Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Fear Epidemic

The recent political situation has made me think a lot about judging. There is so much unhealthy judgment going on--judging candidates, judging issues, and judging other voters whose opinions differ from our own--that I had to stop for a moment and remember that judging is a basic part of the human experience.

From the moment we come out of the womb, we start to interpret sensory signals. This starts out very basic: the sound of voices, the sight of food sources, etc. As we grow older, we start to collect these things and begin basic judgments about what is good or bad, safe or unsafe, familiar or unfamiliar. These types of judgments are part of the basic instinctual impulses that help us preserve our safety.

The problem is that as we grow older, our judgment is filled with more complicated messages. Our parents teach us what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable, for example, and these things are not as important to our physical survival as to our social survival. And what we often fail to realize is that these things are not concrete--they are relative to our culture, our demographic, and our own family. Children generally accept these things without too much question because of the basic trust relationships in their lives. Even when we lie to them, they accept it. If not, why would anybody believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy?

Our judgment becomes a compendium of all our life experience--the people who have influenced us, the things that have caused us pain, the TV shows we watch, the news stories we read. Because of this, no two people experience the world in exactly the same way. No two people can read this blog article and understand it exactly the same way.

The reason I really hate political talk is that people seem to get so zealous about their own viewpoint that they forget: that's just their viewpoint. It's relative to their life experience and their judgment. 

Your viewpoint is not right overall--it's right to you. My viewpoint is not The Correct One--it's my correct one, and only I can fully understand why it's correct for me.

In an ideal world, politics would be an open discussion about trying to understand other people's viewpoints. Instead, it's the opposite: it's trying to force our viewpoints on each other. It's about trying to convince other people that This One Opinion is The Only True Opinion.

This brings us to the subject I hate speaking about the most: Donald Trump. Talking about him is like fanning the flames of a fire that was built on steer manure. Unfortunately, everyday Americans cannot afford to stay silent anymore. We have to speak out because unhealthy judgment is tearing this country apart. The Trump campaign is built on rhetoric that appeals to a very specific crowd and the judgments they hold.

Before I get carried away, I have to re-iterate: this is my personal truth. I believe my judgment of this situation is correct, based on things I have read and heard from Trump, and on conversations I've had with people I respect. However, labeling him and judging him will never solve the epidemic of labeling and judging. He is merely the symptom of a disease that has swept across our country.

What is the disease? How could our country simultaneously be choosing between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who represents the opposite extreme of love, acceptance, and rights for all? Our nation seems more divided than ever, and I think the basic problem is fear.

Fear is a strong emotion that overpowers the more logical parts of our brain. For example, heaven help anybody nearby when I see a spider. My heart starts pumping faster, my body freezes up, and the adrenaline starts rushing. All logic is gone. I forget the fact that I'm hundreds of times bigger and more powerful than the spider. All I think is ONLY ONE OF US WILL SURVIVE THIS EPIC BATTLE, SPIDER.

The moderate Americans and moderate politicians are currently losing the battle to fear. What do the American people fear? It's fairly simple to guess what Trump supporters are afraid of by looking at Trump's hate speech. They're afraid first and foremost of people who are different from them. They're terrified of Muslims, Mexicans, and anybody who doesn't fit into their mental stereotype of "safe." They are so terrified that they are willing to forget the things they remember in other parts of their lives: kindness, love, respect, etc. Something about these minorities triggers that fight or flight response that makes them say: ONLY ONE OF US WILL SURVIVE THIS EPIC BATTLE.

The answer, obviously, is not to build a wall or ban the world’s second-largest religious group from entering the country. The answer is in education and acceptance and un-teaching some of the judgments that have been created throughout the years. That's not a very sexy answer, though. People don't want to be told: Hey, maybe you are just wrong. Who would want to be told that? What they want is somebody to tell them: I WILL KILL THE SPIDER FOR YOU. Unfortunately, killing the spider doesn't kill the fear. It accentuates and validates it.

In other words, Donald Trump is like crack cocaine for people who are living in fear. He's giving them exactly what they want and none of what they need. He’s perpetuating their fears, drawing them out, and encouraging the exact opposite of what will help them conquer their fears.

I don’t personally know of any friends who are Donald Trump supporters, so my friends and I talk a lot about how to stop this dangerous path that America is on. The media has awakened us to the dangers of his hate speech. But people are combating his tactics by using his own tactic of fear-mongering: telling us that he is the modern Hitler, telling us that he’ll destroy the country, telling us what a horrible human being he is.

