Grown Ass Conversations

“I don’t want to talk about it. The whole thing feels stupid and ridiculous. That’s why I texted you. I wanted to tell you about it but I don’t want to talk about it.”

But I did want to talk about it. What I actually wanted was for him to simultaneously find a magical way to tell me I was right, I was wrong, I was super smart, I was super silly, and this was the miraculously simple way to fix the whole thing. That should be easy enough, right?

Instead he just loved me through it. And told he some soft truths about myself. Things I already knew. Things I was working on. Things he was proud of me for making progress in. The truths are actually pretty hard. They are things I hate to think about and just want to function in their dysfunction. But they don’t because they are, well, dysfunctional.


“Why do you feel ridiculous?”

“Because I am grown. Grown ass women aren’t supposed to get up in their feelings about this kind of thing.”

“It’s exactly because you are grown ass woman that you are capable of having the grown up conversations.”

“But what if I’m wrong?”

“Then that’s on you. I watch you do this thing pretty often where you feel a kind of way and should do something about it, but you go to your programming that says you are probably wrong and so you do nothing and nothing changes and you just take it. Now understand that I am not saying you are less than, I am saying that you are too hard on yourself.”

“I might do that a little.”

I might do that a lot.

I watch folks who are able to say anything. They are able to engage in confrontation in a way that makes my skin goose up. They are able to have the conversations – provoke them even – and keep moving forward. I am trying hard to be that person. To say the things I want to say fearlessly and openly. To be honest with people even it exposes a weakness or a wrong. To open loops that might close differently than I would like them to, or worse, not close themselves at all.

This season’s Big Brother is the Celebrity edition and it has been very interesting. I am watching these somewhat accomplished folks participate in varying degrees of empowerment. During many of the exchanges I find myself so frustrated that person A won’t just tell person B to go to hell, you are not the boss of me. They should say it. Person A deserves to say it and person B deserves to hear it, but they don’t. I would like to think I would. I probably wouldn’t.

But the real truth is that candidness is part of being a whole, real, honest, decent person. It isn’t fair to people I want relationship with to have to bear the judgement of my unspoken assumptions. It isn’t the way I would want to be treated. I would want them to have the courage to come to say what they needed to say. More than courage, I want to be seen as the kind of person with whom it is safe to have those kinds of conversations. I want to be a grown up and I want to be with grown up people. If I hope for that level of maturity from others, it is reasonable that I have to foster that type of maturity from myself.

It’s a funny little Catch 22 that I notice more in woman than I do in men. It’s the “if I have to ask for it, I don’t really want it” or its cousin, “if you loved me you would just know.” I don’t know where these tendencies come from, but I will be the first to admit that I have them. Further, they make sense to me in an inarticulable way. But it also makes sense that we should be able to ask for what we need, have adult conversations about wants and happys and hurts.

I’ve done much better the past year opening my mouth and exposing my inner thoughts. There’s something to be said for safety and confidence. There is also something to be said for the being able to see a real glimpse of unconditional love for oneself and others – not in the wild or in the pretend, but in your own life, involving your own heart. Like any other behavior, it is easier to understand and adopt once you see it modeled.

The neat thing is that motion creates momentum. The more I speak my thoughts, the more I think, the more I get comfortable with having all the thoughts, the more I feel okay to speak, the more connection I create, the more love I am able to give, the more love I am able to receive, the more positive my thoughts, the more I am able to converse, the more resilient I am when things are funky, the more whole I feel, the healthier I am, the more I speak my thoughts.

Take all the time you need to go through that spiderweb of interconnected healthy. Nothing happens in a vacuum. None of us are labels or defined by one singular thing. Sentient, dynamic, eclectic beings we are. That movement of all things in us and around us is a beautiful thing.

Brooks was Here

There are these really interesting things going on in my head right now. It looks a whole lot like freedom. Unfortunately, because I am currently unlearning and relearning that concept along with a host of other things about myself, what should be a somewhat easy and beautiful brain float has become super fucking overwhelming.

And what do I do when my brain becomes overwhelming? Well, when I am doing it right, I write. And this single act of nouns and verbs has become quite the interesting project in a way that it really never has before.

I have always put nouns and verbs on paper in a way that I hoped could be read by other people. I understand not everything has to be “in the world” to be valid. I also understand that some things should not be out in the world. But, by and large, the things that I put on paper have the expectation of being fit for public consumption.

But words stay the same over the course of time and change. People do not.

