Letting go of the safe…

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After midnight, with the back door slightly ajar, just enough to hear crickets and cicadas enjoying the summer night, I feel content. My cat is out there on the porch, enjoying himself, and I’m ready to write. Properly. I’ve been thinking about school. August is when most of my schools started, though as a girl in New York, we began around September 10th. Not sure why, but when I moved to Dayton, the school year began toward the end of August, and I learned how hot a classroom could be, and wished they had waited until September to begin. All of my schools after that began in August after that. No matter where we lived.

My last kid is starting his fourth college in a week, so I’ve been thinking about college days.

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I have a story for you that I think you’ll like. In my sophomore year, I left one college to get away from a boyfriend, who I felt defined me. Too much. At my new university, I navigated my classes, made good friends, lived 800 miles from home (still), and I worked making pizzas and serving wine (sometimes a little bit too much for myself), but it was a ten hour shift, so Lambrusco made it enjoyable. I learned to live without the boyfriend, but I missed my girlfriends, and so I went back to the other university for the second semester.

I gave in to my dad. Accounting instead of theater or music. He was paying, so I obliged. The man has two Master’s degrees, so I finally listened to him. On the first day of classes in snowy, cold Wisconsin, I stood at the door of Accounting 101, and being on time meant the only row available was the front. I scooted to the far side, and yes, the boyfriend decided to take his accounting class with me. We sat together, smushed right up against the professor’s desk. Not fun, but all business majors had to take this class. Had.

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Two minutes after the start of class, two guys showed up and hovered at the door, looking, searching for a seat. The only two left were next to me. I saw the boy with bedroom eyes, green maybe, but he just glanced at me as his friend took the seat right next to me. I liked how he looked, but the professor had begun. It was a tough class. I studied a lot that semester, well I had to, and I discovered Mr. Green Eyes liked studying in the library too.

My roommates were Marketing majors which I believe means they majored in going out drinking every night of the week. I never once made it to Dime Taps at Mitchell’s. I had to study in a quiet space, and the library became my new spot. Green Eyes was there as much as I was, so I finally sauntered (well, I probably loped over, but the beauty of memories is changing them to suit us) over to his table. Green Eyes smiled up at me, but those eyes, with laughter hiding behind them, were blue. I asked for help with some obscure problem, but I spent the whole time wondering if he had a girlfriend.

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Turned out Blue Eyes was free. I still had the boyfriend from high school, though due to his cheating on me at least a dozen times when my parents (and I) moved from Milwaukee to Syracuse. He cheated while I waitressed and took a run each night, because I knew no one there. I thought the boyfriend and I would marry, but in my sophomore year, I told him I was now taking time to survey the scenery. Meaning other guys. He didn’t like it, but those were my rules at that time.

I flirted shamelessly with Blue Eyes, and I knew his name now too. He said he had seen my name on the homework I had to pass down to the end of my row in class. He noticed I had a boyfriend, so I explained about New York, my high school love and cheating, and somehow we began to easily converse. I liked his name. I liked him so very much, too. I knew since the boyfriend had decided I was his, after sampling others for two straight summers, that I would have to initiate any meeting with Blue Eyes. I kept the boyfriend, because it had been three years, and he was my security blanket, and I still liked him. Yet…

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I set it up so well. I told Blue Eye’s roommate that he should meet me at a certain bar where they had dancing on Fridays, and to look for the blonde from his class, if he was interested in me at all. I didn’t set it up with Blue Eyes directly, because what if he gave me a flat out no? When I turned up at the bar with my friend for support, he was dancing with his old girlfriend from high school. What is it about our high school romances, that they follow us out of the corridors of lockers, and stay with us long after graduation?

I turned away to leave, because clearly Blue Eyes wasn’t there to meet me. Suddenly I heard him say, “You can’t leave. You haven’t met me yet.” My roommate smiled and gave me space. Gave us space. We still don’t know what happened to his ex that he was dancing with.

