First of all, you’re banished from this blog if you say “who is John Cleese?”
Although, I am fair-minded, I will give you a few hints:
Now that you know who he is…you can be jealous to learn that I had the ridiculous amount of luck to be face to face with him via Zoom (thanks COVID) and talk to him about writing, my experiences with Monty Python, and the Dunning Kruger effect.
So before you yell at me for wasting the man’s time, know that he is well-versed in it as he admitted to me that he has dinner with David Dunning three days a week because they are good friends.
So, now that you get where we are going this this. I asked the man…himself (because I am a huge nerd and I needed to have something to say instead of just giggling and drinking my nervous energy away) if he thinks that Impostor Syndrome is the opposite of Dunning Kruger and to my surprise…he said
So, I am finally doing it. After a few months of avoiding it, I’m going to write something about COVID. If you know me, you know that I have been avoiding this topic. I typically try to avoid it whenever I can, in conversation, in my daily writing life, anywhere it might come up. “How?” and “Why?” you might ask.
That’s just how I roll, people. Part of the stuff that makes me what I am, rainbow glitter and cupcake batter aside…is my neurosis. Hate to say it, but I’m admitting it right here and now. And I know, it’s such a ten dollar word to describe what’s wrong with me, not to mention probably one that hasn’t been used since the 50’s, but it’s the one I’m going with today.
I’m too neurotic for this COVID shit. It’s just too much for my brain to handle.
In the beginning of all of this, I was an absolute wreck. I couldn’t watch the news. Hell, I couldn’t listen to someone else watching the news. I couldn’t have a conversation with someone who just watched the news and wanted to talk to me about it.
Which brings me to another aspect of my neurosis.
Do you trust other people? I mean seriously, if you watch the news, I don’t see how you can. You see how other people are handling this situation when trying to rectify it…
You see how the people who are supposed to protect us do the opposite…
and at least where I am in the world, people blatantly disregarding regulations meant not only for the safety of others but for their own safety…
Like the next gal (guy), I can make light of certain situations. I even encourage my readers to use humor as a way to deal with difficult subject matter, but it seems, in all honesty, I tend to draw the line at life or death situations.
It’s no accident that I have an overactive imagination where I can catastophize (sic) every moment of every day. I can easily spiral into an OCD level of cognitive dissonance where I imagine every worst case scenario possible.
Oh yeah, the OCD, a nifty little bugger who rests on your shoulder and forces you to watch and keep track of how often a person touches something with their bare hands. He’s extra fun these days.
And during COVID, my OCD and neurosis like to hold hands and taunt me with their PDA and oversharing. You know, like that annoying couple on Facebook. You know the one!
And again, I think that’s part of what makes me-me. I think it even goes back as far as childhood.
My mother was pretty neurotic. If you don’t believe me I could give you examples. She used to love to tell stories too. But they were the warning kind. It was clear she did her own level of catastrophizing(sic).
My three favorite stories:
The story about the careless child who left his shoelaces untied and rode on the escalator, got his shoelace stuck, and had his entire foot taken off.
The story about the careless child who hung his arm out of the window while the car was moving and had his arm taken off by a pesky road sign.
The story about the careless child who laughed while he was eating and choked to death because he didn’t properly cut up his grapes and hot dogs.
The moral of all of these stories: that all of these catastrophes were altogether preventable (avoidable). I like to use preventable, because it’s a word a lot of the doctors used when they diagnosed me with late stage Lyme disease. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
A lot of people handle disease and pain differently than I do. In fact, plenty of them assume that most things can be treated with over the counter medication, and or the sheer willing of it to not exist.
That pain in your left arm, that’s not a heart attack it’s just every day aches and pains. That pain in your ankle, that’s not your bones and joints deteriorating, you must have bumped it on something. That rash on your back, leg, and face, it’ll go away on it’s own and it’s not the sign of some horrific disease that is killing you slowly.
And 9/10 times this person is usually correct. But I find that I tend to be that 1/10 times, and it’s annoying. Oh, yes. That one time I was right and everyone else was wrong will haunt me forever.
