Behind the Filters and Smiles

For over 40ish years now, I’ve just assumed I wasn’t a happy person. I didn’t know how to be happy. I wasn’t meant to do more than plaster on a fake smile and pretend that I was okay.

I got pretty damn good at it, too. I smiled. I laughed. I joked. I slapped on a brave face and hoped no one saw the gritted teeth.

I didn’t have any excuse to not be happy. Sure there were things in my childhood that sucked – the loss of a parent, divorce, emotional abuse – but nothing that I’d ever consider trauma. I didn’t have it worse than anyone else. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, I had nothing to complain about.

Yet, I was in pain. I was sad. I felt lost. Unloved. Unloveable. Unworthy. Unacceptable.

In trying to bury these big feelings and emotions, I slipped into various coping mechanisms. I found comfort in food and then in severe restriction. For years, I bounced between limiting to 300 calories a day and then binging far too many to count. I lost weight. I gained weight. I added more and more layers between my heart and the real world.

Rather than addressing any of these feelings, I self-medicated with food and tried to self-analyze my problems. I listened to self-help books. I believed the toxic positivity and again decided the issue was my own aversion to happiness. I was the problem. Maybe I was just wired all wrong. I’d been born into quicksand and there wasn’t anything to balance my weight against.

I tried religion. I tried applying more layers. I leaned into the little things that made me happy for a moment (new shoes! new nails! new makeup! books!) but nothing worked. I overanalyzed again and again.

Maybe … just maybe … this new thing was the cure.

New obsession after new obsession … nothing changed.

I still wasn’t happy. Did I even want to be happy?

In 2020 and 2021, the bottom dropped out. The world crumbled. We isolated. I became angry and stressed. My marriage suffered. My kids suffered. I suffered. A job I once loved became toxic. I experienced gaslighting as an adult and was able to recognize it. I saw what it did to me. I saw how it made me react. I nearly lost myself in trying to put out the flames. But then I took charge. I took a risk that was so far out of character it made me nauseous. I quit the job and walked away. I put myself first. I let the fear of becoming someone I didn’t want to be win. (Sometimes, it’s okay to let fear win.)

Something inside me rattled loose. Memories I’d buried. Feelings I’d ignored. Truths I’d refused to accept. It all flooded out.

I realized it was more than I could handle alone.

I turned 40 and realized I was tired of living like this. I was tired of masking and pretending everything was rosy.

I researched therapy and started talking to someone. Then, something magical happened.

My trauma was acknowledged and validated. I was reminded that while my traumas might not be the BIG traumas I compared myself to, they were still painful and they left a lingering impact.

I felt seen and understood in a way I never had before. It was liberating.

I still have a lot of work to do, but I am learning more and more about myself every day. I’m learning to find new ways to process and feel these emotions I’ve ignored for far too long. I’m trying to set a better example for my kids, and I’m finding more patience every day—both with myself and with those around me.

I’m also learning that it’s okay to let the mask slip off. I don’t have to pretend to be perfect or even okay. It’s not easy to let go of that control, but it feels good.

I don’t know what this year will bring nor do I know if I’ll find that magical light at the end of the tunnel, but I can feel the change.

There is happiness ahead.

Falling in Love with Work

Children’s books make my heart sing. The beautiful words. The lessons learned. The gorgeous and whimsical illustrations.

I knew I’d enjoy working in children’s publishing, but even I couldn’t have predicted just how much they would impact my life as I fell in love with each and every title. It’s been amazing watching these books move from idea to words and drawings to a book on a shelf. I’m in awe of the passion these authors have shared.

All of these amazing picture books are available to order or pre-order now.

Opal Lee and What it Means to be Free by Alice Faye Duncan

Good Morning, My Little One by Amy Kavelaris coming 2/8/22

Edward & Annie with Shedd Aquarium coming 3/8/22

What Will I Do With My Love Today by Kristin Chenoweth coming 3/8/22

Thank You, Mama by Linda Meeker coming 4/5/22

You’re Always Enough and More than I Hoped For by Emily Ley coming 5/10/22

Review: Love & Other Disasters, Anita Kelly

Friends … this book should’ve just been titled “Love” because it was just that good.

I loved the food and cooking show competition element. I loved London and their confidence and unfiltered belief in and love for themselves. I loved Dahlia and all of her disasters and clumsiness and vulnerability. I loved how fiercely they stood up for and protected each other.

The only thing I didn’t love? There simply wasn’t enough of Barbara. I adored her character and need more of her grandmothering. Please and thank you.

Just … yeah. I loved it.

Review: Razorblade Tears, S.A. Crosby

This book is the perfect example of why I love going into books completely blind. I knew NOTHING of the plot.

S.A. Crosby hooked me from page one. I was immediately intrigued. I found both Ike and Buddy Lee compelling and deeply flawed … and you know how much I adore flawed characters.

Then they brought in the MC, and it gave me Sons of Anarchy vibes (another favorite).

While the story had dark and violent elements, it was so much more than that. It was about growth, forgiveness, family, found family, and the deep-rooted injustices and inequities in America.

So, yeah, I loved it.

Review: This is What America Looks Like, Ilhan Omar

Like many progressive Americans, I’ve followed Representative Ilhan Omar’s political journey over the last few years, but I didn’t know much about her otherwise.

Her memoir should be required reading for everyone. She tells her story of growing up in Somalia, becoming a refuge, and immigrating to America. She’s a spitfire who has dedicated her life to fighting for human rights, democracy, and doing what’s right.

She narrates the audiobook, which I loved.

I can’t recommend this book enough.

Review: The London House, Katherine Reay

I truly have a soft spot for family secrets and complicated family dynamics. The London House did all of these and did them well. I was hooked from page one.

I usually LOVE dual timeline historical fiction. There’s just something magical about time-hopping.

But this one took a different approach that I just kinda liked. The past was told through letters and diary entries. Intriguing? Yes. But it was missing some of the magic.

All in, I thought this was a good book. If you enjoy WWII historical fiction centered on family secrets, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

New Podcast Announcement!

The Bookstagram Chats Podcast is heading your way!

I am so excited to finally share this news! After months of internal debate, I’ve finally taken the first steps to make this idea a reality.

If you’re a part of the Bookstagram community, you know just how important that community is and that, sometimes, it’s more about the people than the books.

And that’s what this podcast is all about … meeting readers and sharing their stories and book lives. We all love a good Meet the Bookstagrammer post! So, why not turn it into a fun podcast where we can chat about books and learn more about the readers and people behind the ‘gram?

The trailer is up now over on the Podcast page and will be on all the platforms soon, but stay tuned for some exciting interviews kicking off at the end of November!