There are numerous women in my life that fill numerous roles and I’ve had a carefully crafted organization system in place for years that keeps each in their zone.
They have started to move about the cabin freely without me turning off the seat belt sign, and to be completely honest, I’m not liking it.
I’m a big fan of clear cut lines and rules. This wasn’t always the case, but over the last decade or so it’s become helpful for dealing with my anxieties and insecurities. I like to know what to expect and from whom I can expect it.
In my attempt to “take control” of the direction my life is going in, I somehow overturned all the boxes, lost the labels, and shook up the etch a sketch road map.
I am excited about the future and the possibilities, but at the same time I’m feeling unmoored. My love life is completely up in the air. There is a big “we’ll see” over my relationship status. My “flirtationship” has been on the fritz like a wonky radio signal I lose just about the time I make out the lyrics of my favorite song. My female friends have morphed into my family, and the few I’m leaving behind in Ohio feel like an impending death in that family. Ohio is “only” 1000 miles from Oklahoma, but when you live on a strict budget that may as well be on the moon. My soon-to-be roommate has been my friend for almost 30 years and we couldn’t be more opposite on 99% of our opinions and I fear our new arrangement will cause issues there. (I’m mouthy and opinionated on a good day.) The women that have been friends I flirt with from a safe distance will no longer be at a distance and that worries me a lot because I’m all flirt and no intention with all of them so I have to pull on my big girl panties and draw some clearer lines there. I’m going to be moving closer to certain people I’ve been able to easily put in my rear-view mirror because of the distance. I want to keep them there, but I’m not terribly adept at being the asshole when I should be. For the first time in 11 years I’ll be able to rebuild a relationship with a young woman that, though born to another mother, was my daughter from the moment she took her first breath. After falling out with her biological mother she was kept from me as a child, but now as an adult I’m not sure where I fit into her life and that is an unpaved road that leaves me feeling like I need a GPS and a seeing eye dog.
It’s all so messy. It’s a lot of unknowns. It’s a lot of insecurities. It’s a lot of building, rebuilding, reevaluating, reconstructing, and self-reflection. I say I’m patient, but in truth I’m not when it comes to myself. I want all the answers and I want them now.
The thing they forget to mention to kids who are in a hurry to grow up is at no time in your adult life do you get the key to the library that holds the book that has all the answers. You don’t even get the cliff notes. Adulting is more like a self-guided study on theoretical physics just after having grasped 6th grade science and math.
Also; Packing sucks and if you can pay someone to do it for you I highly recommend it. Unfortunately I’m flying solo on that as well.
The attached link at the bottom says nearly perfectly what makes sense to me. I believe one of the reasons I feel so stuck is needing to break free from the guilt and feeling of “I deserve this shit” that weighs me down. I created this life and now I have to find a way to make it better, but instead of making it better I keep letting it beat me up because I put so much bad out there in the past a part of me feels it’s justified. And the people in the world around me just reinforce that narrative with their negativity towards me. I’m deemed stupid because I’m overweight. I’m deemed untrustworthy because over a decade ago I broke the law. I’m deemed worthless because, due to previously mentioned law breaking, I don’t have a large income. My entire life I’ve found my desire, my energy, my passion in the connections in my life. Whether it was my daughter, my partner, my job, my friends, my grandma, or even people who only knew me from being out in the gay community. Those pieces of energy each person or opportunity gave to me were life fuel to my chaotic emotions and brain. It gave me direction and drive.
It possibly started before my major screw ups actually. I had a partner that struggled with addiction and mental illness and to my detriment and to the detriment of most of my other connections I allowed her to feed off me until I was left pretty broken emotionally and not real well mentally. That’s when the anxiety started. That’s when I started feeling desperate to find something, anything to tie someone to me, no matter the consequences. I needed to be “refueled.” 15 years later it’s only gotten worse, not better. For a short while I found a stable place to land, but the connection was weak, forced even. Staying would have been a disservice to her, but I left in the worst way possible and added another notch to my chain of negative karma.
And here I am. Stuck. I make lists of things needing to be done and say ok we we will make 2 small changes a day. Unpack a box, take curtains I’ll never use again to goodwill, write a scene, call my best friend and actually hear her voice, write a letter, take a walk, etc.
I step out of my bedroom into my cluttered kitchen, look at my disaster of a livingroom, and immediately feel defeated. It’s bigger than me and I just can’t find it in me to face it alone. My heart rate goes up, my hands tremble and forcing myself to take another step in any direction other that back to my room brings me to tears. So I go back to my room and take a nap. Again.
