BLOGGING FEARS

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Photos courtesy of Pexels

Earlier this year, I came across an article, a letter that had been penned by a young woman named Holly Butcher, who was dying of Cancer, she was only 27 years old. As I read what she wrote from her deathbed I was brought to tears by her message. This young lady obviously didn’t want to die, she hadn’t done all the things she wanted to do, she thought she had all the time in the World to pursue her goals and dreams, like most of us do, yet her time here on Earth was unexpectedly cut short.

We always think we have time, so much time, but who knows how much time any of us really have left.

At the time, when I came across Holly’s article, I had been toying with the idea of writing a weekly Blog. The more I thought about it the more I wanted to do it but I was afraid. I had so many fears about all kinds of things, some of which were justified; while others were downright silly and completely unwarranted; but then I thought about this dying girl and how she will never have the opportunity of doing anything she wanted to do ever again so I decided to do what one of my favorite quotes postulates – “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Fear of Oversharing

In this day and age, where everyone shares everything on social media; even the dark and very personal, I sometimes feel old school in thinking that not everyone needs to know everything about me. I am not fiercely private (not like my husband) but I don’t broadcast everything either.

One of the things I discovered in my research about blog writing is that as a blogger one has to have a niche, something to blog about that you’re actually good at and can give expert advice on. So we have our beauty bloggers, our fitness and health bloggers, our fashion bloggers, travel bloggers, lifestyle bloggers; a plethora of blogs are out there with something for everyone.

However, the only thing I consider myself an expert in is my work and myself. I thought damn I have some really interesting cases but I can never write about them for fear (there’s that word again) of trampling on the attorney/client confidentiality clause. So I was left with my only other area of expertise, which meant writing about myself, my life, my very own experiences and that’s where my fear of oversharing came into play.

One should always be authentic with one’s writing; but where does one draw the line between authenticity and telling too much? Let’s face it, some of my stories, despite being heartfelt, are downright embarrassing, for example, this one 5 Lessons I Learned from my Divorce. However, if a writer desires to remain authentic then he or she must speak (write) openly and honestly about all experiences despite the fear of the embarrassing overshare.

Fear of Being Trolled/Stalked

I once had a stalker. I said “once” because I sincerely hope that he is in the past. Believe it or not, this stalker came from my work website. He was never a client nor a potential client but he must have liked how I looked in my pictures or whatever it was that I had to say on my work website because he proceeded to send me weekly emails and leave daily (sometimes several) voice messages on my work phone. This freaked me out!!!

It started in May 2015. At first he would send one email weekly, then it grew into a few emails per week overtime it became a few emails per day. I never once wrote back because based on his emails the guy was a loony. So after months of unanswered emails, he started calling my work phone. I immediately blocked his number, but he still got my voicemail whenever he called so it gave him the opportunity to leave a message and he oftentimes did. He was unintelligible and rambled on and on about nothing or some old cases or problems that he had. He always left his phone number and asked me to call back. I never did. After a while, he must have realized his phone number was blocked because he then went back to his non-sensical emails.

He would take a break from the emailing and phone calls for a month or two then he would suddenly reappear, and start his incessant emailing and calling again. It was nervewracking.

The sporadic email stalking went on for 2 years, which was way too long; before I finally called my web-designer and told him about it. I had no idea my web guy could go in and see where the messages were coming from and block any future messages from coming through to my website email from him. When stalker guy realized he couldn’t email me anymore then he went back to calling. He even left a message alerting me to the fact that something was wrong with my website because he could no longer send me any emails. I kid you not!!!

Anyone remembers how John Lennon got died? He was killed by a crazy stalker who flew all the way from his home in Hawaii and waited outside John Lennon’s apartment building in New York City and shot the Beatles group member to death as he entered the building. The murderer, since then, has done a few interviews from his prison cell, where he gave no real reason for committing the murder more than he was influenced by the book, The Cather in the Rye.

During those 2 years of weird emails and voicemail messages from stalker guy, John Lennon’s story was prevalent in my thoughts. Obviously, I don’t have John Lennon’s fame and harming me will not bring anyone any kind of notoriety but people are certifiable crazy and you never know who is who.

