Uncategorized

Nyctophobia

Happy Halloween!

For the final edition of Frightful Fiction Friday I have gathered some excellent inspiration for my final phobia story.

I took part in a

Ghost Tour of Niagara,

last weekend in Niagara On The Lake and if it weren’t for the guide with the candle, well I was pretty much in the dark the entire time anyway. Let’s see what I can dream up.

Check out my previous story,

Acrophobia,

and now…enjoy getting lost in the darkness.

***

5.
Darkness. Nothing tightens our breath or sends chills down our spine like the idea of walking through a dark forest, alone. We know it’s full of trees and timid squirrels, but we know that’s beneath the sunlight. The night tells a different story. The night is dark and quiet, and unknown. We hate when we have to trust that there’s nothing following us and we hate to be lost for we know there are times when the strength of our mind and the strength of our legs simply isn’t enough.

***

This historical ghost walk is going to be a peace of cake, she thinks. After all, she is in a fairly large group of people. What could possibly go wrong?

She wakes suddenly. Something is not quite right. Her head is swimming and she reaches out in the dark that surrounds her and in the blank part of her own mind. She can’t remember what happened, how she ended up here, or indeed where here even is.

It is dark. That is all she knows.

She stands unsteadily and fully takes in her situation. She had been exploring this historic site with a group of other curious people. Where had they gone?

She couldn’t stay here. The tree roots cause her to stumble as she begins to grasp the fact that she is totally alone.

The others must have not noticed she was missing or they would have sent someone to find her. Surely those who knew this spot best would have found her, no problem.

As she moved slowly through the ever enveloping darkness she hears noises somewhere out there and shivers. Was this some bad dream she was having in response to her decision to go on that bloody, excuse the term, ghost tour this evening? She probably should have just stayed home. Lesson for next time: trust her instincts.

There was no more group of people surrounding her, allowing her to shake off her nervousness. No longer was there a confident tour guide with a candle to lead the way. The darkness feels heavy and seems to weigh heavily on her limbs.

She spots one of the buildings up ahead, a dark shape looming out of the rest of the darkness. She approaches it with a mixture of relief and hesitancy. Something tells her this building won’t hold the safety and protection she hopes it will. It would be just as dark, or darker inside. Maybe she was better off staying out here.

She reaches for the wall and slumps down, her back to it. Any strength she may have had was waning. What if she didn’t make it to morning and the relative certainty of rescue?

No no no. What a silly thought. Someone would be back and they would find her and apologize profusely for losing track of her like this. This definitely was not a part of the tour.

Suddenly a horrible moaning came from somewhere out there. It was a sound unlike anything she had ever heard. It was, undoubtedly, the sound of someone experiencing great suffering.

She has the urge to run to and from it. She wants to help who ever it is in such agony, but at the same time she can not escape the darkness and wishes to run in the opposite direction, even if it brings her into more unknown, pitch blackness. She can not move and yet she can not stay.

A figure comes near then, running and dropping something as it passes her. It seems to take no notice of her, but is running from the direction of the screams.

“Wait!”

She stands in fear and picks up what the passerby had let fall.

She feels the sticky rag between her fingers, but can not see what this is in all the dark.

All she can do is smell the thick metallic odour and she knows it comes from the blood of the one letting out those terrible sounds, somewhere out there in the abyss.

The darkness seems to take over than and the last thing she hears is more screams and moans and the scent of blood on the rag in her hand chokes her as she slides down into a darkness so thick she feels like she would be trapped in this black pit for eternity.

***

So there you go and here we are at the end of October and the end of this series.

I don’t know if I frightened you with any of my stories, but I sure frightened myself. I wrote about fears I have had and I want to thank

Young And Twenty,

one more time for providing the blog post and the inspiration these last five Fridays, with her:

5 Fears and What They Say About Us.

Are you afraid of the dark?? I don’t require lights on to get around my house in the middle of the night. You’d think I had no fear of the dark if I had been so used to it, but depending on my circumstances I can be very jumpy.

What are you most afraid of? Do you have a phobia of some kind? How has it affected you?

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Uncategorized

Bigger Than Sheezus

Wednesday once more and it is time for the final instalment of a series of sorts I’ve been writing all month long, focusing on strong female voices in such areas as:

Music,

The Media and Culture,

and

literature.

I decided to include this final mid-week post on more female star-power and strength.

I returned, last month, after two years to the Toronto waterfront and The Sound Academy.

Lily allen recently came out with her third studio album: “Sheezus”. Following her debut of “Alright, Still…” and my favourite, her sophomore record, the cleverly titled: “It’s Not Me It’s You”.

