Winds of Change

I want to start this Memoir Monday off by saying I may be a tad more emotional than normal because I’m currently in pain, and I don’t deal with pain well. (I have severe chronic migraines, and I’m currently dealing with one.) However, the topic of change is one I’ve been thinking about for some time now.

We all face change, whether we want to or not. It can be good; it can be bad. Life can be boiled down to change and learning how to deal with said change. Often times, how we decide to deal with it shapes who we ultimately become. Depression and anxiety comes from change but so can happiness and joy.

Recently, I’ve been having to prepare myself for changes I’m not quite sure what to do with. I have a history of not dealing with change well. At all. As much as I like spontaneity in my life, I also like things a certain way. I get rather upset when something doesn’t fit into my pre-made mold of how I think my life should be. It’s a daily struggle.

I also have a habit of being a control freak. And we all know change isn’t something we can control. Not usually, anyway. Even if we can control how we react to it. Typically, I don’t control my own emotions about it; I just react then deal with the consequences later. Which generally makes everything worse.

While I will do a section on family some time, I just wanted to say now that I’ve always been close to my family, even though we’ve gone through times where we’ve had our differences. I had my teenage moments. My parents will attest to that. However, we were still close. Especially my sister and I. Which all changed, of course, when I got married and moved out three years ago. I’m still dealing with it.

However, depending on how certain events transpire, more change will come. And no matter how much I tell myself I’m ready for it, I’m not. Over the past three years, I feel like all I’ve done is become distant from my family. I feel like I don’t know them anymore or I’m not a part of my family anymore. Which I know are lies made up by my mind, but I still can’t help but wonder. Like I said, I don’t deal with change well, and I’m afraid everything will become even more distant, more…alien.

And this type of change isn’t just happening with my family. It’s been happening with friends I originally thought I was close to. Either my life has changed, or their life has changed, and we’ve become distant. They say things about me they’ve used to never say. I’m finding I don’t know them as well as I used to, same with my family. I don’t know why.

With all this happening around the same time, I can’t help but wonder one thing: have I changed as a person, and is that change bad, since I feel so disconnected from everything? I know we all go through shifts in our personalities as we age, but I don’t feel like I’ve had one in a while. Perhaps that’s my problem. Or am I going through a change in my personality right now and not realizing it? I honestly couldn’t tell you.

I feel like I’m at a loss about everything. I’m afraid to embrace any type of change that may be happening, and that’s most likely the root of my problems. I’m keeping myself stuck in the same rut because I’m afraid to move forward. And I’m afraid to move forward because I’m afraid the looming changes are going to rip away everyone I care about. Even if they’re already slowly slipping through my fingers. I just don’t foresee the changes bringing anyone closer to me.

Again, I can’t tell if it’s because I’ve changed as a person, or if I’m in the middle of changing. I’m afraid, and I just want things to be like they’ve always been.

Advertisements

Hope

Today, I was honestly going to talk about abandonment. My fear of it, how I respond to it, how I deal with it in my everyday life, etc. However, that’s not going to be today’s memoir subject. This morning, I woke up and said no. I will say I’m stuck in an emotional rut right now, but I’m tired of the negativity. I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself. Tired of taking everything personally. Because, guess what? It’s not all about me. It’s not all about one person. And I’m glad. I don’t want that pressure. I’m not sure of anyone who would.

I feel like if you survey 100 people, most will give you different ways for how they define “hope.” I’m not going to pull the dictionary out for this one. (Yes, I use physical dictionaries instead of Google. Thesauruses, too. I’d rather personally smack someone upside the head with knowledge if it came down to it. Burglars, beware!) Instead, I want to talk about how I define hope. Also, I’m just lazy. I’m not even going to lie.

When I hear the word, I firstly think of one of my best friends who goes by the same name. I’ve always been a person of few enemies and even fewer friends. However, my pretty much sister-from-another-mister and I have been friends for several years. Sometimes, I honestly wonder how we’ve made it this far. It’s no secret I’m an emotional person. I’ve put her through things she nowhere near deserved, so we’ve had our ups and downs like any relationship. But, we’ve made it work, and that’s how I know she’s a real friend.

What do I think of secondly? Well, when I try to think of how I would define hope, my brain flat lines for a few moments. Then it’s all over the place. So I never get a clear answer. People like to say things like, “Oh, I hope the weather stays nice,” or “Man, I really hope my team wins this year.” The only sport I repeatedly watch is NASCAR, so I’ve been known to say, “I hope my favorite driver wins at the end of a good race.” I’ll delve into NASCAR some other time.

