The Blue-Green Pill

Glasses

“You take the red pill, …and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Some small part inside me loves Morpheus’ challenge: Do you have what it takes to see and accept the truth? While others might settle back down on the couch, chewing another handful of Cheetos, I foolishly stand.

Truth is a deep motivator for me. I cannot be fully religious because of this, by the definitions of many sects. I squeeze under the radar of my current denomination, by telling myself I trust it will all be cosmically explained someday.

My rational voice, upset by a few years of Atheism, plays Devil’s Advocate (ironically). It warns that no explanation will come when I cease to exist.

Why bring up such things? This is where my mind goes; this is the side effect of swallowing the left-hand option.

Surely my mindset, worldview, and even depression are Truth. They are me, as much as my blood type or detached earlobes. I need to be true to myself, to accept myself, and -above all- to not smother my emotional expression.

And yet… my daily red dosage has somehow morphed to a less-swallowable shape.

I noticed a slightly misshapen quality when I began listening to a counselor. “Your core is never negative,” she told me. Furthermore, she said my depressive reactions and tendencies were all learned behaviors.

I read self-help books on the subjects of happiness and self-esteem. They made valid points as well; like, that people honestly can raise their baseline of happiness.

However, all the psychological affirmations and literary anecdotes in the world were not enough. With or without seeking Truth, it came anyway. It laughed at my hopes and optimisms as I repeatedly returned to the dark corner of my mind.

On Facebook, I wrote the following:

When I spoke fluttering lies and raised my smiling mask, I cried inside.
But you didn’t know.

I tried to write about sunshine, as my heart grew ever overcast.
You didn’t look between the lines.

I sat in my small, shadowed corner at home, as you visited each other and laughed.
And didn’t care.

Sometimes I curiously contemplate the world without me there. Surely my departure will cause a ripple somewhere.
Instead, you’ll stand with the friends you always do, and say, “I didn’t know.”
And forget what was never known.

I got a few internet hugs in response. I felt morosely validated that, yes, they did not care.

The problem is that there is no red pill. We cannot be freed from our minds, because we are delicately and intricately attached to them. And, Truth is always, always affected by our perceptions.

Had real-life Neo entered my counselor’s office with me, he may have been given a third option: a doctor’s referral.

I’ve been dreading medical intervention for years; assuming, as I said earlier, that I would lose myself. I also assumed I would only ever have the option of anti-depressant, horrible-side-effect, me-changing medication.

Instead, I have been offered the blue-green pill.

It’s a small dose of seratonin: popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.

I’ve swallowed it once daily for the last three weeks. I thought there to be no difference, but my husband disagreed. Given that I’ve had only one depressive episode since first taking it, he may be right.

In fact, I have been able to think in a manner that is less depressive just this weekend -a first for me. I attended a few social events Friday and Saturday; and did not feel the lingering effects of my usual, self-critical social hangover.

I feel able to agree with and utilize the strategies outlined, previously, by my paid friend and the self-help book.

I see, now, the red pill was the placebo all along. To change my life for the better I needed a new perspective -not some supposed Truth. It could not come from only me, however, since I stand a few feet lower in the ground than others.

Are you, like me, sunk in the Swamps of Sadness? Affirmation will not work. Get someone to look at all your options. Even if the dry ground you need is found through heavier medications, I can now say it’s worth it.

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Christmas Morning

Boy Christmas Tree

Ella settled onto her blanket, squirming with excitement. She could hear her heart beating -almost as loudly as Baby Mia’s breathing, from the crib.

Ella knew, when morning came, there might not be presents under the tree.

When she and Jake wrote letters to Santa forever ago, Mommy had said, “Don’t expect too much.”

When they had gone to the stores to see Santa, Daddy had said, “Now, don’t expect too much.”

That night, they had read about Jesus. “Jesus was the greatest gift,” Daddy said. He had looked at them, reminding them what was important.

Then, they had unwrapped the pajamas Mommy made. Ella wondered why Mommy kept crying. “Don’t expect too much, Mommy,” she’d said.

Ella heard a knock. She scampered to her door. She could see Jake’s dark face, peeking.

Mommy opened the front door. There were happy voices. Daddy turned, and scolded, “Ella, Jake! Get back in bed or Santa won’t come!” Jake’s nose went back into his room. Ella went back to her blankets.

Who is at the door? She wondered, as she drifted off to sleep.

Soon, Jake was shaking her. “Ewha! Chwismas!” He danced around the room, shouting. Mommy came in, looking tired. She scooped up Baby Mia.

Ella jumped up and followed Jake to the family room. She stopped, toes curling in carpet. There were boxes and boxes in bright, shimmering colors. Slowly, wondering, Ella walked forward.

She stopped, then looked happily at Mommy. “I guess I should have expected too much!”

 

Susanna Hill’s 7th Annual Holiday Contest

The Gift of a Child with Behavioral Problems

Guess what? I have a present for you; aren’t you excited? Open your womb and pull it out!

It’s a boy!
(Or, a girl. For me, I can only make boys).
He looks just like both of you! You look at each other fondly. Tiredly, but happily; proudly.

The best part of this present, though, is yet to be opened for a few years. You may not notice for a while, because no child is perfect. Every time an issue arises, or you feel frustrated, commiserating people say, “That’s just normal.”

But, where are those comments when you sit across from a preschool director and hear about your son defiantly looking right at his teachers as he pushes a child off the play equipment?

What do they say when his first grade planner has notes from the teacher of escalating issues? Notes like, “He threw a chair,” “He was biting.”

Only Pavlov’s dog empathizes with the increased heart rate and anxiety your body undergoes when you see the school calling again.
You can’t go far; the school might be calling.

You know, secretly, that you’ve actually produced a monster. In fact, an applicable example in classical literature is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

A great side benefit? Teachers, administrators, and doctors keep hinting -and outright telling you- that the problem is you.

You already know you were the root problem, if you birthed the child. You already blame yourself whenever he misbehaves, since your grassroots efforts of parenting don’t produce robot responses from your children.

It’s all true, though: you made the monster. And, as his parents, you will always be the ones who will need to fight for him.

You’re going to be embarrassed, frustrated, deeply saddened, angry, ignorant, and human. You’re going to do the wrong thing, and smack yourself figuratively for “triggering” the behaviors.

You’ll wonder how this ungainly bird could ever be expected to leave the nest without leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

Cry. Get angry. Eat chocolate.
Then, find a good pediatrician. Find a good therapist. Find people to complain to. Find the free resources out there for others like you.

You’ll have to start using those over-used terms. You know -the ones you rolled your eyes about: ADD, ADHD, ODD, Autism, Sensory Disorder.
Embrace them. They’ll be your new excuse, now that you can’t use “normal” to describe childhood behavior.

This is one of those gifts like a free car: the car may be free, but the taxes, licensing, and insurance are not. You’re going to have to do more than unwrap.

You’re going to have to be an expert parent.

Dang it.

Ladies First

“I’ve got to shop for pants today,”
She told the stingy traffic lights.
She told the grocer and the pump;
And then, the quickly-coming night.

“I’d love to try this recipe,”
She said, as they drew near to home;
With only time for Mac ‘N Cheese,
‘Midst whining, falsely-crying tones.

“A bath would be a lovely break
Whilst reading Lover’s Passioned Call.”
Alas, the heated water drained,
Whilst splashing children took it all.

The lights were off; he found her there,
Her loving, all-day-working man.
“I thought you wanted time alone.”
She sniffed; she said, “And, here I am.”

 

Flash Fiction Entry

Party of One

Woman

Don’t be afraid of you. Others want to know you. She glanced up; scanned the oblivious guests.

“Excuse me,” a sexy voice said. She turned, her finger marking the text. “I need to get to the bathroom,” he nodded, beyond her.

“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. She moved. He went past.

She opened to another, dog-eared entry. The surest way to make friends is to listen. She moved near a chattering group.

“Excuse me?!” A woman asked angrily. “This is a private conversation!”

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

This was hopeless. Before exiting, she carefully tucked Surefire Social Success! into the garbage.

 

Flash Fiction Entry

Normal?

I come from a proud heritage of screwed-upedness. Most of my close ancestors have been religious, so the party hasn’t been as raucous as it had potential to be.

Still, I’ve spent the younger years of my life in anticipation of a horrid emotional surprise. Each year brings ever closer the question of whether I may finally be classified as a mental condition.

Do I have Depression? Anxiety? Social anxiety? Ooh! Maybe I can be diagnosed with a cocktail of disorders I’ve not yet heard of!

A cocktail is what to expect when one applies to a psychiatrist -one of medications.