I start to write and I think wow this is such a great idea and then the thought passes through me that sending what I write into the world opens me up for verbal beatings and rejection and I’m not scared, I’m petrified. I’m paralyzed to the point that if it feels good enough to make it into a book it will be weeks or months before I pick it up again.
I keep searching for a connection that will make me feel like I have the strength, but theres a disconnect between my self imposed bubble and the one that holds everyone else. Connection has been missing from my life for so long I have slowly lost all the energy I had gotten from being a part of something, a part of so many lives and peer groups, and now I’ve grown afraid to try to reach out because of the constant rejection. It’s so hard to explain to someone who has never been in my head or heart or body; even harder to explain to someone who has never faced real anxiety, depression, or adversity.
I adore my internet followers and friends and I do feed off there happiness and celebrations. I’ve narrowed my connections on my personal pages to people who bring some light into my life. Dropping probably 2/3 of my “friends.” I don’t allow a sense of obligation keep me in touch with negative people.
All this is just starting to click for me sadly, but it gives me a why or a cause. My job now is to turn it around; work to make progress towards positive personal connections and put some good energy out into the world. Find a way to look for beauty and things that make me happy or passionate about life again. Mostly importantly I have to find a way to make small steps in progress without allowing my anxiety send me into flight mode. Nothing is overnight, but one step at a time. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Being patient with myself is another place I falter and if I’m not going to have a team around me anymore I’ll have to he my own cheerleader. I’ll let you know how that goes.
When I was about 10 I fell in love with reading. I started out like most kids with Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. Seriously, who didn’t love Ramona Quimby or Superfudge? I was going through these books so fast that I was quickly running out of “appropriate” things to read. By age 12 I was reading Sweet Valley High romances and started writing my own version of those when I couldn’t get my hands on new ones in the series. By 13 I’d discovered my mother’s secret stash of historical romances.
Like many latchkey kids, I was bored and nosy. I found a shelf in my mother’s closet that contained rows and rows of these thick books featuring women in amazing gowns and men with lots of muscles and long gorgeous hair. The titles were even exotic. Savage Thunder, Defy Not The Heart, and The Fires of Winter. Certainly not the kinds of titles you’d find on a teen romance. I would occasionally flip through them but was daunted by their length. One day I discovered one of the books not only had a character with my name, but it was about a third smaller than all the others. That was enough for me to give it a chance.
I opened the book, right there in the closet, and began reading. 4 hours later when my mother came home I was still sitting in the closet and was almost finished with the book. That was it. I was hooked. The sex didn’t concern me. It wasn’t actually graphic, just passionate. I’d seen much worse on cable TV. My mother wasn’t mad, except for the fact my chores hadn’t gotten done and I was sitting in her closet (which actually confused her more than anything I think).
I started going through my mother’s collection of romances one by one for the next 3 years. What hooked me was the unlikely pairings, the “I’d die for you” devotion, and the fact that no matter what they faced somehow they came together in the end to be together.
Happily Ever After.
Who doesn’t want that?
I’ve heard parents blame a young girl’s unrealistic expectations of love and romance on Disney and their multiple princes who always save the day for their true love. Disney had nothing to do with creating the hopeless romantic in me. It was Penelope Neri, Johanna Lindsay, and Julie Garwood. Even though these stories were set mostly in other countries and all in another time I came to love escaping into the lives of the heroines who tested the boundaries of society, pushed the limits of ladylike behavior, and always found their happy ending in the arms of true love. From Indian maidens to viking princesses to duchesses of grand estates, they all had one thing in common; a happy ending.
Early on I started imagining how I wanted the book to end before I ever got to the ending. Sometimes I was right in line with the author, sometimes their ending was much more intricate than I could have imagined, and sometimes I really believed my ending would have made the book better. I was feeding my imagination and building stories in my head before I was even fully aware of what love and romance were all about.
I didn’t have a traditional English or Grammar teacher. Mrs. Cook was more concerned with teaching mythology, Shakespeare, and all the manias and phobias. I still don’t know how to diagram a sentence and I couldn’t tell you what a split infinitive is, but I can tell you how the Goddess, Athena, was born and draw you a pretty accurate depiction of an Elizabethan theater. The rules for commas are lost to me, just ask my friend the editor, and my ability to stay in the same tense comes and goes.
