The Block

Lately, I have been frustrated because I am totally blocked. I’m not writing and it’s not out of laziness, being too busy or due to a lack of trying. I know why I’m blocked, but that isn’t helping. It’s like in 2009 when I was blocked because I had several strokes and grand mal seizures, which resulted in severe head trauma and neurological impairment (it took months to heal/come back from that but I did). I know what’s up but I am not in a position to actually fix it myself, and as long as I remain a human being and not a sociopath there is no way for me to “not let this affect me”.

What’s worse is that it’s a cycle that feeds itself. Like I might be juggling A, B and C and they together are creating my block, but not writing new pieces or submitting or working on a manuscript (which I realize, I have actually not, not done, in roughly twelve years) is making me more frustrated, more out of sync to actually create, revise, or submit.

I just want to write. I want to be creating new pieces. I want to be inspired. I want to be working on a book because it’s not only writing but working towards something that could actually allow me to do this full time while financially supporting myself. (It’s not like I’m looking to get rich from writing, please!) I want to be submitting. I want to be getting published. I want to work on other pieces that are close but not quite ready. I want to get out of this funk. I want to bulldoze through my block. I hate this.

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A New Kind Of July 4th

July 4th has always been the biggest-deal holiday in my family. It’s my father’s favorite and the one holiday when he really goes all out. He gets the BIG fireworks and really puts on a show. Growing up, we would go out of the way to all of these fireworks tents, getting (often-illegal) fireworks. My brother and I would have fun with snakes and tanks and party poppers and snappers throughout the 3rd and the 4th. We would be out in the driveway, just having a good time.

The night of the 4th, my dad would go all out and it was usually a big affair. It’s not like he did this in the middle of the city. We were at relatives in the country or at his house with permission from the neighbors (he was always very respectful about that, luckily where we lived most people are fireworks enthusiasts and did not mind). We were with my grandparents of step-grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles, maybe a friend or two from my dad’s work and so on. It was always a social thing and everyone, even those who had been with us in past years, were always impressed.

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The Five-Year Mark

Last week my husband and I celebrated five years of marriage. It feels like a milestone, and honestly it kind of is. The average marriage in the U.S. lasts less than a decade, like years short. So I feel like making it though the first five years – we each deserve a big pat on the back. I also feel like because of what our marriage has endured/survived – it makes me all the more sure we’re going to make it “’til death do us part.”

I’m not going to lie, being married was nothing like I thought it would be, and I feel like I have a pretty down-to-earth un-romanticized idea of marriage, which led me to think about how I feel about marriage, and what it is.

  1. Marriage is never how or what you think it will be. Even the most level head, it’s like having kids, you think you can be prepared but the picture you have in your head is never what you actually get. This isn’t a good or bad thing, because it’s a little bit of both. Marriage isn’t what you expect in ways of reality, commitment and difficulties along the way. Marriage also isn’t what you expect in the most wonderful ways. You can be head over heels in love and think, “Wow, I get to spend the rest of my life with this person,” but you still can’t actually grasp the joy and wonder and awesomeness in finding your other half and making the choice each day to be committed to each other.
  2. Marriage isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s hard, it’s work, it’s every day but the point is it is worth all of that and the good outweighs the bad without question.
  3. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m always talking about “long-game” because the big picture matters but how you get there can change. It’s about be adaptive, flexible and understanding you married another person, not an extension of you. They are going to have their own ways of doing things, traits, quirks and priorities so nothing is your way anymore, and it shouldn’t be theirs either. It’s all about compromise. Your goals, values and vision of your relationship should be in sync, but that doesn’t mean two people will be in their execution.
  4. Marriage is about compromise – see above.
  5. Marriage is not about changing each other, otherwise why did you get married? In my vows I told my husband that he isn’t perfect but that he was perfect for me. He does things that drive me crazy, I do things that frustrate him, but we knew who we were before we got married, and who the other person was. Changing him would mean I would be married to a stranger. I didn’t marry him as a project, and he didn’t marry hoping to make me more like him. Obviously things like mental illness, compulsive behavior, addiction, or other harmful behaviors may come up in a person’s marriage, but that isn’t about who the person is, it’s about them changing a harmful behavior. Everything else should only change if it is a part of that person’s personal journey and evolution. Not because someone else is trying to turn them into something they’re not.
  6. Marriage is a choice. Every day that you are married, you’re choosing that person, and choosing to be committed to them all over again. Marriage is a choice you keep making until you’re not married or that whole “death” thing happens.
  7. Marriage is built upon pillars that are necessary, but doesn’t abide by any rules or prescribed plan otherwise. A marriage needs love, trust, communication, respect and support. Without these pillars, the relationship will ultimately crumble. It doesn’t mean that those things will always be present in bad times, but they should be nurtured and tended to. Beyond that, in terms of “how” you tend to them, what else is important, what exercises or habits one should do – there is no right way. I know a couple that actually consist of three people, so a throuple. It’s not something I understand or could ever do or want, but they’ve been married and faithful and happy for over twenty years. I know people in open relationships, people who, like my husband and I, are old-school monogamous. Some couples swear one date every other week is enough, others say twice a week, others, particularly with kids in the mix say they’re lucky to go out once a month. I feel that there is no right way. What works for me may not work for someone else. As long as the pillars are in place and healthy, then do whatever works for you, and of course you find that out through trial and error. Some people act like they have the secret to a successful marriage, but there is only one secret – stay married. The thing that every single successful marriage has in common is the choice to stay married. That’s it. You stay married. You choose your spouse and commit yourself to them again and again and again. Because your love and commitment is the sun, and everything else is just a bunch of noise. Roy is my sun and no amount of noise will make me forget that, and while I don’t usually speak for him, I know he feels the same.