Finally, after being a fan for about five years, I was getting to see her perform my favourite songs live.

I didn’t mind the overpowering smell of pot in the line outside, standing room only, or continually having strangers rubbing up against my butt because Lily Allen is one-of-a-kind and worth seeing.

It isn’t often that I come away from a performance, loving not only that performance, but loving too the new discovery I’ve found, but on this particular night Lily’s opening act was one of those rare times. I’d never heard of Lolawolf before, but her song “What Love Is” caught my attention immediately and I definitely recommend her to anyone reading this. Look her up here:

LOLAWOLF on Facebook.

***

Who’d Have Known:

And even though it’s moving forward, there’s just the right amount of awkward. And today you accidentally called me baby.

***

Lily Allen did a nice mixture of songs from all three of her albums, including some of my favourites. She included her first big single “Smile” and songs from “It’s Not Me It’s You” such as my favourites (in part) shown above and below.

***

22

It’s sad but it’s true how society says her life is already over. There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say. Until the man of her dreams comes along, picks her up, and puts her over his shoulder. Seems so unlikely in this day and age.

***

Lily Allen sang about the things young women were experiencing in their own lives. She sang about cheating and sex, drugs and fame, family trouble and society’s unrealistic expectations put on young people, women specifically.

Her newest album came out right around the time of her concert and so I was unfamiliar with it, other than the few singles I listened to on YouTube beforehand. Sometimes I prefer doing this. The show takes on a whole new vibe this way.

I miss out on such things as the visually eye-catching or, in Allen’s case, the ultra strange elements to the live performance. I was told something about multi-coloured flashing lighted baby bottles, yellow and pink and blue, behind her on stage.

This I don’t pretend to understand the meaning of. And she didn’t agree to an interview with me, so I could not find out the origin of this.

:-)

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that she is, on returning to the spotlight, a different person from when she left it last.

She took a break of several years, from making records and mostly stayed hidden. She suffered at least one miscarriage, from what I read, but now she has returned and she has grown a lot it seems.

She is a wife and a mother of two children. She no longer sings about a life of dating and single girl status strictly.

the first thing I noticed as I stood and listened to her sing and speak to the audience in between songs (about taking her kids up the CN Tower earlier that day) was that she seemed happy and maybe not as angry as she once was. Relationships are complicated and being young isn’t easy. I found a connection and felt understood, in a way, when I listened to her singing about her own struggles.

It’s her songs about the helplessness of the end of a relationship that I first clung to when listening to her latest album. That feeling of wanting to scream and hold on for dear life, all while knowing it just wasn’t meant to be.

***

Take My Place:

How can life be so unfair? I can’t breathe in fact I’m choking on the air. It’s all over. I can see it in your eyes. Hold my hand. Don’t ever leave my side.

If I could then I would scream. I’d wipe the tears up off my face. Wake me up if it’s a dream. This is more than I can take. I’d give everything I own, if someone else would take my place. Would someone else please take my place?

***

OR the fear that the worst moments, days, weeks, or months of your life could replay themselves all over again, like a bad broken record or a bad dream. Such a relatable feeling I had not felt in a long long time.
This is what the most powerful of lyrics can do, at least for me and of which I have always experienced when listening to Lily Allen’s music.

***

Holding Onto Nothing:

Oh I’ve been there before. No I won’t go back. Couldn’t take anymore. I’m not going back. Going back. Going back.

***

She isn’t afraid to curse in her songs. She is constantly standing up for things and I admire her for that.

Her voice is an important one, I believe, for today’s modern female artist and she sings on issues such as feminism in a way that is hard to ignore.

***

Hard Out Here:

We’ve never had it so good. Uh huh we’re out of the woods. And if you can’t detect the sarcasm you’ve misunderstood.

***

Her cover of Keane’s “Somewhere Only We know” is, in my opinion (like Lights and her rendition of Elton John’s “Your Song). Better than the original. I may be alone on this, but again one of my favourite female artists is taking a well-known song and making it their own. Allen sings this ballad in a slowed down version that is both sad and wistful.

She sings songs about the pressure to be perfect, the constant need to be validated by a man, and the pain that these things can cause when self-esteem is low or when life seems impossible when fearing loneliness.

How a successful, capable, tough girl like her could bee feeling all these things makes her highly relatable.

In “Miserable Without Your Love” She seems to have all the control or toughness in the world and it can all be hiding something else.

She sings in a way that it seems like some things should be challenged. Or the question asked, is it all really worth it?

In the song: “Life For Me”, there is a sound reminiscent of Paul Simon’s hit album Graceland, heard unmistakably in the bass line.

