I’m getting published!

That’s right! You heard me, I’m getting mo fuggin published again!

My short story, “What Counts,” is being published by a magazine called Mistake House.

This has come at the best time.

I love to write; I have always loved to write.

I was just beginning to lose my faith in my ability to be a success at it.

And now here we are again. Yay!

Student Teaching Round Two

I’m feeling better.

I don’t know why I allowed myself to get tangled up and dragged down in the things my ex said about my mental illness. That it was too much, that I should be alone until I’m “cured.” Fuck that. Fuck him. I deserve so much better.

I turn into a completely different person when the weather changes. As soon as it becomes sunny out I’m like…I’m trying to think of a good simile. I’m like Mary Poppins? No. I’m like Joy from Inside Out? No, I’m not that manic. Am I the only one who would punch her if I got trapped in the same room with her?

Anyway, I’m happier and I love sunshine.

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows…

I’m over half way done my second practicum now. I have two and a half weeks until I’m done. This practicum has been three million times better than my last one. Maybe because I’m not dating someone who blamed me getting stuck in a crappy situation on my depression. He’s having a hard time this round, and he hasn’t heard me say, “God, you’re so negative,” or “It’s just because you’re depressed.” Because, you know, even if he was depressed, I wouldn’t say that shit because I’m a supportive and decent fucking human being. Anyway.

I’ve been placed in a high school this time, not an elementary school, and I love it. My supervising teacher is the bees knees, the school is awesome, and I’m actually making meaningful connections with the kids. I was sick this week, and I actually missed being there. Crazy, right?

The classes that I have are tough because the kids in them are just not interested in English. Which is maybe good because if I went into this and got super academic classes that love reading, I might go into the profession expecting every class to be like that. The critique I keep getting is that I really know the content and that the lessons I have planned are fantastic, but I lack the ability to engage the kids. This is no surprise as my passion is literature, not teaching. But I’m trying to get better, and that’s why these classes who don’t dig literature are actually a blessing in disguise. If I can engage these classes, an academic class would be a breeze.

I finally feel like a teacher for the first time since starting this program.

It’s about damn time.

Travel Writing: A Certain kind of Kiss

On joyous kissing and travel writing.

 

I haven’t talked about travel writing on here at all because it’s not something I’ve really done before. When I took my creative non-fiction writing class, I hadn’t traveled anywhere yet, and I sure as hell didn’t want to write about my hometown, Bumbleton. So I didn’t pay too close attention (sorry Karen!). Maybe there are guidelines and rules or tips and tricks to travel writing, but I can’t say that I know them. I do know that the happiest week of my life happened when I was traveling, and that I wanted to write about it. So I did.

Mad Decent Boat Party 2014 was a rave cruise that went from Miami to Nassau that I somehow ended up on. I’d never even been to a rave let alone listened to EDM, but a girl I worked with (who I’d never even hung out with outside of work) happened to have a ticket. I had money saved up to travel, but I didn’t have any plans. So I bought her extra ticket. We had the time of our lives. We turned out to be the perfect travel buddies, and have been close friends ever since.

The passage below is from a day when we went to a private island:

A Certain kind of Kiss

There’s a balloon of ebullience swelling in my chest. The sun is baring down on my barely covered form, my pale skin almost stinging as it cooks the granules of salt from the water onto my skin. The inflated raft I’ve commandeered sways beneath me on the waves. Across the water on the beach electronic music thumps from the stage and a throng of bodies, wet and caked in golden sand, thrive to the beat. A red inflatable t-rex crowd surfs, bouncing above waving hands and exposed breasts.

I hadn’t thought to pack any sunglasses and without my glasses, the edges of bodies and sand blurred like a Monet painting.

I close my eyes, feeling the movement of the waves with my whole body, and I float on, that Modest Mouse song flitting into my head. Yes, we all float on, float on.

A wet finger taps my shoulder, the water cold on my sun dried skin.

I shade my face from the sun with my hands and open my eyes, wondering if the owner of the raft has come to reclaim what I’ve stolen.

