Ode to A Life

You all know that I signed with Anvil Publishing for a new book entitled The Year I Left. As the title implies, this is a story about a woman’s struggle to choose between herself and the people she loves.

Death has affected me more than once. The most impactful loss was that of my mother seven years ago. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine a life, a world, without her. She was everyone’s ally, the life of the party, confident, secure, fun loving. Even when she fell ill, I thought she would fight with death, give it a run for its money. I never thought that death would win. Her zest for life was so strong, I thought she would overcome every threat that came along.

What happened to my mother shook me to the core.

Here’s the thing. The gravity of such a loss doesn’t really manifest itself immediately. I immersed myself in a huge project at work, thinking that if I traveled enough and kept myself busy enough, things would go back to normal.

It took months for my grief to show itself in ways that took over my life. I wanted to live. I wanted to start over. I filled my heart with regret and sadness and clamored to find what I thought I was missing. Whatever it was I’d given up by raising three children at a young age, I wanted to recoup, re-visit, re-capture. And for two years, I was stuck in a cycle of losing myself in….well, a person, people, things.

To finally admit my grief, to mourn my mother and address the issues facing me was the only way I was able to lift myself out of this funk and get my life back on track again.

Last week’s horrific tragedy in Las Vegas reminds me that life is truly vulnerable.

That we are all living on borrowed time.

Everything I am, all that I have, is fleeting and temporary. This life, this job, these people – they can all disappear in the blink of an eye.

So I have to ask: before I die, what can I do to truly live?

It takes a bit of selfishness to live the life you want. To take care of your needs, feed your heart with your personal hopes and dreams, love the person you want to, cry over the things you hold dear. You need to give yourself the time to cultivate your heart.  Allow it to choose who to love (even if just for two years), what to want.

I can honestly say that no matter how difficult life’s lessons have been, I don’t regret a thing.

The moments that define us are usually the saddest times of our lives, the actions we’re not very proud of, the people who have hurt us, the people who have made us whole. But to have these experiences, we need to be willing to close our eyes and put ourselves out there. Realize that there’s a life to be lived and we should be right in the middle of it. Let’s not waste time trying to figure out what others will think, what others might say.

We all deserve to have a great love story.

We sure as hell know how to write it.

Now, if only we could live it.

 

Never an Outsider

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. The good and bad that social media has brought into our lives. Do you remember the days before Facebook, when you were on your own, living your life without watching the lives of others? How about that enigmatic high school crush who lived in your head until you found him on Facebook and either he a., hasn’t aged very well, or b., has been remarried six times. Best to leave those things to your imagination, isn’t it?

Admitting that social media has allowed us to reconnect with others, opened our world to things we would never have experienced through the experiences of others, and created a forum for us to share our similarities – it has also highlighted our differences, don’t you think?

But here’s a different way of putting it – differences are actually good things. They make life interesting, allow us to grow in perspective and broadens our vantage point. And because we’re so afraid to let others know that sometimes, we’re just not sold on something, we retreat to ourselves, lest we become the outsider.

One way or another, at some point in our lives, we’ve become the outsider.

Sometimes, it’s a point of view we don’t share, a thought we don’t support, or maybe even people who just don’t to want to include us. We don’t have that look, we don’t dress like everyone else, we march to the beat of a different drum. In our book world, it comes in the form of being the unknown among a group of knowns. The uninvited, the unmentioned. The un-commenting, non-committal bystander. In the corporate world, it happens when you don’t agree with a certain point of view or you’re ostracized because you’re not cool enough or savvy enough.  In the working world, there are levels. And the higher up you are, the more you become an outsider.

Either way, you’re on the outside looking in, always on the peripheral, wanting to scratch through the door so they can let you in. But why? Why do we strive so much for acceptance, why do we take it so personally when we don’t jibe with people we think we should, and try to force our way through? Shouldn’t we be confident enough to trust in ourselves when it comes to fitting in?

One of the biggest social influences of our time is conformity. When you’re not part of a group of lemmings who mirror each other’s actions and words, you’re just not part of the clique. And in the days of social media, not jumping on the bandwagon or voicing your opinion about relevant issues makes you tepid, uninvolved and dispassionate. Some of us just don’t like the attention. And aside from not having the time to indulge, most of us are comfortable living our lives moving forward, not backward. Inherent in human nature (and I am a human, so it doesn’t exclude me) is the need for acceptance. And more often than not, a jilted friendship, an un-extended invitation, non-response, lukewarm reception – is more a reflection of the situation and not of you.

