Connecting. Unequivocally

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Reading on steps

Photo by Garry Knight. Creative Commons license 2.0

I have a few happy memories of my childhood that involve my mom.

I never gave it much thought. I didn’t know I was supposed to have more. I knew only one way of how mothers and daughters worked. I didn’t know our way was not the norm.

Until one spring day a few years ago I had a meltdown.  Something pretty insignificant happened and I lost it. Started crying and couldn’t stop. I got in the car and I drove and drove through a heavy rain, sobbing loud and ugly, until I couldn’t breathe or see. I don’t cry, so this scared me, but it siphoned off…something. Temporarily.

Then it happened again a month later. I didn’t know I’d still been dragging my entrails through the dirt until my body said, “Enough!” I sought help…and got it.

So why am I scrawling this personal revelation on my blog? It’s because of a novel. By some accident (or not) of fate, I recently happened upon a 2007 book, Dirty by Megan Hart.** I recognized the main character Elle’s plight right away, and her mother, too. Reading Elle’s story made me tense with discomfort, made my own psychology bubble to the surface. Made me sick and worried. Not for me, but for Elle. I kept turning the pages to see if she’d be okay, and when Elle’s brother said she should see someone because “…Talking about it helps. Puts things in perspective. Proves I’m not crazy…” the truth of it stole my breath. I wanted to reach through the little electronic pad I read on and shake Elle, say “Listen to your brother! He knows!”

I was on edge about every decision Elle made, the sorts of so-called choices we daughters of difficult mothers make to establish a modicum of control over our own lives. I was completely, unequivocally engaged with her.

Some people say “write for yourself.” Not me. I  write in quest of a bond, a connection. Yes, for entertainment, too, but even then, the be-all, end-all is the emotional tie, creating deeper feelings, four dimensional reading experiences. Total immersion.

Books have so much power. As a reader, I want to be submerged. As a writer, I want to be your only source of oxygen.

I’ve read thousands of books, and still I’m surprised—and giddy—when it happens to me so thoroughly.

 

**Dirty is an erotic romance, not necessarily for every reader.

Waiting For Stories

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bikeI have this stark visual image of a character.

I’ve been seeing her for 5 years now. She rides a bicycle, a blue one, with wide chrome fenders, rusty on the edges, and upright handlebars. There’s a wicker basket strapped to the front and it hangs kind of crooked. Her name is Claudia and she’s wearing a fluttery white skirt with orange poppies on it. I always wonder how it doesn’t get caught in the chain or spokes. Everyone waves at her as she glides into the market square, and she waves back and jokes with the vendors by name.

The problem is, I have no idea what to do with her. I’ve been waiting all this time for her to tell me her story. I do know some things about her. That she’s ill, that she’s going to heal someone. I know her teeth are a little crooked and that all the old men of the neighborhood cafe admire her vitality, wish they were young enough to ask her to the cinema.

I’ve tried to introduce some people more intimately into her existence, but nothing’s worked out. I can’t make her stop being a loner. So I sit here waiting for the right person to show up, the one who will get her talking.

Frustrating, because as often as I’ve tried to leave her behind, she won’t go away. Almost every day, she sails through my mind and into the market square, waving, calling “Ciao, Umberto!” to the baker.

If she didn’t want me to tell her story, why did she come along?

May the Sun Shine Eternally Upon You, Maya Angelou

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Maya_Angelou_Disc2000I think it was an ABA meeting I attended with my husband. There is always a sort of convocation opening event. We were in a large auditorium and the guest speaker was Maya Angelou. It was one of the periods where she was quite out front and public, and so I’d been exposed to her quite a bit. I really looked forward to hearing her.

But the reality…well, I couldn’t have anticipated it, and I’ll never forget it. I’d never sat in such a large room and felt that the speaker was addressing me directly. Such was the power of her delivery, and of her words. I’m certain I wasn’t the only one to feel that way. She drew us into her circle from the first sentence, as if to say, “Here, let me tell you something,” and like curious children, we all bent forward.

She spoke of morality, of right and wrong, and the gargantuan effect one human can have upon another with only the smallest gesture. She shared her own hard-won wisdom with grace and humor—oh, her humor, her laugh—and the most astonishingly compelling voice. When she finished I was distraught. I didn’t want it to end.

I will always count the experience as one of the seminal moments of my life. One of those moments when your eyes are opened to things, people, places you would otherwise never, ever have seen. I’m forever grateful to have brushed against Ms. Angelou, even metaphorically, from my auditorium seat far away.

 

Photo attribution: By Rick Lewis, NPS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons