On Self-Doubt

I had a meltdown about writing—the process of—this morning. Simultaneously, my son, a recent BS degree graduate, did too—about job hunting.

His email to me while I’m melting down:

I’m applying for jobs and contacting these people but when absolutely no one contacts me back I feel like I’m just sinking. I’m just looking through meetups thinking that no one will ever want to continue a relationship. I just feel like a fucking failure.”

I emailed him back:

The only thing i know that works for me to shed these feelings is WRITING them to dad, or myself. i am doing that now. literally. i had meltdown this morning so i’m journaling. i will for a page or so, then get on with watching youtubers gaming to educate myself before i continue writing the power trip—which is what i melted down on this morning. from my journal:”

The absolute hardest part about writing fiction is shutting out the voices in my head that tell me I am not good enough to write this:

I’ll never get this right.

It’s too complex.

It’ll take too much research.

I’m too fragmented.

I’m not focused enough.

The subject won’t be topical if it takes too long to write.

I can’t DO this.

I keep losing the string.

I can’t hear the characters even after profiling them.

I get too wrapped up in superfluous details.

I don’t get to the point quick enough.

I don’t make it exciting, engaging out of the gate.

I’m too heady.

Too technical.

Too too too…

Give it up.

Too much work you’ll never finish anyway.

This is stupid to pursue.

You are wasting your time, not living your best life.

You’ve been working at this too long and are still nowhere…

His email back:

This is exactly what I freak out about as well. Just replace writing with coding.”

Me:

thing is, you have to combat the bullshit voices in your head.”

they are half-truths. not lies, cuz there IS truth in our fears, but only HALF truths. i can counter every one of the voices i just wrote in my journal…

Him:

But there’s always these looming feelings that I’ve accomplished nothing, done nothing. Am nothing.”

Me:

it’s not true. that’s fear—like you are a failure—because you’re scared you will be. And while the fear is valid, real, true, because there is a vague possibility you won’t find a job you want, the WHOLE TRUTH is you are virtually 100% guaranteed to find a job if you keep looking for one, and likely a coding job you’ll like.

Another truth is you’ve proven you can code as a straight As graduate with a CS degree, which was your primary goal the last 4 years. and you did it. Well!”

Him:

I seem to be unable to compartmentalize my feelings.


Me:

this is LEARNING, em, applying for your first real job that isn’t a part-time gig. you WILL get this. guaranteed, IF you keep working at it!! just like i’ll get the power trip written. see, i’ve already proven i can write with 7 books out, with mostly good reviews. and still i hear the voices of doubt as i write the lines to you above:

yeah, you’ve written 7, but they were all crap. 

and the good reviews, well, they were just being nice. 

the bad reviews are the truth about your writing. 

so GIVE IT UP, BITCH. you will always fail at this. 

and so on…

but again, em, i can COUNTER ALL OF THEM.

yeah, you’ve written 7, but they were all crap. BULLSHIT. MANY PEOPLE GAVE MY BOOKS REALLY GOOD REVIEWS.

and the good reviews, well, they were just being nice. BULLSHIT. JUST BULLSHIT CUZ THIS IS SUCH A STUPID THOUGHT.

bad reviews are the truth about your writing. NOPE. THEY ARE HALF THE TRUTH. OR A PERCENTAGE, BUT GOOD REVIEWS ARE THE OTHER PERCENTAGE AND IN MOST CASES THE GREATER PERCENTAGE ARE POSITIVE.

so give it up, bitch. you will always fail at this. FUCK OFF BITCH OF DOUBT.

His response:

Emoji smile. Clapping hands. Thank you hands.

Making a Difference

Typically on Sunday mornings my husband and I share articles from the New York Times. He’ll often read me pieces while I prepare breakfast or visa versa, and we’ll discuss the ones that pique our interest. The year end edition of the Sunday Magazine runs detailed obituaries on a handful of famous and infamous people who died that year. Though many are well known—actors, x-presidents and the like, some are more obscure, but they all share one thing in common. They all had [at least] 15 minutes of fame.

As my husband read on from person to person I began to feel more and more irritated. Where was the balance with the everyday hero—the dad who worked his life to support his family, or the career woman who slated her ambitions to be a mom? Their stories are equally interesting as some one hit wonder, or marginal actor. Even the most common among us had lives that mattered, that touched many, and deserve to be told.

