Monday, August 27

Sometimes You Gotta Let Go

So, the last few weeks have been some hard ones for me, introspectively . . . as well as just plain emotionally.

I’ve cried a lot.

Not that that means much. I’m the crier in a family of criers.

Why, though . . . ?

Because my boyfriend of a year and some change too wonderful to count has decided to “go for it” – to get in his Ericson 38 (that’s a sailboat) and sail away, destination unknown.

And I’m not going with him.

For the record, this is something him and I have always talked about him doing. Me going with him has been on and off the table, but one way or another it was going to happen, and now here it is, happening . . .

We’d only been seeing each other a couple of weeks when it first came up:

We were lying under a magnolia tree in a park in La Jolla. He talked, I listened, I cried (surprise, surprise) but wanted us to keep seeing each other anyways.

It’s the journey, not the destination, right . . . ?


So I can’t say I didn’t see this day coming, as if the motorcycle he rode when I first met him or the sailboat he lives on or the pirate earrings or his ever-changing facial hair “designs” weren’t constant reminders of his fierce aversion to normalcy.

I saw it coming, I've reminded myself everyday that we’ve been together that it was coming, and all the same, it's been like getting the wind knocked out of me.

I am bereft.

(Such a pretty word, isn’t it . . . ? The reft sounds like a wing beat.)

But the hurt is only a part of it. It’s what’s keeping me awake to the experience of letting go, what’s making me suddenly and keenly aware of the thousands of little ways we hold on to the people we love, even to the point of holding them back.

You know that saying, "If you love something, let it go” . . . ?

Well, I’ve always hated that saying, like I’ve always hated John Smith sailing away at the end of Pocahontas – after all that!

I don’t hate either of those things any less now, but I’ve come to understand them as necessary – necessary in the sense that while leaving the beaten path behind is hard, leaving loved ones behind with it is so hard that many of us will never actually be able to take that step.

Have you ever looked at pictures of your parents or grandparents when they were your age, drunk on the arrogance and eternal optimism of their youth with all the time in the world to sink or swim and wondered, “How did so-and-so end up as an insurance agent . . . ?”

Where did all of their dreams go . . . ?

How did that one thing they wanted purely for themselves get away from them . . . ?

The answer is a little at a time, day by day, month by month, year by year as they placated the well-meaning worrywarts around them.

That’s not true for everyone, of course.

Sometimes we just don’t turn out to be the people we thought we were; our loved ones then become our excuses, the reason you didn’t study abroad that one summer or take that dream job out of state . . .

Now that – the idea of being a hindrance to someone trying to do something like I am trying to do something, let alone someone I love – is to me by far scarier than the idea of letting that someone go.

My boyfriend made a decision about the course of his life and – this is what I love most about him – he’s setting out on said course.

Through much thought and preparation, he’s put himself in a position to be able to make this journey. And while there are people who have certainly been taken aback by his decision – someone who actually does what they say they’re going to do, gasp! – I don’t know that you can ever really be prepared for this sort of thing . . .

If living off the beaten path were as sure as science, everybody would be doing it.

99% of people aren’t because no one is ever 100% ready.

The timing is never perfect.

There’s no way to do it without hurting anyone.

“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs!”

(Now that saying, I like.)

Chances are you know somebody on the brink of becoming the person they’ve been building to be, so this post is a challenge to you:

Be the one who pushes them, not pulls them.

Or, if pushing them towards their fully realized self and – sometimes, consequently – away from you is too hard, be the one who just lets them go and finally be that person. 

As my boyfriend would say, “A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are for.”

XO, Mal


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Sunday, August 19

The Most Important Relationship You'll Ever Have

For those of you who know me, you know writing and I have had a long and complicated relationship . . .

It began when I wrote my first book in Mrs. Ruffner’s 2nd grade class, complete with my own illustrations.

Quite the little prodigy, huh . . . ? Well, not really.

The book was about a mouse, the story was one dewy cliché connected to another – a paper chain of clichés – and the illustrations were clumsy at best. Nonetheless, I was proud of it. It was so colorful and complete, its yarn binding and Sharpie printed title so formal . . .

But the joy of that first book was overshadowed by other interests quickly as second-graders aren’t exactly know for their attention span, and writing and I were on-and-off-again in the years after that.

During high school, I started dating art and writing became that childhood friend who was not-so-secretly in love with me, who I fell back on when art and I weren’t getting along, which was often. When we weren’t hot and heavy, we were giving each other the cold shoulder – I was either defying the properties of acrylics, much to the praise of my teachers and the frustration of my fellow art students, or I couldn’t even draw a decent circle. I didn’t even want to pick up a pencil.

All the while, writing waited.

And waited and waited and waited, until my sophomore year of college when art and I finally imploded. My classes weren’t challenging to me anymore, and the idea of making art on computers – which is where everyone insisted the field was going – was as alien to me as it was repulsive.

Once art was out of the picture and I let myself fall for writing, though, there was no going back. It became clear me that writing had been “the one” for me all along, and that it was never writing that I didn’t believe in – it was myself.

I had/have a lot of work to do because, especially when comes to your life’s passion – that thing that you do for no reason other than the fact that you just can’t help it – “the one” can very easily become “the one that go away.”

Here are three (of many) ways I’ve learned to avoid that . . . or, if you’d prefer, to hit it head-on:

1. Have “The Talk”

In other words, define the relationship.

Whatever your passion is, decide if it’s going to be a hobby or a lifestyle – “just a friend” or “the one.”

This can change over time, of course, as writing did for me, but sit down figure out how it fits into your life now. Set some boundaries and goals; ask yourself what your short-term and long-term objectives are, how much time and energy you can (or can’t) dedicate to meeting those objectives, and then do the math.

Do the numbers make sense . . . ?

This is what “The Talk” is all about. Managing your expectations. You can’t expect results that are greater than the sum of your efforts – it only sets your passion up to disappoint you and you to feel as though you’ve wasted your time.

For your passion to meet your priorities it first needs to one of them.

2. Give Each Other Space

Okay, so I know I just said your passion needs to be a priority, but don’t forget to come up for air every once in a while.

For me, that means putting my book aside some nights, the laptop away, and watching some RHOBH. (If you know what that stands for, please don’t judge me . . .) Other nights it means going out for a beer with my boyfriend, or sitting in the Jacuzzi with my girlfriends, and talking about anything other than writing.

Occasionally stuffing my brain with junk food lets the creative juices percolate, letting me go back to my work with fresh eyes and new energy, wherein lies the lesson:

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  

True, there is no better high than the endorphin/hormone cocktail that comes on the side of any new relationship – you know, the one that makes you suck face so much that it’s only a matter of time before you’ve learned to breathe through each other’s nostrils – but it’s called a “high” because it’s not meant to be sustainable. You still need to be a functioning human being outside of the relationship; you have your own friends (non-writers, in my case) and other outlets, an identity separate from your passion. 

3. Let Being Happy Be Enough

(Okay, time to get heavy.)

This last way seems like the most obvious as well as the most straight-forward, and still sometimes I catch myself forgetting why it is that I write. I let myself get caught up in other people’s opinions of how I’m living my life (not to mention the fact that I am never not poor) and forget that I write because, for me, writing is breathing; I would die if I didn’t do it. I forget that it makes me happy in a way that has no use for words, no need of an explanation.

So then, if by the end of my life I have never published anything of consequence or made my fortune, so what . . . ?

If by the end of your life you have never headlined a concert or opened a gallery, whatever it is that you set out to do, so what . . . ?

Are you going to regret doing what what made you happy. . . ?

Are you going to wish you'd been an accounting specialist instead . . . ?

No . . . ? Then let your happiness be its own accomplishment.

