Posts Tagged With: anxiety

Workshop Rule #1: You do not talk about workshop

Reasons why I don’t thrive in a negative work environment:

1. I start to wonder what the point in trying is
2. I feel like no matter what I do it will never be good enough
3. I compare myself to others and think “I’ll never be able to write like that.”
4. I question my own ability, and capability.
5. Things feel hopeless.

Workshop is like Fight Club.

The first rule of workshop: You do not talk about workshop
The second rule of workshop: You DO NOT talk about workshop

At first I thought this was to protect the privacy of everyone’s writing. We are writers after all, and prone to self-loathing, depression, and insecurity. I think it’s important to respect other writers and their work, and I didn’t want to step on any toes. As I reach the end of the year I no longer believe this. We are told when we arrive “Workshop isn’t a safe place.” I am inclined to agree. Workshop is the land of emotional abuse. And maybe I’m wrong, but I honestly don’t know anyone who has ever thrived in life by being told they suck. In an effort to keep this anonymous, and because I really don’t dislike the establishment or what it’s trying to do, I’m not going point fingers. I don’t think badly of the people themselves, and I’ve learned a lot… from lectures. I’ve also learned a lot about myself, and the person I want to be. And I honestly have to thank the program for that, because had I never been subject to the amount of harmful negativity going on, I would have never realized I cannot morally support a system like that.

I could never look at someone and question whether there was any hope for them. I could never refuse feedback because it wasn’t worth my time. Every person, every writer, that I have ever encountered has value to me. Every story I read has potential to me. No one could ever convince me otherwise, and I could never be part of something that held that view. Not only because I’m terrified that by being taught by people who hold those views, I could become like them, but ultimately because I cannot and will not support the crushing of people’s dreams. Maybe because I know what that’s like. To be told you have no worth, and that you’ll never amount to anything. How deep those words seed themselves inside of you, no matter how hard you try to  keep them out. They take root, and you start to think you can’t. You start to question your own value and the value of your work, and especially people in positions of authority hold a lot of sway, because their opinion means a lot.

And I’ve spent the entirety of my adult life battling through all those bad seeds, and ten years later I’m still trying to push some of them out. The writing business is hard? Well no shit! It’s especially hard when you go someplace to learn and are turned away from that learning because the person who is PAID to do a job that is teaching doesn’t feel you’re worth their time to teach… Unless you’re already talented, of course. And then you get favourites. And the favourites are good. They have so much potential, and can do so much, and get so far. They are worth all the time in the world. And I hate that. I hate favourites. I think I might be a favourite, and I hate myself for it. I hate that someone sees value in my work, but the value I see in someone elses work goes unnoticed. I don’t ever want to leave someone behind. Especially not someone who I believe has value.

Maybe I’m selling myself short. Maybe there is something in my writing. I definitely believe there is value in my writing. That’s why I’m still writing. That’s why I’ll keep writing. But not there. And not for them. Because I don’t want them to get any credit for the writer I’m going to become. Everyone has an epic story in them. Something great, that, given the opportunity, will inspire people around the world. Like J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. How fucking inspirational was that series as a kid? And it would’ve never survived. Just imagine a world without Harry, Ron, and Hermione for five seconds and tell me how different it would be? So, no. Never. I’m done. Consider me officially weeded out. I will continue to pursue my passion for stage and screen, and fiction will go back to being my pass time. Because fiction is beautiful, and it’s my first love, and I could never see it covered in thorns.

~Kat

Categories: Life or Something Like it | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hey

You can read it on here, or download a PDF version for easier reading. Also Happy New Year!!

