Writers on the Storm

 

Nearly every time I’ve sat down to write my daily blog post I want to start by saying “I really don’t want to write today”. It’s almost true. I want to write, I just don’t know what to write, so because it feels hard, I don’t want to do it.  I know I don’t want to quit, but I also don’t want to disappoint anyone or have them skim my post and go, ‘meh.. next’.

Yesterday when one of my fellow NaBloPoMo’ers got tripped up and talked about quitting, she talked about the expectations of others, the fear of disappointment, and of not writing anything ‘good enough’.  So, basically, my life.  Which made me wonder – who is she doing this for? And of course, who am I doing this for?

I started blogging in 2005 because I saw one of my friend’s blogs go rather viral and saw how connected she seemed to other women, creators, bloggers, writers and mothers.  I wanted that.  I was dying for that. So I wrote and I hoped, but the magic didn’t happen.  I didn’t have whatever she had.  I moped about it, sure, but then I kept writing anyway.  I wrote because some of my family and friends read and it was a way to stay connected, I wrote because it felt good to have an outlet for my voice that had been quiet so long, and I wrote because it shined lights on scary places and showed me that whatever I thought was there wasn’t always so scary after all.

I still get stuck sometimes.  I left that old blog when some life stuff got very messy.  I waited quietly, so quietly, for a place to put my words again that felt like a safe harbor.  I go through dark phases where I hinge my worth as a human on whether or not people perceive me in a certain way.  I get it.

Everyone wants validation, to feel connected, and to feel like they matter; a lot of us look to find that through blogging. Except I realized, eventually, that when I try to write for someone else, I fail every time.  Every. Time.  But when I write for myself, I never fail.  It might be messy and disjointed, but I always get something, however small, out of putting words that I need to say down in black and white.  Those words might not matter at all to anyone else, but they matter to me.  Every single time.

When I made the committment to write and blog every day this month, I also made a committment to myself that I wouldn’t write for anyone even if every second of it was torturous and messy.

I’m writing to prove to myself that I can commit to this practice of sitting and putting energy into something so part of my core, but so often neglected, even when it gets hard. Especially when it gets hard.

I’m writing to convince myself that I can write shit and the world will not crumble.

I’m writing to show myself that I have to write through the storm in order to get to the sun.

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Flight of Ideas

butterfly

All day, for days now, ideas are constantly flitting around my head.  I notice one, a white butterfly contrasting the lush green grass. I watch her for a while, appreciating her beauty, the way she moves with a random grace.  I wonder where she’ll go next.  And then I’m distracted by something, a child usually, needing a part of me I don’t want to give.  When I’m done pouring myself into the crevices that need filling, I look back.  But she’s gone.  While I was busy emptying myself into squabbles over toys and unmet expectations, the idea left, just like that.

Is that what the collective conscious is like? Ideas flit about this large field of conscious thought looking for a place to land, but if you look away, if you turn your attention to the physical, to a place where you’re already empty, that idea moves on to find another field, another flower to drink from, another leaf to lay her eggs under where the chance of those eggs hatching and growing and flying on their own is really possible.

Lately I’ve been dragging words through thick mud trying to get them on the page.  Tonight, I sat down to pour out something, anything, to help me get unstuck.  I caught the faintest breeze off that butterfly’s wings, enough for me to remember she was there earlier, but not enough for me to get a true sense of her beauty.  Perhaps the idea will come back, the thing I felt moved about in that moment, but just as likely not.

It’s been this way lately.  The thoughts, feelings, and ideas are but transient settlers in my brain.  I’m distracted by too many things – wobbly emotions, mountains of anxiety and children who need me to be their mother.  Never enough time or quiet for me to allow something to fully unfold.  Everything about who I am and what I want feels wispy and fragmented.

I need to be able to stop long enough to let her thin black legs land on my heart, her powdery wings flicking silently apart then together, waiting for me to open to her.  I need to let her speak to me until the idea has enough of it’s own weight that it won’t fly away with her when she takes off again, finding her way on a current of thought to another woman in need of her inspiration.

