I have a secret. Imagine me whispering it in your ear. Because I sure as hell can’t say it out loud.
I haven’t written for almost a year. An entire year. And I’m not just talking about this blog. I pretty much gave up writing a year ago. I told myself, “I’ll get back to it.” But I haven’t. If you’ve asked me how my writing is going in the past year, whatever I told you was a lie. Because I haven’t been doing it. I haven’t been able to.
And if I don’t write – TODAY – I fear for my sanity. So here I am. Even though I’ve been sitting here for hours trying to eke this out. Even though I’m having a panic attack. I’m here. And I’m writing this. Be proud of me, unshowered, with my ass in this chair, shirking all other responsibilities.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” And I’m beginning to think I can’t write anymore. And I can’t let that happen. Because writing is one of the things I care most about in my life. So here I am. Frozen solid. And trying to thaw.
I’ve spent the last year pretty much frozen. I know exactly when it happened. I keep waiting for Facebook to remind me of the day, because I know it’s coming in one of those happy little algorithmic flashback reminders. I don’t need to be reminded of it. It haunts me.
A little over a year ago, I was getting my writing shit together, living in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. I was pitching articles to some of my favorite blogs and to my delight, I was getting accepted. I was on track to start the second draft of my book. My writing life was beginning to have a life. Matt and I decided it was time to get back to the states. So we left Mexico and did one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life: cleaning out our storage unit and leaving behind our beloved Venice Beach and our community of friends.
Then, because of this article I wrote, my father and step-mother completely abandoned me – on the night before I left my home of Los Angeles. A real one-two gut punch that has left me a frozen, anxious mess for an entire year.
The craziest thing about being abandoned by my dad and step-mother is there was no private phone call, no text, just some extraordinarily mean-spirited words flung at me via Facebook. A reasonable adult would have called me and said something along the lines of, “Clearly you’re still upset about this thing that happened. Can we talk about it?” The article I wrote wasn’t even about them. There are two little critical sentences about them, and I even gave them some grace in the article. If you’d like to read a no-hold’s-barred critical article about them, here’s one I wrote on Quora about what it’s like being a neglected child.
Matt and I drove to Birmingham, Alabama to go live with friends for the summer, but I don’t remember much about the drive. I remember reading and re-reading my step-mother’s public words on Facebook calling me ‘two-faced’ and saying that my dad ‘isn’t doing too well now’ because of me. It’s really awful to realize that the people who are supposed to love you no matter what are actively wishing for bad things to happen to you. I had a panic attack upon arrival in Birmingham – my feet started tingling and I had to fight an all-consuming urge to run, even as some of my favorite people in world hugged me and welcomed me whole-heartedly into their lives.
Birmingham, in a lot of ways, was a colossal disaster as my life just sort of disintegrated. My relationship with my really truly incredible, wonderful friends I lived with completely fell apart. My relationship with my husband nearly fell apart. My sleep patterns changed. Sometimes the anxiety in my head would say, “You need to sleep with all your clothes on just in case you need to get away real fast.” So I would humor that ridiculous request, if only to prove to myself that the anxious thoughts were wrong.
I would spend days sitting in my room among my boxes of things and alternately cry and stare into space. I took a lot of long walks up to The Vulcan. I read fifty books. I watched a lot of Jane The Virgin. But I didn’t write. I couldn’t. How could I ever write again when my words had caused my own father to completely abandon me?
How did I know he completely abandoned me?
I texted him, “Dad, I love you.” His response? “No.” And I haven’t heard from him since. It hurts like hell. It hurts like fucking hell. I can let it sink me or I can just own it and rise. I can almost feel the permafrost in my soul melting with every word I write. So thank you for reading.
Anne Lamott says, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
And it’s been almost one year. And I’m still here. And god dammit, I’m going to write. My stepmother wrote to me, “Remember Venice ‘Queenie’ that kingdoms fall all the time.”
Yeah, they sure do. But this one-time Venice Queen is rising again from the ashes! Building this new kingdom is going to be fun.
### That picture above is The Vulcan statue in Birmingham, Alabama, the largest cast iron statue in the world, and one of my only friends last summer.