Better

Dear Diary,
I realize that my original goal, the one from my earliest writerly aspirations is still becoming a better writer. I wanted that then, for my own enjoyment and sense of accomplishment. I still want that now for myself, and my readers, the lovely people who read my little tales and enjoy them. I want better for us both.
Acknowledging it as my work, validates the writing. All the effort and study to improve, that has been thorny, near impossible bramble of mess to work through. The only person that needed to learn to value the struggle was, me.

Writing has a place in my day, requiring time, dedication and practice. It isn’t fair if I am the only one having fun, everyone should find their joy and delve into it according to what works for them. (That last bit is the key, we all have different priorities and levels of contentment and happiness based on choices we make. I am finding mine, you should find yours.)
Currently reading Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer. Reading with pen and highlighter in hand, making notes along the way. My list of books I want to read is growing exponentially.
One of the best ways to learn to write better? Read better writers than yourself. Thankfully, there are quite a few out there, so while this is going to be a long path to traverse, it is going to be fun.

J.

I Got This

Dear Diary,

Whoo. By the skin of my nose, I passed last semester. Now after swearing off college, I go again.

The big debate at present is how much do I take. How many hours, the types of courses. Goodly gracious, this ain’t easy. In so many ways I feel behind, where I wanted to be in favor of being better.

I felt competitiveness in my nature, a small cog in the wheel of achievement, who knew that about me? I rather liked my ignorance of self. It gave me an edge, at least that is how I prefer to see it.

Now, with awareness, it, being a writer, isn’t some large blob of tangled stuff. No, dagnabit, now it is doable. The mess isn’t so monstrous; it is easier to break down into pieces that are manageable. Don’t you hate that? When you have this nice large wall of obstacles that are between you and a dream come true? It is like getting a carte blanche pass on P.E. class. Then you discover, well, crap, you have athletic ability after all. It wasn’t ever quite as difficult as you imagined. It was just impossible for the moment, now all things are possible again

A bit overwhelming, until some kind soul steps up and shows you how to unknot the mess, and make small progress. Then suddenly it unlocks a whopping huge chunk of opportunity previously hidden. Huh.

I am just going to sit a bit and enjoy this view. I am going to say thank you to my cheerleaders, and supporters. With you, I got this.

J.

On Trust

Dear Diary,

The last few years, . . . Ok I will be honest— the last eight years, I have been in an internal spiral of sorts. I did not honor my own boundaries, I didn’t trust myself, much else anyone else. Self love? Self Respect? Oh, they were in a tattered condition, but they definitely existed. Otherwise I would not feel so good today.

A day or so ago, I watched the Brene Brown’s The Anatomy of Trust video that can be found on SuperSoul TV (http://www.supersoul.tv/supersoul-sessions/the-anatomy-of-trust). The video required some pauses, and moments of deep thought. Moving on in my day, several things Mrs. Brown said stuck with me. These were all things I had already discovered and figured out on my own, but had not put into words.

She used a quote from Mya Angelo, the one about not trusting people based on what they do or don’t say and how they treat themselves. That hit home. My ability to trust was mangled, abused and worn through in spots. All that lead to a lot of questions that I sought answers to, for instance —

? What had I done to deserve this
? How blind am I to my own character faults
? What are my character faults
? How do I fix me
? How can I prevent me from feeling, being here in this mire again

I realized during all that self analysis and examination, that we are who we are is based upon the environment and projections we have been exposed to since infancy in conjunction with our born unique personalities and perspectives. Then reaching adulthood or some semblance of maturity, we have the ability to choose acceptance of ourselves as we are or choose better.

In my middling twenties, I think I did just that, choose better. I became bold and independent. I began to like me a bit.

At times, I was pleased with myself. Though in retrospect those times I wasn’t always compelled to please others when it infringed beyond kindness. It took some gumption to brave my new world. Thankfully, that wonderful soul that accompanied me on my journey is still here, and again has picked me up off the back porch of my soul and taken me off into the future —where I want to be but was too insecure to do so.

