well the book is finally out! and to celebrate the big release i have decided to launch a new blog for the book along with an author site. i’m still making some changes to them, but they are up and ready. all future updates will be posted on the new sites and i will no longer be updating this blog. please follow me there and thanks so much for all of your support.
life is complicated. it’s a balancing act. sometimes in those moments when you feel like things are beginning to make sense, it all just seems to fall apart. life is hard and messy and often painful. but it is also good. sometimes, maybe, it’s not as good as it could be and i think that has a lot to do with holding on and letting go.
these ideas are not new. they are not earth shattering. but, they are played out time and time again in our lives. we are told to keep things close. to take advantage of opportunities at hand. keep a watchful eye on a situation. and we are told to release things. to choose our battles. it’s almost as if these things are so far apart. like we have to choose one road over another. and how do you know? how do you know which path is the right one? if you should keep on betting or fold your hand? how do you know when to stay and when to just walk away? what if you didn’t have to choose? what if you could hold on and still let go?
sometimes we just need to stop obsessing and live our lives. we need to acknowledge the situation at hand but not be afraid to just close our eyes and fall backwards. believing there will be a net to catch our fall. or reminding ourselves that it’s okay to get beat up a little. it’s okay to feel the pain. to admit we are human. sometimes our walls they just get so high. over the course of our lives we learn not to feel, we learn how to go through life, to go through the motions without really connecting to anything, or anyone. maybe that is what makes letting go so hard because we wind up clinging so tightly to our issues, to obstacles, to fears, to whatever it is that is blocking our path, we just get used to it. so much so that the idea of releasing it, of letting it go is so foreign, so impossible to imagine.
it seems like letting go is in such conflict with holding on. in a battle of ideas, letting go always seems to get the upper hand. leading one to believe that holding on in reality is not the best choice. because if you hold on too tightly you start to suffocate. you lose yourself and you become whatever it is you are obsessing over. you hold on and you forget what you are holding on to and you just hold, hold for dear life hoping it will somehow make sense. but what if there was a better way? what if you could hold on, hold tight to something. keep it close without allowing it to consume you.
what if you could choose to be in a situation without being tied down to it? what if you could choose to stay at some job you hate, to be loyal to your boss, to put in your time, without obsessing or being unhappy with where you are? what if we could see the bigger picture of the situation’s we are in without getting caught up in the details? what if you could keep in your heart the memory of a loved one gone and still live your life, still change, and grow, and move forward? what if it was okay to care about something, to think about something, to find the learning moments and keep those, but still know when it’s time to walk away. to be okay with endings, but not expecting you will feel nothing. to realize that finality it not always easy, and at the same time it isn’t always so hard as we imagine.
i guess there is no perfect solution. there is not always an obvious pre-marked path telling you which way you should go. but sometimes we over complicate things. sometimes we try so hard to go to each extreme. we either have to run as far away as we can or we have to stay immobilized. incapable of moving forward, of moving on. i’m slowly learning to practice the art of holding on and letting go. it is a process. a new way of thinking. learning to take a moment to breathe before the immediate fight or flight response kicks in. learning it’s okay to feel and learning it’s okay to walk away. it doesn’t always mean you are giving up.
but sometimes it does. and that is ok too.
i was having coffee with a friend the other day, ok, we were actually sipping on some fruit tea, but it was at a coffee shop. we were catching up, talking about the upcoming release of my first book Silence & Noise. since the book deals with lily’s battle with mental illness we focused our conversation, for a time, on that. i shared with her my concerns that the topic of mental illness is so overlooked, especially in regard to today’s youth. and to me that is frightening because as i mentioned in my last post, teenage problems turn into adult problems. so we just end up with a bunch of people battling something they don’t really understand in a world that turns a blind eye to the topic in general.
i realized during this conversation with my friend just how fearful people can be of the topic. she shared with me her hesitation to use the label, “mental illness.” this friend told me someone close to her used that label in reference to themselves and how that bothered her. when she heard it her mind was taken to another place, she was uncomfortable hearing it and especially hearing it in relation to someone she cared about. somehow “mental illness” has become a dirty word. something that makes people feel weird or awkward. somehow it’s easier to label someone depressed, or emotional, or kinda crazy, than to say they suffer from mental illness. an illness of the mind. i wonder if it conjures up images of doctors performing lobotomies. whatever it is, there is something about it that makes us uneasy.
