What do you do when the person you’ve been in a toxic relationship for 16 years dies and you find out a day later? What do you do when for the last ten years that person has kept you as a secret?
You cry. The tears seeping out rather than pouring. You tell yourself to get up but you lay in bed for a few moments more and cry. So you click on his Facebook page, scroll the first couple of posts and click to make your own. You try to say your goodbyes but you can’t. It is too fresh, too raw and you are a secret. You fear that your words will be deemed disrespectful, an insult to the woman who was by his side when he died. The woman who called him the love of her life and rightfully so. He made a life with her. Her grief more legitimate than yours.
Then you hear the words of a beautiful friend whom you heard say if you are afraid to write about it then write about it.
So you lay in bed and cry some more. Then you get up. Find your way to the kitchen, make coffee and eat raw cookie dough from the fridge while your real breakfast warms. You say morning to your family and let your dog out. You say nothing about what has happened. The kitchen caught in the twilight of morning does not give you away.
And then you climb the stairs and begin.
Do I begin with the fact that even though I broke away from you more than once and you broke me a dozen times that I thought about you everyday? Dreamt about you? No, then where?
Because now, you are lying cold in the morgue a thousand miles away and I will never get to say goodbye or hello as I dreamed about? There will be no trips to the big city to see you. No waking up with you and exploring your city? Because no matter where you lived, you were a New Yorker through and through. No trips to see that cabin, the one you inherited from your mom. Now there is nothing but your shell, memories and a thousand things unsaid and done.
No, I will begin with this.
I love you. Not loved, because I acknowledge that no matter how far apart we were, you always lived in my heart and mind and will continue to do so. My heart held that loving you close to it. She remembered how your voice wrapped me in seduction and coils around all the happy memories. The day that you first kissed me. You directed it like a play, setting the stage and moving me into place. I said my lines without even knowing it. My heart, and lower places, remember the passion and excitement that never dulled. My mind, she clings with claws of steel to the harsher things; your long absences when we were officially a couple, the phone calls accusing me of cheating, and the text messages accusing me of not understanding your pain. My mind holds on to those like I bitterly held on to all of our text messages as records of the truth.
The truth that you loved me. The truth that you hurt me. And the truth that I allowed it all to continue.
The most dangerous and powerful stories are the ones that we tell ourselves about ourselves. Our self-talk can lift us up or take us down. We sometimes tell ourselves stories about how others perceive us. We tell ourselves that we know what they are saying about us. And for the most part we are wrong.
Sometime back, I took a series of classes on meditation and mindfulness. This was my first steps into looking at the stories I was telling myself. Shockingly, they weren’t all good. Some gave me false pride, others put me down. After every heartbreak, I would swear that I would never love again or that if I just reached out and talked to them I could coax them back into my life. This for the record, only worked twice and in both cases it wasn’t good for anyone involved.
By far the most dangerous ones, I’ve told myself are the stories about how much work something is going to be or not be. In the latter case, I assume something is easy and then I am mired in self-doubt when I get stuck or it turns out to be the latter.
As you know from my previous posts, I am list kind of person. I write lists to keep myself motivated and on track. Somethings are harder than other. Those items are the ones that are necessary but rile my anxiety. Anything that involves making a phone calling or asking someone for something/help will generate a story that only feeds my anxiety.
It is those stories that we tell ourselves about how much work or how awkward something is going to be that are dangerous. We delay and don’t get what we need to get done which sends us into a negative spiral.
A lot of us complain about adulting. It is a word that some people snicker , others chastise people for using it and some embrace. One of the reasons, why so many of us complain about it that we weren’t prepared for adulthood. We weren’t prepared to deal with the thousand things that happen in a day at work then to come home to more work. We didn’t really pay attention to all the things our folks did to make our world work, if we had responsible folks which some of us didn’t have.
We didn’t realize that our folks were just as lost as we are at times. They just didn’t tell us.
There were twenty-six items on my to-do list this morning. Six of those things were stress inducing. I’m now down to to only three items. One of which is a shower that I will get after walking the dogs this evening.
