Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: fiction Page 3 of 5

Mental Health Opportunity?

“A well-managed breakdown can turn out to be a good thing. Try to see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to grow and learn about yourself.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Can we use a mental breakdown as an opportunity for growth?

Yeah! That’s the ticket! An opportunity!

I’m imagining Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live. Remember that skit?

Sometimes I swear I’m only lying to myself, trying to put a brave face or a good spin on terrible behavior. A meltdown is a meltdown and, dammit, at my age, shouldn’t I have already learned to keep my mouth shut and walk away?! I know better. I know better even as it’s happening. And yet, here I am again, losing my shit and taking everyone within earshot with me.

It’s just sad.

But…then again…don’t we all learn at our own pace? I am better today than I was in the past. Each time I live through a confrontation, I do learn something, and I respond better the next time. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Win or lose, climb or fall; since the day we were born, each time we interact with the world we learn a little more. Some of us are born farther ahead than others, some move more slowly, some gain ground more quickly, but we are all at least moving.

What happened? What could I have done better if anything? And my favorite, can I just let this setback go this time instead of holding onto it like a heavy anchor?

Relativity – The Speed of Time

“Time went by so fast these days. There was some sort of malfunction going on with how fast the earth was spinning. Decades went by as quick as years once did.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I loved this book. Seriously. It was beautiful. And, strangely, it came up from another reader in my Instagram feed just a few days ago. She hated it! I always find it fascinating that people have such completely different views about a book. It’s encouraging to a writer. Stories are subjective. It’s not that my story sucks rocks…it just hasn’t found its reader yet, the people that it speaks to best.

This quote. You’ve felt it, haven’t you?

Time is relative.

Time seems to speed by sometimes. Maybe it’s because you’re so busy with life that you lose track. Some months feel like they are creeping by but then when I look back…holy Toledo…it’s almost Christmas again. Honestly, summer does that to me every year. Maybe because I hate the heat so much. I’m trapped indoors and feel like it will never end and then BAM! Fall is over.

How do you slow time?

They say time speeds up as we get older. Maybe we realize our mortality and, in our rush to accomplish more before our time runs out, we miss the calendar changes. Would slowing down and savoring each day help? Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

If I slow down and do less each day, will I accomplish more? Probably not. I will actually be doing less with my time, but I might enjoy what I’m doing more. If I savor that dinner with my husband, enjoy the books I’m reading as if I have all the time in the universe to finish them, really be with the sewing, yard, or house project I’m working on, maybe I’ll experience more of them and stretch out time, metaphorically anyway.

That song by They Might Be Giants runs through my head constantly these days.

“You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older, now you’re even older, and now you’re even older. TIME is marching on.”

Like a fine meal, expertly prepared, we can’t save it for later, but we can savor each bite and share it with the people around us.

Do All Our Memories Change With Time?

Memory quote from book on background of the book's cover.

“They’d both learned that memory is a fact that’s been dyed and trimmed and rinsed so many times that it comes out looking almost unrecognizable to anyone else who was in the room…”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

If we’re honest,
all our memories change with time.

We have all had that experience, right? He thought the conversation went one way, she thought it went another, but if you had a third person in the room, they’d swear it went in a completely different direction.

And then there is distant memory. I swear my brother started that big argument. He doesn’t remember arguing at all. Since social media has brought us together with people from our distant past, people we probably never would have seen again are instantly available to exchange photos and stories of events that would have been long forgotten.

One specific instance for me was a picture that a friend posted of a bunch of people at an event. If you had asked me if I had ever gone to this event, I would have said no. Or if you had asked me if I ever hung out with these people outside of work, I would also have said no. And I would not be lying. In fact, even seeing the picture, I still cannot remember the event. But there I am, right in the middle of the picture. It’s not a case of mistaken identity. I’m there, full face, arm around two friends and clearly at the event. I remember working with those people, but I still don’t remember that event.

Which leads me to think, what else have I lost to time?

What details of my past am I completely missing? Not in a “I know that face from somewhere.” or a “What was that game we played together?” kind of way, but in a “That never happened and you’re crazy and trying to trap me into something if you think it did!” way.

It’s something to think about when we accuse others of lying or changing their stories to suit the room. We all experience life from a different perspective, all the time. Everything that happens to us is colored by our own personal past, our mood, and our thinking. And, over time, the story of what happened changes for us. Things become less important to us, or more important. We lose interest or change our perspective a bit. We get older.

Yes, the truth is out there. Something happened, but like that Matrix camera, everyone saw it, experienced it, from different angles, with different lenses, even with a different quality film. Try and respect someone else’s version of the truth. It’s just as valid as yours.


