Grief Into Action, Part Two – BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Silence is the tool of the oppressor.

This is a thought I had some years ago as I dug through the wreckage of my heart and soul and that was because the people who hurt and oppressed me demanded my silence more than anything. They lied to me and said if I was silent they would stop hurting me, and that if I was silent I wouldn’t be hurt anymore. But the damage was done and they didn’t care to repair the damage they caused. They were the ones who walked away from me and left me to deal with everything up to and including death and the grief that followed it alone.

During the last few years, I realized how much shame and guilt I felt for things I didn’t do wrong. But that shame and guilt kept from doing the things I should have done so one set of shame and guilt has been replaced by another. Now some may say I shouldn’t feel shame and guilt over being driven into silence by fear and grief and pain, but I feel shame and guilt for my silence. I know how deep a hole inside yourself shame and guilt can dig so I remember what my late father always used to tell me, “The easiest way to get out of a hole is to quit digging and start climbing.”

Digging yourself out of a hole is not going to be a popular decision with some people, whether they be stranger or someone you know. Having you out of sight and silent keeps them from dealing with their own feelings of contempt, cruelty, and lack of compassion. Being silent keeps people from facing their own failures and accepting responsibility for them. But their feelings are not yours to deal with. And another thought I had in regard to this recently was this: no one is responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass for them. If someone has their head jammed up their ass and is refusing to take it out, just walk away from them.

If anyone reading this feels like I’m backing them up against a wall, or is feeling uncomfortable, or maybe even feeling pricks of guilt, shame, or remorse, those are your feelings to deal with, no one else’s. Your discomfort means NOTHING in the face of so many people grieving in pain. My feelings of shame and guilt mean nothing in the face of those grieving in pain but I will not drive anyone into silence simply because I’m feeling things that are painful, such as shame and guilt. Instead, I will try and turn my feelings into a plan of action to try and save lives and keep other people from going through the absolute hell twenty-one families in Uvalde, Texas along with thousands of other families in this country whose grief has roared back to life with a terrible vengeance.

To those of you reading this who have felt helpless and full of fear and anxiety over speaking out against the oppressors of this world both near and far from you, I understand your feeling and where they come from. I want to tell you what my father used to tell me: you are so much stronger than you will ever realize. I want to say that you have the courage and strength to break your silence and stand and fight for what’s right and true in this world. I want to say your compassion, empathy, kindness, and love for others are your greatest strengths.

When I first started blogging again recently and became active on social media I had a fear to work through: the fear that I would have to deal with someone coming at me and trying to silence me. But as I continue to break my silence and work through the thoughts and feelings that come with that, my fear had begun to recede. And it continues to recede every single day I write and live my life. Breaking my silence is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. And I know the day will come when someone will try to come at me over something I say here or elsewhere. But I know I can choose how to respond, from a simple ‘agree to disagree’ to a blunt ‘fuck off’, or silence and block, the choice is mine. And the choice is yours, too.

To all of us feeling shame and guilt over the decades of active-shooter drills for our children and teachers, let’s tell the truth about what these do and don’t do. Break the silence around this horror and let’s work our asses off to end the need for these types of drills and give future generations of children a safe environment to live and learn in. Let’s break our silence on gun control legislation and speak out about it even if someone tells not to. Keep talking, and don’t stop talking. And let’s turn grief into action once and for all.

BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Breaking Radio Silence – Strength Isn’t Cruelty

I was driving along yesterday and got to thinking this: being mean or cruel to someone doesn’t make them stronger. My late father in his manic phases, and especially after he had his stroke and part of his brain got fried, said things to me that I won’t repeat to anyone. The gist of his tirades against me was that I wasn’t ‘strong enough’ or ‘mean enough’ to deal with what life was going to throw at me or had thrown at me. At the time, I just sat and took his shit because I didn’t want to escalate his temper any worse than it already was. And sometimes he apologized for what he said and I wrote a lot of it off to fried brain-circuitry. But hearing from him that I was weak, stupid, and not strong enough to deal with the world like a so-called ‘normal’ person hurt like hell.

This got me thinking about all the shit people have spewed at me simply because I’ve spent my life being as quiet as I can be, trying to be a good person, trying to be kind and encouraging, and most of all, trying to keep my emotions under the tightest control possible. Being treated like shit for being ‘different’, for being clumsy and awkward, fat and ugly, didn’t make me stronger. If someone thinks that silently taking shit is someone who is strong I want to tell you right here and now that’s not true. In reality, words of hate and cruelty create wounds that will never fully heal.

