Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Laryngitis of the Soul - 3rd in a Series

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
We are headed into deep water, so be prepared? If you think the toddler swimmie you grabbed from the local drug store last summer to keep your youngest afloat will do the job in the days ahead, rethink things now. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

This series is about a writer who contracted laryngitis of the soul and lost her voice. I told you that. I told you professional bloggers with much Google-fu advised me to lose the fraidy cat and rebrand.

I want you to know I admire, respect, and appreciate their advice. Given their understanding of analytics, SEO, and branding, they make a valid point. If I embrace my inner fraidy cat, brands who wander by here may tend to shy away.

In embracing who I am, I diminish my validity and marketability. I may as well have a big ole ‘L’ for loser right across my unprofessional forehead – especially if I miss a comma or two here and there at three in the morning. I get that. I do.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative 

So, when I left the shores of Captiva behind, wheelbarrow loads of conference speak buried me neck deep. Those words mixed and mingled with where I was in life until I lost my confidence, my courage, and my belief in myself.

I became overwhelmed with the need to do more, better, faster and to master everything at once. The urgency of it all became more than I could bear. I burned out before I really got started.

I mourned privately and lurked on my professional blogging groups. I pinned blog minutia and supported the shiny, spit polished platforms others were creating. 

I thought, “One day, I’ll need this and get back to it. Oh, who am I kidding? At the rate technology changes, by the time I get back to it, this info will be obsolete.”

I had to have weekly immunizations for envy and jealousy as my blogger friends met and exceeded goal after goal while I tried to think of one I could set.

Before I knew it, six months had elapsed while I tried to pretend I was not a writer and that I’d never had a blog to begin with. I don’t mind telling you, it was pure agony.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

And, in those months of quiet, my private life became even more chaotic. A hard fought for marriage kept slipping more and more out of reach no matter what I prayed, what I did, or who the counselor was this time.

I think I realized how close the end was the first time I heard Christina Aguilera and Great Big World sing, “Say Something”. I can’t remember the last time I cried til that moment.

I don’t think I even cried in the fifty-six numb days between life and death when my courageous, conscious, fully lucid mom lingered on a ventilator.

But that song, that song, reduced me to sobs that would not stop for hours on end. It was as if all the tears I had not cried in almost twenty-five years found their voice on the wings of that song and would no longer be silenced.

And, this my friend is where my story stops being one only writers can identify with and becomes one for any fraidy cat who has had laryngitis of the soul. 

If you know me, you know I am a person of hard fought for, down in the dirt wrestling, sweaty-ugly faith. If you are just meeting me – I’m not one to sugar coat things about my faith. I hope that won’t set you back too much?  

I know there is a God who cares, and I don’t think he is the one that sits on Bette Midler’s ‘distant shore’ watching me with cold indifference.

I do understand the irony when I turn around and say I am not always sure where he is showing up in my story. Shoot, a lot of the time I wonder if he is aware of my story at all. There. I admitted it.

I was having one of those nights of arm wrestling with God. The house was quiet enough to imply my two insomniacs had finally drifted off for good.

The debris of the day was scattered around me like a World War I mine field. Mocking me. Reminding me I had bills to pay, boxes to pack, school to plan, cabinets to paint, one-hundred other things that one person simply could not do alone, and a marriage in the last gasps of death.

The soulful strains of “Say Something” gripped me by the heart, and floods of tears drenched the computer keyboard. I don’t know why I wasn’t electrocuted.

Yes, I know it’s a secular song, but as that song filled the room, I cried out to God. “Look at this mess. Do you see me? DO YOU SEE ME? It’s humanly impossible. Do you see?”

And into that forsaken misery it seemed a whisper filled my heart:

Yes. I see you. I know your circumstances are untrustworthy and have been for as long as you can remember now. I know you cannot depend upon the earthly one who promised to be the most dependable to you in the entire world. I get that. I do. 
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Now I have a question for you. In the midst of everything that is untrustworthy, do you trust me with your untrustworthy circumstances? Do you?”  