Then came my Junior year of high school with American Literature followed by a Senior year with World Literature. From Dante’s Inferno to Pride and Prejudice to The Raven to Canterbury Tales. I LOVED IT ALL. In college I read W.E.B. DuBois, Flannery O’Connor, Sylvia Plath, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This list goes on and on and there were so few that didn’t fascinate me.
I took every writing class I could get into and found that after years of reading my imagination was endless. My technique definitely not comparable to the greats, but I was a bottomless well of ideas. I could pick and emotion and write a story that would make my teacher feel it. I could pick a life and convince the reader I’d lived it.
I’d found my passion.
Many people go through life never finding what it is they are passionate about. I KNEW I wanted to be a writer. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was meant to write. I had no idea what I wanted to write but I knew I had to tell stories.
Like most people life went on and I got busy just making a living and my dream was put on the back burner, ignored, and almost forgotten. I was still reading anytime I could, but I’d stopped writing.
The Book That Changed Everything
In 2011 a phenomenon happened when a previously unpublished writer self-published and self-promoted a trilogy of romances set in a fictional world of billionaires and BDSM. It took off like no other adult book I’ve ever seen. The sex scenes made those historical romances seem innocent. The main character of Christian Grey was suddenly creating a frenzy of women who coined the term “Book Boyfriend.” He was sexy, rich, mysterious, a little dangerous, and would do anything to keep his woman. Without the half naked people on the covers moms everywhere were able to put these books in their purse without fear of being caught with their smutty, romantic reads. Finally giving into the trend I read the trilogy, in less than a week, and then craved more. I quickly found authors with similar works featuring alpha men and luxurious lifestyles where possibilities were endless and creative sexuality was encouraged. All that had been “taboo” was no longer. I fell in love with other authors like Julie Kenner, Maya Banks, and Tara Sue Me.
Now a woman in my late 30s and early 40s my imagination was sparked in new ways and I began to write again. Short stories. Snippets of scenes. Nothing extensive. Thanks to social media I was able to follow and actually interact with authors I was reading. One of the best days of my life was when Julie Kenner sent me a friend request on Facebook then just a few months later another author idol of mine, Lauren Blakely, saw a post I’d written mentioning her and she also sent me a friend request. These are women selling millions of books to millions of fans and I can now interact with them directly. I found indie authors of every sub-genre of romance and through social media interaction started actually building friendships and have extensive conversations with these women. Through these authors I’ve discovered other authors who I not only like as people but love as authors. My book collection, both paperback and e-book, is massive. I’ve become engrossed in the world of romance and writers.
The more I read the more I doubt I have any place among these amazing writers. Some offer to read what I’ve written and many encourage me to just write until I get more comfortable with my skill level and improve naturally with time and practice. Fear has a way of making a person immobile. Fear of not being good enough and of being a small fish lost in a giant ocean kept me from even trying. I kept making excuses to keep my dream just that, a dream.
I started this blog to give me an outlet to write whatever I wanted without fear of success or failure. It’s for me. It’s nice that others have read it and enjoyed it when I’ve written, but that wasn’t the point. I would never have guessed that this one thing I did just for me would lead to all the crazy things happening just over the last several months.
First, I received and email from and unknown sender. I actually opened it simply because of the subject. Smut For Charity. Wouldn’t you open it? It was an offer for previously unpublished bloggers of romance to submit their own short story for publication in an anthology. I read that email probably 10 times and kept finding excuses not to reply. I didn’t have time, I didn’t have the energy, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t have any fresh ideas, etc, etc. Then my daughter came to visit me. After listening to all the “practical” reasons she was putting aside her dream of art school and seeing her enthusiasm for art dwindling because she believes that her dreams are always going to be out of reach I was heartbroken for her. A parent never wants to see their child settle for less than their greatest potential no matter how impractical or impossible it might seem. But here I was doing the same thing I didn’t want her to do. I had all kinds of excuses for why I couldn’t be the writer I always dreamed of being.
So I answered the email. I kept putting off writing my story because I didn’t think it would come out as well as the ideas that were forming in my head. Finally I made a promise to one of the ladies putting together the anthology of a day I would submit my story by. Someone was counting on me to follow through. I wrote my story in less than two days and sent it in. There’s things I’d change now if I could since I’ve reread it probably 100 times but it’s my first time and you learn as you go. The people who have read my story have given me a lot of great feedback. So much that I decided that this year I would face another fear and take on the challenge of NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month, which is November, and meeting a goal of 50,000 words written. I’m not at my goal yet, but I’m well on my way. In the meantime the anthology is being put together as I write this and is due to release on November 29th. My story is not only the first one in the book, but also an excerpt from the book I’m writing for NaNoWriMo will be in the back of the book. We have several prominent authors supporting us and promoting the anthology. Even Ms. Julie Kenner has offered to promote the release, among other super supportive author friends I’ve made.