All that is fine and dandy. I’m not saying it isn’t. I feel like there’s something more to those four letters than just wishful thinking. I’m a Christian; I was raised Southern Baptist. (Shocking since I tend to write dark and supernatural stuff, eh?) So hope can be capitalized when using it as one of God’s many, many epithets. Even still, I think the meaning of hope can dive deeper because I don’t believe it only pertains to religion. Although one could argue hope can be aligned with faith. Or dreams, for that matter.

My hopes and dreams? Of course, I hope to become a published author. I’ve been diligently working on my first novel. I hope people will read it, and it will touch them in some way. I hope they’ll connect to my characters. I hope readers will walk away with a new perspective on life. I have the typical aspirations of every author. Becoming published is my goal in life.

Yet, there’s still an itch that needs to be scratched. And it’s rather personal. I’m constantly hoping I will change. I mean, down on my knees, begging and hoping I will change. Not in a physical sense. Nor the idea I need to change to fit the world’s mold sense. An emotional sense. Most of the time, the only way I make through each day is hoping I’ll eventually be better. I don’t handle stress well. I tend to lash out at those I care about most. I have no self-confidence. I question my own judgement. I’m always lost in the vast oceans of my inner demons and turmoils. Wrestling with myself day in and day out. As a result, I’m perpetually exhausted. Both mentally and physically.

Hope keeps me alive. I know I’ll be better one day. I have to be better some day. I could go on a whole “religious rant,” but I’m not going to. Here’s why. I’m learning that I am not in control. No matter what religion you are, whether you’re religious or not, one thing stays the same. Life was not created to be controlled. Our best attempts fail. Such is the way of humanity and its hubris.

Long story short, my hope is my reason for life. My passions, my dreams are all funneled through this tiny little of strand of hope I desperately hold on to. That is how I would define the word. Outside of my friend, of course. The will of life is what hope means to me. The motivation to move on, push forward. And, yes, there are actual steps I can take to better myself. I’ve been taking them, slowly but surely. To me, though, it all means nothing if I don’t have hope.

 

The Fall

The water thundered over the side of the cliff, tumbling down below. The mist roiled skyward. But such was the ways of waterfalls. A peaceful yet violent force of nature.

She stood atop the falls, surveying the land below. It had taken her three hours to climb to the precipice, and it had been worth every second. The serene atmosphere gave her plenty of time to reflect. And nothing in her mind had changed.

Recently, it had occurred to her what life really meant. How futile human existence was. Their purpose was to make the world a better place. And how miserable they failed. That’s why their lives were less than a hundred years. Why would they live longer lives? They were only selfish beings who honestly deserved less.

It was why she climbed to the falls. Her life had been nothing but a selfish disaster. A selfish disappointment. She would make the world a better place by returning her body to fertilize the earth. It had been something that filled her with fear, but no more. It was something she came to terms with. Something she wanted.

Her eyes closed as the waterfall breeze mingled the spray with hair. It was time. Holding out her arms, she leaned forward. Felt the rush of the wind against her face. Tingling every nerve.

Ten.

She had no regrets.

Nine.

No fear.

Eight.

No more reason to live.

Seven.

This was her wish.

Six.

Her peace.

Five.

Her freedom.

Four.

She smiled.

Three.

No one would ever see her again.

Two.

Her body hit the water.

One….

Fear Factory

I never paid attention to that old building as I rode my sport bike to work at the general store every day. It was on the other side of the tracks, so what would you expect? It was beyond old and forgotten. There weren’t any signs attached to it. No special colors to grab your attention.

But one closing night changed all that.

Conveniently, it was Halloween. And, of course, a full moon lit up our small town with an eerie, silver light. I had just finished sweeping when the familiar ring of the bell that hung on the door echoed through the empty mart. Lifting my head, I saw them. The five guys who paraded themselves around as the town’s gang.

The leader—aka “Swag”—peacocked up to me. “It’s Halloween.”

My grip tightened on the broom handle, ready to convert it to a staff weapon. “If you want free candy, you’ll have to go somewhere else.”

“We decided you’re going to be our sucker this year.”

“Like I’m going to let you dare me into one of your stupid stunts.”

