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2016 in Review

 

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Historically, I’ve seen things not working as failure and counted it as a loss.  But sometimes what I would count as failure contains something even better than what I set out to find. A successful outcome isn’t always the desired outcome. I’ve seen this at work in my life this year.

I had an epiphany: many things I saw as major failures or disappointments were actually invitations and opportunities to stop and reflect, to take stock of where I was and where I wanted to go. In a season of tremendous growth, I looked for opportunities to deepen relationships and realize a truer sense of self hidden in the dirt of what the world classifies as failure. Once I understood the true meaning of success, major fails became major opportunities

This isn’t a post of major fails, but huge opportunities and invitations. Let’s get into it.

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Me before a job interview!
  • I lost my job.  A job I found when I was unemployed for a month became a career. I never planned to be in the claims department, or insurance, for the rest of my life. It just sort of happened that nearly eight years later, I was still there. I thought about leaving. I prayed. I joined LinkedIn. I wanted a change. I got one. It wasn’t the desired outcome. I didn’t get to slap a two week’s notice on my boss’s desk. I wasn’t “prepared” to leave. But that’s the beauty of God’s timing–I had to trust Him with the next steps because I couldn’t see them. I was invited to trust God to provide. I was also given the opportunity to examine what I really want to do with my professional life. For the first time in eight years, I get to decide what I want to do. How do I want to spend my days? What fires me up? Where can I serve people well? It’s still an ongoing journey, but honestly? Something which should have shaken me to my core…gave me peace. I didn’t have to stay where I was, doing what I was doing. I took a hard look at myself and what I could have done better while employed at the company. I accepted my fault as well as the blessing of losing one job. Being “let go” frees my hands to grab something better suited to me.
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    One of my “photo shoots” Loved taking this amazing pictures of this sweet mama to be! 

    Since I’ve been unemployed, I have honed my photography hobby into a paying side hustle, sold books at conferences, edited books, and worked temp jobs. I’ve done things I loved to do and made money from them. God is good.

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  • I broke up with my boyfriend. I received the long awaited answer to a long and painful prayer, a la Sarah Mclachlan. Apparently eight was the magic number for endings in 2016. After almost nine years (!!!) of dating, my relationship ended with an awkward conversation in the church parking lot the day after the Presidential election. An end of an era. A historically poignant moment to hang a memory on like a winter coat wet with snow dripping in a mud room. It’s so poetic, my poet’s heart just eats it up. I prayed for this! Again, this wasn’t the desired result, but God answered a prayer I’ve prayed for years this year. As painful as the answer may be, it wasn’t a sucker punch in a parking lot, but gentle nudges and a calm voice saying “it’s time.” God has been incredibly gentle with my heart during this time. What once would have started an epic search to figure out what was wrong with me…gave me peace. It also gave me an invitation. My soul asked me on a date. Who is Erica, 31, single, Christian, no kids? What parts of myself have been pushed down, lost, or ignored in the last nearly nine years? It’s been fun rediscovering who I am, spending more time with myself, my family, my friends, and my God. I’ve said yes to things I wouldn’t have before, and no to things I wouldn’t have before. It hasn’t all been roses. One doesn’t spend so many years getting to know someone, investing in a shared future, and end it with no hurts or regrets. One doesn’t sit with oneself and examine one’s heart this closely without seeing some ugly things embedded there. When two great catches don’t catch each other, it’s bewildering and sad. As the girl who wrote Altered before the Altar, I’ll continue to get asked “the question” everywhere I go with my book. Ironically, I have a sequel to Altered before the Altar in the works now. And it’s for couples. And no, I’m not waiting until I’m courting write it. 😉
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For those who asked, “Ask and it shall be given you.” Matt. 7:7. I carry this on my key chain
  • I have to move four months earlier than I expected. My roommate is getting married in April (!!!), which means my lease is ending in March instead of July. With no job, relationship or lease commitments to figure into plans, I can consider roles I never would have considered before in places I wouldn’t have gone.

The Season for Getting Serious Front Cover

  • The Season for Getting Season was published six months late.   The Season for Getting Serious was supposed to be published in January of this year, but came out right on time in July. Four days after I sold my first copies of Season at a ladies day, I was fired. Season is a book about growth in your relationship with God through hard times. I didn’t publish in January because I still had some areas to dig deep into. Some of the chapters I struggled to get right are words I’ve read over and over again in the season of life I’m in now. God gave me the game plan for this season right before I entered it! How amazing is it to see the preparation He put me through to be able to walk this season out in front of so many to His glory!

