A Few Reflections at the End of a Year

Over the past few weeks, as I’ve been cleaning and shopping and wrapping and caretaking and stressing–par for the course around December–there have been a number of times I’ve wanted to sit down and write a blog post, but I just haven’t had the time. And now that I have a handful of minutes, there is so much I know I want to say, and wouldn’t you know, I can’t remember half of it.

Typical.

So here’s a few bullet points, in no particular order:

–I have clinical depression and anxiety. I’m also a fairly extreme introvert. Not to the point of being agoraphobic, but given the choice, I’d rather stay in than go out, and nine times out of ten, I will take time alone over time out with people. That being the case, it’s very easy for me to get socially overloaded, and when that happens, I tend to disappear. While I will still check in with my social media, my interaction is heavily limited, and sometimes, I won’t make an online appearance for two or three days.

That’s not necessarily the best course of action when you are in the process of developing a group of followers who come to expect certain things from you. Fans and potential fans are always looking to see if I, as an emerging author, am staying on top of my deadlines, answering questions, interacting and conversing with those who seek me out. And sometimes, I’m not.

It’s something I’m working on. It’s also part of who I am. I have to believe true friends and fans are going to be understanding.

–Part of my goal in being an author is to create a platform to help raise awareness for mental illness and suicide prevention. Words really cannot express how vital I believe awareness about mental illness and suicide is; I’ve known and lost too many people to both, and I think the issue is deplorably ignored and understated by those with the most power to change it.

Mental illness, or hints of it, play a heavy role in my writing; sometimes the illness is blatant, and other times it’s more subtle, but it’s almost always there. I do this because mental illness is more prevalent than many people are aware of, and often affects us and those around us even when we’re not aware.

I think we need to be more aware.

–I am a Christian, and my faith is extremely strong. I have taken many classes and spoken with many people whose beliefs and opinions differ from mine; we have enjoyed many intellectual and respectful discussions about our differences. In spite of all the scientific and philosophical data that exists to disprove the existence of God, I have never questioned His presence in my life or the world around me.

I will occasionally make statements on social media that reflect my faith and religious beliefs. I will not shy away from that aspect of myself because I’m afraid I may scare away potential readers; in my mind, that is tantamount to saying I don’t believe, and that I cannot do.

That being said, I am not an overzealous religious nut that will:

  1. shove my beliefs down your throat.
  2. condemn you to hell for thoughts or actions that don’t coincide with my own personal choices.
  3. turn my social media into an evangelical podium.

There is a difference between being open about aspects of one’s self and personality, and trying to force those aspects onto others. It is always my goal to do the first and avoid the second. But just as my experience with mental illness and suicide influences my writing, so does my faith, albeit in a much subtler way. They’re part of me, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am without each of those parts; therefore, I must and will not only embrace them, but acknowledge them to the world.

–There’s been a lot of talk about how 2016 has been a shitty year. We’ve lost a number of well-loved and talented celebrities. Hatred and bigotry has run rampant in the streets. Differences in personal ideals and beliefs have led to some of the nastiest conversations and comments I’ve ever seen. Some claim the Antichrist himself is a month away from being inaugurated.

I’ll acknowledge those things. This year we’ve lost over 130 major actors, singers, songwriters, sports figures, political figures, etc., including: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Dan Haggarty, Glen Frey, Abe Vigoda, Paul Kantner, Antonin Scalia, Harper Lee, Tony Burton, Nancy Reagan, Sir George Martin, Joe Garagiola, Merle Haggard, Doris Roberts, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe, Ron Lester, Anton Yelchin, Mack Rice, Buddy Ryan, Elie Wiesel, Glenn Yarbrough, Kenny Baker, Steven Hill, Gene Wilder, Jose Fernandez, Arnold Palmer, Leonard Cohen, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, Alan Thicke, and today, George Michael.

The election–the entire process–was ugly. The candidates were ugly, their supporters were ugly, “discussions” between dissenting opinions were ugly. The entire thing spurned a whole lot of negativity, hatred, bigotry, and willful ignorance.

We saw a lot of perceived good leave this world and even more perceived–justifiably so–bad headed our way.

All that being said, I can’t complain too much about 2016. Has it been hard on a personal level? Absolutely. Am I where I pictured myself being headed into my 30’s? Not a chance. But despite all of the “setbacks,” all the roadblocks and detours, I have to say this year has brought me to a good place.

This year brought me home. It brought me more time spent with my family. It brought me memories of watching my father develop a bond with my youngest daughter that neither of my older girls had the chance to do. It brought me the ability to appreciate the good days so much more because “bad” days have become the norm.

This year brought me closer to myself. It introduced me to a side I wasn’t all that familiar with, and allowed me to embrace a part of me I was neglecting. This year has allowed me to grow. This year has cultivated within me a belief and a confidence that before I was lacking.

Most importantly–from a professional level, seeing as my youngest daughter was born this year, and I can’t technically prioritize over her personally–this year brought me SSP. This year presented me with the opportunity to write for an amazing company that puts its people above its profits. It introduced me to a slew of people who genuinely care about me, and not just about what I can do for them. 2016 gifted me with a family I desperately needed; with people who truly understand me and support me, no matter the circumstance.

–I’m not one for setting overly specific goals or resolutions at the beginning of a new year; previous experience has taught me that exercise is doomed to fail. But I do like to face January with a couple of overarching goals for the year. These are the ones I have going for 2017:

  1. Get healthier. Cut out the soda for good. Make better food choices. Get my dental work taken care of, so that making better food choices isn’t a matter of what’s painful to eat and what’s not. Be more physically active than I was in 2016.
  2. Develop a platform for mental health awareness/suicide awareness and prevention. Write regular blogs. Research. Look into putting together a charity anthology.
  3. Finish my first novel.
  4. Read more.

This is where I’m at right now. This is what I want you to know.

I want you to know that even if you don’t see me around for a couple of days, I’m here. I’m available. I’m always working on my newest tale to bring you.

I want you to know that if you want to talk about mental illness, I want to listen. If you need help, I’ll give it in any way I know how. If you have an idea, I want to hear about it. If you need a voice, I want to speak out.

I want you to know that when I wish you a Merry Christmas, yes, it’s because I believe Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born of a Virgin and came to die for our sins and rise again to grant us eternal salvation. When Linus recites a passage from Luke and then says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” I agree with him. But when I wish you a Merry Christmas, it’s also because I wish you peace, joy, and love, no matter the time of the year, and no matter your own personal beliefs about the reason for the season. I care about YOU, as a person, as an individual, as a fan, and as a friend.

I want you to know that despite all the bad shit that goes down, seemingly every second of every day, there’s also a lot of good shit going down, too. And no, this isn’t me telling you not to bitch about the bad shit. Bitch away. Fuck 2016 for taking away Professor Snape and Willy Wonka. I’m right there with you. Just remember, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel–because I’m willing to be there, waving a flashlight.

Much love to you all, my family, friends, and fans. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday, and a blessed New Year.

See you in 2017!

 

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