Each Month, I Answer the Call to Speak from Someplace Deeper in Me,
To Someplace Deeper in You.
I’ve been trying to keep a stiff upper lip and forge on, but the truth is, it feels like everything sucks. Isn’t it fake of me to pretend it doesn’t? But it seems like no one wants to hear it anymore, including me. Everything sucks and I’m sick of feeling this way. Why is this so hard? What have you got?
— Dave C., a.k.a. Mr. Suck
a response from someplace deeper
Dear Mr. Suck (also known as Dave),
It sucks when everything sucks. It sucks, in a totally suck-sucky way. I feel like I might win a literary award for those previous two sentences. But I probably won’t. Because everything sucks.
It’s actually unusual (and noteworthy) of you to write to me during a time when everything sucks. Most people don’t do that. They lash out (myself included) or retreat (myself included)—twisting themselves into a cruel version of themselves OR morphing into someone unreachable.
So kudos to you for already being centered enough within your suckage to reach out and ask for a little help. Here’s a little help. I’ll give ya everything I’ve got, which all boils down to one tiny little conversation I had two weeks ago with my dad, the one and only Bill Huckabee, who is…no longer alive.
I still talk to him, anyway, and he still talks back. Make of it what you will, but the things he says almost always surprise me, and feel like they are coming from someplace other than me.
“Dad,” I said, not so very long ago, “I love my husband so much. We’re a great couple. Everyone says we’re lucky to be together and I agree. But for the past several weeks, it just seems like when I look at him, I don’t really SEE him. I’m not really listening to him. I feel sort of stuck and frozen and anxious and nit-picky and grumpy and…I don’t know. I know what it feels like to look at him and feel a deep connection and a deep glow, and I just don’t have access to that right now. I know I am CAPABLE of seeing him in a healthy, connective way, but when I try to do that lately it just feels like it takes so much concentration. It’s soooooo HARD to do.”
I expected my dad to say something empathic, as he was a very empathic guy, back in his alive-on-the-planet days.
I was imagining he’d say, “I hear you. This is a really challenging moment. You’re having a hard time. I can see that. It happens.”
Or even: “Knowing it’s hard—being honest with yourself about that–is half the battle. You’re on your way to making this better. It’s worth the effort. Go for it. Sometimes things are just hard. But you will push through it and It’s going to be okay.”
But he didn’t.
Instead, he said, “Okay, so it’s hard. What would it take for it to be easy?”
“No, Dad,” I protested. “I’m telling you it’s HARD.”
“And I’m asking…what would have to happen for it to be easy?”
Well, that turned things on their side. I was weirdly attached to things being hard, I guess, because it took a moment for the new thought to start rolling in. But roll in it did, wide and clean and clear, right through the center of the silence I was sharing with my dad.
“I need to get out of here.” I said. The instant I said it, I knew it was true.
I was suddenly, in the face of my dad’s question, just very cleanly and newly aware that I was all tangled up inside myself. I have a great family, seriously, I swear. But my boys are busy, sweating teenagers, looking for autonomy, places to drop stuff and walk away from it, and serious down time. My husband had been pretty busy the last several weeks, working hard. Not a lot of extra time. And me? I had been frantically fluttering around my house, I started to see, alternating between policewoman and needy little outcast. All the testosterone-fueled members of my household were starting to dodge into doorways when they saw me coming.
That was my particular suckage, Dave. Yours would be something different. But far more meaningful than what it looks like or even why it is hard right now is this question: What does your wiser self know about what it would take, inside of YOU, for it to feel easy?
For me, it was blowing out of there. It seemed like a great idea but also impossible. I have clients scheduled. My family needs me. I have to stick around! What if one of them decides to notice me again?
I looked at my calendar, just for laughs. And noticed that the very next day, oddly, I had only one client scheduled, and it was a 3-hour phone call, which meant I could do it from anywhere. While I was looking at the calendar, an email came in. From that one client. Can we reschedule? he asked. Holy crap. A day with no appointments. Tomorrow.
The timing of that tiny little email was freakishly, thrillingly, exciting.
“Can I run away from home for 24 hours?” I asked my husband, breathless with momentum, as he sat at his desk buried in papers. He is an unusually supportive partner under any circumstance. But I don’t mind telling you he looked…really glad to be able to get behind my idea, if you know what I mean. (Okay, I had been pretty cranky in the days preceding. Let’s just leave it at that).
Next morning, crack of dawn, I was out of there, like a shot. No agenda. Bunch of stuff shoved into a bag, guitar in the back seat. Lawn chair. Sun block. No computer. No to-do lists left behind for the fellas. Just me, gone from there, out on the open road.
I headed west, toward the Berkshires, no plan in place. An hour out and I was singing along with bluetooth YouTube songs, remembering artists I had long since forgotten, crying, thinking about days gone by, laughing, listening to some random stand-up comic. I saw a sign on the highway in Worcester for some new Vietnam War Memorial and I followed it to a mesmerizing reflecting pool, and stirring letters home from downed soldiers carved into granite. The sun was bursting, the day was wide open, I helped some guy wiggle a giant snapping turtle free from his fishing line, and I was ALIVE all over again, baby. I was a million miles away from the self that had been squirming and complaining and frowning and finding fault in everyone around me, myself included.
One day—just one day of blowing out of there and bursting out past my patterns and agendas and to do lists—and I felt as free as that snapping turtle that we removed the hook from. I didn’t spend a bunch of money. I sunbathed on a park bench (I would have moved if someone asked me to but no one did). I ordered a butternut squash pizza and ate it all by myself in a quirky orange restaurant. I snuck into Kripalu, the New England center of the Yoga Universe, a place I had always felt too intimidated to go (Why?! Not sure. Some internal limiting assumptions about reality, I guess), and I walked the labyrinth. And at my cheap little hotel, I saw two bearded truck drivers out there drinking beers on the curb under the fluorescent street light and I brought out my guitar and sang them a couple of songs.
By the time I got home the next day, I knew the lines of communication within me—between me and ME—were wide open once again. And the proof was in the pudding. My husband hopped up from his desk to give me a hug as I schlepped my stuff in the door and I nearly melted with love. THERE HE IS, I thought. I can see him again.
What did it take for it to be easy? A turtle? A pizza? A truck driver street lamp concert? A labyrinth? Not any one thing. Just the willingness to ask a different question.
“Why is this so hard?” can give way (when you let it) to, “What would it take for this to be easy?”
Someplace deep inside of you will always know the answer to this. I promise. Just give it a minute. Start there. You got this, Mr. Suck! You got this. Dare to ask yourself, What WOULD it take for this to be easy? And then, don’t THINK about the answer, just LISTEN IN and see what you hear.
— Anna Huckabee Tull
a song for you
The very first album I ever made, on cassette tape, wayyyy back in 1997, included this song called “So Easy.” I was so new to songwriting, and such a stranger to the guitar, that I turned to the incomparable Jasey Schnaars to help me translate the song I was humming into something recordable.
There’s always a way to circle back to easy when we change the paradigm, and this song is a fun way to celebrate that…and my love for the one, the only, Jim Tull!
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