Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Gauntlet

Hello Invisible Audience,


In my last therapy session, I talked to my therapist about something that I know quite well about myself that drives me nuts: it takes a lot for me to connect what I want over others’ voices and needs. It’s as if I need to run a gauntlet of others’ needs and expectations before—exhausted and gasping for breath—I finally reach my own.


I’m so much better at this than I used to be, but it’s still incredibly difficult to separate out what I need with what someone else needs, or even what they think I should do. And it drives me absolutely insane sometimes.


I have been thinking a lot about what my business looks like lately. I’ve been thinking about how to make it sustainable long-term. And one of my biggest pain points is having employees.


This clearly isn’t true for everyone. And even though it’s supposed to be a very logical way to grow your business—more people to do the work, therefore more work can be taken on—I have struggled with it for as long as I’ve had them, which is awhile now.


I’ve told several people about it lately, as I think through this summer and into what my lineup will be for next school year. And after discussing it with several different people, I found myself saying to a friend, “I feel like I’m just asking for permission to not have employees.”


I said it out loud and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it, Invisible Audience. So then I took it to my therapist, and that’s part of what sparked our conversation about the gauntlet.


And—like a good therapist—she asked me a very insightful question.


“Who exactly are you waiting for permission from?”


God damn it, Invisible Audience.


When I was in high school, someone told me that my brother would be a CEO and run a company, and I would struggle for the rest of my life, being self-employed.


Without realizing it, I’ve been trying to prove that person wrong for decades now. And the way I was trying to do that was by having employees, even if I will ultimately be happier and a better business owner if I don’t have them. Because wouldn’t that mean I’d be proving that person right?


My therapist had another question for me that she assigned as homework:


Who and what do I want to be?


Sometimes I think the answer to that question is buried so deep I’ll never find it, Invisible Audience. Underneath mountains of norms and expectations and medical debt and logistics. Under people-pleasing and fatigue-filled days and a lot of fear. Under pathologizing every single part of me that’s ever brought me joy and made me tick. Under the biggest pile of shit that can only be described as self-doubt.


And sometimes it’s readily apparent who I really am. When I take 2 hours to walk through the woods, stopping under the cottonwoods as their leaves unfurl to smell their scent. When I wade into ice-cold water and can’t stand not going further and have to dive in fully. When I stay up late finishing a book that feels as satisfying as drinking water in the desert. When I rise from bed when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night and find solace in my journal; that the simple act of writing to myself will inevitably send me back to sleep. When I write to you about things others would keep to themselves.


One of my favorite poems has a stanza that I think about a lot. It’s called The Invitation and the stanza goes like this:


It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.


You know what, Invisible Audience? I’m not always sure what sustains me. I think it’s likely that it changes. But there’s something there. There’s someone there, underneath all these other pieces, and she gets louder and more solid every day.


She is me, and I don’t quite know her yet. She is me, and she stands on the other side of the gauntlet, waiting for me, as exhausted and gasping as I am when I reach her.


Love and breathless kisses,



P.S. 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. When I can't find time to post both here and on Patreon, I prioritize posts on Patreon--there's more to read there. 

Saturday, April 8, 2023

What If I Never Get Better?

Hello Invisible Audience,


I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who has also been to therapy. I asked if they had ever had a specific thing that they learned in therapy that made a big change in how they saw the world.

I’m paraphrasing here, but they basically said that coming to terms with the realization that they would sometimes feel sad and there wasn’t anything that needed to be changed or fixed about that made a big difference.


I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.


The last month or so, I’ve felt better than I’ve felt in YEARS, Invisible Audience. I’ve woken up with energy, been able to concentrate all day and exercised multiple days in a row. Then, about a week ago, the fatigue I lived with for a long time came back. It hasn’t gone away again. Although I can still concentrate for long periods of time, I’m wiped out by eating, I sleep 10+ hours a night, and I can’t bring myself to exercise because I’m afraid it will make things worse. And before you go thinking, “maybe exercise will make you feel better!” please just trust me that I’ve had this specific fatigue feeling before, and it means my body is inefficiently operating on its last legs. Exercise will NOT make it better.


I’ve tried all the things that have worked before. I have spent whole days lying around, doing as little as possible. I have swallowed the supplements that have helped in the past. None of that has helped. But I’ve also had a thought swirling around my brain since my conversation with my friend:


What if I never get better?


What if the last month was a fluke, and my normal—my status quo—is more like what I’m experiencing now? What if it’s always an ebb and flow, and I have to live with this forever?


During my month of feeling amazing, I also felt emotionally calmer. I realized that a lot of the angst I have felt over the past several years has to do with not feeling well: trying to fit in doctor appointments and stretch my dollars to cover my supplements; feeling frustrated with having less energy than I want to have. Accomplishing things as a much slower pace than I want to get them done. This is why I’m stalled on the book I finished in 2021, Invisible Audience. With limited energy, I am budgeting mine for what puts food on the table and a roof over my head. Sending a book to agents doesn’t fall into that budget.


I have to admit something that makes me feel really ashamed. I don’t think I would spend as much time and energy on trying to get better if my weight wasn’t a factor in the equation. I keep hoping that all I’ve done to try and improve my health will stop the scale from tipping ever upward. I got a new therapist to help with body image issues, and although it has helped to some extent, I recently realized that weighing less is still a big motivator for me. This makes my anxiety worse when I can’t exercise. I can’t exercise because my body can’t handle it, for reasons that are elusive and hard to pin down. To get help with this, I pay a lot of money for care. Care that has been worth it, but costs me a lot of money. And time. And energy.


Anyone who has ever done some serious healing—physical or emotional—can tell you that healing is not linear. I know it’s very likely I’ve gone to a very dark place that is not warranted by this fatigue setback, Invisible Audience; that this is just a temporary setback in an inevitable upward swing in my healing. 


But at the same time, I’m wondering if there’s a clue about a way forward in this place where I’m sitting right now: if there’s a hint of acceptance that I need to delve further into. Instead of pouring time, money and energy into striving for a life that is more comfortable and feels better, what if I got better at accepting where I actually stand?


  • What if I could finally accept that I may always struggle with body image issues, no matter how much I weigh?
  • What if I could come to terms with medical costs always being a big part of my budget, instead of hoping that this month will be the month that I don’t need to spend so much?
  • What if I let go of all these things I want to do—and think I should do—and spent more time assessing how I feel in the moment and planning my activities around that energy level?
  • What if I stopped trying so hard to make myself different than I am and just accepted it instead?

What if I never get better, Invisible Audience? What if the path to hell is paved with good intentions is actually a phrase related to what I’m experiencing right now? What if the best of intentions related to “getting better” is just another whipping stick I beat myself with?


How would it be different, Invisible Audience, if I just let myself be?

Love and fatigued kisses,



P.S. 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. When I can't find time to post both here and on Patreon, I prioritize posts on Patreon--there's more to read there.