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Posts Tagged ‘self care’

… all of the things, apparently.

I pulled a prompt out of my writing prompt envelope tonight, and it said: “What I never tell anyone is …” I started my freewrite and the first thing on the page was, “I never tell anyone how scared I am pretty much all the time. Of so many things.” That wasn’t what I was expecting to write, but that’s what came out.

I wrote for about 20 minutes … and uncovered a whole host of fears I wouldn’t have imagined myself to be carrying. Mostly I’m afraid of screwing things up … whatever those “things” might be — my job, my friendships, my health. I’m afraid of being too quiet, too loud, too clever, too dull, too serious, too frivolous. I’m afraid of the spotlight, but afraid of being ignored.

WTF?

This isn’t something I’m aware of 24/7, but then I’ll suddenly notice it, notice how tense my shoulders are, how tense my jaw is … and I’ll have to force myself to unclench.

What is that? Why am I so constantly afraid? And of such just-live-your-life things. And have I always been? I know we have a family joke about how fraught with tension I was, even as a small child, but is that real? Have I always been afraid?

People who’ve known me a while might point to things I’ve done that seem “brave,” whatever that means. I’ve traveled alone. I’ve done a lot of public speaking. I’ve read my work in front of audiences of people who aren’t just my family and friends. I stood up to a surgeon and his staff who wanted to sterilize me.

Okay, all of that is true. And more. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t also afraid. I’m terrified every time I have to read. I’m often afraid when I’m traveling. I was entirely afraid during that hospital experience. I was so afraid during one of my surgeries this past summer that I cried through almost the whole pre- and post-op period. I may be able to do “brave” stuff, but that doesn’t erase the fear.

And I certainly don’t want to get rid of fear all together. There are plenty of real things for me to be afraid of.

Job security was a big one in the mass of fears that spilled out in my freewrite. That surprised me, but it’s real. It’s something I would have dismissed before the debacle at my last job. Seeing how quickly and easily I could be cast out was a real eye opener. Seeing how casually someone I’d worked with and thought I could trust could knowingly sacrifice me for her own gain was shocking. So this fear of about safety on the job is new. And rough. I hate worrying about whether I’m giving ammunition to the wrong person, not making myself useful enough to the right one. And yes, that’s in my head … but in my current job, it’s also real. I see that happening around me all the time. Feh.

So, fear. It’s hard to admit that I have so much of it, that I carry that stress with me regularly. And that it comes in many forms and from many directions. Yesterday, walking away from a friend’s house, the first handful of blocks of that walk had me tight with worry because people hadn’t cleaned their sidewalks, and I was so afraid of slipping and falling and messing up one or both of these bionic (but still breakable) knees of mine. I carry that fear — of slipping and falling — all the time. When I’m going up or down a flight of stairs or an incline, when I stand up on the subway or bus, walking down the street. Yes, I’ve had this particular fear for many years, since my knees were first damaged and a bad slip or fall would put me in bed for a few days, unable to do more than hobble slowly and painfully around my house. There was a brief, shining moment after my first knee surgery when I forgot about it, forgot to worry about falling. That was glorious. It was a revelation — Oh, this is what it feels like not to be disabled! But it didn’t last long. Less than a year later, I was in pain and moving toward my second surgery, back to worrying about uneven pavement, every flight of stairs, the slippery tiles on the subway platform.

Carrying fear all day every day has to be chipping away at me, shortening my life. Certainly making me curtail my movements, my plans. Fear is what makes me bite my tongue in conversations — and then feel frustrated when someone else says the thing I’ve been thinking all along. Fear is what has kept me from expressing my feelings again and again — God forbid I should tell someone how I feel and get slapped down with rejection. Of course, I’ve had plenty of rejection even when I haven’t put myself out on any limbs, so have I really protected myself by not being honest about my heart?

In The House on Mango Street, Esperanza’s mother talks to her about shame, about how it holds you back. And that’s real, of course. Shame has played a big part in my life, too. But I think fear has played a bigger role, a more dominant role. How sad is that?

So, what do I do with this realization? What’s the next move, the next step? How do I shut the fear down? Is that even the right goal? Should I be investigating it to see where it comes from? Is that the secret to releasing it? Do I acknowledge it and then crush it harder and harder until it’s compressed into diamonds or coal? And then what? Does it somehow become valuable to me?

I’ve been working on developing a better relationship with my anger, feeling it, living with it, embracing it, using it. Clearly there’s some equally serious work to be done with fear. Okay. Here we go.

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In 2017, I’ve committed to writing an essay a week. It’s only Week 3, and I’m beat!

It’s not too late to join if you’re feeling ambitious! Check out Vanessa Mártir’s blog to find out how!


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Click on the badge to check out today’s Slice of Life posts at Two Writing Teachers!

