MLK Day 2023 – The Time Is Now

I remember when the holiday commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was created in the 1980’s and I will tell you right here and now, there was considerable opposition to it. The state of Arizona was the last holdout on the holiday and there were boycotts by artists and protests. Why? Because Dr. King was not popular in his lifetime. And not so much because of his advocacy for civil rights and fighting racism, but because he wouldn’t back down.

In his letter from the Birmingham jail, Dr. King wrote of being told to wait for the right time and Dr. King said, in essence, the time is now. Anyone who says to wait when there is a need for change needs to ask themselves why. And to anyone who says that to me directly I will ask: when will the time be right?

There is no ‘right’ time, or ‘perfect’ time for change. If things were right and just, then there wouldn’t be a need for change. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s was born from decades of segregation, and of pain and blood. It was born from a people denied their basic fundamental human rights and Dr. King led a movement based on non-violent resistance as advocated by Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, and many others. And despite what watered-down textbooks and other sources will say, it was not a popular movement. People were beaten and murdered, including women and children.

In this year of our Lord 2023, there is a movement by right-wing Republicans to bury this history and not teach simply because they say it will make white people uncomfortable.

To that I will say: your discomfort in response to pain and oppression means NOTHING.

No one is blaming white people, or individuals for past hatred and oppression. But each and every person in this country has been exposed to and taught attitudes of hatred and racism. In the last few years, I’ve begun to examine what I was taught and exposed to and yes, it’s painful as hell to know I was silent in the face of most of that. But I’m breaking my silence over that like so many others are now and like Dr. King and all the other Civil Rights activists did back in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Another reason Dr. King was not popular in his lifetime was his opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1964, Dr. King began a friendship with the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn. Thich Nhat Hahn had been exiled from his home country of Vietnam for speaking out and advocating non-violent resistance against the South Vietnamese government’s brutal oppression and violence. I believe this friendship showed the world that the cause of non-violence isn’t limited to just your home country. That if we are to truly live in peace and harmony with each other we must speak out whenever we can. Thich Nhan Hahn told Dr. King Buddhists considered him a ‘bodhisattva’, an enlightened one. To be enlightened means you see how everything is connected and you nurture those connections in peace and love.

In recent years, I’ve learned a lot about Dr. King’s teachings and advocacy not just for Civil Rights and against the Vietnam War, but also his advocacy against poverty and economic injustice. He talked about creating the ‘Beloved Community’, a community in which all people were welcomed to the same table with the same opportunities given to others already at the table while being accepted as they were. But this is not a popular idea even today and why is that?

Because like in the past, there are people who are opposed to this who say that by welcoming all to the table that those people will take from those already seated. That’s not true in any way, shape, or form. There is no need to take more than you need or to take from someone simply because they are not like you. Suffering is NOT noble or right in any way, shape, or form. Suffering does not build character or resiliency. Instead, it creates trauma that echoes through the generations and takes time to heal. And that trauma can’t be healed if a person is suffering from oppression, poverty, or violence.

Non-violent resistance means you will not take up arms against your oppressors, but you will not remain silent in the face of that oppression either. This is why I say to those who push back in fear or ignorance against change for the better: ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do and keep asking until you find all the answers you can, though I will give warning that you might not like the answers you find, and sooner or later you will have to deal with them. No one can change another person, or as I like to say, no one can pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. I do believe people can change for the better and I will welcome those who do sincerely change and accept responsibility for their words and actions in the past.

The time for change is always now, and forever.

For more on the friendship between Dr. King and Thich Nhat Hahn, you can read this wonderful and moving piece by Jay Kuo HERE

Writing as an Act of Defiance

WARNING: My writing can be sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious, sometimes all in the same paragraph.

This blog entry is prompted by a question I have asked myself a lot over the years:

Why can’t I write when my stress and anxiety levels go up and come up hard?

The answer to this question comes from something I learned very early on about women writers: we’re really good at keeping our writing out of sight and sound from people in our lives.

From Jane Austen hiding her manuscripts under a desk blotter in the sitting room anyone someone came over, to Margaret Mitchell and Danielle Steele writing in their laundry rooms with their typewriters on top of the washing machine, to Nora Roberts and Jackie Collins writing on spiral notebooks in the carpool line waiting to pick up their kids, and to countless romance writers I knew and read about who would get up early or write after everyone had gone to bed… I learned that my writing was something I had to keep out of sight and sound.

Why?

Because women, whether they’re married or single (like me and Jane Austen), take on a lot of responsibilities and the busybody-assholes as I will now refer to them make sure that if it looks like we might be thinking about slacking off on those responsibilities (which we would never have done), they made sure to let us know we were the bad guys for wanting to have some sliver of a life for ourselves. In my twenties when I was a caregiver living at home, I felt like I was under constant scrutiny and that if I stepped out of line enough the shit would have hit the fan.

I’ve written here about how my parents asked me to stay silent in the face of busybody-assholes trying their dead-level best to butt into my life and shit all over me. I understood why they asked me to do that but thinking about that now I feel like they denied me something I should have been able to do, and that was to stand up for myself. I should have been able to tell people who wanted to butt their noses into my life and try and run it for me this:

Back off and deal with your own fucking shit.

