I’m Struggling: Diseases Suck.

In December, a dear friend of mine (a piece of my heart) passed away. She was suffering. She had been in and out of doctors for two years and they had yet to be able to diagnose the autoimmune disease/diseases she was suffering from. And she suffered. Oh, did she suffer. But I didn’t realize the extent of her pain until she unexpectedly passed away. She hid that pain from me, from others, and put on a brave face, went dark and quiet so as not to “burden” those that love her.

But I wanted to be burdened. And I couldn’t understand why she would choose to suffer alone. I thought: This is what friendship is for – for me to help carry the burden and try to ease her pain, at least let her know that she isn’t alone.

But I understand now.

Friends, I’m suffering. And I’ve gone dark and quiet because in some way I am embarrassed by my inability to get well and so I only want to emerge when I am brilliant and bright, but what if that doesn’t happen? What if I need to adjust my way of life so that I am slower, less “brilliant”, but limited?

I broke my laptop. I broke my phone. On Christmas Day a bowl of spinach flew from my hands and my husband had a panic attack; this isn’t like me, to be clumsy – I’m sharp as a motherfucking tack. But it wasn’t until I broke a bottle of olive oil and sliced my two fingers and got eleven stitches between the two of them that I sought medical help (I was forced to – an open wound will do that).

Honesty: I’ve been clumsy, I’ve been dizzy, I’ve been nauseous, I flew to Chicago to attend my dear friend’s celebration of life and the motion sickness never left me, my eyes vibrating vigorously at all times. My primary care doctor ordered up a brain scan to rule out a tumor, a full blood panel to check for an autoimmune disease, she referred me to an ENT.

Blood is clear. Phew. Brain is clear. Phew. ENT sent me to an audiologist who performed an ECOG test, which showed that I have excess fluid in my left inner ear that is pushing on my balance organ causing the dizziness and nausea; she believes I have Meniere’s Disease.

Now, I’m lucky. I don’t have cancer. I’m lucky. I don’t have a neurological disorder. I’m lucky. I have excellent health insurance that has allowed me to find an answer. And to hear a diagnosis, I wept.

But Meniere’s Disease is chronic. Life-long. And you can only treat the symptoms.

Let that sink in.

They’ve got me on a low sodium diet (less than 1000 mg per day) and a water pill, and the dip in sodium and the dehydration landed me in the ER on Friday. The dizziness is worse, spinning, always spinning, and I scoot down the stairs of my house on my butt.

My husband is out of town for the week and I’m fearful of being alone in my own home, fearful I will fall, or my sodium will dip again and I won’t have the energy to call someone for help because that is what it felt like – extreme exhaustion in which pulling my hair into a ponytail had me collapsing on the floor.

I’m feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities of this disease (though I’m getting a second opinion – I won’t accept it), the possibility that I will always be dizzy (the meds for vertigo aren’t working on me), that I won’t be able to have a child because I’ll drop it, that I will eventually go deaf in my ear, that they say my right ear could possibly be infected and then I could go completely deaf, that I’ll never hear the piano again, that I won’t be able to sing any longer – that pieces of me that make me, me, will be gone.

But deaf is better than dead.

On Sunday, I lie down on the sofa spinning, feeling helpless and hopeless, but my husband played the guitar and I watched as he played for me the song we walked down the aisle to and I felt this overwhelming sense of love – this, here, is my husband, and even though I am unable to move, I can still see him and I can still hear him and I can still love him. I marked that moment in my memory – his voice, the strum of guitar – sounds amplified in my swollen ears; even broken, I am still loved.

If this turns out to be my life from here on out – at least I still have life. And I will need help with self-compassion. I will need to learn how to ask for help. But life doesn’t have to be fast. I don’t have to be sharp as a motherfucking tack. I’m not brilliant at all times; I’m not always bright. Right now, I’m a mess. So here I am, asking all of you, my friends, for help. Send me love, send me light, send me prayers – I’m weak right now and I need them.

Everybody struggles. Everybody suffers. This is my struggle and I’m suffering.

(But don’t worry. If I have this disease – I will garner my strength, your strength, and kick this disease’s ass. Just watch me.)

