The Woman in the Mirror 

I’ve had self-esteem issues for as long as I can remember.

When I was very little, I had no worries. I was a total tomboy, who didn’t care what other people thought of me. I was happier dressed in clothes I could climb trees & get muddy in. And often did just those very things. I climbed up & down a cliff behind our house on a daily basis, snagging my hair on tree branches, and chewed my nails down to the quick, making my mom lament of me ever being a “girly girl”. 

She has often told stories about how she would wait until we were literally on our way out the door for church to get me in my dress, or I’d get something on it.
But, little girls grow up, and as they do, they eventually start to care about how others see them.

I was no different.

By the time I hit 6th grade, I cared about how I was perceived by my peers, as well as by adults. 

Alas, also by this time, we’d moved from Iowa, where I had friends, to a small town in North Dakota, where… not only did I know no one, but I was a complete outsider.

I was, and still am, a nerd. I read a lot, was good at school, & got good grades.  I wasn’t a troublemaker. I’m not good at sports (my nickname in volleyball was “jello-wrists”, no joke) except for horseback riding, and our small town lived for its sports. I wasn’t considered pretty enough to garner the “pretty new girl” attention, & I didn’t have the “right” last name. 

All of these things pretty much signed my social death warrant there.

In high school, at 5’7″, 125-130lbs, I was considered the “fat girl”.

I smiled here because I knew it was almost over. 

My saving grace through high school, was that my best friend had faith in me. She was a total extrovert, who moved to our town when we were in the 8th grade. She was good at sports, & was/is gorgeous & skinny. And she believed in my writing.

She sort of adopted me, & pulled me out of my shell, got me to leave our small town, & we went on adventures to other towns where we fit in much better, & made our own fun.

Even with that, I still stood in the shadows. I was always – “Oh, you’re S’s friend, right?” 

*sigh* yes, I’m her friend. 

I did make some friends of my own, separate from her, we did each gave our own groups that we’d hang out with, occasionally. And I did have boyfriends from those other towns that had no connection to her.

But I never felt as though I was enough.

Every relationship I’ve had has ended with me feeling as though I wasn’t enough for the other person. I always felt as though I was lacking, somehow, because of how things ended. Every. Single. One.

I’ve never really, truly, felt good enough.
And that includes my writing.

I’ve had certain friends tell me for years that I should write a book. That my words are worth more, that they have value.

I’ve always kind of just pooh-poohed the notion, telling them that I write my blog for me, to get the words out of my head.

After all, friends & family are supposed to say nice things to you, right? They’re supposed to back you up no matter what, right? Even if it’s trash?

Nephew… You live too far away to smack me on the back of the head right now, so sit back down.

I love you.

And I’m not done talking yet.

Because right now, I’m standing on the edge of a cliff.

I’m terrified – and exhilarated – and about ready to puke – all at the same time.

Because… I’m taking a leap of faith, & I’m going to try to build a pair of wings on my way down.

A little over a week ago, someone that I’ve admired & respected from a distance for a long time, but who has had zero idea that I existed, contacted me. 

We started talking, & in the course of becoming friends, I introduced this person to my blog. They liked my writing, & started telling me that I should write a book. 

I told them to talk to my Nephew, because it sounded like an echo.

My self-esteem still needs work – I know this.

I still look for acceptance & approval from others on my work, whether it’s my writing, my crafts, my remodeling I’m doing on my house. I’m never sure that what I’m doing is good enough, and I flounder in indecision about the choices I make unless I get feedback from people I trust.

I don’t know if it’s just a Gemini thing, or just a Jen thing… 

Even today, when I spoke to one of my coworkers about the possibility of me writing a book, she called me crazy. And I immediately started to doubt myself.

It’s easier to believe the bad stuff.

The woman in the mirror every morning looks at me with bleary, disbelieving eyes.

The woman in the mirror at night usually tells me it’ll be better tomorrow.

I’m hoping there’s a bad ass bitch hanging around somewhere in the background who’ll kick both their asses, smash the mirror, & yank me up by my collar one of these days.

Till then… I’ll be shoveling sand.

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I Wear My Scars

I wear my scars in words

Draped casually over my wrists like bracelets

Lashed fiercely around my waist

Slashed along my lips

Dripping from every pore of my soul

I wear my heart in my eyes

So I keep them down, most of the time

Look away, or be burned

Or drowned

Or saved

Bathed in blue, they’ll tell you the truth

Never lie

But I don’t wear my love at all

I fling it, give it away, pass it to the Chosen like candy, 

Like a child bringing you dandelions in summer

Gathered so Excitedly — FREE FLOWERS?!?

YES! 

Sweaty, heaping handfuls of love passed over, watching your face for acceptance…

Appreciation…

Approbation..

Affection….

Reciprocation…

I wear my scars with words.

And lay them before you in humility.

9/21/17

Chosen #flash fiction

I’ve been here before… but when?

Lucien shook his head, trying to clear it, the slight headache at the back of his skull protesting at the maneuver.

“Don’t bother trying to figure it out, Luc, it’ll all be clear shortly,” Petra stepped up next to him, sliding her hands to his shoulders to massage the tight muscles bunched and knotted there. She always knew just what to say, somehow, even though they’d only known each other for a semester. Another thing Lucien had yet to figure out. This weird, almost… instantaneous connection he’d had with Petra, from the moment he’d met her in Ancient Mythology Studies class.

“Let’s go sit while we wait for the others, shall we?” Petra nudged him from behind, guiding him across the – well, the only thing Lucien could call it was – salon, because they were in an extremely old, Renaissance-era home, and this would have been a meeting room, where guests would have been entertained. Luckily, it was now Petra’s home, and she had more modern sensibilities, so the dainty furniture of a bygone era was replaced with deep leather couches, extremely plush chairs, and all manner of side tables, comfortable lighting for reading, and lots of lush, green plants. It was a room for sinking in and getting comfortable, or for lounging around of an evening with family and friends.

Lucien dropped onto one of the deep couches, patting the spot next to him, and Petra immediately followed, curling her legs up behind her and leaning into his shoulder.

“What’s this all about, Pet? I’ve been feeling weird all week, and this stuff tonight has got me wound up tighter than an 8 day clock.” Lucien grimaced, but snugged his arm around her back, pulling her in closer. It wasn’t really a romantic gesture, it was…just comfortable, in an odd way.

And that was the thing Lucien really found weird.

Lucien loved women. He loved the way they spoke, the way they thought, the way they made him feel. He loved everything about them, and had dated many, always trying to be a gentleman, even when it didn’t work out.

Petra was lovely, gorgeous, in fact.

And he hadn’t hit on her once in the whole time he’d known her.

And since they’d met, he hadn’t felt like dating anyone at all.

What the hell was wrong with him?!?

“It’s OK, Luc. Byrin will explain everything when we’re all here. Just, please, be patient.” Petra smoothed out a wrinkle in his shirt with her hand and laid her head on his shoulder, smiling as he let out a huff.

“Fine. I’ll hear him out.”

20 minutes later, Luc was pretty sure he’d fallen down a rabbit hole with Alice, and hit his head on a rock in Wonderland.

He knew everyone in the room…but couldn’t tell you what their names were.

Petra had gotten up when the first people had started arriving, making sure everyone had drinks, found a seat, took their coats. But she didn’t introduce anyone, which Lucien found extremely odd. Petra was always a stickler for manners. This was way out in left field. Lucien found his brows drawing down to the center of his forehead in puzzlement, trying to figure it all out. Petra’s eyes flashed to his, sparkling with amusement.

Dammit, she’s doing this on purpose! He thought to himself. And when she winked, he flushed, knowing it was true.

At that moment, one of the guys, he looked to be about 40-ish, stepped up in front of the fireplace and placed his tumbler on the mantelpiece, turning again to face the room and its occupants.

“Everyone, I’m Byrin, and I know at least some of you are confused as to why we’re all here, so I’ll explain,” he rubbed his hands together as though trying to light a fire between his palms.

“What I’m about to tell you is probably going to sound fantastical, you might think I’ve gone round the bend, or you might have a sudden realization that you really want to be someplace, anyplace else right away. 

“But – I’m asking you to suspend judgment. I’m asking for your patience and open-mindedness, just for the length of time it takes me to finish my tale, and to possibly answer a few questions. Maybe even some of your own. After that, if you wish to leave, no one will stop you.

“You might have noticed that you recognize the other people here tonight, but don’t know why. You also might have a sense of deja vu about this house, or this neighborhood, possibly even just the city.  There is a very good reason for this.

“We are Chosen.

“Chosen what, you might ask? 

“Well… Chosen Family, in a way. Not bound by blood, but by time and by our souls.” 

At this Byrin raised one hand and nodded, as though to forego any incredulous looks.

“I know, how that sounds, but we have all been bound together, lifetime after lifetime, as a family. In one life or another we each CHOSE to join this circle of souls, and we seek one another out, every time we reincarnate.

“How else do you explain that we all instinctively know each other, connect instantly, and yet…here, in this room, right now, you can’t name each other?”

Lucien blinked absently at Petra, her, nodding back at him, and she smiled wide and walked over to Byrin and took his hand and spoke now.

“I’ve known Byrin in this life for a little over a year. I knew as soon as we bumped into one another at the market that we were connected somehow, and I’ve met a couple of you others since. It is hard to grasp, at first. But once you let the weirdness wash away, and settle into the familiarity of the Family, it’ll quickly remind you that you’re home. Please, don’t let the weird push you away. Chosen Family is so much better, plus…there are other perks…”

And Petra’s eyes sparkled again with a mischievous glint as she released Byrin’s hand.

“Once you accept the Family, and your place in it, you get to remember all your previous lives and – including some truly…magickal gifts.”

Lucien watched, stunned, as Petra snapped her fingers and disappeared, only to reappear instantaneously at the other side of the room, grinning wildly.

Byrin shook his head and chuckled, pulling the attention of the room once again with a slight cough.

“Just remember – no one is forced to do anything. All of this is a Choice. Every lifetime, you get to choose. And even if you choose not to stay, you can still reincarnate & choose to come back in the next life.”

“Because blood may last a life time, but Chosen Family is eternal.”

Living Dead Girl ~Chapter 2

“I’ve got a job for you.”

“What?”

“A job. Get up.”

“Fuck off. I’m on vacation.”

“Get up. It’s time to work.”

“Mmmphf…”

I knew it was too good to be true, dammit. Couldn’t even get a decent night’s sleep in the nut house, for fuck’s sake.

Fine.

“Where’s the job?” 

“Here, in B wing. Name’s Colton. Darwin Colton. You’ve got about 20 minutes, then you’re on.”

“Shit.  Messy?”

“Quiet. In and out like a mouse, doll. Hard part’s over already, just a walk and a talk.”

“Well, less cleanup that way, at least. Thanks for the favor.”

“No problem, see ya next time.”

“Yeah, see ya.”

The shadow detached from the window’s ledge and slid out through the cracks between the bulletproof glass and the frame, inking its way back out into the night, and leaving me alone in my room.

Great, now to make my way down to B wing, alley of the lost.

I slide out of the sheets & slip into my fuzzy socks, you know the socks you always get at the hospital – the ones with the little rubber grippies on the bottom, so you don’t slide all over & fall down, causing hospital accidents & lawsuits? Yeah, those fugly slippers. I love these socks. Don’t ask me why.  I’m in a mental hospital, I don’t need a damn reason, OK?

At least they don’t make any noise as I move to my door & peer through the peekhole window, checking to see where the nurses & orderlies are. I know their routine pretty well, but every once in a while, they like to mix things up, & run random room checks just to screw with us.

Luck’s with me tonight, everything’s clockwork. 

Nurse Hannah is on desk duty, which means she’s got her phone open, & is playing games, Facebooking, scrolling through some dating app or other, and is generally not paying attention to fuckall. Good for me.

That puts Randy, the night orderly, on the roof, smoking, which he does every night about this time, because he comes in at about 15 minutes to shift change reeking of cigarettes & hits the bathrooms to clean himself up & spray room freshener in his pits, like no one notices that trick. 

Gotta love predictability.

I glide easy back to my bed & lift the mattress, taking out the skeleton key I hid in the springs – one of the tools of the trade I take wherever I go, & use it to open my door. Doesn’t matter the lock, it always works. In my line of work, it has to. Nature of the biz.

Hannah sees nothing as I work my way down the hall, and hears less, ear buds jammed tightly into her ears. 

God, if she were any less clueless, she’d be a toaster.

B wing, here I am.

Key to the automatic lock, a soft click, a passive buzz, and I’m through the door & down the hall, slicker than snot.

Which door?

Oh…he left it cracked for me, how, thoughtful…wait.

Yeah…sigh…

That’s a slippered foot sticking out of the door, dammit.

Five little gray fuzzy socked toes stuck in the door jamb peeking out at me.

Darwin?”

“Darwin Colton?”

“Help!”

“It’s OK, I’m here to take you home.”

“But…but…”

“I know, honey, it’s OK. Take my hand.”

“Patsy?”

“Mmmpfh…”

“It’s time to get up. There’s been an incident.”

“What?”

“We need all the residents in the hall. Get up, please.”

“Fine.”

I stumble out of bed and blink my way out into the hallway, pushing my rat’s nest hair to the back of my head. Not nearly enough sleep in this damn place.

After “head count” is over, they shoo us back to our rooms to get dressed for the day & for breakfast. Whoopee.

“Didja hear?” Tommy hisses in my ear while we wait in line for the food. 

“What?”

“Some guy on B wing cacked it last night! That’s what the head count was about, they think someone helped him!” Tommy’s face is almost gleeful…sick little shit.

“Oh yeah? Who the hell would do that?”

Living Dead Girl -Chapter 1

“Hello, my name’s Patsy,” I spoke, mostly to the floor.

“Hello, Patsy”, disembodied voices echoed back at me from the circle I sat in. I refused to look up…there was no point.

“Did you have anything else to tell us today, Patsy? Why you’re here, maybe?” The cool, soft voice of Dr. Tellman (yeah, irony there, am I right?) cut through the gloom of the purposely-dimmed room from my right. She kept us in a semi-darkened state to “free our inhibitions and allow us to speak easier”, or something like that.

“I’m here because the State thinks I’m nuts, that’s why I’m here, Dr. Tellman”.

“And what did you say to them to give them that impression, Patsy?” Still, with that same easy, coaxing voice. God! She could sell milk to cows, which would be difficult, because of the whole lack of communic-

“Patsy?”

“Oh, sorry, Doc, woolgathering. I told the State’s doc the truth, is all. And he marked up my sheet like a game of tic-tac-toe. Next thing I know, here I am with the rest of the Cranks, Tanks & Yanks.”

Creaks, whines and rustling met with that statement, & I knew I touched nerves, and got some of them curious. 

Off to me left, I heard 

“Whatzat? Whatchoo said? Cranks, Tanks & Yanks? Zat some kind of insult or sumpthin?”

“No, not an insult, Tommy, it’s just my own way of describing this place.  You see…Cranks are real crazies, through no fault of their own. Something’s wrong upstairs, & they can’t help it. I feel bad for them. 

Tanks are the ones gone crazy because of drugs, alcohol, or both. They did it to themselves, so they get no sympathy from me.

And Yanks, well…those are the poor ones that been through hell so bad, abuse, war, rape, you name it, they’ve suffered & seen it, and they can’t contain it inside their brains by themselves. They get yanked all over by others, put through torture so horrible, ain’t no one should have to go through that shit, specially not alone.”

“And where would you put yourself in that labeling system, Patsy?” Dr. Tellman attempted to get us back on track, but I could hear in her voice that I had her interest.

“Nowhere, Dr. Tellman. I’m not in any of those categories, because I’m not crazy. But the truth sounds an awful lot like crazy, these days, so I might as well have a vacation, hmm?”

I could hear her pen scritching against her clipboard as she wrote notes, quick & efficient, just like her. If I concentrated, I could probably envision her wrinkling her nose as her ash-blonde hair fell over her eyes while she wrote, and her tucking it neatly back behind her ear, sliding her pen atop her ear to wait for the next thought.

“And what is this ‘crazy truth’, Patsy?”

“Well, that I’m a Reaper, and that I’m a living dead girl.”

Shadow #FamChallenge

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and High-Functioning Depression.

This has cast a large and looming Shadow over a good portion of my life, and it’s not something that a lot of people understand.

GAD isn’t just feeling anxious over stressful things in your life…it’s feeling stressed all the time about everything. It’s a sense of dread, of tight anticipation that something bad is coming, right around the corner, every second of every day. 

It’s illogical and it’s irrational. 

It’s a chemical imbalance that requires meds, balanced nutrition & exercise to mitigate & treat – but there is no “cure”. No magic pill, & no ultimate therapy that makes it go away forever.

And it’s not something you can “fix” by saying “Just don’t worry about it, it’ll all work out. Let it go, why don’t you?” 

I take my meds, & get along pretty well most of the time, anymore, as far as that’s concerned. I still have panic attacks every now and again, but they’re fewer and farther between now, since I started taking better control of my meds & managing my stress in other ways with music, exercise, reading, writing, & my other coping techniques.

My depression, on the other hand…

It’s a sneaky bastard.

High functioning depression is hard to spot in a lot of cases, because the people who live with it are just that good at hiding it.

Here are some of the warning signs that go along with HFD:

1.Difficulty experiencing joy: I know how this will probably sound…but…while I can be happy from time to time, laughing & smiling, going on about my day, I can’t remember the last time I Experienced Joy. True moments where I actually let go of myself and just relished in the joy of a moment? Nope, couldn’t say – it’s been that long. It’s always tinged with the dread of “knowing” that it’s not real.

2. Relentless criticality — of self and others: For me, this is moreso about being self-critical. I know that I do a lot of self a deprecating humor. This is not always healthy. 

3. Constant self-doubt: Yep. 

4. Diminished energy: Mass yep. I’m tired all the time. I try to push through it, because I have to…but there are days I – just crash.

5. Irritability or excessive anger: I try to keep this in check, but yes. I know this is there. There is a well of anger inside of me, that, sometimes, spills to the surface.

6. Small things feel like huge things: And they build up…

7. Feelings of guilt and worry over the past and the future: oh god, remembering things I did from years ago, overanalyzing conversations inside my head, rereading texts and emails to catch “hidden” meanings & subtext…

8. Relying on your coping strategies more and more: I constantly shift my strategies to try to find something that will work, because after a while…they stop working.

9. Generalized sadness: It doesn’t ever go away completely. Not ever.

10. Seeking perfection: In myself, not so much in others. I am my own worst critic in many ways, I know this. 

11. Inability to rest and slow down: My brain never stops. Even in my sleep, obviously, because I’ve been dealing with insomnia for years now. I can fall asleep, but can’t stay asleep, waking 3 and 4 times a night, often from nightmares. And “crash days” don’t seem to garner much in the way of recuperation, it’s more just getting to a point where I can cling by my fingernails again for the next few days.

If you met me for the first time on the street, you’d probably never guess these things about me. 

That’s the nature of High Functioning Depression. “High” being the operative word there, because I do get out of bed every day, go to work, make small talk, handle my life…for the most part…

The depression just sits in the shadow, patient, waiting…

Until I’m alone, usually on the weekends, or at night, when I’m really tired but can’t sleep. 

When my defenses are down.

GAD AND HFD are companions, they mesh well together, and can get so tangled up in each other that they often get misdiagnosed. And the stigma that goes with them is not fun, either.

My ex used to call people with mental disorders like GAD & Depression “weak-minded”.

There’s more than one reason why we’re divorced.

But it’not a weakness of the mind.

It’s a chemical imbalance. And in me, it’s a combination of chemical imbalances & past traumas that cause my issues. I take meds for the one. I work through the other.

Blogging is a help with that.

But the Shadow of GAD and HFD still holds steady over my head, & I know it’s something I’ll live with my whole life. 

As long as I have to sit in the Shadow… maybe I can start trying to think of it as Shade instead…

And at least welcome the fact that it keeps me out of the direct, and damaging UV rays that cause skin cancer?

Well, hell…it’s a theory…

Light #FamChallenge

And the light streamed in the window

As I lay, curled on the floor

Broken, just like the day before

Left behind, always left…wanting more…

And the light streamed in the window

Dust dancing in the air

Landing softly in my hair

Building up, slowly, everywhere

And the light streamed in the window

Softer now than before

Angled more towards the door

Knocking louder, the policemen swore

Flashing lights streamed in the window