Write With Me! November’s Coming. Time for NaNoWriMo!

NanowrimoJoin me! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) happens every year in November. I’ve done it several times and it’s actually fun. You don’t have to write fiction – you can write whatever you want. This year, I’d love you to join me. I’ve set up a discussion board on this site so we can have our own community. The only cost is your time. I’ll be here to answer questions, provide support and encouragement. And hopefully a few laughs.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Register on the NaNoWriMo site.
  2. Friend me there!
  3. Don’t panic about your profile, you have time to add to it.
  4. Introduce yourself on my discussion board.
  5. Start thinking about what you want to write.
  6. Tell the voice in your head that says you can’t do this to shut-up.

Good to know…

Don’t short-change yourself.
This isn’t a competition (but you can win!). It’s about the process, not the result. You seriously can’t do this wrong (but your first draft will be crappy – that’s what editing is for). Starting is the very hardest part. But just start. Don’t edit in your head, don’t get caught up in over thinking, don’t listen to your critical parent sending you negative messages.

The hardest part is just doing it.
My first one was really hard. I am so driven and it was tough to find time, to feel good about what I was doing and to slog through. But suddenly, after about five days, the momentum kicked in. I couldn’t type as fast as I could think. I started adding things to my outline (table of contents) so I wouldn’t forget.

This process can change you.
When I did write fiction, I was able to create characters that had a life of their own. It allowed me to be the bad guy and the good guy – heck, it let me be a guy! I’ve also been a teen, a woman who lived through the last 100 years being at all the right places at the right time. I’ve been able to integrate my travel memories and stories from my family. I also have gotten things out that are sometimes hard to say out loud. Writing can be a wonderful confidant. If you’re here because you’ve been through trauma, this is a very safe place to start.

NaNo (nickname) is great about keeping us motivated.
They tweet. Follow the hashtags to listen to how others are doing (#nanowrimo and #nanowrimo2018). They are on Facebook. There are groups on the site and folks from all over the world participate. They even have great merch! I have my “winning” shirts framed over my bed. Alas, it kind of backfires for me because every time my Marge (mom) sees them, she turns to me and says, “Why aren’t any of these published!?” Oh mom, I’ll get there.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s a great blog encouraging you to jump on-board and if you need more details, this one is terrific.

What are you waiting for! Join me. Join us.

So Now What? Kavanaugh, Trauma, Healing and Moving Forward

I have this fantasy of buying one of those sheds from Home Depot and having a friend sheet rock the thing, add some electricity and then make it the most girly place possible (that’s my taste, romantic, soft, flowery). There’d be a super big comfy chair, a laptop desk and it would smell like spring rain. And nobody will be able to find me. (The cover photo is where Roald Dahl wrote.)

Shortly after DeAngelo was arrested, a woman reached out to me who was sure he was her rapist. During the attack, her took her driver’s license. Her fear of him returning was so great, she left the state and lived quietly nearly 3,000 miles away – always looking over her shoulder, always wary of his return. She described herself as an introvert who rarely shared her experience with anyone.

This week, she sent me an email. The joy in her writing was evident. She was back in Orange County, she’d met with investigators there. She was even going to meet Orange County D.A. Investigator, Erika Hutchcraft (I’m jealous). I haven’t heard from her since, but what she said today made me cry! Because it was so beautiful. She thanked me and said,

“you listened and heard me, you stuck with me…”

I mean nothing, nothing could have gotten my attention more than these beautiful words.

The future of America sits on a precipice. The end goal is to divide us.

My goodness, I’m the last one to get all rose colored glasses and saccharine about things, but overall I’m an optimist. I love what John Legend said that about himself last night. If you watch the clip, he explains, “…I see a lot of opportunity for change [on the state and local level] even though I’m often frustrated by what’s happening nationally.” I have to say, this touched me. It stayed with me last night and today.

I have realized I have no control about what happens with the Supreme Court.

