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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

Evening Thoughts (3)

1. In the last couple of years, I’ve encountered three types of bullies. They all did the same thing – attacked certain aspects of my person that threatened their ideas about who they were and their place in the world. Needless to say, none of these people are in my life.

2. My physical reaction to being bullied, regardless of the kind of bullying, is the same – shortness of breath; panic attacks; weight gain or retention; wearing baggy clothes in order to hide or disappear; severe anxiety; loss of appetite; shrinking into myself; nervy.

3. Given my experience, you will almost never recognize when someone is being bullied. Bullying is not always about broken bones or bruises – a lot of it is gaslighting and manipulation.

4. In the last four months, I’ve lost 20 pounds. My diet did not change; my activity level did not change (walking a mile 3 or 4 times a week; cleaning horse pens). Only one thing changed – I was no longer being bullied and/or harassed.

5. I give far too many chances to too many who don’t deserve a first chance, but once I’m done, you’re out.

6. I am always happy.

7. If I seem anxious or stressed, ask and listen. Really listen, without your ego.

8. Do not fuck with a Pisces. Some fish have razor sharp teeth and they bite hard.

9. My favorite shark is the carcharodon carcharias.

10. My favorite summer movie is JAWS (1975).

11. My most unique skill is remembering conversations verbatim, which is hilarious, because there’s a good portion of my life that I don’t remember.

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Evening Thoughts (2)

He waits, he watches.

1. Henry the Gray had a massive brain storm and spent a good amount of time racing around.

2. It’s a good feeling when you realize your most recent bully is more than three decades too late to instill fear in your heart, because you’ve met worse at the age of ten.

3. If you feel that you are ‘accommodating’ me because I’ve got boundaries and I’m insistent that you respect them, then you have no idea what the concept of respect means.

4. From October 31, 2016 through September 23, 2017, I was being bullied, harassed, sexualized, objectified and put into such a deep state of anxiety, that I would have a panic attack before I even walked in the door. This was despite my repeated establishment of what my boundaries were – not even an email worked.

5. Do not ever ask me to place my faith and trust in someone who willfully, actively and deliberately destroyed any reason for me to do so, just because he got his feelings hurt because I stood up for myself.

6. If someone tells me I need therapy one more time, I’ll ask, “Why? Because I’m comfortable talking about it or because you’re uncomfortable hearing about it?”

7. I know who I am.

8. I am a solitary person by nature. I enjoy my company and my thoughts and am quite happy to plot my next Unexpected Adventure on my own. If I am inviting you into my life or am participating in social situations, it’s because I WANT to share things with you and that I CHOOSE to be there, not because I am lonely.

9. There is a worm hole or black hole in my house – five times this evening, I witnessed Henry the Gray exit the garage, cross my room and go into the hall to the rest of the house. I did not once see him do the reverse.

Evening Thoughts (1)

1. It is the ultimate form of abuse to tell someone who has finally found their voice and courage to speak up and say “No more!” to being disrespected, abused and bullied that they need therapy.

2. If you can’t speak up for yourself, you will never be able to speak up for others.

General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).
Credit: Pacify Mind

3. Carrie Fisher is my rebel patron saint of No Fucks to Give.

4. I am feeling a tremendous amount of pure energy in my heart and soul. Yesterday, I could hardly sit still – I wanted to move hills and reshape valleys and redirect rivers. For lack of a better word, I will call it the Force.

5. I am one with the Force, the Force is one with me.

6. I know the difference between someone making a naughty joke and someone who is deadly fucking serious.

7. I am enough.

8. The actions, feelings and words of others are not my problem – do not attempt to make it so.

9. A woman who knows her own power and claims it is not to be trifled with.

10. I am surrounded by books. I may have to send up the white flag and surrender.

So, part of being an Aspie (Asperger’s)…..

………is that there is a tendency to overshare.  I’m very aware of it in myself.

