Letting Go & Moving On
You’ve probably heard it numerous times and in many different ways: never give up on your dreams, keep trying, put it to the universe, and all kinds of rah, rah, rah from the cheerleaders in your life. What happens when the dream and the pursuit of the dream begins to be a detrimental factor in your life? What happens when the dream dies and you find yourself clinging to whatever is left?
If you are like most of the population, you’ve experienced the death of a dream at some point in your life. While the death of a dream can be soul crushing, heart wrenching, and any other cliché you can assign, the pain is real, the grief is real, and moving on can feel impossible.
In her new book, The Next Happy, Tracey Cleantis challenges the status quo of never say die, holds the reader’s hand through their grief, and helps them reach the other side and their next happy. With honest and at times raw emotion, Tracey allows herself to be vulnerable and real by sharing the very painful death of her own dream and how she got through it. So, we asked her, “Why did you write this book?” The answer she gave will knock your socks off…
"I was engaged in a decade long game of Infertility Wheel of Fortune in which I bought a whole lot of vowels. “Vanna can I have an ART, IVF, ICSI, and IUI?” The prize, should you hit the lucky jackpot, was a baby, a happy ending, mommy and me classes, a life-time of private school tuition and all that comes with the dream of motherhood. Round after painful and costly round nearly bankrupted me (emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially) with no parting gifts, not even a case of Rice-A-Roni: The San Francisco Treat. Beyond just time, I spent money—lots of it. Actually, I spent over $100,000 trying to conceive and all I have to show for it is a huge box full of receipts and some photos of the embryos that I had implanted.
During that trying time (double entendre intended), there were endless books in the self-help section that were there for me, encouraging me and giving me hope, telling me I could do anything, have anything, and be anything if I just bought the book and thought right, prayed right, set my intention right, ate right, forgave right, and/or got my chakras right. When I was in that phase of desperately doing everything I could (which I like to call my stage of mega-manic-manifesting) I was comforted, after each failed round of IVF to find yet another book that promised that it had the secret to getting what I wanted most. I kept buying books, reading them, applying their principals and I kept not getting what I wanted. That however, did not stop me from buying the books. I felt like maybe the next one, or the next doctor or the next herbal remedy would FINALLY get me what I wanted.
There came a day when I finally accepted the reality that I couldn’t/wouldn’t and shouldn’t continue trying to make my dream a reality, and that the dream had become self-destructive; the tough to accept truth of the situation was that I was out of money, out of motivation, and my body, mind, spirit would no longer let me keep trying,---and that was without taking into account the stern warnings and unwanted clichés from doctors that “we had put the petal to the metal” and warned that they were “all out of aces” that I did my best to ignore. It was then, in the height of my grief, when there was no more trying to be done that I really and truly could have used a friendly book in the self-help section to give me guidance on how to let go of a dream, help me to get through the unbearable grief of not getting what I wanted most and offer me hope that I could somehow/someday be happy without my dream. You know what I found instead? Nada, nothing and a whole lot of bupkis.
Several years later I was invited to speak at a fertility conference on “how to let go of the hope of having a biological child of your own” and “how to be happy even without a biological child”, which felt like akin to being a divorce attorney at a wedding convention or a skunk at a garden party. As I looked out at overflowing audience of couples who were still actively trying to conceive, yet understandably anxious about their odds of conceiving, I could palpably feel their fear. The audience was tearfully terrified that they wouldn’t get what they wanted and, gasp, become like me (childless) and, more to the point were pretty certain that they would never-ever-ever be happy without they wanted most. I realized in that moment that I was truly an expert on this topic. I had been where they are and endured all they were enduring and I still never got pregnant. But what I also had done, and is why I was the one on the stage, was figure out how to let go, move on, and get to the other side of this impossible dream and find unexpected happiness. I knew how to get from “I can never be happy without x” to “I never thought I could be this happy”. People in the audience took comfort in my message and came up to me after my presentation and thanked me for giving them an unexpected hope for happiness and a map for how to get there.
Even as I shared this with the infertility audience, I knew in my heart this was not a message solely for those “trying to conceive”. Why? Take a look at these stats:
41% of first, 60% of second and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.
50% of American college graduates are underemployed and 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs.
50% of businesses fail in their first year; 56% percent fail in the next five-years
In one recent year 2,698,967 homeowners lost their dream home to foreclosure
85% of actors are unemployed.
Of all college level basketball players, less than .00007 percent successfully make it to the NBA.
Only 4% of people are living the career dreams they had as kids.
Within those numbers lies the heartbreak of millions of people who relentlessly hammer away at their dreams regardless of the high costs associated with dreaming. Within those numbers is the story of the pervasive sense of failure that pervades the first generation of Americans that just might not be able to build a better life than their parents. I see in my practice a variety of dreams that are dying and how very hard it is to call the time of death on a dream. People who won’t get divorced even though their marriage has become a soulless sham; they won’t stop tinkering in the garage on their brilliant idea even though they’re the only one of their peers without health insurance or enough money in the bank to fix the car should it break down; they won’t stop believing that any day now—any day now! – their boss is going to waltz in, hand them a fat bonus, and escort them to the corner office, which will make the fact that they ruined everything in their life (including their marriage, their health and their relationship with their children) somehow all worth it, in the end. Only the day never arrives and the redemption doesn’t happen. The Next Happy is written for all of these people. It will dare to challenge the notion that the time to let go of a dream is never. I wanted to write a book that offered a much needed counterpoint to the endless “yes you can” sentiment that pervades our culture. Also, I wanted to offer a psychological explanation of the process of letting go, insight into the grief, and a roadmap to the other side of the impossible dream, where unexpected happiness waits.
My sincere hope is that this book creates a huge wave of relief and a shift away from the insidious “never say die” philosophy that is part of our national zeitgeist. Readers will come away from this book with real and tangible tools that will allow them to move through the stages of grief and begin to conceptualize the death of their dream in a different way. And, I believe, they will discover strengths, resources, and ultimately a next happy."
About the Author
Tracey Cleantis, LMFT, is a speaker, writer and a practicing psychotherapist. She is the “Dr. Kevorkian of Dreams” and is a personal and professional authority on how to let go of what isn’t working and to grieve, move on, and get to the to the other side where happiness is waiting for you.
Her blog was named one of the top ten blogs for Francophiles by Blogs.com and is rated one of the top 10 psychology and memoir blogs. In addition, Tracey has written “Freudian Sip,” a column at Psychology Today, and contributes to the Huffington Post. She has been featured on Fox News and in Redbook, Yahoo News and Salon.com. Her writing on finding happiness after infertility was featured in Jamie Cat Callan’s Bonjour, Happiness! (Citadel Press, 2011).
Tracey is a passionate writer who combines wit, wisdom, humor, theory made accessible, and a whole lot of heart. She speaks on grief, infertility, letting go of dreams, finding unexpected happiness after loss.