Inner Circles

So I’ve been facing some health challenges lately – ones completely out of my control. It’s been really scary, really eye-opening, and a looming reminder of mortality. Nothing is immediately life-threatening (that I’m aware of, anyway), but I have this sense of anxiety that I am fighting each day.

What if I’m stuck with these challenges for the rest of my life?

I’ve always been really headstrong, independent, and a big supporter for others going through their hard times. I’m finding that, of course, I could really use a friend. Unfortunately, the friends that I’ve been wanting to confide in have basically fallen off the map, and so I just end up internalizing all of the things I’m thinking and feeling. The “what ifs” and the fears, some tears and many sleepless nights. I tend to reserve these particular subjects for only the closest of friends, but now I’m questioning our true level of friendship.

If someone is always there for you when times are trying, is there any commitment to reciprocate? I don’t believe friendship is obligation, but I do believe it is mutual. Shouldn’t we support each other, or has this friendship always been about you?

I’m reminded of friendships attempted in Los Angeles and how shallow they were. I had great difficulty forging true, lasting friendships, though I lived there for 12 years. It felt like everyone was trying to “make it,” and you were only a good friend as long as you could benefit someone else’s trajectory to stardom or notoriety. I made a small handful of friends, but I met so many people over the course of those years, and it really took a toll on me that so many friendships fell flat or ended in someone trying to take advantage.

Maybe I’m just too nice, too gullible, or too naive. But when I look in the mirror, I don’t see those things. I am generous, I am kind, and I do genuinely care. But I’m no doormat, I’m not afraid to voice my opinion, and I’m definitely not afraid to walk away if I feel someone is taking me for granted. Perhaps the lesson is simply to take a look around when things are generally good to see who is still there.

You always know who needs you, but who sticks around once things stabilize? For you? Some people are in your life for only a season, and from where I’m sitting, winter is definitely over.

Flu Season and Reference Blogs

I’m feverish and achy, and I barely moved at all today. I’ve gotten tons of sleep, and I have been drinking fluids, but I just want the dull aches across my back and flushed face/neck to cease. Now is not the time to get sick.

Since I stayed home today, I’ve been reading tons of reference blogs through Pinterest between naps. Blogs on writing novels, on monetizing blogs, on word counts, on motivation, and on burnout. Many thanks to shesnovel.com, thewritepractice.com, and nownovel.com for their insights. I feel encouraged, though I know that I’m going to have to push myself and be more disciplined with my craft.

I suppose this discipline isn’t far off from the discipline needed to lose weight. Starting a new practice, eating right, making time for exercise, and being patient with self. For writing, making time to write, making time to read, scheduling out the time to make writing a daily practice, and being patient with self. Not all days can go as planned, but without any plan, what will we successfully achieve?

Frankly, I could use more discipline in each of these areas, so I decided to create a schedule for the week that incorporates activity, writing, and  a chance at a good night’s rest. I’ve started really utilizing my WP editorial calendar, and I’ve created two writing calendars through Google Calendar (one for book, one for blog). I’m going to see if I can impress upon myself some good habits.

Keep calm and keep writing, friends.

Work Sweet Home

I worked a twelve hour day today, but I would have stayed longer. In my quest to prove to myself that I am not a workaholic, and to feel a little more settled at my new job, working a long day doesn’t exactly help me feel like I have an appropriate work/life balance.

I had every intention of leaving at the close of business, but meetings ran long, and then students and colleagues kept popping in to say hello. My boss stopped by on her way out. People just kept coming, but it felt good. I’m slowly working my way into normalcy; I’m no longer just occupying someone else’s chair. Folks seem to be adjusting to me being there, and I’m finding that I’m breathing a little easier.

There are certainly some folks that I can see have their doubts, either given my age or their feelings about my office in general, but I’ve gained a lot of support. I’m still new enough to feel some level of trepidation and a need to prove myself, but I think that’s good for now. I’m not looking for a pat on the head; rather, I want to create a network of colleagues and resources that will help me achieve my goals.

Balancing work and personal life is certainly easier some days more than others, but I am making more time for myself. Getting out to SoulCycle or to take a yoga class, enjoying the local cigar lounge, meeting up with friends for wine and tapas, or even just having a nice glass of bourbon at home with my laptop on and a movie playing in the background. Dating, sure, that happens once in a while. I don’t see it as a high priority, but I think that’s primarily because I don’t want anything that feels forced. It will happen when the time is right.

