Hello, Fear

Musings

“Hello, fear. Thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.”
-Cheryl Strayed

A lot of things frighten me: car wrecks, losing people I love, my hair thinning out to the point where I need a comb over, never getting married, being mediocre, not really succeeding as a writer, old houses—while I am very charmed by old houses, I always assume they are haunted with either soldier ghosts or miner ghosts—, being lost in the woods at night, going to prison for a crime I didn’t commit…

Obviously, I included some highly irrational fears in there just to show that I don’t always use my rational brain while in the midst of being fearful. In fact a couple weeks back I spent some time at two of my best friends houses. Both women have perfectly lovely homes in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and there is nothing remotely sinister about either locale.

However, both houses are very old and so I was scared at both places. The first house—my friend Emily’s—I had been to many times before and had gotten used to sleeping in her spare room, though almost every time I had spent the night prior I would wake up in the night and squint my eyes, surveying the room for ghosts. I hadn’t encountered anything to date. But this most recent time, I went to place my things in the spare bedroom, just as she stopped to inform me that was now the new nursery and the spare bedroom had been moved upstairs.

I left my things in the nursery anyway, informing Em that I would be sleeping on her couch. I simply had no interest in sleeping upstairs away from all the adults, should a ghost try to smother me in my sleep or something. No, no, the couch was much safer. My sister even spent the night with me one night and instead of sleeping on the Lazy-Boy, she—who is an even bigger scaredy baby than I am—insisted on sleeping sandwiched next to me on the couch. It was wildly uncomfortable with her pressed against me, but nonetheless I was wildly comforted with her there.

At my other friend’s house, I was to sleep on the pull-out sleeper sofa downstairs as her and her children’s rooms were all upstairs.

“I am sleeping down here by myself?!” I squeaked nervously as she and her husband inched away from me toward the stairs, having gifted me with blankets, a pillow and the remote to the TV.

“Yes,” Ashley laughed.

“But what about ghosts…” I ventured, skittishly looking around at all the objects in her living room that could potentially look like a ghost in the night.

“We don’t have any ghosts!” Ashley exclaimed.

“I may need to come sleep between the two of you in the night…” I warned.

Ashley told me I would have to fight for space with her son Boone, who already crawled into her bed in the middle of the night. “You can sleep in Boone’s bed,” she offered.

“I don’t want to sleep in Boone’s bed,” I grumbled mostly to myself, “I want to sleep with you guys…” Once as a teenager I had slept over at my aunt and uncle’s for the weekend and they had me sleep downstairs on the couch. I, of course became out of my mind with fear and had to crawl into their room in the night, embarrassingly informing them I was uneasy downstairs. They got an air mattress for me, placing it at the foot of their bed.

But naturally I got over it at Ashley’s. I slept with The Office playing on Netflix, a light on, and one eye repeatedly open for paranormal phenomena. By the second night I was convinced—by my diligent ghost watch—that her house was indeed unhaunted.

This is all to say, facing your fears aren’t always comfortable folks. Being nervous that a ghost could get me or that I could be unjustly incarcerated are fairly irrelevant fears, especially the latter. Dealing with the more real fears of making it, pushing myself outside my comfort zone, landing interviews with cowboys, or even landing a cowboy period, are well… heady to say the least and enough to cause me to sleep uneasily. Perhaps even more so than when I am on ghost patrol.

But here is the thing about all this fear: sleeping with lights on and with one eye open, even though you’re scared and nervous instead of crawling into bed with your best friend and her husband, means at least you’re there in the scared nervousness facing it head on—Annie Oakley style, staring down the barrel of a gun—instead of awkwardly ruining any chance at your married friends having sex that night—although from what I understand marrieds have infrequent sex anyway… so…  I kid, I kid! I just have to tease you smug marrieds, because I am single and having no sex—I digress, but that is my favorite thing to do. Go on wild off-roading tangents. Especially about Annie Oakley and sex; why wouldn’t I? Both of those topics are wondrous to no end.

But do you see where I am going here? I hope you do. Because while I mostly write to myself and for myself, because it helps bring clarity to a life that is often rife with wild turns and doubts, I happily offer up my life circumstances that they may help shed any light or hope onto yours. And the hope in this instance is being better than the fear. I can overcome it, regardless of the spooks in the night or the dastardly notion that I am incompetent when I know deep down I am not.

Incompetence would’ve never landed me where I am today, which is in a world of wonder and new opportunity at every turn: like the world is holding its breath with me waiting to see what will come of all this newness.

