“real life is meeting” thoughts about change and reality

The title of this post is a chapter title in CS Lewis’ That Hideous Strength. Apologies to Clive for using that thought, but though it’s originally his, it surely applies to my life at this moment.

I’ve been working very little on the novel because my own life has become so interesting. Apparently, the last 20 years, I’ve been looking at the world through the wrong end of a telescope. What I thought was a tiny green and grey planet has blossomed into a big universe alive with color and sound.

It’s been a spiritual journey. Physical effects are starting to show, though: I’m growing my carefully stylish short hair longer again. In fact, I’m beginning to resemble my avatar.

My way to look at other people is different too–almost as if I had been given new eyes. A Spanish friend told me a proverb of “seeing the world through a new color of Crystal.” I’m sure the saying lost something in the translation, because my friend said the idea of Crystal is deeper than the idea of glasses.

I began to be able to empathize with different views and to love people with better understanding of who they were. Years ago, I expected perfection in myself and others. Now I can see the subtlety of that trap.

I’ve even had a couple of romantic prospects, but I’m happy being single still. The men I’ve met have taught me that I need to not stick to one type: there are lots of personalities I could like.

It’s like this time around I’m empowered to make better choices.

Well, in this journey, real life has been meeting others and seeing their true grace, hopes, failures and fears–letting them be themselves, and being unafraid to be myself with them.

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Moving along, it’s been a while.

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Well, the month of May had been one of whirlwind decisions. I shared with you last post about why I had to move.

Everything fell into place once I made my decision. I’m a waverer, mostly. At this point in my life change seemed all around me, but was stirring no ripples in the particular seas I sailed. So I should’ve guessed, it wouldn’t be long before the storm hit me as I had seen it sweep up others into new courses.

I fought change as long as I could. And then I gave up. There were too many things happening around me, forcing me to break the shell of my comfort zone.

What did I find on the other side of the shell? A world full of light, color and life that I’d paid zero attention to before.

I had to change my habits as I moved to a smaller apartment. No longer could I have the lazy luxury of the lake house–the house that stifled dreams just like its quiet and controlled neighborhood streets.

I couldn’t afford to let boxes lie unpacked and housework go undone. Small spaces have to be kept neat.

And I couldn’t keep to myself anymore. I had to interact with people in my building, and I started to feel a sense of community again.

Best of all the changes, the creativity that had been crushed in a tired town is coming to life here in a younger-living community. I’m going to dedicate a corner of my living room as a studio space, and begin painting and drawing again.

This change has brought life back to the level of excitement I felt last year. I’m in early middle age, but am enjoying a stronger and more creative time than in my young adulthood. I don’t know where the next wave will sweep me to, but I am ready for my journey!

artwork c. Jade Smith 2000


A New Freedom:Boundary-Setting

Image I’ve been thrown into an awkward situation this past month: this particular situation has made me see the door of opportunity in a different light than I ever have before.

Mainly, it’s made me see it as a door I could have opened for myself a long time ago. But it’s also made me realize that timing is very important. Maybe I couldn’t open that door because I wasn’t ready to do it before.

At the first of May, my landlady informed me that she was moving a guy into the house where I was living. She had asked me in April if I would mind him moving in and using half of the house. In my usual not-wanting-to-upset-anyone way, I had replied that I didn’t mind, although in reality I minded a lot. Because she had tried to set me up with this guy in the past. Of course, that made things very weird. But the worst part of the bargain was that I had not found him to be a threat on our first meeting. Later, it was a different story.

Certain mistakes I’ve made, relationship-wise, tend to follow the same pattern. I will meet someone new and think I can trust him, but almost immediately that social trust turns out to be given to the wrong person. I generally think I am a good people reader, but when I’m wrong, I’m really wrong. It could have been a clue to me that this person was endlessly being set up with different women, but wasn’t dating at the moment. He was someone that women tended to feel sorry for, or at least perceived as a nice guy.

The reality was very different, at least from my view. From the first night where he tried to corner me with small talk in the hallway as I unlocked my door(Peering around the door shirtless is not the way to make a good first impression, regardless if you’re muscular or not, especially late at night), to later when he stepped past my boundaries and tried to get information on my personal life (and they had moved my things without my being in the house, my time and my space were not private), I didn’t feel respected or comfortable in my own home. And yet I had to listen to him talking about how he respected women. He made a big deal about how we were in separate apartments and that was “what to do when a man and woman were living in the same house” even though I was the one who requested a new lock on my door when he moved in! I just couldn’t trust him. He had a different walk than his talk.

I thought I was maybe over-reacting, but now I know better. In a romantic comedy, all this would be played as funny. When it happens to you in real life, that’s a different animal.

