Control is an Illusion

This is for all the control freaks out there.

Two familiar sayings: You are the captain of your own ship. You are the master of your destiny.

Do you really believe that?

I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to construct the building blocks that I felt should be the foundation of my life. And if anyone has been reading my blog or Facebook posts, you’ll know that part of that is chasing the kind of job that I really want by doing everything in my power to build my resume, which includes flipping cartwheels and pulling rabbits out of my ass.

But it finally dawned on me—control is an illusion. We can do a million things to create a result that we want, but in the end, that result is incumbent upon luck.dc1ac4bc2eac9bfec9878cd20029f763

Now, some people might say “there’s no such thing as luck” or “you make your own luck.” But let’s look at an example. Let’s take two actors. They start off in the same place in life, are equally talented, do the same kind of training, and try out for many of the same parts. One actor goes on to be a huge Hollywood star, while the other never gets more than a few bit parts. Here you will say, well, maybe the first actor worked harder, or had that extra little spark, or an important casting director saw something in him.

Another example: Two people apply for the same job. Equally educated, equally experienced, same social/political/professional profile. Why does one get the job over the other? Again, you’ll say that the one who gets the job has that little extra something.

Maybe.

Or maybe it’s that the there really wasn’t much difference between the actors, but the first actor was lucky enough to encounter a casting director who makes and breaks careers, while the other actor never got such an opportunity.

Maybe the hiring manager at the job turned out to be a friend of a friend who the winning applicant met at a wedding. The other person was just as qualified, but not as lucky to have a personal connection with the manager.

Call it luck. Call it destiny. Call it the whim of the Universe or God or whatever you believe in. It all comes back around to the same thing: we have no control.  

Think about it. You can work like a dog at your job, but you can’t help it if your company goes bankrupt and has to lay you off.a0642d43a01c72566960637f311b6c74

You can bend over backwards to help someone, but you can’t force them to appreciate you.

You can take classes, do volunteer work, and get involved in events, but you can’t force an employer to hire you.

You can eat healthily, exercise daily, even live in an organic-only commune completely off the grid, but you can’t force your body to not get a disease.

Accepting that we have no control is a frightening thing. No one wants to believe that we have no control over anything in our lives. It goes against our very nature, our instinct to take command of the world. It’s scary, this not knowing what’s going to happen. Uncertainty is nerve wracking. But things will happen the way they happen, no matter what you do.

This is the reality that I’ve been forced to face. So now my goal has been to come to a place of acceptance. I’m learning, slowly, to accept that all I can do is try my best, but I cannot force the result I want. Stressing myself out about it and burning the candle at both ends (to the point that my mental and physical health are impacted) in the hope of reaching my goal is pointless. Mental and physical health are better served when you don’t completely exhaust all your resources trying to do something that refuses to get done.days-of-thunder-control-is-an-illusion-you-infantile-egomaniac-nobody-kno

Don’t misunderstand. This is not an acceptance of defeat. Rather, it’s accepting that there may be more than one door available to us. We’re so focused sometimes on a goal that we plow ahead full steam without really stopping to look around and assess what we have to our disposal. But if we stop the crazy for a moment, we might find there are alternatives. My therapist says, it’s making a left turn to move forward. The example she uses is this: It’s like trying to get into a room. You pound and pound on the door and it just won’t open. You’re so determined to get into that room that you don’t realize that there are other doors. That door won’t open, but maybe if you stop pounding on it, make a left turn, there’s another door there for you to try.

Learning to stop and take that left turn can be difficult. After all, we spend so much time in the pursuit of our goals that we don’t know how to stop. We aren’t aware that we can turn. Once we make that realization, the real challenge then becomes believing that one door will open where the other would not. Again, you have no control over which door will open. Not even slamming into it head first may open it. Believe me, I’ve tried. But trying each one might just get you into that room.

You’re a control freak, I get it. So am I. But letting go has been surprisingly freeing. Scary and frustrating, but freeing. It takes a heavy burden off your shoulders and allows you to believe, perhaps for the first time in your life, that you’re not a failure.

So Iet the illusion of control go, then sit down and rest. You deserve it.

