Here I am in my apartment. Home Sweet Home. The last week has been full of trials and tribulations with have texted the full limit of my patience, but I made it through to the other side. Just like the last 6 months have been full of trials and tribulations which have tested the full limits of my mental capacity, but I made it through to the other side. Best of all, I’m not living in a homeless encampment on the street.
In fact, I just planted the most beautiful balcony garden. When I said I wanted a New Orleans-style balcony, I meant a full-on New Orleans-style balcony with magical healing herbs and hanging ferns and creeping vines and bright, colorful arrays of flowers that bloom both day and night and smell like heaven. This is America. You either go big or go home. In my mind, that means it’s either going to be the literal Hanging Gardens of Babylon or nothing at all! As a result… it’s magical AF. So far. It’s small now but it will be big, and right now I’m so in love. Especially because gardening is something I haven’t been able to do since I was a child because of N-Mom. Like, I got SIX different kinds of vines. SIX. Why? Because she wouldn’t let me grow vines. It’s a thing. So now that I have full control over my life again, I basically bought ALL the vines. I can’t wait to watch them wind their way around my balcony, take back control the way nature intended, and bloom into full blossoms they deserve to be. Oh yeah, this garden is definitely in bloom. It’s blooming out-of-control, ya’ll. Bonus points to any readers out there who immediately got the Queen Charlotte reference, lol.
Speaking of Blooming Gardens, how is that Penning Passions class I’m taking going? Oh, amazingly, of course. I’ve always wanted to take a class just on writing Romance. It’s so great. Highly recommend. So far we’ve talked about the psychology of love and relationships, heat levels, characters, plot, and all that jazz. Next week we’re finally getting to the juicy stuff. Obviously I was inspired to take out my Andrew manuscript and read it. Only this time, I didn’t read it from the beginning. No. I read it backwards. And I made some very surprising discoveries by doing that. I’m not gonna go into much detail, but let’s just say that way more of it is in-line with The Rules than I thought. Is it messy and disorganized and way, way, way, way too long? Oh yeah. But there’s something there. Something big. So… yeah. I’m just gonna take that general essence, change everything, and start all over from scratch. Congratulations. You got your second book. I’m sure you and your massively overly-inflated ego will be very happy together. Well done. Well done indeed. I’d like to award you with this $5 gift certificate to the local cafe. Go buy yourself a treat today. You’ve earned it, bucko.
So… that was the natural progression after burning Bloody Mary’s to the ground, I guess. The other natural progression was me looking at my various sketches of “The Town” I’ve created and going… mehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I don’t really like this at all, lol. This place doesn’t feel like a cute, whimsical little town where you could believably set a Hallmark movie. It’s more like… the Ninth Circle of Hell as described in Dante’s Inferno; freezing cold and full of backstabbers. It’s spooky and weird and honestly kind of unsettling in its ephemeral transience. It feels more like a great setting for a horror or a mystery story, neither of which happen to be the genre I’m currently working in. I don’t like it here. I never have. It’s not for me. It’s not my cup of tea. Why would I keep writing a place I don’t like? Ridiculous. We’re moving this story somewhere else. Literally anywhere else. And we’re not using any of the characters I’ve already created, because tbh most of them pretty much fucking suck. I’m thinking… New Orleans. Or a beautiful beach somewhere in Belize. Or perhaps even the Byzantine Empire. Like I said… literally anywhere else besides South Dakota will be the perfect setting for this story.
The other reason I’ve been able to finally let this “write a memoir about living in SD” idea die is because my dad died. Sucks to say, but he was the one who was always pushing the idea of a memoir. I think it’s because he wanted to write one. He was definitely planning to. Unfortunately, he was very insistent on pushing that idea onto me as a way of “coping” with the fact that I wasn’t making my own life choices for myself, I guess. Oh you’re struggling with mental illness? Just write a best-selling memoir and become The Face of mental illness and everyone will think you are so brave. WRONG. I’m a woman, dad. People don’t think I’m brave, they just think I’m “SoOo CrAzY” because misogyny. And anyway, I don’t want to write about my mental health struggles anymore. It’s not interesting or unique. Honestly, who the fuck ISN’T struggling with mental health issues in a Post-COVID society? Someone else can be The Face of mental illness with their bestselling memoir. I’m going to go take another relaxing bath with my Ashwaghanda epsom salts.
I also don’t want to write about living in South Dakota anymore. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve written about my life in South Dakota. I went out there and I explored this brave new world for everything it has to offer (including but not limited to cheeseballs, deep fried oreos, chislic, and Indian Tacos <3). And I don’t like it. At all. Is the natural beauty incredible? Sure it is, but it’s not the most beautiful place. And the people? Ugh. OVER IT! After almost 15 years of living here, I really don’t have anything left to say. I don’t like it. I don’t want to write a book about it. I’m sick of wasting my time and energy on it. The End. That being said, shoutout to the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota and other Indigenous Peoples of the area. I think your cultures are beautiful and magnificent and powerful. I am genuinely rooting for you to take back this land from your oppressors. They’re a bunch of fucking assholes.