My mother never spoke to me like this. My mother and I were very similar in that we were both quiet and shy, awkward, and got treated like shit because of it. My mother grew up being told she was ugly and stupid and would never amount to anything. She decided to raise me differently and I’m forever grateful for that. One of the very first things I ever remember hearing from her was this, “You are a very pretty girl.” She would also compliment me on doing things well, would listen to me talk, and always wanted to spend time with me. My mother wasn’t one to say ‘I love you’ very often and she wasn’t very affectionate but I understood she wasn’t raised to say to those words or to be affectionate. But she spoke the truth so when she complimented me or spoke to me with encouragement, I knew she meant every word. Even though it’s been twenty years since she died, I miss more than ever sometimes. I miss her because she knew strength didn’t come from cruelty, but from love even if she wasn’t one to say the word ‘love’ very often.

No one really wanted to be around my mother when she got sick with cancer. No one wanted to deal with the ugly reality she lived with every single freaking day of the last seven years of her life. I tried my best to be there for her in every way I could. I doctored second-degree radiation burns. I cut her hair when it started falling out. I let her talk about how awful cancer was. And I sat beside her in a darkened bedroom willing her to stay alive as she battled the depression that was trying to kill her. And I did my best to support her when she sought help for that depression. So when the tumor in her brain robbed her of her ability to speak at the end of her life, my heart broke in a way that will never fully heal.

If I had told my mother to stay strong, to think positively at all times, and to fight no matter what, I would have destroyed my relationship with her. I would have hurt her in horrible ways and truly isolated her. Instead, I worked to create an environment where she could let her guard down, talk shit when she needed to, and just know that I would be there for her no matter how bad it got.

And my mother wasn’t perfect and neither am I, and both of us (if she were alive she’d be saying this right along with me here) would be the first to tell you we weren’t perfect. And we didn’t try to be. We tried to just keep our emotional shit together and not be a burden on anyone. We tried to do what needed to be done and be there for people when we could. Yet we both felt like that was never good enough and we dealt with that in our own silent way.

My mother broke her silence when she sought help for the depression that tried to kill her. And I’m breaking my silence by telling her story alongside my own. One big part of that is this: talking to someone in way that’s cruel, insensitive, and ugly doesn’t make someone stronger. It just drives them into silence more often than not and makes them feel like they’ll never be good enough for anyone. My mother never made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for her, or that I couldn’t do anything right at all. I hope that she knew I felt the same way about her.

If someone ever tried to talk cruel to me in order to ‘strengthen’ me I’d say one thing to them: “Go fuck yourself.” Then I’d walk away and leave them stewing in their own shit. And if anyone reading this has ever talked shit to someone thinking that’s going to toughen then up, stop doing that and ask yourself why you feel justified in doing that. You might not like the answers, but they’re yours to deal with, not mine. I’ve always found my strength without cruelty.

Breaking Radio Silence – Yet Another Realization

As you’ll read in ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, the first part of the book is a series of realizations as I call them. These realizations are thoughts that helped me see things in ways I needed to in addition to lifting weights of shame and guilt I had no business carrying around in the first place. But to my surprise, it seems I still have realizations coming to me.

My newest realization came from a memory that surfaced when I was dropping off some passengers about a week ago at a hotel across from a restaurant that was the scene of a memory that surfaced as I looked right at the site (the restaurant where my memory happened was razed to the ground and a new restaurant is being built on the site). I’m not going into any detail about what happened but the conclusion I came to as I worked through the emotions of that memory was this:

My purpose in life is NOT to help someone pull their head out of their ass, nor is that the purpose of anyone else in life. If someone has their head jammed up their ass, it’s their responsibility to pull it out.

For the vast majority of my life, I felt one of my biggest reasons for existing was to manage people’s moods around me. I felt like I had to do everything in my power not to piss people off, or burden them with my bullshit, and worse, not let my control slip to where I came off as an opinionated selfish, know-it-all bitch. That was quite a burden I placed on myself though a lot of that was placed on me by being a middle-child because most middle children become ‘managers’ pretty early on in life. It’s like the expectation of middle children is that we’re the responsible ones who won’t cause trouble for anyone. For me, I felt like I couldn’t be ‘normal’, that I couldn’t be goofy, or do stupid shit, or worse, get into a bit of trouble. I had to deal with people coming to me wringing their hands telling me I shouldn’t do this or that because I was too damn fragile or some bullshit like that.

