Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wisdom is Often Hard-Earned

My friend, fiction writing goddess, and woman I’d most likely dig chicks for, recently put up a “What I’ve Learned” post to commemorate the ending of this year and the turning of the page. Personally, I can’t wait to turn the page and God help me if 2011 is even half as bad as 2010 was… well, God help me anyway, I could use it.

Wait! Don’t leave! I promise I won’t whine… instead I thought I would take my cue from The Divine Ms. O and reflect on the lessons learned, and some of them re-learned, over the last year:

1. They say, “Quitting is easy.” Don’t believe them. Quitting is the hardest thing anyone ever does. It’s the release of hope wrapped in the tattered remnants of failure. No one ever quits anything important without grieving it deeply.

Quitting means you have to give up something of who you are and reinvent yourself… I’ve wondered off and on whether I should logically quit writing – it’s not exactly the most stable of professions. Without getting into the whole poetic gobbledygook of why I haven’t, one of the most profound reasons is that I don’t know who I am without it. And hell, I’d much rather be a failed writer than a successful crazy person with lots of voices in her noggin.

2. You don’t actually need most of your stuff. It’s amazing how much crap you have that you won’t use or look at in months.

3. Merry, Merry, quite contrary – I can say, “They’re only things, they don’t really matter,” as much as I want. There are some things in this world that it will break your heart into pieces to lose.

4. Some people can only see in black and white. To them, people are either good or bad and there is no shade of gray. What they don’t realize is that their inability to accept the shades of gray in others is likely the same foible their loved ones overlook in them. Avoid them when you can.

5. When you have absolutely no idea what to do about a situation, up your gumption. Ask an expert, learn a skill, hell, make it up as you go… any of those solutions will get you farther than sitting on your hands and sobbing.

6. People can be petty and mean and spiteful. But at the end of the day, the only opinion of you that counts is your own. If you let someone else change how you feel about yourself, you’re the only one you have to blame.

7. I understand that forgiveness is healthier for the person holding the grudge… but there is still a small group of people who I wouldn’t cross the street to spit on. (Sorry, E, at least I’ve stopped short of kicking them in the shins.)

8. There is no measure of heartache that can’t be endured in the presence of friendship and laughter.

9. You can’t go home again is a poetic lie. Where you come from is as much a part of your life as blood or breath. Embrace it.

10. I yelled at Him way more than I should have this year. But God knows I’m blessed, and as whiny as I’ve felt lately, I do too…

(and an 11th bonus one – I have a serious ellipsis problem…)

So, what have you learned this year that you’d like to pass on? Any life lessons? Writing skills? Bit of wit?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Don't Quit... author unknown

We interrupt this blog for an interlude of poetry. I don't normally post other people's work (except for the occasional guest posting author, of course). But this poem has been running through my head a lot lately. And, being that it's a writer's blog, I figured it might've run through yours a time or two as well...

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

- Author unknown

Got a favorite poem, song lyric, quote? What literature is speaking to you today?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Oh, So That’s How The Whole Christmas Miracle Thing Really Works…

Littlest Guy is eight and he’s decided that there is no Santa Claus… Eight!!!! Okay, I already knew by that age, but still… I thought I had a little more time on it. I, however, was not nearly as upset about this recent turn of events as my Gracie Girl… She’s a smart one, she is… She’s thirteen now and has known the “truth” since she was about Littlest Guy’s age, but she also knows that as soon as they all know the truth, Adios Santa Gifts. And honestly, who doesn’t love waking up to presents?

As heartbreaking as these changes can be – the end of innocent childhood magic, the beginning of cynical adulthood logic… realizations of this kind just turn into comedy at my house. This was our dinnertime discussion last night:

Littlest Guy: I know there’s no Santa.

Me: Oh, do you now? And why do you say that?

Littlest Guy: Because I know. (He eyes me with his ever-famous mischievous grin). You and Dad leave the presents Christmas morning.

Gracie Girl: Of course, there’s a Santa. Why would you think there’s no Santa?

Littlest Guy: Well.. How does he get to all the houses in the whole world in just one night?

Gracie Girl: He splits it up, silly. When it’s daytime here, it’s nighttime on the other side of the world… he delivers the gifts where it’s night first, and then goes to the other side of the planet.

Littlest Guy: (grrrrr) That’s against the laws of physics.

Gracie Girl: No it’s not. You haven’t started studying physics yet. Wait a few years. You’ll understand it better.

(Meanwhile, oldest son is watching the other two with amused curiosity. Having finished his dinner, he pushes back his plate and gets up.)

Oldest Son: I’m not messing with the fat man. Can I be excused?

(Oldest Son bolts as soon as I give him the okay… mind you, he already knows, I’ve heard his whispered conversations with his sister… he’s just not dumb enough to make sure there’s no Santa Gifts on Christmas morning)

Littlest Guy: Okay. Even if he could get to every house, how does he get in? Not every house has a chimney. What about apartments, or like our house – no fireplace, the chimney goes to the furnace?

Gracie Girl: Oh, yeah. The fireplace thing is just a story. Really, Santa has a magical key that works on every lock in the whole world. He’s had it since way back in his criminal days.

Littlest Guy’s eyes widen and his mouth pops open.

Gracie Girl: Didn’t you know? Oh yeah. Santa used to be a master criminal. He pulled the most amazing heists ever! That’s why he became Santa and started giving presents to everyone once a year – it’s kind of like a penance to make up for his past misdeeds. He’s paying back karma.

Littlest Guy: Okaaaaay, well what about the reindeer? How can reindeer fly?

Gracie Girl: Steroids.

Littlest Guy: Steroids? They can’t do that.

Gracie Girl: Sure they can. But only to special reindeer. If you tried them, they’d only make you sick. Say no to drugs, man.

Littlest Guy: Well, what about the elves? Where did he get them?

Gracie Girl: Don’t you know what elves are? They’re midgets (I have to admit, I completely lost it at this point and had to walk away from the table… I listened to the rest of the conversation from the kitchen sink). Santa takes midgets, er, umn, little people, and convinces them to work in his sweatshop.

Me: Workshop.

Gracie Girl: Yeah, that.

Littlest Guy: Like slave labor? He just kidnaps them and makes them be elves?

Gracie Girl: No. It’s strictly voluntary. But he lures them with the drugs.

Littlest Guy and Me: WHAT?!!!!

Gracie Girl: Yeah, Santa makes lots of trips to the black market to stock up on steroids for the deer and crack for to keep the elves productive. Happy Reindeer, high elves, everybody wins.

Me: Okay, stop.

Littlest Guy: Yeah, Grace. Besides, even if there were midgets working there all the time, how would they know what toys to make? They wouldn’t know how to make the ones just like in the stores.

Gracie Girl: Oh, that! Yeah, you know those fake Santa Clauses like at the mall? Yeah, well they work for the real Santa. And they’re real smart. They might look like goofy, acne prone adolescents, but really they’re secret agents for the fat man… and they come and bring detailed diagrams of all the new toys to the elves.

Okay, I’m easily amused. Maybe I should just throw my hands up and tell him there’s no Santa… better than taking the chance my 8 year old will be repeating the crack-addicted elf version of the story at school.