The only thing that made me feel somewhat safe is my husband’s reassurance that he “wouldn’t let anything happen to me” (yeah, I know; but I believed him) and that based on the guy’s voicemail messages and emails he was “probably harmless” but I live in a world of ‘you never know’ so putting myself out there in the form of blogging is a major deal for me because ya know; you never know.

Fear of Not Being Read

Let’s face it, every writer wants to be read. What’s the point of writing if your words aren’t read by others. Unless, of course, the writer writes for therapeutic purposes only; but once the writer hits “publish” he/she wants his writing read.

Most writers want to know that their writing doesn’t suck, or at least I do. We all want to captivate our audience. I won’t speak for all Bloggers, but as for me, I want every word of my piece to be read, from beginning to end; the views are not enough, I want people to actually read what I write; and appreciation of my written words validate me and makes me want to continue to tell my stories.

The fear of not being read at all almost prevented me from ever starting my blog. What if no one cared to read what I had to say? What if people thought I had nothing interesting to say? What if I said it in such a way that I wasn’t able to excite curiosity or attention? What if I couldn’t evoke emotions from my readers? What if I really couldn’t write as well as I thought I could?

All of these fears almost crippled my attempts to start a Blog and almost prevented me from putting myself out there. The truth is, writing has always been my first love, above the practice of law and anything else I have ever attempted, writing is and will always be my first love. I have been writing since I was in high school, and even though I had stopped for a while because the responsibilities of life took over and I pursued other goals, I had never given up on my first true love.

I am sorry that Holly Butcher died but I am glad that the letter she wrote from her deathbed gave me enough inspiration to feel the fear and to do it anyway; to sit down at my laptop, punch those keys and gave me enough guts to hit “publish” afterward.

Thank you, Holly!

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Birthday Shenanigans

It was a stabbing pain to the left side of my forehead, my temple throbbed, as I opened my eyes and blinked and tried to focus on my husband, who was standing at the side of our bed with a tray in his hand.

“Wake up…It’s your birthday breakfast, Sweetie.” He said as he smiled and handed me the tray with the plate of bacon and eggs. “It’s your favorite.”

The left side of my head was throbbing unmercilessly. “My head hurts…Noooooo…Not today…Babe…Motrin, now, please.” I rubbed the left side of my forehead as I sat up in bed.

I couldn’t figure out why today of all days, on my birthday, I woke up with a headache. I was not amused as I looked up at the ceiling and issued a warning to the imaginary Gods of the Universe. “Today is my day and you’re not going to screw with it. I will enjoy MY day!”

Damn, I’m Determined

My husband suggested that it might be the “wine from last night” that was causing my headache. My thoughts went back to the night before; we certainly started the birthday celebrations off with a bang. Greg, my husband, took me to see the Donna Summer Musical on Broadway, which was excellent. I was singing and dancing with the rest of the audience, especially with the gay couple who sat directly in front of us and who were having the time of their lives. By the end of the night, one half of the gay couple and I found ourselves in the aisle of the Lunt-Fontanne Theater dancing up a storm to Hot Stuff and Last Dance. Oh, what a fun time it was!

After we left the show we walked the 6 blocks to Gallagher’s Steakhouse, me in my high heels strutting my stuff pretending not to feel the start of the inevitable high heel ache that comes on after a few hours of wearing stilettos. Oh, how I miss my youth! I used to be able to rock those babies all night long; but not anymore. I made a mental note to slip into my sandals as soon as we sat down in the restaurant, but for now, the birthday girl in her birthday outfit needed to keep moving along gracefully in those 5-inch heels. Yes, people, I walked 6 NYC blocks in 5-inch heels! My Mom always said, “Beauty feels no pain.” Someone should have added to that saying “until the next day.”

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The high heel wearing ache was nothing compared to the migraine that was trying to force me to spend my birthday in bed. I wasn’t having it though, I swallowed some Motrin and hopped out of bed and started getting ready for the gym. Greg thought I was crazy. I tried explaining that for the past decade I have been going to the gym on my birthday every year and I wasn’t about to break the tradition. Besides, my gym gave away a free protein shake to everyone on their birthday. I had waited 365 days for my free shake and I was going to get it.

