Beautiful destruction; aka, Life - In medias res

I’m rewriting two books just now. One came with a one-page edit letter, and the other came with a fifty-four page edit letter. (Oddly, it’s the latter that’s in far better shape.) So I’m spending the next many weeks on what I consider that heavy-lifting of writing, not getting the story down, but reworking what’s already there. Of course, being contrary, this makes me long to write fresh words again, though doing that makes me long for the security of a finished draft. But none of that’s important. I want to talk about this:

 This man blows up flowers. See?

shatter2 shatter

Because flowers are bastards, I guess. But the process is cool – he freezes them with liquid nitrogen and then shoots them with an airgun.

(Even more amazing is the process you have to go through to actually purchase one of these images, because I’ve tried to access prices for a few pieces and I can’t. So if anyone can tell me how to purchase fine art, please tell me. It may be that you have to purchase the original and there are no prints in which case these images will live on my Pinterest page with all the other things that make me feel bad about my imperfect life.)

 Where was I?

 Oh yeah. Blowing up bastard flowers.

 That was just a beautiful and violent teaser to ease you into this blog. I’ve debated whether to say anything about this next subject at all because there are already so many voices out there on the Internet. Lots to look at, debate, infuriate, inspire. Not really my thing as I try not to get emotionally involved in things that can be emptied out in a tweet. I mean, here’s my daily feed in a nutshell:

 Writing is rewriting.

 Franzen’s a blowhard.

 You’re not gonna put that indie publishing genie back in the bottle.

 There. I mean, how much more is there to say unless you want to start splitting hairs? (How big of a blowhard is Franzen? Huge. There. Next.)

 Seriously, I write for the connection. The reader and me. A meeting of the minds. So while the flowers above make me pause in amazement, and tweets and status updates serve as distraction, sometimes there’s someone or something that touches me at the level where I recognize them as me. That’s what you respond to when you read too, right? So when I saw this post about depression by one of my favorite writers – who has had more success with her sole book than I have with all of mine, my first thought was, She has no reason to be depressed. Though of course if you know anything about depression you know that’s not how it works. Depression has its own reasons and none of them are about making sense.

 Then I saw this post by a young woman simply overwhelmed by life and I thought, But you haven’t even made any proper mistakes yet. What do you have to be depressed about? Again, not the point.

 And then I thought, Gee. I bet people think that about me.

 Because what people can’t read between the lines of my books is that my hair falls out in clumps because of stress. This has been going on for about three years and the only surprise now is that there’s any hair left on my head at all. You also may not know that I suffer from insomnia, and am awake at 3 a.m. more days of the week than not. Or that a neat, new addition to my not-infrequent panic attacks includes the tightening up of my throat so that I literally have to gasp for breath, and it still doesn’t release. For days.

I obviously need to work on my coping mechanisms.

You also have no idea that I was thinking about jumping out of a plane about two months ago. Not, like, skydiving, but as I was sitting on a commercial flight. Without a parachute. Or how I thought that stepping out in front of a moving car, while stupid, would at least be conclusive. Because sometimes, in the midst of ambiguity, you simply want relief. (OMG, my mother is so going to be calling me after this post.)

So reading these other posts, feeling and thinking these things, I realized, holy shit, there are a lot of people out there who are really hard on themselves. Who are so involved in the minutiae of their lives that they can’t see the big picture. And I’m one of them. And I think it helps to know that you’re not alone. I mean, you’re not even special in your aloneness. Everyone wants to jump out of a plane at some point. Unless, prolly, blowhards like Franzen. (Okay. I’ll stop with the Franzen references. He’s boring me anyway.)

But go back and look at the comments in the Jenny Lawson post. I could have written any and all of them. And that actually helps, yanno? Because when you’re stuck in your head and you’re thinking, ‘I-hate-my-job, I-hate-my-life, I-hate-I-hate-I-hate…’ at the very least you should know you’re not alone.

You’re not alone.

And please don’t worry for me, because I’m not alone either. I have a great family, bosom friends, the knowledge that This Too Shall Pass, and a wonderfully supportive, understanding, loving (and shit-hot) husband, and I am at heart an optimist. Also, when I step back and allow myself perspective – when I finally do catch a breath – I realize that life is great. My life is great. I just need to be better at looking back and acknowledging mistakes, then let them go. At looking forward, acknowledging fear, and diving in anyway. At being as kind with myself as I am with everyone else I love.

