To My Former Boss: Please Stop Doing This To Yourself

It might surprise you to know that I hold no ill-will towards the boss who had to fire me. In fact, sometimes I consider reaching out to her because I liked her so much and I hope that maybe now that I’m not working there, we can actually be friends.

However, I have been having weekly meetings with an awesome life-coach who has been really getting to the heart of some of the disordered thinking and body image issues I have faced for my whole life. She asked me the other day to talk about something that triggered me, and I mentioned that it’s really frustrating to me that no matter how intelligent or amazingly talented a group of women may be, there will inevitably be diet talk in the conversation somewhere.

My coach asked me to dig in on that, and asked for details about what they had said, and if there was one person in particular that stood out to me. She asked me what I would have said, if I had been free to speak my mind, and suggested that perhaps I was angry at these women. Maybe I wanted to tell them to fuck off? Maybe I wanted to admit that “I’m so sick of these bitches”?

When I opened my mouth to speak, I started crying. I wasn’t angry after all, even though that was the expectation that came to mind. I was just profoundly sad. My old boss (let’s call her Jeannie) is truly one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. She is warm and caring and would remember details about my life, about customers lives, and would always ask about how things were going and engage in real talks with people about their grandchildren and their health, not because it was good for business but because she actually gave a shit about other people. She was so gentle and patient with everyone.

Except herself.

I only had to hear her speak about herself a couple of times, thank god. But it’s not something that I will ever forget. The venom, the loathing, the disgust in her voice when she said, “I’m so fat. I’m such a pig. I make myself sick. I can’t even look in the mirror. I’m so ugly it makes me want to puke” was enough to make the hairs on my neck stand up. I have heard people cursing up a storm, screaming at each other, but this was uglier than all of that. It came from a deep well, drawn up from the pit of her gut, and it was black as tar, viscous and oily and sticky. It crawled out of her mouth and hung in the air, lingering like a heavy fog, clinging and grotesque.

I started to describe to my coach what Jeannie said and I couldn’t even get through a sentence before my sobs choked off my words. It was like my heart was breaking. Here was a woman whom I had been lucky to meet, whom everyone was lucky to have been working with, who would bend over backwards to do anything for you, and she hated herself. Jeannie didn’t realize at all that I frequently wished I could be more like her. She didn’t understand how much I battled with selfishness, and how often I marveled at her ability to put other people first. She didn’t know the little efforts I made to emulate her, here and there, in my life.

Sometimes it occurs to me that perhaps Jeannie had no problem putting others first because she truly didn’t think she was worthy of being a priority. Maybe she was trying to make herself smaller, in every aspect, because she just inherently did not believe she had the right to take up as much space as she wanted. I think Jeannie struggled with the belief that a “nice” woman is a good woman, and that to be “nice”, you must be non-threatening, you must be quiet, and you must be (above all) small. 

It makes me so sad that our society has trained women to believe that we have to earn our right to take up space on this planet by looking a certain way. Jeannie felt that she had to apologize for her very existence. As I talked about this with my coach, the sadness was so overwhelming that I had trouble breathing for a few minutes. How many women on this earth try and minimize themselves their whole lives, realizing too late that they were never allowed to live at all? How many women are forced to apologize for their audacity to take up oxygen without at least looking like a Sears catalogue model, if not Victoria’s Secret? How many women have raised daughters to value themselves by something as accidental and uncontrollable as their appearance, petrified by the knowledge that their daughters will inevitably, one day, fail?

Because that’s how the system is designed. Women are set up to fail, so that we are constantly aware that we aren’t good enough, and are forever, always, apologizing for it. Keep us small, keep us sorry, keep us desperate. 

And the perfection of this system is that we then take up the reins and need no more guidance, because we’re more than willing to punish ourselves from here on out. Or, behind our hands and behind our keyboards, we punish one another. We take over the dirty work. We come to fully and whole-heartedly believe that women are products to be consumed, and that if consumers don’t approve of the product, the product should be shamed and sent to the back where it can’t be seen, like a bruised apple or a rotting steak.

Take it off the shelf…Nobody wants that…We don’t need to see it…Get it out of here…Put it in the trash where it belongs. 

Jeannie, I saw you. I know you. Even through the unbelievable sadness and self-hatred, I saw you and you were dazzling. You deserve every square inch of space you occupy, every breath of air you inhale. You deserve your happiness. You are not unworthy. You are not a waste. You are smart, and strong, and powerful, and I love you. I hope you can learn to love yourself too.

