Crazy People

To the man who wanted to argue with me tonight:

You didn’t get your wish.  I’m not sorry that I refused to give into your attempts to bait me into an argument while I was working. I’m not sorry that I grit my teeth and swallowed back my words and didn’t jump across the counter and kebab your eyeballs with my thumbs.  I’m not sorry because that means I still have a job.  Not because I didn’t want to kebab your eyeballs. 

Because I really, really did.

Here’s the thing: I don’t give a shit that you think I’m crazy for believing that all transgender people should just be treated like people.  No modifier needed.  I don’t care that you have nine children that you’re raising to be just as bigoted and narrow-minded as you. 

Nope, sorry, don’t believe you that there’s a “dark layer of sexual perversion” within the trans community.  Because, guess what? No, there isn’t.  Trans-women are not lying in wait to rape me in the bathroom.  That’s happened literally zero times to me and to every single person I’ve ever met in my life.  And guess what?  It’s happened zero times to anyone you know or care about too. 

Here’s why I’m still thinking about you and your narrow mind and utterly insane attempt to bait me into an argument today.  It’s not because of the things you said about bathrooms and the “direction this country is headed in” or about how you scoffed when I said that the transgender people I know are not the kinds of people I’ve ever even thought about being afraid of when I go to the bathroom. 

It’s none of that.

No, it’s when you got really angry toward the end of your impotent, one-sided argument and you stuck your finger in my face and raised your voice and said, “You’re crazy if you think they’re not out there.  You don’t understand now, but when you have children…THEN you’ll know and you’ll see how many things you really do need to be afraid of.”

And that stuck with me.

Now, first of all, I was raised to understand that you don’t stick your finger in the faces of crazy people.  And buddy, that’s exactly what I am.

Because when I do have children, the first thing I’m going to teach them is the idea that everyone is a little bit crazy and that everyone has the capacity to be unpredictable and that you should never really count on anyone following the script.

I’m going to teach them that men and women are equals in every sense of the word. 

I’m going to teach them that everyone is important in some way—not in a Participation Trophy kind of way, but in a ‘unique in the universe’/Dr. Who kind of way—and that even narrow-minded, bigoted idiots like you, sir, are worth listening to, if only for a minute.  Because I’m going to teach them that surrounding yourself with people who agree with you might make life easier, but it’s no way to learn anything about the world or about yourself.

I’m going to teach them that this world is big and vast and amazing and terrible and that it will break their little hearts ten ways to Sunday and not ever once apologize.

But I’m going to teach them how to be grateful for that heartbreak and how to turn it into something useful. And show them that rage and heartache and anger and pain have been turned into some of the most beautiful art in the world.  I want to show them that the world hurts you, but if you take your pain and make use of it, you can show the world that it didn’t win when it tried to break you.

I’m going to tell them that they need to see the world before they decide what they want to be when they grow up.  I want them to work alongside people who don’t speak English, who talk about them and giggle at their attempts to communicate.  I want them to understand how hard it is to learn another language and live somewhere new and unfamiliar and far from home so that they can sympathize with immigrants and refugees.  I want them to see and experience true poverty and true decadence and understand how lucky they are to have what they have.

But more than all that, I’m going to teach them that going through life with a small heart and a small mind is no way to live.  That no matter what anyone else says, in our house?  We accept each other.  When we’re afraid of something, we go and learn about it.  We don’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t.

I want to raise my children to be fearless warriors in the fight for a better world.  I want to raise people who love each other.  People who will greet this world and her many challenges and curiosities with an open hand, not a closed fist.

So no, sir.  I’m not going to cover the eyes and ears of my future children and tell them all the things they need to be afraid of.  They’ll have plenty of people who will do that for them.  People like you, I guess. 

And maybe I am crazy for clinging to a shred of hope for the next generation.  Maybe I’m crazy to think that people are just people and there’s no help for the human condition but love and acceptance. Maybe I’m nuts to believe that at our core, we’re all exactly the same anyway and these ideas of race and gender and nationality and religion are just things we made up, barriers we invented and they don’t mean anything.

But I guess what I’m really hoping is that someday, when someone points their finger in the face of my child and calls him crazy for standing up for what he believes in, I hope he turns the other cheek and smiles just to piss them off.

