The Hundredth Post! Excerpts From “Timber” And Short Story Collection

This is my hundredth post! As of yesterday, you all have blessed me with 2,000 visitors to this website in 2020. Because of this, I figured I would let my readers choose the content of my hundredth post, so I held a poll to let everyone decide what this post should be and the option selected by popular opinion was an excerpt from a work in progress. I have multiple works in progress, so I decided to include a scene from Timber and one of the short stories, Moving On, from my upcoming collection to be released at the end of this year.

For some context, Timber is a book that follows the main character, Sarah, through her divorce, loss of her existing friendships, and change of identity as her perceptions of reality are challenged and reconciled. The scene I picked is from the middle of the book.

Enjoy!

Photo by Hisu lee on Unsplash

Excerpt From “Timber”

Charity smiled sweetly as her large pale blue eyes with opalescent pupils caught Sarah off guard. She never noticed Charity’s eyes before, or the eyes of any other zombie for that matter. Her extremely pale skin, a deeper blue at the tips of her fingers, had been rarely this visible. She rolled up her sleeves and lovingly arranged baskets filled with children’s books and miniature prints of famous art.

“What will the children do with the baskets?” Sarah asked as Charity’s careful and loving movements prepared each basket.

“They’ll eat them and become smarter. It will help their brains develop and they will better be able to communicate with the world around them.” Charity responded with a hint of exhaustion at having to explain.

“Why not just give the children adult books. Wouldn’t that be faster and better?” Sarah inquired while reaching for her own stack of baskets to begin filling.

“You can’t just give a child a book at a higher reading level! Our brains develop similarly to humans – the solid foundations for learning must exist before we can advance. When a child tries to eat books more advanced than they can handle they get very stressed and sometimes sick. Sure, they might regurgitate the material, but they could end up confused with disjointed information because they couldn’t digest it properly.” Charity handed a stack of children’s books to Sarah.

“So, zombies eat in order to learn?”

Charity stopped filling the baskets and looked up at Sarah, her direct eye contact forcing Sarah to shift weight between her feet. “We do not call ourselves ‘zombies’. Humans came up with that term and forced us to take it with the addition of bad literature and even worse movies.” Charity cleared her throat, took a deep breath, and continued. “And yes, we must physically consume material to learn new information.”

“What do you call yourselves?” Sarah asked, apologetically. Momentary silence stretched into an eternity between tics of the wall clock’s second hand.

“Phagoneurites” Charity sighed. “Individuals are Phagonuers.” She paused and pointed to fabric basket covers. “Hand me the wraps, will you? These are ready to be sent to families.” She indicated to the full baskets now covering the table.

Sarah grabbed the wrap and started helping Charity enclose each basket. “If Phagoneurites learn information so efficiently, why aren’t more in higher paying jobs?”

Charity paused in silent contemplation as her posture and face saddened. “Take that question to your politicians, your judges, your lawyers, and your education system.” She tightened her jaw with a deep seething breath, “The way things are now, we can’t. There are policies against us everywhere, both written and unspoken. The written ones are carefully worded as to prevent us from challenging them. So, we have our own universities, but most businesses refuse to accept degrees from them. The human education system refuses to give our programs accreditations.” Charity began picking up baskets from the table and shifting them into the large bins labelled “outgoing”.

Sarah chewed her mouth, trying to understand her desire to argue with Charity’s words. She’d learned her whole life that the policies were ‘anti-discrimination’ and that it was a choice not to attend human schools. Her brain tried to understand the words Charity said while she kept silent. “I’m sorry,” Sarah managed to say before she even realized she spoke.

“You’re here. That’s a start.” Charity looked at the cleared table and opened a box of books labeled ‘Young Adult’, grabbing more baskets. Her blue lips pursed as she closed her large eyes, appearing to be weighed down by the long white eyelashes. “What was your favorite book as a kid?”


Moving On

The crisp fall air ebbs with the emerging early winter’s night, whipping my hair into my face. It is too cold to meander lost in thought, but too comfortable to be set on edge. The familiar streets twist and turn while the sidewalk cracks etch their places under the moonlight. Hands in my pockets, I fiddle with the once broken necklace. I trace my path with the motion­ sensor front porch lights and barking dogs from across the brick-paved streets.

