I’m Me

I’ve had a hard week or two. Nothing super-awful — I gave a presentation for the first time in WAY too many years and to say I was a bit rusty is an understatement. I had such uncomfortable, panicky anxiety building up to it (and I pretty much panic-blacked-out during it)… and I think some residual anxiety stuck around even afterwards because I’ve been catastrophizing all week. I kept waking up from stress dreams and fighting off panic attacks for smaller events coming up.

I know therapy works because I was able to acknowledge my anxious feelings. I was brave enough to sit with the gut-punched sickness and explore the lies swelling my heart. I could even follow the feelings back to the first few times I ever felt similarly, to the heart of the anxiety and understand it in a way I never have.

That in itself is a huge, amazing thing I would not have been able to do at this time two years ago.

Usually, when I start to get really anxious, I ask myself what’s the worst that could happen? This is a really stupid question, because practically — logically — the WORST ending would be death, or getting fired, or something equally dramatic.

Image result for or worse expelled gif

So another thing I realized is I’m not anxious about the worst happening — I’m anxious about the let downs. The discomfort of disappointing someone. Of being seen as a failure. Inside my anxiety, that scenario is worse than death or losing my job or getting salmonella poisoning (which was another small concern this week after a kitchen mishap that led to me ingesting a microscopic amount of raw chicken).

But this time, not only could I half-encourage myself with such mantras as “I’ll survive” or “it will be ok”, I realized I am prepared if the “worst” should happen and I disappoint someone. I have been through this feeling before — and I have let people down in the past. And even if worse came to “worst” and I received a public dressing-down, I know how to pretend I’m fine until I reach the safety of my car or my home or my husband’s arms.

My mental processing — and the anxiety that feeds off it — may not be completely healthy or “normal”, but I am growing. And I found such comfort in being able to see how far I’ve come.

That is a whole lot more background than I initially intended to give for this post; I meant to just say ‘hey, I’ve been a little stressed, here are some tunes that help me’…but that’s the way life goes. If you can relate at all — or anytime you need a little “I am awesome” pick-me-up — maybe you’ll find one of these helpful.

  1. I’m Me – Us The Duo (to remind me I’m pretty great just the way I am)
  2. Who You Are – Madilyn Bailey (best line: “It’s okay not to be okay.”)
  3. Out of Hell – Skillet (this is the best song to tequila-tipsy-jump-around to…or blast in the car and shout-sing out the anxious feelings)
  4. Still I Fly – Roadtrip Romance (most uplifting part: “gotta learn to grow, watch me as I touch the sky…”)
  5. Me Too – Meghan Trainor  (between the sassy beat and the confidence-oozing lyrics, this song is a surefire ego-booster — I don’t care how overplayed it might be)
  6. *Control – Halsey (on the flip side, this one gets me angry at my fears and reminds me “I’m meaner than my demons”)
  7. Unsteady / So Alive – Haley Klinkhammer (This combines two great songs into one that resonates so powerfully with me)
  8. Bird Set Free – Sia (the whole chorus is so beautiful and another powerful thing to belt out)
  9. *You Don’t Own Me – Grace, G-Eazy (Another song that both pumps up the ego and gets me a little angry at the feelings trying to hold me down)
  10. *I’m Ready – Niykee Heaton (favorite part: “over trembling floors, I’m steady. But they’ve written my death already so many times, but this fire won’t die.”)

The whole playlist can be found on YouTube here, or if you’re *really* interested, you can follow my playlist I Am Enough on Spotify for approximately 90 songs of ego-boosting reminders that I am enough just as I am.

What’s you’re favorite pick-me-up song?

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Rambling Review: A Quiet Place

This is — obviously — not a book review, but I just saw A Quiet Place this weekend and I want to tell everyone about it.

It was SO good. I DO NOT do horror movies — my imagination is over-active enough as it is, thankyouverymuch — so believe me when I say everyone should see this movie (yes, Mom, even you). Sure, it is suspenseful. There are a those sudden “jump out” scenes. There are flashes of gore (very brief, and I’d say almost tastefully done). So much of the movie is spent feeling a chill creep up your spine, feeling each tiny hair on the back of your neck stand up in that delicious anticipation of terror. Don’t get me wrong, this movie definitely has those elements that make great horror movies (I assume, as like I said: NOT my thing).

But there is such a depth to the story as well. The premise is fairly simple: sound = death. There are creatures who hunt solely by sound, so the family has to live in silence. Because of this, the viewer gets to interpret the story in their own way, more so than in most movies. Actions truly do speak louder than words, and the beauty of the story is found in the facial expressions, in gestures and sign language. A life lived on mute makes everything more profound — both the joys and the pains.

I was afraid I’d be terrified to make noise the whole time, but there was a comfort in the crack of popcorn kernels and the seat shifting going on around me. There were times when I breathed into my sweatshirt, trying to convey advice to the characters on the screen. And I audibly gasped, empathizing with them. The movie made me stress-sweat, wondering if I could bear what they do without making a sound. And my admiration for them all grew with each scene.