Being overwhelmed creates lack of structure in the thoughts. There are so many ideas trying to push their way to the front in an attempt to be sorted and accounted for. It makes the coherent assembly of nouns and verbs a struggle.

In all honesty, it isn’t just being overwhelmed. It’s the freedom to do it the way I want. I have been writing since I was 10 years old. I have the general gist of the activity down. But there have always been rules set down by someone else. Boxes I knew I had to fit into, boundaries I knew I couldn’t cross.

There is a comfort in the box. Sure, it sucks because you are forced into being someone you aren’t. But, there is order, understanding, and a general “way we do things around here” that, while stifling and damaging, is comfortable when it becomes what you know. When your confidence to trust in your own judgement is reduced to ruble, you second guess everything. When your desire to create something outside yourself is judged and mocked, you harshly judge your own motives. When your ability is marginalized, you start believing you are no good.

When your efforts are labeled too much, too loud, too open, too indulgent, you start to believe those things and you forget that you are a smart, capable, caring, basically decent person. You don’t need the box, you never did. But you functioned inside of it for so long that it is comfortable and you’re not really sure if you know how to do it without it. You worked really hard to rid yourself of the box, to have the courage to break free of it. You know the work that took. But, here you are anyway, trying like hell to recreate the box so you can feel comfortable once again

Trying like hell to recreate the box so you can feel comfortable once again.

Trying like hell to recreate the box so you can feel comfortable once again.

Trying like hell to recreate the box so you can feel comfortable once again.

How fucking stupid is that?

Probably pretty damn. But you know what else, it is also completely normal. We fight to hold on to comfort, even when that comfort is toxic. Even when the alternative is healthy. Even when the healthy is more comfortable once you get the feel of it. Being coerced into the box didn’t happen overnight. It took skillful manipulation and time to put you there. It takes time to work all those things back out. It takes honesty in taking responsibility for the parts of it you are responsible for. It takes confidence to refuse ownership for the parts you aren’t. It takes trust in those who love you that they will still love you through the change, through the growth, through the fuck ups, through the wins. It takes faith in your own inner, real, raw, regular goodness.

Even as I go back through that last thought, I understand that it takes more than faith. It takes more than trust. Those things, when broken down into their honest forms, are easy. All that can happen in your brain, in the quiet privacy of solitude without interference from anyone else. What it really requires is testing, trying out, tasting – “an untested virtue isn’t a virtue” kind of workout.

That’s the part that is scary. That’s the part that will put you back in the box. The box sucks too but there is some comfort in dancing with the devil you already know versus the demon you haven’t vetted yet.

But Brooks was comfortable in jail, institutionalized for the box. They made him leave. He wanted to go back. He couldn’t.

I wake up scared. Sometimes it takes me a while to remember where I am. Maybe I should get me a gun and rob the Foodway so they’d send me home. I could shoot the manager while I was at it, sort of like a bonus. I guess I’m too old for that sort of nonsense any more. I don’t like it here. I’m tired of being afraid all the time. I’ve decided not to stay. I doubt they’ll kick up any fuss. Not for an old crook like me. ~ Brooks Hatlen, The Shawshank Redemption

He called prison home. Freedom made him afraid all the time. He hung himself, decided death was better than figuring out how to be his own person. Still scared I may be, but a Brooks I am not.

#TeamGnat

I don’t think I have ever been so excited to see a sand gnat in my entire life as I was Sunday. Kids were slapping themselves silly and the adults were reaching for sprays and remedies.

I sat on the bench of the picnic table in my backyard and felt like a kid at Christmas 4th of July.

Weather is not my favorite. I like it one way – hot and sunny. I will tolerate warm and sunny. My face starts distorting at rainy (don’t even ask what my hair does). When the mercury dips south of 70, I get nervous and it is all downhill from there. Fall is my least favorite time of the year because it’s the furthest away I ever am from summer.  Hurricanes? Snow? Just. No.

This aversion to a wide range of weather patterns is not new to me. I’ve known this about myself for a long time. I typically get more moody in the winter and have to pay a bit more attention to my general outlook during those months. I live in southern Georgia for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is our milder, shorter winters.

Listen, I have been known to occasionally have the ability to pull my shoulders back, put my head down, and bulldog my way through situations that are less than fun. I am no stranger to the harder things and I can carry my own in the physical toughness/mental fortitude department. I am typically a pretty positive person with a seemingly deep reservoir for optimism. All that being true, this winter has seriously kicked my ass.

