Unintended Compliments

Has anyone ever irritated you so much a compliment popped out of your mouth? This happened to me the other day.

I was at the grocery store in the freezer section when I passed a guy who looked familiar. I only saw him for a second, but he looked right at me. Eye contact in public right now is weird, and I try not to really look at people, so I moved away quickly. Also, introvert here! By the time I realized who it was, it was already awkward, and I’d walked away.

This wasn’t someone I would have avoided, but it was a man I had not seen in fifteen to twenty years. An ex. I’m not sure what we would have talked about anyway.

A few minutes later, I was in the self-checkout area and having problems with the register. I had to move to a different machine., which meant I’d been there for much longer than I should have. When I finally finished, I turned to leave, and there was the guy. He smiled.

There are three important things to point out here. One: I was wearing a mask. This man recognized me by my eyes and maybe my hair (which is red, so perhaps that’s it)! Second: He wasn’t wearing a mask. Three: he looked like he wanted to say something but was afraid to.

Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t mind running into him. Of course, with the expression on his face, it was just as awkward as the freezer aisle, so I unawkarded it (Grammaly hated that ‘word’).

I looked him right in the eyes and said: “You should be wearing a mask.” This may seem harsh, but it was a good ice breaker. He laughed and we started talking as he finished up his transaction.

We asked how the other had been. He told me what he’s doing for a living, I told him I’d been writing for years. We talked about our spouses and children. You know, typical stuff when you run into people from your past.

Finally, I asked the question on my mind since I saw him the first time on that aisle. “Did you recognize me over there?” (I pointed of course). He said, yeah, but he was afraid to talk to me. I asked why.

“I assumed you wouldn’t remember me because it’s been twenty years.”

I stared at him in open mouth shock, then the irritation started. I asked why he would think I wouldn’t remember him when he remembered me. He mumbled a bit with the ‘I don’t knows’ for a second before I stopped him with a finger pointing at his face (from 6 feet away, of course) then I complimented him.

Not on purpose. I didn’t even know it was a compliment. I said, “Never assume you’re forgettable!” Then I called him a dumbass so he would know I hadn’t changed in all these years. His face lit up like a Christmas tree. He went from surprised to pleased to slightly red. I’m pretty sure I made his day.

I wasn’t trying to make my ex-boyfriend feel good, I was scolding someone for thinking less of themselves. If I’d been thinking of him as an ex, maybe it would have been weird. I was just thinking of him as a person, so out came the admonishing advice. This kind of thing has happened many times with female friends but rarely men.

It’s a good reminder that we all have self-doubts, and sometimes unsolicited compliments (even said in an irritated tone) can help change our perspective. Or maybe it could simply help us forget for a moment to be self-deprecating.

To all the men (and women) out there who think an ex doesn’t remember you, they do. They might pretend otherwise but each person we date changes our lives. So I’ll say this to each of you: NEVER assume you’re forgettable!

I used this great photo by Parsing Eye on Unsplash because we all know who else never forgets.

Sidenote: Seriously, how did this guy recognize me, especially after so many years, with a mask covering most of my face?!?

Finding Inspiration In Unlikely Places As Well

On Sunday I wrote a post about finding inspiration in likely places (click here to read it). On Monday I found my muse in a very unlikely place. I was across town from home buying office supplies when I realized I was hungry. I went to a nearby Chick-fil-A because there isn’t one near my house yet (they are building it though). I don’t have it very often and I was in the mood for ice cream so it was the perfect choice.

I sat in a corner booth that somehow made me feel like I wasn’t surrounded by a huge lunch crowd. Luckily I had thought ahead and had a folder with me containing a mini-workshop from Holly Lisle. One never knows when they’ll find time to write so I figured it was better to be prepared. I’m so thankful I did this.

Eating came first but I was itching to get into the writing even though I had nothing in mind. I was only hoping something would come to me. I’d done this workshop before but I already had a halfway written story and I did it to help me get it in order in my head. It worked but I feel like it was inevitable it would help because I had a story, I just needed some structure so I didn’t get lost or worked into a corner along the way.

This time I had no ideas and didn’t actually believe it would work since I’ve had trouble lately. However, I was finally off all medications from my surgery and there was at least a chance my muse would come out and play.

I was so nervous as I opened the folder! Fear is a powerful demotivater, as I’ve learned over the years but I was determined I would come up with a story, even if it sucked. It described different ways to develop a story but used characters for the workshop. One of the first things it told me to do was to sum up what I know about my character in one short paragraph.

Panic set in. I knew it was panic because a lady sitting five tables away made a weird face at me and looked concerned. I registered her reaction but chose to ignore it because I was busy freaking out. How the hell was I supposed to come up with a character when I’ve barely been able to have ideas about things I’ve already started?

