Processing

grief

A coworker gave me a tiny book when I came back to work, titled, “Grief… reminders for healing.” It fit in the palm of my hand, and I have read it and flipped through it a hundred times in the weeks following, reminding myself.

Know that their pain has passed, except for how it lives in your memory. You are the one in pain now. It is best to care lovingly for your wounds. 

I try to lovingly care for my wounds. I take long baths and drink copious amounts of tea, I reread my favorite books, I eat bags of cheetos and then compensate with kale. I avoid liquor—it is too easy a fix, a fix that vanishes in harsh morning light with cotton mouth and a roving hangover.

But the wounds keep bleeding. This is harder than books told me it would be—there is no adequate way to express pain and mourning on paper, no way to warn others of how it feels when it comes.

I try. I write to remember her, because writing was what we did together, but everyone else does it better than me.

My grief is not poetic.

She and I would always say that the shit that happened to us was writing fuel. Hey, that’d be a good line for your novel, I’d tell her, and she’d grin and scribble it down. Use that, she’d tell me, when my emotions were getting in my way. Use that in your writing.

I can’t use this. And couldn’t she have at least given me that?

We wrote together for years, swapping stories and poems and even a novel, critiquing and rewriting and talking it out. We were writers, and we even when we couldn’t say it, we could write it.

But now, I have nothing and everything to say. I have tried to commemorate her over and over again, but I hate it every time. It is ugly and it is amateur and it is not good enough, nothing, nothing is good enough.

I want to tell her that I can’t use her death in my writing and that I’m mad about it, that her life was too good for me to write about, that she wasn’t flawed enough to make for a pretty, poetic poem about death and sadness.

She would be flattered that I thought her so wonderful a person, and she would tell me to try harder.

I’ll keep trying.

Yesterday, I got the news that one of my close friends had died. A car crash. I didn’t believe it at first, just repeated what was said to me, then finally said, “She’s dead? She’s dead?” and even when he said, “Yes,” something wasn’t right. They had called the wrong person. My friend is not dead, she will answer me when I text her and ask how her drive was, she will tease me for being worried about her in the first place.

But my friend is dead.

We don’t have many pictures together—she doesn’t have Facebook, see, and always requested that we didn’t post her face online. Yesterday, I found all of the photos I could with both of us, every one of her I had. Most of them were at writing group, crowded around a table and smiling, surrounded by wine and tea and laptops. Some are from a writing retreat, grinning out from a steamy hot tub.

I only have six pictures of her.

Today, I read through every single text we’ve sent each other since late 2014 (when I had to delete all the texts from my phone to make room for photos). The winky faces, the exultant I LOVE YOUs, the writing advice and the missing. I miss you, let’s get together, it’s been too long, hangout soon, please? It’s strange because I still have her voice in these texts. I have pieces of her writing, and I have edits she’s made to my own writing. Her praise and her feedback, her beautiful little snippets of poetry. I will always have these parts of her.

“You know me better than anyone,” we’d joke after sharing a particularly vulnerable piece of writing. There is so much of a writer’s soul in their work, and we read so much of each other.

There is a really wonderful person who is gone now. She was always full of cheer, and she could always make me laugh. We made each other better—we said this all the time. Her help and patience and willingness to read anything I sent her way made me a better writer, and her friendship made me a better person. It’s too much to think that she won’t be around to do that anymore, and there is too much to say and think and feel right now, so I’ll end this little bundle of thoughts and love and mourning here.

Kat: It was lucky that you and I existed at the same time, and I’m forever grateful for the few years that I got to have you around. I’ll think of you every time I eat chocolate.

Here is a ridiculous picture from our writing retreat. As I know she wouldn't want her face on the internet, I've chosen the one where my leg blocks out her face. <3

Here is a ridiculous (& silly) picture from our writing retreat. As I know she wouldn’t want her face on the internet, I’ve chosen the one where my leg blocks out her face. <3

This is the song I’m listening to on repeat.

An Update

I know, it’s been eons since I posted here. And since it’s the end of 2015 and we’re entering 2016, I thought it was time to make a little update on my blog. While I haven’t necessarily abandoned said blog, I am taking a break from it. I’ve been focusing most of my energy on writing and submitting my works, writing book reviews, working and freelancing, and other hobbies.

I am sure that I will, at some point in the future, revisit this great little blog! For now, I will be focusing on querying my novel, writing more novels and short stories, and doing other fun stuff like sewing and drinking beer.

You can find me on Twitter and Instagram, where I will still be regularly! See you soon, readers!