I know I’m not fragile, and anyone who comes at me wringing their hands and telling me not to do something is wrong. And if someone is in a shitty mood and unwilling to work through it, or put it aside for a while until they can work on it later, I don’t need to walk on eggshells around them. And I sure as hell don’t need to feel like shit about myself if I’m not in a shitty mood when someone else is.

Because I have spent so damn much of my life trying to contain my moods both good and bad. Yes, I’ve held back good moods because I’ve been in too many situations where that made me stand out like a bloody wounded thumb. I felt like I had to try and manage someone out of their shitty mood and now I realize that’s not my damn responsibility. One of the biggest things I’ve been working on for the last few years is trying my best to work through my feelings and personal shit. I have not always succeeded but NO ONE does this perfectly. And I will NOT let anyone make me feel like I have to do anything perfectly when perfection is only something that happens for a brief moment in time.

On that day I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, everyone with me was mired in their own shit and unwilling to put it aside for me. For the longest time, I thought I was wrong to think they should have put their personal shit aside for me and that I wasn’t good enough for anyone to do that for me. Or at least I used to think that but now I don’t. If someone doesn’t want to be around me all they have to do is find their tits or balls and come right out and tell me. Trust me, I won’t make any fuss over it. I’ll just say okay and walk away and be alone. I can be on my own just fine and be happy in the process. But here’s a revelation for you: I like being around people. I actually like talking with people and being in social situations. I just don’t like it when people are projecting their shit onto me and other people and expecting me and other people to just suck it up and deal with it.

And if I had said anything about being miserable on that day years ago, it wouldn’t have gone well. The situation would have blown up in my face and I would been raged at or guilt-tripped into thinking my timing sucked. In my experience, when people get called out on their shit they dig in. I don’t regret staying silent back then but now… I’ll stand by my realization: I’m not responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass. And if someone doesn’t want to be around me, all they have to do is say so. And if anyone reading this has dug in instead of listening to someone calling them out on their shit, ask yourself why.

Breaking Radio Silence – Writing About the Dead

For most of my life, a big thing in my life was being told not to speak ill of the dead. When I was a kid I thought that was because if you talked smack about dead people they’d come back and haunt you. As an adult, I realize that if the dead have a problem with how I talk about them now, they know where I’m at.

I wonder if that belief in not talking ill of the dead is because the dead can’t defend themselves. I don’t buy that argument because I wasn’t aware every discussion about the dead was supposed to be a group debate session. Now I realize this argument is just to shut people up in talking about things they have every right to talk about.

I’m going to hang myself out here with an opinion that might not be very popular: the dead don’t need their legacy preserved without honesty. A lot of people keep things to themselves because they don’t want to hurt people’s perceptions of their long-gone loved ones. I will respect anyone’s decision whether or not to talk about someone who’s dead but I don’t feel you have to venerate the dead for the rest of eternity either.

As I begin to write my book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, I will be talking about the dead and some of what I write might not be ‘nice’. When it comes to my parents they would be the first people to tell you they weren’t perfect. They never claimed to be and even after they’d gotten pissed off and raged hard, they were able to apologize when they’d been wrong and said and done things they shouldn’t have. NO ONE IS PERFECT (I put that in all-caps here to make a point) so I don’t see any need to treat people as perfect just because they’re dead and gone.

My mother has been gone for twenty years so I’ve had twenty years to live without her. I’ve had to learn to live with memories and memory is a tricky thing because you want to remember good things but you also get the bad stuff with that. My father once said he chose to remember the good because the bad was always there. And he was right on the mark with that so that’s why I will talk about the bad stuff, the painful stuff, the stuff that’s taken me years to put into words. And if this makes someone uncomfortable, that’s on them and not me.

Many years ago, I heard people say that I was too comfortable with death. No, I wasn’t ‘comfortable’ at all. I just had to learn how to talk about it because I was watching it slowly advance on my mother first, then my father. And in death there’s a fair amount of paperwork involved so there’s that to deal with and if talking about that makes people uncomfortable then that’s on them.