When I started feeling symptoms, I knew exactly what was wrong. The problem is no one believed me. They kept talking me out of it. Oh, it’s can’t be that, it’s B, and if it’s not B, it’s C, and if it’s not B or C, it’s definitely D. Thing is while B was the common cold and C was a fungal rash, D was Lupus, and E was Cancer. So that wasn’t much help. Why could it not be A? Also how is Lyme disease worse than Cancer? Who knows.
“Well isn’t the solution just going to the doctor?” You would think so, except doctors, and pharmacists, and so forth avoided the L-word (not that one) like plague (heh) for some reason. Which is odd, because if you are a medical professional you know that the longer you wait to diagnose and treat Lyme disease, the worse it gets. It starts to eat away at your brain, so it’s best to get on top of that sucker, ASAP.
And yet, if you are a medial professional, you might also know why some doctors were too shy to (mis)diagnose me. I had the added luck of contracting Lyme disease at a time when people were suing doctors left and right for malpractice and misdiagnosis of Lyme disease. And I learned the hard way that if you wanted to be diagnosed and treated for it, you had to make an appointment and not say what for, then come in tell them you have Lyme disease and that you want to be tested for it. Then you sit and stare at them until they do it.
Well, that’s what I had to do anyway. And long story, short? I had had it for just enough time for the toxins in my body to almost kill me but not long enough that it started to affect me neurologically.
Although…jury might be out on that one, amirite?
“Wait,” you might be thinking, “I thought this was supposed to be about COVID 19?”. Alright, you, settle down.
So let’s rundown the list of people I don’t have a lot of trust for: Medical professionals, other people who don’t understand the nuance of disease, and who is left?
Don’t get me started.
Without going on a political tirade (today) I will simply say that bottom-line: I haven’t been dealing well with the uncertainty. If there was a poster child for social distancing, I would be she. I have probably left the house 4 times since March, meaning going further than my backyard. Which is a place I don’t even like being man, there are bugs in my backyard, ya know?
Five years. That’s how long it’s been since you’ve seen any of them.
And that is an ugly amount of time to be away from people you once considered your closest friends. They invited you back into the fold again, and you aren’t sure why.
So, you took your time when in the past you would have rushed. You would have been sweaty with anxiety and changed three times. You would have second-guessed your makeup, your hair, your entire face, and body and wished you could throw them all away, pull new ones out of your closet and have a do-over.
But now, you ignore the time on the wall, the time on your phone, the time on your grandmother’s old watch. You wait just long enough until you can see the time in your mind. But still you don’t check it. You double-check your hair, and your face, and your clothes, and your jewelry. Everything is still perfect, nothing out of place.
You step into the night air. You hail a cab. Still, you don’t check your phone or your grandmother’s old watch.
You walk to the door, and nod to the doorman. You take steps toward the elevator. The only numbers you look at are the ones lighting up the wall, drawing you closer to the party at the penthouse. Once you step out of the elevator you walk down the long corridor. You approach your friends’ door.
Now you check the time. Perfect. As intended, you’ve arrived fashionably late.
And you don’t feel sorry about it. You feel vindicated.
It’s a damning thing when you go through divorce and your friends claim to stand by you, but then they just don’t. And it isn’t because they sided with your ex. They despise him. They use the time you spent away trying to hold everything in your life together against you. And now, five years later, they act as if they don’t even recognize you.
And they shouldn’t. You dress differently, your hair is even different, now that you’ve been granted the serenity of self-care. Before, when they watched you spend too much time doting on another person, they would grumble about it in hushed tones behind your back, acting like you had water on your brain. Like you weren’t fully cognizant of how unhappy you were.
“Doesn’t Gloria see how he flirts with other women?”
“Doesn’t she see what a mess her life has become?”
“What a dope.”
“She dresses so modestly now, that must be his doing.”
“And what is going on with her hair; I would certainly never wear my hair like that.”
“Her apartment has cockroaches.”
“He always smells of sweat.”
“Green was never her color.”
It was as if they enjoyed watching him hold you down. They relished that you couldn’t even wriggle around under that heavy force of everything going wrong. They had the instruments to cut you loose, but they never did. Not like a real friend who should have ridden the wave with you and come out waiting on the other end like Valerie did. You learned the word for it in therapy: Narcissism. You learned this is the type of person you gravitate to, the type of person you are constantly surrounded with, the type of person you tend to look up to.
