Depression and Positivity Culture

I’m not going to keep you guys long on this lovely Wednesday.

Positivity culture.  You’ve probably seen it somewhere on social media.  Someone posts about a negative experience and a seemingly well-meaning person responds by suggesting they focus on the positives or sending that person positive vibes.  I feel like I’m a bit guilty of this. It ultimately comes off as dismissive since it suggests that a person is the cause of their discontentment.  I prefer to post positive statements on my timeline, even if that’s incongruent to what I’m actually feeling.  I “send” people positive vibes on Mondays and Wednesdays and try to support fellow writers in their endeavors. And some days, this feels like an utter lie. Let me explain.

When I was in my teens, I was very good at pretending that everything was okay when it wasn’t.  During college, I descended to a point where I didn’t see the point of being here anymore.  I existed in a state of perpetual sadness that was so deep and unrelenting, I didn’t think there was any other way for me to exist. I ultimately ended up dropping out. Years after, I went between a manageable sadness and a passive indifference to life.

The last couple of years, I found ways to change the way I deal with my depression. Some of it involves the way I think.  while I don’t completely subscribe to positive affirmation, I do try to encourage myself to think positive thoughts.  I try not to speak negatively about myself, and try to be more open with those around me. I have noticed considerable changes. Problems don’t seem as daunting, I have a better emotion capacity to listen to my friends, and I don’t find myself shying away from physical comfort. Still not the best at hugging, but I’m getting there. All of this was to say that sometimes I have a hard time navigating my positivity.  On bad days, it seems I push harder to make those good thoughts happen and I consider it a success. But I have doubts. Do those thoughts even count?  Am I really dealing my depression or trying to sweep it under the rug? Am I lying to everyone? To be honest, I’m still confused. I do know that I enjoy being happy and being a better friend.  I want to be genuine, I genuinely want everyone to have good days because I know how draining bad days can be.  It’s okay to want to be happy or sad or everything in between.  But it’s important to feel, explore and process every emotion we experience to better understand ourselves. It’s one of the most human things we can do.

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This post is brought to you by my sometimes-helpful-mostly-not writing partner, Chica. She’s an old lady with asthma and this pollen is really messing with her. She’s doing better now, if a little wheezy💕

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We Go Through Phases

New Moon

I am where I will always be, but tonight you can’t see me. As you stare from your bedroom window once again, I wonder what you are thinking.  I remember when people like you long ago used me to light their way during their night travels. Or the time you all worshipped me and I went by many names. I see that you are sad. Your chin rests on the windowsill, you take in cool air.  Are you making a wish again? Pretending you are amongst the stars with me, hiding in my shadow and wondering if when people look through their telescopes that they can see you dancing in my craters? I’ve seen you like this many times, but perhaps it is the sparkle in your eyes despite the heaviness in your heart that makes me curious.  Your small life is but a blink in mine, so I do wish you spent less of it upset.

 

Waxing Crescent

You peek at me as I peek at you the next time we see each other. You trace the sliver of me that has appeared from the shadows. You seem happier. Contemplative.  I can only imagine the plethora of thoughts that are going through that tiny mind of yours. Endless possibilities. How fascinating it was to see your earliest ancestor think for the first time. To wonder maybe there’s another way.  Though much time has passed, you all are still much the same. You like to wish for things to be different. For them to listen to you.  But you wear contentment well.  I wish I could tell you that someone is listening.  To let you know that I too sometimes wish to be heard. I wonder if that lullaby of me is still in there amongst all those others thoughts.

 

Waxing Gibbous

I still see you during the days, but I find that I cherish our talks at night. You play with your toys on the windowsill. A robot and an astronaut figurine crash into each other, and I find myself enthralled in the ensuing battle. You make them crash and collide and in the end, the astronaut is the victor. You propel him to stake a claim in my glow that shines through your window.  When you all visited me the first time, it was a nice surprise. I watched your kind try so many times before. The global sigh of relief when they arrived and spoke those historical words.  Will that feeling be the same when they do it again? Will that person be you? Sometimes I let myself wonder if I still hold that sense of wonder to your kind. But as you put your toys away, you say “Good Night, Miss Moon.” I am important to you. For me, that feels enough. Your mom comes and tucks you in.   Sweet boy, I hope you’ll visit me one day, too.