Word Count: 5,756

PDF download

Mom’s car smells like artificial pine. For as long as I can remember a green scented tree has hung from her review mirror, the kind that come in a pack of two for $3.99 at Canadian Tire. My hand grips the passenger door handle as the tree swings back and forth.
“Do you think people will look at you less?” Mom reaches over from the driver’s seat and grabs a handful of my hair. “Is it longer on this side? Honestly.”
I close my eyes as we rumble over the train tracks, but it doesn’t stop the onslaught of images. Grabby hands, torn clothes, flashing lights. I throw up my breakfast burrito. Chunks of ham and egg tell me my fortune from the car floor. “Sorry.”
“Group will be good for you.” Mom rubs my back. “Talking to people helped me a lot.”
“I hate people.”
Mom pulls up to a small church; the faded brick sheds red crust around the edges. “You can’t spend your life hating the world for a few people’s actions.”
“They killed Charlie and raped me, Mom.” I scramble out of the car, and slam the door.
She rolls down the passenger window. “Your brother–”
“I will never forget like you.” I hurry through the open side door. A sign on the wall in front of me reads Trauma Victim Meeting with an arrow pointing down the hall to my right. Two more signs direct me around a corner to a closed door near the back. Muffled voices drift through from the other side. My hand hovers over the door handle.
“Are you going in?”
I spin around. A young man with dirty blonde hair and dark blue eyes stands beside me. “I-I don’t know.” Three long gashes dress his right cheek from ear to chin.
“I like to tell people I saved a little girl from a lion.”
“I didn’t–I mean, I wasn’t…”
He reaches passed me and opens the door. “It’s a lot less scary if you imagine everyone in pink tutus. I’m Ezekiel, by the way.”
I take a seat in one of the eight chairs that sit in the middle of the room. A group of people stand beside a table with their choice of coffee, tea or juice. Scribbled pictures and cut outs of biblical stories line the walls.
“Hey, I’m Rita.” Her striped stockings disappear into bright purple Doc Martin’s. Scars cover her entire forearm.
“Anna.” My fingers find a piece of fluff on my jeans.
“I have a cousin named Anna. She’s got blonde hair though, kind of uppity, if you know what I mean.” Rita sits in the chair to my left. “Real stickler about which red lipstick matches her purse, but I bet you’re real nice.”
I tug on a loose thread in my jeans. “I guess so.”
“Anyways, it’s always nice having new people. You see the old geezer there? That’s Peter, if he bothers you just let me know. He thinks he’s so funny, but he tells the worst jokes. Like, actually. And that other girl is Cindy, she’s pretty cool, she’s got two young kids she brings sometimes. Three and five years old. Adorable.”
I nod, and loop the thread around my finger several times.
“I see you came in with Izzy, do you know him? I think he’s been coming here the longest. Word is him and Jerome were best friends when they were younger and that’s why they started this group. You know, to help people and such. But I dunno for sure. You should ask him for me.”
I breathe deep when group starts. We go around the circle and introduce ourselves. Peter sits beside Rita, then James, Theo, and Cindy. Ezekiel sits to my right and Jerome beside him. At the age of ten, Jerome’s mother set the house on fire with him inside. Burn scars cover half his body. Everyone stares when he introduces me.
I pick at the plastic on my chair. I want to be sick. I bite back the urge to cry. My heart rate picks up; turning to ash seems like the better option; my stomach twists around itself; my chest constricts. My lungs claw for air.
“Breathe,” Ezekiel whispers beside me.
And I do. My lungs expand; my heart slows down. I’m in the rigid plastic chair, and Jerome speaks.
“–anyone like to share something about their week?”
“I have a story,” Ezekiel says.
My eyes wander to Ezekiel against my better judgement.
“The floor is yours Izzy,” Jerome replies.
“A new kid joined my daycare class this week, Malachai, and you know how kids are. They’ll ask you pretty much anything. Usually I make something up, but this kid was smart, so I told him the truth, and he told his mom.” Ezekiel pauses.
“W-what happened?” I say it before I can stop myself. Our eyes meet, and I turn my attention to the loose plastic on my chair.
“I got called into the office. ‘Not appropriate for children’ I was told. It’s not like I went into detail.”
Everyone nods along with the story.
“How did it make you feel?” Jerome says.
“I guess it bothered me how society prefers my lie. Like if I don’t say what really happened they can continue to pretend the scars on my face don’t exist.”
Rita and Peter both share stories as well, but I’m stuck staring at the floor and the clock. My foot bounces as I wait for the hand to hit five-thirty. I hate how everything Ezekiel says resonates with me. I don’t remember the last time we talked about Charlie. We never talk about what happened, or why he died, or how it’s my fault.
Ezekiel’s foot nudges my chair, and I look around the circle.
Jerome looks at me. “Don’t feel obligated to share. It’s only if you want.”
I shake my head.
“I’ll see everyone next week then. All you coffee addicts better finish that brown sludge before you leave.”
People laugh at his comment, but I’m halfway to the door by then.
Ezekiel catches me near the exit. “Will you be here next week?”
“Yes,” I say and scurry outside.
Mom waves out her car window.
I steal a glance back at the building.
“So? How was it?”
Her green eyes reflect the afternoon sun, and I stop before I say something like ‘terrible.’ “It was fine.”
No Frills blurs passed and I close my eyes as we cross the train tracks. Ezekiel’s words run circles around my head.
“Bridge club starts next week, but I can tell the girls I’ll be a little late if you want to go again.” Her hands grip the steering wheel, and light curls bounce around her shoulders when she glances at me.
“Sure, Mom.”
“Great!” She turns down McNaughton Rd, and stops in front of house number 88. “I’ll see you same time next week.”
I nod before getting out and head up the porch steps.
I spend the week knitting new hat designs for my Etsy shop, clean the house no less than three times, and work on a few articles for an online blog. By the time Monday rolls around I’m more zombie than human. Mom picks me up at four thirty. This goes on for three weeks. By week four I pace back and forth in the living room. A loud grumbling rises from my stomach, but a lump lodges in my throat at the thought of food. A car horn blares, and I freeze. A door slams, footsteps up the porch steps, jangling keys in the lock.
Mom’s head pokes around the corner. “Anna?”
I curl up in my afghan on the chair in the living room. “I can’t go this week.”
“I’m already late for bridge.”
“I’m sick.” I will the door to shut behind her.
“We do this every week, Anna.” Mom gathers up the afghan and drapes it over the back of the couch. “Put your shoes on, and get in the car.”
“I really can’t go this week though.”
“How’s this week any different from last week?”
“Last week you didn’t have Bridge club.”
Mom drags me from the chair and stands me in front of the door. “You crossed it last week, sweetheart. I know you can do it again.”
I push into her and shake my head. “Please, Mom, I can’t.”
She rubs soothing circles along my back, and nudges me forward. “I’m sure there’ll be people around.”
