Self-Love is the Root of All Happiness.

I am one of the world’s biggest proponents of self-love. No, not masturbation… Though, I am a proponent of that, too. I’m talking about pure, unconditional, oh-my-goddess-I-am-a-miracle-of-creation self love. The kind of love that allows you to wake up smiling every day because you are so happy to be alive with yourself. The kind of love that gives you a full body shield against people who are mean to you. The kind of love that bolsters you so completely that you are your own best friend.

I’ve spent a lot of years working on my own self-love, with an incredible leap forward in the past two. I have done tons of research on the subject. I’ve read books and scoured the internet and talked to shamans and meditation coaches and an acupuncturist and even my old MD. I’ve even taught workshops and online classes on self-love. I’m (joyfully) serious about this subject.

Some of the time, I didn’t even realize I was working on self-love. I have done a lot of working at being less judgmental of myself and others. I have worked very hard to rid myself of jealousy, which is a toxic feeling. I have gone through an incredible journey from regular panic attacks and sometimes crippling anxiety to being a (mostly) in control power woman in charge of her own life from top to bottom. That is to say, I make my own decisions and I own them, right or wrong.

Thinking about it recently made me realize that every single one of the qualities that makes my life joyful and blessed comes from self-love. Being able to absorb the sometimes harsh realities of life is easier because I love myself so much. When a woman told me recently, scathingly, that she wouldn’t date me because she could tell by looking at me that I was unhealthy and had self-esteem issues, I was able to completely brush it off because while I may not be as healthy as I want yet, I am pretty damn healthy. And I have GREAT self-esteem.

So all of the things that lead to joy come from self-love.

I had a date recently that turned out to be pretty spectacular. There was no thought to whether or not I was “in her league” as I might have once thought, years ago. Simply, we’re both single and I find her attractive. I think I got that date with an amazing, gorgeous, and hysterically funny woman because it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t. That’s self-love. It isn’t just that I know that I am a person of value, that she would really enjoy being around, but that I also recognize that if she didn’t want to go out with me, it would NOT CHANGE MY VALUE. Not at all! That ease and relaxation makes flirting so much easier. I can express interest in a woman and if she responds, it is lovely. And if she doesn’t, it’s perfectly okay. It just means that right now, we don’t want the same things. Self-love makes dating low-pressure because I enjoy my own company so much, I don’t need someone to swoop in and make my life a better place. It’s already a fine place as it is.

It makes for a very relaxed life. I’ve revamped my entire outlook on life. Loving myself doesn’t mean thinking I’m perfect. But it does mean reevaluating what I have long thought of as flaws because of societal convention or other people’s opinions. It doesn’t mean completely ignoring ethical and moral values… it simply means digging deep into my heart to figure out what mine are and trying the best I can to live under that standard. I’m not perfect. I’m still working on myself. Sometimes I get judgy. Sometimes I get hyper angry and swear. I have moments of self-doubt. (Is this story really good enough to send to someone?) I’m just continually working to become exactly who *I* want myself to be.

I’ve been able to cultivate radical honesty into all of my relationships. That comes from valuing myself enough to have trust that if I speak my truth, the people I’ve drawn into my life will respond with love and compassion. And if someone decides they want to be out of my life because I’ve been open and honest with them, isn’t that better than having someone in my life under a false pretense?

Loving myself so deeply allows me to attract other loving people into my life. Living an authentic life means I only draw in those people who love the true, deep down Beth. The ones who really see me and get me and love me all the way down. Loving myself means I can offer them that same kind of love in return.

Loving myself means being less reactive. It means offering my loved ones a safe space where they can tell me anything and know within their hearts that whatever they told me will not lose them my love. It doesn’t mean I never feel hurt or disappointed or slighted… it simply means I am always trying to remind myself that I am very blessed to have these people in my life and I am not surrounded with the kind of people who would hurt me on purpose. Because of that, there is a great deal of communication. None of this, “Hey, Beth, what’s wrong?” and me replying, “Oh nothing.”

Self-love means exposing myself (Stop it!). If someone wants to get to know me, they’ll find out that here, at this point in my journey, I am a funny, passionate, creative, often impatient, non-monogamous, fiercely loyal bad banjo player who cries at pictures of abused animals, finds the idea of being trapped in one place to be suffocating, and who still takes her clothes to Mama to have a button sewn on.  Also, I sometimes listen to the Bee Gees. I’m good and bad and I’m a work in progress and I own that. It’s allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It’s saying, out loud, hey, this is me, and I might not feel one hundred percent comfortable sharing this, but if one other person sees who I am and decides to use it to bolster her own self-love and value, it’s worth it.

