Fallacy of Normal
Nothing about my life as a parent has been especially easy or completely normal. Even getting pregnant came with fertility issues, morning sickness, cramping, pre term labor, multiple hospital stays and a carbon monoxide detector going off at 1am.
Once the babies came after my first pregnancy, I really believed I was done with the bad stuff, that I could go on my merry way into the normal sunset. But even that, wasn't meant to be. I gave birth to twins and even that couldn't end on the right side of happiness. Kids aren't born that way. While I had one healthy twin my other was born with a neuromuscular disorder. Her life was hard, with hospitals, multiple medical procedures and a feeding tube. I lived with nurses in the house for 8 months. If there was no nurse on duty, I was it.
My daughter Stephanie Paige died at 11 months old. It was a painful life for a small body, it was a stressful time for the family. We knew the outcome, regardless of what we did, and when she died, we thought, foolishly I might add, that we would soon be ushering in something more normal.
While children don't come with instruction manuals, they also done come without issues. My oldest, twin to Stephanie was diagnosed with ADHD, severe anxiety and OCD. Over the course of her young life, she had Theron's Disease in her left eye, Gilbert's disease with her liver, scoliosis, torn ligaments in her right wrist. I took her to therapists, psychiatrists, the pediatrician, an orthopedic.
My youngest was happy, athletic, social, busy. While I dealt with my oldest and her issues, I relished in what appeared to be normal, easy. But at 12 she came out as gay and with it came depression, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem. This round came with drugs and therapists. And in the end the announcement that my youngest daughter was a trans male.
It brings on sleepless nights, as I worry about an unkind world and how it will affect my children. No parenting book guides me through these issues.
We all buy into normal; we live for it on Facebook where we put our best foot forward, our pride in our families and children, in our bragging, look what I have. But that's not life, it's certainly not normal. It's a fallacy.
Life is messy and hard and sometimes it sucks beyond the telling of it. My life oftentimes feels like I'm a roller coasters as I'm up and down, upside right, and just when I see the end of the tunnel, when the ride will stop, it drags me along and pulls me upwards to the next, newest, problem, more complicated than the last.
I move forward in a fog, still hopeful that I will see the light at the end of the darkest tunnel. Right now, all I see is more dark. To keep sane, I write, and today I start draft 6 of my fourth book in The Wizard Hall Chronicles called Prophecy. It's where I can feel normal because I can write about something “normal.”
When we move past the fact that nothing in life is normal and will never be, we can strive for acceptance, act with compassion, and live as humans without labels. It's far better to live for happiness than normal. Only one is achievable.Continue reading
I watch quirky, I also watch relatable characters, most recently, strong, real women. I've started a new show. You may have heard of it, Victoria on Masterpiece. While I'm a sucker for the dresses, the jewelry, the crowns, I'm wildly fascinated by the role of women in each century. While I realize that writers take liberties, I'm guessing there's some truth to the portrayal of the Queen, and I'm finding it fascinating to see that a woman's many struggles haven't changed all that much.
Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837 at the tender age of 18. Almost immediately, she found herself struggling to be heard, to be thought of as the monarch, of a strong leader. It hadn't helped that she was a petite, delicate flower, considered mildly incapable of doing much more than having children and spending time in the nursery. The life she would most likely have had, had it not been the accident of her birth, to be born as the heir to the throne.
You can hear the frustration in her voice as the young girl fights to be heard, to find her way in a male dominated world, where simply by her sex and stature, she brushed aside as nothing more than a girl.
Victoria stumbles along the way, but remains steadfast in her duty, in her desire to make a difference, to rule her subjects with honesty and do what's right. But she does all this by her own rules, choosing to marry for love, not duty, standing up to those who wish to sway her and push her aside.
Though she's the ruler of England, a vast kingdom in 1837, she's still a woman. She suffers postpartum depression, she struggles being heard, she's jealous, when her husband flirts with a female mathematician. But when Victoria meets the woman face to face, she sees a woman struggling just like her, who is constantly trying to find her footing and prove herself.
