Broken, But Never Giving Up

For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why people said they were broken inside. In the last few months, I’ve finally begun to understand why. Life has a way of breaking the glass inside us, or trying to anyway.

Four years ago, I told the year 2016 to go to Hell when Carrie Fisher died followed by her mother Debbie Reynolds a day later. Today I said 2020 can go to hell following the announcement of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I’m seeing a lot of wailing and moaning that we’re all fucked because of her death and the vacancy it opens on the Supreme Court.

All my life I have felt like I have do things for myself. I have never, ever felt like anyone is going to come in and save me, or even save the rest of us from fascist evil and those complicit with that. I still believe that now.

Instead I believe I have to keep at things until I find a damn solution to my own problems. I have to keep thinking about solving my own problems even when it exhausts me because there’s no other option. Why? Because I have always felt I do NOT have the option to fall apart and let my guard down because I honestly feel like no one will be there to hold me, or pick me up off the floor if that happened. It’s why I didn’t let myself fall apart almost twenty years ago as my mother was dying and all the damn decisions fell on my shoulders because my father collapsed from exhaustion.

So to anyone wanting to fall apart now and say we’ve had it:

Don’t give me that fucking shit.

And if you think I’m being a mean-ass bitch, you’re not the first person to ever tell me that nor will you be the last. I’ve survived being told that shit all my damn life and I’m still here alive and kicking.

Right now, I think the world needs a serious ass-chewing. And if you’re reading this, you’re getting it from me. We don’t have time to say we’re fucked and it’s all over. It’s only over when you’re dead like RBG, my mother, and all those who’ve gone before us. If you’re alive, you keep going and you keep fighting. And yes, people are going to give you shit for this. They’re going to tell you you’ve got a shit-ton of pride stuck up your ass and that you need to let your guard down and not be such a fucking hard-ass.

I’ve never felt like I had the luxury of letting my guard down and not be such a hard-ass. I’ve always felt like I got dealt a shitty hand and the only way I could deal with it was to play it the best I could. I’ve got a body that hates my guts: bad back, allergies all to hell, bummed-up right knee (it’s healing up but sore as hell at times). I’m broke, living on the edge, and sometimes just making shit up as I go along. My big fault with myself is that I stay silent because I don’t want to deal with people’s bullshit.

Not anymore. You can disagree with this all you damn well want. I can feel things with absolutely searing empathy and compassion that could rip a flood of tears out of me if I let it loose. And I’ve used silence to hold that in but not anymore.

If you can’t see past broken glass, hatred, propaganda, and feel that suffering is glorious and right, I can’t change that way of thinking. But I know that no one else can get inside my head and change the way I think and feel. Because in the end, I’m all I’ve got. I’m all this world has of me. But I also have hope that if someone reads my words they’ll start thinking about things they haven’t challenged or questioned. They’ll start digging through layers of rhetoric and bullshit, of manipulated emotions and relentless noise. I hope they’ll see past the broken glass and ask why was that glass broken in the first place.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg broke glass ceilings in her lifetime. These glass ceilings needed to be broken, and we have to keep breaking them. Even if we feel broken inside. Because in the end, I don’t think it’s about me, but about the world I live in, and the story I’m a part of, and not just living on my own.

The picture is a quote from an old Marianne Faithfull song that came to mind because I heard it yesterday on the Sirius XM radio channel 1st Wave. She recorded that song in 1979 after beating a heroin addiction that could have killed her. And she beat back covid-19 by the way and is still with us.

To My Younger Self

In my mind, I see myself as an ten-year old child in her room. She sits on the floor with posters all over her walls, books stuffed into bookshelves, papers and pencils on the floor. She sits in front of a stereo with records stacked in front of it, cassettes in a box, and a radio set to her favorite radio station. I go and sit down in front of her and she looks up at me.

“Who are you?” She asks.

“I’m you. As a grown-up, older than mom and dad are now.”

“Why are you here?”

“Because there are some things I’m going to tell you, things you won’t remember as words, but as feelings.”

