Tag Archives: story

Miceala’s Mother’s Day Selections

9 May

WARNING: Contains shameless plugs for my publications.

Lovely readers, Mother’s Day is in just three days!!! Or at least it is in the States… not sure about when/if y’all across the pond have this particular bought of Hallmark sales spikes. But seeing how a fair number of you are in the U.S. (though shout out to whomever’s reading me in Norway, seriously, you rock) and you’ve presumably got some maternal figure or other in your life and, if you’re, ahem, like me, have yet to figure out what exactly you’re going to give said maternal figure since you’re a little short on string to make her a twenty-third macaroni pasta necklace, well, do not fear! I have some suggestions!

Spoiler alert: I’ve published some ebooks.

Give your magnificent matriarch an ebook! Each of the three below even cost less than $10! No shipping delay, no bad-for-the-environment wrapping paper, major brownie points for sophistication – and you can support a female author in the process! Check out the ebooks below and follow the links to Amazon to give the Kindle edition as a gift to your special female person. Just press the button in the lovely green box on the right side of the screen that says, very handily, “Give as a Gift.”

kindle give-as-gift

 

1. XXX: The Poetry by Miceala Shocklee

Does your mama have a flair for the salacious? Does she chuckle at doggerel and swoon at all things tall, dark, and literary? Buy her a Kindle copy of XXX: The Poetry

cover-image

 

2. Drop Dead Gorgeous by Miceala Shocklee

Is your mother one for stories of resilience and personal growth? Does she bury herself in memoirs and mental health recovery stories? Gift her a copy of Drop Dead Gorgeous.

DDG cover

 

3. Tales of Life by Miceala Shocklee

Is your matriarch a tale seeker? Does she love snippets of literature and life? Give her the collection of narrative poetry and artsy short stories found in the ebook Tales of Life.

Tales of Life

Joy

20 Apr

I hear that it’s a holiday – a holy day – today. I hear it’s called Easter.

I don’t know what that word conjures up for you, when you hear it. A Midwestern-bred Catholic who decided to expand to the larger term of “Christian” in her early college years and now claims no grand ability to judge the Ultimate Truths of the universe, calling herself no one dogmatic label but saying she is open to learning, to questioning, to experiencing, and to revising ideas – the word “Easter” conjures up a lot of rather disparate images for me.

Countless Easter baskets, each of them packed with neon green and pink and purple plastic shavings, filled to the brim with garishly designed chocolate-encasing wrappers, maybe even some of those 25 cent plastic Easter eggs you can buy at every discount and drug store right around this time of year. Probably some horrid but oh-so-delicious chocolate mockery of a rabbit. (Seriously, why do those things even exist? “Here, kiddo, today’s all about celebrating new life, NOW RIP ITS HEAD OFF WITH YOUR SALIVA-DRIPPING TEETH AND FEAST UPON ITS CORPSE WHILE ITS MELTING BODY SMEARS ALL OVER YOUR FACE!”)

Uh, yeah. Easter baskets.

There are images of family parties that pop up, too. Somebody – usually my grandmother, I think – probably made a ham. Not that I’d be eating it, thank you very much. There would be some Easter egg hunt, little plastic capsules filled with quarters and dimes and HOLY FUCK THIS ONE HAS FIVE DOLLARS strewn around the front yard or the backyard or the living room, if the weather were too wet or the adults got too lazy. I’d participate for maybe ten years or so, then help moderate for the littler ones as I got older. (“Hey, three-year-old cousin, stick with me and you’ll be good to go. I’ve got inside information.”)

For a long stretch of years, there are images of church. Me and my younger sister and my mother and every other female there decked out in our best dress, many of us probably having bought a new one just for the occasion. (Why are Easter dresses a thing? Why must small children be bedecked in white fluff and nonsense that they’re only going to complain makes them uncomfortable and probably get grass stains all over within five minutes? Why don’t we all just wear jeans? The day’s about freedom, yes?)

A lot of those years, the church-going was fairly mindless. You went to church on Easter because that’s just what people did. It was like stopping at red lights or eating soup with a spoon. That’s just the way things worked. You stood outside in the cold (because of course Missouri would decide to revert back to freezing temperatures instead of the spring it had been inching toward – I mean, wouldn’t want to overheat the occasion or anything by venturing above 60 degrees Fahrenheit…) and waited for a really long time and got really bored and then you went inside and the adults around you mumbled some stuff and belted some songs and went through this routine of sitting and standing and kneeling and sitting and kneeling and standing and burning weird-smelling stuff and generally doing lots more waiting and being bored…

And then in my first two or so years of college, there was nobody around to tell me I had to go to Easter mass. Or even what Easter mass to go to. I went because at that time, I wanted to. I went because the Catholic and then broader Christian faith held meaning for me. Helped me get through the fucking large amount of hurting I was going through at the time. A day where I could go to the Pentecostal church the next suburb over and throw my hands in the air and sing as loudly as I could in a room full of people clapping their hands and waving their bodies and smiling at me, at each other, at the ceiling past where they imagined their God to be, where we could make noise and stomp our feet and feel things because that’s just what we wanted to do, just how we wanted to show our belief and our thanks, and whatever we brought to the table, our God would find that acceptable? Would find it good?

I went to that kind of mass for a while.

