Belonging

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When I was a kid, I wanted to belong. A desire common, probably to all children, and adults for that matter. But for reasons that still escape me even now, I never felt like I did. No matter where I was or whom I was with, I always felt a little outside of the circle. Not because of any particular trauma or horrible family existence. Sure, things happened to me when I was a kid but it was ordinary stuff – sibling rivalry, school bullies, mean girls, rebellion, rejection, disappointment, embarrassment, break-ups, change. Normal stuff. That happens to everyone.

But this feeling of being an outsider drove me to write. Poems, disjointed blurbs, ideas, stories, alternate realities. Whatever soothed at the moment. And while writing I didn’t feel like an outsider. I felt at home. I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to be doing. Doubts, uncertainties, and fears about myself didn’t live in my writing place. I suppose you could say writing is what brought me peace and clarity.

Not long ago I read an article or a blog post or something about themes in stories. The themes that writers employ in their stories. This particular writer had realized that his stories all had the same over arching theme – finding and connecting with his father. It was simple piece, probably not noticed by many, certainly not one of those posts that go viral. It was quietly profound. At least it made me think. Did I have an over arching theme in my stories? What was it?

I do. All my stories are about belonging. Or rather, wanting to belong.

And I’m okay with that.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that all writers have a theme. It’s dressed up in smart dialogue, breath taking prose, crazy plot lines and subplots, weird or profound characters, humor or tragedy – but it’s there. Always there.

And I think that maybe that’s why we write – to solve and to understand the over arching themes of our personal lives. To play out all the possible scenarios of that which we cannot quite conquer in life. Strive to understand but never quite do.
What about you? Do your stories have the same theme? Or do you gravitate to stories that have the same theme? Do you find comfort in that?

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The Truth

the truth, writer chick talks

What is the truth? I ponder that often. Is there one universally true truth?? Or is the truth wholly subjective? Or…somewhere in between?

Is something true because another says it is? What if it’s not true for me? Or you? Or them? Must we still believe it to be truth because of peer or societal agreement? Or is it only true for me (or you or us) if it’s true for me (or you or us)?

One could proffer that the truth is just the facts. The exact sequence of events—the exact provable elements of the person, place or thing. That works. At least, sometimes.

But, what if the facts aren’t provable? Nobody videotaped it or recorded it in any concrete way. What then? Where and how do we find the trueness or falseness of it?

Perhaps the truth is a feeling—it feels right so therefore it’s true. Maybe the truth is something that aligns to a universally accepted moral code or principle. Or perhaps a process of elimination. We discover the truth by removing anything that cannot stand up to scrutiny and accept whatever remains as the truth.

Perhaps logic plays a part, however, something that is logical is not always true and something that is true is not always logical.

So…what’s the yardstick for this ungraspable, intangible thing called truth? For me, I believe it’s about what is real. My real thoughts, not rearranged prettily-worded spoken words tempered for acceptability by others. My actual perceptions of the situation or person—unvarnished and simply stated without consideration of how another might react. Straight from the hip and no pulled punches.

Not easy and probably a dangerous approach in some cases, though workable, I think, in the end.

What about you? What is the truth?

WC
copyright 2010

Weathering the Storm

weathering-the-storm, tough times, job problems, money worries

It’s an old phrase and speaks to tough times. Something I think many of us are going through right now. This morning I had some time and traveled my blog neighborhood to see what was happening with my neighbors only to find that there was little new. This isn’t meant to chide anyone, it was just an observation that lately there hasn’t been a lot of posting going on. At least in my circle of bloggers.

Unusual I thought because most of my blogroll are pretty active and it made me wonder what was happening. Oh sure, it’s summer and people are out and about more in the warmer months and there are more family outings and vacations – but really it’s dead quiet out there. It gave me pause.

And I do think that life is kicking a lot of people’s butts right now, so something as trivial as blogging isn’t taking a front seat. Fair enough, one does have to pay attention to their lives from time to time, no question about that. I certainly haven’t been immune to that at all, in fact, quite the opposite – life has been, in a phrase, kicking my butt lately.

I started thinking this morning back to the last time that things seemed so tough. Overwhelming even. When it was just hard to get out of bed to face another day of shitstorm and worries. 1992-1993 was it for me. I’d been working for a consulting firm at the time and suddenly they weren’t able to pay me or the other 100 employees on their payroll. It got ugly and very difficult. I’d heard chatter on the news (which I didn’t pay much attention to) that the economy was not doing so good but it didn’t occur to me that getting another job was going to be difficult. I’d always been able to get work and this time would be no different.

