Friday, June 8, 2012

My Path to Shiny Goodness

Thanks for indulging me yesterday. I honestly was surprised when some readers told me that they could relate to my post, since I was purposefully vague and trapped "in my own head" (I'm self-centered like that). But if you found something - anything - you could use, I am glad. Of course, you realize you've only encouraged me? Thanks for that, by the way.

The past few years have been ones of tremendous change and growth for me. With growth, come growing pains. Bones ache when they stretch. So do souls.

I have been told by reliable sources that I ramble, so here is the CliffsNotes version:

I was married for a long time. It did not work - for a long time. I was sad. We separated; then divorced. It sucked.

I also found love again - with my best friend. It does not suck. We are newly engaged. I am happy.

Holy cow. Look how short Eat Pray Love could have been! Elizabeth Gilbert is wordy.

For the record, divorce is not that trite or tidy. It is ugly, dark and weighty, and it hurts like hell. There is no CliffsNotes version in real life. Worse, it does not happen in a vacuum; its black tentacles reach those you love most.

I wrote a more-detailed, painfully honest version of my story, but since my story also belongs to others, I hesitate to share it. Unlike Ms. Gilbert (whom I love but also slightly resent post-divorce), I did not get to ponder my life path while traversing the globe for a year, stuffing myself with pasta and meditating with holy men. Instead, I had to reassure the most fragile of souls; negotiate and divide 18 years of my life; get a job (a real one this time); sell a home; find a house; move; start over; learn to love again; learn to trust myself again. I've been busy.

But for those who know my story, or think they do, please understand that I carry it all - every last damn bit of it - and I always will. Who I was shaped who I will be.

That said, there comes a point when you have to let go of that which you cannot control. That's what I was attempting to do with my previous post. Surprisingly, it helped. Even by writing vaguely - and badly - I finally realized that "letting go" is not a feeling. It is an action. It takes more than will; it takes effort. It takes movement.

It's not enough to say, "I need to let that go." It's not enough to even swear to yourself that you will let go. You have to work at it. If you have carried something dark and heavy for a long time, gentle coaxing will not free it. Poking and prodding might not free it. Sometimes you have to reach into yourself - deep, deep into yourself where the ugliest of truths only you know hide - and you must wrench and rip and tear them from you.

This is what I am learning. This is why I am writing melodramatic posts. It is part of my wrenching and ripping and tearing. And it's cheaper than therapy, which means I can buy more donuts. Win-win.

I want to let go, so I can start again. Life has handed me one big, blank page and said, "Write your new story." As wonderful as that is, it also is daunting. It should be, shouldn't it?

This time around, I want the sentences to flow. I want to feel a powerful connection to the story. I want to relish each and every word so much that I both do, and do not, want to know what happens next...

Nothing like putting a little pressure on myself, is there?

The title of my new story should be something deep and meaningful, but no. I'm calling it, "Shiny Goodness" - because really - what is better than shiny goodness? Well, you have a point, but "Hugh Jackman and a Long John" just sounds wrong.

The point is (did I have one?), with each wrench, rip and tear, I am one baby step closer to Shiny Goodness. I am giving myself permission to embrace the shiny goodness of life and feel the sunshine on my shoulders. It just got all John Denver up in here, so you know I'm serious.

Some will say I am wrong. That is inevitable. Every story has critics, and mine is no exception.

I certainly heard from the naysayers at the end of my last story. Even those whom I felt certain would always have my back, did not. I was told, in innumerable ways, that I would falter. I was told, sometimes bluntly, that I would fail.  I felt fully, down to the fiber of my being, the sting of their critiques. And I still feel there are those who want me to fail, so they can have the smug satisfaction of saying they told me so, or that I deserved it.

And maybe I will falter. Perhaps I will fail. None of us know how our stories will end. Not really.

I can learn from the critics, yes. But as the author of my own story, trust this: I choose each and every word I write carefully, with considerable thought and tremendous love for what I am crafting. I choose my words with my tears, my laughter, my mistakes, my hopes, my faith, who I was, who I am, and who I hope to be.

At least I will know, at the end of my tale, that I tried to find the shiny goodness in my story. That is something, isn't it? Yes, that is something.

This would be a good time to cue Peter Gabriel:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vague? Check. Poorly written? Check. Needed to Write it Anyway? Check.

If this rambles - and, lawd help you, it will - I apologize. I've been reading more of Anne Lamott lately, and I think she would approve. I am giving myself permission to write badly today because sometimes we need that. We need the satisfaction of creating something - even sucktastically bad somethings.

