Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today
ABOUT A YEAR AGO, after an online cooking demonstration, a friend of a friend reached out to me about a difficult situation. At sixty years old, she had finally met a man who, she said, was the love of her life and then he was diagnosed with neck and throat cancer. It had just happened, and they were gearing up to fight it. She asked if I could connect them to my former husband, Edward Van Halen, so they could get the latest and best information on where to go and whom to see for treatment. Ed knew quite a bit about this particular type of cancer from his own long battle with the disease.
I was happy to help.
But something about my tone of voice must have hinted at my own troubled state of mind, because at the end of our conversation, in a tone of voice that was slightly softer and more intimate than before, she said, “Hey, if you ever need to talk,” and she gave me her number. I thanked her, but I later wondered which of the issues bothering me she had heard in my voice, and I thought, No way, I’m too private, I don’t know her that well, and this stuff I am thinking about is all too personal, anyway.
Then I caught myself. I went on the Today show and sobbed my eyes out. I shared my heart on Instagram. Why was I putting up walls?
Consider the walls down. Let’s talk. I have been on a journey with many of you since I was a teenager. I have dated, married, become a mother, divorced, remarried, battled with my weight, and struggled with my self-esteem and mental health. I have also become an empty nester, helped my mother and father through their golden years, and said tearful goodbyes to the people closest to me. I suspect all of you reading this book have gone through many, if not all, of these same issues. I feel like we have done it together as we have grown up.
For you, this book may seem like a new message from me. I see it as a deeper understanding of what I was and still am trying to achieve.
In the past, I have shared my efforts to lose weight and encouraged many of you to do the same. I set certain goals, believing that I would be happier once I lost those ten, twenty, or thirty pounds—or whatever the number was at the time. Then I hit a wall. I was about to begin 2020 resolved to lose ten pounds—the same ten or so pounds I had been trying to lose for more than forty years—and one day, as I embarked on the same morning path from bed to bathroom to scale, I stopped, looked at myself in the mirror, and in a “before coffee” moment of sanity, I said, “No. Stop. I can’t be doing this again.” And I didn’t.
I have come to realize there is no magic number. The scale doesn’t light up and set off bells and whistles the way a slot machine does when you hit the jackpot in Las Vegas. The thing I have been looking for can’t be quantified. I want to feel true joy inside, and that is very different from wanting to feel thin or see a certain number on the scale.
These days, instead of controlling what I put into myself, I am trying to embrace the many choices I have. My previous books have reflected the mindset of someone who always felt broken. I looked in the mirror and saw flaws and imperfections. I was always trying to fix something about myself. I was always telling myself “No” or “Don’t” or “You were bad today” or “You cheated.” Why couldn’t I see the best of me instead? Why couldn’t I see all the good things about myself? Why couldn’t I bring myself to say, “Yes!”
This book is about letting go of certain behavior that no longer serves me, recognizing that perhaps it never did, and trying to find new ways of channeling my thoughts and emotions. It’s about my efforts to, at sixty-one years old, set aside the landmines of denial, negativity, and self-hate and instead identify values like joy, gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness and try to align with them every day. As I will tell you more than once, these feelings don’t find you. You have to go in search of them, knowing some days will be better than others, none will be perfect, but that is life.
And this book is about grief—a topic I didn’t intend to write about and hoped not to, and yet it was unavoidable. Any search for joy has to include the reverse side of the picture, and that is grief. The two are partners in this dance of ours.
To write this book, I looked inside myself the way I do the fridge when I have an idea for a new take on a favorite recipe and I began to pull out ingredients. They weren’t necessarily all the ingredients that I intended or thought I was going to use, so when everything was on the counter, my original idea took on a momentum of its own. It became a collection of thoughts, essays, and stories—roughly chronological but connected by the frazzled threads of my life—that eventually, after much pulling and tugging at my heart, made sense to me.
My hope is that they make sense to you, too. I wrote about the things that I have gone through and continue to deal with as I got to where I am today at age sixty-one, topics that I think will be familiar to many of you—being a mom, making midlife career changes, caring for aging parents, asking why the hell have I been so hard on myself for so long, saying goodbye to those I love, recognizing mistakes, and searching for meaning. Anything sound familiar?
I endeavored to share my experiences and thoughts about growing older with the emphasis on the effort to grow. I believe we are here to learn lessons. It’s not all sunny days and roses. But there is enough warmth and perfume to remind us that life is a gift—and too short to waste.
You are going to find me frequently using the words “me” and “I” in this book. They appear far too often for my taste, but, hey, my name is on the book. What I would like you to do, though, is substitute yourself in various places. Where it says “me” or “I,” think of how these stories are like your own. Our lives may be different, but I sense that the situations we face and the questions we ask ourselves are very similar.
I draw strength from knowing so many of you are out there supporting me. You should know that I am there for you, too. I really hope this book provides you with the comfort I have found while writing it. Hug the people you love. And hug yourself. (Don’t put it off. Do it today. Right now. I’ll wait.)
This is a love story. I’ve tried to share experiences that have taught me about hope, joy, happiness, forgiveness, kindness, and love. Most of all love. As I move forward in life, I continue to learn it’s only and all about love in the end.
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||March 8, 2022|