A Gen X Girl Who Grew Up (but who will never sell out) – Introduction

I’ve always said to myself I never wanted to be defined by numbers or anything like that. But where you fit in population demographics and what happened during your childhood and adolescence, and adulthood for that matter does shape you. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get put into a demographic category that might not be overlooked as much as mine is.

Generation X as it is called are those born between 1965 and 1980. We were the children of the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945 according to Google Search) and the first generation of kids born to the Baby Boomers (1946 to 1965). We were also the first generation to grow up with parents who had a fifty percent chance of divorcing (mine almost did), had both parents who worked a lot, and who came home alone and tried not to burn the house down.

It was that independence given so early in life that shaped a generation to my way of thinking. Or at least it did for me because I felt like from as far back as I could remember that I had to do things for myself. I was expected to get myself up, dressed, fed, and off to school. And when I came home I was expected to have my key, feed myself, do my homework, and do chores. But once that was all done my time was my own.

I also think Generation X is unique because we came of age in the 70’s and 80’s right before everything went digital and online. We remember life before cellphones, the internet, and social media. We remember actual print newspapers, going to libraries to do research, and buying music on record, cassette, or compact disk. And as for ordering stuff to be mailed to you, you had to do that with catalogs or flyers you had to mail in first with your order (Scholastic Book Club forever!)

But despite this independence and ability we had to transition from paper to plastic-electronica, we were also called ‘slackers’ due to a movie made about aimless wanders in Austin, Texas, a city where you can’t even be an aimless wanderer anymore. I always felt like we were ignored until we were deemed worthy of attention by some asshole-adult. I also think that’s why we gravitated so heavily to adults who weren’t assholes, like writers and musicians and so forth who wrote and produced brilliant stuff we love with an endless soul-deep passion.

Another thing was that members of our generation took basic computer tech from the 70’s and 80’s and made it viable in the 90’s and beyond. I just wished we hadn’t dropped the ball on social media and let the Zuckerberg’s of the world have that one (and no, do NOT put him in with Generation X- he’s a geriatric millennial). But at least Gen X’ers gave the world Google.

Also, I think we knew who the assholes in our age group were from a very early age. These were the preppie-poseurs who tried only as hard as they had to try and get laid but are now red-hat MAGA wearing jack-asses in polo shirts (which I think should be recycled into something so much better because to me they’re a fashion abomination). These were the people who wanted to be punks but weren’t, skaters who fell on their asses more often than not, and tried to be Alex P. Keaton without any of the charm of Michael J. Fox.

As for the women… well I think we knew who would turn into raging middle-age Karens from Hell. Valley Girls who married well then got dumped and married not-so-well and who have helmet hair and serious misdirected anger issues because of that. They’re the ones who are uptight conservative bitches who rail against anything LBGTQ+ and make retail workers lives absolute hell. Just listen to them rant and rave then top it off with a single, “Whatever.” In your best Daria imitation.

And now Generation X women are entering middle-age and we’re not having the bullshit associated with that. We know the rest of the world would love to just push middle-age women into some dark forest and leave us there, which is a good thing if we can get that. But for most of us, that’s not on the table as an option. But what is on the table as an option is teaching the generation we’re raising now, Generation Z, to be tough and not tolerate bullshit like we did more than we ever should. I love Generation Z because they’re smart and have a great ability to see through the bullshit in this world. And they love Generation X’s culture (music, movies, tv, etc.) and have good culture of their own.

This coming week though is about me and how my own life story fits into the overall story of Generation X as written by a member of said generation. It’s a mix of what I did, wanted to do, and am wanting to be going forward. It’s about surviving, living through shit-jobs and shit-lives, and rocking out no matter what.

The Rest of the Way, Part Five: Age Is More Than a Number

I just turned forty-seven this month so for the next year my age will be a prime number. It wasn’t so bad because I get free stuff now on my birthday because of app on my phone (Starbucks and Taco Cabana). Personally, I’m looking forward to turning fifty when I can officially start getting my senior discount and my AARP card.

Yes, I’m looking forward to getting older. I know this flies in the face of the conventional-asshole wisdom of this world but here’s why:

One: senior discount. Yes, I look forward to becoming an old cheapskate though I promise with all my heart and soul never to turn into a raging Karen.

