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Renee Dubeau

A little bird with a big song.

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Writerly Things

I have a new title… and it totally freaked me out.

Recently, I was asked to speak at a summit called, “Unleashing the Real, Raw Uncensored You”. It’s all about authenticity, and living the life of our dreams.When the organizer reached out to me to ask me to speak, I felt a combination of pure bliss and utter panic.

I mean, this is what I want to do! I want to share my story, and write books, and speak to groups, and help others find the kind of healing and empowerment that has changed my life. The invitation to speak felt like a big step in that direction- that was the bliss part.

The panic set in the moment I read the word “expert” in the speaker’s agreement.

The entire document referred to the speaker {me!} as “the expert”. Each time I read that word, I cringed a bit. Then, all my insecurities came for a visit, and I had no choice but to invite them in for tea and sit with them a while.

In the long list of words I might have used to describe myself, “expert” was not one of them. I wondered for a moment what exactly the organizer saw in me. Was I missing something? I certainly didn’t feel like any “expert”.

I started thinking about my story, and all the things that are important to me. I’ve been writing for a few years about feminism, health, parenting, love, and overcoming all kinds of things I’ve experienced. I’ve written about mental illness, addiction, surviving sexual abuse, eating disorders, suicide— you name it– but I didn’t feel like an authority on any of those topics.

Am I an expert? What qualifies me as an expert? An expert of what?

The theme of the summit is authenticity. It’s learning to be unapologetically yourself. To listen to your intuition, and allow it to guide you to your dreams. I’ve basically dedicated the past five years of my life to this- first to heal myself during a painful divorce, then to share the things I learned in those brutally beautiful years of discovery and growth.

I like to say that I didn’t become a badass bitch because I had an easy life. My strength has come from a lifetime of overcoming. The key to owning my shit was overcoming shame, and all the ways it made me smaller in the world. To fully own my shit, I had to learn how to love and accept myself without limits, restrictions, or conditions. I had to get so good with me, that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought.

Living without fear of judgement, without the need for validation from others is the closest thing to actual freedom I have ever felt. This freedom lends a safety, a comfort to life that nothing else can. When you experience this feeling of being totally at home in your skin, and seeing your scars as part of your perfection, all fear just fades away.

This kind of freedom scares the hell out of people who are not ready to own their shit and stand in their truth. These are the people who recoil when you say that really real thing that’s a little too much for them. These are the people who tell you you’re crazy for chasing that big dream with all your heart. These are the people who will encourage you to conform and play small so they can feel comfortable.

Maybe, that’s my actual area of expertise. Maybe, I’m an expert at making people uncomfortable.

My fascination with the human condition won’t allow me to be filtered, censored, or silenced. I need to know about, and talk about all the things that make us tick– especially the things we’re not suppose to bring up in polite conversation. I like to talk about sex, politics, religion, quantum theory, and my shitty childhood. I like to write about real life things that happened, and how they changed me. I like to talk about our patterns, how we learned them, and why we continue living in them, even when we really want to stop.

I’ve decided to embrace my new title– Renee Dubeau, “Expert”.

Expert lover.real raw

Expert dreamer.

Expert wine and cheese pairer.

Renee Dubeau, the expert comfort zone destroyer, and pattern crusher.

Renee Dubeau, expert sayer of the things no one wants to talk about.

Expert explorer of taboos and stigmas.

Renee Dubeau- expert owner of her shit… Yeah, that’ll do just fine.

Renee Dubeau– Authenticity Expert. That’s me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve grown restless.

An indescribable sensation consumes my days. It’s something like being trapped between duty and desire. The demands of logic and prudence shouting over the pretty whisper of my gypsy heart.

I’ve become conflicted. Completely certain, and also utterly unclear what it means to be alive, what it is to live. Dissonance rings between utility and divine purpose. It is a crisis of identity. A crisis of will. A crisis that threatens the very breath from my soul.

I’ve grown restless. Held in the mire of responsibility while longing for the frivolity of my dreams. Playing house in a tiny corner of the territory of my citizenship. My greatest fear, that my caged wings will perish before I am permitted to fly.

I’m breaking open. Pulled apart by the opposite forces that rule me. Of heart of head I can choose neither. Love or money may call to me, but my ears await the voice of freedom. I belong to no man, no country. I was born of the sky.

 

Photo: Wiki Commons

I Remember what I Wanted to be when I Grow up.

I believe it was in the third grade. My teacher passed out paper and crayons to the whole class and gave us one simple assignment. We were to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. It was likely an exercise we did at the beginning of every new school year.

It’s such a huge decision at 8 years old. There were so many possibilities- some I didn’t even know existed yet. At the bottom of the paper was the phrase, “When I grow up, I want to be a ___________.” I didn’t have to carve it in stone, I just had to choose something to write on that line.

