Monday, February 19, 2018

Greatest Belonging

Finally, I got to go see The Greatest Showman yesterday in the theater and man, oh, man, I loved it! It reached me on so many levels. Throughout the movie I kept thinking how central to the human character it is for all of us to find some sense of belonging. I teared up during one scene when P.T. Barnum’s wife, Charity, says to him something like, “You don’t need everyone to love you, just a few good people.”

A few good people.

I know what it’s like to be seduced by lights, to desperately crave approval from others. I’m well-acquainted with circles, sitting blissful, and at times, ignorantly excluding in the center of them. I’m also achingly aware of what it feels like to be carelessly tossed out of circles. Whether on my own volition, or because someone decided I no longer had a place, it’s devastating to lose that sense of belonging.

I’ve navigated beyond these losses, daring to create new bonds. Being familiar with the intimate pain of what it feels like to have belonging stripped away, I seek ways to help others to feel included. Wanted. Cared for.

That’s what was so mesmerizing and beautiful about this film. We all struggle with a freakish nature. We are all afraid to be shockingly vulnerable, scared that our secrets, our shortcomings, our oddities, and our “otherness” will be found out. Know what we all really desire?

To be embraced and loved for who we are, where we are, as we are.

There’s also beauty in learning to discern who the few good people are—the small ring of folks in our lives who will always be faithful, who love us through and through.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Power of Story

I’m a sucker for Olympic stories. I’ll root for you if you give me a moving piece about your past and what it’s taken to get you to this place.

That’s why I believe this story immediately piqued my interest.

It’s not of the Olympic variety, but one of memoirs, a shared bond, and a love written between the pages.

I adore memoirs. I read both WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR and THE BRIGHT HOUR, struck by the bravery, eloquence, and insight that two memoirists exuded as they captured the equally tragic and poignant perspective of what it’s like to be dying.

Both memoirs were published posthumously.

The spouses were encouraged by their dying loved ones to enter a new relationship or remarry after they pass away. The article uses the words radical permission to emphasize this.

And so . . .

John Duberstein and Lucy Kalanithi came together.

I’ve read these books. I understand this union is the farthest thing from a fairy tale box office bond. I love how the article I linked detailed one of their first interactions as obscenely vulnerable. I’ve always happened to believe great things come when we risk being vulnerable.

Finally, the article concludes with this hopeful message. “For now they are relishing their time together, in all its complexity.”

Because doesn’t that just say it all? Relish through the complexity. Relish despite it. Amidst it. Relish the time we have.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Googling Generations Before

I’m not sure what inspired me, but a few nights ago I decided to google my grandparents. I was surprised to discover my mom’s dad has a Wikipedia page. He was a hotshot basketball player in his day. As I read the stats listed for him, and the brief details about the teams he played for, I just kept thinking how much more there was to this man. Over the years I’ve listened intently to the stories my mom has shared about him. Let’s just say, now more than ever, we can’t trust that what we encounter about people online encapsulates the entirety of who they are. I’m sure that’s not news to you. But I know for me, it’s a good reminder.

People can come across however they want to online. But everyone possesses layers and stories that don’t make it to a Wikipedia page—that don’t get showcased on a Facebook status update or an Instagram upload.

Craving the story behind the story is partly what inspired me to become a writer. I wanted to go there.

With my plots and characters. And trust me, my characters have been taking me there lately.
Years ago, I met a woman in a coffee shop who generously offered to trace my lineage for me. I was blown away by the time she invested and her extensive research. When she unraveled two large
sheets of paper, detailed with etchings, ancestors dating back to kings and queens (I knew I had royal blood), I was beyond impressed. The other night I dedicated time to study the names in my line. I made note of where my peeps came from, where they’d moved, even the occupations for some. And as awestruck as I was at the details, the dozens of family trees splayed before me, I couldn’t help but itch for the stories.

This sense of wonder has always been an intrinsic part of who I am. I’m not afraid to go there. I love how writing fiction has built a bridge for me, a means to go there through my characters. Because I happen to believe that going there is the most human thing about humanity. It connects us more than it separates, and it has the incomparable ability to open minds and to stretch souls.

Generations deep, I wonder who in my long line also appreciated the stories behind the stories.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Note about Raising Girls

We celebrate three birthdays within eight days in the second half of January. I love raising girls. I consider it one of the greatest joys and one of the greatest callings of my life. There are days I’m convinced I’m blowing it entirely, then there are other days when I get glimpses of my girls growing into thoughtful and bright young women. Hope yet.

There are days of endless laundry and talking them down and building them up. There are days of exhaustion and feeling like nothing I do is making one lick of difference. One of my daughters is set on becoming President. I tell her to hurry up because this country needs her. I cried hard after the election and I’m still not at peace about who our country’s current leader is. Hope yet. The #MeToo movement is strong. Women are marching and my daughters are getting older.