Not long after my mother got her cancer diagnosis, my parents asked me to sit and talk with them about what to do when my mom died. I got up and walked out of the room. The thought of death slammed into me I couldn’t think or speak at that moment, but I eventually bucked up and started having those conversations with my mother and father. There was no comfort in those talks at all. They were just about working out the details that were going to need to be taken care of. And again, if anyone has a problem with that now, I’ll say to them like I should have said back then: go fuck yourself. My parents trusted me to take care of things for them because they knew how good I was at keeping my shit together and that I’d found the guts to face those damn details and get things done the way they wanted to. I’m not talking about this with pride, but I will not talk about it with shame or guilt either.

I know it might be hard for people to understand grief and pain when they haven’t experienced it themselves. It’s not an experience I wish on anyone though I know most people will have to go through it at some point in their lifetimes. If you haven’t gone through it, don’t judge people who have. If you have to, just walk out of the room until you can deal with it. My parents didn’t hold that walk-out against me in any way. They told me they’d understood why I had done that and knew that I would come and talk to them when I was ready. I talked to them because I knew that’s what they wanted me to do, and that they believed in me to shoulder the responsibility they were giving me.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in the process of working this book project here is feeling shame and guilt for things that I didn’t do wrong. I took on too much bullshit and insecurity from people I never should have. Every single person deals with things in their own way and anyone who insists on conformity in dealing with shit is an asshole. For in the end, there really isn’t any control over things. You just deal with them as they come and work through the fallout in the years after.

Conversations With My Mother Through Time

“You are not required to carry the pain of your mother.” ~unknown

I saw this online a few days ago and the explanation is that you don’t have to carry the pain of your mother as she projected it onto you. This is about people who project their crap onto others without dealing with it. My mother did her best not to do that and I’m forever grateful for that. But if I could have taken away any of her pain and carried with me for the rest of my life, I would have done so without a second’s hesitation.

It will be twenty years ago this October since my mother died and not a day has gone by since that I haven’t thought of her in some way. Recently, I have begun to feel like I’m having a conversation with my mom as I begin to write my book, ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ and other things I’m writing, too. I feel like she would understand better than anyone why I’m writing and what it means to me. And I like to think she’d have a bit of fun with me looking back on the good times we had together.

My mom was raised in an extremely conservative old-school Catholic home with a violent alcoholic father and a religious fanatic mother. I think my grandmother clung so tightly to religion to deal with being married and dependent on an alcoholic but it wasn’t the right way to raise children. My mother grew up thinking she was ugly and stupid and was going to Hell no matter what she did or didn’t do. My mother wasn’t ugly, and she wasn’t stupid, and she definitely wasn’t going to Hell because my mom did the right thing more often than not. Sometimes she paid one hell of a price for her decisions, but she knew how to persevere and survive.

My mother used to talk about the possibility of not living to a ripe old age. Looking back, I wonder if she had some type of premonition that she wasn’t going to make it, especially after her breast cancer diagnosis. If so, that was a hell of a burden to live with and one I suspect she did. It’s hell to think about, and much more difficult than anyone can imagine, to talk about being a given a glimpse of a future cut short.

In fact, one morning not long after my mom got her cancer diagnosis I was sitting outside on the back patio while she fussed with her plants. She asked me why I was outside with her when I could be doing anything else. I said this in reply, “Do I have to tell you exactly why I’m out here?” And she said no and let it drop. Because if she asked for an answer it would have been this, “I think you and I know you’re living on borrowed time and I want to make the most of the time I have with you.” That is a decision I have never, ever regretted despite the painful memories I carry because of it.

Previously I talked about my mother’s ‘rebellion’ back in the 1980’s and how she brought me along for the ride. It was then that we began to really talk to each other about anything we could. But what that time did was lay a foundation for the last seven years of her life when I could give her a space to talk freely. Because when she was first diagnosed with cancer so many people told her to be strong and think positive and she’d be cured. That is complete and total fucking bullshit. It’s hard as hell to fight when you’re exhausted all the damn time and to be positive when Death is staring you in the face. I realized this early-on so when we were alone, I made it totally clear to her she could let it rip and bitch and complain all she wanted to. It was a pain I willingly took on as best as I could though she I don’t think she thought of it that way.

