Ignoring the News to Stay Sane

In the months after I had my first child, I was plagued by a variety of gruesome visions. I’d be walking down the stairs, holding my son in a blanket, and picture myself falling and smashing our heads into the wall at the bottom. I’d be driving to Target with him in the backseat and picture a head-on collision at 50mph. I’d see him wide-eyed underwater in the bathtub, struggling to breathe.

mother-watching-daughterI thought I was going crazy. I thought I had become some morbid, fearful person due to lack of sleep. Then I talked to another new mom.

“I do that all the time, too!” she said. We were both relieved. And we came up with a perfectly logical reason for envisioning the horrific deaths of our children on a daily basis:

We were practicing being good moms.

It makes sense. Our brains were warning us of all the dangers that could happen, so we would protect our children. So we would walk down stairs carefully, so we would drive more defensively, so we wouldn’t run to answer the phone with our children in the bathtub. We were good moms.

Fast forward seven years and my visions have become less frequent, but they still occur. Only now I also see a depressed young man walking into my son’s school and shooting the children as they eat lunch. I see sections of sports stadiums blowing up and cars driving through storefront windows into groups of people. Things like that. Things out of my control.

A while ago, my dad said to me, while arguing that too many of my generation are helicopter parents, “You’re all walking around scared. It’s like you’re shell-shocked.” And it hit me—we are. We are shell-shocked. And maybe we aren’t on the front lines, and maybe it’s disrespectful to suggest we suffer the same as the men and women who are. But we parents have suffered from the slow, insidious, creeping terror of the last two decades.


The Best Books of 2014

I’m part of a wonderful group of nine women who make weekly reading recommendations–every Wednesday, all year long at Great New Books. It’s the place to go if you’re looking for a good read.

This week, we have our list of the Best Books of 2014. Have you read any? Do you have any to add to our list? Need gift ideas?

Click on the image below to get started!


Breaking Up with Friends

Have you ever broken up with a friend? I have, though it was never dramatic.  I went through a phase (namely, my entire childhood) when I didn’t ever want anyone to know I was sad or that they’d made me so. Unsurprisingly then, friendships that ended died slow deaths due to lack of oxygen. There are things I wish I’d done, words I wish I’d said.

My-Other-Ex-final-3-266x400Enter My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friendsa volume of essays from the editors of The HerStories Project, now on my To Be Read list. In the anthology, 35 women tell of their own friendship breakups. (Women have a wonderful way of banding together, don’t they?)

One contributor is writer Hallie Sawyer. She’s got a big heart and writes fearlessly. I look forward to reading her essay. For now, she shares some answers to a few of my questions:

1. What made you decide to submit an essay for this book?

I had learned about submissions for the first book, The HerStories Project, but I didn’t have an overwhelming story at the time. I was bummed to miss out on that opportunity but told [editor] Jessica Smock to let me know if there was ever another book in the works. I was partially joking but sure enough, I heard from Jessica a few months later! When I learned about the theme of this new book, I knew I had the perfect story to share.

2. Without getting too detailed for those reading the book, how did it happen to you? Did you do the breaking up or were you broken up with?

It happened rather abruptly when she moved to a new city but when I examined it more closely, our friendship deteriorated over the course of a year. I think we were both to blame but in the essay, I could only explain my side of the story and tried to assume more of the blame because of my über crappy friendship skills at the time.

3. Did you change names for the story? Does this person know you wrote about her? 

I emailed her the essay once I had submitted it but I didn’t hear back from her for quite some time. I began to worry that she hated it but when I let her know about the upcoming publication, she opened up about how she felt about it. She loved the piece but didn’t love reading about herself and she requested I change her name. As writers, we put ourselves out there all the time but that’s not how most people operate and I totally get that.

4. Do you feel vulnerable having it out there?

Not really. I actually felt more vulnerable with my friend than anything else. I worried that I hadn’t remembered it right or that I hadn’t honored the friendship like I wanted.

5. Have you been wanting to write about this? Did it help to write about it or do you still feel like you need closure?

Yes and no. Yes, because the pain of that experience has been there for a long time and too much a part of me to ignore. I’ve always dealt with my emotions through writing but this was an area of my life that I had shoved away for some time. I was ashamed, simple as that. It does feel good to have it out there but I didn’t want closure on the topic as much as I wanted to honor our friendship, scars and all.

6. Many people often let friendships passively die; it’s somewhat of a taboo topic—to proactively end a friendship. What’s your take?

I’m not sure there is a right way to end a friendship. For me, if the connection no longer feels genuine, I usually pull back. No one has ever confronted me with, “Why don’t you call me anymore?” but really, it would be a fair question. The passive approach seems like the less painful one but ironically, when I think about it, it hurts more.

7. How is losing a friend like losing a boyfriend? How is it different?

I think it’s just like losing a boyfriend if you are the one rejected. You have all these unanswered questions and left wondering what you’ve done wrong or what the other person doesn’t like about you.

But boyfriends can come and go. Friends are for life. When you go through a friendship breakup, it can be such a deep hurt that you feel like part of you is missing.

