Author Archives: Annamelle

How do you love yourself?

Last night I was feeling kind of insecure about mistakes I’d made earlier in the day, about times when I was not my best. My mind went to the old familiar place of shame and fear that I am not good enough. Then I went to the next habitual place of “what can I do to be better?”

I think I set a lot of challenges for myself, like Nanowrimo, or this month’s, “exercise everyday for 60 min”, for not totally healthy reasons. I think I am often trying to better myself as opposed to loving myself. And maybe, probably, those two things don’t have to be opposed. But for me, loving myself hardly ever enters into my mind, or my life. I am not sure I even know how to love who I am, without the constant striving. I have a really hard time forgiving myself for not being better.

But that is not how I treat people that I love. I love my husband, my daughter, my friends, for every little part of them. They don’t have to be perfect, or better than they are. I love the whole package.

So, how do I turn even a fraction of that love towards myself? Last night, in my quasi-dream state I thought I might make it into a challenge (of course I did), something like “Try loving myself for 30 days.” Heh.

I am really not sure how to do that. I have some vague ideas about being attentive to what I am feeling when I am eating, drinking, walking, reading, etc, to see if I like how I am feeling, as well as notice my self-talk and try to develop a more loving “inner voice.”

I don’t know. I feel like I have come a long way in the last few years. Therapy and avoiding situations that reenforced a negative self-concept have really really helped. But there are so many layers to this onion. I need to keep working at it.

So, how do you love yourself? Do you have any insight? Practical, spiritual, psychological? Cause I would like to feel better about not being better.

[cross posted from my blog]

Gratitude x 3

You’ve heard from Tabby and Mina on Gratitude this week, both the high-mined and the peachy. I have a little bit to say about gratitude, and a lot to say about joy.

Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, said “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”

For me, autumn is just full of joy. I feel it just watching a leaf slowly float down from the tree. Does that sound sappy(pun not intended) well, too bad. That really is how I feel.

I think we need to widen our definitions of joy. So, when we seek it, we will find it. Can we find joy in the brilliantly colored leaf on the sidewalk? In crisp, cool wind that gives us an excuse to wear our favorite scarves? In a beautiful crafted sentence found in a new book? In the creativity and cleverness of others? In a hot cup of dark coffee? In our kids who constantly challenge and amaze us? In the warmth of our partner’s hand on a cold walk?

To be joyful is to have your eyes open for the little details that give meaning to the moment. Gratitude is recognizing that moment in your heart.

Why I drink

I can’t remember the last time I had a lengthy span of time with nothing to do. Maybe last year, before I was diagnosed with cancer. Or maybe it was farther back, some time in my childhood, when Sundays would stretch before me, so oppressively boring that I couldn’t see the potential.

Going back, month after month, it’s one busy day after another. I have stacks of things: writing, blog posts, catching up on Facebook, calling my friends, exercising, classes, appointments, etc, all good things but they fill up all my time, like shapes in the Tetris game, filling up the screen.

My mind too, is always working. If I have a free moment I have several books I am trying to read. I also have stacks of non-fiction that I read as research for my novel and, literally, hundreds of websites.

It is all a balancing act, a Tetris game that has gotten to a harder level, and it is taking all my attention to make the pieces fit, the pieces of this awesome life I am creating. A life filled with friends, and creativity, and learning.

Maybe I need to slow down, but, instead I’ll have a beer. Just one, but it is strong. And all the shoulds and oughts, responsibilities and wishes are washed away and I can just Be. I lounge on the couch and watch a show with my husband and laugh and enjoy myself. The Tetris game is off, and forgotten.

Is this the miracle of hops and barley? Is this the meaning we all recognize in the words often misquoted to Benjamin Franklin, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”?

I don’t want anyone to worry. This isn’t a cry for help. This is just something I am pondering about my life, a development that I am considering, which has been exacerbated by trying to do NaNoWriMo. Why do I make myself so busy? Are idle hands the devil’s play things? And, is it okay to use beer for it’s “medicinal” qualities?