I was triggered, as were so many, by the rage demonstrated last week in the highest levels of our government. I truly had no opinion of Kavanaugh prior to his testimony – other than my political leanings, but I’m a grown-up, I know we are all different. Then he came to testify last Thursday. As he yelled and raged and obfuscated and lied (“it’s like quarters” – we aren’t idiots dude), my reaction to him came from the gut.

Clearly I am not alone.

I understand it’s hard for some guys to get this, but having a man rage at you is terrifying. God forbid it connects with any body memories, because that fight or flight instinct kicks in super fast. Heartbeat goes up, nerve endings start to twitch; I hear a roar in my head that is accompanied by this weird pressure. It’s kind of like having an earache and a headache and kind of not. The reaction is freaking out of our control and anyone with PTSD, male or female, understands. Anyone with trauma, understands.

But that’s not what this blog is about. 

This blog is about that beautiful sentence sent to me today. The gift I gave was unbelievable easy.

No matter what happens, we are still all neighbors*. Sure the guy down the street is an ass. But if his house burns down, I’m going to pitch in. Yes, the woman in the store seems rather racist, but if her kid runs toward the street, I’m going to grab for the kid. I’m convinced we can manage a lot of this crap locally. Individually. With our own actions.

And I want to share one example of what I mean.

When Black Lives Matter started, I took a look at my own behavior. Because I’m a compulsive talker in stores (again, this is why Katie won’t shop with me), I realized I had a pattern of who I would chat with: mostly white people. I didn’t know I was doing this, but once I was self-aware, I realized it was true.

That Christmas, I started talking to people not like me.

For example, someone of a different race, age, ethnic background; basically not a Rubenesque (see what I did there), short, white, mom who thinks she’s still cool. I started this two years ago and I’m still on board. Let me tell you what, it’s been awesome! My M.O. is to try and get people to smile or laugh and I’m proud to say, diversity pays! I am still stunned by how often I can get someone to smile or chat – even when they are incredibly different from me.

The point is don’t let them divide us. Reach out, listen, and hang in there. Observe your own patterns. See if there are adjustments you can make. I’d love to hear your stories. Anything positive. Now’s the time.

 

*I’m going to add a caveat because I’m not saying go adopt a white supremacist. I trust you understand my intent.

When Someone Else’s Trauma Triggers Yours

It has been a really tough week. Not so much practically, but emotionally. I realized this morning, in a private moment, that I feel like a rock in a tumbler. My body hasn’t been working right (leg not working right for the third straight month so walking and standing has been challenging), I’m not in a work routine, and what used to be just a feature in my life – the murders – is now a full-blown daily reality. Even the people I talk to frequently has changed. I used to go into work and see my awesome team and now, nope. I’m excited to see where things are leading, but damn, the tumble is tough.

My politics are obvious. Just get on Twitter for three minutes and I’m outed (@jcarole). But that’s for Twitter and other places, I don’t want to be political here. That said, this still might feel political, but it’s not my intention. I am truly focused on one thing right now: trauma. As defined by Webster, trauma is aan injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent, ba disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury and can emotional upset.

Not to blow your mind, but 5% of Americans, at any point in time, are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) thanks to trauma. If you look at that number, it’s not fixed. Today you could be fine and then something awful happens and you get to walk through the trauma door and have your go at PTSD – meaning, it’s 5% at any point in time but in fact many more people experience it over a lifetime. I have. 

Trauma

Arresting DeAngelo awoke feelings, memories and questions for all of us.
Trauma
Twitter

Michelle Cruz (Shelly), Debbie Domingo and I are a squad. Survivor Sisters who share this weird window on the Golden State Killer and the horrors he caused. We often share things with each other on Twitter; both publicly and in private. Early this week Shelly tweeted at me publicly with a question. It was so honest and direct. Little did shoe know know this was going to make me think all week long.

