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On the point being to keep trying.

Published March 21, 2016 by mandileighbean

nevergiveup

“In the stories, though, it’s worth it. Always worth it to have tried, even if you fail, even if you fall like a meteor forever. Better to have flamed in the darkness, to have inspired others, to have lived, than to have sat in the darkness, cursing the people who borrowed, but did not return, your candle.”
– Neil Gaiman, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a terrible adult. It seems that I never fold laundry, I owe everyone money, I always forgot to check the mail, and I’m constantly drinking spoiled milk. On good days, I am able to convince myself that these minor defeats give me character and make me interesting; they give me something to write about.

And I keep trying, because that’s the point, right? The point is to keep trying.

My author page on Facebook has been experiencing more activity than usual, and I want to capitalize by composing a riveting, engaging blog post, but I’ve been lacking inspiration. I’ve also been lacking motivation. I haven’t written anything. I haven’t graded anything.

Last week was rough.

My twin sister returned to rehab a week ago today. I try to remind myself that relapse, whether or not anyone likes it, is a part of recovery. I force myself to consider the alternative, about where else she’d be if she wasn’t trying to get help. Neither scenario does much to lessen the disappointment, the frustration, the anger, or the sadness. It’s a gross, turbulent mess of emotions that I’m trying to compartmentalize and shrink so that they can be better processed and dealt with appropriately. But it’s hard; it’s so hard.

But I keep trying, because that’s the point, right? The point is to keep trying.

“Because, perhaps, if this works, they will remember him. All of them will remember him. His name will … become synonymous with … love. And my name will be forgotten. I am willing to pay that price ….”
– Neil Gaiman, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury

That wasn’t entirely true, what I said earlier, about not having written anything. I’ve written some things, but nothing I’ve been thrilled with or necessarily proud of. I worry my writing – the themes, the characters, the dialogue – is repetitive. I worry I’ve written all of this before, and that might be because the object of my affection is every character I’ve ever written, is the epitome of every romantic fantasy I’ve ever had, and so it all comes back to him in one way or another. What’s especially troubling, and simultaneously amazing about being a writer, is that I invented this man before he appeared before me in the flesh (talk about a god complex, huh?). In college, before I had ever met this man, I started a novel and wrote, “He couldn’t watch her fawn over another man, couldn’t tell her how he felt because it was too late and he’d ruin it for her.” Swap the genders of the pronouns and I am my own prophet. It’s crazy; I said everything I should have said to him years before I met him. How depressing.

I wrote a poem, too.

I put the kettle on for tea
and pulled my leggings from the dryer
I hope there’s time for breakfast
before I go about setting the world on fire

Burning devastation – turn it all to heat and ash
There’s something freeing about going mad
To face the world with wild, reckless abandon
To give in, to be selfish, to be ignorant and bad

Consequences will come swift and sure
Rolling quickly like so many rocks downhill
But it could absolutely all be worth it
For the liberation that accompanies the kill

What does being so reserved get you,
maybe a curtsy and a smile?
None of the mystery, intrigue and danger
that can go along with being vile

But I don’t think I’d really go so dark. It’s easy to not consider anyone or anything else other than my own wants and desires, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s difficult to do what is right, at least sometimes.

But I keep trying, because that’s the point, right? The point is to keep trying.

On chance encounters.

Published June 22, 2012 by mandileighbean

I love how I write an empassioned entry about my new and strong resolve to update regularly, and then miss a day.  That’s me in a nutshell: weak, but full of rationalizations for said weakness.  I must be incredibly difficult to love.

Wednesday was a great day, though.  I went to Barnes and Noble and though I spent more than I would have liked, it was well worth it.  I purchased a trendy bookbag that perfectly fits the Bohemian – and let’s be honest, sometimes pretentious – style I am currently going for.  I also purchased the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe, a set of sketching graphite pencils and a sketchbook.  One of my summer resolutions is to take up painting.  That is a somewhat daunting feat, so I’ve broken the goal into baby steps: I’ll start with sketching.  My good friend and college roomie is an artist in every sense of the word, and on Tuesday, she’s going to take me sketching with her.  Hopefully she’ll be able to show me the ropes so I can create something decent.  Purchases in hand, I went to the cafe to have an iced coffee because it was hot as hell and to get some reading and writing done.  I did read “The Offshore Pirate” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and wrote a little bit, but nothing I’m immensely proud of.  I’m still working through a dry patch and feeling decidedly uninspired.  I have ideas that have potential, but currently, I am failing exceptionally at executing them.

