Category Archives: personal stories

Full of Fear

Throughout my life, when things have gotten tough, I have turned to music. At times, I gravitate towards songs to steer me away from negative emotions like sadness, loneliness, anger. Other times I find me seeking out songs that match my feelings. When I do that, I’m really looking for words, lyrics to articulate what I am thinking and feeling. Those songs provide comfort as I feel a little less alone, a little more understood.

Interestingly enough, there are few Duran songs that I turn to at those extreme moments of distress. I’m not sure why. Maybe there are few that match my moods of despair or rage. I’m not sure. Yet, I have turned to some music connected to Duran Duran and that is some of John Taylor’s solo work. Anyone here familiar with the song, Johnny Full of Fear? Here are the lyrics that I could find:

He’s walking on the wall

Cause he’s heard it all before

He’d laugh it off, if he could

But his glasses might fall off

The madman’s at the door

Whispering through the floor

Sordid times in life before

Will keep him from flying once more

Johnny full of fear

He’s hanging on a thread

Don’t be afraid of the dark

Don’t be afraid of what you are

Johnny is learning, to feed, to fear

He’s whacking in time

‘Cause his wife gave him some room

Now he’s up to neck in debt

And his partner’s blown a fuse

Well he sits still for a minute

While he’s waiting for some credit

The property’s in ruins

But the suit is good and shiny

Johnny full of fear

He’s hanging from a thread

Don’t be afraid of the dark

Don’t be afraid of what you have

Johnny has known to fear

The messenger

The messenger of fortune

He’s the messenger

He’s the messenger

He’s alone most nights now

More often than not

He’s too much time to think

Gives his committee too much room

He’s thinking of expanding

Taking on responsibilities

I’m, in all, in favor of it

I’ll encourage him every chance I get

Johnny full of fear

Johnny full of fear

Full of fear

I remember the first time I heard this song. I connected with so many of the lyrics on a deeply personal level. The lines about the “madman’s at the door” and “hanging by a thread” especially got to me. True confession time. I have an anxiety disorder. You know one that has been officially diagnosed, is on file at my doctor’s, etc. It is not something that I generally bring up or talk about. I’m not embarrassed about it or anything like that. It is just part of who I am and something that I have to deal with in my daily life. That said, it is rare that I ever see anything like anxiety described in a song. Usually, if it mentioned in some way shape or form, it is not written seriously or with any real understanding of what it is like. This song, though, feels genuine. Now, I have no idea if John Taylor has ever experienced anxiety himself or knows someone who has. I just know that he was able to capture how I feel sometimes.

What made me think of this now? It is probably obvious but with the coronavirus, my anxiety has been seriously spiking. (In general, medical issues are a trigger.) I don’t necessarily worry about myself but I do about my elderly parents (one of whom is over 80 with an underlying medical condition that compromises the immune system). I’m concerned that my niece who has been studying abroad in Ireland now needs to find a fast way to get home. I need to be the calming influence for my students who are asking if they are safe at school. (Good question–is it really a good idea to have a couple thousand people in one building?!) The government’s response (or lack of one) adds to it. I don’t really think there is a plan to really get it under control. The combination of all of this means that I wander around my house, unable to get anything done, unfocused. It has meant not sleeping well and calling family frequently demanding that they check in. Headaches have been common as has the irritable mood that won’t go away along with my inability to calm my thoughts. Then, as anxiety tends to do, it has builds on itself as the lack of productions leaves me with an overwhelming list of things to do and a feeling of being inadequate. I have been describing it as my anxiety has anxiety. It is not fun.

So, as I try to use various strategies to keep my anxiety at a manageable level, I’ll put on a little JT and feel better thinking that someone out there gets it, at least a little bit. That helps.

-A

I Won’t Cry for Yesterday

Simon might not cry for yesterday but I will. In fact, I spent a lot of yesterday crying and consoling others who were also crying. In this case, we shed tears over losing our candidate for president who suspended her campaign. Yet, I feel like this day of grief is no longer the unique, extremely rare event that it once was. Rhonda said it well yesterday–the world is off its axis or something like that. I have been feeling that for a long, long time.

Looking back, this feeling for me started at the end of 2010 with a significantly bad campaign loss followed up by the death of my grandma and beloved cat. I barely bounced back when 2011 hit me with a new challenge in the form of a proposed law taking any rights at work that ended up passing despite the consistent protest of hundreds of thousands. This directly led to changes at work that have made teaching so much harder, so much more stressful, so much less joyful. Still, I bounced back. Then, my father was diagnosed with a significant autoimmune condition followed up with my mother being diagnosed with cancer. (Thankfully, both are doing well.) Through all this, more and more stress was added at work followed up with the worst election results I could have imagined in 2016 along with rejections for our writing. With each event, I grieved. I raged. Then, I pulled myself back up from the dark hole of despair to keep going, to keep fighting. Now, it feels like the hits are coming more and more frequently whether it is concerns about my own health or being smacked in the face by reality when it comes to putting women in positions of power.

