Thursday, December 26, 2013

A New Home

I'm moving! Okay, I'm not physically moving--but my blog is.

I want to expand my web presence a bit, so I'm creating a website for myself:

The new site is live now, but I won't start posting blog entries and other content there until January 1st.

I hope you'll come visit!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Strive-ful Year

For the last couple of years, instead of making New Year's resolutions, I chose a word to guide me through the year. The only rule I made was that the word had to be an imperative. My word for 2013 was strive. I chose the word thinking of all the things I would be striving toward in 2013:
  • eating right
  • exercising 5 days a week
  • finishing revisions on my novel
  • finding a literary agent
  • building my savings account
  • updating this blog regularly throughout the year
The Universe, however, took my word as a personal challenge. "Strive, you say? I'll give you a reason to strive!" (Can you hear the cackle?)

So as much as I intended to spend 2013 striving toward my big goals, I actually spent most of my time striving against obstacles the Universe hurled in front of me:
  • a work slowdown in spring, which led to...
  • an income slowdown in summer, which was followed by...
  • a seriously ill dog
  • a series of broken household appliances
  • a car in desperate need of repair
  • a flooded laundry room
  • a lonely Thanksgiving
Because of those crises, most of the things I was going to strive toward remain out of reach. Revisions on The Novel are nowhere near finished, which means I haven't even started looking for a literary agent. My savings account balance shrank instead of grew. My eating, exercise, and blogging habits have been inconsistent at best. On the plus side, I survived every one of the crises (and so did the dog!), and I am proud and grateful about that.

I have learned something else from this experience, too. I will think carefully about the word I choose for 2014, lest the Universe be tempted once again.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

I tried watching the live televised version of Sound of Music this past week, but couldn't see it through. (When you're rooting for the Captain to get together with Elsa instead of Maria, something's not quite right.)  Still, it seemed appropriate to list a few of my favorite things:

1. Raindrops on roses
2. Whiskers on kittens
3. Bright copper kettles
4. Warm woolen mittens
5. Brown paper packages tied up with string

Okay, so those are Maria's favorite things, but I do share her fondness for numbers one, four, and five.

Seriously, though, like Fraulein Maria,  I do have favorites that help me through long days and rough times. My list of current Internet favorites looks something like this:

I spend most of my workdays alone in my basement office. Twitter helps me feel like I'm not really alone when I'm working. I think of it as my office watercooler, but it has also proved to be an unexpected source of crisis counseling.

Another site that helps me feel less alone in the world.  I can't relate to many of the secrets posted on the site, but every once in a while I see one and think, "I could have written that!"

Dog Shaming
I visit this site regularly. It's always good for a giggle, a chuckle, or a belly-laugh-til-I-can't breathe.

Des Hommes et des Chatons
Another site I visit when I need a giggle. This one shows male models and cats in similar poses--in case anyone needs a reminder of how ridiculous modeling poses can be.

The Great Gatsby Game
An old-school video game inspired by one of my favorite pieces of literature? Yes, please! 

Not Just a Girl
Wonderful photographs of a five-year-old girl dressed up as five different legendary women. Not only is every woman an inspirational example, the young girl is a million kinds of cute. Emma for President!

Shrinking Women
This entry in a poetry slam wow'd me beyond words. There's so much that struck a cord, so many lines that resonated with my own experiences, so many ideas that sparked realizations and new perspectives. No pun intended, this poem provides much food for thought.

Of course, I'm always on the lookout for new favorites. What are your favorite places on the web?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers--Part Deux

I had a bit of an emotional meltdown this past weekend. Perhaps you noticed.

It's always a nerve-wracking experience for me to share my feelings, but the Thanksgiving Tsunami was a particular doozy. I was--and still am--blown away by the response, especially from my Twitter followers.

I've always thought of Twitter as my water cooler. It's the place I go for small talk and chitchat during my workday. But essentially the people I interact with on Twitter are strangers. I could literally run into them on the street and not know who they are.

Yet these strangers were the first to swoop in and offer me comfort and commiseration. It was astonishing. Suffice it say, I'm not used to being the recipient of such outpourings. I don't have the words to express how much those words meant to me or how deeply touched I am that these strangers took the time to share their thoughts with me. (And not having those words is a frustrating experience for a writer, let me tell you!)