As an unpublished writer I’m learning the cost of things like editors and formatters and cover art. I have an amazing author friend who offered to edit my first work for me when I’m ready, which is a HUGE chunk of the cost, and so many ready to support and share my solo book when it comes out and my short story isn’t even out yet. I’m facing these fears reluctantly but every step of the way I keep reminding myself that I want to show my daughter that if you want it you have to go for it. You can’t give up before you’ve even tried. You can’t make excuses and expect any results. I’ve already invested in cover art for two books and have the support and push from those who won’t let me turn back.
Every day I write a little. Some days I write a lot. What matters is at the end of the day, before you close your eyes, ask yourself this question; what did I do today to get one step closer to making my dreams a reality? It doesn’t matter how small it is, do something, EVERY SINGLE DAY and don’t settle until you’ve exhausted every possibility. You can’t be the best if you don’t try. You can’t grab the trophy if you don’t show up.
Reading romances taught me if you want it bad enough you make it happen. Never give up hope until you find your Happily Ever After.
“Lily Anderson, you get your ugly ass out here right this minute. Don’t make me come after you,” Daddy screams.
He’s so angry. I knew the moment I heard him come home from work I was in for it. I was in my bedroom, lying on the floor trying to do my math. He slammed the front door so hard the windows in my room shook.
And then I knew, I knew I was in for it.
“Lily Anderson!” he yells again.
As soon as I heard him yell I ran to my hiding spot. I’m inside the closet in the hallway, wedged as far into the corner as I can get. Mom’s old coat hangs in front of me and I can still smell a faint waft of the perfume she used to wear.
“Lily Anderson!” he shouts. I can hear the anger in his voice and I can already feel the pain he’s going to inflict on me when he opens the closet door. I know what’s coming.
I close my eyes tight, scrunching them up so no light can seep through. I put my hands over my ears so I can’t hear him.
“I swear to God; if I have to find you, you will not sit for a month.”
My knees are folded into my chest. I’m trying to make myself small, invisible, so he forgets I’m here. I’m rocking myself, trying to block out what he’s saying.
School is safe. School is safe. School is safe. I keep repeating the mantra because in a few short hours I’ll be back at school. Maybe tomorrow I can go to the library after school, stay there until it closes and then sneak in after Dad’s passed out, because he’s had too much to drink.
It was never like this before. Ever.
I’m twelve years old and I can remember when Mom, Dad, and I were all happy. But that was years ago. It’s been a long time since there’s been any happiness in this house.
Well, before Mom died anyway, and not a day since.
Mom died when I was nine. I don’t remember much about her, except I remember her telling me how ugly I am. How life would be better if I was taken away from them. How I’ll never be anything, because I’m stupid and ugly.
Sometimes I dream happy things. Like me, Mom, Dad and a little blond-haired boy all going for a picnic. The sun beamed down on us as we played outside and laughed. We’d eat yummy sandwiches Mom made for us, and we’d drink homemade lemonade. We’d spend hours outside, laughing and talking and just having fun. Mom would tell me how pretty I am, and how much she loved me. She would play with my hair, braid it, and then we’d go and pick bright flowers to take home and put in a vase. Dad would smile and call us “his girls”, always kissing Mom and hugging me. Dad would put the little boy on his shoulders and run around the park, trying to catch the clouds.
I love those dreams, and I hold onto them; wishing they were real. But I’ve never had a mom like that, and my dad doesn’t talk much unless it’s with his fists, or to tell me how ugly and useless I am.
I feel him walking around the house. The floorboards creak and the vibrations from his footsteps come through the floor to where my bottom is. I close my eyes tighter and try and breathe as quietly as I can.
Please go away, Daddy. Please go away.
My heart is beating so fast. My hands are shaking and I’m trying really hard not to think about what’s going to happen the minute he opens the closet door.
Shhh, it’s so quiet. The only sound is my heart thrumming in my ears. Nothing else. Not a whisper, not a rattle…nothing.
Maybe Daddy’s left. Maybe he’s gone to the pub to have a few drinks. Maybe, just maybe, he’s left…forever.
