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State Certification Exams, and the End of Certified Nursing Assistant Training.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 03/05/2014 by Angel D. Vargas

3/5/14

My Nursing Assistant training is put to the test during a four day externship to a long term care facility. The adventure begins with the scheduling and organization of the entire affair, but by the time the dust settles, I’m decidedly chagrined with the end result. I somehow have it in my head that we are supposed to get our choice between two facilities. Furthermore, I’ve deduced that those of us who get the required medical forms filled out the earliest are supposed to have first choice in where we want to go, as in a “first come, first serve” basis. I seem to be the only member of the class that got this taken care of early. Since home for me is at my girlfriend’s apartment in Harlem, I am hoping to be placed in what appears to be the only Manhattan location affiliated with my particular training program. Given the living situations of my classmates, they are all more or less hoping for the same placement. I am silently confident that I am going to go exactly where I wish.

Before I even set foot in a Program Administrator’s office for what feels like an official debriefing, my hopes are dashed. Our professor has come back to the classroom and dispersed our assignments to us. Not only has everyone been sent to the same facility, but its “way-the-fuck-out-in- Brooklyn” location staggers us all, as though, like some distant star, its light would take billions of years to reach our planet. Our one student who hails from New Jersey looks at me as though she wants to throw something. Another female pupil lowers her eyes to the ground, a defiant “Hell no” escaping pursed lips.  I cross my arms over my chest and turn my head, disgusted. Once again, I feel as though I’m being backed into a corner and forced to accept yet another arbitrary set of rule changes. Moments of frustration comprise my patchwork quilt of experiences with this school’s administrative communication. This nasty realization comes in the middle of my preparations for state certification tests which suddenly seem to loom like Servants of Darkness on the periphery of my life, waiting. Now I find myself wondering if those rules will change too, or if I will be handed the wrong exam without my knowledge. I vow to be extra vigilant on the first of two scheduled exam dates.

Sure enough, exam day creeps up on me like a stalking burglar. Contrary to the other two of my classmates who will be with me this day, I no longer feel as though I need to do any last minute studying, or partake in any hurried, whispered discussions of what it might be like. Our maternal professor wishes us all luck, marches her “children” into the CNA state exam room for one hour of focused study, and closes the door. The three of us sit at a large table and go over a practice exam, but I just can’t bring myself to care during “the Zero hour.”

It takes no time at all for any of the three of us to complete the Patient Care Technician exam. Sure enough, one of us is handed the wrong test, I am handed the wrong identification number for my test, and the last of my classmates has her name spelled wrong on the official roster. Despite all this, panic blossoms in the middle of my chest, and I forget to be indignant. Once the test begins, however, I feel as though I am in my element, dispatching each question with brutal efficiency. My fabulous progression sends a thrill through my body. Post test, my confidence begins to manifest in a warrior’s swagger. As I calmly stride over to the proctor to take my Phlebotomy exam on little more than a whim, I might as well have the flat of Masamune’s legendary blade resting against my shoulder. My classmates look at me as though I’ve grown an extra head, but then they nod. One of them pats me on the back as I begin the second exam.

“I know you got this,” she whispers before exiting the exam room for the day.

The externship is set to begin shortly after the test on a Monday, the 24th of February. As the day looms closer, tensions rise in the classroom. Some students begin to express doubt about travel time and cost. Others seem to lose their focus, chatting with each other or texting on their phones when they are supposed to be practicing skills for the yet unscheduled C.N.A. practical exam. One exhausted student who also works retail becomes so testy that others begin to express concern.

I become a knot of anxiety and resentment. I will have to wake up at the ass-crack of Dawn and be on a D train headed toward Coney Island for more than a hour each morning. I need to buy new white scrub pants and new white sneakers in order to follow the official facility attire standard. Meanwhile, I get the grim news that I am being laid off “until further notice” thanks to the cold calculations of a regional manager with whom I’ve only exchanged two words in almost as many years. I am still grading the test papers of nearly all my classmates, and our teacher has not stopped handing us paper after paper for our folders, all of which seem to be bursting at the seams like the bellies of expectant mothers.

None of this adds up to anything with which I would want to deal. In fact, the discussion I have with my girlfriend less than a week before the externship’s inception includes both the news of my lay off and the news about my new “wake-up” time.

I won’t bore you all with how awkward the words were as they came tumbling out of my mouth, but I will say that there is a reason to celebrate the love, understanding, and companionship of someone special. Without fail, she arranges for a couple’s massage treatment at a midtown Manhattan spa, a late one-year anniversary gift that comes just at the heels of my surprise dinner reservations for two at the Thai restaurant where we first met. There could be no better time for something like this. The treatment is so lovely and enjoyable that I almost cry when my girlfriend dashes off to a stage management assignment while I go home to melt into a puddle on our futon.

I settle in for the weekend. The fact that I’ve had my last official class in school settles on me like a spring dew. I smile, albeit wearily. It doesn’t take long to map out the walk I need to take once I get off the D train somewhere near Coney Island. I am forced to buy a pair of pants one size too large for me, and without any pockets. It’s all I can afford, and after an exhaustive search in the city, I am lucky to have found that much. My sneakers are cleaned and ready to go. I am as prepared as I am going to be, and I try to take the time to rest.

Monday

It seems, however, that the weekend passes within the blink of my burning, wearied eye. Church bells cut through the night,  and I sit up in a panic until I remember that this is the phone alarm that we’d agreed upon since my schooling began. My girlfriend jokes about wedding bells, but she can’t bring herself to climb out of bed before the sun begins its game of “peek-a-boo” with the clouds. I don’t blame her, and I don’t ask her to go through any more trouble than she already has. Until now, she’s made my breakfast at close to 6 in the morning for almost two months. It would be madness for her to wake up even earlier without a damned good reason. Love and emotional support can only go so far for those of us who are not Mother Theresa.

Without sufficient cause to travel on the D train, I might avoid the aggressive aura from the 125th street stop in Harlem. Still, the train arrives at about ten minutes to seven in the morning. I trundle on, aware that I’m already feeling stand offish. Fellow straphangers can make me feel as though I’m about to enter an arena rather than a public transit vehicle. Getting from point A to point B can be tiresome on such mornings. I don’t manage to attain a seat until about 34th street, but that is still at the very beginning of my journey. I’ve not traveled toward Coney Island for more than a decade, and I forget how long a ride it can be.

