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Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Pants are too Fancy

pants

I am more than a little ashamed to admit that when I made the decision to leave my job a year and a half ago, one of my major reservations was that I was going to have to get dressed up to go to work. My office was remotely located from all of the other offices and we didn't deal with customers or clients, so the dress code was basically "Don't smell." The idea of having to a) purchase a business casual wardrobe and then b) actually wear it everyday was a definite con.

I am a person who has to be comfortable.

There is always incredible friction between my environment and my insides. If a light bulb goes out and the lighting dims, I feel anxious. If what I'm eating doesn't taste good, I feel anxious. If I don't like the music that's playing, I feel anxious. If my clothes aren't comfortable, I feel anxious.

Lately, my pants are just too fancy.

I don't want to wear fancy pants. I don't want to compete professionally. I don't want to live in my weird house where half of my belongings have disappeared. I don't want to parent my kids' trauma.

I want things to be comfortable. I want to be in boxer shorts and an oversized old man undershirt, drinking a pumpkin beer and watching the kids tool around the backyard in the Barbie jeep. I want to scribble in my journal and cook old recipes I know from heart and be able to close an office door.

I miss comfort.

Everything in my life feels like it's on fire right now and there's nothing left to do for it than let it burn out completely and then rebuild. It's frustrating and awkward and disturbing. Nothing looks familiar. Even people in my life seem like slightly altered versions of themselves, and while I know intellectually this is my stuff and not their stuff, I still feel like I'm always in the company of strangers. So it's time to let myself sink in, let my eyes adjust, and find a new normal.

My one constant is writing. Even in scanning back through these paragraphs I've just written, I feel something akin to comfort. I'm still in there. I can still parse through the stream of consciousness and make sense of the feelings, even if I can't make sense of the circumstances. So today's post isn't about anything in particular. It's just an exercise in answers, even if the questions are silly. Here's what you guys asked on social media yesterday:

1. What is your opinion of IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome is shitty. (see what I did there?) I don't have IBS, so I can't really speak intelligently about the illness, but there is not a single member of my family that doesn't carry the quiet fear of finding themselves too far from a toilet in a moment of desperate need. The struggle is real.

I will say that I enjoyed the fact that after I was asked about irritable bowel syndrome on Twitter, I was immediately followed by a butt doctor.

a butt doctor follows me
Leading specialist in the fields of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD), Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR) & Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Thank you, social media.

2. Why won't Gemma die?

Gemma won't die, because she is an integral character to a show that I mostly only watch, because of Charlie Hunnam's rear end. Also, being married to the creator helps.

3. Do you still feel like you're faking it professionally?

Meh. The impostor syndrome has abated some, but my frustration lies in the direction that I'm currently pointing. I could never be competitive in a strictly development field, because my experience is in vb.net and windows forms, and I just don't have the time to get my C#/MVC skills up to snuff. Even when I do manage to become proficient in C# and MVC architecture, I still won't be competitive, because my developer counterparts are able to sit down and code 20 other languages as well. It's just not an area where I will ever be competitive without more formal education, which I can't afford.

So right now, my job is strictly on UX/HTML5/CSS3 stuff, which is great, BUT I'm a shitty visual artist. You can hand me any wireframe or mockup and I'll bring it to life, make it responsive, and make it compliant, but coming up with a design from scratch is agony for me. Agony, because I'm positively overthinking it and obsessing over how much easier it seems to come to my counterparts that "can draw". So I feel handicapped by my lack of natural visual artistic abilities in that arena as well. I'm like a really good contractor in a field where you need to be an architect too.

I'm in a good job right now, because I'm able to liaison between the graphic designers and the developers, since I speak both their languages. But I'm not sure I'll ever be this lucky again.

My real comfort zone and area of expertise is in content creation and social media management. But I'm getting to do very little of that professionally right now. So to the original question, I no longer feel like I'm not worthy of my professional station, but I do feel like I'm better suited to a station I'm not currently in. If that makes any sense.

