Jennifer Deschanel

The Day Updike Left Me Speechless

Certain shades should come with a warning label and pink plaid should be banned.

All I learned about networking I learned from John Updike’s pants.

Pants and a very annoying bird, to be exact… The pants were pink plaid, the bird a phoebe. As I stood before this author-of-greatness, chatting robotically about what sort of bird was nesting underneath the eaves of his porch, all I could think about were his pants. They were a crazy shade of pink. Like, Jersey shore salt-water taffy pink. My mind was a disorganized jumble of nonsensical thought, staring at this man’s pink nether regions when I should have been like that damn bird.

Phoebes are little birds with big attitudes. They’re not afraid to speak up and scream their name: PHOE-BEEEE! They fly around with their mouths open catching tidbits on mid- wing and glutting themselves on the result. Their acrobatics get noticed. Their voices are heard So when John Updike smiled at me our little chance encounter, happy with the information I gave him about his phoebe; he left me behind banging my head and cursing my ineptitude for organized thought.

I had just sent out my first query letter, and here I had the chance to chat about writing with a Pulitzer winner, and I wanted to run like a damn rabbit. Pun intended. Never again. Granted, Mr. Updike probably appreciated not being hounded by a new writer, and in hindsight, I learned a valuable lesson. What was the point in keeping my writing secret? How would I ever learn to progress my career if I didn’t speak up?

Annoying, arrogant little things but they know how to market themselves as a bird.

At this time I had been writing for a year, and no one knew. I knew networking was going to be a significant step in the business, but I was too scared to open my mouth and scream like that bloody bird. After learning a valuable lesson, and thinking I should grow a spine, I took my first networking plunge and called the president of a major New York publishing house. I had way to that top rung of the ladder.  Here I was a new writer with an acquaintance in the business, one who I was on a first name basis with, and even he didn’t realize I was a writer. So I organized my thoughts, dialed his number  and enjoyed a lengthy conversation where he told me, in polite terms, to scream like that blasted bird. Start marketing myself before I ever got published and I would be a leap ahead of the game.

He was right.

Why do unpublished writers hide in shadows cowering from industry professionals? The best thing an unpublished writer can learn is that published authors love to chat about their books and the journey into the trade. Owners of small presses are eager to discuss marketing. Presidents and CEO’s are not as unapproachable as one might think, and agents are on our side.

So what’s the first step in learning how to network correctly? Understand your GMC’s and know how to roll them off your tongue. No matter who you chose to network with, introduce yourself and ask a well-constructed question that is not only specific to their house need but your writing career as well. Don’t give them a reason for not replying; wow them with your professionalism and drive to write. Find your favorite author and contact them. It may take some time, but they may respond. List your credentials. Toot your horn. Tell them something you admire about their writing and ask that specific question. It has never failed for me. The key there is presenting yourself as someone who understands where they are going with their career and are professional about doing so. It separates the writers from the fans.

Don’t limit yourself to authors or publishing professionals. Think outside the box. Do you have your blog up yet? Your website? Establish a following with an excellent blog, and you will establish readers. I started mine with the idea of being the punching bag and guinea pig for new writers who wanted to know the dirty details of trying to publish. I promised readers I would list every triumph and every failure. It seems like a million years ago now. I was like that bird, not afraid to shout my name and admit what I was doing. My blog led to my first full request by an agent.

All it takes to market yourself correctly as an unpublished writer is a bit of confidence and the understanding that those big-wig bestselling authors were once greenhorns too. No one will get in the way of your writing career but you.

And if you love pink pants, wear them with a smile.

 

 

 

Punjab Lasso vs. Hangman’s Noose

It’s pre-order day!

This is the time I get excited for my readers. I love hearing from them before a release and learning about their excitement for their favorite story to be continued. In honor of Pursued By The Phantom’s pre-order. I thought I would do a quick Phantom related post.

Not a nice way to go, but not a Punjab lasso either…

This… is hangman’s noose.

It is not the “Punjab lasso,” at least not in this author’s book.