My Road To Pregnancy (It Hasn’t Been Easy):

Some women “accidentally” get pregnant, barely feel any symptoms, skate through their pregnancy fairly easily, and then push that perfect, beautiful baby out no problem.

This has not been my journey.

My husband and I “accidentally” got pregnant at the end of June; it wasn’t exactly an accident, but we weren’t exactly trying either, it was more of a test to see if the other one was ready for a child by seeing if I stopped him or if he pulled out – I didn’t and he didn’t and bam! I was pregnant. That night, after sex, I thought – he just got me pregnant. It was that instantaneous, the changes to my body, my intuition prickling.

In the first week of July I would become narcoleptic, nauseous. We traveled to Chicago and Michigan and my breasts were sore. No, not sore, they hurt, like a little jiggle when walking was painful.

Instantly, I became protective, allowing my body to rest when needed, practicing self-care (which is something I don’t normally practice yet desperately need to). I napped when necessary, kept active yet didn’t push too hard, worked, but didn’t work myself to a stressed out mess: I found balance.

And my husband was doting, running out to buy ginger beer, going for runs with me when sitting still made the nausea worse. We were excited. We were hopeful. And then a week after we got home to Seattle, I found myself eating ginger cookies simply because they were cookies and not because I was nauseous. My breasts were no longer tender. I had a day with odd blood clots, and then that was it.

This world of fertility and pregnancy and miscarriage is all so new to me, so secretive, so I went to two separate doctors and they both hypothesized that I had a chemical pregnancy (yet I still wasn’t exactly aware of what a chemical pregnancy was).

The next month we tried again, and we ended up drowning all of the little spermies in lubricant. (Whoops!)

Then the next month we both had the flu, had sex once, and bam! the symptoms were back, but this time I was not exactly excited, but wary. Was I being dramatic? Making this all up in my head? The doctors said I had a chemical pregnancy, but we couldn’t prove it because I miscarried before I could get a positive pregnancy test. Maybe I’m just being dramatic. So I fought every single symptom of this pregnancy, fought the idea that I could be right, that I could actually be pregnant, and when I took a test, I lined five positive tests up simply to convince myself that I hadn’t made it up.

I miscarried at 5 ½ weeks.

I felt robbed. Smacked in the face, now grieving two miscarriages, not one – the first at 4 weeks, the second at 5 ½ weeks. My hormones rising and falling, rising and falling – feeling like total, absolute shit for 4 months straight. Not being able to control my body. Feeling like a failure for miscarrying – twice.

It seems I don’t have trouble getting pregnant, but staying pregnant.

I believe I am pregnant again.

This time, because I have had two miscarriages, my doctor placed me on progesterone twice daily, and let me tell you, these hormones suck balls. Seriously, they do. I have all of the symptoms of pregnancy to the umpteenth degree (I drank 2 gallons of chocolate milk in 2 days), yet I may not actually be pregnant, the symptoms could simply be side effects from the progesterone.

Right now, I can’t trust my body, when I have finally learned to trust my body; control soothes me, and I have no control.

This journey has been challenging (at the very least). And I’m not sure how much longer I can continue with these hormones spiking and dropping, spiking and dropping, and spiking again. The hormones are debilitating. And I feel like instead of being excited for the possibility of pregnancy, I am guarded – what if I miscarry again?

It isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair (If you want to see unfair, look at who our president elect is, and not by the popular vote).

This is what I know: I’m jealous of other women whose journeys are easy, who barely feel any symptoms, who don’t need to try so hard. But I’m also happy for them, truly I am, many of them are my friends. And the jealousy makes me feel guilty; I’m not accustomed to being jealous. But you know what? I’m human. And at the moment, I’m struggling. At the moment, I feel pregnant. At the moment, I need to learn how to practice self-care. This journey is tiring. And perhaps I’m not as strong as I thought I was as I can’t imagine functioning as a mother, a writer, an actor, a wife, and a friend as all of these symptoms persist; so perhaps one child is enough (if/when we have a child).