I rebel against the door frame. “49% of women are sexually assaulted in broad daylight.”
“Ask someone to sit with you until I get there.”
“83% of women are assaulted by someone they know.”
“You’re not a statistic.”
“Six months for what he did.” I clench my teeth and dig my nails into my palms. “It’s not safe out there.”
Mom pushes me until my feet hit the wooden porch. “You can’t live in fear the rest of your life.” She locks the door and leads me to the car. “Here.” She shoves an ice cream bucket in my lap.
I dry heave into it as we roll out of the driveway. “Take me to Bridge club instead.”
Mom rolls down her window. “You’ll be fine.”
I grip the door until my fingers go numb. Sometimes I feel like Mom and I could get along, but then she speaks, and it becomes a passing fancy. I place the bucket at my feet when we pull into the parking lot, and wonder if she’ll ever think to pack a toothbrush with the bucket. “Please.”
“I’ll try and be here at six-thirty.”
Mom has Bridge club every second Monday during the summer, and she missed the first one to bring me here. I know she needs a life, but it feels like a ploy to keep me out of the house for an extra hour. The brick building looms over us. Maybe the bathrooms are nice. “I guess I don’t have a choice.”
She waves out the window as she drives off.
I slump up the stairs, through the doors, to the classroom. Rita waves when she sees me. I smile awkwardly, and avoid eye contact with everyone.
Ezekiel takes his regular seat beside me. “You’re still coming.”
“Apparently.”
The meeting starts before I’m forced to talk more.
Rita shares a happy story this week. “My co-worker, Terry, got engaged over the weekend. We’re having a big party for her at work, and I’m on the planning committee. It’s been so much fun designing cakes, and shopping for decorations with Lucy…”
At eighteen Rita was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. She’s tried to commit suicide four times since she was sixteen. She’s twenty-seven now.
“…Ever since starting these new meds the world’s more vibrant, you know? Like, I feel so fortunate to share in Terry’s happiness, and celebrate the new life she’s starting.”
Rita keeps a journal where she writes down all the positive things that happen in her day.
I make an honest effort to pay more attention to everyone, but my eyes still wander to the clock. A whole hour. I flick at my wrist. Sixty minutes. My heel bounces up and down. Three thousand six hundred seconds.
“Are you visiting this week?”
I jump and my eyes drift from empty chair, to empty chair.
Ezekiel drinks from a Styrofoam cup. “Rita’s grown a liking to you. Says you’re a good listener. I don’t know if I believe her myself. I mean, is someone a good listener by default if they don’t speak?”
I need to call Mom, tell her I’m walking. Home can’t be that far. I tap my fingers together; my nails clack when they hit each other. “Is there a phone here I can use?”
Ezekiel grabs a cell phone from his pocket. “You can use mine.”
I take it somewhat reluctantly, and push the only button I see. A group of small children stare at me, faces twisted in all kinds of goofy expressions. Slide to unlock shimmers at the bottom of the screen. Before I can figure out what it means, the screen goes black. Is his phone broken? I hold it out to him. “I changed my mind.”
“I can look up the number if you don’t remember it,” he offers.
Heat creeps down my neck. “I don’t know how to use it—the phone.”
“It’s really easy.” He pushes the button, and slides his finger across the screen. Various icons glide into view. “You want this app here.” He hands it back, and points to a green icon with a white receiver that says Phone underneath.
It’s a touch screen. I’m an idiot. “Of course, right.” I hit the button with my finger and a list of contacts pops up. I push the keypad option and dial Mom’s number.
“Hello?”
“Mom?”
“Anna? What’s wrong, did something happen? Are you okay?” I hear a chair slide, and she excuses herself from the table.
I turn away from Ezekiel, and whisper into the phone. “I’m fine. I–” What if she doesn’t let me walk? “–have another way home, so you don’t have to pick me up.”
“A friend?”
I hear the apprehensiveness in her voice, and look at Ezekiel. “I’m borrowing someone’s phone, so I have to go. I’ll see you Sunday.” I hand the phone back to Ezekiel, say, “Thank you,” and head for the door.
“Is everything okay? You seem more antsy than usual.”
“I just need to go home.” I step outside and am hit by the humidity. When did it get so hot?
“Do you need a ride?”
“No.” That’s a lie. “Yes.” What are you doing? “It’s fine. I can walk.”
“Your mom usually picks you up, right?”
I turn at the bottom of the stairs, and hold my arm out. “Too close.”
Ezekiel steps up two stairs. “I can give you a ride if you don’t have one.”
“I barely know you. I’m not telling you where I live.”
“My last name is Cole, I grew up on 2 Moon Drive, and I work at Little Rabbits Daycare on 5th Ave. You can call them if you want to check my credentials.” He holds his phone out to me. “The number is programmed in my contacts.”
I narrow my eyes at him. Is he joking? He looks serious. I grab the phone, and scroll through his contacts. It’s there. Little Rabbits Daycare. I hand the phone back without calling. They’d be closed now anyway. “Do you have a bucket?”
His eyebrows furrow. “What?”
“A bucket, in your car, do you have one.”
“No?”
“How about a towel.”
“Nope.” He shakes his head. “Why?”
“Nevermind, I’ll just use my cardigan.”
He looks from me to the parking lot. “Can I come down the rest of the stairs?”
“I guess so.”
“My car’s this way.”
He leads me to a faded blue pinto. It looks like someone threw a bowling ball at the passenger door which creaks when I open it. “It’s safe?”
He laughs. “What’re you saying about my car?”
“You should get a new one.”
“You don’t mince words.” He puts the key in the ignition, and the car sputters to life.
I pull my seatbelt as tight as it’ll go, and lay my cardigan on my lap. “Are you sure it’s not dying?”
“I promise to get you home, but you have to tell me where it is.”
“88 McNaughton Road. It’s past the No Frills, by the train tracks.”
“That’s all the way on the other side of town.”
“Walking is better than waiting on those steps for a car ride.”
He exits the parking lot, and takes a left on Tybalt. “You get car sick?”
I roll down the window, and close my eyes. “I get everything sick.”
“It’s great you still manage to get to group every week.”
Warm air burns my lungs. “I only go because my mom threatened me if I didn’t.” I focus on the wind. Uneven strands of hair tickle my forehead. We breeze through the light evening traffic. When the car slows, I open my eyes and see the house. From this side Ezekiel’s scars run from cheekbone to chiseled jaw like three beacons. He must have been beautiful once.
“Your house?” he says.
“Charlie’s house.”
“Charlie won’t beat me up for driving you home, will he?”
“Charlie is dead.”
Ezekiel’s hand slips from the steering wheel. “I’m sorry.”
I get out of the car when he looks at me. My cardigan falls to the ground, and I stare at it for several seconds. Ezekiel watches me, but I don’t look at him. I can’t say anything.
“Anna–”
I pick up my cardigan and run for the house, bolt the door and curl to my knees. I shrink so small, and disappear so completely that I don’t move until a sliver of light hits my eyes. I crawl to my room, and bury myself in the pillows and blankets on my floor.
~
I don’t hear her come in.
“Anna?” she calls.
