Grandma’s Treasure

It was as if the builders had made the basement three feet too wide, and working away had put up two frames for the singles wall that was to be shared between the living room and hallway. Being resourceful as Wyoming builders are, they turned their mistake into a purposeful space for storage. I had developed this theory as a young child, but always suspected the builders had taken it a step further and turned the long, thin space into a secret entrance that led into a hidden passageway.

The end of the closet would always be in shadow any time I tried to explore, which was every chance I got. I was certain that hidden in the darkness was a door disguised as a wall.  Behind it, a stairway with wide stone steps that led down away from the house. If a person was brave enough to follow the passageway, they would eventually find themselves in a cave behind a waterfall that was two fields away.

Of course, my grandparents knew about this wonderful secret, it was the main reason they still lived in the big house. They used the cave to store their treasures. These treasures were so valuable, they even had a dragon, big and green with bright yellow eyes and smoke escaping its mouth with every breath, to protect the cave.  Once, I had crept so close to the entrance, I had even heard the dragon growl in warning. How it heard me while it was all the way down in the cave, my young mind was never able to figure out.

It was because of Book Closetthe dragon that I would always stay close to the door. After hearing that ferocious roar, I was never able to convince myself to walk more than a few steps into the closet, staying well within the light from the single bulb by the door.  I kept going back, though. The knick-knacks inspired my curiosity more than the dragon breathed flame into my fear.

Barely tall enough to see above the first shelf, I would explore the ones I could see whenever possible, searching for a new treasure I may have missed before. Nestled in random but appropriate places were the family oddities; a ceramic white owl potpourri holder, a variety of candles and their holders, an old army tent bundled into a bag, and perhaps an old green soap dish shaped like a frog. The contents of this brighter area very rarely changed. Still, every visit I convinced myself to tempt the dragon, searching the shelves to see if anything new had escaped the treasure cave.

That all changed during one visit in the middle of one particular summer, when I became aware of some extra inches that had added themselves to my legs (one of the few growth spurts I ever had growing up). I had ventured down to the closet yet again to see if I could discover something new among the shelves. Pulling open the door, I reached into the corner to flip up the light. Thanks to my new-found inches, I was able to see above the picture frames haphazardly gathered at the beginning of the shelf. As the closet flooded with light, I saw what I had been searching for for months – something new.

The narrow back of the shelf had a slot just wide enough to accommodate a single finger. Curious, I reached into the space, feeling around with a cautious fingertip. It brushed along something hard and thin that slanted downwards. Holding my breath, I pushed up. Waiting for the hidden door at the end of the closet to swing open, releasing the dragon so it could finally charge out, I glanced up in surprise when two fluorescent light bulbs jiggled their way to life. Shifting my gaze down the newly expanded space, my jaw dropped when I saw there was indeed an end and the wall covered door was more wooden shelves. I tip toed past the bronze ashtray with a swinging lid, scanning the wall of shelves. I came across a collection of skinny, tall rectangles all squished together being held up by a white ceramic L. Books. Old and lined with creases. Squinting closer, I tried to read the spines. Louis L’amour. Wondering what kind of name Louis L’amour was, and why it needed to have that thing in the middle of his last name, I continued to scan the titles. It wasn’t until my head bumped into an edge of wood that I looked away.

I was awestruck. The entire U shaped end of the tiny hide-away was filled with books. Short, tall, thick, thin, old, new. I hadn’t seen so many books all in the same location except at the library. I slowly trailed my fingers along the spines, feeling the different sizes and the variety of textures; the smoothness of the newer editions to the creases and wrinkles of the more well-loved pages.

My young eyes were able to pick out the names Clive Cussler, Agatha Christie, and Sue Grafton along with the just discovered Louis L’amour. Names that I had never heard nor seen before. I whispered the names out loud, testing their weight, their flow. They came out sounding important and worth knowing. I was down in the closet for so long, trapped by the wonder of books I had never seen before, my grandma came to find me. I heard a sound behind me, and turned to see her standing in the closet doorway.

“Grandma, are all of these really your books?” I turned back to stare at the shelves.

