Tantrums and Time Out—For Adults!

So, the last few weeks have been interesting, to say the least. Between trying to get off my butt and finally get into school, going on vacation, and trying to keep my head above the waters of debt, I’ve been pretty busy. (Also, I’ve been up to my neck obsessed with a certain anime, but we won’t talk about that. We prefer to forget that.)

Then came the inevitable meeting with my counselor. Most shoved under the magnifying glass this week was my temper. See, I’ve caused a few problems with my roommates. I can be quite nasty. Even when I’m not trying to be, it just spills over. They’re scared of me, at those times.

Of course, I’d never hurt them. I would never come after them with a pair of scissors, for instance. No, I learned long ago not to physically take my anger out on others. I just get shouty and throw things and storm off. That’s good control, right?

Ha.

Controlling my temper is a problem. I’m the first one to admit it. If I were in Pixar’s Inside Out, my primary emotion would be anger. Whenever I’m sad or afraid or feeling some other negative emotion, anger, like a knight in shining hatred, takes the helm. It’s been my defense mechanism for so long that I don’t know how to deal without it. What do you do? Let it out, no matter how safe you think your outlet might be, and you scare people. Turn it inwards, and you’ll only end up hurting yourself. It’s an unending dilemma.

Along with that comes the problem of fear. Using fear against others is one of my greatest weapons, only encouraged by five years working at a haunted house. It’s an addictive thing. Because, when people are scared of you, when you see their eyes widen and they back away, you no longer feel afraid. You are the one with the power, and suddenly every insult they’ve ever thrown at you, every time they’ve laughed, doesn’t matter anymore. There’s only the power, and who has it.

This, and more, I discussed with my counselor. Who brought up a few interesting points.

First, I need to think about what I want out of relationships with those I’m closest to. Do I want them to fear me? Do I want to lord that power over them? Well, if so, I’ll just be repeating the abusive cycle. This is why so many abuse victims turn into abusers, themselves. They can’t let go of those coping mechanisms that don’t apply outside of where they were abused. For instance, my mother backed off when I got angry. That’s how I was taught to make her stop. But now, living about two hundred miles away from her with my three roommates, I don’t need to respond that way anymore. Trying to unlearn the message you inhaled from childhood isn’t easy.

Second, my counselor explained the concept of time out. When children do something, good parents send them into time out. Why, he asked me. I answered, because the parents need a break. And then I realized—the purpose of this was to give the parents a chance to diffuse their own tempers. To keep them from doing something they’d regret.

So, that’s my other new project. To take time out, and think about my goals. How I want my relationships with the people in question, like my roommates, to go. I can choose to make them fear me—to make them back off. I can also choose to chill, open up, and explain the problem to them, and attempt to make things better via communication.

Well, it’s a daunting task. Actually talking to people about feelings in the past has ended in bad news for me. But my roommates are not my parents. They are not my sister, even though she’s gotten so much better. They’re good people, and I need to give them a chance.

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Horrific Thoughts

My current by-myself-project is a horror story, so I’ve been doing a bit of reading up, trying to get some ideas to take it above mere lameness. But how?

I have this obsession with fear, in case you weren’t aware. The simple horror of our everyday lives. What’s hiding under the bed. Always best when combined.

But finding the right combination? Now that’s the tricky part. Ghosts? Haunted houses? Demons? Witches? Abusive monsters?

Today, I stumbled across this lovely post. It really got me thinking. What’s scary to me? Something that won’t make the average person shudder—just me. What does the great Mac fear?

Hm. Well, let’s see. I hate being taken advantage of, for one. (Anyone here not scared of that? Wow. Nobody. What a surprise!) That extends into so many things. I hate being tricked. Lied to. Manipulated.

I hate being helpless. Not being able to do anything. Especially when someone I care about is in trouble. Like when I had to sit and wait and find out whether my friend who might have killed himself was alive or not (he wasn’t). When I had to sit back and let the vet put my cat to sleep. Or when my sister was arrested again, mistreated by the cops, and I was stuck at work.

I’m scared of going back to what I was before. Being forced to go back to my parents’ house. Back under their control. It’s more than a lack of independence, though. It’s a prison of junk. Impassable walls of insanity. Trapped in an endless maze with no exit. Trapped in that life, where I had no idea how to help myself.

Of course, I am also quite insecure, and scared of not being loved. But also scared of it, because I’ve still got the insane maze of my own mind to navigate. Letting someone in? That’s terrifying.

Well, I suppose we also can’t forget finances. I’m so scared of going broke. But that can go back to having to rely on my parents again, back home, and so forth.