Let me be clear here: I BELIEVE ALL THOSE THINGS. But saying those things will only serve as confirmation bias for people who already dislike him. Telling people to fear Trump still plays on fear, not acceptance and mutual understanding.

Yeah, that’s not a sexy answer. I love to watch the comic portrayals of Donald Trump as much as anybody. It’s so much more fun to deride him and get worked up into a frenzy of: ONLY ONE OF US WILL SURVIVE THIS EPIC BATTLE, MR. TRUMP.

That only serves to make us feel better about ourselves. It doesn’t solve the problem. The solution is in bringing people together and helping them learn not to be so scared of different opinions, different attitudes, and different colors of skin. And that is just not as easy and not as fun.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RIP Robin Williams

As the news of Robin Williams' death hit our home yesterday, my kids wanted to know why I was so upset. I tried to explain who he was and how influential his movie roles were, but that's not the #1 reason I was upset.

"How did he die, Mom?" they asked.

I tried to appear neutral, uninterested, matter-of-fact while I answered, "It looks like he killed himself." My son nodded and then asked why. I cringed a little and waited a few seconds, hoping he would get distracted and ask something else like he so often does. His questions usually come like gunfire in the middle of war--not enough time to actually answer anything because his mind is already off somewhere else. No such luck today.

"Mom, why did he kill himself?" he asked again.

"Umm, severe depression," I answered.

I've always been open with my kids about depression, because I have to be. I don't want them to feel like my emotional distance is their fault. I tell them I love and adore them, and I try to show that to them as much as possible. But there come times when I am inevitably just not the mom I want to be. I am distant, I am unavailable, because I am living in a cloud of depression. When those times come, I tell my kids, "Sorry, Mommy is feeling sick."

They know about depression and how it robs me of energy and happiness. They know that I've tried medication, exercise, positive thinking, and therapy to cure myself of this illness. They know that I fight it but that it's an illness I live with. I wish more people understood my depression and understood how much I'm fighting every day for what appears to be a very mediocre life.

I believe that Robin Williams was a lot like me--passionate, creative, full of ideas and images that made him a joy to be around when he was feeling good. But that vivid imagination and keen sense of humanity is a double-edged sword. It's easy to see the desperation and human suffering when you have a good imagination, easy to see how perfectly imperfect you will always be, and it's easy to imagine how that imperfection makes your loved ones suffer the most.

Those feelings are huge and unmanageable. They drown me. They paralyze me. When I snap at my family in frustration or say something unkind, the realization that I've just hurt another person is more than I can handle. When I imagine the person I want to be compared to where I am today, it makes me sick with frustration. Those feelings make me feel more paralyzed and more helpless.

Our society loves stories about people who learned how to just SUCK IT UP AND BE AWESOME. I wish I could just SUCK IT UP AND BE AWESOME. That would be great. Everybody loves that kind of person. I remember a few years back I blogged about my depression and one of my neighbors posted something biting and judgmental about "people who feel sorry for themselves" the next day, with a few details that made it obvious she was replying to my post. That still stings because I realized society has no place for people who can't SUCK IT UP AND BE AWESOME.

So today, my meager offering to all of you is a glimpse into what depression really means. And before you scoff, remember that it could affect you one day, or your parents or children. It can come into your life and absolutely suck you dry and there is nothing you can do about that. Like cancer, but worse because there is no pity, no compassion, and no hope that you'll ever fully be cured.


* Waking up in the morning and feeling like your body is glued to the sheets. Feeling like your brain wants to get up and BE AWESOME! but your body won't cooperate.
* Feeling like you're always living in a foggy landscape where you can't see things clearly
* Feeling like you've just run a marathon on two hours of sleep EVERY DAY because you're Just. So. Tired. All. The. Time.
* Never feeling really "present" in your own life. It feels more like you're watching your own pathetic struggle for mediocrity on TV or something. And then not really feeling like your own life matters, because you feel detached from it.
* Feeling detached from the people around you. Seeing your children but never really SEEING them.
* Going through life without properly feeling the excitement you should
* Having a hundred little negative demons dancing inside your head all the time, telling you what you should be doing and telling you how NOT AWESOME you're being because you're not doing what you should
* A vast emptiness
* Being alive but not living
* A place where hope cannot survive for long
* Something that loved ones should never have to deal with ... but when they do, you know that THAT IS TRUE LOVE. My husband told me once that no man should ever have to live with this, and I cried, and he held me tight and told me he'll never leave. That's worth than any amount of red roses or boxes of chocolates to me.

