The Rules: #4 – Does Not Equal

Does not equal single

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Cyberbullying for Adults: 101, and the REAL Me

This is a big post for me. I’m revealing more about myself than I ever have, publicly and overtly, thus far:

I have severe, negative self-image issues that are hard-wired to key people in my past. I abhor talking about my looks; I shut down when that happens. If you say I’m pretty, I have enough good manners to say “thank you,” but it’s like I become dead inside. I know you’re just being nice. I know I’m not pretty, no matter what words come out of your mouth. I’m working on getting over this. But I’m telling you this about me up-front because it’s possible that my own views on good netiquette are skewed, due to my “preexisting conditions.”

Maybe, maybe not….

—–

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The original FB profile photo, in question.

Evening, a few weeks ago. I’d been home from work for about an hour, helped the little kids with their homework, cleaned up, and was just about to take my teenage daughter to the store (her, practice-driving!), when a friend, with whom I’d been texting all day, suddenly FB-messaged me that she liked my previous FB profile photo better than the one I currently had up.

What? WTF? Where did that come from? I was shocked, confused, and defensive. Who judges people’s Facebook profile photos?

Instead of letting the raw emotions win, I messaged her back:

"Feisty tonight, aren't we?"

She then proceeded to message me again, saying how she thought my current photo made me look too harsh, and the previous photo “made you look softer. And like you had hair.”

What!?! Then I really did get upset.

in memory of peter owens

The 9/11 tribute.

First of all, the only reason I’d had that photo up is because on 9/11 (a Thursday, this year) I’d put up a tribute-photo to a family member who’d died in the Towers, and then I’d hastily changed it out with a photo of me that was (a) recent and (b) that I hadn’t yet used for my profile. I knew it was obnoxiously close-up (one of my cousins commented that day: “Extreme close-up Friday?”), and I’d intended to take a new selfie and swap it out soon. But by now it was the following Monday evening, and I hadn’t yet had a chance to sit down and do it. So I had that level of defensiveness going on. (Okay, already, I’ll get to it!)

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The hasty, post-9/11 replacement.

Secondly, I didn’t think it looked that bad — certainly not bad enough for someone to go out of their way to comment on it and let me know. Indeed, some of my friends seemed to like it. Regardless, I didn’t hate it. It reminded me of a lazy afternoon at the pool. Which it was.

And thirdly, it was my freaking Facebook profile photo, not a beauty pageant. Not something to be judged-on. And, again, it was my freaking Facebook profile photo. It was my own expression of myself, that I’d chosen to show the world at that moment. I hadn’t asked for anyone else’s opinion, let alone a negative one. Yes, unfortunately, Facebook announces to the world (or at least your entire newsfeed) when you’ve made a change to your profile picture. And, unfortunately, they allow comments. And they can’t stop your friends from messaging you, either. But didn’t we all learn in Kindergarten that if you don’t have something nice to say…?

Seriously, I have never, ever told someone I disliked their FB profile pic (or even insinuated it by saying that I preferred another one). I’ve either “liked” it or said nothing. My friends are my friends because of who they are inside. It’s none of my business to tell anyone else how to present herself among her own circle of friends. Each person has her own vision of who she is in a given moment. Amiright?

I was pissed, and I felt unduly, negatively judged. And ugly. After dealing with my kids, I grabbed another spare moment and inserted a pic of me and my kids from the day before, at the park. But the damage was done. My friend and I stopped talking. (She said she didn’t want to deal with someone around whom she felt like she had to walk on eggshells. Can’t say I blame her. I’m not fun to deal with all of the time.)

Sadly, my ordeal wasn’t over.

—–

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Yesterday’s pic.

Yesterday. I changed out my FB profile picture again. I got a few “likes,” a few nice comments. And then one of my cousins — a wonderful, supportive, gorgeous creature, whom I’ve worshiped since childhood — told me she preferred two previous pics to the one I’d currently chosen. She happily offered to show me which ones.

"No, please don't...!"