4. What are you learning about yourself?

This is a great question, and I could probably spend a whole blog post on it. I'll narrow it down to the two most important things I'm learning about myself. They may actually be less about myself and more just about life in general, but they are the things I'm noodling on the hardest right now.

The first is the realization that no one is going to sail this ship, but me. I have wasted so much time in my life waiting to be handed things or waiting for someone to swoop in and save me. And don't tell me those things don't happen, because I've watched those two things happen to other people. I've just started to accept that I'm not the kind of person that those will happen to. I don't have a hand to hold onto in this life, but, even if I did, the places I want to go aren't the kind that you get guided to by external forces. They're the kind of places that you drive yourself to from within. That was scary at first, but now it's kind of comforting.

The second realization is that I don't have to slow down for people who don't get me. I have been, historically, a highly shatterable person. It takes one slight, one rude remark, one dirty look, and you've broken me. And that is incredibly unfortunate, because I'm not a person that everybody gets along with. I will always be one of the "too much for some people" kind of gals. I say crazy things. I think about things in a crazy way. I will tell you if the emperor has no clothes. I can't abide an awkward silence, although I have been the root cause of many. I'm just a lot.

I'm learning that's ok.

It's those people's loss. They're missing out on a great listener, a fierce friend, and a lot of laughs. I mean...seriously. A lot of laughs.

5. Read any good books lately?

No. I've read a lot of shitty divorce books lately. I'm greatly looking forward to ANY novel that has NOTHING to do with heartbreak. So holler if you've got any.

6. What new methods are your children employing to drive you crazy?

The children are screaming. This is not a metaphor. They literally have decided that seeing who can scream the loudest is the funniest thing in the world, and there is no amount of punishment, bribery, or reason that will make them think otherwise. It's like I live on the downward slope of a rollercoaster. That is the level of girlish screaming that I am deafened by on a daily basis.

7. How in the hell do you juggle working full time, being a mom, a pet owner, a home owner, a writer, a gardener, a cook, and all the other things you manage to do on a daily basis? Are you a magician?!

I am not a magician; I am a comedian. And that is how I do it all. With a sense of humor. And you'll be amazed at what I can do, when I have no other choice.

Honestly, though, the best thing any person who wants to live in abundance and not in emotional scarcity can do for themselves is lower their expectations. I can do all those things, because I don't do expect to do any of them perfectly. I may have a day where I cook an amazing dinner, but the floor I was standing on while I was cooking it was covered in dog hair. I may have knocked a presentation out of the park at work that day, but the kids spent the night before parked in front of a television. I might have run a half marathon, but my marriage was in shambles. Like the meme gods say, you can't compare your behind the scenes to other people's highlight reel. We're all a friggin mess.

8. Can you help me with my golf swing?

I can help you find less frustrating things to do besides golf?

9. Worst movies you have seen.

I don't get to watch many movies anymore, what with the endless parade of Pixar characters hogging the screens in my house, but I did watch a movie on Netflix the other night that was essentially the Blair Witch Project if the witch was replaced by snow zombies that were controlled by the Russian government. It was pretty spectacularly awful. Here's a piece of Ann Trivia though: the only movie I've ever gotten up and walked out of a theater over was.... drumroll..............

Flipper.

10. Where is Peter?

Ah, Peter. I'm assuming this is a reference to a character in a story I started writing several years ago and not some other Peter that is lost that someone should find. Good news: the book is written and is in the last stage of editing. I'll have a clean manuscript to shop around next month. The only person in the whole world getting an advanced copy to read is MawMaw Bransom as a birthday gift. But she'll be sworn to secrecy, so you'll all just have to stay tuned.

I like this question and answer format, so if you've got any other prompts I'd love to hear them. Maybe I'll flesh one out into its own post. Until next time, here's hoping for more time in less fancy pants.

(pants photo by adifans)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Happened Upon Poem circa November 10, 2012

I have people in my life that aren't being kind. That's putting it mildly. I feel battered and raw and like there's not going to be much left of me if this keeps up.

poem

But tonight, I was cleaning out my stack of books, journals, and sketchbooks that have accumulated under my nightstand. I found an empty blank book from two years ago that contained only two poems. The following was the first. It's not good poetry. But it was written in one sitting. In ink.

