Old Wine & New Skins

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I’ve put off writing this fine piece. You might have noticed that it’s coming out late, and I really don’t have an excuse other than I’ve been muddling, processing, and attempting to make sense of a strange encounter I recently had. I’m going to do my best to tell this true, honest, and well, but I won’t lie the idea already makes me quake.

Because last week I basically had someone hold up a mirror to my insides and tell me to take a good hard look. She saw through me over and over and over. In the course of two hours I had a perfect stranger lay my shit bare. I suppose you could call this a unique experience. Especially, when this is person is a writer you have fawned over and followed since they first started publishing words to a page. And god. It was good, and hard, and I cried a lot. And I’m not the crier in my groups. You know the one I’m talking about. The one who cries at commercials, and puppies, and lifetime movies. I’m not that girl.

But when a stranger is filling up your computer screen and you’re supposed to be talking writing and strategy, and instead you find her gently ripping off every band-aid on your heart, only to reveal gaping holes you thought no one could find – well, you cry. And wonder what is even happening because you’re pretty sure this wasn’t what you signed up for. And before what now feels like a therapy session even ends you feel yourself rapidly replacing the tiny little blocks she had just broken down because you don’t have the faintest clue how to process what just happened.

Let me back track.

The writer in question is Hannah Brencher (HB). If you follow her words, then you know HB has worked tirelessly to grow in authenticity and candor in her writing. What appears like effortless authenticity and vulnerability is repeated bravery put down on paper.

HB skimmed my most recent post, failure is not a four letter word, started to smile a few paragraphs in, and tapped her fingers against her face as she spoke, “I see what you’re doing.” Her words told me something I already knew. I have never known how to be the open one, but I am damn good at appearing like I do. I write to capture what it is to be human, but refuse to give you all anything of mine. I hold my fists tightly on the details of my own experience, and say it’s because I want you to be able to picture yourself in my words. I could scroll back through these pages and probably find not even one time I genuinely shared myself.

I never told you that I can write about heartbreak because I fell for a blue eyed sharp mouthed boy who was every kind of wrong for me and I for him. Or that I can sit over a steaming cup of coffee and talk about grief because I’ve lived in the dark place they call depression and anxiety. Or the gaping holes I mentioned earlier? Most of those come from deconstructing the conservative fundamental Christian worldview I grew up into and which then spiraled me into that dark place. That I’m just now admitting that even though I’ve come so far I need to open those wounds back up. I didn’t even tell you last week, when I was hurrahing on and on about failure that I was drowning in stress and controlling coping methods because I didn’t get a graduate assistantship I was counting on, and now I have no idea how I’m paying for graduate school. Or how about that I’m now in a better relationship than I ever imagined I could receive.

I hide away because all of this was mine to know, not yours. And even now. There are a thousand stories inside these tiny words I’ve just handed to you.

HB somehow saw and found all of these tender spots I just splashed out on this page. We talked about things I haven’t talked to anyone about because I’d prefer to act like they aren’t a part of me, or how I got to where I am. But she helped me to know something I’ve been purposely avoiding for awhile.

I need to put myself back into my writing. All of me. And that isn’t easy, but it’s real.

And so, I will be taking baby step after baby step toward allowing my own voice and experience to scribe these words. As someone who loves words, it is by far easier to hide behind them than to use them to put myself on the line, but that’s the new goal.

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Failure is Not a Four Letter Word

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I consider myself a recovering perfectionist.

Right up until the moment that I fail. In that moment, I don’t want to stay with my feelings, or grow, or use any other fantastic coping skill I may have acquired. I want to take all those feelings and shove them so far down they can’t resurface for at least a good year or two. Step two involves deleting all signs of said failure because heaven fucking forbid other people know I’m human and failed at something important. Cause you know, no one else has ever had disappointments. Oh wait, we all do. But never mind that, we hide it. And snap pictures and tweet clever blips of only our best and brightest moments.

Yesterday, I had to grieve the loss of something I thought I wanted. But within seconds of losing it I knew I had only wanted it for the security. I felt relief tinged with loss. And then I gave failure and shame the power instead of what I knew was true. I was embarrassed and wondering how the hell I was going to make things work now. What was originally a freeing moment quickly turned into a paralysis of fear and a rapid firing of emails to people who could possibly point me towards a new opportunity.