 

Full Moon

My little Sebastian, it’s good seeing you outside tonight. You chase fireflies, running around your backyard with a glass jar. Your mom watches as your dad sets up a telescope. He calls you over and you two watch me. I wonder if he’s telling you about the about my giant crater. How many faces can you point out from the shadows and valleys of my surface? Time passes and your parents lay out a blanket and you lay between them and for a moment everything is alright. Together, you find shapes in the stars and sing of fiddling cats. I see pure joy in the shapes on your faces. This is where you’re meant to be. a place of pure, unending love. From that, you will prosper into someone magnificent and I will get see every moment. Even the moment you outgrow me.  You will grow up and go through many changes and see so many places. But until then you are my favorite starry-eyed boy.  Me? I will be where I will always be. And I will always be here for you.

5 Things I Need in a Stargate SG-1 Reboot

I was writing something else for today’s blog post. But while taking a break, I got so distracted by the thought of a Stargate SG-1 reboot that I decided to scrap my original idea. I started to think about casting and potential continuity, what to do concerning the original movie as well as the spin-offs. So much so that this week’s blog post became 5 things I’d want in Stargate SG-1 reboot. This is but a mere glimpse into my geekdom, if you’d like more let me know, I’d love to play around with different blog post ideas.

 

  • Tone down the misogyny and white-savior aspects
    • I feel like the show was a product of its time. Unless the women were Samantha Carter or Janet Frasier, they were there to fawn over Daniel Jackson or Jack O’Neill and never had much depth.  Most people of color were aliens. I loved that most episodes consisted of them going to new planets and interacting with different cultures. Primitive doesn’t mean unintelligent, and as I got older I found it hard to believe that entire civilizations who have known of the Stargate’s existence never learned how to use it. But it’s a new era, the show could take more interesting approaches to meeting potential allies and enemies and give characters of colors and women more to do.
  • Bring back the sense of discovery
    • One of my favorite aspects of the series was how it combined history, archeology and space travel. It teetered on the border of conspiracies but took itself seriously enough that it didn’t feel corny (most of the time). I loved the sense of exploration, influenced by Star Trek, and how the discoveries were perceived by SG-1’s different viewpoints. I also liked that in the earlier seasons that most of it was based on Earth. This is more of a personal preference that doesn’t have much to do with anything except the idea of being able to leave the planet every now and then.
  • Keep the lighthearted tone of the original series
    • I feel like a lot of tv shows are so serious these days. They are heavy in drama and plot, and quite frankly, unnecessary character deaths. But besides that, it showed that genre entertainment didn’t have to be so serious. One thing I liked about the show is that they found interesting ways to make their characters suffer when needed. Every member of SG-1 had some sense of strife they carried for more than one episode. Yet, the humor and banter felt well-placed and realistic. Overall, shows that allow brevity are a much-needed catharsis these days.
  • Be less planet-of-the-week
    • I could see the show benefitting by having more profound story arcs throughout the seasons. While the procedural aspect made the show easy to consume, knowing for the most part what was going to happen each episode made it easy to skip for shows that had one long over-arching story each season. Presently, I feel like there are plenty of shows that have found a way to mesh episodic with story arcs, and this would be a way to add depth to the series.
  • Focus on chemistry when casting
    • This is a hard one for me. On the one hand, the original cast is irreplaceable. I can’t see no one else portraying Captain Jack O’Neill as well as Richard Dean Anderson.   If TPTB chose to do a continuation of the original storyline and had the original cast make cameos, I’d go crazy. But if they do a recasting, the chemistry would have to be there.  It’s what made my transition to Stargate Atlantis way easier than to Stargate Universe. Even if it’s new characters and new origin story, I’d had to believe in the cast’s chemistry as people who would take the extreme risks together. And don’t be afraid to diversify.were

 