However, it was different. Very different. I looked and looked, applied and applied to no result. It was very hard on the morale because let’s face it, after continued rejection and lack of results our egos take a beating. I fought the feelings of being useless and unhireable but truth be told, many times I gave in to them too. Times were dark. Very dark. I could barely pay my rent and many bills went unpaid because I had to eat and I had to pay my rent. I decided to go back to waitressing at that point, which had always been a fall back position for me. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it again but I had little choice, so I swallowed my doubts and fears and pounded the pavement until I found a restaurant that would hire me. I then proceeded to work my buns off for about half the income I was used to earning. Tough as it was, I couldn’t complain because I had work and I had food and I had a place to live. Not much else, but I did have that.

And now the ‘economy’ or whatever the hell it is this time, has reared its ugly head again. I don’t know if I will start waitressing again – I’m older and a bit creakier than I was back then and who knows if people are even eating out anymore, but so far it’s been my fallback workable solution, so chances are I’ll give it a try.

The point of this is not how I’m going through tough times so much as how I feel everyone is and to say, I hear you. I know that things are hard right now for pretty much everyone. But I also know that most of us are tough enough and strong enough to weather the storm. Especially if we can lean on each other a little. That sure helps, doesn’t it? What about you? What are you doing to weather the storm of these uncertain times. Tips, ideas, solutions, problems?

Arbitraries

arbitraries

I’ve been thinking about that, lately. You know what I mean? The odd little things that we come to believe? The ideas we’ve had, it seems, all our lives about how things should be, how we should be, how others should be? None of which is based on anything but someone else’s opinion or insistence, not logic, not understanding, not even survival.

I think that we all have arbitraries. And I also think that we’ve had them most of our lives, that they have been around so long and are so insidious that we don’t even question them. They just are. Right?

I don’t know why exactly but I’ve started wondering about mine. Like why do I believe that you shouldn’t let people know (not even friends) when you’re down? Why is it a sign of weakness to ask for help, especially if money or anything remotely close to it is involved? Why do I have a certain time limit in my head as to how long I can accept a friend’s hospitality, help or comfort? Why do I secretly believe that despite my many abilities, intelligence and competence, that I am not hirable? That no one wants to give me a job or work? Why do I think that when things gone wrong it’s because I must be bad? Lots of questions – any answers?

Well, I don’t know if I have answers exactly but I do think that I think these things because somewhere along the line, someone instilled these ideas in me. I didn’t notice or maybe I was just too young to realize that these were arbitrary ideas, rather than the truth. Occasionally, I have a vague recollection, a moment frozen in time where I’m watching me being told something bad about myself. Being made to believe it. It’s a little scary actually, memories like those. And often I’ve convinced myself that I was imagining it. Now, I’m thinking, not so much.

Where they came from and from whom they were issued may not be important. Although being aware of them probably is. It’s hard in modern life to just sit down and reflect on anything – everything moves so fast and we are always, consistently behind it seems. Life demands more of us and yet, seems to give less back then it did to our parents and grandparents. Technology, cell phones, instant connections and communications all make it very difficult for us to just step off the out of control merry go round and really consider why we think what we think.

But I’ll tell you something I believe it’s worth the extra effort. I’d be willing to bet that most of you have funny little things you believe about yourselves, that has no basis in fact or truth. But like a favorite pair of shoes, you keep it close to you and trot it out often, probably daily. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we all just realized that most of the crappy stuff we think about ourselves is nothing more than arbitrariness whose seeds were sown when we didn’t know any better?

Needy Nancy

needy

Yup, I have been a Needy Nancy. Believe it or not, this was something that just dawned on me recently. Not sure why but it probably has something to do with the fact that I went through a pretty needy period not so long ago. Truth be told I didn’t like me too much during that period either.

In looking back though I wanted to see if I could understand where it came from or if it was a good or a bad thing. I’ve always prided myself on being very independent and for most of my life have taken care of myself. Even as early age eight I had some sort of going business concern – washing cars, raking leaves, babysitting. Something to earn money. Even at that age I had a real affinity for money or more for what money could get me.

And there is nothing wrong with being independent, in fact, we encourage one another to be so. We work toward it from the first time we reach for something on our own, don’t we? The first time we push the bottle away or try to grab the spoon that mom is shoveling down that mushy lump of peas? From the cradle our impulses are always in the direction of finding our own way and making our own discoveries.

