Out to Sea.

You left. I still ache for the leaves that were on the ground the last time you danced across the lawn. I watched you go. I let you go, pledging to follow that old time rule: if you love something, let it go and if it comes back to you, its yours. Well, doesn’t really work that way with ships because your current never came back my way. You left. And I stayed.

I stood there, that afternoon. I’m sure my body witnessed the sunset-they’re so pretty on beaches- but I didn’t. I was glued to that skyline, the one where the waves slip into the clouds. The water washed my sandy feet again and again, a little colder, a little more each time. I don’t know exactly how long it’s been. All I know is sometimes I’ll drive by, peer over that hill, and see myself, rooted there, hair surrendering to the wind, watching that skyline. And that’s when I know, even if I haven’t remembered to look in a while, that you left. You never came back. And I’m still standing there.

The painter.

I looked up. It was one of those nights where I had nowhere to go so I just picked a star in the sky and followed the streets I thought would get me closest to it, ignoring the fact that none of the streets were on hills and I wasn’t climbing any higher. It didn’t matter though because I wanted to be closer to the star, not in possession of it. Doing that would only make it a flimsy night light I could buy at the corner store adjacent to my flat.

So like I did most nights when I couldn’t sleep, I just followed. I figured the less I looked at the ground, the less aware I was that I was pinned to it, like a piece of fabric safety pinned to the quilt–I hopefully wasn’t being sewn into the earth any time soon. If I could just avoid looking at the ground and try to make sure nothing got in my sights but the sky, then maybe I could convince myself that was where I was.

In order to see the moon, I had to round the corner of a crumbled brick building with dusty windows that distorted my reflection when I glanced at them. The moon wasn’t really my thing. I generally preferred the simple stars but that night it seemed different to me. Nobody believes when I tell them what I experienced, what I saw on any night of any year. They say my nighttime walks are just dreams and maybe this one was but I was certain there was a woman sitting on the moon. I had no idea how but it was glaringly obvious she sat there nonetheless.

She had short, chocolate brown hair that hung in loose curly tendrils only to her jaw line. A thin, white, lace dress hung from her ivory shoulders. Her ankles were crossed and hung over one of the edges, keeping her balance as she leaned into the sky, painting silver and gold stars. She was articulate and graceful. She wasn’t worried about who was watching her or the lengths of her strokes. It was like she was illustrating something that had already been created and she was just filling in the truth.

People always tell you this junk about how you’re looking into the past when you see the stars and explain the science of light-years. And, I generally am in favor of knowledge of whatever kind in order to support belief but there she was and I didn’t need any other sort of explanation. It just was. She was there painting stars, and then, as if it was part of the plan, she began painting something else.

It was as if a child had tipped his crayon box over into the sky, a crayon box that had been left out in the sun turning it into melted wax. She spread the melted wax with her fingers in different directions. Blue violet and indigo. Fuschia and Sea Green. Turquoise and orchid and a hundred other colors. Stars burst from clouds and their golden sparks rained down through the atmosphere until it turned into cool, light drops that brushed my face before falling to the sordid bricks in the sidewalk. It was like watching the creation of something. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing but it felt mythological and real, magical and true all at the same time. I just knew I somehow was a part of it.

And then she did something I didn’t expect. She began to paint with crimson and firebrick and forest green, grey and black. And something in me grew fearful. I could feel my heart pressing slightly harder against my chest, my breath catching. Then she ran palms of paint across the fierce, new clouds and as radiant as they were, I felt uneasy and as if an invisible leash tugged me back to my stoop. I’d just stepped under the awning when the clouds she’d painted, those clouds that had been so beautiful and graceful, ripped themselves open and a crimson flood of sparks fell toward the earth.

Tell Your Inner Harvey Dent to Go to Hell: dealing with your inner critic.

I am obsessed with productivity. I judge my entire merit, day, week, life, performance, moral fiber, everything on how productive I am, which is quite the complication since I have ADHD, PTSD, and Depression. In other words, I’m the Harvey Dent of my own life. One side of me is a fairly decent person who is generally benevolent and eager to do things that matter. The other is a scathing, aggressive, bitter, malevolent, irrationally intense, and relentless critic with a dogged determination to make every minute a line item on a budget to determine if I used my time efficiently or not. From that, I then determine if I am lazy, lacking self-discipline, a failure, a dreg on those I care about most, a bum, a loser… basically every bad thing I can think of in one breath (and then some). And the more I do it, which is constantly at this time, the more endurance that fucker seems to have. Except I’m the fucker. And I’m my own victim. Because in spite of the physical violence, emotional trauma, and other things I have experienced at the hands of others, my treatment of myself is the most persistent and pervasive.

fate3-1

I spend all day tallying up every second. And it’s automatic. I don’t even need to pay attention anymore. I can criticize myself without thinking about it and it is this poisonous habit that just beats me down every day and the problem is, it isn’t like you can outrun your own mind.

