Musings

I’m Not a Midwife

When I was 9 years old my first brother was born. I was thrilled to be designated official videographer of the homebirth. After all, that obviously put me at the same rank as the actual photographer, and he was a wicked cool guy with an amazing camera. “Click,” as 3 year old Claire called him, wasn’t the only person at the birth I was taken with. Miss Kathy, the tattooed, motorcycle riding, short little grandma midwife whose house my parents practically lived at for the month of February. I decided that I wanted to be just like her. She is kind and gentle, but also strong, physically and emotionally.snail

For the next 9 years I would grow more and more passionate about my eventual career as a midwife. Since Mom had started working as a lactation consultant again when I was finishing high school, I was already in position to start studying. For the last two years of high school I was around midwives, doulas and other birth workers, attending homebirth classes, first with my Mom, then by myself once the teachers knew me better. This wasn’t just some passing fancy of a teenager; I had my apprenticeship worked out.

The first step was to become a doula. The August after graduation I enrolled in a birth doula training course. It had been said that this was where most potential midwives were weeded out, but I was determined that I wouldn’t be one of those undedicated, dispassionate students.

But I was. And at the same time, I wasn’t.

I finished the training, but afterwards I didn’t even attempt to continue with the certification. Throughout the class my passion, dedication and adrenaline had heightened. I was learning a lot, but most of it was only a continuation of things I already knew. It was easy for me. Then, near the end of the week, we had a session on working with abuse victims.

On the way home that night I sobbed.

It wasn’t only because of the emotional drain of talking about abuse all day. That had been fine at the time. I cried because I knew I was done. The road was taking me elsewhere and the destination wasn’t at all where I had expected. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why, but there was a sense of completion. What needed to be learned was learned. I didn’t know it for a long time, but I have come to realize that this was the beginning of my journey to reconciling my past with my mental health, and beginning to seek healing.

The next 6 months were tumultuous. It was too late to enroll at community college, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that, or if I was smart enough. What was my purpose? The passion I had felt was real, I have no doubt of that. It just didn’t lead me down the path I originally thought. Finding its location has been one of my missions this past year, and I still don’t know exactly where it is.

I’m halfway done with my second spring semester. There are still plenty of things I’m unsure of, but I do know that going to school was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m a completely different person than I was, even only a year ago, and I’m a much better version of myself now. But if I were to be truly honest, even with the reinforcement of an invitation to the honors society and a job in the tutoring center, I often feel that I’ll be found out to be an idiot at any moment. I just finished my application to study theater tech at University of Central Missouri some time in the next year. There are a lot of things I don’t know about, but underneath the insecurity, depression and anxiety, I know moving forward is a good thing.

I still want to be like Miss Kathy. I want to be strong and kind. I want to inspire; to change people’s lives for the better. I want a little girl to look at me and say, “That. I want to be like that.”

I know I’m not a midwife. I don’t know everything I am, but I do know that I am a storyteller, a collector, a writer, and a teacher.

Musings

Creativity in Hindsight

Sometimes you don’t really understand what your art means, or why you make it at all. But that’s the thing about being a creative person. You can’t stop making things just because you don’t understand them. When I wrote Volumes of Rows, I didn’t realize that what I was describing was probably dyslexia. That swimming around before the words are finally stationary long enough to convey their message is what goes on in my head every time I try to read. It’s as if the characters are on a rubber band that bounces away and back in the millisecond after my eye touches it. I didn’t notice this until recently, but it’s comforting to have an explanation of why I read so slowly, have a hard time with spelling and punctuation, and trouble doing basic arithmetic.penandink

When I’ve explained what I see to friends, the general reaction is something about how terrifying that must be. The first time I heard this, I laughed. It never occurred to me that vision problems were scary; they’re part of my reality.

But reality can be a scary place. Some of us don’t even have to read the news to see that. Some of us just have to remember. I’m still undoing years of brainwashing and manipulation. There are parts of my self, my personhood,  that I have such a hard time accepting because of what I was raised to think and feel about my body and role as a woman. I’ve felt overwhelming embarrassment when I see a picture of myself that shows some evidence of boobs, or even one that simply makes me look good. The amount of shame I felt after going out with friends and dancing with an attractive stranger left me in a state of extreme anxiety for weeks, resulting in more than one minor anxiety attack (one at rehearsal, in front of the whole cast of about 30). Processing my adolescence is taking much longer than I had expected. I keep finding myself upset about things that I thought I had gotten over.