I messaged this to her and explained my recent episode with my friend. I also explained about my negative self-image issues (which I’m not sure she’d understood about me, previously), and how being judged for a profile pic on FB triggered all of this in me. I also explained how I considered it rude to comment on peoples’ FB profile pics, when they hadn’t asked for it (i.e. “stuff that is no one else’s business”).

My cousin apologized. I think she felt bad, and I felt bad for making her feel that way. I told her I didn’t think she’d meant to be harmful or rude, but that, seriously, who’d asked? She said she and her sister tell each other stuff like this all the time. (Maybe I should be flattered that she treated me like her sister?) But the whole thing made me really not want to be judged anymore. Especially by my “friends.”

So I deleted my FB profile pic and haven’t replaced it yet. I’m a blank silhouette now.

—–

Fresh start: This morning, I decided that if the world was going to judge me, they were going to have to judge the real me. Usually people see me with all of my makeup on:

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But before I look like that, this is the real me. This morning, fresh out of the shower:

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Ugly? Not pretty? Yeah, I already know. And, yeah, maybe I’m taking a page out of Colbie Caillat’s playbook. But so what? There is no call to judge people who don’t ask to be judged. Not about things that don’t really matter.

Like how a person looks on the outside.

 

New Day

WP_001042I am the Dawn.

I am the Light

and

the Darkness.

I encompass both

and many nuances in-between.

Little miss Sunshine? Ha! Not quite.

That’s not my description.

(Chin up, Buttercup: you’ll make it through the black.)

You see me radiant,

and you want the light.

Always the light.

Only the light.

But to know me you must know both.

And to have me you must accept both.

For the darkness, though difficult, is equally rewarding —

a promise I do not make lightly.

Listen to the sounds of the night. Become one with them.

Embrace your own darkness

and you can begin to embrace me

and mine.

Only then can you truly see my blaze

and become one with it.

It is always darkest before the dawn.

But

I am the Dawn.

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A case of laziness or self-defense? You decide….

I was going to write about my first two, never-saw-that-coming(!) weeks back in the workforce after fifteen and a half years of being a stay-at-home mom. But something else has wiggled its way in and needs to be blogged about first. It happened three days ago, on Thursday.

I was on my way home from work and made a quick pit-stop at the liquor store for a bottle of wine. Back outside, the neck of my paper-bagged bottle in one hand (which, the thought crossed my mind, made me look like a wino, but with better shoes), and my keys in the other, I was about to open my car door when a voice called out.

“Excuse me!”

I looked up to where the woman was standing, about twenty feet away, under the awning of the convenience-mart adjacent to the liquor store. From the distance, she looked about my age and was sensibly dressed, in pants and a winter jacket. But I felt myself get instantly wary… and then berated myself for going to the inner-suspicious place.  Maybe she’s just going to ask for the time, I reasoned. Nope.  

“Are you going this way?” she asked, pointing left, up the block.

This was, of course, the way I would have normally headed to go home, a mere mile and a half away. It was just after five, dusky-ish, and any warmth from the sunny, January day was quickly diminishing. I wouldn’t want to be outside in the cold if I didn’t have to be. Empathy for the woman began to push against my caution. I could hear the echo of my kids’ voices chanting “Stranger danger!” But the echo wrestled with my mother’s voice, saying things about “acts of charity” and helping others in need. My spider senses were tingling. Or were they? Maybe, I worried, I just being uncharitable and didn’t want to be bothered with the hassle of taking an extra five minutes out of my day to help a fellow human being. Historically, I’d always tried to make people happy and help them. I was a people-pleaser. And a conflict-avoider.  (The easiest way to avoid conflict with someone is to just say, “yes” and give them what they want.) 

Then again, I was still wary.

I felt my head shake and a “no” croaked out of my throat. The woman kept talking, as though she hadn’t heard me (which she probably hadn’t — I hadn’t spoken very loudly).

“I just need to get up there — it’s just by the middle school — and I don’t want to have to walk that far with my prosthetic leg.” 