This year wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but it wasn’t all stress and struggle, either. The above opportunities have all come in the last half of the year. There a many more desired outcomes and “wins” to catalog, a year in books to review, a goals update to share, a word of the year to reveal, goals to lay at the feet of Jesus, and new books to read and write.

What opportunities did you find in the rubble this year?

Reveling in Opportunity,

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Erica Denise Hearns

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#SeasonSerious2016: Sophomore Hi-jinx

Since I didn’t do all the milestone posts as things were happening–book title reveal, book cover reveal, etc.–I thought it would be fun to do a series of blog posts on special topics relating to The Season for Getting Serious release to help readers get acquainted with it. 

The Season for Getting Serious Front Cover

Do you ever find yourself getting so far ahead of the process in your mind you begin to resent the process?

Everyone has heard of the sophomore jinx. If your first book or album is successful, the pressure to release something even better can cause sophomore jitters, which inevitably become sophomore slumps. The second project fails to live up to the high bar set by the first. Whether nerves, going in a new creative direction, the genre fading in popularity, or the fact you aren’t the new kid on the block anymore, sometimes second efforts tank.

Some artists are disappointed with their second efforts because they know better. When I released Altered before the Altar, I didn’t have any expectations. I wasn’t expecting people to buy it or love it. But they did.

I was told topping Altered would be difficult because it was so good. People had expectations of my work now. I had to deliver.

The weight of these expectations made me jump ahead of the process. This did nothing but slow me down. I was so concerned about the perception of my second book, it crippled me. I knew if I ever wanted to write, let alone publish, a second book, I had to do something different.

What did I do to get over the jitters and write my second book?

  • I interviewed people.  Talking with people about the book’s topics helped me organize my thoughts, see the topic from another’s perspective, and gave me gems of wisdom to sprinkle throughout my work.
  • I used my digital recorder. I wanted to keep the conversational tone of my first book. Instead of building the tone in later, I started with it by recording myself talking through each chapter. I got the tone I wanted and the passion and urgency of the message came through. I used the recorder while on my commute to and from work and was able to use time I usually “lost” each day.
  • I had a focus question. I shared my focus question in yesterday’s post. The focus of The Season for Getting Serious was built around my answer to this question. Having a focus brought everything together. I cut anything which didn’t serve this purpose.
  • I kept a cutting room floor document. Knowing my beautiful prose could be retrieved if I changed my mind helped me cut unnecessary passages.
  • I approached the book like a student first.  I studied each topic as if it were new to me. I used different methods and reread the material  until I saw things I never saw before. I developed a deeper understanding of each subject. I had to change huge chunks of my first draft, but it made the book stronger.
  • I lost it–literally. Confession time: I lost my book while writing it. Twice. This taught me to back up everything in triplicate. More importantly, it taught me the true value of what I was writing and where it came from. I could recreate much of what I’d written, but the passages I love the most were in the moment revelations and nudges from the Holy Spirit. I felt like the Spirit spoke through me and to me in those moments. I trusted God would give me the words he wanted me to say if I had to rewrite it, but I was so appreciative when I found it. I know these are the words God wanted women to hear.
  • I wrote the book I needed to read. I didn’t listen to those clamoring for a follow up to Altered. I ignored my own desire to write a book that could be used in ladies’ classes, book clubs, and life groups. I studied the topics God pressed on my heart to help me in my walk with Him. By seeking Him first, I wrote a book the woman who came away from Altered wanting a deeper relationship with Christ could dive into. I wrote a book that can be used for individual or group study by women at all different stages of life. I need  every word of this book, and I know other women do, too.

It’s too soon to say if I beat the sophomore jinx, but I surpassed all my expectations for my sophomore release. I took my writing to the next level with this book. I have the confidence in the abilities God gave me to do it again. I feel like I’ve finally fully embraced my calling as a writer and speaker, and I can’t wait to see how God uses my gifts for His glory in this new season.

XOXO,

Erica

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Wrapping Up Month 5

Five days into the new month and I feel as if I’ve already accomplished more than last month. I say feel because I actually haven’t. In May, I spoke at the Authentic Self seminar, a major milestone. I set up my email, mailing list, and Facebook page for the site. I also posted my first two reviews for Net Galley books and bought the tickets to go home for my high school renion and family get together. I’ve done more in the month of May than I thought.

Originally, I was going to make my May word of the month “restart” because I was focusing on having to start the site over and re-doing the branding for the site. However, I know that doesn’t exactly fit all that I’ve done for the month of May. Since the goal of the year is to savor, I want to encapsulate all I’ve done while putting the most positive spin on it possible. As I’ve written out the month’s happenings one word jumped out at me: planting.

