My Fractured Life

I have a problem. My life is fractured. Well, segmented would be a more apt word actually but I like the way fractured sounds. It captures the struggle. So for now I say my life is fractured. Maybe some of you can relate.

As much as the following statement might make many of you cringe I’ll say it anyway — our lives are becoming ever more reflected on social media. It’s not enough to create a life anymore, you must project that life on social media. This sounds horrible but I actually think it’s rather awesome. We have this amazing opportunity to document our lives for posterity in a way that might live on forever. Gone will be the days that I wished I had a picture of myself at age 4 reading a book (Curses! I wish I had that!) because from now on chances are your mom posted one like that on Facebook when you were little. I share honestly on this blog because I don’t want my cyber presence to be completely sterilized and manicured. This is a record of me, and I want it to be true, for what that’s worth.

Another rather amazing aspect of social media is how it benefits those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Most professions these days require a certain amount of self-branding to play with the pros, even if it’s just updating your Linked In profile regularly. This being the case, I envy those who have a single drive, a prevailing passion. Having such a thing would make it much easier to focus and go after one’s goals and dreams — much easier to brand oneself across cyberspace. Let’s use acting as an example. If all I wanted to be more than anything else was an actor I’d have a simple marketing plan. My Twitter account would be geared towards following and talking about actors and actor-related business. My personal website would be all about acting. My blog would be an acting blog. And that pesky Linked In profile would be rife with endorsements for “Actor” “Performer” “Theatre Artist.” There’s just one problem. I’m never ever ever, never, ever, going to be just one thing. Being one thing makes me feel like a shark that stopped swimming.

Let me cut and paste my Twitter blurb: I write kid’s stories. I act. I run. And I make pretty things with my hands. Program Administrator for The Unusual Suspects. Company member at Theatre of NOTE.

The diversified portfolio weathers the storm, right? I’m not convinced the same applies to creative endeavors. I sometimes wonder if I’m splitting my own votes. Would I gain more momentum, connections, and success if I focused only on one single thing? Some examples of my struggle:

This fragmenting all just – happened. When I started this blog Twitter was still relatively new so I started a Twitter page specifically to talk about running and promote the blog. But then I wanted one for everything else I do so along came @MsBeckyLight (SeaGirlSigl at the time). The same happened for Whimsy Do. I figured my running-specific internet friends may not have as much of an interest in my thoughts on acting, flower crowns, and children’s literature so I’ve told myself that separate accounts is a way to target my audience. Is this wrong? Should I be the tie that binds? Should I try to get my audience all in the same room?

Should I be the tie that binds? What a crazy question, right? Obviously I, Rebecca, am the thread that holds together all of my creative endeavors. They all make up one thing — me. But I’m serious about all of them, they’re not just hobbies, and so I want to promote them seriously. I want to share them with the world far and wide, and so I try to be mindful of a target audience for each creation. From a marketing perspective, should I be the tie that binds? I guess that is the ultimate question, and something I’ve attempted to do with my personal website. Maybe that can be the one place on the web where all of me exists in the same place. Just a thought.

This struggle is 35% logistical and 45% emotional. I not only struggle with the social media strategy of my unique and fractured life. Whatever, that’s just business really. I struggle with it on a deeper level. I’m in love with my various endeavors but are they sabotaging my potential? I love making fanciful flower accessories. I love writing children’s stories. I love acting. I love my job working for a non-profit. I love running. I love making theatre. But dammit, there are only 24 hours in the day and at least a few of them have to be dedicated to sleep. I’m splitting my own votes.

I hear over and over again from writers: cherish your writing time. Carve it out of your day and cherish it. If I weren’t also running half marathons, acting in plays, producing plays, making flower crowns, then I know that I could devote more time to writing. More time to write equates to more chance of success. Substitute any of my other endeavors for the first. More flowers crowns made = more flower crowns sold. More miles run = more better shape. (More better shape? Good Lord. I’m a writer. Did you know?) You see what I’m getting at? Dreams take devotion and determination. An Olympian would never make it to the Olympics if they cut their training time in half to satisfy other interests. That’s just a fact. Do I have to pick one? Or is the beautiful gift of art that varying art forms feed each other? I feel this to be true, and to be the unique privilege of being an artist, but I also feel I might be kidding myself.

So now the real burning question — one I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of for years. Who has Hermione’s Time Turner and when can I get one?

