All posts tagged Promises

On the struggle with technology.

Published March 5, 2016 by mandileighbean

I absolutely loathe my dependence on technology.

I know this may seem like quite the hypocritical statement as I am using my computer and the internet and social media to update my narcissistic, self-indulgent blog, but hear me out. I want to be a writer, so in this digital age of selfies and tweets and whatnot, I’m going to have to adapt and get on board or die (metaphorically speaking, of course). If people take to Google and social media for book recommendations, I have to be on Google and social media. It’s a concession I can live with to help build my writing career. It’s almost unavoidable.

So let me rephrase my earlier statement: I absolutely loathe my dependence on technology in my personal life.

My phone is nearly always in my hand. If I’m not texting (but hardly anyone ever messages me because I physically interact with those who matter most, which is certainly a good thing) or checking e-mail (does anything important ever really come via email?), then I’m using Safari to check Facebook (I deleted the app to make a statement, but I found a way to be on the social media site constantly anyway). I’m scrolling and scrolling and scrolling on Instagram and Twitter, looking for likes, re-tweets, mentions, whatever. When there’s nothing satisfying there, I play Bubble Mania, Candy Crush or Tetris. I’m always looking down, disengaged and only pretending to listen to the authentic life happening all around me because I’m obsessed with this piece of technology and all the artificiality that goes along with it.

It’s my greatest weakness, and what I dislike about myself the most.

In my opinion (so please only take it for whatever it may be worth), social media only reinforces the crippling need for outside validation that seems to plague the human race. I recently traveled to Philadelphia to see David Cook in concert with my sister, and I took pictures. That in itself would be harmless if the intention had been true, if I had honestly taken pictures to create memories. However, creating and saving and storing memories was only part of my motivation. I wanted to take those pictures so I could upload them to Instagram and Facebook so I could count the likes and comments so I could feel cool and hip and modern, so I could feel like I belonged at the metaphorical watering hole of this super progressive, hyper intellectual, digital age. How stupid. How vain. Why do I need everyone to know where I am and what I am doing at all times? Why do I think everyone wants to know where I am and what I am doing at all times? If I put everything out there all the time, there’s no mystery left. I’m essentially robbing people the opportunity of getting to know me because I’ve created this false persona using technology and social media which could easily satisfy anyone even remotely curious. I’ve created an alternate version of myself for the masses and have rendered myself lonelier than ever. What kind of masochistic nonsense is that?

A wonderful colleague recently told me she’d read a few of my blog entries. She complimented me on my writing (yay!), but said I broke her heart (oh no!). She told me I was too hard on myself, and I know this to be true. Self-deprecation is usually the only humor I can handle, and I am constantly screaming at myself for all of the awkward, dumb, harmful, and lazy behaviors I engage in on a daily basis. Reaching for my phone and idling instead of reaching for a book to expand my mind fulfills all of those categories. It’s awkward to sit in a room – any room at anytime, anywhere – full of wonderfully interesting humans and ignore all of them to go on a phone. It’s dumb to not expand one’s mind and perception through reading, writing or conversation and instead retreat to multicolored candies that need crushing. It’s harmful because it perpetuates the idea that self-love is indulgent and ugly, and that worth is truly determined by society and the media and this new social media. We are all forced to become our own PR people and it’s weird and gross, and I dislike it more and more the more I think about it. It’s lazy because all I need is my thumb and a pair of glazed-over eyes.

Now, I’m not saying I’ll go completely off the grid by any means. Family and friends and loved ones can be scattered from one end of the globe to the other, so it is important to stay connected. I love that my aunt in Pennsylvania likes the memes I share about weight loss, and I love that she likes the sexy pictures of Elvis I find and post from time to time. I love that my cousins in Alabama can be brought up to speed with my life by a few pictures here and there, and vice versa. My coworker is going to the Big Apple today to see “The Crucible” on Broadway, and I’m looking forward to pictures and her review. My cousin is currently overseas serving his country, so we need the social media to keep in touch, to share messages of love and support. These are harmless human connections that are beautiful and wonderful.