And now, Easter, being a word associated with that set of religions that I’ve become not entirely sure about… it brings up flashbacks of scenes of doubt and anger – at the God I had been taught to believe in, at the men I had been told to believe. Discomfort and hesitation, because the book I was told to put so much stock in had some passages that seemed to not make sense, or to exclude people I knew were damn good people, better than a lot of the Christians I knew – more loving, more supportive, more accepting, better parents and spouses and partners and friends, sometimes even better believers – I was being told that I was supposed to “pray for their souls,” because they were sinning. Or something like that. There was a whole sector, multiples sectors of human life, human experience, that had so many rules and regulations, many of them seemingly arbitrary, that the joy there… just died.

I thought Easter was explicitly about the opposite of joy dying.

My journey of faith and un-faith and re-faith and not-quite-faith and whatever the hell the proper words for the dynamic spot of saying I don’t know all the answers and I’m just going to love and serve people and celebrate this earth and its inhabitants as best I can and hope that any deity out there will look on and understand my story, understand that I am doing the best I can in the place I am at – I don’t know exactly what to call that, but the story of getting there is long intricate and person and complicated, and that’s not exactly what I’m trying to talk about here.

What am I trying to talk about? Well, now that you’ve got an incredibly long backstory, what I’m trying to say is that I hear today is a day called Easter. A holy day. A day of celebrating that we humans, with our quirks and differences and imperfections and doubts and diversity, are free and loved. A day of celebrating the joy that can be in life.

So. Whoever you are, however you are, I wish you joy today. Joy in being completely you, without boundaries or prejudices. Joy in loving as fully as you can, without any disapproval from lookers-on. Joy in being who you are, how you know you were created. Male, female, transgender, gender queer, intersex, agender – whatever the word you understand for yourself. Straight, gay, lesbian, hetero or homo, pansexual or asexual, questioning or certain or experimenting or just trying to be okay – because I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re all doing, the entire human race, just trying to be okay – whatever your titles or creeds or other arbitrary delineations we draw between us who are all made of skin and bone and muscle, hearts and lungs and brains and hands: I wish you joy. In being you. In being free. In being loved.

No conditions. No reservations.

Only joy.

I do not write happy stories.

9 Apr

People want happy stories. Good characters. Sweet endings. Family-friendly. At least, that’s what a lot of magazine submission guidelines seem to be saying.

But I do not write happy stories. I swear, I try. Took me five goddamn years to write a YA novel with a happy ending and after another five years I’m still not finished editing it yet. Happy stories are not the ones that come to me most naturally or most frequently. They are not what my brain generates. They are not what my brain understands. They are not what my brain has had to work with.

Happy stories, sure, they can be nice to read. Like a delightful little square of baklava. But too many of those delightful little squares, and odds are you’re going to be left with sticky, nut-grimy fingers and an urge to go puke up at least half of the sickly sweetness now residing in your stomach into the nearest toilet bowl. Or onto the nearest politician. Either would be acceptable, probably.

I mean, too many sad stories, or difficult stories or unsettling stories or generally unhappy narratives, and you’re also probably going to be left in a huddles mess o’ blankets on your living room couch crooning yourself into a tear-slopped sleep with that bottle of whiskey you’re clutching as your only friend. Not exactly a more preferable kind of overdose.

But at least… at least those tears your crying are real. The elation you feel from a happy story may be a vicarious kind of wish-fulfillment but the pain you’re left dealing with from a grungier tale is a memory, the recollected aching from some time before when your story veered a little too closely to something a character got herself into. Probably why the sadness lasts so much longer; it’s no mere slap-on-the-surface temporary veneer. No, it’s an upwelling of past shame or doubt or anger or disappointment. The kind of sadness that leaves you as said whiskey-breathed mess has roots.

Maybe it’s just because of my own negative-lens tendencies the depression fairy apparently decided to, uh, gift me with at birth, but I know that I, at least, remember pain more than I remember pleasure. In my life-flashes-before-your-eyes-’cause-you-done-fucked-up-and-somehow-now-you’re-drowning reel, the moments of hurt, of regret, of loss would be the first ones to play out again before me. They are, unfortunately, what my brain, my memory centers, my inner interpretation mechanisms snap to first. Over time (read: SO MUCH THERAPY OH MY GOD), I’ve been able to re-groove my brain a bit (hoorah neural plasticity!) and convince my brain that it really is okay to go the positive route every now and then, really, there’s probably not even that much of a traffic jam,  but still… inner GPS forgets about those routes a fair amount.

I’m tempted to write that to me, happiness just doesn’t feel natural. But I know, really, that’s not true. Happiness is totally a natural thing to experience. It’s more appropriate to write that for me, happiness hasn’t felt usual. I grew up in a household of parents who had been fighting since before I was even born. I wasn’t exactly the cool kid in my class for much of high school (but then come high school people realized I was smart and that they needed me and then I ruled the world! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!). I’ve been battling mental health shit since god knows when. Yes, there has been a lot of happiness in my life, but it’s not exactly been the baseline or background. Happiness has been an exception.

