Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: Give yourself a break!

The holidays kill me. There's so much stuff--lights, trees, parties, happy, alcohol, children, hot chocolate, snow, family, fudge, Charlie Brown...It's so exciting, and there are so many sources of inspiration, BUT it's exhausting and everything moves so fast.

I never get much writing done at the end of the year.

Perhaps back in high school, when my world was small and ALL ABOUT ME, the words came effortlessly. And I wrote and wrote for days, thinking I was the poo. And I was--a big smelling one. The writing was worse than poo--I can't even read it that's how shitty it is.

There's one story--I must have been 16 or 17 when I wrote it--about a tricycle. I spent most of a single-spaced page explaining how red it was--candy apples, rubies, fire engines, cherries, screaming, burning, red, RED, RED...It baffles the crap out of me that I had so much to say about a primary color. Surely there was something more interesting in my life than a tricycle.

"Some days you have it, and some days you don't"

It's easy during the holidays--any stretch of time moving faster than light--to get down on yourself for being unproductive. I may write squat for the rest of the month, and that's OK--it really, really is. Don't spin your wheels and hate yourself if the words aren't worth the paper they're printed on. It's a losing battle. 

Ask an insomniac--time trumps desperation every time.

Go out! Enjoy your friends and family. If you have to write, WRITE! If you're sitting alone in a room like I am right now crying, pulling my hair and cursing everything that exists because the words all abandoned me--STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.

Words aren't like dogs. They're more like cats and lovers. Be ambivalent and they'll come home wagging their tails behind them. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Huh, what?

My husband complains that our children never listen. Sometimes he blames it on me, "You never make them do anything."

I have a different theory.

I believe our darlings are mimicking their daddy's behavior.

Exhibit A: I'm in the bedroom typing.

The door and windows are closed. The television is off. The heat is on. I run to the kitchen for something to drink. The trip takes no more than 30 seconds. And when I return--the the door and windows are open. The television is on. The heat is off. My husband is watching a football game.

"I'm trying to get some writing done," I tell him. "Maybe you could watch the game downstairs."


"I said I'm trying to get some writing done. Could you maybe watch the game downstairs?"

"Huh, what?" He stares at me blankly.

"The football game is distracting me. Could you please watch it downstairs."


I return to my computer screen. What was I writing about? People? Success? Failure? Winter? Cars? Cold? Football? Why is it so cold and...GOD DAMMIT! GOD DAMMIT!

I slam the door and lock it. I close the windows. I switch the heat on. I turn the TV off and rest for a moment on the edge of my bed.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. 

I shake my hands out to restore blood flow to my fingertips. I rise from my bed and stretch on my tiptoes--up, down, up, down. I slowly, cautiously return to my computer screen.

Exhibit B: I hear footsteps on the stairs.

They're approaching the bedroom.

The doorknob rattles.


The doorknob rattles again.

I'm holding my breath, waiting, waiting, waiting...The pokey instrument scrapes loudly in the knobhole, and "CLICK" the door is unlocked. It swings open slowly, and I turn to scowl at my husband.

"What are you doing?" He asks me.


"What's wrong?"

"I'm writing."

"Why's the heat on? Why'd you turn the TV off?"

"It was cold, and the football game was distracting me."

He picks up the remote and turns the TV on.

"We can watch something else," he offers. "What do you want to watch?"

I launch out of my chair and do the only thing I can think of in the moment--I hop up and down like an unruly child.

"What's wrong?"

"I just told you. I'm trying to write, and you keep coming in here and turning the heat off and turning the TV on really loud. Has it ever occurred to you that your children get their listening skills from you?"

Exhibit C: "Do you want to watch Big Bang Theory?"

"Go away."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: poor little cry baby

I'm a train wreck these days. My brain's distracted by a lot of stuff I'm not supposed to talk about--it's nothing medical or life threatening. I just have a lot going on, and I'm finding it particularly difficult to stay focused on things like writing and reading.

I'm sitting here in my chair with my eyes closed, which makes me nervous, because the bedroom door is open, and I'm not sure the house is locked up, and the hairy stranger, who my aunt tells me is Santa Claus, is probably climbing the stairs silently; I won't see him leaning over me, because I'm trying to meditate.

I open my eyes and no one's there, but my cats are staring at the spot where Creepy Santa should be standing, so I'm thoroughly convinced the ghost that my daughters go on and on about is reading over my shoulder, and I don't care for it. GAH!

I've spent the last few weeks reflecting on things--parenthood, marriage, unemployment...I was devastated when I lost my job a couple of months ago, but the initial shock and sadness only lasted a few days. I felt optimistic, which is and isn't unusual for me.

I'm a glass-half-empty person, but I have a good sense of humor--you might say I'm a pessimistic optimist. The point is, I felt strangely OK with being unemployed, UNTIL someone triggered me on social media I allowed someone to trigger me on social media, and I've been a raging ball of fury ever since.

Rage is the soul-sucker emotion. It's unproductive, it's stressful, it's depressing, and it metastasizes like cancer. I won't say it's an unnatural or hysterical reaction to a perceived injustice, but once it gets hold of you it's really hard to escape. It's like I'm stuck in tar. And the bitch of it is: I know what I'm doing. I know I'll feel better if I leave the house and go for a walk, but my body won't cooperate. It's mental paralysis; the motivation that serves as my emotional spinal chord is MIA.