Those six anxiety/stress inducing things involved telling a friend I couldn’t do something, chores I had been avoiding and asking for something. Everyone of them is done. How?
Well, first, today was a good day. I slept over eight hours last night, didn’t have to leave the house and I’ve been in comfy clothes all day. The last several days have been good as well. I’ve talked a lot to my sweetheart about his anxiety lately and it has helped me to look at mine. So, I put them on the list, starred them and then looked at them. The chores needed doing so I spaced them out. The asking and telling, I asked myself what as the worse that could happen. And then did it.
I’m a storyteller. We are all storytellers. It is time that we took control of the superpower that we all have and used it for good.
This is my Papa. I met my Papa when I was thirteen years old. I was already taller than him. And he still had some color in his hair. Since then we have both grown quite a crop of steely gray hair.
According to legend, he fell in love with Momma over homemade spaghetti. She didn’t cook it mind you. He did and he had forgotten to stock up on red pepper flakes. When he mentioned it, Momma pulled a large container of them out of her purse. .
I am not sure how a large container of pepper flakes made it into her purse. Maybe she was using them as a cheap version of pepper spray? Throwing the whole container at would be assailants and hoping that her aim was true to hit them in the eye or at least the shock of seeing a flying pepper flake container would slow them down.
A few weeks or months later, Momma came by to pick me up for an outing with Denny. After Denny came into her life I saw Momma more and more. If he did nothing else he brought my mother back into my life. (But, he did do more)
You see a year earlier, we lost our house. Momma went to stay with friends and I returned from my annual stay at my grandmothers house to live with my father. The separation would last nearly a year. It wasn’t by choice on either of our parts. In the meantime, life became a serious of events where I tried and failed to win the approval of my birth father and stepmother. Every decision I made questioned and denounced as immature and lacking thought. My interests were weird and I was disrespectful. I didn’t know how to please them and eventually just retreated to my books and imagination.
My father and mother had divorced when I was six. He told my mother that he didn’t love her anymore. And she told him to leave. I don’t know what it cost her to do it; to go against everything that she had been taught about life and marriage. She came from the work it out generation. Her parents were married for over fifty years. The only way out of marriage was death. And she let my father go alive. She could have killed him for cheating on him. She could have raged against him. She never did at least not in front of us kids. She told him to go. Told him that he had to go that they weren’t just going to go through a divorce sleeping in the same bed or living in the same roof . She told him to go and where the boundaries were. I love her for that and everything she did that followed to do right by us. We never made it easy.
Sadly in the months following the divorce I blamed my mother and tried to fight her. She rocked and held me close until I calmed down. She didn’t understand that my father had just told me he was going on a business trip not that he was leaving permanently.
My father is not a man known for his sense of humor or love of literature. Actually, I don’t know why people like my father. I do know that he hated my nose was always in a book and wanted me to get out and do things. I wanted to do things. The things in the books I was reading. The characters had horrible lives to be sure (I was a huge VC Andrews fan), but their lives were filled with excitement and love.
Love is something my father still has difficultly communicating to his nearly forty-year old daughter. He rarely says it and every time I hear it, I question whether he is sick or not. Dying being the event that would induce an out pouring of emotion from his tight lips.
Papa has never had trouble communicating his love, frustration or anger with me. It hasn’t always been smooth and he has been so angry at me that I am sure he was seeing cross eyed. I was never the rebellious teen. No, I did all my stupid, worry the parents stuff in my mid to late twenties after I came home to live with them. When I was a pain in the butt, he let me know. And while we will never agree on politics completely (so far we both hate Trump), we always agree on the fact that I am his daughter.
Maybe he didn’t provide half my genetic sequence, but he did provide all the love and support a child could wish for. He showed me what it was like to have two loving and strong parents in the home. He gave me what I missed as a child of divorce the feeling of a strong family unit.
