Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writing as therapy?

I read a book a few years back that suggested writing as a therapeutic way to work through issues. Writing forces you to face things, to put them down on paper (or screen, as the case may be), dissect them, pull them apart, look under them and in them and around them, figure out why things are the way they are. The hope is that during all of that, you'll actually find an answer to your problems.

Sounds simple, right?

I thought so too.

Let me tell you, it's NOT. It's not simple at all. When I'm writing, my characters usually end up with some issue or problem or flaw that I need to work through in my own life. I put them in a situation that may be happening, or may have already happened, and watch them to see how they deal with it. Sometimes, it's something that someone close to me has already lived through. Generally speaking though, at least one character in each of my books has dealt with something I've lived.

The problem I usually face is that once they solve that thing, once they get their minds and hands and hearts around the problem, they aren't that interesting to me anymore. So I stop telling their story.

Writing is therapeutic. But it makes for horrible fiction, in my case.

From now on, I think I'll just stick to made up issues. I may be more of a mess in real life that way, but at least I'll finish a damn story!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It's been a LONG time...

What could possibly make me return to this blog after almost 3 years? It had to be something big, something monumental, right? Does turning FORTY count?

Actually, my recent birthday was only a small part of my return to the blogosphere. There are many other things that prompted me to log in and try to figure out what I wanted to share. I have almost three years of things to tell, but be patient please. Rome wasn't built in a week, you know.

I broke up with someone recently.

There. I said it.

I'm still trying to figure out exactly what happened. I have a feeling I may be trying to figure that out for quite a while.

It started over something silly, as many breakups do. I disagreed with something that was said. I wasn't silent about it. I voiced my disagreement, albeit in a comment on a social networking site, and it was promptly deleted. What followed was craziness, from both of us, really. I got an e-mail telling me how wrong I was. I read it and was outraged and responded. I got another e-mail stating that we'd had a relationship for years and shouldn't break up. I responded to that detailing how hurt I'd been by two recent things that had happened. I got a response asking where we were supposed to go from there, and I responded, hurt, that we should just call it quits. The response to that was that we shouldn't end our relationship, we'd both invested so much and it was worth it to fight for it, so I should just state what was needed and it would be done. So I did.

Now, I should insert right here that I totally knew that the idea of confrontation is pretty much foreign to this person. Not only did I already know this from our relationship, but this person stated it (more than once) in various e-mails.

Still, that's what I needed.

As happens often in many relationships, we both were guilty of unintentionally inflicting small wounds upon the other. A slight here, a dig there, from both of us at different times, had left us both feeling a wee bit bruised and battered. It's not something I easily admit, but I'm trying to be totally honest here. It happens. In a normal relationship, in a healthy and secure relationship, things happen. Hurt happens. It's inevitable. I have never met a person that can honestly say that they have one single relationship where no hurt has been felt on either side at any time.

Now, I don't thrive on confrontation. (You, over there in the corner, shut UP!) I actually don't like it at all. My body literally quakes, my limbs shake, my mouth goes dry, my heart skitters and sometimes stops. It goes against my upbringing in many ways. You can't be Southern and really like to yell and scream, hence the "bless your heart" that some people scorn. However, in my house growing up, if there was a problem - we cleared the air. We laid it all out on the table, all of those nasty ugly bits- we dug around in it with our fingers, poking and prodding, we got dirty, messy, sometimes even bloody. We said what we had to say, got it all out, then buried it out back in an eight foot grave. Trust me, six feet wouldn't have been deep enough for some of the stuff we laid bare on that kitchen table. At the end of the day though, just like Jesus on that cross on that hill, it was finished.

That's what I needed from this person. I needed to clear the air. I was willing to examine the ugly that I had spread. I wanted to do the digging, the poking and prodding, the wading through the muck, because I knew that at the end, the table would be wiped, cleaned and sanitized, and the stuff that was left would be better, stronger, and last for ages.

What I got was another e-mail. Instead of dealing with anything, instead of facing the issues and actually working through them, I was told that the thought of actually doing so made this person 'weary'.  Weary?

Well then.

So. We broke up. We ended a relationship that spanned years. And here's the kicker - it was all done from the safety and security of the internet.

Yep. That's right. We never spoke.

Was I hurt by that last e-mail? You bet your sweet bottom I was. Did I pick up the phone and get things straightened out? Nope. I did not. I let that relationship die on the vine, like last summer's over-ripe blackberries.

