Rumbling with Disappointment.

Girl Warrior Productions - Novel by Boo King Summer in a Red Mustang with Cookies

This week I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong in the little red Ford Escape to and from work. Risking criticism for excessive use of alliteration, Brene Brown is a brave beautiful brilliant writer. And her book is bringing me to my knees. I am face down in the arena Brene. Get the book and you’ll understand the reference.

The book is making me think. And more importantly it is making me feel. Lots of feels. More feels than I can process in the twenty-minute drive to work. So I’m doing it here, in my safe space, and I’m sharing it with you, which doesn’t feel safe at all. Wearing my vulnerability on my sleeve, risking emotional exposure and shame is scary. I’m feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

One of the biggest feelings that Rising Strong has brought me face-to-face with this week is that of disappointment. Raw, unvarnished, unrestrained and intense, really fucking big disappointment. It sucks. I’ve been rumbling with this feeling all week but in truth, it’s been lurking in every single landscape of my life for years. I just couldn’t properly identify it until now. The hardest part is how personal it is. I can’t blame or point the finger at any other person, place or thing. It’s pointing directly at me. I am the bullseye. Me. Me. Me.

At the top of the list of disappointments – Summer in a Red Mustang with Cookies, a novel by boo king.

This is particularly grim because it was a story I was born to tell. The first draft was written back in the Toronto days when my oldest daughter was a wee one. For three or four years during her afternoon naps, I cranked out the first draft to three novels. Back then, naively, I thought writing a novel was just in the telling, which is what draft one is all about. I was not interested in going back in and doing the really hard work of editing and re-writing and re-writing and re-writing until I got it right. I just wanted to tell the stories and express myself creatively. And then move on. Kind of like my feelings. Move on from any of them that make me the least bit uncomfortable. True story.

Those three novels didn’t get past draft one. Eventually after twelve years, a modest career in Advertising as a copywriter, and one life-altering separation, I moved away from Toronto. I left with my two older kids, three cats, about a thousand bucks in cash that I made at a garage sale, overdrawn on my overdraft, no husband, no partner in crime, no job prospects, no security, no nothing, and headed west to Victoria looking for a brighter future and my happily ever after.

I got that. Well, sort of. I got a job in a small boutique design firm, found an apartment in the top floor of a house owned by a newlywed couple, met a man who didn’t fit, met another man who I fell in love with, got pregnant, declared bankruptcy, moved a few times, changed jobs, but kept working and working and working. Not as a writer but as a Production Manager/Producer. The writing stopped when I left Toronto. And it was killing me.

Since childhood, writing has always been my thing. The painfully shy girl’s voice, the saving grace, the outlet, means of expression, the avenue and channel for all my feelings, thoughts and emotions. I learned to read and then I started to write. Not doing it, felt wrong. I was ill at ease for years. Not right in my skin. I didn’t feel like me.

At the direction, and wise counsel of my best friend, who simply would not tolerate my whining about not writing, I began as she advised: one word at a time. Best advice ever and just one of the many reasons why I love her and why we’re lifelong friends.

Of the three first drafts I had written in Toronto, one of the stories haunted me, demanding that I pay attention and do something with it. I blushed with secret embarrassment reading the earnest and unbridled words of a much younger me, and then I immediately went to work flushing out the story. New characters emerged, old ones fell away but the main character, Jo survived and then magic happened. A completely new story was born around Jo. The Summer” novel bore very little resemblance to the original first draft but that first draft was the impetus that lit the fire.

Because I was working full time, had three kids and little free time, I mapped out my daily writing time before the rest of the family got up. For almost four years I got up at 4:00 am and wrote before I did anything else. It was that important to me. At first, one word at a time, then one sentence and then one paragraph, page, chapter, entire novel. This time, I wrote, and re-wrote, and re-wrote, and re-wrote again and again and again. I was a ruthless, unsentimental and detached editor of my own work, a skill I had learned as a copywriter in Toronto. Then in February and March of 2001, within five weeks of each other, both my parents died. The novel was getting close to completion but not nearly ready for anyone other than me to read it.

I worked through my grief by writing. I became obsessed with completing the novel, with creating something that Ma and The Old Man would have been proud of. I stepped up my writing to include evenings and weekends. It was my passion, my magnificent obsession, my channel for dealing with sorrow and loss, and a tribute to my parents. It was a fictionalized version of our story. And in that frame of mind, I was determined to publish it. No one was going to stand in my way. No one.

