What Do You Want From Me?

The phrase runs over and over, around and through my head. It infects everything I touch, everything I sing, everything I think… I cannot get away. I wake in the morning to wonder why I’m here. I wander through my day wondering why I bother to go on living. I’ve cut ties from the nagging judgmental voice in my head. There’s no one left telling me what to do. One problem: I was never prepared for this moment.

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There was this assumption that I would hold to the insistent and impossible expectations for the rest of my life… a life ever shortened by the attempt to fulfill such. The list was so long and so detailed it even told me to tie my shoes in an effort to be sure I caused no one else to stumble. “Have a relationship,” it said. Then it made every effort imaginable to make that commandment impossible.

I have no desire to pretend anymore that I’m satisfied with letters written to someone else thousands of years ago. No lover would accept that as enough to maintain an ongoing relationship. So let’s put that notion aside, shall we? Let’s get very real with ourselves and begin to treat the divine as though it is living since we so vehemently claim that it is. Let’s walk very far away from this notion that others have any say whatsoever in how and whom we worship and be truly respectful instead of hateful, but presented “with love.” Let’s keep our appendages inside the ride from now on as no one really needs to be bloodied by our own flailing foolishness.

Let’s figure out why we’re really here. The reason I was given was so abstract as to be an impossible deterrent to ending my personal existence. In a nutshell: not good enough. I need a reason that justifies the food I eat each day that could have been better utilized if given to another… because, what did I do today? I managed to make it to the end.

Sex and money. That’s the answer, really. At least that’s been my experience. Occasionally you run across someone that wants something else, but generally it all comes down to sex and money. It’s like people no longer value friendship, music, philosophy, art or “by hand” fabrication of any kind. What do you do when the thing you have to provide to the world is undervalued? Even in ancient Israel the church musicians were paid (via meat and other foodstuffs from the offerings and money from the tithes). What makes us any less important today that we should be providing this service for free?

Look back in history. There’s always been artists of all kinds: musicians, philosophers, writers, weavers, sculptors, painters, wood workers, metal smiths, seamstresses and tailors, hatters, jewelers, glass blowers, cobblers, storytellers, dancers… the list goes on and on. The ability to innovate and create- this is how we connect and relate to the divine. So why are we not provided for in such a way that allows us to do that? It is a blatant hypocrisy that a faith would tell you your purpose is to glorify the divine and then not support you in such a way that you might pursue that calling.

And sex? May the divine have mercy and rescue every single young female still entrenched in the ways and thoughts I grew up with. Be a perfect wife. Become a mother. Satisfy the needs of your man, because it really is a need, after all. Bullshit. Those who abstain do not die from the effort. No woman is less because she is unwed. Absolutely no one on this earth requires a legal or religious union to another in order to be the pinnacle of themselves as a person. The choice to take a mate is just that: a choice. Inside that chosen union they choose to love and need one another so that together they might achieve greater or other things they could not otherwise do alone. It is not necessary. It neither cheapens nor enhances anyone’s worth. It is a personal choice that we make.

And now we’ve arrived at the heart of the matter. It’s personal. Everything we were taught to stick our noses in was, in fact, personal. I’m not required to open any door of my soul to another for any reason whatsoever. My soul is my own and I have every right to close every door and window until I believe the climate fair enough for a cross-breeze. On the scratched side of the coin, I am also not under any obligation to acquire a crowbar and force my way into the soul of another. Anyone who sits walled away in their own tower awaiting some shiny suit of armor to haul them out is fully capable of screwing up their own courage and opening their own doors. If they are paralyzed by fear, I shall stand under the window and sing to them. In the end, coming down to mingle must be done under their own power. It is neither my responsibility nor my fault if they do not come down.

All this time and my mind has been programmed to ask the wrong question. Any intellectual knows that finding the proper answer is far less important than asking the proper question. I have recently begun the battle to leave this flawed line of thinking far behind and replace it with something that will yield superior results. I have recently begun to ask myself, “What do I want from me?”

peace     acceptance    love     happiness

That was my answer. This is what I want from myself and for myself. I’ve written it down now and placed it in front of all of you… opened a tiny window into a room of my soul. It is suddenly so much more real. It is suddenly so much more obtainable because it is concrete.

Let the journey continue…

It Begins

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publicdomainpictures.net

The morning began with screaming. There was a war going on, but this wasn’t the front. How were they to know this morning would be less than peaceful?

