1. janice says

    I just want to say that I’ve been reading past responses to the writing prompts here and am pleased that some of you respond to other writings. I gave up writing here because it seemed no one cared and it was simply a rough draft for myself. Sometimes I need feedback–and I never got it here.

    • Ilana says

      Janice- I’m so sorry you felt that way. I, too, eagerly await feedback here and am sad when my posts take a while to draw comments. Thanks for the reminder. I will put more effort into supporting others here. IM

    • says

      Over the past months this blog has grown into a wonderful supportive community of writers. I am glad you came back for another look and hope that you will want to join in the exchange.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Hi Janice, I am also sorry that you felt this way. Life is super-busy for so many–personal lives, work, running a business, children, caring for ailing parents, and still fighting for precious time for ourselves. It’s not personal. I do know for myself that this community embraces people. Sorry for the cliche but I guess it’ll take a little more time. Take care.

  2. Linnie says

    Maybe it’s not exactly what the ‘assignment’ is about, but here’s my ‘Watch Me’ story.

    I’m fat. I was a fat kid, a fat teen and I’ve grown into a fat woman. Society has developed rules to deal with fat people. We need to work harder, be nicer, and take any comment, good or bad, with equal grace and style. We must always look our best and wear the right clothes. (God forbid someone ever catches you in a tracksuit outside the gym) When we are ever caught out of breath, it’s because we’re fat. We are not allowed to stand out in any other way. (We are fat and need to apologise for that at all times) And most of all, we can not eat in public.
    Yeah right. For years I lived by these rules. If you want to call that living.
    Until I had my wake up call. I started buying pretty bright yellow, pink and purple clothes. I started singing, solo! I act like a clown or a kid when out and about. If anyone tries to degrade me because I’m fat, I have a humoristic reply at the ready. And you can bet your ass it’s sharp.
    I dance and sing in the street if I feel like it. I eat ice cream and burgers if I want to. And when I see a sour face with mouth half opened to say something I just throw them my biggest smile.
    Want to degrade me? Try me.
    Want me to conform? Watch me!

    • Ilana says

      Woo hoo! I want to stand up and cheer! Thank you Linnie- What a great way to start my day. With such a positive and self loving attitude. Good for you! As I have taught my children, and they have turned around and taught me, how a person looks is deeply affected by how they act. “If you are nice then it comes out your eyes and makes you pretty. If you are mean then it comes out your eyes and makes you ugly.” Anyway, thanks for starting my day right! IM

    • says

      Linnie – we often have the hardest time overcoming that internal critic on the journey to our authentic selves. Thanks for sharing your unique perspective with us!

    • Terry Gibson says

      I also love this, Linnie. Sometimes it seems that those ideas are written in stone and will torture us forever. When I see young girls starving themselves, it makes me so sad and angry–at the media, not the young women. Good for you! I’m happy you are feeling good about yourself! You deserve that as much as any other person. Enjoy!

  3. Fran Stekoll says

    My attitude towards others who have said I can’t was never say never.
    One Christmas eve, I was given a box of 35 millameter films taken by my
    x-husbands father of our 3 children of every Christmas since their birth.They
    were now grown with their own families. He presented me with that box and
    said” you can’t possibly have these films transferred into video cassettes by
    tonight.” I replied, ” Don’t ever say never to me!” I promptly took the box of
    films to our local Bay Photo store. The proprietor had a Santa Hat on. I asked him if he was Santa? He said what do you need. I told him I needed
    all these 35 mm films transferred to videos by tonight. He said .”Do You Believe in Santa?””Of course I do,”,was my reply. At 4pm I picked up the video which also contained sub titles and music. After all gifts had been exchanged I asked everyone in my family to gather around the TV. I put the
    VCR in. The look on my x-husbands face and the excitement on our grown childrens plus their children(my grandchildrens was priceless) Never say never. I can’t , You’ll never, to me!!!!