Writing about writing – Or “This post of so meta!’

You probably wont see my writing here next month. I am participating, for the second time, in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. It is a crazy challenge, for masochistic writers, to write a 50,000+ word novel during the month of November.

I completed my first NaNoWriMo challenge five years ago when I wrote a crappy sci-fi novel, Nine Lives. It was crappy because averaging 2500 words a day is not how I do my best writing. When I was finished I was glad. I celebrated. But I never wanted to look at Nine Lives again. It was just too much of a good crappy thing.

I never thought I would do NaNoWriMo again. But I have hardly worked on my novel Dream Girl since being diagnosed with breast cancer last November. I feel like NaNoWriMo will fulfill a twofold purpose of getting me writing again and claiming time to write.

I have wanted to be a writer pretty much my whole life. (I also wanted to be a librarian and criminologist for the FBI, but writing is my first and longest love.) When I was 11 my mother got me a voice recorder so I could keep track of the stories I was constantly coming up with. Not that she thought I was going to be a writer. No, she thought I was probably going to die young, hit by a car while trying to cross the street, because I never paid attention and lived “with my head in a fantasy world.”

In my twenties I came up with lots of novel ideas, mostly supernatural themes. One, about three girls with magical powers, would eventually morph into Dream Girl. Back then I was hanging out with some comic book writers and illustrators and I even started collaborating with a comic book artist on Dream Girl. She drew some pictures of what she thought my characters looked like. That was when I realized that I am not so good at collaborating.

When my daughter was 2-ish I spent 10 days working on our friend’s ship ranch, it was there that I came up with the “Dream” part of Dream Girl. I knew I was on to something. Years and years went by while I raised my daughter and started homeschooling her. I thought about Dream Girl all the time but I didn’t feel like I could really write it.

A few years ago I started doing some collaborative writing with some friends I was playing role-playing games with. Starting writing again really energized me. I was so excited and looked forward to it everyday. My co-writers gave me good feedback, which got me past some of my insecurities. That was when I realized I could collaborate, as long as nobody draws my characters totally wrong.

All that time, since before my daughter was born, I have been thinking about my book. In that time it has grown into a huge complicated tome, chock full of things that excite and scare me. When I finally sat down to start writing it, in 2009, I realized that I had made it so complicated that I now had to do a ton of research to write it realistically. Luckily, I think researching is awesome. (Researcher is another job I think I would be suited for.)

Also, I kind of love myself a well-crafted sentence. My daughter and I sometimes stop what we are reading just to share a particularly excellent sentence with one another. We collect them. When I am writing I am sometimes inspired to craft a beautiful sentence or phrase. When I do it just makes my day. This might come from spending a lot of time away from my computer thinking about my book, basically writing it in my head, looking at it from all sides and listening for the music or poetry in it.

All of this is to say that I am not a very fast novel writer. My style is thoughtful and, at times, deliberate.  NaNoWriMo is a shock to my writing system. Once November starts there is no time for research, no time to sit and ponder a beautiful sentence, possibly no time to make dinner and, most likely, no time to blog. If I do come up for air, I will probably only have something short. Like a pronoun.

I wont be working on Dream Girl for NaNoWriMo but a ghost story instead, which tells the back story of a character that inhabits my Dream Girl World.

Circle of Friends

I never had a lot of female friends. I tended to hang out with guys when I was growing up, and when I was a grown up. It was pretty normal for me to be the one girl in a group of guys. But, recently, I have befriended several women, and many of them were the “one girl in a group guys” girl. Now I am part of a close group of female friends. This is definitely new territory.

Every so often, something comes up with a friend, or in the group dynamic, that pushes me in new and uncomfortable ways. I don’t know if it is the “femaleness” of the friends or my age but I find myself needing to both grow more and more clearly define who I am, to develop/maintain my friendships. Sometimes it is challenging. But I think it is a good thing. When I didn’t have female friends I didn’t know what I was missing.

Now I feel like I am part of a circle, and, wherever I go, they are with me.