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This weekend, I’ll be retaking the Undoing Racism training. I took it for the first time last spring, and I knew immediately that I’d want to take it again, and now that opportunity has come. So I’ll be re-undoing.

And then today I got some news that will lead to a different undoing. All that pain I’ve been having? Well, it seems I was right: something’s wrong with the equipment in my knee. The bottom piece of the three-piece replacement joint has slipped out of position and will need to be taken out and replaced.

Replaced. As in, I need to have knee surgery. Again. It doesn’t have to happen tomorrow, but it has to happen soon. So that first surgery, the one I was all excited about, all “I’m the poster child for knee surgery!” … that one now needs undoing and doing up again, hopefully with more success.

As much as I’m relieved — to know what’s going on, to know that I was right about what I was feeling, to know that it’s fixable — I’m really sad about having to have another operation.


It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

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I managed to force my well-past-its-prime cell phone to last long enough for the new model to come out … barely. It was so close to dead: it could no longer vibrate or ring, once it was unplugged from the charger, it would lose all power in about 45 minutes. Definitely not a hugely useful device. But I was determined that it would hang on until now, until the Galaxy S7 was finally a real thing and not just fantasy speculation on Cnet.

So I picked up my new phone last night, and tonight I had the giddy, Lady Bountiful pleasure of going to buy a raft of accessories: case, extra charger, an external battery, a screen protector.

The new phone and all the equipment are nice to have, sure, but are also necessary if I have any chance of making it through Saturday: the 2016 edition of the 24-Hour Project. I think my painful knees (and my newly-injured foot!) are going to keep me from walking the city for a full day, and I can accept that. What I can’t accept is failure due to a dying phone. And now I don’t have to worry about that. I’m all geared up. Now, what to do with the fact that I’ll be in a training all day Saturday? Hmm …

We’ll see if I can still make it happen. Perhaps for me it will end up being a 6-hour project or a 12-hour one. Time will tell. Here are last year’s post-project posts:

Just Like Rory Calhoun

24 Hours Later (this one has the slide show of all my photos)

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(Update! I hit “publish,” and WordPress sent me a note to say that this little slice of life makes my 1,000th post! Given how sporadically I’ve been writing here in recent years, I really never thought I’d get to 1,000. I owe it pretty much to these March and April challenges. No question.)


The Ides of March and the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

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Ladybugs are supposed to be good luck, right? Isn’t that still a thing? If so, we are steeped in luck here at our weekend getaway house. This place is overflowing with ladybugs. Ladybugs in the spice cupboard, on the windows, on the big triptych painting in the hallway, in the shower with me this morning. I do like ladybugs, and it’s true that I’d be having a very different reaction if we were rich in palmetto bugs or spiders, but it’s also true that there are just a few too many of these little critters flying around here.

Our retreat is coming to a close. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be up pre-dawn to head for the train into Manhattan, and that will be the end of my time in this cozy house with these lovely people. This has been a great time, and I’m glad we’re already looking ahead to planning the next one.

This ladybug house was definitely good luck for me. Now will come the true test of building this time for writing into my day-to-day life.


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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Make that, what my world needs now. Most definitely love, sweet love. Thank goodness I have plans for so much of that this weekend.

It’s time for the New York Area VONA retreat! This afternoon I got on a train headed north and I’m now at this lovely farmhouse in the country! This retreat — insert contented sigh — means a weekend full of love. And, of course I mean how much I love my VONA fam and how much they love me. But I also mean love for myself.

This weekend is all about slowing down and taking the time to focus on my writing, something work has made very difficult.

It’s clear to me that I was naive in my perception of what my new job would be like. It is far more high-powered than I’d anticipated. It’s a great job that I’m quite happy to have, but it doesn’t leave me much time. And my work, my writing, has suffered.

I’m not setting and hard targets for the weekend. I am, however, bringing with me my nice, thick notebook, pens and lots of ink, my computer, and the thumbnail sketches for a new comic that have been languishing in my desk for two months. Anything is possible.

And I want that to be true, want anything to be possible. All the time, not just this weekend.

When I talk about my leisurely unemployment this past summer (I want to write “luxuriant,” even though it’s not the right word because it really feels like the right word), I tell people that I recommitted to myself as a writer. I actually say those words. And it sounds weird when I say it, weird enough to jolt me out of my train of thought for a second. But it also feels absolutely correct. I spent a lot of time last summer focused on myself as a creative person, and all that focus made clear to me how much I hadn’t been giving myself and how much I needed to change that.

And then I started my new job. I’ve been running so fast since starting work last fall. The intensity of the pace and the nonstop-ness of it has been overwhelming. A month or so ago I read an article about a bunch of people who work where I work, and one of them made a comment about having a “24-hour job.” I read that and stopped. That’s the problem! I have a 24-hour job. There’s no casual, “Oh, it’s 5:30. I’m heading home,” when the thing I’m working on has to be released/announced/in the paper the next day. You stay till the thing is done. Punto.