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This morning I woke up an hour and half early to write. Tomorrow I’ll wake up an hour and a half early to run. Tomorrow I’m making a conscious decision not to write. Will I pay for this? Maybe. Maybe. Or maybe the deep massage my brain gets from an hour of running is vital to the creation of new ideas which turn into new stories. Maybe the hour I’ll spend prepping a Whimsy Do order on Wednesday evening instead of writing will be just the right amount of time to let that new idea stew and cook. Maybe the shade of the hydrangeas in that new crown will unlock a new feeling in me. Maybe the people I meet at NOTE on Friday while producing Orphans will say something interesting that I’ll file away to be used as dialogue in that new middle grade novel I’ve started to write. I don’t know if these things are true. So I sigh, and I say that they are. I have to do all of these things, and that is true. I have to act in order to write. I have to run in order to create. My weird little symbiotic interests make up this crazy colorful schizo quilt in my soul. They make up me.

So I didn’t finish this post with an answer I was looking for, per se. I still don’t know what the hell to do about all of my Twitter accounts. If you want to follow me, I guess just pick one.

The Gift of Falling Flat on Your Face

Not too long ago I was having a great day. Like a really great day. A great week actually. Felt like I could conquer the world. Then I did something stupid. I won’t provide specifics surrounding the series of awesomeness followed by humiliation. Sorry, I know you’re dying to know but the truth is I’m not interested in reliving it in perpetuity on my blog. Let’s just boil it down to feelings, which is what matters here. I was devastated. Then I was pissed. What the hell! How can the universe be so kind and in the blink of an eye so incredibly cruel? I felt like this:

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This is a still from a video I posted on Facebook yesterday. As you might have guessed, this runner falls down. It’s rather devastating, as you may also have guessed. This is not what’s appealing about the video. It is, in fact, one of the most incredible visual metaphors I’ve ever come across. Watch the whole thing:

What is incredible about this event is not that the runner fell down and got back up and won the race (which is kind of mind-blowing btw). What is really incredible about the message here is that she won BECAUSE she fell down. Now, before you draft an argumentative comment, of course I don’t know that for sure. Would she have won without falling down? Maybe. But probably not. You can see it happen. Falling down gave her the jolt of adrenaline, of anger, of determination to win, that she otherwise would not have felt had she kept with the pack. The girl that clipped her in the foot probably felt so thrown off and embarrassed that it threw off HER game and allowed fallen girl to get up and gain a lead. The other runners probably assumed she was out when she went down, and didn’t in a million years see her coming to dominate at the last minute. This chain of events that started with her falling flat on her face provided a series of gifts that allowed her to win. It’s incredible. She had to fall down to win.

That’s the narrative I see in this video. You might take away something different but isn’t that the incredible thing about a story? Good stories contain layers of meaning that we get to peel off, try on, and see what fits best on our souls and minds. This video arrived on my Facebook feed with the utmost synchronicity. I had metaphorically fallen flat on my face a mere 48 hours prior, and I needed to see this. Failure will come to all of us and we must recognize it as a gift — an opportunity to reap just the exact emotions and motivation we need to win.

After I “fell” I sat in my car and cried. I didn’t want my wonderful week to end this way. It wasn’t fair. Someone! Somewhere! Change this! Much to my chagrin, no deus ex machina came down from above to change my circumstances. I was on my own. So I turned on my voice recorder app on my phone. I talked it out. I purged everything I was feeling. I needed to record it because talking to myself wouldn’t get it out fully. There has to be someone listening, even if that someone is an electronic chip in my smartphone. It makes a difference.  My fall gave me humility, determination, anger, and empowerment. Invaluable gifts made worthless if I remain face down on the ground. I stand up, and I keep running. I want to use these gifts. I know that life isn’t really a competition, but I still hope that I win.

The Lights: Year One

A year in marriage. The first year. Year one. Thousands upon thousands of little marriage-isms discovered that make me fall in love, make me quizzical, make me grateful, frustrated, challenged. Marriage-isms that better me. That’s what happens.

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A year of hearing “my wife” used in conversation and getting butterflies in my heart.

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A year of staring at the two rings on my left hand and wondering how any married lady ends up only wearing one or the other after awhile. A year of resolving to the fact that one day I too will probably wear just the band at times because the engagement ring is quite heavy and valuable and yes the band alone is more comfortable. One day. But for this year, I can’t imagine taking either off.

A year of wearing those rings in the ocean, hiking, camping, traveling, running. Because I will. Not. Take. Them. Off. See above.

A year of glancing at the ring on my husband’s finger and feeling pride and humility at what that simple gold band represents on his hand. That’s my promise. Right there on his hand. And he wears it with pride.

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A year of reprieve from regret because ever single thing I’ve done, right or wrong, has brought me here to you.

A year of replaying the ceremony in my mind. Letting the raindrops and the faces of our friends and our families and the music and the vows drift in and out of my brain theatre. The ritual was so powerful. Was it a dream? It was real, and it was perfect.

A year of discovering that rings and ceremonies and pieces of paper absolutely do matter. Those who say they don’t are kind of right but mostly totally wrong. See above.