 

 

 

 

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And Life Is Good

There is so much to catch up on! First of all, for those of you who know me from UNspoiled! Podcast, I’m thrilled to say that I’ve met (and far surpassed) my goal of $1200 a month by April, which means that I’m going to be staying on as a full-time podcaster for the foreseeable future. When I lost my job I was making about $785 a month, so that’s a jump of over $500 in 4 months. Truly unbelievable.

This is huge to me. I can’t overstate how surreal it is to actually do this for a living. I worked from home for a couple years in Philly, but I wasn’t making any real money and it was hard to feel like I wasn’t contributing to the household expenses. To be where I am now, in a sweet little home with a wonderful partner, making a living doing something I love, is truly a place that I didn’t think I would reach anytime in the near future. I guess getting fired from my day job wound up being a good thing after all, because I don’t know that I would have taken the plunge and reached my goal this quickly otherwise.

However, there are certainly some challenges here. A kind of weird one is that this job requires me to be sedentary. I love sitting on my ass, don’t get me wrong, but I know it’s not good for me and I’m someone who kind of depends on the momentum of being forced out the door to carry me through the day. If I know that I’m not leaving the house, it’s awfully hard to get up the wherewithal to get out of my robe and slippers, even though I wind up feeling crummy by the end of the day from being a slob. So there’s two parts of it; not dressing and caring for my appearance, and not exercising.

I’m going to do something kind of public here, and commit to once-a-week yoga classes for the next 4 weeks, and twice-a-week 20 minute walks. That’s 3 days a week for exercise, and I will get dressed every single day. Really dressed, with shoes and everything.

I will be checking in on Twitter (you can follow me here), and writing posts to let you know how it’s going. Let me know if you work from home, and how you combat these kinds of challenges! I’m always interested in tips.

 

Fear And Writing In North Texas

When I decided to go full-time with my podcasting, one of the things that I was really excited about was finally getting a lot of time to dedicate to my writing. I imagined myself getting up at the crack of dawn with an oversized cup of steaming coffee, wrapping up in my robe and settling into my comfy chair, then pouring my ideas onto my keyboard for several hours before finally coming up for air.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that’s not what happened. But what I couldn’t figure out for several weeks was, why not? 

It’s not like I’m lazy. Well, maybe I am with some things, like jogging, and scrubbing the bathtub. But anyone who’s met me knows that if anything, one of my biggest flaws is taking on too much. So what was it that was keeping me out of my comfy chair and keeping me dicking around on my podcasting stuff when I had already made a deal with myself to spend the day writing?

As in so many aspects of my life, I finally realized that the reason for my inaction was fear.

I get on my podcast every day and in the midst of reviewing books and TV, I share deeply personal stories about myself, political opinions, and generally open up more than the average person does to a bunch of strangers online. However, that’s me sitting back and criticizing other people’s work, and that’s easy.

I have come to recognize that I’m frightened to put myself out there by creating something that’s all mine. I’m a perfectionist, and when I look at the first drafts of my books from the vantage point of having several more years of experience in critiquing, I can see so clearly how poor a lot of my work was. I feel ashamed and upset and frustrated, and I want to go back and erase everything from the memories of people who read my earlier versions. Even second and third drafts, when reading with fresh eyes, fail to capture anything like what I intended, and I lay awake at night suddenly aware of mistakes I’ve made in the plot, or dogged by the knowledge that certain chapters lag because I have no idea where my characters are going.

Today I’m sitting down and brainstorming until I have the plot of the first fifteen “episodes” of my books nailed down, in detail. I will be removing my finished books from Wattpad for the time being until I have decided how best to proceed with the formatting of “episodes” and the handling of POVs. I think a major overhaul is in order, and I’m pretty excited to get to delve into the future of my characters.

Are you a writer? Have you experienced this kind of realization, and if so, how’d you get through it?

New Year, Same Me

Wow, it has been a while since I last posted on here! And now we’re moving into a fresh, shiny new year, which stretches before us like the first blank page in a journal: inviting us to write our stories, yet filling us with anxiety about making a “mistake” and messing  up that beautiful first page.

Guess what: when you’re old you’re not going to admire how perfect the first page of your journal was. Nobody is going to comment on your neat handwriting, they’re going to be pitying the fact that all that first page says is, “Today I weighed myself and ate salad and balanced my checkbook.” Oh my god, can you imagine? A perfectly ordered, impeccably written journal that just has variations of that sentence, day after day?

What I’m saying is, LIVE YOUR FUCKING LIFE. Get those pages filthy with mud and tears and curry spices and cat paw prints and nail polish and axle grease and the sap of pine trees. Put your phone away, because nobody on Facebook is going to care about the photo of that sunset as much as you will enjoy actually being there to see it. Live the kind of year that leaves you feeling like a different person by the end of it, instead of wondering how a year passed you by so quickly.

