Everyone is sorry.
I’ve struggled for three days to find the words. It was like holding my breath for seventy-two hours under water. I was confused and couldn’t make sense of things. No way to tell up from down and no way to understand what was happening to me or why. In my three silent days I’ve been plunged light years from who I was before. This post is the story of that journey.
“What is it that you want to know?” It seemed like a simple enough question. Only with six eyes on me it felt impossible to answer. My Chair urged me to take a deep breath, insisting on it, even. I knew…I was so certain of what I wanted to study and at some point it felt difficult but doable. And I realized that somewhere along the way I’d begun to doubt myself. That the difficult complex messy questionably measurable dissertation that I dreamed of would be too much to get me out.
“Forget about graduation. Put the work first, just focus on your work.” My friend and colleague would later encourage me. His hippie ways always speak right to my bohemian spirit. I opened up my notebook and looked at notes from my committee. I had no idea what direction to go in at the present time, but something the meeting was so striking to me. Here were vastly different people with varied ways of being and understanding the world and they believed in my ability to do the kind of work I was (eventually) able to articulate. And then I decided to recall the pop-wisdom saying, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
I wrote a note of thanks to my committee and I asked my writing partner if we could, in some ways, start from scratch tomorrow. Going back to the literal drawing board. Reminding ourselves of what it is we really want to study. Speaking to the literature and seminal works which have informed our ideas and writing from our heart space versus our head space.
One of the things I was reminded to do was to remember why I started. What it is I really want from the work. I was “called out” by my committee mainly because they know me. They know the things I’ve been talking about for the last four years. They know my strengths and my propensities. They also know my weaknesses and my areas for opportunity. I never took myself as one to so easily succumb to self-doubt and not to excuse it, but when you are chartering unknown territory there is LOTS of self-doubt. Why not do something smaller? Safer? More this? Less that? And it’s tempting. To not take the risk and to do what you know you can do. But to stretch yourself…and to do the thing you’re not yet sure you can do. To risk failure. To elect for the unknown and all that might come as a result of that? It’s terrifying and of course you wonder. I wondered. Can I do this? Do others know better than I do?
Quite simply the answer I arrived at was no, yes, and maybe. No one knows, for sure, what my purpose is nor how my story unfolds. Yes, there are others who have come before me (and sometimes after) who can offer their perspective their learning their knowledge and insight to help guide me, but…Maybe when it’s times like this when you could go either way, you step out on faith and believe that what is meant to be will always find a way to be. I was prioritizing the comfort of others over the fulfillment of my own self. It was not their fault. We are all just bumping into each other; but I can’t take on that anxiety as any indication of what I am or am not capable of.
I still don’t have my research questions. But they are coming. I haven’t added to or restructured my literature review, but I will. I do, however, feel so supported. And sure that I’ve chosen the best possible committee for me. I trust them and they are teaching me to trust myself. Because who knows me better than me? Unintended learning outcome of the dissertation process, day 1 and 1000.
I knew I wanted to make it a good Lenten season. Previously I’ve given up my cell phone, ketchup, meat, fried foods, and a host of other things I cannot remember. Ketchup was by far the most difficult, by the way.
There have been quite a few things going on which have largely felt out of my control. Yet, each situation has required an astronomical amount of energy from me. Last night I came home on empty. I went to the grocery store and bought all the ingredients for a cake. I needed to bake something. I bake when I’m upset and somehow the creating and the chemistry (a dash more of this, a pinch more of that) is soothing. I also came home knowing that the thing I’d been thinking about “giving up” for Lent was spot on necessary. I needed to turn off and turn in.
I’ve decided to abstain from various forms of social media. In effect, after today no more Facebook and no more Instagram. They are the two I consume myself with most readily. In fact, sadly scrolling Instagram sneakily became part of my morning ritual taking the place of my gratitude journaling. The effects have shown in my life. I desperately need my peace right now. I need to get to my center. So, I am giving up IG and incorporating back in my gratitude journaling and I am giving up Facebook and incorporating in walks with God. Yes, literal walks with God. I need time to reconnect with spirit and it is my hope that after Lent I can return to both with a renewed and different way of interacting with each medium.
