The Dark Half

I wrote this for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge again. The Challenge was to pick one of Stephen King’s titles and write a completely different story. I’ve never read The Dark Half by Stephen King, but the title spoke to me.

The Dark Half — 1,151 words

P-E-R-F-E-C-T. There’s no such thing. At least that’s what Carmen’s teachers always said. Nobody’s perfect. But Carmen knew better.

“Anything less than perfection is not acceptable.” Her father’s words reverberated in her head. As such, Carmen’s life was ruled by these words.

First an ivy league school, then an 80-hour-a-week job. Then the perfect husband,  then 2 perfect kids, and a golden retriever, living in the perfect neighborhood in the perfect town to complete her perfect life. Who could ask for anything more? And still she didn’t feel like she had her father’s approval. It was enough to drive anyone crazy.

On December 6, she woke up in a clapboard house on a mattress shoved up against a graffiti covered wall. A tattooed man slept next to her. His chest rose and fell as she shielded her eyes from the brightness of the sun streaming through the slats covering the windows.

Carmen had no idea how she had ended up in this halfway house or whatever the hell kinda place it was. And she had no idea who the man beside her could be. She pulled the sheet down and much to her surprise realized she was naked. But worse than that, he was naked too. She gasped in horror. And apparently this gasp was louder than the drum beat going on next door or upstairs or wherever the hell it was going on, because it woke up Tattoo man.

“Hey baby,” he said, moving his naked-as-a-mole-rat body toward her.

She scooted to the far edge of the mattress and pulled the sheet all the way up to her chin, trying to cover up and retain at least a little bit of her decency.

“Who the hell are you?”

“What do you mean, who the hell am I?”

Tattoo Man sat up and scooted closer to her, pulling the sheet down as he did. Carmen tried to scoot further from him and almost fell off the mattress onto the dirty black and white tile floor.

“I have no idea how I got here.”

He scoffed. Then he stood up and walked across the room, completely naked, with everything hanging out. Carmen averted her eyes.

He grabbed a cigarette and lit it.

“You want one?”

“I don’t smoke.”

“The hell you don’t.” He looked at her out of the corner of his eye and shook his head.

“I have to go.”

Carmen stood up, trying to shield her naked body from his wandering eyes. She didn’t succeed. She threw on the dress, one of her favorites, a blue button-down Ann Taylor dress. At least her clothes hadn’t changed. She slipped on her heels. Tattoo Man watched the whole scene with a look of amusement on his face.

She headed toward the door.

“See you tonight, Love,” he said and reached toward her. She avoided his outstretched arms and skirted out the door.

How the hell did she get there? She looked down at her watch. Christ, it was 8 AM.  Tom would be wondering where she was. Breakfast wouldn’t be made. The kids wouldn’t be driven to school. Tom would be late for work. She would be late for work.

Her car sat badly parallel parked in between two overflowing trashcans. She noted with alarm that she was in East Marlboro, an undesirable area, over the bridge and railroad track from Marlboro. She sped up, hitting 90 after merging onto the Interstate. She couldn’t imagine what Tom was thinking.

She pulled into her driveway. She stared at her beautifully manicured half acre yard. She took in the row of beautifully blooming pink azaleas. She looked at the windows with their perfect symmetry and the front porch, complete with a porch swing. She had worked so hard for the perfect life. She sighed a breath of relief.

She ran into the house, listening to the beep of the alarm on the backdoor as she strode into the kitchen. Tom sat at the table, reading the newspaper.

He looked up at Carmen with surprise.

“God, you scared me. Your conference is already over?”

“What? Why are you home? It’s 8:45.”

“I just dropped the kids off. I’m going into the office later. You’re supposed to be gone another two days.”

“Oh, I, um. I just forgot something.”

“So you came all the way back?”

“From where?”

“Buffalo.” He looked at her like she had two heads.

“Buffalo?”

Why the hell would I be at a conference in Buffalo, Carmen thought. She sat down at the table next to Tom and glanced at the newspaper in his hand. December 8th. Pearl Harbor Day. She had lost two days somehow. How was that even possible? She knew with certainty it was December 6th. And Buffalo? Why would she tell Tom she was at a conference in Buffalo. Her head spun, a tension headache rising up on the back of her neck and making her feel hot. She fanned herself off and stared at Tom with her sickly sweet, perfect wife, mother, employee smile planted on her face.

“I just forgot the presentation.”

“I could have emailed that to you.”