To be fair. I don’t watch a lot of tv shows these days. There could totally be a sci-fi show full of light-hearted banter and archeology-based exploration out there somewhere, but if it doesn’t involve interplanetary travel through a wormhole then what’s the point? Stargate SG-1 can benefit from the advances in visual production, special effects, and storytelling that has developed over time and still be successful by keeping the heart of the show. I definitely appreciate the strides television has made, but as for genre fiction, I believe there’s still plenty more to go. It doesn’t take dark and heavy drama for people to believe in fantastical worlds and aliens.  It was fun entertaining the idea that certain conspiracies about aliens were true and Atlantis was real, and it was never boring when the good guys won. It would be nice to have a genre show where I could invest in the characters and not feel like they’re plot fodder and to go along with their personal journeys as well as the journeys the experience.

Do you all have any genre shows that you’d recommend? Do they fill a nostalgic void? I’ve been slacking in the sci-fi department and I’m making glacial progress with my Netflix queue, but sci-fi especially holds a place in my heart, and would love to know if there are any shows that have the same tone as SG-1.

BTW the picture is my own screencap, don’t sue.

Great Fire

I clutched my palla around me as I looked over the vegetables at the stalls, Cassius clinging to my side.  The elderly merchant offered him a fig which he took eagerly. I bought some beets, mushrooms, and dates. I insisted on paying for the fig, despite the old man reassuring me that is was a gift.  We walked the marketplace, the array of sights and sounds traveled through the wind that was picking up. The smell of fresh bread wafted in the air. Several stalls advertise sausages and puddings. There were shouts coming from all the stalls. We stopped to look at art when two men almost crashed into us. They pushed through the crowd, carrying buckets of water. I readjusted the satchel and decided it was time to make our way home. Cassius noticed a juggler. He tugged at my sleeve, “Can I go watch,” he begged. I couldn’t resist those cerulean eyes. “Yes, but hurry. I believe a storm is coming.”

I first heard the screams. “The Circus! The Circus is on fire,” a man bellowed and for a moment the entire crowd was silent. I eyed Cassius, still on the other side next to the juggler and the distance felt insurmountable.  As people rushed to get away from the flames, I clawed through them and grabbed Cassius.  It seemed it was only moments ago we heard of it, but the flames raced towards us, consuming everything in its way.  People were trying to make their way to the hills. Some spoke of going to neighboring districts.  Amongst the screams and roar of flames, I heard some begging to the gods. If they were listening, I don’t believe they cared. What had we done to anger them so?

It was a sea of fear as people collided into each other to escape. Some tried to help those who couldn’t make their way out themselves. The thick smoke was unbearable. I used my shawl to cover my face and ushered my son to do the same. I guided Cassius through the desperate mob. Soldiers ran toward the flames only to flee from the overbearing heat. Despicable men bearing torches taunted us before setting more fires. “We’re under orders by the bastard himself, “they cackled. Many clamored to get out of the way of the madmen.

The street became so packed, we barely moved. I searched the faces to see if there was anyone I knew.  I forced us into an alley to get our bearings. We had to find another way.  Following the path, I watched as people trampled over a poor girl who had gotten knocked down in the rush.  I shielded Cassius and ushered him forward. He mustn’t see what the fear of death was making people do. Her mother begged everyone to go around but no one listened. We continue taking backstreets and alleyways, moving upwards out of the district into the country. I felt as though we were surrounded by heat. My son’s steps began to drag but I pulled him along. The air thickened with ash, but the at least the crowd had thinned. We passed many people who had given up. They crouched in spaces between buildings. A woman sat with her feeble father as the waited for their demise. I saw families still in their homes holding each other. I was distracted by the harsh coughs coming from Cassius. I picked him up despite the burning in my chest. I couldn’t stop. I refused to wait for death.

I clutched my boy to me. We made it.  In the crowd, people cried as we watched our home be overtaken by a vengeful fire.  Women and men cursed. Children cried out for the families. Cassius grew heavy in my arms, “Rest, my son, we do not know what perils lay before us.”  As we all gained our bearings a man who’s burning fury rivaled that of the great fire stood addressed us.