In songs like this one she sings about motherhood and family life. Even when you finally find happiness and love, the bad days and the stressful moments can still make you feel like you are drowning.

***

I’m not complaining but last night I hardly slept at all. Well actually yes I am complaining.

***

Her frank honest delivery of the lyrics and the feelings that inspired them is refreshing in a world of culture shock and vanity. Her dry sense of humour comes out so clearly even through the song.

She aims to show that nothing is perfect.

Again, on this new album she alludes to, not only the hard time of being a parent, but again returning with: “Who Do You Love”, that her relationship with her own parent isn’t all that easy or simple either.

She speaks on all the insincerity out there in the entertainment world in such songs as: “Insincerely Yours” and the title track:

“Sheezus”.

Here she lists some female artists by name: Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Lorde, and Lady Gaga.

It seems the competition for female singers and performers is tough and relentless. In this title track her apprehension of stepping back into this world with her new album’s release, after some of the changes she’s seemingly gone through with marriage and motherhood is a scary thing for her. She seems to challenge whether or not it’s all really worth the aggravation of trying to keep up.

I would say the biggest difference in this one is that she is happy. Sure, not all her songs are cheerful and lighthearted, but the overall impression I got both from her life show and from the record itself is that she is a happy woman now. There is none of that early twenties upheaval and uncertainty of the dating world and of the partying and the feeling of being lost, that young women so often get stuck in.

Her anger is still burning bright on some key issues as I’ve mentioned, but she can not hide it. She never seems to hide it, remaining as transparent as ever.

In a way this takes away from the true Lily Allen spirit that I guess I’ve often responded to because she is known for her angrier lyrics at times. She doesn’t seem to take any crap from anyone and I don’t believe this will ever change. Her British charm is all a part of this attitude.

***

Sheezus:

Been here before. So unprepared. Not going to lie though. I’m kind of scared.

Laced up my gloves. I’m going in. Don’t let my kids watch me when I get in the ring.

I’ll take the hits. Roll with the punches. I’ll get back up. It’s not as if I’ve never done this. But then again, the game is changing. Can’t just come back, jump on the mic, and do the same thing.

There goes the bell. I know that sound. I guess it’s time for me to go another round. Now wish me luck. I’m going to need it. I’ll see you on the other side if I’m still breathing.

***

All boxing metaphors aside, these feelings of trying to fit in could be applicable to almost any situation.

As for Lily, it’s clear she is wary of putting herself back under the microscope of fame, but she does it. She is back to competing with the other female stars of the day.

She sings about the love she has found and the guy she has found it with, up front about what fierce pride she has in him, challenging any other girl to try anything to mess with that. Here again her tough persona shows itself. She may be happy, but she is still Lilly: cheeky and wise-cracking. I pity any girl who would mess with her. She doesn’t seem like the type of person to hesitate in kicking some ass if the occasion called for it.

She seems to be struggling, at times, with balancing being a wife and mother with her life in the world of fame.

She still holds all the same insecurities that any mother has after pregnancies and giving birth. Being thin in this thin obsessed culture is a concern facing her too, not being any more immune from these stresses than anyone else.

She even mentions the very WordPress I post this on, with a song about technology, social media, the bloggiasphere. Words can be written and posted by any old person hiding behind a screen and keyboard. Empathy not required.

Songs on this album range from strange to suggestive, from silly to sad.

She can convey all of this through her voice and her lyrics like no one else I’ve heard in recent years.
Whether it’s the affect she puts on her voice or the simple simplicity of the sound that is so uniquely her own.

I’ve listened to the deluxe edition of “Sheezus” over and over now, to take something away from each lyric every time I hear it.

As I stood out on the dock just feet from Sound Academy, I rested against the railing, looking out into the the night and over the water. Lake Ontario and the city beside me, the CN Tower out there somewhere nearby. I had gone from a psychiatric hospital to the docks all in one day, but more about that in a future post.

Lily Allen: you’ve done it again girl.

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Memoir Monday, Uncategorized

Schoolwork

During last Monday’s post for

The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge

I described a typical

Day in the Life,

for me, someone who just happens to be visually impaired. I explained how I do the everyday things we all must do.

In contrast, my school and work experiences haven’t been typical at all.

***

Q: Is your work or school life affected by disability? Describe some of these challenges.

A: Simply put … yes.

This may be the most difficult question I have answered for this challenge yet. It involves a lot of what my educational history has been and a lot of the fears I have for my future.

As a writer who uses writing to convey my feelings and thoughts in, what should be a clear and concise manner, I am not sure where to begin or what to focus on here. I am under know obligation to even answer if I don’t want to, (the option to simply skip over any questions I find difficult to respond to), but then how would I ever come close to figuring out how school and work have or will affect me in future? It’s through the writing that I come to find the answers I seek.

