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.
How does one deal with being so lost that they have finally gotten tired of throwing their hands up in the air? Of starting all over once more. Of staring at the end and knowing how much work it is going to take to make it a beginning. If one is a writer, you write. You talk about it with people and then you write some more.
This is me doing just that.
This is me working it out.
Today, I crossed off 11 of the 14th things on my to-do list off.
I did good, today.
All and all, it was pretty spectacular for someone who has been sleeping through much the last month of her life one of two sofas. My living room is a mixture of items I have been given over the last five years. There are only a couple of items in the room that I purchased. A lamp shade I purchased with an ex-boyfriend from Ikea that looked vaguely like one of the chocolate oranges you see around the winter holidays. It is absolutely hideous. And fits perfectly. It works in the space. It adds something to it The rugs and one of the bookcases as well as the TV make up the rest of the items that I purchased. Well, beyond the books which even some of those were passed on by the dearly departed.
There are a lot of things in my home that came from death. The death of a friend or love one has filled my living room with furniture. My favorite lawyer bookcases and the desk where my TV sets all came from a friend’s parents. They gave me these things after her death because I needed to furnish my new home and they were moving. It was too much for them to stay where she had died. So much of the last two years of her life were spent with them watching her.
I wear a set of rings they gave me everyday. These belonged to my friend. It is my way of remembering her. Of honoring her. I feel naked without them. If I forget these things then I will dash back into the house.
Death and the past are constant companions. Maybe that is why I have such a hard time mapping out my future direction. So much of the home I cherish has come from the past. When you walk in my house, it is clearly that I have an affliction for darker things. I stopped repacking the entirety of the Halloween decorations years ago.. My living room, the first room, that you see has seven skulls in it. One witch, two bats and a couple of dragons. The only room without a skull or something Halloween in it is my bathroom.
Then there are the books. Lots and lots of them. A great deal of them are histories from around the world. Scattered among these are the skulls and various nick-nacks.
My house sometimes scares my landlord. I have been a good tenant for the last five years which combined with being a writer as well as teacher has ensured the good will of the landlord. Thus he has learned to humor me. I may be odd, but I pay my rent on time and don’t cause trouble.
Drapped in death and the slightly macabre my home gives most visitors a sense of peace. What is more peaceful than death? The long sleep. The goal for me in decorating has been to create a place that is inviting. So far, it seems to be just that. I have worried in the past that my collections and love of skulls would turn people off, but as far as I know I haven’t scared anyone away. And if I have then I have no problem with it since they didn’t tell me they were uncomfortable. I can’t fix what I don’t know is a problem.
The map I am trying to layout currently is going to take me away from this place sooner or later. This is the second place that has been totally mine in adulthood. I have lived here longer than anywhere else since I graduated college. Before that I lived with my birth father after my mother and I lost our home. I would spend the next three years living like a guest in his house. My picture rarely made the wall of family photos and when it did, it was only for a short time. If you walked into my father’s home, you would never know that I was his child. There is no evidence of me there at all.
The house I live in now is home. I love the idea of the life that I have built for myself. I am proud of how far I have some in the last couple of years. And then there is the shame I feel for not having gotten farther. Why don’t I own a home? Why do I live so close to the edge? Truth be total, my family won’t allow me to fall too far. They have always been there to save me from rock bottom.
Another truth be told, I have been coasting for the last couple of years. I am smart. This isn’t a bragging. It took me a long time to realize that I am in fact intelligent. My mother and sister are genius so being an intelligent woman runs in my family. I am not a Mensan like them. I haven’t bothered with the test or like my mother has suggested on more than one occasion when I as in therapy had a psychologist sign off on the paperwork. She believes in me. She has always seen the intelligence that has been bouncing around in my head. Years of being talked down to by my birth father, grandparents and the rest of my siblings taught me that if I wasn’t as smart as my sister and mother I wasn’t smart at all. So I never pushed myself academically. It was either sink or swim. I am good at floating.
My mindset was that I only had so much intelligence. There was no way I could be as smart as other people. Talent was something I lacked and could not develop. Psychologist Carol Dweck calls this a fixed mindset. I didn’t really see that I was coasting a great deal of the time just below success. I honestly thought that if I was meant to be successful it would just happen. I never quite got there but I am never far off from it,
Don’t get me wrong, I do work hard. Sometimes I work too much. But that is mostly to make up from having coasted. Or when things really need to get done. Or when I get the energy. Lack of energy has been the theme of the last couple of years. Truth be told, I believe that I burnt out before I ever became a teacher. Ironically, teaching is where I finally began to believe in my own intelligence.
I have been working since I was 12 years old. Given the nature of the employment, I worked long days and made little money (75 to 100 a week), which at twelve was big money since I didn’t have any money. I saved pretty much every penny I yearned for either school clothes or my college fund. I made it through college and went where life and opportunity lead me. I didn’t explore much. Kept waiting for a sign or something. The course catalog was the sign I missed.