So I am going to do something incredibly counter-intuitive and list everything I did manage to do this weekend.

I….

  1. went to a group dinner when I normally would have hidden because I dread things like that as much as I want to go. I worry I will get there and freeze.
  2. got groceries and they were more on the healthy side.
  3. I made sliced, baked apple crisps for the first time with cinnamon and a dash of sugar as opposed to something like, say, ice cream.
  4. I started my mock portfolio I am going to take to my interview to show them what I can do with their branding materials. I also started and completed some of the bigger projects.
  5. I went for a two mile run.
  6. I went outside two times for two hours to get some sun because if I don’t make a point to do it, I pull a vampire and stay in the shadow that is my house all day and then begin the night depressed because I have cabin fever.
  7. I made peanut butter energy protein bites for when I impulsively want to reach for candy.
  8. I didn’t order takeout, at all.
  9. I purchased printer ink and a few other things I needed.
  10. I stocked up a bank of blog entries that will be posted at scheduled times in the next week or so in the event I don’t feel well enough to write.
  11. I called my mother and since she is a talker and I am more of a don’t talk, let’s listen to music and if you want to know how I am I will write you a manifesto kind of person, it can be pretty overwhelming for me.
  12. I booked a hotel room for my interview and looked at flight costs.
  13. I created a site page in my blog for fiction entries so they are all easily accessible (probably more for me than anything).
  14. I did three loads of laundry.
  15. I gave my dogs their medication consistently and had a lot of quality time with them.
  16. I worked on assignments, read, edited, and watched videos for a class I’m finishing up.
  17. I did my dishes nearly as soon as I made them, even the gross peanut butter ones that you always want to put off.
  18. I came up with an idea for another section of my site that shares foods I tried that are supposed to help with depression and anxiety, as well as exercises.
  19. I made this list without using the word “but” to negate whatever I tried to say to give myself credit.

If you haven’t yet, make your own list, short or long, and try not to use any of the following words: just, but, however, while, although, etc. At least for me, I can’t stop Two Face (my critic) from constantly weighing my value. I can however, talk back and that’s something I’m learning to do. When I let my inner critic monopolize the conversation, that becomes the truth because everything is defined by that one inner voice. I’m to this point where I need to make a more concerted effort to play devil’s advocate with my inner critic so I can at least keep her quiet fifty percent of the time.

The image used in this post is from Ron Wagner in The Book of Fate. I’m all about some Batman.

Oh Louis, Louis.

This is the third in a set of entries. You can read the previous entry here.

More walking. It makes me think of that time I read the Hobbit, well the dozens of times, because every time I sat down, I got through ten pages and felt compelled to nap. I’m not quite sure if it was from boredom or being tired for the characters. I suppose I’m a bit like Bilbo Baggins, whining and wishing for the comfort of home, a home to which I might never return. I hear that he becomes a hero in the end. Based on the beginning, I find that very unlikely but I suppose I will never know if I don’t read it. Surely nobody in this group is going to tell me. I begin to wonder if I will become a hero by the end of this, whatever this is, because I have never been told. Unlikely as well.

I do always carry that book with me, wherever I go in case I will finish it. Not finishing a book haunts me. Unfortunately, I left without any warning and left it behind on the stand. I picture it now, sitting there on the finely polished mahogany, the ink shining in the lamp light. I can feel the smooth edges of its cover at my finger tips and the rough edges of those dog-earred pages where I gave up on it so many times. I feel myself open the book and look at the title of its first page: “An Unexpected Party.” I think about my own unexpected party and the irritating silence of knowing nothing when I know my home so well I can walk through it a hundred miles away. I begin to stare at the map and to look at it. I hear steady, familiar footsteps in the hallway, the sturdy soles of my father’s boots as he walks in to change. I hear the joyful, warm, laugh of my mother from her study. She is probably reading one of my grandmother’s letters from Prague, lively letters about her days in the year before she got sick. Now and then when my mother begins to miss her or forget that thing she used to say (what was it?), she will read them and store them in a safe place for the next time.

I feel her hand on my shoulder now as a I read, only to realize that it is Louis’s soft paw. I pinch it and he licks me. I once read somewhere that to dogs, hugs are a sign of power and dominance and they don’t interpret them as an expression of love. That may be true but still I wonder, if all he has to judge from is my body language, if he knows from the way I put my cheek on his head as I carry him and stroke his paw that maybe he knows how much I love him, even now, already, because until further notice, he is all I have and I love him for that. All the same, I put him down for a bit to walk beside me. He prances and periodically runs into my leg, bouncing off my shoe.