Next week I will know for sure whether these symptoms are from pregnancy or hormone therapy or both. But in the meantime, I need to give myself a break. I need to rest. I need to be good to my body, my mind, my heart. I need to allow myself the excitement of a possible pregnancy – I cannot allow the miscarriages to rob me of my joy (easier said, than done, I know).

And once again…I’m waiting.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing in my journey. It’s not all sugarplums and roses and unicorns and giggling bundles of baby joy. But hopefully one day, one day soon, it will be.

From One Unlikable Female to Another, Hillary Clinton, I See You.

First, I will say this: this is not a political post, it is not about politics, the right or the left or the in-between, this post is about humanity, being human, it is about morality and hypocrisy and injustice.

I grew up in small town Michigan where our town had one stoplight. Actually, we were a village. And I had a great childhood, I did, there are a lot of good things about growing up in a small town – my childhood was spent zipping through the woods, using my imagination, building forts and make-believe towns, discovering old settlements, picking blueberries and running amuck with no fear of stumbling upon a meth lab or weirdoes in the woods, or the neighbors calling CPS because children were unattended by adults.

And yet, I didn’t fit in.

I came screaming out of my mother’s womb with a fierce independence, a drive to succeed (even in Elementary school, I needed all A’s) that was never (and will never be) abated. I became an actress, a singer, striving for perfection in every area of interest. My mind was (is) hungry, almost desperate for knowledge. I yearned for the satisfaction of a good, healthy challenge; in sixth grade I chose Gone With The Wind for a book report when I was told I wouldn’t be able to read those seven-hundred-thirty-three pages (challenge!), and I did, I read them, went home every day after school and locked myself away in my bedroom and read, victorious when I got to the end of the book.

I say this because when I got to high school, I felt misunderstood. When girls became women and were expected to act a certain way. When “male” characteristics (like ambition and drive and a competitive spirit – which aren’t “male” characteristics, I know they’re not, or they shouldn’t be, but some people still think this way, some people are still stuck in the past, which is why I use the quotations) were not becoming on a lady. When female whiles such as submissiveness and flirting were used to secure boyfriends. I never had a boyfriend. Boys didn’t date me (a few dates, here and there, but nothing serious). And I felt lonely, alone, unwanted, not…enough.

I was told that men found me intimidating. I was told to be softer. I was advised that if I wanted a man to date me, then I needed to change who I was (am), and play the game (dim my light, my brightness, my intelligence, ambition, and passion), be more likeable. But were the boys/men told to be less intimidating? To lesson their ambition or intelligence? To be more…approachable? More likeable?

I refused. I refused to lower my expectations, my self-respect in order to be soft.

I learned hypocrisy at a young age. The hypocrisy of the standards some men and women hold other women to, but not men. I see you, Hillary Clinton. I see how hard you have worked in your career, and I acknowledge how infuriating it must be to have an opponent, a male opponent who has ZERO experience in your professional field, a field where you are quite possibly the most prepared, knowledgeable, and tenacious candidate.

And yet, some people look down on you for those very characteristics. Some people say you’re too prepared. They say you don’t smile enough (I’ve heard that one myself). Or you smile too much (I’ve heard that one as well). You are under constant scrutiny. Your words dissected. Twisted. The masses searching for lies while your opponent lies 91% (source from Politico) of the time. But your lies are the important lies, the unforgivable lies. Donald’s lies are pardoned.

Why?

You are unlikeable. You are a ferocious, ambition woman. You are intimidating. You are a force. A force who has thirty – 30! – years of experience in public service, who has done MORE good than harm in her career, but it doesn’t matter. Your mistakes will be what you are remembered for. Because you are unlikeable and you are a woman.

I see you. I feel for you. I admire you and champion for you. No, you are not perfect. Yes, you’ve screwed up. Yes, you’ve lied. Yes, you’ve had to make tough choices – such tough choices! Yes, others have been hurt by your choices, or mistakes, but guess what? You have had the experience necessary in order to make those mistakes and I will take that experience over ignorance, over incompetence any day.

