Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tripping up the Staircase

Fear. Fear does many things for us. It keeps us alive, for starters.

My fear of turning left in traffic? I’ve had friends who have gotten into accidents that way. So it’s not a totally irrational fear. And the caution I exercise in turning left, in turn, keeps me alive.

Fear does many things to us. It causes me to lose focus. It causes me so much unrealized potential that it’s ridiculous. Why don’t you excel in one of your chosen fields? It asks me. The answer? I have an overwhelming fear of failure coupled with a fear of the unknown. The simple question, “What if?” Is always greeted with negativity. The “Na-na-na-na-na-na, you’re going to lose” kid in A League of Their Own? That little shit is a constant presence in my brain.

The result? I never move forward. Stagnant and unreliable. Unwilling to work at things unless there is a guarantee of success.

In short, it’s no way to live.

I have a million ideas. Tinder: The Musical could be a total possibility. I may not be able to set a song to save my life but do I have talented friends with whom I can collaborate? Eff yes! So why not??? Because, what if it’s, like, stupid? Says the Valley Girl in my brain. And she is convincing, if vapid.

And then the other side of me, the optimist, ever the idealist, says: quit being such a pussy. Live a little. It would be fun for your daughter to read someday if nothing else. And it’s educational. It would be a comprehensive “What Not to Do” list for online dating.

So nothing you do is ever completely useless, especially not if it helps you grow as a person. I must work at it and not see any failure to publish as an exercise in futility.

Beeeeliiiiieeeevveee in yourself, says the unicorn. Beeeeliiiiieeeevveee.

And then there are all the inspirational quotes out there to back me up. You don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step. Broken crayons still color and damn, I’m magenta.

This theory applies to the rest of my writing. I need to replace “What if?” with “Why not?”

I also need to learn how this whole “pitch” thing works. Because holy jeez, it seems to be important. You gotta get a gimmick if you wanna get ahead: a little Sondheim for ya. I need to learn how to sell myself and unbelievably, I am no good at tooting my own horn.

So there.

As a good friend told me, I need to replace my apologies with this phrase. It does make me seem more confident, if a bit callous at times. It’s a start.

And now I must truly apologize, because I have Elmo stuck in my head. Thanks a lot, you furry little bastard.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Miles to Go

I've slept a total of nine hours in three nights. I am exhausted.

I must journey to Burley, ID this morning to drop my daughter off with her dad for Spring Break. Thank God I'm not driving. Coffee is my friend.

I'm ready to jump in with both feet into the dark water. Do I think a shark or a scary clown is lurking somewhere in the depths? Most definitely.

That's the hard part of writing about my past with mental illness: though I am pretty open, I do have a great deal of shame and embarrassment regarding certain topics. I have saved them for "The Book." The Book has been in process since 2009. I have started it and restarted it. It has no primary sense of focus, as much of it was written directly post-hospital. When I was still highly paranoid but wanted to preserve some of the lovely memories I made.

I am fond of having mid-life crises, it has become quite the hobby of mine. I search for purpose daily. I wanted to go back to school to be a teacher, but hearing about the stresses faced by some of my teacher friends made me doubt that decision. So now I am left knowing one thing: I was not meant to clean up after other people for the rest of my life. It's certainly not beneath me but it makes me weary. 

I am still determined to write for a living, though working a day job has taken a lot of the living out of me for the time being. I am still terrified of failure, a hallmark of my OCD. But if I don't write and I don't continually submit I'll never get anywhere. Part of me is determined to find a full time job so I don't have to worry about paying the bills: another part of me is screaming, live your dream. Take risks. 

Quit being such a pussy.

And focus. And practice, practice, practice. This I'll-write-when-I'm-inspired nonsense has got to stop, I must follow the example of my successful writer friends and WORK ON IT. Not only that, but figure out how to reach a broader audience. Follow the examples of your idols: David Sedaris writes five hours a day. I'm lucky if I write for five minutes without distraction. Or incredible self-doubt.

And the reading has got to commence as well, damn the depression. Pretend you're in college and it's required reading. Make yourself read for an hour a day. Quit wasting time. Navigate the everyday stress without falling apart or into a coma. You've got this, as your sister would say. Beeeeelieeeeve in yourself and stop with the self-destructive self-deprecation. 

As for the pitches and the websites? Figure it out, you're not a complete moron most of the time. Set goals. Don't be afraid of rejection. View it as learning, not inadequacy. 

I could go on and on, but I'm going to mercy-kill this line of thought. 

I've got places to go.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Caring for a Character

I can't compel other people to care about me. I can't do it. They either do, or they don't. I would cite my humor and my other charming characteristics as assets. But that would seem like too much self-flattery.

The truth of the matter is, my character is ruled in part by my chemistry. My brain chemistry to be more specific. If you knew me before I was on medication for OCD and Bipolar Disorder, you would see why I wrote such depressing materials as a seventh grader. For example, in a project to describe myself, I wrote a poem in which I compared my existence to the moon. I don't science, I've made that clear. But I do emo. “Dawn arrives, filling the world with joy, yet I see only a glimmer of its brightness before fading into nothingness.” Top THAT, My Chemical Romance.

So, this Affordable Care Act controversy has been bothering me. To say I need my meds to survive is a lie. But to thrive? To function in a traditional (or a non-traditional, keep-my-ass-outta-the-hospital) sense? Well, that's an entirely different issue. I can rail and whine and cry about it all day, Republicans are going to do whatever they can to repeal this evil law more colloquially known as Obamacare.