Self-love means getting to know yourself pretty deeply. And I’m still learning. I change. I once believed there was one soul mate for me out there. Now I know that I have several soul mates. I once believed that being in a toxic relationship was better than being alone. Now I believe that being single is actually a blessing. I used to be so sure of all of my rigid rules and opinions. Now I can sit down with one of my friends and say, “I have this theory about life” and we can talk it out for hours and I am open to changing my mind after we discuss and dissect it.

In essence, in my opinion, self-love leads to deep and abiding relationships with people who are also loving and accepting of themselves. It’s a self feeding cycle and it feels fantastic. Loving my soul friends with acceptance and compassion allows them even greater acceptance and love of themselves…. and vice versa.

So, if self-love is such an amazing cure-all, why don’t we all practice it on a daily basis? I think, we are not really encouraged to be vocally and ridiculously self-promoting. I’ve been accused of being conceited or arrogant for being so outspoken. Even someone who is really blown away by self-confidence recently told me that something I said sounded really arrogant. I was trying to explain that in my opinion, an arrogant person, a conceited person, thinks they are so great, they are above everyone else. I don’t think I’m above anyone… not at all. I think we all walk our own paths and we make our way through the world the best we can and sometimes, we can get really lucky to get a wake up call that allows us to start digging deep into ourselves and becoming the best selves we can be. I don’t think that’s arrogance. I think that’s just love.

If self-love is so important, how do you get it? First, I highly recommend making a list of 50 things you love about yourself. If you can’t come up with fifty, write as many as you can and refer to it often. Ask your friends for help if you need to do so… tell them it is an assignment. You might be amazed at what they come up with. As you start to absorb those compliments, you’ll discover more awesome things about you. When you have fifty, work on adding more.

Every morning, when you open your eyes, say, “I’m awesome!” (Or amazing. Wonderful. Beautiful. Miraculous. Whatever works for you.) Say it out loud, though. It has two benefits. One, you hear it and believe it. Two, it’s kind of hilarious to wake up and say something like that out loud, so you start laughing. At least I do… every morning. The added bonus for me is that when I start laughing, Brutus gets excited and runs over to try to lick my face, which makes me laugh even more. This will work even if you have a partner/spouse/someone else sleeping in your bed. Just get them to do it, too.

Practice self-care in whatever form that takes for you. My hardest form of self-care is regular exercise. A friend told me to “make it fun.” So, every afternoon, I tag a few of my friends, make a video playlist, and have a dance party. We all post to each other at the end talking about our dances. We all give suggestions on what songs to play tomorrow. We move, we breathe, we have fun. It’s self-care. It’s finding joy in moving my body. Listen to music. Sing. Laugh. Eat as well as you can, but enjoy a nice treat every once in a while. Relish whatever you eat. Sit down and enjoy the sensation of eating. Buy exotic, juicy fruits if you can. Meditate. (I sound like a broken record with that one… it’s important!) Just practice self-care however that looks to you. I know I tout this all of the time, but self-care leads to self-love.

Remind yourself of your value. Remind yourself that you are an amazing person. If you don’t get that job interview or that date, it isn’t because you aren’t valuable. It’s simply because it wasn’t the right fit. And if someone is mean to you, it is all on them, not you. That woman who was scathing to me? That had nothing to do with my character, because I wouldn’t do something like that, even if I wasn’t interested.

And lastly, try to be naked as often as you can. Come to terms with your body if that is something that is difficult for you. Get naked. Or at least, go braless. Run around in a tank top and panties. Be barefoot. Enjoy the feeling of your own skin. Sleep naked. Dance in your underwear. Shake that booty. Touch yourself. (No, again, we’re not going there.) I mean, massage your own feet. Rub your shoulders. Touch your arms or your belly. Scratch your head. It feels good. Grin while you’re doing it and it feels even better. Cherish how it feels to be sweet to yourself. Become comfortable with the way your body looks and moves and feels.

Self-love, self-confidence, being comfortable with you… it’s a process and it can be an on-going process. Sometimes it’s hard. When it isn’t working, fake it. Smile, act with confidence, get yourself out there. Be fabulous. Love who you are, because who you are is pretty damn amazing.

 

Excerpt from The Love Sucks Club

 

A car pulls up next to me and I look in the window. Esmé. Nodding to her, I keep walking. She pulls abreast of me again and sticks her head out the window.

“Where are you going?”

“Not far enough to need a ride.”