Tyrel fumbled her sword as she swung off the bed. Only being half trained had its drawbacks. Her hooves joined the general clatter around her as the wooden barracks began to shake with a sound like thunder. Warriors were heeding the call.

Lighting in the room suggested to Tyrel that it was entirely too early to be awake which explained why she was stumbling on her way through the door. Organized chaos sucked her into the double line of soldiers pouring through the hall. Tyrel ricocheted off a few disgruntled classmates before falling into rhythm. Beside her, Bain was fully liveried and eyeing her unarmored self derisively. Only his dripping hair suggested that he’d been less than ready and waiting for this alarm.  As the trotting column passed an adjoining hall a cross breeze wafted cedar from his mane to Tyrel’s face. Tyrel snickered. Yup. He’d been in the showers.

Bain glared at Tyrel as they rounded the final turn to the great room. She snickered at him again as the two columns split to fan out around the door on the opposite side. Several students were panting heavily in full armor. Tyrel wondered briefly why they were all facing this particular door instead of one of the other six. Then she realized there were several other students eyeing her sideways. She appeared to be the only one present with no armor whatsoever. She gave an exaggerated shrug and rolled her eyes.

A faint rattling and a few coughs broke the silence as the ranks awaited attack or orders. Tyrel glanced sideways. Her comrade hadn’t managed to get all his armor straps buckled and his nervous trembling was jarring the plates.

“Tyrel,” he hissed. “Do you think it’s going to be a troll?”

“Crimson, Brutus. Of course it’s not a troll. We’re only in our third year.”

The door slammed open and a serving nag rushed through. She skirted the room, hugging the walls as a shrieking wail echoed after her and caused the students to wince. A stately aristocratic woman emerged at a halting pace, alternately tearing at her mane and her heavily ornamented dress.

“Isn’t that your dam?”

Tyrel eyed Brutus with a sideways glance. Someone behind them shushed him. The whites of Tyrel’s eyes began to show.

The dam dropped to her knees, her bright auburn tail wisping over the floor and the folds of her dress as she sank completely prone under the weight of her distress. Behind her another regal figure emerged, his majestic presence flanked by a standard bearer and a  personal guard. The student ranks saluted him, crashing weapons and armored gauntlets against shields precisely twice. Tyrel, with nothing to crash her sword against, stood solid, nervously glancing between the dam and the Region General.

The General glared contemptuously down at the keening dam. His teeth bared in a wicked sneer.

“Silence, woman!”

The dam tightened her fists in her mane, pulling her head to the floor until her forehead was pressed against it. Miserable sobs still leaked through her arms.

Two more guards emerged from the passage wearing the golden armor of the Royal Guard. They took up positions on either side of the General, their sneers menacing as they viewed the dam and stared into the ranks.

“General Jodoc has fallen to his own hand. He has disgraced his family and dishonored the Crimson. So shall his name be stricken from the record.”

The dam’s shriek pierced the eardrums of all but Tyrel. The General impatiently kicked her.

“I said silence!”

He motioned to the Royal Guards who advanced impatiently to her. As one held her struggling wings the other stripped away her crimson shoulder sash of privilege.

“No,” she cried, reaching after it. “No. No!”

The dam’s passion crumbled and she sank to the floor again to lay there as though slain. Her sobbing subsided to a childish mantra of denial.

Those standing closest to Tyrel took one step away from her. Those standing between her and the Royal Guard parted to leave a path. With wolfish sneers they strode to her, not caring who they crashed into on the way. The path widened as students shifted to avoid contact with their slightly unfurled armored wings. Tyrel schooled her shock into a glare fixated on the scene before her. The guards arrogantly entered her battle zone and pressed forward until they were firmly planted in her personal space. Tyrel’s wings briefly stirred, but that was all. One of the guards snaked his face mere inches from her own. Tyrel humored him, refocusing on his eyes, and raised an eyebrow.

The guard increased his wicked grin as he slowly reached up to Tyrel’s chain link collar and fingered the golden medal of familial privilege that represented her brother, Jodoc. Tyrel refocused on the far wall as he viciously yanked the pendant from its ring. A throaty chuckle escaped him as he purposely crashed his armored wing into her while striding to the exit, his companion following suit.

