Andie M. Hayes

Author | Artist

I Never Thought I'd Get Dumped at 28 by Someone I Wasn't Even Dating

So, it took me a while to decide whether or not to write about this experience, because ya know, this blog is supposed to be about books and art and writing. But then I realized, I am a writer and everything that happens in my life is worth writing about. Writing gives me solace. Writing gives me peace of mind. Writing helps me heal. And so, here it goes.

A about a month ago…or maybe it’s been two…my best friend dumped me. You heard me. I got dumped by my best friend. This wasn’t someone I’d only met a year ago and called my “bestie” for fun. This was someone I’d known for five or six years; someone I’d created a real bond with. And so when I was told that we were “growing apart,” I was, in a sense, shell-shocked. I was totally and completely blindsided. I thought we were in a good place. We were planning a trip abroad. We were learning a new language together. We were NOT growing apart. At least from my point of view we weren’t.

From where I was standing, this person was going to be in my life for the rest of my life. She was going to be in my wedding. She was going to be there when I finally published my first book. She was like another sister to me and I assumed she was going to stay that way. Granted, I have another best friend who’s been around since high school and we’ve been through our ups and downs, but this friendship was of a different kind. We’d bonded in a different way; and, I thought that bond was deep enough to make it through anything and everything. I thought that if we had any issues that we could go to each other and talk about them, but que sera sera, ya know?

I’m telling y’all this to say that you never really know what’s going on with someone else. You can think that everything is perfect, but to that other person everything can be a total disaster. They can be holding things against you and you’ll never know it. I was told that my personality is “negative”; that she was “making observations” about things I’d been doing over the years. But I was taught love doesn’t keep account of the injury.

Losing friends in your 20s is a strange feeling. On the one hand, you really are sad. You want to know where it all went wrong and how you can fix it. You can’t help but wonder if things will get back to how they used to be one day. You look for loop holes in the final conversations to see if there’s a chance for that friendship to be rekindled. You miss your friend. But, on the other hand, you don’t care. You want to move on. You want to forget they exist. And if you’re like me, you purge: pictures, text messages, phone numbers, social media, anything that connects you to or reminds you of that person. And then, you tell yourself that you’re better off without them. But are you? Are you really better off alone? Are you even really alone?

When everything first happened, I kept thinking of myself as alone, but then I thought of all the friends I’d been neglecting over the years because I’d let this one friend monopolize my time and life. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. But when you really click with someone you decide, whether consciously or unconsciously, that you want to spend time with them. But then you realize you’re spending all of your time with them; and you’ve let your other friends fall by the wayside until those relationships become superficial and then those friends become mere acquaintances. That’s not fair to anyone.

I realize now that my old friendships need to be rekindled; that I need to put more effort in being a well-rounded friend. I need to put more focus on spending time with more people equally and showing all of my friends love. “Love is all we need,” right? Corny, I know. But still true.

I can’t say that I know I’ll grow from this because there were no warning signs. There was nothing to tell me that things were THIS wrong. Sure, she blew me off a few times, but I thought maybe she really was busy. She had been in the past. There was no reason to not believe the excuses to not do things together. I don’t have a definitive way to know how to grow, but I do know this: letting someone else’s perception of you dominate how you see yourself is not the way to live your life, especially when you know you didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t let someone’s ideas of how you should be dictate how you shape yourself. You are the only one who gets to mold you. YOU are the only one who gets to decide how big or small your personality is. No one else is given that privilege and you shouldn’t give them that power over you. It took me a few days to figure that out but, now that I have, I feel empowered by it, and I need to share it with as many people as I can.

I think in a world like today’s we need to focus on the good in people rather than the bad. By focusing on the bad parts we’re bound to find something we don’t like. We’re going to certainly find some things that aren’t suited to our tastes. But if we look for the good bits, for the parts that reflect qualities we want to see in the world in people, then we will be happier people all around. I’m not being ideological. And I’m not saying ignore the bad parts and only look for the good parts either. I’m just saying, don’t keep account of the injury. Don’t sit and count up the things that have offended you and never, ever say anything to someone until you reach a breaking point. Don’t hold it all in and never let your loved one know what they’re doing wrong or to offend you. It’s rude. It’s unkind. It’s unloving. And it’s being a bad friend.

-A

Do you have any thoughts? Leave me a comment!

A Lil' Something For Endo Month

So in honor of Endometriosis Awareness month I’d like to share a snippet of what I’ve been working on lately. The Endo Stories are still coming. Never fear! But with becoming a full-time grad student (library science for those that don’t know) and going back to work full-time, the writing has slowed down substantially. I wanted to have a full manuscript by now, but…well, I don’t. I do have quite a few full essays, though, and I’d like to share a little bit of one with you here today! So, yay! Here it goes kids. I hope you enjoy!

