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not a war easily won

September 8, 2014 2 comments

I try very hard not to be insecure. But life, and people, can be confusing. And let’s call a spade a spade: I’m sensitive. I think a lot. I feel even more. I’m basically a CareBear on emotional steroids, for better or worse.

There are some days where I totally fail to understand humanity, and in the absence of actual facts, my brain helpfully (not really) fills in the gaps with all the fears I’m too scared to say out loud. That’s what happens, I think, when we’re feeling weak or vulnerable. A seemingly small thing, left unattended, becomes a shadow. Then, that shadow becomes a monster. Before the cowering part of your rational self knows it, you’re five years old, again, hiding under the covers. Figuratively. (Or literally. Who hasn’t had the urge to cal out of work, build a blanket fort, eat candy, and hide for the day?)

The simple truth is that my brain is, often, a scary place of stupid. It can be a ridiculous graveyard of logical thinking. I am forever grateful that no one can ever read my mind, because (to paraphrase Anne Lamott), I often think such terrible thoughts that it would make Jesus drink gin straight out of the cat dish.

Internally, I’m Angela Chase. And don’t even get me started on Jordan Catalano. Because #MySoCalledLife forever. Yes, I know this isn’t Twitter. It’s my blog, and I’ll hashtag if I want to. (Somewhere, Leslie Gore is glaring into her morning coffee. Sorry, lady. #NotSorry)

There are days where I am unsettled and insecure. I don’t let that bleed into the rest of my life. I don’t take it out on people. I refuse to do that, because I’m had that done to be – and that stuff is not fun. It’s actually the mark of a jerk and a coward, but that’s a rant of a different color. (Is bullshit a color?)

I keep making jokes, I know. That’s because I’m uncomfortable, as I’m writing this. The subject makes me feel like I should run, because it’s not easy to admit vulnerability and flaws. And I think I’m doing both. Or I’m trying to.

While I don’t let me insecurity affect my actions, that’s not to say that it doesn’t affect me. Recently, I had a friendship tank spectacularly. Like a final scream as one is unexpectedly pushed off a cliff, I’ve never heard a death knell quite like that. It was strange and alarming to, essentially, watch it disintegrate in spasms. When something like that catches a person off guard, it can lead to a lot of questions – and a lot of self-examination. (That should, eventually, end when you realize that it’s not your fault – and, really, not your circus, not your monkey. In fact, take a match to that damn monkey, if you must. It’s probably rabid.)

Where was I? Yes, death of a friendship. Since the demise, I’ve felt rather wretched. I’ve tried to laugh it off and ignore it. I’ve tried not to take it personally, but…um, it is rather personal. But if I’m being honest, it has made me realize that this can be the norm more than the exception. People let us down. People disappear. People do hurtful things. And if we don’t talk about them, we end up internalizing them. Which is bad. Very bad. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Dive straight on in to the rum. Or the vodka. Or the tequila. (Never the gin. I’m sorry. It’s vile.)

So, today, I am feeling insecure. I am feeling a bit underappreciated from several angles. I’m both curious and confused, and these are not necessarily pretty things. I’m neither angry nor upset. But I find myself dangerously close to so many things – and one of them is losing my patience. The thing is that life is tricky. It’s often unclear and uncertain. But I feel as long as you’re trying, reaching for your dreams, and not simply whining about what is and isn’t happening – that’s the trick to getting what you want/need/love.

For me, today might be a wash. I may be cranky. But tomorrow, darlings, is a fresh start and a new adventure. I’ve named the monster. Now, it’s less scary. Naming a thing is a powerful act. After all, we start our lives with naming. It is the beginning of identity. We name someone friend or lover. We call love, love. Saying things out loud means it’s more real. It means you can’t take it back. That’s why it’s a risk, sometimes. But naming is where everything starts. It’s the words that declare what the heart feels. And actions drive that arrow home. Remember that, when you’re scared. Name the fear. Name the confusion. Then, kick it in the ass.

Own it. Claim what’s yours, darlings. Say everything out loud. Because life is too short not to be absolutely, ridiculously bold. Don’t let your fears chase you away from what’s possible. Don’t let your doubt keep you where you don’t want to be. And, for coffee’s sake, remember: you never get what you don’t ask for. So, ask. It doesn’t matter if your hands are shaking. It doesn’t matter if you words come out in a rush or a heap.

Remember to fight for your life — for what you want and for who you are. Remember that, occasionally, means you’re fighting you. Nobody can save you but yourself — and you, love, are worth saving. (Sorry, Charles Bukowski, for paraphrasing you poorly.)

thinking of you: the power of the small things

August 9, 2014 2 comments

            I’ll be the first to admit that life is complicated. So, the little things we do to be present in each other’s lives matter. The small gestures that say, simply, “I’m here.” We often make the mistake – in the age supersizing, reality tv, and people who spend a year’s salary on their wedding – of thinking that only the gigantic, over-the-top gestures matter. That is, quite honestly, untrue.