So why is your opponent – Trump – not held to the same vicious scrutiny? Sure, people make fun of him, they call him a big, orange dummy (my words), or the Cheeto Bandito, and point out the fact that he can’t finish a sentence, that he talks in circles without actually making a point, that he rudely interrupts you – wrong! wrong! wrong! – or that he makes up words – bigly – and has no real stance on the issues at hand, that he blows where the wind takes him and right now it has taken him right, and it peeves me, it infuriates me that this wishy-washy man with no experience is even a candidate. It is a slap in the face to you and your profession, your entire career in public service.

I am sorry for that. That sucks. It really, really does.

But what sucks even more is that this man has followers, voters, people who proudly where t-shirts that say TRUMP THAT BITCH, or CROOKED HILLARY, or t-shirt’s with a picture of your face and the word CUNT.

Disgusting.

This is no longer about politics, it stopped being about politics the moment a reality television personality became a presidential candidate. It is about morality, and sexism, and a candidate who is perpetuating racism and rape culture, perpetuating hate. I wonder what people would say if Trump was a woman? Like Paris Hilton, a fellow reality television star, a fellow child who inherited a fortune? Would Trump’s supporters support Paris? Who, by the way, grew her fortune faster and on a wider scale than Trump ever did?

I’m sick of the double standards. Of Trump’s supporters, Trump, calling Hillary crooked, or a liar when Trump lies – all the time. To excuse his filthy mouth as “locker room talk”. To point a finger at Hillary for Bill’s actions (newsflash – Hillary is a person all on her own, she is not her husband, and Bill is not running for President, Hillary is) when Trump is caught with numerous sexual harassment, even rape allegations. But people say that the women are lying, Trump says that the women are lying: that’s what people said about Bill Cosby.

Why must we women have to fight so hard against the current? And if you don’t think we need to, think again. Even when we are better, stronger, smarter, more deserving than a man.

Now, to the men and women who tell other men and women to get over Trump’s “locker room talk”, I tell you to fuck off. As a woman who has been sexually assaulted both verbally and physically, I tell you to fuck off. Because words matter. When we excuse this behavior, we are essentially telling young (and old) boys (and men) that women’s bodies are there to be touched by them, with or without consent. And believe me – it happens.

The first time my personal, private space was invaded by a man, I was sixteen, working behind the counter of an ice cream shop. The shop was deserted. No one came in there. I had no phone. And two men walked in to change out the advertisements in the hall. One of them took one look at me, and knew what he wanted. Uncomfortable, I stood there, rolling my neck to pass the time, and he said, “Your neck hurt? Let me rub it for you.” I said, “No.” He came behind the counter, put his hands on my neck, my skin, and I was stunned, a deer in headlights, not knowing what to do – stuck. The other man took one look at what was happening and his face darkened, he said, “What are you doing, man? Let’s get out of here.” But if this other man was not a good man, all they had to do was flip the lock on the door and I would have been had. This is when I began to find my exits in every room, every situation I was in; this is when I began to look for makeshift weapons in case this ever happened again.

I moved to San Francisco five years ago and walked by a group of guys. They hollered, “Come sit on my dick, bitch. Come sit on my dick.” I rode the bus one day and a man sat close to me, too close, but I didn’t want to be rude and tell him to scoot over (it was probably my imagination, right? Right?), and when I pulled the lever to get off of the bus, this man slid his hand between my thighs. Who gave him permission to do so? Not me. What makes this OK? I was running one day, and readjusted my leggings, my underwear, and a man hung out of the passenger side window of a car and yelled, “Grab that pussy!”

Fuck off.

Just because I am a woman, does not give a man OR woman permission to touch me, to assault me verbally, to speak of my privates, to force himself on me – no way, no how.

I do not absolve Trump of his words, his actions. I believe the women who have claims against him. I am offended when he says that no one has more respect for women than he does. If his actions, his words, are what he considers respectful then we are teaching boys, men, girls and women that this behavior, this talk is OK.

It is not.

It is not OK for Trump to be racist. To incite hatred. And do not get it twisted, I do not hate Trump – I am saddened and disgusted by him. I am furious at the injustice of this election. The misogyny that oozes from Trump’s orange pores. What a slap in the face this blatant sexism must be to Hillary.

