Ups and Downs

ranch

our ranch

2013 was a bit of an odd year for me, seemed to be full of ups and downs. I mean, seriously, it was like one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, half a step back. Up and down and back and forth.

Some highlights (not necessarily in chronological order):

  • Reached my lowest weight ever (but did so by starving myself and developing extremely disordered eating and generally feeling like shit)
  • Phillip and I bought our little 100-acre ranch
  • I got fired from a job I truly enjoyed. The way things were handled were a major trigger for me, setting up some of those other downs, such as:
    • I gained 20 pounds in less than a month
    • I got depressed
    • I stopped believing in myself for a while
    • I took the easy, non-confrontational way out on a few different things and for  months found myself unable to mentally, emotionally, or even rationally deal with anything that made me uncomfortable or that I disagreed with
  • I found a contract position fairly quickly, compared to local and national averages, making more per hour than I’d been making at my previous job (and not doing anywhere near as much as I’d been doing, at that…although that’s changing week by week). My job’s easy, I know I’m not being utilized to my full potential or doing what I really enjoy in the world of marketing, but it’s a foot in the door with a really big corporation where my career could grow in so many different ways. Plus, we can pay the bills.
  • We sold our rent house, finally getting that albatross removed from our necks (we seriously wondered sometimes if the place was cursed).
  • We spent time out at the ranch, but nowhere near as much time as we would have liked. If we had our druthers, we really would live out there full time and get the hell out of Austin.
  • Speaking of the ranch, we’ve met some really great people who own property near us, and are thankful in so many ways to have good neighbors.
  • I have a relationship again with someone I hadn’t allowed into my life for quite some time. It feels good, considering I’d really missed that relationship.
  • I’ve gotten some answers regarding certain things that I’d always wondered about (and some things I hadn’t cognizantly wondered about, but that have shed a new light on certain people and situations). The answers have been mind-blowing at times, disturbing at others, but it’s like watching the pieces of a puzzle come together. I’m figuring some stuff out.
  • I gained back all the weight I’d lost, and got in a really dark place for a while where I just didn’t love myself, or the decisions I’d made that had gotten me there in the first place. I’m still struggling at times. I feel…not quite at peace, but almost…with where I am right now, but also feel a bit adrift and unmotivated. I’m taking steps to hopefully find some motivation again, and with a focus on simply being strong. I don’t give a shit about my weight, my BMI, or really even my body fat percentage right now. I just want to move my body, feed it really good fuel (and by really good I mean tasty food that makes my body feel good) and be strong.
  • I shot my first dove, and it was FUN.
  • I experienced my first deer season. Unfortunately, we didn’t get anything during regular season, which ends tomorrow. Special doe-only season starts on Monday and runs for about two weeks, I think, so we’re hoping to get out to the ranch next weekend and at least get us a doe. Oh, you want to know why we didn’t get anything this season? Because I hesitated. I had three does close enough to my stand one evening that I could have shot them with my 9mm handgun, but I hesitated because I doubted my instincts regarding which one was the mama to the baby that was with them. Oh, well. Lessons learned, venison lost.
  • I acquired a lovely scar on my forehead after getting a little too close to my scope while sighting in my rifle.
  • I got off birth control after switching to a new pill and experiencing pregnancy symptoms for two straight months (and continuing to gain weight). This has been interesting, to say the least (especially since Phillip and I don’t want kids right now).
  • I got some not-so-great news at the end of the year. I’m not getting into it, but it’s worth mentioning since in a way it’s a part of this last one:
  • I started writing again.

That last one, for me, right now, feels huge. When I take away all of the other stuff–good and bad–the fact that I’ve started writing again just stands out. Maybe it’s because it’s still so new, and it’s like I’m re-discovering a long-lost friend (holy shit I just had a light bulb moment there, considering my current work in progress follows that theme…mind. blown.).

