I am 36, Going on 37 …

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On the cusp of turning 37, these are my thoughts:

I have the loveliest friends, two amazing jobs that both are so meaningful, an incredible family that supports my goals and dreams, and a heart full of stories. This last year, I let the stories seep, then simmer, and now they are coming to a boil.

This website– Things Made Thinkable— says we do our best work in innovation at age 37, our best work in literature at age 45. I really, really want to feast on creativity this year.

The Place on Dalhousie

Always reblog the Marchetta. YOU GUYS HAVE NO IDEA HOW LONG I HAVE LONGED FOR THIS BOOK. FOR YEARS AND YEARS. SINCE BEFORE SHE EVEN STARTED WRITING IT. We finally get Jimmy’s story. ❤

Melina Marchetta

First things first, Happy New Year!

Here are answers to frequently asked questions.

Release date of The Place on Dalhousie is 1st of April.

In Australian, it can be purchased at most bookstores and online.  There’ll also be an audio book coming out on the same day.

If you live outside Australia, you can pre-order the novel from The Book Depository.

https://www.bookdepository.com/Place-on-Dalhousie-Melina-Marchetta/9780143793533?ref=grid-view&qid=1547548274081&sr=1-1

Below I have extracts.  Don’t ask me to chose which of the three characters I love best, because I have equal love for all.

Rosie

On the way home, her phone beeps a message and her heart leaps for an instant and it’s how she knows. It’s a Pavlov’s dog thing. The only person who texts her is SES Jesus so the instant euphoria at the sound of the buzz spells trouble. He’s texted her once or twice during the week. Wants to know how Toto’s doing, so…

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Battery Means Two Things

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

I want to shake things up, change the world, write stories that move hearts. But I also want naps.

I’ve survived a civil war with my own mind; now I engage in one with my body. Winning and losing have lost their definitions.

I’m thinking about so many things today: bioethics, Salt Novel, choices and death, the drivers behind attraction, myofascial massage, story structure, online dating, the writing workshop I am teaching in two weeks for which I am not sure I have enough to say.

I just want to curl up in strong arms that feel like a battery charging station, even if that’s not really how love works.

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OCD Poem

A few years ago, I made a phone call that changed my life.

Her name is Megan, and she is the most beautiful soul. She was a senior in high school, and I was calling her with a question about her application to my university. As we talked– quite vulnerably for two people in their first conversation– I felt like I was talking to my senior-year self.

I heard OCD in her words and between her words.

I said, “Megan, can I tell you a little about me?” and I shared about my own experiences with OCD. I remember her voice saying, “That … sounds like me.”

At the end of the conversation, I said, “Now, the second we hang up, you are probably going to second-guess everything you said and worry that you misled me. Don’t. You didn’t.”

She said, in a voice of awe– the kind you get when you know someone really sees you– “I was already starting to go there. You really do get it!”

“I really do!” I said.

aditya-saxena-410663-unsplashWe had such a great talk that night, the first of many great talks. Megan now goes the university where I work, and it’s my joy to watch her thrive in her majors and on the theatre stage, to see her with her friends, see her growth as the most lovely young lady.

Everything about Megan is delightful. And it is tremendously meaningful for me to have the conversations with her that I so desperately needed someone to have with me as a college student. Psychoanalyze that all you want. 🙂 My past self is healing through my friendship with this girl. I really adore her.

All that to say, she wrote this poem, and I wanted to share it with you!

 

It’s called OCD, an enemy,
With a gamut of tricks leading to slavery.
I just want someone to rescue me.
But there’s the catch,
Before I’m free I just have to fetch,
Or tell my mom, or say sorry to them,
Then I can kiss OCD goodbye again.
So I feel good and life is nice,
Until I trip, meet another vice,
Do another wrong or think something appalling,
OCD grabs tight to make me start stalling.
Cause the longer I wait, the more I engage,
The tighter he grips, the fiercer his rage.
Life in a corner is life in a cage,
Give in to OCD, live on his stage,
His wage, that never pays
But makes promises every day.
No one gets it, it’s all inside,
But it spills out ’cause he hates to hide.
But he loves the shadows where no one understands,
Where a girl is fighting him with trembling hands.
No part of life is completely free,
When controlled by OCD.
It’s not the funny quirk you think,
It’s not how many times you wash in the sink.
It’s deep and real and crafty and mean
It makes reality not what it seems.
It twists, distorts and sucks all life,
To present as an OCD sacrifice.
Never satiated, never appeased,
Never leaving a victim in peace.