“Gorgons Have Dreams Too” Excerpt

You’ve started isolating yourself again. Because you’ve learned that it’s easier this way; because you need time to think; because you’re afraid. You’re afraid of what people will think, what they’ll say, how they’ll look at you. You say you’re sick, but you don’t look sick. It doesn’t look like your body has staged a revolution against itself. You don’t look like you’ve been awake the past three nights in a row and, if anything, you look like you’ve gained weight. Don’t sick people drop the pounds? But in your defense scales are heavier than skin and so are water-retaining ovaries filled with lesions and scar tissue.

Chronic illness never looked so good. And it’s because of that that no one believes you when you tell them how you suffer.

But that’s where the two of you start to differ again. You and Medusa. At least her punishment was there for everyone to see. Those armor thick scales, live snakes for hair, and bright red eyes with the power to kill. People could see her affliction. They didn’t have to ask her what was wrong. Her punishment was twofold. It protected her more than you thought. It gave her the power to end those that dared question her suffering. But there you are, exposed and vulnerable, susceptible to the smallest attack.

“Why don’t you make me stronger,” you find yourself asking. “Why can’t you make me more like her?” You’re not being unreasonable to ask. You’re being realistic. After walking up a flight of stairs you have to sit on the top stair to regain your breath. After taking a shower you need a nap. The trespasser that lives in your body makes you weak. He drains all of your energy, storing it up for later when he plans to hurt you again. It gives him the power he needs to make it through the day. And that’s why he stays.

Say It A Little Louder for the People in the Back

Today I watched the unveiling of the Obamas' national portraits online at work. It was exciting. Inspiring. Refreshing...especially since I happen to work at a museum that houses one of Amy Sherald's paintings, which also happens to be in the same city that she was born. And that's when I realized something: greatness can come from anywhere; can start from anything; can even be me. 

I'm in the process of writing a memoir. 27 with a memoir, insane, right? But your story is your story no matter how many years it takes to live it, isn't it? Amy Sherald is 44 and I don't know how long it took her to get her first painting in museum, how long it too her to be an international sensation, but knowing that someone from my hometown, someone BLACK from my hometown has accomplished such a feat is more than enough for me. 

I'm trying to make it. I'm not trying to be crazy famous or disgustingly rich, but I am trying to tell my story to the world in the best way I know how. Spilling my soul and hoping the words take. Willing my stories to be the best they can be and you know what? Watching today's unveiling and listening to the speeches of  people that look like me, who have reached and exceeded their goals has shown me that pursuing my dreams is valid. Being an author/painter needs to be more than a dream. It needs to be a goal. Dreams are different from goals. 

I give myself a hard time for being "behind" other people my age. I don't cut myself slack for having a few chronic illnesses when I should, knowing I can't control how my body reacts to them. And I have a tendency to beat myself up for not being "the best" all the time, but I'm learning that things take time; that hard work pays off, but it's not always as quickly as you'd want it to be. 

I spent almost 3 years on my sofa  learning how my body functions now that I have an incurable illness and recovering from a bablyess c section. I wrote and I painted, but I spent more time fighting my body for refusing to do what I wanted it to do. I survived. I lived to see another day and I'm grateful for that. I'm also grateful to learn about other people's struggles and what they had to fight through to get to where they are. Everyone has a struggle to get through and sometimes they come during the "prime" of your life, like mine did. But seeing those 4 Black people on stage this morning (two, artists like myself) was remarkable. It reminded me that sometimes you need a struggle to get where you want to be. Even if that struggle is the color of your skin. 

I don't know what they had to overcome, but I know that getting where they are couldn't have been easy and I know that life happens to everyone. And so I was reminded that even when life happens to you, you can't give up on your dreams

-A

Failure Is Not an Option

Yesterday, I experienced my first ever spelling bee! Now, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t she too old for a spelling bee? And to answer you, yes, technically I am. BUT I’ve started back working full time (more on that later) and my job just so happens to host the county spelling bee every year. So yeah, I’m a little excited and I don’t care if you think I’m a nerd for thinking it’s super cool.

