Nov 9 2013

Why do I write?

3573941942

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To paint a picture. A picture that gives real perspective. A perspective that goes beyond our Sunday best and drives us into the heart of others.

For the last several years, since I started taking this writing journey seriously, I’ve asked myself this question often.Whatever you may think the writing life looks like, you’re probably wrong. No disrespect. Just saying.

Writers stare at the screen and wrestle. We wrestle with words. With plots and characters. And we wrestle with self-doubt. Which is perhaps the greatest understatement of the century. Self-doubt sounds like something you find in a Disney movie. But what I’m talking about is the kind of crippling uncertainty that renders a person slightly unstable.

So why do it?

I’ve heard responses that are close to the mark. “I’m ruined to do anything else.” “I love to write so much I can’t not write.”

But I stumbled today on my reason. An epiphany of sorts. I’ve danced around the idea for a couple years but it hit me square between the eyes today.

David and I finished watching a movie this morning. End of Watch. I still have tears streaming down my face. A movie about two LAPD officers who are ambushed. One of the partners is killed. We watched the graphic portrayal of his end of watch. The scenes are heart wrenching and the cop sitting next to me kept saying, “That’s so real.”

You can take the man out of the uniform but you can’t take the uniform out of the man. We sat and watched pieces of our reality play out on screen. It was more than a movie. It was a realistic portrayal of the life of a cop.

So why do I write?

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 2.32.58 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first novel, “Distressed” which releases soon, is a story about what a cop life can do to a marriage. To a family.

More than anything, I want the world to see. To see and smell and feel what it might be like to walk in another person’s reality. We have all been taught to walk a mile in another person’s shoes but how often do we actually take the time to do that?

What if you could read a book that put you in another person’s shoes? What if you could read a story and really see and feel the life of someone else? The characters and plot may not be reality but the emotion is. And it’s universal.

So why do I write?

I write to move people from their comfortable into the hurting world. Anyone can sympathize, or imagine what someone else might be feeling. But the well of humanity is much deeper than that.

Sympathy wipes a tear, but empathy embraces.

I write because I want to feel what others are feeling. And I write because I hope others want the same thing.

 


Apr 1 2013

Things Change…

badge

Hey! Remember me?

I know it’s been awhile.

Believe it or not, I ran out of things to say. At least things I thought would actually be coherent. So, I dropped off the blogging grid. Took a hiatus. But I’m back. And before I go any further, it needs saying that I’m not guaranteeing coherent or profound. Just for the record.

The last year of blogging has been relevant to the law enforcement life. As the wife of a CHP Lieutenant, and writing a novel based on law enforcement PTSD, the topics that sprang to life for me revolved around those issues.

But things change.

My husband officially retired after almost thirty years. We moved from civilization to rural America. We remodeled a house and now we are leaving on an epic adventure. The law enforcement life seems like a distant memory. In some ways, I think that’s for the better.

I am proud of the service my husband gave and the support we were able to give him. His was a noble profession.

But things change.

I had a conversation with a friend today about the life of a professional sports player. They make a ton of money. But they cannot last for thirty years. The smart ones plan ahead. They sacrifice in the moment. Bring home the bucks. Then they buy a car dealership and give up the physical abuse on their bodies.

While a career in law enforcement is not technically lucrative, I think there’s a parallel. There’s a large probability of injury running the gamut of paper cuts to fatal shootings and everything in between. A cop puts their body in harms way to put food on the table for his family. And, the smart ones plan.

You will not be a cop forever. Just like you can’t pitch a ball at 90 miles an hour forever.

Things change.

We didn’t buy a car dealership. Just a small ranch in Nevada. And my husband planned. He invested in himself and his family through the course of his career. After thirty years, he still has a life to lead. His identity is his name, not his ID number. His value as a person isn’t reflected in his annual reviews or his ability to do his job. His value as a person is reflected in the faces of his friends and family.

So we are going to take a sabbatical. An adventure to see the unknown. We’ve never been to Europe so we are going. Being associated with a badge number for thirty years is enough to change a person and the people around them. But it doesn’t have to define them.

It’s just a number.

Because after all, things change. Even numbers.


Jan 17 2013

Two Sides

The two faces of theater.

