Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dorothy Shoemaker Awards 2014- First Place- Forgotten Hero

Good Morning family and friends, here is the story and few words I said before I read it last night. There are so many things I would change about the story now. Ha. But I sat on my hands and just cut and pasted what I sent in. Thank you for all of your love and support!

I believe stories are what enable us to understand each other and even ourselves. We form our identity through stories, especially the stories we tell ourselves. When you are battling depression you are battling a story of yourself that is distorted, incomplete, and has you stuck. You have framed yourself as the villain or the victim or both. Now don’t stop taking your meds if you are clinically depressed or have bi-polar like I do!  That’s important! But if you ever find yourself in the grip of depression I believe the most important thing you can do for yourself  is pay attention to the story in your head. Everyone has the power to tell a new story or at least  re-frame their old narrative.

Forgotten Hero

Depression is a colourless place, like living in a monochromatic painting.  Every day is a foggy November morning.  The world is all browns and greys.  This morning is a foggy November morning.  Driving to work is slow in the fog.  The weather makes my mood seem justified, but even sunshine can’t burn through this low.  

Despite my temporary colour blindness I know the traffic light is red and I stop.  Red has always been my favourite colour but it seems to hold less beauty, less power, less significance now.  The wind shakes the street light.  Red, Red, Red.  I try to think about the colour. Hold it in my mind.  Dig up a positive association.  I think of red penny candy.  Swedish berries in a big glass jar at the corner store.  I picture my five year old hands counting out the rosy gummies into a small paper bag.  My first pair of running shoes, white with a bright red swoosh.  I picture my feet zig-zagging the large tiles of the Sears department store, showing my Mother how fast I can run.  I remember how my Grandmother loved to wear red.  I think of her smiling brown eyes. I try to remember her in one of her red dresses. I can’t hold the picture in my mind without thinking of how I miss her.  My mind wanders off course.  What would she think of me now?  My life?  My choices?  Emotion bubbles to the surface, I try to push it back down but I can feel my stomach clench and my eyes water.  I stop the negative self-talk by focusing on the world outside the window.  A plastic bag races across the street and on to the boulevard before sticking to a hydro pole.  The plastic bag is red.  Tears begin streaming down my face.  I feel like that red plastic bag pinned helplessly against the pole, at the mercy of the wind.  A car horn informs me the light is green now.  I drive through the intersection and pull over feeling myself tense and resist the overwhelming wall of feeling falling down onto me. 

“Fuck!” I yell it as loudly and as violently as possible, pounding myself on the chest several times.  “Fuuuuuuuck!  I bellow again stretching out the word as long as I can.  “Wake up Katherine! Wake up!” I shout as traffic whizzes by shaking the car slightly.
Calmer now, “You can’t start the day this way, let it defeat you before it begins.”  I slump over the edge of the steering wheel.  “No, no, no”, I repeat gently rocking myself. 
I will not get stuck.  I will not mentally flog myself.  I will not make myself the antagonist of my own story.  I used to be the hero of my story.  Once upon a time I could paint pictures of myself slaying life’s dragons. 

My parents separated when I was young.  I lived with my Mother most of the year, in a small apartment, on a Court off Chandler Drive. Chandler and its handful of side streets  was and is a neighbourhood filled with apartment buildings , triplexes, and a smattering of semi-detached houses.  It was in the 1980’s, as it is today, a magnet to new immigrants and single parent families because of relatively cheap rent.  So many battles fought and many won on the climb out of poverty.

At 11 my most prized possession was a bmx bike.  It was silver with a metallic red stem, brake levers, pedals, pegs, and wheel rims. A decal across the bottom tube of the frame read wildcat in red, orange and yellow flamed writing.  A black number plate adorned the front with the number 24 in bold red contrast.  It was beautiful and I felt like the don of the neighbourhood whenever I rode it.  It was a special gift for several reasons.  Firstly, it was a boy’s bike and although I always coveted boy’s toys and clothes my parents rarely acquiesced to my non gender conforming ways.  Secondly, it was, I imagined, an expensive gift given my family circumstances.  I spent many hours bunny hopping up and down curbs and competing with the neighbourhood boys to see who could catwalk the longest or jump over our home made ramps the highest.

In good weather my routine was to ride my bike home from school and park it under the back stairwell of our apartment building. I didn’t lock my bike that time of day, believing it would be safe for the few minutes it took me to walk up to the second floor apartment, drop off my school bag and grab a snack before heading back out to play.

One fall day my routine was broken when after returning to the back stairwell all I found were a few dried leaves where my bike should be. My stomach felt like it was full of stones and my head feather stuffing.  I froze in horror.  I was starting to fear I might stare at those leaves forever when the first floor hallway door flung open and into the stairwell came 5 year old Sharon. The opening of the door startled me and I screamed causing her to scream and then laugh when she recognized me.  I turned around to see Sharon leaning against the open door bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, her short black braids and colourful red bobbles bouncing up and down as well.  The fright freed me from my paralysis and I side stepped around her tiny frame, and ran through the door way and down the first floor hall.

“Where are you going?” Sharon shouted after me.

Where was I going? My mouth could only form two inaudible words, “my bike.”

I ran out the front door. No one was out on the Court. Someone had to have seen something!  I ran across the lawn of the corner triplex and continued to run up Chandler.  I didn’t know where I was running to, but I didn’t stop until I heard a voice call out.  “Where are you going in such a hurry child?”

It was Sister King standing at the bus stop. She lived just across the hall from me and I loved her sing-song voice.

“My bike. I can’t find my bike. It’s been stolen.” I replied finally stopping and speaking in between quick breaths. “It can’t be far, I only left it for a few minutes.”

“Well, the only bike I’ve seen was being rode by one of the young Johnson boys.  Saw him as I was walkin’ to the stop.  Deliverin’ his papers I suppose. “

“The Johnson’s”, I huffed.

Before she could say more I was running again.

“Careful girl!” she shouted after me.

Brian and Bradley Johnson were twins that shared the job of delivering the local paper.  At 13 they already had reputations as neighbourhood thugs.  They constantly fought with each other when they weren’t fighting with someone else and were usually implicated in any petty theft or vandalism in the neighbourhood.  Fueled by adrenaline I confidently marched across the front lawn of their semi, followed their driveway to the side of the house and opened the gate to their yard.  There in the back corner was my bike, its back tire with the red rim peeking out from behind a picnic table with a piece of wood panelling partially covering it. Shaking with anger I retrieved the bike and started back to the street.

As I came out of the yard, there at the bottom of the driveway stood the twins, arguing about something. Their dirty blonde hair obscured their faces as they wrestled to the ground, curses and incomprehensible grunts filled the air. They didn’t see me. I was about to make my retreat home when their older sister Barb came out the side door to ask, “What the hell is going on?” Not caring that her question was directed at the twins, I yelled back “just taking my damn bike back from your loser brothers!”  I emphasized the “damn” and “loser” for dramatic effect.   I gave my bike a once over and hopped on. I never saw their reactions; it was enough to imagine their stunned expressions.
We tell stories.  We squeeze our lives into plot graphs. We sort through our various settings, analyze our cast of characters and look for influence.  Where was the rising action, the main conflict?  Once upon a time I was the hero in my stories. I battled demons that were outside myself.  Now I battle inner demons and struggle to explain my own incomprehensible feelings. Is depression the cause or the result of my current story?

I need a new story. 

Outside the car window the red plastic bag is no longer pinned against the hydro poll. I didn’t see its daring escape. As I pull away I imagine it flying up into the sky, cutting through the morning fog.

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