And I don’t have any logical clues what will come of all this newness, this untethered, mountain filled life. But I know that I cannot lie down with my fear. It is simply nonsensical and not me. Well it is a little bit me, because I am currently fearful over how sweaty I have gotten while writing this post—honestly I don’t know why I sweat so bad—and if the fetching hipsters all around will judge me when I raise my coffee cup, showcasing all the sweat stains under my arms. But alas, these are the consequences of writing ever so feverishly.

Anyhow, the always uplifting and wise Cheryl Strayed said a couple wonderful things about fear. Like so many brave writers before her have done, they’ve bared forth their pain, their strife and their struggle through their words, open in their fear anyway. And with this they’ve made it possible for writers like me to feel emboldened in my struggle, in my fear and in my uncertainty, allowing me to believe there is quite possibly still a way through it all, fearful or not.

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. That nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”

So maybe first acknowledge your fears (at least the ones that urge you to be better) in that they do have some power in directing you. And then from there, tell the fear to go fuck itself and go forth being madly in love with your life—including the wild turns, because those offer better scenery anyway—and your life purpose. At least that’s what I am going to do.

Bold Instead of Blue

Musings

You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and realize you’re okay.
-Cheryl Strayed

I am feeling full of despair today. I am not sure why. Maybe it was simply time for a swell to pull me under again because I have been feeling above the waves—almost powerful and light-footed. Or maybe it’s because I dreamt about the cowboy. And not even in a good way, mind you, like where I actually saw his face or touched him. No my fanciful brain that can allow me dreams in which I am flying or am a Japanese Samurai apparently didn’t have the capacity for that—or maybe it did and it spared me. But no, all I dreamt was that he texted me, how are you doing, lover? It was summetime in Wyoming and I was driving through the mountains.

He had never called me lover in real life, for starters. And second of all, I was then mulling over his text in a playground with Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels. None of us were working out, but we were watching people workout and Bob was lazily smoking a cigarette while swinging back and forth on a swing. Also, preposterous, but that’s dreams for ya.

Anyway, maybe it’s that or maybe it’s not that. As the day drug on, and I say drug because sometime after lunch I wanted the day to be over and it simply didn’t listen—it is still today, unfortunately—I got progressively more fretful and blue.

And not just about the cowboy and his jarring absence in my life, but the whole of it and what to do with myself and my wild ways. I know, I know, there is no sense in worry. There really isn’t, but sometimes it attacks me from all sides and my shackles are down and I simply succumb to the onslaught.

I did for awhile. Succumb, you see. I laid there and felt bleak and panicky, bleak and panicky. And then I told myself to at least move. To do something in the arena of being bold instead of blue, and I liked that. I liked that very much. Bold instead of blue, I repeated to myself as I put socks on and then my boots, in which one of my boot zippers got stuck and split open halfway down my calf. I started cursing under my breath, saying to the boot, not now! Please not now! You are my only pair of cowboy-ish-boots and I can’t afford new ones! I felt manic and like the broken zipper might be the end of my day because it signaled everything in my life was truly broken shit.

Then rational me chimed in with firm motherly tones, suggesting I take off the boot, get the zipper unstuck and go from there.

I unstuck the zipper.

Oh okay, so alright then. No need to be psychotic, clearly. I put the boot back on, re-zippered it and all was well. I walked out the door into the crisp 14 degree day and meandered down the street to the library.

And here I sit. Still sort of craving a cry and a coffee. Though I’ve had plenty of coffee today and crying seems like a lot of work. Plus I am in public. And ya know, it’s a whole thing, with mascara and looking like swamp-thing and having people legitimately think I’m a crazy person.

Although, there has been this weird rattling above one of the light fixtures across from my table the entire time I have been here and it’s been irking me to no end. Instead of just moving to a new table, I chose to sit here and have fantasies about knocking down the terrorizing light, perhaps with a sword—I have been reading too much Highland lore—and then running up and down the aisles freely having just destroyed something. Maybe I am a crazy person.

Anyway. Attempting bold things like emailing people I know in Wyoming and asking them if they know cattle ranchers who want a handy gal to mend fences—I don’t know how to mend fences but they don’t know that—admittedly is improving my mood. As is the idea of breaking the light—of course I will not break the light; I am a civilized lady—and writing about my blues.