I’m grateful for the five years I’ve been married to my husband, and the years before that and all of the years to come. Our five years have been marked by incredible highs with special romantic getaways, anniversaries, birthdays, fun dates, just being content at home as well as the hard stuff: sudden unemployment, mental illness, life and death health stuff, family drama on both sides, and each breaking habits/corrected behaviors that hurt the other. Now, it’s not like I think from here on out it’s easy, but I’m saying we got through all of that still intact. Some marriages encounter a slump, others have bad times spread out, but we have survived and come out stronger from an awful lot of crap that I don’t feel most marriages face in their first five years – and here we are. Still standing.

It’s been a wonderful anniversary, which I’ll write about later. My husband has celebrated me and today I am taking him on a surprise adventure to celebrate him. Five years – what a ride it’s been and I’m excited to see where the next five years take us.

-DMW

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Blog Rebooted

The last month has been intense. If there was an understatement of the year – hell the century, it would be that. An unintentional side effect is that I took a step back from blogging. I’m back, well sort of; my time away, or more accurately thinking about “coming back” has made me think about a lot of things.

When I first started this blog, it wasn’t just because. Honestly, few things in my life are done willy nilly – I’m tempted to say nothing, but I’m not big on absolutes. I started a blog because it would benefit me from a writing standpoint and a career standpoint. In terms of writing, it would force me to write actual pieces, not necessarily publication-worthy but still more than journaling, ranting, etc. I’m a huge believer in trying to write every day, and writing as much as you can if you can’t write every day. Writing, like any skill, needs regular workouts or it doesn’t improve. A blog was a way to hold myself accountable and see my progress at the same time. The second reason was simple: every agent, editor and published author talked about the importance to having a blog and developing a platform before publishing a thing. There’s really nothing else to say there.

I’m not sure I’ve actually developed any sort of platform, (all right I’m being kind to myself, I haven’t) but I have seen my writing improve since taking up blogging. I know my writing has gotten better for several reasons, not just blogging, but this blog and the regular writing it generates is certainly among those reasons.

But the past month, any time I thought about putting up a blog this past month, I just felt a cold sense of dread, and I didn’t want to. It was one more thing, and while I have several blogs prewritten and ready to post in weeks when I get too busy, I felt like posting any of them would be disingenuous because it would not be a reflection of me or where I was at or what I was going through at the particular time. I didn’t want to write about pets or adoption or hobbies or philosophical stuff when I felt like my entire life had become a sheet of thin ice.

Thing have gotten better though I wouldn’t call them solid. It’s slightly thicker ice and hopefully in the next few weeks it will be moist earth and then actual solid ground. It’s a process. Things didn’t get the way they became overnight, resolving them won’t either. I get that and I respect it. I’d rather do things right than put a fast and easy Band-Aid on it. But in all of this shuffle, when I thought of this blog or blogging, I went back to my reasons why, as well as what I was actually doing. And I decided that while my reasons are sound, and I have improved in terms of my writing in general, I’m going to rethink this blog.

I’m not ditching this blog and I don’t plan to only post once a month, but I am thinking about posting a lot less. I can find other ways to do my daily writing, doing actual exercises or exploring different ideas – playing. That’s one thing I stopped having time for when I started this blog – playing in my own writing. I’m thinking of trying to post once a week. Maybe some weeks will actually have two posts if something major happens or it’s a holiday, and maybe some weeks will go without a post. I just want to rethink the space and priority this blog takes up. I’m not quitting or totally reconceiving what I post, but I feel like I need to ease up on my own expectations for everyone’s benefit. If you post too often, emails or notifications of new blog posts probably become something close to spam. And for me, it feels like a chore. I don’t think writing should ever feel like a chore (at least it shouldn’t, if it isn’t for school or work).

