Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: A.J. Hackwith

All Characters Are Important to the Story

All characters are important quote from the book on a desert background.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that you just can’t subtract a human from the story, no matter how hard you try. Even death doesn’t do that.”

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

In fiction and reality,
all characters are important to the story.

Yes, even the minor ones, the angels and demons, the good guys and bad guys. Everyone leaves a mark on your life, moves the story along, or simply creates depth to a moment in time.

My grandfather died. He was 86. Dementia took nearly ten years to fully claim his mind and he had been living in a memory care facility for the past year. So…to many of us…he was already gone. To those closest to him physically, his caregivers and my Mom, he was still a main character and his loss is strongly felt. To some of his family, he had faded into the background of their story long ago. And to others, he had been deleted completely, or so they think.

This quote reminded me of him and many other characters in my own life story, all of which are important and can’t be subtracted, even those I really wish could be. The cruel teacher from elementary school, the mean girl in junior high, the abusive boyfriend; heaven knows I’ve tried to erase those memories. Even if I were successful in erasing the memory of an event, I would still feel its effect on my life, like the way we “see” a blackhole in space. The event isn’t seen, it’s felt. To ignore that feeling, those clues, and continue your journey is a recipe for disaster.

The people in our past, the choices we’ve made, the opportunities we’ve taken or let pass, those memories aren’t all we have.

We have the imprint of those things on our life story. If we subtract people or events from our lives, the story is inconsistent. When we try to effectively work our way through the life we have today, we can feel like pages are missing. Things just don’t make sense. It’s extremely difficult, I’d say impossible, to work through a story with missing chapters or characters; to complete a puzzle with missing pieces.

He’s been gone from my daily life for many years now, but I still miss my Pop, more so now that he is physically missing from the world.

My grandfather was a major character in my life story, one of my biggest influencers growing up.

The older I get, the more I see him in myself. We both suffer from anxiety, a deep need to control the world around us, not to be in charge or the boss, but to make things easier for ourselves and hopefully the people in our lives. Our response to the overwhelming stress of trying to control outcomes typically results in anger and frustration, sometimes violence. We both feel things deeply and are known for our passionate responses. From the awe of a beautiful garden or majestic scene to the love of our families, from the excitement of a new experience to the frustration of dealing with troubles, neither of us has moderate feelings, only big, sometimes scary ones. In my case, I’m told that it’s part of my charm. In my Pop’s case, it was a demerit against him. I guess it just depends on who is judging, whether you are a positive or negative, a major or minor character in their story.

Characters, humans, cannot be subtracted from your story.

When you try to do so, you leave holes big and small. Holes are a mess to work around. A story with characters, paragraphs, chapters, or pages missing does nothing for anyone. Leave the bad parts, the rough parts, and the scary parts right where you can see and use them. Those people are part of you. For better or for worse, they made you who you are today.


Want to read this book? You can find it at Amazon HERE.
Want to read more quotes from this book?

Will We Lose Ourselves in the Virtual Reality?
Anxiety: The Lies My Brain Tells Me
Would You Want to Come Back for a Day?
Do We Have the Ability to Change the Meaning of Our Life Story?

Will we lose ourselves in the virtual reality?

Virtual reality quote from the book on a desert background.

“Once, people memorized books’ worth of spoken words, songs, and sagas that contained all their history, traditions, stories, survival.”
“I’m not a storyteller.”
“Then go back to your library.”
Claire tossed the book on top of her bag in a huff. “You’re crude.”
“And you rely too much on those bits of paper.”

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

Wasn’t memory the original virtual reality?

Today, we digitize everything, creating a virtual reality alternative to the printed word. It’s all out there saved on the cloud, not just the consolidated and thought out written words of the educated, the trained artist’s pictures and paintings, but everything. Photographs of everyday life, random thoughts, opinions, jokes, off the cuff thoughts from everyone. All recorded on social media.

Like the librarian that laments the loss of the printed book, worried that the stories will be lost if the books are gone, we wonder if physical reality will be lost in the invention of the virtual.