So maybe I will now go get that coffee and skip the cry. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

I Resolve Not to Turn Thirty

Musings

I love New Years Resolutions lists. I pretty much do them every year. And every year there is always some version of get my body right on my list.

My first resolve is not to give two solid fucks about my weight this year. And maybe for the rest of my life, but we’ll see how that pans out. I initially thought maybe I wouldn’t weigh myself in 2016. But that already proved too difficult and I had to weigh myself to see what the post-Christmas damage was and how depressed I ought to be for the whole of January.

In all actuality it wasn’t as grim as I anticipated and I was blue about the scale number for maybe a day. Then I put on a dress and a cowboy hat and felt as hot as one can feel with slightly thinning hair and cellulite aplenty and strutted my stuff about the West anyway.

But moreover when it comes to weight and my body my main resolve is just to be kind to myself. That’s all. Be real kind. And being kind to my body definitely means not filling it with chicken fingers and sugar only to then lie around and watch an HGTV marathon. It means maybe running a marathon (okay, obviously I need to work my way back up to that one) and reacquainting myself with vegetables.

This quote sums things up rather nicely:

You don’t have to be young. You don’t have to be thin. You don’t have to be “hot” in a way that some dumbfuckedly narrow mind-set has construed that word. You don’t have to have taut flesh or a tight ass or an eternally upright set of tits. You have to find a way to inhabit your body while enacting your deepest desires. You have to be brave enough to build the intimacy you deserve. You have to take off all your clothes and say, I’m right here.
-Cheryl Strayed

I don’t want to be perpetually obsessed with being thin, especially when I like myself a lot, even with copious amounts of cellulite. But it’s really rather unfair to base anything on cellulite. I can still run and hike and take photos and cook and write and kiss just fine with cellulite. All my favorite things are still possible. So, what’s the prob, man? No problem actually. There is no absolutely no freakin’ problem. If my biggest problem is having cellulite then I really have a rather grandiose life.

Moving on.

I also resolve to shut up about writing my novel and just write the son of a bitch. Maybe I should also resolve to wash my mouth out with soap, but uh, I’m feelin a wee bit feisty in the new year.

I also happen to be turning thirty this year as I am sure none of you have heard, because I never bring it up. I kid. I haven’t shut up about it for the whole of being twenty-nine. And it is actually so tired to freak out about turning thirty. Everyone has a dozen conniptions about the number thirty. And I really have resolved not to be one of them and yet I have been. Which is so unlike me because I have never been the kind of gal who freaks over her age, or lies about it, or bemoans wanting back my fleeting youth. Nah. I know I am getting better with age. Are ya kidding me?! Twenty-three year old me was such a ninny. So insecure and unsure; and while that time needed to be, I am glad that time has passed.

But this is what I do resolve for impending thirty.
A. To not piss and moan about turning thirty.
B. Not to say thirty is the new twenty. No it’s not. It’s just thirty and what’s so wrong with thirty anyway? Some gal once said I want to be thirty, flirty and thriving, though I am not going to say that either… okay I might say that, because that does sound rather nice actually.
And lastly.
C. To embrace this number as a benchmark for achieving the goals I have set for myself. I am already very goal-oriented as is, and since this number has felt like a big to-do in my mind, I may as well use it in much the same way I used The Biggest Loser. As a humungo wake-up call to my life and my yearnings. It pushed me in a way that nothing else had pushed me before. And I feel that way about turning thirty. I feel it pushing me to be better and greater and make something of myself that aligns somewhere in the vicinity of what I know I am meant to be. Something that doesn’t involve asking someone what side they want with their hamburger: fries, sweet potato fries, chips, coleslaw or potato salad?

And while I am talking french fries, I also resolve to never be a waitress again. But I still have five days in 2016 to live that out before I can really bid adieu to bad tips and fingers caked with syrup and/or dried out from sanitizer water. But goodbye, friend, I wish I could say it’s been fun, but as Kia and I were kidding about putting laxative drops in our problem customers drinks the other day, I think it is time I hung up my apron as I am dangerously near breaking down in the towns of Bitter and Burned Out.

And lastly on my list of resolutions, I have resolved to be better with budgeting the money I do make and maybe make this the year that I do not overdraw my checking account. I did that this year already, but technically I am not counting it as I still have five months before I turn thirty and then I really can’t do it anymore. That would be so un-adult and uncouth of me and I will have nipped it in the bud by then. Besides, Bank of America is probably delighting way too much in the lofty amounts of money they get from me in overdraft fees, and they definitely don’t need all those $35’s as much as I do. Sorry Bank of America, you’ll have to get my money in some other sneaky fat cat way from here on out that doesn’t prey on my wild incompetency to budget my money properly.

