Sunday, October 17, 2021

Fraudulent Me


Hi Invisible Audience,


Can I confess something to you, Invisible Audience? I feel like a fraud. For two weeks now I’ve loaded a bunch of notebooks into my car with a suitcase full of worksheets and sharpened pencils and wet wipes and hauled them between my home and Leavenworth and Cashmere to teach kids Spanish. Certainly I am teaching them things. Certainly they’re having fun—or so most of them and their parents tell me. And yet I feel like a big fat fraud that will be found out and punished. Despite the fact that I’ve done this for 5 years now. Despite the fact that I have nearly 80 students total. Despite a B.A. in Spanish and long periods abroad. Even most importantly, perhaps, despite having read the entire Harry Potter series in Spanish, which of course is essential for teaching kids the magic of language.


I feel like a fraud in a lot of ways. As I’ve mentioned, I adopted a couple kittens. I keep thinking someone is going to stop me on the street and say, “What exactly do you think you’re doing? What makes you think YOU, of all people, can support other life, let alone your own?” I feel like a fraud sometimes when I do adult things, like I’m still a kid that liked to play house but didn’t know that adults are supposed to play for keeps.


The funniest small things make me feel like an adult. Going to a drive-thru car wash. Leaving a big tip. Arranging meetings with sales people. Being nice to a customer service person whose help I need. Paying someone to pay my quarterly payroll taxes. Remembering to offer someone something to drink when they get to my house. Getting my teeth cleaned.


Those small things make me feel like an adult, but there are many things that I feel like I do because you’re supposed to as an adult but they don’t necessarily make me feel adult-like. It’s as if I’m waiting for someone to notice that I’m not there yet; like I’m waiting to be thrown out of the adulting club.


I talked about this related to dating in another blog; about basically not feeling worthy. About not being able to take it in when someone complimented me. About not feeling like I deserve good things.


Good gracious, Invisible Audience. Being in my head is exhausting. Not only do I have a lot of physical tasks to do, I carry a huge weight around that can only be described as “shit I can’t figure out how to put down.” And this is one of those things.


I recently heard a podcast on paradox—on holding two conflicting ideas in your head at once. Although I don’t feel like I’m very good at paradox, I nevertheless deal with it every day. Each day, I proceed as if I know what I’m doing. Each day, I feed my cats and make sure there’s enough food to last and buy more before it runs out. Each day, I prep more things for kids to learn. Each day, I load string cheese, snack packs and apple slices into a cooler to cart around in my car with all my other Spanish class stuff to make sure the kids are fed before I teach them things. Each day, there’s gas in my car because I put it there. Emails that require answers get answered. Action items I’ve said I’ll get completed get done. My rent is paid. My hair is clean. My shoes are tied. My mask is on.


So really, the only place I’m failing is in my head. That feeling almost cost me my Spanish class business—I felt like such a fraud that I almost didn’t pick it up again after the pandemic.


But you know what, Invisible Audience? I have felt like a fraud in all my jobs. I have felt like a fraud pretty much my whole life—imagining that if anyone realized how unsure I was, or how I looked naked, or how much of my mental space is taken up by dark imaginings, they would run for the hills screaming. So I kept leaving first, before they could.


Well, here I am. I still feel like a fraud, but I’m not running anymore.


Love and not-so-fraudulent kisses,



Thanks for reading, Invisible Audience member. Interested in reading more and supporting me in the process? Check out my profile on Patreon. Pledge as little as $1.50 a month to get access to more of my ponderings and become one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons.  

Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Only Way Through is Through


Hello Invisible Audience,


It’s been a whirlwind for me lately. How have you been?


I’m officially forty now. I start teaching Spanish classes next week. I sent the kittens I was fostering back to the humane society for adoption, left the two I adopted at home, and drove their mother to Seattle yesterday to her new home. This morning I’m going in for oral surgery.


That’s a lot, right? It sure feels like a lot. A drive across two mountain passes with a cat that shakes during car rides the day after she’s been spayed felt like a lot. Finding myself talking a mile a minute to her new family, trying to convey how lovely she usually is and also wanting to make sure I’m not misleading them about her felt like a rock I wrestled with and lost. Trying to convince myself that my oral surgery will go ok when I’ve had terrible experiences with oral surgeries and dental work in the past feels nearly insurmountable. Trying to convince myself I’ll be ready to teach kids next week in the midst of all of that feels like one of those lies you tell yourself because it needs to be true. And knowing the kittens I adopted are fine and in good hands while I’m gone does not lessen the ache I feel being away from them.


Something good has changed for me recently, Invisible Audience. I feel less of a need to be able to see exactly how the future will play out before I lean into it. I feel a growing confidence that I can make it work, whatever “it” is. And yet, simultaneously, I feel this super sensitive part of me rising to the surface—this little girl I buried a long time ago who wants to talk to people about how much she loves cats and needs to over explain things so people understand what she’s really thinking and how much she cares.


