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

Tag: novel

Art: A Personal Expression of Passion

Are all of us compelled to express ourselves in some way? Do we all have that drive inside us, that passion to tell our story? Is every art a personal expression of passion?

art

Where do I even begin with this book? I don’t usually read a book so quickly but this one, I just couldn’t put it down. It was tragic and painful to read. I got angry with one character, and then another. Situations and choices pissed me off, and then they were perfectly reasonable. It was life.

I have so many notes about this book. The role of Asher’s mother was one that stuck with me, probably because I am a mother and I can be quite judgmental, unintentionally, but I am aware of my bias, and I try to take it into account and keep my opinions of actual people to myself. It may not seem like it, but I try.

My opinion of her changed over the course of the book. My first thoughts were, “Woman! Really! You have a child to take care of!” as she mourned the loss of her brother to the point of being non-functional. Then, as she stood between her son and her husband, attempting to support both, my heart hurt for her. As wife who loves her husband as much as her children, I can’t imagine the pain she went through trying to support her child (that piece of her heart walking in the world outside her body) as he grew into an adult capable of caring for himself, all the while longing to love and support her husband while he writhed anguish, unable to understand his own son, needing his wife with him.

I couldn’t say that I understood Asher’s passion for his art, until I started thinking about why I write here and what it would be like to be brave enough to say what I really want to say in clear and well-defined terms, with nothing to hide behind. I want to. I yearn to, but I know I may hurt the people I love most, so I don’t. I spend my time skirting around the edges instead and a part of me continues to fade away into the background.

Asher had something to say with his art and Jacob Kahn, his mentor, knew where it would ultimately take him. He tried to warn him. I think Asher did understand and went there of his own initiative. How could he not? His father and grandfather followed their passion to rescue their people and build new schools. His mother and her brother followed theirs to understand and explain the Russian language, culture, and politics. They, in their own way, hurt some people to do what they believed they had to do. Why would he not do the same?

Sitting here, explaining the story to my son, I thought, the reason people get so angry about what you are saying, doing, or pursuing, is because they wish you to be what they believe you should be. Your parents want you to be this. Your community wants you to be that. Even your children have an opinion as to how they want you to be. They all think they know what’s best for you, but they don’t. It isn’t malicious or mean, it’s just human nature. We all believe our point of view is the one the world should share. We want safety and security for ourselves and the people around us. Chaos is a bitch. Stay in line!

But we all see things differently. We all have different perspectives and needs. It reminds me of the Secular Buddhism podcast I listened to recently, about the six blind men describing an elephant from what they feel with their hands. They’ll fight to the death over what they believe is the whole truth. The reality is that we can’t know other people’s reality or how the future will play out for any of us. The best we can do is be flexible and lovingly supportive of the people around us and let go of expectations.

I read some great articles at Wheaton College’s website but this is definitely one of those times when I wish I could sit with a group of people that have read this and hear their insight.

If you’d like to read my initial thoughts about this book, go back to My Name is Asher Lev: A New Read and take a look. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

My Empty Nest is not the End of the Word, But I Could Use a Hug

Every parent experiences the empty nest at some point, I know this. But what if we didn’t have to tuck it all down and experience it alone? Vulnerability in the midst of struggle is not my specialty, but sometimes I feel that my saying something might be just what someone else needs.

The perfect quote for an empty nest on a winter sunrise background.

“And this, he decides, is what a good-by should be.
Not a period, but an ellipsis, a statement trailing off, until someone is there to pick it up.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Goodbyes are so hard. The end of a chapter, the turning of the page. I loved this ellipsis analogy. I often use those, and my son tries to tell me I’m doing it wrong. “It’s not a pause, Mom!” I know but…I like it that way! Think about it.

“Goodbye.”
Door shut. Time’s up. It’s over.

“Goodbye…”
Turns slowly. Starts walking. What’s next?

It’s different and it feels so much better.

And then this one.

“That time always ends a second before you’re ready.
That life is the minutes you want minus one.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Yes, it does. I’m going through a big one of these right now. My youngest child has gone off to University in another state. I’m officially retired from everyday Mom-ing.