We make four more turns and then hit a dead end. The old man just blankly stares at the red, wooden wall in front of him and the super-spy stands behind me, staring vigilantly back down the alley. The old man scratches his head and looks up. I vaguely begin to feel… exposed. I look above and see balconies on either side of the once lifeless alley. A calico sits on the balcony above me, her tail twitching slowly and confidently, as if she is conducting her latest masterpiece. She turns and walks through an open door. I pick up Louis. Within moments, the entire red, wooden wall swings backward from invisible hinges and in we walk. James Bond takes the horse by the reins and leads it into a stall. The old man walks straight through and beckons me with a wave over his shoulder. Louis and I follow. Bond puts an arm out in front of me and silently gestures for me to put Louis in with the horse. “I’m not leaving him in here.” I grip Louis and step around Get Smart, walking into a stone room before he can stop me.

There is a red table with benches and the old man is sitting at it alone. I sit down beside him and he rubs Louis behind the ears. Secret Service stands by a door with his hands at his sides. So much personality, that one. Then in steps the most fierce creature I have ever seen.

She steps up to the head of the table and puts her hands down upon it. Looking straight into the old man’s eyes. Her’s are a sharp, brilliant emerald green. Her jet black hair is tied back in a very tight, and seemingly painful, French-braid. Deep, fierce pieces of solid, unnaturally red, the color of blood, hairs weave throughout the darkness of the braid. Her features are all very sharp and her face very stoic. She wears black combat boots, black military pants, and a fascinating sort of fabric that shifts color as she moves in and out of what little light there is coming through holes in the slats of the wooden ceiling. I don’t know whether to avert my gaze or stare.

“I see you made it.” She has a surprisingly soft, patient voice.

The old man looks at me and nods. “Without much difficulty as well.”

“Wonderful. Are you hungry?”

“Starving.” The word is out of my mouth before I can consider whether I should speak.

“I highly doubt that but you must be very hungry. I’ll have dinner brought in.” She looks to the corner of the room, “Sit down, Peter, nobody is going to be coming through that door, I assure you.” Peter? I would have sooner expected Ivan the Terrible. Whether it was from the distraction of my thoughts or something else, he is seated before I have seen him move and the woman is gone. It’s very strange to me that they both have the same stealth of a jaguar, both quick and in some unspoken way, predatory.

Louis takes one look at Peter and crawls into my messenger bag. With those jet black eyes picking me apart, I don’t blame him.

Two men, a barefooted horse, and a Louis.

This is the second in a series of (currently) 3 entries. I’d recommend reading the first one.

I begin to search for a name. I want it to be profound, something that will prove my wisdom at so young an age. It’s a lot of pressure to pick a name. No wonder so many people name their children after themselves. It’s not honor. It’s cheating. I look at him again. He has a chubby black nose and soft eyes with which he could conquer the world. He’s calm and small. Napoleon. I’ll name him Napoleon because I want to prove that I am ironic and because, well, he is short. Perhaps he will prove to be feisty when he isn’t sleeping so much.

I look at him and smile as he flops on his side after relieving himself. Not a promising start for an ambitious, demanding conqueror. Louis. I will name him Louis because he will love the life of leisure I can give him as soon as we rid ourselves of this mess. I catch his eye and rub my finger against my index and middle fingers as if I have food, seeing if he will come to me. He takes a big breath and sighs. Not likely. It figures. Three others to give me companionship. One doesn’t speak and only observes, making you feel as if he is searching you, picking you apart for wounds if he should ever need to save, or worse, strike you. The other speaks with an accent that is grating to me ears. He is kind enough but I can’t bear much more of the twang. It’s like a bad Western– and I hate good Westerns. Besides, he likes to walk ahead with the horse. Whovever thought it was wise to feed a horse and then let him walk in front of the pack obviously didn’t think enough.

And last of all, a dog who is about as animated as a stuffed animal.

It seems as if there are three movies going on simultaneously. True Grit. Some sort of movie in which the president is in danger and has a body guard tailing him. And Homeward Bound. Make the any Lord of the Rings movie. Because all we seem to do is walk.

I groan just from the irritation of my own negative thoughts and feelings. I can’t stand even myself. I lean my head up against the wall and feel the rough bricks hang on to a few pieces of hair. The young man immediately reaches over and pushes the back of my head away from the wall. “Thanks.” I mouth. He only checks to make sure no hair is caught to the brick.

The older man is gently picking up crates and barrels down the alley. He finds one and retrieves a wad of papers. I was hoping for more. A key. Something that proved something. Anything at all. That we had a destination. He smiles at me and then spits.