Writing when we feel this way is like wading into the ocean on those choppy, yellow-flag days. We know there is risk, but part of us must like to feel the waves smack us around a bit. It reminds us that we are HERE, dammit. We are flailing and getting knocked about and choking up saltwater, but we are still here, toes digging into ever-shifting sand, facing the next big wave.

I am still here, facing the blank page. I have been here for a while.

I see the muse clearly today, and she is annoyed. Her fingers drum against crossed arms; her foot taps impatiently (she's a fidgety vixen, my muse); and she has that, "I can't believe you have ignored me for so long" look. God knows I have tried to banish her to the part of my brain where Hugh Jackman takes long, slow showers, but she refuses to budge.

That's a shame because she's really uptight.

"Write it out already," she says. "You're carrying all these heavy thoughts around like anchors. You can't move on with that much weight, and I'm tired of being in one drab place in your head when there's a whole playground out there, lady. I don't care what shape your sentences take; that's irrelevant. But get something on paper, so we can move on and get back to stupid posts about your lack of cleavage and Chocodiles and whatnot."

Eh. She has a point. It has been a while since I truly freed my muse. Time to unbind her from the chains that have held her hostage in recent years: major life changes, transitions and loss; misunderstandings and flawed perceptions; guilt and grief; and, thankfully, at last, joy and love and hope.

Not long ago, I took that major life stress test. You know the one -- the test from Psychology 101 that assigns a number to life's most stressful events: death, divorce, moves, new jobs, financial woes, so on and so forth. You add up the numbers, and the test measures your likelihood of stress-related illness based on your tally.

When I tallied my stressors from recent years, the diagnosis was, "Bitch, why you still breathin'?" That's not exactly how they phrased it, but when you factor in the number of donuts, chips and snack cakes I eat as a response to stress, it truly is a wonder I am still here and not being hoisted to a sitting position by a crane. My point is, the number was high. Scary high.

The thing is, I feel so damn guilty even saying that I had stressful events in my life. I mean, who hasn't, right? Even those picture-perfect-postcard people have crosses to bear. I promise they do. We all do.

I am a count-your-blessings person by nature, so I feel selfish when I count my hurts. There are people who have lost so much more than me or who have faced the most God-awful things. When I think of them, I feel I have no right to complain. When I hug my children each night, I have no right to complain. When I look at the man I love - and see how much he loves me - I have no right to complain. When I look at the food on my table, the roof over my head, the fruits of my labor, the photos of shirtless Hugh Jackman on the intertubes (I can only be serious for so long, folks), I have no right to complain. All in all, I am richly blessed. I have more than I deserve. I know that. And I'm grateful.

So what's the problem? Whatever crosses we bear - whether big or small in the grand scheme of things - weigh on us. I let those weights bog me down for a long time. That's why I don't write much anymore. I usually free my dysfunction by writing about it in some form or fashion. I want to write about it because - as Lamott says - we all have the right to our own stories.We have the right to write honestly.

But (sigh, there's always a "but") there are reasons I have not freed the muse, who I fear will blab my story all over the place once unleashed.

One. I don't want to seem ungrateful for what I have, which we've already ascertained is more than I deserve. Two, I don't know that what I have to say is remotely interesting to anyone else (are you even still reading? You deserve a donut). And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I don't want to hurt others who are characters in my life story. Life offers enough sharp blows without me adding to them.

Plus, I don't know that I am able to express myself in a way that would even make anyone understand. There is no "bazinga" moment in this story. It's not that cut and dry. It's muddled and cloudy and messy. In other words, it's life.

That's really the crux of my issue. As a writer, I want so desperately for people to understand. I can't bear it when they don't. I can't. It hurts me when you don't understand or misinterpret me. It's nearly unbearable.

I don't know why I'm made this way, but I feel I have this obligation to try to get you to understand anyway - even when you refuse to; even when you don't care; even, or especially when, you have it all wrong.

Or - and whew, this is tough - I have to find a way to let it go; to accept that you don't, and never will, understand or like my story the way I write it.

That's hard, but I think that's what I have to do. We all bring different experiences to the stories we read,  the lives we lead.

Today, I am writing this rambling, vague, sucktastically bad narrative about a story you don't know and don't understand, in my first honest effort to let some things go that I can't control. To enjoy the good in life. To free to the muse. To write badly, if that's what I need. To feel the waves smack me around a bit. To remind me I'm still here.