I hope he remembers that crazy isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  And if anyone ever asks where he got all his crazy ideas?  I hope that for at least a few of them he can be proud to say he got them from his mama. 

Eff you, Mars

“I’m not going to die here.”

I said that to myself last night as I looked in the mirror.  It’s not an original line by any means.  I’m sure it’s been said a million times, but most recently and most famously by Matt Damon in the supremely wonderful film The Martian.

Mark Watney (Matt’s character) is stranded on a hostile, deserted Mars. His situation is pretty hopeless. But there’s a moment when he looks down and says those words to himself.  “I’m not going to die here.” 

I’m not going to lie, I feel a little like I’m trapped on Mars.  Things are pretty dark in my head lately.  Pretty hopeless.  My job feels like a dead-end, it sucks my time and energy away from almost anything that makes me happy, my skin has been in a constant state of painful revolution since November of 2013 and my finances are…well…

I don’t like to overuse the words tragic farce, but if the shoe fits.

I’m unhealthy, grossly unhappy, and losing my grip on the hope that there’s still something bigger and better shimmering beneath my dingy surface.  And a lot of days—more often than not—I’m tired of feeling like that.  And I don’t see a light at the end of any tunnel.  I’m just tired.  I don’t necessarily want to die so much as I just want to lay down and close my eyes and wake up when I have the energy to live my life again.  

Depression is funny like that.  It beats you up slowly.  In tiny, little increments when you don’t even realize it.  It does it by reminding you of every time someone stabbed you with words like “Be realistic.”  Or “So what’s the back-up plan?” and “What are going to do for a real job?” It chips away at any kind of belief you have in yourself.  It turns the lights out one by one until you’re left sitting in the dark, replaying all of those words, all those moments when it was right.  When you weren’t smart enough or brave enough or pretty enough for…whatever it was you were looking for.

I can’t even remember sometimes. 

My depression’s been a real fucking asshole this past year.  It’s left me sitting in silence in my apartment, screaming and crying inside because I’m too inept to reach my husband who is walking through his own darkness just two rooms away.  It’s told me over and over again that my words are worthless.  That I’m a disappointment as a daughter and a sister and a friend.  That the reason no one has come to visit me is because I’m not worth it.  That my dream of grad school, of publishing and teaching is selfish and childish and unrealistic.  It’s assured me how unspecial I am.  How unentitled I am to anything more than a boring, run-of-the-mill existence. 

And it’s done it for so long that it sounds more right than anything else I can come up with.  Anything anyone else can say to me.  Because it’s coming from inside my brain, so it feels like it knows me better than anyone else.  So it must be right.

And, who knows. Maybe it is.

Maybe I’m not special.  Not everyone is.  (That sounds harsh, but it’s also the point of being special, isn’t it? That not everyone can be.)  Maybe I’m not meant for anything more than middle management and a word processor full of works-in-progress that never seem to achieve anything more than a few hundred words a month. 

Maybe that’s all true.

But it’s also true that I looked myself in the mirror yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and said “I’m not going to die here.”

And I’m going to say it tonight, too. 

Because I’m not going to die here.  Because I might be living a fucking nightmarish existence of mediocrity, but I’ve at least decided that much. 

And that’s not nothin’

Mars isn’t going to win this one. 


Help Wanted

You get in life what you have the courage to ask for – Oprah Winfrey

Once upon a time, I wrote a blog post about not being brave.  About being scared of chasing after something I wanted and about how my cowardly nature had allowed me to settle for something less than my dreams. 

It’s right here, if you missed it.

That was three years ago, ya’ll.  Three years.  And guess what?  I’m still stuck, just in a different rut, in a different town, with even less hope than I had before.  It’s getting dark inside my head.  Real dark. Like, my-cell-phone’s-dead-and-the-flashlight’s-busted-and-I’m-down-to-my-last-handful-of-matches-and-they-keep-burning-my-fingers-as-they-burn-out-kind of dark.

So, I’m doing something I don’t normally do.  I’m asking for help.

I have a little under a month to submit my application for the MFA program at Boston University.  It’s my number one, top-pick, reach-for-the-moon, over-the-fence, World Series kind of choice for a school, a city, and a program.  I can’t explain it, but I’ve wanted to go to BU since I was sixteen.

