Monday, January 8, 2018

Special Something

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: The Danger of Undeserved Power
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At Morris High, they were it. The ones to be. Christina wasn't sure how it happened, and she didn't precisely care. Other kids watched them to know what to wear, how to talk, where to be. She and her crew. They were the what, how, where. Why? Because.

After a while, Christina believed it was the way it should be.

When new girl, Tae, got introduced in third period Bio on a Wednesday in February, it was a point of interest, not concern.

Christina, being magnanimous, and appreciating the ambitious vintage Converse/ skirt combo Tae chose for her first day, welcomed the new comer after class. She was popular, but she wasn't a heathen.

"Hi, welcome to Morris. Mr. Novac is a dick, but he'll go easy on you, since you're the new kid."

Tae looked at her. "I don't need anyone to go easy on me."

They stared, and Tae pushed past, her Converse squeaking on the polished tile.

Christina gaped. Did Tae understand the gravity of what she'd done? Did she know she committed social suicide in less than a half a day? Becoming aware she stared after Tae in the middle of a bustling hallway, Christina looked around. Kids plowed along, giving her sideways glances.

She couldn't interpret those glances, not like normal. Like the school band, Christina felt out of tune enough to notice and for the whole melody to grate the ears. What were the glances trying to tell her? Were those looks giving her deference? Pity? Admiration? The faces flowed by, and they had no meaning. Worse, some of the kids didn't look at her at all. Christina put a hand to her stomach. 

"Hey, 'tina." Emma's voice chimed right behind her.

Christina whipped around.

Em's face scrunched in. "What's wrong?"

"The new girl's a bitch, and we hate her."

Without so much as a question, Em nodded.


Weeks passed, and the warfare escalated. Christina even felt a bit sorry for Tae. But then she remembered those glances in the hallway, how the kids had made her feel pitied, or worse, something to ignore. It was Tae's fault. Who comes into a high school mid senior year, and is bitchy day one? Who does that? Well, Tae, that's who. And this is what it gets you. 

Except... Tae wasn't participating. Infuriating beyond belief, Tae seemed immune to their daggered glances, their cutting comments about her body, little pranks Em found so amusing. It might be time to take it up a notch. The girls had been talking about it last night. Some of the ideas they’d come up with were really horrible. Horrible in a perfect kind of way.

Em and Abby’s shoulders brushed Christina's as they walked three-wide down the hallway. Each held a textbook to their chests, displaying the French manicures they decided were the look of the week. Girls passed by on either side, their nails hot pink with lime green tips, causing Em and Abby to smirk. That was so last week.

Christina searched the hallways for Tae. Distressingly, Christina noted it was getting easier to find her. Why? She had an increasingly large number of people around her at all times. Tae laughed a lot, and was loud. It was obnoxious.

Ah. There she was. 


WHAT was happening? Michael Polowski had his arms around Tae's shoulders. Christina seethed. Michael was asking her to prom any day. He was hers. She stopped. Naturally, her girls stopped with her, causing a bottleneck in the middle of the hall. Em glanced between the two enemies. 

Abby, never one to let a silence stand, called out, "What're you doing with that hoe bag, Mike?"

Christina couldn't've said it better. Tae's nails were black. Damn it! That was next week's color, now Christina was going to have to revise the schedule. She would not have kids thinking she was following Tae's Conversed footsteps.

Enraged, Christina walked up to the group. Her girls followed perfectly on either side of her. 

With Mike's arm still around her shoulders, Tae smiled. "That, like, a prey response? Make yourself bigger to scare away the predator?"

What the eff was the hoe bag talking about? And, wait, was Tae the predator in that analogy?

Christina stalked up to her, anger clouding all her thoughts. She'd never been in a fight before. The angry part of her was cheerleading, do it, do it, do it... wipe that smirk right off--

Christina came wide with a punch. Tae swatted it away, but Christina was already coming in, no thought to what she doing, only to hurt.

Then she was down on the ground, staring up at Tae, who had her Converse planting Christina to the ground. There was enough force on her chest to prevent her getting up, not enough to prevent her breathing. Stunned, she lay there.

Tae leaned down, her black nailed-hands draping over her bent knee, and her brown eyes inches from Christina's face. "Let's be clear." 

Everything had stopped. The hallway had taken on a hush. Everyone was watching this. Tears sprang to Christina's eyes. Where was Em? Abby?

Christina had hit her head on the way to the floor, she was sure of it. Her body was numb all over.

What was happening? Tae's eyes were changing, the pupils going oblong, the iris' slanting.

Christina tried to draw a deeper breath, to clear the illusion. The Converse prevented it.

Tae whispered, "All your power is borrowed, baby. I’m taking some back."

