Writing Prompt: In what way are you strong?

I am the type of person who regularly needs to be reminded of my strengths. I need nearly constant praise and I’m not ashamed to ask for it outright. One of the ways that my last therapist got to know me (and other patients) was by asking what my strengths were. I had to look at her list of words to find mine.

Recently, I’ve been filling out a lot of job applications and writing a lot of resumes. The part that I always struggle with is writing down what I’m good at. This feels strange for me, because I’m enthusiastic about finding other people’s strengths and telling them what they are. But for some reason, looking at my own strengths is harder.

Here’s my list from therapy:
Compassionate
Loyal
Enthusiastic
Hard worker
Smart
Resourceful
Passionate
Honest

That’s a pretty decent list, but it took a lot of prompting from her and a lot of hemming and hawing from me to come up with it. I’m really good at thinking of one instance where I wasn’t something and deciding that means I’m not ever that thing. Like, once I lied and told a guy that I didn’t have any more cigarettes so that I wouldn’t have to give him one, so obviously I’m not compassionate OR honest. But I’m also pretty good at looking at my negative thoughts about myself and pretending that one of my friends are saying them. I can look at that thought and say to myself, “If Tori Lynn said that about herself you’d slap her silly and tell her that that makes no sense and then you’d buy her coffee.” Whether that actually helps or not depends mostly on my mood.

The end-goal of this prompt for me was to look at the question “Why do so many people struggle to see their own strengths?” I’m not sure I can answer that, but I know I can talk about why I struggle with it.

When I look at myself, I can see the internal struggle happening every time I have the option to be one thing or another. When I see somebody having a hard time with their groceries, I have the option to help them and slightly inconvenience myself, or I can ignore them and go about my business. I have to think about it. I have to weight the pros and cons and make a decision. Most of the time, I decide to help them. Anybody on the outside would see that and say that “helpful” is one of my strengths. But if I’m looking at it, I know that I had to think about the situation before I made a choice. That doesn’t seem genuinely helpful to me, which, in my mind, translates into “not actually helpful.”

If my friend were to explain that to me, exactly the same way I just did, I’d nope at them. I’d say, “But you chose to be helpful. You made the conscious decision to be helpful. That’s probably a better definition of helpful than someone who does it out of instinct. Because you realized that you had the option of ignoring it and not making extra difficulty for yourself, but chose to do the kind thing instead.”

I can’t seem to make allowances like that for myself, unless I frame it as a hypothetical thing that someone else said. Which, while not ideal, seems to work pretty well as a self-care method.

Maybe that’s the secret to letting yourself off a little easier. Tell yourself that it’s okay, you love yourself anyway, then take yourself out for ice cream or coffee. Treat yourself like your best friend.

❤ Eli

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Writing prompt: Think about a time you were recently in public. Describe what you were doing from the point of view of a stranger observing you.

“He’s just sitting there, with two books, a phone, and a tablet in his lap. What the hell is doing? Why does he need all that stuff? He looks like he should be in school right now. Like. High school. I wonder if he’s skipping. This is kinda public to be hanging out during school hours.

One of the books looks like a planner.

Oh. He’s wearing a uniform. He must work at that fast food place. Maybe he’s older than he looks. Maybe he goes to college, and is doing school work right now. I guess that would explain the planner. It sort of looks like he’s taking notes on his tablet. But it looks like the book is written in, too.

Jeeze. He is really chewing on his nails hard. He looks stressed. He keeps shoving his hair back. I do that when I’m stressed, too. Honestly, he does look pretty tired. Definitely a college student.

I wonder if he’s okay. He keeps cracking his neck and he’s going to town on that cup of coffee.

Oh good. He’s taking a break. He keeps smiling at his phone. That’s nice. Good smile. I hope he stays happy.”

❤ Eli

“Streets can be eerie, Streets can be dreary.”

