The Lonely Watches of the Night

It’s been a while. I’ve been pretty caught up in work, and socializing. Arguing with my sister and forgetting about it the next day. Reuniting with old friends. Writing. Going on family vacations. Trying, and usually failing, to step outside myself.

I’m no hero, in any sense. The things I do right I only do because it’s always been that way. I’ve never stepped close enough to the edge to be tempted. I tell myself I’m a peacemaker, and that I can always see both sides of the issue, but I find it so hard to relate to someone who struggles. Me, I just keep doing the things I’ve always done, and have barely made any progress on the things I’ve been trying to do more.

Of course, I want to be someone that others can look up to. To be a savior, rather than just a background character. But that requires looking past the end of my nose. Not as easy as it sounds. I want to help people change their lives for the better. I want to catch them when they fall. But the mind is of different opinions, and I’m trying to keep myself afloat, right now.

Human beings are so fragile. We can be hurt so easily, by a harsh or wrong word. Such a small thing. Yet it can cause so much damage. Years of hurt, all a result of a few words. Sure, the wounds caused heal, but there are still the scars. Maybe not as visible as a physical scar, but it hurts more. After all, psychology says the pain of rejection doesn’t lose its keen sting with the passage of years. It’s pain like that which will cause us to face the dark watches of the night alone, in silent tears, wishing we could be different, thinking longingly of our own demise. Better yet, a complete cease of our existence. We remember every plausible weapon we have, and stop caring as much about what it will do to our family and friends. It just needs to be over already.

This regained fondness for suicide got me whispering a two-word prayer in that darkness–a mantra against it. Help me. Words I find myself unable to say to a living person, face-to-face. I know how to play the game, after all. When someone asks how you’re doing, their eyes are going to glaze over as soon as you start talking about your problems. The appropriate answer must be positive, or neutral at the very least. It’s every citizen’s job to shut up about the bad stuff. Laugh in the open, but save your tears for closed doors.

Yes, I’ve seen It’s A Wonderful Life as many times as the next red-blooded American. I understand how I’ve supposedly affected so many people’s lives for the better. But they’d be fine without me. After all, so few of them ever notice that I’m even there. Not really.

I’d thought I was over this. I realized I wanted death, but I didn’t actively seek it. And I was fine with that. But pleasant, ending thoughts have a bad way of coming back in the dark of the night. They claw at your mind, over and over. Sweet and alluring, to shuffle off this mortal coil, and find an end to the heartaches and thousand natural shocks which flesh is heir to. No more responsibility, no more stress, no more questioning myself. Because there’d be no more me.

And even when there aren’t those sweet thoughts of suicide, there will still be me, sitting quietly on my bed, staring at the open blade of my pocket knife, wondering where to leave a mark on myself. Something that will hurt, but not affect my performance at work. Because I am an idiot, at my core. And the stupid needs to be bled out.

This story doesn’t have an ending yet. Right now, the antihero is merely staring off into the distance, shelling out her To Be or Not To Be. She’s hoping things will get better. But it feels like they’re just going to get worse. Disasters with her not standing as a hero, but cowering, playing the forgettable role of Afflicted Citizen 398. Longing for the affection of one of the heroes, but knowing her place and never speaking up, so she doesn’t even get the role of abhorrent admirer.

But after finally having applied to the local college, she is planning to make use of the counseling services offered–just have to wait to get in. That’s a bright spot. But alas, the dark appeal of death and injury are so very tempting.

Life: it’s such a bother.

To My Dad

Dearest Daddy,

Thanks for being there. It isn’t often I acknowledge you for anything, as I’m too busy with my own life. You’ve put up with so much—you really have the patience of a saint. But, this Father’s Day, looking back, I start to think about all the things you’ve done.