The lasso is Erik’s signature weapon, and I use it frequently throughout my books. Through the years and the many interpretations of Leroux’s Phantom, the lasso has changed as much as Erik’s hideous deformity (which in many adaptations isn’t a deformity at all). Webber popularized the image of a lariat and a hangman’s noose, which is very different from what  Leroux may have had in mind for his “Punjab lasso.”

In Leroux’s original novel, he emphasizes the amount of time Erik spent in India learning how to use this weapon:

Erik had lived in India and acquired an incredible skill in the art of strangulation. He would make them lock him into a courtyard to which they brought a warrior — usually, a man condemned to death — armed with a long pike and broadsword. Erik had only his lasso; and it was always just when the warrior thought that he was going to fell Erik with a tremendous blow that we heard the lasso whistle through the air. With a turn of the wrist, Erik tightened the noose round his adversary’s neck and, in this fashion, dragged him before the little sultana and her women, who sat looking from a window and applauding.

I love this cover. Just sayin’…

 

Leroux’s terminology  describes’s this lasso as fil du Pendjab, which means “Punjab thread” or depending on your translation, “cord” or “wire.”  In my novels, I describe it as a thin length of silk. It is in all likelihood that Leroux was referring to the Thuggee tribes in  India that killed by the manner of strangulation as described in the quote above. These “Stranglers” were feared and sensationalized in French culture during the time of Leroux’s writings.

The idea of, “Keep your hand at the level of your eyes,” would do little good against a hangman’s noose, which serves to snap the neck with the aid of gravity. I would imagine doing so may break your wrist as well. I don’t know. I’ve never been hanged….

However, the hand at the level of the eyes defense works wonders against the Punjab lasso:

 My pistols could serve no purpose, for Erik was not likely to show himself; but Erik could always strangle us. I had no time to explain all this to the viscount; besides, there was nothing to be gained by complicating the position. I simply told M. de Chagny to keep his hand at the level of his eyes, with the arm bent, as though waiting for the command to fire. With his victim in this attitude, it is impossible even for the most expert strangler to throw the lasso with advantage. It catches you not only round the neck, but also round the arm or hand. This enables you easily to unloose the lasso, which then becomes harmless.

So, there you have it. A bit of gruesome insight to the way our beloved Erik preferred to kill.

Ah… Happy Valentine’s Day? Speaking of Valentine’s Day, if you are new to my series, pick up a copy of Desired by the Phantom at a special price for a limited time only!

Vulnerability looks like a cat scared s***less.

You know the look.

I once got“the look.”

You know… the look you get when you may have over shared. I’m at a place in life where I can be open about my OCD, my faith and the history that created their journey together.  It’s my hope by doing so I can help someone else overcome the stigma of saying  they are afraid to be vulnerable and authentic and overcome the fear of having a silent illness, whatever theirs may be.

I’m versed in emotional intelligence. I take a lot of training on it for the work I do; however, not enough to make me any sort of expert but enough that I can use it daily.   After being in a training for awhile, I shared a thought with my workshop partner, a total stranger until this class. We were speaking on how personalities can get in the way of critical conversations and brainstorming strategies to overcome that roadblock. I shared that I’ve been told that when people first meet me I seemed cold.  Once they came to know me though, they shared they were happy to find I was the complete opposite.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.~Psalm 34:4-5

What they didn’t know upon their first introduction to me is that I have a mental illness. My silence is nothing more than finding a safe place for my mind to be. I have to study people and new situations to make sure I’m comfortable with all of it.  Last thing I want is to be triggered into a state that has me in tears and a cycle of obsession. My workshop partner looked at me as if to say, “you’re mentally ill?” I could tell by his expression and body language that he was trying to figure out how he didn’t know that from day one.

It doesn’t work that way with the silent diseases. I lay odds that society has no idea how many people suffer with mental illness because it is not always obvious, especially with Pure O.  Frankly, it’s not always comfortable to be candid and admit my OCD diagnosis.  But I think it’s vital.

Later my partner asked if I thought the seating assignments would be rearranged for the next class. I said I hoped not because I’m not a huge fan of change once I get things organized in my mind.  I’d have to get used to the differences and spend time getting comfortable all over again.