Because I feel like people who butt their noses into other people’s lives and try to dictate how other people should live are trying to avoid dealing with their own lives and yes, their own shit. And no, I’m not being a bitch here for saying that even if someone reading this may be feeling more than a little butt-hurt. I say this because I was doing my dead-level best back then like I do now to stay out of everyone’s life and not tell anyone how to live their life. And most of all, I’ve been working my ass off to deal with my own shit as I’m fond of calling it.

No, this is not an attention-grab or any bullshit like that. This is for anyone who has ever felt like they’ve had to hide a part of their lives from everyone around them.

I look back now and feel like if I had kept writing through the worst of the shit-storms I went through in my twenties and thirties, I wouldn’t have had near the amount of shit to work through, and I wouldn’t have had to box up so much crap from back then to deal with now. I look back and think I should have been able to keep writing through all that and if anyone had found out and said something to me I should have had the freedom to tell them to back off. But I was not defiant back then like I am now. Back then I was terrified I’d set off a shit-storm if I pushed back or gave anyone anything they could use against me, and yes that would have included any writing like a journal or diary that I could have used as a therapy source back then.

Prince Harry recently said his family’s motto was always, “Never complain, never explain.” I think that motto is for tons of people and families around the world and yes, I will apply it to my own. Because I’ve been told to my face in the past not to complain, that I had NOTHING to complain about even though in reality I wasn’t complaining so much as trying to explain myself. And that’s what I’m doing now: explaining and not complaining. To me, complaining is running your mouth and expecting people to go along with your high-handed bullshit and if they push back then they’re the bad guys. Explaining is talking things out and trying to find understanding in how you think and feel.

Writing is my way of explaining and trying to find answers to questions about why I think and feel the way I do. I think writing is about finding truth and that’s not a popular thing with some people in this world. Because if your truth doesn’t align perfectly with theirs then that’s when the shit could hit the fan.

To any writer reading this who feels like you can’t write, or shouldn’t write when your stress and anxiety levels skyrocket and things come at you fast and hard: I understand your feelings and it’s okay to have them. But you don’t have to give in to them either. And if there are people in your life who feel like they can dictate when you write or should write or any bullshit like that, feel free to use my rude-and-crude response: back off and go deal with your own fucking shit.

For me, luckily I’m working in a vacuum and that means as of right now I’m not getting any direct communication telling me I’m an asshole, bitch, or that I should just shut the fuck up. And every time I think of this, I hear my father’s voice in my head telling me that’s one less piece of bullshit I have to deal with and to keep doing what I want to do with my life. The old man is right as always and I would do well to listen to him as I think other writers should, too.

The (slightly) Defiant Reason I Drive an Uber

Image created by Deborah Ratliff

Whenever I’m asked why I started driving an Uber I always say it’s because I needed a job and I wasn’t able to get anything else going at the time. And that is true as it was a financial need that drove me to sign up for Uber.

When I first signed up for Uber, there were no tutorials or instructions on how to use the app or any instruction on what to do if there was a problem other than solve it on your own (no live support back then). But I’m a problem solver and I’m pretty good at figuring out stuff so these weren’t problems for me. What I quickly discovered was how I liked not dealing with asshole-human managers and being able to set my own hours. Now the money does fluctuate, and sometimes it really fluctuates hard. Not long after I first started driving, Uber got kicked out of Austin (they got into it with the city of Austin over the issue of background checks though after a couple of months the state legislature stepped in and got the city of Austin and Uber to kiss and make up). But that influx of drivers drove demand pretty low and I seriously questioned my choice of gig-company yet I stayed with it. That was my first lesson in how to ride out a downturn (which happens quite often as this business is highly-subject to supply and demand).

Where the act of defiance comes into play is this: if my father was alive he would have told me ‘no, no, and no’ in taking on this job. My late father was terribly over-protective of me and thought I should work a nice office job or hopefully make it as a writer so I could live and work in a nice little house somewhere. He would have told me it was too dangerous unless I carried a gun (which is prohibited under Uber driver rules) or if I did defy him he would tell me to only work during daylight hours or something like that.

Yes, I’ve driven in parts of town that a lot of people wouldn’t consider ‘nice’ or ‘safe’ though I’ve never, ever had any trouble. I’ve just dropped people off then went into ‘unavailable’ status and headed out, or as I like to say, I don’t stick around for autographs. Also, I don’t work past midnight unless I’ve picked up someone from the airport and nine times out of ten these people nap in the backseat on their way home because they’ve been traveling all day. I have done late-night 2am bar pickups but drunks haven’t been fun since covid so I’ve taken myself out of at the risk-factor of mean-ass behavior and the potential for puke (luckily, no one has ever puked in my car).

All my life, or at least until the last few years since my dad died, I did think I was fragile and not able to go anywhere near a potentially ‘rough’ place. But I’m going to talk about something here I’ve never really talked about before because there are potential ‘risky’ places and situations everywhere.

I worked in call-centers for the better part of seventeen years and those places could be soul-sucking pressure cookers. In one of them, rumors began to go around that security was going to start searching cars and bags at the entrance and desks for weapons. We began to talk about what to do if someone walked in the place and started shooting, always making a note of exits and where to hide. Another place I worked we used to talk about how security was a useless joke and how easy it would be for someone to walk in and start shooting and how the escape routes and hiding places sucked. So, there were times when I feared for my safety in these places.

