Check Your Attitude

I’m not going to lie. This started out as a very different post about gratitude and how I’ve been getting more and more in touch with how I feel about my life, what I’m grateful for and what I never knew I needed to appreciate. I had it all planned out, which should have been my first clue it wasn’t going to go quite the way I envisioned; the universe has a wonderful sense of humor and its absolutely favorite way to show it is to see exactly what I have planned and see how it can turn it all around. Alas, my abundant gratitude is not today’s story.

Today is about perception.

Mine, to be more clear, since I lack the psychic ability to look into anyone else’s head and tell you how the world looks to them.

I could tell you that I see rainbows and roses everywhere, but I promised not to lie, even if telling the truth makes me look a little like an ass. I’m more of a skull and crossbones kind of girl with more sarcasm than sunshine in my head. It suites me. Unfortunately, I’m also the girl that tends to see things that aren’t really there.

We could call this a hold over from my childhood; I was bullied by family and classmates alike and I tend to be good at picking out nasty smirks, these days.

Well. I say I’m good at it. So good at it that, sometimes, I see that smirk when it isn’t really there.

Or hear it.

This is where I tell you that part of what I’m about to relate might make you uneasy or might make you think differently about me. Someone once told me they were surprised that I could get so caught up in the thoughts of others because their first impression of me was of a woman who does not give one crap about anyone else’s opinion of me. At my strongest, this is true. I have told even the people I love best where to stuff their version of me.

Today was not one of those days.

I believe that part of growing is being able to admit your faults. Now, I have been bullied. I have heard people laughing at me behind my back. I’ve been betrayed, lied to, lied about, and let told that I’m weird. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, a lot of people find me too strange to allow and make it their mission to try and change me. These days I let them go ahead and make fun of me because it says far more about them than it does about me. In fact, I’ve found that the way others see you tend to reflect the way they see themselves and has nothing at all to do with you in the first place.

This, of course, can be reversed. How you see others says something about how you see the world. Most days, I see other people as generally decent, but also need a little kindness and, on occasion, a good kick in the pants for being buttheads. We are all stumbling around in the dark wood of life and not a damn one of us really knows what is going on. However, today was one of those (now) rare days when I found myself irritated simply because other people exist.

Someone cut me off in traffic on my way to the bookstore – I needed their wifi to deal with the mess that has become my WordPress blog. “I hate people,” I growled. The car next to me hit a squirrel. I watched the poor thing get tossed into the ditch and there is no way in hell it landed still breathing. “What a jerk,” I growled a little louder, glaring at a man who was driving one of those pickups that always make you question if they even know what a hay bale looks like (Judgy? Oh hell yes). Yet another person was tailgating me and others were beeping their horns impatiently (at me or at someone else, I didn’t know) and all of this was further cranking the wheel of my irritation with the human race.

By the time I actually reached the bookstore, I already had that tingle which says ‘hey, you, better be looking closer at something going on inside.’

This tingle, call it my emotional spidey sense, is a familiar prickle at this point. I’ve always been self aware, but the the first surprise of getting to know myself was seeing just how little I actually knew about the person in the mirror. I decided, at some point, that I needed to develop a relationship with me the same way I would with another person. The first rule is respect and this was surprisingly difficult. Familiarity breeds contempt, they say, and they are certainly not wrong. I’ve made it a priority to listen to myself as much as possible, lately, but, sometimes, I forget about my promise and it rarely ends well.

Into the bookstore I went. The planner I use to track my writing activities is approaching it’s final month and I’ve been eyeing one that is of the same design – while refusing to pay twenty dollars for something that I’m only going to throw away. Black Friday may be over, but Barnes & Noble is turning it into a weekend event; my planner was half off. I could have looked at that and let it be the thing that turned my stormy attitude around.

Funny thing about a bad mood. If you nurture it long enough, it gets big enough you can’t see around it. The planner was half off, but so was my temper. If I get around to that gratitude post, I may bring this back to the table; learning to embrace those small things is key to releasing the older version of me so I can be happy. I did not focus on my luck that the planner, which is beautiful, was both half off and still in stock. I was determined to be grouchy.

I went to the cafe, ordered something small and sat down to work on my blog space. I was half growling, annoyed further to discover the theme I’d originally used for my blog was no longer available. I was working on the banner for the home page, glaring because I couldn’t remember how to make the black box in the middle transparent, fussing over fonts and colors and just being in an outright muggle mood.

And that is when I heard a half stifled, snarky little giggle.

I could take you back to high school right about now. I could remind you what it feels like when a group of someone’s is laughing at you, trying to make it look like they aren’t, and fully hoping you realize they are, in fact, laughing at you. I could bring you back to that sweaty, hot moment of shame that seemed to accompany those moments, even when you’d done nothing wrong and didn’t know why the jackals were giggling. But I’m going to suggest you stay right here with me. Because, for a minute, a very un-evolved version of me was alive and ready to bite someone’s head off right then and offer it up as a blood sacrifice to that nice little corporation sign that has come to universally mean over priced coffee that tastes like sadness, charred beans, and pumpkin spice.

That version of me was born somewhere in between the point of graduating high school and discovering the man that I married was always running me down behind my back. Built of anger and betrayal, it is both oversensitive and aggressive and it is my least favorite mask. That version of me loves dogs and horses and kids and is absolutely not someone you want to laugh at if you are a grown adult because she will leave you hysterically sobbing in a corner somewhere, possibly suffering from PTSD, and unsure if you will ever feel safe out in public again. It is a version of me that I’ve been working to send back into the void; people do stupid, hurtful things because stupid, hurtful things were done to them. They are cruel because that is the only way they can feel better about themselves. Somewhere inside of them, they harbor a seed of self loathing that has sprouted a dark and poisoned tree. And a group of college students is always so ripe with self doubt and fear that it sometimes amazes me they can manage to get out of bed in the mornings.

That’s what this was, by the way. A group of college students in their mid twenties. But, before we visit this group of sleek, perfectly dressed little children convinced that their life would never turn around and bitch slap them (ah, sweet innocence), let’s talk about the emotional alarm tingle of doom.

You see, that tingle was pretty much a full on fire dance at this point. ‘Pay attention, pay attention,’ it said. ‘Take a look at you. Look in, not out.’

Now, there was a time not all that long ago, when I’d have listened… eventually. But, first, I’d have gone full death glare, possibly even unhinged hell angel of ‘you decided to try it, now I’m going to verbally tear your spine out.’ Hell, I was dressed for the occasion; I’d walked in wearing my long black coat and, I’m sure, looking like an escapee from Wednesday (Go. Watch. Now.) because I really was feeling my inner grim reaper earlier.

I’ve spent two years working with this explosive and vengeful side of me. Two years. I still make mistakes; everyone does. But I knew the consequences of letting my mouth speak before my brain was asked for the best course of action. So I did not jump up from my seat to go incinerate anyone’s ego with my fury. Instead, I took a breath. This is still a new thing for me; I have to consciously choose to stop. There is something odd about being bullied. Some people never seem to come out of that dark room where they are regulated to being unpopular and unwanted. Others, like me, decide to take over the room, put on the crown, and declare themselves the queen so that nobody mistakes them for weak ever again.

I got really good, at one point, picking out what people didn’t like about themselves. I never became that woman who puts others down to make herself feel better, thank god. But. If you crossed me, if you pushed me to my limit – which usually involved one of my kids (my little band of outcasts gathered from every corner of the world), dogs, or anything helpless – I would use my extensive vocabulary to flay you alive. Some would not see the problem with this; most of the people who have seen me in this mode stomped across a clearly marked line and right up to the end of my loaded canon. They got what they were asking for.

Just one problem with that. I didn’t get away without a little hurt of my own. Once the fire died down, I had plenty of burns of my own to tend. Once you’ve been bullied, you don’t forget that feeling. It is not one you want others to have to feel. Even if you might think they do deserve it a little. Everyone has a story and a tragedy. Everyone deserves at least a little kindness.

It is not up to me to decide who gets chewed out and who doesn’t. Most people, if they are truly worthy of it, will get that karma at some point or another. Whether they learn from it or not is also not my call. That is why it is called free will and no matter what our government may think, nobody gets to step on that. I have no desire to be the one doing the teaching these days. I’m on a different trajectory. One that includes listening to that tingle and figuring out where I’m coming from instead of worrying about what other people are thinking about me.

So I listened to my inner cricket. I started thinking about the guy who cut me off. I’m not going to make that okay; always check your blind spots and don’t assume the other driver is paying enough attention to avoid an accident. You will be at fault. But. Had he hit me, I wouldn’t have been hurt as we were going too slow and I pay my insurance for a reason. The driver that hit the squirrel couldn’t have stopped; it ran under his tires, not out in front of him and, had he seen and hit the brakes, the car behind him would have hit him going fast enough to make the accident ugly. The tailgater sniffing my tailpipe wasn’t trying to piss me off, they just weren’t paying enough attention. The people honking weren’t honking at me. They were honking at each other for some reason that had nothing to do with me.

My sour mood was not about other people. I didn’t want to leave the house this morning. My bills are pressing on me a little, causing me to worry. I was having a nice little snuggle with my dogs, but, because I’d set myself to getting the blog cleaned up and ready for a newer, better version of my writing, I made myself go out.

Sometimes, you need to let go of ideas of how the day should go. You can (and should) say ‘hey, don’t actually feel like doing that right now’ and let your plans change. This is part of honoring who you are.

I’m not telling you to ignore what’s important. Kids need fed. Bills need paid. But blogs can wait. My irritation was born of my need to spend a day curled up on the couch watching youtube with a good dog. Strange as it may sound, it is sometimes important to rest, even if it means putting something else off. In not listening to that voice, I was disrespecting myself and, just like an overstimulated child, it was bent on being unhappy with every little thing. I was looking for a reason to be angry and I found plenty of them.

Now. About those college students.

I looked up, aware that, whatever they were trying to do for themselves by snickering at me, it was their issue to deal with. Only, they weren’t looking at me. Pretty much the only time any of them looked at me was when I walked past and there was nothing malicious in it. The girl was looking at my hair. It is extremely long at this point and gets a lot of girl attention. You know the kind I’m talking about. Remember those three little girls in Rapunzel that get to braid her hair? That look.

The rest of the kids barely knew I was in the room with them. They certainly weren’t laughing at me. They were having a good time, enjoying their coffee and their conversation and it wasn’t about me.

Let me say that again. It wasn’t about me.

That, my darlings, is what perception is. It is the story you tell yourself and it is wholly within you. It has nothing to do with the people around you, what they are thinking about you, what they are saying, even if they ARE looking at you. Some people would have heard that laugh and taken it as happiness instead of snark. Others would have snapped right up and demanded to know who they thought they were laughing at, causing all sorts of drama to ensue.

Your life mirrors your perception. You see what you want to see. Your perception is born of two things. Today, yes, but also all of your yesterdays. How you behave is directly wired into who you have decided you want to be. This is what the buddhists call the ego; it is how you identify and, good or bad, it is a lens through which you see the world. The beautiful part of this is that you get to decide every single day who you want to be.

Sometimes you get up, realize it is a day for puppy cuddles and mindless youtube. You listen to that little voice and you have a good – if not quite productive – day. Or you don’t listen and get all the way to a coffee shop and nearly traumatize a pack of college students because you thought an abandoned blog was more important than your own needs. Change isn’t easy for me; I resist it on every front and when I get something into my head I often cling to it. Even if it means steamrolling my personal needs.

Perception is directly related to how well we are listening to ourselves. Our ability to deal with the little uglies in the world, like honking horns, traffic drama, and snarky laughter is very much linked to the attitude we decided to put on. It can and will change on a daily basis, if you let it. Hell, sometimes, it changes by the hour. You do have control over it, though. You can listen to what it is telling you and know that, whatever it is you need or need to avoid is part of becoming better balanced in a world that is always trying to push your buttons. Don’t listen and the unheard, unseen voice will choose your attitude for you. It rarely chooses a happy one.

The buddha said ‘you cannot control the world, but you can control your reaction to it’. I think that, if we taught our children to decide, first thing in the morning, what they are and aren’t up to for the day, we’d understand that this phrase isn’t about shaming yourself into better behavior or letting others walk all over us. It is about knowing where you are for the day. Learning to watch and listen to ourselves is a vital part of change; the unconscious get up and rely on who they were yesterday to tell them how to be today. They are on autopilot and this is an empty life lived as a sleepwalker. The person who observes themselves has the ability to choose who they are and what they want out of life.

Today was not a day for me to be out in public. Today was a day to be at home, writing you a little note about gratitude. I wanted to tell you how I made toast lathered with butter and fresh strawberry jam. One of my customers made the jam from her own strawberries and gave me a jar of it after I delivered her husband’s medicine; they were about to leave for Florida for the winter and needed the medicine to show up before they could leave.

Had I been listening to myself, I could have written that story for you today, then camped on the couch in my pajamas watching Dead Like Me and loving the little things. However. I’m living by a new philosophy that is very much based on the Native American belief in using every part of the animals they hunt. Maybe I shouldn’t have left the house. But, in a way, I’m glad that I did; I got a good lesson out of it. In the end, I can’t change the past. I did leave the house. I did have a few little moments in there where I let myself slide backward just a bit. But I can still use that. I still had a story to tell.

Tomorrow maybe I’ll tell you all about those strawberry preserves and how I toasted my bread in a pan on the stove because my toaster vanished somewhere between the house I rented when I first came home, my sad, one room caregiver life in my mother’s basement, and this house, which has become a far happier place than either of the others. Or maybe I’ll take you with me into the forest for a hike. Or maybe I won’t write at all outside my usual three pages. I don’t know because that is tomorrow and, like I said before, tomorrow is going to have to take care of itself; I’m busy with today.

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Tea With Demons

Befriend your demons. I know the popular thing is to shove them in the basement or the closet or under the bed so nobody else sees them, but I’m not a popular thing kind of girl. At least, not usually.

Isn’t it funny how often we give advice without listening to what we are saying? I figured out a long time ago that shadows are there to show you where the trouble is. I know that every single thing that happens can turn into a learning experience and those things we call ‘bad’ can turn into huge leaps toward a happier version of me. I know this. But still.

Today – pretty much this whole week – has been a struggle to stay calm. I have anger issues. Anyone who really knows me knows this. I don’t hurt people on purpose or run around screaming for management. Nor do I abuse anyone or anything. But I get angry over the things that happen to me all the time. I start to breathe fire and, rather than letting others get caught in the flames, I swallow them down. Or, I used to. I used to think that, if I just held it in, if I just waited it out, I’d be alright. Nobody would get hurt. Except me, of course. But there we are, at the crux of this post.

See, we are brought up to be polite, brought up to say please and thank you, brought up, if our parents actually cared about the person they were releasing on the world, to try not to hurt anyone. If you were like me, your parents did not get around to telling you that you have to be just as kind to yourself as you are to others or you’ll end up burning for your whole life to the ground.

My anger has always been there. A deep, hot coal inside that has, at times, made me feel as though I am harboring some sort of monster. I used to call it my dragon and make no mistake, there were times that anger came in useful. I thought I knew where it came from. I thought I knew how to control it. I thought a lot of things that weren’t true. In the past few years, I became very aware that my anger was eating me alive. Too much had happened. Too much went wrong. Too many people took my trust and used it to stab me in the back. I refused myself the privilege of acting it out for fear of who would get caught in the crosshairs. I swallowed it down and it became the thing that drove me to the very edge of breaking.

This was the catalyst which sent me spiraling down into the dark. But, before you start to feel bad for me, let’s get back to that advice. Make friends with your demons. They have something to say to you.