Younger me sets aside her paper and pencils and looks right up at me. I can feel how hard that is for her to do, how shy and scared she is. She wants to be brave, but she feels weak and fragile.

“The first thing I’m going to tell you is you’re not weak and fragile. Physically, in about three years, you’re going to find out why you’re awkward and clumsy. The good thing is it’ll get you out of most of the stuff in gym class you already hate.”

Younger me smiles at that but she says nothing so I continue.

“You’ll start writing a lot more in the next few years. You’ll get good at it, in fact it’ll keep you passing classes when you forget to do your homework.”

“Why would I forget to do that?” She asks.

“Because you’d rather write and live in your imaginary world than the real one.”

She nods to that and I continue to the hard part of this story.

“Twenty years from now, your whole world will come crashing down on you. One day all of the decisions that have to be made will be made by you. You’ll be strong, but inside you’ll be terrified that you’re going to shatter into a million pieces. And you’ll be alone through this time. Because no one is going to get close enough to you, and hold you, and tell you everything is going to be alright. Because you know it won’t be. But you’ll survive.”

She feels my remembered pain and anguish from those years and I focus on giving her strength instead. “Like I said, you won’t remember these words, just the feelings. And nine years later, it’ll happen again but this time you’ll be better prepared.”

“But alone?”

I just nod to that.

“Why?” She asks me.

“That’s a question I’m still trying to find an answer to. I’m working on writing a book about it. It’s about you, and me.”

Younger me smiles at this. “Does it have a happy ending?”

“It has a hopeful one. My future is still waiting to happen. And I still have hope that maybe some day someone will come into my life, and be patient with me.”

We look at each other for a moment then she crosses the small space of time between us and I hug her tightly to me. She doesn’t cry and neither do I. I hold her for as long as I can then as I let her go I tell her one last thing:

“In the future, where I’m at now, you’ll have a dog and cat.”

She giggles at that then she fades back into time and I return to my present. I know she won’t remember my words, but she’ll remember the feelings I want her to have the most: wonder, and hope.

Most of all she’ll have hope, like I do now.

I Am the Fire, the Fury, and The Cool of the Ocean

A few days ago I began working on a short piece I titled ‘Why I Write’. But I couldn’t get it to come together and instead, it opened up a box inside my mind I thought I had gone through but needed to go through again. I had a nice ranting piece ready to go but luckily I held it back then deleted it entirely. Why? I have no need to rant and rave and say ‘fuck off’. And I have quit worrying about someone not liking what I write and trying to make it all about them or some other passive-aggressive bullshit.

So instead, I want to talk about what a simple writing piece has led to. It led to a title change and an overhaul of a project that really needed it.

A couple of years ago, not long after I came up with the title ‘Breaking Radio Silence’,  I came up with a piece I titled ‘My Relationship With Writing Is Complicated’. I wanted to put that piece into the ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project but as I began to work on it, I realized it wouldn’t fit in with that project because it’s focus is pretty narrow. So I spun it off on its’ own and then sort of forgot about it until yesterday.

Yesterday I retitled my writing-book project and I’m in the process of overhauling it in terms of structure and outline. But I nailed the introduction and realize I’ve got another non-fiction hybrid project in the works. I call this book a hybrid because it’s a mix of memoire and writing how-to. My other two non-fiction books (Breaking Radio Silence and Intersections) are also hybrids mixing memoire with self-help and history and commentary. I don’t think I’m the first writer to do this but I may be the first one to put a label on it.

But I will admit here, I’ve been holding back on all three projects.

Why?

Because I thought I needed more time to be ready to write and post about them. But I realize that if I wait until I’m ready, I’ll never be ready. What that means is I have to stop waiting and start doing things. And most of all, I have to stop being afraid or worried about what someone might think. So I’ve revived the title ‘My Relationship With Writing Is Complicated’ and made that the introduction to my writing book. It’s a piece two years in the making and it’s a great introduction like the new introductions I’ve written to my two other non-fiction books.

