Unabridged Me


Self-Doubt Loves Language

March 9, 2018

It happens to all of us.

Well, maybe not all of us. From all I’ve read, sociopaths and psychopaths do not struggle. Nor do grandiose narcissists. But those extreme examples aside, it happens to all of us.

I’m talking about self-doubt.

It varies by person, by personality, and by occupation. Some occupations leave little room for self-doubt. Namely those that save lives or are involved in split second decision making.

And then there are occupations such as writing, which seems overflowing with those who doubt their abilities and talents. Show me a writer who doesn’t once in a while throw a tantrum, papers flying everywhere (metaphorically in the almost purely digital world), screaming this is shit to anyone who will listen, and I will show you someone who has not really invested in writing. Or hasn’t received a rejection letter.

I know, bold claim.

The reason I say this is because similar to any other combination of art and skill, writing takes a lot of work and is highly subjective. While a writer may develop strong ability to combine words in whatever rules dictate that particular language and form, there is subjectivity in the writer and the reader.

In essence, writers try to pull people into their imaginations, their realities, the way they view the world. And in turn, readers bring their own experiences and understanding. And somewhere in between is language.

A highly imprecise, inexact, difficult combination of symbols and meaning that often fails at its one purpose.

So, taking skill out of the equation, writers will often find themselves deep in the flow of an idea. Spitting out words. Building immense structures of thought and dry walling with all the tricks we are taught. If language is on our side in that moment, we end up with a stable structure we design and change to a more suitable vision.

If language is not on our side, we struggle with a building that lists and tilts no matter how we prop it up. Often ending in abandoned stories and paper flying tantrums. Whether a novice or an expert, self doubt during these times can creep into an ear and take up residence in the back of a writer’s mind.

Speaking horrible thoughts like “that doesn’t make sense.”

“No one wants to read that.”

“What’s the point in that?”

Some writers push through self doubt, post tantrum. Start a new story. Begin a new idea. Or obstinately pound out words until language is malleable. Of course, these are the wise and diligent practitioners of the field.

And then there are others. Of which I am included. We throw our tantrum. We have words with language that would make our grandmothers blush. Then we quit. Let self-doubt have room to take up shop. Build its own workbench of malevolent statements.

I believe this is where writers’ block emerges. Our inability to come to terms with language. Our frustration with disparities between our minds and the expression tools available.

While some might quit forever, others of us are haunted. The urge to write is stronger than the pain of creating meaning with crude cudgels instead of fine carving tools. So we return. At some point we return.

Just as I always come back to writing.

And inevitably we are stronger. Those of us who come back. Our muscles have been worked by tearing apart self-doubt’s workshop. We find new mechanisms of soothing or find opportunities to test the waters in safety.

Or we complete a post that has been sitting in our drafts folder for two weeks.

Regardless, the words always return. The goal for any writer is to become one of the veterans. The time tested writers who know when to set something aside and move on with something else. The ones who do not let tantrums sideline them.

Because for all its crudeness as a tool, language is the only tool available to a writer.

Self-doubt will never leave. So instead we fight. We write drivel. We practice using prompts. We cry and complain to those who listen. And with enough force the inertia recedes and we move forward.

In my experience? My mind is flooded with ideas I refused to create while hosting self-doubt. And I’m left to wonder what amazing things I’ve lost, giving time and space to self-doubt.


Subconscious Weaving

February 16, 2018

I’m a little behind on these posts.

But here we go anyway. Day 2…


The night was spent in a low to mid grade motel room. Although I can’t say it was absolutely awful (that was for the drive home), it wasn’t exactly pleasant.

The motel room smelled okay, which is the first aspect presented when I open a door. Lights go on, seems decent and not too run down. Though, my Hollywood fed imagination began to run scenarios.

Namely drug deals gone wrong, prostitution busts, and all kinds of down on their luck characters with alcohol and drugs limping along some form of reality avoidance. A world David Lynch explores in his movies.

Meh, it was for one night. I can handle this. Besides, the smell still seemed reasonable.

My eyes will close, shutting out the poorly patched hole in the bathroom door. My vision will no longer view, with an obsessive-compulsive focus, the shoddy handyman work. Such as the towel bar hanging upside down, with the screw on top. Or the failure to sand walls before repainting, causing new paint to flake and peel. My optical organ will miss all these details.

But my sense of smell will continue to feed my brain with non-stop information the entire night.

So, exhausted from a long day driving through semi-arid desert (not my favorite of regions) and having dinner and wine with a relative, I fell into bed.

And slept very little. Not the room’s fault. I rarely sleep well in a new environment. Takes me a few days to feel settled enough to sleep. After a rough night of tossing and turning, punching a motel pillow, I opened grainy eyes to a room that did not benefit from sunlight.

Side note, I have decided I will become one of those people who travels with her pillow. Hotels and motels do not think about stomach sleepers when they stock pillows. Understandably, we are a minority. But my neck cannot handle another too fluffy pillow.

I ran through my daily routine, a muscle memory dance of shower and grooming. So mindless is my routine I don’t usually start waking until halfway through my shower.

When at home all writing ideas come flooding through my neurons at this point.

Since I was not at home, all the details of the shower seeped into the crevices of my gray matter, settling in a twitch between my shoulder blades. It’s not the shower was unclean, but the handyman work scratched my consciousness. Not to mention the essence of down on their luck Hollywoodness.

I’m almost positive I still had conditioner in my hair when I hurried into a bare thin towel and a chilly room. A room still smelling decent, I might add. Though cloying at this point. Must have been the air freshener.

All four of us hurried through a barely there continental breakfast and into the car.

The decision was to head north from Gallup and east at Window Rock, driving through the Navajo Nation since the drive was not as arduous. For those not familiar with American history, Navajo Nation is a sovereign nation within the US, though the executive branch of the US government does have some control.


Visitor Center, Hubbel Trading Post

We stopped at Hubbel Trading Post, a still active trading post that has been in place since the Navajo were allowed to return home. While it’s not difficult to find houses in Colorado decorated in Southwest style, it was fascinating to learn how integral the art of weaving was and is in the Navajo culture.

Watching the woman weave a rug in the visitor center, I was almost tempted to take up rug weaving. Certainly not to that level. The artistry takes a lifetime to develop. But watching the weaving was mesmerizing, meditative.