And BU?  BU is fucking scary.  Okay? It’s even scary to Google!  You get all kinds of results with horrifying words like “Prestigious” and “Top-Ten Best” and “One of the Oldest and Most Renowned”. 

But I was like, no, Emry.  No.  We’re going to be brave and fierce and we’re going to fill out our application and get into that school.

That school where dozens of bestselling authors have been educated.

That school that only accepts ten students every year.

Ten.

Out of what I’m sure are thousands of applications.

So now I’m like

Below you will find my statement of purpose.  It is the one I wrote for the other schools to which I applied, and it is by no means perfect.  In fact, it’s probably a large, steaming pile of shit. I’ve editedit and rewritten it probably six times and each time I hate it a little more.

That’s where you come in, guys.  I can’t do this alone.  I don’t want to do this alone.  I need your help.  Please give me strong, concrete suggestions about what works and what doesn’t and what parts are worth saving and what can be tossed straight out.

Here's the info on BU’s program.

And here’s my insufficient statement of purpose:

Dear Selection Committee,

I was nine years old when I decided that creative writing was more important than long division.  My fourth grade teacher did not agree and called a meeting to inform my parents that instead of answering a single question on the front of my math test, I’d flipped the page over and written a story about the case of Seven, on trial for cannibalism.  He was charged with eating Nine.  My mother nodded grimly, kept her words short and clipped and promised to talk to me about it later.  Instead of the grounding I was expecting, she bought me an ice cream cone, a fresh stack of composition books, and signed me up for a library card. 

“You’ve gotta take your math tests, Em,” she said with affectionate exasperation. “But I don’t want you to ever stop reading and writing stories.”

In the twenty years that have passed since that afternoon, I have only attempted a handful more math tests, but I have completed several novels and dozens of short stories.  My voracious appetite for words has always been my greatest asset.  Without a strong mentor for writing in my youth, I foraged my education through the shelves of the public library.  Judy Blume was my first instructor in the field of realistic dialogue and screenplays or television scripts by Joss Whedon taught me the place for dark humor and the beauty of weirdness. These lessons were cemented by Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and later, Mark Danielewski.  Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and David Foster Wallace’s epic Infinite Jest have revealed to me the beauty in dense, complex storytelling. The art of loveable, flawed characters was introduced by Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys.

My professional life has taken me away from writing for the last eight years.  I have worked in the nonprofit sector and in restaurant management full time, cultivating my corporate training and effective management skills.  These careers have been professionally satisfying, but not nearly enough to quell the hunger in my heart for the life of a writer.  My precious writing time is what I can squeeze in before work or in the wee hours of the morning when I can barely keep my eyes open.  I rely on friends and family for constructive criticism, but the responses I receive are more akin to comments on a well-written fanfiction.  As encouraging as it is to hear that they are enjoying my work, there is no real criticism, nothing to challenge me and spur me on to better things.

I strive to reach my goal of writing at least one page of creative work each day.  Though some days it feels impossible, I am never one to shrink from a challenge.  As such, I have participated and won NaNoWriMo by completing a 50,000 word project in the month of November each year since 2012. Recently, I have begun revisions on a novel I have been working on for the last three years, a hybrid of historical fiction braided with a modern romantic comedy. 

In October of 2015, I co-founded a weekly podcast, Badass Bitches, where we tell the true stories of women such as Alice B. Sheldon, Virginia Hall, and Juliane Koepcke. Our aim is to share the stories of women who have faded from history and share their lives and accomplishments with an audience who might otherwise remain ignorant. 

I am lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to share my passion with other writers over the years as a guest commentator in the high school English classes of teachers with whom I am acquainted.  I have presented creative writing lectures and workshops to accelerated students in their AP level English courses, to small groups of older writers looking for a place to share their work, and to high school students who had never been given an outlet for their creative writing interests. 

It is time to stop treating my writing as a hobby and allow it to be the focus of my life and my career.  The small, focused group setting of University of Oregon is exactly what I am looking for in an MFA program.  The combination of intense workshops and individual tutorials makes for an exciting prospect to grow and develop as a writer.  I am ready to expose myself to the criticism of a sophisticated audience and hone my craft alongside an equally impassioned community of writers and educators.  If selected for your program, I would focus on further developing a distinct written voice and begin the construction of my next novel. 

