About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Lies Within Us: Faith in Oneself

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Sometimes it seems easier to give up. That's the truth. When everything feels like a struggle, there's a part of me that whispers, "Surrender, you're being foolish, quit, find another path."

To be honest, I hear this voice almost every day...yet I haven't given up. When I get a royalty check that's not quite what I need, it's disheartening if I start doing the math of time spent writing and marketing compared to pay out. When the kids go at me because we don't have what other families do or can't go on the vacations we once did, doubt whispers, "See? What more proof do you need? Quit. Give in." 

Perhaps it's the stubborn Norwegian in me that keeps me plugging away. Or maybe it's just this absolute faith I have in myself that's always been there...sometimes buried deep but always present. 
Where does faith in oneself come from? Some people would say God, but that only leads me to more questions like what is God? Who is He/She? Why would faith in myself be given from an outside entity? I don't think it is from outside, I believe it's from within.  With all of the spiritual studies I've done in the past several years, I believe we are all Divine. Meditation has helped me connect with that ever present flow of faith that runs through my core. 

When I was as young as nine years old, I remember lying on my parents' roof and watching clouds with my ever present notebook full of scribbled stories by my side. I'd dream big dreams and never doubted they'd come true. 

That's the odd thing...in all of my adult life, with all of the challenges and curve balls life has thrown at me...I still believe in those dreams. As long as I can remember, I've said I wanted to be a writer. No, correct that, I said I would be a writer. Period. No "if", always "when".  

Even after Sean's death, I knew down deep in my heart that I needed to stay the course. I heard myself telling people "I'm going to keep writing" without it being a conscious choice to speak.  When people told me to move from the mountain, questioned me taking Bree out of elementary school, and hounded me about getting a more socially acceptable job, I knew I was doing the right thing by listening to myself rather than others.  

Why? How? Every day I hear those doubts, yet every day I brush them aside and keep moving forward. Yes, it's faith...but I'm the first one to admit I've been angry with God, the Universe, Angels, anything and everything. I've had shouting matches rather than prayer sessions...crying jags rather than peaceful meditations. I've questioned my Karma by reflecting back on every little thing in my life and saying "it wasn't that bad, for God's sake, gimme a break."
Faith in yourself is something that can't be taught, nor can it be given. It must be recognized. It must be accepted. It must be seized. It must be embraced. I believe that when you acknowledge your gifts, when you believe in your abilities, you are being Divine. If God truly created us in His image, then who are we to doubt our strength? 

Yet daily the doubts whisper, "you're screwing up, give in" and I ignore them. With the world presenting its own challenges, it's necessary to keep the enemy out of my head.  

Faith to me isn't about following a religious dogma, it's about trusting in the intangible and believing in the goodness in ourselves and others. Faith to me is being compassionate with myself when those doubts enter my mind, listening to them, seeing them for what they are (usually fear), and then letting them go. 

Faith. For such a simple and beautiful thing, it creates a lot of controversy between people who like to put it in a box and wrap it in a bow of their religious choosing. To me, faith is much bigger than that and transcends definition. It's also intensely personal. 

There's a part of me that's still that little girl lying on my parents' roof who dreams big. Instead of gazing at clouds, I now stargaze as often as possible and marvel at this wonderful world. Yes, I have struggles and sometimes get frustrated that things aren't happening according to my timetable, but then I have faith that it's all unfolding as it should. If it weren't, I wouldn't be here writing right now, would I? Maybe I wouldn't be here at all.  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

You Can't Please Everyone So You'd Better Please Yourself

Sure, Johnny, easy for you to say.

You'd think by now I'd have being independent and sassy down to a science. I've been widowed for a long time and have pretty much mastered the art of pissing people off while I do my own thing. I've heard all the whispers about how I do what I do, been accused to my face of not caring about money (wtf?), told repeatedly that I'm headed in the wrong direction by being a writer, and (recently) it's been suggested that I date married men although I have no idea why my nun-like existence would breed such a story.

In other words, it's easy to say that I don't care what others think, but I do. It hurts. It's painful to be judged--I'm not made of stone! It's sad to hear people malign me when I know what's in my heart. You bet it's painful. Do I allow that to stop me, though? Apparently not since I keep right on going.

People create their own stories about each other, which then becomes their reality. Usually this story is spun in such a way where they become either the victim or the judge. I'm sure I've done it in the past, too. I'm only human, with all the faults that is implied, but I've grown a lot in the past decade (thanks to The Four Agreements, which I keep by my bedside) and try to remain objective.  There's not much I can do to change another person's inner dialogue about what is true. I know my truth of who I am.

