The sound woke me.  Cracks and booms echoed through my bedroom.  I bolted upright, my heart pounding.  I slowly became aware of another presence and that panicked me.

I turned on the light and noticed a body standing at the foot of my bed.

“Behold.  Your creation.”

I rubbed my eyes.  Damnit there was another person in my room.  A naked, wet person.  A naked, wet, unformed female person.  I mean, she had a body with boobs, sort of, and the water dripping down her body was real enough.  She shivered, her arms crossed in a V across her chest.  Her legs ended at her torso, but she didn’t exactly look right, and her voice was flat.  I shook my head. The hair was wrong, the . . . everything was wrong.

“You formed me.”  Her voice was flat.  Creation?  Really?

I sat up and drained the last of my blue.  Thus refreshed, I looked again.  It was a female body.  Everything wasn’t exactly there.

“I formed you?  What do you mean?”

“You write.  I appear.”

I laughed.  No cowboys or rich guys had ever appeared in my bedroom.  She wasn’t real, obviously.

“Nah, characters don’t just appear.  You’re my imagination.” I lay back down and pulled up the covers.  Thunder rumbled close by.  I closed my eyes again.

“I’m your creation.”  Again that flat voice.  I sat up and looked fully at the creature.  She sure as hell looked real.  But what was wrong?  I got up and went to my desk, giving her a wide berth.

I switched on the lamp and looked over my notes.  OK, let’s see.  The main character is a lesbian, yes, tall, yes.  I looked back at the apparition.  Tall.  The notes didn’t say much more than that.  I picked up my pen and wrote down:  she is witty, acerbic, lightly muscular.  I looked back at her.  her body was smooth and looked strong.

“Ah, much better.”  Her voice was still flat.  I wrote. she sounds like Jodie Foster in bed.

“Do you really want to finish me out like that?” Her lip curled in an unholy sexy smile.  I looked back at the outline and started working like crazy.

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‘She is a lesbian.’  I put down my pen and leaned back.  Time for a drink. The curtains waved with a vengeance.  Smoky, moist, pluff mud breezes had been blowing all evening. From the street below, a tinkle of glass and laughter wafted up to the window.  The outline was finished and that glass of Johnny blue wasn’t going to drink itself.  I stretched and sipped and let the fire untwist my belly.  Stress over a book wasn’t my forte.  My forte was zipping through a couple of cowboy romances every few years, going on tours, signing books for housewives, doing the odd interview for a small town newspaper.  It paid well.  It was relatively easy to do the same formula.  I loved my characters.  They performed well on the written stage.  This book was different and way out of my comfort zone, but dammit my agent was too persuasive.

“Lesbians are hot this year, Carol.  Do your thing and your exposure will explode.”

“For God’s sake, Althea!  I don’t know anything about lesbians!”

“Carol, just do some research, already.  Surely you know someone you can ask for information.  Your last book only sold fifty thousand copies.  We need a new shtick and gay fiction is hot, although I don’t think you’d want to try your hand at gay men, would you? ”

I admitted this was not really something I wanted to get into on a book level.  I enjoyed my cowboys and millionaires on the page, but maybe I could try my hand at gay boys.  They liked cowboys and millionaires, too, right?  Nah, not my thing.  Maybe girls, then.  Surely they liked cowgirls and millionaires.  I’ll try my hand at it, find a new niche, come back to the romances I know.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll find a new market.  I don’t need the money.  I need to write.  That’s it.

The night sorted itself out into a fierce storm that blew in around midnight.  Lowcountry storms were noisy and fierce and rarely so bad the sirens went off.  Lower Broad got lots of visitors and few memories.

 

 

I like both platforms.  Really, I do.  Facebook was fun when I first joined.  It was exciting to be able to reconnect with old friends and stay in touch with family.  I could have long chats for hours, catching up with everyone, liking their posts, feeling as if I am a part of their lives.  It is comforting on a certain level to be able to let someone know I am thinking of them, and when they read it, I know they are thinking of me, at least for that moment.  I could invite people in to see my pets, my dinners, my collection of craft brews.  I felt comfortable sharing my activities, my whiny days, my job.  The boundary lines are roomy, up to a point.  After a while, the honeymoon was over.  People can only take so much complaining before they start giving advice.  The advice phase lasts about as long as the falling out of love phase in a marriage.  Then, people either start really jumping into one’s shit, or they just go away–ghost the whole thing.  After a few years, though, strong friendships can be formed and family bonds severed.  It happens.  That’s where people start getting choosy about what they post and they continue to grow.  Whether they grow together or grow apart depends on what they are willing to do to keep the relationship alive.  It’s a familiar place, as broken in as a favorite pair of shoes or faded polo.  I look at them and hang on to them because they still serve a purpose, albeit much narrower than in the beginning.

