Trust What You Think

I’ve owned Writing Down the Bones for quite some time now, but whatever it was that made me purchase it, wasn’t there when I needed to sit down and read it. Sometimes, however, books come into our lives at the perfect season. I think this is the perfect season for this book.

Natalie Goldberg writes in the preface that the book is backed by a two-thousand-year-old practice of studying the mind. She writes “the more we understand the human mind, our basic writing tool, the better, more secure we can be in our writing.” How true is this. In fact, I think that’s partly why I’ve struggled with my writing so much in the past two years–my mind was doing things that were (for me) unpredictable. I wasn’t in control or connected with my mind–it was a chaotic, dangerous space for me at the time. But if writing is anything, it’s about trusting yourself, your instinct, your mind. It’s that simple. There’s nothing more to it. When you lose that trust with yourself and your instinct, you can’t grasp what you need to say; instead, you grasp for straws, you second guess, and you falter at the one thing you should be in control of: your mind.

Goldberg gives the following “wish” (and my paraphrase) to those who read her book: that you come to know yourself, feel joy in expression, and trust what you think. 

There is nothing more essential in life and in writing than those three things. Today, I wish them for you as well as for me. Happy Writing to all my fellow writers!

My One Big Flaw

embraceAs transparent as I think I am, I’ve always had this lurking flaw. When people come too close to me (emotionally), I pull back entirely. Sometimes I retreat. Other times I get angry. Of course I’m afraid of being hurt. We all are, aren’t we? But I deal with this on a really deep level. It’s made it pretty easy for me to be single, but now I’m not single anymore and I think about this a lot. I just finished showering and all I could think about is how terrified I am to let this guy in–really, truly inside. I think about a lot of the people I didn’t let inside; how I’ve pushed a lot of people out or back further. I’m not sure how to bring this up to him without making him afraid and I’m not sure when I should start therapy for this even though our relationship is new. Maybe I’m overreacting or over-thinking, like I so often do. Maybe the best thing to do is relax, as I have been the past few days, in his arms, wrapped around me as I go to sleep. And just let him kiss me on the forehead, brush my hair back from my eyes, and wrap his hand around mine. I can sleep soundly when I’m there and I don’t even feel badly for saying I’m letting him rescue me from myself just a little bit.

If I Were Being Honest

heart windows

I might say that I were running from some of the best things that have happened to me.

I might say I was running from my readers.

I might say that I was running from the intimacy of this place.

I might say that I’m afraid of people watching, speculating, critiquing me from up close and from afar.

I might say that I’m so afraid of making mistakes, that I don’t do anything at all.

I might say that I haven’t felt any emotions for the past two years and I kept myself that way on purpose–because the ability to numb myself was far easier than to see myself publicly fall apart.

I might say I hid.

I would definitely say I hid.

I’ve been hiding from every request, every reader, every “fan”, every person who is exactly like me–just sitting on the other end of the screen.

And for that, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more. I’m sorry I ran when it got hard. I’m sorry I didn’t have the answers you needed, or that I needed for that matter.

I can’t say definitively that I’m back, only that I think about you and about us nearly every day. I talk about you often. I bring you up in job interviews, in therapy sessions, in conversations with my mother. And I try to cry, but I couldn’t cry until today when I read about another blogger wanting privacy in her life and I realized that there are no right ways to pull back from the public once you were so intimate with them; but sometimes it’s the healthiest thing to do. Sure, I put my career at risk and I’m not sure it will ever fully recover, but I had to take a break. It wasn’t the threat of suicide that was the problem–it was the threat of living with this suffocating paranoia and anxiety.

I had to breathe again. I had to learn to trust real humans face-to-face again. I had to learn to sit on my mother’s couch and talk about something OTHER than this blog and my issues with it. I had to walk into her kitchen–hearing the sound of the pan sizzling and smelling the roasted vegetables in the oven–and sit down on the bar stool and know that I was welcome again; because whatever hit me over the past two years did so like a fast train and I haven’t been able to recover friendships and relationships that  matter to me so very much.

