A bag of chocolates is sitting on my desk. I can’t decide whether it’s being cruel to me, or kind.
I don’t particularly like chocolate; I’ve never been a sweet tooth. Always more of a savoury person. This bag of chocolates, though, was a gift. From a chocolate factory down south.
The pain, when I think of her, is excruciating. The fog of self-pity rises around me, thickens, threatens to drown me.
The bag might as well say, “My soon-to-be-ex went on a holiday, and all I got was this bag of chocolates.” All I got after thirty years. From “soulmate” to “so long, mate”.
It’s not really fair of me to say it like that. But the word fair has lost all meaning. Who is fair anymore? What is fair anymore? Is it fair that football players on the world stage get to cheat the ref and not suffer any consequences? Is it fair that world leaders get to bully and belittle, to do nothing about incompetence and greed and instead encourage racism, sexism, and xenophobia, to be the worst kind of role model? To rip apart agreements that tried to set the world on a better path and to rip apart families whose only sin was to seek a better life for their children? That those who screech “Immigrants out!” conveniently forget or ignore their own ancestry?
Is it fair that I, who never strayed, who believed with all my heart that our love was strong enough to withstand anything, whose love didn’t stop, who dedicated all my loyalty and devotion to my family, should now… should now… damnit, here comes the fog again.
I think I need to take a break from writing for a short while. Not that this was much so far, but… it’s hard. I hope that the fog will dilute enough to let me breathe for a while, disperse enough to let me forget – well, ignore – the self-pity for a bit.
Maybe I’ll catch some more of that series I’ve just started watching. The Handmaid’s Tale. Think of something else, you know, take my mind off things. Think of how much more horrible the world could be if the holier-than-thou morons who made the sociopathic con artist their king were running the world. I thought it was bad back when they made the village idiot their king, but oh, how wrong I was. At least he was a well-meaning idiot who knew he was an idiot and listened to smarter people. This one thinks that his delusions of mediocrity are real, and that he can blunder his way through any stuff-up by stuffing up more and then pointing to it, and by calling those who call out his lies liars, but more loudly. How do so many people fail to see that for what it is?
I could go on, but it won’t solve anything, nor ease my depression. Oops. There, I’ve said it. I’ve acknowledged my affliction. Publicly. Should I admit that it got bad enough that I had to go seek professional help? Better not. No, I’ll keep that to myself and go watch another episode now. Break-time. Continue writing later.
Back now. And all I can think of is how much I’m like Offred, lying there helplessly, not understanding, while the cold, dispassionate universe fucks me over and someone who should be on my side is holding down my wrists.
It’s not all bad, of course. It’s still amicable, for the kids’ sake, but also because she just won’t stop being nice. I’ve tried getting myself to hate her, thinking it would ease the pain a little. I couldn’t. It’s just not how I’m built, even when I’m broken.
I just have to remind myself time and time again that I need to fight hard every moment so that the thin layer of self-control that is stretched tight over my emotions doesn’t burst. They’re just beneath the surface; I can feel them writhing, but I constantly have to push them back when I’m around her. She’s moved out into the shed that was once a guest room, but to minimise the impact on the kids (who have been so great, so mature, so supportive), she’s staying around, still helping out with everything even while she needs to struggle to get her own life into a solid stance.
So many things I can no longer allow myself to feel, or to act on. Don’t reach out and caress her face, don’t push that strand of hair behind her ear, don’t even casually touch her shoulder in passing. Pockets. Pockets are a safe place for your hands. Don’t laugh too much when one of the kids says something funny, because it could so quickly turn into pathetic blubbering.
I only ever had one battle plan for facing life: grow old together with her. That was it. Simple as that. That was all I needed. That’s completely blown out of the window now. There was never a Plan B. Her and me, that was a given, and with her I’d be able to overcome anything. But depression sneaks up on you, a silent assassin, staying in the shadows so you never see it, so you don’t even become aware you’re under attack. It made me do exactly the wrong thing: withdraw more and more from those closest to me. It let me think I could and should deal with this myself, it lulled me into believing I just had to wait until I felt better. What a fool I was. And then came the bombshell.
I tried to fight. I tried to reason. I tried to understand.
I lost. I couldn’t make her see. I still don’t get it.
The indentation on my ring finger is fading, but it refuses to go away completely, even though I took off the golden circlet, which naïvely claimed, “Forever yours”, more than a couple of months ago. The dent is a constant reminder of what I once had, and what is now gone. Never again one of those awesome hugs that let you forget everything else. Never again falling asleep next to her, waking up next to her.
Some nights, the loneliness can be crushing. Nightmares are bad, but having pleasant dreams, and then realising a few seconds after you wake up that they can never become reality again is so much worse.