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A year of dealing with the Social Security Administration and the DMV and the Passport agency and my banks because yes I am changing my name. I’d always wondered what women meant when they said changing your name is a pain in the ass. A year of understanding what they meant.

A year of becoming Mrs. Light. Like Laurie always knew he should be part of the March family I knew since I met him that I was born to be a Light. How can a name be so perfect?

A year of firsts. For the first time strangers reply to me after telling them my new last name “Oh, that’s a really cool name.” I’m a Sigl and always will be a Sigl. It will always be a part of my name, and sometimes I mourn it in my signature. I do not mourn the standard responses from strangers:

Stranger: S – I – G – E -…

Me: No no no, no E. Just S-I-G-L

Stranger: S-I-G-A-…

Me: Nope. Just four letters. S-I-G-L.

Stranger: S-I-G-L. Are you sure?

Me: Yep, I’m pretty sure.

Stranger: Okay. (writes on paper: “Sigal”).

Or this struggle:

Stranger: How do you say your name?

Me: Well the correct Austrian pronunciation is Siggle (like wiggle) but most of my friends and family pronounce it Seeegl like the bird.

Stranger: So which is it?

Me: I have no idea.

*quietly whimpers and suppresses ongoing identity crisis*

I won’t miss those. I was born to be a Light.

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I am the Seagull. No, that’s not it.

A year of trying to create a new signature which is a strange thing to do intentionally as my previous signature evolved organically over time.

A year of discovering that Light and Sigl share a lot of the same letters and so in rapid cursive don’t actually look very different. I can’t decide if this makes things easier, or if it disappoints me.

More firsts. Filing taxes with another person for the first time. (Who are we kidding we filed an extension and still haven’t done our taxes. Let’s get on that.)

Running a marathon for the first time.

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Climbing my first mountain.

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Finishing my first manuscript.

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Firsts, brought to you by the power and strength of life partnership. Brought to you by the magic of marriage which when done right, makes you superhuman in your zest for life and ambition to do better.

A year of talking about “my husband” in conversation and feeling the words in my mouth go from something foreign and new to something warm and comfortable. My husband. Have you met my husband? This is my husband. I’m meeting my husband in an hour. Before I decide I’ll have to discuss it with my husband. My husband and I. Husband. What a delightful word.

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A year of arguments. Yes there are arguments. Each argument teaching us things we need to know in order to navigate this new marriage. Each argument hard, painful, but necessary. Arguing with respect. Arguing with the safe feeling in my gut that knows we’ll be okay. Even though we’re mad, even though we’re disagreeing, even though we’re frustrated, there’s a way out and we’ll find it. We always do. We always have. In marriage our skill at arguing constructively is that much more necessary. We now stand on a common foundation and the wrong kind of fight can crack it. The right kind of fight can make it stronger. Let’s keep fighting right. But only every once in a while. Not fighting is in fact more fun.

A year of getting to Tahiti. A year of planning a honeymoon to Tahiti. What is more epic than a honeymoon? That’s what this is. A year of throwing up my hands because it’s too overwhelming. The flights from L.A. to Tahiti then the boat to Moorea and the inter-island airfare lined up with hotel stays and weather and the best time to take off work. It’s too much! I’m done! But the next day I wake up and I make it all work and I book our epic adventure in Tahiti. Because I’m good at planning things. You’re good at cooking, setting up campsites, taking care of our cats, and I’m good at travel planning. We bring things to the table.

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A year of pondering children. Weighing our trepidation against our desires. Weighing logistics and risk and societal pressure and personal goals and biological clocks. Still pondering.

A year of people asking when we’re going to have kids.

A year of fear. Fear of losing you, fear of not being able to have children, fear of losing our cats, fear of not having enough money, fear of not accomplishing my dreams, fear you won’t accomplish yours, fear of fear. Marriage, to me, is the highest form of love. It’s not given. It’s not born. You must choose it every day. I choose it. I devote myself to this love every day. The depth of my love for you, for our marriage… hot dog there’s a lot at stake. With high stakes comes fear. Breathe it in, breathe it out. Get back into love. Always facing and overcoming fear.

A year of pet challenges. We both know that Sharky is a genius and these past few months I can’t help but wonder if he’s testing us to see if we could handle a child. He’s smart. He knows what he’s doing. Our golden boy has become our problem child but I have to confess that every time I see you care for him my heart swoons. And Wizard is still Mr. Wizard. Sweeter and fatter every day.

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A year of newlywed bliss. They told us the first year would be the hardest but we must have gotten that hard part out of the way a long time ago because the first year was the best.

A year of faith, not in God, but in us. No givens in life. No givens in marriage. This train runs on a track of faith. Faith in each other, faith in ourselves. Train Tracks of Faith. I should have definitely been a country singer.

A year of laughter. We crack each other up in that special way that no one else would find funny, and that’s how I know it’s a special language written for us. We’re the only ones who are fluent.

