Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Stalker of My Very Own

My Stalker

by Shanna Bryant

A Nonfiction Piece

Last Thursday I was walking from my car on Church to the Post Office. I noticed a rather creepy man walking toward me, I paid no real attention to him, as there are creepy people downtown quite often. I walked into the Post Office, got my mail and put my deposit together. When I walked out of the Post Office, he was standing with his back against the column, smoking a cig. Again, I noticed him but didn’t fret too much. “Creepy guy can’t walk and smoke at the same time” I thought to myself. I walked back across the street to the bank and up to the ATM. I felt him move to follow and looked back to confirm my suspicions. He was indeed walking in the same direction I was going. I stopped at the ATM and put in my deposit. I always stand very close to the screen because (1) no one else needs to know my business, and (2) the sun was glaring in the screen. I turned around and he was standing so close to me and gasped and stepped back. He didn’t say anything to me, just stared. I walked around him, practically ran to my car, and drove away (which probably was not wise because now he knows what I drive and as cute as the little Bug is, it’s not exactly stealthy).

Friday morning, we went through the same routine, although he gave me some space at the ATM and just stood back against the pillar and smoked (I cannot accurately describe how bad this man smells!).

Friday afternoon I met a friend for lunch at the Market downtown and he stood up in the balcony and watched us eat. He followed us halfway to our cars but stopped when I turned around and looked directly at him to let him know that I knew he was there. He then turned around and walked away. My friend's father is a policeman and when she stopped by the station later that day to say hello, she heard on his radio about a man of his description being arrested for “misbehaving with a civilian”. If it was him, he’s out. He walked by my office door today, but I didn’t see him downtown because I changed the time that I go in order to avoid him.

I cannot put into words how creepy this guy is! When I look into his eyes, I can see that he is unstable. His hair is buzz cut, but there are scabby bald spots where it looks like hair has been pulled out by force. He gives me a VERY bad vibe that I just can’t get past!

So yeah, I’m going to get some Mace.

The Shape of Things, Part IV

When Jim started speaking to me again, it was as if nothing had ever happened between us, as if I had never even thought to tell him that I thought he was wrong about that girl. This became our song and dance. He would say or do something to someone else that I thought was wrong and for some I reason couldn’t keep my mouth shut. (I never once stood up for myself though.) He would get mad and yell at me, throwing everything from the “you-don’t-really-love-me” arguments to the all out insults about my “unlovable” personality and particularly the shape of my body.

Pop wasn’t getting any better. I tried to spend more time with him when Jim was at work or occupying his time with the new twins. Whatever medicines Pop was on had the unfortunate side effect of making him lose some of his memory, specifically, of who people were. I had to start off every visit with him by introducing myself; a truly odd feeling, introducing yourself to your own grandfather. And even after I told him who I was, it was nearly impossible to have a conversation with him.

“Who are you?” he would ask.

“I’m Shanna, your granddaughter” I would say.

“You’re a nice girl” was always the reply.

Then it happened, the fight to end all fights between me and Jim. I thought he was treating someone else unfairly (as usual) but this time it dealt with Amber, so she was in on it too. It was two against one. I was the one.

“I’ve had it with you Shanna! You’re so mean-spirited and ignorant that I can barely stand to even be around you!”

“Yeah!” said Amber, always the articulate one.

Whenever I couldn’t stand to be around Jim or any of the cult group anymore, and didn’t want to go home for fear my mother would try to make me eat something, I went to the hospital to see Pop. I walked into his room, fully expecting to have to introduce myself to him yet again, but when I stepped up to his bed, he looked up at me with eyes that knew me! He wasn’t back to his old self again, but he knew who I was!

“Hey Baby” he said in his now customary weak voice.

“Hiya” I said softly, with tears forming in my eyes.

“Hey, what’s wrong, honey? Why the water works?”

“Oh, I just had a fight with Jim and I think we’re breaking up.”

“Good. I never liked him anyway!”

