i write because mirrors have voices

Hile, inkslingers, ne’er-do-wells, and sundry,

I’ve been neglecting the blog again of late. But I have good reason. A depression low-point struck, and I’ve been self-medicating with Netflix. Also, I was sick with another of my lovely sinus infections, so it’s taken me a bit to bounce back from that.

But I’m trying to get back to bouncy-trouncy-flouncy-pouncy-fun-fun-fun-fun-fun, hence my choice not to indulge in ST:Voyager tonight but wet my writing whistle, instead. (Ooh la la.)

“Here, drink this,” he says.

Last month, Herr Chuck the Wendigo (as I like to call him [read: I just made that up]) issued one of his weekly writing challenges: 1,000 words on why we write. Since I tend to drink up whatever the Wendigo hands me (and yes, this maybe should frighten all of us), I am taking that challenge and frolicking with it.

(Ooh la la.)

Why I Write

I write because mirrors have voices.

You can walk past a mirror and not even notice it. From the corner of your eye, you might catch a glimpse of movement, but it’s not enough to give you pause. You keep going, focused on wherever you need to be, whatever you want to do, whomever you intend to see. The mirror stays behind, hanging forgotten on the wall or sitting blind-once-more on the shelf or waiting silently in the windowframe.

(Windows and eyes can be mirrors, and we sometimes forget this to our peril. But that is another story and shall be told another time.)

You can walk past a mirror and barely register your own reflection.

But I write because mirrors have voices.

I walk past a mirror, and it screams at me.

LOOK.

Stop, writer, and LOOK.

See yourself. Stare into your own soul, and pull something out of there that you would prefer not to see. Turn that thing over in your hands. Feel it. Touch it the way you’ve never touched anything else. Dig your fingertips into it and feel the pain…

…because, oh yes, you might pull that thing out of yourself, but it remains connected to you as though by vital umbilical cord. That thing in your soul sends and receives, and so do you. You press that thing between your palms, and you set off an agonizing resonance. The thing in your soul that you don’t want to see, that thing is pain. But your job is to fiddle with it and poke it and prod it and see what makes it squeal.

You don’t want others to see that thing, either.

But your job is to show them, writer.

Take that resonating pain and make them feel it, too.

They might not perceive it as pain, but it’s still your job to show it to them.

That’s the only way you’ll ever write something real.

That’s the only way you will ever be real.

I write because mirrors have voices, and they tell me to pull out the parts of my soul I would rather keep hidden and bare them to the world.

Everything I write is, in some way, a reflection of myself.

Every character I write carries around a little part of me. (This maybe should frighten all of us.)

(Sometimes the voices of the mirrors sound suspiciously like the voices of my characters.)

I write because mirrors have voices, and they tell me to dig deep and unearth what makes me real and use it to craft something real for someone else.

I write because mirrors have voices, and they insist that I Make Things.

* * *

When I ignore the mirrors…when I walk past them and stare anywhere else and refuse the glimpse of my reflected movement…bad things happen.

That thing in my soul? It turns surly when I ignore the mirrors. If I’m not writing, that thing in my soul goes dark and sucks in light. It sucks away joy and interest in life. It saps motivation. It leaches me of any desire to interact with other people.

When I ignore the voices of the mirrors, what happens to me looks an awful lot like depression.

* * *

During the times in my adult life when I wasn’t writing, I didn’t like myself very much.

* * *

I write to soothe the thing in my soul.

I write to Make Something Real in fiction, in the hope of touching people I would never be able to touch otherwise.

I write to like myself.

I write to be who and what I am created to be.

I write to quiet the characters who demand I tell their stories.

I write because mirrors have voices.

 

iheartwords

________________

Why do *you* write?

The world I want to live in

I want to live in a world where I can be unrestrained, passionate, an artist, a writer, a poet, a sci-fi/fantasy/superheroes geek, a quantum physics dabbler, a Jesus-follower, a wife, mother, a daughter, a friend, a sister, a photographer, a foodie, a singer, a collector of ridiculous junk, a lover of everything about the cramazing human body, a tinkerer, a plotpantser, an advocate of even the most difficult truths, a ray of sunshine.

I want to live in a world where it’s okay that in addition to most of those roles, I’ve also been a mentor, a counselor, a mediator of conflicts, an innkeeper, an events organizer, a language instructor, a treasurer, a dollmaker, a carpenter, a construction worker, an archivist, an historian, an editor, a vice president, a genealogist, a hair stylist, a caterer.