And that was me. In fact, I believe it was the source of much torment and dismay for my mother in particular. I remember distinctly a time when I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea and talking with my mom. I forget exactly what the topic was but I believe it had something to do with the fact that some other family member had disrespected her or embarrassed her. For an eight year old, I was giving her some pretty sage advice – like ‘forget them’ ‘you don’t need them’ ‘don’t pay any attention to them’ or something equally brilliant. Suddenly though she looked at me and started to cry. When I asked her what was wrong she lamented that I’d never been a child.

This was an odd statement considering I was only eight at the time and I pointed out to her that I was in fact, a kid. Then there was more lamenting about my not playing with dolls or some such girlie thing. I shrugged and told her I preferred books.

As the years went by the term, ‘you were born 40’ issued from Mom’s lips hundreds of times and I always marveled at why she seem to think that was such a bad thing. I suppose she was right – there was something adult about me even when I was a child – even in photographs of me as a very young child I have the same face I have today – fewer wrinkles of course, but definitely the same.

As usual, I digress – suffice to say that my independence was something I wore with great pride and in many ways became my best friend. Despite a few fragile moments in my life – my bounce-back-ability was second to none. Then last year happened…

I don’t know what it was about last year. It seemed that everyone I knew went through (and in some cases are still going through) some set back, crisis, bad news, disappointment and so forth. In my case there were many things – and they made me shaky – but it wasn’t until my friend Kelly had her accident that I began to doubt my own ability to ride the storm. I’ve talked about this many times and am not going to revisit it except to say that seemed to be the beginning of my needy nancy stage. I fought it and I fought it hard but I found more and more I had to ask for help. Something I am particularly bad at doing – it embarrasses me so. Track up to my move to the east coast and then back again – and needy doesn’t even begin to describe what was going on there.

It’s been a tough few months trying to regain independence and righting my footing. Though I had a few realizations along the way…

1. It is okay to need other people
2. It is okay to need help and to ask for it
3. It is okay to admit you aren’t bullet-proof or infallible
4. It won’t kill you to feel lost or even alone
5. It won’t hurt you to just look at the hopelessness of it all
6. Just because you need someone doesn’t mean they need you
7. If someone can’t help you doesn’t mean they don’t care
8. Other people have troubles too
9. Sometimes you just need to get over yourself.

So to all my friends who have helped to prop me up – encourage me, even dole out some tough love, I say thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

How about you guys – any needy nanciness happening for you? What did you realize about it?

Material…

There is an old adage about writers that states that everything that happens in a writer’s life isn’t bad because it’s material. I have to admit that I’ve shared this view for many years. I’m not sure if the events in my life drove me to write or that writing demanded interesting events so I would have something to write about – the old chicken/egg conundrum – which came first? However, I do know that writing for me has always been cathartic. It has become the salve that eases the pain, greases the joy and abates the boredom.

The invention of stories only served to spice up my otherwise dull existence and enabled me to travel, try on various professions and occupations and realize (in some odd way) the things I coveted but couldn’t get in real life. It also enabled me to rewrite history in order to change the course of a real life event toward the result that should have been, rather than what was.

For all of these reasons and more I have turned to the written word to sound out what was happening in my life – making me oddly enough, my own confidante.

Recently though, I’ve come to ask myself if all of my experiences should be material. If my life was meant to be a screwball display of my failures and triumphs in a public forum such as this. If some things are too private to reveal or elude to. And if so, why? To save myself from embarrassment or humiliation – or is it to protect the other unassuming participants in my life who have a right to privacy?

I have concluded that is all of the above and more. That there really are some things that are too private to use as fodder to fill pages. There really is sometimes to high a collateral damage factor.

So…color me quiet and somewhat surprised…my life isn’t in fact, an open book, after all.

Help

Help is a funny animal. We all need it. We all offer it from time to time, some of us more than others. But the odd thing about help is that when we need it the most, we don’t ask for it. In fact, at least in my case, I do everything in my power not to ask for it. Odd, that. Don’t you think?

I’ve found that when I’m not doing well or feeling down the last thing in the world I want is for other people to know about it. There is some shame or something attached to it for me. As though in my heart of hearts, I believe that I am always supposed to be strong. Always supposed to know what to do and how to solve my problems. That despite the fact that I have some very incredible friends often they are the last to know when something is wrong with me. Excluding of course, those who know me so well, I don’t have to say anything because they can tell something is up.

