In Search of Subtitles (for my books)

Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay

Ever since I started my non-fiction book projects, I’ve been in search of a subtitle for each one that fits the book. Why? Because I feel like the subtitle gives the reader an expectation about what they’re going to be reading about. The title is like a summary and the subtitle is like a bit more detail. Today as I got out of the shower, five subtitles came to me and I scribbled them down onto a piece of notebook paper before I updated each page here with the subtitle. Now here’s the story and meaning behind each one:

Breaking Radio Silence: A Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid

In the Fall of 2016 when I first conceived of what would become ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, I simply labeled the file ‘Untitled Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid’. The goal at that time was to use writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did and to use my own experiences to illustrate anything I learned in the process. The title ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ wouldn’t come to me till the Spring of 2018 and it fit perfectly from the moment it came to me. But for the last four years this has been a book project in search of a subtitle until today. And as I start writing this book in earnest now, I need all the focus I can get so this is why a subtitle was so important for this project.

Stand or Fall: A Rebellion of Hope

After the US Presidential Election in 2016, I (along with millions of other people) went, “What the hell just happened?” I came up with an idea to use writing to try and figure out how things got so fucked up. Now of course I didn’t know what the next six years would go nor could I have imagined what’s happened even in my worst nightmares. At the time I first came up with this project-idea, I simply labeled the file, ‘Untitled Political Book’ because at that time I knew this book was going to be seen as political. Like, duh but I’m not a scholar so I thought I’d make it personal and tell my own story alongside what’s happened in the last forty years or so in terms of politics and the world in general. I was searching for a subtitle for this book because I kept asking myself what the purpose of writing this if not just for myself? And then the quote from the movie ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ came to my mind, “Rebellions are built on hope.” That’s what I want this book to be, a statement of rebellion and hope.

Behind the Story: How I Write and the Stories Behind My Writing

This book’s origins are a bit murky though I think I came up with this one sometime in 2018, I think around Fall if I remember correctly. Initially I wanted to do a straight how-to book but then I realized for me writing is more than just how-to. There’s a lot to my writing and I think my story in regards to that is worth telling. Now the title of this book was a struggle for me as the title just came to me a couple of months ago but without the subtitle until today.

Uber Tales: Stories and Observations From Behind the Wheel as an Uber Driver

Not long after I started working as an Uber driver in 2017, I began to post on my personal Facebook page stories and observations from the road that I titled ‘Uber Tales’. They took off and people really like hearing my stories and observations so I began to think there was a book in there. As of right now, I don’t have any really crazy or outrageous stories from the road and a lot has happened and changed since I started driving. Also, I’ve read a lot of news articles about Uber driving and I don’t really think a lot of these journalists have talked to a lot of drivers, or any at all. So I want to tell my story and it’s just my story because each driver has their own unique experiences and observations though over the years I’ve talked with other drivers and we do share some common thoughts and experiences.

Dirty Thoughts and Stories: Talking Dirty About Sex and Other Naughty Things and Fiction Inspired By My Dirty Thoughts

This is in its’ earliest stages right now mostly based on my blog here though I think over time I’ll have enough material for a book. This is a mix of non-fiction blog entries that might get expanded into longer essays along with fiction stories. The title is sort of self-explanatory as talking about sex is seen as dirty by a small yet very vocal segment of our population who really just need to learn how to get over their hang-ups and have some fun in life instead of trying to control every aspect of everyone else’s life, especially their sex lives. And naughty fiction is just fun to write and I’m not going to back down on that.

So this is where I’m at on these projects just to give out an update. It feels good to have subtitles I like and that fit well. Now I just need to get my ass to writing, which I will be doing in addition to everything else I need to do (like earn a living, eat, sleep, bathe, take care of my pets, etc.).

Behind the Story – Writing For Attention

My dad once said to me writing was like a kid going up to his mom with a drawing and going, “Mama look it!” (translation: “Mama, look at what I did!”) And he was right because that’s what writing is if you share it with the world. Yet writing, like a child’s drawing, isn’t always received well. I think a lot of writers have a fear of their work being shredded or blown off if they share it so they keep it to themselves. It is an act of bravery and courage to share your writing with the world because you have to be prepared for the best, and the worst.

It’s not a fear of my writing being shredded that held me back for so long. It was a fear of having to deal with people accusing me of being an attention-seeking martyr-whore for putting my writing out into the world, and worse if I was successful, being accused of being a one-trick pony or that I really didn’t deserve my success. It’s why I kept my writing to myself for so long or presented it as a harmless little hobby instead of the grand passion that it’s always been for me.

