Trying to figure out how to display insecurity/anxiety more realistically. This is the same scene from two different perspectives from two characters that have anxiety.
What do people think about me? My skirt is cute right? Suck in suck in. People will think, "she’s cute she’s enjoying her life," right? Alright, gonna walk up to the cashier and order my quarter moon latte. Gonna do that easily and not mess up my words and seem cool. Pretend to look at the menu like I don’t know what I want. Look around, not looking at my phone. Continue looking around, shit. It’s John and Carol again. I forgot they came in here on Sundays after church. Am I supposed to get out of line now to say hi? I can’t pretend I didn't see them. Maybe I can wave and then say I’ll come talk to them in a minute. I don’t want to talk to them in a minute, I don’t want to talk to them at all.
God. They are gonna talk about God aren’t they, pretend they’re better than me and invite me to their Bible study. They know I’m agnostic. Why do I even pretend for them? Well, I’m not pretending for them, I’m pretending for Dad, and for myself really, protecting myself from being yelled at in some way. I don’t wanna step on dad's toes. “Oh, Hayley, hi” John’s eyes light up and his voice boosts, way too loud, across the coffee shop, probably wants everyone to hear him, especially his church friends. I swallow. “This is our niece,” I see Carol nod in my direction. I can’t believe I’m related to these people. I swallow again. Guess I have to walk over there now. Then I'll have to get back in line awkwardly and everyone will see that I got out of line then I got back in line.
Why do we have to live in the same town? The Bibles sit on the table in front of them, symbols of their denial of reality. The denial of the cause of Noah’s death. It was not his time, he could’ve been saved. The image of my dad trying to swallow some air as he sat Cody and I down to tell us Noah had committed suicide.
I haven’t forgiven them.
And we are so different. Bet they haven’t done one bit of introspection in their lives. “Whatcha reading today?” John says in the most annoying baby voice he can muster. He’s not gonna be able to pronounce the author again is he? He’s gonna pretend to know what I’m reading. It’s not a fun game to play. We get it, John, you don’t read. Well, maybe he reads his Bible. That’s better than nothing, right? For a moment, I feel as though I have free free-will. Maybe I can say something like the Koran or something just to mess with him. I don't.
It’s so good to have a routine, to have these friends we can discuss the Lord with. I hope they don’t think I am a bad person. I am a bad person. May Jesus forgive me.
I think of my late son, Noah, and bile rises in my throat. What we are doing now, though, is finding forgiveness, from Jesus and from ourselves. Being good Christians, we might still get a chance at salvation.
Our niece, Hayley, just walked through the door. Wonder if she noticed us since we are in the back corner and she is looking up at that menu, so focused. It’s such a crowded Sunday here and I know I’m gonna have to speak up pretty loudly, I don’t want to scream. Seeing her reminds me of Noah. Most things still do. The last time I saw her was at family Christmas. She was nice then, her and Alexis actually got along for once. She got along with Noah so much better, all of the cousins used to play. People liked him more. It’s always the good ones that bad things happen to. The Devil visited our child, our poor boy.
I felt frozen, so I coughed a little, clearing the bile out of my throat. I perk up, preparing to call out, but my husband does first. “Oh, Hayley, hi,” he says, loud enough to get her attention away from the menu. She smiles and walks over. Cute skirt. She always looks so put together, much better than our children. “This is our niece,” I say as sweetly as I can. Do I want them to meet her? It seems like she went to church this morning. Good. No questions will be asked of us of why there's sin in our family. There’s a lull in the conversation as Hayley continues to smile and John breaks the silence by asking, “whatcha reading today?” Good, I thought I’d have to ask about her day.
what does a writer look like anyway?
As I walked upstairs, away from my mother angered by airline delays, I set my eyes on my new white blouse, thinking to myself that if I were to start a daily writing practice, that might be a shirt I would wear. That, I thought, is what a writer, a true creative, would wear. I could type away on my keyboard to baroque music with my white blouse and find some form of fulfillment.
While carving out joys in the journey, and even romanticising it, are essential parts to enjoying your life, I have a propensity for planning out dramatic shifts in my life, filled with fantasy and dramatic change. Although a useful trait in many ways, daydreaming can sometimes cause unrealistic expectations and become too extreme, as is in my case. The times I’ve enjoyed writing haven’t been big romantic, dramatic, montages.
Au contraire-- I lose myself in the moment and it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing or if I’m sitting up straight or if my room is clean. Inspiration flows best from the words themselves, not from constraints of creating a "perfect self."
