Brain Sputtering

I look at the clock. The arms don’t seem to be moving and the digits all look identical. Something inside me pushes against time, wanting everything to just hurry along. Does anyone have time for all the bullshit little things that we have to do and sit through each and every day? All the tedious things that seem to take forever? All the dreaded things?

I am not sure how I came out of that place, but I know it happened slowly as I sifted through my own mush and bullshit. During this period, I had to constantly remind myself to slow down, after all, what was the big hurry? Is it weird that I had to teach myself how to enjoy life’s every moment? Shouldn’t that just be a built-in part of being human? Shouldn’t that just be a given? Yet my anxiety-ridden nature could do nothing of the sort. I had to just get to the other side of things and quickly. The pattern was most noticeable with watching movies. I could watch a film I know I had seen and in some cases not remember a single moment of the film. I discovered the problem was, since all I was thinking about was getting through it, I rarely paid any attention to what was going on. At first, I thought the problem was my memory when really it was my lack of focus, my desire to just “get through it”.

I am not sure if it relates but I also battle a touch of dyslexia. I loved words so much that I fought back my constant poor choice of which letter was correct b p d or q (which ironically still happens frequently when I type). I find that both my hands and my mouth will betray me and either say or write a word that sounds similar to the one I want to use but is utterly incorrect. I catch it a lot when I am editing a piece that I have written really fast, my brain sputtering out a placeholder so that I can get the right word in the right place later. It happened all the time in my earlier years and I was dubbed “dingy”. It doesn’t help any that when I have this “verbal dyslexia” in public I get so embarrassed that I giggle uncontrollably. Ah, but what is life without all it’s little flaws and inconsistencies?

I have never had any kind of treatment for these brain misfires of mine. In my late 20’s, I luckily followed a path to study Psychology and in a storm of self-repair went through a wide variety of self-help books, classes, and therapy, shedding light and doing remodels of all the glaring personal blemishes that covered my interior walls. I also took my love of words for a walk and have challenged myself to improve my speech and vocabulary. Improving my typing speed has been the most challenging. After over a year solid of typing every morning at the computer for at least 20 minutes, I have not yielded any noticeable improvement in my speed or accuracy. That part is disappointing. Perhaps in another couple of years…

Oddly enough the one practice that has helped me the most is to just be grateful. I just stop myself for a still moment, close my eyes, take a deep breath, as I let it out I allow myself to smile. As I open my eyes I remind myself to just enjoy the moment. I don’t know if anyone else suffers from or experiences these things. I don’t know but I am guessing at least some of these things are familiar to most from time to time. I try to always smile, even through the bullshit. I try to enjoy every moment. Some days it’s harder than others, some days there is just too much bullshit and we all just have to do the best we can to get through it as quickly and painlessly as possible. No matter what though, I always have time to be grateful.

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Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

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I Read to Write

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve joked or commented that I wish I could get paid to read. I always envision myself, all curled up on the couch in comfy clothes, my back cushioned on pillows and my legs tucked underneath blankets, a pile of books and snacks on the table next to a cup of hot tea as I sit intently lost in an open book.
Until a couple of weeks ago it hadn’t dawned on me that it could really happen. Yet there I was, sitting in on a conversation about all the ways that writers could make money doing writer related jobs while they work on their novels. The topic of audiobooks came up, to which I joked was my “other dream job” (with the first dream job being a full-time writer, of course!). There was a stir in the room and something stirred inside as the others told me that I could do it, that I should do it. That is when I was introduced to the idea of doing an audiobook audition.
The following week was a whirlwind of research and watching hours of Youtube videos. My research was on everything from microphones to editing software. I got a used USB microphone. I started to learn and utilize the free software that I found called Audacity and played with recording my own voice. I watched video’s on narration and voice-overs and practiced recording myself reading. At first, I was choppy and mechanical. I repeated the same sentence over and over in different tones with different inflections. Finally, I moved my make-shift studio into half of the closet in my writing room. I have arranged, recorded, and listened to my audio, over and over again until I finally felt satisfied with the results.
Luckily, I am proficient enough with a computer that I can set-up, record and edit the tracks easy enough. Now that my “booth” is set up the way I like, I have spent the last few days practicing. I’ve enjoyed the practice so far even though I have to repeat things over and over again. I’m quickly developing an ear for what sounds good. (Although, I now know by heart almost an entire random text out of “A Wrinkle in Time”.)
After my limited experience, I would have to say, this is a good job for someone with some acting skills or background, neither of which do I have. But I long to be an amazing storyteller. I get to try my best to present a story with all the intention and excitement an author has put into the story thus far. I get to dress it up and take it out for a stroll. It seems to me a little ironic that for the last two years, my focus has been on becoming a better storyteller and now I get a chance to… just not in the form I expected.
I still have my dream. I would still love to become an author. I will still try. But I now feel this is also part of my journey. I know that doing this, whether I succeed or not, will help me become a better storyteller. Perhaps this is a door I must walk through to get to the other side or perhaps this is just the next piece of my writing evolution. Either way, I am here and learning and doing as much as I can to tell good stories, to share great ideas and to perhaps add to my working resume. I am both intrigued and blessed by this opportunity and I will do my best to honor it.