“Yes, I love to read just like you.” Walking into the closet, she came to stand behind me, looking around at her private library.

“Do you have any that I can read?”

“You’re probably old enough to read some of your father’s old books.” She pointed to a section of the shelves. “I tried to put them all together here. But there might be others if you don’t think you’ll like those.” She started to pull out books and show them to me, describing the plot as she handed them over. Some were indeed my dads’ (he had scrawled his name in pencil on inside the cover), like Call of the Wild and White Fang.  Others were mysteries my Grandma thought appropriate for my age, like The Cat Who Lived High and Murder on the Orient Express.

For a while I was dumbstruck. See, I had already developed a love for reading, carried away by Dr. Suess, The Stinky Cheese Man, and Maurice Sandeck into imaginary worlds. I had even begun to creep away from books with pictures to those with no pictures at all, even a few chapters thrown in. But I always went to the children’s section to find my books, and while there were plenty of books with chapters and no pictures, they were all still, to me, children’s books. What my Grandma was handing me were adult books. Books written for adults about adult things, like stealing jewelry and even, dare I say it, murder.

Not realizing the joy and excitement she had created in her oldest grand-daughter, my grandma kept thumbing through books, pulling out some to reveal those she had tucked behind. She pulled more and more, putting them on the shelf where she had started her search when she noticed my hands were full.

“I’ll have to go through all of these and find the rest.  Maybe it’s time I made a spot for books for you and your cousins.”

I don’t remember which book I ended up picking out to take home.  A mystery of some kind, most likely.  It was just the first of many books that I took out of that closet.  My love for Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes originated there, as well as my first romantic murder mystery novel by Nora Roberts. It transformed me from a child temped by letters and words into a young woman devoured by stories.

I can’t credit that closet with initiating my love for reading or writing, that began years before. It did, however, create a deeper connection to those things, a connection that began the formation of my soul, my very being. It transformed me from a child tempted by letters and words into a young woman devoured by stories. I guess there really was a treasure down there after all.

 

~Brittnie~

 

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A Liar and a Fraud

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Losing my job has brought on wave upon wave of emotions and realizations.  As much as I try to ride these out the best I can, a few thoughts are popping up repeatedly that are making me understand a few things about myself.  The biggest of these is this:

I am a fraud and a liar.

I am, it is true. I always talk about positivity, embracing your creativity and passion, dedicating yourself to your soul, to you happiness. And I truly believe all of these things, from the deepest part of my heart.  But I wasn’t walking my talk. I wasn’t listening to my words. I heard myself, and I would take a moment to say “Oh, good job, self.  You wrote a blog post with your big secret! And now you can explore your passion with freedom” Or “You wrote 500 words today. You are on your way to being a writer” Or “You worked out today, you’ll be feeling better in no time.” But each time was temporary, a bubble in time I blew up to make myself feel like I was feeding my soul.

Actually, all I was doing was lying to myself.  I wasn’t following anything, I wasn’t fulfilling any creative drive or passion-purpose.  I was so entwined by life, by my job, by what I thought I needed to create a happy home. I let myself become defined by these, by my place in society, and the pressures of local culture.  I was a design engineer with 10 years of experience.  I was a support admin that had been working on a single program roll-out for 3 years.  I was a provider for my children while my husband stayed at home to care for them. I was a headstrong working mother who had built a career – a damn good one – and was going to do whatever possible to maintain the self-imposed pretense of work/life balance.

That was the image I told myself was proper.  I put the blinders on to anything the challenged this view, created another pocket of effort for creativity, patted myself on the back, then put on my working-mom-engineering hat on and went back to the grind. I didn’t dread going into work, after all. I enjoyed what I did, the people I worked with.  That was so much more than what so many other hard workers have.

There is one question, however, that keeps forcing its way in, and I keep pushing it back out, too scared to know the truth. Who is Brittnie? Is she really an engineer with a two hour commute? Suddenly this image seems so distant, so … sour.  

No, that is not who I am.

I’ve been lying to myself all these years. I am not those things. I am someone who can do those things. I am a creative being with the capability of doing those things.