He laughed and said, “I hate it too. Things like that are what really stirs up my–”

GASP! She is NOT blogging about THOSE topics! The horror

…. and it’s that pause that is so essential. The odds are he was going to say “his OCD” for it looked like he had it perched on his lips and the tell tale emphasis he placed on  “my” is usually a dead giveaway.  If I had a dime for every time someone used OCD as a designer term for a quirk or a preference, I’d be a millionaire. Only on a rare few occasions have I met someone who legitimately shared my struggle. Instead, he stopped, regrouped, and said it “bugs” him.

I’m left to wonder…. was he one of the millions out there suffering and unable to trust vulnerability enough to share it? Or was he one of the few to learn that this is a serious illness and deserves respect? If it’s the former, I hope my vulnerability helps him find courage to speak his story. If the latter, kudos and thanks for rephrasing.

I show my vulnerability to helps others. I’ve seen the power speaking out can have in finding a path to healing. I show my soul to prove what abilities hide in the weaknesses we THINK we have. Shame can be turned to a strength if all trust and faith is placed in God.  I’m vulnerable here on my blog, using a platform that is for my career as a writer to speak about OCD and my faith. There are some out there that would say I am wrong to do that here and I’d alienate readers by not being “PC” and mum on such topics.

I’ve my corner of the web and I intend to use it.

Let’s speak honestly and say that all struggles come with a healthy dose of  shame. Stepping outside of that prison and sharing a story can open doors.  Just… share it truthfully. Don’t hide behind false social media profiles, phony pictures of yourself or bogus stories about your life. Leave your story to be yours sans embellishments to hide your shame or fear.  I believe we need to be in authentic relationships with our neighbors in the hope that ignorance ends and awareness begins.

Don’t have it? Don’t own it.

Here’s the thing.  If you don’t have it, don’t own it.

This post has been on my mind for awhile now. It gets under my skin when folks mirror those with OCD, thinking that in some level their idiosyncratic ways are the same as having a diagnosis.

It’s not.

They way to relate to a person with a mental illness is just to be who you are. I respect that more.  There is zero need to exclaim how you are “so OCD” yourself.  Saying that is a dead give away that you do not have the disorder and in no way creates empathy. Sharing stories of how you prefer things neat or how stressed you may get when things don’t match, without sharing the level of devastation created in the wake of your obsessive thoughts (not to mention what your mind and body were forced to do to find relief), creates skepticism, distance, and mistrust.  I’ve met folks who toss around that they have OCD as a method to excuse away their habits or explain their quirky behavior.  They do this even though they know I have Pure O. Perhaps they have some form of anxiety, which is painful enough as is,  yet respect the disorder and the diagnosis by not tossing it around as a casual term if you don’t know—concretely—that you suffer with it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you ~1 Peter 5:6

Help end stigma.  Mental illness, and especially OCD, is stigmatized too much as it is and using the disorder as a global label is damaging.  Diagnosing OCD is a lengthy process.  It cannot be self-assessed and it requires psychiatric evaluation and treatment.

I’m blessed. My Pure O is being controlled (it’s a daily process) and, in my opinion, mild compared to others who suffer the same. I think that is why I can stand up as I do and speak out like this.

Just be who you are. That’s far more respectable.

Flirting with Death: The role of the mother and father in Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera

Image by Greg Hildebrant in his illustrated edition of Phantom of the Opera. Find this book, find it now!

I’ve a confession to make that should be obvious to those who have read my Phantom series or follow me on Facebook. I am a firm believer that the idea of a relationship between Erik and Christine would not have been healthy. This stems from the original novel and the unhealthy love between Erik and Christine born from the idea of the mother/son and father/daughter relationship that Leroux crafted into this pairing.

First off let me say that the age difference between Erik and Christine doesn’t bother me in the original novel; however, it does in the stage show and especially in Webber’s movie. In both adaptations, Erik and Christine were portrayed as too young, although the stage show was slightly was closer to the novel in that. Leroux’s age difference of an assumed 50 year-old man and an assumed 16 year-old girl was natural in the mid to late 19th century. Many men, especially those of the aristocracy, did not marry until well into their 40’s and often with women many years their junior. So while historically that isn’t an issue, the moral implication it bears on a modern day reader is. The reader sees Erik as a man old enough to be Christine’s father who is pursuing her with a need for object and maternal love.