I didn’t realize what was happening until pretty late in the season. I have had a lot going on. There is way more change happening in my life than I am typically accustomed to. I am at this interesting moment in my life where I am happier and safer than I have ever been and that translates into more movement of environment and self than I can keep up with most days. My life resembles a drunken game of speed Yahtzee. Just when I think I have found my groove, I lose it again.

Since I came off the corporate payroll in October, every single strategy I have attempted to employ in my life has had roughly the same life span as a lovebug with about the same level of usefulness. And I have worked really hard on strategies – time blocking, goal setting, accountability, schedule keeping, free range, lists, reminders, affirmations – you name it. But, none of those things have helped. This all get pretty frustrating especially when the things I am attempting to accomplish aren’t even new to me. I would simply like to be a better caretaker of my family (food, chores, availability), a better friend (time, attention, support), and a better steward of myself (health, writing, self care). That’s it. That’s not a lot. I’ve done it before.

I have, surprisingly enough, been pretty gentle with myself in the process. I am very careful to watch how I talk to myself. Even those “better”s in the last paragraph gave me pause as I was worried how others might view them. I know that I don’t mean I think I am less than. I have come to a comfortable place where I know I will always want to be better and that’s okay. I can want to be better while still being happy with the present.

Except when the present looks like me last week, playing Call of Duty, in my pajamas, at 1:30 in the afternoon, hands wrapped around an Xbox controller being the only thing that kept them from being thrown up in utter defeat. I had completely given up on even trying to figure out why I couldn’t get the gumption to go to the gym, why I couldn’t noun and verb, why the laundry pile up was unphasing, why brushing my teeth seemed like the biggest chore in the world at that moment. Seriously, hadn’t I gotten my whole family up, out, and on time? That’s something.

But, the universe loves me and I have the best friends. A text came in completely unrelated to my life or Call of Duty. But because I have friends who think the deeper thought and love without judgement, I found the space to think about it for two seconds longer in a slightly different way.

Holy shit! It’s this effing weather. This is my first winter without a regular job. I have no frame of reference for being prepared to go through this particularly off putting time without a pretty rigid foundation for things I just have to do. I can’t find a center because I have been unable to spend any real time outside and I don’t have the crutch of the job. I wasn’t prepared to go into this season without a plan. The whole thing had caught me off guard.

I was encouraged by the realization. I instantly felt better. There was nothing I could about it at the moment. As good as I am, I cannot change the weather. But there is comfort in knowing. I took solace in that and felt a little better killing zombies.

We had a multi family potluck Sunday. The sand gnats showed up and I couldn’t have been more excited to see them.

 

Appropriate and Acceptable

Can I be real a second?
For just a millisecond?
Let down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second?
Now I’m the model of a modern major general
The venerated Virginian veteran whose men are all
Lining up, to put me up on a pedestal
Writin’ letters to relatives
Embellishin’ my elegance and eloquence
But the elephant is in the room
The truth is in ya face when ya hear the British cannons go…
Boom!
~ A very frustrated George Washington as written by Lin-Manuel Miranda

I’m not even going to discuss Hamilton right now. It is pure genius and folks will either listen or they won’t, hear it or they won’t, get it or they won’t. I don’t really have that in me right this second.

I don’t really have a whole lot of anything in me right this second and it’s getting a bit tiresome.

Let me be real a second. I get encouraged to write on a regular basis by folks who genuinely enjoy what I have to say. There’s like six of y’all and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. And if it were only you half dozen or so for the rest of my life, I would like to think I would keep pushing publish. I would like to think I would still fancy myself a writer.

I don’t feel like a writer much of the time and I am pretty sure that’s because I approach this whole thing all wrong. I have this idea about what it is supposed to look like. I am supposed to have a guided topic. This blog space is supposed to be more cohesive. I am supposed to have a plan. I am supposed to, supposed to, supposed to.

And it I haven’t checked all the “supposed to” blocks, well, then…

And I am definitely not supposed to get onto this super public space and just let my guard down. It is indulgent and basic to be in a public setting – even if it’s just the six of us – and have the audacity to believe that these nouns and verbs, my nouns and verbs, are any more legitimate or time worthy than anyone else’s. That’s next level arrogance and who am I really to think that I have the right?