I agonized over the decision until finally, I drew a lady behind a desk in a suit. On the line below, I wrote “journalist”. Back then, I thought a journalist was the lady who read the news on the TV, or maybe wrote a column in the news paper like Dear Abby.

This decision is memorable today for two reasons. First, because almost all the girls in my class filled in their line with the word, “cheerleader,” and most of the boys said, “football player”.

There was one little boy who drew a dinosaur skeleton. He said he wanted to be a scientist. I liked that boy. His dinosaur took up two sheets of paper. I could tell he was different, like me.

In a room full of cheerleaders, I was the only girl who chose journalism. It was basically the story of my life. I wasn’t athletic or popular in high school. I was a band geek, a literature nerd, and a social activist. I loved to read, write and create. I was passionate about the environment and animal rights.

Life took many twists and turns for me. I chose the wrong career for a season, and the wrong marriage. In my years as a bored housewife, I started writing again. I started a silly blog to share stories about my family. I never guessed in those early days of Dysfunction Diaries that I would actually become an author.

I recently remembered that drawing from third grade. Somehow my soul knew even then what its purpose is.

I’ve intentionally avoided writing about politics in the past. For some reason, I didn’t feel qualified to speak on such topics. I didn’t want the drama that could come with expressing my unpopular ideas. But, I dipped my toe into that world just before the election. Then, Trump won, and it seemed all I could do it write about it.

This gift that even my 8 year old soul could see. This voice I have been given- I will use it for good. I will channel that feisty teenager who spent her evenings banging out letters to companies about their environmental practices on an old typewriter. Together, we will rise up in the name of every single person who needs a voice right now.

Finally, thirty years later, I remember what I wanted to be when I grow up. Truly, it was the only thing I ever could be.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

 

How NaNoWriMo helped me get my $hit Together

NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. A global event, in which writers compete against their toughest opponents. I’m not talking about other writers, either. I mean our real opponents- like procrastination, resistance, time management, writer’s block, self doubt, fear and distractions of the two legged, four legged, electronic, and imaginary varieties.

I first learned about this hard core writing event from a friend. Her husband participated in November 2015. He began a fiction piece, and abandoned it midway when he got bored with his characters. I was certain that it wasn’t humanly possible to write that many words in a month anyway. He was crazy for even trying, right? Who does that?

His story stayed with me. As November approached, I wondered if I was crazy enough to give it a try. I’ve been trying to write a book for about four years. Of course, I wasn’t going to write that book for my first NaNo. No, you’re supposed to write a new book. So, I started bouncing around different ideas. I have lots of ideas, and lots of books inside me. The challenge isn’t coming up with the idea. The challenge is staying focused enough on one of those ideas to write the damn book and not give up when it feels too hard.

I was discussing one of my book ideas with my boo on the phone one night, when I went to the NaNoWriMo website to take a peek. As we were talking, I decided to go for it. I signed up and made a profile. I didn’t announce my novel, because I didn’t know which one I would be writing. I just made a page for myself to hold space there. I used my little bio and headshots from Elephant Journal. It was a small step, but a step toward throwing myself into a huge goal with a fast deadline. And, why not? Why not write my first book during my first NaNoWriMo? I just needed to make a decision and start planning.

I had almost settled on an idea, when my boo changed the game for me. We were talking through my memoir- the cathartic, heartbreaking, soul liberating piece that I’ve been writing for four years. In four years, I’ve torn it apart and started over three times. In four years, I’ve put it on the shelf and walked away from it more times than I can count. In four years, I couldn’t do what he did for me in one evening.

I started telling him the story, piece by piece, scene by scene. Finally he stopped me and said, “Babe. You’ve got three books here. You’ve got to spread it out and give yourself space to tell the whole story. It’s too big for one book. It’s a trilogy.”

I was floored. It seemed so obvious after he said it. Why didn’t I think of that? It was brilliant, and exactly the shift I needed to get refocused.

With my idea all nailed down for the first book, and my big, scary, fast deadline in sight, it was time to start planning. Except, that’s not really my thing. Usually, I spend a bunch of time outlining, storyboarding, brainstorming, and so on. Then, I start writing in a totally different direction and throw all of it out. I decided not to spend too much time on all the organizing stuff, and instead just start thinking about it.

I did other prep work, like scheduling some time off at my day job, scheduling writing dates with friends,  and stocking the kitchen with wine, coffee, and snacks. I bought a shiny new notebook, rainbow index cars, and kickass pens. Priorities- check.

I joined my local NaNo message boards and started getting connected with other writers. They have writing events all over the city during the month. At my very first one, I met a woman who was writing a screen play. We started talking, and she told me about Scrivener. There was a free trial on the NaNoWriMo website. I downloaded it and started playing with it that night. I’ve never used the words “life changing” to describe a software product until now. Holy $hit. I’ve never been so organized. Seriously, hands down, the most helpful writing tool I’ve ever seen.