In the midst of the daily grind, it can be hard to recognize how much further along you are, especially when you’re obsessing over the fact you aren’t where you want to be yet. In the past month, I’ve done several things for which I will reap the benefits in the future. I have been planting. The evidence of the planting isn’t manifested yet. Work is going on underground. I need to be watering and perhaps weeding.

I’ve planted the seed of speaking engagements with the authentic self seminar. I was asked to participate in another program. I was asked back again. I did better than I thought I would speaking before an audience, even with all of the  technical mishaps at the beginning of the program.

I planted the seed of being a reviewer. I was rejected for a slew of books early in the month and immediately felt discouraged. However, I decided to go back on the site and request everything that caught my eye. I was approved for nearly all of the new requests. I’m developing my review criteria and I’ve posted two reviews already.

I’ve planted the seed of this site. I’ve managed to get the social media for the site set up and redefine the vision that I wanted for this space so that it’s more me. I may not have put all of my ideas into action in May, but I stopped to clarify where I was going. Here’s to hoping that the seeds that were  planted were planted in good soil and I will reap a harvest later on in life.

Sowing what I want to reap,

Erica

P.S. I will be going to my class reunion and visiting family the rest of this week. I will update as often as I can with pictures and impressions. It’s weird to go back to a place where I spent so much time after being away for so much time. It will be interesting to see what people are doing in life now, and I can’t wait to spend some time with all of my family again.

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Letting Patience Have Her Perfect Work…

The last couple of weeks have been busy, and I have been neglecting writing here as well as my personal Bible study (not for this site or the book I’m writing). I say neglecting it and not that I was too busy because that really hasn’t been the case. I’ve had to repent of that and come back refocused. In this period of busy-ness, I’ve had a few moments along the way that I wanted to share with you all.

After a particularly long Friday at work, I came home to an email from my graphic designer with his first revision to my logo/header and it is AMAZING! He is tweaking a couple of things, but the design is far better than I ever could have imagined, and I’m so pleased with what he has come up with so far. I can’t wait to reveal the header and do a whole post about working with this amazing designer. As someone who spends a lot of time attempting to make myself clear to people, I really appreciate when someone gets my vision right away and supports it, taking it to the next level. That email really made my Friday.

On Sunday, I met a visitor who was looking for a church home in the area. Another sister and I were able to take her out for ice cream after church. Not only was I excited to have the opportunity to visit with her, I found her to be incredibly funny and so genuine. We had a great time together. I’ve been missing that connection with other young women lately as everyone’s lives are changing and we don’t get to see each other very often. I love gathering with other Christian women and having a good time just being ourselves, and I was so grateful to have been invited, to show this new to us sister who I really am as a person.

None of this has anything to do with the title of this post. The reason for the title is something I’ve been thinking about lately. I was thinking about how hard it can get for us to trust and believe God when the events of our lives or the lives of the ones we love aren’t going the way that we feel they should. I’m talking about when we have faith, an active faith, and we are striving to live for Christ, but things just keep happening that keep us from progressing in an area. I’ve seen how this wearies people. Scratch that. I’ve experienced how that can test your faith. It’s like when you spend months paying everything down so that you can get something you want, and just when you are within reach of your goal, something happens that knocks you down the ladder a few rungs. The first couple of times, you take it in stride, but after so many times, you can be tempted to give up. You start to wonder what you are supposed to learn, what this is supposed to accomplish.

Whether for you it is a financial goal, or you are trying to fight a particular sin that has become a stronghold in your life like gossiping or fornication, it is discouraging when you are trying to do what you know God will have you to do in the face of adversity and you are still failing to reach your goals or accomplish things. It feels even worse when you aren’t struggling with a sin but still just can’t seem to progress. Not only that, in the book of James, we are told to count it all joy, or be joyous and excited when we go through tribulations, knowing that the trying of our faith brings about patience.

I’ve given you two examples of things that were joyous or exciting this past weekend, and neither of those things involve tribulations. When was the last time you faced trials and tribulations and went “Yes, God! This is exactly what I need! I’m finally going to receive patience! I’m so excited to exemplify Christ to those around me who will see me going through these trials! Thank you Father for choosing me; I’ve been waiting for you to choose me”? Anyone?