By then, wrongly or rightly, I believed I wouldn’t be able to cope with, nor bear, any form of rejection or further loss. I also believed I didn’t have the strength, courage or wherewithal to jump through the hoops necessary to acquire a traditional publisher. The mere thought of receiving rejection letters was beyond endurable. I just could not do it. At least the story I told myself.

I decided to publish the novel myself. By this time I was a seasoned Production Manager and I knew how to pull a creative team together to get it done. To put it in perspective, in Canada self-publishing was in its infancy, so was blogging and social media, and there were very few Indie producers and artists. Nothing like it is today.

Fragile complicated emotions aside, the thought of undertaking a project of this scope intrigued and excited me. I hooked up with Trafford Publishing who handled all the publishing and legal stuff, hired my own talented crew of design and production professionals, proofreaders and beta readers, and solicited the feedback and candor of my best friend and editorial sounding board. Shortly before Christmas 2001, the book was published. With the exception of my children, it was my greatest accomplishment.

Seventeen years later, it is my greatest disappointment. It is at the very top of a long list of huge commercial failures – the novel, the book for girl warriors, the speaking engagements, the storytelling, the website, the girl warrior productions, the interviews, the t-shirts, the blogging, the poetry writing, the songwriting, the social media, the recordings and the guided meditations. Personal and professional flops each and every one. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. But Summer in a Red Mustang with Cookies hurts the most. The palpable pain of that disappointment is the worst, the fucking worst.

I didn’t have the courage and I wasn’t brave. Worse yet, I didn’t even try. And because I was unwilling to risk rejection by a traditional publisher, this funny heartbreaking little story, this homage to my parents, siblings, friends, neighbors and the redneck northwestern Ontario town where I grew up never took flight, never found its wings, and worst of all, never found its readers. And that’s all on me.

But it’s also on me that I acknowledge and accept that I feel this disappointment. It’s real and it’s okay, or it will be. It’s also on me that I am completely vulnerable, curious and have my heart wide open to all ‘the feels’ that will come. It’s also on me to keep rumbling with these feelings and to Rise Strong. And most importantly, it’s also on me to continue writing and storytelling no matter what.

Get Rising Strong here:

https://amzn.to/2w7FGTi

Learn more about Brene Brown here:

https://brenebrown.com/

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: High Anxiety and Panic Attacks.

Boo after her Sunday night bath

See the little girl in the foreground of this photograph? Looks like she’s fresh out of her Sunday-night bath with her wet hair, a white cotton towel draped over her tiny shoulders like Superman’s cape. In the background is her older brother, sitting at the kitchen table, and fully engaged in a game of cards with one of his friends. They don’t notice her or that Ma is taking their photograph. Looks like she’s warming herself by the ancient oil heater in the living room at 204. But she is not.

This little girl isn’t cold.

She is in a full-blown panic attack. Racked with anxiety. Tormented by a faceless nameless terrifying Boogeyman that pops up unexpectedly out-of-nowhere. Boo. What’s the “tell” in this photograph? Look closely and you’ll see her hand over her tummy. Look closely and you will see the fear in her dark eyes. Look closely and you will see the clenching of her distraught jaw.

In this photograph I’m nine or ten years old and just beginning a life-long battle with anxiety and panic attacks. My hand is over my tummy because my guts are churning and I feel like throwing up. I’m not cold like the photograph suggests. My teeth aren’t chattering because of the temperature in the room. I don’t shiver because I’ve caught a chill. I shiver and shake uncontrollably because my body, mind and emotions are under assault. And I don’t know why. I don’t understand any of it. I’m constantly overwhelmed with a gnawing feeling of dread, afraid of everything and nothing. My mind is on high alert, relentlessly watching and waiting for “it” to come back. I just want “it” to stop.

Eventually the immediate panic ceases. It always does. But the low-grade anxiety lingers.

It took years to fully understand this. When I was the little girl in this photograph I just suffered through it. Physical exhaustion eventually played a merciful hand. When I was a teenager I wanted to be carefree and happy like everyone else, and I continued to suffer through each attack, praying it would never happen again. Pleading with God to make it stop and asking, “why me?”

I confided in Ma of course. She understood what I was going through because over the years she too had suffered from “bad nerves.” Apparently these were the kind of nerves that required punishing. So Ma did so by dispensing Carter’s Little Liver Pills. They were the cure-all for everything back in the day. Ma found them helpful but they did nothing for me. As I got older, I started hiding the attacks from Ma because it was only making matters worse, for the both of us.

By the time my son was born, and I was in university, I had had enough. I had to figure this out, if not for my sake, then for his.

