The Wallpaper

The Wallpaper was beautiful, ethereal. When you looked at it from a certain angle, it could make you erupt into fits of laughter. Tilt your head, and now you softly weep. Try another angle, and your heart would skip a beat. Another still, and your soul would soar beyond the corporeal. One might say there was a special magic to it, though there were but few capable of seeing it.

It covered a single room, smallish in size as far as rooms go. To say that the room was in a severe state of disrepair would be an enormity of an understatement. Furnished with two worn chairs, a small, stained and rickety tea table, a lone bookshelf overflowing and buckling from its burden and a dingy window showing only peeling paint and crusts of dirt.

There was a time when the chairs, so richly upholstered, would have been considered beautiful and welcoming in their comfort by anyone’s standards. There was a time when the varnish on the bookshelf was so rich and polished that you could see your reflection if you held your head just so. There was a time when the dingy window was carefully kept clean and crystalline, so that you could gaze upon the beautiful and wondrous lands of The Dreaming.

The Wallpaper made up for the room’s deteriorated state. In fact, only the room’s Inhabitant recognized what was happening. Only the room’s Inhabitant knew that the Wallpaper was next. The Keeper of the room, however, remained oblivious to the creeping neglect and the devastation it would wreak.

The last day of Autumn found the Inhabitant ensconced in the only chair ever used. One leg bent and tucked beneath the other thigh, the Inhabitant reached for a sip of tepid tea. The chipped cup forthwith dropped from a trembling hand as the Inhabitant saw it. The first crack in the Wallpaper.

Terrified, the Inhabitant bolted to the door and woefully wailed and begged for help. With obvious annoyance, the Keeper approached to inquire what could possibly be so wrong as to create such a ruckus. Choking on sobs, the Inhabitant pointed at the crack in the Wallpaper.

Moving closer to inspect, the Keeper fingered the new curl in the Wallpaper. Whirling back on the Inhabitant, the Keeper proclaimed that this was nothing. The Wallpaper is fine. In fact, the tear gives it character. When the Inhabitant pointed out that damage left in disrepair spreads and rots, the Keeper angrily chided and admonished against overreaction.

I am the Keeper! Not you! Only you would even notice such a thing! This is NOTHING!

With the slam of the door, the Inhabitant slowly stanched the flow of tears and sat back down. Keeping watch over the Wallpaper became the Inhabitant’s sole fixation. Slowly the tiny crack spread. Down, down, down, until finally an entire sheet had curled to the floor.

Once more, the Inhabitant begged for the Keeper to tend to it. This time, the Keeper showed a modicum of concern and immediately re-glued the curled strip back upon the wall. Mollified, the Inhabitant returned to unlocking the worlds within the precious tomes littered about the room. The Keeper stayed away, doing whatever Keepers do instead of Keeping, ignoring the Inhabitant’s warnings about the Wallpaper’s fading luster.

The day before the first frost, the wilting Inhabitant mournfully watched as the Wallpaper covering one entire wall crumbled to dust and slowly settled about the room. The Keeper heard a strange sound and finally checked on the room and its Inhabitant. The Keeper was alarmed to discover the Inhabitant keening and rocking and scraping at the thick crust of dirt covering the window.

“What’s the matter with you?”, questioned the Keeper.

The Inhabitant’s throat was coated in dust, and the response was gravelly and subdued. “I need to see. I need to dream again before it’s too late.”

“You see what I want you to see. This is My Room. And I am the Keeper,” admonished the Keeper.

With great trepidation, the Inhabitant pointed a gently accusatory finger at the naked wall and tried once more, “Look. Look at how you’ve Kept it. I warned you this would happen. I begged you not to neglect it. The Wallpaper. It’s dying.”

“It doesn’t matter. Nobody even notices Wallpaper. You’re crazy, and stop scratching at the window like some caged animal,” the Keeper scornfully returned. “I’ll paint over it. The window and the Wallpaper. So we can be done with this nonsense.”

Deep in the heart of winter, the Keeper suddenly thought of the Inhabitant and stormed into the room only to pause and look around with perplexity and great fear. The shoddy paint job allowed bits of irreparably damaged Wallpaper to peek through. The rest lay curled and crumbled about the floor. The books had gone to dust and every surface of the room thinly cased in ice.

The Inhabitant had faded: skin nearly translucent, head lolled to one side, breath coming out in slow, measured, white puffs of air.

Slowly meeting the eyes of the Keeper, the Inhabitant whispered, “It is time.”

“No… No, you can’t mean it! I forbid it!,” shouted the Keeper.

“But the Wallpaper is dead. It has suffered, and it has died. Only dust and decay remain,” the Inhabitant stoically replied.

“Why did you allow this to happen? You can’t let this happen,” implored the Keeper.

The Inhabitant shed a single tear and solemnly raised a mirror to the Keeper’s face. “Tell me what you see.”

“A Keeper. A Keeper that couldn’t Keep.”

The Inhabitant stood and touched the Keeper’s cheek. As the Keeper wailed and reached for purchase on the Inhabitant’s body, the Inhabitant slowly faded from the earthly plane. Returning home, to The Dreaming, with a faint twinkle and hope of Spring.

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The Keeper cursed and wailed and blamed and pounded the floor and begged the emptiness. And the vacuum created by the Inhabitant’s departure caused the door to swing inward, locking the Keeper into a room now devoid of anything worth Keeping.

