Character Study: An Old Man in Blue Clothes

Note: This is a merging of reality and fiction. I ran across the beginning notes for this character study in my writing book. I had jotted the beginning parts on a napkin from a favorite coffee shop in Virginia. And then … I never finished it. Womp-womp. I pulled it out the other day and finished it, so I thought I would share it here. It’s been a hot five or ten minutes since I shared any fiction in here.

There is an old man. I see him from the corner window of my favorite coffee shop every day. He is a creature of habit, I think. He wears the same clothes each day: blue shirt, dark blue pants, and sturdy shoes with a blue cap. If the weather is cold, he adds a jacket, also blue. I wonder if blue is his favorite color, or, maybe, it’s just easy. I see him with a paper every morning. He carries it carefully, unfolded and flat, his fingers almost reverent against the slippery ink on the page. He carries it as if he feels the weight of every word contained inside it. Resigned. As if he doesn’t want to read it. He doesn’t want to learn one more bad thing. And yet, it is his duty to read it and learn of the hate and anger in the world. I think, probably, he is not a person who shirks duty. He stands straight and proud, his posture unbent and unbeaten by time and the world he inhabits. I think he is someone who faces life head-on. Maybe he is afraid. After all, he is old. And we are all afraid these days. But he doesn’t let it show. He holds his head up high and gets on with life.

I watch, every day, as he waits at the corner outside my window, which is at the corner of the coffee shop, which is on the corner of the street the old man wants to cross. Sometimes, I feel like I lurk in the corners of my life, as if I am too scared to come out and live. And I wonder if the old man ever feels this way. Probably not, I think. He pauses at the corner only long enough to find a break in the traffic. And then, he moves forward in a straight line. Not slowly, but also not in a hurry. He walks at his own pace.

I wonder if he is alone. Maybe he lives a solitary life on the third floor of a building that houses a deli and a bakery. Maybe he raised three children there and made love to his wife and laughed and cried inside those rooms – walls and ceiling and floors that were an entire universe. Maybe his wife is gone now. But he still has her memory, and that is enough, along with visits from his children and grandchildren.

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Maybe his wife waits for him at home. Maybe she is in their kitchen now, lit by the morning sun and humming under her breath as she makes breakfast and waits for him to return home so they can split the paper between them. She will start with the sports pages, and he will begin with the comics. Maybe they live in a huge house with a dog. And a cat.

Maybe he doesn’t have a wife at all. Perhaps he has a loving husband waiting for him at the end of his daily journey. Maybe they have been together for dozens of years, but married for only a few. When the old man gets home, he and his husband will make breakfast together and brew coffee, their movements in the kitchen a delicate dance learned over years of laughter and love. Maybe they live in a cute little cottage with blue shutters on a quiet, tree-lined street, and they will sit at the table together in their sun-filled kitchen and read the paper as they eat breakfast. It will be quiet and peaceful, with only the sounds of cups clinking against saucers and the soft swish of turning pages to mark the passage of time.

I will never know. And yet, somehow, the old man and I are connected. I watch him living in the few moments he stands outside the window, and I think that, maybe, I can live in my moments, too. He doesn’t know me. He never looks at me. He doesn’t know I exist. He doesn’t feel me watching him. Or, if he does, he gives no sign of it. And yet, he speaks to me, all the same.

“Have courage,” he seems to say. “Have courage.”

November Flurries

Ah, November. You are a month designed to test my resolve, try my patience, and build my character — the hard way. For a rather long month, you tend to fly by in a flurry of activity. We are still getting used to our new town and all of our new schedules. Band has been busy. Hubby’s work has been busy. Our weekends have been filled with activities and yard work. In truth, there has been a LOT of yard work! We had gusting winds recently, and I think every leaf in the neighborhood ended up in our back  yard.

Believe it or not, we are STILL unpacking. When we moved in at the beginning of July, I felt so overwhelmed by the stacks and stacks of boxes all around me. There were boxes in the kitchen, in all the bedrooms, in the hall, in the basement, in the garage … Well, you get the idea. There were boxes everywhere! I bet you guys remember. I showed y’all the pictures. I looked around and wanted to cry, but I consoled myself by looking forward in time. “By Thanksgiving and Christmas, we will be all unpacked and settled.” Yeah. Not so much. We are getting settled, though. It is happening. It is just happening slowly.