So, I go back to being small. I try to do the things on my list, the things that make me feel real, but in an “appropriate” way. Seriously, even as I am typing that I don’t even know what the hell that means. You are talking to a person that has a hard time cleaning the house if the radio isn’t super loud, who has a hard time psyching herself up for a run if she can’t go fast(ish) for a billion miles, who is 41 years old and is fixing to get married in a white dress to the hottest man she has ever met with a wedding suitable for a 25 year old blusher. My life isn’t small. I don’t live there. It isn’t who I am. It isn’t who my family is. We have a reoccurring joke about our individual and collective extraness. But I am a person who is still ridiculously and frustratingly aware of what other people think.

Yeah, don’t say it. I already know. You aren’t supposed to care about what other people think – especially those who, in the big picture, have opinions that don’t matter. I get it. I also know that chocolate pudding and whipped cream for lunch isn’t a healthy option, but you can bet your ass I get down with that too.

It has just struck me as funny that I have been in this situation bunches before. You probably have too. It isn’t a writer issue, it’s a whatever part of you is important issue.

The mommy cartel is a fierce one. Do you work, stay home, vaccinate, homeschool, engage in sports, pay for piano, buy the dance costume, travel with the team, fix organic snacks, limit screen time, post pictures on social media, co-sleep, spank, entertain Santa Claus, buy Lucky Charms, volunteer as room mom, schedule playdates, breastfeed, understand the progressive parenting strategies, helicopter, tiger, free range, hide in the bathroom with a great bottle of Malbec…. are you an appropriate, acceptable mom?

Life partner? Do you have date night, authentic conversations about your feelings, too much sex, no sex, joint facebooks, separate friends, independent bank accounts, a five year plan, the same last name, never go to bed angry, the same waistline when you met, regular phone calls with their families, close the door to the bathroom, sexy texts, copious amounts of quality time, detailed coparenting strategies, lady in the street, freak in the bed, dinner on the table, 50/50 household responsibilities, gender roles, traditional home, hide in the bathroom with a great bottle of Malbec…. are you an appropriate, acceptable life partner?

Professional? Do you have the right credentials, love your job, tolerate your coworkers, participate in office fun, voice your opinion in meetings, reinvent yourself to fit the culture, considered assertive, aggressive, overly ambitions, qualified, on your way up, watching the clock, moving into a new field, living your passion, selling out to the grind, hiding out in the bathroom with a great bottle of Malbec… are you an appropriate, acceptable professional?

If you couldn’t tell, all this “appropriate” and “acceptable” juggling always leads me to hiding in a bathroom with a great bottle of Malbec. People aren’t supposed to live that way.

I am not supposed to live that way.

So here is the habit I am going to attempt to put into practice – just writing the shit and letting the letters fall where they may. Maybe that appeals to my six folks, maybe it gains more, maybe I end up pushing publish for no one other than myself. Whatever the outcome is, I have at least identified the elephant in my bathroom. And look – now there is more room for you to share that bottle of wine…

2018 – Honesty

Every year (or nearly every year), I write a little something that speaks to the intention for the up coming year. It typically centers around one word couched in a cute, anecdotal story, tied all up at the end with a cute little “go get ’em” bow.

I have been trying to write the 2018 piece for over three weeks now.

I looked through old writings, new blogs, unfinished journals. I thought about revisions and memes and philosophical literary quotes. I contemplated all the strong woman, be positive, get motivated, you are amazing sources I knew.

I still had nothing.

So I did the only thing I knew to do; I just dropped it. This wasn’t the year for that. 2016 and 2017 had been overwhelmed with so muchness, maybe it was just time for a breather year. So I shelved it with promises of schedule keeping (which I have never done), gentler self talk (also not a strong suit), and greater honesty. Little did I realize the one thing I thought I had on lock would be the very thing that got me.

If you asked me if I was an overall honest person, I would immediately say yes because I am. I am not a thief or a liar. I am not a rule breaker, generally speaking, although I really like to play one on TV.

However, if you asked me if I was an always honest person, I would say no because, well, I’m honest. I would go so far as to say there are times when honesty is not the appropriate course of action. I would go further and say that I wouldn’t even want people to be honest with me all the time. And I think that’s mostly true.

This topic has my brain going in a hundred different directions. I am going to back up just a second and try again.

I shelved the idea and counted that an okay thing to do because 2018 was the year of schedules, gentle self talk, and honesty. As life is ought to do, it decided to test my gangster right off the bat.

I have been known to say often that I am a jealous woman. It is typically tagged with something to the effect of, “and I don’t even feel bad about that” or “that’s just the way I am.” I have even gone so far as to justify holding on to the trait explaining that I have very good balance on my jealous nature because I realize that it is often irrational and, as long as I have that level of self awareness, it’s okay.