Who knew I'd find a role model in a woman who lived 181 years ago, in a time and place so different from my own. And who knew just how much just being a woman, has not changed. How we still want the same things, and our difficulties are universal. And more than anything, the answer is same. We are the solution to our own situation and only we can make it right or better. We are our own strength and we owe it to each of to be supportive of our choices whether we chose to stay at home and raise our kids or we chose to work outside of our homes.
And just like Victoria, I stand firm in my desire to write, to create, to say something and leave behind a legacy. To help others like myself by sharing my story in hopes I can help someone else find their way.
No matter what, we're all strong, or delicate flowers, smart and capable and sometimes we stumble.
And Victoria isn't just the strong female character, it's not just watching and getting angry by thoughts and ideas I'm not used to, it's also the dresses, jewels, and crowns. Because hey, there's still that.
The greatest boost of confidence that I have ever experienced was writing my first book. The greatest loss of confidence started when I tried to sell the book.
Being confident is like riding a roller coaster. There are so many highs and lows, twists and turns, and big-ass drop that turns your stomach as you purse your lips to hold back the vomit.
Trying to sell books is that same roller coaster. There's tiny bits of good luck and lots of down turns-Much frustration and then the high when the story comes together in a way you did not predict when you first started writing the book.
I'm not the only one who struggles to remain confident. Life gets in the way, we all have problems, situations that are so overwhelming, all of this can attack our total being.
That's where I am right now. Honestly, my confidence, at this moment is low, I feel as though I'm the worst writer ever, not only as a fiction writer but as a technical writer. I sometimes feel as though I can't string words together to form a complete sentence.
I struggle to find something to change the tide of emotion, that one thing to make that upturn. Basically, I am looking for the path that leads me to a place where readers find me and read my books and get enjoyment from the story.
Though there's been some positive movement, there's been much disappointment. So much so, I've been researching options in which to find that boost, that change, a way out of this perpetual rut I find myself in.
At first I thought I'd, try some self-help books. I'm not great at self-help books. They may inspire for a moment, but I can't carry it through to a conclusion. They just don't get me.
Next I've opened myself to new experiences. This one is a work in progress. I've joined writer's groups. And as my schedule opens up, I plan on participating and trying to glean something from the experience. I hope this will finally convince me I'm actually a writer. If I keep telling myself that, maybe one day I'll believe it.
As I open to new experiences, I need to remember to acknowledge those moments. Single moments in which I feel confidence. When I feel fierce and indestructible. When I look in the mirror and confidence radiates from my face, in my clothes, in my psyche, there's no more brushing it off as if it doesn't matter. It's time to work toward the greater good. The more I tell myself I'm confident, the more I'll start to believe it.
I keep plugging along because I so believe in myself at times, regardless of the underestimation that comes my way. You can't win, if you don't play; you can't succeed, if you don't try. I can because I do. Join me on the journey, because someday is almost here.Continue reading
So why do I write? It's an intriguing question; to ask someone why they do what they do. What brought them to their profession, hobby, fandom? I took to reading early, ravenously read through entire series. It didn't matter if it was Nancy Drew, Judy Blume, Stephen King or Harry Potter. Always with each book, as I experienced all these adventures between the pages, what I really wanted to do was write my own story.
I am a self-proclaimed introvert, perfect personality trait to write. Being the center of attention is uncomfortable, confining. But when I write, I am free of anxiety, of fear. It is on the paper that I can write and re-write to craft the words that express my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions.
To be a writer, is what I have wanted to do since I was seven years old. I have never wavered from my desire to create my own worlds, my own stories and characters. To create something lasting. When I can't form the words with my mouth, I can always type them with my fingers.
I've always been able to write about anything. Though sometimes, I just don't know what to write. But when I do, it gives me power, it gives me confidence.
I love finishing that first book, letting the story pour out of me. It gives me a great sense of pride with each draft when I see the story fill itself out, when I link each book to the other as I tell a complete story. I don't feel as confident with anything else in my life as I do when I write.
