I’m giving up fear for Lent

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image from Tin House

Hidden away in a large plastic bin are years of my writing; poems, plays, short stories, articles, essays… even a finished book-length manuscript. Why are they stored in a bin and buried in my bedroom?

Because I am terrified of rejection.

I used to send my work out, but after twenty-five rejection letters I quit. I couldn’t take the disappointment and depression any more. Every rejection felt like a rejection of me, not my writing. I was the loser who poured her soul into every word only to have all that work stomped on by a heartless editor. My writing was worthless, therefore I was worthless.

My ego became intertwined with my writing. How can it not? Writing comes from the heart; it makes you vulnerable. You have to open a vein into your inner core and let the creativity pour out. No wonder every rejection letter felt like a rejection of my soul. I was just another girl who thought she could write like the millions of others who think they can write. I’m not special. I don’t matter and neither does my writing.

Vulnerability turned to depression and depression became fear. Never wanting to feel that much misery again, I put my writing in a plastic bin and shoved it behind my bed.

The other day, someone asked me what I was giving up for Lent. Not being a Christian, I just shrugged and said, “candy.” But what actually is Lent? And why should you give something up to celebrate?

According to The Upper Room, Lent is the season of the Christian year when Christians focus on simple living, fasting and prayer to grow closer to God. For 40 days, the length of time Jesus wandered in the desert alone, Christians let go of material things and focus on their spirit. For this ritual to work you have to give up something you really love, or are really attached to.

I am absolutely attached to fear. Perhaps this is a blasphemous way of observing a holy tradition, but as I said, I’m not Christian. However, I do believe ritual and symbols are important and that reconnecting to our sense of spirit is vital. Making a commitment to something greater than ourselves makes us better humans. Some people find that in religion. I find it in creativity.

For the next forty days I will submit my writing. Every day, I will send one piece of my work out into the world and will not think about whether or not it is accepted. Acceptance isn’t the goal, getting over fear is. And I will do this in the spirit of Lent. I am letting go of ego and sharing my work with anyone who may find it beneficial. I am strengthening my creativity and weakening the inner critic who tells me I’m worthless. And if I get 40 rejections, so be it. I’ll decoupage them and make a gorgeous collage.

 

 

2016 – Where is the happiness?

It feels as if 2016 kicked everyone in the gut. Every person I know has faced hardship and strife. Too many people died, from the famous like David Bowie and Prince, to the not so famous but dearly loved, like my friend Randen. Tragedy hit hard and across the world war has escalated. I don’t know anyone who feels safe. And now with President Trump looming, most of my friends feel like they are one step away from disaster. I work in a town devastated by a wildfire. I see how many more homeless people there are crowding the park because there’s no where else to go. It’s so easy to get pulled in to the fear and darkness.

By focusing so much on the news and the dark stories I hear from others, I almost forgot there were many blessings for my family this year. I am teaching again. My husband’s cancer is gone. Our daughter is happy and has many friends. My new book is about half way written. Our garden is thriving. We are financially stable, at least in the short run. The roof doesn’t leak. Both cars run. We have enough to eat.

2011 through 2015 were filled with one health crisis after another. First my daughter almost died, then I was injured and lost my job, then my husband got cancer. We almost lost our home when his small-business ended. I have no idea how we got through those years.

But 2016 in contrast was a wonderful year for my hubby and kid. No one was sick. No one injured. The bills were paid. Seems sad to compare 2016 to those prior four years, as if I’m saying it was a good year because we didn’t die. But sometimes it feels that way…

The future scares the hell out of me. My daughter’s health is declining and I’m afraid of the budget cuts a Republican government will force. How will that affect her and the support she needs to survive?

We are all worn out, fearful and tired. 2016 kicked everyone in the gut. But what I learned from so much fear and loss is that the only way to get back up is to remember the small miracles hidden in the fear.

My daughter’s smile.

Those moments with my special needs students when they suddenly understand something we’ve been working on for weeks.

Every time my beat-up 2003 Honda Odyssey starts on a frozen morning.

The amazing Chinese food my husband cooks from scratch.

Paying all the bills and still having money in the bank.

The tiny plants in my green house waiting for Spring.

Singing with friends on a bright Christmas afternoon.

There is still good in the world. Some years you have to look a little harder to find it, but it’s never gone. It’s worth fighting for. I heard that in a movie somewhere…

Happy New Year. Don’t give up.

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Air Your Writing Grievances!

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Festivus, first depicted on the television show Seinfeld, is a secular holiday that allows for the Airing of Grievances. Got a complaint about a person? Air it out on December 23rd.

In that spirit, I would like to Air my Grievances about writing.