Though I have wandered from the path of professional writing and teaching, I have never left entirely.  It has not been easy to continue to call myself a writer, and even more difficult to live up to the title, but it is a challenge I accept every day. 

I have proven to myself that I have the discipline, passion and commitment for a higher level of instruction.  It is my hope that I can have the opportunity to prove the same to you as a student at the University of Oregon.

Thank you for your consideration.

Emily J. Jeziorski

Here’s what I’ve got going for me:

1.)    I’m a non-traditional student
2.)    I’ve taken time off to figure out that being a writer is what I really, really, really want to do
3.)    …I have pretty hair.

So, yeah, okay.  Not the resume I was hoping for, but it’s a start.  It’s also worth noting that the letter above doesn’t sound like me AT ALL and I’m wondering if I should just take some combination of the Autobiographical Statement I posted earlier today and somehow turn that into a letter they’d remember?

I literally don’t know.  Please help.

Please.

I’m going to go eat my feelings while I figure out my next move.


Autobiographical Statement

As some of you know--and some of you don't--I'm applying to grad school for Fall of 2016.  I didn't advertise this anywhere on social media for a lot of reasons.  Those reasons are for a different blog that's probably going to be really dark and depressing and maybe published later today. 

The purpose of this post, though, is not just to tell Squarespace that I'm still alive and using this domain, but to share one of the pieces I crafted for one of my applications.  This particular school asked for a lot of different things.  They wanted a Statement of Purpose, an Autobiographical Statement, and a Personal History Statement.

Uh...what?

That's a lot of things that all sound like the same thing.  And doesn't that sound like it would make it more difficult for the selection committee?  And why not lump all these things together and call it an Extra Long Tell Us About Yourself Statement?  (Capital Letters Are Important to Grad Schools).

But I'm bad a naming things, so I guess that's why they're reading my stuff and I'm sitting on my couch, waiting for rejection letters.  

Wait. That's too dark. I promised darkness later.  Shit.

Anyway, here's the autobiographical statement I ended up being the most proud of.  I haven't considered dipping a toe into the lake of Creative Nonfiction since sophomore year of college, but that's where this piece would fall if I needed to give it a genre.

Without further ado: 

In the fourth grade classroom at Gill Hall Elementary, in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on a hot April day in 1997, I sat with three adults.  My parents and my teacher.

            It was tense.  The sweat prickled at my hairline before sliding slowly down the back of my neck.  The adults were talking.  Their words clipped and terse.  No one was talking to me.  No one was even looking at me.  They were just carrying on, speaking to one another, hands folded over the papers in question.  Ignoring me like I wasn’t sitting there beside them, awaiting execution.

            I didn’t mean to forget to finish my math test.  Or start it.  I’d just gotten carried away.  Numbers were so much more interesting when I could turn them into little characters and make up a story about them instead.  And the story which I’d ended up writing on the back of my test was a lot more entertaining than the equations I hadn’t answered on the front, anyway. 

            “Emily,” Mrs. K said finally, setting her beady eyes on the accused.  “Do you understand why I’ve asked your parents to be here?”

            My mother and father—who couldn’t stand to be in the same room as one another normally—both focused their gaze on me.  I swallowed hard.  “Yes?”

            “And why is that?” Mrs. K raised one of her penciled on eyebrows and pursed her lined lips. 

            “Because I wrote a story about the numbers on the back of my math test,” I mumbled, looking down at my hands.

            “Instead of?”

            I sighed with resignation.  “Instead of taking my math test.”

            Even to my nine year old self, this tribunal seemed rife with injustice.  Did they even read the story about Seven dispelling the rumors of his cannibalism?  Did no one care that he went to trial and swore under oath that he did not eat Nine as he was charged?  Or how One defended him because she knew what it was like to be lonely and intimidating? And best yet, after Seven was cleared of all charged, they fell in love and walked hand in hand into the double digits together. 

            “Why do you think we’re disappointed, Em?” my father asked.  His tone was still kind and gentle as always, but undoubtedly displeased.

            “Because math is important?” It was a question.  One I’d been asking since the subject had been introduced to me three years ago and immediately begun its bullying. It was a question that no one had answered. 