Depression is hell. I heard a therapist once say that the only thing he feared was depression because he saw how it completely robbed people of their life. To call me a zombie would not be far off some days. But I fight it. I am trying to give my children and husband the best damn life I can. I hug my sons tight and tell them how much I love them, I snuggle up with my daughter in bed and brush the hair out of her eyes and giggle with her, and I try to make sure there is always a chocolate cake on the kitchen counter for my husband's breakfast.

I often feel like I'm only living half a life, but that's not because I'm missing anything I need. It's because depression suffocates me so I can't see how amazing my life really is.

To Robin Williams: Sir, you fought a good fight and you inspired us always. I hope you are now free from the demons that haunted your creative mind and pure heart. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

An Overwhelming Meh

I woke up an hour ago, and I'm still trying to convince myself to get out of bed. I keep thinking about it logically. I should get out of bed. It would be good. I'd feel better if I did stuff. Any stuff. But I'm filled with an overwhelming ... meh.

That's all. Carry on, world.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Writer's Voice entry

This blog post is my official entry in a writing competition called "The Writer's Voice."

Title: Fight for the Galaxy
Genre: MG fiction
Word count: 47,600 words


Orion Carrera never wanted to save the world, much less the entire solar system. But when the President of the Milky Way shows up at his dad’s auto repair shop, Orion learns his dad has been keeping secrets. Big secrets—like the fact that he is an intergalactic racecar celebrity, has saved the galaxy dozens of times, and goes a lot farther away than Texas when he says he’s away for business. And now the President of the Galaxy needs Orion’s dad one more time in a race around the rings of Saturn to keep the evil Antennites from annexing Earth’s solar system for their own nefarious purposes. And this time, Orion and his carefree older brother, James, need to buckle up and join the team. 

Orion has to face more than just his insecurities and fears along the way—he learns the truth about how his mother died, makes unlikely friends, and is thrust unwillingly into the limelight while the Antennites try to make sure Team Milky Way loses before the race has even begun. Things take a turn for the worst when Orion falls for one of the Antennites' traps, and it looks like the fate of the solar system depends on Orion learning that sometimes it’s okay to break the rules.

First 250 words:

      I should have known my dad had a secret. I should have seen the signs but I didn't. Not until the truth flew out of the sky and hit me on the head. You're probably thinking that's just an exaggeration, but it's not. Seriously, it flew out of the sky and hit me on the head. It hurt, too.
      It happened on the last day of 6th grade. Everything started out pretty normal: cold breakfast, classes, and a long wait for my brother to pick me up after school. He was late, as usual, so I was reading a book on the grass. Everyone else was gone already except for a couple guys kicking a soccer ball around and some girls giggling together. I tried to ignore them, which was pretty easy since they were acting like I didn't even exist. I glanced up and saw a cloud of dust rising in the distance. Somebody was driving through the dirt roads in my small town way too quickly, and I had a feeling I knew who it was.
      Sure enough, the crazy dust storm headed straight toward the school. A minute later, a silver convertible materialized and skidded to a stop in the parking lot. The car was beautiful: a vintage 60's Jaguar in mint condition. The soccer players stopped and stared at it. "Nice car," one of them muttered to the other. He was right--the Jaguar was extremely valuable and my dad had spent months restoring it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Losing Faith

Everyone knows how difficult my past year has been as I made the impossible decision to get divorced. But there has been an even bigger source of pain in my life that I kept carefully hidden away. Today I am ready to share it with the world.

For many years, I have struggled with what I believe. Doubts constantly crept in and I spent hours on my knees in heartfelt prayer asking God what I was doing wrong. Why couldn't I get the testimony that I wanted? I was living my life exactly as I was supposed to, but the promised blessings didn't come. I searched my soul to understand what sin was causing me not to believe. The guilt was tremendous.

Then came the fears. What if it all really wasn't true? What if there was nothing after death? What if this is the only life I will really ever get? To someone who has always lived with the promise that this life really isn't important in the eternal scheme, losing the comfort of an afterlife was terrifying. I had a lot of anxiety attacks where I was afraid to fall asleep at night because I didn't know if I would ever wake up.

I struggled and prayed and felt terrible until I had given 1000% to the effort. Last year, crying on my knees, I finally realized how empty I felt. I had nothing more to give. So I looked at the situation practically. If God exists, He wants me to live the best life I can in whatever form I can and he KNOWS I have given 1000% to try. If I go to hell, there is nothing more I can do to stop that. But my religion also teaches that even sinners will go to heaven--just a lower form of heaven. I'll tell you something: if I die and find out there is life after death, I will be so thrilled to EXIST that I won't care what form of heaven I go to. That's the bottom line.