And this lovely session of the Rantings, Ramblings, Ravings, and Musings has given me ideas. I hope I can make them work!

Lessons Learned From A Haunted House

Ah, October! Season of so many things dark and horrific! Everything that is beautiful! The one holiday I adore! How it makes me reminisce, back to my younger days, working in a haunted house. And the things I have learned from it.

After transitioning high schools, adjustment was tough. I was friendless again, and trying not to make all the stupid mistakes I’d made in junior high. So, what was a poor girl to do? Be nice to everyone, rule number one. Second, try to join some clubs. Through my short-lived association with the drama club that year, I found out that the local haunted house needed actors. Well, having been a fan of suspense and horror for the last couple years, I was quick to fall for the idea.

Haunted House

Yes, the haunted house in question looked just like this.

At the meeting I was directed to, however, were not a bunch of drama geeks. Nah, these were the kids I’d always been afraid of—and admired a bit. The rebels. The goths and emos. And there I was, probably the only person not wearing black!

But I got in with ease, and devoured the cast manual. Though I failed in my first role as an asylum patient, I was given a new role within two weeks. Zombie.

And that was when I met her. My haunted house role model. A very short goth in her early twenties, who didn’t take crap from anyone. She was the queen of that room, and we all appropriately worshiped her. Her motto, which I instantly absorbed? “Suck it up and deal with it.” Or, sometimes, “Go hard or go home.”

I only got to work with her a few weeks before my throat gave out and I had to be transferred to a quieter role, but those weeks formed my perception of my work at the haunted house. According to the owners, I became one of the best, most versatile actresses they had. I didn’t whine if I wasn’t given the role I wanted. And I did my best, every single night of every single season for five years. I got bruised, cut, groped, suffered allergic reactions, and lost my voice repeatedly. It didn’t matter. I sucked it up, and dealt with it. I emulated her take-no-crap attitude.

Since then, of course, I’ve learned. You can’t always suck it up and deal with it. Sometimes, you can’t give your all. But sometimes, you can. And when you do, you shine. Heck, you’re freaking made of moonbeams!

As to the other lesson in the plural title of this post, you know why I love horror, even though I’ve now got a pretty permanent fear of the dark? It’s looking that fear right in the face. Acknowledging it. I’m facing something that’s meant to scare me, and staring it down. Telling it that it can’t. Proving I’m stronger than that. Pushing back against my fear with everything I’ve got.

Beyond anything else, I think those were the most important lessons I learned in those five years.

Snowboarding: Not Just For Daredevils!

I was raised in a medical background. Daddy was an EMT, Mommy claims she was a nurse, but I’m not sure if I can believe that. And Mom made sure to let me know why I was never supposed to do any of the dangerous things. I’d break my bones if I took martial arts, because I have a delicate bone structure. So I had to take ballet instead. My teeth could be knocked out by a ball. If I rode my bike in open-toed shoes, I’d get my feet caught in the chain, and they’d be cut off. If I rode a horse I’d fall off and break my neck. If I went skiing, I’d be sure to break an ankle, and I’d never be able to dance again.

This fear—this anticipation of the worst—has followed me ever since. I’m terrified of trying anything remotely dangerous. It took a lot of convincing to get me to go rock climbing for the first time. Even then, if it’s not top roping, count me out. And I was sure I would never ski or snowboard, because I didn’t want to break an ankle. Besides, ski resorts are so expensive!

All that, of course, changed when I started my current job—working at the local ski resort as a lift operator. The easiest way to get down from the top of the lifts is via skis or snowboard, naturally. And riding the lift down is such a pain.

Besides which, I was suddenly exposed to a whole new world I’d never experienced before. Skiiers and snowboarders that weren’t in a movie. I’ve watched them, at all levels, getting on and off the lift, riding down. Falling. Every coworker encouraging me to try one or both of them.

Well, even then, I knew which one I’d try, given the choice. In my mind, snowboarding made skiing look almost dorky. But it was harder to learn, according to all accounts. So skiing would be a safer choice, right? You didn’t fall as much in skis—that I could attest to, just from watching people get off the lift every day at work. So, less injuries.

But snowboarding sounded like so much more fun. And I envied everyone I saw on those lifts, with a snowboard strapped to their foot.

Besides, we weren’t allowed to wear ski boots while working.

Of course, I made myself believe that after weeks of watching others board, I could do it. So, I rented a board on my day off, and tried it out.

Pain. Lots of pain. Fall after fall after fall. Not knowing how to turn, and running into nets and nearly lift towers, besides embarrassing falls off the lift in full view of my coworkers. Landing on my butt so hard I felt it in my skull. Riding most of the way down on my sore behind.

