Playing With Writing

When I was younger, writing stories was a form of playing for me. I created elaborate worlds, populated with many, many characters, and made up whatever I wanted. If I wasn’t in school, I was usually sitting somewhere with a notebook and pen, scribbling something. Or I was using my dolls to act out stories that I would later write.

Back then, I wanted to get published someday, but that wasn’t the main purpose for writing for me. It was something that made me happy. Brought me joy. The creation of the stories was the top priority.

Unfortunately, that started to change when I started getting published. Over time, writing became less about joy and far more about writing something good enough to be accepted, that readers would actually buy. It became about earning money to help pay my bills and buy food for my family.

It became something that stopped bringing me joy, and instead brought me anxiety and fear. The fear that I wasn’t good enough and never would be, especially when I saw other authors earning ten or even a hundred times what I earned. I knew I wasn’t the best at marketing, and I started feeling like I wasn’t any good at writing, either. And because I felt like I wasn’t good at it, the quality of my writing suffered.

These are things I’m working on changing now, though, and that work is part of the reason I don’t have any releases scheduled for 2018. Before I can consider myself ready to submit my work again, I need to regain the joy that got me started writing in the first place. I need to take time to play with plots and characters, with no pressure and no consequences if something doesn’t work.

I don’t know how long the process will take, but that’s okay. What I do know is I need to put myself first, and that means putting joy first.

 

Choose Who’s In Your Life

Most of us have family members or friends. Sometimes close, sometimes not so much.

The hard part is when someone who’s been close to us suddenly isn’t. Either they’ve backed off or we have, or maybe they’ve done something we just can’t accept. Maybe it’s an issue of physical distance, maybe one of emotional. Maybe we feel worse when we’re with them than when we aren’t.

When we let someone into our lives to that extent, and especially if they’re a family member, cutting them out can be difficult. It might even seem impossible. But if you feel negative when you’re around them, or if they’ve changed the way they act toward you to something hurtful, sometimes you have to make that choice.

We all have the right to decide who’s in our lives. Even being related doesn’t guarantee someone a place. People might say “I can’t stop talking to them, they’re my parent” or something along those lines, but that’s still a choice.

Choose yourself first. Be the most important person in your life, and surround yourself with people who make you happy, or at least comfortable. You deserve it.

Going to Be Away…

I’m going to be away for a week, which means there won’t be a post next Monday.

I’m not sure about this going away thing. I’m going to a retreat, which I went to last year as well. Last year, it was difficult. I only knew three or four people there, and two of those were people I didn’t know well. I met people there, of course, and I’ve kept in touch with a few of them who will be there again this year. So it won’t be as difficult from that perspective.

But just like the convention I went to in January, at this retreat, there are going to be a lot of people. At times, things are going to be very crowded and loud. I don’t do well with crowded and loud. It’s also at a summer camp that has no internet or cell phone access, so I won’t be able to distract myself with my usual things. (Which is kind of the point of having the retreat there, since it’s a thing you aren’t really supposed to be distracted from.)

A lot of things will be outside, and I’m not always comfortable being outside, either.

I have to be very mindful during this retreat of my health, both physical (because there’ll be a lot of walking) and mental. Fortunately, I’m going with a close friend who’s aware of this and will be keeping an eye on me, but it’s my responsibility to manage my health and make sure I’m taking care of myself. Which I can do, I just have to remember that pushing myself is okay, but shoving myself…not so much.

The Dangerous Side of Dating

CONTENT WARNING: DATING ABUSE

Last week, I talked about the new book I’m working on, which is about relationship abuse.

Unfortunately, this is something too many people encounter. It seems to be particularly prevalent among teenagers, especially if they’re dating someone older, but even with someone the same age. When you’re kind of just learning how to be in a relationship, you don’t always know what is or isn’t okay. And it’s easy for someone to take jealousy as a sign of love, when it often really isn’t.

According to the website loveisrespect.org, one in three teens will experience dating abuse of some kind. For one in ten, that will be physical violence. Statistics indicate that it happens more to girls than guys, but those statistics might be affected by the fact that boys don’t often report dating abuse. If a guy slaps his girlfriend across the face, most people would say that’s abusive, but if a girl does the same to her boyfriend, people act like it’s no big deal.

And that, of course, is the heteronormative perspective. I wasn’t able to find stats on dating abuse among LGBTQ+ teens in the short amount of time I spent researching this post.

Any incident of abuse is one too many. But people on the receiving end of the abuse often try to make excuses for their partner—or take the blame for their partner’s behavior. They lie about injuries and pretend the relationship is just fine. Sometimes they realize things aren’t fine and are able to get out of the relationship. Sometimes they aren’t.