My parents, my mother had to fight hard to get me educated along with my peers in my neighbourhood school system. I did not feel it when I was young, but there was great pressure to prove all that hard work worth it and to show people I was just as capable as any other child.

Things became complex when my situation was made even more complicated by additional health problems. I was in sixth grade and over time everything began to suffer: my schoolwork, my social development, my physical health and state of mind. At first glance it appeared the stress and the pressure had finally gotten to me and maybe it was all too much.

After I was finally diagnosed with kidney disease my blindness suddenly seemed like nothing at all in comparison.

Would I make it to high school? Would I graduate?

It’s years later and I did make it to high school. I made it through a year of dialysis and a kidney transplant and I battled back to be ready for the next stage of my life. They wanted to hold me back because they thought I wasn’t ready. They were wrong, but I couldn’t possibly know what life had in store for me.

I did not graduate. This isn’t easy to talk about, but I have to.

Again my blindness was overshadowed by the other medical issues that plagued me through my teen years and beyond. I could not concentrate on completing high school when I could barely get through a day without pain.

I became isolated. I faded from view. I fell behind.

Now I am thirty and I feel like ever getting a degree or a job is way far off and, many days, I simply can not see either one happening for me. I know, however, that this is just the fear talking. The fear that I can’t hack it is a constant companion.

The truth is that my blindness has been an issue, but it hasn’t been my biggest one. This isn’t to say it hasn’t been a challenge and that it won’t present problems for me in going forward, but what else is there to do but fight for the future I know I deserve.

We are coming to the end of October in a few short days and with this the final few days of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. I wrote about the part we as a society all must play to find a way to bring people with disabilities such as blindness into the work force a few weeks back:

National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

This is possible, I believe, and necessary for a more inclusive world.

I hope to return to completion of additional education as I enter into the decade that is my thirties. Better late than never.

I will get my high school diploma. I will strive for a degree in English literature, creative writing, or tourism. These are my passions and any disability I have dealt with in my life has made me dream bigger, able to see how far I have come and to feel appreciative for all those who have helped me along the way all the more.

I will do my part in showing the world that I can learn and work just as hard as anybody else who looks for fulfilment through a useful degree or a worthwhile job.

If my school and work life have or will be affected by my disabilities it’s all the inspiration and motivation I will ever need to carve my own spot in future.

And I will celebrate by announcing it here when I do achieve these goals. Disability does affect all these parts of life, but it does not have to define who I am and predict what future success I may have.

IT CAN BE DONE.

***

For next week:

Is your family life affected by disability? In what ways?

A brand new month and maybe a brand new perspective.

I will think about this and may once more return to asking those family members involved.

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Fiction Friday, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights

Acrophobia

Welcome to the second-last episode of Frightful Fiction Friday.

Last week was a common one, fear of spiders:

Arachnophobia.

This week’s is another of mankind’s biggest fears of all time: the fear of heights.

***

4.
Heights. With heights comes trust. We have to trust that we won’t fall, we won’t lose our step and trip, we won’t fall victim to a push. the idea of our fate being out of our control is unacceptable. The idea of making a mistake or a misstep that ends in more than a scraped knee is overwhelming. One of our greatest comforts in life is knowing there’s a way to get back up after a fall.

***

He grew up in England’s capital. His parents had taken him up for rides in the big ferris wheel, The London Eye, as a child and from that first ride up and overlooking all of London he had been afraid. He was afraid of falling, of somehow being dropped from an insane height and splattering on the ground far below.

This never happened of course, but once he was old enough to make his own decisions he decided not to put himself through the torture. He hated the feeling of his heart racing and his palms growing slick with sweat. Why in the world would he do that to himself?

So then what was he doing up here? He was visiting the city of Toronto for the first time and when some friends heard he was going they dared him to try the CN Tower’s Edge Walk Experience they had seen on the BBC. They were very much familiar with his fear of heights and they predicted he would never have the guts to try something so crazy. After all, they themselves weren’t sure they could do it when it came down to it.

“Now then,” said the tour guide. “I want you to know you are all safe up here, in my hands.”

He looked around at the guide who was speaking and the others in the group, all looking some modicum of nervous, but they seemed to be working through it. He, on the other hand, had grown steadily more terrified as they had gone up in the gliding elevator and stepped out into the little room before making their way outside and out on the edge.

“You can take a few steps toward the edge,” said the guide. “You are perfectly safe.”

