Your whole day ruined


Sometimes little things can just set you off. Small, insignificant things that shouldn’t, but do, ruin your day. You’re having a good day and feeling good then suddenly something happens and it all goes downhill. Maybe someone bumps into you at the grocery store and they give you what you perceive to be a sarcastic “excuse me”; maybe, when you’ve finally worked up the courage to say something in class someone interrupts you; or maybe you’re playing a game online and someone makes a rude comment meant to upset you… and it does. There goes your whole day. Your good mood is ruined.

“Why would they do that?” you ask. “What is wrong with me? Why does this person dislike me?” Because there is an element of self-blame in these situations, at least for me. It’s not an entirely conscious thing. I didn’t understand this at first but after much consideration I can see that this is true. I realized it when I considered interactions with strangers.

The problem is: why should a small gesture, or comment, from a total stranger bother me at all? They know nothing about me. I will probably never interact with this person again.

An anonymous internet troll replies to a comment in a nasty manner (as trolls do). It gets to you. It shouldn’t, but it does. When this happens to someone else,  you can clearly see that it’s a troll. It’s no big deal. It’s the internet and this happens. When it happens to you, you can also see through it and reason it out in the same way, but it still gets to you. You know it shouldn’t. You hate that it does. The comment has made you feel bad.

The stranger who bumped into you was the rude one, and yet you’re the one who feels bad. Why?

Well, what if they’re right? Sort of. I don’t really think this. Not exactly. Not in those exact words anyway. I understand that if someone is rude to me, it is they who are at fault. But my biased subconscious, which wants to blame everything on myself, wonders what if it’s my fault? Why were they rude to me? They must dislike me. What is it that I do that makes random people dislike me? Does everyone hate me? Why can’t people just be nice to me? These questions are not my literal thoughts in such situations. With them, I’m trying to describe the feeling of anxiety that I experience. These questions are not what I ask myself, but what I feel.

But it gets worse. Knowing that things like that shouldn’t make you feel like this makes you feel bad about it. It bothers me that small things bother me so much. That my character is not strong enough to just let these things roll off of me. Why do I feel like this? What is wrong with me? These are the questions that turn over and over in my mind.

I think it actually feels worse that I’ve let such things get to me than the things themselves make me feel. The day-ruining event is bad enough, but then it was I who let it ruin my day. Am I really so fragile? How do I ever even leave the house? Wait. Should I leave the house?

So as a means of defence you tend to, not necessarily consciously, avoid these situations where such anxiety-causing things might occur. “Oh gosh, someone replied to my comment. I can’t ever check it. I wouldn’t be able to handle reading it.” But then you try. There goes the mouse cursor, about to click on the link. Wait. That familiar feeling of dread, of anxious terror, has taken over again. Just click the damn link. Who cares what it says? Maybe it’s a positive comment! Oh, but it is so terrifying. What if it’s not a positive comment? Then your entire day will be ruined, like it always is, and why would you want your day ruined? You don’t want to feel like that. But you don’t want to feel like this either, like a coward. Normal people can click links, dammit.

Why am I this?

The question above comes up a heck of a lot. It’s depressing. Literally. I mean it can lead to bouts of depression. It’s the twin (twins? at least close relatives) monsters of anxiety and depression feeding off each other. Working like a team. Sick pass. Killer shot. Rack up the score. Well done.

So what can be done? What’s the solution? Therapy? Yes. It helps. You can see that the problem has partly to do with bias. The brain working against the brainee, making him or her (or me) see things incorrectly. It’s biases like this that cognitive behaviour therapy seeks to correct. It’s good stuff. Here’s a link.

So what else can you do? I dunno. I’m working on it myself. I’ll get back to you.

Short Stories

The Visitor

When I was a boy I spent my summers at my grandparents’ house out in the country.

Those times were when I found my living conditions to be most suited to my temperament. I have always been that solitary figure wandering off into the distance with no seeming purpose or direction. The farm suited me well for it was the only man-made structure within sight but for the worn road that lied some ways in front of the property and the small wooden bridge beyond it, which was the means for passing over a small stream that wound its way through the plain and down into the forest. There were smatterings of trees here and there on the plain but it was flat otherwise, though it sloped down in a gentle way until it reached the woods.

I spent my days back then wandering along the side of the stream, following the flow of the water to see where it would take me. I set out each day with the naive and impossible mission of finding the place where the stream ended. I knew little about geology then and didn’t have any notions whatsoever about what I would find at the terminal point. It didn’t matter very much because there was always some distraction along the way that prevented me from going very far. Here or there among the pebbles in the stream would be a shinier or smoother one, or one coloured in a peculiar way, essentially demanding that they be made into a collection. I had no choice but to oblige them.

Continue reading

Short Stories

The Ocean Voyage of Nathan of Whitford

A Messenger Comes

The records are ours.