But it doesn’t stop there. We are admonished (urged) to let patience finish her work in us to make us mature, lacking nothing. The whole point of this can be summed up in two words: grow up! Hmm, that sounded harsh. I didn’t mean it to be harsh. I meant it to be emphatic.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a workout class or done a very intense workout video, but when they get to  high intensity interval training (HIIT), they really have to encourage me. “Stay right there!” “Keep pushing!” “Don’t stop!” When I feel that burn, I want to stop, to tag out, to say “this is for the birds” and stop. I want to take a moment to breathe. But what any good instructor will tell you is that shaking is good; burning is good. Burning means that you are getting toxins and fat out of your body. Shaking means the muscles are working hard. If God is going to get all of the toxins and impurities out of our character, He’s going to have to push us past where we want to go. Unlike some fitness instructors I’ve had, He knows when to give us a break, just how hard to push, what we can bear.

I’ve been seeing some people who are having going through many different trials and it is hard to watch. I know they are feeling fatigue, shaking and burning, and I want nothing more than to help them out. But the very best advice I could give them is to stay there; keep going. I know you don’t want to hear me telling you to pray or read your Bible. I know you’ve done that already and you are still in the same place. I know you don’t understand what God is doing and you wish He would just tell you, but there’s no way to become mature and complete, to grow strong, unless you’re tested. We can get so angry and upset when God is doing things for our own good if we don’t understand why. So for everyone who asks if it is fair that I work this hard and try to live right and I still haven’t been able to reach a certain goal or acquire a certain thing, I have to say it is fair. For everyone who wants to know why things are happening to you, there are only two reasons: consequences of sin  or the trying of your faith. If it’s the former, repent. Turn away from your sinful behavior and turn towards God. If it’s the latter, continue believing God and endure so that you earn your crown. I know it’s easier said than done, but what’s the alternative?

This is meant to be encouraging. You aren’t always going through things because you’ve done something wrong; sometimes you are going through things to help you become even better, to trust God even more. Don’t be a fair weather Christian who leaves God whenever He requires more of you.

Be blessed,

Erica

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Good News & Gripes

I’m sorry I left you with such a moody post. I promise this one has good news. I’ll end with that to leave on a more positive note. I’ll start with the bad, move into the INEBIGTDIA, and finish with the good/great. Ready?

The Bad

My great aunt passed away at the age of 67. This was one of the family matriarchs, a pillar if the family, and someone I was very close to, so it hits really hard, once I slowed down enough to let it sink in. I wasn’t able to attend the funeral, either, so I was a bit upset about that. My great aunt had a good life, loved her family, and was a woman of faith who could pass in peace, so I’m happy for that.

INEBIGTDIA

We had a nutritionist speak at work a few weeks ago. It was a great opportunity for me to get some guidance food-wise. I won a one on one consultation with her which included an evaluation. I had to get weighed and measured. I stood on the scale, endured the tape measuring of my bust, waist, hips, thigh, and calf, and had my body fat measured. Afterwards, I got to ask questions and receive advice. It was really eye opening and helpful.

I started couch to 5K so I will be able to run the 5K our company has a team for in April. I’m not sure if I’ll do we’ll, but my goal is just to do it…and to finish in 45 minutes, around a fifteen minute mile. I have no lofty notions where running is concerned. I am buying YogaWorks BodySlim and possibly another favorite yoga routine to get back on the mat. I’m not making any goals there, either, except to meet my mat at least a couple times a week.

The Good/Great

I bought a domain for my website! www.aseriousseason.com will be my website. Right now it’s a blog until I get the web hosting selected and work with MH to design the site, but I have completed step one. I will buy the hosting, if things go according to plan, next week, right after my birthday! I am so ready for this. I’ve found the brand I want to work under. I know what I want to do with it. It’s ready to roll out. Be sure to check out the blog and follow the blog’s twitter. @seasonserious.

The book stalled for a bit due to performance anxiety, but I am back on it. I bought printer paper ( I ran out right when I finally bought ink, smh) and I am listening to interviews to pull quotes. Details about the book will be on the site as soon as they are finalized.

What’s new with all of you?

XOXO

2blu2btru

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Slow Down

After I was in the car accident (the current dividing line of my life, pre- and post-accident), while I was waiting to be seen at the hospital, Mr. Perfect said something profound to me: “Maybe you got into this accident because you are trying to do too much and you need to slow down.” If you had asked me, I was just getting started. I had been in the same stupid place for so long, and I was just moving forward in life. When you are just getting started, you’re supposed to be getting up to speed, not slowing down, right?