(P.S. I see what You did there. Wink.)

11-10-2012

I am not this crust
Diet coke soaked scrollable life
I am not self helped
affirmed balanced inspired or AWESOME
not all caps
     not unique views
          not traffic
                not checklists
                        not bullet points
                                not shares
                                          not likes
                                                 not comments
                                                         not keywords
I am under here.
Raw and wounded.
Ancient sores
burning and bleeding.
I am exsanguinating
while people check in with my body cast
hidden rivers of someone else's suffering
A voice I heard once
A glimpse of a face menacing me at night
Waters my babies have stuck their toes in once or twice.
I grabbed them
numbed them
lied to them
sent them back to the surface
Safer. Sounder.
I am not a diagnosis
but I am dangerous.


Where did the words go?


I have trade them.
Have I traded them?
Were they bought? Were they won on a bet?
There was no life there.
Webs and traps and this crusty shell.
Words drying out like herbs that have never been called for.
Balance is a bullshit word.
A lie we tell.
You are only happening or numb.
Living or cowering into the tunnel of your smart phone.
Where will we fall?
What will we break?
Nothing.
It's fluid. Forward moving.
What if I flipped inside out?
Guts spilling. Demons scattering.
Who would I be besides tortured?
    Plain? Uninteresting?
        Uninspired?
Would my babies quake?
   Or would they snort and walk away unimpressed.
I.
    Am.
           Pounding.
Rattling this cage
I'm not the lucky one.
Was I ever really naked?
  Fucking and screaming and cumming and sweating?
Was I naked? Or just baked-in.
     
He had bad hair.
But I had bad taste.
A bad taste in my mouth on the way down.

This life is picking my wounds.
Scratching at these scabs.
A cat bawling. A child whining.
A door slamming. A fart. A cough.
A cold word.
Picking and tugging and pulling at hang nails and scabs and stitches.
I'm all taped together with Western healing.
God only knows just how bad a job.
Cerebral.
    And lonely.
         And never alone.
I do love to run.
Not reflective gear or shoes or blue tooth or glossy pages.
I love feeling close to death.
Suffocating. Sweating. Muscles bleeding.
And then heaving back towards life.
Feeling love and hope and more time.
Slowly expanding back into place.
Gently pressing on these wounds.
A body's prayer for relief.

Could I be that girl?
    The girl who loves to taste.
    To run.
    To write down scary truths.
Could I be her with all these people picking?
Could I feel my babies back in my womb when I look into their brown eyes?
     Could I leave him?
     Could I teach them?
     Could I be braver than the girl who gathered these wounds like so many pinecones?

All the sandals and coffee and stars and moons 
     and mother tongue poetry were not just platitudes.
     Not just posing.
     They were the unfinished edges of a person. 
     A burgeoning Me.
But I caged her with weak ambition.
      With therapy.
            With self help books.
                 With diets.
                     With spent money.
Will she spill out too when I flip this bitch?
Will she come out tumbling?
Frightened, but giggling?
Breathless and beautiful?
Will she lie spread eagled and naked?
Thrilled and fallible?


Will she be ready?
       

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

From Here in the Gray

not all who wander are lost


"What the hell IS IT?!"

A few years ago my sister and I spent some time chasing a beacon of light.

No. Not a metaphorical beacon of light.

An ACTUAL beacon of light.

I don't even remember how we first noticed it. It might have just been on one of our late night drives we sometimes take together. Or maybe we were coming or going from the Southern Lights around the holidays, which would have been in that general area. The point is we noticed a strange light beaming into the sky from the middle of nowhere. It became our mission in life to find it.

Now this was not just one ill-fated trip. This was multiple plunges into the inky, black KY back roads trying to find the source of this damned light. Because that was the strange thing. It was like the closer you tried to get to it, the further away it got. It was the world's biggest, most obnoxious will-o'-the-wisp and it was seated somewhere between Iron Works Pike and Elkhorn Creek. The closest we ever got was stumbling on a massive gate bordered in two stone towers and Celtic spiral ironwork. Clearly a giant lived there, and the beacon was his night light, because as we all know giants are afraid of the dark.