HE stared out and into a white, empty, blankness. The day was foggy and there was no grand view of the city below. This made the experience both better and worse. There was no expanse of buildings and streets that he knew were out there, stories and stories down, but the unknown of the foggy air was disconcerting. He hugged the wall of the tower and vowed not to yield to the pressure from guide or from the brave actions of the other group members.

Brave or stupid?

“I think I will just stay right here,” he said, trembling.

“Well if you change your mind,” the guide said reassuringly. “To the rest of you…feel free to take a few more steps toward the edge. That’s right. Now turn around and take a few steps and you’re at the edge. Now, I have been doing this for a year. I have taken many groups up here and haven’t lost anyone yet.”

The group all looked at one another and laughed nervously in response to this.

“Have you ever stood at the edge of a subway platform with someone and wondered, what if I pushed them?”

The tour guide did not just say that. He couldn’t believe she had just spoken those words. Was this a part of the experience, to push people’s thoughts to the brink? This was definitely not making him want to come away from the relative safety of the building.

“No,” a few of them said in reply.

“Well, I think it’s really only human to think such thoughts,” the guide added. As she said this the others had all done what she had recommended. They were each in separate stages of approaching the drop off the side of the tower with their feet, spread apart and their backs to the fall.

He saw it in his mind even before it happened and he saw it play out in slow motion, in a strange sequence of events.

The guide reached up above the heads of the harnessed tourists and pressed a button, releasing the seatbelt-like apparatus holding everyone safely together.

He saw the looks on the faces of each of them as their straps holding them secure loosened and they fell backward, over the edge.

For what seemed like only seconds they dangled precariously in the open air, their faces frozen in horror, until they disappeared from his sight and into the white nothingness.

***

In the final week I will end this series and the month on Halloween. Young and Twenty’s list of common fears,

5 Fears and What They Say About Us,

has been a wonderful exercise for me in writing spooky stories.

I shall end on a dark note next Friday with a story of fear in facing the darkness.

Acrophobia seems to be the most common of the phobias. I think it is probably less so in the visually impaired community, but I can only speak for myself.

For further reading in exploration of this, check out this post on my ultimate test of this hypothesis:

Walking On The Edge.

How about you? Are you one of the many who are terrified of heights or have you had any interesting experiences of conquering this fear?

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Uncategorized

A Day in the Life

Last Monday I wrote about:

The Horse and the Bird.

To answer this week’s question for the:

Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge,

I will run through a typical day in my own life and you can judge for yourself what the answer to the following question is.

***

Q: Are your activities of daily living affected by disability? If you are comfortable, share a little bit of your daily routine.

A: I am not uncomfortable, but I just wouldn’t want to bore any of my kind readers, that’s all.

:-)

If you know me or how I do the little things, that fill up my day, then please feel free to read on with another of my many blog posts, such as this one:

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

If you are at all curious how I cook, shop, or clean then please stay and read on …

To me my day is often full of repetitive tasks and common activities, all such as though I wouldn’t imagine anyone would be interested. However, in recent weeks I have spoke to people who have said that for people who can see, it’s the everyday tasks and how they are performed without sight, that are the most wondered about.

How do I brush my teeth? How do I do my laundry? How do I get dressed?

These are the things someone with sight, who can not imagine how they themselves would undertake such things. These are the questions I have received and that are often asked of someone with none.

To me they are simply the things we all must do to be presentable and to function in the world, but I am able to admit when I need help doing them or when having sight would make it easier to be able to perform them.

I wake up and I can not look out the window to check the weather for the day. I have a cat who needs the litter box changed and a dog who must be let out first thing. This gives me another reason to step out my door to check for air temperature, sun or lack-there-of, or if the deck is wet from a night’s rain.

I keep my shampoo and soap in a certain place in my shower and recognize the feel of the bottles by touch. It is, perhaps more necessary, to come up with systems for remembering which bottles are which and where I will be able to find them again the next day.

I use my fingers to squeeze out the toothpaste. I don’t spend hours on my hair or putting on makeup, but who knows how much time I would spend on these things like many girls do, if I could see my face in the mirror.

Mirror Image, a post about how I see myself without actually being able to see myself.

There are App’s for announcing the colours of my clothes, but I have a good memory and know my own outfits by heart by the shape of the neck line or the material the shirt is made of. I have collected tips on fashion from my sister and hope I go out into the world with at least my own acceptable style. I don’t walk out my door with my shirt on inside out or two different colour socks, not much more than anyone else anyway.

I pour my juice with a finger placed on the rim of my glass, stopping when the liquid hits it. With hot coffee this is done with extreme care. I cook my breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the utmost caution and diligence. I am extra nervous of burning myself on the stove, perhaps holding me back from cooking as many foods as some do, but I do not starve. Perhaps cooking is just not my thing. It is not everyone’s thing.

