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Category: The Writing Life

Don’t say it if you don’t mean it

Don’t say it if you don’t mean it

I was thinking a lot about the post I shared earlier on Facebook that was a “copy this” post. I just have a policy of not doing those. But I did this one because the issue hits home and someone important to me “asked” me to post it on my wall. Anyway, it’s been gnawing at me for days. And here’s why:

When I say “What can I do?” I mean *What can I do?* When I say “I’m here for you 24/7.” I mean always. Not “or when I feel like it.” When I tell you “I’ll be there if you need (or want) me there.” I mean I will find a way to get to you whether you’re down the street, across town, or across the country. I love with my whole heart and when people I deeply care for or love are in need or are hurting and need someone’s hand to hold, I’ll move heaven and earth to get to them.

But here’s the bitch of it all. We seem to live in an “I’m fine” world these days. In fact, the worse off you actually are, the more “fine” you become. I know how to play that card to perfection. “Oh, you know, rough days but I’m good.” “The headaches? Yeah, they’re back but I’m doing fine.” or “I’m just annoyed I got another diagnosis but it’s nothing I haven’t been through before so it’s all good.”  And especially the ones that go something along the lines of “Oh, that Facebook post about feeling worthless? Just a bad moment.” And in case you ever venture into the dark side of my Pinterest board? (Scary place. Take a friend.) “Oh, those Pinterest pins that talk about being broken and needing my friend(s)? I pin them on rough days. I’m fine!”

You’re not going to get more out of me because very few actually want to know the truth- especially when you’re like me and have chronic illnesses. That’s just the way it is and those of us with chronic illnesses know it. We learn quickly who is asking “How are you?” and who wants to know “How are you?”

Unfortunately, when you get a diagnosis that changes the very basics of your life, depression can set it. And I’m talking about real, deep down, hopeless depression. You have to know who you can count on for not only the initial truth but someone who cares enough about the follow-through. Sometimes that’s just too damn hard because most people are just designed to not only prefer the “prettier” fine than the”real” fine if that is your life. You may lose friends. (I have.) You may gain friends. (I have.) You may see friends you’ve already had in a whole new light. (I have.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is, please, think long and hard before throwing out those oh so easily said words: “I’m here for you. What can I do?”

Someone may be counting on you to mean those words. I’m serious when I say that. How many times have you said that yourself and meant either for the moment or until you get tired of their mood? Or said it with good intentions and did call or send something thoughtful or check-in and that’s where it ended.

You see, for many, it’s in the follow-up. Did you text them even when they didn’t text back just so they’d know they weren’t alone? Did you call and leave a voicemail just to say that you’re there and won’t go anywhere- that you’ll still be there when they are ready to talk?

That’s the bitch of depression. When you’re deep in it, you want… no, you need to hear that you’re loved and worth something, and that the people you love aren’t going anywhere. When you’re depressed, your mind lies to you. When things go silent you begin to believe you really are as unlovable as you feel; you are worthless; you are losing friends & family you love. And you believe that deep into your soul.

So, when you say “I’m here for you” please think about whether you are there for the moment or for the time they need. (Especially if you’re dealing with someone who has a chronic illness or autoimmune disease or really anything that’s not going to go away or go away easily.) We’re in for the long haul. Before you offer, ask if you think you can be too. Do you have the strength to ride these highs and lows with your friend or is it too much? There is no shame in admitting it’s too much if you’re honest with yourself and your friend. If it’s just for the beginning when everything is new, be honest. Say something more truthful like “I’ll keep you in my thoughts” or “Is there anything you need right now?” Believe or not, we count on those “I’ll call you back” or “I’ll text you later” comments you throw out. Yes, even when we are so down and dark and we sometimes don’t reply. Just please know, it gives us hope. It helps us hang on to something. Your simple “it was no big deal” can be a lifeline to someone who is suffering. Who feels alone. Who feels like her illness means she is no longer worth it. Who can’t find the light? Who wonders if she’s loved. Who wonders if out-of-sight is out-of-mind. Who feels as if when her whole world was turned upside down, her friends fell off.

All of that to say one simple thing.

Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.