Two: Why not celebrate making it a few more years on this planet? Between pandemics, environmental catastrophe, and conservative politics, it’s a real battle these days to survive in this world. At least I’m past childbearing age so my uterus is off-limits to Republican legislators.

On the last seven birthdays I’ve had, I’ve grown contemplative and I look back and on each birthday I realized the following:

At forty, I realized I wasn’t such an idiot and that I was pretty good at taking care of myself.

At forty-one, I realized everyone else was just as full of shit as I was sometimes but I wasn’t a bad person either.

At forty-two, I was the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything for one year and said so long to my last call-center job.

At forty-three, I realized I liked gig work but that I was also sliding into a pretty deep abyss, too.

At forty-four, I didn’t release a smash-hit record like Tina Turner did at the same age but I knew I wanted to release a book someday that may sell a few copies.

At forty-five, I realized I had a pretty big storage unit in my mind full of crap to go through once and for all.

At forty-six, I cast the most important votes in my life in an election that came to matter more than any election ever had.

And at forty-seven I realized I have the advice I’ve been looking for and now I just need to really start taking it. And I’ve also begun to realize I’ve earned my hermit badge, too and that’s okay.

For me, age is a double-edge sword because on one hand I’ve always felt older than I was on the calendar because I had a lot of responsibility dumped on me at an early age. And on the other hand, I felt like I was treated like a kid who barely knew how to tie her own shoes by being told not to do this or that for some dumb-ass reason. So it was like grow up but you’ll never be seen as a grown-up.

But the thing I’ve learned most as I crossed the threshold into middle-age is that all those fucks I gave I shouldn’t have given out in the first place. Because they were disproportionally given to people who didn’t deserve them, or acted like ungrateful shits and were never satisfied with what you did give them. And because of that, I’ve realized I wasn’t put on this earth to work, suffer in silence, then die for some asshole.

Most of all, I’m not afraid of death. It’s coming whether I like it or not though I don’t know when or how and I’m not going to waste time thinking about that. I’m also not going to waste time thinking about what I didn’t do before because I’m not a time-traveler and I don’t have the ability to go back and change things. My goal now is to live in the present after having sorted out a ton of past crap and put all that past crap to bed in my writing.

My advice here then is this: don’t let your age stop you from doing something. Especially if you’re over forty because if you’re over forty or even past fifty, you’ve run out of fucks to give and you don’t get a refill on those. And enjoy your senior discounts.

The Rest of the Way, Part Four: Putting On Grown-Up Clothes

Recently I’ve begun to tell myself something that helps to quell some lingering anxiety and it’s this:

If someone has a problem with me, they can put on their grown-up clothes and come talk to me about it.

One of the things my anxiety does to me is get me thinking people are wanting to land on me but holding back waiting for the right moment. In reality, I’m over-thinking crap I shouldn’t be and that unless someone is madly in love with me or obsessed with me, they’re not going to think about me very much.

Now the roots of this date back to my time in call-center Hell. There I was mostly ignored until I did something wrong or when some customer decided to grind an axe on my back and give me a low rating. Then it was off the races and I felt like I was always looking over my shoulder. But that rat-race in my mind ended six years ago after being told I should have known better when I made a simple mistake that anyone could have made when I realized this about people in general and myself:

Everyone else is just as full of shit as I am sometimes, but I’m not a bad person either.

What this means is that no one has all the answers all the time even if they act they do or say they do. I used to think if I made a mistake that it made me the worst person in the world and it wiped all the good things I’d ever done. I thought if I could beat the crap out of myself first then no one else would do that to me. In reality, if someone mouthed off at me five minutes after they were done, they’d forgotten what they’d said to me in the first place.

I know I’ve been talking about a lot of negative shit here these past few days but this has been a large part of the work I’ve been doing on myself over the last few years. As an anxious over-thinker, I internalized way too much bullshit like this and have been working to extricate it from my psyche ever since. And one big thought is that I don’t need to sit around and clench my hands in nervous anticipation thinking someone is gearing up to make my life miserable. If someone is hesitating to come to me with some problem, that’s on them.

Now I’m not good at dealing with people or coming at them with something. And I’m absolutely terrible at asking for help. But I hope to overcome this to some small degree someday. But at the same time, if someone does have a problem with something I’m doing, they can come and talk to me about it. I have vowed to own my shit and blame no one else for my mistakes. All I want is to be given an opportunity to know what I did wrong and to fix it as much as possible.