Shopping requires getting to the store, unless ordering from one of those grocery store sites online, often more expensive and somewhat lacking in available choices. This means I utilize my family’s help in getting there. Often families do their grocery shopping together, but when I do it I often feel like I am failing at going for my own independence.

There are customer service employees to be found in every grocery store who are there to help anyone who requests it. They would help me pick up anything I wanted, but I prefer to shop with someone who knows me and the food I enjoy. It makes trying to explain what I am looking for much much easier.

I have labels on my stove and microwave, allowing me to find each button and press the right one. These days burners are flat and difficult to feel, but luckily I still have one of the older stoves. Modern day progress isn’t always for the better.

Sometimes I play “guess what’s in the mystery can/jar” and I may lose. It’s a good thing I enjoy surprises from time to time.

:-)

I am extremely comfortable in my own house, where I know where everything is. When in my own house I can forget the uncertainty and unpredictability too often found in the rest of the world.

Of course even I move my own things and forget where I put them. Not having someone else in the house makes it inconveniently difficult to have anyone else to blame when I am at a loss for a particular shirt I wanted to wear or the last can of Diet Coke.

:-)

Who moved my…oh wait…yeah, that was me.

I use my tiny bit of remaining vision to sort the darks and lights. Again, my washer is marked with braille or tactile stickers. I have had a surprising lack of laundry disasters, except for one involving bleach and a pile of my sister’s favourite red clothes. Again, I ask her for her pardon on that.

I like to keep my things in the same place and to keep clutter out of my path. This is common sense and safety is important. Anytime I can prevent possible tripping, bruising, or other accidents I do.

Dusting, mopping, sweeping, and vacuuming are easy to put off when I could be reading or writing instead. Washing windows and cleaning bathrooms are not my idea of a good time. I don’t see the dust oftentimes and I already established I do not need a clear window to see what the weather is doing. I am not living in a spotless home and I am sure I have room for improvement. It can be easy to avoid these less than enjoyable chores when you don’t see each speck of dirt and every smudge.

I do love the smell of cleaner and laundry detergent. I like the spray mops and I use my hands in place of my eyes. This allows things to slip by me and a helpful eye never hurts. I like visitors and this keeps me constantly working at working at it, on the off chance that a visitor could come by by surprise.

:-)

I make my own bed and I wash my dishes after I eat. I even discover a spot on a plate or pan that an eye may have missed. In that case my sensitive sense of touch works to my advantage.

I don’t need the light on to find the bathroom or to get a drink of water at some ungodly hour of the night. I have survived through the day and I fall asleep knowing I did my best. We all must learn to adapt to new situations and to live in a way that works for us. I am no different.

Of course I am affected, but although I can never quite escape living a life without the benefit of sight, I make it work as best I can for me. When you realize that you can not run from something, you learn to embrace it. It even makes life more interesting at times.

***

Okay, so you asked for it and this post has ended up being longer than the previous ones. I am happy to answer any other question like it that you might have in the comments.

Next Monday:

Is your work or school life affected by disability? Describe some of these challenges.

Until then … Ask away.

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Spotlight Saturday, Writing

Spotlight On Saltz

This week’s Spotlight Saturday I am lucky to have on my blog an interview with Writer, of memoirs, and musician Alana Saltz.

You can find her on her website:

AlanaSaltz.com

as we discuss such things as creativity and mental illness, whether it’s worth getting an MFA, and how to handle rejection.

And now I hope you learn as much about writing as I did from Alana.

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KK: First, where are you located and what is your background with writing?

AS: I’m located in Los Angeles, CA. I’ve had an interest in words since my parents started reading me bedtime stories. I loved trips to the library and bookstore as a child. At my elementary school, there were some opportunities for students to explore creative writing, like our parent-run Paw Print Press. I got to write and illustrate a couple of stories, and then they were produced into little picture books with covers made out of cardboard.

I eventually majored in English as an undergraduate, took lots of writing classes, and was an active participant in my school’s literary magazine and writing workshop. After graduating, I decided to take the next step and pursue my MFA. I’ll be graduating from Antioch University, Los Angeles this December.

KK: What skills do you think are required to be an artist, either to be a writer, musician, or both?

AS: Passion and determination are the biggest ones. I also think it helps a lot to be naturally empathetic and sensitive if you want to create art that resonates with others. You have to be willing to look inside and look at others in a deep, meaningful way to be able to capture the world and reflect it back through words, art, or music.