Is it Sunday already? It can’t be.
“Anna?”
The bedroom door opens. I don’t move. Maybe she–
“Anna Marie how long have you been under there?
Blankets are torn off me.
“It’s three in the afternoon.” Mom stands with her hands on her hips. “Your hair is disgusting.”
“Did you come all this way just to insult me?”
Mom rolls her eyes. “You’re twenty-one years old.”
I look away. I don’t want to be lectured by her.
She turns the shower on and comes to stand in the doorway, but I still don’t move from the floor. We stare each other down. I know what comes next, but I can’t will myself to move
Mom drags me to the bathroom, strips me down, and sits me in the bathtub. Cold water hits my skin, probably on purpose, and I shiver. Mom dumps shampoo on my head, and tugs at my hair as she scrubs it all in.
“I hate you,” I say.
“Doesn’t hating everyone get tiring?” She dunks my head in the water. She thinks I don’t see the pain my words cause her, but I do.
I slump against the tile. By the time she turns off the water we are both soaking wet. When I’m changed we sit in the living room and drink tea.
“Your father will be out with the car tomorrow. Can your friend take you to group?”
I stare at the picture of Grumpy Cat on my mug. NOPE is written at the top. Is there such a word with my mother? NOPE, it stares back. “I guess so.”
She takes a breath. “You know your father, never tells me anything until the last minute, and I know you won’t go on your own.”
I hide my face by taking a long swig of tea. “It smells bad.”
“Now don’t start,” she huffs. “How can you sit in here with all the doors and windows closed?”
“It smells bad.”
We finish our tea in silence, and mom brings the empty mugs to the kitchen.
“See you next week,” I say.
“I look forward to hearing all about group.”
From the window, I watch the car leave. The next day I plug my phone into the wall, and look up Little Rabbits Daycare in the phone book.
“Little Rabbits Daycare, how may I help you?”
I swallow. “Does—Does Ezekiel Cole work there?”
“One moment please.”
Tinkling xylophone music replaces the background noise. Why does hold music all sound exactly the same? Is there a singular track that all businesses use?
“Hi, Ezekiel’s just stepped out for lunch, may I take a message?”
My heart sinks. “No. Don’t tell him I called.” I hang up the phone and unplug it from the wall.
I schedule a UPS pick up for two toques that sold, and spend the week knitting three more. When Mom visits on Sunday, I lie about going to group. It rolls off my tongue, who shared, and about what. She’s too excited to notice none of it happened. Before I can lament her forcibly driving me tomorrow, she says the car’s not working.
“It just started stalling. It happened twice on the way here. I have an appointment to bring it in tomorrow, but I don’t know if it’ll be fixed in time.”
I try to hide my elation with a sigh. “I guess I can ask again.”
“You’re sure it’s fine? Doris is already picking me up for Bridge club.”
I narrow my eyes at her, but she gives me the same smile she always does. “I’ll call and ask tomorrow.”
“I’m so proud of you, Anna.”
I swirl the tea leaves at the bottom of my mug. “I have an article to finish for the blog tonight, so I should probably–”
“Oh, of course. Don’t let me keep you.” She puts her mug down on the table and grabs her purse. “I’ll just see you next week.”
I gather the dishes she left in the living room. She’s never forgotten the dishes before.
The next day I sit at the kitchen table and stare down the phone. My eyes drift to the front door. I pick up the receiver and call Little Rabbits Daycare. The receptionist answers again. I loop the phone cord around my finger. “Is Ezekiel there?”
“Hang on.” She puts me on hold again.
I pray he takes the same lunch break every day.
“Hello?”
I freeze. It’s him. It’s Ezekiel.
“Anna? Is that you?”
I slam the receiver down and unplug the phone. It takes me three tries my hands shake so badly.
I fish through my dwindling pile of yarn until I find something extra soft. I’ll need to order more. I settle in my big comfy chair in the living room and start a new pair of fingerless gloves. Come September they’re the most popular item in my shop. I’m so focused on my task, I almost miss the knock on my front door some hours later.
I peek through the living room curtains, but the stupid flower pot on the porch railing obscures my view. I swear Mom put it there on purpose. I grab the door handle, and swing it open.
“Hey.” Ezekiel speaks like he’s been coming by every day for weeks, flashing a flippant grin as he flicks hair from his eyes. He wears a black leather jacket and distressed jeans.
I freeze, and he keeps speaking before I can close the door.
“Everybody’s been asking about you at group, wondering why you’re not coming back.”
I cross my arms. “I’m a serial axe murderer.”
“Wouldn’t that involve leaving your house?”
“Why? You’re standing on my porch, aren’t you?”
He grins. “Does that mean I’m invited in?”
“No.” I scowl. “What if you’re a vampire?”
“Serial axe murderers can’t kill vampires?” He places a hand on his chest and breaths a sigh of relief. “Thank god for loopholes.”
“Goodnight Ezekiel.” I close the door.
He comes back the next day.
“Hey,” he says with the same flippant attitude.
I want to scream at him to leave me alone.
“Can I come in?”
“Absolutely not.”
Ezekiel sits in front of me. “Is it because your freezer is full of body parts?”
“Go away.”
I have the door halfway closed when he says, “You’re hair’s growing out.”
I reach for the uneven strands. It’s three inches in some parts now. “Hair does that.” My front lawn is turning yellow. “Why are you here?”
“You called me at work. Twice.”
I flick the door handle. “How do you know it was me?”
“The receptionist said a weird girl called for me.”
“I told her not to tell!”
“It was your mom who asked me to stop by, actually.”
My heart stutters. “W-what?”
“She was ecstatic when I said I was your friend.” His face scrunches and he scratched the back of his head. “I feel a little bad about lying though.”
“You didn’t tell?”
“I guess I’ll have to pick you up next week to give it some truth.”
I nod slowly– “O-okay,” –and close the door.
When I open the door the next day he’s sitting on a lawn chair.
I raise my hand before he can say his stupid ‘hey’. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I spend most of my day sitting on a hard floor helping kids build castles with blocks. This chair is a lot more forgiving.” The middle scar makes his grin lopsided. I refuse to think it’s endearing.
“I could call the cops, you know. This is private property.”
“And miss out on the awesome conversation we’re about to have?”
I grip the door handle. “Why do you keep coming here?”
“Most people’s eyes never leave my face, but you,” –He shakes a finger at me– “you’re different. You never look at me.”
I will the flower pot in the corner of the porch to fall over. “Because I want you to leave.”
“It think it’s because we’re the same.”
“We are nothing alike.”
“Just because you lock yourself away doesn’t mean people can’t see your scars, Anna.”
I close the door, and lean my head against the cold wood.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Ezekiel calls from the other side.
I’m not sure which idea I hate more: him coming back, or him finally listening to me when I tell him not to.
But he does come back. Every day. For the whole week.
On Friday he invites me to sit on the porch with him.
“Your porch swing is lonely,” he says, because he’s ridiculous.