my mind always reels back to thoughts of other illnesses, diseases. things that are often more obvious and apparent. things we have just learned to accept as battles people might face. i think about cancer. i think about telling someone that a friend has cancer and the automatic response of sympathy, or anger at the disease, or concern for the individual. we don’t think, “oh, yikes, i’ll keep my distance.” then i think about telling someone that one of my friends is battling with mental illness, that she suffers from schizophrenia. and how those reactions might change.
our minds are these sacred places and the idea of something not being right in our minds, or in someone else’s mind is frightening. because if you can’t trust your own mind, then where does that leave you. but why is it that we automatically assume the worst. that initially we are hesitant about someone with a mental illness, like they have some disease we might catch if we get too close. mental illness and all the other labels that go along with it have become these dirty words. the stigma attached to them runs so deep. we look back on lives of notable figures who were rumored to have some form of mental illness and we idolize their creations. not really thinking much beyond that. we see the loss of a teenager, or adult, who has taken their life and we mourn, we think, “why didn’t they just tell someone something was wrong” not realizing that the stigma, the stares, the whispers, all of those things become roadblocks and barriers on the journey. but it is important to remember we are all responsible for ourselves and we can’t point fingers and say, “i never told anyone about my battles, i was waiting for them to ask me.” we can’t assume anyone will know what someone is suffering from if we don’t speak up. yet at the same time the environment surrounding the topic of mental illness may not present itself as the safest place. which just makes everything complicated.
i wish people wouldn’t laugh uncomfortably, or fidget when i bring up the topic of mental illness. but i hope that the story of lily can help break down some of those walls. i hope it can start conversations. i hope it can impact those who battle with mental illness as well as those who do not. i hope we can realize it is an important topic for all of us, no matter which side of it we are standing on.
i have to thank my brother-in-law for helping to inspire this post. actually, i knew i wanted to cover this topic in the blog because it is an issue that lily addresses in Silence & Noise and it’s an important one. but my brother-in-law made a comment today that made me realize, today was the day to write this.
as lily is coming to terms with the world around her, realizing that maybe she isn’t like everyone else, she encounters many walls. barriers. obstacles in her path. they range from parents, to friendships, to doctors, and even herself. in fact it is arguable that she is her greatest obstacle. and i think that is true for so many of us. we wake up each day fighting the fight of life, swinging our punches, only to realize we are fighting ourselves. one piece of advice lily receives on her journey is that maybe what she is battling is just “teenage problems” everyone has them, right? misunderstandings. self-esteem issues. insecurities. the wrong clothes. acne. the awkward years. depression. cutting. fears. anxieties. voices. these are just “teenage problems” right? maybe. maybe not.
and what happens when these “teenage problems” become adult problems? this of course isn’t to say that every teenager that cries over a break-up must be batting some form of mental illness. this isn’t to assume that anyone who may tell you, you are dealing with regular, normal, ordinary things is a bad person. or that they are even in the wrong for that matter. it’s just to say that maybe, just maybe for some people out there these little things that seem quite typical on the outside could be a whole other monster internally. i think we are doing ourselves a disservice to pretend that all these feelings are fleeting. that we will simply grow out of them in time, move on, and put them behind us. in turn that doesn’t mean the other extreme of obsessing, holding on to, and never letting go of these feelings and fears is the answer. it’s more about being honest with yourself. if the hopelessness feels real to you, simply stated, it is. your reality is your truth, but it is how you treat that truth that ultimately can free you or imprison you.
so how do we know when to take these “teenage problems” seriously? for lily her battle grew so heavy and i think she was trapped beneath the weight of it. i wish i could have been on her walk with her and lifted her up and told her, “i can’t promise you this will pass, but i can tell you, you will learn to understand who you are.” i think lily has a great gift and i think people who walk around feeling immense amounts of pain all possess their own gift, i think it’s just how it is utilized, and how it is realized. it is so easy to point fingers and blame people and think “they don’t understand”, “won’t understand”, “can’t understand” but the gift of feeling is pretty extraordinary. and it is something that most people will never know. to be able to look at someone and see their hurt, because you know that feeling, have experienced that weight.