I also forget the cold. And this isn’t just any kind of cold. It’s the frigid, carve-a-hole-in-your bones-and-leave-a-wet-mildew-on-your-soul kind of arctic blast you can only  find near the water in the middle of the winter. A coastal city like New York will make you pay for any gaps in winter attire. I chose to wear my white uniform pants without a thought to long underwear. I also chose to don my winter coat without a sweatshirt beneath. The wind howls, and my teeth rattle as though I am a baby being shaken by a mother in the throw of alcoholic rage.

I still manage to get to my assigned Long Term Care facility in once piece. Many of my classmates are already there, dressed from head to toe in white. I find myself torn, wanting to either turn around and walk away, or look for the hospital identification band around my wrist. Everyone except our instructor for the day sports the raised eyebrows and hunched shoulders of apprehension. I forget to be hungry for a few minutes while we settle ourselves in, and our instructor for the week explains the importance of following the facility’s rules for attire, for conduct, and for the treatment of patient information. HIPPA is a big deal, and yet there seem to be so many different ways to violate it. By the time speeches are made and questions are answered, I’d rather like to become a deaf mute.

Receiving our assignments is fraught with nervous tension. We go to our assigned floor, and we receive a warm welcome from the charge nurse. However, the C.N.A.’s under her command are already busy. They arrive an hour earlier than we did, and it appears as though a good portion of their morning duties have been accomplished. Just when I begin to feel like a fifth, white-walled wheel, I, along with the only other man in the class, am assigned to a Nursing Assistant. She takes us to the male patients on the floor, and we set to work right away.

Our first assignment is breakfast. We get to feed a male resident who cannot even hold a spoon in his hand. Nerves mount once more as my partner steps in, meal-tray in hand, to begin. The first few spoons of hot cereal dribble down the man’s chin in embarrassing rivulets. After some nervous titters, we clean the detritus from his face and attempt to find a rhythm to the rest of the meal. I’ve hung back, surprised that my partner feels more comfort with this than I do. Our instructor finds us, nods in approval at our progress, watches my classmate feed the older gentleman, and then tells us to switch places. I don’t know why, but this takes me by surprise. In the end, I remember the classroom training, and I begin by offering the resident his apple juice. “Three sips, three spoons, three sips, three spoons.” This becomes a silent mantra in my head as I calm the shaking of my spoon-hand and proceed to offer encouragement.

The meal is soon taken from my hands by a smiling Nursing Assistant. My confused expression prompts the N.A. to tell us that the man’s wife will be visiting later in order to feed him a lunch. I am almost mollified by this explanation until I hear the bedbound man’s teeth grind against each other so hard, I’m afraid he’ll tear one of them from his gums.

“Does he do that often?” I ask.

I find out, of course, that this is regular behavior for him. It makes me curious, but something in the N.A.’s light, but insistent tone tells me we’d better get going with the rest of our morning duties. Sure enough, there is plenty to do. By the time all is said and done for the morning, my partner and I have made no less than six beds, participated in three bed baths, and learned why bedsores are not something to be taken lightly.

After a lunch and a debriefing with our instructor, our afternoon looks to be more or less the same. The morning’s activities make three hours fly by in a cosmic blur, yet the afternoon seems to drag as though someone pressed the “slow motion” button on my life. Still, things seem to be going rather smoothly. We’ve learned the scope of a Nursing Assistant’s hands on duties, and we are soon taken back to the employee break room. It’s only one o’clock in the afternoon, and our assignment keeps us here until four p.m. for each of our four days.

Our class doesn’t return to the floor. Nor are we released early. Our instructor, a registered nurse, has to go over so much paperwork and administrative procedure with us that I, along with all my other fellow pupils, become slack-jawed and bleary-eyed. Once the end of the first day arrives and we are released to our respective destinations, I find myself hoping that the next three days are just as easy. Yet I am also certain that they won’t be.

Tuesday

When I arrive the following morning, the only apparent difference between Monday and Tuesday for me is that I am now following a male Nursing Assistant instead of a woman. I am sure there will be differences in the male assistant’s approach to the male residents. I am right of course, but that doesn’t stop the work from getting done. He moves quickly, allocating duties for me and my fellow male classmate without missing a beat. Things appear to be the same as the day before, right down to our first task of feeding the same man his breakfast.

Just as we begin to find the rhythm to how to week might progress, another C.N.A passes by the room door and utters something to the effect of “the state is here,” and my stomach almost drops. Just to clarify, our class was taught that the State will often do inspections of long term care facilities in order to document procedure, look out for resident safety, and “ensure the quality of all the employees.” Facilities can be fined for evidence of resident neglect or abuse, and some have even been closed down and the staff arrested and charged with various crimes against the elderly and otherwise vulnerable. In theory, we should all be thankful that State regulators have arrived to oversee our stay at this facility.

The staff’s reaction to a state visit could not be further from one of gratitude. A frantic energy begins to build in the facility. It affects the way we handle the rest of breakfast. It alters the speed with which we attend to the other residents. The sheer volume of cleaning seems to climb exponentially. Even the charge nurse seems apprehensive, and I don’t know why until I recall our visual lesson regarding bedsores. Now I wonder what the State will observe in its tour, and why it seems that we as students are doing three times the work that we were doing just the day before.

Then I think back to my work at a major metropolitan hospital in Minnesota, and I sigh. I’ve dealt with important inspectors before in a healthcare setting. JCAHO (Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) sends their own investigative officials to hospitals and clinics. I’ve met with and spoken to these people during my time as a nightshift Psychiatric Associate at a major Midwest Metropolitan hospital. The entire affair ceased to intimidate me the moment I realized I always did what I was supposed to do and did right by the psych patients with whom I was in contact. There was never a real need for me to worry.

Wednesday

Still, the state inspectors give off an aura of self importance. During our Wednesday afternoon repose in the employee lounge, our guiding instructor leaves to run an errand, and no less than three state officials open the double doors and stand there, their roaming eyes calculating, their postures tall and aloof. I glance around, quickly noting the varied expressions on my classmates’ faces. Undaunted, I turn my attention back to the interlopers and nod. After another long day, the smile on my face is small, and I can feel my facial muscles tighten. The self-appointed State Official leader and I exchange pleasant remarks, and I exhale as my fellow pupils chime in with their own greetings. I am well aware that we can’t forget the function of State Inspectors, but I refuse to think of them as above me in any way. It does help my case that I recognize the leader of the group, a tall man wearing what appears to be an ornate yamaka. I only recognize him because we bumped into one another in the men’s restroom just that morning. A chance meeting of that nature has a way of humbling both participants.

