Kill Your Darlings

Once upon a time, I wrote most of a book.  I was fueled by the outrage I felt towards my government’s behavior in the early 2000’s.  I had just come of voting age, 7 months too late to vote for Al Gore and furious that we had a chimpanzee in the White House.  I was naïve and yet to be jaded by the country I had been taught to adore.  I focused my frustrations into a pre-apocalyptic tale of friendship and justice that I never titled but always referred to as The Ten.  It was about a group of freedom fighters running a grassroots organization built to topple a dictatorship.  When Obama was elected in ’08, I fell off writing it, as my frustrations dissipated for a time.  I considered picking it back up when “this fuckin’ guy” was elected,  but it seemed practically prophetic at that point.  I knew what I had to do.  I had to kill it.

It’s ironic that the first time I ever killed a character, I did it in The Ten.  His name was Matthew, christened after a childhood friend that I have long since lost, and I loved him.  He was an army vet who had fled and went into hiding after being ordered to kill innocents in cold blood.  He fell in love with a girl named Juliet, who also dies, but Matthew’s death takes place in the first chapter.  He dies in a field in his best friend Jordan’s arms, risking life and limb to cross the NY-Canada border to bring her blueprints for the fall of the enemy.  He is shot at the border, but limps and drags himself to her camp, to save them all.

I didn’t know I would kill Matthew at first.  I wrote the first chapter long after most of the book, when I realized that starting it with a mysterious bleeding man was better than just “Once upon a time…”  I actually mourned Matthew, as I described the other characters reactions to his passing.

Now, I mourn not only Matthew, but the whole book.  It’s never going to work, and I know that.   I’m ok with that.  I moved onto another book, one that is timeless, and thus can never be ruined by the progress of politics.  Still, I think of that as the first truly substantial thing I worked on.  I write poetry all the time, and I have completed a few plays, but I put more hours in on The Ten than anything else (save maybe my current project, should I finish it.)  I loved The Ten.  I wish I could finish it.  I would love to see how these characters that I crafted so particularly brave a new world.  But I guess I’ll never quite know.

I’m not great at killing my work, but I’ve gotten better over the years.  Recently I was compiling old poems and reworking the ones that didn’t suck, and trust me when I tell you it was a low number.  From the hundreds and hundreds of poems on my hard drive, I like roughly ten of them, and that leads me to do a lot of poetic slaughter.

A month or two ago, I deleted my LiveJournal.  I started writing it in 2001, and kept writing in it until 2014.  It was my first blog.  It was my first foray into the internet, really.  I loved it.  I wrote religiously about my life in it.  I painstakingly copied each entry into a word document, and then I deleted it.

Yes, it’s saved for me and only me, and I have been working my way through it trying to see if there is anything salvageable.   So far I’ve picked out a few rants that are useful for my current project, but that’s about it.  Mostly it’s quotes and quizzes and tales about my adventures with my friends.  It is, however, a snapshot of my 20’s, and for that I am pleased I preserved it.  But it couldn’t live forever.

Like Matthew couldn’t live forever, or his lover Juliet, or a million other characters that will eventually die because we all do.  The beauty is that if you don’t kill them off yourself, they can live forever in someone’s mind.  However, sometimes, you have to say goodbye to something.  You have to end something to start something new.  Matthew died to save his friends.  My LiveJournal died to feed my manuscript.  My poems become mulch to create new ones.  Life goes on, even when you’re destroying everything.

grayscale photo of explosion on the beach
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Quotable

While scrolling through Facebook yesterday I came across a Twitter screenshot of a quote attributed to some random internet chick.  Never mind the fact that I had that same quote on an AOL homepage when she was a toddler.  I had an entire page with my favorite quotes, and I was always sure to give credit when I knew who said them.  Otherwise I stated that they were “anonymous.”  I am going to put aside this obvious issue of credit where credit is due and look into something else: our love of quotations.

Why do we love other people’s words?  Is it the inspiration they give us?  Is it their ability to say what we cannot?  Is it that you can find the perfect quote for any situation?  Yes, yes, and yes.

I was in high school when I started collecting the quotes I liked in my purple poetry book that was always on my person.  When it came time for us to choose our senior quotes for the yearbook, many friends borrowed that book in hopes of finding the perfect one.  I myself had already picked my quotes, and was happy to assist.  I was disappointed however when my favorite one for the yearbook was not published.  “That’s your dream out, now.”-Frank McCourt

I think the yearbook staff thought it was improper grammar.

Looking back, I hate the quotes that ended up in my yearbook and am always angry that one didn’t, as it was most relative to my high school experience.  In the end it doesn’t really matter, as the only person looking at my yearbooks these days is K, who loves having me point out my old friends.