What I remember most about my time spent at Barnes and Noble was a beautiful man who seemed to sketching out designs on graph paper.  He was using one of those multi-colored pens that changes color when you click it – either red, green, blue or black.  When he sneezed, I said, “God bless you.”  He thanked me and offered me a warm smile, and I gushed as I tried to focus on sweetening my iced coffee (which I completely blotched.  It was disgusting and I threw it out before I was halfway finished. I don’t blame the barista, though. I don’t think I was drinking it fast enough because the ice melted and made it watery).  I stirred in the sugar and made note of his shaved, dirty blonde hair and dark green eyes.  He was of a thin yet athletic build and his skin was tanned from being in the sun.  He was dressed in earth tones and wore a thick, leather bracelet on his right wrist.  He had a trendy knapsack with what looked like a sleeping mat rolled up and stuck underneath the top flap.  I wondered if he had taken a bus to the shopping center.  I doubted he had a car; he would never condescend to such consumerism, or be so ignorant of the adverse effects of automobiles on the environment.  Then again, if he were taking a bus, that’d make him a hypocrite and wonderfully complex.  I had fallen in love with him in the 27 seconds it took me to prepare my coffee with half-and-half and sugar, but turned away from him to find a seat at the bar against the full-length windows.  I could have engaged him in charming conversation prehaps, or at least asked his name.  I wanted him to ask me what I was reading or what I was writing, but I did nothing.  When I saw him exit the store and cross before the windows once or twice, I smiled but remained still, flicking my eyes back to my book or the screen of my iPad.

I’m a chickenshit, is what it is.

Later, an old friend of mine from childhood invited me out for drinks for happy hour and a great hole in the wall in Seaside Heights.  I accepted but with a strong sense of caution because this friend only reaches out when something heavy is going on.  She, regretably, is kind of a hot mess and things have not changed.  I had fun and it was nice to escape from the mundane quality my life is so reluctant to relinquish, but I could not do that every night like she can.  I came home so drunk that I ate rancid spaghetti sauce that had been left out on the counter since before lunchtime.  I awoke with a dry mouth, a pounding headache and a palpable sense of shame.  It was a gross feeling.

Today was better.  I had lunch with my artist friend – she’s also a spectacular musician – and also ran into a very good friend who’s been missing in action as of late.  She’s married, domesticated and wonderfully mature.  She wears elegant dresses and goes out for cocktails with her husband and their friends like a real adult.

This weekend should be just as entertaining.  Hopefully I’ll remember to update as it happens.

The writing prompt I’ve been working on has been giving me real problems.  I don’t particularly think the prompt is all that great, so I am continually and readily disengaging in the creative process.  That ends tonight, though.  I will finish the damned thing if it’s the last thing I do.

PROMPT: Unusual Phobia.
  Create a character with an unusual phobia.  Write a scene in which the character faces the phobia.

The most common fear among human beings is death, followed closely by public speaking.  Then again, it might be the other way around but regardless of the accuracy of the aforementioned statistic, Melissa Grander feared neither death nor public speaking.  The activity which caused her body to seize, her palms to sweat and her mind to waver between insanity and unconsciousness was dinner conversation.  It was not a common fear by any means, and Melissa made peace with the fact with the rationalization that she was not a common young woman.  Exactly what made her so uncommon eluded Melissa and at night, when she lay awake watching the dusty ceiling fan in her bedroom slowly rotate around and around, she worried that she wasn’t uncommon or unique and that she was just weird; simply bizarre.  After all, who can’t hold a simple conversation over a meal?  Who can’t engage in a dialogue over dinner?

The answer is Melissa Grander.  She could not be charming, witty or even responsive while eating.  It was effort enough to make sure nothing spilled and stained her blouse, that her teeth were clear of debris.  To add the societal pressure of being interesting was more than she could comprehend.  Her need for silence at mealtimes left her lonely and alone.  Other than her family who were supportive and understanding, Melissa did not have many friends.  Having to decline every single dinner and lunch invitation led to a notable drop in those invitations, to the point where Melissa was left off the list because everyone knew she wouldn’t come out anyway.  Melissa also knew she could never join in the group brunches, lunches and dinners and could never do so with a romantic prospect, so she stopped dating altogether.  When the occasional male interest made his intentions known, Melissa panicked and aborted the whole thing, assuming that once the young man found out how abnormal she was, he’d be completely turned off.  Who wanted to be a lover and a savior and a doctor and a therapist?  Wasn’t that too much pressure?

