Good Things Will Happen

I am not an optimist. In fact, I am an anxiety-ridden pessimist that will imagine the worst case of any given scenario.

One day, my husband said to me: “You know the worst outcome isn’t any more likely than any other outcome.”

“Yeah, so? It could still happen.”

“So could the best outcome. Why not visualize that one instead? It’s just as likely or unlikely as the worst.”

It seems so obvious, but for a moment I was taken aback. Why does fantasizing about positive outcomes feel frivolous while ruminating about disaster feels pragmatic?

In recent years I’ve taken his advice to heart; it helps me recognize when I’m “doomsdaying” and allows me to visualize (and therefore work toward) positive outcomes. That doesn’t mean I ignore or refuse to prepare for challenges, but it allows me to protect my mental health so that I am strong enough to accept turns for the worst.

By now, you probably know where I’m going with this.

COVID-19 is happening. However we anticipate or prepare, the disease is a reality that we will have to accept. Maybe it will effect us directly (or depending where you live, maybe it already has.) Maybe we will escape its reach. Except we won’t, because its very threat is already weighing on us: in our social media feeds, in the news, in our thoughts. It whispers through the phone lines when we call our family and friends, it lingers in our goodnight kisses, it sits on our chests as we lay in bed at night.

Let’s be honest — pop culture does not have a great track record for preparing us for crisis. We love our postapocalyptic fiction — the grittier, the better — and it has ingrained in us a certain set of expectations about what humanity does when faced with a threat:

Every person for themselves.
Conflict between small groups.
General lawlessness and anarchy.

When we hear the word “pandemic,” “quarantine,” and “lock down,” I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that the images that come to mind are bleak.

And there are very real challenges to a pandemic like this: there are deaths (and no, “elderly, disabled, and immuno-compromised does not lighten that blow), there is loneliness, there is anxiety, general inconvenience, and boredom.

But, my God, there is also beauty. Not that pandemics are desireable or beautiful things, but nor do they entirely eradicate the ability of humans to experience wonderful things. Lock downs, quarantines, and sickness are not experiences we would choose for ourselves, but we manage to live through them anyway.

Here’s the thing, when faced with a crisis, humanity does not devolve into madness. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary.

Hugo-award winning author N.K. Jemisin has pointed this out on multiple occasions. Her intensive research and world-building is what makes her postapocalyptic Broken Earth series so engaging.

That doesn’t mean that the Stillness –the world in which the Broken Earth narrative takes place — is without violence, systemic oppression, death, or any other number of terrible things; they are often central to the story. But they are also not presented for “shock value.” They are authentic qualities of the world, they aren’t exploited to manipulate the audience’s attention and emotional reaction, they are not contrived, and that’s what makes her writing so compelling and important. Its world encourages the audience to more deeply examine their own reality, it provides meaningful perspectives and the tools to navigate them. It also leaves room for hope.

(By the way, I highly recommend reading the article mentioned in the tweet — written by Arkady Martine, another fantastic SF writer — you can check it out here: https://www.tor.com/2018/11/14/what-really-happens-after-the-apocalypse/)

COVID-19 is not an apocalypse. It is a moment that will pass, which does not mean it will leave the world the same once it is gone. Hope and acceptance are reasonable things to have during its stay.

Despite everything, good things will happen. Cooperation. Generosity. Laughter, even. And when we can visualize these moments, it becomes easier to recognize and embrace them. To share them.

Stories from China and Italy are already demonstrating this.

Moments of peace slip into the tiniest gaps left by fear, anxiety, and even grief.

I think there is a delicate balance that fiction can strike which can help us during times like these. Fiction can recognize and challenge difficult situations, it can tackle issues like inequality, violence, and loss, it can evoke uncomfortable feelings from a “safe” perspective.

My goal as a writer for the past few years has been to create fiction that offers relief and escape without sacrificing responsibility. I want to find beauty in mundane moments, “good” and “bad”. I want to help give people the safety and space to begin valuing these moments in their own lives. (And also therefore, room to acknowledge and dismantle obstacles and injustices.)

I am working on a short-run web fiction series that focuses on isolation, illness, connection, and loss. Maybe it will help me deal with some of the anxiety that comes from living in this media-driven world during a time of difficulty, and maybe it will bring someone else a brief moment of peace too.

All of this to say that: this is a moment. It’s reasonable to feel anticipation, fear, anxiety. It’s responsible not to ignore the challenges ahead, but it’s also responsible to remember that you are not alone. That there will be times when things are not okay, but there will be times when they will be. That this is not an interruption to your life, it IS your life.

It’s okay to imagine a world where things work out. It’s okay to want to see that world in the fiction you consume and the reality you live. It’s okay to feel what you feel when things get difficult.

But whatever happens, we will still move forward, together.

Some Days

Some days
I give so much of my love away
that I forget to leave any
for myself.

Some days
I give so much of myself away
that I become a walking
human-shaped absence,
defined
only by the space
of where other people are not.

Some days
I have no one to give to
and in that freedom I expand
so far
that I lose
all
cohesiveness.

Some days
I cannot remember who I am
only all of the things I should do
and all of the things I have failed to do.

Some days
I make lists about myself
so that I cannot forget:
what I’ve done,
what I like,
what I want.

Some days
I look at those lists
and wonder
where that person went.

