More Than Just a Story Challenge

The entry deadline for the Simon & Schuster Prose Challenge has passed. They’re supposed to announce the 50 best stories on June 21st, so I guess that reading/liking/reposting/commenting will still be happening in an official capacity until then (if the contest is a popularity contest, as most suspect, in which the more likes you get, the “best”-er you are). So, please, continue reading and liking and sharing “Take the 55 North” until then. And beyond then. My ego is always in need of boosting.

As much as I would like to be in that top 50 for the chance to get a Simon & Schuster editor to read my work (and I would really, really like that, make no mistake), I am happy that a more personal challenge has already been met.

I woke up the morning after the deadline to “Take the 55 North” having garnered 21 likes, 9 reposts, and over 370 reads. Six people left very lovely comments. This is may not seem like much, but for me, this kind of support is huge. I labor under the delusion that no one is interested in my writing, that I don’t write anything that anyone else wants to read. So to see numbers like that, it really encourages me.

It also encourages me to see how supportive people have been. In addition to people taking the time to read my story and sign up so they could leave a comment or a like or repost it, people were also retweeting my tweets about this challenge and sharing my posts over on Facebook about it.

I am not a very good self-promoter. I feel like no one gives a shit about my writing career and I’m just annoying them when I do any sort of promoting about it. With this challenge, I made a conscious choice to promote it -and, therefore, myself- more. Clearly, I didn’t do it to excess, but I did it much more often than I normally would have. I’m sure I annoyed some people. But many others also showed up to support me and that means the world to me. It showed me that I shouldn’t doubt that there are folks cheering for me.

So, thank you very much to everyone who supported me. If you signed up to give me a like, thank you. If you gave it a read, thank you. If you reposted it, thank you. If you left a comment, thank you. If you retweeted it, thank you. If you shared a post, thank you.

And if you’ve always done those things and will continue doing those things, THANK YOU!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I appreciate it so much.

Because of you, this particular challenge has been achieved.

I Accept This Challenge

Earlier this month I entered a short story in a Simon & Schuster challenge hosted by Prose. The challenge is simple enough: Write a story, chapter, essay, whatever that’s 500-2,000 words. Prose will pick the 50 best entries, which will be read for consideration by Simon & Schuster editors. Neat, right? Certainly worth trying (let this be a nudge to other writers).

I was unfamiliar with Prose, so naturally I did a bit of research and poked around their platform. It’s like social media for stories and poetry. Kind of nifty. I’m thinking that I’ll stick around after the challenge. It looks like a good place to throw some freebies up, get some reads, network a little bit (laws knows I am terrible at that).

Speaking of social media, if you’re not following me on Twitter or if you haven’t liked my Facebook page, then you might not know that you can read the challenge stories. That’s right. YOU. For FREE.

I would recommend you start with mine, of course. You know. It’s easier to get started with something new when you’re familiar with someone already involved.

“Take the 55 North” was originally written last summer. I did a trilogy of these stories without really knowing what I was going to do with them. Earlier this year, I decided that they’d integrate quite well into an idea I have for this year’s NaNo project. A very toned and tightened version story was entered into the challenge in order to make the word count. It’ll be expanded during NaNo.

The competition is stiff. I’ve read a lot of good work so far. I encourage you all to read it as well.

But start with mine first.

“I’d Never Sleep with a Fat Girl”

There’s a flip side to the “I like big girls” coin and it’s called “I’d never sleep with a fat girl” or some variation of that sentiment.

Oh, yes. It is indeed the same coin. Because declaring that you’d never sleep with a fat girl isn’t that different from proclaiming that you like big girls. It all boils down to the same thing.

Centering the conversation around what gets a guy’s dick hard.

Now, in my personal experience, I’ve had more dudes tell me that they like big girls than that they wouldn’t sleep with a fat girl. However, in the case of the latter, it seems to always be a desperation move on the guy’s part. You can almost smell the panic, almost hear the alarm bells ringing in their head.