“Yeah, but….Listen—I’m going to get it and drive back to Buffalo. I’ll see you on the—” She realized she had no idea when she was supposed to come back home.

“Tenth.”

“Yes of course.”

Carmen headed toward the door.

“Carmen, aren’t you forgetting the presentation…again?” Tom asked, looking up from the paper.

“Oh yeah.”

Carmen took the steps two at a time like she used to do as a kid. She walked into their perfect Master bedroom, with the perfect shade of gray on the wall, and the perfect comforter—not too warm for the summer months. She rummaged around in the drawers, pretending for Tom’s sake, to look for the presentation. She found a jump drive in the back of her underwear drawer. What the hell is this?

She drove back to the slums of East Marlboro. She took the steps two-at-a-time to apartment 208. Tattoo Man opened the door.

“Back already?”

“You have a computer?”

“Laptop. It’s a Chromebook. We bought it together, Carmen.”

“Yeah, whatever. Where is it?”

He pointed her to the table. She squeezed her temples trying to recall the last few days of her life. Carmen plugged the jump drive into the Chromebook’s USB port and a file labeled The Dark Half popped up.

She clicked it and several newspaper articles came up with the dates: January 4, 2017, February 26, 2017, April 10, 2017, April 14, 2017, July 8, 2017, September 26, 2017, October 3, 2017. She scanned the headlines on the articles. Grand Theft Auto. Bank Robbery. Attempted Murder.

One title in particular caught her eye: Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde Continue to Elude Cops.

She felt breath on her neck. She turned her head and looked into Tattoo Man’s eyes.

“You made a file,” Tattoo Man said, nodding affirmation.

“Are you Clyde?”

“Yeah. And you’re Bonnie.”


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Rules Are Made to Be Broken

I have a thirteen year old. I like to award him his privacy, and I rarely discuss my children on this blog. He missed an assignment in his Honors English class on haikus. I told my husband, and he said in honor of this day, we should only speak in haikus.

I sent him a haiku (three lines), and he replied back in haiku, of course:

The proper format
Haiku five seven five
Sorry about head

I have a headache today. But I must keep working through it.

Isn’t his haiku 5/6/5? The (1) proper (2) format (2) = 5. Haiku (2) five (1) seven (2) five (1) = 6. Sorry (2) about (2) head (1) = 5. I digress…

I find it funny Hubby is schooling me on correct haiku format. He gets irritated when I correct his grammar. How many times have I had to tell him which of these little words to use: you’re, your, their, there, and they’re?  I had to look up haikus, because, God forbid he be right.And he was right. Except that in the 17th Century, many poets broke away from the 5/7/5 form and just made a haiku a three lined poem. That’s because rules are made to be broken. But my husband likes it old school apparently. Not me. My motto has always been rules were made to be broken, or at least bent. I’m sure this made me a difficult teenager.

In honor of Hubby, I’ve written a couple of haikus that follow the 5/7/5 rule and a few that don’t. Enjoy. And hopefully Son Number One will complete his work, and I won’t have to give him a consequence.

Rustling wind moves leaves. (5)
On this clear first day of Spring, (7)
cold air tells the lie. (5)

Baby feet have grown (5)
too fast. Forgotten toys put (7)
away for electronics. (7)

Sweet sorrow of love (5)
that cannot be. Replaced by (7)
longing for the past. (5)

Sweat pours down my face. (5)
Running off the blueberry donut. (8)
The price of sugar. (5)

Apparently I’m not great at these. Maybe some of you masters of haiku can put a few in the comments. I plan to write a flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog at some point this week. I’ve been working on a novel (different from my almost completed piece), but mostly I’ve been spending time with family lately.

Don’t forget to leave
a comment below, so I
know you are reading.

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Thoughts on Writing

It’s been two weeks since I last posted a blog post. I started and stopped a short story this week. I’ve worked on my novel a little bit. Progress is slow, but steady.

Currently, I’m trying to figure out whether to resurrect and work on Little Birdhouses. I believe the story has potential. The ending sucks. Just saying. It needs work. And I started the daunting task of editing and stopped. I think I’ve edited the thing about 17 times, and something about the structure needs to change at this point. That’s not hard to do, it just takes time. And time is in short supply since school is back in, and activities, and church, and Christmas is coming—just to name a few time-sucks. Plus, structure changes usually mean a visual layout of the work (aka printing it and moving around the chapters on the floor).