I was FINALLY moving from that slightly discontented space in my life where I’d felt stagnated for a long time. Instead of just saying I wanted to go back to school, I was going. Instead of just talking about writing a book, I was earnestly writing. Instead of saying “when I pay off my car,” I had paid off my car. I was going to open up a new bank account to start saving for some upcoming things I really wanted to do. I was going to get a laptop and start work on a self-hosted site to host all of my blogs, sign up for paypal or something similar to sell my book(s), and begin submitting things for publication. I’d made plans I haven’t even bothered to tell you all about yet (but when they are officially in motion, I promise I will).

However, one illegal turn, and my whole life plan is in ruins (well, not really, but let me be dramatic for a moment, ok?). I’m going to have to get another car. I don’t have a ride to school, so I had to withdraw after one class. There’s no longer going to be extra money for the laptop or the site, nor will I be able to fund another account with what used to be my car payments. All of that was lost in the squealing of tires and crunching of metal. One step forward, two steps back.

What’s funny to me is that my word for the year is “savor” in a year when I was putting my foot down on the gas and speeding through milestones. I wasn’t really taking in everything the way I wanted to. I would note things I wanted to write about that were savory moments, things I didn’t want to forget, but I wouldn’t get to it because I was so BUSY. How am I supposed to savor when I don’t have time to sit over anything?

Because of the accident and not having my car, I ended up having a lot of time to do the one thing that was completely unaffected by the accident: write. I walked over to the grocery store on my lunch break one day and bought a small notebook so I could stop writing scriptures and ideas on all my sticky notes. At this point, it has an outline of most of the areas of the book I am working on. I’ve been bringing my lunch to work, and since I am not driving to get food, I have more time to study scriptures, reread interviews, and write or revise on my lunch break. I found a piece of the book on my computer I didn’t remember I’d started, putting me a bit further along in one area than I realized.

I have gone to my complex’s gym a couple times since the accident and had a few savory moments there as well. When I go to the the gym, I listen to at least one podcast from the Church of Christ in Falls Church, Virgina. I usually listen to one in the series of “The Greatest Stories Ever Told,” by Mike Tune. Those twenty to thirty minute sermons convict me and encourage me so much! They are so practical and remind me of some of my favorite Bible stories. Even before this recent routine, the series caused me to take another look at the story of Achan, which I will cover in my book. The sermon on the Tower of Babel yielded a quote that fit in so perfectly with what I wanted to say in a specific area I can only conclude it was God’s will for me to hear it at just that time.

So even though the accident temporarily took away some of my “joy-joy” feelings and optimistic disposition, like a shaken bottle of water, I have settled down again to a calm surface…let’s just hope I don’t get shaken again for a little while. Although I still don’t know what the ultimate outcome of all of this will be, I am grateful that I had the chance to slow down a bit.

Perhaps school would have been too big a distraction right now. Perhaps my focus needed to be a little more…streamlined. Perhaps my imaginary shopping sprees got more focus than other more important things. Perhaps I was going about things all wrong and it was time to clear the board. Whatever the reason, God knows best. I submit to His will.

I’m also looking for my check from the at faul driver’s insurance company. o_O

Savoring the moment,

2blu2btru

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Not So Savory Moment: The Car Accident

On my way to church on Wednesday night, I was involved in a BAD car accident (not that any car accident is good, of course). Wednesdays are my long days. It was my first day with my new Wednesday schedule: go in to work from 8-5, go to class 6-7:15, go to church from 7:30 to approximately 9:00-9:30pm, and get home (probably with fast food in hand) at approximately 10pm. Instead of this happening, a series of unfortunate events:

My boss let me leave a few minutes early so I wouldn’t be late. I immediately went to campus, parked in visitor’s parking, and set about finding the bookstore before class. I found it, but didn’t have my id to purchase the book. I went back to my car for my bag, but still couldn’t find the ID and didn’t have time to look for it. I decided I would just buy the digital book while I walked to class. The bookstore’s registration page wasn’t working properly on my phone, so I gave up. Luckily, we didn’t really need the book for the class. Even though I would be late to church, I wanted to get the book before I left campus (I found my ID in my class notebook). I went to the bookstore, now a LOT emptier, rented the book, got a little lost on campus, finally found my car and started out.

I was talking to my mom on the phone as I was driving down a major road that leads to the interstate (I’ll call it Straight Road), telling her about my class and that I was going to church. “You’re still going to try to go?” she said. “It’s late.” “Yeah, but I still want to go and catch what I can.” As I come to where Straight Road intersects with (what we’ll call) Broad Way, the light is green. I am going the speed limit, as the last couple lights have been green and I haven’t had to stop. This intersection has turn lanes with arrows because there’s a popular shopping area on one side and a row of restaurants (including a Chick-Fil-A) on the other side. Since my light to continue straight was green, the left turn lane coming in the opposite direction was red. Unfortunately, when I was less than a block away from the intersection, someone turned from that left turn lane RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. I only had time to press my brakes and say “Oh my God” before impact.