KK: Do you believe in the connection between artistic talent and mental illness? What do you think that connection is and how does it manifest itself for you?

AS: I don’t really believe there’s a connection between talent and mental illness. If anything, mental illness can make you more internal and sensitive, which might in turn bring new levels of perception and power to your creative work. But you can be a thoughtful, insightful person without any diagnosable mental illnesses. While mental illness has given me something to write about, it hasn’t helped me actually write. It usually prefers to get in the way through discouraged, depressed outlooks and anxious, stressed thoughts that I have to fight in order to get back to work.

KK: Do you think writing talent can be taught or learned or do you think either someone has it or they don’t?

AS: This is an interesting question; I got into a debate with my boyfriend about it just the other day. I think everyone is born with certain inherent strengths and talents. Words and language have always come naturally to me, so I embraced that side of myself, and luckily felt a passion for developing it. I think it’s possible to be good at something you don’t want to do and be bad at something you wish you could do. Writing can certainly be taught, even if a person doesn’t have a natural strength with it. But it sure helps to have that. It’s much less of an uphill battle. 

I also think that empathy and insight play a role here as well. Not everyone is naturally good at looking inside themselves or seeing the world around them with clarity and understanding. You need that to create work that resonates, and I’m not sure that can be taught.

KK: What advice do you have for a writer just starting out?

AS: Every professional writer will give the same advice: Read. Read a lot, and read widely. But everyone who will ultimately make it as a writer doesn’t need that advice because they already do. You have to love reading and stories to become and be a writer. 

Besides reading, I would recommend finding a local writing workshop/critique group, maybe taking some classes, and writing whatever interests you without worrying too much about what it is or where it will ultimately take you.

KK: What does the term memoir mean to you?

AS: Memoir is a work of autobiography that has a theme, focus, or covers a select period of a person’s life. It’s creative nonfiction, meaning that it’s based in fact and experience, but some creative liberties can and will be taken in bringing it to life.

KK: What is the difference between a writer and an author? Do you think the words are interchangeable?

AS: I define “author” as someone who has published a book. A “writer” is someone who writes. I don’t think the words are interchangeable, although an “author” is certainly a “writer.”

KK: What is your writing or creative process? Do you have a routine or do you let the inspiration strike when it will?

AS: A lot of people would probably judge my creative process. There’s a lot of emphasis on the “butt in chair” routine: sit down every day, or a least several days a week, for a specified amount of time or amount of words, and make yourself write. Eventually, something will come out. They say this is how professionals work. It’s not how I work. 

I always have ideas floating around, incubating. I often write down notes and brainstorm. I typically set out to write in the mornings, but not every morning. Sometimes the writing is just thinking or note-taking. If I’m in the middle of a project, I work on that. I’ll go several days, even a week, without writing a word, then spend 10 days straight writing thousands of words a day. I let my interests, project, and ideas guide me. Deadlines will dictate it as well. 

I don’t wait for inspiration, exactly. I have to keep my mind open and searching so I have something to say whenever I do sit down. But I tend to sit down when I feel compelled to, although I do have a nagging sense of obligation that makes me force myself now and then.

KK: What is your experience with writing programs? Do you believe it is important to be trained or can there be other ways of gaining the same wisdom and experience?

AS: I have mixed feelings about writing programs. If you just want to write for fun, take some classes here and there, maybe join a local writing workshop. If you want to teach, get an MFA or PhD. That’s necessary. If you want to write professionally, it depends. Classes and workshops are a must, but I don’t think a degree is necessary. I wanted the option to teach, and I love writing classes and workshops and being part of a community, so that’s why I pursued an MFA.

KK: What do you think is harder to write: fiction or non-fiction/memoir? Why?

AS: For me, it’s probably memoir. In fiction, you have to create a whole world from scratch, but you can dictate and structure what happens in it. In memoir, you already have the materials, the enormous, misshapen pile of clay that is your life and memories. From that, and only that, you must sculpt a beautiful statue. You have to take a million little moments and turn them into a structured, cohesive, engaging narrative that makes sense and will connect with others. And if you don’t have an amazing memory, it’s even harder. I’m glad I kept journals as a teenager, or I’m not sure I could have written mine. But both genres are tough.

KK: How do you handle rejection and what tips can you offer for dealing with it for other writers?

AS: I don’t handle it as well as I’d like, but it depends on the rejection. Individually, they aren’t so bad. One after another can be discouraging and make me question everything. I’m one of those people who can’t not write, no matter how much I get rejected, no matter how low I sink in confidence. It’s part of me. If it’s part of you too, just remember that it takes rejection to get to acceptance, and becoming a successful writer will take time and perseverance. Try not to let it get you too down in the meantime. Editors, agents, and teachers are all subjective in their tastes and feedback. Take their advice seriously, but know each one does not represent the entire world of opinion.