But honestly, I don’t think it’s just my own experience that’s made writing happy stories so difficult for me. Ever since, well, ever, I’ve been an emotional go-to for other people. I may not have been the cool kid, but I wasn’t ever that kid – but I did usually end up getting picked out as OMG BFF! by that kid. Then come middle school, when puberty hit and we were all just leveled to a singular playing field of awkwardness, the girls who became my closest friends were also the ones who, like me, had some inner demons that started clawing a bit more actively at our vulnerable brains. And our vulnerable hormones. The rest of pre-college schooling for me was a slew of late night phone calls, desperate pleas to hang on just a little while longer, letters sent every day to some treatment center other, constant scans of wrists and arms and rib cages and stomach circumferences and little pricks in the back of our minds any time one of us wore long sleeves or baggy clothing. Chat sessions into three and five am, glowing laptop screens hidden behind closed doors and under the covers.

Yes, there was a strain of hope. Maybe, just maybe, if I can get through this, you can too… We were all one giant mess of hands and arms clinging to each other and brace the entire structure of our lives. Support went in all directions. Hurt went in all directions. Despair abounded. Hope was a parched substance. It did not rain; it sludged through the ravaged sewers of our tenacity, tainted and unsafe even by the time it got there in the first place. But when you’re dying of thirst, you stop being so picky about these kind of things. Even dirty water will keep you going. For a little while. It might kill you a little while later. But I don’t think any of us would have minded that for ourselves.

We would have wailed over it, though, for each other.

The real-life stories that I have known have not been ones that work out. They have been ones of struggle. Constant struggle. You think you’ve gotten over one thing, and then something new crops up. Your once-savior becomes your new slave master. Relief only lasts so long. Every so often you may find yourself on your feet again, running, and you run as far and as hard and as long as you can, but then some invisible un-reason reaches its ugly snag and you don’t even see and suddenly you’re on the ground, scraped knees and bleeding elbows and your legs are so tired they don’t want to work anymore and your arms are wondering what the use even is anymore to try to pull yourself up one more time if you’re only going to end up down here covered in the dirt of a failed attempt again anyway…

And yet somehow we keep going. Knowing we have likely only doomed ourselves to repeat the process. But the way out is no more glorious than the struggle. So you might as well finish the race. Might as well find out if it was ever going to get you anywhere anyway.

You understand if your fellow runners decide they can take no more of the dizzying, soul-quenching exhaustion. You understand the decision to finally cease running, cease panting, feel only one more final sharp stab at the weary lungs you have forced to keep filling you with breath before saying that no, no more, I will stop here.

It’s a tragedy, yes. But it’s less of a tragedy than most people seem to realize. The loss of uncertain future happiness ways a little less to you than the end to present, undeniable pain.

So far, only one of us has dropped out of the race.

This impossible, endless race. There is some pride in my fellow runners, every time I look around and see them still there, straggling through this thing with me.

We will arrive at the finish line cut and scarred by thorns and brambles that held no roses. Our souls will be impossibly bruised. We might not have the strength to hold even our heads high. But we will have made it. We will have finished.

That is not a happy ending. That is not the kind of story I write.

But it is a story. With a horridly natural, un-fairy tale ending.

And that is something.

Strange Sleep

8 Apr

My brain is a very weird place. Like, very, very, very weird. Possibly also still a bit scrambled right now, seeing how I haven’t downed any coffee yet this morning. But hey. We’ll deal with it.

So, how weird is my brain? Well, when not deciding that I was going to be awake at weird hours and then sleep in a very nonsensical pattern last night, my brain was off in who-knows-what-land spinning incredibly odd dreams. Usually, I’m able to figure out what the stimulus was when I have particularly strange sleephaunts. An advertisement I saw on the Metro, something a friend said, a line from a book…

Yeah. Not so much this time.

I mean, my roommate and I did watch the lump of slap-happy confusion that is Zoolander last night, so maybe that was the impetus for my brain’s thinking that ooh! ooh! it could come up with absolute ridiculousness too!

What was last night’s brand of weirdness? Well, all within less than eight hours of shut-eye, I lived through a Star Trek-themed nightmare (neither Spock nor Captain Picard graced my dream with his presence, though) that was also slightly Monster’s Inc.-esque; I was Disney’s Pocahontas in an alternative history where I got to just hang out with John Smith and tell him he was boring; I was told via phone that the head of the tribe had died and so I (still Pocahontas) had to lead a group of other Native American aristocracy through a mine field where we were being attacked by flying frisbee-ish weapon technology; still as Pocahontas, I fought Malfoy from the Harry Potter books; and then in a completely different dream sequence, I was nanny to the Obama family’s young daughter (who in my dream was like 3 and a very unruly child); that dream somehow involved reality that was hybridized with video game graphics and clicking; and then finally that dream somehow connected back to the Pocahonatas one and the Chinese were going to try to attack through plants or something and I had $25 million that came from a fraud transaction and thus couldn’t gamble but it wasn’t my fault…

You all as lost as I am by now? Geez. There’s a reason I wake up exhausted…

Any of you lovely readers have a comparatively weird night? Hope you all managed a more restful pre-work Tuesday morning.

Brains are weeeeeird, man.

Ahem. I’m going to go drink some coffee now…

Other Worlds: the Galapagos Islands

7 Apr

Ecuadorian flag island pic

Before I left for the Galapagos, I’d decided that when I got back, I was going to write a novel about it. Something with conservation and evolution and a plethora of landscapes. Something sci-fi with the Galapagos as the basis for world-building. It was to be a novel rooted in the fantasmic biological complexity of life. It would feature land and sea and maybe even air as homes for its characters. I was going to call it Other Worlds. I had most of the vague notions for it swimming around in my head. All I had to do, I thought, was go to the Galapagos, actually see and explore the islands, get their dirt under my fingernails. You know, go visit and so solidify my understanding of the place.

