Writing Practice – 7/17/2018

From Telling Stories, page 225

“It is a northern country. They have cold weather, they have cold hearts.”

But their words are warm. They speak of love, they speak of tenderness. So to outsiders, they sound welcoming. They sound safe.

It is a lie.

They have learned how to deceive. That is the way of the north. It is not a community endeavor. It is survival of one, and one only, in any way possible, and so the tendencies to restrict vulnerability with truthfulness, no, not truthfulness, the tendencies to restrict vulnerability with falsehood has become ingrained into the psyche.

Do not let another know what you truly feel. For it is not necessary, really, for you to tell, for if you are a resident, it is known by all the others that your heart is as cold, as callous, as heartless as all the others in this place. How could it be otherwise?

The outsiders, they do not understand this phenomenon. They come to view, to observe this community where everyone smiles, always, billed in the over-there advertisements as “the Land of Perpetual Happiness”, but the reality is far less joyous. They come, they believe, they depart, and the attractions, the people in the zoos of their storefronts and town plazas and sidewalks and in their homes, the people are on display, they are objects of manipulation, they are exploited, and this, too, drives the true warmth out of their hearts.

They cannot understand the southerners either. To know is to understand, and since they refuse to know they have not the opportunity for understanding. Were they to somehow find a portion of their stone-cold pits transfigured, they may have the first step toward that place fo common knowledge. But, since that would take a miracle, it shall be a long time coming, and for now, these two groups will maintain their separate and unequal status, neither satisfied with the condition, neither truly comprehending their level of dissatisfaction and, consequently, the limitations which such an arrangement places on them.

It is easy, casual even, for an outside observer such as ourselves to make such judgments. We can see objectively into the situation, weigh pros and cons without malice, and pass the verdict on without emotion and conflict.

But for them? For them it is impossible. They are in it. They are buried neck-deep in the situation, and for that they will ultimately suffer. The only redeeming quality in this suffering is that, because it is constant, they know not what it truly is. In this their ignorance is bliss. A terrible bliss, but, nonetheless…

Extremely Bad Advice – Unluckily In Love

Dear SJ, I think I’ve fallen in love with my counselor. I’ve been seeing her for nearly a decade, every week, almost without fail. At first it was just because I was having so much anxiety over the economy (2008 and all), and then it was my kids’ birth, and then it was my dad’s death, and then it was losing my job, and then it was my wife having an affair. It seems like these things just keep coming at me, and throughout it all she’s been there, a comfort, a safe place, someone I can confide in and she’ll never judge me for how I’m thinking.

I want to tell her how much I love her. In fact, I think she loves me, too. She’s always smiling when I come to the door, and she never says I’m doing anything wrong, even when I was out of work and didn’t bother looking for a job for six months. She texts me every week a couple of happy quotes, on top of the messages to remind me of the session time, which has been set in stone for years, so I know she’s thinking about me too. I don’t want to miss out on a good thing, and if she’s for real, I’d would consider leaving my wife. If she’s not, I don’t know how I can face finding a new counselor for all the terrible crap I know is coming my way in the future. What should I do? LOVESICK IN LUBBOCK

Dear LOVESICK,

Well, it’s pretty clear that you’re in what you think is a tough situation. I don’t think so, because I’d never let myself get so far down in that pigsty that I felt I needed a counselor, anyway, but since you’re here, let’s get to it.

First, forget about your wife. It’s obvious that she’s not the one for you. She may have pooped out a couple of meatbags for half your DNA, but since she was willing to have an affair, that means she’s not as invested in the relationship as you need her to be. Regrets, shmegrets. If she really cared about you two things would never have happened.

One, you would never have felt the need to confide in a counselor in the first place. Well-adjusted adults do just fine baring their souls to their life-partners and listening sympathetically (or is it just pathetically?) in reciprocation. The fact that you did not get this from her and, consequently, needed to seek validation from a counselor indicates she is has not been, and will not be in the future, a good fit for you.

It’s clear she realized this long before you did. Thus the affair, which is #2 that wouldn’t have happened if she really cared about you. You couldn’t meet her needs, she probably tried to “open a dialogue” and you shot her down, so she went elsewhere. Surprised it took you this long to figure that out.

But back to your problem with the counselor. It’s also no surprise that this person who listened to your “issues” (frankly, I’ve never seen one a good weekend out at the lake can’t clear up) is now the one you think you should be with. See above, point one, and try to make sense of it all. I’ll give you a minute. I know it’s difficult to do logic problems of the “Since B then A” type with your Neander-skull, so here’s a hint: It’s because people who bare their souls to one another consider each other life-partners, and vice versa. You think she’s the one for you because she listened. It ain’t true, but it’s what you think.

