Unpacking Blue Ridge

Confession time: I haven’t known how to say everything I need to say. Pretty soon I’ll be rebranding the blog with a stronger focus on social media, writing, and editing. But now and then, I’ll still have some emo to share.

Like this post . . .

Y’all remember the suitcase I picked up a few months ago? [Read: “Oh, The Place You’ll Go!”]

First it took me to Seattle. [Read: FIVE THINGS FRIDAY: Seattle.]

And starting two weeks ago it kept me company at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

Luggage ready for BRMCWC

Blue Ridge Ready

Since returning, my peeps have been asking me to share stories with them. What was it like? Who did I meet with? Did I pick up new clients? What are my favorite memories? How hard was it to come home this year?

First, let me say this, as I’m sure most, if not all, at Blue Ridge would agree:

It was life changing.

As for the rest of it . . . It’s taken me a week to remember. To be able to talk about it. To share it authentically, and even then I’ve yet to do a complete job.

Because this year at Blue Ridge was a hard one for me. This year, God grabbed me at the beginning and said, “This is where the healing starts.”

When Healing Hurts

When Healing Hurts

Last year, Blue Ridge was new and inviting and full of connections and adventure. This year, some of my peeps couldn’t make it. This year I had the room to myself, and at the end of the busy days, I went into solitude.

From the first night away, I had bouts of anxiety. And I missed the FurFamily. Every few hours I was certain I just needed to pack it up and head home early. But who wants to admit that, at what amounts to a family reunion? These things are supposed to be fun, carefree. Not, “I need a hand to hold just so I know I have someone holding my hand” kind of moments. Right?

And the conference, well, it’s for writers, not whiners. So I sucked it up. Or so I thought. The thing is with me, and if you’ve hung around my blog for any length of time, you already know this: I’m a bit of a crier.

So there I am. At Blue Ridge and I’m overwhelmed with the responsibility to prove that I’m worth the collective efforts it took to get me there. And I want to make the most of it. And I’m afraid of letting people down. And I’m afraid of not gleaning every ounce I’m supposed to. And I’m missing my best friend who I met there last year.

And the hurts and struggles and trials of the last few years that have nothing to do with Blue Ridge or writing, they rise like cackles on the back of my neck. They surface, they grab for my attentions. They fight their way into every waking thought. They don’t even belong at Blue Ridge! But they don’t care. Stupid emotions!

And I feel misunderstood. Forgotten. Put down. Cast aside.

Worthless.

I. Am. A. Fraud.

Cloud of Negativity

Cloud of Negativity

Which is exactly what the enemy wants us to think, especially at a place like Blue Ridge, right? We’re not supposed to learn how to write for God, how to bring His message into the world, or think we’re worth the effort.

Right?

Wrong.

As difficult as it is, I celebrate the hard emotions. Sure, they were a distraction. A huge distraction. And when I say huge, well . . . Let me take you to Wednesday morning Group Meeting. Filled with people I know and love, but very few I felt connected to. So in a room of over 400 people, as I sat in the very back row between two of the ones I trust the most, the music starts. The worship music. The open-your-heart-to-God-and-let-it-go music. The it’s-too-painful-to-listen-to music. And for an hour, I cried. I just cried. Through the music, the announcements, the keynote speaker. I couldn’t stop biting my lip as the tears raced. I’m not exaggerating.

It was excruciating. And yet, now . . . I can see beauty coming from it.

I began to glimpse the bigger picture.

Blue Ridge isn’t just about learning to be a better writer. Of course it is that, but not just that. It’s also connections. Not just professional, either.

Me with the Ketchup Man - James L. Rubart

Me with the Ketchup Man – James L. Rubart

I was lucky enough to meet this guy, James L. Rubart. We’re going to be great friends, and he’s even forgiven me for saying he uses too much ketchup.

Aaron, Alycia and I are now known as “The Sibs”. We’re the siblings who weren’t born to the same family, but Blue Ridge brings us together every year.

The Sibs at Blue Ridge: Molly Jo Realy, Aaron Gansky, Alycia Morales

The Sibs at Blue Ridge: Molly Jo Realy, Aaron Gansky, Alycia Morales

Blue Ridge is where I was able to meet face to face with some of our loyal Firsts in Fiction podcast viewers. Like Bruce, who took it upon himself to Big Brother me and grab me for prayer whenever we passed in the halls. And get this – one of the last minute conferees came all the way from Australia because he heard about it on the podcast. How’s that for connections?

When I realized I wasn’t going to be able to be all things to all people all the time (I know. You’d think I’d learned that one by now. But hey. Work in progress, here, okay?), when I gave myself permission to fail, it was like giving myself permission to grow. I opted instead to do what I could for myself, not the world at large. Because being better to and for myself is better for the world at large. Yes?

Removing the parameters of perfection opened me. It was okay to tell others “I’m not okay right now.” It was okay to miss a few minutes of class and grab coffee with the Seesta. It was okay to sit in a corner, or in the front row. It was okay to say, “No,” or “Not now,” or just “Catch me later.”