“He did this,” he spat, “That-that tyrant!”

A woman stood from where she was nursing the wounded. “Didn’t you hear, he was playing his lyre and singing as we burned!”

The crowd murmured. “He’s a mad man, Nero,” the man continued, “he has doomed Rome to this fate.”

“He wanted this to happen. I heard soldier say they were ‘following orders,’’ a voice from the crowd shouted.

Rumors passed as fervently as the flames. By nightfall, all believed one thing: that the emperor, Nero was to blame. The glory that was our mighty Rome was drenched in blood long before our streets were flooded with fire. It makes sense. What better way for a madman to break new ground than to scorch the earth. Build the moments that truly show what kind of king he was. A rich, bloodthirsty man who’d gladly use his the bodies of his people as the foundation. Why would gods show mercy?

As we watched the district collapse and disappear into the morning, the fire rampaged on. We decided to make our way to the furthest districts. Some people stayed behind to rather be taken by the flames than be a burden or bare the grief of not finding their families. I watched Cassius make friends with a group of children. I smiled. He was safe and that was what mattered. Perhaps some semblance of the Rome from before can rise again from the ashes.

Not-so New Age

My closest friends and I would be what most people call new age-y. We get together to do readings. Practice positive affirmation. Meditate to silence negativity. We attune ourselves with visits to parks or the river so as to not be bogged down with bad experiences. We joke about what would happen if we got abducted by aliens. My friend’s boyfriend tells us about his struggles to ignore spirits who try to make contact with him.  One day, I was explaining how I wanted to understand more of what my place is in this form of belief. I realized that this was something that I was exposed to my entire life. I grew up exposed to an amalgamation of several religions like Christianity and Baha’i, but ultimately fell away from the practice once I got older. Looking back on my childhood, I realized that like myself, the women of my life have also been open to different methods of finding peace and purpose.

When I was young, my grandma used tarot cards to predict her future. I’d marvel at how heavy the cards felt in my tiny hands. I loved to look at the intricate pictures and wondered why the cards were so much bigger than playing cards. I remember my grandma telling me not to use them when she wasn’t around. Her books were fair game. She had all types of books on esoteric topics. There was one on Numerology, Astrology, Palmistry, Dream Interpretation.  Books on different religions and almanacs to help her garden. I liked looking at the big red book that had all the zodiac signs.

Growing up, my mom sometimes called me a hippie. She believes in ghosts and aliens. She’s also gone through several religions.  She still prays. I now watch hours of conspiracies videos in my free time. We compare notes on unsolved crimes. A couple of years ago, I asked my mom what she wanted for her birthday and she said she wanted to go to the psychic downtown. She never told me what she said. She tells me stories about my great-great-aunt and how I remind her of her. She calls me an indigo child sometimes. Or an exhibitionist. I just don’t like pants.

Nowadays, I burn sage when I’m feeling depressed.  I imagine that I’m putting my sadness into a physical form that I can force away.  Sometimes I light black candles before bed to keep the negative thoughts at bay.  I check my horoscope at the end of the day to judge how accurate it really is.  Most of the time, I don’t believe in ghosts even though I have my own ghost stories.  I try to interpret my dreams if for no reason than to understand myself. I collect tarot cards and only use certain decks with my friends. Yoga is noticeable progress. Crystals are pretty. One day I want a huge garden. I will never own a Ouija board. It’s not worth the risk. Perhaps the people in my family are not meant for blind faith. We don’t cast spells or sing gospels songs.  In us, are raging storms and rough seas we deal with by adapting. By believing we’ll make it through by any means. There’s a comfort in that. That is something I can thank God for.

 

Dealbreaker

Moonlight shone through the blinds of the motel room. She sat on the bed, shoulders still tight despite the long hot shower. Even though she drove for 2 days straight, Rumi wasn’t tired. Needing to do something with her hands, she decided to count the money again. As she thumbed through the bills, she thought about the look on Don’s face when he realized that she was the one receiving the money. Nostrils flared, he spat her name, saying the truce was a lie. Of course, it was. Regardless, she had to get this deal done. Whatever it took. It wasn’t just about her anymore. She had to get him back. Once she finished this last job, they could run away for good.  She’d spend the rest of her days making it up to him. She counted the money and finished a few tiny bottles of whiskey from the mini bar. She collapsed onto the stiff covers and silently hoped she didn’t have nightmares about what they might be doing to him.

