Self-Love, Selfishness, and 2014

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I’ve been thinking a lot about two things lately: self-love selfishness.  

I know I’m not the only person who struggles with self-love every day.  I’m always disappointing myself.  I’m always making decisions that I know I’d make differently if I were given the chance.  I don’t like to feel regret all the time, so I try and not feel regret – it doesn’t mean I don’t know that whatever I did wasn’t great, and I still make lists in my head of how I could’ve done it better.  That’s okay.  That’s learning from my mistakes.  And humans make mistakes all the time.  

But this being New Year’s Eve, I am thinking about resolutions even though I feel like November 1st is a more seasonal, real New Year’s Day than January 1st.  I’ve come to take both of these days to mean I should think about the last year of my life and I should try and make the next one better.  

I know the highest goal on my list is certainly to be able to let go—forgive myself—and love myself more.  But there’s  catch to all that self-love.  

It’s easy to take it too far, and become selfish (especially when you have a partner and a child).  

I feel like I’ve just been winging it since my baby was born over two years ago.  I know this is a common feeling amongst new parents.  My partner never seems to get tired of the attention our son needs, but I do.  I hide in the bathroom and eat cookies I don’t want to feed my toddler because I want him to be sugar-free as long as humanly possible.  I tell him “Mommy’s working” at least 5 times  day when he asks for attention or even for me to just sit next to him (because I know sitting next to him doesn’t mean I can necessarily give most of my attention to work).  At night, I just want time to myself, or time alone with my partner.  

Despite all these attempts to put my own needs first (or at least equally side by side with my toddler’s needs) — I hate myself most of the time, and a lot of it is that I wish I didn’t “need” so much.  

I don’t really ask for things or think about things as “wants”.  I say “I need time to myself” or “I need space” or “I need a hug” or “I need to write.”  It feels weird to be selfish and not have self-love.  Selfish people should have too much self-love, right?  But I’ve always been a person of contradictions and conflicting emotions.  

I think it must be the writer in me that wants—no, needs—so deeply to understand everyone and every side of a situation that I don’t even know which side I’m on!  Or which side I want to be on.  

So — this new year’s, I’m going to be thinking about the line between selfishness and self-love.  I’m going to try and feel more self-love while feeling less selfish.  And I’m going to see how long I can go without saying the words “I need.”  

 

 What are YOU going to do?  

(Feel free to post your thoughts and ideas below, and I hope everyone has an inspiring New Year’s Day.)  

Recent Interview about Living on Boats and my Shipwreck

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I was interviewed recently about my experiences living on sailboats from 2009-2011, and the shipwreck I experienced with my partner in 2011 that changed our life and moved us into the woods for a while.

Please feel free to check it out HERE.

And Happy coming Solstice and other holidays!

My NaNoWriMo, voicing, and cultural musings

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I successfully made it through all of November without a single blog post!  

Was I busy writing a novel in a month, like many other writer friends of mine?  

No.  I was actually taking a break from my usual writing-like-crazy to let other people do the writing-like-crazy.  I submitted my latest book to a literary agency that prefers exclusive reading time and have been just—waiting.

The waiting has been good, though, as you saw in my last post about making blocks for my toddler.  I made blocks, then I sewed the entire inside and outside of a handbag, painted stars on a new Ergo baby carrier, sewed a tank top for myself, sewed patches onto pants, sewed some other things.  You get the picture.  I’ve been crafty this November, and waiting ever patiently to hear from the agents (which is probably the only time I am able to be patient).  

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I am reaching that point where I feel like I’m sitting on my hands all the time to stop myself from writing, though,—because—the only thing I wish to write is the second installment of my YA science fiction trilogy.  But I’ve learned my lesson from literary agents and the “Big 6” publishing houses already.  Never write the second book in a trilogy unless you’re pretty confident the first is going to get published NOW.  

Only last year at this time, I was in the throes of editing the first volume of a YA Urban Fantasy trilogy.  I wrote the first draft of that book during Nanowrimo 2010, while sailing south from Block Island, Rhode Island, to Key West, Florida.  It was a mess of a story about a wolf girl journeying from New Hampshire to New York and then passing in and out of stories.  I put it down when I discovered I was pregnant in January of 2011, and didn’t start editing it until November of that year.  