I was able to sneak down to the event yesterday and I’ve gotta say I was impressed. And terrified. And anxious. And crazy excited to see all these kids lined up and ready to spell their little hearts out. Maybe I’m overly “enthused” because I never got to go to a spelling bee. Somehow, despite being an English major and a pretty good writer, I never got the spelling bug. I’m a terrible speller. I’ll probably have to run spell check a second time when I’m done writing this because, hello! I bombed virtually every spelling test handed to me. I’m just no good at it. But these kids were. They were spelling in different languages, they were picking up on silent letters, they were sounding out words I’d never even heard before. These kids were legit. And by the end of the round I felt like a proud mama, even for the kids that misspelled their words, because they’ve all got the guts I don’t have to get in front of a crowd and possibly fail in front of them.

Failure is a big thing. It can totally ruin your self-confidence and it can scar you for life. Like the one time I had to sing in front of a group of parents, mom included, and missed a key note. Sure, I was only 8. And yeah, there were other kids singing much louder than I was in the first place, but to this day, 19 years later, I still remember it. My face got hot, beads of sweat formed on my back, my ears turned bright red like they always do whenever I’m embarrassed. I was a little kid, but getting it perfect in that moment meant everything to me. It felt like the worst day ever. And I bet some of the kids from yesterday felt that way too.

But there’s something else to be learned from making a mistake, even when it feels like it’s the end of the world in the moment. IT’S NOT. You go to bed the next night, you wake up the next morning and even though the tinge of defeat might linger for a little while, you made it through it. You survived. You’re alive to try again, to try harder.

I’m slowly learning that that’s what matters most in life. Not giving up. Sometimes I want to. Sometimes it feels like the only thing to do, but there’s always a better choice. Sure, it might take a little more effort, a little more mascara, but the opportunity is there for the taking.

So that brings us back to the new job thing. After a little more than three years out of work to deal with endometriosis, I’m back on the grind. Sometimes it feels weird, surreal even, because for the longest time it seemed like endo had beaten me. There were loads of days where I could barely get out of bed in the morning to brush my teeth, but here I am. Back waking up at 6:30 (7 when I can push it haha!) getting dressed and actually leaving my house every morning again. Yeah, I’m a mess most evenings when I get home and sometimes I even get in the bed before 7, but every morning I wake up and try again. I try. Over and over again and you know what, I’m succeeding.

And lemme tell ya, success feels grand.

-A

If you love love, this book is for you!

I speak of the type of love that brings sight to the blind. Of a love stronger than fear. I speak of a love that breathes meaning into life, that defies the natural laws of deterioration, that causes us to flourish, that knows no bounds. I speak of the triumph of the human spirit over selfishness and death.” –The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

So I'll just be honest, I'm a bit of a hopeless romantic. I love to see people in love and I hope for that for myself too. That true love thing, not the superficial stuff. So kind of needless to say, I love a good "romance" book. But not that stereotypical, I know what's gonna happen before it happens type book. The kind of book that screams purity, devotion, and the type of love that changes lives. You know, that real stuff that is unending and long suffering. The kind of book that makes you tear up and leaves you questioning every moment of your life not spent with that kinds of passion in your life. That's the kind of book I like. 

When I first picked up The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, I was pretty sure I'd be getting some of that, but I didn't know how much. The story picks up with a girl in search of her father. One day he picked up and moved to Burma. No explanations, no apologies, no nothing. One day he was just gone. Just like that.  And so she does what any kid would do and begins the search for her father and the woman she thinks he left their family for. 

 What unfolds is a love story between two human beings that has stood solid for over 40 years. A love that didn't waver despite decades of total silence, years of wondering and, (what for me would be no less than total insanity), what ended up being the purest, truest love around. BRUH.

But, I digress. Basically Tin Win (daddy that is) was forced away from his home, eventually got married, had a family, a career, an entire life without his true love and yet somehow his love for her, his first love, never diminished. Everyday of his life was one day closer to seeing her again and everyday he made the moves (in secret) to get back to her. SOB.

I can’t tell too much more without spilling the goods, but let’s just say the writing is beautiful. I felt ALL. THE. FEELS. I absolutely loved this book. Can you tell?

Go pick up a copy of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker you’ll love it. Promise.

-A

 

So You're Stuck in the Middle of a Hurricane...

So! As I’m sure you’ve noticed, hurricane season is here in full force.

And I have to admit, I always seem to find myself surprised at the amount of people surprised by the coming in of harsh winds, wild waves, and destruction that hits the Northwestern Hemisphere from April-October. It’s as if no one realizes that this happens EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.  But, I digress. The storms are here now and all we can do is sit snug in our homes and ride them out. At least, that’s what I’m planning to do.

And that’s what this post is about: what to do when a hurricane hits.

Well, there are quite a few things out there to pass the time and, if you’re really creative, there are more than a few things out there. But I’m only going to list five. That’s right. 5. If you want a longer list, you’re gonna have to head over to Pinterest. Haha!