Yesterday I talked about misdirected anger and one way this manifests is by passive-aggressive behavior. This is when someone hints at something then gets mad at you when you don’t put the rest of the pieces together even though you don’t have all the information you need. People who do this are freaking idiots at best and assholes at worst, including myself. With me, it was a fear of putting what I needed to on the table and getting blasted for it. This goes back to not being good at asking for help or stating what I want or need very well.

So I’m working on putting on my grown-up clothes (nothing stained or torn as my mother would advise me to wear) and doing my best to state my needs or ask the questions I need to. In turn, I’m also telling myself when I get anxious about someone lying in wait to land on me (when they’re definitely not doing that) is to tell myself that if someone does have a problem with me, they can put on their clean grown-up clothes and come talk to me about that. I’ll listen and take ownership of any mistakes I make.

But under no circumstances is it justified to make people think they have to be mind-readers when telepathy is still confined to the realm of science-fiction. And if someone does come right out and tell you what they want, need, or give you the information you need, don’t blast them for it. This ties back to yesterday’s piece of advice not to make someone your personal ass-cream. Clean clothes and all the words needed will do just fine. Or as my dad would say, “Grow the fuck up.”

The Rest of the Way, Part Three: You’re Not Just Here To Soothe Someone Else

For more years than I care to admit, I tried to figure out why people were insensitive and downright mean and cruel when I hadn’t done anything to warrant that. I thought that my mere presence just brought out the worst in people because I was fat, shy, and ugly. I thought that I was too much of a weirdo for people to want to treat me right. I also thought I disagreed with too many people, too on so many things. But over time I really began to think that it wasn’t about me.

I’ve been gnawing on this for a few weeks now and I’m going to put it out here: if someone tells me they were hurting and lashed out and were insensitive and cruel and they knew that was wrong, I don’t know if I can accept that. Because when I’ve been in my worst times of pain, I never thought of lashing out at people in a hurtful way. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and hide somewhere dark and silent. But I think this was because I didn’t expect anyone to help me solve my problems, or even hear what I was thinking and feeling. I think this ‘lashing out’ is a bid for attention and seeking attention is something I’ve never really done and have enormous issues with now.

I know there is more complex psychology to people who lash out with insensitivity and cruelty but to me, we’re all endowed with free will. This free will gives us the ability to think and make decisions based on careful thought and not impulsive behavior. And I think most people don’t over-think things like I do, and like most anxious people do. Most of all, I think anxious people compartmentalize thoughts and feelings and keeps those compartments tightly closed. But to me, people who are insensitive and cruel put stuff like kindness and compassion in boxes and closed them up tightly so they don’t have to deal with them. Because to me, kindness and compassion are hard to deal with at times because those things make me want to care more than I think the world will allow me to.

I will also give room to the thought of people misdirecting their anger at others. I know I’ve felt angry at things that I wasn’t really angry about, but because I felt like I couldn’t confront what I needed to, I had to let that out somewhere. But for people who are insensitive and cruel, I think they come to use misdirected anger in order not to deal with what they should be dealing with. This is where my ‘hemorrhoid cream’ bit comes into play.

I think we’ve all had people in our lives who came up to us and told us to drop everything we were doing to deal with their crap right now. That always made me feel like I was doing something wrong in minding my own business and taking care of what I needed to and was responsible for. And it was hard to say no to people who demanded this because they were not good at taking ‘no’ for an answer. Over time, I began to feel like I was being used to try and soothe an angry itch or worse, they had an axe to grind and found my weak-willed back easier to use than dealing with their own shit.

Luckily we have a tool today that many people use and that tool is called ‘establishing boundaries’. This is when people say ‘enough’ and ‘no’ and stand on it despite the artillery barrage they’ll have to endure before that stops. It’s one thing to reach out for help in a kind and honest way, that’s alright. But to demand someone fix you immediately and then get angry when that doesn’t happen… that’s not alright.

I’ve established my boundaries by isolating myself to some extent. I keep my distance because I don’t want to deal with someone being demanding and me having to get tough. No one should have to be tough like that and by God, I do think we all know better now. I used to think I had to try and soothe people who were never going to be satisfied with anything I said or did. I used to think that I had to strive for perfection that isn’t possible. Now I’m just here doing my thing and living my life and wanting one thing above all: wanting to be there for someone in a way that I have never had.