This election is not about politics. Not to me. Because Trump is not a politician. And some people say that’s exactly why they support him, but guess what, folks, it is called politics for a reason. No, this election is about morality. It is about intelligence, having the intelligence to elect a WOMAN with overwhelming experience over a grossly unfit, ineloquent, unqualified MAN.

I see you, Hillary Clinton. I see the fight you have in your heart. I see how you have not, and will not give up. No matter the hateful words thrown at you. No matter the injustice. And I take strength from your strength, tilt my chin upwards, eyes forward, daring the world to call me unlikable, too.

I will take it as a compliment.

What They Don’t Tell You About Miscarriage (Yes, I Miscarried/Am Miscarrying)

I miscarried. Am miscarrying. And it’s a cruel thing, these pregnancy hormones, because they can trick your mind into believing you are still pregnant. I’m still nauseous. My breasts are still tender. But I’m no longer narcoleptic. And I no longer drop to my knees at the scent of raw meat. The hormones are dropping. The nurse called with my blood results yesterday afternoon. The blood doesn’t lie.

To all of you who read my blog post about pregnancy, about waiting for these results, and the fear of miscarriage – thank you. We (my husband and I) felt your support. Thank you for sharing your own stories – they have given me comfort and hope in a devastating time. And thank you for sharing in this journey with me – it isn’t an easy one.

I want to acknowledge the women shedding light on keeping their pregnancies private (I will no longer use the word secret, it is no longer apt for this discussion). You opened my eyes. Did you know that some women keep their pregnancy private because they don’t want their employer to find out they are with child? Because they are worried they will be replaced at work? And did you know that some of these women have miscarried, and they have miscarried in silence, going to work, sitting through the pain and the heartache, suffering in silence. This. Breaks. My. Heart. That we can live in a society that doesn’t celebrate pregnancy, that doesn’t acknowledge the physical and emotional feats that come along with this journey. Now I know not all employers are like this, but I’ve heard many stories about many who are. NOT OK.

And other women work with small children and couldn’t bear the conversation they would need to have with the children if they were to miscarry. I get that. Completely. There are some things we need to keep children away from, at least for some time. Protect these small, growing hearts and minds.

Now, I think about my situation – I’m a writer and it is my job to write. So write I will and I also acknowledge the freedom of expression I’ve been given in doing so (I am very lucky in this respect). Here goes:

Tuesday night I woke in the middle of the night with cramps so intense they stole my breath. I woke my husband up and had him rub my back. I thought, these are just implantation cramps – that’s it. But looking back, I believe this was the beginning of my miscarriage. I bled throughout the week, little by little, getting brighter and thicker, and then on Sunday when my husband got home from grocery shopping, I looked at him and said, “I think I’m miscarrying.” But we elevated my feet. And I “rested”. And I sat on the couch, fearful, scared to use the restroom, scared to push too hard when I peed because I was too afraid of what might slip out. It’s a horrible thing, to be afraid to use the restroom, to try and hold everything inside when in reality fate has already been set into motion. I couldn’t hold anything inside. It was only a matter of time. And this, this, is what needs repeating: I could not stop the miscarriage, no one could, it was already happening, and would already happen.

I have learned to trust my body. I knew. I knew. I knew when I was pregnant. And I knew when something was wrong. And last night I woke again in the middle of the night with pain in my abdomen like I’ve never felt before, pain that made me grasp the trash can in the bathroom and dry heave – I’ve never wanted to throw up from pain before – and my husband put pressure on my belly back in bed, and the pressure helped to ease the pain, and we fell back asleep that way, him cradling me in his arms, hand pressed firmly to my stomach.

I miscarried early. I can’t imagine the pain for women who miscarry at 9 weeks or 10 weeks, 12 weeks. This is what I know: we are all warriors, us women. The amount of strength it takes on this journey, the changes in our bodies, the pain, the fear – strength of mind, strength of body, strength of heart – I am in awe of all of us, the ones who undergo fertility treatments, those who miscarry, those who deliver, those who have C-sections – all of us, we are warriors.

And I see the men as well. The strength in them. The helplessness they must feel throughout this entire journey towards having a child. The support they offer, hands flailing, as some don’t know exactly what to do, but just being there, loving and supporting. This support is everything.

