My degrees were not in creative writing, or even in the arts at all. I spent my time and energy in science buildings which is entertaining for a number of reasons. Namely, that I do not enjoy or excel at science. And yet, I spent nine years in those classrooms.
Because of this, I sometimes kick writing metaphors back to something anatomy based. Consider yourself warned.
I remember the day we learned about stress. Stress could be categorized as bad or good. That piqued my attention. How can stress be good, my anxious brain wondered. Resistance training creates microtears through stress so muscles can rebuild stronger. Bones grow more bone where tendons stress a bony prominence. Yeah, my life was full of stuff like that.
So good stress is a thing.
Something switched in me around Christmas this year. I feel as if we are all coming out of a collective fog after the covid years, and I'm shedding some sort of anxiety skin at the same time. I stopped to imagine what I wanted and how I could be happier. The answer surprised me.
My brain is a jumbled mess of harsh emotions battling for center stage. The two performers that usually duke it out are insecurity and anxiety. Around my forty-sixth birthday last month, I finally tired of those cranky bitches and decided to shove them to the orchestra. Two new, bedazzled stars appeared, and I couldn't look away. Friends, meet confidence and optimism. My stage suddenly looked less like Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, and more like Glinda and Elphaba. 🎶You're gonna be popular🎶
I say this with all seriousness: I've never felt these two healthy emotions a day in my life. I've only ever experienced stress as a "bend until she breaks" sort of way. The entire idea was mind-blowing.
I've often wondered what it could be like to feel as though I belonged, to know on some deep, cosmic level that my dreams were about to come true. I had fleeting thoughts, anyways. I was too busy letting my own mind bully me into hating myself.
Oof. That took a turn.
I've not yet discovered how to lose the self-deprecating humor. One thing at a time.
Here's the thing: I couldn't have reached my wildest dreams because I wouldn't let them in. That protective layer we all cloak over our hearts does little to protect us from hurt but does a bang up job holding happiness at bay. When I stopped to really listen to the way I spoke to myself, I realized my words left so many stinging bruises, there was no room for anything else.
I started asking, "Why not me?"
I began to think, "I'll make it, or I won't, so why not believe in myself?"
The ugly thoughts are tricky. They're quiet and shady. They bleed into the fabric of our minds without much awareness on our part. How does one excise the beast when you don't know they're lurking?
Every day, every thought, every nasty thing I said to myself now held a microphone. Nobody wants to pay for that show. I didn't anymore either. So, I practiced self-love. Every moment was an opportunity to practice. We're all on a journey. We might as well love with such fervor we save ourselves. Stress our healthy thoughts to grow stronger.
Sure, these are just words, but they've altered my brain. Suddenly, the impossible seems possible and loneliness is just a fleeting idea, not an anthem.
As a character says in my historical fiction book, Chasing Eleanor, "There is no greater defiance than loving yourself."
For too many years, I've diminished myself to appease my haters. I derived some sort of power in that fight where my only opponent was already broken. Now, I've found a new power: to recline and breathe and watch my dreams bob in front of me without taunting or ridicule.
My author aspirations to blow the world of historical fiction wide open no longer seem ridiculous. I believe the world wants to hear my stories of women forgotten by history. They need these tales to remember who we are and who we came from. I see it clearly now, but I had to get over that one big, scary thing.
Fear is a powerful drug, but nothing feels more terrifying than watching time march on from the sidelines.
Now, I see a path to what I want, and I like the traveler at my side.