Hey, I’m Chas aka Dakota Soulshine.
My purpose keeps poking me to explore my heart and share my ideas, but the demon of vulnerability always interrupts. The voices don’t let me sleep. So here I am, my attempt to make sense of what festers in my head with no release but words on a page. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy sleeping when I let the characters run free. How you choose to interpret my journey is then your responsibility. I hope you choose to be kind, to yourself and to others. I do not intend to disgrace myself nor anyone else. I am simply using this platform to explore my crazy.
I grew up in rural South Dakota, in towns of less than 100 people with no street signs or concrete. Gravel roads guided me to a high school that graduated 16 people my senior year, including a foreign exchange student and myself, a large class. I shot lay-ups for warm-up at our home basketball games then jumped on stage in my uniform to play the Star-Spangled Banner with the rest of the band, maybe 15 total. My life was simple, and seemingly perfect.
I didn’t even think about college until the school counselor pushed me to apply my senior year. I graduated with a degree in English, Secondary Education then completed coursework for a master’s in Rhetoric but I never did complete my thesis, much to my grandmother’s dismay. But my comfortable rural radius grew small as I was exposed to circumstances that led me east to New Jersey and New York, where I made a new life for eight years. That chapter closed when I became a mother, wanting to raise my children in nature’s beauty vs urban sprawl. But the rat race of New York City taught me more in eight years than I would have ever learned from books. I worked at a small New York socialite magazine, a family-owned restaurant, a recruitment agency and a fashion conglomerate. I met people I carry with me today, whether they know or not. Those years fed my hunger to experience a world unknown, yet one that had served as the setting of my dreams as a young child.
I still crave knowledge and experience. It’s the reason I am typing right now. I want to keep learning, exploring, feeding my curiosities, discovering nooks in my soul that even I do not know exist until I look for them, pull them into the light for a better view. See how I might shine in ways only I can. That is my responsibility to me. Hope you enjoy the journey of Dakota Soulshine, a mix of mindfulness and fiction, two roads I am eager to explore.
And I need to stop editing myself. I ain’t no mainstream writer. Let the shit spill out is what I’ve been told, so here goes . . .
I admit, I turn into an overbearing remote hawk when NBC’s The Voice is on. We record it, so any fast forwarding through interviews and commentary irks me and I kindly ask, “Can you please rewind that? I would like to hear what they say.”
And then there’s the volume. Often times the talented singers on perfect key in heart touching moments do not outperform the usual beat of my background:
“Mom, he took my popcorn.”
“Mom, she took my blanket.”
“What do we have going on next Thursday?”
“Can you please turn it up so I can hear this song? Thank you.” And the edgy melody in my transparent voice tries its best to float above the chaotic rhythm of life. And as I reread that sentence, I realize I just answered my own question, directed to my own Voice: Who are you, and why are you speaking?
Dakota Soulshine: an observant voice that floats above the chaos? or a patient voice that exists within?
I didn’t even plan to whittle out a description when I began this post, but there it is, telling ME what to BE. And that is one of many reasons why I love writing. Thoughts can only fester for so long inside, they need a release, or will turn themselves into storms of worry, regret and resentment. Writing helps me formulate my thoughts. It helps me ask questions and make sense of my existence. Without writing, I would be a raging nut.
I could equally argue that writing is what makes me a raging nut. Work hard, play hard. I’ve been working on my writing for years, but never have I taken the route to “find my voice” as you often hear Lionel offer. I think about the stories and their characters, possible plots, life lessons, the grueling process of it all. But I have yet to dig into the question: “Who is my voice, what is she trying to say, and why?”
Good questions to which I do not have answers . . . Am I supposed to?
Why do I feel the need to blog rants as Dakota Soulshine?
I have no idea. Hopefully, my purpose will surface soon.
The first slap came from a young lady social media coach and the other from the mouth of a therapist, so hmmm, maybe I should listen to them. They seem knowledgeable resources. Applicable, no doubt.
I had been feeling stifled with my writing, exhausted from learning social media’s modern protocol, and overwhelmed with satisfying my core needs and dreams amidst a busy family schedule.
Ugh, schedule. It’s an ugly word to me. Better read than said, but I still dislike it.
My premise is to journal the adventure of a (wanna be) writer.
If I have learned anything about myself in the first few attempts to put my words out there and have them praised and scorched equally, I have learned that I recover a little easier after each time it happens. So I nestle in this juxtaposition of writing with more freedom and setting myself up to spar with criticism. Although if your words are not helpful or constructive or supportive, please leave them in your head. Mine does not have room for negativity, especially that of a stranger. Thank you in advance.