But it’s all about moderation, right? It’s all about keeping our minds right and prioritizing.

The best part about the David Cook concert was not the blurry pictures I posted on Instagram a few hours later. It was spending time with my sister. It was shouting out the word “bipartisan” when David was struggling to find it, him thanking me for doing so, and my sister rolling her eyes because I’m “such an English teacher.” What a beautiful moment to feel validated about my passion and career. I did all of that without my phone. When my former phone was destroyed last month and I was without a phone for a few days, I survived. The world did not end. I was okay.

I did lose thousands of pictures, though. That was my own fault because I never backed them up using my computer. I assumed those treasured images would always be on that phone, because I tricked myself into believing technology is infallible and perfect and the answer to every question I ever had. That is simply not true, and I just feel that if I remind myself of that, I’ll regain faith in nature and people and all that surrounds me.

I fell in love with a great friend, but he didn’t feel the same way, and the friendship has since changed and is beginning to fade. Some of the pictures I lost were of the absolute greatest day we ever spent together. This makes me sad for many valid reasons. However, I was inspired to write this post (but really, it’s become a rant, hasn’t it? My bad) because in mourning the loss of the digital images that I never printed (what a metaphor for the relationship, huh? I’ll save that for my next novel), I realized that I felt I needed the pictures because I didn’t trust myself, didn’t trust my own memories and feelings. Those pictures became a kind of talisman that helped me pretend the friendship wasn’t fading, that I was right about everything, so look, look everyone! Look how we’re smiling with our arms around each other! I’m not crazy! There was something there, and I can prove it!

Why should I have to? I don’t have to, and that’s my point. I want to reduce my dependence on technology and social media in my personal life because I need to love myself and my life in reality. I don’t need the approval of others, and I don’t need to know everything about everyone because then what will our conversations be made of? What will I discover in intimate moments?

When I’m at the dentist’s office, or waiting for friends at a bar, I’ll pull out my journal or a book, but never my phone. That’s a new resolution. That’s a promise to myself.

I’ll post to promote my writing and my writing career, but not to start some drama or for attention or to start a pity party. That’s a new resolution. That’s a promise to myself.

And now, I’ll post those pictures of me and my sister and David Cook, since I invited you in.

Enjoy the weekend. xoxo



On bad news and good news.

Published July 15, 2013 by mandileighbean

I know that my last post had its ups and downs, but on the whole, it was a bit of a downer because it emphasized the negative parts of the trip.  I do not know why I did that, especially because the trip was amazing, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I think a large part of my problem, what keeps me from being genuinely happy nine times out of ten, is that I rarely accentuate the positive.  I am going to make a concerted effort to do so, but unfortunately, it is not going to happen in this post.  But the next one will be exceedingly uplifting, I promise, and I am starting to really keep the promises I make to myself so that I can learn to trust myself.

I am going to begin with the bad news, since this post’s title predetermined the order.  On Tuesday, I went to the doctor because I was having an odd, somewhat painful sensation in my stomach.  Apparently, this is where my gall bladder is located and so I was sent to receive an ultrasound of my gall bladder.  The technician said the organ looked good, that there were no signs of inflammation or anything like that.  She also explained that if my doctor reads the scans and still believes that it is my gall bladder, then I will be sent for a functionality test.  If the gall bladder is no longer functioning, then it will have to be removed.  This news is not devastating, nor terrible, and it is not even resolved, so I may be complaining for nothing.  But, as those of you who regularly read this blog know, that is one of my favorite pastimes.
The other bad news plaguing my mind is the untimely, tragic death of actor Cory Monteith.  He played the role of Finn Hudson on the television show, “Glee,” and quickly became one of my fictional boyfriends.  His character was absolutely and without a doubt my favorite on the show.  When Sammy and I went to the filming of the movie, I embarrassed her royally by screaming out his name so that he would turn and wave.  It worked, and then I pretended to faint, and he laughed and smiled, and Sammy was mortified.  But it was all worth it because he was incredibly talented, handsome, humble, and genuine.  He will sorely be missed by his fans and assuredly his loved ones as well.
Now for some good news; I am scheduled, albeit tentatively, to have an event at the Toms River Branch of the Ocean County Library!  Around 7:00PM on February 18, 2014, I will be able to read a selection from my novel and engage in a discussion!  As you can tell by my excessive use of exclamation points, I am very excited.
More good news; I was able to spend some quality time with my cousins Brittany and Melinda, who are two of the strongest women I know.  They work so hard and do so ceaselessly, are loyal to family, and are somehow able to persevere through situations that would leave me worn and wearied.  I love them and thank God that they are part of my family.
brittany melinda
Stay golden xoxo