I will not be giving up my blog. Nor will I give up tumblr as I use it for the class I’m teaching. It is not about disappearing from the Internet. For me, this year it is really about love. When I asked myself how I could love myself better through this time the only thing I could think of was to trust God and trust myself. But the lines of communication to either entity had become so clouded that I simply needed restoration. So I am allowing myself that in the best way I know how.
I talked to my class last night about how I teach, my method. And I shared with them that often I go about things in a manner some may find odd but it’s the only way I know how to do it. It’s instinctual and feels right but often in the moment I have no idea if it’s the right thing or how people will react. My core tells me that by and large people appreciate honesty and authenticity. Even if they hate what you’re saying.
So much of this life is guesswork. And we are all just doing the very best that we can. The decisions we make or don’t make, they are the consequence of our best judgment in that moment; right or wrong don’t shake out until after the fact. Maybe that’s another reason to be patient with people. Because we just want to do good but we are not always sure of the methods. Which is fair, no one has lived this life before us to show us the way. Emphasis on ‘this life’.
I suppose my last thought is one about richness. As I was baking I kept thinking what makes it rich with flavor. More eggs for fluff. Vanilla pudding for texture and flavor. Butter… I wanted facets and dimensions to it. The same is true of my relationships. And it is my hope that with the giving up of Facebook specifically I will be able to take advantage of the richness of my relationships. I will call more. They will call more. We will make dates and keep them. We can “lol” and be witnesses to each other’s tears too. I’m hoping for it all.
It’s Valentine’s Day and my word for the year is love. So, I asked myself how I could love the people I love better. First, I had a conversation yesterday with my Work Wife and effective west coast best friend. I told her I have a really hard time repeating myself–in that, I could probably think of three things I hate more (wet socks brown bananas and cats). My issue becomes particularly problematic in friendships because unlike with my students there’s no syllabus to refer to. That sounds trite, but there is great comfort in an outlined contract of sorts which details expectations and means of measurement.
A long time ago I stopped giving advice. Why? Because nobody listened anyway and I found myself getting more involved than was necessary in not-my-problems. I drew a thick line in how I cared for my friends after a particularly tense situation with a friend and her boyfriend. I thought I was doing the right thing for her, she disagreed. It was a mess but we recovered over time. Still it taught me a valuable lesson: that love sometimes means leaving people to their own muck.
One of my favorite quotes from play therapist Gary Landreth is “When you do for others what they can do for themselves, you rob them of the opportunity to learn their own strength.” I heard it once in a play therapy training and I latched on to it like crazy. Because I was doing this habitually. I wanted to help give advice, be the 3am phone call, talk through problems, come up with solutions for people but in my doing so people were NOT listening and effectively creating their own misery cycles, and I was right there with them. What I know from counseling is that you don’t make a change until you are ready and nothing solely externally can force real change. So I was setting myself up for failure too. I was exhausting myself and growing angry with my friends. I had to change.
Now I have become much better at “letting grown people be grown” but the fact still remains that when someone asks my opinion of me, I am extremely hesitant to give it. One friend of mine was particularly bothered by it. I shared my reasons for withholding but of course that doesn’t change the experience of feeling someone is keeping something from you. And for me it doesn’t change the experience of having to share my opinion (for what)? In the end people do what they want to do anyway. It feels like a no-win situation.
So how can I love better? How can I reframe my experience? It is, of course, no ones job to listen to me. Why do I get so upset when I repeat myself? Because it feels I have been unheard. Specifically now, unheard when you sought out my voice. But that current frame only causes frustration for me. So I need a new one. WW said I need to feel less responsible for fixing. I don’t think I do feel that sense of responsibility anymore. But admittedly, I do find it difficult to be around people who continuously create their own misfortune. In this sense, it’s not an issue of me wanting to fix its me wanting to sever. I don’t like the way they feel.
WW suggested an impatience with people. Or maybe I heard it underneath something else she said as I do not believe those were her words specifically. That is one I’ll own. Not that everything is easy for me, it’s not by any stretch of the imagination, but some people require a bit more time. I think it’s insulting when people insinuate that my impatience comes because I’m so good at… Or I don’t struggle with… Because a) I see it as an excuse and b) of COURSE I’ve struggled. I struggle every day. And for the most part, publicly. That’s elective and it’s not meant to make “it” look easy. It’s to illustrate how very difficult it is to be real with yourself. Calling myself out in front of others…not to be an exemplar but to be in solidarity with.