“Come on.” She laughs. “Don’t be scared. I don’t bite.”

“I’m not scared,” I mutter. Coming around to the passenger side, I let myself in and slide down in the seat. It’s a decent enough car, but small. What is it with these women driving these tiny cars? “You’re going to have to be careful on these roads,” I say. “The potholes have been known to swallow buffalo whole.”

“I didn’t realize there were buffalo on the island,” she grins.

“There aren’t. They were eaten by the potholes.”

I direct her to The Sands and fall silent, staring out the window. I can feel her glancing at me from time to time, but I pretend not to notice. Finally, she breaks the silence.

“So, do you want to talk about your dreams?”

“Nope.”

“About Fran?”

“Not a chance.”

“The price of tea in China?”

“I know nothing of economics.”

“What made you become a novelist?”

“I sat down and wrote.”

“Wow, you would make a fascinating subject for a talk show.”

“I’m a fascinating woman,” I say, dryly.

She chuckles a bit and stares out the windshield for a couple of minutes. “You know, I loved Fran, too.”

“I don’t know you.” This woman is presuming a lot. “I don’t know anything about you. How do I know you even know Fran?”

“I know she used to laugh in her sleep. I know she had a tattoo of a butterfly on her left breast. I know that she thought orange cats were the best animal in the world.”

“You could have gotten that from my book,” I grumble.

“I know she used to stare at the stars and talk about whether or not her family was ever going to come back for her.”

Pausing, I stare out the window. That part wasn’t in the book, and as far as I know, no one except me knew that Fran thought she was from another planet. I can feel my ears start to buzz and I’m sure an attack is imminent. Blinking hard, I try to talk myself out of it.

“So, Esmé,” I say loudly to combat the buzz. “What made you move to the Caribbean from Chicago?”

“There wasn’t anything left for me there. My lover left me for another woman. We’d been together for seven years. I think she was my rebound from Fran.”

“How long were you and Fran together?” I ask, though I’m not sure I want the answer.

“Ten years.”

I look at her, not sure I can believe that she’s old enough to have had at least seventeen years worth of relationships. “How old are you?”

“Thirty-eight.”

“So you and Fran were pretty young.”

“We were pretty young.”

She pulls up in front of The Sands and stops the car. “Are you going in for lunch?”

“No, I’m just going to get a ride home from Sam.”

“I can take you home.”

“Not in this car, you can’t.”

Standing outside of the front door of the hotel, I watch her drive away. She glances back once and I slowly raise my hand. My ears are still buzzing, so I sit down in the lobby and ask the front desk clerk to page Sam. The tunnel comes down over my sight and I can see Esmé and Fran, young and troubled, clinging to each other, both of them with tears in their eyes. I don’t know whether it’s a vision or my imagination, but I’m drawn to Fran’s young face, her light brown eyes and her pale skin. The shock of red hair, curly and full, was just as beautiful in this vision as it was years later when she came into my life. The vision darkens and for a second, all I can see is Esmé. I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, looking back at her. Her face is deathly white and there is a trickle of blood coming out of her mouth. As I slowly become aware that Sam is holding my shoulders and shaking me gently, the tunnel lifts from my sight. Sam’s face, full of love and concern is inches from mine.

 

 

 

I did this video reading….

I did a video of one of my favorite scenes from my first novel. Davey and her mother, Leah are having a rather public exchange about Leah’s sex life.

 

It was fun to record, though not as fun as reading to a crowd where I can see facial expressions and get feedback. Still, I like the video a lot. This is not pornographic… it’s funny. But some of the subject matter may be a twee unsafe for work listening.

 

Check it out. 

 

 

Taking a Leap

inner peaceI logged on to write a blog today and was notified that it is my two year anniversary with Word Press. This has been a roller coaster of a two years for me. In February of 2012, I moved back to the states from the Virgin Islands and ended an almost ten year long relationship that had become quite toxic toward the end. I published my first novel. I started a journey toward becoming the best me I could be and, concurrently, loving myself exactly as I am. I published two more novels. I had two short term, but quite healing and lovely in many ways, love relationships. I went to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival twice. (See my blog on that if you are interested in learning about this amazing festival for women.) This one.

