Truth

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha! (A Saturday Rant)

I’m so frustrated! It’s hard to put into words, and you all know how I am, that means a LOT of words will follow.

Everyone I know would probably agree that I’m one their biggest cheerleaders. I’m mostly around writers, and I’m a strong believer of encouraging these other pen monkeys. I want them all to succeed. I try to make them feel like they are worth something.

I spent too many years with a foot on my neck being told subtly and not so subtly that I shouldn’t write, that I wasn’t good enough. That it wasn’t something, I should take seriously. Or that I would never succeed. Those people in my life eroded my confidence, exploited my fears, and generally frakked me up mentally. You can see why I don’t want others to fall victim to this.

So, I made it a practice to encourage other writers. To make them feel welcome among the various groups I’ve been a part of. To show them they are good enough. To make them feel a part of something important. Or more accurately, that they have the right to be a part of it.

I did this to the exclusion of myself.

Now, (actually for months) the writing group I go to is in the process of destroying itself. The group as a whole seems to be less important than Marsha ONE, Marsha TWO, Marsha THREE and so on. (This may sound minor but it is not. The details don’t matter here as I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.)

Each Marsha is so wrapped up in themselves or is busy being snide to each other, they don’t even see the Kristi’s of the group are suffering from the fallout.

I really want to indulge in some constructive selfishness, but I’m the only one in the group not allowed to do so. I’ve learned the hard way, if I, who is expected to stay in my role as cheerleader, express an opinion, I’ll lose friends or at least offend everyone for calling them out. Or I’ll be the final straw that breaks the group. Dammit ONE, TWO, and THREE, cut your shit!

The last time I said how I felt everyone acted like I’d grown horns then screamed it over a global intercom and shook my demon finger in their faces. No one could believe I had feelings other than encouragement for Them.

The other response is denial. It’s quite frustrating when someone tries to convince you your feelings are not legitimate because they refuse to see the problem. Pretending there is no issue doesn’t absolve one from being part of it Marsha.

Hell, I’ve felt like I’ve been on the outside for so long I don’t know what I would do if that changed. I know other people have felt this way, but that only meant they didn’t notice I’ve been going through it. So I keep my mouth shut about me and cheer-lead them. It’s strange to try to convince someone to not listen to those inner doubts when the same fears float around the top of my head.

I’m left with a new dilemma. Say something or stay home. Who am I kidding? I’ll keep going and keep repressing and keep getting angry. Then option two will bubble up, and I’ll have to spend all my time fixing all the Marshas’ hurt feelings at my audacity for having feelings!

Like most rants, this one rambles around and probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to those reading it. However, getting the words out, especially on ‘paper’ helps me more than I can say.


 

Stop Bringing Me Down!

You know the type. The melancholy girl, the persecuted guy. That one person you know who spreads their own brand of misery wherever they go. Maybe you’re unlucky enough to have several of them in your life.

There are a few for me, and each one is unique, and I have to handle them differently. Quite frankly, it’s exhausting and potentially detrimental to me. What does that even mean?

Let me give you one of my examples. One of the biggest downers in my life, we’ll call her Sarah, has affected me in ways I am only now realizing. Between her negativity and ‘poor me’ attitude, she tapped into my overly developed empathy and brought me so low I’m not sure how to pull myself back out of the hole she dug for me.

I’ve barely written in months. For some reason, every time I sat down to work doubts, fears, and sadness overwhelmed me to the point of immobility. I stared at my pen or screen and did…nothing. Why should I? It was going to suck anyway. Why bother to try when I would fail in the end. Why move that pen when only junk would come out of it.

WHAT THE BLOODY HELL? That wasn’t me talking! Well, it was the old me, but not the me who wrote steadily for many years now. Nor the me who overcame those fears long ago. So who was it?

Sarah. Poor sad, despondent Sarah. The woman who enjoys living in her hell and spreads her misery in all directions. We all have some degree of empathy. For me, it’s so stupidly strong that I will start actually to feel the intense emotions of those around me. It sucks. I don’t see Sarah all that often, but it’s enough that her wretched aura got to me. For months.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming everything on the girl. I’m fully capable of screwing myself over with writing. However, in this case, she shares some of the blame. The truth is, she’s brought down my entire writing group. All of us have been down for months. Empathy is real people, and we have little control over it. She doesn’t mean to bring those around her down, but damn, she’s good at it. Just like I don’t intend to let it get to me.

Ironically, she complains when others do it to her. She once told a group I was in that she hates people exactly like her. HA!

Anyway, what can one do to guard against someone else affecting you in this way? Wish I knew. I do have some guesses though, things I will try to put into action.

Avoid the source of misery. Sometimes this is mostly impossible. What if it’s a close friend or family member? Unless you live with the person, you can limit the time you spend with them. No matter how you feel about someone, if they are toxic, you need to get away at least some of the time.

Tell them. Okay, this one is hard, and I won’t be doing this. It will only add to her problems. Guilt won’t change her anyway.

