Scaredy L. Marie

This is one of those days when I had to put my Scaredy Squirrel hand puppet on and point the finger at myself. 011

Don’t worry. I don’t do this in public much. But once again, a post at Nancy Hatch’s blog hit me where I live. It’s this one: https://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/calm-self-awareness/

She featured a video that I won’t post here, since you can find it at the end of her post. Feel free to head there and check it out. I won’t mind. Honest. It reminded me of something that has plagued me for years: status anxiety. Can you relate?

In the video the narrator discusses the question most of us ask each other: “What do you do?” Jobs I’ve had with regular paychecks like book or curriculum editor at various publishers, senior project writer at another, or production editor at the American Bar Association made that question a lot easier to answer. But when the regular paychecks stopped, well, I squirmed a lot when people asked me, “What do you do?” Even the answer, “Um freelance writer” seemed lame, especially when it gained me follow-up questions like, “Oh? What are you working on? Do you have a contract? When will the book be published?” I’ve had work-for-hire projects, so the assumptions behind the questions are valid. But when I lack a project, I get rather tongue tied.

I wish I didn’t find a response like, “I’m writing my own books” or “I don’t know when they’ll be published” so difficult to utter. All due to pride I guess, and the status thing that the video points out. After all, both responses fail to point to a tangible source of income. Yet I love the stories I write and the characters I’ve gotten to know. And I betray them every time I keep silent out of fear.

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Status seems a silly thing to stress over. But we do anyway, don’t we?

Another thing I’ve squirmed about is where I live—an apartment. Over the years, I’ve faced the “why rent when you can own” remarks or even disdainful looks because I’m not a homeowner. Really, the fact that I’m here and not homeless is an answer to prayer. I love where I live, though, because I can look out and see this tree.

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For some reason, I think of this tree as Wesley. I’m not sure why. (And it has nothing to do with The Princess Bride.) Wesley reminds me of me. He’s old and has a broken limb due to a bad storm. But he’s still standing and producing leaves. I’ve been broken by life’s storms too. But who hasn’t been? Maybe you have too. But we’re still standing. . . .

So I can’t make a proper pretense at status. Even my car gives me away. It’s as old as Methuselah. But I still zip around in it. I even give dudes revving their engines in the lanes next to me a run for their money. (Never challenge a Honda Civic—especially one driven by me. I didn’t get three speeding tickets in one year for nothin’.)

1998_honda_civic_4_dr_lx_sedan-pic-5805229955496057718

Um, this is not my car. But it has the same make and model.

Let’s see what else I’ve been afraid of. Oh yes. In the past, I’ve worried that this blog isn’t “status-y” enough. I don’t have the readership that many bloggers have. I don’t have a plan for it. Don’t want a plan for it. I love the randomness of it, though some readers might run for the hills. I can write nonsense about hand puppets whenever I get ready or post interviews and cover reveals to support authors.

By the way, I’m giving away a number of books in June. The fact that I can do so thrills me to no end.

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So that’s me. I’ve got a load of clothes in the dryer, so I’ve got to skedaddle soon. If I have a takeaway to add to this, I would say that if you and I meet, I won’t ask you, “What do you do?” As if you have to prove your worth by that question. Instead, I’ll just say, “I’m glad to meet you.” Because that’s what it’s all about, really, isn’t it? Who we are, not what we do.

After I take my clothes out of the dryer, I might get all fast and furious on the road in my old Civic. The sun is out and I have a horizon to find. (Yes, that is an allusion to one of Captain Jack Sparrow’s lines in the first Pirates of the Caribbean.) Maybe I’ll see you on the road. But if you rev your engine at me, watch out.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this.

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While the others at the party discussed who was who and what was what, Gandalf took a nap. I can so relate, Gandalf.

Honda Civic from cargurus.com. Book stack from blogs.mtu.edu. Other photos by L. Marie.

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29 thoughts on “Scaredy L. Marie

  1. Been there many times. Part of it, at least for me, is that I feel like my answers are being judged negatively. When people keep prying as to what I’m doing, it comes down to explaining my stories and that tends to lose them. Over the years, it’s created a sense of anxiety toward the questions. I’m proud of what I do and I enjoy it, but it’s the expected response that makes me lock up. There are times I even say ‘stay at home father’ before author because I get a vibe that the person would accept that better.

    • Do you think that if you wrote a contemporary realistic series the answers would come easier, at least to some people? Whenever I mention high fantasy, some people’s eyes glaze over, or they say, “I’m not into fantasy.” I know they wouldn’t read my books, so talking about them becomes onerous. However, when I ghostwrote a contemporary novella for adults, everyone wanted to talk about it.

      • Never really considered that, but I don’t think the answers would come easier. People may be less likely to roll their eyes or walk away in mid-sentence. Honestly, I’m not even sure what counts as contemporary.

  2. I love this post, Linda.

    People love to label us so they know which pigeon-hole or box to shove us in . . . as if we were a butterfly to pin to a specimen board. But we are far more than what we do. No single question, occupation, or experience can encapsulate the totality of who we are. We defy categories.

    Gandolf has the RIGHT idea!

  3. When Tom and I were first dating, folks would ask “what is his major?”. Then, as the years went on, “what does he do?”. When I first said to family that he was a comprehensive art major, well, imagine “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Hems, haws, guttural intonations. “oh, then he can paint plates!”. Opa! I kid you not. It still goes on – more than 4 decades later.