I have an empty nest.

Everyone knows that once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom. We have an amazingly close relationship. I never experienced that “teenage” stuff, where they shut themselves off from me. I know they’ll always be texting, sending me pictures, and coming back to visit as often as they can.

But… (I did it again)

I’m alone here all day now. And when my husband is done working, we’re alone all evening and all night. And when I get up in the morning, there’s no reason to keep quiet. I can do what I want at any time of day. The TV isn’t on unless I’m watching it. No one is playing music in the middle of the night. No one interrupts what I’m doing. It’s so damn boring.

I’ll admit that I was excited to retire. We have three kids. When the first one left, we relaxed. There was a bit more space in the house. When the second one left, we were happy. There he goes! Two down, one to go! We looked forward to the youngest taking off. If all three of our kids were out in the world taking care of themselves, we were off the hook. We did it. Done! Children are a huge, long-term commitment. It’s incredibly stressful.

But… (he he he)

It’s so quiet. And then…I’m choking up again as I write…can’t we have one more day? One more drive into the city? One more dinner? One more, “Guys! WTF? Can you not?!”

I wasn’t ready.
I seriously underestimated how hard an empty nest would be.

But…

Are we ever ready? I don’t think so. We just have to dive in and keep flailing around until we notice we’re swimming.

I’ve hesitated to write about this for several reasons. It’s so fresh. I’m still working through it. I don’t need other people’s crap right now. But it keeps coming back up. A scratch in the record that needs to be dealt with, not ignored. You’ll only keep hearing it every time you get to that part of the music.

The first is, as usual, I don’t want to make my kids feel bad. They are doing nothing wrong by growing up and going out into the world. Pursuing our own path is what we all do. That’s normal and good. While I’d certainly have no problem with them living here forever, I want them to chase their own dreams without worrying that the mother they love so much is having a nervous breakdown. It would defeat the purpose of raising children into adults if they were so afraid to hurt my feelings that they never left home.

The second is that I’m not good at being this vulnerable. While I’m good at telling others what I’ve already been through and worked on, I cringe at the thought of asking for sympathy and help as I need it. I’ve recently come to notice that my culture fosters independence over just about anything else and I’m not sure it’s all that healthy. Stand on your own two feet. Buck up. Don’t be such a baby about it. From childhood and adolescence, into adulthood, marriage, children, and on until we die, we’re encouraged to keep our feelings to ourselves, to deal with our own shit alone.

I’m starting to question the wisdom in that. The times that I have reached out to talk to someone about something I’m going through, I’ve always found that I’m not alone. Life’s stages are common. We all move through them. Amazingly enough, no matter what you’re going through, there are others that have been there, felt that. The key is finding those people, and they’re usually very close by, remaining silent, believing they are alone in the world too.

And the third reason is people’s reaction. I don’t find support when I express my pain, I generally find platitudes, dismissal, or worse…help or sympathy. We’re not trained in supporting others through something difficult. Have you ever felt something so strongly, a feeling you just don’t want to feel and can’t get away from? Have you ever told someone about it and they said, “That’s just life. It’ll be better tomorrow.” Yeah…not helpful. Or worse, “Everyone feels that. You’re being ridiculous.” And “I told you this was coming.”

What do I want? To be completely honest, I’m not sure. Maybe I simply want to be heard and to get a hug. I’d like to hear an affirmation. “This must suck.” Or “I feel that from you.” Maybe even questions like, “What are you going to do?” I also really enjoy hearing other people’s painful stories. “There was a time I felt that way.” Or “I remember when…” I hear that and I think, “Yes. I’m not alone. I’m just one of the humans here. Life does go on.” And then I consider what’s next or cry some more. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to wallow in my sadness awhile.

Ultimately, the story continues no matter what happens to any of us. It isn’t a period, end of line, close the book. It’s just…what’s next?

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

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?

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?