I wrote a blog about Christians and gays that pretty much went viral and was read in church by at least three preachers of varying sorts. (Edited for language, I believe. I’m pretty sure I used the word “asshole” too many times for most parishioners to be comfortable.) I lived off of my royalties. I lived in a camper in the woods. I lived in a lake house. I lived in a farm town in Iowa. I moved wherever and whenever I wanted. I traveled to Memphis and Phoenix and Palm Springs and Dallas. I went to literary conferences. I met a few soul mate friends. I set up learning about this Beth person without artifice. I made a pact to live an authentic life. I danced, I flirted, I made love, I fought, I got angry. I tried to take every chance I had at learning more about myself, why I react the way I do, and how to react differently if necessary. I put a “Namaste” sticker on the back of my car and then laughed at the irony of flipping someone off through the sunroof because they were tailing me on the freeway. I became a vegetarian. I stopped being a vegetarian. I became a vegetarian again. I went on a spiritual retreat. I grew confident.. I laughed at myself. I laughed at life. I laughed with joy. I laughed until tears ran down my face and I couldn’t breathe. I learned to love me.Truly love me.

The end result of this is that I am now the kind of person who believes that if something is calling to my soul, I should make every effort to do it.

The other day, a friend of mine suggested making a grocery list of things that call to my soul and see how that panned out as far as making a living. Well, really, what I want to do is write, talk to readers, meet other authors, do book readings, and go to literary conferences. Oh, and I want to just spread joy and love and happiness to everyone I can. I mean, why *can’t*  make a living spreading joy and happiness and love to people? To that end, I am leaving my day job and focusing on marketing my books, writing more, teaching classes on writing, and giving workshops that help women come to the same self-love that I now possess. I want them to learn to value themselves.

It’s authentic. It’s what calls to my soul. It brings me joy. I may not be able to make a living at it yet, but I don’t care. I don’t belong in  a cubicle wearing business casual, punching someone else’s time clock. I belong out in the world, spreading love and happiness. That’s why my books are happy… and it’s why I’m happy. Now, I am going to work at bringing that happiness and peace to others.

It’s a leap, but then, I like to live on the edge. I’d rather fail at something a million times than to not have tried it because I was afraid.

In the meantime, you can help by buying my awesome new book, “The Love Sucks Club” which isn’t really about love sucking after all.

Sometimes Things Suck – And That’s Okay.

love sucks club coverIn honor of my new release, “The Love Sucks Club,” I’m writing today about things that suck. As any of my friends and blog readers can tell you, I am a proponent of living in joy and making life something to be loved. That said, sometimes things just suck. Sometimes, you’re in a sucky relationship or your job sucks or your financial situation sucks. That morning you slept late, stepped full on into cat puke, got a flat tire, and then got to work late only to get yelled at by your boss? That sucked. When you discovered your ex was cheating on you? That sucked? When your kid hit puberty and started yelling about how much she hates you and everything you stand for? Yeah, that really sucked.

For me, right now, my job sucks. I mean, it just sucks. I’m not even going to list the myriad ways in which it sucks. Just take my word for it. It sucks.

Sometimes things just suck. And sometimes, that’s okay. When things suck, we can wallow in the suckiness for only so long before we start to realize that we are going to have to make a change. I’ve been guilty of staying in a relationship for too long because I was afraid of the change. In hindsight, though, it was the best thing I ever did for myself. Leaving that relationship prompted me to sprout my own wings and challenge myself to live my own life.

I once smoked. I smoked for 22 years and at the end of it, I was smoking almost two packs a day. I couldn’t breathe. Really. I woke up every single night, several times a night with my hand pressed against my chest, trying desperately to take in some air. It sucked. It sucked so bad that one day I decided that not breathing was worse than the pain and difficulty of quitting and I stopped.

So my job sucks. And that’s okay. I’ve been kind of drifting along complacently, writing, and playing on Facebook, and half-heartedly marketing my books. I’m not very good at marketing, is what I kept telling myself. (That takes us right back into negative self-talk and self doubt, which are other demons to conquer, but that’s another story.) So I drifted and I lived an amazing life of travelling and hanging out with my friends and moving around and doing whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it. And then, the royalties started to dwindle and it came time for me to get a “job.” Which leads me to where I am now… in a job that sucks.

Here’s the part where I can reframe my perspective and find gratitude for the suckiness. You see, being in a cubicle in a job I hate is so far removed from who I am that I can’t stay there any longer than is absolutely necessary. And here’s where it gets kind of fun. Hating my job has led me to being way more active in self-promotion and working toward my dreams. I’ve recently written an eight week class on Creative Journaling for Inner Peace and Self-love that I intend to teach at the local Unitarian Church. I have made contact with several local news sources, one of which actually responded with a request for book copies for reviews, and an interview for a story. Through that contact, I met a screenwriter who wants to read my first novel and talk about the movie options. And for the first time, I ordered books myself from my publisher with the intention of getting them out there to be read and reviewed. I ordered a video promo of “The Love Sucks Club” that I will put on YouTube. And I am making a video recording of me reading a funny scene from “Man Enough.” Some of this stuff may lead somewhere and some of it may not, but the important thing is that I am getting out there and working for myself.