“It’s an inanimate object.”
He turns to the swing. “She doesn’t mean that.”
I roll my eyes. “I dislike the sun.”
“What? The sun helps the trees grow.”
I glare at the tree in my front yard. “It gives you cancer.”
“Tap water gives you cancer these days.”
I close the door before I strangle him.
Ezekiel only works half days on Saturdays. I know this because he’s standing on my porch four hours earlier than usual holding a pair of pink, heart shaped sunglasses. “Emma, one of the girls in my daycare class, was complaining about the sun today, so I mentioned how you wouldn’t sit on the porch with me because it also bothered your eyes, and she told me I could borrow them. If I tell her you wouldn’t accept them she’ll be really upset.”
I grab the stupid sunglasses, and stalk over to the porch swing.
“Aren’t you going to wear them?”
I put them down beside me, and cross my arms. “They’re too small.”
He picks them up, and places them on my face. His lip twitches.
“If you laugh I will cook you into meat pies.”
He sits down beside me. “I liked that movie.”
I glare at him.
“Sweeny Todd.”
I trace the outline of the tree in the yard. The sunglasses help, but I’ll never tell him. “I don’t want to go to group on Monday.”
Ezekiel rocks the swing. “If it weren’t for group you’d never leave the house.”
“If I promise to sit on the porch swing with you, will you make an exception just this once?”
“Are you inviting me over on Monday?”
“No. I’m just saying if you show up at my door–like you’ve been doing for the last six days–maybe I’d be willing to sit on the porch swing with you again.”
“Do you promise to go the Monday after?”
“I don’t make promises I can’t keep.”
“Then keep it.”
I fidget with the cushion. “It’s not that simple.”
“Sure it is.”
“No. It isn’t.”
“Then I’ll see you Monday.” Ezekiel gets up, and walks across the porch.
I scramble off the swing. “Wait!” He’s halfway down the step when I cut him off, and I raise my hands to his chest to stop him. “Please, wait.” I can feel his warmth just beneath my fingertips. Is he always this warm?
Ezekiel doesn’t move.
“I—I concede. I’ll go the Monday after. Just, don’t be mad.”
“I’m not mad.”
“You’re not?”
He shakes his head. “Rita asks Jerome about you every week. Do you know why?”
How am I supposed to know that? “Why?”
“Because she’s worried about you.”
My hands drop.
“You’re one of us now whether you like it or not.”
“I am?”
“I’ll see you Monday.” My expression must be worrisome because he adds, “After group.” His boots clunk down the steps.
The porch swing sways back and forth as I retake my seat.
I knit for the rest of the day. I can’t concentrate on anything. We never made plans before. Knowing he is definitely coming Monday fills me with more nervous energy than I can deal with. I barely eat. I knit myself into a frenzy and add the gloves to my shop at 2AM Sunday morning.
I can’t remember a single thing Mom talks about when she visits. I tell her the truth about group. She wants to be upset, but can’t because of Ezekiel. Instead, she thanks me for being honest, and leaves. I’ve entered the Twilight Zone.
Monday is the worst day of all. I order more yarn off Amazon. I start a book, put it down, pick it up again, replace it on the bookshelf. I pace around the living room, walk to the front door, sit in my chair, open the door close the door, open it again. I sit on the floor and stare down the metal divider separating the tile entryway from the wooden porch. What’s so special about it? Why do I hate crossing it?
I get angry at it. I go to the kitchen, grab my cleaning supplies, and walk over the stupid metal thing, and then I scrub the porch swing until it sparkles in the sun. I bring the cushions inside, strip the fabric, and put it all in the washing machine. I watch through the glass as the water and soap swishes around inside.
My energy fades around four o’clock, and the self-doubt sets in. What if he doesn’t come? What if he does come? What are they saying at group? Did Ezekiel tell them he’d come to see me? A ball forms in the pit of my stomach. I run to the bathroom; I almost don’t make it. I brush my teeth.
I look out the window when a car drives by; it’s only five, too early still. I open the door, and stare at the metal plate again. “I will cross you,” I tell it. “I will.” I kick it. Pain shoots up my toe and down my foot. I curse, and I yell at it. I sit down on the tile, and glare at its stupid, shiny reflective surface. I don’t hear the car. I don’t hear him walk up the steps. I don’t hear anything until I’m staring at his black boots on my porch.
“Hey,” Ezekiel says, because why break with tradition now?
I crane my neck to look up at him.
“Should I ask why you’re sitting on the floor?”
I get to my feet, and trip on my way out the door.
Ezekiel catches me. “Are you alright?”
I hate Karma. “It’s because I kicked it.”
He looks confused. “Kicked what?”
I point at it. “The metal divider. I kicked it, because I hate it, and now it made me trip.”
“Shame on you.”
At first I think he’s talking to me, but then I realize he’s glaring at the metal divider. I laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.
“You’ve never laughed before.”
I look up at him. We’re very close, and his breath tickles my hair. I push away, and sit in the far corner of the swing. “It’s because you’re ridiculous.” He tries to sit beside me, but I put my arm out and say, “Too close,” so he sits in the other corner.
Ezekiel rocks the swing, and we sit in silence.
“How was group?” I ask after a while.
“Rita wants to show you pictures of the cake they got for Terry.”
I nod. “And everyone else?”
“Is excited to see you.”
The glare from the porch swing pierces my eyes, and I’m forced to close them. “The sun is too bright.”
“I anticipated as much.”
I open my eyes when he slides a pair of sunglasses on my face. “They aren’t heart shaped.”
“I had to give the other ones back.”
“You really took a little girl’s sunglasses?”
“She said they had magical powers to help people see in the sun.” I arch my eyebrows, and he raises his hands in defense. “She wouldn’t take no for an answer, okay?”
Neither of us says anything after that. The sun dips behind the tree.
I glance at him from the corner of my eye. His scars sing from this angle. “Ezekiel, what happened to your face?”
It’s so long before he speaks, I begin to think he won’t answer. “My father tried to gouge my eyes out with a butcher knife.”
“He missed.” It comes out before I can stop myself.
Peals of laughter erupt from him.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean–”
He raises a hand. “Don’t apologize. That’s the most honest response I’ve received in the nine years since it’s happened.” He takes a deep breath, and looks over at me. “You’re right. He did miss.”
“Why?”
He leans his head back on the swing. “I was sixteen.”
I look at him; really look at him, even though I’m terrified when our eyes meet, because there’s understanding in them. I reach out, and trace the scars with my fingertips.
His whole body stills.
He is beautiful. The scars make him that way. Am I the same?
“You are.”
I spoke out loud without meaning to. “I wasn’t supposed to say that.”
“Which part?”
“I said it all?”
“You did.”
I bury my face in my hands. “Can you forget what I said?”
“I can leave quietly if you’re really embarrassed.”
I’m irritated by the hint of amusement in his voice. “Please.”
“Please leave, or please forget?”
“Both.”
I look up when the swing stops moving.
He stops halfway down the porch steps to look back.