It was the boundary-disrespecting, and the not getting the message that I didn’t want to talk to him, that irked me and also frightened me a bit. Once, before he moved into the house, I had to let him into another place late at night. He talked to me a lot, then seemed to not want to let me get home. He controlled the situation.

But if I had spoken up and told the truth, he wouldn’t have had such an opportunity to get into my house. I was afraid that I would be moved out, because this guy was a favorite of my landlady. At that moment, I didn’t care how others felt about him. I cared about how I felt, how I didn’t trust him. I was told that it would “hurt his feelings” if he thought I was leaving because of him. As a result, I invented another reason. (Victim behavior, I’m afraid.)

There are men I would certainly trust enough to share a house with. Although he might have been just a lonely, socially awkward guy, I just didn’t want to wait and find out if that was true.

I’ve been a lonely, socially awkward girl in the past. But I got over it. I’m sure that I had moments when others didn’t want to be around me. The problem is that you cannot use social awkwardness or loneliness as an excuse to try to get close to someone when they don’t want to reciprocate your feelings.

I was brought up that it was un-Christian to reject people from your circle because that’s “not what Jesus would do.” So even now I still feel a lot of social pressure to accept everyone. But I try to act on my real feelings and allow people to prove and earn my trust.

When I was younger this kind of thinking caused me to get the wrong sort of friends. I couldn’t say no to people. I said no to lots of things but felt so wrong if I didn’t like someone. Truth is, you can’t buy the world a Coke and hold hands with everybody. It’s a fallen planet. God gave us that inner radar for a reason. Jesus did hang out with sinners, but He rejected a very specific group–the uber-religious of His day. It was their behavior that didn’t match their words: that is what He called out.

Maybe my new motto should be “Tell the truth and make the devil blush.”

The happy side to this story is that I’ll be moving into a new apartment in a few days, and I’ve learned my lesson about boundary-setting. The new freedom it’s bringing is a relief and–in a way–it feels like where I should have always belonged.

 

 

 


Reality and the Abyss

IMG_1751I’ve been doing some work in the way of villain-creating lately(only in the fictional sense). And I finally realized the truth of Nietzsche’s hint “when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

When you begin looking at real-life examples of evil, it kind of makes your fictional idea very, very pale. Yet most of our ideas of bad people are based on the people we have run across who treated others as less than human. From the social media bully to the self-righteous relative who refuses to help another, there are people who push others over the edge of the cliff in small ways. It doesn’t have to be torture–or even close–to be cruel.

However, going after the real villains in history makes one tired. I think this is part of the abyss gazing back at you. I know that the week after I began studying up on some of the historical figures I thought would make good models for the villain in my story, I was exhausted with trying to comprehend evil’s effect on the mind. I would think about these things at work, and sort of fall into a trance of wondering “why did they do it–how did they do it–how could they live thinking about what they had done?”

I wonder if the answer is that they had lost the ability to feel guilt, or that they simply viewed other people as non-human?

In looking for stories such as this, I remembered the tale of Dr. Norman Baker (read it here), a cancer-curing charlatan of the 1930s. He was triumphant in that “no one ever proved anything” against him. Again, why and how were my questions. These people were not patients to him. Instead, they were so many walking wallets, so many testimonials to boost his own agenda! How does someone become a Dr. Baker?

I’m afraid that the answer is: little by little, one becomes a villain. Sure, there are a few who wake up actually thinking how to be evil every day, but I think that the majority start small and keep giving in to temptations of power. The call of the abyss is strong, and soon their personality is wholly swallowed, themselves wholly possessed by darkness.

It’s something I had to take a break from for a few days. Can’t look too long.

But I’m back to writing once again.

I know my villain will not be as frightening as the historical models I’m looking at, but I think he will be consumed by the reality of evil, just as they were.

 

 


V-a-c-a-t-i-o-n nightmare writing

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I’ve written a strong beginning to my novel, but I’ve come to a bend in the road in this last round of creativity. Something happens on a character’s vacation. It begins with him waking up and not clearly recalling the night before (his memory lapse aided by alcohol). Suddenly his plans begin to go south, and in trying to remedy his situation he uncovers something that he shouldn’t see/ know about.

So: nightmare vacation drama!

I’m actually tempted to insert a little humor into the chapter. Because as we know, vacations seldom work out according to plan. And I work with a lot of tourists in my day job. So it shouldn’t be difficult for me to find the humor for my scene.

The real problem I face is how much humor to add. I think most of my readers know my habit of creating rapid conversational spats between characters in tense situations. Maybe I like this device because I witness it a lot! But using the same formula as a vehicle for humor can become predictable.

And too much humor can ruin the suggested darkness of a scene.

What are your thoughts on humor in horror/suspense fiction? Does a laugh make it or break it?

 


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