  4. Josh Fattal says

    “Get a horse.” He looked serious even though I had no idea how to ride a horse. “Get a horse. And get some country music radio stations to sponsor you. You’re young and urban, you’ll be a novelty. There is no way you’re going to make it across country with a bicycle. Go get a horse.”

    I imagined upping the ante on what already seemed a difficult enterprise. Taking my bicycle would be hard, but I felt confident—confident enough to go solo even after my friends decided not to go across country anymore. But learning to acquiring a horse, learning to ride, and then jostling up and down on the saddle for the remained of my trip—3400 miles—seemed even more impossible to me.

    To him it was obviously to opposite. The horse would have been the easy route, pedaling the remnant thousands of miles was impossible. I tried to order a drink using my older brother’s ID. But the man giving me advice at the bar jumped in, “Another round!” then he rung a bell that was hanging over the end of the bar.

    The rest of the bar attendees erupted into cheer. “The bell!!! Someone rung the bell!” The bartender got to work pouring beers for everyone there, and general raucus ensued. This was not the first time the bell had been rung tonight, and not the first time the ringer sponsored a round for the whole bar. And people had been ordering their own alcohol, so nobody in the joint was sober.

    We talked about compost, horses, and bike mechanics. As the night wore down, we said good night, and he repeated his advice. “Remember kid, just get a horse!” I turned back at him, gave him a merry smile and said, “watch me.”

  5. Frances Lesenski Talamantes says

    I was new in town and went to a writers group in the “upscale area” that was open to every one.
    They were nice group and they told me to bring my writing to the next meeting.
    I brought my work and read it to the group. It was a humor piece. Well, no one laughed and 1 person made the comment, yes, that can happen on the phone. No one invited me back or even talked to me.
    I was upset by their reaction. Could my piece have really been that bad? I did think about it for days. I felt that the piece was funny so I gave it, in the form of a speech to my Toastmasters group. Well, they loved it and I ended up winning my groups humorous speech contest and went on to the regionals final.
    I felt to heck with that 1st group. I was so glad I did what I did for it helped me keep my self confidence. Never again will I let people erode how I feel about me.

    • Ilana says

      That was awesome! I’m so pleased to hear that you did not let that one group take away your gift. I was in a group once that gave so much negative feedback that they managed to kill my spirit. I was unable to write for a long time. Go you! And thank you for the inspiration.

  6. Debbie says

    “You could never make it ‘out there’ on your own” How many times did I hear this over the ten years of my marriage? Usually followed soon thereafter by “No one will ever love you again like I do!” At first I believed him. He was older and seemed to know so much more than me. I just accepted that he was right. After all, I was barely eighteen when we married after a year of dating.

    But as the psychological, emotional and sexual abuse eroded and decayed whatever relationship had originally existed, it struck me one day that I was not going to “make it” at all if something didn’t drastically change. My will to live was sucked dry and my love of life gone barren. I remember this time well and, because of it, more deeply understand how long one will stay in an unbearable situation versus risk the uncertainty of change and the unknown it brings. For me, it was standing on the precipice between life and death. In that moment of decision, the will to live welled up in me and I decided to base my life on “I Can!” versus “I Can’t”.

    I am so grateful for all of the blessings and gifts that have come into my life since that time. Yes, there was hard work, mistakes and empty bank accounts since that day. I have experienced being broke but never again as poor as I was when surrounded by creature comforts without any soul life. And, over time, I have been granted the opportunity to integrate a level of financial comfort into my continuing journey of personal development. He could not have been more wrong about my abilities to “make it on my own”!

    Conversely, he was exactly on target with the second comment “None one will ever love you again like I do”. No one has since nor will anyone ever treat me in such way under the guise of “love” or any other disguise. That’s the good news.

    The unfortunate part is that there are still traps and potholes of past history, partially disguised over time that I still fall into, impaling my heart on the bones of past cruelties. I have not overcome all of my fears, though I have faced many. True vulnerability is an experience that can set every ounce of my being to trembling uncontrollably. My inability to sustain deep intimacy a key issue in the slow demise of my long term relationship.