This world has been terrifying for me for years, Invisible Audience. It’s felt like I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop; for some new horror to happen; for another way for a person I love to be taken from me or to drop out of my orbit for one reason or another. I’ve found boundaries to be a hard lesson to learn to implement for myself, and a hard one to accept from others. Often, I’ve found myself following through with a decision that I knew was the right one but that made me sick to my stomach to make and left me wondering whether I’d still be standing—and still be loved—after I’d made it.


And now, right when I have decided that I’ve got this, a new wave of sensitivity hits me. Pardon my fear, but what the actual fuck?


Even as I write this, I know the answer. This is how growth works, for me anyway. This is what it looks like to lean in. And for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, I don’t know how to not lean in anymore. When it hurts, I feel it, then I change things. Not always when I want to. Often being dragged kicking and screaming. But it happens. Shit shows up and I deal with it…then more shit shows up.


Today’s shit is an oral surgery. Tomorrow’s will be a drive home. Next week’s will be teaching kids Spanish. In between will be some kitten cuddles, probably interspersed with some kitten attacks while I’m trying to pet them. Because that’s the way life is. There is no sweet without the sully (to badly paraphrase something Cheryl Strayed wrote once.) There’s no way through other than through, I guess.


So here I go. Through. Again.


Love and through kisses,



Thanks for reading, Invisible Audience member. Interested in reading more and supporting me in the process? Check out my profile on Patreon. Pledge as little as $1.50 a month to get access to more of my ponderings and become one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years


Hi Invisible Audience,


This coming Friday is my 40th birthday.


Although in general I don’t get too excited/upset about getting older, 40 seems like a pretty big marker that has been looming at me for quite a while, so I’ve decided to give myself some credit for the things I’ve learned over the last 40 years to remind me, well, that I lived them.


So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are 40 things I’ve learned in 40 years.


1)    The only constant is change. I don’t always like change unless I’m the one who makes it, but regardless of whether I want it to happen, change happens. To everyone. About everything. And that’s ok.

2)    Relationships bend and break and disappear and sometimes come back and sometimes are better gone. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, and whether any relationship lasts (friendships or otherwise) has nothing to do with how good the people are in it.

3)    Going to countries where people live differently is the most profound and immediate way I have to remind myself that there is no right way to live and be happy.

4)    A lot of people have opinions about the best way to live our lives—there’s an entire industry built around it. Just because someone is sure about their way being the best doesn’t mean it’s the best for me, nor that I have to listen to them.

5)    Sometimes, everything someone has to give me isn’t enough. That’s not my fault. It’s probably not theirs, either, but that doesn’t mean I have to keep giving them space in my life.

6)    Being alone doesn’t prevent heartache. Neither does being with someone if they aren’t the right one.

7)    I have not outgrown my love for clear, ice-cold, fresh water to swim in.

8)    I will never like scrubbing pans.

9)    I will never like peas. They are disgusting and mushy.

10) The harder I have tried to hold onto things, the more quickly they have squeezed out of my grasp.

11) I am not responsible for other peoples’ needs or feelings, whether they believe that to be true or not.

12) The way I want to write is in long days over short periods of time, i.e. 8 hours a day for 6 months. The way I actually write is 30 minutes a day over years.

13) Similar to the last one, the way I want to be able to get things done is in one single chunk of time. The way I actually get things done is in 30-minute increments until I’ve finished.

14) If I wait long enough, the clothes I’ve always worn will come back into fashion. (Hello again, boot cut jeans!)

15) The only way through is through. I cannot expect to rid myself of the stuck feelings until I have let myself feel the stuck feelings.

16) I’ve come close to ruining several things I love by trying to make money from them. This includes cooking and writing. I don’t have to do this anymore.

17) I’m still worthy, even if I’m not as productive as I want to be on any given day.

18) I’m still worthy, even if I don’t look like I wish I did.

19) I’m still worthy, even if I haven’t hit some of the markers that I thought I would by 40.

20) I’m still worthy, even if I struggle with my health and it prevents me from doing a long, frustrating list of things I want to do.

21) I’m still worthy, even though a lot of the time I feel like I’m faking it.

22) It took me until my mid-30’s to get a pet of my own. That cat, Stella, died in December. Part of the reason I waited was because I always doubted whether I could take care of another creature besides myself. I still wonder that, but have just decided to take the leap and adopt a kitten I’ve been fostering.

23) Another reason I’ve avoided pet ownership is because of my propensity to wander. I haven’t figured out how to reconcile this with my desire to love and nurture another creature. That’s ok. I’ll figure it out as I go.

24) Social media is evil and has caused some of the biggest rifts I’ve ever seen between people who otherwise have a lot in common. It’s also allowed me to keep in contact with people that I’ve met across the world and across many years. Both can be true at once.

25) Try as I might, I suspect I will always want to have one foot in North Central Washington. The Leavenworth area is more home than I’ve felt anywhere else.

26) Reading books will always be one of my favorite ways to spend hours on end. This may mean reading the same books over again to make sure I’ve got a good one.

27) It’s ok for me to want a comfortable life and to spend my money on things that make me happy.

28) I will never succeed at giving up coffee, and I don’t want to. This doesn’t mean I’m not committed to my health.

29) No matter how sure I am about something, I need to look it up just to make sure there’s an actual fact/study/event behind it and it’s not some bullshit I picked up from somewhere.