i think if we aren’t careful, if we don’t take those “teenage problems” seriously then they might just become adult problems. maybe if we come to terms with some things in our youth if we allow ourselves to consider the possibility that our battles are real than we can better learn how to face them as we age. instead i think so often we are lied to and we lie to ourselves. we think, “i will grow out of this”, “i will make money and this will go away”, “once i find love i will be okay” and it is those lies that will haunt us, will destroy us. and they will destroy the things we try to use to fill the space. relationships are good. love is good. friendships. family. jobs. things. none of these alone are bad, none of these alone are the problem. the problem is when we assume having, finding, or possessing these things will solve any certain problem.
i just hope that we can all take more seriously mental illness. that we aren’t so quick to judge. to assume. to speak. that we aren’t so inclined to say, “this is fleeting, this will pass.” mental illness isn’t a death sentence, it doesn’t have to be. it is a misunderstood beast. it is a notion full of lies and half-truths. it will destroy us if we let it, but it doesn’t have to.
there is an organization called To Write Love On Her Arms. they are doing some pretty remarkable things to help people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. i think it is resources like this that will be instrumental in knocking down some of the walls of mental illness. i urge you to check out their work and i truly hope that lily’s story can impact your life as it has mine.
there is something about mornings that makes long nights and restless sleeps fade. there is this something that takes the stress of yesterday and buries it somewhere in our minds just out of reach. sometimes it’s only for a moment, but in the morning there is that moment we awake and ever so briefly there is a quiet peace. i’m not much of morning person. i prefer staying up late, watching some bound to give you nightmares tv show, or writing, or making use of my netflix account. i prefer dinner at 9pm and bedtime much later. i would rather sleep in until my body decides it’s time to awake and start my day then.
but, my morning routine has recently changed. not because my life changed or my job changed, but just because i needed a change. i used to sleep til 8 or 830 in the morning, get up and get ready. my husband would already be gone, had already walked our dog, ate, and began his work day. i felt like i was missing something. there were these perfectly useful moments, this untouched time i was neglecting. but i kept telling myself, “you don’t like mornings”, “just stay up late, be productive then” but the thing was i wasn’t really being productive. at times i was. in fact a large chunk of the first draft of Silence & Noise took place during late night writing escapades. but that wasn’t the norm. the norm was more like numb my mind with tv because i don’t feel like sleeping right now. then norm was less productive than i’d like to believe.
so i made a change. i started waking up with my husband. it was hard at first. actually i decided i wanted to try waking up with him for a whole week, but i didn’t tell him because i figured if i kept it to myself i could change my mind at the last minute when his alarm went off way too early. why would anyone want to get out of bed when it’s still dark outside? so the first two days of my experiment ended up with me still in bed asleep. day three was when it all began. i had told myself so many times i can’t wake up that early, i just can’t i need sleep. and yes i do need sleep, but i realized if i went to sleep a little earlier then i could wake up a little earlier and it all sort of balanced itself out. what i realized after the first couple days was my body started to get used to the changes i was making and instead of fighting me it went along with my decisions. my mind on the other hand kept feeding me doubts and screaming profanities at me as the alarm sung me out of bed each morning.
i found in these moments, this time that i had never experienced on a consistent basis before, that the morning is different that early. even just a few hours later when i used to awake, there was still that sense of urgency, that rush, the stress of the new day already sinking in. but early, when the sun is only beginning to creep through my bedroom window, when the fog is still lingering on the damp grass, there are these quiet moments. there is a peace. i forget the deadlines from the day before, i forget the stupid argument i thought was a good idea to have as i was climbing into bed, i forget tears, or regrets, or anger, or sadness. i get dressed and i join my husband and my dog on a walk and i shut off my mind and remind myself that my day hasn’t even begun, that i still have time. and somehow only a couple more hours has added what seems like a lifetime to my day.
i don’t know how long i will keep this up. it has been almost two weeks of early mornings. but i am enjoying that little bit of peace and clarity that comes from those moments.
well it has been almost two years (but really a lifetime) in the making and i’m excited that next month i will finally be releasing my first novel. i remember for a long time knowing that i wanted to create things. i knew i loved film, i loved the way good films made me feel and i wanted to be involved in that process. for some reason i never really saw myself as a writer. which is confusing to me still, because all i did was write. for those who knew me way back when (okay, so maybe it wasn’t really way back when…but still) they could confirm i always had a composition notebook in hand. i would buy bulk packs of composition books and decorate them in magazine photos and random words, and that is where i wrote my thoughts, my observations, my teenage angst, stuff like that. i still have most of those notebooks and i skim through them from time to time and laugh at myself a little. i think it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself, sometimes we take ourself way to seriously. anyway, even though all i did was write i never really thought, “hey, i should write!” i knew i wanted to go to film school, but i didn’t envision it would be with a focus on writing. i used to think, “one day i want to write a book.” but about what i didn’t know it was just some dream that seemed pretty distant because again i didn’t think i was a writer.
