I attended a training program in Arizona—getting certified to teach fast-paced, energizing yoga/dance/fitness fusion classes.
Why? Purely just for fun. I wanted to take a break from my usual routine (writing deadlines, lengthy documents, publishing commitments, computer, emails x infinity) and try something completely different. Shake things up. Rocket-blast out of my comfort zone.
It was five days of sweat, creativity, kind people, and great vibes. I loved it.
And…I noticed something interesting.
The company that runs the program is an international, multi-million dollar brand with over 5,000 certified instructors to date—and now me, that makes it 5,001—and a loyal fanbase. A prosperous, thriving company.
On day one of the program, they handed us a big workbook with all the class materials.
The workbook had several errors. A few typos here and there. A missing word. One photo caption wasn’t correct. One sequence was out of date, as the trainer explained (“We don’t teach it that way anymore. I’ll show you the updated way…”).
The workbook wasn’t “perfect.”
It didn’t matter. Not even a tiny bit. The training program was fantastic. The curriculum was excellent. Lifelong friendships were formed. People literally cried when it was over and didn’t want to say goodbye.
Nobody cared about the typos.
This is the thing about perfectionism. It’s a pesky little monster. And it’s a liar. Perfectionism tries to convince you that your work isn’t “good enough” to be shared publicly—unless it is “perfect.” And yet, 1. Perfection is an aspirational destination that doesn’t actually exist, and cannot be achieved unless you are, I dunno, God. 2. Nobody cares about the little blunders as much as you do.
People feel the intention behind your work. They feel the big message. They feel the heart and spirit. They feel the vulnerability and courage. That’s what they remember. Not the fact that you spelled “the” as “teh” on page 42.
Best-selling books are released, all the time, containing typos. My friend Lindsey wrote an award-winning cookbook that’s missing the final steps for one of the recipes. Whoops.
Broadway shows roll nightly, even when actors occasionally flub their lines.
Barack Obama’s re-election team once released an important media campaign that misspelled the word “Congrssional.” Oops. He got re-elected anyway.
Oh, and Mayor Cory Booker (now a US Senator) took out a full-page ad, urging his constituents to “re-elect President Barak Obama.” First name, misspelled. Doh.
Even world leaders bungle things up. The globe keeps turning. The sun continues to rise and set. Life goes on. Love still blooms. Babies get born. Big goals still get achieved.
I once watched a world-famous researcher go completely blank onstage and forget the next part of her speech. There was an awkward moment of silence as she stared out into the crowd, mental wheels churning, mouth half-open. Then she chuckled at herself and strode across the stage—back to the podium—to grab her notes.
“Uh, give me a sec,” she told the audience, laughing at herself, shuffling through her papers. The crowd laughed along with her—kindly, not mockingly. I would bet $1000 that everyone in the room loved her even more than before, and felt even more connected to her, because of that “mistake” and how she handled it. Because of her imperfections.
Whatever you’ve been working on?
* That very-important email you’ve been hesitant to send out.
* The inspirational speech that you worry “isn’t inspirational enough.”
* The book. The song. The screenplay. The letter asking people to donate to your cause.
It’s probably good enough. It’s probably great. And, let’s be honest, if you spend another 10 hours pecking at it, fussing over it, double-checking, and mentally gnawing at it, will it become significantly “better” due to your efforts? Probably not. It’s probably as good as it’s gonna get. So, get it out there. Imperfections included. It doesn’t matter.
Don’t hold back, waiting for perfection. It will never arrive.
You are lovable, valuable, and powerful with all of your “typos” included—and so is your wrk. Oops, I mean work. Whatever. You get it.
“So, this is where I can store my luggage for a couple hours? Until the bus arrives?”
The man nodded. Yup.
It was early morning on the Tahitian island of Moorea. Just a smidge after dawn. Already blazing hot. Sweat slithered down my top. I was woozy from 24 hours of nonstop travel—cramped airplane seats, ferries, vans. Like a time traveler. Body, here. Mind, elsewhere, lagging behind.
I tugged the zippers on my suitcase, backpack, and computer case, verifying that everything was secure. This is what I do when I’m anxious. I tug. And then tug again. I double-check things—straps tied, windows locked, candles blown out. Tiny compulsive tics, barely noticeable to others, confirming that I’m safe.
But in this moment, I could have tugged a thousand times and…I still wouldn’t have felt safe. Because nothing about my life felt secure. Everything felt chaotic.
Back home (did I even have a “home” anymore?) my partner was moving into his own apartment. Tenants moving into our house, the one we’d shared. Everything I owned was in boxes labeled “keep,” “donate,” and “sell.” He and I were still “together,” because we couldn’t bring ourselves to officially say, it’s over. Together, but not really. Sort of. Kind of. Who knows. TBD. The future of our relationship was unknown.