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The point of all this is that individualism should be celebrated. Whether you’re vocal about issues or you keep things to yourself, it doesn’t mean that you don’t belong. Don’t change your behavior or your points of view just because they aren’t the most popular ones at the moment. Instead, strive to remain honest to yourself and move in that direction. Because when you are comfortable with being who you are, when you’re loved and supported by those who matter, you’re never really an outsider.

You’re just different.

You’re YOU.

*(FOR MORE ON BEING DIFFERENT, CLICK HERE TO READ ALL ABOUT WHAT I LOVE TO WEAR via SIMONETTA LEIN’s INTERVIEW)

 

When You Least Expect It

 

Life is full of expectations, isn’t it? It’s human nature – giving all we can of ourselves in the hope that we get something in return. At work, it’s recognition and respect for the efforts we put in. In love, it’s to be loved right back, a heart for a heart, selflessness for giving. In friendship, it’s loyalty for companionship, laughter and escape for sadness.

Anyway…I posted this on Facebook but deleted it shortly after. I wanted the chance to expand my thoughts a bit further, explain what I meant when I wrote about the kind gesture that a certain blogger had done for me. It touched me so much because I’d been quite excessive on the giving end lately. It makes me break out in hives when I’m on the receiving end. What Ellie did for me was totally unexpected. This woman hardly knows me. And yet, she put in time to read my book and review it, despite the ongoing pressures of editing her clients’ books and planning an event in October. She read my words, lived in my head and fell in love with my characters. No other blogger of her caliber had even given me the time of day.

Ellie McLove made my day, my week, my month. That review is her token of selflessness towards me and all the authors she supports. And I am extremely thankful for her kindness.

Every so often, life throws you a surprise that restores your faith in people. And in managing your expectations, you become humbled by the simplicity of intent and the grandiose effects of a good deed.

Read Love N Books’ review of In This Life Here:

And by the way, I’ll be at their annual Las Vegas book signing event. Hope to see you there!

Humankind

 

My brain never stops working. I can’t shut it off. This week, I purposely took a break from it all and stayed at my place of refuge for a few nights. I needed to catch up with an old friend, sit at a bar, pollute my lungs a little bit, and take a moment for myself. Times like those are a necessity in my life. They allow me to take stock and plan.

I live by plans and goals. That’s just how I do things. Sometimes, I allow my heart to get carried away too far – but times like these allow me to pull back and regroup.

It was great having some quiet time, although I didn’t get to write at all.  I’d been feeling quite introspective lately, so I had to wrap it up in a summit with myself. In between vegging out on Forensic Files and working on presentations, I was able to find clarity. The questions that were bogging me down – the stress, the difficulties, the elation of success, the people in my life. There is such diversity all around me – it was time to take stock of things and ensure that I take things in perspective.

This week, I realized much about humanity.

About people’s actions and motivations, the need to belong and the struggle to survive.

I’d been beset with so much kindness in many different forms: A supervisor who encourages and trusts, a friend whose love withstands time and distance, a daughter who loves me like a best friend, an enigmatic group of people who treat me as their equal, an important offer to do good in the world, a family who calls me home at the end of every difficult day. These things ground me, help me weather the inevitable balance that grief and sadness bring to the table. When the shoe is on the other foot, when you’re the insider and not the outsider – it’s easy to forget adversity. That’s why it takes extra effort to remember the times when you weren’t who you are or what you wanted to be. Putting things in perspective helps to grant you an understanding of why people do what they do. Why there’s hurt and anger, jealousy and despair.

These past two weeks, I’d been so focused on the pain that someone had caused me, it took this time away to fill my heart with enough gratitude to let it go. When you take the good that is given you and bestow it upon others, the heavy veil of resentment lifts away and you are freed.

Easier said than done, of course. But next time you are wallowing in sorrow over something that you can’t control – think of the good things. Think of the kind humans who have raised you up and taken you with them, and leave those other ones behind.

Book Review (Sort of): Atheists Who Kneel and Pray by Tarryn Fisher

 

 

Dear Tarryn,

I used to make the annual Goodreads challenges. These days, I’d be lucky if I read ten books in one year. You can say that my schedule hardly allows me time to sit down and enjoy a good book. But the truth is, I’ve really lost interest. At the risk of dissing myself as an author, everything has just gotten so predictable these days. And nothing has moved me for a very long time. Maybe it’s because I’ve had my share of self drama and I’m really just in a good place as I write this. Or maybe it’s simply because I’ve learned that venturing back into the real world is much better than living in the book world.

“Okay, I can send it to you.” You text me late one night while I’m sound asleep.

