Do you see the little splootch in the middle of this picture?
That splootch is the universe telling me to get my head out of my ass and stop leaving my valuable and much-appreciated electronics on the counter where I am making banana bread. The universe is thoughtful that way. I was done making the banana bread, except for sprinkling pecans on top, so I totally listened. I am like the universe’s hapless child, toddling around, getting into trouble, hearing the warnings and NEVER LEARNING.
Well, sometimes I learn. I have learned that not all the bad things that happen in life are really bad things at all. Some of the best things that have happened to me seemed bad at first. Getting laid off was pretty bad, until my time was urgently needed elsewhere. Along with hosting two lovely and important family gatherings in December, I was able to spend several days with my husband’s cousin Katie. Katie, you need to know, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with honors last May. She aced her Genetics final despite a throbbing headache that turned out to be a fist-sized tumor. She had surgery, chemo and radiation and was absolutely valiant through it all despite developing seizures, gradually losing her speech and balance, and having trouble swallowing. They finally found a drug that shrunk the spreading tumors, but it was too late. She turned twenty-three last month and died last week. We are celebrating her life this Saturday, a beautiful life filled with love, laughter, travel, music, books and a very strong sense of self. A beautiful life lived well, but much too short. I don’t speculate on the whys of this. I, and everyone who knew her, just miss her and grieve that we won’t be able to watch her life unfold. Losing Katie was a bad thing to happen. But losing my job and being able to spend precious hours with her was a gift for which I am grateful. So on behalf of the universe I would like to encourage you to love others, you don’t know how long you have them. Love yourself, for you are loved. Don’t despair; bad stuff happens but good things come along too. And keep watching and listening for what the universe has to tell you.
Heat radiating off the car’s bumper warmed my calf as the PT Cruiser pulled to a stop, two inches from my body. I stepped up onto the curb with my heart in my throat, but curiously calm otherwise. Seconds ago as I had entered the crosswalk zone between the store and the parking lot in front of Office Max, I had noted the red Cruiser about thirty yards away approaching the stop sign between us. Plenty of time, I reckoned. I was halfway through the crosswalk when I registered the sound of acceleration, instead of braking, to my right. With the reflexes of a sloth, I continued ambling across the road, with the uncomfortable inkling that something bad might be about to happen. Then, the whispering hiss as the cruiser slowed and stopped, just in time. If the driver hadn’t braked when he had, I would have been in the dead center of his grill when he hit me. I glanced at his face. He was an elderly man, with unkempt gray curls, his skin in folds around his mouth, and eyes that asked some kind of irritated question: “What the hell are you doing there?” Or, “Where the hell was the brake a minute ago?” Or “Who the hell am I and where am I going?” I was rattled, but for some reason felt a comment was necessary. Pointing from the safety of the curb, I gently but firmly stated, “Sir, there is a stop sign right there.” Like that was the problem. I am sure he did see the sign. No, it was the old, “hit the gas instead of the brake,” situation.
We should eat right, exercise, and otherwise take care of our bodies, but obsessing over our physical health is no guarantee of either long or healthy lives. You never know when that Cruiser with your name on it is headed your way.
Thanks for reading! ♥
I have written a couple of novels. Both are 50,000+ words thanks to the rules of National Novel Writing Month and both are unpublished. One is horrible and will never see the light of day; the other one I like to think of as promising. In writing both of them I found that I came to a point where I had no idea what was happening. I had created the whole scenario and knew how I wanted it to end, but to get from “here” to “there” required something more: some fancy literary footwork, or acrobatic maneuvering. There has to be tension in reading or it isn’t worth it, but writing? The tension can be a killer. I got through it both times, just more convincingly in the second novel.
I am now back to my “promising” novel and find that revision has the same issue as the initial writing. This first draft has a beginning, middle and an end, some pretty good characters, an intriguing premise, and several action scenes that make it a story I would hate to see just end up in a box but I am at that knot in the string that has to be dealt with to get from promising to good. I am at the hammer and tongs phase where it’s time to revise the draft into a real manuscript, a story worth reading. I have to pare away the stuff that sort of spilled out with everything else, but doesn’t really add to the story. I have to check my timelines; can my heroine really do all that in a day? and why doesn’t she do anything the next day? I need to flesh out other characters or remove them all together. And the big question: who dies in the end? I can still see it going a couple of different ways.
It is time to move from the role of anxious protective writer to patient thoughtful editor. I need to distance myself a titch from what I have already done and look at it with some objectivity. When I am at risk of slipping into self-loathing over the parts that aren’t ready for primetime, I have to pull it back and congratulate myself on the good stuff and keep building on that. Writing a novel can be a little like living a life. It gets messy. Sometimes it flows and other times you have to “put your back into it,” as Dad used to say when he could see the job required more effort than what we kids were applying. Sometimes in life you pick up stuff and it turns out to be not helpful, like an activity that was entertaining or instructive in the process but doesn’t really add to the quality of life and can now be left behind. Sometimes you have to hang onto stuff and make it work even if it is unwieldy and frustrating, because it is worth it. Sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference, but the older I get and the less anxious and protective I am the clearer that seems.
I have less say about how my life develops than I do about the direction my novel takes; life has a lot of extenuating circumstances. I can edit where I am at, though. Less puzzles and TV, more reading and conversation; less worry and more giggles—that sort of thing. The rest has to be left to faith and I can work on that bit, too.