On making resolutions halfway through the year.

Published June 3, 2012 by mandileighbean

We are nearly halfway through 2012.  I am truthfully dismayed to discover that I have not fulfilled a single resolution that I made the first day of the year.  Luckily, there is still time.

During what is left of 2012, I will:

  • lose 30 pounds
  • get two (2) tattoos
  • go to the dentist
  • not use my credit card
  • go to Barnes and Noble once a week
  • write everyday
  • practic French
  • learn more math
  • start painting
  • drink more tea
  • get my nails done regularly
  • take up yoga
  • take my GREs
  • read everyday
  • get hired as a full-time teacher
  • meet someone and fall in love
  • go to Alabama and see family
  • visit Jimmy at least once a month
  • be honest
  • dye my hair
  • look nice everyday
  • get my lip pierced
  • take a road trip
  • buy a car
  • go skydiving
  • see “50/50” and “Midnight in Paris,” and other independent films
  • go to the theater and poetry readings – be cultured

What are you going to do?

On mentors.

Published April 25, 2012 by mandileighbean

I was assigned another home instruction student on Monday, so today, I went to the classroom teacher – who also happens to be my mentor – for some background, advice, etc. While we did discuss the student, the most important piece of information I took away from the impromptu conference was this: “To live.” I jokingly commented that I wanted to be my mentor when I finally grow up, and she laughed with me, but told me I could do it now. She told me to stop wishing and making excuses and to simply do what I wanted. A light bulb went off in my brain, an explosion ruptured my soul and things finally made sense.

I need to stop wishing and start doing, and I need to do it as soon as possible.

So tonight, I signed up for a conference in New York City for writers of thrillers.


On getting back up.

Published April 19, 2012 by mandileighbean

Okay – I know I promised myself that I would run while on vacation, and watch what I ate, and write every day. I also know that I did nothing of the sort. I am angry with myself, and I readily acknowledge that I am weak. But I simultaneously acknowledge that being weak is acceptable as long as I am not defined by my weakness. So here I am, trying again and for that, I am allowing myself a proverbial pat on the back.

Vacation was wonderful. I love my family and the time we spend together. I visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my younger brother and was enamored with the theme park. My younger brother was a trooper, taking pictures and following me around as I flitted from attraction to attraction. He allowed me to be a nerdy, immature young woman and I love him for it. Clearly, the day we spent together was my favorite part of the entire vacation.

I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert at Madison Square Garden on Monday, April 9th. It was exhilarating, and most likely the closest I’ll ever come to having a religious experience. It inspired me to start work on a story involving an older musician coming to terms with his mortality despite the protests of his young lover and indifference of his numbed wife. What do you think? The inspiration is obvious, but I’m still working with the characters and themes, trying to twist them into something new, original and thrilling.

I was the candidate chosen for the maternity leave at the high school. I’m teaching senior English, and one section of creative writing. It is amazing, and I am incredibly excited. It hasn’t truly sunk in yet, and I need to be more disciplined in my lesson planning and classroom management. I’ve been so busy and tired that I’ve been letting things slide; for example, my first day in the classroom was yesterday, and immediately after school I had a final interview with the superintendent at the Board of Education office, then home instruction and then Confirmation practice with my younger brother. I did not get home until 8:00PM. Today, I taught, attended the faculty meeting, home instructed and now here I am, ready to write.