And through the highs and lows in my life, to write it was keeps me sane. When I don't write, heavy emotions can wear my down. Writing is my therapy. It is my strength.
I write because simply, writing is a part of me. When darkness gathers and envelopes me, writing is my light. It is my fire. I was born to do nothing else.
I read a blog Tara M. Martin . It was there she answered the same question; why does she write? So I had this idea to share why I wrote. And then it occurred to me. I'm going to pass the question on. To all my writer friends, why do you write? To all my non-writer friends, what is your passion.
Life should not be passionless. We should dance, sing, write exercise, mediate; do something we are passionate about every day. Every day.
We writers all do it, let our insecurity get in the way of what we're trying to accomplish. We let it hold us back. Something I'm finding as I take a very personal book and shop it to agents. After 9 query letters, I've received 9 No's. It makes me want to stop, hide the book under my pillow and cry.
After spending the last 7 weeks healing from shoulder surgery, I've had a lot of time to think, a lot of time to re-assess and a lot of time to feel sorry for myself. I'm not where I want to be physically or professionally, I'm not this, I'm not where I should be. I started thinking about the Writer's Deadly Sins.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Franklin D. Roosevelt
I'm terrified to send the next letter, put myself out there, expose myself and a book that became something so personal it feels like each rejection is a rejection of myself and my person. It's ridiculous, I know. And yet, I promised myself I'd sent out three query letters a night. After the 9th rejection, I haven't sent out another. I will tonight, I swear it!
Try not to get lost in comparing yourself to others. Discover your gifts and let them shine! Jennie Finch
This is my biggest fault as a writer. More so because I see others succeeding where all I feel I'm doing is spinning my wheels. I try this, I try that, and all I'm looking for is a simple boost, a simple jump from nothing to one, just to show I'm making progress. Sometimes I stop reading other's posts on Facebook because I just can't deal my own lack of confidence.
I'm me, however, once in a while the comparison might lead to something amazing. Like when I walked into my 20th class reunion. I've talked about speaking with a former classmate, Joy Meredith who I found out was a published author. The jealous, the anger at myself grew and pulsed until I finally sat down to write my first book.
Still, don't compare yourself to other writers. It's not apples to apples, it different genres, different stories. Just be you.
Women need to hear the words, ‘It's okay if things don't go exactly the way you want them to.' Give yourself a break! Brooke Burke
To sell books you need to market them. That means social media, blogging, book fairs. There's so many pieces in the overall scheme I get overwhelmed when I realize I'm not doing everything there is to do. I read The 30 Book Marketing Challenge, by Rachel Thompson, which was set up to be doing something everyday for a 30 day period. And I did. I was crazy with carving out the time to look at a new website, change-up a Facebook page, tweet something important. It made me nutty, depressed, jealous. Yes, I recognize I need to be doing most of the things she wrote about but realistically, I was not getting graded on my work, it will not make me a best seller after 30 days. What it will do is help. Rather than making myself nutty, I should have given myself a break, taken one action when I could and realize that it wasn't going to change over night. I can only do what I can do; after all, I work full-time, write in my free time, raise two children and care for a house.
You have to remember that the hard days are what make you stronger. The bad days make you realize what a good day is. If you never had any bad days, you would never have that sense of accomplishment! Aly Raisman
I might not be where I want to be but I can't forget that I've published three books and have written another three. That's six books that I have fretted and stressed over, that I have passionately crafted. Not everyone can say they've written a book. I've written six and I need to remember that I have accomplished something. And if I want more, I will grab hold of the accomplishment and carry it around proudly.
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. Maya Angelou
Writing makes me happy. I find confidence when I craft a story and when the story works with the series. Sometimes I forget what I really need to do is write passionately.
…is to forgetting the seven-year old I was so many years ago. She's the one who fell in love with Nancy Drew and the detective story and she's the one who decided definitively that she wanted to be a writer. I need to remember myself when I was her and honor the dream I came up with so long ago. I know what I want to do, now all I need is to take another step in that direction.