So, what are these people even doing in your life? You enter the jungles of your memory and find those late-night parties that kept you up in the wee hours and with red, raw eyes. You remember how you used to have fun. How you used to be a person. And like a dream you don’t exactly remember when you awake, you can’t put your finger on who you used to be.
Something was lost in those dense jungles of self-exploration. Too many nights holding your other friends’ hair back. Too many nights wondering how you will pull the strands of your own life together. Too many nights helping them with their schemes and goals, while they climbed up your back, tugging your hair, and then trampling you with their stiletto heels.
And as you wipe away these remnant shimmers of your once happy twenties collecting like dust in the lines on your forehead, they balk at your “lateness”. Screw them, how many times were they late to the dinner parties you threw? How many times were you trapped in the bathroom with the three of them while they gossiped, took way too long to put on makeup, and argued with you when you looked at your watch? What kind of friends were these?
“You said the word individual, Gloria, the individual is irrelevant, everyone knows that, you should have belted that dress and I also don’t like your shade of lipstick and why do you wear your grandmother’s old, gaudy costume jewelry?”
Your grandmother, a holocaust survivor, who told you many stories of suffering, was no longer around. These were the only pieces you have to remind you of her, of her suffering, of your own suffering, of how her suffering was so much worse than your suffering. But did you dare say any of those words aloud? No, you were so dumbstruck by your friend’s rudeness, you couldn’t even gasp for air. You simply blushed and stammered like an idiot. No wonder they always thought you were so stupid.
You weren’t allowed to have thoughts, ideas, or opinions for a time either. Each one was clouded with the assumption that you didn’t really understand anything, that you never once bothered to open a book.
That evening you remember going home to comb your memory for friendships and lovers that didn’t make you feel like garbage. You reach and reach and reach until you are eight years old again. The first time you asked your friends if you could follow them on your bike.
They laughed at you and said, “Only if you can keep up.”
Only if you can keep up. Something you have no problem doing now. Now you are whip-smart, with clever anecdotes, perfectly styled-hair, and that short skirt looks damn good on you.
This is me back in May of 2016. Almost exactly 4 years ago. Pre-COVID, Pre-Trump getting elected. Even with all of those things not having happened yet, my life was somehow still full of problems.
But that day I made a choice, after making many before it. But it a was a finalizing, equalizing, definitive choice.
Some might have seen the actions I made that day as simply an effort to leave my ex-husband, but those who know the truth, know that it was so much more than that.
If I have learned anything from my experiences in the last four years, is that when things end, everyone has their own narrative about “what happened”.
Well, here is mine.
Back in 2016 I did a few things. First, I typed “THE END” on the last page of my first draft of a finished manuscript. It was a painful haul. I was drawing much of that narrative from personal experience, including confusing and difficult friendships and relationships I endured during my adolescence. I was having conversations with people from that time and hoping to glean their perspective and narratives to keep myself honest.
I was also staying up all hours, not sleeping in my own bed, forgetting to eat, and admittedly letting go of my daily effort cling to and fix a person. I was also letting go of a relationship that just wasn’t working anymore.
Disclaimer: I recently deleted a few teary recordings of myself that I couldn’t bear to listen to until recently, recounting what I was going through and how it was all affecting me. It was eye-opening but I remembered what I was trying to do with all of that in the first place. I was learning to be honest with myself.
As ayemtea, I was writing poetic serials. I had an active following. Daily I would post these poems that you could probably consider productive procrastination while writing my novel. But I had a lot of words stuck in me that wanted to come out. During my teaching job, while a student was taking a test or reading quietly to themselves, I was writing. I was outlining my book or I was writing the poem that I would release that evening over IG.
When I wasn’t teaching, I was working retail to supplement my income…and having an awful experience. But it was how I filled my time. What was the rest of my time filled with? Church. Believe it or not I was very active in Evangelical circles. I was in that life mostly because I was pressured into it by my ex-husband and some friends I had at the time, but I will own that I walked into that life willingly.