I want to live in a world where functioning in all of these ways does *not* mean I’m “indecisive,” “rootless,” “aimless,” “absent-minded,” “careless.”

I want to live in a world where it’s okay to be whomever the spirit leads me to be at any given time.

I want to live in a world where it’s okay to be me.

I want to live.

You know what happens when you assume, right? (Hint: ass-u-me.)

This is a post about how I made an ass of myself.

And nobody knew about it but me.

So no one would ever have had to know.

Except that I’m putting it on the internet.

Which might make me an even greater ass.

The jury’s probably still out on that one.

I considered drawing a picture of the other type of ass but thought better of it. This isn't that kind of blog. I think.

I considered drawing a picture of the other type of ass but thought better of it. This isn’t that kind of blog. I think.

So, I was driving, right? And I stopped at a light on Memorial Road and May Avenue in north OKC, and there was a man with a sign that read, “HUNGRY — GOD BLESS,” and I was at the front of the line of cars, and I thought, “Great.”

He wants me to give him money.

He’ll probably use it for alcohol.

I don’t want to give someone money for alcohol if they have a drinking problem.

I don’t have cash anyway.

Who carries cash nowadays?

Wait. I do have a couple of dollars.

But that’s my emergency money.

You know. Just in case.

(Of I don’t know what. But at least I have it.)

I’m not giving him my emergency stash.

I don’t have anything to give him.

Oh, look. There’s the guilt.

Because I’m supposed to help the poor.

And what kind of awful person am I, if

A. I automatically assume he’s an alcoholic, and
B. I don’t help someone who needs help?

I suck.

*sigh*

But also, I’m a woman, and I’m by myself.

What if he’s dangerous?

(Not because he’s apparently homeless. Just because he’s male.)

Okay, I really suck.

But I’m still not giving him any money.

Screw it.

That was my train of thought in the second it took for me to pull up at the light and for the man on the corner to make eye contact with me.

Eye contact.

Shiny.

He held his sign higher. And the words “HUNGRY — GOD BLESS” might as well have been divine fire from on high emblazoned across the sky, searing my retinas. But still, my retinas perceived the man, and my mind assessed him. About my age. Longish, dark curly hair. Bright blue eyes. Clean-shaven. (Clean-shaven?) Backpack. Old clothes. Pain.

He held his sign higher, and I held up my hands and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”

He moved on past my car, but not before he said something that I couldn’t hear but that was clearly — clearly — a derogatory response to my choice.

He probably just cursed me out.

He doesn’t know if I’m just refusing to give him what I have, or if I really don’t have anything.

At least he didn’t flip me off.

Dude, I’m sorry, okay?

I need my emergency money.

And then there’s the possible addiction thing.

Oh, God, I suck.

With both hands gripping the steering wheel and my eyes on the red stoplight, I sat there and looked at myself and didn’t like what I saw. The thing is, I’ve done this assessment in the same situation and with the same results countless times. It never changes, because I never come to an answer that makes sense to me.

Memory delivers me my old neighbor, Alex, who would come to my door asking for a couple of Euros to buy bread and cheese and meat so that he and his wife could have something to eat. Never mind that a couple of Euros isn’t enough to buy bread and cheese and meat, but it is enough to buy a beer, and if enough neighbors give him a couple of Euros, he’ll have enough to buy the number of beers it takes for him to get drunk enough (again) to beat his wife instead of fixing her a sandwich.

The specter of Alex and his wife haunts me at the traffic lights and the street corners and the mouths of alleys where men in disheveled clothing ask me for money and use God as their letter of reference. I do not know what to do with these men. I cannot know their hearts, and I cannot know the source of their pain.

I look into the bright blue eyes of the man at Memorial & May, and I don’t know what I can do for him that will allow both of us to leave this corner with guilt-free, satisfied smiles on our faces.

I’m thinking all of this as the man moves on past my car and I grip the steering wheel in miserable indecision and I look down and see a Walmart Great Value brand granola bar in the car’s center console.

I grabbed the granola bar and punched the window button, and I swear I leaned halfway out of that window, waving that white-wrapped granola bar like a white flag of surrender, with the Goodness of the universe as the enemy who opposes my bitter self.