If I were being honest, Blog, I hate you. I hate you so much. But if I were being more honest, Blog, I love you. You’ve taught me so much. You’ve forced me to grow through the pain. You’ve forced me to make mistakes in public. You’ve forced me to retreat, to be silent, to simmer. You’ve reminded me how much I love poetry and the Great Outdoors. You’ve reminded me who is important to me and how to hold them closer than I ever have before. You’ve helped me hope for love and find it. And most of all, you’ve helped me come face to face with the woman in the mirror and realize that she’s not so bad after all.

Taking Our Time

I’m no stranger to falling quickly and wanting to move fast when dating. But I also made it to thirty without being married because I never actually followed through with those steps, mostly because it didn’t quite feel right with those people. You know the reasons it wasn’t right–there was a different reason for every person and I’m sure you’ve experienced some of those reasons. It just wasn’t a good fit and didn’t seem like the payoff was worth the risk. Or deep down you just didn’t believe the person’s words because their actions said something subtly different.

taking your timeI love this quote. There’s something magical about feeling relaxed about taking your time with someone (not that I’m not going “squee!” inside constantly and doing ridiculous shit–because I AM). But there’s something nice about being able to tell yourself that this could be a good person to actually take your time with–not because you have doubts and want to make sure he’s the right one, but because you’re enjoying the chance to fall in love with someone and you don’t want to rush it or slow it down–you just want to experience all of it as it comes.

The “Yucky Love Stuff”

There’s this great scene in one of my all-time favorite chick-flicks (My Best Friend’s Wedding) where Julia Roberts says “This is not about longevity. This is about me being comfortable with the yucky love stuff. And I am.”

The whole film is about her facing how she’s ran away from love (and the “yucky love stuff”) all her life until her best friend, Michael, meets and proposes to the love of his life (played by Cameron Diaz). And yet Julia always took for granted that Michael would be there for her and be in love with her. He wasn’t. Now she had to stand in his wedding and she spends the whole time trying to ruin the wedding so he doesn’t marry Cameron.

But really, Julia doesn’t want to marry Michael and she’s probably not really that comfortable with the yucky love stuff. She just doesn’t want to be alone and grow old without her best friend. And that makes sense. But she still spends the whole movie trying to ruin his wedding.

There are a lot of people like Julia. Many of them are internet commenters (although I have some great commenters here, lately) and sometimes, your own friends surprise you and are those “Julia’s.”

***

Not entirely unrelated, I was just watching this Ellen clip about Mila Kunis and her pregnancy/engagement to Ashton Kutcher (celeb gossip–so sue me.). Mila’s keeping her baby’s sex and name private and she and Ashton kept the engagement ring private for two months. Something I’ve learned in life is that not everyone is supportive of happy people and sometimes it’s just best to keep your happiest moments private. The minute you start sharing how awesome your life is, the minute haters come on the scene. Let’s be honest. It’s just natural if we’re feeling shitty about our own lives to feel like no one’s life can possibly be THAT good. But sometimes life can be THAT good, and sometimes those are perfect MOMENTS (no one’s life is perfect 100% of the time), not an indication of a perfect LIFE. Either way, happy people want to be around people who are happy for them, not around people who are critical of them. And that’s why Mila and Ashton (and every other celebrity couple) keeps their private lives private–because really, one’s private life (and the up’s and down’s everyone goes through) shouldn’t be fodder for public scrutiny. Our personal lives aren’t the Hunger Games, so why should we share intimate things with the public if we don’t feel like it?

***

All this to say, I’m in love and I’m happy. I’ve also kept it pretty private and am going to keep doing that until I feel like sharing it. There are a lot of reasons I wanted to do the private thing, and one of them had to do with people’s reactions to me when I first announced I was “on the market.” The amount of married/taken men on the prowl for sex seemed to jump sky high and I was getting propositioned like a straight whore during those few weeks. It was baffling. It was insulting. It was enough to make me reconsider sharing intimate details of my personal life on Facebook again, so I pulled back and kept dating, but doing so on a more low-key level.

I told the boyfriend that before I met him, I wasn’t planning on doing a public relationship–not on Facebook, not on the blog, etc. Considering how public I am with things here, I feel like it’s most respectful of him if I don’t blog too much about him/us (yet). It’s new. It’s magical. I don’t need to disclose all of those moments with the world. Maybe I will one day, but right now the story is being written and it’s all ours. It makes it more intimate to know that those memories aren’t being blasted through social media. They aren’t being hated on. They aren’t being discussed. They’re just building.

