Recently, I read “Becoming…” by Michelle Obama and it has helped me to not only see the former First Lady in a new light, but look at my own story with less judgement and more honesty.
How did I become a woman who not only embraces her curves but also her gray and silver hair? How did my fourth decade on this earth become the one where I feel more at home with myself, my past and my pain? How did I become a person who takes selfies at the gym?
One blog isn’t going to answer that question. Ten blogs won’t, but that isn’t the point. Becoming or being my true self isn’t about reaching a mystic destination. It is about excepting where I am, where I’ve been and working on being the best version of myself. My New Year’s blogs were about goals. Goals are about getting closer to the version of myself that I wanted so many years ago.
There is a TED talk about being the person that you needed as a kid. I am not sure the person I was then would have had the strength to listen to who I am now and who I am becoming. So much of my life has been defined by lost. Something I learned to do from those around me. The lost of loved ones, a home, innocents and so on. It is a long list. I don’t know if she would have been able to conceive of actually living life closer to her Aunt Judith’s life than the one her mother and grandmother lived.
I love the life I have right now. I love going to the gym after work with my little brother. I love living in a house where we eat dinner together several times a week and walk the dogs around the high school track. I love waking up and being able to see the mountains. I love how the moonlight touches the corner of bed at night and how even though depression and anxiety are still deeply entrenched in my psyche, I am better today than I was last year.
Last night, I challenged myself to write a hundred words on the current project after having spent the last three days sick. I did it and a bit more. Today, I went to the gym without my little brother and pushed myself to complete our normal routine. Tomorrow, I am not sure what I am going to do, but I will do something.
I have become… no, I am becoming the person I needed to be when I was younger. The one that pushes through the mental muck and finishes what she started. I do it little by little, with a plan, but also with a mirror. One that reflects the whole me not the me that I want to be or the me that I fear I am, but one hundred percent me. The good, the bad and the depressed. All of me including the scars is beautiful. And it is that me that isn’t going to stop working towards her dreams and goals.
I may get sidetracked by cold or by a hectic day at work. I may given into my personal demons from time to time. Still, I am not going to stop working or becoming.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share your thoughts below.
Today, one year ago in the early morning hours in Florida Hospital Orlando, Papa ended his fight. He was 71 years old.
Here is the obituary that I wrote for him. It wasn’t published in his hometown paper. A shorter more mundane version was published. Momma didn’t think his Pennsylvania family would get it. She was probably right.
Dennis “Papa” Teets
Dennis “Papa” Teets died in Orlando, Florida on January 8th surrounded by his family at the age of 71.
He is survived by his mother, Beatrice, sister Cindy, his brother Dale, his wife, Patricia, son, Eric, stepchildren, Katherine, Marie, Frederick and Lucinda, grandchildren, Fredrick, Thomas, Emma and Anika. He is preceded into death by his beloved cat, Rambo.
He was born on April 14th, 1946, in Uniontown, PA. It was said when he was born, you could see the devil in his eyes.
He proudly served in the U.S. Army and spent a career working for the GSA. He was a slayer of demons and rescuer of damsels in distress, unless ocean waves were involved.
He wasn’t a perfect man. He didn’t always have the right words, but he loved his family and hated when he hurt them.
His family was his world. He liked to cause minor mischief reserving major mischief for leap years or when no one was looking. No one was good enough for his daughters and he always wondered where the second half of their skirts went to.
On August 3, 2018, he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery .
Actions are votes for the type of person that you want to be. I heard this on a newscast on New Year’s Day. The brief interview was about how to make your resolutions a reality.
Small actions leading to better habits was the gist of the conversation.
If you want to lose weight don’t think about the weight but what a person who loses weight does and then do that. Think about what a person who has achieved that goal has done and basically what would they do.
What do you want to do? What does a person who does that thing do? And then do it?
Hard at the same time.
What if you don’t know what the person you want to be does? You have an idea, but so much of it is still a mystery. You see the outer shell of that world not knowing of what is underneath. Social media is great for giving us peeks into other people’s lives. Those peeks however are cultivated ones designed to let us see more often than not the best parts of their lives.