This is what it feels like – having the gas pedal pushed and clamped down into permanent ‘Go’.
The harder I try to stop the flow of words, the worse it gets.  That feeling I described above gets harder to overcome – it becomes a physical pain.  Everything around me is thrown in sharp, distorted, almost fun-house relief.  I become stressed, anxious and panicked.

How do I handle it?

By going with the flow and finding a way to re-direct it. Once I relax into it, I find I can regain control.  That gas pedal feeling goes away.  I can breathe.  Any anxiety or panic starts to dissipate. The world re-sets itself and I am fine.

It’s helpful when I’m with a group of people who know me and understand that I have this disability.  That feeling of being among friends, with whom I feel safe and accepted regardless of location, has helped a lot.

Isolate

She couldn’t draw in enough breath.

Panic was at the edge of her consciousness – what if she couldn’t get air into her lungs?  It felt as though they had been cut in half, that she had already maximized their capacity.  Then why was she so short of breath?

Voices became a blur of sound.  His voice, however, was distinct, sexualizing her body, targeting her breasts.  She wanted to cry.  Why couldn’t he stop?  Every protest she lodged at him was met with even crueler comments.  So she had given up.  He either did not hear her distress or, if he did, simply didn’t care.

The weight she had lost had crept back.  She lost interest in looking feminine.  Her baggy, over-sized t-shirts were now preferable to the blouses she had once found joy in.  Being invisible seemed safer, somehow.

But she wasn’t.  Because he still saw her as his target.

And the man next to him wasn’t stopping him.  The man next to him was looking at her with desire, not for herself, for her essential humanity, but as an outlet for his own needs.

Can no one see the terror in her?  Are they so used to the first man’s abusive nature that they see nothing wrong with it?

She didn’t know.  Worse, she didn’t know if she could trust them.

Previous installment: Target

Next installment: TBA

Target

She thought, Am I real?

The hard wood of the chair dug into her ass – it felt as if her bones could reach right through her muscle and skin. The bowl of curry – once steaming hot – had begun to cool, untouched, before her. So she supposed she had to be real, at least for this moment.

He was still talking, the words a dull drone of sound, familiar and repugnant.  Was this really her friend?  She had asked him to stop so many times.  But he didn’t.  Instead, each request had only seemed to spur him on.  She wanted to not be sitting across from him.  Wanted to be home, wanted to be safe.  Feeling trapped.  Unsafe, not seen, not heard.

Targeted.

She pulled herself back into the present, willing her gaze to fall anywhere but on the men at her table.

“…..oops, she heard me,” he was saying to the man next to him.

She could feel her face redden, the muscles tightening into a grimace she knew no one would see.  Could see.  Her lungs felt caught in a vise, the pressure a hard weight on her sternum.  She couldn’t breathe.

Can this just please be over? Should I stay? Should I leave? If I leave, they’ll mock me. If I don’t, this will not. Stop.

She had always felt safe here, before.  It was not her preferred choice of hang-out, but even home could be too much of a good thing.  One needed to get out, to experience life, to interact with new people.  To be in an environment that was not familiar.

She was beginning to regret that decision.  Being solitary only hurt when you wanted love.

Were these people her friends?  Couldn’t they see that something was wrong?  Or was she to blame for his words?

How could she be surrounded by people she knew and still feel so alone?  Would they take his word that he was joking?  Because of course he wasn’t.  She knew.  This knot in her stomach, the rock on her chest, her constant checking for escape routes told her otherwise.  She was his target, he had chosen her, and she didn’t understand why.

But this other feeling.  That one she did understand.

Isolated.

Next installment: Isolate

Some Thoughts on a Saturday

Small towns have this very appealing veneer of wholesomeness, untouched by the darkness of a major city.  Norman Rockwell captured this in a lot of his art, making us feel nostalgic for a time and place that never really existed, except in our own minds.  But small towns are actually far more David Lynchian than Norman Rockwell, in part because of human nature – the good, the bad and the very ugly.

I grew up in a small town and still live here.  I’ve always seen both its surface appeal and the dark nature that lay beneath.  I love it for the same reasons I hate it – it’s small, I know almost everyone and life is fairly predictable.