            There’s a line in an e.e. cummings poem (“somewhere i have never travelled”) that has always stuck with me. It’s this: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me. Sure, you can read assume that the word “frail” means weak or fragile. But in the context of the poem itself, I’d argue that it means small – as in a simple, non-grand gesture. The little things, however frail, matter.

            Life can be crazy and intense. The day-to-day bullshit can be hectic. But those people who stop in the middle of their crazy to show you that they care? Appreciate them. They are the people who love you. You can have a billion friends, but the ones who you can call when you’re sad – or who call you when you’re sad – those friends matter. This past week, I was really lucky in the people who made a point to show me how much they care. A phone call meant the world to me. A text message made me smile. Even a brief message as simple as, “Thinking of you” made me happy. Stress might be cumulative (the little annoyances adding up), but I like to think that the small gestures are cumulative, too. These things offer comfort, reassure us, tell us we’re important, and (most importantly) that we are loved. And we all need to know that, don’t we?

            When I first started to write this post, I had an entirely different goal. I had this revelatory moment about a friend – when I realized that person really isn’t my friend. Sure, we get along great. We’ve had awesome times together. But there’s a point when you’re objectively looking at a relationship, and you realize that what’s said and what’s done doesn’t match up. That is a powerful thing. It’s a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky, and you were in the wrong place and the wrong time. I’m a very understanding person. I will forever bend over backward and find a way to work things out – because life doesn’t work without compromising. But when a person routinely makes excuses for something, those are not reasons. When a person says one thing, but does another – that’s not honesty. And when that person leaves you hanging like the proverbial geek up the flagpole at all-jock high school – well, that’s kind of a huge red flag. Because while the good little gestures add up, the absence of those gestures do, too.

            Life is too short to stay among those who do not celebrate the hell out of us. It is too short to stay surrounded by negativity or those who do not give as good as they get. All relationships need balance – it doesn’t matter if it’s your brother, best friend, lover, or wife. Don’t get me wrong: we all do stupid things from time to time. But when actions are habitual, that’s not an accident. People may not always say how they feel, but they do show you. Likewise, people always show you who they are.

            You give for what you love, darlings. It’s as pure and simple as that. Yes, relationships are messy. Things will never be perfect. But the mess is what matters, because it’s real. It’s honest. It’s wonderfully sloppy. (Which explains the current state of my kitchen and the forever state of my closet…please don’t look in there. Organized chaos!) I don’t ever want neat or pristine, because that’s just smoke and mirrors. I want the brilliance of the little things and the honesty that comes with making time and space for someone else. That’s a powerful magic that seems like a small thing. Sure, the big gestures are awesome – but give me a soft word and a meaningful look any day, loves. I want frail gestures that enclose me.

            Don’t you?

How Big Is Your Brave?

June 5, 2014 1 comment

 

I’ve seen a lot of conversations centered around bravery, lately. Mostly, it’s people wondering how, exactly, to be brave – how to be strong enough to make a change or go after something. Incidentally, yesterday morning, I was grappling with that very thing – stuck in the very moment where you vacillate back and forth, wondering if you should do The Thing or Not. There’s a kind of pulse-shaking fear in that moment before you decide to do something. Adrenaline might be kicking around in your veins. That makes it hard, because that turns a choice into a fight or flight. You either do The Thing (fight) or you don’t (flight).

Usually, I go the route of Marilyn Monroe, say, “What the hell?” and do the thing. Because if there’s one piece of advice I’d want you to heed and carry with you, it’s this: Always do The Thing. Whatever you’re searching for the courage to do, whatever it is nagging at you or haunting you, do it. Go after it. What lights up your heart, who lights up your heart, don’t be held back by fear. Be brave. You will regret the things you let slip away, doomed to always wonder what might’ve been or what-if. That kind of regret is far more powerful than the kind that comes with things that don’t turn out exactly as you’d hoped. So, dear heart, do The Thing. And don’t look back.

So many of us put walls up, keeping ourselves theoretically safe, but also keeping ourselves from possibilities. There are moments in a conversation, sometimes, when you can hear that exact moment it happens – a question is asked, a consideration is raised – and, suddenly, there’s a wall. (In your heart. That no one can get through. *ahem* Song lyrics just spat themselves out of my brain. That’s a lovely song.) It’s as if the other person is holding up an emotional (or informational) stop sign. I suppose it’s most cases, it’s wise to respect that. But much to my detriment at times, I do not believe in walls for the sake of walls. I do not believe in keeping distance between myself and those I love. Ever. It’s usually a temporary structure, for one thing. A diversion. A false pretense. And, almost always, it isn’t constructive – such things hurt more than they help.