30) Just because I don’t think I’m good at something doesn’t mean it’s true.

31) That damn onion and all its layers of work and learning and processing is never ending. I can’t change that just by wishing it wasn’t the case.

32) I struggle with conflict and I’m working on it.

33) I don’t have to be different or “fixed” to deserve love or be worthy.

34) When I try to take on others’ pain, I’m just doubling the pain.

35) It’s a sign of respect to let others make their own life choices and trust their lives to them instead of trying to control it for them.

36) Letting others live their own lives is a lot less tiring than doing it for them.

37) I don’t have to agree with someone to love them.

38) When I get angry, it’s a sign someone has stepped on a boundary. I need to pay attention to that sign post and do something about it.

39) When I’m sad, it doesn’t mean I will always be sad. Still, it’s ok to just be sad for as long as I need to be.

40) The only permission I need is my own.


Love and 40 Kisses,


Thanks for reading, Invisible Audience member. Interested in reading more and supporting me in the process? Check out my profile on Patreon. Pledge as little as $1.50 a month to get access to more of my ponderings and become one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Stop, Earthquake, Stop.


Hi, Invisible Audience,


Are you keeping track of when I post? If you were, you’d realize that I am a day late for this one. I post every other Sunday on this blog (and on Patreon the weeks in between), and yesterday I wrote up a whole post, then decided to sit with what I wrote. Today, I have decided that there’s something else I want to write instead.


For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’ve dealt with a long list of health issues for quite a few years now—they seem to change and ripple, but underneath all of them is a profound fatigue. About 6 months ago, I discovered CIRS: Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome. It has a long list of symptoms and I have a lot of them. It gives me hope that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’ve invested a lot of time and money into a specialist who can hopefully help me with this. 


One of the things the specialist did was a food sensitivity test. I’ve done COUNTLESS of these tests, dutifully cutting everything out as prescribed, and found that overall they did not help over the long term. Not only that, but they give me a profound sense of depression, Invisible Audience. Not only do I love to cook, I love eating out, especially with friends. That’s a hell of a lot harder to do when you can’t eat gluten or dairy or soy or eggs or—a new one this time—nightshades. But this one also took out the one thing I do not want to live without: coffee. 


Coffee can make fatigue worse if the adrenals are involved, but the truth of the matter is that I am much less able to function without coffee—to the point where it’s hard to concentrate. Not to mention that I love it! And I don’t go to bars much, so having people who know me at the coffee shop makes me feel like I have a specific community that I feel like I’m a part of. 


I am telling you all of this because I haven’t been sleeping well, so I gave up all but decaf coffee a couple days ago in the hopes of feeling better. This comes on the heels of a change up in my supplements thanks to the new specialist, and so far I’m feeling worse and not better. So it probably wasn’t all that surprising that I burst into tears yesterday recording a message for a friend.

When I looked back at the post I wrote yesterday, the whole thing came down to one thing: I am so tired and overwhelmed. Please, world, stop making me feel this way.

I angrily lashed out in every direction, yelling at everyone with a view about Covid-19 and masking and vaccination, basically telling them all to shut up, because I was being driven mad. I told them that it was none of their business what anyone else does, so please stop acting like people are making their choices specifically to piss you off.


And that’s why I’m glad I didn’t post it yesterday, Invisible Audience. Because do you see the irony and the hypocrisy in yesterday’s message? I am telling you to stop getting angry at others for making you feel this way, because it’s making me angry at you for making me feel this way.


Damn it, Invisible Audience. Damn it, damn it, damn it.


I used to do this with you—do you remember?—years ago. I wanted someone to tell me it was ok that I traveled and didn’t have a traditional career or life. Yet even when people did, it wasn’t enough. It didn’t scratch the itch I had, so to speak. Because no matter how many other people validated me, there was something in myself that wouldn’t take it in.

So here I am again. Overwhelmed, exhausted, angry, and the only way out is through me. I have to decide to let others think what they will about the unvaccinated. I have to figure out how to let the deep pain and anger they express when others’ choices don’t align with own roll off my back. I have to make a change to make me feel better. That in itself is its own can of worms that I have unpacked before and still struggle with, but nevertheless, that is where the power lies. 


I cannot make one group see the humanity in another just so I can sleep better. It doesn’t work that way. All I can do is figure out where I stand—I am vaccinated, and I am not willing to condemn you just because you are not—and stand there. Because part of the problem is not feeling free to say that out loud, which leads me to hide and simply yell at the world to shut up so I don’t have to risk being authentic. It’s like trying to yell at an earthquake to stop shaking the earth and expecting it to listen because if it only knew it was hurting me it would stop.


Some lessons don’t come easy, Invisible Audience. This is one of them. And even so, there’s relief in this realization, and I’m glad about that. It may just take me awhile to figure out how to stop yelling.