Well, I told you this journey was not for the faint of heart and that drug store swim wings were not going to be sufficient. I told you this is a story for anyone who had ever suffered from voice stealing laryngitis of the soul. Believe me now?

I see you, fraidy cat. If you are longing to come in from the cold, you are welcome here. You don’t have to explain a thing. I get you. I do. Love you long and strong. See you soon?

Isaiah 33:2 (ERV)
Lord, be kind to us. We have waited for your help. Give us strength every morning. Save us when we are in trouble.

Click below to follow the series: 
 Part 1 and Part 2   

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

When a Writer Loses Her Voice – Part 2 in a Series

(Stop! Before you do another thing, look to the left and subscribe to the blog? It’s the only way you’ll see all the posts in order of appearance. And, I’ll sleep better tonight if I know I am not alone. Ahhh. There now. That’s better.)

My head was a hurting, spinning mess as I stumbled up onto the shuttle to head home. My heart and soul were in worse shape.

I was torn between two lovers: the desire to use the one thing I have left to earn a living (words) and the drive to be true to who I am and to the one who made me (Christ).

“Can it be that hard,” I wondered, “to figure out who I am in the midst of the expert voices telling me whom I ought to be and how to be me? Oh, why did I ever get so high and mighty as to come to this conference?”  

That’s where this story gets trickier, messier, and, I hope, more compelling. It wasn’t what the ninja bloggers said or how they said it that infected me with laryngitis of the soul.They were just the unwitting petri dishes in which the virus mushroomed and took over. 

The beach slipped away, and my desperation deepened. I drank in the view trying to imprint it all and fortify myself for what was coming.

Past, present, and future swirled in a vortex. I closed my eyes and saw her - a little girl welcoming her parents home from the beach. It was winter and prime shelling season. I dug down deep into the bag anxious to see the treasures hidden there. 

I shrieked, threw down the bag, and jumped away from the warmth of the fireplace. “What’s in that thing?”

My mom chuckled a little and said, “I’m not sure. What happened?”

My fraidy cat was on high alert when I peeped into the bag before I reached. Two starfish had twined tightly around each other. I guess it was their last dying gasp after so many hours without life giving salt water.

The bus jolted, and little girl me was gone again.

I looked over at my California bound friend. Trying to cram a year’s worth of that ‘thing’ between long distance friends into less than an hour’s ride, we exchanged bits and pieces of hurried conversation.

She is brave and beautiful and knows about the broken places when God is up to something that must make sense in Heaven but makes no sense when you are living through Hell.

I wanted to say, “I’m the starfish, and I’m running out of time,” but, time had run out. I hugged her hard wishing osmosis between us would fix my broken places.

And then, I was alone to contemplate my brokenness and the laryngitis of my soul.

If you have come here expecting answers in five-hundred word bullet lists of ten easy items you can check off on your lunch break while you manage your Twitter and paint your nails, it’s time for you to bounce.

Answers to our deepest longings are not stumbled upon in the ADHD fractured musings of our high octane lives.

And, if you know me, you know I do not pounce on and conquer a story before the commercial break. I sneak up on the story from behind and end up taking us where I did not know I was going until we all get there together. I live dangerously like that.

If you get me because I get you, I hope you will come back again soon. Invite a fraidy cat friend you know who has lost her voice and can’t figure out where to find it.

I think I can keep writing if you keep coming back for more.

You may wonder why I end many of my posts by telling fraidy cats they are welcome here. I tell them this is a safe place to come in from the cold.

I do so because it’s hard for fraidy cats to feel welcome in this Pinterest perfect, have-your-best-life-now televangelist drenched world.

You are welcome here. I see you. I pray for you even when I don’t know your name or your fear. I get you. I do.

Click here for #1 in this series and for Part 3.

Ephesians 2:10 (NRSV) For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

If Facebook is where you want to keep track of this community:

1) Go to Facebook and search for Confessions of a Fraidy Cat.
2) Hit ‘like’ on the upper right of the COAFC page, so it registers a check mark.
3) Click on the ‘following’ button right beside it, so it registers a check mark as well.
4) Watch for the COAF posts in your newsfeed. 5) Come check my page if Facebook doesn’t send me to you?

