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  • Megan Sells

Updated: Nov 9, 2022


ME. I do. I'm absolutely desperate for it. I go slumming with all the other brain chemicals just to find a glimmer of that Dopamine good good. It never works, but hey maybe next time.


All of this to say, many times over the past months I have thought, "I want to update my blog today." But, as you may have been able to puzzle out, ADHD gremlins made sure I never did. The dopamine just wasn't there for me.


And you know what? Oh well.


It wasn't like I didn't write in that time. And if I had tried to force the executive functioning needed in order to meet that goal, I would have killed every creative impulse I had and would have written nothing.


This was one more lesson in releasing the guilt around how my brain works.


My time signature is my own, and it produces results. The trick is, to not compare the delivery schedule of those results with the schedules of others.


So, it's Gandalf the Grey rules around here from now on:

"A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to."

 

News!


I am participating in NANOWRIMO this month!


But, see above Gandalf rules about if I actually get a whole book done, or just make a decent amount of progress this month.


My goals are to write LIKE I'm gonna finish the book in a month, but ultimately, I'm just after fun and progress.


So, in the spirit of NANO, here is an excerpt of the FIRST DRAFT (be kind, it's very in-progress) of my new novel. First one to find a typo gets... reminded that this is a FIRST DRAFT. Basically, you're getting it raw because earlier, every time I went to update this blog, I kept stalling in analysis paralysis. Perfectionism is my favorite way to pretend I'm not procrastinating.


But I'm bored not sharing stuff with others. Also, it's dumb to let perfectionism get in the way of the messy process that is art making.


Anyway, here it is! Behold it's magnificent, clunky, early-days glory!


Novel synopsis: Max, a 30 something broke and depressed lesbian is working through major depression and family baggage when she learns that her dissociative episodes actually allow her to physically travel the multiverse (or maybe it's Time? mystery!).

 

8 Days Before

Terror gripped her as she collapsed, panting on the black cracked stone of her barracks roof, staring up into the sky at the fiery ball of rock and ice that was their doom hurtling down towards the earth. It seemed to expand, filling the sky with soot and flame.


It's too soon, she thought desperately. 17 months... they said 17 months...


Around her, the Groupers began to shriek in fear as bits of Aether gouged deep into the earth..




Max groggily realized that what she had been staring at for the last--how long had it been?--for the last while was the single piece of furniture she hated most in her apartment. It was the thrift store victorian dresser-turned-desk Henri had up-cycled in her self proclaimed “DIY Lesbian” phase.

“Oh this is just a phase for you?” Max had teased. It was fairly obviously not.

“As opposed to my current ‘Butch Lesbian’ phase. Or my former ‘Confused Former Christian Lesbian” phase. I gotta collect ‘em all,” Henri had said dryly with a wood stain brush between her teeth.

“I’m very much looking forward to the ‘Too Many Dogs Lesbian’ phase.” Max giggled and Henri shot her a mischievous grin.

That had been a good day, one of the best in fact. But there weren’t enough of them.

After Henri finally called it quits, Max had many times thought about getting rid of the ridiculous piece of furniture. The night she left, Max cleaned out of Henri’s old things from the desk and the rest of their tiny shared apartment and dropped them off in a box with Henri’s new doorman. Henri had asked to arrange a time to move the desk out of the house and into her new apartment, but Max had thrown a fit about keeping it.

“Municipal law states that anything left in the apartment after 20 days becomes mine!” Max had angrily screamed to Henri during their mediated separation meetings.


Both of their lawyers had glanced at each other with embarrassment. Not only was that not even close to accurate, it was about the 15th time they had asked Max to remain silent unless asked a direct question.

Henri had just sighed and whispered something to her lawyer and Max got to keep the desk.


Shifting her pillows to find a more comfortable angle for her arms, Max rolled her eyes.


Bitch you don’t even like it, why did you fight for it?


Many times she had started to list it for sale in her neighborhood comms channel. Many times she had decided it was time to let go. And yet, 7 months later, there it sat, piled with unopened mail, unmatched socks, and crusty half-drunk glasses of iced coffee.


The desk wasn't the only constant reminder in the room to Max of all the reasons she was a garbage person. If she ever began to forget that, all she had to do was glance at the 18 inches of dirty dishes stacked on the floor where Max had slid them under her bed instead of just taking them to the kitchen. Or smell of the moldy towel Max had dropped on the floor and then walked over for months, instead of hanging up to dry.


Other people had figured out how to move through their painful times, other people knew how to deal with their shit. But not Max. Max was broken and would never be able to do that. Even in the good times, Max always had to the choose 2 out of 3 when it came to mental stability, financial stability, and physical stability.

So, instead of solving the unsolvable, Max laid and stared.


And drifted...