I’ve said it many times, but I love for my entertainment to also move me. This movie did that. I cried, I rejoiced, I feared, and I cheered. It lingers in a way that doesn’t make me need to keep a light on to sleep, but makes me appreciate the little things like being able to swear loudly when I stub my toe — and the big things, like how much my own parents love me.

It is suspenseful without being horrifying, sweet without being trite, sad without wallowing, and triumphant without being cheesy. A Quiet Place is so well done, and so worth seeing.

The Dark Side of Writing

This is about to get really real. Maybe too real. “Over-sharing”. But it’s been inside me for a long time and needs to get out. And maybe someone else needs to hear it. Maybe we aren’t alone, after all.

Sometimes, my dreams of getting published seem hopeless. And not because “so many people are trying, why should I succeed?” or “I’m just not good enough.” Maybe a little of the fear comes from the second, but not for the obvious reason that I think my writing is crap. Semi-objectively, my writing is decent. I’ve written some brilliant things I’m super proud of, and some really awful things that make me cringe just thinking about, but most of my writing falls into the category of “good enough” to be published. I notice weak writing — recognize my own short-comings — in published books all the time, so why not me?

No, I’m hopeless because I hit these blocks that are so much more than “writer’s block” the way I understand it. I don’t know how other writers experience it, so maybe I’m not as alone as it feels. The term “writer’s block” seems so benign. Like “eek, I’m stuck, time to brainstorm” or “wrote myself into a corner” or “let’s take a walk to clear my mind and come back fresh.”

That’s not me.

When I hit a block, words desert me and I tumble face-first into a rock-strewn canyon. It’s dark and frigid and lonely, even walking hand-in-hand with my lover in the sunshine. A revelation smothers me, replacing the marrow in my bones with a certainty that I am nothing and will never amount to much more.

It’s not so much that no one will care what I have to say. That fear is quiet and constant, like a cat sleeping at my feet, occasionally hopping onto the table to flick my nose with its tail.

No, the writing depression is darker, more personal. It assures me that I do have a story worth telling; it encourages me that someone — maybe even just one person — needs what I have inside me, but I’ll never find the words to tell it. I am my own worst enemy and the only thing standing in the way of greatness.

If only I could shed the weaker parts of me. If only my brain could leave my damaged heart and trembling fingers for a stronger body. Or maybe it’s my heart — tender and full — that needs to escape the dictator in my brain, unfeeling and inconsiderate of the words trying to bleed freely. Maybe my skin is trapping the story, pressing it against muscle and bone instead of allowing it to burst into the world. If only I’d been born someone else, I wouldn’t have this problem. My imagination inside a stronger vessel would find its purpose.

In this dark place, I sit on the cold ground, my back pressed to the ravine wall, staring at characters I love more than life. Apologies whisper past my lips: “You should be real,” I tell them, “not me.” It isn’t fair — they have words to share, but a worthless creator who can’t hear them.

The hopeless void stretches in front of me, with no end in sight. I read other people’s words and know I could have said it better, if only my brain worked harder, if only my heart felt more (felt less?), if my hands held the pen with more authority, if my soul didn’t smother my words.

My chest aches, dull and hollow, like an empty mussel on the beach at low tide, picked over and baked. I hunker down to wait it out, desperately clinging to the fragile hope that — someday — words will return, and it will feel as if I could never fail.

I’ll ride that high as long as I can, until, inevitably, I tumble to the ground again. I could walk away from writing, but in the words of Anne Shirley: “I can’t help flying up on the wings of anticipation. It’s as glorious as soaring through a sunset… almost pays for the thud.”

 

Rambling Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was very hard to read. Not because it was poorly written or boring — that’s not the case at all. The story was intriguing and I was invested in the narrator’s plight. The end felt like such a cliffhanger that I audibly yelled “are you serious!” which scared my husband, but then I realized there was more to the story in a new section with a different perspective (so if you hit a snag near the end, keep reading — it’s not just end of book acknowledgements!).

No, the reason this book was so hard to read was its terrifying plausibility. Most dystopian novels are set in a far off future, after wars and bombs and viruses and apocalypses have utterly changed the face of the earth and how society runs. Some dystopian novels are a chilling commentary on where the world could be headed (think: 1984), but this is so much more immediate. The changes, the leeching of power from the people — or from certain types of people — are so subtle at first, so insignificant that by the time enough people start to question things, it’s far too late.

In a lot of dystopian stories, there is one dictator or a small group of “bad guys” lording it over the masses. The majority of the people don’t agree with their leadership, but are too downtrodden and tired to fight back. In The Handmaid’s Taleplenty of people agree with the new society. There are rumors of underground movements, sure, but most people seem supportive of the new order’s ideals.

The story is both intense and detached, told by a narrator who has nearly given up on everything that mattered to her in the world before. It is both resigned and angry, rebellious and cautious, disgusted and apathetic. It is a desperate warning wrapped up in inevitable possibility.

I had to take a lot of breaks while reading this one. It isn’t something you’ll binge-read for hours or enjoy while lounging on a beach. It’s a tale best told in snippets and whispers, with long silences to digest each piece of new information. It’s heavy with real-life foreboding, but I’m so glad I read it.