After a tense few seconds, the double doors close, and I feel like a gunfighter that just bluffed his way out of a Spaghetti Western Standoff. I want a piece of tumbleweed to roll across the floor. Our instructor returns from her apparent disappearance, and we regale her with the sordid details of what feels like a clandestine waltz with fate.

Thursday

We finally come to the last day of our externship. All of us are tired. At this point, we’ve been told so many things to do and NOT to do because of the State visitors, I’m growing increasingly paranoid. I’ve washed my hands so many times using “state mandated technique,” that my fingers are beginning to dry, and a painful crack has erupted like a tiny fault line along the outside of my pinkie’s knuckle joint. Staring into the faces of my classmates doesn’t provide much consolation. Many appear to have grown sick of the commute, the bags beneath their eyes telling more stories than I can ever truly record. Our instructor reminds us to remain grateful for the opportunity, but I’m sure we’re all more glad that our time here is up in less than eight hours.

My final day at this facility proves to be the most challenging. As adept as my partner and I have become at feeding a particular male resident, we are denied this opportunity because we refuse to allow ourselves to be left alone as students without another employee’s supervision. This continues to be a frustration for us all, as the Nursing assistants all appear to be anxious to get things moving, yet none of the residents seem to be having an easy time of it. At our instructor’s behest, students are forced to stick like glue to their assigned C.N.A.’s. Our C.N.A. is not annoyed with us, but he does appear a bit more distant, as though his morning coffee hasn’t quite kicked in. I don’t blame him. I feel much worse for wear just having contended with this added stress for four straight mornings. I try to remind myself that my C.N.A. has chosen to do this for a living, yet this is when the existential questions begin to manifest like apparitions at the foggy cemetery of my mind.

Did I ever tell you I think too much?

In the middle of handling a struggling male resident who refuses to allow us to clean him, another male resident who can’t seem to eat his hot cereal without coughing up a lung, and a final male whose condition appears to have deteriorated so badly this week that he proceeds to vomit and defecate in the same moment, I ask myself the one question I thought I would save for a lonely walk in the park.

“Why would anyone do this for a living?”

Much to the credit of the staff, they answer me without my having to ask. One female Nursing Assistant reminds me that she chose this occupation because she feels for the elderly and vulnerable of our world, and wants do as much as she can to provide care and comfort. Another employee tells me her grandmother was in such a place, and was treated well by her caregivers, which inspired the Nursing Assistant to pursue this line of work. My C.N.A. doesn’t offer us a tale of woe or of courage, but he simply does his thing. A sparkle does seem to come to his eye as he assigns me and my partner certain rooms where multiple beds need to be made, confident that we will both do a good job. At this point, my partner and I each make our own beds, and I am encouraged by our individual progress.

We also learn to chart on resident cares on the computer. I am surprised at how little one actually gets to comment on their individual impressions of resident progress, and I don’t like being left out of the equation, so to speak. Visual icons represent the various items on a patient’s care plan itinerary. A bedpan, a toilet, or a commode icon speak for themselves. Just point with a mouse, click, and a patient’s abilities with toileting have been recorded for the day. After watching a Nursing Assistant do this with a series of activities for one resident, I realize that this can become rather mundane. I wonder if we’ve made a mistake depersonalizing patient charting, ultimately removing ourselves from the empathy needed for such undertakings. For me, the act of writing something down elicits emotion, for good or for ill. I suppose that’s why I am pursuing professional level fiction writing. Being able to talk with others about what has transpired also matters. As a former mental health worker, I am all too aware of how subtleties in body language and tonal voice changes can comfort, alarm, or galvanize an individual. This new way of charting comes off as cold and impersonal, and leaves me feeling as though my accomplishments were just not that important. Nobody should feel this way about such an important job.

This proves to be the longest feeling day this week. By the time I sit my aching body down on the most comfortable chair in the employee lounge, I find myself unable to process much of anything. My thoughts shift uncomfortably, as though they are a series of songs on a malfunctioning ipod that won’t do anything but shuffle. To make matters worse, during our lunch break, we spy snow falling outside our window, as though we are sitting inside a gigantic snow-globe. As we eat our way through our three dollar meal tickets, the wind outside intensifies until I’m sure I’m looking at the beginnings of a blizzard. This year’s winter has worn New Yorkers down, and I groan as though I’ve been asked trek through the tundra and procure snacks for everyone in the cafeteria.

The afternoon seems to fly by us like a flock of snowy owls. The storm passes quickly, and my mood lifts almost as fast. My partner and I rush around at the beck and call of our Nursing Assistant/mentor, fully aware that this will be the last time we make a bed or dispose of unpleasant human biological deposits in such a setting for a time. Finally, when the last piece of electric assistive equipment has been put away, the last bed has been made and the last resident have waved a frail but warm goodbye to us both, my partner and I head back to the employee lounge for the last of our debriefings. More paperwork followed by words of encouragement and pride seems to hover just in front of me. I think back on my experience, and I can’t help but note one ultimate truth.

This is not the work I will pursue once I graduate the program.

My conclusion has less to do with the residents than I thought it would. But, as always, one is forced to think of the big picture when undergoing such things as internships or externships. And why shouldn’t this be the case? As shaky as the economy still feels, I didn’t go back to school just to feel as though I have to take yet another job I don’t want. School is a risky investment of time as well as money. For this to feel like a success, there must be a true reward for the work I’ve put in. Gainful and meaningful employment was the goal here. Even when the idea of volunteering here is presented as an option to our group, I shudder. The location is just too far for it to be worth an unpaid opportunity.

I am the brave soul who volunteers his reluctance to pursue this line of work. I am also forced to accept another reality for which I was not prepared. The elderly and infirmed force me to face my own mortality in the simplest of terms, in the most direct line of sight. There is no escaping the ravages of time. The human body ages and dies. I may not have been alone in my awareness of this phenomenon, but I admitted it to my class. It depresses me almost unutterably.

The externship is ultimately a humbling experience for me and for so many others. Our goodbyes are short, and the Nursing Assistants can’t seem to let us go without words of advice or encouragement. I don’t give away my true feelings about the work they do, but I understand the meaning of caring for another person in the twilight of their lives. I can’t begin to imagine where I will be at that age, or what society will become in regard to its elders. I can only hope that I am surrounded by warmth and compassion, even when I forget the spelling and meaning of such words.

