Winter’s a lot Colder When You’re Alone; A Short Story

It was the dead of winter. Outside, the streetlights cast strange shadows across the snow that glittered beneath their beams of illumination. The snow was only disturbed by the tracks from one brave vehicle and a few footprints along the sidewalk. It had been awhile since any activity had occurred in this winter wonderland, the inches of snow that now covered these tracks indicated this. There was still some smoke lingering in the air from the last few flames being extinguished; most everyone else’s had been lifeless for hours. Everything seemed at peace.

The scene inside was much less pleasant. Smoke of a different kind hung heavy in the air, the whole house smelled of dust, sweat, and ash. Most everything was still, even the arms of the clock that stood to measure the time passed stood at rest. She removed the batteries the day he left.

She sat alone in the silence of the conservatory; the trails of mascara streaked down her face comparable to the scars left in the earth once a river dries out. Hidden underneath coats of days-old mascara and eyeliner that valiantly held its place on her eyelids through the floods, her eyes were bloodshot and devoid of all hope.

Who am I without him? I was just adapting to the arctic temperature he put off; I bundled up whenever I was around him.

Her fingertips lightly rested upon a black marble Rook, the accompanying pieces placed strategically across the chessboard in front of her. This game had gone on for days. She was determined to finish what she started, even if that meant she had to remain conscious until the game ended.

My tastes grew accustomed to the severity and insensitivity of his callused reasoning. Every time I fought him, he fought back. He struggled to stay on top, causing me to sink the faster and harder I tried to keep my head above water.

For just a moment her glance shifted to the stool situated across from her. Nicotine-stained court paperwork, the final decree for the dissolution of the marriage to the man that she believed she would spend eternity with. Placed carefully on top of that was a small rectangular mirror, covered in scratch marks from moments her need exceeded her patience and she cut a little too deep. Just a small amount remained of the delightful white crystalline substance, it took all of her strength not to lunge at it then.

Not yet.

The shroud of voices that singed her ears and mind was made up of excerpts found on bathroom walls and one-night lovers’ sweet nothings and empty promises. The monsters that hid in the darkest crevasses in her mind were ready to strike, they waited for the signal. They knew if their stomachs growled enough, she would soon feed them. She couldn’t let her babies starve after all, they were all she had left.

Not yet.

She pulled her gaze away from her sweet lady in white and returned focus to the game in front of her. She examined each piece’s position carefully, determining which move could finally end this prolonged engagement.

He blinded me with reassurances, I see that now. Point to point, things don’t match up. He never stayed late for work.

Her eyes scanned the board, her breathing growing shallow as she felt her throat tighten as she held back more blackened tears.

If I were to mark for every scratch on his back that signified it, my bleeding heart would be blackened from the ink; and if I were to add every breath I withheld while listening through the bedroom door, the house of cards he hides in would surely come crashing down around him in the most ravaging manner. He always found a way to accomplish his objective; I once admired that.

The lump in her throat began to swell and she felt her stomach tie in knots. The tears burned behind her eyes, then flooded down the ravines in her makeup like flood waters. Her body convulsed violently as she choked back her sobs.

I should have never left; I should have seized the opportunity when it presented itself. Now conspiring glances are shared, none of which I am surprised. I am at fault.

She stood for the first time in hours, her bones creaked and her muscles ached. Every convulsion sent needles down her spine. She gasped for air, bawling, begging herself to stop. Shivers coursed through her body and her shoulders and chest heaved with every gasp. After what she could best describe as forever, she had finally calmed herself.

Her eyes fell on the mirror; it beckoned her, seduced her. She approached it carefully, as if in fear that even the slightest quick motion would cause her white mare to flee. She slowly knelt beside it, her fingers grasping a razor that sat on the edge of the chessboard. With mastered skill she drew the remainder of the powder into a thin rail. She took a moment to admire the work of art she had created, and took a deep breath.

This was the signal.

It hit her instantly, she never felt so awake. Her face went numb, and she could feel remnants sliding down the back of her nasal cavity and into her throat. Her thoughts raced on the backs of demons, coursing through even the darkest parts of her mind. Her depression melted away, and fury began to consume her thoughts.

After all that I undertook and faced with him. I transformed the entirety of my soul, reshaped my future. All for him. He abused my emotions, neglected my affections, betrayed my trust.

She stood, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror for the first time since she began her game. It pulled her from her anger as she recognized the same distress that she fought so hard to free herself from. Her eyes were wide and dilated and surrounded by smudges of black makeup. Her cheeks appeared hollowed, and her skin was pale and covered in a sheer layer of sweat. Her dark hair was oily and tangled, it hung haphazardly across her face. She noted that she looked a bit like a rabid raccoon. She couldn’t keep this up much longer.

