Tag Archives: family

Alone, Not Lonely

Consistent effort toward a goal is more reliable than a whimsical wish. (1)I have another dissertation for you. It’s one that I need to get out of my brain so that I can move forward. This subject has been tugging at me for a few months, and because it won’t leave me alone, I know I need to write about it. Lucky you, you get to read it. Or click out of this post and not read it – the choice is yours. The choice is always, always yours. Right?

So here goes.

I spend a lot of time alone these days. I think that for many, this way of life would be a problem. I will say that I definitely do not enjoy being “cooped up” and away from the world, but I do enjoy solitude a great deal. I tend to protect that solitude, as well, meaning that I can be pretty selective about who I let into my space. For me, it’s important to be able to settle down and just be quiet for a little bit. These moments of solitude bring a sense of calmness and clarity, and I remember envying those who had these moments when I was so wrapped up in a go-go-go lifestyle. I was right to envy. This has been very good for me.

There is something else, though, and this is what I need to tell you. I realized something in these last six months that I’ve been out of the go-go-go: Alone does not necessarily mean lonely. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, but it’s a very important realization for me.

Here’s where it gets super real (turn away, if you must).

So, as a regular reader or personal friend would know, I was married once before. The man that I am married to now is quite different from my first husband, and our relationship is of a completely different nature. It’s so dramatically different that I have sometimes wondered what, in heaven’s name, shifted so forcefully inside of me to allow such a relationship. I’ll tell you what shifted; it was my perception. It was the way that I looked at life, the way that I saw myself, and the way that I wanted the world to see me – and my marriage.

I lied a lot back then. I lied to myself, mainly, but I lied day after day to friends and family and strangers and the Internet, trying so desperately to convince myself and everyone else that every single thing was perfect. It wasn’t. The untruths weren’t the trivial white lies that most folks are good with, they were bigger than that – they were whole misrepresentations by way of skimming right over the terrible truths in order to only show the good and happy moments to the world.

I clung to the bright moments and brushed the bad ones under the rug as best I could, but eventually, that rug got awful lumpy. There came a point when I couldn’t lie to myself anymore, and that meant I had to tell everyone else the truth, too. I knew I hadn’t failed, but I truly felt like a fraud when it all came to light. After you’ve been telling yourself and the world that you have the perfect marriage for 18 years, what do you think the reaction will be when you let down the façade and say, “Just kidding”?

For much of the marriage, I was lonely. I was dreadfully lonely. There I was, surrounded by my little family, complete with two kids, dogs, a cute little house down the street from my parents, a rental property, a 401k, and a job I loved. We had dinner with my family every Sunday, we went out with friends, we took fun vacations. It was everything I thought you were supposed to have in order to be happy.

But I wasn’t. My then-husband and I fought a lot, and we fought fiercely. Our arguments were always about the same thing, and they always ended the same way. Even when we weren’t fighting over this one particular issue, it was always there between us, and it shaped our relationship very distinctly from the beginning.

I’m an optimistic gal. I see things in a way that most folks don’t. For many years, I forgave easily and tolerated irrational and seriously inappropriate behavior well – and not just from my then-husband. From everyone. I think that what I had done was build a wall around my heart, if you’ll allow me to be dramatic here in this space. Everyday, I was protecting myself, my heart, from harm. And that’s a damn lonely place to be.

After one particularly rough argument, I remember lying in bed and staring at the wall thinking one word over and over: Hopeless. I don’t even remember what that feels like now, to be honest. I haven’t felt hopeless or lonely since the day we separated, and I think that says a lot about what really makes us feel lonely in life.

First and foremost, I believe that we are responsible for our circumstances. If you’re unhappy, choose again. If something has brought you to your knees, stand up. When I hear folks say that they don’t “have a choice” in a matter, I find it so upsetting. Yes, you do have a choice – you just aren’t comfortable with what you believe a different decision may bring. Maybe you’re afraid. Heck, I sure was. Terrified, really.

