Pink Thunderstorms

I have a real problem with believing I don’t deserve things. Not things like Prada, to be clear, but things like farm animals or a writing career. Despite this flawed way of thinking, God repeatedly shows me that I do deserve some serious grandeur at the very least. Like this pink thunderstorm for instance. You read that right. I was privy to my first ever pink thunderstorm. It was quite possibly the most exquisite sight my eyes had thus far beheld in my 30 years here on earth. And it was happening right out my window at 5:30 a.m.

I awoke to a barn-rattling thunderclap that jarred me out of an uncomfortable dream about ticks embedded in my legs that I was trying to claw out. I was happy for the intrusion and happier yet that it was because of thunder. I was lying there, having checked my phone and deduced that I still had an hour and a half left of blissful slumber before I had to be up for work. Maybe the wind had picked up or another thunderclap had cracked, or the sudden gusts of rain slapping against my window had alerted me, because I tossed my quilt aside and went to the window to investigate.

When I pulled the curtain aside, I saw what seemed to be a deleted scene from The Wizard of Oz. I had to resist checking my legs for ticks to be sure I wasn’t still dreaming. A pink haze enveloped the whole outdoors, like the inside of a snow globe lined with cotton candy.

The pink sky was clearly from the sunrise, though there was no sun in sight. Then I noticed the wind whipping up dirt and powerful rain in miniature tornado swirls across the horse corral to do a dizzying drunken dance right into my window pane. Which is when I realized rather large gusts of rain were suddenly blowing in. I slid the window shut while still looking on. Two of the horses who had shelter were partaking of it while looking slightly askance. While all the other horses suffering through the elements seemed nonplussed. I stared for a moment, completely mesmerized by the pink and the swirling. And then the thunder clapped again, like God was in a horserace and was whipping his steed to move faster, move faster.

I wanted to watch the whole thing play out, but I felt the pull of my bed and my coveted one point five more hours of sleep. I laid back down but left the curtain open to watch, while I happily dozed back asleep to the thunder and the wind gusts.

I would later play the image of the pink thunderstorm and the swirling wind tornadoes over and over again in my mind.

So alright. Maybe I don’t have a farming/writing empire yet, with a handy bearded husband who likes to rope things—me included. Ya know, rope me and then tie me to the bedpost. I am kidding! Sorta. Though, my ex used to joke that he would in fact tie me to the bedpost. But not in the fun way. He said he’d do it in order to deter me from this penchant I have about saving the rainforest and chaining myself to trees in order to stop factories being built. He said he would do a simulation and tie me to the bed, turn up the heat and play the movie, The Jungle Book. This scenario was definitely when I fell in love with the kid, but no matter. That ship has sailed and I digress.

But, c’mon, man. Pink thunderstorms?! That has to be right up there with odds like getting struck  by lightning. Okay, maybe they’re not that rare, but still, I feel like God was up to something and up to something good in order to shake me up.

Shake me up to that nonsense about being undeserving.

If that was His M.O. then I think I got it. If God thinks I deserve pink thunderstorms, then just you imagine what else I probably have got coming to me. I actually can’t even fathom, because I never even considered pink thunderstorms.

All I am saying is, if you’re anything like me, then you will have your moments of debilitating self-doubt from time to time, but keep your eyes and ears alert, because God has always got something wild and wonderful up His sleeve.

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Shoot the Crocodiles

I put all sorts of conditions on myself in order not to noget writing done. Here is a completely true compilation of things I have said or done in order to avoid my craft:

