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.
But, they aren’t as bad as I thought. I made a mountain out of a foot hill.
I felt so lost because I didn’t know where I wanted to be. My heart, my love was in New York and I wanted to be with him. I also wanted to be in the mountains. My last message to him didn’t go well. Now, I still don’t know where I want to be as I look around but I know where I am going and things aren’t so bad. Don’t get me wrong my heart is broken. Tears are pretty constant right now. I wake up wanting to have another conversation and re-write my last messages to him. I wanted him to see my intents were good and change the narrative he has about me.
These are things I have no control over. The control I do have is where my focus is.
My narrative. What I tell myself about myself. The way I see things. I don’t see him as a villian or myself a victim. I won’t paint him that way or myself for that matter.
I live with depression and anixety. They are constant companions. Sometimises they invite friends. A panic attack came to visit last night and ended ump staying for hours. It pressed on chest while I was trying to sleep. Flashed images on my mind that forced my eyes open. So I wrote for hours and got most of the way through today’s word count goal.
The moment where I felt so lost I couldn’t take it anymore happened twice. Once for the things I could talk about and once for the things I couldn’t talk about which ironically I can talk about now. Both moments were poured into writing.
Yes, I don’t love the fuck out of my job, anymore. But, I know this and I know the reasons why. I needed to admit how lost I was to be able to come up with a plan. It is a ever evolving thing.
Quitting just because I am not in love with it or because I am stressed out isn’t an option. It goes against everything I was taught growing up. And I have prided myself for my increased ability to take care of my own messes.
A year from now, I plan on quitting my job. Why a year? Why not now? Well, I need to put some things in order before I quit and go on the the next chapter. I have some serious life editing to do. Not everything I want to do is going to get done.
Change is painful and taking a year to make this change isn’t going to make it any less painful. What it will do with a little luck and a whole bunch of work is give me a few more things to deal with that pain.
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.
For the last four weeks, I have been the type of sick that people dread. The kind that makes your whole life slow to a crawl. There is nothing you can do but rest, drink lots and lots of fluids and hope that people don’t get tired of you asking for help. Help getting groceries, driving and doing laundry. My body didn’t have the energy to stand or sit long enough to fold my own laundry. I had to ask for a lot of help. Bronchitis turned into pnenomina. My body forced me to rest. It is still forcing me to rest. While drafting this post, I took an hour nap.
I am on the mend. I am off the antibodies and codiene laced cough syrup and back to my morning coffee. I’m back writing in my office under the watchful eye of my Ghostbuster figures. All good things.
If I take things slowly, I can get back to a normal pace of life.
The problem is I am not sure I want to go back to the way things were. To be blunt, my life is comfortable and there are a lot of awesome things in it,but it isn’t working. I am not happy. I am lost. I’ve been this way for a while.
It is the combination of a lot of things. Things I am willing to talk about and things that I am not sure how to talk about.
Twleve years into teaching and I am not inspired to be creative anymore. What is the point when I am never going to be really recognized for the work I do or paid fairly for it? It isn’t about being Teacher of the Year or anything life that. It is about not having to worry constantly about money or what deeming thing is going to said to myself or collegues next.
I tried unsuccessfully to exit teaching this year. I figured that it was time. My resume was met with an understandable silence. I didn’t have on paper what they were looking for. I would have loved the job, been good at the job but I have no one but myself to blame for not landing an interview. I didn’t do everything I needed with my resume to show them.
I have tried and failed to develop a consistent writing routine. I have also failed to complete any of the projects that I have going. The list of unfinished work gets longers and longer.
The sequel to Blood Child remains unfinished as does my first novel. Everything in my life is in the works.
I have craft and art projects that are collecting dust.
I am lost. Lost in my work life, in my personal life and pretty much everywhere. I feel like if I really let someone know what is going on then I am going to break down the cry. And the tears won’t stop.
Because not only am I a mess, I am also deemed to be broken one. Broken because I am over weight and depressed. Lossing weight isn’t going to cure my mental health issues. And curing my curing my mental health issues isn’t going to fix my weight.
I am lost because I want to move and at the same time I am terrified of it.
Leaving teaching means leaving job security and my health insurance. It means abandonning the known.
My folks are fine with me moving if it is for a better position and place in life, but I don’t know that it will be. I can’t guarantee that I will be making a move that is going to make everything better.
If I roll the dice and pack up my life, I fear that went the dice land they are going to come up snake eyes.