            No one answered me this time.  Instead, they turned their attention back to one another and moved onto the sentencing portion of my trial.  Mrs. K used words like “special” and “extra help” and “after-school programs.”  Words that made the knot in my stomach twist tighter and tighter.   

            My mother was silent afterward as we climbed into the car and buckled our seatbelts.  I waited until we pulled onto the street before I swallowed hard and glanced over at her.  “Are you mad?” I asked, quietly, praying I was looking cuter than I felt.

            “Yes,” she said in an even tone.

            “Oh.”

            “I’m mad because I can’t believe my taxes go to paying that woman’s salary,” she gripped the steering wheel tighter.  I blinked. Didn’t expect that.  “What kind of idiot reads a story like that and calls a meeting to tell us she thinks there’s something wrong with you?”  She shook her head and pulled over onto the shoulder.  She took a deep breath and turned to me.  “Look, Em,” she reached out and put a hand on my shoulder.  “No one is good at everything, okay?  But this?” she held up my story.  “You’re good at this.  You’re really, really good at this.”  I felt myself smiling for the first time all day.  My mother smiled back and pressed a kiss to the top of my head.  “Just please don’t use your math tests anymore, okay?  I’ll buy you as many notebooks as you want.  I just don’t want to sit through another meeting like that one.”  She raised her eyebrows.  “Deal?”

            I grinned.  “Deal.”  

            “We’re going to the library,” her mother decided aloud.  “An imagination like yours needs to be fed.”

            True to my word, I stopped writing on the back of my math tests.  I still failed them, but no one had to go to any more meetings because of it.  I had a building full of new teachers waiting for me to devour the lessons they had hidden between their pages.

             I studied character development from Harper Lee and Thomas Mann.  I learned description from the poets—Mary Oliver was my favorite, but I made time for Dickenson and Thoreau.  I kept myself awake most of the summer of 2002 studying how to tingle a spine from the likes of Shelley and Danielewski.  Judy Blume, Toni Morrison, and Elmore Leonard taught me the ins and outs of great dialogue. 

            It was only eleven years later that I found myself in the hospital, sitting beside my mother in the last week of her life.  She had been asleep most of the day; the morphine dulled the pain of the cancer ravaging her body, but it also knocked her out.  She did open her eyes that afternoon, though, and reached for my hand, startling me from the book I was reading at her bedside.

            Her skin was yellowed with jaundice, but her eyes were the same.  Green and kind and curious about what I was doing.  “Who are you reading today?” she asked, her voice hoarse. 

            I covered her hand with mine.  “Neil Gaiman.”

            She managed a smile.  “Get it from the library?”  I nodded and swallowed down the lump in my throat.  “Is there anything in that place you haven’t read?”

            I brought our hands up and kissed the back of hers, squeezing our fingers together as I forced a smile.  “Just the math books.”

 

 

Meatless Monday Meal

Hey there friends!  I know, I’ve been MIA on the blogging scene for a few months (it’s my thing.  I do that sometimes) but now I’m back!  You can all release the breath you’ve been holding.

So guess what?  I have a recipe for you fine folks.

I came up with this little dish a few weeks ago while remembering my fondness for my former employer’s White Bean and Spinach soup.  It was super delicious and gave me the idea for this meatless meal.  I also took this to my family in Tennessee on my road trip last week where it received the Grandma Seal of Approval. 

So there’s some fierce street cred for ya. 

Let’s get started.  First thing’s first:  gather your ingredients

(Note: there should also be a teaspoon of olive oil pictured here, but I forgot to add the bottle to the photo.  Yes, husband/photographer, you were right.  I was wrong.  I said it.)


Start your water a’boiling and drain your white beans.


Julienne the roasted reds and sundried tomatoes.


While your pasta is cooking, roast your garlic in the olive oil.

And wilt your spinach.

(Note: use more spinach than you think you’ll need.  It shrivels up fast and you will need a lot to mix with the beans and other veggies.)


Add in the white beans, peppers, and tomatoes.

(Omigod.  So pretty.)


Reduce heat and cover for 5-10 minutes while the pasta finishes cooking.


Strain the pasta

(Husband/photographer thought this was a superfluous photo…but it’s just nice, y’know?)


Toss veggie topping together and spoon over a serving of pasta.


You can also top with parmesan cheese….which we do not have.  Much to Moxie’s disappointment.