Somewhere away in the land, beyond the reach of men like myself, of the masses that make up the majority of this world’s impotent inhabitants, there are those who have been charged with the constant care of the records.. Some believe the record-keepers slave away in great caves underground in semi-darkness, away from the elements and the unpredictability of all things, while others claim that the keepers inhabit open palaces that are filled with shelf upon shelf of books from every age of the world. Whatever the truth may be, it doesn’t really matter much to the population at large. Keepers are selected at random from birth and are soon taken away to wherever it is that they are to spend their lives in our service.

It was away in that place that a keeper held a lottery and my name happened to come up. It was because my name had come up that an official-looking man now stood banging away at my door. I rose from my meditative position on the floor and walked to the and pulled at it but it resisted, preferring to remain closed. With some effort on my part, the door relented, but it wouldn’t remain ajar without a constant application of force, so I found myself outside with the official-looking man who had only watched my struggle.

Continue reading

Short Stories

God Hires a Birdman

God exists, and he once hired a birdman.

A short time after creating the heavens and the Earth, God summoned a man named Harold to the gates of heaven. Harold was a birdman. He wore overalls and glasses, and he had a halo of white hair around his head. He was a short, kindly old man.

God met Harold at the gates of heaven.

“Good morning,” God said. It was always morning back then for night was not yet a concept.

“Good morning,” said Harold.

God took Harold by the hand and led him down a golden path among the clouds. As they walked, He explained to Harold the situation and why he needed a birdman. Something new, something different, had been found in a corner of heaven.

Continue reading

Short Stories

Apollo Goes Grocery Shopping

I go around to the back of the house and enter through the yard because the back door is always unlocked. There is a great big fence all around that is only broken up by the big red gate that I just came in through. I leave the big red gate open because Apollo can’t open it on his own.

Apollo is my friend. Apollo is a dog.

I go into the house through the unlocked back door. It is very quiet in here because no one is home except Apollo. He usually never leaves the house for very long. I walk to the biggest bedroom because that is where he likes to nap during the day. I find him lying on the big bed that belongs to his parents. I sit down on the bed beside him and stroke his fur coat. He notices me and his tail begins to tap on the bed. Tap tap tap, he says. This is how my friend says hello.

Tap tap tap.

Continue reading

Short Stories

Vampires and their Irrational Fear of Cats

Decker pulled up to the mansion. His old truck rumbled and kicked up thick clouds of dust. He turned off the engine and stepped out, shotgun and flashlight in hand. Glancing up at the sky he saw that the sun was already on its way down. His wristwatch showed that it was a little after three.

He walked to the back of the truck and checked the heavy walk-in safe that he had strapped down onto it. He regretted that finding this place had taken so long and now felt certain that they would be sleeping in there tonight. Opening the safe, he looked over the supplies inside, making sure he hadn’t forgotten anything.

As he started to make his way toward the front door of the decaying mansion, Chomsky let out a shrill whine from inside the truck. Decker went back and tried to rub him behind the ears but was rewarded with a scratch from its small claws. He shook his head and then poured water into a bowl out of a large cannister and set it down on the seat so the animal could drink.

“Professor Chomsky’s his name,” the seller had said, a young girl with long and dirty black hair, but Decker seriously doubted the cat’s credentials. He and the cat had been together for a few weeks but seldom on speaking terms. He tried to assure the animal that he wouldn’t be gone for long then stepped out again and walked to the mansion.

Continue reading

Short Stories

The Music in the Forest

In an old forest there lived a faun.

He knew the names of all the trees and he spent his days wandering among them and talking to them with the music of his flute. The faun was as old as the woods and he remembered the days when the forests were immeasurable in size and filled the whole Earth, before the time when the forest creatures had fled and the humans had come.

Today, there were two humans in his forest now. The faun was following them, hopping from behind tree to tree and watching as they ran. There was a little boy in blue and an even littler girl in red. They were running and laughing and occasionally tripping and falling.

Eventually, the two children ended up rolling around on the golden leaves that littered ground. They laughed as pushed and teased each other. The faun smiled and a wicked glint lit up his eyes. He was glad to be back in the human realm.

The boy’s name was Will.

Will pinned his sister to the ground and stuck out his tongue. The girl tried to squirm away but Will older and stronger. Both children were small for their age but the girl was tiny. Dad liked to say, whenever she misbehaved, that what she lacked in size she more than made up for in temper. The girl always took this as a compliment and beamed in response.

Will stood up and helped his sister to her feet. She thanked him by punching him in the shoulder with a tiny fist.

“Ouch!” he yelled. Will had to admit that it really did hurt a little. Their constant wresling and jostling was making the little girl stronger all the time.

As he brushed leaves and dirt off of his blue coat, Will thought he saw a faun-shaped blur hide behind a tree. The forest was magical so he was not surprised. The children lived with their father in a house nearby, just down a little road. Will had always expected to find fauns and elves and gnomes hiding behind every tree but he hadn’t ever seen one yet.

His sister saw that he was staring off into space and lunged at him, tackling him to the ground. The forest floor rose up to meet his nose, struck him hard on the face, and made him see stars.

“What are you staring off into space for?” the girl said from on top of him.

Continue reading