It used to be that I wished for moments of joy and for fun. For a long, long, long time, Duran Duran provided that. I look back at 2011 and as much as I’m shattered at thinking about the loss of my rights, I also think immediately about traveling to the UK twice. Those amazing trips counteracted the crap that was state politics and the hits on my profession. I could survive and push through because I had something amazing to pull me out, into the smiling warmth of sunshine in the form of fandom. In fact, Duran Duran has been that beacon of pure joy for so long that I assumed it would always be there. Having this blog and having shows and tours to look forward to have helped me to right my emotional ship for so long. I’m sure that some will say that a band shouldn’t do that or that fandom shouldn’t take on that role. Maybe not but it did. Of course, along with my fandom came friendship, most significantly, my friendship with Rhonda. I could not separate Duran Duran, fandom, this blog and her.

Now, even that aspect of my life has changed. It used to be that when Duran shows were announced or any Duran news would come out, Rhonda and I would instantly contact each other. “This is a Duranie alert,” one of us would voice to the other. We would especially use that for shows that we might be able to attend. This Tuesday, in the midst of finding out some test results on my health and a frustrating all day meeting at work, the band announced some shows. Two shows. In Vegas. There were no messages exchanged between Rhonda and myself. At some point, we might have responded to a tweet or two but no grand announcement with a debate about what we thought about given shows. This isn’t because we are angry with each other. We are not. It isn’t because we don’t love Duran Duran. We do. I think part of it that we are both so wrapped up with what we are up to that fandom is on the back burner. I also think it is because it is one more part of my life that is no longer what it used to be.

I look at my life like sand on the beach. For a long time, the part of the beach that was mine was untouched by the ocean. I built a career in the form a sand castle school and found people to surround the world I created. Everything seemed good. I had my people. I had my career along with my family and friends. I could push for something more fun, more joyful, to reach for the stars to fulfill some dreams. Rhonda and I could do some research and push to write a book begging for publication. I could think about expanding my social circle. Then, slowly, the ocean started to creep into my section of the beach. At first, it just washed away some of the sand-created school building. Then, the loved ones in my area began to fade with more and more splashes of water. All this means that I’m no longer reaching for the stars or trying to improve my beach. It is about keeping what I have, saving what is left. Now, in 2020, it feels like I have just a tiny sliver of what I did. I spend all of my energy not only saving that speck of sand representing me but also to make myself okay with the new normal as each loss of sand brings more grief, more frustration, more heartbreak.

So do I cry for yesterday? Absolutely. I miss the way things used to be when it came to Duran announcements. I miss feeling secure, feeling appreciated, feeling powerful at work. I miss thinking that the world was on the right track, moving towards progress. I miss feeling normal. I miss focusing on what could go right as opposed to spending all of my time making myself okay.

-A

Too Much To Know

Are there moments of Duran history that you just sometimes think about and wonder what it must have been like? On the positive, amazing side, I think about what it must have been like when the band was looking through record deal offers or when the band waited to hear where a song charted. I cannot begin to imagine what it was like to hear one’s song on the radio for the first time, for instance. On the other side of the coin, there are times that must have been challenging. What was it like? How did they push through? Did they recognize the moment of challenge or did they live in ignorance? Did it help that they had each other?

The first moment like this that comes to mind was in 1986. At this time, the members of the band ended their side projects and were looking to come back together to record another album. From what I know, it seems like Roger informed the band that he was not returning early in the year, in the spring. They did not have to wonder, to question whether or not they could or should rely on him. Andy, on the other hand, seemed to drag out either his decision or his telling them his decision to go solo, from what I have read. Now, before I dive any deeper into this time in Duran history, I want to be clear that I’m not judging Andy or Roger or the rest of the band. I suspect, for example, that the decision for Andy to leave must have been difficult and emotional even if he knew/felt it was the right thing for him to do. After all, he had experienced a lot of success with the band as well as many monumental moments. So, I can even understand if Andy didn’t declare his leaving quickly and early. I bet that he must have had many moments of indecision, which led the rest of the band to be in somewhat of a state of limbo.