I realize the private relationship thing isn’t for everyone, but to me it makes it more sacred. Knowing that there’s at least one thing I don’t share openly with the world–moments I have all to myself with someone else, and feelings that I don’t spoil by opening up for internet opinions. This is what makes things between he and I more magical right now. It’s all ours.

What I can say is that we’ve had some magical dates and we have a lot in common–more than I expected to find in someone, to be honest. And also, I highly recommend the “yucky love stuff” because it can be pretty fucking fantastic–even (and especially when) your whole head turns to mush.

soul

Why Is “Normal” The Enemy?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how a “normal” life has been the “enemy” for so much of my life. I’m not sure exactly where I got the idea that working a 9-5, having a husband/kids/house/dog would be awful, but I lived a lot of my life craving adventure and something I was passionate for. Absolutely nothing else would do. While I still love adventure (and can’t live without passion, of course), I think I’m starting to realize that normal feels right for me right now. I’m craving stability, routine–like my puppy, Olive–and realizing this isn’t a bad thing.

I used to think normal and routine were boring. How dull and unfortunate those people were who led predictable lives. How sad not to have passion driving you to do everything you possibly can do in a short amount of time.

I don’t think that’s true anymore–or at least not in the same way I once thought it was. Having lived my 20s as one of those zealous, unpredictable people, I can tell you that the road to that much passion is paved with burnout–usually more than one burnout. For me it also involved a lot of moving and constant emotional upheaval when my passions changed or shifted (as they so often do). It wasn’t until recently, actually, that I was talking to some people (explaining this drive to constantly move and switch jobs and feel trapped in relationships) that one of them said “that sounds like a textbook case of adult ADD.” I was a bit stunned. I had never ever considered ADD as a possible reason I felt compelled to move around a lot and live on a whim and a passion.

As a group of us discussed it (and our possible ‘symptoms’) I realized there was a real possibility I had ADD. In fact, one of the group’s members shared a test you can take at home and I scored really really high on it, meaning I need to see a professional about it soon. My point is, sometimes being adventurous and passionate are amazing. Sometimes they can also come with the inability to focus, feelings of boredom or feeling trapped, not finishing projects, and sometimes instability. Sometimes the glory of adventure brings with it a lot of negative things, too.

ADD kind of makes sense for me. I’ve moved a lot. I get bored with jobs easily, especially when they’re not an intellectual challenge for me anymore or if I don’t feel I’m able to grow professionally within a company. But the most scary symptom happened to me recently and it’s what made me speak up about this pattern in the first place. I realized I had accomplished most of the things on my goal list for writing and I was starting to feel almost…bored. With my dream job. I panicked. Here I was at the most successful point in my professional life and I was starting to wonder what was next and I couldn’t find anything writing related to put on the list. The only thing I hadn’t accomplished was in-progress and going well and otherwise, there wasn’t anything left for me to try. The only thing that kept coming up on the list was to learn computer animation and start a web comic. That doesn’t mean those are bad dreams–it just meant that my whole identity was having a crisis because those aren’t writing-centric.

Writing has always been my identity and my savior. When I was a child, writing was the thing that drove me to dream. When I was depressed, writing was the thing that drove me out of bed. Writing hasn’t just been something I’ve done; it’s part of me. It’s been the thing I’ve defined myself as for years. When someone asks who I am, “I’m a writer” follows.

It still is part of me and my identity. In fact, I’ve been taking a social media break this past week to work on my writing projects. But before I considered I may have ADD, part of me was really sad that I might be getting bored with writing. Or at the very least, I wasn’t sure where else to go with my writing career. And that was very stressful.

Maybe more than that, what worries me is that my priorities are shifting. Money is now a priority for me. I’m 30 and the things that I used to consider “old people” priorities really are 30 year old priorities: houses, health insurance, 401Ks, savings plans, investments, big back yards, and vacations. It feels weird. Being in ministry meant that I was in debt, and then leaving ministry meant I was behind in earning my degree and figuring out how I wanted to make a living. Being a writer meant I could steal be an idealist, but it meant that I would be poor. I’m sorry, but I did the poor minister thing and I can’t do the poor writer thing.