She centered herself in front of the chessboard with new determination. Still standing, she examined the board from a new angle. She found it hard to focus; her eyes kept flicking back and forth between the opposing pieces as she played through each potential move over and over again. She had to find the move that made perfect sense, the move to end all of the inhibitions that he harvested in her mind.

He planted seeds of doubt and took years to cultivate them into the disaster I’ve become. I’ve no one to blame but myself. I allowed him to wreak havoc among my thoughts, permitted him to establish what was acceptable in our partnership, I convinced myself that was how one behaved when they were in love.

That’s when she saw it, the move she’d been looking for all along. She sat in the chair she had been in for so long, promising this would be the last of the bout. She carefully maneuvered the pieces across the board, removing one by one with fierce precision. There was a spark in her eyes as she placed the last piece.

At last, I can put this all to rest. No longer will I allow his opinions of me to manipulate the manner in which I view myself. My being has been cleansed of his influence.

Checkmate.

The Millenial’s Guide to the Woes of Work, the Mess of Marriage, and the Density of Depression

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything deep and insightful (or written anything at all for that matter), but I’m going to give it a shot due to having so much on my mind and not knowing what to do with it. So here goes nothing.

I’ve often heard my generation be referred to as “Millenials” or “Generation Y.” After some consideration, I’ve determined that a better suited name would be “Generation WHY.” Allow me to explain; our generation questions everything, and constantly worries about what’s in it for themselves. Why do I have to work? Why do I have to pay outrageous sums of money for college tuition? Why won’t my parents support me well into my 30s? Why can’t I do what I really want? Why do I have to do what authorities tell me? Why won’t my parents buy me what I want? Why do I spend so much time worrying what’s happening all around the world while my own life and society is crumbling around me? Why should I care? Some of these are valid points that I agree with, while others are simply idiotic and disrespectful; I’ll let you determine which are which.

Now that the brief description is out of the way, let’s start with the Woes of Work. Work can really suck, can’t it? No matter which shift you work, there’s a high probability that you feel the prior shift is incompetent and simply enjoys making your life a living hell. I assure you, this isn’t the case. Well, most of the time at least. If you work for a giant corporation (as I do), you begin to realize a few key things about work:

  1. The harder you work, the more capable your superiors believe you are, the more they’ll give you to do. Even if that means they give you more tasks than you are physically capable of completing in a standard eight hour period.
  2. No matter how hard you work, there’s always someone who is more qualified than you.
  3. If you work with primarily women, the WILL start rumors and try to make it impossible for you to look better than them in any way.
  4. You have to absolutely focus on yourself and your work. Remember, you’re there to make money, not friends. If they insist on gossiping and dragging you into it, have the common sense to keep it to yourself.
  5. You’ll begin to notice that the associates who have been with the company for an extended period of time go one of three ways, they become bored and less productive due to familiarity of their work. Two, they’ll become stressed to the point of becoming a seemingly constant angry, detached entity. Or three, they retain their constantly cheery, outgoing behavior and are viewed as an over-achiever that no one likes.

These kinds of situations have become increasingly normal, which (in my opinion) is depressing and almost pitiful. Simply walking into an establishment, you’ll be able to identify what’s happening with the associates, who holds resent for another, and who really does their fair share of the work that needs to be done. This is a result of associates being unable to separate their home lives from their work lives. This isn’t simply an option, no. This is something that NEEDS to be done, not only to increase productivity in the work place, but also to increase happiness in your home life. Don’t take your work home with you, you’ll regret it.