Two more cacophonous crashes saluted the Region General and his entourage as they made their stately exit. Then a sergeant somewhere called the signal for a fully formed exit. As though she was surrounded by an invisible shield of force, the lines of students actively avoided Tyrel as they passed, most too afraid to even look at her. In the space of two minutes the room was cleared of all but Tyrel and the dam.

As though sensing they were alone, the dam raised her head to focus on her only daughter. She reached her hand out slowly to the stolid figure across the room and choked out a single word,

“Tyrel.”

Tyrel maintained her focus on the far wall, the strain of emotion finally showing in her forehead and around her eyes. For a moment she stood frozen, then only her eyes moved to rest on her mother. For the eternity of two measured seconds they rested there. Then Tyrel smartly spun on her hoof and strode from the room as well.


Part II: Disgraced

Masters of our Fate

Tyrel is done with your talking...

Tyrel is done with your talking…

As a role player you get a perspective on life that’s generally inaccessible to the masses. You get to explore aspects of your personality that are being squelched in other areas of your life, find out what would happen if you went with your gut instead of with the crowd, take that chance on being a hero instead of hiding in the back of the battle and you learn exactly how little control you can have over an outcome.

At a recent game my ex walked right into a trap set for the inquisitive mind and sprung it by asking too many questions. The results were rather devastating to his character. It made me question my deep seated need to understand the world around me. Do I ask too many questions?

Anxiety is a terrible thing to live with day to day. A little fear now and again is good for the soul. A lot robs the soul of its vitality and its luster. “A life lived in fear is a life half lived” according to Strictly Ballroom and I’m watching this play out in my own, but without all the humorous moments and the wise asides by children. I’m also severely lacking in sequined costumes and men who dance as though David when the Ark returned to Jerusalem, but that’s a post for another day.

The price of understanding is knowing the answers to the questions and realizing that the bad results number far more than the good. Our world is not, in fact, set up for us to be successful. Too often the fear of those undesirable outcomes cause us to bring them to pass, which feeds our anxiety and creates an emotional maelstrom of a world to try and navigate. I don’t want to be like this anymore. My body can’t take it and my mind can’t handle it and my soul is aching from it… so what does one do to change their little world?

I have begun by rethinking my way through my entire worldview. Not the place most people begin, I know. Who is God? What is He to me? What do I want Him to be? Where am I going with my life? Is that really where I want to go? Is the music something I’m meant to do or something I’ve latched onto as personal therapy and naively believing that it will help someone else as well? What of the art and the clothing design/construction? I love them but should I be doing these things? Why am I here? What is peaceful to pursue and what is selfishly annoying everyone around me? Am I lovable? If presented with romance again, would I want to pursue it? Am I EVER going to own my own house? Should I? Am I, as I so often feel lately, in desperate need of being rescued or is this something I’m capable of doing on my own?

And then it hits me: I’m asking too many questions. And I am paralyzed.

Please, God, make me a stone… with a sweet nougaty center. In the above picture I might look like I can take on the world, but I assure you that my insides do not match my outsides.

My mother taught me that you eat an elephant one bite at a time, so tonight I am doing math. Tomorrow I will do paperwork and maybe move a thing or two. As I make these decisions and I actively choose one fear to face at a time, perhaps gradually my wings will grow lighter so that eventually, I’ll be ready to fly again.

Blessings on your new year regardless of your faith, religion or creed. My best to you all.

We Can Be Heroes

source: GATAG

source: GATAG

Heroes all and every one
Heroes fighting ’til we’ve won
Work through rise and set of sun
Making right ’til we’re undone

Heroes rise and heroes fall
Humbly we accept the call
Shedding dreams, forsaking all
Collect our swords, defend the wall

Heroes choices we must make
Heroes woundings we must take
Deny ourselves for others’ sake
Courage show although it’s fake

Some of us are born to it
Some of us choose to seek it
But most of us become Heroes because it was thrust upon us

Inside I quake. Inside I shake.
I cry and scream and drown in lakes
Of circumstance beyond control.
I just want us all to come out of this life
Alive.

Don’t Know Why

Waited ’til I saw the sun.20s Cameo on black
Don’t know why the tears won’t come.
This lonliness, it ain’t no fun.
Don’t know why the tears won’t come.

When I saw the break of day
Wished that I could hide away
Instead of workin’ like I’d planned,
Hiding teardrops with my hand.

