Brief Update

The briefest of brief updates:

1) There’s no way it’s been a month since I last posted. I’ll remedy that here soon.

2) I just sent out my first queries in years so I’m a tad nauseous and slightly exhilarated, which is converging in this massive migraine.

Dear agents, welcome to my humble abode. The “VHAMA” page listed under the “Writing” tab above will give you more of an idea about the novel I just inundated your inboxes with. The rest of the blog is merely a chance to see that I’m clinically nuts.

I’m going to go hunt some ibuprofen and tea. See you soon, friends.

 

Manuscript = Done.

Hi, guys. It’s been a bit since we last spoke. I’ve been distracted–extremely distracted–between work and writing. The new job is going frighteningly well. I’m a little worried about it, to be honest. Writing, well . . . writing has been a little exhilarating.

I swore to myself a few months back that wherever I happened to be on May 24th would be where the novel ended. I kept that promise and finished the manuscript on May 27th, with an ending that surprised even me. I didn’t intend to leave my readers conflicted about my primary spy’s true allegiance, but it made for a good place to stop.

The novel is currently in the hands of three trusted friends, one of whom already finished the read-through and demanded I finish the second book ASAP. Taylor, my dear brother, talked about the first half of the novel for about half an hour without pause, which also made me happy. They give me hope that I’m not chasing an empty dream.

I’ll be back soon, ideally with all three reviews in hand. May was an extremely stressful month which started with the daunting task of finding toothpaste that doesn’t contain peppermint. Do you know how nearly impossible that is? I’m currently using children’s strawberry-flavored toothpaste and praying the redness on my face from years of peppermint exposure fades.

Ttyl.

No More Hiding

How do you hide?

I’ve had a lot of practice hiding. When I was a kid, I wore shirts far too large for me because I felt like I was fat. When I was 12 years old, 5′ 7″, and 149 lbs, I remember my dad looking me over. I was in jeans and a patterned blue and white short-sleeved button up. I’m sure whatever he said was meant to be positive, but I felt exposed and fat and ugly. I spent that school year wearing a ratty XXL denim shirt over my regular clothes.

Then I was thirteen and on a softball team. I came into my curves young, and I thought that made me fat. There’s a team photo where I’m standing in the back on the end and you can see that I have massive hips.

Then came fourteen, birth control for hormone regulation, persistent illness, weight gain, and the first manifestations of bipolar. I’m not convinced the birth control didn’t set off a chain reaction within my body. Even though I quit it after a few months, my body was never the same again. I spent a solid year in a black and white sports jacket because it hid my waistline and my hips.

I lost weight and gained it back. I’ve stayed in the range of 190-210 since age 16. I met a boy with whom the sun rose and set. He held my hand, made me feel wanted, made me feel adored. My self-image shifted a little bit. I wore dresses without wearing that jacket, which was a huge accomplishment.

That only lasted a few years. Life constantly changes, and we weren’t immune. Eventually he didn’t want to hold my hand anymore, didn’t like it when I danced or skipped or played in public. I embarrassed him sober, so I didn’t mind when he got drunk.

He loved me when he was drunk, and he would laugh and dance and sing and tell jokes, so I didn’t mind him drinking even when it got to borderline alcoholism. He loved me when he was drunk in a way that he didn’t when he was sober, and I was selfish. I needed to be loved. I went back to hating my body when he was sober.

It’s been sixteen months since we split, nine months since we agreed to never see each other again, and six months since we last had any contact whatsoever. I’m recovering, which this time last year seemed impossible. I was utterly destroyed from inside out.

The road to recovery has only a little bit to do with the actual loss of him. The real healing is starting to take place because of someone else’s relationship. This healing is something I needed long before I ever met my ex.

My good friend is getting married later this year, and we’ve been trying on bridesmaid dresses. The last time I wore a bridesmaid’s gown, I was in a wedding where it was important to look as thin as you can. This time is completely different because this friend comes from a culture where “thin” is an absurd concept. One of the other bridesmaids told me, “I don’t know why you’d want to get rid of [your ass]. I see women trying to get implants to get what you’ve got, and you’ve got it naturally. It makes me sick to see these girls thinking they’re so fat when there’s other girls who pay to get that.”

Well, that’s certainly a different perspective.

The bride and the bridesmaid have both been instrumental in helping me accept my body. I had another friend awhile back say I was nearly perfectly proportioned for that elusive hourglass shape. Slowly, I’m starting to gain confidence in my body.