Unfortunately, I know myself too well. I would take it up with a passion, to just as quickly lose interest.

I did not purchase a Navajo rug. My art tastes run surreal, and I’m not one to purchase something just because I’m there.

While Vivian played with a shop just her size, I learned how respect can overcome cultural differences. Treating people fairly will always outweigh what governments choose to do, what military enacts. Individuals can overcome group think.


After our picnic lunch, we moved onward. A quick stop at another monument, pueblos in cliffs, before heading down the canyon to Sedona, AZ.

Living in Colorado my whole life has given me a skewed perception of geography. I have lived in or within view of the Rocky Mountains all but four years of my life. Most of our drive was flat flat flat and desert. So much yellow and sage brush for days. Although I would appreciate the sky on the drive back, the drive there felt blah.

Until I realized we were on a high plateau and everything was hidden from view. Rather than driving up into something, like we do in Colorado, we ended up driving down into. I realized my eyes might have been missing mass amounts of beauty, only because my eyes didn’t know what to see.

I cannot say I will ever live in the desert. Still not my region of choice, but I understand the draw for some people. Cut under the yellow yellow yellow and sage brush is layers and layers of red and orange. You only need to know where to look.

The canyon into Sedona was beautiful. The next day we would get to see the full light set the canyon on fire. But for this day, it was food and bed.

And a realization I might have under dressed for the entire vacation. Stay tuned.

For more pictures, my Instagram.

Ready, Set, Go

February 11, 2018

I do not write a travel blog. Rather, I attempt to write a writing blog since I am a writer (at times). But this week traveling is my experience, so I will write about traveling. A family road trip to be precise.


Today began the road trip. This is an experiment, to see how well Vivian travels. My mom has been biting at the chance to take her only grandchild traveling. Of course, Vivian has only recently been okay away from mom for more than a few mandatory hours. So this trip was to see what kind of traveling Vivian could do.

Plan was to leave at 9 am. My mother was late. Entirely expected. Fortunately, Vivian is not of an age yet where time matters. And I decided this was a vacation. Time does not exist for me.

So into the car we piled and headed south out of Denver. Our destination? Sedona, Arizona. I don’t really  know what to expect, and I think that is a positive. Expectations lead to disappointments, as well as a failure to see what is offered.

The drive down was split into two days, giving credence to the limited capacity of toddlers for containment. The plan is to spend the night in Albuquerque, NM, and drive the rest of the way on the second day. So far so good.

I should note I have been accused of being addicted to my phone. Namely Twitter. While I admit I am more inclined than not to scroll while bored, I don’t think addiction qualifies. However, I stepped to the issued challenge and agreed to not pick up my phone other than to take pictures.


Pike’s Peak, Colorado 

It was about halfway past Colorado Springs when I realized what was being asked. Not that I mind. For the most part, I skip a lot of what is written on Twitter other than a few favorites. However, I have substituted Twitter for a notepad. I use the platform as a stream of consciousness writing tool.

I had snippets playing through my head all day. Ooo, I should write that. Oh, I need to remember that. Wow, that sentence is awesome. Of course, I forget them as soon as I finish editing in my head. Thus the attraction of Twitter’s nature. I can quickly write them down, record them, and move on with my day.

Oh the gems I lost.

Then again, maybe not gems. Until there is a form of validation for our words, there is no sense of their value.

Writers can, and will, argue this all day. I write for myself, I hear people say. I don’t care what people say, I hear writers discuss. Who cares about opinions of others, writers will lament. Myself included, depending on how I feel about my writing.

But validation is an important piece to any art. Yes, we create for ourselves. Because there is some demon that has taken up residence in our head, haunting us with words. Not just words, sounds. Rhythm. Flow. Context. Meaning. Requiring us to install layer of layer of thought and meaning via words.  Not to mention the obsession for the perfect sentence.

We cannot not create. This is a truth.

However, there is diary writing if it’s just about letting the demon loose from time to time. Artists, writers, musicians… we are so obsessed we choose to try living by way of our demon.

Which requires skill development. And how do we know we’ve mastered a skill? Validation. Feedback and acceptance by our community. Our community of writers who know what we live through, what we exist within, what we struggle with daily.

Not necessarily consumers. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Patrons and consumers are needed to put food in the fridge and heat in our houses. For those of us crazy enough to try and exist by way of the demon, patrons and consumers are necessary. And their purchases are a form of validation. The most important form, if taken in a pragmatic view.

But validation from the writing community provides feedback as to where our skill rates. No one can pick apart a sentence faster than a writer.

So while I was staring out at the semi-arid desert of Southern Colorado, what I thought were written gemstones could have been, in truth, nothing but drivel. Without validation, I know not which I had created. Well, since it was not recorded I didn’t create anything.

Merely passing thoughts as flat barren landscape passed my eyes.

Vivian did well this first day. The great experiment seems to have the desired results, though after the first two hours excitement of traveling had worn off. On all of us, not just Vivian.

At hour three it was time for a long break.

We stopped for lunch in Trinidad, CO. This allowed the toddler to run while the aging adults to stand and creak about, lamenting how stiff our muscles had become. While my mom was focused on telling me where to drive, and the backseat passengers were focused on getting out of the car, I was noting small details.

Trinidad is an old town that has seen a recent influx of population, as has most CO towns. This meant the historical downtown buildings are being renovated, and the narrow streets are made more narrow by construction cones, equipment, and flaggers. While the town on one side of the freeway looked like any number of small towns in Colorado, downtown appeared to have a new lease on life.


Downtown Trinidad, CO

Colorado is dotted with small towns, from east to west and north to south. As time has moved on, some small towns have dwindled to nearly nothing. A lot has to do with migration away from agriculture towards urban living, though not entirely.

Some small towns are falling by the wayside because they are on the wayside.

Freeway travel has allowed us to drive further faster, goal oriented as we look forward to our end destination. Small towns a few miles off the freeway offer little for distraction. No travelers to buy gas or eat in cafes, and nothing to keep the young around.

I admit, we took freeway the entire way to Albuquerque.

Where we ate a home cooked meal of lasagna at the house of my mom’s cousin. Vivian ran out her energy, and we relaxed while drinking wine and admiring my cousin’s quirkiness. Women of a certain age who live alone are allowed to develop their oddness, and I get to admire and enjoy said oddness without it affecting my life.

Onto one of the local motels, which resembled the Bates Motel. Not in physicality, but in vibe. Oh so many vibes.