My heart they say will be fine;
That grief won’t be on my mind
forever.

Out across the endless sea
Poland waits inside of me.
But I’m here, a bag of bones
Drivin’ down this road alone.

My heart they say will be fine;
That grief won’t be on my mind
forever.

Something had to make you run.
Don’t know why the tears won’t come.
I feel as empty as a drum.
Don’t know why the tears won’t come.

*Inspired by the Jesse Harris lyrics and my own recent experiences.

Grief

What would you do?Grief
It is, in fact, the death
Of something.
You’ve been given a fatal prognosis.
You’ve only 2 weeks for your marriage to live.
What would you do?

When confronted with
So little time
Most people
Gather their loved ones,
Forgive,
Go skydiving,
Make whoopie,
Plan the funeral,
Watch the sun rise.

These things make
No sense
At the death of a marriage.
It’s not tragic enough for the family to gather.
I’m far too angry today to forgive.
Skydiving is an unnecessary drain on
Already limited finances.
And you don’t make love to the person
Who’s leaving you.
The court proceedings are planned.
I shall watch the sun rise.

I shall watch the sun rise
With a cup of creamy sweet coffee in hand.
I shall stroke the fur of my fluffy dog
And feel the warmth of him
And the gentle sun’s rays,
And the gentle swaying of the hammock.

No symbolism here.
No deep thoughts or comfort that
Time marches on as the sun
Takes the sky.
There is only warmth,
And coffee,
And a feeling all is at rest,
Everything has stopped,
And nothing is more important
Than this moment.

I survived
The death of my marriage.
I survived that one thing
I never believed that I could.

Sponge

I feel like a sponge.
I soak it all up and take it all in
Involuntarily
Because that is my job.

All your dirty water,
Bacteria,
Gross and grime,
Your opinions,
Your lifestyle,
Your wants and desires;
You’ve used me to clean the world
With little thought to my own plans and needs.

Heartlessly you irradiate me.
I’ve begun to smell.
You hate me
For all the ugliness you’ve forced into my being.

So many voices shout in my head.
Such a popular sponge am I!
They wheedle and prattle and
Convince each other they are right.

No one really cares about the nasty old sponge.
For one moment of peace
I wish the dog would just eat me.

Survivor, survive!

Survivor, survive.
Live, live, LIVE!
Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
Someone else has it harder than you.
Your pain is invalid; insignificant.

Be the rock.
Weather the storm.
Never corrode.
You must rise above nature.
Never again allow your pain to hinder
My life and theirs
Are far more important
than YOURS will EVER BE.

Survivor, survive
and live, Live, LIVE!
Don’t you know you are my
INSPIRATION?
I want you to be placid.
Don’t let ripples mar your glass.
I need you to be my
HOPE.

Never cry.
Never break.
No ebbs. No flows.
You must be my iceberg;
Intrepid while facing the Titanic.
Unshakable. Unsinkable.
Unhuman.

That’s all I need from you:
To be unhuman.

I’m Good at Something

source: weknowmemes.com

If you’ve been reading my posts you’ll notice that most of them have been tutorial oriented. This one doesn’t really teach you how to do anything. It’s just me thinking out loud because I worked the overnight shift at A-kon the last couple of days and my internal clock decided I wasn’t going to sleep tonight.

This post has been stewing for a few weeks now. To say that the last month or so of my life was difficult would be a serious understatement. I feel like someone died, someone that I liked. Maybe not someone that I loved, necessarily, but it’s not the kind of feeling where it was just someone you vaguely knew. The changes that took place as a result of recent happenings have mostly been good, but there’s still that mental processing through things that catches you off guard after the dust starts to settle and you find yourself typing blogs at 5am.

I don’t want to talk about what happened. Quite frankly, I’m sick of the subject and ready to move on. The resulting chain of happenings, however, has me thinking quite a bit. This morning it has me thinking that maybe there are others out there that have had the same feelings or similar experiences that I have have had and perhaps it would improve their lives to know that there’s someone out there that understands and knows that eventually everything is going to be ok.

I was 30 years old before I realized that people take me seriously. (Yes, I really am that old.) I was in a meeting with an organization that I volunteer for and offering advice as a consultant. The leader of said meeting took an opportunity during a brief pause to make sure that others were paying attention and stated that everything I was saying was “really good stuff” and that they should listen to me because I was really good at what I do.

