Why Do I Always Expect the Worst?

2012-05-17_003Old habits die-hard. This is something that I have always done since my High School days, hope for the best but expect the worst. I have carried that mantra with me for decades because for the most part it has helped me deal with heart aches and breaks. While I try to view the world less cynically as I get older, I fall back to this.

Last month I mentioned that I have a publicist that is helping me get test readers. Well, that process is done and we are waiting for the feedback. Questions have been developed so that I can get a general feel about how the book was received. I had already gotten one bad review about the story’s content so I try not to take things too personal. Besides, this person liked the way I write but not the content so it wasn’t a total loss. That is also when I realized that the book is not for everyone considering that I have gotten mostly positive reviews.

So when I got my first email the other day with answered questions from a test reader, I was already thinking the worst. I can already imagine someone saying how much this novel sucks. I can imagine in getting one out of five stars on my Goodreads page. With much fear I open it and realize that it is another positive review. Then I feel silly for not having the confidence in my ability.

So why do I do this to myself? One would think that since I’m older and more mature I should be ready to handle things like this. Yet, for some reason I cringe when I think about someone rating my book. That is why I’m spending the extra time to comb through the book several times searching for errors and inconsistencies.

Where is this fear coming from? I know that it’s not real but in my mind I’m still that little kid that thinks something is living in my closet ready to pounce as soon as my parents turn off the hallway light. I know it’s not real. My mind is making all of this up. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real (yes, I looked that up).

Truth be told I think that the fear comes from the possibility being judged by the intellectuals that I know that could rip the book apart. The fear comes the family reading and thinking that I’m a bit of a nut or freak. So when it comes down to it, I am ready to be a pariah of sorts which is completely stupid and irrational. But I will be prepared for the worst while I hope for the best because past experience has taught me how to survive.

I know that my fear is very much like my book, it is fiction. However, like the fiction I write, there is some truth somewhere in the background.

The Point of No Return

110-1964x15382I can’t go back. I’ve pushed myself and this process to a point of no return. Despite any fear of failure that I have, I’m past the point of resignation and it’s too overwhelming to think about.

Every day is a combined feeling of angst and fear. The angst comes the fact that much of this process is a waiting game. I just want this whole thing to be over already. I want to be able to just talk about the book itself and not the process of publishing one. As an admitted over thinker, waiting just gives me room to analyze shit that hasn’t even happened yet. I can think for hours about the number of books I need to sell at a certain price to recuperate my expenses. I can painstakingly think about people rating my book publicly which means I need to prepare for the worst.

Then the fear sets in. The thoughts of not being good enough run through my skull because who in the world would like what I just wrote? I’m sure there are people out there that will hate all 412 pages of this book. The language and the adult situations I present in the book give me a little bit of a pause and I don’t even know why. Did I become a prude at this point in my life or am I afraid that people will see a side of me they never knew existed?

The point is that this book has become very personal to me. I’ve put in a lot of hours crafting a story that I think is worth telling. There is a lot of depth behind the words that I write and my fear is that any of the points that I’m making will get lost in the shuffle of the raunchiness and language that I use.

I’ve read this book six times now. Each time I think about whether I should change something here or there because I’m afraid some family member may not like a word here or an action there. I’ve successfully fought off every temptation to change the book based on how other people may feel. I thank God for those test readers. They survived the book and have given me some hope that this book might just be decent.

But this waiting game is real. I want the book and it’s appearance to be a particular way. I do not want a generic cover. I want something that reflects me and my work. Unfortunately that desire will cost me time and money.

So this is where I am. A point of no return. I can’t go back and say that this book is not going to happen. Shit, I can’t even say that I can go back to being the person I was before I even started writing it. I’m in the middle of my leap of faith. I hope I land on the other side.

So, That book…

There comes a point in every person’s life in which they have to either shit or get off the pot. This is a saying that I first heard from my father. I can relate it to the fact that we need to get off the fence and make a decision. For me, I can talk all day about starting something and never doing it or starting something and never finishing it. I think this blog has been a great way for me to advance my writing and I have worked so very hard on editing and make all my posts be as close to perfect as possible. This year, I even went in another direction with my poetry. But, the time as come for me to get this book started.

The reasons that have stopped me have been completely irrelevant because they are all excuses. I could come up with anything that would stop me and it would just be an excuse. So, I will simply say that the main reason has been fear. I think there is a fear that I will not be able to finish it, a fear that it wont be good enough, a fear that even if it is a great book, will I be able to write another one? Again, these are all excuses that I create because success and change can be scary things.

