Dear Inner Critic

I understand you have a lot on your plate, and you’re often in a rush to feel heard. You speak the language of fear and trepidation. It must be hard to live in a state of constant doubt, but what else do you know? I must say, I wasn’t aware how many different forms you could come in. You’re quite the shape shifter. I would disguise myself too if my only means of survival was to instill fear and remain undiscovered.

That’s part of what makes you so intriguing, there’s no real evidence of the claims you’ve made against me, but you hold tightly to them anyway. It’s always awkward when you stand in the middle of my path and find it’s not difficult to walk right around you. You still manage to stop me in my tracks often enough that the weight of your influence feels familiar.

I have managed to eek bits and pieces of my creative work out while you’re not looking, but now that’s not enough. I’m not an imposter of myself, I have value and deserve to enjoy the work I feel called to create. Though I don’t prefer to label it as work, as it feels more valuable. I’m aware you don’t mind infusing it with the bitter taste of productive value, because when you do I falter and feel intimidated out of moving forward.

Even speaking to you here, directly I can feel the weight of resistance. You don’t like being found out, feeling seen in such a fashion. If I can see you, I can ignore you. The more places I find you hiding out or see where you have tried to leave a mark, the smaller you get. I must inform you, that I will now be taking up more space within myself. Together we’ll gather up all your things, so you can move on and out of the influential space you’ve taken up. I can’t allow you to have some excuse to revisit the holes you bore into my confidence.

I am inviting you to take a permanent leave of absence. I’ll help you out the door. You can keep your plans for making me feel inadequate. I don’t need to be reminded of the lies you paint with fake smiles. Make sure to take the mirror you hold up against me, seeking comparison to everything I’m not in that moment. I think I’ll see myself more clearly without it.

I know in your mind you thought you were protecting me from the possibility of failing. It’s also clear that you feared success more than anything, driving me toward destruction. We aren’t as familiar with the feeling of vulnerability paying off. I’ve decided I’m going to test the waters and see what I can do without the constant nagging of your screeching voice. I have clung to you for many years but am finding the weight of you is more than I want to carry with me.

Thank you for leaving.

Starting Over

Beginning again can be a godsend. A chance to drop everything that lined your lips as you repeated complaints to ears uninterested in hearing them the first time around. It’s an enticing escape, to drop everything and go do what you want. To pursue your dream. It doesn’t matter if that’s to travel, draw, write or do something completely unrelated to creative work. Though, it seems with the way our society devalues creativity, unless it can be industrialized and mass produced, it is usually that kind of work.

Actually, dropping everything and pursuing your dream is much easier when it is just you, but it’s also harder for that same reason. If you have a partner who can support, you and encourage you it can be easier financially. It is still an individual endeavor though. Only one person in that case is doing the work and figuring out how to move forward. Calling it a hobby feels like cheapening the reality of the creative work I chose.

Writing is something that has kept me going in vastly different ways throughout my life. I’m not much of a talker and have never been. But I could sit at a tiny desk in a room the size of a closet and write for hours. I had a lot of anger to sort through, and I still do. I manage it much differently than I did at that time when there were so many sources it was coming from, I couldn’t wrangle each one of them.

I gave up what could be considered a sort of platform in writing. I made myself into a voice that could be trusted to deliver important information, and I’m glad I did. It’s strange to be doing writing that is adjacent to it, without the platform to lend me legitimacy. Honestly, it’s really scary to stand still and speak the kind of work into existence that I feel closest to.  It doesn’t feel as natural as journalism became to me. Writing personally about my thoughts, experience and then using fiction to interpret things around me.

I’m reminded of all the crutches I was clinging to when I started my first full-time job in journalism. I knew I didn’t need to use them, and it was all make-work, but there was enough kindness around me to give me the time to see it for myself. I’m leaning on that kindness now and trying to show it for myself.

I’m not a patient person when it comes to my own progress, and I think there are plenty of other people who can relate to that. That’s why the saying “we are our own worst critics” rings painfully true all too often. Right now, I’m actually my only critic which isn’t something I was expecting. I thought I would be made fun of, criticized, and believed to have lost my mind for my decisions.

