Elizabeth: Anger and Confusion

Blankets, blankets, blankets

As I mentioned in my New TV Show Squee post back in January, I’ve been enjoying episodes of the (new to me) show The Good Place when I have a little downtime.  In the episode I watched yesterday the head demon Michael (the Good Place architect) was complaining about humans and their fragile little bodies and ridiculous number of emotions.  “You only need two,” he insisted.  “Anger and confusion.”

While that can’t be right, I can’t help admitting that those two have topped the list for me more often than not for quite some time.

Possibly the last 404 days or so.

The news broadcast I generally watch when I get home from work begins each night with “it’s day xxx of the current administration,” oddly similar to the way broadcasts during the 444 days of the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-81 began years ago.  It’s hardly something to engender happy, positive thoughts, not that the news makes any attempt to do so.  Consistently seeing people doing (and generally getting away with) bad things definitely leads to confusion and anger, making it a real challenge to maintain a level of positivity.

While folks at work have commented more than once about how I’m always so calm and never seem get angry, Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ is a much better representation of what’s going on inside my head more often than not  than Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’, especially if I’ve been out among . . . ugh . . . actual people.

Case in point:  After running errands this weekend wherein the local coffee shop refused to honor a special that they had posted on the wall right by the register, the cashier at the store insisted that thread did not count as a “sewing notion” (the coupon in my hand clearly said that it did), and the driver of the car behind me in the parking lot blared his horn at me two different times apparently for not driving over the pedestrians who were crossing in front of me (one of which was blind for heaven’s sake), anger was definitely high on my list.  It didn’t get any better during the 6 mile drive back home down a freeway that seemed awash in a bumper crop of litter and graffiti (two things I really dislike).

In an attempt to get back to my calm, happy place, I did what I’ve been doing since the beginning of the year – I finished a quilt I’d been working on, as well as a blanket I’d started the week before.  As I added the latest completed items to the pile of finished projects (see the 6 blankets and 3 quilts in the chair photo above), I realized that unless my plan to achieve happiness included building an awesome blanket fort (not such a bad idea), it was probably time to channel my energies some other way like maybe . . . writing?

I haven’t been very successful getting words on the page in recent weeks because, for me at least, anger and creativity don’t work particularly well together.  Writing light-hearted banter or a cute-meet is a real challenge when my mood is anything but light-hearted.

The obvious answer for me was to work on a different story.

Cue I Thought So, a short story I started working on a year or so ago when I was driving home from work, annoyed by a new batch of graffiti on the freeway sound walls.    The story is not a romance by any stretch; more of a weird fantasy, dystopian, something-or-other.  It’s got a society gone wrong, mind control, and the effects of a collective consciousness.  The story stalled when I was first working on it because I couldn’t figure out how to resolve the conflict I had created or who the protagonist(s) should be.  Fortunately, thanks to hearing Whitney Houston singing “children are our future” on the radio, coupled with the amazing efforts of the students currently fighting to change gun legislation, I think I have a solution.    Tomorrow after work I’ll be curling up in a comfy blanket (I have many to choose from) and getting some words on the page, while the solution is still fresh in my mind.

Thinking about anger and confusion also got me to thinking about the hero in the last NaNo story I wrote.  I wasn’t really happy with how he turned out, in part because I was not particularly clear about why he was the way he was.  Thinking about it now it’s obvious.  He was definitely angry.  His dad died and he had to put aside his own dreams and plans to take care of the family business and help his mom and younger brother.  Judging from the snippet below I subconsciously knew he was angry, I just hadn’t fully realized how that colored all he said /did throughout the story.

Instead of designing buildings to populate the cities of the future, Sam spent his days building cookie-cutter starter homes and bringing 1970s ranch houses into the 21st century; dealing with suppliers, permit offices, and clients who couldn’t make up their minds about paint colors or fixture finishes.

He hated it and resented his father for dying then hated himself for the thought.

Lesson learned there so, once I finish working on my short story I’ll be channeling my anger and confusion into the re-write of my NaNo story.

If that doesn’t work out, I think the local craft store has yarn on sale this week.

So how is everything with you?  Have you found ways to channel real life into your writing recently?