Three of the other four laughed. Swag leaned against the end of an aisle. “We dare you to go to the Factory.” His posse silenced.

I had heard the rumors. The stories. Supposedly, the Factory was what caused our town’s erection. What the Factory produced is anyone’s guess. I don’t know how the rumor started, but supposedly, there’s a mutated monster in there forever searching for a way out. But I never believed such ghost stories. They were made up to scare children into behaving. I shrugged. “Okay.”

Swag looked over his shoulder at his gang and snickered. He turned back to me. “We leave now.”

My arms immediately crossed. “We leave when I get my helmet and lock up.”

“Well, hurry it up.” Jeers came from the rocker-clad group.

I dropped my jaw and used slow motion to pivot on my heels. I remained in slow motion as I took step after step to get to the break room.

“Hurry it up, princess. We ain’t got all night.”

The slow motion role had gotten old. But I still took my time gathering my belongings. I knew my life didn’t hang in the balance. They called themselves a gang, but a two-year-old could take them out. When I returned to the front of the store, Swag and his buddies had moved outside to their turbo-charged, four-cylinder imports. I snorted. Anything could out-run those things that possessed weed whackers for motors.

Time was very much so taken as I locked the grocery store doors. I even dropped my keys. On purpose, yes. But I made it look accidental. I made my ritual of swinging my right leg over my Ninja and settling into the seat. I enjoyed how the black metal flakes were reflecting in the deep plumb purple paint. A smudge on the gas tank snagged my attention. As I moved to rub it away, Swag pulled up beside me in his Honda Civic hatchback. “You’re going to follow me. Eight-Z, Flash, and Bats will flank you, so don’t even bother chickening out.”

My eyes rolled. I pulled on my air brushed helmet to keep from saying smart things to dumb ears.

The procession moved forward. I was in the middle with a car in every cardinal direction of me. And I realized how stupid the town’s “gang” really was. Every Halloween, they dare people to do idiotic stunts or pranks. Take this, for instance. I have to walk up to an abandoned factory that’s supposedly haunted. How, exactly, does this make them any cooler? The only reason I complied was so they wouldn’t egg my bike. I valued my bike far more than my pride.

Swag’s moaning Civic crossed the railroad tracks. Of course, I followed suit, the other Honda, a Subaru, and an Acura flanking me. We carried on until we came to the building I never cared to notice. Our group of five vehicles halted on the outskirts of what was left of the overgrown parking lot. The gang got out of their cars while I remained seated on my bike, removing my helmet. Their self-proclaimed leader walked up to me. “Go up the steps and inside.”

I merely shrugged. “Whatever.” This was stupid. But what did I do? I walked up to the steps anyway. This was for my bike. However, I did stop to take in the dilapidated building for the first time.

Vines clung to the sides, as if the crumbling cement gave them life. The tin roof had rust spots waiting to merge and eat out the roof entirely. Large double doors with dirt-encrusted windows patiently waited for a troublesome teenager to disturb their slumber. Well, I supposed I was that “troublesome teenager.” Eh, but I didn’t care. My feet carried me up the cracked cement stairs.

“Hurry it up, princess,” Swag called.

I had to grin at my defiance as I once again used slow motion. One. Two. Three. Four steps to the doors. Slow motion guided my hand to a long handle. Now the suspense killed even me. Regular motion resumed, I pulled. The door held fast. My brows furrowed. I grabbed the other handle and yanked both simultaneously. Still, there would be no entering.

“What’s taking so long?” Swag hollered.

“It’s locked from the inside.”

I heard him whine something. Then he began walking. “We’ll go around back. Come on, gang.”

I rolled my eyes as I turned to my left. This was ludacris.

The five guys joined me. The cousins, Eight-Z and Flash, were pushing each other around. Bats laughed at their antics until Eight-Z punched him in the gut. Swag and his brother walked beside me. Even though the trailing three were obnoxious, the side of the building kept my attention.

Like the front, vines clung for dear life. The roof had about a three-foot overhang, however. There were windows all up and down the wall. Three by three feet, all three feet apart. As we descended the slant, basement windows appeared. Four feet by three feet. All were covered in grates and thick bars. They had tried hard to keep people out.

My eyes studied a basement window. Or to keep something in. Shaking my head, I went to the side basement door. I scrunched my eyebrows. Ran a hand along what should have been a crevice between the wall and door. A large, rough weld brushed under my palm. Cold to the touch.