Twitter is the opposite.  It’s like 50 first dates every stinking day.  It’s exciting, addictive, soul-sucking.  It’s as demanding as a mistress and as flighty as a girlfriend.  Every day there’s something new.  Every day, all day long, breaking news, twitter wars, trolling, and somewhere under the noise is a steady hum of news, research, articles, exposure to new cultures, diverse opinions, creators, artists, teachers, journalists, politicians, leaders, celebrities, lawyers . . . and they are all accessible.  Unbelievably so.  I can send a tweet to Chely Wright and she just might respond.  I can make a pithy comment on a Julian Castro tweet, and he might even answer with a pithy comment of his own.  There are few boundaries between people and stars.  There’s a level of trust and an element of danger, just like a psycho girlfriend.  The sheer volume of information can become crazy-making.  Woe to the neophyte who wanders into a timeline that is already rolling along and try to be clever.  It’s like trying to jump on a moving train while wearing a gunny sack.  Pragmatic elitism exists as a desperate filter to at least move the noise to an acceptable level.  There are bad neighborhoods and good neighborhoods, just like every city in real life.  It takes a certain level of street smarts to navigate unscathed through them.

We need these platforms–to inform us, to make us think if we want to.  They can become echo chambers of confirmation bias, and they can impel us to educate ourselves and find out the truth of what is out there.  I don’t know anything about reddit or 4chan or instagram because I waste enough time already with these two sites.  Being curious can lead me all around the world and back home again.  I become a little wiser and more willing to explore, as long as I understand on a visceral level that these two platforms are for me to use, not for them to use me.

I had this idea that I would write some grand essay on how great life is and how good it is to write for a living but alas, it just ain’t happening. Nothing is really going right today. One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that I tend to get into a holding pattern for no real reason. I stall, hanging onto whatever was in the past, especially concerning my late, not so lamented employment. It’s past time I moved on to something else, anything else, to get the bad taste of their nefarious actions out of my mouth, but as with all sociopathic organizations, they try the gaslighting technique and I’m not having it anymore. I also started doubting myself for a few minutes. What if I really can work at a physically demanding job and I’m just being lazy? That lasted just a few minutes until the vertigo struck again, and my numb legs just played dead, while the creeping numbness in my arms caused me to rub the bulging disc in my neck. This is real. I’ve always worked through pain and discomfort. Now, though, it’s not the same. My mental energy is sapped, my emotional energy is sapped, and my physical energy, while willing to try to do things, just won’t do what I want. Ah, well. A little whine is good for the soul, one supposes. Nexr essay will be on point. It’s been percolating for a while, but I needed to get this crappety crap off my chest and then get about the business of living again.

Today, I put my second baby on Kindle.  “21 Ways to Improve Your Life” .

It is a quick read that comes straight from me, no chaser, no footnotes, no quotes.  I have a sometimes rude sense of humor and that shines through.  I’ve decided that from now on, I am going to be intentional about writing and crafting.  It’s what I love.  I will never get rich or maybe not even support myself, but I will have fun doing it.

 

I don’t write about politics because it pisses me off so much. I want to keep the peace in my own head as much as possible.  I may joke about generic political topics, but nah, nothing that would piss off anyone.  I save that for Twitter.

I heard from someone on facebook the other day that referenced my high school years and expressed admiration for my confidence as an out lesbian at that time.  I was grateful for the interaction and quite taken aback that my abject misery during those years went hidden from everyone.  At 17, I felt like one big blob of hurt and anger and depression and hopelessness.  I’ve done my best to forget those heartbreaking years.  When I start remembering even a little bit of that time, anger starts flowing into the mental cracks and colors everything a lovely shade of black.  I go back to practicing self-care as quickly as possible and eventually, the anger subsides.  Perhaps the anger is a defense against a whole shitload of other emotions that lie underneath.  Perhaps all the pain is stuffed in a mental garbage disposal that can only be cleaned out by turning it on and churning that shit right down the drain.  And perhaps . . . Perhaps all those rotten things can be used as compost for growth.  One day soon, I will look in there and start the process of turning all of it into a useful tool.  Today, it’s enough to know that I control the process and random blasts from the past are more than welcome.  Indeed, my gratitude for the woman who contacted me is immense.  She helps me tease out good memories from the detritus, whether she knows it or not.  Thank you, southern lady.

