Chilly, rainy, charming and elegant; my favorite place in the world is London. Sometimes places save me. Five years ago Washington state saved my life by renewing my hope in…well…everything. Florida had taken a toll on me mentally and physically. I was hot (literally) and I felt grimy from life’s disappointments. I wanted to breath fresh air, live below the trees, and see mountains capped in snow. And so here I am, living my dream. London is the place I go to think, and to write, and to feel alive. I was limp and I knew I needed to come, and so I booked a flight. I’ll have something more permanent here one day soon, but for now I’m in my favorite hotel, near my favorite tube station soaking in this magnificent city. I eat bangers and mash for dinner, and I buy giant bottles of water from the corner shop. I walk, and I walk, and I walk until I can’t feel my feet. I eat all the things. I buy Josh clothes. I find bookshops and open markets. I take pictures. I feel good. Thanks for caring and for all your messages and comments over the last few weeks. My outfit links below.
Over the last few months I’ve been reacquainted with my old friend, depression. It’s been so long since I’ve seen her that at first I didn’t recognize what was happening to me. I stood in front of a group of writers just a few weeks ago and introduced my best friend who was there to teach a workshop on plot structure. “She saved my life,” I told them. “Dragged me out of one of the darkest depressions I’ve ever experienced…” That was years ago. So far behind me that I barely remembered the hopelessness of it. Little did I know at the time, I was about to be hit with a category five, in fact it had already started and I failed to see the signs.
What is depression anyway?
Well, for me it’s a numb hopelessness. A dread. An emotional and spiritual exhaustion which leads you to believe that there is no beginning and there will be no end. You can’t quite remember a time when you didn’t feel this heavy. Depression eliminates the possibility of a future; you don’t want it, you don’t need it. In fact you crave for nothingness because anything is better than the damp fog you’re walking around in.
I talk about it. It’s been a slow process of learning how to ask for help but even in the middle of it all I realize that my life is important and my presence in my family’s life is important. So, I tell people how I feel and gather as much light and wisdom as I can.
“Mindfulness. Here and now. Stop thinking and immerse yourself in the present…” That’s the advice my friend Christine Brae gave me. Good advice since my depression is often triggered by a perceived failure which sits like a sentinel in the forefront of my mind. It chases away all logical, optimistic and healthy thoughts. When you believe you’re failing at something that’s what happens. You don’t remember all of the success and triumphs, you most certainly don’t know how to focus on the good that has come.You see only the failures…the hurts. Okay, I could do that. A clumsy attempt to stop thinking about my weaknesses as a human and an artist resulted in an almost emotional constipation. I just tried not to think at all. I focused instead on what I could do today, right now. The mother I could be today, the words I could craft today, the life I could live today. That helped, but it didn’t solve the problem.
“For the past five years your life has been a tornado. The winds are only slowing down now, but there’s the aftermath of wreckage you’re forced to deal with…” That’s the truth Colleen Hoover gave me. I felt justified by that one. Yeah, I’ve had a hell of a five year period. I don’t even know how much hurt and turmoil could be crammed into five years, but it was. Everything changed, then changed again, then changed once more. And I’ve barely found my footing while still holding bandages to seeping wounds. I’m stumbling through emotional wreckage while trying to navigate a new and healthy life. I feel like I have PTSD and I know for a fact I don’t deal with hurt I just move past it. If you don’t acknowledge it it’s not there right? Right. Though I think that sometimes your body forces you to acknowledge it. I think I’m being forced to deal with things I’ve refused to look at for years. That includes the death of my father.
“You need to slow down. You take on too much…” That was the advice given to me by my assistant and friend, Serena Knautz. It’s true. I choose to be an indie author because of the control it affords me. But, there is steep price to pay when you own your own business and manage your own career. I am every job. I have to do each one with the precision and perfection; a recipe that will drive a sane person mad. I am the mind behind the marketing, the covers, the ideas, the advertising, the social media presence and the art of words. I am also a full time mother—the one who has to bake shit, and fill out forms, and participate in fund raisers. The one who scrubs the grass stains off of the knees of pants, and who loads and unloads the dishwasher. The cook, and the lunch packer, and the toilet scrubber, and the dog walker. I am the sheet changer, and the homework helper, and the moral teacher. I don’t allow myself to slack in any area because I am a perfectionist in the home. Except I do slack because one person cannot do everything. And when things slip through my grasp and I feel as if I’ve lost control, I suffer. Serena is right. I have to start choosing my battles so that I have the chance to win them instead of feeling the weight of constant loss.
