I’m 32 and also living paycheque to paycheque

I read an article today on #HuffingtonPost titled I’m 37 and living paycheck to paycheck. As I read, I realized how familiar the author’s story was. You see the pressure to go to events to support friends and loved ones is real—even more so during the holiday season. Many of us are just one or two unexpected expenses away from not making it.

This year we had to replace a furnace to the tune of 6000.00. (We DID get a rebate and it decreases our heating costs…but that’s a huge chunk of money that was supposed to be spent over time on other house related things.) Then, we chose to keep the cat that came with our house. This meant that he needed to see a vet pronto and get all his shots, that was 300 bucks…shortly after that appointment he required an emergency visit for dental issues and some other stuff. We decided to try and save him (to the tune of 1200.00). This all happened during a period of time where Olivia was indefinitely laid off from her long-term job and I went back to school for my final year. Our budget was tight! Then, Olivia found some work, but now it’s winter and she’s facing another potential lay off.

Due to the lay off over the summer, my minimum wage job just covered expenses and we were not able to save anything. This is the reality for most folks. What’s more is most folks don’t have the ability to put unexpected expenses on credit. We thankfully did, but now we have balances to pay each month on our already taxed budget.

Please know I’m not sharing this to whine, but for the folks who find themselves in a similar situation. We see you. You are not alone. If all you can do this Christmas season is to tell people how much you love them, please don’t feel guilty. AND if you’re hard up for food, reach out—there are plenty of resources available in Nanaimo where we live (and other communities if you’re not from here), and you can always come to our house for a modest dinner if you live close by. The challenge is to escape the shame of poverty. If so many of us are (or have been) in a similar situation, why are we reluctant to be honest and to access resources available to us?

This year when people ask what we want for Christmas we have two answers. First, we cheekily reply home depot or PetSmart gift cards (because the cat and the house are eating all our money). Second, for those who are closest to us, the reality is we need time with the people we love that has no financial cost…this can even include gas costs. We’d love to come to see you, but we can’t afford the gas bill—we need it to get to work.

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Doubt: Watch Me

Doubt is a nasty germ. It creeps in subtly when things are going well and begins to breed in the background. First, it will show up disguised as rational thinking. Should I really be doing this? I know ________ is more qualified at __________ than I am. We begin to compromise. Before long, we avoid the things we once loved—things we know we’ve been good at before—for fear of failure.

I struggled for two weeks to write a short story in October. I am in fourth year of creative writing and have published several stories, poems, and non-fiction pieces. I was long-listed for a prestigious literary competition and have won prizes for my promise in writing. I’ve been paid for not only my own content but to create pieces for others’ websites as well. I’ve been solicited for publication from links I’ve shared on Twitter and been hired out for events due to my creative prowess. All this is true and I still struggle to create.

I’m not trying to humble-brag. If anything, I’m trying to remind myself that I am extremely talented at making something great out of thin air and sheer will power. I have three novels in progress but am terrified to complete them. What if they aren’t good? What if I publish them and only sell ten copies? Worse, what if I publish them and someone expects MORE? Doubt is a jerk.

I say to look doubt right in the face and say watch me.

When I finally buckled down and quit the debilitating habit of self-censoring, I produced a short story in under five hours that is already receiving positive feedback. It’s even spawning the idea for a chapbook of short stories unlike anything that is currently being done. It just might be that accidental best idea I’ve ever had. It was full of typos and a little rushed—I was outrunning doubt after all, and we all know doubt is a marathon runner.

That thing you love, that you miss, but you doubt you’re good enough/brave enough/_________enough to take it on again—it misses you. Tell doubt watch me. You’ll be glad you did.

Wind

a gentle breeze

morphs into a tempest

where trees once

danced and bowed before a

dormant power

they dig their roots in deeper

anchored—they sway drunk

on the wind’s power, unable

to stand upright

a lonely boat rests in the

harbour at the complete mercy

of a wild master. Wind

shows up when and how

it wants, breathing life

into old sails. Nothing was ever

conquered by sea without its permission

a multitude of stagnant days wait

for perfect conditions

Wind goes where and when

it wants, wild, ruthless and free. It kisses

the faces of lovers and uproots

the strongest trees

nothing is unknown, untouched

by wind’s eyeless gaze

it can freeze a thousand oceans or

ignite the fiercest blaze

Wind is love unsettled

it is love untamed, it’s a fiery

passionate lover and a gently

warm embrace. It’s frigid

and consuming, touching

everything in sight

it keeps the fires burning

between lovers

in the deepest darkest night

the earth’s breath kissing, moving

over the surface of the sea

the power of my love, the wind, at

the very core of me.

let me steer your ship

as I churn the seas

let me dance in the forest

among your greenery

let the leaves cry out in jubilation

at the thought of me

the brilliance of an arid power

found in their revelry

by breath will fan their desire

as wind caresses skin

I am taken in

What I didn’t know was missing

Sitting, rather, laying on top of my patchwork quilt yesterday, I said, “Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until you have it.”