We chatted and danced, and later, after a slice of pizza at two a.m., we walked to his dorm and talked. All night. Nothing else. But we had so much in common. It felt uncanny, how similar we were, about our days in high school, and what we did, who we were then, and where we were trying to go now.

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Do you believe in destiny? I have to, because no other explanation exists. I should have gone home to Syracuse to finish my schooling at that prestigious university. But I was angry and tired of moving, so I stayed behind. And our last names are such that I usually sat next to him in our classes. Accounting is not a popular major for a reason. I was Engle. He was right next to me. Eppers.

When I graduated university, I took my number and climbed the hill searching for my place among the E’s. I finally found it, and who should pop up but Blue Eyes. Eppers. I graduated five seconds before he did, though he is in my formal graduation photo, due to him being next. Yes. We sat side by side, and I guess our parents thought that was cute. Eppers had become my boyfriend, and I had left behind the security of a boyfriend who wanted to marry me, but only after two summers of cheating that hurt my soul. I gave him up. And went forward with Blue Eyes. With destiny. With hope.

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I chose Blue Eyes. My heart chose first, and then my head followed. And do you know, I had to take the CPA exam next to my very serious boyfriend? Engle. Eppers. Fate? Yes. But making the leap from the blanket security of high school, which reminded me of when my family still lived close by, to taking a chance on a man I met in class? That took courage. For me. I fell in love with his eyes first. Sexy. Kind. Bemused. Flirty. Funny. And then I decided to live in Wisconsin after graduation, because I loved him.

I jumped. Into the unknown. I had no idea that we would marry. Blue Eyes was smart and handsome and had so many opportunities to cheat or to change to another woman. I took a chance on a forever with him.

My point in your happiness comes down to this: Do you stay with the familiar, the comfortable just to feel safe? What if your happiness means you have to take a jump into the unknown, not having any idea how it will turn out? I learned to jump. To trust myself first, which I did by going to a different college to “find” my true self all on my own. And once found, I did hang onto the safe, for a time. But oh! the happiness that lies at the end of possibilities is worth a jump.

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To be happy, I think we need to know ourselves. And when we do, we know which way to go. When to jump, and when to pause. When to move forward with confidence, even if we don’t feel it yet, or when to wait. Happiness arrives at the least expected moments. I willingly gave up living by my family to spend a life with Blue Eyes in Wisconsin. I made the right choice. I’m happy with him. More than happy. Blissed out. Overwhelmed that God set me on a path to meet a remarkably gifted, intelligent, funny, sarcastic, sexy man who would be the father of my children.

Happiness. How do we capture it? How do you find your happiness? Is it fate? Destiny? Maybe not, but I know you have to sometimes choose the less traveled path. A path that might not make sense. Blue Eyes made me so happy that even though I lived sixteen hours away from home, I made a home with him. My soul found a home in him. With Blue Eyes.

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Trust me. It was hard to explain to the old boyfriend that all his cheating had hurt my soul and nibbled away at my confidence. How could I even imagine walking down an aisle to that? Our hearts need safe havens where we can rest. Mine is with him. Blue eyes. I handed him my heart on a January night at his place. He knows when. I chose to make my shelter with him on a late March day before spring break. And I waited for him to propose.

When the day arrived and I walked down the aisle, feeling awkward as I made my way to the front of the church, suddenly I saw him. I could walk confidently now. To him. He had my heart, and now I was simply handing it to him in a public manner, in front of all the people we loved.

Friends, happiness is real and out there. You have to let go sometimes to find what you want. And need. Let your heart find rest, and may we enjoy this summer, grabbing at moments that bring us bliss. Maybe it’s your turn to jump. Time to take that chance.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold….

Until next time,

Deanna

If we only knew…

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Isn’t this candle wonderful? For us, I mean. Since we’re on a happiness journey, it’s fun to  find little treasures to grace our days. I decided to give this sweet candle away. There really is such a thing as too much of a good thing, which, in my case, means I am candled out. But the message is perfect. Be happy today. I think the “be” is particularly poignant, since someone close to me is hurting and I’m not feeling the “be” right now.