Love you long and strong. See you soon.

A Fraidy Cat Without a Voice

What do you call a writer who lost her voice? I didn’t see it coming, but it didn’t come as a shock either now that I am looking in the rear view mirror of life.

The voice stealer had been circling me at a distance. I could feel him out there like a wolf circling pray in the dark of a winter blizzard. I was edgy. Hyper-vigilant.

I kept moving thinking I’d out run him, and everything would be fine.

It was last year this time. I was on a lovely resort in Florida traipsing around alligator and python infested golf courses in the dark. That’s what friends do when they are lost on a resort in Florida, I guess.

I was with writers and bloggers the likes of Michael Hyatt, and I was a pretender.

I was pretending that life was o.k. and that I was one of them or would be shortly. Months later, a sweet friend from Alberta inboxed me, “I sensed heaviness about you when we were all at Captiva. I knew you were not ok. I am praying for you.”

I made myself scarce while trying to network and connect. It felt like even more of an oxymoron than it sounds.

My marriage was in tatters. I was newly separated and numb. It was hard to put on a pretty, successful face when the whole world felt ugly and cold and scary.

And, I was far from successful at anything. I couldn’t even succeed in my own private life.

A high powered blogger sat down beside me. She keeps a professional distance and seems impatient when dealing with me. I was prepared to give her the needed space to allow me to emerge unscathed.

Courtesy D. Scott
She turned unexpectedly towards me. “You,” she sniffed, “need to stop calling yourself a fraidy cat,” as if I had publicly branded myself with a scarlet ‘F’ for brand failure.

I sank lower in my seat. I don’t remember much of what she said after that. Not that she said much more.

Her words echoed in my ears and mixed with words I had heard a few months earlier from another high powered blogger. You know, the kind who makes more in a month than I made the last year I worked full-time.

“People don’t care about that inspirational stuff you guys write. They want stuff that tells them how to live better cheaper. If you want to make a living, bump the inspirational stuff and write the how to’s.”  (Loosely paraphrased, mind you.)

All those words got mixed up in my head. My throat, my writing throat, got scratchy and dry. The word stealing wolf was upon me.

Courtesy A. Hughes
I was the last appointment for an obviously weary blog consultant widely known for his Google-fu. He makes a substantial living traveling and consulting, and I had finagled five minutes of his time.

I was scared to death. Already quaking because of the other two voices in my head that had made my throat scratchy and dry.
He turned his lack-luster, ‘is it the end of the conference and can I go home now’ eyes to my new web page. The one I still haven’t launched a year later.

His look became quizzical. “This is the best website I’ve seen all day. The absolute best. Hands down. Why do you call yourself a fraidy cat? You, my friend, are certainly no fraidy cat. You need to stop calling yourself that,”

He began to play around with my brand because he has earned the right, with his considerable Google-fu, to do so.

I was even wearier than he – only my weariness had been growing for a life time not just forty-eight hours. So, I smiled a smile as ineffective as worn out dishwater, and said simply, “Oh, but I am.”

And just like that, in the middle of a conference that was supposed
Courtesy D. Ahola
to empower me to blog *more better and enable me to make gobs of money, my voice abandoned me.

(*Apologies to all the grammar nerds for my obvious misuse of language. Take a pill. You’ll survive. I’m sure there are instructions on how to do so on Pinterest.)

If you are a fellow fraidy cat who used to follow me or a new one who has just discovered me, I want you to know – I get you. You don’t have to explain, justify, or qualify.  All fraidy cats are welcome here.

I think I found my voice again. But, I will be a whole lot braver if I don’t have to figure it out on my own. So, would you come back again? Maybe tomorrow? If that’s not too soon? 

If you know me, you know there is more to this story, and I'm not thru telling it.

Love you long and strong. Even when I didn’t have a voice to say so.

Ephesians 2:10 (NRSV)

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Find Part 2 here.