Father’s day is hard on a lot of people. Some people like my Papa didn’t know their fathers or have fathers like mine who won’t accept them for who they are. Papa doesn’t always understand me, but he loves and accepts me. All of me. It is what a father does.
One year ago, Blood Child was officially released. It has been a great year. Thus far, little Blood Child has earned 8-5-Star reviews and spend sometimes on an Amazon top-ten list.
Thank you once again. Enjoy chapter 1 of Blood Child. The complete novella is available on Amazon for only .99 cents.
“I am not drunk enough to talk about it now.”
The interview I had lobbied over six months for just turned on her heels and walked back into the shadows of the house, leaving the door wide open and giving me an excellent view of her curves. My appreciation for them was short-lived, since cool air slapped me as I hesitated on the threshold, trying to take in the house’s details. The ten-foot walk from the car had broken me out in a sweat, making it difficult to concentrate. It wasn’t even May, and already Florida was managing to melt British tourists and small yippy dogs into smelly, sticky puddles. Since I was British born myself, it was only being raised in the United States that kept me from disintegrating.
As I watched the current Countess Bathory return, it occurred to me that she was nothing like her infamous blood-bathing ancestor. She had no aura of power or authority. She was, in fact, a wino, judging from the bin overflowing with bottles on the front porch. Albeit, an incredibly attractive one.
Technically, she wasn’t a countess, having renounced the title but keeping the money she had inherited along with it. Only people in fairy tales give up both, and usually for love. As far as I knew, Ms. Bath was single.
Nothing about Emily Bath made sense. She was richer than Donald Trump and had more degrees than Neil Degrasse Tyson, yet she lived in a tiny orchid-colored house in a mismatched Orlando neighborhood. She taught high school—not even a regular high school, but an alternative one for students who had been kicked out. She could have done anything and willingly chose to work in high school hell.
The interior was incredibly modest, if not a little old-fashioned for a thirty-something heiress or anyone in her thirties. The floors creaked with each step. There was no TV in sight, just bookshelves and seating. All the furnishings looked like they were hand-me-downs from someone’s long-deceased grandparents. The sofa engulfed me in patterned floral pillows. The countess smirked as I struggled to right myself. At least she had a sense of humor.
Still nothing about the home spoke of the mounds of wealth she had; it was all understated and sadly normal. I expected more—craved it, to be honest.
Emily Erzabet Bath was the survivor of a modern-day murder mystery. Nine years ago she and her three older brothers spent the weekend at their late father’s estate for his funeral in upstate New York. Her brothers died, along with twenty other souls.
The manor had been drenched in blood, literally. It dripped off tables, pooled inpuddles on the floor, and had unartfully spattered the walls. The first officers on scene inched their way around the edges of each room as they searched for survivors. They weren’t trying to preserve evidence. No one wanted to step in that much blood. It was inconceivable that anyone could have survived the carnage. Pieces of victims were carried out bit by bit for nearly a week. The local police chief was one of the dead, along with his wife, so state police were immediately called in. They in turn called the FBI. It was a forensic nightmare. It took years for them to sort everything out, and then the picture that the evidence painted didn’t make any sense.
People were found at nearly all the exits, but no one made it outside before being killed. No one tried to call for help. All the phones at the estate were working, yet no one used them.
The officers who found Emily broke into her room after following a blood trail, only to find her cloistered in the back of the closet beneath a bunch of old musky coats stained with her blood. The combination of the smells—musky fur, stale blood, and human excrement—remained with the two men. Their stomachs emptied upon seeing Emily broken and begging for help with her eyes. Ten years later, even mentioning her or her condition made the two turn green. They thought she was dead until her bloodshot emerald eyes opened. She was severely dehydrated, with deep bloody scratches that had turned her flesh into ribbons; her wounds would seep blood for days after her rescue, confounding the medical staff. It was months before she was released from the hospital.