Remember in the beginning up there when I said the choice is always, always yours? I believe that with all of my heart. I made the choice to stay in that relationship because I thought it was the right thing to do for several really big reasons, though time and time again I was shown otherwise. Because of my choice and the circumstances that came with it, I felt lonely and hopeless. Only when I let go and was willing to be alone did I see hope. Only when I embraced the truth did that heavy blanket of loneliness lift.

Jim is a Jerk

I’ve really fallen out of love with one of the characters in the novel. I mean, I feel a little bad saying that. It’s so early in our relationship. Sadly, though, ’tis true. He’s a bit of a jerk. No, strike that, he is a LOT of a jerk.

This morning, as I was writing about Jim, I could see that he was becoming the vessel for an assortment of bad traits that I have noted in real-life folks I’ve crossed paths with in adulthood. Like every fictional character, Jim is a made-up guy. But, also like many characters, he is a little similar to a lot of people that I have actually known. For some reason, though, I am struggling to find something good about him. For me, this is strange. I tend to see the good in everyone (this sounds sweet and lovely, but trust me, it can be so very, very bad).

As I was finishing up writing hour today, I finally realized Jim’s strength and purpose. It felt like a therapy session, or a really good talk with a friend where you have a breakthrough and finally know why something has happened – and, most importantly, what you need to do next. I felt energized and motivated, and then I also realized that Jim was a character who had me “on pause,” so to speak. I know so much about all of the key players, but this guy – I just kept thinking to myself, why is he here, why do I need him to be here, why can’t I just leave him out?

Today I realized that Jim truly does have to be part of the story, because he is essential to the resolution. He was vital to the initial conflict, and now he will become part of the resolution that will bring the story to an appropriate close. Jim is necessary.

That is so stupidly symbolic that I’m almost embarrassed by it.

Almost.

Moving on: Today I also renamed and rebranded another character. Damien Bell doesn’t occupy a central role, but he is important, just the same. He is influential, we shall say. Damien took over the role formerly occupied by Charles. Honestly, I just couldn’t get into the character with that name. It felt wrong, and I don’t know why. Damien suits this character so much better, and as soon as I made the change, I could really see who he is. I could hear his dialect in my mind and see how he dresses. I could see his family life and the reason why he is the way he is. Ah, the mind is a funny, complicated thing. A simple name-change is the equivalent of the wave of a magic wand. *Poof* ‘Charles the Vague Idea’ becomes ‘Damien the Person.’

Goodbye, Charles. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.

Jim, you can stay. Even if you are terribly terrible.

God’s Honest Truth

I’ve been waking up early every day this year to write. Okay, not every day. But a LOT of days, in my defense. Stop being so judgy. Sheesh.

Anyway, I’ve been waking up early to write, and I’ve been taking workshops and classes and reading my heart out because I am committed to Baby Love. I don’t want to write a mediocre novel; I want to write something worthy of print, you guys. I’m not trying to churn something out just so I can say to the world (and myself), “Look y’all! I wrote a BOOK!” Nope, nope, nope, I want to write something that people want to read, and then after they read it they think, Wow, let me see what else Natalie Novak has written that I can consume. Delicious! I’m on a mission.

God’s Honest Truth: I already wrote Baby Love. I wrote it in a creative writing class in college a whole bunch of years ago, but then it was just a paper for class – which I aced, by the way and of course. Now, Baby Love is a novel in the making, and I’m gonna let you in on a little secret about the way I told the story back then. There was some truth to it. There was a lot of truth to it, actually.

But now, as I am re-writing it in novel form, I have taken ginormous liberties, allowing the story to become a pure work of fiction. Very little truth is left on the page anymore, although as I am developing characters, I am finding that everyone I write about is somehow based on multiple people I already know. I recognize myself in some (a lot) of the characters, but I also recognize my sister, my high school best friend, my daughters, my ex-boyfriends. None of the characters in Baby Love, however, are based solely on any one person I know. There is a little bit of a whole bunch of folks all wrapped into every one. It is so strange to see it all coming together and to know that I’ve created these individuals who have such distinct identities. I feel attached to them, even though they aren’t living, breathing, flesh-and-blood people. I hope you do, too, when you read this book.