I am not an engineer that writes.

I am a writer that can do engineering.

I am a writer.

I tremble with that statement.  It is terrifying to let go of something so stable financially and respected culturally and socially to grab hold of something so loose and questionable.

But being a Design Engineer hasn’t been so stable, has it?

 

Time to let go.

Day 1

  1. Friends and Family.  I am so grateful for all of you.  The amount of support, kind words, and encouragement that traveled my way after my first post was simply overwhelming. And to have so many tell me to check off my last goal as I have already inspired them – I have no words.  Just proves that we are our own biggest critic.  I hope I can continue to send inspiration out to all of you.  Thank you everyone for all of your support and good vibes!!  What a great way to start off this journey!I took some great steps today in moving forward; beginning to shape a future that I think will work not only for me, but my family as well. It helps stepping into uncertainty when you know you have such a great support system.

    *Brittnie*

Changing Paths

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Life can just be absolutely shitty in the best way possible sometimes.  You can be feeling the pressures of home life for a few months and know that the only way they will change is if you make a major change, but you aren’t quite sure how to start.   So you’ll ponder, and think, and dream, and scheme, but continue on as you are day after day, getting more and more frustrated.  Life, who has been patiently watching this entire time, finally throws up their hands, stomps over, and says, “Here, let me help you.”  And politely puts a foot on your ass and shoves you on your way.

There are two ways to take this, I think.  You can be scared and afraid, and slowly start to crawl back down the same tunnel, whimpering and shaking the entire way.  Or you can lift your head and see that the tunnel you thought you were in isn’t real.  There is no stone mountain surrounding you, forcing you down an endless, endeavor.  Instead, there is simply a path, cutting its way across a gorgeous landscape; fields and mountains, small streams and rushing waterfalls.  And that path that you have just been shoved down on is not a straight line, nor is it solitary.  There are numerous bends and turns, climbs and drops.  Other paths branch off to lead away to new fields and new mountains.

When you sit for a minute, and consider the opportunities given to you, life clasps its hands in excitement, breathlessly watching to see the move you’ll make, hoping that you’ll take advantage and make those changes you were dreaming about.  And why not? The ‘What if’s” will always be there, glaring at you along the way.  Why not have a bit of faith in life and see what adventures a new path has to offer.  It could be the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever be blessed enough to see in your life.

Be Brave~

 

Brittnie

100 Days of Happiness and 90 Days of Kicking Fear in the Face ….

Life has a way of hearing your thoughts, and giving you want you need even when you don’t know that you need it. 

 A week and a half ago, I lost my job – sort of.  I was given a 6 week reprieve, a “We have had to terminate your position, but we really need you to finish up that effort that you have been working on, so you can stay for 6 more weeks.”  This is the second time this has happened to me, in the same industry, and by the same company. 

 There are many differences between the two instances, but the biggest is this time, I’m not worried.  I should be.  This time I have a husband and two children… last time it was just myself and my fiance (now husband).  And while I’m not exactly sure how things will work out, I do know that they will.  Our family has been experiencing some turbulence recently, but I was too scared, too fearful to make some changes that we needed.  So, instead, those changes were made for me.  A kick in the pants, so to speak.  And here I am, going down a new path that is uncharted, unexplored.

  I am scared shitless, but I will hike this mountain with every intention of punching fear in the face every time it stands in my way.  I will also embrace those opportunities that decide to appear along the way.  This challenge, for one, was very timely, and while at first I thought “Too much, too hard, can’t think about stuff like that right now.” My tune has changed and I’ve decided this is the very thing I need right now.  And hell, why not just add it onto another challenge that has been bouncing around in my brain for a bit now.  Why not, indeed. 

So here are my goals for this 90 days, my attempt at getting – not back on track, as I think I am exactly where I am supposed to be – but getting more confident in this new path and re-learning to love the little things in life. 

Protection provided by Self-Doubt

 

You all have been nothing short of AMAZING since my ‘confession’.  I was terrified of putting my dream, myself really, out there for you all to see, and the love, support, and encouragement that you all of sent my way is nothing short of empowering.  Most of you, though, did ask me a question: Why? Why did I feel like I needed to keep this a secret? It is nothing to be ashamed of.  In fact, most of you were not surprised at all that I wanted to write a book.  I even got a couple “It’s about time!” comments.