But my mind has been back on writing and that is a plus. I stepped away, and when I did I didn’t miss it. I truly believe in order to be a good writer one has to live their life. Creativity ebbs and flows. Sometimes we need to experience and sometimes we need to write. Sometimes we do both. I wish I could write every day, but when I do I start to have a sense of burnout. I also tend to push others away and live in my imaginary world. I’m pretty sure that’s not a good place to be when you have a husband and three children depending on you!

Being married to a writer must be tough. I know I’m not the easiest person to live with. I am introspective. I think a lot. But, unlike a lot of other writers, I’m outgoing. I do withdrawal into my own cave and own little world sometimes. I like to have my alone time, and I’m perfectly content being by myself in most cases. When I’m not, I want meaningful conversations not just small talk. My husband is great about letting me be creative, or letting me be by myself when I need to. In that respect, we’re a perfect match.

I have been thinking a lot about my characters in relation to myself lately. All writers put a little (or a lot) of themselves in their books. I read Full Dark No Stars by Stephen King a few years back, and one of my biggest take away from that book was that King must be scared to death of rats. Recently I watched 1922, which I’d read, and seeing the rats on screen was quite disturbing.

Writers write out their fears, their dreams, and pieces of their lives. They bleed part of their soul onto paper and hope their readers will gain some kind of meaning from it, some kind of oneness. Because, after all, the point in writing is connection. Giving a sense of part of your world to others and hoping they find meaning in it, or even just entertainment.

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Another Time, Another Place?

For a long time I felt like I had been born in the wrong time period. When I was a kid, I had imaginary friends named Jonathan and Thomas. They were my brothers who time-traveled to me from the Civil War era. I knew where our house was: under a large mountain, a log cabin, where I lived with my brothers and my mom while my dad was away fighting. I kid you not.

I played with Jonathan and Thomas next to the blue hydrangea bush in my backyard on scorching hot summer days. I felt like they were real, maybe even ghosts, but probably they were just the result of my already overactive imagination. I loved anything Civil War when I was a kid. I had an obsession with Abraham Lincoln. I used to dream I was married to him, because after all I’d be a better spouse than Mary Todd. Then I told people, I thought I had been Abraham Lincoln in a previous life. I read anything about Lincoln I could get my hands on. My favorite poem, read on the lap of my dad, was O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about whether or not my writing would sell if I had been born in a different time period. Like, what if I had been a contemporary of Jonathan and Thomas instead of just their sister who lived in the rocking 1980’s future with big hair, jams, and all! Maybe I’d be a famous 1860’s writer, writing about the trials and tribulations of the Civil War. Because right now it’s damn hard to get published.

Here is a list of what it takes to get published in the year 2017:

  • Living in New York – I read once where an agent said New York City is the only place to live if you want to be a serious writer — No thank you.
  • Devoting every dollar you ever make to marketing your book and then some
  • Not having a working wage
  • Somehow acquiring an agent even though you have no writing contacts – it’s all in who you know, people, and I know noone
  • A finished and polished manuscript
  • Your first born child
  • Your tortured soul for all of eternity

No, but seriously, it’s hard to get published. I used to dream I was one of the Bronte sisters. Or Jane Austen. Some of my favorite authors are long dead. Katherine Mansfield—totally awesome. George Eliot—God, if only something like Middlemarch would sell these days. I’m in the wrong field. You know how some people say God is dead, well I think literary fiction is dead. Or at least I have no fucking clue how to market it to an agent and get it sold. Maybe I should start writing young adult vampire books. Or cat books.* There seems to be a great market for those.

Jane_Austen

Jane Austen

So I made a list of pros and cons for living and writing in the 1700s or 1800s.

Pros

  • Not much competition – a lot of people did not know how to read or write. Basic literacy could make you a success!
  • A lot of time – with no electronics there was a lot of spare time if you weren’t birthing babies.
  • There wasn’t technology to aid in procrastinating or distracting you.
  • Love has it all – romance sells, people! Who doesn’t want to hear about someone looking for the love of their life.
  • Epic novels with seemingly no plot, romance thrown in, a little bit about how the fields were doing, and what dresses people were wearing were all the rage.
  • Tragedy was an everyday part of life so people liked to read about it, and we know I love to write about tragedy and darkness!