People are always going to have their opinions and think that they could live your life, or do your job, better than you could. They think this without having your background, circumstances, vulnerabilities, or strengths. And they will come with criticisms, or wanting you to learn from their mistakes, or throw shade at whatever they perceive to be weakness. They meddle because they just can’t help themselves. They have control issues, they can’t handle whatever their own problems are so they project on you, or they see you as a threat.

At the end of the day, so what? No one can live your life but you.

Valentine’s Day

This post has been sponsored by Amazon and SiteGround, but all opinions expressed here are my own.

Such an interesting day. I get that Valentine’s Day is a manufactured holiday — one that benefits the card, candy, and floral companies — but I am enamored with any day specifically purposed for love.

I’ve never understood the folks who hate Valentine’s Day or the ones who celebrate “Singles Awareness Day.” Even if you don’t have a significant other to celebrate the day with, you have a special someone: you. Self-love is a real thing — a necessary thing — and I’ve never understood the amount of self-loathing that takes place on this day in particular.

Being single on Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you should hide under a rock for the next 24 hours. A little self-love goes a long way. Pamper yourself. Go get a massage, buy yourself your own flowers or chocolate (just don’t eat the whole box). I used to send myself my favorite chocolates on Valentine’s Day as a reminder that it’s not really a big deal. Don’t allow the only way for you to feel special about yourself to be controlled by someone else. You can (and should) do that for yourself.

How do I spend the day? This weekend, I’ve been curling up with some good books, watching movies, I’ve been cooking and organizing the apartment, hosted a dinner, went to the salon, and I’ve enjoyed the peace and quiet. I love long weekends, and I am enjoying making my apartment a home. This doesn’t sound like some adventure-filled weekend, but it has been everything I’ve needed it to be. I’m relaxed, in good spirits, and I’ve removed some of the chaos at home (by cleaning and organizing my storage room). This may not be romantic love, but self-love is abundant.

Recently, I finished a book by Adriana Trigiani, entitled Brava Valentine: A Novel. Though the title is appropriate for this weekend, it’s not actually about Valentine’s Day. Rather, the heroine (Valentine) navigates a trilogy in pursuit of professional success, family business stability, love, and (in my opinion) self-realization. Through her missteps, she learns about what she wants for herself. Though she’s taken great pride in her work, she has an ah-ha moment and discovers that she really does want to be loved. She didn’t trust that honest love or passion were really possible, primarily as a result of familial infidelities.

Through the novel, the beauty of Italian country, good food, and funny quips come through. Brava Valentine is the second book in the trilogy, so I’m excited to read the third installment, The Supreme Macaroni Company: A Novel. As a writer, nothing gets me more amped up to write than reading a good book.

I’ve also spent a lot of time this weekend trying to optimize this site; to make this site really work for me. I’m so glad that I decided to self-host my domain, and that Siteground has been the absolute best choice for me. Though WordPress recommended Bluehost, I thought their service was awful, the attempt at transferring my domain was rough, and that maybe the company doesn’t have enough staff to truly support such a huge WP constituency.

Moving over to Siteground came with more than really responsive service. It also opens up the world of plugins, which you cannot use if you’re hosted on WordPress.com. Opening up the worlds of Adsense, affiliate programs, the editorial calendar, and a ton of options makes this process a little overwhelming but a lot gratifying. Taking 100% onus of the site means that it can be done my way, can make me money, can have whatever content I need. This part of my writing journey is coming together, which frees up more time and focus for my books. Finally.

Web Hosting

Mindfulness

I’ve been chomping at the bit to blog the last two weeks, but (as you may have noticed), my site has been undergoing some changes. I’m officially self-hosting my domain (as opposed to having my blog hosted by WordPress. The transfer process took longer than I anticipated, but I’m finally master of my own site, and I’m excited to explore some of that potential.

I read a quote yesterday that stuck with me:

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nat Hanh

I’ve been thinking a lot about mindset lately, about making sure I’m in the right headspace when it comes to work, health, body. About being unapologetically, 100% me.

It’s not that I’m afraid to show who I am, insecurities and all. It’s more that I’m fighting with having these insecurities. I see some of them as silly, but here they are. They’re in my thoughts every day. And I’m working on many of them, but we are in this age and time now, where we want such instant results with everything. The truth is, none of these insecurities developed overnight.

