Reflections on an Upcoming Birthday

Birthdays aren’t always easy. I’m not afraid of growing older. But, I do worry about not being where I want to be in life.

Hey there!

Today is going to be another personal one. You see, my birthday is coming up soon, and I’m feeling rather conflicted about it. 

person-standing-near-lake-670720 (1)
Photo by Lukas Rychvalsky from Pexels

No, I’m not worried about getting older, exactly. Age, up till reaching the challenges of extreme old age, has always seemed an enviable condition to me. Middle age, in fact, is something I look forward to. 

So, while the years themselves aren’t troubling, I’m still young and I know it, there are other challenges. This birthday marks a series of specific goals I have long held, goals I have not met, and am unlikely to meet in the 12 months following my birthday. 

Unfortunately, the internet being what it is, I have to be rather vague about both when my upcoming birthday will be, and how old I am. But, even without those details, I can discuss what this particular year was supposed to mean, the goals I had laid out, the things I thought my life would contain. 

It should be no surprise since I’m making this post, that many of the goals I am about to discuss have gone unmet. So, I’m also going to talk about how I’m attempting to deal with the differences between reality and plan a younger and more idealistic self first created. 

Let’s start with the big one. I will shortly be the age I wanted to start having kids. While I am still young, and in many ways still finding my way, I am older now than my parents were when they had me. I am older than at least one set of my grandparents were, having my mom and uncle. I have always known that my goal meant having children later than those members of my family.

But, I privately hoped it wouldn’t be much later. 

I saw first hand the benefits of having younger parents. While my friends almost uniformly had older parents than mine, I’ve never wanted that for myself. People talk about young adulthood as a time for partying, irresponsibility, and finding yourself. 

Well, I’m not much of a party-goer. I don’t drink much or often. I am much more comfortable behaving responsibly than irresponsibly. I did a lot of the work of finding myself as a teenager and in college.

I believe in life as a series of neverending becoming. I want to be myself. To allow myself to be a person in flux, always growing and changing. 

So, I’m uncomfortable, even ungrounded, in the descriptions of what this phase of my life should be. While I’m not comfortable with the idea of myself as a parent, because I know that becoming a parent will require growth and change into a person I have not yet become, it’s at least an idea of being I find familiar and desirable. 

It’s also out of reach. Neither my living situation nor my finances support making moves toward parenthood. I am not established in any career. My partner, while steadily employed with a good company, does not many enough to support us without help. We live with roommates, and they are not interested in children, so we need to move out before beginning a family. 

The steps it would take to make parenthood a reasonable goal are long-term plans. Things that will take time and energy to create, and which almost certainly won’t happen within a year.

So, this goal, my private marker of the age I should be when I become a parent, is going to go unmet. 

A secondary, but equally troubling fact. I have long thought that I would be able to establish myself as a writer by this age. Friends and family have been convinced that I would be published at almost any time for the better part of a decade. 

Meanwhile, I have always been less certain of immediate writing success, and more certain of eventual writing success. 

But, I am not a published author. I am a freelance writer, but I am the kind of freelance writer who struggles to pay the bills and takes just about any assignment I can get. I produce a huge quantity of writing in a week. Usually close to 20,000 words. But almost none of that mountain of production is my writing, my projects, my ideas, and inspiration. It’s writing to meet goals, deadlines, and the ideas of clients. 

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

All that writing leaves little time for my projects, including this blog, organizing my desk and computer files, and working on querying for short stories. Not to mention the 2 novels I’m working on. 

So, while I’m paying the bills, progress toward my long-term goals has been glacial. 

Meanwhile, other friends and family members are creating successful careers and launching their dream businesses. As I help writing friends craft query letters and try to make time to read and critique other friends’ work, I find myself struggling with twinned emotions. 

On the one hand, I am happy for my friends. I’m genuinely proud of the work they are doing, and the tenacity, bravery, and skill it requires. I’m glad to see their successes. 

At the same time, I have to resist the urge to compare their successes to my failures. As I help a friend prep a manuscript for publication, I find myself lamenting the fact that I don’t have a manuscript of my own to prepare. As I share posts and art and try to boost the signal, I find myself wishing I had more of my own content to focus on. 

As my friends realize they want to be writers, I sit and quietly wonder why they are successful when I have been working toward this goal since grade school. 

It’s jealousy. And I know that comparing my life and work to other people is never going to be a fair or reasonable metric. But it’s a struggle not to when I’m helping others achieve my dreams, but cannot seem to do it for myself. 