The lense of social media can be deceiving. Everyone else seems like they seem like they have so much confidence. You might be afraid to even try. Mistakes are going to happen and very few actually completely stop you unless you allow them to do.
You might ask questions or advice from experts and be disappoint when the advice is vague or seems just out of reach.
What if you are already doing it, just not at the level you want to? What if it still all seems overwhelming?
My advice pick somewhere and start. The TV expert d’jour stressed making small changes first before trying bigger things. And he isn’t wrong. You still need a place to begin.
When I was a young, I would often clean by piling everything on the bed and putting things away from there. The mound of stuff was always overwhelming. The idea in my young mind was that I couldn’t go to bed until such time as everything was off the bed. Often because I was not a neat child it would be over my head. I would scan the mound for the easiest thing to put away. Dishes to the kitchen, laundry into the hamper, toys and books arranged as I went. It got better. The mess would return, but I had a strategy to get take care of it. My teenage-self just learned to either make a nest out of the junk or push the mess on to the floor on the opposite side of the bed from the door so my folks won’t see.
I want to be a better writer. I want to write more constantly, publish multiple times a year and have writing expenses match with writing income. Currently, those two figures do not agree. And, yes, there are expenses that however is another post.
Writers have to hustle. They have to generate multiple streams of income. One thing I learned early on from selling my book on Amazon, was that you don’t get paid right away. I knew this from other author friends, but the reality selling a few dozen books and not seeing the money for three months was eye-opening. A couple of times, I was surprised when there would be extra money in my account.
So small habits will I be incorporating into my life to learn that hustle?
Learn the business side of writing – the small thing I can do with this is keep track of how many books I’ve sold and where I’ve sold them. In the beginning, I was great at this until it came to the point where I was selling physical copies on my own. I lost track there.
Write on a schedule. Set a schedule and stick to it. This takes a lot more planning than you would think. Wednesday, it meant writing right after coffee since I made plans to spend the day with my sweetheart. Today, it meant craving space out either before or right after work. Maybe both depending on the goals.
Examining what my goals are and defining success. How will I know if I am a success if I don’t define it for myself.
Where are you going to start on your goals? What little habits are you going to incorporate to make things happen in your world? Please share your thoughts below in the comments.
Failure is as constant as change in life. Fear of failure is even more constant.
We’ve all failed countless times. The hoilday season is no expection. New Year’s comes and there is a push to evaluate our lives. Vague proclamations abound as many promise to lose weight, get their financial house in order and perhaps finally learn how not to burn water.
Writing and failure are good friends. The last three years I have sturggled to complete a second book among other things. In the course of those three years, I have made my own vague proclamations on how to solve the problem. And each and everyone of those proclamations has led to more failure.
Sure, my personal and professional life in those interving years has been topsy-turvy to say the least. In the end, as a writer, I need to write and finish those projects. Author, actor and Space Mom, Carrie Fisher, said that “Mistakes are a drag, because you get in an area of regret and self-pity.” She was right about that and so many other things.
There are many things I admire of Fisher. Her openness about her mental health issues, her blunt honesty and her creativity which serve as a more lasting legacy than the character that made her so famous. She also didn’t give up, at least not for long. She keep moving forward in her life.
In 2018, my Papa died, my longest romantic relationship imploded and I initated a move away from the life I had built for eighteen years in Florida. When from living in my own little rental house to a bedroom in my godfathers’ house. I went from having my best friend across the street to hundreds of miles away from him and the rest of the support network that had keep me going. Sounds like a bad year? In reflection, it hasn’t been a bad year at all. To be honest, while some truly awlful things happened, this year has helped me work out the need to make better plans instead of just saying I have a plan; making a plan.
Make the plan, make several plans and organze yourself so that you can put those plans into action. And when they fail which evenuatally they will fail, evaluate them from a safe distance. Step back and look what what you planned to do and what you actually did.