Want to read this book? Find it on Amazon, “Ask Again, Yes”

Read more posts about this book!
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Unintentional Lessons From Childhood

“She raised her hand when she felt like talking and didn’t think that was notable until Mr. Behan told her parents in the parent-teacher conference that he was glad to see a girl raising her hand.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

As I read any book, I make notes. I underline perfect sentences, things that start me thinking, and sweet “ah-ha” moments. After I finish reading the book, I go back through and look at my notes, pulling out things that trigger a reaction in me. Sometimes, just days after I’ve finished reading, I can’t remember why I marked a certain passage. Maybe it struck me but didn’t stick? It must not have been that important, a passing idea.

Sometimes a sentence jumps out at me, I’m brought to some revelation about my current situation, or it reminds me of my childhood, and I write about that. This passage did both!

I’m not sure if you know this, but I live in the desert. The rural part, not the city part. I’m not totally in the middle of nowhere. I can drive into town any day of the week. I can drive into the city, and I often do. It’s not that I’m physically that isolated, but the town is small, and it is the desert. People tend to move here because they like being alone. We come together as a community for special occasions, like the 4th of July or a music festival. We complain about “traffic” and crowded parking lots when there are more than a few cars nearby. Unless you are part of some sub-group, it’s not the hub of social activity.

So…what’s your point, Michelle?

I know, I’m getting to that!

Let’s see…summed up… I’ve found myself a bit hungry for social interaction lately.

Since my boys have flown the nest, I’ve been at a loss about how to find a new social circle. How do I meet new people now? BC (before children) I met people at work. With kids, it was playgroups and then homeschool events. I started to get involved in our local community center but with the shutdowns all of that is on hiatus until further notice.

So, what do I do? I looked to the internet, Facebook groups be precise. I found a few that looked promising and joined. That was the easy part. Then, when I started scrolling through the posts, I noticed that people were posting an introduction, a picture and some description of themselves and why they were there. I read them, found them interesting…but could not bring to post one myself, even though I longed to do so. I literally broke into a cold sweat just thinking about what I would write. Why?

Then I saw this underlined in my book and it dawned on me. It’s like raising my hand in class. I never could do it. Even as an adult, in any kind of classroom like situation, an office meeting, anything, I couldn’t raise my hand to say something no matter how much I wanted to. I’d sit there, heart racing, mind trying to put together just the right words to express my thoughts…and do nothing. I have the answer! I have something important to add! I can help with that! But nothing could get me to raise my hand.

Why? Because raising your hand draws attention to yourself, drawing attention to yourself if not lady-like or attractive. And that is the worst crime of all. Where in the world did I get that idea? I assume I got that message from my mother’s family growing up. I can hear their words like family mantras, “don’t make a scene,” “don’t be ugly,” “keep your voice down,” etc. There was no evil scheme to keep a child down, it was just the way they were raised, so they passed those social and cultural rules on to me.

The women in my father’s family were different. They were loud, brash, and wild. Since my parents divorced when I was very young, and back then fathers didn’t get 50/50 custody of their kids, I didn’t see them often. I mostly saw them on holidays when they were at their most boisterous. Recently, I’ve dreamt about being more like what I perceived them to be: confident, proud, intelligent, unrestrained.

So here I am, 47 and looking for new friends on the internet. I joined a group of like-minded people in an attempt to socialize…and I’m paralyzed with fear at the idea of introducing myself, even from behind a screen. What the hell?! I need to get over this right quick. There’s a huge difference between running into a room, doing crazy things, screaming “Look at me!” and contributing to a group social dynamic.

Our children learn some strange lessons, ones we didn’t mean to teach them at all. I wonder what unintentional lessons my children learned from me.

Probing Anxiety Wounds

“Her peripheral vision sparked and distorted the edges of everything so that when she turned quickly to look at something, it moved just out of sight. And even while everything inside her body seemed to speed up, everything outside of her body – the movements of other shoppers, the reaching and lowering of boxes and packages into carts – slowed.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

What a rush! I read this description of anxiety and was instantly transported back to when my children were preschool age.

In the past I could work all night at Disneyland surrounded by thousands of tourists and then go to university all day. I could design the sets and lights for live shows, direct a crew of twelve people, and schedule an entire department of technicians, but two toddlers in a grocery store had overwhelmed me and I could not for the life of me understand why.

Looking back, nearly twenty years later, the reason stands clearly before me. Before children, I was responsible for only myself. I slept when I was tired, ate when I was hungry, and went wherever I wanted, when I wanted to. There was no one to consider but myself. Having children changed that completely.