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Today’s Tunes: Brought to You by a Chillin’ Stephanie

It’s always a positive sign that I’m feeling better and more mentally stable when I start digging into music again. When I’m at the depths of my depression, I can’t even reach for music – my soul’s food. Given all the music I’ve been listening to and the string of music-related posts, I have yet another sign that I’m steadily on the upswing. Thanks to a myriad of factors, no doubt. My wonderful Peopleaneous, a few in particular who have seen the darkest sides of me and helped me through, another particular one who thrills me to no end, and the medications I’ve been put on have no doubt played a significant role as well. Never again will anyone hear me say psychiatric medication is bullshit.

I feel compelled to share what my soul is filled with this morning. Soothing me and tugging at me and pushing me and pulling me with its raw passion and purity. This, my friends, is art. It’s all instrumental, but you can hear Keith getting into it. Crying out at times, because he is music.

Keith Jarrett’s Changeless Album (4 songs in total)

Dancing

Endless

Lifeline

I can’t fucking find “Lifeline”. Ripped off!

Ecstasy

Ahhhhhh yes. Enjoy, my friends. Enjoy.

Starlight: An Anthem for 2016

This song means more and more to me as time moves on. And it’s definitely a major anthem for my 2016.

If you’re not into music (what the fuck is wrong with you), let me break it down for you. Check out these lyrics, and you can read it instead.

Starlight

Far away
This ship is taking me far away
Far away from the memories
Of the people who care if I live or die

The starlight
I will be chasing a starlight
Until the end of my life
I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore

Hold you in my arms
I just wanted to hold
You in my arms

My life
You electrify my life
Let’s conspire to ignite
All the souls that would die just to feel alive

Now I’ll never let you go
If you promised not to fade away
Never fade away

Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations
Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations

Hold you in my arms
I just wanted to hold
You in my arms

Far away
This ship is taking me far away
Far away from the memories
Of the people who care if I live or die

And I’ll never let you go
If you promised not to fade away
Never fade away

Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations
Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations

Hold you in my arms
I just wanted to hold
You in my arms
I just wanted to hold

A Public Censure from a High School Outcast

I am in the process of preparing my house to put on the market. This is finally the year that I put myself first, no matter how difficult that is for me – because it is completely out of character. And this is going to involve some major changes and upheaval. I always put others first, even (usually) to my own detriment, almost without exception. I have been this way my entire life.

This change wasn’t some lameass resolution for me. I don’t do resolutions, at least not in the way most do. Life changes and extensive shifts in perspective don’t suddenly and miraculously happen simply because the clock ticked over to a new year. Time as we know it is a man made construct anyway, but I’m seriously digressing here.

The point of bringing this up was to mention I’m working on getting my house ready to sell. And this means days and weeks of meticulous sifting through thirty-five years of accumulated stuff. Some of that stuff is meaningful; some of that stuff is being donated; some of that stuff is being sold; some of that stuff is outright garbage and has been hauled straight to the bin and to the side of the road where people pick it up (you know what they say – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure), but some of that stuff is meaningful to me in some way or other and cannot simply be tossed out. Like the box of letters from my paternal mamaw. She was my penpal for a good two decades. Or my diplomas and commendations. Or my report cards and IEPs from elementary school, and the notes from teachers and little awards I received. Or the stacks of photos and photo albums. There have been lots of laughs, lots of tears, some raging and ripping up photos of that man who ruined my childhood and so much of my life and my outlook and behaviors, some quiet reminiscing, some shock; you get the idea.

One thing I came across was surprising to me. I didn’t even know I had it. A simple piece of paper brought on a flood of memories. Unpleasant ones at that. I was in 11th grade, I think, which puts me somewhere between 16 and 17. I was depressed and miserable and hated high school with all that I had. Not long after this period, I experienced some of the best years of my life until the bottom fell out of that, too. But for now, I was fucking miserable. I experienced suicidal ideation. I never cut myself, but I’ve always had this problem with picking and digging and tearing at my skin. So I’d wear long sleeves almost exclusively, in order to hide my arms.

I had changed schools that year, which is what seriously ramped up my depression and self-loathing. Those last two years of high school did a lot of damage to me, but the others did as well. Before I changed schools, I never had what you would call friends. There was simply a group of outcasts who would gather together during lunch. Some of them hung out together after school, but mostly we just clung to each other on the sidelines of life. It was our own little depressed group of grunge kids on this life raft we created to weather the storm of cheerleaders and jocks and geniuses and rich kids and bullies. It raged around us, splashing us with its venom and vitriol. The bullying had gotten so bad that I perfected this death to you glare and assumed anyone and I do mean anyone who looked at me meant me harm. I struggle with that still. And so we gathered together in this little corner at lunch. Playing hacky sack. Sneaking to the bathroom to smoke a roach. Talking about The Doors and Pink Floyd and Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Wearing the tie-dye Grateful Dead shirt I bought at a yard sale. Long sleeved of course. And that silly “Elvis is Dead. Deal with it.” t-shirt I wore all the fucking time. Mostly because it was black. And I was in a black wearing, flannel over-shirt phase. Close friends and confidantes we were not. But we needed each other. Or at least, I needed them.

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This is what we were like. Only there were far more dudes than chicks. Most of the chicks were banished for bringing drama to the group.

So when I changed schools, I lost that. I no longer had a shield or raft to cling to against the raging tide of bullies. Especially the preps. They were the worst. Those were the ones that made my life hell all through high school. And now I had no protection. I had no wall of outcasts surrounding me to buffer me from the storm of bullying and back-stabbing. Which leads to the piece of paper I found last night.