I made a plan a month ago to write two pages a day. Two pages a day and by the end of Feburary my next book would be finished. It worked for two weeks and then I started drift off course. The only way to get back on course and stay that way was to step back and look at what I did versus what I planned. The plan to begin with wasn’t really a plan. It was an objective or a goal. Plans involve steps. I hadn’t made any because in the eurphoria of the idea that I could do the thing, I was doing the thing and celebrating that I was doing the thing. I wasn’t working working on how to keep doing the thing.
Failing to plan, is often tossed around educational and business settings as planning to fail. In more than a decade as an educator, I have heard this phrase so much that my eyes automatically roll to the very back of my head when I hear it. This doesn’t mean it isn’t true and I had done exactly that; failed to plan and thereby planned to fail.
So, I am back at the drawing board for getting the thing done. This doesn’t mean that I am starting over again. My planning slate is not a clean slate, but one that has been cleansed on self-pity and deprecation. I didn’t fail to accomplish my goal due to being stupid or a horrible writer. I failed because let my fear of failure, desire not to miss out on things and a bad plan delay (not stop) me.
The new plan involves taking care of myself, allowing for off days and organizing. It means a return to my infamous to-do list, the use of the Pomodoro Technique ( a timer), listening to my body and treating my writing as the job it is, among other things. Last night, I stayed in to work on editing a short story. A good and noble idea, then the editor I work with suggest Sunday night, my little brother came home and suddenly I was tired.
It would have been easy to just go to bed. I didn’t. Editing was the last thing on my to-do list; the very last thing. I did it by making a mini plan. It was too late for me to do a complete read through, but it wasn’t too late to look through the comments that my editor and myself have made. Thirty minutes later, I was in bed with a book after having made a plan for today.
Mistakes, failure and the accompanying fear and reget of them weighs on writers and, indeed, all creative types. We get caught up in a loop of if I had only done this or that. Sometimes it is about not doing something soon enough. I hope to be able to say next year that I have as Fisher said “I outlasted my problems.”
What do you think? Is failure a constant or just the fear of failure? What do you do when you fail? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
This last year has been rockiest of my life. In early July 2017, I wrote about my heartbreak when my relationship of over a decade ended. By early August, I had decided to move.
It was a long time coming; little of the move had to do with my Ex. He only helped in determining the place. My beloved fairy godfathers had offered several times to help me move back to Virginia and get settled. Looking around, I realized that there was nothing holding me back anymore. Well one thing, telling Papa that I was going.
September came with Hurricane Irma. My little yellow house, my precious little house survived the night. The power lasted until 5:20 am. It flickered on and off until going out with a crack. It stayed off for four days, I was out of work for a week while they worked to restore power.
On the second day after the hurricane, I got a roommate and lost my office. It’s a long story and only parts of it are mine.
One causality of the hurricane was my purple PT cruiser. The hurricane froze the brakes then electrical system decided it wanted attention. For two weeks, I had to pop the hood every time I stopped the car to remove a fuse.
My incredibly wise sister convinced to go looking for a car. I came home that day with a new car. The man who sold it to me turned out to be a distant cousin. (thanks again, Cousin Martin) Papa was there helping me make one of the biggest purchases of my life. It was one of the last times we went out. The next time would be my birthday.
Since May 2017, Papa’s was growing worse. His cirrhosis which we were lead to believe was treatable was not so willing to be treated. He was and out of the hospital. The road ahead for my parents looked bleak and was bleak.
My second year as a middle school teacher wasn’t going any smoother than the first year. Mentally, I was checking in and out at work knowing that I won’t be at the school for another year. Professionally, I had a lot of things to do to prepare for my move. Motivation to move was strong. The motivation to do the things necessary for the move was not. The paperwork for my new teaching license was left to the last minute.
Eventually all the change meant putting my plans to start a page on Patreon on hold. I was writing, but not finishing much of anything. I couldn’t see myself asking for me to support my heart if I wasn’t producing it. Starting and not finishing projects. My mind was too scattered. My life was being to be summarized by a series of things that I couldn’t get myself to do.
Thanksgiving came and Papa was in the hospital. We celebrated our last Christmas as a family and then Papa went into the hospital for the last time.
He passed on January 8th of this year. Momma, my brother Eric and I were with him. The whole night remains surreal.