The closest I ever came to getting really nervous about my safety in my Uber was in the summer of 2020 one weekend when these right-wing gun-toting bozos paraded around Alamo Plaza with guns and got a fucking police escort instead of being hauled off. I was boxed in by traffic and I just prayed these assholes wouldn’t lock and load and start shooting. I saw a phalanx of riot police that day and yes, I was scared fucking shitless something terrible was going to happen. The left-wing counter protestors were unarmed and peaceful and I’m glad I got to pick them up instead of the right-wing nuts.

But other than that day, I’ve never truly feared for my safety. And I can deflect and defuse people who start to act like assholes muttering shit to me or hitting on me though I can count the number of assholes who have done that and still have fingers and toes left over. The incredibly-vast majority of my passengers are awesome, and I think they make the Uber gig truly worthwhile. But even after close to six years on the road, sometimes I still feel like I’m defying my late father’s over-protectiveness and other people who have tried to follow his lead.

When I’m on the road, I lock in and drive and though my mind can wander sometimes, I’ve got the thousands of hours and miles of driving experience where I can successfully do that. And I do maintain what I call ‘situational awareness’ on the road and where I’m at all times, but then I do that no matter where I’m at.

So, my take on this: be defiant in doing what you want to do but be smart about it and don’t take risks you don’t have to while you keep your shit together at all times.

Royally Breaking Your Silence

WARNING: My writing can be sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious, sometimes all in the same paragraph.

This morning I watched the interview Prince Harry did with Anderson Cooper on ‘60 Minutes’ this past Sunday (you can watch here You Tube) and my take on what Harry is doing by giving interviews and publishing his memoire is this: he’s breaking his silence. And I am totally with him on this as there were several things he said in the interview that really showed the healing journey he’s been on, a journey I’ve been on along with a lot of other people around the world.

Prince Harry said the Royal Family’s motto has always been, “Never complain, never explain.” I think that’s a motto for a lot of families, and I feel it was something I grew up with. I felt like there was an expectation of me to be very independent and self-sufficient from a very early age and that also meant that I had to pick myself up and keep going. I internalized that people were horrified to see me cry so I tried not to. I tried not to show I was sad and hurt whenever I was because I had not been comforted when I should have been. And that lack of comfort continued on in my life and that does a shit-ton of damage to a person. For Prince Harry it meant he didn’t cry or really talk about his feelings at all and that at times he turned to adrenalin as he said in the interview when he joined the Army and served in Afghanistan in combat. He also talked about how used to drink heavily and that he did use drugs to numb out his feelings. Luckily I never drank or used drugs, but I numbed myself out with silence instead.

Harry was always called ‘the spare’ as in ‘the heir and the spare’, the heir being his older brother Prince William. And a ‘spare’ is like me being a middle female child, which means you’re the outcast in the family simply because you fill a position with a role that others define and you don’t. Growing up like that means you feel like you never really fit in and nothing you do will ever be good enough. It’s a role where you’re expected to just do what you’re told, take responsibility for others, and not step out of line. For the longest time, I felt like the world just didn’t know what to do with me and never would. But now I call bullshit on that because there is NO need at all to treat someone like an outcast simply because of some bullshit things like birth order and expectations that are supposed to go with that.

In the interview Prince Harry talks about his wife Meghan and the horrible treatment she received and that she was accused of ‘changing’ him. Harry then said without a second’s hesitation, “Well of course I changed.” In another interview with Harry, I remember how he told a story about how shortly after he and Meghan began to see each other how he tried to pick an argument with her. She stopped him by going, “Harry, what’s wrong?” He was shocked and surprised by this question and she told him, “This isn’t about me.” She realized he had misdirected anger and unresolved grief from his mother’s death. And I think what was happening also was that he was in a good place with her and therefore his mind went, okay, now you’re ready to deal with the things you locked away all those years ago when your mother died. Harry’s wife Meghan has an extraordinary gift of perception in helping him see that, and it was because of her that he began to deal with his grief and other emotions he’d silenced for so long.

Yet that wasn’t a popular decision. Between that and Megan being an outsider to the Royal Family like Harry despite him being born into the family, things weren’t going to go well for them. I give them a lot of credit for sticking with it as long as they did and for how hard they tried to communicate and make things work. Sadly, in the ’60 Minutes’ interview Harry revealed he is not on speaking terms with his father, King Charles, and his brother Prince William. Harry said how he hoped to mend those relationships but at the same he also said this, “The ball is in their court.”

I will freely admit here I have pulled back from people but in explanation I will say it’s because I took tiny steps long ago to try and make myself available to others and it didn’t go well. In the ’60 Minutes’ interview Harry said he’s told his family that if he and wife did things wrong to just be told what those things were so apologies and amends could be made if possible. But Harry says his family refuses to tell him and I think it’s because maybe he and his wife really didn’t do anything wrong, or they didn’t do things that warranted any of the horrible experiences and words they’ve been subjected to. If I’ve done something wrong, I want to know so I can take full responsibility for it and do whatever I can to make amends. But until those answers on the table, the silence will remain at least on the side of his family, and I will remain in the vacuum I’m in.