When I could touch 9/11 a decade later

When I could touch 9/11 a decade later

I’ve shared this post  before. I will probably share it many more times. It’s my only real way of knowing what to say on 9/11. So, here is my heart laid bare for you to read about a city I fell in love with and a heartbreak that I could only express in tears that summer day.

—-

When I knew that I was going to be in New York City for a conference in August, the first thing on my mind was to go to the 9/11 memorial. One of my dear friends invited me because she was planning to go with a group the first day there. It was the perfect plan. Except that it wasn’t. First, the group was filled and didn’t have enough room for one more. (I was heartbroken but realized it was what it was and there is nothing I could do about it.) Second, you know what they say about the best laid plans. First, I missed my flight so that delayed me. When I finally reached the city it took me nearly 3 hours to reach the hotel from the airport. So, even if I had been included in the group, I’d have missed it traveling anyway. Things happen for a reason. I knew it would weigh heavy on my heart to be there but I thought I it was exactly what I wanted to do.

Now, if you were with me during most of my trip to NYC, you know it was super emotional. You see, I’ve had a mini-crush on the city from afar. I have never been there but my heart was all “NYC ERMAHGERD!” But when I was actually there? It took mere seconds for me to fall in love with the city. Things that people who live there probably don’t even give a second thought had me so smitten and emotional. It became so commonplace, my friends didn’t even give it a second thought to look over and see tears in my eyes or rolling down my cheek over something that moved me about the city. Something I dreamed of seeing or doing and was actually seeing and doing!

All of that to say, with my emotions so up front and center, maybe the 9/11 Memorial wasn’t the place for me. This year. But there was something that I was supposed to see and experience in relation.

I went to an event with one of my dearest friends, Liz, one evening in South Village. And of course, I was enamored with just about everything in the area. (Shout out, City Winery!)  As she and I were walking around the area, I noticed a firefighter standing outside a firehouse. I peeked in and noticed a memorial wall. (cue tears) I asked if I could take a picture if it wouldn’t be too disrespectful. He smiled and told me it would be fine and not at all disrespectful. As soon as I set up the shot I started to cry. No, cry doesn’t really cover it. I began to sob. I took in every face. I looked at every name. It was a “small scale” vision of such a massively huge tragedy. And maybe that was what I needed to see more than the huge memorial. I needed to see one company. To see the impact that day had on them. To see their friends and brothers they lost.  Their names. Their faces. Eleven men. My heart broke. I did my best to capture the shot, but my hands were shaking. As we were leaving I tried to thank the firefighter but I could barely whisper “Thank you” through my sobs. With a teary look at me, he just nodded.

I have always felt the weight of 9/11 each year in my own way. I couldn’t truly imagine it. I still can’t. Unless you were there and felt it, heard it, smelled it, survived it or lost someone that day, I don’t think you can really grasp the enormity of the day. But walking the streets and falling in love with NYC and the people there, brought it a little bit closer to my heart. Standing in a firehouse that lost 11 of their finest brought it closer to my heart.

Though I truly thought I wanted and needed to see the 9/11 memorial, I realized my heart–my very soul– needed to see what that day meant in a more intimate way. One day I hope to go see the site where the twin towers stood and hope I can do it with someone who will understand my flow of tears. But this year, I am so very thankful I was with Liz who held my hand and never once questioned my emotional reaction or tried to stop it.

I’ll never forget the day that beautiful and completely amazing city came under attack. And now I will never forget that one time I stopped by a firehouse with someone I love to take a picture, thank a fireman, and sob over the loss of lives that horrible day brought.

Never.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

These are the heroes pictured who were lost on that horrific day.

LADDER 5

Lt. Mike Warchola
Lt. Vincent Giamonna
Lou Arena
Andy Brunn
Greg Saucedo
Paul Keating
Tommy Hannafin
John Santore

BATTALION 2

BC. William McGovern 
BC. Richard Prunty 
FF. Fautino Apostol, JR 

Engine 24/ Ladder 5/ Battalion 2
227 Ave of Americas (6th Ave)
Manhattan

When your passion clashes with your prison

When your passion clashes with your prison

Writing is my passion. It always has been.  It doesn’t matter what you ask me to write about, I’ll love it. College was an oasis of wonder for me. I loved writing essays. I loved to challenge the status quo or argue a point or share what I thought on a topic. And when they dropped creative writing in my lap, I practically melted on my keyboard. But wait. Then later on people started paying me *in real cash money to write. I was published in several publications and  even in a couple of books. When an agent came to me (yes-she came to me) asking for a query and signed me with her agency? I died, went to heaven, made St. Peter slap me upside the head and came back to do more writing. I love it that much.