She loved this walk. Sunday mornings, we dabbled in conversation. She beamed, with those golden curls framing that face – emerald eyes the hidden gems beneath. Her shoes clipped those cracks; she faltered and tripped. Calling herself clumsy, she would hit herself if she stumbled. If she didn’t catch herself, I tried my best to be the arms where she fell. Each time her face reddened: rosy cheeks and the embarrassed grimace. She glossed over that fluttering heart against my chest by enveloping me in a desperate hug. So many surprises emerged from her square, youthful features. I somehow forgot she stood two inches taller. Then again, in those days, I never stopped smiling like an idiot.

At the end of the road, a park hides among an old orchard once part of a larger estate. I approach it as my thoughts flash pleasant autumn days against my will. Under that tall one. They pull me, pointing. The one with the spread branches and the old board nailed to the trunk. My imagination carefully fills in the apple load that weighed down the branches. The scene bleeds memories. The apples from that tree tasted best. She stole apples. I stole a kiss.

I roll the memory around on my tongue. Her eyelashes caressed against my cheekbones. The sound of her soft breath and the rapid beating of her heart against my own as they synchronized: everything I wanted, presented to me with a button nose.

She smiled with such serenity. I boosted her into the tree. Her necklace, the little gold filigree cross pendant on a delicate chain, snagged on a branch, breaking the clasp. In a surprise, she slipped, and I caught her. Through her tears, I held her promising to retrieve and repair it.

Under that tree, in the darkness, I pull the necklace out of my pocket, tracing my fingers along the charm’s sides. Looking up to the branch, I see the stars on the other side of the barren branches.

The pendant was a gift from her parents. While repairing the necklace, I stared. I longed to meet them every time she chose never to invite me to join her at a family dinner or event. I sought out pictures to prove to myself that they looked like her. I fantasized about which bits of her personality she inherited from whom. I wondered if they ever knew my name.

I lost my taste for apples. She disappeared. She never really loved you. Answering machine messages blinked in and out of existence without response. Notes I left under her door sat in my mind, their words echoing my insecurities from inside their sealed envelopes. Why did you ever think you were deserving of love? Why did you think you’d be more than someone’s phase or experiment? Removing the repaired necklace from my pocket, I kiss the pendant one last time. I loop it on a tree branch and turn to leave – following the brick road to a home of boxes and goodbyes. In my periphery – my mind playing tricks – I glimpse her walking our path alone.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read this hundredth post. If it speaks to you, please let me know by liking, commenting, or sharing. This helps me know which posts my readers like best.

Why I Never Expect Apologies

Standing up for yourself doesn't make you argumentative. Sharing your feelings doesn't make you oversensitive. And saying no doesn't make you uncaring or selfish. If someone won't respect your feelings, needs and boundaries, the problem isn't you; it's them.  -Lori Deschene
Picture from relrules.com

What Is An Apology?

We define “apology” as “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure” as a paraphrase of multiple dictionaries.

I have struggled with apologies for as long as I can remember. At one point I was the person that said “I’m sorry” in response to everything. What I found out the hard way is that being trained to apologize for my existence results in others devaluing me. Through school I repeatedly was forced to apologize for my own existence to those bullying me as the only way to escape physical, psychological, and emotional harm. Later, people I called my friends, potential romantic partners, and individuals I did date took advantage of this same pattern. Here are some examples of things and people I have apologized for/to in the past:

  • I have apologized to someone that attempted to rape me and succeeded in sexually assaulting me. I apologized for “keeping calm” while I figured out how to get away from them safely because this “implied consent” and sent “mixed signals” to them despite me saying “no”, “no, stop” out loud, repeatedly.
  • I have apologized to someone that cheated on me for the entire duration of our relationship for not focusing on their feelings and the person they had cheated on me with the whole time.
  • I have apologized for having panic attacks that other people caused on purpose.
  • I have apologized for my existence in spaces where I was made to feel unwelcome.
  • I have apologized for being too sensitive when hurt by humor and for not finding bigoted jokes funny.
  • I have apologized for not being what strangers expected based on descriptions provided by others.
  • I have apologized for many things I should never have apologized for and rather were reasons the recipient of the apology should have been apologizing to me.

Those are a few examples that I will never repeat. The thing is, at the time I genuinely believed that everything I experienced was my fault. In everything that went wrong and every experience I had I always saw the common denominator as myself. I still struggle with this.