Ha. That, lovely readers, was quite a misguided notion.

Jeff leant me his underwater camera for one of the snorkeling trips. I'm kinda in love with the footage I was able to get.

Jeff leant me his underwater camera for one of the snorkeling trips. I’m kinda in love with the footage I was able to get.

I have now gone to the Galapagos. I saw, I explored, I got so much dirt under my fingernails. I swam with sea turtles, I paddled a panga through mangrove swamp, I even climbed volcanoes! I watched the mating dance of the blue-footed boobies, saw flamingoes fly, shared a rock with a marine iguana pile, and got bitten far too many times by fire ants. I was a voyeur to lava lizard courting, I learned how to distinguish the invasive from the native guava, I watched two frigate birds joust above our boat and shouted in delighted surprise as a manta ray jumped from the water and managed three flips before crashing back into the ocean. I counted rorqual whale spouts, chirped at ground finches, and can now tell the difference between a’a lava and pahoehoe.

All that, and the list isn’t even half done. And yet after nine days in the Galapagos, I know that while my understanding of the islands is certainly greater, it is by no means more complete. Definitely one of those “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know” kind of things. I was constantly overwhelmed, in the most beautiful and wondrous of ways. There were times I actually felt like I was giong to explode from the sheer amount of coolness around me. The perpetual flow of strange and interesting and beautiful and curious and dangerous – I’m seriously flabbergasted as to how I didn’t just pop.

“Other Worlds” would certainly be an apt term for a book shaped around the Galapagos. My conception of the islands was completely blown apart by going there. On a map, the islands look so tiny. Barely even crumb-sized, next to the giant swatch of continental pizza that is South America. (I swear I’m not hungry. I seriously just ate. I have no clue where the food metaphors are coming from…)

Here, I've provided a handy figure for you.

Here, I’ve provided a handy figure for you.

Sure, I didn’t get a chance to visit all of the islands (oh, don’t worry, Galapagos 2.0 is totally already on my to-do list), and the islands I did explore were some of the larger ones, but still – the Galapagos islands are freaking hugeIt’s absurd, the amount of diversity, of flat out differentness (shut up, differentness can use fake words instead of their real versions if I want to) present on one island. At times, if I hadn’t known we were just visiting a different side of the same island, I would have sworn we had to have gone to another island. Another latitude, actually. There was no way we were at the same place. For example – lava fields, forests of Palo Verde trees, desert landscape where frigates nested among dry bark and cacti… all on Santa Cruz. And then there’s Isabella, where one half of the island is an expanse of miles and miles of uninhabited desolation, and the other half of the island is tourism central. Kitschy souvenir shops, cheap bars, untended trashcans and litter along the road… Really, the sense of complete separation of the two terrains speaks to how well the park officials and naturalists are doing at keeping the junk of human existence out of the National Park land. It’s not even a policy of “pack in, pack out” – because there are some items you just aren’t allowed to pack in to begin with. No gum, no liquids other than straight-up, plain-ol’ unflavored water, no food of any kind whatsoever, prepackaged or otherwise. Wrappers, foil, plastic – any chance to leave trash behind is almost completely eliminated.

Almost completely. Unfortunately, there was still the occasional stray chapstick cap or dropped pencil (yes, I did backtrack a quarter of a mile to retrieve a pen I’d lost; don’t worry, the pen is now safe and sound back in my apartment, not leaching chemicals into Galapagos soil or anything). Any time we did encounter an errant invader that we couldn’t reach to clean up ourselves (some trails are covered by a boardwalk), Ernesto, our naturalist, noted it so that he could inform the park officials that removal maintenance was required.

Trail maintenance! For the tortoises, of course.

Trail maintenance! For the tortoises, of course.

 

Honestly, the Galapagos is doing a damn good job of keeping human mess to a minimum, largely thanks to the efforts of naturalists like Ernesto. The man, he’s amazing. Having been a naturalist for over 20 years, he basically knows everything. Sure, it’s because he’s studied the material, but it’s more because he also sees the reality, week in and week out. Ernest knows what the papers in scientific journals say about the Galapagos, but he also knows what he sees for himself, in real time, on the ground. And he’s not afraid to explicitly point out when there’s a difference. (Like when he pointed out the carpenter bees that “don’t exist” on Isabela…) I don’t think I’ve ever seen so beautiful a combination of book-smart intelligence and real-life common sense in one man before.

And the winner of this season’s “Miceala’s Idol” is…

Ahem. Anyhoo. I’ve barely just started to tell you all of my adventures, but already I’ve rambled quite enough for one blog post. Sorry for the delay in this first report back, by the way. I honestly just hadn’t known where to start. There’s so much.

But no worries. I have started, and it’s like the floodgates have opened. There will be more.

You might just have to wait a bit for it.

Goodnight from Santa Cruz Island.

Goodnight from Santa Cruz Island.

Trying To Manage Your Depression: Caution, May Cause Side Effects

23 Mar

Guys, depression is hard. Really really really hard. Obviously. That’s why it’s called depression. But you know what? I’ve been through five years of therapy, gone through intensive treatment three times, come to understand the underlying mindsets I needed to challenge, modified my thinking patterns, built up a support network, tried to prioritize what makes me happy, worked with psychiatrist after psychiatrist to find a medication regimen that works well for me and stuck to each of them in turn, held myself together long enough to graduate from college and actively work every day to keep myself from falling apart…

And depression is still really, really fucking hard.