But in the meantime, I will give this piece of advice instead: you are not someone’s hemorrhoid cream. You were not put on this Earth to soothe someone’s mis-directed anger or problems they’re not willing to work on themselves. And most of all, you don’t have to be perfect just because someone can’t accept you’re human and deeply flawed. No one deserves to be treated like ass-cream.

The Rest of the Way, Part Two: Believing In Something Good, Or Just Better

“It gets better.”

I’ve heard this a lot over the years but have had a lot of trouble believing in it. Why?

Well for starters, you can read the previous blog entry in this series for one answer to that single question of why. But there is a second answer that I’ll go into here.

For as long as I can remember, I feel like I heard ‘no’ more often than ‘yes’. I feel like I’ve been discouraged more than encouraged. And I’ve also felt like I’m a world-class asshole-magnet, too. What this did to me was two things:

1) Make me feel like I couldn’t do anything ‘normal’ or I’d fall on my ass.

2) Make me feel like if I found something to do that I liked, that I was wrong in feeling that way.

The first came from ‘well-intentioned’ people. These were people in my life who told me to take it easy, to not get worked up, and just sit down and be quiet. They said they just didn’t want to me to get hurt but here’s the thing: they really weren’t there when I did get hurt, and although I kept so much of that to myself, if they really cared they would have tried to push past my silence.

As I look back on my childhood especially, I’ve wanted to say to the past: “Where in the hell were you when I came home to an empty house after a shitty day at school, a day where I probably literally fell on my ass (I did that a lot in P.E. class because I’m not athletically-coordinated at all)?” I felt like no one wanted to hear how I’d kept my shit together after being humiliated in front of everyone, and how I’d kept my shit together and told no one about the enormous amount of bullying I endured because I didn’t want to be labeled a troublemaker or tattle-tale.

But what I’ve learned over the last few years is when I kept silent about my pain, I also kept silent about my joy and happiness, too. Because when I expressed this it didn’t always go well either. Yes, I had people shit on me for being happy.

And before I go any further here I just want to say this: not everyone in my life was shitty to me. I’m just calling out the shit-heads here, the people who were thoughtless and insensitive to show the damage that was done.

Because of this silence, I began to feel like I didn’t have a right to be happy. This got really bad in my twenties when I became a caregiver to my mother. I felt like I had no right to a life of my own and I later learned that my parents got shit for letting me live at home, work, and pursue my writing. And I knew that shit was being said behind my back so that’s why I fought to keep so much of my personal shit to myself. I felt enormous guilt for doing things for myself that I shouldn’t have. And because of that, it’s taken me so damn many years to see through this and work to fix the damage inside of me.

This is why I am suspicious as hell when things feel like they may be going in the right direction for me. It’s why I begin to think that I’m going to get the shit kicked out of me if start to believe in the good of this world coming to me. But one thing I have let go of is this: the belief that someone will come along and try to kick the good life out from under me. Granted, I’ve had to become a hermit to destroy most of this belief but it’s been worth it.

Things don’t just better by themselves. I am beginning to truly understand that they get better when you believe they will despite previous shit in your life telling you otherwise. I am also beginning to believe that things can get better when you knuckle down and work to make them better, and to take advantage of opportunities that come your way, too.

My goal in life has never been to be defiant, or angry, or confrontational. My life goals have been to do good in this world and help people whenever I can. And feeling good and believing in good is not an act of defiance or confrontation, and I sure as hell don’t need to be angry about it.

So my advice here is this: believe in the good of this world and when it comes to you, make the most of the good that comes your way, and if someone has a problem with that tell them to stick that where the sun doesn’t shine.

The Rest of the Way, Part One: Shifting Out of Crisis-Mode

I like to blame my anxiety on hormones and shit, and hormones and shit do play a factor due to my age (forty-seven). But I’ve begun to realize I was raised to be in crisis-management mode from a very early age and because of that, it’s a default setting in my mind. So the questions I’ve asked myself about this are:

1) Where did this crisis-management mode setting come from?

2) How the hell do I change my way of thinking and feeling to where this isn’t a default setting for me?