Gosh. It's been almost a year now I've been out of a job. Thankfully, I finally got an offer after painstakingly applying to hundreds- no- thousands- of them. This was a particularly difficult time in my life because I had always been one to "achieve" if you will. Get good grades, go to a good college, have good mental health, have a group of friends, etc. These expectations for how my life should look made me feel trapped. By consistently reminding myself of all that I had done wrong to end up here, I could no longer look to the possibilities of the future. My locus of control was all out of control. These thoughts, mirrored by my parents words, created a cyclical effect that led to my usual optimism drying out as well as my confidence in myself drained.
Funnily enough, I don't necessarily feel better now that I have a job. Maybe it's because I haven't started it yet or because this headspace is my "new normal," but I think shame continues to play a role in my perceptions of myself and the world. I am having a hard time fully crossing that bridge onto the next, not knowing how to leave it behind. Clinging to these negative feelings about myself, holding onto that torch that will light that bridge, waiting for something, anything but the sound of mine own.
Maybe this was the hedonic treadmill forewarned. I have reached my destination, but my mind stays the same. To let go I must investigate why I don't want to let go. I suppose it is the feeling of fear-- that if I stop reminding myself how poorly I performed in this past year, I will slip into low productivity. That if I believe I am not good enough then I could never be great. Despite this deeper feeling, I know this is a great fallacy in thinking. I must yet again consider myself an entrepreneur of life, riding on self-created winds and not get blown away by a dust devil off my path.
check the UV index on my watch
in the end, it's a botch
white skin, sunburned, no matter what
not used to being the odd one out
don't know what it's all about
do others spend this much time
thinking about race while they bide their time
the streets echo: you don't belong
even if it's not strong
in glances and confused stares
saying, what are you doing here
then the Karen gets on the bus
making some unhinged fuss
"it's not el bus"
thinking, she'll find friends with us
leaning forward, with clandestine care
feeling fear, not just rare
I'm not sure who is looking back in the mirror at me
staring, so blankly, right in front of me
listen, you can hear her breath
so close, looking a mess
the freckles on her nose are faint
angle kisses, they call them, but she ain't no saint
powerful, this feeling of powerlessness
like the cards were dealt and you're left with hopelessness
the knot in my chest, pulling tighter
really, I thought I was a fighter
disappointing, that's what you are
thought you were gonna go so far
depression? no. depressing? yes.
all of the tears, I repress
a song, a movie, a spot of wine
completely appropriate to cry
anything else? it's not ok
for that's a sign you're not ok
want to scream want to shout
but inside, the throat's a drought
it's not a dream
it's the self-esteem
it's all ego
hard to let it go
look again, in the reflection
all I see is what lacks affection
all those dreams and none of them pipe
now, like the reflection is a daguerreotype
nothing but the image
nothing but the shape
all form no matter
and so, what is the matter?
what is hard in this present moment
and what is so difficult of this bestowment
this gift of divine charity
not so divine, even in memory
for this bestowment can only be granted
if these thoughts go unplanted
surrender the mind, surrender the thoughts
let go of all that is fraught
battle the fret with love and care
even if there's not much flare
listen inside, the solutions are there
every time you lack some air
What didn’t go wrong?
Everything had gone sideways since the big move. And not in the cliché-- I couldn't make any friends and this new town sucked-- way. I mean what did my parents expect, that life would be different, perfect even, once we got out of our ugly, strip mall haven? Well some heaven this was. Let me tell you, the grass isn't always greener-- an alien invasion would make sure of that.
*Enter news montage of the chaotic coverage since the invasion*
No, but seriously, it was everywhere. It was the only thing people talked about... obviously. Scientists thought it was an asteroid at first and promptly tried to send a rocket to knock it off its' path towards Earth. Safe to say, that didn't go too well.
Now, I'd like to say I'm a what does it matter, we are all just a speck of dust on a speck of dust like in Horton Hears a Who kinda girl. But you know how nihilism goes, at the end of the day, you still have to face the reality you are living in. And at the end of a very terrible Tuesday, the Tuesday we moved to a new home, we had a whole slew of mundane issues-- our moving trucks getting in a crash because of an idiot that didn't know how to use a blinker, my iced coffee making me feel like I needed to take a shit on the side of the highway, aliens coming to Earth to destroy us all and wipe our planet of all its' resources, that sort of thing. Facing the reality that nothing was normal anymore was difficult.
The New Mundane
What is the lore of all of those zombie apocalypse movies? Marie could never wrap her head around it. An evil that is so inhuman and with a singular motive is no test for a protagonist. Besides, she thought, isn't the thought of basic survival something that is more horrific than entertaining? Putting those thoughts out of her mind as she put down the Dawn of the Dead DVD Blue-Ray copy, she raised her weapon to an unfriendly visitor and shot the gangly, foaming monster in the head. She set her sights on the comedy aisle instead.