That’s not to say I don’t need to drop a few pounds to get to a healthy weight–I absolutely need to adjust my diet to something a bit healthier than Sour Patch Kids and Starbucks. The point is I’m not hiding anymore.

The bride showed me a picture from our last excursion that she considered “regal.” Along with not hiding my body, I’m learning not to hide my personality. I’ve been made fun of for my laugh, for the jokes I like, for the childish fun I like to have, for the fact I like to dance regardless of the music situation. . . .

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The dress was a size 18 or 20. Turns out I wear a 14.

Recovering from this relationship has been so much more than I anticipated. I expected to come out the other side stronger than I was at the beginning, but I didn’t know what that really meant. I thought it would mean not pining after my ex, a goal I’ve finally achieved. Learning to appreciate the way my body is built, learning to own my strengths and weaknesses, learning to enjoy the moment because making concrete plans for the future is a waste of time — these are things I didn’t anticipate.

In therapy today, I talked for an hour about work and boys and at the end, my therapist said, “Are you sure you need to come back?” It was kind of bizarre realizing I might be at a point that I’m actually stable enough to go about life without sitting behind closed doors with a professional listener.

The fact is, I’m okay. I really am okay, at least for now. I have my sights set on what I can control right now, and my hopes set on what possibilities might lie ahead. Being that I’m extremely relationship-oriented, I’ve tried not to focus on that aspect of my life in case I get distracted.

(Of course, that meant the Universe immediately directed me to someone who has that personality my ex had when he was drunk. The difference is, this guy is sober, plus he has the same kind of laugh I do and he loves the same type of jokes. All the personality quirks I’ve been degraded for, he has.)

All I can do right now is live my life as I want to, do the kind of work I love and write the kind of stories I like. Maybe one day he and I will cross paths. Maybe I’ll cross paths with someone even better. I’m finally genuinely open to the Universe if it wants to set me on the proper course.

I’m not hiding anymore.

Paralyzing Anxiety

I think I used up all of my happy for the week.

Over the last three weeks, I’ve flown six times – back & forth to Dallas twice, and Charlotte on Monday. Monday was fabulous: I got to try on dresses, evening gowns, etc. so it made me happy to my core.I’m one of those people who’s determined to be on the red carpet someday, so I’m happy to try on anything made of satin, organza, georgette, etc.

Yesterday, getting out of bed barely happened. It’s not like I was consciously sad–that’s not really what depression is. I sat in bed and felt heavy, like it would take too much energy to move, to leave the house, to eat anything. I woke up to several text messages, “Hey, are you at work? How do you do XYZ?” “Hey, have you have a chance to look over this project?” “Hey, can you contact this colleague?”

Hey, have you heard of It’s My Day Off?

I ignored all but the “How do you do XYZ?” because I knew the answer off the top of my head and didn’t have to sign into a computer. I spend the rest of the day knowing I should be doing other things, and laying in bed instead. Responsibility is paralyzing sometimes, especially when it’s responsibility I didn’t ask for.

We have a colleague who is celebrating a huge milestone with the company. He’s been out for a year due to cancer, and I only worked with him for a year before that. Nicest guy, sweetest guy, and I really looked forward to seeing him. Then somehow I got involved with putting together the gift from the department. I hate doing stuff like that. It sounds so selfish and so petty, but I genuinely hate putting together fluff stuff if I’m doing it alone. You want to stand there and do it with me? I’m good. Not by myself.

I froze. I froze for four weeks, which forced someone else to put it together. She didn’t ask for it either, but she did it anyway. His celebration was supposed to be on Monday. He cancelled, and I found out yesterday he would be coming in today instead. Now, our colleague is at work, having this celebration he so deserves, and I’m at home because I’m ashamed that I didn’t do my part.

Depression and anxiety do things like that. They take willpower and common sense and crush them. There are days when I really feel like I’m not cut out for this at all–the working, the writing, the being around people, the having friends.

And then there are days where I not only feel like I can take on the world, I do. You know when people say, “This is so frustrating! We can’t get anyone to pay attention to this issue. At this point, I’m just going to tell the CEO.” If you’ve worked in a corporate environment, you’ve met that person at least once. That person is normally blowing smoke.

Unless that person’s me, in which case, watch out. On Thursday, I stood up before our CEO & 1000+ management-level employees and asked a question about a computer program that is being used improperly. The abuse of this program has been a pet peeve of not only mine, but my entire department and the customers we serve. So many people have said, “I’m going to ask Doug Parker.” Well, I did, and there were witnesses.

How does it make sense that I can do that, but I can’t put together a Happy Anniversary poster on my own? And how is it that I am so ashamed of the fact that I failed at putting this together that I can’t even go to the celebration? This is how all of high school was for me–this cycle of freezing and failing and shame. I failed classes, failed as the Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper, failed at so many things, and felt so much shame at all of them.

But I can stand up and face the CEO of a multi-billion dollar operation to ask a question that literally hundreds of other people are afraid to ask.

Maybe that’s what used up the rest of my positive energy. Either way, I’m going to be quite proud if I manage to leave the house today.

What is “Happy?”

A picture came across my Reader this morning that stuck with me the entire day. It took me back to that commitment I made on January 1st to just be myself. Up to today, all I’ve figured out this year is Pottermore was correct when it put me in Slytherin rather than Ravenclaw. A close friend told me, “Imma drag yo’ ass to church and you’re going to sit at the alter for the whole service and pray,” after I made some (*ahem* questionable) comments about an acquaintance’s predicament. Twice.

Right, the picture.

(Can we really appreciate for the moment that she said she was going to drag my ass to church, though? I sat at my desk and cackled. That sentence was easily the most appropriate thing we (including one of my new hires) said all morning. If I needed to sit at the alter and pray, my dear friend needed to be right there with me, along with a bottle of soap, some holy water, and whatever else can be used for cleansing.)

So the picture.

The message itself is relatively succinct:

Be happy
Be yourself
If others don’t like it, then let them be.
Happiness is a choice.
Life isn’t about pleasing everybody.
Do what is right for you.

(original post here)

I can’t get the words out of my head, which is okay. It’s a powerful message. I sat for a few minutes and thought about what that could mean for me. The first thing that floated into my consciousness surprised me: be happy/be yourself = find a job as an editor.

This notion has been tickling the back of my mind for quite some time now. I’m proficient with technology to the point that a degree in Computer Engineering and a job in IT is my obvious path. My family background even supports that: granddad was a self-taught civil engineer; mom & uncle are/were self-taught software developers; cousin worked for Apple at one point. By comparison, my little sister is the “technologically-challenged” one, and she can still talk circles around some of our IT guys. I come from a family of mathematically-minded nerds. Hell, my first degree path was Mathematics, and I can rapidly learn anything with a logical pattern. My genetics predestined me for engineering or IT or architecture, all of which I love.

And then there’s writing.

I don’t like to write on a deadline. It stresses me out. Deadlines are great, except that I’m a procrastinator and I will develop an ulcer at some point. Writing on a deadline is out of the question for me. As a novelist, I’m going to be like Patrick Rothfuss — you waited 20 years for the first book, you can wait 20 years for the third.

I will need an extremely patient agent/publisher.

(The book linked above, by the way, is on my list of “I can’t date you if ___”: you haven’t read that book. Thank you, Twitter, for helping me define what I want in my relationships. #icantdateyouif #relationshipgoals)(#kylorenshair)

[2 hours later–had to visit Twitter for a play-by-play of the Cards/Panthers game. Dear Carson, you will recover, I promise.]

Where was I?

Writing. Right.

I love writing, but I love reading as much or more. I avidly read blogs about character development, world-building, grammar & word usage, etc. I’m a terrible snob when it comes to reading emails at work. I’d like a full-time job as an email copy-editor in my department: all emails come through me before they go anywhere else. Seriously, there is no space before the period. There is never a space before the period EXCEPT when using ellipses. Also, spell check is a beneficial habit if one prefers to avoid looking like a complete bonehead.

(#petpeeves)

(I have no idea how or why I started thinking in hashtags again; I thought I broke that habit when I ditched Facebook last year. To Twitter’s credit, hashtags are the closest thing humankind has to a sarcasm font.)

Horrendous emails aside, I love reading diamond-in-the-rough novels. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a novel and thought, “Oh, but if she’d just fleshed out this character a little more,” or “How exactly was that supposed to fit into the plot?” or “Who allowed this sentence to be published?”

I am a terrible beta reader because I go in-depth with every aspect of a novel. Give me a character and I will ask you questions you can’t answer. Taylor just had this experience a week ago. He showed me a drawing of a character whose hairstyle didn’t fit with her culture. I asked why. He said “because,” and then really thought about it. Once he realized why her hair was different, the plot started coming together. Even a haircut can add dimensions to the world itself.

Editing. Critiquing. These make me happy.  Maybe this is what “be yourself” means for me in the grand scheme of things.

tl;dr: Just read the bolded stuff.