Unraveling: The Messy Business of Letting Go


I am currently between lives. In the best way possible, so it stunned me when I found out that changing careers would bring about a bit of a catharsis.

There are a lot of cliches being thrown at me about endings, beginnings and letting go. I want to shake the people and say, “I may be just a number to you, a cog in the wheel, a person who took up space, but this was my LIFE.”

Or more correctly, my identity.

This process of unraveling has helped me understand that in the end, it is the person moving on who has wrapped their identity in their title, their paycheck, their perception of their own value. It was my choice to change gears, and don’t get me wrong, I am inordinately excited about what is next. But, there is the withering away, the dying of the aspiration to achieve this career that is ending, the closing up of the office you once walked into with big eyes and a sense of utter accomplishment. But you got used to coming into that office and sitting at that desk, and it lost its shine. You realized there is something bigger for you than that desk, and the chair you spun around in, and the view you had out of your window.

Then one day you pack up that office and it feels…. like a little death.

You are dying to the you that you imagined in other daydreams, other vision boards, other meditations, and visualizations. You are dying to the person you built with blood, sweat, tears and a hell of a lot of regulatory permissions and licenses. You built something, but you are dismantling it. On purpose.

And you grieve alone.

A business, an institution, does not have the ability to grieve you in the same way you grieve who you have become within their hallways and offices.

In the process of the dying is the birth of new. The renewed excitement as the seedlings take root. The realization that I may just have a style that doesn’t include lined dresses and razor-sharp high heels. The realization that I don’t have to spend so much energy figuring out how to hide the tattoo I thought was such a great idea when I was 22, but that I’ve spent my career disavowing and hiding under well-placed straps and high backs, never wearing white.

I thought that maybe I should get a new tattoo to mark my new life, which caused my boyfriend to look at me sideways, “This is a career change, not a life crisis, right?”

I suggested it only be a half sleeve of the dragon I’m becoming and then he breathed really heavy as I laughed, “Just a little word or something, something small, that means something big to me.”

I’m not married to the tattoo. It was a waxing and waning moment that reminded me I’m still a rebellious teen somewhere in there, my parents would not be surprised. What I am married to is the new. This big, beautiful new life that I am building with one word, comma, and paragraph at a time. This new platform where I get to say the things that burn within my chest to help even one girl or woman at a time to be the biggest, baddest versions of themselves.

This new life I am choosing.

It always comes down to choice.

Once upon a time, I chose a path that I explored, and God I made it something. There were castles and beautiful hills, and yes, some treacherous valleys, but I chose and then I created.

Now, I’m choosing again and I have faith in the power of my choices and my ability to co-create with that which is bigger than I am.

So, I will die the deaths and unravel. I will surrender to what is pulling me through to the other side. It will be messy and glorious much like childbirth – ugly and magical all the same.

In my unraveling is brilliance, faith, and choice and to be honest….

I can’t wait to meet the version of myself I am becoming.


The Next Happy: A Love Letter


While anonymously blogging as Little Ms. J in 2010 I posted a blog, “137.” I started by explaining that the number 137 is referred to as the fine structure constant and some years ago a mathematician was drawn to its significance relating to Jungian archetypes. I, of course, had no idea what any of that meant, but I quickly got to the point:

“I just know that today it is the most beautiful number in the whole wide world because it counts the beats of my baby’s heart. We don’t smile with our teeth showing just yet, that would be too soon, but did I mention that my baby has 137 beats to it’s little heart in one whole minute?”

My cousin, a physicist, corrected me in the comments, “Technically, the fine-structure constant is approximately 1/137 = 7.3*10^-3. But, that’s rather immaterial, isn’t it? Congratulations to you and your hub! Glad your hard work paid off.”

It was a lot of hard work. During the work I met another blogger who I bonded with over our fertility struggles. I was not in a place to be happy for anyone who announced pregnancy when I was being shot up with hormones and looked at cooing babies and happy moms with disdain. Tracey, however, was the first to comment, “I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HAPPY FOR YOU. I would put in 137 “o”s but that is a little much. Big congrats to you and your baby daddy.

I immediately emailed her to express my gratitude that she had the resolve and kindness within her to express such well wishes. I never forgot it. She didn’t either. Tracey and I have kept up with one another and I’m so proud of her journey. She has turned her own experience into a best selling behemoth of a beauty, THE NEXT HAPPY: Let Go Of The Life You Planned and Find A New Way Forward (I may even be in the acknowledgments). I asked her recently if she’d write a love letter to LORE readers as she is such a strong and beautiful example of the grace of letting go.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Tracey Cleantis.

