Artistic Differences

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I haven’t written in a while. That’s an understatement. Ha. This is not an apology.

I am not sorry I went away for a while. Sometimes you have to go away, so that you can come back.
Six years ago, while my husband was in boot camp, I had a dream. I was in seminary at the time, but faith as I knew it was waning and I didn’t know what to do with that. I was supposed to be a pastor. I knew it before I even started college. That was the plan. It was the only plan.
But then it wasn’t. Something new started to grow. I followed a woman named Tara Gentile on Facebook. I had her site at the time, Scoutie Girl, saved to my favorites because I thought it had to do with Girl Scouts, of which my daughter was one. Turns out, it was a craft blog! That little twist of fate led me to Tara’s e-course a few months later called the Art of Action. What was an e-course?! I didn’t fully understand, which made it harder to explain to my husband why I wanted to spend $200 on it. But we had just gotten taxes back and so he said to go for it. Why not?
That class opened me up to a world that I never knew existed. I realized I could do this. I could follow my dreams of writing and speaking on the daggone internet! And so I did. I started my own e-courses! I started life coaching! I started copy-writing! I started evvvvvrything. The first year I made $3000. The second year I made $9000. The third year I made over $12,000. It wasn’t a living wage, but it was going up!
I was in a very different place, emotionally and mentally, back then. I also had a new baby and we were living in a new town. I wanted the world, and I was proud of the work I had done, but I could not shake the feeling that I should be farther along. That I wasn’t doing enough. That I wasn’t enough.
I dragged myself across the finish line those last couple of years. By the end of 2014, it was clear I had to make some changes. I asked my lover, my best friend, and my biggest supporter to join me in a partnership. To help guide me in doing the work I knew I was meant to do but that I was so tired of. He was excited. We were excited. But we were also broke.
We dubbed 2015 “the year of the grind.” I got a part time job at a very cool DC restaurant. I hustled my ass off. And it was good for a while. We had a little extra money. I was around people for the first time in probably too long! And we were happy for a moment.
Did I mention that I have struggled with addiction and abuse and low self-esteem in the past? That’s going to be important later.
Things started to crumble. My daughter was diagnosed with depression. Because of my crazy hours, we had less and less time to work on the dream. And when we did have time to work on it, I felt stifled. I resented his guidance. I felt like I couldn’t do anything without his permission. I felt like he was trying to take over the work that was so precious to me. And at my day job, I was spiraling back into some destructive tendencies that I hadn’t really dealt with in 10+ years.
And then I was assaulted. By a co-worker. By someone whom I considered a friend.
I told my boss. Sort of. I told him something happened and that I needed to quit. He said he’d rather fire the other guy. But I knew I couldn’t work there anymore, so it didn’t matter.
We all have triggers. Situations that are inherently not helpful for our particular set of neurosis. I didn’t know that being a waitress was one of mine. I blamed myself for a long time. It brought back so much guilt and shame and self-loathing.
It’s been over a year since I left that job. We’ve been in counseling for almost as long. I feel healthier than I have ever felt. Jermaine has been so patient and supportive. Our daughter’s in counseling, too. Depression and anxiety and abuse and addiction aren’t the kinds of things you can slap a quick fix onto. We are, for better or worse, in this for the long haul.
I haven’t taught any e-courses these last two years, but I have spent a lot of time thinking about the message I want to spread as a writer and a speaker. And I’ve managed to get myself published in a few places. I’m still not as far along as I thought I would be by now. But I have made peace that this is my journey.
The collaboration part, though? That’s stayed rough. Yesterday, after another fight about the same things, our counselor suggested that perhaps it wasn’t a good idea for us to work together on my dream. It’s painful. We have a tender relationship. We care deeply about one another and it shows up in our words and actions. Most of the time. Parts of our partnership have been beautiful. I don’t know what I am going to do without him. And I would wager he feels the same. I know that he deeply wants me to succeed. But we have different ideas about how to get there and we are creative in very, very different ways. At the end of the day, it’s not worth the strain that it’s been putting on our relationship.
So, that’s where I’ve been. And that’s where we are. And that’s why I am writing this. Because we’ve entered a new phase where I get to choose all the work I put out into the world, for better or for worse. And this is what I wanted to create today.
Jermaine will always be in my corner. And I will always be in his. In the photo above, he’s schlepping our luggage all over Dallas to support me and the talk I gave at Progressive Youth Ministry last February. We have decided to change the way we work together on this dream of mine. We don’t know what that will look like yet. But we will always be partners.
My life’s work has to do with helping other people heal and inspiring folks to think about new ways to approach healing. The hardest part of that is getting clear about the ways that I need to heal and doing something about it. That’s what this is. And it is hard, but it is holy.

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