So, we’ve taken care of the guilt you have about leaving your own wife, and identified that you believe you’ll be happier with your counselor. Why not go for it, right?

Well, I’m here to tell you that the era of simply declaring your love is long gone. These days, you need an obscenely extravagant gesture to get anything out of a woman. State’s Exhibit #1, the rise of the “Prom-Posal”, complete with self-indulgent live streams and blast replays to prove they have three more pubic hairs than their best friend or something. Ugh. Have I mentioned I hate society? But it’s what the world has degenerated into, so in order to win the game you must play by the rules.

Thus to get your counselor to agree to be with you, an obscenely extravagant gesture on your part is order. Forget spelling things out in food, or hiding in a cake, or hiring a band or something. Those have all been done before. And no, I’m not going to suggest you kidnap her or murder-suicide or anything illegal. (Long-time readers are spurting coffee onto their keyboards and shouting “WHAT?!?!?!” right now.) Those are too cliché. You need something unique.

So here’s what I suggest. First, buy the building where she rents office space. Over the next year, as other tenants’ leases renew, raise their rent to 10x the current amount. If they’re smart they’ll stop renting from you and move out. If they aren’t, hey, extra bank for you. Eventually all the rooms but hers will be empty. Offer to let her have the largest office for just the same rent as she was paying before. You can frame this as “A token of my appreciation for your loyalty.” She, having heard of the ridiculous increases in everyone else’s rent, will be so moved by your gratitude that she will accept immediately.

Then, when moving day comes, all you have to do is wait in the big empty office with a bottle of champagne and a dozen roses, and wearing nothing but a big shiny bow around your waist. She’ll get the hint and soon you two will be living happily ever after. Good luck. You’re gonna need it.

Writing Practice – 3/27/2018

(Today’ s writing practice session did not begin with a prompt. I simply started to write.)

To start a writing practice session, I always do two things, though not always in the same order. I review the Rules for Writing Practice – keep your hand moving, don’t think, don’t get logical, lose control, go for the jugular. And I imagine myself inside my own brain, a flat bottom and a half-oblong dome above me, grey, and I have a paint roller in my hand. I dip it into a bucket of white paint and use that to cover the inside of my a brain with whiteness, blankness, cleanness, renewal, readiness for the experience of writing. Once all of the surface has been covered, strip, strip, along the bottom – working my way from the middle, next, next, next, out to the edge, along a Mohawk strip on the top, next, next, clear around to the curve to the edge, when it meets the floor, painting, covering, all in white a canvas, in preparation.

Then I am ready to write. To burn through to first thoughts. To offer myself to my Muse, wherever he is that day, if He will choose to show up or not, if he will deign to stoop down and place a soft, reassuring touch on my shoulder, if he will whisper, warm, tickling breath in my ear, “Yes, go, get that, follow that thought, chase it, don’t let it escape, pursue, continue, persist, never, ever, ever let go, find it, fight it, kill it, master it, turn it, transform it, tame it, succumb it to your power, to your authority, to your will, do not relent, do not release, do not avoid when the subject turns delicate, or embarrassing, or insecure, for you are to know that you are the one in control, you are the one from whom all these blessings flow, you are the god in this world, this world you have created, this universe at the tip of your pen, you are the Alpha and the Omega, what you bring about here shall live in mythology and archaeology and your subjects’ anthropologies for as long as they exist, for you are a deity far above all others, you have the power to build up, to tear down, to keep, to preserve, to destroy, to eliminate, to mould and fashion and to remake and to evolve, you are the thing in this world that all other things are subject to, and so therefore with such great authority comes great responsibility, an awareness of self, an introspection of your power, your ability, your authority, and your standing in this world, that world, that experience, you have power and authority, yes, so choose wisely, choose judiciously, make with circumspection and introspection and valor and virtue, for what you make, what you destroy, what you build and what you tear down become your legacy, your history, to the universe above you, the god who sits judging you for your godhood shall weigh your actions, your perseverance, your perversity or magnanimity and he, she it, they too shall judge, with the same measure as which you used to judge, so take care, be wise, be well, and do good work.”

Writing Practice – 3/14/2018 – Describe revelry

Describe revelry…

It is laughter and dancing. It is shouting with excitement. It is hand-clapping, and hand-slapping, and hand-waving, and hand-wringing. It is dancing in the streets, arms and shoulders and knees and ankles keeping a disjointed, “I-don’t-care-because-there-are-more-important-elements-to-enjoy-than-rhythm” unfocused pattern.

It is eyes sparkling with joy. It is kisses on cheeks, kisses on lips, kisses blown to the crowd, kisses caught by the crowd and returned, a hundredfold, a thousand times, an simplification far greater than any microphone and speaker set the finest money could buy.