I would have fit in, people, if it weren’t for the cons…

Cons

  • It’s hard to get published unless you pretend you’re a man – take George Eliot. I mean, I thought she was a man until one of my high school English teachers set me straight.
  • You’re probably going to die young of tuberculosis or some equally horrible disease.**
    • Katherine Mansfield died of tuberculosis on January 9, 1923
    • Jane Austen died of Addison’s disease on July 18, 1817
    • Charlotte and Emily Bronte died of tuberculosis on March 31, 1855 and December 19, 1848 respectivefully.
    • Virginia Woolf committed suicide — authors still do this in amazing abundance, because a large majority of them are tortured souls – do you know that?
    • George Eliot lived to the ripe age of 60 and succumbed to kidney disease.
  • There wasn’t technology to help you research.
  • Word-processing didn’t exist. Talk about hand cramps. And if you had dysgraphia, forget it! You’d never become a published writer.
  • Bad eyes – writing by candle light and reading all those books in the dark. Atrocious. I already have bad eyes, I’d probably be blind by now if I lived back then.
  • Men – they cramped women’s style by not wanting them to do anything but care for the kids that they were continually popping out. Plus they had an advantage by just being born with a penis. Heck, they still have that advantage today, but it’s gotten a little bit better. At least I don’t have to pretend to be a man to get published.

So maybe being born back in the good ole days wouldn’t be so great. I guess I’ll keep trucking along. As long as I have one reader then I qualify as a writer. Because to me, the most important thing is my audience.

Do you think you were born at the wrong time?

*I love young adult books, vampire books, and even books that feature cats as main characters. Cats are awesome, solitary, independent creatures. 

**All information was found on Google & Wikipedia. 

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Weekly Goals June 17-25

Today is June 17th. First of all, I’m going to report on how I did on last week’s goals. Then I’m going to assign new goals. And I’m going to let you know that I’m having a vacation week from June 25th-July 1st, so there won’t be goals that week.

Exercise

  • Run 4 miles on Friday, June 10 — I achieved this. I went to the Y and ran on the treadmill.
  • Run 6 miles on Saturday, June 11th. Try to keep up with my running partner who has suddenly become a speed demon. I ran. But I also walked. I struggled with the heat.
  • Sunday is a day of rest (I think this was duly noted somewhere thousands of years ago) I rested! And swam.
  • Glide on Monday, Yoga Tuesday, Glide Wednesday, Thursday short run, start over Friday — I screwed up in this department. I did Glide Monday, 2 mile run Tuesday, and then Glide on Thursday. I had lots going on this week, so I didn’t get to the gym as much as I wanted, and the heat and the humidity outside was too much for me.

Food , Drink, Weight

  • No alcohol on weekdays.I was doing so well, until last night. I had wine with my childhood girlfriends. It was worth it.
  • Eat more fruits and veggies Done!
  • Less chocolate Done!
  • No chips from my chip-pusher James.James didn’t bring chips! I didn’t eat ANY this week.
  • Strive to lose 1 lb per week until I hit my goal weight (12 lbs to lose) I lost 2.8 lbs this week. 
  • Write every day – I’m done with setting word limits, because sometimes I do less and sometimes I do more, but I find creativity flows better when I write at least a little bit every day. Blogs count too.– Achieved. 

So here are my goals for this week:

Exercise

  • Yoga tomorrow at the lake with my friends! And I may run if I get up early enough. If not, oh well.
  • Sunday-rest and recovery.
  • Monday – Glide
  • Tuesday – run AM – 2-3 miles/Glide Lunch
  • Wednesday – rest
  • Thursday — Glide at lunch or run the treadmill (2-3 miles)
  • Friday – rest

My food, drink, weight goals are the same as last week:

  • Fruits and veggies
  • No alcohol on weekdays
  • Less chocolate
  • No chips on weekdays (I may eat some this weekend, but anything goes then!)

Writing

  • Come up with a plan
  • Finish editing Little Birdhouses or at least work on it SOME.
  • Finish 2nd girl in the Daniel series and start 3rd.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and that you set and achieve some awesome goals in the following week! Let me know your goals for the upcoming week/month/year are!

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The Boy

I wrote this piece for a Chuck Wendig Terrible Minds flash fiction challenge.

 

The photo I used can be found here: http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=3003524

I’m trying to write more recently, and flash always gets me started so I can focus on longer works. I hope you enjoy.


The Boy

Found: Small boy. Won’t sit still. Speaks no English.

He bit my hand when we found him. Sitting on a school chair in the cave near the river where we fished. A baby really, but wild like an animal. I don’t know how long he’d been there and whether his behavior indicated he’d been raised by wolves or simply abandoned by the people who were supposed to care for him.