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In the midst of all this family activity, I have been busy, too. As if I didn’t have enough happening in November already, I decided to jump in and tackle NaNoWriMo. I posted about it the last time I was here in the blog. So, I’ve been writing! Yay!! I have been sneaking in some writing time in the mornings and also here and there between errands and housework.

It’s been good! I can’t say with confidence that my story is any good. Or that my characters are any good. But it feels darn good to be writing again on a regular basis. I am not going to hit my 50,000 word goal. We are traveling, starting tomorrow, and we are going to be visiting old favorite haunts in Virginia and catching up with old friends. I don’t expect I will have time to write over the weekend. But, if I had the weekend to spend writing, I would make it. I’m at 40,812 at this moment.

And you know what? I’m okay with it. I don’t feel bad about not hitting the NaNo goal. Because I wanted this year to be different. We are in a new town, a new house, a new school, a new job. It’s time for a new start, right? And that’s what I wanted from NaNo this year. I wanted to rediscover the joy of writing. I wanted to feel satisfied with the knowledge that I managed to carve some time out of each day to let ideas and dreams flow onto a page. No matter my final word count, I did that. I’ve had fun with it. I’ve started to learn, once again, how to listen to that dreamer inside my head. I think this makes November (and NaNo) a success. I’m okay with that.

NaNo Me!

Y’all!! It’s the end of October. And you know what that means, right?

Well … yes. Halloween and trick-or-treating and scary ghost stories and all of that. But October 31 means tomorrow is November 1. And November 1 means the beginning of NaNoWriMo.

Heaven help us all.

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I think I’m going to give NaNo a try again this year, for the first time in a few years. Just thinking about it makes me alternately excited and nervous as heck. I can feel my fingers shaking just a little bit on the keyboard as I type this thought out loud. To be honest, it scares the hoo-hah out of me. The rational part of my brain knows this is silly. It’s not like anyone is watching or paying attention to what I do or grading my performance or anything like that. It’s not like anyone even cares whether I attempt NaNo. And, certainly, the universe doesn’t give a flying flip about whether I succeed in it or not. Rational me knows this.

But there is another part of my brain where Creative Me lives. She has been locked away for what feels like a very long time now. She has almost forgotten the giddy feeling of ecstasy that comes with writing and creating and bringing a thought to life. Creative Me has forgotten she exists. She has become bogged down in the daily struggle with Life and Depression. She has forgotten how to breathe. She has forgotten how to live.

I need to create. I need to write. I need to watch words fly off a keyboard and onto a computer screen or off a pen and onto paper. I need to feel the joy of that once more. I need it so badly that just thinking about it makes me want to cry. And yet, I sit here every day and waste seconds, minutes, even whole hours. I tell myself, every day, I am going to write. But it doesn’t happen.

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I’m scared. That’s the truth of it all. I am scared to death to sit down and write. I feel this way about pretty much anything, which is why blog posts have been few and far between in here. But the idea of writing fiction scares me so much more. I think it’s because I want it so much more. Or because I need it so much more. What if I can’t? What if my creativity is gone? What if it never existed, in the first place? After all, if it was true and real, would Life and Depression be able to steal it away so easily? What if, all this time, I have told myself I am a writer and that the words will come back to me one day, only to find out I was wrong? Only to find out they are gone for forever?

It’s big stuff, this fear. These feelings aren’t for the faint of heart. I have them every time I sit down at the keyboard. I hear those voices in my head every time I put my fingers to the keys: You are not good enough. You will not succeed. No one believes in you. You are nothing.

But, really, I can’t keep going like this. I need something different. We are in a new town now. We are in a new state. I’m happier, overall, because this town is quieter and more peaceful than our previous home. I feel like I can breathe here, without the trapped feeling that dogged me in Virginia. I love our new house. I’m not working yet, although I hope that will come in a few months.