so i went to film school and after the persuasion of some professors i turned my focus to screenwriting. after i graduated i worked on some script ideas, but i still had this idea of writing a book almost haunting me. well i finally gave in and started writing Silence & Noise: one girl’s journey into insanity a couple novembers ago. and it’s a pretty good feeling having accomplished that dream. even if no one else reads it, i did it, i chased down a dream. i still have a hard time considering myself a writer because i do so many other things i love. i have always had a hard time feeling like i was putting myself in a box. i love music, i love words, i love lyrics, i love working with creative people, i love helping people reach their dreams, i love creating, i love film. i thought if i called myself a writer, or if i wrote a book does that mean i can’t do all those other things i love? does that mean this is what i am now and i can’t be anything else? i finally got to the point where i realized i can do all the things i love, it’s more about prioritizing and balancing my time than it is about limiting the things i am involved in.
so, i wrote my book, and i will be releasing it October 20th. i’m having a release party that night in Nashville and the book will be available on Amazon and through this blog and you’ll be able to get it in stores soon too. i hope those that are able to will come and celebrate with me, it should be a fun night. i’m looking forward to holding my book in my hand and sharing it with others. a big thank you to Anthony Scarlati for shooting all the promo photos for the book, like the one used in the flyer below.
my dog isn’t much of a barker. he is 7 months old and up until about two months ago i think i could count the times i heard him bark on one hand. it’s easily one of my favorite qualities about him. he has been more on guard lately, i think he is at that growing and processing age and i am noticing more of his fears and curiosities. he has discovered his bark and uses it more. he doesn’t bark non-stop. he doesn’t bark at random things. he doesn’t bark when being barked at. he barks when something is not right. when something unknown is approaching. he barks when he is scared and needs to send a warning to his pack. he barks to ward off danger. he sees something that doesn’t appear right to him and the tufts of hair on his back will spike up, it’s his way of appearing tough. really he is scared. just a pup, but his bark would tell you a different story. a few short, deep warning calls he sounds out concerning the situation at hand. when my dog barks i listen and i look. something is not right and he is letting me know.
dogs are instinctive. they don’t get caught up in their head space. they don’t worry about what people may think. and they certainly don’t hold back when they feel something isn’t right. they don’t internalize emotions. they don’t stuff feelings. they live in the moment. they don’t hold grudges. they don’t think, “my owner didn’t take me for a long enough walk today so i’m going to withhold my love to teach them a lesson.” they don’t think, “something isn’t right but i’m not sure if i should say anything because i don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.” or “i will just keep it to myself.” no, you come home, your dog is excited to see you, he licks your face, wags his tail, gives affection. something is wrong and he lets you know, he doesn’t hold onto the information to decide how he should use it and if he could get some leverage from it. we as people have the ability to process our emotions, to understand the way things make us feel and to analyze those thoughts. it is a unique ability, a true gift, but often it gets us into trouble. we can get so caught up in our heads, in our emotions, in our racing thoughts, our anxieties, our worries our concerns. we forget to live in the moment. we forget to speak up and say what we think. our friend is about to make a bad decision but we don’t want to butt in, it isn’t our place. if i was walking right into danger i am certain my dog would try to stop me. he would sound his bark, run up and protect me. what is it about us that prevents us from following our instincts. why can’t we turn off the racing thoughts and just live, a little. every now and then?
we are just as instinctive as dogs. it’s just that we spend so much time thinking and feeling that we waste our reaction time. i think that is a lot of the difficulty with mental illness, even more so than the average person you get stuck in that head space. reliving things. holding onto things. i wish i said what i felt more, what i thought more. i wish i didn’t hold onto things. instead of saying, “nothing is wrong, i’m fine.” i wish i said, “i’m amazed i got out of bed today, i wish i could go back there now.” or “you hurt me today and i just can’t get over it.” life is so fleeting, we don’t have much control over the length of time we have here on earth, but i hope we remember to enjoy what we do have every now and then. i want to live in the moment like my dog. i want to let go of things. i want to say what i feel. i want to be carefree.