    I do not consider myself a failure but, rather, a curious mix of strengths and weaknesses. I am entering a new chapter of my life where there is no “other” to blame, count on, push against or use in defining who I am. When I look in the mirror, there is only me. What happens now is more completely in my hands than any other time in my life.

    I am just at the beginning of understanding of what this means; the possibilities and pitfalls it lays before me. Watch Me!

    • Ilana says

      Wow! I love it! No one will ever love you the way he did. My favorite line, though, is how you describe yourself. “A curious mix of strengths and weaknesses.” So well put. It is accepting and self loving. Right now, though, it’s the strengths that are most visible. Your writing, especially in the past couple of weeks, has felt so liberating. Thank you for sharing that power with me. IM

  7. Terry Gibson says

    Hi Laura and everyone. I apologize for the length of this. I’ve been working at chipping it down and polishing it. Couldn’t wait any longer to post though.
    “Never. Don’t do it,” my roommate Gilles said. “You’re not right for it.”
    Oh yeah? I thought. You negative pompous man, you. Okay, he was right about one thing. Height was not an endowment of mine. Like the whole family, I was born of short and stocky stature. So what? I wouldn’t let his quick judgment decide for me. You are wrong, Gilles.

    A week later, his words still bugged me but I had a job interview. I did not show him personally, but I did prove it to myself. I was so excited because I needed work; I was also extremely nervous. With money in hand, I went to the Bay. It was seventy minutes before my appointment. I wore a pair of light-coloured dress pants and a crisp white blouse. With only one pair of shoes to my name (runners), I had to get another pair.

    “May I help you?” a young sales woman asked, dropping the store’s flyer on the checkout counter.

    “I’ll be okay, thanks,” I said. My eyes scanned the four rows of footwear. They made them in blue? Green. Black. That was it. Black would go with anything. Admiring the shoe’s design, I inhaled the patent-leather. They were sexy.

    There was no need to try them on; they were size eight-and-a-half, exactly what I wore. With a modest three-inch heel, they were just perfect to boost my confidence to second-floor windows of any building. I could just see it: I was vamping up the catwalk, towering over other women who cursed me. The crowd gasped and exhaled gushes of appreciation. My new inner strength had made me a star.

    Fifteen minutes later, I ran across the busy street and rushed into the Bentall Centre. I was so excited. I hopped the short up-escalator to my right and went directly to the women’s room. I stood in the doorway, clinging to my bag, and noticed a good-looking man sitting in the window at Grab-A-Brew, a tiny coffee bar, situated directly opposite me. The aroma of Java was so alluring, I promised myself a steaming hot cup in just a few minutes.

    I was so glad nobody else was inside. I locked myself in the large stall and removed my light jacket. Putting toe-to-heal, I shed my New Balance runners and grabbed my bag. I took off my pants and gently hung them over the coat hook, then ripped open the pantyhose pack. Off went the socks too. I donned the sheer hose and remembered how many times I cursed those things. However, this could be no half-assed presentation: I had to look impressive from head to toe.

    Time check. Forty minutes.

    I put my pants back on and then used the toilet seat as a chair. I lifted the shoebox lid and peered in through the crack. Suddenly, I imagined a Disney movie, where the brilliant white light set off by the shiny new heels, blinded me for a few seconds. I felt so dazed and vacant at that moment, I was sure that to any spectator, I reflected a post-sex double ‘B’–blissful and blank–even though my movie was only PG.

    Wow! I was going to look good. But wait. As I bent down to slip on the second shoe, my pantyhose decided to run to the coffee shop ahead of me. Lovely. Thank God, I was wearing pants.

    I walked around. My feet kept sliding down the bunny-hill slope, which rammed my toes tightly into the ample padding. I did not worry though because I had no choice but to wear them; it was either that or be a no-show. I checked my hair in the mirror, took a deep breath, and stepped outside.

