Hypervigilance

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To most, “hypervigilance” is but another word amongst millions of words. Likely, it’s a word few people use in their daily life. But for those of us with an anxiety disorder, hypervigilance is the thing that paralyzes us with fear. Imagine.

I had the resonator in my car’s exhaust system replaced the beginning of February. The place that did it had great reviews on Yelp and came recommended by a friend whose opinion I trust. (No, this isn’t about the muffler shop, not really, but read on.) A month or so later, I noticed my car had a clicking noise when I shut it down. Immediately fight-or-flight kicked in.

What’s that noise? What does it mean? Lots of cars click. It’s the metal contracting, isn’t it? I have a new metal thing in my car, and this is the first time I’ve driven it in warmer weather. That’s got to be it, right? I can’t take a car back to a muffler shop and say my car is clicking. It’s a stupid reason. All cars click. This is the sort of inner dialogue I must always invoke when confronted with fearsome things. This is what hypervigilance leads me to.

So I decided it was likely a normal thing and let it be. Well, sort of. You see, once a thing is revealed under the influence of hypervigilance, it doesn’t simply “go away.” And letting it be? Well, forget that. The refrigerator turning on and turning off has been known to send me reeling. And that’s a set of noises I have carefully catalogued as “normal.”

I “ignored” the clicking for a little over a week. Then a few days ago, I had reason to get out of my car while it was running, and I heard (oh, those pesky, hypervigilant ears of mine) the same sound that had sent me to the muffler shop in the first place. (And in my defense, let me say that I hadn’t heard the sound initially—the guy at the smog check place had originally pointed it out to me.) I freaked. I’d had the new resonator for just over a month, and it already broke?

This led to an overnight anxiety attack. I decided I’d call the shop in the morning, get a feel for their response. That would allay some of my fear. The guy at the shop said he couldn’t tell me if continuing to drive the car would be safe unless he saw it. Okaaaaay…

So off to the shop I went yesterday. It turns out the clicking sound which others might have noticed or might not have noticed, but which I dismissed because my coping mechanism convinced me it was a dismissible thing turned out to be the very thing that caused the mechanic to decide to replace the original resonator. Not the sound I thought sounded like the sound that had triggered the comment from the smog-check guy. The click I’d dismissed!

This is what hypervigilance does to those of us disabled by anxiety. I see things and hear things and smell things that set every nerve in body off on tangents I wouldn’t wish on an enemy. So I share this because most people don’t “get” anxiety and tend to tell those of us who do to relax and that everything’s fine. “Don’t worry about it,” they advise condescendingly. Sorry, that’s not possible in my universe.

Seriously? You’re Going to do What?

Here’s the thing. When I began the process of publishing my first book in the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, I came up with what I thought was a really great title—Fractured. That one word describes precisely the dilemma Lisen, my hero, finds herself in throughout the entirety of that book. At the beginning she believes she’s Lisen Holt, Valley girl, but by the end of the first chapter she’s been abducted to a world completely alien to her. And, it’s where she belongs. She was never quite human, and Simon and Daisy Holt were not her parents. Within a couple of chapters, she’s also learned that she’s destined to rule this strange world. Yup, she’s fractured, all right.

Silly me. I never thought to run a search on Amazon regarding my brilliant title. I mean, who else would come up with just “fractured”? I was brilliant, and it was a brilliant title, soon to be followed by Tainted and Blooded to complete the trilogy.

Then, as happens all too often, reality plunged its dagger in my heart and left me bleeding and gasping for breath. In the process of collecting many “likes” for my Facebook author page, I had returned the favor and found that I was now in the center of a maelstrom of romance novelists—not my favorite genre but, in my experience, the most popular genre for self-published books. And guess what. I started seeing a few “fractured”-like titles.  Fractured Vows, Fractured Love, Fractured Promises, ad nauseum. But I was committed to that title. I’d already published that book, and the rules are strict. Once the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is assigned to a book, no one can change the title, the series name, the name of the author, the measurements of the page OR whether it’s in color or black and white. So…

I forged on. I commissioned the cover for the second book, again with a popular romance novel title, Tainted. I published that book, forever branding it with that name, then commissioned a new cover for Fractured. I moved on to book 3, which also has a fairly popular title, though Blooded as a title tends to fall more into the paranormal genre rather than romance.