    Myself? I’ve done many things; teaching, editing, insurance, school board member . . . these days, when asked “what do you do?” I often respond “as little as possible”. 🙂

    Thanks for this post. I think I needed it. I’m with Gandalf – oh, love the name Wesley for your tree. Gotta run. I need to shoo a dear out of the garden.

    • Oh Penny! You brought up a question that used to stress me out in college: what is your major. And when people found out what it was, instantly I would be told, “Why not major in something useful.” Sigh. Why do we do this to each other???

      I’ve worn many hats too. But none of them totally define me. I love your answer: “As little as possible.” 😀

  4. Even before I saw what Nancy’s first words were in her comment I was going to say them… so I am still going to say them! I LOVE this post! I would like to say more and I am going to try to get back here but I need to hop in our vehicle and head out for a day trip!

  5. Bravo! We love you just the way you are, L. Marie. If we start to believe what we do defines us, we’re in big trouble. The world would be a better place if we focused more on how we treat others, rather than what one does for a living.

    • Amen to that, Jill. And thank you. I agree that the world would be a better place if we did that.
      I’m glad you’re pursuing your dreams! Keep going!

      • Do you write by hand, and then type what you’ve written? I do that sometimes. Today I wrote a scene by hand, then typed it.
        Hope you have a good weekend, Jill! Will you get to take a break or will you keep pressing on?

  6. Haha! Not long after I started blogging, I got tempted by one of WordPress’s little courses – Blogging 101. The idea was that they would give a daily prompt which would help increase your blogging status over a week or two. Well, the first prompt was – blog about three things you aspire to achieve with your blog……..

    A week later, I still hadn’t come up with one! I decided at that point to forget trying to achieve anything and just go back to my comfortable status-free little blog… 😉

    • Wow. I don’t think I could stand to get those prompts! They sound too much like school assignments. I can’t blame you for skipping those! Just hearing about them makes me tired.

  7. Back in the day, when we started a family, we agreed that I would be a stay-at-home mom regardless of income. I had a career and a double major under my belt and yet when I proudly answered the question with “I’m an educated woman who’s taking time to be a stay at home mom” all any one heard was ‘stay at home mom’ and the legion of societal biases against that ‘role’ surfaced quickly. Perhaps that’s not how it is now-a-days, but it was a big deal back then (’80’s).
    Bottom line: I wanted to be the one my kiddos took their first steps towards and I also functioned as their first teacher, too. I knew that time in their lives could never be re-written…

    This ‘status’ anxiety as you call it, keeps roaring its hot-aired head in each stage of life. I’m glad I got used to it as the whole being a musician thing has always had it’s own societal issues. (unless you’re a super star, which I posit doesn’t always mean being a musician-HA!)

    There’s a time and a place for everything, and sometimes 9-5 is it and sometimes it isn’t. One isn’t better than the other…well you get it, just don’t get too worked up over those who don’t get it.

    Big hug.

    • Sigh. It’s sad when people offer hurtful opinions about what they think you should do. I’m sure you had to stand your ground a lot! My mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was 14. Then she returned to school. What’s right for some is not right for all. We were never meant to put each other down because of status!!!

      Big hug back, Laura!

  8. Loved the post, Linda! A month and a half ago, I left the ranks of homeowners, and it was a tough transition for me for a lot of the reasons you talk about. But then I thought about the picture of the tree by your window. My old house had a tree that I loved as well, a giant silver maple that right now would be at the height of its beauty with shiny new red-and-green leaves. Then I’d stress out over whether the tree was old or sick, or whether a lightning strike would claim it, as lightning had struck more than a half dozen other trees in our neighborhood in the ten years I lived there. When you’re the homeowner, any disaster befalling your tree is your problem.

    • So true, Lyn. And thank you for sharing. I’m sorry the transition has been tough. (I’m sure the tree will miss you guys.) But I’m glad you like your new place. And your book release is approaching. 🙂

  9. I think there is most often some innocence when the “what do you do?” question is posed, but it can be an uncomfortable one. I like your “nice to meet you” method though!

    • Yes, you have a point, Phillip. Not everyone is ready to play the comparison game. And people often are curious about book writers.

      Hope you’re feeling better.

  10. This is a great post, and one that I think most people (everyone?) can so relate to. The writing thing especially. I’m better with it now, but I’ve squirmed so badly when I’ve had to answer that simple question of ‘what do you do’ and ‘have you got a publisher’? Judgement can be such a terrifying thing, but then sometimes (not always but sometimes) I’ve found that most of it is in my head and people are just curious and not knowing much about the world of writing, ask the question that naturally comes to them when they find out you write (i.e. have you got a publisher etc). I still get cringeworthingly awkward when I answer those questions, but often now it turns out not to be as bad as I thought it would be.

    The blog status thing is also a tricky one. Especially since I started looking into being an indie writer — everywhere I turn, it seems people are saying that you must have a Platform, you must Build An Audience, you must Market Yourself and Build Your Brand (can’t think of anything worse)… I’ve gotten mired in paralysis analysis with my blog, not knowing what to do with it because I felt like I should be doing things to increase followers or commentators, whilst not wanting to do stuff like that, or knowing how to in any case. So it’s nice to know it’s not just me!! Also I love your blog as it is, and seems like a lot of people who read it do too, so there’s definitely no need to have status anxiety here! 🙂

    • Paralysis analysis–oh how I’ve been there. I’ve heard the platform conversation. While I can see their point, some writers (like Suzanne Collins, for instance) have next to no online presence. Some have quit social media out of disgust. So, yeah, I can see a need for balance and wisdom.

      The more I squirm at the question, the more I realize my own insecurities. I know I need to grow in confidence about sharing where I am.

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