I was convinced that I was doing my best to better myself. I was trying to give back and see the big picture and believe in something bigger than myself and all that nonsense. All the while I was decidedly losing who I really was. I was burying her under suffocating doctrine that I didn’t even fully believe in.
If this post is littered with links, it’s just in an effort to show how I have tried to explore these difficult chapters of my life through writing, which is something I have always either done wittingly or unwittingly. And I know it has helped me.
But it also pushes me. Once the word-well runs dry, it’s time to take action and that is what I did. I’ve made decisions like this before, and had long journeys, and struggles and have been in the wrong, certainly.
Like I said I will always own my part in whatever goes wrong because it always takes two. But that’s ultimately why, despite the litany of reasons I could give. I left because I was the only one doing that.
It was strange. The day I decided to leave, I no longer felt any of the things that kept me hanging on. It was if I had spent time working through all of them, literally iterating my life to somehow get it back on track, but it just refused to do so. I couldn’t go back to being the person I was before certain things happened. There was no going back.
And even now life is never easy, but one thing I learned is that I will never again pretend to be something I am not. It seems fun to think that you could mold yourself into someone that everyone finds agreeable and likable and great, but if that isn’t who you are, eventually the true colors come out. And you know what, that’s okay.
Love is about embracing those colors. And once more if you can’t then maybe it wasn’t love to begin with.
I’m not saying I’m not a good person. But that was the rub. The definition of good for some is a much higher standard than what it is for others. For some “good” is an impossible, inhuman standard that involves crushing your soul into a box that keeps getting smaller. And I refuse to do that.
For #ForwardFriday, think about your own journey. Do you have stories like this? Are they painful? Are you embarrassed to share them? I know, even talking about this, which I never really do publicly, was terrifying. But I have to be true to myself and who I am. I hope you can one day do that too.
Today I will share with you one of my nerdy obsessions:
There. Phew. I said it. Okay *sigh*
Honestly, there are times when that is more difficult than saying:
I’m an alcoholic. Which I’m not…
*gulps wine at noon*
Anywho, even though I am already in a support group for it, sometimes I get the urge to do the nerdiest thing ever …
and that is blog about Frasier.
So, heh, here we go.
*clears throat* So, I will try to only do this maybe twice a month.
If you’re lucky.
Today’s topic: Frasier Fashion
If you pay close enough attention, like I do, you’ll notice that the fashion in Frasier goes beyond fancy, expensive Hugo Boss ties and double breasted French and Italian tailored suits.
The entire show is a time capsule of memorable looks of it’s time.
For the purpose of this post we will focus on the women’s fashion on the show which when held up to the year an episode had aired was often right on the money.
Disclaimer: I am old (pushing 40), so I can speak on this subject with authority.
We will use the two women we saw the most on the show as examples:
Daphne (Jane Leeves)
The evolution of Daphne (Jane Leeves) is interesting. From dowdy over-sized T shirts and busy pants to skintight low cut baby-doll dresses (sometimes floral, sometimes that interesting shiny poly-blend material you could only get at Hot Topic) it was both a reflection of her character but also the times.
The episode where Frasier keeps “accidentally” going into her bedroom and catches her undressing, she is wearing an early 90’s fashion staple: the leotard posing as a shirt, worn with a wrap-around skirt and a vest. Did I have these 90’s fashion staples in my wardrobe. Well, I shopped at the Limited, what do you think?
White long-sleeve leotard? Check. Wrap-around skirt? Check. Vest to cover up the slightly seethrough leotard so it would look like a shirt and not at all like weirdly inappropriate dance-wear? Check-check!
It’s very clear the day that the whole “wear a plaid skirt so you can look like a Catholic schoolgirl even though you are neither Catholic nor still in school or even a girl” fad hit, the next day Daphne starting wearing them complete with the inconspicuous leotard and tights just underneath.
