Friday, August 31, 2012

Look What I Did!

Do you see it? Do you? No, not the strategically placed green bell pepper, though don't you love the options in some paint programs? And not the fact that we recently had to fill out customs forms to enter into the UK...still having trouble? Let me try again.

It says, WRITER...where it asks for your occupation, I filled in WRITER. Right there. On that very official form, where I'm pretty sure if you lie they send you straight to prison. Because what would the Queen think if people started flying into her kingdom all willy nilly saying they're copy editors and pilots when they're really unethical taxidermists and dog assassins? I understand some people's reasons to be dishonest, but hey, you chose your own path. 

Where was I? Oh yes. I'm a writer now. Officially. Not sure? Just follow that fancy arrow (painted with the paint option actually called pine?). I mean I've always been a writer, but this is the first time in my life that I've declared it as my occupation. This is the first time I've written it down like that. And I realize this will mean nothing to the man who reads over my tiny customs form while he asks about the nature of my visit and duration of my stay in the UK, but it means a hell of a lot to me.

I realized only recently that I was pretty vague in a previous post about the big shift that's taken place in my life in recent months. In the post Bubbles, I mentioned being "released from soon-to-be-no-longer commitments, and therefore able to dive headfirst into the new ones," and I now realize this was not just vague, but downright fuzzy. I had reason to be vague then, as I hadn't yet done the official paperwork to resign from my job, but now when asked what I do, I can no longer say that I'm an educator who works with children with special needs. Now, all I can say is what I've been longing to say all my life...I'm a writer. And if I could just run away at that moment, all would be well, but when you want the people in your community to not to question whether or not they should have ever trusted you with their children, that's not really the best move. So back in June when I made the decision and signed the form, thus confirming my tiny corner of gossip that circulates at the end of any school year regarding who's leaving and who's coming back, the questions began.

Every teacher, aide, specialist, & parent I know at work: I hear you're leaving us. Are you moving?

Me: No, no, we'll still be around. I've leaving to pursue writing full-time. (Gulp. I've said it OUT LOUD. Deep breath.)

ETAS&P: Really? That's great! What do you write?

Me: Fiction. (Smile)

ETAS&P: Oh, what sort of fiction?

Me: Um, nothing genre. I'm working toward literary fiction, but more accessible. (Smile & nervous laugh)

ETAS&P: What are you working on right now?

Me: A few short stories and a novel. (Heart fluttering)

ETAS&P: Oh yeah? What's your novel about?

Me: Umm... (Panic & racing to describe) It's's a young adult novel, you know. Angst, heart break, that sort of thing. (Pretty sure I don't want to say 'sexual abuse' out loud in an elementary school.)

ETAS&P: Sounds good! When will it be out?

Me: Ha! Well? Um, I'm not sure. It's still in the works. (Feeling faint)

ETAS&P: Well let me know. I want to buy a copy!

And whereas this conversation was wonderful and encouraging, it made me realize how very real my decision was and that this time, I'd really have to commit. Because now it wouldn't just be me I'd have to tell if it all goes down in flames, but every person I worked with, too. The good side of everyone suddenly knowing your plan: support. The bad side: pressure. But pressure is good, no? Pressure is motivating. Let's hope!

Which brings us back to the top of this post, the fact that one insignificant act of filling out a form suddenly smacked me in the side of the head and made me start to see myself as a real writer. One, because I don't want to hear the Queen screaming, "Off with her head!" and two, I wrote it without thinking. That was the most important part...I just wrote what has always been true, whether or not there are paychecks headed my way. Yet.

So thank you to all the amazingly positive people around me who believe I can do it. I'm incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to chase this dream and I aim to succeed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hope Relay 2012: My Hope

When I first got wind of Melanie Crutchfield's Hope Blog Relay, I was instantly in. Ready to contribute. Excited, even. 

That was at least a week ago. I guess when it comes to exploring what hope is to me and the role she plays in my life, there are so many directions I could go, it's difficult to choose one. I suffer from Too Many Choices-Induced Paralysis, you see. It seems also that the older I get, the more easily I get - SQUIRREL! 

What was I saying? Anyway, I've spent the morning reading other people's hope blogs with a hot chai tea latte in my hand, crying here and commenting there, seeing myself in so many of their words. I am inspired by their stories of struggle and growth, pain and relief. And isn't this the purpose of putting ourselves out there? To connect, inspire, comfort, and relate?