But the unrecorded virtual reality existed first, didn’t it?

When we sat around a fire and listened to someone speak a story from their minds, all we had at the end was the memory the act created in us and then it was gone.

When we began writing the stories down, those that spoke them were concerned. If the stories are written, we’ll forget the ability to memorize and speak them. And in many ways, we have.

Today I can read the exact same story you read, even though we are worlds apart. The storyteller tells it once for all, with no changes, no reading the room and weaving more into and out of it.

And now here we are with the medium changing once again.

When I write a digital story, I can change it any time I want. You think you are reading the same version as someone else, but are you? I’m sure there is a way for computer savvy people to know, but most of us don’t. That article in the Times could be a completely different spin for you than for me. We both click the same link, but does it take us to the same version?

You don’t have that problem with the printed word. It’s there “in black and white” and, while it can be changed with another printing, there will be a physical copy of that change, something to compare it to.

In a way, it feels like we are going back to the old way of verbal story telling.


Want to read this book? You can find it at Amazon HERE.
Want to read more quotes from this book?
Anxiety: The Lies My Brain Tells Me
Would You Want to Come Back for a Day?
Do We Have the Ability to Change the Meaning of Our Life Story?

Anxiety: The Lies My Brain Tells Me

Anxiety lies quote from the book on a desert background.

“You’re right. Brains are fuckin’ liars. But you got this.”

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

Anxiety sneaks up on you.
Your brain lies like a rug!

The character was having an anxiety attack. His friend walked him through the panic in the sweetest way I’ve ever heard. She didn’t deny his feelings or tell him to get over it. She simply agreed with him and gave him time, helped him breathe to calm his heart rate and think more clearly.

Bravery is personal. No one can do it for you, no one can spur you to take the leap. It has to come from inside.

Our brain…well…
it can lie like a bitch sometimes.

I have a paper bracelet on my shelf that reads across the band, “Depression Lies.” I should make a new one that says “Anxiety Lies.” I printed it from a website over ten years ago and used to have it taped around my wrist as a reminder. It sounds silly but that little piece of paper may have saved my life. It got me through a rough time, and it sits there reminding me to this day that my brain could be lying to me. If I’m feeling badly, I need to double check my thinking and possibly adjust.

How we think about our objective reality (the weather, the situation, the sensation) is completely subjective. Our reactions to it depend on our personality, our past, our culture, and our imagination. Unlike animals, and the demons and angels in this book, we have the power to direct and control what we think, how we perceive, how we judge, the world around us. We have imagination. We make up stories. It’s what gives us our edge. It’s that “god” in us, the likeness we are created in. But it isn’t easy to control and we aren’t born knowing how to use it well. It takes effort and practice.

What’s the difference between lying and telling a story?

Nothing really. It’s just what we think about it. My Grandmother telling us that elves were looking in the window and would tell Santa that we were bad? Lie or story? She wasn’t trying to entertain us with fables. She was trying to get us to settle down and behave ourselves. She knew there were no elves, but when she told us that and we’d all go running to the window to see. Some of us would burst into tears at the thought of Santa finding out that we weren’t “good.” Others thought Grandma was clever, some thought she was probably crazy because she really seemed to believe her own story. Her intentions were good. She wanted us to settle down and she found a clever way to do it.

Our brains do the same thing. Our intention is to stay safe and get what we need out of the current situation we find ourselves in. And we invent stories to make sense of the input and act appropriately. Life experience, instinct, and imagination play a big role in the decision making. Sometimes we make a big deal out of nothing. Sometimes we make too little a deal, too.

I have a tendency to let my imagination run wild and react without thinking things through. Maybe that helped me survive in a past life. Maybe there is some sort of cultural or evolutionary memory in our genes. Here and now, though, it has caused me some pain and heartache. I’ve learned, like the character in the story, to get my body calm first and then re-think.

