When things fall apart: end

This series was not meant to be a terrifying roller coaster for my family. It was not meant to be harmful, or anxiety inducing.

I failed in what I was trying to achieve. An archive. A roadmap. A before, to view during the after.

I suppose in all of this all I’ve managed to do is prove that I am a narcissist, and that even if I do get help, I probably don’t deserve to live.

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When Things Fall Apart: 13

Gate 84 at San Francisco International Airport is labelled Gate 84ABCD. None of the other gates are labelled as such. My cat has not left her carrier, though I’ve opened the top and given her leash room to explore.

Today my feelings are strange and muted. I’m not happy that I’m coming home. I wouldn’t have been happy staying in Taipei. I’m just angry. But apparently not allowed to express anger.

Honestly, I feel sometimes like I’m a teenager who never learned how to grow up. My emotional expression comes from years of watching television and reading books. I am not an aggressive person.

This whole being called a ‘brat’ by my aunt has really gotten to me. It makes me want to run away. It reminds me of all the times my family has let me down.

One reason I came home was to be with family. And if I can’t have their support, what’s the point? Is it manipulative to write this blog post? How sick am I, really? And can I get better?

Before I start to cry sitting at gate 84ABCD, I will leave it here. The bureaucracy of entering a mental health facility still seems miles away, though paranoia wracks my dreams.

I guess I’ll leave it there

When things fall apart, 12

You might be wondering where part 11 is.

It’s private. Maybe some day I’ll make it public again. For now, all those posts are my for my eyes only.

Here’s what I know now:

I try and I fail. I fail at everything. This series of blog posts is supposed to be a recollection of the journey making it to a mental health hospital and getting help and hopefully being better.

But the truth is, my family thinks I’m manipulative. Maybe I am manipulative. The aunt I looked up to the most has blocked me on facebook. I’ve been called a brat. There’s been a misunderstanding of…everything.

My mom was supposed to get surgery. I didn’t want her to cancel it because of me. But she did. I asked her not to come to Taipei, and she’s respected that. But finally she just told me, she was going to come to Taipei.

And things fall apart.

I guess I’ve heard somewhere that before you can get better vis a vis AA, you have to hit your rock bottom. I don’t know what holding a knife to my throat in Brendan’s apartment was, but if it wasn’t rock bottom it was sure close. I’ve lost two good friends because of it. My family’s gone back to thinking I’m a monster.

So what’s the point? I write here, so I don’t have to keep it all inside, and I’m told I’m being manipulative because I’m telling “my mom one thing, and writing another”. I failed. Even the people who are supposed to love me don’t. Even my friend who came to take care of me has checked into a hotel room.

I have no energy. I’ll make it on the plane. I’ll make it to New Mexico, but after that? Every never in my body is screaming to just go far away.

Is it better to be alive and just a shell? To hold it all in? I feel like I can’t win. Maybe a blog wasn’t the best idea, but it is what is.

Everyone hates me. My Dad was right. My mom was right. My family when I was young was right. It’s all about me. I’m a selfish, stupid psychotic manipulative whore. One day at a time. One second at a time.

I’m an ant. I wish I were an ant. Sometimes I just wish I could have a lobotomy. IfI could just not be,,,here.

Everyone hates me.

When things fall apart, day 1

I am not a poet

Lately everything has been spilling out of my head
Old memories, toy boxes and building blocks with my sister.
Sunlight. Pulling on a foot as an infant when an IV pulled me back.
I remember.
I remember the way he looked at me and said you are broken
And I love you, and I can feel your pieces
I remember the way that he said he could fix me
That he had the glue to do so
Like I needed fixing
Like I was not already whole
Like I could not see my own body.
Could not see that there were no tears in my aortas,
my sternum was intact, but bruised
There was a wring of purple spots
That decorated my arm
Like a crown
For a broken
Princess

II.

I remember
I remember the way he looked at me when he said
He’d rather be sleeping with her than with me.
The smile on his lips when he told me I wasn’t attractive.

I remember the unrequited love
Boy after boy who seemed to date my best friend
But not me.
And how this made me feel the validations of those words
You are broken.

I let him try to fix me
Like six inches of parental fortitude
Were enough to anchor me to the moment
When all I wanted was to walk away

I remember when I told them
Please put me away
And I was scared, and I was lonely
And they laughed at me.
I remember.