Kept waiting dreaming of that door to open. Kept dreaming of it. Didn’t know how to manifest it. People kept telling me I could do this or that. I didn’t believe them. Seriously, I thought because of my learning disablity (dysgraphia) that I would never be a writer. Mmm, who was an Amazon Best Selling Author? And who is going to continue to write no matter what? Me.
I follow some very talented people online. Some of whom I am friends with and the thing about their talent. The secret to that talent is that they work at it. They keep working on it, made mistakes and kept working on it. They do the work. (Thank you, Lisa from Halfmoon Creative Works for reminding of this. )
I wrote Blood Child in a heart beat. I did the best I could. I got help from professionals and friends to make and after months of hard work, there were mistakes. There are always mistakes. No matter how hard you work there will always be typos and things you can do better. You have to learn to do them better fix them the next time around.
The next book is coming slowly, but it is coming. It is going to take more energy and way more work. It is time for me to take the skill I have and begin to refine it. I just need to shake things up and make a new map for myself. One where I am growing. Get out of the comfort zone and back to my happy. My happy often comes from learning new things, traveling and having conversations. Things that my depression and anxiety nearly robbed me of. Things I can’t always do from where my life is right now. From where I have directed my life.
Happy isn’t easy. Happy doesn’t always mean that you feel well happy. There isn’t a glow to it always. My happy maybe more of a flow. When I am flowing, I am growing I moving with my life and better able to see opportunity when it presents itself. I think though for me it is a little bit like the lamp in my living, not always pretty by itself but given a chance a thing of beauty. The trick of manifesting that thing of beauty is seeing the potential, not listening to doubt and doing what is necessary to make it shine. The lamp shade, didn’t natural fit the lamp. The lamp itself had to be taken apart and reassembled. It is still a little wobbly when bumped.
My new map is going to be made day by day. Word by word.
It would be nice to think that when things are going well that Captain A would have no cause to come visiting. The Fraud Police would stay in their precinct and every thing would be hunky dory.
But, Anxiety is an A-hole and doesn’t care about failure the way that it does about success. Success provides it with so much fuel for doubt.
My fellow writers and creative friends know this to be true. We are afraid to do what is most authentic at time because we are afraid of how people will react. How they will see us? Will we face harassment ? For our art, personal appearance or both? Will be reject wholesale for sharing?
Captain A also doesn’t play the same game every time. Sometimes it speaks in whispers. Sometimes it brings us panic attacks. More than one friend of mine, it has brought on the horrors of agoraphobia. For the past couple of months, I have been afraid to see how my book sales have been going convinced that looking would just confirm that my book was a failure. I have advertised here or there, but no plan of attack. I just kept hoping that someone would see it and buy it. Once or twice a month some did.
And slowly but surely, reviews came in. All good. Friends told me how much they liked. One sweet lady who was brought to my book signing by friends has passed the book on to all of her friends who equally loved it. Her words of encouragement have brighten more than one sad day for me.
But, still I thought I was a failure. Or the next book will be and I will be found out. When my new bossed bragged about all of his Amazon offerings, I thought of Blood Child as a sad little book. Nothing to brag about.
Then Bowie died and I made the decision to work more on my writing, my art. Life is too short to wait for the right time. So on a whim, I offered my book, Blood Child for free on Amazon. I didn’t expect much as a result of this as I done this before with mediocre results. Mr. Anxiety predicted that I would get the same results.
Then I checked the unit numbers and over a hundred and fifty people had downloaded my book. Overnight, Blood Child made the top ten on Amazon’s list of Short Reads for Mystery Thrillers. And it stayed there for three days. Over 503 people downloaded it.
For three days, I was a Best Selling Author on Amazon. On day two, Mr. A and his companions, the Fraud Police stopped in. They stayed most of Sunday and only really departed today around noon. I did very little promoting on Saturday. My mind was set on cleaning up my grandmother’s thread case. Sunday, things happened, but I don’t remember working much. There was an attempt at work. Some posts here and there. Monday was spent in the doctor’s off and a last minute push to get my book into more people’s hands. More hands means more reviews and eventually more sales in theory.
I could have done more. A dear friend of mine gave me so advice to help Blood Child stay on top and I didn’t do it. I hear it and didn’t act on it. I was too much in my head. Everything seemed like it was too much. There was a weight on my mind. I felt like I was swimming through my own day. I spend hours not working just watching TV and feeling like I messing up. And I was. Sunday night, I tried to sleep in my new bed and ended up fleeing to the sofa.
My dogs came with me, which was awkward since they out weigh me. Laying there in the chilly winter air being half smothered by dogs I felt ok. Not great, but ok. The kind of ok that you get after you have been crying. I hadn’t been crying. Just beating myself up mentally for all my mistakes.
