Last week I was listening to a podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love” and “Big Magic,” among other wonderful books. She was speaking to Glennon Doyle Melton from Momastery, and asked her to provide a benediction to all those looking to exercise their creative side.
“Show up before you’re ready,” Melton said. And my heart stopped.
I heard those words and thought about all the times I’d decided not to do something because I “wasn’t ready.” Submit my work for awards. Write a novel. Try a new activity.
Two days and one difficult conversation (it went well, not at all worth my concern) later, Matt took the family to a roller derby bout. It was the first for both of us, and we were quickly shouting and clapping along with the rest of the audience, shrieking whenever a skater took a particularly hard hit or fall, and cheering when a jammer made her way through a tough pack to score.
And I knew.
In my life, this is the second thing that has hit me like a bolt of lightning. The first was my first college journalism class. I took a single class and BOOM. Yes. It was what I had been waiting for.
Watching those women–many of whom were my age, and most were sturdily built. Not good for volleyball, maybe, but strong and fast and sure.
BOOM. Yes. This is what I’ve been waiting for.
So in March, I will join the Dockyard Derby Dames and explore a whole new world! A world of athleticism and team sports and competition. A world of inclusion and camaraderie and diversity. A world where I get to be a little bit badass.
I’m profoundly not ready, but I’m showing up.
It’s hard to know where to start.
Before election night, I believed, in my soul, that Hillary Clinton would win. I felt smug, ready to accept victory, glowing with pride in my democratic nation and alive with the spark of knowing that I had helped elect the first woman president.
It never entered my mind that one day I would be talking to my son about President Trump.
I went to bed early on election night, wanting to bypass the stress of watching the “too early to call” races be debated on CNN. I was a little upset to miss the historic victory speech, but figured I could stream it the next morning.
I woke up at 3 a.m., and thought about checking the results, but a little doubt crept in. What if it didn’t go the way I thought, I pondered, sleepily uneasy. Better to wait for the alarm.
At 5 a.m., I snagged my iPad and saw a news alert from Buzzfeed: Donald Trump elected President of the United States. Ha ha, I thought, and punched in the first news website I could think of: CNN.
The rest of the morning was a silent, solemn blur. It took me twice as long to get ready as I tried to understand. It made me twice as angry that my teen forgot to fold the laundry I’d asked him to. I felt twice as sorry for myself as I got ready for a meeting.
It’s not about the presidency, although I’m worried for our nation’s minorities, the gay community, the Black Lives Matter movement, the safety of Muslims in America, and what happens to women’s rights. We survived Nixon. We’ll survive this.
It’s about not knowing that it would happen. Not being able to see it. About half of our country being so afraid, so alienated from the change around them, that “grab them by the pussy” (emphasis on “grab,” not “pussy”) becomes no big deal. That they were willing to turn back the clock on civil rights, and turn their backs on civil discussion.
It’s about a media who overwhelmingly and (over) confidently predicted the opposite would happen. Who told story after story about civil rights and sexual assault, and how America would be better under President (Hillary) Clinton. How did they get it so wrong? What stories from middle America were going untold? Unheard?
It’s about the debate that never happened, giving us an opportunity to come together. How long have voices been silenced? And how do we start talking–and listening–while still moving forward with all the things that scared those individuals? How do we have an intelligent discussion about moving our country to the center–not the extreme right or left–while still saying we won’t stand for anything but equality for all of our citizens, and respect for our entire Constitution?
It’s about my aunt’s social media post, showing Hillary Clinton with a plastic bag superimposed over her face, captioned “Hillary supporters should try the plastic bag challenge.” It’s about my asking her if she wanted me to die, and her giving the bully’s defense: It was only a joke. And that I was putting words in her mouth “like a true Democrat,” and she would never apologize.
It’s about the word “queer” starting to show up in my sister’s social media feed. And how I’m having to pull back from thoughts of hatred, of black poison revenge, of anger and all the emotions I work hard not to act on.
It’s about not seeing the social media posts about how hopeful people are for the future under the candidate they elected.
It’s about not knowing exactly how to move forward and contribute to a positive future for my country.
Tomorrow the alarm will go off, the sun will rise, and my life will go on. Millions of children will laugh, and the planet will spin on its axis.
And we’ll find a way forward. Together.
My husband used to work nights. It was a long, sad time where I’d go days without seeing my favorite person, and spend my nights snuggling an old blanket instead of a warm body.
But you live, you learn, you cope. I started to get used to falling asleep on my own, dealing with issues on my own and basically reverting–somewhat–back to life as a singleton (with the benefit of seeing my guy a couple days a week).
However, some things you can never get used to. Or predict. One night, just before he switched back to days and returned to our lives, our pup Lulu started barking at around 11:30 p.m. She’s a good guard dog; she’ll bark if she’s disturbed. The routine is to remove the barricade keeping the dogs upstairs so that I could whisper, “Go get it!” She’ll run around downstairs, checking that nothing is there, and come back up to go back to sleep. Great system.