It’s time. It’s time for me to take a deep breath and give this a try. I still don’t know what I’m going to write. But NaNo 2019 … here I come!

Ringing in the New

I hate New Year’s. There. I said it. I don’t understand why people get excited and happy about it. Even when everything was perfect in my life, I hated New Year’s. Even when I was a kid, I hated it. I would stay up with my Dad, if he was home and not working, to watch the ball drop on TV. If he was away from home working, I would stay up on my own to watch it. Even then, it felt like much ado about nothing. I guess that’s the thing. The idea of a brand new year has never filled me with hope or excitement or happiness. No matter how happy I am to see the previous year head out the door for good, New Year’s leaves me feeling … empty. A big, fat pit of nothing. Well, if “nothing” can be big and fat.

I try not to share this opinion around much. Or at all. The people who know me already think I’m strange. Why give them even more reason to believe this? Because it seems like everyone out there loves New Year’s. It seems like everyone is excited and happy about a new year. It seems like everyone finds the ability to shake off the crap from the previous year, take a deep breath, and make a fresh start. Everyone except me.

It doesn’t help that January is my least favorite month. I pretty much hate January, too. It’s long. And dull. And full of gray skies and rain. Or snow or sleet, depending on where you live. It’s cold — not that I mind cold. That’s the one thing I actually like about January. But it’s also dark, with short days that seem to pass me by before I even realize it’s happening.

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But here’s the thing: January is going to come and go, whether I like it or not. The new year is going to come, too. And it’s going to do whatever the hell it wants with my life, whether I like it or not. For the record, I mostly don’t like it. I haven’t liked it for the past three years. But the universe … and the new years … don’t seem to be listening. Or, perhaps, they just don’t care. I don’t know. January is going to close in on me. I know this. It already has. It will push on me and weigh me down until I feel uncomfortable and upset and like I can’t breathe. After several years of therapy, I know this is depression talking. I know this is depression, stalking me and making room for itself in my life once again.

So, what do I do? Do I just sit down and throw up my hands and say, “Whatever”? Believe it or not, doing nothing feels like an incredibly attractive option right now. But I can’t trust that. Because that’s depression, too.

Or do I give January the finger and fight to take back control of my life and my feelings and my thoughts? It feels too hard and like too much. It feels like this will take a huge amount of effort, and it feels like it’s just not worth it. It feels like I’m not worth it.

But I am. I am worth it. I have to remind myself of this — every day. I’ve been avoiding this blog since November and my rather spectacular NaNo failure. I tried to put a positive spin on it. I tried to remind myself there were a lot of other things going on in my life at that time, so it made sense that I would fail. Instead, I hear that little voice whispering into the still silence of my soul: You are a failure. Your creativity is dead. Your ability is dead. You will never succeed. You will never be anything. You will never matter. It’s so easy to listen to that voice. I mean, in the moment, everything that voice says makes absolute, perfect sense. Because the voice is me and it’s only telling me what I already know … what I already feel, right down to the very core of my being.

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I love this blog. I love sitting down and rambling away with my thoughts and feelings. I swore to myself that this blog would not die. And yet, here I am, heading into 2018 and feeling like my beloved blog and my creative spirit are both on life support. Like they are both gasping their last breath while I stand by, feeling helpless and wondering what I can do to stop it. I hate the way I feel. I hate the indecisive, pathetic, whiny person I have become. I wish I was as strong as people think I am. But the truth is that I’m not. The last 3 years have proven this to me. And so, I’m sitting here at 11 PM, typing out words that will soon head out into the ether. I am thinking too many thoughts. I am wishing for too many things. I am feeling too many fears.

But I’ve also decided what I will do. I will write. I will stop hiding from things that are unhappy and unpleasant in my life. I will stop keeping my feelings to myself. I have a blog, for pity’s sake! Why haven’t I talked about any of this up until now? Why have I chosen, instead, to leave my blog dormant for months at a time, waiting until I had something nice or pretty or funny to say? The fact is that I haven’t felt very nice or pretty or funny for a long time. And that’s okay. I mean, it’s not okay … but you get the idea. It’s not something I need to hide.