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Blooming and Buzzing

Sitting on my back deck, I hear the buzz of the bees against an azure sky. They dance from flower to flower, fully enjoying my lavender in early bloom. There are more bees out than last year and I am happy for that, we need bees.

The ants are out too but there always seems to be too many where I live. At least they don’t bite like the ones in Florida where I grew up. The ants we have here in the NW are called sugar ants and that is usually what they go for. They march in through unseen cracks and open windows as a continuous stream of moving invaders.

All of the plants on my deck are either blooming or budding and I light up each time a new one exposes itself. Right now there are blooms of pink, red, purple and yellow. Within the next few weeks, these will be joined by blooms of blue, white and orange. I am sad the daffodils didn’t last long this year, my tulips never bloomed, and I can’t remember seeing any crocuses this spring either. The temperatures have been too warm.

A determined spider takes advantage of the light spring wind and casts a wider net. We all catch lunch in our own ways. The sun tempts us all to be more active and in turn, we get a little hungrier. The busy buzz of the bees inspires me and reminds me to keep moving, keep working and to stay persistent. To do work for its own sake and to never stop trying.

The birds have been chirping and singing for hours now and it makes me wonder what all they must be saying to each other. People are busy too, their lawn-mowers revving to cut the tall grass, the sounds of nails being driven into wood and motorcycles speeding down the highway. It’s not warm enough for the squeals of a sprinkler. It will likely rain tomorrow anyway.

So, I wanted to say, thank you Spring for your warmth and sunny skies! Thank you for the new leaves on the trees and the lavender for the bees. Thank you for longer days and shorter nights and thank you for your bloom and buzz alike!

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The Girl No One Saw

Growing up, I had what I will call, an alternative childhood. I loved books and one of my greatest unmet childhood desires was to be read to. My mom and step-dad worked crazy hours and there was rarely anyone around to guide me or nurture me let alone read to me. Without a present parent, the circumstances were far from ideal. I did not have sleepovers or even a best friend. How could a girl have a best friend when she had no clue how to even be a friend? Now, as an adult writer, it is my job to not only write about what happened to me but how it affected me and how I grew because of it. Most importantly, how I managed to get through to the other side.

I’ll be honest. I made it through by stumbling my way along, picking up experiences as I went. I learned life-lessons from sharp comments and public humiliation. I learned how to laugh because of social ostracization. I learned how to do things by watching others from the sidelines of life. The perpetual wallflower. The fly on the wall. The girl no one sees. Finding better ways to be ignored rather than to be abused or humiliated was my central goal during my early years. During this period, I tried to make myself small and insignificant– to which I succeeded for the most part but also hindering my growth.

Also, my alternative childhood left me too scared to try new things, a problem which has continued to plague my adult life. I was not taught that it was okay to make mistakes because that is how you learn; I wish I had been taught that one. Instead, I was taught that not only was making mistakes a bad horrible thing but that I was only good at making mistakes. That was my everlasting teenage state. I was always wrong. I was born wrong into a world that would always see me as wrong, a single weed in a valley full of beautiful flowers.

But in a way, these turned out to be good experiences. I learned to entertain myself. I learned to embrace my weirdness and used it to create laughter when I could. I was semi-cautious and managed to stay out of trouble for the most part. However, I’ve struggled as an adult to learn all the things I missed out on as a child. I’ve found that as a writer, I must observe everything around me in detail, and in doing so, I also am able to shine a light on my own flaws. “To succeed in life is to be able to transform.”

I think this is why I like writing so much. I can write to my heart’s content. I can let it all spill out on the page. I can use what I find within myself, deep below the surface. I can take what I learn about myself and transform my ideas both on paper and in my mind. I can choose what I focus on and how I focus on it. I can find my own alternatives and develop positive action.

When I share what I have written, I am always surprised to find others who feel how I feel, have had similar experiences, or who share my perspective. It reminds me that no matter how alone I feel, I’m not. There might not be many people like me in the world, but there are enough of us that I can finally open to the world around me. I cannot change it no matter how much I want to. All I can do is observe and adjust my own sails. I will always come up with solutions. Being resourceful is how I have made it to my alternative adulthood. Growing is how I made it to the other side.

