This pesky bitch somehow always finds a way to strike…
I love to run.
I’ve always been fast and as a kid I was very athletic. I played softball, basketball, and ran track. Running was essential and speed was my weapon. As an adult, I am shamefully not as athletic as I once was, but I still manage to get runs in whenever I can. Where the side effect now is improving my endurance or keeping a healthy heart and a toned body, the main reason for running is the escape. Escaping into my own world, into my own reality, where I am the most confident person in the world. And I have endless ideas that effortlessly flow from my brain to my pen. When I run, there isn’t any fear, there is nothing holding me back, and ridiculous of how it might be, anything goes.
But then I return home. It’s different there. At home, there are my kids, my husband, and the many distractions that being a wife and mother comes with. There’s the dog who needs me, and the unpacked boxes still in the garage that remind me that this is once again a temporary situation. As I walk upstairs and enter my room so that I can shower and change, I see it on the floor. The computer I bought so that I could put these fantastical thoughts on paper. The very thing that I used to launch my blog site. The very thing that was going to help me hone my skills and realize my potential so that I could find some purpose with my life outside being someone’s wife and three someones’ mother.
But like I always do, I walk right past it, not bothering to ensure it’s been charged or to make sure it’s even updated. I see it and I look the other way. Because I know that once I open my this machine, the writing that I haven’t been doing becomes real, and then I worry that all the stories created during my hour long run will never go anywhere. It’s easier to just forget it, and keep the same old routine going, right? It’s much safer that way, anyway.
Welcome to the anxiety. A place where I tend to live most days. Some days are better than others. I’ve learned a variety of techniques to try to live with it best I can. To manage it. To regain control over it. But still there are triggers that hit hard, that seem to send me spinning backward from any progress that I’ve made, that put me right back at square one. Having anxiety as a mom isn’t unheard of. Most of us worry for our children. We worry whether or not we are doing enough for them and if we are maybe doing too much. And while my anxiety does live with the #momlife, most of it stems from my identity as a writer.
I’ve always been a television fan, although in recent years, I’ve struggled to keep up with what’s even on anymore. Between regular ass TV and all the streaming outlets plus YouTube, it can be overwhelming. Luckily, I happened upon a show called
Ghosts (for a background in how this twist of fate happened and for a background on the show, click here). Anyway, there is an episode of my newest favorite show in which Sasappis, our Indigenous ghostly friend, decides to help resident living human and writer, Samantha, with launching of their Bed and Breakfast website, something that she has been putting off for quite some time.
Quick backstory: Samantha has inherited a very old estate from her great Aunt who just passed. Her and her husband who are financially struggling to make ends meet decide to invest in the idea of starting a bed and breakfast. Upon moving in, she trips over a vase, falls down the stairs, and sustains a head injury that puts her into a medically induced coma for two weeks. After waking up and returning to the house, she discovers that there are ghosts from a variety different time periods who are haunting the property. Sass is one of them.
So as I was saying, Sass has a history as a storyteller in his former Lenape village and while trying to share some stories and perspectives that might help inspire Sam to finally finish the website, he reminisces about when he first decided to become a storyteller. The audience then sees a flashback to the 1500s when he talked to his father about his future goal. His father told Sass, like himself, did not possess the gift to be a storyteller, that he was worried he would not succeed, and that he would do better pursuing something safer, like hunting which was a skill he already possessed.
He decides to pitch several ideas to Sam, one of which includes telling the history of the Woodstone Mansion from the perspective of a tree on the property who has been able to observe the happenings of those who’ve long lived on the property, just like the ghosts have. He goes further to bestow the name “Woody” on the tree, well because it’s a tree and it’s wood. Get it? Sam is not a fan of these ideas and claims that she does not need his help.