Wishing you bushes full of butterflies

You are having a bad day. You don’t want to face the obvious, that you have little control over your life, or even your own feelings about it. You’re so far from being able to pull yourself out of this that you don’t even want to.

Then you see it, a bush full of butterflies. At least a dozen of them, fluttering like animated jewels on the bush in your yard.

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Then, just like that, your day is all better. And all it took was a miracle.

Cross posted from my other blog.

Mind Hack Monday – She Shells

No matter how introverted I say I am I still need to connect with people. But that connection hasn’t always been easy for me to make. And, recently, I have been wondering why it is so hard.

Not that I don’t have friends. I have actually been blessed with many wonderful close friends. They are truly amazing, so I guess I must be doing something right. But, well, I just moved to a new city and now I am faced with the prospect of having to build a social life from scratch.

Moving can be exciting. You get a fresh start, on everything, even who you are, or, at least, how you present yourself to others. This time, I told myself, I am going to be more outgoing. I’ll try to talk to people I wouldn’t normally talk to. I’ll have more confidence, be less guarded, and be a better listener.  You know, “be myself” but better. 😛

Contemplating my struggle with friendships and relationships makes me think of my daughter, whose friendship mojo is strong. In the six weeks since we have moved here she has made several really good friends, had 3 sleepovers, and almost daily invitations for playdates/hang outs. Her social calender is so full it needs 13 months.

Not that I want that. I couldn’t handle that. But I would like to make at least a few meaningful connections. And it would be nice if it didn’t seem so hard.

I recognize that a big part of my problem is my impatience. I haven’t yet figured out how to enjoy the slow and somewhat obscure process of vetting, I mean, making friends.  In the past I relied on intuitive (snap) judgements regarding compatibility. But, the new me, in my new city of Brotherly Love, is trying out new things and new people. I am meditating on remaining open, and curious. And that helps, a little bit. But sometimes it doesn’t.

Of course, sometimes I have to think “Maybe it is just me.” Maybe everyone else I know easily makes full and satisfying friendships. Maybe they often get that experience of being “known” and accepted. Maybe once an outsider, always an outsider. (and maybe feeling negative about the process isn’t really helping:P)

I don’t know. I really don’t. All I can do is just keep showing up and putting myself out there. Or maybe I should give up looking for a specific outcome but somehow not give up on the process. But, I should probably not crawl back into my shell. Unless maybe it is my shell that somehow, paradoxically draws other interesting shell dwellers to it.

Male-colored glasses

I am so tired of male gaze. I am just so over my culture being dominated by male expectation and the masculine perspective. It has gotten to the point where I only want to listen to music by women, singing about things women care about, real singer/songwriters, not sexy dolls singing sexy songs trying so very very hard to be America’s next sexy idol. I am recently enjoying songs by:

Evanescence
Florence + Machine
Adele
Kate Nash
Regina Spektor

Lily Allen

A Fine Frenzy
I am beyond tired of the in your face sexism of the television shows I want to watch and like. I am a nerdy girl and I like science fiction shows. Sci-fi is notoriously thick with male gaze because the writers think they are only writing for teenaged boys. So, when the camera is on a woman it is pointed at her revealing cleavage or her long bare legs, ending, just barely before her tiny teenager sized ass. A good (bad?) example of this is the nerdy show Chuck. Chuck is a stand-in for the typical computer geek boyman who gets to have ninja skills and date a sexy blond super spy who’s spy disguises often seem to require dressing up like a Playboy bunny or a harem girl. 😦

I prefer my sci-fi without the gratuitous T&A. If I want to watch some sci-fi with strong and realistic female characters I have to go back a ways to actually have something akin to a “list”: (links go to articles about the women in these shows)

Farscape
Firefly
Dr. Who
Babylon 5
True Blood (has lost of gratuitous T&A, but tries to satisfy both male and female gaze)
and (not exactly sci-fi but enjoyed by the same people) Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
For non sci-fi shows I have recently enjoyed Mad Men for getting down and dirty with sexism, gender roles, and the male gaze (especially in advertising.)

