“Do a podcast,” they said.
“It will be fun,” they said.
As I sit here thinking about my latest foray into unknown territory and how it has completely taken over my life (not in a good way), I want to tell everyone who encouraged me to keep moving forward in this adventure, to kiss the fattest part of my “#%&$!”
(Please insert your word of choice here…”bottom, booty, or derriere” or something worse)
Yes, you heard me! I know it’s not ladylike, but neither is staying in your pajamas all day, recording and re-recording something that maybe 14 people will listen to. Today, I packed up all my technology (my computer, and my microphone) and moved into a carpeted space that might be more acoustically sound. And as I was hunkered down, with my supplies by my side, and the dog and cats were locked out, I was left alone with my thoughts. And I realized I had none. I couldn’t verbalize a simple introduction to “Episode 2 of Re-Belle (like a lady). I could think of a millions things to write about, but I couldn’t say a single thing. I understand on a podcast, I don’t need to be scripted, but that’s pretty hard when you’re tryin’ to peddle books.
My inability to speak caused me to question how I got to this point. I wondered what in the world I was trying to prove? Why have I ventured into this new frontier? What was I thinking? Sure, research says that “podcasts are the new blogs,” but what does that even mean? My sole purpose in writing a blog was to hold myself accountable. To make myself write each week. To work on my craft. To become better at it. To share my thoughts and insights. To share the books I’ve written, and I guess to build a brand. But what’s the point in all that? Seriously? Why should I have to do that? Does it taint my work by commercializing it? I’m beginning to think it might. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to make money on my books, but I’ve basically accepted the fact that the chances of that happening are slim to none, and slim just left town. When you self-publish, you know that you will probably never see a profit. Your one goal becomes to break even. Dare to dream, right? But it’s true. Most traditional publishing companies don’t even accept manuscripts anymore. They seek you out, if they happen to find out about you and if they think you’re good enough. It’s a hard industry to break into, and I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but when you believe in your work, and your only goal is to share it with others in the hopes that it will make them laugh, or smile, or cry, or think and you hope your words will help your readers move forward in their own lives, or motivate or inspire them to take a chance or accept a challenge, it’s hard to swallow the fact that people don’t read, and the few who do, may not want to spend money on your books. And now, I sit here at my computer wanting to know the answer to this question, “What’s my end game?”
I don’t know the answer right now, but I do know the problem isn’t the podcast. The problem is me. I can’t do anything halfway. I dive in, many times in the deepest part of the ocean, and then I struggle to get to the top, taking longer than I should to come up for air. And I end up exhausted and then hate the ocean for making me that way.
This all reminds me of the summer just before the 2013 A&M football season. There was speculation that Johnny Football may not be able to play for part of, or possibly all of the season. The NCAA was investigating something or another, and his fate was in their hands. I became consumed with the situation. One day I logged onto “texags,” the premiere source for all things Aggie. I read every post and thread and even searched outside of that website for any information that might help me know the fate of Johnny Football. I had put some BBQ chicken in the crockpot, and it completed the entire slow-cooking process while I was on the computer waiting for the latest breaking news. I stopped long enough to eat, and then I continued my investigation/obsession. My husband came home from work, and there I was, sitting at the table where he left me, still in my pajamas, my hair a mess, with smudges of barbecue sauce on my face. It wasn’t pretty, y’all. But that’s how I do things. I’m either all in, or I’m nothing. Just like when I binge-watched the entire series “Gilmore Girls” in the summer of 2016….all 153 episodes in 13 days. Pretty impressive. Pretty scary.
All day long, as I’ve tried to step away from the recording nightmare/disaster, I’ve wondered why I’m so obsessed with this. Why am I trying to make it perfect. What am I trying to achieve as I record, edit, splice, trim, and then accidentally delete everything I’ve spent all day working on. Why this? Why now? And then I realize it’s because October is coming…
I never jumped on the “Game of Thrones” bandwagon. It just wasn’t my thing. My son tried to introduce me to it (he was a true fan–he actually read all the books). One day, I finally gave in. I was going to start with episode 1 and try to catch up so I could join him and his girlfriend (now wife) when the new season began. So, I sat down with Charles and Kaitlyn, and began watching. In the first 15 minutes, I had been exposed to nudity that in normal circumstances would make me extremely uncomfortable, but in the presence of mixed company, it was honestly one of the most awkward moments of my life. I began fake coughing so I could leave the room and get some water. In addition to that embarrassment, the language and the beheadings were just too much. And I didn’t get it. It was on the same level as science fiction for me. It’s just not my jam. I wanted to enjoy it since I was one of the few people in America who hadn’t joined in, but it just wasn’t for me. Not my genre. Not my thing. However, there is one thing I did understand. And for someone who never watched a full episode of “GOT,” the phrase “Winter is coming,” made me stop in my tracks. It haunted me. Because I get it. I totally understand the feeling of foreboding. The warning of things to come.
