At 4pm on March 29th, I finished my poetry chapbook.
A writing project complete.
Since then, I’ve done a lot of staring at things. And blinking.
I honestly feel like I’m in shock. I don’t really know what to do.
It’s been so long since I’ve finished a writing project.
This year I decided I needed a baptism by fire. Something that would blast through this fear of acknowledgement/discovery. Not discovery as an author–that would be stupid cool–but discovery as in, the inner workings of Mea Smith. Which, I believe will be a huge step toward the author thing. I know I’m all sunshine and roses on the outside, but there are some pretty dark unicorns and tricky sprites inside that I’ve had (and have) to deal with.
My Southern upbringing taught me to deal with these things privately, but do you know how lonely “privately” is? And who really “deals” with their shit if they’re not pushed by someone or another? So, poetry has been my way to “deal” with the poop piles of death, disappointment, and depression (woah with the alliteration).
“No one has to read it,” I told myself. “Just write it down, get it out, cleanse the inside.”
And that’s what I did.
So, back to “baptism by fire”. I am a fearful being by nature.
And I’m friggin tired of it.
So when making my list of things I want to do this year, I wrote–Get Over All The Fear. I made a plan, and at the time, it felt like a good one.
Step 1: Find that poetry that means the most to you. [Maybe subconsciously I wanted to share it because I typed it up after I hand wrote it–Or maybe I thought Iwould want to remember where I came from one day when I am not crazy (so probably never) and typed it up. Either way…]
Step 2: Write some more about The Things. You know what they are, Mea.
Step 3: Put them all together in a pleasing fashion.
Step 4: Share with world.
See, poetry is the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It’s my therapist since I can’t afford one, so putting this out in the world for others to judge and scowl and laugh and cry over…is probably the worst thing I could do to my poor, fearful self.
So that’s what I’m doing.
And that’s what I mean by “baptism by fire”. It’s going to hurt like hell, but I know I’m going to come out a better, braver person when it’s all over. (I so, so hope.)
Now, I sit. It’s cover glares at me when I tell it I’ve picked three competitions to submit to. I’m not sure it wants to go, but this is the Year of Overcoming, and so I and my darlings will overcome.
I decided to go mixed-media with it and added poems on photography I’ve done and illustrations. It’s this Thing that I’ve become proud of (look what I’ve overcome) instead of ashamed of (you don’t want to see my darkness; look glitter!!!).
So here is the cover:
I’ll let you know if I get chosen from one of the contests, but right now, it just feels damn good to Finish Something.
The Unintended Effect of Embracing My Tribe
At some point, I don’t recall when, society began glamorizing what it’s like to be “awkward” and I had finally found my People.
I was elated!
I wasn’t alone!
There were others who had the tendency to trip on her own shoes, or say embarrassing random things in front of important people, or go to hug her husband and accidently poke him in the eye.
I don’t know if it started with Bella Swan, I feel like we can (almost) all agree that she wouldn’t have been so cute if she didn’t fly her Clumsy Flag high.
There are amazingly hilarious shows like NEW GIRL and 30 ROCK that have main characters I relate wholeheartedly to. It’s like sitting with old friends and accidentally choking on biscotti sticks between stroppy life stories.
I had never felt so welcome.
And suddenly, I was even collecting embarrassing”events” like Pokemon cards. As soon as I would do something weird, I would catalog it so I could tell my other “awkward” friends. It was like a strange Girl Scout group, and for those of us who are somewhat socially moribund, it felt good to be a part of something, even if it’s an Embassy of Embarrassment where you must have at least three level 10 incidences on file before you could be a full member. And that’s only to join. To stay in, you have to meet quotas.
About the same time, I unconsciously decided that those descriptors were the best attributes I had. That I was only these awkward instances stitched together into a timeline.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the words I use to describe myself.
Awkward. Weirdo. Clumsy. Dummy.
All super uplifting, right?
And then I realized, those words weren’t just in my head.
“I am so awkward.”
“You don’t know me yet, but I’m a weirdo.”
“Listen to this dummy thing I did.”
“Mea, you idiot…”
It wasn’t someone else saying these things to me. It was me…demeaning me.
I noticed something. Something I didn’t really like. I was starting to be ONLY awkward–ONLY a clumsy-dummy-weirdo. Before, I would have these moments of brilliance. I would at least feel confident with a pen in my hand. I used to hold on to these moments like you would a string tied to a helium balloon because, before awkward was cool, I wanted to be luminescent when I “grew up”. Well, at least mostly shiny.
Slowly, though, those shiny moments separated farther and farther in time until I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen one. But I could totally remember the last 10 times I told myself I was an idiot.
To my tribe, I told funny anecdotes.
But I was not happy.
I wonder how many of them aren’t happy either?
I heard myself one day, “Gah, me equals awkward,” and it made me stop in my tracks. (Literally, I almost caused a traffic jam in the hallway.)
I. Heard. Myself.
How long had I been shoving myself in this soggy box? So long that I forgot what it felt like to be competent and confident in my talents. “I am not one for false modesty…” (Elizabeth Bennet said) but, in the past, I had not been one for false condemnation, either. Was I really a dummy-wierdo? God, I hope not.
For an experiment, I practiced not saying aloud the things I didn’t want to resemble.
It was hard.
It is hard.
I’d unintentionally ingrained this line of thinking to flow freely from my head to my mouth to my heart that stopping it took constant attention.
Until it didn’t. (I did it again today, but I’m writing this post, so I wonder if old habits truly do die hard, or if it’s just in the forefront of my forehead.)
I’ve noticed an improvement. I feel more “together” in the world rather than cliquishly “awkward”. I feel more capable with publicly verbalizing ten words in a row without accidently creating a dirty joke. I feel more Real Smiles than not these days. I feel more like Sometimes Shiny Me instead of Always Awkward Me.
Now, I’m working on my thoughts. Even the disappointed tone I hear my inner voice use when I do something dumb. I can’t change the fact that I am naturally clumsy and that I think differently than most people I know (which makes me the life of the party, let me tell you.) But I can forgive myself, and I can release those moments, rather than hoarding them for future hilarious floggings.
I’m finding that I WANT to be forgiving. That I want to see what more I can be by just…believing I’m more than a failed trek up the stairs (true story). This is what I want to tell all the members of my trippy tribe. We don’t have to just be an after-dinner story. We are more than our awkward experiences.
I’m not saying you have to change anything after reading this. I just want to be real with you. We are Writers and/or Readers. We KNOW words are powerful. Why did I NOT think that applied to Real Life, instead of to just the lives I create? For me, right now, it’s the lack of words that have made all the difference. But don’t we Writers already know that, too?
Until next time, *pregnant pause* (See what happened there???)