The answer to the first question lies in my early childhood being the child of a parent with untreated mental health issues, namely my father. My father boasted for as long as I could remember that he had been diagnosed as manic-depressive, now referred to as bi-polar but had refused all treatment for it. As a child I had no idea what he was talking about and didn’t have the guts to ask what that was. But looking back on my life with him and what I’ve learned about bi-polar behavior since then, I realize my father fit that diagnosis quite well.

Because as a child, I remember feeling like I had to be responsible from a very early age. I had to learn how to take care of myself, and at the same time, anticipate my dad’s moods and the emotional turmoil of living with them. I learned pretty early on how to tune out my parents’ raging arguments and icy détentes that followed. But what took me a very long time to learn was that the foul-tempered and downright ugly side of my father wasn’t how he really was. I’ve had to tell myself time and time again that part of him was fucked-up brain chemistry. But that’s a wound that takes a lot of work to clean and stitch up, and a lot of time for the pain to ease. Because on one hand my father could be the most supportive, loving, and encouraging person who spouted some of the best damn advice I’ve ever gotten. And on the other hand he could rip me to shreds using what he knew about me, and what I had confided in him.

Dealing with this kind of behavior turned me into a crisis-manager without any training or knowledge. It also made me feel like my own life was just a crisis waiting to happen to derail whatever ambitions or dreams I had for myself. Time and again things came up to knock me off whatever path I’d started on. This happened so much that in the last few years when I haven’t had to take care of anyone other than myself, I feel like any knock against me is enough to knock me off the path I want to be on.

That’s not the case and I know I don’t have to let that happen anymore. I’ve got a lot of stuff to sort through because of all the unboxing I’ve done. And I know I can’t let anything get in the way of that. My mind wants to get away from the sorting out and writing so it’s got a handy thing to fall back on, this crisis-management mode way of thinking.

I honestly believe you can change the way you think and feel, and respond to things in life. I’ve proven that to myself as I’ve overcome fears of asking for help when I have needed it, fears of doing something despite thinking that someone would stomp the shit out of me for doing it (more on that in the following pieces here in this series). I’ve learned to diffuse my own anger, pain, and rage by asking myself or the thoughtless and cruel echoes in my head why they think and feel the way they do.

I know over time I won’t think like this as much as I do now. Over time my life will change though I don’t know how and neither does anyone else. Nothing is set in stone because even stone erodes over time due to wind and other environmental factors. But stone doesn’t just erode away into dust. It becomes a part of the landscape in a different way over time. And it’s nothing to be afraid of, and I don’t feel fear as I write these words and think like this.

So my advice here is this: don’t feel like you have to live in perpetual crisis-management mode, and don’t let anyone keep you in that mode all the time either. Flip the damn switch when you have to, and set boundaries and make them clear to all parties concerned. Because perpetual crisis-management mode will fuck you up big-time and it takes a lot of work to repair the worst of the damage. But those repairs can be made and you can do better with your life.

The Rest of the Way – Introduction

I’ve been telling myself this almost every day for the last year: “I’ve made it this far, and so I know I can make it from here. I don’t always know how but I know I will.” It’s kind of a play on a quote from a movie, ‘Clash of the Titans’ with Sam Worthington and yes, I know this movie is a cheese-popcorn fest but there was some good stuff in it. One line in particular: “You’ve brought us this far, let’s go the rest of the way.” – Me, Facebook, May 18, 2017

I wrote this at a time when I felt like my life was starting to skid off the road and down the side of a mountain. I’d just begun working on what would become my ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project and was growing frustrated by the day that it wasn’t coming together as easily as I thought it would. Also, I was about a year out from quitting my last full-time day job and I was finishing up a contract job that I had learned how to hate and starting to drive for Uber. I just felt like I was driving without any direction in my life and I got scared. Luckily, that line from the movie ‘Clash of the Titans’ came to me and gave me something to hold on to.

But I hadn’t heard that line in my head in a long time. Instead, all I was hearing in my head was alternate plans I was coming up with if this or that fell through. I put myself on an anxiety-loop in my mind and it took me a few days to stop that loop by simply asking what the origins of it were. But I also had a few more thoughts come to my mind and that’s where this blog series came from.

My father had a saying he was fond of: “It’s hard to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp when you’re up to your ass in alligators.”