Erik clearly had issues with his mother whether spoken or unspoken. His home beneath the opera house was not the image most in the Phandom think of thanks to Webber’s movie interpretation of it: a cluttered, cavernous, lakeside cave. In the original novel it was a house with all the natural amenities a house has. Erik’s primary possessions were his mother’s furniture stored in a room that was nothing short of a shrine to what was left of his relationship with her. This is the very room he gave to Christine, and the same room that was filled with Freudian indicators of masculinity and sexuality.

Michangelo was genius.

He tells the Persian he was moved to tears (or as some believe redemption) when Christine held him in the final “Pieta” scene. For those of you not familiar with the “Pieta” by Michelangelo, it is a famous sculpture of the Virgin Mary (here the virginal Christine) holding her dying son, Jesus Christ (here the already “dead” Erik). In the novel the position as Christine leans down to cradle Erik after allowing him to kiss her forehead, therefore mingling their tears (maternal fluids according to Freud) is very similar to the pose of this famous portrait of mother and son.

Christine associating Erik as a father figure is far more believable. The idea of a young girl hero-worshiping an older man is a theme familiar in many ideas of a father/daughter relationship. From the beginning, Christine was in love with the idea that her beloved father, with whom she was extraordinarily close, promised her the “Angel of Music” upon his untimely death. Erik becomes for Christine the living vision of her dead father. While not an actual angel, Erik was a musician with an angelic voice in addition to being a walking embodiment of death. For Christine, this translated into a reincarnation of all her father was returning in another form for her to love and worship.

Some may think it a stretch to believe that anyone would love a walking corpse or even yearn for a physical and sexual connection with it, especially if it reminds us of our fathers. In art history “Death” plays a major role as a both a father figure and a sexual seducer of young women. Many paintings and sculptures depict Death either teaching or luring maidens with enticing gifts, music, or just good ‘ole seductive looks . Death was the ultimate and attainable, albeit unwanted, element to life. Even today you hear of people “flirting with death.” Why? Is it so alluring because they want to actually die, or because the idea it conjures up of being able to conquer and overpower death?

Christine being seduced by the reincarnation of her father and being lured into a quasi-incestuous relationship was, in a way, “flirting with death” and the power and control it portrayed.

The Violence Question

Horrible events have occurred here in the United States in the last few months in such rapid succession it is hard to comprehend. From a mass shooting in Las Vegas, to an ISIS driven attack in New York City to the most recent mass shooting at a small town Baptist church in Texas and a school shooting in California. While I know this blog is usually about updates to my books, it is also about my life and thoughts. Authors are not immune to the sadness and fears of the world even though we spend so much time in fantasy. It leaves me thinking of my huge church where inside hundreds of family members gather weekly and daily to serve Christ. I fear for our safety, yet then I remember how many times in the Bible God tells us not to fear.

Its 365 times. By God’s design there are 365 days in a year. Not a coincidence.

Times like this lift up the question, “Why does God allow such horror?” If you’re like me and a Christian, you’ll get asked that in your lifetime. So I remember that in times like this…. God weeps.

God isn’t allowing this suffering to happen. This horror and pain entered the world on the back of sin in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose sin over God’s loving guidance. The next question that will come flying at a Christian is, “Then why did He allow sin into the world?”

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. ~John 16:33

That’s when Christians tackle the tough task of explaining how God loves us and how He wanted us to have free will. In order to be in a unique relationship with every son and daughter He has, He gave us individual choice. Without that, we’d be carbon copies of one another, marionettes for God instead of children of God. With our freedoms we have the ability, daily, to choose God’s love or to choose not to love.

“Then why can’t God just stop it all?”

The truth is, in my opinion, God surely can. Just as He opened his mouth and spoke light into existence He can speak sin out of existence. But then… when would God be able to stop? Take away one sin there is still another to deal with, then another, and another, and soon a world of sin to discipline. Pretty soon humans are nothing more than those marionettes with God constantly intervening to correct our thoughts and movements, instead of humans learning from our free choices.