And then came the chronic daily headaches. And the migraines. And the bone crushing fatigue. Those are not good conditions for writing. In fact, it’s like I’m in prison with these health issues when it comes to my beloved passion and that isn’t fair. In fact it sucks. Someone recommended I try Dragon or another voice to text app but that isn’t the same. It’s not the fingers flying over the keyboard. Or the rush you get when you almost feel like you are no longer in the driver’s seat because the words are flowing so fast the story has taken over and your hands are merely the method to bring the story to life. Now, when I write for a long time, I pay the price in pain. My head. My eyes. My joints. I’m being literal here. I literally pay a physical price to write every word on this blog.

Oh, but what a beautiful price it is. I love writing so much. I love every thing about it. It is truly my passion. So when you see a blog post from me, know that is truly a labor of love. I wrote it from the prison my body locked me in and I refuse to let it hold me back. Words. My words. My stories. I won’t stop. This is my passion. My love. The one thing I know will always be soothe me even when it hurts me.

I’m turning down the noise in 2013 so I can hear myself blog. Let me hear you blog, too! (Even if that should read “Let me read your blog” it doesn’t fit so go with it.)

I’m turning down the noise in 2013 so I can hear myself blog. Let me hear you blog, too! (Even if that should read “Let me read your blog” it doesn’t fit so go with it.)

Here is where you would normally find an inspirational New Year’s post all about resolutions and new beginnings. Really? When do I do normal? Instead I am going to embrace the old. To quote my friend Liz of This Full House, I am going to blog  like it’s 2003. Back in the olden days where stories were told and if you wanted to know how someone is doing, you had to go read it on their blog not check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, etc. (Or, you know, call or email them but that is not the point of this story.) Or as Carol of Girl Gone Travel says, It’s time to take back the blog!

blogit1.jpgWhen I started blogging way back in the stone ages when we had to use stone tablets and chisel out our posts (or as some people call it 2003), it was an entirely different world. I don’t mean world in the sense of the entire world but in the blogging world. We told stories. We had a community that grew to know each other because we shared stories about life: the funny, the silly, the serious, the real. And things changed. First there was the “OMG ADS!” phase that should have been a peek into what was to come. But oh no! Then the evil “REVIEWS” came along. (SELLOUTS!) But still we wrote. We shared. We ignored the noise. But wait! Then came THE TRIPS! People were sending bloggers on PAID trips to cool places. OMG! That is so awesome/awful/great/evil/coveted/hated. And let’s not forget the BEST LISTS! On blogs it could be somewhat easy to ignore if you wanted to for a while. But then Twitter and Facebook and Instagram (Oh my!) added to the noise. And some of the blogs that had stories I loved to read began to read like one giant paid advertisement. OR the stories were replaced with a short paragraph of “must update so here you go” without thought to content or writing. THE NOISE online became really, really loud.

And none of those things are bad. I am not against any of them or anti-anything (bloggish).

But oh the NOISE.

And really? Let’s be honest. I got lost in the noise. My stories got lost, too. Sometimes because they had to so I could fulfill a commitment. Sometimes because I would update on Facebook and ignore the blog. Sometimes because “Why bother? I’m not getting the fun stuff so pffffft on you!”

But mainly, the NOISE drowned out my voice.

It sounds cheesy, but I really had to step back out of it all and re-evaluate why I blog. Why am I on Facebook? Why am I on Twitter? Instagram? Pinterest?

Because I enjoy them. I really do.

But when I felt like I had to do it all, I got lost in the NOISE.

Looking back at the amazing opportunities I received, they all came from real writing on my BLOG!

I was signed with an agent…because of my writing.

I was invited to Washington DC with Dr. Drew Pinsky to talk to members of Congress…because of my writing.

I was asked to be a long term product ambassador with brands I respect and enjoy…because of my writing.

I was a contributor in two anthologies…because of my writing.

I received a person phone call from Gloria Steinem (complete with her personal home phone number for future use)… because of my writing.

