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Archive for September, 2013

You know that point you hit; when you’re so tired you get silly? The kind of silly where you start giggling at all the wrong things, which leads to laughing at the even worse things, to down right pee-your-pants hysteria when something truly awful happens? Well, I think I’m there now.

Looking back at all the crap that my husband and I have gone through over the last two years, it’s a wonder I lasted this long. Were it not for my husband, I would very likely be writing this blog from the psych ward. On toilet paper. In crayon.

Some days it seems like a good idea. Three hots and a cot, and I don’t have to deal with the bullshit of the outside world for a while. I wouldn’t have to watch Congress implode with all their junior high school cliquishness and petty finger pointing as the weight of their indecisions drags a once fine nation into the abyss. I wouldn’t have to read about all the people shot while they were playing basketball in a local park, or while they were sitting at their desk at work, or while they were shopping at the mall. I wouldn’t have to experience the erosion of rights disseminated by our own Supreme Court. I wouldn’t have to suffer the indignities an entire generation of self-centered brats broadcasts on those around them while stumbling through the world glued to their electronic pabulum. It would be so peaceful…

Wait, I think I’m talking myself into a rubber room far too willingly. Just goes to show how tired I really am.

Everybody deserves a break now and then. Even if it means spending some time at a lovely country facility where all the staff wear white. But most of us eventually have to come back to the real world, and somewhere along the line we have to develop the skills and coping mechanisms to function in that dystopian reality.

I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve been around the block a few times, running on the fumes of my will just to get by. Below are some of the things that have helped me stay in my own home and not have to wait for visiting hours. Maybe some of them can help you.

1)                   Hugs: I’m lucky in that I live with a fabulous hugger. I know not everyone has that advantage, but somewhere in your life there’s someone you can hug. Studies have shown (“Embrace Hugging”) that even as little as ten seconds a day can increase oxytocin levels (the “feel-good” hormone), while reducing the cortisol levels (the “stress” hormone). We humans need physical contact, so go get a hug as soon as you can.

2)                   Pets: We’re down to just one animal in our household, a crotchety old cat. But he’s been sitting in my lap more often lately, probably because of his own need for warmth on his arthritic bones. Petting him helps relax me and is another one of those simple acts that has shown to have health benefits (“5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health”). Even just watching the goldfish swim around has a positive effect.

3)                   Hollywood: Music, movies, TV, video games – the entertainment industry specializes in providing all manners of escapes from our daily drudgeries. It’s okay to take a side trip there on occasion. Just don’t stay long. Use it as a tool to help you refresh your reserves, not as a retreat to forever disappear into. (“When Escapism is Good”)

4)                   Exercise: Yeah, not one I’m too fond of, nor that I do all that often (though I would, if that bright thing weren’t in the sky all the time trying to microwave me. I miss walking in the redwoods on a foggy morning). But exercise releases endorphins; more “feel-good” hormones that also have analgesic properties (“Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity”). You don’t have to kill yourself at the gym, just go for a walk. Even if it’s just in circles around your kitchen table.

5)                   Meditation: Sometimes just sitting quietly with a cup of tea can do wonders. No, meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting cross-legged humming monosyllabic words. It certainly can, if that’s what you want, but the variations are nearly endless (“Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress”), and can return you to that calm center you thought you’d lost while dealing with the kids at the grocery store the other day.

6)                   Faith: This one can fall under the above because prayer can often be considered a form of meditation. But there’s more to faith than prayer (“The Benefits of Church”). And you don’t have to be Christian or Muslim or Jewish to have faith. Being a pagan, I have used essential oils, crystals and cleansing rituals to connect with the Greater Forces and help clear my head and heart of all the crap. I have friends who pray the rosary, sit in a drum circle, or chant for the same reasons. Whatever your Greater Force may be, maybe it’s time to reconnect.

7)                   Hobbies: I play with string a lot. Lately I’ve been weaving belts in preparation for merchanting at our next historical event. I also do cross stitch and embroidery and hand sewing. It takes me away from the day-to-day, allowing my brain to go somewhere else on its own little vacation (“21st Century Family: Hobbies Help”). It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, but if you don’t have a hobby, I’d recommend getting one as soon as possible.

8)                   Friends: I know, coming from a loner this one might seem strange. But I’ve learned (slowly, and stubbornly) that having friends makes a difference (“Friends With Health Benefits”), and could actually help you live longer. It’s okay to ask for help. No, really, it is.

9)                   Write: I’m not one to keep a journal. I’ve had to for classwork or when I was working with a counselor, but it was never something I really relished doing. I’m a fiction writer. My problems are worked out through the lives of my characters. But writing down thoughts and feelings is a time-tested method to help you clear your head (“Writing – for health and happiness?”). It doesn’t even have to be complete sentences. Just get the words out and see what happens.