Several people have helped me realize that I need to just do it. They know who they are and when it is all completed I will make sure that I dedicate this first book to those who few people who really believe in my ability. I am not talking about the normal conversation in where I say I am going to write a book and they tell me they want a copy. I am talking about helping me to understand the idea of character development and outlining a book.

So, instead of recreating the wheel, I have decided to expand a short story and build a novel around it. It has taken me a few weeks to get the point that I am right now. I have reshaped the way I want this story to go and have outlined the first six chapters. More importantly, I have started chapter 1 and I think I may be almost done with it. Now, I am a firm believer in constant edits so what I have now will not be what I have a few weeks from now.

For those who may have been reading this blog for awhile may recognize this story. It is called the Angel of Death and I wrote it one night about 2 years ago. I posted the short story last year on this blog and it is very raw. There are typos in it that I now recognize. I have taken that basic shell and expanded it. I feel very confident that I can get a a really good story out of all of this.

There have been other books that I had ideas about. One involving Afro-Latinos and the other my book of poems. I think I can still do what I need to do in regards to my other ideas, but I need to have a real book under my belt. I need to prove to myself that I can do this.

The premise is simple: A woman struggles with the search of the meaning to her nightmares of an Angel of Death that takes the lives of real people. Is she a medium that has been ignoring her gift or is it something more? This novel will delve into the life of a woman who’s past may reveal that we all truly pay for the sins of our parents…

So this is what has been really keeping me busy outside of work and the job search…

The "Off" Switch

I had this particular topic in my head in November. I was all set to write about it but then I put it on the back burner. I even forgot about it because my life was going in a certain way and I think as the 2009 came to a close I was able to get a grasp of my emotions and my thoughts.

Last week I was having a conversation with someone and she mentioned to me that she wished there was an “off switch” for emotions. That perhaps there was away to turn off emotions when we needed to in order to get through the day or whatever situation. It made me think a lot about this. I had to dust off this subject in my head and really think about this. In fact, I went so far as to attempt a poem, I started it, but I never got back to it. I am not even sure I like it.

Anyway, the concept of the “off switch” was something that I thought about at a time when I was dealing with several different things at once. I am the type of person now that is willing and able to deal with my problems head on. I don’t care for confrontation but I will do it because there are times in which it has to be done. I know my main problem is that I care about people’s feelings too much. So, in the past, I have avoided confrontation or even being honest about things because of it. I have since come to realize that I need to put other people’s feelings aside and just be real.

Let’s be honest here. There are very few people in the world who are going to care about our feelings the way we want them to. There are people in this world who think that life is all about them and what we feel simply does not matter…until it is too late. It is that simple fact alone that should provoke any one of us to be real. We learn to be selfish based on the actions of others.

I feel the “off switch” is the hardening of our hearts. While it is not a real concept because emotions is what makes us human, it is something that can be achieved through maturity and practice. This way you can turn off certain feelings off like: regret, sorrow, or depression. Can you imagine if they had a pill for that? Wait…maybe they do.

It would be hot if you could choose which things you want to shut off. I think about it like an iPhone or a Blackberry app. You can download it and the set the preference. It would be something like this:

  • Crying: Off
  • Living In The Past: Off
  • Sad Songs: Off
  • Romantic Movies: Off
  • Expectations: Off
  • Facebook Stalking: Off
  • Drunk Tweeting: Off

The point is that we struggle so much with our issues. Some people know how to deal with them and some people don’t. I think the more mature a person is the easier it is to not do dumb things to themselves and other  people. Maybe that is me having faith in other people. Personally, I have learned to deal with things as they come. I have learned the less you care the happier you will be. That sounds like it makes no sense, but some how it is reality.

However, I would be foolish to say that having an “off switch” is the best thing to have because it isn’t. This type of ability only limits ourselves and any real chance of happiness. I really think that true happiness comes from within and if we rely on people to make us happy then life will really be disappointing. We learn through pain and most humans are too stubborn not learn anything easily.

The only thing I would really create an “off switch” for, is fear. Too many people live their lives so scared of what might or might not happen that they forget to live.

Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are. – Don Miguel Ruiz

No Fear

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else.” – Ursula Kroeber Le Guin

Here is the thing I am trying to convey: People can change. I am not sure sure why this is so hard for people to believe. Indeed, we are creatures of habit and it is easier for people to not change at all than to make the effort to do something different. However, if a person truly wants to change and have the motivation to do so, they can.