How do we cope? As I tumble through all the changes happening in my life right now, I am having to cope. I haven’t really thought about it in that way until Shelly’s question. I think we are all so used to “soldiering on” that we don’t realize we actually need to stop a minute and figure out a game plan for coping. What Shelly didn’t ask – but was maybe thinking – is how the hell are you keeping your shit together when the killer has been caught, a book has been written that’s not making us all that happy, information is dripping out and it’s not answering our real questions and there’s so much pain that’s been re-triggered for all of us?

Add to this unexpected “other things” for all of us – including missed work days for those employed who want to watch the hearings, travel expenses for people who want to come to court and therapy costs for anyone who needs help. There’s also the responsibility of new relationships that maybe didn’t exist before April 25th. Folks, it’s a hot mess.

Personally, I’m finding there’s a lot really good happening, but I am an eternal optimist and that’s my jam: making lemonade out of lemons. And yet, I too have some dark days and feel the weight of the trauma as it drifts in like fog along the shore. Sometimes it’s just a wisp and other times it’s heavy, thick and blocks the light. I suspect I am not alone.

Watching or helping people going through trauma can trigger secondary trauma.

So now the “trying not to be political part” that made this week extra tough. Watching the kids being separated from their families at the border was more than I could handle. When I heard the tape of the kids crying for their parents, I was done. It doesn’t matter if it was real or not, if you’re a parent, you know that sound and it makes you want to rush to the aid of the child. Then tell me they’ve taken babies away from parents and I’m done. It threw me into a funk.

The reason this matters is seeing someone else go through trauma can cause trauma. Take that in. It’s important. I’m going to go out on a limb here and believe 99% of the folks who choose to read this blog, have empathy. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t give a crap about what I write. It’s a trait I see in the “true crime” crowd that makes it one of the most attractive group of humans I’ve ever encountered. I believe it’s because true crime folks have either experienced a traumatic event or love someone who has. There’s a generosity that comes with that empathy that makes space for people being different and allows everyone to “process” in their own way. I don’t experience true crime folks as being judgmental or exclusionary – with one exception. True crime folks fucking hate criminals.

Of course I love that part. But I’m distracted. Let me get back on track. Here’s the point.

People who are touching trauma – survivors, supporters, friends, family – need to make time for self care.

I know self-care sounds like some damn thing we’d say in California while we eat our avocado toast before our hot yoga class (I have not tried yoga, I’ve only tried room-temperature yoga and my body wasn’t having it. I have not yet tried avocado toast – I’ve been way too busy rearranging my chakras!). But it’s not a California exclusive. It’s something care providers and advocates stand behind and it’s important. It’s like what they tell you on the plane: put your mask on first before you help your child. If you pass out first, you can’t help anyone. Goodness knows all we have is each other and we need to be strong.

After this tough week, I needed to do some self care. The first was to take a mini-blog break. I had to step away for just a bit so I could come back. I care so much about my new friends – the survivors – and the community that surrounds us. There is really good information online about self care. Some of these things aren’t hard to do and they can be healing. I’d love to know what you do to take care of yourself. Please leave a comment – or tweet – if you’re willing to share. Here’s my little list adapted to my lame leg and lack of extra money.

Turn off noise. I know I’m extroverted but that only works well when I’m energized. When I’m not, noise depletes me.

Go outside. My preference is moving water but flowers and fresh air will do the trick. Especially if there are good smells.

Smile. Yes, like an idiot. Even if there’s nothing to smile about. I force my face to smile because it has at least seven health benefits. (If Katie, my kid, catches me doing this, she won’t hesitate to tell me I look like an idiot. This triggers a real smile and my work here is done.)

Do something tactile. I mess with my cats. I crochet. I go outside and pull weeds or deadhead my roses and geraniums.

Talk to a friend. Family members can sometimes drag you into places you don’t want to go if you’re not doing well. But if you have the right friends, they can be a boost. Or join us on Twitter. There’s a good group online that always seem to offer encouragement and hope. The best part, if you get a troll, you can block them. It’s oddly satisfying.

Here’s to lifting the fog and healing ourselves and the people we care about. The trauma and feelings will come and go but how we chose to deal with the trauma is something we can control.