Blogtober #24: This is 40.

Welp, it happened. She entered a brand new decade. (She is me, in case you haven’t noticed the whole referring to myself in the third person thing.)

Here’s how I feel about it:

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40 for the win.

Happy Autumn.

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Blogtober #23: On Letting Things Go.

letting things go

Sometimes I wonder if I love fall so much because it’s the visual embodiment of all the things that, psychologically, I should be doing a better job of maintaining. Every year, nature takes stock and detoxes, shedding its skin in the loveliest, most wondrous of ways. It’s a lesson to be learned, and certainly one to echo.

Because, dear reader, I know how to do the following things:

drive long distances

remember every vestige of wrongs done to me

 Let’s discuss that last one. Is it really letting go and shedding if I hold on to the memory, almost lovingly, to my chest? Is my intent to remember not to be hurt again really a thinly veiled attempt to just remember the hurt(s)?

And yet, one thing I actively try to do is be a good forgiver. In the past, I held grudges like a boss. As I grew up and looked inward, it was important that growth and maturing involved a decided effort to strip away some of the vendettas grudges I was holding on to. I’ve come a long way. But there’s still road to traverse.

Sometimes I think wanting to protect our hearts, as women, involves a large dose of remembering. The heart needs protection. It needs a shield. We have to remember the past so we don’t repeat letting people inside who shouldn’t be there. But balance. So much balance is necessary. To wrap the heart in a shield doesn’t also mean to let it grow cold with memory.

Look at all the trees around you, just stripping things away and readying themselves for the cyclical new beginning.

Copy and paste.

photo of dried leaves lying on the ground
Photo by Ray Bilcliff on Pexels.com

Le 40 is Le Terrifying and I Can’t Understand Why.

Y’all. Why am I so scurred about turning 40????

A bit of background: growing up, no age ever really scared me off. I ached to be 12. I fortycouldn’t wait to be 16. 21 was super cool. 25? Give me 5. And if you’ve read any of my past posts, you know about the wonder, amazement, and sheer beauty that 30 brought me. (There are too many posts to link about 30; just hit that search button, playa.) As the ages continued, I embraced each new year, grateful for the increase in wisdom and self-discovery, among other awesome things that came with getting older.

But why is 40 giving me all the terrors known to man? What is it about that number?

Oh, and the whole “you’re only as old as you feel” adage means nothing to me. I was born old and stressed out.  If anything, getting older has given me ample opportunities to age backwards. Meet your Melanin Benjamin Button, everyone. So why do I envision this new decade hiding behind a dark corner, flexing its long claws, ready to strike?

Here are some irrational, pre-40 fears:

  1. All my bones will fall apart.
  2. Someone will refer to me as middle-aged.
  3. My hormones will get further out of whack and someone will find me on the side of the road muttering unintelligibly to myself.

I said irrational, didn’t I?

In the past, like most kids, I always felt too young and dreamed of being older. And now…give me trips to the library during school-sanctioned summertime and rolling in the grass in the backyard without fear of ticks, please. Perhaps it’s that, the strange sense of losing youth, that’s bothering me. Even though I craved getting older, I also knew that the process would take time. Fast forward to now, where time is a giant clock that has “40” emblazoned on its surface, staring back at me with its arms folded and an impatient tapping of its foot. We have arrived.

In the grand scheme of things, rationally, I recognize that the age is really only a number. It’s relevant for tax, census, and records purposes. It doesn’t define me or create some sort of blueprint of what my life will become. I know, I know…

Here are some of my favorites who are turning 40 this year right along with me (or already have):

Anyway, I will continue to heave giant sighs and wonder what 40 will bring me. Meanwhile, you will tell me in the comments how you dealt with new ages and/or decades, won’t you? Because you love This Square Peg and want to comfort her somehow, right? Right? Riiiight?