Encourage them. This won’t work. Not if they don’t want it to. Some people are content being down. It can be a comfortable alternative to effort and accountability. Still, if they are in your life, you probably care about them, and your good will might mean a lot. Besides, empathy works both ways. Maybe your positivity will fight against their opposing attitude.

Recognize what is happening and do whatever you can to counter it. Now that I know that part of my issue is others bringing me down I can tell my negative feelings to suck it! When I say to myself that writing is a waste of time because I’ll fail, I can remind myself those are not MY words. That aspect of myself is small and tied down. I’ll always have doubts, but they will not cripple me the way they did in the past.

Share your story. I’m well past some of the bad feelings I’ve picked up from others, but they are Not. So I can tell them what I went through and how I overcame these things. It may or may not help them, but at least the effort is there on my part.

If all else fails (in my case), use ear buds. Doesn’t make sense, right? Empathy is about feeling what others are feeling. However, loud music and putting my head down to write can distract me from what is being said and felt. Something is better than nothing when the misery in the air is loud.

What a rant! I’m not as angry as this sounds. I’m simply drained and tired of it all.

As much as I’ve been affected by some others in my life, what I choose to do is my responsibility. Like I said before, not every writing difficulty is 100% Sarah’s fault. But it’s important to acknowledge the effect she’s had on me. I advise you to do the same with the people in your life who did the same to you. If you don’t realize what’s happening, you can’t take steps.

Don’t feel guilty for not wanting to be brought down. Know it’s not your responsibility to fix someone, whether they want to be fixed or not. All you can control is you. I’m choosing to do something about the situation. I have enough roadblocks in my life as it is. I don’t need this one.

File it under self-care and convince yourself that taking care of you is the most important thing.


Writers Are Mean…

All writers are mean. We are abusive, bullying, nasty, horrible people. We are overly critical, judgy, and our standards are too high. We cause crying, anger, yelling, sadness, depression, anxiety, and sleeping problems. Writers do and are all these things, to ourselves, often.

Therefore, why on earth should we allow other writers to do the same to us? Too many times I’ve seen a writer trying to bring another one down. In most cases the perpetrator is doing so to make themselves feel better – superior. You know what makes me feel good when reading another writer’s work? Telling them the good things I see.

I’m more than happy to critique something when requested but generally most writers when they put themselves out for the world to see, i.e. a short story on their blog, or a Facebook post, etc, need encouragement.

Personally, I know sometimes I need the motivational push or someone to tell me it’s not terrible, or something else positive. So I have to assume other writers need the same.

Why can’t we hold each other up and be supportive instead of mean and judgemental? There are a few people I know who like to tear others down and it is clearly based on a lack of confidence on their part. Maybe no one helped them or encouraged them early in their career. I know that even when I or other writers in my community try now, these people don’t notice.

What if they were told the good stuff when they first started out? Would they feel the need to be crappy to other writers today? Maybe so, but also, maybe not.

Think about this. If you’re only surrounded by harsh comments, negativity, unwarranted criticism, and unfavorable comparisons for years, you’re probably going to be a pretty miserable human right? Since, as a writer, you’re going to do this to yourself and be unable to escape it, wouldn’t it be great if someone, preferably many someones, was there telling you what you did right? Saying how you are great with dialog or description, or how your writing voice is so clear. Maybe just telling you they love your stories.

Now what if it were other writers telling you the good stuff? As writers we can’t help it, we value what other writers say over everyone else. I mean, sure, your mom, or spouse, or best friend can say every word you write is perfection but you know they love you and that makes their credibility a little shaky (even if they are correct). When someone else who practices your craft gives you positive feedback, WHAM, it hits you in the ego in the best sort of way. Little tendrils of goodness invade your subconscious…maybe I’m not the worst writer on the planet…yeah, that is a damn good sentence…perhaps I can do this, etc.

I believe, as a writer, I have several jobs to do.

1: Write, as often as I can.

1.5: Finish what I start writing.

2: Always try to improve my craft.

3. Help other writers as much as possible.

The third one is very important to me. When I first started writing I was alone in it. One person encouraged me but only as a hobby. I was a stay at home mom with a husband who thought I should never do anything for me. My job was to be a mom and nothing else. Throughout the years I was actively discouraged and ignored when it came to writing. Everything from being told my writing sucked to being accused of being irresponsible for even trying. Once I was divorced and then married again I was the victim of subtle undermining. My confidence was shot and my desire to write was nil.

Then one day I realized something. My exes were A-holes who played on my real issue with writing: fear. I always worried I wasn’t good enough at it, that I was wasting time only to fail. I feared succeeding as much as failing. I was afraid of what others though or might think.

So I took the first steps toward writing regularly. Eventually I married a man who actually wants me to write. I found other writers in my community, most of which were encouraging and welcoming. The ones who aren’t, well, they can’t touch me after the stuff I heard from the exes.

Being around others like me changed everything. Now I write all the time. I have more confidence in what I do and I’m constantly improving.

When I meet new writers, or people trying to get back into it, with fear in their eyes, everything I went through comes back to me. So I step up and try to make them feel welcome. I share my story when needed and always have something positive to say about their work. I do the same for people who are actively writing. All I want is to be as supportive as I can. No one should have to feel bad about writing.