Everything had become so complicated. Problems with no solution. He wanted things that I couldn’t stomach, couldn’t agree to do, as much as I tried. And vice versa.
Hundreds of conversations with no resolution, spiraling back to the beginning, each one more discouraging and exhausting than the last. Could we find a way to stay together—without one of us withering and dying a little bit, every day? Could there be a solution that we just weren’t seeing clearly? How did this happen to me? To us? How is this my life?
Waves of anxiety consumed me. What was he doing in his new bachelor pad? Who was he seeing tonight—and was she prettier, more exciting, and more interesting than me? What happens after I get home, after this trip? What then?
I didn’t know. Anything.
And so, obviously, I really needed to confirm that my luggage would be securely stowed. The one fraction of my life that I could control.
“May I have a luggage tag, please?” I asked the man at the counter. “Like, with a number? Or my name? You know, so when I get back, I can get my stuff?”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said kindly. “I’ll recognize you. I’ll be right here.”
This didn’t satisfy me.
“But my laptop…” I trailed off, by way of explanation. He continued to smile, unbothered, unworried.
I exhaled wearily. Pressed further.
“I would really like a luggage tag. Please.”
He looked me right in the eyes. The smallest smirk on his face. The tiniest chuckle. His expression said, wordlessly, “Okay, crazy lady. Sure. Fine. I’ll get you…your precious luggage tag.”
He rummaged inside a drawer that probably hadn’t been opened in decades. Found a tattered, stained scrap of paper. Found a pen. Wrote an X on it. No number. No name. Just X. Handed it to me.
I glanced down at this sorry excuse for a tag. A tag with no mate. So basically, just a random slip of paper. Completely meaningless.
Our eyes met. He grinned impishly, as if to say, “Are you happy now?” We both started laughing. Big, rolling, belly laughs. The first time I’d really laughed in who-even-knows-how-long.
“Thank you,” I said, wiping tears from my eyes. “So much.”
I keep that tag in my wallet, to this day. A symbol, reminding me to unclench my ass-cheeks, laugh more, and stop clinging to the illusion of control.
Reminding me to have a little faith.
Faith in myself. Faith in my fellow humans. Faith and trust.
Trust that the suitcase will be fine. And if it’s not? You won’t die.
Trust that the bus will arrive eventually. And if it doesn’t? You’ll walk.
Trust that the money will come in. If not? Worst case scenario, you’ll come up with a Plan B, C, D…and eventually a Plan Z. You’ll figure something else out. You’ll land on your feet. There’s always another way.
Trust that your heart will heal, with patience and time and action, too. Trust that you will love again, miraculously, even more than before. Trust that the best years of your life are not behind you. The best is still yet to come. Trust that you are strong enough. Trust that you will survive.
Most of all, trust the luggage guy.
My friend texted me a video.
Twenty-two seconds in a sunlit room. Dappled light through the window and white curtains. Her. Playing the piano. Hesitantly. Tentatively.
She said: “It’s been 26 years since my fingers even touched a piano.”
She played about ten keys. I stared into my phone, watching, and cried.
To me, those ten halting notes sounded just as beautiful as a professional pianist playing “Nocturnes, Op. 48: No. 1 in C Minor” by Chopin. Because those ten notes felt like the sound of optimism. The sound of renewal. The sound of trying again.
It’s never too late to try again.
Many times in my life, I have fallen into a slump. Tired and lethargic. Mentally clouded. Disconnected from my physical body, from the pulse of creativity, from God, from the wonder and awe that’s available all around, at every moment. Disconnected from hope.
And yet, to reconnect, all it takes is a quiet decision–the decision to begin again.
Play a few notes. Make a new checklist. Write a few words. Lace up those sneakers. Unroll that yoga mat for the first time in forever. Smile at someone from across the room and maybe even say hello. Rise again. Open again. Try again.
Today is not over yet.
This life is not over yet.
And it’s never too late.
Even after 26 years.
It’s been one year since B and I ended our relationship.
“The end” was a gradual unraveling that took several months. A great deal of unwinding and various matters to be sorted out. The house. The stuff inside the house. The money. The dog.
August 11, 2018 was the official last day.
That was the day we sat side-by-side on the couch in his new apartment—a space designed for one, not two. We tied up a few loose ends. We cried. We held each other one last time, cried more, and finally, with great agony, peeled ourselves apart.
The very next day, I bought a one-way plane ticket to Hawaii.
I figured a change of scenery might help to soothe my pulverized heart. Saltwater and sand. Sea turtles and sunshine. Definitely couldn’t hurt.
I landed at the tiny airport late at night—starlight, a soft tropical breeze, and the sound of Coqui frogs all around.
A friend picked me up. Asked how I was doing. All I could do was sob, heave, choke, mucus running down my face. There were no words to express how I felt.