 

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Chapter 12

Posted in Drum Roll, The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12/06/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

No, my faithful readers, I have not forsaken thee.

I’m simply tired. This has been a full work week. Yet I’ve managed to come up with another chapter for my Serial, Unbreakable. Be sure to read chapter 12, vote for it (because let’s face it, why the hell wouldn’t you?) and then get your friends to vote on my serial, and get their friends and family to sign up, read it, and cast many votes in my favor.

 

Bribery doesn’t work when you don’t have any money, folks, so I’ll have to rely on your good judgment.

 

Fuck that shit. Free Aikido lessons to the next fifty voters.  😛

On another note, it’s come to my attention that links to my current chapter may only work if one is signed in with an account already. This is strange, and not at all convenient. Methinks a conversation with my lovely editor is in order 🙂

 

Adios for now.

 

 

Coming Back ..

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/14/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I’d like to start this blog by saying that I was on a hiatus for a bit. A friend of mine came into the city and I decided to show her a good time. There are pictures. No, not that kind, you sick perverts!

As a result of my mini “staycation,” I stayed away from most social media. I didn’t even e-mail more than once, and that was to confirm that I was continuing a writing project that I started many moons ago.

My writing is going very well, I think, despite all the challenges that life seems to throw at me. I’m one busy motherfucker. I have the cleaning project in this apartment that has all but consumed my life when I am not working. I’m taking a break from that messy business. It’s done great things for this house and for my own mental health, but the process of getting cleaned up around here has been slow, and at times, so fucking aggravating that I want to snap someone’s neck and call it a day. I’m glad I took some time.

But my mindset since I’ve gotten back from that hiatus has been one of purposeful relaxation. I don’t want to delve back into the rat race that quickly. I’ve got to catch up with myself. I’m a bit tired of putting the needs of others above my own. My balance has been off in that respect. It happens. Life hurls its many curve balls at me, I get busy, and I don’t take the time to take care of me. I get sick or I get sick and tired. Those are apparently very different states of being according to my mother.

Cue studio audience laughter.

Parents have a way of making their adult children think about the course of their own lives. My parents are no exception.

A friend of mine engaged me in a discussion this afternoon before work. Of course, it started when the word “denial” came up. The word “denial” immediately puts me on the defensive. I won’t make any bones about that. But my friend, as far as I could tell, was genuinely concerned that I don’t appear to know how to slow down. Our discussion took on several different dimensions of course, but this is the one that stuck with me all the way through work this afternoon. It’s the one thing that I kept thinking about as I hurled myself into my captains chair and tried with utter desperation to bring the fun in.

If I have to try that hard to bring the fun in, perhaps the vacation wasn’t long enough.

But this is not the first time that this has come up in discussion this week.

Another friend of mine expressed concern that I won’t let anyone into my heart.

A third friend of mine seems worried that I don’t talk much.

My co workers seem to think I’ve become withdrawn.

With all these concerns coming to the fore AFTER I’ve just had a vacation, I was forced to consider the very real possibility that people simply didn’t like that I was gone for as long as I was. Even today, people expressed concern that I was in the back of the store at work pretty much my entire shift. My job sort of requires that right now, so I have little choice. But even I have to admit, after so much public face time and customer contact, being stuck in a little alcove in front of an elevator processing returns all day long feels isolating.

I’m beginning to worry.

My parents have put their two cents in. For some reason, their interjections on this subject have made me angry.

My father tells me “kid, you look tired and you work too hard.” Never mind that virtually every other day after work, he makes plans for my time that involve even more home projects that I am getting rather sick of doing. I have to shake my head at chuckle when he does this and then tells me “relax, kid,” as though I’m the one who keeps coming up with all this shit.

On the other hand, this is what my typical week looks like.

I wake up at 6 am monday morning. I prepare for an early work day. I got to work at nine.

After work, I do a load or two of laundry. It takes hours.

After that, I edit my story and try to catch up with my friends.

Maybe, I get some sleep.

The next morning, I do MORE laundry before a closing shift at my job.

The third day is a morning at work. If I’m lucky, I can rest after work this day, except I almost always have errands to run concerning my family. Even better, I’ve got writing projects that I’ve been putting off for so long that I try to do some of them. But my brain is so shot and I’ve had such a tiring previous couple of days that I get very little done. I start to wonder where my discipline has gone.

And then, I do the social networking thing.

Oi.

Thursdays are my last day at work for the week. I want to say that this means I have some fun. I can do that most of the time. But then the drama begins at home. Someone at home always has to make a scene at the end of my work week. Drunken arguing ensues. I slam my door and try not to regret that I came home at all.

Friday and Saturday. These are supposed to be fun days. Of late, they are replete with a lot of work. My cleaning project is foremost on the list of chores. My autistic brother decides to intervene by making noise and complaining when I won’t let him play with my keys. I try to maintain good humor and patience through all of this, but the previous week has been stressful. I compromise on everything. I don’t even get to use my bathroom when I want to this day because my father is busy doing an hour and a half long asthma treatment two times a day in our only bathroom. I’m getting angrier, but I press on because I know that this will all be worth it, right?

Meanwhile, I have NO social life to speak of in this city. I don’t hang out with family. That may have something to do with the fact that they all seem to want to give me advice that I don’t ask for. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been gone from most of their lives for so long that they no longer can relate to me in any other way. Some of them scare me with their sheer ignorance. Others are just living their lives, and we’ve remained separate for long periods of time.

I was gone for ten years. I won’t deny that it hurt some people. But I won’t apologize either. That was my time to figure out some things I needed to know. I’ll ask those of you who bother to get to know me again to remember that.

But I’ll only ask once. I have no energy to repeat myself.

I worry that I’ve swung my katana too hard. I’ve scared people away with my intensity. I’ve intimidated them with my inability to slow down. I’ve elicited concern and, in some cases, alarm from my nearest and dearest.

And I won’t lie. I am tired. So tired.

But I can’t stop fighting. I have goals to meet. I’ve got a life to live. I’ve got dreams.

Are all of these things supposed to fade into nothingness again like they did before? Are all of my own aspirations supposed to take a back seat again because I grow so tired of trying to balance it all on my shoulders?

I can’t allow that. If my ten year absence taught me anything at all, it is that I cannot allow my dreams to fade. I will not allow anyone to tear me away from my writing and my art. I can’t bear the thought that I have to sacrifice those things again so that someone else will think I’m doing something “practical” with my life. FUCK PRACTICAL! Practical doesn’t make anyone smile when they wake up in the morning. Practical is what you reserve for balancing a budget or figuring out how to dress your kids for school while writing a grocery list.