How to Adult.

adulting

Because let’s be honest: there was no real manual to prepare for adulting when we were kids, was there? Sure, our parents may have given us advice and even perhaps provided their own living example. But we were destroying playing Legos and watching Jem and the Holograms. We–I, for sure–weren’t paying attention. And then you turn 25 and you’re like…how many more nights do I have to eat peanut butter so I can have enough money to pay my rent this month?! (True story.) Here are five things I wish I had known (or listened to) in advance, but I’m glad I know now:

  1. Adults are just tall kids wearing grown-up clothes. Seriously, the behaviors we saw in classrooms and on playgrounds don’t change that drastically. Tantrums become manageable, attitudes can be hidden, etc. Timmy, now Tim, probably still wants to stick in a frog inside your T-shirt, but instead, he ignores you during the staff meeting. And let’s not get started on Janine and your ongoing issues with parking, personal space, and food in the office fridge. My point is that we may grow up, but not everything goes away. Cliques remain. Mean girls become mean ladies. That sort of thing. And I don’t excuse myself: the way I dealt with life as a 10 year-old versus now means I deal with it better, but trust, I still have my bratty ways. And a strong side eye.
  2. Credit cards are nothing but the work of the devil. My dear Daddy tried to warn me about them. I remember sitting in the car and staring placidly out of the window while he discussed the danger of relying on credit cards. I wasn’t listening. Le sigh. In college, I was offered an Faustian bargain: to get a free mobile phone, all I had to do was sign up for a credit card. Ooh, free phone! Got the phone, the card, and eventually, the bills. It was an interesting journey. I learned the hard way. But I learnt!
  3. Love isn’t a guarantee. Growing up, I saw how difficult things could sometimes be for my parents, who were raising four children while balancing all the things married life and the economy and other responsibilities demanded of them. The unsurprising result: I never imagined myself married. No visions of weddings or my own little children running around. It just seemed hard. I knew my parentsAngela Bower loved each other, but there were so many struggles. I was content imagining myself as a rich advertising executive with high heels and maybe a boyfriend, a la Angela Bower from Who’s the Boss? (Honestly.) But when I got older and recognized that love, despite its wrinkles and hardships, was still love and worth the fight (also seen through my parents’ example, among others), life taught me an interesting lesson: so what? In other words, me finally understanding and wanting love didn’t necessarily guarantee that I would find it or attain it. And so far, love remains elusive. Becoming an adult with adult comprehension was no automatic journey into a love of my own, a lesson that continues to morph before my eyes. But you know what I found? An abiding love for This Square Peg. I’ll take it.
  4.  Assume nothing. Along the adulting highway, I started to believe–really, assume–that folks would act right/make good decisions/not cut me off in traffic/so on because that’s what kind, good, compassionate people do in life: the right thing. Nooooooope. People are complicated creatures, including the person writing all of this. Assume. Nothing.
  5. Questions are really OK. Y’all. I’m about five months from entering a brand new decade in life and I still call my mom/bestie/sister/friends and pose a variety of questions about life, people, work, etc. My bottom line: adulting will never mean an exhaustive understanding of everything. We will still wonder; gaze in confusion; dissect; figure out or try to. And that’s OK. The complexities will continue. But that’s…adulting.

Yeah, I miss those days when I knew nothing about taxes and utility bills and struggle peanut butter and the list continues, but I wouldn’t trade those days for now. It’s nice to see the world through these adulting eyes…I think.

What’s one adulting lesson you wish you knew in advance (but are happy to know it regardless)? Share with your fellow tall kid in grown-up clothes, please…

real talk.

blooming

Life will stink.

Life will get messy.

People will let you down.

Friends will shut you out.

Work will feel like a jackhammer.

Creativity will be stifled.

Love will be slow.

Time will lag.

Dreams will remain dreams and not the reality you want.

You will look in the mirror and not like what you see.

This is life. 

But you already know that, don’t you? The hills and valleys of life are readily known by you. And me.