I pray my messages are getting through to my girls—lessons like be brave, stand up for what you believe, kindness matters, think before you speak, your worth is and never will be in what others think of you, your life matters…

More than that, I pray I’m modeling all of the above for them. Because that’s the best way to transfer a message.

So I push through the dark days. I fight through the monotony. I refuse to give up if something matters to me. I forgive. I love. I support other women. 

Hope yet.

{The birthdays wiped me out...I will be back here blogging on Feb. 5th.}

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cheers to the Dreamers

Cheers to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for inspiring others to dream. It’s my hope that we all will continue to follow fast and hard after our dreams and advocate for genuine leadership as we press on.

“Power isn’t control at all — power is strength, and giving that strength to others. A leader isn’t someone who forces others to make him stronger; a leader is someone willing to give his strength to others that they may have the strength to stand on their own.”
― Beth Revis, Across the Universe

“As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”
Nelson Mandela 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Collecting My Thoughts

It already feels as though 2018 has begun with quite a bang. #MeToo made a statement at the Golden Globes. The Winter Olympics is on the horizon. And local fans are going nuts about more than one hyped-up football game. This and after a long two week break my kids have no school because some sort of precipitation is expected to fall from the sky today.

Recently a friend coined the perfect word for what the better part of this first year after our move from New England to the Atlanta area has felt like for me. Wobbly. I picture a baby giraffe finding its footing. Helping my girls to acclimate has become a full-time job. I’m just now devoting more time to breathe and well, to collect my thoughts.

These thoughts include…

In the strength of the Time’s Up movement it’s my hope women will continue to be mindful about how we treat one another, that we’d choose to uplift and encourage before we judge or spew jealousy. Also, I loved how one woman at the Golden Globes recognized the men she worked with who exuded dignity and respect. I hope our culture continues to see the value in acknowledging the respectful as we bravely call out the degrading.

A new story is taking over. As I begin to hunt for a fitting home for a novel I’ve worked on for years, I’m plotting, letting a new cast of characters take up space in my brain. Writers feel me on this one. I know a novel is a keeper when the characters and the plot don’t let up. Before bed. During TV shows. In the middle of conversations. They insist on being heard. There’s a verse somewhere in the Bible about how if people were silent about God even the rocks and trees (I may be butchering this) would cry out. I sometimes feel this same sentiment toward my future books and characters. If I didn’t write them, they’d find a way to be written.

My brain is synapse-snapping with a lot of other thoughts, but the ones I mentioned tend to make the most loops, with the exclusion of family matters.

I hope you’ve begun 2018 thinking about what you want for the world. I hope you’re still feeding your dreams.

Monday, December 18, 2017

My Relationship with Words

“A word after a word after a word is power.”
― Margaret Atwood

Words have always possessed a mysterious and infectious power for me. I’m not exactly sure when this initially took root, but I imagine it dates back to many overlapping instances that each contributed to who I am today.

One of the first stories I ever wrote revolved around a boy who was assigned the difficult task of naming all that existed around him. His circumstances, his environment, events both painful and exhilarating, birthed the beautiful process of naming. It’s how he grew to understand the world. As a maybe-ten-year-old, I imagine this young boy’s story was closely linked to my own.

Or perhaps my fascination and reverence for words came alive during a rowdy dinner table moment. I had three older sisters and often our conversations tilted toward the profane. Wearing thin of this, my parents tried something new one night. They invited us to, on the count of three, yell out our favorite curse word. One. Two. Three. At maybe-ten-years-old, I let the F-word fly. Everyone else kept their traps shut so my F-bomb shot out like a solo grenade. I think my parents were intending to strip profanity of its brassy lure. I get it. But something else stuck with me that night. Words have impact.

Some words I wear like scars. Others I have tucked so far deep down inside me, they’ve ossified like bone because they’ve meant that much.

Words are exquisite. Volatile. Heartbreaking. Tender. Blades and balm. They evoke all kinds of reactions and interpretations. They are our primary way of communicating, of speaking both love and hate.

I’ve grown quite attached to words, the way they bend and shift inside my mind. The way I can spill them on a page, then fold them up origami-style, reveling how they change shape. And meaning. Words can mutate and blossom. They can multiply exponentially or shrivel within a second.

As I age, I’ve learned to be more careful with what I say, more discerning.

I share all of this to drive home one point.

Words brush against the sacred for me.

You can do a lot to me. Much has been done already. I rebound with fire in my soul.

But do not take away my words.

These words—they are how I understand this world. I am free in them. And I have every intention of staying that way.

“A word after a word after a word is power.”
― Margaret Atwood

*I’ll be back in a few weeks. Merry Christmas!

Greatest Belonging

Finally, I got to go see The Greatest Showman yesterday in the theater and man, oh, man, I loved it! It reached me on so many levels. Thro...