I became a student of my own physiology. I read and studied everything I could get my hands on about the nervous system, cognitive behavior, anxiety and panic disorders, psychology and spirituality, environmental factors, nutrition and physical fitness. Through this journey, I discovered that it was actually an amalgam of factors that were contributing to these panic attacks and prevailing anxiety. Bit by bit, and slowly over time, I unearthed a host of possible causes and triggers – everything from the very physical nature of the beast to the gut-wrenching emotional fabric of my life story. What I ate and when I ate it, being the daughter of an alcoholic, family shame and feelings of inferiority, extreme shyness, sensitivity and introversion, lack of confidence in social situations, hyper-creativity and an over-active imagination, intelligence and obsession with achievement, the need to be perfect, to be a good girl, to not make waves. I was tailor-made for this disorder.

But I was also tailor-made to overcome it. In addition to all that stuff, I’m also tough as nails, strong-willed, gritty, determined and optimistic. And above all else, I don’t feel sorry for myself. I stopped asking “why me” long ago. Now I ask myself, “why not me?” I’ve looked for the silver lining, the blessing in this experience and found it.

I’ve taken a holistic approach and I do the things I need to do to stay well – emotionally, physically and spiritually – by eating food that fuels my body and spirit, practicing yoga, going for long walks, reading and writing, doing work that has meaning, helping others, and most importantly, spending time with people I love and cherish. If not for panic attacks and anxiety, I doubt that I would experience life to the full depth of emotion and richness that I do today. Silver lining.

When I was in university, and in one of my deepest darkest periods of anxiety, I read a beautiful little book called Hope and Help for Your Nerves by Australian physician Dr. Claire Weekes. This book quite literally saved my life. I read it and re-read it until it was practically in shreds. It was full of practical intelligent advice and down-to-earth wisdom that I could actually do something with. I learned to desensitize my nervous system, to overcome the bewilderment that accompanies panic attacks, to change my internal conversation in order to stop the fear, and the fear of the fear, and to ultimately call its bluff.

And my biggest take-away, and what became my mantra for many years, even to this day – “shaky jelly legs will still get you there!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Pain in the Ass.

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Last week’s Girl Warrior post was about pain in all of its manifestations – physical, spiritual, emotional. Feeling it. Dealing with it. Surviving it. And ultimately, moving on. Over the past five years of writing and speaking to this remarkable Tribe, I’m more often than not, writing about life lessons that I also need to learn. Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a small book I read and reread in the seventies said, ‘We teach best what we most need to learn.” He’s right.

Since January of this year I’ve been hurting. Physically. But because human beings aren’t unconnected fragments, bits and pieces, shards and shavings that have nothing to do with each other, the physical pain has also become emotional and psychological suffering as well. There have been times, far too many truthfully, where life has lost its color. Times when everything was murky dimly lit and shrouded in grey hopeless despair. No joy at all. And it hasn’t been pretty.

The kind of pain I’m talking about is fucking ugly actually. And for me, it has literally been a pain in the ass. My sciatic nerve is being pinched or squeezed and the result is chronic relentless pain running from my butt down the right leg to my ankle. Thank God it stops there. But it’s debilitating. During my darkest hour, my worst days and fearful nights, it has taken every ounce of strength, grit, iron will and determination just to stand and walk. Even sitting for any length of time has been exhausting. There has been no relief. No relief for months.

I don’t know with certainty what brought this on, although I have theories, or why it still persists all these months later. I’ve been on a medical odyssey that included numerous visits to our sweet and kind leprechaun-like family doctor, who prescribed two different types of drugs to help manage the pain: one to stop the messages from the pain in my ass to my brain and the other to help curb the inflammation. The pain-brain pill I took once. Not only was it unable to block the chatter between my two body parts, it made me feel like puking. The other medication I took for a few weeks but I grew suspicious when I realized that they were the first thing I reached for when I woke up and the last thing I took before I went to sleep. This dependency was disconcerting to say the least so I did some online research. I quit those suckers cold turkey. They were useless anyway.

I went to my Chiropractor every Thursday night for two months. He did what Chiropractors do best – manipulate, twist, pull, bend and crack. This was a lot of fun. At first it seemed to help, then it didn’t. He recommended I also try deep tissue massage to supplement “the work” he was doing. This actually felt pretty wonderful during the 45-minute session where the Therapist kneaded my ass like it was a lump of bread dough. I thought ‘whoa, I want more of this.’ I left the clinic with this big dopey euphoric grin on my face but by the time I got home I swear to God I was crippled. I couldn’t move for 24 hours. I went back, however, for another session because it felt so damn good while he was doing all that pummeling and rubbing and stroking. Plus the clinic smelled divine. Like lavender and mint tea. But again, by the time I got home I was crying like a snot-nosed baby. It was pathetic and kind of funny if it wasn’t happening to me. That was the end of that treatment.