This is what I leave to my daughter if I lose my mind. My writing, my online presence. In the musical “Alexander Hamilton,” Burr and the chorus ask, “How do you write like you're running out of time?” With the big tick of that political clock in the background, I am beginning to have some idea.

Not fair, I cry. Another quote from Hamilton emerges: “history has its eyes on you.” That means you, alleged government representatives. You cannot pretend to represent the majority of your constituents if you repeal this law, especially since a lot of them apparently didn't know that this is where their health care magically materialized from. Amazing, I know. And gee, only 40,000 or so lives will depend on it every year.

I guess being anti-ACA is, in a way, being an advocate for some sort of cruel population control.

Sounds messed up, right? Well, it is.

If you already have access to free health care, good for you. Is it too much to ask that you care about your neighbors and friends and family and what they might be going through? Because I'm thinking the 40,000 or so that will die pretty much outweighs any arguments that you are pro-life. Sure, you may argue, there are a lot more abortions than people who will die from repealing the ACA. And you might be right. But threatening to limit access to birth control as well?

That's even more messed up. Not only no, but hell no.

And no, the Women's March did not represent all women. Not all women agree with it, and that's fine. But I am not raising my daughter to be one of those women. That’s my personal prerogative. I want to teach my daughter to be all that she can or will be: yes, she is still allowed to choose her own path. That's the point. If she came to me and said Mom, I'm [insert religion], I would accept her. If she came to me and said, Mom, I'm a [insert sexuality or gender], I would support her. If she decided to be a [insert political agenda] I would say, honey, that's your right and your choice. I may not always understand why you made your choices. Or why you feel this way. But I do understand that it's your choice to feel and act and think and do and be.

My choice to think and act and think and do and be as I want is impaired by some bad wiring in my brain. I didn't choose it. But why do some people believe it is their right to take it away from me? The point is, I need (not want, need) to be there for my daughter.

I also don't always understand these folks who preach that we need to see both sides of this coin. I tell you what I've seen in the days since the march: I've seen two of those very dear to me, being attacked for marching and for standing up for women’s rights. It's not pretty, though in some ways it was expected. It is one thing to preach tolerance: it is quite another to live it. I'm trying folks. And I seem to be failing in some regards.

I guess I will just accept what I am: a single mom with a mental illness, who is intolerant to intolerance. I will no longer claim that I am not willfully insolent toward or ignorant of other people's perspective at times. I'm human the last time I checked. I am told, “Well now missy, you're not being fair, you're not considering the other side.” For me there is one side, and I'm seeing the very real prospect of my sanity slipping away. So, if you choose not to understand it, I may choose a path without you on it. I started this out trying to be funny. But for some reason, I'm not in the mood to laugh.

[insert punchline]

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Reader, Resurrected

I found out yesterday morning that the allergy medication I’ve been taking for the last year expired in August of 2013.

Reading is fundamental. I could have saved myself a year of sinus trouble had I simply read the label.

Speaking of reading, what happened to the book nerd I used to know and love? I used to read while I was walking on my way home from school. Dangerous? Certainly. But my desire to consume fiction was insatiable. I even competed in “The Battle of the Books” in junior high, answering trivia questions from a list of 45 awesome books.

Now? Eh. I apparently can’t be bothered to read things like expiration dates.

I’ve been in the middle of John Green’s “Paper Towns” for about four months now. There are no less than thirty books sitting in my kindle or on my shelf, collecting virtual and actual dust. I belong to a Stephen King fan club online called “Constant Readers.” Ha! I started one of his short story books a year ago and bought another that is now staring back at me, unloved, unopened. Such a sad fate…

I even have friends who write books. Cynthia Hand, a college friend, writes excellent YA fiction. I buy her books and find time to read them perhaps a year later. Essentially, she is writing them faster than I can read them.

This is tragic, people. What is the matter with me? Is it depression? Lack of time management? Facebook? The answer is obvious: all of the above.

Rediscovering things that I love has been a struggle, but I have slowly been coming out of my post-divorce funk. My meds are balanced and I’m even contemplating exercise. I get as far as putting my running clothes on, even. Baby steps, people.

Yes, it’s true that most weeks I work an almost full-time schedule. But take, say, 35 hours out of the week (don’t hold your breath, but I am attempting to math). 24 times 7 is 168 hours a week. What have I been doing with the other 133 hours? Sleeping only takes up about 50 hours of my week. That leaves 83 hours of what, exactly?

The answer is: Facebook. It’s a time suck. It’s a trap. It’s a form of people watching and I just couldn’t get enough. Now I realize that it’s much nicer spending time with actual people. Which means: I’ve been spending time with other people in real life, outside of work. I know, I’m letting everyone down regarding the self-proclaimed profession of Hermit Crab. Somehow, I’m less than disappointed.
I definitely do not lack reading material: there are even more books I found when I moved, my beloved children’s literature that I hope Violet will read someday soon. The House of Dies Drear. A Stranger Came Ashore. The Silver Kiss, a precursor to the Twilight series that is far superior to that Sparkly Vampire Crap. I bought her the Bunnicula series and I hope to re-read those as well…

So, no more excuses. I hereby resolve not only to read books, but to (gasp) write reviews of them. Even the dollar store ones I buy because hey, I would be lucky to find one of my books on the shelf of a dollar store someday. And I’m powerfully curious how they ended up wedged between The Bible and coloring books.