Or something.

Over a period of months, maybe even a year, we looked for the light. Then one day I got a text from Carrie with a link.

The Castleton Farm Tower.

That's what we'd been chasing.  A 125' tower in the dead ass center of a horse farm. Just there for decoration. I asked Carrie if she was disappointed. She said she was.

I was too.

I haven't blogged on Make Me A Day in two years, and I quit when this blog's traffic was at an all time high. I was getting hate mail weekly for my posts about gay marriage. I had a crazed person writing about me and then setting up a satirical site in my name (No, no link. This person is not well, and I won't enable her.). So, I was already getting worn down. You really can only be told you're going to burn in hell with all your fag friends so many times before it starts to get on your nerves.

Then I wrote a post about not outsourcing your social media to an outside company. Spam comments poured in, and I took it as an opportunity to respond to them as though they were real. It was quite funny.

Until it wasn't.

I can't quite put my finger on what flipped the switch. Have you ever been in a screaming match with someone who is not getting it, and then all of sudden you just stop mid-sentence and realize you're simply done? This blog stopped mid-sentence.

In the last two years a lot has happened. I got rid of some toxic friends. I quit a job that was going nowhere and replaced it with a really competitive one. I ended my relationship of 7 years, and have embarked on my new journey as a single mom. I finished writing a novel and am wrapping up the editing process. And there were many times I wanted to write about those things. But then I didn't.

I suffer from a condition. I have battled it my entire life, even since childhood. I don't like labels, but I will say that people who have my condition struggle with black and white thinking. Something is either the greatest thing that has ever happened, or will surely be the death of us all. The goal for us, always, is to get to the gray. There is an entire spectrum of perspective on just about everything in life that allows us not to succumb to extremes. Not to polarize ourselves, and inevitably people in our lives. But if you live in the gray...

The Internet is hunting you.

All one need do is click on the comments section of any local news outlet Facebook post to know with certainty that our world has abandoned the gray.

It's not just that I don't agree with you...it's that you are the reason our country is a horrible place to live. 

It's not just that our perspectives on a matter differ in some key ways...it's that I hope your kids die in a car fire, so they won't have to be raised by a horrible parent like you. 

I don't just think that you are wrong on this one issue...I actually think you should just do us all a favor and go kill yourself.

In a world with this level of vitriol, visible with nearly every click and swipe, it is frightening, though not surprising, that 1 out of every 4 people with my condition ultimately do decide to do everyone a favor.

Suicide is not exclusive to creative minded people like Robin Williams, but when you have an audience-oriented job or calling you are going to have to deal with far more criticism, all with far less emotional resources to handle it. Today's criticism reads less like, "That wasn't my favorite work of yours, and let me tell you why..." and more like, "You didn't make me feel the way I wanted to while you were doing that thing you did and for that reason I'm going to make it my personal mission to make you not matter anymore."

The truth is the "critics" typically don't have too far to go. No one has ever said anything to me or about me that I haven't said or thought ten times worse about myself already. And, yet, I had to be born a writer. To have an intrinsic desire to have my voice heard living in a body that chemically doesn't believe it deserves to be heard at all. And I had to be born at a time where there are 3 billion Internet users ready to confirm that fear.

My very long break from blogging and dramatic scaling back of social media use has been very therapeutic. It gave me the time and the perspective to make decisions about my REAL life that needed to be made. To tackle goals that are important to me. If you are sitting there obsessing over that person who defriended you or that shitty comment someone left you or just sick of hearing about whatever the hashtag du jour is today, by all means STOP. Unplug. Take stock of what the room smells like, what the weather's doing, and who is physically near you in the room. Take a walk. Get thee to the gray.

But back to that beacon of light. I know the journey is what mattered. The time spent laughing with my sister, drinking Starbucks, and freaking ourselves out driving around the country. I get that. My life is more open than it has ever been. I'm more financially secure, my children are healthy, I'm single, many of my dreams are in the process of coming true. I found the light.

So then why does it hurt so bad?