My impatience comes from watching potential circle the drain. Millions of stars in our personal universes go wasted because of I cants, I don’t deserves, and but hows. That is hard for me. Maybe because I know, to some extent, what it feels like to believe all those things about yourself and how grossly untrue it all is. And no one could have learned that lesson for me. But I sure am glad my people stuck by me while I turned my life around. Randy Pausch says if people haven’t surprised us then we haven’t given them enough time. I just want to love people enough to wait for the surprise. I “simply” need to let go of the timeline on when that should be.
This work…self-work can be so bitter sometimes. Especially when you’re looking at the parts of you that you want to change. It is immensely helpful, though, when as a result of your other work you now have the wisdom to believe you Can change. That you are indeed capable of it, you are worth the goodness which lies on the other side of it (and that revealed during the process), and that by faith in yourself you can get there. I suppose the love goes both ways. You’re a person too and sometimes when given enough time, you might surprise yourself.
Sometimes it is heavy to feel so many people at once. I have gotten better about not holding on to other people’s energy. But sometimes, when it’s someone close to me…
I always wish that my experience of the hurt could be enough. If I could just house the pain for them they could heal without the hurt. A human pill to dull the symptoms. I had no way of expressing that. Not simply, so I just cried the tears I knew were not mine. Kneaded the tension in my body and eventually asked if there was anything I could do.
If you felt what I felt you would say I Love You more often. You would grow more appreciative of small acts of kindness. You would breathe deeper into moments. You would cry more often and you wouldn’t care because it cleanses you.
I wanted to say more. But instead I opted for silence and simply being there. And I knew that was the right thing to do for the time being. That I could not house the pain. That I could not be the tourniquet and that the wound would remain open. But maybe my hand helped. I have to believe that it helped. Without invading the energy to know, I believed it in me first.
It was then that I realized where I was. Inhaled sharply and it felt like ice on my lungs. I looked around and found that I was there alone. For now, I told myself. For now.
I’ve never found any particular reason to write midday. That is not when I typically feel most inspired, it is in the witching hours when the sun is asleep and the moon kneads the oceans over the earth that I find my words. However, today they came just now and continue to arrive through me in the moments. He texted me a piece of his story. That he did not grow up with the life he wanted and how to came to where he is. Just a few sentences to tell about a whole life. It was not and is not sufficient but it is his way of sharing with me. My response was one that surprised me. It was validating and affirming yet also an ask for more with assurance that there is no other ask. The only thing I want from you is you.
I remarked to myself the level of fearlessness my response displayed. Typically I would perseverate wondering if it was too much or too lengthy. If it was too revealing or forward. If my honesty would scare him away or be intimidating. I might have responded but not so genuinely. I would have played it safe.
I find myself here at the corner of love and freedom. Not a love of him or of any one in particular but love in all things. Walking with intentionality of love. Speaking with loving words. Eating with loving grace, and so on. So I responded to him as I would have genuinely responded to anyone coming from a place of love. The curious thing about relationships, budding, pending, possible or otherwise, is that often it is not initially about love. We are too afraid to make it about love so soon. We make it about sex or pleasure, fun or friendship; and we tell ourselves that in these less scary places there is safety. That we can be ourselves bit by bit increasing our authenticity as our trust builds in the relationship and our sense of safety is proven. What I have learned, however, is that safety is never guaranteed. Trust does not ensure that my heart will not be broken, I will not feel alone or be alone, and my authentic self will be valued.
Perhaps I made an unconscious, now conscious decision to let the game go. To be my truest self as I know her to be whenever possible. Because if no one can guarantee me I’ll never feel heartbreak again (and no one can) then what is it that I’m protecting myself from? And while the last break brought me to my knees it did not kill me. I would even venture to say I am a better woman for it. I am proud of myself for saying what I said in the way that I said it. As I told my friend Mari, if as a result of me being honest he leaves then I will be relieved and if he stays then that is gold. And my wingspan does not depend on either outcome.