But let’s get this hurricane party started.

So you’ve got your snacks; you fought the crazies for cases of water; you bought batteries and flashlights and canned EVERYTHING. You filled your bathtub with water so you can flush the toilet; you put your valuables in plastic bags; you did everything you could think of doing to be prepared and now the big day is here. The wind is howling, the trees are swaying, the lights are flickering. In a few minutes the power’s going to be out and you’re gonna be stuck on your sofa staring at the ceiling in an effort to conserve battery power, you know, in case of an emergency.

But this is an emergency too! The city’s shut down; your ipad is on 2% and Irma is steadily ripping her way through the town. Whatever are you to do??

Well friends, luckily for you, I’ve got a few ideas.

1)   Read a book. I know, I know. LAME. But seriously, reading can be really fun, even if you’re not a nerd like me. Try reading something scary— a thriller, a murder mystery. With the thunder crashing and the wind howling, the setting is already set! All that’s left is a great plot and some stellar story telling.

2)   Catch up with your family. (Lamer than the last one, right?) But honestly, one thing I’ve realized over the past few years is that if you don’t talk to your family now, right now, something might happen before you ever get the chance. How did your parents meet? How did your grandparents meet? What really happened that summer your uncle broke his leg at the lake? Something. Anything! You’re all stuck at home with no power anyway. Why not make the best of it?

3)   Start a new hobby. Something that DOESN’T require electricity or the internet. One thing I really admire about generations past is that they were totally self-sufficient. Like those people didn’t need stores for anything! Now, I’m not saying go out and buy a butter churn or a couple of chickens, but how about something like learning to knit or anything with your hands really. You know, all that hipster stuff everyone’s always talking about.

4)   Bake something! If you’re like me, your power isn’t out yet, and it probably won’t go out. But even still, my entire city is under a kind of a curfew (no one on the streets past 4 am Monday night). So one of my favorite things to do during a storm is to make something super tasty to snack on while I’m doing a whole lot of nothin’. Honestly, I don’t need a reason to bake. But the fact that it’s cold and rainy just calls for a house filled with the smell of delicious baked goods if you ask me. And if you don’t know how to bake, why not start now? Everything is trial and error anyway, right?

5)   Catch up on some TV. Again, if you still have power, this is a perfect way to spend the day. And if your family is anything like mine, the DVR is FULL. We’ve got our favorite shows, classic movies, cartoons, and of course, plenty of reality TV just waiting to be binged. So why not sit back with some warm cookies and clear out the queue?

Now I’m sure there’s lot of other stuff out there for you to do today and this is a very short list, but these are few of my family’s favorites. What do you and yours like to do “when the weather outside is frightful?” 

Drop me a line! Maybe someone else could use the help too!

What's up with Alice?

When I was a little girl, I absolutely loved Disney movies. (I mean can anyone name a kid who doesn't?) And if we're being honest, I still do. They're timeless and in a world as crazy as today's, they're refreshing. They suspend reality long enough to give you that warm fuzzy feeling before you have to get back to adulting. And I believe we all need a little of that from time to time. 

So, needless to say, I love books that play with the "original" storylines of the movies I hold dear. (pro fact: Walt changed virtually everything about every story he came in contact with, so we're not gonna call Disney movies the real thing 'cause honestly, they're not. Have you read the real Little Mermaid?!) Gregory Maguire's books, for example, are some of my faves. He's a master at creating an alternate universe for characters we already have connections to. I mean I actually feel bad for the Wicked Witch of the West after reading Wicked over and over, don't you?

But anyway, we're not talking about Elphaba today. Today's post is about the little girl that fell down the rabbit hole.

When I came across Christina Henry's Alice I was pretty pumped. I love seeing how authors take something old and give it a new life. And Alice in Wonderland is one of my absolute favorite Disney movies, though if you ask me why I'm pretty sure I won't have a legitimate answer. But! I've read other takes on Alice and Wonderland before so I figured why not give this one a try. 

But, even though I hate to say it, I'm disappointed. 

I'm not sure what I was expecting from Alice, but I'm pretty sure it isn't what I got. And I have to admit that I'm also not sure if Alice is supposed to be a YA book or not, but that sure would explain a few things. 

Just to be clear: Henry isn't trying to retell Carroll's story. Her spin on his classic is much, much darker. Sinister even. And that's not the disappointing part. That's actually what kept me reading. And I suppose that should answer my questions about this book being for young adult readers, but somehow it doesn't. 

When we meet Alice, she's in an asylum. She barely escaped being the next hot item in the city's sex trade and her "next cell neighbor" is an axe-murderer named Hatcher. Dark, right?