If you miss someone, tell them. If you want to see someone, see them. Stop saying no so often, and give yes a try. Yes opens doors. And no is a drowning word. And for god’s sake, if you love someone? Tell them. It doesn’t matter if nothing comes of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s half-insane or seemingly impossible. A person should know he/she is loved. There’s no more important truth to be told, if only to tell it. Saying that out loud is a powerful thing. And it always matters, even when it may not seem to. It always matters, even if nothing comes out of it. It’s not always about a happily ever after. It’s about the moment of knowing, of letting it out. It’s being that brave and that vulnerable. But you can’t do that – any of what I just said – if you’re hiding behind walls. Get rid of them. They do you no real good.

Do The Thing. Always, always do the thing. Your heart – your life – will be all the better for it.

 

 

“If you’re crazy, be crazy. If you’re broken, be broken.” ~Suzanne Palmieri, The Witch of Belladonna Bay

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
― Anaïs Nin

 

Who’s in the Room?

August 30, 2013 Leave a comment

A conversation I had the other day reminded me of something. Something that you don’t really consider, until it’s sitting in front of you, doing the Cha-Cha. Or the Pachanga. Whatever. It is invading your dance space.

This is a respectful dance space.

A dear friend of mine was talking about a situation. She was telling me about how she made a choice, what went into that decision, and, perhaps most importantly, what did not. Initially, there were concerns and reservations, but then something happened: she realized that screaming/nagging voices were not her own. Who, she asked, were those other people in the room (figuratively speaking) – and why were they getting a bigger say than she was?

Yes. This. Angry Winchester is ANGRY.

That made me think about all the choices I’ve made over the past year, big and small. All the things I’ve said and done, dared or not dared. I stopped to think – to really think – about what has dictated my own hand. Have there been too many people in the room? Whose voice screamed the loudest?

Points. THIS.

My friend pointed out that, sometimes, we make decision predicated on the fear of outside opinion. Our initial reaction is something like, I can’t possibly do THAT. [So-and-so] would be appalled! I’m talking about pursuing that things that make us happy, not the general rules of society. I don’t think that we should go out and commit murder, or anything untoward. Honestly, if society’s opinion is the only thing keeping you from Hannibal-ing your neighbour, we’ve got bigger problems than this post can tackle.

*hides all the Chianti*

But back to the point. How often do we NOT do something, because we’re worried about how it’ll look? How it’ll seem to the outside world? How often do we let this society-driven cowardice/fear become our reason, our excuse? How often do we listen to that internal mob of naysaying voices?

Behold: the animated angry mob!

I’m going to go out on a limb and say: too often.

To an extent, I understand that fear. I get that it isn’t easy to stand up for yourself, for what you want, because someone – somewhere – is going to get a hammer and a nail and try to crucify you for it. But you know what? Maybe that’s the shortcoming of the person ready to impale and ask questions later. Or, worse yet, not at all.

You heard the lady.

A different friend of mine, the other day, was talking about pursuing a specific dream she has. A dream that kind of came out of left field, but it’s a homerun. It’s a great idea. It’s fabulous. But you know, it’s also new and daunting. It’s unknown. But this girl? She’s chasing after it with grace and gusto. Because, as I pointed out to her, it is NEVER too late to follow your dreams/your heart/your bliss. It’s only too late when you give up and stop trying. When you stack your walls up so high that other people can’t see in – let alone get in – but you can’t see out, either.

Does this even need a caption? I think not.

The truth is that there’s no real secret to being brave, to tuning out those obnoxious voices, or squaring your shoulders for the manifestation of other people’s loud voices and small minds. It’s not something that turns up as easy or even something you settle into. Every time I do something crazy and brave? My heart still feels like it’s trying to tunnel out of my ribcage with C4 and a jackhammer. Every time I take a risk, make a phone call, or am terribly vulnerable – I still feel like I might throw up. A thousand fears rage in my brain. I count them out, like angry dragons. I look at everything I’m afraid of, breathing fire, and I acknowledge that FEAR isn’t enough to hold me back. It’s not a good enough reason. It’s not a good enough explanation for a choice.

Remember the Fear Demon from Buffy? Yes. That.

This isn’t a process that comes natural to me, or anyone really. I’m all about balance and harmony. I’m all about hugs and love, not drawn swords and squared shoulders. But if you show me something worth fighting for, there’s nothing and no one who can ever hold me back. You may look at me, and call me crazy. You may question my morals. You may wonder, exactly, what I was thinking. And maybe I wasn’t thinking in the traditional list of pros and cons way. Because some things are too important for lists. And no person should be boiled down like that.

*adjusts bow tie* (Because bow ties are cool.)

Consider how many people are in the room when you make a choice. Ask yourself if they should be there. Do you stay in a relationship, because of what others might be think if you leave? How long do you keep something of life-support, when it’s already gone? It happens a lot. We get scared about these repercussions, things that may appear as judgement, thrown at us by OTHER people.