“Sir?” I screeched out the window. “Sir! Hello!”

He was three cars back, but he came running. I prayed that the light wouldn’t change and that the drivers behind me wouldn’t be too irate, because I wasn’t rolling up that window or letting go of that granola bar until I could place it in that blue-eyed man’s tan, possibly grimy, but also possibly clean, and who cares about their condition anyway? hands.

When he reached me, he was saying something about not being able to run. I met his eyes and said, “I found this.” And I offered him the granola bar, and he took it, and he asked, “Did you hear what I said?”

I swallowed. Hard. “No, I didn’t.”

He smiled. He was already turning away, moving back down the line of cars. But he locked eyes with me one more time.

“I said, ‘I love your hair.’ God bless!”

I swallowed again, harder this time. “You, too.” It was all I could manage.

And then he was gone, and the light turned green, and I drove away and thanked God that I don’t have to be a slave to my assumptions. I don’t have to be an ass. If I’m an ass, it’s by my own choice. And I always get another chance.

Sometimes, that chance is delivered via a blue-eyed homeless man who loves my hair. We both left the corner of Memorial & May with smiles on our faces, and that’s how this story can always end.

Depression and Creativity

The Depression Part

I’ve felt depressed lately.

Sad. Lethargic. Numb. Angry. Frustrated. Disinterested. Dark view of life. No hope. Blech.

I’ve blogged about depression before. And I’ve blogged about one of the main triggers of depression for me: not exercising my creativity.

When I realized that I was depressed, I said to several people who love me, “Hey, I’m depressed.” NOTE: Telling loving people that you’re depressed is helpful in starting the process of getting out of the depression.

Those several people who love me replied, “Hey, we’re not thrilled about this. Do you know why you’re depressed and/or how we can help?”

This was an excellent response for two reasons.

One, it let me know I’m not alone in this.

Two, it helped me figure out how to handle this.

You see, I had to answer them as follows: “There’s nothing that you can do, really. I have a baby whom I love dearly and deeply. I don’t resent her or begrudge her the time I spend with her. But the fact remains that when I’m taking care of her, I’m not writing. And when I do have time to write, I’m so exhausted that I fall asleep at the computer. There’s nothing anyone can do, really, to ‘fix’ this situation (which isn’t actually broken).

“However, having this conversation with you makes me focus on ways I can exercise my creativity in writing without sacrificing my daughter’s needs. So thank you for talking with me about this. That helped.”

The Creative Part, Pt. 1

And then I went and wrote a blog post, and I felt better. And then I invented a recipe for almond chicken, and while cooking doesn’t do a lot for me, it’s still a creative task, so I felt better after completing that, too. And then I reorganized two rooms and a closet, and the exercise in creativity required for that gargantuan task was a humdinger of a creative exercise, lemme tell ya. And then I made up a song about giraffes for my daughter and videoed myself singing it. After that, I was practically glowing.

So. I’ve felt depressed lately. But I’m on my way back up.

I still feel a ton of frustration that I nod off every time I sit down to continue my WIP (Elevator People). But at least I’m doing little creative things here and there. I think I just needed a reminder not to neglect that part of myself — and not to let exhaustion fool me into thinking I don’t have time for that part of myself.

After all…crippled, demented, or crushed: still, I will create.

The Creative Part, Pt. 2

And then, my friend J.T. posted the following on his Facebook status, and I thought it was utterly brilliant:

“Art is not about talent or skill. Art is about you. Spending time with you, getting to know you. Seeing parts of yourself that you love, some that you hate, but mostly parts that scare the very breath from your lungs. Art is not about technique or style. Art is learning who you are, and being brave enough to show the world. You can’t be bad at art, unless you are simply afraid to try. Art is a terrifying pursuit, because there is nothing more frightening than our own selves.”

~J.T. Hackett, artist

I’ll be blogging about J.T.’s ideas more in the near future. But for now, here’s how I’m relating his words to my depression:

I need to know who I am.

When I don’t know who I am, I get depressed.

When I am not creating, I am not spending time with me, not getting to know me.

When I am not creating, I am not seeing myself fully.

When I am not creating, I forget who I am.

When I forget who I am, I get depressed.

I could flesh this out a bit more, but I think it suffices for my current purposes. More than ever, I see the truth in my belief that I am created to create. To dig more deeply: I am created to get to know exactly who I am. If I am not doing art, I am not getting to know who I am.