Love and Trembling Kisses



Thanks for reading, Invisible Audience member. Interested in reading more and supporting me in the process? Check out my profile on Patreon. Pledge as little as $1.50 a month to get access to more of my ponderings and become one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Cult of Fitting In


Hello, Invisible Audience,


I recently finished writing a book that I worked on for nearly 15 years. (!!) I am so very excited about this! I have to admit that at times I tried very hard to forget about this book altogether; tried to forget my idea of being a writer completely because I didn’t seem to be able to do it well. I’m not even talking about the writing itself—I’m talking about the “discipline” of writing. I don’t do that kind of writing regularly. I have gone through bouts of writing fiction every day and years of not writing any at all. Throughout the years I wasn’t writing, I would think, “Clearly you aren’t serious about writing if you can’t do it on a regular basis. You don’t deserve to write if you aren’t willing to dedicate yourself to the process.”


Although that’s one way of looking at it, there’s another way: I kept coming back to it because it meant so much to me I could not let it go, despite all the doubts and internalized messaging that told me I was not worthy of the craft because I wasn’t working very hard at it. After all, you wouldn’t hire a contractor who only worked when he felt like it, so why would you trust a writer who hardly ever wrote?


Do you see the fallacy, Invisible Audience? Do you see the lie? The fallacy is that if you cannot give 110 percent to something you shouldn’t do it. The lie is that you must go all in or walk away. And the biggest lie of all is that my process is worthy of judgement by anyone else’s measure.


We’ve become a culture of memes, and I’m just as guilty as the rest of us. I have a whole Facebook group I administrate that’s just memes, for crying out loud. But some of the things I see people making meme-worthy make me so angry, Invisible Audience, like the one I saw today that said, “A wise person once said that anger is the punishment you give to yourself for a way someone else has done you wrong.” 




For years I could not access my anger and instead would move straight into blaming myself for feeling anger and live in shame instead of taking that anger as the bright red warning flag it is supposed to be: the one that is trying to show me that a boundary has been crossed and my needs have been trampled. My anger is here to show me when I’m not showing up for myself; it and ALL my other emotions are necessary roadmaps meant to act as traffic lights on this fucked up, crazy highway we call life. I can no more dismiss anger from my life than I can let go of writing; each time I try I end up weeping in a corner, mourning a piece of myself someone else told me I didn’t need.


And that’s really the crux of this whole thing, Invisible Audience. I am done with others’ ideas of what my life should look like. I will not hate people for who they voted for; I will wait to see what kind of person they are. I will not give up any type of food again because someone somewhere said it made them lose weight, so it will probably work for me, too. I will not assume fluoride is bad for me unless I’ve read the damn studies myself or asked an expert. I will not fucking meditate—EVER AGAIN—because *I* am the only one living with the screaming, agonizing trauma that surfaces and *I* am the one that gets to decide whether it’s helpful to continue to do that, not somebody who has found it is helpful for them. 


Do I sound angry, Invisible Audience? Because I am. I am angry it has taken me 40 years to find some semblance of a voice that I am willing to trust. I’m angry that so much of our discussion is about deciding who to cut out instead of how to find common ground. I’m tired of the constantly shifting sands of fitting in and how they seem to be getting more and more extreme in terms of dictating peoples’ politics, exercise methods, eating schedules, down time, food choices and even which of their emotions they should try to emote more and which ones they should try to extinguish.


When I was younger, I remember coming to a realization that I thought was very profound. Religion and diet have at least one thing in common, I decided: there is no one size fits all. Today, so much of people’s identities seem to be caught up in labels and groups, and it makes me so tired. Can I just sit next to you while you eat your pizza and I have my burger and the person across from us has a salad? Can you meditate while I swim and someone else goes for walks without anyone having to feel the need to proselytize over why their way is the best way? Can we embrace differences and all fit in that way?


Well, I can, and that’s all that matters, right Invisible Audience? After all, I’m not here to get everyone else to fit in with me. I’m just trying to find the space to feel like I fit well within my own skin. So here’s my official declaration: I’m letting go of the cult and going my own way. Come with me if you like, but only if you’ve got room for yourself along the way.


Love and It’s All Me Kisses



Thanks for reading, Invisible Audience member. Interested in reading more and supporting me in the process? Check out my profile on Patreon. Pledge as little as $1.50 a month to get access to more of my ponderings and become one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons.


Sunday, August 1, 2021

Fawning as a Coping Mechanism

Hello Invisible Audience,


The countdown has begun. I’m five days away from the end of my stay in Puerto Escondido and starting to think about what “home” will look like. I say “home” in quotes because it is my home but I’ve found that I have come back to myself here in a way that I didn’t expect, and I’m not sure that feeling will stay with me when I’m back in the States. There are so many things I love about the Leavenworth area that I miss, but there are many ways I don’t feel like I fit there that fall away when I’m abroad.


Ironically, it’s become very clear to me that Puerto Escondido isn’t home, either. Turns out I’m more of a mountain girl than a beach bum, yet there are pieces here that I have unearthed that have surprised me. Mostly, it’s a feeling of contentedness with who I am, and the ability to hear myself without the unrelenting noise of the U.S. culture in my ears.