And yes, you can do all that while still eating salad and balancing your checkbook. Just don’t make those things all you care about.

I don’t have any specific resolutions. I do have an overall theme, though: FOCUS. Most of the problems I have day-to-day, from not finishing the work I’d set out for myself, to overeating, to money issues, can be attributed to the fact that I act impulsively, I spread myself to thin, I try to multitask…and I fail to focus. It’s a simple word with a lot of implications, and it’s going to be my word for 2016.

What’s yours?

 

 

The Whole Writing Thing

When I originally bought this domain, I was intending the blog to be mostly focused on my writing and updates about books I was releasing on Amazon, etc. I figured it would be a marketing tool for me, and had a very limited scope on what I was willing to post here.

Once I moved down here to Texas and my life began to take a different shape, I suddenly realized my mistake; I wanted to write more than I cared about the money I made from it.

Don’t get me wrong, money is great. But it distorts things, and after really considering it, I felt like doing something I had little experience in and immediately worrying about pleasing an audience was a surefire path to mediocrity.

In Her Flash Cover

So I decided to do something drastic. I took all my books down from Amazon, and decided to completely reboot the series I had started, called Bearing Gifts, and post them for free on Wattpad. I have 5 novellas written, which are each roughly 18K words (although after revising the first one, it wound up being considerably shorter and is probably more a novelette), and so far I have finished editing and revising and reposting the first 3. They are called Episode One: In Her Bones; Episode Two: In Her Arms; and Episode Three: In Her Flesh. 
I am also doing audiobook recordings, which are up on iTunes for free, although I believe I will go back and post longer episodes encompassing whole novellas (or as I call them, Seasons, like on a TV show).

I want to write more than I want to create a business. And I think this story is going to be a lot of fun. If you like fantasy in a modern setting, strong female characters, magic, paganism, ancient mythology, and adventure, I think you will really enjoy Bearing Gifts. So come check it out and let me know what you think!

When One Door Closes… Sometimes It Just Sucks

On October 30, I lost my job.

I was hired about 8 months earlier, overjoyed by my good luck in finally nailing down a day job that didn’t require a uniform, nights and weekends, or close-toed shoes. Working at a bank had never really been a goal, per se, but it was the perfect place for me while I had the podcast going on practically every evening. I told everyone who would listen how much I loved my job, and my bosses all liked me and told me they would offer me a promotion as soon as there was a position available.

Then I made a foolish mistake and posted something to Facebook that I should not have. When my boss fired me, both she and my supervisor were crying. They liked me, but their hands were tied; policy was incontrovertible, and in my carelessness I’d left them no choice.

I have spent most of my time on social media and the podcast trying to be positive. I received a ton of support from my listeners, both financially and via encouragement or advice, and I wanted so badly to stay afloat that I buried myself in work towards improving my site and subscription services. I spun the bad news, trying to emphasize that I would make use of the time I had now and that I wasn’t giving up. Focus on the silver lining, everything happens for a reason, when one door closes, have faith…

Now I’m going to use this space to talk about the part I’ve mostly ignored. The uglier part that doesn’t line up with inspirational quotes everyone insists on posting all over Facebook.

I’m so angry with myself I feel sick. Some people have tried to suggest that this whole thing was unfair, and that I shouldn’t have been fired; I disagree. It was absolutely my fault and I knew better and did something stupid without thinking it through, an all-too-frequent occurrence. I often watch other people’s hesitancey to take risks in their lives and marvel at how willing they are to settle rather than hazard any sort of failure, but the truth is that I’m not necessarily braver; I’m just more reckless. I have a childish sort of faith that with the right words, whatever I break can be fixed afterwards. As I get older and the stakes get higher, however, I’m learning that some things can simply never be fixed.

Being broke costs more. Now, without my day job and the podcast alone, I will be making about $680 a month once fees are taken out by my subscription service. AND GUESS WHAT. That income is too low to qualify for the break on insurance I was getting via Obamacare, and too high to qualify for Medicaid. Which means I have no insurance, which means I’m now paying $140 a month for medications that had been costing me $20, my doctor’s visits will all have to be out of pocket, and if there’s an emergency I will be utterly and completely fucked.

I’m so tired of starting over. Reinvention doesn’t come with a feeling of excitement now that my life has finally taken a more distinct shape. When I was younger, restarting felt like wiping a white-board clean: a fresh, clean beginning stretching invitingly out in front of me. Now that I’m older and have a more solid idea of what I want and have been trying to work towards that, starting over feels like breaking a plate, losing some of the pieces, and trying to fashion a new one by combining the pieces I have with fresh clay. It’s awkward, it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t look right, and there are weak points all over it when I’m finished.