This scares me, committing to writing with little revision, exposing myself to strangers and almost worse, loved ones. But I’m almost finished with Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly book, so I guess you could say I’m officially on the vulnerability bandwagon, so let’s go for a ride, see where it takes us.
If I haven’t made it clear by now, I am writing this blog for me not you. Not that I don’t hope you can snag some take-away’s, but in my head, in order to conquer my current weakness with writing and being vulnerable, I have to think in my head each post is about me. My journey. My thoughts and feelings. My reactions. My reflections. My answers and questions and stories. I just need it to be about me. And I need that to be okay. So again, any ball-busters can kindly leave. And know-it-all’s who can barely wait their turn to speak… move along now. This is my space to do as I please.
I hope you can stick around but if not, I bid you your best.
The premise is to chronicle my writing journey, but who the hell knows if or when I might serpentine. I get to design the rules as I go, and to me, that defines fun. So I want to have fun with this blog, while watering the seed of writing planted in me from my great grandma Gladys, passed through the veins of my mother. And I want to be vulnerable, in that I want to do it my way.
We all write differently, every single person a snowflake in a literary storm. Verbal precipitation in the forecast.
I feel like an imposter a lot. Like I don’t belong in any one place, like I’ve never established true, deep roots in any location or also subject matter. And sometimes when I go back and read something I’ve written, I do not recall the person who wrote it. Like an imposter in heat.
And when I go back and read something I wrote that even kind of blows me away, and I almost forgot I wrote it… when I have that moment I think, “I’m done!” Hands up, I accept defeat. That was my best. All I got. Not sure where to go from here. Not because it’s that amazing, but that’s about the level where I pique, so far anyway. It’s daunting and nerve-wracking but I trudge forward. Try to, while other times I feel like I’m flying.
It’s a finicky process. One I have chosen to dissect and explore. Sometimes I get it right, but mostly I’m just trying to have more fun with my writing while trying to improve it and myself, and I guess I’m deciding to share this journey with you. My own crash course in writing. Back to school designed by myself, just call me Frau Chas.
Because my writing process is so sporadic, so will be my blog. I go through phases with my writing. And when I begin to feel like I’m struggling more each day, then I move on to the next phase. I have learned I benefit when I listen to the signs guiding me. Usually, it’s the characters. When they speak, I listen. I give them space to come alive. I don’t think I’m their best choice for a medium, but I am working hard for them. But sometimes I’m tired. And sometimes, I feel or hear nothing and then I wonder, “Why am I even alive then? Now where do I go?”
But these characters have been patiently developing and revealing themselves to me off and on for several years.
I have been listening and dutifully playing along, but now is the time for me to take the reins. Why did I just write that? I hate clichés.
It is time for me to take charge . . . no!
Time for me to pave my own path . . . grrr!
Time to trust my instincts . . . gawd!
What hasn’t already been said? That is a hellish thought for a writer. So you choose a topic or character or reason, but the trick is to twist that little nugget into something worth reading interspersed with your own flavor. You are the ice cream developer.
Now is the time for me to transfer the world in my head onto screen and maybe paper. Most efforts are quite difficult for me, but occasionally it flows. I just have to. Otherwise, I don’t sleep. Before I share the raw journal entry from one sleepless night a month ago, I must first announce that I slept eight straight hours last night! That never happens. But it did, and it can. I can.
My sleep ebbs and flows like my writing, like my life. As lukewarm as my blood runs, the rest of me operates in extremes. All in, all out. Emotions mostly. Ideas and dreams for sure. Reactions on the inside.
I really need to sleep . . .
I lie in bed, on my back, turn my head, from side to side. My heart beats more swiftly than it should at 1am. I take deep breaths to trick its pace but I fail. My heart pumps even harder. I can feel it inside my chest. Thu-thump. Thu-thump. The heavy beat vibrates to my eyelids, luring them open. They waver, unsure whether to succumb to the vibration or the night like I wish they would. Thu-thump. Thu-thump. Thoughts spin and twirl from one scene to the next. Racing against the minutes of the night ticking with no reverence to the dawn that will arrive no matter what they decide, wanting to open against my will. I fight the night. Again. I want to win, give my brain a rest so my body can navigate the next day. Why can’t I win? Night after night, the battle ensues, and I feel my power slip away into the threshold of insomnia. No, please, no. Thu-thump. Thu-thump. Why am I thinking about that one night so long ago, a world where I lived as a young adult doing immature young adult things? Only thing is, I see myself making similar irresponsible choices today, 20 years later. Not as dumb, but abusive the same. Beating myself up all the same. No, sleep beats me. Because here I am at 2am, eyes not even a yawn away from sleep. Heart still beats as if anticipating something exciting. Maybe it’s the jostling of ideas stuck in the matters of my mind? I question what does it all matter? This existence of mine, that is. How is it that I can care so much when I feel like I don’t care at all?