I learned, in school, that a person is defined as having a mental condition when said condition interferes with normal life. And so, each day that is a bit more difficult than others, I wonder if I’ve finally crested the abnormal wave.

“Everyone feels that way,” I’m reassured, by a spouse who does not spend the morning crying.

“Oh, I’ve had those days,” says my neighbor, from her newly-decorated sitting room. I haven’t gotten around to mine for …four years.

Eventually, one of my children brings a true threat of fratricide within earshot, and I have to leave my self-pity rut.

It’s still there, though. Even a medicinal mix wouldn’t erase it. I often feel that drugs create potholes in other locations: side effects fallout.

What is normal?

How do I get there?

Recurring Story: Twenty-Four

Barely perceptible shadows performed an agitated dance across the dark ceiling of Wil’s bedroom. They were the faint shades of spindly winter trees beyond her window, beyond her curtains. They danced in time to her father’s snores in the room down the hall, and were led by the gathering storm.

A part of Wil’s consciousness was transfixed by the black on dark gray above her, as she lay on her back on her bed. Her right hand toyed distractedly with the decoded note she had filled out in the hospital waiting room. Her hair lay around her head in dark tangles. Her skinny legs and bare feet stuck out of the old oversized T-shirt she had donned hours before.

Wil had tried, really she had. How can I sleep when asked to sleep on a question like that? She wondered to herself. Really, though, they all knew the answer. They just wanted more time.

“I didn’t even get to tell her about my secret notes!” Wil said angrily to the dark room.

She rolled over again, crying again. That was why her father was snoring, she realized, as her breathing became congested. She sighed a shuddering sound.

They had decided Cynthia would spend the night at the hospital, monitored by her doctor and the ever-cheerful Nurse Bea (On Call till 3!). Rob would bring her home tomorrow, and life would have to go on as it normally did in the Winters family.

Wil wondered how many other families lived each day like they did: a countdown. They even had a name for the end of that count. Jakob had proposed they call it Death Day, but Cynthia had insisted on Goodbye. Wil had thought it beautiful, and felt no need to suggest an alternative.

“Countdown to Goodbye,” Wil told herself. As poetic as it sounded, acceptance became increasingly difficult as the real possibility drew ever closer.

“Goodbye,” Wil told the darkness, the shadows, and herself. She could do it.

She reached over and set her crumpled paper on the dresser next to the bed. She would tell her mother all about it tomorrow. She snuggled deep under her old comforter and deep into other thoughts.

The wind outside relentlessly pulled and pushed at tree limbs. Despite its best efforts, only the dim outlines of their dance could be seen within. And, soon there was no one to watch as Wil finally drifted to sleep.

First Snow

pexels-photo-258303

Winter breath comes roaring down,
Madly scolding ling’ring Fall;
Brusquely ousting browning leaves,
Gath’ring frozen rain’s landfall.

Wintry hands paint sunsets gray;
Cloudlike masses broil near.
Roiling darkness cries its mists;
Spotted sidewalks drink their tears.

Wond’ring children turn to sky,
Tasting wind and hearing rain;
Watching sky-tears change to white,
Laughing at the snowed terrain.

Writing Drudgery, also known as A Job

I write for a content blog, something I had never done before this year.

When I began considering that I could be a writer, I had different ideas regarding that job’s requirements. I pictured book-conjurings, writing sessions, and pleasure.

I also behaved more jealously about the words I managed to type onto a screen. They were unique, mine, precious, and copyrighted. No one else could have these ideas, and no one should steal them!

Whatever I finally offered for reading would be gasped at, astounded over, praised profusely.

I basically pictured publishers saying, Why, Chelsea! This is amazing! Here is your advance check of $3M. No, we don’t expect you to work really hard to produce this book idea, since we know you have children and like to spend your free time playing games in your Steam Library. Ten years ought to be good.

Meanwhile, fans would pour in, complimenting me. Everywhere I went, people would stop and ask if I’d pose for a picture with them. Famous writers would hang out with me -no- beg me to come over for fireside discussions of literary devices.

This is really starting to sound like a trope daydream, so why would I actually feel this way? Oh, right -probably because many people have this fantasy.

Back to content writing: I took The Job because I was tricked.

A friend told me her daughter worked for a company and they were looking for writers. I was told I would write about 500 words each article about crafting, that I wouldn’t be making the crafts, and that I would only need to worry about the writing.