When the internet officially became a thing I had AOL, as did most of us, and with that came a profile and a homepage, and my first foray into website building.  Mostly I just had a page with other people’s quotes.  Our AOL profiles asked for our favorite quotes.  When I graduated to Myspace, then Facebook, they also asked for quotes on your profile.  It became customary to express yourself through the words of others.

Now, as a writer, you would think I would have a problem with that, but I don’t.  While strictly against plagiarism, I can say that I have found inspiration from various quotations, and I think that is the purpose they serve.  Everyone has a favorite quote, and the encouragement we can gather from it is what moves us forward.  The words of others stay with us long after we are gone.

PS- if you look up my name + quotes you end up here and I’d really like to know which of us dozen or so BH’s came up with those because it was not me.  Perhaps the most famous Brigid, a freedom fighter from Belfast who lived to be 94?  I’m curious.

 

Hell’s Waiting Room

I’m a little all over the place today.

I started my day at the Erie County Medical Center, a horrible place full of sick people and chaos. I have been here once before and it was a harrowing experience. Fortunately, they have since moved their Behavioral Health clinic to the building next door, and it was a much more pleasant experience, despite the fact that I’ve been waiting two hours for a five-minute appointment.
I recently left Horizons Health Services, my mental health provider for the past ten years. It was a long time coming, our breakup. For about a year or so I was being ignored when I tried to give input on my treatment plan. I was used to Horizons and I loved my counselors, but I could not stay there as they refused to listen to my concerns. I went from being an individual to being a statistic, and they made that very clear. So screw ‘em
This resulted in me making an appointment at ECMC’s MAPP clinic, a facet of their behavioral health program. They bridge the gap when you run out of meds, which I did a few days back. I have been surprisingly good, though, not even suffering from the usual off-your-pills side effects. Typically, these include fatigue, angry outbursts, and brain zaps, a truly weird feeling in the head, as though your brain is shaking. Not fun. Alas, I have had none of these.
I was anxious about going to the MAPP clinic after the last time I was there.  I remember watching folks crying and shaking in the waiting room, and being shoved in the hallways by the throngs of people. This time was a lot easier, even though one needs to arrive an hour before their appointment. I sat and sipped my coffee and waited in peace, not like last time when I was two weeks without meds. I remember clutching my bag in fear in the corner of a crowded waiting room. I remember watching people that even I, a mental health survivor who knows better than to use such language, would still classify as “batshit crazy.” I remember being scared, nervous, and out of place. Fortunately, things have changed, and now the MAPP clinic resembles any other waiting room full of unmedicated people who have been waiting for 2 hours.
Ok, so it’s still a little chaotic.
I wonder how many of these people are in-between therapists, like me. I wonder how many come here monthly to get their pills. I wonder how many are clutching their bags in fear right now, a nervousness you can’t notice until you look closely. I wonder how many of us are really struggling today.
I have seen folks demand to be seen. I have seen people throw fits because they didn’t make the list (only 8 appointments a day, after that it’s walk-ins.)  I saw a man ask five times when he would be seen. I saw one lady flip out because she thought this was Spectrum Health Services and was mad that she was in the wrong place. No one in this waiting room is completely chill. Everyone is waiting on something they need to function.

I hate sitting here, working on hour number three of waiting, typing my blog via phone and worrying that I’ll be here all afternoon. Still, here I sit, not throwing a hissy-fit like some people in this room, because my illness is not an excuse for me to behave badly. If I behaved how some of these people do, I would fully expect to get kicked out on my butt. Instead, I see folks demanding that which they are privileged to receive. We are the lucky ones! We have meds! We have services! How many people out there need what we have, and still people act like it’s not a gift that you have health insurance, that you can afford your copays, that you’ve found the meds that work for you?

I guess in the end sitting in this waiting room had just given me a perspective that I can’t ignore. Mental illness is a serious problem in our society, one that is never discussed enough, or even properly when it is. Example: I was expressly told not to say that I was looking to harm myself or others. I’m not, but if I were, I would be immediately committed. We are constantly told to talk about suicidal thoughts, but the reality is that when you talk about it with a professional, they commit you. I can’t even speak abstractly about suicide without this fear. I would never tell a medical professional if I was suicidal even if I was, because of this result.  I have had to choose my words carefully when speaking to a professional about suicide, and one should not have to choose words carefully with one’s therapist. In the end, they are silencing those that need help the most by not letting them talk about it. Mental health, all mental health, not just suicidal ideation, needs to be discussed.

Like I said, I’m a little all over the place.  There are many thoughts and opinions that I have about mental health, and most of them are complaints, if I’m honest. Sometimes the day-to-day of living with mental illness is exhausting. Sometimes it’s annoying, like right now. Some beautiful blessed days it’s even bearable. But overall, I would say that it is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. Everyday can get a little better. Every moment could be a little easier.

In every waiting room, someone eventually calls your name.