Fear of success to my mind sounded stupid the first time I thought about it. But as I dug into it I realized it was a real fear. It was real to me because my fear was that any success I ever achieved would be used against me. Yes, I thought success would be used as a weapon to alienate me from people I cared about, such as my parents when they were both alive. I feared people telling my parents that my success would take me away from them forever (which it wouldn’t have at all). Why would people think like this is a question I don’t have an answer to, other than people are stupid as hell sometimes in addition to self-centered assholes who project their own bullshit onto innocent people.

But as I look back on my writing life, I realize I didn’t pursue so many opportunities because I feared any success would be used against me. I only told a few people I once got a short piece published in my local newspaper, and I told no one I could a story published in a national magazine (Playgirl- see story here). I also never talked about my rejection letters with too many people either other than fellow writers who understood what rejection meant.

Now I will admit that a lot of people really don’t understand writing or how it became such a grand passion for me. That’s for me to explain and no one else. Writing isn’t like a drug that I get a hit off of to get high because a lot of times it’s a slog through the muck of words to find the right ones that come together they way I want them to. Praise and compliments on my writing are awesome and always greatly appreciated but it’s not why I write though I’m sure there are people who feel that us writers are out chasing compliments to feed our fragile egos.

It’s not so much fear of success or failure that haunts me and I’m sure a lot of other people, but fear of having to deal with someone’s bullshit and falling for it. I know how vulnerable I was in the past and I know I still have that vulnerability in me though I just try to guard it better now. As my father used to say, assholes are mostly born that way and they usually don’t change either. If someone comes at you with falsehoods about you and your work, try to straighten them out. If that doesn’t work, tell them to take their shit-takes and shove up their asses. And most of all, top all that off with a resounding ‘fuck you’ and walk away.

I don’t think anyone will have the tits or the balls to come at me with shit like that anymore. I think I’ve made it very clear how I will respond to fake shit aimed to hurt me simply because someone is an insensitive asshole. But it’s been a long hard road to reach this point inside me where I can say this out loud in a place like this blog here. It’s not working through the pain and misery and the wounds themselves but working through the how and the why behind my feelings.

I will say this here: if you decide to share your writing with the world, you are seeking attention but on your own terms. I don’t believe most writers seek attention as an ego stroke unless they’re already raging egomaniacs to begin with. Most writers I know write to share their words with others to make a connection like they connected with other writers and their words. If someone doesn’t understand or believe that, that’s on them. It took me a long time to understand exactly why I write and why I want to share it publicly. I’m glad I figured it out and accepted my reasons as valid and worthy.

Luckily for me I haven’t had to deal with a lot of bullshit about my writing in a very long time. Now people tell me how well I write emotions in my work and how I can draw them into a story. That’s exactly what I want to do with my work and I’m so happy it’s well-received like that. My thanks to everyone who shares that connection with me. I’m forever grateful for that.

Stand or Fall: Rebellion of Hope

Rebellions are built on hope.”

Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Huffman from the movie ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’)

(screenplay by Chris Waltz and Tony Gilroy, Story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, based on characters created by George Lucas)

In 2016 when I came up for the idea of this book, I didn’t know how things were going to turn out in the years since. I feel like we’ve had a lot of worst-case scenarios come to life, most recently with the overturn of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, but I’ve also seen hope for a better future, most notably the Presidential Election of 2020. Now we’ve got the mid-term election coming up and it’s all coming down to the wire yet again. And my thinking has changed now from seeing this as a battle against fascist White Nationalism-Neo Nazism to rebellion not just against that shit, but also against hopelessness, fear, doubt, and people being a bunch of dumb-asses like they always are.

As I thought about the term ‘rebellion’ the line from the movie ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ came to my mind. It’s one of my all-time favorite lines ever because to me it says so much. Because the question isn’t what are you rebelling against, but what are you rebelling for? What do you hope to accomplish with your rebellion?

Deep down inside of myself I’ve always felt like I’ve been rebellion against so many things. I feel like I’ve been rebelling against bullying, for being alienated and ostracized not just for being different, but for doing the right thing and making people project their shame and guilt onto me (which they can take and shove up their asses where it belongs). I feel I’ve been in rebellion against narrow-minded and insensitive hypocrisy with people shooting their mouths off about one thing but doing another, like right-wing pro-life assholes who get abortions for themselves or their daughters, or their mistresses.

I think it’s an act of rebellion to think at times, and to feel emotions, too. I think the appeal of right-wing fascism is that it doesn’t require a person to be original, or to be unique, and it gives them an ability to avoid having to do the difficult things of feeling like shit or feeling pain for those in need. I think it’s also because this right-wing bullshit means that as long as you toe the party line they won’t turn on you. But as someone who has taken shit all my life for things I didn’t do wrong, I saw through this at a very early age. The worst part of this is making things like compassion, empathy, and genuine kindness seem weak and worthless, and try to make people feel like shit for having those feelings and trying to live by them.

