Your Own Worst Adversary

I wrote a story that I can relate to personally. So many of us try to make our pain or illness more palatable to others (and ourselves) by resorting to humor. It’s a joke now that millennials suffer from near constant existential crises. Low wages, high costs of living, the crippling weight of student loan debt that so many of us were promised we’d easily pay off. These things are true in many countries around the world, but not all. But for those that do suffer under the weight of the odds stacked against us, I hope this story is cathartic in how you can relate to it. I hope you know you’re not alone.

 

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“I’m both my biggest fan and my biggest enemy,” she said laughing. Her friends all laughed too, agreeing vehemently, comrades in their self-loathing.

Later that night, she sat alone in her bedroom, dirty dishes piled high on her desk, bed linens unwashed these past four months.

“I’m not going to apologize for being me,” she posted on social media as she painted her nails red.

Her worth was exponentially higher than she would ever acknowledge, although her heart yearned to believe it.

Serotonin and dopamine, too low most of the time, spiking only when she gave voice to her pain.

©2019 Heather Stephens

Roof

The prompt for this one was “roof.” If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I try to avoid expressing things explicitly, choosing instead to allude to sensations and emotions. I hope they come afross clearly.

I get overwhelmed when I attend places with too many stimuli, like Disneyland or a carnival. Busy places with large crowds always exhaust me. People with sensory issues are vulnerable in places like that because the stimuli overwhelm them, and they lose cognitive clarity and sometimes are unable to function safely. Look out for one another in this hectic world.

 

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The bright lights overwhelmed her vision, and her eyes were beginning to hurt. She tried to regain control of her breathing—in, then out. Count to three. In, then out.

It wasn’t working.

She tried to smile warmly at the children shrieking with joy at the attractions, but deep down, she resented them. It was one o’clock on a weekday. Why weren’t these kids at school?

She wanted to go on one more ride, or play one more carnival game, but that wouldn’t happen. She hated that she had to leave, that she wasn’t strong enough to stay. Sensory overload.

©2018 Heather Stephens

Body Image

For school, I’m reading a lot of literature about body image in both men and women, boys and girls. It got me thinking, so I wrote this.

 

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She prepares her breakfast at ten in the morning. A little late, but she’d foregone the alarm today on purpose.

Self-care is allowing yourself the freedom to exist as is.

Months ago, she skipped breakfast most days. And lunch. She’d have lean protein and vegetables for dinner.

But today she is having a breakfast burrito. She had the same thing yesterday. She will likely have the same thing tomorrow.

She loves the way her hair now gleams in the sunlight. She loves the way her thighs now touch. She loves herself. Genuinely.

Self-care is living life on your own terms.

©2018 Heather Stephens

Mule

The prompt was mule. One of the definitions of the word mule is:

a hybrid plant or animal, especially a sterile one.

 

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My mother was a sex worker. My father was a married man, well-respected in his industry. I’m not sure where that leaves me. My mom did the best she could to support me, but when she died, she didn’t leave me with any knowledge of how to take care of myself.

So I turned to him.

My father didn’t want anything to do with me, but he was wealthy enough to give me a stipend every month, so at least I could eat.

Then he died too, and I was left to go hungry.

I don’t know who I am.

©2018 Heather Stephens

Dark

We’re not afraid of the dark. We’re afraid of whatever it is that is lurking, able to see us, but we can’t see it. How can you fight something you don’t see coming? How can you flee if you don’t know what chases you? Or if it’s chasing you?

A fear of the dark is a fear of the unknown.

 

 

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For the most part, she liked living alone.

Top floor, three padlocks on the door. She put wooden dowels in every window. No one would be opening them. Not even her; she kept forgetting about the dowels whenever she tried to air out a room after deep-cleaning.

But she worked swing shift, stepping off the bus at eleven and walking through her door at eleven thirty. She always asked the doorman if everything was fine, and he never reported any problems.

Still.

Every creak, every noisy neighbor, every shattered bottle in the alley made her skin crawl.

Haunted by shadows.