Emily allegedly had fled to her room and remained there the entire weekend. She couldn’t explain how she had gotten there or what had happened. Her story just didn’t hold up. Many believed she was at least partially responsible for the deaths of the twenty-three people in attendance. Maybe she really didn’t remember? It was possible, but why did she hide instead of calling for help or attempting to leave the estate? There were more questions than logical answers in the bloody tale of Emily Bath. The tabloid media had attempted to keep the story alive, supposedly to get answers, even after the relatives of the deceased pleaded with them to stop. A couple of lawsuits, combined with the complete unwillingness of law enforcement officials to contribute to the macabre circus surrounding the case, finally brought things to an end after about three years.
Now, as the ten-year anniversary approached, interest in the case was reemerging, making this interview priceless. And I was the man who landed it—the first and only person to speak to the reclusive Ms. Bath on the record. Persistence, charm, and just a bit of cyber stalking had won the day; being unemployed finally had a benefit.
No evidence was found linking Emily to the deaths, according to the investigator’s report in my satchel. No evidence was found linking anyone to the crime. The report had cost a pretty borrowed penny. Now I was wondering if the expense had been worth it. She was just so ordinary. So painfully ordinary.
Emily returned from the kitchen carrying two glasses of deep-red wine. When I started to protest, she informed me that I would need it.
“Mr. Clark, please…humor me.”
“All right, Ms. Bath. Do you mind if I record this conversation?”
“Not at all. I would appreciate a copy. Also, my attorney, Mr. McNeal, would like you to
sign this disclosure agreement prior to us continuing.”
“I don’t think my editor would approve any agreement that limits or restricts the content of the article.”
“Let’s be frank, Mr. Clark. You don’t have an editor. And you haven’t had one for the last six months. Your freelance opportunities have dried up, along with your hope and savings.”
I wanted to protest, but she was telling the truth. I had been let go from the Times six months ago. Budget cuts or some other bureaucratic nonsense was the official reason; sleeping with my editor’s grandson was the true cause of my separation from the nation’s foremost paper.
In my defense, Philip was twenty-one, and I had no idea that he and my editor, Ashley, were related. She wasn’t amused to find us cuddling in the afterglow on her $1,500 sofa. It probably didn’t help that I was also sleeping with her and was too intoxicated to notice where I had passed out. In the paper’s defense, I was only great at my job when I was sober, and I was rarely sober. Drunk, I was just OK. Sad, but true; I could do my job intoxicated and get away with it for the most part.
Looking over the agreement, I was surprised to see that it didn’t restrict what I wrote—only that I share any new information I found with Ms. Bath and her attorneys, as well as proofs prior to publication. If I had an editor or had been attached to a company, I would have had them research it before signing, but I didn’t, and Emily had called my bluff.
“Why do you think I have access to information that you don’t have?” I asked.
She sighed, reaching for my satchel. Before I could protest, she pulled out the investigator’s report and tossed it on the ottoman.
“You purchased that from Detective Anderson two months ago. My sources weren’t able to get a full report. They didn’t think to approach him directly, a misstep on their part.”
Her smile was the first hint that she wasn’t entirely innocent; I didn’t think she had killed anyone, but that still didn’t make her guilt-free. She just didn’t seem capable of mass murder. Still, everyone is guilty of something. It just might not be illegal. “Of course, your copy doesn’t include all the crime scene photos. I am willing to share if you sign.”
“Touché, Ms. Bath.”
“Sign and you can call me Em.”
I shook my head as I signed it, just to be dramatic. The wine was beginning to look more and more appealing.
“Anything else, Em?”
“No, the floor is yours. Let the inquisition begin.”
I had to glance down at my notebook to be sure where to start. Em had thrown me off more than the past six months without meaningful work. Or maybe it was everything that was riding on this interview going well. I was pretty sure Ashley had started to use her connections to blackball me when I didn’t appear to be suffering enough to satisfy her. Even Cat Fancy’s editor refused my calls. Pulling off this story would make me instantly marketable again.