Later in the episode, we learn that Sam has been procrastinating on finishing the website because her fear that if the B&B does not work out, they have no other recourse as all her and her husband’s assets have been invested into making this dream work. Sass explains that she is experiencing a fear of failure and like many creatives, he too has experienced this. Although confident and witty in his afterlife, Sass states that his father’s worries transferred onto him, that his words got in his head. And when the time came for him tell stories for the first time at the Fall Harvest ceremony, he got scared. He told his father that he did not want to go, worried that maybe his father was right and that maybe he perhaps did not possess the gift. To this, his father confesses that what he had said about Sass not having the gift of storytelling was more about him than about his son. He states that he didn’t have the gift, but Sass did and that he knew all along he would be a great storyteller because he had watched him his entire life. He then gives his son an eagle feather, representing bravery and courage which boosted Sass’ confidence in his ability to do what he had called to do. And seeing that Sam is struggling with the same fear, Sass passes the feather onto her as a way to help encourage her through the fear that comes with pursuing something new. Of course he is not able to physically give it to her as he is a ghost after-all and Ghost rule number 2 tells us that whatever is on your person when you die, stays on your person. So it more a symbolic gesture. Still, it is very sweet.
Like Sass and Sam much of my worry and anxiety these days surrounds writing and whether or not I’d be successful at it. It took a lot for me to create my blog sites in the first place, and it takes even more to maintain it and promote my writing. I just came out of a long period where I wasn’t producing anything at all. Life happened and it was much easier to put it to the side then to put in the work to make my blogs more successful. Besides, if it’s just something that I do “as a hobby” then there’s no pressure. I can just write for me and keep it to myself where it’s safe. But when I’m honest with myself and what I want for my life, I know that I have a calling to tell stories. There’s almost too much I’ve experienced in life thus far, plus my wild and untamed imagination, not to be doing something with it. But it’s scary because how do I really know if I will be successful or not? What if people don’t like what I have to say? What if I don’t have the gift? If I’m not constantly putting out something new, am I a failure? No one will read it if I don’t write it. What if I’m true to myself and my personality allowing it to radiate throughout my writing but instead of coming across as funny or even dare I say flattering, it falls so short of the rim that it’s a complete air ball?
My ability to tell stories didn’t just appear one day out of thin air. It’s always been there. When you are an only child, you have to find ways to entertain yourself and for me that meant spending many an afternoon playing with my Barbies, creating fascinating and intriguing story lines that would continue for weeks, months on end, much like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. My Barbies all had names, backstories, and unique experiences that gave them their personality. I’d create families and then within those families create unique dynamics that made that family not only function within themselves but also with my other Barbie families in my make believe neighborhood that was my bedroom. Mr. Rogers would be proud! My mom would often tell me that I had so much imagination and that I should be writing this down. But to kid in school, that sounds like more work and the last thing I wanted to do was do more work. But I did read… a lot. And I was often inspired by a mix of what I had read and the shows I enjoyed watching to create my Barbie dreamworld.
I often look back and wondered what would my life would’ve been like if maybe I had been encouraged to write and then been given a little more guidance on how to go about doing that. No shade to my mom… I know first hand how challenging it is to raise children and how most of it involves making things up as you go. But I can’t help but look back with a little regret on every possible missed opportunity to fine tune my work. Joining different writing clubs in high school, volunteering at the school paper in college, majoring in some sort of literary-related subject or perhaps applying to a school focused on honing artistic ability. It’s as if I missed an entire section of my life that somehow other writers seem to experience, and maybe that could be why I struggle as often as I do?
I enjoy being humorous and sometimes I worry that I might offend somebody or that someone might think that I’m a bit out there or crazy. I’d like to believe that I’m this bold, confident person that speaks whats on her mind without worry or care of what somebody might say. But truth is, that’s far from who I am at all. I’m a people pleaser, always have been. And while I write as a way of expressing myself, I also want my writing to be a source of joy and entertainment for others. After all, isn’t that one of the main points of pursuing writing? The desire for an audience who will appreciate your work. I’m also a modest person… probably too modest to the point that I wound’t be surprised if I had missed on so many opportunities simply because I didn’t want to put myself out there. Truth be told, the very thought of is almost nauseating to me. I imagine it feeling sort of like begging people to read my stuff. And I’ve never been one to push. Sales was never a strong suit of mine… like if someone says no, it’s no. And I won’t push it any further. I just don’t want to be a pain in the butt.
