Unconditional Anything

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We hear those words all the time: Unconditional love. But let’s take a look at what it actually means. It’s to love someone without any strings attached. It’s to love them despite what they’ve done, are doing, and will do. It’s to love them despite who they become.

And it’s the most idiotic idea I’ve ever heard.

How can a person love someone who hurts them? Or others? Could you really love someone if you learn that they are or have become a child rapist? No. And if you could, you’re either a saint in the highest degree of the word or just as terrible as the person you love.

Now, let’s look a little deeper into love. It means trust, loyalty, honesty, and compassion. Put “unconditional” in front of either of those first two words and you have a disaster. Unconditional trust would place you in danger of this person if their twisted psyche decided to turn on you. Unconditional loyalty would keep you bound to this person even when they are bashing your skull against the concrete.

Unhealthy. Unconditional anything is unhealthy. And none is less detrimental to a human being than unconditional love.

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A Marketer’s Pet Peeves

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You all know I’m a marketer if you’ve even glanced at a few of my entries. I mention it a lot, because it’s a big part of my identity. Marketing, to me, is not exclusive to selling a product; it’s what everyone does every day. We are all trying to acquire something, persuade someone, or draw attention in some form or another.

If you grew up with a sibling, you probably understand one of my biggest pet peeves. As a kid, did you ever go to ask your parents for something, but then your sibling cut in? They probably blurted out the request in a way that you knew the parents would immediately shoot down.

“Mom, can I–?”

“Dad, I want–!”

“I have to have–!”

No.

No.

No.

But you had a great way to ask them. A way that would at least make them consider.

“Mom, I love you…”

“Dad, I cleaned my entire room today…”

“If I do (blank), would you mind if I…?”

But your sibling wanted to do the same thing. They spoke first and totally wrecked your chances.

This annoys marketers just as much as it annoyed you as a child. When I work a show with another marketer and they step on my toes like this, it is brutally frustrating.

Even more frustrating is when someone “steals” a marketer’s prospect. Imagine this: You share a room with your sibling. In order to have leverage with your parents, you clean the entire bedroom by yourself. But when you go to use this leverage, you find that your sibling has claimed to have done all the work and has left to go ride bikes or whatever with his friends as the reward.

Marketers do this, have done this, at shows I’ve worked with them. And it barbs me just as much as it would that child. I’ll be talking with a prospect and, just as I’ve garnered their attention and built interest in the product, here comes my colleague. He/she cuts in and closes them out, acquiring the appointment date and signing their name to my work.

Marketing is about people. Tact, respect, and common courtesy are critical to success in this field–much as it is in life itself–and if you don’t have it, you turn off your prospects and people in general.

For this reason, the colleague/sibling who behaves this way will never be able to generate their own success. They will constantly need to have someone more capable beside them to leach from. This is its own karmic justice, as this type of person pushes people away–one day there will be nobody beside this person from whom to siphon.

Anne Rice: The Witching Hour

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If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, then you’ve likely read my post, “Reading & Writing: Two Wings of the Same Bird.” To highlight the key points, reading is absolutely integral to an author and imparts many benefits. Reading gives you fresh ideas, new words, and better perspectives to write from.

And eleven chapters into my very first Anne Rice novel, I can attest it is the absolute truth. There are so many words I’ve simply forgot about while strictly writing. “Incontrovertible,” “pervasive,” and “indulgent” are a few. And I’ve sorely missed using words like “communicable” and “impropriety.”

And this book has already given me a new idea for foreshadowing. Reading the first novel in the Mayfair Chronicles series has taught me to back up into the story, rather than just merely “write from the end.”

There is such suspense here. I cannot wait to see what I bring back to my word processor after immersing myself in the tomes of Anne Rice.

Sharing With Strangers

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I have stage fright. Well, I did. I don’t know about that anymore. You see, something about marketing changed me. I realized that, going door-to-door or talking to strangers at a show…I’m never going to see them again.

I’m never going to see them again.

That is empowering! These people do not know me and I don’t know them. The chances of us ever crossing paths again is slim to none and, if we ever did meet again, it’s highly unlikely that they would recognize me (or I, them.)

I can be whoever I want and, aside from me giving them good reason, they would never suspect. Most people might feel that they can’t relate to this, especially if they’re shy, but let me put it in better perspective.

Who would you feel more comfortable telling a secret to, your friend or a stranger on the internet? Think about it. For me, the friend knows my other friends and possibly even my family. The anonymous internet person doesn’t know anything about me at all. Even if Mr. Internet does blab, the people who matter to me will likely never hear of it.