Looking at Em, I realized she could have been her ancestor’s twin, except she was most definitely curvier. She had the same delicate almond-shaped eyes, china-doll skin, and brunette hair so dark; at first glance it appeared black. She leaned back into the plush sofa as if she were having a conversation with an old friend. Smiling, I began…
Five hours, two bottles of wine, and ten pages of notes later, I departed the tiny orchid house, making it back to the hotel as quickly and safely as possible. Luckily, I had experience driving during these conditions. Becoming inebriated in the course of an interview is never recommended or suggested, but Em had been right; the wine was necessary even for this seasoned drunk. I knew I could count on the recording to help me where my notes trailed off. Experience had taught me well to always have a backup plan.
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How you begin this year should not indicate how the rest of it is going to go. A few bad days doesn’t mean that the whole year is going to suck.
Please remember that as you move through these first couple of weeks of 2016. It is a new year, but the only magical thing that happens at midnight on December 31st every year is an agreed change in our perceptions.
Universally, the decision was made that when the clock strikes midnight everyone gets a chance to start over. Articles are published about New Year’s Resolutions, people share their hopes and dreams, and we all move forward as if something momentous has changed for all of us.
The problem is that we wake up the same people that we were when we went to bed. We have accepted the narrative that while New Year’s is a great time to make changes while also accepting no one is really going to hold you to those resolutions.
Sometime in February the articles on why we didn’t succeed in our resolutions and we will feel better about letting ourselves down.
We have gotten use to disappointing ourselves and looking to others for inspiration. We tell ourselves that if others can do it we can do it and then we beat ourselves up for not doing it.
My 2016 has been a little rough. Yep, three days in and things are a little bumpy.
My first day of 2016 found me in bed after being sent home from my mother’s house for being sick. My family looked at me, declared that I was deathly pale and sent me packing. Not the best way to begin the year, but it is how I began my year.
On the second day of 2016, I tried to dye my hair purple and ended up dying the bathtub and my finger nails. Don’t ask me how, just know that I really did this things.
And today, the third day of 2016, I am cleaning the house with a headache and trying to write a new blog. True, I am sick. True I still have the bills that I didn’t pay staring at me and a house that really needs to me to attend to it. Oh, and I forgot to pay a traffic fine in 2016.
However, it is also true that yesterday, I baked two sweet potatoes that came right out of my garden, that last night I was able to spend time with a dear friend on her birthday and that there is still a pretty comfortable roof, albeit a messy one, over my head. I have gotten myself up every day even when not feeling well and gone for a walk, done some stretches and done some writing.
The good is mixed in with the not so good. Oh and there is a nice pot of chili on the stove.
I think it is important to note not how you begin a thing, but how you finished it and all the little steps in between. And it can’t hurt to listen to the wise words of Julie Garland. Have a great 2016. Make it a great one.
Months ago, I was tagged to write one of those things you didn’t know about me posts. I delayed, procrastinated and then finally decided to turn it into a blog. And then I delayed, procrastinated and repeated until today.
Sorry, Lisa A. that it took me so long to do this.
And thank you for giving me something to help work my way out of my current writing funk.
1) Wishlist Obsessed ~ When I want to shop and can’t, I make wishlists on Amazon and now Modcloth. It distracts that party of my brain that keeps attempting to destroy my budget. Sometimes it back fires when friends find these lists and obtain for me the item desired in a moment of on-line passion which seemed like a good idea at the time. Luckily it has only produced one embarrassing Yuletide moment when I didn’t know what the item was.
2) GardeningReduces My Stress ~ Taking care plants or playing in the dirt has always been soothing for me. I like having dirt under my nails and grass between my toes.
3) Complaining Less ~ I am working on complaining less and being grateful for all the things I have in my life. This isn’t so much of a goal as it a life philosophy. And you know what I am really happier than I was a year ago. My depression is still with me, but it has less power.
4) Dancing ~ I love to dance, but going to clubs for me is scary so I haven’t been out to one in a long time. My anxiety makes it difficult for me to go out as much as I would like especially if I think people will be looking at me. I still dance nearly everyday, just not when people are looking. This also makes attending dance class tricky.
