"Handbook for a Survivor" by Valerie Stemac

After “A Handbook for the Blind” by Darren Morris

1. This is nobody's fault; except that it is. So start by finding someplace to put your anger. Your therapist will tell you to conceptualize a box to put it in and a shelf to put the box on so that the angry and the sad don't come sneaking out over coffee and make your friends feel uncomfortable.

2. You only have two options: tell your lovers or don't. Each has its unique downsides. A careful lover is possibly the most effective way to make you feel broken.

3. At some point you might find yourself in a rental car in the middle of the Arizona desert at a gas station that is the only visible human construct, losing the last bit of careful from your lover’s embrace. This will make you feel even more broken.

4. There is a third option that you may only come to after repeatedly finding yourself alone. Be alone.

5. When you start to refer to the whiskey as your friend, it is time to reassess your thread of attempts to fill the loneliness.

6. It is natural to believe that your body is the only part of you of value. Some lovers will not understand that you offer your most precious possession. You will eventually learn that even your valuable body is insufficient to secure affection.

7. Most people will not want to be around you. This is not their fault; the heaviness of your insecurities is too much of a burden to place on anyone. Your constant need for reassurance and security is draining. Limit your expectations so when they leave it does not come as a shock.

8. Certain kinds of quiet signify death rather than peace. In your search for peace, make sure that you are not sitting quietly in death.

9. There will be moments when you feel so much of you has been used up that you may no longer exist. Resist the urge to lay silently in an empty room. Find a loud place, maybe one full of children. Touch something cold or alive.

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Valerie Stemac is an artist and writer living in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania. She has performed on stage at Dodge Poetry Festival, The Torpedo Factory, and The Lansburgh Theatre in Washington DC. In 2016 she served as Veteran Artist in Residence At Workhouse Arts Center and currently facilitates creative writing with military veterans for Warrior Writers.  

Posted on November 10, 2017 .