I have often wondered why I feel there is such stigma attached to needing help. Is it just the flat out neediness of it all? That it’s just too embarrassing to show the world or some small faction of it that I too can be vulnerable, can feel lost and without the wisdom to find my way out of something? Perhaps.

Although, in my experience if you want to visit betrayal on yourself the fastest way to do it is to ask for help. I don’t know why that is and I don’t know if I am the only one who has experienced this (I doubt it, though) but it seems on the few occasions that I have asked for help, what I have received instead are lectures, resentment and insults. I have been told in no uncertain terms that I should have not gotten myself in whatever position I found myself in, that I was smarter than that or worse, the cliche phrase, “What were you thinking?” As if to infer I’d taken some sort of stupid pill that day.

And so, I guess at least in part because of this I have decided that biting the bullet is the only way to get through it. That to just fall and fall again until I somehow learn on my own how to get up is my only avenue and I’d best get used to it. And I’d venture to say that there are many of us out there who feel the same way and have had the same experience.

It’s ironic at best and fricking scary at worst. I’m reminded of that song, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, I think there may be some wisdom in those words. Friends and family tell you all the time, if there is anything I can do, let me know. Then you tell them and oops they can’t really do that. They didn’t really mean that. Right? So the mixed messages don’t do anything to help either. It’s hard enough to swallow your pride and ask someone if they can help you but to then get a firestorm of I told you so’s really just adds insult to injury.

Still, there must be a way around it. There must be a way to be able to ask for help when you need it without suffering further humiliation and hurt. I don’t think I know what it is but I’d like to. I’d like to understand what the boundaries are not just for others but for myself. When should you ask for help? Right away? No, at that point you probably still think you can handle things. Maybe midway through? Well by that time you’re already screwing up pretty badly and who wants to admit that? Then again, if pride is what got you there in the first place, having more helpings of that isn’t going to do anything either, is it? Usually, I’m afraid that most of us ask for help when we simply can’t take it anymore and even the humiliation is better than whatever the situation is, right? Yeah, that’s probably right.

There is no easy way to ask for help and too, there is no easy way to accept the help you need. Maybe that is why I try go out of my way to offer help to people – not that I have a whole lot to offer but I never want any friend of mine to feel like that can’t ask and especially to feel like the answer will be no. We’re all infinitely flawed individuals and to think otherwise is folly at best. This is something I need to be better at myself, asking for help. I don’t and I should. It would probably save me a lot of heartache in the end if I could find the words and swallow my pride. If I could stop expecting myself to be perfect and to always know the right thing to do and the correct solutions to my problems. It is something I plan to work on this year, learning that, realizing that and accepting that. Maybe it won’t be such a hard lesson to learn though probably it will be quite difficult knowing me as I do.

I wonder, what about you guys, do you have as hard a time as I do with this?

If a Giant… by Teeni

If a giant reached out to touch a freshly mown field of grass, would it feel the same to him as velvet would feel to a normal sized person?

Yes, it’s an odd little pondering, I admit. But in recent years, thoughts like this have begun rolling around in my mind more often. Like marbles in a wooden labyrinth, they roll tentatively from one end of my brain to the other, desperately avoiding the holes that will send them into oblivion, where they will be forever misplaced in my faulty memory banks. Some of these ideas survive, fortunately, because I try to write them down before they escape me. They want to be more than just ideas, I think. They want to grow and if I let them, I think they will become much more.

I don’t know if there are more of these wonderings in my head now or if I am just more aware of them. So many things have changed for me in such a short time. I have no idea where to lay the blame. Could it be one of the many medical diagnoses or the treatments I’ve endured? Or is it just normal wisdom coming with old age?

I’ll probably never know how or why things happened the way they did. But I do know that my brain doesn’t work the way it used to. I don’t have the attention span I used to have and my memory stinks. But other things have changed as well. I feel more creative. I’m much more reflective. I can laugh at myself more. I learn in smaller pieces but I make it interesting and try to apply things. I enjoy it. I have ideas. I entertain them and let them linger in my mind, no matter how silly they may be. Ideas and creativity are extremely important. So I don’t stifle mine anymore or shoot them down. They may not all go somewhere but that’s okay.

Everything begins with an idea. And I’m beginning to think that it is healthy to just soak in your creative ideas at times. It is important to free your mind from stresses and periodically just let it wander … and wonder, learning odd things here and there as it goes. I think it helps keep your mind young, fresh, and alive. And you shouldn’t have to schedule a weekend away to do it. Take a few minutes at a time. Learn to relax, breathe deeply. Allow your mind to switch into a lower, slower and calmer gear. Ideas great and small will begin to form without much coaxing, if you will only allow them to. Open up and let them form. They may take you someplace big in life. Or they may just remain interesting, entertaining little ideas.

