Gratitude

Whatever your thoughts about Thanksgiving as a holiday–and personally, I have plenty–I think it’s excellent that for most people these days, this day has become an opportunity to really focus on being grateful. Regardless of the history of the day, having a holiday where we are mindful of our blessings can be truly beautiful.

Gratitude is often entirely lost on us. We tend to focus on where we want to be, not where we are. What we want, not what we have. The ways in which we want our lives to be different, instead of the wonderful aspects of how our lives already are. I am so guilty of all of these things, especially this year. If you read my last post, you’ll know I’ve had a difficult 2017. I’ve felt afloat most of the year. I’m just now feeling back to myself, and so I’m being as intentional about gratitude as possible this season.

I am so grateful that as difficult as this year has been, I’ve experienced immense personal and spiritual growth. God had been so good to me this year as I’ve walked through difficult seasons. My husband has kept me grounded, made me laugh, gifted me with the best snuggles, made me countless pots of coffee, and accompanied me on literally dozens of random donut runs. My dog, Tater, continues to be the world’s Very Best Pug.

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And I am so, so grateful that I am finally writing again. That my passion has endured and I feel more focused than ever. I feel confident in my future again, even though every aspect of that future–where we’re going to live, where I’m going to work, whether I’m going to grad school–is 100% up in the air.

Answering my friend Kate Colby’s post on Thanksgiving, I wanted to share a book I’m grateful for: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. This book (and series) served as huge inspiration for me, reminding me of why I want to write. It’s only the second time in my life that I’ve read a book that resonated so deeply with me and reminded me of why being a writer is all I have ever wanted.

 

 

(P.S. I met Victoria Schwab last year, and she is the sweetest. I blubbered a less articulate version of the above paragraph, said something about her not being allowed to die, and she hugged me and didn’t treat me like a weirdo. She is amazing.)

The turkey is in the oven (a Nashville hot chicken inspired bird), the pumpkin pie is made, and my in-laws are here for a visit. I’m 1/3 through a major revision. Life is pretty beautiful, y’all.

Much love to you and yours this holiday season. Own that gratitude.

~Teresa

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10 Month Doozy

On January 20, I wrote my last (public) post about being inspired by the late and great Carrie Fisher’s comment, “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

10 months later… I haven’t lived up to that in the way I expected. 2017 has beaten me down, you guys. It’s been challenging in so many ways that for the bulk of it, I’ve hunkered down inside myself and hidden from the world. To be utterly transparent, depression and anxiety won out this year, beating me down until just accomplishing basic everyday tasks felt like a major win.

For about the first six months of the year, I didn’t write at all. I couldn’t. No writer’s block excuses here. Sometimes things happen within you that really do completely shut you down, especially your creative outlets. Typically writing is an escape for me, but it stopped being an escape. It stopped being anything.

During the summer, I finally felt well enough to write again, and I turned to poetry. This was my major genre in college, and it still feels like home when I drop back in. Poetry was a bit of a saving grace for me this year, cutting through the things I’ve been struggling with, offering me a door back into writing, a door back into myself.

I’m rambling, but all this is to say that I’ve finally picked my book back up. After months of reading, fiddling with a few nonfiction projects, and writing poetry, I turned back to my real love of fiction. A few days ago I pulled out the binder with the printed MS from where I’d hidden it on a bottom shelf under a stack of notebooks and magazines. And the weird thing is that ever since I’ve started working on it again, it feels so natural and easy (or easy as revisions can be). It’s like I’ve stepped back into myself.

I’m sharing all of this because this year has really forced me to confront some ideas about writing, my identity as a writer, and my future in the writing world. I have felt like a failure as a writer this year, either owing to my own self-deprecation or outside sources. After all, I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t revising. I wasn’t doing much of anything. On the surface, that reads like failure. Every time someone asked how my writing was going and I had to hem and haw and say, “Oh, you know… I haven’t been doing much lately,” it felt like a nail in the coffin of my dream.

But I don’t feel like a failure anymore. I don’t feel like less of a writer. I don’t feel that my future career prospects are dead because of this year.

It is okay to take breaks. It is okay to take time to process whatever is happening to you. It is okay to walk away from writing for a time. It doesn’t make you illegitimate as a writer. It echoes your legitimacy as a person.

It was really easy for me to feel behind this year, coping with mental health ups and downs, the chaos of this country and current events, and other personal goings-on. And slowly I’m coming to terms with the fact that I can’t be behind on my own journey. It’s not going to parallel anyone else’s. This year was what it was. I’ve grown a lot as a person, and I believe I’ll reap the rewards of that in my writing. And hopefully in 20 years I can look back on 2017 and realize how necessary it was for me to have a year like this, as miserable as it’s tended to be at times.

I suppose the main point of this entire post is to catch myself up, but also to offer encouragement to my fellow writers. Don’t dwell in the past. Don’t play the what if/shoulda/coulda/woulda game. Take today for the gift that it is, and do with today what you can. And do the same thing tomorrow.

Today I will work and clean, drink coffee, read, and work on that beloved book of mine. And that really feels like enough.

~Teresa

Take Your Broken Heart, Make it Into Art

Recently, Meryl Streep quoted the late and great Carrie Fisher at the Golden Globes, saying, “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

Since the election in November, my creative life has stalled. Only this month have I gotten back into the swing of things by printing out my manuscript and starting a revision plan. And yesterday, I revised the first chapter.

It felt really important to start this work yesterday, because of what today is. Today is an embarrassment and a tragedy. Today is another bullet point in an American history fraught with racism, sexism, bigotry, religious intolerance, greed, and hypocrisy. Today reminds us all that white privilege is alive and well, that people put party affiliations in front of morals, truth, and other people, and that wicked, power-hungry, greedy people can still do damage.

Reverend William Barber reminds us that “this is not the worst thing we’ve ever seen.” The country has endured the attempted genocide of its native peoples, slavery, Jim Crow, and periods in which non-white people and women alike were not permitted to vote, among so many other devastating elements of our nation’s history.

This is not the worst thing we’ve ever seen. It is, however, a step back towards those very events that are the worst we’ve seen in this country.

I have found myself feeling more powerless and hopeless than not these past few months. And I feel the need for this honesty is important: part of this powerlessness and hopelessness comes from the fact that as a white, straight woman, the effects of this disastrous administration on me will be limited. Nonexistent? Absolutely not. But limited.

I fear for my non-white friends, for my non-Christian friends, for my fellow women, for the refugees and immigrants whom I welcome with open arms, for the LGBT+ community, for those in my generation already struggling with debt and lack of jobs, for those of us who rely on the ACA, for our beautiful land and natural resources, for the creatures who inhabit it, and for so many other groups. The negative effects of this administration will leak out into every area of life, and that shakes me. Within me burns a desire to fix everything, but I am continually confronted with my inability to do that very thing.

And so I write. I create. I tell stories where evil always loses. I tell stories where people put others before themselves; stories of love, of selflessness, of courage, of growth, of honesty, of the fight for justice. It does not feel like enough to me, but it is what I have. It is one element of my resistance.

Art matters. Out of my own bias, I’ll say that stories matter especially. We get drawn into worlds and lives and experiences that are not our own, and our own perceptions can widen. Our own capacities for empathy can grow. Our views of the world and the people in it can change.

So get to creating, artists. The world needs us. Take your broken heart, make it into art.

~Teresa