Who I Used to Be…
While waiting to catch my train to Lancaster today, I was chatting with a friend on WhatsApp. She told me how her teenage daughter is in a filmmaking class. It got me talking about my filmmaking days and how the documentaries can still be seen on YouTube. How I interviewed two of the greatest political minds of our time: Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. How my first film theatrically premiered in St. Michel, Paris. How The International Herald Tribune, among others, interviewed me and how I had a photo shoot in Paris for the press. She was very impressed and wanted to see the articles, so I tried to find links for her.
I found my old list of links in my server archives, but after 12-13 years, most of those links are no longer any good. Still, it reminded me of how much work I did back then. How those films earned me a listing on IMDB. How I traveled the country leading up to the 2004 election and visited over 40 cities on my tour. How Peace & Justice centers would welcome me and people would line up to hear me speak. How a group in New Hampshire held a parade in my honor. How my film was at the Gothenburg Film Festival in 2005. How the Oscar-winning writer/director Alexander Payne came to see my film. How we talked afterward. How all these things seemed so promising at the time.
How my distributor never sent a cent. How I burned out before my second film was released. How politics sucked me dry. How I abandoned my second film with virtually no promotion because I couldn’t bear to start all over again.
How all that led to the Rowan of the Wood series I wrote with my (soon-to-be former) husband. How I had learned from my marketing mistakes with the films. How it was going to be better this time. How I blogged every day, made marketing videos every week, held contests and hosted a radio show and…and…and…and…
How I became one of the top 100 authors of Twitter in 2009 as it tipped into mainstream. How we won Independent Book awards. How we traveled 18,000 miles in the Geekalicious Gypsy Caravan promoting our books. How we had so much fun on the road together with our “Sons of Fey” – three beloved dogs and a cat. How we sold and signed 6x as many books as the average book.
How our publisher refused to print more books unless we paid her. How we were tricked by our mortgage company in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. How we came off the road to face the threat of foreclosure. How our sequel fell relatively flat. How disenchanted I was, drained again, struggling against my own mediocrity. Not yet ready to accept it. Still trying–forever trying–to be seen, heard, understood, embraced.
How I adopted a pen name as a marketing experiment and wrote an adult Steampunk fantasy. How it went to the top of Amazon’s Gothic Romance list. How it attracted a New York Agent and the promise of a New York Publisher. How Penguin books was interested and applauded my writing talent…if only I would rewrite my book to make it more marketable because as-is, it didn’t fit into their box. How so many other “real” publishers were impressed but ultimately passed. How it earned me a listing on Wikipedia. How I spoke at convention after convention. How I was Guest of Honor. How I wrote 11 books in 6 years. How my best friend sexually assaulted me. How Reuters did an article on me and my alter-ego. How I was featured in Gearhearts as a Steampunk woman and author and poet. They even put me on the cover. How my novel won a people’s choice award. How my short story did, and then another. How I wrote and wrote and published and published. How a colleague raped me. How I was unable to recognize danger anymore until the last one, the worst one. The one I couldn’t deny, couldn’t minimize or explain away. How I developed C-PTSD. How two of our dogs died. How I descended into depression.
How my poetry and short stories and novels became darker and darker until they no longer appealed to anyone. How I couldn’t talk about anything but rape. How I evolved into a blogger writing about abuse and assault and recovery. How I watched my colleague-assailant become more and more popular in the Steampunk scene. How I could talk about anything but rape. How I finally left my Steampunk career in its death throes to survive.
How I no longer wanted to be seen or heard. How I wanted to be invisible. How I wanted to move as one of the many ghosts wandering the streets of London. unseen. unheard. How I spent the next several years barely functional. How I had my chance(s) and failed.
Finished up novels few would read. Wrote less and less until I disappeared. Until all of it was smoke. Until I embraced my mediocrity. Until I embraced and acknowledged the attacks for what they were. Until I isolated myself. Until I couldn’t do anything but read about rape and recovery hour after hour just to make it through the day. Day after day with no other goal other than to survive one more minute. One more day.
How I watched it slowly kill my marriage. How I watched my husband slowly pull away, unresponsive to my pleas for closeness, for repair, for intimacy. He denied there was a problem. He couldn’t face it. I couldn’t stop it. I watched us die day by day. Me helpless. Him blind. Both surviving the only way we could.
Our last remaining dog murdered. My husband’s fall that killed a part of him and ultimately became the fatal blow to our marriage. Trying to rebuild. Scrambling to cope. Striving to find our way back to each other, or at least I was.
How hope just hurt.
All this from a simple conversation about a teenager filmmaker. About an amazing young woman who has her life ahead of her. Hope doesn’t hurt her yet. Life hasn’t taken destroyed her dreams yet. I see who I used to be in her.
I see who I used to be in smoky memories, in broken links to lost articles.
I see who I used to be in words no one reads, in verse scattered across cyberspace.
I see who I used to be, all that I lost, all that was taken.
Then, I close my eyes unable to bear who I used to be.
I sit alone in a Starbucks waiting to take the train to Lancaster, to another home that is not mine. To borrow someone else’s life for a few weeks. I sit alone and write as a tear rolls down my cheek, but I don’t worry about those around me seeing me cry because I know I am that ghost.
I am invisible.
I am content.
In invisibility there’s safety. I focus on myself–on being, rather than on producing yet another mediocre poem/painting/novel/story/film/podcast. When I do write, it’s for my own pleasure, my own benefit. I rebuild my life and embrace beauty and joy as they come. I make new friends and fulfill dreams and travel and imagine new love.
Who I used to be is dead and gone. Who I am now is every bit as impressive as all I accomplished and lost, perhaps moreso. For I have survived, and now I thrive. I can still love, and I will find someone content with being invisible by my side. Who embraces all that I am, and who lets me love him fully. Who isn’t afraid of intimacy. Who isn’t afraid of emotions. Who is open and honest. Who is kind and loving. Who is courageous. Who loves to travel. Who gets lost in work and in me. Who wants to live and experience and be rather than produce and accomplish and struggle to be seen. Who is fulfilled because I see him and he sees me even if we remain invisible to the rest of the world.
I wouldn’t trade my life now for who I used to be. Not for all the money in the world. Even though loneliness and grief sometimes consumes me, I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled than I am at this stage of my life.
May you all find peace.
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~ by omgrey on March 12, 2016.
Posted in Lost in the Aether, Trauma & Recovery
Tags: alone, author, brain injury, Christine rose, divorce, documentary, dreams, filmmaker, life, loss, mediocrity, olivia grey, omgrey, past, regret, travel