So anyhow. Yeah. That’s about it. Maybe it’s not all that exciting if I am not touting lists of resolutions that include workouts worthy of Michelle Obama’s arms, but um, I actually think her arms are a little intense and mannish, so I will stick with my solid and simple list of five ways to be tops.

Happy 2016 kiddos!

In a Tight Spot

Musings

So yesterday I had a bit of a flip-out. Errr… or seven, it’s hard to say. Perhaps it was just one long flip-out. Or a series of miniature flip-outs. Either way I couldn’t really stop reeling with some momentous life decisions I have made as of late.

Mainly meaning I am leaving Wyoming for a spell. I say a spell because my love for Wyoming is right up there with French Roast coffee and seeing any number below 200 on my scale.

I don’t leave Wyoming with any real joy as the mountains are a part of my soul in much the same way that God is. They are intrinsically linked. It is simply that waitressing and I are very much through. We’ve had a good—and by good I mean I am sincerely over it and never want to dally in the dark arts again—run, but as the walrus says, “the time has come.” And I knew it. I knew it before I knew it, ya know?

I read this article about quitting things that feel all wrong. And you should read it too, especially if something in you feels all wrong. But maybe don’t take advice from me. I am very whimsical and make most of my decisions based purely on my emotions. It is almost always a trainwreck but I know no other way. I’d make a really lousy president I’ll tell ya that much.

Anyhow, this article struck a chord and I could feel something churning in my gut. Besides the fact that my secluded mountaintop was getting increasingly dark and increasingly less internet signal, something inside of me began to feel restless, cutoff and altogether like this:

insane

I was starting to get real bluesy. And my anxiety levels were rivaling that of a drug lord being chased down by the Feds and their hounds. Do the Feds have hounds or am I thinking Scotland Yard? Anyhow, you get my drift.

It also didn’t help either that my real cute cowboy boyfriend was some 1600 miles away and when I had a freak-out of Cassandra proportions, instead of being able to hug me which would’ve done just fine, he said something cowboy-esque, like, “well you’re in a tight spot,” only adding fuel to my already mile hile anxiety-riddled flames.

Yeah, I am in a tight spot, sir. I put in my two weeks notice at my job, where I have hardly made a tip in months. I overdrew my checking account. And I just texted Sallie Mae who was calling me for their money, “Go fuck yourself Sallie Mae, I don’t have any money.” I typed this knowing full well the number calling me was a landline. It still made me feel marginally better.

I love the mountains/but loathe my job. However moving back East, no matter how many delightful things it brings with it, still has pitfalls of its own. Namely getting a new lifesuck job and writing my freaking novel—that no matter how hard I will it, does not seem to write itself.

I kid you not, I walked in the door last night to see I had an envelope from St. Martin’s Press, New York, N.Y. and I literally shook while opening it thinking the universe whispered in St. Martin’s ear and said, “psst, she’s ‘penning’ a novel if you’re interested.” And then St. Martin’s just decided to send me a gilt-edged invitation asking to publish me.

It turns out it was my holiday card from one of my all time favorite writers Augusten Burroughs—no we are not close personal friends, though I wish we were. Augusten if you’re reading this, let’s be friends—because I pre-ordered his new book with his promise to send me a holiday card. I was mildly disappointed when I saw that the card wasn’t personally signed by Augusten but merely a typed out thanks.

Ah well. My heart still skipped a couple beats knowing that St. Martin’s Press and Augusten Burroughs now knew my P.O. Box in Wyoming.

And with this I had the dawning realization that no matter where I go or what I say: that mountains or the sea, or a cottage-like interior, or a big writer’s desk or loads of windows, doesn’t magically manifest more writing. I simply have to write wherever I am because it is my calling and it must be done.

So leaving, because leaving feels right for right now, does not mean my writing has to stay here where it’s prettier than a painted pony. No. My writing has to come with me and whether or not I have another lifesuck job (I probably will, because Sallie Mae is ruthless and relentless) I am still a writer and I will still find my way. Muddled and disconcerting though the whole path may be, I shall trudge on anyway.

And I will leave you with this beautiful quote from Cheryl Strayed that made my whole morning brighter and the better for living:

You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts. You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you’ve got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.”