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Letting Go Of The Past

This is really long and really personal, but I’m sharing it for the people who want to take the time to read it.

It’s much easier said than done. It’s one of the things I struggled with when I started this journey. The feeling in my heart when I first applied for my leave of absence from work told me I wouldn’t be going back, but I buried that voice inside of myself. I ignored it. I said, “Well, just in case things don’t work out, I can go back to work.” I was scared. What if I failed? What if I was a terrible writer? What if I got confused and I made a mistake and this wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing? What if, what if, what if. I drowned in them. My insecurities were suffocating. Everyone around me believed in me, but here I couldn’t believe in myself. That voice that kept telling me “this is right” faded and disappeared against the screaming in my head that said “be logical” the one that reminded me trying to become a writer was like trying to become a movie star or music artist. It just didn’t happen to people like me.

And then school started. And I was caught up in this whirlwind affair of grades and percentages. The nagging voice in the back of my head saying “what if you don’t make the grade?” I had no backup plan. It was this or nothing. I knew I couldn’t go back. Even though I told myself I was going back, I knew I couldn’t. I knew I was lying to myself and because of that I felt like I was lying to everyone around me. I felt like a fraud. I felt like an impostor. “Don’t worry I’m coming back” and “See you next summer” felt like black clouds over my head. Telling myself we needed the money just didn’t cut it. That incessant voice in my heart kept telling me “you aren’t going back.” And still I ignored it. I didn’t want to be a burden, how would we pay the thousands of dollars we owe in credit card debt… excuse after excuse to try and convince myself that going back to work was “the right thing to do.”

For my entire first semester I struggled with this. When January came I was faced with more than I could handle. Work fucked up so I owed them money, MSP was going to send my bill to collections, my car insurance was due ( another 1100$ we didn’t have onto the credit card because we need a vehicle). How could I go to my husband and say “I want to give up my full time job” when all of these things were staring me in the face? And still that voice in my heart “you aren’t going back.” It ate at my sanity, I lost sleep, felt physically ill, still trying to push that voice down, deeper, back to the volume I could ignore it. And the calendar turned from January to February. May was only three months away. I tried to look forward to work because it meant a paycheque and not having to stress about how we were going to pay our bills every month. It means savings in the bank for when I was back in school again.

But that voice. It just wouldn’t shut up. And then I went to Faeriecon. I feel like “So, I went to Faeriecon last weekend…” has become as famous as “So this one time, at band camp…” because it really was something else. A lot of it was rooted in Pagan traditions. Me and nature and my effect on it and it’s effect on me. Me and whatever great thing is out there. God, goddess… I don’t like calling it by name because I think it’s bigger than that. But my point is, because of someone’s generosity and kindness I was able to go to a special activity that normally costs money and that I wouldn’t have been able to attend normally called The Spell of Desire. The main focus was on the desire of our heart. That thing that we really wanted and the things holding us back from it.

My whole family is Christian, and Christians and Pagan’s haven’t exactly been BFF’s throughout history, if you know what I mean, but whatever is out there met me right in that conference room. That voice that I had been trying to subdue for months came back with a vengeance as a raging storm in my heart. It was screaming at me. In that room, in the quiet, focused only on that one desire in my heart, unburdened by everything else and all the crap from the outside world, the things blocking me seemed so small. In that moment it was so clear to me what I needed to do and it felt possible. It felt attainable, whereas before it felt impossible to me. So I made a plan. When I got home I was going to have a discussion with my husband and sort everything out and I was going to go back to casual at the hospital so I could focus on writing my novel over the summer.