“Remember the good times, not the bad or the ones you never had.”  

Some of the greatest people who ever lived off the beaten path found neither fame nor fortune until well after their deaths, and had fame and fortune been their aim, their great works would not resonate with their passion such as they do. Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and the poems of Emily Dickinson are amongst those that would be lost to us had their progenitors needed to be known, or even paid . . .

They don’t call us “starving artists” for nothing ;)

Until next week!

XO, Mal

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Sunday, August 12

Farther Off the Beaten Path


Here it is.

My first blog . . .

*insert involuntary cringe here*

Don’t misunderstand me; I like blogs. I read blogs, I have friends who have blogs . . . but I didn’t go to school to be a blogger. I changed my major, transferred schools, bled time and units to be a writer – a “serious writer,” to quote the The Help’s Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan.

The problem is, I have – had – a very specific idea of the kind of serious writer I wanted to be.

Jack London circa 1900, living in a rented villa on Lake Merritt in Oakland, corresponding with the likes of George Sterling as he wrote The Call of the Wild, his masterpiece, not to mention my favorite book.

Like I said, specific.

But as my dog and I are currently living in my parents’ downstairs spare bedroom that used to be the garage, I’ve had to loosen my grip on that idea. A lot.

Tessa, said dog and acting editor-in-chief.
Because while Jack London’s experience sounds like the perfect parts accomplishing and whimsical, it’s not a writer’s lifestyle that makes them a good writer; it’s their writing.

I know this, but as humans beings we’re programmed to imitate behaviors others have demonstrated to be successful. Monkey see, monkey do – or don’t do, if the behavior results in failure . . . 

“Ah, there’s the rub.”

In an age where marketing, social networking, and technology have converged to create a virtual firestorm of free media, I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a time when I considered blogging to be the fate of failed writers, or “wanna be” writers relying on the accessibility and convenience of the internet to compensate for the fact that they’re not engaging enough or relevant enough or something enough to move people to pick up (let alone buy) a book or a magazine. You know, a real one, made of these things called pages!

Some days I still think that way. Other days, I think of bloggers as enlightened – writers who have decided they need neither backing nor anybody’s permission to write, well or badly, as 50 Shades of Grey has proven.

But “mommy porn” is its own tangent . . . Probably its own post.

The sum of this post is: if you want to be a person who lives off the beaten path, outside of the 9 to 5, there is no right or wrong way to be(come) that person, nor is the nature of your journey in anyway indicative of your destination.

Blogging doesn’t mean I’ve failed.  It’s doesn’t affect the quality of my writing. It’s a tool, and tools are usually only as effective as the monkey operating them.  

My hesitation towards blogging had nothing to do with actually blogging – it was about realizing that maybe I’ve been letting my expectations hold me back. It was about accepting my reality, one that doesn’t necessarily include a lakeside villa, in which talent doesn’t guarantee success, nor does it make any sense to keep lugging around an Italian leather notebook like a brick in my purse. Now that I have the iPhone, “I have an app for that.”

Having already forgone reliable income, a benefits package, and The Man telling me what to do with my life in favor of a blank Word document that says “Do anything!” but owes and promises me nothing, you would think the rest of it would be easier to swallow, right . . . ?

The truth is, letting go of these last little delusions can be the scariest for those living off the beaten path because without them everyday then becomes a question of whether or not you love what you’re doing enough to keep on doing it – it in its purest and most grueling form.

If the answer is no for you, then I’m sorry. I don’t know what to tell you.

If the answer is yes, though, then I’ll say this:


Trust your own sense of direction and let anyway that gets you to where you want to go be your way. Trying to retrace the steps of others or allowing an inauthentic or scared version of yourself guide you is only going to get you twice as lost or worse; it’ll get you nowhere.

So here it is.

My first blog, written from my dog-haired covered bed in my room that used to be my parents’ garage.

This is my way, apparently, or at least a part of it.

What’s yours . . . ?

XO, Mal


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