“All conditioned things are impermanent-when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.”
Impermanence can be seen with the caterpillar.
A caterpillar’s life revolves around eating and growing so that it can continue its life cycle. If a caterpillar did not embrace change it wouldn’t become a butterfly. It had to become something different to be who it was truly meant to be.
Though I understood this…I was not a fan of change.
I usually plan out my days. Wait…I usually plan out my life. I know what I am going to do weeks before I even do it. That is the way that I like it. It is the way it has to be.
I sit down and make lists on top of list and calendars filled with my next move. This gives me peace that calms the beast called anxiety that always hovers over me.
What shatters my peace? When something comes up last minute and I have to change my day. That infuriates me. Change exasperates me.
I must go deeper, however.
I have to tell you why I truly loathe change.
Change means more to me than just an adjustment in plans. I despise change because altering who I am or anything in my life could mean I lose people. And, like any other human on the planet, I want people to like me. If they like me then…I am enough.
Is that what that means?
Let me explain.
When I realized that I wanted to write erotic romance, I was afraid that people’s opinion of me would change. Would I lose some friends? Would I lose some family members? I was considered the “good girl” in my family. I obeyed my parents, went to school every day. Did what I was told. There was no way I would be the one to write about sex for a living.
Now that everyone knows that is what I write I am afraid to tell them that I don’t want to write that anymore. Will I lose readers? Will people’s opinion of me change again? Will I seem like I’m giving up or not being true to myself? Will they still like me?
I could do what I have done in the past and just give the people what they want just to keep those people in my life. I have always just stuck to a persona to make sure that people saw me as enough. That they would stick around and I wouldn’t cause any waves. There have been times where I did lose people because I changed or truthfully…I started being more authentic.
Change meant I could lose everything.
So…I hated change.
Then I began to study Buddhism and the concept of impermanence was introduced to me. Buddhism teaches that everything changes. Nothing is permanent. As adult humans, we are not the same now as we were when were infants, children, teenagers. We are different in our twenties than we are every decade after. That’s life. That is change.
We suffer, we feel pain, we fall down…but that won’t last forever. Happiness. Joy. Those will come too and although they won’t last, Buddhism teaches you to enjoy them while they are here.
I was afraid to change my genre around. To try new things in my writing. Honestly, I am still afraid. But I am not the same person, the same writer that I was when I started my first novel at 23. I am 35 now and so much has progressed in my mind and in my writing. It was inevitable that I would evolve and move on to something else.
We all must advance as writers. It’s growth when we learn and improve. It’s okay to try new writing techniques, switch genres, or join a critique group to learn new things about yourself and your work in progress.
Everything evolves and changes. I had to learn that. Change is good.
We all must learn this lesson. I needed to learn that those who are no longer there when I change into the writer and the person I was meant to be weren’t truly there for me. They were a part of the change and it’s okay to leave them behind.
Do not shy away from change because of fear, anxiety or thoughts that you may lose some control or people along the way. Roll with the punches and know that growth awaits you.
“What counts is not the enormity of the task, but the size of the courage.”
What is courage?
According to Brené Brown, the leading shame and vulnerability researcher and expert, courage is a “heart word.” “The root of the word courage is ‘cor’ – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart’.”
I am not always good with speaking my heart. I worry what others will think of me. Will I be able to get my point across without being misunderstood? I always expect to be misunderstood. I spent my entire life hiding who I really was. Hoping that I could master the art of wearing a mask without anyone knowing. To be what they wanted me to be.
Yet, when I write…everything changes. I am able to be vulnerable and open up. Sometimes I use my characters to say what I want to say or be who I really want to be. I speak my mind by telling what’s in my heart.
Is that really courage?
Yet recently I have been scaring myself.
I have undertaken quite a few tasks. Maybe too many tasks…
I am working on two novels at once. Editing and writing in a new genre. I usually write Erotic romance but recently I have been leaning away from the erotica and more on suspense and murder mystery. That is frightening. I am not sure if I even know what I am doing. I have never written a mystery before in my life and I don’t really have very much experience in it. I just let my characters lead me where they want to go.
Being an introvert it is hard for me to speak in front of people or be the center of attention. I get anxiety and feel like I am not worthy to be in the eye of the people. So it was strange when I began speaking to writers groups sharing my writing experience. It helped that my husband/partner was there with me but I had to dig deep and find an extrovert inside somewhere. (It’s weird to me that people have no clue I’m an introvert or that I have social anxiety because of that.)