But for me, it’s not winter. It’s October. And in that one phrase, “October is coming,” all the answers to why I throw myself into projects, and why I write, and why I want people to read my words can be found. All my secrets, and my pain and my joys and sorrows and fears lie in the month of October.
In October of 1992, I suddenly lost my dad. One day he just died. There was no warning. No time to prepare. He was here and then he was gone. That day. That completely devastating day changed everything about me. For years, I carried grief around with me everywhere I went. It followed me and was present in everything I did. It was heavy, and overwhelming, and ugly and real. I didn’t understand that my grief mattered. I thought that since it was something everyone went through, I just had to accept it, and I hoped that maybe one day I would feel better, but if not, I would continue to wear my grief, even though it had gone out of style.
In 2015 I started compiling stories I’d written into a memoir. I sent the collection to a memoir editor to get some feedback. To see if I was headed in the right direction. She responded by telling me my stories were “simply charming,” but what I had written couldn’t be considered a memoir. A memoir had to center around a pivotal event in my life that changed or transformed me. She asked if I had ever had such an experience, and I replied, “No.” I sulked and pouted and gave up on my dream. At least for a night. The next morning, I began pouring through the pages I’d sent the editor, and I realized that not once did I ever say that my father died. And his death changed everything about me. His death became my story.
So the first book I wrote, wasn’t the one I set out to write, but it was the story I had to tell first. As I had this revelation, I began to understand why I could never truly write from my heart. It was because my heart had been broken. But by writing about my dad, and my journey through grief, I began to heal. The broken pieces slowly began to fit together again. Twenty-five years after my father’s death, my book “Mockingbird Moments” came out. When I think about the road I traveled with my grief, I think of a quote by Michelangelo, “I saw the angel in the marble, and carved until I set him free.” Over two decades later, with the publishing of my first book, I was set free.
But, October is coming…
As far as I’ve come, I still miss my father every single day. And as the seasons start to change, and pumpkins appear on porches, and pumpkin spice flavoring is in abundance everywhere and in everything, I begin to turn inward. To withdraw. To shield my heart. Because October is coming. What was once my favorite time of year, is now a time I dread. The beauty of the leaves changing colors isn’t lost on me, but it comes with a small dose of sadness. The crisp, cooler air, Friday night football games, the days getting shorter. All the things that signify one season ending and another one beginning are reminders of a different kind of season for me. My season of loss. I may be perfectly fine on September 30th. I might feel happy and carefree and I’ll probably have the attitude and feeling that life is good and everything is as it should be. But then, the calendar flips to the next page, and October is here, and I feel melancholy. Because as the leaves turn to red and yellow and orange, I begin to relive my last conversations with my dad. The last phone calls. The last time I saw him. The last time I had the chance to tell him I loved him, and didn’t. I no longer cling to the guilt I used to feel, and in so many ways I have moved forward. I’ve reached the stage of grief labeled “ACCEPTANCE,” and I don’t feel the everyday heaviness of regret. But I still miss my dad.
This year, as October approaches, I realize that all of the things I’m striving to accomplish, all the challenges I’m facing, and all the adventures I’m enjoying (or trying to enjoy) are all my way of dealing with my losing my dad. With my story, “Mockingbird Moments,” I have the opportunity to help others who have suffered a loss. I am by no means an authority on grief, unless it’s how to do it wrong, but I have learned so much about that word and its longevity. There is no time frame for grief. No expiration date. Everyone grieves differently. Some do it faster than others, and some like me, take the longer way home. If I can help one person through the darkness of losing someone, then my book will have fulfilled its purpose. I may not sell a million copies (or even 1000) but if one person is blessed by my words then my purpose has been accomplished.
My father’s death is the reason I write. It’s a little ironic that such a sad event propelled me to do what I love. I feel like my dad is pushing me forward, encouraging me to move on, and to reach for the stars. He always believed in me, and I still feel that confidence. Several times over the last month the topic of “using the talents and and gifts you possess” has shown up either in a morning devotion, a book I’m reading, or even on the radio. I’ve come across this subject no less than five times. And I’ve always heard it when I was feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, and unworthy. I know it’s no coincidence. It’s a reminder from Luke 12:48, “To whom much is given, much will be required.”
So as I muddle through blogs, and podcasts, and the process of publishing another book, I realize how extremely blessed I am. I’ve been given an opportunity, and I hope and pray that through this opportunity I will find my voice and use it in a positive way. If I happen to meet up with success along the way, I’ll take it. If not, I’ll take that too. In the end, I can look back at what I’ve overcome and see that I never, ever gave up. I conquered my sadness, my fears, my loss, my grief. And for all those victories, I can thank October.
October is coming. And for the first time in many years, I’m ready.