Creating helps. Writing isn’t something I choose to do, it’s something that happens. To be honest, sometimes I hate it. It burns. It feels like drawing a long thread out of my diaphragm, and looping it into letters and words and thoughts. Both the exit wound and where it contacts my fingers feel as though they are being rubbed raw. But I have to do it. To leave that thread in place would burn even more; eventually eating me up from the inside out. When I journal I don’t know where the entry is going. Most begin with something about how I don’t know what to write or how to articulate my feelings. Journaling is cathartic. Writing poetry helps me articulate my emotions that I’m still trying to accept. I create to find out what I feel. And I share some of what I create to validate my feelings and those of others whom have had similar experiences. But I can’t share unless I create in the first place. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Musings, Poet Among Other Things

Love and Freedom

I wrote this months ago, but given the national legalisation of same-sex marriage, it seems apropos to share now. I’m learning that, as a creative person, sometimes you make something, and you love it and are satisfied with it, but just can’t share it. It’s not that it isn’t ready, but that the environment isn’t ready. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that the art isn’t good, it just means that the time isn’t right.

Love?

What do you know of love?

You claim it as your Cornerstone

But have you looked at your foundation?

How can you claim to know loverainbowconverseverticle

When you spew death and hell?

All I have to do is say Yes

If you say No I am condemned

You say it is my actions, not me

But you do not see

My actions are part of who I am

My person caused my actions

 

You say you know love

You say what I know isn’t love

How can you tell me what love is?

Describe it to me

How can you know that isn’t what I feel?

You see an outer image

How can you look at one

And say, that is love?

But look at me and condemn

 

You say you know love

Are you patient, kind, just?

You want hard answers

I must define myself for eternity

Do you boast?

Is not your claim boastful?

To know the only love

Your list of perceived wrongs

It chokes the Life from me

 

You claim to see love

But your robe covers your eyes

Your tassels choke your words

You have cut off your own wings

 

And you claim to know love

Worse still

You claim Love has done this

That love left you torn

Beaten and bruised

 

You say you are not weighed down

That you are now made free

But how free is it to struggle?

To act without thought

To ride the wind

To speak the Voice of Ages

To love as seems fit

This is Freedom

Books and Movies, Camp, Musings, Poet Among Other Things

Filling Journals

I’ve had journals since– I don’t remember not having journals. Sure, the entries were about 20 words long and illustrated because I couldn’t read for so long, but I had things to say, even when I couldn’t articulate, let alone spell them. I look back on some of those rudimentary scribblings and laugh. If they weren’t so old they’d be embarrassing. e678b832b693eac8bcb557b690cce3d8But even though I couldn’t write down how I really felt, and often didn’t actually know, I wrote enough to trigger memories. There’s one journal that Dad gave me around the time he was deployed overseas. It’s just about the ugliest shade of green, that one that is evidently the only dye color the military has, so I quickly took my crayons to it and made it mine. Our basement flooded a few years ago and it was barely saved. But on one of the pages, that has been threatening to fall out for years now, are a few words about how my day was ruined because Wendy’s messed up my baked potato, complete with a picture of how the spud should have looked. I remember that day. We had just been visiting one of mom’s friends and I was overwhelmed with the cares of being 9. It was the last straw. Either mom was pregnant with Adam or Dad had just left, but I was an emotional wreck and I couldn’t show it, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t draw, and now my lunch was a travesty.

I have another journal that my then best friend’s mom gave me. It has a picture of us in the front. Little, tiny, 7 year old us. This one is blue with vines, a picture window on the cover and a ribbon bookmark with a heart lock charm on the end. The one that I simply cannot remember not having is my Winnie the Pooh locking diary.

I used those two off and on the most, since the military surplus one was ruined, but I’ve yet to fill a journal. I’ve filled plenty of random notebooks with sketches of rooms and beginnings of stories, but I’ve never written my soul from cover to cover. That’s what a journal is. The soul on paper. Whether it means what it says or is just a symptom of the true condition is for the reader, usually your older self, to decide.