These three books are deeply personal and will be hard to read at times because I know they will be hard to write at times. But I know now that I can write them. I know I can write them because all I have to do is what I did earlier: delete the shit in my mind that tells me to be scared and run and hide rather than risk pissing someone off with my writing. As you’ll read in the introduction to my writing book, which I’ve titled, “Writing Through Fear, Imagination, and Courage”, you’ll see where that fear comes from. Having written about it over the last day or so and realizing I can finally put it back in the box where it belongs, means I can move forward and just shut the fuck up and write.

Writing is sometimes easy for me, and sometimes it’s harder than hell. It’s harder than hell when I have to burn off a lot of shit to get to what I really need to write. I don’t need to justify my words or my ability to write them. I’m not a scared twenty-something kid anymore. I’m a pissed off middle-aged woman with a sarcastic sense of humor.

I am the Fire, and the Fury, and the Cool of the Ocean.

I wrote this phrase yesterday and it’s really resonated with me since then. What it means is I have the fire and the fury of wanting to write without hesitation or fear, but the cool of the ocean not to let fire, fury, and fear overtake me.

So starting tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the new introductions then other stuff, too. I hope I don’t find any more boxes I need to unpack and sort through again but now I know I don’t have to take days to do that.

Most of all, if I’ve got something ready to go, it’s going out into the world.

Origin Stories – How I Am Working on Breaking Radio Silence

In the Fall of 2016, I created a file titled ‘Untitled Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid’ with the goal of using writing to figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. Looking back, it seemed such a simple of an idea but in reality, it became so much more. What I didn’t know then was that I would go into the deepest, darkest, and most painful parts of my mind to answer my questions. I would go into the storage unit of my mind as I call it and open boxes of memories, thoughts, and feelings I hadn’t dealt with.

I don’t regret what I’ve done at all because it was necessary to bring me to the point I’m at in my life now. I’m much more calm and focused in my mind and my emotions don’t run away with me in an out of control spiral. I’ve learned to trust myself, to trust my instincts, and know that I don’t have all the answers and neither does anyone else.

The title ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ came to me in the Spring of 2018 and has stayed with me since. But what followed after that was the deepest dive into my mind, and one of the most painful times in my life. I felt like I was just functioning enough just to stay afloat, like I’d reach an island and find shelter when another storm would toss me back into the waves. Each realization as I call them brought me clarity and lifted weights of shame and guilt off my shoulders, but they didn’t bring me happiness and joy.

In March of this year, I created an outline for this book that I’ve kept. It’s pretty basic but I was finally able to create the map for this book. I tried writing this book like I do my fiction by just writing and editing as I go but that didn’t work for this project. It turns out with non-fiction I need structure to go off of.

Early on in this book’s life, the phrase ‘peeling back layers’ came to me. What I mean by ‘peeling back the layers’ is that I placed layers of silence, denial, shame, and guilt over so many thoughts and feelings that I had buried the truth about them. One big layer I peeled back was denial that I had made certain decisions in my life though in the past I had denied that with every ounce of strength I had. But now I realize I stayed silent about making those decisions at all because I didn’t want to deal with anyone’s bullshit attitude about them.

Not wanting to deal with anyone’s bullshit attitude is a big reason why I stayed silent so much throughout my life. Because all my life I’ve been told ‘no’ more often than ‘yes’ and I internalized that to where I thought I was weak and fragile, and to where I thought I had no right to my thoughts and feelings at all, even inside my own mind.

Because another thing I had to overcome in writing this book is learning how deal with someone who will mouth off and say I’m doing this for revenge, or to get even, or to prove a point, or win an argument. I have had to learn how to come up with a strategy to deal with someone mouthing off at me saying I’m just looking to profit from my misery. To both arguments I just have one response now: fuck off.