I had an AP English class, which I would have loved (because English. Yay. My favorite subject for years.). Except there were about a dozen cheerleaders in that one class. They chose it on purpose because the teacher was the mother of one of them. I had no idea, or I would have scheduled a different class or requested a change. Such as it was, I was stuck in a very special hell of torment and glares and snickers and cruel jokes at my expense. Me, the poor girl in hand-me-downs, thrift store clothes, high-water pants and shoes held together with duct tape I’d taken a black Sharpie to on the black parts and White-Out on the white parts so the tape wouldn’t stand out so much.

At some point during the year, we had an assignment. We were instructed to write an original poem and then select one from our textbook that went along with the same theme. Then we had to buy white t-shirts and somehow paint our original poem on the front and the textbook poem on the back, then wear them to school on the day they were due and recite our poems from memory. This terrified me. I didn’t learn how to be able to do public speaking until college in my twenties. I can do it now, but I was terrified back then. Like vomiting over it a couple of times leading up to it the week it was due.

I couldn’t persuade my father to buy a new white t-shirt for me. “I don’t have the money for some fucking school poem bullshit. Use one of my old undershirts.” No, of course he didn’t have the money. He’d spent it on the twice weekly sacks of pot and pain meds from his 19 year old dealer. The shirt he gave me had the inevitable pinhole burns in it and huge deeply yellowed pit stains. I stole change off of his dresser to buy this glittery green puff paint to get the poems on the shirt. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. But I knew I would be humiliated, and I was. But this time, it was mostly in my head.

It was time. The teacher called my name. My stomach flipped and then flopped, and I felt dizzy and off-balance as I left my back-corner desk and walked to the front of the classroom. Voice shaking, I began:

Nobody

You think that you are better than me
From your clothes, to your style and your hair
You think that you are better than me
But I have ceased to care

You smile and pretend that you are my friend
But I am not here for your pity
You smile and pretend that you are my friend
But I will have nothing to do with your sympathy

In your eyes, I am nobody because I don’t measure up to your standards
But I am not the one who tries to be something I am not
So before you judge me again, take a look at yourself
And face the reality that you are no better than me

And as time marches on
And your shine is all gone
For all of your glitter, you have nothing to show
Now you are nobody, and I am somebody

And you will never be better than me

To their credit, after the snickering subsided, the room got dead quiet. Not even the usual whispers and note-passing that happens during things like this. And the looks on their faces were a mixture of confusion, disgust, surprise, shame. This quiet, wallflower, grungy, nerdy weakling was speaking words of condemnation. To them. This was directed at them, and they knew it.

And then I read the poem I had selected from the textbook, and their shame and confusion turned to shock and fear. I could see it in their eyes, because I had finally worked up the nerve to make eye contact. And so I began:

Richard Cory
by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich-yes, richer than a king-
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

I somehow got through to some of them. But not in a way that made them nicer to me, more in a way to make them lean away, look away and leave me completely and utterly alone. Which was a relief and respite from the bullying, at least in that class. I think they were afraid of me. Nervous. Fine. Yes. Great. This I can use. And so my death to you glares increased. I rarely spoke, but I could shoot daggers. And I did. And I relished them shifting in their seats and looking away. I felt guilty for a lot of this later, in some ways still do. But at the time, I finally felt relief and used my anger as my new wall of protection, my new life raft.

I read the paper. I re-folded it and sat there in this reverent silence. Then I opened it and read it again, finally re-folding it and tucking it away among the things I’ve decided to keep. At least for now. As a reminder of what I was, and what I’m working so hard to leave behind. The anger, the fear, the skittishness, the guilt, the distrust, the anxiety, the self-loathing, etc.

Here’s to my year of change. It will happen slowly and then all at once. And I can’t fucking wait.

On Diaries and Invasion of Privacy (AKA Young Love, One Yummy Motherfucker and Blogging)

Journaling has always had a significant pull for me. I don’t remember the first time I asked for my own diary, but I know I was little. Even as a child, I was highly introverted and recognized I needed an outlet for my thoughts. Writing would be a way to process the world and my place in it, or so I thought.

Writing My Heart Out

I did pretty a pretty good job of keeping a regular, (semi-)daily diary up until junior high school. I was around twelve years old when I threw in the towel (the first time). That’s when my asshole brother violated my privacy and trust. I don’t remember whether I’ve assigned a name for him yet, so for now let’s just call him B. For Brother. Or Butthole. Take your pick (both will work in a pinch) (eww pinched butthole).

So there I was, journaling my angsty little heart out. About school. About bullies. About shame. About public humiliation. About depression. About music. About boys. Oh yeah. I wrote about boys: two boys in particular. One was a crush I’d had for two years already (who would later become boyfriend, then spouse, then shhh I don’t wanna talk about that right now). I talked about that one a lot. Oh what a crush I had for that little bad boy. And the other was for one who would be my first boyfriend.

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Miguel looked just like this. Only twelve. But still yummy. (Shut up, I was twelve. It wasn’t perverted to find a fellow preteen yummy.)
I’ve mentioned him before. What the hell did I call him? Shit. (No, I most certainly did not dub him Shit. What was it? Fuck me, I forget.) (I totally need a system for this.) Let’s call him Miguel. Oh Miguel, you yummy thing you. He looked just like Anthony Kiedis, and I was So Fucking Smitten.