It’s all happening in 2015

I feel a little bit overwhelmed by the goodness of 2015. A little bit undeserving, a little bit stressed out, very grateful and a touch pissed off. I am a medley of emotions and not really sure what to do with  myself.

I talked a little bit about how difficult 2014 was. I also talked about how I was going to make a change in January, and try out some new resolutions (goals), and I was going to make them a heck of a lot more realistic.

Well, halfway through January, a job opportunity landed in my lap: a part-time one. I applied, and after a few weeks, was offered the job. There was no hesitation. And now, I’m working 20 hours as a communications coordinator and freelancing another 20 hours a week. I’m still in the midst of my second week in this new schedule, but it’s different. It feels so good.

I did something in January and February that I haven’t really done in a while—I put some serious effort into my life. I stopped eating so much junk. I bought a hula hoop (and, um, I can do some sweet tricks… 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time, I hit myself in the face). I read more. I called my loved ones even when I didn’t want to, because it always makes me feel better. I finished up a short story, worked hard on some writing. I started to send out queries.

In hindsight, it is no wonder that 2014 sucked so damn much. I didn’t try very hard. I tried hard at some things—at work, and with Jacob—but there were so many factors that I let stop me. The seas were too stormy, so I decided I’d just drown instead of try. Maybe it was a necessary thing. It’s hard to be productive in the middle of an existential crisis.

The point is, I’ve been putting a bit of elbow grease into my life (as my dear friend Kim says). And I’m seeing such a difference. Even before I was offered and took the new job, I was able to handle things better, because I was working toward something and I had set these small goals in place that I knew were going to make a difference in my life.

I don’t know exactly what my dreams are yet (especially when it comes to my career), other than the vague and seemingly impossible (become a great writer and always keep learning), but I feel like I am heading out of a fog and toward something clearer.

I recommend this, friends.

p.s. Nicole’s blog, where I got my New Year’s Resolutions worksheet from, has some seriously inspiring and helpful articles. Go. Read. Enjoy.

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Stuck

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 4.04.37 PMIt happens to me all the time. I’m writing and I’m excited and I have ideas and then suddenly—I’m stuck. Sometimes I need to push through it, but that doesn’t always work. Let’s take my NaNoWriMo 2014 novel, for example. I tried to push through it—but I knew something wasn’t right in a big way (as it turns out, the problem was the bad guy and the overarching plot). I tried to talk to friends and rework the ending, to see what they thought I should do, but even their great ideas (which would mean delving more into the politics of the novel) made me shrink further away.

How did I get unstuck? It turns out that the answer was very simple. Booze.

After work one Friday, I went to the local beer store/bar with my notebook in hand, and I began to do some serious brainstorming. Right around the beginning of beer number two, I had a revelation—I needed a different villain. With a few scribbles and one more beer, I had a new plot that I liked infinitely more than the first one I’d created.

And then I thought, I should tell people about the miracle of writing + booze (although, if you’re a writer, you probably already know it). So, without further adieu, here are my tips to getting unstuck.

Booze

Seriously, booze is great. It unlocks things in my mind that I wouldn’t have considered before, or perhaps wouldn’t have let myself think because the idea is “stupid.” Booze doesn’t think it’s stupid. Booze loves me.

Note: Getting smashed won’t get you anywhere. I like to sit down with 1 – 3 beers/glasses of wine or a few hot toddies. Maybe a margarita if I’m gettin’ fancy.

Add a villain

This technique has actually solved many a problem for me. Often, I’m trying to force a storyline around a certain villain/antihero, and it just isn’t working. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing your bad guy, and other times it’s as complicated as adding another bad guy and working the plot around the duality of bad guy vs. villain vs. society vs. mean girl.

Step back

Back when I was trying to figure out what the heck to write a novel about in October, I had an idea. I mapped most of it out but then I decided that I absolutely hated it. When I read back through my prompt journal, I realized that hey—this actually does have potential. Sometimes I’m too stressed out or hard on myself in the moment, and I need to step back and come back to it later.

Edit

Go back and edit the thing you’re stuck on. Edit a different thing. Take yourself out of the writing and into the editing—it’s a huge shift in my head, for me, and makes a big difference in how I tackle being stuck when I come back to it.

Do something crazy

I don’t mean you—I mean your characters. So, you’re stuck in your writing. Make them do something that they would never do. Put them in a terrible situation. Kill a loved one. Get someone addicted to something. Switch up the plot—that neat little outline you had? Put it away for a while. Sometimes making a drastic change can do a lot.