I know if she had lived my life would have taken a very different path. I might not have been the silent and broken-down person afraid of her own shadow but I also might have had a lot of other shit to deal with. I might have gotten into something that would eventually have gone to Hell like a shitty marriage for example. Instead, I persevered through my silence like she did but have broken my silence in my own way as she did, too. Grief never ends. It ebbs and flows, and sometimes it goes off inside you like a ‘grief bomb’ as my father called it. For me, grief over the years has given me an ability to see things in new and different ways and be able to put those things into words. This is where the conversation with my mother has come from and when I write about my mother, I feel like I’m talking to her again. Her responses are memories, thoughts, and feelings I’ll never forget. And because of that, my conversation with my mom will never end.

Breaking Radio Silence – Lost and Found

“Well, I’m a little hot wired, but I’m feeling OK
And I got a little lost down along the way

Well, I’m just around the corner ’til the light of day, yeah”

‘Light of Day’

(written by Bruce Springsteen and performed by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts)

Six years this month I quit my last call-center job. At the time, I was in a world of shit pain-wise as I had two disks in my lower back that were either bulging or compressing (I didn’t have the time or money to get them looked at because I had such shitty insurance with this job, which was ironic considering this was a health insurance company). And I honestly don’t think they would have made any accommodations to help me (like springing for an ergonomic work set up because I worked at home) because they were very good at saying ‘no’ more than ‘yes’.

On my last day, which was just driving my computer equipment back to the office and out-processing, I blasted the song ‘Light of Day’ by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on the way in and on the way out. And it was a very cloudy and rainy day so that song was more wishful thinking on my part. But the lyrics were so true though I had no idea just how much until now.

In the first month after I left that job, I just focused on healing and getting my pain down to a level that didn’t make me want to scream. Then I got a gig delivering food and I discovered I liked gig work. Looking back, I know I could have researched gig work better and handled things better but in EXPLANATION AND NOT DEFENSE (I put that in all caps to make my point here), I had no confidence in myself to change my life as radically as I wanted to.

Why? Because I felt like if I did something I liked someone would come along and shit all over it and try to bury me in their shit. Back then, I was that fucked up and it’s taken me six years to repair the damage of that line of thinking. I have kept so much of my life to myself because I don’t want to hear someone pontificating about something they haven’t done. I like to think if someone comes at me like that now I’ll either be nice and walk away or tell them to fuck off with their ignorant toxic-waste bullshit.

One thing I’ve gained in the last six years is something no one can take from me: inner peace. I define ‘inner peace’ as accepting I’m as flawed as every single person on this planet, that I have the right to pursue things I love to do, and that I have to the right to my thoughts and feelings no matter what they are. Once I began to accept these things as truth, things got better for me. I’m still busted down to almost nothing but I can see where I can move forward.

‘Things can’t worse so they gotta get better’ (from ‘Light of Day’)

This line is so true. My anxiety-fueled mind likes to tell me all the bad things that can happen so I have to counter that with plans to deal with those things if they happen. I think you can only plan for so much because as my father used to say, you can’t live your life as if you always listening for the elephant to come charging up behind you to stomp you into a puddle of shit. I think a lot of people spend too much time thinking like that because of high-stress situations and people riding other people for no damn good reason other than be walking, talking assholes.

All my life I’d been told I was weak and unable to do anything really hard. That was a complete lie because when the shit came down, every single person whoever told me that cut and ran and left me to deal with all the shit. And I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself because I honestly thought no one gave a shit about them. But I give a shit about them, and I give a shit about other people who have felt all alone in this world like I have. My life and my writing are not an act of revenge. They’re about healing.

This line of thinking from that ‘Light of Day’ day six years ago has led to the point I’m at now. I’m writing the ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ book, section by section, chapter by chapter. And none of it has been deleted in a fit of rage and sadness like previous attempts. I have finally hit the point in my life where I can write about it.

And this is what I was driving to six years ago though I didn’t’ know I just had to get a little lost along the way.

Breaking Radio Silence: Where Did My Words Go?

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I know last week’s blog entry promised more content but words and other things got in the way. Or better put: just because I have the words doesn’t mean I can write them down.

Being a writer means you’re a bit crazy in the head. Writers have running monologues about all kinds of stuff, stories and characters running around in their heads in search of a story to be put into, and then there’s all the other practical stuff in life that has to be taken care of at the same time.

The day before I wrote that blog entry I’d had a pretty intense weekend trying to put into words something that’s been eating at me for a long time. Once I found the words for this I felt better even as I’ve dancing around the thought of whether or not to talk about it publicly. I’ve decided to start talking about it because it’s definitely not a one-shot, one-post kind of thought.

