Sisters

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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 invites to pity parties.

Published January 19, 2015 by mandileighbean

I know that the above song is by Sam Smith, but I feel the need to share my belief that Lana Del Rey is my power animal.

I have a sore on the inside of my left cheek, right near the corner of my lips.  The sensitive area keeps getting pierced by my braces and pinched by the rubber bands.  Whenever I have a sore in my mouth, I am always reminded of one of my favorite lines from the novel FIGHT CLUB.  The narrator compares the character Marla Singer to a small but irritating cut on the roof of one’s mouth that would go away if only he could stop tonguing it.  I love that analogy; it’s so original.  That’s the kind of woman I aspire to be.

I want to drive west and race the sun, perpetuate daylight and keep the night at bay, to meet the far coast victorious.

I’m on chapter nine of the first draft of my new novel, MOODY BLUE.  I should finish before the school year ends.  I would love to have some advanced readers to offer some constructive criticism.  Anyone interested?  Feel free to comment.

I just finished teaching PRIDE & PREJUDICE.  I’ve decided that I’m going to learn to play the piano.  But then again, maybe it’d be easier to stop being so easily and heavily influenced by historical romances.

WRITING PROMPT #20: “‘Weird little things remind me of her.  I don’t even know why.  Cabbage, for instance.'”

Danielle dropped her gaze and flicked the cap of the lid on her Styrofoam cup filled with coffee open and shut, open and shut.  She was fishing, seeming preoccupied with troubling thoughts and consumed with an overall air of sadness because she wanted Ellen to ask what was wrong.  Danielle wanted Ellen to engage her in a discussion about everything that was bothering her in her mediocre life because, in Danielle’s mind, accepting an invitation to a pity party was better than accepting one, no matter how contrived said invitation may be.  Ellen understood this about her best friend, and accepted this about her best friend.  She took a hearty bite of her blueberry muffin for sustenance and strength, and then she asked, “What’s wrong?”

Danielle shrugged, half-halfheartedly battling against her friend’s inquisition.  She still didn’t look up, but refrained from flicking the lid.  She said, “Weird little things remind me of her.  I don’t even know why.  Cabbage, for instance.”

“Bullshit,” Ellen immediately countered, a small smile upon her lips.

Danielle looked scandalized and somewhat offended.  “What?”

“I call bullshit,” Ellen patiently repeated.  “There’s no way cabbage reminds you of her.  Frankie doesn’t even like cabbage.  You’re lying because you want to talk about her, but don’t want to admit it because you’re afraid of being label obsessed.”

“Of course I’m not obsessed.  Frankie’s my sister, Ellen.”

“I know,” Ellen agreed, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t be obsessed with her.  You haven’t been able to speak with her for months.  You have all this unresolved anger, unanswered questions and unavoidable guilt for how everything happened and how everything went down.  You need to talk about it, but she’s not here, so anyone else will do.”  Ellen reached out and tenderly squeezed her friend’s hand.  “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  If you want to talk about Frankie, let’s talk about Frankie.”

Danielle colored, blushing with embarrassment from being so easily read.  “But aren’t you bored with it?  Talking about it gets me nowhere.  At least, it hasn’t helped so far.”

“You’re not here to entertain me.  Besides, it doesn’t bore me because it matters to you, and that’s all that matters.”

Gratefully, Danielle smiled and rehashed the story about Frankie, her younger sister who was currently in rehab for a number of reasons.  She listed all of her sister’s offenses, blindly defended her parents’ actions but openly criticized her own.  She was worried, feeling guilty, missing her sister, and all of that was emotionally messy and certainly draining, but it was also all normal.  Ellen patiently listened, marveling at how human beings could be so preoccupied with the perception of others that they would deny themselves what they need.

On falling mattresses.

Published March 28, 2012 by mandileighbean

I have been so out of it lately. Today, I tried to sleep in the faculty workroom at school. I was sitting where the other substitutes usually eat their lunches, my oversized purse placed strategically in front of me so that I was hidden from view. I had the latest edition of “Glimmer Train open in front of me, but everyone would know I was not really reading because my cheek was laying upon the page, and my mouth was wide open. Oh, and my eyes were closed. To be fair, I didn’t actually fall asleep, but I was able to find that incredibly blissful zone that comes just before sleep, when one’s mind is actually empty and one is just drifting.

When I came home, I did sleep. I did not exercise, I did not count my calories, I didn’t really clean my room and I just did nothing. I’m feeling down on myself because I’m sliding back into lazy, self-destructive habits and I’m worried I can’t stop, that my life will be successive series of starting and stopping, of trying and failing.