I’m not even talking about the symptoms of depression, either. In terms of mood, I’m doing *relatively* well. I’m not entirely crippled by sadness. I don’t hate myself. I can understand ways in which the shittiness I do still occasionally feel might eventually get better… That’s all cool. But… just trying to be a normal, healthy, functioning person. That’s really fucking hard.

My impression is that being a normal, healthy, functioning person is already really fucking hard even when you don’t have an underlying mental illness trying to drag you back into a mental hell. But then, when you do have an underlying mental illness, all the extra things you have to do just make it that much harder. For example, I was on an antidepressant called Effexor for a little over a year. Before that, my list o’ pills that I’ve taken and since developed tolerance to (it’s like when an addict develops tolerance to a substance and needs more and more of it to feel the same effects, except now we’re talking actual legit healthy-making-medication that has a dosage you can’t exceed) has included Celexa, Zoloft, Prozac, and Abilify. Celexa was beautiful but wore off over the course of a year and a half to the point that it was basically like I wasn’t even on an antidepressant, Zoloft helped decrease my anxiety but obviously wasn’t working all that well, since I kinda attempted suicide on it, a short-term psychiatrist started me on Prozac improperly and I hated it and its somnolence side effect with a fiery passion (I hear it works well for some people, though), and Abilify I was taking as a sort of anti-anxiety med and antidepressant “booster” and had to stop cold when it started costing $700 a month because of insurance roll over. Yeah. The restless leg syndrome I had for months afterwards as a withdrawal symptom was lovely.

Ahem. So. Now that brings us to Effexor. Mind you, these are all drugs I’ve been taking to try to just be a normal fucking person with normal fucking problems instead of a depressed person with suicidal problems. I’m not searching for Nirvana here.

Now, unbeknownst to me when I started it, apparently Effexor has *super duper fun* withdrawal effects! And the shortest half life of like any antidepressant ever! Which means if you go 5 hours without taking it – heavens forbid an entire day – you’re fucked. We’re talking light-headedness, nausea, dizziness, disorientation, ALL THE DEPRESSION, brain shocks (it’s like your brain is being electrocuted and the whole world jolts) and oh yeah, SEIZURES. Seriously, it’s actually the worst. Like, ask the internet. Ask a fucking psychiatrist. Effexor withdrawal is universally recognized in the mental health world as one of the worst things to ever go through.

Good thing there were manufacturer recalls! And so now the medication is forever on backorder! Which means that even when I bring my prescription from the psych in a week ahead of time, it’s still not refilled by the time I’ve run out. Every. fucking. month.

Yeah. The first week I had to go without Effexor because of a refill issue and was subsequently bedridden with nausea and unable to even walk has been firmly and terrifyingly imprinted in my mind. And so when I’d take precautions and order a refill early (but not too early, because otherwise insurance would be like, uh, we just filled this, no, you can’t have more; that’s always fun timing to figure out) and I’d still be faced with a day or so of having to go without it, I eventually got a backup stock because I was sick of having a breakdown in front of the Target pharmacy every month. Like, normal people don’t have to go through hell like this! Yeah, sure, sometimes they have to go through hell, but it’s normal hell. It’s not the hell of having tried to goddamn take care of yourself and keep up on your meds, only to have other factors force you into bedridden brain malfunction.

Over time, my body did its thing and built up tolerance to Effexor, too, and once I realized I was spending the end of every day crying in a heap on my dorm room floor, I decided that hey, maaaaybe I should talk to my psychiatrist about finding another med that’d work better. Plus then, I could switch to something else and not worry about Effexor withdrawal hell every month.

Cue Cymbalta. Cymbalta’s an SNRI, just like Effexor, so it works on the same neural receptors and everything, which means that as long as you get the cross titration right, you don’t go through the Effexor withdrawal effects while you’re switching. And Cymbalta supposedly doesn’t have those withdrawal effects, so, that was a plus.

Yippee! Freedom! Now I can be a normal healthy person! Right?

Wrong.

So, I’m still in the process of switching from Effexor to Cymbalta. I went down in stages from 225 mgs of Effexor (yup, that’s a big fun dose, isn’t it?) to 75 mgs, and then stepped up through 30 mgs to 60 mgs of Cymbalta.

Aaaand still started going through Effexor withdrawal.

Cue 90 mgs of Cymbalta. Actually, cue 60 mg prescription + 30 mg prescription, because they don’t fucking make a 90 mg capsule of the generic, which means I have to pay twice as much for one month’s worth of pills. Wooo. So now I have to double my expenses every month just to keep myself healthy. Fun.