A year of tears. The drama that creeps its way into my life again and again. Your shoulder is always there. Your arms are always holding me.

A year of encouragement. Yes I had a breakdown getting into the ocean to snorkel. All that equipment! Yes I didn’t think I could climb up that mountain. Yes I didn’t know I could finish a marathon. I couldn’t have, not without you.

Here’s what I have to say about marriage to anyone who has found their favorite life partner but is on the fence about the piece of paper. Do it.

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Life is a field trip to a theme park with really crazy roller coasters. You want to go on those roller coasters. You don’t want to just ride the carousel all day. You know they’ll be fun but they’ll also be scary and some of them might make you sick. Will you be able to handle it? Yes you will, but you sure would like to have a buddy for the day. So you look around and you find someone who you like a whole lot and you want to sit as close as possible to that person on these big scary roller coasters. You ask that person:

“Will you be my roller coaster buddy for the WHOLE day? Like, not just the first one, but let’s stick together so we know we have a buddy all day.” And that person says:

“Yeah! I like you a lot and I definitely want to ride these roller coasters with you. And in between maybe we can sneak off behind those bushes and make out.”

“Sure!”

“Awesome.”

And so you go over to your teacher and you announce to her and the whole class, “Hey everyone, we’re buddies for today, just so you know.” Your class respects the buddy code. And your teacher writes it down in her notebook. If she needs to speak to you she should just look for your buddy and she’ll find you, and vice versa. It’s in the book.

Maybe you’re on a field trip where you feel like riding coasters all by yourself. That’s totally fine. Or maybe you’re on that field trip where you definitely want a different buddy for every different ride. That’s cool too. But if you have found that person who you know you’d rather go on all the rides with, but you’re afraid of what it will be like to go on roller coasters with one person for the rest of your day at the theme park, I’ll tell you what it’s like. It’s awesome. The rides are way more fun. You share common memories of each scary roller coaster and you learn how to encourage each other to keep riding in a way that is so much more valuable than the thrill of riding with a new person every time.

You have to decide what you want your day at the park to be like, but if you’re like me and you feel instinctively that you would benefit from one single special buddy, say yes. Ask, and say yes.

And so here we are, Mr. and Mrs. Light, still hand in hand in our little theme park. We’ve only scratched the surface of all there is to do and see. Walking into year two together, what should our next ride be?

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Happy anniversary my love.

You ask me if there’ll come a time
When I grow tired of you,
Never my love,
Never my love.

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What Running Taught Me About Body Positivity… It’s All In the Mind

The prompt for National Running Day was “I run to _____.” I actually just had a little wave of anxiety as I typed, thinking about sharing the reasons that I run. The reasons are deeply personal, however publicly I talk about running. Personal, and innumerable, so maybe I’ll try to distill it all down to one basic idea. I run to connect my body to my soul.

I grew up an incredibly confident girl on the inside, with incredible self-loathing for her outsides. I hated my body. Hate is a strong word. Not strong enough. I developed at a young age in all the wrong ways according to a hormonal pre-teen. Big butt, thick thighs, flat chest. Boys didn’t like me, girls didn’t relate to me. I wasn’t athletic. I wasn’t skinny. I wasn’t necessarily fat either. I was the word I’ve come to hate more than almost any in the English language – chubby. I was chubby. And it’s not cool to be chubby as a kid.

So I grew up hating my outsides and wishing for new ones, while simultaneously loving life, being social, feeling creative and insightful, and in general enjoying the human soul that was developing as Becky Sigl. I was very conscious of this strange dichotomy. How could I be so confident and so insecure at the same time? Mind-body disconnect. You’ve all felt it.

Along came running. I began running as early as 6th grade but didn’t stick with it in earnest until my college years. During that time I felt more pressure than ever to somehow achieve the body that I THOUGHT would match my awesome inside self (don’t believe everything you think). Safe in my college incubation bubble, I knew that once thrust into the “real world” the clock began. It’s tough for women in Hollywood and if you don’t jump in the Hollywood Double Dutch game when you’re a kid, then you better be ready again when you’re a young twenty-something still young enough to play high school and college. If you miss THAT turnoff and you’re not “smokin’ hot” or super charactery then you may as well wait around until you’re old enough to play the Mom. I realize I sound very cynical and no one is obligated to subscribe to these silly rules. You can pave your own way and you should! But the pressure. It’s brutal.

So there I was, 21, getting ready for the real world, and I thought to myself constantly “I have to lose weight. I have to lose weight. I have to lose weight.” The only time I didn’t think these thoughts was on the running trail. Interesting. I didn’t all of a sudden feel satisfied with my body. I just didn’t give a crap. I was running.