Because a new year is here. It’s time for me to shake off the crap from the previous year, take a deep breath … And make a fresh start.

The Slog … Of Failure?

I think I may have failed at NaNo this year. Part of me is giving the pep talk and reminding myself that it’s way too early to call it. I mean, we still have 11 days left! (Well, 10, technically, since it’s 10:30 PM in my corner of the world, and I am planning to head to bed as soon as I finish this post.) There’s a little crazy woman who lives inside my head that keeps adding up the days and dividing the word count and telling me I can still reach the 50K word goal if I write a gazillion words a day. Okay, so not really a gazillion. But somewhere around 5K, which, on most days, might as well be a gazillion.

If I had been consistently hitting the word goal every day, I should have somewhere around 32,000 words by now — or a bit over that amount. I have about 6,800 as of tonight. Womp-womp.

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Today, I woke up feeling pretty crummy about myself. I feel like a failure. This was my only goal for the month, and I couldn’t even make it happen. In my defense, life took me for a ride this month. There has been work anxiety, and school anxiety. I’ve had to have “serious conversations” with my daughter’s guidance counselor, which, by the way, were useless. I’ve had to have “serious conversations” with one of her teachers: in the form of one very unpleasant phone call and a long string of slightly more pleasant emails. It’s been stressful and frustrating. My daughter broke her foot, so there’s been that, too. Along with doctor’s appointments and an unexpected and unplanned trip out of town. I really don’t understand how everything in my whole freaking universe happens in November when I’ve decided to do NaNo. I almost feel like the universe was sitting there, holding its breath and waiting for me to decide whether I was going to NaNo or not. And, as soon as I decided yes, the universe was like, “Okay! We are a go for NaNo! Let’s send all the cruddola now!”

I have been a distracted, worried, anxious mess all month. On the days when I tell myself and my family I am going to sit down and write, it never fails that something happens. Yesterday, for example, my husband decided there were errands we needed to run. Which took pretty much all day. After he told me I could and should spend the whole day writing. My lack of ability to concentrate and the distractions inherent in being the mom in a family — even a small family like mine — really need to be in a whole post to themselves. Because there’s a lot of this kind of thing going on. Sometimes, I feel like my family is working against me, instead of for me or with me.

But I work against myself, too. I get too bogged down in worrying over whether I’m writing something good. I get too caught up in my own brain, and I overthink everything. I get too bogged down in feeling miserable over where I live. Basically, I get too caught up in everything around me, and I let my writing go by the wayside. In many cases, I actively push it there. I’m not sure why I procrastinate and avoid it so much. But I suspect there is a good deal of fear in the mix, as well as a big helping of feeling like a failure. The point is that I forget to have fun with my writing. It’s been a long time since I have felt the giddy joy of watching a story spin out from my keyboard. It’s been a long time since I have felt the heady excitement of knowing I had no control over the story, but, instead, it was controlling me. And I couldn’t stop until it was done. I miss that. I don’t know how to get it back. I was, I think, hoping NaNo would help me do that this year.

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Perhaps I expected too much of NaNo and of myself. I don’t think this is something I can fix in a month. Or even two months. I think it’s going to take a long time. Maybe things will never be the way they used to be for me and my writing. But, hopefully, I can find a new way for us to co-exist.

Which brings me back to this year’s NaNo and my feelings of failure. Have I failed?  Yes, I am far below the projected/expected word count. I might even go so far as to say I am pathetically below it. But, I started my day with a little over 2,000 words. And I ended with 6,800. Pathetically off course, yes. But a failure? Not by a long shot. Not as long as I keep calm and write on.

NaNo Me, Baby!

I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. I have done this insanity in the past. I’ve even been successful at reaching or surpassing the 50,000 word goal more than once. It’s been a blessing and a curse, really. On the blessing side of the spectrum, my past NaNo experiences have caused a creative and writing frenzy. There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as listening to your fingers clacking across the keyboard as you write with giddy abandon. On the curse side … Well, I have to admit my giddy abandon usually doesn’t survive past the month of November. In my younger years, I think it would have. But, as I am now, it ends up being one month of giddy abandon followed by eleven months of sitting around and obsessing over how much I suck.