What Defines Types Of Bad Apologies?

Apologies should be done because the individual providing them feels genuine remorse. Part of this means not using apologies to manipulate those around you. There are 3 “Don’ts” of apologies (see above), I’d like to address. These include the “I’m sorry you feel that way“, the “never add an excuse“, and the “never expect an apology“.

The “I’m sorry you feel that way” is rarely used in cases of actual empathy or sympathy if the speaker is indeed the person that caused the listener to be upset. This phrasing should never be used in response to someone being genuinely hurt and attempting to discuss their feelings or thoughts on a subject. Using this phrasing belittles the individual you are speaking to and attempts to erase their experience by devaluing it while elevating the status of the “apologizer”.

On the other hand, the advice of “never add an excuse” is often over generalized and used to abuse individuals that are attempting to defend themselves. The difference is there’s never a “I’m sorry, but…” when people are attempting to defend themselves against abuse. Instead, the phrasing used will focus on the logic and/or reasoning someone used as an indication that they should perform the behavior and a recognition that this information was received incorrectly. I have unfortunately dealt with people that would suggest saying anything beyond the words “I’m sorry” including what is being apologized for counts as an excuse.

People using apologies to manipulate, belittle, and otherwise damage the individual making the apology are ubiquitous throughout society. Many people that do these behaviors do so without recognition of their actions, instead focusing on their own emotional experience. The last piece of advice plays into this.

I lived by “never expect an apology” for a long time. Instead, I was the one apologizing every time I felt like someone needed to apologize to me and I wanted an apology, but knew I would never get one. Why? Because obviously whatever happened was my fault and therefore I should be the one apologizing since it couldn’t possibly be anyone else’s fault. Here’s the thing: it’s okay to want an apology, but you need to be okay with not receiving one and knowing how to respond if that’s the case.

Nedra Glover Tawwab, Therapist’s Instagram post: “⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣ Apologies are helpful. But you can move forward without getting one.
⁣⁣ Do not let the lack of an apology determine whether you…”

Nonverbal Apologies

Remember the phrase, “actions speak louder than words?” Sometimes people don’t know how to apologize using words and instead they do so through actions. It’s important to be receptive to this alternative method of apology, especially for appropriate offenses. Apologizing through action involves recognizing an uncomfortable situation or a pattern and stopping recurrence. For minor offenses nonverbal apologies are often enough. Alternatively, nonverbal apologies combined with verbal apologies take on synergistic amplification of the perceived sincerity.

Sometimes handwritten or typed apology notes are the way to go. These provide an indication to the recipient that the cause for apology has been contemplated. It also means that the ability to view and evaluate the apologizer’s response.

Rifts In Relationships

Apologies and forgiveness are meant to repair relationships and bring the divided parties back together. If someone wrongs you, does not see it even with some assistance, and does not apologize of their own volition you need to ask yourself: should this person be in my life? Apologies require the recipient to be receptive and the apologizer to be willing. So, the answer is maybe, maybe not. The relationship should be reevaluated.

Attempting to apologize using manipulation tactics will hurt relationships and drive parties involved further apart, particularly if a wrong has occurred. It’s important to be able to recognize these manipulation tactics when they arise, such as the examples previously mentioned.

When manipulation tactics are used, and/or the individual demanding the apology is doing so as a means of manipulation, it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship entirely.

It is important to note that sometimes a person may need to ask for more information before they can understand what they did wrong and apologize. That need for more information should be taken as a tentatively positive sign. Let the rest depend on the outcome.

Click this to go to spedheadchelsea.blogspot.com for a printable version of this sheet

Apologies And Boundaries

I mentioned that it’s okay to want an apology.

The way that people apologize can help you set boundaries with those around you. As an example, there have been times in my life where I was faced with the need to reevaluate friendships where manipulation tactics disguised as apologies have been used toward myself and my life partner. In these circumstances, I kept wanting an apology for the behaviors these individuals exhibited with communication as to the offenses. Only then could I be confident that these friendships were worth salvaging.

In cases where someone demonstrates their lack of respect and manipulation attempts in writing, actions or spoken phrasing, I can only control myself. I can choose not to respond and I can choose how to provide information regarding my own emotional state moving forward. By wanting an apology, but not expecting one, I have set a boundary that removes these individuals from the previous privileges of friendship until a rejoining moment, such as an apology, can occur.