Look at it this way, as children didn’t we learn from our mistakes? A parent who constantly scolds and corrects the bad action of a child isn’t teaching in my opinion, they’re merely controlling the child’s actions. If children behave there is no need to correct them, yet once they misbehave then the correction must occur. It’s a learned process to do the right thing. Had sin not entered the world when it did, learning right from wrong wouldn’t be an issue. The world would have known only right, good, and love.

God’s world.

Now I consider the fallen world I live in since sin entered and look at my neighbor. Would I rather be exactly like them, in all ways, the good, bad and ugly or have the ability to choose how I want to behave? Would you want to be controlled, or free?

“But He took care of getting rid of sin early in the Bible, so why not now? Answer that one!”

When the world was created, when Mankind was just taking its baby steps, there were a lot of miraculous ways God showed His power. He had to. In order for the race He created to understand His great love, and their mistakes, God had to perform many signs of His power, even if it meant things like the Great Flood. Today… He doesn’t have to. His great faith is evident in the millions of followers of Jesus worldwide.

I sadly heard one morning that someone somewhere said loud enough for the news to pick up on it, that praying at times like this doesn’t control or change anything so why bother. I’ve even been told myself that God can’t change things. That was one of the saddest statements ever said to me, and I disagree. It doesn’t make tragedies easier to endure knowing about free choice. But understanding that God gave me a will of my own can help me, and others, pray over tragedy. Pray that those impacted have hearts that remain rooted in the love of God, and that God’s spiritual warfare is present in their lives so that Satan doesn’t get a grip on them in the wake of their sadness. Just as the horrible choices of one person changed the lives of the victims and their families and friends forever, their individual choices after a tragedy can have impact good or bad too. Do I  want them to fall prey to all the horrible feelings Satan wants them to experience in this time, or do I want a hedge of protection to envelope them to know God’s loving guidance even more? I think many would agree with me over which is the better choice.

God wants us to use our free will to make the right choices. He wants us to choose to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. We have the choice to pray for the sinners of this earth to turn to Christ so other horrific events don’t happen. So, praying in my opinion changes everything.

When we weep, God weeps too. Spiritual growth occurs in the valley and in that sorrow His love endures.

Something to ponder as I write.

 

Really… stop looking at your phone and make eye contact!

“Literary fiction exercises a reader’s imagination in matters of character and emotional nuances.” ~Sherry Turkle

When was the last time you noticed emotional nuances? The reply should be just now, or two minutes ago, or whatever is the last amount of time you spent in the room with another person. Every second we stand before another person we are giving off emotional cues about our inner, unspoken feelings that add to the conversation and our ability to build empathy. That is totally lost in the digital age.  By spending so much time with screens in front of our faces we lose out on the nuances of body language.

Imagine  this: Lets say we are sitting together in a room and you declare  “Let’s go see The Shack!”   I slap my hand down on the arm of my chair, point to the ceiling,  nod and say “Great. Lets do that. What time?”  What feeling do you get? Lets say instead, I reply by rolling my eyes, hanging my head to my shoulder, stare at the floor, then say “Great. Lets do that. What time?”  What feeling do you get?

In the first instance, body language would show enthusiasm and engagement; in the second disengagement, boredom, maybe even disgust.

Now imagine a screen in front of you and you type the same question to the person on the opposite end. All you see are letters forming the words, “Great. Lets do that. What time?”  Sans any visual clues you have zero idea of what is really being thought and felt. Without this type of engagement, where we get to read another person’s body cues, there is only so far empathy can build. It’s common knowledge that using all caps means someone is yelling at you–but are they really angry? Can you see their pupils dilate or their fists clench? If you type something funny is the person really “ROTFL” or are they sitting there stone-face, bored and saying that to humor you?  A problems existing in today’s world is that folks are forgetting the importance of being together. What suffers is empathy. Reading body language builds connection.

Turkle wrote of something called “disconnection anxiety.” That’s a phenomenon of when people who are always plugged in to there phones, emails, or computers finally get to be alone–they can’t handle it. Concentration suffers, boredom sets and the fear of falling off the radar becomes too much. Alone–is the worst thing possible. When there is a constants stream of  blogs to read, emails to check and things to like on Facebook or Twitter, there is little time being spent on just being quiet enough to understand the benefits of true solitude.

