An Update on The Pause.

I have written more in the past week than I have written in months.

But first, let me tell you how I got there.

This process of pausing has been very bizarre and not at all what I expected. Last week’s post was something I’ve dreaded publishing for quite some time because I feared that once I decided to take a break, I’d never write again. I assumed the freedom from it would make me not think about writing, not want to write (even more that I already didn’t), and totally separate me from the process of thinking through writing about things. After I hit the publish button, the hurt hit me hard.

I published it before I had time to think about it, and before I really decided that yes, this is the day to do this. I guess that was best because otherwise I would have overthunk it (that’s a legit phrase) for days and never posted it, and then gotten another blog post idea and decided to put it off. Because that’s what I’ve done for the last three summers.

As soon as I hit publish and then shared it in my Blog Facebook Group, I felt sick. My head started pounding, my stomach revolted, I got chills, I felt nauseous. The full brunt of the fact that dysautonomia had won this particular battle (I fight it so hard in other areas of my life) greatly distressed me.

I texted Chris and told him all that, and that I kinda felt like crying. Which, admitting that you need to cry always does the trick. I totally started crying. And so I laid in bed and cried for a while.

I did not see any of that coming.

I had been thinking through that decision for five months, had talked to multiple friends about it, and had, I thought, processed the decision. But something about actually cutting off the arm that is my blog, rather than just thinking about cutting it off, was agonizing. (“It’s just a flesh wound!!”, they say. But it kinda wasn’t.)

Everyone’s kind and encouraging words were helpful. Everyone’s appreciation of the writing I had done was wonderful. (Blogging can be somewhat of a thankless job, but many of my readers have gone out of their way over the years to tell me how much they appreciated it.) But it still hurt like crazy. I went for a run in the woods alone, which is always a healing place for me. It was super humid from just raining, and there were gorgeous sunbeams floating through the humidity on the trails.

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One trail was covered in Black-Eyed Susans – thousands of them.

Noah had told me earlier that it looked like there would be a rainbow and I should go look for one, and sure enough, when I stepped off the trails, there was a rainbow there waiting for me.

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All of these beautiful signs of creation were the encouragement I needed – along with some introvert time in the woods.

The next day, I tried not to think about it. I was busy and pushed it out of my brain. But as I was driving home that afternoon, I had the strangest feeling. A familiar, yet long ago feeling…

I wanted to write.

I had all these thoughts popping into my head – turns of phrase, analogies, and more – and I needed to sit down at my computer and type them out.

So I did.

I started an offline journal. I wrote three “posts” that day. The freedom of writing without having to prepare it for publishing felt fantastic. I have written every day since. I have experienced the feelings freedom and creativity that have been gone for quite some time. Even my captions on Instagram and Facebook felt fresh to me (I was especially proud of that Pink Floyd reference that I’m not really old enough to understand.) It was the most unexpected turn of events – somehow typing the words I had dreaded on Tuesday broke some sort of chains on my brain, and it was actually working again. I was sure my creative inabilities had been due to my dysautonomia – but it turns out that at least part of it may have been more related to self-inflicted publishing pressure and stress.

Also known as…overthinking everything.

I quickly formed a plan: I clearly need some time to just write without the pressures of editing, hyperlinking, sharing, worrying about offending anyone, worrying about not making sense or not being as entertaining as I used to be. I made the decision that I would keep my journal offline for a month or two, then reassess where I am after that. At some point, I am going to have plenty of posts to share that I’ve written offline, if indeed I keep being able to write at this pace. And hopefully after a break from the pressures, I can reset my expectations and not worry so much.

So in summary, last week, my writing was in its Phoenix incineration phase.

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And this week, it’s an ugly, ashy, baby Phoenix. But it is happy and hopeful.

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Hopeful that soon, it will be my magical sidekick again.

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Random Analogies of Life.

I had a groundbreaking realization the other day while running – which makes sense, since that’s when my brain is most oxygenated. (Too bad I can’t write while running or I might write as often as I used to.) But seriously – this breakthrough could change the economic direction of the American public – are you ready?

New cars are like puppies. Or at least they are while you have young kids.

New cars are so fantastically adorable when you first get one. They smell delightful. They’re clean and lovely and snuggly and fresh and feel so so good to be with. They make precious noises and snuggle with you just right. You delight in their presence and revel in their newness.

