Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘self doubt’

Fear as the Dark Mother of Moving

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Yes, I am moving to Texas – the land of big hair and blue eyeshadow. I know, I know. But it’s my fear after spending ten of my formative years in Alabama feeling under made-up and under poufy-haired.

I keep thinking about fear, fear of moving, fear of my friends forgetting me, fear of loneliness from a general incompetence in making new friends, fear of the heat in Texas, fear that I am throwing out something important. The list goes on and on.

So, I went for a walk last night around Five Points late in the evening when the scraggly trees blend with the night sky. Total patches of the earth are black and vision-proof. I kept wandering the streets, shuffling my way along pavements occasionally stubbing a toe or tripping, bouncing off tree branches, feeling the spiders from said branches land in my hair, and working my way into a panic attack.

Like most Scots, when I’m worried, I walk and walk for a while, late at night, regulating my breath so the fear coalesces, snaking back into the dark edges to lay in waiting for the next time that it can grab me.

I can’t remember ever being freaked out about walking at night. I’ve walked this area for almost 20 years. I’ve survived the night of Dropping Spiders (one April evening I found three had dropped down crowning me with 24 legs – still makes me shiver). I have listened to the trains go past with the chug-a-lug sound, never changing in these two decades, and wondered about where I was going in life. I’ve sat on the swings in the park, surrounded by the toys of happily innocent kids and speculated if the wisdom gained is worth the innocence lost. In the dark, I have admitted my failures, where I’ve been mean or thoughtless, ignored then stared in the face my aging with the creeping vista of finitude, death. I’ve cursed and cried, laughed and said “I love you” where no one can hear me.


I’ve met Kali, the dark mother, twice in one weekend walking these streets. During yoga teacher training, I walked my beagle-dachshund mix, PooPet, at 11:30 one Friday night. My doggie loved the darks holes, where the light had disappeared with the dipping sun and would scamper into places that looked fit for Moray Eels or Jack the Ripper. Nothing stopped her thirty pounds of courageous canine, but that night, we tromped along, meandering an uneven sidewalk when a silhouette stepped into the road. In a long robe, features obliterated, with a croak she whispered, “Don’t be afraid.” I remember opening my eyes wide, struggling to remain upright as PooPet jerked the chain to run behind my legs. When I gained my balance, the street was dark, leaves slithered in the breeze, and we were alone in the darkness. I didn’t think too much of it beyond, “Holy moly, we have weird ass people in this neighborhood.” But then the next night, walking the dog, another woman stepped into the light in the middle of the road. Even backlit I could tell that she was not the same woman. She lifted her arms toward the trees, and PooPet let out a bark that morphed into a whimper. The air stopped moving. I couldn’t breathe. Now I was seriously freaked out. PooPet was still, and for a moment, I could feel my blood move through my body, like I was being watered from the inside.

This Kali was formal, “There is no need to be frightened.” I think I said, “Uh, yeah, Okay.” At that point I was scared as fuck, running down that road to the safety of my townhouse. It didn’t stop me from returning to the training class the next day, but I was really, really, very alert between yoga poses.

Maybe that’s the way this is supposed to be. I am aware, actually frightened, that things could go wrong in a big way. But. I’m still going to move to Texas. My friends, come along for the ride but hold on. This will shake us up! Anyone up for a walk?

Om Kali Ma


Live Nude Art


“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”     – Andy Warhol

I know you are wondering what I am doing. In my most honest moments, I wonder too.

The photography shoot was an adventure, a challenge, and a chance to see naked people up close. Working with an artist whose medium is photography, we created a series of quite lovely, interesting, and at times, disturbing images. Some of the images are based on very loose ideas or story fragments and some arose organically within the photo shoot. I will write proper, interesting choice of word, stories for the images.

Overall, the models were exquisite. Every one of them perfect in some way, usually unexpected. We attempted to capture or hint at the elusive perfection.

Each day, up would drive a perfectly normal looking and behaving person asking where to park.

“Around back. You don’t want your car towed.”