It feels important to tell you that this contentedness has not come without a price. True, I post a lot of pictures of two-for-one happy hour drinks on my social media and talk about the cool things I’m doing or eating, but all this head space has meant I’ve had to face some things that have been surfacing for a while. The biggest and most explosive is my fear of conflict, and how that fear has led me to avoid tough conversations and even let relationships die instead of facing it. This is not a new realization, but it has come to a head lately because of the constantly splintering points of view on quarantining and masking up and vaccination that are coming up now that a large portion of the U.S. population is vaccinated while the unvaccinated continue to get sick. Everyone I know, it seems, has a different opinion on what level of quarantining and masking is safe, and some have very clear and loud ideas about how much others not following their opinion are pieces of shit. And that’s all fine and dandy, Invisible Audience, except when my fawning behavior comes in.


It used to be that the talk around traumatic responses revolved around fight or flight. Something scary happens, the stress hormones in the body kick into gear, and the person either runs away as fast as they can or they turn around and fight off their attacker. This isn’t always a literal physical attack, mind you—it can just as easily be an argument for people like me who suffer from PTSD. But those are not the only two responses to a perceived threat. I learned about a third about a decade ago that applied to me: freeze. This makes sense and it works just the way it sounds: there is a perceived threat and you freeze. You can’t move and just hope your stillness will mean the threat will pass you by. This is literally what happens to a deer in the headlights.


So that’s all well and good but there’s one more that I’ve only begun to hear about lately: fawning. And dammit if fawning isn’t exactly why I find conflicts so painful.


According to, “The fawn response involves immediately moving to try to please a person to avoid any conflict.”




The article continues with a list of fawning behaviors. I’ve only included the ones that I most readily recognize in myself:


·      You look to others for how you feel in a relationship or a situation

·      It is difficult to identify your feelings, even when you are alone

·      At the first sign of conflict, your first instinct is to appease the angry person

·      You ignore your own beliefs, thoughts, and truths and accept those of the people around you

·      You feel self-anger and guilt some or most of the time

·      Saying no to those around you is a challenge

·      You are overwhelmed at times but take on more if asked

·      You lack boundaries and are often taken advantage of in relationships

·      You are uncomfortable or threatened when asked to give an opinion

I may have already been aware of fawning, but reading this list for the first time the other day was like getting punched in the gut. The second one, “It is difficult to identify your feelings, even when you are alone,” is the reason why being in Puerto has been so helpful. I don’t really know anyone here, and I don’t have close relationships with anyone here, so I essentially gave myself two whole months to finally sift through all the noise and hear myself think. I suspect it’s also the reason I love to travel so much alone in general.


The next two after that—"At the first sign of conflict, your first instinct is to appease the angry person,” and “You ignore your own beliefs, thoughts, and truths and accept those of the people around you”—are the reason the pandemic and all the chaos surrounding it has been so difficult. As people around me get angrier and angrier that others are taking a different stance, I find it harder and harder to figure out what my own thoughts are on their views and others. I find myself trying to peace keep for my own peace of mind instead of being able to hear what their concerns are and also offer my own opinion, because most of the time I can hardly figure out what my opinion actually is.


Covid-19 aside, this also explains why it’s so hard for me to have hard conversations, Invisible Audience. As soon as the other person’s voice starts to twang with anger, frustration or any sort of feeling, it’s almost as if I step outside myself, wall off my own thoughts and find that the words coming out of my mouth are about appeasing, placating and consoling. It is infinitely frustrating. Certainly, it’s good to be able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and have compassion for their point of view, but at the end of the day I need to be able to also understand my own needs and have my own opinion. When I don’t in these situations, I end up walking away feeling nauseated by how thoroughly I have abandoned myself. 


Believe me when I tell you I’ve done a lot of work around healing. One of the things they say helps people with PTSD is exposure therapy, which just means introducing situations that trigger a response a little bit at a time until it doesn’t feel so scary anymore; until it doesn’t illicit the same response. This is harder to do when the whole damn world feels like it’s found a hill to die on around quarantining and vaccination. It’s why being able to sit in a foreign country where I can tune out my non-native language is such a relief. Suddenly it’s just white noise; suddenly, I don’t have to take it in.


I don’t have an answer to this right now, Invisible Audience. There’s no pill I can take to fix it unless I want to drown myself in numbing coping mechanisms. And before you ask, I’m not looking for the right answer to the quarantine/vaccine debate, so please spare me your take. What I’m looking for is the self-compassion to recognize this in myself; to let myself sink into a better understanding of what brought me here and how the mechanism works in me so I can have more awareness in the moment when I begin to fawn. And maybe from you I just need to know that someone heard me and sees that I still struggle, but I’m here, and I’m trying. And in my opinion, that’s all anyone—myself included—is allowed to ask of me.


Love and that’s-what-I-think kisses,




Thanks for reading, Invisible Audience member. Interested in reading more and supporting me in the process? Check out my profile on Patreon. Pledge as little as $1.50 a month to get access to more of my ponderings and become one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Most Beautiful Phrase I’ve Ever Learned: I Don’t Know

I teach Spanish classes to kids and adults. On the first day of the adult classes I always say more or less the same thing: 

“You are going to mess up. There is no way to learn a language without it. The more you mess up, the more you practice and say things out loud, the faster you learn. This is a safe place to say the wrong things. And just to make sure you know that I’m in the same boat as you, I will share with you one of my most mortifying mistakes. I once told my Spanish roommate that I had a penis sandwich for dinner.” 