I run up against the the massive filter of male gaze in movies I want to like too. Too often there is only the token woman (Super 8, Harry Potter, Rise of the Apes, Cowboys vs Aliens, Captain America) or the movie seems to be actively against women (Source Code, The Hangover II, Transformers 3) but there were a few movies that I managed to see that actually cared to tell a woman’s story:
Bridesmaids
Jane Eyre
Hanna
I think a case could be made for or against X-men First class, and whether or not it even passes with Bechdel Test.

This all came to a head the last couple days since DC comics has rebooted and revamped several female super heroes into super sluts, posing in tiny bikinis and lingerie . You might say that is the norm for comics books, because they really are written for teenaged boys. But that is not the case anymore. Women want to read comics, we want to let our daughters read them and we want to let our sons read them as well. We don’t want want to turn a blind eye to a world that objectifies women and is unable to see them as real humans and is unwilling to respect their story and point of view. That is old. That is tired. I am getting eyesore from squinting at the world through male-colored glasses. I want to see the world in all it’s colors and I want to see my gender represented realistically and acting out their own agenda.

Totally Emo

I get a daily “meditation” from Aish.com, a Jewish website. I often find them uncannily relevant, so, even though my religion/spirituality is in an amorphous place right now, I still read my daily thought. Today I got:

“In thinking about serenity and realizing its great value, we would love to be serene all the time. But this is not possible in the world in which we live. In the totality of our lives we will experience a wide range of human emotions, not all of them the ones we would choose for ourselves if we could have total control over our feelings.

So now we have a choice. We can acknowledge our emotional reality at any given moment and from there work our way to true serenity. Or we can deny our true feelings. We may deny our insecurities, anxieties, worries, frustrations, disappointments, etc., and think that because we want to be serene, these feelings do not exist. Let us state clearly: Only by being in touch with your feelings will you be able to truly experience serenity.”

It is not easy for me to acknowledge my emotions. I spent most of my childhood denying them, focusing on other people’s emotional needs, and trying to “overcome” my own. When I did have emotions they would come bursting out of me, and crash around like a bull in a china shop. And I was left feeling like I was the broken china.

Sometimes I try to wait to feel my emotions for a time that is more convenient, like when I am alone. Or I push then away, thinking they will likely dissipate if I have distance from whatever is causing the emotion.  Sometimes I berate myself for having them, “emotions are for little girls, I’m stronger than that.”  I definitely don’t trust them, because feelings are not facts, and only facts can’t be denied.

I do a lot of things with my emotions, but acknowledging them is rare. It would seem that the stars have to align just right for me to listen and then respect my feelings. Or I could make friends with my emotions, just friends, no strings attached, just stop for a bit and check in and see how I am feeling, and acknowledge it, without committing to anything. I have a “feeling” that if I did that for awhile I would become a wiser person, a more well rounded person and kinder too.

What kind of relationship do you have with your emotions? Are you close? frenemies? estranged?

“Let go. Let go. Let go.”

This morning I heard this piece about End of Summer Regrets on NPR. Psychologist Dan Gottlieb

Summer is over and maybe we didn’t do everything we thought we would. We didn’t get to the beach enough or at all. We didn’t take the family camping. We didn’t starting that exercise program at the pool. We are starting Fall and the new school year with some regrets.

We may be troubled over similar regrets at the end of each week, or even each day. Dr. Gottlieb says we need to “let go of the idea that They need you and that the world won’t be right” if you take time off from your responsibilities and schedules.

We postpone joy because we think we are too important to others and to the scheme of things, to step out of it.

I love what he says at the end of the piece about the idea that we will “go to the beach” when we get all our ducks lined up. He said to remember that they are ducks and ducks never stay in a line.

This was exactly what I needed to hear this morning, as I was contemplating the decision to stay home and finish unpacking, stay home and homeschool while trying to finish unpacking or take my daughter to the awesome new park I found. I needed this reminder and the permission to let go of my to-do list sometimes and have fun.