You know, it’s not just the daily rage from hearing and seeing our dear leader making more north korean pronouncements; it’s also the petty flareup from a dick head parking in a handicapped spot and then trying to clap back at my side eye.  It’s also a professed friend who never engages even while wanting engagement . . . on my side only, apparently.  That pisses me off to no end, right there.  Then there’s the existential rage of helplessness at situations beyond my control and my ensuing neurotic rage at my lack of self control.  At this point, it becomes necessary to pop another blood pressure pill and practice some dilettantish form of meditation, but I keep coming back to it, like a tongue exploring a sore tooth.  I just can’t help it sometimes.  Fireball to the rescue.  I take comfort in the fact that I can feel strong emotions, knowing that they will pass, as they always do.  Tomorrow, I will wake up in my usual sunny mood unless I dream again of trying to cook a burger on a grill that is dirty and cold and I can’t figure out how to turn it on.  That turned my nap into a restless and angry unconsciousness.  That just won’t do at all.  So, another day will come and another opportunity to create will come along, and that will soothe my rage again.

Five ways to tell the difference:

  1. Laziness is passive.  It’s like wearing concrete shoes in an overheated room.  Nothing wants to move, even if you tried.
  2. Rumination is active.  It’s inward attention.  You don’t notice the concrete shoes or the beckoning warmth.  You are focused on what’s percolating inside, whether it’s a cool recipe, an idea for a poem, a mental sketch of what your next art piece might resemble.
  3.  Laziness will spend a ton of energy looking for something interesting on TV to avoid rumination.  It will also check Facebook 952 times to see what that person you don’t even want to look at is up to in order to avoid the thoughts of WHY you don’t even want to look at that person’s likes.
  4. Rumination forgets to check Facebook for an hour at a time, or just glances to see if anyone has become a patron yet. Rumination is germination, really.  Thoughts become real and active.
  5. Laziness and rumination are two sides of the same coin.  Chances are, one will turn into the other eventually.  Laziness is exhausting.  So is active thinking.  The flow between the two can be smooth or bumpy, but the flow will come.  It will translate into action when it’s time, and not one minute before.

I’m always baffled by so-called Christians being among the most hateful people in the world.  I don’t pretend to accept them or their short-sighted behaviors and in fact, will actively work to stay as disengaged as possible.  After years of seeing this behavior and hearing the rhetoric, I’ve tended to view professed Christians with a jaundiced eye.

Today, I saw love in action.  True love guided by the tenets of faith and translated into real works.  Two people took the time to take care of us with groceries, with kind words, with some monetary gifts, with their faith in action.  That they are angels is beyond doubt; that they are fully human with human foibles is also beyond doubt.  I think that those of us who look at people of faith with misgivings tend to paint humans with a broad brush and fail to notice that all of us are subject to the perceptions that may not be as based in reality as we might wish them to be.

For someone to accept me for who I am, flaws and all means that I also need to accept them.  It doesn’t mean that I need to understand their motivations or their innermost thoughts or even how they go about their day-day-day lives.  It means that by whatever measure I look for in myself I should be about the business of using that same measure for others, regardless of belief or nonbelief.  Those angels may lose their wings in an hour; that’s not my problem.  That those angels showed up with their wings in full glory at a time when I was feeling desperate means the world to me, and for that, I can acknowledge their divinity and humanity in all the glory that is shown to me.

 

Is the inevitable question when we leave a store larger than a 7-11.  It’s not dementia, it’s traumatic brain injury.  This isn’t dementia talking, this is traumatic brain injury.  It could be the result of stroke, motorcycle wreck, or an IED blowing apart a Humvee in Afghanistan.  It’s misunderstood, taken too lightly, and exacts a toll on survivor and caregiver alike.

TBI survivors can be perceived as bitter, angry, stubborn, moody sons-of-bitches that just want to make everyone around them miserable.  To this day, my sister cannot be in the same room as Mother, a stroke survivor, so she does the next best thing and pays Mom’s cable bill.  Guilt alleviation by cash register.  It’s often easier to write off the emotional storms as mere personality traits than it is to dig for the underlying causes.  Sometimes, it’s not just pure meanness that TBI survivors exhibit:  The vast dark spaces in their brains where old memories flit by and new ones refuse to form are enough to drive anyone batshit crazy.

Picture it.  One day, you wake up and you intend to drive to work, but when you get in the car, you don’t know where to put the key, and in fact, you don’t know where you are going until you find your list with directions on how to get to work.  Or you look in the refrigerator and don’t recognize any of the bottles, cans or food containers.  Sure, you know what work is, and you know food is stored in the big cold box, but you can’t draw out what to do with any of it.  Hundreds of everyday mundane actions can spell panic to a TBI survivor.

I am learning how to ask questions appropriately, how to approach situations delicately, and how to step in the do the necessary things without infringing on the survivors’ clinging to a sense of self when all is the unknown, even in their brains.