Not only is this a year of possibility. (All years are full of possibility, if we choose to see it.) It is the year of trusting myself. That trust stretches into my writing. No more second guessing myself, my ability to tell a story, or write. I am going to work on trusting my storytelling ability and just write.

Ah, that feels so very nice.

What could you learn to trust yourself about?

J.

Sinister Edit #2

After Alma and her sons leave the room, TJ and Sam begin their preparations to transport Harlan’s dead body. Coming from the hall and walls of the patient with the disturbed family occasionally are heard sounds of loud voices.

“Pay those people never-mind,” TJ advise Sam after one particular outburst, “That family has had a heap of trouble over the years. Miss Margie started holding that family together when she was very little, after her mother’s death. More responsiblity than any child should have so young. Now, losing her father – I am guessing that is why she is here, that, that might be just too much, even if she is a grown ass woman.”

Without leaving Sam time to question who Miss Margie is or asking further questions, TJ directed her through the tasks as if she was a newbie. Since she no longer needed the direction, and quite sure that TJ knew as well, Sam took that cue to concentrate on the task at hand.

 

Leaving the room was as seamless and quiet as their arrival all the way to the moment TJ shut the door of the hearse locking the covered remains in back, minus Miss Margie’s input.

TJ turned to Sam and in a fatherly fashion informed her, “I forgot to get more coffee at the store, didn’t think to order any with our breakfast. Let me grab my thermos and see if there is any in the cafeteria for us. You go on, I will wait for you to get in your vehicle. Lock them doors, missy.”

“TJ, go on, I got from the car to the building without you, I can walk back by myself,” Sam reminded him as she turned and walked toward her car.

“Alright, but you be careful. This is a small town, but everywhere there are bad people,” TJ admonished the young woman loud enough for her to hear while retrieving his thermos from under the driver’s seat. TJ turned back several times between the hearse and the door hidden under the metal awning. He paused listening to Sam’s heels click the pavement, shaking his head. These people are dead, don’t care whether the girl has shoes or not, always wearing them heels.

 

T.J. walked back into the building. Almost to the cafeteria, he heard voices coming from a hall ahead of him.  He stopped in mid-step. The woman’s voice was familiar. Shit.
T.J. turned down a hall leading away from the cafeteria, walking a few steps to avoid being seen. A silent prayer and heavenward look before looking over to the large mirror hung at the ceiling corner. In it he saw the reflection of the woman, Miss Margie, and two large men. A short scrawny man walking beside her, as she carried on. Both men all trying to hush and calm her.

“Margaret, you can not make a scene.” The chubby man behind her sounded annoyed.

“I am not making a scene, everyone else is. Fouling things up. That’s making a scene.”

“Marg, if you would just be quiet, stay calm, we had planned contingencies.  Just let the experts do their jobs,” the man beside her rubbed her back trying to appear consoling, but the tone of his voice belied an agitation.

“And what if they don’t! ”

They turned a corner down the hall TJ had been planning on taking himself.  Like, hell,  we can get coffee from the diner. TJ retraced his steps.  He didn’t know what those people were up to, but he wanted no part of it. He couldn’t shake an uneasy feeling.

“Something is wrong with those people,” he under his breath to himself.

At the exit to the building T.J. paused, said another heavenly directed prayer for his mental state, took a deep breath and left the building.  The prayer an attempt to leave the dust from something wrong behind him.

 

Half way across the lot to her vehicle, Sam hears a noise.  Stopping, she slowly turns around in a circle looking near and far for the source.  Focusing for a second on the hearse, nothing looks amiss. She waits to hear another noise, instead a light breeze of wind touches her bare face. Thinking it was the wind rustling a branch, she walks toward her vehicle.

Unable to shake the feeling something else was there, Sam walks around the car looking at it and then once more trying to see beyond into the dark. She clicked the door lock in her hand so the interior light would come on and examined through the driver’s window the interior of the car. Opening the door and sitting down in one swift motion, she locked the door from the key fob still in her hand. Shivering as she looked around her,  she checked the mirrors. Sam looked straight at the entrance she had just left. The shiny black vehicle parked in front of it. TJ had locked it, she was sure. Starting her vehicle and pulling up to block the hearse. Nothing had felt right since she walked toward her car.