So there it is. Advice for the present, knowledge about the source, advice for the future. If you want to conquer depression these are things I have found help me. Friends are important, their perspective has been important, their comfort and understanding has been necessary. I have friends who pray for me, who check on me each day, who show up to be near me so I don’t feels so isolated and alone. I have a husband whose brow may be permanently creased from the worry, and who feeds, and rubs, and holds me when I forget who I am. He’s been an anchor though I’ve hardly seen him in the last few months. I need to see him more because he reminds me of hope. I have a mom who comes over and rubs my back for hours.
I’m not out of the woods. You can never quite predict when this sort of thing will end. And I have some things I need to work on, clearly. As I said in my last post about Ryder I’ve pulled back a great deal on social media and on my phone. I worry about you guys, those of you who don’t have the support system I do. Those of you who don’t have someone reminding you that your life is important, and that this too shall pass. So here I am. I want to tell you that you’re not broken and this is not permanent. Your life holds great value. The chances of each one of us being born are slim (1 in 400,000,000,00**). You are a miracle. Take your one life and do something with it. Something big, and bold, and beautiful. It’s never too late.
I fail Ryder. All the time. I’ve started realizing that my obedient child, my responsible child, my sweet child, gets less of everything because he doesn’t make any emotional demands. In fact I hardly have to get on him about anything because he’s my tiny red-headed try-er. Truly, a parent’s dream. He has this innate need to do the right thing, and I rarely have to worry about what he’s getting up to when I’m not around. It’s easy to overlook the needs of a small human who does everything right.
Scarlet needs, and she needs, and she needs. She needs so much that I spend most of my free time training her to control her personality. Teaching her to reign in her anger. Coaching her to be better so that she can help people instead of hurting them. My oldest has always been hard. I have a distinct memory of staring down at her when she was four months old and knowing she’d need…extra. But Scarlet is another story and right now I’d like to talk about Ryder.
Ryder is kind. He’ll be seven years old next week. This month my boy won an award in which he received recognition and a certificate in front of his entire school for being kind. A ceremony which I forgot about because I was hosting a conference in downtown Seattle for aspiring authors. I was not sitting in the fold-out white chairs when his teacher called him up in front of the entire school and handed him his award. I was not there to take his picture. And I was not there to hug him and tell him I was proud.
Ryder is charismatic and smart. The same week that he won an award for kindness his peers voted for him to be their first grade representative. Each grade at my children’s school has a representative; from first to eighth. The grade presidents meet once a month to discuss classroom issues. Can you imagine? My tiny little red head sitting at a table with all the big kids, talking about classroom politics. He’s the youngest one. But he didn’t make his first meeting because I forgot.
I forgot about show and tell too. Because that’s me. Overloaded, stretched thin, never looks at her planner.
The day after my writer’s conference was picture day at my children’s school. Already carrying the guilt of missing his ceremony, as well as the classroom representative meeting, I felt like a complete mom failure. I figured I could at least make sure they looked spiffy for their school photos. The morning of, Scarlet for once woke up early and got herself ready without my prompting. Ryder is my early bird, a complete morning person. He was confused when he woke up thirty minutes after his sister and she was dressed and ready to go. To make it clear, he did not wake up late, in fact he was right on time. His reaction was explosive anger. He thought that I had forgotten to wake him up.
“Little kids don’t matter!”
That’s what he screamed at me as he stormed off to the bathroom and slammed the door. Ryder doesn’t scream things at me. In fact he’s the one who hugs me when Scarlet screams at me. He’s the one who tells his sister to “lay off” when he sees that I’m at my wits end. I tried to explain that he was right on time, that he’d woken up on schedule and that Scarlet had gotten up earlier than normal. But my normally forgiving, logical son wasn’t listening. I knew there had to be something more bothering him. And why wouldn’t there be? I hadn’t shown up for him even once in the last few weeks.
