Monday, January 01, 2007

May I ask you a question?

“Do you want to be happy?” Dr. Counselor has asked. Not often, but enough that I wonder what he sees when I speak. He’s also asked if I’m ready to get better. He noted that he has a daughter who is resisting all help right now, which I’m sure is difficult for him, so I’ve rationalized that he’s projecting.

“Of course. Very much.” I answer, then I think about it, wondering if I’m being honest.

It’s funny, actually. More in the interesting way than laughing out loud, of course. Now I ask myself in random moments if I’m happy. If not, am I causing my unhappiness? Dwelling in unpleasant thoughts for no other reason than to mope?

Sometimes. I’ve decided that sometimes I am. I do. I probably will continue to do so.

I’m changing that though. I really am trying to be more positive. To do things that encourage mental health. To refocus my energies on the bright – changes I can make, people with whom to talk, tasks to achieve. It’s not always effective, but I’m pleased with my effort.

And yet there’s still that unpleasantness. Those months that I spent being miserable had a meaning, and it wasn’t all related to the man involved. I spend therapy sessions speaking of it, and Dr. Counselor offers comfort and advice. I’ve really tried to avoid mentioning it to friends. I stopped when I saw the look Friend offered when I was sitting on my loveseat one night, laptop perched on a pillow in front of me.

“She knows him! I know she does – she has to! It’s just too coincidental otherwise.” Then I listed reasons, voice raised as I put pieces together in my head. She nodded carefully then shrugged.

“Perhaps.” She finally offered and I realized she was acting as I would when faced with a crazy person.

“You’re obsessed.” I told myself after she headed home. “Still. Dammit.”

Then I thought for a minute. “I do think I’m right though.” Smiling at myself – how foolish and silly I can be – I wandered down the hall to shower.

When faced with a person like me – one who was hurt and tends toward turning concepts endlessly in her little head – ignoring said person is the best option. I crave attention, though I’m getting better about it. I want to win, though I’m uncertain as to how to go about doing that. Plus, there are all these moments I remember! Foreshadowing! I cry as I remember some line of text. Irony? I wonder, going to look up the concept yet again because I can rarely identify it correctly unless I read though pages of examples then compare my own prospective situation to them. Tragic, I decide as I think over my particular story.

So what would you like to know first? That there exists a folder with 12 files (nearly 350 pages) of text from emails we sent? That I carefully copied and pasted all those words (I stopped for the last 3 months or so, but carefully stored the first 4) and bolded headings, changing formatting so it looked just right?

How about that I copied that folder from the external storage device where it was stored? It’s now embedded in several layers of organizing folders on my laptop.

Or, most shameful of all, the one fact I was hoping to keep secret? Would you like to hear that?

I think I’m writing a book.

How’s that for pretentious? And awful? And a pretty sure sign that I do not, in fact, want to be happy after all. Instead, I want last year – a largely wasted and miserable collection of days – to matter. To have been somehow worthwhile as I believed them to be instead of this hugely regrettable mess. I want to see if I can write a novel. I don’t know why – I kept dismissing the idea as it occurred to me countless times. I’m not a writer – I really do know that.

I couldn’t sleep when I was at home. I was turning situations over in my mind. Fantasies I’d spun early on and how they’ve shifted over time. As I sniffled and tried to shift to avoid the dog sprawled at my side, wincing at my achy muscles from the contortions I used to sleep, I tried to distract myself from physical discomfort.

When I first discovered his little friend, I decided I could make something work. Perhaps… OK. Maybe there was an imposter. There was this icky man who pretended to be the real man – who, at first, had mimicked him perfectly. So I fell in love. Then icky man got distracted – likely by all the other women with whom he was involved – and became all lame and mean. But! I’d read a book where this same thing had happened.

See, Laurel fell for Russ over email. (It was a dating site in the novel, but blog is just as good). But the man writing the email was Trevor, pretending to be Russ (a cop) so that he could steal Laurel’s money (money, soul, same difference, yes?). But Russ (the real one) met Laurel at the coffee shop for her first date with Trevor to try to arrest Trevor, and she ended up loving Russ (the real one). Then at the end, Trevor gets shot! Delightful all around! But it’s been done, first of all, and, well, it doesn’t work for my story anyway. There’s just one guy – no secret yet real man waiting in the wings to sweep in and save me from the icky one.

