It dawned on me this morning that much of my life I’ve spent pretending things are okay when they weren’t okay. It probably started when I was four, when I had a pretty big secret to hide. I go over that quite a bit, so I won’t rehash it here, but suffice it to say, I started pretending at a very early age that things were okay and I was normal.
And you simply cannot be normal if you’re not okay. That’s the narrative we all perpetuate, right? It’s not a hero’s journey unless there’s a happily ever after. That’s the only thing that can make not being okay, well, okay.
Needless to say, I got used to hiding behind my shell very early in my life. To me, this represented strength. Never let ’em see you sweat. You’ll never see me cry. If I get knocked down, I’ll get back up on my own, thank you VERY much. I don’t want help. I don’t want pity. No before and during pictures for me, buddy. You’ll only see my successes, because THAT, my friend, is how I validate my existence.
Yet, things have rarely ever been okay for me. I can think of maybe one six-month span in my 47 years that felt “right”, without that much of a struggle. Everything else? I’m in the deep end of the pool, fighting not to go under.
Most of that has been because of financial instability, which I’m sure I don’t have to tell you is the pits. You don’t get a lot of peace when you’re beating off wolves at the door, and I’ve never really been ahead of the wolves – except for 2014, which I finally got a little bit of a foothold.
That wouldn’t last, which made all the other crap even crappier. Struggling relationships, a brutally low self-esteem and, well, life, would remind me yet again that I wasn’t meant for the easy life, no matter how hard I worked for it. Something somewhere had to go awry to remind me, again and again, I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t normal.
But you never saw me sweat. You never saw me cry. You saw what everyone around me has always seen. I come back swinging, because fighting is easier. I get mad, because I never want to show how vulnerable I feel deep down. I’ll pull myself up by the bootstraps, broken and bloody, and keep on keepin’ on, because that’s what I do. I’ll show up for work. I’ll take care of my family. I’ll meet and crush deadlines. I’ll wow people who’ll never know how fucking hard it was to leave the house, or to smile when I really wanted to cry. They’ll never know my first impulse has always been to hide. They’ll never know how seriously I’ve contemplated giving up entirely, cuz GODDAMN it’s exhausting running a race when the finish line keeps moving.
I’m not okay. Okay?
In fact, I have to wonder if I’ve ever been okay. All my life I’ve had this nagging thought that this isn’t the life I’m supposed to be living. It doesn’t fit. Like a shoe a size too small. I can get by, of course, but I’m not fully comfortable. I know down deep in my soul it could be better. *I* could be better.
Getting from here to there, however, has been a magic trick I haven’t yet mastered.
I follow self-help gurus. I listen to all my smart friends. I pray. I meditate. I can spew positive affirmations like a demented parrot. And generally I put good advice into motion. I do the work. I’ve never been afraid or unwilling to do the work.
Yet here I am, spitting distance from Year 5-0, and I feel like it’ll *never* be okay because the span of not-okay-ness has lasted for so long.
And yes, I know what you’re thinking. Happiness isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. Don’t sweat the petty stuff and don’t pet the sweaty stuff. If your life is so dissatisfying, change it for fuck’s sake.
This ain’t my first meltdown. I’ve had some humdingers. I got through those, I’ll get through this. I’m just tired of pretending things are okay when they’re not. I’m tired of keeping up my “image”, whatever the hell that means, when the whole reason I was able to step into the lane of what my life SHOULD look like was by ripping open scars and bleeding for the world to see.
I’m not the only one who feels like this. I’m not the only one who sells 40 hours of their life away, on the treadmill of life with obligations and ruts galore, who eats a freaking cheesecake by themselves every now and again, or drinks wine by the gallon, or spends way more money than they make just to indulge in a little retail therapy so they can finally capture some kind of bliss. Everyone wants to feel okay even when things aren’t okay.
I’m not alone. Somewhere out there is someone just as unhappy as I am, aching for someone brave enough to change the narrative so that they can feel okay even if they’re not okay.
So I think it’s time to rip open some scars. I think it’s time that I admit things aren’t great. I’m unhappy. I’m nowhere near “normal.” That doesn’t mean I’m not working on it. It doesn’t mean I’m giving up on it. It just means I’m not there yet and I recognize that.
And hopefully…. hopefully… I’ll find that secret hidden door that will lead me back to the life I know I’m supposed to be living.