I’d read, in the old days, deformed babies or unwanted babies were left out in the elements to die. But he was neither. Blonde hair and blue eyes set in his head like a china doll. He was perfect looking but for the layer of dirt so thick it had turned his skin the color of a darkie. He squealed and clawed at my face when I tried to put him in the tub.  Jeffrey had to take over, and he seethed so much with anger I thought he’d drown the boy. When I pulled the baby out, his skin looked red and raw from being scrubbed so hard with the lye soap. The water in the tin tub looked as black as the soil on the land we farmed.

“Wild animal. Can’t live here,” Jeffrey said, as the boy ran around the room screeching and hollering.

He posted the signs around town. Went out on horseback and listed our address below the words. But no one wanted a castaway and so the boy stayed. For months. And the baby growing inside me began to make its presence known.

I tried to teach the boy English. I pointed to the bump on my stomach and said, “Baby.” I labeled all the objects in the cabin, pointed to the words and said the names.  He moved his mouth but only pathetic animal sounds erupted from his lips. In anger, he projected his small body onto the floor kicking up dust and dirt until I had to walk away.

“We have to get rid of him,” Jeffrey said.

But I shook my head. I did not agree.

Jeffrey and I lay under the quilt in the oak bed as the boy, or the animal as Jeffrey called him, slept on the pallet on the floor kicking and screaming in his sleep. Jeffrey reached over and rubbed my belly. The baby didn’t move for him.

“This is our child. That’s not,” he said pointing to the boy.

Weeks of arguments as the baby inside me grew. And the boy seemed to become more wild.

“Cannot be tamed,” Jeffrey said, sitting at the kitchen table wiping the sweat and the dirt from his brow.

And the whole time something grew inside me. Guilt, fear, and anger. On the inside I began to take on the feelings of the boy. A wild rage Jeffrey couldn’t understand swelled up like a hurricane within me. A wild rage threatened the humanity inside of me. And Jeffrey began to turn his back upon me. At night, the gulf between us grew. He’d touch the small of my back, and I pulled away from the roughness of his fingertips. And even as the chasm widened, I became closer to the boy. I felt he was a part of me. I felt I understood his pain. I felt he had given it to me to share. Something inside, deep down, told me not to give up on him.

The boy began to take my hand. He would roll his hand into a fist and push it against my open palm. His cries ceased, and he became silent. His silence permeated me, and I began to speak less and less. He put his grimy little hand against my belly, and the baby inside me squirmed and moved under the softness of his fingers.

In one breath, I let go of the rage, and Jeffrey inhaled it, filling up his whole body with a palpable anger. He shouted at me and the boy. He spent longer days in the field away from me. Away from the boy. When the shouts didn’t work he filled our house with an unthinkable void of sound. The silence sat at our dinner table like an uninvited guest.  The tension took on a personality filling our souls with hatred.

And then one morning, I awoke to find the boy gone. Jeffrey sat at the table with a pocket knife, sharpening a branch.

“Going fishing. Want to come?”

I shook my head but didn’t utter a word. I felt alone and abandoned stuck within myself, but Jeffrey’s terrible anger had fled with the boy.

Jeffrey had been gone a few hours when the contractions started. I knew from watching my mama give birth that labor wasn’t quick. But there were other plans for me. The boy clawed his way out of me as quickly as he could. The pain felt so intense that all the rage and loneliness of the last few months escaped through the bestial screams coming from my lips.

The baby stared up at me with blue eyes. He opened his mouth to cry, but instead the boy’s animal sounds spilled out of his throat. I held him to my nipples, and I whispered into his ears, “Now you’re mine forever. No one can take you away. I will never abandon you again.”

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PS: The Devil Within is only available for the next three weeks. Don’t forget to get your copy while you still can at Amazon.

 

Countdown

Five days until the half-marathon. It’s crazy, because forever I felt like it was far away. And here it is. And I don’t feel ready. I mean, I can run 12 miles. Or at least walk/run and feel like I’m dying with my breathing or possibly my legs might fall off. The thing I’m most worried about is the heat and humidity. It’s supposed to be 90 degrees in Nashville on Saturday. The thing I’m looking forward to most is seeing my sisters. I love how this journey has brought us closer this year. We are all striving to do the same thing, and the common goal has brought us together. That’s pretty awesome if you think about it.

