10 Self-Help Seminars Few Would Attend

I was talking with my friend Julia the other day after she put up a post on Facebook about “The Hutchinson Kennel Club is hosting an ATT (American Temperament Test) and we need more dogs or the test will be cancelled.” I’ve seen Best Of Show, so I commented: “Maybe they should also test some of the owners’ temperaments…wouldn’t that be interesting?” She fired back a whole list of seminars people in the dog show world really need and I came up with number 1 here as another joke. This list was born. These are amusing, well-meaning concepts that would flop like a fish stuck on land, don’t you think?

1) How To Know When To Stop Blaming Because You’re The Problem — We all know who needs to take this one, right? It’s not us. It’s that other guy. And therein lies the problem that defeated this seminar before it even began.

2) How To Debate Politics Without Slinging Insults About The Opponents’ Morals or Heritage — The present political climate pretty much rules this one out. I don’t think it would even interest most people. And it would totally destroy the fun political pundits and the press are having manipulating public opinion. In fact, there’d likely be exposees tearing into the character and scandalizing the background of any instructor who dared to offer this one.

3) How To Let Your Siblings Be Favorites Without Complaining — Yeah, I don’t know about your house, but wouldn’t happen in ours. Uh uh. Fair is fair. And if they go theirs, I want mine. It irritates me my sister and brother refuse to admit how slighted I’ve been, dammit.

4) How To Admit That Sometimes Your Husband’s Right — Husbands might love to drag their wives to this one, but except for a few who came for the laughs, this one would sink like a stone. Keep trying though guys. I admire your fortitude.

5) How To Be An American Tourist Without Being Obnoxious — This one’s for my foreign friends and dear God is it badly needed. American tourists are the most obnoxious visitors on Earth. Too bad we’re also the wealthiest and most common and the ones on which so many economies have come to depend.  And the Hawaiian shirt and straw hat folks are far from the worst. The insidious “I dress local, I read nonfiction and literature and I understand the foreign mindset” people deserve a firing squad.

6) How To Be The Best For You Whether Anyone Else Notices Or Not — These next two go almost hand-in-hand. People don’t like to just be good in isolation. They want recognition for it. We crave praise. That instinct always seems to win out no matter how many times we tell ourselves that what others think doesn’t matter. This one has the best of intentions but goes down due to the power of flawed human nature, I think.

7) How To Donate To Charity Without Needing Praise Or Recognition — I founded and run a non-profit. While donors often want their amounts private, they don’t often seem to want to give without some recognition. They may not want their name on the national news but they want a personal note of thanks or some kind of reward level tiers package or something. The art of charitable giving just because it’s a good thing and right is practiced by few in my experience, again, due to flawed human nature and our root need for approval.

8 ) How To Get Over The Delusion That Obama Has No Flaws — Not a political statement but an observation. I’ve voted for Republicans and for Democrats, and none of them turned out to be perfect. Yet I don’t think I’ve seen a more “cult adored” president since Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. This guy can do no wrong. This despite so many broken promises, an economy many would call worse, and one of the most incredibly divisive presidencies in history from a guy who promised to bring us together. But those who love him, don’t do it halfway. And love covers all wrongs so the people who need it would pay this no mind.

9) How To  Shun Popularity And Revel In Mockery aka How To Survive High School — Yeah a few goth rebels might revel here but for most of us, while it would have been helpful, it would have been near impossible to live this way. It’s too bad. A good number of our High School memories might be more pleasant and positive if we’d had this.

10) How To Cherish The Gift Of Lifelong Virginity — I don’t even need to explain this one, do I? It wouldn’t even be popular with nuns or priests anymore, if you pay attention to the news. That might not have been true a few decades ago, but these days we can live without a lot of things but sex isn’t one of them.

I’ll bet all of you can think of plenty of others. But I hope those gave you a good laugh to start your week this Monday. For what it’s worth…

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun,forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

To The Woman I Fell In Love With

Okay, this is going to be a departure from the usual topics but tonight I just need to do this one for me.

There was a woman I fell in love with. We met in the Portuguese Speakers Wanting To Learn English room on www.orkut.com January 2nd, 2005. We talked for the first time on Windows Messenger and it was for four or five hours but it felt like much less because we enjoyed it so much.

I didn’t see her again for a day or two as I recall, and worried she hadn’t enjoyed the conversation. I finally left her a note, no response. But then one day I ran into her again and it happened again.

At some point I called her, and that connection was also special.

I had a mission trip to Rio, Brazil in April, so arranged to stop and visit with her. From the moment she and her grandma Cleonice met me at the airport, that was it for us. Bianca was mine and I was hers for the next six years.