I was asked to write for two national magazine publications… because of my writing.

I interviewed some amazing celebrities… because of my writing.

I was asked to speak several times at a few conferences to share my experience… because of my writing.

I was given the opportunity to meet some amazing authors I admire… because of my writing.

I made some lifelong friends when I shared my life on my blog… because of my writing.

I can go on and on about the wonderful opportunities and jobs I was offered because of my blog writing. Not because of snarky Facebook posts. Not because of 144 characters of charm. Not because of an artsy picture. (Though using those to share my writing help!)

I used to write here for the love of the blog. Then I did it because I felt I needed to write. Then I just didn’t.

But I am turning back the clock. I’m taking back my blog and using social media in the best way I know how to dim the noise and amplify my passion for writing.

I want to write. I really do. Who is with me?

FOR LOVE OF THE BLOG!

myblog.JPG

(Have a favorite post of yours? Share the url in the comments if you want a visit. I want to read blogs, too!)

 

After 8 years of blogging, why do I still do it and should I? (Or: Oh my, how things have changed!)

After 8 years of blogging, why do I still do it and should I? (Or: Oh my, how things have changed!)

When I started blogging nearly 8 years ago (next month-ish), it was as if some magical portal was opened into the world of words and stories and the actual people who wrote them. Blogs were places to go to read about others’ lives. To meet them on their turf and get to know them through their words. I understand that a blog is a representation of what people want others’ to see and never the full story. But the stories were there! A post would lead to a comment which would lead to a conversation that later lead to phone calls. Soon, those words on the screen were people in my heart. It made me feel incredible every time I wrote. I began to know the people who commented either through comments that led me to them or even in emails.

One time I posted that I was having some health issues. Who called me? Gloria Steinem. Yes, that one. She was concerned about me and left me her home phone number so I could call her back.  Because I wrote a post on my blog. Because I was myself online. I opened up about who I am and what was going on in my life. (I could use more information on that heart/stress/health connection  again, my friend. I sort of lost the information and, well, when Gloria Steinem calls, one can get forgetful about writing down information to remember 5 years later.)

Then of course there was the most life changing, terrifying yet amazing comment on my blog that changed the way I looked at writing forever. That comment led to emails which led to phone calls which led to me being signed by a literary agent who has had enough faith in me for both of us when I lost my way. Because I wasn’t afraid to put it out there that I was working on writing a book proposal, she found me. When life kicked my ass from here to hell and back, she didn’t give up on me. I pray she never does. (Laurie, I’ve got something you’ve waited a long time for!)

You all know that I have blogged openly about my history of addiction and my kicking its ass on a daily basis for nearly 11 years. Because I was not afraid to blog about being a recovering addict that led to a relationship with Five Moms which led me to a trip to DC (Face it, Dave, there is no real White House!) which led to dinner, a day of lobbying and a face to face talk about my addiction with Dr. Drew Pinsky. A conversation that made me see something in myself and my addiction that not only had I never thought about, it was a complete game changer. I wish I had more time that night to talk about it more in depth but with just a few insights into what I was saying, Dr. Drew changed something broken inside me.

I was able to test drive several different cars for months at a time. I made incredible connections with the gaming community. All because they knew they would get a quality write up from me. Whether I liked the product or not.

I was offered paid writing jobs that I loved so very much! (But as kids tend to do, my babies weren’t so  young and a target market anymore. But, the opportunity was incredible!)

Because I wrote a blog.

Where people comment.

And relationships are formed.

And things changed. Suddenly all of these new catch phrases were vitally important for bloggers. Things You Must Know. Your stats? (You have to know your stats! They measure whether you are worth anything in this world!) Branding. (“You are your brand!” was shouted around the land.) Do you know your page rank? (Everyone should know that! Duh!) What about your Twitter followers? (Do you have enough clout (ahem) to mean something to PR pros?) Facebook fan page? Have you optimized it? Where is your media kit? Don’t run with scissors! (Okay, I threw that in to see if you were paying attention.) Have you set up an LLC? Are you actively seeking sponsors? What ad network is best? Should you use an ad  network? Do you know SEO? How much do you charge for every single thought in your head?

Holy crap on a crispy cracker! ENOUGH!

And that magical portal that was all unicorns and double rainbows slammed shut for me.