I need more dirt under my feet, more salt air in my lungs.  I need more stillness, more peace.  I know these things like I know my bones, but I just don’t quite know how to get them.

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The Break Up

A few weeks ago I decided to end a relationship. It’s funny to call it a relationship when, for the most part, I’ve been held against my will.  To some degree I’ve even developed Stockholm syndrome. But this relationship isn’t with a person or a food or an inanimate object. It’s not with anything physically tangible at all.

I’m talking about my relationship with fear.

Fear and I have been on the outs for some time. For too many years I have clearly seen the ways it has been holding me back, keeping me from doing what I love, from being who I am.  When I notice it, when I am honest with myself and really look at how trapped I am, I don’t totally ignore it.  Sometimes I even think… hey, maybe I should do something about that.

Instead I’ve just sat back, expecting that awareness would be enough, that my pathway out of fear and into light and growth would just magically become clear one day. And I’ve waited. And I’ve stayed, a hostage to fear, in a familiar place of worry and anxiety that kept me from having to take risks, to open myself up, to be vulnerable.

Prickly Landing

Over the last few months I’ve been in a position where I have to show up. There are no distractions.  I have to be present in my life and doing so has forced me to really look at what that life is. The tugs and pulls to do more, to unfold, to be authentic to myself have become strong tides. But, I’ve become so used to dragging around this ball and chain of fear.  I’ve become so complacent to it’s limitations that I usually don’t even let myself dream about what it would be like to run into the arms of the sea and swim untethered into the great ocean of opportunity.

Until now.

I had been thinking a lot about writing, which is one of the most important things in my life yet faces the most chronic neglect. In the past, blogging gave me the push to write, to create and to share. I’d been feeling the siren song to blog again. But I’d left this space and wasn’t sure coming back was the right thing.  I had to look at what I wanted to say, where I wanted to say it, and why I was afraid to use my voice.

I wanted to be here. This little corner of the internet meant so much to me in those early months of Rex’s life, when I was processing my post-partum anxiety disorder and what it meant to have a newborn and to change the constellation of my family and my partnership with the Man. The act of writing and sharing and connecting with other mothers was very healing.

Yet when someone who is no longer a part of my life, whose exodus was full of deep pain and remorse, found this space 18 months ago, I went into lock down. This was a space where I’d opened myself up wide, where I let myself be vulnerable, where I felt safe doing so out of perceived anonymity, and I barely looked back at first. But I’ve been looking back a lot lately, wondering what to do, whether or not to start over.

About a month ago, on a weekend, I was standing in my kitchen mulling my dilemma over the meditative act of making lunch for my children. Suddenly, the last tile of awareness shifted into place with an audible click and I stood there looking at a crisp, clear picture of all the ways I was not living my life because of fear.

The answers to all my questions became so obvious when I looked at them through this new lens. When I asked myself “what exactly are you afraid of?” the answers seemed so trivial.  What was I afraid of? That someone who hates me will read my words and… what?  Hate me, more? Judge me, more?  Exactly who cares?

By sitting in fear I had handed over gobs of power to someone who I wanted having no power over my life. The irony was a much needed slap in the face.

So I said “fuck it” and that sentiment cracked through my life like a bolt of lightening.  In a flash, it illuminated who I was and all of the parts of myself walled off by fear. Now that I could see, I looked at those parts of my life with reverence.  Instead of grieving lost opportunities or berating myself, I just sat with them, becoming so acutely aware of how fear permeated nearly every decision I made.

I can no longer accept a life lived through fear. I am done stifling the Realness of me because of the unknown. I’m done making choices based on how someone else might see me or how they might feel.

If I keep living with fear driving this ship: the parts of my life that make me who I am, that should be rejoiced and celebrated, will whiter up and die. And that’s just not what I want to do with this one life I’ve been given. I want to live it. I want to love with my arms outstretched. I want to love myself boldly, without a single care for what other people see because what they see doesn’t matter.

