Monday, February 25, 2013

Choosing Darkness


I have been working like a mad writer lately, trying to get through the rough draft of the fourth book in my series before I put the finishing touches on the third.  I like to make sure that I know where this ship is going so that I can add a bit of foreshadowing here and a few hints there.  What I discovered as I blazed through the end yesterday was that I had no idea where this story was going, and I have to say I was shocked at the darkness that is coming for my characters.  At the end, I was sad, and in talking (ranting) to my mother, I realized that like a parent, I don’t want to see my characters go through rough times.  I want to make sure they have hope and remember that every day is beautiful and even grumpy times are reminders of the goodness of better days.

Today, I realized that my grieving for the bumpy seas ahead for my characters had more than a little to do with a good friend of mine in real life.  As I watch the train wreck coming in fiction, I have some power, my fingers can change everything (though not without consequences in terms of inspiration to write), but in real life with a friend going through equally rough seas, I can do almost nothing.

I’ve tried all the things that a person can do.  I’ve reached out.  I’ve shared my stories of darkness and how I worked through them.  I’ve done what I could.  But in real life, we simply don’t have that much power when people choose darkness.  My characters sometimes choose darkness and it hurts, but I can see when they will have that spark of awareness and lean back toward the light.  For my friend, I can’t see that.  I hope, but I have no special window that lets me see that my friend will go a different way, fight harder against the demons, and come out on the other side grateful and hopeful.  

Maybe one day, my friend will remember that his friends and family are out here too.  And while he’s focused on his own pain and his own worries, there are people he loves who could use his help and his attention.  Other people might need him, but right now his view is limited.

I’ve been there, in a different way, and I wonder why people and characters choose darkness.  Why is it so hard to see that we have a thousand choices every day to view the world and our particular challenges in a positive light?  Why is it so hard to remember to look beyond ourselves when the only thing we see inside is ugliness?  We’re not ugly, we’re beautiful, but the times when our souls feel like cesspools are the times to look somewhere else.  To stay busy.  To make this minute positive.  To not think about the end of the day or the week, the month or the year.  Just to make this one minute beautiful, and if not beautiful, then at least bearable.

Anything positive has to be better than giving in, running away, hiding from pain, or searching for permanent endings to temporary problems.

My characters will find their way.  They’ll find hope.  I hope my friend does too.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Memory


I had a funny morning the other day, a morning where memory took on the role of villain.  We like to think having a good memory is an asset, and certainly when it comes to people losing their memories, that is indeed a great tragedy.  But like everything in life, there is a price and a benefit to having a good memory.  Other than a few gaps when I was too busy to attend to much, I have a really good memory and on the morning in question, that memory delivered to me the rogue’s gallery of annoying people I’ve come across in my life.  Like I was flipping through a deck of cards, there they were, including (I hate to say), their names.  I couldn’t believe that I can remember the names (all of them) for these bit players in my life who carried a short-lived (thankfully) but irritating place in my history... some more than twenty years ago.  And I’m not talking about the annoying teachers who I saw everyday (their names are worthy), but the boss I had who told me I had to quit my job because I had to take a night off to sing in a wedding (that he knew about when he hired me)... yup, still know his name.  Bad one-time dates.  Co-workers from my teen years.  All still here.

It shouldn’t be a surprise really.  I still know all the words to songs I haven’t heard in years (REM, I’m looking at you right now... It’s the End of the World as We Know It).  And truly, it did make me laugh to remember them, but it also made me think.  One of the things I have struggled with is letting go of old hurt feelings, and it’s no wonder.  With a good memory, we can replay these incidents in our minds like our own version of Dysfunctional Youtube, and odds are (and if witness identification stats are correct) we aren’t replaying them exactly as they happened.  We color our memories.  That old boss could have seen things completely differently, and leaving that job gave me the opportunity for a different adventure.

I’ve worked to make peace with these memory monsters, and making peace means turning off the memories even though they still rumble around inside me on cold mornings in February.  It takes discipline to focus on the good, the place in my life where I’m happy, my goals, friends, and family.  And the incredible blessing for a memory-afflicted person is the future, open and wondrous.  Better to be happy in this moment and the one that’s coming than to worry at the past with no hope of changing anything but our own perspectives.

So, rogue’s gallery, I salute you and wish you well, and to all the rogue’s galleries in other people’s memories in which I am a member, I hope you forgive me and find your own peace with our shared pasts.  We do improve with time, and life really does get better.

Quote for the Day from L.M. Montgomery

"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A State of Flux


I talk a lot about change.  The willingness to change is something to aspire to, and the thing about change and growth is it is never finished.  I’ve had those epiphanies, the ones where you feel you’ve arrived, you’re complete.  What a joke.  Great growth yields more great growth, as long as we remain willing to assess, to look at our lives and see the places where we hide from change, places we refuse to allow to reach the light.  I have them; I like to think we all do (that makes me feel less odd, if we are all in this forever flux together).

The catalyst for change can be anything, can be a friend who inspires, a movie, a song, or other more tangible internal realities.  Nothing inspires change quite like misery.  I sometimes think that we run from misery too fiercely, instead of allowing it to be our cosmic compass pointing the way we don’t want to go.  If we faced that instead of hiding from it with whatever salve we can find (ice cream has worked for me in the past), maybe we would learn faster.  But in so many ways, I think we are all the petulant ne’er-do-wells in our own stories.  Instead of using unhappiness as a guide, I stared at sadness for such a long time, refusing to blink, refusing to see the beauty and wonder to my right or my left.  No, I had to see my life darkly, because that was where I felt more alive, more purposeful.  More tragically miserable.  I spent years trying to turn my life into a soap opera, when I should have been happy with the silly sitcom I was born to live.

