Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Someone Saved my Life Tonight

a letter from my Dad to me...

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…hypnotized, sweet freedom whispered in my ear, ‘you’re a butterfly’… -Elton John

It reminded me of that episode of Seinfeld, the way the sheets and the quilt were tucked so tightly under the mattress, I wondered if they were painted on. I thought about calling you back to laugh about it, but I wasn’t certain you’d find it funny since we hadn’t laughed much together in a long time. Also, I figured you were already asleep; asleep in the twin-size bed you’d had since you were three. The bed I wanted to keep you in, because in some way, that small mattress promised you’d never be old enough to leave me.

Nevertheless, I was so happy to hear your voice an hour ago.

After using all my strength to loosen the hotel sheets, I slipped into bed, out of breath and feeling…different, gone; as though, I wasn’t going to be coming home from my work trip tomorrow; as though I’d never hug you again.

I’d heard about this, mostly from movies and a Simon & Garfunkel song or two, how your life will flash before your eyes the moment before you die; like everything suddenly makes sense and, miraculously, you don’t feel any regrets.

But no, my life did not suddenly make sense, nor did it flash before my eyes;

yours did.

Come, my beautiful Erica, let me show you what I saw…

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First, I saw those full cheeks, that soft, chubby little arm and those big sparkling brown eyes reaching for my tie, then my face, then my hair. Your tiny fingernails nearly scratched my eyeballs out and I loved every minute of it.

I saw your strawberry blonde curls bouncing in the wind when I took you to that park on top of that hill when you were four, and how much joy it brought me to comb and blow-dry your hair at night; de-tangling every section, brushing every strand, so careful not to hurt you.

I saw how hard you worked to make me happy; your smiles and giggles just glittery pleas for my patience and my unconditional love; please let this moment be enough for you, Daddy. I can be enough for you. I will love you enough for everyone else.

I saw it - the sheer pain and utter heartbreak in your eyes when I did that heartless thing when you were seven and made that huge mistake when you were eleven, and angrily humiliated you when you were thirteen, shamed you at fourteen, said that horrible thing when you were fifteen, and that other, equally as horrible thing to you when you were eighteen.

I saw that the things I didn’t want for you, were the very things I needed from you;

I needed you to feel small and afraid to leave me.

I needed you to depend on me.

I needed you to feel you earned my love when you made decisions in my favor

and feel you lost my love when you didn’t.

You were my whole world, my everything, and it was suffocating you.

I saw all of this in those last seconds and it made me so sad, until light came pouring into the corner of my eyes- I saw your life without me and oh, that life, sweet Erica, I knew you had to have that one…

Yes, I saw how empty you’d feel without me for a time, only to discover that you were now more free than ever.

I saw how eventually this pain would transform and morph into your most prized, generous, over the top gift to the world.

I heard pings bouncing off cell towers, electrifying your phone, voices on the other end that “just called to say I love you. I’m thinking of you. I’m so sorry for your loss. You don’t have to call back, but just know I am here”.

I heard your unstoppable laughter at dinner with your cousins after my funeral. Like all the certainty of who you are, your trapped magic came bursting out for the first time, shaking windows and rattling walls. That laugh was only the beginning.

In my vision, there were friends who’d dance with you, and sit with you, even lay on top of you like a shield in those extraordinarily dark times when you were certain you’d never stop crying.

I saw that in years to come, you’d be willing to hold fast to what you know about my soul, and soften your fist around what you knew about me, not because I needed a second chance, but because you needed a first one; you’d one day understand, this was all for you.

Erica, I saw a life for you that provided deep oceans of support and expansive skies of opportunity.

I saw a life for you, filled with blessings that were not based on merit or what you could give others in exchange for their love.

I saw a life for you that was so much bigger than the favors you could do for someone, bigger than the fear of not doing honorable work, bigger than what keeps you up at night, bigger than any doubt you could have, any insecurity you could ever struggle with, and yes, bigger than your relationship with food.

I could hear chimes of freedom for you, Erica. The kind of freedom I could never grant you because my own enslavement spilled too far out of my own cup. I was in too much pain.

So, yes, your life- your sweet, courageous and most excellent life flashed before my eyes as my heart pedaled and pounded faster, and faster, racing to the finish line and if there was one thing I needed you to know from me, it is this: while I do not own you, you will always belong to me, and to your mother, and to God, and to the benevolence of this world.