BAM!

Writing online wasn’t fun anymore. Writing online had to be work or you were a crappy blogger. Blogging for fun? That doesn’t pay the bills. The noise in the blogosphere became so loud, I could no longer hear my own voice. I lost my blogging voice. I couldn’t find any passion for writing about anything. Oh, I could kick and scream and be that old blogger yelling for these new-fangled bloggers to “get off my lawn” (and I did to my old school friends in private) but that didn’t change the climate. It just made me feel less significant. Less effective. Just…less.

So I started to write in a real journal. (Like with real paper and a pen!) And I wrote mundane things and memorable things. I vented my frustrations and fears. I wrote funny stories and things that broke my heart. I took 2003 and flipped it around. When I started blogging 8 years ago, I went from a journal to a blog and it brought forth the writer in me. In 2010, I went from a blog to a personal journal. And it brought back the writer in me.

Now? I’ve learned to merge the two with (somewhat) peace of mind.

I may not follow the shouts of what blogging “should be” today and I may not know all of the buzz words of the day but what I do know is that I love to write and make connections. It truly makes me happy and fuels my passion for writing. If that leads to opportunities, that is wonderful. And? If not playing by the “new rules” gets doors slammed in my face, so be it. The bottom line is that I blog for the love of the blog.

Not for love of the game.

What are you truly passionate about?

What are you truly passionate about?

Hey, look at that!  I am writing on my blog.  Now, don’t faint or anything.  Oh, wait, do I need to reintroduce myself again after such a long time away?  Nah!  You’ll remember soon enough.

I had so many things to say and write about over the past “not so much blogging” time but yet allowed myself to feel very restricted by people around me.  Yes, I broke my own rule and let others silence me.  Will. Not. Happen. Again.  At least not for the reasons it happened this time.  April & May just flat out sucked. No other way to say it.  I allowed people who don’t care about me try to push me down.  Oh, they can justify it.  But, with every justification or excuse, I can come back with the written truth. (Save emails & voicemails, people.) or my version.   But none of that really matters.  In the long run, I saw some people for who they really were on the inside– not who they appear to be.  I was pleasantly surprised with some, not at all surprised by others and very saddened to see the true colors of some who were once so respected.  Thankfully, those who do care about me held me up, supported me and got me through better than before. And really, aren’t those the people who matter anyway?  Those who truly do care about you and your family and not an agenda they have?

In the long run, what was meant to slam me down and break me, built me up and made me stronger and better.  How?  It caused me to take a step back and ask myself:  What am I passionate about?  I mean really passionate about!  Not “I’ll do this because I have to, because I am expected to, or because no one else will” kind of jobs/activities.  I am talking about what makes you want to jump out of bed and do it without the dread.  Or the thing that makes you want to shout to the world that you are doing it not feel the need to self medicate to get through it.  What are you really, truly, deep in your heart passionate about?

For me, that question was easy.  I mean so easy it slapped me in the face with the obvious.  My family is a given but let’s just put them first as to avoid any confusion.  The next answer…DUH….writing.  I become excited.  I get happy.  I find that I am energized and motivated and at peace when I am writing.  The other stuff was filler.  I am not saying I wasn’t excited and passionate when I started other things but that passion and excitement was ripped from me and caused me to really look hard at whether or not that is something I want to take up so much of my time.  The answer was no. I could dig in and fight.  I had the support from the ones I needed it from but it wasn’t worth it.  It didn’t define me.  It wasn’t something that I wanted to take time away from my family for in the long run. I stepped out of my comfort zone, out of my bubble, took a huge leap of faith and it didn’t work out.  That happens.  There are people who are passionate about it and do live for jobs like the one I had.  I am not one of them.  I support those who find their peace and purpose in it.  Choosing to leave wasn’t hard in the end.  I lost friends, gained new friends, strengthened some bonds and broke others.

Was it all worth it?  Well, when it caused me to look long and hard into myself, my passions and my life…yes.  Maybe I had to come full circle to get back to being my authentic self.  I would never question that or regret it.  Life may take us down painful paths, but in the end, when  you find where you want to be and where you are the happiest and most at peace, your journey is worth it.

I’ve come full circle.

And I’m better for it.

What are you truly passionate about?