Saturday, October 5, 2013

Letting Go

When I first moved to Panama nine months ago (!!) I sent an email to an author I knew who told me that after self-publishing his own book, he eventually got to the point where he had to have the majority of the stock destroyed because it didn’t sell.

When he told me this story – as we were sitting at a Farmer’s Market and I was trying to sell my cookbooks – I remember being astounded that he could admit it so easily and without any self recrimination (it was years later, mind you, and he did admit it was a really humbling experience) but I also remember having a sense of envy that he’d been able to let go without it being a sign to him that he had failed.

Somewhere along the road, I started to hate my cookbooks. There are many reasons for this. One, they never made me any money. Two, for the first time in my life I was (and am) in debt because of them. Three, I felt like a fake when it came to talking about wine; I learned a lot about local wine from writing the books, but it was also the part that I needed the most help with, and I felt like a fake pretending that I knew anything. Four, and most importantly, it felt like the books were tying me to North Central Washington when everything else in my body was telling me it was time leave: that my destiny and my heart lay elsewhere. Cookbooks were never what I wanted to write when I quit a corporate job in Bellevue to write a book, but there was a niche and I had the skills to fill it. Even if I didn’t know a lot about wine, I did and do know about layout, design, cooking, project management; I had just spent a year researching the publishing industry for books closer to my heart, and of course I knew how to write and edit. I also knew the people in the local wine industry. All of this made sense, but it didn’t really make my heart sing the way that other writing did.

Before I go any further, let me say that I know this is a skewed perspective. When my first cookbook came out it was invigorating; I was on a high and I loved it. It was only later that the cookbooks began to weigh me down, and that I realized I had veered off of the path where I had originally wanted go. Obviously I learned a lot from writing the cookbooks, and any experience that teaches you what you don’t want is just as important as teaching you what you do want, so I don’t consider it a complete loss. All I am saying is that I am finally processing some things that I pushed down and out of the way in the process of writing the books because what I was hearing and experiencing from everyone else didn’t jive with what I was feeling internally.

Anyway, when I first got to Panama I sent an email to this author, asking him how he had arrived at the point where he could let go of his books and simply move on. He gave me some simple yet profound advice: they will be important to you, until one day they aren’t. That day, his advice implied, you will finally be able to let go.

That day arrived about a week ago. In the midst of being sick, I have started to really look at my life: what I’m still carrying around that doesn’t serve me and the things that I keep to myself that cause me to be alienated. My cookbooks are something that I have wanted to let go of for a long time.

So I did. Without much ceremony besides a post on Facebook and some emails, I put them down. I deleted the Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest accounts that I only had because of them, I started selling them at cost, and I completely let go of what I had been holding onto, because it was no longer important.

Invisible audience, I have not felt this free in a long time.

I’ve been doing some SEO marketing work for a freelancing blog lately, and one of the final nudges I received was from this blog post. It talks about how many of the most successful people in business today never finished college, have never really followed all the rules, and that they know when to let go and move on.

It made me realize that not only was it ok to let go, but it was actually the BEST THING I could do: put down what wasn’t working to make room for something new, something that DOES make my heart sing, doesn’t feel like a drag and will make me money. Not only that, but I realized that with every other big life-changing decision I've made, I have had to leap first, and THEN the net appeared: with my cookbooks I had been waiting to pay off my debt before letting them go, instead of trusting my intuition and past experiences that told me that it was ok to let go first and find another income source to pay off the debt in the new space I'm creating.

It also made me realize that, as much as it appears I don’t follow a lot of the rules, I can actually disregard the rules entirely. I see a counselor here, and many of the conversations we have are comprised of me telling her something that I think is true and her asking gently, “Whose voice is that?”

The number and depth of these “rules” that I have internalized is staggering. I am selfish for moving far away from my family. I am selfish for wanting to take the time to figure out my own emotional issues and try to heal them when I should be focused on a career or starting a family. I am worthless because I’m not making more money. I am unsuccessful because I don’t have more to my name. That if I possess a skill, I am required to use it; if there’s a niche I can fill, then by God, it is my moral obligation to fill it. That there is something wrong with me because I write a blog like this one, where I share the parts of myself that should be kept quiet. There is something wrong with me because I need a lot of alone time; that the thought of the white picket fence “American dream” existence literally makes me want to run; that I will be burned at the stake for admitting that I am not Christian or atheist, but pagan. That no one will love me if I finally let go and admit that there is a growing part of myself that I have kept hidden for too long that is fascinated by a divine feminine power, astrology, the phases of the moon, tarot, energetic healing, and herbal remedies. 

There. I said it. All of it. And you know what? This is not new information. It is simply information that is no longer important to keep to myself. I have finally let go of the idea that I can control anything that anyone thinks about me by hiding the parts of myself that are most sacred for fear they will be trampled on. If you’re going to think I’m a failure because I gave up on my cookbooks, there’s nothing I can do to change that. If you’re going to think I’m loony because I would rather celebrate the solstice than Christmas and because I feel more connected to God, the Goddess or the Universe on a hiking trail or with my feet in a river, then you’re in the wrong place, invisible audience member. I have already let go of you, and you are welcome to let go of me.

I am letting go, and in that process I am making room for better things to come along: opportunities, people and situations that make my heart sing instead of making me want to hide my head in the sand; adventures that energize me instead of those that suck the life out of me and make me feel like I have to hide who I really am if I want to be loved.

So here’s to letting go, and the lightness of my new existence outside the rules.

Love and light kisses,

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