I wait for it that day. And nothing. Check my email twice in the afternoon.

Nothing.

 “Hey,” I text back. “What are you sending and when are you sending it?”

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My email buzzes with new mail.  Lori and Serena came over that weekend. And so I had to wait for them to leave. I finished it in one sitting. And although you probably don’t need it (because you are about to get a million other fan girling, crying, gushing reviews) I’d like to give you my thoughts on this book. I’ve already been texting you for days, but since everyone else will get to say something about it, I’m going to do the same, my dearest friend.

Simple story, common premise. Girl meets boy, they fall in love and want to live happily ever after. Girl has issues, boy has issues. They struggle to overcome them and we find out if they win in the end.

Of course, you would never leave it at that.

YOU’RE TARRYN FISHER, remember? So you begin to deceive us by allowing the complexity to seep in. As the story unfolds, you deftly expose a vulnerability in both main characters that is painful to watch, even as they’re falling in love. There is a numbing sadness you can’t quite put a finger on, that lingers throughout the book. It’s quiet and subtle, like a storm brewing miles away from you and all you hear are the rumblings from afar. David, the dreamer, pursues the woman he wants. But Yara the realist, lives her life waiting for the other shoe to drop. She’s convinced that sorrow is inevitable. And when it doesn’t come soon enough, she impales herself upon it. You weave words that hook themselves into our souls. They are crisp, they are sharp, they are eloquent. Your characters remain real, as in all your other stories.

What’s most noticeable in this seventh book is the maturity that shines through in the characters’ voices and in their choices. Gone is the revenge-seeking heroine, angry at the world, desperate to prove that the it can fuck itself and go to hell. Yara and David acknowledge their flaws; they are relentless and resilient in the face of love. There is no larger than life persona. There is humility and perseverance  for love’s sake. As I told you the other day – “The Opportunist was written by a girl ten years ago. This book was definitely written by a woman.”

So. Tarryn

While you say that I’m Picky As Fuck Fuck, I want you to know how much I really loved this book.

And although I’m not YARA

And you didn’t write a book about me

And you claim you didn’t know that I am addicted to CHEETOS (PUFFS, though)

The places you wrote about were some of the places we’d visited on our trips together. Reading about them went straight through my gut and pulled out every single memory I’d been trying to forget for the past year. I dove back into the world I thought I’d left behind. This book made me realize that I’ve shied away from good things and good people because I’ve been shielding myself from getting hurt.

That I’m a runner.

That I should have taken the time to explain to those I loved why I left. That I only had one in my life and he’s not who you think.

This book also brought back many happy memories. It made me proud of the choices I made and the love that I gave away for the sake of others.

It also reminded me of all the times you and I laughed, ate, peeled chestnuts and drank the best drinks in the whole world.

And now, we both have Celine in our lives.

If you’ve ever doubted your talent, your ability, your place in the book world as one of the best – just remember –

This humble little PAFF thinks this is the best one yet.

Congratulations, my friend.

fleuron

 

Why We Do It

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I’ve been thinking about this lately – there’ve been many days when I feel like a salmon swimming upstream. Going against the tide, remaining steadfast against the current. When you run the finances of a large global company, you’re always on your toes, fighting for the greater good. It’s exhausting. But then you leave work, and your personal life is no different. When it’s easier to say yes to your kids, you say no to protect them. You fight for your marriage. You fight for your job. You fight for your happiness.

You’re constantly fighting.

When you can easily give up and just go with the flow.

I know a lot of people who go with the flow. And they seem to turn out fine. Life seems to bounce back for them. They seem to skate through hardships and come out unscathed.

And then there’s us.

The ones who fight. The ones who live to change the status quo. We get beaten up, we get punched down. And still we do it.

We fight.

Why do we do it? Why do we keep fighting?

In 8th grade, I was sent to Canada to study high school abroad. It was a time and a place where diversity wasn’t even a notion. I was bullied for my race. Verbal abuse, exclusion – a teenager’s worst nightmare in the quest to fit in – they were a daily part of my life. For a while, I accepted things as they were. Until the summer of 10th grade when I secretly took on a summer job to buy me a one-way ticket back home. F this, I told myself – I’m in the wrong country! I wanted to dance to my own song, sing my own words and create my own music. But then I fell in love and took a little detour from that purpose. While he took away my identity, the one I married gave it back.

I guess I was born to fight.