Two sessions with a Chinatown Acupuncturist did absolutely nothing. Well not exactly nothing. In the middle of the second session, the beautiful Asian doctor paused and said “I think your husband doesn’t love you enough.” Perhaps something was lost in translation, or perhaps it was the side-affects of having my ass used as a human pincushion, but that’s what I heard. I milked this for all it was worth. Afterwards, I told E what she said and this got me several weeks worth of loving kindness, if you know what I mean. It was good while it lasted. But everyone has limits, even E.

I did all kinds of online research on Sciatica, SI joint injury and Piriformis syndrome. All the “experts” agreed that these three were the culprits. The source of my worst nightmare, the cause of my grief and agony, the reason I was down on my knees praying for an end to this fucking misery. So I culled the best of all their wisdom and advice, and tried things. There was a common theme to the exercises promoted online for the type of injury I had. They involved a lot of pulling and stretching of the ass muscles in awkward uncomfortable positions. Kind of like yoga on steroids. While I was doing the exercises I got some relief but as soon as I got off the floor and made any attempt at getting on with my day, much less my life, I was in agonizing hell. More rubber-faced Claire Danes type crying ensued.

I was miserable. I was angry and frustrated by my body’s betrayal. I was depressed. And consequently depressing to be around. I felt alone and isolated. Like no one truly understood the depth of my suffering. During the day, I put on my happy “work face” and soldiered through. On a good night, if I was lucky, I found a position that was comfortable, which was usually sitting with my back completely straight and upright, my feet flat on the floor. I would sit like this for hours and not move, fearful that if I did I would trigger those delightful pain messages. This became the new normal for me.

Sometimes I screamed bloody murder. So loud and hard that the blood vessels in my neck vibrated. I scared the shit out of E and Mel. They did their best to console and comfort me. But it was pointless. Life was pointless. Hopeless. I was an embarrassing useless burden. There were no words that could make this better. No words.

Then at the beginning of June, upon the recommendation of a colleague, I went to see an Osteopath. I had no clue what an Osteopath was but I was willing to give it try. I met with the doctor on a sunny Saturday morning. She was an intense, direct, straight shooter who listened with her ears, eyes and heart. She didn’t just see me as patient, she recognized me as a human being who was suffering. And then she went to work.

For the first time in months I can see a glimmer of light that maybe, just maybe, I might get better. Session by session, I am seeing small steady improvements as Dr. D works her magic. I don’t know what she’s doing. I don’t care. I only know I’m on the journey back. I have faith in her ability to heal. I have hope again. I stopped screaming.

They say everything happens for a reason. I’ve yet to figure out the “why” of it all, and I guess it doesn’t really matter. But if I was to add a silver lining to this, it would be that my heart has been opened wide, wider than I could have ever imagined, to those who suffer. My compassion muscle has expanded and grown exponentially. My empathy is on high alert and fully engaged. For example, in the past I have often been impatient, annoyed and horribly judgmental of people who took their ‘sweet time’ crossing the street, and kept me waiting. I’d mutter irritated “for God’s sake hurry up and get across the road already.” But now I think, “what is your story, Dear One? Are you suffering?”

My heart aches. I feel your pain. I understand.

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Feel the Pain.

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Girl Warrior. Pain is inevitable. So feel it. Fully. Thoroughly. Exhaustively. Allow yourself to experience every little detail of the hurt you are experiencing. Physically, mentally and spiritually. Wring your emotions dry.

Purge. Cleanse. Release. Repeat.

There is no escaping pain. You can run but you cannot hide. It affects us all sooner or later. Like death, it happens to everyone and everything. Guaranteed. But unlike death, it doesn’t just happen once. And then boom. Lights out. Pain recurs. Also guaranteed.

But what isn’t guaranteed is your perspective. The way you think, feel, react, respond and behave when you’re suffering and in your darkest hour. You may not be able to control when something hurtful is going to come your way or cross your path. But you can control what you do when it does.

This isn’t easy. Your first impulse may be avoidance. Or denial. Or retreat. You may want to run like hell away from the source of your torment, if you can. Or pull the covers over your head. Bury it in the sand. Lock yourself away. Hold a pity party. Lash out. Make accusations. Lay blame. Threaten to harm yourself. Crush your psyche. Curse at your body or mind. Condemn their betrayal. Give up.