So, my Twitter peeps, THANK YOU. You are all invited to my house for Thanksgiving next year. :-)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Worst. Thanksgiving. Ever.

I debated whether I should write this post and then I debated whether I should publish it, but I've been lying awake the last few nights composing it and recomposing it in my head and that pretty much made the decision for me. Still, my hands will be shaking when I click the Publish button.

My instinct is to NOT share experiences and feelings like these. I was taught to hide my "bad" feelings, taught that it was my job NOT to make waves, NOT to cause discomfort. But look where that's gotten me. I now eat and wear my feelings instead of sharing them, and that's the exact cycle I'm trying to break. So here goes....

I spent Thanksgiving alone this year. It wasn't by choice. No one around here invited me to share their Thanksgiving dinner. See, I live thousands of miles away from my family. Everyone I know here knows that. Yet not one of those people thought to say, "Ilene, would you like to join us for Thanksgiving?" Not one. I wasn't expecting invitations from everyone, but one invitation from one person would have been nice.

But that didn't happen. As a result, I felt--and still feel--lonely, unwanted, abandoned, excluded, invisible. At first, I hid my situation. I did the same thing last year when I got no Thanksgiving invitations. I pretended I was spending the holiday alone by choice. Why broadcast that I'm a loser and a social outcast? I learned that lesson in high school--keep your mouth shut and your head down and never let them see you cry. So when people asked in the days right before the holiday what I was doing for Thanksgiving, I again pretended I was fine and told them I would be volunteering with a local food pantry.

That wasn't a lie: I did decide to volunteer with the pantry on Thanksgiving morning. I decided to do that because I could not stand the thought of spending the entire holiday at home alone again. I just conveniently left that part out when I shared my plans.

I tried my best to focus on the bright side. I made a list of things I'm thankful for. I searched for heartwarming stories to cheer me up. I focused on my writing--hauling out some stories I've been meaning to revise and getting to work on them. I tried to accomplish a couple of things on my "I'll get to it someday" to-do list.  I wrote pages and pages and pages in my journal. But those were just superficial distractions. At the end of each day, I was still left with that hollow "nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I'll go eat worms" feeling and I was still left making turkey and stuffing and green beans for one on Thanksgiving day.

So I decided, "Screw it. I'm not going to pretend everything's okay when it's not." It took me a few nights of crying myself to sleep to summon that bravado, but I found it. From that point on, when people asked my plans, I told the entire truth. Not whiningly, not as an accusation, just a statement of facts: "I didn't get invited anywhere for the holiday and I didn't want to spend it alone, so I volunteered at a local food pantry."

That's when I got stabbed in the heart a second time. Of all the people I told that full statement, only one acknowledged the first part of the sentence. Everyone latched on to the end of the sentence and congratulated me on doing something so "awesome" and "fabulous." Most missed the part that I did it out of desperation. Only one person said something to the effect of, "I'm sorry you were in that situation." She's the only person who acknowledged that my situation was less than ideal. Everyone else was strangely silent.

I made it a point to speak matter-of-factly. I wasn't trolling for retroactive invitations. I wasn't pointing fingers. I was simply stating my situation. So why was it so hard for the people I told to acknowledge that situation? Is it too much to expect that people say "Oh, that's too bad" or "I'm sorry to hear that" in response? That lack of acknowledgement hurts more than the lack of holiday invitations. It feels like I'm being rejected all over again. Silence, after all, implies consent and approval: "Oh, you didn't get any invitations? Good. That's way it should be."

And that's where I am now--wondering if my friends here are really truly friends, wondering where I went wrong that I ended up like this, wondering how I will ever survive if next Thanksgiving promises to turn out like this one. Clearly, my therapist and I have a lot to talk about.

All that said, I don't have a witty ending for this post. I don't have a plea to make or a lesson to learn. I am still very much in the middle of this emotional chaos and don't have the clarity or perspective to wrap things up neatly. I just needed to get this off my chest, out of my head, and into the world.

I appreciate your taking the time to read the whole sad story. If you can find it in your heart to leave a small note of acknowledgement, I'd greatly appreciate that too. Thank you.