The Story of Zenia…

Margaret Atwood - The Robber BrideMargaret Atwood and her iconic library have captured my imagination for many many years.  My first introduction, as it is for many readers, was The Handmaid’s Tale.  I was instantly hooked and dove head first into her work, everything from short fiction to poetry to novellas to historical fiction.  In fact, Little Red Hen from Good Bones is a story that often flits through my mind, almost 20 years after first reading it.

Many of Atwood’s novels are worthy of multiple reads, however the one that stands out for me is The Robber Bride.  Having read it a few times, I find previously glossed-over nuances with each time.

The characters are so skillfully crafted that their personalities stay with the reader long after the final page is read.  Zenia, the antagonist, is multidimensional, revealing a different side of herself to each of the three main characters.  Depending on whose life she is trying to infiltrate, her own life story changes to best play on their personality and weaknesses.

“The story of Zenia ought to begin when Zenia began. It must have been someplace long ago and distant in space, thinks Tony; someplace bruised, and very tangled. A European print, hand-tinted, ochre-coloured, with dusty sunlight and a lot of bushes in it- bushes with thick leaves and ancient twisted roots, behind which, out of sight in the undergrowth and hinted at only by a boot protruding, or a slack hand, something ordinary but horrifying is taking place.”

Daily Prompt: Second Time Around

Homework

Coffee and PaperThe thought of having lunch alone in a coffee shop is heavy enough to make my fight or flight instinct to kick in.  Spoiler alert: I’m not a fighter.  Why does the idea of eating lunch in a cafe take up so much precious space in my anxiety rolodex?

I’ve recently started seeing a therapist.  This is my first time in therapy not led by a psychiatrist.  Rather, she is a highly educated, certified therapist.  Now that I’ve seen both psychiatrist and therapist, I can confidently say there is no comparison of the two.  One can prescribe pills and the other is truly invested in everything that the pill-prescriber doesn’t have time to explore.

That isn’t to say that a psychiatrist won’t engage in psychotherapy, but it’s been my experience that the majority of the appointment is spent discussing how my mood is today compared to before medication.  It’s a continual check to make sure they’ve prescribed the proper medication and dosage.  During these appointments, I often visualize the psychiatrist completing their paperwork for the drug company: “patient indicates that they’re happier; success”.

My therapist assigns homework each week.  I respond well to homework, because it gives me a deadline.  I have difficulty with motivation without an outside pressure (like a deadline).

One of my assignments this week is to enjoy a workday lunch break outside of the office in a nearby coffee shop.  It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  Then why has such a simple assignment caused me hours of anxiety, with the entire luncheon scenario playing through my head again and again?

I don’t enjoy being still in public.

Since I’ve been assigned this piece of homework 5 days ago, I’ve thought countless times about the details: which day will I do this?  What time should I leave the office?  What will I order?  How long should I sit?  What will I do while I eat?  Blog?  Read?

Just as I do with all task items in my life, I invent excuse after excuse to delay.

Monday: “it’s too busy to eat lunch outside of the office today”.

Tuesday: I make it inside the coffee shop and stand in line.  There’s 6 people ahead of me and the line isn’t moving quickly.  I talk myself out of it.  I convince myself that the staff is just far too slow and by the time I am able to order, my lunch break will be over and I won’t have time to sit.  I leave, walk across the parking lot to a grocery market and buy a pre-made sandwich and eat it in my car.

Wednesday: “it’s raining out and I don’t want to sit with damp hair and clothing while I eat my lunch.  Besides, I still have 2 more days to try to accomplish this”.

The anxiety continues; elevates, even.  What if I chicken out the next 2 days as well?  I’ll have to go to my therapist and admit that I didn’t complete one of my homework assignments.  How utterly embarrassing to have to admit that I got in my own way of enjoying a mid-work-day latte.

This is typical for me: I put things off until there are repercussions.  This is why I need the homework, why I need the therapist, why I need to adjust my brain.

Forced Evolution is still Evolution

Right-Hand Turn on Road

6:00 a.m.: Yawn, stretch, mood check: I think for a moment… not bad, not bad at all.

