Hiding Habit

C.R. Dudley Author, Orchid's Lantern Blog

I’ve always had a habit of hiding. Hiding from their stares, from their words; from their judgement. It’s like being suspended in a space outside time, as though he who is not observed does not exist. I’ve always been good at it, too. As I child, I would sometimes stay hidden for hours at a time – in the cupboard under the stairs, in a hole in the ground, or high up in a tree – long after the seekers had given up.

It was after my first Valentine’s Day blunder that I learned how to step up my game. Shame expanded inside of me, making my skin puffy and red, yet strangely pliable. I wrung my hands together and squeezed water from my eyes, and in doing so I became smaller. I hid in my locker at school all day. Its darkness and cold metal edges held me tighter than anything I’d hid in before. I never wanted to leave.

I soon developed the ability to make neat little folds in my skin during such times. I’d practice pouring out the tears every evening until I was completely dry, which is necessary for the folding. It’s a bit like forcing the air out of an air bed to put it back in its box. I began hiding in smaller and smaller places, pushing myself further outside of time with each attempt. There was the cutlery drawer, I remember. Then the pencil case, and the teapot. Snuggly snuggly.

Now, several years later, I am in the midst of my most successful hide yet. I’m scrunched up in a Japanese puzzle box: one inch by two, 36 moves to solve. I’ve never felt so secure, which is probably why I’m able to write all of this down. But, although I feel secure, there is a tiny part of me – just one little fold somewhere near my heart – that hopes someone will come and find me. A puzzle-master in shining armor, perhaps. But no one ever does.

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For more of my flash fiction, check out my book Fragments of Perception – out now as an e-book and paperback.

On 20th February I will be attending the fourth Virtual Futures ‘Near-Future Fictions’ Event in London, where my new story ‘Toxic Duck Inc’ will be read to a live audience. Tickets are available here.

Learning To Fly

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I am encased, swaddled, and smothered by an invisible substance. My skin is writhing and earthy beyond my threshold, so I step into a soothing bath to remove the unwanted film for the third time today: the transformation is less prominent there. I congratulate myself briefly when I finally manage to open the book I’ve been staring at for the last hour and a half, and I hide out in it like it’s a protective roof over my head. But just minutes later it caves in and my concentration wanes once again. That is when the dreams begin to come. Dreams of wriggling, striving, and rupturing.

There’s a tapping at my window. A sad, gaunt face with sunken eyes is peering in. I know it is self pity and it doesn’t belong here, so I press my fingertips against my temples and try to cast it away. It doesn’t go.
The tapping escalates to a pounding, and I know something in my chest cavity is screaming to get out. With a mouth full of dry cloth I try to call for help, but am met only by the eyes of the bothered and the perplexed, who join self pity at my window. I become dizzy and confused when the world fades out and I shrink further and further behind my watering eyes.

With my heart in my mouth, I am falling down from a high bridge across a fast flowing current. I hit the water hard and am thrust into its body, my nostrils filling quickly and stinging the back of my throat. A fist grips my hair at the neck and heaves my head above water to make sure I can hear loud and clear: “you are supposed to be dowsing, not drowning! This is all for your art, so suck it up, sweetheart!” I long for my oppressor to take me in his arms but he thrusts me back beneath the surface and walks away without another look. But it hurts, I answer in my mind, it hurts so damn much.

[For a moment I am back in my office, searching through a box of data cards. Each one has a crudely drawn face on it and I am trying to find a match for my memories. If I can recognise myself, maybe I can recalibrate my mind. Then all of a sudden the change is upon me, and I know exactly which one of the scribbles I am. Throbbing dissonance starts up in the background that I cannot be separate from; the music that connects with my soul and drags it forth. I feel the click of the safety harness latching onto my core, and the world comes back into focus. The software is loaded, the goal is set.]

Now I can feel the rhythm of the sea that carries me, and I rock my body slowly backwards and forwards along with it like we were one. I gaze over the edge of the boat, into the deep waters that previously surrounded my body. Such a relief to be heading home to warmth and comfort, and yet also the sharp pang of an ending. A thought crosses my mind that I should abandon the boat and leap right back in: the grief is all that is familiar, after all. Fortunately perhaps, I am unable to carry out the whim, for the music has me in its grip and will not let me go. There are lyrics accompanying it now, and although I can’t quite make them out they seem to be telling me to feel the full force of the butterflies in my stomach. Feel them, remove the blockage: it is stopping the buzz of energy from flowing through the veins.

The butterflies are blue, and they are dancing, not struggling. They are not caged, they are not trapped. They are simply fluttering around delicately in the only way they know how. They were once wriggling beasts, but now they are learning to fly. It’s time to let them out.

How to Improve the Mental Energy Cycle

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One of the ideas that really stuck with me after reading Rebels and Devils recently, was Christopher Hyatt’s simple explanation of how we regulate our energy on a day to day basis, and how it affects our ability to live strong, productive and wilful lives.

‘There are four types of energy direction and two primary cycles. First, there is energised enthusiasm which in turn is usually balanced by deep relaxation – the second type of energy. This cycle is the fundamental healthy, creative, rebellious ebb and flow of life. Third, there is deep tension and, fourth, agitated tiredness. These last two are signs that the fundamental ebb and flow of life is disturbed.’

The third and fourth types of energy he describes are symptomatic of stress and an inability to cope, and they form the second cycle. He goes on to say that getting off this second cycle and switching back to the more healthy first cycle can be very unpleasant; most cannot do it and instead will seek a quick fix that has relieved their pain and discomfort in the past, even if it is only temporary. This often comes in the form of coffee, alcohol, prescription drugs such as painkillers and sleeping pills, illegal drugs or bouts of aggression. This cycle inevitably leads to addiction, depression or paralysing anxiety.

The reason I think the idea of the two cycles struck such a chord with me, is that it describes very well the method by which I once became trapped in a loop of depression and how I ultimately overcame it. I have since looked further into the mechanisms of what makes a healthy cycle, and would like to share some of my findings.

Continue reading “How to Improve the Mental Energy Cycle”

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