When you know your own truth--when you can go to bed at night knowing that you are being honest with yourself--then there is no shame or regret. In fact, I've learned that knowing my truth makes it easy to stand up to the rumors about "the widow" and tell people plainly "you can't bully me" even when I know that they'll walk out of my life.

Figuring this out hasn't been easy, especially when trusted family members come at me with their judgments on my life (even though none of them live within driving distance of me and don't see me more than once a year--if that) and life long friends turn on a dime. Perhaps it's the meditation I began shortly after Sean died, the spiritual study I've undergone, or the yoga. Maybe it's a combination of it all, but I know myself better today than I did a decade ago. I know my heart is filled with light and love and, yes, a whole lotta hurt. I trust that I act out of goodness rather than malice--always.

Sure, I make mistakes. I get lonely. I sometimes look around at the couples in my midst and desperately miss Sean. But is that wrong? No. I look around at my home and think of the history here--kids learning to walk, all of us laughing in front of the fire pit many nights, summer parties, snowmen in the yard, wild sled rides down the back hill, movie marathons in the family room--and don't regret for one moment that I've stayed here after Sean died.

Maturing is about a lot more than age. I thought after I married, bought a house, and had kids that I was an official adult. But I did a lot of those things because they were expected by others. Sean and I loved each other, would have been content living together, but we married because it was expected by our families. After our daughter was born, we were content living in our apartment with the pool right outside our door. The constant chatter of "you need to buy a house now" rang in our ears...so we did. And it was all fine...we acted on free will and I have no regret about any of it. We were young...it was expected...it felt like the adult thing to do.

It's only in retrospect that I realize how much of what I've done in life was to suit others, to prevent conflict, or to simply 'go with the flow'. It was only after Sean died, when I was thrown into the fray, that my inner voice grew strong.

I listen to that inner voice, act on instinct and faith, which really annoys people who were used to me falling into line back in the day. They tell me they wish I'd be more like how I used to be--which isn't going to happen. I'm fierce now, I admit that. I've had to battle for my kids, myself, my decisions, and Sean's memory over the past few years. This gives me a "I don't give a fuck" attitude that I embrace.

Does this mean I have a thick skin? Not really. It's easy to say that I don't care what others' think, but that's not true. I do care...I just don't allow it to control me anymore. I need to make decisions solo, often quickly, and can't second guess myself. If it's the wrong decision, I'll correct it.  The thing is...it's mine to make. Hearing the observers heckle their verdicts about it does no good.

The way I see it is that I have one life to live--that I know of anyway--and need to be happy. I can only be happy if I'm true to myself...if I'm living an honest life...if it pisses people off, that's their energy to carry, not mine.

As Gilda Radner said, "There is no real security except for whatever you build inside yourself."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Grief Leaves a Void That Never Quite Dissipates

Over the past few years of widowhood, I've been accused of centering my entire life around the kids. I don't think that is being a bad parent, though, especially considering the enormity of what we've gone through as a family. However, now that my daughter is going into her senior year of high school and we're talking about colleges, I'm once again dealing with the void of my plus one.

Life is about change and transitions, I realize that. But tonight as I get ready for bed, I'm wishing once again that my late husband were here.  You'd think that I'd stop wishing for those types of things after 7 years, but here I am still wanting a partner to ooh and ahh over senior pictures, to bounce ideas off of, and to have a date night with while the independent teens do their own thing.  

I'm looking at the house and realizing that one day in the very near future I'll be here alone.  Dating hasn't gone too well with me as a solo parent.  My life has revolved around work and kids--essentials. The brief attempts at dating again made me feel like I was in the fairy tale "Goldie Locks and the Three Bears" where I heard the words 'too old', 'too young', 'too fat', 'too busy', 'too independent', 'too needy', 'too successful', 'not successful enough'.  Contradictions, one right after the other, that left me weary of trying and nostalgic for the man who loved me as is.  

The void is always present when you lose someone you love, no matter how many years pass. I knew this after he died.  I remember saying, "I will miss him at all the major life transitions, like high school graduation and weddings..." Now here I am, talking about college, worried about paying for it all, feeling like I'm not enough, fighting doubts that whisper in the silence, staring at the empty side of the bed, and wondering what life will look like when the kids are in their 20s. Where will they be? Will they be happy?

Will I be happy? Will I be leading the life of my dreams? Will I find love again? Will the writing pay off or will I have moved on to something else?