Writing real life stuff can be tricky, especially if your story isn’t particularly happy. Usually, I feel like I have to be in the right headspace to tackle certain topics. Or, I wait for inspiration to find me before I start working on something. NaNo showed me that resistance is my way of avoiding the yucky things I don’t want to think about. Having that big word goal and fast deadline forced me to push through, even on the days I didn’t want to, when it made me cry, when my heart hurt, when I felt like this wounds might never heal. I had no choice but to keep writing. And, as long as I kept writing, inspiration kept showing up.

NaNo breaks down your 50k words into daily goals of 1666 words. Naturally, I didn’t do this consistently day by day. I wrote huge chunks of stuff in the beginning and got ahead of my target. Then, the election happened, life happened, work happened, and my vampire hours started catching up with me. There was a brief moment when I didn’t think I would finish. I was behind, and avoiding like crazy all the chaos I didn’t want to look at. But, I had made a commitment to myself. And, I had so many people cheering me on. Failure was not an option. I pushed through all my blocks, and kept writing my little heart out.

I finished my word goal around one o’clock in the morning on November 30th. With twenty-three hours to spare, I did it. I wrote over 50,000 words. My first novel was almost complete. I cried my face off. And, I kept writing.

NaNo was exactly what I needed to push past the fear that was holding me back. It gave me a reason to move my dream of becoming a published author to the top of my to-do list, and not let anything keep me from it. It gave me the opportunity to connect with other writers, try new tools, and come up with new ways to stay focused and keep writing when it gets hard.

Most of all, NaNoWriMo helped me prove to myself that nothing is impossible. Those big scary goals are attainable if we just keep working toward them a little bit every day. Each time we accomplish the next thing that we once believed we couldn’t, we realize our potential in a new way. We let go of the limitations we have imagined for ourselves, and begin to see how truly limitless we are.

With each victory, we become more prepared for the next big challenge, and we believe more completely in our ability to achieve that next impossible goal. When we step into our power this way, nothing can keep us from making our dreams our reality. Nothing can keep us from our dharma, our destiny, or the true desire of our hearts.

Namaste xo

Nee

 

 

 

 

Going back to my Roots…

I’m spending the day clicking down memory lane. It’s time for me to gather my little stories and give them to the world in book form. I’m just amazed looking back on Dysfunction Diaries. I had no idea where it would take me when I started writing all those years ago.

Reading these stories, I can clearly see my growth. I can almost pinpoint the exact moment in time when I realized that I am a writer. This blog was more than just a silly hobby. It was the first step in my writing career. It gave me a voice at a time in my life when I didn’t know I had one.

Dysfunction Diaries helped me gain creative confidence. Through the feedback of so many wonderful people, I began to see the talent I have been given for storytelling.

Dysfunction Diaries helped me grow a thick skin. I’ve learned to accept criticism. I’ve learned to speak my truth and honor my story- even when people don’t like it.

Most of all, Dysfunction Diaries opened me up, helped me see myself, my family, my experiences in a new way. I realized that my story was more than just humorous. If told honestly- it’s actually kind of awesome and inspiring.

I’m excited to go back to my roots for a little while and compile these stories- and also write some new ones! I can’t wait to hold my first, published, paper book in my hands!

Namaste xo

Nee

Photo: Preus Museum

Can’t You Write About Something Else?

“What do you want to do, write for MAD Magazine?” my dad asked.  Concern on his brow.  Disapproval in his tone.  “Why can’t you write about something else?”

I shrugged.  I thought it was funny.  My fifth grade teacher, however, refused to publish the political cartoon I had made poking fun at Vice President Quayle for misspelling potatoes (or tomatoes or whatever it was) in our school news paper.  She said it was disrespectful.

That was about the same time I wrote an essay for a contest at school.  We were supposed to write about our family.  I couldn’t wait for my parents to see my winning piece, hanging in the front hallway at school for the whole world to read.  “Although we’re not very close, we still love each other…”  was the only line either of them spoke aloud.  “Why would you write that?”

And so it began.  Censorship.  Criticism.  I didn’t know what I would do with my writing back then.  I just knew that I was good at it.  All of my teachers praised me. I could put together a research paper or book report easily.  And when I got to write about whatever I wanted to write about, that’s when I really shined.  I didn’t know where it would lead, I just knew that it felt good.

In High School, I kept my poetry stashed in a folder in my locker so my parents wouldn’t find it.  My English teacher frequently pulled me aside.  “Are things okay at home?  Should I be worried about you?  You’re not actually suicidal, right?”  I’m sure I scared her to death, but it was my catharsis, my therapy, my art.  The words flowed from me, even back then, and brought a healing to my soul that nothing else could.