We are always so quick to try and silence things like anger. We are ashamed of it, as though adults, at some point, lose the ability to feel disappointed or angry or sad. We hide these things away and pretend they aren’t there. They, in return, sit in the dark and begin to grow; we feed them our fear and unhappiness, believing that, if we just keep throwing the rug over the monster, it’ll vanish. Unfortunately, we tend to keep burying them until they are roughly the size of a house and are wearing our area rugs like a beanie. This is about the time they start cracking the walls every time they breathe. Some of us are smart enough to realize this beastie isn’t going anywhere and some of us just get a bigger rug. I would love to tell you that my first choice was to offer the thing some tea and a little girl talk, but, honestly, I have spent a whole lot of time buying rugs.

In my job, I’m often using technology that is less than stellar; mass tech for large corporations is often sourced from the lowest bidder, ditto on the software. This means I get a whole lot of opportunity to lose my temper; there is nothing quite like getting five miles down the wrong country road in the opposite direction of where you want to be and realizing you wasted ten minutes trying to get to a house that is ten miles in the wrong direction.

When I know my route, I rarely need my device to tell me anything; I have a mind for addresses. I’ll forget your name two seconds after meeting you (I’ve got a block, it isn’t personal), but I can remember the color of your house, what your driveway looks like, and how many milkbones I gave your dogs two weeks after my last delivery to you. I can usually tell you shortcuts to every street and draw a map to get you there.

But I have a new route. That means I’m a little more dependent on my tools than usual. Worse, last week, the handheld device for my new route had a sim issue. So now I’m working with one that has never been in the area where I deliver (they store information for the areas they are used in). This results in a larger than usual number of incidents where I’m stopping next to a very empty field, device cheerily telling me that my destination is on the left, and wondering if I’m looking for Howl’s moving castle or if I’m just in the wrong place. Again. Or maybe the deer have been shopping online?

Many times, this also results in my temper flaring up and a wave of anger rolling over me. Anger that grows more violent with every incident. And this is where I found today’s story – all days have a story and this is something I’ve come to see as a challenge; if you can see the lesson, you can grow from it. Stories have meaning. They show us things we didn’t know we knew. They give us a key to who we really are, underneath all the masks we wear.

I have spent the last year learning to step back from my emotions, learning to look for the underlying cause. I don’t hold them down. I ask what they are trying to tell me.

When it comes to my anger, though, I do not often embrace it.

I have always loved a good puzzle. I’m a huge fan of CSI and have a knack for figuring out who the killer is long before the show gets there. I’ve always thought that is my writer side. But to touch the live wire of my anger? No thanks. That was a riddle I thought I already had the answer to and never questioned that. My anger was dismissed as a character flaw, first by others, long before I understood that anger has a root cause, always, then by me. I accepted it was an indelible mark, something that, like hair color or a birth defect, could be covered up but never erased.

I thought my anger was an inherited thing. An uncontrollable beast chained up in the basement, constantly fighting to get free. I thought I understood it and knew it had to be contained, not befriended; it only wanted to hurt. Anyone who knows me and has read enough of my past blogs knows how many times I’ve said that our demons are really our angels. I have always believed there are good things to be found in the bad (toxic positivity is to be avoided, though). So it might seem odd that I didn’t realize there was more to my anger than genetics. I enjoy working out puzzles, yet never questioned that my reaction to my anger was to say ‘it just is,’ and answer I would never accept anywhere else (yeah, I was the kid that asked why until people broke down in tears).

I won’t try to defend my willing blindness; it had a lot to do with fear. Fear that I would take a look and realize I was exactly the person I never wanted to be. Fear that my anger would ruin me. Fear that ‘being myself’ meant unleashing the beast and learning to lose people because it certainly likes to say hurtful things, eat sheep, and burn down the cottages of the local peasants.

So, delivery drivers are notorious for not getting along with dogs. I am not most drivers. Dogs, cats, even chickens tend to trust me. Today, while swinging between being angry and looking for a story in the events of the day – namely, my ongoing war with Karen, clearly a device both designed by the devil and given software intended to break delivery drivers to the point of offering up their soul in return for decent directions to their customers – I came upon a house with a pitbull as the resident guardian on the porch.

The dog was not mean. Most pitbulls are not. It is an image society has fostered and you’d be surprised how many of your favorite breeds have found themselves in the hot seat for being ‘genetically violent’. Pitbulls are goofy, warm, and often thrilled to make new friends. This guy was no different. I laughed a little because it was plain that he’d met plenty of delivery drivers with milkbones in their pocket. I couldn’t help but think about how often the breed has been villainized simply because the media always points at the breed, never the negligent owner. Almost all dogs have the ability to be kind, if they are trained properly.

And that is about the time that my own advice came back to haunt me. Because here I am, standing with my new friend who would keep most drivers in their van just because of how he looks, thinking about how stupid it is to assume genetics are to blame for violence instead of upbringing, while simultaneously telling myself I need to get control of my genetic failings. People distrust pitbulls. They put them in a box marked ‘dangerous and not to be trusted.’ The same way I keep putting myself in that box. I’m angry because it’s genetic, this was the story I told myself. The story I have always been terrified was true.