  1. I need a record player to set the mood.
    I lost the cord to mine and listening to music on Pandora isn’t scratchy or otherworldly enough, even when I put on Billie Holiday Radio. And trust me Billie Holiday has the right kind of croony old-timey scratch. I have her as my ringtone and once while taking a bath at my ex’s old farmhouse, I heard this eerie female singing in the other room, and having already determined that his house was indeed haunted, I presumed it was by the ghost of a Billie Holiday sound-alike. Until I remembered my ringtone, and calmly went back to enjoying my bath in relative relaxing peace and un-haunted quiet.
    I will then spend the bulk of my day not writing as I don’t have a working record player, so instead I pine for one while daydreaming about sashaying to Moon River in my mind on my imaginary record player.
  2. I need a seaside vista.
    Or a mountain view. Or a big wooden writer’s desk—I do actually own one but it is ever so inconveniently buried under an actual mountain of junk in my parents basement. Or better aesthetics. Or less distracting aesthetics. I have given every one of these excuses as to why I cannot write. I then have to pack up my things to find the better writer’s locale and then I am certain I can do it. Except I have had seaside vistas and proper writer’s desks and mountain views and lovely aesthetics and uninterrupted aesthetics and still I will avoid my craft and revert back to excuse number one. Or try out one of my most agonizing habits.
  3. I am simply too blasé or bluesy to do my work.
    This is my worst offense. I get all angsty tortured artist and simply feel being creative is too much pressure. I do things like cry, curl into bed in the fetal position, lay a blanket on the living room floor and lie there for hours feeling hopeless while staring at the ceiling, generally wear myself out with histrionics until I can force sleep on myself and not think about the pull to write. I have resorted to this one more times than I even care to admit. In fact I did this all weekend. My mom called in the middle of one of my meltdowns and I was already planning my fourth avoidance tactic:
  4. Run away. 
    I do this one probably the most. I decide to combine all the other steps, of this one place not being mountainous enough, or having a record player on hand or how I didn’t account for my blues, and I decide I need to pack up and find the new place that will make it all easier and better.
  5. I need to watch a sitcom I’ve seen 1,000 times to unwind.
    I re-watch about four sitcoms over and over and over again. I Love Lucy. Friends. The Office. King of Queens. These are my standbys and I have seen every episode of every season of these hundreds of times. They still make me chuckle and they give me ample amounts of comfort as I delight in their hilarity. But mostly they distract me from my work. I convince myself that I need to see if Ross and Rachel really were on a break. Or how Jim and Pam’s love story plays out. Or what sort of antics Lucy gets into to try and make it on Ricky’s show. How badly Doug will screw up and tick off Carrie this time. I already know. Ross and Rachel were on a break. Jim and Pam fall in love and it makes me happy and sick with jealousy over their fictitious love every time. Doug always ticks off Carrie. And Lucy never fails to get herself into wild blunders that make me smile. Funnily enough, however, I am loathe to start watching new television shows because I don’t want to commit and I don’t altogether like TV that much.

Now for the record the perfect place does not exist. The perfect place with mountains and the sea and record players and big wooden writer’s desks and no access to King of Queens. Okay, that place actually might exist, but the place isn’t the problem. The problem is me and my incessant fear over making it. That’s what stops me. That’s what makes me put grandiose declarations on everything I do, so I don’t feel so screwed up.

Lucky for me, I have a pretty tough mama and she encourages me when I need encouragement, but she also puts the kibosh on my hysterics when that is needed too. Which is exactly what she did yesterday when she said she wasn’t going to coddle me anymore, but was going to get all kinds of tough love on me. When I tried planning my escape route and said as much to her she said simply, no.

“You are going to stay put and do your work.”

I feebly tried reasoning with her that I could do my work better in Sheridan, three hours away with coffee shops and libraries. It was two in the afternoon at this point and I had spent most of my morning toying with a round-up of my five avoidance tactics for writing.

“No,” my mom insisted. “You’ll get to Sheridan at dark, half that stuff will be closing and then what? You can’t stay long because you have nowhere to sleep. Do your work where you are, right now. Anything, start with something,” she insisted.

I sniveled a little more and begrudgingly agreed with her, wondering indeed why I was such a baby brat? What about my writing, the thing I have wanted to do for the longest period of my life had me in such a state of upheaval upon facing it. I had all the time in the world right now to face it. For the first time in a long, long while I didn’t have my sisters nearby to distract me, or a gaggle of friends, or a boyfriend.

I have a new and small town, where I know next to no one, uninterrupted quiet, and mountainous landscapes. Sure no big writer’s desk, but I have a big wooden table in the kitchen. And no record player either, but really that’s not vital. My writing with music playing is actually a new-ish occurrence.

So what is my problem?

Me.

I am my problem.

I went and put on I Love Lucy anyway, but selected a disc I had just watched and turned down the volume low enough that I had a faint sound in the the background, mixed with the comfort of Ms. Ball’s genius, while I pulled my laptop into my lap and began to work.

Later that night, I journaled asking myself what in fact I was so afraid of? Having truly no distractions? Having to face the music? Turning 30? Making it? Not making it? I didn’t know, but I knew I couldn’t run away this time and I couldn’t watch endless sitcoms or lay on the living room floor and mope. I had to grow up and get it done, because no one else would do it for me, nor would I want them to. In fact that was what was sickening me the most. That I had all these ideas and that I may sit on them long enough for someone else to decide to manifest something wonderful while I merely thought about writing instead of actually writing.