Because we have given failure a shamed based power in our stories.

And god, if we never failed we would never end up even near where we need to go. Do we ever consider that failure is quite possibly divine in its own right? That failure is a cosmic get out of jail free card because honey, you were so not meant for that path, and trust the goodness of what is beyond us to take out of our hands what we were never meant to hold.

Before the realists chime in, I’m not talking about that opportunity you muddied up because you didn’t put in the time and effort so it slipped right through your unprepared fingers. No, I’m talking about the opportunity you fiercely latched onto because this had to be it and damn if you wouldn’t make it work. Maybe it seemed perfect. Or maybe, your intuition reminded you gently it wasn’t, but your logic said it did. not. care. because look how perfect it is on paper. 

And oh Lord, you would think by now we would know that what looks right on paper, what sounds like it should be the absolutely positively perfect next step according to our fear based little thoughts is really just that. One giant perfectly planned reaction to fear and shoulds.

Personally, I’d rather write my story through listening to myself even when it doesn’t make sense because honestly, if you’re really listening it isn’t always going to make sense. Actually let me rephrase that. There will be A LOT of times it doesn’t make sense to other people. And I’m learning to be okay with that. I live in my skin, not them. They can do them and I’ll do me. They can let fear and should and shame run the show if they’d like, but I’m done playing those games.

Today I’m choosing to believe a better story. A story which says I sidestepped something never meant for me in order to open my hands to something golden.

Caitlynhummel.com

Blotting Out the Backdrop

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I’ve said this before, but I will always deeply deeply cherish the bonds I have with the women in my life. But lately, I’ve noticed something – we speak so highly of valuing ourselves because we are strong and we are sure of our fire. But then my eyes drift past all our actions and I see this story painted out in grey behind us. I’m not sure if it’s the real story, but it’s there setting the backdrop. A story we don’t want to give words to because we want to blot it out and pretend we’ve never been mumbling the words to ourselves all along.

Independent and kicking life’s ass as far as the world can see, but coming home to take your heels off and wondering, when you get to just chill at home and watch Netflix with someone by your side because you’ve never had to learn how to be alone with yourself. One more perfectly edited picture in that LBD and you’ll believe that you don’t care. But maybe if you stayed still long enough you’d remember how wonderfully weird and funny you are on your own. You’d find yourself enjoying the nights of lounging by yourself in the middle of the bed and sipping your favorite cuppa tea.

Maybe life spat you out this year.

Every last possible thing which could throw you into the mud did. And then life ground it’s six inch stiletto in deep just in case you missed the point. But you’re still here. You dug your nails in and clawed and clung with every last sinewy muscle in your tiny body. You’re tired and feel like you’re barely even crawling with no end point in mind, but darling, you’ve been swimming against the current for so long, when other people would have just given in and floated down, down, down. The end is so close in sight – it’s time you sing a song of change and hope because you are all the better things that are yet to come.

Held down for years you don’t know how to stop, and even the words slow down make your heart beat faster in a frenzy. All you know is the push, the drive, the will to overcome everything in your way. After all, it’s what has gotten you this far… But the hands reaching now? They aren’t looking to tie you down, or throw water over your fire. No, these are the hands of people who hope to kindle and blow breaths of life onto those flames, but their words will be honest and sometimes hard to hear. Will you let them help?

Your words come out like honey and you know just how to lift the dark veils on people’s eyes. How to reach into their dimly lit places and start a tiny spark. But what about your own dark places? The ones you won’t let us see. You’re afraid of the fallout, not being what people think you are, and worse the feeling after you let someone in. The dreaded waiting and hangover of a thousand feelings pushing you down. How do you know we won’t meet you there? The same place you’ve met us so many times and told us we are never too much, but just enough.

Yes, you are just enough to us friend.