Would I have done all of this if I wasn’t wanting so desperately to get out of my job? I doubt it. I had plenty of opportunity before, and I didn’t. So, sometimes suckiness really is awesomeness in disguise.

My friend Yvonne is fond of telling me that I should do just one thing every single day that is a step toward my goals. One thing. Her thought is that as long as you do that one thing, no matter what it is, you have made positive progress toward living your dreams. She’s right. One little step every single day still means I am moving forward. And moving forward means moving out of suckiness and into awesomeness, which quite frankly, is where I belong.

To commemorate the birth of my newest novel and the embracing of suckiness in all of our lives, I am giving away a copy of “The Love Sucks Club” to one random person who leaves a comment on this blog.

 

EDITED: The winner of the book giveaway was Lisa Hurt. Thank you everyone who stopped by to play. And Lisa, let’s chat so I can get your information to send you a book.

Womyn’s Space and Michfest: Promoting what I love, not bashing what I hate.

There has been some struggle and controversy over the long standing tradition of one of my favorite places on earth to remain a woman born woman space. People are now trying to take away this space, to say that womyn who were born womyn do not have the right to gather together. I don’t understand this debate. We are not haters. We are not bigots. We are simply womyn. Womyn who have struggled many years with abuse, womyn who fight patriarchal privileged on a daily basis, womyn who are called sir in public, womyn who are subjected to wolf whistles and catcalls on the street, womyn who want to be in a place of safety and love, and womyn who just want to have a great time with other womyn – and we gather once a year for a week long womyn’s music festival in Michigan. It’s called, appropriately, The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

This festival has been suffering some damaging blows from people who are so het up about the intention to keep this womyn’s space for womyn that they sling insults and hate campaigns at the musicians who are chosen to play at fest. As a result, some musicians have dropped out. I don’t fault them for this. I think they didn’t understand the torment they would suffer when deciding to play.

Sadly, all of this warring is putting my safe space, my beloved fest in danger. I don’t want to lose my safe space. But I am not a fighter and I am not a hater. I am about love. Long ago, I had a dream in which a friend’s deceased mother appeared to me and told me to “paint love on my forehead.” I’ve spent the time since then doing just that. I put love out to the universe and the universe has given me love in return. I am not cheap with my love. I spread it around and try to bring joy and happiness to everyone who comes into my world.

So, in trying to protect my safe space, I’m between a rock and a hard place. I don’t want to jump into the war, and yet, I think it is beyond important to make a stand to protect something that is nothing but good.

I decided that the only way I could fight was to follow my own preaching and to promote what I love instead of bashing what I hate. Instead of arguing with the people who want to tear down this place of love and healing, I am going to describe why I love it in hopes that I can convince other womyn to go and experience it for themselves.

Fest is a place where womyn can walk down a wooded path after dark alone without fear of being attacked. Fest is a place where a woman can wear whatever she wants and not have to worry about being raped, nor suffering the aftermath of hearing, “Well, look at what she was wearing.” Fest is a place where womyn who have spent their entire lives hearing that they aren’t pretty enough or thin enough or subservient enough start to realize that all of those “enoughs” are a fat lie designed to keep them insecure and in fear of how they measure up. Fest is a place where a woman can do yoga in the sunshine, meditate in a field, take a group journaling workshop, wash dishes in a baby pool, throw a tomahawk into a target, watch a movie under the stars, walk hand in hand with other womyn without being looked at strangely, laugh, cry, dance, make love, smile, meet new friends, drink copious amounts of alcohol, not drink any alcohol at all, sit quietly under a tree without being disturbed, sit around a campfire singing songs, learn how to shoot a bow and arrow, and fall asleep to the far off beating of the drums.

And there’s also music.

And hot showers. And healthy meals lovingly served three times a day. And gorgeous smiling womyn everywhere. And love.

Fest is for any woman who has ever been afraid. Fest is for womyn who haven’t yet realized that there is a place that for one week, they can be completely themselves, no matter what that entails. Coming to fest is akin to sinking into the world’s most comfortable armchair, only the arms belong to your sisters and they are there to help you heal from a world that doesn’t want you to have a place of your own.

