Today I'm doing something different by writing about conformity as a tribute to one of the most brilliant artists of our time, Robin Williams, a man who truly walked his own path.
Conformity is the death of creativity. It kills passion and suffocates individuality. Perhaps it is one reason why people fall into the "land of the living dead," merely existing day-to-day and settling for less than extraordinary.
...settle for the guy who doesn't respect us because it beats being alone...
...settle for the job that we know is slowly killing our souls because it is the safest path..
...settle for a life of hiding our brilliant light because it may make us stand out too much...
...settle for a boring sex life because we don't want to appear to wanton...
...settle for the status quo because going our own way is just too damn scary...
Well, to hell with that! Shake off those cobwebs of mediocrity and embrace the magic of the world around you before it's too late.
...embrace the moment of watching a butterfly flit through the air without worrying about time...
...embrace all that makes you unique without once thinking about what someone will think...
...embrace the quirks about your lover that you fell in love with and overlook the small stuff...
...embrace today because tomorrow is not guaranteed...
...embrace those dreams you've brushed aside...
Reject conformity and find your own niche.
Before writing today's post, I thought about the word "Muse" in connection with Robin Williams. The man always seemed fueled by a higher power, an energy outside of himself that moved at the speed of light and drove him to create characters that will live in our hearts forever. He didn't conform to any stereotype and that freedom made magic.
Depression is insidious, however. It shows no mercy or discrimination. It hides behind the most brilliant smiles and the sheen of success. It is a disease that exists behind closed doors and silence. I hold out hope for a world that shows more compassion toward one another and less judgment, a world where it's okay to not be perfect, and a world where we practice acceptance of one another's imperfections rather than rejection for not fitting a certain mold. Yes, I truly hold out hope, yet sometimes it feels like I'm holding a candle in a hurricane.
Rest in peace, Oh Captain, My Captain! Thank you for sharing your gifts with us.
Amber Lea Easton
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Friday, August 8, 2014
Competing with a Ghost
"Dad would have done it this way..."
"Dad would have let me..."
Here's the thing: dad isn't here and I am. One of the most difficult thing of being an only parent is the comparison game. I know divorced parents deal with this too, but on a different level. They sometimes get played against one another...and so do we widows only our competition is a ghost.
It's easy to idealize those who've passed on. I'm guilty of it myself. There are moments I catch myself thinking about Sean and only remembering the good things. I forget his addiction...the insanity of it...the hallucinations and paranoia...the fear. It's easier to remember the good looking man with the smile who could ski and build anything. So it's no wonder that my kids, who were very young when they died, idealize a father they wish they'd gotten to know.
But as the one who's here putting up the good fight every day just to make ends meet and who's dealing with all of the challenges of only parenthood, competing with an idealized version of a man long gone is beyond frustrating. It's downright infuriating.
I lost my temper about this last week. I've been under a lot of stress working non-stop seven days a week and preparing for my daughter to leave for college. My son started talking about how "if only dad were here, things would be different and he'd be happier...He'd be able to go skiing as much as he wanted and he'd be able to get the skis he wanted because dad would be 'into' it."
I'm a downer, you see.
I'm the one who is here, the one who needs to be both mom and dad. I'm the one who needs to say 'no.' I'm the one who pays the bills and manages the budget. I'm the one who makes--and enforces--rules. I'm the one who 'used to be fun' but now works all of the time.
My late husband took the easy way out that day he hung himself. I have forgiven him--mostly--but there are times like these when I get pissed off. He left us. He left his two beautiful little kids who needed him to be here to take them skiing and every other thing he could have shown them. He abandoned his wife who once had a good and thriving career, but chose to stay home with the kids as part of our 'deal' as a married couple. Starting over sucks...especially over the age of 40 and especially when the bigger than life memory of the man we all loved looms over us.
I lost my temper with my son last week. I started yelling because his comments struck a chord of insecurity within me at the exact right time. I told him, "If you're looking for a hero, you're looking at her. I'm the hero. I'm the one who hasn't given up even though it's been damn hard. I'm the one who stays no matter what. I'm your fucking hero." Imagine that being screamed at the top of my lungs while waving a doggie toy around like a crazy woman. Yeah, I lost it.
Sometimes we need to lose it, just let it all out rather than trying to hold it all together. No one got hurt, not even the dog toy. My son looked shocked and just blinked at me from where he sat on the sofa, but he shut up about the blissful life he'd have if only dad were here. He's 16, by the way. He can handle the truth.
What-ifs and if-onlys serve no good purpose. All they do is make us believe in a fantasy that will never come true and make us question a reality that is actually pretty damn good.
I don't blame my son. I had a momentary blow up from stress and my feelings of losing time with my daughter (I'll write more about that next week). I have done the comparison game when talking to new men I meet. I hold them up to all the good qualities that Sean possessed and try not to remember the bad. Perhaps because he died I feel a need to honor the man I loved without tainting his image, but that's not okay. Not really. I honor him by remembering him as he really was, with all of his flaws, because I loved him so much that I still ache for him. He wasn't perfect, neither am I. No one is. I honor him best by remembering his human nature rather than an ideal I created from loneliness or longing. I have been guilty of holding new men up to an ideal that is truly unrealistic and unfair.