Lately everything has been spilling out of my head.
I don’t have any words because they are all memories.
Netflix is running but paused, and I haven’t noticed the sign,
asking if I’m still watching.
I am still watching
I am watching the girl who was never broken but who was told
That her body came in pieces
The girl who has ripped herself apart to find the smooth edges she can glue back together

Don’t drink, they tell me.
Don’t mix pills.
Stop looking like a whore.

I remember.
I remember everything.
I remember the thing that stirred inside of me.
The bathroom stall, the echoed sobs

I remember that I would never tell him
This man who did not deserve to know

I remember that day when he looked at me
In front of the library, twenty feet apart
And I think I saw the pain in his eyes,

I remember.
I remember all of it. Every detail. Every wish.
How could he? How could we? How could I?
How could I have fixed this? How could I have made this better?
How could we have saved me?

The way he said to me: you are broken.
And I can feel your edges.
I should have told him they are not edges.
They are not sharp. They will not cut him.
They are lines. Tattoos. Visa stamps.
They are me. He is mistaken.
I am not shattered pieces.
I am whole.

Lukewarm: A snapshot of future adulthood

My room is the temperature of a broken refrigerator. I know this, because the AC unit tells me it’s 11 degrees celsius inside this little box of mine. I’m wearing socks. Really thick socks. And two sweaters. And cuddling a heating pad. I tell myself it’s not as bad as last winter, where the weather hovered between 0 and 3 degrees celsius for a week, and I wore three layers while still shivering under my blankets.

I don’t have to refrigerate the beer I drink after a long week. I worked five days of 9-6:30 last week, as well as tutoring on Saturday from 10am until 4pm. I was tired. My coworkers commented on this. “You look tired.”

Hooray.

I got my first rejection letter from a graduate school. A very nice rejection letter. It actually didn’t upset me as much as I thought it would. Maybe because I got it in the middle of the night and read it between fitful bouts of sleep. Or because I have a full time job and can apply again next year. Who knows?

I got a picture of what adulthood looks like. It looks like shuffling around with my hair in braids, in an oversized sweater and long, pattern-less bottoms (casting aside the cupcake pajama bottoms purchased by my mother my junior year of college) with a mug of wine. Now I sound like an alcoholic. These are the first drinks I’ve had since…well, I had one while my mom was in town (not because of her, she joined). Anyway, this week has been unprecedented in drinking (two whole drinks!).

On the other side of the aisle, the boy I’m seeing is a completely different person in French. If I have to hear “franchement” one more time.

But like, non, mais franchement.

Currently reading: The Blind Assassin

If My Life Were a Language, It Would Be One Without Auxiliary verbs

The word auxiliary comes from the Latin auxilium ‘to help.’ An auxiliary verb is just that: something that influences tense, mood, and voice of other verbs. It’s a helping verb. It exists in English in the form of do, be, have and a handful of others that don’t show up as frequently (see, do not show up as frequently). French also has two auxiliary verbs, être (to be) and avoir (to have), as does German and Spanish. Russian, Chinese, and Thai, however, have no auxiliary verbs. So why do some languages have them, and others don’t? What’s the difference?

What if I wanted to ask in Chinese ‘why do some languages have auxiliary verbs, and other’s don’t?’ My grammar would turn out to be ‘why some language have auxiliary verb’? (I’ll admit, I don’t know how to say the second clause without making it into a second sentence) Sounds ridiculous in English but 為什麼些種語言用助動詞? Why do some of our languages have plurals and others don’t? Why do we have relative pronouns? Why does language exist? And how do we wrap our minds around this besides the common Chinese answer of 沒有為什麼 (Literally ‘No have why’)

Today my small friends finished their second textbook, and asked me what the word ‘congratulations’ meant (thank you, chapter on weddings in my Chinese book). Our last lesson had to do with farms. This was easy as pie for these kids, and I went around the table asking them one at a time, “What do you see on the farm?”

“I see pig on the farm,” one said.

“Pigs, I corrected. How many pigs do you see?”

“I see three pigs,” the student said.

The next student struggled to find the plural of horse. “I see horse,” she said.

“Horses,” I corrected. “How many horses do you see?”

“I see two horses,” the student said.

The next student fell into a trap. “I see four sheeps,” she said.

I gave her a sad, understanding look.

“Four sheep,” I corrected. “One sheep, two sheep, three sheep, no sheep.”

“Why?” one of the students asked.

“Because English is weird,” I told them, using the Chinese word qí guài instead of English.