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You’ve Come A Long Way Baby: A Journey From Grief To Happiness In Five Short Years

On September 20th, 2010, while in the midst of a whole lot of childless-not-by-choice grief, I wrote the following to Ms. J, upon learning of her pregnancy:

I want you to know that it is not every blogger whom reading about their pregnancy would I feel real and true joy — for you, I really and truly feel
That. I am so happy for you. I really am. xoxo

In revisiting my 2010 letter-writing self I am struck by several things.

One: Where have five years gone?

Two: I am happy that at height of my certainty and conviction that “I will never-ever-ever be fully happy because I didn’t get what I wanted most” I could manage real happiness for Ms. J. I wasn’t very good at that with other people.

Three: I have come a long way in being really and truly happy for other people who have kids and it is no longer something I have to pretend with forced pseudo-smiles, saccharine sentiments, a double-shot of piping hot envy, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

Four: When I was trying to conceive there was no telling me that I could be happy without a child of my own. I was totally and absolutely sure that without a child I would feel empty, lonely, unhappy, incomplete and like a failure, hence my willingness to undergo endless rounds of costly, painful and heartbreaking infertility treatment. I can now say — and this is the BIG news — that I was wrong! Let me say that again. I was wrong. I was desperately, horribly, tragically and categorically wrong about my belief that I couldn’t be happy without a child. Today, as I was in 2010, I am childless-not-by-choice and I am also very happy. Yes, I am happy without a child. This is the most surprising part for me. My life is rich, full and very very happy, even without what I wanted most. I have a successful therapy practice, a best-selling book, a wonderful partner, an adorable dog. Yes, I still wish, on occasion, for the joys of mothering, but mostly I don’t.

The unshakable belief I had that my happiness could only be determined by being a mother is what I want to really talk to you about, and not because I imagine you too are childless-not-by-choice, but rather because I think this kind of prognosticating and predicticting about what will or will not make us happy is pretty much human nature. As a rule, here is how it goes: we want something and we want it bad. We are pretty sure we know what getting this thing or experience (guy, job, house, baby, car, goal, weight loss, or whatever) will give us. We will be happy, feel loved, secure, worthwhile, and complete and life will finally be as we imagined it to be. We may even decide that it is the absolutely only way we can be happy, and this, I believe, is a red flag and a glowing flashing, screaming warning sign that we are doing ourselves a disservice and limiting our happiness in a big way.

In 2013, years after giving up on the hope of having a biological child of my own, I was invited to speak at an infertility conference to people who were still trying to conceive. My topic was “How To Be Happy Without Biological Kids Of Your Own.” Until I started to prep for the event I didn’t intellectually understand how much I had really come to know about this topic. I was actually an expert! Even though I had loads to say, I was very afraid that no one would want to hear me. When you are undergoing treatment, it is not the time when you most want to imagine that the treatment might not work. I mean, would you want to hear a lecture from a divorce attorney at a wedding conference? Much to my surprise, there was an audience filled with people who wanted to hear that they could in fact be happy without what they wanted most. As I was sharing my tissue-and-tear-filled journey, I came to see that this was not just a journey for those dealing with infertility; it was something that every human being needs to know about.

Here is the message I want to share to you, to my five-years ago self, and to anyone who is over attached to a single outcome as the source of their happiness:

Getting ___________ will not likely have been as you imagined.
You likely want something from __________ that it would not have given you.
There may be other ways to get the qualities you wanted from ___________ in other ways.

Five. Thing five that I am struck by is that Ms. J and I have been blogging friends for almost six years. She continues to support, cheerlead and share in my joys, and I am delighted to be here on her blog sharing my happy ending. Thank you, Ms. J for having me.

Tracey Cleantis, LMFT is a psychotherapist, best-selling author, workshop leader, blogger and speaker. Tracey has helped thousands of people let go of what isn’t working in their life and get to their Next Happy. Tracey is a frequently featured happiness expert on radio, TV and print media. She has been featured on Fox News, NPR, The Daily Mail, The Daily News, Publishers Marketplace, Psychologies Magazine, Redbook, Salon.com, Huffington Post, Forest and Bluff, Sheridan Road and Yahoo News, and in Jamie Cat Callan’s book “Bonjour, Happiness”. She is a Huffington Post contributor. Tracey’s best-selling book, The Next Happy: Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward” (Hazelden, 2015 ) is available at bookstores everywhere. In 2016, Tracey’s second book, Self-care is Not a Stupid Candle: How to Give Yourself What You Really Want and Need in Every Area of Your Life will be released by Hazelden.

You can find THE NEXT HAPPY at Tracey’s website (www.traceycleantis.com) or purchase on Amazon.