Am I being courageous?
With my husband/partner Marcus, I have also launched a Self Publishing system course that helps writers self publish their novels on their own terms. I used a system that I created while I was publishing my own novels. I also started a YouTube series entitled “How to Start a Novel” where I give tips every month on how to write your novel as well as ways to market yourself and your book.
Is that courage?
For the past year I have been Vice President of Writers of Kern, which has also been scary for me. Am I doing a good job? Can I serve the members the way they need to be served? Am I being an asset to the President and the rest of the board? (I hate when the “am I good enough” thoughts creep in)
The extent of the tasks that I have taken on this past year have me terrified. There is so much to be done on top of raising three children and doing my daily motherly tasks. That is not to include posting on social media platforms everyday and marketing the books that I have already published.
Some days I look at what I have to do and I get so overwhelmed that I am paralyzed. I am frozen by my anxiety. I always think that I am not good enough to take on so many things. I tend to just stick to one thing at a time not sure of the challenge. Then I think about the quote above. The enormity of the task does not count. What matters is the courage you have to tackle what lies in front of you.
Courage takes heart and when it comes to my writing and my family I have all the heart I need to climb this mountain in front of me.
So, be encouraged. Give your heart. Don’t let the size of the tasks that you have discourage you from accomplishing your goals. You are enough and you’ve got this!
“Be like a lotus. Let the beauty of your heart speak. Be grateful to the mud, water, air and the light.”
― Amit Ray, Nonviolence: The Transforming Power
The lotus flower is an ancient symbol for many religions and practices. The one that called to me was Buddhism. The lotus flower has a significant meaning for Buddhist. The way that a lotus flower grows is important. It starts off as a seed…a bud from the muddy, murky ponds. It grows and grows searching for the light. It emerges from the muddy waters into a beautiful flower. Untouched by the impurity of the muck, the lotus flower symbolizes purity of the heart and of the mind.
I grew up in a city and an area that had beautiful people, yet were marred and scarred by the violence of the region. The deprived people, some unable to grow from the muck, suffered immensely. They couldn’t see anything better out there in the world for themselves. They were stuck unable to grow to find the light.
I was touched by that poverty. I feared that I would never make it out. I wanted to grow and be better than my parents so that I could one day take care of them the way that they took care of me.
Like the lotus, I grew as a seed from the mud of life. The murky muddy water shaped me but unlike the lotus I was touched and penetrated by the mud. It permeated my mind and heart and I felt stuck and unworthy. I grew up feeling not good enough. I was depressed and full of self loathing and suffering.
In Buddhism, they teach that suffering is felt by everyone. We all suffer. I needed a way to lessen the suffering that seemed to pull me under back into the darkness.
I found writing and like the quote above, I was able to finally let my heart speak. I clung to writing letting my fantasy world shape me and pull me from the depths of despair that my upbringing smothered me in.
Yet I am grateful. I am grateful for the mud that shaped me and made me the woman I am today. Without the suffering, without the pain I wouldn’t have been able to grow and reach the top of the cool crisp water to feel the light and sun on my face. I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate it as much.
I strive everyday to be like the lotus. To take my upbringing and use it to feed my heart and mind. To make me gracious and grateful for the life I have. To use it in my writing to be as open and vulnerable as my readers crave.
As a writer, or anyone of any profession, be like the lotus. Take that pain from rejection or seeing your books not selling or feelings of “not good enough” and grow. Meditate and free your mind until those negative thoughts are fleeting and you can speak your heart.
Be like the lotus.
“What an amazing feeling to be around people you can be open with,” a short little old lady said to me.
A very eclectic group and I were visitors at the Los Angeles Southwest College in LA. My goal was to meet and hear from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
There were people from Kern County, LA County, Orange county and many different areas in California. We were all visitors together for the same reason.
I arrived an hour and a half before the event was supposed to start. There was already a significant line of people waiting. The line of people went down the street, around a few campus buildings and back toward the front. I joined the Hillary supporters in line excited about this opportunity.
An hour into our wait and our spirits were still up. Everyone laughed and talked and took pictures. I had a feeling I was a part of quite a few people’s selfies.
There was a group of women laughing and talking like they were the best of friends. You can tell they came to the event together. Their good spirits called to me and I migrated toward them.
“Can I see your sign?” I asked them. One of the ladies pulled out the sign tucked protectively under her arm. I laughed when I saw it.