I’ve always been an independent person. I was the strong-willed child that knew what she wanted, the edgy teen who didn’t take flack from anyone, and the travelling idealist looking for a place to put roots down—in her own time.

Over the past few years, I’ve begun to do just that. I’ve met more amazing people since moving to Vancouver Island than I was prepared for. I’ve had the privilege of working with non-profits and social justice warriors to invest in the community and better the lives of lose less fortunate. I went back to school to pursue my passion, became established in the local writing community, started working full-time for the first time ever, and have a strong support network.

I was happily single. Free for adventures, late night talks, random road trips, and content with it.

Then, I was happily single and crushing hard on someone.

For all my bravery, moving to other countries with my clothes on my back, coming out as bisexual in a Christian church (subsequently losing what felt like everything), and coming back from nothing countless times—it was the single most terrifying experience to put myself out there.

I’ve had a history of barking up the wrong tree. People are beautiful. In my life, I’ve known some rare gems. They don’t see their potential, their impact on others, or their sheer brilliance. As an observer with my heart on my sleeve, I notice those individuals with the capacity for great love right away. I sat on it for a long while. I thought, this will pass and then I can carry on with my plans of graduating and work towards publishing.

Then, my good frenemy tequila intervened and I sent that notorious drunk text. Now, thank GOD drunk Cheryl isn’t an idiot. I didn’t say anything regrettable. It was literal liquid courage. I told her that I liked her.

What happened between now and then can only be explained as a miracle. Like, finally all the good karma I’ve sown is coming back to me. I didn’t know I needed to feel safe like I am with her. I didn’t know that I needed to feel beautiful even when my hair is standing straight up and I’ve got last night’s glitter and camping dust stuck to my face. I didn’t know that I needed someone to hold my hand while my heart broke for the pain of a loved one.

It’s funny how you don’t know what you’re missing until you have it.

What do you call a writer that doesn’t write?

For the last few months I’ve barely been able to catch up on life duties. We’ve all been there. Work, volunteer commitments, friendships and relationships new, old and budding. All of those events eat away our time. As finite beings, bound by the 24 hour clock, we can easily lose days, weeks, months, and sometimes years before we take the time to do the things that fill us up.

I’ve been challenged, with noble intent, by fellow writers in my community at my lack of wordsmithery. “Write a little each day, even if it’s not for sharing.” “Take time to write Cheryl.” “Have you been writing?”

Though I’ve not been writing, words, stories and concepts have been floating around in my brain. It’s almost as if I have TOO much in my heart and on my mind to make sense of it all. Though I am in the middle of an intense busy season, the events filling up my calendar are also filling up my heart. It begs the question, what do you call a writer that doesn’t write?

  1. Dreamer—Half finished poems and post-it notes clutter the piles of papers in my living room and bedroom. The poems are unfinished because the experiences informing them are still in progress. I imagine, when the Fall University Semester commences in just seven short weeks, I will have endless inspiration to draw from for my portfolio.
  2. Introspective—As a verbal processor, I see my emotions as a heap of jumbled words within my heart and mind. It’s essential to spend time untangling and sorting these words into the proper places in my internal storage space. (God I sound like a nerd.) With the new experiences and directions, I am taking the time to create space within myself, and my life, to place the moments and memories I am collecting. I suppose a photographer collects photos and sorts them, the geologist rocks and precious stones, the artist images and media—as a writer, I collect words, phrases and metaphors; all contained inward.
  3. Avoidant—The downside of enjoying oneself this much, I don’t want to stop, sit and write. Some folks can take a notebook or device with them and write wherever they are. I am not so lucky. I crave, NEED, down time to let down my guard, open the gate, and write from a place of vulnerability. I get flustered, almost a flight or fight response, when something interrupts this process. As a result, I avoid sitting and opening that avenue. Out of fear of being caught in a tender and raw place, I collect more moments, memories, and words than I can hope to handle like a hummingbird greedily syphoning a sugar feeder.

There you have it. I am an avoidant introspective dreamer who, on my best days, is a writer, and on my worst, a hot mess. Being absent from writing is a direct result from being present in long dormant portions of my life. Once I figure out this heap of heart words, you’ll hear much more from me. Until then, keep in touch and tell your stories.

 

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