Harry has been getting a fair amount of shit in the press, especially in the British press for doing these interviews and for publishing his book. He has said he’s doing this to set the record straight and so that his family can hear his side of the story and in his own words and not shit-filtered through the Press like they choose to communicate. I’m sure he’s been told like I’ve been told in the past to just shut up and keep going, and also to just get over your shit and let it go. But that comes off like being told that your feelings and your experiences don’t mean shit. Wounds don’t disappear and the past isn’t changed or erased just because someone doesn’t want to talk about it or be with someone who’s been hurt. That’s why I think my father used to say, “Sorry doesn’t get it done.” I think an apology is meaningless without an acknowledgement and acceptance of what happened along with the damage it did and what it takes to heal from that damage and pain.

I’m breaking my silence in order to help other people do the same. Because for me, putting words onto feelings and giving voice to unspoken thoughts is what has brought me healing as it has to so many other people. Because when you find the words for your thoughts and feelings, then you learn how to deal with them and heal the wounds. And no, that’s not a popular decision with some people because it changes you and it makes you find your own way in the world. Most of all, you find happiness and peace that other people refuse to work towards in their own lives and that in turn makes them lash out in anger and insensitivity.

Writing like this hasn’t been easy for me since I renewed my commitment to writing here daily about what’s on my mind and going on in my life. But like anything else, the more you do something the better you get at it. Because like Admiral Kirk said in ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’: “We learn by doing.”

And I believe we can start learning about ourselves and how to heal by doing the work, and breaking the silence.

Moments of Clarity – Looking Back and Looking Forward

Image by Kanenori from Pixabay

WARNING: My writing can be sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious, sometimes all in the same paragraph.

As we begin a new year, I looked back and asked myself, what I have learned?

The first answer that came to my mind was I’ve learned things about myself with a depth and a clarity I’ve never had before. Over the last eight and a half years since I turned forty in May 2014, I’ve had what I call ‘moments of clarity’. A moment of clarity for me is when a thought comes to my mind with perfect sight and sound. These moments come like the calm after a storm, lifting weights of shame and guilt off of me that I had no business taking on in the first place. And in this past year, they’ve brought healing to me, something I never believed was possible before now.

In the past year, my moments of clarity came to me as I asked questions and found all the answers I could. Then I dealt with those answers no matter how painful they were sometimes.

So here are my key moments of clarity that have come to me over the past year:

From the question, what holds people back more than anything and its answer, other people, came this moment of clarity:

Not every single person is going to like everything I say, write, or do. And I’ve accepted that even as I believe people are free to say or do what they want in response to me. But I’m also just as free to respond to anyone in any way I choose to.

This moment of clarity came from one prior to that:

I’m not responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass. That is not my purpose in life nor is it anyone else’s. If a person has their head up their ass, it’s up to them to pull it out.

And that moment of clarity dovetailed into this:

I’m not responsible for appeasing someone’s butthurt feelings if I’m not doing anything wrong, or being cruel, insensitive, thoughtless, or acting without conscience, empathy, or compassion. If I’m not doing something wrong and someone has a problem with that, it’s not mine to deal with.

In the past year I feel like I’ve been living and working in a vacuum. I haven’t had a lot of feedback on what I’ve said or written, and I have wondered if it’s because of the ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibe I’ve honed to perfection. If so, then that’s one less piece of bullshit I have to deal with. And again, I’ve accepted that and am now moving forward in my life.

Now before I go any further I want to share something my late father used to tell me a lot:

The vast majority of people in this world are good people. Don’t let the few assholes in this world ruin things for you.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to be everything to everyone and failing miserably because that’s not possible. I’ve spent too much time trying to appease people to try and keep them from hurting me more than they already did. Appeasement and people-pleasing are not possible, and I’ve accepted that. And to anyone who has ever told me that if I live my life on my terms I’ll end up all alone I will say this: no one knows what the future will be for anyone.

All my life I’ve been told I can’t do things before I even attempted to do them by people who said they had my best interests at heart. My father was one of them though he also used to say to me, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The thing was these people were talking from a complete lack of knowledge and experience. Or as I like to say, they were talking out of their asses. And as to why that was doesn’t matter at all and isn’t worth thinking about in any way, shape, or form. Because as I read somewhere recently, if you don’t know something you can learn about it.

And at this point if you’re reading this and your back is coming up and you want to lash out at me and say I’m just out for pity or sympathy, or I’m just trying to be seen as a martyr: ask yourself why you and think and feel this way and keep asking until you find all the answers you can. But I will give you a warning: you might not like all the answers you find, and sooner or later you will have to deal with them. I don’t say this in order to hurt, just the opposite. I say it in the hope that it will keep someone else from being hurt like I’ve been.

Accepting that I’m not perfect, that I can’t be everything to everyone, that I can’t spend my life appeasing people, and most of all, accepting myself as I am- good, bad, ugly, and anything in between lead to something I never thought was possible: healing.