But within a year, or maybe a few hours, the kids spill Cheez-its in the seatbelt crack, drop a sucker (and leave it) on the floormat, crunch Chick-Fil-A crumbs into the now sticky sucker puddle, and can’t manage to take a single piece of trash with them. Ever.

Within a year, your adorable puppy is now a mangy mutt. It smells of dog breath and licks you with its gunk if you get too close to it. You try and clean it, but it only stays clean for about a day (and you can’t *really* ever get into all its crevices and have a completely sterile creature ever again.) It has lost all its cuteness and is now just another mouth to feed (unleaded, regular, please.) Every time someone new gets in your car, you have to say, “Sorry for the smell. I hope you don’t get licked. And don’t scratch that spot or it will soil you.”

As cute as puppies are, they’re not worth the smelly dogs they become.


The kids were watching The Trolls Movie the morning of Independence Day. I sat down watched the opening sequence with them.

Let’s review…

Against the advice of wise and paranoid Branch, Princess Poppy throws a giant party.

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At Poppy’s party, they’re celebrating 20 years since they escaped from the Bergen (those evil villains who love to eat Trolls.)

So basically, they’re celebrating their Independence Day. I thought, as I sat there on July Fourth with my children, “what a perfect time to watch this movie.”

They’re shooting off fireworks and partying and …. all a bit too loudly, because pretty soon, who comes stomping through the forest, but the Grand Huntress Bergen Chef herself – she pounds through, rattling the forest, then towers over the Trolls.

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She curls her lips into a wicked smile and says “Gotcha.”

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That night, I was taking pictures of our own Independence Day fireworks. We were right below Vulcan, where the show takes place, closer than we’ve ever been, reveling in the beauty and party and also the loudness of it.

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But instead of reveling in the patriotic beauty of our independence, I could not help but picture a giant, massive, ground-shaking Queen Elizabeth stomping up 20th Street, pushing past Vulcan, staring down at me,

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then curling her lips evilly down at me and saying “Gotcha.”

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I really felt like we should have learned from the Trolls movie and celebrated our Independence just a tad bit quieter. I don’t want to be fed to the British.

Here’s a Little Ditty, about Willard and Eugene.

You may remember dear, kind former neighbor, Not-Crazy-Renee. Or  maybe you don’t. If you don’t, I demand that you immediately go do your homework and read everything in this category. You won’t regret it.

Snakey Butters Buttercup made appearances in at least two of those stories. We’ll refer to her as SBB, out of mercy for my fingers.

SBB is a Butterball Python that is the pet belonging to Not-Crazy-Renee’s seven-year-old daughter. She’s been around a few years and I kinda love her. I’ve fed her, I nearly got to mid-term-babysit her (as their realtor told them they could *never* sell a house with a snake in it and so Renee was going to move SBB to my house for staging purposes, but then her husband stepped in, fed up with realtor demands, and said “If they don’t want my house with a snake in it then they don’t deserve my house!” or something similar, thereby dashing my chances of being a snake foster mom), and in general we love each other.

But Not-Crazy-Renee had the indecency to move out of state last year. She went from being my neighbor to leaving me in distress and loneliness on a daily basis. I’ve been to visit her twice, the second time being last week.

I was thrilled to see that SBB had grown tremendously since my first visit last fall. In fact, I couldn’t tell that Not-Crazy-Renee’s children had grown, but totally gushed over how tall SBB had gotten.

Imagine my further excitement when I realized that I was assigned the bedroom in which SBB stayed, her glass cage just a couple feet away from my feet. And then there was my further incandescent happiness when I realized that SBB is nocturnal – and does little cage dances in the night – cage dances that make a cracking sound and feel thrillingly like she’s going to get out and eat me at any moment. Because it was clear that she definitely wanted to eat me in my sleep.

While I was there, the time came for SBB to have her weekly meal. Since she has indeed enlarged since she lived in Birmingham, she now gets two mice instead of one. Typically, Not-Crazy-Renee puts one mouse in the cage, and upon the finishing of that mouse, she puts the second mouse in the cage – the dessert mouse if you will. This is to protect SBB from any accidental damage from extraneous mice and to not confuse the feeding process.

But NCR always gets a little wacky when I come around, and on a lark, she stuck both mice in at once.

Then we sat back with our popcorn and waited expectantly.

The mice dumbly nosed around the cage, checking out their fortuitous new digs. They nincompoopedly skittered up to SBB, sniffing her shiny, scaly body with interest. We named the mice Eugene and Willard as we watched them idiotically bump into their upcoming fate.