I had already spent my young life playing as much as possible. Now was the time in life to take responsibility for others seriously and I was ready to do it, I just wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it without losing myself completely.

Lack of sleep didn’t help matters. I wasn’t ready to give up my job. I’d worked so long and hard to get to that place and I’d only been there a year when I met my husband. Besides, I didn’t think I’d need to, lots of people work and have kids. The situation seemed perfect to my young mind. My husband worked during the day and I worked after he got home. The shift was only a few hours in the evening anyway, so I was home at a reasonable hour, and I figured a few hours of sleep and I’d be fine to take care of my kids.

I was wrong, but it took me a few years to realize what was happening. I had no idea how much energy little people can consume! I had an amazing support system; my husband was understanding, my family helped me out, and having my Mother-in-law living with us was a blessing beyond belief. Even with all the help, I still found myself getting angrier and angrier every week. Anxiety attacks became more frequent, emotional outburst became more destructive because I could not find a way to escape from confrontation. My family needed me, and I was so afraid of letting them down that I refused to walk away even for a moment.

I’m not sure how it happened, but at some point I had said something my doctor about feeling so angry all the time, that everything seemed to be moving at breakneck speed and couldn’t keep up. I remember telling her about an incident that had worried me. I was standing at the kitchen sink, doing the dishes, when I heard the front door open. I instantly cringed and prayed that my husband would not talk to me, that a child would not call me, that somehow, I would be invisible, and they would just pass me by. I had been flushed with the heat of anger over something as simple as a hand on my back and a kiss hello while I was doing the dishes alone. She immediately prescribed an anti-depressant and told me that I needed to talk to a therapist. I cried and she hugged me. And that’s when the healing began.

Nearly twenty years later, I’m still working on my depression and anxiety, but I’m definitely better than I was back then. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful that I spoke up when I did, before things could get worse. I still have bad day, weeks, but in general I’m good. I’ve learned new ways to cope with anxiety, new outlets. Most of all, I have better understanding of who I am and what my needs are, that they change from time to time, and that everyone is a work in progress.

I stopped medicating ten years ago, the year I moved out of the city. Something about the slower pace of rural living (and the fact that children do grow and don’t need constant attention) helped me immensely. Recently, I feel like I’m self-medicating with alcohol more than I probably should, and I’m working on that. Sign of the times, I guess. The upside is that I’m aware of it earlier and I’m not letting it get me down.

Fascinating the things that a piece of fiction can bring up from your memory. I hadn’t thought of that feeling specifically in years. Writing about it helped me clarify it and clean it up, like gently probing a wound to make sure there’s no debris in it so it can heal properly.

Does Change Have to be Violent?

Change… “will come to pass by violence and upheaval, by flame and by fury, for no change comes calmly over the world.”
“It will be so. We do not will it so.”
“Ignorance is king. Many would not profit by his abdication. Many enrich themselves by means of his dark monarchy. They are his Court, and in his name they defraud and govern, enrich themselves and perpetuate their power.”

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

In the story, I totally agree. A big change is coming and it’s yet to be seen whether or not it will be a good one; good in the “better for all of mankind” kind of way.

But I don’t think change must be violent. Big dramatic changes can disrupt everything, but small, steady, almost unnoticeable changes can be just as good and for more people. The Grand Canyon was slowly eroded into what it is today, or was it? Children are can be born and grow up without violence and pain. A tree grows from seed into a towering pine over hundreds of years.

But I like the small line in the middle most. “It WILL be so. We do not WILL it so.” Inevitability. He believes he’s stating a natural law. He doesn’t want violence, but violence will be the natural consequence of the changes that are coming to their world.

Is progress always violent? Growth spurts are inevitable, I suppose. The more we try to reign in the changes of technological advancement, the more problems we cause in the long run possibly; the old adage of ripping the bandage off quickly.

Translating Thoughts into Words

“For Man was a culture-bearer as well as a soul-bearer, but his cultures were not immortal and they could die with a race or an age, and then human reflections of meaning and human portrayals of truth receded, and truth and meaning raised, unseen, only in the objective logos of Nature and the ineffable Logos of God. Truth could be crucified; but soon, perhaps, a resurrection.”

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

ineffable: too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words

I only recently discovered this word and now here it is again! Thoughts don’t need words. We use words to translate our thoughts to others. Some thoughts are simply too complex for words. God can be described that way.