Along comes the real world and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t magically transform into a 5’10” lithe supermodel or a cute little pixie girl in a size zero. Huh. Go figure. The real world arrived nonetheless and I started to realize how much I truly disliked this game of Hollywood Double Dutch. But I thought I’d still play anyway. I’d still attempt to achieve a body that would match my awesome, spunky, confident, inner self – still repeating the mantra “I have to lose weight” – I started running more consistently.

A funny and unexpected thing happened. I fell in love with my body. The body that in the past 10 years has run 13 half marathons, one marathon, and 2,000 miles to Tahiti. That body. The body that is actually 15 pounds HEAVIER than it was 10 years ago when I started running to lose weight! I love that body. I love it so fiercely. Sure I get a little itchy when I feel a few pounds of new jiggle after the holidays or if I haven’t run for awhile, but I still love the jiggle, however unwelcome. I love it deeply because I’m grateful for it. I know what it can do.

In college I took a philosophy course that focused heavily on the ideas of Iris Murdoch. One of our textbooks was “The Sovereignty of Good.” (I highly recommend it). It is the act of focusing on the Good – art, service, love – that effectuates transcendence. This focusing and taking action lures us outside ourselves. You can’t simply try to be grateful as effectively as when you focus on giving to others which results in a sense of gratitude. You can’t try to understand humanity as well as seeing a great play – the pathos of which evokes an understanding of humanity as a result. A focus on good things brings about Good. The actions make us Good. It’s not so easy to be good for Goodness’ sake. Someone alert Santa.

I couldn’t try to love my body in a vacuum. I just couldn’t. I did try. Hard! I simply did not love it. 10 years of running consistently – focusing my mind on something healthy and active instead of the outcome on my appearance – changed me. It works this way in acting. You want to get out of your own head? Focus on your scene partner. What are you doing to him? Do it. Voila! No more in your head. So too with body positivity as it turns out. You want to love your body? Focus on doing things with it. Be active. Put your body to work. You’ll discover that it’s Good, EXACTLY as it is.

I started running because my 6th grade teacher told me to. I stuck with it in high school and college to try and lose weight, when I suddenly realized it had this potent by-product of making me feel sane. I keep running today not to love my body, but because I love my body. Running, as it turns out, is the bridge between my sparkly, glitter-spackled, spunky, soulful, introspective, confident, awesome, self and the physical vessel I was given to get through life – my body. You get one boat to sail the ocean. Don’t scuttle it. Name it. Take care of it. Decorate it. Love it. Have fun sailing.
I run to connect my soul to my body. I run because it’s spiritual. I run because it’s physical. I run to get out of my head. I run to focus on the Good.

Why do you run?

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Little Facts That Make Me

Do you ever stop and think about all of the tiny idiosyncrasies that make us who we are? It’s pretty extraordinary. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been writing more fiction lately and character development is top of my mind, but lately these funny little Becky-isms have strongly come into focus. The last play at Theatre of NOTE, Niagara Falls, (one of my all-time faves) was largely about identity. There was a part at the end of the play where one of the characters remembers who she is suddenly and she’s overwhelmed by little details, like her enjoyment of eating grapes in the grocery store. I love that. It’s really the little oddities that make us. I thought perhaps I’d make a similar list, if nothing else but for posterity. If ever I need to recall myself, this should help:

I like walking down the street reading a book.

I hate driving behind buses. Not just because they stop all the time, but it’s so hard to see and feels claustrophobic.

I love sunrises more than sunsets but hate getting up early despite how much I love the morning-time so I’ve learned to love sunsets even though the moment right after makes me very blue.

I love peeling clementines. The way the peel comes off so easily, it’s like opening a present.

I never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it aired but this year I discovered it and now I’m kind of obsessed. I really really really want to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I tend to be a somewhat messy person when it comes to housekeeping but I’m very anal about crumbs on the table in restaurants. I will clean up all of the crumbs. Servers love me.

Once I was sitting on a bench reading in the McKinley Park Rose Garden in Sacramento, and two photography students asked if they could take my picture because I looked somehow romantic. That still may be the best compliment I’ve ever received. Wish I had that picture.

I have a very true and serious dislike for speaking on the telephone. It’s probably cost me friends over the years but honestly the thought of it makes my skin itch. Nothing to do with the person I want/need/should speak to. It’s a fear of the medium itself. I think it’s an introvert thing, which brings me to…

I’m a massive introvert. I don’t think people believe me when I say that because I’m generally gregarious and not horrible at speaking in front of large groups of people. I am though. I go inward, not outward. I think you can tell what you are by getting stoned. I don’t smoke pot anymore but when I did, if I smoked too much, I literally lost the ability to speak. My mind would go so inward that I’d lose the function of speaking to other humans, animals, or even inanimate objects. I think if you smoke pot and go outward, getting super chatty and interactive, then you know you’re an extrovert. So yeah, the marijuana test will tell you which way your mind is pointed. You heard it here first.