The people who came to know my name associated me with news. They heard my voice delivering them a slice of what was important on a weekly basis. I’m still doing that, but not how I used to. I’m excavating my own experiences and packaging them so you can see what is important in a moment. I like to think the timeliness of my creative work is rarely in question.

We all know the collective trauma the world has been going through. People are feeling that itch to wake up from what we’ve all grown used to accepting. I’m hopeful that something more sustainable than outrage and blame will take root and infect the masses.

To the quitters

I hope you ride the high of leaving what wasn’t right for you. When you come back down to a ground that’s unfamiliar and lacking the direction you should take next, I hope you’ll sit. There’s going to be a lot of noise vying for your attention. I’m not telling you not to work and get by as you need to, I’m just asking you to listen. Hesitate before you jump in with your worth next time.

Consider who you are, and who you might be if it was quiet, and your thoughts didn’t torture you with doubts and warped reflections. When you get back from the vacation, and your energy isn’t so focused on just getting out of work every day…what might you do? Think of something you would really enjoy for 3-4 hours a day, maybe a few times a week. Do not consider how you would make money, the success of this or anything like that. I’m not talking about turning your moments of peace into the next thing you’re trying to escape.

It’s just an exercise in remembering who you are. Not knowing how you want to spend your time is a valid answer, just as saying “I don’t know” should not be dismissed as a non-answer. The result can tell you where to start deconstructing. A truly uncomfortable process, believe me. Those of us who feel the most confident about this answer and skip the time to pause and listen are often the most directionless.

Laugh With Her

Tasks pile up, those with great importance trying to look large and intimidating.

That is when the inbetweener arrives.

The woman that is an adult, grown and all at once energized by the child so easily distracted within her.

You’ve seen her, felt her excitement…so infectious and silly it’s hard not to pay attention.

A stack of bills sits on the corner of her desk, right within reach.

The smaller one who has an energy that tricks her into believing she’s taller than her legs realistically allow…has found a way to convince the older one that the bounds of what is within reach are flexible and immaterial.

The day has been set up to be productive and very responsible…which is why the five-year-old in me needs to paint without concern or acknowledgement of direction.

I have to feed myself, but I also need to let her tell me I’m mixing a magical and mysterious potion.

“That’s not coriander!” She yells at me when I try to be too serious. “Those are the ashes of a dragonfly who has been blessed with the fart of a giant upon its wings!”

I’m lucky to have her to correct me when I try to read a recipe for what it is.

She has a hard time paying attention to the road in front of her when the clouds are drawing her up, making her think she can fly.

I let her run wild when I get the chance to fly, laughing at the puffy things sailing right alongside her, and never the other way around.

Trusting that she needs to chase the moon, blow bubbles in her soda, and fill her belly with chicken nuggets, fries, and a big squirt of ranch.

I love her.

Adore the way she wants to cackle as she runs, feeling grateful not to feel the age of her body just yet.

I want to take her on adventures. Let her live and breathe in this skin that only temporarily needs to reside in places of pretend importance.

I’m protective over her too, not letting others experience the pleasure it is to feel her excitement explode.

Where the younger version of me felt the pangs of others signaling it was time to grow up; now that I’m here…I refuse to let her be confined by such stupid notions as adulthood or what age she may actually be.

I’ll feel her childish enthusiasm and stubborn determined nature as I mow my lawn. Even let her voice how she can do it herself!

She can have the space of adulthood, owning her environment while confidently cackling at maniacal expressions she’s invented simply to entertain herself.

I will buy her a milkshake when someone is a butthead and delight in how it will never not be funny to her to build a whipped cream mustache on her dog’s face when we get home.

What Pictures Do You Take Now?

I stopped taking pictures of myself as our conversations tapered off.

Never one to hide how I’m feeling, my face says it all,
reacting before I have a chance to cover up my blatant honesty.

These pictures I’d send you are strange and uncharacteristic.

They are static, unmoving, and unnatural.

My face is expressive, moving and intimidatingly curious.

It’s not something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed capturing for a moment,
not unless I can tell you why I stepped into that light there…
what I was thinking when I smirked.