I handed my temple recommend to my Bishop about a year ago and have been gradually trying to live with the pain and uncertainty that comes with my lack of faith. I feel like I have lost everything. I lost all my comfort, my world view, my self identity, the socialization of my amazing neighbors, and soon I will have to tell my children. I am devastated to think of how their opinion of me will change.

I remember how I viewed "apostates" as a child. They were some kind of other species--one that couldn't be trusted or understood. They were the worst people in the world to my young mind. I'm scared my children will reject me, even though I'm exactly the same person I was before. I'm just more honest and more  true to myself. I feel like, if anything, I am a better person now that I am not living a lie.

Sometimes I feel very close to God. And sometimes I think that is just my normal psychological reaction to the world around me. But I can say that those times when I feel close to God, I feel he is prouder of me now than ever before. I know that if God exists, He is proud of me for the life I am living. It is harder to live a good life without the promised blessings of a religion, but I am doing it. I think that counts for more. I'm not obeying laws just for the sake of a reward--I am living a good life because I actually believe that's the right way to live. When I told a Stake President about my doubts a few years ago, he looked at me with clear admiration and said, "I don't know if I could keep living that kind of life without a testimony." The validation I felt buoyed me up for a long time.

Still, this has been the most devastating thing in my life. Losing my religion and my marriage in the same year has crushed me. And no, they were not related at all. My husband knew of my religious concerns for years and was completely supportive of me in my search for truth. It was never an issue in our relationship then, and it is not now.

I find myself too stressed out to live a normal life right now. I feel like I've lost more than any person should have to lose in a single year. Losing religion is not like losing a house or a car--it's like realizing one day that you live in a world that makes no sense anymore. And people around you look at you distrustfully, as though you chose this path. It wasn't my choice. If I could force myself to believe, I would do it. In an instant. I want that comfort in my life. And that's why I want my children to be raised religiously. But I also want them to know that I will support them and not judge them whatever their beliefs--Christian, Jew, Muslim, Atheist, Baha'i.

I hope that some of the people who read this post will do the same for me--love me and support me through this painful time of my life without trying to quote scriptures, convince me of my mistakes, or judge me.

Sunday, March 03, 2013


Broken plaster, peeling paint.
A permanently grey sky.
Sand and litter at my feet.

Defeat? Despair? Sorrow? Pain?
No, only facades.
The life is within.

Love, passion, hope, desire, friendship, respect, kindness, unity.
This is the pulse below the broken facades. Once you feel it, the shell disappears and only a vibrancy remains. This is the Egypt I love.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cairo, ya habibi

Today is not a normal day. In fact, "today" is a term that I am using very loosely because I really have no idea how many hours this "day" has been. Maybe 24? 36? Too many time zone changes to keep track.

I wake up, anxiety and anticipation mixing together in my stomach and making me jittery. I fuss around my luggage and grin a little as I think, "Today's the day. I'm going to Egypt." Egypt--that ancient civilization that has survived thousands of years, numberless changes of government, and history so rich that you can taste it in the air. That Egypt. I look out at my quaint, quiet neighborhood street in Utah. This street is only 10 years old.

A few hours later, I'm trying not to cry as I wave goodbye to my kids and my oldest boy hugs me for the fifth time and tells me he loves me. The next 20 hours are a blur of driving to the airport, boarding my plane, flying across the Atlantic ocean and landing in Paris. Paris would be a lot more fun if it wasn't cloudy. And if I wasn't stuck in an airport. Ce la vie.

As my second plane starts crossing the Mediterranean Sea, I can't help but feel giddy. I'm over Greece right now. Greece! Hey, that's Alexandria down there! I'm over Egyptian soil! The plane lands and it has not escaped my notice that I'm in a country--alone--with several million people who speak Arabic. I speak English. It will be okay, I say to myself, insha'allah. God willing. I have promised myself that I will stop being an uptight American for two weeks and I will live the life of an Egyptian. That means being flexible, not expecting efficiency, and letting things happen in a very organic way. Which is, to say the least, not my way.

The first thing that hits me as I step out of the plane is the dry, musty scent of Cairo. It's not unpleasant at all, just slightly different from what I'm used to. The second is the language barrier. I walk into the airport from the plane and have no clue where to go. One sign points toward the luggage claim to the left and I'm pretty sure I have to get my luggage before I go through customs, but nobody is going that way. People seem to be standing around in a line marked simply "Passports" on the right by some booths that are currently unmanned.

