What Motivates You? (and a paragraph from a short story of mine).

When I was in Tech Sales in SF, most of the people I worked with were motivated by money. That’s fine because the top of the leaderboard was filled with money motived people (and some of the best salesmen and woman are). I am not humble bragging but I was often, if not usually, at the top of the leaderboard but I’ve never been money motivated. Or I wasn’t then. Maybe that is changing now that I am more of a starving artist and as I get older. I digress. I wasn’t money motivated and this usually shocked my peers and superiors (not they minded based on my performance because that is what sales is based on).

No, instead I am a perfectionist. There is no 100% in sales; there is no A+. There is 110% and then 120% and on and on. There is no goal line and so perfection is hard to achieve so what did I do? I just kept running. You can read about it here.

I was thinking about this the other day when I wrote about Why versus How (does that sound too much like Carrie Bradshaw?). What motivates me and the people I love? What motivates you? Some people easily said they were why people, others easily said they were how people, but a few said they were both. Maybe you can be both. But if you had to pick. If someone told you a crazy story, let’s say this one about DB Cooper…at the end of it, do you ask how or why?lady9

I don’t know when I became a perfectionist. It doesn’t mean I was always perfect. It means I felt shame when I was less than. I remember it keenly in school, even in kindergarten. I knew those checks and pluses equated to actual grades (who didn’t?). But my brother was different. School never interested him. At all. Homework? What was that?

But my brother was an unbelievable ballplayer. This is a sport I could never play because there is no such thing as perfect. My brother was a homerun hitter. It wasn’t rare for him to hit a grand slam and a home run in one game. Still, even if every time he came up to bat in a single game his batting average wouldn’t be 1000 (perfect). It’s impossible to finish a season like that.

That sentence is so hard for me: it’s impossible.

Have you read The Art of Fielding? I reviewed it here. This quote has always stayed with me when I think of my brother and baseball: “What other sport not only kept a stat as cruel as the error but posted it on the scoreboard for everyone to see?” (Harbach, 259).

So what motivated my brother? The boy who considered finishing The Great Gatsby “but then they showed the movie and I was like, what’s the point”? Hours and hours of practice, of running until he puked over and over again, batting practice and fielding practice, mentoring the other players, captaining the team, coaches good and bad and everything in between…

I find satisfaction in perfection or as close to it as I can get. What do people like him find satisfaction in?

The reason I care is because of the why. I still want to know they whys of people because it makes me a better writer and that gives me satisfaction (do you see the circle I am in?).lady8

I’ll leave you with a paragraph from the short story I teased about on Monday…I don’t know if I will ever post the whole thing but here you go (it’s still rough):

“For a long time, she imagined a chubby, little hand opening and closing. Buh Bye, a voice told her and then arms held out and up. Hullo, Mama, hullo. Their watercolored hands and arms and pretend voices just appeared one night in her head, as she watched him rub a hand over his jaw, trying discern the Swedish instructions for putting together the television stand and she knew then they would get married. She never pictured a dress or a ring, only these children.

It’s now she realizes she never did see their faces–just hands and arms reaching. And was the older child saying goodbye instead of, Hullo, hullo? Had she gotten it wrong? Was she already the kind of mother whose children learned the shape of her back instead of the dimple on their mother’s cheek, the sweep of her eyelashes as she slept and they babbled around her, the kind of mother always leaving even only imaginary children?” (Me).

Love you for reading this week!
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You are not Entitled to Your Health.

And I’m tired of watching people act as if they are.

**Edited to add: I didn’t mention doctors or healthcare in this post because it’s different for everyone but of course, if you are in chronic pain, physical pain, or have a chronic illness seeing a doctor is key (it has been an incredibly frustrating process for me and is a long saga so I chose not share it here but no matter how frustrating a process it is a necessary one…our healthcare system may be broken in a lot of ways but I also get care I could not get in other parts of the world). If you have the opportunity and/or ability to see a therapist or counselor, please do. I also understand not everyone can. Talk to the people you can talk to. But as I mention, there are always going to be people who don’t get it and I personally don’t waste energy trying to make them get it. It was emotionally painful for me for a long time. I had to make this very difficult and personal decision. This is not a post about silence or shame; it’s about not allowing the pain I/we live with everyday harden us into mean spirited human beings. It’s about recognizing that we aren’t entitled to many things (health, marriage, children and so much more) and to treat all of those things as blessings instead of privileges. Do I struggle with this? Of course I do.  I don’t feel like anyone should be ashamed for talking about their illness. It’s a deeply personal issue that everyone has to decide how to share or if to share at all. I was never a glass half full person until my illness and now I choose to be because I want to remain both tenderhearted and strong at the same time.**

I feel as if I should warn you: what I am about to say may not be popular. There are people in the blogging community who live with a chronic illness. I would venture to say that they have formed a community within a community. I have learned a lot from them and been inspired by many of them.

For some of them, blogging may be the only outlet or community they have. If that isn’t true, it may play a bigger role than it may for others simply because some people with chronic illnesses can’t always go out and seek these things out. I can say that because I have a serious chronic illness brought on by a grand mal seizure. It’s serious. It’s treatable in some ways but it will never go away. I’ll have it for the rest of my life. There are things I can do to improve my situation but it will always be there.

