Driving Myself Crazy

They say a coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero only one.  It should be updated to say an imaginative person dies a thousand deaths, a dull person only one.  In neuroscience, it’s been shown that the pain of loss is twice the joy of comparable gain.  We feel loss more.  The problem with an imaginative brain is that you can see all the possibilities and know you get to choose one, or perhaps a few, out of thousands.  The thousand possible roads never taken–weighted or not, it’s overwhelming.

I look at my life and my one main regret is that I don’t write more.  I procrastinate.  I weigh choices, feel the ebb and flow of my emotions, and do nothing.  It is an ongoing regret, but apparently not one I feel keenly enough to do squat about.

This summer, after Sandy’s death, I kept waking up in the middle of the night, scared of my own mortality.  The feeling was, “Shit, I’m gonna die.”  Which is hilarious, because I’m always thinking about how I’m going to die.  I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to die since I was 11.  I made a conscious choice to be Christian at that age to diversify my eternal risk–if there was no god, then I had nothing to lose, so might as well believe in one.

But now I’m at a weird age where my parents are really going to die in the soonish future, anywhere between now and twenty years from now.  I have a teenager who is questioning her purpose her life, her meaning, probably because she’s thinking about how she’s going to die.  (No, actually, I think she worries more about my mortality than hers.)

And you know the regrets of the dying?   At least the ones in the book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”?  I’ve got them covered.  Here they are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

I feel good about all of those points.  I should be ahead!  But I have this desire to make the world a better place by having lived in it, and I feel I’ve let the world down.  What is my meaning?  What is my purpose?  Do I really have gifts that the world needs?  (I sort of hate even writing that because it sounds a little too New-Agey for me)  How self-effacing is that?  It’s a weird mix of “who am I to feel like anyone special” versus “do what you gotta do then to make the world better, so why haven’t done it already?”

You know what brought this on?  I was supposed to write a post for my business group last week, and now it’s two weeks late.  And I just feel so lame.  I had fun doing the exercise, but I have some block about actually writing stuff down.  Woot, I get the prize for being lame.

It’s this feeling that my job isn’t what I want to be doing for the rest of my life X I don’t want to die having nothing to show for the life I’ve lived X the worry that it won’t matter, really, whether I’m great or mediocre or nothing at all.

The feeling will pass, of course, it always does.  (And of course, it will also come back)  I know that in my small circle, my life does have meaning, at least to others.  But it is irritating to me that I still have to wrestle with this stuff.  Does a mind ever calm down?




Of Love and Sadness

fullsizerender-2I fell off the blogging every day thing.  I’m still working on my book though.  🙂  God, I just feel sad.  So, so sad.  And there’s different pieces to that.  One has been work.  One has been my parents.  One has honestly been the election and the denial of science and the elevation of hate.  Spheres of influence; my head, my family, my outer world.  My work has always been important to me, a calling that invokes my mind and my soul.   My parents are important to me because they are my roots and my challenge.  And science is the way we know the world, the way we see past our own lies and how we deceive ourselves.  It is the way we elevate ourselves beyond being merely selfish animals.  To deny that, wholesale, seems like a terrible step backwards.  Not that the earth will care.  It will continue no matter what we do.  But still, do we have to be this stupid?  Do we have to be so selfish?  Can we care about no one but people like ourselves?  I do not believe that love is zero-sum game.  These are the thoughts that I grapple with as the days grow shorter and nights colder and long.

But on the other hand, my inner-inner circle is really good.  My relationships with my kids are still so fun, so satisfying, so deep and happy.  True love.  It pierces like a thorn to the heart of who I am and grows like roses.  Wild ones, the ones you can smell, happy and sprawling and free.  And things with Kevin are really great–easy and happy.  It is a good thing, even if it feels strange, to be with someone who accepts me more than I do myself.  But the darkness sometimes is deep too.