Coming to at the bottom of the well that sometimes sprang up in her mind, Max treaded water and tried to remember that there were people who loved her. Intellectually she knew that to be true. But never in her life had it felt like that.

Still, she tried to remember all the things people had done for her that meant they loved her. Once, her father had set 15 alarms on his phone just so he would remember to wish Max a happy birthday on time. An introverted friend in college searched through three different loud karaoke bars just to find Max after a bad class. Her mom’s doctor, Dr. Banks, made sure to always text first before George would call her because she knew Max would need a minute to emotionally prepare.

Max used each thought as a hand hold to climb out of the well. Even if she couldn’t feel it, if she kept listing proof, she could at least live as-if she felt it. It wasn’t the same, but it was a step in the right direction.

Sometimes, climbing out in this way was not not and option. Sometimes, keeping her head above water at the bottom of her well was all she could manage. On those days it was really hard to even remember any of these little proofs. But today, things were slightly better.

Max hoped that was a good sign. She hoped that she may finally be getting better. Maybe someday, instead of treading water, she could have a raft to sit on. And then someday she could build a ladder to climb out and close the lid on that well forever. But , as if in response, in her mind, Aragorn son of Arathorn cried “But it is not this day!” And Max agreed, "someday" would not be today.


An infinity later, that same afternoon, when the shadows had reached halfway down the desk and the room was full of the golden light of a late summer sunset, Max felt her phone buzz somewhere in the bed. She felt around the the edges of the mattress, under the pillows, then she finally felt it wedged underneath the crumpled blanket her butt had been laying on.

It was Dr. Banks. Max's stomach dropped all 107 floors of her apartment building.

She hadn’t texted first. She always texts first.

Max’s anxiety lept to the worst conclusion. Fuck fuck Fuck fuck fuuucck.


She desperately tried to wrangle the anxiety in her voice. “Hey.” “Hi Maxine, this is Dr. Banks calling from Memorial Health.”


“Oh, hi.” was all Max could manage to get out.

“Oh sweetie...It sounds like you may know why I’m calling. Well, honey, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this. Last night your mother--

Max realized she had been drifting for several minutes. Hours? She looked down and saw she was on the phone with Dr. Banks. Oh, just seconds then... Max tried to remember what they were talking about.

“Maxine, honey?” said Dr. Banks.

“Yeah, hi, sorry, I uh...” Max stuttered. What was she supposed to be saying?


“Did your brain skip for a moment?” asked Dr. Banks kindly.

Max remembered that’s what Dr. Banks called her mother’s dissociative episodes, and with that, remembered why Dr. Banks was calling.

She was in her well, but this time she was not floating. This time she had weights tied to her feet and mittens on her hands, and she was scrabbling at the stone sides gaining no purchase. Max was sinking.


But she still had to answer.


“Yeah, um. I--yeah.”

“I know this is gonna be very hard for you and your dad. I will handle all the paperwork, the plan is in order. I can call your dad too, if you want... But if you can, I really think he would rather hear this from you.” said Dr. Banks.

“Ok” was all Max could manage.


Dr. Banks understood though, she knew the particular brand of baggage that plagued Max’s family very well and was used to working with it.

After they hung up, Max looked at the clock hoping it would already be too late to call her dad tonight. It was early still though, and Max knew if she didn’t do it right now, she would never do it. So, she smoked a bong, chugged her water bottle, and practiced one of her old grounding methods from when she could afford therapy.

Finally, back to treading water instead of actively sinking in her well, Max felt as ready as she would ever be.

She dialed.

As she waited for her father to answer, Max escaped her dread for a moment by wondering why the outbound ring sounded the way it did.


Why do phones make that same ring? Is it the same? I think so?


She was pretty sure that now it’s just a sound the phone company plays so that you know something is actually happening, but, somewhere at some point in the long ago past did a physical object actually make that ringing sound while the phone was connecting?


Probably not, right? It’s probably just always been the call maker hearing--

“Hello.” said a gruff voice.

“Hi dad.” said Max abruptly back in reality. An awkward silence passed.

“Are you busy?” said Max, finally breaking the silence.

“Nope, just sittin’ around the house with your mom. Max took a big breath.


Not right now...this isn’t the hill...


“Actually dad, that’s kind of why I’m calling... Dr. Banks just called, and...mom had a stroke last night. Max’s voice shook.

“Mom?” repeated Lindsey blankly.

“I mean, George, my mother. Your first wife. She had a stroke.” snapped Max.


She knew he wasn’t trying to be the worst, but she always lost her patience when he forgot George existed. She understood better than most why he did it, and that he wasn’t doing it on purpose. Still, it meant that Max was on her own in shouldering the burden that was her mother. She was determined not to fight so she took another breath and waited for him to respond.