All of Melissa’s social interactions stemmed from her weekly trips to the mall.  She didn’t necessarily make purchases, but she flitted around like a regular social butterfly from kiosk to kiosk and department to department, making small talk with various employees who all found her to be pleasant, compassionate and most importantly, normal.  She could eat alone at the food court without anyone thinking twice, and satisfy her need for human interaction in the small, superficial doses she could handle.  It was kind of ideal, albeit sad and temporary.  Would these workers come to her funeral?  Would they send her cards if she was sick in the hospital?  Melissa knew that they wouldn’t, but the fear did not outweigh her fear of conversation during meals.

Melissa was solitary, and as a result, she enjoyed solitary activities.  During her social visits to the mall, she would bring along a book to read near the fountain in the center.  The bubbling and tumbling of the water into the stone basin provided the perfect white noise to drown out the buzz of consumerism around her, so she could afford to become lost in a literary world where she could live vicariously.  She, Melissa Grander, was the young female protagonist with the painted nails and nasty habit of chain smoking, who moved from bed to bed every night and searched for the solution to her looming but not named existential crisis in seedy bars in a big city.  Melissa could be hunting ghosts in an old, Victorian manor, foiling an assassination attempt against some world leader, or falling in love barefoot and breathless while caught in the middle of a surprise summer storm.  Anything was possible for Melissa while she was reading.

Her favorite author was James Prince, a master of the paranormal thriller.  His characters were so authentic and painfully human, despite their supernatural abilities and/or origins.  While the setting and circumstances of the plot were extreme, the themes were perfectly applicable to her humdrum life and Prince’s writing became universal.  She had a large intellectual crush on him and filled idle time with daydreams about chance encounters and resulting romances with Prince.  It was childish and juvenile and at the back of her mind, Melissa realized she was stunted emotionally.  Sighing, she’d close the book and head toward the exit.

One random Tuesday, Melissa was heading out the automatic doors near the salon.  She paused to warily observe the gray, swirling skies and the thick raindrops beginning to pound the pavement.  Her umbrella was shoved beneath her backseat and she hesitated, not wanting to become drenched and uncomfortable.  Her feet shifted in thought, as did her dark, expressive eyes, which widened when they fell upon a cardboard cutout to her right.  It was James Prince, in the most scholarly of poses with his strong, calloused right hand curled about his strong, impressive chin.  His eyes were kind but a million miles away, and a deep shade of brown.  A small smile hung about his lips without actually landing.  It was a beautiful picture and she took a step or two towards it, like she was physically compelled to do so and could not resist.  Underneath the torso of the author was a slit, and beneath that was an entrance form.  There was a contest being held; one lucky winner would be chosen to have dinner with the author, and win a signed copy of his newest book, yet to be released.

Melissa’s breath caught in her throat.  This was incredible; this was serendipitous!  If she entered and if she won, she would have to face her fear!  She could be normal with his assistance; she’d have to shape up for James Prince.
Melissa hurried over and filled out about thirty cards, shoving them mercilessly into the slot, crumpling corners in her haste to get as many forms as she could into the cardboard cutout.  The winner would be announced in one month.

Melissa went to the mall every day and entered again and again.  She stopped making her social visits, completely forgot about her uncommon phobia and was graced with that proverbial eye of the tiger.  She was focused only on winning and the opportunity of being healthy.  The irony that her behavior to do so was unhealthy was lost on her.

A month later, the winner was announced.  Melissa Grander would indeed be having dinner with James Prince.

The big night came and she sat upon a bench on her front porch.  Her hands twitched in her lap and she was barely breathing.  Every pair of headlights that washed over her made her nauseous; the limousine would be arriving to pick her up at any minute.  She had index cards in her tiny bag, each with vague responses to typical questions one might ask over dinner.  Melissa hoped she’d be able to keep it together.  She’d honestly rather die than mortify herself before James Prince, the love of her sad, delusional life.  Sighing sadly, Melissa automatically rose as headlights flooded the drive.  Her moment had come at last.  She gathered her wits and her bag and trotted over to the rear door of the limousine when it was opened from the inside.  There sat James Prince.