Two weeks after he passed, I reconnected with an old friend. Not only did I have a mini adventure on Sanibel Island, but I am now planning on going to France next summer.
June 15th, I moved back to Virginia. Papa wasn’t told I was going. It was an open secret before his death. Before I left Momma handed a framed picture of Papa to me. It sits on my writing desk.
I feel at peace here in my new writing nook looking out the mountains. There are walks everyday. The writing routine that was pushed aside is coming back.
I still miss Papa. I don’t think I will ever stop missing the man who choose to be my father.
This Thursday, Papa will be interned at Arlington National Cemetery. Our family hero will be laid to rest with dignity and respect. I can not thank my friends and family enough for their patience, love and understanding this last year. The brightest spots in the year were because of all of you.
A lot has happened since last July when I wrote about walking Luke and being confronted by a woman in her car. A woman angry because I dared not to pick up the Luke’s stool in the bushes where he had so cleverly deposited it. I still remember how entitled and angry the woman was that I had run out of bags to clean it up. Now, I think how luck it was that I was the one walking him not my best friend.
Would the police have been called because he isn’t white? Sounds insane right, but that is the reality of the world we are living in at the moment. Police are called in for matters that could be solved with civility or just ignored. So many people are calling the police when no laws have been broken and no one is endangered.
We suspect our neighbors because they have become other. There is a real danger in labeling people in our communities as other. It allows some of us to come entrenched in the idea that change is not a constant, but a danger.
The last year of my own life has cemented my belief that change is the only constant and that we must embrace change for ourselves and our communities. If we don’t embrace it, we allow others to make those decisions for us. We allow them to steer our communities away from the ideals which we belief shape us towards the ones that have led to the darkest moments in our history.
It has been too long since I sat down, was honest and just wrote. The last year has been filled with so much fear and change that I don’t know how to express myself. Fear of being judged or ostracized for my opinions has led me to be silent. Silence is the real killer.
My heart broke recently. If my life was a book, the reader would have seen it coming before me. They might have been screaming at me to see what was a happening. Cursing at me for seeing it myself. Most of my friends did. They saw the doom on the horizon and braced themselves. But, I am stubborn and kept sailing toward it; right off the edge.
Once I love someone I don’t know how to stop loving them.
So I cry. I write. I cry. I plot and I write. I’ve done a lot of writing in the past week. Last night is the first night since it happened that I got any sleep.
In years past, I would have pour everything into expressing that heartbreak as if that is all I am a broken, tangled heart. There would have been lots and lots of bad poetry. Some drunken texts and heartfelt emails. Tears in the grocery store and at red lights. Days and weeks where I would gave shut down. My work would have been suffering.
Whether it is an increase in maturity, a lack of fucks to give or the way it ended, I am not a hot mess. I am still a mess. You don’t love someone for over a decade to be over it in a week. We first got together when I was twenty-eight. A year out from a devesting heartbreak and I fell completely and utterly in his thrall.
Maybe he is fine, right now. I don’t know. He had been pulling back over the last couple of months. He would say he has just been busy and this is true. As a writer and director, he has a ton of work obligations on top of other things.
From his perspective, I am the one to blame. I see it as both of us, but ya mostly him. I didn’t speak up when things bothered me. He keep putting off phone calls and visits. I looked for and saw reasons to explain his behavior. A recent health crisis only added to the list of reasons. But the postponing of things I needed to stay health in the relationship was a constant. Samantha on Sex in the City might just have turned to me and said “Honey, he just isn’t that into you.”
And she would have been right.
It is also true that I set the pattern where that behavior was acceptable. I was always waiting for him. I wanted to do it. I believe that by doing so I was being supportive. I own my own behavior. I own it so I can forward.
Asking some of my friends, why I got so much venom tossed my way at the end? Why did his last message not only kill our relationship but scorch the earth. It didn’t make sense. I wasn’t asking for much. I wasn’t trying to put anything on him. I just wanted to see him. Yes, I am just as naive and innocent as they statement sounds. That really was the intent of my last communication. I just wanted to see him.