But, honestly, when it comes down to it: why the frakkin’ hell do we really care what other people think? How is that judgement even formed? Outside opinions, like that, shouldn’t factor in. Those people aren’t in the situation. Those people don’t know what it’s like. They don’t understand the day-in and day-out of it.

You want to quit your job and move to New York? Great.

You want to call up and old boyfriend to talk? Awesome.

You want to stop being someone’s emotional whipping boy? Excellent.

Stop living your life in chains, when you’ve got the key in your hand. Stop holding yourself back, because of how it might look. Screw how it looks. Screw how people might you give epic side-eye.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that life is too short. People trip and fall down the stairs. People get sick. People get hit by cars. We try not to think about these things: the freak accidents and illnesses. But, honey, tomorrow isn’t set in stone. The next minute isn’t, either.

Life is too short to hold back. So, why are you?

 

Every. single. TIME.

On Doctor Who, Storytelling, and Women

August 5, 2013 4 comments

“I like that Helen Mirren has been saying the next doctor should be a woman. I would like to go on record and say that the Queen should be played by a man.”

Steven Moffat (Youtube video here, roughly at 3:40).

First off, congrats to Peter Capaldi on his role as the 12th Doctor. By all accounts, he will do a fabulous job as Doctor Who, and he’s been in a lot of fabulous things (tv and movies) that I’ve loved. This post isn’t about Capaldi.

No, my issue is with Moffat, specifically his glib attitude toward gender roles/women. As he so aptly pointed out in that video, it has been established that the Doctor can regenerate as either sex. It is possible. It hasn’t HAPPENED, mind you. But there’s not Time Lord rule that states he must be a white male.

So, I have to take grievous issue with his quip that he’d like the Queen to be played by a man. Why? These are different situations. The Queen is based on a real live person. She isn’t a fiction. She’s very much alive and well. She is not a character that’s been made up by someone, where one could take creative license and change things around. That’s the difference between a biopic and, say, SCIENCE FICTION.

*ahem* I’m going to try not to shout, but it’s rather difficult. I think that Moffat’s rather pointed dismissal and redirection is rather infantile. The tone, and his words, are rude, bordering on abrasive. He is, presumably, aware that women not only leave the HOUSE now, but we also wear PANTS. And are, generally, awesome.

Truly, snark aside, I think that having the Doctor, eventually, regenerate as a woman is not only interesting, but it’s uncharted territory. It’s NEW. Speaking from a storytelling stance, you could do SO much. It’s a whole new palate. I’d be curious to see how the companion (or companions) is thus treated, and if they are a) male and b) as alarmingly hapless as the female companions have been on occasion (more than on occasion, truly).

I’ll be honest with you: I’m relatively new to the Doctor Who world. I’ve been slowly catching up, starting in reverse. I love the series. I want a TARDIS. I adore Matt Smith, and I am sad to see him go. (He did a lovely job of making bowties cool, damn it.) But here’s the thing: I don’t have a favorite Doctor. I have an absolute adoration for each incarnation that I’ve watched, because they’re all so…different. They’re all uniquely drawn and interestingly portrayed. I like that.

Sometimes, personally speaking, I am a traditionalist. For me, it often depends on genre. But even I have a plethora of quirks I feel like I should confess. I do not want to see a woman playing James Bond, because the James Bond character was written (books and movies) as he is. That’s not sci-fi. I cannot see a reason to change his gender/sex, especially since (let’s face it) so much of Bond resides in his capacity as it does in his masculinity/misogyny. That is to say, his penis and a martini. And I’m okay with that. I can appreciate that character for what he is. I love the movies for their fun and their explosions. The dialogue is generally amusing, and Casino Royale was damn near perfect. And Bond’s more than welcome to make me a martini anytime. *ahem*

Conversely, though, I had no trouble adoring Michael Clark Duncan as the Kingpin. He was perfect in the role, and he totally owned the hell out of the part. I don’t care that the Kingpin wasn’t initially envisioned, or drawn as being, as a black character. Duncan was simply spot-n. Reaching back even further, and into another medium, I adored Mary Martin as Peter Pan. I remember, as a kid, being momentarily confused as to why Peter Pan was a woman (I was 6), but after the initial wait, what’s going on quandary, it didn’t bother me in the least. The thing about Mary Martin playing Peter, of course, was that she wasn’t playing him as female. Peter still was seen as a male character. The practice, I suppose, is parallel to men having playing women for alllll those years in the theater. I’m not, of course, suggesting that the role of the Doctor by played by a woman, portraying a male Doctor. That would probably yield a level of farce that’s not quite right for Doctor Who, unless the role of Doctor Who is now being playing by Falstaff.