I haven’t been writing, and last week I didn’t even blog. I have been soul searching a little bit. (Of course, because don’t I always?) This week, my eleven year old told me that maybe he didn’t want to do gymnastics next year. And when I asked him why he said, “Because it’s gotten hard and it’s not as fun as it used to be.” In all my wisdom I said, “Well, if you want to quit you can. It’s your choice. But you have to make sure you’re quitting for the right reason. Are you quitting because it’s hard and you don’t like hard work? Or are you quitting because you’re ready to try something else?”

And then I went for a run with Sean on Saturday morning, and the first 2 miles were fucking amazing. Fast. And then I said I wanted to walk. And we walked/ran the last 2 miles. On the way home in the car I complained about running the half again. “Why the hell am I even doing this? It’s so stupid.” And Sean said, “You may have a bit of Caden in you. You want to quit when it gets hard.”

And he was right: I do. I’ve always had a huge amount of motivation, and I get to a certain point and then I just don’t feel like doing it anymore. So this weekend I was thinking of that in terms of my writing instead of my running. I’ve been in a funk. I started a difficult novel. And I’m 30,000 words in, and I’m stuck. But the thing is–I know what’s going to happen and how to finish it but writing it is hard. It’s hard for a million reasons, because of emotions, and the voice, and all the shit that will make it good in the end. And I also think that’s why I’ve had a hard time editing Little Birdhouses. I’ve always been the type of person who sets a goal, finishes something, then moves on to the next big thing. But I don’t want to be like that with my writing. I want to make it a lifetime of work. I want to work through the discomfort. I want to get to the end and really have produced something amazing that readers can relate to. I want to query, live through the rejection, and, eventually, become a famous writer. I have this incredible talent and this amazing dream, but I can tell you I’m never going to get there if my attitude is the same as it’s been the last few months. No one ever gets anywhere by not working hard and giving up before they’ve reached the finish line.

It’s funny, because after my talk with my running buddy on Saturday I went running with my girlfriends on Sunday morning and I had all this incredible energy. I think I could have finished the half marathon easily that day. My attitude had changed, and I felt like I’d just push through. Now if only I could apply that to my writing.

Innately, I know that success comes from hard work, and part of the feeling of accomplishment is working hard to get there. But in reality, putting that into practice is difficult for me. And yes, I know I have lots of valid excuses: three kids, husband, day job, and PTA, but in the end I need those factors to motivate me instead of serving as a roadblock to my success.

Suggestions are welcome. Do you feel like you hold yourself back from achieving your dreams?

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I’m an Extroverted Introvert

Last week on Facebook, one of my Wench friends posted an article about Extroverted Introverts: How Extroverted Introverts Interact Differently With The World. Forever, people have been telling me how extroverted I am. Lauren, you’re so friendly. You always have a smile on your face. This part is true–most of the time. I’m super empathetic. Empathy can be draining, especially when you talk to someone and tend to try to talk out all their problems. People always feel like they can talk to me about big, serious issues in their life. I love being able to make those connections, but it can be emotionally draining as well. Plus, it makes me feel closer to them than they might feel to me. I get emotionally involved in people’s lives, even if I’ve just met them which often sets me up to be hurt.

I always wondered how I fit so well in an extroverted category when I don’t really feel like an extrovert. When I take the Myers Briggs test, I’m classified as an extrovert always. But in my down time, I love to come home, veg on the couch and recharge. In fact, I have to have that downtime or I feel so out of sorts. I like hours alone–sometimes days–and I feel overwhelmed when I don’t have time to recharge.

I feel very alone in a group of people, and I have a hard time breaking into new friendships. But other times, I’ll jump right in depending on the day. I use alcohol as a crutch in social situations to come out of my shell. I love to make people laugh, and I love to be the center of attention too. I do better one-on-one, but I don’t have a lot of close friends. I will have a friend for a few years, and then they drift away. I love to have deep conversations and sometimes this scares people off or is too much for them. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I say what I think. But, I have a hard time letting people get close to me. I have a tough time with intimacy and space. I see this same quality in my middle son, who shirks away from being kissed and hugged. I know how he feels–that overwhelming feeling of being captured or suffocated and needing my me-space away from people. I have felt that way on so many occasions.