I laughed. Pop could always size a man by the strength of his handshake. He said Jim’s was “wimpy.”

“Baby” he started looking me up and down. “You are getting too skinny too fast. I may be on more drugs then I care to count, but I can still see that you are unhappy and unhealthy. And believe me, I know unhealthy!” He chuckled a little at his own bad joke.

“Oh Pop” was all I could manage to say.

“Now listen Baby, you are a beautiful person. You have an inner strength that will get you through anything life throws at you. Remember that. You have me, you have your grandmother, and you have your mom and dad who all love you very much and know that you will do the right thing.”

By this time I was crying so hard I couldn’t even see him anymore. I blinked away the tears and looked at my Pop. This weak man was no longer the young Marine Sergeant who went behind enemy lines in Korea to save civilians, no longer the man who spent hours every weekend perfecting his golf swing but never playing in a single event; he didn’t even have that sparkle in his eye that I came to rely on. But he knew me. He knew me better than Jim ever could or would. I will never know how and why he came out of his drug-induced stupor to say those words to me or why those words had such an impact on me. Maybe it was a fluke, maybe it was because I so desperately needed him right then, or maybe it was divine.

“Thanks Pop. I love you,” was all I could say.

Pop died two months later, the night before we were going to bring him home. I think Grandma knew that it was going to happen, that he wouldn’t ever be home again. I was sad that I had lost my friend, but happy that he was out of pain. The funeral was announced in the paper and people from all over came to pay their respects. I didn’t know that so many people knew my grandfather and frankly I found the crowd a little annoying, but I was happy they were there for my grandmother’s sake. She seemed pleased.

We went to the cemetery where Pop received a military funeral with the folded American flag, trumpet and everything. I didn’t know they did that for veterans. Afterward we all went back to my grandparent’s house and talked. One of the best things about my family is that even in the worst of times we can find something to laugh about. My uncle started telling the story of Pop catching him and my father in the barn with a pack of cigarettes and making them smoke the whole pack right then and there. Both boys got sick and neither ever touched a cigarette again.

The next day I gathered up the courage I didn’t know I had until then, courage Pop would have been proud of, and broke it off with Jim. He acted surprised. We talked for over an hour in his study (Yes, he had a study) and parted on as good of terms as I thought were possible.

“I don’t mean this is to be hurtful, but if I never see you again, I’ll be just fine” were the last words I ever said to him.

He nodded. I went and ate five pancakes.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Shape of Things, Part III

“Shanna, I don’t like what’s going on with you.” Pop said one day in the hospital.

“What do you mean, Pop? There’s nothing going on.” I never was good at lying.

“I have cancer, Baby, but I’m not blind.”

I loved it when he used that nickname for me. Although I wasn’t the youngest of his grandchildren, I was the only girl and that made me special to him and him to me. I honestly do not remember how I got out of finishing that conversation with him, but I did. Maybe someone came in the room and interrupted us. Maybe he just got too tired, as he often did, but we were not to finish that conversation for another month.

Jim’s Cult grew to include two girls, twins, who became my arch rivals for Jim’s attention. The twins were tall, slender, blonde, green-eyed girls. Every man’s fantasy or so Jim told me when he introduced me to them. Ashley and Amber were everything Jim told me I should be (even though they reminded me of the twins from The Shining). The problem of how to grow taller eluded me, but I had now lost 45 pounds.

“Don’t you EVER contradict me in front of the group again, Shanna! You have no appreciation for how much I take care of you, for how much I do for you! No one isever going to love you with that attitude! Sometimes I don’t even know why I do! You are so lucky to have me!” Jim was upset again. I had stood up for another girl that he made cry. I didn’t know that thinking he was wrong was such a crime. But then, it was the first time I had ever done so. I tearfully apologized saying it would never happen again. Jim didn’t speak to me for the next two days.

“You look almost as bad as I do.”

“Thanks a lot, Pop.”