It’s funny how time can seem to slow down, how much clearer details can become. It’s like in the movie Big Fish where the main character talks about seeing the love of his life for the first time: time stops, but then it seems like when time starts again, it speeds up to catch up. I saw (and still see) the side of that Jeep in my headlights slowing coming closer and closer. I feel the impact push me forward and my seatbelt jerk me back. I see the Jeep turn over, landing with the driver’s side down, my car crunched to the underside of their vehicle. I don’t remember my airbags deploying, just seeing the deflated bags and the haze of the powder in the air. My phone had hung up on my mom before impact; when I spoke to her a few minutes later, she said she thought I told her to hold on and had clicked over. I’m forever thankful my poor mom didn’t hear that deafening squealing, crunching, and hissing.

I got out and called to the people in the Jeep. I looked back at the still green light, dazed. At times like this, you wonder if you’re dreaming, or if you did something wrong. Was the light green for me? Did it change and I was distracted? What really just happened?

The people in the Jeep are talking. An SUV that was traveling the same way as I was stops to help. People run from the Chick-Fil-A and the gas station, one already on the phone with the police. I am dazed. I call Mr. Perfect, who is at church. No answer. I intend to call my mom, but mistakenly call him again. He picks up and I tell him what happened. I go to my car and grab my purse and canvas bag. By this time, my arm and leg are stinging from their contact with the hydraulic powder on the airbags. The police and fire trucks are there within 5 minutes.

Three of the four people have been pulled from the SUV. People are being interviewed by the police. I’m standing off to the side with my bags, alternately trying to get things out of my vehicle. I see coolant leaking and smoke rising from my hood. I try to get the key out of the ignition, but the steering column has locked on it. My New Orleans keychain of Mr. Perfect and I at the Audobon Aquarium has shattered into pieces and the picture is nowhere to be found. I can’t lift anything else out as my right arm is starting to ache and I can’t hold anything with it. Some witnesses spot me and ask if I am OK.

The police officer gets my name, driver’s license, and where I am coming from before being pulled away. Another asks me briefly what happened and if I have been checked out by EMS. Two witnesses come over to me, helping me with my bags. One is an ER nurse. “It’s OK. It’s clear you weren’t at fault. Several people saw them run the read light and turn in front of you. They’ve all been drinking, too. You should get you a lawyer. I’m surprised there isn’t one out here handing out cards already.” She suggests I call a popular law firm here. “You should get your arm checked out. That looks like it might be fractured. I can’t say for sure; there isn’t an X-Ray machine out here, but I’m an ER Nurse, and it looks really bad. Let me see your other arm…yes, see how it is started to curve out right there? That’s either a deformity from a fracture or really bad swelling.”

I’m getting a little giddy and overwhelmed looking around at all the flashing lights and the firemen stabilizing the jeep so they can get the last passenger out. One of the passengers comes up to me. “Are you OK? Yeah, sorry about that. He cut out in front of you like that. I wasn’t driving, though. It’s my birthday today. We been out celebrating. This isn’t anyway to celebrate, though.” He looks around. “That’s my old lady they still tryin’ to get out.” He turns and introduces himself to the witnesses that were helping me. The firemen have got out “the jaws of life” to begin removing the top of the Jeep to pull the woman out.

I’m finally led over to the Fire Response truck to be examined. My arm is put in a makeshift sling and my vitals are taken. They want to take me to the hospital. I ask them to look for my phone. Mr. Perfect is on his way and I’ll need to tell him what hospital I’m being taken to so he can meet me. As if by my request, Mr. Perfect appears just outside of the truck. I ask him to get the things out of my car and they pass on the hospital information. I talk to my little brother on the way to the hospital. The fireman riding with me shows me a picture of my car that makes me queasy. “You’re car did exactly what it was supposed to do,” he says. It’s a good thing you had on your seatbelt, too.”

The car is totaled. After hours at the hospital, I learn my forearm isn’t fractured, but I have bad contusions there, as well as powder burns from the airbags to my chest and shins, along with some bruises. I’m given a prescription and sent home (which is, ironically, right next door).