Now I scroll through the photos on my phone and find only art.

Rows and rows of the work I’ve let myself become obsessed with.

It is a better depiction of me than a selfie could ever be.

Unlocking Basic Necessities

Healthcare is not more satisfying when its cost accelerates. Yet, it is treated as both a luxury one is lucky to have, and a character flaw commiserate with poverty for those without it.

Something that should be able to be taken for granted has become a status symbol. We have the ability to help the sick, but we put it at the end of a race where you can gain footholds by giving up your time, physical or mental health. People who have more involved health conditions requiring greater attention cannot afford to leave a job with good health insurance even if it is damaging their mental health.

I’m frustrated to see arguments and discussions about how political parties are being perceived. It’s never worked in the favor of people. We all just want to live our lives without fear of the pains that strike us, where we lay our head and how we will fill our bellies. How do you justify an industry that feeds on greed, yet covers the motive by its hand extended in pleas of agony to the people it purports to help?

I am sick of reading articles discussing the finer points of the democratic party versus the republican party. Neither one of these institutions is achieving even the basics of sustaining life for its constituents. We are a society that lives on debt and calls it success. Watching as a system designed to bottleneck wealth at the top continues to thrive.

I came across a line in a newsletter, from what I view as a respectable news organization, mentioning what a danger it is for the democratic party to be “too woke.” I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or be furious. People are starving to death, tortured for crimes they didn’t commit based on unjust laws defined by codes that are enforced at the hands of racist institutions. And you think people are worried about how “woke” democrats are?

People are worried about affording insulin, finding their next meal and how close they are to homelessness. This fear of wokeness comes by way of bending to the fear of what a conservative entertainment organization parading as news deems to be good or bad. How disgusting is that? The power that one group of TV shows has to infect and direct the conversation…when they peddle in outright lies and conspiracies. This type of corporation, like many others, does not care about people. It cares about filling its pockets with money collected from the disaster of fear they designed.

This game of politics and perception is a sickness. Can’t you see how people are suffering? And you think it might be too extreme to forgive the debts that break their mental health? You actually believe providing health care, food, and education…the very basics is going to so deeply offend that you scare yourself away from the possibility for the people who need it most?

Possible

I’m unsteady from shock.

Absorbed by the idea that I’m capable of success.

Obsessed with how disorienting it is to believe in me.

This thing, the connection I feel to stringing words together…
the idea that it could sustain me is groundbreaking.

Control over what I create and when is a freedom I have always craved.

Now, it’s here and I’m frozen in the feeling.

Trying to immerse myself in other work while my mind is buzzing.

There is something lovely about an overwhelming happiness
demanding to be felt and experienced.

How It Passes

Often, we pretend to be present as our feet stretch with anticipation to reach the future.

To obtain something seemingly better.

It’s hard to wrangle a current moment.

Never knowing if it will be worthwhile, how long it will last, or if that presence will scatter the moment your eyes turn to focus on it.

I have been paralyzed by time, the way it passes and how best to use it.

Trying not to obsess over the flexibility in which it comes and goes.

This process allows me to laugh at myself.

Giggling at how silly it is to be confident in the structure of a minute.

This is part of a project where I’m reworking and reimagining snippets of poetry I’ve written, dedicating time and care to what I scribbled down and tossed aside.

Fun Mirror Inner Child

Where is the magic of an inner child who trudges through emotional warfare?

I’m looking for her, rummaging among the rubble she’s collected inside.

Each time she chooses silence instead of her own voice she takes a chunk of the world into her hands and crumbles it.

Using the pressure built in the small moments of denying herself to feel the words unspoken pulverize between her hands.

She’s covered in dust now, adding each small moment to the piles of ruins around her.

I see the trenches she’s built, weapons collected.

That small girl is well prepared to defend herself, but she fears the taste of going on the offense…being the first to attack.

Unwilling to be vulnerable and scared to enjoy the taste of her own anger.

She brews and builds, collecting damage to herself despite her dedication to building defenses.

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Quicksand For Your Soul

My greatest apologies for recording this vertically.