Did John, Simon and Nick know that Andy was thinking about leaving? Would that have been easier for them to know or was it better to maintain hope that he would return for as long as possible? Is it better to know than not to know? On one hand, not knowing can keep hope alive that maybe he would change his mind, that he would return. Decisions regarding a guitarist would not need to be made and they could focus on other things, Duran and non-Duran related. So what about knowing? If they knew, they could figure out their guitarist situation earlier and differently, maybe. I’m pretty sure that there was some grieving done, too. Knowing probably meant some sadness, some fear of the future, some anger and frustration. Did this change the feel of the next album? I don’t doubt it. Still, was it better that they knew?

You are probably wondering why now am I asking these questions. Do I have a new fascination with the Notorious album or Duran history from 1986? Am I worried that someone is leaving the band? The answer to all of those questions is a big no. Instead, it is a much more personal situation. As I have mentioned a couple of times on here, I have been dealing with some health related issues over the last few months. At first, I thought the problem was figured out and everything was fine or would be. Then, something else would pop up leading me to wonder if there wasn’t something more going on. This week, after ending a long period of denial, I finally reached out to my doctor who agreed that we should run some tests, which have now been completed. I now await the results. Did John, Simon and Nick want Andy to leave? I suspect not. Was it better when they knew for sure that he was going? Maybe. They could grieve, deal and move on. I guess I am at that point now, too. Is it better for me to know? If the results are what I think they are, will I be facing what Duran faced in 1986 with some grief, fear of the unknown while doing what must be done? Probably. I can only hope to be like them with their determination to move on and continue to be successful.

In thinking about that time period, I have to wonder if it helped them that they were not alone. It happened to all of them and not just one of them. Were they all able to support each other enough to be strong? I often believe that the best part of being a member of a team is that not everyone has to be awesome every day. When one person struggles, the other(s) can be strong with them or for them. Is this what Simon, John and Nick did for each other in 1986? As I learn of the results, I can only hope to have the support of others as I get comfortable with my possible new normal. (By the way, I should mention that what I’m being tested for is not life-threatening but still will affect life moving forward.)

-A

I Should Be on Solid Ground

Before I dive into today’s blog, I want to apologize again for yesterday’s lack of a blog. I had hopes that I might be able to do a quick blog of sorts in the morning before I left for work but the brain and computer weren’t working. It might have something to do with me being overwhelmed with finals (many of them still await my grading). Anyway, I apologize.

The last couple of weeks have meant finishing up the first semester and getting ready for the next one. Part of me hates this time of the year as the grading is way too much but another part of me likes that we get to restart. It also means a number of meetings to reset there, too. In the middle of one of these meetings, I had a realization. Bear with me as I try to explain this. It seems to me that there are some fundamentals in which people build their lives. For many people, this foundation of sorts includes family, friends, a career, a community, etc. If all of those are working as they should, life feels good. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is perfect, just that it feels normal, safe, relatively predictable.

In thinking about all of this, I realized that my foundation has been shook over the last decade or so. In some cases, there have just been little cracks like my parents have both had health concerns and I recognize that they aren’t getting any younger. Other areas have been more dramatically affected. In teaching U.S. history, we discuss how the United States have ideals that include liberty, democracy, equality, etc. Through actions both at the state level and nationally, those ideals seem like nothing more than pipe dreams, at times. Even with my career, aspects that I expected no longer seem possible, forget about probable. All this has left me feeling shaken, disturbed, anxious, unsafe.

Where does that leave fandom? Good question. When I first started touring, it was all about fun. Life was relatively good and going on tour, posting on message boards just made life a little better. Then, as more and more has happened to shake my foundation, fandom has taken on a different role. For awhile, when the rest of life began to be so uncertain, I looked to fandom to provide the one “normal” part of life. I could count on it to be an escape, a fun time with friends. I desperately clung to it. If you even look back to blogs I had written in 2011, 2012, 2013 you could sense this. I needed the band to finish an album, go on tour, etc. It was the only thing that felt right. Now, I’m not even sure that fandom feels that solid as well and I don’t even know why. Maybe it is simply because the rest of my foundation is so badly shaken that the cracks have hit even fandom. I don’t know. I know that if I were to go on tour, it would still be an amazingly fun time but the going on tour part seems uncertain for the first time.

I don’t know where this goes from here. I have no clue. Really, the only thing I know is that I would like some part of my life to feel safe, that I could trust it. I would the ground to stop shifting beneath my feet. I would welcome it if that part would be fandom. One hundred percent. But like everything else, I have more questions than answers about whether or not that is possible and what if anything can be done about it.

So what about the rest of you? Has fandom changed in terms of where it fit into your life or why you participated? How do you feel about your fandom moving forward?