The bad news: my car (which I received the title to on Monday), is totaled. When I paid off the car, I lowered the insurance. I just asked what they could do to lower it now that it was paid for. They took off collision (bad move), and the portion that would have paid me for missing work for a couple days (even worse move). Since the other driver was at fault (and breathalized/arrested at the scene), they can contact his insurance company and get a settlement from them, but I couldn’t choose to go through them, get my money faster, and let them subrogate against the other insurance company. I don’t have a car and my have to drop my class if I can’t get transportation to class on Wednesdays (Mr. Perfect works 10-6 on the other side of the Metro area). I have no coverage to get a rental car under my policy. I don’t think my credit is good enough yet for me to get a decent interest rate on a car, or even be able to get a car from a reputable dealer.

The good news: I’m alive and my injuries aren’t that bad. My insurance coverage does still include uninsured motorist, so even if they don’t have insurance, my medical deductible and bills will be covered. I paid off the car, so my credit is a bit better than the last time I had to look at cars. Fault has already been proven and I was not at fault. No one was seriously injured. I heard from a great many people who were concerned about me. I got to see who really cared. All of my things were taken from my vehicle (this was an issue at the last accident a few years ago; lost some great music and important papers). I no longer have to renew my registration, and I’m dropping my insurance down to basic, so I’ll save money (I’ll take whatever I can get).

This post is already way too long, but I want to think everyone that prayed, called, texted, and showed concern for me. By God’s grace and mercy, I am healing and will be fine. I’m confident He will see me through the upcoming weeks and bring me out of them as well. I may not have wanted to be in this particular moment, but going through bad times really makes you appreciate and savor the good times. If I’ve gained anything from this experience so far, it’s the knowledge that I have truly tasted and seen that the Lord is good for myself (Psalm 34:8). Be blessed everyone.

XOXO

2blu2btru

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Making an Appointment

I’m doing something “we” aren’t supposed to do: I’m going to see my friendly neighborhood licensed mental health counselor, Mrs. Jung-Freud. You may remember her from my other blog where she answered some of my questions about the psychological impact of marriage. I’m not going back for a further discussion about marriage, however. I’m going back for an actual session.

I’ve actually “done a session” with her before with MensHealth once, an impromptu session early on in our relationship that was pretty productive. However, this will be my first time talking to a counselor one on one for  a purpose other than an interview.

I find that I don’t have the type of friends that you can tell all your business to without a) hearing it in the streets (usually from people I expressly didn’t want to know about it), b) hearing it referred to in some snarky comment when they are mad, or c) listening to them tell me what to do. Counselors, on the other hand, can’t share your business abroad (Thanks to HIPPA laws, etc), and usually don’t tell you what to do so much as help you come to your own conclusions. To me, the unschooled layman, it sounds like having the best friend a girl can have outside the heavenly realm.

I am looking forward to an opportunity to focus on me and get a clearer vision of how I want my life to look independent of other people. I’ve made some great steps in moving my life forward, setting some boundaries, etc, but it’s time to make some more. Perhaps it’s time to cut some of those “jelly fisher” friends and people who seem to delight in my downturns of fortune; as my life is starting to come together, they won’t have much use for me anyway (and I have no use for them).

I probably won’t share many details about the session (except maybe in some password protected entries), but I wanted to share that I’m doing this because I think the stigma has to be overcome. I am a major proponent of counseling. My aunt is a counselor (that I’d never go to; too close a relation…but she’s a good counselor). I wanted to be a relationship counselor. I have worked with behavioralist and psychiatrists as well as psychologist. I always push pre-marital counseling and marriage education. There’s nothing wrong with getting another perspective. It doesn’t mean that you are screwed up or hearing voices. It means you want an objective person who isn’t interested in trying to get you to take their advice or use your experience for dinner conversation to help you gain a little clarity.

How do you feel about counseling? Ever been to a counselor? Do you use your friends as counselors? How do you take care of your mental health?

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The Help & the Assigning of Authority in Literature

I haven’t yet been able to read The Help, nor have I seen the movie, but I’ve definitely seen and heard the backlash from everyone from bloggers to the Black Women Historians. What people say most often, alongside the inaccuracy of what the consequences of these women telling their stories seems to be, is that here is this white woman telling our story…as if she could ever know what it was like. How dare she?

This topic is a touchy one for most writers, I would imagine, as it speaks to our rights as writers: who gave us the authority to write about people who belong to cultures and races other than our own? Can I ever write a story with all white characters as an African-American, historical stories that portray racist characters or characters who I would never interact with? What about rich people or people in extreme poverty? Where can I get permission to write about an experience that is not my own?