When I first started dating my now husband, within two weeks I knew I would marry him. I remember sitting in the car after a date and he paused in the middle of a sentence. I had no idea what he was going to say but the lead-up sounded like a question and then he paused. I remember repeating over and over in my head “ask me to marry you, ask me to marry you, ask me to marry you.” It’s like I couldn’t control it. A chorus in my brain. The rational half of me thought later “What are you nuts? You’ve been dating for two weeks!” My heart was just screaming it though. It only took five years after that to get engaged. The rational part of me is in fact very strong, but the heart wins.

My wedding day truly was the happiest day of my life. The cliche is true.

I don’t like shoes with bows on them unless the bow is big and silky or hard and sparkly.

I love horror movies to a level you could describe as addiction. I can’t get enough. There aren’t enough great horror movies in the world to satiate my need. Make horror movies! I’ll watch them!

When I was in first grade I won a writing contest at my school and was chosen to read my story in front of the entire student body. I remember exactly what the story was about but have since lost the text. My dream is to rewrite that story and have it published, but I’m scared.

I love being a blonde. When I finally started highlighting my hair blonde I felt like I discovered an important part of my identity. Hair holds a lot of power.

The other hair color that I feel may be part of my true identity is red. I’ve always wanted to be a redhead, but I made the mistake once of telling Brad that I’d heard a statistic on Stuff You Should Know that women who dye their hair red often want to cheat on their significant others, so now I can never dye my hair red for fear he’ll misinterpret my motivation. Oh bother. Beware the information you share.

I love good bluegrass almost as much as I love horror movies. Especially when they play at farmer’s markets on Sundays. Bluegrass bands, not horror movies. Though that would be interesting.

I love westerns almost as much as I love bluegrass and horror movies. If someone could please make a horror film set in the wild west with a bluegrass soundtrack, that would be my favorite movie.

Our wedding had a Victorian Western theme. Because I love it to so much. My husband looks hot with a pocket watch and a cravat.

Although I love Victorian and Western aesthetics, I haven’t adopted the steampunk look. Perhaps because that veers into nerd culture, and I don’t feel a part of that.

In my heart I feel like a mermaid, but I get horribly seasick. It’s tragic. So really I’m more like a fairy. I belong in the woods. Hmm, a fairy who wishes she were a mermaid perhaps. Interesting story.

I love The Beatles in a way that’s hard to talk about.

I swear that I remember when Princess Diana married Prince Charles, even though I wasn’t born yet. This makes me consider reincarnation.

I was a vegetarian for 12 years, and although I’ve started to eat a bit of meat (free-range, humane as possible), I have the heart of a vegetarian and I miss identifying as one. I mourn my lost vegetarianism, but the occasional steaks and turkey sandwiches are delicious.

I can be really dumb sometimes, and really smart others. I’m just as surprised as anyone when one or the other strikes me.

I wish I could download a better vocabulary into my brain. Having more words is like having more colors on your palette. But my palette is my brain and it’s terrible at remembering.

I love naming things. I love names. When I backpacked through Europe I collected rocks from every country I visited and I named them all. The rocks. Mostly I gave them Euro-centric names like Octavius and Bernard. I even named the shag rug I bought from IKEA for my freshman college dorm room. His name was Rupert.

I love quotes more than I love names, but sometimes I’m sad that I love quotes so much because the truth is I love them because I feel like everyone else can say what I’m feeling better than I can, and then I realize that my love of quotes is a response to my insecurities as a writer.

I think too much.

When it comes to color I’m like a moth to flame. I have very strong emotional reactions to different colors. I could spend hours in an art supplies store, paint swatch section of Home Depot, makeup and nail polish aisles just staring and loving all the different colors.

I organize my clothes hanging in the closet by the colors of the rainbow. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. It makes sense to me.

I think that’s enough for now. This will be an ongoing list. Hopefully by exercising this desire to document my personal idiosyncrasies, I’ll get better at making them up for the characters I create. Like the blonde rainbow fairy who lives at the top of Temescal Canyon, looking out at the sea wishing she were a red-headed mermaid. Hey, start with what you know, right?

If you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear some facts that make YOU. Please share!

What Running a Marathon Taught Me About Coping

Yesterday I had a panic attack. My heart raced. I broke into a sweat and felt like I couldn’t breathe. The attack hit me out of nowhere. Pretty sure I actually muttered to myself “Oh my, what’s this? What’s happening to me?”