During my time in Thailand and my time in Taiwan I’ve noticed that people who speak these kinds of languages — languages without plurals, without articles, without conjugated verbs, without auxiliary verbs — substantially struggle with English. At the same time, when I’m learning Chinese I can basically guess at a word and understand it. As for writing the characters, it’s a lot simpler than people make it out to be. There are only so many radicals, and most characters are made up of other characters. Once you know how to write 500, you can learn how to write 500 more pretty easily. It doesn’t help you guess the meaning when you run into a character you don’t know, but it does make it a lot easier to remember the words. As for English? Phonics make sense, but only to a point.

When one of my students was three she told me she loved me. I said, “I love you, too.”

“I love you, three!” she said. While a native English speaker might understand this to be a joke, my student literally had thought that loving someone was quantifiable in integers. Eventually she learned how to say “I love you infinity” and, following that, “I love you infinity-two.”

A group of second graders has trouble with rhyming. They explain to each other in Chinese that words rhyme if they have the same spelling at the end, such as redbed, and fed. I am careful at this point to explain in Chinese that this is not always the case. I write down their, they’re, there, where, hair, mare, dare, care, lair, pear, pair. I read all of the words to the students and ask if they rhyme. The students struggle.

In Chinese there are only a limited number of sounds. 是 (be) 市 (city) 事 (matter) 式 (style) 時 (time) 十 (ten) 使 (messenger) 世 (world) 失 (arrow) 食 (food) 試 (try) 濕 (wet) 實 (truth) and 獅 (lion) are all phonetically spelled ‘shi.’ Even with tones and context, it can get confusing.

So is either better? Both work at their job: they allow us to communicate. Using letters or characters or pictures we are able to convey our history, our emotions, our needs, our thoughts. To those of us who have to study for the GRE and find out the meaning spendthrift is the exact opposite of one who is thrifty with their money wonder why we need so many ways to convey something, when other languages have simplistic and straightforward ways to communicate. In some instances there exists only one way to convey a thought. In English, that is almost never the case. It’s frequently untrue in English. It’s extremely rare in English for this to be the case. This virtually never happens in English.

Native English speakers may shrug. Who cares? We get they all mean the same thing.

But imagine if you had learned from a text book, “This rarely occurs in English.” Now tell me what clues you can get from the other sentences, if your vocabulary is not very expanded.

We’re different people in the languages we speak. My partner, bilingual in English and French, is easy going and sarcastic. When he speaks French he isn’t easily brought to laughter, and he more frequently uses honorifics. He’s quieter, more introspective. In English he’s boisterous and the life of the party. In English I am serious and straightforward. In Thai I’m cute and giggly. In Chinese I often speak in a higher tone of voice and go out of my way to be more respectful. I feel like a different person.

So what is it about language that changes us? What is it about the stringing together of letters or phonemes and vowel sounds that changes the way we think about the world? And why do some languages have auxiliary verbs, while others don’t?

Either way, if I had to be a language, I would be Chinese, I think. Maybe Japanese. Something systematic and straightforward, with the ability to shift and change. And lyrical. Don’t forget lyrical.

The Case of the Missing Beer

The other day I bought two beers from 7-11 for $45 taiwanese dollars each, about $1.50USD. Is this expensive for crappy beer? Probably, I never bought beer in the United states.

The total came out to $90 NTD, and I handed the young new 7-11 worker, who wore a surgical mask to protect him from colds and pollution, the pink bill that was folded in one corner. With my gym bag, my drawstring pouch, and my iPhone attached to my hands, I didn’t have much time to smooth out the bill. So I just handed it to him. He handed me back my $10 coin and I spent the next forty five seconds trying to get my headphones untangled from my gym bag so I could stuff everything into one place.

It was a Tuesday night. I had work the next morning. I don’t drink beer often, but why not? Sometimes you just have to relax and knit and work on your writing. I don’t subscribe to Hemingway’s write drunk, edit sober, but I had some intense editing to do. And I hate editing. If I could only write first drafts from now until the end of time, and submit them and have them be perfect, my life would suddenly be devoid of any problems.

Although I couldn’t see half his face because of the surgical mask, I couldn’t help but feel judged by the young 7-11 man selling the foreigner two large cans of beer at 8pm on a Tuesday night.

I went to a friend’s house with my laptop. I drank the beer.

And then I woke up at home with zero memory of the night before. I had written about 700 words. About ten minutes of writing.

I called my friend. “How much did I drink?”

“Only the one beer,” he said. “You took the second home.”