“Oh my God,” Melissa breathed.

On wondering where the good goes.

Published March 31, 2012 by mandileighbean

I would like to begin this entry with an apology; this time, for my absence. My computer broke Wednesday night – something about the power switch being worn down to nothing – and I could not get it to turn back on. I had tried to update this blog from my iPad, but was unsuccessful. I was so stressed and just sat on my bed and cried, and cried, and cried. It was silly, and most certainly foolish, but I felt so helpless and frustrated.

I updated the blog with a pity party; a post that just ranted about how sad I was, and how woeful I am, and so on and so forth. But that is not why I started this blog, and that is not who I want to be. There was nothing creative or entertaining about the post; it was only self-indulgent and annoying, so I deleted it. I realized that I hadn’t lost as much weight as I should have, that I wasn’t being a creative writer, and that I was being weak again. I was letting myself down, and it was time to knock it off. It was time to start fresh.

So, it’s a new day, and I’m typing away on a new computer. I also discovered a new set of prompts by Writer’s Digest that are perfectly tailored to a writer suffering from a creative slump. Let’s give this another shot, shall we?

THE PROMPT: “The Song that Changed Everything”
You walked into the emergency room. This simply couldn’t be happening. Just a few hours ago you were playing cards with your friend, listening to your favorite song on the radio – the song that defined your friendship. But now, as you make your way to the nurses’ station, that song was playing again. Only this time, it felt different.

THE PIECE:

Amanda’s hair flew out behind her as she ran through the parking lot. Her flip flops slapped haphazardly against the pavement and she knew she was one bad step from a bad spill, but it didn’t really matter – nothing did, except for Allison. Amanda had been in the classroom, idly checking her work e-mail while the students worked on their expository essays, when her cell phone had lit up beside the mouse. She had done her best to discreetly place her phone so that she could see it, but no one else could. Teachers weren’t allowed to have them because the students weren’t allowed to have them, and it was all about solidarity or some nonsense, but she had hers close anyway, just in case there was an emergency or something.

                And there was an emergency, wasn’t there? Amanda hadn’t answered her cell phone because one, it would be unprofessional and two, the call was coming from a number she didn’t recognize. She ignored the call and took a cursory glance at the students, all of whom were bent over their desks and writing furiously. Things were momentarily interrupted but were quickly on their way back to normal, until the phone in the classroom rang; the generic phone that hung beside the desk in every classroom. Twenty heads popped up, snapping their necks to the phone like an abnormally large pack of deer trying to cross a four-lane highway flooded by headlights. With a rueful smile, Amanda told them all to keep working and she answered the phone, never thinking that anything could be wrong. Or hell, if something was wrong, that didn’t mean it couldn’t be easily remedied. Amanda prided herself on being able to handle issues. Her classroom management was exemplary – the principle had even said so – and she did her best to never rattle. Other teachers came to her to vent because they knew Amanda would be blunt and put everything into perspective.

But Ms. Taylor, the secretary in the office with the short blond hair and lust for high heels, told Amanda that the hospital had called, and that the hospital said Amanda should hurry down there because something had happened to Allison; there had been an incident. Ms. Taylor mentioned something about a Hall Duty teacher reporting to the classroom, and about not worrying, about it being okay to leave, but Amanda was already gathering her purse with the keys – everything else could stay, could wait until the world righted itself. Some of the students called out to her, asked if everything was okay, but she barked at them to just keep working. What else could they do? What else could anyone do? What was she supposed to say? She was frazzled.

                Using the crazy energy coursing through her, Amanda didn’t stop to talk to anyone, but just ran – ran through the front doors of the school to the parking lot, ran through the parking lot to her Ford Explorer. She fumbled with the key s at the door, simultaneously struggling to calm her shaking hands and to regulate her haggard breathing. When she sat in the driver’s seat and slid behind the wheel, she shut the door behind her and it was silent. For a moment, Amanda thought she might cry. It was a tempting idea, to just sit there and cry, and just be totally consumed by the fear and the helplessness of the situation. Why not? What else was there to do? Would driving like a madwoman to the emergency room and demanding entry to Allison’s room help things any? It wouldn’t and crying in her car alone wouldn’t help either, but so what? If neither was beneficial, why couldn’t she choose how to spend her moment of weakness?