Oh, great. Now, not only am I being uncharitable, but if she’s telling the truth, then I’m stranding a cripple! The middle school was a half-mile away. Not that far, but maybe it would seem like it if you had a prosthetic leg. The guilt of that thought, however, was accompanied by a Big Red Flag. What I mean by this is that I had the sensation — instinct? — that something was fishy about this whole scenario. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could feel it. Something was off. I’ve learned to identify when I’m getting the Red Flag signal and to pay attention to it. Unfortunately, I’ve had too many times in my life where I’ve ignored these types of sensations. Always to my detriment. (People-pleaser!)

Suddenly, the words of my two self-defense instructors came into my head: “The best way to get out of a bad situation is not to be there.” Pay attention to the Flags and get out of the scenario before you get into a position where you can’t.

“I’m not going that way,” I said, clearing my throat.

“You’re going that way?” she exclaimed, her face lighting up. A brisk wind picked up, sending a shuddering preview of the rapidly dropping temp. My heart wavered at her hopefulness. Was I doing the right thing? Or just being cruel. Or even lazy. But I wouldn’t ignore the Flag, for whatever reason it had popped up. Yeah, something was off, here.

“No,” I said firmly, shaking my head again and opening the door of my nice, warm car. “Sorry. I’m not going that way.”

I got in and started the engine. Then, worried that the woman might be vindictive or mentally unstable, I actually went right instead of left. Because what if she saw me go left, and took down my license number and tracked down where I lived? Overkill on the paranoia? Probably. What should have been a three minute drive home took more like ten. I was resentful, too, that she’d put me in that position. And that I was too much of a coward to have made the left-hand turn. Then again, I’m around to tell the tale.

So: what would you have done?

Fiction Relay – Part 51

Keeping one hand on Spence’s back, Blue reached her hand out and felt along the wall, trying not to stumble in the pitch black tunnel. Her fingers touched a cluster of long, dry reedy things that felt like withered roots. And if there were roots, she reasoned, even dry ones, they couldn’t be that far from the surface. But not close enough to punch a hole through and hope for some light.

Fiction Relay — Part 47 (by me)
Fiction Relay — Part 48 (by TRG)
Fiction Relay — Part 49 (by Joanne)
Fiction Relay — Part 50 (by KC)

Links to the entire story: Fiction Relay Homepage. (Or, the Reader’s Digest condensed version on the Fiction Relay Summary page.)

 

Reaching her hand higher, she snapped part of a root off. Flicking her wrist she muttered, “Lumos!” Nothing happened. Fuck Harry Potter. She dropped the root, reached her hand back along the wall, and slid her other hand from Spence’s back to his shoulder, trailing down his arm to interlace their fingers.

“How do you know where we’re going?” she asked Spence.

“Uh, this was the only way out.”

“How do you know it leads out?”

“I don’t. But the hole in the wall appeared right after that old witch-lady threw that light-bomb at it. Right before she disappeared.”

“Oh, good. We’re following a hag-trail.” Blue grimaced and shook her head. “Crazy old voodoo-mama. Throwing light-bombs. Saying you dug out that space we landed in back there, You scoop this here hole outta you mama, boy!’ As if the mountain was your mother. A mountain-mama! What, did she think you were John Denver?”Blue gave a superior huff. “And calling us twins. Eeww! I would soooo not have hot monkey sex with my brother. Bat. shit. crazy. bitch.” She shuddered.

“Hot monkey sex? Mmmm….” She could hear the teasing grin in Spence’s voice, and he gave her hand an affectionate squeeze.

“I’m serious, Spence. Doesn’t it gross you out?”

“Relax, babe. We’re sure as hell not twins, because I’m two years older than you. And there’s no way we’re related because we have two completely different dads, and we do not have the same mom. Megan was eighteen when you were born, and even if she’d had another kid at sixteen, and forgot it like she forgot about you… Sorry,” he added as he felt Blue’s wince in his mind, “but even if she’d forgotten having another kid, either Sam or Ephraim would’ve remembered that. They were all together back then. We’re not related.”

Blue sighed, feeling relieved at his logic. Despite how weird her life had been, and how even more weird it had gotten lately, Spence’s words rang true. She could feel it. They weren’t related. At least not by blood. The ground beneath them rose on an incline. Spencer pulled her to the right as the tunnel began to curve. There were no more roots on the walls. They seemed to be headed deeper into the mountain.