This birthday, for me, feels like something to be mourned rather than celebrated. I know that I have most of a lifetime ahead of me to achieve my goals. I have most of a lifetime ahead of me to continue my journey of being and becoming. 

But, for me, this month is a marker of what may have been. What I may have done and have not. What I wanted, and cannot now reach. 

I am not sad to be growing older. Quite the opposite. But I think I am mourning for the child I am no longer, and for the idealism that created the goals I cannot meet. 

I think the cycle of joy and mourning is natural and normal. I’m not sad to be mourning, although mourning is sad. 

At the same time, I am trying to set my sights on celebrating the success of reaching another year. I have made it another year. I have overcome difficulty, I have grown and changed. I have learned. I have loved. I have spent another year on the path of self-acceptance and growth. 

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Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. from Pexels

have made important achievements this year. I graduated with my Bachelor’s. I stuck to my dreams enough to start building an income from writing. I have learned to be kinder to myself in hard times. To give myself breaks in good times and bad. 

I am still learning these things. I hope I never stop. 

So. Here’s to an upcoming birthday. Here’s to conflicted feelings and uncertainty. Here’s to knowing that there is no one true path. Here’s to getting lost in life. 

I’ll keep a light on. 

-R. 

Adulting Chronicles: My Partnership, Love, Life, and Anxiety

Hey there,

I wanted to take a minute to talk about something that impacts my life every day, but which doesn’t make it on to TV screens or even often into the well-loved pages of our favorite books.

I have a partner I am deeply in love with. We use the term partner because our relationship is, in every way, exactly that: a partnership. Continue reading “Adulting Chronicles: My Partnership, Love, Life, and Anxiety”

McNay Fire – My First Close Wildfire

Hey there!

Well folks, this isn’t exactly the blog post I was hoping to put up next, but it’ll do.

Yesterday a wildfire started approximately 6 miles from my home. We’re okay. While the fire is still burning, it’s moving away from the housing development and other major structures, and there are approximately 100 fire fighter and support staff working the fire right now. Continue reading “McNay Fire – My First Close Wildfire”

Adventures in Freelancing – And a Poem!

Well hey there!

So, I have to admit I haven’t been as on top of writing for the blog as I’ve hoped. Fortunately, things are starting to settle, so hopefully there will be more content going up here soon!

Although, admittedly, getting caught back up on chores and errands has had to take a bit of priority.

So here it is, I’m working on writing 8-12 hours a day, Monday-Thursday, ghostwriting content for a variety of websites. I enjoy the work, but it doesn’t leave much time for other concerns.

I’m still planning on book reviews, personal updates, and long-form content as well. It’s just coming on a longer schedule than planned. But, never fear, the creative juices are still flowing, and here’s a poem to prove it!

Freelancer

Invisible lurker,

Dredging the Depths of Articles

Quick Research.

 

Don’t trust everything you read

The internet is human – 

Imperfect.

 

I am there. 

In the white margins

On every page,

 

No, you don’t know my name. 

 

Computer glasses protect

From light damage and not

Best Of Lists

10 Things You Didn’t Know

5 Reasons You Should Be Angry,

Needy,

Greedy,

Ashamed…

 

You will never know my name. 

But I haunt your margins just the same. 

 

I am in between the words

Squished amid the lines

My writing and rhythm and rhyme 

 

Vying for your Attention. $

Your Emotion. $$

Your Time. $$$

 

No, you won’t ever know my name. 

 

That’s it for me today.

I’ll keep a light on.

-R

Things They Are A’ Changin’

Hey There!

Wow. This has been an absolutely crazy couple of months.

I have a few blog-related announcements and well as just general catching up to do after being away for almost a full two months.

When I started writing seriously on this blog again this year my goal was to update the blog at least once a week, and preferably twice a week. I was doing really well for a while, and that consistency gave me my best traffic and viewership so far.

Thank you for that, by the way. Seeing that someone else actually reads what I write makes it seem a bit less like I’m shouting into the maw of a vast and uncaring universe.

But then my freelance work picked up and suddenly I was making a little money, and making that money took all my time.

That’s still largely where I am right now. I’m getting faster at writing my paid articles, which is why I have the time to put this out there today, but almost all of my time is still taken by the articles that (sorta kinda) pay the bills.

At the end of the day that means that the character of my blog needs to shift pretty dramatically for me to be able to keep up with it. And I think that you, the people who follow my blog and read it regularly, deserve to be kept informed of those changes.