And before those of you keeping up jump to conclusions – he is not the reason I’m a diehard RHCP fan. I need to write about that soon, but for now – no. Miguel has nothing to do with that. We were way more into Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Green Day at the time. For some reason RHCP wasn’t huge among my little group. So they were mine alone. Anyway. Digressing.

But. P.S. Miguel still looks like that. Fucker. Anyway, so we were twelve, and I had such an overpowering, all-consuming crush on him that I sometimes lay awake nights thinking about him. We hung out together all the time. Listening to music, smoking pot, talking about life and parents and school. His mom was totally whack. I mean seriously. I smoked pot with her. When I was twelve. Yeah. But Miguel and his sister weren’t allowed to. Miguel never got much into it, but I would sneak a toke a lot. He really was a good boy – he was then and, based on everything I’ve heard through the grapevine over the years, he still is.

All of those thoughts and experiences were in my diary. So were the details of the day he finally asked me to “go with” him, and how excited and nervous and scared I was. My first real boyfriend! Elementary Mario had no idea he was my boyfriend, so that didn’t really count. (Shut up. It totally counts.) Miguel and I were only a thing for about two weeks. Three, tops. It was awkward, and he wasn’t ready for a girlfriend. I was all in, but he wasn’t ready. At least that’s what he told me later, and I believed him because he didn’t have a serious girlfriend for at least a couple more years. (It didn’t help that his best friend kept making fun of him about us – I mean hardcore, too. That butthole. He ended up being a crackhead. That’s what you get!) (And, I will confess it crushed my soul when I found out Miguel finally slept with some girl at a party he went to freshman year. Casey, you bitch.)

But that two weeks was enough for my diary to fill with the sordid details of kissing in his bed (on top of the covers) and how it felt when his hand went up my shirt. (He had even asked permission.) I’m certain that book was filled to the brim with award-winning writing and frameable art (who wouldn’t want to frame hearts and arrows adorned with Miguel & Stephanie 4-Ever?)

It broke my heart when he broke up with me, saying it was too awkward and he’d waited too long and now it felt like he was kissing his sister because of how close we were as buddies. He was sweet about it, and we miraculously remained friends until I moved away (to a different apartment complex). 

Attack of the Pinched Butthole Brother

At some point after Miguel broke my heart and my crush moved back to the bad boy, B found my diary. I thought I was being clever when I hid it between my mattress and the box-frame. I hadn’t yet seen all those movies where every kid in the history of fuckingever uses that as a hiding space.

Not only did B find it, oh no. He also had to read it. And he was not content to stop there, either. I came home from school one day, and B and his bitchass pal, let’s call him “Bitch”..you know..for bitch, were already there, playing video games (on my NES, damnit). And oh the devilish smirk that plastered itself across B’s face when I walked through the door.

You know what’s coming, don’t you? Then I shall spare you the suspense. B stood up, diary in hand, and commenced to reading it aloud while his bitchass pal, Bitch, literally pointed and laughed at me. He even had the audacity to hold his sides, laughing so hard it hurt. B really outdid himself, too, drawing out the loooooooooves and even holding the diary up and pointing at the hearts for all the world Bitch to see.

I hated him with an unmatched fury. Both of them. And I told them so, through screamy sobs.

I hate you! I HATE YOU! GIVE IT BACK!

When I finally snatched it away from him, I promptly ripped it to shreds. In his defense (the only one I’ll allow him here), he tried to make me stop. But it was his fucking fault; he’s the one who drove me to do it. I probably would have done it one day, anyway. I hadn’t kept any of the previous diaries, because I always felt childish, stupid and vapid. But this was different. This was the first time I’d had the privacy of a diary breached (the first time to my knowledge, anyway). I tore that bitch to pieces, marched it straight down to the apartment dumpster, came back upstairs and cried and cried of embarrassment and shame and hurt feelings and rage.

And Then There was You

I was mortified. Completely mortified. And I’ve had a pretty fucked up track record with diaries/journals ever since. I tried again a couple years later, but then my mother found it. B wasn’t living with us at the time, so I tried the same hiding spot again. Different apartment, same fucking spot. So fucking naive. Oh yeah, she found it. And for the first time in months decided to speak to me. Well, more like sobbing in my general direction. I lied to her about sex. I hadn’t had sex at that point, but I had gotten very fucking close. I told her those were just fantasies. She believed it. Probably because she was living in her head, anyway, and was willing to believe whatever made her life easier to live. I could have told her anything, and it wouldn’t have changed our relationship or her life. No matter what I told her, she was going to spend her home time crying in bed. So I made it easy,

I can’t believe you read that. But it isn’t true. None of it is true. Don’t worry.

And then I shredded it. I tried again a few years later, when I was living with the bad boy. But he always insisted I read the entries to him. So it was more a log of my life as one-half of a couple. It lacked depth and fullness, but I was happier then, for a long time. I still felt like I needed my own space, but I never got it (not that I pushed for it). I still have a few of them, all with twenty to thirty pages filled. But then I stopped for good, because they weren’t really mine. Not fully.

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Two of them I could easily get to. Isn’t that blue one gorgeous?
I tried a couple of blogs over the years. But I always bulldozed them. Never felt good enough or safe enough. But the itch, the need has never left me. The need to purge my thoughts, get them down and out. Work out the meaning of the world, or at least my place in it. In writing.

