Contest #185 shortlist ⭐️

37 comments

Drama Inspirational Fiction

It’s 4 AM, and the alarm is set for 6. But I am awake anyways, my brain wired despite a lack of sleep. I decide to get up and begin my morning routine. 


Every morning, I take time to examine the pieces of my menagerie. It really sets the tone for my day. I cannot do anything else before looking at each one individually. I check my pocket to find them all there, as they always are.


First, I examine Perfectionism, and hold it close to my chest. I love it. I need it. It makes me feel whole. It reminds me that I cannot drop a single item in my collection, cannot let anything break. I cannot break, no matter how much I bend. 


Next, I take out Obsession. It’s the stern and unforgiving mental coach for my mind. It reminds me to check the oven 8 times before I leave the house, just in case I turned it on without knowing it. It tells me the house will burn down if I don’t turn the car around and make sure the curling iron is unplugged. The same curling iron that’s tucked safely away in the closet, and hasn’t been used in 6 months. 


Of course I can’t forget Self Doubt, which tells me that no matter how hard I try, I will never be good enough. This is an important piece of the collection, it keeps me grounded. It’s good to know your limitations in life, after all. 


I go through my day, carrying my menagerie with me in my pocket, shaping all that I do. Perfectionism masks Self Doubt, and Obsession fools others into thinking that I have it all together. They work in perfect symbiosis, an ecosystem of dysfunction, the ultimate balancing act of mental disarray. As long as I trod carefully, I can walk this tightrope, and maintain the facade that I’m thriving. 


But, if I’m being honest with myself, I am so, so very tired. I wish I could put down my collection, I wish I could rest. 


But I don’t know how. 


*****


Today the menagerie feels so heavy, and it is hard to breathe. Perfectionism tells me to check my presentation for work 17 times. Self Doubt insists that it still isn’t good enough, and there is no way that I, the failure, can fix it. And now Obsession has me awake, lying here for hours in bed, thinking of all the ways I may or may not have remedied a minor disagreement that I had with a coworker 3 weeks ago.


People are starting to notice that it’s all an elaborate act, and that I may not be as put together as I hope to appear. Laying down my collection seems to be the logical option, and life would be so much easier, but they’re all intrinsically tied to me. Whenever I try, they are right back in my pocket, present without my consent. 


*****


I decided to speak with a Collection Curator today, someone trained in the management of menageries such as mine. The Curator suggests that I begin saying positive phrases to myself in the mirror every morning, as a way to begin letting go of my collection.


I tell her that sounds like b.s.


She tells me the problem with my menagerie is the arrangement of my chosen pieces, and that I need to add in some new, more complimentary items. She suggests that I add in Letting Go of Control, as well as Self Love and Meditation. The Curator states that my pieces are too heavy for one pocket, which is what is bogging me down. 


I tell her that I hear her, when in reality I am reading between the lines. Too much for one pocket? There’s a simple solution. I need to try harder. 


I will start using both pockets. 


*****


My “both pockets” idea turns out to be a bust, just like so many of my halfwit ideas. The first day I try to double down with my collection, I end up having a breakdown at work in front of everyone. They send me home early and instruct me to use some personal days. I am not to return until I can prove that my pockets are empty, or at least less heavy.


So now I am back visiting the Curator, feeling like such a loser, a fake, a letdown. Perfectionism points out that I had dropped all the pieces, and now I am broken. Self Doubt sobs that I am too stupid to put down such a terrible collection, even when I know that I should. Obsession swears that I should consider all the ways in which I have failed over the last 20 years, so that I never make a mistake, ever again. 


But the Curator, her nature gentle and her heart forgiving, smiles at me, and tells me to try again. She tells me that so many people have the same kind of collection and struggle to let it go. I am human, she reminds me, and I am still growing, still learning.


She recommends new pathways of thinking, and helps me see the ways in which I am a success in my life. She suggests laying down my menagerie for short periods of time, just to see how it feels. She is so kind, so encouraging. 


And while I don’t feel completely better, I notice that my pocket is a little lighter when I leave.