And that’s all fine and well, but it also means far less time for all the ways I was enjoying my life over the summer.

And so this weekend. It’s about reminding myself how much I value myself — my time, my creativity, my need to be foolish and fun. Talk about what my world needs now!


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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Some clarification after yesterday’s half-angry, half-tired post. I do appreciate the compliment that arrived in my comments and the spirit in which it was given. But let me speak plainly: I know I’m beautiful. Yes, it’s taken some years for me to see / acknowledge / accept that truth. But I have. The foolish man who needed to tell me how unacceptable I am probably can’t imagine that such comfort with myself is possible, but that’s about him, not me.

And maybe it sounds vain for me to take my friend’s compliment and just say, “I know.” That’s because it is vain. I don’t have any problem with some healthy, based-in-reality vanity. I am vain about my looks, my hair, my voice. I am extremely vain. Let’s not get me started on all the other ways I’m vain, all the other things I love about myself.

But for the most part, that man on the street and his comment had nothing to do with what I look like and whether I am attractive. People who say things to me on the street — whether they know it or not — are always talking about themselves and just using me as a convenient outlet for whatever pain or frustration they are feeling. In the case of men, there is also the fact that many men believe that every woman only exists in public for a) his viewing pleasure, b) his assessment and comment, c) his control.

That guy Monday couldn’t see me, didn’t even try. He saw a female body and decided he had power over it. He isn’t attracted to big-legged women (after all, everyone knows we ain’t got no souls). His lack of attraction didnt keep him from looking, mind you. It did, however, give him license to say whatever nonsense seemed “right” in the moment.

Maybe he was having a crap day, someone making him feel as if he was getting too big for his britches, taking up too much space. So telling me that I am too big, that no one wants to see me was how he felt about himself just then.

But see, all that mess? That’s him. That’s all about him. I may have been the one to be splashed with the garbage juice as his truck rolled by, but he’s the one full up with the stuff.

So I appreciate the reassurance that I am fabulous, but in this instance I don’t so much need it. There are plenty of other areas in which I am the poster child for low self esteem, and in those areas I welcome all the ego-boosting I can get. What I need right now is continued strength to not dole out dope slaps on the regular.


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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Yesterday I wore a dress. It’s not a big deal, or shouldn’t be. I was still beat to my socks after Saturday’s adventure, and I had to sit on a panel mid-day, and I wanted to perk myself up. So I wore a new dress, a dress that hits just about at my knees. For me, this is as out of character as wearing a micro-mini. Folks who know me: when have you ever seen my legs? Seriously. But I’ve been wearing “short” dresses for a few months now, so it’s weird but becoming not weird for me.

So I wore a dress. With tights and boots. I went to work, I went uptown to sit on the panel. I left the place where the event was held and walked to the subway.

“Nobody wants to see that.”

I heard this semi-surly voice say that as I headed down Park Avenue. I kept walking because it seemed to be one of the random snippets of someone else’s conversation that filter into your consciousness.

“Big-legged women in short dresses. You’re too big. Believe me, no one wants to see that.”

This time, the speaker — a small, maybe-40-year-old Black man in a leather stadium coat over a suit — got right up on me to say what he had to say.

People often tell me they’re surprised by the things folks have no problem saying to me. I’m not surprised. Certainly not about this. Being rude and insulting to fat people is the last truly safe bullying, discriminatory behavior people have. Yes, you can be a jerk about all kinds of things, but there will almost always be someone ready to speak up for the person you’re insulting, someone ready to call you out on your racism, homophobia, sexism, anti-semitism, ableism. With fat people, that’s pretty much never going to be the case. Fat people, because we have the audacity to be fat, are assumed to deserve whatever bile you choose to spit on us.

But you know what? Not really. And not me.

I stopped and looked at him. I made a dramatic “shocked” face, complete with one hand on my cheek and my mouth in a stunned “O.”

“Really?!” I asked.

He looked pleased, ready to tell me all about how disgusted he felt at the sight of me.

I dropped my hand and smiled. “Good thing what I wear has absolutely nothing to do with anyone but me.” I looked down, gave myself a once-over. “You’re only seeing my legs because you’re looking at them.” I started walking again. “You don’t like what you see? Look at something else.”

Yes, it hurts my feelings to have some jackass say no one wants to see a woman who looks like me. But you know? I’m not here for anyone’s fat-shaming. I’m not here for men thinking I can or should be ruled by their gaze. I’m not here for strangers on the street who think they have anything to say about what I choose to wear, how I wear it, or how I look wearing it. You can miss me with all of that.


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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