I meet the gaze of a grinning couple. The one who’s tapped me is a girl. “I just had to tell you,” she shouts over the voices and music skittering on the surface of the water, “we love your smile!”

I laugh because I hadn’t realized I’d been smiling. I had probably looked like a fool, floating amidst the crowd of people on my stolen raft with my eyes closed, grinning. “Thank you!” I shout back.

They wave before turning away. I watch as they try their best to rave in waist deep water.

I still can’t keep the smile from touching my face.

Out beyond the ocean dwellers, a speed boat races around, one of our group tethered to it by a rope lifts into the air behind.

On the beach, people are still arriving from the ferry that delivered me to the island from the cruise ship. They’re just seeing the heaven they’ve arrived in. I watch as two pairs of friends shriek in joy and promptly grab one another in a violent kiss.

I giggle at the display.

That excited kiss has been happening all day between couples, friends, and strangers; my friend Genveive and I were not exempt. We had arrived on the beach after a round of battle shots (a game of battleship where the boats are shots), and seeing the stage, the sprawling sand and blue water that kiss had claimed us too. I would have another kiss like that later on the boat again during a set on the pool deck with Aaron, a guy I’d just met from Seattle, who I would mentally deem my “boat boyfriend.”

There’s something to be said for joy like that, that seizes the whole body and is so overwhelming that it needs to burst outward into an act of affection that a hand grab or a hug could never express. No, it can only be a kiss, sloppily shoved into the mouth of a person who’s experiencing that same moment, that same joy, with you. It’s not a kiss given because you’re not in love with the recipient, but because you’re both so in love with the moment. All of us, everyone in the water and dancing on the beach, shared in that joy, that certain kind of kiss.

 

Reader’s and Writer’s Block

I haven’t been able to read for a while.

I keep picking up books, but my mind drifts away and before I know it, I’ve flipped through two pages and I have no idea what I’ve read. At first I thought that maybe I just hadn’t found a good book in a while, but that’s definitely not the case. I have a plethora of wonderful books just waiting to be loved. But I haven’t been able to get through more than a few pages of each before becoming disinterested. I thought that maybe I just needed a break from reading, that I was more interested in other aspects of my life. This is rare, but it has happened before.

Then I noticed that the same thing was happening when I was sitting down to write. I would eventually get something out, but it was like I had to mine the words out of my brain with a pickax. I thought, maybe I just don’t want to be a writer anymore, but the voice in my head screamed at me for such a betrayal. So no, that wasn’t it. Writing makes me happy. Why couldn’t I get the words to come out? I realized that they didn’t want to come out because I couldn’t focus. So I thought about how I’ve been spending my days lately, and I did some research.

As The Guardian says, “we live in an always on world.” Everything is a click, a tap, or a swipe away. I like this because it’s so true. We are always connected to a phone, or a tablet, or a laptop. It’s actually expected that everyone bring their own device to all of our classes, even though we don’t have a tech class or devices listed as a requirement. If you don’t bring any tech, there’s a laptop cart available. There’s no excuse. Everyone must be plugged in.

And I mean, utilizing technology to teach is fine, but I feel like in this program, we’ve reached the point where nothing is taught without it anymore. Which is too bad. Some of the best classes I had at Mount Royal University were just a professor sitting on a desk chatting with us.

In a wonderfully titled article, “Social Media and the Death of the Attention Span,” David Burnham writes,

“Twitter allows only 140 characters, making the user cut down anything they’re saying. Vines only allow six seconds of video content. Snapchat only allows 0-10 seconds of temporary imagery. With a double tap on Instagram, everyone will know who liked whose photos online. These applications have made for easily-accessible online platforms, but it has also encouraged a detrimental change — a terrible attention span.”

So not only are we always plugged in, but our attention spans are being conditioned to last for the length of a Snap or Vine.

There is currently a global rise in ADHD. Psych Central says “a child with ADHD is four times as likely to have had a relative who was also diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.” This means that ADHD is genetic. But if we look at the way our world works–everyone being plugged in and paying attention to one thing for the length of a finger tap–it’s no wonder the diagnoses is on the rise in first world countries. We are being trained to unfocus.