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That Time Again

It’s hard to believe, but it’s time for GCLS again. This year, the lesbian writers’ conference is in Washington DC. I’ve never been to DC, so it’s going to be fun finally getting to see my country’s capital (even though we’re going to hell in a hand basket).logo

This year’s con is going to a strange one, though. There’s going to be some tears and somber moments as we remember lost sisters, particularly Sandra Moran, who we lost to a heinous and much-too-short battle with cancer late last year. And I know several other fellow con-goers who recently lost loved ones.

But I think, too, that everyone wants this conference to be, as it always is, a celebration of us—as women, as lesbians, as writers. This year, in particular, it’s important that we continue that tradition, because of all the losses in our community. Not just the loss of individual souls, but the tragic mass loss of our brothers, sisters, and allies in the Orlando shooting.heart orlando

We need to celebrate who and what we are, and we need to appreciate each other and what we have to offer the world. It’s through our art that we reach out to the new generation of kids just coming out. Maybe those kids who are afraid to be who they are look to our stories for guidance. Maybe LGBT people who are disenfranchised because of where they live or family pressure depend on our stories as lifelines, the one thing that let’s them know that there’s nothing wrong with them. Maybe people who are isolated find our works and realize that they’re not alone.

Maybe we save some lives.

Regardless, life goes on, no matter what else happens in the world. We can’t stop living. We can’t stop loving. We can’t stop writing. Because if we do, all is lost.

So, maybe I’ll see some of you in DC. Maybe I’ll see some of you at future events elsewhere. Or maybe I’ll just see you here next time. Whichever it is, be safe, be joyful, and, most importantly, don’t be afraid.  

Peace

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Last Leg of the Order Up Blog Tour!

OMG. Is it the end already? Wow, what a fun blog tour this has been. We’ve had blogs from very different writers, with very different styles, but all with one thing in common: Order Up Cover 394 x 600they all had a story appear in Order Up: A Menu of Lesbian Romance & Erotica!

This anthology (and All You Can Eat, the volume that it followed) was really fun to work on. It teams up the genres of romance and erotica with one of my favorite topics—FOOD!

Our authors did a great job of incorporating food into their stories and in such different ways. From dinner parties to meals for two, from cooking shows to cooking disasters, from an army mess to a chocolate shop, these stories run the gamut of plots and settings.

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Guest Post by Writer Pascal Scott!

Hey, everybody! Things are still kinda crazy on the Order Up blog tour. Hope you’re still having fun!

So we’re doing this tour — I and my co-editor Andi Marquette — in honor of the release of our second food-(and sex and romance) themed anthology, Order Up: A Menu of Lesbian Romance & Erotica.

Today, Pascal Scott shares an excerpt from her story, “The Indulgent Chocolatier.”

Take it away, Pascal!

The Indulgent Chocolatier
By Pascal Scott

“You eat with your eyes,” she tells me.

She’s standing behind the counter of The Indulgent Chocolatier, a four-star international chocolate salon in downtown Altamont, our hip urban dyketopia here in the mountains of North Carolina. I’m standing on the other side of that counter, mentally thanking my editor at The Blue Ridge Alternative.

“Valentine’s Day is coming up,” he said yesterday at our Monday morning staff meeting. “And there’s an editorial hole to fill. I need 5,000 words.”

Valentine’s Day. Love and poetry, hearts and flowers, and chocolate. My had went up in the air like a bird, flapping me, me. I can write that. My deadline is Friday.

She extends a latex glove-colored hand across the glass to offer me a golden truffle. I’m thinking, If that’s true, if you really do eat with your eyes, then I’m eating you up right now.

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Event Tonight!

Liz M

Hi, kids. If you live in the New York City area, please come dowTHROUGH THE HOURGLASSjpegfinalflatn to Henrietta Hudson’s, tonight, Friday, June 17. There will be a reading of several authors of romance and erotica, including Liz McMullen, DL King, and Vanda Neveruseit.

I will be reading an excerpt from my story “The Rum Runner and the Showgirl” from the anthology Through the Hourglass. The event is from 7 to 9 p.m.