  1. I hate my compulsion to write. I am addicted. The need haunts my dreams, makes me grumpy when I don’t have the time to write and makes me resent everyone who interrupts my writing. Overall, writing makes me a bitch.
  2. My life is filled with imaginary characters who talk all at once and demand my attention, even when I’m surrounded by real humans. Writing makes me look like a crazy person.
  3. I have spent thousands of hours of my life pursuing perfection in writing. In those thousands of hours, I may have written four perfect sentences. Maybe.
  4. I have arthritis in my hands from thousands of hours of writing.
  5. Writing has made me a hoarder. There are boxes of journals, stories, half finished novels, outlines, bad poems and rejected manuscripts filling my attic and stuffed under my bed.
  6. Writing is life threatening. I will always get a great idea for a scene or story while driving. I will risk my safety and the safety of others to grab my cell phone in order to record that idea.
  7. Writing is boring. I would rather pick fleas off my dog than edit my novel. But like all good addictions, I will write and edit and write and edit until I go mad with boredom. This is why writers drink and their dogs have fleas.
  8. I’m sure I used the wrong “than” in the above section. And I am a horrible speller. But I will continue to butcher the English language because that is the only way I can get my writing fix. Being a writer and a horrible speller is a curse.
  9. I am terrified of rejection, but am compelled to write and submit and write and submit in a never ending cycle of masochistic misery.
  10. Writing makes me a narcissist. Everybody thinks their life story would make a great book. I am one of those people.

 

What are your grievances about writing?

For the UnMothered Children

  Mother’s Day. Bah! Humbug!

Mother’s Day raises old ghosts.  Those childhood ghosts crash into my bedroom and make me feel like I’m eight years old again and all alone in the dark. It doesn’t matter I am actually 49 and able to take care of myself. The specter of abandonment wanders out of my closet and won’t leave me alone.

There’s no need to explain or share details about my childhood. Those who experienced something similar know how it feels to grow up lost. My childhood doesn’t come close to what other’s coped with, but it left me scarred regardless. It left me with a deep hunger nothing can satisfy. I long for safety, security, and the knowledge my mom will be there no matter what. I accept it wasn’t her fault, but that can’t change the feeling. I’m a mom now, and my daughter has grownup knowing she is completely, unconditionally loved. But my sadness won’t go away.

The sadness gets stronger every Mother’s Day. But This year will be different. Instead of mourning what I never had, I will celebrate what I did. 

I mothered myself.

I grew up troubled but still believed in myself. I was afraid, but kept trying. I learned and grew stronger and trusted despite how many times I was shown I shouldn’t. I taught myself that I matter. I found ways to feel more secure. I made a million mistakes but learned from every one. I never gave up on myself.

Which is what we want from our moms, right?

So this is for all the motherless children. For all who mothered themselves and fell down and kept trying and never gave up. For the ones who think no one will love them. The ones who became parents and figured out how to raise those children. 

Buy yourself some flowers. You are wonderful.

 Happy Mother’s Day to us all. 

Just because I say Happy Holidays doesn’t mean I’m anti-Christian

Enough with the guilt trip; I say Happy Holidays because I have friends from many different religions. I celebrate the Winter Solstice with my pagan friends and Christmas with my Christian friends. I’ve shared a meal on Hanukkah with Jewish friends and I have sent good wishes to my Muslim friends during Ramadan. By saying Happy Holidays I am wishing everyone good cheer. I am opening my heart to everyone.

Perhaps it’s easier for me to be inclusive this time of year because I’m not a Christian. I respect the teachings of Christ, but I don’t believe in Messiahs. I believe we are all god’s children, no matter the color of our skin or faith we follow. If you are Christian and believe December 25th is the actual date of Christ’s birth, then I wish you a Merry Christmas. However, when I say Happy Holidays to others don’t condemn me or complain about the war on christmas. The war is a figment of your imagination, just like flying reindeer.

We live in a nation that is filled with people from all over the world. Enjoy that. It says right there in our constitution there should be a separation of Church and State. Support that. If Starbucks want to sell red cups this year, drink your overpriced Latte and shut up.

Happy Holidays to everyone. Spread the good cheer, share your wealth, love your neighbor and drink another eggnog. Tomorrow, we can start arguing again.

Solstice Bonfire

Bright red sparks shine like stars in the black night, rising up on waves of smoke and heat. A half smile moon looks down on the people dancing and singing around a bonfire. This is a clan of artists, bohemians, hippies, healers, millennials, elders, rich and poor, all stretching eager hands toward the brilliant heat of the bonfire. Let the warmth fill you. The darkness is diminishing.

This is my clan. After a year of sadness, fear and exhaustion, I join this gathering. In the past, I would have known everyone, but today I’m surrounded by strangers I feel I know. We all know the hosts, the dear people I call my Aunt and Uncle, although we’re not related. They are my family simply because they love me and I love them. My uncle in the plaid outfit takes my hand and commands, “Have some fun for a change!” Yes Sir.

My father dances around the bonfire in a flame red coat and crown, dressed as the Sun King. My sister takes my hand and we remember how much we love each other. The night goes on as the fire burns down, but we stay awake, waiting for the first glimpse of sunlight. The longest night will soon be over.

Happy Solstice.