Category Archives: Failing Forward

Writer’s Block & Laundry are an Ugly Pair

Birthday Walk on the Beach

I’ve been dealing with writer’s block for the last two to three months. If you’re not a writer, it’s an excruciatingly frustrating experience. I liken it to this: you put dirty clothes in the washing machine and feel relieved you took the first step (let’s say this is opening your laptop). You know that the wet clothes need to be put in the dryer, but you put it off and have to rewash the clothes because of mildew because you waited too long (you get distracted by anything else in your life and do not write). You finally put the clothes in the dryer and push start (you set aside time to write and then you stare blankly at the screen while you try to translate words onto a page). The clothes sit in the dryer for two days because you just cannot, for the life of you, muster up the follow-through to get the clothes out of the dryer and put them on your couch (you then block out time, yet again, to write and words start to flow and you have a fantastic idea, and then you stop). The clothes sit on your couch for two days, then you fold them, and then for some reason, unclear to you at best, you are unable to put the clothes up, an act that will most likely take ten minutes (you are paralyzed by the words on your page).

This is where I’ve been, paralyzed by the words on my page and unable to process the thoughts in my head and translate them into tangible paragraphs to read.

I had an epiphany this month, well two actually. First, fear of failure is paralyzing to me. This is not a new concept to me, but it circles back every once in awhile. When I went viral two years ago, I was terrified I would never again move people with my words as I did then. I was wrong, of course, as time has proven to me, but I had to continue to put authentic writing out.

My second epiphany is that I needed to process the last few months. Since July, our town has struggled with a multitude of stressful events. Alton Sterling was killed by a police officer. Shortly after, a man came into our town and shot and killed police officers. Our town dealt publicly with riots and bad press. Then, a flash flood destroyed almost half of our town, with almost no national attention. To top it all off, the coach of the LSU football team was fired, and their beloved mascot, Mike IV, died last week.

Since July, my writing partner Harmony Hobbs of Modern Mommy Madness and I used our page Hobbs & Hayworth to address some of the issues our city has faced. First, we held a round table discussion to talk about race relations in our town and how to talk to our children about current events. You can watch that here.

And then we got to work getting the children and school affected by the flood the school supplies and uniforms they need. At last count, we’ve been able to help about 5,000 children in our local parishes, all thanks to everyone who stepped up and helped us when we asked. Read more about this here.

I have a lot more to write about all of the above, but what has really weighed on me over the last few months is the revelation of people’s character. It’s been said many times, but now more than ever, I believe that in times of challenge, people reveal their true selves. It is truly remarkable that once the fog of survival fades, everything becomes crystal clear. People’s true motives, deals made with their devil behind the scenes, and what others say about you when you aren’t around are revealed, even when you can hardly stand to look with one eye open at the truth.

I don’t know about you, but I like to know where I stand with people, no matter how painful that knowledge is. This brings guttural disappointment, and feelings of embarrassment if you have been blind to something right in front of your eyes. But this is life. Times of trial and challenges reveal that friends will become strangers, and strangers will become family.

The question remains, what do you do with this knowledge, because once exposed, you can never go back to the way things are. It changes you at your core. You can be bitter, or you can use it as fuel to once again, re-evaluate.

For me, my circle continues to get smaller. And yet, my life has continued to get much larger, so much fuller, and more fulfilling. This is a trade off I will gladly take and not look back.

I turned 38 recently, and as I have written many times before, it is a painful reminder for me. But it’s more than that. It is my personal litmus test as to whether or not the weight of my baggage is worth it. I will tell you, unequivocally, even though I would not wish it on my worst enemy, it is so worth it. I am loved, and surrounded by family, friends and colleagues who fuel me to be better. My commitment to myself, as I head towards 40, is to remain true to myself and act with integrity. People will continue to question why I do the things I do and continue to say negative and untrue things about me behind my back, but I am the only one who has to answer to God and the universe for my actions. And that, knowing who I am, is the greatest gift I have starting my next year on Earth. I wish it for all of you, because once you know it, it provides incredible freedom to live an even more authentic life.

And so, I am holding myself accountable to put the dirty laundry in the wash and finally put this writer’s block up on the shelf where it belongs.

14 Pieces of Graduation Advice You Need to Hear (But You Probably Think You Don’t)

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Being in my 30’s, I would like to think that I’ve learned (the very hard way), a few things that you might find useful. Recently, I had a conversation with some friends about what we wish we could tell young women when graduating from high school. That seems like a never-ending list, so I narrowed it down to these:

1. High school will not be an indicator of the rest of your life and you have a one year time limit on bragging about what you did there. I know, it seems borderline crazy and I’m sure you are rolling your eyes, but keep reading. You need to remember this: no one in the real world cares about what you did in high school. Really. And it’s AWESOME. In fact, give yourself the time limit I just gave you and do not brag about what happened in high school. The amazing and great reality is that high school is not a life you created for yourself, it was created for you. Let that sink in. Guess what? The life you get to create for yourself is upon you. And it can be whatever you want it to be!

2. Going into this new life, you need to also remember that you are the keeper of a super secret weapon, also known as a vagina. Yes, I’m going there. You need to remember one rule about your vagina: It is yours, no one else’s, and boys will say whatever it takes and lie to get into your panties. You don’t owe anyone your vagina, no matter what is bought for you, or is said to you.