I’m not sure how to translate this post into something meaningful. I guess I just wanted to tell you.

I think a little part of me is afraid of what people will think (I’m so laughing at myself right now – “a little part of me is afraid.” Hello, understatement of the century). I’m finding that it takes a lot of courage to be a writer. I thought it would be so easy, doing what I love. But the truth is, writing feels far too close to a confession, or at the very least an indicator of the true depth of your creativity. Hey, we all want to be intelligent. Most folks think they’re pretty smart, wouldn’t you say? But believing that you also have enough creativity in your soul to be entertaining for more than 500 words is either really super brave or really ridiculously silly.

We’ll soon find out.

Cry Baby

I’m not really that into crying. It’s kind of a problem, really, and one that I should probably address at some point. But the whole act is just…. it’s just yucky, you guys. It makes me feel terrible on the inside, and it sure doesn’t do much for the exterior, either. The puffy eyes, streaky make-up, red and runny nose, these are all of the physical discomforts that come from what many call “a release.”

But for me, crying doesn’t solve anything, and it sure doesn’t make me feel better. What you see on the outside is pretty much how I feel on the inside when I succumb to a crying jag – MESSY. My heart hurts, my head aches, and I feel nauseous almost immediately. Crying is not good for me. I always regret it.

I’m not a normal girl. I know.

This has been a tough year. It was supposed to be the best year of my life – and in many ways it was – but my career had taken on a life of its own, and not one in which I felt comfortable or even welcome. I really came to understand that I needed to make a big change around mid-summer, when I couldn’t quit crying. At one point, I actually thought I had some terrible disease that required attention, so I went to the doctor.

Oh, be certain: I was afflicted. After a very long visit and many, many tests, my kind-hearted and appropriately thorough physician prescribed Xanax and a book about dealing with anxiety.

I refused a regular regime of Prozac. “No thank you!” I exclaimed indignantly. “You don’t know me at ALL,” I thought to myself. We settled on the as-needed Xanax and a regular discussion about “how I felt.”

He explained that because I had continuously run at such a high level of adrenaline for so many years (what’s a vacation?), I had exhausted my adrenal glands – and they were now completely out of whack. The sudden and extreme crying spells were actually anxiety attacks, and they were my confused and exhausted body’s way of begging me to listen, begging me to slow down.

I was embarrassed. For a while, I was in denial. I carried around the little pills but knew I would never need them. I read the prescribed book and laughed and laughed over how melodramatic people can be. And then I had a full-blown panic attack on Saturday morning at work, ahead of a day when I needed to have my head on straight.

I could feel it coming on, the same way it had so suddenly and inexplicably one day when I was simply cooking dinner in my own kitchen. My heart was racing, my head became very, very hot, and soon I knew that I would lose my breath and those terrible, uncontrollable sobs would follow. That had never happened to me in the workplace before, and it scared the shit out of me. “This cannot happen, this cannot happen, this cannot happen,” I started saying to myself. But it was happening. I rushed to the bathroom as quickly yet casually as I could, and I splashed cold water on my face. Tears were starting to flow, but not sobs, and so I felt maybe it was a little bit under control. I tried to breathe through it, taking deep breaths and focusing on a memory of my husband taking my face in his hands and telling me firmly, “You got this, baby. You got this.”

I composed myself enough to look the part and returned to my work station, where I took out one of those dreaded pills. It worked, but it pissed me off that it worked. I wanted to be in total control of my emotions; I didn’t want some little white pill to regulate them.

This was an important moment, though. It was suddenly 100% clear what could no longer be ignored or delayed: I needed to make a change. I knew what the change was, but it was a big, scary change.

As soon as I realized what I had to do and that it was, without a doubt, time, I began taking steps toward it. Guess what happened.

The anxiety faded, and then it went away. In its absence flowed ideas and plans that I transcribed relentlessly in my little blue-green notebook. And now I’m here, working the plan.