It’s NOT the word you use when you talk of love for something, or someone.

.. I’m afraid I don’t always know what real love is.

That scares me more than anything in this world. All this hard work and all this running around, being fast and efficient means nothing. All this motion and repetition leaves me feeling cold on the weekends. It leaves me feeling rather irritated with most people.

Am I growing colder?

Is exhaustion taking away my humanity? Am I killing my own spirit with too much work and worry?

These are legitimate questions.

The calm of a weary warrior suffuses my being. It is the calm that comes before the storm.

Maybe as I wipe the blood from my sword in my private forest sanctuary, I’ll stick the blade in the soft earth, lean my head upon the hilt and just weep.

 

 

 

 

 

Samurai Mode

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 08/10/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

What have we here?

I wake up. Twelve hours have gone by since I crashed. The funk of the work week had to leave my body, so I showered. The weight of the work week had to leave my soul so I slept.

But my body still hurts. My mind is still full.

And when I open the door to my room, my old man gives me this look like he’s expecting my wrath to explode like napalm. He isn’t scared. He’s braced.

I don’t care. It’s time to go about my business.

The bathroom is hot and it smells. I feel like a layer of grease just settled over my body. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the sizzle of bacon. I would shower again, but the hot water has been turned off. Swell.

Errands need to be run. Bills need to be paid. And .. Are you fucking kidding me? Someone needs to be taken care of again.

I don’t do that anymore. It’s been made clear that I have no authority here. I’d flip them all the bird, but I’m in some sort of hurry that I can’t even explain.

After a short time on the internet, I find some coffee and get dressed. Like a bat out of Hell, I fly from my home, determined not to look back. I got up late, and it still feels like I’m the early bird of my house. I don’t understand it. It feels pathetic somehow.

The first order of business is to go to my bank. I don’t realize it until I step outside, but the humidity hasn’t gone away. New York feels like a Turkish Bath, except for the fact that I can’t walk around in the buff.

I don’t know why, but the humidity just makes me want to move faster. If I have to sweat, I might as well do it while accomplishing something. It’s the same mentality I had yesterday at work. There was no AC there either. The promised repairs on the system hadn’t been made. I wasn’t surprised.

I had a mountain of work to do. I leveled the mountain. I did it with an economy of motion. I did it with few words. There were no surprises.

That’s what a warrior does.

My mind hasn’t left warrior mode. I move across the street with as few steps as possible. I am aware of people only as moving obstacles. I see them in my periphery as I zoom by. Appearance matters little. Speed is of the essence.

But it’s my first day off of work for the week. My mental state flies in the face of that fact. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I understand this. Somehow, I’ll get to the point where I’ll relax.

Now is just not that time.

I make my way to the bank and wait on the line of people. I look behind me once I step inside the building. People walk inside, intent on the same thing I am. They all seek to interact with a machine. That interaction will be the longest one some of these people have with anything outside of their own essence. Why this occurs to me at this moment escapes me.

When my turn comes, I do what I need to do and I leave. No muss, no fuss.

I hold the door open for about nine different people before I even get to walk back outside. Somehow I beat the after work, pre dinner bank rush. I smirk as I step out onto the street again.

But I don’t run my errands right away. There is something else I need to do first. I don’t bother to make sense of it. I just know what I’m feeling. I’m pent up. There is aggression in my steps. There is tension in my muscles. My clothes feel like just another layer of skin. I am already naked to the rest of the world.

Almost.

The exception is my eyes.

I think about this as I thread the needle of my soul through countless other pedestrians on the New York Streets. My glasses are compact, graduated transition lenses. In the sun, they darken. At times, I forget this fact. I somehow hang onto to it today like a lifeline. Why? What is it in my eyes that I don’t want others to see? What am I hiding in the supposed windows to my soul?

As if in response to this thought, a woman stares my way. She’s wearing a form fitting blue sun dress. She’s also wearing shades. The corners of her mouth twitch upward. I can’t help but return the gesture, even as I rush by her like a bullet train with a cracked out conductor.

Is this how New Yorkers interact now? Maybe it’s always been this way.

My father tells me stories about running into friends on the street all the time. I’ve walked with him for years. He used to be like me. When there was a slew of things to do, he did them with a brutal sort of efficiency.

But he got older. Silver and grey encroached on his beard like a reverse oil spill in the Hudson. Somehow, along with that silver came a propensity to slow down and look at every random thing he could in every store that he ever shops in.

It drives me to the point where I grind my teeth and want to stomp my foot in frustration.

Running errands with him will always be this way now. I’ve had to learn to accept it. I’ve also had to learn to say no when I know that the frustration will make me want to kick him in the shins. I don’t know that it’s his fault. He’s retired. He spent 21 years of his life doing a job that I can’t even imagine doing. He’s earned the right to slow down and smell the technicolor flowers.

So why can’t I do that?

The work week has come and gone. Granted most of my work has been fast and somewhat hard on the physical body, I can handle it very well.

But I’m not a spring chicken. I’m in my  thirties, still trying to figure my shit out. I’m trying to launch the life that I want. I don’t want the life that others think I should have.

It’s difficult to get people to understand that part of me.

I’m reconciling all of this as I continue to speed through people. They simply look like columns of light to me shooting out from a flowing blue stream. I can shuck and dodge my way past objects like that.

At times, I don’t want to deal with people, but it’s easier to get lost in a crowd. That irony will always be with me in New York City.

Today is no exception. My quick footwork gets attention from some. The way I’m dressed gets attention from others. I meet people’s gazes, glances, or glares with equal measure. I don’t shy away from anyone’s attention anymore. When I consider that I am editing a book that I hope to get published someday, I can ill afford to be shy much longer. When I consider what I’m writing about, spotting the Naked Cowboy on Times Square in his tightie whities might not be such a big deal. Being a New Yorker almost makes my direct personality a necessity. The reputation that New Yorkers have for being blunt is well deserved.

I came home for a reason. It had nothing to do with family. It had nothing to do with the economy or with my aversion to Midwestern living.

I returned to reclaim my muse. But to do that, I needed to reclaim who I am.

That process is never easy. It’s taken me a year of living here to remember the parts of me that I loved. Like a defragging, I’ve had to sort through and remove the other parts of me that no longer serve.

The most straightforward part of my psyche is also the most unnerving. This is my inner Samurai.