-A

My Return to Now…or Normal

Tomorrow, I go back to work, to school, after a two week “break”. I put the word “break” in quotes because I still did work (about 19 hours worth) while I was home. This is not uncommon. On top of going back to school, Rhonda and I are resuming writing this blog. I figured that it might be good for me to start my routines sooner rather than later. It is time.

So how was the blogging break? Did it serve its purpose? And how do I feel about blogging moving forward? These are the questions I ask myself. First, for me, the break was a mixed bag, honestly. The positive part is what you might expect it was. I enjoyed having more time and definitely could always use more of it, especially as the holidays loomed. On top of that, I also found myself dealing with a virus that would not quit and some other health issues (nothing major but annoying all the same), which affected my productivity. That said, I missed blogging. I didn’t necessarily miss the self-imposed deadlines but I have figured something out about myself. I need tasks like this in my life. This blog and writing has become needed, but not in an unhealthy one. I found that I need the distraction from other items on my to do list. It helps me stop thinking and worrying about school or politics. Otherwise, I am the type of person that digs into whatever I’m working on with intensity. I’m better on all fronts, though, if I force myself away, once in awhile. On top of that, I think writing helps me process my thoughts. This is never bad and I suspect it will be very much needed in 2020.

Of course, this blog isn’t about me but about being Duran fans, right? It is about fandom. Here’s the thing. I view fandom like a relationship of sorts. I could easily fill the space in my life that is reserved for Duran with other things. Now, some might say that I should but that would be sad and sad for me. No, I want part of my life to be taken up with Duran. It gives me joy. I like being a fan. Of course, over time, the way that I express my fandom has changed. It used to be that I wanted to talk Duran all day, everyday. I don’t feel like I need or even want to do that. Instead, I would prefer it just to be one part of my existence, in balance with the others. In order to keep that balance and my fandom/relationship alive, I still need to nurture it, feed it. If that isn’t going to be chatting online about the band, all the time, then it could be this blog. I like directing my fandom in this, going to shows along with reading, researching, etc. I’m not ever going to be the most popular Duranie on social media and I’m okay with that. My fandom doesn’t need that. However, I look forward to continuing to share my thoughts and feelings here in a format that works for me on multiple levels.

So on that note, I look forward to getting back into the groove next weekend. What did I miss while I was gone? What should I check out? What should I write about?

-A

Howl at the Wind Rushing Past My Lonely Head

It happens like clockwork. It seems to happen every year at the same time. No, I am not referring to the fact that we get to move our clocks back an hour this weekend (I’ll take that extra hour of sleep, thank you very much!). I am talking about the feeling that each and every day is rushing past me, that I’m barely hanging out to my to-do list. It is a feeling like I’m attempting to walk a tight rope and one wrong move, one gust of wind and I’m falling, ready to crash and burn. What causes this every year? What is my plan to survive? What does this have to do with Duran Duran?

I know that I had the same feeling of being overwhelmed last year. I think I figured that it was the fact that I was working on a campaign that was reaching its conclusion in a couple of short weeks. Now, though, I can say that the campaign (and any campaign at this time of year) adds to it but it isn’t what causes it. No, it is all about teaching. This time period marks the end of the first quarter of the school year. Practically speaking, this means that I have a lot of grading to do as well as report cards to fill out. Did I mention that I have 120 students? More importantly, it means that I can no longer deny that the school year really is here. I cannot go back to summer. No, I have to push through to get to the next summer. On top of that, I have to admit that these grand ideas I had about how much I would be able to do in addition to teaching related tasks were simply that; grand. They were also false. I’m lucky to get even a part of my work done on any given day. Forget about organizing my closet. That is definitely not going to happen. Nope. It is hard to do those extras when I’m working between 50-60 hours a week as well as everything I need to do to maintain a household.

So, now that I recognize that this is my reality, how the heck am I going to survive it? I don’t have any shows coming up. I don’t know when Duran might drop the next album. The answer is that I have no idea how to deal. You would think that after twenty years of doing this gig that I would get how to do it. In fairness to myself, the job has gotten harder. A lot harder. I keep trying to do various things in order to be more efficient or to create some sort of weird balance without being able to sustain the changes for more than a week or so. For now, I am trying to take it one day at a time while I brainstorm a potential solution for the 256th time.

One idea that almost always comes up when I mention this problem is to either quit my job and/or all of the other tasks that I do (like writing this blog post). First, when it comes to my job, there are definitely aspects that I would give a lot to change but there are others that I love. I have some great kids this year, for instance, and I love seeing my kids grow up, graduate and become amazing humans. On top of that, I kinda need something to pay my bills (not to mention Duran Duran tickets!). Moving on, what about dropping my political activity? As much as I would like to ignore what is happening, I would never be comfortable doing that. So, what about letting go of this? I could stop blogging. I could stop doing research and writing about fandom. I could. But I don’t want to.