Waiting until TJ came out, Sam rolled down her front passenger window as TJ came around to open his door.

”Hey, girl, didn’t get no coffee. Can you pick some up with the food?” TJ’s deep voice boomed louder than needed to be heard over her engine.

“Sure, no problem.  You be careful on the drive back ok?”

TJ nodded his head, “You be careful with my chocolate pie on the way to the home.”

“Will do, in a few,” Sam assured him.

Waving each other off, Sam waited until TJ was in the vehicle and motioning before she pulled from the lot on to the side street. The big black hearse followed her economy car out of the lot.  At the first corner she turned left, TJ right. Back at the hospital parking entrance they had come from a second hearse pulled in.

What’s the Plan?

Dear Diary,

Today begins the editing and rewriting of Sinister. Well, it is the plan. As I go, along this year – taking the story from that rough mess I posted previously to the next stage.

Yes, crazy as it may seem this is going to be free, in public (on the web); exposing my writing process from start to finish. The first draft came in spurts when I maintained the habit of requiring myself to write a minimum of 350 words per day (four days a week). I set a low goal, something easy to do.

Now this year, I am taking each posted segment editing and rewriting them. I am aware that there are holes that need to be filled and sections that need to be cut. hat is what you will be seeing on here. The alterations to the rough into an edited version. New additions, loss of some, and any number of changes to the original draft.

Why? Because someday I hope to be a good writer. I have often thought it would be cool if a good writer had done that along their way; expose their process. I would love to have that opportunity to read something like that. So, since I haven’t found it, I am doing it. I am working towards being a good writer but doesn’t mean that is where I will end up. Even if I don’t end up a good writer maybe it can be a lesson in what not to do?

I can live with being a cautionary tale as well.

Jules

Maybe

Maybe it came from the holiday craze, the fuss of moving things around to make room for a Christmas tree that we didn’t find in the attic, or the search online the night before Thanksgiving so that we wouldn’t be compelled to shop on the holiday or the Black Friday chaos that many years past brought about hyperventilation in a big box store because I was caught in an aisle with more people and carts than there was room to move.

Maybe it was the big build up of watching all seven seasons months before, leaving too much time for study not just as a fan but as a writer looking to learn how they made it work successfully.

Maybe it was because I am still not sleeping like normal and my physical activity is still below normal because I am constantly reminded by my family when they reiterate my medical care team’s prognosis of continuing to heal and repair over the next year that it just takes time to get back to normal. Their opinion that I am indeed doing great, even if I don’t think I am. That frustration, maybe that got in the way.

Maybe my expectations, see the previous maybe, has extended to waiting for six months for this show to air that made me expect to jump right back to where the last episode left off.

What I didn’t need was to start the “new season” off with an hour long exposition on what the show was and how we got to here. They didn’t do that in the original first episode, why the hell did they do that this time?

We learned as the show progressed who people were and their significance. That was the neat thing about watching reruns, they didn’t really feel like reruns because when we saw them again, the nuances that the evolution of my knowledge and understanding of the characters evolved as they did and re-watching the episodes made subtle interchanges and idiosyncrasies click in ways they hadn’t before. IT was an eternal easter egg hunt where Taylor didn’t have the key and Kirk didn’t miss one single egg thereby leaving a stench that perpetuated the entire environment.

See what I did there?

I was critical. I “Emily Gilmore-d” the hell out of the first episode. I haven’t yet mentioned the two brief naps I took during the second seasonal episode. I feel ASLEEP! Sure, I could chalk it up to being older and that injury pain makes me tired and I need more sleep but, really? I just can’t.

I am pausing to watch all four. I am going to let this all settle in my mind, let the expectations escape and float away on the cold north wind and wait for the delivery of the tree, put up the ornaments and plan on at least one margarita to relax my agitated review of the first and second episode before I venture on to the third and the fourth.

Sinister Edit #1

Called in this late at night was not a problem, working last minute didn’t cramp Sam’s style. Her bosses might have wanted to think that one over before hiring her. Sam didn’t change clothes, just grabbed her keys and left. It was handy bringing work home with her when she was on call.