You’ve stuck with Mom all these years—through every fight, and every little shred of her craziness. You never truly objected to being the walking ATM. Instead of offering stories where you were always the hero, like Mom did, you offered great conversation, teaching us little things about a variety of subjects. Thanks to you, I learned how to build my own desktop computer. How to play an RPG. Poker and Blackjack. I knew the biggest and smallest countries  in the world, all the states, and all their capitals long before I ever needed them for school. You taught me to be careful what I pray for. How to mow a lawn. All about having the greatest display of Christmas lights in town. And although as a child I always hated how you teased me (remember that time I broke your foot?), I learned that life is meaningless without a sense of humor, even if the only jokes you can come up with are the stupid ones. Even then, Dad, you could always make someone smile. You always made sure we had fun. Mom would scold you and talk about you behind your back so often, but you still make her laugh, too.

No father is perfect, of course. But all my friends agree: my dad is cool. And this Father’s Day, while they’re all saying they have the best dad ever, I know they’re wrong. In that respect, you could totally beat up their dads.

So, thank you, Dad—from the deepest, darkest pits of my withered black heart—for being exactly the father that I needed. You rock.

Drama Queen

After calling my mother out for something stupid, I’ve been refusing to answer calls from her or my father, and am now closed in my room, unreasonably depressed and hating myself, not speaking to anyone.

Why?

I’ve been asking myself the exact same question. Why am I acting so sophomoric over something so meaningless? I mean, sure, Mom didn’t tell me my cousin’s dog was being put down, but that’s not a big deal.

My best guess? After injecting myself into more dramatic fandoms, I am once again trapped inside that block of helpless depression when I’m away from it. Feeling so down, but so calm. It’s, as far as I can tell, a battle between the practical and dramatic sides of my personality. The dramatic side wants to sit outside in the moonlight and cry herself senseless, dancing to music only she can hear. The practical side finds all of that beyond ridiculous. She’s angrily trying to snap me out of it, putting on a stoic face and wondering what the heck is wrong with me this time.

I think my drama queen self feels bored by the lack of dramatic moments in her life. I have parents and a sister who love me. We’re not perfect, sure, but we get by. I have good friends. The important people in my life are alive. I haven’t been significantly traumatized. All I have is my string of tiny little traumas, and the drama queen is desperately searching for the tragic beauty in each of them, dwelling on it over and over again, until the memories are beyond worn out, and fabricated almost past recognition. When these traumas still don’t add up to her expectations, she supplements them with fiction. I love a character with a tragic backstory more than almost anything, after all.

Fiction, I guess, is my refuge. I get so bored with the complacency of my everyday life, even though I’ve no desire to change it, that I feel the need to fabricate it or find it elsewhere. Nothing can make me feel quite as acutely as a well-written book. The colors sharpen, past the gray drudgery of the life I lead.

I’m too sensitive. My sister wasn’t trying to insult me with all those things she said. She was calling it as she saw it–and she saw well. I am a drama queen. I can see it. But that’s the reflection that keeps my shying away from the mirror.

Favorite Books: Beauty Queens

I am a huge fan of Libba Bray. The woman is hilarious, slightly morbid, and totally my type of person. Which is why it makes me sad when feminists everywhere
Beauty Queens Cover overlook Ms. Bray’s novel Beauty Queens as one of the greatest feminist novels out there.

What’s it about? The fifty contestants of the Miss Teen Dream beauty contest get in a plane crash and land on a deserted island. Not many survive. We have a feminist who wants to bring down the contest, a win-at-all-costs Indian Valley Girl, an African American pre-pre-Med student, a secret wild girl, a transvestite, a blonde, a lesbian former delinquent, a bi hard-of-hearing dancer, a pageant princess, and a couple of supporting girls. All have their own views. Their own problems they don’t want to discuss. And they’re all being forced, in one way or another, to follow what society expects of them.

But on this island, stripped of that society, they start to break those chains.

And of course, let’s not forget the Commercial Breaks. Or they very hot, very bodacious pirates with oiled pecs. Or the other things–agents, warlords, quicksand, psychedelic berries, volcanoes, guns, piranhas, maxi pads and hairspray. All brought to you with an abundance of satire by The Corporation, “Because Your Life Can Always Be Better.”

Whether or not you support modern feminism, this is a book I believe every chick ought to read. It’s a great lesson on what feminism should really be, besides being frakkin’ hilarious!