Greg looked at me like I was insane!

“It’s my birthday, Babe. I have to go to the gym. How else am I gonna see my gym buddies so I can get my well-wishes and birthday hugs? Greg just stared at me in disbelief and walked out of the room. He was clearly fighting a losing battle trying to convince me to stay in bed until the headache subsided.

So I donned my birthday button and left for the gym. πŸ˜ƒ

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I have been wearing my button every year for longer than I can remember. It’s so much easier than telling everyone I run into that “today is my birthday.”

By the time I arrived at the gym, the Motrin was taking effect and I was feeling good.

At the start of the Aerobics Step class, the instructor had the class sing “Happy Birthday” to me. I loooooved it!!! It was a scene right out of grade school, the only thing missing were the cupcakes. I couldn’t be happier. The day was headed in the right direction.

As I walked out of the gym sipping on my free protein shake I noticed the morning clouds had cleared, the sky was a gorgeous blue and the temperature was a lovely 75 degrees. Afternoon showers had been predicted but the Universe knew it was my birthday and gave me the best day weather-wise.

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The Crash!

Greg and I had planned lunch and the movies – since going to the movies is one of my favorite pastimes, what better way to spend the afternoon. (Check out my blog piece on the movies here Let’s Go to the Movies!)

As we sat having lunch at the restaurant across the street from the Cinema, I felt the migraine coming back. Truth be told I felt the headache trying to make a comeback while I was getting ready to go out to lunch, but I refused to stay indoors, I refused to take more painkillers and go back to bed. I was fighting the good fight, I wanted to be out and about on my birthday. I tried helplessly to ignore the throbbing pain on the left side of my temple. Then it happened – A cough followed by a sneeze and that’s when I knew I had no more fight left in me.

“Take me home,” I whispered to my husband.

The poor man look worried. He could not believe his ears. No, I did not want to go to the movies anymore. No, I did not want the “birthday” chocolate mousse dessert I was offered by our nice waitress. Yes, I was sure I wanted to go home. Then I sneezed again and I almost cried. I was getting sick…On my goddamn birthday!!!! What kind of cruel joke was this?

I had dinner plans that night with my best friends, another birthday tradition. I couldn’t afford to be sick. When I arrived home I got under the covers swallowed some flu medication and dozed off to Kavanaugh’s voice vehemently denying the allegations levied against him. Yes, my birthday was the most historical day of the Senate Judiciary Hearings.

Never underestimate the power of a nap! I woke up a whole new woman, got dressed and headed out to meet my girls for my birthday dinner. It was a fun evening of great conversation and loads of laugh but I dare not touch a drop of alcohol because I could feel the migraine waiting in the wings to make a nasty comeback.

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The Birthday Party

I am sure it doesn’t come as a surprise that I have a birthday party every year. This year the party was planned for the Saturday night, 2 days after my birthday.

The day after my birthday, that is the eve of my birthday party, I spent most of the day in bed. I was miserable. The day should have been spent delightfully running around doing last minute prepping for my party, which thankfully was a small party, a very intimate affair, this year; but instead, the flu-like symptoms came on full force and I spent the day in bed cursing at the untimely onset of my illness and trying to decide whether or not I should cancel my party.

I was sneezing and coughing and headachy for most of Friday but woke up on Saturday morning, the day of the party, feeling like I could conquer the World (thank you God for Tylenol Flu and Cold tablets). The party was on, and when Greg came home with my birthday cake the party vibe hit me even more.

I spent the better part of Saturday busying myself with party preparations, I thoroughly enjoy doing stuff like that, and was content with hanging balloons and strategically moving around stuff in my house to facilitate my guests until the endless coughing and sneezing came back just 4 hours before my party was supposed to begin. I was livid! What made it worse was every time I coughed or sneezed, the cough or sneeze triggered a ruthless headache that lasted at least 10 minutes.

I even tried to bargain with God, I promised him that if he would keep me in good spirits for the rest of the evening he could make me bed-ridden all of next week. God wasn’t having it though and at 3:30 I had to crawl back into bed even though the party was scheduled to start at 7 pm.