I've found myself thinking about my hopes, but confusing them with my wants. I want to be a size 8 again. I want to be successful in writing. I want to live happily ever after with my husband. I want to see the world. But wanting and hoping are two entirely different animals. To want and not get is uncomfortable, maybe painful, but life goes on. We're okay without it, even if we say we're not. We heal. But to hope and fail leaves a deeper mark, one that sinks past our skin and into the fabric of who we are. Yes, hope is why we keep pushing, the beacon of light when we're lost in the dark. Hope is the flicker of possibility in the distance that reminds us of what could be, if we just keep trying. To lose hope is to lose, period.  

And what is my hope? My hope is to one day be completely happy with myself, at peace with myself, and to prove that there is something I can contribute. My hope is to one day be a mother. My hope is live a life full of love and without regret. 

This is my hope blog. 

My name is Lindsey. I was not physically abused as a child. A close friend of the family never sexually molested me. (I never even walked in on my parents.) My father was an electrical engineer, my mother a preschool teacher. Neither one of them was an alcoholic. High-school sweethearts, and still happily together after 45 years. My older brother never went to prison, my dad never hit my mom, my mom never cheated on my dad, and my older sister didn’t have 2 kids by the time she was fifteen. She was twenty-four. I never ran away from home for more than a few hours, and never farther than a couple blocks, and I never stole candy from the 7-Eleven. When I was six I thought we were rich. By the time I was thirteen, I thought we were desperately poor because my family didn’t get to go to Italy every summer. At nineteen I realized we were very middle-of-the-road - an average, all-American family living in central Florida an hour and a half from Disney World. We had everything we needed and most of what we wanted. I am middle-class, privileged girl from a nice home in suburbia incarnate.  

So it wasn't until I was in the seventh grade that I first gave serious thought to removing myself from the sorry situation I saw my life to be. Of course at this age, I had no real idea of what I was contemplating, or what it would really mean to me and my family if I pushed that knife a little deeper into my skin. Being sad all the time made no sense to me, so I came up with reasons the best I could. I hated myself anyway, so it wasn't so hard to believe there was plenty I should be sad about. I deserved to be sad because I was worthless.

It's called depression, and it doesn't make sense. As a very wise woman once said, "Depression is a liar." There is no reasoning with it, no arguing, only frustration. It would take me twenty-something years to finally grasp this and know, even when in the grips of a bad day, that it will pass and I will climb back out again. She, Depression, will always tell me I can't, that I'm not worth it, but now I know her tricks and that I will, and that I am. In the beginning, she told me I was stupid and ugly. No, low self-esteem told me these things, and whereas I wasn't entirely sure, she was and agreed – loudly and confidently.

For the person who has never struggled with Depression, imagine her like this...I call it 'her' because she has been a life-long presence for me, practically another person. And sometimes it's easier to understand something when we give it its own life. I've named her Dee. 

Dee is the worst kind of friend. What at first is offensive becomes slowly acceptable, tolerated, then not only expected, but anticipated. She's convinced you this is what you deserve.

Dee is a liar.

Dee is a master manipulator.

Dee is a bitch.

She is quiet, but she is large, watching, and encompassing.

Sometimes I think she really is another person who slides very smoothly beneath my skin, until it is her face I see in the mirror. Criticizing me. Hating me. It's an easy place to go; I know it well.

Only when I’ve climbed out of this pit do I realize I am not her, she just lingers within me, waiting for me to slip.

Is she the part of me that needs the most love?  Isn’t self-love the key? Perhaps she is less confident in her destruction, and more scared. Like a bully. The bully I am to myself at times. Is it understanding she needs, to fight her demons and give her peace? Let her rest, and settle back down within my bones, the crevices of my mind?

Should I hug the bitch better?

I think no. There's no nurturing this kind of presence; it must be exorcised and shown the door. And this isn't something that can be accomplished alone. 

This has been my struggle, or at least the thing that has always lingered beneath the surface making normal, manageable struggles more intense, more hurtful, and slower to heal. But something changed for me when I was 24 years old that hit Dee where it hurts, and the ripples of that strike have reached outward from deep within me and touched everything. I see the world through a different lens now, and for this I am grateful. I have a wonderful and amazing life, and I'm so happy that I'm able to more fully appreciate that now.

My hope is to continue this journey toward radical self-acceptance, to continue this climb until I can rest and look back and smile without worry. My hope is to allow my experiences to speak to others who might be on a similar path and to assure them that the darkness doesn't last. At some point, the clouds break, even if only for a moment, and that there is hope in the momentary sun that breaks through. My hope is that if I'm speaking to you, you will grab onto that moment and trust that you deserve happiness in this life. You are not the dark that surrounds you, but the light on the other side.

      Thanks for reading.

      Be sure to keep a look out for the other amazing bloggers participating in the Hope Blog Relay of 2012. I challenge you to add some words of your own as this relay spreads across the globe. Here is where it began...

There is a lot of hope out there in countless forms - I hope you'll find your own.