“Well, you do.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

Who am I

Because I'll never hold the picture
Of the whole horizon in my view
Because I'll never rip the night in two
It makes me wonder
Who am I

The Shape of Things, Part II

Now you may be asking yourself, did this poor girl have no other friends who could see how damaging this guy was to her? I did have other friends but they were the other people in Jim’s little cult. He told me once that we were his “experiment” in that he wanted to stretch his “leader’s muscles” and see just how far he could “take this thing” and he told us that he didn’t want us to have any other friends who were not in the group or, if we did and didn’t want to drop them, we should bring them into the group. There were about 15 of us in the group that year and every single girl wore black, had long hair, and most had green eyes, none of them real. Unfortunately for me, I was the heaviest of them all and was made to feel out of place and sometimes completely unwanted because of it. Sometimes it felt like Jim was dating all of us at once and I was not special at all.

Meanwhile, for three months Pop went from one doctor to another, trying desperately to figure out what was wrong, why he was so sick. By the time the doctors had nailed down that it was cancer, it was too late to do anything about it except make him “more comfortable.” Apparently, this version of comfortable included lots of drugs and never leaving the hospital again. It was hardest on my grandmother.

The four places I went that year were Jim’s house, the hospital, class, and work. And work was no great distraction because Jim would come and sit in the local Dairy Queen’s dining room and read until I got off my shift. I found that it is very hard to starve yourself while working in a fast food restaurant. Not only because of all the food surrounding you, but also because you have to have energy and I had none. One night I was working late and when making a fast turn from the drive-through window, the room suddenly began to spin and darkness closed in on me. I fell to my knees, catching myself with my hands on the floor. My stomach growled. After that I always made sure not to make too many sudden movements.

I thought Jim was as much a part of my life as my own heart was a part of my body; I couldn’t live without either. But it wasn’t all roses and happiness. No, Jim needed complete control in his world and when he didn’t get it he got upset. He had that magical power to say only the shortest of sentences and make a girl feel like she had just killed her own mother.

“You could lose a little weight” he would say in such an easy manner and then go on to compare me to someone beautiful and perfect like Julia Roberts and say that I could be like her if I only tried hard enough. I tried. I lost 35 pounds for Jim. Right under the noses of my family (and Jim), I starved myself. I would eat little things when people were watching or claim that I had already eaten and couldn’t possibly eat again, and only one person said anything about it.

Are You Really You?

My Grandma says
I've Daddy's nose.
Before I came
He'd two I s'pose?
She always adds,
"And what is more,
You've Mother's eyes"-
Did she have four?
They say I've got
My mouth and chin
From Grandma's husband:
He died before
I came, you see-
And must have willed
Them both to me!
I understand
About my hair,
For Daddy's head
Is kind of bare.
But what I'd like
To really know-
What puzzles me
And tried me so...
Is- Am I just
Some odds and ends,
Parts of my relatives
and friends?
Or do you think
That it can be
There's something left
That's really ME?

~ Shel Silverstein

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Shape of Things, Part I

Generic Disclaimer: I never said I was good.

The year I starved myself was the best year of my life. That was also the year my grandfather died of cancer and I broke up with my boyfriend. How could any of this possibly be good? Am I being sarcastic? Crazy? No, I am being serious. This year, the year of starvation, abuse, and death was the best year of my life.

The year began with the typical jollies of New Year’s and the beginning of undergraduate classes as normal. What was not normal in my world at that time was a man, Jim, who changed my life forever. Jim and I met when I visited a church and we hit it off. Jim was not the typical guy. He was the tall, dark, good-looking-in-a-mysterious-way kind of guy that makes girl’s heads turn when he struts by them on the sidewalk. He’s the kind of guy dreams are made of, or so I thought at the time.