I hope you enjoy it.

PROMPT: “Inspiring Books.”
As writers, we all love to read good books for inspiration. What book inspired you as a writer and why?

I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the tenth grade, when I was fifteen-years-old. I had never experienced love that was reciprocated, but it was the only thing I wanted and something that I still yearn for. I would do anything, be anyone and commit any crime to have a hand reach for mine out of desire. I thought I had that my sophomore year, but it all came crashing down around me the way things seem to do in high school. The boy didn’t like me; he just liked the attention that I freely gave. When I read Fitzgerald’s classic, I totally empathized with Jay Gatsby and intrinsically believed that novel was written specifically for me. It was that universality – though it is a dangerous term to use – that helped me to realize that I was not crazy or melodramatic, but human and that is a story worth telling. I gained so much confidence and comfort in Gatsby’s desperation and heartbreak and demise, and fell in love with the craft because of its possibilities as presented in The Great Gatsby. It truly is the great American novel.

On stopping and starting, stopping and starting.

Published April 8, 2012 by mandileighbean

It’s been a few days since the last time I wrote, which is in direct violation of the goal I set, and the promise that I made not only to anyone reading this, but to myself. I am so sick of stopping and starting, of stopping and starting; I’ve never been all that successful at capitalizing on momentum, and I believe that is because I am lazy, selfish and weak. That may seem a harsh criticism, but it’s true. I’m not admitting these flaws to incite a pity party, but putting them in print does help to make them more manageable in an odd way. I am beginning anew, but with a renewed sense of determination that must be enough to help me see everything through; the writing, the weight loss, the employment search. While it is difficult to sincerely have faith in myself when I have continually fallen short of the mark, if I can cease the pessimistic thoughts and not accept contrived compromises – not become complacent and settle for a plan B – I can do it; totally.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, a wonderfully symbolic day for rebirth and renewal. I went to the Easter Vigil mass tonight, and it was definitely beautiful and moving. Usually I go to mass early on Sunday, but my family is in Florida currently. Also, my oldest sister and her family are going to the boardwalk tomorrow to celebrate the holiday and I am going to tag along.

On Monday, I’m going to see Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden with a couple of friends. Despite my love of writing, I know I would never be able to adequately express how excited I am.

On Tuesday, I am flying to Florida to visit with family until Monday.

But I promise that I will exercise, write, read, pray and be a better person every single one of those days.

Hope you’re excited for my prompt tomorrow 🙂

On helping best friends.

Published April 2, 2012 by mandileighbean

Most of the time, I wish that I was stronger. I have no problem finding strength in my friends and family members, and I admire so many of them for so many different reasons. When it comes to finding strength within myself, however, I usually come up short. I guess most of us – most of us humans – are like that, though. Self-realization is a scary thing, probably because it is also a very powerful thing. I guess in a way it can be limiting, too. To know your potential essentially defines your limits, and no one wants to be limited. Everyone, or at least mostly everyone (I know it’s dangerous to speak generally and universally), would like to believe they are capable of amazing things, and that they were promised a life of intrigue and wealth – but not just of the monetary kind. No one wants to be mediocre.

I don’t want to sound too cocky, but I really do believe I can be something more than average. What scares me is that I also really believe that my own insecurities and fears could trap me. I worry that I’m not strong enough to overcome those obstacles, and I’ll be complacent for the rest of my life because it’s comfortable.

I don’t know if any of this rambling has anything to do with the prompt. You tell me.

THE PROMPT: “Best Friends Need Your Help”
You receive a phone call from your two best friends. “Hey, we’ve done something terribly wrong and need your help. We can’t talk about it over the phone. Please meet us at the spot where we made our pact back in high school. You know the place.” Nervously, you grab your coat and car keys.


Melissa had been sleeping pretty soundly when her ringtone rudely interrupted. Popping one eye open groggily, she reached out a thin arm to the lower shelf of her bookshelf and clutched the phone. She flopped over onto her back and squinted, narrowing her eyes to better discern the name printed across the display screen. Brittany was calling, which was strange because it was so late and like Melissa, Brittany had to be at work in just a few hours. It also struck Melissa as strange because she had just seen Brittany earlier. They had eaten a late lunch together, and made tentative plans for the upcoming weekend. Was everything okay? Sitting up, she answered the phone and called out, “Hello?”