I’m sure there are many more things that people can do to help them get through their dark periods, but these are what I came up with tonight. Whatever works for you, do it. It’s worth it. And so are you.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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It’s been another rough week here in SoCal. Our 14-year-old dog Cleo decided she didn’t want to eat anything anymore and tests showed she was in the end stages of renal failure. So we did the kind thing and allowed her to avoid the worst of the pain and go out with dignity. Not the easiest thing for us, since she was still there mentally. But the doctor assured us it was just a matter of days, at best, and the end would not be pretty.

It was particularly hard on my husband. He toughed it out through two hospital stays, a major car accident and the death of his mother over these last eighteen months with nary a tear. But having to send his canine companion on to the Summerlands was too much. He thought that made him “fucked up,” in that he was crying over his dog and not so much over his mother. I tried to remind him that Cleo had always loved him unconditionally, regardless of what he did for a living, who he married, or what hobbies he enjoyed. Not something that could be said of his mother.

I didn’t have the same bond with Cleo. She was always my husband’s dog. He got her about the same time he and I started dating, and the two of them were on their own for about a year before we joined the households. I came in with two dogs and two cats, and there was a bit of jostling for pack order in those early months. Since the dogs were all about the same size, we generally let them handle it themselves, under supervision of course. But it was a different matter with the cats. Cleo learned very quickly that the cats were off limits and the Alpha Bitch was me.

She tried to attack one of the cats while we were all sitting in the bedroom. My animals were all brought up together from younglings, so it was nothing for a cat to rub up against one of the dogs. I was talking and petting Cleo to try and help us establish a bond when Jasper the Mutant decided that would be a good time to visit with us both. Cleo did not agree and went for the cat in full attack mode. The next thing she knows, she’s airborne (she was 60+ pounds at the time), and when she lands there’s this crazy human on top of her growling and biting her ear. I didn’t even realize I’d done that until it was over. I DO remember the look of sheer terror on her face, something we’d never seen before as she was always either the calm companion or doing her best Cujo impersonation for someone trying to get into the yard. That established her respectful deference to me for the rest of our relationship. Plus she never even so much as looked at a cat again after that.

These last few days have made me think more on how we as humans leave this world. Ideally we all want to pass quietly in our sleep after a full and happy life. Sadly, most of us will not get that. After watching too many friends and family waste away from cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Muscular Dystrophy, and all manner of other slow torturous ends, I can’t help but wonder why we can’t allow our elders and mortally ill the same dignity we allow our dogs and cats.

I know that touches on a very controversial area. For most people, human life is sacred and must be preserved at all costs. I don’t think that way. I disagree that human life is sacred. That’s really just human arrogance, making ourselves better than we deserve. And I don’t understand how letting Grandma rot away in a nursing home hooked up to all manner of machines for years on end is showing her how sacred she is. I’m all about QUALITY of life, not quantity.

The brilliance of medical science has allowed us to extend the survivability rates at both ends of the life spectrum. As a science enthusiast and science fiction writer, I’m fascinated and excited by what we can do. But as an amateur ethicist, I wonder if we are really doing ourselves any favors with some of those advancements. Certainly, let’s fix all we can, if we can. But there comes a point when nothing more can be done and the end is just a matter of time. We each should be allowed to make a decision based on how we WANT to spend that precious remaining time, not on how society has decreed it should be spent. And if that means scheduling your own exit, then so be it.

            Physician assisted suicide (different from euthanasia) is legal in four states here in the US (“Euthanasia in the United States”), and in four countries of the world (“Legality of Euthanasia”). The non-profit organization Dignitas supports a person’s right “to live with dignity – to die with dignity,” and offers counseling and education services for suicide prevention and end-of-life decisions.

I’m not saying this approach is for everyone. What I DO want is for everyone to be allowed his or her own approach. For my part, once the time comes, I want to be blown up on the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl half time show and a tree planted with the ashes. Now that’s a grand finale.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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To be a in the creative arts requires a measure of talent, a shit-load of hard work, a little bit of luck, and a thick skin. I, sadly, don’t seem to have the last two. Not catching that lucky strike might be dealt with a little better if I had a thick skin, but I’m as fragile as a new-born babe when it comes to rejection and criticisms, and it’s been taking it’s toll on me.

Last October a major publishing house needed content for a new electronic-format-only speculative fiction imprint they were launching, and put out an open call for submissions during a two-week period. I was one of nearly 5,000 that answered the call, an amount that apparently surprised the editors since they went from “If you haven’t heard from us in three months, we’re not interested,” to “Wow, this is going to take us A LOT longer than we anticipated, so we’re going to respond to everyone, just to be clear.”

