[10] See Yourself Be Yourself 10 – Do It
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See Yourself Be Yourself

[10] Do It

It was all right. Lillis and Valerie had a history where sharing a hug was just one of those natural things. Certain people were those who leapt forward with a clear and confident embrace, and the world embraced them. If only she could be built that way. His life was different.

Brent's mom used to casually subscribe to and also huff with distaste about astrology.

One thing she remembered from that time was the idea of nakshatra. A lot of ancient Hindu astrology. The idea that there were these template pattern combinations that represented connections between people, looks, personalities, and interests. You had to know the exact moment you were born, and his mother actually kept that from him.

Like it was a secret or a detail that she didn't want to talk about. But then she came into this world not through a birth canal but through a C-section. It was supposed to be easier, but more recently, there have been discussions about how being born has certain exposures to bacteria, aligns the immune system, and does all sorts of things that make a complete and whole person.

Skipping being born properly felt like it could be an explanation for all the bad. But that was presumptuous and foolish, almost as foolish as believing that the exact timing of astral bodies would put some unmistakable stamp on your life, filling in the blanks of who you were supposed to be through vague spiritual influences of the stars. Ridiculous. But even before she lost the life she should've had, she felt like she was missing something.

She wanted to be the one curled up in a fetal position, even though it seemed rather uncomfortable to hold for long rather than comforting. She also wanted to be the one responsible for making others smile. And she wanted so many things that she couldn't have, or it felt silly to want—the big version of trading for a taco. But that was selfish; that was wrong. That was the path that would lead to another karmic strike that she didn't want to invoke. Be content with what you have. Or else.

Misty couldn't hear what Valerie was whispering to Lillis, even though little snippets snuck through between the narration segments on the travelogue. She shouldn't be listening in, because it was a very personal and private conversation, from what she could tell. They didn't want her to listen, even though she was right next to them.

Should she step out? If they had a problem with her here, she'd rather they just said so. She was probably making a bigger deal out of it than she should have. Call it nervous anxiety after everything with Dina. Still in a delicate psychological state. Although it felt strange to put it that way. She wasn't a child. She was a grown adult. But age didn't seem to matter that much.

Someone who was physically very old could act and think and essentially be very young in demeanor and feeling. Conversely, an old soul could exist even though someone had not lived that many years. And ways of determining age could miss gaps in development. How she felt at this particular moment was a strange mixture of uncomfortable attributes.

Girl. She was supposed to be a girl. But she had been thrown into the position of a full-grown woman, with all those stark differences. Biologically, a cold rush of a new hormonal concoction flooded her entire body from ovaries she didn't have a few hours ago. Even if such a thing were done medically, there would still be a lead time between the previous state and the tissues adapting to a new one. This was quicker than a switch. More like a brain sliced off and stuck in another body.

Overthinking, but she really wanted to look something up online now. She put the strongest of these thoughts on a mental shelf, as a therapist from long ago taught her to control thoughts by visualizing their activation and storage. Not to suppress them, but to create a system where they wouldn't overwhelm her. Ideally.

The separate conversation continued, and she caught only the barest fragments. This was how she wanted to respond. It was between them. If some inadvertent trace slipped in her direction, then so be it. But she wouldn't try to eavesdrop.

Cover qualities of their back and forth eased as Lillis stepped away from her friend and explained, "We make jokes, and I always want to check in with you. I am always concerned about where things are going, but I am so proud of your progress. You will be able to balance helping others and having a healthy environment. It's inevitable. You will get there." With each word Lillis served up, Valerie punctuated it with a little bob of her head, as if it were music in a melody that resonated with her soul.

Despite wanting to feel good for Valerie, Misty found herself feeling quietly depressed, and it sucked. She blamed it on being thrown onto a new ride of emotions. Lillis had said positive things to her, but they felt like being splashed with a bucket, whereas this felt more like a warm shower from a distance. She would just have to accept that things would suck for a while until they started to get better. In the meantime, she could pretend to be happy for Valerie as hard as she could.

After those little bobs, Valerie's voice crackled with wavering emotion as she replied, "Thank you. I just want to provide, but I know you have to build yourself up before you can give. If you're constantly drained, it will only hurt. At the same time, it feels like an excuse, because when is anyone going to get to the point where they can absolutely take on extra burdens all the time? Life feels so makeshift. You just do the best you can, make do, or dough, and learn and adapt. Philosophy of pizza. There is a base crust that has to be soft and strong at the same time to support the foundation. And then the medium on top of that can be thick, thin, or not there at all, followed by minimal toppings or a bounty. But the structure is critical. I wrote a book..."

At that last note, she turned in Misty's direction to explain. Misty raised her eyebrows, but she couldn't think of anything to say. Valerie turned back sheepishly, huddling her limbs together protectively as if trying to act like a turtle. It was hard for Misty to feel anything negative about the girl.

She put a lot into this pizza sentiment, but considering the vast, cruel negatives that Dina propped up as if they were absolute truths, it was quite harmless. She was left more with curiosity and raised eyebrows about how someone could compose a whole book on a single simple food.

But the community college folks associated with Dina probably could've gone on about even smaller topics for longer. It was also curious to sense that while Valerie was celebrating this beloved food, it wasn't a slavish or cultish devotion. She recognized the flaws.

Lillis giggled playfully and inquired, "Have you settled on a title for all that yet?"

