Thursday, March 17, 2016

Letting go of people

I'll share more about this later and I've already shared about isolation in other posts but I wanted to write about it, because honestly, that's why I started this blog in the first place. I'm not the first mom, nor am I the first mom to blog, and I'm still not the first mom to tell the truth on a blog. And telling the truth is the most important part of being a mom to me. At least, telling "a" truth.

My family and community lost a dear, dear friend to suicide this week. I don't know the details but from the snippets I've heard there was some PTSD, depression, and extreme financial strain that probably contributed to this lovely, beautiful woman choosing to end her life.

We don't like to talk about suicide in our culture. We often want to separate out those who commit suicide from those who...well...didn't. "Those people over there" couldn't find a way out. They were sick. They didn't want help. We can tell ourselves a lot of things. We can also flip it and go to self-blame. I wasn't there for her, I didn't do enough, I should've called, I should've, could've, would've.

But it's too complex for those absolute fix it thoughts, too. Life is a conversation, not a mere question and answer session. We toil, we test, we triumph, we try, and we think some more. We roll it around in our heads. We say it out loud to see how it sounds.

What I want to say tonight, and what I will continue to talk about, is that we all have a responsibility to ourselves and each other, to learn about isolation and how it can wreak havoc. We can start talking about it. We can start recognizing it in ourselves and others. It's not just a mental illness thing. Media has a part, consumerism has a part, groupthink has a part, etc. We repeat what we hear and don't even think about how it might be isolating, to us OR others.

Many a person experiences isolation in their lives. If we have lived a life at all, we have experienced it. I just hope we can start talking more about it.

More later.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Letting go of trying hard to be someone I'm not

It's hard to keep up with the blog comparison to how fast my kid is changing and me along with him. But this is important to share.

So I work in a non-profit at the moment, and while I enjoy working for a good cause, I was starting to get restless. I am a restless person, or so I have reflected about my experience of life, so this seemed really natural. I had a million interests growing up, I was really involved in high school, I attended 5 colleges (with credits at 9 colleges by the end), and I have a million ideas at least every day before noon. If you know me at all, this isn't new information. I've just accepted this about myself (and you have too, probably). I'm entrepreneurial to a fault and it's one of those things I love/hate about myself.
When I was in my early 20s my mom asked me, "Why can't you just get a job and stick with it?" I didn't have a good answer, other than, "I just don't like it anymore. It doesn't speak to me."

On and on it has gone for me. Always into something new. I left the same law firm twice to try different things, in hopes of being self-employed so that I could escape the monotony of work. No dice.

And here I am, at 38+ and I'm doing it again. Getting restless and dissatisfied. In addition to working 35 hours a week, and running an airbnb in the summer, I've been wanting to earn additional money. We're doing okay at the moment, but I can't fathom having another child with no increase in income and so I've been looking around. What could I do? What can I do that doesn't require extra education, that won't have me starting at entry level or won't make me bored in 6 months? I like coaching. But I'm horrible at marketing myself (or just confused). Maybe I could do some virtual work or drive for Uber or sell all my belongings or...or...or. This is where the exhausted emoticon goes.

I thought about a complete career switch into Organizational Development, but that sort of requires an MA in Org Dev and with it, more debt. Which if you know anything else about me, it's that I am tired of my debt. When I shared this dilemma (for the millionth time, it seemed) with a close friend, she gently said, "Look, you do this a lot. You have a way you want to be, and instead of just doing it the way you want to do it, you try to shove it into a more acceptable career and then you get restless and then this starts all over again. Since I've known you, you've been a writer in your heart, and I think you should just do THAT."

Huh. She was right. I did do this over and over. I tried to get busy being useful to others, I tried to find a way to shove my creative, artistic, intuitive self into places where it sort of didn't belong, where there was really no place for it to be confortable. Sure, I got a few moments of reprieve and acknowledgement, but not enough for my tastes. I was always ANGRY that no one appreciated my value and worth. I am intelligent, skilled, I have experience in a lot of things, interest in even more things, I am well-read, well-traveled, etc. I stayed at jobs with a crap ton of low self-esteem because I didn't see how to fully be myself in a work environment. I've had great bosses that let me be as much of myself as possible, but couldn't really let me fly because that wasn't what I was hired for. It was depressing.