“Do you wonder, darling,
who sees you on the street?
Do you wonder, if you looked up,
whose eyes you would meet?
Do you wonder at their lives?
Where they’re from,
or where they go?
Do you want to ask?
Would you like to know?
You know most people move
in ways like you.
How many of them
do the things you do?
Do they bite their nails,
or pop their gum?
Do they stand too close
to where the trains run?
Would they recognize
something in you?
Do you see yourself,
somehow, in them, too?
If you looked up
from you tired feet,
looked around at the people
on the eerie, dreary street,
would you know them at all?”

*”Streets can be eerie, Streets can be dreary” is a Lady Lamb lyric. I didn’t come up with it and don’t have any rights to it.

Writing Prompt: You are the interpreter for the wind. What is it saying?

“Child, I know you’re cold and feeling small. I know my gentle touch sends a chill into your bones. I know you want me to leave you alone. But remember a cool breeze on a hot night. Remember your lover’s hair tossed just so. Remember power outages where you played Uno with your family, and how that was the happiest you all were together. It is in our nature to be happy.

Though you love me when I’m like this, I can’t keep myself small. I must blow and howl and gust, just like you must cry and wail and knock your fists into things that will hurt you. It is in our nature to storm.

I am a part of you. I have been with you your whole life, and I alone will continue after you’ve died. I will not leave you, but you will leave me. One day, I will try to tousle your hair after a hard day and you will not be there. I will sigh and moan and regret your loss, but I will also move on. It is in our nature to keep moving.

You do not always like me. But sometimes you do. That is enough.”

This Is Not A Happy Post

This isn’t going to be a happy post. There isn’t a nice ending to this story. There isn’t any neat resolution or a cheerful reminder to stay positive. This is me, trying so hard to make my life better, and the universe flipping me off and sauntering away without looking back.

We (my wife and I) recently had an amazing opportunity. One of her dad’s long-time friend wanted someone in her house. She doesn’t live there, but it’s a historical landmark, so she was having a hard time selling it. We originally told her we could just live there for a few months so that someone was there, but then she started talking about how she has been wanting to run an antique shop out of the house. So we told her that we would love to do that. My wife has always wanted to run her own business, a cafe, and we figured it would be easy to add espresso to an antique shop. We’ve been planning for a while now. We came up with figures for how much we’d need to spend to start it, how much we’d need to make to break even. We told her that we would love to buy the house from her, since that was her end goal anyway. She seemed on board for everything we’ve said.

Today we were supposed to meet with her to look at the house and then sit down to talk about what our plan was and how we would go about buying the house through her instead of a bank, because I don’t have that kind of credit yet. We left it up to her when we would meet, since she’s the one that has to drive over. Out of the blue she texted us and said that she didn’t want to meet with us. She didn’t want to rent the house out, and she couldn’t afford to front us until we got the business up and running. Without any context, the dream that we’d been building up for so long got yanked out from under us.

I am trying to be positive about this. We’re not starting over. We have everything that we had before we were planning to start this. What we have sucks, though. We have a car that we were forced into buying at an unreasonable interest rate because we were desperate. We have a shitty, shitty apartment, without a working shower, with bugs and drafts and a stove that only works half the time. We have two maxed out credit cards. We have jobs that we deeply hate going to every day. We have school debt. We have no idea what to do now.

After the idea of a three story house and a business that we could call our own, going back to what we have seems almost impossible. But we’re going to have to do it. And that sucks.

I told you this wouldn’t be a pleasant post.

❤ Eli

Adulting: What It Is and What It Should Never Be

I think about the awkward transitional phase between being a “young adult” and being a “real adult” a lot, mostly because I’m in it. Every time I pay a bill or cook my own dinner I feel like a real adult. Those are the types of things that real adults do, right? But even though I have a job and credit cards and a car payment, I’m still only considered a young adult because I’m in my early 20s.