Sam pulled into a near empty parking lot under a blue moon, a black cat sat in the middle going through its cleansing ritual.  The cat didn’t acknowledge as she drove past to back into the darkest space far from the building. The cat continued grooming, the engine silenced without notice.

From the driver’s seat, reaching down for the button she popped the trunk from inside. The cat was still oblivious.  Opening the car door, her heels hit the pavement, “click, click” as she moved towards the open trunk. That the cat noticed.  Sam stopped and watched in mid movement, while the cat’s ears perked up, and its back began to rise in slow motion. Then it crouched low to the pavement ready to spring.  Sam walked around behind her car, hidden from the cat by the trunk lid.  A smile crept across her face, ‘The cat won’t move until it knows where I am going to walk.”

Sam removed the gear from the trunk as slowly as she could. From the cat’s vantage point a hand appeared on the edge of the lid, her fingers flickered and shone from the the artificial lights peeking through overgrown tree branches from glossy painted nails and rings as she drummed them on the metal lid making time. Bam! The lid slammed down. Looking over to the cat which hadn’t moved.

The cat and Sam stared at each other. Sam looked towards the employee entrance, and debated, ‘Should I go out of my way to walk into the cat’s path, or should I walk straight ahead to work?  A quick check of her watch, showed a couple of minutes to midnight. ‘Straight.

Walking past the empty spaces full of building supply pallets and nearest to the only open enhance sat a construction office trailer hogging four spaces near the building. At the last second she walking towards the cat in only two emergency visitors only parking spaces left open for ER patients she walked towards the cat.. The cat scooted backwards.  Then sat up. Brave. Sam walked straight to her destination, cutting across diagonally the two spaces and into the awning projected from the building for ambulance unloading. Sam stopped before ducking into the sheltered walk, turned her head to look directly back at the cat. The cat stood up on al fours, back arched ready to leap. Sam bent at the waist, leaned towards the minion, and hissed. The cat sprang, running towards the pallets, never looking back disappearing into the dark shadows. Laughter echoed in the night air off the building and mostly vacant lot. Sam checked her watch, midnight.

Sam was at the doors when a shiny black hearse pulled up. The driver easing slowly into one of ”No Parking- Loading“ zones by the entrance like it owned it. It does she thought, realizing that was the only vehicle she has ever seen parked there. Sam walked back towards the vehicle, as she approached click of the driver door latch could be heard. The door swung open revealing the driver. The man unfolded his tall frame and stood straight. It made her smile.

“Hello Sam!” came the rolling deep thunder disguised as a voice in greeting, and returned the smile. “Ready to work?”

“Ready as always.”

The man walked to the back and opened the door, then walked the door with his long strides to stand fully open. Sam stepped in slinging the bag straps over her shoulder and pulled the gurney out, rolling legs dropped to the ground. The man waited until she had the gurney rolled out of the way of the door, then walked the door forward and shut it securely. An action he has now completed for 17 years. He clicked the hearse key fob to lock the vehicle. Sam placed the bag on the gurney. The two glide the gurney in unison up the ramp and through the twist and turn maze of halls. They moved as if apart of the wheeled bed, smooth and near silent, to stop smoothly at the nurses station.

Sam hadn’t taken long to fit in, awkward though it had been at first. Now she worked or assisted in most all jobs at the home. The greatest compliment is for no one to notice them, or realize they are there doing their job. Quiet, smooth, it could be considered an elegant dance. As TJ had told her on the first shift she worked, this job was a privilege. They were taking care of a loved one, “Loss is heard enough on the soul, we don’t want to wear on the raw nerves of the loved ones left behind” he had said.

TJ shortened his stride and bent to accommodate his coworkers making the movements seem smooth and crisp. She couldn’t remember when she went from feeling awkward with the movements and when it had become polished habit. It had been taken time for Sam’s thoughts became unconscious about this job. She wondered why tonight she was so conscious of the actions. A question that would persist.

TJ stepped up to the counter at the nurse’s station, her back to them a nurse sat at a computer across from the counter.. She moved little scraps of paper around transferring the scribbles to the computer, talking to herself.