My son has done the same with me by comparing me to a parent he doesn't actually remember. He looks at photos and hears stories and conjures up a fantasy of the father he missed out on knowing. I can't compete with a fantasy. I'm too real, too flawed, too in-your-face to be mistaken for an ideal.
If I can't compete with a ghost, then it's not okay for me to ask others to do so either. Those of us who are alive, who are flawed, who 'stay' to fight the good fight every day, we are the heroes and, in real life, heroes are never perfect.
Peace to you.
Amazon (Universal link): getBook.at/FreeFall
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/H0QBCr
OmniLit (all ebook formats): http://goo.gl/QFZa7G
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
|Photo by thunderscry.deviantart.com|
Last week, I had an interview regarding my memoir, Free Fall, where the interviewer asked me if I felt I could have done anything to prevent Sean's suicide. (Obviously, she hadn't read my book or she would have known better than to ask me that!) I said, "No, I won't go there. I reject that idea. I've spent 9 years working through my survivor's guilt and processing all the what-if scenarios, and I won't entertain the idea of blame or shame."
But I didn't always feel that way...and still struggle with shame in other areas of my life. As a single mom and only parent with a daughter about to go off to college, I struggle with the idea that I wasn't "enough" for her. We've lived on a tight budget. I've had to say no to things other kids get to do. I haven't been able to give them as much I'd wanted when they were born. I've had my brother yell at me that I don't care enough about money and am letting the kids down--which adds to the whole I'm-not-enough struggle. Shame--she's a bitch.
I can rebound, tell myself I'm working hard, remind myself how much I've done; but there's always some measuring stick out there reminding me I'm falling short. So I'm breaking that damn stick in two and telling anyone who wants to judge me where I'd like to stick those pieces.
No matter how positive we are or how much faith we have, shame whispers its lies when we're at our most vulnerable. We all carry shame over something that limits us in the here and now. Perhaps we don't articulate it because that would mean being vulnerable, which is scary. It doesn't need to be as traumatic as surviving the suicide of a loved one or any other type of trauma. It can be shame over our appearance, our financial status, our marital status, our employment history, our parenting abilities...it can stem from just about anything, but it's limiting us from achieving our highest potential.
I've worked hard as a parent never to say the phrase, "you should be ashamed of yourself" to my kids. Instilling this notion of shame or guilt is wrong and we need to stop doing it to ourselves and to others.
How did I shake the shame over Sean's suicide, people ask, because that's a biggie. It wasn't easy. It took a lot of soul searching, some ranting, and forgiveness. Not only did I forgive him for his last act in life, but I forgave myself for taking him for granted among other things. You see, we both did the best we could given our ages and our life experience at the time.
I'm forgiving myself now, too, for not living up to those big dreams I had when the kids were born. I've done my best in a situation I neither expected nor deserved. Hey, she graduated and is a good kid--in today's world with all the temptations out there--I've done a pretty damn good job as a mom, even with all my screw ups.
I have someone close to me whose daughter is a heroin addict and she's playing the blame game about all the things she could have done differently as a parent. The truth is--she and her husband are great parents, put their child through college, and have been staunch advocates for their daughter. Shame whispers to them that they didn't do "enough".
What exactly is enough and who decides the criteria? I will no longer be a slave to feelings of inadequacy or the "I'm not enough" cycle. This is my life--the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful--it's all mine. I'm the only one who knows the reality of my situation; therefore, I'm the only one entitled to have an opinion on it.
Forgiveness always defeats shame, that's the secret. Whatever it is you may be ashamed of deep down--whether it's your appearance, an addiction, dreams you never pursued, promises broken or whatever it is for you--forgive yourself.
All the traumas in my life have given me insight...and writing material. They were painful. People can be mean. Life can beat a person up. It can also be full of wonder, compassionate human beings, and happiness. Yeah, life is complicated...so why make it more so by adding shame into the mix?
Forgiveness and gratitude are powerful forces that defeat the shame and "not good enough" mentality. As Maya Angelo wrote, "you alone are enough." You are. I am. Break free of that shame cage, spread your wings, and soar above all the lies that have held you back.
Be good to yourself!
Amazon (Universal link): getBook.at/FreeFall
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/H0QBCr
OmniLit (all ebook formats): http://goo.gl/QFZa7G
Friday, July 11, 2014
One of my favorite authors and one of the nicest people I've met in this business, Jo Linsdell, is stopping by on her virtual book tour. She's an expert in book marketing as well as an extremely talented author. Please welcome Jo Linsdell!
Welcome, Jo! Can you tell us about your latest book?
How to be Twittertastic is a writers and authors guide to the social media site Twitter. It covers a bit of everything from how to set up your account and personalise your profile to third party apps and getting the most leverage out of your tweets. It's also packed full of useful resources to help you make the most out of time and marketing efforts.