It is a celebration with a complete stranger, hugs and camaraderie together at once, a moment, a moment which stretches for minutes, an hour, a moment which becomes an era, a moment that transforms the timeline into “Before” and “After”.

It is a transition, it is a celebration, it is a new way of seeing the world, through not only my own eyes but the compounding effect of a myriad like-minded persons, pooling our experiences together in this one instance to become something more than ourselves, something greater than ourselves, something richer and fuller than the aggregation of individualities.

It is a transsubstantiation, a making of something old out of something new. The old, being togetherness. And the new, the individuals coming together in the experiencing.

It is an overwhelm. It is a superposition. It is a phase change, a sublimation from one state to another. It is a world of difference, encompassed in the minimality of space; it is a universe of symbiosis metamorphosing into one. From the many, to the unity. Unity of purpose. Unity of experience. Unity of vision. Unity of life.

Writing Practice – 2/17/2018 – Bad Date

Write about a bad date – on the calendar:

You see it coming from far away. The anticipation begins to build well before. It’s like it is hunting you, stalking you, lying in wait to ambush you as you creep along the forest path. It is a panther, large, sleek, terrifying, destructive, waiting for you, and you are helpless to stop it.

You see the beast ahead – you recognize the telltale signs of its lair, or its path, or its spoor, mocking you, teasing you, berating you for days, weeks, a month ahead. “Ha, ha,” it says, “You’ll be here soon enough! Can’t avoid me!”

And as much as you hate it, it is right. You cannot avoid its presence. You cannot avoid the memories it contains. Whatever happened, way back when, will continue, through our collective conscience, to surface, time and again, every year, like clockwork. April 7? March 24? January 30? These happpen. All. The Fucking. Time.

You cannot ignore them. You cannot go out of your way to ensure they don’t happen again. We don’t get the option to jump from May to July and totally skip June, forever avoiding that date on the 24th that reminds us of when dad died, when mom left, when our heart was broken, when we broke another’s heart.

We don’t have that luxury. Our path through the forest is one way, and there is no deviation from it. We see our enemy, our predator, our anti-joy lying in wait for us, and it fills our hearts with dread, with desire to turn, to run, to flee, to scream “No! Not this time!” And take to our heels, crashing through the undergrowth and breaking free of its inevitability. We long to separate, to dissolve whatever unimaginable bond it has over us; to rid ourselves of the mental & emotional shackles it somehow still holds – but we cannot. This is an impermeable chain. The metal binding us is of our own making – we have forged these bonds in the fires of our own emotional turmoils, and so they come with the strongest tempers of all – those of the heart. As much as we may wish to break free, we know we cannot, and we resign ourselves to press forward, one day more, one day again, one more day, creeping towards that midnight maw waiting, waiting, waiting to devour us. We go. We go. We go.

Short Story Published!

A short story I wrote a couple of years ago has been published at Every Day Fiction. Hooray me!

This was written to include 3 prompts given by a friend:

  • blended families
  • Mexican soccer players
  • video games

What would you have done with those? Here’s how I started:

Route 160 out of Durango runs crooked and dusty past Mesa Verde National Park, and that’s where the first fight of the day erupts. Asher is apparently on his sister’s side. “Mo-om!” Ellie pleads. “Make him move!”

Justine, from her own front seat, can feel the tensions rising. Her new husband Mason and her new stepdaughter Cora inhabit the left side of the too-small car. This first joint trip is quickly wearing off the freshness of their marriage, now only nine months in, and she’s wondering if it was a good idea after all. This is only the third day, but it feels like the thirtieth fight. She looks over her shoulder, gives a half-smile. “Ellie, it’ll be okay. Just keep your hands to yourself. Asher, you too.” …

Read the rest here:

https://everydayfiction.com/adventures-of-the-joyner-palsey-family-by-stephan-james/

 

You asked…

How do you fill my cup?

You fill my cup when you listen to me. When you encourage me to make the changes I want. When you hear me read something and you say “that’s beautiful.”

You fill my cup when I share something with you and you thank me. When I hold a door for you and you thank me. When I come over and you are there, smiling, smiling with your eyes not just your mouth, smiling so that the little crinkles at the corners turn up instead of down, you fill my cup.

You fill my cup when you want me. When all you can do is think about me – and you tell me – and I know you’re not just saying it to get a reaction but because you mean it. You fill my cup when you tell me I have the perfect body parts for you. You fill my cup when you kiss me — and don’t stop.

You fill my cup when you tell me you miss me. When you hold me. When you don’t want to let me go. When it’s only been a few hours since you’ve seen me, and yet you can’t wait to see me again. You fill my cup to the rim, to overflow, to covering the seas and the mountains with affection, to gushing out across the fabric of space and time, stretching to infinity and beyond.

How do you fill my cup?

By being you. By just being you.

Don’t stop. Don’t ever stop.