When he came out of the bathroom I knelt in front of him and explained the situation once more. I told him that he did matter. Then prompted by something I felt in my spirit, I began to list the things I loved about him.
I love that you forgive so quickly
I love that you never hold a grudge
I love your laugh
I love the way you ask guests if they’d like something to drink when they come over
I love that you do chores without me asking you to do chores
I love that you always know the twists in movies
I love that you work so hard at school
I love that you get hangry just like me
I love that you’re six years old and keep track of all the money you spend in a notebook
I love that you love babies
I love that you are so popular
I love that you make an effort to be kind to that annoying kid
I love that you admitted that you were jealous of someone because they got more attention than you
I love that you laugh at yourself
I love that you cry in movies
I love that you worry about children who have less
I love that you’re always dancing
I love that you say “Thank you for the day” to your teacher EVERY SINGLE DAY
I love that you’re good at every freaking sport
I love that you made your own comic book.
I love that you’re the coolest kid I know
When I got done saying all of those things Ryder lifted his head from my shoulder and looked at me. He was crying. Not hard crying. Tears streaming down his little face-crying. Silent hurt.
“Did mom make you sad?” I asked.
He shook his head.
“Did you really need to hear that?”
I’m so sorry, Ryder. I’ll do better.
I don’t always know how to balance. To give everyone the attention that they need. I am essentially a stay-at-home mom…with a full time career. I feel so overwhelmed that recently I’ve started to have panic attacks again. Oh, ew! I haven’t had those since college. And so in light of everything I’ve realized that it’s probably time for me to make some changes. And while I haven’t fully figured out what those changes need to be yet, I am working on it. I’ve unplugged a little bit. Truth be told, I’ve stopped answering texts. Those five minutes everyone wants from you, they add up. Those five minutes when you hop on Instagram, or Facebook, or Twitter-they add up. I’ve set about organizing my time better, scheduling things like writing and social media. I’ve hired a cleaning service. I’ve set down my phone to be more present.
The bottom line is: my children come first.
They did not ask to be born. I summoned them to this world, and it is my responsibility to get it right. I’m willing to work hard and change so that I can better meet their needs. Being a mom is hard. So hard. Don’t ever downplay your role as a mother, and don’t you dare let anyone else downplay that role to you. I hope you can learn from my mistakes here. Maybe be encouraged by the fact that none of us really have it together. But, most importantly I hope that this may make you look at that one kid you have, the one that sometimes gets overlooked. That kid may need you to look them in the eyes and tell them all their good things. Go do that today.
I did something a little different this time you guys. I made three separate links: one for Plus size, one for more affordable lookalikes, and the one I’m wearing. So scroll all the way down! The Free People tee is on SALE!
What I’m Wearing
My forty dollar top shop dress, hell yes. It’s jersey material so has good stretch, and is flattering for women who have big boobs and small boobs. I am wearing a size 8 in the photo. Love that slit too. I plan on wearing it with my adidas soon.
Josh and I decided to spend an entire day wandering around Capitol Hill’s funky bar/bookstore/music scene. Why don’t I live there? I officially fell in love and CH is my new favorite place in Seattle. If you visit grab some drinks at one of the many colorful bars, who ALL display signs in their windows welcoming every type, color and gender of person. That’s the thing about Seattle, it’s all love and acceptance over here. Freedom of expression and land of artists. I love my home state so very much. Along with the many cool shops is my favorite bookstore: Elliot Bay Book Company, and the awesome Retrofit Home shop. Have Drinks and a corn dog at the weird Unicorn. And Brunch! Seattle has one heck of a brunch scene (London Plane is my favorite). Either way, you can’t go wrong on Capitol Hill. I’ll be seeing some of you soon for my Write or Die conference in Seattle this month! Can’t wait!
Outfit linked below. I bought my snake wrap bracelet at a little store in Port Townsend, this was the closet match I could find. And my Miranda bag is no longer made by Michael Kors, which is terribly sad because it’s my favorite bag of all time. I’ve been faithfully using it for five years now. However, you can still find this style on some second-hand sites like The Real Real.