People like to tell me to have faith when I confide these questions to them. But you know what? I find that answer to be trivial and cliche. Faith has gotten me out of bed every day. Faith has sustained me thus far. Faith keeps me from giving up. However, sometimes I want a tangible solution to an intangible question. Sometimes I want my partner back--a living being with ideas and encouragement. After awhile, faith starts feeling delusional when struggle and solitude remain constant.  

I've restarted my writing career--have 3 published romantic suspense novels and a nonfiction book about surviving suicide of a loved one coming out next month--but I'm plagued with uncertainty. The money is coming, trickling in, but what if I made a mistake going after this dream when I am the sole support of my family? What if everyone else was right when they told me that I should have moved from the mountain and gotten a 'real' job after Sean died? There's so much uncertainty when you're a single parent with no one to bounce ideas off of, no one reassuring me that it's all going to be okay...and that's what I miss.  Pillow talks where we'd rehash the day, reassure each other, laugh about little things, and dream of fantasy trips together.  

The void is vast and scary. Sean had been my rock, my confidante, my biggest fan, my world.  For a long time I distracted myself from the void by traveling, writing, eating, drinking, home projects, staying as busy as possible...but it's in the stillness that its presence echoes through the house.  

Pretty soon the house will be mine alone and I won't be able to avoid the silence. If I were a character in one of my novels, I'd become a citizen of the world with my camera and laptop as companions. But the real me...the tangible me...likes the idea of pillow talks and shared adventures. To get there, I need to acknowledge the void I've been so busy ignoring all of this time. There comes a point when we can no longer run, when distractions cease, and when the empty side of the bed taunts us.  

I've been good solo, I actually believe that. But there's a difference between being able to do things alone--capable--and being happy with it. I can see my two Adirondak chairs on my back patio with the full moon illuminating them. I've sat there many nights alone over the past few years--watched meteors, daydreamed, enjoyed the solitude. Tonight as I look at them with all of these thoughts dancing through my mind, I can't help but imagine the empty chair filled with a new partner.  Maybe this is part of confronting the void...being able to finally imagine someone other than my late husband sitting there without guilt.  

Maybe that's also why I've had such horrible luck dating again...and why none of the 3 men who made it beyond the first date lasted more than a few months.  The void stood between us like a force field, with me ignoring its whispers, until finally life became silent enough for me to listen.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Free Fall

In August, I'll be releasing a memoir about surviving my husband's suicide, guiding children through grief, and learning to live life in our "new normal". Oh, no, not another memoir...that's what you're saying, right? Fear not. It's only focused on a few years, from the day my husband killed himself and the journey that set in motion.

I've been a journalist and a novelist, but writing creative nonfiction has been the hardest journey for me so far. Using journals from the time to reinforce my memory, I relived the process. I cried while writing and revising. I had nightmares as the memories came back to life long after I'd shut down my computer for the night. 

So why write this? Why go through the pain again?  Well, it's simple. While I was going through this as a young widow with two children to raise solo, I felt very alone. Surrounded by couples who were also young in the big scheme of things and family members who were so angry at Sean that they didn't want to discuss it, I felt like a freak...a zombie walking amongst the living. No one could "get it". To the outside world, I seemed fine while behind closed doors I unraveled.  I never want another soul to feel that what they're experiencing is wrong or that they are alone on the hard road of grief and trauma recovery.  

I debated for a long time about writing this story, despite the encouragement to do so.  And, quite frankly, I couldn't have written it until now. It was too raw...and I was too fragile...a few years ago to tackle this project. When you're in the midst of the pain, it's impossible to view it objectively.  I wouldn't have known how to go about it, in other words.  Now I'm strong, entering a new phase of life, and the kids are old enough to have an opinion about me sharing our story.  Am I objective in the memoir? No, probably not.  Is anyone truly objective about their own life?  I write it purely from my perspective, in present tense, and attempt not to make judgments.  It's as honest as I can be about it, which means I also talk about my mistakes as well as my successes. 

I never realized that writing creative nonfiction--which is what all memoirs are--would be so challenging. Fiction enables me to channel emotions through a character, to hide behind a filter. I've cried when writing fiction--often, in fact--but nothing like this. Free Fall is like nothing I've ever written before--and will probably ever write again.  

As a writer, it's fascinating to me how challenging this truly was for me.  I put it aside many times, kept it out of sight, avoided conversations about its progress...but here it is. It's time. I only hope my journey helps someone else survive their loneliest and darkest challenges as they traverse the unknown path of grief and tragedy.  

“Sometimes you can’t let go of the past without facing it again.”

Coming August 2013