I have waited for the time to be right and finally I got tired of always waiting. I have been supportive over the years to his career. If a job meant that our time together had to be rearranged, I was ok with it. I helped in any way I could. He did support me just not to the same extent. Truthfully, that bothered me.
The physical distance didn’t do communication any favors.
I accepted a smaller place in his world just to stay in it. A place I now realize means that many of the people who call him friend, don’t know about us. So why when I asked so little did I get so much venom.
The answer is simple. It makes this whole thing easier for him. If I am the villain or at least trying to make him one then it is easier to move on. He doesn’t need that negativity. He really doesn’t. If I am crazy and obsessed then he doesn’t owe me anything. It is in his best interest to get the hell away from me. People will congratulate him on getting away from me. If I was cheating on him, something he insinuated more than once over the last couple of months then even more reason to do the hell away.
I am not any of those things. I didn’t cheat on him. If I was approached by someone, I told them I told them I had a boyfriend. I didn’t make a big deal of it. Still I would get text implying that I was?
I did distanced myself as soon as realized what was happening. When I realize that this was the end. I didn’t wait. Weeks ago, I had decided that if we broke again I would do what I needed to make sure this break was for good. I only begged a little and tried my best not to demand answers. Mostly I was in shock.
Would I like those answers? Yes and no.
Yes, because my heart wants to understand. No, because the mind knows that even with the answers the likelihood that I am going to be comforted by them is slim.
Heartbreak gives me insight into my own character as well as how to write characters. Fear has ruled me for most of my life. I could have moved to New York, I was willing to move, I just needed a word from him. I was afraid. Afraid that he didn’t really love me. Afraid I won’t be able to find a job. Afraid I couldn’t deal with being up close to his other partner. Fear of rejection was a big part of the decisions I made. Some of which he didn’t ask me to make. I did it because I thought it would help. I was wrong. Hear that I was wrong.
While he has been in New York for the last couple of years, I dreamed of seeing New York with him. I wanted to go to shows and see the Met. It is one of my favorite museums on the planet. I daydreamed about the changes that live in one of the greatest cities in the world. I didn’t voice those desires to him. I didn’t say that I wanted more than to visit. When he mentioned me being there as an aside. I jumped on it. I didn’t discuss it. I was too afraid. I kept waiting for him to say more.
My own motivations are messy. How could I think that my ex or my characters motivations would be simple?
Sometimes they need to be messy. If they are too straight forward then they are boring. They need have layers just a like an onion and they don’t alway smell pretty. (Thanks Shrek) They have to have that human quality of relatablity.
Recently, I finished reading the Prisoner in his Palace by Will Bardenwerper. It is the story of “Saddam Hussein, his American guards and what history leaves unsaid.” History leaves a lot unsaid.
Saddam Hussein was sadist, a tyrant and a whole lot of evil things. He had two of his son in-laws gunned down after convincing them to return to Iraq. He was also an affable old man who expressed concern for the soldiers guarding him. He even gave one of them his watch before being excuted. He is a villain, but he was also a husband, grandfather and friend. Although, the latter provide to be quite dangerous to many Iraqis.
The book showed the complexity of Saddam’s character and how even knowing the evil that he did, it was hard not to like the guy. Reading it was eye-openoing in a lot of ways. Saddam was a villian, but his motivations were complex. He did awlful things because he thought they were the good things. He wanted the best for his people. His methods were evil. His intents according to him were only good.
Thank you, my love, my characters have just gotten a whole lot more interesting. The character that I patterned after you will still continue to make appearances in my work. I know you were pissed when Anthony was created. You thought people would judge you because of him. You didn’t see that Anthony was one of the heroes. I promise not to take my heartache out on him.
And thank you for all the things that you did to help me on my journey as a writer. This blog is here because you encouraged me. You gave me advice when I needed it. You are an amazing man, writer and friend. I miss you, but I get it.
If you’d like more information on Lucinda’s work subscribe to this blog, follow her on Twitter or like her page on Facebook. Her novella, Blood Child is available on Amazon. You can also find her on Instagram where she posts pictures of foster critters and other adorably evil things.