“Plus, you remember your own mom,” she said. Spence didn’t respond. “Right?” she prodded.

“I’m not sure,” he finally answered. His voice sounded distant, sad. “I have memories of her — of my mother… of a mother — but now that I’m trying to remember her the memories don’t seem real. It’s like I’m remembering a story someone told me. I don’t know. I think something happened to me in that secret altar-room of Sanderson’s. Like I was finally seeing the truth about something, but I’m not sure what I’m seeing yet. I haven’t put the puzzle pieces together.”

A dim light shone far ahead. It seemed to be coming from around a corner. As they neared, though, they both suddenly stopped in their tracks. A half-human scream/howl echoed off the tunnel walls. The sound was followed by a crash.

Shit! Spencer whispered in Blue’s mind.

Don’t go into the light, Carol Anne, Blue murmured back mentally, her body trembling. She tugged Spence’s hand to go backward.

Yeah, Spence agreed, refusing to budge. Only problem is — can’t you feel it? That’s the way we have to go.

—–

Megan backed away, wondering if she could make it around the large room and to the door for her escape. She hated leaving Sam and Ephraim, especially in this place that was such a cruel replica of the lab they’d all been tortured in, but Sam was right: she had to get to Samantha. There were too many people too interested in their daughter, and if, as Jose had theorized, Samantha might have the power to beat Sanderson, then she was in danger. Megan and Sam’s daughter was walking around with a target on her back and had only limited time before she would be hunted. Megan couldn’t — wouldn’t — allow that to happen. She stepped over Ephraim’s unconscious form and held her breath. Maybe the thick clouds of smoke would shroud her.

Raj continued his transformation. Megan kept tabs on Melissa, noting that the woman seemed so distracted by Raj that she didn’t notice Megan making her way around the room’s perimeter.

Raj fell to the floor with a thud. He writhed, and a half-human scream discharged from his throat, echoing off the cavern walls in a barking howl. His legs thrashed out so violently that he kicked the stainless steel table free of the bolts that fastened it to the center of the floor. The heavy table skittered as though it were made of tin foil. Megan jumped backward, just before a corner of it lanced a section of wall that was right where Megan’s torso had been. The loud crash muffled her gasp, but she realized the commotion had probably already drawn attention to her position. And the fact that she was trying to escape. She looked up in alarm. Her fears were verified. Melissa was staring straight at her. 

“Oh, no you don’t, Meagan!” Melissa sneered. She side-stepped until she blocked the room’s only exit. Sam growled and lunged at Melissa. Just then Raj finished his transformation. He snarled and got his monster claws under him. Panting, he rose to his full height above the smoke, his jaws pulling into a hideous smile at Sam.

And that’s when Megan saw it. Through the haze, beneath Raj’s feet, in a spot the stainless steel table had once covered, there was a small, square outline in the floor. A trapdoor.

And suddenly Megan knew that beneath it she would find the box that Sanderson so desperately wanted.

—–

Okay, Bossman. It’s The Reclining Gentleman’s turn! 🙂

D-day

I’m not usually given to poetry, but sometimes the story just wants what it wants. This is how it came out today. Let me know what you think.

—–

Shots pop from all around
Exploding chunks of turf near where I stand
Bullet casings that turn to mortar shells

I dodge and take cover from where I think the enemy is positioned

But then, a grenade to the gut
Bounced off my shelter from somewhere behind
Stunned, I whirl
And blink

Et tu, Brute? Et tu?

Were you the lone sniper all along?

No, it seems there are others
Just as hidden as you
They blast away, even as your grenade shreds my insides,
Rocking the earth with violent spasms

Until my feet have no ground to hold

You had drawn the enemy lines long ago
It seems
And I was on the other side
But did not know it

Mea culpa.
But why?

Now, as I fall
Limp and useless
In agony
Into the void
You despise me for bleeding
And crying

It is strange to see so clearly now

White hot pain
Blinding, searing
Destroying utterly
Completely

What was is no more