I think I’ve mentioned it here once or twice, but I’m a writer. Have been since I was a little girl. Writing’s my thing, I guess. I tell stories, and they come out via the written word. Right before Phillip and I met was the last time I seriously wrote anything. That was five years ago. Honestly, I know there were lots of mitigating factors involved. Timing was one of them; when you’re falling head over  heels in love, it’s hard to concentrate on ANYTHING other than the person you’re falling for. At least, it was for me. *g* I was also wrapping up therapy at the time, and was in a better, healthier place mentally and emotionally than I’d ever been in my life. In some ways, I didn’t need my make-believe worlds anymore, didn’t need the love stories because I was living out my very own love story.

And then life happened. Long-distance relationship. Moving. Commuting from Austin to Waco every day for the first few months after we’d moved in together. Getting laid off. Having to find a new job. Getting laid off. Having to find a new job. Becoming a Realtor. Finding a job that actually paid. Finding another job that actually paid. And so on and so forth. Y’know, life. And all the stuff that goes along with it. Somewhere in all the hustle and bustle and stress, I just stopped writing.

In some ways I probably didn’t really want to write (my husband has pointed this out to me a few times). I’d get ideas every now and then, write those ideas down, but then never do anything with them. There was always something else to worry about and spend my time doing.

For whatever reason, though, in the past year, the itch to write has been niggling at me. It’s popped up here and there, more frequently than it had in quite some time. Stories started to pop into my head. I also started reading a lot more; in the time that I’d gone on a bit of a writing hiatus, I’d also gone on a slight reading hiatus and hadn’t read anywhere near as much as I used to. I started reading outside of the romance genre, picked up some political and military thrillers at Phillip’s suggestions. I now absolutely love Brad Thor and Vince Flynn’s stuff, and was incredibly sad when Vince Flynn died in 2013 at way too young of an age.

rifle scope accident

Me, right after the rifle scope accident. OUCH.

I started working on one piece, got a few pages into it, got some characters sketched out. It’s a really fun post-apocalyptic romance that I really look forward to writing. Some day. In fact, I’d been working on it slightly when this other idea came to me. Characters, situations, loose idea of a plot, conflict. Enough that I could really see them in my head and hear their voices and feel their emotions. This was right around the time I split open my forehead with the rifle scope. So I started writing. At first I was rusty, but the scene that popped into my head–the scene where my characters see each other again for the first time in almost ten years–it was just so vivid and amusing and embarrassing that I HAD to write it.

So I did.

And then my characters jumped way ahead of me and told me what their first sex scene was going to be like (I write romance, y’all, which does include sexy times). So I wrote it, too, and afterwards knew I had something here. These characters needed to have their stories told.

And then I didn’t write for a few weeks. Oh, the characters were still there, and the desire to write was still there, and they were still pushing at me to tell their story, but getting the words out felt a little like pulling teeth. I would write here and there, a couple of pages, which for me isn’t much at all. But it was something. And despite the fact that I was honestly a little scared to get back behind my rifle, and I was bored at work and hating myself for gaining the weight back, there was this little kernel of joy there. While I was mad at myself, disliking myself and feeling a bit adrift, I had THIS back. And suddenly, I started feeling like myself again, or at least like parts of me were clicking back into place, like I’d lost pieces of myself and I was finding them again.

In the darkness, there is light.

I firmly believe that, just like I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. It probably sounds crazy, but I think getting hit in the head with my rifle scope–and the fear that it caused (that shit HURT, y’all, and scared the bejeezus out of me)–was supposed to happen. I mean, aside from the lesson of allowing myself proper eye relief, I think it knocked the words loose. Literally and figuratively.

So I wrote a little bit, and then didn’t write. Thanksgiving and Christmas were upon us, and there was so much to get done. Phillip and I both got off Zyrtec and had nasty withdrawals that just drained us and made us both sick. Christmas came. We both got truly sick; we think it’s been cedar fever, so we weren’t able to go out to the ranch as planned. I checked the mail. Got a letter which made me do some research which lead to the somewhat upsetting news I alluded to earlier (it’s nothing really bad, I just have limits on what I’ll discuss in full in a public forum). I think it made me feel a little guilty. Actually, I know it did. But while it made me feel guilty it didn’t make me feel out of control, because this is something I can take control of and deal with. There’s some uncertainty, but there are two possible outcomes, so it’s not THAT uncertain.