No, seriously.  She’s obviously pissed. 

 

But my belly is happy, and so is my husband…who was paid for his photography skills in healthy, delicious pasta.

 

Ingredients:

(Serves 2-4)

-Whole wheat pasta—I used linguine but I don’t want to tell you how to live your life

-1 Jar roasted red peppers

-1 jar sundried tomatoes (if you can get them pre-julienned, go for it.  Save a step.)

-1 bag baby spinach

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-1 tablespoon minced garlic

-1 can white beans

-Grated parmesan cheese

(which, as stated above, I did not have)

 

 

Hope you've enjoyed your Meatless Monday!

All photos are, of course, courtesy of the sexiest photographer on the scene: Jeremy Jeziorski  Both my life and my blog would suck without him.

My favorite scar

There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with." — Harry Crews

I think I just fell in love with a new quote today.  It felt so perfect for what I’m about to write—how I’ve closed a wound in my heart that I’d kept open too long.  And instead of another issue to work through, I’ve got a scar.  A new scar, a beautiful scar, a scar that tells me I accomplished something I thought was totally impossible.

I learned how to love myself.

It occurred to me the other day that I started this blog planning to talk about one thing and I’ve ended up wanting to talk about something else.  Like, a lot of the time.  Anyone else notice that?

I think it started when I moved to my own website.  I no longer had the words “FULL-FIGURED” yelling at me from the address bar or the top of the page and I guess, maybe, I felt a little liberated and felt like I’d been given permission to write about other things that interested me.

Not so bad, really.  In fact, it’s been quite fun.

But I realized something else, while I was realizing all these other things (Sunday, although truly a day where not a lot happened, was apparently chock-full of realizations) and that’s that I haven’t been writing about my struggle with body image because…I…don’t really struggle with body image that much anymore?

Wait.  What?

2013-10-15 12.09.25

2013-10-15 12.09.25

When the hell did that happen?

Truthfully, I don’t know.  I can’t pinpoint the precise moment I decided to love and accept myself exactly as I am.  Starting the blog was monumental, obviously.  I was able to publicly deal with a lot of dark and twisty stuff that I’d been bottling up for a long time.  What was even more amazing was everyone sharing their stories and struggles with me and all of us working through our crap together.  It was awesome.  It still is awesome.  Please don’t stop telling me about yourselves!

But anyway, I was pinpointing.  Or not pinpointing.  Or…whatever.  I guess at some point I just decided to stop believing all my own bullshit.  Actually, I think I decided that if I could teach myself to believe all this bullshit about not being thin/pretty/in-shape/toned/tanned/etc. “enough” (whatever that means) then I could teach myself just the opposite, even if it took another 25 years.

Besides, who doesn’t love a super-sexy and confident woman in her fifties?

kim cattrall

kim cattrall

I know I do.

2013-10-15 12.11.08

2013-10-15 12.11.08

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a bit of a struggle, but here are some awesome things that have happened since I changed my life a year ago:

-I am 100% healthier in body, mind, and spirit

-I can cook some pretty delicious and healthy dishes

-I prefer walking to driving anywhere

-I wore a bikini on the beach last April (and received an embarrassing amount of positive attention from the natives)

-I’m down a size in my jeans

-I can look at photos of myself and at my own reflection and go, “Damn girl.  You look good.”  (I did that today, actually.)

Like for instance, today my wonderful husband put up this photo of us:

1395148_578804838833540_1767869350_n

1395148_578804838833540_1767869350_n

Before, I know exactly what I would have thought, looking at it.  I would have focused on my arms and thought, “Ugh, they’re so fat and pale and unshapely.”  And I would have scrutinized my complexion and my double chin and probably found every reason in the world to hate it.

But sometime, over the last three years, something clicked in my brain and I can look at this photo and smile and laugh and tell Jer that it’s one of my favorites we’ve ever taken.  Why?  Because of my barely contained smile.  Because of the way my fingers and hands are bent at such a weird angle that I’m always going to be trying to remember what I was saying to him right before the photo was snapped.  And best of all, because of the way Jer is looking at me like I’m unlimited supply of pizza and hot wings.  Because we look young and happy and in love and it’s all kinds of perfect.