I tell my daughters several times a day that life's not fair. I sing the serenity prayer--sometimes I rap it--when I'm stuck in traffic feeling guilty for the ugly things I wish upon the other drivers, but here I am marinating in my rage-spiked pity punch.

It's not doing anyone a damned bit of good. SO PULL YOUR FUCKING PANTS UP, AND MOVE THE FUCK ON! That's what my grandma would say without the F-bombs.

One hour at time, right? Little by little, step by step, it'll all get better. I have to find that place where I'm confident, where I know that everything happens the way it's supposed to. I just have to roll with it: Who cares what people think of me? So what if I look like a failure? No more excuses. No more rage. I wash my hands of it.

"Everything will be alright in the end. If it's not alright, it's not the end." And BREATHE...

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Children and demons: is there a difference?

I'm a fairly dramatic woman with two fairly dramatic daughters; I've been waiting for, "I hate you," and, "You're the worst mom ever!" But my 9-year-old, Lily, caught me off guard a couple of weeks ago with this gem, "We used to be so close, Mommy. What happened?"

I swear it all went down in slow motion--the end of everything. There was no reason to get out of bed or brush my teeth or watch TV. There was no reason to go on living. I putzed around the house aimlessly. I picked a fight with my husband.

I cried all day until Lily got home from school, and I asked her what she was thinking.  

She told me we drifted apart shortly after her sister was born.

"Ever since Ashlyn was born I've felt this way."

"Well, that was five years ago," I told her. "You don't think we've been close for five years?"

She shook her head.

"LILY! OH, LILY!" My heart was screaming.

Ashlyn saw that I was sad, and asked if she could brush my hair and make me feel better.

"I suppose."

I sat on my bed while Ashlyn pulled and tore at my hair from every direction. She hopped down and ran around to face me. She brushed my bangs away from my forehead and examined my face for a couple of minutes.

"Mamma," she said. "I just hate your bangs so much. You look prettier without them."

There were no appropriate words to convey my emotions at that moment. I was quite upset.

AND THEN without skipping a beat they asked me, "Mommy, when will you be done with our Halloween costumes?"



"Ugly, aloof Mommy doesn't feel like making your Halloween costumes anymore."

I didn't really say that, but I wanted to--demon brats.

Friday, October 17, 2014

My AMAZING week of "I hate eveything"

I try to keep things funny, so even when I'm a Debbie Downer there's an element of comedy to it, but I swear John Steinbeck moved into my head space this week, and he's kind of a joy sucker.

I've got lots of things to be grateful for: a wackadoo cast of characters who are kind enough to call me their friend, wife, mother, daughter, niece, etc. I have two cats and a guinea pig and a house and shoes and coats and food and books and a Dyson vacuum cleaner. So it's mildly embarrassing when I reach the end of my thank-you list and still feel rotten.

Things go wrong sometimes. There's no rhyme or reason. They just fall apart. Is it worthy of saying "well done" when you make it through the day intact? Showered? Dressed?

I pounded the crap out of my computer keyboard all week with these freakishly long fingers of mine, but nothing remotely life-affirming appeared in my word box. There were rants and screw-you manifestos; there were prayers for employment and please-pick-me letters, but nothing I wanted to share with the masses.

My daughter Lily came home from school looking pretty beat down yesterday, and she didn't say much--just that she got yelled at because a kid I told her to be nice to was "shaking his booty" in the coat room and making a scene.

"I wasn't even doing anything," she said in a slightly raised voice. "I was just putting my coat away."

We were doing homework a couple of hours later when she finally hit the wall and burst into tears.

"I'm having the worst day ever," she cried. "My teacher has a cold, and we had a substitute, and I wouldn't have gotten yelled at if my teacher was there."

I wanted to tell her, "people are assholes," but it wasn't what she needed to hear just then.

"You have to speak up for yourself," I told her. "If you don't start now the people in your life will flatten you."

I scratch my head a lot more than I used to. I ask myself, "Is this for real?" a lot more than I should. And it worries me, like maybe I'm out of touch or crazy or wrong or stupid, but people are ridiculous.

We're like cows and rabid badgers, but mostly cows, and cows are scared of rabid badgers, because they're mean and they have rabies. It's not sustainable.

Most of us just want to exist--to laugh, love, eat, and sleep, but the outliers won't stand for it. They want to drag us all down. And they're winning. You can't just talk to people anymore. You have to go through a checklist first:Who's watching? Who's listening? Will this be taken out of context? Will I get sued for this?

It's the root of every real-world problem we can't solve. We're afraid to communicate with one another. We either say nothing or we filter our voices through an army of political-minded robots to reach the same end, which is nothing--hundreds of words to say, "I'm scared."

Take ebola for example. We've never really dealt with in the United States, so it's reasonable that our first responders made mistakes. Their inexperience isn't the problem. It's the fear of liability that allowed the virus to cross state lines. It's the breakdown in communication. 

A nurse saw gaping holes in the containment process, but she couldn't just report them. She had to gather support from the other nurses and consult with a lawyer to make sure her job was safe. 

Our need to assign blame created this environment where silence is rewarded over honesty. We ignore stuff all of the time, because doing something or saying something is too risky. People make mistakes, many of which are preventable with education and better processes. Shouldn't that be the starting point?

Imagine if common sense was the legal standard.