And then there was you. I’m finally sticking with it. And while I know I haven’t been with you long, believe me when I say this is what Stephanie sticking with it looks like. I also know this is far riskier than a little paper journal hiding in my bed or underwear drawer. Yet this blog is giving me something additional that no diary ever could: accountability, community, commiseration and dare I say it? Friendship. So, for now at least, I’ve decided the dangers of discovery are worth it.

Now Just Look What Y’all Did

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. To all y’all. You my homies; you know that, right? I can’t don’t want to express just how deeply dark and frightening my thoughts have been. And I only say even that much so that you know how amazing it is that you’ve had me smiling and laughing and choking on laughter and laughing until I cried and laughing until my belly and chest ached…all damn day. Y’all my homies, for real. And I hope I can be there for you one day, the way you were here for me today.

I’m gonna show you what mood you’ve put me in on this usually lonesome Friday night. First as a big fat thank you and proof of how you’ve put a raft beneath me today. And second to throw down because of Andrew calling me out over here.

Here ya go. My peppers:

This song has never failed to lift my spirits and make me move. Enjoy.

The Selfish Blog Post

I’ve started this post no fewer than five times now. And I keep highlighting all of the text and pressing delete. I should take that as a sign that I shouldn’t post anything today.

I don’t feel well. I mean, I’m seriously beaten down right now, y’all. And I can’t find the words to adequately express what I’m going through. I keep trying, but it’s not connecting. It doesn’t resonate. Suffice it to say I’m incredibly sad and hurt. And I feel like an abused puppy. You know that saying about kicking someone when they’re down? That’s how I feel right now. And, though it’s hard for me to give myself enough credit to say that those feelings are valid, they really are. I have every reason and right to feel the way I’m feeling right now. Except, the darkest of the thoughts are dangerous. So I need help.

Yesterday, I cried all fucking day. Well. Off and on. And your stories and posts and laughs and sweet words pulled me through. And one person in particular helped me so so much. I feel indebted to you especially, and to all of you for being awesome.

So. I’m going to be selfish right now. I need a favor. I don’t want pity – please, I mean that sincerely. I don’t want to be told to chin up; tomorrow’s a new day; it could always be worse; blah fucking blah. You know?

I want your best jokes. Even if they’re the superlame ones – those are my favorites. Like this one:

A skeleton walks into a bar.
He orders a beer.
And a mop.

Y’all, that cracks me up like you would not believe. So hit me me, please, with your jokes and puns. Ohh, I really love puns!

Oo, oo, or you could link to funny blog posts! Yours or someone else’s. Yeah, yeah. We could exploit this as an opportunity for self-promotion.

Yes, I am shamelessly and selfishly asking you to make me smile. To remind me, again, that there is good in the world.

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Letters from a Happy Asshole

Dear Mom,

Did you know it was you who taught me? I bet you don’t know that, even though I told you so. You taught me so much:

  • how to smile through abuse
  • how to laugh in spite of pain
  • how to remain gentle in stormy seas

You sent me out into the world believing that it was worth enduring misfortune and pain, poverty and abuse. And so I smiled. I was such a happy child, even when my heart was heavy and I was stricken with fear and doubt. I had such a gentle and giving spirit, a ready smile for anyone. Everyone. You remember, don’t you? How I had such a hard time steering clear of strangers? It took me a little while to learn that people don’t mean well after all.

But wait, you didn’t teach me any of that, did you? When did you smile? When did any smile ever reach your eyes? When were you ever playful or joyful or ebullient? You weren’t, were you? And I forever battled your demons because you wouldn’t. No, you gave up ages ago. Before you even had us, I suspect. You know what you taught me?

  • how to keep it all in
  • how to withdraw from the world
  • how to lose faith
  • how to criticize myself and everyone else
  • how to hide my ideas, my mind
  • how to deny myself
  • how to submit
  • how to give up

Why are you so damn happy all the time?

Mom?

Stop smiling so much. There’s nothing to smile about.

But we’re alive, aren’t we?

Who cares if we’re alive? Everything hurts. My back hurts. My feet hurt.

At least you have feet. (I meant it so sincerely when I said things like that to you. But you you hated it. You said it was cruel. That I was being intentionally cruel. That it’s useless to try cheering you up. Remember?)

Whatever. I’m sick to death of cleaning up after you people. I sacrifice Everything, and Nobody cares.

I care.

Whatever. Leave me alone. I’m going to bed.

whatever

I followed you to bed, putting my sister on my lap. I’m a ventriloquist now, and she’s my dummy. I used your eyeliner and lipstick to draw on her face to make her look the part.

We put on a show for you. I’m in full form now, laughing, cutting up, being a smartass. Telling jokes and making faces.

You’re laughing! It’s working! You’re crying… Oh no, now you’re crying again.

You’re so sweet. You were always so sweet. And funny. How’d you get to be so funny?
Leave me alone now. I’ll be okay. Don’t worry.

You better not have ruined my makeup. And wash your sister’s face.
(Rolling over in bed now, facing the wall.) Goodnight.

I hugged you and kissed you, anyway. And I begged you to be okay. Please cheer up, mom. We love you. Doesn’t that matter more than anything?

I’m sorry.
But I did tell you to leave me alone.
Wash your sister’s face.
Goodnight.

How many days and nights did we repeat some variation of this until I gave up? I couldn’t fight your demons alone. I needed your help. How many times did you watch me sobbing for you, begging you to talk to me. Play with me. Read with me. You said I’d be better off just forgetting about you. How could you say that?