 

The main thing is that, in an effort to get more content out, I’m going to start talking about personal stuff as much or more than I am putting out my typical social commentary and political analysis. Writing about whats going on, my new kitten, and other lighter subjects just takes less time.

I would rather shift my focus than lower the quality of my work and potentially not be able to adequately back up my views and opinions. I’ve worked hard to source and research the commentary articles I’ve put out so far, and I would hate to see that work sullied by inferior research and investment into follow up articles.

I still want to take on my Just World Hypothesis articles, as well as continuing to address the Democratic presidential candidates and the eventual 2020 Presidential race here in the U.S.A., but I can’t commit to any specific timeline on that kind of content since it does require time for research and analysis that I just simply do not have on a regular basis.

I also need to start making changes in this blog to build it into an income source of it’s own, which will allow me to spend more time on my writing here and less time ghostwriting other internet content to pay my bills.

Toward that end I want to hear from you. I’m planning to look into the Amazon affiliate program and starting to write book reviews as an amazon affiliate.

I am also considering starting a Patreon or Ko-fi profile and putting out novel chapters, short stories, and other works from my fiction writing there.

But for either of those thing to work, I need to know that you are interested in seeing that kind of content from me. Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think of those ideas, or if there is some other type of content that you would be interested in.

Maybe there’s a topic I haven’t addressed and you’re curious about my take on it? Let me know.

If you’re interested in following the updates on what I’m doing you can also follow me on Twitter @RhianninB or on my professional Facebook page. I also will occasionally be posting on Medium, although some of the content there will be the same content I’m writing here.

Thanks for being here, and hopefully this next phase will be as exciting as the last!

I’ll keep a light on.

-R

Struggle Is Normal – It’s Okay To Be Depressed

Well Hey There!

I’m going to be very real for a moment. I deal with PTSD, it causes depression and anxiety in alternating strokes. It’s hard to deal with, it’s hard to do anything around it, it’s hard to motivate with it.

And yet, I’m still here, still writing, still trying to create something worth putting out into the world.

Earlier today, for most of my working day, I have been struggling to write and article that I have, in truth, been working on for most of the week. It’s personal, it’s political, and it requires me to put myself out there in a way that is uncomfortable and frightening.

I also think it deserves to be written and deserves to be shared.

But it isn’t what I’m writing right now. You see, I have also been struggling with a mental health crisis the last several months precipitated by the car crash I wrote about in more detail several months ago.

But one of the biggest struggles has not been writing, I do that all the time, it hasn’t been finances, I saved to make taking a shot at this possible, it hasn’t been interpersonal, my partner is the most loving and supportive human I have ever met, my friendships are stronger now than ever before, my family cares about me and also supports this attempt.

My biggest struggle has been going for this dream, still being depressed and anxious, and feeling like a failure because of it. Life is as close to what I want as it has ever been. The missing pieces are small, the benefits are huge. It often feels like I can’t possibly do this without loving every second of it.

That isn’t true.

Mental health crisis is a part of life. So is hardship, lack of motivation, and difficulty finding inspiration.

I don’t want to hide those things. This work is difficult. It doesn’t yet pay. It takes me doing research, writing well, and being honest with myself and with you.

I am learning, all the time. And I am often overwhelmed.

And yet it is still worth it.

I’m writing this to repeat and to emphasize a bit of wisdom that is often repeated, but, I think, less often listened to. It is okay to be depressed. It is okay to struggle. It is okay to occasionally be unhappy.

Your depression defines neither you nor what you do.

Even when your depression or anxiety becomes difficult to manage, when it makes you second guess everything, it is still not all that you are.

You can do great things while depressed.

You can be a wonderful person while depressed.

You can be fulfilled and make meaning in your life, while depressed.

It’s trite, it’s true, and I often need the reminder myself.

So. I’m posting this instead of the article I have been working on all week. That article is coming, as are future posts about the Just World Hypothesis, updates on my other writing endeavors, Cool Things Other People Do, and much much more. Because my depression and PTSD is not going to stop me from being the person I want to be and doing the things I want to do.

I hope you are well.
I’ll be keeping a light on.

R.

Now Enters the Kitten!

Updates on my personal life, kitten photos, and some thoughts on managing PTSD and big dreams.

Well Hello There!

I have good news! I have a new kitten, who is currently trying to distract me from writing. Pretty successfully too.

baby jasper
Jasper likes to curl up in my arms for a nap.