For me, healing is finally feeling pain easing off. It’s knowing I can learn and grow as a person, and that I can weather the storms of life and inside myself and come out in the light. It’s accepting that good can’t exist without bad, and that pain can’t exist without happiness. The Universe likes balance and when you find that balance then you can truly move forward in your life.

So. for the coming year I will be learning and growing, taking life one day at a time, and working towards my goal of living and working from the road.

And this is one from the road…

Break the Silence

Yesterday billionaire-idiot Elon Musk officially closed the deal for him to take ownership of Twitter. Now to most people this wouldn’t be big news and it isn’t. For those of us on social media, it is. I’m not super-active on Twitter but I do like to make pithy comments and see what people are getting their knickers in a twist over. But I also want to say the following:

People who pack up and leave someplace just because some new idiot has taken over something are the wimps of this world, and one of the reasons shit-history keeps repeating itself.

People are free to do what they want of course, just like the rest of us are free to comment on their choices. I’m sure there are people in this world who would love to tell me how they feel about the choices I make and the things I say. And they’re free to comment to me in any way they choose as I’m free to respond in any way I choose. Because as my late father used to say, freedom is a slippery concept. It’s slippery as warm shit because freedom can go either way, good or bad. That’s the problem I think a lot of people have with it. But here’s another thing I want to put out here about this:

You can’t run forever. You can’t hide from your feelings, from your pain, or from all the awful shit in this world. Sooner or later you have got to face it. And as my late father used to tell me a lot, you don’t know what you can deal with until you’re faced with it. He also used to tell me: you are so much stronger than you will ever realize, too.

My father could be as eloquent and inspiring like no one else I’ve ever known. But he could also be rude and crude with the best of them, too. I learned at the feet of a master, and if my mother were alive and heard me mouth off like I’m doing now she’d tell me I’m my father’s daughter because if my mother swore, that meant she was about to go nuclear on your ass (and I only heard my mother swear maybe half a dozen times so each time was the start of a nuclear countdown).

All my life I’ve felt like if I stepped out of line in some way, usually when I stood up to someone’s bullying bullshit, I got told if I didn’t shut up no one would want to be around me and that I’d spent my entire life all alone. But I’ve been alone all my life as I have never truly felt like I was one-hundred percent a part of anything. And guess what? I’m still here, still alive and kicking. Maybe I’m meant to be alone, but that threat means nothing to me now.

For so long I’ve struggled to put my words out in the world. And though my voice is tiny, it is mine. I know sooner or later someone is going to come at me with some bullshit. But I’m not a scared kid anymore, or an adult staying silent and eating a ton of shit just to keep the peace. I know I’ve said this before, but things have to be repeated in order for them to be truly imprinted on the human brain.

I own this domain of mine here and this site and blog are all mine. And if I get kicked off other platforms (though I honestly don’t see that happening as Elon-the-Twit and the others really don’t know what they’re doing nor do their sycophants either) I’ll have this at least. But this is a larger space for me to let it rip and hopefully any followers I have will read this. And please feel free to tell me what you think good or bad.

As my father would say, it’s time to shit or get off the pot. The clock’s ticking and I know I can’t stay silent or run and hide forever. In this world, I don’t think there is a lot of peace to be had right now. Too many people are tired, scared, and hurt, or have taken all those things and turned them inside-out mean as my daddy would say, too. I won’t turn mean for anyone or for any reason so I’ll say this:

Ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do and keep asking until you find all the answers that you can. I will warn you that you might not like the answers you find, and sooner or later you will have to deal with them.

So to wind this up I want to say to all the right-wing assholes and left-wing cut-and-run wimps I will quote the immortal words of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky:

The fight is here.

So from now until doomsday, I’m taking half an hour (give or take) out of my day to do a daily rant or ramble here. It won’t be fancy, and it will be rough as hell at times. Read it and weep or read it and get pissed off. But know this:

I will not be silenced.

Breaking Radio Silence – Lost and Found

Last night I wrote a piece that’s still a work-in-progress about a topic I’ve never been able to write about without it becoming a raging torrent of anger, rage, and profanity. There are multiple reasons why this piece, which is about what I call ‘bad behavior’, came out the way it did and why it has given me a foundation to build on. But the main reasons it came out without the torrent of anger, rage, and gross amounts of profanity is that I have true self-confidence and self-esteem now.

When I started this journey six years ago to sort out my mental and emotional baggage, if you asked me then if I would come out the other side feeling self-confident and not thinking of myself as a worthless piece of shit, I would have told you that wasn’t possible. I would have said my self-confidence and self-esteem were lost along the way, ripped apart and destroyed many years ago and that I would never find either one again inside of me. And I would have said that back then because I used to think I was an asshole-magnet. I honestly thought that if I showed any confidence in myself, if I showed I actually cared about myself and didn’t think I was just piece of shit taking up space where I wasn’t wanted, that people would just come at me and mentally and emotionally kick the living crap out of me.

Now I know I’m not an asshole-magnet. Now I know I’m not a worthless piece of shit just taking up space where I shouldn’t. Now I know I can focus on what I want to do with my life and not give one single shit about what ‘someone’ might think about me. How do I know these things? Simple: so far no one has had the tits or the balls to come at me and tell me otherwise. But if that does happen, which I think is a matter of when and not if, I’ll be ready.