I take a deep breath and just relax for a moment. My shoulders drop and I finally stop rocking.
Slowly I take my hands down from my ears, and I’m so happy because I can’t hear him yelling at me. I can’t hear him at all.
Gradually, I begin to unscrunch my eyes from the way I’ve tightly closed them. But something’s not right. There’s light coming into the closet.
I don’t even get a chance to open them fully before a rough hand reaches in, latches onto my ponytail and yanks.
“I told you it’d be worse for you if I had to find you,” Dad says, as he drags me out of the closet by my hair.
I’m desperately trying to hold onto my head so he doesn’t rip my hair out. My feet are trying to find traction on the dirty floorboards.
“Please, Daddy. Please. You’re hurting me,” I begin sobbing as I plead with him.
“Then your ugly ass should’ve come when I called you, you stupid bitch. You’re fucking worthless, you ugly idiot,” he says. But now his voice is calm as he continues to drag me toward the family room.
That’s when he’s most scary. When his voice is low and his eyes are filled with hate.
He throws me against the side of the sofa and takes a step back to look at me.
I look up and can see he’s the angriest I’ve ever seen him. “You dumb, ugly piece of shit,” he says, as he paces back and forth in front of me.
“Sorry, Daddy. Whatever I did, I’m so sorry.” I cower into myself, trying to make myself as small as possible.
“You’re just too fucking stupid, aren’t you?” he spits toward me as he brings his hand up to scratch at his chin.
“I’m sorry,” I say again. Tears are falling hot and fast down my cheeks. My head hurts from where he was pulling my hair, but I don’t dare try to rub the spot.
“You ugly fuck.” He kicks a boot into my leg.
The pain is instant and my leg feels like it’s shattered. “Please, Daddy,” I beg again, burying my face into my hands.
But ‘please’ never seems to work.
I’ve just got to take the beatings, because that’s what stupid, ugly girls do.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
There’s something about the written word that is pure magic.
Possibly it’s the fact there are 26 letters in the English alphabet, and they can create something so beautiful or so empowering they’re capable to change our lives.
How important is it that we break suit and stretch our minds?
I like to think of myself as ‘unique’. My stories aren’t for everyone, and sometimes I may push what you believe to be ‘normal’.
Normal is subjective.
I prefer to be known as a person who’s never been ‘bound by custom’ but is ‘unique by choice’.
Some days you crawl into bed and think, “Thank goodness this day is over!” Even on those days there are things to be grateful for. As I crawl into bed tonight I’m thankful for my 2 sweet Chihuahuas that like to cuddle me when I sleep alone. I’m grateful for my Siamese cat, Ziggy, that lies by my head and softly purrs me to sleep. I’m grateful for the books I read to relax and drift into another world so I can rid myself of any negative from the day. I’m thankful for the good parts of my health and that I have a job that pays the bills. I’m thankful for texts from my wonderful friends, my partner and especially my gorgeous daughter (non-biological from a previous relationship) that always make me smile and feel loved. I’m thankful for free Kindle books. I’m grateful for the beautiful flower baskets my partner bought for my front porch. I’m grateful for a car that runs and medical insurance that covers my hearing aids. I’m grateful I have a stylist who always does my hair perfectly. I’m grateful for swimming pools and nice breezes. I’m grateful for the deer and the black squirrels and the baby bunnies I see wandering around the area. I’m grateful for good coffee and dark chocolate. I’m thankful for the nice dinners out and the foot rubs and hugs I get from my partner. I’m thankful for my generous friends and family that think of me and surprise me with gifts even though I’m so far away. I’m thankful my father remarried a wonderful woman who gave me a wonderful little brother. Although my step-mom is gone from this world I’m thankful she no longer hurts from cancer. I’m thankful for the amazing years I had with my grandma and all the wisdom she shared. I’m thankful for my two amazing aunts who are also wonderful mothers. I’m thankful for friends I can talk to about literature and cooking and movies and love. I’m grateful for love and hope. I’m grateful I am smart enough not to give up on either one of those. I’m thankful for my ability and willingness to learn new things. I’m grateful the world is changing in some wonderful ways. I’m grateful for daisies and peonies and the smell of jasmine.
I’m grateful I have a voice and I’m not afraid to use it. I’m especially grateful for those of you who care enough to read what I have to say.
Be thankful everyday. No matter what you do or do not have, you have more than some and sometimes that’s just enough.
on March 10, 2020