The worst part of being an extroverted introvert is the over thinking. Sometimes my mind tacks onto a question and rolls in circles around it. Big questions like, why are we here? Is there a God? When we die what happens? – questions no one can answer, but that my brain won’t give up trying to answer. And not so big questions and fears that I can’t stop thinking about. Overthinking will make you miserable if you let it, and I think it is the source of depression in a lot of people, including me.  My brain is in overdrive so much, and the only thing that can stop it: writing. Writing has been such a great outlet for the introvert part of my mind. I love to go out and hang with friends. I love to drink socially and talk, but when my introvert-side clicks in then I need to be by myself–just ask my husband. I want a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, quiet, veg-out, write and recharge time. I need a bath with a good book. I need to revert back to myself, recharge, and feel like my happy little self again.

What about you? Are you an extrovert, an introvert, or a little bit of both?

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School Girl Crush

Yesterday, I wrote a scene for a work in progress about a childhood crush. In this yet-to-be-named novel I’m writing, the man had a childhood crush on a girl who spent the summers with him in Cape Cod. At a certain point, she never comes back. He spends his life tracking her down, and then stalking her until they meet again under strange circumstances on the METRO in Washington D.C. This scene had me thinking about my own crushes through my lifetime.

When I turned 12, which was a lifetime ago, my dad decided he wanted us to have family time by learning how to SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). Yes, I had a privileged youth. I remember the nights we spent in the pool, learning how to breathe underwater. I also remember the book I was handed to study up on SCUBA, because all SCUBA divers have to pass a written test, even the twelve year olds.

Lauren SCUBA

That book with its blue cover sat by my bedside as I simultaneously thought of boys and played with Barbies. I had entered that time in my life where my body was changing and I was going through puberty, but I still loved my dolls. I straddled the line between childhood and adulthood, not sure where I belonged yet. As an aside, I also wore a heck of a lot of Laura Ashley jumpers. Twelve year olds today do not dress the way we did in the early 1990’s that’s for sure.

When the test day came I stared at the problems, and they looked like gobbly-gook. In all truth, I think there was a whole lot of Algebra. Math wasn’t my forte, and I hadn’t even started Algebra yet. (Now they seem to start it in Kindergarten, but then they didn’t).

And so, Phil, a tall, buff, blonde dive-pro at the shop sat next to me and gave me hints. He knew I knew the rules and how to dive. He just needed to give me a little bit of encouragement, so I could pass. And pass I did, with his help.

I’m sure dive-pro Phil knew I was in love with him. I made it blatantly obvious. I followed him around like a puppy-dog. I asked for him to be my dive partner on numerous occasions. I thought, me, a twelve year old child had a chance with this grown-up twenty-five year old man.

And Phil, knowing I was a child, dealt with it in such a nice way. He was kind. He didn’t blow me off. He never belittled me or was condescending. I’ll never forget, on one of our dive trips—I can’t remember if this was in Florida or in the Cayman’s—my mom burst her eardrum. I wanted to go back out in the water, because I was looking for sand dollars. So Phil went out with me, and he dragged his knife through the sand so we could find our way back to the boat, and took me out to a whole colony of sand dollars. This meant so much to my twelve-year old heart. He dealt with my school-girl crush with such grace, but he also gave me no allusions that he reciprocated (thank God—I was just a child).

Now I’m a grown-up, and I know the crush on dive-pro Phil was an adolescent awakening to the world of love and romance for me. It’s funny thinking back on those days and remembering how young and naïve I was. I had many more crushes after that, and I’m sure people had crushes on me. That’s just the way it goes. But the thing that makes crushes feel so poignant is the impossibility involved that doesn’t exist in a loving relationship. A crush is just that, a crush, and if it never moves forward it wanes and dies and both parties move on with their lives.

I don’t remember how I felt when I heard dive-pro Phil was getting married. I remember thinking it was logical, because he was an adult. But being only twelve or thirteen years old, it didn’t hit me the same way as other crushes who rejected me, who went on to get married, who left me when I felt like I needed them the most, or who moved on when they should have for the benefit of us both.

The thing about crushes, as illustrated in this story, is that they can teach you about love. Dive-pro Phil looked at me as a child, someone he could help teach to dive. He mentored me, and taught me about kindness, which is such a huge aspect of love. And he did it in a way that was appropriate, even knowing that I had a school-girl crush on him. I’ve learned a lot from all the crushes I’ve had, because pain also brings insight. I moved on and I learned how to apply that knowledge to my relationships, and now to my marriage.