A lot people Feminists rave now about the infantilization of 90’s women’s fashions but IMHO there was only one direction to go from the Andy McDowell dowdy schoolmarm in the over-sized dolphin T-shirt. Plus the 90’s brought us these fun trends:
Friends and Seinfeld are often great examples of what was happening in 90’s hair, but it was often art and life both imitating each other. Especially the Rachel which no one seemed to want until they saw Jennifer Anniston wearing it on Friends. But just before that craze happened we had the Elaine Benes/Daphne Moon/Andie MacDowell hair craze.
The long unruly fluff that was either tied back with both a barret and a scrunchie or in Daphne’s case, tied at the bottom to make her hair look short, tied at the top to section off the hair, or worn completely down to show off the mountain of layers she had cut in. It seemed her hair changed every week. And I was there for it since the other two didn’t seem to do much with their hair until the late 90’s.
AND THEN THE CLOUDS PARTED AND DAPHNE CUT OFF ALL HER HAIR
I remember the short-flippy (what year is this 1962?) hairstyle dropped I couldn’t wait to sport it.
Mostly because I had short hair already and this was something I could finally and easily imitate though probably not well. I was still a Junior High school kid and these were grown women with careers that I was imitating. (I still had my braces FFS!) Somehow the Rachel saved us all from death by long hair. And society righted a terrible wrong:
Roz (Peri Gilpin)
Roz was no nonsense from beginning to end. So basically her wardrobe was the antithesis of Daphne’s but that didn’t mean she was not there for 90’s fashion.
She was sporting the ball-busting successful business-woman look, which during the 90’s confusion of babydoll dresses and urban casualwear you better not be caught dead wearing in Junior High. (Thanks, Mom!)
But 3rd wave feminists ate it up with a spoon, which is most likely why Roz’s style didn’t change much at least for the first half of the show. She took the Elaine Benes look and said “I can do this and actually still look hot, even though I often complain about having to wear the pleated khakis that I dressed myself in today.”
But then something cray-cray happens and everything goes whackadoodle…
in Season 5, Roz gets knocked up. And she takes 90’s maternity wear to the next level, guys.
Nevermind what she was wearing when she found out…
I’m talking about these magnificent fashion statements:
Okay, sorry, I couldn’t resist. But I am semi-serious about this. Whether it was the “times” or what, Roz totally loosened up her fashion sense post-baby.
Which is kind of backwards, right? Her character was a sexpot before that but afterwards she was on her way to her side-hustle as a late 90’s Victoria Secret model, who like Bulldog obviously often left a copy lying around as she was always wearing sparkles and “this is totally a shirt and not underwear” camisoles.
Once exhausted of the late 90’s when the gaping mouth of the aughts swallowed us up post Y2K and Pre 9/11 we were having some fashion growing pains.
But one thing was certain, we were OVER 90’s fashion and flushed it down the toilet. No, we lit it on fire and HEAVED it over the balcony.
We walked it back though eventually to tailored cardigans, skirts, cropped pants, and structured blazers and pretended to invent the idea.
AND THEN IT WAS NEO HIPPIE PEASANT SHIRTS AND DRESSES AGAIN
Seriously, what was going on? I guess we tried fashion for a hot second and gave up? Did we ever have style, ever? This study of the last 2 decades of fashion leads me to believe we didn’t. What do you think? Did I miss something?
Comment below if you have any thoughts on this ridiculousness or if this post gave you nostalgic nausea…
In the past I wrote a lot of women’s fiction. Okay, I’m lying I still write women’s fiction. Women’s fiction as a genre they say is “dead”. I don’t know if that’s entirely true, people are still writing it and those books are still flying off the shelf.
That isn’t to say that other genres are less valid or even more successful or that I’m not writing them.
In fact for the past almost 2 years I have been working on a Sci Fi novel called StarTribe set in 2084 when introversion is illegal. I won’t say any more but to me that in itself is an absurd premise. Or is it?
Writing Sci Fi is so fun, not just because I use it as an excuse to nerd out over sciency/tech stuff, but the world-building is so incredibly flexible.
That has been both liberating and scary. The learning curve for me of what is “acceptable”(everything) has at times given me pause and made me get in my own way.
In fact I found myself even more blocked because the options for what I could write about beyond the story in my head were limitless.
So I went to the experts.