“Excuse me?” TJ spoke softly. Barely above a whisper but his deep voice rumbled across the air causing the nurse to visibly jump. From a doorway beside the shocked nurse came a male in scrubs.

“Hey, TJ. Your rider is in room 130. Hang on a minute and I’ll go down with you. I am not sure the patient is ready to go yet.”

Sam and TJ glanced at each other quick with no sign of reaction. It wasn’t unusual to wait for the nurses to complete the release details, especially when they were busy. It was odd, however, for this nurse. He was the supervisor here and known for his diligence and detail. He also didn’t work a night shift. Ever.

Leo returned with a chart and led them down a corridor they were both familiar with, offset from the nurse’s station and down a row of rooms that formerly had been apart of the emergency room in younger days of the hospital, they now served as hospice and long term care. Leo turned and put a hand up to halt them when they were out of ear shot of the station.

“There are only two families here this weekend. Both requested complete privacy. Pickup is in the last room on the right. The other patient is in the room before. Be as quiet as you can. It was difficult to get that family quieted down,” Leo’s hushed and stern tone was met with grim faces and short nods from both Sam and TJ. Nothing unusual about the request. Dying is hard business.

Their silent glide down the hall commenced, Sam’s breath was held as she passed the door of caution on her right walking backward down the hall. In the front of the door in the middle of the hall Sam stood when the door of dread popped open. A woman reached up and grabbed the doorframe blocking the doorway. “He’s not dead yet!” shrieked out from a pain filled tear streaked face.

Sam’s heart fell to her feet, confronted with the dread she knew so well. Leo stepped in-between blocked Sam’s view. Sam looked down at the empty gurney and felt rather than saw it push her backward, TJ moved her to leave the woman onto the their destination. Sam raised her head and nodded silently through tear-filled eyes as she stepped backward continuing down to the next door.

Inside the appointed room Alma sat quietly. Tears running down the old woman’s cheeks as they entered the room.  On either side of her chair, Alma’s two son’s knelt, each one holding a hand , rubbing her back with the other.  Trying their best, in their minds, to comfort their mother, neither ready to face the reality of the loss of their father.

Looking up to see the two enter solemnly, Alma smiled.  She took a sharp breath. Surely the boys would let go of her hands and stop rubbing her back. She just wanted to be alone.

“Well, Harlan will be in good hands I see.  I suppose you would like for us to leave?” Alma felt her voice was a little too bright, and looked down at her boys, men now, to check their reaction. They were looking up to Sam and TJ. The eldest rose to stand and shake hands with TJ.

“Well, now, Miss Alma, we are going to do this however you want,” TJ said to her over her son’s shoulder. TJ shut the door and nodded to Sam.  They weren’t in any hurry to rush this.  Harlan had been mayor for many years before he retired to just preaching.   His last term, when he announced he was not seeking re-election was a disappointment.  Harlan had explained the decision, “Saving souls is more important than running a town.” Though people still went to him for advice, politically and spiritually, as always even before he had held office or pastured a church, now that would no longer.

Alma and Harlan had decided when his first diagnosis of cancer was given to keep that to themselves.  His first term had just begun. The reaction created by his diagnosis would have stirred up an already tumultuous time for city government.  Harlan feared then that his time would be short in politics.  In his eyes, while the decision was a personal one, it was morally a lie of omission — one he made more than once. His biggest war had been with cancer, winning more than one battle before cancer beat him.

The treatments had been hard on both of them, Alma looked at the lifeless body of the man she had been a partner with for sixty years. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t considered losing him; first the cancer, then the treatments that weakened him taunted her more than once. Leaving office had initially lifted his spirits and health. Six months ago the cancer came back. They had done this before, and truth be told, it was both easier and harder than the first, second or third time. The first time no one other than the doctors and themselves knew locally, same the second time. This time, being a charm, they had help which was good for Harlan, and bad for Alma.

The bad was the looks and the voices. They hadn’t had to listen to stories about how this or that had happened to this person or that. Those stories got on Alma’s nerves.  She knew it wasn’t how people expected her to be.  Alma, a sweet woman all her life, found that this time, she got mean, ugly even. How dare this cancer come threaten her again.  Torment her heart, make her watch as it destroyed the man she loved so much. It was not fair. It had won.  