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Personal Essay #52

It was about this same time last year I had made up my mind I was going to do it. I wasn’t sure if I could, I had never tried anything like this before. It was a whole new experience and a whole year of it as well. I was excited, I was nervous, I was hesitant even. But just like that, I made up my mind to do it, to write and post one personal essay a week for every week of the year. It was my writer friend Julia who suggested it. I admire Julia’s writing prowess and decided she put it in my path for a reason. The final result isn’t just this last essay but an experience that brought so much to my life. So, as we get ready to enter 2018, here is essay #52 for the project #52essays2017.

So, first off I would like to say a quick thanks to anyone and everyone who has followed me along this bumpy journey. There is so much about this I will miss. Second off, I would like to apologize for not following standard protocol regarding things like technicality and style or even expected structure for that matter. Technically my pieces are not “personal essay’s” as far as format goes. I have always written this way to figure my own thoughts out, never really thinking that structure was needed for things like sticky feelings. Well, this challenge has sent me into a heavy-handed era of learning in my writing life and I know that my pieces here haven’t met those expectations but I am okay with it. I stuck to my initial vision while I focused instead on learning more about the actual craft of writing. Thereby using this as almost a personal journal at times.

I also realize that it was highly uncreative of me to never actually name my pieces, even though the numbering seemed effective enough. I struggle with that and am working on it along with all my other weak spots. I also didn’t always write from the heart. Sometimes it was just about getting through it and getting it done. Out of all 52 pieces, there are probably only 15 that I truly love and am proud of. But I committed to this and I wanted to finish, no matter what. I learned how to be brave by sharing my words with the world. I am grateful that no one bashed me for following my own path and that some of you might have actually gotten something out of this too. I don’t think I’ve never grown more in one year as I have because of writing these.

This challenge had some unexpected results. I found my voice. I finally found it. It’s eluded me for decades and I am so happy to have stumbled over it as I was focusing on other things, like learning the actual craft of writing. My writing voice still needs work and I will continue to give it a daily workout even though I won’t be writing these anymore. I considered it but I have a long list of writing goals for this upcoming year. I will still be writing essays but now they will be fully developed and I will take my time with them until they shine. It sure was nice to color outside the lines though.

This year I’ve done so much more with writing than I ever have and more than I ever thought I could or would. This was the year I didn’t quit. Oh, there were points I wanted to. About half-way I think. I hit a wall and thought that I couldn’t go on. But I did. I pushed through that wall like the Kool-Aid man and I came out the other side the happier for it. I learned how to persevere. I learned how to follow through. I learned how to push myself even when I didn’t want to. I learned not to let life get in the way of my writing. I learned that I can always do more than I think I can if I just keep going. I learned not to give up. I am a better person and writer for it all.

I want to thank Vanessa Martir for creating this challenge and giving so many of us a chance to walk through this wordy jungle and add something unique to our writing lives. This was just the recipe I needed. I got something indescribable out of it. Something that changed me forever. Perhaps someone reading this will decide to give it a shot for a year and it will change their lives as well. I personally am walking into 2018 with a little more confidence, a lot more knowledge, experience, and my writer’s voice. I am ready for the next leg in this journey. Farewell, my friends.

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Personal Essay #40

There have been many times in my life when I have been undeniably drawn to writing. These are times when an unspoken force pulls me in and I find myself fully caught up in the throes of inspiration. Those moments are rare and fleeting much like young love or infatuation and burn out just as quickly as they arrive. Leaving behind only partially finished, disorganized thoughts randomly but beautifully strewn together across numerous pages.

With that being said, I have not fully submersed myself into my creativity and the writing process with my current novel. I know that when or if I do, I could lose control and everything else in my life will go by the wayside. I feel as though I can’t-do that just yet. I am afraid of what will happen if I do and what will happen if I don’t. I guess part of me is scared that I won’t be able to do it all: the novel, job, relationship, just life in general. So, I do just enough to keep all the balls I’m juggling in the air and moving with as much precision and grace as I can muster.

At some point, I will have to let myself go deep into the story of my character. The key will be separating that creative process from the other parts of my life. I have to maintain the other aspects of my life and keep my responsibilities at the forefront even though it seems so limiting to me right now. Perhaps that is where my frustration is coming from, from feeling limited and hindered. (Although, ironically, that is also what my protagonist is feeling.) Maybe in some ways, I am deeper into the story than I realized. Perhaps I’m moving through my own frustrations the same way she has to while we both look for the right solutions.