Except I’m not even fucking healthy. I’m trying to be, but I’m not. Turns out, insomnia is a side effect of Cymbalta. I’m already prone to insomnia, which means that Cymbalta hits me hard in that area. I haven’t slept for the past three days. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I got approximately six hours of nightmare-filled, panic-sweat-inducing “sleep” over the past 72 hours. So. Not exactly healthy. Here I am, trying to just get myself to a normal level of sanity, but then that ends up fucking with my sleep. I’M JUST TRYING TO BE HEALTHY. But it’s like whatever I do to help in one area ends up hurting in another area. And it’s really frustrating. Like, I just want to be able to sleep like a normal person and wake up not feeling like absolute shit and get through my day without feeling like I’m being bludgeoned every second. Is that a reasonable request? I think that’s a reasonable request…

Sigh. So here I am, typing the blog post at 7 am my time because I’ve been up all night, tossing and turning (which subsequently also leads to crampy muscles and unhappy joints) – but hey, I fixed my apartment’s wifi… And I’m stuck on this combo of 75 mgs of Effexor and 90 mgs of Cymbalta (which is higher than a normal dose already, apparently…) for at least another week, because I’m going out of the country and would at least like to be relatively stable during that, even it means I can’t really sleep… and then I’ve moved, so I’ve got to find a new psychiatrist, and schedule and appointment with them, and then finish going off of goddamn Effexor, which’ll probably mean going even higher on my Cymbalta dosage and heavens knows what that’s going to do to me and my unsleeping… and then I’ll probably have to “stabilize” on Cymbalta and then switch to yet another med in the never ending chase after my sanity…

Guys, I just wanted to be healthy. To manage my depression. I didn’t think trying to be normal was supposed to be this hard. There are so many damn side effects.

The Kindle Addiction

2 Feb

books in kindle

Lovely readers, I know that it is absurdly late for a typical day to be so desperately under-caffeinated as I am, but hey, it’s Sunday, and Sunday isn’t a real day, so you’ll just have to forgive me. Well, you don’t have to. But you get what I mean.

As I sit here on this Sunday morning I MEAN IT’S TOTALLY AFTERNOON AND I DEFINITELY DIDN’T JUST GET UP, sipping my way into my first cup of emotional and ever more physical addiction that is properly composed French-press coffee, I discover another addictive activity that the corporate behemoth that is Amazon has slowly dripped into my life.

Kindle shopping.

Now, I am not a shopper by nature. That genetic (or perhaps epigenetic) quality went to my sister. Growing up, my birthday money was more likely to go into the oddly unbreachable bounds of a plastic piggy bank than into yet another new handbag. Even when it came to “fake” money in the form of gift cards, I more often had to throw them away because they’d expired than because I’d used them all up. (Note: this has since changed in the case of book store and coffee shop gift cards. Bring ’em on.) Shopping? Especially clothes shopping? Terrifying activity. Oh god, the decisions, and the arbitrary evaluations… it’s quite honestly panic attack-inducing. Major ethical decisions? No problem. New wardrobe to replace the one I’d grown out of or worn to bits? Fuck no. Send me and my sister into the same store, and I’ll come out of the dressing room looking like a passably style-informed person. My sister? She’ll come out of the dressing room looking like a fucking super model.

I may have delegated all of my dress and shoe shopping to my sister for a few years back in high school…

But anyhoo. The Kindle. So, I do not like shopping. But I love books. Holding a new book in my hand and opening it up to a virgin page, the words of which I’ve never read before – might as well be shooting up heroine. Hand me a book to have, and you’ll induce some mega-oxytocin-bonding in my view of you for a while. And let’s be clear: I do prefer physical books. The shape, the size, the feel of the cover under your fingertips as you hold it on your lap or against your chest – it’s what makes a book an individual, an entity unto itself. There are memories that get enfolded between the pages, sensations locked into the very book itself. Time and again, I have clutched a book that’s been with me since childhood to my chest and cried while holding it, the same way you clutch onto a friend in a time of needing comfort. And the times that I’ve come across old bindings of books, first print run versions or tombs that have stood on shelves for decades – ooh, there is a magic to the crackle of opening that cover and gazing through the cloud of dust released into the air to the life of old ink within.

So. If you hold out your hands and offer me a physical book and a USB with its .mobi file on it, I’ll choose the physical book, every time.

Buuuuut sometimes I’m not offered that physical book. Sometimes, authors only release certain writing in Kindle form. And sometimes, Amazon’s lovely daily email to me that might as well be titled “oh, you just bought a book from us, so here are five hundred more we know you’ll enjoy funneling all your money to us for” doesn’t feature physical books – it’s about some releases for Kindle.

And those releases for Kindle… there is a seductive gleam to them. As I said, I am not a shopper. I flip out over spending money. But ah, therein lies the magic of Kindle advertisement. Amazon may send me an email about a book that I’d have quite the inner debate over when it would come to buying the physical version of the book – $15? Is this book really worth that? I could spend $15 on another book that I know I’ve been wanting to read. $15 doesn’t seem like a justifiable amount on a book impulse purchase… I should really just save this $15 anyway…

And tack on shipping costs? And the delay while I wait for the book to get here? $15 for a physical book that I don’t know much about becomes an inhibitory high cost to purchase. No new book for Miceala.

Enter Kindle.

What’s that? This book that I’m not so sure about has a Kindle edition? And I could have that book right now? (*cue dilated pupils and heavy breathing of a tempted book-lover*) And the Kindle version is only $5?

kindle buy

Done and done.

Behemoth Amazon really took a step back and figured out what they were doing when it came to creating Kindle. Instant gratification of owning a new book? Check. Reduce price to eliminate deliberation over justification of cost value? Check. Suggest five hundred billion other books you could have right now for less than the normal price of their hardcopy and not require you to re-enter your credit card information and so allow you the time to think about this purchase but rather let you hand us that money with one click and move on to the next morsel of literary goodness? Check, check, and check.

