Peaks, Valleys, and Being Named

It’s disconcerting to be sitting here several years into this platform, and feel less sure of its direction than I did when I started out.

‘Poison In Lethal Doses’ was my decision to walk away from something that no longer suited me personally or served a greater purpose, and allowed me to return to my roots. It is, without question, one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s important to feel rooted in one’s self, without ego. A lot has changed from the first post to now, but I feel as though I’ve grown in leaps and bounds as a writer.

Last month, I was named “An Inspirational Writer of 2017”. I have no idea what I did to earn this acknowledgement of my efforts, as my readers don’t get to see 90% of the work I do. I have never promoted any of my works in progress because I’m not going to promote anything until it is published. It’s a strict rule of mine. but I couldn’t help but be completely overwhelmed, and emotional, to be declared an “inspirational writer”. That declaration makes me want to ask questions.

I have always felt that the smartest writers are sometimes silent; taking on causes they can truly get behind in their work, and I find peace in being silent when it’s important for me to do so. No one will ever accuse me of not using my voice for good, or say I haven’t advocated for change. It’s always obvious to me when someone is trying too hard, and over-compensating in ways I, personally, find unattractive. I have to stick to my guns and I have to stick to what’s important to me. I cannot bounce around like a heavily caffeinated Bobble head, with an over-inflated ego, desperately seeking out the approval of others. That’s not me.

Over the summer, one of the greatest compliments given to me was “You TRULY know yourself.” I loved the observation and comment SO MUCH because it is the absolute true. I know a lot of people feel lost, confused, hopeless, etc., and I’m human, so I’ve certainly felt those emotions, but for someone to say I “TRULY know myself” made me feel good. It helped set the tone for the final half of the year where I’ve likely felt a wide array of different things each day, and I openly admit, little of it was positive.

My mind is always at work, and sometimes it’s a curse, but mostly, it’s a blessing. What is the creative mind like? Anxious, because the creative mind is pulled in many different directions each day, wanting to complete the tasks it comes up with. The creative mind, one that is natural and not forced, is committed to creativity and expression. The creative mind, depending on its specific genre, wants to create something each day, even if no one else sees it. Printed paper is my canvas of choice, but so is a notebook and pen.

I inherited my creativity from generations of people who were unable to follow their dreams. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately; how much talent I come from. My parents were both talented photographers who were unable to do more than pursue it as a hobby. Whenever I snap a photo now, I am reminded to follow through on it, even if the photo isn’t perfect. My mother played two instruments, passing her love of music down to her children. My father didn’t sing, but he had a knack for hearing something once and being able to duplicate the melody. A few years ago, I noticed my brother does it, too.

I am a trained singer because a teacher called my mother one day and said “Did you know your daughter can sing?” Obviously she’d heard me sing before, but she’d never heard me be loud about it. There was a time when I tried to blend in, so as not to stand out. Gymnastics, singing, and writing changed all of that for me, slowly, but surely. They were outlets that said “Go out there and shine.”

Earlier this year, I found myself annoyed when I dumbed myself down in order to deal with my health. But at the beginning of this month, I saw a new doctor and not only did I not dumb myself down, but I was treated with kindness and compassion. I was listened to. I now have referrals to follow-up on, which I’ve physically been unable to do, thus far. I keep saying “I’ll call tomorrow.” I haven’t been feeling well. I’ve been in tremendous amounts of pain, feeling weak, often unable to get out of bed for more than a few hours at a time, but after doing a little research I felt comfortable enough to tell myself that it’s okay. I knew this would be an emotionally harsh month for me, but I made it to that appointment, and I will make phone calls for a spine specialist, a new neurologist, and another physician at the hospital where my new doctor is affiliated. I’m not happy that the Fibromyalgia pain was not addressed, but it was one appointment. The next time I go in to meet with one of her colleagues, I think I will see if I can get in to see her, too. I’d feel better if we discussed it and came up with an action plan. Because while my neck and back hurt like hell, and my migraines are definitely a serious issue, I worry that the Fibromyalgia may have caused permanent nerve damage. I desperately want to find some measure of relief for this.

2018 will have its challenges, I am sure. If I can deal with my health, finish the novel I worked on the majority of this year where I set personal records for myself during NaNoWriMo, and go back to writing dark urban fantasy, I think it will help me a lot.

I’ve never set out to inspire others by being myself, but if I have inadvertently inspired you through something I’ve written or said, then it’s the icing on the cake. I thank you for the comments you’ve left me throughout this year, and the e-mails you’ve sent my way. I thank you for acknowledging me, and I tip my hat to those who’ve remained on this journey with me.