Even now, at least a week later, I paused after typing those words. They stun me every time like a well-aimed packet with a daze effect. I hope I was able to gracefully acknowledge the statement. In reality, I probably ignored it. The culture I grew up in was rather adamant about “parry and deflect” when it came to compliments with an occasional “self depreciation” thrown in. Perhaps he’ll read this blog and perhaps he won’t, but I do hope that somehow he’ll know within himself exactly how much that meant to me. That simple statement made me a better person. And let me be clear: it didn’t make me a better person in the “I must now strive to do better because people are looking up to me” realization, but in an “Oh my god, someone thinks that I’m good at something” realization. I have a lot of respect for this man, so his statement carried just enough weight to break through to me.

I’m good at something.

If you knew me growing up your mind probably just divided by zero. In case you’re not a math buff, dividing by zero is impossible and tends to cause all sorts of errors in electronic calculators. Feel free to take a moment to reboot. For those of you who didn’t grow up with me, I’ll fill you in on a hindsight view of my childhood made possible by other people trying to provide me with a little perspective after I grew up.

I was a gifted child.

That’s pretty much a duh statement to everyone but me. I just found that out about a year ago. I knew I was “slightly above average”. I knew I was inquisitive. I knew I read more than most children my age. I knew that I had a knack for music and crafting with my hands. To me, this was only a slight separation from completely normal. “If everyone else grew up the way that I did, then they would be just as “smart” and “talented” and “capable” as I am.” That was my thought. Sometimes it’s still my thought. That’s what happens when you throw a bunch of “gifted” children together. Giftedness is a continuum. When you grow up with an actual genius in the house and you’re competing with one for valedictorian it’s fairly easy to gloss over your own abilities. You’re always second best.

I had my first panic attack when I was in the 8th grade. The catalyst? I was terrified I was going to fail a history exam. There was a lot of emotional stuff buried under that catalyst that I, as a 14 year old child, had no control over in my environment, but I still feel as though something must have been “not quite right” that I would feel that much pressure over a test in school. I had never failed a test in my life. I was already competing for top grades in my class (something that began when I was in the 5th grade, I might add) and a 92% was considered a low grade for me. Where did I get this idea that if I didn’t have a perfect score (or something close to it) that the only alternative was that I would fail? It was as if being average was a failure. I knew how hard I worked to get the grades that I did as well as maintain the extracurricular activities that I felt were expected of me on top of the extracurricular activities that I did because I wanted to do them. To me, I was about as far as you could get to the dumb end of smart, and that was unacceptable.

This mental attitude still plagues me to this day. It is the root of my fear of rejection, the cause of my terror when confronted with trying something new and the demon that whispers in my ear that even getting out of bed in the morning isn’t worth it because no matter how hard I try I will come out a failure anyway. After all, the one in second place is really the first loser. Most people I know either live with this themselves or they categorize it as a horrible overreaction. Sure, it very well may be an overreaction, but it’s one that I’ve had to strangle nearly every day to be a functioning human being. Thankfully, a change in my environment and an extremely understanding husband have lessened those occurrences from every morning to a few times a month, but it is still something that I deal with.

I wish I had known I was lovable.

Imagine a highly creative little red haired girl with a slightly dramatic flair and a highly inquisitive nature. She might be annoying sometimes, but she’s certainly entertaining. That was me. I once looked back through pictures of myself growing up and read my little diaries and I pretended that I was someone else looking at my childhood for the first time. There I sat, in my late 20s, realizing for the first time that I was a rather adorable child.

I grew up in a culture that hounded us with everything that could possibly be wrong with us. God might condescend to love us because He was perfect and He just couldn’t help it, but if He was like any human we knew, He certainly wouldn’t have any such inclination. We were terrible, horrible people and we were reminded of it at least twice a week. Compliments were to be met with deflection and self depreciation or by pointing out how someone else could surely have done a better job. It was completely common to reveal mistakes or shortcomings in order to be sure no one thought we were proud of our accomplishments. Even simply saying, “thank you,” was bordering on sinful. You at least had to throw in a reciprocating compliment about the person that had just complimented you.