Some days are bearable. Sometimes food is actually starting to be semi-enjoyable again. Most days, like (mostly) life in general, it’s just bland. Working helps. Work is sanity, people there are great, and I get to solve problems and help people. A select few there know, and are incredibly supportive.
I’m in a holding pattern. All I can do is hope that getting back to writing helps the way it used to. That time will do what they say it can do. Writing about something negative used to always help me deal with it, by getting stuff off my chest, by letting me get my thoughts in order, by forcing me to admit something to a white screen, and thereby to myself. The way it feels now, I doubt this wound can ever heal completely, but perhaps the pain can lessen enough to let me hobble on towards the small light at the end of the tunnel with an emotional disability.
The little bag of chocolates is still sitting there next to my PC, looking at me. It’s not that I mind chocolate, and that particular kind is probably what I would’ve picked if I’d had to pick one. And it was given to me with the kindest of intentions. Maybe I’ll try some soon, but right now, for some reason I can’t really explain, that would feel like I’m not being true to myself. Or it could be that some masochistic part of me wants to feel that pain. I really don’t know anymore.
For anyone who has ever lost someone, or lost someone’s love, or felt blue or depressed for any other reason, my heartfelt advice is not to suffer through it by yourself like I tried to initially. Start by admitting to yourself, and then to one or two loved ones, what you’re going through. Seek professional help if you need it, be that face-to-face or via a helpline. If that sounds too scary, find something online by googling “depression helpline” or similar. In Australia, you could go to beyondblue.org.au, and I’m sure there’s an equivalent in most other countries. It may sound silly, but… don’t be alone alone.
Right, so you’ve had your fun, America, but it’s time we had a serious talk. Yes, that talk. About your Donald.
I mean… what the fuck, guys?
In order for this to work, I’m going to have to be honest with you. I hope that’s ok, because I don’t want to upset you. I may use language that will offend some. This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this. I am— wait, hang on. Those aren’t my lines. Ah, here they are. Yes. Sorry. I’ll have to say some things you may not want to hear. Sometimes the truth hurts, but in the end you’ll be the better for it. As will the world. So take a deep breath, maintain an open mind, and read on. Yes, all of it.
It started out as something for the rest of us to laugh about. You had this candidate who was some sort of celebrity in the States, some guy who did a reality TV show, and he was saying some ridiculous things about, well, about anything and everything, about the other candidates, about himself, about politics, about the world. Things no one could really take seriously, and it was obvious that it was just a publicity stunt, just a small… I mean, average-sized middle finger towards the politicians in Washington, who’ve grown stale and cynical and petty, obsessed with their little power games, who have perverted politics and turned it from something that is supposed to help the people of one of the biggest countries into something that only helps the politicians and the lobbyists and the large corporations who are willing to pour money into it to get their way, whether it’s good for anyone other than themselves or not.
I chuckled when my kids, who aren’t really interested in politics – not even Australian politics, let alone world affairs – asked me whether a guy who said those kinds of outrageous things could actually become president over there in faraway America. “Don’t be silly,” I told them, “there are millions of people over there, there’s no way he can fool that many. He’ll drop out of the race soon, thinking he made his point, but no one is taking him seriously.” Because deep down, I knew that there were three types of people who would support a man of his ilk:
- those actually dumb enough to believe all his blatant lies,
- those fanatical enough and/or filled with enough hate at whatever minority or fringe group Donald is throwing under the bus today, and
- those who get what type of person he is but are willing to support him anyway, just to send a giant “Fuck you!” to Washington.
I just had no idea how many of each there actually were.
An election anywhere is almost never about just one or two issues. It’s about a whole bunch of them. Only parochial idiots pick just one or two issues on which to base their decision which way they’ll vote. Sadly, America has many, many more such parochial idiots than I’d suspected. Not you, of course – you’re still listening (well, reading), so you’re clearly not parochial, and you’re comprehending most of what I say, so you clearly can’t choose the wine in front of… apologies, mixed up my lines again (inconceivable!). I meant, you’re not
that stupid. But there is an astounding number of people in group #1. The same goes for group #2. A frightening number of them, too. I suppose in a nation that large, a nation that doesn’t attempt to suppress free speech and free will (no, no, I also think those are good things, calm down), there have to be many who take their opinion to the extreme.
Now the next part may be difficult for Americans to understand. I’ll try to break it to you gently. You’re sitting down? Good. You see, we – the vast majority of the rest of the rational world, that is – actually think Obama is a really good president. And we think Drumpf – I mean, Trump – well… hey, do you remember Chernobyl?