Mr. Pitbull got two milkbones. He earned them. And I went off, Karen in hand, feeling a little like I’d been gut punched by Mike Tyson. What if I am not angry because I have a genetic predisposition. What if I am angry because anger is a part of life. An acceptable part of life. What if my refusal to embrace that is exactly why it is getting out of hand?

Stories always have a hinge in the middle. The ‘because’. Things happen for a reason. Emotions have a root in what has come before. Left untended and unguided, they will get so big they swallow you whole. I’ve spent so long dismissing my anger as something that just was, without reason or cause, just this monster I got leashed to by virtue of blood, that the monster was starting to stomp around and do damage where it really matters.

I got angry at my handheld for taking me the wrong way because it was chewing up valuable minutes. Its misdirections make me look slow in a job that requires efficiency and speed. I got angry because my equipment wasn’t living up to my expectations. It was throwing me off my game. It was not a genetic anything making me consider throwing Karen in the road and running her down. It was a very real, very understandable reason.

Anger isn’t always sensible. Sometimes we get angry at one thing because we didn’t allow ourselves to be angry at something else. Sometimes it crosses lines and, yes, hurts people who don’t deserve it. But to put anything under a singular blanket and say ‘now I know all there is to know about that’ is to dismiss any chance of growth. Today showed me that my fear of my anger has limited me. By not asking what the emotion is saying, I fail to learn from it.

The lesson when dealing with the emotions we don’t like, is not to bury them and try to force them out. You cannot learn what it is saying if you don’t listen. And it can’t leave until you do. So I sat with my anger. I listened to it. Why was I so angry? Because crawling into the back of the van and crying wasn’t an option. Because the lowest bidder let me down. Because, in spite of doing my very best on this new route, I was afraid I was a disappointment.

I’m really good at helping other people see new perspectives. If your parents made you angry or your boyfriend cheated, I can step away from the situation and see the event without judging it good or bad. I have spent a good deal of my life teaching others to reframe the things that are hurting them. But I never taught myself how to reframe the things that really scare me.

You should thank every challenge that comes your way. When they show up, they are giving you an opportunity to grow into a more authentic you. Are you angry? Sad? Upset that you have to blindly accept that ‘this is just the way it is’ when someone or something hurts you? Open yourself up to your feelings every single moment. See what they have to say. They tell you what needs to change. They help you solve the unending riddle of who you are.

We live in a society that hates anyone who doesn’t foster positivity at all times – even if it means faking it. They give us pills to make us smile even when we ought to be crying. We frown at those who allow their misery to show through. We tell each other to smile, cheer up, and remember how lucky we are. All those darker emotions make you unstable, in the eyes of the masses. If you feel any of them, then you are sick and need to be fixed.


I say to hell with that. I spent most of my life trying to hold on to that fake smile, pretending that nothing could bother me. I’ve spent years getting more and more angry. I thought the only way to deal with anger was turn my back on it and wait for it to leave. This, my friends, is what we call ‘toxic positivity’. Embracing the things we see as negative gives them a chance to show us all the things about ourselves we never saw before. My anger was born of fear that I actually am the weakest link. Fear that I was letting everyone down. There is nothing about it that is inevitable. I have reasons to be angry. It isn’t a birth defect. It’s a reaction. That’s all. It’s a message from me to me. Maybe what it has to say is reasonable, maybe it isn’t. But I can’t know which it is if I don’t talk to it. Go talk to your demons. Especially the ones you are most afraid of. I promise you, there is an angel underneath that scary mask. What it is trying to tell you will help you find a better version of yourself.

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A New Day Is Dawning

This morning dawned in vivid pink. I did not expect to be awake to see it; I have the day off work and, unlike my usual weekend days when I get up to go hiking and watch the sunrise in the woods, I did not plan to get up early at all. The dogs had other plans. I got up to let them out because, in their estimation, they absolutely could not hold it any longer and were, in fact, starving to death, so loudly demanded that I attend to their needs.

Once up, I could not convince myself to go back to bed. Instead, I went into the small room that doubles as a closet and office to write. Every day for over a year, this has been the most important part of my morning. I get up as early as I need to, start coffee, tend the dogs, then head upstairs. Every morning I go, no matter what, to write three pages. Most mornings, these pages are just rambling complaints or hopes or despair of every actually being able to write something shareable ever again, but at least I’m writing, I always say. Which is a huge improvement over the days spent thinking I should be writing and not doing it at all.

At one point, I paused to look up and out the window. There were clouds, but not the gray, flat sort that usually dominate Illinois winter skies. Instead, these were like the waves on an ocean, an illusion further perpetuated by the rising sun, which was being unashamedly flashy, edging the clouds in brilliant pink so that it looked like water meeting the shore.

The sunrise still enthralls me, even after a year of seeing it nearly every day; I used to be a night person and struggled to get up even an hour earlier than I needed to. I’m still fairly slow and generally am lucky to be able to get myself dressed with any real precision. But, sometimes, something is so important to you that you will move your own personal stars for it and, for me, writing is that thing. I accepted, some time back, that I may have to give up writing. But, before I did, I wanted to truly try every single thing. It has become the way I start my day and now the day would not feel right without it. On days like this one, I find more than one reason to be grateful that I’ve learned to embrace morning life; sunrise is worth being up for more often than not.

