Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shaking the Cracker Jack Box

Words. It shouldn’t be a terrible shock to my readers that I think words are important. Sometimes beautiful. Sometimes brutal. Almost always important. Whether in fiction to transport us or in real life to move us, words carry a kind of power that is seldom equaled in human existence. Imagine a political campaign made up entirely of charades or a news report with just images (a story is told, but cannot be quantified). What about music without lyrics (yes, it can be beautiful and transformative, but I think most will agree that the words can open an almost infinite amount of doors to understanding)? What would marriage be like without vows? Or the growth of a child without the trusty question, "Why?".

Our voices, or our hands in the case of the Deaf, transmit meaning. Our words carry power to others and to ourselves. And sometimes when we are very lucky, the words of our friends can spark change, a new way of looking at the world, or best yet, the breaking of unfulfilling patterns.

Since I took up the writing road, my life has been transformed in many ways. I think of this as the blessing (though sometimes it feels like a curse) of those who get themselves out of the way and obey their purpose. I do not believe that I am unique in this, nor do I think I was alone in bumping into a lot of stupid walls before I decided to do what I was supposed to (the adolescent-ish rebellion against my purpose lasted a very long time).

My writing has become my anchor, and the fixedness of every other thing in my life is gone. Writing has made me open to looking at the patterns in my life and having the courage to change them. To look at the relationships in my life and strengthen the healthy ones and abandon the unhealthy ones. What I eat is different. How I think is different. And certainly the things that would get me all worked up before, don’t. And waiting months and months to hear back on fulls that are out with agents has taught me a kind of patience that I never would have wished for, but am glad I found.

I certainly don’t mean for this to imply that I am in any way finished or even close to finished. All of these steps have been tiny and I have a long way to go.

Case in Point:

As my readers know (and some have only found me because of), I have a friend named Debbie. We’ve known each other months and yet it feels like a lifetime (in a good way, not a prison sentence way). She’s one of the people I call when I’m thinking about things (both lofty and not). She’s the one who understands the ups and downs of the writing road, and I can’t imagine how I made it through a year on this road without her, now that she’s part of every pothole, speed bump, and smooth-sailing lane I experience on this journey. I’m so grateful to have found her, for moments just like this:

Me: (Fill in random babbling insecurity about something only momentarily important, but that seemed to be carrying a lot of weight in my head at that moment.)

Debbie: (casually) Well, you know, you could just choose to let that go.

Me: (Instant reaction, which is usually less evolved than the thought-out ones). Right. (Yeah, I felt really sophisticated by that response.) And my internal dialogue went something like this... “Sure, I could just shake the Cracker Jack box and pull out a brand new me. Right.” And then Internal Me got a little snarkier and thought something like, “And you, Ms. Fancy Pants, Older Child, who knows everything... snarky, snarky, two by four...”

(See above... long way to go.)

Debbie, naturally, fades out at this point to obey the commands of her cat masters and ignores the stew I'm entrenched in, which could really tick me off but doesn’t. Debbie isn’t afraid of change, she thrives on it, and so when she presses the evolve button in my life, she usually just gets out of the way and trusts that the button is very powerful (Rock Stars, sheesh).

And the truth is, her words, “You could just choose to let that go,” stayed with me. Remain with me now. Their meaning simple and yet amazingly powerful. She told me I had the choice. What could be more empowering than knowing I wasn’t some hapless, insecure victim of the patterns in my life. They are my patterns. I own them, and, consequently, I can just chuck them out with yesterday’s avocado skins.

She was right (again, for those who are keeping score). So, what I initially responded to with a high degree of snark has become my mantra.

I hope for everyone to have a friend (or if they are really lucky, friends) who will challenge the patterns that hold them back. Remember, our true friends want us to be happy, fulfilled people who never get stuck in unpleasant ruts. And even if we find the lessons uncomfortable, it’s always best to listen, to weigh the words (while keeping our annoyance on the inside) to see if they resonate for us, and to remember that their guidance is kindly meant.

And, the truth is, we absolutely can shake the Cracker Jack box and pull out a brand new us, as long as we expect to do a lot of shaking and expect the newness to come in very small doses.

Quote for the Day from A.A. Milne in Winnie-the-Pooh (Christopher Robbin to Pooh)

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Words, I just love them (those ones made me teary). :)


Indigo said...

Ha! Totally get this. As for life changing for a writer, I think writing allows us some grace to take a closer look at life around us. Suddenly there is a plethoria of words to describe a single moment in time.

I also recognize the snarky conversation you might have with yourself. I have another writer friend I do that with as well. I've learned not to reply right away (winks) and hold my tongue and think through what he said first. In the end I'm finding I can change my point of view or at the very least respect his.

DebraLSchubert said...

Okay, this is my new favorite post of yours! And, not just because you talk about how brilliant and evolved I am (though, that doesn't hurt any), but because I love you and there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing those you love transform to their higher purpose in life. Namaste, my friend - I bow to you.

Here's to you and I walking powerfully together along our often twisty, sometimes frightening, and always beautiful paths. ;-)

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post, Julie! I've found a couple of great crit buddies on line who do for me what Deb does for you. I'm so lucky!!!

And I love the Pooh quote - I don't have that one :) I see it showing up in my classroom pretty soon! Thanks.

DebraLSchubert said...

Read my blog. HINT: Blog Bling.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Stopping by to say hello from Deb's place! (hi see you up there deb! *smiling*)