8. What’s your advice for someone going through a friendship breakup?

Whatever the reason for the breakup, learn something from it. Let the experience change you for the better, not bitter. No matter whose fault it is, the important thing is that you find a way to forgive them…and yourself. Also, you are not alone in your feelings. This book is a testament to that.

9. Has your daughter suffered through a friendship breakup?

There was some typical seventh grade drama and she saw an ugly side of friendship. I was so proud of her because she did differently than I did at her age. She confronted one of the girls and it instantly deflated the situation. This girl had been a teammate for a number of years and my daughter let her know if she continued to act a certain way, their friendship was over. The girl denied everything and tried to point the finger at others and it changed things instantly. My daughter decided she didn’t have time for the drama and their friendship dissolved into more of an acquaintance.

10. What did you learn after the breakup —do you see friendships differently now? Do you look for certain signs or red lights when choosing friends?

It’s crazy to realize that our breakup was almost 20 years ago! I think the most important thing I’ve learned about friendships is that life is short. I’ve learned to spend my precious time with those who lift me up and bring out the best in me. Hopefully, I do the same for them.

Find the Truth

If any of you keep a diary or write letters (or emails), or blog, you’ll know what I mean when I say writing is therapeutic. Reading good writing is, too. It’s enlightening. Informing. Awesome.

Especially when you arrive at a truth. That is writing at its best. Today, I write about truth over at Julia Munroe Martin’s blog. I’d like to close comments on this post in the hopes that you’ll head over and comment there, but I can’t figure out how to do that (Nina Badzin, where are you when I need you??).

Please do head over and let us know how good writing influences you, whether you’re a writer or a reader.

Read my post HERE or click on the image below. Thanks.

Click on the image to read my post


A Natural Love Story

I’ve told you how much I love barns, that I used to want to live on a farm, that my son currently does, and that I still sometimes think I should have had the courage to try rural living. Might still. For now, I live vicariously through Melissa Crytzer Fry, whose natural surrounding inspires her own writing, and mine. I asked her to write a love story for February and, no surprise, she wrote about her landscape:

As I sit writing this post, my Jeep idle at the side of Cowboy Miller’s dirt road, it’s easy to share my love story. In front of me, majestic saguaros rise from the desert landscape, their perfect-postured trunks caressed by morning sunlight, a cloudless sky of deep blue their canvas.

Cholla cacti, as dangerous and ornery as they are with their double-barbed spines, glisten like happy tinsel. A cactus wren trills, hisses, and quiets. The only thing I hear is the urgent call of a gila woodpecker and the slight rustle of squat paloverde trees, their lime-green trunks a welcome sight amid hues of winter brown. The open-range cattle are nowhere in sight.

My view as I wrote this post

My view as I wrote this post

I’ve officially lived in Arizona for 16 years now (a Pennsylvania transplant). One might say, “Ah, by those standards, you’re a long-term desert dweller.” The truth is: that didn’t really happen until I moved from the middle of the city (downtown Phoenix) into the desert (outside of Tucson). And, yes, this is where I fell in love: with desert vistas so wide, no camera could capture the endless mountainous skylines; where the air is so clean, a thousand deep lungfuls would never seem enough; where I sit amid the proof of nature’s ire and force: volcanic mountain ranges molded, crushed and scraped away by the hands of time and by her great breaths of wind, her fierce monsoon rains; where also I am enveloped by her beauty: wildlife fierce and free, wildflowers of flaming fuschia, sunshine yellow, deep violets and dusty pinks.

This is where, indeed, I fell in love with nature. Again. For years, I’d let my inner “wild woman” grow dormant. Amid the pavement and office buildings smacked down into the sprawling desert Valley of Phoenix, I’d lost something of the farm girl I once was. The girl who played in haymows, who stared at copper-colored salamanders with awe, hunted for settlers’ graves in the woods, held tree frogs with care, rescued deer mice, and never grew tired of the rippling effect of a stone upon water.

I didn’t know what to call it – this missing piece – but I now know, after reading Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s book Women Who Run with the Wolves, that I was in search of a reconnection with my Wild Woman. (Incidentally, Estes believes we all have that Wild Woman instinct, eroded over time by societal expectations and outside pressures, not unlike the mountain range that flanks my view. Yes, even you city dwellers who prefer your nature in a vase on the dining room table – you have traces of Wild Woman in you yet. Not just a longing for nature, but wild, noble, fierce instincts.)

As Estes states, “It’s not by accident that the pristine wilderness of our planet disappears as the understanding of our own inner wild natures fades.”

Prickly pear cactus shaped like a heart

Prickly pear cactus shaped like a heart

This is why I love the desert. It is wild, still. The evidence of man here is slight – sometimes nonexistent – and always restorative. The other benefit: the unexpected connections to creativity and spirituality.

The crackle of dried desert wildgrass. The calling of ravens.  Access to hundreds of miles of open range pasture. Unlimited creative possibility. Happiness. Yes, this is my love story.


Melissa Crytzer Fry is a freelance writer and journalist living out her writing dream in southern Arizona and blogging at What I Saw (MelissaCrytzerFry.com). Her literary novel, Bedside, was named a finalist in the 2011 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition. Twitter: @CrytzerFry.