So.  One thing at a time.  Bit by bit, I will change things.  However, not all things can be changed at once.  The first step is my job, and that has now been taken care of.  A pity to leave the one I’m at, I did not leave it lightly.  But you come to a point where you no longer fight the good fight, and it is time to move on.  I have a new position with a startup.  I am excited, it will different.  I will be able to do a lot of good there.

As to the other things. . .well, one does what one can.  I worry terribly about my parents.  I don’t know how much I can help them for afar.  I want them to be happy, but they are so alone out there.  And I have my own responsibilities to my own children who come first.  I don’t know what will happen there.

To everything else, I am not sure.  That is a harder question, one about meaning and how much one can influence anything.  I don’t know what I can influence.  In the meantime, I will do the best I can.




A Scene


In writing my novel, I’m going through the character summaries and trying to decide what the conflicts will be.  Since I’ve decided since the main character will have a mental illness, one of her conflicts will be deciding how truthful to be with her friends.  One of her fears is that if she is truly herself, her friends will abandon her, because they will see how worthless she truly is.  So here is scene that may or may not make it into the final piece:

Laina opened the door to see Kyle.

“Well, I wasn’t expecting to see you at this late hour,” she said.

“Can I come in?”

“Yeah, yeah, come in.  Let me make you some tea or something, sit down.”

Kyle settled onto the couch and let his eyes wander around the paintings.  Leona pulled out the kettle and Kyle said,

“Actually, I’d prefer a whiskey.”

“If by whiskey, you mean bourbon, I can do that.  Ice or neat?”

“What are you doing?”

She chuckled.  “Are you kidding?  I’m not going to ruin the flavor with ice.  Neat all the way.”

“Ah, okay then.”

She came out with two Glencairn glasses.

“Sorry, man, I get the fancy crystal cut one,” she said, “you’ll have to make due with the plain one.”

Kyle laughed.  “I’m not bothered.”

Laina sat on the opposite side of the couch and swirled the glass.

“This is one of my favorites, it’s been aged in sherry barrels.”

Kyle nodded and took a sip.  He let his eyes look across at the wall.

“So, ah,” she said, “What brings you to my humble abode?”

He paused.  “I don’t really know why,” he said.  “I guess I was worried about you.  You seemed really upset last night.”

“Aw, thanks,” she said.  “And I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you.  I can still be emotional, but it’s nothing like it. . .used to be.”

“Yeah, about that. . .”

She waited.

“It took me a long time to get over that, you know.  And I’m not sure I’ve ever forgiven you.”

“You know, it was never about you,” she started.

“I know that,” he said quickly. “Or rationally, I do.  But you have no idea what it was like to find you.  No idea to realize you were actually going to do it.  I mean, stupid teenagers talk all the time about how their life sucks and how they wish they were dead. . .and you, you actually went down that road.”

Kyle was still looking at the wall, his face in profile, as though he couldn’t trust himself to look at her.  Laina was afraid to look too much at him in case his eyes met hers, so she looked down at the floor, listening.

“I mean, what if it happens again?  What if you decide that life is too hard and you decide to quit?  Do you have any comprehension how much you hurt us, all of us?”

Laina couldn’t speak, but stared at the carpet mutely.

“And your poor parents, what a death they died that night.  They never deserved that.”

She could feel the swelling of tears in her eyes.  They were going to break soon.  She put her glass down with shaking hands and shook her head.

“I just,” he paused, “I just can’t go through that again.  I can’t care about you and be close to you.”

Her blood went cold even as hot tears trailed down her face, her eyes stayed fixed on the floor.  The tears were tickling her upper lip but she didn’t want to touch her face.  Any movement and she might lose control completely.  And if she tried to speak, she knew her voice would betray her.  This couldn’t be happening.

He went silent and she could feel the dripping on her chin.  She got up suddenly, heading for the tissue box, but didn’t make it before a huge sob escaped.  She stayed standing over the counter, hunched over the tissues, her back to him.

“Laina, I’m sorry,” Kyle said getting up.