I see something that looks like a help desk and ask for help in English. The man tells me to go to the right, so I go right. After waiting in line, the man who has shown up to deal with the line tells me I needed to buy a visa before coming into this line. He points me in the right direction and I step out of line as approximately the entire population of some small country streams through the doors and the line I was just standing in quadruples in length. Okay. No problem. It will be fine, insha'allah.

Forty-five minutes later, I am officially on vacation in Egypt with luggage in hand, scanning the crowd for a familiar face, a face I've known for ten years online but never seen in person. Then suddenly, there he is smiling and hugging me and everything in the world is right. Another one of my friends is there, too, and I hug him before we head out to the parking lot. Cars are parked haphazardly all over the place but my friend's car is nice and clean, so I feel comfortable. Until he starts driving and everything my sister told me about Egypt is suddenly real and not exaggerated at all.

Cars drive, literally, anywhere they want. As long as you honk loudly, you can apparently create whatever lanes you need at the moment. Street paint is unnecessary because the traffic weaves like a river, sometimes three lanes, sometimes four, with motorcycles squeezing through the smallest cracks between honking and swerving cars. My jaw drops as I see pedestrians darting into the road and hopping between lanes like a Frogger game.

We stop at a mall for some dinner and I feel at home in the modern-looking structure, full of cars and shining lights. I eat a dinner of chicken kebab and rice and then head to the restroom, where I get my first reality check that no, Toto, we really aren't in Kansas anymore. A woman hands me a small amount of toilet paper and I look through the stalls. Several of them are broken and the one I end up in does not live up to American standards of cleanliness. But at least it's not a pit toilet and I have some toilet paper. Good enough. As I leave the restroom, I look up and see the ceiling of the mall patched up in several places and jimmyrigged with various materials.

An hour later, my friend has created a parking space for himself outside my hotel and I'm checking in. The manager I spoke to on the phone two days before is standing at the counter, waiting for me to arrive. He has upgraded me to a beautiful room with a view of the Nile, Tahrir Square, and the famous Egyptian Museum. Everything is breathtaking and I have hard time pulling myself away from the view to meet my friends again in the lobby.

"Do you want to go to Tahrir Square?" they ask me, knowing that yes, of course I do. I'm writing a book about the Revolution of 2011 and I won't be persuaded to stay away. I didn't think I'd go on my first night, in the dark, on foot, but it will be fine, insha'allah. They take me by the arm and we hop out into traffic, cars honking at us and braking. We don't die, which is all I can ask.

The police (I assume) have set up a barricade all around Tahrir Square  so that no cars can enter. As we step through piles of sand that have somehow accumulated in this spot, I see tents dotting the higher parts of the traffic circle that is Tahrir Square. All around us, groups of two and three young men wander around, looking vaguely discontented but not at all threatening. Signs all around the middle of the square proclaim love for past leaders before the days of Mubarak and Morsi. Small shrines honor those who have died in the 2011 revolution and the disaster at Port Said last year. Small tables are set up to sell tea, and one tantalizing street vendor is selling something that smells divine.

"You'll get sick for sure," says my friend cheerfully, pointing at the food. I nod sadly, knowing it's true, but still tempted by the spicy scent wafting toward me. We walk all around the square and a group of three street children saunter up to us, asking for money. I refuse to look at them, like all the guide books suggested, because engaging with them will only encourage them to beg more. But my heart is stripped open as my friends explain they have never known their parents and will live on the streets probably their whole lives, one day being the tea vendors behind the small tables. I think my own children would survive about two days here.

My friends smile and laugh with the kids, though, eventually handing them a small coin and telling them not to bother us again. The kids walk away grinning, giving some cheeky reply that makes my friends laugh. Even the poorest Egyptians can smile and laugh. I wonder why Americans who have everything have such a hard time feeling content.

My friends want tea, so we sit along a small wall as a young man and a child prepare it for them. A slight breeze stirs the air around me and my friends ask if I'm cold. No, I'm sweating just a little in my black sweater. At home in Utah, the weather is below freezing and snow is on the ground.

"This is the best tea in the world," my friend tells me as the tea vendor tells us to stand up so he can change the rug that is draped across the wall. Even here in Tahrir Square after midnight, people are hospitable and anxious to please. This is Egypt.

My friends take me by the hand and insist on sheltering me against oncoming traffic as we run through the streets again to my hotel. I ask them to walk me inside and I give them each a Pepperidge Farms chocolate chip cookie that I brought from Utah. They hold their cookies lightly between their fingers, inspecting them somewhat suspiciously before risking a bite. They chew their cookies thoughtfully and I'm not sure what they think. Maybe they're being polite--after all, Egypt is known for their delicious desserts--but my friends seem to sincerely enjoy the cookies after they get used to the flavor. I offer one to a hotel employee and he accepts readily. I'm pretty sure I'm not the average American tourist.