It involved MONEY for writing. Just so you know, writing doesn’t get you the advance check and the fame and such if you’re not putting yourself out there more than I’m obviously willing to do right now.

The reason I say I was tricked is that I actually have to do more than type words. I don’t have to make the crafts, that’s true. And, by the way, not making things is a great idea for someone like me -someone who had to make a Pinterest account in order to do this job.

I sure get sidetracked a lot, which is something that’s come up in trying to fulfill my contract and get paid.

*Ahem* I have a content-writing job. I write for a blog that steals other people’s images (with proper attribution), and lists them all under one user-loving title. Oh, I know you’ve seen them. The article is usually named “10 Eggcellent Easter Hunts.” Actually, that one would be too clever. Most are “10+ Holiday Crafts to Make with Kids.”

The trick part is that I have to spend nearly an hour tracking down these pictures, ensuring I give proper attribution. So many sites like the one I write for are cheating, simply linking back to Pinterest or not bothering to give credit at all. I can only take one image from an article, so I can’t simply steal all ten pictures from Suzy Stitcher’s Easter Egg Hunt (as cute as it might be).

I’ve noticed addictive patterns related to this job:

1. Not being able to quit.
I’m getting writing practice, being paid, it’s super-flexible, and can’t I possibly buckle down and write five articles a week? C’mon, Chelsea, you baby. Woman up.

2. Relapse in similar settings.
In conversation with other women, I find myself actually interested in their descriptions of a craft they tried or a decoration technique they applied to their entryway. Horrified, I hear my mouth say, “I just wrote about that! Did you know you can find those birchwood wreaths at Target?”
I may as well hand them an affiliate link.

3. No control.
Whenever I have a few moments, I feel overwhelming guilt to get something done on The Job. It should take precedence, right? Must. write. boring. blog.
I have also found myself, inexplicably, walking into Hobby Lobby to peruse their latest glitter-painted yard refuse.

4. Medicating myself.
You’ll find out at some point, but I do not drink alcohol or coffee. Instead, you’ll discover a slew of candy wrappers discarded artistically round my still-warm headphones. Those, plus my exhausted upper half, are spread across a dirty computer desk at midnight.
I need deadlines and sugar for inspiration, and almost always resort to both to get the dreaded task done.

5. Desire without pleasure.
This is my NUMBER ONE problem. Typing heckling comments about birch sticks stuffed in a vase (a real thing) is not difficult. Writing five articles a week, on my own timetable, is probably the easiest job outside of door-greeter at Wal-mart.
In fact, I don’t even have to get dressed in a blue vest (and, hopefully, pants). I just have to be able to use my fingers to press buttons in a readable fashion.
So WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? Am I just a whiner?

I meant to write this post as a sort of exposé of blog-stealing blogs, and instead find myself stretched out on the proverbial psychiatric couch of the internet. No, dear internet, it was not my childhood. It’s my core disappointment in not tackling anything that takes longer than a mile’s worth of effort.

I don’t like writing for The Job. With that time, I could feasibly write my own stuff. I could write more on here, write my halfway-finished book.

Shel Silverstein, brilliant man, wrote a poem about two generals:

Said General Clay to General Gore,
‘Oh must we fight this silly war?
To kill and die is such a bore.’
‘I quite agree,’ said General Gore.
Said General Gore to General Clay,
‘We could go to the beach today
And have some ice cream on the way.’
‘A grand idea,’ said General Clay.
Said General Gore to General Clay,
‘But what if the sea is closed today?
And what if the sand’s been blown away?’
‘A dreadful thought,’ said General Clay.
Said General Gore to General Clay,
‘I’ve always feared the ocean’s spray,
And we may drown!’ ‘It’s true, we may.
It chills my blood,’ said General Clay.
Said General Clay to General Gore,
‘My bathing suit is slightly tore.
We’d better go on with our war.’
‘I quite agree,’ said General Gore.
Then General Clay charged General Gore
As bullets flew and cannons roared.
And now, alas! there is no more
Of General Clay or General Gore.

From Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein

We, creatures of habit, keep doing what we always have.

I know that I would not spend my paid-blogging time doing any such fanciful thing as completing my book. I would, most likely, decide that was a great time to start Breath of the Wild over and see how quickly I can get into the castle and beat Ganon.

It involves swimming.

Anyway, I’ve got some Pinterest to search. Apparently, Christmas is over and now I’ve got to write an article about romantic Valentine’s Day ideas.