*****


I continue to improve a little each day since my breakdown at work. I’ve seen the Curator multiple times, and strive to listen to her recommendations. I haven’t been able to swap out my pieces for the ones that she suggests, but I have updated the menagerie a bit, and this has been helpful. Today in my pocket, instead of Perfectionism I carry Forgiveness, which reminds me to let go of my mistakes. I also swapped out Self Doubt with Cautious Optimism, and I remain hopeful that this new piece will become a permanent installation. Obsession has been replaced with One Step at a Time, which is my new positive phrase for myself. 


This new collection is so much lighter than my old one, and I find that I am less fatigued at the end of the day. Sometimes the old pieces still sneak their way back into my pocket from time to time, but I’ve noted that they are smaller than they used to be. It’s so difficult to let go of the familiar, even if it isn’t good for me.


But I am working on it. 


One step at a time. 


February 11, 2023 04:31

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37 comments

Dan Coglianese
19:42 Mar 02, 2023

I think every single person who read your story identifies with this one. What a great way to describe the private ways we torture ourselves. Nicely done! And congratulations on the well-deserved shortlist.

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Nona Yobis
21:55 Mar 02, 2023

I'm so glad it resonated with you! Yes, we are often our own worst enemies when it comes to mental health. I am hopeful that someone reading my story will be able to benefit, and at least not feel alone!

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Nell Benton
19:07 Feb 23, 2023

This is quite clever. I enjoyed it very much and will be careful what I fill my pockets with!

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Nona Yobis
18:19 Feb 24, 2023

Thanks for the comment! Enjoyable and a life lesson... every author's goal! I'm glad it resonated with you :)

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Mary Bendickson
18:38 Apr 12, 2023

This prompt was the first one I attempted when I signed up here. I must have missed this then even though it was shortlisted. Congrats on that. You must be a fantastic mental health expert. You know how to recognize hang-ups then help people resolve them. Your use of personification is so good and I noticed you use it well in other stories also.

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Nona Yobis
04:46 Apr 13, 2023

You are very kind! We all have certain things in life that we are good at. I never learned to play piano, I can't throw a baseball to save my life, and you can explain the inner workings of a clock to me, to no avail. But "peopling," I am pretty good at that. I find mental health fascinating, and I particularly love finding strengths in people where others see only weakness. I try to use writing as a way to connect to those who feel unheard, and help build bridges of understanding.

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Mary Bendickson
05:01 Apr 13, 2023

Insight and empathy. Good combo.

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Amanda Lieser
19:56 Mar 08, 2023

Hey Nona, This piece was absolutely brilliant and a well-deserved shortlist! I really enjoyed the personification of these words, because I feel like they are something that a lot of us hold so tightly to our chests. My natural instinct, of course, as the daughter of a therapist was to assume that the curator was a therapist. Let me know if I’m right in that thought process. I did also pick a favorite line for you which came from one of those interactions with the curator because it’s something I’m certain I’ve said to my own therapist befor...

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Nona Yobis
20:42 Mar 08, 2023

You are absolutely correct! I was intending to imply the Curator was a therapist. I am a mental health therapist, and while I have never been told something sounds like b.s. directly, it's been heavily implied lol! I am glad that you found it to be relatable!

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Lorenzo Fusini
07:50 Mar 05, 2023

Totally relatable :) And you tell the tale using an original (at least to me) collection of metaphors, which I truly appreciate. I'm a perfectionist, which makes me waste a lot of time on petty details; writing for this contest helps me, amongst other things, finish what I started in less than an infinite amount of time! Thanks for this story, and congrats on the SL!

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Nona Yobis
15:56 Mar 07, 2023

Thank you! In so glad it was relatable. I aim to help people realize that they aren't alone, and that these struggles befall many others, too. I also aim to give hope that there's a way to start feeling better!

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Lorenzo Fusini
16:16 Mar 07, 2023

A most honourable purpose! Please keep doing it :)

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Story Time
19:09 Mar 01, 2023

Congratulations on making the shortlist this week, Nona!