I remember being told early and often that I was a haughty child and that I needed to be more humble. It is common for a gifted child to think they’re better than their peers. The funny thing about that is that the reason they think they’re “better” is because they ARE in many circumstances, particularly those that are tested in schools. If they weren’t better, they wouldn’t be “gifted”. The result is a huge miscommunication between adults and gifted children. What adults seem to be trying to communicate is that they want the child to understand that everyone is good at something and that children should celebrate each other for their individual abilities, or something of that nature. What comes across is that gifted children are supposed to continue to seek perfection and excellence as gifted people while pretending their entire lives that they’re not, in fact, gifted. This attitude is insulting to everyone involved. It makes normal people feel as though gifted people think everyone should be held to the standards and abilities of gifted people, which is an incredibly unfair standard for the average human being. On the other hand it makes gifted people feel as though there’s something shameful about being gifted. It becomes the elephant in every room they enter for the rest of their lives. I learned the lesson so well that I believed for most of my life that the only reason that others were not as “smart” as me was because they were lazy and rebellious. However, I was supposed to just forebear with their sinfulness and pray that God would reach into their hearts to root out their perverse attitudes of rebellion so that they might someday become the hyper-productive members of society that we were all meant to be.

Yup, you read that right. In an effort to be sure that I would continue to strive for a ridiculously high standard of excellence, I was informed regularly by adults that the only reason that I was not achieving perfection was because I was lazy and being rebellious. Well if that was the case for me, then why should it be different for anyone else? Add to that the constant reminder of the story of the “Talents” from the Bible and you’ve built yourself one emotional disaster of a child. There was so much of an emphasis on this story in my culture that I grew up believing that if I showed any kind of an inkling of talent for anything at all, that I would be sinning by not pursuing it until I had achieved a quality that could only be deemed as professional level in said area. You want to know how I got so good at music, art, writing, crafting, teaching, reducing complex tasks to simple step processes, understanding people and relationships on a psychological level, insertwhateverelseyoumayhaveeverthoughtIwasgoodathere? I wasn’t ALLOWED to be average. Being average was a sin. And any time that I fell short of the goal of perfection, it was just a confirmation that I was on that stupid end of gifted, which was unacceptable.

I also remember being told that I was a willful child. I was stubborn and obstinate and rebellious. What they neglected to tell me what that those qualities are necessary in anyone who has ever innovated anything. As an artist/writer/musician, those qualities are what separate those who succeed from those to give up.

What I don’t remember ever being told was that I was a willing child. There was all this cultural pressure and all these expectations being thrown at me and I did my level headed best to meet every single one of them. This culminated in a tempestuous break down during my last week as a high school senior. Finals week. Hell week. The deciding factor between salutatorian and valedictorian in my mind. (Little did I know that my competition had me so beat at that point that finals didn’t actually matter, and I graduated with a 3.8 average if I remember correctly so you can just imagine the kind of grades SHE was getting.) I remember sobbing in the dining room while sitting on my piano bench as my mother sat beside me in a chair trying to discern the reason for this outburst. Through heaving sobs I was finally able to communicate that I was afraid that if I wasn’t valedictorian like my brother had been that I was afraid that my parents wouldn’t love me anymore. (I’m tearing up again just writing about it.)

My mother was and is a loving, supportive and wonderful person. I share this story as proof that one voice has great difficulty combatting the voice of an entire culture because she had always been a loving influence in my life. But just because a thing is difficult does not mean it should not be attempted. That night, like the simple statement that started the emotional ride that inspired this post, one voice broke through. My mother had no idea that I had worked my ass off in school and extracurriculars because I thought that they were the key to my parents’ love. She seized on that moment. She took my face gently in her hands and made me look at her. (I have a horrible habit of avoiding people’s faces when I’m feeling insecure or ashamed of myself.) She told me that it didn’t matter what happened with my grades that week. She told me that I could fail every single final I had and that she would still love me. She would still believe that I was a wonderful, talented daughter and that she would still be proud to be my mother. (Now I’ve gone and made myself full on cry.) The relief of that realization sent me into choking sobs that almost ended in hyperventilation. How could I have been 18 years old and have no idea that love was not contingent on my grades? But when I looked at her face and in her eyes and felt the gentleness of her hand as she brushed the hair off my face that was sticking in my tears, I knew that she was deeply sincere. She loved me no matter what. Her own tears mingled with mine as she grieved for me in that moment. How was it that I hadn’t known all along?

Reboot your thinking.