What’s that you say? You’re the greatest nation on earth and you don’t care what the rest of the world thinks about you?
Let’s start with the second part of that – you really should learn to care what we think of you. You’re part of the world, too, and just the same way as kids grow up and become more mature and learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that they have their rights but also their responsibilities, and that certain compromises have to be made so that everyone can get along, so you, too, need to learn that you’re part of Planet Earth’s big family, and with the sandpit becoming more and more crowded, you don’t want to be the kid that no one wants to play with, do you? Yes, it’s very important that you get your own affairs in order, but do you really think you need to shut everyone else out in order to do so?
As for the first part, about you being the greatest nation on earth… you’re still sitting down, right? Well, aaactually… you’re not. Not really. Sorry. Don’t get upset, now, I warned you about this, remember? We still like you and respect you. Let me explain.
You’ve done some really great things for this world – yes, you make most of the best movies over there, good example, but I also meant technologically and scientifically – but in some other respects, you’re kind of – remember what I said about not getting upset, okay? – you’re kind of the barbarians among, for lack of a better expression, the “civilised nations”. How can I say that? Well, think about it. The death penalty. Do you really think it’s helping with your crime rates? At all? Do some research yourself – please. It’s barbaric, it’s inhumane, it’s uncivilised. Your obsession with guns is another one. No, hang on now – I understand about your second amendment rights, but do you even remember what time these rights came from, and why they were added to your constitution? Fighting violence with more violence, really? This isn’t the Wild West anymore, you know. Look at other countries, look at how they’ve managed to make it work without everyone owning guns. No, no, their crime rates are actually lower, because— Okay. Uh-huh. You see, in other countries they— You don’t want me to explain? All right. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one, then. Don’t shoot me.
But let’s get back to Donald. (Oh goodness, I just realised that the whole not-the-greatest tangent could be misinterpreted as agreeing with that silly “Let’s make America great again” slogan, but explaining how the ways in which Donald wants to make your country great have nothing to do with greatness would take too long.)
I was talking about those three groups who support him. Yeah, ok, scroll up and refresh your memory. Back? Good.
The ship has sailed for group #2, that is, the alt-right white supremacists and the other gun-toting idiots who’d like nothing better than to be able to shoot everyone who’s different from them. They’re beyond hope. All we can do for group #1 is to hope that someone slightly smarter than they are has the patience and/or the clout to explain to them how they’re wrong, or that they’ll finally get the drift that they’re on the losing side, and in their finite wisdom decide they’d rather back a winner.
No, my appeal would be to group #3, and my argument would be three-fold. (What? Oh, it means I have three main points. You’re welcome.)
Firstly, I’d like to point out that the “Fuck you!” has been heard loud and clear in Washington. Change won’t come overnight, but keep sending that message (no, without voting Trump, dammit!), and change will happen. It’s a worthy message – just please use a different envelope. The Brits tried to send that message, and it worked a bit too well. So well, in fact, that the first thing they tried to do once they realised that their “Fuck you!” vote had won and they’d be cleaning up the mess it caused for years, they wanted to re-vote because, well, they hadn’t really been serious about actually winning. Your “Fuck you!” could backfire on America much more spectacularly than the Brexit.
Secondly, have you actually listened to Donald talk? I mean, not just to play point-and-laugh – actually listened to his messages? With anything approaching a triple-digit IQ, you should’ve long ago figured out that he’ll say anything he thinks you want to hear. He obviously has no scruples, no conscience, no morals. He has an uncanny knack for knowing what people fear, and he loves to stoke that fear. He constantly thinks he can get away with spouting one outrageous lie after another, and whenever faced with clear evidence that he is wrong, he’ll just resort to calling everyone else liars. He calls himself a winner because he’s trampled on, bullied and cheated people, and used his father’s money and influence to get to where he is.
Do I even need to mention his bankruptcies? Or the ugly things he’s been saying about women, about Mexicans, about African Americans, and who knows what other groups? Now, given all that… is that really the sort of person you want running and representing your country? You want him to blunder his way through delicate diplomatic channels when lives are at stake? Butter up an unbelievably dangerous leader like Putin, not realising what he’s doing? Rip to shreds agreements about climate change that are finally putting us in the vicinity of having a chance to save our planet? Offend nations by groping the women in their delegations? (Because if he believed he can get away with that when he was just a real estate tycoon, what’s he going to think he can get away with once he’s President?) Throw entire international markets into turmoil and gamble with other people’s money because of his unpredictable nature? (Think I’m kidding? Read some serious articles that explain why he’s the biggest danger to international stability the world has ever faced.)
Need I go on? Please consider what kind of a country – and world – you’d create if you voted him into office.