Sometimes the relationship costs them their lives.

Loveisrespect.org has resources available if you’re in, or think you might be in, an abusive relationship. Those resources include online chat, a phone line, and a text line for people to contact. If you’re concerned about a relationship, whether yours or a friend’s or family members, please visit that site, or talk to someone you trust.

Spring Into Self-Care

In my part of the world, it’s spring. The weather is finally getting warmer, after playing a few tricks on us during March and the beginning part of April. People are able to get outside more, which is a good thing after a winter of snow, wind, and ridiculous cold.

But going outside to enjoy activities or just the fresh air is something not everyone does. For some people, it takes thought to figure out what you want to do. Being around nature isn’t easy if you’re living in a city, and sometimes fresh air isn’t really a thing that happens. Being in the country, you might have to drive a while to reach the location of an outdoor activity you want to do.

Being cooped up inside all the time isn’t necessarily a good thing. Personally, I deal with it a lot, because some of the health issues I have make leaving the house difficult at times. They also make wanting to be outside difficult. (PTSD and anxiety.) I have days when I have to push myself to just open the door and step out onto the porch, though if I can at least get that far, I’ll have the fresh air.

Being out in the sunshine, moving around and taking in the fresh air, can be really good for you. Not only can it help you be healthier physically, but it can boost your mood as well. If it’s something you’re able to do, try to make sure you do it on a regular basis. If it’s difficult for you to go places or do activities on your own, see if a friend or family member wants to go with you. Take time to figure out what you really want to do that will get you out of the house once in a while. It’s worth it.

Can’t Stay Home…

During the winter, spreading viruses and infections happens a lot more frequently than at other times of year. People are stuck indoors more, which means they’re in closer proximity to others for longer periods of time than when they’re able to go outside.

Some viruses tend to be more prevalent during the winter as well. The combination of that and people being together in small spaces for hours on end makes getting sick in the winter far more likely. If you’re sick, it’s best to stay home, rest, and be away from other people who might get sick from being near you.

Unfortunately, schools and workplaces don’t always make it easy for us to stay home and take care of ourselves when we’re sick. A lot of schools, particularly high schools, have attendance requirements. They might have a policy that says “Don’t come to school within 24 hours of having a fever,” but also have a policy that says “If you miss more than three days per grading term without a doctor’s note, you fail all your classes.” (These policies both existed at my older offspring’s high school.)

Meanwhile, doctor’s offices often won’t see a patient for a mild fever, or for cold symptoms or an upset stomach. Calling the office results in hearing, “There’s a stomach bug going around, just have your child rest and drink lots of fluids, there’s no need to bring them in.”

The child or teen is too sick to go to school according to the school’s illness policy, but not sick enough to see a doctor, which means you can’t get a doctor’s note so the student doesn’t fail their classes due to being absent. So they pack up, go off to school even though they’re feeling miserable, and half their classmates end up getting sick and having the same problem. And the illness cycles, and the family members of those students get sick too, and so on.

Workplaces also often penalize employees for taking sick time, or they don’t offer sick time at all. Someone who is living paycheck to paycheck at a job that doesn’t include paid sick time can’t afford to miss a day of work, because that means losing a day of pay. Someone who gets paid sick time might be afraid of repercussions from their boss if they take a day off. So these employees head to work, where their coworkers catch the illness and end up having the same problem. And the family members of those employees get sick too, and so on.

Too often in our society, we’re taught that being sick is weakness. We have to achieve and meet our responsibilities no matter how we feel, and no matter the risk to others who might contract an illness from us. But how much good are we doing ourselves and others if we push to go to school or work when we’re sick? I don’t know if there is a solution, but I do wish things would change.

Holiday Self-Care

The holidays are a stressful time for a lot of people. Sometimes, it’s just stressful going into a crowded store to find just the right gift. Other times, holidays bring back unpleasant or even traumatic memories of holidays past, and it’s more than someone can cope with.

Some of us feel like, in preparation for the holidays, we have to do it all. Shop. Cook. Bake. Send out cards and presents. Talk to people we haven’t seen or heard from since last year.

Light of Christmas in one shop

But none of those things is as important as taking care of yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about your shopping list, choose only a few things at a time that you’re going to buy, and only think about those things when you’re at the store. Or don’t even go to the store; shop online. You might find unique gifts that way that you wouldn’t find in a store. If you can, ask someone else to do some of the shopping for you.