My husband cleaned the kitchen last night (he never cleans, well sometimes), he scooped the litter box, he took the afternoon off of work and we walked along the water together, looking at houses, and grieving, drinking double espressos (because I can have coffee now), and realizing how small we are in the scheme of things, in the vast existence that is life. My breath caught in my throat as the breeze fluttered through the changing colors of the leaves in trees, green to red to orange and yellow. And I found peace in the stillness, in the little moments like these, in the comfort that all that matters is me and him and the life we are building together, the little life that we will build again once we are done grieving the loss of this one.

This is life. We are devastated. And today, I am shutting all of the blinds, shutting the world out, and watching every single Harry Potter movie, and I’m not getting out of my sweat pants for anyone or anything. I have the luxury to take the day off of work (not everyone has this luxury), and I will take it.

And to those of you who read this, I will feel your support from miles away, I will feel the love you generate, and I will listen to your own stories because you have listened to mine and we should all be listening to one another, growing and healing and understanding together.

And today, and tomorrow, and for a while, I will grieve.

What They Don’t Tell You About Pregnancy (Surprise – I’m Pregnant!)

Today I am 5 weeks, 1 day pregnant. And today we find out the results of my blood work from Friday and Sunday to see if this pregnancy is viable. It’s a scary thing, being pregnant. And I had a conversation with my therapist about how couples decide to keep it a secret until they are out of the first trimester, and how even books and forums encourage this secrecy (which is fine – I support the decision that is best for each couple), but for me, for my husband, this secrecy breeds isolation, it breeds shame around miscarriages – which are SO common – and I understand why they encourage this quiet, because it can be such an emotional time and you need space, but it also sets expectations, expectations that you could, perhaps, miscarry, and that’s important to understand, but my therapist agrees (and therapists are always right, right?): it is time to speak (at least for me).

In July, the doctors (I went to a few) believe I had a chemical pregnancy, which means the fertilized egg did not complete implantation. And did you know that 75% of miscarriages are chemical pregnancies? I didn’t even know what a chemical pregnancy was. It seems that I have spent so much of my life ignoring my reproductive organs, pretending they don’t exist, pleading – please don’t get pregnant, please don’t get pregnant – that now that we are ready for a child, this new world is opening up to me. But it isn’t really opening up. I need to pry it open. Do the research. Learn about women’s bodies, men’s sperm – so much to learn! So why don’t we talk about it? I had a conversation with friends the other weekend about sperm, and how – did you know that using lubricant can drown the little spermies and end their quest to fertilize a woman’s egg? We didn’t. But we learned, trial by error. And our friends squirmed in their seats, the man saying, “Eww.” Because talking about reproduction is weird.

But we should talk about it.

Because I thought I was crazy in July. I thought I was making all of the symptoms up in my head, creating nausea and tender breasts, my husband said my lips became swollen and my cheeks glowed, because people say most women don’t know they are pregnant and have a chemical pregnancy without knowing. But guess what? My body feels EVERYTHING. I knew immediately. But it got into my head – this being crazy.

Roll around to September. My husband said my lips were swollen again, cheeks glowing. I was feeling my body changing, but I told myself not to pay attention (the chemical pregnancy wasn’t confirmed because symptoms stopped before I could get a positive pregnancy test, so it’s possible my mind is a strong, strong thing and created it all), that I would ignore the symptoms until I got a positive pregnancy test. And even when I did, when 5 tests turned positive, I lined them all up and said to my husband, “See? I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy, right? There are two lines here. Two.” “Yes,” he said. “I see them. You aren’t crazy.” But as I sit here, bleeding, waiting for these blood tests, I’m expecting the doctor to call and say, “Your blood doesn’t have any HCG levels at all.”

So why do we do this? Because I know I’m not alone. A dear friend miscarried and her husband had to tell the doctor to look his wife in the face and tell her that she was pregnant, that she didn’t make it up, because as she sat in the doctor’s office she was thinking to herself, “Did I just create an entire pregnancy up?” No. No she did not.

Let’s talk about it.