The space efficiency of Kindle is pretty damn attractive, too. I would have loved to have had a Kindle as a kid. I’ve always read pretty damn fast, so one measly book wasn’t going to cut it for a family trip somewhere. No, I needed at least two. Probably three. And then what if I changed my mind and decided I actually wanted to read one of these other two books? Better bring them too. And of course I have to add in this entire shelf, considering it’s my favorite series and is going to give me just as much comfort as bringing along a stuffed animal would have for another child.

And just like that, I’ve filled my two-foot-by-one-foot kiddo roller suitcase with fifty books and two items of clothing. Make that one item of clothing – couldn’t believe I’d forgotten I’d need that space to bring a notebook and pen!

Yeah, this kind of travel packing did not fly with my parents.

The first few times, I managed to get away with it. My parents would make some joke about “what are you bringing, bricks?” as they hauled my suitcase into the trunk of the car, and I’d just nervously mumble some non-words and hope my awkward laugh slid by.

But then, oh dear god, then, my mother decided to open my suitcase.

“WHY THE HELL ARE YOU BRINGING FIFTEEN BOOKS?! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! YOU CAN’T DO THIS! GO PUT THESE BACK!”

But Mom! I NEED them!

Yeah, that didn’t work either.

So, I’d have to mope back to my room, tear out a piece of my soul as I was forced to designate two thirds of my beloved books as not worthy enough to come along with me, and return to my parents with a much, much lighter suitcase.

Ah, but then I grew older, garnered a larger suitcase, and decided to try my hand at being devious.

Well, devious enough for a ten-year-old.

I’d learned that leaving my books in plain sight clearly wasn’t going to work. So I’d just have to hide them.

I learned to tuck my books into the various compartments of the suitcase, even behind the weird cloth strappy swath thing attached to the back of the suitcase that I think is supposed to go in front of your clothing to help stuff it in but I’m not really sure. I’d wrap my books inside shirts. Stuff them up pant legs. Stick them between layers of clothing. Then I’d put a decoy book or two on top of it all, to make it seem like I was still just leaving all the books I planned to pack out in the open. Of course, I never meant to read those books at all. I had ten others stashed away. Those decoy books were entirely expendable.

“Miceala, why is your suitcase so heavy? You’re not bringing lots of books again, are you?”

“NO!” *frowny huffy face meant to make me look clearly offended* “I’m only bringing two!”

*Parents open suitcase. Only see two books on top of clothes.* “Oh, well, okay then…”

Ahahahaha! I am a villainous mastermind!

A couple trips later, my parents learned to start looking *behind* all the clothes, and the gig was up. Damn them.

But my point here, other than to tell you all a very long story about one of the many things that made me a ridiculous child, is to point out that if I’d had a Kindle, this whole parent-child literary warfare could have been spared! I actually could have taken along entire shelves’ worth of books, all in one lightweight little technological gift from the gods. Had Kindle been invented when I was young and hungry for words and without more hours of homework than there are hours in the day to do it, I would have been unstoppable.

Or, you know, really pleased. Something like that.

And so here I am, I twenty-two-year-old writer with her own bank account and a Kindle she got some time around sophomore year of college. I’m really rather surprised I still *have* a bank account. You know, one where the digits that show up on my monthly statements aren’t in red because I dug myself into a literature-haze-fueled hole of debt from all the Kindle books I’ve bought.
The un-shopper in me may still have some hold on my inhibitions.
But anyhoo. Thus goes the story of my Kindle addiction. Click! Book. Click! Another book.
And oh! Have I mentioned the fantasies I’ve been having about Amazon’s latest e-reader release, the Kindle Paperwhite? “What’s that? You prefer that your ebook experience feel more like reading an actual book page than a laptop screen? Oh, okay! Well, here ya go then…”
Next thing, Amazon’s just gonna set up a system where we hook up an IV directly from our bank account to their Kindle headquarters. Seriously.
But oh, it would be worth it… 😉

A Dying Dreamland

17 Oct

dreamland 1

I think I have forgotten how to dream. There is a dead and dullness in me that can provide no spark for the shell of my imagination. My soul has gone silent, weary.

When I lay down at night, my head is filled with the noise of the words I was meant to think during the day, when only the repetitive, solid clunk of sandpaper phrases like “job search” and “paying rent” were heard instead, because no matter how I try, I do not have time to sit and think. Not when there are textbook chapters from a week ago to be read. Not when there is neurology homework to complete. Not when I woke up too early, stayed up too late, been too sick and too tired for too long and my brain is too slumped from fighting itself or too hazy from illness. Not when there’s always one more thing to get done.

I am empty. I have written myself – what more can I do? I have faced the truth of myself, found the cathartic relief, the cathartic release of turning myself into words. I have written my pain and written my cracks and written the rawest understanding that I have of myself. I have written my memoir. I have written my truth. Now, all else feels a sham.

I have always been too much in my characters. My heroines, they are vessels of my dreams set out upon a sea of words. They are the stories I could not tell in my life, the adventures, the happily ever after. They were the stitches for wounds I had no other way to heal.

But it was all subconscious before. Sure, to some extent I knew I had been projected into my characters, but now – there is an awkward consciousness that what I am trying to write is just one more shadow.