(For Part One, Click Here)
Step 7: If you never have, read your words out loud. Mine, they sometimes read like poetry or the lyrics of a song with no hook. The hills and valleys of my voice fill the spaces no metaphor could and breathe a life into the prose that was always intended but elusive nonetheless. Be it even for an audience of one, speak them and hear the harmony the bridge the minor cord sadness and the flow of ease over that one part when you just let yourself go. Close your eyes and recite it from memory because it’s marks like hieroglyphics on the walls of you, caverns of hurt and victory meander your way through to the light of right now. Be in your own moment as you push from the diaphragm out of the esophagus and enunciate your every emotion with perfect illustrative elocution.
Step 8: Gift. Share your work. Gift it once and rewrap it and give it again and again until you’ve run out of names on your list. And then give it to strangers. And their friends. And their aunt who had a really hard time that once and never talks about it. And their brother who sometimes drinks too much but has a good heart. And your neighbor who talks too much first thing in the morning because her husband has ignored her all night. Read the thank you cards and listen for the dimensions in your writing. That one line that spoke right to their situation. That part that brought a tear to their eye. Even the ones who didn’t get it and returned it unopened, maybe that just wasn’t their piece. Send them another. Offer yourself through your work because it is the greatest most intimate gift you could ever give.
Step 9: Fail. Allow yourself to be rejected, refused and redirected but never rewritten. Let the things that escape you lead you to your next step. The one that was designed just for a talent such as yours. A voice such as yours. A writer of the words whose succession only you would choose. Believe in the tremendous power of failure. Thank you for letting me know it was not my time. This was not the job best suited to expand me. This was not the magazine book website that would have supported my vision. Something greater lies beyond every failure. Great opportunity resides in a room unlatched by faith. Have the chutzpah to try the lock.
Step 10: Dare. You never written about sex? Try it. You never written fiction? Try it. You’ve never written anything? Try it. What harm is there in daring? If it calls to you, go. Hearts are deaf to fruitless musings. In all things lie lessons. Do not hold yourself hostage to the you you were yesterday. Dare to become. Dare to grow. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Defy some gravity. Take the leap. Let it go. Ask for more. Accept no less. Sever yourself from that which hurts you. Give yourself fully to that which heals you. Say yes. Or say no. Whatever it is, dare to do it. And…if you haven’t the courage to dare quite yet. Do so in your writing. Give your characters the wings you wish to grow. Create and cultivate the characters as pieces of you. Learn from them. Allow them access to great adventures and hard fought triumphs. And when you’ve learned as much as you could, give them back to yourself and then…then dare to integrate as your whole self.
The writer surely splits herself into a million pieces for the sake of characters. She must be them fully to make them believable. She does this by allowing them to access the human experience through her own being. That is to say, she is them and they are her; one could never be so complete without the other. And, if she’s lucky they dwell within her forever. Or, until the story is done.
My younger sisters are the coolest humans in the world in my totally unbiased opinion. My youngest sister, however, it’s like looking back in time because she is so much like me. So much herself, but so much like me as well. She and I are 17 years apart so really, it’s a testament to genetics more than anything, I think.
I was in the midst of another “day” yesterday. I couldn’t seem to shake the funk that had been clouding my experience of life for the three days prior. It was like I was stuck. I’d been working on some things for work when I looked down and noticed it was 11:11. I did my usual and made a wish and took a screenshot of the time. I seriously have tons of 11:11 screenshots in my phone to remind me of all the wishes I’ve made. So I took it and decided to send it to my sister because she is on my phone background.
“11:11,” I told her, “make a wish!” She asked me what I wished for and I told her a good day. And she said she hoped I had one. Not long after I received a comment on yesterday’s post from a reader, Jay, she wrote:
“I have a quote on my vision board, every time things don’t go as planned I remind myself that, ” You deserve your dreams”. This quote was written by you. You inspire me…”
I had this overwhelming sensation in my body and I realized I’d forgotten to say Thank You, in general. I had been neglecting my gratitude ritual and subsequently “missing it.” Feeling my most down and alone, the ability to connect was not lost it simply came in another form. I had to remind myself I do not have to always be strong. In fact, one of my favorite lessons as a writer as a woman as a human is from Liz Gilbert and its that there is beauty in a breakdown.