There are things that I’ve found hard to accept over the last decade. Physical changes, professional challenges, loss, differences among friends. And I know that experiences help to shape who you are, circumstances can humbling, the people you cross paths with can influence you. But through all of this, I’ve been fighting with acceptance.

I let some really strong words from other people influence how I saw myself and my abilities, and I accepted for a long time that they were right. That all I amounted to were what they said. That they said what they did as some sort of “tough love” or “I’m your friend so I’ll tell you the real truth” kind of intention.

I never for a second questioned the people making the statements or their motives. Instead, I believed them. Blindly. Like a lost puppy. And I have to own that; it was my mistake to think their opinion mattered more than my own. That I could know better than others I held in such high esteem.

As I work on this novel, and I push her through some uncomfortable realities, I realize that I’m facing them myself. A part of my block is that I need to get to the other side of the tunnel as much as she does. I have to accept me for what I am now, and not who I can be, who I think I should be, or who anyone else believes me to be. I can strive to be more, try harder, and improve, but I can’t deny present time.

Sometimes, I think we worry so much about the future that we never really pay attention to right now. Where are we right now? Who are we right now? What can we be grateful for in this moment? When I saw “we,” I guess I’m talking about myself.

Anyway, one of my resolutions this year is to be more present, take more ownership, and really affect the change that I want to see in myself. If nothing else about me changes, and I’m in a vacuum exactly as I am now for the rest of my life, I am good with me right now. It’s taken a lot for me to be able to say that.

Do I see areas where I believe I can improve? Absolutely. But I’m accepting who I am, where I am, how I am. It’s all a testament of where I’ve been, what I’ve been through, and how I’ve handled myself. I can’t be mad at that, and I won’t apologize for being me.

I actually think I’m inherently good, kind, and generous to others, though often to a fault. I need to be more generous to myself, but I’m working on that. I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish so far, and I feel like there are some personal accomplishments that I’m not far from reaching. I’ll keep plugging along, but I’m going to stop and take breaths to enjoy moments as they happen.

Resolute

Hello, 2016.

I find myself in a new place this year. New city, new job, new home. The biggest difference is that I’m surrounded by friends, family, and a beautiful city full of history, gastronomy, and real seasons.

I had a talk with a friend yesterday, and it was thought-provoking for me. Lord knows I take my time to reflect, but fresh perspective is far more valuable than hindsight, because there is still time to act.

I’ve made several resolutions this year related to my writing. I want to blog once a week, work on my novel at least twice a week, and publish one of my novels by the end of the year. While this is certainly feasible, to put it plainly, I’m already making excuses. Work, work, work.

I’m currently questioning my position, the amount of time and effort that I put into this position, and whether this industry is where I want to be. Honestly, I questioned these things before I moved, but in those moments, all I knew was that the move needed to happen. Personally, I’m so happy that I relocated. Professionally, I’m still finding my way.

I think that the adjustment will take time, no matter whether I determine that I’m in the right career path or that I need a change. I just know that I need stability and support – in whatever I do – because then I feel more free to really give it my all. I’m happier, I sleep better, I’m more focused and committed. I’m more motivated, and I contribute more, when I feel like I have what I need.

I think that we all have moments of reflection where, no matter the challenge, we wonder whether we made the right decisions. Looking in the rearview mirror, did I choose the right education, the right career path, the right city, the right people to surround myself with? Am I where I need to be? At the end of my life, will I be able to say that I really went for what I wanted? That I really lived?

In my mind, I can do anything. In my heart, I’ll always be a writer. Writing has always been my very best form of communication. It’s the only way that I know that I can truly express myself, where I won’t be misunderstood. I get nervous speaking sometimes, because in my mind’s eye, I’m watch the words formulating and rearranging into the sentences that I need to say, but the articulation of these words isn’t as clean when spoken. When I write, I can take that moment to backspace and edit in a way that I haven’t mastered when speaking. Words tumble out of order at times, missing the mark or impact that I’m hoping to convey. But when I write, I can spin the story in any direction. I can evoke the right emotions. I can help people relate.

Though I feel that I’m being pulled in many different directions, I’ve neglected my writing for so long that often I feel guilty when I finally allot time to this craft. Where would I be happiest? Honestly, in some cafe with a cappuccino, my laptop, and my book notes. I could spend the rest of my days doing that exact same thing, because each day would still be different. Watching characters come alive on a backlit page, telling the stories through the eyes of others, finding ways to relate to my characters and their idiosyncrasies. Seeing all of the puzzle pieces come together in a literary work where you can visualize the story as it unfolds. That’s where success lies.