The single volume turned into a complex trilogy about fairy tales, myths, and the doors between reality and stories.  Werewolves escape their stories and a wolf girl named Blue has to put them back.  I sent the 6th draft of that book out and it wasn’t finished—I needed much more world building, I needed to know what all the action of this book was leading to, I needed to know my characters better.  So I did 9 more drafts of it and resubmitted it in April of 2013.

By this time, however, the “Big 6” publishers (who I sometimes imagine as six mythological gods sitting around a round table discussing what would be popular next year and what would absolutely not) had decided that werewolves were out and so were shapeshifters that turned into wolves.  I knew that my story was great, but if the “Big 6” said it wasn’t the right time for it, then I knew that only smaller presses would even consider publishing it.  It made me sad to put that trilogy aside, but I feel pretty confident in the fact that wolves will resurface someday—and in 5 or 10 years, I would probably rip up that story and write something vastly different, but it’s okay.  Sometimes that’s what happens.  As writers, we can’t stop growing and changing and making decisions based on what is important to us.  

I feel in my heart that my current project is going to get published.  But I don’t have the heart to start writing the second book right now—not because I am uncertain the first will get published—but because I realize the whole agent and publishing process will change this first book into something else…which will change what happens in the second.  

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So—what do I do with my time now?  

Lately, I’ve been devouring the brilliant science fiction Ender Series and reading some more contemporary paranormal YA like Everlost, the first book of the Skinjacker Trilogy.  

I’ve been dreaming of the second book of my science fiction trilogy and adding little notes about it to my Index Cards iPad app that allows me to just throw a bunch of scenes and pieces of storyline together—so that I can sit like Dumbledore staring into the pensive as the details rearrange themselves into what they are supposed to become.  I often feel like my characters are telling me their story, not the other way around.

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Aside from the writing, I am going through some inner cultural conflicts.

I am back to thinking about not wanting to voice again.  

I go through this every few months or so.  I am Deaf, but I went deaf in my teens, and I still have enough hearing to hear some voices and sounds and to be able to speak clearer English than most hearing people (because I grew up with a deaf mother who lip reads, so I needed to annunciate my words very carefully from a young age).  I love voicing, too, because I love using the English language, my first language.  

My deafness, however, makes it so that any social interactions with other people are hard if they are not in ASL.  When I voice, I am not just meeting hearing people half-way and asking them to meet me half-way in our communication.  I am bending over backwards for them, making it so that it’s easy for them to know what I am saying.

The problem is—that doesn’t make it any easier for me to hear them.  And it makes them want me to lip read, which is exhausting and it gives me headaches.  But they hear me talking and they automatically want to talk back.  It’s a natural response, so I don’t blame them for it.  

But if I start the whole conversation with writing on a notepad, or typing on our cell phones, then we’re on the same page from the start.  We’re BOTH typing to each other, we’re both communicating in written English.  The communication is balanced—it is equal.  

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I know these things, but when I go home to my parent’s house and I see my family, I am pulled back into hearing culture and voicing.  Most of the women in my family, even the other deaf ones, speak loudly and tell stories.  Dramatic, repetitive storytelling is a huge part of American Italian culture and I’m not outside of its compelling influence.  When I want to tell a story, even to my partner (who is hearing but knows ASL), my first instinct is to tell it the way my grandmother does—in English with wild gestures (though now, my hands move with ASL signs instead).  

When I am especially excited, I probably sound like other bilinguals (who might yell something in English and then yell more in Spanish or Russian), but I’m even more confusing because sometimes I yell in English and ASL at the same time, ripping something away from each language by mashing them together, but illustrating how divided I am at the same time.

I can speak volumes faster than I can sign, which is what I am hoping to change as my toddlers becomes an older child.  I want him to be as fluent in ASL and I wish I could be and I want to never feel like I need to voice with him.  

And I want to remember to STOP VOICING with him NOW.  

I am Deaf, but I used to be hearing.  When I go to sleep, sometime I dream in ASL, and sometimes I can hear and I dream in spoken English.  

I’m writing these struggles out there for all the other people who I am sure are also straddling cultures, whether it is French and American cultures, or Eastern and Western cultures, or hearing and Deaf cultures.  

We’re all different.  And we’re all beautiful and ugly in our own unique ways.  I don’t think any of us should ever stop learning about other cultures, but sometimes it’s good to remember and honor (all) the cultures we belong to, however they may conflict inside of us.  

motherhood and art

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This is me being honest: I have truly struggled with motherhood.  