Here’s the thing. One thing that I have figured out over the course of my life is that I need all of the above in my life. I would never be happy if I dropped the extras outside of my paying job. I just wouldn’t. Both activism and fandom are in my blood. They make up who I am. On that note, I’m back to where I started, trying to do it all.

-A

Astronaut Anniversary and Turning Points

This past week, Duranland celebrated the 15th anniversary of the release of Astronaut. As we all know, this album was the first album after the Fab Five reunited and certainly represents a time in which Duranies flocked back to the fold, excitement was at an all-time high and the future seemed nothing but bright. I, for one, always appreciate acknowledging the big dates for my fandom but this one make me think on a more personal level.

Feel the New Day

Duran’s reunion in the early 2000s came at the perfect time for me, personally. I had spent much of the late 1990s and early 2000s settling into my adult life in a new city. I remember how laser focused I was at that time to get started in my career and to do what needed to be done just stand on my own two feet. I only thought about how to get a full time teaching job and how I would pay the bills. There was little time and money for much else. Then, I found a way in to the district with a teaching job, but outside of my original license. I still had much to learn. In this quest, I found myself back at school. This time I was adding a master’s degree and additional teaching certifications. Finally, after a few intense years of teaching full time and going to grad school, I graduated.

At that moment, I literally felt like my world opened up simply because I would no longer struggle as much, financially, and had more free time. I was ready to turn my focus, my energy into some other aspect of my life even if I didn’t know what that was. Enter Duran Duran. Now, I had been a fan since I was a kid but I was no where near the fan community at the end of 2003. I knew that there was a reunion and shows but that’s it. I avoided looking too carefully, too closely to not lose my focus on grad school and my career. But once I was settled into my career, I was ready. At the same time, someone I knew mentioned that she, too, was a big Duran fan. After a quick search, resulting in me hearing Sunrise for the first time, that’s all it took. I became obsessed.

I sought out everything. Internet searches helped me to fill-in any gaps that I had, including the band’s history, albums, videos, solo and side projects and more. Everyday felt magical and like my birthday because there was so much to find, to watch, to listen, to buy that I couldn’t get enough. This, of course, combines with all of the new news that came out. In 2004, for example, it seemed like there was something new each and every day from hints about the album, to appearances, to video clips from the band and more. In the process, I found my new focus. I had to find others who felt so much for this band, too. Message boards called out to me and I tried out many before I found the right one. This led to much time spent on those boards, chatting with other fans, and making plans to attend a fan convention and begging for a tour.

Looking back, that time was so fun as it felt like all Duran, all the time in my mind, in my free time. Everything felt so positive and I ignored anything that potentially would put a damper on my fandom.

Is it out of choice that you’re here next to me, or just the aftermath of moments as they pass?

15 years have gone by. My love for Duran Duran has not waivered. Looking back, I recognize that in many ways, my love has been weaved into my life. It isn’t this special, must spend 24/7 on it to express it, to reinforce it, to find others with the same feelings. No, it is now way more secure. It isn’t like a flame burning bright while being under threat to burn out. Let’s be real here. A lot of Duranies during the Astronaut era went all in and did not come out the other side. It is like they checked off some boxes on their fandom bucket list. Once that was done, they were out, ready to move on. I chose the other route. I chose to normalize my fandom, to just make a part of my existence in order to keep it going.

Here is where I think the fandom analogy of romance works. In 2004, it felt like I had just started a new romance in which the subject of that romance could do nothing wrong. It was definitely the honeymoon period. Many fans want to live in that honeymoon and are not willing to hang out passed that. They don’t want to deal with the negatives or the less-than-exciting times and others of us accept all of it. Again, in a early romance, you might spend most of your waking hours with the subject of that romance. I did that in 2004 with Duran Duran. Now, I don’t. It is like my parents who have been married for 52 years. They don’t need to constantly talk about each other or be with each other all the time to know that they love each other. The same is true with me and Duran Duran. I can and do have many things in my life that get my focus, including teaching, politics, my family, writing and researching and Duran Duran. For me, I need all of those in my life to be happy. So, at times, I miss the intensity of those Astronaut days but I recognize that where my fandom is now is more securely fastened in my heart and in my life.