If I am not doing art, I am neglecting a main purpose for which I was created.

No wonder that sets me adrift.

I am finding my anchor again.

Cures from the Past

"Castle in Her Coils" by Courtney Cantrell

“Castle in Her Coils” by Courtney Cantrell

"No More Room in Hell" by Courtney Cantrell

“No More Room in Hell” by Courtney Cantrell

"Sea Creature" by Courtney Cantrell

“Sea Creature” by Courtney Cantrell

"Redemption" by Courtney Cantrell

“Redemption” by Courtney Cantrell

I’ve never been suicidal. Not really. But.

The title of this post might serve as adequate warning. But. In case it isn’t, please note that this post concerns suicide. If reading about suicide is a trigger for you for suicidal thoughts, please don’t read this. Instead, call someone you consider a friend. Or call 800-273-TALK. Or click here for resources.

On the blog of Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, I read this morning that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. The goal is to raise awareness of suicide, reach out to those who are suicidal (which we all should be doing anyway!), and possibly help prevent more suicides from taking place.

In honor of this, Take 5 To Save Lives is asking everyone to light a candle near a window at 8:00pm, Monday, September 10th (today). The site also encourages us to read their warning signs of suicidal behavior — and to have the courage not to ignore it.

I can’t claim to know or understand what it’s like to feel suicidal. Certainly, when I was a teenager and miserable and felt as though the entire universe were aligned against me, I had moments of thinking, “I wish I were dead!” But those moments resulted only in bathroom crying jags and passive-aggressive behavior toward my parents.

For me, the I-wish-I-were-deads never led to thoughts of how I could go about killing myself. I never even used poetry, my avenue of most intense emotional expression (still), to delineate my frustrated misery.

Because that’s all it was: frustration and misery. Through it all, somewhere in the back of my mind and in the depths of my heart, I continued in faith and in hope. I knew — whether I felt it or not, I knew — that life would change (it did), things would get better (they did), and these feelings wouldn’t last forever (they didn’t).

As an adult, I haven’t had the I-wish-I-were-deads per se…but there have been times during which I looked around and saw the pain other were going through, and I thought, “God, I can’t bear to see this anymore. Help them…and if their pain doesn’t stop, then please, just take me so I don’t have to see this anymore.” And yes, I do recognize the hypocrisy and selfishness inherent in that prayer.

This, too, passed.

Depression lies. Through faith, in spite of the cloud of doubt and fear and sadness, I’ve always had that assurance and held on to it.

Suicidal people don’t have that assurance.

I can’t know how it feels not to have that.

I can’t know how it feels not to have hold of that faith. I can’t ever say to a suicidal person, “I know how you feel.” I can’t even say, “I understand,” because how can I understand an emotion I don’t have? It would insult you and invalidate your emotions if I claimed to know something about your feelings that I can’t possibly know.

All I can say is that, even though I don’t understand how you feel, I do understand that you feel this way.

I’ll never be the saving light at the end of someone’s tunnel; I’m not created to be that. (No human is.) But I can be a way station, a guidepost, a mirror that reflects the true Light. We can all be that for someone else at some point, I believe. We can all brighten the world by lighting our tiny corner of it.

Sometimes, that little tiny light, reflection of the true Light, is all a suicidal person needs to hold on for one more moment. And then one more. And then one more. Until they can see the Light that guides them out of the darkness.

Shine a little light into the darkness today.

On Sarcasm: How Much Flesh Will You Eat?

Earlier today, I read and commented on Twitter Angst and the 2012 Olympics by blogger Ben Howard**.

Notably, my comment did not concern my aversion to the American usage of the word “Angst,” which in German has no aura of mental-emotional weirdness about it but, instead, simply means “fear.”

*ahem* But I digress. ; )

No, my comment was in reference to what Ben writes about the apparent increase of snarkiness, negativity, and cynicism on the Internet. What I said was this:

As time goes on, I watch the attitude of the masses with growing concern. When did pithiest and snarkiest and most cynical become the ideal to which we should all aspire? It seems like if you don’t infuse your every word with the utmost of sarcasm, then you’re not worth listening to.

What’s frightening about that is that the Greek root of “sarcasm” is the same as “sarcophagus” — which, directly translated, means “eater of flesh.” So basically, if we’re not tearing at each other’s vitals, then we have no right to a voice?

