Both/And, Guilty Diva Edition

I mentioned in my last post, the one about the RITAs, that I’ve been wrestling more and more with the idea of both/and. Not just accepting that life is full of contradictions, but working to make space in my psyche, heart, etc. to hold those contradictory things. And, of course, the idea that being able to hold both is the source of both wisdom and joy.

To that end, I’ve settled into being a RITA finalist. I’m celebrating some good reviews for my newest book, Recipe for Love, and not letting myself get bogged down by the bad ones. I’m even feeling okay about my job—sort of wishing I didn’t need to have it and knowing that I do good work and am a better person (and writer) for having the structure (and the income).

If you know much about me, these things probably don’t surprise you. I can be very reasonable. But if you know anything about me at all, you also know this stuff is child’s play. Just wait until we get to the feelings.  Cue hand flailing, groaning, and other modes of deflection. Just ask my therapist.

Speaking of therapists, I have a great one. I had a session with him yesterday (yes, right before flying to Scotland) and that’s what has inspired this post. Warning: I’m going to talk about feelings now.

I was telling him about burlesque, about my (mis?)adventures in dating. About feeling like I was finally settling into the idea that some folks are going to find me attractive. And he says to me, I kid you not, “Do you know anyone who is trying to do this expansive, open thing with their life right now who is rocking it better than you?”

I thought about all the people who’ve called me brave, or crazy, or any number of things they mean in a complimentary way. Of the things I’ve done in the last year that seemed, not that long ago, unimaginable. And in a moment of sassy diva (or brazen ego) I said, “No, I’m rocking it pretty hard.”

We sat with that, celebrated it. For about thirty seconds.

“Why do I feel like such a hot mess, then?” I asked.

He asked me to elaborate, as he is wont to do. And I realized that my particular perception of being a hot mess is a certain unease, laced with guilt. “Say more,” he says. He always says this. And then he helps me make sense of it.

My guilt comes in two flavors. The first is the rational response to a situation that inspires me to act. I.e., I wrestle with my privilege and know I’m not giving as much time or energy to social justice causes as I would like. This is useful and healthy and motivating, and also rather boring.

The second is far more, er, interesting. It’s guilt of the who-do-you-think-you-are variety. It’s the hope-you’re-having-fun-because-you’re-going-to-end-up-alone little voice.  The you’re-wasting-your-life tsk of disapproval.  It’s the sad little girl who doesn’t believe she deserves all the love/sex/adventure/bliss. The one who makes me hide my face behind a pillow because I so don’t want to go there when my therapist brings her up and wants to be tender with her.

Yeah. I didn’t want to go there. But my therapist is good, so we did. And here I sit. Rocking it. Feeling like a hot mess. Both/and. Easy peasy. I hear this is the path to enlightenment.

6 thoughts on “Both/And, Guilty Diva Edition

  1. Beth says:

    From afar, I’m watching you rock it like a warrior. Life is sometimes like a roller coaster, wild , crazy and scary as hell…….and yet we jump right back on for the next ride. Believe in yourself, know you’re doing good things for a lot of people. some that you don’t even know.
    You’re doing great, keep rocking it!!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Rock on Aurora!!!
    I don’t know you personally but what I have read of you and the glimpses of your personality that I’ve seen I would like to commend you on your bravery. Your work towards being a better you and literary contributions that others (me/ your readers) have been lucky to be a part of has been wonderful. You touch so many people with your words and it means so much. It matters! Your words matter, your growth matters…you matter! So rock on Aurora, you’re doing great🤗

  3. Kimberly says:

    You are fabulous. You are rocking it. You are my s-hero! But, I get it. The insecurities that make you a terrifically charming person also like to steal your confidence. When my little girl raises her unsure hand or wants to hide her timid face I talk to her in words she understands: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those mind don’t matter, and those who do don’t mind.” – Dr. Suess

  4. Lynne Carlson says:

    I agree with Beth. you are rocking your life like a warrior. The strongest warrior is scared, it helps keep them alive. Life is always about growing, changing and moving forward. It doesn’t matter if you go slow, fast or idle for a while. Changes are awkward and scary. As long as you stay true to you, you are good.
    As for the second guilt trip…. you are a beautiful, amazing woman who has the audacity to try to live her life to the fullest. Be that diva! Both/and is the best!
    Be safe on your travels. (and if you want talk more about dealing with privilege, we can do that as well, I am now usually the only white person in my classes.)
    Enjoy your trip and drink in the wonders of Scotland… come back with stories overflowing and keep moving forward. I have a bunch of platitudes but you don’t need them. You are proof that change is good, scary as hell, but good. BE YOU!

  5. Lynne Carlson says:

    Celebrate your successes.. Revel in them to recharge yourself.
    Change is how we grow. I am intimately acquainted with the scary parts of change, (I have so many stories!) far more than I ever wanted to be. As for the guilt, that’s normal as you know. That’s the caring, loving side of you.
    Yes, change brings wisdom and growth and it can be a pain in the ass to go through. And all the platitudes about it are true and sometimes annoying to hear, so you can run through them in your head now.
    From what I have gleaned about you, through your books and reading your responses on FB, is that you are a beautiful, amazing woman who has the guts to step out of her comfort zone to be a little outrageous. She’s embracing herself and learning she is the (her)self she can be.

    Enlightenment is yours, my friend. Your Both/And is what keeps you rocking your life. (and that tractor!).
    If I could afford to buy enough of your books so that you could write full time I would but I am but a poor college professor at this point. But I will always try to make you smile when I can.
    Be strong, Be daring Just Be You.
    Have safe travels. Learn “stuff” while you’re away.

  6. Julie H Chrystal says:

    Sounds to me that being in Scotland the land of the warrior poets which has a unicorn for its national animal and a small prickly purple thistle for its national flower. It’s a whole country trying to get over its guilt at sneaking in the best national animal on the planet without being too prickly. Enjoy the tension. Love ALL your books.

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