Too much time spent focused online or on phones leads to an inability to take time for oneself. And, if one cant take time for oneself, how can they take time for another?

Something to ponder as Lent continues….

crossposted over at Strong Finds Power

The Shack Weekend

I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for a long while. The Shack has finally released.

I can testify that there is no relationship on earth quite like the one we have with God, through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  When I first read The Shack I thought it was a good book, but didn’t really understand it. The ideas and concepts confused me even thought I grew up in the church. I wasn’t ready to hear what the book had to say. I was reading it for the wrong reasons. It was something trendy to do, since Oprah recommended it. It wasn’t until 2015 when I needed  and turned to God the most, that I re-read it…. and it made more than sense, it made the way to understanding my faith easier.

I was once told God didn’t have “time” to listen to prayers when I prayed for my needs, only when I prayed for the needs of others. I know this is wrong now for I know where to find my support first and foremost in the scripture. Matthew 7:7  says: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” The Shack helped me see that God has time for every prayer. I turned more away from misguided thoughts and more to opening my heart and mind to understanding my relationship with God, through prayer. He wants to hear from me and I from Him.  He is always speaking…

I hope everyone welcomes this book into their lives.  It may be the start to a new understanding…

Slow Down and Reclaim Conversation….

There is no substitute for eye contact. Or for someone else to do your laundry.

“Eye contact is the most powerful path to human connection.” ~Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation

Turkle is on to something and I slowly realize I am making a conscious choice to strive, whenever possible, to make sure all my friendships involve eye-to-eye conversation. Words have far more meaning and connection when there are the feelings of attachment and empathy that can only be achieved by the power of eye contact. Even if it is only via Skpe, the “mirroring” pathways in our brain are engaged and a deeper connection occurs.

Turkle reveals shocking studies. More and more youth in this day and age are accustomed to constant interruptions in conversation due to social media. So much so, the interruptions are not viewed as a bad thing but rather as another form of human connection. These interruptions provide an “out” for things folks want to avoid, and the overwhelming thing people want to avoid is boredom. Boredom is basically a warning sign when you come down to it. It’s  the mind is telling us  we have to pay closer attention to something… anything. At its core, that’s a good thing as it teaches us to take note to what makes us tick and pushes us to make new connections or learn new things. But if boredom is constantly swatted away by the allure of the phone and the online world, how are we to come to know ourselves? And in that, how are we to come to make meaningful conversations with one another?

This world is too fast paced if you ask me. People want instant gratification. I’ve said that numerous times at work.  The “meat” of a story has to be within the first paragraph, or three sentences, lest  you risk losing a reader.  More often than not, people want to be told what to do, not how to do for themselves. Focus is lacking and lulls in conversation are a bad thing. During the point in my life when I was online all the time, I learned that any “lull” in a conversation committed by me that was longer than 3 seconds would spark questions.  It led to more anxiety for me, which wasn’t good when you have an anxiety disorder. I’d worry for a split second that I wasn’t fast enough to reply. Many times I’d have to think before I would type or respond to a question. 99% of the time all I was doing was processing what I just read and was forming my thoughts. It takes me longer than most sometimes due to my Pure O. I think in pictures and metaphors. I absorb things slower.  My “lulls” would  spark questions of if I was multitasking. Who else was I talking to? What else was I doing? What was going on? Well…. nothing. I was thinking. Plain and simple. If you speak to me and it seems like I am not replying fast enough, give me a second. I am just flipping through mind mind and rotating my thoughts into words.  But this digital age has programmed a world where faster is better, and, when people lack the empathy found in face to face conversations, silence can be misread. Turkle mentions this. She writes:

“...people who chronically multitask train their brains to crave multitasking. Those who multitask most frequently don’t get better at it; they just want more of it. This means that conversation, the kind that demands focus, becomes more and more difficult.”  I can’t help but think that those who are constantly on the go, and especially our youth today with their crazy schedules, might expect others to be on the go too. That if they multitask, they expect, or assume, others are as well and are capable of functioning in that environment. Where I respond slower, an expert multitasker may be quicker to a reply. How does the movement from texting, to instant messages, to Facebook, to Twitter feeds, etc., affect people’s ability to slow down, form thoughts, and carry on  conversations, and can it be done without the interruptions? Youth today are experts in juggling multiple forms of social media. Turkle discovered that, for  people in their teens and twenties, the most commonly heard phrase at dinner with friends was “Wait, what?” Everyone is always missing something because they are not slowing down enough to pause, process, think and then respond.