Does. Not. Matter.

For far too long I have kept myself small, quiet, and easily digestible. Who does that serve? Not me. And not my partner or my children, either. They deserve to know a partner and a mother who loves herself, who can teach by example that they are whole and perfect and worth loving just the way they are. I never want them to bear the legacy of that uncertainty I’ve felt my whole life. I never want them to be where I am today, having to re-learn the purity of love I was born with.

freedom

I am here. I am whole. I choose love, for myself, for my family, for those who love me and for those who hate me or don’t understand me.

I choose a life lived with love and not dictated by fear.

Finally, for the first time, I choose me.

photo credit via photopin cc

photo credit via photopin cc

beginning anew, sort of

For those of you paying attention, it’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged.  I had some soul searching to do and in the mean time the ideas and posts created quite a bottle neck situation that left me feeling stuck and broken in some ways.  The urge to write and to post here has been a strong current tossing this tiny boat of mine around, but a firm, solid anchor has kept me pinned in one space with only enough slack to knock me around, but not really allow me to move.

I’m inspired every day to write something, to contribute my slant on the collective consciousness that exists in this massive (but in so many ways tiny) space that we call the internet.  And I feel pulled to document this journey I’m on growing as a parent and a writer; a journey that in some moments feels as new as it does familiar.

I was particularly inspired by this post which I stumbled on through a link from a link from a link (you know how it goes).  I’ve always struggled with what to share in public and, more specifically, under the guise of anonymity that the internet provides.  Couple this with my desires to publish some of my work and the potential that at some point I might link my real name/work to this blog and things get even more convoluted in my little head.

I’ve thought a lot about what blogging means to me and what I want it to mean to the people who choose to read it.  For most of my life, writing has been the place where I work out all the messy stuff; a dumping ground, if you will, for the toxic waste that sometimes overtakes my life.  When it came to blogging, I’ve often just wrote what I needed to with nary a thought to who might be reading.  Things shifted and I had to abandon ship of an old blog when one of my readers became more of a stalker due to some interpersonal, real life stuff that happened between us.  I realized what is at risk by being open and vulnerable and I question just how open and vulnerable I need or want to be going forward.

Where does all of this leave me?  It leaves me feeling like I’m sitting at my kitchen table trying to plan every intimate detail of some epic trip right down to each grain of sand I will walk upon and foresee every single potential speed bump or pothole along the way.  I’m surrounded by huge piles of maps and stacks of paper posing as perpetually imperfect drafts of lengthy itinerary.  And if I just keep sitting here being driven by this debhilitating need to ‘get it right’ the reality is that I’m never going to go anywhere.

So here goes.  I’m going to get it wrong, but I must trust that throughout the process I will also get it right and that in the end, everything in my life will happen just the way it’s supposed to.

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pamplemousse

Because I’m painfully insecure, I feel a little naked about my last post. I feel like I got all ballsy and shared a picture of my naked brain and I’m fighting regret, resisting the urge to rip it down and apologize for being so brazen. So pompous. Whenever I hear the word pompous, I think of one of my favorite French words, pamplemousse, which means grapefruit (not a very pompous fruit at all). But there it is… my brain is a funny, tangential place.

How dare I?

That’s what I’m afraid you’re thinking. How dare she just proclaim she’s going to to turn something she loves into something that will help sustain her family? How pamplemousse!

And then I got rejected for a scholarship for an online writing class which poured a bit of gasoline on the fire that my inner critics sit around warming themselves on in my brain.

In the crazy heat of last week I escaped to my mom’s house with the baby where there was a pool, an air conditioner and a couple extra sets of hands to hold and entertain the (teething) baby. I got home late Saturday night wondering, as I entered my 90 degree, empty house, why I hadn’t just stayed another night at my mom’s. My arms were heavy with bags of stuff and a car seat full of 17 lbs of baby as I wriggled my way onto the small enclosed porch. Remarkable how much stuff I managed for a two night trip – two bags of food, one combined bag of clothes for both myself and baby, large bag of cloth diapers, laptop bag, knitting/journal bag… was there one other? Anyhow, as I squeezed this all through the door, I noticed a box from Amazon and on top a large envelope mixed in with the mail. I knew what the box was, but couldn’t figure out what was in the envelope.