We picked all these items before school started in hopes they would ease my daughter's anxiety about going away to school. And now her dorm room full of crap sits in my dining room, scattered across the floor and table where it was carelessly placed after unloading the SUV. The piles of junk spilled into the living room, the final car load needed a place to be stored. A final piece never left the kitchen where it takes up valuable walking space between the island and the refrigerator. If I don't break soon, it may stay there the entire summer. Probably not…but you never know.
I've raised a highly anxious child for 19 years. I've dealt with a child who was barely able to talk to her teachers, who suffered from ADD, who was severely fearful of the wind and felt anxiety that was blinding and debilitating. She's endured therapists, bad teachers, social workers, psychiatrists, all in the attempt to help her achieve some sort of normalcy, so that she could at some point in her life, live as a functioning adult.
Three weeks before school started, she endured wrist surgery, an injury sustained during Tae Kwon Do testing when she broke several boards at the same time. After x-rays and physical therapy, there was no relief and surgery was the next option. My daughter's first test as a functioning adult would be physical therapy on her own while away at school.
I worried when the first night away ended with an upsetting text and a phone call with my child on the end of the phone line crying, already not liking college, and it was still only Freshman orientation. I could feel the anxiety through the phone.
She wasn't talking to her group, she wasn't speaking to her roommate.
I sighed. It would be soon. She'll get the hang of it.
I helped her through her first physical therapy appointment and held my breath when she went on her own. And each time, it got easier, not just for her but for me as I slowly let go. It could only get better.
I could only hope with a little time, with a little patience and experience my daughter would realize how far she had come. She was for the most part, living on her own, she handled physical therapy like a pro, she even drove herself home on several occasions, making her way through unfamiliar territory. I was proud of the challenges she overcame all the while, the anxiety still present and real. She couldn't see past it.
But it didn't last.
Her roommate was mean. Complained of a weird smell, blamed my child as if she wasn't showering. My kid who took 30 minute showers on a regular basis, began to doubt herself. People would comment about her behind her back while she could hear. The roommate moved out.
It shattered my kid. She never ever had anything quite like this happen to her. My heart broke for her as she called me crying, others in the hallway were making nasty comments.
But she persisted, she didn't give up and continued on with the second semester, reveled in good grades and was invited to the smart kids fraternity.
There was so much to be proud of.
She has severe anxiety and possibly OCD, issues that can hinder if you're not willing to do something about them. She saw a therapist at school to help with the roommate issue, I reminded her several times how far she had come. And in the end, she was willing to make things better, try to overcome the OCD and ADD and make an effort. She joined several clubs and even forced herself to go to meetings.
She started to think about a major, a minor, a possible career. But she still has anxiety. And as much as I want to toss the little chick out of the nest, I can only do it in small increments. She's just not quite ready.
And that's my job. Continual support of my child as she continues to grow and change and adapt. She will always have a home to feel safe in. A place to hide from the world, to soak in as much love as she can in order to face the harsh realities outside the front door.
I have high hopes for next year. She has clubs to join and will be rooming with a good friend who will be attending the college with her in the fall.
It's never easy, but each step is confirmation that we're in the right direction and someday, the little chick will be tossed out without realizing she had been.
Excerpt from Introvert to Sales Goddess
I’m an introvert, and I’m shy. People can exhaust me just as much as they cause me anxiety. But I don’t hate being around them. It just depends on the situation. I can’t change that reality; I can only learn to live within that character trait—good, bad or otherwise. Because I am one of those often misunderstood people, I spend a lot of time observing and thinking. That’s why I’m an avid reader, and that’s why I love writing.
In a way I’m selling myself short, because I’m not an emotional wreck in social situations. In the right setting, I can be chatty and engaging, especially when the conversation is about me. It’s not because I’m self-centered. It’s because I know myself and can speak confidently about who I am and what I can do. And that’s pretty much what a job interview is, isn’t it?
I agreed to the second interview, even as I questioned the job and my ability to successfully do what would be asked of me. I didn’t want to start the job hunt all over again, and this particular office was only five minutes from my house; both valid reasons for pursuing something well out of my comfort zone. Overwhelmed by the nature of the job, I nodded quite a bit during the second meeting; still unsure of the position, I tried to be honest about my phone skills, or in this case, my lack thereof.