Sharing with strangers can be safer and more comfortable than sharing with friends and family, for that reason. And next time I’m on display, performing karaoke or giving some sort of speech or maybe even auditioning for something, I’m going to keep that in mind: I’m never going to see these people again.

Reading & Writing: Two Wings of the Same Bird

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When a person loses their mind and decides to pursue a career as an author, they are often avid readers first. They fell in love with writing by reading words another person wrote. They realized, after a particularly good read, that they could do it, too.

So they write. And write. And write a little more. After awhile, all their time is spent with their current project (in my case, a novel.) And in that time, as they pore over their own words, they neglect what impassioned them to begin with.

If you do not read, you cannot write. Reading opens your mind to new ideas. There’s other inspiration out there, sure enough, but nothing quite inspires an author like another author.

Reading the words of another gives you ideas for new angles, perspectives, to write from. A new book is filled with words you may or may not have learned already–words you will be reminded of or teach yourself that you can incorporate in your own works.

Reading is indispensable to an author. Next time you find yourself sighing because your writing seems to lack this or that, take a break with something another person wrote. After all, reading and writing are two wings of the same bird. Happy writing!

As Little Children

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Babies know everything. They know all the secrets and all the mysteries of this life, and then some. We teach them things we think they should know and it pushes all of that priceless knowledge away from them. That’s what I think.

I wonder what it is they know. I wonder what makes babies laugh in their cribs when they’re all alone. It’s as though they’re remembering that fond pre-life before they met any of us.

That’s probably why they cry when they’re born. They likely didn’t want to leave that other life. Is it like a dream or like a place, I wonder? That pre-life, I mean. Is it like being woken up from a nice dream, or more like being ripped from Heaven above?

We’ll never know it for ourselves. I know that. Not until the end anyway. I feel like, when we finish here, we’ll remember more clearly or maybe just go back there. It makes sense, if you think about it logically. We knew it all before we had these bodies. The babies knew, still know.

By the time you find this letter, I’ll know it, too. I can’t live in this world without knowing my purpose, my origins. I’m too curious. Too impatient.

Love,

Gretta B.

The Broken Gift

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Today is Saturday. I’m at a picnic table, an empty one, at a park by the riverside. It’s only a park because there are a few benches and picnic tables here. Otherwise, it would only be the river and some grass.

It’s odd how one thing can change the entire meaning of something.

I’m supposed to meet her here, but she isn’t going to show. In the spring of ’89, she gave me a gift, a special one. What she gave me was something she held so dear, she almost never let anyone hold it.

And she gave it to me. She didn’t intend for me to merely borrow it, but to hold it forever. She probably did that because she expected to stay beside me for that long. Knowing how important it was, I kept it near me, always.

On Thursday, I broke the gift. Not intentionally, of course. It was while I spent time with a friend that it happened. The two of us became careless and I forgot the gift was even there. By the time I realized, it was too late. I knew it was shattered before I even checked.

I tried to hide it from her at first. I felt ashamed that, in a single moment, I’d destroyed this precious gift so completely. My friend ended up telling her on Friday.

On Friday, I lost the gift. She couldn’t forgive me for breaking what she gave me, and so she took it back. She gathered up the pieces without even looking at me. She was crying, but wouldn’t let me comfort her.

She left with the broken gift.

And now it’s Saturday. My phone is ringing and I know who it is without looking: My friend with whom I broke that gift.

I avoided that friend since Thursday, out of shame and self-disgust.

I answered the phone. “Yeah?”

“I was beginning to think you changed your number…” she said. I could sense the anxiety she fought to keep out of her voice.

“I can’t talk right now,” I replied, my eyes fixed on the park entrance.

“We have to talk about this,” she insisted, less anxious now. “You can’t just make this go away.”

“I know that.”

Was that her? A familiar dress walked down the pathway, chestnut waves bouncing around her shoulders.

“…with you. It was special to me.” She’d been talking for awhile, but I’d only just tuned in again. “I just thought I’d let you know that.”

“Thank you,” I said intelligently. I sighed. This was difficult. It should be even more difficult. I deserved that. “Listen, I can’t be with you. Even if Demi can never forgive me, I can’t be with you.”

“You can’t tell me it meant nothing to you. I know better.” She sounded panicked now.

“It meant something,” I admitted, honing in on familiar dress lady’s face as she drew nearer.

It wasn’t her.

“I can’t be with you,” I repeated. “To me, you are a reminder of what I did. Even if Demi never forgives me, it would feel wrong to be with you.”

The line remained silent.

“I’m sorry, Sara.” I heard her sniff, but she said nothing.

I ended the call.