He’s from a local rescue that was holding adoption events to help find homes for the many kittens they get in spades this time of year.

But he wasn’t really a spur of the moment decision. Sure, we decided pretty quickly to go to the adoption event, and decided pretty quickly at the event on which kitten wanted to come home with us, but I’ve wanted a cat for years now, basically ever since having to leave my previous cat with my parents and her tight-bonded sibling when I left for college. I’m hoping Jasper will grow up to be on the cuddly side, certainly he has been so far, but it’s okay if he doesn’t.

More than just because I really believe that our pets are going to be themselves, and not necessarily what we want them to be, I’m okay with whatever his personality turns into because I got him as another connection.

Let me explain.

Having PTSD, at least for me, means managing a lot of complicated interactions between stress and pretty much everything else. What I want and what I need are often very different things.

For instance, I have to actively manage my stress and how much I work. It’s not a matter of just having a bad day or a bad week, or even month, if I get too stressed it interferes with my ability to think, to work, and to make good decisions for myself and the people around me.

Worst case scenarios are total shut-downs that can take hours or days to resolve, during which time I might need reminders to eat, to bathe, to do something to distract myself. Work, even work I enjoy, isn’t possible during those times.

Except. Taking care of a cat is always possible for me. It doesn’t matter how bad things are, or how upset I am, if there is a cat that needs food, water, or petting, I can do that. I can make that happen for that animal.

Jasper on the couch
Yes, I’m photo dumping my cat. Guest starring The White Dragon by Laura Resnick in the background. (I was cleaning)

Maybe this key to doing something even when I’m under extreme stress comes from having been raised with cats. I don’t remember a time I didn’t have cats. Usually I had a cat that was mine, and a cat that was my mom’s.

Jasper is more even than that to me. Yes, having a cat is important to managing my worst symptoms. Having a cat in the room helps immensely. But we have other cats, other animals in the house I can go to for that unique comfort than comes from our furry companions.

Jasper is a connection, a link, another string in the dream catcher of my social support network. Jasper needs me. He needs me as much or more than I need him. Already we are showing signs of the tight-bonding that occurs between some people and their closest pets.

You may be wondering if pets can be included in your network of social supports like that. I argue that yes, yes they can. The relationship between animal and human may not be the same as the relationship between two people, but it is still a strong bond.

More, animal companions can be there when people cannot. When my partner is at work, Jasper is still home. When I need to vent or reach out and can’t, whatever the reason, I can cuddle or play with Jasper. I can talk to him to order my thoughts, I can watch him to lift my mood, I can trust that he will be here at home when I need emotional support.

In exchange I can’t offer him the things I would offer a friend. But I can give him all the love in my heart. I can make sure he has healthy food and plenty of clean fresh water. I can get him toys and play with him. I can hold him and make sure he is warm and safe, and take him to the vet to make sure he’s healthy.

I can make sure he’s as happy as any house pet can be.

Jaspers ears
The Magnificent Marvelous Ears

We rely on each other. It’s a deep and meaningful two-way connection that brings value to us both.

That’s a huge part of managing PTSD. At least I think so. I don’t have a ton of friends. I don’t need them. I cultivate the few, deep, meaningful connections I need. I set the expectation for myself to be of benefit to the people who benefit me. To offer them the support and care they give me.

I manage it carefully. I can’t always do it, and neither can they. These sorts of bonds take lots of work, knowing when to take a step back, and when your friend needs you there even if they aren’t able to deal with the things bothering them.

It’s knowing when you need a break.

Jasper is quickly becoming my break space. He’s also a major motivation. Because he needs me he needs me to make good choices. He needs me to work toward being my best self.

His presence relaxes me. I can give myself permission to take a minute, to take a breath. Plus, he sometimes demands my total attention, trying to steal taco meat from my salad, curling up on my lap, licking my face, and purring like a motorcycle with all his tiny self.

And yes, being my best self means following my dreams too. My best self is someone with big goals. I don’t always have the confidence to get there, but I can give myself the additional motivation to make that happen.

Jasper, right now, lives for cuddles and toys. We’ll introduce him to catnip and treats and new toys soon, but for now, in our room, he lives for the fun of the space and the love from me.

He needs me. I need him. He keeps me going, and I’ll show him all the joys of cat life.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty great friendship to me. A pretty great support. A pretty great tool in my mental health toolbox.