And how dare you for getting angry when I did give up trying to fix you. And how dare you for abandoning me. Yes, you taught me much.

I was such a happy little asshole. That’s what I was to you, wasn’t it? The little asshole thorn in your side who just wouldn’t quit fucking smiling no matter what life threw at her. Did you ever stop to think that I smiled for you? It doesn’t matter anymore. I was always the happy little asshole to you. The one who had the nerve to smile in the face of adversity. The one who dared ask you to be a mother.

Just do me a favor, would ya? Don’t come back. Don’t. I can’t do it again.

~

Dear Classmates,

To the little girl that broke my heart and my nerve: do you know how long it took for me to work up the nerve to approach you? You looked so lonely and sad. And I was so shy. But we were both alone at recess, and I wanted to help you. I needed to make you smile.

Do you know how long it took for me to work up the nerve? How difficult it was? How my heart lodged in my throat as I approached you? How much courage it took for me to ask five little words of you in the softest voice? Will you be my friend?

Do you know what it did to me when you replied,

No.

and walked away?

My little soul was crushed. I cried so very much. Do you want to know something else?

That was the last time I ever approached anyone. That was the last time I ever made the first move.

I know, now, that you were probably hurting at least as much as I was, if not more. But my little heart couldn’t see past the pain then.

To Marshall: I’m sorry I never worked up the nerve to approach you. To tell you that I knew it was you. I recognized your handwriting. On the Secret Admirer card. But I had already lost trust and faith in people. I thought it was a joke, you see. A scam. I learned later that I hurt your feelings, ignoring your gesture.

To the boy at the dance: I didn’t even want to be there. I had been forced to go. People were starting to worry…at my lack of friends and growing social anxiety. I had been made fun of far too much by now, and I couldn’t. I wanted to trust you, when you asked me to dance. But I couldn’t. I just knew it was a joke. So I went inside and stuffed my face until the party was over. That’s the first time I remember medicating with food.

~

Dear Marie,

Why did you ask me why I smile? Every day, at least once a day? You were a grownass woman in her forties. Why do you feel a need to rob a teenager of her smile?

Every day I smiled and greeted you with a happy countenance and hope for a good day. And every day, you shot me down. Confronting me in angry tones,

Why are you so happy?
I mean, really. Look at you. What do you have to be so happy about, anyway?

I woke up this morning.

Ugh.

Would you rather I told you, “This is my mask, and it helps me get through the day”? I suspect you would have liked that, to know that I shared a fraction of your misery. But no, I was too busy trying.

if_someone_is_too-48490

It took me a couple of years, but I finally stopped. Smiling at you. You didn’t deserve my smiles. But then, one day, I started smiling at you again. Out of spite. Because fuck you, that’s why.

And again, I was the Happy Asshole.

Thanks, Marie. For reminding me of her.

~

Dear James and Everyone Else I hurt in Jr. High & High School,

You told me one day, later on in high school, that I had been a bitch to you. I’m sorry. I really am.

I was afraid of you. I didn’t trust you. I never did. And I still didn’t. Hell, I still wouldn’t. Even now. I had been bitten so many times by then, that I used meanness as a defense mechanism. To keep people as far away from me as possible.

But at least I started smiling again. Greeting you. Refusing to take my pain and inner turmoil out on you and everyone else.

Thank you, for being so honest with me that day. I needed that dose of awareness. It hurt to know that I’d been hurtful. I’ll never forget it.

~

Dear You,

Please allow me – and anyone else – the right to be down sometimes. Please don’t beat me with your happy stick and try to force your idea of happiness on me.

You see, I’m fighting really hard. No, I mean it. Really fucking hard. To lift myself out of this funk. It’s a daily battle, and a tough one. And while I’m thankful for words of encouragement and positivity, it hurts when you’re dismissive. As though I don’t have the right to be down because it offends you.

I understand now, why it hurt my mother for me to say things like, “well, at least you have legs!” But I was a child, and I didn’t realize it was dismissive of her pain. I thought I was being encouraging, but all she heard was “your pain isn’t valid.”

So be encouraging of each other. Be positive. But try not to be so fucking militant about it. Just as my depression isn’t an attack on you, your positivity shouldn’t be an attack on me.

Live and let live and Kumbaya, and all that.

~

Dear Me,

You’re at risk of no longer being the Happy Asshole, but instead just an asshole. And if that happens, they win. Is that what you want?

So keep smiling at work. Keep saying goodmorning to the world and all its inhabitants. Keep telling off-color jokes and being a raging smartass. It’s fun. It makes people laugh, and it cheers you up to do it.

Don’t let them destroy the last remaining vestiges of you.

Cling to life. Cling to joy, even if you can only find scraps of moments here and there. Those scraps count. Those scraps matter. Those scraps are what keep you coming back for more.

You matter. You probably won’t think so in the morning. Or even an hour from writing this.

So keep reminding yourself. And try to believe people when they say nice things about you.

Don’t be an asshole. It’s no fun without the happy.

~

Signed,
The Happy Asshole

A Musical Interlude: Clint Mansell

I love Clint Mansell. I think I always have, only I didn’t know it until someone put a name to the music that moves so many. Best known for his work as a composer, Mansell has scored films such as The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream, and Black Swan. And, you may have noticed, those are all three Darren Aronofsky films, but Mansell has scored for others as well.