And at realizing that – like those exploding flowers – life doesn’t have to be perfect to be both worth it and utterly goddamned gorgeous.

batsAlso this:

Because these bats make me think of Bob Fosse, and nobody wants to jump out of a plane – even while rewriting – while thinking of Fosse.

37 thoughts on “Beautiful destruction; aka, Life – In medias res

  1. Jann McKenzie says:

    Ah, Vic. Love you so much. What helps me is to realize that 90% plus of the stress I have felt in my life is the pressure and expectation and fear I put upon myself!! Other people, I could beat up. :-) But when the “enemy” is me – then it is time to have a chat with myself (with vodka and cupcakes, for sure) about why am I stressing out. There is a lot to be said for the Serenity Prayer – doing what I can about the things I can do something about TODAY, and letting all the rest go. Other people’s expectations, other people’s dramas – they are not mine to deal with. And kindness is such a great virtue – maybe we could lay some of that warm and gentle stuff upon ourselves.
    Oh, and Fosse over Franzen anytime!!!

    1. Jann,

      What you said.

      And I think “Fosse over Franzen” is going to be my new motto. I love it.

      Love you back,

      Vic

  2. Leigh says:

    I love this post. Not just because you talk about blowing up bastard flowers but because of the utter perfection of your summation: life is indeed gorgeous, even with thinning hair and panic attacks.

    Blowing up bastard flowers.

    1. It is, right? So strange…

  3. Annie says:

    It is very hard for anyone that lives in their head and stresses. I am with you. Everyday I look at the comb and think…wow if i collected all the f’n hair I lost this month I could make a wig out of my OWN HAIR. Seriously. I joke that I have whole worlds going on in my head and although I am not a writer I think there is one living in my brain. I am the queen of guilt and would have made one hell of a Catholic. I over analyze every little fault I have over and over again along with any and every mistake I have ever made. And there is a shit ton of them. I do think talking about these stresses with like minded people truly helps. It keeps me sane on the days I have thoughts like you are talking about. I am not saying I want to die, but life is overwhelming when you worry about everything! Thanks for the lovely article. Also – you and your hubby are both adorable!

    1. Annie says:

      I left out that really none of this shit matters. Everyday is a day we are alive and this is a good thing. Now if my brain would listen and cooperate I could relax

    2. That … and that… and that… and that.

      Okay. I could have written that. Yes.

      Also, my husband *is* adorable. LOL

      Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone. And vice versa, sister. Think of me when looking at your comb. I’m sure I have you beat.

  4. Kim says:

    Two days ago I consciously gave up fighting battles. Had a lot of them this summer and teetered for a while. Before the day ended, another one landed in my lap. Big one. And I’m not fighting it this time, because letting go of control when you don’t really have it gives you . . . control. (virtual glass clink)

  5. Rane Sjodin says:

    “And at realizing that – like those exploding flowers – life doesn’t have to be perfect to be both worth it and utterly goddamned gorgeous.” A perfect world isn’t gorgeous. It’s the flaws that add depth and texture.

    You’re not alone. As a Pscyhologist, half of my job is telling people this every week. Even though depression creates that feeling inside of you.

    If you need me, write me. I’m always an email away.

    Rane Sjodin / Graylin Fox

    Ranesjodin@gmail.com

    1. Rane. Wow. I’m humbled. And I may take you up on that. I’ve never actually tried to talk to a professional about this before. Thank you so much!

  6. Shauna Granger says:

    Thanks for sharing, Vicki. It’s funny how some of us are able to hide these things from the world so that most wouldn’t know. Don’t jump out of a plane or step in front of a car, you’d be missed :)

    1. I won’t. How would I ever learn to swing dance properly? ;)

  7. Anonymous says:

    It really does help to wander the internets a bit and find that wonderful, beautiful, insanely talented people like you (and others) struggle in their day to day life just like all of us. It is comforting to be among others, even virtually, that are engaged in full rich lives that are not easy nor impossible. So thank you for being honest and reminding us all that it’s ok to be human in public. Blessings.

    1. It’s also uncomfortable being that vulnerable. I’m able to do it in the pages of a book – but there’s distance there. I know people won’t read those words for months to come. That feels safer.

      Still. It’s important to recognize that we’re all in this together. Thanks for replying, Mona — now and always.

  8. Rachel says:

    YES! That’s all I need to say. Just yes to all the above. Everything. And hugs to you.