-A

And I think It’s About to Break

One of the aspects of Duran Duran’s music that I love is how, periodically, you connect with a song in a different way. This happened to me this week while on the way to work. On my usual drive, I had my music on shuffle, never knowing exactly what would pop up. This past Monday’s drive, I found myself lost in thought when the song, Union of the Snake began. Now, usually, when this song comes on, I have images of elevators in sandy desert areas and bellhops, thinking of the video. Once upon a time I felt like it was describing my fandom, when I felt like I was barely holding on to it. Looking back at those feelings and at that time, it is clear to me that my feelings had very little to do with fandom. I was recovering from working really hard for a losing campaign, one that felt more personal than most since the winner had attacked my profession. I needed my fandom to distract me, to give me joy and the band was on a break after the All You Need Is Now era. It wasn’t theirs or the fan community’s fault that the timing sucked.

For years after that time (end of 2012 and 2013), Union of the Snake brought up my undefined frustrations, which meant that I struggled to listen to as those negative feelings overshadowed images of a passed out John Taylor in a truck. Then, Monday happened when the song began playing in my car, jarring me out of my thoughts. As the first notes played, I reached to switch songs when I started to listen to the lyrics again.

Telegram force and ready
I knew this was a big mistake
There’s a fine line drawing
My senses together
And I think it’s about to break
If I listen close I can hear them singers, ohVoices in your body coming through on the radio
The union of the snake is on the climb
Moving up it’s gonna race it’s gonna break
Through the borderlineNightshades on a warning
Give me strength at least give me a light
Give me anything even sympathy
There’s a chance you could be right
If I listen close I can hear them singers, ohVoices in your body coming through on the radio
The union of the snake is on the climb
Moving up it’s gonna race it’s gonna break
Through the borderlineThe union of the snake is on the climb
Moving up it’s gonna race it’s gonna break
Through the borderlineIf I listen close I can hear them singers, oh
Voices in your body coming through on the radio
The union of the snake is on the climb
Moving up it’s gonna race it’s gonna break
Through the borderlineThe union of the snake is on the climb
It’s gonna race, it’s gonna break, it’s gonna move up
Through the borderlineThe union of the snake is on the climb
Moving up it’s gonna race it’s gonna break
Through the borderlineThe union of the snake is on the climb
It’s gonna race, it’s gonna break, it’s gonna move up
To the borderline

There is a fine line drawing my senses together and I think it’s about to break

How many times have I heard that line? Thousands? Tens of thousands? On Monday, it described exactly how I was feeling. The weekend was rough, to say the least. I ended up grading for 8 hours over the weekend, which followed a 60 hour work week. The worst part of all that time is that I didn’t even get caught up. While my to do list had gotten smaller, a whole set of tests and essays awaited my feedback and evaluation. Then, if that was not enough, I am struggling with a particular class, which is usually the one I look forward to the most. As the weekend rolled into Sunday night, I found my agitation with it all growing. How could I sustain this? Why should I have to? How come I cannot figure out how to make this class work for everyone? Then, what about the other things I want to? Will I have time for my political activism? What about our new research project? Will my house always have dirty dishes in the sink and unfolded laundry in the dryer? You can see how my brain was working as all this began to translate to failure. The rest of my Sunday found me in tears followed by restless sleep.

Give me strength at least give me a light
Give me anything even sympathy
There’s a chance you could be right

Monday morning was tough. My emotions were still raw and I felt like I had not slept at all. I feel like I might break, in a way that I haven’t in a long time. That said, I did feel like I needed strength, light, and sympathy in order to make it through the day and beyond. I went into work, looking for help from some colleagues, which I never do. I tend to be the one that helps rather than the one needing assistance. While I cannot say that the day was easy, thinking about the lyrics helped me feel a little less alone. I feel a little more validated, that my emotions weren’t wrong. Interestingly enough, there was a sense that I was a little stronger than I was the night before. By Tuesday, I could confront some of what was causing me grief and frustration. Things aren’t perfect but I don’t feel like I’m going to break anymore and that I can and will do what I want and need to do both at work and beyond.

-A

For a Point of View

Here we are, the final Thursday of August. This time of year is always sort of weird for me. In the past, I’d be neck deep in ordering curriculum for my youngest, or I’d be in the middle of beginning-of-the-school-year prep. There were a couple of wonderful years where I had a “real” job and would be feverishly updating rosters, creating attendance sheets or taking inventory at the learning center. (I miss working there, although you couldn’t pay me to move back to Southern California) In the midst of all of that, I’d be thinking about September 13. This year, I’m getting ready for a visit from my sister, and a trip to Palm Springs and Las Vegas next weekend, while adjusting to having my youngest in public school. (She absolutely LOVES it, by the way!)

That date is special because of two birthdays. The first is my dad’s birthday, and the second is that it is also the birthday for this blog and website!