“Please don’t,” she said, her voice a weird caricature. “So, we can’t be friends?”

Kyle sighed.  “I’m not saying that.  I’m just saying. . .I need some space.  Some distance.”

Her throat tightened.  She felt like she was going to throw up.  Her insides were breaking up and heaving.

“Can you leave?” she asked in a low voice.

Kyle stood still for minute.  “Laina. . . “

That was it.  She walked to the bedroom, her head spinning.  She closed the door and held her breath.  She could no longer hold back her crying but at least she could contain the screaming inside her, if only he would leave quickly.  She listened through the door.

She could hear him putting on his shoes.  Faster, she willed him.

He was putting on his coat.  Please.

He was checking his pockets for his keys.  For the love of god!

Finally, she heard the door open and close.  She waited another minute to make sure he wouldn’t hear her.  And then it all poured out of her, her anguish and disbelief.  It was true, it had always been true.  She was unloveable and too weird to even have friends.  She was worthless and stupid and ugly.  How could she think she could ever deserve friends?  Everyone should hate her, hate her as much as herself.  She had trusted him, trusted him to not abandon her, but she was too weak and messed up.  Nobody could love who she really was.  She should just die already.




Writing Characters


It’s a great afternoon to sit on the balcony, watch the sun sink down, and write.  Currently, I am working on sketching out my characters, and I’m finding it a bit hard to put detail to my male characters.  Which is ironic, because  I’ve historically had more problems making friends with females–I think because I tend to be more pragmatic than a stereotypical female.   I actually don’t usually know why women don’t like me when they don’t.

Whereas, I usually get along pretty well with guys.  Probably because I view my emotions with a degree of suspicion–a side effect of having dealt with depression in the past.  But I can’t claim to know what men think.

On the other hand, I have decided that my female protagonist will have depression, because I can write about that.  I was thinking today of an episode Katy had years ago.  It could have been a scene out of “The Bell Jar”:  she slit her wrists and took a bunch of meds, then laid down in a bathtub to die–and helpfully, contain the blood.  But when all the drugs in her system took hold, she ended up thrashing about and lurching room to room, getting blood all over the walls, before finally collapsing.

Her husband came home to a house with blood-smeared walls and found her, unconscious.  He then immediately went upstairs to check on their baby daughter.  The baby was fine, still asleep from her nap.  Then they got Katy to the hospital where she recovered.

She called me afterwards.  We were at a point in our life where I no longer asked why.  I knew that at some point the depression inside of her would win.  The part of the conversation I remember is that she was upset that her husband could possibly think she would hurt their child.  And the funny thing was, I understood both her and her husband’s point of view.  I understood her–her hatred of herself was only confined to herself.  She loved her baby, but hated being a mom.  She felt trapped and disillusioned.  The happiness she had expected from being a wife and mother had never materialized.  And I understood him–he comes home to that disaster and if she’s willing to do that to herself, what wouldn’t she do to others?

Less than a year later, she did kill herself, leaving behind her 18 month old and her husband.  Perhaps someday I will write her story, but I don’t think now is the time.







Summary sentence and now this!

All right, when we last left my exciting life of writing a novel, I had written a summary sentence, sort of. It did NOT follow a nice blurb like the ones on the NYTimes bestsellers list.  Oh well, I can always come back to it.  So now it is time for the next stage:

Step 2.  Expand the story sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and the ending of the novel.

Really?  I have to decide right now?  Man, I thought this would all be sort of organic and free flowing. . . but this is probably the right way to do it.  Well, they could all die in the end, but that’s jumping ahead.  And this isn’t Hamlet, that’s not what I’m going for, they’re all going to live, dammit!  I’m all for some darkness, but this novel is not to be that dark.  After all, I can’t write this and then want to kill myself–now that I’m all mature and stuff (!) that’s no fun anymore.  Okay, we’ll go with less fun.  Less fun than before.