It was Wednesday. My longest day at work. I played games, sang songs, colored. I had no hangover. I drank 1.5 gallons of water and had three cups of tea from a brand new Taipei cup I bought at starbucks. I thought, what happened to the other beer?

“Are you sure I didn’t drink it?” I asked my friend.

“When we left my house you bought spaghetti at 7-11 and then I put you to sleep,” he said. “No way you drank the beer.”

I remembered the empty container of spaghetti. There was a vague memory of pouring half a can of parmesan cheese over it.

For some reason the missing beer bothered me. Where had it gone? I spent good money on that beer. I came home from work. I cleaned my room. I looked in the fridge. I checked the recycling and my trash. I called my friend and asked him to look in his house. I checked my drawstring bag and my gym bag. I got out my book to read and promptly fell asleep at 7pm with my lights still on.

On Thursday I woke up, went to work, and bought two beers from 7-11. I drank them both. Through some laws of medicine, physics, and probably dinner, I was tipsy but not drunk, and certainly not to the point where I couldn’t remember the night before.

I came home with the world spinning and got into bed. I looked under my bed. I checked my sheets again. I went through my underwear drawer. I talked to my roommates.

That second beer had vanished. Poofed. As though a wraith had come and stolen it in the middle of the night to place on someone’s forehead.

This issue bothers me far more than it should. Where is my beer? Where did it go? Did I leave it outside? My friend swears he was with me from ingestion of first beer to sleep that night. He says I took it home. It wasn’t in his fridge, or my fridge, or in my room, or in the recycling or garbage. It had simply vanished.

Losing periods of your life is weird, especially when it’s due to something so little like a single can of beer. It’s a scary, weird, paranormal experience, like someone has gone through and wiped clean a whiteboard with all these memories on it.

Now there’s chicken in my fridge. I opened the fridge this morning to make breakfast and sitting on the eggs was a package of raw chicken. I blinked at it, wondering, is that my chicken? I’m the only one in my house who cooks. It would make logical sense for it to be my chicken. I vaguely remember buying chicken some days ago, perhaps the day I bought the beer. At the same time, I’m not quite sure. It’s a phantom memory, a memory placed after the fact. Logically it would make sense for the raw chicken to be mine, so I remember buying raw chicken.

I spent five minutes staring at the chicken. What do I do with it?

Did I trade in my beer for chicken?

 

Why I Read

  1. I ran out of purple yarn
  2. The children are asleep
  3. Blue light keeps me awake
  4. Going to bed before 11 is ‘unhip’
  5. I’m trying to avoid watching Frozen in Chinese again
  6. I need something I can “rewind” easily
  7. There’s nothing on Netflix
  8. There’s nothing in the fridge
  9. There’s nothing new on facebook
  10. It’s raining.
  11. It’s sunny.
  12. It’s cold/hot/various degrees of too humid/cool/rainy/etc.
  13. If I move my cat will start meowing again
  14. I can’t think.
  15. I can’t stop thinking.
  16. The face mask is supposed to stay on for thirty minutes.
  17. My partner is talking about his last visit to the doctor
  18. I want to forget about the weird spiny insect on my windowsill
  19. Etc.

2017: Mostly same same, but a little bit different.

In the dearth (I’m sure) of blog posts about the new year, I want to share with you a little story involving college level reading material, a thirteen-year-old, boarding schools, and character limits.

At the beginning of December I got hired for my second tutoring job in Taipei (the first being a pair of twins I’ve been with for over a year).

This time the job is kind of surreal. I’m helping a girl and her family apply to boarding school – reading through essays, helping the girl study for her prep tests, helping her build writing skills, etc. As such I’ve gotten to look over some of the questions that boarding schools ask of thirteen-year-olds to write.

Of important note in this process is that thirteen-year-olds (who are applying for 9th grade admission next year) hold a stark difference to the college and grad school applicants that have also been struggling with applications that were likely just due this past month (mine were).

Boarding school applications require parent statements. And this implies that the parent, you know, will read all the student’s essays. So in addition to the horror of splitting yourself open for the world (admissions office) to see your bared soul, you’ve also got to show this to your parents.

And the questions aren’t easy. “Please describe a challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it” in 500 characters or less. “Describe a time you had a conviction that you no longer had. What changed?” “What is a pressing issue facing your generation today?”

When I was a wee toddler being trained on how to get into college (I’m only exaggerating a little here) by my father, he told me and my sister something that amazingly has stuck with me through the years. It’s something everyone tells you that boils down to the same thing: everyone applying everywhere has the same test scores etc etc etc what makes you different?

