Today’s post isn’t the one I meant to write. I’d planned just to post a “musical teaser” about my novel Fourteen Stones, but yesterday I was looking through some old photos, and got a new idea.
I’ve posted here on the blog about my experiences with mental health challenges, especially anxiety and depression. Both of those of course tend to get a lot more active during times of stress. These days, depression has made pretty regular appearances. Professional anxiety usually gets me going: “Am I doing enough?” and “Am I doing the right things?” turns into a litany of reasons why I’m not, and why that translates to my not being enough.
Last night, I pulled out a bunch of half-remembered photos I had in my desk. They’re all of me as a kid, starting when I was about a year old and going up until about age twelve. For a long time, I’ve had it in my head that I was a pretty challenging kid. Smart, but with a big tendency toward daydreaming and spacing out. Always a little out of touch with the world.
This was me at the beginning of first grade:
I was cuter than I’d thought. The one thing I don’t like about this picture is that it doesn’t show my glasses, which I started wearing in kindergarten. At that time, I was the only kid at school who wore them. That’s undoubtedly part of the reason my mother told me to take them off for every picture. These days, I’d much rather have the memory of how I really looked.
This little girl, six-year-old me, undoubtedly was pretty “spacey” and “dreamy.” I remember, though, that she was also the one who wrote her first original story. It was called “The River,” about a king who essentially “stole” water from his subjects by damming the river in his kingdom. I don’t remember how things got resolved, but everyone did live happily ever after. I also remember that I was inspired to write the story because of the way the bathtub faucet dripped. (Inspiration comes from everywhere. 😉 )
A few years later, here’s fourth-grade me:
Again, I should have glasses in this photo. When I look at this girl, though, I notice how pretty she was. I remember, too, that she was the one who fell in love with Tolkien. That was the year I discovered The Hobbit. I remember taking the time to memorize that wonderful “Far O’er the Misty Mountains Cold” poem, getting chills every time I got to the line “The mountain smoked beneath the moon…”
That little girl also wrote a lot. Some of her stories were “fan fic” imitations of favorite writers, but some were originals, start to finish. She wrote poetry too. She loved words, the way they tasted, the way they sang. I remember what that was like. I remember, too, how that little girl decided she would be a writer when she grew up.
Nine-year-old me didn’t have the best situation at home. Much later, in my twenties and thirties, I came to understand why, for instance, I used to feel scared most days on the way home from school. I’m still tangling with and figuring out a lot of things, but I know that younger-me didn’t have the family a child deserves. I also have a better sense of why, these days, forty-something-me always struggles to think well of herself, or believe in what she can do.
Which brings me back to that professional anxiety thing, and depression thing, I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Last night, I looked at my old pictures, especially the one of my fourth-grade self who decided to be a writer, and thought how proud she would be of how I turned out.
Those of us who grew up in unhealthy environments often learn, as adults, about self-parenting. I’ve had a lot of trouble with that idea, what with my ingrained sense that I was a “difficult” kid, but when I look at the girl in these pictures, I realize she wasn’t the challenge I always believed she was. Sure, she had her moments, but she was smart and creative, imaginative and kind. She always marched to her own beat, even when the people closest to her made that risky and unsafe. She was pretty cool. If I could reach into the past now, I’d tell her so. I’d tell her to hang in there, she and I will make it through together.
I have a feeling she would tell me I’m pretty cool too. You really write books? Wow!! Taking the self-parenting idea a step farther, I who don’t have kids (except feline ones): I would say that if she were my daughter, she’d think her mom was awesome. And if she were my daughter, I would be awfully proud of her.
This post has felt pretty personal and pretty risky, but it’s been good to write. Thank you for reading.
Since I can’t leave without plugging my book a little, please do remember to check out the Fourteen Stones crowdfunder campaign – link below – if you’d like to preorder a print or e-book. If you have a bookstore, or book groups, etc., and would like multiple copies, we do have a wholesale option. You can also choose to pledge other amounts to the crowdfunder. We can only take preorders and pledges until August 31!
Thanks again for visiting! Please stop back tomorrow if you’d like a Maker’s Day prompt. See you next time!