Do I have no more dreams? Every time I set my mind wandering, the worlds all feel thin and shabbily built. Nothing feels like a good enough premise. Nothing feels good enough to be made real.

And so I toss the frail wisp of narrative away and watch it drift off, flimsy and sticky on the wind of being forgotten.

There is a ghost of a girl mourning within me. She holds a pen. She thinks that I have forgotten how to dream.

The Typewriter Men

20 Sep

typewriter men edited

Today I read writer C. D. Hermelin‘s piece about becoming a hated-hipster-meme because he happened to be photographed while doing something I think is incredibly creative and that I wish I’d thought of first (hmm… Los Angeles is on the completely opposite side of the country from New York… that’s non-compete enough, right?). But I’ll let him tell you the whole story himself – here’s a link the article.

Anyhoo. Hearing about Hermelin’s typewriter busking prompted a bit of flash fiction to bubble up in my mind and coalesce into something decent-ish. I wanted to just email the thing to Hermelin – he spends so much time writing stories for others, thought it might be nice to have somebody write a story explicitly for him for a change – but, likely because of the rude comments he’s gotten from idiots, is no longer easily accessible publicly. So instead, I thought hey, I haven’t given my lovely readers a short story in a while; how about I post it here and tweet the link to Hermelin, and then lots of people can enjoy (hopefully) the writing? Brilliant idea, right?!

Oh god, please agree with me.

Well, that’s probably enough of my jibber-jabbering. Here’s that flash fiction I promised you.

The Typewriter Men

You used to see them roving the parks every so often. But that was years ago. That was back when the men in ragged coats and ladies in tattered clothes roamed the sidewalks with their typewriters, murmuring of their wares to passersby.

“Tales for sale,” they’d coo softly. “Tales for sale.”

They’d write you anything you wanted, the Storymongers. Tales of heroism and tales of hate, tales of love and lust and longing. Tales of fae and fall magic, of winter and the tulips to come. They’d write you tales of infancy and tales of old men, tales of every young woman’s want and tales of what burns beneath a new man’s cheeks. They’d even write you tales of yourself, if you asked them.

Though they’d always frown a little before. Ask if you were sure, really sure.

And always, we’d laugh. Of course I’m sure, we’d say. It’s just a story. What harm could come of that?

That was before I knew.

That was before anyone knew.

That was before the government tried to make us all forget we knew.

You see, the Storymongers did not really write us tales. They wrote us our histories. Because they were the only ones who had never forgotten.

In a time where no one can remember what happened beyond yesterday and your few alone have not lost the memory, perhaps it is best for one’s kind to dress in rags and tatters.

Yes, you are more likely to be abused.

But that’s only if they notice you.

And Storymongers are the ones who did most of the noticing. That’s why their stories were so coveted – even by the fur-and-diamond ranks who pretend to care nothing for those uncanny fruits of ink-smudged fingers. The Storymongers, they could look right at you and know.

It didn’t matter what they knew. Because really, they knew everything.

They knew what story you wanted and why you wanted the one you did. They knew what story you needed to hear and what other story would be the one you’d think you’d need anyway. They knew the story of your parents – how they met, how they fell in love – and, sometimes out of it – and how somewhere in all that chaos they came together and made you. They knew the story of your parents’ parents, and their parents beyond that… All the way back. Forever.

They knew the stories of the wars and bombings, of plows and reaping, of pacts and princes and popes and pills. They knew the stories of everything. All the way back. Forever.

I suppose that’s why, when the government finally found out about them, they were declared to be so dangerous. In a time where people have forgotten what happened before breakfast, it is a tremendous threat to your power for someone to know more than you. Even about yourself.

Especially about yourself.

I suppose that’s why they’re in hiding now, the Storymongers. But they say you can still here the click of their keys in the night, the haunting slide of a changed line feed in a faint howl of wind. And every so often, as I walk through the park, a single page of orderly black type will blow across my path. I will pick it up and tuck it in my coat pocket. I read them all, every day. And that is how I remember.

The Dowager Queen

1 Aug

dowager queen

She was the dowager queen, they said,
never married at all but once.
But I have seen the wrinkles in her eyes
and know they are faded
far beyond the skin of time.

Boys will be fair, she said one day
while I sat at her knee,
and men may be kind,
but life is cruel
and in the end a heart can break
more than once.

I looked up at her,
the questions in my eyes,
and for once
there was no disguise
for the pain behind the laugh lines
and the crow’s feet
and the bags
that so often escape the notice
of those who do not look for life’s weight.

 
She smiled,
the only cruel mockery
time had left her
of a once whole heart,
shook her head,
and sighed.

 
In the end they will disappoint you, my dear,
the lovers, the suitors, the husbands, the friends.
They will murmur sweet words
while they lay in your bed
but the days always come
when the dream will end,
and you will be left
with the scent on your pillow
and nothing but the excuse of their lips.
And even should the sweetest stay,
in the end this world will have its way
and the lips will turn cold
even if the heart does not –
and time will do a man’s job for him
should he refuse.
If he does not leave,
then he will be taken.

 
I raised my face to protest
but there was nothing to say,
not when the dowager looked that way.
Not with the memories tearing through her eyes
and ripping across her face,
her old, veined hands trembling,
held by a thousand ghosts.

 
They say the dowager was only married but once.
But I,
I say that she has been married forever –
or not at all.