Fest is about love.

Fest is about love and healing.

Womyn need this place because womyn spend their lives loving and healing others and fest is the place where they can come to be loved, to be healed.

And I love fest. I therefore ask all of the womyn born womyn in my life to consider making it a priority to come to fest just once to experience the love and safety and healing for yourself. You can save fest while saving yourself.

It will change your life. It changed mine.

In Fact, I’m Terrified

I have a confession to make. I’m not perfect. I know, most of you will find that difficult to believe. I mean, between my incredible good looks, my charm, my wit, and my awe-inspiring humility, I get mistaken for perfect a lot.

But there’s something pretty important about me that most people don’t know and I’d like to open a dialogue about it. I get panic attacks. I am actually in the midst of one right now. I’ve had panic attacks for probably fifteen years. Sometimes, they come for no known reason. Sometimes, I can point to too little water or too much caffeine combined with not enough sleep and a racing heart that leads to paranoia that I might be having a heart attack. Sometimes, I can reason myself into thinking I know what caused it and promise myself to take steps to rid myself of them forever. Panic attacks are the main reason that I quit smoking cigarettes in 09. I read somewhere that smoking makes them worse. I don’t know if that is true or not. I know that when I smoked, I was having more like a panic attack at least once a month, and now they’re more like 3-4 times a year, but that could have a lot to do with other things going on in my life at that time, as well.

Physically, this is how I feel: My lungs feel too tight, like something heavy is sitting on them. I can’t get a full breath, not one. When I concentrate on trying to get a full breath, my lungs feel like they’re going to explode. My head is pounding in a not-quite painful sort of way. It feels as if there is a hand on my brain, squeezing it, causing me to get dizzy in waves. Sometimes, the dizziness goes away for long enough that I almost think it’s over until it slams back into me causing a fresh wave of tears and heart palpitations. Of course, all of the crying clogs up my nose, making it even harder to breathe. My mind can’t stay on any one thing. I can usually throw out a blog post in about twenty minutes. This one has taken forty-five minutes so far because I have to stop every few minutes to sit up and take stock of my physical condition and spend several seconds trying to convince myself that there is nothing physically wrong with me, that I’m not dying, that I don’t need to be rushed to the emergency room.

Emotionally, it’s worse. I’ve made a practice in the past few years of living my life in joy and gratitude. Even when I have the occasional grouchy flare up, I’m usually able to cajole myself out of it by counting my blessings and reminded myself of how lucky I am to have all that I do. During a panic attack, counting my blessings doesn’t help. I feel scared and sad and on the edge and I waiver between full blown tears to abject terror that I am in the midst of a stroke or a heart attack to long, self-doubt filled bouts of anxiety that my daily Beth knows are logically unreasonable, but that my shadow self can’t put way.

My every day attitude is happy and positive. During a panic attack, I can’t get it back. I can’t bring myself back to the positive. I’m convinced that I’ll never finish my third novel, that I’ll be broke forever, that people will find out the terrible truth about me and stop loving me, that I’m about to die, that everything sucks right now and it will never be okay again.

In my real life, I think I am amazing. In a panic attack, I berate myself for *failing* in my self-growth. I think that I should be able to meditate myself back to normal. I think I should be able to get back into a good mood – that I should be able to bring myself back to the joy that I promote so heavily. I feel so dark and so down that I think that anyone who had to be around me right now would consider me a fake and a phony for putting off such a positive and happy vibe. All of that happy feels like a lie in the middle of a panic attack… it’s like, while I am in the midst of that, I can’t even remember that I was happy before this happened. I know I was. I was looking at pictures of myself with some of my good friends in Palm Springs last week and there is genuine joy on my face in every single picture. There’s a picture of myself and my friend from just yesterday, smiling and joyous.  I mean, in my brain, I remember walking into the house, throwing my arms around her, and laughingly telling her how much I enjoyed our twelve hours in the car. I meant it. I feel joy. I felt joy. And from past experience, my logical mind knows that when I get past this attack, I’ll feel that way again. But in the middle of an attack, it feels like I’ve lost it forever and that was it – I got my share of joy and now it’s over.

i was trying to explain it to my friend and the best I could come up with is this: It’s like there’s a battle going on inside of my brain between light and dark – and for the majority of my life, the light and glowing and happy fairy dust side of me is on top with its boot firmly planted in the dark side’s throat. Sometimes, though, the dark side gets out and the two of them battle violently. A panic attack, for me at least, isn’t a solid, unwavering thing. The physical and emotional symptoms kind of come and go over the time that I am having the attack…. so much so that sometimes, it is so long between bouts that I feel sure the attack is over and just as I start to see the light, the dark jabs back in and makes me feel worse because I thought I was so close.