I have come to the very uncomfortable conclusion that it is not okay. All of that up there is inherently dishonest. In a cute twist of irony, I came to that realization while utilizing that acute self awareness to enforce some balance.

Let me be clear that this is not a moral edict on jealousy. Jealousy just happened to be the fear based emotion that spotlighted my particular moment of intellectual dishonesty. And make no mistake, jealousy is a fear based emotion.

I was ate up with jealousy yesterday. The funniest part is that it was all of my own doing. All by my little self, I worked my brain up into such a tizzy that the distraction was consuming. It was all completely fabricated in my head, so I set about doing the self aware work to talk myself down.

Me ~ Oh my effing shit I think I am about to give myself a panic attack.

Other Me ~ Honestly, April, you are being a tad ridiculous.

Me ~ I am aware. This is all very silly and I am working on sorting through the asinine.

Other Me ~ Great. Let’s start with things you know to be true. [Super private stuff that I am not sharing here. #sorrynotsorry]

Me ~ Yes, all of that is true.

Other Me ~ So now we can safely say that all these things [more super private stuff] are not true.

Me ~ Yes we can say that. I feel much better. Thank you Other Me.

Other Me ~ You are very welcome. Now, how do we keep this from happening again?

That bitch. I really hate it when she does that. Especially when I am not ready. I wasn’t ready. Other Me did not care.

Side note – if you think I have complete control over The Many, you are wrong. While I have leashes for all and muzzles for some, complete control is not a tool I possess.

Me ~ That’s super sweet of you, Other Me. I’m good for right now. Just a little bout of jealousy and we all know I am just a jealous womaHHHHHH. SHIT!! What is that????

Other Me ~ The onset of another panic attack. A really good one too. I made it for just an occasion as this. You like?

Me ~ No. No I do not like. I do not like at all. I already did the work, sorted my brain, talked myself down. We are done here.

Other Me ~ Nope. You did the easy work. April 2016 work. It’s time for the advanced level 2018 work. The real, get your shit together work.

Me ~ Fuck you. I’m taking a nap.

And that’s just what I did.

While that course of action worked for the duration of my nap, the seeds planted still sprouted and this “what do we do with it now” idea hung around demanding that I address it.

“I am a jealous woman” is a dishonest statement. I can make it true if I used the fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions definition. I will defend me and mine with my life. But I don’t mean it like that and I know that I don’t. When I say it, I mean feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages and feeling or showing suspicion of someone’s unfaithfulness in a relationship. That, my friends, is fear not love. And I have committed to living a life of love and not fear.

So the truth is I now have to replace the word “jealous” with fear and figure out the root. I have to. Anytime I find that the talk down answer becomes, “because I am afraid” I have vowed to go deeper and work that out.

What fear causes jealousy? The fear of being unworthy of the thing that creates envy or suspicion. Being unworthy. In case you are curious, that flies directly in the face of my other promise of “more gentle self talk.”

The honest truth is I am not unworthy even while I feel unworthy. That’s honest. That’s how I am committed to 2018.

What I Learned from Hamilton

Writing a book is something I’ve always wanted to do. I could go into all the reasons I’ve never seriously sat down to write one. I won’t. There’s no point. They are all just excuses. At the end of the day, the real truth is I have never felt worthy enough to have a story to tell and I was scared.

I am still scared. But I am worthy.

In October 2016 the children and I evacuated to Alabama during hurricane Matthew. I braced myself for the worst. The car was packed. The Volkswagen was busting holding the five of us. We knew we would be like that for about six hours – if the route I chose wasn’t crowded with other evacuees. Fun right?

Turn out to be a blast!

I had heard of the Broadway play Hamilton before in passing. The cast performed for some award show I watched. The accolades, awards, and Pulitzer news had made its way to me. My oldest daughter had mentioned it and was a fan.

Once we were on the road, she asked if we could listen to it. The other children seemed excited. I agreed.

It would be the only thing we listened to for the totality of the 12 hour, round trip car ride.

For the next month, I rarely listened to anything else. I almost felt guilty turning some other type of music on. As a writer, I already knew how hard it was to take nouns and verbs and put them together in such a way that is meaningful. It’s really fucking hard. Sometimes, it seems impossible.

Lin Manuel Miranda did it – within the boundaries of history and the restriction of musical movement in the art of storytelling without crutch and with passion.