How would I describe my town?  On the surface, it’s very Mayberry – one could fully expect to see Andy Taylor and Barney Fife make their rounds, touching base with residents, tourists and shop owners alike.  But once you’ve been here awhile (or grown up here), you start to get the sense that there’s something else lurking, something dark and unsettling, very like that fictional town of Twin Peaks.

When I was a kid, I used to think there were psychic vampires living in the sewers (this was years before that seminal Stephen King classic IT (1986) was published).  Under the bright sun, I could see darkness and it was everywhere.  It was in my classrooms, it was in the theaters I chose to participate in, it was even in my home.  How do you fight that?

Unlike Twin Peaks, Washington or Derry, Maine, the darkness in my town is not supernaturally related, but very human.

And so is its light.

So, every story I write has its own journal…..

……where I can jot down every idea and thought related to it.  That journal goes with me as I go about my day – you never know when that illuminating idea will strike.  And I enjoy this process because it allows me to keep everything in one place and readily accessible.  I’ve got at least three journals for Novel Now Finished and I expect that it will be the same for the sequel.  Most of my novels (in progress or finished) have more than one journal to document my journey, from inception to completion.

Photo credit: Unknown. But I need this mug.

Writers a funny breed – we observe, we document, we report on our findings, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.  I even keep a story idea box, which has become the repository of random items I find in my daily travels.  And I keep everything – from scraps of old news clippings to a broken pair of glasses, that box is chock full of potential stories.

The more I write and read, the more I’ve learned to discern the voices of other writers.  What does that mean?  Well, if I listen to particular composer’s music often enough, I can find his (or her) musical signature in other compositions.  Same with a particular writer – their ‘voice’ and writing patterns become familiar and within a few seconds of reading, I’ll know who penned that particular piece of writing.

This is all a part of my education as a writer – the more I read, the more I enrich my writing.  And the more I journal the process, the better chance I have of either skipping a step that didn’t work previously or taking it in a new direction.

So, I’m working on edits for my Novel Now Finished…..

…..and have knocked out more than thirteen chapters (and leaving approximately thirty more to go).  Things are changing, words are being cut (sometimes whole paragraphs) and so far, I’ve removed more than 5000 words (which is about 22 or 23 pages).  I don’t delete these random sentences or passages – I keep them.  I put them on a separate Word document, in case there’s a gem of an idea for a scene, either in this story or the next one.

You just never know.

Sometimes the notes from my editor are simple enough for me to make the necessary changes without a lot of thought.  I dive in, make changes that not only clean up the scenes, but bring in a richer feel, as well.  Other times, it’s like pulling teeth and I’m staring at the computer screen, with my eyes glazing over.

You know. Like this:

This is the face of a writer in edits.

One of the things I’m hoping to incorporate into the Narrator are the aspects of someone who is on the autism spectrum, specifically, Asperger’s Syndrome.  This was a personal decision, one I had posed to my editor.  I’m an Aspie, myself, and I’ve never been shy about explaining this to the people around me. [1]  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, being frank about it helps me to navigate the world.

As for my story, I’d been considering writing about an Aspie character and in many ways, the Narrator in Novel Now Finished fits the bill perfectly.

Am I comfortable cannibalizing elements of my life for a story?  Of course I am.  There are things from my life that I’ve put into my stories that demanded to be there.  The more I resisted adding personal bits, the more they wound themselves into it.  So, in they went.

And as I go through Novel Now Finished, I’ll be looking for places to accentuate her Asperger’s characteristics, whether it’s her speech or her focused attention on a particular goal.  I’m also going to look at my own particular habits and peculiarities, in order to flesh the Narrator out a little more, ground her in reality.

It should be interesting.

Writing usually is.

[1] I make sure to identify my Aspie-ness in a moment that seems ideal, usually, when the conversation has gone from superficial politeness to an actual conversation, where the other person and I are getting to know each other a little better.  Most of the time, this engenders an acceptance from the other person.  Most of the time.

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