I mean, I do, of course.
And on I go thinking about my next tattoo. Last one only a couple months ago. One before that, at least 20 years. Why can’t I sleep? Why won’t my mind allow my body the rest it so desperately needs? Or rather, why won’t my heart, beating the seconds of time, allow my mind some peace? It’s a race, it seems. And while they both belong to me, I do not win. The night does. Again. Thu-thump. And so instead of resisting the race, I decide to join it. Move with it. See if my hand can keep up the pace. It wants to. It’s trying. What are the thoughts that need to escape from pen to paper that will finally allow me some peace? Who are the characters rattling the chains in my brain to awaken? Because as I write, my eyelids fall dreary before I’ve barely begun, but ‘tis maybe enough this night, anyway. What about tomorrow night? Last night? The next night? Next week? Please, dear God, I really need to sleep . . .
I went skinning this past weekend. Part skiing, part hiking, not part skinny dipping, although I did that afterwards in a hot tub to relieve my tired legs. Skinning, where you attach adhesive to the bottom of your downhill skis, allowing you to walk up the mountain without sliding backwards. Special bindings allow your boots to lift from the heel, with an additional lever you can pull down that creates almost a heel. So there ya go, skinning is like hiking in ski-boot heels up a steep hill of snow. Why? Why not.
Challenge spark synapses in your brain that otherwise would not occur. What’s the point? I don’t know about you, but being smarter is never a bad thing. Although some could argue hiking up a 4000-foot mountain might not be the smartest way to spend your early Saturday morning, although the sunrise was gorgeous. And according to my friend’s watch, I may have burned up to 1200 calories. Not a bad way to start your day, especially when the gym lately seems like a chore itself.
Besides connecting with nature and earning a solid calorie-burn, I learned something else truly valuable – a reminder to slow down. My companions were two men in extremely good shape who skin and ski (and cross fit) often. I was intimidated. I started off jamming my poles into the ground to propel me forward faster. My skis jerked forward faster than my legs, clomping rather than gliding, but I wanted to keep up. In my mind, I had to push myself harder, stronger, faster. Until I realized…
I was not in a hurry. And in fact, the motion flowed more smoothly when I allowed my breath to even out and my skis to glide along the surface of the snow as they were meant to. I wasn’t hiking after all, I was skinning. Skinning is a gliding motion, and my arms were there to provide support, not grind until my back was tense. I breathed more deeply, more rhythmically, more evenly. I felt one leg glide forward, lifting my heel in rhythm with the motion. I allowed my shoulders to loosen and hang to place the poles in unison with the opposite foot, easily not aggressively. By golly, I learned to enjoy the rhythm so much I decided to hike the damn hill three times! Maybe the bloody mary waiting for me at the lodge below partially served as my motivation, can’t lie, but damnet, I did it.
So many times I find if I simply slow down, absorb the sensations my body is offering me, I tend to feel more control, less suffering. This acknowledgement trickles to all parts of my life. Laundry sucks when I’m rushed. But when I slow down to fold the t-shirt my son wore the other day, accentuating his worried blue eyes as he told me about a classmate getting in trouble at school, then laundry doesn’t suck so much. Or when I get annoyed because my daughter leaves her “upstairs things” lying around the living room, I try to slow down and remember she brought down that medicine-looking bag filled with perfect gizmos to accommodate her role play as a pediatrician named Iam C. Razy, who “specializes in scaring patients, worrying mothers and getting yelled at by her boss.” Enough said.
Slow down. Life does not have to be a rush all the time. I have to catch myself often, my mind fleeing faster than the moment will allow. Because then I find myself frustrated, discouraged, out of breath, low on energy. What good am I then?
I know some people thrive in turbo mode, or so they think. But what are they missing? The little things in the seconds between thoughts and action. The moments that provide deeper meaning to this thing called life we are all trying our very best to live.
I choose to live my life slow and steady, where I can appreciate the moments that trigger more appreciation, less frustration. Gliding to a steady rhythm makes sense to me, but it’s a game I often have to remind myself how to play. Slow down, turbo, it’s not a race.
Her thoughts resembled looming thunderheads. Sometimes billowing with helpful precipitation. Other times darkening with cynical anticipation. She needed to breathe, to inhale the substance of life that seemed to perspire through her every pore these last few years. Who had she become? She was a stranger in her own head. Her heart no longer pulsed with the passion she once knew. Sometimes she wished it would stop beating altogether because maybe then her internal storm would subside.