I visited her every two weeks, using frequent flyer miles, whenever I could pass through on a mission trip, etc. 10-14 days at a time, but they were little slices of heaven. We were so in love and so connected. And it was the greatest feeling of my life.

In 2006, I asked her to marry me. Got on my knees, gave her a ring. She said “yes.” And so in April 2007, after her college graduation, she moved to be with me. In between was all the visa paperwork and immigration documents and fees, a lot more phone calls and a lot more IMs. But I had finally found someone to spend the rest of my life with. After 36 years, I had stopped believing. Bianca made me believe again.

April 14, 2007, we married in a small ceremony in St. Louis.

The marriage was pretty good. A few issues with adjustment to culture and weather and the realities of a husband who needed to work and a lonely wife who was in a new place. The challenge of money limits, trying to find her a job, etc. And although there were moments of odd behavior I now know the explanation for, we were happy, and life was good.

That lasted two and a half years.

The nightmare began October 5th, 2009, when I came home from teaching music in Mexico to find a desperate message from Bianca begging me to pick her up. She knew I was in Mexico. She’d ridden the bus to town to do a workshop for her new job, I thought. She should have been home hours before. What had happened? My cell phone was off to avoid International roaming. The house was empty. So my friends and I searched until early morning. I didn’t know where she was until a policeman arrived at 4:30 am. She was barefoot, had walked all the way downtown, 40 miles or so, thrown away her cell, her wedding ring, all her documents. And was dodging traffic on the highway.

Two days later, I got her forcibly admitted to psychiatric care, the first of five times in the next two years.  The treatment was hell because she was not herself and she blamed me. And the first time they let her out, I had to take her back kicking and screaming after only a few days.

But when she got out the second time, she forgave me, admitted I showed my love for her by getting her help and took her meds. A year later, it was hard to remember all that because life was so good again.

In January 2011, Bianca was at UTEP getting As. Her long time dream of finishing her education was a reality. She had a good job too. Everything looked really good.

Oh there were hurdles. I’d lost my job in May 2010, we believe strongly, because of health care costs from Bianca’s illness (something we could not prove sufficiently to go to court but did have strong evidence of). I lost my second job, when the employer was worried I’d leave town and needed continuity and found a replacement. Then unemployment got cancelled. Times were hard. But Bianca worked hard to support us and she encouraged me. And we made it through, got unemployment back. I even had a seasonal job at H & R Bloch. And Bianca was in school.

I was so proud of her. Just so amazed. She was so serious about it. So dedicated. And she did well. I was happy the loans had made it possible.

Then in March, I fulfilled a dream, by going on scholarship to Rainforest Writer’s Village. When I left, she was a bit mad that I was leaving her alone for so long, but things were otherwise okay. By mid-week, she sounded different on the phone. And by the weekend, she was full on manic. The Bianca I’d left behind was gone. And I haven’t seen her since.

She had three more forced hospitalizations, two in state institutions. Lost her job. Lost her school mid-semester. Everything she’d worked for, gone. And I was dealing with a person who hated me again and was mad at me because she was in the hospital. She still wanted me to visit so I could be verbally abused by her. But she denied loving me. Expressed regret of our life together.

I thought for sure the meds would resolve it again. But this time, she never came back.

On Tuesday, June 7, we signed divorce papers. We’d filed the previous Friday. Wednesday, June 8, Bianca flew home for Brasil, forever.

I lost my best friend. I lost my lover. I lost my companion. I lost my wife. And all I can do is cry and mourn the person I lost not only physically but mentally.

Things were so good, so many times. So many precious memories. So many wonderful moments.

The woman I fell in love with doesn’t deserve the life mental illness is creating for her. She deserves love and success and motherhood and so much that she may never have again because of bipolar disorder.

I may find love again. I may have my family. But I know a part of me is gone with Bianca. Because she gave me so much in our short love affair. And at the moment all I can do is wish it had been longer.

I miss you, Bianca. I really loved you. I really cherished you. I’m sorry I didn’t say that enough. I’m sorry I hurt you sometimes. I never meant to. And I’m sorry you have this horrible disorder that’s torn us apart and destroyed our love, the life we worked so hard for. I miss you so much. And our pets miss mommy too. I hope you can conquer this disorder. You’re so smart and talented, if anyone can, it will be you. A part of me just wishes, at least right now, that you could have conquered it with me beside you.

May God bless and keep you, my amor. Thanks for the wonderful time we did have. I’ll always cherish that.

For what it’s worth…

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.