As the weeks went by and slogged into months, I checked back to their web site for updates. By February they were almost half way through and had sent out rejections for that first batch. I was still in the running. In May they were down to less than 900. I still hadn’t received a rejection. That’s when I started to wonder if maybe my submission had been lost, because that’s the kind of shit that happens to me. My husband tried to keep me cheered up about it, but I’d hid his pom-poms because I was just tired of all that positive energy.

A couple weeks ago, the rumor mill indicated they were down to less than 400. One of the commentators on their website had talked with one of the editors at a conference and passed the news on to those of us waiting with great anticipation. I was starting to feel pretty good about things. Cool, they were down to less than 10% of the original submissions and I was still in the mix. Maybe this was going to happen after all. Maybe, finally, my time had come.

And then, BAM! That thanks-but-no-thanks email came. Rejection number seven for my novel. I dropped into a dark hole and pondered not ever coming out. “What’s the point?” the depression whispered at me. “You’ll never be good enough…”

It’s hard to argue with that when I look back over my life and see point after point where that is true. Because of my knees I was never good enough at athletics to be anything but the last resort when choosing teams. Even on swim team, the best I ever did was third, and that was because there were only three of us in the pool for that race. I was always a good friend to the guys in my life, but never good enough to be the girl friend. Never good enough to be a lot of things that I would have liked to be. I didn’t even get to go to my senior prom because I couldn’t find a date willing to be seen with me, even for just a few hours.

I have spent my life on the outside looking in. Music and writing gave me avenues of expression that helped keep me sane, and became two areas where I was finally able to get some recognition and respect, things that were badly lacking in the rest of my life. But that kind of recognition is easy when you’re a big fish in a little pond. Now that I’m out in the ocean trying to make my mark, I’m finding out just how small I really am by comparison.

My family and friends have tried bolstering my spirits by reminding me of how many now-famous authors were given dozens of rejections before finally selling their break-through novel. I know they mean well, but they don’t seem to understand that for every one of those successful authors, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of writers who keep getting rejection after rejection and never get anything but perhaps some very depressing wallpaper for their living room. I keep wondering if I’m one of those. The people closest to you are supposed to think you’re good and support you, and that’s why it’s hard to listen to them and allow myself to be positive.

I’ve had “professionals” tell me I’m good, but they have been few and far between, and never in the position to make anything happen for me. For the last four years, I’ve had nothing but rejection. No on all those job applications, not for us on my short stories, not what we’re looking for on my novel. Not even good enough for a volunteer leadership position in the non-profit organization I’ve been involved with at all sorts of levels for nearly 33 years. No, nyet, nein. So sorry, Charlie – you suck.

Much as I’d like to just shrug it off and move on, every rejection is like a drop of lava on my soul. It burns long and hot and makes me wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Then I remember all those years I spent in cubicle hell, wishing for this, and I realize that there is one thing in this world that I just simply can’t NOT do.

And so I’ll be getting out the list and submitting to the next one on it, and hoping that I’m not one of those perennial wanna-be’s, that this time I’ll be the success story other authors will read about. Because I AM good enough, damn it.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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AP Photo

AP Photo

Elizabeth Smart was 14 years old when she was kidnapped and held for nine months, being raped repeatedly by her abductor.  Since her rescue, she has attended Brigham Young University as a harp major, gone to Paris for her Mormon mission, married a Scot, joined ABC News as a commentator, started her own foundation, and is writing a memoir of her experience.

Brian David Mitchell, the man who took her from her family, was sentenced to life in prison after a long battle over his mental competency. He recently took a beating from another inmate, during which “…he simply curled up and yelled for [the inmate] to stop.” (Daily Mail)

ABC News

ABC News

Jaycee Lee Dugard was held an astonishing 18 years, from when she was abducted at the age of 11 until rescued. During her captivity she was handcuffed, raped repeatedly, physically and psychologically abused, bore two children and not even allowed to say her name. Since gaining her freedom, she has written a memoir (A Stolen Life), been awarded a $20 million settlement from the State of California for their alleged miss-handling of her abductor’s parole, started her own foundation, and is trying to lead a normal life.

Phillip Craig Garrido, a man with a long history of sexual offenses, was sentenced to 431 years in Corcoran State Prison. There he is kept in the Protective Housing Unit due to concerns about his safety in the general population.

ABC News

ABC News

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were held captive in a Cleveland house for nearly a decade. They suffered numerous beatings, rapes, miscarriages, malnutrition, and psychological abuse beyond the evil imaginings of any horror movie. They are just starting their respective journeys back to health, but have hope for the future, and even forgiveness for their captor (“Cleveland Kidnapping Victims’ Statements”).

Ariel Castro accepted a plea deal to keep him off death row: life without the possibility of parole, plus 1,000 years. He took his own life after only five weeks in prison, barely 1% of the time his captives had suffered.

So, tell me again: why are women the weaker sex?

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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