(Oh, and because my hair looked good and crazy that day, too.)

good hair

good hair

(See?  Good and crazy.)

It’s kind of amazing the difference a little love can make, especially when you aim that love at yourself.

So that’s what’s going on with me.  What’s going on with you guys?

And here, I thought endings were hard

So here’s the thing.  The agent who was reading my book?  She didn’t want it.  Yeah, I’m dying inside.  Every time I say it or think it which (because I’m self-deprecating  and a little bit insane) is all the time, I feel like curling up into a ball and crying. Or screaming and pounding my fists.

Or drinking a bottle of tequila with a straw.

Or all three.

Or kind of like this:

And, okay, yeah, I know that literally EVERYONE gets rejected before they have any kind of success.  I know that.  (I mean, if you know someone whose first attempt at artistic success wasn’t rejected, don’t fucking tell me about it.  I’ll want them dead.  It’s not fair, it’s not right or mature, but it’s what I’ll want.)  But it doesn’t make it any harder to deal with the fact that I joined their ranks.  It doesn’t make me feel any less like an absolute failure with a 12 paragraph long e-mail with all the reasons my book sucks.  It doesn’t make me wonder if everyone who ever taught me was wrong or if everyone who read Mack & Moira thus far was just being nice.

Because these are real feelings.  These are real fears I’m dealing with all of the time.  Truly every time I open my word processor, there’s this little slacker voice where my imagination used to be that kind of yawns and looks at me like, “Really?  We’re still doing this?  Ugh.  You’re such a glutton for punishment but…*sigh* Okay…”

I also still have 130,000 unusable words that are all chanting a chorus of:

So there’s that.  Am I being overly dramatic?  Yes.  But just dramatic?  No.  I’m not.  And if you think I am, I don’t care, because the sheer weight of what needs to be changed about this manuscript that I just spent three years opening my veins into is just.  It’s just exhausting.  And of course I’m going to do it.  And of course I knew I’d have to.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I still feel like crying, and that a large part of my sleepy, slacker brain is wondering if it’s going to be worth it, and all of this adds up to me feeling really, really lost.

And really sad.

And having to write a “thank you for rejecting me” email that took three drafts before I could send it.

So if you see me and ask me how the book is and I either:

a.)    burst directly into tears

b.)    whimper and dissolve into a sniffling heap on the ground

c.)     turn and walk in the opposite direction

Just remember, it’s not you.  It’s me and my broken heart.

Will I get over this?  Yes.  Obviously.  If I can survive 2008, I can clearly survive this.  Because even if I don’t actually want to keep putting myself out there to be rejected again and again and again (repeat 400x as needed until success occurs), I’ll still do it.  Why?  Is it because I’m adorably optimistic and hopeful?  Not really.

It’s more like this:

PS: Thanks to Kat Dennings for her support and wisdom during this difficult time.

 

 

Brave

I’m having a quarter-life crisis. I’ve been thinking of ways to convey this, the proper words to choose and how exactly to form my thoughts and feelings for at least the last three weeks. How silly of me to NOT realize it was wasted effort because I could never convey my own thoughts and feelings as succinctly and beautifully as Nora Ephron.  (I mean, really, who the hell can compete with Nora?  No one.  That’s who.)  What makes this particular cri-de-coeur so much better is that it is Nora’s words, read and performed by Meg Ryan in a lovely scene from You’ve Got Mail.

Ugh.  Look at that sentence.  Seriously.  Why do I bother?  Take it away, ladies.

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?”

This sentence is the story of my small, valuable life.  I love the people (and kitties, of course) in my life and I love the organization I work for and I think that I should be pretty happy.  And actually, a lot of the time, I am pretty happy.

But it’s not the happiness that comes from knowing you took a huge risk and are reaping the benefits of your courageous choice (at least, I don’t think it is.  I’ve never actually done that, so I can’t speak from experience.)  It’s the happiness that comes from being “okay”.  From using most of the degree your parents spent a fortune on.  From a steady paycheck and a relatively new car that you haven’t driven the tires off of yet, kitties to snuggle and a partner who makes you happy.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s a happiness that doesn’t suck.  Especially when you compare it to the rest of the world with the war and starvation and Republicans running all over the place.  I really have nothing to complain about.