But I feel like some of these bloggers (not all, not even most, please hear me say that) are doing us–the sick and the healthy–a disservice.health

To say I always have a good attitude would be a lie. But to say I consistently complain could not be farther from the truth. There are plenty of people in my life (both online and offline, some incredibly close to me) who don’t get it, who don’t understand what it feels like to wake up with a body in pain…that is if I was able to sleep at all. But complaining will not help them get it.

I’ve explained it to them as best I can, on more than one occasion. It’s hard for them to see or imagine someone they love in pain. I have empathy for them because I have seen some of them break down over it. If they need to imagine my pain level is less in order to get through the day than I would rather that. Doctors talk about pain begetting pain (the pain cycle) when considering physical pain. But if I can stop more emotional pain from inundating people I love, I will. Because I don’t need to drag them into my pain. It won’t make me feel better. It will probably make me feel worse. (I’ve seen this happen firsthand).

Please hear this: I never lie; I never sugarcoat it. I am not suggesting that anyone with a chronic illness do such a thing. In fact, I know I need to get better at asking for help. But to go over old ground again and again as if I have something to prove helps no one because frankly, it’s impossible for a healthy person to imagine what it is like to have a chronic illness.

But nothing has made me more tenderhearted, more soft than this illness. It ties with my blended family for the thing God has used most in my life to show me more of himself and make me more like him. But it only does that because I let it. I could be angry and bitter. I could harden myself. I could let anger rise every time I saw my friends doing things I currently can’t on Instagram. Maybe you would feel sorry for me.

Guess what? I don’t want you to feel sorry for me.

We all have our stuff and just because my pain is physical does not make it more difficult than your pain–be it your marriage, your infertility, your wayward kids, your messy family, or whatever your pain may be. I don’t have the monopoly on pain because mine is physical. Instead, I have a constant reminder that we are not entitled to health (or good marriages, or children, or perfect families).

If my hope is in my health, it fails every time. My hope has to be in Jesus. And I consider this a blessing because others can go years or decades with their hope in a marriage or something or someone else before they realize Jesus is it. Some people, who don’t wake up in pain, do not have the luxury of asking for God’s help before they open their eyes, believing the truth that his Grace is sufficient before they do anything.health1

Do I think more people should be aware of chronic, invisible illnesses? Absolutely. And there are people doing incredible work in that area. None of what I say is to take away from that because I think it is important, God honoring work. But my hope is not in that work or any work for that matter.

Do I have good days and bad days? Absolutely. Do I have seasons that are better than others? Yes, of course. I don’t want your pity though because my illness does not define me. Yes, it keeps me from doing certain things if I am in a certain season. But I am just as determined that it won’t keep me from doing the things God has set out for me. None of this is a coincidence. I am not excluded from God’s work because of this illness. He knew I would have it, just as he knew I would be born, just as he knows the number of curly hairs on my head.

If we are defined by anything other than Jesus than we are lost. I am a writer, sassy and irreverent, a reader, someone with a thirst for knowledge, a hard worker with a perfectionist problem. I was all those things before my seizure too. In holding onto Jesus, I hold onto myself.

And whenever I do feel sorry for myself, I look at the people in my life who are fighting cancer, who lost a husband in the middle of the night to a drunk driver. I don’t have the monopoly on pain–no one does. If you think you have the monopoly on pain then you cannot empathize and before you know it people will start to leave you. You may call it desertion but really, if you expect others to walk into your life and understand your situation without judgement, you must be ready to do the same, without deciding who has it worse. (That also sounds like most miserable game ever). But personally, if I had to compare, I would rather wake up every morning in pain than face chemo and endless scans. I could be wrong but the woman who lost her husband and father to her two kids? I bet she would wake up every day in pain if it meant she could have him back.

But we don’t get to pick. And that’s why our hope can’t be in significant others or good scans or our health.

My hope is in Jesus, in heaven, where we all get new bodies and where there are no tears.

I understand I am opening myself up here but I am choosing to do so because I think it’s important. I would love to have a respectful dialogue.

*Also I was so anti-ugg slippers because of price but they allow me to stand longer on my hardwood floors, to cook, to clean, to wash dishes, etc. The leopard is just bonus.
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Don’t Miss Brooke’s Blog!

Whenever I find a blogger who is honest, authentic, and has a killer point of view (and a great view from their section of the world), I want to share them with you. Enter Brooke of Brooke Meagan Jones. One of the first posts I read that Brooke wrote was “5 Reasons (Their) Relationship Should Have Been Doomed” where she spoke candidly about her boyfriend, Aaron…Not to ruin it for you but: she puked on the first date.Flowers in My Hair - Family PictureAlso, please note the friends references and love it like I do.