Thanksgiving – most holidays, in fact – don’t mean much to me these days. I have family, but I’m not completely welcome among them due to not quite being normal. This is fact, not a cry for sympathy. I used to try and fit in, for their sake. That is a thing of the past. The more I’ve focused on becoming a less polite version of myself, the less they want me around. Not that I ever was really one of them to begin with. Without my shroud of ‘here, let me hide that uncomfortable trait for you,’ my wool has become an even even darker shade of black and I stay away. Not just for them, not just because I can’t make them comfortable, but for myself as well. I can feel how much I disrupt whatever vibe they are trying to produce and it pains me. In choosing to abandon the polite version of myself, the one that, even if it wasn’t welcome, was tolerable, I’ve made a total outcast of myself. I’m not sorry. I enjoy my solitude. But this is why holidays no longer hold any real importance to me. It is a day. Like any other day. I’m going to stay home and do me and that is what is best for all of us.

Something about that sunrise seemed to say this day was going to be different, though. I laughed it off; it was to be a day of bingeing Wednesday (Wednesday Addams is my favorite among all my childhood heroes and Tim Burton did NOT disappoint) and I did, actually, do that. It was going to be a day of napping and reading and not one thing was going to change today. I’ve given up on anything changing. I’ve been in limbo so long I’ve started to accept that life really is a hamster wheel. I was going to do my pages and expect exactly nothing else out of myself. How could it be any other way with me locked up in my house, refusing to move from the couch (utterly without shame; I’ve got a pretty comfy couch)?

I admire the ingenuity of the universe and this is why I cannot give up on the idea of a divine consciousness; I see too much humor in some events, too much careful orchestration in others. And, sometimes, you ask a question and get back something so blatantly an answer that you actually can’t pretend it is a coincidence.

I was scrolling through Facebook during end credits and the next episode in the show, not really looking for anything. That is the way it has been for me for a good, long while. I’m not looking for anything; I’ve given up on finding it. For the last couple years, I’ve been broken down to a point of near despair. I won’t go into detail. Those closest to me know the truth – shoutout to the niece who always manages to shine a light on my shadows – and I’ve kept mostly quiet to everyone else. Especially in the last year. I had asked a question, though. It is one I ask a lot, at least ten times a day.

The past week or so, I was to a point where I considered giving up writing for good. Yes, for over a year, I have written a minimum of three pages a day. I have written three books. None of which are suitable for reading. I have come to a point of knowing that, as much as I love to write, I don’t have an anchor – something to hold to, a mirror for my life and an undercurrent which becomes the glue of any good writing. I had begun to believe that I would never do more than my rambling, senseless morning pages ever again and was working hard to accept that, but I won’t pretend that this didn’t raise a very important question.

Then my finger paused on a post. Facebook algorithm usually has about as much intuitive sense as a rock through glass. I look up something on the internet and, immediately, Facebook seems to think I want to see more. I usually don’t. Curiosity does not always mean continued interest. But this page was one of those rare, perfect bullseyes that has struck home and stayed with me. A writer who views the world through the lens of her horses. That is her anchor. A horse who helps her see magic in even the most mundane. The writer is insightful, poetic, and witty and I often find solace in her posts.

Today, she spoke about the nature of a cold, wet day with horses which involves only the most basic of care, the days when, rather than having fun. Horse people understand these days. This is the difference between being a horse person and being a princess who rides; when you own a horse and have to care for it yourself, you slog through the mud and muck to make sure these animals are well tended. Even on the worst of days. In blizzards, hurricanes, and tornados, the horses still need to be cared for and no one else is going to do it. These are the days you drag yourself out and freeze for the sake of another creature before fleeing back to the hearth, hair damp, shivering, focused only on getting a cup of hot something to chase the chill away, knowing you’ll have to do it again that night.

This writer started her post with that; it was one of the between days. No magic. No shinies to be found. Just wet, cold, and miserable for the sake of the horses. “I had no story today,” she said. Then a story, small and beautiful, presented itself and she became suddenly, completely aware that, in fact, there is always a story. Then she went on and pointed out that being a writer means we can sit in a shed with a single, narrow window and find the story in that crack. That is, she suggested, the very purpose of a writer. Find the story in the cracks.

And a crack opened in me. I became suddenly and totally aware that the universe was answering the question I’ve been asking. “What?” I kept saying as I wrote my three pages. “What?” I asked when I realized that it looks like my day job is gripping me ever tighter and starting to look like a forever job. “WHAT?” I screamed when I realized that I can’t go back to the writer I once was that, as romantic and beautiful as those days were, they are gone because that version of me is only a memory. The full question, of course, is ‘What the hell is my purpose and when are you going to show it to me?’

But I need to back up a little. At one point last week, I was ready to admit defeat. Maybe writing is not what I’m meant to be doing after all; I’d just had a moment of realizing that the real difference between the writer I once was and now was that I used to believe in happy endings. I wrote because I believed. I still do, but I’ve been questioning if I will ever have any happiness for myself. If, in fact, there are some people who don’t get to have any true happiness, no matter how hard they look for it and if I might be one of them. This one blog did not change that, exactly. I begun believe that, if I want to keep writing, I am going to have to write about what is in front of me, rather than what I want to believe. I believe that every story has a victory arc (or lesson) if you look close enough. But every experience I’ve had for the last two years has said that a lot of things are just bad without any silver lining. I was, in fact, losing my faith in silver linings and happy endings all together and the problem rises when I also have to say that I’m not interested in happily never after. Certainly I’m not interested in writing about it.

