Well, March certainly didn’t go the way I expected it to. 2020 really started with a “maybe we’ll have WWIII, as a treat” and has kept on kicking right up to “maybe we’ll have a global pandemic while we’re at all the other mayhem too.” My anxiety’s at an all time high. How about yours? Also high? Take a breath in, and a breath out. Practice those coping mechanisms. Here’s a bunch of free yoga and a bunch of other fitness apps that are completely free until May 1st to help you keep your body and your mind healthy.
I’m going to get to talking about the chapter, but first I just want to take a moment to tell all of you that it’s going to be okay, and we’ll get through this, and what we build on the other side of all this will be worth surviving all this now to witness. I also hope you’re being gentle with yourselves. Existing is enough. Persisting is enough. You don’t have to do anything with this time except care for yourself and stay home to help slow the spread. I know it’s hard—I myself am a giant extrovert and going stir crazy at home—but it’s what we need to do to protect each other.
Okay. On to the behind-the-scenes stuff.
This chapter is hard. This chapter is about how we never know what to do in times of crisis, and how we sometimes can’t find the right ways to communicate with the people we love.
It’s also about triggers. Alexis has been in this position before: where grief isn’t affecting her the same way it’s affecting others. In the first half of the chapter, it’s scaring her that Terry might react in a bunch of ways that will harm her. In the second half of the chapter, she’s angry that he is acting in those ways. It’s different from how her family hurt her, but it’s still something her anxiety is interpreting as a threat.
When triggered, our bodies go into survival mode. That’s why Alexis is puffing up, that’s why she’s freaking out. One of my beta readers accused Alexis of being a sociopath because she wasn’t being sympathetic enough to Terry’s grief. It was a real struggle to keep this chapter as gut-punchy and aggressive as it is with that feedback, but part of the reason I wrote this story was to talk about how it’s not okay to harm others just because you’re grieving. I also felt that softening Alexis here wouldn’t be true to her character or her trauma. That beta reader’s call to soften her felt like projecting the sexist standards of female characterization onto Alexis. Softening her would have made her less complex, less human. She’s not a caretaker character. She’s not a nurturer. She’s a person, not a plot device or Terry’s salvation. She has her own career, her own dreams, and her relationship to Terry doesn’t define her. I hope that in reading this story you have felt Alexis to be the type of character who puts herself and her wellbeing before her relationships to other people.
But this is also Alexis’s struggle. She loves Terry. She doesn’t want to lose him in defense of herself—which is why she chooses to rewrite his ending and try and explain why the one he’s written isn’t true to his original vision and is harmful to his show and his fans. This is the work she wants to do. This is the defense her anxiety demands. This is the best she can do for the man she loves.
It’s a lot of big feelings, and neither Terry nor Alexis is behaving in a way that’s easy to watch. I hope it spoke to the parts of you that have felt that way. It’s okay to be unreasonable sometimes. It’s okay to not know what to do. When we notice ourselves doing these things, we must take note. We must ask ourselves why and do something about it. Because, though it’s okay to be these things, it’s never okay to hurt others because of it. We must take them as signs that we need maintenance, that we need to look at ourselves and care for whatever is ailing. Lashing out is never the answer. Negligence is never the answer. Self-care, therapy, medication, and coping mechanisms are. It doesn’t mean we’ll always use them, and we’re liable to slip up (we’re only human), but if we work at these things, we will be able to take responsibility for our actions when we do slip up, and apologize to those who may have gotten swept up in the crossfire.
I promise the last chapter will be worth all the pain I’ve caused in the last two.
Look after yourselves, and I’ll see you next month.