It sets the tone nicely for the class, because it’s true. It’s also a direct result of what was, for me, the very painful process of learning a language, because when I lived in Spain 20 years ago, I didn’t know how to say the three most beautiful words I know when you string them together: I don’t know.


Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to hear that I am a perfectionist. This does not mean my house is always clean or my dishes are always done, but it does mean that I will clean my house and wash my dishes before anyone comes over because I want to present the idea that I have my shit together. One of my friends is mystified that I clean my house before I leave on vacation or before I even go anywhere overnight. Certainly, part of this is because it’s nice to come home to a clean house. But, if I’m being honest, the real reason is in case anyone has to come into my house while I’m gone. I want it to look like I am the kind of person who always has a clean house. (Spoiler alert: I’m not. And I hate cleaning. I do it, but I’d rather be doing almost anything instead of cleaning—it’s become one of the reason why I prefer living in smaller houses: less to clean. And I like to read books, so you can imagine where my time goes if I know there’s no chance of guests showing up.)


I still struggle with the clean house piece, so as you can see I’m still at least a recovering perfectionist. But over the past 10 years I have learned this one phrase that has taken A LOT of pressure off of my perfectionist thinking and presenting. 


I. Don’t. Know.


“Morgan, why do Spanish speakers say “Buenos días—plural—instead of buen día, singular?”

I don’t know. 

“Morgan, how do you say railing in Spanish?”
I don’t know. 

“Morgan, what’s the population of the town where you live?”

I don’t know.


Now, I am a pretty solid researcher—thank you, journalism degree—and I can look all these things up, and I will, and have (actually, they say both buen día and buenos días, depending on where you are). But it used to be that I didn’t know how to admit in the moment that I didn’t know something. It used to be I’d be more likely to (wince) make up an answer than admit I didn’t know. 


This doesn’t go well when you’re teaching your second language to a bunch of people. I certainly know a lot about Spanish grammar and I have a large Spanish vocabulary—thank you, Latin American language and cultures degree, plus lots of time living in Spanish-speaking countries—but I am not and will never be a native speaker. I don’t always get the prepositions right. I don’t know all the words. I forget where I’ve learned certain slang or vocabulary and whether it’s applicable to other countries as well. Anyone who’s ever really dived (dove? I don’t know) into learning a second language understands this; most beginners do not. Some of them show up to my classes and ask me questions like I hold all the answers when I don’t. I don’t even hold all the answers in English! (Nearly everything I know about English grammar I learned through Spanish grammar.) It’s not my students’ fault they think this. But that doesn’t mean I should let them continue thinking it.


My God, Invisible Audience. What a cluster. I didn’t even realize how painful it was to try to present myself as knowing everything until I stopped doing it. It still took a lot of time—it still doesn’t always come easy—but the beauty of admitting I don’t know has opened up all sorts of space.


There’s a lot that went into the discovery. First of all, I had to realize how much codependence had to do with it—feeling responsible for others’ feelings and needs. I had to realize that I was putting myself on a pedestal and presenting myself as perfect, then being just as surprised as everyone else—indeed, even more so, I’d expect—when I fell off. And above all, it’s a way I’ve used to hold myself separate from others. Because if they know I’m not perfect, they wouldn’t want me in their life…right?


Then of course there’s the flip side: if I can say I don’t know, I can recognize how much it takes for other people to say it. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts I’ve given myself in the last 10 years is starting to recognize and appreciate real vulnerability in others, and to want it for myself and in my relationships. It takes vulnerability to say you don’t know. This is so different from the girl who used to be funny—the one who was self-deprecating and tried to win people through being a know-it-all—the girl who couldn’t figure out why her actions didn’t lead to more profound relationships.


I don’t have it all figured out, Invisible Audience. That’s what I’m trying to tell you: I don’t know. The older I get, the less I think I will ever have it all figured out. But the more I let that sink in, the more relief there is in it. I feel more able to be myself and let go of that perfection that’s kept me isolated for so long. 


Love and I-Don’t-Know-How-Many-Kisses,


Thanks for reading, Invisible Audience member. Interested in reading more and supporting me in the process? Check out my profile on Patreon. Pledge a little bit a month and get access to more of my ponderings by becoming one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Hi. I'm Resentful.


Hello Invisible Audience,


Welcome back, and thanks for reading.


So as I said, I’ve been in Mexico. There are a lot of good things here, not the least of which is my ability to write while I’m here. It helps that the internet isn’t all that great – it means I have a computer and a word processor but no way to connect to Facebook or Instagram, which not only steal my time but also give me all sorts of ideas about how unworthy I am. But at any rate, here I am, sitting in a coffee shop and the internet has been overwhelmed by all the people who are here trying to work, and I have given up on the things I need to online in order to write to you instead.


Are you familiar with Brené Brown, Invisible Audience? Someone first recommended her TED Talk on vulnerability to me, and since then I’ve become quite the fan…if you can call yourself a fan of someone whose books and general messages about vulnerability and showing up and being authentic make you want to curse and scream and throw things. 


