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All posts for the month May, 2012

On absence making the heart grow fonder.

Published May 31, 2012 by mandileighbean

It’s been quite some time since I posted anything; I know, and I’m sorry.

My oldest sister, Missy, and her husband – we call him Wags – moved to Virginia yesterday. Jack, their youngest – just about to be one year old – went with them. Jimmy drove down with my mom today. I am devastated. Jimmy is my whole world. I love him something awful, and I am honored and blessed to call him my godson. He was sleeping when I left for work this morning, and I desperately wanted to wake him up, to make him give me a hug and a kiss and to tell me he loved me, to promise he would miss me and force him to smile. I didn’t do anything like that. I acted responsibly, maturely, and drove off to the high school.

But then I came home and found his little, white tee shirt on my cold, wooden floor. The brightness had dulled considerably because of the wash and wear, and because of the various activities a nearly four-year-old will find for himself to get into. Delicately, I lifted the shirt to my cheek. The fabric was soft but worn and I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I just released a single, guttural sob and that was all.

I am anxious for the school year to end. I am miserable. I worry that the students are not taking away anything of value, that they don’t respect me and view me as a peer rather than an educator. I also worry that the administration sees me in the same light. I’d like to believe I’m doing the best I can, but I don’t think that’s true. I’m going through a rough time – maybe it’s depression – and that makes me lazy, selfish, weak and complacent. I don’t know how to break the cycle.

I went away for Memorial Day. A handsome, young man named Isaac danced with me at a bar. I think he wanted to kiss me, or for me to kiss him, but I panicked and left, seeking out another beer rather than intimate contact. The rest of the time spent in Ocean City, Maryland was absolutely horrible and I’ve relived it so many times that it feels silly and extreme to put it in writing.

I need summer. I need an escape.

One of my students wrote an absolutely stellar short story for Creative Writing. It inspired me to write more and to write better. I cannot wait to talk with her tomorrow and tell her how talented she is, how that talent cannot be wasted and how I’ll do anything to help her. I really do believe she could be published.

I need to lose weight. It’s always been a struggle and the events of the holiday weekend prove I need a change and my weight is the best place to start because I can control my body – as a matter of fact, it’s the only thing in my life I have control over. The helpless feeling that constantly plagues me needs to stop.

 

PROMPT: Eggnog Regret
  After drinking a few too many eggnogs at your annual holiday party, you wake up the next morning realizing you did some things you now regret. Write an e-mail to your boss that will ensure you get a raise next year.

Dear Mr. Jones:

First, let me begin by sincerely hoping that this message finds both you and yours doing well, and enjoying the holiday season.

Second, let me profusely apologize for my behavior at the annual holiday party. I would like it to be known that I was highly intoxicated and while that knowledge does not, in any way, shape or form, excuse my behavior, I hope that it serves as an explanation. Had I not foolishly ingested so much eggnog, I would not have been so forthcoming with private information, so lax about the dress code and appropriate behavior, and I most certainly would not have vomited on anyone, especially not your beautiful, intelligent and doting wife.

Speaking of, Catherine is truly a remarkable woman and I do admire her greatly. It is always a pleasure to see her and speak with her, and that makes what I did all the more appalling. I promise that it was never my attention to publicly humiliate your wife or call your character into question, and I assure you that I honestly and truly believed everyone knew that her breasts were fake. I also assumed you had paid for them because when we were issued our bonuses, you were walking around the office with a wide and goofy smile and somehow, your slacks seemed tighter. Thus when I saw the three of her appear at the party, I believed the augmentation to be common knowledge. With all due respect, her breasts do not look at all real. I’m sure others noticed but unfortunately, I was the only one drunk enough to say so. And by “say,” I mean scream an awkward question across a crowded room filled with mixed company.

I would ask you not to think badly of Matt. He pulled me aside to keep me quiet; he tried, as a valiant gentleman would, to salvage some of my dignity. We retreated to a corner where I could compose myself and leave quietly, but his brown eyes were shining and his lips were slackened with mischievous, adolescent glee and I mistakenly took us as co-conspirators. I was hurriedly whispering to him about something inconsequential and trivial, and he was beginning to laugh. I took this as an indication that I was being charming and casually leaned in closer, casually doubled over. I was sitting in Martha’s computer chair – worth the money, by the way, because it is absurdly comfortable; I have no idea how she gets any work done at all; I’m impressed she just doesn’t fall right asleep – and Matt was kneeling before me so when I doubled over, our mouths were closer than they had been previously and I was drunk and he was handsome. I don’t really know what else to say other than I’m sorry. I know it was wildly inappropriate to have a raucous make-out session in the middle of all the festivities and there is absolutely no professional occasion where my shirt should be removed, but it happened. I think we would all benefit from putting this episode behind us and moving forward.

I particularly think that Keri would be most advantageously served by my aforementioned sentiment. To be honest, I have no idea why it was necessary for her to scream the way she did, attracting all sorts of attention towards Matt and myself. Personally, I think she acted out of spite and jealously. She’s always been a bit of a bitch – sorry, but I can think of no other word – and she’s had it out for me since day one. Remember when she filed that report with HR, claiming I only sharpened my pencils when she happened to be on the phone? I only started doing that after the report and the others in the nearby cubicles think it’s a real riot, so all I’m really doing is fostering community and how could that possibly be a negative thing? Furthermore, Keri’s screaming and pointing and shouting and crying is what made me nauseous – on top of all the eggnog – and had she acted like a professional and not been so “high school” about everything, I wouldn’t have vomited. It was out of sheer embarrassment I left Matt sprawled on the carpeted floor, grasping for my hand, and walked over to your wife. I think I was going to ask her to borrow a shirt but then I saw those two melons – they’re not real breasts anyway, so I can call them what I want – staring at me, almost daring me to make a move.

So I was standing there in my bra, looking down at my own melons, and compared to Catherine’s, they were inadequate. They were smaller than most men would like and could hardly be described as perky. My left one is definitely bigger than my right. I thought about these things, and Keri was still screaming, and Matt was still grinning and I wanted to grin like Matt, but Keri wouldn’t stop. I was becoming angry – incensed with anger – and I wanted to rip my shirt off like the Hulk, but Matt had already discarded it, so I decided to puke right then and there, all over the very melons that had started the whole thing.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I started writing this e-mail, truthfully, in an attempt to keep my job. I realize now my previously stated goal is nearly impossible and I also realize now that I am perfectly okay with that. Did you know Matt called me today? He apologized to me; can you believe it? He wants to get coffee and talk. That’s practically a date, right? I mean, wouldn’t you say so? Then again, you probably wouldn’t know because it’s been years since you’ve been in the dating pool and you had to resort to filling your wife with silicone to keep her interesting. I think that’s kind of sad, and I’m sorry.

I also realize that I don’t want to work in a place where Keri works, or where people like Keri work. She’s mean to me and I’ve never done anything to her, and that’s the worst kind of meanness that there is in this world.

So, I quit.

Tell Catherine I really am sorry.

Hugs and Kisses,

Joan

On limitations.

Published May 22, 2012 by mandileighbean

I have never felt so lost. I am unsure as to who I really am, what I really want and what that all means. However, I’m not questioning everything or abandoning anyone. I’m confident being a writer is my dream and the fulfillment of that dream would make me deliriously happy, but is that it? Is that all there is? What about falling in love? What about having money? I don’t need millions upon millions of dollars, but I would like just enough to be comfortable, and to be able to pursue my passions. I’d love to be rid of all of these useless anxieties that continuously plague me. I would love to be able to breathe normally, as I’m tired of gasping for breath underneath the crushing weight of uncertainity that keeps my lungs from expanding properly. I would love to walk into a crowded room and scream – just scream and scream until I had the undivided attention of all the eyes in the room. Sometimes, I dream about admitting defeat, of throwing in the towel and not giving a damn anymore. I am a basketcase.

PROMPT:Alphabet Story
Write a 26-word story where every word begins with a different letter of the alphabet.

Amanda became confused; properly observed yet misunderstood, under Xanax, vilified zealot.  Despite everything, fear had gotten in James’ way. Quiet regret stunted the jokes, nullifying kinship.

On being one and done.

Published May 18, 2012 by mandileighbean

“…I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Harper Lee published one novel and my oh my – what a novel it was. This selected bit comes at the end of part one of one of the greatest American novels of all time. I cannot praise Lee’s work enough, nor properly explain how much this quote means to me.

 

I hope you enjoy it too.

On loving lyrics.

Published May 16, 2012 by mandileighbean

“And if I only could make a deal with God, I’d get Him to swap our places.”

That lyric is from the song “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush, although Placebo sings the version I more commonly rock out to. I don’t exactly know what it is about the song that makes me listen to it for days on end, but I have a strong suspicion it has a lot to do with that one lyric. It is brief but powerful, and could be applied to a million different lives in a million different ways.

 

What lyric or lyrics do you love?

On life changing news.

Published May 14, 2012 by mandileighbean

The copyright came through for my novel. 🙂 I have to make a copy of the certificate, and send it to Martin Sisters Publishing. One step closer, my friends; one step closer.

PROMPT: Life-changing News
  You go to the doctor for a regular checkup and she gives you some life-changing news. Write this scene.

PIECE:

I felt the paper beneath me and could hear it crinkle as I shifted nervously from side to side. I was trying to sit still, honest, but I was too nervous. The migraines had been getting worse, and using Google to self-diagnosis had been a disaster; I was convinced that at any moment, I would die. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt and without any kind of medical training, that the blood vessels in my brain were too small, restricting blood flow. Lack of blood to an organ meant lack of oxygen which meant death, and if my brain were to die, what would be left? These thoughts had been running through my seemingly lively brain for the past week or so; from the time I underwent the MRI and the CAT scan to the time I was now breathlessly waiting for the results. Filled with nervous energy, I was not only swaying on the paper runner, but I was wringing my hands, like some female character in a Shakespeare play, moments away from a horrendous downfall. My fingers, which felt swollen and numb, kept stumbling over the mood ring on the middle finger of my left hand. It glowed an ugly shade that bordered between brown and green, indicating that I was stressed. I sighed, frustrated with the obvious – why couldn’t the cheap conglomeration of metal and plastic tell me something that I didn’t know – and I heard my mother clear her throat.

“Would you stop shifting? You’re making me nervous, and believe me – we don’t have anything to be worried about,” she said. My mother spoke plainly and clearly; there was not a shred of nonsense or frivolity in her speech. Being so certain was supposed to make me feel comforted, but instead, it made me feel hostile and argumentative; that had always been our relationship.

“What if I’m dying, Mom? What will you say then?”

“You’re being dramatic.”

“So? I might be living on borrowed time; I can be whatever I want.”

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t have time for this.”

I laughed. “Neither do I!”

My mother inhaled sharply, storing enough breath so that she may force some sense into me via her vocal abilities but as my luck would have it, the doctor walked in. She was pregnant – about to burst, actually – and I saw her rotund belly, full of life, before I really saw anything else. She hadn’t been anywhere near when I was sent through a cylindrical tube that shook, rattled and rolled. Nor had she made eye contact and offered a comforting smile when there had been needles and tubes and that awful, cloying smell of sterilization. Despite her recent and poignant absences, she had a pleasant face so that when she smiled, I did feel … okay. She had a round, dark face with dark, straight hair and exotic, dark eyes. She wore a white lab coat over plain black pant and a plain black turtleneck. Her accent was thick, but it didn’t distract from the all-important meaning of her speech. I saw my mother’s round, green eyes dart back and forth between me and the doctor, like she was waiting for my anger and anxiety to explore. I wondered the same thing myself – would this be a showdown? Would the results of the test send me into a blind fury?

She sat across from me on an office chair with four wheels that was covered in an unremarkable plastic that was the most hideous shade of blue I had ever seen. Maybe I only hated it because I imagined she ascended it like some kind of throne; like she was taking a regal, royal seat far above and removed from the chaos of the coliseum below, and she would decide whether or not I lived or died with a simple turning of her thumb. “Hello Amanda, I am Dr. Gupta, and it a pleasure to meet you.”

“You too,” I replied, amicably enough. In hindsight, I realize my gritted teeth may have been less than friendly.

“So I’ve looked at the results of your tests, and your MRI came back fine,” she said, smiling. My breath caught in my throat. If both tests were fine, she’d mention them together, at the same time, right? The color left my face and pooled at my feet which, much like my fingers, suddenly felt swollen and numb. What did it matter how my feet felt? She was about to tell me I needed brain surgery or something equally as frightening.  I saw myself robbed of my faculties, one by one, while my family and friends looked on helplessly. I’d be dead within five years, give or take, and why? Because I had really bad headache who symptoms mirrored that of a stroke? Because I couldn’t talk or remember my name, and because I couldn’t see out of my left eye, only rotating diagonal lines, some black and some white? I could live with those minor inconveniences, because really that’s all they were and all they would be if I were just allowed to live – that’s all I wanted. Tears crowded at the front of my eyes as I braced myself for the impact of Dr. Gupta’s devastating diagnosis. I wanted my mom to scoop me up into her arms and sob, and simultaneously promise me that everything would be okay.

“Your CAT scan came back positive as well, so I think you need to cut some stress from your life,” Dr. Gupta advised. She was smiling.

I looked to my mother, confused. What had the doctor said? I was fine?

“Why are you so stressed, Amanda?”

 

The rest of the visit was a blur. I remember Dr. Gupta suggesting I remove caffeine and chocolate from my diet, and that I should increase pleasurable activities. More than anything else, I remember her saying I was going to be fine. Silent, I walked behind my mother a few paces to the car. My mother was silent as well, but I knew her mind was a flurry – she was trying to think of the right words to say. On my best day, I was delicate and temperamental. How was my mother to know what my reaction would be on a day such as this, when I received what should have been the greatest news of my life?