That scorn against compassion, empathy, and kindness to those in need is really turned me against right-wing conservatives in this country. The ‘fuck your feelings’ shit I heard in 2016 really exposed the cruelty behind fascism and how easy it was for people to embrace that. And the answer to why that is isn’t one I need an answer to because it’s not my fucking problem.

Instead, what my purpose is to not only live the life I want to in the way I want to, but to fight the rights of others to live freely, openly, and to make their own decisions without anyone else’s interference. At times, I think it’s a lot easier to get someone pissed off and outraged over something than to have them actually leave someone alone to live their own life. I think if right-wing conservatives quit worrying about other people’s lives that have nothing to do with theirs and aren’t hurting anyone else they’d be a lot happier. But it’s not happiness they’re after at all because deep-down the root of conservative ideology is that happiness is wrong unless it’s expressed or lived within very strict confines.

I want people to be happy and healthy. I want to live on a planet that’s healthy and life-sustaining. And I don’t believe suffering is noble but something to be alleviated as much as humanly possible.

My book ‘Stand or Fall’ has been in a constant state of evolution since I started the project six years ago. It’s a hybrid of memoire and history but also commentary on the past and present, too. It’s not just me asking the questions of why things happened, but how we can learn from the past. Because I will tell anyone I can, you don’t have to do the same shit you did before simply because you did it before. You can change the future by making different decisions in the present. And if someone doesn’t like that they can that opinion and shove it up their ass where it belongs.

Breaking Radio Silence – Mistakes

One of the biggest issues I’ve been trying to deal with in writing this book (‘Breaking Radio Silence’) is trying not to come off like I’m totally perfect and I did nothing wrong and all that bullshit. I don’t want to come off as holier-than-thou and woe-is-me, too so I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of ways not to do that when a thought came to my mind: where were my mistakes made?

Recently, I’ve begun to ask myself where mistakes were made in my past. I’ve been looking back at decisions I made and trying to think through them. As I’ve been doing that, the question of whether or not a mistake was made came to my mind. Now of course hindsight is always 20/20 as the old saying goes so looking back isn’t easy because of it. Looking back means I know how my decision played out and I don’t know how my other decision would have played out at the same time. Most of all, I realize I made a lot of decisions out of fear, pain, and for other people more than myself. And that I really didn’t take the time, or I didn’t have the time to think things through before decisions were made.

One example of this that came to my mind recently was the decision twenty-seven years ago this August to sacrifice a lot of my own life to help care for my mother because I knew she was going to die of cancer. I made a decision back then not to talk to anyone about my decision or that God-awful moment of clarity I had because my words would have been torn to shreds. Maybe not right away but it would have happened because no one would have truly understood the magnitude of what I was trying to deal with back then. And a lot of people when confronted with something they don’t have any idea of or any knowledge of tend to react badly to people who are carrying around that knowledge. Also, sacrifice is not an accepted way of dealing with things despite being told sacrifice is noble and good as I found out back then, too. I think I made the right decision to keep all that to myself and try to deal with it on my own just because I don’t think anyone else was ready to deal with it.

Another decision I’ve looked back on is not pursuing more of a social life and building friendships. That was a mistake that I won’t make again. At the time, my rationale was that I felt like people would have mouthed off even more to my parents and tried to convince my parents that if I developed any kind of a social life I would abandon them. I knew my parents were already taking shit for me living at home and pursuing my writing so I didn’t want to add to that. The mistake was not believing my parents would have stood up for me even more than they did and that I also had the right to stand up for myself too and tell a few people to fuck themselves to Hell and back. I think if my parents and I had stood up and done that I think a lot of people would have slunk off with shit in their pants because my parents and I would have called their bluff. That decision was also a mistake because it kept me from potentially finding people who could have provided the comfort and support I desperately needed back then, too. Again, I won’t make that mistake in the future.

At the time any decision is made, no one knows how it will work out. I know I can overthink something to within an inch of its life and things can still go sideways and down a mountainside. I look back on those decisions in my mind and I can say I could have made a different decision and let things go sideways all to hell and still survived it. But in the end, I made the decision I did and I’ve with the results since then, too. That doesn’t mean I can’t learn from the decision and I’m beginning to think the word ‘mistake’ doesn’t really apply here either. I say that because I made the decision at that time based on what I knew and what I felt.