That “Why?” is a great one to ask.  Where did my self-doubt come from?  It happened to be asked of me around the same time as a similar topic of conversation was had at my work.  It was about self-esteem and when we started to lose ours.  The question was asked “Do you remember one specific moment in your life when someone else made you doubt yourself?”  This was another hard question for me to answer.

I don’t ever recall one specific moment, not even a small one, of anyone telling me that wasn’t good enough, didn’t look good enough, or wasn’t smart enough.  Saying that, I am sure that there were in actuality many, MANY times when those things were said to me, or about me.  I simply chose not to listen to them.  The credit for this strong sense of self goes straight to my parents, who have done a great job of raising me to be strong and independent (I’m sure there were times that they thought they were doing too well of a job, also!), and to my expanded family, who never once allowed me to think that I couldn’t achieve anything that I set my mind to.

So, back to the original question; where in the HELL does my self-doubt come from?  It has really made me think, and I’ll admit, threw me off my game for a few days.  One of my co-workers during our self-esteem discussion said that any time she began to doubt, the voice of her step father would sound in her mind, a man that had abused her mentally and emotionally since she was a young girl.  So, what does the voice of my self-doubt sound like?  Who is it hanging out up there in the shadows, waiting for a dream to stroll by so they can jump out and chase it away, all while laughing like a crazed maniac?

Me. That voice is mine.  Mine, mine … mine.  Unfortunately, I found that answer quick and easy.  What wasn’t so easy was the follow up – Why? (I’m noticing a trend, are you?)  This one is what I’ve been hung up on for a few days, at least until this morning.  The answer popped up front and center while I was sitting down to write.

Of all of the things that I’ve done, all the goals that I’ve chased, the situations I’ve dealt with, the dreams that I’ve followed, writing a book and having it published is the ONE thing that I don’t know that I can succeed at.  That’s right.  I know that I can write, I can put words on paper and most of the time they flow together in a way that is entertaining and pleasing to some.  What I don’t know is if this book will get published – which is what I really am dreaming about.  To see my book in a book store on display – that would just be mind-freaking-blowing!  And that is completely, 100%, out of my control.  I can write whatever I want, but someone has to like it enough to take a chance and put it out in a store.  But I can’t let the “What if no one likes it?” be the catalyst for my self-doubt anymore.  Nothing will get accomplished that way.

Realizing all of the above, I am so glad that I’ve finally turned around to look my self-doubt – me, really – in the eye and say, “Self, I realized that there are many times that your doubt has kept me safe.  Like the many times you have stopped me from driving too fast, or jumping off of something way too high when I was a kid.  It is probably because of you that I can say that I have never broken a bone or been seriously injured due to my own stupidity.  And I thank you for your attentiveness.  But I really need you to back away from my dreams.  I know there is potential for me to get hurt emotionally, but we both know that I am strong enough to deal with that when the time comes.  I can’t get a book into a book store without writing it first, and write I must!  Even if it doesn’t get into a book store, even if everyone hates it, the book needs to be written.  So, again, I thank you for your attempt to help, but in this area, I don’t need – nor want- it.

And to think that I said all of that without actually realizing that I did … that is a subject matter for another time.

Happy writing, and happy dreaming~

Brittnie

PS ~ Please, go tell your own self-doubt to protect something other than your dreams for a while.  Life is too short to let yourself protect you from yourself. Love.

 

My confession

I have a confession.  A secret that I’ve only been brave enough to tell people anonymously until a few months ago, when I finally told Dan, my husband.  Because he is excited for me, and extremely proud and supportive, it has begun to trickle out.  So, I thought it was time I fessed up to my friends and family.