But it does beg the question of why not, in regard to the Doctor being a woman. He’s not human. He’s got two hearts. He could regenerate as anything, really. An elderly person. A teenager. A child. (Although, the implications of that would be curious. Can that even happen? I would imagine that would present all sorts of storytelling problems. The companion might end up more babysitter than equal. Although whether or not any companion has truly been allowed to be the Doctor’s equal, that’s up for debate. The only one, in my opinion, who has come close (with regard to the past three Doctors) is Rose Tyler. And yet, for all her troubles, she ends up trapped in a parallel universe, heartbroken. I did like/loathe that bit of plot evolution. The separate was well done. It gave me ALL THE FEELS. And yes, I cried buckets. Unlike, say, when the whole Amy/Rory Weeping Angels plotline devolved into a pile of goo and made me full of non-blinking fury. I really did like Clara, the Impossible Girl. I loved how her existence seemed to puzzle and rattle the Doctor, especially this scene. Except, if you think about it, she was only made “smart” by accident (The Bells of St. John) – and her entire purpose seems to have been (thus far) to save the Doctor. Literally. In a way, the last bit is positive; it seems progressive, because you’d think that saving equals being a heroine, and yet…if an entire character’s purpose is meant to rescue another, it rather seems to undermine the value of that character. As much as I adore the cheeky wit of Clara (“run, you clever boy…”), who is she? What does she want out of life? Rose, at least, was a bit lost and a bit wandering. She had a mum and people in her life. Clara has…two children she nannys for. And…what else? I have absolutely no idea.

But, really, back to the quote I mentioned in the beginning. That kind of dismissal displays a callousness that I find off-putting. I find it frustrating. While the principal is slightly different, I think that another example is warranted. Up until Star Trek: Voyager, I’m sure that there were people who scoffed at the idea of a female captain. But Captain Janeway was an excellent character. The point is – my point is – things do not change, until they do. This isn’t asking to change the framework of the show or reinvent the wheel using cheese and screwdriver. Working within the framework, a female Doctor could work. And she could be awesome. But to attempt to undermine the idea of a female Doctor by presenting a supposed counterpoint – one that isn’t really a counterpoint at all – it makes me wonder if, perhaps, Moffat isn’t simply making the Doctor Who he is capable of making. (Which I enjoy, despite the desire to sometimes chuck things at the screen. All shows have their problems. All stories. All things.) Perhaps a female Doctor will happen without Moffat at the helm. Perhaps someone else will need to handle the reins. Perhaps Moffat’s story doesn’t have room for a woman as the Doctor. Maybe that’s okay. (I’ll never say that his ATTITUDE toward the idea is okay. Never. Ever. Because NO.)

I will say this: it won’t be easy, for the woman who is cast. It won’t be easy, because it will be so different. All new ground is terrifying in that there’s no net. But really, stepping into a role like Doctor Who is always, I imagine, without a net. It’s an iconic show. It’s beloved by many, daleks notwithstanding. It’d be an odd thing, to have and not have precursors. There’s a certain level of anxiety of influence. To have a canon full of Doctor and turn it on its head. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the show is full of twists and turns, and it’s wibbly wobbly timey wimey. Nothing is ever quite what it seems. The TARDIS is a woman. An angel statue can be a monster. (Don’t blink.) And a giant flap of vapid skin can be rather hilarious/terrifying. I’ll be hearing the screech of, “MOISTURIZE ME” in my nightmares for the rest of TIME.

But before a man plays the Queen, I’ll bet that we’ll see a female Doctor. I do hope she wears a fez.

Was I Not Smiling Enough?

May 6, 2013 7 comments

 

Sometimes, people ask questions that make us uncomfortable. Inherently, the question isn’t good or bad. It’s not motivated by judgment or snark. It’s just a question. And yet, there are questions that imply things – things that may, or may not, be meant. Things that make you stop, take stock, and question yourself. There are instances where this is a good thing, a bit of introspection that snaps you awake, stirs you from yourself. Then there are those instances that seem to imply that you’re not walking in the lines, that you’re doing something less than you are supposed to.

Recently, someone asked me if I was okay – because I looked a little sad. I wasn’t sad. I was busy. I was feeling a little overwhelmed. But I wasn’t sad. You see, if you’ve spent three seconds in my presence, you’ll realize that I like to smile. I like to laugh. I will tease you if I like you. And I can be a bit of a goofball. I’m friendly. I always say hello, and I’m very rarely anything less than pleasant.

On this particular day, I wasn’t sad. But that question was enough to make me wonder some things. Why did that person think I was sad? Was it something I did or said? Was I not smiling enough?

Was I not smiling enough?

There is the problem. I, ridiculous, felt as if I wasn’t smiling enough – because surely, if I had been smiling more, no one would think I was sad. It was a bizarre halt that I came screeching to. (That sentence is grammatically wretched, but I’m leaving it.) I can’t help but ask: would a man question himself the same way? I cannot help but think the answer isn’t just no, but hell no. No one should ever wonder if she’s smiling ‘enough.’ There is no measure for that. It’s a thing that you do, not a quota you have to meet.