Then I read this:

This is how it comes to pass that one morning you open up the newspaper and discover that somebody else has written your book, or directed your play, or released your record, or produced your movie, or founded your business, or launched your restaurant, or patented your invention—or in any way whatsoever manifested some spark of inspiration that you’d had years ago, but had never entirely cultivated, or had never gotten around to finishing. This may vex you, but it really shouldn’t, because you didn’t deliver! You didn’t show up ready enough, or fast enough, or openly enough for the idea to take hold within you and complete itself. Therefore, the idea went hunting for a new partner, and somebody else got to make the thing.
-Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Which is so true. I totally thought of FaceTime before Apple! But um… I was a kid and I also thought the Jetson’s were really onto something with their flying scooters. That is actually one of those ideas that I would’ve never been able to manifest though, because I don’t have a science brain. But I do want it on the record that I did think of a telephone in which you could see who you were talking to.

At any rate I digress. My point is I am laying it to you straight, readers, that I am going to write. And I aim to finish my book by my thirtieth birthday. Even if it sucks or bombs or no one cares, the darn thing needs to stop having a moat with crocodiles swirling around it, because if someone else does indeed write the thing I have been yearning to write, well I will have far worse problems on my hands than whether or not I have scratchy enough music on record and a big fat writer’s desk. Also I’ll probably shoot those crocodiles. I should probably shoot them now actually.

Guys, they are fictitious mind crocodiles, don’t worry I could never shoot a real animal. In fact my friend and I passed a meat processing plant the other day where I saw a man on a fence and another wrangling with a cow, and my friend said, “that’s the cow’s last day.” I stared on in horror wanting to go and set him free. But alas, that probably wouldn’t make me any friends in my new ranching community and I must remember this is all part of it. Death is a part of it. Hence why I’ve got a messy date in a moat and a book to wrangle out.

In a Tight Spot

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.”

The Execution

You know what writers used to do? They used to ride the rails to investigate hobos and no one cared. If I jumped a train now, surely I would get arrested and it’d be this big bureaucratic incident that would go on my permanent record and no one would appreciate that I was just trying to see if aimless vagabonds still rode the rails in search of new life and adventure. Or I would find a hobo and he’d be desperate for food, not adventure and he’d probably shank me thinking the fur on my coat was real and it’d be a whole bloody ordeal.

Or hopeful writers used to just brazenly walk into a newspaper to pitch a story and some editor appreciated their pluck and suddenly they had assignments.

Or maybe that’s just the romantic version in my brain, and maybe it was no easier then than it is now, but I feel like now, you have to sign a waiver in blood to the devil himself promising him your first born. And still all the magazines and publishers would cackle and sneer at you, throwing crumpled up McDonalds wrappers in your face and telling you not to quit your day job—and you’ll have given up your first born and half your blood supply for nothing.

Okay maybe I am getting carried away. And I hate to be cynical as I love my craft. I have loved writing for as far back as I can recall. It brings me the same kind of euphoric high that completing a run gives me, but without all the sweat. Although, truthfully I have been known to get rather excitable whilst in the throes of my writing and perhaps get a glossy glow.  Or pit stains… but uh, one of the kids I used to babysit for informed me not to mention my sweating problem in those terms as it was unladylike. So I will stick with glossy glow.

Anyhow. I was admittedly having a rough go of it at work yesterday. Meaning, I really, really loathed waitressing. People were hardly tipping, if at all. I have had an inordinate amount of stiffers lately (as in people flat out just paying their bill, sans tip, disregarding the fact that I basically make slave wages).  And I berated myself over and over that I wasn’t making a difference in the world at all. How was serving people pancakes and up-selling pies making one iota of a difference when I knew the difference I was supposed to make?

My panic levels crept up steadily and were exacerbated when I threw silverware into the soak bucket and all the gunky, putrid water splashed back and hit me directly in the face and mouth. I tried not to jump to my usual action plan when I am deeply disturbed by my life and that is running away and joining the circus. The Swiss circus was what I decided. I told this to one of my coworkers and he asked, why Swiss? I said it sounded nice. I bet the Swiss have a great Circus. Actually, they seem like the types who might frown upon all that lycra and animal cruelty.

