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Renee Dubeau

A little bird with a big song.

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Writerly Things

I Made a Thing.

They say when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. They also say that writers should avoid clichés, but this one really works for me…

There are lots of ways to make lemonade- to focus on the positive, to find a place of gratitude in our struggle, or make things sweet even when they just kind of suck.

Writing is my lemonade. It’s the best therapy I’ve ever found, and the only way I’ve ever been able to make sense of my life.

Today, I published my first book, Dysfunction Diaries. It’s a collection of short stories from my early years as a humor writer. It’s ridiculous, vulgar, and exactly how I had to tackle the impossible job of becoming an author. It was my first little blog, the first website I built all by myself, and today, it’s my first book. That feels pretty awesome.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen. I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be surrounded by so much love.

Namaste

xo Renee

 

 

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He Helps Me Believe.

Five years post-divorce I thought my healing work was done. I thought I loved myself with the full capacity of my heart and soul. I thought my outlook on life was as rosy as it would ever be. I thought I had everything figured out. Then, life sent me a wonderful surprise, and I fell in love.

Falling in love seems to be the worst thing that can happen to a writer like me. Where does one find inspiration in a happy heart? And, how does one convey in words the deep swirling, ecstasy, bliss and fear that occur simultaneously while opening our hearts to a new partner? If I were to try to put that complex emotion into words, the most simple, honest way I could describe my new love, is this: He helps me believe.

He helps me believe that there are still good men in the world. He shows me every day that chivalry is not dead. The Southern gentlemen I thought only existed in movies are real life unicorns who walk among us. It’s more than opening doors or buying flowers. It’s holding me in the safety of his embrace while I sleep. It’s his strong arm pressed against my chest when the car comes to a sudden stop. It’s the way he keeps his promises. The way he jumps up from the dinner table to wash the dishes after I’ve prepared a meal. The way he creates space for me to be exactly who I am, and encourages me to follow my crazy dreams. These romantic gestures come so naturally to him, sometimes I don’t know if he even realizes he’s doing it. But each time he does, he helps me believe a little more in the power of  those little, everyday things that make a person feel honored, respected, and loved.

He helps me believe in the power of real, raw, passionate, beautiful physical pleasure. Sex that does not hurt. Sex that does not demean or degrade. Sexual expression that allows for fantasy and fun, and deep soul connection.

He helps me believe that my satisfaction is important, and my body is wholly adequate and desirable.

He helps me believe that I am ok, after years of believing I wasn’t. And in that, I see how very wrong I was to hate my body, and punish myself for the misdeeds of others who failed to see her as sacred and perfect.

He helps me believe in daddies. Daddies whose hands don’t hurt their children. Daddies whose words empower and encourage. Daddies who provide for, protect and nurture their little ones.

He helps me believe in daddies who read bedtime stories, kiss booboos, build erupting volcanoes for science projects, and get a little choked up when their baby nails their flute solo.

He helps me believe in daddies who stay. They stay because leaving their children would be like cutting off their own hands. They stay because they intuitively understand that their engagement in the lives of their children is vital to their wellbeing. They stay because they know how their relationship with their children will influence all future relationships they have with men.

He helps me believe that the kind of daddy I wished and prayed for as a child was not something I imagined, but something very real that a few really lucky little girls get to experience in this lifetime. This gives me infinite hope that the husband I dreamed of is also real.

He helps me believe in fairytales and super-heroes . Even though this princess is totally capable of saving herself, it sure feels nice to have a prince hold my hand through the hard stuff. Sometimes, he rescues me and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the way he gives himself to me so selflessly. The way he protects me, and supports me through life’s challenges is something I’ve never experienced. He reminds me that sometimes home is a person, not a  place. That safety, comfort, and love can be embodied by those who wish to extend such things to the ones they cherish.

He helps me believe that we can build a life and a future from a place of pure honesty. Our only motive to share a big, happy adventure together.

He helps me believe in love. Real love. The kind of love where both partners give and take equally. The kind of love that allows both partners to be exactly who they are in the world and inspires them both to be the best versions of themselves. The kind of love that allows for disagreements with kindness and respect, and celebrates milestones and victories for each individual as victories for all.