Some days
I am certain
that some crucial part of me
has died
taking with it:
memories
and dreams
and desires
and
and
and

Some days
I want to be struck by lightning —
not to die,
but on the off chance
that I might reanimate.
Or at least
feel that rush of electricity
down my spine.

Some days
I can pretend that I’m okay,
end this on a note about
hope.

Some days
I give so much of my love away
that I forget to leave any
for myself.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Thieves’ Guilt

my love,
we live
in a den full of thieves

each of us
pilfering and pinching,
one from the other,
back and forth
and around again
in a merry-go-round heist

our children
plucking the hours
from our pockets
and the sleep from our beds,
the heat from our meals
and our drinks
and our kisses —

not that it keeps us
from stealing them anyway

after all,
you and I
are just as guilty as they:
every breathing moment
an ill-gotten prize,
an impossible debt
we never intended to pay

our guilt
evidenced
in the tipping of toes
and whispers in the dark,
in quiet tears
and the protests
of little voices

every moment we call
ours
is one taken from
them
every second I claim
mine
means one less for
you

these very words
counted and hoarded,
concealed around a corner
while the authorities
call my name

they are written
with borrowed minutes,
a fleeting currency
that dissolves
before it can ever be
repaid

we live
in a den full of thieves,
my love,

and I fear
taking more
than I’ve
lost

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A Safe Distance

There is a space between

you and me

that measures
the exact distance
required
for a wild animal
to turn from deadly
to cute.

It is the kind of distance
that plays tricks on the eye —
blurring harsh edges,
leaving only pointillistic impressions
that tickle the most palatable of memories.

It is the size of
scribbles
coalescing into sense,

kitchen knives
mistaken for
wooden spoons.

Ours is the distance of i n e b r i a t i o n.

An astigmatic blur
bloating e’s into o’s
and misjudging lies lines.

The time it would take to travel from

Point “me” to Point “you

is comparable to
that satisfying span
of autumn and summer
before we begin to pine
for the pleasures of the other.

Or the time
it takes a new mother
to break that promise
she made to herself:

Never again.”

It is the breadth of forgetfulness,
of longing,
of doubt,

but not of forgiveness.

There is a space between

you and me

and it is not enough.

Reminder.

I’ve forgotten
what it’s like
to just

exist.

To leave
without taking anyone
with me.

To abandon

the photographs,

and mental notes,

and the scripts
of what I’ll tell them all
when I get
home.

My stories are just that —
mine.

They don’t

cease

to exist

just because I didn’t share them.

And if they do,
that’s okay too.

Maybe
they already
accomplished
what they needed to.

Or

maybe
not everything
needs a purpose.

Not every secret
needs to be
told.

Not every thought
needs to be
posted
for critical evaluation.

Solitary moments
that pass
unobserved
by everyone
except
me

still passed.

Time
doesn’t need to be
marked
to elude us.

Moments,
stories,
thoughts,

don’t need
an audience
to have value.

And neither do I.

Only —

It seems to me
that there’s been some confusion

in the news, in the media
in the comments sections,
and around the family dinner table

about where to aim
the blame
for our every disappointment,
every perceived — and rarely felt —
economic threat,
every culturally-dictated fantasy
that failed to come to fruition.

It’s the immigrants, they say.
The welfare collectors.
The addicts.
The poor.

But I say:
You’re all too cowardly
to pick a fight you might lose.

Sure, you’ll land your blows.
You’ll leave bruises.
Pull out hair
already thin from worry,
and malnutrition,
from living a life you refuse to value
simply because it is not yours.

You’ll pick their bloodied pennies off the floor,
put them in your pockets,
and misjudge the weight
of that blood and copper
as wealth.

But you were born
in a human pyramid —
somewhere around the middle
maybe —
and you’re stomping on the heads
of the people holding you up.
Blaming them
for the weight
of the person sitting on your shoulders.

But that person took risks, you’ll say.
Worked hard to climb to the top.
To deserve
to withhold
the necessities of life
from those who do less.

Those who only–

sleep in the streets
in weather that gnaws at their bones,
because that’s all the hunger has spared.

Only–

weigh their life on the tip of a needle
against a pain
the world tells them doesn’t exist.

Only–

risk their safety
trading the scraps of their self-worth
for a few guilt-ridden dollars.

Only–

work triple shifts
skipping meals and doctor’s appointments
so their families don’t have to.

Only–

leave their violence-ridden homes
for a place that will hate and envy them
for their will to survive.

Only–

carry their children on their backs
over the corpses
of the ones they couldn’t save.

Only.

Only imagine the strength —

in those backs
and those shoulders
and those hearts
and those bones.

The power in those hands.

If you would only pull them up
high enough to reach
the very peak of that pyramid.
High enough to shake from those pockets
the blood and copper
we’ve been letting weigh
us
down for so long.

53 Ganymede S03 E11

The second last episode of 53 Ganymede is out now! (Audio will be out later this weekend once I do some troubleshooting with Audacity. Sorry it’s late — I’m still making a lot of mistakes and learning as I go, so I appreciate everyone’s patience.)

Only one more episode left and, because my schedule for December is pretty hectic, I’m actually going to be releasing it two weeks early. This means the final episode of 53 Ganymede will be available on Friday, December 6th.

I can’t believe we’re already at the end. I hope everyone has been enjoying the series so far — don’t forget to leave a comment or, even better, a review over at Web Fiction Guide.

You can find the latest episode by clicking the image below.