So many paintings casting shadows on who we really are, where we are, and the journey forward. Turn around, take in this dark backdrop, and then look a little closer. The paint is flaking and tears litter the canvas, where you started to pull it down because heaven knows you’ve tried. Running a hand over the paint you can see the colors are fading because you’ve stopped dabbing new hues to give it life. Tug the corner and rip it down, or grab a bucket and toss a fresh coat over the whole damn thing, just know that you need to do the thing. The scary thing of doing a new thing to end up somewhere else. Turn the corner, turn around, run a little faster or slow down, make the choice to change so that you want to frame what’s behind you instead of blotting away the words.

Holding On & Letting Go

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Deadlines knocking with their loud abrasive sound and begging to be remembered.The multiple inboxes with their growing number in the tiny red bubble. The text messages read but left unanswered. Projects growing dust, when just weeks before you had so diligently kept ahead. Emotional outbursts from seemingly everyone have left you drained, tired, and without motivation. Frankly, you’re wondering how you will do this for a full time job as an empath who tries desperately to not take on other’s emotions, but sometimes they’re strong enough you can’t shake them. You’re sleeping, but no, you’re not rested. Your dedication to working out three times a week, which you were so proud of was left behind with that wicked virus, which put you under the blankets for three whole days and then two weeks of recovery. Actually, to be honest it’s still lingering in coughs and sniffles. Did I mention there’s a bruise on your forehead that is extremely attractive? And then you drift to the fact that next year you will be balancing all of the same things except with multiple graduate level classes and everything grows a little foggy around the edges.

Somebody tell me I’m not the only one.

The only one snatching and stretching outreached fingers at passing time to try and squeeze a little more out of it. As if you could take hold of the watch wrapped around your tiny wrist and wind back the little knobs to find reprieve. Just a few more hours with a wee burst of energy and you could catch up really, you could.

Today I planned to get up early; attack this pile up of I’m behind on everything, and take over the world like we do every day Pinky. Except for the first time in my life I slept straight through my alarm. Sure, I sleep with earplugs, but I still hear every last noise around me. Thanks genetics for my super sonic hearing (you know who you are, mother). I woke up at 9:30, which is you know, late for me, and felt like I was already behind on the first day I’ve had in weeks to get back on my feet.

But now I’m sitting here and I’ve gotten through the inbox, which had grown fangs and claws, and I’ve cleaned up some drafts, which are due to other sites. I’m nowhere near done, but I’ve been thinking. I created my timelines on writing projects such as my book to benefit ME. They weren’t supposed to hold me captive and plunge my head under water, when the rest of life kept me from giving them their blood money. And hell, what kind of crap am I going to produce if it’s not coming from my core, which is so necessary to producing words with life. So I’m taking a cue from some friends, and trusting that rerouting my timeline to create the story I wanted to all along is worth the pain of letting go of a June deadline.

But how often do we do this? Cling fiercely to something, which was meant to help us, but is now hindering us all in the name of productivity or whatever else is your vice. We cling to past loves, we grab hold of new people that act like last year’s heartbreak, we see cycles, but don’t understand why. We stay in friendships, which leave us muddied from playing the doormat. We stuff down words and hurts because we are convicted this makes us stronger than the rest. We can all fill in the blank for something we instinctively grasp for, or maybe you can’t because it’s unconscious and all you know is something isn’t working.

What I do know? This leaves us tired and worn and fraying around our edges. My favorite writer, Hannah Brencher, wrote something the other day and it’s stayed with me. And I can’t find the post (my inbox has teeth, remember?) so I apologize for the paraphrase: life is just a metaphor for letting go. What do you need to let go of? A person? Old hurts that keep ripping you open over and over? Unrealistic ideals? I bet it’s nipping at you right now and you don’t want to look it in the eye. Because we all know the ripping of letting go. How bittersweet the hurt is and the hangover of knowing you can’t hold the thing you’ve lost any longer. Let it fall anyways.

Let it fall like rain on a hot summer day.

Because so often we let go only to pick things back up right before we’ve finally made a clean break. You’ve been pushing and tearing through the all the brush only to turn around, when if you had just kept going the woods cleared a little ways ahead. We turn around because it’s familiar. Because we say we can’t help it. Because dropping everything holding us back is scary and hard and takes us new places. But what if you made it through? Through the woods and into the clearing where you can finally see.

What would you do there and how would you feel?