At some point or other, we all experience change. But change wears many masks. Like the two faces of the theatre.

Comedy and tragedy.

There’s the category we call good. Falling in love. Winning the lottery. And then there’s the bad. Sickness. Losing money in the stock market. We grow up believing that the two are juxtaposed to each other. One can cause spontaneous fits of laughter and good cheer. But seldom does the side we call “bad” cause bursts of the giggles.

Comedy and tragedy.

Two sides to the coin we call life. There are good days and there are bad days. And I for one, have learned not to cheat tragedy out of it’s just rewards. When I’m down, I feel it only right to be very much down.

I can remember the stereotype super hero who laughs in the face of danger. So what does it look like to laugh in the face of tragedy? It sounds a bit sacrilegious.

But I have experienced such irreverence. Only a few days ago, my mother-in-law had a stroke. And in the midst of a high-stress, potentially tragic moment, laughter could be heard emanating through the thin veil of her ICU cubicle. And on more than one occasion.

Comedy meets tragedy.

At first I thought it just a coping mechanism. And perhaps that’s part of it. But as I watched and listened, I realized it was deeper than that. A room full of people, who love each other, did what came naturally. The conversation did not change because of the surroundings.

And as the days unfolded, the jokes kept coming. The doctor came in to check and asked my mother-in-law to open her eyes. She had been very groggy and dizzy and didn’t want to. The first time she ignored the request. The second time he asked she responded, “I’m paying a lot of money for this.” And the room broke out in chuckles.

Laugher didn’t change the circumstance. She still had a stroke. But in the last few days I have learned a valuable lesson. The greatest tragedy is the loss of levity. Having a stroke isn’t funny. But the ability to find some small piece of humor in the midst of calamity makes the darkness feel not so oppressive. It’s like taking the reins of a run-away horse.

We cannot control our circumstances but we can control how we respond.

And maybe it comes down to Mary Poppins.

A little bit of sugar  helps the medicine go down. 

 

 

 


Jan 7 2013

Confessions of a Pioneer

pioneer wagons

Recently a friend referred to me as a pioneer. I had to pause and ponder such an accusation.

Pioneer? Me? Really?

I forced myself to look beyond the stereotypical view of a pioneer. Remove the bonnet. Put in indoor plumbing. Replace a covered wagon with a Suburban. And sure enough, perhaps she’s right.

Maybe I am a pioneer.

We moved to a foreign and somewhat harsh environment. And we are learning new ways.

For example, I cooked a pork shoulder in the crock pot and couldn’t bring myself to throw away the stock left behind. Saving two cups of left over pork stock is new to me. But perhaps even more shocking than saving it, is having a pretty good idea  how to actually use it for consumption later this week. Trips to town are usually once a week and they are an event. Pa drives, we sing songs, and we buy what we need for the week.

But the biggest adjustment is the swing from achieving to surviving.

I have been struggling. Each morning I wake up and think of all that still needs to be accomplished before we can feel settled and immediately my body reacts. My heart starts beating faster. It becomes difficult to take a deep breath. I want to crawl back into bed and hide.

Instead, I swing my feet into my slippers. Did I mention how cold it is? And I recite my new mantra.

“One day at a time.” 

Wait a second. Um, isn’t that one of the slogans for AA? If such a saying is one of the pillars of recovery, and I repeat this saying to myself ad noseum throughout the day, does this mean I am in recovery?

This pioneer woman had to stop and think. 

If I am in recovery, what am I recovering from?

It was as if a little voice inside shouted back at me, “Well, Miss Rebecca. I’m so glad you finally asked.”

I sat down and braced myself for what was to come.

“Yes, you are in recovery.” Sassed the imperious voice. “You are recovering from an addiction.”

An addiction? An addiction to what?

“Accomplishment.”

My brain rattled a bit. The verdict hit me square between the eyes.

So here is my confession.

“Hi. My name is Rebecca. I’m a pioneer. And I’m addicted to accomplishment.”

And not just normal accomplishment. I’m talking the extreme over-achieving sort. Writing a novel in five months. Trying to remodel an entire house in four weeks. Is there such a thing as type A, extra bold and italicized?