But I don’t let myself think about that last question in the above paragraph very much anymore. If that thought comes into my mind, I kick it right out as hard as I can.

Truly believing that I have self-confidence and good self-esteem has been liberating and healing. I’ve begun to feel like I’m healing from all the garbage and pain I’ve worked through. I’ve worked through the absolutely-wrong idea that my writing is nothing but me calling out bad behavior and not doing anything about it. I am doing something about it by writing because my writing is to show other people they can work though mental and emotional crap and come out the other side. Yes, I believe people can change for the better if they’re willing to do the work. And I’ve done the work, I’ve realized. Now it’s just time to put it all together in written form.

I’ve come to realize my self-confidence and my self-esteem weren’t taken from me, or destroyed but instead, I hid them away in silence. I hid them away to keep people from using them as a weapon against me. I hid them away to try and keep people from telling me I was an egocentric bitch know-it-all for showing any ability to do things or take on responsibility. Putting my self-confidence and self-esteem into silence was a coping mechanism I developed in order to keep going and fulfill my promises and responsibilities. But coping mechanisms eventually fail because they’re not meant for long-term use. And I don’t need to cope, or stay silent anymore, and I will not give in to any demand to stay silent.

Because as I’ve said before, I’m not sharing my story to get even with anyone or as an act of revenge. I’m doing it in order to help people who have been through things like I have and are trying to work through the wounds and heal them. Yes, this does involve talking about things that some people might not be comfortable with, or worse, things that might make people feel guilt and shame when they don’t want to. I’m not responsible for anyone else’s feelings, and I sure as hell am not responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass for them.

If you’re reading this and you feel like you have no real self-confidence or self-esteem, you do. Those two things might just be very deep inside yourself in a safe place because you didn’t want to be hurt or have them used against you. But you can take them out and put them in their proper place, and you can deal with people not liking that. You can be calm and respond by telling people to ask themselves why they think and feel the way they do. Or if they try to weaponize your emotional and mental strength against you, you can tell them to ‘fuck off’ and walk away. I used to be scared of either reaction because I’ve always been afraid of burning bridges. But if a bridge is burned simply because I believe in myself and my abilities and I’m doing nothing wrong with them, then that bridge wasn’t mean to survive.

I didn’t think healing was possible, but now I know it is. And now I’m truly ready to tell the story of how I reached that conclusion and belief in myself.

Conversations From the Road – My Reading Mojo Lost and Found

Image by Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I have loved to read for as long as I can remember. As a child, I think I read almost every book in my elementary school library, and I continued to read anything I could get my hands on through junior high and high school. Looking back, I’ve wondered sometimes how my parents were able to keep me supplied with books. Reading for me has always been a pleasure and yes, an escape, too. And the escape is where the problems came in for me.

In my twenties, when I took on a shit-ton of responsibility in taking care of my mother then in my thirties when I became my father’s primary caregiver, reading was how I got away from the stress of what I was doing and the pain I was going through. But I knew there were people who were making unreasonable demands on me and my time that I felt didn’t like me having a respite from what I was going through. I felt like I was being seen as lazy, or worse, like I didn’t truly care about anyone but myself when I took what little free time I had to do something I enjoyed, even if that was something as simple as reading. So, I started hiding my reading, making sure I wasn’t doing it where anyone could see me reading a book. I began to fear people talking shit to me about doing something I enjoyed because in reality, reading a book or watching a movie or listening to music, or writing, were things that kept me from running away from home screaming my head off or breaking down and crying and never stopping.

When my father was in the hospital having a stent put into an artery in his heart that was ninety-percent blocked, I remember sitting out in the hallway by myself reading a Nora Roberts book. I happen to glance up and at the end of the row of chairs I was sitting at to see a young woman like myself reading the same Nora Roberts book. We gave each other a nod then went back to our books. I’m forever grateful to Nora Roberts and all the other authors and creative people who have always been there for me. I know I will never be able to fully repay them for all they have given to me even as I try to pay it forward with my own creative work. Because most of all, I want to be there for other people like all these creative people were for me.

In the last six years, my reading has tapered off considerably at times. At first, I thought it was because of stress and fatigue, then of being hypercritical as a writer. In reality, it was because I have brought up so much shit from the past that my brain began slipping backwards. I began to think I had to deal with all that shit all the damn time and that if I didn’t someone would land on me or just be insensitive and tell me I had no right to take a respite from dealing with emotional shit-storms. Worst of all, I felt like if I talked about enjoying something or talked about anything at all someone would come at me. That hasn’t happened though I do believe it will someday. But if someone does come at me with insensitive, demanding, or cruel bullshit about me and what I do or say, I’m just going to tell them to fuck off. I will not hide nor will I be ashamed or feel guilty for finding joy and pleasure in life, even if it’s just between the pages of a book. And if someone reading this thinks I’m being unreasonable or overly sensitive or some bullshit like that, keep that to yourself because your stupid bullshit is NOT something I need to deal with.

