About Jackie Lea Sommers

Minneapolis YA author who rather enjoys Jesus, stories, cute nerds, and cranky teenagers. Jackie blogs about OCD, faith, and creativity at www.jackieleasommers.com.

Eighteen & Again

Someone posted something on Instagram recently (and now I can’t find it) about life at 18 vs. life now. It occurred to me that it’s been 18 years since I was 18, and of course that intrigued the writer in me. So I thought I’d explore the comparison of those two milestones in my life.

At 18 …
I wanted to be a published author, along with all the glamour that came with it
At 36 …
I am a published author, along with all the stress and anxiety that came with it

At 18 …
I had undiagnosed OCD
At 36 …
I’ve been in remission for a decade

At 18 …
I thought true love was just around the corner and I’d likely be married by 22
At 36 …
I still hope true love and marriage are just around the corner

At 18 …
I was so extroverted I had to force myself into 10 minutes of being alone each day, at the urging of my favorite professor
At 36 …
I am so introverted I have to force myself to make plans with people

At 18 …
I could eat breakfast food for every meal
At 36 …
I can eat breakfast food for every meal

At 18 …
I had always been ultra-thin, but felt like a kid
At 36 …
I’ve battled with weight issues for over a decade, but (usually) love my curves

At 18 …
I had almost no health issues (outside of OCD)
At 36 …
I’m a web of interrelated diagnoses

At 18 …
I wanted to know that God found me acceptable
At 36 …
I know he does

At 18 …
I had spent one semester at Northwestern
At 36 …
I have spent 18 years at Northwestern

At 18 …
I didn’t even know yet that I enjoyed the company of children or teens
At 36 …
Kids are my purest joy, and I write novels for teenagers because I love that stage of life

At 18 …
I hadn’t even met most of the people who would be my friends as an adult
At 36 …
I continue to amass the most incredible friends this earth has to offer

At 18 …
I had not yet read any of the books I would later say had changed my life (outside of the Bible)
At 36 …
I’m excited about what life-changing stories are still ahead

I love today.

What a great day.

No skin cancer! (I haven’t mentioned my biopsy here on the blog, but if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen my #BandAidFace photos.)

Therapy was healing.

Work was fun.

There was a goodbye party for a beloved English professor at my university, and it was so good to see so many lovely writing alums. Being in the company of writers is so life-giving.

These kittens are making me so happy.

The pain in my hands/wrists/arms is nearly gone.

I had a banana-Nutella smoothie.

I am going to Duluth next week to write.

The handsome man is delightful.

As I said: great day. 🙂

 

 

 

Holding Both in Such Weak Hands

flare
verb
to suddenly burn or shine brightly

flare
noun
an exacerbation of a chronic disease

**************************

Can’t write much today because my wrists have been in pain for almost 24 hours now. Just trying to rest: pared down my to-do list to just three things, this blog post being one of them. Earlier today, I would not have been able to type it out. This evening, I am a little better.

I want to shine bright, make a difference, be a leader in thought and action. Sometimes it can feel so impossible with a body that feels like a leaky bucket: hard to store up energy when the most mundane things seem to leech power. Some days I feel like a rag that has been wrung out.

I know I am blessed with resources, privileged: I can afford pain meds and peppermint oil, my employer works with me and not against me, I have a support system that could make a king envious.

So, somehow, I get to do both. I get to flare up in multiple ways. Perhaps not at the same time.

But then again, with all I’ve learned of vulnerability: maybe so.

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Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

Check Please

One of those times where I can’t find the line between whiny/TMI and honest/vulnerable, so I get a bit stuck on blogging.

Let’s just day there are a lot of things in 2018 that make me want to crawl into a hole.

But there are even more things that motivate me to stay engaged, namely, meaningful connections with friends and family, coworkers, college students, my friends’ kiddos, spring temperatures, Chipotle delivery, highly anticipated sequels, the balm of scripture, eyeshadow experiments, and one particular handsome man.

So I will stay out of the hole for now. Actually, if I crawled in, the people above would climb in after me and eventually pull me out.

I know I am lucky. The luckiest. Blessed. Pick your word. I’m grateful. I’m held.

The Loneliness Map

The other night, I was talking to my friend about loneliness, how the experience of it has morphed for me over the years. This is a post I can write tonight because tonight I actually don’t feel lonely. It gives me perspective.

So I wrote up what follows, and then, upon re-reading it, realized that I am probably describing all of these ages from the perspective of being 36. I see age 16 so differently now, 20 years out, but at the time, would I have described it as torment? Probably.

I don’t want to shrug off any pain of Younger Me, but I also do want to accept all the growth I’ve experienced over the years. With that said, I present to you a mini-timeline of my experience with feeling lonely. Gosh, there is so much more to be said, but I really did just want to type up a little thing to see how it compared to others’.

Now I think I’ll probably show it to my therapist! 🙂

connor-wells-534089-unsplashLoneliness at 11: beginning to recognize that my thought process was very different from friends my age (i.e. undiagnosed OCD)

Loneliness at 16: melodramatic tears over the boy to whom I was “just a friend”

Loneliness at 22: perpetual bridesmaid/wedding guest, delighted for my girlfriends who were the most gorgeous brides– but a little wistful, wondering when I’d have my own special someone

Loneliness at 25: too throttled with anxiety to care too much about being single

Loneliness at 28: too excited about writing to care too much about being single

Loneliness at 31: gobsmacked to see my friends celebrating 10-year anniversaries, changed from wondering when I’d have my own special someone to if I would at all, loneliness became an actual physical pain

Loneliness at 36: almost unbearable when it hits

What about you? What ages were milestones?