Until,
she stops fighting, stops listening,
Never meets the eyes wickedly glistening,
Refuses to obey, stops cowering to his will,
Though at first it hurts, she works still.
And every fight she doesn’t pick,
With the enemy and his crafty tricks,
The weaker he grows, the less he attacks,
The more his shadow retreats back.

For those who are longing to be free,
Don’t play the game with OCD.
He wants you blinded never to see,
He wants nothing good for you or me.
Don’t play his game, don’t answer his jokes,
And soon his wagon will lose its spokes.
And you’ll be free from OCD.
No longer under bondage in slavery.

A Sideways Approach to ERP

I promise I have not forgotten how terrifying it is to be in the crosshairs of OCD.

sidewaysEven though I’ve had a decade of freedom, I can remember the sheer terror, ugly discomfort, the feeling that relief would never come. It felt like hanging over the edge of a cliff by only my fingertips and knowing that hell was below. It was painful and exhausting to hold on, but I figured letting go would be even worse.

In fact, letting go was my salvation.

Hear me out. That one sentence does little to describe the immensely hard work of exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. It doesn’t show the years of not knowing what was wrong and why my brain didn’t work like most others’ did. It doesn’t show the hard road just to get to a diagnosis; it doesn’t show all the attempts to fix things with prayer, medication, talk therapy, hard conversations with people who loved me but could never understand what was going on in my head. It doesn’t show the desperation that grew large enough to finally force me to call an ERP therapist, and it certainly doesn’t show the actual process of ERP therapy, the brain/head/heart/body work of actually “letting go.”

And that is something that I want to honor, in myself and in you.

When I say “letting go was my salvation,” I am not talking about a reckless choice to fall over the cliff. I’m talking about a thoughtful decision backed up by evidence and supported by tremendous bravery.

I stole power back from OCD by facing the thoughts that I’d spent twenty years fearing with my entire being. I was not able to turn around and face them head-on.

But I did face them sideways.

This is how.

Let’s say the thought I was running from was something like “I want to hurt people.” If I were to let myself say or even think “I want to hurt people,” then I’d be acknowledging I was a monster and (this is how people with OCD think) would have to either turn myself into the cops and either be locked up or they would send me home and I would have to lock myself up or else live with a constant, unbearable anxiety that I would lash out and hurt someone at any time.

But what if I hear someone else say it? And I told my friends, “Today I heard someone say, ‘I want to hurt people'”? I would still be saying the words (stealing back power from OCD over that phrase) but I would not be taking ownership of it the same way. I would be coming at it from the side.

And that’s exactly what I had to do. I let myself think, “My OCD is making me think X.”

This was the only way I was able to even approach the intrusive thought that was destroying my life. It wasn’t running at it full-steam-ahead and tackling it. It was sneaking up from the side and tapping it on the shoulder.

But it was enough.

Thank you, Dr. Christopher Donahue, for helping me sneak up on OCD, for helping me be just brave enough to steal back the power I needed to prompt my mind to fix its faulty wiring.

When I finally let go, it wasn’t hell beneath me. It was God’s hand.

Beloved who Dreads the Holidays

You are not alone.

Honestly, I’ve spent time thinking about how to articulate this, and I think if I am usually functioning at a level just below “the normal,” then that gap is exaggerated at this time of the year. I drop lower due to the cold, the darkness, while others seem to move higher due to the Christmas joy, holiday lights, family time. I become so much more aware of the gap. 

Does that make any sense?

I’m blessed. I have great friends and family, a warm place to spend Christmas. There will even be the cutest little puppy-niece there to keep us on our toes.