Writing used to be an escape for me. My “Great Escape”, even. For all intents and purposes, I was a happy and well-adjusted kid. Anyone who knew me or met me in my daily life back then pegged me for fairly cheerful, painfully responsible, and, perhaps, a bit too quiet. I used to hear “You should smile more!” a lot. A LOT. In reality, I wasn’t particularly happy. I don’t know if I qualified as well-adjusted, but I do know I wasn’t happy. I hid it well, behind things like being cheerful and painfully responsible. I wasn’t free to express my feelings or to dream and try new things. I had to keep everything all to myself, hidden down deep inside for fear I would be mocked. Or, even worse, that nothing I had to say and nothing I had to feel would be taken seriously. I was good at being invisible. This is where writing came in and saved me. In my writing, I could dream. I could be anyone I wanted. I could explore and feel and hope. I could be visible.

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It seems writing isn’t that thing for me any longer. Instead of my escape, it has become my prison. I avoid it, day after day, feeling guilty and low for doing so. The words don’t come easily to me any longer. The stories still live in my head, but they are shrouded in dust and fog now. Writing isn’t alive for me any more. I’m just … tired. I feel small and awful and beaten down by life. I have good days, where things seem hopeful and grand. But, mostly, I feel tired. I feel like a shell of the person I used to be, of the person I want to be. I want my escape back, to a certain extent. I want moments where I can feel, well, REAL. I want my world to have color, instead of the drab same-ness it has become.

And so, this year’s NaNo … I hadn’t planned on giving it a go. For the past two or three years, I haven’t been able to summon up the interest to give it a try. I love the giddy writing part. But the let-down that I have experienced in the months after didn’t feel worth it to me. Maybe I’m not a writer. Maybe I have to come to terms with that and let it go. I don’t want to, but is this a realistic way for me to feel? I mean, am I just clinging onto something I want to be true, when it isn’t true?

I don’t know. And I don’t expect NaNo will answer any of those questions for me. I don’t expect it will lead to some creative renaissance on my part. With the way it’s going so far, I don’t even expect it to be fun. Although I have a start to my story, the past couple of days have been filled with adulting things: doctors’ appointments for my Child Unit, a vet visit for one of my dogs, anxiety over potential life changes, worry over my elderly parents, Halloween (although this isn’t in November, but it takes a toll), grocery store runs, dry cleaning, and errands of all kinds. I’ve hardly been home for more than an hour at a time. It’s been hard for me to clear my mind so that I can think about my potential story in any meaningful fashion. The words are slow to come, and they feel clumsy and awkward, like bashful eighth graders at their first school dance. I haven’t yet tapped into the part of my brain that lets me write without second-guessing myself. Maybe it will come. I hope it will come, if I keep slogging along.

Mainly, I decided to jump into NaNo again this year because my Child Unit is doing it. She wanted me to participate, too. If you’re a parent of a teenager, you will know this for a universal truth: If your teen wants to do anything at all with you, you will do it. Without question. Because they are mostly all about putting distance between themselves and their parents at this age. This is natural, and I know it’s natural. But it still hurts like H-E-Double-Toothpicks.

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At this point, we are officially two days into the madness, and I am already woefully behind. If I were running on my self-imposed schedule, I should have around 3,400 words by day 2. I might have 1,000. Maybe. If I turn my head to one side and squint at the page hard enough. It’s looking rather bleak. It’s feeling rather bleak. A big part of me wants to throw the mother of all hissy fits, flinging papers all around my writing space and tearing pages from my Moleskine.

But you know what? It might look bleak. And it might feel bleak. It might feel damn near impossible at this moment in time. I don’t have three thousand words. This is true. But what I do have is this: a beginning. A brand new beginning, for a brand new story. Maybe that’s what NaNo is all about. At any rate, it’s a good enough reason to keep calm and write on!