Books were my escape as a little girl. Deep within their pages, I found refuge from whatever was going on at home, from whatever my own feelings were. From reality. I devoured books quickly, often checking out 5-10 books per week from our local library, sometimes reading books twice if I read my pile too quickly.

Writing helps me to create for someone else that escape that was so vital for me. An alternate plane where obstacles aren’t your own, but those of fictional characters. It’s time to get back to this. To make time for this. To acknowledge self by believing that this time is deserved and not squandered.

This is how I make what I want a priority.

 

Be Still

I’ve been going back and forth with myself over how I’ve let so much time go by; how I’ve allowed everything to get in the way of something I really love: writing.

I’ve been doubting myself a lot. Work, love, family, friends. Writing is in that pile too. I let people get into my head and make me think their opinion mattered more than my own. I fell back from church, and I felt completely isolated, guilty, and stressed to my breaking point.

Slowly, I’ve been building back up. I could have come back faster, but I think it would have been premature. I needed to be still for a little while and pray. To get back to where I need to be with God. To remind myself of who I am in Him. To remind myself that self love is as important, if not more, than loving others.

I am rededicating myself to my craft. To blogging, to the novels. To “me time.” I allowed myself to be robbed long enough.

Autumnal

We’re still a month away from the fall season, technically, but I can feel it coming.

Autumn is my favorite time of year. Colors changing, cooler air, a little rain, boots, sweaters, and pea coats. I can straighten my hair, since the humidity isn’t so bad. I can use the air conditioner less. I love driving around the east coast in the fall, all of the beautiful trees. The brisk weather. The apple cider.

I think that I love the fall so much because change is everywhere. The colors of the leaves, the air, the fruit, the food, the fashion. And I love it. I embrace it, even.

I like change. I like new beginnings. Maybe that’s why I am such a tumbleweed and move around so often. Maybe that’s who no place ever really feels 100% like home.

I’ve decided to embrace my inner tumbleweed. Life is too short. Let the wind take me where it may.

Embrace your inner tumbleweed.

Let Men Be Gentlemen

So I’m boarding a plane, and thankfully I received an upgrade. As I go to situate myself in my seat, tossing my purse into the seat and preparing to put my roller bag into the overhead compartment, an older gentleman tells me to take my seat and he’ll take care of my bag.

I turned to the gentleman, smiled, and said, “thank you, but I’m capable.” I lifted my bag easily and took my seat.

Muttering to the other men in first class, he says women never let them be gentlemen anymore.

Yes, times have changed, but there is chivalry and then there is control. And maybe I’m just a little more sensitive on this point, but I don’t appreciate being told to sit down so that someone can do something for me. Why should I sit? Why should I cater to your “manly” ego?

Women appreciate chivalry to a point, and men appreciate independent women, but only to a point. Men appreciate knowing they don’t have a gold digger on their hands, but any ability a woman has that could best her man stands the chance of bruising his ego.

I appreciate chivalry, but only to a point. I appreciate the gestures. The door opening, the walking on the street side to protect, the pulling out of a chair. But I don’t need it, nor would I allow someone to use it to create the impression that chivalry is necessary to care for the weaker sex. Really, it’s in the approach.

Had the male flight attendant come up and asked me if he could help me with my bag, maybe I would have let him. Maybe I wouldn’t. But don’t tell me what to do and hide behind the guise of being a gentleman, and then subsequently get all your boys to chortle and chuckle at another one of those “feminist” types.

It’s not that I won’t allow you to be a gentleman. The truth is in the gesture. If you offered, you are a gentleman. If you tried to pay the check and she wouldn’t let you, or if she got to the door and opened it first, it doesn’t take away your intention. Why does it seem like these actions on a woman’s part are to be seen as emasculating?

I completely understand and applaud those gentlemen who step in and help those ladies who overpack their carry-on bags, who couldn’t lift them if they tried. Honestly, I’ve stepped in and helped those ladies too. Not because of my sex or chivalry, but because I felt it was the right thing to do. So I guess that means I’m not a gentleman.

To me, the question is really do you want the title of gentleman, or do you want to be recognized as one by your actions? Either way, I have no intention of feeling bad for being capable, strong, and independent. There are plenty of men out there who can appreciate that.