    This time, a well-dressed woman sat in the window sipping from a red mug. She looked up from the Courier newspaper and surveyed me. I averted my eyes and stood frozen like a popsicle for what seemed an eternity. Was she was laughing? She thought I looked ridiculous. I backed up fast and returned to the washroom. In the mirror, I saw the embarrassed flush of my cheeks and the sweat on my face. This was a full-on panic attack. I paced the length of the room while studying my feet. I had an idea! I locked myself in a stall again and sat down. The toilet paper dispenser squealed, as I yanked off reams of the stuff. I squished these into a ball and stuffed them deep into each shoe. I paced again, aware that my feet ached. They were way too big!

    What was I going to do? I grabbed more paper and stuffed it in the heel of the shoes. This was so awkward. My toes were killing me. Suddenly, I remembered why I couldn’t skate: I had weak ankles! I checked the paper in the heels and realized that, with the length of my dress pants, they might see the stuffing. I could not use any there. Okay. Now what? I pulled everything out of the back and crammed all of it in the front.

    Time check. Fifteen minutes.

    I had to go. I sucked in one deep breath and walked outside. I assumed an attitude as I marched proudly passed Grab-A-Brew. I felt like a 95-year old woman on roller skates. I clung to the escalator for dear life. Please, I thought, don’t let me catch a heel and fall. The last thing I needed was to draw more attention to myself. I hobbled and wobbled my way through the twenty paces to the elevator. With six to go, I barely corrected myself before twisting over on my right ankle. Crisis averted.

    On the fourteenth floor, I checked in and searched the secretary’s face for any signs of mirth. If I saw a trace of a smile at the corners of her mouth, I blocked it out. I sat down and flipped through Time magazine.

    “Miss Gibson?” said Gwen, the interviewer. “This way, please.”

    I stood up and offered her a worried smile. She was the woman from the coffee bar. Oh my God. Did she remember me? I was so rattled by then that she had to see what a wreck I was. As I followed her, my feet slid like on ice and my ankles were so unsteady, I strained every single ligament in an effort to not fall. I wished I had on my thick winter socks. At the entrance to her elegant office, she met my glance.

    “After you,” she said, motioning me through the door.

    “No thank you,” I replied. “After you.” I could not walk in front of her. My emotions hovered somewhere between tears and a compulsion to burst out laughing.

    “It’s okay,” she said. “Go ahead.”

    This would have got really awkward if the exchange continued. So, I summoned everything in me and relented. I tiptoed ahead of her, and practically crumpled my resume from the stress. Somewhere, a phone rang and I jumped visibly. I then stood dumbfounded. Her office attire consisted of a nice suit, pantyhose, and sneakers!

    How I wanted to kill Gilles at that second for daring me to wear heels. As I scanned the horizon, a chair presented itself and I collapsed in it; I felt like a ghost of my usual pale self. Wake up, I thought. I heard the door close behind us. Gwen walked around her desk and sat facing me. I re-channelled my grit and feigned calm. I even smoothed out my resume. Savouring that second of refuge, I laughed inside about my sexy high-heel adventure.

    “Now, Miss Gibson,” Gwen began, “. . . what kind of job are you looking for?”

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Laura! I had great fun writing it the last few days. PS: True story. But don’t tell a soul.
        Been loving your blog. Stay safe, happy and at peace, k? Looking forward to seeing you next month. :)

    • Beverly Boyd says

      I have to admit, I am curious? What kind of job WERE you looking for?
      Whether or not you got a job, I say kudos for literally “stepping out of you comfort zone” and didn’t let your housemate keep you from doing it.
      Also I really liked the way you came back to the elapsed time, helping to create that sense of urgency and being against the clock.

    • Ilana says

      Very powerful. I’m so glad you shared it with us in its entirety. It is a triumph in its own right. Whether you got the job or not. I’ll hold onto this the next time I find myself feeling that way. Thank you for sharing, IM

    • Debbie says

      Terry – great story and what fun!! It reminds me of once when I had Plantar Fascitis which caused tremendous heel pain. I had orthotics made but they only fit my athletic shoes. At the time I had a “office job” which I thought required me to wear dress shoes. Swallowing my pride before the pain of walking, I decided to wear my athletic shoes every day, if needed, until I could walk again. To my surprise – I started noticing all of the other women who wore these types of shoes every day that I never seen before!! Amazing, isn’t it how much what we see is impacted by our perceptions as much as our actual vision?? Thanks for sharing the unedited version.