In the last few weeks, I’ve begun to read at a pace I haven’t read at in years. And I’m taking real joy in reading again. I realize that this is a part of the healing process, something I never thought about until just recently. Even as I continue to work through my past emotional shit-storms, I’m on the road to healing. Finding joy and not feeling any sense of shame or guilt or wanting to hide my joy is a form of healing I didn’t realize I needed until now. So, to anyone reading this: savor the joy and respite you get from whatever makes you happy- books, movies, tv shows, crafts, and hobbies. Don’t hide it or feel any shame or guilt over that joy and respite. And practice telling any uptight judgmental asshole that may come at you one thing: fuck off.

Read the books.

Watch the movies and tv shows.

Listen to the music.

Enjoy your crafts and hobbies.

Find joy and respite wherever and whenever you can.

Be strong in these times of joy and respite.

And now for some bonus book recommendations:

Front Page Murder by Joyce St. Anthony (buy here – Amazon) This is a cozy mystery (a mystery without blood and gore) set in May 1942 in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania. The main character is Irene Ingram, the new editor-in chief of her family’s newspaper. She’s been given the job by father who has gone off to be a war correspondent in the Pacific theater. She’s been a writer for the newspaper since she could pick up a pencil as she says and she’s of course having to fight to be respected for her knowledge and experience. When one of her reporters is found dead, she begins to investigate the ‘hot lead’ he said he was following. The book is well-researched and very well-written and yes, there another book coming in this series soon.

Poison in Paradise by Melissa Baldwin (Buy Here – Amazon): I got this one as a freebie but I really liked it because it was very clever and unique It’s a cozy mystery set on a cruise ship docked in the Bahamas and the amateur sleuth is Lexi, a lifeguard and Guest Relations representative on the ship. When a guest is murdered onshore, Lexi starts to investigate to clear the name of her childhood friend, and new wife of the murder victim. I liked Lexi’s determination to do the right thing and follow her instincts in getting people to talk to her.

A Sip Before Dying by Gemma Halliday (Buy Here – Amazon): Yet another cozy mystery, the first in a series set in California Wine Country with amateur sleuth Emmy Oak. Emmy has come back to take over her family’s small winery that’s in financial trouble. When a guest dies at a tasting event at the winery, Emmy works to find out who did it in order to save her winery’s reputation. It’s very clever and also there are recipes at the end of the book (Emmy is also a trained chef who cooks for the events at her winery).

Grounds for Murder and Cold Brew Corpse by Tara Lush (Buy Here – Amazon) Yet another set of cozy mysteries set in the Gulf Coast of Florida starring Lana Lewis, a former investigative reporter turned coffee-shop owner. In the first book, her top barista turns up dead and Lana begins to investigate. What I really like about this series (the third book is coming out soon), is Lana is really good at investigating because of her former job and the author is a former investigative reporter so there is a real good feel of authenticity along with very creative and strong storytelling skills.

And before my cozy mystery kick, I was on a romantic suspense kick with new-to-me author Rachel Grant and two books in her Evidence series, Incriminating Evidence (one of the best romantic suspense books I’ve read in years) and her Flashpoint series, which is one rollicking intense series of books that kept me reading late at night. (Buy Here – Amazon – Rachel Grant Author Page)

Breaking Radio Silence – The Look of Shame

This will eventually end up in the book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ in longer form but here’s a shorter version.

One of the very first things I learned in life was the meaning of the word ‘ugly’ as it applied to me and it was a bad thing because I was fat and clumsy. When I was eight years old, my spine began to curve but everyone thought I was just slouching and lazy. Five years later, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, curvature of the spine but it was too late for non-surgical correction. So since I was eight years old (give or take), my body has been fat, misshapen, and lumpy. Because of my scoliosis, my physical activity has been limited in addition to me having damaged body parts due to being out of alignment. At this point in my life, I honestly don’t give a shit if someone thinks I’m ugly or if they even tell me because I’ve heard every variation of that and I’m still here. But the wound is there, and it always will be.

In the last six years, one of the things I’ve have learned to do is to reject shame and guilt I had no business feeling or taking on in the first place. It has taken me the past six years to understand the shame and guilt I have carried over the way I look and how to let go of it. One thing that has helped me is a memory I will always treasure:

One of my earliest memories is of my mother looking at me with enormous love in her eyes and a beautiful smile on her face as she said to me, “You are a beautiful girl.” I heard that all my life from her and I know she meant it with every fiber of her being. I remember all the times we went shopping together for clothes and how we always had fun together doing that. Because when it was just the two of us, it was all about having fun with no shame or guilt. That ended when my mother had her mastectomy, the first of many surgeries she would have after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. In addition to multiple, horribly-scarring surgeries, first and second-degree radiation burns, chemotherapy treatments, hormonal imbalances that made her gain and lose weight, and hair loss were enormous feelings of shame and guilt over what was happening to her.

And my mother only broke down once with me and cried over it. It was one afternoon when we were alone and she told me how she was so afraid my father might leave her because of her cancer and what was happening to her afterward. All I could do was hold her and comfort her as best as possible. Now that thought never entered my father’s mind though if he had left her my last words to him would have been, “You are dead to me.” But he always tried to comfort her even I did the opposite: I gave her a space to vent, to speak honestly and truthfully, and to say things that would make most people very uncomfortable. I won’t go into any detail past a certain point about those conversations, but I knew how people looked at her, with pity and revulsion, or worse, trying to bullshit their way around the ugly truth she lived with every single day until she died.