The end of the crate digs into my thighs. I walk up to the horse and feel the leather saddle on his back. His tail swishes almost silently behind him. I grab a carrots about of my messenger bag and hand them to him. Beside me, the older man picks up the crate and pulls out a cap, like a newsboy cap and shoves it on my head roughly but with what I can assume is as much gentleness as he could muster. Then, without another word, he starts to saunter back down the alley and, though I want to stop, I want to scream “Where are we going?! I have a right to know!” I follow him. And Louis catches up, steps on the back of my pants and I pick him up. He licks my ear and we keep ambling, silent in our small convoy through this labyrinth of bricks.

Stock photographed lives.

Sometimes when I close my eyes and dig my fingers ever so slightly into my scalp I have a moment of calm. You know the cliche, calm before the storm. I take a suppressed breath against the mountain sitting on my lungs and try to heave it up just to get a moment, a moment.

Then my eyes can stand the darkness no longer. My lungs can wait no longer and I exhale and a storm floods into my eyes and water fills my lungs and I choke.

I choke because I realize just how much I have to do, just how much I dread doing it, and that I am locked inside this hamster wheel. Where do they get the inspiration for all of those clothing and beauty ads where people are loving life, the sun always shines on a positive world that makes you feel like if you shelter yourself in American Eagle clothing that same sun will shine on you? If art is imitation as Plato claimed, where are they getting this imitation? Where is this happiness they are imitating? Because I’ve seen none of it.

The streets they walk down freely, in shorts that make their legs look long and form-flattering shirts, with free flowing hair, are dirty and filled with rude people rushing because their lunch hours are ending at which point they’ll be chained to a mediocre job they detest in order to pay a mortgage.

Where is this world they’re imitating? Because the only voices I hear are bill collectors and the only world I am seeing is one of demands.

Love is a funny thing.

When it gets too strong or too insular, it twists on itself and becomes something new entirely. When you cast it in the right light, in its right form, I’m not sure if I personally can tell the difference between love, poison, rage, resentment, aggression, fear, control, ego, any of that. I just finished Sharp Objects and it scares me how familiar I found it. Not hurting people of course (I can barely stomach the idea of hurting an ant crawling through the house because it squeezed under the door). More how easily family and love and what we learn about love within our families can turn ill. I think for people from Pleasantville lives, maybe, this sounds like rambling. Shows like Sharp Objects are just a taboo stumble down the forbidden trail of the darkest possibilities and our most animalistic inclinations. They’re fun who-dun-its that explore the complexity and ambiguity of familial and feminine relationships but it’s as much entertainment as the 5 o’clock news is stale and lifeless describing similar stories.

close up portrait of human eye
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

It’s like Alice’s rabbit hole, or whatever. You’re too young to know before you tumble down it and once you get to the bottom (if you weren’t born straight into it like some of us), you learn that all the rules square adults tell you are really fictional and if you embrace the lack of gravity and natural law and concrete judgment, it won’t turn your mind inside out. Except the rest of the world is rightside out and you can’t live in your rabbit hole forever. It will warp it but whose mind isn’t a little warped? Is there such a thing? Do we all come from this dysfunction or do some people really come from stock photographs? They just emerge one day and they look and seem entirely human. They don’t bleed. They cry rarely. They stress only at appropriate times. But they’re human, right? I’m not sure which one is folklore: those of use who grow up with Mary Poppins or those of us benevolently raised somewhat akin to that of Hansel and Gretel, if their stepmother had actually loved one but it’s complicated?

I digress and I’m not even sure I understand what I am trying to say. I’m indubitably a member of the involuntarily warped tribe that treads water in Wonderland. But at some point you have to come out as an adult, looking for food and rewards, carrots of one form or another. And then you emerge from this screwed up world which feels as normal to you as the chapped lines on your lips and you realize, among all of these picket fences and uniform houses with uniform driveways, as artificial and unnatural as the societal normal feels, you’re still turned inside out on yourself.

Picking things up.

If you feel like a goldfish in a bowl, disoriented and helpless because you were won by a kid at a county fair who didn’t actually want a goldfish, then same. What can I say? I’m a mess. And the worst part is, in spite of the fact that I don’t feel this way, I have all the same prejudices and stereotypes against myself that people who are ignorant about mental illness have. Just like the crippling anxiety I get from hanging out with people I love, I know better and there is no reason but that does not make it any less oppressive.

I always have the best intentions and have this passion for living life and helping people, in theory. But then the time comes and getting myself to walk out into the world is like trying to force yourself into walking into a burning building. Whatever I’m carrying and however I got it, it’s invisible and only I can see and feel it. I’m tired of talking about it and trying to explain it. Maybe it can’t be explained because I am so screwed up that it’s beyond even mildly screwed up people. I don’t know. I’m just going to try this and if it makes you, or me, feel a little less alone or a little less like a round peg in a square hole, then all the better.

Also, this awesome photo came from: Darina Çiço from Pexels. 

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.
I am, I am, I am. –Sylvia Plath