Oh my God! I think this fat girl might like me! My friends would never stop giving me shit for that! Quick! Say something to reject her without actually rejecting HER.

I am oblivious when it comes to flirtation. I don’t know when people are flirting with me and I don’t realize that others can interpret my behavior as flirtation when I’m just trying to be my usual funny-to-cover-up-my-awkward self. This sort of interpretation leads to the above panic.

And to my own confusion.

I once had a guy say straight out to me, “I would never sleep with a fat girl” and it was so out of the blue that I was momentarily baffled. It wasn’t until later that the I figured out that the guy was having “fat girl panic”.

On another occasion I had a guy casually remark that he could never date a girl with cottage cheese thighs. I can’t remember how this came up in conversation, but it was so oddly offhand. My first thought was along the lines of “Good luck with that”. Again, thinking about it later I identified the comment for what it was.

Listen, fellas, just like it can be cool if you like big girls, it’s also cool on the flip side of the coin if you don’t. If you’re HONEST about why you don’t. And why you feel compelled to declare it.

Would you never sleep with a fat girl because it’s honestly not your aesthetic? You like them just fine as people, as friends, but for whatever reason, a woman with a generous helping of curves doesn’t get your dick hard? That’s cool. No need to shout it from the rooftops unprovoked like a weirdo. It makes everyone uncomfortable and you look like a jackass. Let it come up in conversation naturally, if you must. Or, if necessary, let it happen in private with the fat girl you’re certain is digging on you and the feeling is not mutual.

But if you wouldn’t sleep with a fat girl because what would the guys think? Wouldn’t consider it because the guys would rag on you endlessly? Even if you really liked the fat girl in question? Even if she got your dick hard? Because the guys would just give you way too much shit? Then here’s what you need to do, skippy.

Get new guys.

Because those bros are reading from society’s worn out script. We’re talking cheesy ’80s sitcom worn out, my dude. And not the good kind of cheese either. It’s a rerun even I wouldn’t watch and I watch them all.

Announcing that you would never sleep with a fat girl is doing more than just stating the obvious, sports fans.

It’s also blaring just how cowed by society and insecure about it you really are.

So, no worries there, guys who would never sleep with a fat girl. Fat girls wouldn’t want to sleep with you anyway.

Because that frail ego flailing? Not a good look.

“I Like Big Girls”

It never fails. Whenever I point out the bullshit way society treats fat women, drilling into everyone’s heads that they’re somehow unworthy of any sort of love, sex, or happiness, some dude needs to jump into my mentions with the same tired statement.

“I like big girls.”

Really? Well, good for you. If you’re looking for bonus points for bucking society’s rules of attraction, I’m afraid I’m all out of gold stars. Sorry, fella.

Tell me, my dude, since you’re so keen to make this all about you, why do you like big girls?

Do you like them because you’re genuinely attracted to them? Is that the aesthetic that truly pleases you? The image that gets you hard? Or is it convenience that they represent? The worn out thought that a fat girl will settle for the less of the less, any crumb of attention thrown her way, therefore she’s an easy score and good for your ego? Or is it something in between? Sexual gratification solely because she’s fat with little regard to what kind of a human she is? Or that she’s human at all?

I know that guys like big girls, despite what society instructs. Even if I’d never been hit on by a man in my life, the fact that people find my blog searching “mature chubby fucks” would clue me in. And I know, deep in my cold, black heart that for some guys, fat girls are just peachy. They’re into them for the whole package, not just the aesthetic, not just for perceived convenience.

It’s the declaration that grates me right down to my last nerve.