8:20 a.m.: I walk into the quiet office.  Although we all start at 8:30, 8:20 is early enough to be the only one in the office for a good 15 minutes.  I like being the first one.  It gives me a chance to start up the office machinery before anyone has a chance to start throwing questions about this client or new deadlines for that conference at me.  I flip the switch to the hot water and wait for my tea.  Mood check: still good, peaceful almost.

11:30 a.m.: I’m not sure what’s happened, but I realize that for the past 30 minutes, since this meeting has started, I’ve been hurling internal insults at myself.  Jesus, how did you not know the name of that caterer?  Everyone knows who they are!  Every one of your ideas are useless.  She’s trying not to say it, but she’s looking at me as if to ask how did you not understand what I just said??  Why did I say that?  Close your mouth and think things through before you waste everyone’s time with your ridiculous palaver.

2:30 p.m.: I’m back at my desk after a marketing meeting and a quickly inhaled chicken wrap.  I can feel that my body is physically sagging.  I can’t believe how much I’ve screwed up over the last few days.  

5:00 p.m.: Driving home.  I’m mentally exhausted and physically defeated by my lumbering physique.  I had thought about going to the gym tonight, but fuck it.  It’d be nice to get to bed early.  Maybe I’ll listen to some O&A tonight to (hopefully) crack a smile and get out of this funk.

7:00 p.m.: I don’t know where it came from, but I want to find out.  I want to know how to summon it up at will.  From the dark recesses of my lazy mind, I thought Ah, what the hell, I’ll go to Sephora, take advantage of the sale, then I’ll hit the gym for a bit of cardio.  And that was it.  I did it.

10:15 p.m.: Here I am, feeling like a different person than I did this morning.  I have to remember this.  Festering in funk will never lead to a brighter mood.  Physically moving and forcing a different perspective will almost always lead to a brighter mood.  I have to remember this.  It’s smile therapy.  John Cage was on to something.  

Filling the Silence

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to escape from myself.  My internal monologue is a warped record, endlessly reminding me of everything I despise about myself.  It usually starts by sort through the endless mental short movies that capture all of the times I’ve embarrassed myself.  Only someone as stupid as me could be such an embarrassment, I remind myself.  I cringe remembering the times I’ve said something foolish because I didn’t think it through first.

When the movies stop, my mind starts frantically reviewing my to-do list for work.  Inevitably, the to-do list has a few items that I’ve been putting off for far too long and will now have consequences.  I acknowledge that I’m terrible at my job and begin interrogating myself as to why I would put something off, when it could easily have been completed long ago.

By now, I’m tiring, disappointed in myself and can feel my shoulders physically drop.  Now is a good time to remind myself just how lazy I am.  Laziness is the reason I am overweight and my house is cluttered and run down.  It’s also why I’m unhappy; if I weren’t so lazy, I would get out of the house and do something enjoyable.  But I am lazy, and I don’t get out.

This flow of thoughts is what happens when it’s quiet.  Although, it’s more of a tidal wave than a flow.  Which is why I cannot fall asleep without the television or radio playing.  I need something to fill the quiet, otherwise I’ll quickly dissolve in the self-hatred that feeds off it.

I need to find a way to enjoy the quiet; to allow the quiet.  The wave of destructive thoughts needs to be held back, fixed even.  I used alcohol for years as sandbags holding up the levy against the tidal wave.  That doesn’t work anymore.  Truly, it never worked, but it made me believe that it was working.  That was enough for a while, but not anymore.  I’ve allowed the alcohol to take over all rational thinking, which has earned it a track on the warped record of my internal monologue.

So I try to learn more about why my brain functions the way it does.  I’m not special or different than anyone else, but it’s possible that my brain isn’t firing the way it’s designed to.  I’m learning that a lot of what I do isn’t 100% rooted in laziness.  I’m honest though, so I acknowledge that laziness is still a large percentage.  The rest is something I can manage just by being aware of how my brain processes some things and adjusting my reaction.

The end goal is to no longer need to escape from myself.  I want to be more at ease with myself.  I want to change the internal monologue and be comfortable with the quiet.

Daily Prompt: Escape