There’s so much more to come. Of this, I have no doubts.

copyright © 2017 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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It’s Been A While…

Hello everyone! It’s been a little over a month since I last wrote something for this platform. I don’t feel the need to apologize, though. Trust me, sometimes it’s better for me to be quiet than it is for me to say what I really believe, at the time, is the right thing to say.

I’ve needed the time “away” (I was very much still here) to focus on my health, diligently apply myself to my NaNoWriMo commitment, and detox from people, and things, that anger and upset me. I’m not really there yet with the detoxification, but I’m working on it.

The holiday season is an exceptionally hard time for me. And yet, an entire month swept past me in what seemed to be a blink of an eye. At this stage, I am simply trying to avoid perky people, and anyone who put their Christmas decorations up on November 1st. I am pretty sure within the next few days, my neighbors will begin to blind me with their lights. To each their own.

When I am not immersed in reading, writing, or extensive research, I am try to “wind down” my brain a bit, okay, a LOT. It is naturally hyperactive, so nothing is really helping. I find it disturbing that my brain is “always on”, for lack of a better term. With a brain that is always at work, you take the good with the bad. Would I rather be dim-witted or sharp with my wit? I think we all know the answer to that. I’m not giving up my snark. 😉

I hope my U.S. based readers had a lovely Thanksgiving and that my readers who span the globe are healthy, happy, pain-free, and able to enjoy the things many people take for granted.

A large part of me would have loved to be writing the past two months about major news headlines that affect all of us in one way or another, but I chose to leave that to other people while I focused on the final draft of my novel. NaNoWriMo, simply because it’s a challenge, encouraged me to write a new introduction to the story, allowed me to fill in areas that needed depth and growth, helped me with character development, and has helped me decide that every month, I am going to keep challenging myself to produce something enjoyable. Because it’s a genre I wouldn’t normally touch with a fifty foot pole, I have to give myself credit for allowing myself to be vulnerable to the writing and storytelling process. I wanted to write something that is organic, but in doing so, I had to reach deep into who I am and find the part of me that still believes in the things I’m writing. I’ve had great encouragement from my friend, Christy, and her support has meant the world to me.

There’s an important saying, “Pay attention to who steps up when others step away.” These past two months have allowed me to assess my friendships and relationships on an increasingly deep level. The important thing I’ve set my mind on is that I cannot be the one who does all the work in any relationship. If I always have to call, text, and reach out, then the other person clearly doesn’t value me a whole lot. I don’t need people like that in my life. Communication is give and take. If you text me, I will answer it as soon as I see it. If you e-mail me, I will answer you ASAP. If you call me and you’re on my “priority list”, I will answer the phone. I programmed my phone so it won’t ring if you’re not on the list. Mostly because I hate the sound of a phone ringing no matter who it may be, and because a five a.m. phone call is jarring. It’s no big deal if I’m awake, but it’s a huge deal if I went to bed early or I’m suffering from a migraine, etc. Overall, I am extremely sensitive to noise. In the past two years I have only gone short periods of time without a migraine, and of late, the physical pain of suffering from Fibromyalgia has been crushing. I hope and pray these things can be handled properly, and soon, by someone who will have my best interests at heart. This year, apart from one good experience, has made me angrier than ever before at the medical community. Greed, politics, and disrespect runs rampant. I’ve never used this expression before, but I feel completely victimized by “the system”, and only a fool would pretend that it’s okay. It isn’t.

These next few weeks are going to be filled with writing letters, filling out paperwork, doing research, fighting for justice, and trying to go into 2018 with positive thoughts.

As I sit here unable to sleep, with my heart racing (For the record, it shouldn’t be doing that, but I am SO stressed and dealing with so much pain and heartache; I simply can’t control how my body attempts to cope.), I am trying to figure out how to pack a seemingly endless task into the next two days. I’m going to say a prayer and hope for the best. Someone told me the other day to “give it to God and go to bed”. That might be the correct advice, after all. I guess I’ll find out.

Wishing you all the best,

L.

copyright © 2017 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Be Honest With People About Who You Are

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Earlier in the day I was thinking about someone I know, and how long he had to keep his sexuality a secret, out of fear that his friends, family, and career would all fade away. It disturbed me. It still does. I’m happy that he was able to tell everyone in his life, met someone, got married, and his friendships and career remain in tact.

I don’t sit around much thinking about hiding anything about WHO I am as a person. I believe we all deserve a huge measure of privacy for things that simply aren’t someone else’s business, but I’m also judged as a heterosexual woman who isn’t married.