New Beginnings

Do you feel it? The change sifting through the cold wet ground and heard in the squeaky sounds of life sleepily opening its eyes for the first time in months. The inhale of air and recognition of the subtle shift stirring around you.

I can’t help it. Every year this happens here in a land where seasons are so starkly contrasted and I feel the anticipation lace from my stomach and catch in my throat.

I am a child of the sun. I’ve always known this. Thinking back, I don’t have a single memory of winter as a tiny child, but countless flood at the thought of summer. Then during the worst years, the ones I look back at and am grateful I’m still here, I would remind myself things would get better if I could just hold out till that first breeze blew. Words that were paper thin, but I held them anyways. And even now in the midst of a beautiful even if hard year I still feel the excitement build as the light lasts a little longer.

The sun plays and so do I. Secret lovers with only so much time to spare. The heavy layers slip wayside and I can finally stand tall with my head thrown back just laughing, daring whatever it is to come. All the dead branches of winter falling away as green growth shoots into sight. I let my own dead things drop as well, hoping, waiting, expecting only the best in this sweet time. Winter may be held together with grit and clenching, but summer drifts past in a soft haze I wish I could grasp a little longer.

I feel bare feet scorch against the ground and smile against the heat. Here with waves of heat shimmering in the air I feel weightless and effortless all at once. The person I wish I could be year round, but only emerges with the rest of the summer things.

I almost feel bad for the ones who live in sun kissed spaces year round. They’ll never know the sweet relief of the sun dancing across your face after only ice and bitterness for so long. Or the strength of surviving the longest darkest season that exists. Or the thrill of rolling down that window and feeling the world open up all around you.

Tell me you can feel it now too. The new beginnings waiting to be poured out and painted across the page. The hope for something different something lighter.

Caitlynhummel.com

Creating from Your Core

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The wisps of an idea settle in because I’ve let myself turn inwards and hear the sounds around me. The air inflates my belly and pushes my ribs outwards past their natural stance. I’m no longer looking frantically at anyone else’s work or words. I’m peering down a hall dimly lit towards my own self.

Here is where I find my own golden pools. The ideas that ripple gently outwards because authenticity colors the waters.

I see the already painted landscapes of what I’ve been longing to create. I take note of all the colors and try to hastily script some notes. But as soon as I start to struggle my vision begins to fade. I begin to scramble even more, but then remember to pause, and let everything flow. Only then do I see the colors dabbed and brushed back into place.

I forget so easily that this is where I need to return. A place, which can seem miles away, but is truly only a few breaths and stretches from my outstretched hands. Instead I sit with tense shoulders turned inwards, and thoughts racing as my chest becomes tighter and tighter. The truth I’m after floats in a haze past my mind’s eye and won’t bring itself to life in this ruckus. It knows I would squeeze the life out of it here. But I know the idea is there because I saw it dancing past, and so I struggle harder and harder until something snaps me from my pursuit, and brings me softly back to myself.

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Some of you may know I’ve been working on some behind the scenes kind of projects lately. A book. Relaunching this space so it looks and feels like the community we are creating. Designing new features for the coming site. Planning a wedding. Grad school. Work. And you know, life.

I love every single one of these projects. (And don’t you worry, I will be tellin’ you alllll about them soon enough!) But here are some fun facts about Caity: I’m an INJF and 1w2 (MB & enneagram). In other words, I’m an introverted, creative, hardcore perfectionist with the shorter end of the patience stick. Yes folks, I am a real treat. The point though is I know how hard it is to stay in the creative feel good zone (rainbows and unicorns OH MY) and out of the holy shit this is never going to come together and if it does it’ll never be good enough zone. Delicate balance and all that.

Why is this important?

Because none of us create good content out of an overwhelmed frantic state of mind.

I’ve done it. Pushed through the racing thoughts and shallow breathing to simply get it done. But I’m never happy with the end product because it didn’t feel right and it didn’t come from my core.