Checking in through bullet proof glass by a woman who looked like she couldn’t get rid of us fast enough. Rooms maintained by a handyman who did not know screws of a towel bar go underneath the bar. And badly patched holes in doors and walls.

Only one night. Then we can move on. Across the desert. Notepad-less. Stay tuned.

*Below is a short story I submitted for NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge. We are assigned genre, subject, and character and have 2500 words to write a story. Stories must be produced and submitted in 8 days for round 1. Round 1 assignment for this story is mystery/hologram/yoga instructor. Feedback is always welcome*

“Hard Light”

The door opened and Jack Sergeant, a disheveled man in his 30s, walked into his grey office. As he entered, he growled, “coffee.” He pulled his hat off his non-descript brown hair and tossed it onto the desk. Jack sloped into the chair and put his head on the cold desktop in one movement. Minutes later his receptionist came in with his coffee and placed it near his right hand.

“Um.” A muffled reply squeezed past his elbow.

“Whatever,” came the terse response before hips swayed through the door and the hollow wood door slammed shut.

Jack opened one eye to gauge the coffee’s location, wrapped his hands about it, and hefted his head up and back to sitting position. Jack took a swig and grimaced, then pressed the button on his phone.

“What do you want?” Irene snapped.

“Not having to drink tar to start,” he gruffly replied, “And what’s my day look like?”

“You want different coffee, you make it. Also, some woman has been waiting for you. You would have noticed her if you weren’t so hung over.”

Jack eased back his rounded shoulders as he attempted to sit up straighter. Most private investigators had friendly, caring, efficient holograms or humanoids. Instead he had human shrew. Too bad non-humans made him nervous and paranoid.

“Send her in.”

Jack hefted himself to standing as the woman entered his office. Mousy was the first impression on his mind. Brown hair messily thrown into a bun and wearing a suit that looked as if the dry clean only tag had been ignored. She clutched her purse, surveyed the cement walls and steel cabinets, and then looked at him. Jack offered his hand.

“Jack Sergeant, and you are?”

She held his hand as if missing all bones and tendons. “Violet Smith,” she squeaked.

“Please sit, Miss Smith.”

“Missus,” she corrected before looking at the chair he offered. She sat down, her hands white-knuckled, and barely breathed as he sat across from her.

Jack was used to timid women, found them all the time in his profession. As pattern of habit, he rounded his shoulders to make his over 6’ frame seem smaller and less threatening.

“What can I help you with, Missus Smith?” Jack drawled as he squinted against the light. So much damn light.

“Well,” she started, as she twisted her hands and looked everywhere but at him, “it’s my husband. He’s missing.”

Jack leaned back and took a swig. He wished it was Irish coffee and not Irene’s swill. Despite his whiskey headache, Jack’s gut told him something was inconsistent. His trained eyes focused on her jaw, and he kept his face sympathetic while his eyes were intent on details.

He asked, “How long’s he been missing?”

She shrugged, “Yesterday he left for work and hasn’t been home since. He comes home late at night, maybe a few times a week, but he’s never been gone a whole night.”

Jack rubbed the stubble on his chin, made a decision, and stood up. Violet looked at him in surprise.

“Are you going to help me?” she tremored.

“If he hasn’t shown up in two days, go to the police. I can’t help you, so I think it’s best you leave.”

Violet stared up at him with wide brown eyes, suddenly terrified. This reaction intrigued and confused him, so he sat down and stared at her. For a moment she withstood his look, until she sighed in resignation and looked down.

“My husband is not a nice man. He,” she gulped air and paled. “James is not a nice man. But he supports me. I have no occupation, and without him, I’m out on the street. I don’t know what he does when he leaves our home, but without him I have no home.”

Jack crossed his arms over his chest and stared at her, her demeanor, and the barely visible bruise on her cheekbone. A blush started at her collar as she fidgeted. Uncrossing his arms, he leaned forward. “How do you plan on paying?”

“I … I skim from our grocery money. Have saved up a little, for an emergency. I can pay with that. It’s about $1k. Should be enough, right?” She took a worn envelope from her purse and slid it across desk. Jack picked up the envelope, thumbed through it, then reached into his desk and pulled out paper.

“Write down his employer. Places you might know he likes to go. Any friends. I’ll see if I can find him.” He stared out the window, not focused on the crisscrossing monorails twenty and more stories above ground. She had paid too much for a missing husband. He would regret taking this gig, but money was money.


It was early evening by the time Jack exited the monorail station. He had spent the afternoon following Smith’s day. Violet offered nothing other than his job and a hunting buddy from school.

The employer provided little. HR was as he expected, not giving him anything other than he was employed and hadn’t shown up that day. Supervisor said the guy was prone to fights, but he kept his job because he was human. Not many co-workers liked him, but he did his job adequately. No lunch buddies came forward, though co-workers mentioned he walked to a local dive bar every few days.

Jack had better luck at the bar. Bartender was tight lipped. They know better than to bite the hand that feeds, and regulars who spend money are more important than PIs and cops. Drunks were a different story, and the bar anchor at the corner was happy to have company. The old man said Smith was always around with a tall woman, light hair kept tight. Several more regulars confirmed her existence, saying she worked at a yoga studio halfway down the line.

Which is why Jack found himself, irritated and exhausted, about to enter a yoga studio. He avoided these places, shops where most personnel were holograms or humanoid. A tall blond looked up from the receptionist desk as Jack moved into the space filled with woods and incense. He paused, adjusting to the dim lighting. He approached the desk with caution. Rare for an owner to be behind the desk, but the description matched. He asked, “Are you Cheryl Summers?”

“Hello.” A warm smile flashed showing white teeth. “I am not Cheryl Summers. I am a solid light hologram based on Ms. Summer’s image. How can I help you today?”

“I need to speak with Ms. Summers. Is she in?” Jack replied curtly, as he kept space between him and the hologram.

With a smile and a nod, the machine moved through a door behind the desk. After a few minutes, she reappeared with an individual who looked identical. “Ms. Summers?” Jack inquired.

“Yes, I am Ms. Summers,” replied the second woman. Jack assessed her and noted the tall lithe frame and blue eyes. The real Ms. Summers was made of cold steel, as if she were the hologram and not the kind woman who returned to the desk.