Another thing that I’d like to mention about the workplace is interpersonal communication and relationships in the work place. By relationships, I’m referring to everything from friendships, to infatuation with a coworker, all the way to ruining your home life by having an affair with a coworker; but I’ll come back to this in just a moment. I’d like to first talk about interpersonal communication and micro-messages. If you’re unfamiliar with these concepts, I’ll do my best to explain. I’ll also include and excerpt with a link to some helpful tools. Interpersonal communication studies how tone of voice and body language have an effect on productivity and acceptance of coworkers and superiors. Example being, the way you greet an associate that you enjoy working with is going to be considerably different than the manner in which you would greet an associate that you dislike or deem useless, if you choose to greet that associate at all. The trick is to not pick favorites, although this will happen regardless, you need to learn how to control your behavior around the associate that you are dissatisfied with. If that associate becomes aware that their very presence is a bother to you, it will show in their productivity and they’ll either begin to avoid you, or purposefully inject themselves into your course of work simply to make things difficult for you depending on what kind of person they are. On the other hand, there’s affection and infatuation. This is just as dangerous, if not worse. Allow me to explain. At first, things are great. You like each other, you strive to impress the other person, and everything seems to fit into place. Sometimes these things work out and it’s fantastic, but more likely than not, things become twisted and cause problems. You’ll begin to find irritating habits about the other person, productivity will decline, and will eventually culminate with you not wanting to see one another and someone quitting, which hurts the establishment. The thing that most couples fail to realize is that every healthy relationship includes space (I’ll touch on this more a bit later), and working with this person as well as spending large quantities of time together outside of work can be detrimental to your relationship. My advice is to avoid personal relationships in the workplace. If you begin to find yourself in one of these situations, you need to find a way to get yourself out. Whether that means you quit, or attempt to move to a completely different part of the establishment or another location of the establishment, I’ll let you decide. However, just remember that in order to keep yourself happy and productive at work, you need to separate your home and work life.

There’s not much else I can say on the matter, I’m not allowed to affect free will. So, I’ll move onto the next topic I’d like to discuss: the Mess of Marriage. Before I go any farther, I’m not implying that my marriage is a mess, or that your personal beliefs of marriage are irrelevant. I’m simply voicing my opinion and giving advice to the best of my abilities.

So on to marriage. For some, the wedding is the happiest day of their lives until they have children, but for others, it’s a massive expense that causes more stress than it’s worth. Mine was the latter. By no means do I regret my wedding, it was beautiful and I loved it, but it was far from my dream wedding and it just stressed me out constantly worrying about what I’d forgotten. Something to keep in mind is that it doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be what you and your significant other wants. You’ve got to communicate with one another. A lack of communication could result in a haphazard marriage where one person is content and the other is unhappy. This can lead to lies, hiding things, affairs, and neglecting not only the needs of your partner but your own needs as well. You don’t want to do this. A side note, you don’t want to talk to anyone about your marital problems, they’ll only make you doubt yourself and your relationship more.

The best advice I can give you is to have faith in what you love, in who you love. Always, always, always communicate, don’t hide anything. Complete and total trust is what helps a relationship thrive and survive. If you have no trust, you have nothing. If you have no love, you have no business being in a relationship. You need to learn to love yourself before you’re capable of loving anyone else, and that’s something that I was having a hard time accepting when I first got with my husband. He’s made me a better person, but it took me quite some time to get where I am with him. Time. That’s important. Time is everything when it comes to love. Don’t rush into things, and do your best to keep a clear mind. Discuss where you see yourself down the line and make sure you have reasonable goals, not only personal goals, but goals with your loved one. Don’t let others bring you down or interfere with your relationship. That’s about all I can say about marriage and love at this point, but there’s always more to it. There’s always more.

Onto my final point, the Density of Depression.

Depression, in my experience, is natural. It comes when you least expect it, and more often than not it comes with absolutely no trigger. One day you’ll be completely okay, then the next it’s like the weight of the world is sitting on your chest attempting to convince you that the world would be better off without you. You can’t believe the demon that sits on your shoulder and whispers terrible things to you. To be honest, battling depression is no easy task, and it usually never completely goes away. It’s like a crippling blow to your self-esteem and it completely skews your perception of the world around you. It’s similar to looking into the mirror after a hot shower; even if you wipe the condensation away, it forms again quickly and you’re unable to focus on anything very clearly. Now there’s a difference between depression and sadness. Sadness goes away, while depression lingers in the back of your mind constantly and tugs at the corners of your mind, not allowing you to focus on anything completely and leaving you in a constant state of self-doubt. It’s unfair to yourself to allow yourself to feel this way. I’m not saying you’re going to be able to simply magically move past it and wish it all away. It’s going to be there, but there’s always a way to distract yourself. Read a book, write an article, go for a walk, take a nap, color in a coloring book, clean something. There’s always something else to do. You can’t allow depression to cloud your mind, you can’t let it convince you that the world would be better off without you. You’re here for a reason, and you’ll never know what it is if you take the easy way out. There’s someone out there who loves you, someone who cares deeply for you. You can’t destroy their happiness just because you can’t find yours. You’ll be okay, you can make it through this.

I don’t have anything else to say on the matter, so I’ll close this entry here. I’ll simply leave you with this: Find your happiness, and once you find it, you hold onto it. Don’t choke it, let it breathe. You need to breathe. You can make it through anything if you put your mind to it and don’t let the shadows hold you back. I believe in you.