In the moments where I speed walk along Times Square and find the wormholes that let me punch a hole through the world, I am in Samurai mode.

In Samurai mode, I don’t waste time. People have called me ninja. I used to think this was cool. But I realize now that they only call me this because I move when they’re busy standing still. I act when they are busy reacting.

I get from point a to point b when people aren’t even paying attention.

If I do this to you someday, it won’t be because you blinked and I seek to dazzle with preternatural speed. I’m simply in my Samurai state. Since it seems I can’t walk down a NYC street without being noticed, I can’t really be a ninja anyway. But I can still move too fast for you to catch. I forge ahead with purpose. I exude the strength of my will. It seeps from my pours. It crackles like electricity. It strikes like forked lightning through a turbulent sky.

I do this because I must. I have to get beyond the confusion and mediocrity of my past. I need to surge past the static waters of my immediate surroundings.

I will make my way to the future. If it means we befriend each other along the way, then so be it. You can either raise your weapon and join me on the road to your own future, or you can stay out of my way. In samurai mode, I feel no compassion. I sense no sadness from others because it doesn’t register. I have no mercy. Those things slow me down. They keep my wheels spinning at the times when I want to be skimming over water or soaring  through the air.

In samurai mode, I won’t stop to mourn you if you fall.

If nobody else will unclip my wings, I’ll use my sword to unclip them myself.

I will draw blood from God himself if he tries to stop me.

Unknown Samurai

Posted in Drum Roll, The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 07/06/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I wake up. Thoughts begin to tumble in my mind.

They come into focus when the rest of me does.

Cold water hits my face in the shower. I don’t flinch. I make it warm and go about washing myself. I remember to check myself for unusual lumps. There’s still pain in my arms from the last few days. I ignore it and move on.

I get out of the shower. I still look more or less clean shaven even though I’m not. My face looks chiseled because I’ve lost weight again. I eat more when I get to eat, but I don’t get to eat as often. My chest is broad, but not solid.  I will get that back very soon.

The family coffee gets made while I drink the rest of the old stuff. I’m grinding the beans that my best friend sent me. The smell of fresh beans almost makes up for the noise of the grinder. Fortunately, I am on autopilot. I can switch my mind off to the noise anytime I please.

Coffee is brewing in the kitchen while I run back to my room to set up the laundry. This sets up the second half of my day. It promises to be long.

I drink fresh coffee as I finish the task. Time moves faster than I expect.  I guess it really does fly whether or not you’re having fun.

I do a hundred push ups. The first two sets are clips of 25.  I do 50 more before I text my best friend on skype.  She worries.  I scoff, but in secret I worry too ..

I finish getting dressed and I make the mistake of sitting down.  I’m not sure I want to get up again, but I haven’t even put on my shoes yet. It’s minutes before work, and I don’t want to go.  I do what I must, and push on.

I don’t let on that there’s a pain in my right foot from the blister that popped. I don’t bother to mention that I barely got to eat breakfast.  I let it get cold.

I arrive at work. A co worker looks up and says “there he is.” Another co worker smiles. I smile back, but I can tell it’s a tired smile.

I move to the back room and punch in for the day after waiting for five minutes.  My brain is already going. My job is a minimum wage job.  It will do for now.

I make the mistake of believing that my body can move fast and that my brain will eventually catch up.  What else would three massive cups of coffee be good for?  I spend the first two hours screwing up book returns.  I accidentally process two books from the same publishing company in separate returns. I then proceed to lose the paperwork for one of those returns while I switch the forms for two others. By the time I realize my mistakes, my right eye begins to hurt. I slow down and take a breath. I remember that I saw Sherylin Kenyon’s book.  I also remember that I follow her on twitter now in the hopes that she’ll follow me back.  I’ve never even read what she’s written, but it’s still wild to have seen her book in my hands .. It’s even wilder to know that Jerry Seinfeld might have been here too, but I missed him.

I don’t follow him on twitter though.  I guess I don’t want to be a stand up comedian with a hit television show under my belt.

A full on headache ensues when the next obstacle appears in the form of a six legged menace. A cockroach appears and I stop dead. I’m something like 20 times its size, but I freeze. Childhood memories come flooding back and I want to scream. It’s not the roaches that frighten me, but what their associated with ..

And this makes me angrier than I expect.

My chest heaves when the creature appears again.  A young lady points it out to me, and I walk toward it. I try to step on the thing and it scampers, creepy antennae and all. I sigh.  I’ve missed my chance to reclaim my manhood.

Stupid emasculating bug.

The third time it manifests, it scuttles toward me. Goosebumps form on my legs as I drop the book I’m scanning. As soon as the book hits the ground, I clench my teeth and stomp after the thing.  It scampers away, making a mad dash for the bottom of a metal bookshelf.  I go to kick the thing.  I want to hear the chiten of its shell crunch underneath my black Lebron James shoes. I want the thing to quiver underneath my foot ..

The fourth time it appears, I am prepared.  I have grabbed a book from the “strip” list. The thing was going to get its cover torn off anyway.  What a waste. I use it for something much more worthy.  With a discuss throw, I hurl the book at the object of my childhood fear and rage. It connects. The book bounces off another bookshelf and sails across the room.

Now I have to clean the thing up.  I gather an empty box and a broom, but I still have the fight the shakes for 15 minutes before I get the corpse into the box. It’s severed clean in half.

I hope to God I put the other half in the box too.

Funny thing. As soon as I toss the thing into a trash bag and wrap it up tight, I feel a rush. I’ve done more than kill a stupid cockroach. My childhood fear has become less tangible, somehow. I don’t know if it’s gone, but we’ll call this a step in the right direction.

Work goes a bit more smoothly after that. It seems my brain has caught up with my body.  I tear through returns, and get them ready for shipping.  I rip through some more, and I get those ready too.

My day is over at 4pm after a last minute cock up. I punch out and head home only to remember I set up laundry. Damnit.

But I have to do it. Nobody else can.

God, why do I feel like Micheal Keaton in a batsuit?

I make the mistake of sitting in my captain’s chair and turning on my computer.  I tool around briefly on social media sites. It bores me, but I am addicted to them like I used to be to cigarettes.  I need my fix.

I like klout.  I miss my facebook friends sometimes.

But I heave the giant rolling bag full of laundry into the living room with little effort. It’s been done before. I’ve been doing this for a year now. The family laundry is the only rent I can pay while I live with my parents.  Even now, I don’t make much.  Just enough to feel like I have a job.