Guys, take a little advice from a fat girl. Instead of loudly proclaiming “I like big girls” at every opportunity, why don’t you put some fucking thought into your words? For clarity’s sake. Saying you like big girls is lazy and muddled. Just be clear. If you get off on fat girls because that’s your fetish, own it and say so. If you like fat girls because you think they’re desperately easy, then say that (I can’t guarantee that this will help YOU out any, but it will do many favors for the rest of humanity). If you dig fat girls because that’s your “type”, then say it plainly. And if you think that society’s rules about who deserves love, who is allowed to be attractive, who is qualified to be sexy is fucking bullshit, then put that thought in the appropriate words and shout it from the fucking rooftops.

The point is that this conversation need not be centered around you, champ. It’s not the time for free advertisement for your dating profile, nor is it a good opportunity to look for a pat on the back.

You can be supportive without involving your own ego.

Try it. You might like it.

At the very least, you won’t be irritating the fuck out of this fat girl.

Let It Be

I have a yearly motto.

Well, I do now.

It started unofficially last year. I wrote a question on my quote board so I could see it and ask myself throughout the year: “What would someone who loved herself do?” And this became my sort-of-motto for the year. The idea was to ask myself this question in certain situations as a way to break me of constantly shoving myself down on my own priority list. It allowed me to be selfish in a healthy way.

This year I intentionally set a motto: Let It Be.

Yes, I know it’s also a Beatles song/album.

The point of this year’s motto is for me to learn not to obsess over and try to control things that don’t need to be obsessed over/controlled.

I have a tendency to fixate on the speed of things. I need everything to happen sooner than it does. And I obsess over the fact that things aren’t progressing at the speed that I wish them to progress. And I try to control that speed.

What I have discovered in doing this repeatedly over the years (because you know I do everything the hard way) is that it only succeeds in driving me crazy and sometimes forcing things to happen before they should happen, usually to unfortunate ends.

Because I am a hard-headed donkey of a person, it makes sense that I would come up with a motto for 2017 to remind me to…well…let it be.

Put in the work, put in the effort, do what needs to be done. Then let it be.

Let things happen when they’re supposed to happen.  Let it be.

If you have to force it (most of the time), then it’s not ready/time/whatever. Let. It. Be.

I am hoping that a year of this motto will drill it into my fool head that my time can be better spent doing something that’s actually productive rather than screwing myself into the ground trying to control something that’s not meant to be controlled. Maybe I might learn that it’s okay to not control everything. Maybe I might learn that it’s not really me giving up control, but in reality recognizing what I truly do control.

Not something exactly revolutionary to those not prone to being uptight (and man, can I be uptight about some things), but I think my blood pressure will thank me in the end.

Yeah, man. Let it be.

Writing Without a Day Job: The Adventure Begins

coinsChild learnin’ has come to an end for me.

This was not entirely unexpected (no need to go into details), though the timing was sooner than I anticipated.

What matters is that I am without a day job of some kind for the first time in six years.  I view this as both a blessing and a challenge. The challenge, obviously, is to pay my bills while also finding a new day job to help supplement my income, especially since I still haven’t replaced the floorset side hustle yet.

The blessing, though, comes in the form of opportunity. When I lost my floorset job, I chose to see it as a push from the Universe to really focus and promote my writing career. I’ve taken tentative steps in doing that. It’s still not something I’m entirely comfortable with. Without any day job, I have the opportunity to really push myself, to make writing my sole focus day job, at least for a little while.

I already had some projects in the works that were in this spirit. They’re going to have priority in the next couple of weeks, that’s for sure. Selling my books, getting patrons for Murderville, making the Storytime Jukebox better, all of that is going to be key. It’s the side of the business that I admit to not working hard enough on because I don’t want to be annoying. I don’t want to be a walking commercial, a constant promotion that ends up being tuned out. But considering how very little I do of it right now, I think a moderate increase wouldn’t be too over the top.

Also, I can no longer use the excuse of not having the time/energy to promote myself. Got plenty of it in the immediate future! No reason not to use some of that free time/free energy to cultivate and utilize some new promotional skills.