The body of work struck me as genius in its entirety. I ranged emotions. I was engrossed in the story. I moved, felt, wanted, loved, feared, rejoiced.

Over and over again a thought kept coming into my head. “How in the hell did he do that? How did he birth a body of work into existence? How did he manage? Why can’t I?”

And the answer, when it occurred to me, was so simple. He just did the work. He allowed the process. He encountered a piece of work, Alexander Hamilton’s biography, found inspiration, and worked it out. Six years he did the work. Sure he had help, collaborators, supporters. But he did the work and this is his reward.

I do not do the work. I want to do the work. I want to want to do the work.

Nina Crespo once told me that writing is a muscle – you have to work it out or it gets soft. I have neglected the gym for a while. I have played with it like the bench sitters that go to the weight rack to be seen and not sweat. I have held the fear of failure and fear that the work will be too hard. I worry that it won’t be good.

Unfortunately what I have managed to achieve is worse. It won’t be anything if I don’t commit to the process.

Avoiding The Crack Up

[…] the test of a first-rate intelligence is
the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind
at the same time,
and still retain the ability to function.

F. Scott Fitzgerald,
The Crack-Up

This, one of my all time favorite quotes, read like the first time for me today and became new again. I love it when they do that.

When I first came across this Fitzgerald gem, it resonated quickly as I was engaging in a civil disagreement over matters of social and political opinion. I really enjoy those types of conversations with people who know how to have them; people who can hear and consider the idea of another yet still hold their own thought and give both their just due.

A few days ago I had a really rough time finding my center, my groove, my chill – whatever it is you call it when you are overall really fine, there is no major or even minor, crisis, but something about your day is just a tinky bit off kilter (I’d love to hear what you call that).

After some really involved, and frankly overly dramatic, self “what if” statements, I determined I was feeling over stimulated. And bored. And resentful. And thankful. And neglected. And cared for. And lonely. And loved. My hitch was that I had found myself unable to retain the ability to function while evaluating the truth hidden in the myriad of opposing feelings. I was unable to give myself permission to have conflicting feelings at all.

I do not believe all feelings are truth. I do believe all feelings are indicative of a truth. There’s a difference. I had gotten so caught up in defending the need to feel centered and “normal”, that I had became unable to process the alternative idea that there was a bit of internal information processing that really needed to happen. The harder I was on myself, the more I berated myself for being ridiculous or too much, the worse the situation became. The opposing idea was not just going to go away. It was there. It needed to be heard, understood, and moved through.

Today I want to encourage you appreciate your ability to consider opposing ideas – may they be yours or someone else’s. The act of doing so does not make us weak, wishy washy, soft, manipulable, too much, uncommitted, or any other manner of discreditable thing you may say to yourself. Being able to function while doing so creates space for relationship, connection, and growth – may that be yours or someone else’s.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Update (Warrior vs. Fairy)

I was/am super excited about participating in my very first NaNoWriMo. There is a lot about it to be excited about. What a neat little concept to challenge writers and want to be writers to commit to an average of about 1,700 words a day in the month of November to hit a 50,000 word count goal that looks something like the first draft of a finished novel.

Except I am averaging 281 words a day.

Well, in all fairness, my overall word count is much higher, they just aren’t all book oriented. I’ve done a ton of work with things I had already written, published a few more things here, and made headway on this writing thing actually paying bills. While those do not count for this particular project, I have decided they do count as considering this first full month of answering the question of “What do you do?” with “Writer” a win.

The actual act of book writing itself has not been the scary monster I thought it was going to be. It is true that the more you put words together, the more you are able to put words together. Writing follows the same rules as everything else in the world; inertia and practice payoff are really things.

I gave more credence to the power of what I didn’t know to what I did know. I have been so hesitant to write outside of my comfort zone (long form fiction) because I just couldn’t imagine how I could pull it off. How would I describe places I hadn’t been? How would I make real things that I knew little about appear authentic? Could I create a whole story of people and places I totally made up in my head? The answer is yes. I give credit to the guys over at the Self-Publishing Podcast for turning that lightbulb on. They talked about “writing around” those things you weren’t an expert on or that felt unauthentic. Eureka!

I thought that would be the hard part and the actual act of writing would be the easy part. Turns out I had it exactly backwards. Figures.