Being a writer though? That was just a lifelong hobby. I mean I couldn't make money at it. At least that's what I was told once. I needed a backup plan. Artists don't make money, I've heard over and over and over. I mean, some can (the really special/brilliant/lucky ones), but not me. Certainly, not me. Right?

But as this friend's truth washed over me, I had to admit that I really hadn't given it a good shot. I really hadn't let that part of me shine very bright. I wrote daily, I took classes, I graduated (finally) with a concentration in writing, I lived and breathed writing, but how could I possibly make it a career or even just take it seriously?

I've been feeling really stuck lately. I'm heavier than I want to be, crankier than I want to be, I'm exhausted and annoyed, I feel undervalued, underemployed, unheard and unseen. Some of my friendships are strained or distant (usually because of me). I'm overwhelmed easily. I have no energy. I'm constantly challenged by my kid. I have no faith I can have another kid and stay mentally sane. Could writing, and committing to writing as a way of life and possibly, eventually, a career, be the ticket to solving or at least helping ALL of these problems? That one thought, the thought that writing could bring me up to the surface, started to make me feel lighter all of a sudden. Really?

As cliche as it sounds, was 'it' always here, right under my nose, the whole time? How come it took about 20+ people (my first boyfriend in 10th grade told me I'd be a famous writer one day...and many, many people have kept telling me over the years...) to finally let this in? How come I hadn't really invested the time? Was it because that one time, one person said it wouldn't be worth it? Was I afraid she was right?

I'm finally in the "I don't care what people think" part of my life, or at least mostly there, and maybe it needed to take this long to try EVERY OTHER THING first. Even when I claimed that writing was just a hobby, I still did it a lot. Blogs, morning pages, NaNoWriMo, poorly paid online content, letters to friends, a degree in Creative Nonfiction, several book starts, countless short personal narrative pieces. I never stopped. I actually don't think I can stop. When I think about not being able to write I get nervous anxious. I always need a pen around. Blank journals are the best presents. It seems silly looking back as far as I can remember and thinking that this wasn't inevitable. I write for my life and through my life. I write to save my life. I write to save the lives of others. I write to move through the pain, to hear the Inner Voice, to hear the Higher Self. I write to hang on to the shreds of sanity. I write to let go. I write to dislodge the stuck places in my heart and mind. I write to release the anger.

So I took some time to really let it sink in that I am a Writer. Which means that I started to see all the anger and the confusion and the low self-esteem as the symptoms of my not writing, and more specifically, my not committing to writing. It's not just a hobby. It's a way of life. I have never tried to make a living at writing. I had never even attempted to publish (anything) until 2014 and when I sold about 40 ebooks on Amazon and didn't turn into an overnight sensation, I thought that it was true, I couldn't make a living. I didn't really put much more effort into it.

But now I get it. I need to lean in a lot more. I need to commit a lot more. I need to see writing as expansive and flexible and able to hold all those different pieces of me. I need to focus on more than one way to express myself. I have to write more than one book. All those ideas I've had about ways to share words, I need to honor those and actually do them, practice, ship it out (as Seth Godin says). I need to risk rejection and failure and then see myself keep going and keep trying things out. Writing is fun for me. If I am going to survive the hardest parts that are probably yet to come in my life, I need to write more.

I've been reading a lot of Derek Sivers, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Guillebeau and Seth Godin and many others (coincidentally, not a lot of women...hmm). I need to surround myself with writers, with folks who are bucking the norms, who are stepping away from "acceptable" careers and ways of being to be who they are.

So I'm working on a few books, a few blogs, some art pieces, and even some clothing ideas. I feel better, I am able to spend more quality time with my son, I'm able to let go of trying a million more things (so exhausting, by the way), I want to connect with my friends, and in my free time, I just want to write.


My favorite baby

My inspiration

My inspiration