Is it just Ben and me? Or has anyone else noticed this?

eater of flesh


To get attention on the internet (and maybe we should be asking why you would want to), you’ve got to have the snappy, snippy comeback. You’ve got to infuse your every line with passive-aggressive insult aimed at one group or another. In order to make your side look good, you gotta make the other side look bad.

When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, my best friend and I got teased all the time by a couple of boys who were two or three years older than we were. They laughed at us. They made fun of us. (Scarily, they picked us up and swung us around because we were too light-weight to fight back.) They mocked and insulted us at every opportunity.

I told my parents about it and tearfully asked why those boys were treating us this way.

My dad replied, “Honey, it’s because they’re bullies. They feel really bad about themselves. They feel like really small people, and it makes them feel better and bigger when they make others look smaller.”

What he really meant by “smaller” was inferior, but it would be a couple of years before I fully grasped that concept.

So. You get what I’m saying here, right? It seems that in the cyberverse, the best way to get attention is to be a bully: to make yourself look bigger and better by making someone else look smaller. You don’t get to feel superior, you don’t get to have others think you’re superior until you make someone else look inferior.

Is the internet really nothing more than an elementary school playground? Are we all really nothing but a bunch of petty, childish bullies?

I say “we” on purpose, because I know I’ve been guilty of this. When I mentioned “the masses” in my comment on Ben’s post, I mentally included myself. No, I haven’t outright bullied anyone. But I’ve done more than my fair share of sarcastic snarking. In his response to my comment, Ben calls the use of sarcasm “seductive” — and he’s right, it is.

When you’re a writer, you tend to be good with words. When you’re good with words, you tend to know pretty quickly, in any given situation, which words and phrases will cut the deepest. And if you’re in the mood — or if you’re mad about the situation/topic — or if you’re just a bully, you shoot the stealth zingers without hesitation because you know you’re going to hit your mark and feel triumphant…better than you felt before you aimed and fired.

“You.”

…I?

Sarcophagus: eater of flesh.

Sarcasm: ripping the heart and soul out of an adversary.

Or out of a friend?

Out of a beloved?

Are we creating this online culture of negativity, hate, and cruelty? Do we think because it’s not “IRL*” that it doesn’t really matter? We can toss our verbal grenades, let them explode and cause the requisite amount of damage, and then turn off our computers and pretend that we didn’t just maim someone?

No. People, NO. What happens online is real. What we say online is REAL. Words matter, and they do hurt. We don’t get to pretend that our sarcasm doesn’t affect the world IRL. We don’t get to pretend that we’re not gleefully tearing at the flesh of another soul. When we let ourselves speak those words — and yes, you do know the ones I mean — when we indulge in the pithiness, the snark, we make ourselves over into tombs for rotting meat and dead men’s bones.

And we carry that stench into every corner of our lives. Online and offline.

How many pounds of flesh are we going to eat tomorrow?

_____

*In Real Life

**Beneath his post, Ben says of himself:

“When he isn’t channeling Andy Rooney for a post about the Olympics, Ben spends his time in a field with Snoopy waiting for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin,”

which I think is positively cramazing.

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being A Baby Factory, Pt. 2

This just appeared randomly a few days ago. 15 week, 5 days.

A little late (but late due to a good cause), here is the second half of my “Baby Factory 10 Things” list. If you missed the first half, check out numbers 1-5 here.

And so! Now that you’re all caught up, let’s proceed to…

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being A Baby Factory, Pt. 2

6. There is this thing. It is called “food.” You will not like it.
It will taste funny. It will smell like feet. Your favorites will suddenly turn into cardboard or charcoal and make you gag. (As an aside, brushing your teeth will make you gag, too.) Even the much-praised saltine, upon which you munch to keep something in your stomach at all times, will eventually crumble to ashes in your mouth. This is not happy.

The reason this happens is, once again, Our Favorite Friend Progesterone. It changes the chemical composition of your saliva, which alters the taste of food. This is MADE OF WEIRD.

This is also frustrating and demoralizing, and you will get in trouble with your doctor for losing 9 lbs. between Weeks 5 and 8.