And being not okay made the other things okay. I’d been fighting myself all week, and not paying attention to what was happening. And what was happening was confirmation.

Confirmation that I’m supposed to be there. That what I’m doing for my writing, editing, social media and marketing are spot on. That I’m getting better at what I do. That people believe in me and want to help me on this path. That I have friends-turned-family looking out for me. That I have something to offer.

I took new classes with favorite faculty, made the one-on-one appointments, prayed, connected, ate, hugged, laughed, shared . . . Everything I thought was missing, was actually happening.

The lie was that it was a lie.

Are you tracking with me here? Everything I thought I wanted to happen but felt wasn’t happening, because I was wrapped up in my tears and loneliness and anxiety . . . It was still happening. I just wasn’t experiencing it.

Until Wednesday morning. Naw, I’m not saying it all worked out that quickly. But I am saying on Wednesday morning I found myself surrounded by my peeps. Who kept surrounding me. And in retrospect, they had from the beginning. I just hadn’t noticed.

So here it is, a week later and I’m home. And it’s taken me this week of remembering and processing to realize, I still have so much to unpack.

Was it overwhelming? Yes. Would I do it again? As soon as yesterday. I know I’m not the only one who left the mountaintop and fell into the valley. We’re all gonna help each other back up.

“Next year, at Blue Ridge . . .” (Thank you, Lori.)

This is the song that did me in, Wednesday morning. God uses everything for His good.
“Blessings” by Laura Story. [How cool is her last name?!]

And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote.

One Post at a Time

Before leaving Blue Ridge, we were cautioned.

“Once you leave the mountaintop,
there’s only one way to go ~
Into the valley.”
~Alton Gansky, Final Keynote Speaker,
BRMCWC 2015

We were told what we learned was to be shared. We were being sent out to be springs in the desert, which in my case is quite literal.

Life Can Be Prickly - Cactus

Life Can Be Prickly

As wonderful as the Blue Ridge experience was, as foundational as these new friendships have proven to be, coming home was hard. Reconnecting to the world I left behind was difficult.

I’ve been trying to make sense of the blender in my head, chopping and refining and mixing all the information and activity and life that continues. I’ve been trying to put all the new, and old, life into the same container.

Etc., etc., etc. . . .

Etc., etc., etc. . . .

Surprise ~ it doesn’t all fit.

I needed a way to better manage the new roads that are leading me to greater things.

In particular, I’ve been further developing my Social Media Management.

How To Do Social Media For People Who Are Antisocial

How To Do Social Media For People Who Are Antisocial

But I wasn’t working it as well as I could have. I was inundated with the thought that I had to learn more, prep more, explain more, before I had something worth sharing.

The immensity of all that lay before me was overwhelming.

And then I remembered what Edie Melson taught us.

Social media is always changing.

Sounds like a “DUH” moment, right? You would think so.

The real “DUH” moment came when I realized because social media is always changing, it’s impossible for me to learn everything about it. My task is to share my current knowledge while growing. Not stop growing and then share stagnant information.

I don’t have to do everything all the time, as long as I do something when I can. My friend Tony put it this way:

“Consistency trumps intensity…better to work 20 minutes 6 days per week for 90 days than to work 40 hours per week for two weeks…it keeps you from burning out and the magic of your own biz is the ‘part time’ effort…imagine if someone went to the gym 8 hours in one day and called it good for the month…”

I’ve been asked to join several group blogs and share my social media knowledge. I don’t know as much as others, but I know more than some. That doesn’t mean I have to know or do everything all at once.

So I changed my mind.

I’m no longer crushing through hours each night, trying to flood my laptop with links and posts and media connections and classes and learning and teaching.

I’m no longer waiting until I know it all. What I already know is worth sharing. What I already do is worth doing for others.

Instead of trying to do it all, I look at what needs to be done now.

I don’t always like To-Do Lists. Those never ending beasts are an evil necessity with their continuous trails and side paths that often lead you away from contentment. As soon as you mark off one item, there’s another five to be added.

I’m starting a new To-Do List. One that makes it easier to manage everything else. So far, I’ve got one task.

1. Don’t Overdo the To-Do List.

It really can be that simple. Today I have things that have to get done. Blogging, NOLA Chapter 2 third draft, laundry, housecleaning, dinner. I have social media clients I need to take care of. But I can do it, just for today. Just for this week. I don’t need to schedule posts that are a month out. Not yet.

Burnout is too easily achieved when we try too hard to ignore ourselves.

It’s okay to take things one puzzle piece at a time. It’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to not be the best at everything.

And it’s okay to take things one post at a time.

And Frankly, My Dear . . . that’s all she wrote!

TWEETERRIFIC: Tweet: Social media always changes. We should too. #SocialMedia #FranklyMyDearMojo @RealMojo68 [Click to Tweet]