3. The old saying ‘revenge is best served cold’ is a lie. It is best served by doing what others said you could not do. Growing up, I was admittedly a disaster due to circumstances beyond my control. It propelled me into my passion for helping others, but this was not always the case.

In high school, I was a listless mess, the girl you would look at and think would never make anything of herself. I had a teacher tell me, that because I was attractive, not to fret too much because I would make me a great trophy wife for someone one day. Even writing this years later enrages me. Not too many years after my rape and when I finally started to pull myself together, I ran into this teacher. Showing them what they said I could never do, just pushed me harder to keep doing better. It will also earn you respect with critics who judge harshly, especially yourself.

4. Don’t be embarrassed by where you came from. No one is going to be impressed that you came from affluence, every last thing was handed to you, and that you are riding on the coattails of someone else’s success. You’re trailer park trash, worked two jobs to make it through college, and are still humble enough to remember how you got there? Now that’s impressive.

5. Get help for your problems. Listen, every last one of us has problems. Some you can see, some you cannot, but every bad thing that has happened to you will affect every last decision you make and color every relationship you have. I made the choice early on that I didn’t want to live a life clouded by the bad experiences I had. I’m going to be very frank with you here, and most people will never tell you this, but: ‘it’ (whatever ‘it’ may be for you) never goes away. ‘It’ will never go away. It will get easier to accept, you will view it differently as you age, and it will shape all of your future decisions. Make the choice to get help for your problems, and it will be the best decision you ever make. Also keep in mind, that while the actions of others will keep you awake at night, they will not think of you again and the damage they have left behind. Take care of yourself first.

6. Listen to your intuition. Take the time to develop this sixth sense you have. It will tell you everything you ever need to know about making the right decision for you. This moral and mental compass is a skill, and as such, must be used and exercised to develop. Use it, and use it often until you learn to recognize your ‘gut’ feeling. It will always steer you in the right direction during major decisions.

7. Learn to fail forward. What do I mean by that? You are going to mess up. Royally. Like, more than you can possibly imagine in your wildest dreams. Give yourself a night, maybe two, to cry an ugly cry and eat ice cream out of the tub (unless you’re lactose intolerant – then find something else to eat your sorrows away). If Britney Spears can shave her head on national television and Monica Lewinsky can give an interview in 2014 in Vanity Fair, then you, too, can reign in your embarrassment and move forward. Did you already mess up royally? Then what are you going to do about it? Get up and do better because you can and you have it in you to do it.

8. Find your passion. You are the only one who knows what this is. Don’t let other people push you into a career that you don’t want. Your intuition (refer back to #6) will tell you what that is. Most likely it’s the thing you do for hours procrastinating or as a hobby. Don’t waste your time doing what others think you should be doing and live someone else’s life. You get one life that only you own. Do with it what you want. You want to bag groceries the rest of your life? Then, bag some hell out of some groceries and take pride in it.

9. Don’t marry someone just because they ask you. That includes your high school boyfriend. It is highly unlikely you will marry your high school sweetheart. You might, but the odds are not in your favor. If someone asks you to marry you, and your gut is nagging at you to say no, then say no. In case no one has told you, marriage is hard. Moonbeams and sunshine last through the honeymoon. Then, you have to make compromises with someone you will realize is a complete stranger who might as well have landed from another planet. For some of us, it works out, for others, it won’t. I hope you are one of the lucky ones. If you’re not, remember the little chat we just had about failing forward? You can always get it right the next time. Also, I encourage marrying the nerd. The nerds work harder than most to have a stable, no drama life and they don’t try to relive the glory days of high school that no longer matters. The ‘cool factor’ does not equal a great life. Examples in case you think I’m crazy: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Marry. The. Nerd.

10. NEVER put anything in writing unless you are comfortable with it being read by other people. Real privacy no longer exists, and unless you are comfortable with everyone alive reading what you said, don’t send it. Also, always double check to whom you are sending your nasty grams to, you would hate it to go to the wrong person.

11. Send paper thank you notes. In this digital age, it is a forgotten touch that matters and makes someone feel special. Once you read #13, come back and read this again.

12. Be nice to the waitress and other people who work for you. If you are nice to others, but not those who serve you, you are not a nice person. Success is not always permanent, and that could be you at any given point, so be humble.

13. You, yes you, can make a profound difference in people’s lives. Don’t ever think that what you do doesn’t matter. Everything that you do affects something or someone, so live with intent.  Also, thank people for the difference they make!

14. When the Universe asks you to, step up to the plate and do what it asks you to. This may be too far out of your reality at the moment, but I want to discuss what happens when life throws you curveballs and messes up your plans. Because it will, or you will get exactly what you planned, and it ends up being not what you really wanted. Regardless, you need to be open to the beauty of the curveball. My plan had always been to make policy in my field of work. Not because that was what I needed to do, or what I was meant to do, but because I was too tunnel-visioned at the time to be open to where I could really make a difference. Then, I met my husband, we married and two children who are autistic. This was definitely not in my plan. We had a ton of growing pains, and at first, I had an identity crisis of sorts. What was I going to do now that my plan had gone up in flames? I stepped up to the plate, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and opened myself up to the beauty and possibilities that came with my new life. Once I stopped focusing on what I didn’t achieve, I started looking at what my real passion was, and how that could fit into my life, and that’s when I realized writing is what I secretly wanted to do my entire life and never had the guts to do it. And guess what? I can do that with being a mother to two special needs kids and a wife, all because I chose to step up to the plate and deal with the life handed to me.

How are you going to step up to the plate?