I have this picture hanging in my room

I am living proof that grief isn’t a process with a beginning, middle and end. My dad died eleven years ago, and I still think about him nearly every day. For me personally, September 13th has gotten easier for me to manage each year. While I can’t help but think about it being my dad’s birthday, at one point I handled it almost ceremoniously. I’d light a candle, make a coconut cake because it was his favorite, think about my dad, look at pictures and nearly wallow in my grief, along with a healthy dose of self-pity. I needed that time to allow the grief to wash over me a little, I suppose.

But I refuse to take you down

I used to set aside September 13 to remind myself of how much I missed my dad. Truth is, I don’t, or at least I didn’t, let myself really spend time thinking about it on most other days. As the years have gone by though, I’ve gotten away from most of that. Typically, the days leading up to it are a bit worse than the day itself. It is like I dread the inevitable until it gets here and I realize (once again), that I’m fine. Sure, I acknowledge his birthday – sometimes I just think about it, and other years I’ll tweet something. Then I let it go. It isn’t the end of the world. Yet honestly, if I’m really going to be transparent about it all (and why not now? I mean, I’ve been at this nine years now), in some ways my world did kind of end with his death, and now – well, this is just the new normal. His face and memory is never far from my thoughts, though.

My son Gavin is the spitting image of him, but with hair – because my dad went bald when he was 18. I never knew him with hair! <big grin here>), and little things remind me of him all the time. At one time, the memories would be sad, and I’d cry at the oddest moments. But now – they’re oddly comforting. I miss him, but I’ve learned to accept that he’s gone. His birthday is still special. He would have been 79 this year, and that boggles my mind. And sometimes, like right now – I can’t even believe our family went through all of that. I have to remind myself that yes, he really did die. Grief is weird.

These words are like sand

Then, there’s the blog. Yes, it is true that one day, nearly nine years ago – I hit “post”, and our very first blog posting went live. This is also something that I need to seriously sit back and contemplate each year. On one hand, I feel like I’ve been blogging for about half my life. On the other, I almost feel like I’ve got to count the years just to be SURE we’ve really been doing this for nine years now. Could that really be?? Just yesterday, Amanda and I were conferencing about a writing project, and she said something about how we’ve been going to shows together for fifteen years now and I had to do a double take. Really? It’s honestly been that long?!?

Even yesterday, I agreed with Amanda when she said that we’ve been blogging for so long now that it wouldn’t feel right if we stopped. The blog is an extension of myself in a number of ways. I’m not really looking for validation in the way I know I was when we started. I’ve learned that much of the time—I won’t get it, and as it turns out—I don’t need it anyway.

I’ve written this before, but it bares repeating. I started blogging because I had the audacity to want to be liked. The blog was essentially a mouthpiece, and I used it. I felt personally empowered just by getting the words out, whether one person read them, or many – although I love hearing from people who felt something from our writing. That feeling has not changed since the day we started. I’m still as socially awkward as ever, and I’m grateful I started blogging.

Just get blown away

What has changed though, is that I realize I don’t need hundreds of people to like me in order to feel validated as a human, or even as a fan. For me personally, organizing a convention, or hosting meet-ups are very difficult things. I much prefer being in the back, behind the scenes, working on the logistics. I don’t enjoy putting myself out there, and pretending to be outgoing, when I know someone is right around the corner laughing and hoping for my utter failure. There seems to be quite a bit of that going around this community at the moment, and I’m not sure why. What I do know is that I don’t need it. If you are with me, we’re still having a meet-up in Vegas. We would love to hang out with people looking to have some fun before the shows – both nights we’ll be in the CliQue Bar at around 5pm, so look for us!

For Amanda and I, writing Daily Duranie is almost a way we pre-write for projects. As those projects take shape, we send out submissions to publishers, and as a result – we’ve had our fair share of rejections. Each publisher has their own format for sending in submissions, but every single one of them wants to know what “big question” your book proposal seeks to address and answer. The first “encyclopedia” sized manuscript we did tried to answer the question, “What is fandom, and why do we participate?” It was a huge question, and the manuscript was laden in research. Our second tried to explain our journey in fandom. We wanted to explain fandom by using our own experience. That manuscript was fun, but in hindsight – very watered down. We wanted our fandom to sound friendly and inclusive. The publisher wanted more of the dirt, and specifically, she wanted to know why Amanda and I are groupies.

*sigh* We’re not groupies. Maybe that’s the problem…but it’s not our thing. Thank you, next!

All the things we’d like to say

Simply put, I think Amanda and I had to do all of that writing in order to whittle away little-by-little and finally get to the good stuff underneath. Some people can do it quickly, and some of us have to write three full manuscripts along with full book proposals to get there. C’est la vie. Someone wise told me that eventually I’d understand why I needed to be rejected, and why I needed to write those full manuscripts. I’m getting there.