But this whole thing made me start to think. This is something we’re told, isn’t it? To be this, or that. Happiness is conveyed by smiling, yes — but unhappiness really isn’t shown by the absence of a smile. There are a million other emotions. There are a million other reasons for a lack of a smile. It can simply be an indication of concentrations. An insufficient coffee intake. A hunger pain. Whatever. Yet, the first assumption was unhappiness.

This made me curious. As a lit major, you have to take lit theory at least once. At some point, you read Judith Butler, who writes about gender theory. (Yes, Rachel – this reference is for you.) And Butler assert that gender is performative. Sex, of course, is biological. I’m not talking about the dance-with-no-pants. I’m talking male/female. Gender is boy/girl. It is expected that if you identify with a female gender, wearing makeup broadcasts your gender. It is, essentially, an act we put on. A show. To an extent, this is true. Personally, I don’t think of myself as less of a girl when I’m wearing sweatpants, a bandana in my hair, and absolutely no makeup. But to the rest of the world? I’m not performing.

Is happiness the same thing? Do we perform our happiness? Are you smiling just to meet expectations? Are we pressured to appear happier than we are – or even to exaggerate the happiness we do feel, lest our emotions be misconstrued or misread?

I don’t know that I have the answers, but I’m certainly entertaining the questions. Feelings shouldn’t be performative. A person can be demonstrative. If I’m happy to see you, I’ll smile. I’ll probably hug you. But that isn’t me performing my feelings. It’s not a show to indicate something to the world. It’s expressing a feeling. There is, I believe, a difference.

fancy pile of excuses

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

 

This morning, a good friend was telling me a story. It was a story, had it not been 7:30am, that would’ve gone perfectly with whiskey. Because some things, man, they gut you and leave you gaping like a bloody fish on the floor. The truth is, it hit too close to home, like emotional shrapnel made of Ebola. I won’t go into detail (not my story to tell), but on one hand – it was incredibly sweet and romantic. On the other hand, it was a big, shiny, fancy pile of excuses.

Which made think about a lot of things. How much energy do we spend on the wrong things? On hiding, not talking, not risking, not loving, not trying? How many excuses do we manufacture – yes, manufacture – because we’re terrified or [insert action-stalling emotion here]? We do this TOO much. Far too much.

We say no too often. We flee. When we don’t really know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or five minutes from now, or whatever. We don’t really know if we’ll wake up tomorrow morning – or if we’re going to trip walking down the stairs or walking the dog (especially if your dog is anything like my dog. He plots my demise EVERY day).

Today is, of course, Valentine’s Day. It’s a Hallmark holiday, and while I love any excuse to stuff my face with chocolate, it’s not really the DAY I care about. Love is more than doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s more than societal expectations. And no matter the day, it should be celebrated.

Out there, right now, is someone who is bricking up his/her heart. Right now, there is someone who has a laundry list of reasons why not. There is someone who feels something great and wonderful, but refuses to honor it. And that idea, that truth, breaks my heart more than anything else.

We spend too much energy conjuring up armor, keeping people at arm’s length. If that’s you, if you’re hiding behind x, y, and z – STOP. Hurl yourself into the dance, right straight where your heart lies. Anything less than everything is nothing more than fear. And yes, it’s a risk. And yes, the brick wall MIGHT fall on your head. But in doing so, maybe that’ll knock some sense into you. *blinks* I mean…

Love might be madness, but it is the very best madness.

do not be a slave to IF — nothing is gained through fear.

November 4, 2012 1 comment

 

Today, I remembered something important. The truth, something I had captured some months ago, had escaped me. I did not even realize it was gone until, like a bird, I found it perched right in front of me. It was startling to discover that I had forgotten what I had so recently obtained. Because wisdom always seems to speak out of grief, hurling itself from the strange circles of thought we often find ourselves in following a loss. Something good should come out of such pain. Something useful. Something positive. Something that changes our lives, even as we wake up to find them changed.

Shortly after my mother died, I promised myself two things. One is that I would appreciate what I have when I have it. The other was never to give up when something/someone is worth fighting for. The first one I have stumbled with, occasionally missing a dance step or two – but that’s a vow that will always be a work-in-progress. The second is a bit more difficult, because it is an idea that must constantly be renewed.

I never fight without a reason. From experience, I realize that sometimes you simply take a stand so that someone doesn’t bowl you over without opposition. Sometimes, you speak in order to say the things that must be said – knowing full well that you cannot change someone’s mind. That isn’t always the aim. The same thing can be said for art of any kind: the only way you truly fail is when you do not try. That is giving up, sticking to the safer, easier shadows. But who is ever truly happy with safe or easy?

Sometimes, I back off of things, because of circumstances. Sometimes, I just stop. I am wondering if perhaps that is the easy choice, a coward’s way, a decision born not of wisdom but of fear. I wonder if that is letting someone else dictate a choice that is mine to make. I wonder if it is a reflex structured to avoid possible pain. If I do this, I might… or If I am vulnerable, I could… or If I do this, it will be hard…

If. If. If. How often do we allow ourselves, and our lives, to be dictated by if? If is word made of fear, not strength. If closes the door, walls up it up, and locks us away from the rest of the world. From even ourselves and the possibilities we desire/need.