Back in the hotel room, it takes me an hour to figure out how to get both electricity and an internet connection to my computer. I call my kids to let them know I'm safe and I love them. Then I collapse into bed, the distant cacophony of honking cars and Arabic music lulling me to sleep.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Own North Star

I used to think love was like this:

Solid, firm, and unmovable. Constantly changing and adapting, yes, with seasons that alter how it looks. But always there to provide a compass for me to steer my life by.

As it turns out, I have to be my own compass, my own North Star. It doesn't come naturally to me. I feel like I'm floating in the wide ocean of life with no direction. I don't know if there is an island oasis on the horizon or if I'm about to capsize. For a girl with anxiety issues, this is completely debilitating.

I spent the day yesterday helping my husband gather up his belongings to go to his new apartment. The crystal vases that were a gift from a former employer, the ice cream maker I suggested my dad give him for his birthday one year, the knife set I gave him, and the books. I was okay with everything until I got to the books. Goodbye, Princess Bride. Goodbye, signed copy of Way of Kings. I'm sorry I never got around to reading you. I'll miss you.

I'll be doing the same thing today and watching my house and life suddenly get a lot emptier. My optimistic side says: less cluttered. Less physical clutter, less emotional clutter. But my anxiety-ridden, lost self is listening to a playlist on the iPod titled "Sad/Angry," occasionally kneeling on the kitchen floor in tears, and trying to muster the courage to face one more day.

As I looked at my front garden this morning, I saw my hibiscus bush in full bloom. I almost walked right past, but then I checked myself. It only blooms for a few precious weeks every year. And when it blooms, it isn't shy about its beauty. It opens up blossoms bigger than my head and celebrates itself without regret.

Each blossom lasts only one day. I couldn't help wondering if love is more like a hibiscus flower than the mountains looming over my valley. Big, bold, breathlessly satisfying, but ultimately so very temporary. If so, do I look to the past and remember the shriveled remains of past happiness?

No, I look to the future, knowing that my hibiscus bush is far from done with its celebration of life. Those small, closed up green leaves hold untold mysteries for the future. One day, very soon, they will open. I will discover joys I never expected. I will lift my head again and rejoice. And maybe those joys will be temporary, too. But there is always next season. There will be renewal. There will be new hope.

Let the winter come, because it will always be followed by Spring.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Weakness, then strength

My life right now is stuck between dream, reality, and a nightmare. Nothing feels real. I guess I'm a little numb to the pain, because if I allow myself to feel, I don't know what will happen.

I'm about to file for divorce. My husband and I have been separated, for all intents and purposes, for several months. I don't need to go into the details, but life is complicated right now. I know some people think I'm being selfish. Some people think I'm being naive. People can think whatever they want--I think I'm being brave.

Being brave isn't easy. It's painful. It doesn't come naturally to me. I'm a strong person, but I don't always want to be. I want to have the freedom to just melt into a puddle of insecurities, but I can't afford that with four children to take care of. I have to be strong.

As I lay on my floor a few minutes ago, forcing myself to do a few more crunches and glute exercises, the tears ran down my face. My body hurt all over and I just felt like I had nothing more to give. But I kept moving, willing myself to find the strength that I don't have right now.

I'm trying to be strong, but I feel so weak. Is that the natural order of things? To gain strength, we have to push ourselves beyond comfort, beyond the limitations we have set for ourselves. We must make ourselves weak in order to become strong.

I stared in the mirror yesterday, looking at the too-many-curves of my body. So soft, so flabby, so weak. I want to be strong and proud of myself, but I don't feel that way. I am not that person. Ironically, to become that person, I must believe I am that person. I have to go into a hypnotic state of believing in my own strength, when all the evidence points to the contrary, if I want to find actual strength.

And then I look in the mirror and reality crashes in. I fight with myself--I am weak. No, I am strong. I am weak. Yes, I am weak, but I will become strong.

Weakness before strength. I must believe in myself to become myself. It is the natural order of things.

But some days, it is so hard.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Flowers and Weeds

Right now, my yard and my life are full of a lot of weeds.

The lawn is dead and it's my fault. The grass won't grow anywhere but in the flower beds.

The flowers that I so carefully planted in the fall are being choked out by the weeds that I negligently allowed to grow. A passive choice not to confront a problem has cancelled out my active attempts from the past.