My default setting mentally and emotionally seems to want to stay in crisis-anxiety mode and I’m getting tired of that shit. I’m getting tired of every little thing sending me into a tizzy and I’m tired of scrambling to deal with that instead of just doing what I want to do. But how do you shift out of something that’s been with you for so long like this type of thinking has been with me?

It’s telling myself what I need to hear and not what my fight-or-flight response spews out.

Now I know some of these pieces of advice might not be too popular with some readers but I’m not referencing anyone specifically. And I’m not saying I’m perfect either. I’ve spewed shit when I shouldn’t have and have let my temper speak for me. But I’m human and I will fuck up just like everyone else. I think a lot of my anxiety-based thinking is this totally misplaced feeling that I have to strive for perfection in every waking moment of my life.

Every day that I wake up and see daylight as a victory. Or as my father also was fond of saying: “If you wake up on this side of the dirt, you’re doing just fine.” Why is there a mindset among assholes that every day is simply a drudge and that any expression of joy or ambition isn’t good enough? I say fuck that shit. Every day is a gift to borrow a cliché here. It’s a gift you get every day so be grateful for it and try not to fuck it up, or let someone else fuck it up.

I’m a freaking hermit hiding out alongside a freeway and you know what? I’m grateful for that. I honestly don’t think I’m fit to be around people on a regular basis so I’m going to stop whining to myself about that. I need this time to get my shit together once and for all because I’ve started writing my books and need to get my butt in gear on those, plus got other things I want to do and the time to do them in.

But this week I’ll be posting my own advice, and potential merchandise slogans, too. Because talking about my mental and emotional shit-storms isn’t for myself. My words and stories are for other people going through those storms or who have been through those storms and are feeling hollowed out and empty from that And that is something I have really needed to remind myself of, and also remember not to let go of again.

Writing About Fear Is Not Easy

For me, writing about fear is not easy not because I’m revealing things that show I’m vulnerable, but because I have been afraid of how my vulnerabilities will be received. And in the past, they weren’t always received very well. In fact, I’d say most of the time they were minimized, deflected, or rejected outright.

I’ve always thought I was being too hard on people who minimize, deflect, and reject another person’s feelings or experiences but now I realize I’m not being hard on them. I’m speaking my own truth and am also trying very hard not to minimize, deflect, or reject other people’s feelings. But there is a boundary to this and that is not tolerating expressions of hatred, cruelty, or unkindness. It’s not wrong to say to someone their words hurt you because words do hurt. Words are where thoughts and ideas begin, and that beginning can lead to something good or something bad.

What I’ve come to realize is that I am not responsible for another person’s feelings. Each person is responsible for their own thoughts and feelings and how they deal with them. Now I’m sure some wise-ass will say people shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around someone worried they’re going to hurt someone’s precious or fragile feelings. Trust me, those of us who have been hurt by words aren’t fragile. And our feelings do matter. The goal here is to realize that we all have a choice as to what we say and how we say it.

One of the things I’ve been working on over the last few years with my writing is to try to be as clear as possible in what I’m writing about. I’m a very hard critic and editor on my own work but writing is a never-ending work-in-progress. My goal is to make this about me because this is my story to tell.

Writing about fear has made me realize I’m nowhere near as vulnerable as I was before I started this odyssey of the last few years. I used to tell myself I could take whatever was said to me but it’s taken me a long time to realize that I truly can now. I truly believe myself when I say that I’ve pretty much heard it all before and yet I’m still standing.

Because one of the biggest things I had to work through was thinking I didn’t have it in me to write about things I am now. Fear, politics, and anything deemed ‘provocative were things I ran like hell from, and I ran because I didn’t think I was good enough to write about those things. In reality, it was people who wanted me to be silent and that wasn’t just because they sensed I might not agree with them, but because they felt they knew best for me. Good intentions are just as harmful, if not more harmful sometimes than words of anger and cruelty.

I’m also following in a legacy of women who have come before me in sharing their stories of their fears and overcoming them. From women like Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, Shonda Rimes, and women from the generations younger than me like Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato. I have so much admiration for their honesty and courage because I have a strong feeling they’ve felt fear like I have when they were getting ready to share their stories with the world.