And for the very first time I don’t regret it. It took me thirty two years to find the stylist of my dreams. Thank you, Shannon! She’s been cutting and blowdrying me for about three years now and there has never been a time when I leave her unhappy. I needed a change since I spent two years growing my hair out for the wedding. I was afraid to cut it because every time I’ve cut my hair I feel motherly. Like, I know I’m a mother but I don’t want to look like a mother. Ya know?! I have Peter Pan syndrome and in my heart I’m forever eighteen. Guys, if you’re ever in the area check out Shannon Wylie.
You can look her up on Instagram by: shannonwyliedesigns
Anyway, I found you a dupe pair of jeans for $60 and also listed my pair. And if you’re a slouchy t-shirt kind of girl this is my all time favorite tee. Washes well, doesn’t shrink, fits perfectly. And I am LOVING these Minkoff sneakers. So, usually I don ‘t like these laceless sneaker things. They sort of look lazy to me. Like, I’m a mom and I don’t have time for laces. But add silver grommets AND I LOVE THEM. LAZY SNEAKERISH THINGS WITH EDGE! Yaaaas!
Star Wars lover, right here! Always rooting for Darth Vader, love me some villains. I have been faithfully wearing my denim overalls every summer for five years now, but then I decided I wanted overalls in black. The hunt began. I found these and they’re not a boyfriend fit like my blue denims, they’re tighter…a little sexier (Can you call overalls sexy?) and they’re definitely comfortable. The pair I have are listed first in the links below. They are an Urban Outfitters brand called DGB and have a strap back rather than a full bib back (See photos). I did link some more affordable brands so you had options. What’s a woman without options? My necklace is from Tiffanys, I bought it for myself four years ago for my thirtieth birthday and I still wear it weekly. It’s currently on sale, so check it out.
I had a really great conversation with a friend this weekend about art. Actually it’s Josh’s friend, but now that we’re married we share everything right? Right. So my new friend and I were talking about art as a lifestyle. He’d just complimented my home decorating skills, and my photo taking skills, and while we sat at the dinner table my ego bloating he helped me understand myself a bit more. Last time a dude made me think deeply he was tattooing the words I am the color of BOOM on my arm. My tattoo artist, Kaweeka is one of the wisest dudes on the planet. Too bad he left the shop and didn’t tell anyone where he was going. I’ve been on the search for Kaweeka for three years now. KAWEEKA CAN YOU HEAR ME?! Where you at?
Anyway, off track there.
Art is a lifestyle. It’s not just books, or photography, or paint. It can be simple things too, things you may not realize are there. Once you open the door to one type of art more things follow.
I started as a writer. I was only six years old when I wrote my first story. I was writing books about talking dolls and magical wells back then. Pretty soon I found the need to express myself in more ways than just the written word. I started decorating. I started writing songs. I had a friend try to teach me how to draw. I wasn’t good at everything but I only discovered that by trying. I wanted to create things, even the things I showed no obvious talent in.
Humans need a way to express themselves. We have to much boiling inside of us not to.
My home is eccentric, bold and…weird. it’s too weird to be trendy. It’s sort of Alice in Wonderland meets Beetlejuice. In other words my decorating style is sort of a well coordinated acid trip. And the way I dress, I mean most people think I’m wack. My favorite thing to wear are atrociously ugly shoes. I pull the artist card when explaining my wardrobe.
“What? I’m an artist. I need to express myself…”
The things that come out of us like our home decor, clothes, tattoos, heck even cooking are all reflections of who we are. I know that some of you have to suppress those things because you work jobs that won’t allow blue hair, or ripped jeans. But, find ways. Find ways to let those beautiful things inside of you come out. You are an artist. Yes, you. Most people don’t think they’re creative. That’s not true. Just because it hasn’t been cultivated or acknowledged doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You may express it in the way you creatively give gifts, or the way you style your hair. But there is art in you and you need that art. it doesn’t even matter if you’re not good at it…yet. You can be. Find your art.
Guys, wire headbands. They’re not floppy and they don’t slide off your head like the fabric ones. I found one for you below, but there are great choices on Amazon. I included plus size options in this post, as well as a more affordable pair of jeans. So scroll right to make sure you’ve seen everything. Also some people commented recently that they’re unsure of how to subscribe to the Guise Of the Villain blog. You have to sign up on a desktop. One you visit my website from your computer there will be a pop option to subscribe. Happiest Sunday.