I have no idea how to run a business, and I’m terrified. If I’m going to be trying to live my life off the podcast full-time, I need to be tracking expenses and making sure that I don’t fuck up when I file my taxes and make claims. I need to be sure I’m putting money away to cover those taxes, figure out whether donations are taxed the same as regular income, track down the data from six different sales services, and generally be way more on top of things than I have been. Finding information that’s relevant to my off-beat business has been super difficult and frustrating.

I’m afraid to admit I’m pissed off and scared. So many well-meaning people have been saying things like, “Maybe this is a turning point for you,” “Maybe this is just what you needed to get going,” “One day you’ll probably look back and see that it was for the best,” etc. And maybe all of that is true, but it makes me feel like I am not allowed to freak out right now, which isn’t fair. I’m sure that people don’t mean it to be taken that way and they’re just trying to be encouraging, but I can’t help feeling like someone who says that to me isn’t really going to be willing to listen without attempting to cheer me up the whole time, which is frankly just irritating. Sometimes I just want to be upset and get through that emotion without attempting to curb, crush, or prevent it. I lost one of the best jobs I’ve ever had due to my own stupidity, I’m going to be making less money that any other job I’ve had for a long time before I reach a point where it’s a livable wage, and it’s perfectly reasonable to be COMPLETELY FLIPPED OUT by that.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful. I am concerned that because everyone has been so amazingly supportive and kind and generous, if I admit I’m worried it will come across as me saying, “People aren’t doing enough to help me”. I am truly grateful to all of the people who are helping me out, from the listeners who’ve donated or pledged, to my boyfriend who is letting me take this time to attempt to expand. But it puts me in a position where I feel like I can’t voice my concerns about being broke or failing without seeming like an ungrateful brat.

I have lost some of my faith. Enough has happened in the past three years that when well-meaning folks say things like, “It will all work out” and “Things will improve soon”, I just want to scream “WHEN?????” I am trying to take personal responsibility and not be a victim, I truly am…but there are times when I just feel beaten. There are moments when I suddenly realize that things just aren’t necessarily destined to work out in the end…and that’s a lonely, frightening feeling.

Now that I’ve whined for a while, I’m going to close this post by saying that I am not giving up and I’m not going to stop working. But being positive all the time is just flat-out dishonest. I feel like so many memes and quotes out there imply that unless you “look at the bright side” and force a smile onto your face, you’re somehow inviting more pain into your life and only have yourself to blame when you feel terrible. It’s horse-shit: you are a person, and you will be sad and angry and frustrated. Sometimes you will despair and truly, deeply, in your heart of hearts, want to give up. You will believe that people might be better off without you in their lives.

Ride it out. It will pass, and feeling this way doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you unworthy. It makes you human. As awesome and beautiful as life can be sometimes, the darkness and shadows cannot and should not be obliterated. Without the shadows, how can you see where the light is coming from?

Autumn Meals

As I write this, there is bread rising on my countertop. A red stoneware dish full of apples is in the oven, bubbling under a crust of buttery cinnamon clove crumble. On the stovetop, a pan of carrots, mushrooms, bacon, and pearl onions sizzles and caramelizes deeply, the topping for the red wine and beef stew simmering and thickening in the oven beside the apples.


Monday, it was chicken soup. Have you ever had proper chicken soup, the kind made from real stock and not those sad, vaguely metallic broths from cans? There is simply no comparison. I had a chicken carcass in my fridge from dinner that weekend, and I boiled it on the stove for hours, finally straining the meat and bones out. I added carrots, potatoes, butternut squash, spinach, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves to the stock while the carcass cooled, then picked off the meat and added it back into the pot. Even my mother, who is a great cook and makes a good chicken soup herself, tasted mine and said, “Holy shit.”

On the side was a quickbread, mixed in about 10 minutes: savory scones with scallions and cheddar. The scent when I opened the oven is not to be believed; it was the epitome of mouthwatering. After the meal we had the spiced pumpkin bread I had baked the day before, lightly toasted and dripping with butter.

IMG_1447

You simply can’t go wrong with traditional cold-weather recipes. Summertime can be tricky, because recipes for that season rely on top-of-the-line produce and that can be very hard to find, but fall and winter dishes are far more forgiving. Vegetable are glazed in sauces, or browned in the drippings of roasting meats, or baked in creamy casseroles with rice and potatoes and pastas. Cheaper, tougher cuts of meat take a front seat in slow-cooker roasts and stews, and even fruit is spiced and tucked between layers of flaky pastry or submerged in rich cake batters.

I’m going to be sharing more of my cooking exploits over the coming months, and I hope that you all will comment with some of your favorite fall and winter recipes for me to try! Thanks for reading, see you soon!