Sure, our behaviors make us who we are. Change does not happen over night but it is indeed possible. If chain smokers can quit smoking then that should be an indication that people can change. Of course addiction is a disease, but it is still a change in habits and in many ways a change in thinking. Very similar to how so many people ask me how I have lost the weight and maintain that loss. I have changed the way I do things. I have changed the way I eat and the way I live my life.

More importantly, people need to make mistakes in life. Clearly this is not an ideal way to learn anything, but life is everyday learning. We get tested everyday and we do not always pass those tests. Trust me, I know first hand. I am a failure at so many things in life at one point or another, but if I don’t fail, I cannot succeed.

Real change comes when you have nothing else to lose. I have seen many things in my life and one this is for sure, pride is the downfall of so many people. Pride is usually the last thing a person loses before they reach that rock bottom. Once we reach that place, we cannot sink any lower. Some people have issues dealing with such a place or concept. Some people never get out of it either. However, if you have ever been at the lowest point in your life then you will know that the experience is life altering.

When I am talk about life altering, think about losing everything. What happens when we have nothing lose? There is no more fear. Very few things from that point on can hurt us as we build our life back up. We become free to do whatever we really want to do in life.

For me there was the acknowledgment of a few things. I realized that I will be single for a long time. Call it a personal choice or maybe a protest to God (whom, I am starting to think that God is woman, but that is another post…*smile*), but in either case I need some serious me time. I acknowledge that kids may not be in the cards for me. I know, I keep saying this and some people actually get upset, but it is what it is and I will let fate decide that one. Finally, there is the chance with all the things that are happening in my life that I may just die alone. Yes, that is a somber and morbid thought, but the funny thing is, I have no fear of that. Maybe because in my heart, I know it is not true.

But, as much as those negative things are a possibility, so are the positive ones. I may just get married again. I may just have have 3-5 kids. Maybe I will become this famous poet/author. I do not know, but that is all possible. I have reached the level of acceptance and have let go. My point is that right now I am living a life without fear.

I told someone yesterday that I am caring less and less every day. What I meant was that all the things that I used to stress are fading away. Why should I stress something that may ultimately not matter? At this point, I am living my life according to what I feel is right for me.

The Value of "X"

I am amazed about how much time I have been able to think about love and life. I think so much these days that creating blog topics are as easy for me as it was when I started this months ago. I was thinking about how we establish rules in order to put a value to a person or value to a relationship. I am not a math person but I do remember a few things, like trying to find the value of x. I think that is geometry.

I remember a typical problem being something like 5x + 6x = 22. Then one would have to figure out what the value of x was. I feel that many people view the value of love and relationships in very much the same manner. They create rules in order to justify a decision. I found this to be the case in many women I know. I am not generalizing, but most guys that I know don’t follow any particular rules as it applies to love.

I will give an example. To me this is a typical thought of someone who is using rules to define love: “I know that he works hard everyday, but if he really cares about me he will blow off his meeting and come home early” That seems like a reasonable request. You can see the value of this equation, but think about how quickly it can turn. “This man knows that I want him to come home early and he is still in meetings, he must not care about me as much as I thought”.

To many people, love is an equation. All the pieces and parts must fit in a certain way in order for a relationship to begin. I, for one, do not subscribe to this thought because I am more of feeler. I like to feel my way through things. I am ok if things do not make sense because as I had said before, love is the perfect emotion. We are the ones who are not perfect. However, when it comes to love, many people expect perfection. Which is why rules are created and the “equation of love” begins.

I am not referring to dating rules, although I think those are irrelevant too. It is my belief that we develop a mechanism to guard ourselves from getting hurt. We take lessons learned from past relationship and apply them to possible relationships in the future, which makes complete sense. However, can anyone truly control how they feel about someone if it just feels right? I understand that we all guard our feelings because pain of rejection and the fear being alone can be great, but I think we lose so much of ourselves have our guard up.

Fear. That is the bottom line. That is value of x. Fear dominates our daily lives and stops us from doing anything successful. That is reason for the rules that we make up. Our fears can range from the thought of being alone to the thought of losing your yourself. Fear gives us a reason to create rules so that we have an easy way out. If a person does not match a list of criteria (i.e. he/she smokes too much, he/she is too old or too young) then they can be crossed off a fictitious list of potential mates. Fear gives us a reason to make excuses.