But I know that promoting myself is crucial if I’m going to do anything with this writing thing. Like the blogging and journaling for myself is fine and it is a great way to express myself and connect to other people. But when I look around and see other people making a livelihood out of being creative and having their ideas come alive, I feel like in some ways I’m failing to live up to yet another expectation. Not for nothing, the opportunity is there. There’s all kinds of platforms that exist to connect people who historically have never been able to communicate. And in recent years, we’ve seen people take advantage of such social media outlets as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube to promote their art. It works, we’ve seen it work, and yet I sit here wondering how can I make it work for me?
I think the issue here is that I’ve just never really known how to get started, and be consistent, with anything. And at 36 years old, that’s just sad and embarrassing. I have never really found my niche in the traditional career sense of things. Part that stems from the fact that after my dad died I found myself stuck in a place where I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. After a few years in retail management, I did a short stint in banking before my husband ran off for a life with Uncle Sam. And that’s when the job hopping really began. I worked in education, finished my masters, worked for a non profit, and currently serving as a disability advocate for people out of work. I do my best but nothing has ever felt quite right, you know. Part of it is because I’m always moving so I never really get a chance to cement myself upon firm ground and make a name for myself anywhere. Now I find myself in a new home and a new job and again while it helps to pay the bills, it’s not the dream. This past move was so tough and there have been so much to figure out with readjusting this time as compared the past three times we’ve moved. I didn’t want to do much else when the day was done. I was mentally and physically and emotionally exhausted and the very thought of picking up a book or writing anything down completely overwhelmed me. I remember ending each day in my room, staring at my Chromebook. I’d also stare at my massive book collection with 23 outstanding titles that I had yet to open, and I just couldn’t, y’all. I couldn’t bring myself to open anything. This lasted for months and it was horrible.
So here I was stuck in a rut and believing that maybe that was all I deserved. After all, I was a military spouse. My dreams didn’t much matter. Any decent job I got would only last me a few years until it was time to up and leave again anyway. It was an endless cycle and I was exhausted.
According to ADAA.org, about 264 million people have been diagnosed with some kind of anxiety disorder with women being twice as likely to be diagnosed than men. Then add that to being a woman of color who’s also a mother. The perception of Black women as being strong all the time and the expectations of motherhood can be enough to overwhelm anyone. Still in knowing this, I didn’t feel any better.
My story while my own, isn’t too foreign from what most folks have experienced thanks to recent events. 2020 alone was enough to make even the most self-actualized person reach for a journal or bath salts or a meditation podcast to try to cope with the all the shit that was going on. Self-care has become somewhat of a trend over the last few years and even though we might have always needed to take a step back and re-evaluate how things are going, it wasn’t made so clear until 2020 came along and took a mallet to all our plans, goals, and dreams. Everyone was forced to take a step back and ask themselves “Hold, up… is this working?” I call it the great reckoning. Suddenly the world was on pause and we all had to actually sit and spend time with ourselves, something that most busy people don’t really get to do. There was the ever-present reminder to take care of ourselves. To not forget to engage in self-care. And for most of us, we had to figure out what that even meant or looked like for us. Audre Lorde, self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”, described self-care as self-preservation. And with all the crap that 2020 so graciously bestowed upon us, we needed to preserve every bit of ourselves. Unfortunately, for a lot of people living with mental illness and emotional difficulties, the stressful events of that year and of the two that have followed it thus far further exacerbated the difficulties experienced in everyday life. How to deal with change. How to deal with stress. How to deal with setbacks. How to handle fear of the unknown. How to handle fear period. How to handle being alone. How to handle being surrounded by people 24/7. How to balance it all. How to find things to fill the time by yourself.