Well, according to my Dad, beekeeping.

See, when my Dad applied for grad school (and all of this is his account, so all of it is probably pretty not true) he put in his application essay that he was a beekeeper. The admissions officers remembered him because one of them was an apiarist and this was supposedly the reason my Dad got in. Now this is neither here nor there, but even if it’s not true it holds an important lesson: things that are unique about you stick out. Things that are the same about you don’t.

Not that it’s really bad to stick out or blend in. We all need to be able to do both sometimes. But for the last month I’ve been counseling a girl in what her so-called “beekeeping” is. I’ve been working with her to fine-tune her essays. I’ve been helping her study vocab. I’ve been making her read stories that I didn’t read until after graduating college (whoops) that she’s been a good sport about trying to get through. I’ve reread stories from early high school with her. We’re working on it, and she’s working hard, and she’s making a lot of progress.

It’s a new year, and I went to see her again today. Not much has changed. I took the same route. I dressed the same way. The weather was much the same. People act like there’s a magic around New Year, but there’s not, really. The same way that 2016 is behind us, so is everything. So is pre-8pm January 1st for me. Every second is behind us. And yet here I am still, writing on my blog.

Last year I had 14 goals for 2016, and I completed 10. While (only slightly) inebriated, I came up with a list for 2017 that is much the same. Read 12 books. Dance when I feel like it. Try to self improve.

And Jesus. When I think the world is against me, think about if I had had to share my grad school essays with my mother, and if grad school had required a parent statement.

The First Biggest Mistake I Made in Writing

Hint: It’s talking about how you feel

Alternate title: A mistake I made in writing that I was made aware of before being aware of other preexisting issues with my writing such as clichés, overuse of commas, and not-goodness.

There are more things that writers do wrong than right. This is why drafts exist. At least my drafts. My drafts are a blood battle. I prefer to edit with actual paper instead of on a computer, and by the time I’m finished my poor draft is bruised yellow and dotted with blood, like I’ve stabbed it in the heart several times and fished around for its insides to paint around my door in order to save my firstborn.

So eventually I just stop re-reading my work. There’s a lot of advice on this, between first and second draft. One “official writer” (I say these words here because they, unlike me, are qualified to write through some program or another, whereas I have only the professional experience of my inner sadist, an internet forum, and two creative writing classes) told me that in an introductory course he would recommend that a writer only save about 25% of the original work in their second draft.

So all that blood and sweat and all those tears that I had spent on my first draft of this thing for college – 75% of that was supposed to be gone? I was just supposed to go through and slash at random?

Later, a different professor told me the opposite. In an introductory class he would have students change about 25%, leaving 75% of the original piece.

Confusing. Conflicting. Confounding.

This is not really the point of this post, I just like going off on tangents. The point of this post is that one time in college I worked very hard on a short story with an actual plot (and it ended up having like three plots and being 18 pages long instead of ten, in the end). As far as I remember it had to do with some guy named John, who had lost his job but was still getting up for work and dressing and shaving and grabbing his briefcase and letting his wife drive him to the train station every morning, because he didn’t want to face the humiliation of his wife finding out he had been laid off. And then he would go downtown and walk by his office building, and he would look up at it and then he would go get a sandwich at a deli and read a book and look at his finances, and his wife called him on his cell phone saying she couldn’t reach him at work and he’d say that his secretary was out sick or something and they’d talk and she’d know something was wrong by the tone in his voice, but he’d refused to say it. And then he went home and his mother-in-law was there or something and his daughter was there and his daughter was one of those punk fifteen year olds and he (the man’s) work had called him (the man) at home and asked when he was picking up his things, and the daughter used this as leverage, and it all spilled out at a big family dinner setting and in the end I think John woke up one morning and looked in the mirror and his wife looked at him in the reflection and she said something like, “Tomorrow will be better,” or something, and then it ended.

So I turned in my first draft of this story and it came back with edits from my professor, because we only did a round-table edit for the second draft, and the professor had highlighted many a verb throughout my writing and written in block letters off to one side of the margins.

If you need to tell us how your character feels, then you have already lost.

I think about this a lot when I’m trying to decide whether to write “It felt stupid and embarrassing to have to sit in front of her mother and a tutor, while her mother explained exactly what was wrong with her and insulted her and called her names” vs. “Her face turned red and her hands balled up, that stinging in her eyes that she thought would mean crying soon, and holding back that stinging as her mother explained to her tutor all of the problems she (main character) had made on the test and how incompetent she (main character) was, doing it in front of the tutor like she (the main character) wasn’t even there.”