Even though that first day was a failure, I was determined. For Christmas, I got myself my own board, boots, bindings, wrist guards and stomp pad. Now I was ready to go!

. . . Except I couldn’t just bring my new board that I didn’t know how to ride to work, where the goal was to get down the run safely and quickly and get back to work. Especially not when I was randomly assigned to the black diamond lift.

One day, though, I was talking to one of my supervisors about how horrible I was, and how I needed to figure out how to board. She told me to just bring it to work. So, I did. Lucky for me, that day was on the bunny hill. The first run was as embarrassing as the last times, but after that, I started finally grasping the heel edge, and used it. After all, I’d been watching other boarders for over a month, with a little experience behind me to know what I needed to look for in their technique! Plus, I’d watched the instructors!

Well, it took a while, but having my board with  me, being able to get in at least one run per day, has been great for me. A couple days ago, I managed my first few runs with zero falls–which was HUGE to me. And also, I seem to be naturally able to ride switch. I was doing it before I knew what it was.

If only I could figure out how to ride the toe edge, now. That still eludes me.

And, next month, I’m going to be taking my sister with me—the abusive one. She’s been expressing interest in learning. And, as I will be the driver and teacher, the one in control, I have high hopes for that day. I can’t wait! (Please, feel free to start calling me stupid right now.) I’ll get to show off my knowledge (learned through hours of reading online about snowboarding, and longer hours of being in the environment).

To say I’ve fallen in love with snowboarding just might be an understatement. It’s not only incredibly fun, but not too hard for me. The dangerous side to it is a bit thrilling—challenging my mother, challenging my own unhealthy paranoia that’s led me to avoid so much in life. I like the way it makes me feel—like I can do anything. Like I’m not some awkward girl who will never get it. It’s so. . . freeing. I can see why some people are so addicted to it.

On Fear

“Only a fool doesn’t fear. Only a coward doesn’t face his fear. But the wise man always has a belay.”

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about fear. After all, I’m not only a horror junkie, but have also gotten paid to run a zipline. Also, I’m a human being. I’ve been the wimp. The crybaby. And I know how great it doesn’t feel.

We all have our fears. Some of us have our more childish fears—the fear of what’s lurking under the bed, in the closet, or behind you, down that dark hall. Then there are the mature fears: divorce, bills, losing a job, bankruptcy, rejection. The lists go on. Somewhere in each of our minds lurks that bug, scratching and crawling until we can’t stand it. Those fears worm their way through every fiber of our beings, informing how we think and act.

What hurts us the most, though, isn’t the fear, itself. It’s when we let it hold us back. When we won’t take that small little step up off the zipline tower, because that insect is providing us with a thousand and one deadly what-ifs. What if the cable breaks? What if I get stuck? What if my harness is too tight? What if I lose money? What if the pretty girl laughs at me? What if nobody else will hire me? What if they all laugh at me? What if I mess up?

But we all know what happens next. We listen to that nagging little bug, just to shut it up, and stay in the comfort zone. We don’t break out of our self-imposed boxes. The moment passes by. And we spend the rest of our sorry little lives regretting it—wishing we’d told that bug to shove it, and taken a chance. Because appeasing its behavior will only make it stronger, until it controls our lives. Until we can’t stand tall anymore, for that dreaded fear that someone might notice, and think badly of us. Until we become bound slaves to that pathetic little bug.

My brothers and sisters, I am here to reconfirm what we’ve been told time and time again, since before we could talk. Nothing can be gained without taking a chance. Without upsetting the status quo every once in a while, our lives will never make good stories, because there’s no conflict to be had. We’re not living, merely existing. And it’s a sad state to be in.

Working on a zipline, I have a thousand and one lines to coax a scared kid to take that step. The entire project is focused on facing fears and trying new things. Because that’s how we grow. The challenge is to face your fears, and push them just a little farther—to tell the bug who’s in charge. Try a zipline. Rappel down a cliff. Fall off a platform. Climb a wall. Walk on a wire. And know that you’ll be a better person for it.

So, today, I’d like to challenge all of you lovely people out there (myself included) to push back just a little bit more. Put fear in its place, and enjoy life while we have it. Ask the guy/chick out. Zipline. Walk through that dark hall. Talk to faces, not behind backs. Take a chance. Live.