Like waiting to long to pay my traffic ticket and incurring another fine. For not doing more to promote my book and work on other projects. Not speaking up enough at work and not holding my tongue when it counts.
I could have done so much that weekend and I didn’t. And Captain A and his friends would have me believe that it wasn’t a success that it wasn’t a big deal and in the grand scheme of things it might not be, but you know what I did something. I said “Hey, Universe, here is my book. Check it out.” And it did.
It doesn’t matter what Mr. A and the fraud police think. Seeing my book climb in the ratings even for a couple of days made me feel good. Thinking about it now, I am smiling. I am ready to brag, no, because I still have a long way to go in my writing career.
A long, long way, but I did something this weekend it was a success.
This latest brush with Captain A and his Fraud Police was a light one. I didn’t descent into a full panic attack or depression.
When I wrote “Anxiety and the Writer”, I was a little afraid to put myself out there. Things were going good so why ruin it by talking about good days. Especially when you know that bad ones are coming.
I think the answer is in what author and poet, Cecilia Rodriguez Millanes, has said over and over to her students and readers, “If you are afraid to something, that is what you need to write about.”
When you do that you are finding your voice that authentic voice that all writers and author dream out. The voice that will pull readers into your stories, into the worlds that you have created for them and you create space for others to express themselves.
It is no secret that I have anxiety, a tricky little beast inside my head that is the captain of the Fraud Police squad that lives in my head. Captain A has been incredibly successful recently at getting me to stop what I love and live in fear.
I feel confident in saying that there are a lot of writers and creative people out there with anxiety, a lot of them. They live with it from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed and all through out the night. It is the reality of many creative types. Creating the thing we live for is often times the thing that creates the most them. I don’t often have writer’s block, I have writer’s anxiety .
A million things flood into my mind. Every nasty thing that I have ever told myself. Every piece of self doubt. Every ounce of criticism level at me from parents, teachers, siblings and well meaning friends. Every whispered insult. So I avoid being creating. I avoid sitting down to write and work through the demons that tell me that I am useless and I will be a failure. I think that is the reason that I often have wine while I am writing. It is an attempt to get the bastards drunk.
It doesn’t always work.
Sometimes it does and the story takes hold.
Sometimes I am the one who gets drunk as Captain A laughs at me. For the record, his laugh is similar to a hyena both evil and juvenile.
So let me tell you a story. Don’t worry it has pictures.
Once a upon a Wednesday afternoon a plan was hatched. A conspiracy among myself and one other teacher. It was simple, attend the Eddie Izzard concert and then stay home the next day. Teachers are dedicated individuals. We give 110% every day. Some days that effort is easy to achieve. Others it is a struggle, but that struggle on only a couple of hours of sleep one thing that this time around neither myself or my co-worker were prepared to take on.
So when the alarm went off, I got up and took the dogs for their walk then promptly went back to sleep. There had been a plan to call the doctor and see about moving up my ankle appointment. I wasn’t awake long enough to implement any part of it. I sleep all day and when I woke up it was only for a couple of hours before heading back to bed. The next day another day of hooky for me. My coworker went back to school or at least that is I what I assume happened. Friday morning, I took off for Sanibel Island to meet some friends who were vacationing there. It was heaven. The whole adventure. Even when I was pulled over for speeding. It wasn’t the brightest part but it wasn’t awful.
Normally, being pulled over would have reduced to me tears. The budget is already tight. The concert and the trip to the coast were special treats. A three hundred dollar ticket would have crushed my little ragtag budget .
Yes, that is right. I was pulled over.
And I wasn’t nervous.
And I was in the wrong. I was speeding. I was guilty.
I didn’t fuss at the officer or cuss. I just apologized. And you know what I was happy that he pulled me over. I was on unfamiliar roads. Speeding really and truly wasn’t a wise idea. I didn’t know what was coming up. It was an easy way to get in an accident.
The officer left me with a warning and a ticket for my registration being out of date. I didn’t even panic when I called my boyfriend to tell him about the ticket. It was weird that all of these things that aren’t normally in my routine didn’t set my anxiety off into over drive. In fact, the only part of the trip that tickled it was the drive back to Orlando in the dark and rain. I got nervous a couple of times could feel myself on the edge and then nothing. I teetered but never went off and had a melt down or panic attack.
Instead, I went on to have a wonderful afternoon and evening with two of my dearest friends from college. There was lunch at the Island Cow and shell collecting as well as a tour of Crow Wildlife rescue. It was a quiet day with no fussing or mussing. And no fraud police.
Now, I am sure that the Fraud Police and Captain A will be back. I am sure that the next time I go to sit down I will be struck by what a failure I am, but for nearly three days they weren’t with me and it was heaven or close to it.
And if I can get there once, I can get there again.
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 new novella, Blood Child is available on Amazon.