Well the very next day as we drove back to Canada I had a lot of time sitting in the backseat to think logically. And that voice in my heart was completely overwhelmed with all the thoughts in my head telling me how stupid I was to think I would be able to give up my full time line at the hospital. By this time my friends had started discussing Tarot and readings and such and I thought of the untouched deck I had at home. So as these thoughts bombarded against the voice that STILL wouldn’t shut up, I told it I’d do a tarot reading in the hopes of appeasing it. By the time I got home and opened the mail, which included the aforementioned MSP collections threat, I was completely convinced I had made up everything I felt during the session and indeed needed to go back to work in the summer. The next day I grabbed the box that held my tarot deck but never opened it.  Partly because I was just feeling too depressed about the awesome experience I now felt was impossible, and partly because I was scared of what it would say.

For those of you unfamiliar with Tarot it’s basically a deck of 78 cards. Each card has a specific meaning. The whole deck is infused with the owners energy, if that makes sense, so generally, depending on the type of reading, it will reveal those things deep inside of your subconscious. A lot Christians will tell you it’s demonic, but my own experience says otherwise. I mean, I SUPPOSE the demons could be sending me positive messages through the deck (even though “demons” are usually evil), but I prefer to think my spirit actually holds my energy and that energy gets infused into the things around me, including my tarot deck and especially when I’m meditating on a problem or question and infusing that energy into the cards.

Now I haven’t taken out my tarot deck in many many years. So I had to go online to look up a spread and refresh my mind on what the cards all meant. Then I laid them out and just about shat my pants. Literally every card spoke to me on an extremely spiritual level and if I had ANY doubt before, it was pretty much blown out of the water. It addressed EVERY single concern that was weighing on my heart. I am a firm believer god (or whatever you call it) will meet you wherever you are, and I was met even more strongly than in the session at Faeriecon. To give a quick run down it highlighted the thing that weighed on my heart:

It zeroed in on the journey I had been on to get here, and all the hardships I had faced and the subsequent strength I had established. Strength in myself and my ability and how I should be proud of that. The biggest struggle though was being a financial burden to my loved ones. I kid you not it said this “If  further success in creative affair is desired, it often becomes necessary to ask other people for assistance. There is no shame in asking for help…” I almost started crying.

It highlighted the things from my past that were influencing me:

A solid financial base, assured security and comfort. Material success and the things I’ve accomplished on the material plane. How being successful materially can help develop your self-worth but ultimately you need to find a balance between that and your spiritual self.

It highlighted the future:

What to do now that I had received all this wealth. It said trying to hold onto wealth in case you need it later is like trying to capture love in a bottle. It encouraged me to let go and let the next generation take over so they could gain as much as I did. It talked about inheritance and giving it to my successors.

It highlighted the reason behind the question:

It talked about an event that symbolizes the conception of an idea. The brief creative spark that comes to you, suddenly and unexpectedly, and that starts you down the road of a new creative vision. It spoke about fear and how the dark demons I was so afraid of are exposed by my inner fire, and that those demons were me running from myself. It told me to embrace my fear because it was part of me and I could use it to grow stronger.

And finally it highlighted the potential in the situation:

It spoke about good fortune and wealth. It spoke of hard work, and the need to act now. It spoke of a seed planted in fertile soil in which ideas can be planted to mature and grow, and even though it will be a slow growth, the success of the harvest is practically assured.

I’ve never had a reading like it before. Never ever, it was all right there in front of me. Everything I had done, everything I was afraid of, and everything I could accomplish if I could find the courage to continue. So I reached out for support. And the things I was afraid of no longer seemed that big anymore. The outpouring of support from friends and family was incredible. It was unexpected. I literally feel like I could take on the world right now. My heart feels so light, even the things that upset me this week feel small. I know this is going to be a long and even arduous journey at times, but look at everything I’ve already accomplished. So this is me letting go. This is me not looking back. This is me stepping out into the world of my dream.

~Kat

P.S. I have officially started the process of going back to casual. I will not be returning to my full time line. I’m all in now.

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Dealing (or not) with Social Anxiety

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, in Canada at least! I hope all my fellow Canadians have wonderful plans to relax, eat good food and enjoy good company while also getting an extra day off work. Usually missing a day of class means your teacher assigns you extra homework, but somehow in two of my classes I don’t even have homework. I don’t even have any readings assigned. I’m sure this is some kind of first year perk I will miss in the coming years. Overall I’m enjoying school, it’s really pushed me out of my comfort zone on so many levels and that’s probably good for me. I’ve almost made a friend, we sit in class together and that’s the most face to face human interaction I get in a given week (not counting my husband). You might think that’s really awful, but that’s actually really good for me.

I never realized how much social anxiety I actually had until I was tossed into a bunch of classrooms with 100+ people and forced to work in groups with strangers. When your constant thoughts are “Will they think I’m weird” or “If I don’t talk enough will they think I’m stuck up/not interested” and other things that are similar to the general “please don’t hate me I just have really bad social anxiety” it makes it really hard to actually talk to people normally. In the 6 weeks I’ve been in french class I have not talked once, except when forcefully paired with someone else (twice?). They say participation is important, and sometimes I really wish I would speak up, especially when I know the answer, but its like there is a stopper. No matter how hard I try, the words get caught in my throat and I start to have a panic attack.

I just recently started trying to give people friendly smiles. Even saying hello to the person next to me when I sit down is difficult. The profs keep driving home “This is where you will meet friends for a lifetime” and I’m like “If I can meet ONE person who isn’t scared off  by my extreme silence and awkwardness I will be happy”.  I am a social person, so I’ve been trying to keep in touch through social media so that I get some interaction with live human beings, but I still hardly leave my house. This is bad on so many levels because I have struggled in the past with agoraphobia, to the point where the only time I left my house was to go to work or get food and even that caused me anxiety. So I really have to force myself outside!