After putting away what couldn’t be left out and peeling the sweaty baby from his carseat-egg-pod thing, I got him settled into bed for the night. Then I remembered what I’d ordered. Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper by the glorious SARK. I started reading her books ages ago, in college (seriously, AGES ago). I have nearly all of them. Yet I haven’t picked a single one of them up in the last 5 years, at least. So when I recently stumbled upon her in the macrocosm of the internets and saw that she had written THAT book, well, I couldn’t exactly NOT get it. (The Universe, she works in mysterious ways I tell you).

I’ve only managed the first chapter. But already I’m asking myself… WHY NOT declare my dream? Why not put all of my love and energy towards living it? Why do ANYTHING else? (well except feed, water and love up the children, the man and myself)

I can’t think of any good, logical, sound reason why not. And holding on to that will be my biggest hurdle. My inner critics are powerfully mean, fed on years of insecurities in most every aspect of my life, they are big, fat and toothless (oh, and hairy and smelly). And loud and obnoxious and try to make me feel teeny tiny when I’m trying to be big and brave. I’m going to have to fight hard against them. They have kept me quiet, kept my writing lacey, fragile and sparse for a long time and I am done (you hear me, done!) with allowing that to be my reality.

My hope is to devour this book over the next week and most importantly learn some tactical maneuvers against those dastardly fellas. A little whisper in my brain just said “maybe they’re scared little kids, maybe they’re scared little you’s, maybe you need to bring them into the light, write about THEM, maybe then you will see why they are screaming for attention in all the wrong ways.” I’ve taken a short stroll down that path before; perhaps now is the time for a full journey into the dark canopy of my psyche to visit these bands of scoundrels I call my inner critics. The question is, will I be brave enough to share what I discover?

finding happy

one mile from my front door

I sit here in the livingroom, cool air running over my bare shoulders through the open window. The only noises I hear are the clicking of the water pump while it fills the washer full of cloth diapers, the whoosh of the occasional car that drives by and the breeze rustling the rhododendrons outside the front window. This is the first time in over a week the windows have been open during the daylight hours. Until today the heat and humidity has been utterly oppressive (so cliché, but really the most appropriate word for it). As soon as the temperature outside creeps over the temperature inside, I’ve been battening down the hatches to preserve every molecule of cooler air I can inside the house. (In case you haven’t figured it out, I don’t have AC). The weather gods say the rest of this week will be more of the three H’s so well known to New Englanders – hazy, hot and humid. This makes today’s weather truly a precious gift.

The start of this week was more rocky than I expected. The Man ventured off to place more paving stones on the path towards his dream while the older kids went to the ex’s for their week with her. This little nest feels quite empty with just the baby and I in it. The times in my life that I’ve been single I’ve really appreciated the solitude and what it has offered me. But this feels like someone pulled out the table cloth from underneath the dishes; a little exciting, a bit of awe, and fairly unnerving all at the same time.

One of the things I’ve been feeling this week that has surprised me may seem a little odd to some. Even though I feel pretty anxious about being alone in the house with just the baby, I feel a really strong sense of peace. And today as I sat here finishing my lunch of roasted chicken, garlic kale and potatoes, I felt deeply happy. This might not seem unusual to some people. You know the ones I’m talking about, they exude positivity even in the face of tragedy – so much so it almost seems false. Or at least it feels false to me; I’ve never quite been able to believe anyone can be that happy all the time.