So, fine. We could try for an evil twin, but that belongs in a soap opera. It makes me happy nonetheless. Rachel, Elle and I watched Sunset Beach in college and I remember when Ben started treating Meg really badly. We all loved Ben and didn’t understand why he would start being such an ass.

“It’s like he has an evil twin!” Elle cried one day. Rachel and I shared a look and shook our heads. Our soap opera certainly wouldn’t sink so low. Except that it did. Ben was locked in a cave somewhere if memory serves, and his twin was out and about.

“Ben or Evil Ben?” I’d ask as I hurried in from class to flop on Elle’s bed with homework on my lap to watch the rest of the show. I’d miss the first 15 minutes due to horrible class scheduling and she’d catch me up by identifying the man on screen.

“EB.” She’d answer quickly. “The English accent is slightly different for the two and EB has a certain evil look. If you paid attention instead of doing work, you’d know these things.” Then we’d smile at each other and watch the story unfold. But I don’t think an evil twin is the way I want to go.

I listened to Babyville on the drive to and from Illinois. Near the end (I ruin books, just FYI, so skip ahead if that bothers you.) Sam (who is married and has a 7 month old baby) is completely infatuated and obsessed by Ben (who does not have an evil twin and is, in fact, a completely separate person from Sunset Beach Ben) who is also married with a child. Sam is still overweight from her pregnancy, is pretty depressed and overwhelmed and anxious. She’s angry at her husband and when they meet up with this new couple (including Ben), she enjoys this intense crush and lets it evolve into a very real expectation of true love between the two of them.

This irritated me, frankly, because I’d like to be married. It pisses me off when people who get to be married screw it all up. But whatever. The confusing part for me was that Ben encouraged her affection. He flirted and touched and flattered. And she felt amazing – started working out, making positive changes – because she had this new hope that someone saw her for the gorgeous creature she was and wanted to be better for this man who truly understood her. (Sounds familiar, I know. Which is why I empathized greatly with the poor idiot.)

Long (and good, actually – I very much enjoyed the audiobook) story short, she eventually overhears Ben laughing with his wife over the “cow” who has such a crush on him. His wife tells him to stop encouraging her – she knows it’s his favorite game, making women love him, but she’s feeling sorry for the poor girl, fat and stupid as she is. Ben laughs and makes some awful comments and returns to Sam with his wife, unaware she's heard. She leaves the room, sick with misery and humiliation, and Ben goes home.

First, was I the cow? I’ve acknowledged that I probably was. Easy to figure out, lonely, uncertain of my appeal and eager to be appreciated and encouraged. Did he pity me? Mock me? I’m not sure. I’m still at the beginning of my book and haven’t written that part yet. Perhaps though. Maybe it was like the boy in high school who asks the nerdy girl to prom, then laughs with all his friends when she actually accepts. Because why would he – with all his looks and talent and popularity – take someone who is actually sincere and interesting and sweet?

Second, where the hell is the punishment? Ben just walks away with a beautiful wife who is amused by his little hobby. And he’s awful! This total waste of human being in a pretty package who hurts women just because he can! And while I don’t want the hero of my story to die (or even get syphilis, I guess), I’m at the point where I’m dreadful enough to want him to be emotionally miserable until such a time when I am blissfully happy in my own personal life. Then, only when I no longer care if he exists or not, should he be allowed to find any moderate romantic success. (That’s awful, I know, and I will get over it. But maybe not before I write this book.)

If I’m trying to encourage myself (and I am, obviously), I could note that I went through the books in my bedroom today. There are separate collections in the other 2 bedrooms and the living room, but I left those alone. I boxed up 2/3 of them. They’re just not that great – weak plot, bad ending, poor wording. I could do at least that well! Ish. Maybe.

