Monthly Archives: August 2021

Doing Death Well

The title of my entry is a bit strange, but I think by the end of this entry it’ll make sense.

Everyone has their blind spot, something they can’t wrap their mind around no matter how many times they face it. They watch how others react to that particular circumstance seemingly without effort, and all they can do is scratch their head (figuratively or literally).

For me it’s what to do when someone dies or when a friend loses a loved one. I’ve lost both my parents within eighteen months of each other. Because I’m good at compartmentalizing my emotions, I set my grief aside and did what needed to be done and in as short of time as possible. Luckily my sister and I were on the same page throughout the entire process, so we completed almost everything for both our parents within weeks. Our dad’s girlfriend (our parents had divorced a few years earlier) was shocked at how efficiently we took care of our dad’s estate. I’m sure she thought we were a couple of gold-digging vultures when that wasn’t the case at all. It’s who we are; it’s who our parents were. They wouldn’t have wanted us to become blubbering piles of goo when there was work to be done. Our efficiency was a testament to our love and respect for our parents, because that’s how they raised us.

Even before then, though, death to me is a part of life. Sure I miss my parents, but I know I will see them again. Maybe if I wasn’t a Christian I would feel differently. Although… I kind of doubt it. If I were an atheist, believing nothing exists past this life, and I and everyone else ceases to exist the moment we take our last breath, it simply is what it is.

Nothing is ever gained by dwelling on things we can’t control.

Yet I also know my point of view is rather unusual. People grieve much more poignantly than I ever will, and for grief to no longer overwhelm can take months if not years. I don’t consider that a weakness, by the way. It’s merely a different way to process such a deep loss that I can’t embrace for myself. I’m not built that way.

If anything, I’m the weak one when it comes to dealing with death. My lack of true, emotional empathy makes me appear cold and unfeeling. It’s frustrating, because I want to be able to empathize and therefore know exactly how to respond when someone else faces a great loss.

What brought all this on? A friend of mine lost her husband a few days ago. He’d been sick for a while, but at the same time, one can never be truly prepared for losing a spouse. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what do do and what to say. Sending an email or card with flowers saying “I’m sorry for your loss” isn’t enough. Yet I also don’t want to drop by unannounced bearing flowers and food to express my sympathies either.

I go back to when my parents died and I was actually annoyed by all the expressions of sympathy. Sure I was sad and I appreciated their thoughtfulness, but at the same time, I thought it was unnecessary. I didn’t need it, and I was forced to hold my tongue and simply say, “Thank you.” Still, I do remember their kindnesses such as when my boss had a few pizzas delivered for us.

So what do I do for a friend who just lost her husband knowing anything I do will be inadequate, perhaps even unwanted?

I ended up sending her a text expressing my sympathies and offered a few things I could do (such as pick up groceries, help with her dogs, housekeeping, or a listening ear). Is it enough? No idea. Too much? Again, no idea. Nor has she responded, but I’m not surprised. I’m sure she has a lot more on her mind than responding to a text.

So, yeah, I don’t do death well.

At Odds

To be human often means to be at odds with oneself. What the heart wants, the head ignores, and what the head knows, the heart refuses to hear.

Such is the case with addiction. In this case, social media addiction. My head always knew social media could be addictive and that I may indeed have that problem. My heart, on the other hand refused to admit it. It simply likes it too much. Better to live in ignorance and do what it wants, consequences be damned.

Yet now, being off of it (except for one hour a week which I will describe below), my heart can’t deny it any longer.

It’s now been ten days (less one hour) since I’ve checked any social media. I’ll admit I figuratively slobber at the idea of getting back on, and my fingers figuratively itch to type in those websites.

It’s getting better though. I’ve managed to steer my attention away from each temptation by reading a book (or two) and diving into my new story (the first chapter is finally complete).

In fact, I’m nearing a point where the thought of social media makes me cringe a little. It’s nice not having to wade through all the national and international drama and taking the risk of being called the whatever the popular –ist of the day is because I deign to spout an opinion.

I do miss the more positive interactions, though, and discovering what my friends and family are doing. Luckily some of them have signed up to receive updates on this humble (yeah, right. Me, humble?) blog, so I’m not completely cut off. And thank you to all for being here!

Speaking of positive interactions, the one exception I made is participating in an hour-long #healthyfaith chat on Twitter once a week. They hold the chats four times a week and discuss either a chapter of the Bible or explore certain themes. For an hour, the host asks ten questions and the participants answer and give their thoughts. Very few serious arguments, hardly any trolls, and I get to learn more about scripture.