He helps me believe in me, in us, in families and forevers. He helps me believe that the best years of my life haven’t happened yet. He helps me believe that we are an unstoppable force, and nothing will keep us from accomplishing all we desire together.

 

Photo Credit: Le pont des Arts

What it Means to Stand in my Truth.

In the spring of 2011, I traveled to India. It was the most exhilarating and terrifying thing I’ve ever done. I got so far from my comfort zone, I came back changed. I began to question everything. I was thirty-three years old, and had absolutely no idea who I was. Motherhood seemed to be my only purpose on this planet. Though it was a noble one, I knew that I was meant for something more. But, what?

I had always felt that something was missing in my life. I struggled with depression and anxiety. I was surrounded by friends, but felt so alone. A year after that fateful trip, I was ready for a big change. The life I was living was a lie. All of it. In my heart I knew it. Our perfect little picket fenced suburban existence was little more than a house of cards. If I was ever going to be happy, it was time to knock it down.

Since starting over and finding my way back to myself, I’ve been obsessed with truth and authenticity. I write and speak often of “my truth”— standing in it, owning it, accepting it, embracing it. But, it occurred to me that while I’ve put little pieces of my story out there, I haven’t really explained what it means to stand in my truth, to own it, accept it, and embrace it completely.

My truth is pretty fucking messy. I guess that’s why I lived a lie for so long. I went around trying to convince everyone that I was ok for three decades. I wasn’t ok. I was a liar. I was a coward. I was doing what I thought I had to do to survive. Mostly, I was trying to tell the sick, scared, broken little girl inside myself to sit down and be quiet. I neglected her. I neglected us. But, ignoring the gaping hole inside me would never make it go away. Filling it with addictions, distractions, eating disorders, toxic relationships and self-punishment would never help me heal.

Healing would take some work. Hard, honest, real, raw, soul work. I would have to rip the scabs off all of my wounds and allow them to bleed again. I would need the light of day to kiss them, and oxygen to surround them. The things I’d worked so hard to conceal and avoid would have to be revealed for my healing to begin. I would have to finally admit that all the years I thought I was battling my demons, I had really only been running from them.

Standing in my truth means not being afraid of my darkness or ashamed of where I came from. Owning my truth means sharing all of who I am with the world, without fear of judgement. It means looking for the gifts and lessons in the ugliest parts of my history, instead of trying to conceal or avoid them. Living my truth means being exactly the same person at the office as I am when I’m home with my family or out with my friends. It’s offering the world an honest expression of my soul every day.

My truth is: My first childhood memory is being molested. I was three years old. It happened at the dinner table in my parents’ home. I was sitting on the neighbor’s lap. My daddy was right across the table. I told my mother that it was happening. She didn’t know how to help me, so she didn’t. That man was invited into our home over and over until I spoke up at age sixteen.

My truth is: My dad is schizophrenic, and my mother has her own set of issues. In my childhood home, I learned that abuse feels like love. I learned that grownups cannot be trusted, promises are seldom kept, and there is never, ever enough time, money, food, love, or attention to go around. I learned that I was bad, loud, bossy, fat, and annoying. My baby sister, however, was none of those things, and that is why I hated her.

My truth is: The only substance I could turn to for comfort in my early childhood was food. I began binge eating as a little girl, and continued with that until high school. In high school, I desperately wanted to be pretty, and to be pretty, you had to be thin. I became anorexic. I gave up my food rituals and replaced them with cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, cutting, and sex. I struggled with one or all of those for the rest of my life– and still struggle to this day.

My truth is: I feel like an orphan child with living parents. I remember standing in the window of our trailer as a little girl, waiting for my real parents– the ones who loved me. I just knew they would come back for me someday, and they must have had good reasons for leaving me there with that family where I didn’t belong. I began mourning the loss of my parents when I realized the ones I wished for were not coming.