Between the cat jokes, which I don’t find humorous, to men, on occasion, slamming a door in my face in public. I don’t believe I am a minority, but as I look around, I know that I am, in pretty much all aspects of my life. There is always an assumption made about me. Each one is wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with knowing your worth and adding interest. There’s nothing wrong with being a strong person who, on occasion, needs to meltdown and rebuild herself out of the ashes.

I am still trying to accept me, and I imagine many people struggle with this privately. I find myself needing more quiet than normal, because I’m going through some awful things and it all wounds me deeply. But I’m trying.

I’m real. I have standards, and there’s NOTHING wrong with any of that.

Empty As A Shell

I have both nothing to say, and a lot to say, so I’ve chosen to remain silent for the past few weeks. You can never get into trouble by keeping your mouth shut.

I sit here tonight, coughing my brains out, questioning how I somehow got sick in twenty-four hours when I’ve obsessively taken precautions against illness. I’m loaded up on Benadryl, in case it’s “just my allergies”, which I love hearing every time I see a doctor and ask if I have an ear or sinus infection (except for earlier this year when I, indeed, had both). I’m trying to soothe the sore throat that I swear, I did not have a few hours ago. I swear by Ricola herb cough drops.

If you’ve been reading my work for a year or two, you know I hate getting sick. I especially hate knowing it will happen right before my special day; the one day I don’t have to share with anyone else, unless I want to. Every damn year, like clockwork. It doesn’t exactly excite me. 😦

After last year’s debacle, I don’t want to do a whole lot this year, and frankly, no one is willing to tag along. Yes, I still want to feel special, I still want to enjoy something, but I don’t want anyone making a ridiculous or offensive comment about what I enjoy, or saying something hurtful because they think they’re owed something. That attitude and behavior doesn’t fly well with me.

Someone messaged me earlier to ask if I want anything special for my birthday. I was polite, mainly because this person accused me of something I find heinous over the summer, and then I talked with my brother about it. He gives the best advice. A lot of people would be dead if it weren’t for my brother talking me down at the height of my anger. I love how he said “Don’t hold it against her for the rest of her life (Apparently he has forgotten how legendary the “female grudge” can be in my family.). Just take note that she rolls like that and remember.”

As much as I try to accept everyone as they are, I struggle with people who say shitty things and think it’s no big deal. I hate having to rein in my temper when I genuinely want to haul off on someone. It’s a boundary thing, really. Also, a person clearly doesn’t know me very well if they are asking me, on the night before my birthday, if there’s something special I’d like. Yeah, my sanity, but bourbon will do (I’m being a smart ass. My actual response was far more polite than I would like to be.).

I want things that help me create. It could be a set of artist’s markers and some very cool coloring books, or it could be a new eye shadow palette and some brushes. It could be paint and things to be painted, etc. Writing isn’t my only creative outlet. I appreciate when people honor that, as opposed to criticizing it. If someone is talented and I know they need things to occupy their mind during sleepless nights or bad days, then I am absolutely going to do something to encourage their creativity.

For a while now, I’ve been painting shells for the garden. Not because I have to, but because for 20-30 minutes here and there, it gives me something creative to focus on. It takes me away from my writing and gives me a different type of canvas to work with.

Shells with texture absorb a lot of paint to truly be “painted”, but it’s worth it when you see your crazy designs in the end. Every single design has been mostly intentional. I have about eight to finish, and even though they’ll likely come inside for winter, they are glazed to withstand the elements. After all, most of these shells once housed ocean creatures, and they survived the rough waters. Rain and snow are nothing compared to the deep, blue sea.

So as I sit here on the eve of my birthday, I encourage you to create. But most importantly, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. It’s worth it.

copyright © 2017 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Things I’m Thinking About

Every once in a while, I believe we all slip into a “funk” or a mood we simply can’t shake. It then translates into lack of interest in things we’d normally be incredibly involved in. I know where my mood stems from, and why, but nevertheless, it is causing more harm than good. What else is new, right?

I was feeling pretty awful earlier this week after spending several days pretty much bed-ridden in pain. I made mention of this and several friends and family members told me I was “one of the strongest people they know”.  As per usual, someone tried to take that away from me by insinuating I am “not that strong” or maybe “not strong at all”. Before speaking, I suggest you live in my shoes for six months, experience my pain and suffering, and THEN you might be allowed to imply this or that, but ultimately, take into consideration the very real possibility that you don’t know me as well as others do. Or maybe you choose to see what they do not. Regardless, kicking a person while they’re down is pretty damn low, not to mention, greatly unappreciated. And yet, I wasn’t entirely shocked, just ticked off.