I politely shook hands as I met everyone in the office while trying to make sense of what I was agreeing to. But at the same time, I was able to separate that small piece of the job from the rest of the experience as I would be working for a small company in a field that I didn’t know much about, other than that it held some very exciting possibilities. And I knew some things about it. After all, I wear makeup. I dye the gray right out of my hair. I’m a girly girl. It could be fun.
I did realize early on that I had agreed to a sales position of sorts and within that framework, I would be required to talk on the phone to CEOs and company presidents as I tried to sell them on the idea of a sponsorship program. This wasn’t a completely foreign concept for me. I’ve asked for money before. I walked the Avon Three Day Breast Cancer Walk. I wrote letters asking for donations, helped my daughter with her Muscular Dystrophy backyard carnival. It was easy asking family and friends through a heartfelt and honest letter explaining what motivated me to do so. But asking money in the confines of a job, was a different experience, convincing companies that they needed this program to help grow their business was a completely different circumstance.
Truth be told, I do have confidence, though not all the time and not about everything. But when it comes to working at a job, I do believe that I can accomplish pretty much anything. But this job is like a roller coaster with peaks and valleys. Some aspects I’m very comfortable with while others, I seriously questioned my decision to even interview for it.
Within the last decade I’ve learned a lesson about worrying only when you absolutely have to. For me that means, I don’t stay up at night dwelling on a new job unless I have a valid reason to stress. As with every experience that’s ever made me uncomfortable in the days leading up to it, I discovered early that I was usually fine once I get there, once I’d immersed myself in the project or experience. Like a cat that falls from great heights, I usually land on my paws, no worse for wear.
It happens every time I travel to the city. I worry so much about timing and parking that I work myself into a tizzy before I go, then I’m oftentimes embarrassed once I get down there. It all seems like a silly thing to worry about, and I realize that I’m really okay, and that I can do it.
And with all this in mind I accepted the job at the rate I asked for. I had one week.
Are you an introvert? Are you an extrovert and want to understand the other side? Check out my new book Introvert to Sales Goddess now on sale at Amazon.com.Continue reading
Paralyzing fear and anxiety is when you are so overwhelmed, so terrified by something that you run and hide. I suppose this isn't such a bad decision say if you wanted to climb Mt. Everest in the middle of winter. But it does become a problem when you refuse to hang out with friends because you're worried.
We take it for granted the ability to call our friends on the phone, to text them, make plans with them and just hang out. But there are fears of being embarrassed, saying the wrong thing or not having anything to say. Ironically this shy child can stand in a room with hundreds of strangers and deliver a speech without stumbling and with correct inflection in her voice. Go figure.
Fear is about preconceived beliefs we have about ourselves. The key is breaking them apart, learning that they're false and recreating our ideas about ourselves. You can convince yourself all you like that you are happy being alone, but if fear and anxiety is the real reason you are alone, then you're lying to yourself. And the journey is far more fun when you can share with someone you care about.
For my daughter to overcome her fears we work on something called Exposures. They are opportunities to put her in the middle of what frightens her in order to grow comfortable in the experience. Whether that be driving, ordering a meal at a restaurant, or making plans with friends, we try to put her in uncomfortable positions in order for her to learn how to navigate through them.
We do this with all things that cause her to be uncomfortable. Every experience that she will have to live through as an adult, we put on a list so that we can give her the experience and grow comfortable with every day tasks and functions. Driving becomes easier and less scary, ordering food at the sub shop second nature. It's hard to walk beside her making things difficult for her but in the end we know she'll be far better at dealing with her life than if we didn't.
She understands now why we are doing what we are doing. She has become a less reluctant participant in the therapy because she knows someday she'll be going to college and getting a job. But she still has those fears of not knowing what to do. It's blinding and scary and she still believes she'll be okay without friends. It's the hardest lie she tells herself for us to break down. She's convinced herself she doesn't need friends, doesn't need to spend time with them and that she's okay. I worried me because what I know about human nature, what I've learned is people need other people. We need a good support system, people who care about us, people we can care about. People who are the happiest have a good social network. And as I keep saying it's not about having fifty friends and going out every weekend, it's about having friends you feel comfortable and share things with.