Demi gave me her complete trust in the spring of ’89. We shared many years of happiness and love because of that. But without that trust, we became two people instead of one–two people who could not even meet by the riverside to talk.

It’s strange how a broken gift can change the entire meaning of something.

The Eyes Within

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I know this is a dream because I recognize the shade of green. A tingle of anticipation ripples through me, more a mental sensation than physical.

Then again, without a physical brain, sensations can’t really be felt. Until they reach the brain, the feelings are only signals. So are thoughts. Would I cease to exist without a brain? Ah, it’s so easy to be distracted in dreams. I’ll get back on topic.

Anyway, it’s the shade of green that makes me recognize it. As I admire the color, it takes shape, and even though I already know it’s grass, I look on in wonder all the same. It rolls out in waves, like a living creature snaking across the darkness. It moves just like a giant stingray, more a waving motion than slithering. Grass is never this lush in reality, except for maybe in paintings. Maybe that’s why I named this place so long ago. It seemed too unique to be nameless. Just like him.

This place is the Knolls, and it’s a very special place to me. You must respect it, since I’m generous enough to share it with you.

As the grass stretches into the distance, creating the horizon, it brings the blue sky and sunset along with it. Ah, if you could only really see it. I wish I could show it to you. I’m sure the words are inadequate and lengthy.

But you mustn’t skip ahead. My favorite part is approaching. After the grass invites the sky and sunset and everything is quite still, a rich, earthy pathway begins cutting down the center of every hill. It looks precisely like a cartoon groundhog burrowing beneath the surface, except it does not leave a raised patch of earth. To the contrary, the path is perfectly smooth and without blemish.

Everything about the Knolls is like that. The sky is cloudless, the grass is only grass, and the dirt trail is only dirt. It is a precise and pure place.

I once lamented that there were no flowers, but then Pierre…ah, but that is to come. He will be here after the tree–oh! There! It’s starting!

Upon any ordinary hill, something is there and gone again. It is exactly as one sees a shadow in their peripheral and turns to find nothing there.

Only, I knew it was there. I’m focusing on it now, because this is my favorite part. I want to see! It flashes again and vanishes, such a tricky little thing. Come on, now. No more teasing…

It is there. That’s how it always happens. You think it will slowly fade into existence, but it never does. It uses that one moment of belief to manifest itself.

There’s my tree. Sometimes I have to wait for Pierre, but I must really want to meet him right now, because he’s sitting there beneath the tree.

He’s smiling at me, one leg bent, an arm resting easily on his knee. He doesn’t approach. He never does unless I’m upset.

I walk over, calmly. It’s been a long time and I’ve missed him, so I should probably run to him. When someone runs in this situation, though, I feel like it’s because they are afraid. Afraid that person will vanish.

I never worry about that with Pierre. He’s always there when I need him, sometimes when I least expect it. I can take my time because I know Pierre will stay there.

I also know the dream will not end soon, considering my physical condition. I will be unconscious for a long time, maybe forever.

I’m at Pierre’s side, sitting beside him. That’s how dreams go. One minute, you’re walking, and then you’re sitting without any recollection of crossing a distance.

I face him, returning his smile. Hearing in a dream is much more difficult than seeing. Especially if you’re trying to listen. Effort works against a dreamer. So, instead of trying to hear or even talk, I’m leaning against him, watching the sunset.

Pierre always wears a black dress suit. He reminds me a lot of a butler sometimes. His hair is short, black, and slicked back in waves like an Italian mobster.

He’s not a mobster. Or a butler. He’s just Pierre. You may not understand, since it is not your dream. Dreamers have an uncanny way of understanding their own dreams, where others see it as senseless. But I’m sharing it with you, so do your best.

You probably want to know what I look like, but I don’t care to tell you. You see, if I focus on my physical appearance, I may lose all of this. I’ll be connected to reality instead of the Knolls, and I don’t want to lose Pierre or the Knolls.

Now, don’t complain. Rather than my boring fleshy appearance, I’ll tell you how I look here — in this dream. All right? Okay, then. Pay close attention, because this is much more difficult to grasp than the other things here.

I never see myself here. Sometimes, I’ll be above the tree like an aerial shot in a movie and I might see the back of my hair, but that’s as far as it goes. (It’s brown and long. Now, hush and listen.)

How I “see” myself here is more of a sensation. I am clean and smooth and soft. I’m very bright. I glow sometimes. My body is the perfect shape and size and I am light and airy. In the Knolls with Pierre, I am beautiful, stunning, gorgeous, and angelic. I’m pure and without blemish, like everything else here.