The thought is this: what if my writing is a barrier that keeps people away from me?

Now why would I think that, you ask.

Looking back over my life as much I have over the last six years has made me see where I think my pursuit of writing created problems for me. Even though I have worked my ass off since I was ten years old not to be in anyone’s face about my writing like my late father was, that wasn’t good enough for some people in my life at times.

In my twenties, when I was living at home helping to take care of my mom as she was dying of cancer, my parents came right out and told me not to say anything to anyone who was giving them shit for letting me live at home rent-free and write. In those years, my parents paid my writing group dues and conference and workshop fees in addition to making sure I had time to write. I think the issue back then was if I was off doing something writing-related or God-forbid writing instead of being at everyone else’s beck-and-call, then I was a freeloading stuck-up bitch. I wasn’t doing anything else in my free time like going out and partying or dating. Back then, I thought I could keep my writing on the down-low but I knew it wasn’t popular with some people (and no, I’m not going to name-and-shame because this isn’t about anyone else here but me).

My parents never, ever made any demand on me to stay and help them out. Just the opposite really- they thanked me for everything I did and made sure I took time for myself. If I had wanted to leave and strike out on my own they would have done everything they could to support me and told me they would handle things on their own. I have never forgotten that and I’m forever grateful for that. But as I look back I have come to realize one thing about the shit-talkers as I now refer to them: they honestly didn’t give a genuine shit about me or my own life and goals. They had no intention of following through on the fear I had that my relationship with my parents would be destroyed by people telling them I was only staying and helping out as much as I did just to be seen as a martyr. That was the farthest thing from the truth and I honestly tried not to come off that way but in some people’s eyes I failed spectacularly at that.

But if my writing is a barrier to people not wanting to have any kind of relationship with me that’s on them. It’s taken me a long time to realize I can’t do someone’s thinking or feeling for them, nor am I the person to pull their head out of their asses when they’re in the wrong. Most of all, if someone sees something I have devoted my life to because I love it as a problem, then that’s their problem and not mine.

I can’t turn off the words inside my head, or slow my brain down, or be anything other than my funky, weird-ass self and I don’t need to. Yes, I’m fucked up and different as all get-out. And I’m just as prone to making mistakes and screwing up as anyone else. But deep down I know I’m not a bad person because of that. And I certainly don’t deserve feeling like I would never be good enough or that I was damned if I do/damned if I didn’t no matter what I did.

My writing and my words are not a barrier I have put up to the world. Actually, I feel like they’re an opening into who I really am. If you want to get to know me, you can start by reading my writing. Because with my writing, and unlike in real-life, I don’t hold myself back.

So where are my words?

Right here for all the world to see. Do what you will with them as I’ll do what I will with them in return.

Breaking Radio Silence: Little By Little

If I had to tell anyone how anything gets written I would say little by little. This was something I needed to remind myself of yet again in my life as I got knocked off track by monster fatigue which in turn shot my concentration to pieces. This in turn ramped up my anxiety and that bitch loves to run her mouth and lie her ass off to me whenever she gets an opportunity.

The big thought I had to work through was feeling like I couldn’t write at all, that I had to be doing something else though exactly what that was wasn’t clearly defined to me at all. This is an old thought I’ve dealt with all my adult life and frankly I’m sick of it. Its’ origins are in my past when I was trying to find time to write in the midst of a shit-ton of responsibilities. Back then I felt like a huge thief whenever I sat down to write and I felt even worse whenever I went to my writers’ group meetings or conferences and workshops though not from my parents (who paid my writers’ group dues, conference and workshop fees so I go to those events).

But my parents have been dead and there are no demands on my time other than my need to earn money to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly along with taking care of my dog and my cat. So why do I still feel this way? I blame imprinting on my brain that I’m having to remove like a tattoo. And that’s not easy because the imprinting is pretty deep, but also because I also have to remove a thought that taking time for what I want to do makes me a selfish bitch.

No, it doesn’t though for me writing has seen as something that is selfish and self-serving. And the worst part of that is then being told how to write by people who don’t write to begin with. How people find the confidence to spout off on stuff they have absolutely no real knowledge of is a mystery I don’t want to solve because the people who do this will never admit they have a problem in the first place.