Since then, I’ve scribbled in a hundred journals, and on secret sticky notes, and kept volumes of things typed in every electronic device I’ve ever owned.  At some point, about eight years ago, I decided to put myself out there with a silly little blog I called, Dysfunction Diaries.

I will never forget my first public post.  I was so excited to share hilarious stories about my crazy family- ala my ‘Mad Magazine’ roots.  “Renee, this might be the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.” someone commented on Facebook.  “Maybe,” I replied.  “Or, maybe I am on the verge of something genius.”  That is where it all began.  For every criticism, I received at least 10 compliments.  This is still true today.

The tough part about writing creative non-fiction, is that it makes people around me a little itchy sometimes- especially the ones who tend to take themselves too seriously.  Still, it’s the genre I’ve naturally gravitated to since I was a kid.  Truth has always been stranger than fiction in my world.  Although I do write some straight memoir work, mostly it is creative non-fiction- meaning that it’s based on a real story, but dramatized, embellished, exaggerated, and prettied up for comedic and/or dramatic effect.  (It’s art, people.)

I think my toughest critics fail to realize sometimes, that when I’m talking about my crazy family- I’m also talking about myself.  Clearly, I do not take myself at all seriously.  I truly believe that laughter can be the best medicine.  I also believe that there is a time to be humorous, and a time to be serious.  Whether I write humorously or seriously about my past, my family, my divorce, spiritual, political, or social issues- I am putting my heart and soul on the page for the world to read.  It takes a thick skin, and a certain amount of vulnerability to put myself out there for the world, but it is what I love.  I am thrilled to do it.

Whenever I share my stories, I am amazed at the responses.  It’s not just laughter, or the occasional criticism.  More often than not, the reaction I receive is “Oh my God. Me too.”  It’s amazing. By sharing little pieces of myself, and opening the dialogue with my story, people in turn open up and share pieces of themselves with me.  This is why I do what I do.  If my story can help, encourage, support, and/or inspire just one person, I am honored to share it.

So, to answer the question that has followed me from my elementary school days, “Why would you want to write about that?”.  There are so many answers.  Because, it’s true!  Because, it happened to me!  Because, it’s cathartic, healing, and therapeutic for me to write, and for others to read.  Because, I own my sh*t, I’m not afraid to share it, and I do not fear judgement for it.  Because, the story is like a parasite in my brain, and the only way to save myself from it is to put it on the page.  Because, it can be of benefit to others who share my struggles.  Anyone who has dealt with mental illness, abuse of any kind, married the wrong person, had their babies in their teens, grew up poor, has struggled with weight, substance abuse, loss… everyone can relate to something about my story.

Every experience in my life has brought me to this moment, and I have no choice but to take this leap of faith.  I trust and believe that I was given this story, and the talent to tell it, with a purpose.  My intention is never to hurt anyone with my work.  Quite the contrary.  There is no malice in my heart.  This is not to say that the story is always a pretty one.  Rather, it is an honest glimpse inside the heart and soul of me, with the sincerest hope that it will help and inspire everyone who takes time to read it.

I own everything that has happened to me.  It is my privilege, my joy, and my duty to share it.  It is my dharma- my purpose in life- to write, share, and speak my truth to all who can benefit from it. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. (And, to be clear… I definitely don’t want to…)

 

The End of an Era

The time has come for me to retire my first blog, Dysfunction Diaries.  It’s a bittersweet decision for me. I started that site about eight years ago. It was vulgar, irreverent, and usually hilarious. It’s where my writing career began- poking fun at my family and all the ridiculous things they do.

Dysfunction Diaries gave me a space in which to find my voice. It helped me begin to see myself as a writer. The feedback and encouragement I received while creating Dysfunction Diaries ultimately gave me the confidence to start writing my book, to join writing groups, take classes and workshops, and eventually to reach out to Elephant Journal with my work.

As I’ve grown as a person and an artist, my writing style has changed significantly. I’m much more interested in sharing my story now in a way that can help others. I’ve got a crazy story, and I know that the desire to tell it has led me to my purpose on this earth. I am truly grateful for every experience that has brought me to this moment, and it is always my sincere hope to uplift and inspire others with my words.

As I move into this next chapter of my life, I will not forget where I came from. I plan to honor Dysfunction Diaries by self publishing a collection of short stories from the site on Amazon later this year. It seems appropriate to allow Larry and the gang to live on even after the site has been put to rest.

If you’re a new reader, or you’ve been with me since Dysfunction Diaries began- thank you.  I appreciate you supporting me, as I make my dream of becoming a published author come true. I am the luckiest girl to always be surrounded with love and support. I couldn’t do this alone, and even if I could, I just wouldn’t want to.

Namaste

xo Nee

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