Why? I'm not really sure. I was hurt, of course. I was shell-shocked, for certain. I walked around in a daze for a while, not really believing that we'd both let things go so far.

Mostly though, I was sad. I was sad that the other person said they would do whatever it took, but in the end - they bailed. I was sad that the thing I needed most - to clear the air- was just too much. I was sad that neither one of us picked up the phone and put an end to the craziness.

Why is this enough to make me come back here? Well, here is where I did some of my very best thinking and analyzing and sorting. Here is where I learned things about myself, through the art of baring it all and the act of reading your views. Here is where I used to think best. Here is where I can not hide, not from you and not from myself.

The relationship is over. I'm learning to be ok with that. What I'm not ok with is what that says about me, and that relationship. See, I thought it was good, and true, and strong, for many years. Yet, when I took issue with something, I learned how fragile it really was. I watched it crumble like the sandcastles I'm so fond of constructing. It broke apart and disintegrated. I was left staring at remains, and wondering how it had happened.

I don't regret that it's over, I think. If it was that easily destroyed, it wasn't all that strong, right? I regret other things though. I regret that I didn't see the destruction coming. I regret that I foolishly believed it was strong enough to withstand truth, or even a little storm. I regret that I invested so much time and energy into something that proved not lasting or durable.

I have many acquaintances. I smile at strangers and draw people close, but not too close. I have fingertip-length relationships with most, not daring to let someone new in close enough to hurt me. I can count on one hand (minus a few) the people I would call in a crisis, and that includes family. I have a few strong bonds that have been forged through years and tears, that have withstood the test of time because both of us believed in them enough, that have gone through the ugly bits and come through shining like polished steel. I said "a few" and I meant a very few. I thought this one was one of those.

I was wrong.

It never hurt so much to be so wrong about something I once held so dear.

I have good memories of this person, and the many times that we shared together. Yet, it's sad to me that the thing that stands out most is that when it came right down to it, I wasn't free to say what I needed to say, and the other person wasn't willing to hear it, without it ending something that had lasted for years. It felt like a limit had been imposed on the relationship, and I exceeded that limit with my honesty and my demand for their honesty in return.

Have you had a relationship end like this, out of the blue, over something that seems incredibly trivial but actually goes much deeper? Have you let something that was once terribly important just fade like the setting sun?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Catch up! (at least on one front!)

Because I got an e-mail from Kristen that said "WHY HAVEN'T YOU BEEN BLOGGING?!?", I am going to try to recap the past few months. Please bear with me while I fill in the blanks. This may take a few days...

I got a second job. I applied at The University Cafe in downton Fredericksburg in mid-August. I heard that they needed an assistant manager, so I submitted my resume.

I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more.

I heard nothing.

Then my friend Samantha got a job there as a server. She started telling the General Manager that he should hire me, because I could do a lot of the things that were falling through the cracks.

I was finally told to come in. I was hired as a server. This was perfectly fine with me, since I was still doing almost 30 hours a week at CB. If I couldn't be a manager, then all I wanted was 2 shifts a week, to supplement the money I was losing by the CB cutbacks.

I came in on a Saturday and trained on the floor as a server for 2 hours. Then I took a few tables. Then the GM asked me to stay for a shift. On my first day, I made almost $100, and I was supposed to be "training".

The following Monday, I went in to The Cafe with the intention of working on my book. The assistant manager was struggling to do the server schedule. Since I had the Mac with me, I volunteered to do it for her. The GM decided that I should be an assistant manager that day, after already hiring me as a server. So, my one day of serving turned into an assistant manager job.

That lasted two weeks. Two weeks of working my a$$ off, trying to learn as much as I could and still doing almost 30 hours at CB each week as well. Between the two weeks and the two jobs, I worked something like 150 hours in two weeks. It was pretty intense.

I went in to work on Sunday 10/25/09 to close. I generally love to close on Sundays, because we have this amazing group of guys that come in and do a Jazz jam session. If you're on FaceBook, you've heard me talk about it.

Well, we had a restaurant consultant skulking about. He was hired by the owner to try to figure out of we were doing all we could do to be successful. He had long conversations with me the previous Friday. On Sunday, he told me that there were going to be some MAJOR changes the next morning, and that they wanted me to take over The Cafe.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I've always wanted my own place. Some of you have heard me wax poetic about someday owning my own little place, and the kind of place it would be. It's been a dream of mine for YEARS.