This is why the phrase ‘everyone else is just as full of shit as I am but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person’ changed my life so much. It was admitting I wasn’t perfect but that no one else is either even if they say they are or act like their shit doesn’t stink at all, too. As the concept behind the book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ has evolved and continues to do so, I realize it’s a book of lessons learned. I’ve begun to learn you don’t have to do things like you did before just because you did, or because you think people won’t take it well if you do things differently. If someone doesn’t like the direction I take with my life, that’s on them and as long as they keep that shit to themselves and don’t get in my face about it, we’ll get along with just fine. And yes, that does include me going at it alone.

I’ve heard that we learn more from failures than we do successes. And that is true because success just teaches you that something works. Failure teaches you what doesn’t work and why that is then gives you the knowledge to move forward in a different direction. And sometimes a mistake is subject to interpretation.

Conversations From the Road – Long Time Coming

Today, June 24, 2022 the United States Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973. The Court’s majority opinion said that abortion was an issue to be left to the individual states to regulate in any way they choose to. Almost half the states have laws in place to outlaw and criminalize abortion and other forms of reproductive care. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said that two other Supreme Court decisions, Griswold vs. Connecticut which legalized access to artificial birth control and Obergfell vs. Hodges which legalized gay marriage need to be ‘reviewed’. ‘Review’ is a thinly-veiled code-word for potential decisions to be overturned.

I’ve known this decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade has been coming since the early 1980’s when I came of age under the Reagan administration and saw the rise of the Christian Right. The Christian Right has said since the late 1970’s that their goal was to outlaw abortion, access to artificial contraception, and outlaw all rights for LGBTQ Americans. The Texas Republican Party on their platform in addition to this also called for the overturn of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These people have been telling us what they were going to do and they got just enough voters along with a serious amount of dirty money from here and abroad to put enough Supreme Court Justices into place to over turn Roe vs. Wade and put the other laws in their crosshairs.

For forty years I was told not to make political or social issues personal. I was told I had to learn how to agree to disagree with people and tolerate them even if their beliefs were horrible and evil.

SILENCE IS A TOOL OF THE OPPRESSOR

Oppressors and abusers demand silence from their victims. Oppressors and abusers tell their victims that no one will believe them if they speak out against oppression and abuse.

The Christian Right are the oppressors and the abusers here. They have said for the last forty years they were under attack but that was NOT true. They have been on the attack against the rights of everyone who is not exactly like them: white, heterosexual, and Christian (only in name but not in practice).

Thirty-eight years ago, I began writing. Back when I started writing it was because I was in love with the magic of words. What I didn’t understand back then like I do now is this: I started writing to put my thoughts and feelings into words, to find words that didn’t hurt me like those that were said to me. Back then, I knew I wanted to say so many things yet I knew if I did it would not be taken well. I knew back then if I spoke out against things that hurt me and others the oppressors and abusers in my life would try to silence me. They did silence me by making me feel like I had no words that would break their power over me.

Six years ago, I came up with the idea of using writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. I then added using writing to figure out what the hell was going on in our world and what we could do about it. At the time, I didn’t know what I was going to do with those answers. And I didn’t know how hard it was going to be to ask those questions and deal with the answers. Most of all, I know there are people in this world who don’t want to hear what I have to say. But my words are not for those that don’t want them, but for those that do listen to me.

Six years ago, I didn’t realize that I was going to do was break my silence. Back then, I didn’t realize how much silence I had lived with. I had retreated and hidden in silence in order not to be hurt by the words and actions of others. That’s a survival instinct but not a way to live. Running and hiding didn’t take away the pain inside of me, or the fear that if I came out of hiding that I would be forced back into that hidden place if I spoke out about my thoughts and feelings.

Right now, I know many people are feeling pain and fear at the rights being taken away from so many of us by our lawmakers and court systems. And they are asking what we can do to regain these rights. My first answer is BREAK YOUR SILENCE. Breaking your silence starts in your mind when you put your feelings into words and let those thoughts flow through you.

After you break your silence in your mind you can then find ways to break it in your daily life. It can be as simple as casting a vote that is the opposite of how you are being told to vote. And yes, I think it’s more than okay to lie about that if you have to because I understand the need for self-preservation.

If you can find the strength and courage inside yourself, you can then break your silence out loud. You can speak out against people who speak with hatred, contempt, and tell lies. You do not have to let hate-mongering and lying go unanswered. You can stand up for yourself and stay true to who you are.

I started by breaking my silence in my mind then I moved on to the written word like I am doing here. Now I’m getting ready to move on to the next stage of breaking my silence, which is creating a podcast so my voice can be heard out loud. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and like the other ways I had to learn to break my silence, this one involved a lot of hard work through fear and anxiety that created doubt and uncertainty in my mind.