For the longest time, I thought I had to always turn a negative into a positive in some way. That’s bullshit like the saying  I’ve committed to my mind: someone else’s comfort is not more important than someone’s pain. I’ve learned I don’t have to write off the negative with a positive and it’s okay to feel both ways because that’s life, good and bad.

In the end, it’s not easy for me to write about my fears even after I’ve done a lot of work to get through them. So far, no one has reached out to me with wringing hands or harsh words though I do expect that to happen someday. I’m ready for either one with a head tilt to the side followed by one word, “Really?” What I tell myself is people like that are in the minority and that I have to keep myself from giving power to them over me that isn’t theirs to have, nor do they deserve.

There is a quote from the author Anne Rice I read many years ago in a biography about her that has guided me in this journey over the last few years:

“Sometimes you have to go to the places you fear the most.”

You can go to those places and come out of them alive and well. And if you chose to, you can write about them. I write not only for myself, but for anyone reading these words. Not just to help myself and help people, but to shine a light on truths that have been hidden in darkness and silence. I write to give words to fear in order to loosen the hold fear has had on me. Some people think if you talk about fear you’ll give it power but that’s not true. I used to think that but not anymore.

Writing about fear is not easy yes, but once you give words to it, you break the silence surrounding it, and yourself.

My Third Fear of Following Through: Attention

In order to have a chance of being successful at my goal of being a self-supporting writer and creative content producer, I will need to market and promote my work and by extension, myself. And the thought of this scares me because I’ve always said I’m not comfortable with attention on me. Why? Well, that one goes back even further than the first two fears.

Some of my earliest memories are as a young child in school being teased and bullied because I stood up in front of the class and maybe wasn’t totally perfect, or I raised my hand too many times. Or worse, got called a ‘teacher’s pet’, which was never a good thing. Worst of all was when I fell on my ass in gym class and kids laughed and no adult came over to check on me to see if I was alright and help me up. So I learned pretty damn fast if I did my best to stay quiet and not fall on my ass then maybe people wouldn’t laugh at me or bully the shit out of me.

Luckily, my life did get better to some degree by high school because I met people who weren’t assholes. I had classes with people who weren’t all jerks and who were actually kind and supportive. Now in the working world, that sometimes was a different story. There it started back up with dirty looks and comments behind my back. But two incidents really did a number on me and it’s shocked a lot of people when I tell the stories.

I was in a training class for yet another call-center job and our instructor was reading out loud from the workbook and she said if anyone had a question to raise their hand. Well, I had a question so I raised my hand and as soon as the instructor told me to ask it and I started to speak, all of my classmates then decided to talk at once and drown me out. Now, were they told what they did was wrong and to apologize to me? This bitch-instructor told them they were wrong and threatened to send us all home for the day but in no way did she stand up and defend me. And like the wimp I was at the time, I didn’t say anything. I sat there looking down at my desk trying not to fall apart and burst into tears. I was afraid if I said anything or even looked up from my desk that bitch-instructor would have thrown me out of class. Needless to say, I didn’t stay in that place for very long because I knew they didn’t have my back and never would.

Then in another call-center job at a place I’d worked at before and returned to, the instructor took me aside for a one-on-one talk and basically told me to keep my mouth shut and not say anything at all in class or help people out. She said there was no need for me to share my knowledge or experience with anyone and that I was basically interfering with her job (which I wasn’t though she was a pretty shitty instructor). After that, I kept my head down and tried not to draw her attention on me. One of my classmates did ask why I wasn’t speaking up or helping and I told him I wasn’t allowed to.

At my last call-center job, I told both of these stories to my first instructor when she asked why I was so quiet in class and her jaw hit the floor both times. She said she would never tolerate the first and for the second she did admit she was a bit weary of me because of all my experience and potential ego. But then she asked me if I could help her out with the class and we became good working colleagues. And later when she became my supervisor I was out for a week with gallstones, she excused all my absences even though I later found out she took some flack for that (this place had the shittiest attendance policies I’d ever worked under).

The reason I am sharing these stories here is this: I’ve heard so much shit about myself in my forty-six years on this planet and I’m still alive. I know now that whatever shit someone says to hurt me, degrade me, humiliate me, or is an attempt to silence me won’t work anymore. Because I know that people who have shit on me forgot it as soon as they walked away from me. But when you’ve been hurt like this you internalize it because at times it can seem relentless. For me, I buried it in silence and that’s what breaking my silence means now.