The point is that as optimistic as I am, it is highly unlikely that I will be able to survive without a steady day job of some kind. Most writers can’t. However, while I am looking for that new day job, I can take the time to elevate my writing career to a new level. That’s something long overdue.

So, here’s to the next adventure.

Endings are new beginnings and all that.

Am I Numb or Zen?

peaceIf there’s anything funny about my dealings with depression (and there’s little really ha-ha funny about it), then it’s how paranoid it makes me when I’m feeling okay.

I wrote about how my holiday blues in 2015 started too early and ended up deepening into a nice depression that hung around until April like an in-law in a not-funny sitcom. Because of that experience, I was paranoid about that happening again this past holiday season.

We’re talking extremely vigilant.

How am I feeling? Am I sad? Do I hate everything? Am I operating on the frequency of do-not-want more often than not? Do I want to run away? Do I want to give up? Do I want throat punch people for a legitimate reason or just because?

This sort of interrogation happened on a nearly daily basis starting at the end of October. I thought that not dressing up and passing out candy to trick-or-treaters might be a sign that the holiday blues were settling in early once again. But upon reflection, I realized that I was just burned out and not feeling the spirit and therefore, I didn’t feel like forcing myself to do something my heart wasn’t in.

Okay. That’s cool. Very reasonable.

As the holiday season progressed, I kept waiting for the blues to hit, to come rumbling through, maybe dragging a semi-trailer of depression behind it.

Only I kept asking the questions and I kept responding that I was okay. No, really. I’m okay.

This okayness, in turn, jacked up the paranoia regarding my mental state.

Was I really okay? Or was everything in the world at the moment such shit that it fit my mood and it only felt okay? The latter might have been true to an extent. I didn’t even get a real dose of the holiday blues this past season.

So, here I am, a couple of months into the new year and I’m still feeling okay. Things that should be throwing me into a rage, the little things that I’ve become so used to pissing me off, aren’t having that effect on me. I feel okay. I am maintaining my okayness.

Maybe it’s the shift in thinking that occurred at some point late last year. Maybe it’s my 2017 motto, “Let it be”. Maybe it’s the nightly meditation I’ve been doing since late December, which includes chanting certain mantras designed to calm me and keep me optimistic.

Maybe I’m fucking zen.

Or maybe, as my paranoia has repeatedly suggested, I’m numb.

Maybe I’m existing in some sort of dulled stated that has rendered me non-reactionary to certain stimuli in my daily life. Maybe my depression, which I’m so used to operating in a certain way, has now taken on a new dimension, a dimension of numbness that resembles okayness and therefore tricks me into thinking I’m okay when I’m really depressed.

Boy, that mental health paranoia is a real dick sometimes.

But those mantras I’ve been chanting at night before I go to bed have influenced me to think positively about this. Instead of caving to the ravings of my paranoia (which has a long track record of being wrong), I’ve chosen to view this period of mental calm as something to be embraced. It’s almost like I’ve achieved a kind of clarity here. I’m not numb; I’m just not at the mercy of my emotions and my hellscape brain. For now.

I am okay.

I am zen.

Because Nothing Says I Love You Like I Have To

**I’m specifically focusing on het couples in this post because it is in the dynamic of those couples that I’ve really noticed this particular socialization of Valentine’s Day**

heart raysAs a career single person, it’s easy to dismiss anything bad I might have to say about Valentine’s Day. I mean I obviously must be bitter that I’m spending this day of love alooooone, no one to buy me roses or candy or take me to a restaurant that required a reservation six months in advance.

Well, allow me to assure you that I am pleased with my own Valentine’s Day celebration, so this post is not in anyway reactionary to having coupledom shoved down my throat in a pretty pink heart-shaped box.

Rather, it’s the culmination of years of observation of this rose petal bedecked holiday.