Another Time, Another Place, Another Eyeroll

Here’s a rare thing. Mac (who believes herself to be on the asexual spectrum) talking about L-O-V-E! Yes, I may be a month late on the subject. But, hey, that’s how I roll.

Love is in the air!

How ’bout a fight to the death with boffer swords instead?

I’d never admit to anyone that I’m a closet romantic. But I have been for as long as I can remember. I usually don’t like stories in any medium (but especially books) that don’t have a bit of romance in them. Sure, it’s annoying when it’s the main plot, but as a side plot, Mac can die a happy girl. And, of course, almost everything she writes has the dreaded R-word. Sometimes too much.

And it makes me want to scream, which is why I’m a closet romantic. I absolutely loathe that part of myself. That’s the girl who gets twitterpated far too easily—the bubbleheaded bimbo who willingly listens to whatever the current object of her affections has to say and agrees with it all, no matter what an idiot he is. Some giggly little brat I don’t even know. But oh, how she loves the drama of it all! The wind in her hair, the whoosh of a cape. The beauty of a love confession. Stars in her eyes, too much air in her brain.

But it’s one of those things I can’t change, no matter how hard I try.

And, you know, at least I get that Twilight was idiotic. It didn’t appeal to my romantic senses, even at my most obnoxious.

Never mind how that didn’t stop me from breaking up with Boyfriend 1 (who was socially awkward, and came off as obsessive) by inventing another guy, who I really considered myself in love with, and wished so badly was real. He was, of course, the hero of all my stories at the time. Say it with me: Gary Stu.

I eventually got over my Stu, and realized what a stu-pid idea that was. And then, in came Big Crush (and later Boyfriend) 2! So much more aloof than 1. Taller. Classier. A better speller! Of course, I was head-over-heels, and my romantic side went crazy. She took over almost completely for two years, and I became the aforementioned giggling ball of a single-digit IQ whenever he was around. Our “relationship” lasted for a month, before he dumped me for one of my best friends.

1 made me feel good about myself—except how he always had his arm around me, making me feel like his Siamese Twin (we even looked alike! Same hair and eye color, within inches of each other’s heights). 2 made me paranoid, because I was never entirely sure about him. I knew he could be a jerk, so I was half-expecting him to give me a big “April Fool!” any second. He was so attractive and so popular among our crowds (AKA the haunted house workers and the down-to-earth drama geeks), while I felt like an awkward outsider, that I was sure he could do better. So why was he settling for me?

Between 1 and 2, I’ve got my share of problems. When I see guys and chicks holding hands or with their arms around each other, I want to tell them to get a room, at the very least. When a guy tells me I’m pretty or asks me out, my initial reaction is to take it as a joke. And just the thought of going on an actual date (I’ve been on a grand total of 2) is terrifying, because what if my idiot romantic side comes out? And I absolutely loathe common human courtship rituals.

Then again, there is hope. Big Crush 3 (who I’m still hung up on) never was even remotely likely to become a boyfriend. He’s six years my senior, and you can very obviously tell—partially because I look about 16. But I got my feelings out of the way and told him, just like a practical, logical, cool-headed chick should. Part of me thinks it was stupid, because things have been awkward between us since, but the other side feels it was the right thing to do. I tied the romantic up in a corner for that one, and pressed on. No heartbreak, no tears. Facing what I fear.

But it’s been over a year since that momentous day. No new Big Crush (the only kind of crushes I really get). And the only guys who want to be around me are buddies from work, my dad, and my male best friend, who is whiny and emotional and very, very annoying (who also claimed he was in love with me). Then again, not many guys ever really wanted to be around me. I have some kind of antisocial vibe going on that drives them away. I have discussed this phenomenon repeatedly with friends.

Still having the romantic side, of course, I do want to fall in love. But it’s terrifying, at the same time. I know it won’t be Happily Ever After. Love takes work, blah blah blah. With me, though, all those little pet peeves about a person (even someone I love) tend to build up—a massive mountain of disappointments that will finally break, leaving me hating those whom I once professed to love. I’ve yet to find a return from that. Time doesn’t fix it.