You’re alive. Sometimes you will sag and not bloom, but you’re alive.

It will be OK.

Onwards and Upwards.

“when you gonna make up your mind?”

nora

Confession: I lost a bit of myself in 2017.

I think it happens to every woman. Here and there, pieces of who we are, good pieces, at that, begin to crumble at our feet. The sources of that quiet, subtle destruction are many. Discouragement, lack of confidence, heartbreak, loss, pain, unhappiness–so, so many things. Womanhood is hard. If you’re a woman, you know what I’m talking about. We struggle. We weep. We bleed. Of course, this is the human experience, isn’t it? Every human being endures. Every human being has to fight to hold on. Sometimes I do wonder if there seems to be an extra layer of things to fight for when you’re a woman. Maybe our emotions get the best of us. Maybe it’s biological. I don’t know.

2017 was an interesting year of womanhood for me. Instead of going into the specifics of that journey and all the things I experienced, I want to talk about what I learned and continue to learn from those experiences, as we’re only weeks into 2018 and a new year doesn’t necessarily mean a ton of changes have been irrevocably made. Here are three things I now know for sure.

Protect your heart. A friend once gave me this piece of advice. The heart has many chambers, he said. Know which ones to open and which ones to keep closed.  It’s important to protect both your heart and the energy around it. Because people are powerful. Sometimes we open a chamber without really wanting to, only because we’ve been stupefied and transfixed into action. Know the people around you. Resist them if you need to. Let them in only if they deserve to be there. (I don’t diminish the excitement that comes from meeting someone who seems like they’ll be good for your heart. Maybe they are. Maybe not. Exercise caution.) There were times in 2017 that I didn’t listen to my intuition. That I forced feelings that, deep down, weren’t there. It’s all related to the heart. Protect it however you can. It doesn’t need a suit of armor, but it needs a lock and key.

Protect your ‘no.’ One of the most brilliant, thought-provoking statements I’ve ever heard is the following: No is a complete sentence. It fell by the wayside for me a bit in 2017, this ability to say no and mean it and allow that to be a viable answer. Sometimes I said yes when I didn’t want to. Sometimes I found myself qualifying my no. I’m getting back to protecting my adult right to choose if I’m going to do something or not. You may be accused of not wanting to try new things, of being scared, of not being open-minded. Sure. But determine those things for yourself, dear reader. I’m all for suggestions, but I’m also all for honoring the rights of others, myself included.

Protect your you. Ever mess up royally, just full of mistakes, and then start to call your own self every objectionable thing in the book? It’s intense. It’s not beating yourself up. It’s beating yourself up and then some. You become every villain, every ounce of ineptitude, every horrible thing. Look. 2017 was hard, you guys. I found myself going about 600 paces back when it came to my personal insistence on building myself up. It was very much the opposite: there were times when I verbally and mentally pushed myself so far down…it was just incredible. Protect your you. It’s a bit trite and treacly to say, but I’m saying it anyway: the value you bring to anything is immeasurable. Even if something implodes, you were part of it. Just whatever you do, especially as a woman: hold on to your value. There are things other say, and then there’s what you say about yourself. Protect that power.

I’m continuing to take 2018 one day at a time. Let’s hope there aren’t too many pieces of me left on the ground as I make my way. You, too.

tori

[The post title is a lyric from Tori Amos’ amazing song, Winter. All about growing up, choices, leaving the fairy tales behind. Appropriate for our discussion, no?]

Discoveries. (Or, Eureka, We Keep Finding Her.)

We never stop growing and learning about ourselves, do we? Below are some of the things I’ve realized about myself lately, because I’m all about epiphanies, epiphanies, dive-into-self-discoveryepiphanies…anyway, read on, s’il vous plait.