Anyway, Brené Brown and her two sisters who work with her are in the middle of a 6-part series on Brené’s podcast, Unlocking Us. It’s about the things that make us want to hide, and the things that make us want to never trust ourselves or others again, and the many, many barriers we put up to protect ourselves that instead simply cause isolation. Or rather, that’s what it is for me. You could probably listen to the same thing and come up with an entirely different point of view.


In yesterday’s episode, they talked about resentment; about how it’s part of the envy family. One of Brene’s sisters said something about how knowing that puts the resentment back in her control—it means that she can then ask herself what she’s not getting that she sees others have that makes her resentful.  


Damn it, Invisible Audience. 


I have this idea that I’m the only one suffering; that I’m the only one who can’t bring myself to open up; that if anyone else had the same problems I have they would understand and cut me a break. But the truth is, Invisible Audience, that I’m not cutting myself the break. It’s actually very rare that someone comes to me and says anything remotely like, “You should be trying harder than this. You should be able to handle all the things that are thrown at you. You should have more of this shit figured out.”


And this leads to my biggest resentment of all, Invisible Audience. I didn’t make all these expectations up. People may not say these things out loud to me, but the expectation is nevertheless there. It comes in a cacophony of messages, some as old as childhood but many as recent as this morning. It comes in the ads on Facebook that show either what I should look like or what I do look like and how I should be embracing it; in the perfect lives choreographed on Facebook posts. It comes from the multi-billion-dollar health and wellness industry that tells me  that I’ll just feel better if my diet is all organic, vegan, with hundreds of dollars in supplements and constant detoxification products. It comes from all these places, and yet it is my personal job to be able to turn my back on it, not take it in and be a strong, independent woman who can be vulnerable but needs nothing and is fine with the wrinkles gathering around her eyes but can’t find a date because of them…or maybe it’s because I’ve internalized my pain so much that now I’m deciding I’m not worthy. If it’s the latter, that’s my fault, too, now, because now--despite having taken in all the conditioning like a good girl and doing all I was told--now I'm told that that very conditioning is standing between me and happiness. Now it’s my job to just stop taking all this in and be something I have never been because believing in myself was wrung out of me like dirt out of a shirt in the wash.


Do I sound resentful, Invisible Audience? Because I am. I am pissed


I’m going to be 40 in September. This birthday is looming before me in a way that is different than previous ones. This isn’t where I thought I would be. This isn’t what I thought I would have. This isn’t how I thought I would feel. But here I am. 


There’s always more work to do, Invisible Audience. I’ve been at this long enough to know that, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier. I’m so tired of these unrealistic expectations, but I can’t seem to shake them. And that makes me the most resentful of all.


Is there a way out of this? It’s certainly not about ignoring it—if it were, I would have felt much happier in my twenties. And it’s not just about living a life that reflects who I really am, or I wouldn’t feel so resentful about a lot of my thirties. It’s not just about therapy, but life is certainly better than it would have been without it. Instead, there’s me, doing what I do, being who I am, trying my best to move forward and also being aware of the hang-ups that hold me back. Like this one.


Maybe it’s not about letting it go after all, Invisible Audience. Maybe it’s about putting it out there because others might feel the same way. Maybe it’s about putting voice to these things because others feel them, too. Maybe it’s about finding my tribe among those who struggle, instead of trying to pretend there’s something wrong with me because that’s the case. Maybe it’s about accepting that this is something on my path that I will be walking with for a while and learning to accept that instead of getting in a wrestling match with it every day.


Maybe it’s about sharing it with you, so that you—and I—don’t feel so alone.


Love and resentful kisses,


Monday, June 28, 2021

Patreon Exclusive Content: The 10-Year Summary Part II

Hey Invisible Audience,

As I mentioned previously, every other week I'll be posting blog posts that will be available exclusively for my Patreon patrons. Here's the beginning of this week's Patreon post. If you're interested in becoming a patron and helping me support my coffee and travel habits, please click here. Memberships run from $3 to $25 a month. 

Welcome to my first post, Semi-Invisible Patron!

I’m new here, have you noticed? It may take me awhile to get in my groove—it’s been awhile since I wrote out loud, so please give me the benefit of the doubt as I settle in a bit more. If you’ve made it this far, perhaps you’ve already read the post about what I’ve been up to in the last 10 years. When I write it all out, it certainly sounds a lot more impressive than it felt moving through it.

There’s a good reason for that. Truth be told, the milestones I listed—self-publishing books; moving a lot; writing a novel; starting a business—haven’t taken up near as much head space as some really serious emotional work. 

 Read more on Patreon

A 10-Year Summary in 600 Words


Hello Invisible Audience,


I am writing to you from Puerto Escondido, Mexico, a surf town on the Oaxacan coast with a lot of very large waves and some killer humidity this time of year.

The last time I was here was in 2011, the second and last summer I house-sat some family friends’ winter home for the summer and took care of their lovely dog, Rueben.