“TJ, I think I want to go home. I know you and Sam will take good care of my Harlan. I want to go home, I would rather he was going home with me, but he’s not is he?”

TJ walked over, dropping down to kneel in front of Alma. Neither of her grown boys moved.  TJ took her hands into his, “Miss Alma, can we pray?”

Alma could only nod her head. One more prayer wasn’t going to hurt. She didn’t believe it would help anymore. She had prayed herself out, but the last person she had said that to was Harlan. He had been shocked and tried to convince her otherwise. She realized it didn’t matter what she thought, others really felt they needed it. So she had stop saying her own truth and just listened while others prayed.

“Lord, you have placed a mighty burden on a good woman. Not just today, but for the last four years. I do not believe that she done anything warranting such a punishment. You may not have your hand in this, as some say. I don’t know about that. I do know she is hurting. There are gonna be a lot of people hurting over this. These two men here have lost their Daddy. The man they went to for advice. This family now has a hole, a big hole. Lord, fill it. Fill that hole. Console them as only you can. Please somehow, ease them through this change. You know their need better than me, probably better than them. Help them with that. I trust in you God, Amen”

Alma watched the top of TJ’s head move, shake. His face expressing his will, eyes closed. He meant what he was saying. Almost with detached mind, and heart, Alma watched, yet still hearing and reacting to this heart felt prayer. This was going to be the first of many prayers she feared, like this. She couldn’t live up to them. She didn’t know if she could hold her tongue anymore. Harlan had kept her in check. HE let her rant privately, rant until she’d dried up. He knew how judgmental she was deep down. The only other person in the world that knew her heart was gone. She had no one to be herself with anymore. So many people expected the quiet, angelic Alma who was always by Harlan’s side. Little did they know the her deep down. Now, she had to be perfect all the time.

When TJ finished his prayer and rose, Alma stood up and began gathering belongings. She had been biding her time to go home. His body to her lay there like a shell. She wanted to be home. Where everything around her made her feel his presence. His clothes in the closet; his after shave on the bathroom counter. Even the dent in his pillow where he had laid his head. Since the ambulance had brought him here at his request a few days ago, Alma had refused to make the bed and disturb the impression of her beloved husband from his side of the bed.

Regrouping Motives and Methods

Dear Diary,

It is easy to question someone else’s motives and methods, but you know better what works for you (even if in theory their ways and means seem so much easier than your own). We process information and tasks a little differently than each other. That is a wonderful benefit of not being the exact copy of someone else.

In the last few years, my writing activities and learning came by way of a motivation called fear. I was a sponge, soaking up the advice and questioning myself at every turn. It seemed prudent at that time when I didn’t understand why some events resulted in after shocks. ( i.e. This occurred, which resulted in That happening. The This was just general course of life activities, but the That caught me completely off guard. And That hurt me to the core of my existence.)

The mess I was left with gave me fits for quite a while. Being a writer or as some have pointed out, a storyteller, my first reaction was to question and delve into the motivation of my own actions and reactions as well as trying to imagine the same for everyone else involved. It made for a very convoluted way to live.

However, I persevered and eventually got to here. This new year, with some resolved issues and some just accepted life lessons. I realized how people influence me is a choice that I make. It is important to note this here, on my blog, because I write. Writing is influenced by many aspects, the same can be said about the way the writing is presented.

How different my way of presenting my writing will be in 2016 over all the years previously, I don’t know exactly. My appreciation and validation for my own writing has changed since I began. It was a slow evolution. I still have a long way to go to become the writer of my dreams, but I realize that my efforts, however small to improve, are taking place.

That is no small feat and something to be happy about. First and most important is realizing this is my work. Treating and respecting it as such, and being more professional (yes, that is an arbitrary concept) about my time and efforts means extending that appreciation I have for other’s work to my own. Oh, my gosh, I think I may be finding my lost ego.

Well, how cool is that?

I think it is about time.

Jules

 

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