Do these things if you must. And there will be times when you need to do all or some of these things. Recovery, getting rid of the bad shit that happens, is a process. And it takes time to heal wounds. Whether it’s a broken arm or a broken heart. A sore knee or a sore spirit. An injured back or an injured mind.

But know Girl Warrior that eventually you have to face it all. Have a showdown with the pain. Feel it all. Surrender to it all. Accept that it is happening. Because the pain won’t leave you until you deal with it. One way or the other. Head-on works. So does a slow and gentle approach. Trust yourself. You actually already know what to do. The wisdom to guide you through this already abides within. Listen to your small quiet voice of truth. Know that all pain is temporary.

Girl Warrior, let this pain be one of your quintessential teachers. Learn. Grow. Forgive. Accept. Emerge. Move on.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Get Enough Sleep.

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Girl Warrior. Get enough sleep. Make this a top priority every night. And you will have better days. Guaranteed.

You live a busy 24-7 life. Always on the go. You’re stretched to the max most days. Demands are flying at you from every direction. You put others’ needs before your own. You’re on stress and strain overload. Worry, anxiety and pressure greet you at every turn. Everyone wants a piece of you.

And quite simply, you are running on empty.

When you get to this exhausting place Girl Warrior, it’s time to re-fuel. Truth is, this isn’t really an option. Not when your health and wellbeing are at stake. It’s time to shut it all down and take good care of yourself. And the best place to do this is in the bedroom.

This is your sanctuary, your peaceful retreat, and most importantly, your recovery refuge. Think calm, serene, tranquil and relaxing. So feather your nest in a way that fosters these feelings. Make it comfortable and cozy, safe and snug. Free of all distractions and disturbances. Make this a place for you to rest your weary bones and leave all the cares of the day behind.

Hang a Do Not Disturb sign on the door of your mind.

Begin a ‘get ready for bed’ ritual. Make this a habit you can’t live without. This is personal so it won’t look the same for all Girl Warriors. This matters not. What does matter is that you make it a nightly routine that helps you prepare for sleep. Start by slowing things down. Dim the lights, do some gentle yoga stretches, drink herbal tea, take a warm bath, listen to relaxing music, read a book, meditate, say your prayers and give thanks for all your many blessings and the abundance in your life.

Slip into your divinely inviting bed and allow the healing of your body, mind and spirit to begin. Sweet sweet dreams Girl Warrior.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: This Too Shall Pass.

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Girl Warrior. This too shall pass. Impossible to believe when you’re in the heat of the battle or in the eye of the storm. In the hour of the wolf when only the devil knows your name. When you cry out into the darkness begging for mercy. You’re down on your knees praying for your misery to end. You’re heart is breaking and your body is aching. You hurt everywhere.

You are in agony. You feel alone. Lost. Abandoned. Hopeless.

The emotional or physical pain is so unbearable you wonder if you will ever feel normal again. You can’t see two inches in front of you, much less the light at the end of the tunnel. You are unable to feel the warmth of a sunny day. You wonder, will you ever laugh again? Will your spirit be carefree once more? Will your burden be lifted?

Yes, Girl Warrior. Yes.

Relief from your suffering will come. Be assured. But it will take time. It will also take patience, tenderness, gentleness and kindness. You will find these in the embrace of your Dear Ones, who will love you unconditionally in your vulnerability and brokenness. Bit-by-bit. Day-by-day. One foot in front of the other, you will get there. You will be whole.

Life will never be what it was Girl Warrior. It will be better. Because you not only survived, you thrived.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Don’t Be a Shrinking Violet.

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Girl Warrior. Don’t be a shrinking violet. Ever. No, not ever. Not for any reason. Not for any person. Not in any situation. Under no circumstances or conditions.

Do not make yourself small. Do not diminish, draw back or decrease in any way your presence on this planet. For it belongs to you as much as it does any other. You have a place here. A position to defend. A stand to take. A clear and resounding voice. Let it be heard. For it is utterly magnificent.

Don’t back away from the good fight. Don’t abandon your convictions. Or betray your beliefs, ideologies or principles. Don’t let fear or any other false fabrication of your imagination prevent you from being the big girl that you are. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too big for your britches. That’s impossible. Stay vigilant and ignore ludicrous comments designed to keep you in your place. Or worse yet, keep you down.

You have big things to do Girl Warrior. Brilliant things. Bright things beyond your wildest dreams. But doing these things will require you to step out boldly and bravely into every arena as the formidable force that you are.

So put on your big gutsy pants Girl Warrior and show the world what it looks like to be too damn big for your britches.

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