It’s sort of akin to the feeling of being a pre-teen. You get the weird emotions of a teenager, and often times you get the responsibilities of one, too. But when you want to do something that a teenager would be able to do, you’re thrown back into your pre-teen status. I remember that phase, and it’s just as awkward as the one I’m in now.

The area of my life that it pops up the most in is money. People think, often, that because I’m a young adult that I’m not good at being financially responsible. When I’m dead broke and can’t afford to do things that other people want me to do, they frequently assume it’s because I’m not being smart with my money. Honestly, I’m better at paying bills than several real adults that I know. When I don’t have money, it’s usually because I spent it all on bills. Mostly the problem is that I have a very low paying job. I mean, I make more than minimum wage, but only about a dollar more. When you take into account phone bills, internet, rent, electric, car payments, food, gas, credit card bills and the other miscellaneous things you need to run a household (dish soap, cat food, tin foil, garbage bags) it’s sort of amazing that I can afford living at all. My wife works a part time job at minimum wage because of her health, so she contributes absolutely as much as she can, but we still struggle sometimes.

Our most recent big splurge was seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We decided to make a date night of it on New Years day, because we’d both worked the night before and hadn’t been able to celebrate. That’s it. The big splurge was $40 for a movie. I feel like that’s not something that most people would see as reckless as far as money goes.

The job part of my life is where I feel like I’m stuck in the young adult world. I’m still working towards what I want to be when I grow up. It’s not a fast-food worker, that’s for sure. But I don’t know what it is. After a physically demanding, emotionally draining, eight hour day at work, I often think I just want a quiet desk job somewhere, answering phones and taking messages. But even that sounds like something I would eventually loathe going to five days a week. I want to do something that doesn’t leave me feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything at the end of my day. To be more succinct, I want to do something that leaves me feeling fulfilled. I think that’s something that every young adult wants, maybe even most real adults.

Long story short here, being a young adult skews people’s view of you. I think that’s weird. Work is rough and most people hate what they do 5 out of 7 days. I think that’s weird, too. We should all just quit our day jobs, do what fulfills us, and stop being weird about young adults.

❤ Eli

“How to Be A Writer”

All my life, the most prevalent advice on this topic has been deceptively simple. Q: How do you become a writer? A: Write.

This seems so ridiculously easy that anyone should be able to be a writer. If you love writing, just write, right?

Well, I have a complicated relationship with writing. I’ve been writing stories since I leaned to write. I was telling stories before I learned to write. I’ve been questioning the world around me since I could speak. If you’ve ever know a precocious child, you know that their favorite question will always be “Why?” even after you’ve given the best explanation you can give. I was like that. Luckily, I grew up in an environment where it was not only accepted, but encouraged. If my mom didn’t know the answer to my question, she would send me to my papa. If he didn’t know the answer, he would make something up. He told me that the sky was blue because it was reflecting off of my grandmother’s eyes. He told me that light bulbs worked because flipping the on switch made little blue monkeys inside the filament run, which made them hot, which made them glow. He was, and still continues to be, my biggest fan and greatest collaborator. He played “imagination games” with me. We would look at a spot and try to name all the colors we could see. We would try to think of three new uses for everyday objects, bonus points if you could think of a really good scenario in which to use them. I would tell him ideas and he would turn them into entire worlds. His memory has never been great, but he could retell stories from memory like nobody I’ve met since.

What I’m trying to tell you, is that I’ve basically been conditioned from a young age to be a writer. When other kids were playing guns or dolls or tag, I was in the garage putting on book signings, with my stuffed animals in line, ready to love me and my work. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said “A best-selling author”. No lie. Until, somewhere in middle school, I realized how many people want to do that and fail. That’s when my relationship with writing became complicated.

I still wanted to write. I still had a need to express the way I saw the world and the people in it, but my confidence in myself started flagging. I tried to be like other writers I knew of. Even fictional ones. I remember trying to be like Jo March, from Little Women, and put my hair up like she did, had special “writing clothes”, even tried writing with fountain pens on unlined paper. In high school, I decided that I’d take after the beatniks. I would only write if I were high. Some of it was really good. Some of it wasn’t. I even had a brief stint at my dad’s when I tried to Hemingway my way through writing. Which meant locking myself in my room with a bottle of whiskey and a pack of cigarettes, willing myself to just put something, anything down on paper.

