14 August 2014

On depression

[NOTE: This post may contain triggers for some people.]

There has been a lot of discussion about depression and mental illness on my Facebook feed and my blog-reading list lately, sparked as a result of the death of actor Robin Williams, who hung himself on Monday. I have heard a lot of talk about Mr. Williams, some of it expressing outrage at his decision to take his life, some of it wholly supportive. As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety, and been in a very bad place, I would like to share my thoughts. Take from them what you will.

Image source
I once described depression as being at the bottom of a well. When you look at your situation, all you can see is the stone and mud and water, and no way out. Even when you start to look up, all you see is how much further your current situation goes. And then, way up at the top, you can see the sunlight. But it's far away and small, and you don't have a way to get to it.

And that's all there is.

I know people who believe that suicide is a selfish option, and never an answer. As someone who had those thoughts (years ago), I can tell you that it doesn't feel selfish when you're in the midst of it. It really does feel like the best decision for your friends and family. Rational? No. But depression lies. And it can be incredibly easy to believe those lies.

When you're severely depressed and feel like there is nothing else except your depression, you convince yourself that you're a burden to your friends and family, and they really and truly would be better off without you. So it doesn't feel selfish. It feels like a mercy.

It takes a lot to pull yourself out of the well, and it usually can't be done alone. You need someone anchored to the ground (up above) to help you. Someone who can carry your weight when you have to get a better foothold or if you slip a little.

And the help is there. There are people who care about you and want you here. I'm one of them.

If you need help or someone to talk to or think you might need someone to talk to, please, please, please seek help. There are so many resources for people. All you have to do is reach out. I know it can be hard--I've been there--but there are people who want to help. You don't have to do it alone, ever. If you're not sure where to turn, email me.

Keep reading, keep learning

I have a subscription to The Writer. I'd had a subscription previously, and when I moved back to Florida, I got it again. I thought, if nothing else, it will keep me motivated to keep moving forward in my writing.

I value this subscription. Not only do I look forward to getting each issue, but I read them, and keep the back issues to refer to later. I have a whole stack of magazines on my (make-shift, temporary because we're in the process of moving) desk.

One of the things I like about The Writer is that it gives a wide variety of information. Even if the overall theme of the issue doesn't really apply to me, I can find something that helps my writing.

Besides the encouragement and inspiration that comes from the magazine, it makes good sense from a career standpoint to read The Writer and other writer-focused magazines. (Writer's Digest is another good one.) For writers, the magazines can be considered trade magazines. They give information about news and insight into the industry, helping writers become better writers and advancing careers.

No matter what industry you're in, it's important to keep learning and stay on top of advancements in your field. Even though the publishing industry has remained largely unchanged since its inception (though e-books and the rise of self-publishing is changing that in recent years), writers should keep learning and reading and growing to be better writers.

The Writer is one way I can do that. Reading fiction (and non-fiction) is another way. I love that I have to read to improve the work I do.

How do you keep up with publishing/writing news?

10 August 2014

Puck is five now.

Yesterday we celebrated Puck's birthday. He was with Monty for his actual factual birthday, so we had our party yesterday with Tink and Bo (and Clara because she can't be left out). It was quiet and fun, and an all-day affair, just as birthdays should be when you're young and it's exciting.

Puck got some fun toys, but his favorite by far is the remote control car Bo gave him. Once he opened it, he played with it the rest of the day. We even took him over to the tennis court nearby so he could run it in a wide, open space without any obstacles. Then, this morning when he got up, he immediately asked if he could play with it.

I think Bo picked a good gift for him.

Puck, August 2009
While we played all day, I tried not to think too much about the fact that my son is five, and will be starting kindergarten next week.

I know time goes by quickly when you have kids, especially once they start school. You get into a routine each week, and the days just go by.

That being said, I think part of the reason time has gone by so quickly for me is because of how much has changed in my life since 2009.

Five years ago, I was on a very different life path. I was married to Monty and thought we would be together for the rest of our lives. I thought I'd keep working from home and we'd have more kids and live happily ever after. I thought it was a good path, and the right one for me.

Since then, things have changed drastically (and for the better). We did have another child (the beautiful, precocious Tink), but I also came out, we divorced, and I moved back to Florida. My career has taken off, I met Bo, and I'm headed in a very different direction than I once was. A better direction. And things are still changing with the upcoming move.

I have wonderful memories over the past five years. (Yes, I divorced Monty, but we had good times, too.) That being said, I'm so excited to see what the next five years brings for Puck, and for our herd.*

Happy Happy to you, Puck. You're going to have a great year!

*Bo calls us her "herd." I like it. It's apt.