How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the book?
I got the idea for the Writers and Authors Guide to Social Media series a while ago but as I was working on illustrating some children's picture books for clients and was also busy publishing a children's picture story book of my own (The Box) and so I didn't have time to develop the idea right away.
A couple of months ago I decided that Twitter would be the topic of the first book in the series as it's the site I use that gains the best results. As soon as I had some free time I started brainstorming and plotting out a rough table of contents. It didn't take me long to know what I wanted to write.
What inspired you to write this particular book?
I'm a real social media junky and often get asked by other authors for tips on how to market their books online and build their author brand. When you have a passion that also happens to be in high demand it makes it easy to get inspired.
This whole series is designed around the idea of making social media easy for authors to understand and to supply them with information and tips to help them get the most out of their time and efforts.
Social media is used by billions of people worldwide on a daily basis. Our audience is online and can be reached free of charge without us even having to leave our homes. Authors need to be taking advantage of this opportunity to connect with their readers and build their fan base. A lot of authors aren't using it because they don't know where to start. Others are using it but not making the most of it. I hope this series will help them build their online presence and give them some ideas for what and how to post.
How long did it take you to write your book?
A couple of weeks. The book is a quick read. I didn't want to keep repeating the same things over and over (I've seen others do that to bulk out a book and found it very annoying) and to be honest, there is only so much you can write about Twitter. The site is designed around the idea of clutter free, to the point, content. I wanted the book to be the same.
Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)
I researched online using Twitter search to find examples to use in the book, and Google to find statistics, etc... As social media is one of my hobbies as well as a tool I use daily for marketing, I was already quite up to date on most of the details. I've also done several webinars on the topic and so already had a lot of notes to work from.
Who designed the cover?
I designed and made it myself using Adobe Illustrator.
Where is the book available to purchase?
How to be Twittertastic is currently available in kindle format on all Amazon sites and will be out in print later this month.
What genres do you write?
My main genres are children's picture books and non-fiction marketing guides for authors. I've also written poetry and have several novels of various types that I'm working on. I don't like to limit myself and love experimenting with new projects to see where they take me.
Do you have a saying or motto for your life/or as a writer?
Yes. "Don't just dream it, do it." I apply it to every aspect of my life and my writing.
Where can people find out more about you and your work?
At my website www.JoLinsdell.com
What was your first job?
My first job was working as a Saturday girl in a small hairdressers when I was about 13. I had to wash clients hair, sweep the floors, tidy the stock room, and get everyone coffee. I didn't stay there very long but I learnt a lot whilst I was there and will always remember it as my first job.
What's your favourite colour?
My favourite colour has always been blue. I love every shade of blue, from the pale pastels to deep navy. It's calm and peaceful but can also be full of energy.
What's the scariest thing you've ever done?
Probably when I left England to go to Rome back in 2001. Two weeks prior I'd opened an atlas, closed my eyes, and pointed at the map. It was on Italy. The next day I quit my job and booked my one way flight ticket to Rome. I'd only planned on staying for 3 days initially but I'm still here and with no plans on leaving anytime soon (that however is another story). I remember when I was on the plan having an overwhelming feeling of "am I brave or just plain stupid". I was completely on my own, didn't know of word of Italian, and had no real plan of action for when I arrived. All I had was my backpack. It was both the best and scariest thing I think I've ever done.
What do you like to read?
I have quite varied tastes and will read most genres. My favourites are crime and mysteries, easy read chick-lit, and non-fiction books about marketing (I'm always on the look out for new inspiration ;)).
What was the first book to have a big impact on you?
The Diary of Anne Frank. I read it in school, and several times since. She was such an inspiring person and the book is so powerful. It really gets under your skin.
About the book...
Are you ready to be Twittertastic?
Twitter is the most immediate of all social media and allows you to connect with readers and others from the literary industry from all over the world. The fastest growing network with a 44% growth from 2012-2013 Twitter now boosts 255 million monthly active users.
How to be Twittertastic teaches you what Twitter is and how to use it to build your author brand, connect with readers, and sell more books.
Learn strategies and tips that will help you leverage your Twitter presence and get the most out of your tweets.
- How to set up your profile and personalise it
- Creating your network
- Ideas for making the most out of the new features
- Tweets- Types of content you can share
- Retweets, hashtags, and other Twitter terminology made simple
- Twitter etiquette- Dos and Don'ts of the Twitterverse
- Time savers
How to be Twittertastic is the first book in the Writers and Authors Guide to Social Media series.
Product Details: Kindle
File Size: 2191 KB
Print Length: 94 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
More about Jo…
Jo Linsdell is a best selling author and illustrator and internationally recognized marketing expert. She is also the founder and organizer of the annual online event "Promo Day" (www.PromoDay.info) and the Writers and Authors blog (http://WritersAndAuthors.blogspot.com). To find out more about Jo and her projects visit her website www.JoLinsdell.com.
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