And honestly, this doesn’t just apply to us awesome creatives in our dingy little writing hovels. Just kidding, my room is totally cozy. And littered with coffee cups. But I digress. This goes for people in the 9-5 (or however late you torture yourself) world as well. People aren’t doing their jobs, and you’re behind on a million things, and holy shit have you seen my inbox count? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

And so now you’re like gee, thanks Caity for pointing how overwhelming all of our lives are! You are WELCOME! But here’s the cool part, it’s so easy to bring ourselves back into focus. You know how your mom used to tell you to count to ten, and you were like mom go away I don’t want to count to ten! Well this isn’t like that. Much less annoying.

So you’re sitting at your desk, and you’re going to place your feet about hip/shoulder width apart. Firmly root them on the ground. Let your shoulders drop and stop trying to shove them into your ears. (maybe that’s just me, whatever guys) Now breathe in through your nose, and fill your belly (extra points if you can fill up through your lungs and push the lungs out horizontally). Now hold it people. Okay, now let the air flow back out through your nose. Rinse and repeat.

Okay okay. I know this isn’t groundbreaking, but that’s kind of the point. This is yoga 101 for a reason. It seriously will immediately lower your heart rate and calm your body though. You can even learn to turn inwards (mentally) as you do it, and hot damn you’ll be doing great.

This my go to trick – what’s yours?

Caitlynhummel.com
 

In Between Land

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In between can happen at anytime.

You walk along with life making as much sense as it ever does, and then it happens. Your ankle bends a little to the right, and you wonder why the ground is giving way.

Looking down you realize the ground isn’t quite so solid after all, and your feet are quickly fading from sight. The descent feels slow though and you panic as you glance around. Ankles slide under as you take a breath, but now the sand is around your waist, and you’re flailing in your efforts to grab onto to just about anything. You fall through the hole with hands wildly reaching only to hit the ground in surprise with a thud.

Welcome to In Between Land.

Maybe you haven’t fell down the rabbit hole to this not so far off land yet, and no one has darkened your ears with what it’s like to be in a place where you aren’t really anywhere at all.

Well, let me be the first.

You’ll start out so assured. Assured of all you know and where you think you’re going. And then one day all those answers, which filled so many pages, don’t seem to fit quite right. The road in front of you doesn’t seem so straight anymore either. In fact, it appears to curve to and fro never settling in one certain direction.

Oh you know when you’re livin’ here alright.

You don’t care if you go backwards or forwards it doesn’t really matter because you aren’t sure you’ll even find your way out. There aren’t any signs or blinking neon lights to guide you home. No, it’s just you and all the surrounding space. Street lights and google maps don’t exist here, friend, so go ahead and put that phone down now.

You start to wonder where you were supposed to have turned in order to avoid this catastrophe of a place. Because surely, this land was never a part of the journey. A misstep. A bad turn. Nothing more than that. Could have been the turn at that old pine a few miles back. Yeah, that’s probably it. You finally see a sign in the distance and get closer only to realize it’s just mocking you with its blank face.

Flopping onto the ground in frustration, you think maybe you don’t even want to go where you had planned to go anymore. It’s not where you were meant to go after all. But then again, you’re half way there, and someone seems to have taken fire to all the maps going anywhere else.

And where the hell did this forest of trees come from? Trees so thick you can only see a few feet in front of your nose. They really aren’t helping matters. If someone, anyone, could just tell you where to go you would kiss their feet, and give them all you have.

You just don’t want to be here anymore. A place where nothing is clear, and you can’t seem to wrap your hands on anything before it just slips away.

Every step forward proves to be the wrong direction, but you keep trying anyways because there are only so many paths, right? Or maybe you’ve frozen. You’ve planted that ass in one spot like your mother taught you to do when lost, and you aren’t movin’ until you know where to go. Problem is nobody’s going to tell you. Because you’re the only one here remember?

You aren’t afraid of the journey. No, you would do anything to get where you need to be. But no one seems to know where that is much less how to get there. And so you sit in this place. By yourself. Waiting and hoping that something will give, and that you’ll be able to feel it in your bones when it does.

And even though it feels like forever in a sunless topsy turvy kind of world I promise you won’t be there always. The secret of In Between Land is in its name. It’s only in between. There really is another land to venture into in front of you it just hasn’t made itself known yet, but it will in good time. (I didn’t say in your time I said in good time.) So scour the land while you’re there cause I’m betting you’re learning and finding all kinds of things even if it isn’t what you were looking for.