A lot has changed since then, both in the town and for me. Not everyone follows my blog, and even if they did I haven’t been updating it much in the past several years anyway, so here’s a short summary of some of the many changes:


When I left here in 2011, I went home and published my second wine-pairing cookbook: Savoring Leavenworth. Then I spent about a year trying to promote that book and my first one: Savoring Chelan: Pairing Local Wines with Regional Recipes.


Then I moved to Panama. I planned to be there for six months and stayed for nearly two years. What took me there is a long story that involves a detour to an ashram in Canada; if you want to hear more about the time before and during my time in Panama, you really should go back and read some old posts from my blog.


In 2014, I moved back to the States, first very, very briefly to Southern California, then to Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed village in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. That’s where I’ve been ever since. I self-published a book on marketing and a travel memoir. I started a business teaching private Spanish classes to kids and adults.


When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, I was really, really relieved. I was exhausted and not sure if I wanted to continue on with what I had built in Leavenworth, both in terms of a business and also in terms of a life. I’m still not sure. Part of my reason for coming to Mexico was to seek some clarity about these things. I’ve been here almost three weeks and I don’t have any yet. 


But being here has already cleared some of the gunk out of my head, and I managed to finish the second draft of a book I first got the idea for 14 years ago—while I was backpacking through Australia.


Do you see a theme here, Invisible Audience? Yes, when I’m abroad I can write much more easily than when I’m not. I have more headspace when I am not feeling overwhelmed by the U.S. culture and fighting not to internalize the need to be what I feel like it demands of me, an almost-40-year-old woman: graceful aging; being settled and content; thinness and in-shape-ness without effort; meaningful relationships without struggle; expensive toys or costly homes without sacrifice. Perfect health without adequate health insurance. Assertiveness without aggression or shame or backpedaling.


I’ll be 40 in September, Invisible Audience, and I don’t have any fucking clue what the next year will bring or where I will be living or how I will be spending my days a year from now. And you know what? I’m less freaked out about that than you would think. I’m more grateful that there are options for change than the promise—threat, really—that everything will stay the same.

So welcome back to my inner thoughts and physical travels. Thanks for being a part of my Invisible Audience, and I hope to see you back here soon.


Love and I’m Pretty Sure Change is Good Kisses,


Sometimes, Authenticity Needs a Gatekeeper

Hello, Invisible Audience,

It’s been a long time. It’s been even longer since I wrote to you on a regular basis, although—believe me—I’ve thought about you often.


I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve gone through a lot in the last several years. I haven’t really talked specifically about it much because they’ve been some really big, hard changes, and they’ve affected every single aspect of my life. They’ve been so big that it’s been hard to write, because I wonder who’s going to read it, and I’ve been censoring myself as a protective measure, but at a pretty big cost.


I haven’t felt like I’ve been authentically me in a lot of aspects of my life, Invisible Audience. Partly it’s because I’ve felt too raw to share what I’ve been going through, because of the feedback I may receive. I’ve also been physically sick and tired as well. But writing out loud has always been cathartic for me, and not doing it hurts in its own way. I look back on some of my posts from Panama and I can see how much I was able to process what I was going through in my writings to you. Then I had to stop. I moved back to the States and with everything I was going through it all became too much to keep track of.


I’m in Mexico at the moment; I’m here for the summer. It’s the longest I’ve been abroad for many years, and it’s brought something that I hoped it would. Within 10 days of arriving, I finished the second draft of a book I’ve been working on for 14 years. I hadn’t picked it up since March, then suddenly I had the energy and the drive to bust through the last parts once I got out of my house—out of my country—and into another one. This is no coincidence. This is how I operate. I keep trying to convince myself it’s not true, but it is. I need to be somewhere strange and new and exciting to feel creative. I haven’t been in a place mentally to do that in a long time, but here I am now, with a finished second draft and an idea that involves you.


For a long time, it felt ok to just write personal things about my life out loud to anyone who wanted to hear them. Then it didn’t. Not long after it didn’t feel so good anymore, I started letting go of some relationships that weren’t serving me. A couple years ago, I pared down my Facebook friend list and changed my posts so not just anyone could see them. I started a private Facebook group where I basically just post memes that I like—as millennial as it seems, there’s more of what I really think and feel and consider important in that group than there is of me on my profile where my 600+ friends can see what I post. Only approved people can follow me on Instagram, too. And now, Invisible Audience, I’ve realized that there’s a way I can bring some of you with me into a place where I can write and feel safe to do so.


I have started a Patreon account. If you’ve never heard of Patreon, it’s a place where creators post their work and “patrons” can pay for the privilege of reading or consuming it. It also means I can act as a gatekeeper and remove any patrons that I prefer not to have hear what I have to say.

Don’t worry Invisible Audience! Chances are you aren’t one of the people I would feel compelled to remove. And also, I will still be posting blogs publicly that are accessible to anyone for free. For the deeper stuff, however, the more authentic version of me with all my vulnerabilities hanging out for all to see, you’re going to have to invest a bit in my process.

And hey, your investment means I get some money for my time and honesty! Win-win! ;)


The plan is to start posting once a week again. Every other post (as in every other week) will be published here and free for anyone who wants to read it. All other posts will be linked to here but will only be available to Patreon patrons. Please consider becoming one.


Love and authentic kisses,