When someone sees you suffering and takes shots at you for no reason; it’s not about you.

There are days I push so hard to survive from one minute to the next, and there are days that take me out completely. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to do something, it means I’m listening to my body. When your body says “I can’t do this today. I need care.”, you have to listen. Just because you pushed your body the day before does not mean it will be kind to you today. Between being physically burnt out, enduring high levels of pain, and disrupted sleep patterns, I feel confident when I listen to my body. There are days I force myself to be “normal” and get things done, and there are days when my body just plain shuts down. It doesn’t mean one thing was more important than the other, but it does mean I have limitations.

In a few days, it will be my third month on muscle relaxers. They helped considerably when I badly hurt my lower back and it was one spasm after another, requiring me to take muscle relaxers, an anti-inflammatory, and spend hours with a heating pad directly where the issues were. Beyond that, they’re doing NOTHING for my neck, unless I’ve been writing all day and my neck feels tight from how I look at the screen for hours on end. I rarely look at the keyboard, which is an interesting little fact I only recently noticed about myself.

I’m writing, trying to complete the final draft of my manuscript. It was going very well, until I decided I needed to re-work the entire first portion of the book. Yes, I’m a perfectionist and a pain in the ass, but I’d rather write something amazing as opposed to something half-assed that seems familiar. Overall, anything one can think of under the sun has already been thought of already (A fancy way of saying “It’s all been done before.”), but can one put a new spin on it? Yes. And so, I have spent hours trying to figure out how to give it an alternative beginning. This involved a prologue I’m really proud of, and as I do my umpteenth read-through, it will involve some major changes throughout the storyline. I’m not pressuring myself about any of this work, but goal-wise, I am going to try writing as much as humanly possible during NaNoWriMo, next month. I’m averaging several thousand words on my good days, so why not take the new word count and see where it leads me? It doesn’t hurt to try. Again, I’m not going to pressure myself, but I AM going to work hard and write to the best of my ability.

If you did/do your best with the written word you put your name on, then you will have achieved much.

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their week!

copyright © 2017 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Follow Your Gut, Because It Doesn’t Lie…

A few weeks ago someone friended me on Facebook. Under normal circumstances I only accept requests from people I know in real life or people I have met via a migraine or Fibromyalgia/ Chronic Pain group. I’ve met some great people who have become good friends almost immediately. Sometimes you click with someone and you’re good, despite not seeing them every single day of your life. But every once in a while, someone comes along and their intentions are less than honorable.

Here’s precisely what went down with this particular person.

#1: He friended me and I was busy, so I accepted it thinking he was from my migraine group. When I went to do a little recon, I found that his profile had exactly three photos, and he’d joined in February of 2017. He had the prerequisite photo of “himself” in the desert holding a gun. He claimed he worked “at U.S. Army”. Red flag. Why? He didn’t have a single friend or family member listed. That’s odd, especially when a person is friending you out of the blue.

#2: He immediately messages me. And by immediately, I mean I don’t think it took him thirty seconds. Everything about the interaction screamed “This is not the person in the photos.”, and because I trust my intuition, I reported him to Facebook. HUGE red flag.

#3: Facebook, as usual, did nothing. The profile was deleted for less than a few hours and then he was suddenly back on my friends list. I decided to let it go, as long as the messages stopped.

#4: When he messaged me after midnight and his English is about as American as my knowledge of Indo-Iranian languages, I called him on his shit.

#5: Instead of being honest, especially after I said “Your profile states that you’re U.S. Military, but your command of the English language shows otherwise.”, he tried to maintain the charade. “Sorry! I didn’t understand you better.” Americans don’t talk like that. We know proper tense.

#6: “Okay, but you hardly ever talk to me dear.” How many guys do you know who talk like that? I responded by saying “You are an absolute stranger and I’m not dumb.” He stated “What does that mean?” Even the dimmest person would realize I’m on to them and back off. Someone smarter would have immediately unfriended me. He didn’t. I was very direct with my response. I flat-out said he was not who he was professing to be and he replied “Are you kidding me? I am who I am and no one else is me.” He said a few other things and again, the English was SO off. Instead of continuing the nonsensical back and forth (which I do not have time for), I unfriended him, reported him again, and blocked him.

