Old School: Thoughts Gone Awry

Sometimes I read through old stuff and come across rough gems. I thought maybe I’d start to share some of that here. Posted below is something I wrote 2 years ago and it still has much merit. Let me know what you think:

Fear of failure is really just fear of success. It’s being comfortable with playing small, shrinking from exposure.

I don’t fear failing, per se. I’m afraid of the fall, of what comes after I realize I’m soaring and instead of realizing that belief is what got me there, I allow doubt to bring me crashing, hard, back to the earth.

I’ve broken so many times. I always come back together.

But what if I don’t.

This is worse than having my inner mean girl tear me to shreds. She knows EXACTLY what to say. And I know how to put her in her place.

This is my innate resiliency packing its bags and saying Adios!!

This is my 1st-grade teacher telling my parents that I cheat, that I can’t POSSIBLY be THAT intelligent. This is my 9th grade English teacher telling me my writing is awful. This is my well-meaning dad editing my papers to the point that they are no longer mine and are all his. And though reason does not fail me and I know full well it was DAD’S writing my 9th-grade teacher hated, it sticks with me.

That little girl understood from the time she was 6 that she wasn’t enough. The 14-year-old got the double whammy of parental AND educational rejection. More “you are not enough.”

Never mind that I won an award for a poem I wrote in 6th grade. About trash. TRASH. I wish I had that still. It disappeared, probably by my own hand since I have a history of destroying the beautiful things I create. They have to be flukes so chuck it.

Never mind that every single professor I had in college that I had to write for saw SOMETHING of note, something worth commenting positively on. A couple went so far as to call me into their offices, me certain that I was about to be torn a new one, only to ask me why I was hiding. I’m so obviously capable of better than what I’m turning in so please give them something worthy of my abilities.

Never mind that every single person who has had the opportunity to read what I write, poetry or otherwise, is constantly checking to make sure I’m still writing. My best friend sends me links to organizations looking for writers, my uncle wants to make sure I’m not wasting a gift, my mom just knows that my sanity and continued happiness is contingent on my continuing to write. Something, anything. Just write.

I never set out to be a writer. Until VERY recently, I didn’t consider myself one. I often wonder if I’m not taking more than I’m giving. I get so much out of writing, but I can’t think of anything I give it. I don’t write because I have something to say.

Okay, yes I do. I always have something to say.

But I don’t write because anyone CARES what I have to say. I just write. I write because I NEED it. Because it’s a compulsion sometimes. Other times, I’m in a drought and can’t come up with a single thing to write. I suspect that’s more a symptom of laziness though, a shrug of the shoulders and instead sitting down with beer, wine, something adult and Netflix to numb out.

There’s a line somewhere though, between keeping things to myself out of self-preservation and keeping things to myself because I have no need to share. Or maybe that’s bullshit too.

Maybe it’s ALL bullshit.

I AM

I AM.

I wasn’t sure what it meant when that statement popped into my head. Not “I am.” I AM. All in caps, even in my head. Bold, maybe, too.

I AM.

Thinking about all of the “I am” statements that come out of our mouths on a daily basis, I wonder how many of us are truly aware of these declarations. I nearly started this paragraph with “I am”. It’s not just about labels though, as I originally thought it was. It’s deeper than that.

Think about it: when I say “I am…” I’m declaring, affirming, labeling, calling into being, and accepting whatever it is that I follow it up with.

I am an introvert.

I am in a transition period.

I am a single mother.

All of these declarations carry meaning and depth to them beyond the original statement. And while all of those declarations may be true, as may be the labels, I can choose something else. YOU can choose something else. We don’t have to be caged by these declarations.

We also get to, if we so choose, to accept or reject the declarations given to us from others in the oh so common “you are” statements we so love to dole out unconsciously.

You are more fun when you’re drunk.

You are too intense.

You are brilliant.

I’ve been on the receiving end of all of the above statements. The two negative statements I accepted without question. The positive one I only accepted because I trusted the source, though it was still shocking to me. Isn’t interesting to notice how quickly we accept negative statements?

One of the best things about being a writer is that I get to think. I like to think. It’s fun for me. Except when it’s not. Except when declarations go unchecked and I’m blindly accepting everything my mind generates.

The mind loves a good story and it’ll create one when there’s an absence of information.

I AM. It’s a complete sentence. I don’t have to quantify it. I don’t have to create a story. I just AM.

It’s quite liberating.