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Nona Yobis
19:49 Mar 01, 2023

Thank you!

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Philip Ebuluofor
19:34 Feb 26, 2023

Captivating. Congrats.

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Nona Yobis
20:13 Feb 26, 2023

Thank you!

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Philip Ebuluofor
18:38 Feb 27, 2023

Welcome

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Wendy Kaminski
17:06 Feb 24, 2023

Fantastic, Nona! And big congrats on the shortlisting this week! :)

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Nona Yobis
18:21 Feb 24, 2023

Thanks! It was a surprise for sure, there were so many good stories this week! I will take the accolades and run lol!

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Wendy Kaminski
18:23 Feb 24, 2023

lol! :)

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Belladona Vulpa
12:13 Feb 22, 2023

I enjoyed reading the story, well written!

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Nona Yobis
13:22 Feb 22, 2023

Thank you!

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Samsara Lind
22:17 Feb 20, 2023

I love the metaphors and personifications in this story!

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Nona Yobis
23:32 Feb 20, 2023

Thank you so much!

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Rebecca Miles
14:30 Feb 19, 2023

In life these abstract nouns have a nasty way of personifying themselves. I liked how your verb choices emphasised their living breathing qualities, sobbing, swearing: these traits, when they take hold in a negative way, that's just how they are. The concept of the curator is clever and uplifting, such a helpful way of imagining the need for change: try out a new collection. Exhibitions change displays often, perhaps this is a really helpful mentality for us as people. Sometimes perfectionism might need moving to a display case in the corner...

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Nona Yobis
02:58 Feb 20, 2023

Thank you! Metaphors is one of my favorite ways of communicating, especially in writing! I am happy that you were able to enjoy my take on the prompt!

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Viga Boland
17:16 Feb 18, 2023

Nona…your interpretation and delivery on this prompt blew me away. It was so unexpected, so intelligent and so relatable I was gob-smacked. It didn’t do anything for my ego, by the way, when I reflect in my own take on this prompt LOL 😂 Oh well, just shows how different we all are. Brilliant writing!

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Nona Yobis
03:25 Feb 19, 2023

Thank you, Viga! Be careful, if you give me too big of a head, I won't fit through doorways! :) and you give yourself too little credit- I read your take on the prompt, and it was wonderful!

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Viga Boland
14:10 Feb 19, 2023

Thanks for enjoying my take on the prompt. I felt good about what I wrote. It worked for me and as long as it works for others, I’m a happy camper 😊

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Michał Przywara
22:02 Feb 16, 2023

Good take on the prompt, and (sadly) something I'm sure a lot of people can relate to. There's something of a phobia about making mistakes, isn't there? This idea that successful people don't fail and that mistakes are unrecoverable - but of course, we learn best through mistakes. "an ecosystem of dysfunction" - yes, fitting. I like that the narrator's change is not absolute, but itself a "One Step at a Time" solution.

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Nona Yobis
02:37 Feb 17, 2023

Thanks! I was aiming for relatable and realistic, and you are correct, unfortunately many people do indeed have a phobia of failure. I wanted to end on a realistic note, too- most people are working on personal growth incrementally, and it's messy and full of gray area. I appreciate the comment!

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Michał Przywara
00:20 Feb 25, 2023

Congrats on the shortlist!

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Nona Yobis
00:59 Feb 25, 2023

Thank you!

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Murray Burns
01:46 Feb 15, 2023

Very creative with some nice suggestions on how to approach life. I like a story that flows, moves along, one paragraph nicely follows the preceding thoughts...not the adjective writing contest that I often see on Reedsy. My daughter always reminds me- "Brevity is the soul of wit." Your piece fits in with that concept.

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Nona Yobis
17:07 Feb 15, 2023

I appreciate that! I like to experiment with different writing styles, and this one is a bit more minimalist!

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Victoria Shkane
02:13 Feb 12, 2023

Vividly realistic, without being too depressing. Love the optimistic tone of the ending. Terrific response to the prompt!

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Nona Yobis
02:52 Feb 12, 2023

Thank you for the kind words!

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