Frustrated, Inc.

This song somehow got lodged in my head a few days ago. When I tell you that I remember watching the music video in the basement of the guys’ dorm in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college while hiding from the boss of the maintenance crew instead of putting Miracle Gro on five gazillion geraniums, you will know exactly how old I am. It was never the love songs that stuck with me. It was the ones like “Misery” that touched on some raw angsty nerve.

Some days, Sam Cat and I CANNOT EVEN.

I like to think I’m a little more well-adjusted these days, but the angst is still there, and so is the frustration. It’s been rearing its disheveled head a lot more than usual lately, seemingly everywhere I turn.

Frustration always strikes at some point(s) during the revision process. The story I am able to get down on the page is never as good as the one in my head. Between brain and screen or page, something is always lost. I’m smack in the middle of rewriting Vessel, the book about the girl with the book, and I swing wildly between elation and despair. From moment to moment, it is The Best Book I Have Ever Written, The Worst Book Anyone Has Ever Written, or worst of all, Just Meh.

Captaining the phone bank for my local candidate for VA Delegate has also been incredibly frustrating. I feel like I’m doing some good, in a small way, and that’s rewarding and energizing, but it’s a struggle to get anyone else involved. A few friends have stepped up to help, and they will always be rock stars in my book. I find it interesting that of the people who’ve showed up, all are women. All are mothers. And all but one are mothers of two or three young children. This is all anecdotal and I shouldn’t extrapolate too much from it, but I notice a general tendency in the activism in my area. Women, especially mothers, seem to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Maybe we have more skin in the game. But we’re also already doing a ton of work as it is. We can’t do it alone.

Even interacting with other human beings has been frustrating. I’ve managed to get sucked into some heated debates about athletes protesting systemic racism by kneeling during the national anthem, and I’m completely frustrated by the tenor of the conversations. I understand that there are strong feelings on both sides, but I’m frustrated by those who refuse to empathize with anyone else and insist that their hurt at feeling a symbol is dishonored is greater than the hurt inflicted by centuries of slavery, segregation, and discrimination.

And I’m frustrated by the mansplainers who inevitably appear whenever a woman posts anything remotely like the previous sentence, anything that expresses a political point of view. Some of you have told me that comments are closed on my blog, and that’s not the case–they’re not showing up immediately because I’ve set them so that I can approve them before they’re posted. I did this after a friend of a friend decided to mansplain to me why I was wrong and hypocritical for writing something in support of Hilary Clinton before the election. I spent way too much time and energy composing a response to him. I posted my response. I kept thinking about it. And then I deleted it, because the tone of his comment, when I looked closely at it, did not invite discussion. He was not interested in conversation. He wanted to tell a woman that she was wrong. And that kind of nonsense does not deserve my time. It’s frustrating that I wasted so much time on it. And I’m frustrated that every single day on social media I see women, especially women of color, fending off mean-spirited, poorly thought-out, disgusting, and grammatically atrocious attacks from white dudebros who can’t stand it when women and people of color use their voices.


It’s easy to get lost in the frustration, particularly in the current political climate. I have to keep reevaluating the fights I fight, my level of involvement. I have to keep reminding myself that I am playing the long game, that the thing I am good at is words, and that that is how I will hopefully one day make a difference. And the word game is one of the longest games there is. I’m chalking up rejections. I’m writing rough drafts. I’m researching agents and agencies, writing synopses (which are a circle of hell that should be the subject for another post sometime if I can stand to think about them that long), writing queries, getting feedback, shedding tears, gritting my teeth and slashing the dead wood out of my stories, decompressing, and doing it all over again.

Every day, I am fighting the frustration. I fight it with angsty music from my college years, with chocolate, with long commiseration sessions with writer-friends, with hugs from my boys, with obscene amounts of tea, with walks in the woods, with a husband who is inordinately patient and understanding, with my hands in the dirt, with middle school students who delight and surprise me, with doing what I can, with trying to let go of what I can’t manage, with chickens and bees, with telling the stories only I can tell, with constant reminders to myself to at least pretend to try to chill out.

This helps.

How do you fight it?

Or should we stop fighting and maybe start a company…….?

10 thoughts on “Frustrated, Inc.

  1. In the words of my wise parents (originally to my sister and I, of course): “No fighting allowed!” And seriously, I find that what I resist persists, so I am being diligent about paying attention to what’s good in my life (even if that means I’ll have very little to say).
    Am I meanwhile feeling frustration? Yes. I’m unemployed with little likelihood of a job comparable to the one that just downsized me. My creative pursuits still seem to be at the end of a long to-do list. And my left forearm is injured. You bet I’m frustrated.
    My parents were also adept at redirection. If I got tenacious about what hurt or how annoyed I was, they would find a way to shift the focus. (Thank goodness, I can’t really digest ice cream which was often the new focus my parents offered.)
    So, like you, I see vast chasms of need in our world and I long to fill them with kindness, understanding, peace, music, and dancing. So, I’m doing the best I can to shift into deeper focus on these intentions.

  2. AH, Soul Asylum. After Frustrated, Inc. I had to give a listen to Runaway Train, as well (Really disturbing video attached to that song, I must say. Needed to just listen to the music and not watch…) I hear you, Brenna. I feel your angst. I get your frustration. And I admire the crap out of you and your ability to speak your truth and keep at it. What you do matters, lady. I have faith in you and in your words. Keep writing them. XO

    1. Thanks, Barb. Your passion for your work is an inspiration. As for Soul Asylum, I kept hitting the back button because I couldn’t hack “Runaway Train” that morning.

  3. The important thing is, Brenna, that you are still fighting. I suspect it will all add up to more than you think. In the meantime, it’s quite a beautiful autumn. ❤

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