“Little Old Ladies for Hillary.” It said. “That’s great.” I replied. “If you like this one you will love my other sign.”
She pulled it out and I doubled over with laughter. “Badass Little Old Ladies for Hillary.”
I was astonished at what an amazingly diverse crowd there. Black, white, women, men, children, gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered, native born and immigrants. Near me was a group of young college students from LA eager to meet the former first lady. They wore matching Hillary for president T-shirts
Two hours in and the sun began to zap all of our energy.
The sun was settled directly over head and some people huddled in small corners trying to absorb all the shade they could get.
I stood talking to the “Little Old Ladies” and a few other people.
“I always wanted to be in politics,” I said. “But I have some family members that aren’t very reputable and I didn’t want to put their business out there.”
“I did as well,” one of the ladies said. “Then I remembered all those naked pictures from college. I’m sure they’re still out there somewhere.”
We discussed our beliefs, our hopes for the future and our experiences during this primary cycle. A Volunteer came out and led us in a cheer.
“When I say Madame you say President, “she said.
“PRESIDENT,” The crowd cheered.
By the end of the four hours of waiting we all were very exhausted and in low spirits. The sun didn’t have any mercy on us. People began to complain of how hungry and how tired they were. We were also worried we wouldn’t even make it inside at all.
Well, we didn’t.
Not everyone anyway. Majority of us were shuffled into a small corner against the building. There were so many people and hundreds of us stood outside double doors wondering if we would get a glimpse of the former Sen. of New York.
Finally, the double doors opened and exiting was a mass of media and Secret Service agents. Following them was Hillary Clinton. She decided to come and speak to the overflo
w crowd before she gave her speech.
We jumped up and down, cheered and hugged each other. Cell phones were pulled out in hopes of getting some good pictures and video. She spoke to us and with lifted our hearts our spirits. When she left we all hugged each other and vowed that we would get as many people as we could to vote for her. Then we parted ways looking forward to the future head.
Every once in a while you get those moments when you get hit by something small yet powerful. They change your outlook on life and give you the opportunity to hit refresh and do things better. You want to be better.
That something small for me often happens to be my youngest daughter. At 5 years old she packs a lot of wisdom.
A few days ago my family and I spent time in Santa Cruz, CA. My husband had to be there for work and we all decided, due to spring break, we would go with him. He worked and we relaxed. He enjoyed having us with him on this trip. He hates being away from us for too long.
We decided to go to dinner on our first night there. At dinner, my younger daughters were given a child’s menu. These menus (for anyone that has never seen them) have things to color, games, puzzles and mazes for the kids. They always give crayons with these menus. They are great because my girls get easily bored and when they are bored they can be quite…annoying? No…irritating? No, I want to nicer. Extremely talkative and full of question…that works.
Anyway, my daughter was coloring. I watched her for a second and saw she was kinda making a mess of the picture.
“Dylann, try to color inside the lines.” I said to her.
It was nothing new for me to tell her this. She will be starting kindergarten in the fall and I want her to be prepared. She knows this but on occasion I remind her. This day was different. She looked at me and put on the saddest face.
“Awwww…I wanted to color outside the lines today.”
My husband and my other two daughters laughed. I laughed too. I wasn’t sure if she was really sad or if she was being sarcastic with me. You never know with this kid. After dinner we went back to the hotel for a late night swim. As I watched my family play I realized my mind was focused on the words my daughter said to me.
“…I wanted to color outside the lines today.”
I remember when I was a kid and how scary those words would have been for me.
We are always told not to color outside the lines. That is how I lived my life. I always did what I was told and I wanted to be seen as the good and obedient child. I never fully understood why. I guessed I just never wanted to disappoint my parents. I was the kid they didn’t have to worry about. I never skipped school or missed a day. I went to school in blizzards.
I wanted to be good because I felt so bad and dirty inside. I felt ashamed that I was dark skinned. I was scared and afraid I was being a terrible kid and going to hell for being bisexual.
I spent a good deal of my life being ashamed of myself and feeling out of place. Because of that I invented a new me. I invented a person that would be a suitable member to any group. If they wanted me to be nicer, funnier, smarter, quieter…I was that. But only for so long. All that fake emotion builds up and what I truly felt always bubbled up to the service. .
I always tried to color inside the lines. I thought it would make me happier and make people like me more. I cared what others thought about me…think about me though I do not care to admit this. I feel I have been denying who I truly am for so long that I did not truly know who I was. I had lost track of what was real and what I had invented.