Chicken Wing Pornography

There’s a show on YouTube that Mark likes to watch called Hot Ones, in which this guy interviews celebrities while making them eat progressively spicier chicken wings. I have a love/hate relationship with this show. On one hand, I like the interviews and I enjoy watching celebs lose their shit as their faces melt off due to ridiculously hot wings. However, I want the wings. Oh, how I want the wings.

Chicken wings were once my favorite food. Lucky as I am to have been born in Buffalo where wings are made properly and often, I developed gastroparesis which effectively shut down my love for this spicy treat. There are some upsides, of course. I eat a lot less crap than I used to, but my options off a pizzeria menu are very limited. Sometimes I just want to order out and not cook, but it becomes a hassle of where to get food that won’t make me sick. It’s easier to go out to eat, but I still have moments where I won’t be able to get what I intended to in the first place, had I not had gastroparesis.

Having this disease has been a nightmare at times, mostly when you take into consideration the amount of time spent at the hospital. This last time was the worst.

I went to the ER and was given a dissolvable Zofran, then shots of morphine and Ativan. I was sent to the waiting room, and after a little while a nurse came out and told me I was fine and could go home. I did. The next day I was back. I was again given shots and Zofran, this because no one in the ER was willing to try to find a vein on me, a serious problem that I can do literally nothing about. The only thing that keeps your veins good is not going to the hospital. They put me back in the waiting room. Then a nurse came out.

“Did the Doctor talk to you?” I shake my head no. “Yes, he did. Sign here and you can go.” I sign the paper, knowing that I’m a little foggy but also that I DID NOT speak to a doctor. I go home. I puke in the car on the way.

I go back the next day. They admit me, finally, for “observation,” which turns into a bunch of tests and then an endoscopy, a procedure I have wanted for a couple years but no one has thought to do. There they discovered that there was scar tissue growing in my stomach, and preventing it from draining out, thus screwing up my entire digestive system. The doctor removed the scar tissue, and I was sent home the next day.

I have been feeling very good these past few days. I was nauseous this morning but I’m pretty sure it was due to a hectic night’s sleep. I am hopeful that I will be able to stay out of the hospital for a bit.

Of course, I’m not running out to try a chicken wing. I miss them, but I miss my life more and that’s what I lose when I’m hospitalized. I watch Hot Ones with Mark and wish I could just order some right away, but I refrain because as fun as it is to look at, I know the reality of it is far worse. Those wings look delicious and exciting on TV, but in my stomach it’s another story. So I watch my wing-porno and occasionally take a bite when Mark orders them, but I stay away on the whole because I would rather make some small sacrifices than spend another day in that hospital. I’ve said goodbye to many foods I used to love, but the chicken wing will always hold a special place in my heart. At least I can live vicariously through celebrities. Thanks, Hot Ones.

two brown hen and one red rooster
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Choose Your Own Adventure

Recently, Hubs and I watched Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on Netflix.  (Yes, I am aware that this is the second post in a row referencing our Netflix addiction.)  If you don’t know, it is a show where you choose options for the character throughout.  This type of thing was tried before in a Final Destination movie that I recall being highly disappointed in despite the hype.  The buildup was real for Bandersnatch, though, and I was waiting for this for some time, as I have loved Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books since I was a kid.  I still have a couple somewhere, their covers long torn away and possibly missing perfectly good endings as well.  I would read them over and over, trying to find my way to every possible ending before putting the book down.  So, when I heard Netflix was going to try this format, I was excited.  Even more so because their first foray into it would be with a Black Mirror episode, one of my favorite shows.  Hubs and I popped popcorn and grabbed our PlayStation remote and settled in for a good time, and boy did we have it.  It was everything I wanted it to be and more.  We watched it three or four times.  M is here today (for once the sole child in the house) and I was considering going back for a rewatch with him.  That’s how good it was.

But this post isn’t about Netflix formatting or Black Mirror or even CYOA books.  It’s about parenting.

My sister, who is thirteen years my junior, often says things you would expect out of the mouth of some wise old owl.  Just the other day, she says, apropos of nothing, that it seems to her that parenting is a lot like a CYOA book.  It was as though something slid into place, clicking into its spot.  Hubs eyes grew wide as he realized that every single question your child asks every day is another option for a different storyline.  Just then K entered the room and asked to use the laptop.  We honestly had to think about it for a second.  What if we say no, and she resents us? Or doesn’t at all and just goes and finds something else to do, but misses out on something that could have proved useful in life elsewhere?  What if we say yes and she spends all her time watching videos and becomes addicted to screens and ends up homeless on the street?  Or she learns some new information or skill that she didn’t have in her arsenal before?  In the end we said yes and a fight broke out between the girls, not remotely one of the planned-for scenarios, only cementing the obvious: you don’t know how the story is going to go.

