“Vinny, sometimes you need to just take a deep breath and let it go.”
I heard the words escaping my lips, saw my son staring at me solemnly and intently…and almost burst into hysterical laughter.
I was giving a pep talk to my 5 year-old son because his blanket had dog spit on it.
Vince was melting into a sorrowful little heap because our dachshund, Rocco, had spent the evening lounging on his bed, cleaning his paws, and drooling all over his favorite blanket, and the thought of sleeping with a different blanket for one night was sending my son into mental mayhem.
But, despite the “I’m so overtired this is hysterical” delirium of it all, that’s not why I was biting my tongue to keep from laughing.
I was telling Vince to let go.
Vince, who still has a paper hat that he made in PreK 3 because he just can’t part with it.
Vince, who tears up at the end of every vacation because he can’t bear the fact that our special family adventure is coming to an end.
Vince, who continued to attempt lifelong friendship with Liam, the boy in his PreK 4 class who spent almost every day spitting on him and pushing him to the ground, long after I begged him to find another “best friend.”
I was telling Vince to let something go.
But that still wasn’t why I was laughing.
Do you ever say something so simple, so innocent, to your child, and it somehow tosses you down a rabbit hole of hard realizations about your entire life?
Yeah, me neither.
Well tonight it did. It tossed me in headfirst and flailing.
I was telling someone to let go.
I’m probably as qualified to preach about walking away as I am to sell cars or build 747’s.
I am no Queen Elsa (except for the part where she’s convinced everything is her fault- that’s kind of me).
I am the WORST at letting go.
Jobs, clothes, relationships- I’m a lingerer.
I’ve held onto socks because I remember what a great day I was having when I bought them 4 years ago.
I held onto a job even after the head of HR gleefully informed me that he was looking up ways to fire me while I was out on maternity leave, because my pregnancy was inconvenient.
I’ve held onto friendships long after everyone from my other friends to my husband to my mother have told me to walk away. Even though I was clearly the only one making any effort. Even though I had confronted the other person and nothing changed.
I’ve held onto relationships with family members even after they came into my home, sat at my table, and said some very unkind things about me, not realizing that I was standing directly behind them. Even after they read and ignored every text, every Facebook message, every attempt I made to have them be a part of mine and my children’s lives.
I’ve held onto people whose constant negativity nearly drained all the life out of me, but who insisted they needed me in their lives. I convinced myself that if I just changed this, tweaked that, or toned down those few things about myself, I could make them happy. I could fix them. Even though nothing I ever did, ever made them happy. Even though being with them added so much weight to my being that I could barely hold myself up.
Why did I linger so much? Was I that desperate to keep people and worn out striped socks in my life?
No- I have plenty of wonderful people and warm, cushy socks. I have friends who remember to wish my kids a happy birthday even when they’re at a wedding in Spain (that actually happened). I have friends who check in to see how Vince’s extra reading help is going at school, or to ask how long it’s been since Gracie’s been ear infection-free.
I have family members who come to my house with little gifts, compliment the silly $3 artwork that I’ve hung in my bathroom, and reach out to me asking if they can have my son or daughter over to spend some quality time with them.
I have relationships that are so full of love, positivity and encouragement that they completely recharge my batteries and fill me with a sense of self-worth.
I have socks that are so warm that I could probably wear them as shoes. I also have socks with reindeer on them, which is pretty awesome in itself.
So why am I such a lingerer?
I think it’s because I was raised to see the best in people. Because those absent friends promised to make an effort, and I wanted to believe it would happen. Because those family members played with my kids and laughed at one of my jokes at a holiday dinner, and I thought maybe it was a sign that we meant something to them. Because those negative relationships did have their occasional happy times, and I prayed that those would start to outweigh all the other times that were dragging me into the abyss.
But I guess as much as we want to see the best…we also need to see the truth.
Sometimes you have to let go.
Sometimes you have no other choice.
I looked at Vince, who was waiting patiently for me to finish my speech, and said, “Sometimes, even though you’re used to one blanket, you need to put it aside and try out another one. You might find that you like the new one even better- it keeps you warmer and you don’t have to deal with dog spit.”
I’m not sure if I was talking to him or to myself, but he grabbed another blanket so at least one of us is going to take my advice.
As for me?
Well…as I was having my mental crisis, I got this from my cousin: “I’m tired, my kids are still up, and I’m drinking wine on a child’s toilet bowl while my son enjoys his warm bubble bath.”
I mean really, why waste time chasing unwilling people when you have anyone who gets you on such a level that she senses, from 30 miles away, that you’re having a moment and could use the mental image of her sipping cabernet on a racecar potty?
I guess sometimes you just need a little dog spit to bring your priorities into focus.
Or something profound like that.