Friday, September 6, 2013

The Smell of Rot and Orange Rinds

Hello there. It's been a while.

I only intended to be off of my blog and Facebook for 40 days, and that 40 days ended over a week ago. When the time came for me to come back and tell you all something about my time off, I found I didn't really have anything to say. I wrote blog posts and discarded them because they were trying to hard to prove something. So I waited some more, becoming increasingly concerned that inspiration had not struck.

Inspiration still has not found me, so I guess I'll go ahead and just give it a go.

I don't have any deep thoughts for you. Time out of the internet social network was the same as time in it, except quieter. I honestly expected that I would have some kind of spiritual epiphany, as if I had gone up into a cave for a month and waited for God to speak. That didn't happen. Sure, I had several useful thought-processes and made what I think of as some discoveries, but I remain very much as I was.

More so, in fact. I find that fact a little embarrassing.

Right now—as I am writing—something in this house has gone terribly bad. I can smell it every time I inhale through my nose. It is, judging by the odor, either some very rotten milk or a dead cat. I have searched for the source of the smell in vain for several days and I can't find it, so instead of looking, I am boiling orange peels and cinnamon on my stove.

And this sort of sums up everything.

The things about myself that I don't like just keep on stinking up the place. I am insecure, self-involved, and prone to fits of anger and depression. Still. I wonder, all the time, if I am hiding this well enough, underneath the smell of cinnamon, and if it smells as bad to you as it does to me. I have frequent moments of peace and I think I have found The Answer, but, once the water boils away, the smell still lingers on the air.

I am stuck with it. And I think it might be fear.

Writing a memoir is very unsettling. Or, at least it was for me. I don't regret having done it, but it hasn't been easy to do. Taking the intimate truth of my humanity and putting it down for others to read takes something like courage, and I am not sure yet if it's a courage that I want. I'm not sure yet if I am ready to be criticized—not just for how I write but for who I am. I am not sure I am ready to read internet reviews that make me feel like all the cinnamon and citrus in the world cannot hide the odor of my truth.

This fear is not unreasonable. The internet can be a bit cruel, don't you think?

In my book, I wrote a chapter about middle school. (Remember middle school?) It is called "Forsaken," and it is about feeling that no place in the world was safe, that everything about me—even my trying to be different and better—was fuel for others to torment me. It is about losing my faith in a world that loved and wanted me. Perhaps it's about losing God. When I was twelve and thirteen, there really was nowhere safe for me to turn to. There was no real respite from the pain. It lingered on me, festering, until I learned how to treat myself with alcohol and drugs and then later with the 12 steps.

This is relevant, because I find that the social media world often feels a great deal like middle school to me.

In dealing with this, I have focused entirely on the notion of courage, on boldness, on shameless truth-telling. I believe in all those things. I truly believe that there is nothing in that memoir I need be ashamed of and that it contains a great many things  to which others will relate. So, I have plunged forward, over what felt like a quietly mounting hysteria, and prepared to give it to the world. I have thought about selling it, about revising it, about making it the best version of me that it can be. I have buckled down and striven to do my best.

It occurs for me only now that this may not be very healthy.

I find that the person who wrote that memoir needs a safe place she can turn. Before she opens herself up to the universe, inviting anyone—no matter their intention—to take a look, she deserves for her feelings to be known. There needs to be a spirituality that can hold her, a circle of friendship that can sustain her, and a real choice to go forward.

She needs permission to turn back.

I find it's easier to empathize with my own needs when I think of myself as a daughter, someone whom I love unconditionally and whose feelings, no matter how large, remain important to me. And if I had a daughter and she was scared and vulnerable and hoping for courage she wasn't sure she had, I'd give her permission. I'd give her space.

So, I am doing that.

I am waiting and I am learning whether I can be with myself, whether I can see all of I have written, and all I think, as the story that is and not as the one true case about life. I am not going to send it out into the world until I can sit with myself in silence and be comfortable with what I find. I think I owe that to myself.

So, thanks for being patient with me. Right now, my work as a writer requires more mediation and less courage, more quiet, and less of my own commentary.

I need to divest myself of my fear-based desire for acceptance and popularity.

I wonder if any of you can relate. I wonder if anyone else is learning to have self-compassion and sit still. If you are, and you are willing to share about it, I'd love to hear from you.

I have other things I want to share with you, but, for now, I will just say: I missed you. Drop by and say hello.


  1. Your words are a wonderful popup rain shower this morning, washing away the humidity and stickiness. (And I understand that might be a Midwestern reference, not a Southwestern one.)

    But I stick with the analogy. It is lovely see your gorgeous words in print once more. I've missed you.

    1. Thanks, Nicole. It feels very nice to have been missed.

    2. And it goes without saying that I have missed you, too!

  2. I'm glad you're back! I'm not the one to give you answers, because, while I can empathize, I never went through the kinds of experiences you endured in your childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. My problems are involved with the present - getting old and arthritic, striving to get people to buy and read my books, and being frustrated. But I think you always sell yourself short and I say, keep at it! Maybe you should turn away from the self-analysis, write some more of those elegant and entertaining posts about your homelife and gardening and raising chickens and other pets, and work up an anthology of those! It would provide experience in publishing, and it wouldn't be so gut-wrenchingly revelatory. And it just might sell, too!