I don’t know if I’ve told y’all…but The Fountain ranks among my favorite films. And it is no exaggeration to say that it would be a different film entirely without Mansell’s touch. It is dark and moving. Poignant and ethereal. Emotional and painful. Hopeful and yearning. Surreal and earthy. Life and death and resurrection and everything between. Soul shattering pain and redemption. I don’t even know what I’m saying, really. It’s everything.

I cried. Nay, I wept. I was an absolute wreck in the aftermath of The Fountain. For days. Days. I had been warned, at least a couple of years prior to watching it…I had been warned to steer clear of it. But then The Aussie told me it was important. I almost didn’t make it through it, quite literally choking on my sobs more than once. But I did. And it will always be part of me now. Perhaps it always was, and that’s why it moved me so.

All of these rambles to lead you into this song:

Listen to it. Please. I beseech you to listen and not with ears only, but with all of you. If you listen, you will know where I am today and why I’m not very talkative (blogative?). I’ve had it on loop for an hour. And if you listen, I’d love to know what the song does to you. It shakes me to my core and somehow fuels my depression while also comforting me. It makes me feel…understood. Felt.

But don’t listen to me. Listen to the song. Please. And then, listen to the entire soundtrack. It’s instrumental, so you can listen to it while doing other things…if you’re not too much of a wreck to function.

Below is the entire soundtrack, but if you’re wanting all the feels, you may as well go for it and watch the film.

If you haven’t seen The Fountain, go forth. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you are a sensitive creature at all, it will shatter you. But it’s a shattering you must endure.

TheFountain

Yeah. I’m gonna need to medicate with Billy Idol or something soon. Or a New Girl marathon! Yeah! No. Bad idea. Why must memories so firmly attach themselves to everything?

Anyone have any tips for really good comedy? Gimme gimme!

Attack on Veggiopolis: The One where Stephanie Talks Herself into a Breakthrough and Finds Evidence of a Potato Lick-and-Run

Howdy Peoplleaneous!

Before we get started, let me just get this out of the way. You see that word up there? Ugh, not that one. The other one: Peoplleaneous. Yeah, that one. Dude. I fretted over that far longer than I should have. The way I should spell it, I mean. And this is what I settled upon. While I’m still not pleased with it, take it or leave it. (Please take it. It would miss you if you left it.)

Chapata One: The Pep-Talk

Now that bit of housekeeping is taken care of, let’s move along shall we? This morning started off well enough – better than usual, actually. I got this little grand idea of starting the day off with a pep talk from shaunk84 over at Tales in Anxiety. (Please check him out if you haven’t already. Good stuff.) It’s sort of like a verbal note-to-self to start your day off in a positive way. Since I spend so much of my time telling Stephanie what a right piece of shit she is, I know full well how powerful the words we speak to ourselves can be. So I put the pep-talk to the test.

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror (just a regular one on the door of a medicine cabinet) in my bra and underwear and. Yeah. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t muster the strength while she just stood there all naked and gross. So I gave myself some wiggle room.

I cranked some jams, on and up. Damn, I haven’t done that in ages: listened to music while getting ready for work. That used to be part of my morning routine. Then depression took it from me. Well, I’m taking it back. I played Kenna’s “Make Sure They See My Face” album, because it’s one of those than seems to have a knack for getting me moving in spite of myself. This song in particular had me hopping around and smiling:

I went to get dressed for work, got all my shit together, then returned to the bathroom mirror. Psyched up and ready for myself.

This time I managed to do it. I didn’t say much…but I looked myself in the eye and said something like, “YNEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Gene Simmons of Kiss departs Ed Sullivan Theater on October 10, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)ou got this.” It was all mumbly and weird. So I laughed, raised my voice a little and looked me in the eye and said – bolder, louder – “Today is your bitch, and you’ve got this shit!” Then I opened my mouth, stuck my tongue out and shook my head back and forth, hands throwing that sign.

You know the look. Dear god, I hope I didn’t look as much a twat as he did/does. I did, didn’t I? You know what? I don’t give a fuck. It worked! I was embarrassed with myself, but I did it. And I was smiling, to boot. Smiling. On the way out the door. To work. Quelle surprise!

Chapata Two: Chinks in the Armor or Revenge of the Oatmeal

I managed to maintain that smile for an hour or so. And then I bit into breakfast, only to find I’d have to return to my dentist. I had a filling yesterday, so it wasn’t like I was eating bricks. Not for at least a couple more days yet. It was oatmeal, for fucks sake. And I suddenly had the sensation of an epidural-size needle (those ten-foot ones they show in the movies – that’s what they use, right?) driving straight through my jaw. Like some badass motherfucker was trying, with all his might, to pierce my skull. Yay me!

My armor suffered chink number one.

Then Queen Bitch of the Universe got to work. And commenced to being Queen Bitch of the Universe. Who gets even bitchier when I refuse to bow down. Then I let her talk me into going to lunch with her (the fuck is the matter with me?), where – you guessed it – things got even worse. It got so bad that I cried at my desk after lunch, before remembering that I’m in my thirties FOR. FUCKS. SAKE. and need to take ownership of my life. You don’t survive in Corporate America by being the nice girl. Your heart and soul get thrown into the blender, and they serve that shit alongside the stale-ass birthday cake on the table outside accounting.