I joked with my boyfriend that I was going to jump on the beer delivery guy’s dolly and have him whisk me out of there. He told me not to leave him for a beer guy. I pointed out I wasn’t leaving him for anyone, not even someone who was a chocolate maker with his own railroad, but that I needed to escape before I had a full blown panic attack.

I have this journal where I jot down highlights of my day or at least the notables. I felt very sullen and so I doodled a noose and joked in my journal how worth it it would be to swallow some poison. Then one of the cook/drywallers (don’t even ask) came up and asked if I wanted to see his paint job. This isn’t a euphemism for his penis; he is gay. And he really likes to show off the walls he has recently patched or painted and go over every detail with great pride. I am not exactly sure why, but I suspect it has something to do with loneliness and/or needing some sort of attention or validation.

So poison it is, I thought. Get some dishwashing detergent and swallow half the bottle before you have to go check out another freshly painted wall and get a tutorial on it.

I didn’t poison myself, obviously. I went and politely inspected the freshly painted basement room while my coworker pointed out how much better it looked, didn’t it? I nodded. It sure did. I knew this, because it was his old room and he had brought me down there before to show me his dog. Also not a euphemism. He really does like Show and Tell.

I went home and rationalized that it was no use to get worked up and expect instant gratification, as even if I did have my novel done, (which I don’t) it wouldn’t get published or sell or probably even make money by uhh… tomorrow which is what I wanted so that I could throw my apron on the counter and storm out, vowing never to scrape another sticky pancake plate and get silverware splash in my face again. Unless it is my husband or kids. I will scrape their pancake plates. That’s all right. And so I may as well keep plugging at it with baby steps and not freak the heck out and doodle nooses (or is that like gooses and it’s not a word?)

Except I was still on edge and very much wanted instant gratification anyway. So I ate a whole bunch of peanut butter kiss cookies and felt sufficiently bad about myself, huffing into my bedroom and crying for all of two minutes until I became annoyed with my antics. And then I really did make an action plan. That didn’t involve a noose, poison, running away with the circus or a beer delivery man and mostly involved putting on a sports bra, tying my hair back and brutalizing myself in the room we loosely call a “gym”—a storage room with a few weights, a couple broken cardio machines and an aqua massager—at my place of employ. I reached some semblance of an endorphin high, regaining my clear rationale.

I would find a way. Even if I had to shove my writing down people’s throats, as was suggested to me by one of my Biggest Loser trainers. I hoped it didn’t come to that, but instead of being a big Debbie Downer, I would employ Biggest Loser tactics and get angry and get goin’. Because what else could I do? Boo-hooing into murky silverware water wasn’t going to make me an accomplished writer. I was. So I may as well shut the hell up about writing and get to it. Words to paper, man.

Or something. So here is my execution. Not of myself. Because how very macabre. No, of getting the writing going. And hobnobbing with other folks who write and generally just being a writer and not bemoaning that I am not a writer. Fourth grade me knew I was a writer and didn’t need a paycheck or validation to put pen to paper anyway. So maybe I should channel fourth grade me. Though really un-savvy and prone to wearing oversize Winnie the Pooh shirts, that girl had gumption.

Cheers to fourth grade me then. And not running away or offing myself when things seem bleak. And the written word. Always the written word.

 

Bear Aware… And Other Concerns

I went hiking yesterday.
By myself.
I think bears were about.
And they probably would’ve liked to eat me, given the chance.

I contemplated bringing an old and probably very dull hatchet I bought for a friend—in order to encourage him to pursue dreams of becoming a lumberjack, but he left before I could gift it to him—I decided against the hatchet because I have a penchant for rock climbing and suddenly had horrific flashes of me not only falling to my death but severing my head in the process. The hatchet stayed home.

I arrived at my hiking destination, one I had been eyeballing for some time. Not only for its inescapable beauty, but its challenging qualities: namely a never-ending field of hills, atop of hills. I started out around 4pm, feeling charged on the idea of tackling this beast. I had asked a friend to come with me, but he changed his mind and not one to be deterred I opted to hike alone and informed my sister where I would be in case I did indeed fall off a cliff or got mauled by a bear.

Let me interject with the bear fixation here. Not only are there indeed bears in Wyoming, but I had recently been to Yellowstone where there were rumored to be Grizzly sightings. Also this particular spot I wanted to hike was an area in which I myself had spotted a black bear climbing along the tree line.

Furthermore, that morning at work I had been perusing a fishing regulations magazine in my downtime and saw an ad for bear spray with a particularly gruesome photo of a man who had been attacked by a bear. That image was now being replayed with every step I took toward that tree line and up the never-ending hill, to my point of interest which was naturally the tip top.