There is more.
I have a serious case of imposter syndrome. I feel like I am a huge fraud.
I am a poet who can’t snap her fingers.
I am lost.
Here is the point in writing that I would normally write something hopeful and inspiring. It is tempting to end that way once again. We all like stories of redemption. Stories where the underdog makes it to the end, finds their ray of sunshine and lives their dream. I think in always trying to be the protagonist in that kind of story, by forcing life into that mold, I have lost myself. I have lost the ability to admit mistakes, short comings and given into the notion that I must always put a positive face forward.
I crave being seen yet, I have been trained to hide myself and not be trouble. Not to worry others.
When I talk about depression some well meaning friends are always concerned that I have gone to that dark place again. The one where sucide is the only exit to freedrom. I am not there, trust me. I was never really there. I saw the other exits can clawed my way to them, sometimes figuratively some times literally.
I am in a different place, where there are a thousand doors and the reality of happily ever after has forever been shattered.
This is my Papa. I met my Papa when I was thirteen years old. I was already taller than him. And he still had some color in his hair. Since then we have both grown quite a crop of steely gray hair.
According to legend, he fell in love with Momma over homemade spaghetti. She didn’t cook it mind you. He did and he had forgotten to stock up on red pepper flakes. When he mentioned it, Momma pulled a large container of them out of her purse. .
I am not sure how a large container of pepper flakes made it into her purse. Maybe she was using them as a cheap version of pepper spray? Throwing the whole container at would be assailants and hoping that her aim was true to hit them in the eye or at least the shock of seeing a flying pepper flake container would slow them down.
A few weeks or months later, Momma came by to pick me up for an outing with Denny. After Denny came into her life I saw Momma more and more. If he did nothing else he brought my mother back into my life. (But, he did do more)
You see a year earlier, we lost our house. Momma went to stay with friends and I returned from my annual stay at my grandmothers house to live with my father. The separation would last nearly a year. It wasn’t by choice on either of our parts. In the meantime, life became a serious of events where I tried and failed to win the approval of my birth father and stepmother. Every decision I made questioned and denounced as immature and lacking thought. My interests were weird and I was disrespectful. I didn’t know how to please them and eventually just retreated to my books and imagination.
My father and mother had divorced when I was six. He told my mother that he didn’t love her anymore. And she told him to leave. I don’t know what it cost her to do it; to go against everything that she had been taught about life and marriage. She came from the work it out generation. Her parents were married for over fifty years. The only way out of marriage was death. And she let my father go alive. She could have killed him for cheating on him. She could have raged against him. She never did at least not in front of us kids. She told him to go. Told him that he had to go that they weren’t just going to go through a divorce sleeping in the same bed or living in the same roof . She told him to go and where the boundaries were. I love her for that and everything she did that followed to do right by us. We never made it easy.
Sadly in the months following the divorce I blamed my mother and tried to fight her. She rocked and held me close until I calmed down. She didn’t understand that my father had just told me he was going on a business trip not that he was leaving permanently.
My father is not a man known for his sense of humor or love of literature. Actually, I don’t know why people like my father. I do know that he hated my nose was always in a book and wanted me to get out and do things. I wanted to do things. The things in the books I was reading. The characters had horrible lives to be sure (I was a huge VC Andrews fan), but their lives were filled with excitement and love.
Love is something my father still has difficultly communicating to his nearly forty-year old daughter. He rarely says it and every time I hear it, I question whether he is sick or not. Dying being the event that would induce an out pouring of emotion from his tight lips.
Papa has never had trouble communicating his love, frustration or anger with me. It hasn’t always been smooth and he has been so angry at me that I am sure he was seeing cross eyed. I was never the rebellious teen. No, I did all my stupid, worry the parents stuff in my mid to late twenties after I came home to live with them. When I was a pain in the butt, he let me know. And while we will never agree on politics completely (so far we both hate Trump), we always agree on the fact that I am his daughter.
Maybe he didn’t provide half my genetic sequence, but he did provide all the love and support a child could wish for. He showed me what it was like to have two loving and strong parents in the home. He gave me what I missed as a child of divorce the feeling of a strong family unit.
Father’s day is hard on a lot of people. Some people like my Papa didn’t know their fathers or have fathers like mine who won’t accept them for who they are. Papa doesn’t always understand me, but he loves and accepts me. All of me. It is what a father does.
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.