And you know something, my most treasured, loved and reverent daughter…

you were worth dying for.

All my love,

Daddy

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An Epiphany about Grief

I didn't have an answer when she asked, "So how did you get through losing your Dad? No one has ever asked me that in the almost 10 years he'd been gone. 

And I forgot that just cuz someone asks a question about your life, doesn't mean you know the answer. 

I paused. I said I don't know. I said I went to therapy and smoked a lot of pot and had affairs with married men. Then I paused again and searched for how I actually got through it. The 'no, really Erica, how did you do that? Answer the girl'.

"I didn't get through it", I heard myself say. "It got through me. It did everything it could to transform me. Push me. Make me say yes when I want to say no. Make me say no when I want to say yes. The grief. It said, 'go home, my love', those 4 times I drove to my elementary school at 3am and waited at the child pick-up spot for my Dad. Because I was a fucking lunatic. Because what do you mean he's gone?  Because no I just want to talk to him one more time. I have a question." 

The grief. It's like an extra batch of intuition, on top of the intuition I was born with. It just knows stuff. Like, it knew to send me to art school so I could one day take pretty pictures for Instagram and decorate my home and my business in a life-giving way. 

It knew about the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and how I needed to study there. And heal there. It suggested I try yoga. Then it asked me to teach yoga. The grief. It said read this book. Talk to this guy. Call your mother. Call her again. It told me to go to an essential oil class and then make a career out of sharing them with people. Touching people. Reminding them they are worthy of love and belonging and physical touch. 

The grief. It's not grief anymore, actually. 

It's like, my "through-line". It's the connecting theme that follows my interaction with the world and my commitment to get out of bed each day. 

The grief. My through-line. This thing. I didn't get through it. It got through me. Or maybe it got through TO me? 

It'll transform you. If you let it. 

 

Grace & Peace,

Erica 

My Condolences, with Love, from Afar...

photo by Dino Reichmuth

I heard the sad, sad news today, because sad news travels fast and because I look at your Facebook from time to time. Not often, but sometimes. And I don't feel bad about it. It's normal to be curious.

My ego said, 'call him. It's okay to reach out, let him know that you know.' My fearful, impulsive ego said, 'these are extenuating circumstances. Tell him how very sorry you are for the loss of his Dad. Heck. Send flowers and a card. Do it.'

But, no; we don't do that, anymore. I don't do that anymore. Even though every fiber of my human existence wants to pick up the phone and send you my love and support, the truth is, compassion and condolences and courtesy and love really doesn't override seven years of purposeful silence.

So I will take this opportunity to love you from afar...

I am profoundly sorry for your loss. Though I too have lost my Dad, I do not know your pain. It is yours. It is unique to the experience of having been your Father's Son for thirty-one years. Your sadness is sacred; it holds so many questions and perhaps very little answers, today. And in those moments, after friends and family have returned to their homes and your Wife and sweet babies have fallen asleep, you may have the remarkable chance in those quiet moments to feel ALL the feelings in one fell swoop. Grief. Grief has a funny way of carrying wisdom we cannot see right away, yet it can sometimes pull us under, into the dark, hidden crevices of our own self, to sort through years of this and that and the other things.

Don't be scared, old friend; this is a process, and a beautiful one, if you let it be. Both you and your Father are on a very special journey together, now. A journey where he has the pleasure and the freedom to walk with you, talk with you and listen to you, in a capacity that just can't be done here on Earth. Bits and pieces of him now exist and will show up in different, unexpected ways. Maybe. I dunno. Probably. Yea, most likely.

Time and patience and love heals all things. You already know this, but I am reminding you.

If you ever read this, thank you; Thank you for knowing I'm not here to harm you and that my words are straight from my heart. Thank you for not being surprised that I'd write something like this. Thank you for knowing that loves exists, here; from my freshly manicured nails, to the keys on my Mac, to the screen, to your eyes.

Know that I'm not just writing this for you; I'm writing this for all the men, women, boys and girls who must learn how to love and support from afar. I'm writing this so they don't feel they have to contain their heart, but that they can, in fact, expand it, widen it, open it, even more so than if they actually reached out.

May you travel through this deep and powerful experience with Grace, Balls and God- my 3 favorite things. I wish you peace, strength and hope. I know your strong spine and your soft heart- you're going to be okay.

How lovely the opportunity to love you, support you, think of you, cry for your loss and ache for your family, from afar, really is...