I also have read several cautionary signs in Wyoming that proclaim: Be Bear Aware!

So as I walked I repeated to myself, bear aware, bear aware, be bear aware.

This might have actually been a hindrance rather than a help because by the time I had ascended the first hill to make my way down into a valley to climb the second larger hill, I was almost petrified with the notion of being attacked by a bear. I had come upon a river I had no idea existed in between the two hills. It was nestled down a steep ravine. By this point I had mapped my route up to the highest point and wanted to be there, bad. So seeing the wild drop down to a river I could hear but couldn’t see, along with the fact that it slipped into forest, heightened my bear aware fever. But the thing about me is when I want something, I get slight tunnel vision over it and have to have it. In this case I wanted to be at the top of that hill. I hadn’t accounted for ravines and rivers, but my mind was already made up. So though I was pulsing with a slight paranoia over being mauled by wildlife I worked my way down the ravine anyway.

When I heard a tussle in the bushes nearby, I froze in crazed irrational fear, thinking, this is it; I was bear aware and it did me no good. Except it was just a deer. I continued down to the river. It wasn’t all that wide or fast flowing and there were ample rocks dotting the stream for me to climb across. I did come face to face with an imposing amount of scratchy brush, but I plowed through anyway, bolstered by fear-laced endorphins.

When I reached the other side, I could no longer see the golden hill that I wanted to climb. I only saw forest and rocks. I hustled up the other side, making my way over another tiny stream and was faced with a craggy rock wall. I breathed a sigh of relief as I shimmied up, getting scuffed and scratched while I huffed and puffed trying to outclimb the bears that were surely lurking and watching me in the forest behind.

And finally I was at the swaying field of gold that ascended right up into Wyoming’s crisp autumn sky. I was overjoyed and felt relieved, like I had escaped sudden death. But climbing this hill was its own version of death, because it was so arduous that I had to break and breathe about every fifteen steps while sweat gushed off of my face and I guzzled water and muttered profanities—my favorite way to deal with challenges. I pushed on, noting at this point my tenacity, simply to get to the top of a hill. I heard sounds that seemed to be rattley and hissy like a snake. The golden reeds were as tall as my waist and God only knew what lurked in there. The sun blazed down on my uncovered shoulders and still I was very much bear aware, looking warily into the forests to my right, while I heaved my girth upwards and upwards.

I got to the last peak, which was where the field was stacked with slate-like rocks. I was beyond spent at this point, shaking and sweating. When I went to reach for one of the rocks to climb, not only did it slip out of place and go careening down the hillside, but my arms gave way. I asked myself the question I often ask myself when doing something perhaps overly adventurous, and that is: Would Mom like this idea?

Nope.

I begrudgingly moved down the rocks a ways until I found a safer way up and when I hoisted myself up over the edge onto another field, I let out a euphoric yoop and got maybe a little bit teary. This field flowed downward into a deep valley going down the other side of the mountain with tremendous views of the valley, the highway and endless amounts of pines. I sat and stared for awhile. Maybe I did a few fist pumps. I can’t rightly recall in my state of exhaustion.

Then I scanned the hills, contemplating my way down. The way I came seemed a bad choice, so I outlined a different way down the mountain which admittedly was closer to the treeline and forest where I had spotted the bear months ago, but seemed less rocky. The only problem with this side as far as I could see were the cows grazing in the valley below. But I surmised that I could maybe bypass the cows, yet stay in the field far enough away from hungry bears. I started down feeling almost giddy with how easy it was going. Until I got to a dip in the hillside and saw the vast amount of cows and what looked to be another steep ravine. I know cows are just cows, but there were a lot of them, several with their babies and these are Wyoming cows, which is to say: behemoth and probably fearless.

I really didn’t want to be eaten by a bear, but if I was going to go out in an adventuresome blaze of glory, the bear attack would be the way to go. I was less enthused about coming to an end by cow. I inched away from the few cows who had heard my movement and were now eyeing me or running away. This placed me in a little cove of Aspens and closer still to the dense forest of pines I had been trying to avoid. Again I heard rustling and froze. I heard a growl.