It’s not that I’ve never had a panic attack before. I’m all too familiar with the phenomenon. It’s just that for me they are almost always preceded by some direct and identifiable psychological turmoil, but lately I’ve been y’know, happy. I suppose I could connect the dots. Stressful week at work? An unfamiliar feeling of optimistic ambition relating to my writing career? (I’ve never been so pro-active about a personal goal and while it’s all very exciting, there’s a scared little girl inside me no doubt trying to shake me up out of fear of failure.) Ongoing family crisis? (Which is currently a sleeping dragon but I’m waiting for it to wake up again.) Maybe I just let my blood sugar get too low. There are truly any number of things that could trigger an anxiety attack but none of them have been front line lately so it surprised me to experience a physical manifestation of the fears. Whatever the reason, panic took hold.

I’ve never been great about dealing with these pesky attacks. I suppose that by definition they encroach your senses beyond reason, so an inability to deal sensibly is kind of the point. This has always been inconvenient as it’s forced me to rely on the support of others to get by. I’d call my mom or my step-dad and they’d talk me off the edge. These days my husband fills the role nicely, holding me and loving me until even the panic feels cozy and at home. While it’s crucial  to have people in your life who can save you in a crisis, self-reliance is something for which I always strive.

And that’s where the marathon enters the picture.

Running the Walt Disney World Marathon left me with innumerable life lessons, but perhaps the lesson that surprised me the most was a deepening of the phrase “it gets better.” Sometime around mile 14 things got really hard, and I thought to myself “Oh crap, if it’s this hard now how am I going to survive 12 more miles?” The logic being that an increase in distance should correlate to an increase in fatigue and thus difficulty. Logically speaking running a marathon would look something like this:

Marathon HillIt makes sense right? The longer you run the harder it gets? See, though, here’s the thing about endurance running. It doesn’t really make sense. Does it make sense to train for four straight months at the expense of a clean house, social life, and free time? Not really. Does it make sense to pay $200 to do something you could theoretically do on your own for free? Not really. Does it make sense to voluntarily put yourself in pain or at the very least extreme discomfort for 4-6 hours straight? Definitely not. Nothing about marathon running makes sense, including the experience of running it.

So there I am at mile 14, incredibly concerned that if it’s this hard now I simply won’t be able to finish. A funny thing happened. I just kept running, and it got better. It gets better.

Then it got hard again, and better, and really hard, then easy, then impossible, then doable, then great, then transcendent, then I finished. So running a marathon actually looks more like this:

Marathon realnessHow can mile 20 be easier than mile 14? And what kind of sense does it make for mile 5 to be harder than mile 25? No sense at all. That’s long-distance running for you. Reason #673 why running is a giant metaphor for life. It does get better. But then it gets hard again.

The It Gets Better campaign is beautiful, and important. In the darkest hour we all need someone to look in our eyes and promise that it DOES get better. It does. But let’s talk realness for a sec. It will probably get hard again. Really hard. And then it will get better. Undoubtedly. Life is not a long walk up hill. It’s a marathon. It’s the high school mile being harder than the college mile. It’s the quarter-life mile being harder than the thirty-something mile. It’s the family mile being easier than the work mile and oh, wait a minute, now the family mile is the hardest yet. Each challenge paid off with a nice stretch of joy. The joy inevitably followed by a new challenge. Somewhere there is a finish line that makes it all worth it.

Even once we’ve finished the marathon, we’ll probably do another one. We’ll get right back on the course of ups and downs. Extreme highs and lows. We’ll cope. Because it doesn’t make sense, a marathon or life. The one thing you can count on is that it will change, and for better or worse you’ll be wiser once you’ve endured.

I highly recommend running a marathon to exercise this radical unpredictability of life. It’s cathartic. Years of emotional ups and downs will be condensed for you into a 5 hour physical metaphor that you can take with you into the big, bad, beautiful, chaotic world. You will know in your muscles and bones what it feels like to cope, to endure, and to be rewarded with a strange sort of peace. (Which you will forever project onto the medal they hand you at the finish line. You will cherish that cheaply made trinket endlessly. God help the poor soul who ever tries to take my bling away!)

Last night I’m lying in bed, my husband sleeping peacefully next to me. I’m fitful, fighting the remains of this pesky panic attack. My insides feel dark blue, my thoughts are glum, my breath is shallow. I read. I watch TV. I try to breathe in calm and exhale chaos. It’s not really working. I’m in it, a tough mile. But I think back to the marathon. I think about how mile 25 was easier than mile 5. Suddenly I feel, not calm, but confident. It will get better. I will also have another panic attack someday. I will cope.

Now it’s tomorrow. You know what? This mile feels great. It’s a beautiful day with no panic in sight. It got better. For now. And that’s enough to keep me running.

Mile 25. On top of the world.

Mile 25. On top of the world.