Coming Back

Coming back — from anything — is hard. This seems to be one of the universal truths in my own life. I know it’s true. I feel it, all the time. And yet, I absolutely don’t understand it. I don’t get it at all.

If I’m in a routine that makes me happy, doing things that make me happy, you would think I would do anything to stay in that routine. To remain in that sweet spot where everything seems perfect, the sun is shining, and the birds are singing chirpy songs all day long. You would think I would be so single-minded that I would stay on that path. Because it makes me happy. Because I managed to figure out what makes me feel fulfilled. I mean, it’s logical, right? Instinctively, somewhere deep inside on a gut level, it feels logical to me.

And yet, the other universal truth in my life seems to be this: It is so freaking easy to run right off the rails. Before I even know it, I’m out of my happy routine and into an unhealthy rut so deep I wonder if I’ll ever dig my way out again. The thing is, the rut isn’t necessarily a terrible place. Maybe, at first, it’s a little bit fun because it’s new and different. I mean, my previous routine made me happy, but it was still a routine. Same old, same old, every day. Boring. The rut quickly becomes comfortable or comforting, in a way. I don’t have to worry about trying things and failing, because, really, I’ve already fallen into the hole. I’ve already failed, in a way, so the worst has happened. I find myself procrastinating more and more, until, finally, I realize I’m just plain stuck.  It’s insidious. It sneaks up on me, a little at a time. By the time  I manage to look around and see what’s going on, I find myself in what feels like a hopeless position.

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At one point, which seems like a million-gazillion years ago, I was hell-on-wheels with my writing. I wrote like a mad woman. I wrote in every spare moment that I could get. On the weekends, I would sometimes stay up all night writing because I was so involved with and excited about whatever project happened to be front and center at the time. This was after what had been a years-long dry spell in which I hadn’t written anything at all. It was exciting to rediscover my love for writing. It felt right and perfect, like I had managed to wade through a life that felt like wearing a pair of too-small shoes and find the thing I was supposed to be doing. I thought, surely, I would never let my writing get away from me again.

And yet, here I sit … years down the road after having my writing derailed by depression and anxiety … stuck in my rut. Very much wanting to crawl out and recapture the thrill and exhilaration and excitement I felt in those earlier days. Every day of every week, I tell myself, “Self, we are going to DO this thing! We are going to sit at the computer and write words. We are going to do it until it feels easy and fun once again. And then, we are going to be happy.”

Instead, I end up binge-watching a show on Netflix or doing laundry or puttering around with any number of other mundane tasks. It’s all procrastination. I know it is. It’s me, cozying up down in my rut. It’s my rut, growing deeper and steeper by the day. Is it even possible to climb back out again? I have to think this is true, but it feels heavy and hopeless at times.

Well, tomorrow is another day, right? It’s one more day when I can tell myself that we are going to sit in front of the computer and write words. One of these days, it’s going to be true. One of these days, I’m coming back.

 

If Wishes Were Horses

I just realized today that it’s Tuesday already, which means Monday, somehow, did that ninja-sneak thing where it manages to squeak by without me realizing it. And, of course, this means that I am now two days into a new week and one day behind. I stared at my calendar this morning in my half-awake state and thought about how I wished I hadn’t forgotten to do my blog post yesterday.

And then, that led me to think about wishing, in general. And about how I spend a lot of time wishing for things. Mostly, I wish I was “more”. You know, more capable of achieving perfection — or, well, the ideal of “perfection” that the people around me seem to have. I wish I was more organized. Or braver. Or prettier. Or thinner. Or taller. I wish for taller a lot; I think it’s because my mom is only five feet tall, and she always felt I “fell short” (literally) because I didn’t manage to hit six feet. Sometimes, I wish I was funnier or more clever. I wish I had better hair. I really wish I had better hair. I wish I could summon up the energy to give a shit about the things that are supposed to be (according to others) so important to me.  I wish I had my life together. I used to think I had all my proverbial ducks in a row, walking the straight and narrow and quacking exactly on cue. Now, in my second twenties, I realize all of that was a shabby illusion, and I am more lost and confused now than I was decades ago. The difference is that the world around us makes allowances for “lost” when you are in your twenties. People expect it. But the universe doesn’t like it when the same thing happens to a chubby chick pushing the big 5-0.