My heart ratched up 17.5 notches while I seriously contemplated my life if a bear were to take off all my limbs. Again it was only more deer. I moved more swiftly down the next ravine only to find that the river I had crossed earlier with ease, was now about 3 times wider and deeper on this side of the hill. Also it was missing the convenient rock steps I had utilized prior. I was stricken. It was nearing 7 o’clock, which meant I had about an hour left of daylight as the sun was already sinking on the horizon. I had very little energy to go back up the mountain and around. Also I was now all but convinced a bear had smelled the sugar in my bloodstream and wanted me for dessert. I also was also in a mild upheaval over the cow situation as well.

I gazed at the deep and terribly murky river with floating logs covered in algae. I was almost as scared of deep seaweed filled water as I was of being taken down by a bear. I walked along the riverbed for a bit mulling over my options and trying to find a way across. I got to an area where the river was less wide and considerably less deep.

I knew what I had to do. I looked down and it was as if God was already one step ahead of me, helping me along. There was an old rusted sign that was long enough to be used as a sort of walking stick. I stuck it into the river to test the riverbed’s bottom, seeing if it was deep mud that I might sink into. It was firm sand. I took a deep breath, quelled my fears and trudged in. The water was chilly but I hardly noticed as I sunk up to my thighs while moving across trying not to lose my balance in what I had already dubbed in my mind as the Cow Shit River. I hadn’t actually seen any cow shit, but given the proximity of the beasts, I could only assume this wasn’t the freshest river in the Big Horns.

Once I made it to the other side, I used my rusty sign to help me up this last hill, which albeit small in comparison to what I had just done, was still a feat, as I was now beyond exhausted and soaked up to my underwear. My shoes were filled with river sludge and all I wanted was to be back at my car where surely no bears or cows were hanging out.

Now here is the thing I realized on this hike, which I gotta say was a doozy, and also maybe one of my favorites, simply for the death factors. Okay, okay, I didn’t actually come close to death, but my hyped up overly-imaginative writer’s brain thought otherwise.

The thing is: I am a pretty determined person. When I want something bad enough I make it happen. I remember when I first moved to Virginia, I discovered this beautiful winery that I decided I had to work at. They weren’t hiring because it was winter but they told me to come back the first of May. I was there resume in hand on the first of May and ended up getting the job.

But for some reason when it comes to my writing, the thing I love most, have wanted the most and think about constantly, I don’t give it rock climbing, heaving through fields and prickers, warding off bears, tearing up my skin and hair through Wyoming’s wild terrain and crossing cow shit rivers persistence. I give it a small nudge at best. So why, I was curious, when I wanted to get to the top of a mountain, was I willing to risk life and limb, convinced of bear growling and all, simply to meet my goal? Do I want to get to the top of a hill more than I want to make something of myself as a writer? No. I don’t think that’s it.

I know I am unafraid of the tangible challenge of tackling hills and all their surprise encounters. But for some reason the writing world and all its challenges, including agents, and query letters seems to scare me more than bear attacks. What is wrong with me? I am willing to get eaten by a bear, but I am not willing to submit my work to a bloody magazine…

There is something smelly in the water here and it isn’t the cow shit. It is my logic. It is all kinds of skewed and makes no sense to me. But I’ll tell ya this. The dawning of this epiphany has led me to believe that if I can tackle mountains and bears in Wyoming (alright I know! I didn’t literally tackle a bear, but I was willing…sorta) then maybe I should send someone out there in the universe my stuff and ya know see what happens.

Maybe nothing happens. Or maybe I face mass rejection. But at least I will be moving forward in my fear and accomplishing something. Instead of sitting pretty on my fear like I have been doing. I am taking one from my own experience and am going to become bear aware in the arena of writing. Agents and freelance contracts cannot possibly be more frightening than a wild bear. Just sayin.

If You’ve Got Worries

I worry constantly. If worrying were a payable endeavor, I would give Bill Gates a run for his money. I don’t enjoy this little facet of my persona. In fact I worry about the long term effects on my health. So then I try and combat the worry with yoga, deep breathing, regular chats with God, and good-vibe mantras, like chill the fuck out, you’ve got this. I recently saw that one on a greeting card which I promptly sent to my best friend who enjoys the F word as much as I do.

Currently I am an almost 29 year old who lives with her parents and babysits for a living. Okay to be fair, I also teach the children writing while I’m there and I freelance for a magazine, but still. I work three days a week and TurboTax has definitely classified me as poor. Okay, fine, they didn’t say it outright, but they ever-so-helpfully hinted at certain tax breaks I can receive for being below the poverty line. I appreciate that TurboTax. Way to have my back.