I heft the large bag downstairs and I begin to feel my body really hurt for the first time.  My chest is sore.  My back is in pain. My arms quiver.  But I can’t let this go.

I won’t spend my only day off between shifts washing clothes.

The laundromat is crowed. Perhaps I was foolish to try to come out here in the evening, but I don’t feel like I have a choice. If I want to rest tomorrow, I’ve got to get this out of the way.

Loading the machine should be easy, but it feels a lot like pulling circus clowns out of one of those old VW Bugs. It’s beginning to piss me off. My right eye hurts worse than before. I drank water at work, but the heat has robbed me of all hydration. The humidity is low, but I don’t quite feel the difference.

I make eye contact with a young, Asian woman and she immediately smiles. I offer a grin, but it feels odd. I don’t know what to do with my face when a woman smiles at me anymore.

It shouldn’t make me angry though.

I turn my head to pretend to busy myself operating the machine I just loaded. I even stop the cycle and start it again just to be sure I “got it right.” She’s not staring anymore, and I feel a sense of relief. It isn’t like me to shrink from a woman’s attention. It bothers me. I must look the way I feel.

I walk to Time’s Square from the laundromat. I feel like a soldier marching to a steady cadence. My bearing feels like that of a warrior. My feet are already throbbing, but I ignore the pain. I just want to move.

As I get closer to Broadway, I realize my mistake. I need to thread my way through a massive crowd. I do what I’ve been doing lately. I push on, refusing to give in. I don’t want them to cut into my work out time. These people don’t have the same need I have to move fast and stay active. I’m thirty two years old. I am not as young as I once was. I feel it catching up with me in attitude more than anything else. I don’t want to waste time. I don’t wish to indulge others their whims. I don’t wish to become overweight and burned out like so many I once knew.

I certainly don’t feel like the asshole that just stepped on my new shoes is going to get a second reprieve.

But the stupid fuckers with their damned smart phones come out. They text when they should be crossing the street. They call people when they should be watching where they walk. Instead, I must watch where they go. That’s been happening too often of late. I shuck and dodge all sorts of arms and legs without batting an eyelash. Little kids whiz by my feet and I don’t miss a step. A cabbie runs a red light and I flip him off as he sails past my back.  I do all this without changing the expression on my face much. I’ve learned to duck elbows, canes, umbrellas from stupid pale women in the sun, and the naked cowboy.

Today, the naked cowboy has a naked cowgirl counterpart that looks old enough to be his grandmother. There’s also a naked Indian

Great, so all we need is a naked construction worker and a naked cop and we have the Naked Village People.

Swell.

Today, I’m fucking impatient.

I call one guy a dickhead before I run past him to cross the street before the light changes. He just stands there texting his life away, unaware of the amazing redhead in the blue dress that just passed him.

Fuckufaizu!!!!!

I begin to treat the crowd like schools of fish. I am a shark that must dart through them all unseen, eyes scanning the area. I thread through them as though I’m trying to create a wormhole with New Yorker Ninjitsu. I used to think of myself as a linebacker when I was larger. But I’m thinner now. People don’t get out of my way as readily when they see my scowl. I don’t care as long as I can get past them. They all seem like pestilential weeds. I want to cut them down with a samurai weapon and toss them behind me. I’ll move on to the next series of targets and deal with them accordingly.

I go through the next twenty blocks feeling this way. I walk back along fifth avenue with the same alacrity. I am getting stared at again. I don’t know what to do. People look at me as though they should recognize me. It’s creeping me the fuck out.

I go back to the laundromat and throw my clothes in the drier. Then it’s off to Central Park to visit my duck pond.

Only  when I get there, it’s kind of crowded and I can’t sit at my favorite Gazebo overlooking the pond. People and their stupid babies want to take pictures by the water. I almost want the kids to drown as they chase the turtle heads that poke out and form golden ripples under the sun.

I sit on a rock by the edge of the pond and try to phase everyone out as I look at the water.

It doesn’t work, but I start to doze off anyway. So much for mind over matter.

I spend fifteen minutes sitting and getting distracted by wandering people and their dogs. When I finally get up, my feet are sending signals to my brain to sit the fuck back down, but I hit the override button in my head and press on. the chafing of my upper thighs begins to burn. My thighs always were a bit too thick, but in this heat, I feel like my skin will be rubbed raw. I bite my lower lip and walk through the pain. I push my limits. I’ve a massive headache and a sudden urge to scream. I’m so tired that everything I see pulsates with the violent waves of a stormy ocean.

I march back to the laundromat feeling like a lonely, unknown soldier. I pass the pain threshold for my feet 10 blocks from the place, but I don’t stop. I am thirsty, but I won’t stop and drink. I must get this done.

It takes too long to fold the clothes that are dry.  I am there for an hour folding my father’s button down shirts. I know he’ll ask the same question he always does when I get home.

“Was it crowded?”

I wonder what I’ll tell him.

I trudge back home, watching the light fade from the sky. I’ve got one more mile to go before I sleep. The pain has stretched from my feet to my knees. Each step makes me want to wince, but I don’t bother. What’s the point of acknowledging pain at this point in the mission? I’m almost home free.

A cold beer and a bowl of food sounds just about perfect. So does a foot rub followed by sex. I’ll only get two of the four tonight. I’m sure you can all guess which two.

I have a full blown headache now. I’ve been on my feet for almost fourteen hours. I want desperately to flirt with the women with the short shorts, but I can’t even muster the strength for a sardonic smile. I settle for a grimace. I get gas pains from hunger. I’m almost home though. I’ll make it all better.

I’ll make it alright again.

I’ll rub my own feet and drink a beer.

I’ll celebrate my productive day. I’ll have another one in a couple of days.

I hope my body doesn’t scream at me then the way it is now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Samurai

Posted in Drum Roll, The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/17/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I’ve become a writing samurai.

The samurai part is what happens to me when I’m told I’m not good enough. I fight to reclaim the honor that  I feel was stripped from me. I do it fast, and I try to be as efficient as possible.  No motion will be wasted. No time will be spared for excuses from myself or from others.

You can all guess what the writing part refers to.

But the reason for my change of attitude is more complicated than I thought it was.

I thought I was making this shift because I’d submitted my writing to one publisher and had been summarily rejected.

“Thanks, but no thanks.  We’d be happy to have you try again.”

If  I hadn’t been so shocked at the rejection, I, like some of you, would have noticed the last words of the previous sentence.