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Let me explain. Someone I love dearly was completely blindsided by the love of their life (thus far) telling them they were no longer loved or at least, not loved as much. I feel their pain. It’s hard to sit on the sidelines and watch someone you love swim through the deep end of murky, unknown waters. Rejection is never fun, but going through a tough time helps us learn more about ourselves. And we discover resilience. Eventually, moments of sunlight give way to days of sun washed happiness. We find our way.

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I’ve always wondered about (and envied) the people who find love the first time they dip their toes in the dating waters. They stay together, marry, and still stay together. They didn’t muck through the mud of rejection. Are they as happy as I am, since I loved a few people on my way to the guy I really fell for. And married. Has your heart been burned? Frozen on a frigid night? Have you thought happiness would never run through your veins again? That the laughter spilling from your soul was quenched? And you thought it would last forever?

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The person I gave this sweet candle to just wandered in from several months of realizing the one she thought she was settling down with, meant she was settling for a lot of bad. (I didn’t know until right before their break-up.) She can light that candle tonight and smile with true happiness again. It’s back, but it seemed as though night claimed her heart forever. Have you been there, ever?  I wonder if there isn’t something necessary about the process. About feeling sad, left out and alone. Finding our way through tough times just might lead us to a much better place; a place filled with a sense of happiness and contentment. And peace.

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Our souls are fragile. To be in love feels heady, warm and wonderful. To have loved over many, many years is bottled happiness. I would “be” happy today if it weren’t for one close to me being rocked to the core. Because I know what that feels like. Actually, add in a summer’s worth of girls on the side, and that’s what I faced. Long ago, when I wore the body of a college girl, tanned from a summer of sun, I eagerly returned to college to find a cheat where I once knew a kind, sweet boy. You too? Huh. And if not that, maybe you’ve felt the sting of rejection at the hands of friends. Maybe your family. Where is the happiness in those days? I’ll tell you.

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Time. It heals. The love of others sustained me, too. Roommates, determined to see my smile, made me laugh. In spite of the cold center in my heart. Frost had touched it, and I never thought it would feel warmth again. But it did. Oh please, know your breaking heart, for whatever reason is going to come out whole, will feel love, will thaw and seem light as the air on a warm and breezy May evening. I’ve been there myself, and I’ve walked that road with each of my children now too.

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Be happy today? Did you also receive a handful or a heartful of sadness today? Hang on through this ride, because you will find your way to blissed out, singing at the top of your lungs in the shower kind of day soon. You’ll weather the storm. Even if someone just told you they don’t love you…anymore. Or as much. Or that they found another love. Or someone told you how wrong you are, when you meant well. Are you wandering through waves of misunderstanding? Are you being shunned? Does it feel like that?

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I so want you to find your happiness today. Be happy. Tonight too. But if you only want to huddle under a blanket and eat Oreo’s until midnight, go ahead. I think chocolate is a part of a well-balanced diet. Because I know this…

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You will have days and nights where you will feel drunk with happiness. Love you enough to find kind hearts to surround you and make you laugh in spite of yourself. Take those runs. Walks. Do jazzercise like my 77 year old dad. Then find a small treat and bring it home. One red rose. A sweet tea (I had two today! with less sugar, yesss!). A dance party in the kitchen while listening to great music that you have to sing with. Even if your nose is stuffy from crying. Because you will find your way back to happy.

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I have to admit my heart still hurts tonight. Writing about finding happiness doesn’t mean I feel super happy every moment of the day. But this will pass. Happy days will be here again. By the time May runs into me, I hope to be taking pics of sun laced days where being happy isn’t something to aspire to. I’ll just fall into it, languidly. I hope you will too. We’ll look out for each other along the way. So try to be happy today. Be happy today. Find it. It’s out there, waiting for you. I promise.

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Until next time…