After working in the jewelry department at Wal-Mart for three years, I’d come to consider Valentine’s Day as a jewelry extortion holiday. Watching boyfriends and husbands come in and look at the contents of the cases, hopelessly lost, praying for a divine sign that would point out the right gift that would prevent their girlfriend or wife (or girlfriend and wife) from being mad at them. Truly, the romance gymnastics these guys would put themselves through for the women in their lives, knowing they were being judged and scored and compared was really gross to witness.

It was enough to make me swear off the holiday in the event of ever becoming coupled (I also really like watching Vincent Price movies, so I can’t imagine that suddenly going out the window just because I acquire a partner; more likely I’d be like, “Here, sit next to me, hold my hand, and we’ll watch Vincent murder his wife together.”).

In the last week or so, though, the flip side of that extortion coin showed itself.

It’s a trope we see everywhere, in movies and on sitcoms and even in the mundane day-to-day. Guys forget Valentine’s Day, have to scramble for something last minute, have to be FORCED to do anything romantic, get shit from their buddies for attempting any sort of sentimentality, have to be nagged by the women they supposedly love to show them a token of that supposed love.

Let’s face it.

The bulk of Valentine’s Day profits are made off the idea that men are only allowed to show their love one day out of the year. Two, if you want to count anniversaries, but Valentine’s Day, thanks to a constant bombardment of social peer pressure, is the big one.

Think about the constant reinforcement men get from society. It’s sissy bullshit to show your wife or girlfriend that you care about them outside the acceptable boundaries of a specific day. If you’re a REAL MAN, then you only show your love when you’re FORCED to, either by nagging or by Hallmark. And even then, you do it in the most uncreative, cliched, FORCED way possible so nobody suspects that you actually want to do this, even if you maybe, kinda, really do.

And women accept that as normal. They don’t even question the absurdity of it because they’ve been told their whole lives that this is how a REAL MAN is supposed to act.

As someone who’s been consciously uncoupled for the past ten plus years, for whom Valentine’s Day is largely a spectator sport, I find it really fucking weird.

Like, in what way is any of this enjoyable? It looks like the most painful dance since the Achy Breaky.

But it’s a popular dance, one people are ridiculed and pitied for not doing, a dance that people long to have a partner for just so they can do it.

Thankfully, at my advanced age and expert-level singleness, I’m pretty fine with being a wallflower here.

I’d rather dance with someone more in sync with an offbeat rhythm all year long.

For the Sake of My Sanity

mirroredYesterday was Bell Let’s Talk Day on social media. It happens once a year to raise money for mental health and end the stigma around mental illness. Naturally, I participate on Twitter by using the hashtag. As someone who deals with depression and anxiety, mental health is something I think about probably more than people who don’t suffer from any sort of mental affliction.

I say that I deal rather than struggle because honestly, I deal more than I struggle. Last winter was a struggle with my depression. This winter I’ve been dealing with my depression. I deal with my anxiety far more than I struggle with it. I deal without any sort of meds because that’s my choice. I’m sort of lucky that I have the option to deal without meds because I know that some people don’t have that choice. Meds are necessary for them.

I was first officially diagnosed with depression when I was 20, but there’s no doubt that I’d been suffering from it for several years by then. And here I say suffering because I was truly suffering. I had no concept of how to deal with what I was going through because I had no real grasp that there was anything wrong with me. I thought I was just a shitty, defective human.

Since then, I’ve learned how to deal. It’s been a slow process because I do everything the hard way and I’m a stubborn person. I’ve also had to overcome the fact that I’m prone to self-destruction and a lot of the way I internalize the outer world has led to forming ideals that are harmful. It’s only recently that I began to accept the concept of self-care as something that I deserve.

It seems that in the last year or so I’ve taken a giant step in owning the shit that hinders my mental health. I’ve come into so many situations lately, situations that I would normally subject myself to because reasons and be totally miserable, and instead of doing the normal, I asked myself, “Why the hell am I doing this? It does nothing for me.” And then I’ve excused myself from the situation.