But I keep thinking one thing: I have nothing left to lose. I have nothing no one can take away from me. I am a broke, middle-aged woman living on next to nothing. Yet I have found peace and happiness like never before in my life. I found that peace and happiness by finding my voice and breaking my silence. And most of all, I found peace and happiness by being on my own, not alienated and ostracized. I know I’m not perfect, but I also know no one else is either even if they profess to be perfect.

As a child, I found word could take me away to places far away from the lonely and painful reality I lived with. Then I found words that provided knowledge and showed me the wonders of the world. I found words that told of pain and suffering, and how to overcome that. I found words that provided comfort when I had no other form of comfort for myself. Most of all, I know my words and the words of others have meaning, and can be used for good, and can provide comfort and strength to those in need.

Today may feel like a dark day even though outside the sun is shining high and blazing with summer heat. And I know this day has been a long time in coming, and that knowledge is what has given me focus today and kept my heart from trying to pound its’ way out of my chest. Because I’ve lived with this knowledge for so long, I realized I have lived with the words inside of me, too. And now I have the ability to share those words and hopefully give hope to others, and to provide a plan of action.

BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Behind the Story – No Need to Prove Myself as a Writer

I used to think I had to prove myself worthy of being seen as a writer. I felt like I had to work my butt off to get respect as a writer. I felt like I wasn’t going to be taken seriously if I didn’t show how much work I was putting into my writing. And yes, for the longest time, I felt like all the work I did meant nothing because to some people I felt like I would never be good enough for them. Now I know that’s not true but it was a long, hard road to get to that realization about myself.

Where did this need to prove myself as a writer come from?

It came from my earliest beginnings as writer. My father began writing when I was about eight years old. He started out writing with pen on yellow legal pads then graduated to an electric typewriter he set up in the bedroom next to mine. I used to fall asleep to the sound of him banging away on that thing which sounds quaint and cute now but in reality it wasn’t. My father could turn anything into an obsession due to his untreated bi-polar depression and writing was probably the biggest obsession I saw him get into (he always said he’d been diagnosed but had refused treatment, something I can’t independently verify but after extensive reading on bi-polar depression… let’s just say my dad checked off all the boxes for it). And that obsession and huge effort into learning something could be so impressive that it it felt like something that towered over me. Back then, I thought it was fascinating watching my dad work and talking with him about it. But there was a dark side to that obsessive behavior or my father’s and it’s taken me many years to come to terms with that.

My dad could be a real asshole about whatever he was pursuing. He wanted unwavering, undying support for whatever he wanted to do, especially from my mother. My mother on the other hand wanted someone who would bring in enough money to pay the bills because her job really didn’t cover everything unless she got extremely creative with juggling money. Because of my dad’s mental health issues, he only stayed with something until he hit a brick wall like a layoff or lost his temper one too many times and quit, or just wrecked his health like he did in later years. He really went after my mother though when he was deep into his writing-phase because he wanted her to be the meek, submissive helpmate like his author-idols had with their wives (such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald). My mom couldn’t go along with that and she didn’t have to in any way, shape, or form. The problem with this was when I started writing: I had to walk a very fine line in order not to alienate myself from either parent.

For my father, I felt like I had to put in a ton of studying and writing in order to earn his respect as a writer like he was. He always talked about how you had to study and work at your craft in order to get good at it. He was right on studying and working at writing but because of my mother, I had to be careful not exhibit the obsessive and obnoxious behavior of my father. I never really talked about my writing with my mother and I was terrified of hurting her over me pursuing my writing. This is why I worked so hard to maintain my responsibilities in doing chores and keeping my writing to myself.

This need to prove myself was entrenched in my mind by the time I reached my twenties and joined my first in-person writers group. I was one of the youngest members and boy did I felt wet behind the ears. A lot of the group members had been writing for over a decade when I met them, some were multi-published and best-selling authors. So to say I was intimidated was putting it mildly. And with that group, I felt like I had to prove myself and show that I was working on my craft and that I was working towards my goals.

The problem with feeling you have to prove yourself to someone else is that you can’t live on that. In the end, you have to believe in yourself more than anyone else. You have to trust yourself and your skills and see them through. As a writer, you’ve got to sit down and write, and rewrite, and keep at it until you feel it come together. It has taken me decades to gain the confidence I have in my writing now. It was a long and hard-fought battle to realize I do have what it takes to be a writer because I did put in an enormous amount of time studying and writing. I know I’m a good writer when I get honest feedback from people telling me how my writing connected with them. Because of all this work, I don’t have to stop and think things through with my writing but instead I just keep at it until I feel it’s right. I trust my feelings most of all.