After our little vacation was over we came home and settled back into our normal routine, yet those thoughts plagued me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I dreamed about it looking for some answers. Then I realized. The problem was that I was thinking too much and worrying too much. I was spending my life surviving and not living.
A few days later I went to see my therapist. We gave the usual greeting and she began as always does,
“How are you doing?”
I sighed and rubbed my hands over my eyes.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
I looked up at her.
“I’m ready to color outside the lines.”
Do you know what a kakistocracy is? No?
I didn’t either until I was some doing some political research for the recent election. I was looking around trying to make sure I knew what I needed to do as I register and gather a caucus of Hillary supporters that would vote for me to delegate for Hillary Clinton.
I was focused on doing my part for a candidate I love when I stumbled upon a term
According to a few websites and Dictionary.com, a kakistocracy is a Government under the control of a nation’s worst or least-qualified citizens.
Hmm…I thought about that for a second. It made me stop what I was doing and really think about how our society is run.
We have an executive branch, a judicial branch and a legislative branch. The people in the country vote on the elected officials like the President, the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. On the state level we vote on Governors and state representatives and state senators. Locally we vote on city councils and Mayors.
However lately, especially with the surge of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders de to the anger of some americans, it seems we are quickly heading toward a Kakistocracy and farther away from a Democracy.
This is why…
In 2008 we suffered the worst economic crisis we have see in decades. Millions lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings. Banks and industries were collapsing. The people’s answer to that was electing Barack Obama whom they saw as the knight that would lead us out of this nightmare.
For the most part everything he said he would do and wanted to do he has accomplished.
Two years after he was in office, the people proceeded to elect the most uninformed group of congressmen and congresswoman we have ever seen. History has never seen a congress that has accomplished so little.
Who is to blame for this? We are. The majority of Americans put these people in charge of our rights and important matters in our lives. I am astonished everyday by the number of times they have ignored the things that matter and focused on the things that only matter to them.
All branches of the government are supposed to work for the people but they are not. We then complain about what is happening to the country and why can’t we get anything done. We only have ourselves to blame. We gave them the power to rule and they decided they would take our money and do nothing to protect us.
This can be applied locally as well. Though I live in California now, Indiana is my home. It is the state that raised me and I will be a Hoosier for life, yet the new governor is shameful. Mike Pence is turning Indiana into something it is not…Intolerant. Yet, the people of Indiana (after I moved I have to add ) voted him in as the person they wanted to lead. Now the state that I love is in the National spotlight for being intolerant and making laws that discriminate against people.
We need to wake up and become an educated populous. We can’t sit around and let the most inane people run the country that we love. America has values that we are endangering. I am a bleeding heart liberal…I know this. Yet I value having a two party system that works. A two party system where the leaders are just that…leaders. Not bullies in a school yard.
If we don’t pay attention and vote we are in danger of becoming a Kakistocracy and that is not the America I know and love.
Are you Magneto or Professor X?
If you have never seen or heard of the group the X-men, you must be very confused right now. However in context and with what is going on in the world right now, this question is very important.
Let me start like this…
As writers or more specifically fiction writers we know there are always a protagonist and an antagonist. The good guy and the bad guy…or girl. The Protagonist of the story is the hero (although I prefer a flawed hero). The Antagonist is the bad guy. Sometimes he/she is the evil one that you love to hate.
In the comic books and the movies of the X-men series, Professor X would be the main Protagonist (there are other heroes but he leads them). The leading Antagonist would be Magneto. Magneto and Professor X are mutants. They learn there are more mutants just like them and the world is uncomfortable with a group of people having special gifts they cannot comprehend. Humans have a tendency to fear the things they do not understand. They seek to destroy the mutants and/or study them…in which case they will eventually destroy them.
Professor X and Magneto, two characters created in the 1960’s, were modeled after Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Professor X being like Martin Luther King Jr. and Magneto resembling Malcolm X. They both want a world where mutants are accepted members of society who can live without fear. The two just have very different ideas of how to achieve this end.
Professor X, being the hero that he is, decides he will do no harm and focus on showing the world mutants are decent human beings that just want to live their lives. He devotes himself to teaching young mutants how to control their powers and abilities. Despite the animosity he and the group receive, he is steadfast in his cause.