So, I am back. But I’m not going to post as often. I’m going to ease up on myself, and I hope in doing so, most of my posts are thoughtful and serve a purpose. Because when I posted multiple times a week, I would have “throwaway” posts on the less popular days. No more throwaways. I want this blog to actually be worthwhile.

Worthwhile to those who read it, and even more importantly worthwhile to me.

So here is to a quasi-new or rebooted blog. Less often, more thoughtful and genuine, and hopefully serving a purpose other than an excuse to write for writing’s sake alone.

-DMW

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Mother’s Day: One of the Hardest Days of the Year

There are a few days that I dread each year. My birthday is one; Mother’s Day is another. Sometimes I acknowledge it, I reach out to friends who are wonderful mothers and give them a shout out. I do know some amazing mothers… but they’re not mine.

My mother is still living, but we don’t talk. That’s my choice, and the healthiest one I can make. It’s not just me who thinks so, but every therapist I have ever worked with. And several friends.

For me a typical day with my mother included: being beaten; refused food; called a “piece of shit” and other expletives several times every hour; being given an impossible list of tasks to complete while she’d hover and tell me how I was doing them wrong, not be allowed to sleep until they were done; kept home if bruising was an issue and so on.

As an adult, my mother really hadn’t changed, at least not since I last spoke to her in 2012. She could no longer beat me or starve me, but she still tried to tear me down every chance she had. She would still berate me and treat me like crap. She would get into my head.

On the day I was married, she tried to assault our photographer and refused to allow my sister who was our flower girl to be in any pictures. She also started a strike and threatened a few relatives until they agreed to leave the reception early, before cake or any of that. That was the last day I saw her or even acknowledged her. I had a choice to make. She was toxic and I could allow her to continue to poison my life, which would inevitably spill over into my marriage and the family we hoped to create, or I could take heart to what every single therapist and several friends urged me to do, and cut the cancer out.

I miss her. It’s not like cutting her out stops that. I’m human. Cutting out your mother feels like going against biology and a very primal need and longing. It’s still the right thing, it might even be the only thing, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt or it isn’t hard. Sometimes I think that people believe that it isn’t, just because I don’t waver.

I don’t waver because I know it’s right, it’s healthy. It doesn’t mean I don’t waver emotionally, I don’t question or reassess constantly. But even if what I want changes, what I need doesn’t. And that’s the thing about being an adult, the main thing actually. You do what you need to do, even if you don’t want to. Even if you think it might kill you. You realize that need will always trump wanting something, and that the two are often at odds. Adulting is addressing need, even when need gets in the way of what you want or wish.

So Mother’s Day is always hard, but this one seems even harder than usual. I think it’s because it’s the first year without certain mothers in our lives. Part of me wants to do something to take the edge off the day, but my husband and I are both so tired, sleep-deprived, stressed in general and have a lot going on, I wonder if that would be a mistake.

Sunday is the only day we have to try to sleep in. My husband will probably sleep until evening, if I’m lucky I’ll sleep until noon. (I am never able to sleep late, but Sundays seem to be the sole exception. Noon is probably as late as I can ever sleep, even if I don’t go to bed until dawn.) Maybe a picnic would be nice, or going to a movie. I would say a day trip or something because both of us feel great taking a hike, going to Estes Park or Evergreen – just getting out, being us without the rest of the world trying to worm its way in between us. But I also think that being Mother’s Day, these places will be absolute zoos. And it wouldn’t make much sense to go to one of these places in the evening.

Maybe I should just let it be. Pretend it’s any other Sunday. If it was just me, that’s what I would do. Make it any other day. But I know this will also be a hard day on my husband, so I’m wondering if I should do something to distract him or if I should just encourage him to sleep the day away.

I am all for appreciating the people who matter to us. I think mothers in general, are such unsung heroes. They love, nurture, care for, protect, and shape their children. I’m sure if I had a maternal figure I would feel differently, but having an official holiday makes it so much harder on people like me. People who have lost their mothers in life, who don’t know their mothers or don’t have one, people who do have one, but it would have been better if they didn’t, and even mothers who have lost children. Having a day on a calendar, seeing Hallmark shove it in everyone’s faces, stores and businesses mention it, TV programs having “Mother’s Day” episodes, it just makes the whole thing harder.

I feel like good mothers should have more than just a single day each year. And for those of us who suffer through Mother’s Day, if everyone just celebrated the mothers in their lives without it having to be marked on a calendar… I don’t know. I’m rambling, my thoughts are rambling. I just wish this time of year didn’t have to be so hard. And I know I’m not the only one.

It’s just a day. I get that, but it’s also so much more than that. And I don’t think many people understand this fact. It’s just a day, but it’s also so much more. And it’s the “more” that gets me every time.

-DMW

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