    1. It's funny—there are a lot of those garden and home life stories in my manuscript, believe it or not. Of course, even those are never really just about gardens and kids and cooking. :) I will have to see what next presents itself as worthy of being written. Your confidence in my writing is always appreciated, Lorinda.

  3. I can relate to the smell. Usually it means something died behind the walls, but once it was meatloaf I left in the oven for two weeks.

    You completed a book. That is an achievement. Now go write another one. As long as you continue writing, what you wrote is of value whether you choose to publish or not. You will be a character in everything you write. As a writer, you're not one person -- you're many. Be critical of and have compassion for each one individually.

    1. It turned out to be beans that had gone bad! I even sniffed the container they were in, but nothing seemed awry until Mike stirred them up and found the source of the funk.

      It is an acheivement. It still needs some revision, but I did it. I completed a book! That's a lot of words! And I even think I have another one starting to shape up. So your advice is well-taken.

  4. I have missed you too! So glad you are back. As to your book, I think it takes incredible courage to just put the words down on paper or a computer screen even if no one ever reads it. You are exposing your soul, digging out details that you may not have even known about yourself until you read the words. So take your time, live with it a while and see how you like it. Also, what you said about practicing self compassion and sitting still really resonates with me. I have always struggled with being alone in my own head. I fill my days with music and audiobooks and my nights with the babble from the TV. I hide in works of fiction and dwell in realms of fantasy whenever possible. I jokingly say that my own head is a scary place, but I'm only 1/2 joking. It is scary in here! I am trying though, trying to turn my focus inward, trying to take a good look around and see what there is to see. Trying to learn who I really am. I'll let you know if I ever figure it out! :)

    1. I can relate to so much of your description of your head here, Tamara. For me, I think that things are louder and scarier BECAUSE I've been asking myself to be mindful and aware. It seems like there are parts of myself exposed that I never knew about before. I just read a great book by Pema Chodron (a Buddhist nun, called The Places That Scare You. In it, she describes the process of becoming awake and all the things you will encounter along the way. It made me feel much better to see it all on the page—not particular to me. And it reminded me that I am actually right where I want to be.

      It is good to see your smiling (virtual) face again. I've missed you, too.

  5. Yeah, Middle School Cafeteria. Everyone trying to establish a pecking order with them on top. Some go the Internet Tough Guy route (or Horrid Bitch for you ladies). And it is so much easier when there are hundreds or thousands of miles between you and your target.

    The only thing you can do is not take it so seriously and back away like you did.

  6. So glad to see you writing here, Tara. Reading and listening.

  7. Tara, It was wonderful to see you pop up on Facebook and I'm glad to be back reading you here.

    And yes, you need to be ready to accept the haters...and the lovers.

    Silence is good. But remember to listen.

    I am struggling with a transition in my life. So I'm trying to be silent and listen, but every fiber of my being wants me to just keep swimming because in my world action is better than stillness.

    Anyway, we struggle on, hoping for wisdom. And courage. To find our way.

    1. "Remember to listen."

      That is excellent advice. And "just keep swimming" may be motto even when I'm doing nothing but wasting energy and kicking up the surf. Floating is a skill I've never really learned. I am really trying to learn it now.

      So good to "see" you!

  8. *hugs* It's good to see you back, Tara!

    Learning to have self compassion and to sit still.

    I've been working on this for the last few years. I wish I could say it is easy, but for me it hasn't been.

    At first I focused on being able to slow down my pace, which seemed impossible at first, but this was fairly easy once I got the hang of it. I still overdo things at times, but not nearly as often as I used to.

    Having self compassion is a little harder for me to fully grasp. In theory it is simple. I do know I am worth as much as anyone else. I do deserve as much as everyone else. In reality I keep tripping and falling into the same ditches again and again.

    Lately I've started to wonder if I go about it the wrong way. I've wondered if perhaps I am some kind of enabler. Maybe I am so used to taking responsibility for everyone and everything that people around me relax and act careless, because they know I'll come along, picking up the slack. They know I'll be taking care of things. I think I enable them to say things like: "Oh, she's always been like this, I think it makes her happy"

    I certainly don't want to be that person, but I don't have any quick solutions how to turn the tide without compromising who I am.

    I have been told I need to be more selfish. The thought scares me. I probably put meanings into that word that are loaded with a lot of negativity.

    Instead I have focused on taking better care of myself. I have health issues like you and instead of working on being more selfish, I am working on being a better nurse for myself. It actually works for me, even though it is slow going.

    I have also worked on how I communicate with the hubby. I think I got the idea from one of your blogs, where you wrote in words how you felt and you let your hubby read it. I struggle a lot with expressing myself vocally about how I feel, etc. So I did as you, I wrote hubby a letter expressing myself in written words without interruptions. It hit home and it worked wonderfully well. We have now agreed to me doing this again and more often.

    I hope you find a solution that works for you, Tara. If there is anything I can do to help, let me know. If there is anything you need to talk about that you don't want to be in the open in a public blog, contact me on facebook message or on email

  9. This self-compassion and sitting still thing is something I wholly, firmly believe in. I'm just not sure how to DO it (or not do it, as the case may be). I applaud your self-awareness, though, and wish you well on the path forward with your memoir whatever direction it goes from here. It's a tremendous accomplishment in any case.


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Faith in Ambiguity by Tara Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License