I guess the point I’m trying to get at here is, how do you deal with social anxiety? How do you learn to have a conversation with someone? People aren’t predictable, it’s not like lines you can rehearse. With the exception of “Hello, how are you”, after that you’re on your own. You have entered into the world of unknown conversation land. And sure practice makes perfect, but you actually need someone to practice with. Somehow there has to be a way to get over the intense fear of people. How do you erase so many years of bullying and people judging you, all so you can make a single friend in a strange city? I haven’t figured it out yet.

~Kat

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Show, Don’t Tell!

That’s right, my first assignment for Writing 100 is Show, Don’t Tell! This is a very popular literary adage, but this is the first time I’m hearing about it and I’ve got to say, I’m having a hard time writing. It seems like most artists have this extremely critical view of their own artwork, whether it’s writing, drawing, painting etc and I’m no different. When I sit in a room full of 130 other young talented writers I wonder how I could ever possibly compete. I strive for perfection, and get incredibly depressed if I fall short, easily slipping back into an air of worthlessness and hopelessness. Now, obviously this isn’t a competition to see who is the best at showing vs telling, but I am being graded on everything I do which sets a standard that I have to achieve. For this class specifically it’s 77% or in essence a B+. If you do not receive that minimum grade you cannot continue with writing in the second year, which completely defeats the purpose of me leaving house, home and life to pursue this dream. No pressure.

So what do I do? I don’t know, I THINK I have something written that is good, that evokes images in the readers mind but my professor keeps emphasizing CONCRETE, SIGNIFICANT DETAIL, and I don’t know if that’s what I’m doing. Am I using too much flowery language? Am I adding enough detail to show the reader the image I intend. Am I evoking the senses? When I say “apple blossom tickles my nose” do you smell the apple blossom? Am I trying to hard by describing an event vs a lone object or single action? The mark I get for this project doesn’t even matter, because as long as you hand it in you are guaranteed 100% on the assignment, and the grade you receive simply shows where your writing stands in the line of expectations. So maybe I’m thinking about this too much? Maybe I should just hand in whatever I have and then at least I know… but I can’t do that. My need for perfection outweighs the logic of the situation.

I’ll leave you with what I’ve come up with so far. Feel free to leave comments to let me know if I have the right idea at least.

This city has been saturated in a muted grey overtone for as long as I can remember. Painful memories that refuse to be forgotten hang like a black cloud over my head. Another day in this dark expanse of metal and concrete would surely find me at my end. I walk to school in the dull morning light, the delicate spring breeze cool on my warm skin. I stop at the bottom of that long, uphill climb, my attention drawn to a silvery sound. Shoulder length brown hair dances as bright pink cherry blossoms float around her like tiny spring raindrops. She looks at me; my breath catches in my throat. For the briefest moment a tiny star illuminates this city that is so ravaged with decay, flooding my meaningless existence with tender affections. I’m filled with a brilliant hope and something deep within my chest begins to stir. The sweet smell of honeysuckle tickles my nose as I approach and we continue up the hill together.

~Kat

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I’m back!!

And as long as I don’t get SUPER bogged down with homework I should be around a lot more regularly. I’m hoping at least 1 post a week, but depending on my work load it might be more like 1 post every two weeks. Either way, I am getting back into my writing groove and am starting to feel more at home in my skin again.

So, update. I have officially moved, I have been through a terrifying and extremely boring student orientation and I just completed my first day of classes today!! I am now figuring out textbook costs because, my god, are they ever expensive. I mean seriously, students are poor, its not fair to charge them so much for textbooks!! I wouldn’t complain so much but I’m still waiting for my student loans to come in. I’ve still got 3 weeks to pay for everything so I SHOULD hopefully be fine by then.

You know when you’re a kid and your mom is walking you down this big long hall to your class and everything is unknown and you hide behind her leg because somehow she’ll protect you from the big scary something that’s waiting to swallow you whole. Well that’s how I felt today. At one point I thought I might be sick right there on the bus, but I managed to calm myself out of a very serious panic attack. I haven’t felt that anxious in a really long time and I would have given anything to have my mom sitting with me on the bus to school. But the important thing is that I made it. I might even be able to pass my courses with the adequate GPA needed to continue, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

My writing teacher commented this morning about how all of us in the room were the writers who excelled in high school, and how we were now competing with the best. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except I didn’t ACTUALLY get accepted into the writing program because my grades weren’t high enough. So, I’m competing with everyone who is better than me, in the hopes of proving myself worthy of the writing major. I’m not even a fine arts student, although “Operation 4291: Weasel way into Fine Arts” has begun with a wealth of successes! I even received an email about running for the Fine Arts student council rep! Which I don’t qualify for, but they THINK I qualify for it, and that is the key! I’ll keep you posted on this topic in the coming months.

I have two assignments due on Monday for French class. Welcome to Uni, hahaha, they don’t waste any time!  Wish me luck, I think I’ll really need it!  I’ve got a bunch of assignments due by the 19th. I’m really glad I only have 2 actual days of classes, I feel like the other 3 are going to be spent homework-ing!!

~Kat

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Reaching Novel Territory

That’s right! This morning I surpassed 40,000 words. I’m currently sitting at 78 pages of story, which seems pretty surreal to me. I’ve had to start editing every 2-3 chapters now, since the whole thing takes me too long to read through. I remember when I struggled to hit 17,500 words to bring me into the average Novella length, and now I’ve actually hit small novel length. This isn’t going to be a long post, since I’m half way through Chapter 17, but I just thought I’d update you on my exciting news! I am officially writing a novel!! Who’da thunk it, eh? This time last year I was struggling so bad with my anxiety that I could barely go to a crowded restaurant, and now I’m thinking about publishing a book. It just goes to show that you really can do whatever you want. Even if this never gets published, at least I can share it with my family and friends and I can cherish it as a huge accomplishment. No matter what happens I can never regret this. I will always remember this moment and be proud of myself!

~Kat

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