Life is hard. Love is hard. Art is hard. You make a choice, and it’s scary. You fall in love, and it’s terrifying. You make art, and other people will see it (and possibility dislike it). We are all afraid. We are all scared. We are all one choice away from change.

Sometimes, we don’t do or say things, because we are afraid of being or sounding stupid. Of another person reacting badly or not at all. I am guilty of this, sometimes. Even recently. I held something back, because I was afraid of how the other person would react. Not because what I had to say was unimportant or untrue. Not because I didn’t feel it. But because I was scared.

That, my darlings, is no way to live. Fear shouldn’t pull our puppet strings. Fear shouldn’t keep us from ourselves. Fear shouldn’t strangle our wants and needs. In order to get what we want, we have to be brave. And I say that as a writer – because a writer has to be brave. We have to write a story, or a novel, or a poem – and shove into the world, hitting SEND and feeling sick to our souls. Because oh my god, someone is going to judge this thing we made. Someone is going to see it and maybe find it lacking. Someone is going to read this thing that we created – this bit of words that we tore out of our hearts.

If that isn’t scary, if that doesn’t feel sick or panicked, then I don’t know how what will. If I can send a story out for submission, I can speak the truth. I can fight for things that I want. I can certainly handle these mothereffin’ re-writes that are eating pieces of my soul like candy. (Mmm, ventricular muscle, they seem to say. In my head, all my writing fears are like Gollum. But that is a post for another day, my preciousssss. *ahem*)

There is nothing worse than silence. There is nothing worse than failing to try. In life, there are moments where we let fear seep into bones, and it overwhelms our other feelings. I have been that person. I have been mad with my own misunderstanding. I have been a girl who swallowed her own heart, because her heart is a bastard. But today, I remembered the framework of who I am. Today, I remembered the promises I made to myself.

I am not a perfect person. I don’t believe in perfection. I don’t believe in walking away. I don’t believe in giving up. I do not believe that things are impossible. Like Alice, I believe in at least seven impossible things before breakfast.

Maybe this makes me an idiot. I don’t care if it does. I think that life is so much more than black or white, good or bad, sin or virtue – and that our choices should never be forged by fear. We too often hide from what we want, finding reasons to keep ourselves away. But that is not living. It is lying. All greatness arises out of moments of foolishness, of stripped pride and raging doubts.

I believe that everything I want is within my reach. I wonder how many are brave enough to believe that, too.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

the mad ones

October 24, 2012 3 comments

 

Sometimes, there are situations where we cannot do anything. Moments where we just have to sit on our hands, wait, and hope for the best. As something of a doer, with shades of control freak, I hate those situations. Those moments. Because even when we do everything, or everything we can, certain things are not up to us.

I was sitting in Starbucks, attempting to quell my thoughts with coffee. That worked about as well as giving candy to a toddler. Basically, I’ve amplified my already overactive, overthinking brain. Not wise. But I am not always a paragon of smarts. (Those of you who deal with me on a daily basis will guffaw at that statement. I know. I KNOW.)

Few things are more frustrating than wanting to fix something, but realizing that it’s out of your hands. You’re trying. You’re doing your best. You’re working on things. But ultimately, you have to wait. Ultimately, other people are making the final decision. This goes for work, pursuing writing, and hell – all relationships.

You should do everything you can. Not leave anything to chance. But in the end, we are not always the deciding factor. We are not always where the buck stops. We are not always in control. Today, I found myself feeling like my sixteen year old self, wishing that someone could just fix something and make it better. I literally had that thought: I just want someone to FIX it.

And, hi, I’m THIRTY. So, not sixteen. And I’m glad that I’m not sixteen, because I was a scared, unconfident (if that’s not a word, it SHOULD be) person at that age. Being scared meant running. Being scared meant not speaking up. Being scared meant letting other people dictate my life.

Now? Being scared means standing my ground. It means knowing what I want, despite the inherent difficulties. Being scared means being brave – sometimes, it means being brave enough for someone else. It means that there is something worth fighting for. Our greatest weakness can be our greatest strength, just like an inferiority complex can hold a person back OR propel them to move forward and be better. Prove everybody wrong.

It is always wise, though, when pursuing what you want, to have faith. To believe. It’s such a simple, fragile thing. It’s so important, though. We never get anywhere, unless we believe. Even if it SEEMS crazy or impossible. Perhaps especially then.

Do you best. Leave the rest. T’will all come right, some day or night. (Yeah, I just quoted from Black Beauty. I think that’s where the quote is from. Anyone? Bueller?) Do your best. Put your cards on the table. Chase something. Love full and well. Laugh at yourself. And, when necessary, have faith.