My armor suffered chink number two.tumblr_nf5ji2AleY1s72k2ho1_r1_500i will sell this house

But I started polishing up my LinkedIn profile. Emphasis on started. I am one thousand percent shyte at networking. But I am going to improve on that, damnit. And I will get out of this shithouse job and into a new shithouse job if it’s the last thing I do!

Then I go to the dentist, and he proceeds to drill down my new filling….sans any numbing agents whatsoever. No little anbesol swabby thingy. No shots of anesthetic (yes I meant that to be plural. I’m a bitch to numb.). Nada. It was the best time I’ve ever had outside the time I broke my tailbone in the bowling alley.

My armor suffered chink number three.

After that, I decided to hell with it. I’m not going back to work this late in the day. So I headed to some department stores to look for shoes (for those stupid insole thingies that the podiatrist had me order). Went into four shops, none of which had a single friendly salesperson and none of which had any appropriate removable-insole footwear for sale. One lady was so mean that after she insulted me and walked off, I grabbed a credit app off of the check-out counter and scrawled a message in Sharpie: “Some customers actually do need assistance and aren’t just wasting your time. You could have gotten a commission off of me. THANKS FOR NOTHING.”

Passive Aggressive much? Yeah, I know…I know…But do you have any idea how hard it is for me to darken the doors of places like that, much less actually shop around, try things on, blah blah blah? Fuck it. I’m ordering online and will deal with returns if the size is wrong.

My armor suffered chink number four.

And then it happened. The dam burst, and I cried all the way home.

Chapata Three: The Squirrels Lay Siege to The Veggie Patch

After changing into comfy shit, I flopped face-first onto the bed and got the rest of my crying out. Got up. Blew my nose. Sat back down on the edge of the bed. Even the cats wouldn’t greet me. I mean, what the fuck man. I nearly called it quits on the day right then and there. Take my evening meds early so I wouldn’t miss ’em and just pass out and sleep ’til morning.

But the rain had broken. There was a drought here of several months, which suddenly broke on Saturday, and the rain hasn’t stopped since then until this evening. I looked out the window, from my perch on the edge of the bed, out toward Veggiopolis, and knew this could be my only shot for a few days. I needed to check on things and get some garlic in the ground.

I remembered my pep-talk. I remembered shaunk’s words. I remembered how good it felt to smile this morning. I remembered all the shit you hear about outdoors being good for you. And I forced myself out the back door. I wasn’t happy about it. I wanted to sulk and cry and feel sorry for myself and hate the world. But I did it. I got off my ass, and I did it.

Task #1 was to clear the eight thousand five-hundred seventy-six tons of pine-straw off of The Veggie Patch. Task #2 was to plant some garlic. Task #1 taken care of (holy balls, bending over that much makes me dizzy…), I move on to Task #2…

But wait. Wait a fucking minute. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!

A carrot goes about his daily life, happily and unobtrusively. What's that, you say? Oh my bad. He used to live there. Until he was carrotnapped.
A carrot goes about his daily life, happily and unobtrusively. What’s that, you say? Oh my bad. He used to live there. Until he was carrotnapped.

I think the proper question is, what WAS that? Look at all of that disturbed earth. The upset twine. The missing…that little fucker. A vicious squirrel has launched The War on Veggies. He stole my pre-pubescent carrot and maybe even ate him.  If I allow him to continue his shenanigans, Veggiopolis will become Veggiopolis-adjacent!

Ask me if he stopped there! Do it! Ask me! Oh no. Ohhhohohooohhhhhno he most certainly did not! Behold!

What's that? Oh, he only dug it up? No biggy, at least he left it for me, right? ...
What’s that? Oh, he only dug it up? No biggy, at least he left it for me, right? …

Have you any idea what that is? Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

What's taters, precious?
What’s taters, precious? If left to his own devices, this little tater may have been president someday. Now we’ll never know. Thanks Obama.

Y’all know what time it is? It’s time to go to the mattresses.

You know what I’m gonna do with that poor underdeveloped tater? I’m gonna make the world’s smallest potato cannon and go Rambo on some squirrel ass!

HOUSE: House (Hugh Laurie, R) takes on his nemesis in an annual spud gun competition in
Better yet, I’ll hire House to do it. That way he can make the squirrel feel small and uesless and pathetic before pelting him with minitater.

Then I’m going to cook up some squirrel patties…hmm. We can’t call them burgers. Let’s call them squirgers. I’m going to cook squirgers and one-third of a french fry out of that tater. And then I’m going to go outside, sit with my legs propped up on the timbers of Veggiopolis, and eat that squirger and one-third length french fry right in front of the squirrel’s entire family.

“No, Stephanie! You mustn’t! That will incite revenge!” you frantically exclaim.

To which I say, bring it bitches. Do your worst, for I shall do mine. I’m going to fashion tiny daggers out of
any remaining carrots. And I’m going to arm the gnomes to the teeth.

To. The. Teeth!

In the meantime, since Tom Petty won’t back down, I figure I shouldn’t either. I mean, what’s good for the Petty is good for the gander or something like that.

I'm fighting back with garlic. Behold the Spanish Roja. Beware squirrels. And vampires. And especially vampire squirrels. And Bunnicula.

I’m fighting back with garlic. Behold the Spanish Roja. Beware squirrels. And vampires. And especially vampire squirrels. And Bunnicula.

King’s to you, Squirrel. King’s to you.

Chapata Four: Stephanie Prevails

The Veggie Patch shenanigans made me smile, and I prevailed. Yay me.