Abruptly, the weight pulled back from her chest, and Christina took a deep gulp of air. She struggled to her feet. Em and Abby stood there, stunned. Christina wiped the tears away and walked off. Around her, she had more attention than she'd ever gotten. More heads turned her way, more whispers. But there were other things, too. Snickers. Laughter.

Christina swallowed. Something had been taken from her. She didn’t have the name for what it was.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Oh God, how did this happen? I might be a morning person...

I've never been a morning person. My mom knew when I was a little kid, just don't speak to me. That's been changing over the past couple of years. The first inkling I had that I could possibly convert to the dark side (the happy, bright-eyed bunch of weirdos who truly enjoy getting up before the sun) was doing my first #Whole30 program. I won't even lie; it was strange. Without carb hangovers, needing daily antihistamines, and gluten-fog, I was waking up before my alarm. Not in a oh-my-God-why-can't-I-sleep kind of way, but in a hey-I'm-ready-to-start-my-day-let's-do-this way. I promise you, that had never in the history of me happened.

And, oddly, it was cool.

I've been working with business coach since May of 2017, and while I primarily decided to hire a coach for our dog training business, I also tacked on the curve ball of telling the coach, "Hey, I'm also going to publish three books next year, can you help me be accountable?" He was game.

Somewhere around September of 2017, my coach, Dave Garcia, and I had a conversation wherein I was lamenting my psychological issue surrounding setting aside time to write. Writing was extra. Writing did not food put on my table. So I felt guilty doing it, when I could be doing some productive. (So original, amiright?)

He asked how writing time made me feel. That was easy. It made me feel refreshed, accomplished...happy. He asked if writing, instead of viewing it as something superfluous, might be something more necessary. He had my attention. I'd never thought of it that way.

Then he asked me if maybe setting aside writing time, instead of viewing it as a burden might be considered a boon to other areas of my life. If, ultimately, giving myself the gift of writing time would make me a happier person, a more attentive wife, a more focused business owner.

Yes, to all the things. My husband would comment about how much happier I was when I'd had time to write. It was a very noticeable difference.

All of a sudden, an internal switch flipped and I decided that I had to make writing a priority. But when?

Along with coaching, I'd been doing a good amount of self-development reading. The Miracle Morning, The Power of Full Engagement, Extreme Ownership, among others. I think around the time I was having the 'can I really give myself permission to write' conversation, I was reading The Power of Full Engagement. In short, I had been telling myself to write at night. Close up the business shop at a reasonable hour, and give myself the evening. This just wasn't working, and I was getting frustrated with myself with my 'will power' problem. I had the time. I just wasn't using it.

Full Engagement is about recognizing that humans have natural ebbs and flows of energy and just because you set aside family time after a twelve hour work day, doesn't mean your family time is going to be good time. That's what was happening with setting aside writing time at night. I was already sapped. My energy was gone for the day, my mind was swirling with business. So what other options did I have? Getting up earlier....pfft. No way. That's straight up crae-crae. Immediate dismissal of the idea.

But then I considered it. Really considered it. I wanted to write. I needed more time to work on launching a second career as an author. And what I was doing wasn't working. Like, at all. So, what the hell, I'd try it. I'd get up early the next morning and try to write in the morning. If it didn't work, it was easy enough to reset the alarm.

Except, when my alarm went off at the disturbingly early time of 7:15 am the next morning (no judgement, I own a dog training business, we work later hours... and that's the story I'm sticking to) Anyway, the alarm went off and I was happy, excited. It felt almost illicit, this hour and a half block of time I'd carved out just to write. Hubby definitely wasn't up. Even the dogs were like...what the eff are you doing, I'm going back to bed. Also... my mind wasn't yet embroiled in all the business stuff, at any rate, the office wasn't even open. I left my phone on my bedside table, didn't even touch it to check notifications. It was just me and my story.

The morning time was productive. Beyond. That, and by giving myself a creative outlet, it didn't deplete my energy. It renewed it. I was managing my energy. The irony? After a day of work, I was way more likely to have more left over at the end of the day to continue writing. And if I didn't, well then, it was ok because I'd gotten a bunch accomplished in the morning. Gone was the guilt at not doing what needed to be done. In short, it was freaking awesome and probably ranks as one of the best decisions I made last year. My alarm is now set for 6:30 Monday through Friday, and I've honestly considered going to 6:00 am. This morning time is fast becoming something sacred to me.

It's January now. Start of a new year. I've been doing this morning routine consistently for a couple months. I completed a draft of the third book in my series at 105k words doing this morning routine. I've worked on some indie author stuff. I've written blog posts and started a short story. It's been the most productive few months of my writing life. And I did it all before 9:00 am.

Pretty soon I may have to admit the truth: I've converted.