  8. Ilana says

    I Could Have Been Thinking “Just Watch Me” but I wasn’t.

    “Graduate school.” For years the words seemed to float in the back of my mind like a cloud of smoke that I could never actually touch. When I reached for it my fingers slipped right through. I always wanted it and it was expected of me but I knew I’d never get there. I just didn’t deserve it, wasn’t smart enough. Graduate school was for other people. It was my little secret that I’d never actually get there. I kept plugging away, though. No one needed to know that I would eventually be derailed. Sometimes I even thought I’d get there myself.

    I did everything I could to grab at that cloud of smoke. I studied every minute I wasn’t in class or sleeping. I did an internship and worked with a survivor of torture the summer after my freshman year in college. I even published an article in a psychological journal. Maybe it was going to happen for me after all. Just to be sure, though, I kept pushing. I did a research practicum; spider and blood phobias. Surrounded by brilliant, PhDs-to-be I was holding on by a thread. The anxiety was eating me up from the inside as I fought to keep it hidden. I sat through lectures barely keeping it together but I knew that I had to.

    My fiancé, Alex, graduated in May of 1996. I had one more year and it was expected that I’d go on to graduate school from there. I studied all summer for the GRE. It felt like I was running as hard as I could and those three giant letters were chasing me. I had to stay ahead of them or they’d catch me and I’d fail. I kept running. I was going to push through it. The same way I pushed through the tests. The same way I pushed through the lectures. I kept the fear hidden, under the surface. He certainly couldn’t know about it. His girlfriend had to be normal, an achiever. As it was, he strongly disapproved of my chosen area of study. Who am I kidding? He disapproved of me. I constantly had to justify myself to him. The one thing he was looking forward to was when I graduated with my PhD and became Dr. Boyed. He liked the sound of his own name that way. I had no idea when he was going to make me Mrs. Boyed but one impossible dream at a time.

    He came into town the weekend of my GRE. By that point I had been studying more 8 hours a day. It was almost over, though. Four hours of testing and I’d be through it. That morning I woke up early, washed my hair and dressed in comfortable clothes. He made me a healthy breakfast and gave me a kiss for luck. I was off to the GRE. I stared guessing in the first logic section. By the fourth section of the test the letters started moving around on the page and I couldn’t breathe. The walls were closing in on me. Fleeing the room, I fell down the stairs and collapsed into a sobbing mess. As luck would have it Alex had come to the building where the test was being given. He was going to surprise me when I was done. He surprised me, alright. Then he broke up with me. “Explain to me why I should stay with you now, after this.” Somehow I succeeded. He changed his mind but I still needed to be punished. Two day’s silent treatment, complete with disapproving glares was my sentence. That took care of the rest of his visit. By the time he left I felt like an ex-con.

    My test scores were canceled and it was decided I would take the next one. It meant putting of graduate school for a year because the scores wouldn’t be available in time for the applications. We invented some sort of lie to tell his parents. “Anxiety disorder” was just not an acceptable problem for his girlfriend to have. Whatever the lie was, they disapproved of it. “You can’t put of graduate school. If you don’t do it now you’ll never go back.”
    They were wrong, I did. But not before breaking up with Alex Boyed. I got registered with the American’s With Disabilities and took the test again with special accommodations. I submitted four applications; two rejections and two letters of acceptance. Good enough. I went to graduate school. I knew because of my disorder I would have to take it slow but I could handle that. Three years instead of two but I was almost there. I was going to make it.
    On February 13, 2001, at 11:30pm, graduation went back to being an intangible puff of smoke. That morning I had been studying Freud and the next I was fighting for my life. It was a cerebral aneurysm. Of course I had to drop out of school. Instead of returning to class, I had emergency brain surgery, two days in a coma and two weeks in the ICU. I had to learn to move my face again, open my eyes, open my mouth. Freud was going to have to wait.