So I did what came naturally and stared at the ceiling. For how long, I’ll never know but it worked. Somehow I made a character who has a weird and dangerous form of magic. She is living with a group of people with the same powers, an order if you will. They are going to force her to take a human life on her birthday so she runs away the night before. The order aren’t willing to let her go so she lives on the run. Also, with her type of magic, regular people fear her and won’t accept her.

The poor girl is going to go through the ringer. As I followed my directions and wrote what I knew about her I was surprised I knew so much. I managed to come up with a central idea, many of the things she goes through, at least four other characters (they are a little vague right now), and how I want it to end. In the workshop you are supposed to do all the things I listed then write a few sentences about the big scenes you can’t wait to write. I ended up with seven before my back started hurting and it was time to go home. For the first time in months I was disappointed I had to Stop writing instead of being upset I couldn’t start!

So I went home and immediately sent a text to my husband and my friend Jesse, who is also a writer, about what happened. It wasn’t bragging, it was just joy. Of course I told them both way more than they needed to know about the story.

The day got better later. I met up with Jesse at a coffee shop to talk writing and while we were there another writer, who neither of us knew very well but had been around during Nanowrimo events, came over to say hi. She’d been in another area of the shop working on her stuff and only meant to say hi and bye but three hours later we all left. It was great getting to know this woman.

Chatting with other writers was amazing. We talked some about our stories but mostly about novels by famous authors, gaming, movies, and…everything! It made me realize how much I miss and need a writing group. There is one this lady goes to on Sunday afternoons that I’ve been meaning to go to but I was waiting for my recovery to be finished or at least further along. Also fear. I was afraid I wouldn’t have anything to talk about since my creativity was on hiatus.

I’m not afraid anymore. In addition, I’m feeling pretty good about writing. I know I need to work my way back to normal but I can see it’s possible now. There are no more roadblocks, only hurdles. I can handle some hurdles.

I mentioned Chick-fil-A was an unlikely place to find inspiration but I’ll have to put it on my ‘likely place’ list now. Soon there will be one four blocks from my house, they have wi-fi and I learned it doesn’t matter how busy it gets, I can still write there.

Photo by the amazing Ryan McGuire

Finding Inpiration in Likely Places

I’ve always advocated finding inspiration in little things, odd things, unique things and not so obvious things. Basically I’ve always believed one can find inspiration in what is new or different to them. Then today I found my muse reacting in a not so offbeat place.

Okay, that’s a half truth. I went to an Art’s Festival in my city on Saturday. Obviously there was some pretty unique and off the wall stuff. Creativity abounded. Being that I write and live more in the made up places in my head than reality, this place clearly should have an effect on me. I enjoy going to shows like this one and try to attend any and all that come my way. So it’s not really new or different to me.

Except it is. There are always new painters, authors, bakers, woodworkers, sculptors of every variety, jewelry makers, glass blowers, and photographers. So each show I go to is only somewhat like the last.

I feel at home at things like this and I should expect to be inspired by them and their work. Except  I didn’t.

I went in wanting to find some cool stuff. I’ve been unable to write for over a month, with a little peekaboo from my muse here and there for the last couple of weeks. I know I’m slowly getting back to normal but bursts of writing ideas have been few and far between. I had zero expectations.

So I walked into the main exhibit hall and had to stand still for a few moments. There was something in the air. It was like creativity was exuding from all these people and hovering around waiting to be embraced.

Time lost meaning and I wandered from booth to booth in a haze of…something good. I don’t know how to explain it but I know I liked it.

The various artists must have sensed it because most simply said hello and left me alone. My eyes were on their wares but I noticed those knowing smiles. Not one tried to sell me anything until I walked through a second time. Then I was a little embarrassed because several brought up how I’d looked the first time they saw me.

One lady said she could tell she wouldn’t be able to reach me and another said she was afraid to break the spell I was under. A photographer said he’d been the same way earlier in the morning when everyone was setting up and he checked out his competition. All awkwardness fled and I kept wandering and chatting. I must have walked through each booth (almost two hundred of them) seven or eight times.

I spent more money than I planned to but not more than I should have. My husband and I are going back today so I will probably end up with more stuff.

When I went on Saturday it was because between recovering from back surgery and the stupid neuropathy in my left toes I was afraid I wouldn’t make in through the whole thing in one day. I always have to walk through a million times while trying to talk myself out of buying things I know I’m going to end up getting anyway.

If I’m honest with myself I’ll admit I don’t really need to go back today. I overdid it yesterday but I did manage to see everything. The practical side (which is minor) of me says stay home and rest and save money. The rest of me says screw it, this thing is only once a year and I know damn well there are at least three more (big) things I want.

In all fairness my husband loves art and didn’t get to go on Saturday and we’re taking a friend I haven’t seen since my surgery with us. So practical me can shut it. I’ll post pictures of my goodies soon.

Hopefully the inspiration will keep coming. Now I’m afraid I expect too much!

Sidenote: I always gripe about not being able to write but I’ve noticed the last few non-regular posts have been lengthy. I’ll stop complaining soon but I still miss fiction.