Swag’s brother, the only quiet one in the bunch, stepped beside me to examine the door. He said nothing as he, too, ran his hand down the weld. But he glanced over at me.

“Ninja, can we get in through here, or what?”

Ninja silently sighed. A gesture of irritation I understood.

Flash came up, pressed his ear to the metal door, and pounded a few times. “Nope, I don’t think we’re gonna get in this way.”

Swag yanked him by the collar. “Thanks for the news flash, Captain Obvious. Let’s go around back.”

I glanced at Ninja, who reluctantly followed his brother. Then my eyes shifted to the well-sealed door. They had really tried hard to keep people out. A chill ran down my spine. Or in. No, I didn’t believe in ghost stories. This was supposed to be ridiculous. We continued on.

A black shadow from within slammed the nearest window to us.

The guys screamed, with the exception of Ninja.

The shadow rattled and pounded the barred window over and over. With no prevail, it screeched loud enough for us outside to clearly hear it.

We all ran madly to our vehicles and sped home. Heart pounding, I couldn’t get the inhuman scream out of my head. I crouched lower to the gas tank and shifted to highest gear.

That haunting screech sounded exactly like a cry for help.

Words of Warning

Be careful who you scorn
The most beautiful roses
Have the deadliest thorns
Be careful who you betray
Most will leave you
Maybe a few will stay
Be careful who you love
Wings of hope will only
Take you so far above
Be careful who you part
The hardest organ to mend
Is a badly broken heart
Be careful who you trust
Seemingly nice people
Can turn into a bust
Be careful who you fear
Those who make you scared
Will cause more than tears
Be careful who you worry
You may never know
How much you affect a story
Be careful who you share
One wild bird may return
While others wouldn’t dare
Be careful who you kill
Even an alive presence
Possesses a haunting will
Be careful who you scorn
The most beautiful roses
Have the deadliest thorns

Monsters Living in My Head

Everyone has monsters that plague them. Some even call them demons. At times, these monsters take on theorectical forms. Other times, physical forms. Sometimes, both. Usually, they’re manifestations of fear, doubt, hate, etc. And, at times, it can be difficult to escape them. It can be even more difficult to conquer them. Whether they plague us for a few days, a couple months, or even all our lives.

I’ve had a monster haunt me since I was fairly young. It had a physical form. I’ve written about it a few times. Its haunches peaked at around ten feet, back sloping to a mechanical tail ending in a sharp spike. The body covered in a gross mixture of robotics, bones, decaying flesh and muscles. Green-tinted blood and black oil oozed from it. Chunks of flesh filled with maggots constantly fell from it. The mechanical spine always ground and moved with black smoke pouring out. Serrated talons ended large, metal paws. The skull of this monster has been hard for me to describe. Other than it being a strange mutation of a feline, canine, and dragon skull. And, of course, it had glowing red eyes. Sound familiar to anyone?

The first vivid memory I have of it was when I was little. Though, I cannot recall if this was an actual memory or a potent nightmare. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep. So I did what any young child does. I went to my parents’ room. But the door was locked. Somehow, I ended up on the floor, trying to get their attention. Then I looked down the hall. All I saw was the monster coming for me. The last thing I remember is me crying while being utterly petrified.

I speak of the beast in past tense because I like to think my dealings with it are over. There was a time when I worked until midnight at my job. I would come home half asleep. Since my first encounter with the monster, it had occassionally plagued my dreams. Liking to rear its head when I was particularly anxious. But when I came home from work one night, I felt like I was being followed up the stairs. I saw it there, waiting for me. Making sounds akin to a demonized velociraptor. It was after midnight, and I was exhausted. I rolled my eyes at it. Turned my back on it, demanding it go away. That night, I had a dream I defeated it. And the monster I was so afraid of dissolved away, revealing a baby dragon. Funny how brains work that way.

For a long time, I never had a problem with it. Never even thought about it. Not until after I married two years ago. I knew it would be a life-changing experience, but I didn’t quite expect everything that went into getting married, moving out of my parents’ house, and basically starting a new life. Guess what came back. Yep. My childhood monster had returned. It actually dominated my daydreams for awhile. Then it became a nightmare again.

One thing had changed, however. It didn’t chase me this time. It went after my husband. That was the final straw for me. And not only did I kill it, again, so did my husband. We tag-teamed that sucker and defeated it action movie style. You know. Like bosses.