  1. Discovery: I receive a special kind of joy from unsubscribing to the abundance of emails that clog my various inboxes. There’s nothing like cutting the cord. And I accept that this provides a level of contentment that I can’t fully describe.
  2. Discovery: shyness never really goes away. But it becomes manageable. I have tons of friends who don’t believe that I was or am a shy person, and I attribute all of that to good shyness management; i.e., ignoring that 9 year-old who’d prefer that I retreat and hide and keep quiet. She’s cute but bossy. (Side note: I really appreciate the few people in my life who keenly see shades of that 9 year-old in my actions and completely give me room to navigate it all. It’s nice to be known.)
  3. Discovery: I give people very few chances to edit themselves. If you’re rude or mean or dismissive from jump, I rarely have the desire to want to see you change your ways. Because, deep down, I don’t believe you want to. People have the ability to be better and I should want them to want to, riiiiiight? Working on this one.
  4. Discovery: if I smile at you and you don’t smile back, you’ve ruined that aspect of my day. In other words, I’ve put a lot of importance of non-verbal communication lately, more than I have in the past. But perhaps this goes hand in hand with #3. Maybe you’re having a bad day. Maybe you’re constipated. I don’t know. Working on it. (I think it’s because if I’ve made the effort to be polite despite the insanity of my day, you should too? But when was human nature ever so black and white?)
  5. Discovery: I compete with other drivers. When you’re in the next lane and you rev up and increase your speed, I do the same thing. And I like to win. Don’t tell Mom.
  6. Discovery: also related to 3&4. Despite my penchant for quietly psychoanalyzing people, psychoanalysis isn’t necessarily insight. And as much as I dig deep in my own psyche and examine my choices and actions and why I do them, I honestly don’t give that time to other people. Insight and the ability to really see into a situation and the people involved is a gift. One I don’t have. And real talk: I think this also limits my fiction and the ability to really see into my characters.
  7. Discovery: I’m not as cynical or pessimistic as I like to believe. I am the child of parents who believed in and functioned on high levels of optimism. I think I’ve been volleying between those two opposing forces my whole life: cushioning myself in pessimism but nursing, deep down, the hope that I’ll be proven wrong.
  8. Discovery: During difficult times, writing has always been a crutch and/or a distraction for me. Don’t get me wrong. I fully believe that I was born to be a writer. But my inability to be creative lately makes me wonder if looking at writing beyond what it is–an art form–is why I can’t seem to get into it lately. Am I placing on it requirements that it’s not equipped to handle? As in: making me feel better?

Thanks for visiting epiphany central. What things have you learned about yourself lately?

she who has bloomed.

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I used to bristle when folks called me a late bloomer. (Those folks being my bestie, whom you’ll hear about often, and my mama, whom you’ll hear about often.) There was something condescending and juvenile about it, as if I hadn’t grown up yet.

The online definition I found for late bloomer is “a person whose talents or capabilities are not visible to others until later than usual.” I like that, don’t you? No juvenility or stunted growth to be found.

Nevertheless, my blooming was a bit different. It wasn’t that my talents and capabilities became visible to others at a later time. I can honestly say that the important people in my life have always been pretty communicative about things like writing and what I can do. Major cheerleader action, thankfully. But those talents and capabilities were never visible to me.

I didn’t buy it. I was waiting for the Carrie-like bucket of yuckness to fall when people gave me compliments. I thought my writing was sub-par, that my strengths weren’t strengths at all, another blip on the screen of life. Lack of self-esteem was certainly the culprit here, combined with a long-held belief that those cheerleaders had something sinister up their sleeves. (It’s usually the forcible harvesting of my kidneys. Don’t ask. I watch too much Law and Order.)

Things change, though.

Women who are not yet 30 and reading this, embrace what is coming. I bloomed at 30. Something happened that day. I woke up and began to fall in love with myself, my writing, my mind, my capabilities, my body. There’s always, always room for improvement. I accept that. But I blooooomed. And five years later, the process continues.

“You’re a late bloomer.” Yep, sure am.