I love my 2-year-old son, but I don’t enjoy the immense responsibility that goes along with being a mother.  I also feel overwhelmed most days with my schedule of part time working, writing novels and poetry, AND watching my son.  But every day, I manage it somehow.  Every day, I learn to keep up with the important things and let the less important things go.  

Letting things go that I want to get done and just can’t is so hard for me.  I grew up as an only child.  I’m used to doing whatever I want, when I want.  I’m used to traveling when I want to, writing for 13 hours straight when I want to, and focusing on myself.  

All of that changes when you have a child.  It’s frightening.  I remember reading somewhere that having a child is like having a piece of yourself exist outside of your body, a very fragile piece, that’s new and vulnerable to the world.  I get anxious all the time.  

I’ve gone through plenty of times of self-doubt and self-criticism, but being a mother exacerbated all of that.  I feel guilty all the time when I need to do some work and my son wants more attention.  Or when I give him all my attention and don’t get the time to write.  

It’s a constant battle, inside and out.  

But It’s worth it.  I know it is, and every time my son does something ridiculously cute or impressively smart for his age, I get excited and I forget to worry about the precarious balancing of work and childcare that I do.  

Two nights ago, my partner went to sleep early.  I wrote all day, so I was ready to take a break from writing and focus on my son for a few hours.  I realized that maybe he is old enough for markers or crayons, and I realized that I still had 30-something wooden blocks cut for him, that I’ve been planning to paint for him for a year and a half.  I took everything out and we had an amazing time drawing together and he drew on some blocks while I painted other blocks.  

It reminded me of the time I spent teaching mural painting in an Irish primary school.  I loved teaching art to kids.  It was one language that I could speak with any child—from the Irish-speaking kids of Dun Chaoin to the Nepali and Indian kids of Kalimpong.  

When I’ve taught art, the fact that I can’t hear kid’s voices or read their lips doesn’t matter.  My son signs, of course.  I don’t have a communication barrier with him, but I have a hard time playing with him in a way that excites me, too.  

I am so relieved, and so thankful, to have found a new language and a new way to play with son that makes me forget my work, my writing, and even forget that I’m fully responsible for this tiny person, I’m a mother now, not just a daughter, or a wandering writer and occasional muralist, or a twenty-something-year-old with a passport filled with stamps, or a sailor living on her own boat.  

I’ve resisted motherhood for a long time, but sharing art with my son helps me embrace it.  

This is a blog post for new mothers—it’s hard as f**k, but if you can share things you love with your children, it makes everything better.  

(I am sure this is old news for many people, but sometimes it’s easy to get sucked into our own needs and stressed over also meeting the needs of our family, and I think it can be easy to forget that when you share things you love with the people you love—older people included—life feels more free, happy, positive, and invigorating.  And then when we go back to our work or our responsibilities, we realize they aren’t so overwhelming after all.)

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Deaf Lit Extravaganza

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I am so excited that two of my favorite poems have been published in Deaf Lit Extravaganza, another anthology put together by the wonderful John Lee Clark, author of Suddenly Slow and Deaf American Poetry: An Anthology.

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If you are at all curious about the Deaf community, I urge you to pick this up.  It had great range, from fiction to poetry to non-fiction, and features some very talented writers.

From the introduction by John Lee Clark: 

“…this book represents the latest blow to the audist vision of deafness as a calamity, as something that must be fixed at all costs.”

The cover of the book, a dandelion, is a tribute to Clayton Valli, a ASL poet and linguist.  His famous ASL poem “A Dandelion”, which is about the persistence of ASL despite oralists attempts to weed it out, is transcribed in the book, though I love the ASL version below:

[A note from Wikipedia:  

“Audism is the notion that one is superior based upon one’s ability to hear, or that life without hearing is futile and miserable, or an attitude based on pathological thinking which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear.”]

[A note from me:  

Many hearing people are audists without even realizing it.  

They are audists when they feel bad for someone who is deaf—because of their deafness.  

(Though when they just feel bad about a deaf person being left out, or when they wish to learn ASL to communicate better with a deaf person, that’s not audism.)  

They are audists when they see a deaf person as disabled, or hearing impaired, or suffering from hearing loss.  

They are audists when they think that person should have hearing aides or cochlear implants, or speak with their voice rather than their hands.  

When you are part of the Deaf community or use ASL, hearing loss is not something that is “suffered.”  Hearing loss then becomes deafness.  It doesn’t include words like “impaired” or “loss” or “disabled.”  