This needs to be okay. If you remove someone from your life or from the privileges of friendship this needs to be respected. I’m not suggesting abandoning professionalism, the inalienable respect all humans deserve, or common decency.

Friendship Is A Privilege

Let me emphasize part of that last line: treat friendships as a privilege, not a given. By valuing other human beings and treating knowing them as a privilege, recognizing that they do for you things they would not do for others, and acknowledging their efforts to support you, you exhibit gratitude. That gratitude, while it can’t be expected, it can be wanted. Be warned, gratitude can also be used for manipulation, especially in circumstances of competition. This worsens in the event of abuse.

If someone does not show you gratitude for your efforts, what does that mean? What if they demand gratitude from you, but do not show it in return? What if they express gratitude in words, but their actions do not match up?

Dictionary.com defines privilege as “a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.” I am a very private person. It takes a long time to get to know me and those that succeed I make every effort toward maintaining a friendship. Here’s the thing about privileges: they can be taken away.

Take a moment and think about the last time you had to break up with a friend or a friend broke up with you. Do you know why it happened? Did it happen despite apologies? Did one party refuse to offer forgiveness for the other?

Even the most socially blind among us notice when someone stops contacting us entirely when before there was constant communication and support. That said, not everyone recognizes why friendships end and after time has passed, it is within reason to reach out to attempt to reconnect with the understanding you may not receive a response. Don’t spam the person and don’t continuously reach out. Respect their boundaries.

Being your friend is a privilege, but it is also a privilege to be friends with someone else. If any friendship does not involve two individuals treating the other with mutual respect that acknowledges this, then it is unlikely to be a friendship worth keeping.

Especially if the dynamic of forcing another individual to apologize is observed.

Hurt People Hurt People

There’s this thing called the cycle of abuse. Once someone is removed from the circumstances contributing to the cycle of abuse they are experiencing, they may restart it in a different role – that of the abuser. Many individuals that use manipulation or abusive/unhealthy tactics to exploit those around them were once victims themselves and are not doing so consciously. That’s not true for everyone, but it is true in some circumstances.

This is not meant to garner undue sympathy for, or excuse these behaviors. Instead, I want to use this as a springboard for the thought, “it’s about them, not you.” You can’t control other people. You can show them compassion and understanding. You can communicate with them. You can hold boundaries with them. Hopefully they recognize this pattern and break it, but in my albeit limited to my own life’s experience, this takes attempting to explain the behavior, severing contact, and not speaking to the individual with the assumption that it may be indefinite.

I can’t expect apologies from anyone. I can’t expect people to change their behavior or recognize how what they did was wrong. I only have control over my own actions and the way I choose to interact with these behavior patterns and the individuals expressing them. I choose to understand the reasons behind the behavior, but it is not my responsibility to fix anyone.

When Do I Apologize?

I apologize only for things I know I’ve done wrong and am remorseful for. Besides this, I do apologize for my actions if the results did not match my intent. But my apologies are offered less often – not out of pride, but rather self-preservation. I have learned standards for apologies that I hold myself and others to. As a few examples of these standards:

  • I do not use apologies as manipulations and do not tolerate it in those around me.
  • I provide and accept apologies years after once time and introspection has passed. These apologies should not have justification or excuses – as time goes by all that’s left to mend is the pain. Situations and words are distorted and lost by faulty memories – all that matters is the expression.
  • I apologize in that awkward English language way as a sign of sympathy, but reserve when I do it to be driven by compassion. Accepting cultural norms in the face of contrary life experience – yay!

Conclusions

I still apologize to people more frequently than I should, despite efforts to practice otherwise. I still struggle with deciding when enough is enough in unhealthy friendships. I still struggle to stand up for myself after years of training that tells me anything I say counts as an excuse, therefore invalidating the apology that I never should have said anyway.

I never expect an apology, but I don’t suggest the absence of one be “water under the bridge”. It’s important to surround yourself with individuals that remind you what healthy relationships look like – mistakes, apologies, forgiveness, absence of manipulation, absence of physical/sexual/psychological abuse, and mutual respect.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. Without you these words fail to complete the reception portion of communication and instead hang out idly on servers somewhere. If you found that this content resonated with you, please like, comment, and/or share with someone else you think will appreciate it.