In the last decade of my mother’s life, I learned just how terribly she’d been raised. She’d been raised to have no self-confidence, no self-esteem, and worst of all, to believe she was ugly and worthless if she didn’t at least try to conform to some bullshit unattainable beauty standard. My mom spent most of her adult life on a perpetual diet, following exercise fads, and gaining and losing weight. Yet she never, ever forced any of that shit onto me. She always looked at me with love and acceptance, told me I was beautiful, smart, capable, and kind. She gave me the self-confidence and self-esteem she never had despite a lot of assholes in the world trying to take that from me. In her eyes, I always felt like I was good enough, like I was worthy of love and respect. I did my best to try and make her feel that way and I hope she felt that from me.

I would love to tell her I’ve learned to let go of a lot of shame and guilt over how I look and a lot of that is because I remember the way she looked at me. I have made a commitment to do my absolute best to look at people as they are and accept them as they are, and to try and be compassionate and accepting. Now that doesn’t mean I have to take shit from people because people who are mean and cruel, regardless of whether it’s thoughtless or thought out, deserve to be held accountable for the pain they inflict with their cruelty. I know can’t pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. But I can stand up for myself and for others and say this: there is NO shame in how you look. Ever.

Conversations From the Road – Writing Every Day

“Write every day.”

That’s a piece of writing advice I’ve heard since I started writing almost forty years ago. And you know what? It’s good advice. Because writing, like anything else a person wants to get good at, takes practice. For me, I like writing every single day. When I don’t I get depressed and feel like a walking lump of human shit because my mind doesn’t have an outlet. But ever since I started writing, it’s been a battle for me to pursue it every single day (or close to it depending on other things happening in my life). Why? As I’m fond of saying, it’s a long story. So I’ll just give you a basic highlight reel here and tell you I’ll go into this in more detail in my book, ‘Behind the Story’.

After I graduated high school I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life other than write. My parents were okay with me living at home and doing chores and errands and babysitting for pocket money while I wrote. Around that time I read a book called ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. At that time I loved the book for its’ embrace of creativity, ‘artist’s dates’, and ‘morning pages’. What I didn’t understand at that time I remember was that I would need to overcome a lot of obstacles in order to really create to the fullest extent of my abilities. But at that time I hadn’t gone through the worst of what life was about to put me through.

In the past, I’ve always said I couldn’t write during the most stressful times of my life because of stress. But now I know that wasn’t true. I stopped writing during high-stress times simply because I was afraid of dealing with someone mouthing off at me accusing me of neglecting my responsibilities or being a selfish bitch. I NEVER, EVER neglected my responsibilities in order write. Once I took on the responsibilities I did I did my best to put my writing down low on my priority list. I did my best to hide it or minimize it. Yet I always felt that wasn’t enough for some people and that if I crossed a line only they could see, then the shit would truly hit the fan for me. Looking back, I realize if I had continued to write during those high-stress times, and if I had put more into my writing that I might have been able to deal with things better than I did at the time. And also, I think if I had told people to fuck off right to their damn faces and told them they had absolutely NO say in my life and what I did with my own time, I think like most bullies they would have backed down.

What those old bullying voices have evolved into are feelings that I need to be rigid and focused in writing. And every time I’ve tried to fit myself into a rigid format, I grind to a halt. I grind to a halt because I need the freedom to write what I want to, and to let shit out on a daily basis. In ‘The Artist’s Way’, Ms. Cameron talks of ‘Morning Pages’, which is where you write three pages by hand every morning without editing or reading back over them at all. My late father would call that ‘clearing the mechanism’. My version of ‘Morning Pages’ is two pages typed single-spaced on a laptop and posted on the internet. Why? Because I like doing it and I do have people who like reading what I write. And most of all, because no one has had the tits or the balls to come at me and tell me otherwise. If someone did try and put me in my place or shut me down writing-wise, I’d tilt my head to the side and go, “Really?” in the most shocked and sarcastic tone I muster. Then I would straighten my head and say with all the feeling I could muster, “Fuck off.”

I want any writer reading this to know you can say, “Really?” followed by “Fuck off.”, if someone tries to shut you down or just mouth off and be a jerk to you. If your writing is not getting in the way of any responsibilities you have to yourself or to others, then it’s no one’s problem. If someone doesn’t like that you write, that’s on them. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and I don’t need to be. I used to think I had to try and please as many people as I could, or appease them if I couldn’t make them happy. To that I say, “Fuck that shit.” Or as the late Rick Nelson sang so well in his song ‘Garden Party’: “You see, you can’t please everyone/So you got to please yourself” (written by Rick Nelson, Universal Music Publishing Group, original release July 1972)

What I also didn’t understand about ‘The Artist’s Way’ when I read it way back when was that writing could be a form of therapy. Almost thirty years later, I understand that concept very well. And maybe there is still some echo of my past thinking someone will come at me because of that. If they do, well, read the above paragraph though I hope I quote Rick Nelson instead of myself.

So going forward, two pages every day of whatever comes to mind. Some excerpts, stories, and more to come.

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