I went to Boston over the weekend. I didn’t Snapchat or take a single picture while I was there. It was my third time visiting the city, so I didn’t do any touristy things and I won’t be making a guide to Boston. I went to visit a friend of mine and it was the kind of trip where two people are bonding with one another, with no need for rushing from one activity to the next. It was blissful.
The following post is a bit allovertheplace. It’s a scattering of the helpful things I’ve been doing, the media I’ve been consuming, and some decisions I’ve come to on my creative journey over the past year or so. It’s half-organized into the trip I took over the weekend. The metaphors are there and intentional. Maybe you’ll catch them all. Maybe not. Bear with me. I’m working on a New Year’s Resolution, after all.
I took an Amtrak from New Haven late Saturday morning. Though I’ve taken Metro North a handful of times into Manhattan, it was my first time in the New Haven train station and my first time on an Amtrak. The station, built in 1874 in the Second French Empire style, is notably gorgeous. Gilded medallions are tiled upon the ceilings, and one can’t help but look up.
Not knowing what to expect, I was nervous arriving just a few minutes before my train was set to arrive. I’m used to air travel, where you can cut it close arriving with over an hour to spare. I checked the posted sign for which rail to head toward and navigated through the the corridors.
After entering the train, I was unable to find a window seat, so I settled in next to someone else. After situating my luggage, I saw that I was on the quiet car. I was okay with that, and I settled into my current read: Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.
After a week of spring-like weather and the daffodils beginning to sprout, we had a snow day on Friday. As the train bent through Coastal Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, the homes, beaches and forests were all covered with snow. It was beautiful, and I recalled how J.K. Rowling first thought of the idea for Harry Potter while delayed on a train.
Train travel, I find, is romantic. To me, standing on the platform evokes the dramatic imagery of times past: lovers embracing before being separated by a long journey, a child’s last memory of their father as the train pulls away. Growing up where train travel was rare, these movie tropes are what comes to mind as the bell chimes and another train departs.
These past sixteen months settling into my new life on a different side of the country have been quite the ride. It wasn’t like train travel. I didn’t find a friendly face, sit in cozy silence with an over-sized scarf as a blanket, enjoying the view as I wait until I hear the next stop as my own. It’s been intentional and focused; deliberate but wild. It’s like I’m suddenly piloting a biplane and I keep feeling my heart thumping as I take a quick dive, only to regain control. I’m just now managing to coast. Every moment before I’ve been using any tool I can muster up. Pulling every lever, flipping every switch.
To me, staying afloat meant staying in contact with my creativity. It meant that I had to deeply know myself to not be swayed to fit the mold of what I think I should be in this foreign place. It meant that I need a firm grasp of what I won’t be letting go of as I navigate who I am becoming.
This looked like many things. This looked like playing a motivational YouTube playlist while cleaning the house to keep my head above water as I sank into loneliness. It looked like listening to every new Unmistakable Creative podcast that came out, so I could create my community of learning*, and surround myself with an e-community of like-minded creators. It looked like sticking my head in the ground and delving deep into books and my own interests for a while, rather than seeking out opportunities to meet new people. It’s journaling for three pages every morning before the sleep has been wiped from my eyes, and following the guide of The Artist’s Way, week by week.
It’s startling how easily we can fall into ongoing friendships with people whom we have nothing in common with. You overlook the quiet car and you find yourself stuck in the company of someone with little insight, little life experience, and completely opposing values than you. Then there you are, for hours, looking at trees pass behind their head outside of the window as they speak confidently about things in which they know little about.
Sure, sometimes it’s good to have others challenge your views, but other times it can lead to unrelenting frustrations. Singularity is preferable to bad company, yet people find themselves in romantic relationships with people like this or miserably speak to a person like that every. single. day. How draining.
I found that when I first moved to Connecticut, I was hiding myself. I saw the type of women that inspired a television show (now airing) about our neighboring town and was afraid to be my honest, unconventional self. Once I realized I was falling into that trap, I became very deliberate with whom I was spending my time with; who I would take on as my friend. This weekend with my friend in Boston was heavy, intellectual, and felt all throughout my heart space. It’s the same with the women who I go to coffee with here in town. As I express my real, awkward self, including my misguided past to other women who are willing to share that side of themselves as well, I feel more whole. More apt to make good art, to be a better mother, to kick ass at this thing called life.
Envy of Honesty
The book I read on the train was written by Glennon Doyle Melton. I first learned of her web (and in-person) movement, Momastery, from an episode of Liz Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons. Each time I gave the series a listen, I felt more motivated and encouraged to continue getting more words on paper. But it was Glennon’s experience of being broken and drug addicted before accepting the invitation of motherhood “before she was ready” (just as I did, all those years ago) that allowed me to come to terms with being a writer. I wrote that post just after having re-listened to the specific passage enough times to write it all down, word for word. Later that week, I cranked out my first pages.
When she spoke of waking every morning and sharing her truest, most honest self with her blogging community, I got a funny feeling that I couldn’t quite place. Something that I hadn’t experienced in years. Turns out, it was jealousy.
I wished I could share more rawness. I ached to shatter through the hardened sugar coating–to move past writing only about surface level things: where I go and what I make.
When I was a junior in college, I was newly divorced, remodeling a newly bought home, training for a half Ironman, caring for a preschooler and in the first healthy relationship of my life. I had a brief stint of seeing a psychologist on my university’s campus. The friend I visited in Boston, a doctor of psychology, described the therapy I received as being psychodynamic.
Every other week, I’d sit down in front of the doctor and storytell. I felt the need in our first session to discuss my middle school experiences: childhood depression, drug use, and the stays at psychiatric hospitals. I would dramatically recount the instances of abuse that I endured in high school and during my marriage, but with the confidence of a journalist, not someone that lived through and felt that pain. After months of nods, ‘mhmm’s and jotting down notes, it wasn’t until the last session, when I told him I wouldn’t be returning, that he said to me:
“Why is it that when you come here, you feel a need to entertain me? It’s as if you want to be my most exciting client, when my duty is to be here for you. You’re constantly doing so much, with the races, the house, the relationship. Why is it that you don’t think you are enough?”
On my self-help and yoga journey, I found in Removing the Rocks, that I led myself back to this conclusion, back to the same tendency to take on too much, to be more, to be bigger, to be better. It was a bettering of myself not just for me, but to prove myself. I’m sure this relates to my abandonment issues, so I don’t need this to be pointed out.
What am I getting at?
I realized that my use of this blog fares along with that same notion. I found a space where I could be honest and raw, yet I used this space to share only about making and doing. Not who I am. Not the revelations I have as a mother or as someone who has been through deep suffering and triumph. But as: “Look! I do things! I am useful! I can contribute. Love me for how I serve you.”
I realize now that it’s okay to ask to be appreciated and loved for all of you. For the brokenness, the wholeness, the contributions as well as selfishness and what you take away from others. That’s why I come to memoir and that’s why I’m writing my own. But it’s difficult to go from blogging about small businesses in my freelance work, to surface level writing of “go here, make this” tutorials, then to delving deep into the bloody trenches of my past and all of the emotions that come with that.
I want to share more of this process with you. How I’m mustering up that strength, the changes I have to make, the epiphanies I come to a long the way.
I want to share more of me with you. I hope you’ll enjoy this ride.
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