M is staying with us for a couple days and also again for a week in May.  In May he will have to go to school, and he wants to walk.  Now, if I were 13 and it was 1996, I would have happily allowed such things, but HE is 13 and it is 2019 and times have changed, buddy.  Mark is less comfortable with this than I am, and that is saying something from a man who has walked everywhere since he was ten years old.  Mark is worried about older kids, cars driving onto sidewalks, cars plowing through stop signs, kid-snatchers, drug pushers, and M falling over his own two feet.  Choose your own adventure:  Let the boy walk home from school and learn independence and responsibility, or let the boy walk home from school and get snatched by methheads?  Don’t let the boy walk home from school so that he never learns to be independent or don’t let the boy walk home from school so he doesn’t DIE?

Obviously, we will let the boy walk home from school for the independence and responsibility bit, and pray all the rest is just the pipe dreams of parents who worry too much.  But you never know, from the smallest decisions, to the big ones, what effect they will have on the lives of your children, and your life by default.  You make a million little decisions for your child everyday without even knowing it, and then you have to hold on for the ride and hope to God the story doesn’t send you back to page 5.

Now I’m going to go hang out with M, probably debate Godzilla vs. King Kong, discuss new Mortal Kombat characters, and try to get some teachable moments in there somewhere.  Maybe watch Bandersnatch.  Maybe go for a walk.

So many options.

black and white decision doors opportunity
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The Ghost of a Friend

Hubs and I recently watched “Happy” on Netflix.  It was really good, provided you can handle some seriously cringe-worthy moments.  There’s a lot of kid-in-danger going on, which I absolutely hate, but the end is happy enough and I liked it overall.  Without giving anything really key away, I will tell you that there is a character named Happy, who is a flying blue horse (unicorn, really, though he never really cops to it.)  He is the imaginary friend of a girl who gets kidnapped, and he has to save her.  There are a lot of moments in the series where he is talking to other imaginary friends, cast-offs after their children have grown too old for them.  It made me wonder…what happened to mine?

I had, as a child, an imaginary community.  There were the outliers, imaginary folk who didn’t live with me.  This consisted of D, a boy that I only knew because he had a green shirt with a purple D on it.  He never spoke, just appeared for a game of “kick-the-ball” or to sit and watch tv.  There was Mary, a young mother of eight who was a terrible cook, though I never met the children that she was constantly talking about.  And there was Esther Drake, a retired schoolteacher who lived in an apartment building on the corner of Kenmore and Colvin.  I knew these oddly specific things about them, and it was presented to me once when I was a little older that perhaps they were spirits.  I’d had some psychic events as a child, and even my mother thought this was a possibility.  Why would I imagine a retired schoolteacher?  Why would I know her address?  Why didn’t D talk?  Where are Mary’s children?  Questions I will never have answers for.

My best imaginary friends, however, lived in my house.  Their names were Shushie and Potchie.  Shushie wore a green dress and had a short black bob.  Potchie had overalls with a red shirt and a cowboy hat.  I don’t know when they appeared, but they stayed for a long time.

My mother tells me of one Shushie story.  Her friend Marie needed a ride to the airport, back in the day when you could actually watch your friends plane take off.  Apparently, I told mom that Shushie was going to go with Marie on vacation.  I said my goodbyes and everything.  Then, when we went back to the car and mom shut the door, I started screaming bloody murder because she had slammed Shushie’s arm in the door.  Mom asked if she hadn’t gone on vacation.  She did not.  My mother was trying to maim her.  Mom tells me that I was truly crying and screaming in that moment, as though the events were real.  I don’t know.

I don’t know how old I was when they disappeared, but I know it was before we moved to Kenmore when I was eight, or maybe around the same time.  Maybe they were just ghosts.  Maybe they were mere figments of my overactive imagination.  I always did find it interesting, though, that my imaginary friends were unlike others.  Other kids I knew had imaginary bunnies and snails and frogs: mine were people.  Detailed, seemingly real people.

I wonder if they existed on some plane of reality that I no longer have access to.  I totally believe that children have the ability to interact with things in a way adults cannot.  As for my previously mentioned psychic event:  our car was stolen.  I told my mom “it’s in front of the purple house.”  She drove to the only purple house in the neighborhood.  It was parked out front.  Don’t tell me that was a coincidence!  Those were forces, man!

There have been other times I have had a connection to an outside reality, and times I have been able to read signs to predict a situation, and I’ve always been sort of a hippy-witchy kind, so you can take or leave what I think on the subject.  Sometimes though, I think about my lost imaginary friends, and I hope that they are still out there playing.  I hope they have found some other little girl or boy to love them, whether they’re real or not.  I don’t know where these manifestations go, but I hope it’s nice.  I hope they get all they wish for, just like I would hope for any of my old, dear friends.

boy child clouds kid
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