Last week, I realized that I don’t want to write pretty lies anymore, but neither do I want to write the dark and bitter tales that seem to dominate adult fiction; I firmly believe there are lessons in every loss, but those books only look to hurt, not to give you the understanding. They leave me with the sense that I’ve been cheated because, damnit, if someone has to suffer, can’t they at least get something worthwhile from the experience? I detest such endings. In my estimation, stories are a sort of contract between writer and reader. The reader trusts you not to crush their heart beyond all hope and the writer agrees that, while there will be plenty of suffering, there is always meant to be a rainbow after the rain. It won’t last, but that is the nature of life. It isn’t supposed to be all up or all down.

I would not call myself an optimist, but if I have to focus on nothing the bleak and weary, if I have to give up and admit that maybe there really isn’t a sun behind all those clouds, I would rather not focus on anything at all. I refuse to bring more darkness to a world that already has more than its fair share. I refuse to give you the stories that give you the sense that there is nothing at all worth fighting for anyway. Screw that. It is the easy answer. But it is not – for me, anyway – the true answer.

This morning I got up, trying to accept that, maybe, my day job really is all there is for me, this constant struggle to get from paycheck to paycheck like a child leaping from stone to stone over the river all the meaning I will ever have and that would mean I can’t write anymore because I wouldn’t be able to believe in sunshine, but also couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone else to give up. No sun for me doesn’t mean no sun for anyone, if that makes sense. Maybe there wasn’t going to be a win for me, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying for yours and screw any writer who tries to steal your hope because they lost theirs (huge pet peeve). But I digress.

I would not be writing this if I had not stumbled across that blog two seconds after I demanded of the universe what it wants of me for, quite without exaggeration, the thousandth time. Literally. Two seconds. I asked. And this blog post popped up under my scrolling finger. A perfectly timed answer to me wondering what story I could possibly have left to tell or why anyone would care. An answer to me trying, desperately, to see what I can actually write about without talking incessantly about the extreme wrong turn my life seems to have taken. Two seconds of me wondering if there is anything to share with you that would even be worth reading when all I have are the small things.

“Where the hell is my purpose,” I have repeatedly demanded. “What do you WANT from me?” I have been losing patience with ‘divine timing’. Now there is a phrase I loathe because it is not about clock time. It is about being ready for what is coming. You can’t get the gifts that are waiting for you until you have to done the work to be ready for them. And I have been angry because I believe that I have done the work. I have reached inside and looked at all the ugly bits. I have worked to understand and accept myself, flaws and all. I’ve shed so much skin I feel scraped raw. Yet nothing was changing. I got up, wrote my pages, and felt no inclination to write anything else. I go to work, come home, cuddle my dogs, and do whatever I have to. But there was no fire. No desire to write this post. No desire to try and find a story because if felt like all I could do is either lie about being happy or talk about bitter disappointments and neither appealed to me.

I was waiting to feel ready, but it wasn’t coming. And, even though I believe that getting inspired sometimes means doing the dry writing to stay limber, I was losing hope. And, in losing my hope, I was losing my will to do anything that looked like living. And then, in reading her very short, very honest description of what a writer actually does, I saw the flaw in my belief that I was ready for change.

I believe that true happiness comes not from what you have in material wealth, but from fulfilling your purpose.

I’m going to pause here and tell you about purpose. It isn’t something you don’t want to do. It is something that, once you’ve found it, you feel like you cannot live without it. It is not likely to be another person, but maybe it means being a mother or a teacher or helping abused horses find trust again. For me, I always thought it was writing. I always thought that the mystery of me began and ended with writing and finding a way to feed my muse. A purpose is not some magical stone thrown at your head and, while you might struggle with aspects of it, it is the thing you return to again and again. And, at one point, I was willing to relinquish my pen and admit that, maybe, I was overreaching myself because, let’s face it, not much worthwhile has come out lately. I surrendered myself to whatever force governs such things and waited for an answer patiently (for me). An answer that did not come.

It did not come because I wasn’t ready for the truth.

If you happen not to believe in a divine intelligence, I am unlikely to be your girl because some things just cannot be unseen once you see them. I do not have faith in something more because of a book. I don’t quote scripture and I believe religion is just something created by humans to try and lock others down (because humans work in fear and restraint all too often, and seek to exclude others so they might feel important. Everyone wants to be the chosen one). God, in my estimation, is part of us and the moral code is something written in our DNA that has nothing to do with exclusion or hate and everything to do with love. Enough said; my beliefs are mine and I have no need to argue anyone else over to my side. If you aren’t hurting anyone, then I have no quarrel with what you believe, let’s leave that there.

This question of purpose has plagued me for nearly my entire life, but particularly for the last five years. Then, two years ago, something happened which created a tsunami of destruction within me. Many people, no matter their religion or beliefs, will recognize the term ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. Oh what a beautiful way to say ‘utter destruction of who you thought you were’. I broke. Not in a gentle way or a romantic way. In a very ugly, very intense way. I won’t tell you I’m healed. Half the time, I’m fairly certain that I am lost in a very deep, dark wood and there is no way that I am ever getting out. I question my existence constantly at this point.