“Okay,” and with a trusting nod, they would follow me around the back of the building to park behind my car. They would walk into the building. I would make sure doors were locked.

“Wow, thanks it’s not too cold,” models would say. They signed a model’s release and showed us their license, which I photographed and emailed to us. We explained what we were looking to do. Got their input. Then they would say, “Ready?”

I would take a big breath and think, “Here we go. Don’t stare.” And they’d take off their clothes. Trying to look busy elsewhere as this was happening, I forced myself to exhale, practiced a noncommittal smile.

Then we went to work. After the first ten minutes, it was fine. We put in some hours, broke a sweat, strained our eyes, hearts, and brains. There were a couple of dicey moments, more about artistic choices than about nudity.

“Did you see that?”

“Yeah, we can’t have that.”

So I walked over to the model and said, “I’m going to clamp some fabric around your butt. Strange shadow … “

Without blinking an eye she said, “Sure.”

Clamp, clamp, clamp went the fabric. The model smiled. I was the uncomfortable one.

Things were better by the second day. I felt maternally protective – walking them out to their car, asking if they needed water or felt dizzy and needed to come down from the stool.

But the third day was confusing, trying, a major leap of artistic faith. We photographed two models. Together. I kept repeating the mantra,

Thisisart. This is art. THIS … IS … ART.

Periodically, I would check in with my collaborator.

“Can they do that?”


“Will we go to jail?”


“I’m not sure this will fly in Raleigh … “

He’d smile at me and tell me to do something. Pick up a stool. Gather some clothes. I would suggest things – the placement of a hand, drape of a fabric, choice of a prop – and the models were game. It was a wonderful collaboration.

This weekend, we reviewed the images. Plugging the camera into a TV, the images took on life. The images are stupendous. Beautiful, erotic, disturbing. Quite likely, the photographs and stories won’t fly in Raleigh or will have a limited flight.

But mostly, I am proud of us. We were true to our visions.

I kept my promise to see the beauty in each model – not getting bent out of shape over every little imperfection. (Maybe one day I will see my body with the same kindness.)

More ideas are percolating. The exhibit is starting to find a shape, probably not the final shape. We will continue to work within our visions as I gather my courage and sharpen my skills. It helps that I am reading Bayles and Orland’s Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING.

But it is imperative, however you evaluate the exhibit, we will keep making art.

Who you calling slack?

At 8:16 am today, I plunked down in a seat at the coffee shop. I plunked so hard my butt bounced. My friend snickered while looking a little bleary-eyed.

“So what did you do last night?” he asked.

“I ate candy and watched an episode of the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice. I was really interested in how the women had cleavage under their chin. Kind of mesmerizing. What did you do?” I admitted with a guilty drop of my gaze.

“I played kickball,” he said.


“Yeah. Somewhat social and minimally athletic.”

“Do you ever feel like a slacker? Like we should be doing more with our lives?”

There was a pause. We looked down at our coffees. Swooping into the coffee shop came the perfectly coiffed overachiever. She chirped, “Hi ya’ll.”

We groaned as she launched into this litany of events from the night before … A “Gee life is wonderfully busy and I get lots of stuff done” Pollyanna attitude that is exhausting listening to and mindboggling to consider doing. By digging my nails into my palms, I managed to stop myself from smacking her. My friend rolled his eyes before devouring the car section of the newspaper. Yes, we are over forty ….

I bet even the patrons in the other room breathed a sigh of relief when she left, probably off to save the world or at least polish her desk. Resolutely, I promised myself I would determine the color of my desktop.

Like a lot of us, I have a paying job or two, a book in the process of being marketed, and various other writing projects. And a house to clean with meals to cook and bills to pay. Some days my desk is a series of unruly piles – MUST be done RIGHT NOW, CAN WAIT until this afternoon, SURELY this can be done by the end of the week, TAKE HOME and finish, and when HELL FREEZES OVER. My computer is covered with sticky notes – do this, call her, him, that group, write them a thank you, little quotes for writing, and songs to download. And I have ants. Lots of them. I like to think we share an office but my clients don’t take this live-and-let-live approach. My fax machine is cranky. Sometimes my computer freezes. I can’t get the scanner to work. But I take out the trash and my office doesn’t smell. Does this make me a slacker?