My mother hated Jim and I should have taken that as some kind of indication of his character, but I didn’t. What girl listens to her mother when she really doesn’t have to? Jim and I started seeing each other more and more until I spent almost all of my time with him. And when I wasn’t with him, I was thinking about him. Infatuation is not a strong enough word for what I was feeling. I was standing at his door like some maniacal girl scout trying make a quota.In a word: obsessed.

Jim had a special talent. He could get anyone to do anything if the cause is strong enough. He also had to be in complete control of everything and everyone around him and the closer you are to him, the more control he demanded. Unfortunately for me, Jim knew of his particular personality traits and used them to his advantage. He definitely had me in his thrall. During the year that we went out, I changed my entire wardrobe to black because Jim said it made me look thinner. I let my hair grow out because Jim liked girls with long hair. I went to church because Jim liked “church girls.” I got green tinted contacts because Jim liked green-eyed girls. I starved myself because Jim said I was fat. Beginning at about 200 pounds, I lost 15 pounds in the first month.

Will you let this journey be your home?

It's no great secret that I am a student, not one of those "can't wait to get out of school" types, but an actual student. The person who considers learning to be an experience that can take a lifetime to achieve and never would you ever want to even consider stopping. When I graduated from undergrad with a BS (double major in English and Psychology), my only goal was to get out of that place. I was done with Ferrum College, the township of Ferrum (such as it is), Rocky Mount, and Franklin County as a whole. I was done. But after taking a few months off of school, my mind began to drift. I began to notice a listlessness in my life that I had never experienced before. The only solution I could come up with was to get back to school!

I was so used to having a clear, defined goal. Pass this class, get an A, take another class, get another A, and then graduate. Everything in my life had been working towards graduation and once that had happened, I was supposed to go off and start something new. But what was new? There was nothing new. I had worked my way through college, so having a job was not new at all. Graduate School! That was new and not something I had considered until that point. And so I went. I took the classes, I got the A's, and I graduated. A Master's degree in English. What an accomplishment! Look at all I can now achieve that I have this pretty piece of paper on the wall that says I took classes and am supposed to be a smart person, or at least an educated individual. But what was I really? I was mindless. I was following a dream that I didn't realize wasn't mine! I mean, sure, it was a cool idea. Get a PhD in English and be the English professor that everyone talked about because they were just either so awesome or so different that everyone wanted to take their classes, even though they were really hard. I wanted to be the professor that worked the students the hardest and as a result, the students produced their best work ever! I wanted to teach them how to think. But what did I think? How did I think? Did I think?


And so in January I started looking for something new and found it in my past.

In my past, I grew up in the church, spent most of my life in one (or several), and had a good life in it. But then something happened. Someone happened. He came in guise of being a friend and someone I could trust and turned out to be a tyrant. A cult leader. And I was his follower. He said he liked black, suddenly I only owned black clothing. He liked girls with long hair, I grew mine out. He spoke harsh words, I was instantly contrite. I once wrote a short story about him in my Non-Fiction writing class and had all of the guys in the class ready to deck him and all the girls in the class ready to hide from him-- both of which are valid reactions and I wanted to do both over the course of three years.

For three years I was a stool pigeon. I was a door mat. I don't remember most of it because it's not worth remembering. But that experience made me not want to see the inside of a church sanctuary ever again, much less get involved with any people at said church. Sure, there were a few good things that came out of that. My sister for example- a VERY good result. But does the good outweigh the bad? Who can say?

But January 2008 brought a new need to my life. I had a degree, I had friends, I had a loving family, but I had no peace in my heart. I was anxious all the time, and yet apathetic. I cared about my friends and family, but not about myself and certainly not about my future. How was I supposed to survive in this world without any peace?! I'm not talking about anything too "high and religious" here, I'm just talking about the ability to look at yourself in the mirror and not want to gag or pop some serious pillage!

And so, to start the new year, I started a new me. I went to church, I met people, I got involved again, and I was happy! Happy with myself, happy with where I was and what I was doing, and I had a sense that other people and even God was pleased with me. (Do you know what it feels like to know that God is pleased with you?!?! It's indescribable. The kind of indescribable that some music is, there are just no words.)