In a way, I think I was in battle with myself because I was afraid. The fear was centered around not wanting to disappoint anyone. However…….

Disappointment is inevitable. They say that you cannot make everyone happy all of the time, and so I assessed who I really wanted to be happy. Of course, I want to be happy. But the happiness of my husband is equally as important, if not more so (again, a blog for another day). The happiness of my children, the happiness of our ‘granbaby,’ the happiness of our home and lives together – these people and these things are what matters.

The happiness of paying clients is important to getting paid and keeping a shiny reputation and knowing that you are doing good work, but one thing I learned through this whole experience is that paying clients are paying clients. They are not, actually, your family. And sometimes, even if you are convinced otherwise for a moment, they aren’t even your friends. It isn’t personal. It’s business. But that isn’t the kind of business I want to be in.

So, I’m charting a new course. I’m writing a new chapter. I’m in control of my destiny. This is my game. This is my show. This is my life. This is my business.

I’m in the business of encouraging focus on what matters most.
I’m in the business of changing lives.
I’m in the business of inspiring.
I’m in the business of happiness.

See you out there. xo

Are You Sleepy?

Or…. The One With All The Parentheses

Came across this today and it reminded me of when my dad insisted my verrrry slow-to-wake little brother (then in high school) start drinking coffee: Kids try coffee for the first time.

I grew up in a really weird family. Sometimes I wonder if everyone thinks their family is weird, but then I see how positively “normal” they all are in comparison and I just want to say, you guys. You have no idea. MY family was (is) weird. Super weird. The families I remember from my youth were loaves of white bread on a shelf full of like-breaded loaves. Lucky bastards.

I mean no disrespect. I really am jealous. What I would have given back then to be one of those spectacularly similar loaves. I just wanted to be like everyone else. Alas, we were oddballs and misfits, strange little standouts of human beings, and today we are all exceptionally unique individuals with creative souls who bloom in non-traditional ways.

Kinda difficult to be mad about that. We’re spectacular, too. Just not in any kind of a corporate-environment/widely accepted/typical-of-society/financially flourishing way. It’s okay. I like us (for the most part). It’s a good weird (sort of).

I think about this often. The four of us had no structure. Sure, we had plenty of punishment (more on this another time), but there was little discipline. Do your homework or don’t; whatever works for you, kid. Bedtime? Whenever (and wherever) you want! Dinner is make-your-own tonight (a handful of nights a week). What’s a curfew?

Let’s be honest. We were living the dream. We did what we wanted, for the most part, and even though I was envious of other families, I also secretly knew we had it pretty sweet. Our friends could crash on the couch whenever they wanted. In high school, my house was the sleepover house because yeah – no curfew. Even when there was a curfew, it was mostly ignored by all parties involved (with two noted exceptions – also another blog for another day).

This, too, must be said: For all of the turbulence in our little lives with a Mentally Unwell Momma (MUM), we sure had some fun. We did things as a family, including going out to dinner on borrowed dollars, burning swiped pallets at beach bonfires, taking trips funded by Grandma and Grandpa to amusement parks, occasional family vacations up north, and more. A lot more.

Every single family adventure – big or small – always included at least one angry outburst followed by tears from the MUM, but we still had the adventures. We still made the memories. And eventually, we grew up and grew weird little families of our own.

One of my siblings was (is) extraordinarily intelligent with a passion for rationale. Two of my siblings were (are) incredibly industrious. I was (am) creative but also a wee bit overly emotional/sensitive and extremely shy. Oh, I’m much better now – but to this day, I’m still terrified of “getting in trouble.” We’re all characters. We’re all successful, and some of us are (surprisingly) really and truly happy.

Plus! Somewhere along the way, it became cool to be weird. So I guess now we’re cool, even though we didn’t have the designer jeans and meals every night around the table and ski trips with the Joneses and proper bedtimes. See? Everything works out.

712bb474897b051d09428544ff6cfc20Image borrowed from the brilliant Butterflies and Pebbles. Like her on Facebook here.