Love, Love, Love,

E

**When your heart aches to reach out to someone from your past, it does NOT mean you need to turn your heart off. It means you get to find new and creative ways of expanding, extending and sharing it, while keeping the integrity of the relationship, however it stands, as well as your own dignity. Creative Writing helps me express love from afar. 

How do you love from afar?

 

The Importance of Waffles & Ice Cream

"Ya'don't haafta pull so hawd!" Grandma loudly informs me, in her heavy New York accent. Everything inside the pullout-freezer drawer jolts and slides forward, making a slamming sound against the front of the freezer. I quickly grab 2 waffles from their box and the pint of ice cream. I accidentally slam the freezer shut. I wait for Grandma to react. No reaction. She's busy talking to my Mother about the idiot at the post office. Safe.

I don't like the feel of cold things on my hands. I don't like my hands to be wet or damp. I'm quickly reminded of this as I hurry to get the 2 frozen waffles into the toaster oven and the ice cream on the counter. I set the timer for my waffles...tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick...my Mother laughs, reminiscing about their days in the Bronx in the 50's, with the nutcase Uncle who lived upstairs and the dog that attacked him...tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick...Grandma talks about the gal she now goes to at the beauty parlor and how lovely she gets -what hair she has left- to stand up and look presentable...tick tick tick tick tick tick...I stare at my waffles, my eyes lost in the long, noodle-shaped orange heat lamps. DING! I barely touch the waffles as I scoot them on a plate, careful not to burn myself and I place one, no, three scoops of ice cream on each.

It's our first night in New York, which means Mom and I are briefed on who's getting married, who's had a Bar Mitzvah, who got divorced, who's pregnant and who's literally lost their mind in the last year, A.K.A. who is "not well", to which Grandma flings her hand in the air, raises her eyebrows, lowers her eyelids and says, "fuhgeddaboudit, she's nuts!" 

Yes. This is my favorite; sitting at the kitchen table with my Mother and Grandmother, talking shit about people. Me, my teeth warmed by waffles and chilled by ice cream (NEVER allowed in our house) and my Mother with her coffee & frozen Mandel bread, (also, NEVER allowed in our house.)

It's so late, but I don't have to go to bed because there's no school the next day because I'm on vacation. And I'm not tired because I'm on California time. Because I'm a California Girl...with New York blood and a New York groove and a New York (very) Jewish Grandmother I absolutely adore...

 

A while ago I wrote a post called, Why Can't I Stop Cheating on My Diet?, I mentioned an article written by one of my personal and professional heroes, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, where I graduated from a few years ago. (I totally just plugged FOUR things in ONE sentence. Is there an award for that?) Anyway, the article describes Three Types of Cravings; Supportive, Dispersive, and Associative. For the purposes of this post and my super-descriptive awesome story, we'll talk about the latter of the 3, Associative Cravings.

Associative cravings occur when we yearn for a food that has a rich, deep, and meaningful association with our past, much like waffles & ice cream remind me of my Grandmother, who passed away 2 years ago. It's almost like my taste buds step into a time machine, where not only do waffles & ice cream remind me of my Grandma, but, in a way, they are my Grandma. By surrendering to this kind of craving we can visit our past, and re-live feelings that may bring their own special healing moment, regardless of the nutritional inferiority of the food. Biology and nostalgia can make a fascinating and almost mystical meal.

It's easy to demonize, try to control, shut down or even hypnotize our cravings away (I tried that years ago. It was total bullshit. True story.) I'm no longer interested in ignoring that which biologically, and in many cases, spiritually calls out for me to pay attention. Cravings ought not to be curbed. They need to be listened to, heard, honored, and, dare I say, celebrated! Trying to control your appetite? Fuhgeddaboudit!

So, here's a (FUN) exercise for you if you need some help celebrating your cravings:

Tell your story associated with a particular food (or type of food) you've craved, like I did above. It can be a poem, a Haiku, a sonnet, a painting, a drawing, a song, whatever! Just tell the story. Re-live it. Celebrate it. For reals.

Some things to keep in mind when you're storytelling:

*Who does this food remind you of?

*Where were you when you would eat this food?

*What was happening in your life then?

*What feelings (happy, sad, displaced, aloof, angry, overjoyed, etc.) did you experience when you ate this food?