Valerie stretched back with her arms folded low and released a sigh. "Titles are difficult. It's why I number my paintings instead of trying to assign title meaning to them. Books don't work with numbers, though. I've tried to be technical. A celebration of pizza from history to life. Why pizza makes us feel good, and then a long subtitle. But that all just makes me think of term papers back in college, and that's not something I want to evoke for others or myself. Then there's the temptation to be clever by calling it the sauce of life or pie in the sky. Pizza parlors are so clever at making references or dropping little notes. That's not really my talent. If you can say I have any. But what I have, I really want to share with others as much as possible. The best title will probably hit me at the last moment, when I'm about to send it out into the world to be torn apart in all sorts of ways. Or about five minutes after it's gone. With my luck."

"History in the Baking: Take Another Little Pizza My Heart?" Lillis dropped.

Valerie raised a single finger to punctuate her answer, but slowly lowered it and pressed it to her chin as she quietly took all that in. "I like it. But it immediately feels like something someone out there must have already thought of for something similar or another book about pizza. Also, I don't know if it encapsulates everything in the text. I've shown you little pieces of it—pizzas of it. But I'm really emotionally invested in the work, and it needs to have a name that's just right and covers all the themes in the book and that I want to articulate to anyone who just walks by and the cover is all they see. I also have to come up with an appropriate cover, but a title before that."

Lillis leaned back. "Does it matter if someone has already used it? There are people out there with the same name. You don't have to give everyone a fancy name that no one else has. That's how you end up with kids named Esperia, Malecot, or Luna. Sure, go with a title that works for you, but even if you think of it like a child, this baby has to pop out eventually. Something doesn't have to be perfect, as long as it's good enough."

Valerie poked her tongue out slightly and replied, "You clearly don't realize how a creative nonsense person's brain works. The self-torturing continues unabated, even if I were to come up with the perfect answer, I'll doubt it forever. And I know you're going to tell me to stop torturing myself. But that's easy to say when it's not you."

Lillis folded her arms. "It's also easy to do. You just decide you're going to do it. But I understand that some people just want to talk about things. They don't want answers. It's going to be a brain-chemistry thing. Too often, it's like I need to come to terms with this or I need to take time to understand it. Ultimately, it's simple. Do the thing, or don't do the thing. It's your life. Not to be harsh or mean. You know, I can be both. I was your therapist when you couldn't afford one. I want you to be happy. But you have to want it. I can't forcibly dunk you into a lake of happy. From the little things to the big things, you are responsible for your life."

This was another big load for Misty to unpack. Even though it was focused with laser-like clarity on Valerie, she felt that she should learn something from it as well.

Valerie didn't have much to protest against Lillis's assertions. She circled around the same point: that different minds and people process the world differently and sometimes have difficulties that others don't. Lillis kept her eyes in a skeptical position. She was willing to concede that brains are sometimes a certain way, but they are also plastic.

There's no reason to throw in the towel and say things can't change if they suck for you. Proactive encouragement. Dina would have lost her mind over a conversation like this. She would have noticed how insensitive Lillis was to different cognitive abilities. But the hypocritical bitch could only talk the talk, not walk the walk.

Sure, Misty didn't feel like she agreed with Lillis on every point, and there were plenty of points to debate and nuances to refine if she could ever find the microscopic fortitude to even lay out their differences of thought in the first place. But broaching those points was not a personal attack just by bringing them up.

Maybe there would be things she would have to tread carefully on, but the impression she'd gotten so far was that Lillis was an adult, and she wouldn't throw a fit just because they disagreed on some point of contention. It was spiritually invigorating to have that possibility in front of her.

Talking to someone the way adults are supposed to talk. Presenting your side and accepting the other side, admitting that you might not win rhetorically, but not acting like a child who needs to win or she'll torture you until you agree to everything she wants. Such a relief.

And once again, even though it seemed like they might come to a point of contention, Valerie sprung up happily that there was a difference of thought. She rejoiced in all the things she might be able to do. She wanted to bring herself into that lake of happiness, whether it was a sustenance she knew well, one she had never tried before, or whatever it was. Not to win imaginary points.

Before she forgot all these beautiful revelations, Misty wished she could save them in a format that felt precise and easy to recall. Writing them down on her phone might work, with her zipping along the screen like waving a baton. But what words with precise quotes could fully capture this moment? Her inner thoughts of a few minutes ago felt like diaphanous structures, whereas before they had been solid skyscrapers of sentiment.








[Welcome to the Seventh Book in the Cerberus Saga. Yup. We’re doing this. I never thought I would delve into such a big part of the backstory and this may be a good idea but I like writing about all sorts of characters. I have the ending of the story in mind already. But is it the ending you might expect from what you know now? We’ll see…Provisionally, I am focusing on one chapter a week and we’ll see how things go from there. They might be longer or shorter and more numerous. Always feel free to offer suggestions. Reader response is going to be very important going forward. I’m open to anything. Although the squirrel thing is probably the closest I’ll ever get to furry. I’m gonna have some fun and funny characters this time too. Dunno how long this will go. It might be much shorter due to the different pacing. I hope you enjoy it. I plan to get the earlier books together and released in an official form. Look forward to that hopefully. As always, vast details, especially types of characters, character names, and more are wide open for this narrative. Feel free to add any idea which doesn't show up in the eventual options. Also, if you see any random typos or uncapitalized starts of sentences, please pass them along. I am currently using Quillbot and DeepL to assist with speedy editing, but that’s not 100%. Thank you for reading!]

Poll after this. Since I've change the schedule, polls are more important than ever. Feel free to offer as much feedback as you can to help the story.

What makes a character evil?
  • Actions. Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Personality. Votes: 1 50.0%
  • Happenstance. Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Oppositions. Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Other [Explain in a comment. I couldn't think of seven.] Votes: 1 50.0%
Total voters: 2