Over the last month, just about every aspect of my life has been altered in some fashion. I moved to a new city, a new bedroom, with new roommates. I am the new girl (one of many) in my singles ward, with two new callings and all new people to meet (so far, they are wonderful and far too athletic). I got a new (to me) car, a new commute and a new monthly budget for gas (hint: its lower!). New running routes and a decided lack of new running partners. My job also moved to said new city and new building. Most importantly, my work gave me a new convertible standing desk. (The word new is starting to look weird now … New. New. New. See? Weird.)
Now, with everything in my life being so new, it has been difficult to adjust and find a new normal. I’ve been understandably stressed and miraculously only had one panic attack of uncontrollable sobbing and . Usually I carry stress in my lower back. But not anymore! I have had a standing desk for all of eight days and after only two days my low back pain is gone. I’ve had low back pain caused by stress and laziness for about ten years so this is kind of a big deal. And the best part? I’m only standing about an hour and a half daily, spread out into three chunks throughout the day.
Having a desk job is hard on your body. Everyone knows this so I won’t go into detail about how sitting is killing you. But I will say that I am so very grateful that I was given a standing desk. Its amazing how much better my whole body feels, like dropping the giant bag of rocks you didn’t know you were carrying.
Another new things in my life is my FitBit Ultra. Like many of my possessions, I bought it second at a bargain and it has been working great as the previous owner never really used it. And now that I’ve become part of the FitBit madness and the 10K Steps a Day Program at my work, I have a new goal: to get 10K steps just at work. And so far, I’ve done it twice. Next week, I’m going to try to make it the whole week.
I have been walking on my morning and afternoon breaks regularly for a few years now but it wasn’t nearly enough to reach 10K steps in 8 hours. Cue the standing desk! I have found a way of “walking” at my desk by trying to imitate the motion of walking while keeping the balls of my feet on the ground. That’s the best way I can explain it. Anyway, I can get about 100 steps per minute while at my desk. So I only have to “walk” at my desk for about an hour a day (spread out, of course) to reach my 10K steps a day at work. It takes a bit of disciple and I can’t do all of my tasks while bouncing at my desk but there is enough mindless work that this is very possible to do every day.
So here’s to walking to Mordor, ten thousand steps at a time.
Just discovered this magical gem today. An entire tumblr dedicated to Claire Danes Cry Face.
I’ve always found a strange reassurance in Claire Danes’s unpretty cry face. Perhaps because I feel our faces look very similar when we cry. She is the one who always comes to mind when I try to think of hollywood stars that cry like real people. The scrunched chin, twitching, snot running, etc. So check out this tumblr for a bit of fun or have yourself a good cry in great company.
It’s been about four months since Disney’s Frozen was released in theaters. And I assume that most people have had the chance to see it by now or they have at least heard the song “Let It Go,” gorgeously sung by Idina Menzel. She has such a unique gift to emote through music and I credit her with half the popularity of this song.
If you didn’t have much of a reaction to the movie itself, I am guessing you had a strong reaction of some kind to this song. Whether that reaction was “I love this song!” or “Disney has a hidden agenda!,” I bet your reaction was one of strong emotion. If you are like me, you silently cried and you weren’t sure why.
I’ve always been an emotional person. I cry when talking about anything too personal, spiritual or uncomfortable. And its ugly crying. The snot dripping out of your nose, voice clutching crying that you can’t stop. And my whole body shook as I cried in the theater listening to “Let It Go” for the first time in theaters. And I continued to cry the next dozen times I listened to it in my car.
Why was I having such an emotional reaction to this song? I have been thinking about this for four months now. And it took me this long to put a name to what I was receiving a release from when listening to this song. It was shame. Specifically shame for having depression.
As many of you know, I have battled depression for almost half of my life. And to this day I feel ashamed. That shame is not always from having depression but shame that I can’t just get over it, shame that I can’t be the perfect Wonder Woman my society and culture demands that I should be, with perfectly manicured nails and never breaking a sweat over anything. Shame that I can’t fix it and be done. Shame because my depression has no end.