*What are your beliefs about this food now? How do you classify/label it? (healthy, unhealthy, clean, not clean, must-burn-off-now, I'm allowed to eat it when...)

Email me your stories! I'd be honored to read them (and *maybe* with your permission, feature them on this here blog). erica@whatseatingericajacobs.com

With my whole heart,

Erica

 

Hummingbird: A Letter to my Dad

Dear Dad,

I've started at least ninety letters to you, in the nine years you've been gone; each letter deeper and different than the last. Each letter never complete. I'm ready to finish this time, Dad. This is the one. With my words, I'd like to take you by the hand as we look out over the landscape of my thoughts and the layout of my life. I am speaking to you with an open heart, I hope you can hear me with an open soul, wherever you are...

Dad, when you died, I was certain I'd never forgive you for leaving me. I was certain you were angry with me, that I was bad, that you faked your own death just to get away from me. I was certain I wouldn't remember the way I used to look at you when I was a little girl. I was certain I'd never be able to forget how hard it was to be your Daughter the last 5 years of your life. How your deteriorating health and your broken spirit was too much for me and I didn't know what to do. I didn't recognize you. After you died, I was certain I'd close my eyes and only see your sad, lost, hopeless, lonely brown eyes. I tried not to think about you for a while.

Dad, I now realize none of those certainties could possibly be true, because even and especially in your absence, you take such good care of me. You keep giving me the freedom and the room and the time and the resources and the compassion and the courage and the love to become who I am meant to be. My life has looked like anything but the single, straight, direct line of purpose I thought it ought to be.

Dad, you've given me the most wild opportunity to become a Hummingbird; free to move from tree to tree, flower to flower, field to field, trying this, trying that. I bring an idea from here to over there, where I learn something else, leave it in the night and take to something different. I am an acrobatic flyer, Dad. I can go backwards and upside down and I can change direction. I've created an incredibly rich and complex Hummingbird existence for myself, Dad. You'd be so proud.

Dad, my Hummingbird tattoo reminds me of some things- it reminds me that sometimes dying is the answer; sometimes people have to leave, to make space for something else that otherwise wouldn't be there. Sometimes death brings us back to life, grief paves the way to joy, pain helps us know comfort when we see it, fear helps us know love when we feel it. This hummingbird tattoo, much like my grief, was the most beautiful, uncomfortable, and worrisome open wound I could imagine. Over time, it has healed. Daddy, I have healed. 

Dad, my Hummingbird helps me remember you; your small, soft hands with the scar on your palm from when you were ten and foolish. The hands that used to gently brush and blow dry my hair when I was little. The hands that held the giant, whiny video camera in the front row of every talent show. And the hands that held up a box of tampons in the store and shouted, "Price Check!" and I'd hide my face with my hands and want to die.

My tattoo helps me remember the sound of your voice; the voice that told me wild and made-up stories of far away places, (like Woodstock). The voice that taught me about the laws of buoyancy, the voice that did an amazing "Ursula", when we'd reenact The Little Mermaid in under 30 seconds. Don't pretend you don't remember.

My Hummingbird reminds me of that time you picked my up from school and I was crying and I said I have no friends and you sat next to me on the wooden, splintered bench and you looked at my eyes and you said, I your friend.

 My tattoo makes me remember how wonderful but scary and dangerous it is to be the absolute and the one and only in someone's life, like I was for you.

Dad, this Hummingbird lets me forgive you, for all the times you were frustrated and impatient and unkind and the times you harshly tested my love for you and the times you made me doubt your love for me.

Mostly, Dad, my Hummingbird makes me promise that

where I am selfish, I'm gonna be giving.

And where I am fearful, I'm gonna be brave.

And where I am wrong, I'm gonna be right.

And where I am dark, I'm gonna be light.

When I look at my arm, I can know that

yesterday I was weak, and today I'm gonna be strong. 

Yesterday I was weak, and today I'm gonna be strong. 

Yesterday I was weak, and today I'm gonna be strong.

Lastly, my beautiful, colorful, incredibly permanent, watercolor Hummingbird tattoo urges me to be in relationship with the ages, in honor of my ancestors and in service to my descendants.

Dad. Thank you. Thank you for giving me the most beautiful wings to become the Hummingbird I am meant to be. Thank you for leaving me in physical ways and for staying in soulful ones. I love you and I feel you and I honor you more and more, every day.

All my love, for all my life, with my whole heart, forever and ever and ever...

-Erica