I ask myself, “What’s the story here? Can I confirm any of it? Can I re-frame the input in a way that serves me? Can this be something I don’t fight or run away from?” And I ask for help from people I trust to give me honest feedback. I have two main people I go to right now, my husband and my best friend. I talk…a lot. And they listen while I work things out for myself.

I picked this quote to write about because I saw myself there and it made me smile. Sometimes my brain likes to tell me I’m all alone in the world, one of a kind, unlike any other human on the planet. It’s a lonely place, and I’m not sure why it thinks I need to feel that, but then I read books like this. We all feel this way from time to time. We all make up stories about the world and they aren’t all helpful. We all need a friend that can make space around us so we can sort things out.

““Want to walk around? No? Good choice – this grass is kind of scratchy, don’t you think? And that air – smells like butterfly farts, yeah? Look at those squishy, weird flowers. Wonder if you can eat ‘em…” Brevity kept up the words, grounding him, creating a steady soft patter that, over a handful of minutes, slowly eased Leto’s shoulders away from his ears. Brevity produced a small blue bottle from her bag and pressed it into his hands before shooing the rest of them away to give Leto a chance to recover.”

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

We all should have a partner like that.


Want to read this book? You can find it at Amazon HERE.

Want to read more quotes from this book?

Would You Want to Come Back for a Day?

Do We Have the Ability to Change the Meaning of Our Life Story?

Do We Have the Ability to Choose the Meaning of Our Life Story?

The quote from the book on a background image of a book.

“He’ll remember the story, turn it over carefully in the back of his mind, feel the edges of it like he would a lucky coin. A story will change him if he lets it. The shape and spirit of it. Change how he acts, what dreams he chooses to believe in. We all need our stories; I just fed him a good one.”

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

What is the meaning
of your life story?

If my personal story is one of tragedy, that will be the plot that I follow to the end. If it’s one of transformation and ascendance, I’ll follow that to my death. It’s up to me to choose a story.

We all begin choosing the meaning
of our story early in life.

Our family, friends, culture, society, religion, all help us to shape that story. I remember fantasizing a lot as a teenager. Don’t laugh, but I desperately wanted my life to be more than what it was, like every teenager I suppose. I read a lot of horror and watched a lot of movies of the same genre. At one point I really latched on to vampire stories and really believed that I must be one. I was living a double life, one of a white middle class teenager and the other a sensual, life sucking, demon of the night. It was a far more exciting story.

The fantasy comforted me. These people around me had no idea what I was. I wasn’t like them, not really. And some day they’d know…right as I sucked the life from them or made them one of my minions.

I grew out of it, eventually, but really, I just shifted my story. I started working at Disneyland and was part of “the show.” Everyone came to see me, everyone wanted to be me when I told them what I did. In my twenties, I was one of the guys on the crew, working toward a spot on a touring show or on Broadway. I’d design and run shows everyone saw.

When I got married; I became a wife and mother. I started homeschooling my children; I was a homeschooler just slightly outside “mainstream” society. I found Jesus; I was born again, destined for more than this world had to offer. My story continues to change every year, every day for that matter. I’m always working on it. Sometimes I’m a writer, an influencer of people’s minds and their stories. Other days, I’m just a housewife in the desert trying to share the interesting things she finds, probably nothing much to see here.

And there are still other days when I can’t find a story. Those are the bad days when I just want to disappear, feeling that I already have, or maybe never really did. Dark days.

It’s all just a story, one we make up to explain the world we live in. There has to be a meaning to what we are experiencing, right? It can’t possibly just BE.

Here’s the exciting part to realizing that it’s all just a story…you can change it if you want to. It’s not easy, but it’s true. Try some small adjustment and see what happens. I don’t HAVE to go to the grocery store, I GET to and there’s so much to choose from. My friend isn’t answering my text because he doesn’t like me, he’s busy. My parents weren’t horrible people bent on controlling my every move and making me into mini-them, they were just people doing the best they could with what they had and they love me.

Try it. I double dog dare you.

Do you want to read “The Library of the Unwritten”?

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