What made me realize I didn’t to prove myself to anyone as a writer is that I do know what I’m doing, that all my years of studying and writing mean something, and most of all, that I  have goals that I can carry out. What stopped me in the past from fulfilling those goals was a fear that if I got anywhere near achieving them, someone would come and destroy me. I had to dismantle that fear piece by piece and destroy those pieces once and for all. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone and success isn’t about winning approval from anyone either. Success is something I will have worked for and something I will allow myself to enjoy and benefit from.

Stand or Fall – Tolerance Doesn’t Equal Silence

From as far back as I can remember, I heard that you had to tolerate people and their bullshit which meant that you just had to sit and listen it without calling them out on it. I was taught that you can’t change people and that you have to let them be who they are. And for myself and way too many other people, we thought it meant we couldn’t speak out against their bullshit and actively campaign against their reign of terror.

We were wrong. Tolerance failed and officially died on January 6, 2021 in the halls of the United States Capitol Building when a mob of right-wing monsters tried to overthrow the duly elected government of the United States.

In the past, I’m sure someone would be calling me out on the above paragraph telling me not to get overwrought or that I’m exaggerating things. Fuck that shit. And fuck those assholes no matter how well meaning they might think they are, or were back then. They were wrong then just like they are wrong now.

I know I can’t pull someone’s head out of their ass for them, but I can sure as hell call them out on it. I used to think I didn’t have it in me to call someone out on their bullshit but I know I do now. Because I have taken the time not just in the last few years, but all my life really, to think things through as best as I can and try to do the right thing. And to be shit on for doing the right thing caused me some serious wounds but wounds do heal over and you can put up shields to keep people from hurting you again.

I recently saw a quote from the late rapper Tupac Shakur: “Just because you lost me as a friend doesn’t mean you gained me as an enemy. I’m bigger than that. I still want to see you eat, just not at my table.”

So in staying with Tupac’s statement here, I can say tolerance doesn’t mean letting someone sit at your table and give you and your guests shit simply because they’re different and not doing anything wrong by being different. If you want to sit at my table, you don’t talk shit to people to their face or behind their back, or with thinly-veiled well-meaning bullshit either.

I used to think I had to sit and take people’s shit simply because if I pushed back on it then I was the bad guy. That’s gaslighting because it’s like saying I’m the one doing something wrong when that’s not the case. It hurt like hell to be accused of being a hopeless idiot for believing in the good of this world and in good people instead of those who were hurting people left and right.

I can be a cynic with the best of them but practicing tolerance with silence gave shit-headed people an opportunity to try and use that against me. They tried to use that against me by amplifying cynicism instead of combating it. Being cynical is a human reaction to massive amounts of bullshit and pain but it’s not the way to live. It’s wrong to say all people are shit-heads and that everyone will eventually shit all over you, except of course the person telling you this who has shit on you yet tells you to be grateful in taking their shit.

Sorry for the excessive use of the word ‘shit’ here in all its’ forms but the word fits because that’s what lies and manipulation are. And as the great Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you what they’re truly like, believe them.”

People know what they’re truly like even if they don’t want to completely admit it and take responsibility for themselves. And only an individual person can change themselves, no one else can do it for them. Or as I like to say now, no one’s purpose in life is to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them.

Are we deadlocked here then? Never able to find a common ground? My answer to those questions is that the ball is not in your court, but in their court. I know where I want to go in life and what I want to do. I want to leave this world better than it was when I came into it. I want to lift people up from sadness and despair. I want to give people hope when they feel helpless and weak. And I want to be a defender. I want to stand in front of those who hurt others and say to them, “I’m not afraid of you anymore.” And yes, I am prepared to take their blows no matter how hard they hit, or how much of my own blood I might taste. But in reality most people who hurt or destroy are cowards, weak and scared. They’ve just taken that weakness and fear and turned it inside out-mean as my father used to say.

Tolerance doesn’t have to be silent. Tolerance means standing up for what’s right, and true, and to make the world a better place by standing up for others and defending and comforting those in need.

Breaking Radio Silence – The Silence of Unspoken Conversations

We weren’t having the conversations back then like we are now.

This phrase came to my mind a few years ago and it was in response to any questions about why write about things from the past. It’s also my response to the silence of the past, too.

When my parents were growing up, there was NO talk about what was going on other than what was considered ‘acceptable’. There was no talk of the violent alcoholic behavior of my mother’s father, or the rigid expectations in my father’s household. Thoughts and feelings weren’t talked about at all, and in my mother’s case, weren’t to be had at all because any thought or feeling that deviated from the fanatical Catholic norm would get you sent to Hell. And for my dad, men did NOT talk about their feelings at all.