But that trend is about to change. 4980f05fdb74af85e118941df03bd15f

I have six pages left. I really don’t know what to do with myself. It feels as if my filling of that last page will end something in my life. I got this journal 2 years ago when I was a finalist in the library’s poetry contest. It was the year that Meg was also a finalist and Claire was the Honorable Mention. I didn’t win anything, but it was my last year of eligibility. I graduated high school right after that, and then started writing in the little book at Camp that summer. Only first few pages actually bare the thoughts of a baby counselor, as I quickly got too busy to write. Instead, it chronicles the heartache of a life turned rightside up. Learning to accept my PCOS, giving myself permission to live, embracing my gifts. It’s all in there. It hurts to go back and read who I thought I had to be. But the closer I get to the end, the less it hurts and the more it is beautiful. Most of my “poems” are actually journal entries, written as I’m falling asleep. They are raw Annie. What she sees with her eyes, but also with her heart. Moonshadows. Will-o-the-wisps. Dew laden blades of grass.

The closing of my little book coincides with the closing of my first semester of college. I never thought I’d go to school past what was required. I had no need to. I began the journal feeling broken and purposeless. I close it happier, more full of life, and whole. You don’t come through a chapter like that without scars. But scars fade. They remind you who you are.

Books and Movies, Musings

In Your Face Subtlety

I came across this graphic on Pinterest the other day. I pin a lot of writing things, so Pinterest has decided to just throw random writing pins on my feed. I’m fine with that; I find a lot of really good ideas that way. Some of my favorites are ones like this. But I don’t like this one for some reason. Maybe it’s that I don’t care for the color/texture/font combination, but it got me thinking.1bcf9b2f6f7c4c407f83f266d6db3345

I couldn’t read independently until I was about 10. Before that I “read” my dad’s college anatomy textbooks for fun. There were lots of pictures and I could understand what they meant without the use of words. Once I learned to read, I quickly jumped to junior high level books, then to high school. By the time I was 13 I was reading on a college level. But my “reading” of reference books didn’t end when I started actually reading. I remember the day I got my first pocket thesaurus. I was ecstatic. I soon got a pocket spelling dictionary as well. Both books were essentially just lists of words, but they were my lists of words. If I found one I didn’t know, I would ask mom or dad what it meant. It was a rare occasion that they actually just told me what the dumb word meant. Generally they would direct me to the enormous, red, college dictionary. This pretty much drove me up the wall. For one thing, it’s heavy as all get out (and about 4 inches wide.) But I also nearly always got distracted and started reading other entries before even finding the word I was initially looking for (if I ever got there.) While this was infuriating at the time, I learned a lot of new words and how to alphabetize, from this practice.

So if I spend hours searching for the right word in a dictionary or thesaurus (now with the help of thesaurus.com), why don’t I like this graphic? Well, it’s not exactly this specific graphic. It’s an idea behind it. Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is one of my favorite movies. It is about growing up, but never growing old. It is about living life to the fullest. It is about following your dreams and chasing your own star. It’s about beginnings. But it’s also about endings. In fact, the whole plot of this beautifully whimsical movie, when you actually look at it, is about Mr Magorium’s death. You see, he found a little store and fell completely in love with a certain pair of shoes, so he bought enough to last his entire lifetime. And his last pair is just about worn through.2dd8c74b2a81503c1a26666b97e5c3b6

When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He’s written “He dies.” That’s all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is “He dies.” It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with “He dies.” And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it’s only natural to be sad, but not because of the words “He dies.” but because of the life we saw prior to the words.

I think this is something we as writers often forget. Sometimes you don’t need a grand description or a flowery word. Sometimes the most accurate word is the most simple. The phrase that subtly states a simple fact, but makes the reader think. It reminds me of the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus wept. Scholars and theologians have spent innumerable hours trying to figure out what this means. It just means He cried, but there is so much more to it than a bodily fluid draining out of a gland in His eyes. It shows humanity.

I once found a graphic that said, “How the teacher interpreted the text: The blue curtains symbolise the protagonists sorrow. The author’s real reason: Blue’s a nice color.” Sometimes details don’t matter as much so you write them simply. Sometimes details matter so much that you write them simply. Sometimes subtlety makes a stronger point than grandiose description.

Books and Movies, Musings

This Is Real Life, And It Is An Epic

Every heart has a story to tell
Some dreams have wings, some are torn at the seams
and just sit there on the shelf
If you were to walk in my shoes
You’d see we are all the same
So find the love inside yourself
Cause every heart has a story to tell
This is my heart
This is my story to tell

I really love Pandora. I have found two of my favorite songs by using it. This is the chorus of Every Heart, and it perfectly exemplifies something that’s been rolling around in my brain for a while. I touched on it several months ago, but I think this is an idea that warrants a closer look.