Worst of all, I’m scared I’d end up like my mother—a crazy woman married to a fantastic guy, but she doesn’t see it, and all she can do is complain about him behind his back—in front of the kids or anyone else who happens to be listening. Taking everything from him, but returning practically nothing.

Between all that, I wonder why I don’t have a boyfriend. And a guy at work bet me I’d be married by this time next year.

Not unless hell freezes over, it would seem.

EHS and Lockdown: The Summers of Hell

My mother has always had a thing with trying to separate my sister and I from our friends, all the while assuring us how much more intelligent we are. We weren’t allowed to play with the most popular (aka, richest) girls on the street, after one of them was mean to me one time too often. As a result, all the other girls had to make a choice: and it was made to exclude the crybaby. And, by extension, her longsuffering older sister. Lucky for all of them, though, as the cooler sister she had the brains and guts to sneak out. The crybaby never did. Two awesomes for the price of one, right?

As a kid, I wasn’t used to having many friends, let’s just say. All the girls my age that I knew well enough (a grand total of three) never wanted to be around me. The older girls just took pity on me. Sure, I’m grateful for that pity, but sincerity was always preferable.

I was ten years old when I became friends with one girl I could trust–my best friend to this day. Together, My sister, our friend, and me were an inseparable team. Except how my sister would go to this friend’s house without telling my mom. Or stay out too late with this friend.

This was where the trouble in our newest paradise really started. Mom started being quick to condemn this friend as a greedy little brat, and paint me and my sister as two angels Too Good For This Sinful Earth. Since the greedy little brat was having such a bad influence on her two angels, Mom started forbidding us to see her, except at church activities. That didn’t last too long, though, as I recall.

But, when we started going to school, it got worse. See, my aunt, uncle and cousin had moved into the neighborhood. This aunt is my mother’s sister, who’s a Type A personality you do not want to mess with. You get on her bad side, she is terrifying. Oh, and around her, my mother goes completely (and very unnaturally) passive.

Well, my aunt supposedly overheard our best friend calling my cousin fat. And the crap hit the fan.

Now, first of all, let me point something out. My best friend is pretty overweight. And a nice person by nature. Her saying such a thing about my totally awesome cousin, whom she always liked, is totally implausible. But our protestations amounted to nothing. Even as the excitement of going to school for the first time loomed, my mother was chewing out my best friend and her father. There was a very tense scene in my best friend’s front yard where the three of us had emotional breakdowns while Mom argued with my friend’s dad, about why we were never allowed to see this friend again. But our pleas fell on the deaf ears of a crazy woman. And my sister was sent to school with my cousin, in a different city.

So, the only time they got to see each other, really (since during that time we were forbidden from going over to our friend’s house), was when we had church activities. And when our friend got a license, she would drive us to and from those activities. And she would take long detours so we could just hang out for a few minutes. That certainly didn’t help matters.

But school was an instant love for me. I was practically a straight-A student throughout middle school. I loved learning new things–like about paragraphs and cells.

With my aunt living so close, though, she decided the golden trio (me, my sister and her daughter) needed to work harder, because there was no way our parents could pay for our college. So, the solution was to graduate with our Associate’s Degrees. How were we to do that? Electronic High School during the summer, of course! My sister and my cousin, both being actually in high school, were immediately signed up, of course. Me, I was offered the opportunity.

Now, I could tell that my aunt thought this was a great idea, when she brought it to my attention. But I had my misgivings. I was just out of seventh grade, which I’d only had one semester of. I’d taken in a lot of new information. I couldn’t handle what was in ninth grade classes when I couldn’t even fathom what eighth grade would hold! So, walking on eggshells, I told her very carefully and submissively that I didn’t think it was right for me, and I’d really rather not.

The next day, she returned, literally cornering me and yelling about how I had to do it because I was smart enough, don’t lie to myself. And my dad wasn’t going to pay for college. And I was getting enrolled whether I liked it or not.

It seems so minor. But that day was the day I climbed my favorite apple tree, sitting high in the branches where nobody could see me, and started dragging a sharp piece of apple wood across my skin.