This isn’t about talking shit back to the assholes in life past and present. This is to people who are writing or pursuing something they want to do. It’s about telling yourself often enough to imprint this on your brain that things get done little by little. Nothing comes out fully-formed and perfect. It takes a lot of work to get something to come together and anyone who says otherwise is full of shit.

I have had days where I wrote thousands of words and days where I wrote none (or deleted them all). On a good day I can average a thousand or more. The thing is, each writing project presents its’ own challenges and you have to work through those challenges in order to get things written.

For example, one big challenge with ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ is how emotionally-charged it is for me. I tried working on it over the weekend and it was like walking through a minefield. Emotions were going off hard inside me and I had to really work through them to figure out the root cause. Once I did I felt better and today I got another chapter started and another piece written outside of that chapter. All in all a good writing day in addition to this.

All my life people have told me what to do saying they know what’s best for me and that I don’t know what’s good for me. I think it was because they saw how overprotective my father was of me and also because I am a complete and utter klutz. But just because I’m a klutz doesn’t mean I’m an idiot or a weak-ass wimp. Because when the shit came down with my parents, I was the last one left standing shouldering all the responsibility. Once I realized this about myself I also realized I’m not an idiot and that my years of experience count. That experience counts more than someone’s dumb-ass bullshit to me.

I’ve never attempted or written a full-length book of non-fiction before but that doesn’t mean I can’t now. It’s not going to be easy but trust me, I know writing isn’t easy. And I don’t need anyone to sugar-coat that for me or get all over-protective and shit about it either. Most of all, I don’t need anyone storming off in a huff saying I’m rejecting their help. Unless you’ve got professional editing skills I can use later, I don’t need your help writing this.

One last thought I had over the weekend was this: I am a grown-ass middle-aged woman with nothing to lose and no need to hide any shit from the world. You’ll see this on Friday with a new blog feature I’m working on.

I know this won’t go over well with some people but my purpose in life is not to be quiet and please people with my silence. Read my words at your own peril and know this: my silence is broken.

Breaking Radio Silence – The Writing Begins

Today I officially started writing Part One of this book, ‘Breaking Radio Silence’. I’ve got a rough draft of the introduction and an outline but to get into the actual book is an accomplishment for me. Why?

First, it’s not going to be an easy book to write. The past six years were hard because of the initial work and the fact I didn’t know what I was getting into. This is why all previous attempts to write this book didn’t pan out. I had to do that work first in order to get to the stage I’m at now. But it’s not easy. It’s not easy because every time I open up this file, a lot of stuff comes up all at once.

So the lesson I’m learning here as I write this is how to navigate that massive up-flow of stuff. In the past it would almost overwhelm me and I would spend a lot of time trying to get it under control. Now that I see it for what it is I can work to get it under control and write what I need to.

And whoever said writing was easy has never written anything in their lives, or at least anything substantial or lengthy. I have never been able to figure out why someone would say writing is easy unless they’re a complete idiot, or an asshole looking to tear someone done. I think people who say writing fall into one of those two categories.

Another thing that makes writing this book hard for me is preparing to deal with the inevitable voices telling me to just get over my shit and get on with my life, no one gives a shit about my feelings in general, and that I’m looking for sympathy.

First, you don’t just get over shit. The old ways of just bottling crap up inside you and just ‘coping’ with it are ending. I tried that and it didn’t get me jack-shit in this world. Bottling my crap up just warped me worse than a galaxy being warped by the fabric of space-time itself. No one has to listen to me or read my writing. But in turn no one gets to tell me not to write or speak out.

Second, I give a shit about my own feelings. If someone else does that’s great but if I’m all alone in feeling this way I’ll survive. Personally, I think there are people that truly do care about my feelings and I’ve kept them from really showing that. That’s something I’m working through now and hope to one day be able to do with people (let them in).

Third, as my late father used to say: you can find ‘sympathy’ in the dictionary between ‘shit’ and ‘syphilis’. I’m not looking to be seen as a martyr like I’ve been accused of in the past. I’m not looking to have some absolve me of my shame and guilt because that’s no one’s responsibility.

I’m not just doing this for myself. And I’m not doing this an act of revenge. I’m doing it to try and reach people who have thought and felt like I have, and who have been through things like I have and may be trying to work through the damage and find a measure of healing. But this is my story and no one else’s.