There will always be the negative writers around so I hope my attitude and others who think the same help to balance out the bad things we all have to hear. It takes so little effort to do these little things to help others and everyone benefits.

I’ll save my mean writer side for myself. Speaking of, after rereading this I spotted tons of complicated or shaky sentences and am fighting the urge to fix them. See? I don’t need anyone else to tell me I suck. Maybe someday I’ll even stop listening to myself.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to encourage at least one writer this week. I hope this message doesn’t self destruct!


Photo by Ryan McGuire

Trusting Someone Enough To Fall Asleep In Their Presence Is Not Consent

Warning: This is a rant and is sure to contain foul language and strong opinions. Also, I changed the names to protect some young people’s privacy.

My fourteen year old daughter, who is an eighth grader got in the car today after school and immediate informed me “There is major drama going on in the school today.”

Assuming she meant typical teenager stuff I got ready to half listen. No offense to her but sometimes hearing about who is dating who, which friends got in a fight, and who she’s mad at aren’t really the funnest things to talk about. I do however like that she Does talk to me so I got prepared.

“There’s a girl names Kate who…”

As her story unfolded I went through many emotions and I want to apologize now for anything offensive or irrational that I say from this point on. She explained that Kate had a bunch of friends, male and female, over recently and they all stayed really late. Kate fell asleep on the floor in her living room and everyone left. A few minutes later one of the boys, Jacob, came back to get his phone charger.

The story gets a little hazy here. Something happened. Exactly what is not clear. What is known is Kate was asleep. Jacob touched her. She didn’t respond. He left. Later he sent a text to her apologizing for touching her. Today at school he told one of his friends what he had done. The friend got really angry and told everyone he knew. When people asked Kate what happened she said “I don’t know, ask Jacob.” When they asked Jacob, he didn’t really say anything.

The “drama” is that half the school is on Kate’s side and the other is on Jacobs. Some say that there is no way Kate wouldn’t have woken up and if she woke up and didn’t want it, she could have stopped him.

My daughter seemed confused so I laid it out for her. If Kate was asleep and this kid was putting his hand up her shorts to touch her, that is sexual assault. It doesn’t matter if she woke up. The fact is, no matter how this girl responded to it, the guy knew she was asleep when he started this, that’s rape. If you’re asleep, you can’t say yes or no, so the no should be assumed.

If she felt it why wouldn’t she have stopped him? What the hell was she supposed to do? She was deep asleep when this happened. She might have thought she was dreaming, she might have been scared, probably confused.

My daughter says the ‘whole school’ doesn’t understand why she won’t talk about it. WHAT? First of off the ‘whole school’ can piss off. No one gets to tell Kate how she should be reacting. She could be embarrassed, hurt, terrified, confused, angry, any number of things and it’s not for anyone else to assign a feeling or attitude to her. She may not be handling it well, but SHE’S the one that has to deal with it.

This all became such a big deal today that someone finally told a teacher and my kid told me she saw Kate and her mother going into the school (a few minutes before I got there), and the mom looked really angry.

For clarity, Jacob has basically admitted to doing this on Twitter of all places, repeatedly. He’s gone on and on about how he thinks a devil is in him and how everyone makes mistakes and people should stop judging him. He’s bitched about all his friends deserting him and he’s threatened suicide. Now I don’t want this kid to kill himself but the little bastard needs to stop acting like he’s the victim.

I spent the entire car ride home explaining what sexual assault is. I told my daughter that just because Jacob stopped, that doesn’t mean an assault didn’t happen. Just because he now feels bad doesn’t mean it’s okay. Just because he lost all his friends doesn’t mean anyone should feel sorry for him. Just because he Twitter threatened suicide doesn’t mean Kate wasn’t violated. Just because some of the kids on the school don’t think it’s a big deal doesn’t mean they are right.

I’m pretty sure that my daughter felt sorry for Jacob, at least a little until the Twitter thing. That’s part of what’s got me so worked up. Obviously I’m concerned about the girl and I’m glad it wasn’t worse but for me personally, this is a huge thing I need to make my kid understand. She seemed to think it was just drama and a crazy situation. She didn’t take it as seriously as she should have. By the end of our drive she asked me if the boy could end up going to jail. It’s scary as hell to know that serious consequences never occurred to her. That this is a big deal, beyond school drama, never crossed her mind. I guess she didn’t truly believe the guy did something so bad. What if she was the one asleep on the floor? Would she have just let him do what he wanted because she didn’t know how to handle it? I guarantee you after our talk she knows what to do!

Now for anyone that wants to jump on my case, I know there is at least some small chance that Kate isn’t telling the whole truth. I advised my kid to reserve judgement until she knew the facts. I believed that was the best course of action until I saw Jacobs Twitter account, and his admissions.

All parents need to sit down with their kids and have a frank conversation about sex, sexual assault, sexual harassment, boundaries, limits, and what to do if they find themselves in a bad situation. Maybe don’t use as many curse words as I think I did in our talk.

I apologize again for the language, but not for the opinions.