All of this because nobody told me the most important thing about writing: It is so hard. You can have endless worlds built, characters fully formed and fleshed out, a complete religion set up,  but pulling it from your mind is still hard. Putting it down, whether it’s electronically or on paper, is so damn difficult that sometimes it doesn’t even seem worth the effort.

But when I told my papa about those feelings, he told me the truth about writing. He taught me the real secret. He said, “Anyone can learn to write. But the people who must write are the ones who call themselves writers.”

I can quote that for you because I wrote it down.

That’s why I call myself a writer, even though I’ve never been payed to write, even though I don’t write every day, even though I haven’t finished any novels, and even though I have never actually participated in NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month). I write meta about fandoms. I write thoughtful Facebook posts. I write articulate emails to my best friend when I have feelings about things. I write blog posts like this one. I must write. Sometimes I do it better on paper, sometimes I do it better online, sometimes I have to get drunk to get my thoughts out, often I have to have a cigarette in my hand, but I must do it.

To anyone struggling with the realities of writing, please remember this. If you feel the pull to write, you are a writer. Any writing that takes effort counts. And you don’t have to have writing credits to be a “real” writer. You just have to love doing it enough that you continue, even when it’s difficult.

❤ Eli

Happy Holidays

I’m writing this post from my new tablet keyboard, bought for me by my wife for Xmas.

This was my first Xmas with my new in-laws, and it was weird. I have only ever celebrated this holiday with my own family or my wife. I have never done anything for this holiday with anyone else’s family for any reason. But this year, we did Thanksgiving with my family, so we did Xmas with hers.

I’m here today to talk mostly about how strange families are and how odd a holiday based on pagan traditions with the name and face of Christianity is.

I’ll start with families. This family has traditions that are different than my family’s traditions, which pretty much makes sense. For example, my family opens stockings Xmas eve. This family opens everything Xmas morning. Not much of a difference really, just a few hours. But it  makes a difference when you’re used to one thing and end up getting something else. I certainly miss my family today, more than I expected to. I’m hoping that we can go see them today, even.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about (which I think about pretty much every year) is the oddity of this holiday in general. I write Xmas for exactly the reason that conservative Christians are worried about. I’m trying, actively, to take Christ out of Christmas. Knowing that the origins of this beloved holiday are predominately pagan, I am acutely uncomfortable with any Christian aspects of it. I don’t like the songs that talk about the star or the three wise men or baby Jesus in the manger. I like the ones that talk about sleigh rides and snow men and even Santa. I don’t put an angel on top of my tree, or even a star. I try to stay true to the origins of the holiday, especially since I lean towards paganism myself.

My wife and I have talked this year about what we want to do for a tree next year, when we will hopefully have a little more room. We’ve been talking about doing a little extra research and making a wiccan tree, or something that more accurately reflects how we both feel about the whole thing. With more planning than this year (we bought our tiny, pre-lit tree on impulse one day), this seems like a totally achievable goal.

Which brings me back to the family thing. I’m a little worried about how my wife and I are going to start our own family traditions with all of the traditions of both our families looming over us. I’ve never really thought about how married couples start their own traditions. It must be something that every new little family does, but it’s not one of the things that people talk about when they talk about new families. Maybe it’s supposed to be easy and just happen naturally. It’s definitely something I’m going to need to talk about with my wife.

I hope your holiday, whatever and however you celebrate, is as nice as mine has been.

❤ Eli

❤ Eli

I can accept the universe’s plans for me.