“She was the type of woman that was her own worst enemy, not because she was malicious or stupid, but because she could never seem to have faith in herself.  She could only see her own inner light reflected in the eyes of others.  Ironically, when it came to other people, she could see their soul and their inner beauty, especially in men.  She loved the otherness that was in men; their wildness, their strength, and their sweetness.  She wanted to be wanted and she wanted to be desired, but she also want to heal others.

They say that you get one, maybe two great loves in your life.  But she didn’t believe it.  Because she loved more than one: the one that had come before, the one she could never have, and the one that perhaps she had overlooked.”

. . .damn, that’s two paragraphs!!




And though  I liked those two paragraphs, but they did not fulfill the requirements of Step 2.  *sigh*


So you want to write a book? No, I do!

Yesterday, I had decided to start correlating all these snippets of scenes and dialogue I’ve accumulated over the years and make it coalesce into a grand unified work of fiction.  I wrote one chapter.  No, don’t be impressed, it was short and not impressive.  I don’t really know where it’s going.

Which is why I decided to listen to some podcasts on writing today, which led me to a TED talk, which when reading the comments led me to this site, the Snowflake method.  That looks like a good place to start.  (And yes, this is how I read/consume media, one labyrinthine path to the next, never knowing where I might end up).

Step 1: Write a one-sentence summary of my novel.  Check out NYTimes for hints.

But my novel cannot be condensed into one mere sentence!  Especially when I haven’t written it yet!  . . . okay, this is what the structure appears to be:

When an [adjective] person has [something happen], she must [do something about it that you want to read].

That last part is pretty rough, let’s start with the person.  How do I describe her?  Quirky female?  Ugh, that sounds like me.  Yes, obviously parts of me are going to manifest because I’m writing it, but I only want to use the best parts of me.  And if really embarrassing things are going to happen to my character, I want her to be different enough so that I don’t feel like they’re happening to me.  I gotta have some distance.  But my character has to go through some troubles, right?  No one’s going to read, “…and Lena lived happily ever after, skipping in a field of sunshine and flowers.”  I can’t even buy birthday cards like that, much less write it.  Okay, summary sentence, here we go!

“When a unconventional woman. . .” ugh no.

“An offbeat woman finds. . .” no, she sounds like a pot-smoking hippie.  That’s not meant to be an insult, it’s just not my character.  As in the character I’m writing.

“A sensitive and soul-searching  woman. . . ” GAH.  Magic thesaurus on the wall, help me find the best word of all.  Find me a synonym for geeky.  Computer specialist?  No thanks, not a useful descriptor for getting you to fall in love with my character.

“A searching woman struggles to make peace with her right- and left-brains.”  That’ll bring them in.

Except, of course, I’m forgetting about the other character.  And if we had to take his view into account, it would be something like:

“Men and woman can be friends, even if the sex part DOES get in the way.”  That’s not a great tagline.  Obviously references “When Harry Met Sally.”  But it is what the novel is about, so I guess it’s a start.



To Write, To Dream


One day at work, when I was having a particularly bad day, I jokingly told a colleague I was just having a existential crisis.  She looked at me quizzically, and said, “Really?  I’ve never had one of those.”

“You’re lucky,” I said, “I have at least one a year.”  We laughed, she because she thought I really was joking, and me, because…well, I wasn’t.  I can’t say that I’m having one now, but due to events in my life, I am doing my typical uselessly-looking-inward exercise.  Again.  Yelling at myself because as I well know, ideas without actions are regrets, yet here I am regretting my inactions.

One thing I have always wanted to do is write a book, so I have signed up for NaNoWriMo.  I don’t know that I will get to 50,000 words in a month–but something is better than the nothing I’m currently doing.  I don’t have to post my novel publicly–and frankly, I’m not sure I want to–so that leaves the question of accountability.  Which is why, in my infinite wisdom, I have also signed up for NaBloPoMo.  *sigh*  This could backfire terribly.

Wish me luck!