And so, here I am. Eight months later and more at peace than I have ever been in my entire life! I have learned more this year then I did my entire four years of high school (which was at a small, Christian private institution). I have friends who love me and actually give a crap about how I feel and how I'm doing from day to day. I have friends who pray for me. People care enough about me to talk to God about me! (Again, indiscribable) I have a good job, it's a little dull, but it's not stressful by any means. I'm apartment hunting with a friend who I love dearly. I'm even taking online classes from Liberty University (a place I had previously sworn that I would NEVER attend). In about two years I will have a Master's degree in Professional Counseling and I will be able to help people much like where I was at the beginning of the year. People who are at the end of their rope. People with whom I can empathize.

What do these next two years hold for me? Lots of reading, lots of changes, and lots of growing. Growing pains hurt, but you always end up bigger and stronger when it's all said and done. And so my answer is yes, I will let this journey be my home.

Crazy Group #1

This is the craziest group of guys that I know! And I love them!

Random Quotes

The following quotes will serve as an introduction to who I am, what I believe, and how I think. I could write something original, but it's easier to stand on the shoulders of others then to actually think for myself (if you don't recognize the sarcasm in that statement and understand the total irony of it all, maybe you aren't suited for reading this and should probably rethink your position on blog reading).
I can lose my hard earned freedom if my fear defines my world
I declare my independence from the critics and their stones
I can find my revolution I can learn to stand alone

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. - Shakespeare

Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here! - Dumbledore

Piracy is our only option.- Jane Austen

Brandi: have you ever noticed that there are a lot of ugly funeral flower arrangements?
me: Um... yes?

Humor is a rubber sword - it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.
~ Mary Hirsch~

It all depends on how we look at things, and not on how things are in themselves. The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.
— Carl Jung

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!
— Dr. Seuss

Mirrors should think longer before they reflect.
— Jean Cocteau

Mirror, Mirror on the wall have I got it? Come here, you've always told me who I am. I'm finding it's not easy to be perfect. So sorry, you won't define me. Sorry, you don't own me! Who are you to tell me that I'm less than what I should be? Mirror I am seeing a new reflection. I'm looking into the eyes of He Who made me. And to Him, I have beauty beyond compare. I know He defines me.

S safely
H held
E eternally in
E everlasting
P peace

Happiness is like a kiss - it feels best when you give it to someone else. ~Author Unknown

13 "Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. 14 But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." 15 "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;"
-- Isaiah 49:13-16

"Oh, great meatball and mozzarella-cheddar cheese with extra parmesan god, bestow upon us your saucy goodness bless us with your oregano seasoning, grant us all of the cheese we could desire for the rest of our lives In your toasty name we ask all of this -- Ameat"

"Man's perennial efforts to take himself in hand, however he attempts it, lead to the greatest bondage in which man misses what he was meant to be. Man's true freedom does not consist of the unfettered power to direct his life, either in a political or in a Stoic sense. It lies in life with God, lived as it was originally intended by God for man. He only gains this as he denies himself. Paradoxically, the free man does not belong to himself. He belongs to him who has set him free."
~ J. Blunck

"If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow." - Rachel Carson

About Me:
I am…
A daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin, a friend. I am a partner, a student, a young girl and a grown woman. I am confident and scared, terrified and excited. I am loving and caring and thoughtful and hopeful. I am sick and tired. I am shy and friendly, and careful and careless. I am broken and whole. I am misunderstood, misguided, and mislead. I am hardworking and determined, but a little scared on the inside. I wish on stars and dream my dreams. I pray to God and cry my tears. I smile on the outside while I’m dying on the inside. I listen to others who won’t listen to me. I walk on eggshells, and I walk on fire. I believe in passion and true love. I hold my head high and see with my heart. I am searching and I have found. I am everything and nothing all at once. I am all things to all people. I am undefined.