7. There is this thing. It is called “food.” You will crave it like a hyena craves a wildebeest.
The good news is that around Week 12, the flood of progesterone becomes less flood-ish. Bit by bit, things start to taste normal again. Sadly, some of your favorites will still taste and smell like feet. (I still mourn peanut butter.) But in general, you’ll start liking food again. Food will no longer bring on nausea at every longed-for bite. Suddenly, the vegetables you loathed in Week 11 taste like ambrosia in Week 14. This, my dears, is glorious, and you shall rejoice!

You shall also begin gaining weight like your doctor told you to do back in Week 8.

8. If this is your first, THEY are all experts.
THEY are women in your family. THEY are your female friends. THEY are your female acquaintances. THEY are women who’ve had babies. Sometimes, THEY are even women who haven’t had babies.

One and all, they will tell you what it is you’re experiencing. They will tell you how much they hearted being pregnant. They will tell you how grateful you should feel that you’re sick. They will tell you horror stories of bleeding and cramping — their own and other women’s. They will tell you all of these things even though you don’t ask to hear. And you will sigh muchly. And try not to freak out.

(The good news is that when you actually *do* request stories from some of them, there is much loving commiseration as soon as it becomes clear that this is what you need. When this happens, you will be quite glad to have so many experts in your life.)

9. At night, you will have an IMAX theater in your head.
Once upon a time, the husband said that because I’ve always has such vivid dreams, I must have an IMAX in my head at night. (He, on the other hand, is blessed with a calm, sleep-preserving, empty warehouse.) Well, Mr. Sandman seems to be taking hits of that famed, illicit drug Proges Terone — because now my dreams are more vivid and convoluted than ever. At times, I wake up to a flood of emotions that don’t even feel like my own. This, too, is a WEIRDNESS.

So far, the most memorable dream was the one where civilization had mostly recovered after the zombie apocalypse hit. I was waiting for my grandparents outside a convention hall because I was their driver. The convention was for The Church of the Protection of Zombies or somesuch; apparently, my grandparents had joined a cult that preached against the killing of zombies. Being a killer of zombies whenever opportunity struck, I disagreed with this religion and so chose not to enter the convention hall.

Yeah. So there’s that.

10. Your brains will fall out.
This, fortunately, has nothing to do with zombies — although it might seem like you’ve turned into a zombie, what with the bleary eyes, the slow shuffle, and the random bouts of feeding frenzy.

But no, what we’re really talking about here is the Infamous Pregnancy Brain. I guess it’s the hormones. Or maybe it’s the lack of sleep. Or maybe it’s that your entire being is subconsciously focused on assembling a brand-new other being inside of you. Whatever the cause, the effect is that you can’t think straight, you can’t process information in a logical manner, and you can’t remember squat.

Except where the ice cream is located. You can remember this perfectly well.

The bad news, THEY tell me, is that Infamous Pregnancy Brain doesn’t ever really go away. It turns into Infamous Newborn Brain and from there morphs into Infamous Toddler Brain. By this time, I don’t think we can blame it on the hormones anymore, so it’s gotta be the lack of sleep. And THEY tell me this doesn’t stop until the kid moves out.

Will I recover my brain then? Some say yes, some say no. I’m banking on the kid turning out a nightowl just like me, in which case we should be able to let each other get as much sleep as either of us could possibly want.

Shut up, experts. Lemme have my delusions. They ain’t hurtin’ nobody. ; )

BONUS
11. When you hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time, you will sob like you did when Bambi’s mother died. Only happier this time.
: )

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being A Baby Factory, Pt. 1

Hile, inklings!

As I’ve hinted in my last few posts, I have a few reflections to share about the joys of pregnancy thus far. In case you think this isn’t something you care to read, consider that the prepositional phrase ending the preceding sentence is a sample of deep sarcasm, which sarcasm might just be enough to make this post enjoyable even for you non-pregnancy-buffs.

Happily, the sarcasm is also an indication that I am feeling LOADS better. BANGERANG.

No baby bump yet. So here's a cute picture of my cat, instead.

So, to celebrate my return from The Nefarious Kingdom of Nausea and Exhaustion, I’ve put together a list of ten things that, if they didn’t surprise me entirely over the last few months, at least caused my expectations (expectations, get it? ha ha) to morph into something unrecognizable pretty much overnight.