This project may have started out as what I called a ‘therapy book’ but it’s turned into so much more. I know there are people in this world who have thought and felt like I have, and have been through things similar to what I’ve been through. And because of that, I know they’re hurting like hell. My wounds will never completely heal nor will they will just disappear. And though I’ve been broken by a lot of things, I’ve forged my broken pieces back together with the shiniest of metals to show my wounds and what I’ve healed from. That’s the reason I’m writing this book: to help others. Because if anything that I write gives hope to someone, gives them something to hold on to, or helps them work through their own pain, then all the storms I went through will be more than worth it.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting excerpts in progress (I hope to have a complete working draft finished by the end of this year). I don’t want to work on this 24/7 because I think I’d drive myself nuts if I did. But in the last four years, this book has never left me though there were times I would have loved to have walked away from it.

But I’m not one to walk away from the hard stuff past a certain point, especially if the world is crashing down around me. I’m just breaking my silence about that with this book now.

My Moon Shot

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

In 2009, on the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, I remember watching a lot of coverage of that event and listening to my dad’s stories about seeing it happen live and thinking one thing: I want my own moon shot.

At the time I was working at what was then my highest-paying job and also the most stressful. It was also just a few months after my dad’s stroke and he was staying with me though he sure as hell didn’t want to (we eventually worked out a way to get him back to his place until he passed on). I wanted to quit that job and do anything but sit at a desk for eight hours a day answering the phones. But I also knew I was stressed-out and exhausted and not thinking straight, too. So I told myself to stay where I was then see where I was at a year from now. A year later, I reached the same conclusion: I had to get out of there. And I did in October 2010.

Five and a half years later, in May 2016, I walked away from my last call-center job. This time I did it for my health as two disks in my lower back were in critical danger of blowing out. In the four years since, I’ve lost a lot of material things but gained knowledge about myself that more than makes up for the material things that were just piling up in my life (and my apartment).

What I’ve gained in the last four years is a lot of knowledge about myself and why I have thought and felt the way I do. But as I sit down to launch this website-blog, I realize what I’ve learned the most and have begun to truly accept is that I am so much stronger and capable of so much more than I ever realized, or believed in about myself.

Because all my life I’ve felt weak and fragile, and dumber than dog shit. Those thoughts came from being told ‘no’ much more often than I was ever told ‘yes’. And a lot of that was from people who said they had my best intentions and just didn’t want to see me fail, or fall on my ass. But here’s the thing, those people with good intentions hadn’t done what I was going to do so they were coming from a position of complete ignorance. I won’t ever try to figure out why people took one look at me and decided I was fragile and weak and dumb-as-shit in some cases.

Yet many years ago, when my world came crashing down around me I was the last one left standing. And I didn’t remain standing out of stubborn pride like I’ve been told so damn many times.

I remained standing and kept my shit together because I was terrified if I let go I would shatter into a million pieces and never be able to put them all back together. I did break and crack many times throughout my life, but I forged those broken pieces of myself back together with the strongest and shiniest metals I could find.

Five years ago, a thought came into my mind changed me and my life forever: everyone else is just as full of shit as I am, but I’m not a bad person either.

This thought was followed about three years later by one that helped me reconcile my past once and for all: I was where I needed to be.

And about a year after that reconciliation, I began to throw off huge weights of shame and guilt I should never have taken on in the first place.

Most of all, I’ve faced my deepest, darkest, and most painful fear with this thought: no one can take my work, my hopes and dreams, and the life I want to live away from me. Many years ago, I thought people could take everything I wanted from me and force me into exile through lies and well-intentioned disapproval at any attempt of mine at forging some kind of life for myself.

I know now I’ve been an exile all my life and probably will be until the day I die. And I’ve survived that lonely exile with my hopes and dreams along with my stories and my words in my head.

In the coming days, weeks, and months you’ll be seeing my words and stories here presented in many different ways. You’ll be learning the stories behind what I’ve written here today along with many others, both in non-fiction and fictional form. In addition to sharing my stories and my words, I will also be doing to my absolute best to share this with as many people as I can along with working my ass off to earn money from it, too. I hope you find things here you like, that put a smile on your face, or help you in some way and give you hope. Because no matter how hard the world has tried to beat me down, I’ve never lost hope.

Feel free to comment and share this post and thanks for doing so!