I have been playing with certain ideas. Not just ideas of books, but something else. A blog.

The blogs I tend to read are spiritual ones, yes, but they also have their boots on the ground. I have never had – and certainly have no patience for now – people who go on and on about all love and light. Something in me loved the idea of a sunshine and roses world that didn’t know what shadows looked like, but knew it wasn’t the truth.

I have always believed balance is the truth. The sun needs the moon, the light needs the dark. Humans have shadows, all those things we bury and refuse to acknowledge and those who state that everything needs to be positive and sunny all day every day are only digging holes and burying bombs in themselves. Bombs that will one day go off and rip them to shreds, if they aren’t careful. Everyone does it. I certainly was doing it, even when I told myself I was being honest with myself.

The blog I wanted to write would be much like the ones I read. A place for the stories of life, a place for lessons to help others accept themselves and see the beauty around them, even when their tower was getting struck by lightning. But I was lacking something. I knew I had to find something to hold on to or it would just be another thing I abandoned in a few weeks time. ‘I don’t have any stories to tell,’ was always the answer I gave to myself. ‘Who wants to hear about me delivering packages or running off to the woods to watch the sunrise on my days off, even if I do see some wisdom in learning to navigate being me?’

The truth that resonated in me earlier was the realization that I’ve been running around trying to find the big stories. Trying to find Thor’s hammer to build a house instead of using the hammer I have. Every single day things happen and, given how we view the world, they can be good or bad or just an experience. In every experience, there is a lesson. The moment the other writer spoke of finding the story in a single crack of sky, I saw the truth. I’ve been trying to knock the wall down instead of looking out the window. I’ve been trying to create big stories instead of learning from the small ones. Trying to create a million dollars without accepting any small change. I could say this a thousand ways. It all means the same thing.

Sometimes life gives you big lessons and they change you in a big way. A man breaks your heart so throughly you never want to date again. A mother dies or you walk away from a toxic family member instead of fighting to stay. Someone loses a limb and has to learn to live without it. But, more often than not, God whispers instead of screaming. The true story isn’t in the moment of death. That is just the inevitable, inescapable end. The real story is every single day, mixing the feed, being present enough to notice when your horse is asking you to look up through the rain and the wind and notice that, weather be damned, they still expect you to hear them when they speak, that today isn’t just another day, they still have a story to tell and you are expected to listen. The answer is not a million dollar book deal or winning the lottery or the moment when you are financially secure enough to quit and never look back. The real story is how you got there, what treasures you found along the way while you were living your ordinary life. Purpose isn’t just about those big moments. Honoring your purpose is what you do when all you have is a single crack to look through.

I still don’t know if anyone will care about any of it; I do see stories in everything that happens to me, some of them the sort that could be wisdom, if I was feeling inclined to admit it, but will anyone actually find anything worth keeping in them? I don’t know. However, that seems to matter less today. Maybe because the answer I’ve been waiting for reached up and more or less smacked me upside the head. This was never about giving something to someone else. It was only ever about finding the story for myself, in the ordinary hours, and having faith that I’m meant to be writing them down. Just in case someone else happens along and needs them.

I cannot explain what it means to resonate with something. I can describe the way if feels, as if a small, warm bomb has gone off inside you. It strikes deep. It strikes true. And it leaves behind a sort of ringing that fills you from the center out. The moment this other writer spoke of finding the tiny gift of a story hidden in this gray, rainy morning with her horses, between mixing the feed and getting ready to bolt back to her warm, dry house, I understood that this was my answer, that I was being told exactly what the universe needed me to understand. My purpose is to write. Not to question if I’m writing the right way or if I am going to piss someone off. My purpose is not to care about every little snowflake that might take what I’m saying the wrong way or think it is about them. It isn’t to worry about supporting myself with my writing or to care if I ever find a way to make that happen. My purpose is to find the goddamned story and write it.

And so. Today is Thanksgiving. And I am sitting here, aware that I may be committing myself to this today only to discover that I cannot bring myself to write another word for you in the coming weeks. That likely isn’t the case. There is far too much I have to say to fit in to one little post. But. My own self doubt is often my downfall and I have spent a very long time drinking from the fountain of societal expectation. I’m not promising you tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to have to take care of itself. What I am saying to you right this minute is that a new day is dawning for me. Call it radical acceptance; I don’t care if I ever make a cent off this. I don’t care if anyone reads it. My purpose is not to worry about becoming an influencer. My purpose is just to write the damn story. And. If writing is meant to be my purpose after all, then, by God, I am going to chase that rabbit like it stole my cupcake (and I REALLY like cupcakes).

I know that it may sound strange that I talk about messages from the universe. But the honest truth is that we all get them. Most of us don’t listen. In my case, I asked for answers, but did not want to actually see them if they didn’t fit with the personal story I was trying to tell. The thing is, you aren’t communicating with something outside of yourself. If it makes it easier to swallow, understand this: All of this is inside us. We already know the answers. Some, we just don’t want to accept, so we block them out and keep telling pretty lies. The dark night of the soul is the moment when we can no longer believe those lies and have to face ourselves, good or bad, exactly as we are. The moment we surrender to that is the moment when we truly step into our power and can start to really grow.

On a side note, I love Tim Burton, Wednesday is amazingly well done, go watch it.