I think that’s what some of this is about. For so long, “normal” (houses/health insurance/401Ks) meant that I was “settling” and I was “giving up.” The people who influenced me told me I couldn’t have “normal” things AND passion. I don’t look at it that way now. I know I haven’t given up. I’ve gotten a lot fucking smarter. I know that to finance my writing career, I need a “boring” 9-5 and some health insurance. And guess what? I have actually found a day job that pays well and makes me happy to go to work. But it’s not writing. That means I will be writing into my retirement years to get everything accomplished and that means that my day job will look pretty damn different from my night job as a writer, but after a great deal of soul searching and experimentation with “dream jobs”, I realized that I like money and stability. A lot. I like safety and safety nets. I like savings accounts and low amounts of debt. I never really realized that I would turn into what the 20 year old version of me despised and love it. But I did. And I’m okay with that.

fought to become

I love who I am, even if it looks boring to someone else. I don’t care what people think about my life’s choices, because I’ve learned that the secret to my happiness is stability. It’s to feel safe, to be prepared, to have a routine. It’s to be a bit normal. Sometimes that means wishing I could just write all day every day and instead having to go to a job that has nothing to do with writing, but I wouldn’t trade that stable feeling for anything. It’s my happiness. 

 

When Activism Turns to Hate

I’m beginning to notice that it’s very normal for former fundamentalists to become loud-mouthed, opinionated activists. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, or activists for that matter. In many ways, activism is a natural progression for those of us who have been repressed and oppressed. Liberalism does represent hope, equality and fairness for all, and that’s why we’re drawn to it. In other ways, though, it’s easy to lose sight of yourself and of other people’s feelings when you become an activist. Liberalism can be as vitriolic, blind, and one-sided as the Tea Party. And liberalism is not ever 100% right or unbiased.

I know this is a contentious subject and this is the internet, so there will be hate-filled emails filling up my inbox soon. Because I don’t have time to enter into debate with so many haters, I won’t be allowing comments on this post. I also don’t give a fuck if you don’t like that. I don’t have time to have a heated debate on here. I simply am not interested in a battle, because if you want to have a battle of intellect, that’s one thing, but a battle of hatred, I can’t and won’t participate in.

It’s important for me to write this, though, because I was such an outspoken activist for so long. Although not all activism is bad, sometimes when we’re activists we’re less concerned about how many people and friendships we plow down in the way to our goal. We are driven, idealistic, and we feel we need to “save the world.” This isn’t unlike my days as a “soldier for Christ” in a cult. The passion-fueled idealism is actually quite the same. The blind zest to change the world and change other people’s views (as opposed to accepting them) isn’t far removed from fundamentalism. So, I guess, the questions I’m interested in putting out there is: At what point do we examine our activist ways and compare them to our fundamentalist ways? Are they the same in some ways? In what ways are they different? Will we wake up one day to realize that being a moderate doesn’t mean being the enemy? That maybe the world is less black and white than we think? And maybe being able to look at subjects with fairness (and from both sides) might actually help improve the world, the media, journalism, and debate more so than zealous activism? Maybe normal isn’t the enemy–maybe it’s a remnant of what we were taught as fundamentalists. 

Over time, I have damaged a lot of people I love because I was close-minded. I damaged friendships–some of them are irreparable and some of them meant a lot to me. I need to say sorry to those I hurt and also say that I’m more self-aware now. I’m more open to meaningful dialogue with people I care about and I’m more open to meaningful dialogue with most people now, because no one is ever above learning from someone else’s humanity. I’m interested in hearing another side of the argument. I’m interested in debate, only as long as it doesn’t damage my friendships with people I deeply care about.

Essentially, I prefer people over politics. I don’t want to live a life where I assume I’m 100% right about everything and the “Other” side is made up of idiots. That’s just not true. (It is true that there are a LOT of stupid people in the world, but they exist on both sides.) And I certainly don’t want to continue to make the world a vitriolic-filled place where only one side of the conversation is respected and others are bullied into silence. That’s not democratic. It’s also dehumanizing. All of our voices should be heard, and I hope we all aim for constructive dialogue and debate. I hope we all open our minds to people who are different from us–whether liberal or conservative–and really work on bringing more thoughtfulness and less hate to the table.

/end rant