                Despite her cerebral struggle, Amanda’s body seemed to act accordingly; the keys were turned in the ignition, the gear was changed so she could back out of the parking space and before she could really understand what was happening, she was on the highway and speeding towards the hospital. She didn’t hit any red lights, and she gently touched the rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror. It was like God knew that if Amanda stopped, even for just a minute or two, she would not be able to start again. When she parked in the crowded parking lot of the hospital, it was all she could do to keep one foot moving in front of the other. Her mind was racing, sprinting from worst case scenario to who she should call to who would probably already be there. She was taking in deep breaths, constantly smoothing her hair back away from her dampened eyes. Her movements had slowed, probably because her mind was using all her energy and she almost stumbled through the sliding doors and into the hospital.

                Everything was white, bright and smelled like disinfectant. Amanda instantly wanted to be somewhere else. Her stomach turned over unpleasantly and she shut her eyes against it for a moment, not wanting to be sick or cause a scene, but how could she help it? Her best friend was in the hospital, in a coma from an apparent overdose, and how do these things happen? Just last night, they had been at Allison’s house, playing Drug Dealer with a battered pack of cards, laughing loud and hard. The case of beer had been nearly gone, and it was getting late, but then “Where Does the Good Go?” by Tegan and Sara came on the iPod. Both women had screeched in delight and slammed their palms upon the table, demanding the song be turned up as loud as it could go, and promptly be started over from the beginning. Mike, who was always there with them, got up to do just what they had asked, and Amanda seized the moment to be nostalgic. She leaned closer to Allison and whispered, “Do you remember how we used to listen to that song over and over?”

                Smiling, Allison drank from the can of beer and wiped the corners of her pale lips before adding, “Absolutely! We did that one time, on the way to the wrestling match, because you were so obsessed with Billy!”

                Blushing slightly, she covered her face with her hands and collapsed onto the top of the table. It had been years since she thought of Billy and senior year. She popped her head up to see Allison looking victorious and particularly smug. Amanda couldn’t have that, so she said, “Wait a second; you were obsessed with Nick, so that makes us even Steven!”

                Allison burst out laughing, and both women doubled over in laughter. It wasn’t that hilarious – Billy and Nick had both been wrestlers, had both been attractive and had thereby been out of their league, so to speak. She supposed it was somewhat humorous that both girls had heard the song that night, on the way to the match, and had deemed it appropriate to relate to their unrequited love. Maybe the women laughed because they were embarrassed at how juvenile and foolish they had been just a few short years ago, and weren’t sure what else to do. It was silly, high school romance, and wasn’t meant to be picked apart and brutally scrutinized. But when the heart was running out of beats, and a friend was running out of time, everything was rehashed and analyzed, and relived.

                When Amanda came back to the present, Mike was there. He was always there and he was helping her to a chair, talking fast and low. She wanted him to start over, to speak louder and more clearly, but she couldn’t speak – she had just seen Allison last night! They had reminisced about the boys that filled their notebooks and adolescent daydreams and everything had been fine. They had been drinking and having a good time, making plans for the weekend. How could Allison be dying? How could things not look good? When she had left Allison’s house last night, Amanda hadn’t kissed Allison or hugged Allison; they weren’t particularly affectionate friends. But as she followed Mike through the front door, Amanda had turned to see Allison. Her long hair was hanging in her face, and she was still sitting at the table, staring at the can of beer that had to be close to empty. She wasn’t looking at it so much as through it, and Amanda felt as if she had to break her concentration. “Are you going to go to sleep soon?”

                Allison looked at her friend like she just remembered she was there. Allison shrugged, offered a half-smile and said, “I don’t know; maybe I’ll stay up and play some NHL.”

                Amanda smiled and said, “Alright; just text me later.”

                “Will do,” Allison promised with a tiny wave of her hand.

                Allison had never sent that text message, and Amanda hadn’t bothered to text or call, and now where were they? They were in a waiting room, waiting for what? Were they waiting for news, for death, for absolution, for recovery? Did she really have that kind of time?

                Mike was calling her name, getting loud, and so she turned to him. He was asking if she was okay, and if she had heard anything that he had said. She had every intention of answering Mike, of shaking her head slowly from side to side, but the song playing over the crappy, muted speakers was asking a question she had heard before, and desperately wanted answered now, before it was too late.

Where does the good go?

 

As always, please feel free to comment, to critique, and to share.

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