I laugh more now—sometimes out loud... in public places.  And I talk to my dogs when we go for walks because I have a lot to say and they are a truly good audience for my musings (unless of course, they see a squirrel).  Lately though, a song has inspired me to assess the dark places within, perhaps leaning toward the unfaced demons waiting to be challenged.  Perhaps.  Because the thing about change is it is the constant, but timing is everything.  And knowing the right time is the real challenge.

Today, I give you the song that has me thinking of futures just beyond my grasp, the futures that can only be found by allowing ourselves to grow past the barriers that restrain our dreams.

I give you... Just Give Me a Reason by P!nk (featuring Nate Ruess).


“It's been written in the scars on our hearts
We’re not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again”

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Way Things Work

When I was a little girl (okay, I’m pretty short, so I will amend that to say, when I was a younger little girl), I had such expectations about the way life would be, the things that would come easily and the existence of the right path for every person.  While I do still believe in a right path for every person—and no two right paths are the same—I’ve seen the power and price of expectations (and have written several blog posts to prove it).  Today, and for the past few weeks, I have been thinking about expectations.  Dear friends have been struggling with loss lately, losses so massive as to be beyond any expectations anyone would have for life.  Loss of loved ones.  Loss of a child who was so vivid and alive and then suddenly gone.  For a person who doesn’t have children, I recognize the limitations in my understanding about what that kind of loss truly means, but I know it is huge, breath stealing, and horrible.  And yet, I am watching my friend celebrate her son, remind us of all of the joy he was capable of bringing, not just to family members but all who witnessed his verve, his delight in the wackiness of life—he left a mark on us all, a good one.

No one expects to lose like that—we wouldn’t be able to exist if we did.  We all know how incredibly fragile life is, but our losses must take us by surprise, even the ones we see coming.  Our lives are patterns, connections, some wonderful, some involving great effort, and some unhealthy.  One of the most beautiful aspects of my life is that I had the opportunity several years ago, to move away from everyone I know and love, and all of the patterns of my life.  This opportunity gave me the chance to examine my life on the dark nights when I struggled with being far away from family, friends, and old patterns.  On the other side of darkness, was the light of choices.  I changed.  I grew.  I wrote.

When all of my unhealthy patterns fell away, I found my voice to write and these fingers of mine have barely slowed as I near my fifth year of writing mostly full time.  I have written many books, many versions of many books, and have published two books with a third and fourth coming out this year.  I found my place in this world as a writer, a self-published one (which was never how I thought this journey would go).  A friend recently asked me if I would ever query again—ever pursue traditional publishing—and I said I don’t know because there is something amazing about creating a book that is entirely your own.  I don’t mean to diminish the valuable support provided by the big publishers (I wish I hadn’t had to learn to build an ebook... still my least favorite part of the publishing process), but what editors and designers give to authors, I have found through friends and critique partners, a slew of people who care about me and support my goals.  I have a team and feel that, rather than a self-published author, I am a community-published author.  My friends have purchased copies of my books to give to school libraries, a coworker’s daughter invited me to talk at the high school she teaches at (I will post more about that soon), and my critique partners have read my books, slashing them through to make them better.

My path doesn’t look at all like I thought it would, but had I had the ‘dream’ publishing experience, I never would have known this feeling I carry with me all the time now, the rightness of being an indie author, the gratitude for every person who reaches out to say that they are connecting with my books and excited for the series to continue.  Days ago, a woman I knew twenty years ago reached out to tell me she had devoured my books and is currently a principal at a middle school that will now have my books on its shelves.  Another reader wrote to me with a song suggestion that was so incredibly right for a character that I was choked up listening to it and have included it on the playlists for book 3 and book 4.  Being an indie makes each one of the connections more powerful.  There is no one between readers and the author in indie publishing and that suits me.  That is the path I was supposed to find while bumping my head against the traditional publishing model.  I don’t know if I will ever not be an indie at heart and as I put out the rest of this series and get ready to start another series next year, I will be on the lookout for where I belong at any given time.  Because that is the real lesson I have learned in all of this, to be grateful for every moment we have in this life, because life is short and nothing guaranteed.

Children sometimes die.  Illness and hardship find us.  But we are always better for the moments we have and those we share our moments with.  We are better for the love we gave even when those we love are gone.  Because the truth is, no one is ever really gone because the connections we make transcend time and space, life and death.  My grandfather lives every time I remember his kind eyes.  My uncle Jimmy lives every time I remember his wicked smile.  My friend’s son will live forever and will never stop making us laugh, because boy could that little man dance.  Best of all, I believe that heaven is a great adventure that never ends, a place where we will all be reunited.  I will meet Sully there someday, and I’ll be sure to be wearing Hulk-themed pajamas (with footies—and yes, I think footie pjs are  heaven-appropriate clothing).  And I will be ready to dance.

Thanks Sullivan “Sully” Mainor for shining so brightly, you left the world bathed in light.

Quote for the day from Patty Griffin

“We shall all be reunited,
in that land beyond the skies”