Interestingly enough, another Phil came along when I was in college, and I thought I loved him so much. I put him on a pedestal, and I didn’t walk away even when he hurt me. I didn’t walk away even when I started hurting him. He was my best friend, my confidante, but the truth is a relationship wouldn’t have worked between us because we didn’t know how to communicate our deepest feelings with one another. It made the time we had together thrilling and fun, but it also made it hurtful, confusing, and frustrating. It took me a long time to move on from Phil2, and my relationship with my now-husband suffered because of my grief associated with losing my friendship with Phil2 and the possibility of what could have been between us. Once I processed all those heavy emotions, my relationship with my husband grew.

Crushes crush. They’re intense, yes, but they’re meant to end. Relationships bring a whole new level of love to your life, one that grows and changes with time. A crush is fleeting and not meant to last forever, but a lesson for how to love in your true and meaningful relationships.

Who was your first crush?

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Choices, Procrastination, Overbooking

Today, I made a choice to work on yearbook for PTA. I made a choice at the beginning of the year to be the Yearbook co-chair, and no matter how much I may regret that choice I committed myself and therefore must do it! The thing is, I usually like doing creative tasks, like design the yearbook. But now, I feel like it’s one more thing I added to my list when I should have made my focus this year writing and running.

I started out this year gung ho about writing. And as other humans may know, sometimes that insatiability at the beginning wanes with time.

For instance, when you meet a new person and fall in love, all you can think about is that person. 24/7 you are thinking about them, fantasizing about them, and wanting to talk to them over and over again about everything under the sun. You literally cannot get enough. You think the feeling will last forever, and suddenly without warning you’ve been married for fifteen years, and that person you used to feel so giddy about is scratching his butt on the couch and peeing all over your guest bathroom floors. Honeymoon over.

The same thing happens when we take on a new endeavor like writing. When I first started focusing on my writing, all I wanted to do was write. I loved the feeling of writing. I loved the rush it gave me when someone praised my work. But then, I hit a roadblock, and wham! I stopped writing.  Why? Because writing is hard, and a writer has to make a conscious effort to choose to write, even on the days when that writer feels like the writing sucks. Even on the days, when the writer writes 1,000 words and promptly hits delete. Even on the days, when she feels like no one is buying her work. Writing is hard and full of roadblocks and rejection. So how can we stop the roadblocks from holding us back in what we want to achieve in life? How can we go forward with our writing when we feel overwhelmed?

  • First, stop choosing everything else over writing. Stop blaming procrastination. Procrastinating is a choice.  Once you realize this, it’s easier to think consciously about moving on from that procrastination and choosing to write especially on the days it’s hard. People have praised me for having written two books saying, “I can’t believe you do that, have three kids, and a day-job,” but the truth is when there’s something you want to do and love to do then nothing can stop you from doing it. So don’t let yourself stop you from doing it simply because it’s hard.
  • Don’t take on more than you can chew. I need to listen to this advice. I think in our world, we’re expected to do so much. Be a working parent, go to all the school functions, volunteer, make food. But don’t. Seriously learn how to say no. I didn’t say no enough this year and probably overextended myself. Don’t add things to your life if you don’t have the time to commit to them.
  • Prioritize: If you’re striving to be a writer, get published, or finish a novel then make writing your priority. Get up early and write. Stay up until midnight to write. Just write so words can get on paper and you are achieving your goals. Make choices that are conducive with this lifestyle, instead of making choices that will sabotage your end-game.
  • Give Yourself Grace: Being someone who has dealt with depression for most of my adult life, this one is very important. Everyone needs weeks and sometimes even months to regroup. Sometimes I do this by watching hours of Netflix. Then I won’t watch TV for months, and I’ll refocus on my writing or my reading (which by the way helps you be a better writer).
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help: I think we humans tend to think we live in a box and that our experience is individual from everyone else. The truth is, we’re part of a larger society. We have other people we can depend on when we need it. My husband is a huge supporter of me. He makes my life easy at home, often doing laundry, cooking, and generally picking up the slack. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have his help (live in a pit). And the thing is, I know I can always talk to him when I’m feeling down, or when I’ve been procrastinating for months, or when I think nobody will ever read my book again. The truth is, being a writer is hard and can be discouraging, so having someone who can talk you out of the deep pit of despair is awesome. Having people who say, “You need to write,” is inspiring and it helps motivate me to do what I want again. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because true friends want you to succeed.

This post is as much a reminder to myself as it is to my audience on what I need to do to stop letting life get in the way of achieving my dreams.

What do you think is your biggest hindrance to your goals?

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