 “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” — Kerouac

grief is a wild thing: I am my mother’s daughter

October 16, 2012 13 comments

When you lose a parent, there are things that people say. Some are true. Some seem like they’ve been stolen off a Hallmark card. Some irritate more than they comfort, despite the good intentions. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself entirely surprised at my own reaction to things. Repeatedly, I’ve heard, “She’s not in pain anymore.” And yes, that’s true. I’m glad that my mom isn’t in pain. But, damn it all to hell, I miss her. Her not being in pain doesn’t take that feeling away. It doesn’t undercut it. It doesn’t even make a dent in it. But it’s something people say, isn’t it? Perhaps in an effort to say SOMETHING. Because, hell, it’s hard to be on either end of that conversation. I know that. There’s nothing worse than running into someone who hasn’t heard the news. (Except, maybe, that ONE guy who I know knows, but who said nothing, despite having a forty minute conversation. Asshat.) Because it hurts all over again, to have to tell a simple fact: my mom died. I hate even typing that.

While writing this, I’m thinking about the other things people say. At least ONE of these made me want to punch a wall. Here are a few:

  • This will get better with time.
  • I’m sorry for your loss.
  • You’ll feel better soon.
  • She’s in Heaven now.
  • It must be a relief.
  • God must’ve wanted an angel.

I’ve heard those things, or variations of them, a lot. It’s routine, I guess. But you know what no one talks about? The actual absence. The space that used to be occupied by a person, the shared moments, the understanding. The fact that there is a hole in the world, and you’re trying to deal with it, except you can’t. Not really. You’re carrying it with you. Everything else feels small in comparison.

No one warns you about the thoughts you will have. The things that will grab your heart and squeeze it when you least expect it. The other day, on my birthday, my mom’s absence was a palpable thing. Don’t get me wrong: it was a great birthday. But there was a moment where I sat down and thought, Mom would’ve understood. She would’ve taken one look at me and gotten it. Even today, as I’m sitting here with a heap of things in front of me, I want nothing more than her advice. I want nothing more than to just sit with her and tell her about this crazy meeting I had last week, all my insane plans and hopes, and the things that I just don’t know what to do with. She was always that person who SAW me, even when I didn’t want to be seen. Who would listen to my insanity without flinching. She didn’t always like things about me, but she loved me. Despite my tendency to be a spaz. (I am an expert spaz, despite my calm exterior. You know you’ve gotten past all my walls when you see Spaz Me. Very few people ever see my unpolished self.)

There are moments and days where I miss my mom in an unparalleled way. Today is one of those days. Because she was always there, and now she’s not. Because she was always wise, and I need wisdom. Because she saw me at my worst, but loved me anyway. That is all anyone ever wants. That is what I want.

The only thing anyone can do is take things one day at a time. One moment to another. One challenge to the next. With an absence like this, certain things need to be relearned. Life needs a new balance. And that’s only fair, because everything is different. Including me. I realized that, in an odd way, losing my mother has made me hold on to certain things too tightly. It has made me lean on other people differently. This is both good and bad. But regardless, it is what it is – and I am learning as best as I can. Sometimes, that makes me (figuratively) clumsy. It makes me do stupid things. It makes me wonder what would mom do? instead of thinking what do I want to do? Because absence, among other things, makes us foolish in a lot of ways. A permanent absence can make a person angry, frustrated, confused – you name it. Mostly, those emotions are another side of grief. And, I think, when other people’s lives get back to normal – that’s when things unravel the most. Because people get back to their lives, as they should. But your life isn’t normal anymore. You have to rediscover normal. That, my dears, isn’t easy. It is possible, of course – but not pretty. No one tells you that, either.

These are the things that no one tells you. But I’m telling you, right now. For me, these things are true. For someone else, it might be different. For everyone who is muddling through? I get it. These trenches are bloody and suffocating. But I believe that it gets better. I believe that there are brighter days, because I’ve seen them. They’re not all like this. Some are. And man, oh man – on those days? I feel you.

While her absence sucks beyond the telling of it, it does remind that of how lucky I was. Because I had that. I had that person in my life who saw the ugly side of me, along with the red lipstick, and she didn’t flee the other direction. (There were times she might’ve been better off.) That fact is reassuring, because it reminds me that those who love us don’t run. Those who love us strive to understand us, even if it’s an impossible task. And those who love us accept us, even when it’s hard. As people, none of us are perfect. We are all walking wounds, sometimes. I know that I am it, now. And it affects me more than I realized, until today. But we are not the sum of our losses. We are not what is absent. We are proof of what existed. And that proof, our memories and what have you, yields one important thing: hope.

And hell: I am my mother’s daughter. She taught me to be brave, to live without fear, to love without walls, and to believe to the very last breath. If nothing else, those old lessons can be relied on. Perhaps the old lessons are the best of all.