It’s been an hour and a half since this attack started. I am mostly getting a full breath every time now. My heart started to skip a few beats about five minutes ago and I started to get anxiety that something was wrong with my heart, but I was able to talk myself down before I went back into full blown panic again. The sky is mostly blue with a few scattered clouds, but it isn’t a storm anymore. This ending can be credited to my friend who, when I described the battle between dark and light said,” I thought all authors have that. Isn’t that why they write?”

Oh. Duh. So I wrote. This is a panic attack. I couldn’t make myself publish this ten minutes ago – I thought I was posting a deep, dark, and shameful secret that would change everyone’s opinion of me. But, as I’ve come further out of the attack, the real Beth is coming through… and the real Beth thinks that there are others out there who get panic attacks and might want to read about this. This is a panic attack. I get them. If you get them too, write to me. I’d love to hear other people’s stories. Maybe together we can stomp out the darkness. Or at least make the patches of light bigger.

Love and Healing – Michfest 2013

It has been just about a month since the end of this year’s Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and I am finally sitting down to blog about it. The fact that I haven’t written about it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about it. In fact, I think about fest every day. I send messages to, text with, and talk to other festies every day. But every time I have sat down to start writing about it, I’ve been overwhelmed by the barrage of memories that I want to somehow get down. beth and jes the line

Last year was my first fest. Yes, I was a virgin. I went in with no expectations and experienced a world beyond my dreams. I found a place where womyn of every size, color, age, shape, etc can find acceptance and safety. I found a place where I could be myself, where I could find laughter when I wanted it, tears when I needed it, music when I wanted to dance, hugs when I needed contact. I reconnected with my BFF and soul sister, Kim. I met new soul sisters. I experienced what was, for me, a complete validation of everything I had been working on for myself since the end of my last long term relationship. That is, I am a loved and lovable woman and I am strong enough to live my own life on my own terms. Pretty powerful lessons. My life changed after last year’s fest. I had a magical year. I think I can say that the year between fest 2012 and fest 2013 was the best year I have ever had in my life.
Fast forward to fest 2013. I’m an old pro at this point. I totally know what I’m in for, and I am ready! Of course, I know my fest experience is going to be made a bit easier this year by the fact that my dear friend Jenny is bringing a tent, air mattresses, all of the stuff needed to cook and make tea, chairs, tables, food, etc. All I had to do was show up with my sleeping bag and my clothes and help her set this stuff up. Easy peasy.

ImageLast year, I set out to do *EVERYTHING* I could possibly do. Yes, I want to see that band, and I want to go to that workshop and I want to learn how to throw a tomahawk and I want to go go go until I can barely stand to keep my eyes open another minute. This year, I decided to just relax and go with the flow. I went to a couple of workshops and I went to a couple of concerts. Jenny and I went to the dildo olympics where I was proud of myself for throwing the dildo javelin thirty-five feet until the next person threw hers sixty feet and the record holder walloped hers a full eight-five feet. That’s a hell of a dildo throw. I went to a meditation and journaling workshop. I lounged in the grass at day stage listening to music. I did my workshifts, both of them, in the main kitchen. There is something soothing about helping to feed thousands of womyn…. the nurturer in me cherished the idea of helping to set out meals for all of my sisters. The camaraderie of sitting around hot, soapy water with other womyn as we told our stories and listened to each other was the embodiment of what I love about fest.

I relaxed at the camp site with Jenny. Sometimes we were alone, sometimes we got visitors. Sometimes we were invited to go off to see some music or visit someone’s camp…. sometimes we went. Sometimes only I did.

Most nights, after a day of workshops or concerts or meeting new womyn, I got on my then girlfriend’s shuttle and sat on the engine block and rode with her for her last couple of rounds of the night. After, we would lay a blanket out on the ground in a field and watch the stars or talk or kiss or just quietly enjoy each other’s company.