Except this night.
This particular night, a giant black shape flew at my face as I moved the barriers. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so all I could make out was the black blur.
It was a BAT. IN MY HOUSE. That’s how I learned that bats are cute outside, but TERRIFYING when they’re flapping around your house like a giant moth and you realize they’ve been flapping around like a giant moth for HOURS.
It didn’t take me long to understand that the whole time I’d been peacefully sleeping, probably snoring, mouth wide open, the bat had been flying–and maybe pooping–around my house. In any room. It could have landed on my head and crawled around my face for all I knew. (As they do. Probably. I dunno.)
So, yeah. Terror.
I did the only think I could do: I opened the front door and stood there. I couldn’t enter the house while the bat was in it, I couldn’t cross its flight path from the dining room to the TV room to open the giant sliding glass door (where it probably got in) and if I lost sight of it I’d probably have to burn the house down.
Luckily, the bat was equally having none of it, and after a few seconds flew right out the front door. Leaving me to run upstairs, turn on all the lights and sit cross-legged on my bed trembling for a half hour while I got up the courage to check for any more bats.
As it turns out, on warm summer nights baby bats can confuse the hot air coming out of an open window with a potential snack. They fly in, we close the windows and then they’re stuck.
Just flapping around.
Crawling on our faces.
I have a thing about plants. (Hear me out, this will relate to my 3+ year absence from blogging.)
I love plants. I love planting seeds, and watching them sprout. I love harvesting fruit and vegetables from my own garden, and planning meals with things I grew. I love meticulously caring for my plants, weeding and repotting, and otherwise being in the garden surrounded by nature.
Except that I don’t. Those of you who know me know that as soon as I got past the “planting seeds and watching them sprout” part of the previous paragraph, I was full of shit. Planting seeds? Yes. Caring for seedlings? Yes. The rest? Bunk, pure and simple.
Once a plant sprouts, I rarely know what to do for it. How much do I water it? Why is it drooping, yellow or spotty? Must need sun/water/serenading. WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME, PLANT? I GAVE YOU EVERYTHING!
So at that point, I decide to teach the plant a lesson. I ignore it. It gets droopier/yellower/spottier. I start to feel bad, which really kicks my “avoid the problem” instincts into high gear. Eventually, I’m avoiding the room that the plant is in altogether. I become selectively blind to my own household. And finally, I take the dried-out husk of a plant that I have ignored to death, and drop it in the trash.
Blogging became my plant. I dipped a toe in the world of social media and blogging, learned just enough to be dangerous, stopped doing it for fun and immediately hated every second of it. So I ignored it. I became selectively forgetful.
Then I got busy and became actually forgetful. Metaphorically, I dropped my blog in the trash.
Until recently, when, in a conversation with some coworkers, I remembered. I have a blog! With a weird name! From Gilmore Girls! So I read it and remembered: Hey, I can be funny on the internet (sometimes!) (so my friends tell me!)!
And then a friend did something truly inspirational: She had a health scare and committed herself to turning her life around. She started using her blog to share her accountability to losing weight and becoming healthier. It took me back to my first blog (not this one, sadly) and how I used it to chronicle my health and weight loss before my wedding. And I thought: I want to do that again.
And I realized: I can! (Maybe not the blogging about weight loss thing, but certainly blogging.)
So here I am, as sporadic, well-meaning and without intention as ever. Interwebs, this post is a new seed. Let’s see what happens.
I’ve got a funny process for decision-making.
I am a champion hem/haw-er. I read reviews, I get advice, I test out scenarios on unsuspecting friends. I try everything on. I take pictures, create Excel spreadsheets and read reference tomes.
I have free memberships to just about every single self-help and DIY website out there.
I read blogs, I look on Angie’s List, and trust reviews on Amazon.com more than I trust my own sister.
Then, at the most unexpected times, I’ll make the decision.
I decided to adopt a puppy one rainy Thursday morning at work after three years of thinking on it. I decided to go head and buy the Fitbit Flex during an unrelated brainstorming session with a coworker, after spending two weeks carefully combing the internet for pedometer reviews and technological options. I decided to enter the real estate market on a sunny Saturday in April while a friend was in town, despite spending the better part of a decade wholeheartedly against buying a house. I decided to marry my husband on a Saturday morning, six months after meeting him and a solid five years before the thought even entered his mind, but that’s another story.
As long as my decision-making process is, the decision always comes like lighting, fast and sure. (And sometimes with scorched-earth consequences … see what I did there?) My decisions are the mental equivalent of dropping the mic. Boom. My decisions always walk away from the explosion without looking back. YOLO.