I was out driving this weekend when I realized those old voices telling me no one cares about my feelings or wants to hear my bullshit have no impact on me anymore because of one simple response: I’ve heard all that shit before and I’m still here. Those words didn’t destroy me and they never will. They were uttered by people who honestly didn’t care about me, and I’m through wasting feelings on them. I don’t hate anyone and I never will. But I’m not going to give power to people who never knew they had it to begin with, and who never deserved it.

Please know not all of ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ will be depressing and hard to read. There will be a lot of moments in the book where I learned things that helped me heal, and lifted huge weights of shame and guilt off my shoulders that should never have been there in the first place. It’s those moments of healing that I know will ease the pain of the updraft of emotion that will probably come every time I sit down to write this book.

Breaking Radio Silence – The Forest and the Little Girl

(I know I said last week I’d tell the story of the ‘first break’ in my silence as I called it but I’ll table that for another time)

Over the last week, I began to realize there was still unexplored territory to explore in this journey of breaking my silence. The unexplored territory is the true origin story that I’m just starting to work through. It’s of a little girl, a forest, and a silence that wasn’t.

When I was in elementary school, our recess area was bordered by a patch of forest with lots of trees, thick undergrowth, and lots of room to hide. More than once, I stood there looking at it thinking how much I wanted to walk in there, sit down, and never come out. Why? Because going back into a classroom or a playground where I didn’t quite fit in wasn’t what I wanted to do.

I’ve hesitated (to say the least) to write about myself back then. I’ve been afraid of hearing people come at me and say I should just get over all that shit from back then and let it go. I’m glad we’re talking about bullying and mental health like we are now, but for me it’s still a challenge. Yet I’m up to that challenge because here I can say ‘fuck off’ to any voice inside my head that tells me to just get over shit. So I’m going to bring that little girl, aka me, back to life here for a little bit.

When I was her age, there was a park behind the houses in the subdivision we lived in at the time. And I will confess here that I rode back there on my bike and walked around it all by myself. There was a swampy pond in the middle of it but I was never afraid of being around that swampy-pond like I still am sometimes around open bodies of water (residual past-life fear I’ll go into at another time). Instead, my overactive childhood imagination kept a lookout for Swamp Thing. I’d seen the movie when I was that age and yes it’s low-budget and campy, but I loved it because Swamp Thing was the hero of the story (he was a scientist who through an accident in his lab turned into this creature that everyone feared except the heroine of the story played by one of my favorite actresses of that day Adrienne Barbeau). But what I really liked about that swampy-pond forest space was that I could hear my own thoughts and no one else’s bullying belittling bullshit like I heard so much back then.

I love nature and have always felt comfortable in a wooded area or anyplace that’s without other humans. I’ve always been more than comfortable being alone but looking back I realize it was a matter of survival. Being alone was a place where I wasn’t being looked at and laughed at, or ridiculed for being clumsy, or intelligent. Not all my childhood was that shitty but there was way too much shit then and later on that I shouldn’t have had to put up with. Yet I’ve come to realize I found a way to deal with it. And no, retreating into silence was not running away from it. No, in ways I’m just beginning to understand my retreat into silence didn’t mean I lost my voice like I’ve thought. My voice was inside me all along. Now I’m just putting it out into the world.

Back then I used to have a rebellious thought: why do all the mediocre loud-mouth bullying jerks get to speak out and shut me up? Answer: because they don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves and empathy is an act of rebellion they have to fight against because they don’t have any. No, I’m not being mean here because of this: does anyone who mouths off about someone to their face or behind their back ever really think about the consequences of their actions? Answer: no. Because if they did maybe that would have stopped them from shooting their mouths off in the first place. But as I’ve come to realize now, that lack of thought and conscience isn’t my problem to deal with. And that’s something I’ve been telling that young girl I’ve been visiting these past few days.

Because if I could go back in time and sit down next to my younger self in the woods I’d tell her the following:

First, her imagination will always be with her no matter how awful things get. It will always be her safe and secure place and someday it will be what gives her a life of independence.

Second, I would tell her she is so much stronger than she will ever know. And that anyone who says otherwise or calls her weak is full of shit.

And then I would pull her into my arms and hug her like I wouldn’t let her go. I’d pour all the comfort I could into what little time we had together.

So yes, I will be writing about that little girl who grows up and all the shit and hope she finds in this life. And maybe over time, that big wound she’s made me see will close enough to where I can stitch it close to give it thicker scar tissue.

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