And so (without telling too much I hope ) within the first few chapters Alice and Hatch (as she calls him) escape from the asylum and start off on the journey of all journeys. Kind of like Frodo and Sam (but I'm telling you now, Frodo and Sam are definitely a more iconic duo than Alice and Hatch). 

Throughout their trek they have run-ins with several different personifications of Carroll's classic characters-the Cheshire Cat, the Blue Caterpillar, the Walrus, and the Jabberwocky- each of whom is involved in his own shady dealings. Each of whom is also only a stepping stone on the trail to the man Alice dreads seeing- the White Rabbit. 

The story itself is good and you definitely find yourself eager to know what happens next, but I also found myself rooting for the axe-murderer instead of the book's namesake heroine. 

Alice aggravated me to no end. Like: Girl, this is a QUEST! Ain't no cryin' in saving the world! 

I don't know if pain in the butt cry baby was what Henry was going for when she did her character sketch of Alice, but that's totally what she got from my POV. 

And, unfortunately, Henry's writing is just...okay. I kept reading solely to find out what happened to Alice and Hatch, not because Henry's way with words beckoned my soul. You might be thinking that the two are one in the same, but they're not. Trust me. They're not. 

Alice is a part of a 2 book series and a month after finishing installment one, I still haven't found the desire to read book two. And honestly, that makes me a little sad. I really And maybe it'll all be different for you. Give it a gander and see!

Thanks for stopping by,

-A

 

You Sly Fox

One thing I'm always telling myself I need to do is read more books. I think after enduring four years as an English major, I (even though I hate to say it) got tired of reading. So much so that I've been starting and stopping two chapters into a novel for the past two years or so. Disgraceful, I know.  

But, anyway, l've been forcing myself to sit down and read some really good books and well, some not so good ones too. ("To each his own," right?) Books I should've read in college, but didn't. Books I missed out on as a kid. Some of the classics and some of the not so classic. Basically, anything I can get my hands on. 

I was getting ready to reread an old favorite last week (Love in the Time of Cholera, for those curious minds) when my mom decided she wanted to scope out some new bookstores. Never one to turn down a free book or a midweek adventure, I jumped in the car and off we went. 

I'm not gonna lie, this book store was AAA-MAZING. It sits on the corner lot of this très chic strip mall situation and the building is a circle! Literally. It looks Rapunzel's tower. I was sold before we even made it to the front door. But, I digress. 

After perusing for a few minutes and picking up everything that looked interesting, I spotted this little pale blue book sitting all alone on a wall shelf. It was Mr. Fox. 

I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'd never read any of Helen Oyeyemi's work. But the back cover made it seem interesting enough and I've been searching high and low for a new page turner for months.  And lucky me, after the first few pages I wondered how I'd gone this long without Oyeyemi in my life!

Oyeyemi's writing is tantalizing. Intriguing. Addictive. Her words flow so fluidly that it's just about impossible to stop reading. (I'm not ashamed to admit, I went out and got the only other book Barnes and Noble had: 2014's Boy, Snow, Bird before I even finished Mr. Fox.)

If I sound like a teenage fan girl, then my mission has been accomplished. But by now I'm sure you're wondering, "What's all the fuss about"? 

Well, I'll tell you. And I'll try not to spoil too much of it for you while I'm at it. 

So, the book is about this guy named (of course) Mr. Fox. He's a writer and from what I can gather he's a pretty good one. But, like so may of us, he's stuck. Not on a plot or character development or anything like that, though. St. John Fox can't stop killing off his female characters. No matter what type of story he's writing, some poor lady is gonna die. He can't help it. It's like an addiction. 

Enter Mary Foxe. Woman. Mistress (or is she?). Muse. 

Mary's fed up. She's tired of dying in St. John's stories and so she comes up with an idea. Foxe challenges Fox to a game. Can he write a story where his heroine actually lives?

Maybe he can; maybe he can't. The heat is on and what we get is this incredible conglomeration of, what I'm calling, call and response storytelling from all the parties involved. Figuring out who's telling the tale gradually gets more difficult, but that's a part of the fun.

Oh. Did I forget to mention that St. John Fox is married? He is. And while all of this is happening his wife Daphne is growing more and more suspicious of how her husband is spending his time. Is he having an affair with this mystery woman? Is she even a real flesh and blood person? Well, my friends, you're gonna have to see for yourself. 

If you're looking for something clever and deliciously amusing, I definitely suggest picking up a copy of Helen Oyeyemi's 2011 award-winning (no really, Google it!) Mr. Fox

Until next time, 

A.