I do feel disabled when I am surrounded by hearing people who cannot sign.  Or when someone turns on a movie that doesn’t have captions or subtitles.  But that doesn’t really make me disabled.  It just means I can’t hear English, despite the fact that I speak and write in English.  

English was my first language, and Hearing culture was my first culture.  Gradually, I’ve become a part of Deaf culture, too, and I’ve realized, it’s okay to be both.  It’s okay to feel a part of two different cultures—the same way I feel at home in India or Ireland, but I was not born of those cultures, either.  

I love ASL, but I’m not a master of it.  I need it, but I cannot sign nearly as well as I can speak or write.  This is why—this is exactly why—I’ve chosen to read my writing aloud, in English, because it was written in English.  But if Deaf individuals attend my readings, I will always deeply want to sign for them.  

I wish to take hold of my own voice with my hands as well as with my mouth.  But I don’t feel adept enough to translate my English into ASL.  And for a true ASL performance, I would need to read my work aloud, and then sign it in ASL.  Not every venue would be open to that (being that it would take twice as long to do a reading), but that is something I might later wish to attempt in the performing of my own work.  

Until then, I’m proud to be a part of anthologies like this—where my words can exist alongside other deaf writers speaking about the Deaf experience from their minds and from their hearts.

the lure of horror

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I’ve felt the lure of horror stories since I was seven and wrote about a shark biting me in the neck.  I believe that was the same year my cousin Stacey and I made a sheet tent over the television in her basement while our mothers (who were sisters) spent a few hours talking upstairs at my aunt’s kitchen table.  

We promised we wouldn’t watch a scary movie, but my uncle’s collection of VCR tapes had too many enticing titles.  We chose “Return of the Living Dead: 2.”  

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As soon as it was finished, we ran upstairs to confess—not out of shame or guilt—but out of pride for having watched a real horror movie and lived to see the end credits, lived to pull aside the sheet tent, crawl back out into the light of day, and know that there would be no zombies.

My first long piece or prose, written in 8th grade, was called The People in the Lake.  It was a hundred hand-written pages with illustrations, about a town in New Hampshire plagued by lake zombies who basically pull you down into the lake if you swim after dark.  One girl has the power to release the spirits of the people in the lake, but there’s a good guy and an evil guy…and you know the rest of a story like this.  I was thirteen.  I loved the idea of zombies, I loved my vacation cabin on a lake in New Hampshire, and I loved the idea of a good boy that seems bad and a bad boy that seems good.  

I also used to write short plays that my cousin Stacey and her little sister Allison and I would act out with my aunt’s old dresses, costumes, and cabbage patch dolls.  

I’m not sure what happened to me in High School to make me switch from writing horror to writing nearly all poetry or high fantasy.  I got into witchcraft and I fell in love with The Princess Bride and Neverending Story (the book, though the film was great, too), and nature.  

I suppose those were nice diversions from the darkness in the corners of the room and under the bed—darkness that I still filled with monsters, reaching hands, or evil fairies.  

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I’m still in love with horror, still reading Steven King, Anne Rice, and other, less known horror writers like Poppy Z. Brite, from time to time, though I mostly feed my craving through movies.  Cabin in the Woods is one of my favorite horror movies.  I love everything Joss Whedon does, though.  Older horrors I still watch are Jaws and the Halloween movies.  I love The Walking Dead and Dexter, too.  

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There’s a part of me that’s sad I am not writing horror now, and I can see myself gravitating back that way in the future.  What has prompted some new thoughts about horror as a genre has been Kristen Lamb’s blog.  

Horror author Kevin Lucia has been guest blogging on her website, and his words have been truly awesome for me to ponder.  They’ve brought me back to that little girl I was under the sheet tents watching zombies, the teenager who surrounded herself with stuffed animals every night so that the monsters under the bed and the evil fairies in the corners of her room wouldn’t get her while she slept, and the adult who still can’t sleep on the edge of the bed, and who still prefers to swim in any water with a companion (a companion who somehow makes Jaws or the people in the lake or the people in the pool—not get her).

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Read Kevin’s wise words here:

Why is Horror Important—Part One

An excerpt:

“…we make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones...”

Why is Horror So Important—Part Two

“Good horror takes characters of depth and exposes them to their worst fears, watching closely how they either rise or fall…which speaks (no, SHOUTS) volumes about us as humans.”