Moving on from all that, it looks like things might actually start coming back together on the writing front. And thank god, really, because it’s been ROUGH since I came back from Paris. Not just because of the pandemic, but mostly because of the pandemic. To be fair, they did warn us at the beginning of the Writing Workshop that there would be a period of post-workshop slump time where you struggle because you’re not quite sure how to start incorporating the feedback you received. I knew it was coming but I didn’t expect it to last sooooo long, lol. I thought I was the exception to the rule. I wasn’t. It’s okay. The good news is that all my terrible first drafts are behind me now. I can only look ahead to the bright and beautiful future.
Otherwise I’m back in routine. Waking up early, studying my languages, taking writing classes, attending virtual events, exercise, gardening, watching TV, all the healthy stuff. Really making sure I am at my best and brightest before I send my CV out there into the world again, which I really need to start doing by next week. Unfortunately, I hit a snag in my routine because of unexpected issues with the apartment which caused me to have a massive fucking meltdown that I’m not proud of at all. So now I’m just like… okay, I woke up today and I’m gonna try again. Lately, I’ve been having a huge problem with meltdowns when things that are not in my control happen that directly affect my highly controlled environment. Like I get everything set perfect so I can function as my best self, and then some outside force comes in and messes it up and I just fucking lose my mind. I have no control over it. It’s actually crazy. It doesn’t feel good. I’m trying to tell myself this is a trauma response to being kept in such heavily controlled circumstances against my will. Like I could never just do things my way, and now I want to do everything my way, and if I can’t do it exactly my way then I’m going to freak out! Ridiculous. So yeah, yesterday was bad, but I anticipated all of those same issues today, found a way to work around them, and now I’m totally calm. Anxiety! So much fun! Yay! At least I’m trying to work on it!
Otherwise, my languages are going well. I decided I’m going to take serious steps to attend graduate school in France, so that means I have to take an official test (TCF) to certify that my language level is good enough to attend a public university in France, which costs next to nothing compared to the US. I need to get a B1 or higher on this test to be admitted into university. I also have to go all the way to either Chicago or Denver to physically take it at a certified testing center because I live in the middle of goddamn nowhere and those are where the closest testing centers are. At this point I might as well just fly back to DC to take it so I can at least spend some time at home for a couple of days. I don’t know what I’m going to do about that part yet. I’ll figure it out in 4-6 months when it’s relevant.
The good news is: I did a practice test which is comprised ONLY of listening exercises and got a B1 Intermediate! On a practice test! That’s pretty good for being out of school for a decade and only having returned to France once during that time frame. Thank you, Duolingo, Netflix, and Disney+! I put in the work to improve my listening skills and comprehension during the pandemic and I just watched it pay off! Go me! Honestly so proud of myself right now. No one else is going to say that to me so I’m saying it to myself right here.
So while this is good news, it was still just a practice test and I do actually have to study study because my confidence actually speaking and communicating in French is surprisingly low compared to my level of confidence with English or Portuguese or even Spanish, which is currently taking a siesta in the background of my brain. So I signed up for the B1-B2 French course on Coursera and picked up some French books from the local thrift. I’m currently trying to decide how I want to schedule my language days now. Obviously I LOVE learning Portuguese, but I just do that on the side for fun. I have to be super duper serious with my French, so I’m thinking maybe split my study with 4 intensive days of French and 3 casual days of Portuguese. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I will.
As always, I’m spending every extra moment watching TV and movies. So much excellent content out there. I really need to discipline myself to start keeping a journal of what I watch. I wanted to do it during the pandemic, but I didn’t because I woke up every day wondering if today was the day when Donald Trump was finally going to push the big red button and finally put us all out of our misery. Too much anxiety, in other words. It felt better to treat the TV like a comfy pillow I could just rest my brain on after a long day. This is fine. The general rule is to watch through once to see it, and watch through again to take critique. I don’t think it will be too much trouble to sit down and re-watch some of my favs again. My only problem is that I have so much content to dig through. It’s hard to justify a re-watch unless it’s a comfort show like Sex in the City or Gossip Girl. If I wasn’t into it the first time, well… there’s something else out there I would rather sink a couple hours of my life into. But that’s the thing… I spend so much time doing it that I might as well get paid to write about what I’m watching. But also, why do I have to monetize every single thing I do? Because capitalism says so? Fuck that. Maybe I just want to sit down and watch TV and escape from everything else in the world.
It’s also nice because spending the last three years doing this has programmed my brain to start thinking in screenplay format and less in short story format like it was when I started this site in 2016. God knows what I was thinking back then. Pretty sure I wasn’t. I just saw a new body of water to be explored and dove right in. If only I’d known those waters were infested with snakes…
Speaking of this site, you may notice I’m taking down blog posts again. I just don’t want to run this blog anymore. I want to do Paris in South Dakota, which is really just a glamorized portfolio, or something. Maybe. I don’t know. I just want it to be… different. Start over fresh with something new. No connection to anything I’ve done before. Just new, new, new, all the time.
On that note, I’m off to go devour this ridiculously large cinnamon roll and use it as a metaphor for my feelings. Have a fabulous day!