I’ve known this about myself for quite awhile. I’ve never seen it as an addiction. But when one is faced with the task of survival, achievement takes a back seat. Or maybe even gets drug behind. The once mundane tasks of life have grown monstrously. If I ruin dinner, the closest In-n-Out is 45 minutes away. Painting trim turns nightmarish when it takes three coats to cover the pea green paint. I want to see more accomplishment. But there’s not time for that in the midst of survival.

I’ve thought about hiding under a rock, or more apt a tumbleweed, until we pass from pioneers to settlers. But there’s no telling how long that will take. And it won’t happen until all the green trim is painted.

I’ve heard that recognizing you have a problem is the first step toward recovery.

So, here’s to first steps!

What’s your name and what are you addicted too?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Nov 8 2012

The Invisible Blue Line

There isn’t a gold star pinned to my chest or a gun at my hip. I don’t carry handcuffs with me (although I have thought about it. Having three kids and all.) No one has ever died in my arms. I have never had to pick up a detached limb off the freeway.

But, I am part of the thin blue line.

The invisible part.

I am proud of my husband and the career he chose. He demonstrates honor and courage and compassion. But it’s not just him. Being married to a first responder means that I am called to demonstrate the same.

I am part of the thin blue line.

The invisible part.

I listen to stories. Comedic and tragic. I wipe tears and return smiles. I am a confidant, a cheerleader and a counselor. A partner.

I am part of the thin blue line.

The invisible part.

I don’t wear the uniform and I don’t see what he sees. But I am not numb to what he feels. The burden of the fatal he dealt with is shared. I’m not pretending to have experienced it. Not in entirety. But I do feel it.

I am part of the thin blue line.

The invisible part.

In a few weeks, my husband steps away from the thin blue line. But one cannot escape thirty years of experience. It is impossible to step away from the memories and the events. Those are the things that define him. He will still be courageous and full of honor and compassion. It has never just been about the job. Regardless of the uniform he wears or the title he carries, those are all parts of who he is. Parts that make up the whole.

And what will I do? I will continue to listen. To wipe tears and share smiles. I look forward to still being a confidant, a cheerleader, and a counselor.

I will always be a partner.

He will no longer be a police officer. The uniform will be retired. But the thin blue line cannot be erased fromour history or from our hearts. It will forever be a part of who we are. Only it will now be…

the invisible part.

 


Oct 25 2012

The “R” Word

There are many words over the course of a lifetime that are monumental.

Marriage.

Children.

Moving.

I’ve done all of those. Some more than once. And true to form, each time was monumental. My life changed forever.

I remember.

Right after I graduated from high school, I chose to live in Central America for nine months. (Long story.)

“You will never be the same.” Several adults said to me before I left. They would look beyond me. A far off expression in their eyes. Like they could see into my future. Or maybe they were looking into their past. Either way, it creeped me out a little and I grew tired of hearing it.

I remember.

I resigned myself to a smile and nod in response. What does one say to that? It sounded more like a sentencing of sorts than “Bon voyage and God-speed.” I dismissed it. (Eighteen year olds are extremely gifted in that regard.)

And I left. Nine months later, I came home. A different person. A gestational period of change. I grew up, slightly. I burnt rice, horribly. I gained weight, understandably. And I changed, unavoidably.

I could not be the same. Or at least, I could no longer view the world the way I had before. I lived with children who suffered from Malaria and gun-shot wounds. Men and women in their thirties who looked twice their age. The ravages of survival etched in the many lines on their faces.

I remember.

That was a long time ago. I’ve married, had children, moved. More people are added to my world. A spouse, a child, a neighbor.

And each time, I’m changed.

I remember.

And now? Now, we are on the verge of another monumental word.

Retirement.

My husband is ending a career in law enforcement. We are moving. Saying good-bye. Bon voyage. And I have to remember the past to gain the strength to look toward the future.

Today especially has been stressful. So many unknowns. Will everything work out with the house? Will it close escrow in time? Can I survive living forty minutes from Starbucks? What will our lives look like?

Unanswerable questions that swirl around in my mind like a storm, attempting to destroy whatever it touches.

So, I remember. Monumental has come and gone. I’m still standing. And not alone. A spouse, children, friends, neighbors, colleagues. Familiar faces cross my mind and touch my heart.