As part of my celebration, I’m being rather more verbose than I’d anticipated, so I’m breaking up the list into two parts. Here, for your reading pleasure, is the first half:

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being A Baby Factory, Pt. 1

1. It can be horribly scary.
Okay, so this one isn’t going to be funny, and it doesn’t apply to every pregnancy. But yes, this adventure can be scary. I already knew this, because I’d suffered a miscarriage back in 2006. So this time around, when I started spotting during Week 5 again, I was terrified. A visit to the doctor and a blood test showed low progesterone levels. Granted, my doctor hasn’t said the low levels caused the spotting, and she hasn’t said that I would’ve miscarried without progesterone supplements. But I took progesterone supplements through Week 10, and the spotting stopped, and I’m still pregnant at Week 15, so there you go.

Part of this scary experience is that, because I’m human, the fear trumped the joy at being pregnant. Ed and I let family and friends know what was going on because we desperately needed the spiritual and emotional support. Family and friends were spiritually and emotionally supportive. This was awesome.

Family and friends were also happy and excited. This was not so awesome for me, because although I was happy, I was not excited. I was scared, and it took all my focus to keep the fear to a minimum. Honestly, I couldn’t let myself start to be excited until around Week 10. In the meantime, everyone else’s joy sometimes felt overwhelming.

Hitting Week 14 some ten days ago was a blessing of ginormous proportions, because that was the start of the second trimester, in which the risk of miscarriage drops significantly.
Even so, I still get a little scared sometimes. Prayer helps. : )

2. It can be messy.
So. Progesterone supplements. You take one supplement per day. You do not take it orally. You also do not take it anally. And that’s all I have to say about that.

3. You run a triathlon. Every. Stinking. Day.
Since the advent of Week 12, this part has improved somewhat.

But between Weeks 5 and 12, the level of exhaustion was un-freakin’-believable. I spent anywhere from 10-14 hours per day asleep; or, if I wasn’t asleep the whole time, I was sprawled languidly on the couch or in bed, continually debating whether or not the pressure in my bladder was worth the effort of dragging myself vertical and down the 100 miles of hallway to the bathroom. Twenty minutes of conversation left me feeling like I’d just spent two hours doing high-impact aerobics. The ten-minute car ride to the doctor’s office was the equivalent of a BodyPump class. Said doctor tells me, “You need to be walking every day.” I meekly nod as though in agreement and think to myself, Doc, you are a funny lady.

4. You will want to slice off your boobs.
Hormones! Ah, the joys of them! One of the fabulous things they do is make your boobs hurt. And when I say hurt, I mean HURT. Hugging people is painful. Stretching is painful. The touch of clothing is painful. Putting on your bra is painful. Taking off your bra is painful. The only thing that’s not painful is sitting still whilst wearing said bra. Lying on your stomach is a thing of sheer impossibility. The torture does not stop, and you will want it to stop badly enough that removal of your breasts starts to sound like an attractive proposition.

There will also come a time when you’ll need a bigger, better bra. And that’s all I have to say about that.

5. The baby is an interior decorator. Or maybe a Third Culture Kid.
The kid is growing. Yay! That’s what s/he is supposed to do, and that is a glorious thing. And s/he is not shy about making sure there is enough room in your torso for the accomplishment of all this glorious growth.

In a nutshell: Your interior organs get moved around, and it starts happening pretty early on. I almost don’t have the words for it. The closest I can come to describing it is pressure in odd places. It’s like somebody’s putting their hands flat against the inside of my abdomen and pushing out. This is not the baby’s kicks I’m feeling; it’s too soon for that. No, this is the stretching of uterus, the stretching of ligaments, and the rearrangement of intestine location. It’s WEIRD. And sometimes it keeps me awake at night.

If you don’t know what a Third Culture Kid is, here’s the brief lowdown: A TCK is a person like me who has grown up in two cultures and combined the two into one unique personal culture. This carries with it a host of odd quirks too numerous to go into now. But one of those quirks is the desire to move across the country (or across the world) every few years. When I can’t do that, I rearrange the furniture — just like this kid is rearranging my insides.

Okay, thus ends Part 1! Come back on Friday for the second round!

Weak Strengths or Strong Weaknesses?

Yeah, I wish this were my biceps. But it isn't.

Hey, inkling loves,

This week, I read this post by Becca J. Campbell. You really should click through and read, because Becca makes a great case for being honest with ourselves and with each other about our weaknesses…

…but especially telling ourselves the truth about our strengths.