©2018 Heather Stephens

Rain

The prompt was rain, and it made me miss Washington yet again. I miss it so much. While it’s nice to be able to have access to a sandy beach with actually warm ocean water, I’d much rather reserve California as a place to visit. Not a place to live. Not for someone like me, with a soul like mine, that craves the rain. That craves the shadows under dark clouds.

Someone who hides from the sun.

It overwhelms me. I despise it here. And I just don’t understand how I could ever be happy here.

I’m dying a little with every sunny day.

 

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My mother told me it would be cloudy today. It is. The sky is dark, and it rumbles deeply, shaking my bones.

It’s a comfort.

The clouds opened up five minutes ago, and already the parched earth is coming back to life.

So am I.

I’ve always had an affinity for water, and when it falls from the sky, it cleanses my soul as much as it does the air and the earth.

This time, the rumbling makes the whiskey in my glass shiver like Jurassic Park.

The storm grows closer. I grow more comfortable.

Evolving with the ever-changing storm.

©2018 Heather Stephens

Bubble

This one is autobiographical.

I despise where I live. I want to move back to Washington, where communities have grown more organically, not as much of a bubble as where I live now.

I don’t belong here.

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Traffic at one o’clock?

Undoubtedly. The schools get out at 12:58 PM on Wednesdays. Everyone is picking up their children.

There are three elementary schools within a mile of my house.

I gave directions to the sweet lady at the grocery store. Which way to the Marriott? Oh, just take Street 1 to Street 4 and turn right. The road will bend, and you’ll see it on the right.

Yes, ma’am. Very efficient.

Yes, ma’am. My husband’s commute is only fifteen minutes. Everybody in this town also works here. No reason to look elsewhere.

Master-planned lives in a master-planned community.

©2018 Heather Stephens

Fancy

I feel like the tone for this one is a little different than my usual work, but I like it anyway. The prompt was fancy.pexels-photo-417196

 

Twinkling at her eye-level, his lapel pin was a breaching humpback whale, with tiny black diamonds for eyes. A little gaudy, perhaps, but his presence here supported a good cause.

Ever since she was a little girl, she’d wanted to Save the Whales. She didn’t know that sitting at his table that night at the gala would give her life the one thing it was missing. She had a career, she had a purpose, she had hobbies. All that was left was companionship.

He kissed her fingers when he bid her goodnight, promising to call her tomorrow for dinner.

Complete.

© 2018 Heather Stephens

Spring

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I have posted. Executive function is something I lack immensely, and I haven’t been motivated to write. When I have been motivated, I’ve worked on my novel. It’s shite, but I’m writing it anyway. I’ll post more often. It only takes a few moments out of my day to write a 100-word story, so I can. I will.

The prompt was springpexels-photo-156203.

The stirrings of the season made themselves known in the beat of her heart. Crocuses pushed through the earth, birthed like other forms of carbon-based life, yet different in subtle ways.

Yet like the green things that blanket the planet,  she too draws sustenance from the strengthening sun. The light is not a meal for her, but it gives her energy of another kind.

Deep within her heart, a seed of magic is beginning to grow. Now is the time for forging her own world into existence, leaving the shadows for later. Their time will come.

But for now, life.

© 2018 Heather Stephens

Lost

The prompt was Lost. I could have gone a million different ways with this, but I chose this way. I hope it’s coherent and my point comes across clearly. If you’ve read my other posts, my 100-word stories are always a little bit abstract, but I wasn’t sure if this was too abstract. My husband says it’s coherent, and that’s good enough for me. Here you go!

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Basically, she couldn’t find it.

She’d looked for it everywhere. Everywhere. She’d looked for it in Greece. She’d looked for it in France. She’d looked for it at every job she’d held in the past two years, and she’d had too many of those.

Giving up was not an option, so she kept looking. Desperately, fiercely, painstakingly searching for it everywhere she went. In flower shops and cafes, in bookstores and shopping malls.

It wasn’t until much later that she realized she’d been picking up pieces of it all along.

It was up to herself to put it back together.

© 2017 Heather Stephens