“Melissa?” Brittany responded. She sounded breathless, and was talking louder than was usual.  Melissa’s trepidation rapidly increased.

“Yeah, it’s me. What’s up? Is everything okay?”

There was a pregnant pause, a moment of hesitation that terrified Melissa. Brittany said, “Helen’s with me.” Brittany swallowed hard. “Listen, Melissa; something really bad happened. Helen and I, we did something terribly wrong. We need your help.”

Melissa felt the blood pool in her feet after it drastically departed from every other part of her body. She felt cold and dizzy; like she could fall right back on the mattress and pass out. “Brittany, what’s wrong? What’s happened?”

More silence greeted Melissa and she absolutely hated it. Under normal circumstances, Melissa couldn’t stand being left out and not knowing everything. Under these circumstances, it was torture. Why couldn’t Brittany just explain things? What was so terrible that her best friend had to operate under such secrecy? Melissa could hear Brittany’s voice thicken with emotion as she said, “I can’t talk about it over the phone. We, we can’t talk about it over the phone.” Helen was speaking very fast in the background and when she grew silent, Brittany began speaking again. “Listen, please, please, please meet us at the spot where we made our pact back in high school.”

Melissa was confused, and not just because it was late and she was exhausted.  She placed a head on her forehead, as if that could calm the thoughts racing back and forth and refusing to form an orderly line so that they could be processed and filed appropriately. “Pact? What-“

“Melissa, you know the place. You know exactly where I’m talking about,“ Brittany interrupted, and she sounded like she was quickly losing patience.

“Okay, okay; I’m leaving now.” Melissa hung up the phone and took a moment to stare into the darkness of her room. She honestly did not remember making any kind of pact, and she was worried she wouldn’t show up at the right place. Or worse, she’d be too late and whatever mess her two best friends had gotten themselves into would only escalate and become some horrible, invincible monster that they would fall victim to. She wondered, very briefly, if she was being overdramatic, but she didn’t think so. Brittany’s tone and shady behavior were certainly causes for alarm as they were completely out of character. Back in high school, Melissa had idolized Brittany – Brittany had been smart across the board, and not just in a few subjects like Melissa. Brittany had been pretty in an unexpected way that made it all the more special (Melissa had often compared Brittany to the actress Molly Ringwald, and the two definitely shared a chemistry and appeal that were hard to define). Melissa had been overweight and remarkably lonely. Brittany had navigated the halls of the high school with an easy and enviable confidence that Melissa had always tried to replicate, but her imitation was only an imitation, and came off as lame. Helen was more like Brittany than Melissa, so the two together should have been a dream team of sorts. Together, they could have taken over the world and not one soul would have complained, or worried about the consequences. It seemed unfathomable that these two amazing woman who personified everything Melissa had ever wanted to be, would now be calling Melissa for help. What could she possibly do to help? She was weak, stupid, still overweight and afraid, always afraid. She felt her face flush with embarrassment even now, even years later when she was alone in her darkened bedroom, when she remembered how she had broken down and sobbed in Brittany’s old, red Jeep. They had been sitting in it, exposing themselves in ways that made them most vulnerable, parked at the lake that was one town over. They had spent the majority of more than one summer parked at that lake-

Melissa’s heart leaped into her throat. Helen and Brittany were at the lake. They would be parked by the second dock site when you took the thin, meandering road to the left of the parking lot. The water would be dark, and the moon would reflect off it beautifully, the way it had those summer nights, when the warm air would coax them from the jeep and onto the dock. It didn’t matter that the wood creaked suspiciously beneath their feet, or that the white paint was chipping. When you’re young, you’re immortal – or rather, you believe that you are, even in a place as dangerous as high school. Melissa flung the sheet and blanket far from her, scrambling into boots and a coat. She grabbed her keys from the hook beside the bedroom door, forgot her wallet with her license and everything important, and headed out to her car, barely remembering to shut the front door behind her.