One of my weaknesses is that I tend to be really hard on myself about my weaknesses, enough so that I’ll quietly beat myself up about them while presenting an everything’s-okay face to the people around me.

I work constantly at developing a level of transparency that will prevent me from hiding my self-doubt. It’s a lifelong growth process.

Along with that, I try to infuse into my heart a particular principle I read a few years back (sadly, I don’t remember where):

Focus on improving your weaknesses, and all you’ll end up with are strong weaknesses and weakened strengths.

Focus on building your strengths, and you’ll end up with strengths solid enough to carry you through the weaknesses.

 

My Solid Strengths

Becca’s post concerned our writing strengths specifically. So, in the interest of not beating myself up about my writing weaknesses, here are a few things I consider my writing strengths:

1. I have a good feel for language. This is one part innate talent, one part intensive training, and one part life experience. Although I don’t believe for a second that a person has to be born with a certain set of skills in order to be a writer, I did start writing when I was 8 years old. So I suspect there’s something inherited there. I am also the child of two teachers, one of whom taught English for 30 years. She sent me to school but also taught me at home, so I got it from all sides. And on top of that, I learned a foreign language (German) at age 3, which did all sorts of interesting and odd things to the way my brain processes and produces words. I bring all of that to bear on every sentence when I sit down to write.

2. I see scenes, characters, and actions as picture sequences in my head. If you read Becca’s post (which I think you should), you’ll see that I share this in common with her, and she calls it being a “visual writer.” When I’m crafting a story, I feel as though I’m watching a movie inside my head and simply writing down everything I see, hear, feel, and taste. Sometimes, a scene is blurry, and that’s when I know not to force too much detail into a scene. When it’s clear with crisp edges, I know it’s time to divulge more of what I’m seeing. I rarely have to rack my brains to figure out what something looks like.

3. I’ve experienced Not Writing. If you’ve read my posts tagged “confessions”, you know that there was a period of years during which I forgot that I was created to create. I forgot that I was allowed to be a writer. I sank into horrid darkness and turned bitter, sorrow-filled, and hostile. But now that I’m out of that, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the gifts of creativity, freedom, time, and support. I know where I’ve been; I know I never want to go back; and I know that the best way to give thanks for the gifts (and to declare the One who gave them to me) is to apply myself to writerdom with uncompromising passion.

4. I don’t believe in “writer’s block.” Strength #3 pretty much takes care of this for me. I practice gratitude and passion by not allowing “writer’s block” to stop me. When I experience the I-don’t-wanna lassitude or the words-just-aren’t-there frustration, I know that my reaction cannot be simply to stop writing. When “writer’s block” hits, I know it’s a challenge to think and work harder. Is my attitude the problem? Is the story broken somewhere? Do I need to change writing locations? (For more on writing locations, read this post.)
“Writer’s block” never means that I can’t write. It only means I need to rethink, review, revise, or relocate.

5. I have a keen awareness of cause-and-effect (aka “what’s the because?).
Cause: My mom did not go with my dad when his quartet, The Four Naturals, made a recording in Nashville in 1966.
Effect: The Four Naturals didn’t get my mom’s “managerial” advice while in Nashville, so they never went pop, and my family ended up moving to Germany in 1980.
Cause: In 1940, Frances Hair eloped with Wilborn Weger instead of going to college.
Effect: I exist.
Cause: Aaron and I played Rockband together at a church party in May 2009.
Effect: I’m published.
Cause: In my WIP (Elevator People), side character Joplin giggles when main character Went says the word “pickpocket.”
Effect: Ten chapters later, they end up battling a psychopath and a vampire on a planet in another dimension.
And so forth.
Cause-and-effect are what you might call “essential” to life. And to a story’s development. ; )

_______________________
So! There are a few of my writing strengths. What are some of yours? Share in the comments! Or, even better, write your own blog post about your writing strengths and share the link with us!

Making this list required some clear thinking and deep analysis on my part: honest reflection and a stern refusal to let myself slip into self-deprecation mode. Yes, this was all focused on writing…but it was also an act of kindness toward myself as a person. If you’re reading this, and you’re not a writer, I encourage you to make a list of your own strengths in whatever area you like. Let yourself accentuate the positive; show your Self some love.

If you can demonstrate compassion toward You in this way, you’ll be able to do the same for people around you. And blessing others with compassion is a strength worth solidifying in each of us.