But I will also be doing my best to suppress feeling lonely for romance, ignoring seasonal depression, and beating myself up over the inevitable inflammation as I fail to avoid sugar. 🙂

Today is the shortest day of the year in this hemisphere. And even though the temperatures will keep dropping for a while, the days will start to get longer.

And in eleven days, we get this marvelous symbol of new beginnings, second (third, fourth …) chances, healing. Mmm.

Beloved, you are not alone. We are not alone.

10 Cover Songs I Want

I spent the drive to and from my parents’ house listening to Relient K’s album full of cover songs, one of which is my favorite cover ever. (Bonus: at the end of this post, I will share my two favorite covers!)

It got me thinking, and while I listened, I tried to come up with my own dream cover album. Here’s what I’ve got:

“MMMBop” by Hanson, covered by Ed Sheeran
“Can’t Fight this Feeling” by REO Speedwagon, covered by Adam Duritz of Counting Crows
“Everything I Own” by Bread, covered by Imogen Heap
“Follow You Down” by Gin Blossoms, covered by Falling Up
“Penny Lane” by the Beatles, covered by One Direction
“Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows, covered by Relient K
“You Got It (The Right Stuff)” by NKOTB, covered by the Weepies
“Find You” by Zedd, covered by Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato
“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, covered by Matt Nathanson
“So Far Away” by Carole King, covered by Rachael Yamagata

Okay, your turn. Which song would you love to be covered by which artist?

Here are my two favorites:

Darkness, Poetry, Healing

I’m scared that learning to take a great selfie has only resulted in postponing people’s disappointment.

I’m aware that is an uncharitable thought and maybe untimely (I’m on my period).

I wish the holidays were over. I wish this every year. I just want it to be January 2nd with me dreaming big and digging hard into goals.

I’m lonely, and loneliness is exaggerated in my life by cold weather, attending holiday events alone, and darkness. Right now it gets dark around 5:30. That’s a lot of time every night for loneliness to grow.

And we are still headed into the darkness at this point. One more week till solstice.

Even then, the light returns slowly.

It’s the switchback again, you see: it feels counterintuitive to head into the dark, but it’s still the right path.

2018 has been both harmful and healing. In the same hands I can hold all the heartbreak and tears as well as the joy and healing.

Can you tell I’m in a mood?

One promising thing: lately, I’ve been thinking in Poetry. Poetry like a language, like finding you dream in Spanish or argue with yourself in French. I have been thinking in Poetry– when I lie on the acupuncture table under lights, the massage table under hands, when I walk silently across my room, in the shower, in my car, in the space before sleep while I listen to artificial thunderstorms I desperately wish were real.

I think in Poetry.

It’s just been a long time.

That, almost more than my lab results and much cleaner room and less impossible mornings, shows me I’m healing.

Celebrating Life AND Death at Christmas

On my mind …

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

christmas celebrateIt’s not a traditional Christmas carol, but this– my favorite modern Christmas hymn– stirs my soul like no other. While most people I know have Christmas as their favorite holiday, mine will always be Easter. But, of course, they are connected.

We begin in the dark: a humble stable, a pregnant girl whose faithfulness means giving birth in a barn, a baby king with no cradle but a manger.

And it gets darker still: abuse and blood and death, a broken body in a sealed-up tomb.

But it ends (or is this actually a new beginning?) in the light: LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE.

That’s why “I Celebrate the Day” by Relient K is a holiday gem. Because it celebrates it all: light and dark, life and death and life again, the entire plan.

Listen below.

 

Lyrics:

And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could covey

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Deet 34

Happy 34th birthday to my favorite Janet-Jackson-dancing, upside-down-Princess-Pat, goofy, amazing, easily scandalized, figure-skating-obsessed, compassionate, honest, God-fearing, sweet, hilarious sister.

You are the first one to consider how to include a newcomer. Your instincts are so good, even when you doubt yourself. You have an iron will, a heart of gold, and care so much it sometimes turns you inside out. You can also slay a jumpsuit.

I adore you.

Here’s to the next 34 years of making memories as Sommers girls!