On the flip-side, the doctor could call and tell me that my HCG levels have dropped, and this pregnancy isn’t viable (then I’m not crazy, but I’m miscarrying – worse). OR the doctor could tell me I’m just fine, that the levels are increasing and it looks like a viable pregnancy.

But here’s the thing: my symptoms are confusing. This pregnancy thing is confusing. I have been spotting since last Sunday. Brown blood at first. Then bright red. Heavier these last couple days. And so my husband and I took to the internet, gobbled up question and answer forums trying to find some comfort in other people’s stories, other people’s experiences and this is what we found: each pregnancy is different – some women bleed and it turns out just fine, and others bleed (even less) and miscarry. This is what I know: there is little we can control when it comes to pregnancies. The nurse told me that there is no way to stop a miscarriage, and this was oddly comforting. No shame, no blame. But grief.

Grief.

For me, writing is coping. And if my pregnancy story (stories) can offer comfort to even one person out there, I will continue to write. And when this pregnancy gets past the first trimester, you better believe my husband and I are still going to take a cheesy, happy picture announcing the expectance of Baby Tereshko, and you better believe I still want some Facebook likes because this will be a milestone we have crossed, a bridge scaled. But in the meantime, I’m pregnant, this is real, I’m not crazy, and we are waiting.

BadAss Writers Don’t Quit. They Persevere.

“Own your vision. Be unrelenting in its creation. Control the nuance while allowing for malleability.” – Bucho Rodenberger

 

This morning I got fired up (Lately, I’ve been feeling on fire) when I read these words. A quote from a colleague of mine, a fellow writer who, like me, chips away at his craft daily with fervor and passion and perseverance because to create is to persevere. And sometimes it becomes tiresome, and doubt creeps in as compensation and praise are not instantaneous (you don’t write for your ego, you write because you must), and in those times it is easy to curl into a ball, turn on some sort of distraction, and wallow. BUT – we must be unrelenting.

I love this.

After the PNWA Writer’s Conference at the end of July, I went into wallow-mode. Not because the conference wasn’t fruitful – it was – but because there is still so much work to be done, and my expectations shifted.

I learned about the business of publishing. I was daunted as most of the conference’s workshops were geared toward self-publishing, not traditional (Most authors, I learned, are self-published). And I’m not ruling out self-publishing. Especially after learning that publishing houses don’t have the budget that they used to, and that they are frugal with that budget, saving it for established authors, rarely taking a chance on a debut author. And if they do take a chance on a debut author, the odds that the book will be a literary novel is slim. The houses want genre novels, genres they know will sell.

In a nutshell (pardon the cliché), publishing houses are wary of risk. And that’s understandable. But I’m a risk-taker.

Traditional publishing is my first choice. And only once I have been rejected, rejected by every single agent and editor in the business (I’ll take a page out of JK Rowling’s book on that one), will I consider next steps. Next steps being self-publishing.

So…this will take patience. Traditional publishing is all about patience. Waiting to find an agent who believes in my work, wading through their revision notes, implementing those notes, and then waiting as editors read. And if I’m lucky enough to get an editor, then taking their revision notes and implementing those. This is where part of that quote resonates – control the nuance while allowing for malleability.

Writers must be malleable. But we also need to own our visions. Which is why I was in wallow-mode. I have another draft before my novel is ready, a draft where I own my vision, where my intention is like a laser so that when I do get those revision notes (because I will – no way around that), an agent will be able to hone the manuscript and make it better alongside of me instead of changing it completely.

I must be clear.

So the conference forced me to think like a businesswoman, and not just a creative. It forced me to define my novel further than Upmarket Women’s Fiction. This is too broad of a genre. I have a literary novel. So I must shape it as such.

This is what I know – damn the odds. This is my personality – taking on the highest risk of rejection and saying, “Watch me now.”

Well, watch me now. I will be published. I am a debut author. And I have written a literary novel. And I say this with pride.

And when this next draft is finished, I will begin book two. Because it could take a year or more before this book will even be looked at closely. So in the meantime, while I wait, I write.

A Note On Grief.

Today is for acknowledging fear, darkness, and the shadows that live within us. It is for honesty and self-love. Vulnerability.

I am open. I am speaking. Please listen.