On 10/26/09, my dream came true. Well, I don't own the place. But I am now the General Manager of The University Cafe in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Please Google it if you want more info. Or you can check it out on Facebook.

It is a cool, funky, bright, cheery, fun place to work - NOW. There is a change in the atmosphere since that Monday. The employees are smiling. The customers notice a difference. The other managers walk around with pride.

I didn't do all of this. I'm not responsible for all of the good things that have happened. But it is very nice to know that I had a part in it.

As for me? Well, there is a BIG difference from being the new assistant manager still learning the ropes to being The GM. I am supposed to have the answers. I am supposed to know all. I am never supposed to lose my cool, control, or temper. I am supposed to be accessible at all times, to everyone.

I worked from 10/25 until today, every single day. I was supposed to have the day off. I wasn't supposed to be contacted by anyone at The Cafe all day. Yeah. Right.

The previous GM had a bad habit of not writing anything down. That included bands that were scheduled, special events, and bookings for The Cafe. This has resulted in numerous occasions where we have been double booked with events, entertainment, or other things. It has been an adventure, to say the least.

So today, on my first "day off" in a while, I got a phone call. The local University called and spoke with my assistant manager. The previous GM had agreed to host an event for 150 people, for tomorrow. Nothing was written down, nobody was told. The lady only called because she hadn't heard from us. But my staff? They are trained. They are confident. They have an awesome sense of ownership now. My wonderful Floor Manager took the call, got all of the information, contacted the Kitchen Manager to check our supplies and the Bar manager to check our stock, made adjustments to the server and bar schedule, THEN called to tell me. The only thing I needed to do was find serving platters.

Yes, I worked on my 'day off'. But I wasn't bitter about it. I would have had MUCH more to do had my staff not felt empowered to take control and do what they could. They knew that there were things they couldn't do (like go make purchases), but they did what they could. I could not have been more proud!

I'll get another day off next week. I may not even get a call. But regardless, it will be worth it just to know that everything that I've spent years learning, in The Navy and CB and numerous other jobs, is helping me to build a staff that can handle anything.

Join me in watching my dream become a reality!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just too irritated!

I'm so irritated right now! I can't even concentrate on my story. And that makes me even MORE irritated, because - well, I happen to really like the way it's going so far. And while I'm on THAT subject, can I just issue a THANK YOU to all of you out there that keep stopping by every day to check and see if I've written more? Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. Knowing that you're interested enough to stop in and keep reading has been a great shot in the arm (or boost to the ego) and a very good incentive to put BICFOK (butt in chair, fingers on keyboard) lately.

My life is relatively calm right now. Except for my keyboard sticking (which is REALLY annoying!!), and crazy renters (which has, sadly, become the normal state of things), and a weird personal situation that I have no idea how to resolve (which really is my own damn fault, tyvm) things are going pretty well. My hours were cut back at CB, which was rough financially but good in other ways. I've been home a bit more with the kids, which is always a blessing. I've had more time to work on the new story, which is wonderful, because it's really had me in its clutches (if you hadn't noticed!). I've had time to polish that other book, which is great because then I can send it off and be done with it one way or another. I got a new job with a great opportunity for advancement, which is too wonderful for words. (Brief segue on the new job - serving in a cafe in our quaint little old town Fredericksburg, and that place is just too much fun! I am SO excited about working there, and hopefully getting the chance to advance there, so even though my hours away from home will increase, it will be a good thing!) All in all, MY life is pretty decent.

So tell me why everybody else's life has to crap out now.