Upon arriving at the driver’s side door of her large, white Ford Expedition, she turned to me. “Well, that was good, right?”

I started sobbing.

Was I disappointed I wasn’t dying? Was I missing the possibility of the dramatics that would have ensued, had I been given my expected death sentence? Why was I not leaping for joy? I hugged my mother tightly and sobbed and heaved and carried on in a somewhat empty parking lot on a brisk day in February.

 

What the hell was wrong with me, indeed.

On being thankful.

Published May 11, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today was long day. I taught, stayed after, and did three hours of home instruction. I am definitely exhausted, and am most certainly looking forward to crashing and burning.

I was a little upset I wasn’t able to go for a walk today, but congratulated myself for not overeating. I treated myself to a tablespoon of chocolate syrup in my coffee – an activity which is highly recommended.

🙂

I cannot stop listening to Phillip Phillips. He’s a contestant on American Idol. I think he’s devastatingly handsome and his voice is incredibly alluring and sexy. It makes me long for a romantic relationship moreso than I already do. In working on today’s prompt, I soon realized that absolutely everything I write essentially boils down to that one desire. I do not necessarily think there’s anything wrong in doing so, but I do hope to live a life filled with varied experiences so my writing can vary accordingly. I don’t want to become a broken record, and as much as I enjoy being restless, I do not want to remain unfulfilled in any regard.

PROMPT: Thankful I’m a Writer
  Finish this sentence: I’m thankful I’m a writer because …

I’m thankful I’m a writer because I relish the fact that it is both a blessing and a curse. I love duality and contradiction because I believe that power and universality lies within the abstract. Being a writer allows me to search for such power in my own life, and thereby allows me to feel things more poignantly because I subscribe specific meaning to every blessed detail of my life. If that makes me pretentious or self-righteous, then so be it. Being a writer simultaneously scorches and soothes – every set back is a catastrophe and every joy is a major triumph. I used to worry that such exhilarating highs and devastating lows were evidence of manic behavior and it’s a definite possibility that I am crazy, but so what? Being a writer has freed me; I am unashamed. We are only here once. If we lose a day, we never ever get it back.

I believe that being a writer has completely informed and shaped my philosophy on life – I have been heavily influenced by practically everything I’ve read and thereby firmly believe that my life has a plot and accompanying themes, that I am the protagonist and that my friends, relations, loved ones, acquaintances, and enemies are characters. It all has an important meaning, so I think and think and think. I am constantly analyzing while that may also mean I am constantly anxious and stressed, it also just goes to show that I care, and that I care deeply about everyone who comes into my life. I highly value connections – how can that possibly be a bad thing? Life has a special inherent value that is meant to be indulged and shared. My belief system, which stems from being a writer, allows me to detect, analyze, and ascertain life in an extremely vivid and engaging way. As a writer, it’s almost as if I’m more involved in life; like I have a greater emotional investment because everything matters. Everything means something, and I communicate that through the written word. I report back and hopefully inspire – I offer up my dreams, my heartaches, and my desires so that others may live theirs, even if it is vicariously. Writing is a community – we all share our wildest dreams, worst fears, and grandest desires and from that we dream bigger and learn that everything has value, that symbolism could be lurking anywhere and that we have something worth sharing.

Somebody save me.

On marrying a musician.

Published May 10, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today was a good day. Despite the rain and feeling particularly drained in the earlier part of the day, I am ending with a smile that stretches my mouth wide. I don’t know if it’s the late cups of coffee or a beautiful boy singing a song sweet enough to shatter a heart, but I am genuinely happy right now.

I believe I’m going to marry a musician; there’s no way around it.

If I were to marry a musician, he could idly strum his acoustic guitar in a relaxed, reclined position on the couch and as he lounged, I’d rest patiently at his feet. My back against the couch where I leaned for support, I’d have a marble notebook open with the cover flipped back, my knees serving as a writing desk. We’d be complete, we’d be creative and we’d be happy. We’d be beautiful.

My family is completely supportive of my writing career. They believe in me and my talent and I know they would do all that they could to help me realized my dreams. However, they are not as constantly passionate as I am and very few are creative to the point where they’d like to make it a career. There is nothing wrong with that, and I do not intend to villify anyone. It’s just that tonight’s writing prompt is about going on strike at home until demands are met, demands which dictate a supportive writing environment. I do have a supportive writing environment – if anything, I’m just not utilizing it.

🙂

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