Stories are incredibly powerful things, and I’m not really sure how to describe them. What *is* a story? If pressed for a short answer, I would say it’s a string of related thoughts having to do with and describing an event. But they are so much more than that. They are life. I don’t just mean stories from 10660227_730463573675003_2572696761722264010_nhistory either. But my life is nothing like a storybook. It’s boring. All I do is go to work, eat, and hang out at home. Stop. I mean it. That is no way to talk about an epic masterpiece.

What do you look for in a strong character? You look for complexity, depth, emotion. You look for things that make it real. To the characters in stories, their world is just as real to them as ours is to us. You sit in McDonalds and drink a Dr. Pepper. They sit in an inn and drink a pint (“They come in pints?”) It’s kind of like what I say about the news. Just because something bad is reported on tv doesn’t mean it is a common thing. In fact, if it were common, it wouldn’t be worth noting. [Note: This isn’t strictly true, especially in cases regarding social justice issues.  I’m referring to things like buildings collapsing or people finding anacondas in their bathrooms.] Stories don’t often dwell on the mundane parts of a character’s life. They skim over the irellevent stuff and focus on the important details. We have the luxury of seeing only the good bits. The character doesn’t get that. They have to work their way through life, and they don’t know the outcome. Just like us. They don’t know which details are the important ones, they can make a guess, but there’s no way to know for sure. Just like us. 

But what’s the point of telling your story if you don’t know where it’s going to end? What’s the point of waiting? Do you read the last page of a book before you even begin reading the first chapter? I used to think that my story was boring. I grew up in a fairly normal family. Nothing exceptionally tragic has ever happened. But two things happen when you begin telling your tale.

You find out what makes you special. If you never talk about your life with other people, they can’t give you feedback and tell you how weird you are. I knew having 5 siblings wasn’t normal, but I didn’t know living in 5 different states was remarkable. My dad was in the military, moving was normal until I talked to people who had lived in the same state, same town, or even the same house, their entire lives. 

 You find out that you are not alone. Whatever you think may make you an outcast, or unloveable, or weird, someone else is dealing with too. But until you start talking and opening up, both of you will think you are the only person that feels that way. This is why we have fandoms. If we didn’t talk about loving Firefly, we would think we were the only ones obsessing over a bunch of space cowboys. If we didn’t talk about the damage that fundamentalist mindsets do, people would keep getting hurt by them and think they were the ones in the wrong. But since we talk about it, we can find each other.

When you look at your life as a story, it’s easier to see personal progress. As I said in A Bubbling Brook, a well written character changes. You may not catch it, change often happens gradually. There isn’t always an ultimatum.  Just like in a story, you notice those in real life. That sudden instant of realization. Sure, these moments may be turning points, but you don’t just turn without preparing. If you did that while driving, you’d flip the car. If you do that while singing, your voice will probably crack. Without your consent or knowledge, your life so far is leading up to something. Don’t speak disparagingly about what will be your success story. 

Musings

Fear

Another pair of weeks went by without a post. You know, this time though, I did write. I actually wrote several full posts, but I didn’t put them up. I was scared. Scared for a bunch of reasons. Scared that my thoughts wouldn’t be well articulated. Scared that they would be inflammatory. Scared that they wouldn’t be.pinkdotsquote

I do that a lot. I’m scared of the future. Really scared actually. I want to pursue a certain field of work, but I’m not sure how good I’ll be at it, even though I’ve wanted to do it since I was little. I want to study for a certain degree, but I’m scared I won’t be able to pay tuition, even though I know I’ll work something out. I’m scared I’ll fail, so I don’t even take the test. I’m scared I’ll succeed and then be expected to replicate that success.

But this doesn’t get me anywhere.

I don’t need to be scared of failing. If I am, I’ll never even try. I need to do everything I can to prepare, but when it comes to it, just do it.

Being scared of success is even worse though. If you do well at something the first time, how will you do the second time? What will people think of you if you fail after that? What if that first one is a fluke, and you aren’t actually any good? This is pointless though! You have to try!

Fear is paralysing. Grace is freeing. If you fail, it’s ok, everyone does. If you succeed, congratulations, now try again. You can’t do anything great without doing something really dumb first. In fact, the dumber you start out, the greater the great thing will be.

I feel deep in bones that I will be good at what I want to do. The fact that I’m pretty unqualified and inexperienced will only make it even more awesome when I succeed.