08 August 2014

Scribbling, scribbling, scribbling

Woman writing a letter by Gerard ter Borch
c. 1655
I've been working on the coffee house book for a long time. There was a time that I had to sort of set it aside for a little while to address some issues that came up in my life, but now that things are much more settled, I've been back to working on it quite a bit. I'm making good progress on the draft I'm working on, and things are coming together nicely.

I'm at that phase of writing in which I'm either working on the coffee house book or thinking about the coffee house book. Sure, I think about work when I'm working and am able to go about my daily life fairly normally, but when my mind is not specifically focused on something, it wanders back to the coffee house and the stories I'm writing about the people who wander in and out of it.

I like being in this mindset about writing. It keeps me moving forward on the book, and keeps me excited about it (and what comes next when it's finished). I know it may not last, and that the editing phase will be far less fun, but I'm holding onto the excitement for as long as I can to keep making progress. I'm optimistic that this is the momentum I need to push through to the end of this draft and next round of editing. So I just keep writing one page at a time, and drinking more and more coffee as I write because writing about coffee makes me want to drink it.

05 August 2014

Trying to take it one step at a time

This looks eerily similar to my calendar this month.
Things have been busy around here lately. While Puck and Tink were with Monty, I did quite a bit of extra work, and now that they're back this week, I'm balancing my time among munchkins and work and packing for our move this month. (It's going to be a bit of a process for the move so it's not such a shocking change for the munchkins.) The next few weeks are going to be equally as busy, but when September rolls around life will settle a bit into more of a routine.

Our September calendar is pretty empty right now, and I hope to keep it that way as much as possible. I'll need the time to sort of recover.

In the meantime, as August does its best to try and steamroll me, I'm taking everything one day at a time and keeping myself organized through it by writing everything down. I keep a notebook for work. Each day I write down what needs to be done that day and keep notes on that day's page when I have phone calls or meetings or whatever else. That notebook is going to be very full over the next few weeks, I think. But writing everything down will help me from being overwhelmed with everything that's coming. All I have to worry about is the next thing on my list.

It's going to be a whirlwind for the next few weeks, but it will definitely be worth it the first week of September when everything is much more settled in my life. Maybe things will be just boring enough to carry me to November when we have a trip planned to see Mimi and Papa G.

How is your August going so far?

28 July 2014

Remember the coffee house book?

I've been doing a lot of work on the coffee house book in the past couple of weeks (especially last week). And the more I work on it, the more I want to work on it.

I've been working on it (off and on) for a long time. And the structure and story itself has come a long way since the first conception of it. In some ways it's come full circle. In other ways, it's nothing like what I first imagined.

It's been an interesting experience these past couple of weeks. I've been getting into the characters more than I have previously, and realizing the characters I thought would be the easiest to write are turning out to be quite a bit more difficult. For example, I've been struggling quite a bit with the coffee house manager character, but the high-maintenance salon owner who feels entitled was quite easy to write.

It's more than that, though. It's been about getting back to what I really want to do. Because while I love my career as a freelance writer,* fiction-writing is where my heart is, and that's what I really want to be doing.

Right now I have to balance fiction-writing with freelance writing (which is also balanced with all the things I need to do to take care of my family and household), but I'm looking forward to the day I can focus on fiction much more. Of course, I would love to be able to be a full-time fictioneer, but until then I'm happy to steal time when I can. To make time when I need it. To write a little bit every chance I get.

And the coffee house book will get done, along with its companion books.

*Though I generally call myself a "content journalist" when speaking with potential clients because, you know.

22 July 2014

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

There's no question that Christianity (some brands more than others) use fear tactics to get people to believe, follow, and obey blindly.

This is summed up perfectly in a quote from Dawkins's God Delusion in an argument I've heard many times from friends and family members.
The great French mathematician Blase Pascal reckoned that, however long the odds against God's existence might be, there is an even larger asymmetry in the penalty for guessing wrong. You'd better believe in God, because if you are right you stand to gain eternal bliss and if you are wrong it won't make any difference anyway. On the other hand, if you don't believe in God and you turn out to be wrong you get eternal damnation, whereas if you are right it makes no difference. On the face of it the decision is a no-brainer. Believe in God. (Dawkins,  p. 130)
You better believe in god because if you don't and there is a god, you'll be damned for all eternity for your disbelief.

I remember when I was younger and active in my dad's FIB church. Fear of hell was used so frequently that most people didn't even realize they were doing it. You ask a question that starts with "why," and the answer usually conveys something along the lines of "So you don't go to hell." The bigger the "why," the bigger the damnation. After all, if you're questioning the Bible and the will of god, you must not have a right relationship with him. You must not be a real Christian. You have to have faith and believe everything that comes from the mouth of the pastor, or else your soul will burn for all eternity.