I’ll never be the same.

And I remember. 


Sep 27 2012

Insight from Pirates

“Life is pain highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.”

Can you name the movie? It’s a brilliant movie but not exactly the most uplifting quote.

Life is pain? Really? We don’t want this to be so but can we disagree? Even the most staunch optimist must admit that life is full of pain. So, if life is pain, what now?

There seem to be two sides to this coin. On the one hand, we avoid. Run. Pretend it doesn’t exist or that it’s not that bad. And on the other, we wallow. Crawl back into bed, curl up in the fetal position, and pray to be left alone until it’s over.

Life is pain.

And pain hurts. It’s uncomfortable. Can you blame me for running or wallowing? But running and avoiding pain means I’m convinced it has no value. And, if I cringe and hold my breath until it’s over, in essence, I declare the same. Pain has no value. We only embrace things that we declare beneficial or profitable.

But if I act as though pain has no value and I know that life is full of pain then I have sealed my fate. My life will have pain, the pain has no value, therefore, life has no value. The only days to be celebrated are those lived on the pinnacle of health or happiness. All other days should be endured until we crest the mountain once again.

But let’s live radically. What if we could believe something else. What if every day counted? What if we could believe that…

Pain has value.

Don’t worry. I didn’t make this up.

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  ― C.S. Lewis

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”  ― Dalai Lama XIV

“Let me explain. Wait, there is no time. Let me sum up.” Life is pain. Pain is God shouting at me. But His message is hope. And if I’ve learned anything in the last few years it’s this–

The beauty of hope is seen best against the darkened back drop of pain.

We are planning to move away. My heart grieves at the inevitable good-bye that is coming. I want to hide. I want to withdrawal. I want it not to be so.

Life is pain.

May the pain of goodbye deepen my resolve to live in relationship. May the hurt of separation open my heart like the seed that waits for spring. May the breaking of our hearts, create a capacity in us to love even deeper. May we have ears to hear God’s message of hope. He is shouting after all.

But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. – Job 36:15

 


Aug 30 2012

Death and taxes…

“…But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

-Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789

I would have to add to that short list.

Change.

I think change is certain. Empires rise and fall. Flowers bloom and fade. The years tick away, absorbing our youth and elasticity. Says the woman who just had a birthday.

Change seems to be as certain as death and taxes. We all live on the cusp of change. And it doesn’t really matter what the change is. Change just is. It happens often and in varying degrees. The addition of a child, the loss of a loved one. A new address, job, direction. I’ve spent some time recently, struggling to embrace the excitement and heartache of change. And I’ve discovered that change hits me in one or all of the following areas.

Change disrupts comfort.

Last December we moved to a new house in a new city. Not far from our old house but definitely far enough away to leave me looking for a new grocery store. And finding a new grocery store is obnoxious. It sounds petty but you know I’m right. Walking into a giant warehouse size space with no idea which direction to go to find mayonnaise. It can be intense. Not to mention moving away from people you love. It’s uncomfortable. Then I’m reminded by that annoying often faint voice of reason that maybe the pursuit of comfort is not the highest or noblest ambition. I doubt Mother Teresa was concerned with her comfort. I hate that voice sometimes.

Change disrupts control.

I’ll admit it. I’m a control addict. There’s a certain high that comes from watching a great plan come together. But trying to control life is like holding water in your hands. Even if you are strong enough to sustain it safely in your cupped hands, it will eventually evaporate. Loosing my grasp of the circumstances around me means I’m back to controlling what I was meant to control. My tongue and my attitude.

Change disrupts confidence.

There are no guarantees. The inevitable “What if?” What if it doesn’t turn out? What if I fail? But those aren’t really valid questions. Those are surface questions. I’m not concerned that things won’t work out. They always do. My concern is that things won’t work how I want them to. (See paragraph above.)

Change.

The leaves on the trees change every year. It’s just around the corner. They burn with glorious color to celebrate the sublime summer. This year, I intend to take a cue from them. As this season in my life ushers in change, may I be engulfed in vibrant hues of celebration for what has been and what is waiting for me around the corner.

What change is happening in your life right now?