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I wish I could go back in time and change things. Would I make the same decisions if I had it all to do over again? Would I still end up where I am now — a nobody with no prospects and little future, who failed entirely to live up to her potential? Would I make the same mistakes? Were the choices I made even mistakes at all? I wish I could right the wrongs I did in my past. They were mostly unintentional: things done or said carelessly, because I was young and stupid about the world and about life. Even so, those things haunt me. I can’t find forgiveness in my heart for them.

I wish I had been able to have a second child. Oh, how I wish that. I particularly wish it when people ask me to explain WHY I chose to have an only child, as if my reproductive choices are any of their business. As if I have to justify myself. I wish it when people ask me if I worry about my daughter being all alone in the world after my husband and I are gone. Of course I worry about that. And yet, I have to remind myself of how very blessed I am. Having that one, precious child wasn’t easy for my husband and me. We really had to work for it. For a long time. I am lucky — so lucky — to have her. I know that. I KNOW that. Still, it doesn’t stop me from wishing for more, because I am human and I think we are all inherently a bit selfish and grabby with life.

Often, I wish I was a different person entirely. This wish kind of encompasses all the other, smaller wishes I have (braver, thinner, better hair, taller, etc …). I think this is why I love writing so much. When the words are flowing and I can feel the world that I see so clearly in my mind jumping out onto the page, I really can be a different person — someone who has exciting adventures, or someone who doesn’t have exciting adventures but is okay with that, or … well, whatever. When the writing is good, I can be anyone I want to be, even if it’s just for a little while and only in my imagination.

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Lately, though, writing has been The Suck. So I spend a lot of time staring at my computer screen’s dastardly blinking cursor and wishing I could figure out why my words have deserted me. I also spend a lot of time distracting myself away from writing by finding little, unimportant tasks to occupy my mind. I know I am afraid, and that’s why I’m doing my  level best to avoid the whole thing. Even though I hate myself for doing that. Even though avoiding writing makes me feel even worse, even more like a failure. I wish I could figure out how to stop ignoring the thoughts and words in my brain and start putting them out there. It’s the only thing I ever really  wanted to do — the only thing that was ever truly “me” and not something I did or wanted because the people around me wanted it for me. It hurts to think that, maybe, all of that is gone. I wish I was brave enough to believe in myself.

Mostly, though, I wish I could stand in front of the mirror and look at myself — really, really look at myself — with compassion and love. I wish I could smile at reflection me and tell her, “Hey. Don’t worry. You’re okay. It’s okay to be who you are.” And I wish she would believe me. I wish I believed it, too.

Forward Motion

Today, I’ve been thinking about forward motion. I don’t mean like in a car or on a horse or even walking along, although I suppose moving forward is a pretty good thing, no matter how you do it. I’m thinking more about the way we keep on changing and growing as people by learning or trying new things. In a way, it’s kind of a forward motion of the soul, although I suppose that sounds pretty cheesy.

Trying new things is hard. It’s scary. With every attempt, there is a very real risk of failure. Sometimes, you end up feeling like a fool. Sometimes, you end up looking like a fool. I’m not sure which of those things is worse. I think that, often, it feels safer and easier to keep things the way that they are. You know, to guard the status quo, so to speak.

And yet, if we never try new things … if we never reach past our comfortable boundaries … if we never strive … if we never fail … Well, we just kind of stop, don’t we? We might be comfortable and secure in where we are at that particular moment in time, but we won’t ever be more. We won’t continue growing or learning. We won’t ever manage to be the best that we can be. We may not even manage to figure out what that “best” is.

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There are so many ways in which I find myself holding back. I see it often in my writing struggles. There is a part of me — a very small part that lives somewhere deep inside of me — that is confident and bold and full of courage. That little part of me knows I can craft the most wonderful story, something that people will love and want to read, something that will feel like the most amazing adventure. And yet, I continue to struggle with even making myself sit down to put words on paper. I know I’m holding back. I feel it. And yet, I don’t know why. Fear is part of it: the fear of failure. What if my bold and courageous voice is wrong?