I know, I know. It sounds as though I’m describing Heaven. Maybe it is. It’s my Heaven, that’s for certain.

Ah, Pierre’s arm feels so warm. He’s wearing a long-sleeved suit, as you’ll remember, but his warmth permeates it. Feeling is difficult, normally, but the difficulties are becoming easier now. The longer I stay in this dream, the easier it becomes to live here.

Pierre’s warm arm is like rays of sunlight. That’s the precise degree of warmth I feel against my cheek right now.

“Pierre?” It’s always best if I speak first. Well, easier. Speaking is less of a challenge than hearing.

“…”

“Pierre, the sunset…has it ever been this shade of orange before?” My voice sounds soft and sweet, like a resonating silver bell. This voice would win awards and sign record labels in the real world.

“I don’t remember,” Pierre’s deeper, yet silky, voice replies.

Silk.

Yes, that describes Pierre just right. He is divesting his arm from me, coiling it around my shoulders to draw me nearer.

“Flora, aren’t you scared?” My name is not Flora. I forget my real name here. He calls me Flora because it means, “flower.” I like flowers.

“Are you here?” I ask him, nuzzling further beneath his arm. I feel smaller when I do that. Easier to protect.

“Always,” he replies seriously, giving me a gentle squeeze.

“Then, no. I’m never afraid.”

I notice it in the sun first, a gray patch. I furrow my eyebrows.

“Pierre, do you see…?” I gasp. The gray is spreading, like a disease, over the entire scene. It’s rapidly advancing toward us. “Pierre! Pierre!” I could manage no other words.

I’m standing now and Pierre is standing beside me, clutching my hand.

The gray is upon us, washing over Pierre and I. It’s suffocating. I turn to Pierre and the vitality has left him. He’s a scrambled picture on an old television set.

The entire Knolls are dead. Everything is gray and lifeless. My sensation of self is on the other end of the spectrum. I feel dirty and gritty. I feel rough and polluted. Everything seems like an unnecessary and laborious chore.

I’m barely gripping Pierre’s hand, the Gray is so devastating. He is holding on, though. To me, to this place, to the timeless moments we spent here before the Gray.

I’m awake. Gasp. I’m in the Gray Knolls. Shudder. Awake. “No…uhhh ohhhh…nnnnyengh…”

Bright lights are fighting against me and they win. I’m back in the Gray.

“They took it,” I say, my voice a harsh reminder of reality. I don’t want to speak here without my silver bell voice.

“Flora?” I feel my eyes fill with tears.

“They took yours, too,” I choke out. “All the love here is gone.”

He is squeezing my hand. Though the Gray is forcing a relentless current of despair upon us, Pierre is strong. He drags me against his chest and holds me there in a tight embrace.

“The love here is not gone.” He says this forcefully, which is not his nature. He is not angry. He is scared I’m forgetting.

I’m not. “No, it’s not all gone. But they took our happiness, Pierre. All of this reflected our happiness back onto us. It was our mirror.”

He’s drawing back to look at me, but he isn’t letting go. His fuzzy, static gray eyes almost look brown to me. Like before.

“Flora, you are my mirror. You are warm and bright.”

I feel bright. A bit, maybe.

I’m smiling at him. “You always know the right words.”

Pierre’s eyes are definitely brown.

“The Gray missed your eyes,” I whisper, afraid that it might snatch away the color.

He’s smiling back now. His mouth is rebelling against the Gray, allowing the love and happiness there to shine through. It is the Sun breaking through the black storm.

I’m closing my eyes, pressing myself against Pierre. My arms are tightening around his torso. I feel. I concentrate on feeling.

“Pierre,” I say softly, almost reaching the silver bell.

“Yes, Flora?” Silk. Definite silk.

“You can’t go anywhere…”

“I can’t,” he agrees. He’s sliding his fingers through my hair. A smile touches his next words, “I’m much too vain to be without my mirror.”

I pull back, needing to see his smile.

“Oh…” My eyes are wide. “It’s so bright! The colors! The colors were never so bright!”

The Knolls are shining with an inconceivable vibrancy. Everything feels easier. I can talk and listen and feel and see without any of the focus or concentration I needed before. I have hands-free Dream-On-Demand.

I like that so well, I turn to Pierre and say, “We have Dream-On-Demand.”

He makes a face at me.

Beep

I’m looking for that noise. What in the Knolls made such a–

Beep…Beep…

“Pierre, do you…?”

Pierre is gone.

“Pi…”

Beep…

“…coming to.”

Beep…

The tree! Our tree! Where…? No! No, I want to stay asleep!

Beep.

The sky! Gone!