I have a very close friend that is in the middle of stuff right now. She just found out she's going to have another baby. That's good, right? But her fiancee just left her (not because of the baby). On his way out, he roughed her up quite a bit. So now she's staying with us, and so is her 3 year old son. We LOVE these two people. She's like a little sister to me. I see so much of myself in her. I mean, I remember what it was like to have a kid young. I know what it's like to be in an abusive relationship. I can still feel the fear in the pit of my stomach of wondering how to support another child alone. (Before The Man came along, I was quite alone, and some days had no idea how I was going to make it all work with wee ones. It's a wonder he didn't turn and RUN in the opposite direction, now that I think about it!) This woman though, she's got her whole life ahead of her. She does. I know that, since I've been where she is, and I know things can and often do work out just fine. But I don't know how to help her see that. I want to help. And I am helping, I know that. But I just want to be able to hold her and tell her that it will all be ok. Yet, I don't think I would have believed anybody that told me that when I was pregnant and alone. I was terrified, angry, hurt, and not in any condition to hear someone tell me that things would one day be ok. So I watch her. And I hurt for her. And some days I even cry for her, safe in my bed wrapped in the arms of The Man, where she can't hear me. And I pray for her. I pray a lot. I pray that God gives her strength, and comfort. I pray that He holds her tight in His grasp. I pray that He gives her the peace that passes understanding. And if you're a praying person, I ask that you pray for her as well. She needs all the prayers that she can get.

I just don't get a man that would hit a woman. I don't understand a man that would raise his hand to a pregnant woman. I can't comprehend a man that would strike the woman that was carrying his child. And I really can not wrap my mind around a man that would walk away from a woman that adores him, and walk out on his child. These things baffle me. They irritate me. I just don't get it.

Another of my very dear friends is also going through it. His wife left him. Left him! Not only him, but also their 3 year old little boy. She just packed up and moved out. But not just out. She moved in with someone else. And this one has me scratching my head as well. My friend, he's not perfect. He has his flaws. I can see that. But geez, when you're married - that's supposed to be forever! It's right there in the vows - for richer or poorer, for better or worse, till death do you part. I know people get divorced. Heck, I've done it. It was literally a life-saving decision for me. But this woman just walked out on her husband, on her CHILD, for a new life. What kind of mother does that? What kind of woman can carry a baby inside of her very body, nurture that baby for nine months, endure the agonizing pain of childbirth, nurse that child, hold that baby, gaze into his eyes, smell the back of his neck, then just walk away? It makes me SO angry, just to think about it.

I see these two people every single day. I watch them, going through the motions. They are both holding it together remarkably well, considering. They are both strong people, and they both have kids to care for, so they are soldiering on. But when I look at them sometimes, I can see it, right there in their eyes, before they drop the veil and shutter their gazes. I see it.

Pain. Confusion. Disappointment. Loss.

And it breaks my heart.

Every day, it breaks my heart.

I want to wrap my arms around them both, just hold on to them, squeeze them tight, gather them close, make them feel safe, and secure, and wanted, and loved. I want them to know that life does in fact go on. I want to tell them that even when you are broken, even when you watch your heart walk out the door, when you feel devastated, when you have no idea how on earth you will ever survive the way your heart is exploding into teeny tiny little bits, there is an end.

Heartache only lasts for so long. I know this. I've lived it. I thought my heart would never heal. Even worse, I thought that once the pain stopped I would never again be able to feel. I was certain I would never be able to love anyone but my wonderful children. A part of me seemed to know that being shattered was like being Humpty Dumpty, and even if some master came along that knew how to put me back together, all of the pieces would never be found. But I was wrong. It took a long time, but I did get put back together.

And so will they.

I know that. I know that one day this will make them able to hurt for someone else, to be there for another person, the way I am trying to be there for both of them.

I just wish that they knew it too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

With a little help from my friends....

I had to leave the angst for a while. It was really starting to get to me. And all that dark tee time of the soul stuff? And the buried body? Just a little bit disturbing, even for me. I don't know where this woman is dragging me, but I almost think I need a bodyguard some days... This is a little bit lighter. And it's a very definite nod to some very special women, who, for reasons of National Sanity, shall remain nameless..... (I TOLD YOU I was going to put you in a book!)

I've never been one to make friends easily. The moving around I did as a kid made it very difficult to form lasting bonds with anyone. I was always "The New Girl", until I wasn't. But by that time, my mother had usually tired of the weather, the house, the job, or the man, and it was time to move on.

I learned to love books. And movies. Even soap operas. Those people were on every single day, no matter which city I found myself in at any given time. It was easy to keep track of them, and I never had to worry about if they'd be mad because I hadn't kept in touch. Of course, that made it difficult to borrow clothes from them. They didn't usually share. But it created a really rich life for me in my head, which was where I preferred to spend most of my time as a kid anyhow.

That all worked out pretty well for me for a while, until I realized that the people in books don't answer you back when you ask a question. And they can't hold you when you cry. And they NEVER help you actually bury the body.