And thirdly, imagine what kind of message that would send to your children, and your children’s children, and… you get the point. By making Drumpf your president, you’d be telling them that it’s ok to bully people, to grope and objectify women, to behave like an oaf as long as it’s entertaining, to disrespect minorities, to lie, to claim all sorts of untrue things about people who disagree with you.
My grandfather fought in World War II. For Germany, actually. Yeah, he was a Nazi when he was young. He’s passed away years ago, but I remember speaking to him about it, and him shaking his head in shame, saying that it all sounded so believable and convincing what the guy was saying, and that for the longest time he’d held on to the belief that all the ugly things they were hearing about their national hero couldn’t possibly be true. There was a guy who was going to “make Germany great again”, they thought. You may not see them, but there are so many parallels there, it’s scary. Seriously scary. Don’t be caught in a situation where something bad happens that you did nothing to stop and suddenly it’s an out-of-control train wreck and all you can do is watch. And despair.
So, in the name of all that is good and right in this world, I beg you: please, let common sense prevail. No matter what you think of Hillary, she can’t be worse than Donald. Impossible. This many awesome celebrities can’t be wrong.
Please, please, go and vote next month to let a loud and clear “Fuck you!” echo around the world to reach the ears of people like Donald Trump.
They need to hear it even more than Washington.
Save the day. The world will thank you.
A huge “Thanks!” to all of them; I’ve tried to take their constructive criticisms on board by making a few changes and adjustments here and there, and am trying not to let the praise go to my head. Though I’m not trying hard enough not to
brag about mention some of the best bits.
… definitely makes me want to keep reading.
Seriously well-written fight scene!
THIS IS SO INTENSE!
I wasn’t looking forward to reading the chapter on the hunt because I like to read stories about teenage girls making googly eyes on teenage boys, but this whole scene just deepens the story and makes everything – the characters, the setting, the culture – that much more real.
Such a rich world you’ve built.
… very polished…
I was hooked by the end of the first chapter…
… very fluid style.
… altogether really exciting.
… in summary: cool!
Each of my readers brought something different to the table, from catching a few awkward-sounding repetitions to pointing out that I was throwing quite a few new terms at the reader in one of the early paragraphs to giving very detailed feedback about many chapters from a first-time reader’s perspective. All of this is just what I was after, and has helped me tremendously. Again, many thanks – you’ve all assured yourselves a spot in the “acknowledgements” section
if when the manuscript-that-could gets published.
Still a long way to go before that happens, but… baby steps.
[Update: If you’re looking for a wonderful beta reader, one of mine has told me she’s happy to be mentioned, so head on over to Suzanne’s blog and ask her – she knows what she’s talking about, and her feedback was the most detailed I’ve ever received.]
What’s next? Well, I’ve recently upgraded to a new computer, and it’s taken me a bit of time to get everything set up the way I want again (grrr, Windoze can be so annoying, but it’s a necessary evil for some things in my case), but I’m there now, and will be drawing up a battle plan for the next few steps in my journey towards getting published.
What could possibly go wrong? 😉
Right, so I’ve spent several weeks now going through and editing and editing and editing my manuscript, and… I’m calling it.
What? No, not that way. “I’m sure the manuscript could’ve been something if it had held on a bit longer, but, uh… oh well. Time of death: 17:14.”
No flatline, no meeeeep. Not at all. It’s alive and kicking. It’s just that it has this annoying habit of, well, looking almost done. I wanted it to be just done, without the almost, but it looks as though every time I give it another readover, it reveals a few more slight flaws here and there. *Sigh*. Maybe that’s just the perfectionist in me… but if so, why can’t that know-it-all just find all those flaws the first time?!?
So, since I am now acutely aware that I won’t get everything perfect, I’m calling it. Calling it “done”.
Look up done in the dictionary in a few months, when my request comes through. By then, they will have changed it to mean the same thing as almost done. Soft of like a reverse “mostly harmless”, for those who get the reference.
‘Sides, it’s nearly Christmas. I wanted to be done by Christmas. (That’s reasonable… right?)
I wanted to send out my shiny new manuscript before Christmas to a few wonderful people who’ve volunteered (or been volunteered, by yours truly) to beta-read it. I’m sure they’ll find even more to correct… So, some final formatting tomorrow (no more corrections for now, though!), and then it’s off to see the world. Well, meta-digi-phorically (yes, that’s a word) speaking. Some small parts of the world, granted, but… nevertheless. Early days. (Now stop picking on my analogy.)
And while I’m at it: Merry Christmas! (Because at the rate I’m going, I doubt I’ll be posting again before the New Year.)