It's precisely these kinds of fear tactics that work so well at turning me away from belief in god. If the Christian god is truly a loving and benevolent god who only wants people to love him in return, why the threat of damnation? And why eternal? Wouldn't a forgiving god be, you know....forgiving?

It's an idle threat meant to distract people (through fear) of the implausibility of believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful creator being. When people start to question, they are told to just believe, to ignore their questions and doubts, and remember that if they don't believe--and believe the right way--they will burn for all eternity.

Sound familiar?

And when you pull back the curtain--finally--and see the overwhelmed old white guy (no offense intended) scrambling to try and maintain his intimidation over others, everything changes.

The fear of hell doesn't hold quite the same intimidation when you realize it's an empty threat.

I much preferred the Scarecrow. At least you knew he was only faking being scary.


Dawkins, Richard. (2006). The God Delusion. Boston: Mariner Books.

20 July 2014

Renew Your Spirit Sunday with art

Bo and I had a wonderful day. After breakfast at a nice little diner (where our server tried to ignore us and the other diners stared unapologetically*) we went to the Orlando Museum of Art.

It was quiet and peaceful and I loved the contemporary art exhibit. As always, wandering around looking at other people's creativity made me want to explore my own creativity in new ways.

We took our time and wandered, so we ended up going backwards through a few of the rooms. (Is there a backwards in an art museum or gallery?) We saw everything, then took a quick walk through the gift shop on the way out (I love a little shop), and decided we will likely be back. The contemporary art exhibit runs through September 7th, and when the next exhibit is installed, I'll be ready for my next reflective walk through the museum.

In the meantime, I'll have to do some searching to find out what other galleries are in Orlando that I might want to wander through. You can never have enough art.

*More on that in an upcoming post.

19 July 2014

Preparing for a change

I've been living in my current apartment for almost a year. It's a nice little apartment in a pretty good location. But I always knew it would be temporary. I just needed a place to be until I got settled in Florida and worked a bit more toward my long-term goals.

Originally I planned to be in this apartment for at least two years, but there have been some happy changes in my life, so I'm taking the next 53 days to pack and organize and move.

The move is a good thing. It's progress toward goals and an exciting new chapter in life.

There's a lot to do in the next six weeks or so. I kind of hate packing and moving, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I haven't felt settled in a long time.

This move will be different.

Once we're moved in and unpacked, I'll be able to settle. Not because it will be our forever home, but because of the comfort and security that comes with this move. Our little family will be in a better place, and headed in a better direction.

So I'll put toys and clothes and dishes into boxes, I'll set aside items that won't be needed for a while, and by mid-September, we'll be on to our next adventure.

18 July 2014

Born to go to hell?

Image source
When I spoke with my dad earlier this year about being in a relationship with Bo, I asked him point-blank what his feelings were about me being gay and in a relationship. The comment he kept making over and over was "Biblically, it's wrong." It was as if his personal feelings didn't matter, and he was focusing on what he has been taught that the Bible and his religion say about the matter.

His final conclusion was that he considered my sexuality to be something that I have chosen that he doesn't agree with, and compared it to one of my siblings living with a significant other out of wedlock.

The comparison irritated me. I told him not to compare me to my siblings on this matter because I did not choose to be gay, while my siblings did choose their lifestyles (living with the people they're dating, smoking, tattoos, etc.*). He believes in a creator god, so he believes that god created all people. Following that logic, his god made me this way.

That concept was a big struggle for me in speaking with my dad. He goes to a FIB** church, so homosexuality is condemned, hands down. There is no gray area on that. And yet, science proves that it's not a choice, which means god made me that way. And if I'm going to hell for being gay, does that mean god made me to go to hell, and that despite any free will I might have, I'm going to go to hell?***

These are the kinds of questions I once asked and was told that I had to have faith. Or that I had the questions because I didn't have a right relationship with god. Or that "some things are just mysteries."

Of course, I suppose my error is in the "science proves it's not a choice" part. Because the Bible. After all, who is science to say that my lifestyle is not a choice when Pastor Bible-Scholar says it is, in fact, a choice and the result of my sinful, sinful nature. Those of the FIB (and other denominations) say that I don't have to go to hell if I just change who I am. Because science doesn't stand up to the Bible.

And this all assumes that an eternity of damnation is actually a viable threat of punishment.

Which assumes that I have the desire to believe out of fear of eternal damnation.

Then again, why would I believe in a god that created me in a way that condemns me to hell?

*I know. But this is from my dad's perspective, okay?

**Fundamental, independent Baptist

***I know not all brands of Christianity condemn gays to hell. Some are indifferent, and many are non-judgmental and accepting. This post is speaking specifically to FIB.