But of course, the times when I seem to have nothing to complain about are always the times when I can’t shut my mouth.  So here’s my issue:  Just like Kathleen Kelly in that eternal classic, I do live a small life.  And I know that I like it, but I also know that I haven’t been brave.  I’m not a brave person and I never have been.  When I was little, I did everything I could to avoid getting dirty or hurt (including WALKING down the stairs when I could have slid down in a sleeping bag and almost broken my ankle like my brother did); in high school, my greatest offense was staying out past my 10pm curfew because I was eating Grilled Stickies at Eat N Park with my theatre friends.  And in college, naturally, I was everybody’s mom.  98% of the time the DD (even when I’d request not to be) and it’s a trend that has continued into my adult life.  Some might say that I wasn’t being a spineless lamb, I was being responsible.

Unfortunately, when you look back at your life, those often tend to feel like the same thing.

And I’ve certainly had opportunities to be brave.   I could have fought harder with my parents about where I wanted to go to school, could have moved somewhere that wasn’t safe and back with said parents after college.  I could have chosen to struggle and pursue a really difficult and unrewarding job as a journalist (which I would have hated) or a freelancer or something along those lines.  But I didn’t.  I sat back for a year and let life just happen to me.

For whatever reason, while life was happening to me, it decided to be incredibly kind.  (Very out of character for life, up until that point.)  It dropped a great job into my lap and an even greater boyfriend who I decided I liked so much I wanted to marry him.  (Have to hold onto the ones you don’t have to work for…just in case life decides to shuffle them around to someone else.)  So I didn’t really think about things like defining my happiness and identifying with You’ve Got Mail quotes (except, of course “It may not have been personal to you, but it was personal to me.  It was personal to a lot of people.  And what is so wrong with being personal anyway?  Whatever a thing is, it should always start out as being personal.”)  Is it just me, or is that the greatest movie ever? Honestly, there’s a quote in there for almost every occasion in life!

Anyway.

Life was good.  Life is good.  It is.

But it’s not what I’ve always wanted.  Not entirely.  Am I keeping a roof over my head?  Yes.  Am I married to a man I love with all my heart and who—for reasons I can’t possibly begin to comprehend—loves me for the truly bizarre, self-absorbed lunatic that I am?  Yes.  (I know, right?  I still don’t believe it.) Am I healthy and well-fed and able to keep my car on the road and feet in my shoes?  Yes to all of the above.

I’m also exhausted, grinding my teeth, and fairly certain I’m developing an ulcer.  You know what I’m not doing nearly enough of?  Writing.

That pesky thing that’s kept me from truly falling in love with the idea of any other profession.  I knew when I was eight years old that I could never really be a doctor or a lawyer (although I toyed with the idea of the latter for quite a bit) or a florist or even a teacher because all I’ve ever wanted to do was write.

So, write!  You’re probably thinking, looking at your watch and rolling your eyes if you’ve heard this ten million times (looking at you, husband.)  What are you sitting around here, bitching at us for?  Sit down, shut up, and finish your novel!

Hence my dilemma.  Is the path I’m currently on one that is perfectly respectable and one that makes a  lot of sense?  Yes it is.  Do I love what I get up and do every day?  No, I don’t.  Am I doing what I’ve always wanted to do since I first understood the concept of wanting “to be something” when you grew up?  No.  At least, not on the days that I’m too exhausted to write.

Sadly, those days appear more often than they do not.

I have the ability to change my life…but it’s terrifying.  What if I make these changes and devote myself to my writing only to find that I’m actually not very good?  I know it’s going to take an excessively long time to get published (if at all) and in the meantime, I’ll have to deal with a large amount of rejection and criticism and honestly?  I’m not nearly as tough as I look.

What if I just end up working a dead-end job to have the time to write books that no one cares about and most people never get a chance to read?  What if all I’m actually meant to do is pour words into a computer and occasionally the internet and never get see even the slightest glimmer of success?

Here’s what I know:  I’m not really happy right now with the way things are.  I’m terrified by the idea of defining myself as a writer who does other things to pay the bills as opposed to a woman with a good, steady job and a good, steady paycheck who happens to write on the side.

Like, really, really pants-shitting, terrified.

And the other thing that I know, or at least feel like I know, is that something is telling me to make a decision and for the first time in my life, I feel like being brave.