Again, never underestimate the power of a nap. I still wasn’t a hundred percent when I woke up but I took a look at my cake and my dress (one must draw inspiration from wherever one canπŸ˜‰), turned on some Donna Summer music while I was getting ready and willed myself to feel better; and oh yeah took some more of that magical Tylenol Cold and Flu tablets.

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In the end, the party turned out to be a success, I remained “fierce and fabulous” in true Racquel form for the entire night. However, this birthday taught me that I can’t do it like I used to, now I need to take naps in between in order to keep going. πŸ˜ƒ After all, I am a year older; but I won’t give up though, I will never settle into being old, I will never readily concede. I am never ever going down without a fight.

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One love, Racquel!!!!

Birthday Alert!

Today is my favorite day of the year because today is all about me. Today I get to be unapologetically selfish since today is my birthday.

I love birthdays because it’s a time of celebration and reflection. It’s an excuse to celebrate yourself and to examine strides you have made, no matter how small, and to plan goals for your next 365-day orbit around the sun.

One of the things I like to do on my birthday (or during the week of my birthday; since the actual birthday itself is always chockful of activities) is to write down all the things I am grateful for that occurred during the past year followed by another list with a few goals I would like to achieve during the upcoming year. Doing this gives my life intention and even though things may not go exactly as I planned all the time it does give me some purpose and a lot to look forward to.

My husband loves my enthusiasm surrounding birthdays and has confessed that his birthdays have gotten so much better since he’s known me.😊 I not only make a big deal about my own birthday, but I also make a big deal about everyone else’s. I use to wake up my son with a dozen or more balloons every year on his birthday (while singing him “Happy Birthday” in my tone-deaf off-key voice) simply because when he was little he loved balloons.

I cannot emphasize how special it is to experience a healthy, stress-free birthday. Life should be celebrated. Always! We get so busy with our everyday existence and obligations that we run the risk of not celebrating ourselves. The least we can do is to take a day – at least one day – where we indulge ourselves with our whims and fancies; and what better day to do it than on your birthday. You are so worth it!

To each his own, but as long as I live I will never understand those who tell me that their birthday “is no big deal, it’s just another day.” Yes, of course, it’s another day but it’s your day a day that should be acknowledged, recognized or celebrated even if in the smallest manner.

My celebrations started last night with the Donna Summer Musical on Broadway followed by a nice dinner with my Love. The birthday is off to a great start, and I am truly excited to continue celebrating, not only today but also the remainder of the week. Happy Birthday to Me!!!!! πŸŽ‚πŸŽ‰πŸŽ

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Remembering Jason

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September is a bittersweet month for me. Living in New York I love the change of the seasons that September brings, transitioning from hot and sticky to nice and cool, but not cold, is always a pleasure. September is also my birth month so it gives me an excuse to celebrate my life. However, as I celebrate my own life my mind also goes to my baby brother, Jason, who died unexpectedly on September 10, 2012, just a month shy of his 29th birthday.

When my cell phone rang at 1 o clock that afternoon and I saw my Mom’s number on my phone screen I got an inexplicable eerie feeling. I had just talked to both my parents, who lived in Jamaica, earlier that morning so why was my Mom calling again?

I answered my phone, I recognized my Aunt’s voice. My Mom’s phone but not my Mom on the other end of the line, the eerie feeling grew and I pulled over, something told me I shouldn’t keep driving.

“Jason is dead.”

“What?” I was certain I hadn’t heard properly.

“Racquel, I’m so sorry! Your Mom just came home and found Jason dead.”

“What’d you mean by dead?” Suddenly, I didn’t know what the word meant and I was sure my Aunt didn’t know what she was talking about. “Let me talk to Mommy please.” I refused to believe what I was hearing.” I started shouting. “Where is Mommy? Lemme talk to my mother!”

My mother came to the phone and she was belligerent with grief. I couldn’t understand much of what she was saying because what she was doing wasn’t even crying, she was howling. Howling in pain and disbelief.

What I do remember is that I hung up the phone and immediately called my father, who had just heard the news and was racing home from work. He instructed me to call my other brother, who lived on the other side of the World, and I did.