Plus, I may have spent large portions of the past year drafting and outlining my novel! That’s not a waste of time! And according to my outline, major portions are coming off the blog or are based on emails or posts that are written but not published. In my past fantasties of penning some cute little book, I couldn’t come up with an outline. But I have a decent one! One that changes as I remember some moments and discard others, but it has humor and sex and love and betrayal and depression. That’s like a real book! A fluffy book, but a book nonetheless. And while I acknowledge my delusions of authorship, I have no expectation of actually getting published. I just want to write it.

Lastly, it saves you (as well as friends and family) from hearing me obsess. I can put that energy toward something semi-productive. Then I can have a stack of pages that note something happened to me. Something that mattered. It’s important, I think.

I don’t see Dr. Counselor for another week. I will tell him about my book when I do, hoping that I’m well into it by that point. I assume he’ll ask if it’s making me happy to write it.

It won’t be. It’s not sharply painful to read those words now, but it’s a bit unpleasant to see sentences I had memorized because they were so special and note that they’re now indicative of the future crushing of my heart. I liked doing the outline – thinking of the progression, the rises and falls, puzzling over what’s interesting and important and what was just noise. But when it comes to mapping it out – deciding on names of characters and actually writing out the details – it’s a little difficult. The emotions are fresh enough to be vividly recalled if not experienced with their initial intensity. I think it’ll make for a better book, but it will contribute to an experience that’s mildly unpleasant.

“Do you want to be happy?” Dr. Counselor will ask after I admit I’m not sure why I’m writing this.

“I do.” I’ll answer. “As soon as I finish this book.”


The Contessa said...

How Cathartic! A book could be just the thing too - and how lovely for you to already have it outlined without even trying! There are authors all over thr world who would kill for that!

You sound so much better and so much happier overall that it's inspiring to me!

Lucy said...

I agree you do sound happier. Yay! And how exciting to be writing a book! I'd love to read it.

Locks said...

i worry that im a cow all the time. i wish i didn't but i can't help it.

i would love to read your book too, of course.

TitleTroubles said...

I wasn't thinking crazy. Just a wee bit obsessed, perhaps. But not crazy. After all, I tell you when you're crazy, don't I?

I'm glad you're talking to Dr. Counselor about it. And you know that, should you ever wish to talk about any of it with me, that's more than OK. No matter what look you seem to think that I give you. Because, again, if I think you're crazy, you know I'll say so.

apparently said...

Given your excellent story-telling on this blog, I'm sure you'll write a book worth reading. Of course, even if you don't write a book you've written about the past year on the blog, which is almost certainly helpful to some number of readers. Book or not, I'm sure this year was meaningful, you just can't see it yet.

LaKisha said...

Here's an idea: write a very happy ending for yourself in the book. The most interesting question might be--what would that happy ending look like? How many *different* possibilities for happy endings are there? I know there is more than one; and just realizing/visualizing that can be eye-opening.

Good luck on your book, and as long as it's got a sunny ending, I'll read it.

post-doc said...

I feel happy, actually, so thank you.

Ah, Lucy, I already had you in mind to read it. :) I decided you definitely know good books and could offer some gentle guidance. So I'll wait until I send my official 'would you mind reading this? Please?' email, but I'm one step ahead of you.

I know. I wish I didn't identify with cow-like characters either. You were actually on my list of readers too. Especially for the darker parts that I'm worried about.

Dr. Counselor's going to lecture me, isn't he? And I know you'd tell me if I was truly crazy. And I get the nonverbal cues when you're getting concerned. :)

I know you're right, and I also know that I just can't see it. There were pieces of last year that I liked, but I look back on so much and wince.

I know! I only like books with good endings too. And as easily as it's flowing so far, I can't see the end yet. I decided to go third person so I think I'll find a way to bring little Poppy to a satisfying conclusion.

Part of the story - part of the reason I really want to write it - is that I pictured my romantic life as some kind of romance novel. Gentle and sweet and lovely. And it hasn't been. It's been disappointing and difficult and heartbreaking. But finding the humor and the friendships and lessons might be a really good thing. For whatever reason, I'm compelled to do it.

I'll let you know when it's done and decide how embarrassed I'd be to have you read the final product. :)

Lucy said...

Yay! Anytime you want to start sending sample chapters, I'll be happy to read them :)

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