If you have too many people to contact and visit, take time to think about who you’d most like to talk to or see. You might worry that if you skip Aunt Sally’s Christmas Eve songfest to visit your high school friend who just moved back to the area, Aunt Sally will be hurt and angry. And she might be. But would she be less hurt if you showed up and were bored or antsy because you’d rather be with your friend? Base your decisions on what *you* want and what you feel is right for you, rather than one what others might think.

Most importantly, if the holidays are a traumatic time for you, please reach out for help. Whether to a professional or a friend you can trust to talk to. Otherwise the stress and memories might build into more than you can handle.

In our society, we’re often taught that the holidays are the time when we do everything everyone else wants us to do, and we have to do it better than they would. But that isn’t the case. Sometimes, stepping back and just relaxing and attending to our own wants and needs is not only okay, it’s vital.

Invisible Illness

I know a number of people who suffer from what are sometimes called “invisible illnesses.” I’m one of those people.

I have fibromyalgia. It’s a chronic pain condition, and when it’s at its worst I describe it as “being wrapped in a blanket of pain.” On those 1-10 pain scales hospitals use, my baseline is other people’s 2. There is never a time some part of my body doesn’t hurt.

In addition to the pain, fibro gives me “brain fog.” Sometimes I can’t remember things, even, at times, how to do something I do on a regular basis. Which is pretty dang scary, let me tell you. And it and the migraines I also experience affect my balance and depth perception to the point that sometimes I can’t make it down a flight of stairs without help. (Going upstairs is easier; going downstairs, I might miss the step. And I can’t even attempt down escalators, because between the movement and the wonky depth perception, I can’t guess where to put my feet.)

I’m not saying any of this to get pity or sympathy. I’m saying it because I look like a perfectly healthy human being. On my low-pain days, I can move around and walk easily, other than those pesky stairs. The only time anyone other than my loved ones notice that I’m in pain is if I’m at the higher end of the scale—except if I’m at a 7 or higher, I usually don’t leave the house.

I have a handicapped parking tag for my car, one of the type you hang from the rearview mirror. I also have a cane, which I try really hard not to use, but sometimes I haven’t much choice. If it’s a reasonable day, I park in a regular parking space and go without the cane, but if I’m in pain or my balance is off, I use my tag and take a handicapped spot. And I get out with my cane…but sometimes I still get glared at, because I don’t look like I need the spot or the cane.

The point I’m trying to make is, don’t assume someone’s healthy just by how they look. Mental illnesses don’t show on the surface. Neither do physical conditions like fibromyalgia, migraines, immune deficiencies, and a number of other things. Instead of assuming someone’s lying or faking it because they don’t look like your definition of sick, assume they’re being honest. Remember that you can’t tell what’s going on in someone else’s mind or body.

It’s a cliché, but don’t judge a book by its cover. Please.

“What’s the Point?”

Depression is sometimes a very subtle thing. It isn’t always sitting in bed crying and not wanting to move, or thinking your life is horrible, or believing no one cares.

Sometimes it’s just looking at all the things you’re trying to do and wondering “What’s the point? Why bother? Why am I wasting my time on this?”

If you only have one or two things in your life that seem pointless, it isn’t necessarily cause for concern. I think all of us feel that way once in a while about something. But if you feel that way about almost everything, almost all the time, it might be something to worry about. And in that case, it’s something to talk to a professional about.

It can be hard to reach out for help when you think “I just need to snap out of this” or you have people telling you “You need a more positive attitude and everything will be fine.” Even people who understand depression might say similar things, because an “it’s all pointless” feeling might not come across to them as depression, but instead as boredom or just a negative outlook.

But if you feel any way different from what’s usual for you, or if you have lost interest or willingness to do things you’ve enjoyed, reaching out for help is not only okay but important. You are allowed to feel happy, and you are allowed to enjoy things. If you need help to do that, it’s all right.

Taking Care at the Holidays

For a lot of people, it’s the holiday time of year. And unfortunately, that can mean stress.

Even if you enjoy the holidays–and not everyone does–things can be pretty hectic. Shopping for gifts, if you observe a holiday that includes gift-giving. Wrapping things. Possibly cooking. Possibly traveling. Spending time with family members you might not see at any other time of year. At the very least, even if you aren’t celebrating anything, you have to contend with traffic, commercials, and far too many shoppers at your favorite stores.

Taking care of yourself is important at any time of year, but for some, during the holidays it’s even more important. So if you’re part of the errand-running, cooking, traveling, present-wrapping throngs, remember to make time to rest. Watch a favorite TV show. Read a favorite book. Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. Take a bath if baths are your thing.

Some people focus a lot during the holidays on what they can–or should–do for other people, but they forget to do things for themselves. You’ll enjoy the holidays a lot more if you’re relaxed and well-rested, so be good to yourself.