The point is, in writing I try to never feel. This is contradictory, because I feel a lot. If I were a weathervane of emotions, I would be set a spinning and never stop, most likely. When I write a character I have a lucky knack for knowing how that character feels. In real life I feel deeply, and cuts scar and scare me. When a character feels pain, I know that pain. When a character feels lost, I sympathize with that feeling of lostness that is so hard to put into words.

But I don’t put “Sarah felt sad” or “Sarah felt lonely” or “John felt empty”. At least I don’t anymore. Which is strange, because in real life I have such trouble identifying my own emotions that I pay sometime to sit with me while I go through a list and say “This makes me feel hopeless, and tense, and confused”. If you’ve never seen the big list of emotion words that therapists use, it looks something like this but it’s just four sheets of front-and-back paper with headers like anger and beneath that other, more specific words for anger like hateful or loathing or furious or irritated. So you go through this list and you pick your emotions and you say “I feel blah” and your therapist writes that down and then says “Well where does the ‘blah’ come from?” at least if your therapist is my therapist. And if you’re me, you sit there for a long time staring at this one part of the carpet that’s coming loose in a corner of the office, and maybe you end up explaining something and sometimes you (I) just don’t know why I feel that way.

The problem of our characters is they don’t get to just sit there and spell out their emotions. Unfortunately for us writers, we have to find clever and creative ways to feel how someone is feeling. And in turn this can make us rageful, which according to wordpress isn’t a word.

It was hard, going through my short story about John and his lost job, and trying to come up with clever ways to ‘show and not tell’ that John was feeling helpless, or that John was feeling sad, or that John was feeling worthless because he couldn’t find a job.

The last few days in my life I haven’t been feeling much. Or in other words, I’ve been feeling so much that it all comes together in some cacophony that I can’t really put my finger on, all these words that I ‘feel’, because I have all these things I had wanted to do before New Year and now those things will likely not happen, like read 200 more pages of a book and finish knitting a blanket, I wanted those to be 2016 things and not 2017 things, or a mix of the two things. But a lot of people are asking me how I’m feeling lately, and so sometimes I just want to say that I’m a character in a book, because this is kind of how I feel:

Imagine that I am a coffee cup. Just like the one that you have in your cabinet. I’m taken out every day and put on the edge of the counter while coffee is carefully ground and water is carefully heated. I’m not really acknowledged or noticed, I just sit there because the only work I have to do is to a) hold coffee or tea and b) be washed and put away when I’m finished. There’s no care that goes into me, really, and I’m fine with that. I just sit on the counter, waiting for the coffee to be ready.

But one day someone comes and accidentally knocks me over with their elbow while I am sitting on my counter, and I fall on the ground and break into three pieces. It’s not that bad, so I’m just glued back together using some superglue (maybe my owners are not exactly spendthrifts) and then put back on my shelf, and that’s okay. There are little breaks in me, but they’re mostly glued up now so I can go back to just being me, and existing in this world.

But I keep breaking. And each time it is harder, because there are more pieces and cracks to glue back together. And before the glue sets, something else happens, and my parts just slide out of place again. Coffee now spills out of little cracks that no one can see, so I’m used less. There’s an invisibility about me, the broken coffee cup, in that I’m like, brought out for parties or sometimes when all the other mugs are dirty. But I’m just a cup. And I just keep breaking. And eventually one day I break and someone steps on me, and instead of little pieces of ceramic I am just ceramic dust. And there’s nothing to do with ceramic dust except sweep it up and throw it away and make sure you don’t get any microscopic pieces stuck in the heel of your foot while you walk around your kitchen.

And that is how I feel. If I was with my therapist I could say I feel broken. But broken doesn’t quite begin to cover it. Nor should one word be sufficient to describe how a character feels. Because there is no way to really experience being a neglected coffee cup until you are one. There is no way to become a dusted unread book, or to fight against feeling worthless and unusable, unless and until you feel it yourself. Coffee cup analogies or no.

So the first rule of writing I learned was completely in juxtaposition with my real life. Don’t tell us how a character feels. I think it’s for a lot of reasons. That ‘telling not showing’ adage that writers croon about so often, as well as the fact that readers like a little mystery.

So don’t tell us how your character feels, but tell us how you feel.

And if you find yourself relating more to a broken coffee cup than you do to people around you, maybe you need to ask for help.