I drove straight to my son’s school, Blake was in the 4th grade at the time, I signed him out of school and while we drove home I was sighing so much, he kept asking me what was wrong but I had no idea how to tell him. Blake had only just gotten back from Jamaica the week before, where he used to spend all his Summers; and he was extremely close to his Uncle Jason.

In the days that followed; the autopsy report revealed that Jason was born with a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which led to his sudden death. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy otherwise known as Cardiomegaly is a condition where one has an enlarged heart. Apparently, Jason was born with this genetic condition so as he got older, his heart grew and grew and grew and kept growing to the point where his heart got too big; so big that the heart could no longer work effectively or efficiently and one day it just stopped. Jason’s death was just as simple and uncomplicated as that. A simple death for a simple, uncomplicated life.

None of us knew that Jason had this heart condition because he was never sick. For the entire 28 years that he lived, he was physically healthy. My Mom does recall that in the weeks leading up to his sudden death he had complained a few times about being extremely tired. She would suggest that he get some more rest, that perhaps he was doing too much. Maybe he needed a vacation, some rest and relaxation; but his complaints were never serious enough to warrant a visit to the doctor.

The fact that Jason died of an enlarged heart is ironic because he really did have a big heart. He was one of the kindest, most compassionate people I knew. During his short life he gave and gave; of his time, his possessions, his love, his money; just about everything. Have you ever heard the saying “kind to a fault”? That was Jason! So incredibly kind and always doing for others without any expectation of anything in return and it was no big deal for him to inconvenience himself to make others comfortable. He was as affectionate as he was compassionate and I am not ashamed to say that of my mother’s 3 children he was the most loving.

This year on the Anniversary of Jason’s death I lit a candle in his honor, it’s not something I had ever done before, and I am not even sure why I did it but it’s just something I felt like doing. I lit the candle and what I did afterward was weird, at least for me it was – I spoke to him. Yes, I spoke to Jason as if he was seated right next to me. I was alone at home at the time and I thought to myself what if I heard a voice answer back. What would I do? Then I thought to myself I wouldn’t even be scared because Jason was so harmless in life he would certainly be harmless in death. Then I thought to myself why are we so afraid of the dead?

Jason didn’t respond as I spoke to him, not that I expected him to. Also, there were no signs that he heard me; the curtains didn’t mysteriously blow through a windless window, no chairs moved, or a radio or TV didn’t suddenly turn on by itself but I got a sense of inexplicable peace, almost as if he heard me. Yeah, weird…I know!

I don’t know what happens to people when they die, and I have no theory or beliefs on the subject but the sense of peace I felt from having a one-way conversation with my dead brother was one I have never really felt before and his memory have not left me for weeks thereafter.

I find myself thinking about him endlessly, thinking about the fact that he loved music and he used to blast Linkin Park all the time. One of his weekly rituals was to head out to a music store and pick up CDs. It was his thing, he wasn’t much of a singer and I’ve never seen him dance but he still loved his music.

He was also into astrology and had an unbelievable knack of remembering everyone’s birthday – everyone’s. You only needed to tell him your birthday once and he’d never ever forget it. He enjoyed analyzing someone’s personality based on their zodiac sign. It was just something he got a kick out of. When he passed away I couldn’t believe how many books I found on astrology as I cleaned out his bedroom.

Jason also enjoyed having conversations with people who were much older than him, he would sit and talk to my grandmother for hours. He visited with her regularly and she loved it. The young usually don’t have much patience for the elderly but Jason sure did.

It’s hard to believe that it has been 6 years since I last heard his voice, 6 years since he left us so unexpectedly. It’s so hard to come to terms with the fact that your own life actually moves on even when someone you love doesn’t exist anymore. It makes you wonder where they are and what exactly is going on with them? Sometimes memories of him come to me out of the blue and I smile.

Jason was a good kid. My only regret is that being 10 years older than he was, I didn’t spend as much time with him in his teenage years, as I would have liked to, I was out of the house and away at College when he was experiencing those awkward teenage years. When I was around I did try to be a good big sister though, and I only hope that in his last moments, as his entire life flashed before his eyes, he remembers me as such.

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Jason: October 7, 1983 – September 10, 2012