It’s been very hard for me these past few days to write about these three fears as a lot of emotional crap has roared up to the surface with me. These are pretty intense emotions even years later but I know that with time that intensity might ease off. I

don’t write about this for myself. I write in the hope that anyone who is reading this and has thought and felt like I have will find strength or empathy in my words.

It’s been a real struggle for me over the years not to become angry and bitter though I’ve had years where I felt like that more often than not. What I’ve had to learn is that attention on me won’t always be positive but as my father used to say, don’t let the few assholes in this world ruin things for you.

My Second Fear of Following Through: Life

What I call ‘life’ are things like jobs, money problems, weather, and health. These things fuel the anxiety engine that lives inside of me well-oiled and always ready to come up to speed and drain my energy. These types of problems can make me overthink so many things and in turn create huge amounts of fear and anxiety around problems that shouldn’t be there. Also, this fear and anxiety has made me feel shame and guilt when I turn away from ‘life’ problems and pursue something I want to like my writing.

The roots of this fear date back to the same time in my life as fear number one in that I felt like I had to devote my energy to ‘life’ even if I’d done everything I could and had time to myself. But this one actually got worse in my thirties when I went out on my own because I thought I had to pursue my job as a career and not just as a way to earn money. I honestly thought I could put equal amounts of energy into my job and my writing but that turned out to be a load of bullshit. Then ‘life’ kicked all that out from under me when my dad had a stroke and I damn near lost that job because I was in and out of work taking care of him and trying to get him back on his feet as best as I could.

Now because this fear creates a lot of anxiety it sometimes sends my mind into a train of thought that’s not entirely delusional. The thought is that there are people who want to see me suffer and will come down on me if I don’t suffer enough to satisfy them. There is an origin to this in that I have been told to wipe the smile off my face since things are so bad in life, and also I’ve been asked in anger what I had to smile about. Yes, this was during my twenties and back then I honestly thought it meant that I was a terrible person to have moments where I wasn’t thinking about my own misery.

Yes, a positive can be turned into a negative. And it’s just as bad as people forcing you to turn a negative into a positive, especially when they try to do that by saying things aren’t so bad (when in reality they were). I recently read that someone’s comfort does not give them the right to deny someone’s reality. I sure as hell had mine denied, denigrated, and shit all over. In the past, it was turned into fear and in the present I’m through with that.

This fear also causes me to severely doubt myself and my abilities. It causes me to fear that I will forget something, or that I’ll miss something I shouldn’t have. My dad used to say it was like constantly listening for the elephant to come running up behind you to stomp you into the ground.

This fear coalesced into me thinking that everyone in the world had their shit together and had all the answers and I didn’t and therefore I was a dumb-ass piece of shit person whenever I did mess up. That’s not true of course even from people who claim to have their shit together twenty-four-seven and have all the answers, too. I used to let people like this tear me down inside every time they got the opportunity to call out my mistakes. It took one big snap in my mind almost six years ago to get me to see the bullshit behind that.

Yet the fear still lives in me but now that I’ve really worked through its origins and reminded myself with strength that no one has all the answers, I’m letting it go now. I don’t need to overthink things nor think that I’m going to be ‘bothering’ somebody if I ask for something. I tell myself now if someone has a problem with something I’ve said or did then they can put on their grown-up clothes and come talk to me about it.

Another thing that pisses me off about his fear is me thinking that I’m an immature brat who can’t figure things out for herself. I’ve been on my own for close to twenty years. Yes, I’ve managed to lose an apartment and a car due to the fact that I got stuck in a hole and couldn’t dig myself out. But I’m not the only person in the world to do that and therefore I’m not going to let anyone rake me over the coals because of it. I tell myself I do know how to survive and most of all, I’ve learned how to ask for help and believe in the goodness of people. Someday I hope that I will be in a position to help others who are struggling and show them the good in this world and give them faith in themselves and in people.

It’s hard to write about stuff like this but I do it not just for myself, but for anyone reading this who might thinking and feeling I do, or have been through things like I have. I want people to know they’re not alone, and that it’s okay to think and feel the way they do. And if someone doesn’t like that, remember you’re not responsible for someone else’s comfort or feelings. Don’t forget that because if you do, it’ll turn to fear.