So, much of the summer consisted of going to a computer lab at the local university extension and getting on computers with my sister and cousin. I tried. I really did. I submitted a few assignments for the Earth Systems class. As in, the first two. But when it got to abiotic and biotic factors of the environment, I was completely lost. Besides, next to me on either side, my sister and cousin were playing around on the Internet. Of course, this was a classic thing with me. Everyone else played around while I got stuck with the short end of the stick–like when my sister always snuck out. I wasn’t about to let that crap happen again. So, I also began Internet playing.

But one day, my aunt came along, and sat beside me. Without thinking about it, the first thing I did was check my email. She glanced over at my screen and whispered, “Mac, what are you doing?”

“Checking my email,” I whispered back.

“No. Get to work.”

I blinked, about to say that my sister and cousin had been doing it too, and why was I getting blamed, but looking over at their screens, I saw strictly aunt-appropriate things. Traitors. But I wasn’t about to sink to that level. So I said nothing. I tried to do the work, I really did. But online classrooms are not my environment. I struggled (never making it past those darned abiotic factors) before they finally stopped taking me. Summer passed, and I started eighth grade that fall. I never said it to anyone, but in the back of my mind, I referred to that summer as the Summer of Hell.

While my sister was going to school in another city, I was allowed to go to high school at home. So, I got to go to school with our friend during my freshman year, when she was a junior. It was a great time. After school, she’d sometimes drive me home (again with the long detours), and others we’d go over to her house for a while and play Kingdom Hearts.

But, of course, the good times were not to last. Near the end of the school year, my sister got in trouble for staying out too late with this friend again. And now, my aunt was here to back my mom up. So, they devised the plan to put my sister on “lockdown.” She was sent to live at my aunt’s house (my cousin had moved out by this point), allowed no contact with friends, no computers, no phone, no TV, no music. Only books and school.

And then, my turn came. The last day of freshman year. Nobody taking roll, of course, so my friend, myself and some others decided to have a mini-party at A&W a couple blocks away. We were going to take my friend’s car, until she realized that was what had gotten my sister into so much trouble, so we walked. Had a great time. At the end of the day, I went home and took a nap.

Only to be yelled and shaken awake by my mother, who wouldn’t tell me what was going on, or what I had done wrong, just that I was getting in a car with my aunt.

Enraged with the dim disgruntlement of the half-awake, I grabbed my iPod (music always helps calm me down) and headed outside. I couldn’t argue with my aunt. I was too afraid of her. That’s the kind of woman who will steamroll you if you so much as look at her funny. Except, no sooner had I got out there than the iPod was confiscated. And it was a very quiet drive to her house.

There, I was told it was my turn on “lockdown.” Because I had been accepting rides from my friend when I wasn’t supposed to. And I had gone out with my friends, leaving the school grounds, without telling my mother. (Who had, actually, confiscated my cell phone when hers was broken a few months previously.) Never mind that I didn’t have her number memorized and didn’t know how to contact her without my cell phone. Or that I didn’t even think about it. My aunt assured me that yes, I did think about it, and I did deliberately spite my mother. No matter how much I protested my relative innocence in tears, I was assured of my damnation. And, realizing I was trying to break down a concrete wall, after that I just stopped talking. I listened silently as I was informed that I would not be going back to the local high school, but separated from my evil friend, and sent to the same high school as my sister. I cried myself to sleep, still trying to figure out what in the world I had really done.

Thankfully, the next day, I was taken to the library and told I could get one book. The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima, as I fondly recall. That book was my escape–my refuge from the madness of real life. I spent all day reading it until my parents came to pick me up, out of the blue.

Of course, I still didn’t have a cell phone. And I didn’t have computer access, as I was still on a less strict lockdown. So, I was cut off from all the friends I’d made once more with one brutal stroke. Most of them, I haven’t seen since that day.

And that fall, I started at a new school. Discovered the escape to be found in working at the local haunted house–an outlet for my issues. Developed the Mormon Goth persona, so there would be no more crying protestations against what I was considered too young to understand. I learned my lesson. Shut up and take it. Suck it up and deal with it. You can’t fight crazy with tears. You fight it by yelling louder. Drowning them out.

