Baby steps

option4 Ivy stared at the foam from the shaving cream drizzling down her right leg as it circled the drain. She wondered how long it’d been since she last used a razor. At least two weeks from the looks of the thick, black stubble. More pressing issues occupied her mind lately — or at least they seemed increasingly important in her head.

Living with random negative thoughts inside her head proved the main problem. Ivy’s catastrophizing of manners that other people appeared to easily handle got the best of her. Realizing she lacked coping skills didn’t help her situation any.

Life was actually good. No specific cause brought on such self-doubt and constant anxiety. No one particular reason caused the incessant worry she dealt with almost every day of her life, yet her body teemed with cortisol from grossly exaggerated stressors. It felt like a constant case of “fight or flight syndrome.” The quickest release from that mental hold was to escape into sleep, easing an almost textbook clinical depression diagnosis.

She inwardly cursed herself for becoming a statistic, the typical angst-ridden teen back in college who put on the “freshman fifteen” that later became a troubling twenty pounds remaining on her former slight frame. Forever tugging at her waistband, never comfortable with how she looked, she shamed herself with each bite taken. “I shouldn’t be eating this,” said the inner critic. “You ought to be exercising.” Hatred for her own appearance took its toll.

Every such failure blew up in extreme proportions. Lack of will power. No initiative to advance. Not that anyone else thought these relatively miniscule hiccups such a big damn deal. Only to her, her own worst enemy.

Nothing came soon enough, quick enough, easy enough. She hadn’t reached career and personal goals yet and felt she may never get there. None of her friends had such a heavy cloud hanging above them, an ever-present portent of doom. Ivy turned up the radio on her commute to drown out thoughts of another boring day at the job she’d never love.

The elusive path to happiness, though actually tread one step at a time, stretched ominously in front of her. Almost every day she asked the universe if she’d ever get there. Funny, no one else probably suspected the inner demons she fought, her private war, since she kept up a brave — if not fraudulent — face in public.

A faint buzzing in the background brought her back to awareness when she stepped out of the shower. The cell phone’s vibration atop her wooden dresser, rather than its ringtone, snapped her back. She unenthusiastically answered, “Hullo,” into the bright plastic ladybug that encased her phone. She bought the cover on one of the pick-me-up shopping trips designed to bring on a good mood that usually lasted about as long as the drive home.

Cara’s voice came across light and chipper. Too exhaustingly full of life for Ivy’s liking. “Hey, girl,” her friend quipped, “wanna go for a walk with me? We need to soak in a little Vitamin D from all this sunshine!” Her invitation fell flat.

She drew back the heavy bedroom curtain and answered the question with one of her own, “Is it sunny out today?” She blinked at he bright light bursting forth from behind the fabric.

A happier tone than her own practically pulled Ivy to an alternate world through the telephone line. “Come on,” pleaded Cara. “You have to get out of the house today. It’s the weekend.”

Ivy opened the lingerie drawer in front of her to pull out a jog bra and some socks. She glanced down at a trickle of blood on her thigh bone where she’d unknowingly nicked herself. For at least this one moment, she wouldn’t let it get to her.

With a heavy sigh, Ivy acquiesced, “I’ll meet you at the park in 20 minutes.”


This week Studio 30+ offered up a writing prompt of “portent.”  Studio30



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