5) Reading ~ I re-read the Anita Blake series from start to finish at least once a year. Twice if I a new book comes out. Currently, I am re-reading Skin Trade before I read Dead Ice. There are books in every room of my house and a special shelf for my signed books.
6) Skulls ~ I have a collection of skulls which my mother started when I was a teenager. I still have that skull pendant that she and Poppa gave me. At one point, we all had one. Now I think I am the only one who managed to keep hold of it over the the years. Being a pack rat helps. There are probably thirty or more skulls in the collection. They also remind me that life is precious and fragile.
7) Year-round Halloween ~ If you come in my house, you will notice right away that something a bit spooky is going on. This has lead some people to speculate that I never put my Halloween decorations away. This isn’t true. There are five boxes in storage that prove otherwise.
8) Minister ~ I have been an ordained minister for the last sixteen years. It all started in college when some friends asked me to marry them. Since then I have officiated at over a dozen weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies. It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life to watch couples begin their lives together and to stand with families as they say goodbye to their love ones.
Lately all my days are have been intensely crazy as I try and navigate from the life I have to the life I want. A life where there is more time to write and enjoy with my family and friends. So after eight years in the classroom, I have decided to leave. It isn’t that I don’t love teaching or my students. I love my profession and my students have keep me going day after day through the stress of being a teacher in the era of Common Core and accountability. It has kept me going through the politics that invaded my school.
Still after much thought, I have come to the conclusion that I am burnt out.
I am fried beyond belief. I can’t do it anymore and be effective in the classroom. My days as a teacher have never ended at 3:31 in the afternoon, but this year they don’t end on Friday and the weeks of preparing and working through the weekends. Even my “breaks” have been filled with either on lesson plans or other school related projects or working a second and third jobs. It has been exhausting. Financially, I am doing better. I am at least gripping solid ground. But, mentally, I am so exhausted that I find myself dragging every day.
I know I am burnt out on the constant pile of work and never ending feeling like I am not doing my job right.
So what to do.
Find a new job or position in education.
Yes, teaching is a calling, but after eight years in the classroom. I am tired of being dumped on. Tired of being praised for my work on one hand, but criticized for how well I am juggling everything. Observations are dog and pony shows where you trot out what the administrator wants to see and hope they like you and don’t have something to prove. I once got a low score because I didn’t say “this is important” during a lesson on critical thinking. Another time, I was criticized for misspelling something even though I turned it into a teaching moment for my students. Friends have been given needs improvement scores even when their students aced the state tests.
The quest for data on everything has been particular hard on me. There is no time to really teach my students. No time to teach them to love my English or learning. Just time to go from one test to the next or in my case one meeting to another.
And this year, I was tossed backwards in a fight. This year, I woke up in the middle of the night by a panic attack after dreaming about school. I don’t trust my administration to have my back and work with me to help my students. I feel like the county that I work for doesn’t care about my health just their numbers.
I am tired of being told you will do this and this in your classroom and you are a great teacher, but why aren’t you doing this? And surely you can do this as well. I work and work and my administration praises me, but does not promote me. They talk about it. Even say they are training me for it. And then give the job to someone else. I was never even spoken to about the latest opening (or given an interviewed) even after expressing an interest and told on more than one occasion that I had it. It was a slap in the face to learn that someone else would be assuming the position and becoming my boss. (If I make it to the next school year, I won’t take on additional duties.)
I am tired of working three jobs to pay bills and still failing to build something for my future. When countries slash budgets, teachers make up for it out of their wallet. I don’t need to work harder which is what I have been doing. I need less work. Ironically, with the start of summer school I will be working longer days.
I have lost the spark that I had when I first started teaching and I feel like there isn’t enough time or energy to recover it.
So, I am working my resume, looking at teaching other subjects (English is a beast) and working on graduate school. It is time for me to go and when I do I know I will be crying because I love my students. I love them enough not to do this to them any more. I can’t give them my best. I haven’t been giving them my best for a while.