Why Writing Horror Is—SHOULD BE—Hard Part 1

“In the right hands, horror can hold up a very unflattering mirror and show us what we really are: broken, scared creatures flawed and cracked, a species tragically ruled by fear, prejudice, insecurity, pride, anger, selfishness and cruelty.

And in the right hands horror also shows our better selves rising above our flaws.”

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There’s probably going to be a part two for that last post, but I’m too excited about this to wait!

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In conclusion, I resonated with Kevin Lucia’s theories and I was reminded of reading King’s novel Cujo in 7th grade, and spending the last hour of reading in tears.  

Horror isn’t scary because of the monsters, it’s scary because all of these monsters are inside of us already.  

We’re the monsters.  

We’re the heroes, too.  

As humans, we literally can be anything, and sometimes it takes horror to show us the depths that despair or pain can lead us, or the heights we can reach when we are tested.

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words of wisdom

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Sometimes I’ve found it to be important to write down inspiring words from friends or fellow writers.  Even just short little things like, “you only live once,” or “every dark cloud has a silver lining.”  It doesn’t matter how many times they’ve already been said, or how cheesy they sound when you’re feeling positive already and you don’t need more positive affirmations.

When I’m depressed, these little bits of sunshine give me hope.  And when I have writer’s block, they can sometime act as wondrous prompts.

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At AROHO’s retreat this past August, I was able to meet Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint it Black.  

She sat down across from me during lunch one day before I realized who she actually was, and then I proceeded to tell her how much I loved White Oleander and I was nervous to talk to her.  We did speak, though, many times during the week, and my silly nerves went away quickly once I realized how down to earth she was, how friendly and sweet, and all the little things we had in common.

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{Janet and I at the dance on the final evening of the retreat.}

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Janet said so many wise words during her presentations that I found myself, for the first time, desperately attempting to write down or paraphrase everything that was particularly awesome WHILE watching my interpreter interpret her words into ASL.  Janet did give me a typed sheet of the main part of her talk, but a lot of the things she said before and around it were the kinds of things you say spontaneously, while staring into the eyes of almost a hundred women looking back at you.  I added them, in red ink, all over the margins and the back of the paper.  Messy little scratches of inspiration.  And then when I got home, I copied them into my journal, so that I’d always have them in a place where I can find them easily.  

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Now, I realize, I should give them even larger lives than that.  Right now, I wish to give them to you—to the world—because I know they will help some of you just as much as they’ve helped me.

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  If you look for the miraculous—you will find it.

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Live slower, more child-like, like a poet.

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You are where you should be.  

You’re always in the right place.

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You can catch the beauty in life without being the beauty—you can see it, and it’s yours.

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Write from the neck down.

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Let things happen, don’t force anything.

Allow it to happen.

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We can use our “imaginary friends” and discover things we didn’t know we knew!

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I also wrote other more personal notes like:

Janet was a child liar (told stories), like me!!!

As a teen (and sometimes later on, too), I often wrote into the margins of my favorite books, and my comments were usually things like:

“Me, too!!!”   “YESYESYESYES!”   “F**king LOVE THIS!!!!!”   “I’m like him/her!!!”

Now, thankfully, I can just highlight the phrases I love in my Kindle (though I can still add extra exclamations —or exclamation points—when absolutely necessary).

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I’d like to offer up this writing assignment to everyone:  

When you hear a phrase you love, write it down in your journal or a notebook, quote it on Facebook, scribble it onto a napkin.  

Save it’s wisdom for later.  You never know when you might need it.  And I honestly believe words can be saviors, to non-writers as much as writers.  

Words can heal.  And when you hear something that sings to you, words that empower you to do something you’ve never done, or say something you’ve never said, then it might do the same to someone else.  That’s when you know you should probably share those words of wisdom. 

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Sometimes I wish words could fall from the sky like autumn leaves.  

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{I love the shape and vibrant yellow of the fallen cottonwood leaves at Ghost Ranch.}

Here’s another writing (or life) “assignment”:

The next time a leaf falls on you when you’re out walking or hiking, or just standing under a tree, catch it!  

Close your eyes with the leaf in your hands.

And listen for the word it could be telling you.  

Listen for the word you need.

(In times of desperation, or for variation, please feel free to just go and find a leaf already fallen, a leaf waiting for someone to rescue it

and give it new meaning.  

This, I believe, is yet another way of going out and finding the miraculous.)

If leaves don’t “speak” for you, find a stone, a shell, a button, a penny.  

The objects we usually overlook might hold the most meaning,

because honestly, the miraculous really is everywhere.

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