I’m going to be blogging more often. Not a lot, because right now I’m working a full-time “regular” job as well as writing on nights and weekends. Though my dream abandoned me like a newborn on a firehouse stoop, I haven’t given up on it. There have been some significant strides forward as a matter of fact, in ways I didn’t see coming. I was recently hired to write a screenplay based on a real story, and it was the first “real” money I’ve made in my screenwriting career. No $10 option, we’re talking a five-figure paycheck.
The wolves took most of it, which was depressing beyond belief. I vault back and forth between, “Glad I had it or else we’d have been SO SCREWED” to “Really? This is all I get to enjoy from the biggest ‘win’ of my movie career?” No paying down bills or buying all those things we’ve been putting off, no breathing room – just paying down a handful of predatory loans that had been eating up almost all of every paycheck, essentially making sure I work for free despite being paid well above minimum wage.
The day after I got hired to write the script my car got towed, sinking me a couple thousand more dollars into debt before I could even get the first check. This has been my life the last couple of years. (And it SUUUUUUUCCCKKKSSS.)
Worse, it doesn’t matter how hard I work trying to correct it, I keep getting sent back to poverty jail – do not pass Go, do not collect $200. I work my ASS off, both the 9-5 and my writing career, and I’m still fighting for every single dime. I need to make more. I work hard enough to earn more. Yet, life. Hard choices. Sacrifices. Endless, endless compromises. Yet no matter what I do or don’t do, the wolves breathe down my neck.
And I’m not okay.
Recently my son Jeremiah got engaged. It was the one thing I could wrangle out of my windfall and I made damned sure I made it happen. We went to Vegas. We had a good time. We didn’t go crazy. We were modest spenders. But we got to “live” a little bit. We got to “be normal” for a few days. I know how to make Vegas happen on a shoestring, I’ve done it enough in my life – including my very own wedding there in 2001.
Because of this we’ve decided to go back on the year anniversary of their engagement for their wedding. I found a great deal. Totally workable. Totally doable. I can make the dreams come true for BOTH my kids, both Jer and Brit, his fiance. (I’ll never get tired of saying that.)
But I want to make some changes, obviously. Not just with the money, which has to happen in order to fund the nuptials, but I also want to gain some mobility. I’m tired of being limited by what my larger body can (and can’t) do. I may never be a supermodel. I wouldn’t even want that job. I just want to be able to walk and stand and, y’know, live. I’m okay with getting older, but I really resist the idea of getting old. I want to be the kind of mother and grandmother who can jump right in there with her kids and grandkids, who will ride the rollercoasters and do the ziplines and stay out all night, matching them moment for moment.
I don’t want to miss a thing.
I can’t do that at my size. My body has been working against me for more than a decade now, and I’m tired of the aches and the pains that sideline me. I’m alive for a reason, I want to live, and this ain’t livin’. This is getting by, while putting on a brave face that I’m okay with all the new limitations being this age and this size has put on me. I can’t sleep at night because of the discomfort. All the activity I try to include in my life leaves me feeling more tired and older and less mobile. I get sick way too often. I hit walls and barely have any stamina left to scale them.
I’m not okay.
I’m not asking for help here, by the way. I’m not waiting for a hero to fix it. *I* am that hero. *I* can change it. Despite starting and stopping the weight loss thing quite a bit, the successes I’ve stacked up in my life are impressive, especially since it’s never really been “okay.” From the time I taught myself how to ride a bike when I was nine, I’ve beaten every limitation between me and what I wanted. I went from straight F’s to straight A’s in six weeks, just to earn an album. I wrote a book when I was 14, just because I wanted to prove I could. I wanted to live in Southern California since “Three’s Company,” and here I am. I’m barely holding it together some days, but I’m here. I wanted to be a published writer and I made that happen, too. I took a blank screen and created almost thirty published novels, which people have bought and people have loved despite being overlooked by an industry that didn’t think I had anything to say.
I wanted to write movies and I was just paid a nice little check to do that very thing, impressing those “in the biz” with my skill to bring a shared vision to life.
In fact, as I see it, the only thing holding me back from true success is, well, staying hidden. If people can see what I can do, they’re blown away. I don’t impress people by being “normal.” I impress people by being extraordinary. The fact that I can pull ANY of this off when NOTHING else seems to go right is freaking amazing.
This next year is a work in progress, not just in my career, not just in my personal relationships, but in my overall health and well-being. I’ve decided to show this journey, mistakes, missteps and mishaps and all. I’m going to be vulnerable, because there’s nothing wrong with being imperfect. It’s perfectly human. In fact, we’re way more imperfect than we could ever be normal.
Normal is the illusion that everything is okay. And it’s not okay.
But that’s okay.
This is Day One. I’m only aiming up from here.