Silence.


“Dad?”

“Yeah, your mom’s right here let me put you on speaker phone.”

“No! Dad, don’t--“ Max can hear the scraping sounds of Lindsey setting the phone on the nearest table.

“Okay sweetheart, we can hear you, say ‘hi’ to your mom!” sings Lindseys into the phone.

For a moment, Max was drowning in the dark. You’re almost there, you can do this...


“Hello?” asks a puzzled voice from Max’s phone.

“Hey Grace, it’s Max.” said Max as politely as possible.

“Hi Max, good to hear from you! To what do we owe this very rare pleasure?” chirped Grace.

Max actively reminded herself that this was not Grace’s fault.



Max remembered what it was like before and after her dad had met Grace. Once Grace was around, he had gotten a lot better. He started eating with more regularity and stopped drinking at least. Grace never tried to be Max’s mom, and the two had come to an understanding. Grace took care of Lindsey. Max took care of Max.


But as the years went on, Max began to see past Grace’s interminably positive outlook to the woman who had survived her own suicide attempt. It wasn’t that she didn’t see Lindsey’s baggage. It’s that she understood it so deeply and loved him because of it. As far as stepmoms you can get as a traumatized teen, Grace was pretty choice.


Max presently reminded herself of all this.


Grace will help, you just have to tell her... just say the words out loud.

Max took a deep breath. “Well, actually, I was calling because Dr. Banks called and told me my mom... had a stroke yesterday.”

“Oh my god! Oh no! Is she okay? What does she need? How can we help?” Grace rushed in one breath.

Max tried for another deep breath but she couldn’t seem to catch one.


“Well... no... she’s not okay... she, um, I guess there wasn’t anything they could do and...” Max couldn’t seem to finish the thought because a pine cone had just painfully lodged itself in her throat.

It was enough though, Grace seemed like she immediately understood what was happening and that Max needed help.


Thank god for Grace, who else will put up with our shit?

While Grace exploded into caretaking mode, Max drifted...

Vaguely she could hear enough of the conversation to answer direct questions, but the energy it took to get her voice up to the top of the well soon wore her out entirely. With Grace promising to text her everything they had just talked about so Max could think about it later (good ol’ Grace), Max hung up the phone and drifted for several long moments... or hours.

Eventually Max noticed how dark it was in her room. Allowing her mind to continue treading water in the deep dark water of the well, Max’s body, on auto-pilot, stood and closed the curtains, got a glass of water, undressed, and then got back into bed. Distantly, she thought for one moment she should set an alarm. Then she remembered she had no job, no friends, and no real reason to wake up in the morning.

With that disturbingly freeing thought glancing off the water of her mental well, Max blissfully drifted out of consciousness.



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  • Megan Sells

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

Once upon a time, there was a chubby little princess who lived a charmed life.

She was so funny, so beautiful, so full of promise. Every person she met told her how wonderful her life would be, how successful and fulfilled she’d be, and how blessed by God she’d be if she’d just followed the path laid out in front of her.


“I do everything I do to give you a better life than I had,” said every adult in her life.


“Go to college, get a good-paying job, follow the path to Financial Stability and rule your kingdom accordingly,” said the oracles and wise men.


The princess smiled and began to glow with a light from somewhere deep inside. “I’m so ready for the blessed life you describe!”


So the princess did her best to follow the path before her. She went to college. She got not one, but several good-paying jobs over the years. So far, she had perfectly traversed the path to Financial Stability--followed the map to the letter.


Yet still, the final destination eluded her.


“What am I doing wrong?” she wondered. “Have I made a mistake, is there something broken I can fix?” She went searching for the answers.


The princess journeyed high and low, in and out, around and around. Sought wisdom in every corner of the world she could find it, discovering along the way just how wide the world was. She learned so much about herself or better said: themself. They learned their favorite color (green), favorite hobby (reading), favorite activity (making art with friends), and favorite food texture (crunchy ones). Then they learned that blessings come from many gods; and, the point wasn’t which god gave them, but how the blessing enables you to help people. They learned this, and more, which brought them hope.


Fueled by this new knowledge, the princess understood more clearly how to travel the path to Financial Stability. They set out with clear eyes and conviction. But they quickly discovered that this path was significantly less easy to navigate. So they kept looking for the solution that would make arriving at their destination possible.


They found a new solution, tried it, and failed. Tried another new solution, and failed. Over and over. With each new attempt, each new cycle, the princess lost a little bit more of the light inside them.


“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up,” said Thomas Edison, indirectly, through meme after meme.


And so, they try, tried again. And again and again.