For nearly 18 months I have been trying to figure out the new rhythm of my life. I had grown very accustomed to the steady, waltz like beat of 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, of the time before. I woke early in the morning, if I was writing, I wrote. If I wasn’t, and there were long periods of time when I wasn’t, I filled the morning hours with other things to distract me from the fact that I wasn’t writing. I handled my regular life during the day – work, kids, house. I went to bed. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

I now function more like an alien on milk at my first rave. My calendar has given up the ghost, I can’t even fake a schedule, and making sure the kids are getting everything they need to be successful is the only thing I can absolutely guarantee. Most days I can’t even tell you what state I’m going to be in. Learning to write outside of a set time or place and becoming accustomed to finishing projects in pieces versus one sitting is taking some practice. I’m kinda getting the hang of it, but learning that talent while working on a totally different type of project (i.e. a book) is a bit of multitasking that is not going well.

The way I write is a bit different too. Or at least it is becoming different. I am working on being more open and confident. I am attempting to become a more fearless writer. Sometimes nouns and verbs go together in ways that are a bit scary to own. In my life from ago, those things would be immediately deleted. Today, they are thoughtfully considered and sometimes allowed to breathe whatever air they need to work themselves out. This process has made it more difficult to switch to projects that aren’t real (fiction writing) or not about the work I am doing (that wedding toast that I swear Ann is going to be great).

So while I am finding greater peace and enjoyment, the clock suggests a bit of a challenge. I need to write about 7,200 words a day to “win” NaNoWriMo. Gracefully, the folks over there also offer another cute little stat – at my current pace I will still finish on April 27, 2018. And honestly, that doesn’t sound so terrible.

The warrior in me balks at that, chides the fairy side of self on settling for the out, finding the justification where ever it may be to give me comfort in accepting defeat and failure. I own that. I think there is some truth to the fact that I could have been more disciplined in the the task. I could have taken the whole thing more seriously and been more confident in just getting words on paper. There is a piece of this project that is a failure. I do not expect a trophy for simply showing up. And, while admittedly unlikely, who knows what magical word count feat I’ll be able to pull off at the end of the month. Ever seen Rocky IV?

But the fairy wins today. I will not apologize for taking the time I need and doing the things I need to do. I will not feel guilty for the mornings I chose to steal minutes in bed when I could have been up putting words on paper. I will not begrudge the chaotic because I am all too grateful for both the chaos creators and the freedom of life to rock the rave.

 

*Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Clarity Overwhelming

In the past 72 hours I have touched, in some way, shape, or form, 224 Constant Contact Emails you probably know better as “Turn Around Tuesday.” This was necessary as I only had some of the TATs in my blog database. When I stop using Constant Contact (which will be very soon), I will lose the ones I don’t have elsewhere. Unfortunately for me, I had no idea which ones those were. Ergo, I had to open each one and crosscheck it with my database.

At the onset, I knew it was a big, time consuming task. That’s a lot of opening and crosschecking. What I had not anticipated (maybe I should have) and was not prepared for (not sure that would have even been a possibility) was the overwhelming emotional toll the whole project took.

I started Turn Around Tuesday in April 2007. My life, myself as a person, has changed so much in the last 18 months; the last ten years was a lot to digest in three days. There was so much there, even just skimming the pieces to figure out what I had and what I didn’t. Friends who are no longer with me, thoughts that needed revisiting, ideas that have changed, my ex-husband, former professions, forgotten dreams, misplaced pieces of me.

About halfway through I considered maybe I had taken too much on. But, at halfway through, I could see the end in sight and I just kept pushing on. Actually, at that point, I was so emotionally overwhelmed I couldn’t imagine what other productive thing I could do instead. The systematic open, verify, process, repeat was the only real thing I was capable of at that point. I couldn’t even begin to think about what I was going to do with all that when I finished.

Then this morning, as I was down to the last 6, I opened a TAT from August 2011. In some weird, wonderful, beautiful way, it gelled all my fragmented pieces from the last 72 hours.

Everything was kind of right there. A lost friend, funky juxtaposition of thought, desire to accept self, shit I wish I would have paid better attention to for my own well being but wouldn’t until years later, and permission from my 34 year old self to just be okay with all that.

TATs are almost always written real time, meaning, the TAT you get is often very reflective of some process in my current life. When the last piece was processed, I went looking for a reference for what was moving around in August 2011. Say what you want about Facebook, it has been instrumental in reminding me of where I am going and where I have been when my brain doesn’t quite cooperate. Sure enough, I found this blog post that I had written the day before.

Again, there it was. The seeds of me. The beginnings of a real woman trying to find her way out of some crazy ass confinement she had put herself in. The acknowledgement that there was more, even if I couldn’t come right out and say it. The need to be open and honest even while I wasn’t in the position to be.