New Read: “Normal People” A Novel

Picture of my new read cover with a desert sunrise background.
Sunrise in the desert…priceless.

Another “New Read” Blog Post? Already?!

Yes, I just happened to finish both of my previous books one day apart, so on to new ones in the same fashion. “There’s no rest for the wicked.” Right?

Picture of my new read cover with a cup of coffee and a cat.
The cover says, so I’m ready!

Once again, I’m not sure why I originally picked this book up. It wasn’t a bookstore or Costco book pile impulse buy. Neither was it a gift or free book I happened across. I must have read about it in another book or article. Like I said in a previous post, I’m working on fixing that gap.

The title is probably what drew my attention. “Normal People” by Sally Rooney, maybe I’ll learn something about these so-called normal people.

From the back cover, though, it looks like a modern love story. That’s always nice to read too!

I have a fresh pot of coffee and some oatmeal cookies and I’m ready to dive in.

Have you heard of this book? Want to read it with me?

You’ll find my thoughts about quotes from this book at…
The School System is Oppressive for a Reason
Can We Find Human Connection in an Irritating Sound
I’m a writer. What’s Your Superpower?


My monthly newsletter highlights my immediate after-thoughts about the books I read the previous month. You can sign up for that awesome email at the link on the right or by hopping over to my Autobibliography page. Once you opt-in, you’ll receive one email a month only available to my email followers…mmm…so exclusive!

And, yes, I promise never to sell my email list, or bombard your inbox with spam.

Doubt vs. Denial

“If you doubt it, why bother studying the Leibowitzian documents?”
“Because doubt is not denial. Doubt is a powerful tool, and it should be applied to history.”

From A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

There’s something I hear all the time lately. Any time anyone tries to question anything they hear, they are shouted down with the word, “Denier!”

Holocaust Denier. Global Warming Denier. Covid Denier. Racism Denier. The hits keep coming.

I personally don’t know anyone that denies the existence of any of these things, but there are probably some out there. I do know many people that doubt things as they are presented to us on media outlets, myself included.

The news media, tv, newspapers, and magazines alike, are not the scientists or researchers. Politicians are also not scientists, doctors, or researchers. They are told things and then they present them to us in a way that gets them elected or keeps them in office. It seems to be that every “problem” they find has only one answer, “Give us more money and power.” So, yes, I doubt what they present to me. Call me crazy.

My doubt prompts me to do a little research and critical thinking of my own. No, I don’t conduct experiments, but I do go looking for a few articles to read and think about. Some things, though, I don’t bother with. I only have so much time and energy, so I must ration it.

Once again, I’m fascinated by a character from a novel written in 1959. Sixty years later, I’m thinking, “Yes! Dammit!”

Another Book Already?!

Yeah, I usually have a couple books going at once!

One of my husband’s favorite movies is Omega Man and when we saw I Am Legend, we both looked at each other…

“Wait a minute. This movie is familiar.” We looked it up via the blessed web and found out they are both based on the same book, so I added it to my wish list. That was years ago and I’m finally getting to reading it.

Strange that I’m deciding to pick it up now.

A quick bit of research on the book, I found that it was written in 1954, inspiring movies like “Night of the Living Dead,” a personal favorite. I also read that none of the movies follow the book close enough that the author wanted his name on them, so I’m excited to read the differences.

I’m about a hundred pages in and I’m loving it. For an end of the world by virus that mutates humans into vampires, it’s a fun, light read. Since it was written in the 50’s, of course it has references to ending some war with a nuclear bomb. Is that what made the virus?!

I’ve always been a huge fan of zombies, vampires, and end of the world stories, both in books and film. The causes change within each era but the how people deal with the disasters, government reactions, how they try to avoid it, and deal with each other is eerily familiar.

Looking around me now, watching the news, reading the papers, and scanning social media, it makes it a little more upsetting. Little did I know how real those stories could be and how helpful they’d become in dealing with my own world. No, I don’t think this is the end of the world, but it’s fascinating how predictable masses of people can be and it’s all right there in the stories.

Life imitates art or vice versa?

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