Until one day, the princess, robbed of every ounce of light, finally understood why every new solution, no matter how promising, never delivered them to the end of their path. As it turned out, the path the princess was traveling was defended by a hideous monster, so large they couldn’t fathom its full size, named Late Stage Capitalism. No one could get to Financial Stability, except through it. This monster, deployed by the 1% most wealthy, was responsible for every foul thing the princess had ever encountered or seen. It had destroyed every path for people like the princess to reach the promised land of Financial Stability, reserved entry for only a few.


The princess felt powerless--was powerless, largely. They had been chewed up, spit out, and composted by a monster that seemed foundational to the turning of the earth. The monster had tainted everything, all the heroes of their past, all the goals they had aimed for, all the promises made to them. The oracles were wrong and Thomas Edison was a thief and a liar. They lived in a dystopia that hid behind violent ignorance.


For a moment, the princess believed this might be the end of their path, that they might die as the light inside them had. But as they sank deep down into the vast darkness where their light had once been, they saw something remarkable.


A spark. A flicker. Their light, though unbelievably dimmed, had not, in fact, gone out.


“Well, now what?” They collapsed, exhausted, in front of the tiny flame. “I’m so glad you asked,” said the flame. “I have some ideas.”

Together, the two of them sat there scheming. Charting out a path to a brand new destination, one they created inside themselves, called A Life Well Lived. They knew they would have to deal with Late Stage Capitalism and those who used it to guard their homogenous promised land. They knew there would be sleeper agents for the monster they had to overcome, some of those agents still living inside the princess. But, most importantly, they knew that their new destination and the flame that illuminated it, A Life Well Lived, could never be destroyed by Late Stage Capitalism, try though it might.


Now, the princess doesn’t worry about paths so much, because they carry their promised land with them everywhere. With no destination shrouding their view, they can clearly see what needs to be done.


They must slay the monster. Late Stage Capitalism needs to die. First inside themself, then everywhere else.


The Beginning.



 

Okay, cards on the table, I did not expect to cry as much as I did writing the fairy tale origin story of myself. But, cry I did--big ole tears running through the makeup I inexplicably put on today. Contemplating the dark times feels very raw as I'm just barely on the other side of them.

I, like most of us, had a rough last….. Fifteen years? Fucking hell I’m tired.


Also, did I say “princess”? Because I definitely meant “gremlin”. But the rest is the same.


Getting to my point eventually...


Why am I writing this blog?


I’m so glad you asked, says the flame inside me.


Because this is my debut as an Anti-Capitalist Author!


For my entire life, I have been drawn to books. As a source of escape, learning, grounding, and everything in between, stories are how I engage with the world--how I sense it. From the first book I ever read to the 6 books I currently have checked out from the library, reading has always been my favorite way to spend time.


Later in my life, the joy of books revealed itself to be a joy of story-telling in general with newly discovered loves in theater and film. Now, I could inhabit the stories I escaped to, make their words come to life, and help others escape into them too. Stories became the air I breathed, the food I ate, and the bed I slept in.


But then that fuckin' monster showed up and ruined it all. Most of you reading this will know what happened next, either because you know me and were there for that part, or you know what the monster did to your own passions. Regardless, I don’t need to go into detail here, because y’all already have vivid images of that motherfucker.


I tell you all of this so that when I say, the tiny flame inside of me is my love for story-telling, you will understand. That is the spark I’m fanning into flame so I can lead a Life Well Lived.


I don’t exactly know HOW that will happen, or what the future will hold. All I know is that I’m writing my first novel as we speak and I still have to pay my bills. Refusing to let the latter ruin the former is my new guiding star, but they are both still true. (Well, technically, I could stop paying my bills. But then I would be homeless, and hungry, my pets would die, and I would have no access to any kind of quality of life. I have decided I don’t want that.)


For the past several years I have been slowly withering in a series of “day jobs”. I say “withering” because we live in a society that is so rigidly controlled by a tiny subset of people, that completely normal neurotypes--like mine--have to be labeled as a “disability”. Because I don’t think like the neurotypical brain, which is apparently the ultimate truth we must base society on, it’s a disability.


The kind of disability that can get you fired for not understanding office politics but that you can’t sue them for (yes I tried).


So here I am: unemployed, enraged, and unclear about how I’m going to pay rent in a few months when the savings run out. But I’m also, for the first time, I’m free. Free to think creatively about how to sustain my existence. Free to take this unplanned halt and use it to change my story. Free to take a leap of faith that the flame inside me can sustain me with the help of my community.


My wish, my heartfelt desire, the flame that burns inside me, is to write novels and sustain myself from that. To tell stories that convict and uplift. To tell stories where fat people do heroic things. To tell stories that inspire us to rebel.


But, I’m no longer on a rigid path, so if it doesn’t look exactly like that? That’s just fine! The flame is still there, guiding me.

It’s all part of the plan to live A Life Well Lived.


-Meg







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