10 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Anger and Confusion

  1. Great blankets, Elizabeth! And very curious to hear more about your weird fantasy dystopian story.

    My real life is stirred up right now, with all kinds of silt dredged up from the family’s past mixed with new discoveries–for example, I have to fill in some forms about my mum’s family and discovered I had no idea whether either of her parents had siblings. She never talked about aunts or uncles, and we never met them, so I had to resort to my credit card and the internet. I found my grandmother’s father’s first world war army record, which also listed the fact that he was a coal miner and was not married to Annie, the mother of his *six* children (Eliza, Minnie, Ruth, Albert, Arthur and Ada). My grandmother was the oldest, and I reckon her father must have been about fifteen when she was born. By the time grandma married, at nineteen, her father was dead, I guess probably killed in the war. I’ve been wondering a lot about Annie and her six children. I can’t imagine how tough her life must have been. I’m sure it will filter into a story at some point.

    • That’s fascinating, Jilly. I had an aunt who was an amateur genealogist, back in the pre-internet days, She was also in inveterate (and repetitive) story-teller, so I know a bit about my Mom’s folks. And someone on my dad’s side wrote a family history that I read years ago.

      How cool that the paperwork you have to do anyway is uncovering interesting stories.

    • I’ve been watching some “Who Do You Think You Are?” episodes this week, and this sounds like something from there! Every family tree has a few surprises. My grandmother had a wedding about ten months before her first baby was born, but mysteriously, she couldn’t remember the town they married in, and the courthouse “burned down”, and the records “were lost”. My aunts badgered her about it, but I’m not sure if she ever did come completely clean. It was so shameful back then, and my grandmother was a know-it-all, upright sort of lady.

      Lots of my relatives enjoy exploring the whole family tree (and I admit, I’m one of them, too), so it was very important for my aunts to know exactly what happened and when. Anger and confusion — kind of a constant thread in our family. Leavened with music and a big sense of humor, thank goodness.

    • Jilly, digging into family history can definitely be eye-opening. It’s great that you were able to find information, though sorry you had the need to do so. I did a lot of family history research when I first got married, but haven’t looked at it in decades. Pretty sure there was nothing as interesting as what you found.

      Re: the fantasy dystopian story – I’ll be happy to share it with you once it’s in readable form 🙂

  2. I’ve been thinking I need to check out The Good Place ever since you mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. Now it’s a must.

    I spent last week at a writer’s retreat on Kiawah Island, of the coast of South Carolina. The timing was perfect because I’m just getting started on Book 3 of my demon series and there was a great group of ladies available to help with brainstorming.

    • Jeanne, I’d love to hear what you think of it if you do check it out.

      Yay! for your writer’s retreat. Sounds like you are continuing to make good progress.

  3. Thanks to Jilly, who poked some good holes in my plot, I’m on track with my story to hopefully finish by end of May, before the kids are out of school. At a minimum, I know how the story is going to end now, which is good, seeing as the previous ending was sort of there and sort of nebulous at the same time. The brainstorming session with Jilly the other day, plus the time crunch I’m under to get my first chapters and synopsis cleaned up for contest entries, has me energized and working hard. Just need to keep up the momentum! It helps when I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Elizabeth, there are many charities that look for blankets in case you’re interested in donating them. That might brighten your heart a bit. Also several organizations, particularly in war-torn and climate-damaged places, that need baby blankets, if you’re thinking of buying yarn this weekend. 🙂

    • Justine, I’ll definitely look into the charities. There are only so many blankets / quilts one can use. I was planning to check first with the pediatric ward of the local children’s hospital to start with.

  4. Well, you really can’t argue with blankets. You look back on those gorgeous bits of warmth, and you know you DID something with the last few months. (-: My mom is a big knit-while-watching-TV person, and can crank out sweaters and afghans like nobody’s business. There’s nothing better when I have a miserable cold than to snuggle under one of her afghans with a warm cup of something.

    I think we should have an anger and confusion week sometime this month. I need to stop avoiding those emotions, and write stuff that lets those feelings out to air. It makes pretty good fiction (even as it makes for frustrating life narratives).

    • Re: “anger and confusion week” – the more the merrier! While it makes for some pretty good fiction, I would definitely prefer to shift to some slightly more positive emotions.

      On the bright side, at least I’m not cold while angry and confused. LOL.

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