After a few hours of sleep, she got dressed, tossed her bags in the backseat before checking out. At the gas station, she filled her tank and got a greasy burrito to eat while driving.  As she drove in the direction of her employer, she pretended that the heavy feeling in her stomach was from the nuked breakfast. Although she often enjoyed driving through the deserts of Nevada. She and Chris would drive to find canyons and boulder fields to explore. She loved Sandstone layers. But she reckoned that after this situation with James, they would refrain from visiting for a while.  She couldn’t believe she actually believed him. Years ago, James allowed her to “quit.” He praised her dedication and abilities and wished her well. She trusted him.  He let her go. Gave her time to get comfortable, to fall in love. To build something worthy and honorable. He let the dog run the length of the leash.  And like any shitty owner, yanked her back when she thought she got away.

Since he contacted her, she’s worn her fingernails down to the wick, and has resorted to chewing the skin on the side.  She never thought rejecting his request for her help would require her to drive to the middle of the Black Rock Desert, but here she is. Something about this trip feels wrong. Perhaps it is from being thrusted back into a life she desperately wanted to escape from. But she’s never had much luck in outrunning her ghosts.  She eyed the glove box.  In it was Beretta 92. She’d be lying if she said she hasn’t shot it since she retired. It was a part of her at one time.  she’d practiced shooting bottles and cans.  She hoped that Chris was alright. That James was keeping his promise in that he wouldn’t harm him.  She turned off the main road onto a nearly-invisible gravely path and floored it.

By the time she got to the meeting spot, there was a chill in the air. She saw James sharing a cigarette with two large men in front of a black SUV.  She parked in the beam cast from the headlights.

“Where is he,” she asked. James puffed on the cigarette.

“So, how’d it go?”

“This is not how it’s gonna go, James.”

He watched her for a second, a toothy grin curled in response. He nodded his head towards the larger of the two men, who retrieved Chris, bound but relatively unharmed from the backseat of the SUV.

Rumi retrieved the bag from the backseat of her car and handed it to the other man. She popped open her truck and pulled out an exhausted Don.  James watched, confused yet intrigued.

“This is my own insurance policy,” she states. She pointed her gun at Don’s head.

“Am I supposed to care about his life,” James chuckled.

“No. But people catch wind of you offing the people who signed the agreement won’t go over well with your other partners.”

“I’ll just tell them you did it.”

“I’ll just tell them you hired me.” She sighed. “I know I’ve done a lot of bad in this life. I’m willing to pay for it. But I can’t be a part of this anymore. Now, I will handle Don. But I have to know. Need to know for sure that this is the last time. You promised me.” She released the safety.

James watched her for a minute.  He grabbed Chris by the elbow and escorted him to the passenger seat of Rumi’s car.  He patted Don on the head before facing her.

“You can’t tell me you don’t miss this,” he seethed. She pressed the muzzle into Don’s temple. For the first time, she noticed the snotty mess that was his face. James rolled his eyes.

“Fine. A Deal’s a deal, after all.” He was lying. She noticed something about his face that she ignored the last time they had this conversation. He wasn’t ever going to let her go. Not completely. She looked at Chris. He was calling to her despite the duct tape. And now he was a part of it.  A squeaky toy to taunt her whenever James wished. The footing she thought she had was just a longer rope.

The sound of a shot spread throughout the desert. Silence as Don’s body slumped. She whipped James with the gun and took aim. One of his guards fired and hit her in the arm. Chris banged against the window. She got up and fired back, his body collapsing. She got into her car and drove off. James shouted towards tail lights.

“You stupid bitch! This isn’t over!”

Her arm was numb, but Chris was safe and that’s all that matters now. She took the tape off his face and helped him with his binds as best she could. She didn’t quite know what she started, but she was going to end it. For good. She drove towards the mountains.