I felt good about the direction we were taking in the writing, but yesterday really brought clarity to everything we’ve done for the past nine years (and then some). The real questions—the ones we’ve been afraid to say out loud or admit to anyone but each other— are the things we really need to writing about and trying to answer. So we are. These questions are the reasons we started blogging, They are at the root of what we comment about most when the band is interviewed (and no, I don’t mean John and Simon’s clothing choices!), and they are most definitely the things we get the most annoyed by in general. While I can’t say whether or not a publisher will see the worth in our project – I can say that on a personal note, I’ve turned a corner. I know why I’m still here.

-R

I Can’t Breathe Now But I Can’t Let Go

The song, You Kill Me with Silence, came on as I drove home yesterday after another extremely busy day. As I drove towards my home, the lyric that is the title of this blog hit me. These particular song lyrics have never meant much to me, personally, as I have never been in a relationship that might be defined as emotionally challenging, at best, and abusive, at worst. Yet, yesterday, I finally felt that line of lyric acutely.

My summer is not over as I technically do not have to report to work, to school, for another week and a few days. Yet, this week has found me at multiple meetings connected to teaching. As Monday turned to Tuesday and Tuesday to Wednesday, I found myself more and more exhausted and, frankly, more sad. So, if I did not have to report yet and it is not making me happy, how/why have I had the week I have had? Simple. I am my own worst enemy. Sort of.

One aspect of my personality that I’m confident is always present is the desire to make things better. This philosophy or characteristic or whatever you want to call it has been around since I was a kid. I think back to my junior high days when I found out about a man being mistreated for his religious beliefs in my home town. At the time, I found myself relating to his religious minority status and instantly wanted to help. I didn’t ignore the situation but instead ran towards it. I openly expressed support for the guy and even showed up to join protestors pushing for religious tolerance. I did this at the age of 11 or 12.

This aspect of my personality didn’t go away in high school as I found myself going to the school district’s superintendent about the health curriculum at the same time that I tried to defend friends of mine who identified as LGBTQ. I won’t lie. This did not make me popular with my peers or even my teachers but I couldn’t…not do it. Something within me said that I should try to make things better, if I could. College continued the pattern as I helped to form an organization fighting for diversity. While this resulted in being on a first name basis with my college president and dean, it terrified my parents, at times. They worried that my actions, while having the best of intentions, would result in harm to me and my future.

Fast forward to adulthood. This push at the core of my being pushed me into education. If I could make things better, I should, right? Of course! Now, I am about to enter my 23rd year of teaching. (BTW, I think this makes me like a million years old. My theory is that teaching is like dog years. One year of teaching equals three years or something like that.) Things are not always awesome when it comes to teaching. So, what do I do? I don’t run. No. I fight. If I can back it better, I should, right? This leads me to join a number of committees to fix some of the most significant problems at my school. (Hence why I have been at meetings all week.) I became campaign manager for a candidate for school board. I do what I can to make it better.

This attitude of mine can be seen beyond the world of teaching and politics (this is obviously where I get my political activism from). I have even done with when it comes to fandom. When Rhonda and I started down this journey of blogging, researching and writing, not only did I want to understand fandom but I had hoped, in the back of my mind, that our actions might make it better. It might make fandom a more fun place. This is really where our meet-ups came from. I don’t want anyone to be a lonely fan so if we can do something for fans to meet each other, we should! Maybe if we question our actions as fans, it might lessen the worse aspects of our fan community. Yet, I have seen little change and often received backlash. This time, though, I backed off and try to keep fandom where it needs to be for *me* personally. I have to ignore the negatives in order to keep fandom as my fun place. If people don’t like us, I have to blow it off. I don’t have time or energy to fight on this front, too. I have to give what is left of my ability to fight to my job and to my community (local, state, national and global).

Now, much like the lyric said, I am feeling a little like I cannot breathe. It is all feeling like too much right now but I cannot let go. I haven’t been able to walk away from much that I have tried to make positive changes in and for. When it comes to fandom, I have been able to back off enough to keep going, while ignoring the parts of fandom that are difficult but I cannot do that with work (unless someone has a really awesome job out there that would pay me what I’m making as an old teacher with lots of education and experience!). I cannot do it when it comes to the larger society either. This goes beyond politics but to the country and world as a whole.

I’m not sure where this leaves me as I move into one of my final weekends before students walk into my classroom. For now, I’ll appreciate that these Duran lyrics spoke to me in a way that got me thinking and feeling. Processing how things are going can only help me keep in the fight.

-A