There is also the reminder that so much time is lost and wasted due to fear. I was afraid a good bit of the time. I still have a healthy dose of residual scaredy cat lurking around. But it is just a little feline now – not the starving tiger it once was.

Ok, so that last sentence right there isn’t entirely true. I want it to be, but I have found that most often when I end a sentence like that and then have no idea what to follow it up with, I have hit on a bit of falseness. Fear for me now is an extreme shape shifter. It is always there and is either a big fucking tiger or a sweet little kitten. While I control it better now, the the last three days have found the bounce back and forth to be the main source of the overwhelming nature of it all.

Going back through random snapshots of the last 10 years of ones life is staggering. At least it was for me. The compounding fact was the self insistence that all these snippets were going to, at some point in the future, need to be processed with full acknowledgement of all the untold backstories and my new perspective while resisting the urge to kick myself in the ass over and over again.

There is a tiger fear that moving through this process – a process that I have already decided will be transparent here – will open me up to a vulnerability I am not comfortable with. It will be proof positive that I am not perfect and there are a ton of reasons for you to distrust and not like me. I want to delete that sentence so bad, I can’t even begin to tell you. But there it is. And I leave it there to remind both of us that the fear is an irrational one. I am who I am and you are who you are. We are either tribe or we are not. There is no judgement there, no right or wrong, it just is and that is okay. At the end of the day, it is honest, and whatever results that produces, I am comfortable in the fact that the realness is worth it.

There is also the simple fact that my perspective, recollections, assumptions, conclusions are different than those held by others. That is a big challenge for me. I have spent an unhealthy amount of time focusing on the “what ifs” of those occurrences. I detest being unfair. I have conceded ideas more often than I ought in an effort to reconcile. I will question my position more harshly than I expect others to question theirs. I defer to the intelligence of others because I lack confidence in my own. That practice has stunted more personal growth and happiness than any other one thing I can think of in my life. To that end, I have concluded that functioning that way is unacceptable. Instead, I will, as always, remain open to the ideas of others, discussion, connection. I will continue to encourage others to find their truth and tell their stories. And, I will unapologetically share mine.

Photo credits to Wild Woman Sisterhood and JM Storm

I am not Defined by Lost Stuffing

Success means doing the best we can with what we have.
Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.

**************

The real test in golf and in life is not in keeping out of the rough,
but in getting out after you are in.

– Zig Ziglar

A few days ago, I found a very sad three year old at my knee. “Momma, my bear has a boo boo.” Indeed, the beloved bear had a small rip in the seam of her leg and the stuffing was ever so slightly poking out. I am not surprised. This bear, loved daily, has seen her fair share of tea parties, swing sets, rescues and other amazing adventures. The fact that this small tear was all she had to show for it was, in itself, impressive.

After I assured her the bear would be fine after a little “surgery” that I promised would not hurt, she placed the bear in my care and went back to her play happy enough. Looking at this bear, I can’t help but be encouraged.

This little bear is not perfect. It can’t be. There is room for improvement in the design, material and manufacturing. Then, even if all those improvements were made, all we would have is a bear few could afford, few would enjoy playing with and minute details would still just miss perfection.

Because it is not perfect, the discussion must be when it fails, when it breaks, when it lets down – not if. That is, if the discussion really has to be had at all. The truth is, the bear is quite capable of fulfilling her role as my daughter’s playmate without considering the “what if” of either of their short comings. My daughter my be careless or overly aggressive. The bear may be poorly designed or equipped for the task.

However, this never prevents either of them from enjoying the relationship or their roles in it. In fact, there is no focus at all on the brokenness until the brokenness effects the situation. Even then, there is no judgement in the deficiency of the bear, no statement of character made about the child. There is concern for the injury and graciousness in the attention to the need. The shortcoming is brought to the one who can fix it and the issue becomes solution based and challenges are overcome. The lost stuffing defines neither the bear nor the child.

Today I just encourage you. In a climate of perceived or actual scarcity, unknown and fearful, accurate or sensationalized, be encouraged. We are all broken people that sometimes find ourselves in broken situations. This does not make us less than or speak to a hard wired character flaw. It makes us humans interacting with other humans in a meaningful way. It makes us a community. It makes us great because these interactions create the humanity that brings about all good things. I, you, are not defined by lost stuffing.

And as always, thanks for joining me for that cup of coffee…

*Originally published as a Turn Around Tuesday, November 2, 2010