  9. James says:

    Thanks for that inside look at your ‘self’ and in the end realizing you are not alone. I wonder why so many of my favorite artist are troubled? Does being creative require such intense sensitivity that it leaves them vulnerable? selfishly, I can only hope you keep on keeping on as your books bring out a gambit of emotions that are priceless for us that read them. And the smiles from your near daily blogs are a treasure. By the way those bastard flowers would fit right in my Pinterest collection.

    1. There’ve been studies on it, James – none of which actually *help* to deal with your own mind. But this — talking, *connecting* — does help. So thank you.

      Enjoy the bastard flowers. ;)

  10. Jaye Wells says:

    The screen saver on my laptop an image of people playing in the sun with the line, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” I look at that every time I turn on my computer (I’m lying, it’s never off), and take a deep breath. Sometimes it helps.

    The rub is that we don’t have control, which makes us long for more of it. Surrendering is hard when everything in this business feels like a battle. I lose my hair, too, and I get chest pains and I cry a lot. I lose my nerve and then have to grit my teeth and remind myself that I chose this life.

    It’s not something we talk about a lot because to admit the fear feels like admitting you’re a fraud. LIfe is rarely perfect, but when we take a step back from the bullshit we can finally see the wonderful glowing between the cracks in the shattered image of how perfect our lives would be when we Made It.

  11. Syd Gill says:

    I’m glad you posted this. You’re definitely not alone. I speak about my issues with depression because I don’t want to feel ashamed of what I can’t control or change about the way my brain works. And I don’t want to be ashamed about the things I struggle with…I’m human and I make mistakes, handle things poorly and generally suck sometimes. Totally okay. You take a deep breath and try again. At life, writing, art, whatever…anyways, my two cents of rambling :) *hugs*

    Also, I could totally bastardize some roses without the nitrogen, or rose. LOL. Let me know if you need some not so fine art ;)

    1. Syd,

      Now isn’t that strange. I’d have never tagged you as someone who struggles thusly. You’re so talented and you seem like you always have everything under control. I guess that’s why I posted. We’re so concerned with putting our best face forward that it’s easy for others to forget there’s a person on the other side of the keyboard.

      Now. Leave the roses alone. ;)

  12. Debi Murray says:

    With the stressful life I have led so far, it an absolute wonder I have any hair left at all. But I still have enough left to have bad hair days. I now have a job I LOVE (it’s fun) and I am looking forward to retirement with my wonderful husband. I have great friends that I absolutely adore (you of course, being one). Gosh, I am so glad I let that train pass by unimpeded a few years ago (haven’t we all been tempted at one time or another?). In retrospect, things that I used to go ape-shit over, I now let slide. I pick and choose my battles…if it isn’t the hill I want to defend, I let it go…and I am so much happier for it.

  13. Jocelynn Drake says:

    I raise a glass to you and your inner strength. Too many days the bus, the plane, the balcony on the tenth floor look all too tempting, like a bottle to asprin for a splitting headache. But for the love of the written word and the smiles of dear family, we hold on. Write on, dear artist and friend. Write on.

  14. Tiffany says:

    Vicki, you are such a beautiful soul. You truly react to the world and feel for people. It’s something I instantly loved about you. I think that when you’re a person who lets life and people touch your heart, you feel the pains along with the beauty. Its heartbreaking to know another feels those pains even when you can completely relate. And I do. To everything you’ve said. From the occasional panic and insomnia. To struggling for certainty within ambiguity and that tension between the beauty of hope and the way despair can be at the other side of it. And yes, to the way its also true that either within or separate from these more specific things, depression isn’t tied to making sense. Maybe it’s like falling in love in a way, that it happens outside of your control and it happens even when it doesn’t make sense. Like you, I’m an optimist. For better or worse I tend to communicate from that place. Its definitely genuine, but I sometimes keep to myself or hold closely about the times when depression catches me, when things are difficult or sad, or when I start to despair over things I hope for the most. Often, I just let them find their place in my mind or work their way out of me. But there is human connection in talking about those things and knowing you’re not alone in the way you feel, in working them through. That’s true about both the pain and the incredible beauty of life and relationships. Sometimes, through and despite ourselves, we make an utterly beautiful connection, a recognition, and meet someone who does see deeply, understand us thoroughly, walks with us through misunderstanding, who touches our soul – and that is such a gorgeous and wonderful thing. Thank you for writing this post, for expressing those things.