For my generation, we did talk about some things but the expectation was that even if we did talk about them, things weren’t really going to change. Or better put, if you told someone they were being an asshole to you, it wouldn’t change them. But our generation was silent, too about the turmoil so many of us grew up with. Divorced or battling parents, bullies, expectations, pressure to fit in, etc. But if we kept our shit together and didn’t commit suicide, we were told we had good coping skills.

I’m glad young people today are more open to talking about their thoughts and feelings, and that more people are seeking mental health treatment. But not everyone is on this bandwagon and too many suffer in silence thinking nothing will change if they deal with their mental and emotional well-being.

To that I want to say this: you will change when you find answers to why you think and feel the way you do. And in turn, you can change the course of your life and your future. You can learn how to do things differently and do them better. I will tell you it won’t be a popular decision with some people in your life. There will be people who will not like the fact that you’re trying to change yourself. But your purpose in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. Each person has to figure out how to do that for themselves.

For the longest time, I felt like the world wanted me to be silent, to be hidden away and not have to deal with me at all. Then one day I asked: why? Why would people want me to be silent? Is it because my mere existence challenges their fragile bullshit-leaden egos? Their suck-ass version of reality? Makes them feel shame and guilt for the shit they did? If the answer to any of those questions is ‘yes’ that’s on them, not me.

I used to think that line of thinking in the above paragraph made me a cold-hearted bitch. It doesn’t. I have stayed silent and out of people’s lives because I didn’t want to burden anyone with my bullshit. I didn’t want anyone to think they had to take on my problems and try to solve them. This is what I have felt for a long time and I’m trying to figure out how to change this pattern of thinking. I’m also working on the fact that by writing and publishing my story of how I found answers to my questions that may not be welcome in some circles. I have to tell myself that’s not for me to determine and that all I can do is tell my story.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not breaking my silence as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. I’m doing it to help other people who have been through things similar to what I have and have the emotional wreckage to work through. My work is not about trying to figure out why shitty things happened to me or why people treated me like shit when they shouldn’t have. I spent way too many years trying to figure out why people reacted to me the way they did. I know why I acted the way I did and the image I projected so I will take responsibility for that.

As I begin to write this book, a lot of things come back up. And although I’ve been through these waves before it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with them. But I have found one thing that does help me work through these shit-storms: talking about them. So I’m picking up the conversations again and pushing forth.

I’m having the conversations that should have been had before but can be had now and in the future.

Behind the Story – A Book In Search of a Title

Around Fall/Winter 2018 if my memory is correct, I came up with the idea of doing a ‘writing book’. At the time I thought it would be a mix of writing instruction and advice with maybe a few stories of my writing time over the years. Then this thought came to me: my relationship with writing is complicated. I thought that would be the hook to make this book stand out but in reality, that’s been a huge wall I’ve had to figure out how to get through. One way I’ve had to figure out how to work through that wall is finding a title for this project. It’s gone through at least two or three titles but ‘Behind the Story’ feels like the fit that I want for it.

But in order to get a handle on this project, I needed a title I could write to. I need titles to write to so when I’m struggling with a title then I struggle with the project itself. So the first thing you can see about writing for me is that my brain is works in weird and mysterious ways. Putting that crazy thought process into words is a challenge to say the least but it’s one I want to do.

For me, writing is largely instinctive now. I just start out with an idea in my head then sit down and start writing. I trust myself to know when something is working and when it’s not. Like this blog entry here for example has been in the works for a couple of days now with several attempts scrapped. I’m not doing this project to discourage people from writing, or showing off, but instead I’m trying to put into words a process that I don’t really think through before I dive into it.

In my teens and twenties, and even into my thirties, I devoured everything I could about writing. I read a ton of articles and books, attended workshops and conferences and studied constantly. Back then I felt like I had to earn my chops by working my ass off studying and writing. I’m glad I did that but it wasn’t a popular decision with some people in my life. In those years I felt like my writing was seen a weapon to be used against me, something to be held against me, something I felt wrong in doing sometimes. It’s taken me a long time to realize that people were wrong to think that about my writing as I NEVER let it get in the way of any responsibilities I had taken on. In those years, I was just told to keep my mouth shut and keep writing.

To anyone who has a problem with my writing, or ever did I’m going to say what I should have said a long time ago: fuck off. Take your stupid bullshit and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. I fought with everything I had to keep my passion to myself and for no damn good reason other than placate someone’s dumb-ass ego.

Like my other writing projects, I’m not writing this book as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. In addition to trying to illuminate the creative process to help people understand it, I’m also doing it for other creative people like me who’ve taken way too much shit for being creative. I don’t believe every single person has it in them to be creative and curious. In fact, I think there are a good number of people in this world who are the total opposite of that and who sure as hell aren’t shy in expressing that to the rest of the world.