The downside, of course, is the all-consuming research. (Honestly, Miller, can’t you just pick a pedometer and go with it? That $35-$100 isn’t exactly going to fracture the space-time continuum.) The upside is that once I make my decisions, I am 10,000% convinced they’re the correct ones. So while my husband experienced a short but acute period of buyer’s remorse once we were in escrow, I sailed through with certainty.
So when I looked around one day, and decided that my house was full of clutter, all I needed was a plan.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sorting through closets for clothes, sheets, duvets, towels and other things that are too small, too big, too worn out or too uncomfortable to stay. Those will go to Goodwill, but not until I’ve thoroughly documented each item for tax purposes.
I’ll be meticulously combing through my 3+ bookcases, taking down titles, conditions and ISBN numbers. The goal is to keep one bookcase of sentimental goodies, and sell the rest online to enhance my eBook library. (Honestly, I haven’t read a physical book in over a year. It’s time, people.)
I’ll be ruthlessly attacking the “home office,” choosing an appropriate number of pens to keep on hand (I’m pretty sure it’s not “two shoeboxes full,” which is what I’m currently dealing with), getting rid of junk mail and the 32 different types of resume paper I’ve somehow collected, and saying goodbye to my collection of novelty post-its.
Time to empty that backpack!
Interwebs, I have developed a theory. It goes something like this:
The Universe, benevolent and all-knowing, gave me exactly 33 years to get my act together. To deal with emotional tangles, to develop healthier habits, to treat myself more kindly and generally accept myself enough to have a fantastic time in this life.
After 33 years, it staged an intervention. I developed adult acne (WHAT?!). I started having anxiety attacks. I noticed intolerances to food that had always treated me kindly. I lost my temper more, and started unnecessary arguments with my loving and patient husband over impossible housework standards I’d secretly imposed on myself.
In short, I was very upset that I hadn’t magically turned into a combination of Jillian Michaels, Oprah Winfrey, Emma Stone, Martha Stewart and Dorothy Parker.
It was not a pleasant realization.
After shutting myself in the bathroom on New Year’s Eve–a night where I was literally surrounded by some of my very favorite people on this planet and should have been over-the-moon happy–with a massive anxiety attack, I decided to make a change.
I started seeing a wonderful counselor, who helped me see that I’d stopped differentiating between the things I COULD do and the things I thought I SHOULD do. In fact, she helped me realize that SHOULD is a terrible word that I needed to ban from my internal monologue altogether.
I started listening to my body, to those times when it would let me know–in no uncertain terms–that a particular foodstuff was unappreciated. I said goodbye to things like milk, cream, cheesy foods, sodas, large helpings of desserts and pretty much everything on the candy aisle at Rite Aid. I learned about almond milk, soy lattes and high-quality single serving packs of nut butters.
I started confronting the voice that told me I have terrible skin, am too fat, lazy and slovenly. Although I’ve never been burdened with low self esteem, that wretched voice loaded me up with a ton of unnecessary guilt. When I started arguing with it (hey, I’ve got some damn fine skin that covers my bones well, thankyouverymuch; my house is never going to be on Hoarders; and I’m altogether healthy if pleasantly plump like a Renaissance painting), it freed up the emotional space where the guilt used to live. Now I’ve got much more emotional square footage for feeling good. I use it for listening to Pandora on Friday mornings while sipping the World’s Biggest Soy Latte and planning a new garden bed on the side of my house. Things like that.
So no more, “I should be exercising.” Now it sounds like, “What can I do RIGHT NOW that will make me feel good?” Sometimes that’s a walk, or time spent in my kitchen window herb garden. Sometimes it’s quality time with Kevin Bacon and “The Following.” Sometimes it’s an afternoon in a hammock. (Funny enough, it’s never spending 30 minutes berating myself for who I’m not!)
I started looking for opportunities to feel more fulfilled, intellectually. I started volunteering at my alma mater, Washington State University, by giving workshops once a semester to the student journalists there (thanks Candace!). I am looking at online programs where I can earn a Master’s Degree through work.
I found out, to my complete shock, that I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert. I adore being around people and socializing, but need quiet time alone to recharge my batteries.
What I’m saying is that 34 is the year of NO MORE BULLSHIT. No more excuses, no more feeling like crap, no more self-induced guilt trips. I’m looking at quality of life, people, and I’m going to get it. The key is–and I’ve seen friends come to the same conclusion in recent years; it hits like a sack of bricks–figuring out what quality of life looks like for ME. Not for my parents, or my friends, or society, or celebrities, or my husband.
So simple. So difficult to land on.
It’s time to get it right; to move on.
In the words of my homie, Henry David Thoreau: “I went to the woods* because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not, when I had come to die, Discover that I had not lived.”
It just took me 33 years to get there. 🙂
*Still hate the woods. Will not be going to the woods. I mean, bugs and dirt, people. BUGS AND DIRT. And that’s just for starters.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.