And then there was the push for therapy. Like it seemed like everyone everywhere was saying talk to someone. Get help if you need it. Since 2020, we’ve seen a plethora of apps and online mental help services pop up out of nowhere. Different employers were offering mental help and counseling as part of their new and improved benefits packages. Therapy was suddenly trending in such a way that perhaps suggested there was never a stigma tied to seeing a shrink. And not only that. We saw an uptick in the vast options of self-care themed merchandise hit just about every retailer imaginable- essential oils, candles, workout equipment and yoga mats, journals, coloring books, plants. Hell, it was even hard to find an animal to adopt because people were snatching up kittens and puppies like folks do a fresh bowl of chips at a Super Bowl party. Yes, even multi-million dollar corporations found ways to cash in on the latest craze. But what good did it actually do?
Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but one of the challenges that these past few years have presented is finding a way to deal with thwarted plans. As I mentioned in my previous post, I feel like I should be a pro at this by now. Military spouses are naturally able to adapt and be resilient no matter what comes down the pike. Truth is, I found myself challenged in some serious ways. But I was and continue to be lucky because I am able to go to therapy and deal with these issues head on. Others aren’t so lucky. According to Mental Health America, a whopping 4.7 million adults living with a mental illness do not have health insurance. Therapy is possibly for most of us because we do have the means to cover the astronomical cost of sessions, whether its through insurance or just being stupid rich and having the disposable income to pay over $100 dollars per hour for each 60 minute increment of each session. So I am extremely grateful that I have been blessed with the opportunity to work on the very thing that I believe has kept me back for so long. I know this is an opportunity that many people don’t get. And I don’t take it for granted.
So how are things nowadays, then? Well, I still feel super nervous when publishing a new post. I still worry how it might be perceived. And I also worry how I will respond when maybe someone shows a different response to my work then I would’ve hoped for. I am a work in progress and much like my writing, I am reflecting on and editing myself each day. Each day I put in the work necessary to combat these feelings of worthlessness and self-depreciation so that I can continue to work toward my goals and overcome any fears that might hold me back.
And so, I will continue to pursue this writing thing as long as my mind, voice, and fingers work. I will continue to tell serious stories, stories to educate and encourage, and stories to make you bowl over laughing because of how silly I can be (like this one). And I know that yes, maybe there will be people who don’t like what I have to say. Worse, there will be people who ignore me all together. There will be people who might think that there’s just one screw not so well tightened. There will be those who say “listen just cause during one of your runs, you thought up a scenario where you have joined the cast of an amazing new Marvel movie and your mom is the lady from Law and Order, doesn’t meant it should become the newest novel sensation turned to an award winning movie. You know what? At least they read it and it was enough for them to even form an opinion. And while that possibility scares me, I know that if I stay in my own head and allow that fear of failure to stay in control of any decision I make, I’ll never do anything. I just have to keep creating, keep writing and put my head down, close my eyes real tight, and just share, share share. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, there might be someone who feels seen or someone who I might reach with my words. I won’t know if I never find a way to amplify my voice. In addition to running, this is my self-care. This is how I will continue to respond to all the chaos and tom foolery that continues to evade our TVs, Emails, and Social Media outlets. This is how I will preserve and persevere.
I know that my writing isn’t for everybody, and that’s okay. Hell, no one’s writing is for everybody. Do you know there’s a whole facet of the population who do not get and/or like the Harry Potter series? Yea, shocking isn’t it? I know because I was once one of them. The point is, regardless of who finds my work interesting and reading-worthy, I can always find solace in knowing that I tried and I’ve kept trying for as long as I’m physically able to. Maybe my words will take me somewhere new and exciting, just like my runs, or maybe perhaps this gift is just meant to be shared with family and friends. As I continue to work on myself and gain the skills to change the toxic thinking that Imposter Syndrome encourages, I will learn to be okay with whatever happens. I will learn to give myself the sales pitch that I deserve.
I just got to do it. It’s as simple as that. There’s no more running away from it. As Sam stated at the end of that same episode, “you have to sink or swim sometimes.” I will never know what is to come unless I take that leap of faith. And now when I run, and inspiration strikes, I’ll know exactly what to do with it.