She understood, and told me, “There is no rush.”
There is no rush to “get over it” and be chipper and cheery. There is no rush to “get out there” and start dating again. There is no rush to be “okay.” No rush at all.
She didn’t know it, but those four words—there is no rush—were precisely the words I needed to hear. I’ve remembered those words daily. All year long.
A few days after I moved to Hawaii, we got slammed with a hurricane of historic proportions. The strongest cyclone on record. Trees fell. Homes flooded. Power down. $42 million in damage. The street running perpendicular to mine became a roaring river, emptying into the sea below.
I boarded up my windows, then recklessly stood outside in the thick sheet of rain. Rain like a liquid wall. Like a solid mass. Rain like I’ve never seen. Thunder shattering the sky. I stood there, drenched. Sobbing. Laughing. Thinking, “Is this actually my real life?” Realizing, “I have control over almost…nothing.”
We plan, and God laughs, am I right?
. . .
A month or two later, I met with a Hawaiian healer and she told me, “Grief is like giving birth to a child. You’re giving birth to a new life—your new life. Your next chapter. Just like childbirth, you are not in complete control of the experience. You don’t get to decide, ‘the baby will be born at precisely seven p.m.’ or ‘I will be done grieving exactly three weeks from now.’ The timing is not entirely up to you. Yes, you can do things to alleviate some of the discomfort—you can breathe deeply, try to relax, meditate, visualize, hold someone’s hand—but ultimately, the process takes as long as it takes. It might be three hours. It might be thirty. Surrender and let it work through you.”
It is what it is.
It feels how it feels.
There is no rush, and,
It takes as long as it takes.
. . .
Friends ask, “How are you doing?”
One year later, I am still grieving. There’s a lot more space between each wave of grief (hours of calm in between waves, instead of seconds) but the waves still come.
One year later, I still think about him every single day, at least once. I still cry. I still feel a thousand different emotions. I still have questions that will probably never be answered.
One year later, I am not—not even a little, not even .0001%—ready for a new romantic relationship.
Some days, I judge myself very harshly (“Why can’t I just be ‘fine’ already? What’s taking so long?”). But in my compassionate, patient moments, I remember, “There is no rush” and, “It takes as long as it takes.”
“When you love big, you grieve big,” another friend said to me.
And I loved him very, very big.
. . .
Of course, nobody enjoys being in pain.
When grieving, we want to know, “What can I do to feel better? What steps can I take? How can I lessen the distress so I can navigate through the day—so I can work, earn a living, keep a roof over my head, get some sleep, eat a vegetable once in a while, you know, function? And, so I can heal? What will help?”
So many things have helped me.
Yoga and meditation.
Driving my old VW bug convertible with the top down.
Walking. Running. Sweating.
Music. All kinds. Heavy metal. Reggae. Chorale. Classical. Dubstep. All the sounds.
Laying in bed while mom sat nearby.
Watching the sea for signs of whales.
Braiding my friends’ hair.
Purchasing a semi-financially-irresponsible number of massages because sometimes, dear Lord, you just need to be touched and soothed by another human being.
Laying across Grandmother Rock and asking for guidance. (I got bitten by a stingy, acidic little ant…does that mean something? Ha).
Asking dozens of people, “What is the point of life? Why do you think we’re here?” and curiously listening to their thoughts. Turning my attention towards big, cosmic things—bigger than my own individual pain.
Writing. And not writing.
Drinking. And not drinking.
Cookies. And kale.
Being with people. And being alone.
Less tech. More nature.
Reading memoirs written by Holocaust survivors. Restoring perspective. Remembering that things could be one trillion billion million zillion times worse. Remembering that human hearts are incredibly strong and resilient.
Mental reframes. Telling myself a new story about what’s happening and why. My favorite reframe: “It’s not a break-up. It’s a break-upgrade. This is a chance to upgrade and improve every aspect of my life.” (One of my next books will be called The BreakUpgrade.)
Making a daily checklist. Creating positive new routines.
Small moments of beauty—lemon slices in my water, a flower by my bed, gold hoop earrings, looking up at the sky instead of down at a screen.
Trying to find the humor in everything. Laughing in bewilderment at the madness of it all. Complete silliness. Mama Hotdog!
These things, and many other things, have helped me.
This last year, in particular, I have learned that there are many forms of healing medicine. Sometimes you need a boxing class. Sometimes you need to ignore all of your emails and go to the beach and swim next to a turtle. Sometimes you need to order various leotards from Amazon at 2 a.m. in the morning for some inexplicable reason, and it’s all okay.
. . .
If you are grieving a loss of any kind, I wish I had the perfect advice, recipe, or seven-step process for swift healing. I don’t. All I can offer is my own story, which is still unfolding.
All I know is you’re not alone.