Actually, that’s a great question, isn’t it? What if my bold and courageous voice is wrong? What if I write my whole story and it’s horrible or stupid or people hate it? So. What? It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t make ME a failure. It just means I tried something that didn’t work out like I had planned.

The true failure is not trying at all. When I hold myself back out of fear … that’s when I have failed. I need to keep repeating this to myself as I sit in front of my computer and as I stare at the blinking cursor. I need to repeat it to myself as I feel the fear take hold of me and stifle the words that live in my imagination. It’s all right to fail. It’s not all right to stop trying. These are the words by which I need to live.

The Fungus Among Us

Heh. Totally cheesy title, right? I should be ashamed of myself, but … yeah: sorrynotsorry.

It’s been raining in my corner of the universe. And, when I say “raining”, I mean RAINING. We have had non-stop rainy days for, I think, around 3 or 4 weeks. It’s been unseasonably cool, too. I love cool and rainy weather, but even I’m beginning to think, “OK, Universe … enough is enough!” Well, actually, I thought that until it stopped raining yesterday and today, and our temperatures soared up into the high 80s/low 90s. At that point, I was all, “All right! Let’s have more rain and cold, please!” Yeah. I guess I’m never happy.

I think I’ve mentioned in here a few times that I try to do daily walks with my dogs. My Springer loves to walk, and we usually do quite a hike together. His preferred distance is about 3 – 3.5 miles. My Boxer/Hound mix doesn’t love to walk. She loves the idea of it, but not the reality. She is afraid of everything, so I feel like we are having a great day when I manage to get her to go three blocks from our house.

I love to walk my dogs just after it has rained. I’m not a morning person, but I like to go early, when the sidewalks are still wet and the air is still cool — before the day warms up enough to make things feel steamy and sticky. I love to watch my Springer splish-splash through the puddles and squish through the mud. He’s a mudder, and he loves to come home all grungy and dirty. My Boxer/Hound is a princess, and she seems to skim over the ground with a light step. The mud doesn’t get on her at all, and she wouldn’t think of splashing through a puddle. She just gives me a look and daintily steps around them.

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So I was walking my dogs earlier this week, in between rain showers, and I had to stop and stare at all the mushrooms that had appeared. It seems like these guys just pop up overnight, any time it rains. I’m from South Texas, and we don’t really have mushrooms there. I mean, I guess there are mushrooms somewhere … but the scorpions probably ate them or something. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the sheer surprise I feel every time I see them suddenly appear. Of course, in a couple of days — once everything starts to dry out a bit — they will be gone. So I guess they leave as suddenly as they come. I feel this is one of the mysteries of the universe. Or, maybe just of my universe. It’s not a huge mystery, but even small mysteries can be pretty neat.

I feel like my writing inspiration and ideas are like this. I feel like they are the fungus that lurks in my brain, waiting for a chance to pop up out of nowhere. They always appear unexpectedly, usually when I’m in the middle of something else and can’t drop what I’m doing to head off and write or create. They pop up a lot while I’m walking. I think there’s something about walking or exercising that gets the creative juices pumping. But, they also breed in the shower. So … maybe walking/exercise and running water? I dunno. That seems kind of weird, even if it is true. Or, maybe it’s weird BECAUSE it’s true. But let’s not think too hard about that.

And in true fungus fashion, my ideas seem to disappear just as quickly as they appear. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought to myself, “Self, that’s a FABULOUS idea! I love that idea! I will NOT forget that idea!” And, of course, by the time I sit down to work on said idea, it’s completely gone. If I listen closely, I think I can hear the teeny-tiny “pop” it makes as it disappears into the nether, never to be seen again.

Or, maybe, never to be seen again until the next time I walk in the rain or stand in the shower for an extended period of time. I would test this theory out, but my skin gets all wrinkly. And my husband keeps complaining about the water bill. I mean, really … doesn’t he get it? I’m creating here!!