This secret began with a sudden realization about 2 years ago that I wasn’t happy.  This was a surprising idea to me, as I was under the impression that there was no reason I should not be happy.  I had a great job, a sturdy house, food on my table, clothes on my back, and a wonderful family that loved me.  Yet, here I was, at 28, having a slightly off schedule quarter life crisis.  Was I happy?  I was constantly stressed, quick-tempered, easily overwhelmed, full of mood swings and temper tantrums, with ambition and motivation no where to be seen.  I ended every day exhausted, taking out whatever emotions I had left on my family, unintentionally creating a not awesome environment in my household. So no, I was not happy.

But why?  Why was I unhappy?  What was missing from my life that my soul was demanding?  With some divine intervention and some guidance from some unexpected places, I began to search.  I began to look at myself, and find what it was that I needed.  I started attending yoga classes on a regular basis, participating in Instagram challenges (remember all of those wonderful pictures?), following yogis and life coaches until I came across a few that resonated with me and guided me towards a path full of more yoga and self reflection.  During all of this, every time I asked myself what happy felt like, I kept circling back to two things: learning, and writing.

I am a nerd in the truest sense.  I love to learn.  And I love to share what I have learned. To the point of obnocsiouness.  This is not a secret to anyone.  But, I also love to write.  Again, to most of you, not a secret.  But what is a secret is how little I’ve been doing it since I started college almost 10 years ago.  Learning is something is pretty easy to do, especially with all of the technology we have available.  No matter how busy you are, you can always learn something. But writing … writing is a bit harder to do when you are busy. So I didn’t.  It was easier to say that I was too tired, or I had too much homework, or …  And when the faucet stopped flowing, my soul went into hibernation.  I lived on auto-pilot, putting one foot in front of the other, doing what ever it was that needed to be done to get to where I needed to go.  Until that fateful day when I finally realized that it wasn’t good enough anymore.  I want more out of my life, and writing needs to be a part of it.

An all to familiar thought started to float into my mind.  I didn’t just want to write in a journal, or poetry full of angst.  A book.  As soon as this thought cloud drifted into my grey matter, it was quickly blown back with the ever reliable Self Doubt wind.  “Don’t you know how many people try to get books published every day?” It would scream at my dream. “Why should anyone pick anything that you have ever written?  Why are you different than anyone else?  What makes you so special?”

But what if? These authors and yogis and life coaches I had found planted a little seed of hope for my dream to catch on to and take hold. It struggled for a bit, but soon, it started to bloom and grow stronger. And so I left them to battle for a while.  The howl of self doubt and the seedling of hope, caught in a sumo wrestling fight against each other, each one trying to push the other out of the ring.  Then, once again, serendipity decided to pay me a visit.  I won a GoodReads giveway for a book titled “How to Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day.” A few days later, I was emailed a GroupOn for an online writing course that had been discounted from $250 down to $30.  The seedling grew into a tree, and pushed self doubt right on its ass.

But still, I started in secret.  I bought a new notebook and some pens and hid them in a drawer. I only pulled them out to write in the early morning hours of the weekend, when I had a few moments of solitude before any one else was up.  I continued this way for about a year, not really talking about my plans or hopes, just casually writing and building  up my storyline as it was convenient.  This was frustrating for my soul, and left enough room for my self doubt to think that it still had a good chance at coming back into the ring.  I couldn’t continue like this, though.  I can’t continue.  So a few weeks ago, I fessed up to my husband.  I admitted to him what had been so hard to admit to myself.  I want to be an author. I want to write.  And you know what he said?  “Great! Do it.” That simple.

So, that is my secret, my confession. I am writing a book.  I am going to do my best to be an author of a novel.  I am going to listen to my soul, and follow this path to see where it leads me.  Maybe no where.  But what if?  What if?  I have to do this for me, for my happiness.  I’m not quitting my job or anything drastic like that, but I’m also not going to ask my dream to hide in the shadows anymore, like something I should be ashamed of.   It is something that I am going to love about myself, and use it to feed that part of me that keeps me sane during the insane moments of my day.  I truly believe that this will make me a happier person, and therefore, allow me to be a better person for those that need me, like my family.  I am writing a novel for me, myself, and I.  But I do hope that some of you will find enjoyment in it as well.  I guess only time will tell.

Thanks for reading, and happy writing~

 

Brittnie