I decided to try again anyway, to show these bastards what they missed the first time. (cue maniacal laughter!)

I wrote with a vengeance. I edited. I wrote some more. I had friends read and edit my work.  I read it aloud to myself.  I read it again to two of my friends when I thought I was ready.

And then when that was done, I edited some more.  I read it aloud one more time.  I even had a friend read it back at me in her voice so that I would not miss a beat.

All told this weekend, I put something like 14 hours into this project, and that was after I’d finished writing it on Friday.  The story that I worked on and submitted tonight by the way (yay me!) had become more than just a quest to reclaim my lost honor.  It had become an obsession.

That’s not to say that I didn’t have my supporters.  J. Marie Ravenshaw and Edward Lorn will always have my gratitude for their assistance in bringing madness to my method … I mean method to my madness.  Muahahaha!  They have both read and reread this piece.   Both have offered words of encouragement, constructive criticism.

Both have actually spoken to me without asking me to be their therapist.

Neither has asked me to put up with their problems on a daily basis.

Neither has proffered lame excuses for not dealing with any of the problems they may face with their lives.

Both will continue to be with me when others have long since abandoned me as mad. They will share my journeys as I dive into my fantasy worlds and resurface with stories to share.  Perhaps some of these stories will make it to the general public.  I hope so.

I’m sure as I move along in this world, I will discover others for whom this is true.  And there are some other people in my life already with whom I share the deepest parts of myself.

But I am going to be honest.  Most of my closest allies on this planet right now may not be blood related.

None of the people with whom I currently live know that writing is my passion.  They hear about it as we talk of other things, but I have shown them nothing of my work.  I have not shown them the sword with which I slay Ninja Dragons and impress the winged ladies of my life.  What they know about me is constantly drowned out by the vicissitudes of regular life tinged with a madness that I cannot bare to put into words.

True madness can be brought about by several things, in my opinion.  I have learned about severe mental illness thanks to my forays into the mental health professions.  There is nothing quite so shocking to me as watching a person lose their ability to function in the world thanks to something that is beyond their control and affects their brains.  When your mind becomes your own worst enemy, nobody has to wish you harm or physically intimidate or abuse you.  You do it all to yourself without even realizing it’s being done.  I would not wish something like this on my worst enemy.

Sometimes just waking up and facing life itself can leave me feeling about as useless as an asshole on my elbow..

But there are other forms of madness that can arise, over time, from other things that are self inflicted.  I have had the unfortunate necessity to learn of this too in the last few years.  I won’t go into details now, but there is something to be said about watching someone else on a certain narcotic or other substance.  There is a journey to be undertaken by the observer as they watch someone they love destroy themselves and the family and friends with whom they are surrounded.  It is a fascinating and alarming trek to undertake when the person you once knew as the light of your life has immersed themselves in a darkness from which they refuse to be pulled.  I will only extend my hand so many times when it is repeatedly slapped, burned, or bitten.

And I am not a Pavlovian dog.  I will not lay down and allow myself to be electrocuted because of some Skinnerian principle of learned helplessness.  If I can’t find a way past the electricity on the floor, I’ll piss on the damned floor and watch it sparkle before I start hopping around, looking for the fuckers who turned on the juice.  And you better believe I’d bite their nuts off before I ran off into the sunset with a pretty bitch at my side.

I have to say goodbye to someone this year.

They are not dead in the physical sense.  But they have died to all sense of reality.  They have taken themselves out the world in which we live, and they have remained enshrouded in the fug of their own ignorance and impotent rage.

That is something that I would not wish on anyone, friend or otherwise.  Yet it is also something that I can damned well live without.

The samurai in me has been at war with my inner healer.  My inner healer wants to talk some sense into this person and remind them that it is not too late to get some semblance of a normal life back.  I want to tell them it is not too late to reclaim one’s soul if one will only remember that they have one in the first place.

My inner samurai has emerged though, and all I want to do is cut through this person like a weed, brushing them aside so I can move on with my own life.   I feel  no pity for this wretched excuse of humanity.  I feel no remorse as I draw my sword and cut them down with my words.  I feel no mercy as I slice off their choking hands at the wrists and toss them aside like garbage.  There is ice in my veins when she tells me that I am broken and I simply stare, willing them to look in a mirror.  I want to quote Clint Eastwood at them and ask what happens at night when the demons come.

But I need not waste my breath.  I hear them crying melodramatically in the darkness.  I scoff and shrug my shoulders.

Fuck ’em.

But we are fast closing in on the real reason that I spent so much time on this latest writing project.

Every effort that I make to further my dream to write fiction for a living has taken me closer to my inner bliss.  But it has had another affect.  I am removing myself further from the suffocating miasma of this person’s existence.  I am shielding myself from their sadness, their self pity, and their ultimate rage.  I can no longer be this person’s whipping boy, their Pavlovian dog, their indentured servant, their prisoner, or their anything.  I am not and I have never been anything more to them than a target upon which they could foist their self loathing and inadequacies.  I have never been more than a scratching post when they seek to dig their claws.

But I simply refuse to do it anymore.

If I’ve learned anything from my writing other than how to hone my technique and how to concentrate when World War Three erupts around me in such dramatic, “I am the night fashion,” is that practice makes perfect.  The only thing that people need to understand about following a dream is that it takes hard work.  The dream, in this case, is the journey, and not the destination.  The dream is what you begin to become, the spirit that seeps into you as you invite true happiness in.  And there is nothing on this planet that can take that away from me.

Perhaps personal growth and change  is one of the harder parts of learning to write.  I share my story because I want to inspire other writers who may be struggling with accepting that it is their dream to write, whether it be for fun, for a living, or just to escape the insanity of their otherwise chaotic lives.  As I’ve said countless times, we write about what we know.  I have reminded myself this weekend that I know just as much about seeking happiness and meeting a goal as I do about having the love and happiness sucked from my life by things that may or may not be out of my control.  I realize that the best way to meet life is head on.  Take that Succubus or Incubis by the horns and get the happiness you’ve fought off all those other demons for.  Claim that love that you’ve denied yourself because other self-pitying naysayers and hatemongers told you that you couldn’t do it.  Become merciless your purging of such negativity from your world.  You’re the only one that can do this.  You’re the only one that can heal yourself.

I must once again take up the sword that I laid by the river’s edge all those years ago.  And I do it gladly.

I will take back the happiness I lost.

And by the way, I’m not asking permission.

 

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