Girl Who Reads: An Introspection

I have a confession. I’m having a hard time defining myself as a writer.  I don’t have a genre that I prefer nor a point of view to write in.  This kinda entices the inner adventurer in me because I get to try out different ways of story-telling. While learning about the technical aspects of writing, I will eventually carve out my own style. Part of learning who I am as a writer means also getting to know who I am as a reader. I hope you all will join in exploring with me.

I guess I should get the basics out of the way.  My favorite genres are dramas, mysteries, and thrillers. My favorite author of all time is Toni Morrison, but my current favorite author is Gillian Flynn.  My guilty pleasure is finding books at dollar stores, especially ones containing supernatural elements.  My least favorite genre is romance, but I’ll read a book with romantic subplots. Also, 90% of the items on my Amazon wishlist are books. Who’s really surprised though?

What else? Some personal reading preferences, perhaps? Umm, physical copies of books over digital. Character arcs over plots. One singular point of view. Books that stand alone even if they are part of a series. I’m least likely to finish a book if it’s not technically sound. If there are a lot of grammar mistakes, plot holes, or dull characters, I cannot get through it. 0/10 will not recommend.  If it is a well-written book, but the subject matter or characters are not my cuppas, I’d still give it props and recc’d it to ppl I know would enjoy it.

Now let’s go back to the beginning. I’m pretty sure my love of story-telling came from my mother, an elementary school teacher, who’d read to me all the time. When I would be in her classroom, I’d read the books in there or hang out in the school library while she did stuff in the office. She’d get me books from special school catalogs, and we’d go through them together reading about ancient Egypt or Space. I remember the first time I bought my first books with my own money. We went to Bookland in our local mall and I bought 3 books: Crystal by Walter Dean Myers, Romiette and Julio and Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper. My desire to write sprouted from reading Sharon Draper’s books.  I’d finished all my homework during class just so that I could read her books during study hall and lunch.

I never liked reading the classics in high school.  I gave them more chances after I got older, but they never could hold my interest.  Surprisingly, I hated reading Shakespeare the most but grew to love it once I started seeing it performed in college. (*ahem* I’ve never read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies) The only assigned reading that I loved and stuck with me was The Pigman by Paul Zindel. I loved it so much that I never turned it in and later bought the sequel myself.

Let’s get a bit philosophical. I believe that when you read a book has a huge impact on your impression on it. That is why I tend to go back to books even if I initially didn’t like them. Perhaps we just weren’t the version of ourselves that was supposed to receive the story. I believe no matter how talented a writer is no one can tell a story better from the point of view of a marginalized group better than a person who occupies said marginalized group. The perspective of the author greatly influences the progression of the story, and I love it when it feels like I’m getting to know the writer.

My love of breaking down stories has bled into other mediums. I frequently pause movies and tv shows to try and understand why the writer chose to have certain things happen or characters to say particular things.   I’m not the best person to marathon shows with because of all the pausing, but luckily most of my friends are used to it. But I annoy myself because I can’t even put a dent in my Netflix queue.  Speaking of which, another reason I can’t make it through most tv shows is that I like to consume whole stories at once. Stemming from my tendency to buy or check out book series up until their last entry, I tend to wait until a show is completely done before starting it.  Needless to say, this applies to Game of Thrones. I’m never going to read those books though.  I enjoy world-building as much as the next bibliophile but Mr. Martin is a whole other beast.

Ultimately, I think my love of writing stems from a profound respect for the process of constructing a narrative.  Of seeing a character’s journey and how they change by the end. It’s hard to notice our own growth as its progression is more glacial.  But books have a way of condensing entire lifespans into hours worth of entertainment. It’s easy to feel like we’ve been stuck in the same place and everyone else is moving up at a higher velocity.  But we live those lives with the characters as we read, and I know that I won’t be the same person once I finish.

So, why did you all fall in love with books? Were you an astronomy, ancient Egypt, or dinosaur kid or were animals more of your thing? Have you developed quirks from your love of story-telling? Got any book recs, my wishlist could use more entries. Let’s discuss.