Butterflies, Strength, and Onion-flavored Dreams

I’ve seen my name published in the bylines of the hundreds of newspaper articles I wrote before giving up the Dream That Was Supposed to Pay the Bills. That was the plan, you know. The paycheck was supposed to fund the Dream That Included Me and a Book with My Words.

Funny thing, that dream. It might have worked had I gone into teaching kindergartners (maybe that’s why I decided to homeschool?) because playing with and teaching the youngest and most eager has always brought a smile to my heart. The plan may also have worked had I become a secretary, zoologist, or rocket scientist (none of which I am actually qualified for, mind you. Especially the secretary thing. That one requires spelling skills and typos get you fired.)

Instead, the plan blew up in my face because my brain was numb at the end of the day from manipulating words into ideas that formed moving pictures that told Other People’s stories. Sometimes I wrote about the sweet and uplifting. Others, I wrote about the sad and those left behind. I once stood next to a man being tried for murder. He was accused of (and eventually convicted of) sexually assaulting and then killing a teen girl in the small city in which I worked as city editor of the newspaper. Reporters are supposed to be objective, and I was in my coverage of the trial. It was just the facts, m’am. Please and thank you.

He scared the living hell out of me. I felt cold standing so close to him. But there was nowhere else to sit and I needed to be up close to get the quotes for the story. I didn’t breathe until I left the courtroom. I didn’t begin to feel warmth until hours later.

Coming home every night after days like that left me no emotional head space for my own writing. There was no time to figure out what my message was. All the desire in the world to be “discovered” and a book deal handed to me like the lucky bloggers turned authors so many of us have come to know and love through their stories wasn’t going to make things happen for me because I lacked the focus, drive, and determination to make it happen myself.

And because I was afraid.

What does she think she has to say? That’s what people would think.

I’ve read better. That’s what they would say.

So I let self doubt trump self worth and I let myself hide behind life itself. I got married. I had a horrible pregnancy. I had a baby. I became a stay at home mom. I lost my father four weeks before I turned 30. I moved 2,500 miles to the desert. I moved 3,000 miles away from the desert because it turns out I’m allergic to the entire southern border.

And the dishwasher always needs to be emptied, restocked, and emptied again.

Write a book? Get an agent? Get a book deal and feel validation from somewhere other than my own head? Maybe, eventually, on the last one. I got the agent after writing the book that is still just a manuscript on her desk because I am not famous enough to convince a publisher to make it into a book. Maybe one day it will sell. Maybe it won’t. Either way, I have moved on to what I realized was the path I had carved out for myself long ago.

Writing non-fiction is like peeling an onion, you see. First you slice the onion in half to make it easier to handle. Then you start to peel back the layers quickly, like taking off a band-aid, because any slower and the tears would pour out even faster. The sting of the onion is always stronger than you had thought it would be and now your mascara looks like shit and you’re wondering if adding the onion to the sauce simmering on the stove was really necessary. You do have onion powder, after all. That would be easier. But it wouldn’t taste as good because then the simmering sauce would be served without your tears blended into the flavor and you know that because you’ve taken the easy way out before.

So you keep going. And it’s worth it.

I’ve seen my name published in newspapers and magazines. I even had a book “published” by my elementary library when I was in the 6th grade and puffed up with pride each time I learned it had been checked out. I’ve hit publish on thousands of blog posts in the time since I learned that I could share my words when and how I wanted. Almost always, it never satisfied because I was relying on the onion powder instead of working my way through the onion.

Self-deprecating humor and jokes about my fat ass to hide behind because I hate fucking up my mascara.

See what I just did there?

I’ve always said that fate makes you wait for things that are meant to happen until you are ready for them to happen. And she’s hell-bent on making sure I figure my shit out before she claps ‘cuz I got it and passes me a tissue to wipe away the onion’s tears. So I peel away a layer and find my voice. Another and I see the beginning of an idea. Yet another and I’ve found the confidence to reach out to writers and bloggers I wouldn’t have been brave enough to approach yesterday. Another still and I’m making the sign of the cross as I hold my breath and hit publish and Fate hands me the tissue box and I am proud. I am honored. I am surrounded by the brilliance and honesty and strength and beauty in the words of those I respect and admire. And I smile because my name is on a book.

A book with my words. A book with words shared by 14 other women.

Dreams are now reality and dinner will be fabulous.

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