Stephanie Burgis
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opening up
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It's been a funny, up-and-down week. Tuesday night was great--Patrick and I had a Date Night and went out for an Italian dinner/Starbucks frappucino dessert/Harry Potter showing. (Patrick wrote a critical review on his journal; I, on the other hand, just really enjoyed the movie. No, I'll be honest: I lapped it up. I love Harry Potter!) (And I can't even express how nervous it makes me to write that in a community of hip, cool, sophisticated slipstreamy authors, but what the heck. Honesty is a good thing.) I finished my newest short story, which I'm feeling extremely dubious and ambivalent about, but still--I'm glad to have finished it. (And glad to be done with it, at least for now...I'll stick it away in a drawer and forget about it for a couple of months before taking it back out for re-evaluation and revisions.) I've started rewriting Queen of Thorns, and I'm feeling really positive and enthusiastic about it. It's fun going back to kids' novels for a while, before I sink my teeth into the rewrites for Masks and Shadows.

And. And, and, and... I've also been feeling really stressed, for no particularly sensible reasons. I mean, there are always reasons--my life right now is a balancing act of writing, thesis work, article-writing work, housework, wedding planning, exercising, etc, ad nauseum.... but they've been feeling harder this week, mostly because I've been feeling an awful load of self-criticism at every point. This isn't new for me (I know I'm an insane perfectionist--every time I ever got an A minus, I felt like a failure, straight through my Master's degree), but it's been much more intense than normal this week, to the point of being fairly paralyzing in terms of productivity. No fun at all. And worse because I really, really hate admitting weakness to anybody. (Making this journal entry a bit of a stretch--I keep being tempted to delete it quickly and write about something lighter! Sorry, guys.) When professors ask if I can do something, I say "Yes!"--no matter what it is. (Yes, many of you know the embarrassing story of the interview where I was asked whether I could read Italian....!) When people ask how I'm doing, I say "Fine!" This makes it really hard to argue with feelings of creeping inadequacy--after all, I never get to hear an opposing viewpoint.

So, today, I folded. I started talking to people about how bad I was feeling. Every time I contemplated talking to a new person (all close friends whom I trust), I fought down near-panic. People only like me if I'm perfect, right? Right?????

Well, guess what? No one reacted that way. It turned out lots of them had felt a lot like me in the past, and they had helpful suggestions. Best of all, they liked me anyway. And they told me I was wrong about stupidity/incompetence/worthlessness/etc. Which felt remarkably good to hear.

Normally, I wouldn't write about something like this on a journal entry. It feels too public, too exposed...too dangerous. I don't admit having problems ever. Because if I did...well? What would happen? I don't know. Scary stuff.

But I've been feeling better and better with every person I've talked to about it. When I open up and admit the nightmarish worries festering inside me, it turns out...well...they don't actually look so nightmarish anymore. They actually start to look a little silly. (I was afraid people would think I was egotistical if I said I felt bad about myself? What planet was that coming from????)

So I thought I would practice opening up just a little bit more.

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