So yes, I do have social issues. I don’t tell people what I’m really thinking or feeling, most of the time. I’ve worked very hard to separate myself from feelings. That way, it doesn’t hurt as much when I’m second-best to yet another person. When I’m invisible. When I’m treated unfairly.

It took me a while, but I realized the Summers of Hell were plural. More than I could consciously remember, with all Mom had put us through over the years.

Hi, my pseudonym is Mac, and I’m a Mormon. Believe it or not, my life in a “good Mormon family” was my own hell.

Christian Weirdness: Mormon vs. Catholic

Tonight, I took the opportunity to expand my Christian horizons by going to a Catholic mass.

Now, there are those among the Mormon church who believe Catholicism is the whore of Babylon mentioned in Revelations. That’s incorrect. The whore of Babylon is not necessarily a denomination, just a state of mind. Opposition to righteousness.

That in mind, I decided that I needed to stop just thinking Catholics were weird (besides wrong, of course), and that I was so much better than them, and actually try to understand. Besides, I’ve always found Catholicism somewhat interesting. Maybe because the majority of demonic possession movies have a Catholic background. Plus, the stained glass windows and cathedrals are beautiful.

So, tonight, I attended mass, dressed as I would for an LDS service–in a skirt. I was advised by the Internet that it was the only way to dress for Catholics as well. Imagine my surprise when people started showing up in jeans!

In the LDS chapel, we have hymn books out for the congregation. In this chapel, they had three song books and a missal and a book for you to follow along. I was having a hard time switching back and forth between them all.

LDS church is composed of three different meetings: Sacrament meeting, Sunday school, and the age- and gender-specific classes (Primary for children up to twelve, Priesthood for males over twelve, Young Women for girls twelve to eighteen, and Relief Society for women eighteen plus). A total of three hours, sitting down except when traveling from one to the other. Our Sacrament meeting is most like a standard church meeting, gathering in the chapel, taking the sacrament. It’s really a very simple organization. Opening hymn, opening prayer, ward business, sacrament hymn, sacrament, first speaker, second speaker, hymn or musical number, third speaker, closing hymn, closing prayer. Mass isn’t anywhere near that simple. I couldn’t keep track of all the prayers and hymns and things sung! Most of it was routine. And plus, there was so much sitting, standing, kneeling. Good way to stay awake, I guess. Bravo to Catholics for figuring that out! Maybe us Mormons could use a little more of that, and a little less of the classic elbow in the ribs.

To say I didn’t feel comfortable? An understatement. All in all, I found it too formulated, leaving too little room for revelation. See, Mormon’s don’t really use formulated prayers very often. Just for things like baptism, confirmation, the sacrament, and so on. I guess you could say our prayers are free verse. Reciting something like a prayer will never feel right to me. Also, I found a bit of it was really showy–more of the body than the mind and heart. Beyond that, I was depressed by the limited amount of scripture: just the Bible. I’m so used to the classic Mormon quad: The Bible, the Book of Mormon (testament of Christ in the Americas), the Pearl of Great Price (miscellaneous things, including the books of Moses and Abraham, and the Joseph Smith translations of the Bible), and the Doctrine and Covenants (establishment of the LDS church, and related revelations). To be cut down to one. . . is weird.

Now, I can’t tell you I felt the Spirit there. And I can’t say I didn’t. I’m not very spiritually sensitive. But the pastor did say some good things, and I had good notes to take.

After mass, I talked to the pastor long enough to give him my name and tell him I was Mormon. He made sure I felt welcome, and introduced me to another girl, who introduced me to basically everyone else. To be perfectly honest, I was overwhelmed by how included they made me–how nice everyone was. I’m a Utah Mormon. Here, Mormons can be nice, but they can also be very judgmental and cliquish, for lack of a better term. But I saw so little of that in the Catholics I met tonight. They invited me to an activity later in the week, and I think I might have to go. Because, honestly, in my own ward I haven’t ever felt so included.

My conclusions: Catholics are still weird. Their religion seems to be as steeped in tradition as Judaism. And, of course, I won’t ever believe the Catholics have it right. But they’re wonderful people–far better than I’ve been led to believe by Utah Mormons.