Twenty years later and nothing much has changed. Every single day, I wade through the BS and try to make the right choices. Most times, I make the wrong call. Some of the consequences have been negligible, but most of them have changed the way I view my life. There’s just so much to say, so much to do. And the level of respect and influence you have on other people’s lives, grows significantly as you succeed. There’s no right or wrong to having a strong conviction. But believe me, sometimes you wonder if it’s all worth it.

Amidst the doubt and exhaustion, you take a glance at your surroundings.

Your children have taken their own view of life. They voice their opinions, pursue their own goals. At work, you notice that the decisions you’ve made are beginning to bear good fruit, even if you’ve pissed off quite a few people by sticking to your guns. You become a trusted partner and are known as someone who takes calculated risks. Your friends love you more because you bring truth and authenticity. The fake ones run for their lives because you’re just too real.

Living for your truth and fighting for it, is what keeps us going, makes us feel alive. It may not always be easy, and sometimes it may take the life out of you. When you’re downtrodden and beaten, let your energy come from within. Let your convictions fill you with purpose and rejuvenate you. Be brave and know that you have something to impart to others. Set a good example. Fight for goodness and equity and love.

Next time you ask yourself, “why bother?” Look around at the people who love you, who’ve taken your words and actions as gold. Look at the changes you’ve made, the lives you’ve protected, the hearts you’ve influenced. Hold your head up high and know you’ve done the right thing.

You’re living your truth.

 

 

 

 

When the World Goes Silent

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I’ve always struggled to keep up with social media, stress about Facebook and Instagram posts every single day. What do I say? What should I post? Everything for me has been quite a thought process –  just being a private person who needs to separate my two lives, requires extra care when posting things for the world to see.  Lately, however, it’s been a different kind of struggle.

Work has consumed all my waking moments. I’ve cut down on traveling this summer to spend more time with the family. I get home late at night and work until it’s time to go to bed. I’m not visiting new places, attending any book signings. Eight Goodbyes is stuck in pitches and “In This Life” is enduring that long Hollywood process. I’ve caught up on Netflix, on Lucifer, Shades of Blue and Big Little Lies. I’m watching murder mysteries and reading books that have been on my TBR for years.

While everyone around me is swirling, here I am, with nothing to post about. And it’s not that my world has skidded to a stop after running at 200mph for the past two years. On the contrary, it’s kind of on the upswing but in different ways, I guess. I prefer not to post about volunteering events, or leadership speeches or cleaning out my shoe closet, for that matter. I’ve stopped posting about my shopping adventures because they don’t excite me as much anymore. Weekends are spent out on our deck, with the smell of Korean Barbecue or Spanish Paella wafting all the way through to our neighbor’s house. Lord knows how many times I’d Insta Live a picture of our grill or our food or my son rocking out to music, only to delete it at the very end. We just went to Costco to get some patio furniture. Do you care?

It’s everyday life. Plain and simple.

I wonder whether this is how it feels for people who’d been famously in the limelight for years and then suddenly, they run out of new and exciting things to entice people with. Their world suddenly grows very small, and the attention that they get dissipates. Is this why they go crazy, craving for attention, depressed and despondent? Mind you, my situation is miniscule compared to this analogy, but in a way, it speaks to the heart of the same thing – our worlds shrink, things go quiet, and there’s not much to talk about, cry about, scream about anymore. But is that really true? Why can’t you go out there and find more things, why lose your passion when you can just spread it out a little more, do things for yourself for once? Because that’s what I’m learning to do. After the initial realization that, “hey, things are falling back in place”,  I’ve focused my energies on things that make me happy. Like going on dinner dates again, with my husband or with my whole crew of grown kids. Reconnecting with friends who were around before the dawn of Facebook. I’ve gone on business trips where I didn’t post a single thing – it feels liberating, out and about town and declaring my own “make-up free” days. NYC and London, even Paris – all feel different when you’re not pressuring yourself to snap away at things that would ordinarily be……. quite mundane. Between you and those you’re with, there’s a secret code that you uphold because all of us are just trying to get as much of it as we can.  Privacy. When you’re in quite the public forum all day long, it’s nice to just have nothing – not one little thing – not a smart thing, or a dumb thing, or a snarky, snappy, infuriating thing – to say.

The best part of all this? In what used to be the chaos of bars and clubs and bustling international cities, there is a tiny little space in the back of our deck – during the summer nights, you can lean back against the railing and stare up at the sky. Sometimes, you can hear the rustling of the leaves from squirrels or birds finding their way around in the dark. Sometimes, it’s deathly quiet and your mind is clear and your thoughts are peaceful. Sometimes, the annoying bark of your neighbor’s dog stirs you out of your reverie.

But all the time, you can count on this one thing. There is comfort in the quiet.