If someone friends you, do a little background on them if you don’t know them from work, every day life, etc. I attract different types of people because I’m a writer and I’m affiliated with some pain groups, one of which I founded and maintain, as well as some groups for specific interests, etc. But I’m NOT fucking stupid. I speak more than one language fluently and I know how Americans sound, even via text message or Facebook Messenger. There is a distinction to American English that does not translate into or out of other languages. Two of my best friends are German and Israeli, by birth. Each speaks English as a second language. I’ve been friends with both of them for over twenty years. On occasion, one or both of them will say something and they’ll state “This may not translate into English well, but…” They are honest and they own the fact that certain things get lost in translation. I have other friends who are polyglots and they, like me, will be the first to say that a lot of things can get lost in translation when English is your first language.

There are all kinds of people out there, but you are my readers and I want each and every one of you to be safe on the Internet. Don’t take anyone at face value until they prove themselves to you, just like you would expect in real life.

I know a lot of people are lonely and they look for people to chat with in chat rooms and assorted forums. IRC is one of the larger forums I know of because my brother has used it since he was a kid, making good friends along the way, but also losing friends because of it in terribly tragic ways. 😦

Be careful who you “friend” and be careful who you talk to. Not everyone is authentic. Don’t be so quick to trust. Trust your intuition and don’t be so willing to give out personal info.

Always, ALWAYS, trust your gut, and even more so if you see a red flag go up. Your gut instinct is the one part of you that will never lie.

There are real people in this world, but there are also fake people and fake profiles. Unfortunately, that is the land of social media.

copyright © 2017 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Because He’s My Brother

The past two years have been incredibly hard on my brother. I have no words for what he has been through, or for the things he continues to battle easy day. For the past ten years or so, all we’ve had that we can truly count on, as siblings, is each other.

I remember the day he was born. The phone rang and I wasn’t pleased hearing I had a little brother. I was determined a sister would be coming home. And by determined, I mean adamant. There was simply no way anyone was going to convince me that a brother was a good thing.

We share the same birthday in neighboring months and our birth times are similar. We were born in the same hospital, but because the maternity ward had been moved and remodeled, our birth certificates state we were born in different zip codes.

I remember the day he came home from the hospital. He looked up at me from my mother’s arms and I was suddenly the most important person in his world. He knew exactly who to trust.

He would scream and cry whenever I was out of his visual field. I’d come running into the room and as soon as he saw me, he’d stop crying. He’d go from red-faced hysteria to laughter and giggles, because I always made him smile.

Up until a month ago, I hadn’t heard from my brother in four months. Every single day, I was convinced something horrible had happened and that I would soon get a call from a police officer or a coroner’s office. I was mentally prepared for the worst. What I got was an unfortunate shock I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But ultimately, the shock led to my brother being okay, and that is a relief.

A lot of people do not share close relationships with their siblings, for various reasons, and I understand that. But for me, my brother is the one person who will always have my back. He is someone who knows me really well. He’s one of my best friends.

I haven’t seen my brother in nearly two years, but nothing and no one can break the bond between us. He is the one living person who knows how to take the things I say. He knows when I’m truly being sarcastic, or when I’m simply making a statement. Even via text, my humor and delivery are not lost on him. He makes no assumptions with me because he actually knows me.

Together, and individually, we’ve been through a lot. It’s mind-numbing and disturbing to think about, but it’s life. Each of us is on a journey and for a while now, I’ve known that I somehow got dragged into my brother’s journey and life lessons. I wish I knew how to focus solely on myself, but I wasn’t raised to be selfish or to pretend that another person doesn’t matter. There are many people you walk away from, including family members, but I choose not to walk away from my brother because I know his heart. I don’t know one side to base my judgment on; I know the entirety.

I have the “luxury” of focusing solely on my health right now, but I know the odds aren’t in my favor. My brother has managed to survive quadruple bypass surgery, two operations due to staph infections, and several other procedures, all in less than two years. He has another treatment in a few months, and it scares me because I don’t trust it. I have a right to be concerned because as he pointed out “You’re the only one who truly cares.” He’s right, and knowing that angers the hell out of me.

Every family is different and each family’s dynamics are also going to be different. However, I was clearly raised right. I can go from zero to psycho in less than three seconds, but when it comes to most people, they simply aren’t worth it. My brother may not be of value to other “family members”, most of whom should be lined up and shot, but he’s of value to me because he’s MY brother. You don’t mess with what’s MINE, and that includes people. It may seem arrogant, but once you’re a part of my life and heart, I won’t allow you to be hurt by others.

I am proud of how far he has come, and I won’t allow anyone else to take the credit for it. He still has battles and challenges, and I will forever be a dragon slayer for him, if need be.

So today, on his birthday, I say “Welcome to the rest of your life. Don’t fuck it up.”

copyright © 2017 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.