Now, this is not the opportunity to jump out of a plane with no parachute and, if you somehow manage to survive, blame it all on me. The fears are there for a reason, after all. Which leads to the third part of the quote above. A wise man always has a belay.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with a belay, allow me to explain. When you’re climbing, a belay is the person to catch you when you fall, through various systems of pulling on the rope. Climbing without a belay is not a smart thing to do.

There are many different belay systems in life. For those of us who are religious, it could be your god, whoever you deem them to be. But there’s always that safety measure—that parachute. They allow us to be adventurous without being suicidal.

So, acknowledge those fears exist. Put them in their place. And always have a belay. Thanks folks, you’ve been fantastic. I’ll be here all night. You’re beautiful, people!

My Love Affair with Horror

Horror. Horror! Oh, the horror!

Scary stuff. Fear. Things that go bump in the night. Something under the bed or in the closet. The monsters of reality and our imaginations. Of course, here, the Kingdom of Under The Covers isn’t safe.

Muahahahaha!

Moving past that.

I’m a horror junkie. I love seeing if I can be scared, and I love scaring other people. Acting in a haunted house was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.

For me, subjecting myself to horror movies is challenging myself not to be scared. Seeing how fearless I am. Moving forward when others shrink away.

When someone is afraid of you, you have power over them. They’re the prey, and you’re joined in a complex dance. And it’s a wonderful, addictive feeling. Why do you think so many people have fed off of it? When someone is afraid of you, you can control them. Make them do what you want. If you know a person’s fears, you can manipulate them. And being able to do that is quite the thrill.

For instance, think of how often men are manipulated because of their male ego. A fear of not being masculine.Now, I may not be a good person, but let me straighten this out—I’m not a horrible person, either. I promise, I’ve never killed anyone, and I’m a relatively good little Mormon girl. I’m just pointing this stuff out because it’s interesting to me.

I think my love of horror stemmed from wanting to prove what a little badass (forgive the language) I was. Step away from the whiny, sensitive crybaby image. I read Dracula when I was ten, and I watched Stephen King’s Rose Red the same year. Both terrified me, of course. Particularly Rose Red, which is still near the top of my favorite horror movies.

At eleven, me and my dad started going to see horror movies together. Like Darkness and White Noise, both of which also gave me nightmares. I tried reading  Dean Koontz’s Hideaway that year and The Voice of The Night the next. Both were too adult for me at the time. And then, of course, my sister read Koontz’s Lightning, and warned me off his books, saying he was “a sex maniac.” Well, she was only thirteen or fourteen.

So, staying away from Koontz, I read The Shining in eighth grade, Bag of Bones that summer. Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot during freshman year, I believe. Sometime around there, my dad decided to show me Night of the Living Dead, which I couldn’t watch all the way through because my mother had made greasy, flavorless chicken for dinner, and that combined with watching zombies eating intestines made me sick.

Sophomore year I went to my first drama club meeting, where they were requesting actors for the local haunted house. I decided to try it. And that, let me tell you, is where my true love of horror came from. My inability to scare easily. I worked in a haunted house that was really haunted. How much scarier could you get?

So, after that season, I started expanding my horizons with Silence of the Lambs and Resident Evil. I picked up another Koontz book, and found myself hooked. I started watching most of the horror movies I could get my hands on, though I avoided most of the classics and the slashers, because they looked stupid.

And after four more years of working in that haunted house before retiring, as it were, I think I know my horror pretty well.

My Top Ten Horror Movies:

  1. Insidious—Made me jump, even in the height of my cocky horror-movies-don’t-scare-me phase, and wasn’t in the least what I was expecting.
  2. Dead Silence—Scared me so badly I had to go sit outside in the sun, and I still didn’t feel safe!
  3. The Rite—A good possession movie for those who don’t watch R-rated movies, but still want quality. Can’t get better than the great Anthony Hopkins!
  4. Rose Red—One of my classic favorites, terrified me for days on end the first time I saw it. The best in haunted house movies.
  5. Devil—Some good jumps, but the story is the best part.
  6. Stay Alive—Atmosphere, baby! Horror game that’s for reals? Erzebet Bathory? Heck yeah!
  7. The Woman in Black—Saw this with my sister and my best friend on my birthday. Sister doesn’t do the horror thing. Her reaction was the best part, but it’s a good, creepy story with some satisfying jumps.
  8. 1408—I like this one mostly for the story and the concept, although it has a few good jumps and some fun twists.
  9. White Noise—A favorite from my younger days. Still has the power to make me jump, besides being a good concept.
  10. The Devil Inside—That woman is seriously disturbing. That’s some quality acting, right there!

I’d add a list of books, too, but it’s so incredibly rare for a book to scare me. They very rarely have the same power over me as movies.