My love affair with writing began when I was 18 years old. I took a creative writing class on a whim and was immediately hooked.
My mom is one of the most nostalgic people in the Universe. She has memory books of pictures, play programs (I act in community theatre, too), and stories + articles written during high school and college.
As a teen, I was a devout Jesus freak.
I expressed my faith in editorials RE: Creationism + other hot topics of Christianity in the school paper. I also wrote science fiction stories about strange scenarios like cats collectively revolting and taking over the country (you know, like Planet of the Apes, except with cats... the imagination was strong in this one).
Writing serves several purposes for me (dumb fun included). First and foremost, writing is an emotional outlet. During the winter of last year, my mind was not in a positive place. I lived in an apartment so cramped it felt like a prison cell. My car engine died and I didn't have a roommate, so there was no opportunity to escape.
I remember feeling depressed and binge watching Dexter, Breaking Bad, or Sons of Anarchy for hours at a time.
Dexter is one of my favorite TV shows, because I can relate with having a "dark passenger" (don't worry, mine is wayyyy more boring than his).
My physical body couldn't get away from what it perceived as a "negative" environment and thus my mental body was drawn to escapist entertainment. Do you know the feeling? If so, it's Ok.
After months of twists + turns (but little personal growth or satisfaction), I started a stream-of-conscious journal. Note: I originally read about this reflection exercise in, "The Artist's Way," by Julia Cameron (click here to see it in action).
If you've seen Mean Girls, imagine a stream-of-conscious journal as the written equivalent of word vomit.
You wake up, roll out of bed, grab a pen + paper, and write down whatever happens to cross your mind (no matter how nasty or negative it might be). Call it a brain dump.
Get the junk out of your system first thing in the morning and it won't bother you as much later. Of course, keeping a journal isn't for everybody, but it never hurts to try.
Self-reflection is often a revealing experience.
You might discover the same anxious thoughts and feelings are triggered by similar situations or circumstances.
Step 1: Be mindful of potential triggers.
Step 2: Prevent, eliminate, or minimize them.
The thoughts, feelings, situations, and circumstances that have a detrimental effect on your mood or mental functioning may be defined as stress sources.
Journaling helped me figure out my biggest stressors. For the curious, here’s the top three:
- Environment (crappy apartment)
- Location (far away from friends and family)
- Money (enough to survive, but I wanted to thrive)
It is nice to "detach from the outcome," and "look on the bright side," but it's also good to be mindful of the perceived burdens that make it so hard to "think positive." How else would you come up with a plan of attack?
I don't mean attack in a, “beat yourself up,” way. It's best to treat yourself with tender compassion. Guilt and shame are unhelpful emotions. They shut down the part of your brain that believes it is capable of change. Talk about counterproductive. Love yourself for who you are (even the messy parts). This is step #1. It cannot be skipped.
Develop an offensive mindset.
Instead of letting problems grow or fester, starve them of resources by attacking the root cause.
My sadness was largely a result of my physical location. Moving was an expensive proposition, but it was the most obvious way to improve my overall quality of life, so I chose to focus my time + energy in that direction.
Remember my Netflix addiction? It took care of itself. In the past, it was easy to procrastinate, because I didn't have a purpose or compelling reason to act. Writing a daily journal helped me remember why I woke up every morning. "Why" is a powerful question to ask. Anytime you feel stuck or trapped, refocus by considering, Why does it matter?
I'm glad I worked hard enough to escape from what I viewed as a poor living situation -- it's easier to get into a good flow of writing (not be distracted) and I can tell the work is coming from a more positive place -- but I’ve realized hustling doesn’t make me happy.
Money can improve your quality of life to the extent that it eliminates or minimizes stressors, but I still felt empty inside.
Wow. That sounds dramatic, but it's true. I devoted so much time to work that I sacrificed love and friendship in the process. Don't misread me. I have a few near and dear friends. I'm connected with lots of great people on Facebook. But let's face the facts. Most of my BFF’s moved many years ago. I'm a bit shy and introverted, so I don't get out a lot, and as a consequence my love life was dormant for more than three years.
It's worth noting my inaction was partly intentional.
For one thing, I believe sexual energy can be directed to creative endeavors like writing Kindle books. For another, I felt really self-conscious about my living situation at the time, so I chose to save money and work on myself in lieu of dating. That said, I have been settled in my new home for three months now (and am 100% over being single), so it seemed like an appropriate time to dive back into dating.
In the past, I have called online dating "ineffective," because I had a few bad experiences that made me feel jaded.
This was mostly self-inflicted. A few months after writing my original profile, I gave it an unbiased second look, and was shocked by the negative comments and egotistical statements that came out of my mouth.
Looking in the mirror is hard, but necessary. Self-awareness influences many aspects of life, especially your ability to connect with others in a deep or meaningful way. After reflection, I rewrote my profile in a more positive tone, and women immediately became more responsive.
Recall I'm an introvert who hates bars and clubs. This = the #1 reason why I <3 online dating.
OkCupid provides thoughtful personality questions about your kinks, needs, beliefs, desires, turn-offs, and other characteristics. As a result, you get to know another person while chilling at home in your pajamas. Some people feel this removes mystery and excitement, but others (like me) prefer to chat via written word before meeting face-to-face. Physical attraction matters, but I'm all about wit and sass.
My mamaw was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer.
Surgeons removed a cancerous tumor from her brain, but not before the disease spread to other areas of her body. Aggressive medical treatments would only delay the inevitable.
My family is choosing to let go, because we don't want mamaw -- a woman who was like a second mother to me (I rode the bus to her house every day after school as a child) -- to suffer any more than necessary.
Mamaw only has a few days left. I'm not saying this to beg for sympathy. It’s a plain fact. She has not been conscious for a while now, but I remember our last interaction (when she was still awake + aware) like it was yesterday.
A couple of nurses asked me to leave the room to give her privacy, so I went to the hallway, and overheard the following: "You should really meet my grandson. He writes from home, acts in plays, and he's seriously a funny guy... I bet you would like him!"
It was a good sales pitch. She highlighted the benefits of artsy, ambitious, adventurous.
The nurses giggled and made positive comments... maybe because saying: "Sorry ma’am, your grandson sounds too weird and eccentric for my tastes," would have been awkward.
A small part of me wonders if this moment is the exact thing that inspired me to say, "Forget my to-do list*," and concentrate 100% on meeting a compatible + considerate partner or dear one. If my mamaw had a miraculous recovery that defied modern medicine, I know exactly what I would tell her:
"I got a girlfriend, mamaw, and I'm aware this might be crazy considering we only recently met... but we share a strong bond, spark, attraction, or whatever you want to call it… and we jive on most important life stuff, so I feel great about our odds… and why not trust the Universe for a change? I will always love you. Thanks for taking good care of me and showing me there is more to life than hustle."