At any rate, we both had the week from Christmas to New Year’s off. So I wrote. The words were flowing. So much so that I wrote like 10,000 words on New Year’s Eve and into the early hours of New Year’s Day. I wrote about 8,000 more on New Year’s Day, and probably another 3,000 or so on Thursday, which was when Phillip finally said something and pointed out that I was bingeing on writing like I binge on food, which led to some panicky moments on my part and a discussion in which it was pointed out that the past two times something not so great has happened to me I’ve gone into a writing trance.

Well duh. I write when I feel strong negative emotions. It’s how I’ve always coped.

Well, is that the healthiest way to deal with stuff? Immersing yourself in a fictional world rather than talking about what’s really bothering you?

Probably not. But what if I talk about stuff and the words stop? I don’t want the words to stop.

Thank God I have a husband who loves me, understands me and believes in me, because his response to that really sad, anxious, desperate question was along the lines of: They’re only going to stop if you let them.

Me being me, I still panicked for a while at the thought of the words stopping again. I’ve just found them! And God, I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed telling stories and the rush of writing a really awesome scene and having my characters talk to me at the oddest moments and hearing and seeing words in my head.

So as I’m coming into this new year, I’m finding some humor in all of this. I don’t do resolutions. Sometimes I’ll do goals. Unfortunately, those goals for the past few years have been so focused on weight loss, fat loss, etc. that I’ve gotten a bit, well, lost. I’m so much more than those things. And I’m not even wanting to create goals for myself right now for this year. There are things I would like to see happen, but they’ve been ongoing, not anything that I woke up on January 1st and intentionally came up with. But the fact that I’m in this place right now? The irony isn’t lost upon me.

I’m not willing to let the words go, to give that up again. I have a talent. I’m a damned good writer and a damned good storyteller. I have a gift, and it’s time I really DID something with that gift rather than letting it just sit there and gather dust. But in the entire time Phillip and I have been together, he’s only just now begun to experience Crazy Writer Lady. I’m such an all-or-nothing person; I really do tend to swing from one extreme to the other. It’s a personality trait and simply the way I’m wired. I know that, and I embrace it while trying to temper it and to mindfully try to be somewhere in the middle. Or maybe just not quite as extreme as my nature wants me to be. Because of that all-or-nothing personality, and because I seem to binge on various things (food, writing, reading, etc.) when I’m feeling really strong, negative emotions, I’ve always been a binge writer. Really big chunks of story, then nothing, then really big chunks again. It wasn’t quite that bad during grad school, because I was constantly having to turn in pages, so I had to write regularly rather than when my mood dictated it. And the two books I have published, while I did write them very quickly (seriously, my second published novella was almost entirely written the weekend before it was due to my editor), they weren’t written during a particularly dark period that I can recall. More, I saw an opportunity, there was a hard, quickly approaching deadline, and I just wrote a lot of words in a short amount of time because otherwise I wouldn’t have made the deadline.

So I guess part of my binge-writing comes from procrastination, which causes stress. *snort*

At any rate, I’m now at a place where I have to find balance. Balance between working 40 hours a week, spending time with my husband and our dogs, going out to the ranch, and those things that life dictates, like grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. And somewhere in there I have to find the time to move my body (aka work out) and get enough sleep. There’s also the fact that my contract’s up in about a month, and I don’t know yet if it’s going to be renewed, if I’m going to be brought on full time, or if I’m going to be let go (the signs are pointing to one of the first two, so we’ll see). That’s a bridge I’ll cross when/if I get there, though, since I’ve been doing everything I can to ensure I don’t find myself jobless again next month.

Honestly, I would love to be able to write full time rather than having to steal hours here and there. That’s a dream, though, and not one that many writers are lucky enough to live. Still, though, I’m going to dream, and I’m going to try to figure out a way to get from here to there. In the meantime, though, I really need to work on balance.

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