Jack introduced himself while showing identification, and Ms. Summers nodded her head and ushered him into the office behind the door.

“Okay, Mr. Sergeant. Why is a PI looking to speak with me?” she droned, as if she had ten thousand things to do other than speak with him.

“Do you know a Mr. James Smith?” Jack asked. He decided a direct approach was best with her.

Cheryl pursed her lips and looked at him with more interest. “Who wants to know?”

“His wife. Man went missing yesterday.”

Amusement lit her eyes as she chuckled and turned her back on him, his presence dismissed. Jack was not the type to lose his patience. He could be sympathetic to a serial killer. But the long day, the lack of whiskey, and Cheryl’s pernicious nature loosened his tongue. “How does a woman like you have a successful yoga studio?”

Cheryl turned around and perused him. She looked at him for the first time since he introduced himself. Jack remained expressionless as she studied. “You’re right. I’m not a yogi. I’m a business woman. Studios make money if managed well. That’s why my instructors are hard light holograms, equipped with the latest deep learning. They are caring and nurturing, require little upkeep once programmed, and save me money and headache of dealing with people.”

“The entire staff is copies of you?”

“Yes, in physicality. Their AI is programmed not to resemble me, for obvious reasons. Once initiated, they have the sensory nerve system of a human. They are warm to the touch and sensitive with clients. The difference is I keep my hologram staff isolated from the real world, ensuring no corruption.”


“Deep learning machines rewrite themselves based on environment stimuli. If they are surrounded by hateful individuals, they become hateful. If they are surrounded by caring, they become nurturing. The world out there is hard, and my girls cannot be exposed. Exposure leads to disastrous results.”


Cheryl sighed, pursed her lips, and shrugged. “I might as well tell you. Telling you will keep you from talking to my staff and sullying my inventory.” She waved a hand towards a chair. Jack sat and leaned back in his customary non-threatening pose. His hand rubbed the stubble on his jaw.

“James Smith was a despicable, hateful individual. You could say we were a thing, but it wasn’t anything sentimental or romantic. He and I got together because he felt the need to be dominated, and I like to dominate,” she paused, as if she waited for a response. Jack learned long ago to not interrupt a story and remained expressionless. Cheryl continued, “Lately business has been good, so no time for him. He pestered me for one of my girls, and I gave in to make him shut up. He really was a whiner. He took her out a few times, but then I noticed her behavior was changing. She was getting irritable with customers, starting fights with other instructors.”

Cheryl stopped and looked at him. Jack motioned for her to continue. “I don’t know where James is, Mr. Sergeant. Yesterday I told him he and the girl were done. He left. At closing I realized she had left with him. She came back today a wreck, body structure damaged and screaming profanity. Yelling about everyone dies and how can people be so hateful. She was lost to me, so I had her decommissioned.”

Cheryl stood, finished with the conversation. Jack stood as well. “Thank you, Ms. Summers.”

“Whatever. The guy was a creep. I lost an expensive machine because of him. I doubt I will see James again, which I consider a good thing.”

Jack walked towards the office door, confident Cheryl had dismissed him. “Mr. Sergeant?” Jack turned around, peering into the office. “Don’t trust that wife of his. She took the worst of his brutality. What do they say? Beaten dogs learn to bite, then they bite to kill.”

Jack filed away that piece information, and in a neutral tone he replied, “Will do. And where was the place you and he would go?”

Without looking up from her desk she responded, “Some place on the end of the R line. James paid, so I never noticed the name.”


Jack entered his office early the next morning, arriving at what some would consider normal business hours. He slept little, his mind busy with a jigsaw puzzle of information. He was left with very few missing pieces. Jack had a feeling he wasn’t going to like the answers. Irene looked up with a sour look, as his presence meant she would have to work. With barely a nod Jack said, “Call up Mrs. Smith and have her come here. Oh, and coffee.”

The customary whatever followed him into his office as he closed the door.

Less than an hour later, Violet walked through the door. Jack stood by the window and observed her before she noticed him against the brightness. First glance said the opposite of mousy. Though hair messy and dressed in faded clothes, this Violet walked with a straighter spine. Once she saw him, the mouse came out of hiding.

“Mrs. Smith, so nice of you to come. Please have a seat. Would you like coffee?” Jack purred as she moved forward to him. Violet looked alarmed but sat. She shook her head no at the offer. “Have you heard from your husband?”

Violet looked at her clenched hands, took a breath, then shook her head again.

“I’m going to get right to it,” Jack stated as he sat down and looked directly into her eyes, “Your husband was having an affair.”

Violet took a breath, relaxed her hands, and sat back with a straighter spine. “No use hiding from you, is it. Yes, I know. An awful woman who works in a yoga studio. Mean woman, just like him. They were perfect for each other.”

Jack sat in silence. He played to win and was patient for his opponent to decide her move.

After five minutes of looking out the window, Violet appeared to decide and continued, “Once I learned of the affair, I did a little of my own digging. The things I found out. Did you know she was a hologram?” her face twisted as if she tasted something bitter, “I couldn’t believe he let her do those things to him. It was only time before they went too far. I expect you found him at that motel they go to, right?”

“You know of the motel?” Jack prompted.

“Oh sure. James sucked at hiding his receipts. A place at the end of the R line.” Jack watched Violet’s eyes, which had become hard and determined. “Well, thank you for your time, Mr. Sergeant. Thank you for finding my husband. Now I have to go make arrangements for his return.” Violet stood, turned, and walked out of Jack’s office.

Jack sat for a moment and contemplated her exit. He wondered if she would realize her error once she was picked up. Then he grabbed the phone and made a direct call. “Detective Humphry? Ya, Jack Sergeant. You might want to send a cruiser down to that old motel at the end of the R. Ya, don’t know what room, might be under James Smith. You’ll want a wagon, too. I’m here when you have questions.”

Jack turned and stared out the window. She was smart, but not cunning, and too impatient to be free. He hated he was made out to be an alibi, but he shrugged. Money was money, and she paid well.

Cliff Jumping

January 20, 2018

In a couple of days it will be one year since I started blogging.

This blog. Different website. Different hosting platform. Different me, but same blog.

I’ve abandoned my original style, my original model, my original plan. Starting the blog was an impulse, and as usual I did it trial and error. Having learned from my errors, I’ve changed websites and platforms. Now I’m moving over blogs I want to keep, reading as I move.

Reading posts I wrote seven months ago is … odd.

About seven months ago I completely changed my life. Joined social media, quit my job, started a business, and have lost my sense of reality no less than three times. No necessarily in that order. And not necessarily cause and effect.

And the blog has archived the change. My thinking then versus now. Me then and me now.

My writing style has changed. For the better. Probably due to Twitter. Being exposed to concise writers. Getting back into the habit of writing. Or maybe writing regularly has meant finding my voice. Getting away from academia.

Which I admit made my writing verbose and complicated. Not my professors, the things I read. Basic cannon, which included all the old British greats. Jane Austen as a major author. You can see how that might influence grammar choices.

Put it bluntly, my older posts are long winded.

Yet they show an interesting shift in a major part of my life. I chose to 180 my life experience. I walked to the edge. Which I’m prone to do, apparently needing some element of chaos. But instead of walking away and settling, I jumped.

Hoping I didn’t break every bone in my body on the way down.

I can’t take credit for the courage entirely. I owe my eldest sister her due. I watched her move through her own process. Her results gave me courage.

June 2016, about one year before my life change, we went to Panama. Just long enough for me to think I don’t want to come back. Then again, I’ve always been one to want to be anywhere but where I am.

Despite my lifetime urge, I haven’t moved from the state and country in which I was born. Walk to the edge to peek over, only to turn around and try to buy into reality one more time.

So it was not surprising I felt the urge to become an ex-pat in Panama. We stayed in Casco Viejo, full of history and art and an energy that cannot be found at home. I think most of my friends would have felt claustrophobic walking the old streets. I found myself suffering agoraphobia upon our return.

Took me two weeks to feel like things weren’t too far apart, too open, too big.

While there I observed my sister as she processed through a life realization. My sister is a researcher by nature, yet found herself in tenure track at a university. Focusing on classes and curriculum, in a school she wasn’t aligned with, put immense pressure on her.

And I watched as she processed job security versus doing what she enjoys. Paying bills versus being true to her nature.

At the time I just watched. I had just gone through a period of hating my job, but I was on an upswing. I was implementing a new system, doing more IT work than HR work, creating and building and learning.

Yet observing her, and her ultimate choice to go out on her own, influenced me when it was my time. When I inevitably walked to the edge. And stared down. Granted, life circumstances pushed me. But instead of creeping back and trying to settle my unhappy mind, I jumped.

Actually, I might have backed up and taken a running leap off the edge. I’m sure it appeared that way to anyone watching.

And I haven’t landed yet. My business model completely changed, now resting entirely on writing. Trial and error. Pretty happy my writing is a paying gig. As a family, our net monthly budget is almost zero again. Stressful, but manageable.

But I find I’m not done changing, at all. Every day I learn something new about myself. Think about something differently. See my personality show up in new and astonishing ways.

I’m learning my strengths and weaknesses. Especially in writing. Unleashing my imagination for my own writing is still a block. But I’m learning how to work around them. How to put myself in situations that force my weaknesses to step aside.

I’m learning parts of me I can’t let go. Like intellectual reading and discussion. Social interaction despite my introverted nature. A routine, regardless how minimal.

And I’m learning parts of me I couldn’t wait to shed.

Interesting thing about making drastic life changes. Other things start looking different, too. Even a tree looks different from the other side. Reality falling from the cliff looks different than from atop the cliff.

Reality has shifted, and everything is affected.

This can be a good thing. It can be a bad thing. I reserve judgement until the choices are in front of me. But I have noticed one immutable fact in my psyche. Fear is often the one thing holding me back. And once I swallow down fear, my impulsive and creative nature rarely falters.

In this case, I jumped off one of the largest cliffs imaginable. My fear has been silenced. My natural inclination might become cliff jumping.

Editing in the Way

December 31, 2017

“This is not what we are talking about.”

I just stared, trying to process the adult sentence emerging from a tiny mouth. 

She was right, of course. Vivian was making a point. She preferred one cat over the other, as one is friendlier and a better pet. I was making it a lesson about personalities and boundaries. 

My next move in this game of parenting? I laughed.

Game over. I lost. 

At least this round. Her little face scrunched, and her eyes took a steely angry look. Shut down, you are unworthy of conversation, mom.

I apologized, affirmed her statement was accurate, and moved us past. But that very grown up thought rang a bell in my head. 

How often do I think these words when in a familial argument, or even an intellectual debate? I make a statement, and the response makes my internal voice say, that’s not what we are taking about. 

In moments of little filter, I say as much. Usually with my mom. Usually with attitude of a sixteen year old girl. 

I would like to think the attitude has diminished, but for some reason I believe attitude oozes in interactions with my mom, regardless age.

When in a discussion, it’s easy to miss the point. Especially when opinions and biases are involved. 

On the flip side, we can shut down creative resolutions or new connections when we insist on being detail focused. But this is not what this blog is about. 

Let’s be honest. Words fail at precise communication. Rough for a writer to admit, but language does not do its job sometimes. A writer’s job is to get as close to the emotion or thought as possible, then throw it to readers saying here I tried. 

And if you are a good writer and editor, you succeed. If you are talented but suck at editing, you succeed in a way. If you are a decent writer, readers bring enough of their own worlds to create something with the words.

But this very thought can get in the way of writing. At least for me.

If I have an idea I’m set on, forget it. I will create the most uninteresting, intellectual goop possible. Because anytime I drift, my brain says this is not what we’re talking about. 

I course correct. I edit as I move. I construct form. And… My writing is uninteresting, though well written, crap.

When I jump myself into the primordial ooze, I get something worth reading. 

And the result is not what I thought it would be when I started. What starts as me working on a bench outside a library becomes an announcement of a life changing event. 

What begins as satirical diologue on writing becomes a short story of manslaughter. 

Here’s the crux of it. Writing is a career full of cliches, everyone supporting us while telling us how to do it better. And most times I nod, say uh huh,  and do it my own way. I’m oppositional like that. 

But once in awhile I have a moment where a cliche clicks, and my writing benefits. Like don’t edit while writing your first draft. When I first heard that I said excuse me? I always read what I’ve written to catch myself up, editing along the way. And that’s how my mind works, keeping track.

However, if I say to myself this is not what I’m talking about while moving through my process? I will write drivel. 

Instead I have to jump in, let the thoughts flow naturally as I read myself, and let the current go where it wants. Otherwise my left hemisphere will doom my writing career before it even starts. 

And be subjected to a toddler’s condescending attitude. 

Pop quiz: is the image convex or concave?

I win mother of the year award. 

And that’s only partly sarcastic. Why? Because I’m that mother who believes in exploring and testing boundaries. Which will inevitably end in injury.

And Monday that injury happened to be a gash in Vivian’s forehead. 

Twice a week Vivian attends preschool, and I get a few hours to workout, work, or just in general get a break. Every day we leave school Vivian walks along a retaining wall, without my assistance. 

This particular day Vivian and I both looked towards a woman we were passing, she missed her step, and her forehead hit brick as her right side stepped off the wall. 

Mom instinct kicked in as I pulled her up, wrapped her in my arms, and began low level triage.

Luckily blood is not something that bothers me. Ever see how much a head wound bleeds?

First goal. Establish if stitches were needed. With my fingers and shirt sleeve, I dabbed the blood as the woman searched her car for tissues and ever present baby wipes. 

I say ever present as every mother, except me, seems to remain well stocked. 

Despite a V shaped gash, Vivian’s wound was superficial at best. However, the goose egg of a bump was rising and turning purple in seconds. Stitches not needed, but ice and comfort of home were necessary. 

Shooing away suggestions of getting a bandage from school, as the bleeding had mostly stopped, I wrapped Vivian in my arms and soothed her screams walking to the car. In no more than a couple minutes from the incident, crying stopped and we were on our way home. 

Once home wound was cleaned, bandaged, and iced, and the injury became a battle scar in which Vivian took pride. 

Which got me thinking. What is the best way to handle a child’s injury? 

Personal response aside, meaning does the parent freak out or become objective, how we are taught to handle our physical and emotional injuries dictates our trauma response as adults. With emotional injuries, I make every attempt to allow Vivian her feelings, talking them through with her when she calms down. 

I do not want my life of emotional repression for her.

I say every attempt because toddlers have intuitive timing for tantrums. Meaning worst time for us is guaranteed tantrum time.

But physical injuries are different. I’m not exactly in the camp of shake it off or ignoring it, since I do think there are repercussions of those messages, but I am definitely not in the swoop-up-and-save camp. Which goes hand in hand with the life in a bubble camp.

Instead my message is usually comfort, ouch that hurts, but pain goes away take a deep breath. Seems consistent with my slight leaning towards rearing a free range child.

But after doctoring and comfort occurred, I started wondering about my own response to physical pain. 

I’ve mentioned before about dislocating my ankle during yard work. Pretty sure I’m mentioned it was not the first time.

I am an injury prone individual, more in my head than the physical world. Childhood was filled with bumps, bruises, and odd injuries like glass in my knee or deviated septum (no broken arms for me).

Outside required medical intervention, pain and injuries were dealt with a things can be worse philosophy. Hey dad, I have a headache. I could break your leg for you. Umm, okay.

As a child I didn’t understand the message of don’t complain, there are worse options. I interpreted it differently, as an adult I think I understand the point. I think.

Life for my body did not get any easier with my ex. Between drinking and fights, my body took quite the beating. With frequent ankle sprains due to uncoordinated walking. 

None of which received medical attention. Sprained ankles hurt like a bitch, but other than ice and drugstore bandages nothing can be done.

To the point now where my tendon serves no purpose in my left ankle, causing my ankle to pop out randomly and on three occasions being dislocated at a 90* angle. 

I went in the first time this happened. Insurance denied an MRI despite a chipped bone. No record of escalating injury. 

Second time, I went in knowing I needed it on record. Since I realigned my ankle myself and the doctor did not see the original injury, diagnosis sprain. Yup, not getting my tendon repaired. 

Third time, no point in going in. Pop it back and ice it up. 

I can’t help but wonder if my message to Vivian, physical pain goes away, isn’t a softer version of life could be worse. Am I teaching my daughter to triage her own injuries, only seeking medical help the first time a severe trauma is experienced?

And I guess those are questions that might never be answered, or not in a way I will notice. Certainly, there can be no proven causation between my parents’ way of handling childhood pain and my own self care choices.

As one friend says, parenting is just one big social experiment. 

Once reality set in, that motherhood was happening for me, I had two goals: her survival to 18, and rearing an empathetic person. And both goals will likely lead to injury and pain. For both of us.

But I will not feel guilty she hurt herself pushing her own boundaries, nor will I likely change my approach. Despite the looks and judgement received. 

Because one thing I’ve learned is this shit is hard. Unless you’ve written a manual, step out of my way. 

And even if you have, I wouldn’t read it anyway. I’m stubborn and obnoxious like that. 

When the Past Is Stronger

December 10, 2017

December 8th:

So apparently this is happening.

And I’m not talking about writing a post for the first time in a week, though that is happening too.

I’m talking about some long overdue processing. I was in the shower (surprise) when I started thinking about writing another short story. Immediately in my mind was a creative non-fiction I had written, submitted, and had rejected.

In attempts to learn, I replied to the rejection, asking for feedback. Which I received, shockingly. Editor’s response: well written but missing emotion and internal involvement with the narrator that makes a reader care.

Hm. Well okay, I can accept that.

The story I submitted was a factual retelling of a situation that occurred with my ex. At the end of the relationship, when the world was falling apart and my mind was finishing its breakdown. The information was accurate. The details well documented. But the emotional part of me, the part that connects people to events, was missing. Clearly, per the editor.

And he’s right. The editor. Because that’s what I do. That’s how I survive. Everything is an essay, an experiment, a curious item in which to inspect but care very little about.

Disassociation is not just a medical term for me.

Apparently not any longer. Because in the shower, feelings started coming back. I was seeing things as I felt them then, not as if it were some movie on a screen for which I care nothing.

So this is happening. My mind has decided it’s time to unlock a box and let some things flow. Makes sense. I don’t have a very busy, external stressing, external focused routine any longer.

And… and… I have people in my life who are forcing me to open up. Not a bad thing. Maybe. That remains to be seen. Twitter is creating a stream of consciousness in my writing, and my writing is becoming much more honest and heartfelt… has been for months.

Makes sense now why I didn’t write for years.

So the fallout… what I totally expect… is to be a complete disaster. Once this starts, I will be unable to contain myself. I will extrovert emotions in all directions, randomly and at complete variances of time. With nothing to do with my actual PTSD or trauma. No no, I will be unable to contain my emotions at all.

So here we go.

December 10th

Obviously, per the dates listed, it’s taken me a few days to come back to writing about my shower epiphany, my moment of coming to… whatever. Anyways, been a crazy few days.

Crazy. Out of control irritation and emotions… beyond belief.

Not that I’ve written anything. Or thought anything. No no, just the amount I processed that first day sent me spiraling for a little bit.

Yet, as I mentioned, completely expected. When I first was exited from my abusive life situation, I went through a decent amount of therapy. Mostly for my own actions, but as I progressed there was underlying work on what led me to my choices.

The process we followed to help me release, because as I’ve mentioned I am a repress and run kinda girl, is called EMDR. I studied but don’t remember the science behind it any more. I had two buzzing handles, one in each hand, and headphones that subsequently beeped in conjunction with the hand buzzing. If you want to know more, here.

After a few sessions of talking… to get a starting point… we started the buzzing sessions, only a couple minutes at time with follow up conversation regarding what my brain produced.

The first two, we didn’t discuss my ex much at all. Mostly childhood stuff. Things I would never have thought for my head to hold onto… yet understandable in my overall reactions to life. By the second session, we were moving into the good stuff.

The last time I confronted my past, I was heavily medicated. Lamictal and Seroquel. I never seek help while hypomania, who would? Life is good, reality is good, things are good. It’s usually when I’m depressive and not sleeping I seek a chemical answer.

Leading to years of misdiagnosis and incorrect meds. This time, I had a file the shrink could review before my visit. And subsequently was overmedicated by a shrink who wrote scripts and moved on. Lamictal and Seroquel.

Lamictal, once titrated accurately and to the correct low dose, did me well until time for pregnancy. After which I went on an OTC lithium version, which also did me well until I was pregnant. By then pregnancy hormones had me good.  Remember, pregnancy does me well.

My usual script for not sleeping was Trazadone until this point, used in only acute situations every few years. However, doc said it wasn’t a good choice for my condition and gave me an alternative. Of Seraquel. Which was not a good choice for my condition. I was a zombie, and although I didn’t mind, my life did.

Needless to say, last time I took this road, I was medicated in some form.

And after that third session, I went crazy. Medicated and everything. My mind spun out of control, exuding emotion in every moment as my brain tried to grapple with something it had rejected for a few years by that point.

The whole idea is the patient, me, feels the emotion that was otherwise not processed, allowing the brain to heal itself and reroute transmissions.

Sure it works. Sure, I didn’t do any more after that third session. Why would I? After going through crazy town and emerging the other side, I felt good. Better than I had in years. Why choose more?

Until a shower, when I come to terms with the fact that for years I have not dealt with the bulk of what I experienced. Despite busting at the seams from time to time. That third session revealed a particularly hard situation of sexual abuse, but there were six years I did not deal with.

Until now.

I will fail if I try to accurately describe what someone goes through. Either you get it or you don’t. But here’s been the last two days.

My emotion receptors are open on high frequency, so I am feeling every emotion emoted everywhere. But… but, it’s not with a normal filter. It is quickly grabbed by a distortion, which sends my thoughts into a paranoid hurricane of rumination. I spiral until my body is unable to contain and I become a heaping mess of crying or a rage filled napalm bomb.

This can be helped… per my post on mood disorders, if someone can pull me out of distorted ruminating, category 5 is avoided.

However, my receptors are still highly sensitive making irritation readily available for the tiniest of items that throw me off. A spilled drink. A messy kitchen. Toys on the floor. Anything that triggers a well acknowledged fact that life is not orderly. Because when your brain is chaos and everything in your entire reality feels like it’s spiraling out of control, the one thing you want in physical reality is orderliness. The one thing you need is to know exactly where everything is going to be and how things will play out.

It’s a need, not a want.

So tomorrow I return to working out (creating natural chemicals) and my routine that was disrupted for the last three weeks due to sickness and family holidays (probably helping to bring about my shower epiphany). When calm enough, I will begin to write.

And I’m sure I will produce an amazing story. If, and only if, I am successful at getting through this without repressing and running.

We journeyed to a holiday house party and returned unscathed.

Okay, a bit verbose, archaic, and not entirely true. I’m sick. In bed, muscles weak, gasping for breath when I move, ill. So, unscathed does not apply to me.

The rest of the household, they are good. Energetic, happily going about their business making messes, good. 

So I am laying down, unable to sleep any longer yet unable to get up, pondering my existence. Okay, also not really. I came to terms with my existence long ago. But having returned from holiday with family, and having sick brain on top of it, leaves me pondering something. 

The visit went well, all things considered. My father had his usually skirmishes of opinion, with every member of the group including Vivian. After dinner all individuals went our separate ways to different corners of the house, unwilling to give up our solitude developed over years of living alone or with few people around. 

And by Monday, it was over.

Stepmom back to work, sister on her long drive home, dad helping his mother-in-law with her businesses (despite his retiring years ago), and me packing us to go home. Questioning the wisdom of flying as late as we were. 

Despite all our differences and disagreements, I love my family. My mom and dad have supported me through crazy life situations, and at the end of the day they are people I can rely on regardless what is happening.

But that does not minimize the discomfort of changing routines and being in 24/7 energy contact. 

I finished packing everything and decided to take a nap, as we had about an hour before leaving for the airport. I was already exhausted, sleep not being a friend of mine even on vacation. I laid down, drifted off, was dreaming…

And woke up with a start as I heard my father hollering and cussing in anger. I paused, on the edge of the bed, with my brain suspended in a sleep fog. What the…? I strained to hear the reply, wondering if I needed to jump downstairs and throw myself between some people. 

Then some words drifted into my consciousness.

Football. They were discussing American football. Cleveland Browns, to be exact.  And with that I fell back to the bed, lying with my arm across my eyes, flinching as I listened to the tone in my father’s voice.

I’ve heard people say time softens. Whether it’s easing of emotional pain, or distancing from a traumatic event, people like to assume passing time will lessen it. Which for some things may be accurate, like a cut or a bruise.

For other things we adapt. We change our reference towards the event or situation and fold it into ourselves, with varying degrees of success and side effects.

But unless intentionally focused on mitigation, personality traits strengthen with the passing of time. Our normal tendencies become exaggerated as we age, often supported or at least ignored by loved ones accepting this is who we are.

Granted, I have changed. Been forced to change. 

But I wonder if my changing wasn’t in fact merely the stripping of some traumas and distortions, allowing me to be closer to the child me. Then again maybe not. As with all things personal, I question my ability to see myself clearly.

My father has strengthened in his opinionated loudness. Namely, my father does not appreciate the nuance of debate. And if you disagree, you are wrong. While this in itself is not unique, my father backs his opinions with loudness and profanity. 

Same point, just louder. 

Of course, he’s not the only one in the family with this tendency. Both sisters and I are opinionated, and we don’t like to back down if we feel we are in the right. Though we have a stronger appreciation regarding debates and differing opinions. 

All in all, barring the football skirmish of which I had no part or interest, most items involving ideological differences were avoided. Meaning we did not talk politics, religion, economics, and in the case of my sister and dad, a discussion regarding public education and disparity of socio-economic status was walked away from. 

Instead all attention was focused on the toddler. Cute, attention grabbing, opinion diffusing toddler. 

Who has an amazing ability to walk away. My daughter walked away to sulk in her room no less than 3 times.

Although child psychologists, and critical parents et al, may find issue with a 3 year old walking away when upset, I was ecstatic to see the behavior. Primarily, it means no tantrums. No kicking, screaming, mucus filled tantrums.

But long term, my daughter already knows how to regulate her emotions far better than most the adults at the gathering. Followed up with a verbalization of exactly why she was upset. 

While there are plenty areas where my mood instabilities and sensitivities to stimulus will inevitably cause her issues, I can say there is one area of strength. 

My daughter will understand her emotions. 

Drinking a Toxic Potion

November 22, 2017

The cherry seawater might actually be killing me.

I know I said earlier I thought it was the safest bet, but my body is not appreciating the ingredients. Lately my body is cramping and my body’s waste water is reflecting signs of toxicity.

So, all things apothecary from my mother will now be treated with suspicion.

I guess it was worth the attempt of not getting sick, as well as keeping my father from being exposed to anything. I now have data to back up my general suspicions regarding my mom’s medical opinions.

One might challenge my conclusion, stating I cannot be sure the drink is causing my body’s reaction.

Well, one might be correct. Except the only thing changed in my diet was the elixir, and after one day of flushing with water I feel better. Not exactly scientific, but enough to support my already existing bias of resistance.

And it’s not like my body is a computer system, with data points collecting for me to query or analyze with any resounding conclusion. Data points would make debating about food beliefs easier, but I can’t really be sure the data wouldn’t be manipulated and changed to support any argument anyway.

As much as people try to convince me that data is immutable, cannot be changed, and thus entirely trustworthy, I will always disagree. Because data is not understood in it’s raw form, requiring human touch for meaning. And human touch is subjective, fallible, and inclined to support its own biases.

Before I jumped off a cliff, quitting Corporate America, I had been miserable in my job. Well, not entirely, let’s be honest. The structure and premise of my job was a boring enterprise, and entirely unsuited for my way of thinking.

As in the case of medium, lean-and-mean, companies I came in at one position and was allowed to grow and develop as far and as fast as I could prove myself. To a point. What started as an experiment for me, hey let’s give this a try and see where we go, became a several year process of educating myself, researching, trial-and-error, and ultimately ending up in a management position.

Of Human Resources.

Now tell me what is the image you have when you think HR Manager? Yup, me too. And totally not me in personality.

Maintaining things makes me want to scream. Files? Forget about it. Setting standard processes, and making sure they are followed? Be a damn adult already.

I don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoys it. We all have our strengths. HR Operations is not mine.

The early years were awesome, in that I charted my own course and was self-teaching in all possible categories. I learned there are some areas of HR I find interesting, namely those involving psychology or creativity (I know, die of shock) and I was reinforced in the areas that just totally suck.

During that period the company was making me an amazing cocktail of free reign potential, and I was drinking what they were selling.

But as with all things made up to be too good to be true, this potion created a toxicity in me that was impacting my very essence. I was settled into HR operations, with very little respect or acknowledgment regarding what I brought to the table.

It happens. The pat her on her head isn’t she cute, but she doesn’t really know business and isn’t she so young.

Forget I was responsible for a multi-million dollar department with a global company in my previous experience.  Not bitter. Really.

Instead I fell into a pit of despair and ohmagad is this what my life is becoming mentality. I struggled daily with working in a corporate environment, which was never a goal in my non-existent plan, doing things I couldn’t stand. The toxicity was building in my body, and soon my life would be affected irreversibly.

Then things got really busy. Like implementing a new system while integrating three acquisitions busy. And for the first time in my life, I found myself more on the IT side of things, assisting with two systems and understanding large picture theories and how things would fit together.

I enjoyed myself. Despite the stress and exhaustion. And since I was intimately familiar with the systems, it was natural progression to begin data analysis for my boss.

So when things settled back down, and I was back to managing the crap (again no offense), I started looking elsewhere. Thinking maybe data analytics would be something I could really sink my teeth into.

Why not propose a new position at my current company? Because despite the explosion in revenue, it was still a lean and mean shop. A friend was working her way into the Business Analyst position, and the two separate positions were not needed.

And… despite having my boss’ full support, it was still a pat her on her head isn’t she cute she doesn’t really understand business environment. I would never be more than what I had clawed my way to being. And long periods of exposure to the potion caused a toxicity level my body couldn’t flush without full quarantine.

Several interviews and a few companies later, I came upon what I thought would be my mecca of jobs.

A company recently moved their global headquarters to Denver, and they were staffing up, creating new positions, and were rumored to be an amazing place to work.

The position read as my ideal scenario, and when I interviewed in person I could almost believe the rumors were true. The company was a case study for Organizational Psychology everywhere. The sense of support for the company was cult-like, palpable as soon as I walked in the door.

I made it pretty far in the interview process, and almost convinced myself I would have been happy there. I was sipping their tonic.

Lucky for me I didn’t get the position. Instead, life events led me to a different path. One where there is no potion and my stress level is lowest it’s been in years. My body has flushed the toxicity from my system, and I am moving forward with my complete brain rather than creating scenarios where I can be happy with only my left hemisphere working.

Of course, it may be true that I am mixing and consuming my own libation in my current endeavor of writing. Though, since it’s my potion, I’m unlikely to view any of the symptoms as toxic.