It's been a long struggle to get to where we are with our daughter. One day I hope that she will be able to initiate even just a text and invite a friend to go out, to a movie, to the mall or just to hang out laugh and share. One more small step towards a life without debilitating anxiety and fear. That's what I wish for my daughter.
As parents we live with guilt, we wonder if what we do for our kids is the right thing to do. When our kids are struggling it pains us, we put a protective arm around them and try to make the pain go away. But what if we hold on too tight, if protecting them stunts their growth as they near adulthood?
I had thought about that, about my daughter's crippling anxiety. We held her hand, we protected and kept from certain experiences that made it difficult for her. Over the course of the years we added anxiety medicine, ADHD medicine and therapy but what about really putting her out there so completely that she has to feel the fear in order to overcome it.
It came about when I realized she had two years left of high school. I thought, will she be able to talk to her professors, her boss, other classmates. After realizing she had convinced herself it was okay to be alone, she'd be okay, we took the drastic action to reprogram how she thought about herself and the life that was possible for herself.
They're called exposures opportunities to fear safely. We started this on our own though we didn't know it. She wanted tuna from her favorite sub store, she had to go in to the store and ask on her own. But with the bigger things, we were stumped. How to make her drive, how to convince her that not going to college is wasting amazing grades and experiences. But after a few sessions with the therapist, someone other than her parents to fret, cajole, yell and scream, we had a breakthrough of sorts.
For the first time, she could put her fear aside for just a moment and realize that college, she could do it. There are options, she doesn't have to leave home. She could start small at the community college and work her way in. There are possibilities and the world is too big to not experience it. I could have cried, gathered her in my arms and kiss her, but I didn't. I knew then that pushing her out of her small comfort zone will wield benefits that neither of us can forsee. And as she gets older and more mature, maybe someday she'll thank us for not giving up on her.
I’m an introvert; the type of person who if I have more than one scheduled event in a day, I’m not happy. It’s not because I hate doing things, it has to do with needing down time; time to recharge, to refresh and to get away from people.
As an adult I realized that I’m responsible for adjusting to situations that render me anxious. I can either hide from those experiences, or I can face them head on. Knowing this, I recently took a job at a small firm in which I was to sell a service to members. It was such a departure from the types of jobs I normally take that I wasn’t sure it was the right path for me. I’ve always hated speaking on the phone, I need visual cues to adapt my conversation, but this job, I lost that and talking on the phone is generally stressful for me. But I’m adult and I realized that the only way I can gain experience and feel comfortable was to make myself uncomfortable.
I took the job against my better judgment because I’m 46 years old. I have more experience, more live behind me and most importantly, the desire to make a change. But what I really have is a 16 year old daughter who I recognize in her, all of my struggles. And as I live through them once again and for my daughter, it breaks my heart.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing her struggles as she works through her fear and anxiety. The goal is to help her grow into a functioning adult and learn to enjoy her life, not hide from it. I recognize me in her and as a parent; I want her struggle to not be as hard as mine was. But when is the right to let go of our children and push them out of the nest?
We decided it was time to make her uncomfortable, to bring the fear to the surface and retrain her thought process on anxiety and fear, reconditioning her to learn what she needs to take a step toward what makes her scared. She doesn’t like it; it’s hard to watch her cry and fight it, but in the end, it’s my job to help her reach adulthood as happy and healthy as I can.
She may not like me now, but I’m hoping by the time she reaches adulthood, she will at least see that the emotional pain was all worth it. We aren’t always able to go against are basic personality. My daughter and I will always be introverts. All we can do is find a ways to deal with it so that life is better, more rewarding and fulfilling.
Sometimes raising kids is really hard and we have to do things that break our hearts, but in the end I know for my daughter, she will come out on the other side stronger than she started.Continue reading