When my church physically closed for the thing-that-shall-not-be-named last year, the healthy faith chats became my church.

Aside: my church did hold online services, and my son and I “attended” one of them. I found it more depressing than uplifting, so we never did it again. What I discovered about myself in that year is that I’m not as introverted as I thought. I need to be around people, even if I don’t always interact with them.

While a year may seem like a long time to stay away from social media, I’m more and more confident I can make it.

For once, both my heart and my head agree.

A Single Step

So far my fears that I no longer had the wherewithal to start let alone finish a new novel may have been a bit unfounded. By simply starting to write, my brain’s creative center (if there is such a thing; I don’t know my brain anatomy all that well) has seen markedly increased activity.

I started with a new character, a teenage boy (about 14) named Ciman which means “inquisitive.” And he is indeed inquisitive! The story begins with him hearing some strange noises in the nearby woods, and whatever made the sounds smells oddly of cooked meat and rotten eggs.

His curiosity soon overwhelms his fear…

Except he doesn’t discover what the thing is, because his sister comes along to tell him he has chores to do.

What happens next? Does he ignore his sister and step into the woods, or does he obey and not risk getting the switch from his mother (he has endured said switch aplenty, so much so he even named it)?

Don’t know yet. I haven’t written it. As a “pantser” (one who doesn’t outline before writing a story), it’s as much a journey of discovery for me as it is for the reader.

All I know is he eventually discovers what lurks in the woods, but whether it’ll be friend or foe? I ain’t tellin’! Don’t want to ruin the surprise if it ever gets published…

Happy Saturday, all! I hope it’s fun and perhaps even a little productive depending on your goals for today.

Oh, and some housekeeping: Since I now have more time to write, I do plan on updating this blog more often. I’ll try not to exceed once a week, though. Your time is valuable, and I don’t want to take up so much of it you end up ignoring any updates.

It’s Official

I’ve been debating for the last six months or so whether or not to kick myself off social media for a time. I did it once for a year, and I accomplished more than I expected. So many fewer distractions.

Yesterday I made the plunge and even deleted the apps off all my devices so I won’t be tempted to click on them. Sure, I can still use a browser. Doing so, however, takes a bit more effort; the icons aren’t right there, and will therefore be less tempting.

In the last two days I’ve written two pages of the sequel to my fantasy.

Yet I’m already having issues…

I’ve been editing more than writing over the last several years, shutting up my internal editor has been, shall we say, a challenge. Most of my writing has been either my blog, social media posts or short stories. I’m not as yet confident I can still pull off an entire novel.

Funny considering when I first started writing, novels were the only kind of writing I could do; short stories were the challenge!

The question now is how long to keep myself off. A year would be the goal, but I don’t know if it’ll be possible. Not because I desire to dive back in per se, but if I manage to hook a publisher, they’ll expect me to do much of my own marketing and advertising—requiring the use of social media. Not a bad thing, really, because then I could be better focused on using social media more effectively, and not merely for personal use and entertainment (I use “entertainment” lightly).

My blog here is also the exception. I actually invited my Facebook friends to follow me here if they wanted to stay in contact. Don’t know if any will, but I hope they do.

Contractural Manipulation

When asked, “What is a writer?”what’s the first thing to come to mind? Is it one who tells a good story? Seems logical. Yet what does that entail? What makes a good story?

Action? Adventure? Suspense? Satisfaction? Escape? All the above?

Or does it run deeper?

At least for female readers (I’m not arrogant enough to assume I know what the average male reader looks for in a story), it’s the emotional connection to the characters. She wants to feel the joy, sadness, fear and yes, even horror, the characters feel.

I want readers my (male and female alike) to feel all of that. I want them to laugh, cry, be terrified, and shout with joy along with my characters.

As I printed out the latest chapter of my WIP for my local writers group, I couldn’t stop myself from grinning when I thought, “This chapter is going to make them weep.”

Even as I thought it, a part of me felt a twinge of guilt. Why should I look forward to making people cry? To gleefully manipulate their strongest emotions?

Because it’s in the unspoken/unwritten contract between writer and reader. It’s why we read. We want our emotions stirred, piqued, and yes, even manipulated. And as a writer, I should never shy from that fact. The moment I do so, my story falls flat and isn’t worthy of the figurative or literal paper it’s written on.