She sped along the highway, thankful it was late so that she could speed and so that she could catch every green light. Melissa had to slow some when she got into the sleepy town that housed the lake within, not wanting to attract any unnecessary attention. As she drove, her nostrils were suddenly filled with the pungent smell of frying oil, and she could almost feel the chunks of salt that would stick to her fingers amid the grease as she ate the French fries. The memory was so clear and so completely filled her senses, but came unexpectedly. Was it because she had passed a McDonald’s, or because she, Helen and Brittany had always stopped there before heading out to the lake? She felt decidedly uncomfortable in her own skin and had a strong desire to just turn around. If Melissa could pretend as if she had never answered the phone, then she’d be infinitely happy. However, that was not a logical choice of action, and she sighed heavily as she turned into the parking lot at the lake’s shore, anxiety building. She stayed to the left, and noticed how creepy the road really was. If someone wanted to kill someone and dump the body somewhere, this would be the place. Oh Lord, what if Helen and Brittany had done that? They weren’t capable of such an atrocity. Were they? Melissa felt nauseous as she came around the bend, and worried she would vomit all over herself when Brittany and Helen came into view. They were parked alongside the trees on the wrong side of the road, standing outside Brittany’s car – which was a new, blue economy car as the jeep did not live through the college years.
Melissa pulled in behind them, killing the headlights and the engine. She felt tears crowd around the edges of her eyes and never before had she felt so helpless. Tremors wracked her body as she slid from behind the driver’s seat. Her door shut loudly behind her, smashing the silence all around them into dangerous shards. Slowly, haltingly, she walked over to her two friends. “Are you guys okay?” she asked.

“Yeah, we’re okay,” Helen said. “We’ve calmed down since we called you. I’m sorry if we scared you, but we were pretty shaken up when we called.”

Melissa’s heart started working double time. “Why? What happened?”

“Look,” Brittany said sadly. Melissa had made her way over to the two young women, who stepped to opposite sides to allow Melissa to see what they had been crowded around. A dog lay dead. A collar hung heavily around its neck. Blood had slowly leaked from the dog’s mouth, and it’s back legs were bent at impossible angles. It was a sad sight to see, and when Melissa looked closer at Helen and Brittany, she could see they had been crying.

“Did you guys hit the dog?”

Brittany nodded, and began crying again. “We were coming to the lake, you know, like we used to, and he came out of nowhere! He darted right out in front of us, and there was nothing we could do.”

“We weren’t going that fast, but by the time we saw him it was too late, and –“ she paused to gulp down the tears that were welling up, and then said, “we hit him pretty hard.”

Melissa knelt down to look a little closer at the dog. She was close to smiling – an accident was no big deal. An accident was easily remedied. She looked up at Brittany and Helen. “The way you two were talking, I thought you had killed someone.”

“But we hit a dog! This was someone’s pet!” Brittany said.

“Why couldn’t you talk about it over the phone?”

Helen shrugged. “We panicked, and just wanted you down here. We needed someone to tell us what to do.”

Melissa laughed, though there was not much humor in it – more a tone of surprise than anything else. “So you called me, to tell you what to do?”

Helen and Brittany didn’t exactly answer Melissa’s inquiry, but they looked to one another, and then dropped their eyes to the pavement. Melissa stepped closer to Helen, who was nearer, and asked for her cell phone. They would call the cops and go from there. It was sad, but it was just an accident. Melissa was about to dial when she paused. “What pact were you talking about?”

Brittany eyed Melissa skeptically. “Are you telling me you don’t remember?”

Helen popped a hip and rested a thin, bony hand upon it. “You don’t remember how we promised to stay friends forever, no matter what? We did that the summer after senior year, before we all went to college.”

Melissa smiled. “I remember. I just considered that more of a promise than a pact.”

Helen and Brittany both smiled softly.

The three girls were different, but all felt very silly.

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