So I had to find some new friends.

What I found instead was a sisterhood. A group of women that loved books as much as I did. They also loved talking about books as much as me. And they loved wine. And they were intelligent. And funny. And supportive. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced, and far beyond any of my expectations.

And those women? Well, all I know is that when I needed help, they didn't just offer to help me bury things.

They brought their own shovels.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A good man...

She seems to be feeling the tiniest bit mercenary today. But I understand. Or at least I think I do. She was devastated. She was abandoned. And now she's adored. But there is a day coming when that might not be enough...

I only ever wanted a good man.

Ok, that's not true exactly.

I wanted a man that was good. At everything.

I wanted a man that would notice when I changed my hair. I wanted a man that would tell me I was beautiful in the morning, before I even brushed my teeth. I wanted a man that would hold me close in the middle of the night when the demons from my past threatened the peace of my sleep. I wanted a man that would be kind and decent to my children.

I wanted a man that would LOVE me.

It's funny, in all of my dreaming about this good man, I thought a lot about what he would do for me, how he would feel about me, how much he would care about me. I don't think I ever expected to find him, really.

I think I did that on purpose. I created this checklist in my head of all of the traits that I was sure that no single man could possibly have. I wanted him tall, but not too tall. I wanted him to have a killer smile. I wanted him to hold doors and carry heavy things and never curse around me. I wanted him to want me with a longing and a fierceness that was so intense, so overpowering, it would never stop. I wanted him to feel about me the way I'd once felt about someone else.

I think part of it was self-protection. If I wanted all of that, and nobody could possibly be all of that, then I wouldn't ever fall in love again. I was safe. I could stay buried deep inside of myself, and never have to risk hurting again.

Then a very good man walked into my life.

He was everything I'd always dreamed of. And more. He was handsome, and kind, and chivalrous. He was gentle with animals and so loving with my kids. And he adored me. Totally worshiped me. It was charming.

Funny thing that.

In all of the years that I'd dreamed about that good man, one thing never occured to me. See, for all of those years, I'd buried myself deep inside of me. I'd hidden my heart from the world, from every single soul on earth except my children. I never wanted to feel the pain of abuse, the agony of watching the person I loved walk away from me. I'd made two very bad choices. One of them had almost killed my body. The other one had almost murdered my soul.

In all of the years that I'd dreamed about a good man, I'd forgotten about one thing.

If I didn't give him my heart, I'd never be able to love him back.

Did I even want to try?

Or was it enough just to live with his devotion?

Didn't I, for once in my life, deserve to be the one that was adored?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One Moment

Ok, check it out. Another journal entry for those of you that keep showing up here every day. Maybe you weren't quite expecting this after some of the rest that you've read? And PLEASE don't forget to leave me a comment. Tell me what you think!!! (I know some of you are sneaking in, thinking I don't notice. Oh, but I do. I DO notice. And I just want to hear what you have to say...)

Someone recently asked me "If there was one thing you could do over again, one decision that you were allowed to make differently, one thing you could go back and change in your life, what would it be?"

I took a moment to pause and actually consider my answer.

There have been many things, many decisions, many moments, that have defined me. I can look back at my life and see many times where I could have chosen a different path, and that would have drastically changed my life. Some of those changes would have been for the better. Some would not have been so good.

But one? Just one moment?

Would I change the first time I said "I do"? Oh, that would have been an interesting one to undo. If I hadn't made that pledge, I would have saved myself years of heartache, broken bones, tragedy. That would be a good thing to change.

Would I change giving my whole heart away without getting anything in return? If I had only held onto my heart, I might have stayed whole. It would have saved me years of questioning myself, my choices, my very sanity.

Would I change letting myself love again? If I had only held back, kept those feelings from coming to fruition, it would have kept me safe. I would be lonely still, but my heart would never again have the chance to shatter.

Would I change a word I said or a deed I did? There are many that I've second guessed over the years - lies I've told that have come back to haunt me, people I've hurt that didn't deserve that pain.

Any of those would perhaps be a good start. If I could, I might consider making one of those changes.

But the change I'd like most to make if I could?

Really, that didn't take long at all for me to decide, though I never said it aloud to my friend. If I could have but one chance to do one thing a little bit different than I did it the first time, do you know what I'd do?

I'd bury that body a little bit deeper.