You’re killing me!

Now some might ask (and have) that shouldn’t I stick with Fractured since romance is so popular? Not exactly. It all has to do with brand, in this case, the books’ brand. Lisen of Solsta is the story of a young woman who is equal in every way with any man in her world and as a female hero is an aberration only because she’s a hero, not because she’s a girl hero. If you run that search for “fractured” on Amazon, up come books with covers showing a phenomenal number of steroid-muscled men ravaging buxom, luscious-lipped women. That is the antithesis of my Fractured. Even if you narrow the search down to fantasy alone, the sexy-sexies completely overwhelm my feminist tome. Sigh.

What’s a girl to do?

It looks like I’m going to retire the three books as they are titled now and pull them off Amazon’s “shelves.” Then I’ll negotiate with my cover artist regarding what it will take to “fix” the covers. Once I’ve accomplished those tasks, I will republish with new ISBNs and titles for all three books. Of course, this all depends on whether I can come up with new titles that tell the story without sounding like someone else’s title and manage to retain the brand I so cavalierly and naively tossed into the romance fire the first time around.

And here’s the rub.  I will lose all the reviews, minimal as they are, that were posted under the old titles. But, on the other hand, it’s possible, maybe if I get it right this time, that more people looking for a book like my book will find it and not reject it because it sounds too romancey to them. Will I actually take this project on? Stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll have some complaining and explaining to do as I once again watch for falling rocks on the learning curve.

Daddy’s Girl

I learned to drive in a 1965 VW bus, stick shift and all.  I remembered this today as I was reading a list of twenty things a father should teach a daughter.  One was how to drive a stick shift.

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It was quite the adventure, learning to drive from my father in that box of a bus.  I started out in the parking lot of the L.A. County Fairgrounds which was essentially right across the street from our house.  I learned how to let the clutch out, shift gears, put the clutch in with the brake, turn, but all at about 10 miles an hour.  It wasn’t until I got out on the actual streets of Pomona that the fun began.

My dad had a theory.  Distract a driving trainee as much as possible, and the trainee will know how to deal with distractions on the roads of life.  He’d bark at dogs in yards as we passed them.  He’d insist I carry on conversations with him—not a problem since I loved being with him.  He’d whistle and play the drums with his fingers on the almost nonexistent dashboard.

He taught me how to play the clutch and the handbrake on a hill.  I’d stalled the bus at some point on an incline, so he had me get to the base of the hill that led to our house, and then he kept making me stop, set the handbrake, put my foot on the gas, release the clutch slowly, release the handbrake slowly, and eventually I got it.

And then there was the time when I nearly turned the bus over.  We were headed down a street with a very slight slope.  We approached a familiar narrow street with a tighter-than-90-degree corner, and he ordered, “Turn right!”  Now here’s what you need to know.  First, he’d never mentioned—not once—that one should slow down and downshift to turn a corner.  Second, VW buses being light and boxy have a rather high center of gravity.

So at that 60-degree-or-so corner, I turned the wheel, not slowing down, and we swerved into the opposite lane of the target street, the bus tilting at a dangerous angle.  Thank God nobody was sitting waiting at that signal, or the collision probably would have killed or, at the very least, maimed me.  There’s nothing between you and the hood of a VW bus.  My dad grabbed the steering wheel to keep the turn going (my instinct being to just let go and let fate make the decision).  But the trusty bus remained upright, and years later when my sister took her driver’s training from Dad, I asked her about whether he’d warned her about shifting down for a turn while in motion.  He hadn’t, but I had so she was spared the experience.

Tomorrow, December 15, is the fifth anniversary of my father’s passing.  He taught me a lot, some good and some not so great, but I miss him as a constant in my life.  I was a Daddy’s girl.  To all the Daddy’s girls out there who still have their daddies, love them and appreciate them; you’ll miss them when they’re gone.  And to those whose Daddies have left them, remember them with fondness; they deserve it.  And so do you.