For me to feel happiness, at this deep of a level, is very new. Most of my life has been woven with a thick vines of depression and anxiety. They peaked when Pip (the Eldest) was born; anxiety and depression dug deep, sinewy roots into the soil, refusing to be yanked out like the choking, invasive weeds they were. There were a couple things that finally allowed their grip on my mental health to be loosened and uprooted: ending my relationship with my ex and changing my relationship with food, namely corn. Both the ex and the corn got evicted from my life. The change in how I felt was remarkable. I told my therapist at the time that prior to removing corn from my diet, things had shifted a little, like turning the thin plastic rod on the blinds to let little bars of light into the room. But when I removed corn it was like ripping open the drapes and yanking hard on the pull cords to let the full, streaming sun in. Profound. Yet I still have never felt quite settled in myself, something was still missing and I often feel sadness over it’s absence.

If I were to outline my current circumstances, you might wonder how I’m not depressed. Financially things are a little more than tricky right now which is the ultimate stressor. The venture that the man is on is his first paid work since December, the first income we’ll have had since March. He’s guaranteed a week of work, we’re hoping for longer obviously. I’m nearly certain it will be.

Today I feel as though I’m tapping into some little inner place of knowing. It’s a place I’ve bumped into in the dark before, but today it’s looking me right in the face – here I am, you can’t ignore me anymore! I know that things are going to work out. The past few months have been fraught with worry for me; our lives propped up on rickety, rotten boards on a rocky shore, bracing myself for the ruinous crumbling at every strong wave that licks the algae covered stilts keeping us above water. Last week sometime a shift began to happen. The Man was asked to come to where he is now and he surmised he may be asked to extend his time away, perhaps going further away until the middle of August. When he cautiously broached the possibility to me and asked what direction I felt he should go, I found myself literally flinging my arms wide and saying with genuine enthusiasm “YES”.

If you knew me like I know me, you would know how significantly out of the ordinary this is. I like plans, I like predictability (that little Aspergerian apple I have does not fall far from the tree). For a long time, I’ve been a quiet passenger to where the Universe has directed my life and mostly this has worked out. The stagnant times where it was unclear where I was heading next were short and there was usually an inkling here and there of what would be coming up as I crested hills. Enough so I could trust that there was an order or reason that would be clear to me soon. Recently though, and perhaps exacerbated by the weight of a new baby in our family, the uncertainty was maddening to me and I, in turn, drove the Man crazy with my worrying. He kept assuring me that he was setting up scaffolding for our future, but what I couldn’t see scared me. I was afraid he was fashioning the Emporer’s New Life for us and when I crested the next hill, he would be the only one who believed in it enough to actually see it.

In the last week a slow cohesiveness has been happening not only for his dreams, but for my own. Instead of just waiting for the Universe to show me the way and trotting along behind it while it led me places, I decided to take hold of the reins a bit. I could never quite decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’ve tried on preschool teacher, receptionist, cashier, at home sewing business, doula, reiki teacher and social worker. I almost became a massage therapist but got pregnant and would be due in the middle of the schooling so that got tabled. I also considered midwifery school at one point. None those things felt, or feels, exactly right for me. So I am finally taking myself seriously as a writer. This is huge and it feels so incredibly right. Writing has always been a part of who I am, part of what makes and keeps me sane. The decision to try to make being a writer paid work: blinding flash of the obvious. Embracing this journey, working to make this happen, feels like exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Exactly. I should be doing nothing different right now. Inhale. Exhale.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this kind of clarity before. I’ve always felt like I was on my way somewhere (just never quite sure where) or coming from somewhere (and wondering if that was the right choice). I let little doubting voices that sound a lot like my father and grandfather make me believe that there was no way that you could make an actual living being a writer.  And yet in the last few weeks I’ve stumbled on women, mamas, who write write write like it’s their job, because it IS their job.

I can see the same thing happening for the Man and even though we are physically apart right now, I am so grateful to be sharing this shift with him. Good things are coming, big things are coming, soon, very very soon. I’m still scared, I’m still anxious, I still need to pay my bills, but at this moment, here in this place, the water is calm. The breeze that licked the ocean a mile away carries the salt to my nostrils and I breathe, deeply, and know this is exactly where I’m supposed to be, this is the reason for everything before it.