    As I lay in that hospital bed I heard Alex’s voice again. “If you don’t do it now you’ll never go back.” I believed him but he was still wrong. One year and four months later I walked down the aisle to pomp and circumstance. I could have been thinking “I’ll never go back huh? Just watch me.” But I wasn’t. My ex-fiancé was the furthest thing from my mind. This was mine, all mine and what he thought had nothing to do with it.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, I feel so much reading this! I am so sorry that man made you feel so awful about yourself. Because of my background, I ended up with guys like that, who berated me for so many things. Also, I am so happy you recovered; it was obviously an incredible display of tenacity and courage. Of course, in a situation like that, what can we do but fight to heal? I’m in awe of you!

      About finishing grad school, I’m so happy for you! I never finished school because I was either having horrible panic attacks about being ‘graded,’ having to speak up and out in class, and having to do presentations for everyone, or harming myself out of sheer self-hatred. I’d go back for the third time, but a single course is about $800 and that is a great deal to me. I still hope to one day do it. I want to show myself that I really am smart and good enough. Deep down, it’s still really hard to truly believe that. I never stop learning though–reading, challenging myself, following a homemade ‘syllabus’ or plan of study.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Terry- I almost didn’t post this week. It was a rough week for me, one of my worst yet. I’m glad I did. I can relate to all of the things that kept you from finishing school. They were issues for me too. I hope that my victory can be of some support to you. It CAN be done. I’m not finished yet. That was my Master’s degree and to do anything in psych I need a PhD. Now a new set of obstacles stand in front of me and I don’t know if/when I will overcome them. But perhaps I should listen to my own words. “It CAN be done.” Thanks again for your comments and support. IM

        • Terry Gibson says

          I hope your week improves, Ilana. It feels good for me to share how learning in a school environment is so severely impacted by abuse. I went from 90s in most everything, to an almost fail in several courses. Another blow, as it obviously felt to you as well.

          • Ilana says

            So true. It works in the reverse too. With the support I received, coming back to school after the aneurysm, I graduated with straight As. Not that I didn’t have to work like hell but I was used to that and the support made it possible as well as profitable. I wish you (no, both of us) the show of love and support I remember from that difficult year.

        • Debbie says

          Ilana – I am also so glad you made the decision to post. I can really identify with the feeling of just wanting to “pass” on the effort of writing, and self-disclosure. Especially over the past few weeks when so much has been shifting and changing in my world. What I have realized, however, is that one of the most healthy outlets I have found for my strong emotions, self-destructive thoughts and tendencies – has been in the sharing of this community. You, and others, have received my pain with grace and kindness. That beats the heck out of most of my other “coping” mechanisms!! Thanks for finding the strength, yet again, to grow and inspire us in the meantime.

          • Ilana says

            Debbie- Thank you for your kind thoughts. I too feel inspired by your words. You and others in this community teach me so much and give me such strength. IM

  9. Bobbie Anne says

    When I was younger I was told by my father and boys at school that I couldn’t do a lot of things because I was a girl. I could play soccer well. In fact, I was asked to go on a traveling team. My parents said no because I had to take care of my younger brother. I was told girls couldn’t read fantasy or science fiction. I read books like that because they were more interesting to me than the romance novels. The last straw for me was I was told girls couldn’t lift weights and work out. Why, they would develop muscles. That was the prevailing thought back then. Well, I decided to use the boy’s weight room in ninth grade. I followed a book on working out for males. I was the first girl ever to lift weights and bench press ninety pounds. Most of the boys couldn’t do that! One of the coaches told me I looked ‘pretty foxy’. I repled I was working out for health reasons. He told me most of the boys couldn’t lift those weights. I told him if they tried, they could. It wasn’t a big deal.

    • says

      Sometimes just hearing that we can’t provides the inspiration to stretch ourselves in new ways. Because of pioneers like you “typical” gender roles are less rigid than they used to be creating new possibilities for us all.

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