It is important to point out that shame is different from guilt. Guilt is actually a healthy thing at time. It makes you feel bad when you break your sister’s favorite CD or lie to your parents. To quote one of my favorite TedTalk speakers Brene Brown, “Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad.””
When we feel guilt, we can change our behavior and it goes away. When we feel shame, it isn’t that easy because it is focused on a part of who we are.
So even though I manage my depression very well through my behavior, I still feel shame for having it at all. For having to make the effort to deal with it, to never let it out of my sight because it might gang up on me in an alley if I let my guard down for even a second.
So when Elsa began to sing (and even now as I type this) I cried because she was telling me to let go of my shame. She was telling me that it was okay and that she felt it too:
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway
For me personally this song was about my shame for depression. But the song writers were clever enough to make the song universal. Shame for being fat. Shame for being gay. Shame for being religious. Shame for having an addiction. Shame for being a nerd. Shame for being yourself. And when you decide to accept yourself as worthwhile, the storm of society’s judgement will rage on. Loving yourself is not an easy thing and the world might tell you loving yourself is wrong because you are wrong. But you can outlast the storm if you have love (something else Frozen taught us).
I will forever be indebted to Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez for writing this song. If you haven’t read about them, they are parents to two little girls and wrote Let It Go for them. I began writing this essay just hours before the Oscar’s and I was touched by their acceptance speech for best original song as it confirmed my understanding of this song and what it means to them and hopefully to every little girl who has been singing it on repeat for months now.
We live in a world where the expectations are ridiculous and impossible for girls (and women) to achieve; a world that is almost guaranteed to make beautiful, wonderful, unique girls who once loved themselves suddenly feel that they don’t deserve that love from themselves or others anymore. Because they are ashamed of who they are and for not being able to live up to the standards of the world.
And if there is one thing I know with absolute certainty it is that everyone in this world deserves love, from themselves and from others. And Frozen did a wonderful job showing that love can mend a broken heart. Don’t let fear or shame stop you from being awesome. Just be you.
So to everyone who has criticized this movie and especially this song, stop it. This song has helped me to find greater love for myself than almost any psychology book or therapist ever has. Just let it go.
This year was my third NaNoWriMo and it confirmed that NaNo will be a life-long tradition.
NaNo noveling has helped shape my writing life in ways I never expected. In 2010, NaNo helped me to finish my first novel (first draft anyway) which was a revelation and a wake up call. I was a finisher for the first time since I outgrew fan fiction. In 2011, I learned how to continue to plot as I made discoveries about my characters along the way. I also worked out some personal issues with that novel which really helped to heal my heart and free my writing from old cobwebbed shadows. And 2012 was skipped due to my third successive move in five months at the beginning of November. My writing this last year has suffered and I know it is due to not pushing my boundaries with NaNoWriMo. Never again.
So I entered this year’s NaNoWriMo with low expectations, finally writing my old “great golden idea” from high school, which I was certain would be a throw away novel just like every NaNo novel has been. Even so, this November gave me much more than could have expected. For the first time, I wasn’t scrambling for plot to fill up the last ten thousand words, instead passing 50K before the plot had ended, finishing NaNo’s word goal a day early (miracle of miracles!). I’ve learned a lot about my process and how to handle pressure. I wrote scenes that might be usable in later drafts (completely unheard of as I write terribly messy discovery drafts). And some of the writing was actually good. I wasn’t planning to revise, as I use NaNo as more of an experimental period than anything. But this story took hold of me and is demanding a rewrite. Possibly a musical but most definitely a rewrite.
Most importantly of all, I’ve found confidence when facing the blank page. Even now, my stomach bunches in tight knots in the hour leading up to writing time every day. But the physical signs of anxiety I feel are no longer overwhelming. I doubt they will ever go away completely but now I can at least get them to sit in the corner quietly while I get my work done. I have momentum for the first time in forever. My writing well is full of inspiration, ideas and hope so bright I can almost imagine away the frigid temperatures outside. Almost.