At any rate, my artsy soul is constantly conflicted with a deep desire to be true to my art and not have my soul ripped out by The Man and then uh, being an actual adult who pays her bills and has health insurance and can afford her penchant for almond butter and fancy coffee but has to have her soul ripped out by The Man, because that’s the way to afford almond butter and bills. It is very disconcerting all this warring back and forth, between soul and The Man.

As any starving (though I never starve, I could never allow that. Not because of prolonging my life reasons, though that’s of course important, but because I genuinely am mad crazy over food) artist would tell you, being a slave to your art is not for the easily discouraged.

Right now, however I am at an impasse. I just regretfully watched a Ted Talk video on why your 30’s are not the new 20’s (I never believed that anyway) but the video made me very uncomfortable. Why haven’t I figured my shit out yet? What is wrong with me? The speaker gives all these examples of 20-somethings making their big life decisions. Getting careers and finding love and paving the way for their 30’s. And I don’t have any of that figured out.

Sure I know I want to be a writer as much as I want my next sip of expensive coffee followed by a bite of chocolate, but making it as a writer who also has a 401K and can eat for good measure… that’s the big times.

My best friend just turned 30 and while I heartily enjoyed picking out a card mocking her last days of youth and leaving her messages reminding her that she’s old, it was all in good fun and truthfully I envy her. She pointed out to me that a whole bunch of her major life decisions were made in her 20’s and how great that was (the speaker in the Ted Talk points this out as well). She went to school, settled on a career, got a job in that career field, found her husband, bought a house, brought home a dog. By society’s standards and turning 30 standards, she’s fucking killin’ it.

And there’s me who has one year and a handful of months left in my 20’s to make some semblance of it count and all I can do is worry. Here in no particular order are all my worries right now:

Why don’t magazines want to hire me? Is it because I’m sort of chubby? Wait, they can’t profile like that. Don’t be absurd. But maybe… Or worse is it because I’m untalented? No. Take that one back. I’d rather be sort of chubby and know it, rather than believe myself to lack any real talent.
Am I unlovable? Also, is it the sort of chubby thing?
Seriously when will I be gainfully employed by someone who doesn’t make me memorize the new french fry menu, or isn’t paying me under the table? (We’ll talk about that next year TurboTax).
Why can’t I finish my blasted book already?
Will I even write a bestseller? Of course I will. Don’t be an idiot.
Am I an idiot? Could be… the other day I was mildly unclear on the rules of communism and had to look it up on Wikipedia.
Why do other almost 29 year olds have pensions, houses, dogs and love lives, or have already invented a new billion dollar website? Where is my motivation? Where is my drive? Where is my love life?
It’d probably be easier if I was a singer. Then I could just go on the The Voice and…
Wait how would life be any easier if I was a struggling singer instead of a struggling writer? I don’t know, but it might be. At least they have open mic nights.
Maybe I should start reading my writing aloud on street corners. Could I be discovered in that way?
Why hasn’t anyone discovered me yet?
Seriously have I been negligent in the love department? Was I supposed to set my intentions and look for my mate? But I always hear it happens when you’re not looking. Should I be looking or not looking? Coy or aggressive? Coy is better right? Always be coy. Except I am not coy. I am super obvious and out there. Dammit! Why didn’t God make me coy?! All the coy girls are the ones finding their life partner. Instead I am failing at my 20’s.
Do I eat too much peanut butter? It has protein, but it’s also fatty.
Where do people find cowboys? I mean, more appropriately, where are women finding cowboys who are interested in marrying them? Why haven’t I landed a cowboy and how come life is so unfair? I have so much cellulite and no cowboy. I mean shouldn’t there be a cellulite cowboy trade-off? It only seems right. I did my time with the cellulite now I should be rewarded with a man who rides horses and then rides… the rails you pervert. Gosh, any good cowboy obviously has to take the train sometimes for business.

Ughhhh. There are so many more worries. I am worried I’ve forgotten some of the best ones. Sometimes I find myself utterly at peace and content and I suddenly start, like when you’re falling asleep and think you’re falling out of bed. I think, what were you just worrying about ten minutes ago… I can’t recall, so I backtrack, oh thank God, there you are worry, finances, you were worrying about finances. Oh that one’s a doozy, we could be here all day with this one. Alright, let’s get started.