Last year, fest was an education for me. This year, it was about relaxing and enjoying the fruits of those lessons. Last year, I was introduced to the radical concept that womyn are amazingly powerful. This year, I affectionately watched that concept in action. Last year, I was starry eyed and awed and dumbfounded and a little overwhelmed. This year, I was proud…. Proud of myself for how far I have come in a year. Proud of the womyn who put together this incredible festival. Proud of Lisa Vogel who had a vision and made it come true. Proud of the girls who have been raised in an environment where they can see the future of who they can be, combating the ideas that are often forced upon them by the media and school and other outside influences that womyn have to be a certain way and smell a certain way and act a certain way in order to fit in to the societally proscribed paradigm of a woman. Proud of my friends for being part of making this space where womyn are safe, where we can walk in the woods alone after dark and not be afraid of anything. (Except, if you are me, spiders.) Proud of all of us for understanding that in this world, it is still important for womyn to have a place where we can go and be womyn without expectations, womyn on our own, womyn who have been raised in different environments, with different socio-economic backgrounds, different family structures, but with one common denominator… we were born girls and we were raised into womyn and sometimes the lessons that came with that development were painful, but we are in it together and no matter what else the world throws at us, at least we know we have this last bastion of safety and love and healing.

I don’t know what this year will bring. It’s hard to imagine anything being better than the growth and healing I experienced after last fest. But I am coming into this year as a new woman, as a woman who loves herself and believes in herself and who knows that whatever I decide to do in life will be the right thing for me because I am worth that kind of self-love and consideration. Fest gave that to me.

See you in August.

Well, here we go again.

So, I’m back at the day job. I have to admit, when I left last fall, I didn’t think I would be back. I think I kind of halfway expected that I would be a famous novelist, living in a quaint and cozy (but fully insulated and close to cool things like meditation groups, thrift stores, and Trader Joe’s) log cabin in the woods, working on my third or fourth novel, living in a completely satisfying, but not too ostentatious manner on the regularly rolling in royalties.

Well, that didn’t work out. Things happened…. like my van dying in Illinois while on a road trip and needing to buy a new car. Little things like bills. And the fact that I was kind of floundering about how to even market my charming and engaging first novel. Don’t get me wrong, I love “Man Enough.” The reviews were fantastic. Old, churchy straight people loved it. Young, transsexual twenty somethings loved it. Middle aged moms of gay people loved it. My friend’s grandmother loved it. It won an award. I was invited to speak to a couple of groups. I even did an interview. But… Well, it just didn’t hit a wider audience. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of how well “Man Enough” sold for a first novel. Very proud. And I’m proud of the fact that I even wrote a novel and got it published. And I am proud of the fact that my second novel is coming out in a week. And I am proud of the fact that I am midway through my third novel and already making notes for the fourth. I’m proud. I’m happy.

But then, dammit. I’m working at a grocery store again.

Still, I feel as if I’m moving forward. Small steps, day by day. My publisher has gotten our books into a couple of bookstores and is working on more. We are looking at setting up a couple of signings. I’m going to Dallas for the GCLS literary conference in June. I have a radio interview in a couple of weeks for a lesbian radio show in Madison, Wisconsin. I just hired a wonderful daughter of a friend who sent out press releases to one hundred sources in hopes of getting reviews or interviews.

One step at a time, one book at a time. One interview at a time. One conference at a time. And in the meantime, I need a steady paycheck to help pay the bills and buy dog food. (For Brutus, not me.)

Is it a failure? Not at all. Is it a step backward? Well, maybe. But it is a necessary step that will lead to more steps forward. I am on a journey to follow my dreams and sometimes journeys involve turns and forks in the road, and sometimes, you have to make a u-turn and drive back the way you came for a while, and that’s okay, because the main thing is not how long it takes me to get to my destination, but the fact that I even started the journey at all.

If there is one thing I have learned in the past couple of years is that the best way to get what you want in life is to be grateful for what you already have. I am grateful. I’m more than grateful…. I’m blessed. I’m blessed with a love of writing. I’m blessed with loving and beautiful friends who are my soul mates. I’m blessed with an amazing mom who not only let me move back in with her, but who constantly watches (and spoils) my dog when I make my frequent trips out of town. I’m blessed that I am not afraid to try.

Don’t be afraid to try. I guess that’s the biggest thing I’ve taken from this whole adventure. If you want to do something, just do it. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve done so much more than you would have done if you had never tried. So, I am keeping my heart and mind open. I’m setting my intention to the universe. I want to be a writer who lives off of her writing for the rest of my life. And I want to put out progressively better books and articles. A movie deal wouldn’t come amiss, either.

No matter what happens, though, I am going to keep my heart filled with gratitude for what I already have and for what I have already accomplished. I am going to keep moving forward without trivializing what I have in the present. I am going to live mindfully, while allowing for reaching for my dreams.

Seems as if I have finally achieved a beautiful balance between living in the moment and preparing for the future. That, my friends, is a lovely lesson indeed.