I feel that it is important to share my emotion and mindset with you so that when you read the pieces, you can put them in some kind of context (or if they completely suck and lack talent, I can refer you to the crappy day I had. Really, I’m just covering my ass – pardon my French).

THE PROMPT: “Falling Mattresses”

            They had been waiting, umbrellas up, for the falling mattresses.

            Sam reread the line, moving his lips soundlessly over the words. He clicked his pen and sat it down beside the yellow legal pad. Every other line was blank, besides the first, and had been blank for hours. Surrounding the pad were crumpled up sheets of yellow paper, discarded as trash and bad ideas, scattered amid empty cans of diet Coke. Aggravated, Sam sighed loudly and raked his face with his palms. No words seemed right, no hook was interesting enough and he was stuck.

            Sam heard the door open and close from behind him, and turned his head to see his sister walking inside. She was smiling, and held a tray of food in her hands. “Here you are,” she said. “Dinner’s been ready for a while. Why didn’t you answer your phone?”

            “I didn’t want to be disturbed,” Sam grumbled, turning back around.

            “You still need to eat,” his sister argued, rolling her eyes. His artistic temper tantrums made her want to scream. “It’s your favorite; spaghetti and meatballs.” She used the ends of the tray to clear the table of its paper litter, and set it before her brother, smack dab on top of the pad he had been writing on, or at least trying to. She then decided to pick up the empty cans, crushing them to make more room in her hands. The noise was irritating, as was her presence, and as was Sam’s writer block. He collapsed back against the couch and grunted. His sister straightened up and popped a hip, so that her poise was one of attitude. “What’s wrong?”

            “I can’t come up with anything.”

            “Oh,” she said. She smiled and sat beside her brother, momentarily forgetting the crumpled aluminum in her hands. “Maybe I can help. What do you have so far?”

            Sam raised an eyebrow. “Dude, I have been locked in here for days, trying to come up with a beautiful and meaningful song that will have a lasting effect not only on this generation, but on those that follow. I doubt you can help me finish these lyrics in a couple of minutes.”

            “At least let me try,” she said. “You never know, Sam. Something I say could trigger an explosion of creativity.”

            He studied her for a moment, and discovered how strange it was to be viewing what was essentially the female version of himself. Ever since they were little, everyone had commented on how much they not only looked alike, but acted alike. Growing up, they had adopted each other’s mannerisms, like how when they were nervous, they would pull on their eardrums so the blood would pool and pound there, rather than their panicked brains. They both chewed their nails, and bit their bottom lips when they were deep in thought but knew someone was looking. The two were close – they had always been close, but after Dad had died and they had both moved back home to help take care of Mom in her increasingly fragile mental state, they became friends, honest and genuine friends. Smiling softly, Sam shrugged. “What the hell; give it a shot.”

            “Okay – what do you have so far?”

            Sam lifted the tray of food so he could slide the legal pad from underneath it. Suddenly nervous, he licked his dry lips. As close as they were, he had never allowed his sister to read any of his work. He couldn’t exactly say what it was he was afraid of, because she would never ever say anything bad about it, but his stomach did squirm uneasily when he saw eye the writing. “All I have is the opening line: ‘They had been waiting, umbrellas up, for the falling mattresses.”

            It was silent for quite a few moments. Finally, she said, “I don’t get it.”

            “What do you mean?”

            She shrugged and said, “I don’t know where you want to go with this.”

            Sam laughed, running his palm across the back of his neck. “That is the problem I’ve been having.”

            “Then just change the line.”

            Sam was scandalized. “No way, I can’t change the line! This is a very intriguing image, and I need to work with it.”

            His sister held her hands up in front of her as if in self-defense. “Okay, sorry! I didn’t know you were married to the falling mattresses.” She did her best to stifle a laugh at her older brother’s expense. She reread the line soundlessly, just as Sam had, and then asked, “Why are the mattresses falling?”

            “You tell me.”

            Her eyes widened. “This is hard.”

            “You’re telling me.”

            There were another few moments of silence. “Well,” she said, “good luck with all that.” She rose to her feet, cradling the empty cans in her arms. “Make sure you eat before it gets cold.”

            “Thanks for all the help,” Sam said, shaking his head slowly.

            “Anytime,” she smiled, shutting the door behind her.

            He imagined a mattress falling from the sky and crushing his sister beneath its weight, her cheap and flimsy umbrella collapsing. He laughed and then froze.

            There was the idea; the rest of the song.

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