I’m not an expert on this topic, and I personally do not have ADHD, but I feel like (especially lately) I have trouble focusing for longer than a few minutes–this is not something I struggled with when I was younger. I used to sit in my room and read or work on my novels for hours before I had a cellphone, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts. I used to close my eyes and just listen to music, doing nothing else. Now I’m interrupted every few minutes by the vibration of a device or the need to see if anyone liked my latest post.  I feel like I have been trained away from my natural propensity to sit down and work on something for a long amount of time. And that’s how novels get read and written.

But why am I feeling like this now? I’ve been plugged in since I was a teenager.

I feel like I’ve gotten out of the habit. This program in school isn’t challenging for me; I very rarely have to pay full attention or apply myself. So instead, I spend all day looking at my tablet, or switching to my phone to check Snapchat, Facebook, or to play a Candy Crush ripoff called Gummy Drop.Then I go home and do homework on my computer or watch Netflix. I’m staring at screens all fucking day.

And I’ve really noticed my need for instant gratification when I run out of lives in Gummy Drop. Rather than putting my phone down and doing something else for an hour for my lives to refill, I spend the fake money I’ve earned in the game which always ends up screwing me over. All I had to do is wait. I could go for a walk, or actually pay attention to class. But I can’t help it. I always spend the coins.

And I think that this need for instant gratification has trickled over and harmed my ability to write and read for long periods of time. Novels are long. They take a long time to reach the point of catharsis, and even longer if you’re trying to write one. I can’t spend any fake coins to get to the good part.

So I’m going to try and rewire my brain.

I’m not going to post anything on Facebook or Instagram (therefore I will not feel the need to check for likes) and I’m not going to allow myself to play Gummy Drop after 8 pm.

I’m going to read, write, and try to create new habits in the free time I’ll create by doing this. This might be hard with the way my classes work, but I’m going to try my best. And hopefully, I’ll notice a change.

That’s my advice to any aspiring writers as well.

Unplug to unblock.

 

A Lesson in Semantics

On depression and semantics.

I was near tears when I opened up my laptop with the intent to write this post, but the lock screen was set to a picture of a smiling sloth. It cheered me up, so if you’re having a rough day, here’s a sloth for you too:

sloth

I don’t know if I should publish this.

I often claim that I’m very open about my depression and anxiety, but the truth is that I’m really not.

As a writer, I know the difference between showing and telling.

To show, I would say, “The numbness had seeped out from the girl’s mind and into her body, paralyzing her in the dark in her bed with self loathing for eternity.”

To tell I would say, “The girl was depressed.”

I tell.

I tell people, “Why yes, I struggle with depression and anxiety,” like it’s a fun fact. I’ll bring it up to maybe explain a certain quirk I have, or to make a joke about it. I don’t show anyone why I’m too distraught to move for days. I tell them I drink so much because I love to party and don’t describe how booze fends off the panic that comes with being in a room filled with men who are bigger than me and could overpower me if they wanted. I don’t let anyone see how I rip myself into pieces until all that’s left is a handful of bloody confetti. Only my closest friends get snapshots, and even then, they’re few and far between because I am afraid. I’m afraid that if I show my darkness, what I really am beneath all the meaningless chatter, people will run. It will be too much. A burden.

In my ed psych class we’re discussing learning disabilities. My professor keeps emphasizing that if you ever hear a student say, “I’m ADHD,” or “I’m autistic,” you tell them that they aren’t ADHD or autistic, rather that they have ADHD or autism. They are not their disorders. Meaningful semantics.

I am not depressed.

I have depression.

But I don’t really believe that, not about myself or about him.

In fact, one of the stories I’m trying to get published currently is about  him, my first boyfriend who was an obsessive compulsive, cripplingly anxious, alcoholic with dissociative disorder and was an abusive mother fucker. In the story, I refer to him only as “Illness.” He functioned in social situations only by mimicking television shows; he was composed of learned wit and good timing. The only thing beneath the visage was the illness he was hiding, and I question to this day if there was even a person left amidst all of his sickness. But I loved him, whatever he was, despite the abuse.