All I know is you will laugh louder than ever, and cry harder than ever, possibly all within the same afternoon.
All I know is being near/in the ocean helps. Salt water and tears are so cleansing.
Well-intentioned people may urge you to “hurry up” (“Just go on date, sleep with someone new, c’mon, hasn’t it been long enough?”) but you don’t have to do this. Your internal soul-clock moves at its own pace, nobody else’s.
When you’re ready, your hut (heart + gut) will tell you. You will know.
Until then, breathe, hold a friend’s hand, surrender, let the waves and contractions move through you. It’s all happening. Lava cooling into rock. New earth being born inside your cells. What seems like a “loss” may eventually feel like “more than before.” This might take awhile. Tiny steps forward. One day, the ice will melt. Try to take good care of yourself. You’re doing a great job. There’s nowhere to be except here, nothing to do except this.
There is no rush.
I laced up my faded blue sneakers with tremors in my belly, surprised by how nervous I felt.
It was time for the “Dri Tri”—an indoor triathlon. Three events. Dry land. First, 2000 meters on a rowing machine. Next, a circuit of exercises on the floor, like pushups, squats, and burpees, with 300 reps in total. To finish things off, a 5K run on a treadmill. No break in between sections. Keep moving. Finish at your own pace.
“Why on God’s green earth are you doing this?” my mom had asked earlier that day, dunking a shortbread cookie into her tea. “It sounds horrendous.”
I mean, she’s not wrong. But I explained, “When I do something really hard, I feel proud of myself. I like that feeling.”
The morning of the event, I set a modest goal for myself: “Try to finish the 5K in 30 minutes or less. Also, try not to die.”
Coach blew the whistle. Away we go.
Thirty people. Side by side. Rowing fervently as “We Will Rock You” blared through the speakers. Time blurred. One song faded into the next. One by one, we migrated from the rowers to the floor to the treadmills.
During the 5K, I found myself sandwiched between two people.
On the treadmill to my right, a svelte man who looked like he sprinted out of his mother’s womb and never stopped running. He charged ahead at lightning speed, barely even breaking a sweat. Practically leaving smoke trails in his wake.
To my left, a woman slowly jogging, occasionally walking, progressing much slower than anyone else in the line of treadmills. She was red-faced, drenched with sweat, her chest heaving—obviously struggling. But she never stopped moving. She wore an oversized t-shirt with a logo for a cancer research organization. I found myself wondering about her story. What’s going through her mind right now? Why is she here today? What has she survived?
One by one, each participant completed the event—gathering in the back to claim their participant medals, free water bottles, and complimentary juice samples.
Eventually, every single person was done. Except for one. The woman who’d been to my left. While everyone else was posing for victorious Selfies by the water fountain, she was nowhere even close to the finish line. Still slogging forward on her treadmill with about 2K to go.
Coach hopped onto the treadmill directly next to hers, matching her pace, walk-jogging by her side so she wouldn’t have to finish the journey alone.
A crowd formed around her, calling out encouragement, urging her to keep going.
As her digital screen ticked closer to the 5K mark, more and more people gathered around to watch and cheer.
A count-down began. 10. 9. 8. 7…
When she triumphantly crossed the finish line, the whole room erupted into whoops, hollers, and high-fives.
She made it. We made it. Nobody left behind.
Walking home from the Dri Tri, I felt euphoric—and I felt inspired by every single person in the room, for different reasons.
Inspired by Coach and his genuine, heartfelt enthusiasm, care, and concern for every single person in the gym.
Inspired by the gazelle-like man who finished in first place, lightyears before anyone else, displaying incredible physical power—honed through years of disciplined training.
Inspired by the elders in the room, older athletes defying cultural expectations about what a 50- or 60- or 70-year-old body is “supposed” to do.
Inspired, most of all, by the woman who finished last. The woman who endured more physical discomfort than anyone else, and who never, ever stopped moving forward. Even when she had to slow things down to a crawling pace, she never stopped. The woman who refused to give up.
. . .
Olympic athletes who claim the gold are very inspiring. But the person who comes in “last” can be just as inspiring, if not more so.
Showing up is inspiring. Trying is inspiring. That first shaky step after a setback, relapse, injury, heartbreak, or humiliation—that’s inspiring. Stumbling and asking for help and then trying again for the second, tenth, or hundredth time—that’s inspiring, too.
There are billions of ways to be a source of inspiration.
Whether you’re leading the pack, finishing somewhere in the middle, or absolute last, know that you are an inspiration to someone.
You are significant. You are influencing people’s lives in small ways and big ways, too. Someone notices you. Someone hears. Someone needs the message that your life story provides. Someone needs the specific type of medicine that you and only you provide.
Someone’s eyes are quietly brimming with tears, watching you.
Someone is inspired to stand up and try again.
Because of you.