A Third Way

To the left, a hard choice. To the right, its difficult twin. Neither calls to me. Both are heavy.

I keep being led to scripture passages about God doing his own THANG. Chains falling off Peter’s wrists. God lighting a water-drenched altar on fire… and the fire CONSUMING THE WATER IN THE TRENCH AROUND IT.

Immediately after that story, Elijah tells Ahab he hears the sound of rain. At this point, there has been a drought for something like three years. He sends Ahab away, then climbs a mountain, then bows down with his face between his knees. Praying? I don’t know, but I suspect. He asks a servant to go look toward the sea. Servant sees nothing. He tells the servant to go check again ANOTHER SEVEN TIMES. Finally, the servant says, “A little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And it storms.

Point being? I don’t know. Well, maybe I do. There’s so much here that challenges me. The faith to declare the rain is coming long before there is any sign of it. The persistence. The mighty, out-of-the-box works of God. Faced with two choices I am unsure of, I am asking God for a third way, for him to do his own thing. Then asking again. Another seven times.

Not that there is anything magical about that number. I just want to be persistent and expectant, keeping my eyes peeled for a little cloud that will change everything.

I’m so hot.

Being a freckled, Irish strawberry blonde, I’ve always been sensitive to heat. I have to be careful about sunburns because, oh buddy, they happen quickly and are brutal.

About two years ago though, I noticed that I was sweating all the time, mostly along my hairline, and even in situations that didn’t seem to warrant it. It also gave me a sense of claustrophobia and drained my energy at a faster rate. I started to choose activities based on temperature, no joke.

Fast forward to this past fall, when I finally started getting answers to my health questions. It turns out people with fibromyalgia often have temperature dysregulation, an inability to moderate our own body temperature. While it looks different for each person, for me, it means:

* being warm/hot 95% of the time

* even when the weather is freezing (hi, I’m a Minnesotan)

* a shower or blowdrying my hair can make me feel like I’m experiencing a hot flash

* I’m ultra sensitive to it to the point where I feel like I can’t breathe well and experience exhaustion

* I have a fan on while those who share my office have their space heaters going

* even coming in from a cold Minnesota day into a regular indoor temperature feels like such a sudden rush of heat that it spreads across my body, my entire scalp, and across my jaw

It’s actually been really good to read up about it. This is a particularly good article, but there are so many articles written and studies done on fibro and temperature problems.

What this means for me, much of which you will never see:

* when someone suggests an activity, I judge it based on how warm/hot it will make me and what opportunities I will have to cool down (for example, going to an outdoor baseball game in the sun would be a terrible idea for me … going hiking would be actually detrimental)

* When I feel myself overheating, I have to stop and cool my body temp down; letting myself pass a certain point will actually make me sick for 2-3 days. It’s better to just go stand in front of my open window for 5-10 minutes and cool my core down.

* it has very little to do with my weight and everything to do with my hypothalamus.

* I have to be careful with exercise. Walking and yoga do the trick; cardio would make me sick for a week.

* I’m ultra aware of not dressing too warm. I can only wear sweaters and fleece in the coldest weather. I barely wear a coat, even in winter, though I do bring it with me (safety first– Minnesota’s winter temps are no joke!). If I dress for cold weather, I need to wear layers because I will likely need to cool down layer on in the work day.

* Cooling down the palm of the hand helps cool your core. This is key.

Why am I telling you all this?

First, it took me a long time to figure out what was going on with me. Maybe this will help someone else.

Secondly, it’s a friendly reminder about invisible illnesses. Your friend or colleague might be dealing with something that doesn’t make sense to you, but it doesn’t mean it’s not real.

Thirdly, usually the person inside the body knows it best. Well-meaning friends can make all the suggestions they want (“Come to my spin class!” “You’ll feel better if you just …”), but it’s your body. You know what will feel better or worse. Trust yourself. Trust the body owner.

When Spring is Fiction

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Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,

At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,

When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,

And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

 

It’s April 15th, and so far, we’ve gotten 14 inches of snow in my little neighborhood outside of NE Minneapolis. This weekend, I mean. Not this whole winter. Just since Friday night.

I’m so over it.

That said, I’ve been fairly productive this weekend, stuck inside. In spite of an achy body and head and face, I’ve got a load of laundry rocking, took out all the garbage, applied for an artist residency, and am about to re-work the synopsis of Salt Novel.

Salt Novel. I haven’t talked much about that lately, have I? Know that I am more in love with the characters than ever before, and I’m filled with so many ideas I barely know where to start. I messaged my writing friend Anna last weekend and said I needed some coaching. She invited me over to her house and asked a hundred questions, and then immediately started reading my manuscript and all the notes I’ve got on it. I just need a plan. I love having a plan, and yet, I feel a bit paralyzed in creating one right now. It’s so good to have brilliant friends whose help I can summon.

So I’m sitting in my home office, waiting for the Tylenol to kick in, and then going to try to rearrange the plot of my book into something more powerful. Plot is not my strong point and probably never will be.

Characters are my jam, and it is good to be with these folks.

My book takes place as spring emerges. I guess I’ll take spring any way I can get it.