I owe a lot of my success this November to all my writing friends that took the journey with me. They were fierce competition this year, most of them beating me to the finish line, but straggling behind them still pulled me forward. And to the rest of my friends and acquaintances who commented and liked my status updates on Facebook, it meant the world to me. Thank you for letting me ignore you in November. I’m finally back.
Happy November 1st to all the writer’s out there!
I work a desk job that is more often than not, repetitive and boring. To cope with this, I listen to several podcasts during the week to distract my brain. I’ve already mention some of my favorite writing podcasts (I Should Be Writing and Writing Excuses) but I haven’t really talked about any others so here I go!
Stuff You Missed in History Class is a fabulous podcast with two hosts who have extensively researched a person, event, building, or other item of interest and condensed the information into a fun and informative 30 minute podcast.
The best thing about this podcast is the introduction to bits of history I didn’t even know I was missing. In school, I never did well in histroy as I have no memory for dates and names. But every once in a while a bit of history intriques me and I would study on my own. This podcast does that for me as well as introducing me to things I might never have thought interesting enough to research on my own.
I think this is a beneficial podcast for anyone who has a bit of writer’s block. I’ve learned so many interesting things, quite a few tidbits that pertain to my current WIP and future novels. Not to mention how inspiring the stories are. I’ve always said, you have to have something to write about to be a writer and this podcast will give you tons of ideas.
Some of the more recent ‘casts I loved are Pluto: The Demoted Dwarf Planet, The Flannan isles Disappearance, and Who was the real Robin Hood? The podcast posts twice weekly and has been going since the beginning of 2008 so there is plenty to listen to.
While listening to I Should Be Writing the other day, Noel Birch’s Four Levels of Competence were explained. Not only was this new to me, it helped me to distinguish the skill levels of many writers I have met. I have applied the Four Levels to writing for your enjoyment.
Level One: Unconscious Incompetence
You’re terrible. Really terrible. You’re so terrible you don’t even know how terrible you are. You have TALENT and therefore don’t need hard work, skill or ability. Often, this writer thinks they are the next J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, etc. and brings up their novel in every conversation imaginable. This is not always the case but we’ve all met these people on the bus or at a writing conference. You cannot help this person. Yet.
“The only reason I’m not published is that I haven’t finished anything yet.”
– That One Guy who was trying to impress me at LTUE 2010
Level Two: Conscious Incompetence
You realize how terrible you are. This may be followed by feeling overwhelmed or hopeless. You now recognize the value of hard work, skill and ability as well as how much there is to learn. This is where many give up because they recognize their mistakes. But mistakes are your friends. Keep going.
“I’ve killed it. Oh! Everything I touch gets ruined.” – Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas Special
Level Three: Conscious Competence
You have worked hard, practiced and now have some writing ability. You are still breaking the beast of writing into smaller steps. you still make mistakes but now have the ability to fix them. With great concentration and a lot of time, you can write something worth reading. You are on the path of learning.
“Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” – Dory, Finding Nemo
Level Four: Unconscious Competence
You have internalized all that writing knowledge and can now compose with ease. Sometimes you can even write while doing other tasks or in the midst of distractions. Writing is second nature.
I love this breakdown. I’ve started to analyze all sorts of trades in my life with this system. I am definitely at level four when it comes to knitting. I can knit while doing almost anything and have yet to find a pattern I cannot master.
When it comes to writing, I think I’m at level three. I can write more easily than I used to but I have yet to practice certain skills, like doing line edits on the 12th draft of a novel or writing a sequel. I often panic myself back to level two. So I guess I hover.
But I wonder how many professional writers would rate themselves at level four. Can you ever truly reach level four as a writer? I feel like there is always more to learn. From all the writers I’ve met, I’ve observed the best ones to be humble enough to admit they don’t know it all. Emerson put it best:
Shall I tell you the secret of the true scholar?
It is this : Every man I meet is my master
in some point, and in that I learn of him.