What are your tips for getting unstuck?

Read More

This year, I made a few New Year’s goals (small things). One of them was to read more and write more. Writing has always been a goal of mine, but the reading thing is new. You see, I am a very good reader. I love books, I love discovering new books, I love reading. Neither high school or college deterred me one little bit from my love of books.

But having a full time job did.

You see, it’s easier to go home and plop on the couch and turn on Netflix than it is to pick up a book (why? Not entirely sure). It’s easier to go home than head to the library (which is a whole 10 minutes away). Now, it’s not like I didn’t read in 2014. I did.

But when I was asked to name my favorite book that I read in 2014, I found myself stumped. I didn’t… have a favorite book. I didn’t read a single book that wowed me beyond belief that I would go so far as to name it my favorite book that I read in 2014.

I didn’t read enough. I read books that were lent to me, I read books that I got by reviewing them for SFBook, I reread a few, and I read some that had been sitting on my shelf for ages. According to Goodreads, I only read 20 books in 2014 (not entirely accurate, as I reread several books and series). The number of times I visited the library can be counted on one hand.

One hand.

How far the mighty have fallen.

And so, in 2015, one of my goals is to read more. Pare down that really really long to-read list I have. Stop watching so much Netflix and crack open a book instead. Lose myself in another world and emerge with a severe book hangover when it’s all said and done.

Ladies and gents, it’s time to get reading.

Any suggestions? Please leave them for me in the comments, I always have room on my to-read list.

All the books I read in 2014 (according to Goodreads).

All the books I read in 2014 (according to Goodreads).

A Humble 2014

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2014 was a hard year, and it delivered some (needed) humility.

Of course, I didn’t handle it very well. 2014 came at me with harsh reality, a few nice bouts of depression, a large existential crisis, and an added sprinkling of chronic pain. I responded with bitterness and anger.

To be honest, I’m still a little bitter and angry. But I’m more conscious, now. I’m more determined to look ahead with more optimism and more thankfulness. I have a lot to be grateful for, and when I look back on the year, it doesn’t seem so bad. I learned a lot. I grew a lot. I am slowly becoming a person I like, and I see things that I still need to change and work on. That doesn’t sound so bad.

But today is New Year’s Eve, and just knowing what day it is sends me into a spiral of melancholy. Not because I hate New Year’s Eve, or the idea that it’s already 2015, or what the new year will hold, but because this is how I felt last year. Last year got off to a very Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Start, and I can feel the apprehension slipping in again.

What if 2015 is just as awful as 2014? What if it is also just as great? Why do I think that a “new year” means that my fairy godmother is finally going to be here to make things better? That I finally have the resolve to do everything I ever wanted? To finally be happy with my novel, to start learning French again, to start a garden, to eat healthy every day, to do yoga all the time, to figure out what I want to do with my life?

It’s unrealistic.

This year I’m trying something different. Yes, I’m still doing resolutions (let’s call them goals). But these goals are smaller. I am only focusing on five small things, and I am going to do them once a week. One of these goals is to keep in touch with family and friends more—I am going to call someone once a week.

Start small, build up. It’s always been a weakness of mine. I want everything to happen now. I want everything to be great. I want to be deliriously happy 24/7. I want the world to stop being so awful. Oh, and could I please be the most beautiful creature on the face of the earth?

I am unrealistic.

This year, I am not aiming to lose weight. My goal is to feel good in my body, whether or not that means losing weight. Maybe it just means loving myself. It definitely means taking things one very small step at a time.

Nothing is going to change tonight, when the clock ticks from 11:59 to 12:00. Nothing is going to change when I wake up tomorrow (likely hungover). Nothing is going to change by the end of January.

But, after a few months, maybe things will start to shift. Maybe I’ll be better at dealing with stress from work (something I did accomplish in 2014). Maybe I’ll be nicer to myself. Maybe I’ll be a better listener and maybe I’ll feel happier in my body. Maybe I’ll keep up with my loved ones a little bit more.

I don’t hold any ridiculous expectations of 2015 like I did of 2014. I don’t expect that 2015 will fix my problems or finally bring me true happiness. I don’t expect great sweeping changes or for my anxiety and depression to disappear in a great blast of light.

I expect fun. I expect sadness. I expect disappointment. I expect love, family, and friendship, and I expect that my bitterness is going to overstay its welcome. I expect long nights with wine and a book, and I expect to put off cleaning the bathroom for as long as I possibly can.

I expect to grow.

Bring it on, 2015.