The next post I remember vividly because I realized I was reading the blog of a famous person (or maybe I should say infamous person). What I love about Brooke is that the point is she was in a music video but she just casually adds that the reason she was in this English band’s music video was because she spent a year nannying in England. UM. Amazing stories upon stories. I can’t wait to read about her other adventures because if the lead into the story is that she nannied abroad for a year…I mean, this is a girl with a lot of stories. Flowers in My Hair - Lawrencetown Beach Nova ScotiaI can’t get over where she lives either: Nova Scotia. And also, I want to steal her dog, Koda. I am not super familiar with Nova Scotia but now it is on my list of places to visit. It cannot get more gorgeous than this. Just check out her blog post: You Wouldn’t Like it Here Anyway.Flowers in My Hair - Atlantic View Trail Nova ScotiaI feel like living in such a place fills one with inspiration and with Brooke’s irreverent sense of humor and realness, this is a blog I go back to again and again. I love that she lives in the gray–a place I like to inhabit as well. For example, she’s veganish and her post managed to answer some questions I had while making me laugh.Flowers in My Hair - Bay of Fundy Nova ScotiaSo maybe I lied. Maybe the first post that really hooked me, that really convinced me that Brooke’s blog would be one I would read and read and look forward to everyday, was when she gave up alcohol for 21 days. She listed the pros and the cons. One of the cons? Her rap career took a hit.

This is a girl I can get down with.

Also maybe there is a rap collab in the future. That’s what they call it in the biz: a collab.

Brooke, back me up.Flowers in My Hair - Duncan's Cove Nova ScotiaMeanwhile, Brooke, don’t mind if I stop by for some Koda snuggles and some rocky beach walks. There is something about a cold beach that inspires while a warm beach relaxes. I’m in the mood for some inspiration so I am going to poke around Brooke’s blog for awhile.

You should too.

Xo,
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Why versus How.

caffe8I was walking down the street to the pharmacy and thinking in Italian. I’ve been trying to do this more lately since opportunities to speak and think in a language I love so much have been few and far between.Still, even when fluent, going months without truly speaking Italian day in and day out, has taken a toll on the easiness of it and so I was thinking about certain words.It wasn’t sunny but the gray sky did not mean that Chicago humidity wasn’t sneaking up on me.

I started to think of how and why. These are two different questions, obviously. But I have to say that as I thought about it more, walking to the pharmacy, I wondered if I could only use one question the rest of the my life, which would be it be. I quickly realized it would be why. I am not a how person. I think it’s an important question. But my whole life, since I was very little, I have been asking why. 

I won’t lie to you: it’s gotten me in trouble. I think kids tend to ask why and adults tend to be annoyed by this because it can be subversive. Why do I have to pick up my clothes? Why do I have to wait until Christmas morning? So although I think most kids go through a why phase, mine never really left. And yes, I do think adults thought I was trying to be sassy but I wasn’t. I truly wanted to know why.

There are kids that want to know how and maybe they grow up to be engineers and solve major world problems. The motivations behind people’s actions and traditions, mistakes and failures fascinated me before I even knew what the word fascinate meant. Asking how about things or problems is important. If I asked how people do the things they do, that would be judgement. It’s not about that for me. It can’t be as a writer. It’s about the why so that when I write, I can write a story about a married woman or a mother or (gasp) a man and have it make sense because my whole life I have been annoying people, particularly my elders with, “But why?”

Right now I am writing a short  story about a woman who has a decision to make. Will she leave her husband? Should she? I don’t know yet. I’m learning about her, peeling back layers. I have to figure out the why of her before I can make decision for her. I have to inhabit her even though I’ve never been married or been unhappy in the particular way she currently is.

It’s the thousands of stories I’ve heard from adults mouths as a little kid, the ones I shouldn’t have been listening to from the beginning, all the times I made myself look small at the dinner table, coloring, but with my ear turned up to listen. The millions of times I asked why and an adult answered before they caught themselves. Or the billions of times I asked why silently and tried to figure it out in my head.

So, if you could only ask one question the rest of your life, what would it be? Why or How?

P.S. The photograph comes from the post How to Make Coffee Like an Italian.
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How to Become a Masterpiece.

How to Become a MasterpieceShe isn’t like the rest of them and they notice soon enough. First, he tries sandpaper to smooth out her edges and then his hands, to remold her or remake her, when the rough paper does not do its job. When those fail, he searches for a hammer, saws, anything to change her into something else. If he can’t change the shape of her, the very heart of her, perhaps he can scare or intimidate her into changing herself.

It never works.

Inside of her, a real heart beats loud in her own ears, reminding her of who she is. Every time he tries to remake her, to make her fit in with the rest of them, her heart beats louder. She cannot admit her fear even to herself, but especially to him. He cannot win. She yearns for something different, her heart pounding in her ears.

When she finally surrenders, it is not to him or them or any person or thing.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” Psalm 56:3


Do you know how long it took me, how painful it was for me to realize he could never be the person I wanted him to be, I said to her. Do you know how hard it was? And I am finally there. And I can finally move forward but he has a picture, still, of who he thinks I should be.

I start to cry, loud weepy tears.

I am never going to be her and things will never be okay until he lets go of the person he thinks I am supposed to be. 

My face is red, blotchy, temporarily marked.

masterpiece

So now I let these words pound in my ears in place of my own heartbeat. Anew. Anew. Anew.

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