But lately I’ve been trying to move away from relationships like that, to be smarter about who I get close to.

There’s a blogger named Jennifer Lawson who unabashedly shows and tells about her mental illness. What baffles me most about her life, is that she has a husband who isn’t mentally ill and never has been. I wondered if an unafflicted man could really understand her, really empathize, without growing weary of dealing with someone who is sick.

Her marriage gave me hope.

I thought that maybe if this woman who is so ill could be with someone who’s well, then maybe I could. Maybe the idea of a normal healthy relationship wasn’t too out of left field. Maybe a well companion could help me get well too.

I’ve been trying really hard to get better, to open up, to show. I tried in my most recent relationship, and to avoid the coldness I’ve so often been accused of. I showed, just a glimpse. And it was too much. He told me so. And I’m single again. It’s not his fault. I wanted to know, and now I do. I was right to be afraid to show my darkness.

I’ve learned that if I am depressed, then I am a burden to whomever I am with. Showing was a mistake. I need to tell, or maybe even not do that either. Maybe I should just deal with things on my own, as I always have. Hide my illness and stay on my own until I’m truly well again, if I ever will be.

I’ve been doing Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and I know that logically, I shouldn’t believe what I just wrote. Just because my illness was too much for one person doesn’t mean it will repeat every time. But logic smogic. I’m sad.

Here’s another sloth.

annother

Free Write– “Typical”

The result of a free write exercise. There are bad words, sexual references, and drugs in this post. Sounds like a good time, right?

It needs, he thought, it needs…to be held. Gently in soft lubricated hands with long fingers tipped by carefully manicured nails. It needs to be pleasured, made love to. Fucked. Hard. It needs…it needs cocaine. That was it. You can’t go wrong with cocaine. Well, maybe you could. But what did he care? His heart hurt, after all. It needed to be held, or it needed cocaine, and the former wasn’t going to happen. Not since she’d gone.

He thought of the energy infused in his muscles after snorting a line, mouth chattering almost faster than the words spouting out his throat, eyelids peeled back, taking everything in faster than possible, his energy lashing out in all directions, feeling larger than his body. And his heart. Oh, his heart would race with joy. It would thunder and leap in his chest. It would palpitate with life, with the rush. Energy. Rage. Love. He needed cocaine.

Getting up from the disheveled bed, he rubbed his hands across his unkempt beard, brushing out the stale granules of last night’s pizza from his face. He stumbled over to the coffee table, sticky with pop spilled a month ago. A month. A whole month gone by without her, his heart cold and untouched.

He’d devoured a large pepperoni pizza and two pounds of salt and pepper wings the previous night in an attempt to feed his heart, thinking that maybe after all this time that it might just be hungry, and that it was just crying for food. But his heart didn’t want pizza and wings. The food hadn’t made it happy. Instead, it had only made his skin oily and his stomach protrude with an unsightly food baby beneath the fuzz of his body hair. His bed sheets were filled with crumbs and his heart was indifferent, untouched.

He had touched other things in attempt to heal the shuttering gasping thing in his chest. In fact, his genitals were well loved—not by anyone else, but at least they responded to his efforts, like his stomach did to food. They allowed themselves to be indulged unlike his sad heavy heart.

But somewhere in the city, there was cocaine.

The thought spread in him like warm honey oozing down an aching throat. He didn’t have any coke in the house, hadn’t for years. He didn’t even remember his dealer’s name, let alone his contact information. Why was life so hard?

With a sigh that wreaked his whole body, the man fumbled with a slip of cigarette rolling paper and dumped in some green from the absurd amount in the jar on the sticky table. He ran his tongue along the paper, the moisture picking up little flecks of weed, green on pink. Bitter. Like everything in his world.

He pinched the paper together, lit the end and took in a breath matching the ferocity of his sighs. The cloud of grey smoke rushed into his lungs. It filled his whole chest, but it didn’t reach his heart. Typical.