I am overwhelmed at the impossibility of getting my flower beds--and my life--back to a state of beauty and calm. The task seems beyond me.

So I make a choice.

I search for hope. I choose to find the beauty among the weeds. I pick some herbs and some flowers and put them in a vase together. I fill the vase with pure water and fill my soul with renewed commitment to see the good in my life, to celebrate the strength among the weakness. I choose triumph while surrounded by certain defeat.

Nothing will be easy. The weeds will still grow. I will still feel embarrassed by the dead and ugly things in my yard and soul. But I am strong and I know the weeds will not choke out everything good.

My strength remains.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Few Real Confessions

It's true, I confess...
* I am going through two major things in my life that would be considered traumatic by anybody's definition. These are both huge things, interrelated and complex. There are some elements of these things that require life-changing decisions on my part, and elements of these things that are absolutely out of my control. Not a good combination.

It's true, I confess...
* I've made some very unpopular decisions that go against the grain of everything I've been taught, and yet I feel those decisions are the right things for me right now. I can't tell you how grateful I am for the friends and family that support me, even while disagreeing or wondering if I'm totally losing it.

It's true, I confess...
* I realized months ago that, while I have no problem being an advocate for mental health awareness on this blog, I have one major failing: I can't talk about it while I'm in the middle of it. Depression and anxiety were absolutely consuming me at the end of last year, to the point where my physical health was suffering severely. I felt like I was having a heart attack at least once a day and thinking (quite literally) that I was going to die. I went to my doctor finally to get some anti-anxiety medication and he told me I had scored quite high on the depression questionnaire as well. I laughed it off, but then started thinking about it.

I was tired all the time, unmotivated, and had no interest in anything but sitting around and feeling tired. I was getting plenty of sleep and yet still needing a nap every afternoon. These are classic symptoms of depression, and I know this, so how could I have missed it? I guess I assumed that just because I felt happy, I couldn't be depressed. I was wrong. Depression is a medical illness that can have emotional side-effects--it is not a measure of emotionally resiliency.

After a few weeks on my medication, I started to look around at the world and think it was a beautiful place. I wanted to get out and do things! To feel alive! I wanted to set goals, plan my life, be a better person! I realized that I had been in a very, very dark place for a long time before that. I write about this because I want other people to recognize depression in themselves in their friends, so people don't have to suffer. A psychologist said to me, "As a therapist, the one thing I'm actually terrified of is depression. I've seen how devastating it can be." Amen, amen, and amen. If there is anybody out there that needs a friendly person to talk about it with, contact me.

It's true, I confess...
* After all my study of how to be proactive and mentally healthy in life, I still find myself feeling overwhelmed by how much of life is out of my control. (This is the anxiety talking.) Earlier this week, I was ready to send my kids off to foster care and ship myself to a year-long meditation retreat in India or something. I felt like an absolutely incompetent human being. I recognized this feeling of "my-life-is-totally-out-of-control-and-I'm-a-victim-of-it-all" and had to nip it in the bud. I'm not a victim--I'm a survivor, and more importantly: I'm a fighter. I think anybody who knows me well understands this: I am strong and feisty and pretty awesome, actually.

So I made a personal manifesto to remind myself of what I really need in my life. (This is really only a partial list, but these are the bare basics that I felt needed attention.) Here it is:
I must care for myself if I want to care for others, especially my children. I must care for myself if I want to be happy and satisfied with my life. I must follow my conscience and find peace in my life. There are specific, mundane things I must do every day to feel good:
(1) Get enough sleep
(2) Exercise

(3) Eat the right kinds of foods, in the right amounts

(4) Keep my environment clean and orderly
In addition to these things, I really need to enrich my life:
(1) Sing
(2) Write

(3) Connect with my friends
If I do these things, I will be stronger. I will be better able to take care of my children. I will be healthier and happier with my own life and in my own skin.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Oh yeah...

It's been almost a week and I forgot to post the other thing that I promised. Too late for that now, so I'll just say:

Go buy the digital anthology that has my first published story. It's awesome, and all the proceeds go to charity, which is also awesome. (Even more essence of awesome: this project was my brainchild and I'm listed as assistant editor.)

I've been going through a major midlife crisis lately, so I just wrote a personal manifesto that I plan to post later. Maybe in about a week or so. In the meantime, I'd love some positive thoughts in the comments to boost my morale during a really difficult time.

More later.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Talk :: Return to Exile

Oh, lookie here, I have this blog thing. Huh. It's been pretty neglected lately, but I decided to reawaken True Confessions for a good cause (or two) today.