My current overwhelming feeling is that I need to jump into the deep scary depths of my novel. Even though with this draft, I am crafting and creating more than I ever have before, I’m still allowing myself to take the time to learn what I can along the way. This entire experience exudes a special kind of magic, it feels like what I can only describe as love mixed with creation. It feels promising and hopeful like the sunshine after a hard rain. It feels long lasting like the mystical dog days of summer.

I am so grateful that the ideas and scenes are still flowing to me daily. I’m trying to piece them together— like one big puzzle. I started an idea book, in which I try to catch every idea as if they were elusive butterflies and I was a collector. Some of these ideas I know go into this first novel and some will fit in later on in the series. I’m enjoying the play of piecing them all together and matching up what fits. It is a fulfilling and taxing thing I am doing and I feel amateurish still. But I’m secretly hoping that feeling doesn’t go away anytime soon. Even though it is difficult to battle the doubts every single day, it is still such a beautiful thing to have a hope that’s filled with endless possibilities.

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Personal Essay #39

I loved flying alone as a child. Flying meant freedom. Flying meant independence. Flying meant to escape. Flying meant being welcomed by warm inviting faces. I am not sure exactly how old I was on my first plane ride, most likely under 3 though I don’t remember it. I do, however, remember the first time I flew somewhere all alone.

I was 5 or 6 and I am thinking I might have been in kindergarten or 1st grade because I still had my front teeth in pictures. Things were different at the airport in those days; security and rules were nothing like they are now. My mom escorted me onto the plane though she had no ticket. We met the pilot and they let me look around inside the cockpit. It was Delta Airlines and they gave me a pin to wear that looked just like the one the stewardess was wearing. My mom strapped me into my seat, wished me a safe flight and exited the plane.

The stewardess checked on me often, smiling with her perfectly made-up face and her Delta scarf wrapped around her neck, tied and pointed outward in the flamboyant style of the 1970’s. I can still remember the scent of her perfume over the thick smell of cigarettes. Throughout the flight, she loaded me up with gum, snacks, and a deck of playing cards. She was very nice and kept me from getting scared during the take-off and landing (which are still my least favorite parts).

I was traveling from South Florida to Atlanta, GA on an Easter trip to see my Grandma V (her name was Vivian). She was my dad’s mother and as in most divorce cases back then, I didn’t get to see my dad’s side of the family very often (years). So to me, this vacation was a nervous treat.

Both of my grandmothers couldn’t have been more different from each other. My mom’s mother was a down to earth woman and lavished me with love and learning. My dad’s mother was younger and more put together but always slightly reserved— but a bit distant. She was a talented singer and always had an air of performance around her. I don’t remember her voice anymore but I remember what it felt like. Her voice rang of hope and faith, no matter what she was singing.

I remember her being a shapely woman while I was a super gangly child. My legs and arms too long to fit right into clothes and my bony body still skinny and short. My features were huge and stood out on my smallish face as though someone had put me together haphazardly. My Grandma V, on the other hand, was graceful and wore stylish clothes with a figure that seemed unnatural for a grandmother to have. I don’t remember ever seeing her hair messy or her face without makeup. While she always seemed happy, I felt a sadness behind her eyes when she looked at me. Perhaps she could foresee how difficult my early years were going to be, knowing there was nothing she could do.

While visiting her, I remember things like feeding the ducks in the pond by her condo and getting my first bout of motion sickness in her husband’s car as we rolled through the Atlanta hills with the top down on the red Oldsmobile. I remember hunting for Easter eggs in my favorite dress that was now too short. I loved that dress mostly because it had strips of red velvet sewn onto the sleeves, waist, and trim. I remember loving the soothing feeling I got from rubbing my fingers against the pieces that dangled from perfect bows. The dress was considered a ‘special occasion dress’ and because of that I only wore it twice and the last time it had fit perfectly.

While I remember other flights by myself, that one sticks out because of the fear I overcame and the acceptance I felt. While many of my flights involved some measure of excitement and sometimes their own kind of fear (fleeing a hurricane), that particular one was my first step into myself. It was the first experience I had with learning about myself and with traveling alone. It was a good lesson to learn at an early age and while I hate being on a plane and all that comes with it, I love the experience of going somewhere new, on my own or with others. It still means escape, freedom, and independence even though I might take it for granted.

So, while I fight back the motion sickness with Dramamine and use breathing techniques during take-off and landing to calm my nerves, I am grateful that our society is able to cut travel time by defying gravity. It is still my least favorite form of travel. However, it reminds me that I myself can defy the things that scare me, that I am able to step out of my comfort zone despite fear and anxiety and that just because something seems hard, difficult, or impossible, doesn’t mean it is. Sometimes you have to hold onto hope and have a little faith.

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