Let’s say that I have an idea, a complicated plan to create a machine to do something that you can’t conceive of needing. And you, well, you’re not that educated. Your vocabulary is limited because you’re just a simple farmer. It’s not that your stupid or unintelligent. It’s just that I have more experience with machines and all the words that go with them. (You can see my lack of an extensive vocabulary already, right? I know. I’m working on it.)

I explained this to my son this morning. “You mean like when you ask me what I’m doing and I just look at you because I do not EVEN have the time to explain…because…well…(sheepish look, is mom going to kill me)…it’s beyond you?” He has an honest way of talking that gets him in trouble sometimes. But he’s right, that’s exactly what I mean. It’s not an insult, it just is what it is.

Anywho…back to the quote…

This book is awesome. It’s effectively describing what has happened on earth several times over the millennia that humans have been on it. We build up a world, a culture, destroy it, live in the dark, and then resurrect it. I’m devouring this book and I’m hoping someone around here reads it too so we can talk about it!

Doubt vs. Denial

“If you doubt it, why bother studying the Leibowitzian documents?”
“Because doubt is not denial. Doubt is a powerful tool, and it should be applied to history.”

From A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

There’s something I hear all the time lately. Any time anyone tries to question anything they hear, they are shouted down with the word, “Denier!”

Holocaust Denier. Global Warming Denier. Covid Denier. Racism Denier. The hits keep coming.

I personally don’t know anyone that denies the existence of any of these things, but there are probably some out there. I do know many people that doubt things as they are presented to us on media outlets, myself included.

The news media, tv, newspapers, and magazines alike, are not the scientists or researchers. Politicians are also not scientists, doctors, or researchers. They are told things and then they present them to us in a way that gets them elected or keeps them in office. It seems to be that every “problem” they find has only one answer, “Give us more money and power.” So, yes, I doubt what they present to me. Call me crazy.

My doubt prompts me to do a little research and critical thinking of my own. No, I don’t conduct experiments, but I do go looking for a few articles to read and think about. Some things, though, I don’t bother with. I only have so much time and energy, so I must ration it.

Once again, I’m fascinated by a character from a novel written in 1959. Sixty years later, I’m thinking, “Yes! Dammit!”

Wary of Newcomers

“Encounters between strangers in the desert, while rare, were occasions of mutual suspicion, and marked by initial preparations on both sides for an incident that might prove either cordial or warlike.”

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

I giggled a bit when I read this and shared (read “bothered”) it with my sons. Set in the American Southwest 800 years after nuclear disaster, meetups in the desert haven’t changed much.

I exaggerate, of course, but people who voluntarily move out to the desert are generally looking for solitude. These days, because technology has made it more accessible, the desert is becoming more and more populated. To find real solitude, one must move farther out again.

Those who were among the first to set up small communities in the rural deserts are gone. Their succeeding generations that decided to stay and the next wave of peace seekers, are not wary of the newcomers and approach them carefully.

Why are you here? And can I tolerate your presence on the outskirts of my hermitage?

The stress is on the side of the newcomer as well. Will this stranger be one of those anti-social, “get of my property,” shotgun toting weirdos we hear of in old stories? Or will he be a friendly recluse, ready and willing to greet a stranger and talk about the weather for awhile over a cold beer on the porch?

Another Book Already?!

Yeah, I usually have a couple books going at once!

One of my husband’s favorite movies is Omega Man and when we saw I Am Legend, we both looked at each other…

“Wait a minute. This movie is familiar.” We looked it up via the blessed web and found out they are both based on the same book, so I added it to my wish list. That was years ago and I’m finally getting to reading it.

Strange that I’m deciding to pick it up now.

A quick bit of research on the book, I found that it was written in 1954, inspiring movies like “Night of the Living Dead,” a personal favorite. I also read that none of the movies follow the book close enough that the author wanted his name on them, so I’m excited to read the differences.

I’m about a hundred pages in and I’m loving it. For an end of the world by virus that mutates humans into vampires, it’s a fun, light read. Since it was written in the 50’s, of course it has references to ending some war with a nuclear bomb. Is that what made the virus?!

I’ve always been a huge fan of zombies, vampires, and end of the world stories, both in books and film. The causes change within each era but the how people deal with the disasters, government reactions, how they try to avoid it, and deal with each other is eerily familiar.

Looking around me now, watching the news, reading the papers, and scanning social media, it makes it a little more upsetting. Little did I know how real those stories could be and how helpful they’d become in dealing with my own world. No, I don’t think this is the end of the world, but it’s fascinating how predictable masses of people can be and it’s all right there in the stories.

Life imitates art or vice versa?

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