I could feel the fog lifting. I wished I had better words to say to Jay than “Thank You” but they are two of the most powerful words I know. And I really do thank her because in the midst of my sadness, I’d forgotten that. The things that I was upset about didn’t hold the same weight anymore. And maybe because in gratitude there is also an element forgiveness. Because when you are thankful for what IS, you automatically forgive what is NOT. That is powerful. It allowed me to say to him, Thank You for your silence because it allowed me to hear the quietest parts of myself. THAT was powerful. It was a different story. The place I’d been trying to reach for days months and a year.
So what does this have to do with my sister? Well when she was maybe three or four years old and a little indigo child (look that up), she told us that we should tell us what we wanted because God answered her prayers. It still makes me weepy. She’s such an amazing being. So, I feel like I had a good day because my sister prayed for me. She wished it for me and as there are no magic genies, it could have only been granted by one source. The Source.
I am so blessed. I don’t want to forget that, but there are times when I will. Jay understood that. And thank you for allowing me to be so imperfect. I will be as imperfect as possible for you today, haha! But seriously. There is freedom and peace in knowing that your sweet spot is one you can only get into when you’re naked honest and that is rarely near perfection. Also, when you forget, say thank you. There is elixir in those words I swear. The best lesson Maya ever gave Oprah and Oprah ever gave me was to say thank you. Lastly, if you have yourself a Kelly Christine, someone who Knows, ask them to pray for you. If you don’t believe in prayer, ask them to set an intention for you. Ask them to think good thoughts for you. It’s a concrete way to ask for something much bigger than that moment.
Today will be a good day. It really has no other choice. I’m already in love with it. I’m thankful I woke up feeling rested. I’m thankful I woke up without pain in my shoulder. I’m thankful I woke up. It means there is still work to be done that only I can do. So I am thankful I can still be of use to the world. Ashe.
To say the past few days have been difficult would be an understatement. It’s been an uncomfortable replay of last year. Feeling rejected, drowning in silence, tears and feeling invisible. I told a classmate of mine earlier that I could feel myself almost wishing someone would bump into me so I could just feel someone else. Be acknowledged if even by accident. I likened myself to Mr. Magorium’s Sock Monkey.
The difficult part and the part people keep telling me (I hear you, please stop) is that it will all work out. I am worthy I am enough I matter blah blah blah. Sometimes even the most well meaning mentions feel like bullshit. Because you’re not in a place where you can FEEL utopia, why the hell do I want to see a postcard?
That’s how I feel right now.
It’s so incredibly difficult, still, for me to ask for help. It is even more difficult when you can’t ask for a thing. It’s not a specific favor not an exchange of anything tangible. How do you ask someone to just love you? Love you gently because you’re feeling raw? Be tender with me. Ask me how I’m doing and be prepared for any combination of words tears and silence. Ask anyway. Hold my hand. Hug me like you mean it and don’t pull back until you’ve given me all you think I need. Rub my back. Sleep with me. Literally if you can, figuratively if you can’t. Include me in your prayers, I feel that warmth. Be my friend.
Is it that simple? I try in my own quiet way. Reaching out, but never feeling I have the right words. Peculiar problem for a writer. I gather up all the gumption I have left and ask for time. Usually, the people who know me best know what that means. But there are others. With whom I wish I were closer to…with whom I want to have deeper connections…But they don’t speak the language of my silences. So they miss the meaning in my words.
Still I reach. And on nights like tonight, human after human…the thing I remember most about depression was how isolated it made you feel. Everyone felt so far from reach, like you could see and hear everyone around you but you just couldn’t touch them. As if you were enclosed in thick glass. It was sadistic. To reach every time sharply shooting your hand outward towards an open hand only to have your knuckles cracked by the pane.
But I relied on the connections I do have. In my way, I gave my Hurt voice. I still struggle to share. Be bare. To not just name it and speak of it as separate from me but to own it as a part of me, and squared up. Because I can’t say what I need, I simply asked for time and maybe that IS exactly what I need. Intentional, quality time.