Beep.

The Sun! So dark…

Beep.

Bright lights assault my vulnerable eyes.

“She’s coming to! Get her under again!” A panicky guy in a white coat. Doctor. My panicky doctor.

I’m sitting up. The drugs are making it difficult to keep track of my movements. It’s like dreaming, not remembering the journey from Point A to Point B.

I’m still dreaming, I think, because Pierre’s sitting here, holding my hand.

“They’re removing a blood clot from my brain,” I tell him.

“I know.” Pierre seems unsettled.

Beeeeeeeeeeeep

I blink at the monitor, at the long unbroken line on the screen. It is a recognizable shade of green, like the grass that unfurls on the Knolls. It remains uninterrupted–precise and pure.

Like so many other things on the Knolls.

Why I Didn’t Go To College

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It’s a common misconception that people who opt against going to college are somehow less intelligent or lack experience. It’s a common assumption that a person with a standard education couldn’t further their studies because they screwed their life up.

And nothing barbs my uneducated, inexperienced, screwed up self more than these misguided ideas.

I wanted to be a novelist and knew it from a young age. I didn’t want to be a lawyer or a doctor or a botanist or whatever they charge ungodly amounts of cash for someone to receive a piece of paper these days. I never wanted a traditional career, even as a journalist.

Going to college would have been a waste of money for me. Why would I go to medical or law school and enter a time-consuming career I would only pursue half-heartedly? I decided against giving up my dreams in lieu of a career for which I never held any interest.

If that’s something to be pitied, then I understand this world even less than I previously assumed. As for a lack of “experience,” that is a load of crock. Is college the only place a person accumulates life experience?

I work as a marketer (and love it.) My job has taken me all over my state and I’ve met people from all walks of life. I’ve held conversations with immigrants from Ireland, India, Pakistan, Germany, and more. I’ve talked to the rich and I’ve talked to the poor. I’ve been cornered by extreme Republicans and extreme Democrats. I’ve been ambushed by bigots who must be confused as to why I say nothing in return (Arguing with a prospect is off limits, and anything I said would be an argument.)

I experience the Melting Pot everyday. I don’t understand how college could have given me a better experience. And as for a lack of intelligence on my part, I know enough to make plenty of money and use a large vocabulary to rant about what annoys me. I’ve known people who came out of college still asking how to spell a common word in their text messages.

But I’m the screw-up that lacks intelligence and experience. Somehow, I think I’ll deal.

6 Methods of Mind Control

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I’m a marketer and, as a marketer, I know a little something about mind control. I know that people buy from people, and I know that people are more comfortable with a person who reminds them of themselves.

When you’ve mastered the art of convincing others that you are just like them, you can persuade them to do (almost) anything. So, here’s a few methods to control someone’s mind:

1. Mimic body language. They cross their arms, you cross your arms. They angle themselves away, you do the same. Don’t mimic unusual mannerisms or they’ll catch on. I.e. They roll their eyes, swat at a bug, etc. The trick is to play on their subconscious. Don’t let them become consciously aware of your intent.

2. Repeat back the last few words they say. Use this sparingly. Don’t repeat everything. I.e. “I can’t loan you five bucks for gas this week. Sorry, George.” “I get it. But if you loan me five bucks for gas, I’ll pay you back on payday with interest.” This not only lets them know you’re listening to their side, but also reiterates your request. And if you repeat something five times, people become more receptive.

3. Chicken nod. If you nod after asking a question, it positively reinforces the question and plays on their subconscious to answer positively. Just nod continuously while you ask and they’re more likely to say, “yes.”

4. Use open-ended questions. “Can I have five bucks?” is a yes or no question. They will say no. It’s easy. But, if you say, “When can you loan me five bucks?” they will need to say, “Tomorrow,” “Next week,” or, “Never.” To avoid, “Never,” take out “can you.” For example, “I need five bucks for gas. Would you rather I pay you back Thursday or Friday?” You’ve given them two options. To answer with “Never,” would mean to not even listen to your side of the conversation.

5. You should do this, because Always attach a reason to your request. It doesn’t matter how weak the reason is. Typically, they don’t really register anything after “because.” Attaching a reason strengthens your argument.

6. The Jones Effect. Everybody, everywhere, every day, is in a competition, whether big or small. That’s why when you say, “Jerry was going to loan me five bucks tomorrow, but I really need it tonight. Would you rather I pay you back Thursday or Friday?” you’ve garnered their attention. If Jerry was going to do it, by golly, so can they!

So, there’s six ideas for your next debate. I hope you get what you want! Let me know in the comments how these tips work for you.