The question at the beginning of the post occurred to me when my husband and I were driving in the car, most likely on our way home from a food shopping trip – a very mundane task, I know. But I look at things a lot differently now. In the passenger seat beside my handsome man, I looked over and saw a field of freshly mown grass with a little hill in the middle of it. It looked like a giant palm could have fit there like a long-lost puzzle piece. I tried to picture how it would feel if I were fifty times my current size. I visualized stretching out my enormous arm and placing my gargantuan hand right in the middle of that sweet smelling field. Individual blades of grass would be miniscule compared to my oversized hand. Would I even feel them at all? Would they register in my consciousness? I think they would. I think they would feel like a carpet of cool, soft velvet. I might even pass my hand back and forth a little bit to “pet” the grass, “fluffing” up any blades that had been bent over and immersing myself in its sensation, the reaction it evoked from me.

Maybe this one wasn’t my million-dollar idea. But I let the idea grow. And it did. It turned into this post.

Always wonder.

Always learn.

Always love.

Always laugh.

Always live.

Thanks for letting me get a little creative and expressive over here, Annie. Hugs to you and to anyone reading – thanks for your time!

Teeni

Fate

Is there such a thing? Really? Or do we just convince ourselves that a number of coincidences add up to it?

Is everything that happens in our lives meant to happen. Are we meant to meet the people we meet? Become friends, lovers, in-laws. Is it all going according to some master plan? Or do we have some wiggle room? I’m a bit torn on the issue there are certain things that have happened in my life that I truly believe were meant to be. That were inevitable. That no matter what I did or where I turned that that situation, event or person would have still found their way into my life. It’s a little spooky actually to feel that way about something or someone, and luckily it doesn’t happen too often for me or I’d really be whigged out about it. Although it does happen often enough that I have to wonder, are some things meant to be?

On the other hand, so much of life is random, inexplicable and wild. There is nothing master plan or organized about it. As though we are all just thrown into a white water river and must do our best to ride the rapids down to the peaceful water, if there is any. And if we can stay alive long enough to get there.

I have come to the conclusion that it must be a mixture that somehow there is a fate of sorts. Perhaps it has to do with one’s own master plan, one’s own dream and needs in life and on occasion life let’s us have something we really want or to be with someone we really want to be with – so that when it screws us over continually on most everything else we can feel grateful?

Possibly even feel like we have some cause or control over our own destinies. I do prefer to think that way, rather than believe that everything is already planned and mapped out. If that is the case, then what point is there in living my life? What point is there in making any plans? None I think.

Still….there are those moments that seem overwhelmingly destined to happen, that you know were meant to be. Maybe life is just trying to confuse us? I’m not sure I have any point here. What do you think? Opinions, ideas, recipes?

Reconciliation

An interesting word. One with many nuances and layers but in the end is about coming to terms and restoring that which was. I have had a lot of time to consider this word and the action of same. And to see how very difficult it can be and all of the reasons why it is so difficult and yet so easy to do, to offer, to want.

Mistakes are made, words are uttered and regretted, or worse, unspoken and left to the imagination to grow into disportionate size and significance – and that which was so simple five minutes ago is suddenly a raging beast with its sites set on you, while you were only just going along minding your own business. It can be a shock to the system and the source of much confusion and distress.

Ah, I wax philosophic and speak in circles, yes, I admit it because I’m looking for the truth of it and quite honestly have not found it. And I want to. It is important to me to understand what is true in my own and in the lives of others I care about. But maybe too important to me about others because I have a tendency to worry less about myself and more about others and go so far over the limit to help, to comfort and console that I forget that I need these things too. And in the forgetting stumble upon land mines that I had no idea were there.

It would be so easy to just shrug it off, forget it, move on. I like going for the easy route because it is more comfortable and makes for a smoother ride and then you aren’t really required to look at the dynamics at play and how you had a part in them. In the end though, you always do have to examine those and come to grips and do what you can to learn from them and move on. So, I am trying to do that in my own haphazard way while always keeping my eye on the very beautiful things in my life – the large and the small things, not let any of it miss my notice and acknowlegement. And though I don’t think things will ever be as they were – I do hope that perhaps in a way they will be better with a deeper understanding and a stronger ability to forgive and forget.

Thanks for indulging in my talking out loud piece. I do apologize if it makes no sense to anyone but me.