Try it. Let me know what you think.

They Like Me Better When I’m Drunk

Driving home from the gym and lost in thought, I came to a startling realization.

Years ago, my ex-husband made the very painful remark that people like me better when I’m drunk. Back then, this was just another reminder that I was too much and therefore unlovable.

As I was driving, though, it occurred to me that there is a positive to this. And I’m going to premise this with “this is not a glorification of alcohol”.

As we all know, alcohol is a great remover of inhibitions and, for most of us, a truth serum of sorts. What that looks like on me is unfiltered, raw, relaxed, and real.

I have spent most of my life hiding. There are briefs moments when I shine, those moments when my passion pours from my eyes and mouth or when I’m slightly inebriated.

I stop trying to hide and simply AM. I stop thinking so hard and simply AM. I stop trying to be proper, articulate, intelligent and just AM.

I stop trying and just AM, unapologetically, in all my glory, lit up like a Christmas tree.

The good/bad thing is that I don’t drink very often (it’s not in alignment with my health goals and it’s really superfluous). Addiction is something that occurs on both sides of my family so I’ve always been very aware of what, how much, and why I’m drinking. But for a brief period of time in my early adulthood, numbing was never in the why category. Neither was “because I’m more me when I’m a bit loopy”, but this is now my sad realization.

I’m reminded of that Maya Angelou quote “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Except that I don’t know what “better” is. I now have to figure out how I remove the crutch I didn’t know I had been using (a handful of times per year).

I write all this as if the person I am when I’m sober isn’t also me. It is also me, just the me that finds the shadows safer but constricting. It’s the me that struggles HARD, that fights everything. It’s just not the me I was before the world told me I had to be different. It’s not the me that is joy and free.

That’s also not to say inebriated me is the best version of me. It’s not. Which is why being drunk all the time isn’t something I’m willing to try or be. But it does provide a glimpse at what is possible should I choose to point myself in the direction of less hiding, more living.

Which, of course, is exactly what I’m going to do.

What to do when your sense of self is shaken

Recently, something occurred in my life that made me question things as I’d never had to. It’s made me look at who I am, what I will tolerate, and how I communicate my needs and expectations.

It has also turned back on the ruminating machine in my mind, with awful psycho-somatic effects. The stomach is a second brain and reacts to our emotions (ever heard of stress-related irritable bowel syndrome?) and mine has been a wreck.

But I’m not here to write about what happened and the physical effects of emotional stress. I want to talk about how to move through it without minimizing OR wallowing.

Something I talk about with people close to me is how I use writing as a processing tool. It’s such a powerful tool that it’s been suggested to me that I teach this in a workshop setting. I wrote consistently up to, through, and in the aftermath of a divorce and I say with no shred of theatrics that it saved my sanity AND it kept me from getting ill because I wrote the emotions OUT of me instead of letting them sit in my body and fester.

Emotions are big, hairy Yetis. Or they can be if we let them. The reason writing works as a processing tool is that you can take an emotion and put it back in its place. Sometimes it’s as simple as labeling it: I am feeling ____. Other times, it’s helpful to really break things down, peeling back the layers until you get to root hurt. Still other times, it’s helpful to have a framework to work within such as that of poetry.

I use a couple different forms, from a Morning Pages brain dump (this comes from The Artist’s Way and is something that highly successful people like Tim Ferriss do), to direct approach type of writing (taking a thought and expanding it), to poetry. Yes, I write poetry. I’m even a published poet. I use poetry for the really hard stuff though because it forces me to channel whatever it is I’m feeling into something beautiful even if what I’m feeling is ugly.

Words are things. Writing is my way of using words, bending them, crafting them into something I can use. Instead of saying I’m angry, I can use words, syllables, and stanzas to convey the nuances of that anger and in turn, releasing said anger from my body.

There’s one more trick I have up my sleeve though: Stoicism.

Stoicism gets a bad rap as being the absence of emotion when it is anything but. In perhaps overly simple terms, Stoicism is the ability to recognize an emotion and choosing something different.

“You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you”. ~ Marcus Aurelius

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” ~ Victor Frankl

For me, writing and Stoicism go hand in hand. Writing works because I take a Stoic approach. I use it as my tool for choosing something different. I’m not saying it makes everything bad go away. Not at all. What it does do, though, is create space for healing, where my heart stays OPEN instead of closed, hurt, and wallowing in false beliefs.