"Hey, will you hold this for a sec?" the fear in his eyes was palpable, yet something inside of me moved my hand to reach for the sleek, inky box. Call it trust, call it naïveté, the promise of "a sec" lingered in the air as the man disappeared from where he stood, the only trace of him, the slight scent of amber wood. Welp, guess I finally developed full-on schizophrenia, I thought to myself.
I stood there, dumbfounded, in the middle of a busy sidewalk, holding this mysterious, surprisingly heavy, thing with both hands as I tried to make eye contact with anyone who passed by to confirm that I had, in fact, not gone crazy; that someone else, too, had seen a man pop in and out of our visual reality as if it were a video game.
Now, what to do with the box?
I couldn't stand here forever, I had to get to class. But, I also had sorta kinda promised that dude, in the act of taking the box, that I would hold onto it for a bit. Ah-ha! He told me to hold the box, but what he didn't tell me was whether I had to stay in the same place... At least, that would be my argument if he showed up, angry at my having left the place of our first meeting.
Ok, going to class with a mysterious, possibly explosive box-- totally not gonna blow up in my face. I chucked to myself at my accidental pun, then suddenly remembered the look on that guy's face. He was afraid. Running from something? Afraid he was gonna get caught with the box? Ah shit! I looked down at my watch, which glowed the numbers 12:55-- I was gonna be late.
the beginning of the end
When our electricity went out for the third time this month, we simply took out the extra candles we had stashed under our kitchen sink and continued our routine the best we could. The myriad of leftover scents, from pumpkin spice to ylang ylang to candy apple, were a necessary evil as the sun fell under the horizon.
As it got colder, we took out our wool ski clothes and layered up. They smelled of our cedar chest and were incredibly itchy, but it was better than waking up in the middle of the night, chilled to the bone, reaching for a blanket that wasn’t there. We also brought our fur blankets to the living room and sat there together, as to conserve heat and light.
“Phone’s out of battery,” my little brother declared, tossing his phone haphazardly to the other side of the couch, “and I had finally just gotten through Hugo’s architectural tangent, too.”
“You’ll be able to finish it soon,” our dad lowered the New York Times he had saved just for this occasion and the candles casted a haunting shadow across his sullen, tired eyes.
“We should just go to bed then...” my mom started.
“I’m not even tired. Why do you get to decide when we go to sleep? It’s probably not even 9. Let's talk about the trilateral negotiations of...” Evan started to complain.
My mom knew that if she didn't nip this in the bud, Evan would be up all night, debating with whoever would listen. “Y’all have a long day tomorrow at school and you’ve been complaining all week about not getting enough sleep,” she countered, blowing out the few candles we had left sitting on the coffee table.
It was decided.
The moonlight saved us from sudden darkness-- in it you could see what was left of the smoke, curling into the air. With it, our sense of normalcy seemed to drift away as well.
Bang, bang, bang, our door bounced on its hinges, sending our dogs into madness.
I rolled over and threw my covers off. “Ugh who is that?” I complained, “doggies, it’s okay, c’mere,” I patted the couch, but the person at the door was persistent.
“Will you please get it?” my mom grumbled.
We had a sleepless night, being awoken by the screams and fireworks that usually accompany a blackout in Texas. When it got cold enough, people would tie their sleds to the back of their pick-ups and glide around the neighborhood. It got old after a while, and my dad thought that those people “disregarded the gravity of the situation," but I think it helped people stay sane, despite their childishness. As I walked to the door, I was prepared to tell our neighbor, Brian, that Evan and I did not want to join him in the fun.
I knew that some kind of “But the ice is so slick this morning!” argument would be in my future, followed by a very short (I would make sure of it) moment of banter before I could snuggle back under the covers and finish my dream.
Not that it had been a nice dream, it was more of a reoccurring nightmare actually— I was late for class again and I didn’t know where the classroom was. That’s so ridiculous, I thought to myself, I would never be late for class.
I opened the door to see a not-so-excited Brian Williams.
"We are leaving for Mexico right now and I wanted to say goodbye," he reached out for a hug that I did not return.
Shocked, I said, "what, like right now? What do you mean? Why?"
He looked at me like I was a crazy person, "the power-- it's completely down."
Oh that's what this was about. I guess that the Williams finally had their last straw. They had been meaning to get out for a while, but I didn't think it would come this soon. I had to keep them from leaving.
"Yeah, the power-grid's been out before, remember when we..."
"Julia, wait. Did you not hear the gunshots last night?" he looked very concerned, not like himself at all, "it's not just our power that's out, it's everyones. Anyone without a backup generator, one that hasn't been run dry by the latest outages I mean, doesn't have power."