Today I had a polarity therapy session with my massage therapist, and about an hour into the session, she laid her hands over my chest. I imagined the healing energy radiating through my limbs and this is what I told myself: Do not have fear; there is no reason to fear; let go of your fear, you beautiful soul. Tightness in my throat, my chest, burst. I said, “Whatever you just did, I can’t stop crying.” And she said, “I’m working on your fear. One way to release fear is through tears.”

I am fearful of this post. I am fearful of being honest, sharing my honesty, and upsetting someone else through my release. I am fearful of backlash. I am fearful of judgment.

But here’s the thing: I have been suffering in secret. And by stilling my voice, quieting my pain, I have allowed my pain to linger.

I heal through words, through a creative outlet. I write to understand my feelings. It is the way I process life. And I would be a hypocrite to encourage openness and honesty in those around me, and not to share my own. We are all on a journey. This is part of mine.

My grandfather passed away almost two years ago, and when he passed, he left each grandchild a Bible. I was told that my Bible had special messages written inside of it, passages highlighted and underlined – my grandfather speaking to me through verse. I felt special. And after his funeral, after a trying, emotional visit back home, I opened the Bible up to read those messages and instead found judgment. I was stunned. Stilled. And by the time we made it back to California, off of the plane, out of the cab, and into the apartment, I was curled in the fetal position on the floor, shocked with grief and loss and pain and judgment. I have not found my way back from this loss.

I have been struggling through this grieving process. Because to grieve would be to acknowledge my pain, and to acknowledge my pain would be to accept the Bible as truth, as a reality, and to accept this parting gift as a reality would be to accept that my grandfather did not approve of my life, and to accept that he did not approve of my life, would mean acknowledging that I was blind.

I was blindsided.

My therapist says the best way through grief is straight through it. And instead, I’ve been cradling this hurt, hiding the pain, and by doing so have become a rabid dog – hungry, needy, scared. Ready to bite. Shamed and undeserving of love. I have become a prickly exterior, the Iron Gate slammed shut around a vulnerable, fragile heart.

So today I decided to strap on my jumbo jet packs and go – straight through this thing we call grief. And this is what I learned. I need to forgive myself (I forgave my grandfather long ago) for being someone my grandfather didn’t approve of. I need to accept that I am not responsible for other people’s judgments. He said that I have a vile, serpent tongue, and my tongue has been quieted since. Two years of stillness. So much quiet that I now breathe through my nose most of the time. But I am unsealing my lips. I am accepting that I allowed his judgments to quiet me. It is my responsibility to flip this thing, to accept his judgment, but to be proud that I have a voice and the ability to speak because that voice has defended in the midst of abuse, and that voice is strong.

Hear me.

These judgments, these highlighted verses and text ran through my mind today during my polarity session, and as they did, I forced myself to accept and appreciate those parts of me that offended. I began to accept the dark pieces of me – the pain and anger and vindication – as I accepted the light – my love and forgiveness and compassion. And this is what I realized – every one of us is a mixture of gray for we cannot have the light without the dark.

I envisioned myself in a shroud of gray, a cape of storms billowing forth; I embraced my shadows.

Here is a shadow: I threw the Bible in the garbage at the Detroit airport not because I no longer loved my grandfather, but because I couldn’t hold on to something that hurt me so much. I have been shamed for doing so, but this is my journey, my actions, my life, and I own them all.

And here’s the thing about grief and pain, about holding onto emotions without acknowledging or releasing them – they trickle into other areas of your life. They bleed through. And this pain has made me overly protective to the point where simple intimacies are strained. I do not know how to accept or receive love and affection any longer. (But could it be perhaps that I don’t know that I can trust love or affection when it is given?)

So this is what I hope. I hope that by sharing my pain, my journey, I can help others face theirs. I hope that by speaking out, my throat will loosen and I will find my voice again. I hope by finally grieving, my heart will reopen. I hope I will be able to be intimate again with those that I love and trust them with my heart. I hope to find peace with my grandfather’s passing. I hope to be able to receive love and compassion. And I hope to accept that I deserve it.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for listening. Let us be open. Let us be honest. Let us be heard.