For the longest time, I used to say I just let my imagination run wild and that it was not a reflection of my own thoughts and feelings. But that’s not true and it never was, and that’s another thing I’m trying to put into words with this project. And that I believe is also another reason some people may have had problems with my writing because they somehow thought it was about them. It’s not and it never was. But that barrier had to fall in my mind for me to get to the point I’m at now with my writing, this mix of instinct and the ability to put those instincts into words.

Stand or Fall – Preaching to the Choir

One question I’ve asked myself with this project is who is this book being written for? I’ve said to left-leaning folks like me it’ll probably be like preaching to the choir and to right-leaning folks it could create some serious cognitive dissonance. But now I’m beginning to think that cognitive dissonance could also happen to my left-leaning readers and that’s because I don’t think my left-leaning readers are going to like me telling them they fucked up and fell down on the job.

I think the biggest failure of us Lefties is our stupid default setting of giving up and quitting when things get really loud and shitty. I hate hearing people talk about not voting anymore, or not voting because of one thing, and I really hate people talking about packing up their shit and leaving some place like the idiots who talked about quitting when Elon ‘Dickhead’ Musk announced he wanted to buy Twitter (the deal is on shaky ground as of this blog post). I want to say if you do this, you’re a fucking idiot and I’ll put a verbal foot up your ass and boot you out of the room if you don’t want to be in the room where it happens (with acknowledgement to the great Lin-Manuel Miranda and the ‘Hamilton’ team).  

There’s an old saying, ‘If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.’ And that is so freaking true. And if you don’t want to be in the kitchen simply because things aren’t going your way or because you don’t get to run the show, then get the fuck out. Being a spoiled brat is being an absolute asshole no matter what side these brats lean to politically. Left-leaning ones will step out of the kitchen while right-leaning ones will stay in the kitchen mouthing off. Either way, both are wrong and both either need to get the fuck out of the way so others can do what needs to be done, or shut the fuck up, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.

It’s taken me a long time to really believe I can be in the room where it happens and that I have just as much right to be there as anyone else. Most of my life, I used to go silent whenever someone would get loud or get right up in my face. Now I know that’s just a tactic assholes use to intimidate someone into silence because that person is just trying to call them out on their bullshit. It’s why I’m working to teach myself not to back down or go silent in the face of someone getting up in my face.

No one is perfect and to insist on perfection in people is total bullshit. In 1992, I voted in my first Presidential election. I got swept up in the idealism and rock ‘n’ roll of that campaign and by the end of the decade I watched it crash and burn. I recovered some of that idealism in 2008 but watched it go down in flames in 2016. By 2020, I turned that idealism into pure dragon’s fire. Because as far as I’m concerned, we don’t have the luxury of idealism anymore. The clock’s running down fast and no one is sure if we’ve hit the point of negative return (that’s when a spacecraft launches and at a certain point they have to make orbit because cutting the engines and trying to return will get them barbequed in the atmosphere). I don’t think we’ve hit negative return yet but I think we’re close.

So to my left-leaning choir here I want to say this: don’t back down. If someone gets in your face tell them to back off and shut the fuck up. And yes, they won’t like that. They also won’t like it when you tell them not to change the subject because that’s a common tactic the average loud-mouth asshole likes to use when they know they don’t have jack-shit to stand on.

Lately, I’ve thought about just not engaging with loud-mouth assholes at all but instead, I’ll take the tactic of challenging them to listen to me like they force the world to listen to their bullshit. Most of these loud-mouth assholes don’t have the tits or balls to face someone directly or take a stand on their own (they’re real good at being good little cult members and parroting talking points handed to them). I read from a college professor online that when he asks a conservative student why they hold certain views they start off by saying, ‘well, in my family-.” And he stops them right there and goes, “No, what do YOU think?”

That’s what I want to do with my ‘Stand or Fall’ book: I want to make people think when reading it and after they’re done reading it. And honestly I don’t care what side of the political aisle my readers are on because if you can’t think for yourself and determine your own path, it doesn’t matter what side you’re on. Because I believe if you can think for yourself, then you can find the right path to go on.

I believe the appeal of authoritarianism is that it gives people the ability to let someone else do their thinking for them. It makes them feel like they’re a part of something though they don’t realize acceptance comes at a very steep price, and that price is a person’s mind, heart, and soul belonging to someone else. I’m an outsider and I always have been, and I always will be so I’ve never seen the appeal of right-wing authoritarianism because I know I wouldn’t be accepted by that side simply because I’m different and have a brain that never shuts down. I think I’d be like Captain Kirk in the movie ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ when he asked, “Why does God need a starship?”

So let’s start asking questions until we get all the answers we can.

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