    I love this:

    “When I step back and allow myself perspective – when I finally do catch a breath – I realize that life is great. My life is great. I just need to be better at looking back and acknowledging mistakes, then let them go. At looking forward, acknowledging fear, and diving in anyway. At being as kind with myself as I am with everyone else I love.
    And at realizing that – like those exploding flowers – life doesn’t have to be perfect to be both worth it and utterly goddamned gorgeous.”

    Cheers to that. Absolutely worth it and utterly goddamned gorgeous, indeed! <3

    1. You are so sweet, Tiffany — I’ve noticed you’re always ready with a kind word or gentle smile. Another of those people I’ve met online who’ve unexpectedly changed my life for the better. Thank you so much for all your energy and kind words.

      1. Tiffany says:

        That means the world to me. *You* are the sweetest. Now I have the biggest smile ever – inside and out. You have changed my life for the better also, I hope you know. My thank yous, right back.

  15. Jordan Summers says:

    My life is great. I just need to be better at looking back and acknowledging mistakes, then let them go. At looking forward, acknowledging fear, and diving in anyway. At being as kind with myself as I am with everyone else I love.

    And at realizing that – like those exploding flowers – life doesn’t have to be perfect to be both worth it and utterly goddamned gorgeous.-

    This…just this. Thanks for posting this blog. The Nerdist book helped me a lot with what you’re going through.

  16. Pamela! @SpazP says:

    Thank you for the strength and courage it took to share this with us.

  17. Carolyn Borgman says:

    I love you, Vick! Always.

    1. And you back, Carolyn. XO

  18. Raven Twinn says:

    First of all, I had to Google Franzen to see who the mess you were talking about. His ass-facey comments haven’t reached me over heres, apparently.
    Moving on.
    Love you to bits.
    I’ve been losing my hair for years, girl. I told you!
    Sheeeit, I own the crazies. I have days where I’m like, things are finally fine. Finally. Why the hell am I out of my damn mind?
    I think only intelligent, fabulous, creative people with OVERACTIVE minds do this shit, okay?
    The gerbil wheel just does. not. stop.
    I hear that bitch creakin’ at night.
    Anyhoo, you rock for sharing this with everyone. Super sweet and strong as always.
    You’re the one with the best words of strength and courage and positivity for me when *I* feel down.
    Love you, love you, love you!

  19. Ellen says:

    Jenni’s blog post really hit home with me too. I’ve never wanted to end things, but I have wanted things to end just so I can catch a break. Knowing that you’re not alone is so helpful and what keeps me going some days. Because even though I don’t want to end it all, getting out of bed each morning is a struggle. Making myself be social is a struggle and I like people. So knowing that others struggle makes mine a little easier. Thank you for sharing your struggle to help ease the rest of our struggles!

    1. Yes, *that.* I love people as well (though if I’m around too many at once I have to retreat and go rock in the corner. Oddball.) and that’s why knowing I’m not alone helps. Thanks for adding your voice to mine, Ellen.

  20. Angela Roquet says:

    Wow. You are definitely not alone, and it’s really good to know that I’m not either. ♥ Insomnia and stress bites a big one. Though during one of my insomnia web crusades, I did come across a site about turning human hair into yarn. We could make sweaters out of our traitor hairs and give them away for Christmas. I make my own silver linings. lol http://craftingagreenworld.com/2009/05/14/yearn-worthy-yarn-your-hair/

    1. I love that: we make our own silver linings. I’ve been up since 3 am *again* so knowing I’m not alone is once again vitally helpful. Thank you for commenting, Angela. It means more than you know.

  21. Emma Lewis says:

    After reading your post, I felt compelled to reply and tell you how much it has touched me.

    Too often people are quick to judge those of us who struggle with these very things. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do, all that matters is, as you say, we aren’t alone.

    I’ve suffered for over half my life with panic attacks, feelings of inferiority and a growing desire (as you put it) to throw myself in front of a vehicle.

    But, as you say, we keep fighting. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and going through the motions.
    Someone once told me just fake it till you believe it.
    I’m still faking it most days just to get through them.

    Anyways, thank you so much for sharing your experiences.
    You’re an amazing person and a phenomenal author.

    1. Emma,

      Thank you for taking the time. I know what that means. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve struggled with these things as well, but maybe we all have to some degree?

      Anyway, I’m not going anywhere, and intend to keep fighting for my own happiness. You do the same and we’ll stay in this metaphorical boat together, okay?

      Best,
      Vic

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