Homework—mine

I have been taking writing classes for a while now, and where there once was a vague story line has turned into a memoir and two fiction proposals. I would like to say at least one is outlined, but writing is hard. It takes a lot of discipline and concentration. If you’ve tried it, you know.

The IMG_0704scary part is having someone else read it! Of course, I’m talking about stepping out there on the teeniest branch of the tree and handing a flash drive to a stranger. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but even a lot of my friends and contacts on Facebook (including students) do not know what I am doing. Hell, I’m not sure what I am doing. Some days I wake up with the Bad Critic standing over me, laughing.

“Seriously?” he says. “What makes you think you can do anything? A book?” and then he laughs so hard, he falls off the bed, and I put the pillow over my face and try to stay in bed.

I get up, though. Some mornings it takes everything I’ve got to put my feet on the floor. But my new part time job is helping. I’m teaching 4-5-year-olds English online. I have to get up at 5 or 6 because they live in China. I know, I said I wasn’t going to teach ESL anymore, but these little guys are funny, and I get to be funny, too. They call me Teacher Sonya, or just Teacher (which is a respectful title in Asia), and usually, by the time I get done with the first class, I’ve put the Bad Critic into a garment bag and zipped him up. Oh, he’ll figure out how to get out, but not for a while, and he doesn’t dare show his face while I’m teaching online.

Yes, I know it’s a circus act, but you remember my depression? It can’t hold on to me while I’m singing the ABC’s to a five-year-old online. So far I’ve taught 47 students. And now the circle of my ESL teaching is complete. Primary School through High School. Some days I wonder how I do it.

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The Call at the Door: 10:35 pm

I have a little book in front of me titled The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing. It’s written by Monica Wood, and and I got it because a fiction professor told me it would help me get in the mind of a fiction writer. I’m supposed to be writing fiction; in fact, by the end of next summer, I will, let me say that again, I will have a young adult novel completed. (That doesn’t mean I’ll be published. That’s a whole bag of Pandora’s worms!) Okay, let’s stick to what we’re doing here. The Pocket Muse has unusual ideas for writing starts, so honestly, I just opened the book and there it was:

“An unwanted stranger comes to your door.”

This is the third year living in the city, so I have had election people, people who want me to change my electricity supplier, people who are lost, the plumbers, and then a few nights ago, as I sat cutting out alphabet letters for my students, someone jerked my front screen door open. This happened behind my back, literally, so I jumped and had that front door unbolted because I saw it was a kid.

I just caught the back of her as she ran up the street cackling, but I got enough of a look to realize it was one of my former students, one I used to mentor, one who left and came back when she was caught in a fight on Market Street, (and winning, apparently). I knew she’d try again, so I opened my front door, put a mean teacher look on my face, and there she was.

Marta.

“Ah, hahahaha!” she hollered, and off she went.

(Truthfully, I was glad to see she’s gotten braces.)

Sadly, her hair was a mess, as though she hadn’t washed it in days and because I have a strong front porch light, I could see her eyes were big as dark moons.

I shook my head. Drugs. Then I locked my screen and front doors and went to bed.

Marta wasn’t unwelcome, but there was nothing I could do for her. Unless she came back. I’m waiting.

Question of the Day

Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade ended their lives within a few days of each other. I am sad because I have walked around that rabbit hole and slipped in for a little while. The cause is often major depression, although there can be other illnesses or personal factors that cause the person to make the final push. The truth is, unless the person has left a detailed letter explaining why, it’s hard for close family and friends to understand.

You may hear comments such as “He seemed just fine!” “I talked to her just a few hours ago.”

But, people with depression learn to hide and wear a mask in their daily world. That way, we look fine! You cannot imagine what is going on in the mind, and I am hard-pressed to explain it. Depression stays in your body 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sometimes it quiets itself; sometimes it is forward and pushing aside any logical thinking or action. I call my depression the “Bad Critic,” because I am a writer. For me, the critic edits everything I say, think, or do, unless I can stop it. I try to refocus on something else or count my breaths very consciously. Outside people and events can affect it, and it is often misdiagnosed.

I had panic attacks when I was a child. The doctors could find nothing wrong with me so they blamed it on “growing pains,” puberty. But it got worse, and people around me thought I was making it up, so I developed my own coping skills by learning when and where I would panic, and what I could do to ease it.

By the time I was a teen, the Bad Critic had showed up, and I was in indescribable pain. I hid at home. I attended as few outside activities as possible. I just wanted to sleep. As I grew older, I sensed something was wrong with me, but I thought it was a character fault–seriously!

My depression was not diagnosed until I was 35 years old. I have received many kinds of treatment, but I am worse now than when I was young. Suicide is not supposed to be an option in our society, but neither is mental illness. To all those who suffer, try to keep walking one step at a time. There are people who can help you, but in the end you are alone with your mind.

Here is a place to help you

 

person standing near lake
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