I cannot even begin to stress the importance of questioning the things you believe, particularly those things you’ve believed since childhood. The journey that began that night has been a long and difficult one. I still struggle. I still fear. I still hurt and feel insecure. But now I have the courage to smack the whispering demon in the face and get out of bed. Now I have the audacity to try something new. Now I have the strength to face down my fears.

I’m 30 years old and, aside from the advice provided by the inspirational bear above, today I want you to leave this post knowing:

1. Just because someone else is better at something than you are doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it because YOU love it. Really, just because someone else is in the process of attempting to be good at it shouldn’t deter you either. I’m in the process of trying to finish my first novel that almost didn’t get written at all because I have a beloved aunt that is also in the process of trying to become a published author. She’s also an insightful blogger. I love writing. Me. There is absolutely no reason that I should not write for fear that she might see me as trying to compete with her (which I’m not) or a fear of failure or criticism or anything else you might be able to put in the blank. It’s ok to pursue hobbies that make you happy.

2. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that you need to develop it. How I wish I had known this growing up. How I wish I could remember this every day. Instead of frustrating myself pursuing things I felt expected to do, I could have pursued things that I was actually passionate about. I could have pursued things that made me feel happy and fulfilled.

3. Just because an adult said it doesn’t mean that it’s true. Question the things that you were taught as a child. I especially invite you to question the teachings that caused you to feel shame, prejudice or hatred. There is absolutely nothing acceptable about a culture that decimates your self esteem and then indicates to you that having a low self esteem is bad and that you need to fix it or you’re not a good person. You do not have to accept their criticism or allow them to undermine your quality of life. Maybe in 10 or 15 years you’ll be able to look back and determine beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were the ones that were wrong.

4. It’s ok to acknowledge that you’re good at something and that there’s a value to your work. As an artist, an innovator, a musician, really anything that falls into the luxury/creative fields of employment you need to be able to see a value (monetary in many cases) in what you spend your time doing. There is nothing sinfully prideful about this. There’s only you, passionate about your work, loving what you do and wanting to be supported in that. If there’s nothing wrong with paying a doctor, an accountant or the guy that makes your food for what THEY’RE good at, then there’s nothing wrong with people paying YOU for what YOU’RE good at. It’s also totally ok to have that stupid grin on your face when someone compliments you or gives you a standing ovation. Be excited. Be passionate. It’s inspiring.

5. You don’t have to convince anyone that you’re awesome. Just being you and pursuing the things that you’re passionate about will show people how awesome you are. Showing is usually preferable to telling. You also don’t have to try your absolute hardest to meet their approval. YOU are an incredibly lovable person. Heck, I love you and I don’t even know you that well. I just know for a fact that everyone is worth loving. I see people all the time that are just trying so hard to convince everyone around them that *inserthurtfulstatementoreventfromtheirpast* isn’t true. I just want to hug them and tell them they don’t need the bravado, the machismo, the ultra-feminism, the power career that has completely overtaken their lives, the ridiculous amount of debt incurred from trying to make sure they have the nicest house and the best car/clothes/computer/videogames/MTG cards… whatever. Just be you. I want to love on that person. Most of us didn’t hear that hurtful statement that was made or see that event that happened. We only see the you that we’ve been exposed to and we’re quite ready to love that person.

I’m going to try and get some sleep now. I’ve got an interview later this morning and I fully intend to charm their socks off. I hope you know that someone out there cares about you this week. I hope that inspires you to

invent your own wings and fly…

Easy Costumes: the Simple Shirt

Last blog I wrote about the financial challenge costuming can be and mentioned that I was going to do a series on inexpensive costuming. Here, in Part 1, I give you: the Simple Shirt.

What you’ll need:

Thank you, amazon.com for the image

 

1. A collared dress shirt, preferably in a solid color that fits the time period (no neons or pastels). Look for black, white, off white, dark blue, red, dark purple, dark green, brown or dark grey. In my opinion those are the best color choices for immersion. For size I recommend you obtain one that’s too big for you. The look and feel of the day was far baggier than what we find comfortable by most modern standards. Also, a larger shirt is less restrictive when you’re sword fighting. Lucky for you, shirts like the one above can be found at almost every thrift store in existence as well as most garage sales, attics and the dusty backside of closets. Especially for the ladies: try to get one that hangs down to about mid-thigh or a little longer so that you can belt it without it constantly untucking itself from your movements.