Thankfully I have some writerly friends who have been writing Sci Fi for a while. I told one about my premise and that I needed to create a character but was stuck. I had already a line-up of misfits in my head but I couldn’t create or formulate an image in my boring old brain of a creature who could be both intimidating and cuddly. I guess the words I used sparked an idea in this writer’s head.
He said: “Why not make a half-man, half-bear hybrid?”
“Genius!” I thought, why didn’t I think of that? But then that dusty part of my brain that sees things in black and white had reservations. A half-bear, half-man hybrid? What? Who would interact with, let alone befriend such a creature and would/could this creature exist in my world? That second question is the one that I asked my friend:
“Do you think that is feasible?”
He asked me, “Why not?”
And that had me thinking even more: “Yeah, it’s my story, why not? I mean just because something that couldn’t exist supposedly in the real world doesn’t mean I can’t just make it so in MY book.”
And that is what Sci Fi is for, to allow for those absurd details that you can somehow make sense and fit into your world.
Five Doors is a fantasy novel I am writing.
I would go back and forth between calling it Fantasy and Magical Realism, because I am so so stuck on that realistic factor. She’s a real person, with real problems, in the real world but she has these powers and other people in the world have powers too. Powers to change and dictate their fate. Some might say we already have that power but in my novel that issue is addressed: Do we? Can we?
As I keep writing, those absurd details keep cropping up. Some involve dreaming, some involve time traveling through doors, some involve timepieces that are long dead suddenly coming to life.
If I didn’t think of these details the story would be boring. It would be “just women’s fiction”.
Some might think writing from life could be boring too. “I’m not a celebrity; who would want to read about my life?” But think about all the insanity and absurdity you have encountered in your life. Things you might have thought didn’t exist in this boring old world. But you were surprised by them, just as your reader would be if they read a narrative about your life.
So my takeaway, which I hope is also yours, is to embrace those absurd details and use them. And if you aren’t thinking absurd enough, think harder, you’ll get there.
It was great fun, a little intimidating but it got my heart pumping!
And the funny thing is…it was all about comedy or comedic timing but it was all about the three ways that you can use Improv to improve your writing:
Think on your feet (and don’t over-think).
This is IMPORTANT, especially if your goal is to get words on the page! The hilarious part of this is that I am usually good at coming up with clever ideas on the spot on stage, but I usually reserved my writing to take my time generating ideas where I would sit on them for a long time. But you don’t have to do that to be a good writer (apparently). Other people in the class were banging out ideas (wild ones off the top of their head) but that’s what’s great about improv, it lets you live in that crazy spot in your brain you might be afraid to live in when you are writing. In improv (and your writing) the sky is the limit.
Start in the middle of the action.
Chip gave a great example of this in his class. He said if someone came out on stage and gave you their whole backstory before they started the scene you would check out and lose interest, right? So it’s best to start out a scene when something is happening! This is advice you will get everywhere from editors, agents, and publishers too, so it’s best to listen. If you can use Improv as your framework for doing this, all the better. Even if you feel backstory is important to the scene use Improv to get the audience interested in it. Say something like: “Hey remember that time we were in this park and I tried to kill you?” That’s all the backstory you need.
Less is more.
It truly is. You don’t have the time in Improv to get bogged down by detailed description and in your writing you can always come back to it and fill that stuff in later. When you are writing and want to get words on the page, say what is necessary. Use your immediate senses. Put the reader in your head. Get your character talking and moving. That’s all you need to get things going.
I need to spend less time thinking about my writing and just get in the middle of it.
I can go to any limit I want to with any character, idea, plot or setting. It’s my story, so why not?
I can get more words on the page by getting my characters to do something rather than building up the world around them.
I highly recommend checking out more of #MSWL’s events free or paid (they are affordable) I will do my best to make you aware of the free ones when they come into my inbox!
As a fun little extra I thought I might make you guys aware of a charity event that Mr. Show (an awesome collection of comedic and Improv actors you might recognize) did. The ticket is only $10 and goes towards LIFT. The money goes towards lower income families who need help during COVID.
The event is not live but the video is funny and they do some Improv in it which is a great example of what I was talking about in this post! Enjoy 😉