KK: What is your feeling about traditional publishing vs self-publishing? What do you see for the future of both?

AS: This is a tricky question. I’ll start by saying that I’m an advocate of whatever path works for you and your project. I think self/indie-publishing has an interesting and promising future ahead of it. I like the idea of writers taking our work into our own hands, maintaining creative control, and publishing on our own terms. 

That said, traditional publishing still has its place. It’s very hard to get teaching or lecturing positions as a self-published author, if that’s your goal. Publishing houses also have more resources and money for promotion than you’ll most likely have on your own, unless you’ve developed a huge following already. People say publishers make you do all your own promotion, but that isn’t true. From what I can see, you’ll spend way more time promoting as a self-publisher than a traditionally published author. If you self publish, it’s all up to you. No one is helping. And that can be really, really tough.

KK: What do you have planned for the future for your own writing?

AS: Right now, I’m querying a memoir about my struggle to overcome anxiety disorder and depression as a young adult. I also have some essays in the works to submit to blogs and magazines. I’m planning to do NaNoWriMo in November to get a new novel going. I have a couple novel drafts in my virtual drawer that I occasionally look at and revisit. So, I have a lot of different projects in the works. I’m not sure which one will take off first.

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Thank you Alana, for your candid answers to my questions. I wish you lots of luck with NaNoWriMo next month.

For more on Alana, visit her on:

Facebook,

https://twitter.com/alanasaltz

http://instagram.com/alanasaltz”>Instagram.

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Fiction Friday

Trypanophobia

Last Friday I wrote about those creepy, crawly critters that so many find so frightening:

Arachnophobia.

In this week’s post I tackle a fear that is so real for so many: the fear of needles.

I used to be afraid of these sharp little things myself, until I received so many that my arms, (baring witness to hundreds upon hundreds of medical tests and required blood work) gave me little choice in the matter. I had to face my fear and accept that the anticipation is usually the worst part. Not in the spooky tale below however.

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3.
Needles. We hate sitting in the doctor’s office. Tapping our foot and waiting for a nurse to register our flu shot. Just before the needle goes in, we grow anxious. We wait for the sting, knowing it’s coming and knowing it’s not worth the stress. We torture ourselves in the final seconds as anticipation has become one of our most agonizing experiences.

***

The room is dim and shadowy. These shadows play tricks, dancing shapes on the wall in the early morning light.

Suddenly I jump when I realize there is someone else in the room with me. What room is this? I don’t even remember where I am or how I got here.

“Who are you?” I see the shape, this time of a nurse in a cap and white uniform. She looks like she does not belong in this decade, or even this century. “What year is this?”

“Please just give me your arm,” this stranger, this supposed nurse demands. “You will feel much better, very soon.” Something in her voice makes me doubt her promise.

“Where am I?”

“You are in the best place for you. That’s all you need know.” She doesn’t say it, but she seems to be hiding some piece of information I should have been given. Why would this woman keep something from me?

I want to rise from this…bed, was it? This room smells of disinfectant. I hear a low murmur just outside the door. I have the urge, then, to scream. Maybe someone out there could answer my questions.

“Just relax. Stay still. I need to give you your medicine.”

“Medicine? What medicine?” I feel like this situation calls for some questioning, some resistance, but before I can find it in me for either of these, I feel that sharp sting and the damage is done.

“It’s just something to make you feel better,” was all this mysterious elderly lady will say. She appears, even in this fading light, to be more frail than I am, as if she’s barely even there at all. Maybe she isn’t.

If only I could find the strength to sit up. I am sure I could take her on. If only I could get past her and out into the hall. Now it’s too late. The fog that rolled away just moments ago, to reveal my surroundings, comes roaring back with such ferocity that I can not push it off of me.

The woman remains, staring at me, but soon her shape becomes fuzzy to me and a blur with the shadows returning to their dance routines on the walls of my prison.

All that remains of reality: the stinging, burning sensation in the spot where I was stuck and now I am stuck for good, in a land of shapes and shadows. Each time I feel my control and consciousness begin to return she appears with that sharp tool in her hand and I feel the familiar stabbing pain once more.

***

check out the post responsible for the Fiction Friday Halloween-themed posts here on KKHerHeadache this month:

5 Fears And What They Say About Us.

Thank you Young and Twenty, for this. For your Halloween writing prompts and I shall be back next week with the second-last instalment in this series: fear of heights.

Do you have some level of Trypanophobia or do you find needles, like me, to be no big deal?

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