This issue of who has the right to tell a story of a shared past is part of my one literary novel attempt, the Southern Gothic Novel.  I wanted to write about the power of voice and who has authority to tell history, and should they have that right. I write about people who, on the surface, aren’t likke me: some are white, some are affluent African-Americans, some are addicts. But I choose to focus on things I believe are universal to all of us.

I don’t know if Kathryn S. did her research thoroughly, or if she wanted to be historically accurate. I don’t know if she expected this backlash at all. I know she had a story she wanted to tell and kept trying to sell rejection after rejection. I hear the book is well written. Just because many of the characters are African¡American and depicted in a time of segregation doesn’t mean I should have been the one to tell the story. Just because a white character publishes the thoughts of Black women doesn’t mean she stole their voice.

As an English Literature degree holder, I’ve read pieces by both women and African-Americans in which an introduction by a reputable white male had to be inserted to vouch for their veracity, that the author actually wrote it, and that the author has the authority to tell the story. I heard how Zora Neale Hurston’s autobiography may have been changed to suit white publishers. There’s no doubt that as women and African-Americans, our voices have been stolen, regulated and co-opted throughout history. However, as a writer and an African-American woman who knows this legacy, I can’t authorize or take part in an effort to strip anyone of their right to try to write and explore the world from a different perspective, especially one that doesn’t seem to be demeaning or disrespectful.

I’m interested to hear all of your perspectives on this issue of voice, authority, and writing across the racial divide. Leave me your thoughts.

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Getting Back into a New Groove

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Yes, that’s meant to be as contradictory as it sounds. In typical me fashion, I made my trip back to Michigan epic in my mind. I wanted to cram so many things into it. First of all, there’s all the “feel the feelings” crap I wanted to…well, feel…that I thought would be helpful to record for one of those memoirs I’ve been thinking and scribbling about (the college one, if you were dying to know). Secondly, there was the prospect of going through all of my old notebooks and papers, rediscovering all of my old stories, and possibly finding something that sparks my creativity again and is just begging to be written (that happened, in case you were wondering, but is an entirely different entry). At some point, I wanted to visit friends and old haunts, feel that weird double consciousness feeling where you’re as aware of how you were when you were there before as you are of how you are now in the same physical place. Ultimately, I was there to see my brother graduate and to take a vacation from routine.

We all need a break from routine every now and then, even if we LOVE routine. To be honest, I like to know what comes next. I like things to be going according to plan. I have even been known to like routine. I mean, I’m the person who gets the same meal from restaurants. Still, sometimes routine can become monotonous or even a rut.

I felt myself getting into a bit of a rut–in my writing, in my relationships, in this blog. Things were going along on autopilot. I got up, went to work, did the same thing I’d done the previous weekday, went home, continued watching the same television series I watched the day before, got ready for bed. I was past comfortable and content; I’d entered apathy.

Part of the reason I was so looking forward to this trip is because I was planning things again, trying to figure out how to squeeze everything into a jam packed schedule. But the best thing about the trip was the opportunity to come back with fresh eyes. Now, instead of just going to work as per usual, I was returning to work. I had to get back into the groove of how I did things.

The best thing about returning to a routine is that it’s like seeing it for the first time. With this fresh perspective, you can better identify things you want to change, things you need to add or take out of your normal routine. Now that you’ve stepped away from it and come back to it, you can better see some of the decay, the warts, if you will. If you want, you can develop a whole new routine! There’s something to be said, in any case, for fresh perspective.

It’s a lot like how I believe Bikram yoga to be. From what I’ve read, Bikram yoga utilizes the same flow, the same poses, each session. The goal, then, is to become better at holding the poses, then to be able to go deeper into the poses, stretching more, challenging yourself. Each class, you can decide whether you want to go for more or perfect where you are. Either way, you are improving, even though you’re doing the same old thing.

One day, I would love to wake up at six in the morning, eat breakfast, go for a run, then sit down to write. I would love to be in touch with my agent and editor, to do book tours, to facilitate discussions at book club meetings. I would love to give commencement addresses or talks about writing. I would love for my routine to be completely transformed. But I also know there’s some value in challenging myself to try to reach a little further and get a little bit better at my current routine. I may not be able to escape the 9-5 lifestyle, but I can escape the rut.

So, this morning, I’m embracing the thought of settling back into a new groove, smooth, well worn, but with twists and bends yet to be carved out.

XOXO

2blu2btru

P.S. I’m still accepting questions about love, dating and marriage for the Licensed Mental Health Counselor marriage kit interview this Saturday! Comment, tweet me (@2blu2btru), or email me at 2blu2btru4u[at]gmail[dot]com.