I cannot say it’s gone for good. I still think about it. I’ve included it in a couple of stories. However, I haven’t had nightmares about it. And when I start to see it again, I challenge it, dare it. Go ahead; try to take down a duo of awesome. I’m much more confident in my head than in real life. But one thing I’ve found is having someone to talk about monsters/demons with really helps. Just having a reminder that you’re not alone.

My monster was definitely a physical manifestation of my severe anxiety. That was something I had to learn. At first, I didn’t know where it came from or why it bothered me. Once I pinpointed its reason, I was able to deal with it better. I had discovered its purpose. I knew why it was there. I could react accordingly.

The thing I take most from my experience is that I could, indeed, control it. I told it to go away, and it did. Every time it tries to resurface, I make it disappear. It’s not always easy. Monsters have the ability to fight back. Until you regain control over your own mind. It doesn’t matter if your monster stems from anxiety, fear, low self-worth, whatever it extends from. What matters is identifying the root, the soul of said monster. Working on the real issue. Not until you are able to control your mind are you able to make them go away.

A monster’s sole purpose is to distract. Keep your mind off the real issue. Your monsters, your demons don’t want you to get better. They want you to wallow in suffering. That’s how they thrive. But when we take back our own life, that’s when they die. For however long depends on how long we keep fighting. Don’t get me wrong. We’re not perfect. We fall. We stumble. We get tired. And that’s when they love to strike harder than the last time. What matters, though, is if we pick ourselves back up. If we unsheath our swords. If we unleash our power. What matters is staring your beast in the face, yelling at it to come get some, and attacking it before it can attack you.

Angkor

Thunder peeled across the sky as the rain battered the earth. Lightning lit up the jungle. The rainy season had begun. Yet that didn’t stop the predators. In fact, it brought one alive. A beast of myth, it boasted a blunt head, several rows of fangs, and four eyes. The Sat-Ronteah was a creature not to fool around with. And it was on the hunt.

A young boy ran through the undergrowth, moving swiftly to keep from sinking in the mud. He checked over his shoulder. No beast. That was good. He continued pushing foward. Already lost from his village while hunting for tarantulas, he hoped he travelled in one general direction. Rainwater matted his shoulder-length black hair against his tanned skin. At least it didn’t cover his eyes. A shriek momentarily drowed the thunder. The beast had discovered him. He didn’t waste time looking behind. Hopefully, he would find shelter soon.

As soon as he completed the thought, he fell face-first into the clay-like mud. The Sat-Ronteah shrieked again. This time, it was closer. Scrambling to his feet, he pressed on. Breaths coming fast. At least the soaking earth cooled him. The rain didn’t ease the stickiness. Lightning revealed crumbling structures. He picked his way among stones covered in lichen. Whatever lay here, nature had taken back over long ago. Nature would always find a way.

He gasped and backpedaled. Flashes backlit large statues. Two Sat-Ronteahs flanked a seven-headed cobra. The carvings along scared him, sending him further into the ancient city. Macaques hid amongst the numerous bridges, aquaducts, and fallen columns. These tan monkeys knew to remain silent. His bare feet slapped against the stone. Certainly these slippery runis provided some sort of shelter.

Temples rose above the palms, and one towered above the others. He could see it even through the storm. There was where he would rest. Once he reached the central temple, he did the rest. His lungs burned, and his legs prickled. He checked behind him. The beast could not be seen or heard. Dripping wet and exhausted, he ventured into the heart of the temple. Rain seeped through gaps. Pattered from cracks. His gaze remained alert. Invasive vines resembled many things in the patchy light.

Roofless, the main sanctuary came into view. He stuck his head into the expansive room. Froze. Not because of a creature. Because of the statue emerging with the slowing flashes of lightning. “Siva,” he whispered. The word leaving his lips, the Sat-Ronteah dropped in from a cracked outcropping of the roof. Colored in greens, blues, and reds, it could blend in well with the vivacious jungle.

The boy glanced at the monument. Siva could be gracious or malicious. Siva embodied life, death, and transformation. None knew when their time would end. Swallowing, he faced the four amber eyes studying him. Squarish jaws did nothing to hide fat teeth. He knew he needed to make a decision now. So he lept to the nearest clutch of vines. Clambered up to a hole in deteriorating carvings. He squeezed in. Pressed himself back. Praying he would live the night.