha.

Dukkha is all about craving and clinging, and wishing that things were any other way than they are at exactly this moment. And if I think long and hard enough, and listen to the sweet consolation of my love as she encourages me, I finally get the point.

Dukkha is actually a critical part of life. And why, you ask? So you and I can get over it, basically, and thus move forward. Which is another one of the Four Noble Truths; there is an end to suffering. We simply must do the work necessary to get there.

I’m not a practicing Buddhist and I’m sure I don’t have the subtleties right here. But I do know when Life presents me with one of her lessons.

The mad, deep fear in my gut comes from long ago. I had an ambitious father who wanted me to be a star, and a mother who was competitive, jealous and wanted me to stay in the background. They have been duking it out in my head for decades now. And the beautiful thing is that now I know when they’re at it again.

So of course I’m going to feel afraid about launching books and being in the spotlight. Yet, at the same time, here I am laid up and unable to move around much at all. So I have plenty of time to contemplate the blank screen, and chip away at my endless list of book promotion tasks.

They go together rather neatly, don’t you think?

It’s as if Spirit just couldn’t resist the chance the help me really live into that old fear of mine – and do something about it. Which is exactly the way I resolve such conflicts.

Where I’m heading is detachment; that divine state of nothingness in which I crave nothing more than doing the next right thing.

In such a simple, joyous place, I imagine I won’t feel beholden to any agenda at all. I’ll be in happy free-flow all day long, taking the path one step at a time. Do you know that essential place of bliss I’m talking about?

There is no second-guessing, no doubting and shame. There is no wallowing in stories, or853876 peeved fist-shaking at the past. Instead, there is a simply, gracious focus on what is, right here and right now.

Oh … wait. I can do this in this moment. And actually, so can you. All we have to do is look at our fear and get clear on what it is – a ghost from the past, here to remind us to look elsewhere. And then we have to surrender to it. It’s a fact; There will be suffering. So why try to avoid it or feel sorry for yourself about it?

When I remember this, I can forget about the saga of my Achilles tendon and get busy creating the next right thing. I can take three deep breaths and refocus my attention as I choose, very intentionally, what to do next.

I can forget all about my little dramas and let the next moment unfold, held once more  in the lovely grace of divine flow.

So what can you do right now to dissolve your own web of tension? What next right thing can you relax into?

I invite you to consider that this moment – right here and right now – is yours for the taking. So may this be your invitation to take it.

Namaste.

11 Ways You Know You Are in San Francisco

  1. It is entirely possible to see people in full costume. Any day. Any time. Yes, you may see a grown man in diapers, bonnet, and pacifier ride by on his bike. Five o’clock shadow, too.
  2. Everyone’s really friendly. On the other hand, they are probably stoned. An SF cabbie set me straight on this my first month living in the city. Which could be why the whole damn city smells like weed: one hell of a lot of people in this town need medical marijuana.
  3. Every coffee bar has coders. Lots of them. They are all seriously caffeinated, staring at computer screens filled with row after row of numbers. They may be men or women. They are almost always young.
  4. People wear down jackets in July and August. I was once chastised by an elderly woman wearing a pea coat, gloves, hat and scarf on a chilly summer night. I was wearing only a light jacket. She called me ‘crazy’.
  5. Then the fog rolls in. You’re standing on an average, humdrum corner of the city. It’s night. Then suddenly everyone looks like Sam Spade, walking towards you through the fog, as the city goes all forbidding and mysterious.
  6. The subject on nearly everyone’s mind is sex. And I do mean everyone, both young and old.url Witness 1960’s topless dance icon Carol Ann Doda. Her recent death rated a front-page story in The San Francisco Chronicle. Then there’s the world’s largest leather fair – one of the few places it’s still legal to hang out completely in the nude, with or without your harness.
  7. The guy in the corner store can talk wine. You drop by the deli up the street to pick up a quick bottle of vino. Suddenly you find yourself involved in a ten-minute discourse on the relative fruitiness of two merlots, or the hint of chocolate and mesquite in an old vine zin.
  8. You become one with the homeless. They’re everywhere. I still have fond memories of The Screamer, a mentally ill man who stood outside my window and screamed loudly at the top of his lungs from time to time. We had a nodding acquaintance. I gave him cash, and he called me ‘Sister’. Even Super Bowl 50 is rife with homeless encampments – more than 100 tents have sprung up around the edges of the festivities.
  9. You begin to hate having a car. Broken car glass is called ‘San Francisco Snow’ by the SFPD. If it’s not broken into, your car will be dinged, bumped, scraped and dented. And that’s IF you can actually get a parking space. Eventually you will succumb to the Muni-Uber combo, with the occasional Zip Car rental.
  10. You, too, will become a Foodie. It’s inevitable. Hang around this food-coffee-wine-obsessed town long enough and you will start worrying about which ranch your grass-fed beef was raised on. (Was it Prather?) Relax and enjoy. You’ll gain weight and drop serious amounts of money, like $85 on a leg of lamb at the farmer’s market. But boy, will it be good!
  11. One day, you will finally chill out. You wake up one morning and realize you no longer care about all that driven, success-oriented stuff that used to be so critical. Like all those tourists riding bikes hopefully towards the Golden Gate Bridge before they have felt its gale force winds, you have become seduced. Glassy-eyed. Suddenly you have time to wait for artisan grilled cheese sandwiches and six dollar pour over coffees.And so the city has done her work. Congratulations.

Transformed cover thumbnailTINY

If you like Suzanne’s writing about San Francisco, check out her new book with co-author Jack Harvey. Transformed: San Francisco, a sexy, funny thriller.

“One of the highlights of Transformed is the San Francisco setting. Bursting with details, the descriptions of the city render it an important part of the plot… San Francisco becomes just as well developed as any of the characters, both layered and complex.” — Foreward Reviews