Things to avoid: patterns and pockets. We’re going for simple and immersive here. Avoid polo shirts. They’re incredibly not time period and there’s really nothing you can do to make them immersive. Avoid stretchy materials. They’re hot and uncomfortable to wear over a full weekend of athletic activity.

2. A seam ripper.

3. A pencil

4. A decent pair of scissors.

5. A length of leather lacing. Here’s where the expense comes in. You’ll probably have to buy a roll of leather lacing from the craft section of Walmart or you’ll have to get it at your local craft store. You can also order them on the internet. A friend of mine opts for the boot laces instead of getting it on a roll like I do. Here’s what it looks like:

image courtesy of amazon.com

Here’s the Amazon link to this particular item because if you try to use the search bar you’re bound to wind up with all sorts of interesting pictures that you don’t necessarily want to see. http://www.amazon.com/Genuine-Split-Suede-Leather-Black/dp/B001NW2QQA/ref=sr_1_51?s=arts-crafts&ie=UTF8&qid=1369865718&sr=1-51&keywords=craft+leather I’m pretty pleasantly shocked by the price of this. In store prices are significantly higher.

 

Now that you have your materials together. Here’s what you want to do.

1. If you hate the way the collar looks (some collars are too skinny, some button down onto the shirt, or you’re like me and just hate collars in general), then use your scissors and cut it off.

I recommend you keep the part my finger is on and cut to the right of the seam that is to the right of my finger. You'll have what is called a "mandarin collar" left.

I recommend you keep the part my finger is on and cut to the right of the seam that is to the right of my finger. You’ll have what is called a “mandarin collar” left.

This shirt is by no means expected to last you 20 years, so I’m not going to have you “finish” any of it. Finishing work is meant to prevent the material from fraying and ripping, but it takes a knowledge of sewing that is beyond what this tutorial is designed for. The area where you cut the collar from might fray some, which in my opinion just adds authenticity to any adventurer’s outfit, but because you left the seam to the right of my finger intact it will not rip easily. If you’re playing an aristocratic or rich character, you might want to just find a shirt you like the collar on already.

2. Take your seam ripper and pop the buttons off the front of the shirt. You want to slide the inside of the curve under the button and gently, but firmly, push against the threads. The blade on the inside of the curve will slice through the threads and the button should pull free. Then pick out the threads and use your pencil to mark a spot on the shirt where the threads came from. Repeat until all the buttons are off the front of the shirt. (If your shirt had buttons to button down the collar, just take the buttons off and remove the threads. Don’t mark these with the pencil.)

3. Now you’ll be using the long pointy side of your seam ripper. Place that point on the mark you just made with your pencil and push the point through the fabric. Wiggle the seam ripper around until you’ve created a hole large enough to fit your leather lacing through. Do this for every pencil mark on the front of the shirt.

4. Starting at the bottom of your shirt, thread the leather lacing through the button holes and the holes you just ripped in the same way you would lace up your shoes.

Congratulations! You now have a Simple Shirt. If you don’t want to lace it up every time you put the shirt on, just pull the shirt over your head to wear it.

You'll notice here that I lace my shirt down, not up, in order to avoid it getting caught on my armor. I also removed the buttons from my sleeve cuffs to give the sleeves a more open swashbuckling appearance.

You’ll notice here that I lace my shirt down, not up, in order to avoid it getting caught on my armor. I also removed the buttons from my sleeve cuffs to give the sleeves a more open swashbuckling appearance.

SPECIAL NOTE: Most leather doesn’t react well to being washed, especially if it’s dyed to a color. I recommend you remove your lacing before you wash the shirt to avoid any dye seeping onto your costume or wrecking the lacing itself.

Some variations:

VarI: Go sleeveless! Cut the sleeves off the shirt with the scissors. Be sure you cut on the sleeve side of the shoulder seam to prevent the shirt from ridiculous fraying and potential ripping.

VarII: Using a T-shirt instead of a dress shirt is possible, but not as immersive. Cut the collar from the shirt with your scissors and cut a line straight down the center front to the desired depth. Most people prefer to end this cut just above the bottom of the pectoral muscles when the shirt is being worn. Use the seam ripper to create holes across from each other (like on a shoe) and lace the leather through. I highly recommend going sleeveless if using this method.

I’d love to hear from you if you try out this tutorial. Tell me how it went in the comments below!