First up, I've never joined a book blog tour before. Perhaps it's just not my thing. Perhaps I'm too lazy. Perhaps I'm just holding out for the New York Times to offer me big money to review books for them.

Illustrations by John Rocco
Or perhaps I've just never had the right incentive, but today I do, because I get to blog about one of my favorite new authors, E.J. Patten.

I first met Eric Patten at a local writing convention in February. He was consistently one of my favorite speakers--he's smart, interesting, and wildly funny. I cornered him after one of his sessions and discovered he's also a really nice guy. I invited him to join my critique group, Critiki, for an author lunch sometime since he lives nearby. Foolishly, he agreed.

At our Critiki lunch, my respect for Eric just grew and grew. We learned so much from him and couldn't stop laughing the entire time. He also came to a charity event I planned and was one of our presenters. He's just an all-around awesome guy so I wanted to spread the word about his book, Return to Exile.

There are some books that you learn to like as the story progresses. This book is not like that--I didn't need any time to warm up to it. I was literally laughing out loud in the first paragraphs:
Phineas T. Pimiscule was not what you'd call an "attractive" man. He wasn't "desirable" or "appealing." He didn't like "things" or do "stuff" or "wash" himself. He was not the kind of guy to "put" "quotation" "marks" around "words" or to say things in an unassuming or assuming way. 
He was the kind of guy who wore a monocle. 
He had also been known to fraternize with unsavory characters--a necessity of the job, and possibly a result of monocle-wearing. He traveled the world, seeing the worst of it--places with grotesque names like The-Twelve-Levels-of-Hidden-Terror, Devil's Hill, and Wyoming.
With a beginning like that, I knew this book wouldn't disappoint. Eric's writing is complex and imaginative, brimming with a great world to explore. I definitely recommend you pick up a copy for yourself or your kids. But only if you like laughing. Or if you like to read about monster hunters who make weapons out of garbage.

For more information about Eric or his book, here are some links:

Facebook page
Eric's website
Return to Exile on Amazon

Get ready for a double dose of awesome, because I have another important thing to blog about later today! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


There are times when the sun filters through the western sky just so, and the world is thrown into a warm glow that surpasses everyday beauty. The world seems to be revealing its true self as the light glints off the branches of trees and blades of grass.

There are times when life feels dark and black, when I suddenly realize I'm not as brave as I thought. Everything seems to be shadow.

And when those times intersect, that one small moment of perfection is enough to keep me breathing joy one day more.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dear Eden

Dear Eden,

It finally snowed today. You and your brothers were delighted. The boys put on coats and gloves and hats, ran outside and started throwing snowballs at the door where you watched them. You stood with your nose pressed to the glass, silently begging to join them.

Joseph helped you put on your snowsuit and boots, and then held you by the hand down the icy steps. He and Elijah ran out into the snow, heaping it into their arms and playing, but you hesitated. You stood on the edge of the concrete, your small feet slipping around on the ice, unsure about all that white stuff. You turned around, reached out to me and I said Go ahead, Try the snow. Don't be afraid.

You turned around, stood at the edge again and held your arms out to Elijah. He gripped your hand in his and helped you onto the snow.

This is not the first time you have been carried into new experiences by your brothers and I pray it won't be the last. You were the missing puzzle piece in our family. Your brothers need you as much as you need them.

You are loved.


Sunday, January 08, 2012

..but I got a flu shot.

Well, that's one way to do a colon cleanse. Ugh.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Endearing thing #29 about my boy with Asperger's: inherent honesty.

"Aaauuggghh! But I didn't know you'd catch me doing that!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Gift from a 6-yr-old

Tommy: "I need to throw something away."
Me: "That candy wrapper?"
Tommy: "Yeah."
Me: "Hand it to me and I'll throw it away for you."
Tommy, after handing me the garbage: "Thanks ...... I also used it as a kleenex."

Ewww... thanks, kid.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Cupcake War

Battle Cupcake is heating up in my home right now. The competition is fierce: my lack of skill vs. my overabundance of ambition.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Place of My Own

I was a landlord for about eleven years--until last Saturday evening, about 9:00 P.M. mountain time. We rented out a 1200-sq-ft, two bedroom basement apartment.

That's in the past. Way, way, way in the past. Days ago.

The benefits of having my entire home to myself are still sinking in.

Like being able to look at the plants along the back of my house without making my tenants feel like they're being watched.

Or like being able to scream at my kids, "If I am on the toilet, then LEAVE ME ALONE!" without anybody downstairs hearing me.

Life is good.