Magneto, the villain, decides he doesn’t want to play nice. If humans don’t want to live side by side with mutants then fine. He will just destroy them. They had their chance to behave. After all, the mutants are much more powerful than the humans. Why should they fear them? Mutants, from all over, need to band together and fight back. He refuses to sit by and be slaughtered. If anything…he will do the slaughtering.
So I ask…are you Professor X or Magneto?
I so want to be Professor X. I believe his vision is what I truly am. My husband seems to think that most people start out as a Magneto type person but mask it. After much thought I feel that society can turn some people to feel they must fight back by any means necessary for their own survival. Magneto wasn’t always the villain. In fact he and Professor X were very close friends. When the world turned dark so did he.
With police violence towards young black men, hateful words, fear of immigrants and muslims, anti-LGBT rhetoric and legislation, increase in mass shootings and hate crimes…it may be hard for some of us to be calm. There are people in our country that are fueling anger and fear on both sides of the spectrum. Those types of emotions can lead to more people wanting to fight back. There will be more people ready to throw grenades on the entire system and let the pieces fall where they may. The problem comes when there is no plan for the fall out.
I say to you. We must fight back when there are injustices in our world. That is what heroes due. Only villains use that as an excuse to seek and destroy. Let us be heroes. Let us be Professor X.
I always wondered why my soul was so dark. When I was a teenager everyone assumed it was just teenage angst. They thought it was a phase. My anger began to rise and I would have these massive outbursts. As I mentioned in a blog post before I have bipolar disorder yet no one knew that then. They just knew that I would have these depressive episodes and was sad an awful lot.
In order to release the pain I would write. I wrote many things but my outlet at the time was poetry. When I was sad I would write tons of poems. I recently went through my old things from high school. (I can’t seem to let anything go.) I found tons of poems that I wrote. Some of them were terrible but I like them because I know exactly what I was feeling when I wrote them.
The poem below was one that I wrote as a way to curb some of the anger I was feeling. My best friend and I had a fight and we refused to speak to each other until years later when we were both in college. I didn’t want to admit that I was really hurt so I wrote this poem to let go of my pain.
“Mommy is it weird if I play with my dollies like this?”
“Mommy is it weird if I drink my milk like this?”
“Mommy is it weird if I drink my water with this cup?”
These are the questions that my 4 year old daughter has been asking me for a month straight. After a while I found them to be quite annoying. They were so cute at first but now I’m so over it. These questions started when her two older sisters began to call her weird.
“Dylan, you are so weird.” They would say. At four years old she doesn’t really understand that they are just teasing her. It is normal for siblings to tease each other and because she is the youngest, she gets it two fold.
The results however is that she feels as if something is wrong with her. Weird to her is something negative. I understand what she must feel. I grew up feeling weird and out of place. I still feel like I do not fit in anywhere. I struggle on a daily basis with feelings of inadequacies and alienation. I wasn’t as a child given the tools ot deal with my uniqueness and so I grew up thinking something was wrong with me and, you know…of course I don’t have friends or people that like me because…I’m weird.
As I grew I learned being “weird” is not always a bad thing. There are plenty of people that are fine with my eccentricities. My husband of almost 10 years is still with me. (I think that says more abot him than me but…)
My daughter is being affected by these things at an early age She began to question every aspect of her life.
“Is it weird if I rubbed the cat this way?”
After months of this I finally set her down to have a talk. . I refused to let her go through what I went through and what I know I am still going through. She was on a roll that day with the marathon of weird questions so I explained to her that weird and unique are not terrible things.
“Sweetie,” I began with her on my lap. “Weird is not a bad thing. You just need to be yourself.”
She looked at me skeptically.
“Look,” I continued. “If it makes you feel better your mama is extremely weird.”
Her eyes widened
“Mommy, you’re weird too?” she asked.
I nodded. If only she knew how out of the norm and eccentric I could be.
“Yes sweetie. Mommy is crazy weird. Your mommy is Cray Cray.”
She laughed extremely tickled at my statement. Then she hopped off my lap. She ran down the hall screaming,”
“Mady! Guess what! You can call me weird because mommy is weird to.”
This scenario taught me a lot about parenting. I know I don’t have all the answers, and sometimes I wonder how in the world they allow me to have children under my supervision, but I know it is like to be a girl with low self-esteem about her body, her way of thinking and knowing someone is in your corner can go a long way. I teach my daughter’s that mommy may yell, I may have to discipline you, but I will always be here in your corner… Your weird crazy mother will always be there for you no matter how crazy you are.