Friday, January 24, 2014

Know When To Hold Em

There are things we trade. There are people who will tell you never to compromise; you can have it all. That's bullshit. Everyone gives up something. The trick is knowing what to trade. What to hold. What to toss. When to go all in.

Once, I traded who I was for proving something. The first big trade. I'm not sure, still, what I was trying to prove, except that I had it all together and hadn't been stupid in the first place. Except I didn't. And I had. But I held on. I am a hanger on. Quitting was a cardinal sin in my family growing up. Quitters were vile. Hell, liars were better. So, I lied. I faked happiness. I faked a lot of things. And it worked on most people. Not that it took that much skill - I spent years living far away from anyone who really knew me or cared about me. Never staying anywhere too long makes it easy to cover the cracks. The funny thing is, anyone who knows me will tell you I'm a terrible liar. And they're right. Except I'm a decent actress, and despite what you might think, that isn't the same thing. Actresses don't lie - they play pretend. I'm a book nerd and a daydreamer. I can do pretend.

Until I couldn't anymore. What I had to trade stopped being worth it. Going to graduate school and getting my Masters of Fine Arts in Writing is where I started realizing that, mostly because I woke up.

“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”  ― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
For me, the shock treatment was writing. And once I came out of hibernation, I wanted to stay awake. So, I traded. 

I traded security and hatefulness and misery and superiority and control issues for freedom and authenticity and joy and never having to play pretend again. I gave up a lot of exhausting misery and self-loathing, so that was good. People who had known me from before I made the first big trade said things like you seem like yourself again and I'm so glad you're back and we thought aliens had abducted you. People who only knew me in my pretend years were very, very confused. Unless they had really paid attention. I no longer lived with a bully (a story for another day), I no longer pretended to like things that bored me. I was awake and I was on the road and I was poor. 

All of that was before I met the man who is now my husband. I had traded a life of comfortable unhappiness for a life of financial insecurity (understatement), art, and authenticity. I had traded fake friends for real friends. (It's funny how you realize who your friends are when your happiness starts to piss them off - but that, too, is a story for another day.) I traded knowing what was in store for being glad I didn't.

My husband and I fell in love fast. When you know, you know is one of those things I used to think was a total lie that people tell - until it happened to me. We were married in a fever. A quiet, joyful, white hot fever. 

We are still poor. We honestly wouldn't make it if it weren't for a tiny handful of very specific people who believe in us and what we are doing. 

These are the things we trade: money, ease, routine, being understood, respect in some circles, certainty.

But the things we gain.
Oh, but the things we gain.


  1. You are absolutely right about that old "you can have it all" crap. We all make choices. I'm so glad you are blogging and look forward to reading more of your stories.

  2. Thank you, Deanna!
    It really is such a lie that we can have it all - but we don't need it all once we figure out what really matters.

  3. I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.
    ~~~Robert Frost
    I look forward to hearing the stories!

  4. I am so glad to hear your voice again. This has quite a different feel.

    1. Thank you, Denise! <3 Hopefully it is a different feel you like.