My truth is: I got pregnant in high school by a drug head loser who couldn’t be a father. I went to my high school graduation in a maternity dress, which felt like a great big scarlet letter. People were not kind to me when I was a pregnant teenager. I felt like a failure, like I would never be a good mother, and like no man would ever want me with the giant pile of baggage I was dragging around.

My truth is: I married one of my best friends from high school when my daughter was two years old. He loved us both to the best of his ability, but, there was always something missing in our marriage. We distracted ourselves with money– chasing it from job to job, state to state. We reached a point where no new house, car, or extravagant vacation brought us any joy. We were miserable. We were making our kids miserable. I finally asked for a divorce a year after our trip to India. It was the first time I was honest about how empty our home felt to me. When I got honest, he did too. That’s when he came out of the closet.

My truth is: I was relieved to learn my ex-husband is gay. It meant that there was nothing wrong with me. It meant I could stop hating my body. People often asked me if I was angry with him for concealing his sexuality. I never felt I had a right to be angry with him. We were the same in that relationship– both hiding who we really were because we thought we had to. I’m grateful for the ways our marriage changed my life, for our children, and everything I learned from our years together.

My truth is: I made a lot of mistakes with my children I wish I could take back. I was young, impatient, and for the first several years poor and barely surviving. I was living to please another person instead of being who I am. I didn’t give them the best of me until after our divorce. That’s my biggest regret in life. Thankfully, we have wonderful, open, loving relationships today.

My truth is: I don’t hate any of the people from my past. I know that my parents did the best they could with what they had to work with. I know the man who abused me did so from his own pain and sickness. Being a survivor of sexual abuse has not been easy, but it has made me damn strong and resiliant. Sharing that part of my story has been incredibly powerful, and connecting with other survivors has brought me peace and healing I never imagined.

My truth is: I used to belive that there was something wrong with me that made other people treat me badly. I thought I was born with an inherent flaw that somehow made me worthy of abuse. As the abuse piled up over the years, I began believing I was damaged because of the things that were done to me. I let shame keep me from realizing my potential. I didn’t think I was worthy of love, happiness, prosperity, or respect. Today, I know that I am now– and always have been– perfect. I know that the people who hurt me did so from their own fucked-up-ness. It didn’t have a thing to do with me.

My truth is: I know who I am now, and I love that girl. I know my past only defines me if I allow it to. I could choose to be a bitter, angry, hateful person if I wanted to. Who could blame me? Instead, I choose love. I choose peace. I choose happiness in each moment. I choose to be grateful for my life, and embrace all of who I am. I know that each experience brought me here to this moment, where I can see my own courage, strength, and fortitude.

My truth is: I am a badass motherfucking warrior princess. I survived a hell most people can’t imagine. I didn’t just survive there. I learned how to thrive. I am the pioneer who stepped into the unknowns of life beyond the edges of my hometown where the world is still flat. And when I did, I left the cycles of poverty, abuse and dysfunction I grew up in behind. I had some angry years, and some difficult days fighting inside myself. Then, I learned the beautiful arts of forgiveness and surrender. I learn to extend unconditional love and acceptance to myself. I learned to put myself first. I found my power, my voice, my ability to manifest the life I desire. Finally, I realized I was worthy of such things.

My truth is: I am perfectly imperfect. Like every human being on this earth, I make mistakes. Hopefully, I learn from them before repeating them too many times. I still fall into old habits, still have the same old fears sometimes, and still have moments of wishing I had a “normal family”, whatever the fuck that even looks like.

My truth is: From my pain, I’ve learned deep empathy and compassion for others. I am a better person because of my struggles. Knowing that my story gives a little glimmer of hope to another human being is my greatest joy.

Standing in my truth means awknowledging all of my scars. It means owning every single thing that happened to me. It means knowing that those things do not define the woman I am today, and yet, I couldn’t be who I am without the lessons and gifts that came from those experiences.

This is me– beautifully broken, perfectly human me– standing in, owning, and embracing my truth. This is me– healed, whole, happy, healthy me– leaving fear and shame in the past. This is my story, I am the author, and I get to choose my very own happy ending.

 

 

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…)

 

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