So this morning, I cleaned off the desk. Who knew it had a lovely mahogany colored top? And found some sticky notes from 2012 to throw away. I vacuumed and rearranged the pillows.

But the thing is, I don’t feel any better. I think it is slightly nice to see my desktop. The question of the ants remains. If I buy an ant farm, do you think they’ll move in? Otherwise, I probably should buy some ant traps.

Basically, I am a Russian peasant fatalist. I am at one with it. I feel no need to be excessively clean or neat (except the bathrooms and kitchen and clean sheets on the bed – must be the Jewish genes). I have other things to do – write, work, write, be with friends, write, find the creative juice that spices my world and write.

In my cranky little heart, I love my disheveled office. It has a comfy sofa to nap on. Lots of throws to cuddle up with when feeling overwhelmed. I have finally figured out how to use most of the functions on my printer. It is my creative world – messy, full of eye candy, my Instant Psychotherapy jar with the petty cash for emergency candy bars and/or wine, a line up of sticky notes like the Tibetan prayer flags, and my bucket of toys. These tidbits do not define me but they reflect the colorful creativity of my writing world.

I am not the Martha Stewart or Gwyneth Paltrow of writing. Don’t judge me because sometimes I’m a slacker.

Minimizing Writing Injuries

I had a meltdown the other day. You know how you can feel totally insecure and want to throw in the towel? I am not good enough, smart enough, nor skilled enough. Writing is just too hard.

On the day of the meltdown, I had received three rejection letters from different literary competitions. I was expecting the first rejection. A long shot. Shrugged it off. The second one was a form letter – I had thought I had a pretty good chance for a spot in the journal. My blood pressure rose. When the third rejection plunked into my email box, it hit me hard and personal. The email came very close to saying, “How could you ever conceive we would publish something from you? You don’t have the credentials.” In my mind they said, “You are a grammatically challenged cretin. And shallow,” with a perfect British accent while their manicured hand tossed my manuscript into a trashcan.

Cursing loudly, I jumped up knocking a stapler off my desk. It landed with a thud on my little toe. By the time I looked down, the toe resembled an undercooked blood sausage. Mottled red and deep purple, growing rounder by the second, stretched skin threatening to explode. Eeooogh. Squinting through tears, I grabbed the first straight object within reach and a roll of masking tape to splint the toe. In the end, my toe was strapped to a red crayon. An ironic writing injury.

Maybe I needed help. I wrote an email to my first writing teacher. She is lovely. Her words, in person and on the page, are knowledgeable and gracious. My email said something along the lines of:

“I can’t do this. I will never be literary in a classical sense.”

In all her generosity and wisdom, she asked me to question why I wanted to be “literary” and why not be “the best version of myself.” She asked me to think about my growth as a writer over the years. She gave some concrete suggestions to improve my skills. Mainly, she believed in me. She said she wanted me to sell many books!

Well, that stopped me in my tracks. In this lonely and hypercritical profession, I had been trying to do this by myself. That was a mistake.

Always have people in your corner. People who think you are the best thing since sliced bread. They may not always get what you are doing but they believe in your intentions. They want you to succeed.

Nurture these people. Take them to lunch, make them dinner, share a glass of wine, or go to a movie together.

Over time, two really wonderful things will happen. One, in a strategic moment, they will very, very gently tell you when you have strayed off course. Helpful information and you will be open to it because of the supportive relationship. Two, you will be generous in return – believe in their intentions, want them to succeed, and very, very gently give them feedback. Everyone gains.

In this way, we find our “best version” of one’s self. Mine is “boldly honest and best snarky.” What is yours?

Now take yourself to lunch.

Next time, invite me. I’ll hobble over.


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