Honestly writing this post in some ways has inflamed my anxiety to the point where I am having fantasies of dancing Xanax, but in others I realize how truly absurd most of my worries are. Also the fiery optimist in me is seriously chagrined by all this worrisome talk. Hence why this post got written. She was not having any of it and every time worrisome me mused to the universe at large that maybe it’s impossible for someone to love me, really love me as in also want to take off my clothes at some point and acknowledge my cellulite while still maintaining that love, she battled back with ferocity saying, of course it’s possible you ninny! You are fully worthy of love, and not just love but great love, cellulite and all! And any cowboy worth his beard and boots would be lucky to have you. Also you’ll get a job and sell your book.

She’s nice, the fiery optimist. I ought to talk to her more often and maybe have her stronghold the worrier and lock her up in a closet under a staircase, Harry Potter style. Yeah, that’ll shut her up. Anyway I have a homemade almond peanut butter cup with my name on it. And nothing says drowning my worries like chocolate and almond butter, so I’m going to get to that. Besides. I am only an almost 29 year old. I have one full year and some odd months to get my 20’s right. I am not worried… Ish.

I Don’t Know What to Say

I am reading this book, that’s really getting under my skin (in the good way, like the falling in love way). And in it Ms. Patchett says this,

“Do you want to do this thing? Sit down and do it. Are you not writing? Keep sitting there. Does it not feel right? Keep sitting there. Think of yourself as a monk walking the path to enlightenment. Think of yourself as a high school senior wanting to be a neurosurgeon. Is it possible? Yes. Is there some shortcut? Not one I’ve found. Writing is a miserable awful business. Stay with it. It is better than anything in the world.”

I’ve re-read that paragraph over and over to myself and then out loud to anyone who was within range. It affects me profoundly as being a writer is my calling, yet it’s the thing I constantly evade. Patchett also addresses her wanting to/not wanting to write in her book, which made me feel better about my own problems with committing to my craft. But she also made a point to encourage writers to start by writing twenty minutes a day, work up to two hours and then any time you can spare. I of course being the cocky little brat that I am decide I don’t need to start with the bare minimum, I will start with one hour, because of course I can write for an hour every day.

And naturally, I put it off all day. I even exercised before I wrote and that’s saying something as normally I love putting that off as well. Again I have no idea why because I really love working out, I just get all in a tizzy beforehand, much the same with my writing.

Finally, finally when I could think of nothing more to distract me, having worked out, eaten lunch, read running tips online, showered, did my hair, read more of Patchett’s book, went to my storage unit to dig through my boxed up book collection to find my Writer’s Block book in case, as I was already getting so nervous that I had nothing to say and finally, I arrived at the library. My designated writing spot for the next hour. Patchett also suggested that I put away my phone and allow no internet access for this designated writing time. I was going to make myself write for an entire hour but as I opened up a Word document and stared at my screen suddenly all the millions of things flitting about my brain every day all day begging me to write them down, had disappeared.

I just stared. And panicked. And stared. And panicked. I have nothing to say. Oh my gosh I have nothing to say. When does this ever happen? I am constantly so verbose it borders on word vomit. And yet, there I sat, without a word in my head or on the blank page. Finally I latched onto a back-up idea I had been toying with (as I forgot my Writer’s Block book in the car) and I began to write that. Except the whole time I felt ultra critical of the work and slightly paranoid like someone was watching me.

After getting through thirty-five minutes in which I did not go on the internet or check my phone I became edgy with the pressure of making myself produce for a whole hour. I suddenly had to do something else. I had to pee. And I had to have a hot chocolate. Really I did. It was quite cold in the library, I hadn’t even taken off my coat, and I had been chugging water. So yes, my bladder really had to be tended to. Also I did need that hot chocolate. I am trying to come off the sugar craze that was Thanksgiving and today’s sugar only included a clementine and a banana. A little baby hot chocolate would take the edge off.

I grabbed my phone like it was my lifeline, checked Instagram like the drug that it is, felt better, shut my computer, went to the bathroom and walked out of the library and down the dark and frigid street to the coffee shop. Where I currently sit with my hot chocolate which was extra hot when I ordered it and is now tepid.

And still I feel a little stressed out about writing and so I am writing about writing and my sheer and utter avoidance of the one thing I was put on this earth to do. What. Is. Wrong. With. Me?

I think I need to go buy deodorant though because I forgot to put it on and I am supposed to meet my friends in an hour for coffee. Yes. I have to have deodorant. I’m wearing a wool-ish sweater. That’s a not-great combination for me and my sweating inclinations. So that’s top priority.