I’d rather see kids looking at each other instead of looking at their phones.

I suppose that is why I love small groups at church.  They are highly focused. It’s why I love dinners at the dining room table with my daughter.  Togetherness breeds connection. A slower pace creates time to think before you speak.

It’s not easy to unplug from it all though. Just last night I was having a hard time with my necessity to  say good night to my best friend so to have my dinner and walk the dog. I kept wanting to flip my computer back open so to be in constant connection. I felt selfish for leaving.   Backing away from the world I was so involved in when I am home is strange for me, especially when it’s part of my job, but it’s giving me a lot more power to be a better person and friend. I’m less stressed now that I am offline more than I am online.  I feel like I have privacy.

Always being connected in the digital world leaves you  never alone and, in order to know yourself the best, you have to be alone sometimes.

Remembering Diagnosis Day

Playbuzz test by Monica Woods claiming to test for OCD. Looks like circles to me.

It’s the wrap up of #OCDWeekOfAction, an initiative of a UK based charity for those with OCD. So I invite everyone who takes those online OCD “tests” that cycle around Facebook to donate to support the mental illness they so quickly discovered they were afflicted with.

I’ve said it once and will say it again… it’s not funny anymore. I’ve pondered if I should get a thicker skin, if I should “lighten” up over these obviously fluff tests likely designed to  phish information from Facebook accounts… but I find I fail.  This is a mental illness I have watched get trivialized repeatedly. So my action, in what small corner of the web I own, is to say, again, please stop it. Stop degrading and spreading false ideas about what OCD is all about. It is not about your eyesight or color standards. It is not about perfectionism and attention to detail.

The tests for OCD suck. They suck because you’re alone in a room being asked a battery of questions, some which make no sense to your racing mind, all while your heart is flat on your shoes. You wonder if you will be leaving that doctor’s office “fixed” and “normal” or will keep on living a life “faking normal.” They are scary and confusing, and since you are not diagnosed yet, you are left with  hours (to days) of waiting as your symptoms get worse because of the anxiety you just went through. Then your results come back and you are staring down bottles of mind-bending, extremely powerful drugs that literally alter your personality.

But instead society has this idea that OCD is the kid to pick on in the “playground” of mental illness. It’s fun to say, easy for celebrities to make into a “designer” illness, and profitable to slap on tee-shirts and coffee mugs.

I wonder if folks who take these online “tests” on Facebook, and then proudly say they are 100% OCD afterward will remember the day of their diagnoses for all their lives. I’d like them to post on the blog in reply and let me know. And if you really do have OCD, post in reply and let me know if you remember the day you were diagnosed. Help to spread knowledge and crush the ignorance.   I remember mine. I came home scared out of my wits, angry as all hell, and for days later was sick as a dog. Since I was terrified back then of letting anyone know I had a mental illness I went on with life and suffered through work with debilitating migraines as the meds tried to work. Then I would sleep every second I could.

I had to be a wife, I had to be a mother to an infant, I had to “fake normal.” I had to try to forget the exact circumstance that woke this sleeping giant in me.

I have Pure O-OCD. I can’t forget as much as I want to and I assure you it was not the moment I took a “test” on Facebook.

But… I can vent to my corner of the world and ask again that OCD not be commercialized or trivialized. Think about the cancer a friend had, or the Alzheimers a parent died of, think of the darkest diagnosis in your life and how it impacted your family and friends, then think of what it would be like if that diagnosis was constantly disrespected. It’s not just disrespectful to the illness, but to the person afflicted.

Take the online GAMES  but when you go to post results be sure to mention that it was a fun way to see if you had quirk, to test your eyesight, or finickiness.  Call it for what it is. This mental illness would have a greater understanding and a lot more support if those who didn’t suffer from OCD helped to spread the word about what it really is.

I suppose I’m never going to lighten up about this. If I have the opportunities take a stand on it,  I will.