For example, I avoided Facebook for like a month. It was doing nothing for me. My friend’s page looked like a Klan meeting happening at a tent revival while a cryptic Days of Our Lives episode played and the English language was repeatedly mauled. Of course, it wasn’t all bad. There were some good things, some funny things, some accurately spelled things. But I had to wade through such shit to get to them. I was checking Facebook multiple times a day because I didn’t want to miss anything, didn’t want anyone to feel slighted if I didn’t like the sixth profile picture in a week or that album of baby pictures or that status about how their life was so great or whatever. It was a chore to scroll my feed. No, it was a stone drag to scroll my feed.

And one morning I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? What are you getting out of this?”

The answer was that I wasn’t getting much more than aggravation out of it.

So, I didn’t check Facebook that day. Or the next. Or the next. Nor did I play the games on Facebook that I felt a duty to play every day because reasons.

As a result, I had more time. When I wasn’t playing the games or refreshing my feed every thirty minutes, I suddenly had this abundance of time that I never felt like I had before. It was much easier for me to focus on my work when I wasn’t suffering from eye strain from rolling my eyes so much and I wasn’t half-pissed from repeated exposure to the ignorance and hatefulness and inability to work a fucking homonym. My overall mood and peace of mind improved.

I felt better.

Now, I check Facebook once, maybe twice a day. I scroll for a bit, like a few things, play one of my games, maybe wish somebody happy birthday, and then I’m done. Sorry if I miss your stuff, but I’m better off if I don’t hang around too long. I’m sure you understand.

Except I know there are people who don’t, friends and family members who’d gladly tell me what a fucking wuss I am and I need to suck it up and deal with it.

Good news! I am dealing with it. Been dealing with it for years. I’ll be dealing with it for the rest of my life, thanks. I’d apologize for not dealing with it to your satisfaction, but I’m not sorry. You can fuck off.

My mind is a fucking hellscape most of the time. It’s loud and messy and some days it doesn’t work worth a shit and other days it works overtime. This is my normal. For me, being comfortable in my own head is my sanity.

My mental health has, rightly, become one of my top priorities.

If that makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you should check in on your own.

Turning 37: I Can See 40 from Here

birthday hatThirty-seven years ago today I was ripped from my mother’s womb in a most undignified fashion and I’ve been disgruntled ever since. But, I do so love my birthday. I will milk this day for all its worth and I will do it with no shame. I rarely do anything remarkable on my birthday, but believe me, I believe my birthday to be a special day and I will use it as my excuse to do anything.

37 is an interesting age, I think.  From here I can see 40, a dreaded number for some reason. I guess because 40 signals middle age to so many people and middle age is the next step to being old and if there’s anything this society fears, it’s the concept of being old or seen as old. I can relate to that to a certain extent. I certainly don’t want to be seen as old because the connotations of that involves being fixed in mindset, less likely to engage in fun.

But I don’t mind getting older.

I don’t know. I just don’t think I have anything to fear from getting older. In many respects, I’ve always been an old soul, always seemed more mature and responsible and knowledgeable for my years. But then, at my advanced age I still watch cartoons and dance in public and sometimes dress like a toddler who got to pick out her own clothes and dress herself like a big girl. I feel like I’ve got a good balance going here.

I suppose I should be in panic mode. At 35, you’re just on the hill. At 36, you’re just over, but 40 is still at a considerable distance. But there’s nothing between 37 and 40 to block the view. Now here I am, in full view of 40 and I’m still struggling right along, not having checked off one item on society’s to do list. I should be mired in a pit of self-loathing right now, but I’m not.

I suppose if I hadn’t spent much of 36 in a major dialogue with myself about my life I would be panicking right about now. Instead, I’m feeling pretty zen, like maybe, just maybe, I can swing this life pretty okay and be happy doing it.

I have no fear of 37.

I think we’re going to get along just fine.