Two days ago, my wife and I were in a car accident. We walked away sore, but not severely injured. The kicker for me, though, is how bad the accident could’ve been. If we had been three seconds faster, the truck that turned right into our little Kia would have directly smashed into my wife. If she had been hit, she wouldn’t have been able to hit the brakes and we would’ve rolled down a hill and onto the freeway below. This thought is terrifying.

My initial reaction was “DON’T DO ANY MORE THINGS THAT MIGHT LEAD TO DEATH.” I feel like this is a reasonable first reaction, but even then, I knew it wasn’t an actual possibility.

I have struggled with anxiety (among other thing) for most of my life. I have found ways to cope and even ways to make myself better through my mental illness. Since I’ve gotten my fancy smart phone and a tablet, I’ve found tons of apps that are geared toward the things I struggle with. One of my favorites is an app called Worry Box. It is an app where you put your worries and fears into a box, decide whether you have control over the situation, and then either help yourself find a course of action if it is within your control, or find the words to help you cope if it is not something you have control over. It can be very helpful.

Today I made an entry called MORTALITY. I talked about being afraid of my wife dying. I talked about not knowing what I’d do with myself if she died. I talked about being afraid of dying myself. And then as soon as I checked the box “not controllable” it was like something had been lifted. I found the words “I can’t control everything” and “I can accept the universe’s plans for me” and another layer of weight evaporated. It made me think about what I can control.

I can control the amount of time I spend with my wife. I can control how productively I spend the rest of the time I have alive. I can control how many enjoyable things I do in my life, on a daily basis. I can, to some degree, control how many toxic people are in my life, where they are, and how much I come into contact with them. I cannot control whether she or I lives or dies. But I can control most things up to that point.

And as cheesy as it may sound, I now intend to. 

As promised.

Here’s what I’ve written today of my recreation of Howl for my generation. I’m thinking of calling it Howl for Millennials.

This is what I’d written previously.


incomparable cul-de-sacs of suburban longing and
disgust in the mind leaping toward poles of
Happiness & Irritation, illuminating all the qui-
vering time of Life between,
Cocaine solidities of study halls, backyard family barbecue
yawns, tequila drunkenness in the frat houses,
store-bought over-the-counter joyride neon
flashing cop light, sun and moon and tree
violations in the Save The Earth Club,
ashtray rantings and just sleep slip of mind,
who chained themselves to free bus passes for the endless
ride from up-town to library down-town on no sleep
until the noise of wheels and children brought
them out panicking dry-mouth and
bawling broken of beauty all drained of belief
in the drear light of dorms,
who sank all night in submarine light of dining halls
floated up and sat through the stale pizza after-
noon in wretched student centers, listening to the death
of originality on the loudspeaker,
who talked continuously seventy hours from book store
to dorm to job to dorm to party to the third
story window,
a lost generation of state-of-the-weather talkers jumping
down the cliff out windows off bridges
off classroom desks down from the stars,
debating sobbing vomiting reciting formulas
and histories and names and brain wastes
and medications and armed forces,
whole intellects massed in regurgitating for one hour
maybe two with dulled eyes, meat for the
Dean of Students cast on the pavements,
who vanished into nowhere wastes of dropouts leaving a
trail of unambiguous pay-stubs of minimum
wage life,
suffering summer-day sweats and library knuckle-crack-
ings and migraines of hangovers under sleep-with-
drawal in common area’s bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the
square wondering where to go, and stayed,
leaving only their own broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes on sidewalks sidewalks sidewalks meandering
through snow toward lonesome bars in grand-
father night,
who studied Shakespeare French Mathematics dep-
rivation and healthy habits because the psych de-
partment vibrated at the thought of illness,
who loned it through the endless notion of taxes seeking vi-
tal information that was the only vital information
needed,
who thought they were only asleep when midterms
gleamed with academic excellence,
who jumped in cheap cars with the frat boys of Greek
Row on the impulse of winter midnight street-
light smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through semesters
seeking comfort or sex or beer, and followed the
brilliant philosophy major to converse about America
and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so left him
for another,