On my mother’s death bed she asked me “Did I make a difference?” She stared at me with sunken eyes, her skeletal face practically begging me for an affirmative answer. And I gave her one. And, of course, it was true. She was my mom. She made a difference to me.

She turned me on to love, light, color, beauty, nature, music, art. She would often point out a vibrant flower, stop everything to view a sunset and be truly awestruck by its magnificence. She genuinely liked people. She was open to most all ideas as long as they weren’t filled with hate, or born of ignorance.

My mother was a humanitarian, and without prejudice, and she taught me to respect all things equally.

She was a wife for nearly 50 years. My father used to call her his ‘sunshine.’ Laughter and joy came easily to her. She exposed him to simple things—good talks during long walks, exploring new places, trying different foods. She sang all the time, had a beautiful voice that blended perfectly with my father’s melody.

My mom was a passionate and devoted teacher. She created a magnet ocean science program she taught to underprivileged and gifted kids that is still active today. I’d met several of her students, decades later while with my mom in the market or mall, who claimed they became oceanographers and biologists because of her influence. She loved kids. They were uncomplicated—what she pretended to be, even wanted to be, but wasn’t. She was childlike in many ways, always curious and loved learning.

As I sat on her bed and ran through her list of accomplishments, her expression became sadder and sadder, and my “turn that frown upside down” mother started to cry. She wanted to give so much more. She had so much more to give, but she realized, laying helpless in bed and gasping for every breath, her time had run out.

Two weeks later I stood over her grave and refused the dirt filled shovel the Rabbi handed to me. I knelt down and scooped a handful of moist, sweet earth from the freshly dug ground, smelled its musty richness, then let it fall off my hand and run through my fingers as I released it onto her casket. And then I silently thanked her for teaching me to recognize natural beauty and engage with it at every opportunity.

My mom died of cancer at 73. Over 100 people attended her funeral. Another hundred or more have contacted our family since her death to give their condolences—lives she touched, who will touch the lives of other, and so on.

Andy Warhol was wrong. Most of us live and die in obscurity.

But we make a difference.

I SEE You

I am an Empath.

Wait! Before you roll your eyes and click off this blog, I don’t have any paranormal powers. It isn’t magic that I can read people. I’m not psychic. I can’t glean people’s “energy,” whatever that means, or any of that mystical crap. I am a devout atheist, and use the word “devout” with purpose.

What I can do, is tell you what you’re thinking and feeling, generally before you know.

How?

If I’m in physical proximity to you, your body (posture, eye contact…etc.), and facial expressions give me tons of data about what you are experiencing inside your head. We all have this ability to read physicality, though most people hardly pay attention to one another, except on rare occasions. Ever had a blind date? The first second you see your date in person, you can tell if they like how you look.

In person, or not— over the wire, or web, I ask a LOT of questions. And I listen to your answers. My brain picks up inconsistencies in what you’re saying, telling me you are lying to yourself, and subsequently…me.

The first time my DH (of 20 yrs now) met my mother, she said to him, “My daughter (me) was born old.”

What she meant was, I was born plugged in. I don’t know why. A genetic anomaly? My senses feel hyper-charged—touch, taste, sound, even vision (clarity in peripheral sight) seem heightened, compared to most (and not just by my reckoning). OCD? Bipolar? Maybe. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to process the massive amount of information I get from others, and it’s exhausting. And I wish I could shut it down, live like most everyone else.

Sort of…

I’ve picked up patterns in human behavior along the way. Lots! It’s another reason I can tell what you’re feeling, often before you know. I can now predict likely responses to an enormous array of specific stimuli. It’s a fantastic tool for writing believable characters. And understanding what motivates people is equally beneficial for developing marketing campaigns with great response rates.

Yet, I struggle with living plugged in. It’s emotionally costly. I lose myself while inside others, acutely feel their pain, their sorrow, their fears and hopes. I’ve tried to shut my senses down with drugs, both prescription, and not. I had an allergic reaction to Prozac that almost killed me, and no reaction at all to weed over time.

I’ve become a recluse for the most part. I limit my friendships to very few. I stay plugged into my two teens, my DH, my bratty, but cute Shepard pound hound, which serves them well, though at times, probably not me so much. I disappear, absorbed in them. (To be fair, the dog’s needs are simple. No hidden agendas, no unconscious complexities. She makes her feelings obvious. Thank you, Ellie!) And while I’ll continue to choose living, be here for my friends and family, I must admit, there is, and has always been, a beckoning to shut it all down, turn off the input. Unplug, for good.