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Eugene was the first to make the wrong move. He walked right in front of SBB’s face and just stood there.

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We knew it was coming. She pounced at high speed and grabbed him up, curling herself around him and retreating into her cave to finish the job of death before starting the job of lunch.

Meanwhile, Willard kept dumbly loitering throughout the cage, clueless of the dark, choky end that his friend was currently experiencing.

tenor-13“Hey Eugene!! Come check out this cave I found!! Eugene!! Eugene??”

A few minutes later, SBB, needing to stretch out to actually swallow the now-deceased-Eugene (may he Rest In Peace), emerged from the cave and began positioning her jaw and neck (do snakes have neck? Are snakes all neck?) to work Eugene down the hatch.

As she had Eugene, face-first in her throat with his butt in the air (containing a bit of “I pooped my pants” sticking out like a last failed missile), Willard happened to walk by, chanting “der der der”, as is the custom of mice, the dumbest and naivest of all creatures.

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But then Willard saw Eugene.

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And I saw the scales fall from his eyes.

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He, as the first second mouse ever to be allowed into SBB’s domain, had come to realize what this situation held.

And he ran.

He ran across the cage, found another cage, and I KID YOU NOT, started pushing woodchips in front of the entrance to create a barricade.

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He cowered in the back corner of the cave, hoping that somehow he could wait out the wrath of this magnificently dinosauric (to him) creature.

But swallowing a mouse is no quick process, and SBB took her time getting poor Eugene down.

Willard is like me, whereas his physical response to emotions takes a few minutes to kick in. After a spell of hiding in his cave, he started shaking all over, panicking. He realized that he could not cower and do nothing. He sprinted for the cage walls and began climbing the seams, looking for any opening or looseness from which to escape.

Meanwhile, The Massive Creature behind him was swallowing the last bit of Eugene’s tail.

Willard began running and shaking, pacing and pushing, doing anything to escape this Jurassic Hell. He pondered his life, wondering what it all meant, how he had ended up here, and was this always his purpose?

SBB finished her dinner and moved on to find Willard, sensing his presence nearby. She creepily began flicking her tongue, chasing his scent in a slow, methodical, utterly horror movie fashion. She’d track him to a corner, and Willard would hightail it out of there. SBB would stick around for a minute, tasting the air, and then determining that the dinner course had indeed moved on.

Two times they came face to face, Willard being very still, thinking this would save him, and SBB tasting the breath coming out of his mouth.

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Then Willard would peel out, spraying woodchips in SBB’s face. SBB would continue the slow, evil stalk.

I watched this for over an hour. I realized this was the first time in her life that SBB had a cognizant prey. A prey that realized he was prey and not just a dumb mouse walking into her outstretched hands (which she obviously didn’t have but those mice are so dumb she didn’t need them.) I wondered if she was enjoying the hunt. If she was feeling a primal urge inside of her to fully engage and win at something that she wasn’t predeterminedly set up to win.

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But finally, she bored of the game. She lay down, stretching out luxuriously, facing the corner in which Willard shook and hid.

Hours later, I came in the room to go to bed. There were still two creatures in the cage. I had gone from sleeping with a snake to sleeping with a snake and his saved midnight snack. The night consisted of cave creakings and the scratches of a continuously fleeing Willard.

When I woke up the next morning, I miraculously still had two roommates. They now seemed at peace with each other, SBB givin’ Willard some respect props, both using the same water bowl and hanging out in the same area. No one was shaking, no one was hunting. They had truly become roommates – the type that maybe is infuriated by the other every now and then but wouldn’t be with anyone else. They were Chandler and Joey sharing an apartment. They were gossiping about Ross and Rachel.

After I left, Renee set Willard free. It had been nearly 24 hours and he clearly wasn’t going to be eaten.

I pondered his life, the crazy turn it had taken, and his new future, free and liberated. He had the world ahead of him, but he was probably also wounded from the horror flick he’d just lived through. He was the one character that made it out, trudging wearily from the haunted house, covered in blood and haunted by memories of his friends being brutally torn apart by the monster.

So I asked Renee. Do you think the PTSD he now lives with was worth his freedom?

I was worried for his mental peace.

But ever the optimist, she replied,

“I think of him like a gladiator that survived the arena and fought his way to freedom. He. is. Maximus Mouse.”

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So there you go. He is a victor. He won The Hunger Games. He survived in the evil, bloody game of life.

At least for five minutes, until a hawk snatches him up.