Patience, not-so-young Grasshopper

I’m too impatient to think of a clever way to begin this post. Gah! So impatient! The cat is out of the bag. I’m impatient. It’s a toxic state of mind. The overwhelming desire to have something extraordinary happen overnight often thwarts the possibility of that extraordinary something happening over time. This is why it’s essential to enjoy and take meaning from the journey. Not because it’s so wise, because it’s 95% of the process. You may as well enjoy it. You can’t drive from California to New York overnight, so if you don’t find pleasure in staring out your window at the Oklahoma prairie or Missouri’s rolling hills, it’s going to be a long and painful drive. Learn to savor the journey; something I’m discovering about my endeavors as a children’s book author.

Earlier this year I actually, truly, really, actively, once-and-for-all began taking steps toward becoming a published children’s picture book author. I’d dreamed of such a thing since I was 6 years old, but other than a library of ideas messily cataloged in my brain I’d never pursued it. All that changed with the new year. Knowing NOTHING about the publishing industry I began with as rudimentary a step as possible. I bought Writing Children’s Books for Dummies. Hello, dummy. *Proudly points to self*

Not even knowing how to format a manuscript properly, I needed the basics. It’s actually quite a good book. I recommend it for publishing preschoolers like me.

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I read this book. I joined Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I launched a personal website. I finished my first manuscript. I researched publishing houses accepting unsolicited material. I wrote a cover letter. I signed up for my first conference. I’m ready now! Do you hear me universe! I’m ready, so can this happen now? Oh universe, I know YOU waited patiently for 30 years for me to accept this as my life’s calling, but now that I’m ready let’s do this thing.

I don’t know if writing for children has led me to think like a child, but I am impatient with a capital I. Impatient. IMpatient.

So what has led to this impatience? Well I’ll tell you. Obstacles. There are numerous itchy realities that have put a little bee in my bonnet since I started actively writing. Here are the discouraging things I’ve learned since I’ve gotten myself in the game.

On average it takes 3-6 months for a publisher to respond to your manuscript submission. Most responses will be a rejection.

Many publishers require an exclusive submission so while you’re waiting SIX MONTHS for them to read your three page manuscript you can’t really even submit it to anyone else. This isn’t always the case but SOMETIMES. SOMETIMES!

If and when a publisher wants to buy your manuscript, which you can almost guarantee won’t happen with the first submission, it will then take 18+ months (at least) for your book to be paired with an illustrator, art directed, produced, and published. It can and does take years.

Once your beautiful book baby is born and there you are on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, unless you’re among the incredibly rare breed of New York Times bestselling picture book authors, your book will probably go out of print in 2 years and you’ll net maybe $5,000 of royalties once you make back your advance. It will most likely be 10-15 years before you’ve published enough books to quit your day job and write full time.

So here I am, eager as a little beaver for my life to begin, and all I see are obstacles and “Turn Back Now” signs. I’m not old, but I’m not young either. I’m considering children in a few years. I’d like to start saving for a home, and for kid’s education, and for retirement. I want my life to begin NOW. Now, do you hear me universe? I’m ready! Do I really have to wait years for my three-page manuscript to make it to bookshelves, if it ever makes it at all? There are no guarantees. This could all be for naught. I could be a hack. I could be delusional. I can’t wait years to find that out.

I’m realizing I’m at this point in the story:

leap-of-faith

There are many things I don’t know but I’m fairly certain of one thing. For the first time in my life I feel that I’m on the right path. I’ve started my journey down that path feeling prepared and enthused, only to now come across a chasm of unknowns, of long periods of waiting, of inconveniences and obstacles. There are signs that say “Wait here for 6 months, then proceed… maybe,” and others that read “Please pay $500 to advance,” while still others read “Congrats, you’ve earned $5,000! Now make that last for three years!”

A famous actor can indeed make millions. As can a famous author. However the majority of actors are not famous. They work. They struggle. They hustle to make $2,000 for one week on a show they don’t even really like that much and pray they’ll make enough money in their careers for health insurance and maybe a pension. It’s hard. For most, it’s very hard, so if you don’t love it, if Jiminy Cricket isn’t whispering in your ear, “Yes, this is right,” then maybe don’t do it.

Who knew writing would be just as challenging? Well, probably everyone who ever tried to be a writer, but hey I’m new at this. The difference now is Jiminy Cricket is talking to me. I’m starting to sound a little crazy but you know what I mean. It’s there! Some sort of warm omniscient speaking heart telling me that it will all be worth it somehow. This is my story. This is my path.

Okay. I accept. I will wait. I will make the leap. I will stay on the path no matter how hairy it gets. I will employ patience by enjoying the view from the window of this moving train. And while I wait, I’ll keep writing. I’ll see what I see out the window and it will inspire me and I’ll write it down. Even if I’m never published and they line my coffin with rejection letters from Random House, someone will one day clean out my desk and they’ll find what I wrote and they’ll say “Hey, look what she did.”

Hey, look what I did. Look what I’m doing. All you need is patience, young grasshopper.

Or should I say… cricket.

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