I want to share this suspension of calm with you.

Place the muffles over your ears so you can feel the weighted comfort of quiet in your bones.

Let the holes you’ve had drilled in you by stress be filled with this sludge to slow you down. Watch how your eyes adjust to neutralizing your surroundings. A cubicle that is the bane of your existence can return to the choice of fabric one person made in hopes you would find comfort in it instead of distress.

Hope for your smile to enjoy small human moments from the people around you as you dissolve away the parts of them that push your buttons.

I know pausing is stressful, enjoying where you are right now is a balancing act.

Panic your way into enjoying the moment at hand before the sludge empties and you lurch forward into a future you’ve conned yourself into believing is or will be so much better.

I hope your muscles get whiplash trying to hold onto the rest you run from. That way you’ll be left with something to help you remember the feeling of living exactly where you are.

The tissue tying you together knows the way to strength and its not through sleeplessness or the hustle you think will fill your bank account and empty your worries.

This post was originally posted on Patreon.

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A Note To The Teenagers Who Lost Their Parents

Dear griever,

Everyone knows the pandemic has been hard for a multitude of reasons. We’ve read news reports and accounts of how you missed milestones such as the prom or walking at graduation. I’m sorry for those losses. But I want to talk to the teenagers who lost their parent(s) during this pandemic because this grief will change you forever.

You’re not going to age the same way your peers are.

You will grow up in ways you didn’t ask to before you’re ready. Know that it’s okay to crave your inner child and want comfort. Sometimes that pull to be heard will make you angry because no one will ever be them. As best, you can, try to remember if you have a second parent left that they are painfully aware of how much they are not that other person for you. They don’t know what to do, but you can be sure they’ll make mistakes trying to figure it out.

That doesn’t make you responsible for their healing, but it might help you to see how much of a fragile squishy human they are. It doesn’t matter if they were separated, divorced, or no longer in love. It’s still a loss, and they may be oddly jealous of the openness with which you can display your distress.

Death and grief are strange beasts

I hope you let yourself be a little impulsive and do something you might not otherwise do. Try to be safe and realize hurting yourself won’t lessen the pain, quell the numbness or make anything different. It will be a momentary difference in your situation, but you already know it won’t last or change anything.

Personally, I preferred dying my hair in unnatural colors and seeing how many piercings I could afford to fit into my face. That is in no way to say that piercings or body modification are a reaction to trauma, but a recognition that it can be healing.

What you don’t know is the septum ring, blue hair, and microdermals that came later. We all cope.

Give yourself permission

I hope you will let yourself feel the numbness that losing the foundation that a parent is. There is no right way to react or respond, but that doesn’t make you feel any less wrong for every approach that feels right for you.

You aren’t given much credit, people have a hard time seeing the insight you already have. They’re going to repeat the same comforts to you that will allow them to feel both like they have done their social job while also remaining distant from a pain they’re afraid to feel.

The space people hold between you and the tragedy they don’t want to understand will give you a look into a deeper level of compassion. You will know what it’s like to be told you are being held close while feeling suspended by these arms-length embraces.

Brush it away if you want

You don’t have to become a better, deeper person or find the good in a bad situation. You are allowed to react how you feel makes the most sense, even if it makes other people uncomfortable. That is if you have the misfortune of living in a culture that refuses to embrace expiration.

But you also don’t have to white-knuckle your bitterness and anger. Even if you let them go, I’m pretty sure they won’t be hard to pick back up if you miss their ability to make you immediately feel something. Losing a parent when you weren’t expecting changes some of the foundation you stand on.

I want you to know it’s also okay to feel more than you ever did before. I found a painful level of empathy and humanity in the silence where I kept that loss. It was mine to hold on to because airing that reality opened me up to my ability to connect with those who know pain on a level I wasn’t ready for.

Now, I couldn’t be more grateful for feeling more than I was ready for. I say that while recognizing that is not how I felt at that time. I felt angry and lost. I wanted to know why I wasn’t consulted on his decision to be done with everything this life involved, including me.

Funny how some pictures grow in power over time.

This was originally posted on beccaschimmel.medium.com

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