I know that in light of recent events, many people are afraid to go to public places, especially where gay people congregate. Or they’re too emotional to be around other LGBT people. Everyone is in mourning right now, especially those of us in the LGBT community. There is so much hatred out there and fear is understandable and normal. And there are no easy anwers to any of it.

But one thing is for certain: If we allow their hatred to stop us from living, if we allow the fear to grow and fester and kill us inside, the haters get what they want. They win.

And that would be the end of everything.

We must not live in fear. We must continue to do the things we have to do to survive, and want to do to live. Otherwise, why bother doing anything at all?

If there’s one good thing to come out of the horrible tragedy in Orlando, it’s this: It serves as a reminder. A reminder to us that we must always be vigilant and never take the quiet moments and successes for granted. To never be complacent.

I hope you can join us this evening. Celebrating our lives, our voices, and our gifts is everything. We must never allow ourselves to be divided. And even if you can’t, Happy Pride! Be safe and be joyful.

Peace.

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Guest Post by Writer Marie Sterling

Order Up Cover 394 x 600Welcome back to another guest post by an author who contributed to Order Up: A Menu of Lesbian Romance & Erotica. This time it’s Marie Sterling, author of “The Way to a Woman’s Heart.”

Marie is generous enough—and brave enough—to share her journey with her writing, and how this came to be her very first published story. And below that, is an excerpt. I hope you enjoy it.

Here’s Marie.

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Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story…”  I love that partial quote, which is the opening line to Homer’s The Odyssey. It rings true every time I sit down in front of the computer with creative contrivings in mind. Sometimes my Muse is cooperative and we make beautiful things together. Other times, well… I’m convinced that my Muse is out licking windows, eating crayons, sniffing glue or any combination thereof. Even worse, she doesn’t share. Occasionally I’m able to bribe her with caffeine or sandwiches. She apparently works cheap.

She was feeling generous when I sat down in front of the computer one day after work. I had the first line and the basic plot for “The Way to a Woman’s Heart” in my head, and soon my fingers were a’flyin’ over the keyboard.  I knocked out about three quarters of the first draft then and finished it up the next day. Sarah and Caitlin just wouldn’t shut up.

So I reread, tweaked, sent it off to a few select people, followed some of their feedback, and fretted. Repeat two or three times. I knew that I could keep tinkering with it forever and still not be completely happy, so I finally just submitted it. And waited.

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Guest Post by Lea Daley

Hi there. This week I happily hand over my little corner of the blogosphere to Lea Daley, author of “Sweet or Savory,” one of the stories in Order Up: A Menu of Lesbian Romance & Erotica.Order Up Cover 394 x 600

Lea’s recipe in Order Up is called Heartbreak Rye, so she’s shared some photos of said rye bread. So, here’s Lea Daley to talk about her relationship to her story.

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Unlike many writers, I’m not a good visual observer. I regularly miss events that happen right under my nose. I can also misplace nearly anything. Except brownies—I have a finely-tuned locating device for all things chocolate. But heaven forbid that my pen jar or stapler or rolling pin has migrated a few inches from its appointed spot. It becomes so invisible then it may as well have been moved to the moon. I’m liable to stomp around grousing about theft—until my partner gently points out said “missing” item, sitting in plain view, embarrassingly close at hand. Whereupon I insist that it just returned to this dimension via some never-previously-mapped portal. (Is it any wonder I’ve been described as “lightly tethered to the earth”?)Heartbreak Rye 2

So writing “Sweet or Savory”, a story about a character who fails to notice the obvious until too late, was almost like autobiography. In the process, I thought about other things that we occasionally overlook or undervalue. The femme who wanders onto a softball field. The upfront butch who’s ignored at book club meetings. Our own latent talents—or the breathtaking potential of others in our sphere.

Like the characters in my story, I’m interested in theatre arts. I’ve performed in plays, crafted scenery, and made props. In the mid-1970s, I designed costumes for a number of productions at the community college where I was working toward an Associate Degree. That school was located in a rural county, which was the frequent subject of ridicule in distant St. Louis. Our drama program was small. So small it was easy to dismiss. So small that auditions for productions with larger casts were opened to the public. Continue reading