Here is my depression. Let me show you it.

“Wear a smile on my face, but there’s a demon inside.”

–from “Jekyll and Hyde” by Five Finger Death Punch

Don’t Google or YouTube that. (No, seriously. Don’t.)

I don’t for a moment think it’s a literal demon. Let’s just get that out of the way right from the start. I haven’t invited anything in, I haven’t been messing around with Ouja boards, I haven’t opened any metaphysical doors I can’t close. When I talk about having a demon, I’m not talking about being possessed. Because I’m not.

The “demon” is a metaphor.

So is the dark cave. So are: the quicksand, the black dog, the She-Hulk, the dark cloud of doom, the shadows closing in, the sludgy ocean. All of these are metaphors for the thing I’ve been dealing with that’s called depression.

This has been a long time coming

(and the cards are stacked…).

I’ve been disgnosed with depression, and I am now ready to talk about it.

Depressive Tendencies

As a teenager, I suffered depressive episodes during which I just wanted to curl up and stop everything. There was a lot of crying in the bathroom. I chalked it up to academic difficulties in school, relationship difficulties with friends, relationship difficulties with parents. Hormones. When I was 14, a psychiatrist told my parents I was “well-adjusted.” I took that to mean I could rest on my psychological laurels. Turns out I was just a good enough actress to fool a therapist.

In my 20s, I struggled through a long depressive bout that (I believe) resulted from my inability to say “no” and give myself the alone time I needed to recharge and recenter myself. Self-care has never come naturally to me; it’s always been Put Others’ Needs First, Second, and Third. Things improved when I learned to respect my need for solitude — and when I learned to require others to respect my need, too. Peace entered in when I listened to my spirit saying gently, “It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to take care of you. It’s okay. They’ll be just fine without you. Go do you for a while.”

I got better. I made the life choices I needed to make when I needed to make them. I became a full-time writer. I changed my eating habits and turned myself into a runner. It’s amazing what writing and exercise do for my spirit. There’s really no comparison.

Family History: Depression’s Descendant?

I won’t overshare here, because some things are not mine to share in public. Suffice it to say that there’s a family history of depression and anxiety. Nature or nurture? I believe it’s both, and that both get passed down through the generations. I have a great-great-grandmother who tried twice to stab her husband to death. Her daughter beat my grandfather. And so on and so forth.

Whatever it is, it goes back at least a hundred years. It gets diluted with each successive generation…like a poison poured into a glass of water, poured into the next generation’s glass, and the next, and the next. It’s diluted — I’d venture to say we can’t quite taste it anymore — but it still sickens us ever so slightly.

I fear for my daughter. I want her glass of water to run clear and fresh and pure. I know I can’t protect her fully. And yet, I refuse to give in to fear. “There is still hope,” as the elf-saying goes. I haven’t lost that.

Or rather, I lost hope for a while, but I’ve regained it.

The Demon Called Depression

On Death

I’ve never been suicidal.

Oh, there have been times when I wanted to be dead. The pain was great, and I wanted it to stop. I didn’t want to kill myself, never even pondered methods. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to be dead because I wanted the pain to stop. And because I’m a Jesus-follower, I knew that part of what Jesus promises is “no tears” after this life. I desperately yearned for the “no tears” part. The “no pain” promise was for me, and if ever someone wanted it, I did.

So I prayed for God to take me — in a painless way, preferably while I slept, so I wouldn’t have a clue what was happening. I prayed he would comfort my family and friends after I was gone but reassure them they’d see me again. In the meantime, I would enjoy the lack of pain and sorrow.

But never once did I consider ending my own life. Was I still suicidal, since I was asking God to end it? I don’t know what the professionals would say, but I don’t think I was a danger to myself. I thought of myself in the light of the apostle Paul, who said, “If I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live” (Philippians 1:22-23).

If Paul could talk about wanting to rest with Christ, why couldn’t I?

Downward Spiral

From 2012-2015, I plodded on through a rough pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum recovery:

  • Mentally and emotionally, I was a mess because I spent most of the 9 months terrified I would miscarry. (I suffered a miscarriage in 2006; looking back, I have no doubt that a major depressive episode followed, possibly outright depression.)
  • During my first trimester one of our cats died unexpectedly and in a shocking way. (A botched spaying basically led to internal bleed-out and heart stopping). I grieved her loss as only a terrified, exhausted pregnant woman can. I haven’t really gotten over it yet.
  • I only threw up once the whole pregnancy, but from 10 weeks on I spent every moment feeling nauseated. Eating and drinking were anathema (unless I felt ravenous). Somehow, I managed not to get dehydrated.
  • During labor and delivery in September 2012, my tailbone broke. Thankfully, I had an epidural, so I didn’t feel it. But I heard it. And after the epidural wore off, I felt it. I felt it until, oh, April 2015 or thereabouts.
  • Four days after delivery, I visited the ER for ultrasounds on both legs to make sure I didn’t have blood clots. (I didn’t.)
  • Six days after delivery, I visited the ER again for an impacted bowel. I swear, you haven’t lived until you’ve had a cute little 20-something girl pump soapsuds up your–
  • Well, you get the picture.
  • Somewhere in there was a UTI.
  • Two months after delivery, I discovered that my toenails had died and gotten infected. Apparently this can happen as a result of physical trauma, because the body pulls resources from non-essential systems. They took a year to grow back normal.
  • Hair loss.
  • Baby weight that still hasn’t come off.
  • (Percocet for broken tailbone post-partum) + (sleep deprivation while caring for newborn) = hallucinations
  • Re-injury of back (torqued sacrum, to be specific) in June 2014.
  • 11 months total of physical therapy for spine injuries.
  • All the stress, frustration, worry, and guilt that go along with being a (new) mother.

And the stress, frustration, worry, and guilt refused to let up. Instead of decreasing, they increased. They turned into anxiety and anger. By January/February 2015, I was pretty sure something was seriously wrong.

Duh, you might say.

But have you ever been so close to a situation that you couldn’t see the truth of it? That’s a rhetorical question, because I know the answer is “yes”; not seeing the forest for the trees is pretty much a constant of the human condition. With everything I dealt with from 2012-2014, maybe it should’ve been a logical conclusion that I’d spiral into a major depression. But you know what? Maybe not. Maybe it wasn’t so obvious.

Maybe I’m just a good enough actress to fool myself in addition to fooling a lot of people around me.

Maybe my smile looked genuine enough in the mirror to fool even me into believing that a demon hadn’t taken up residence inside me.

Decision

About six months ago, I realized I felt angry pretty much all the time. I also cried a lot. I had no desire whatsoever to be around people. I didn’t want to leave the house for anything. I couldn’t get to sleep. I couldn’t stay asleep. I couldn’t wake up in the morning.

My thoughts were not normal for me:

“I can’t do this (read: anything, really).”

“I didn’t sign up for this kind of life.”

And, most telling:

“My daughter deserves a better mother than this pathetic one she has. I can’t do anything right by her.”

“God made a mistake when he made *me* a mother.”

Without getting deeply into theology, I’ll tell you this: the idea that “God Commits Errors” is not part of my belief system. If God chose to make me a mother (which I believe he did), then his choice was not an error. Intellectually, I was confident in this as Truth.

Emotionally, I railed at him for inflicting me upon this beautiful, innocent child.

My anger increased. And, to make a long story short (too late), most of that anger was nonsensically turning in the direction of that beautiful, innocent child.

That, my dear friends and neighbors, is unacceptable.

For her sake, if not for my own or my longsuffering husband’s, I had to change.

In May 2015, I saw my general practitioner, who agreed with my self-diagnosis of depression and prescribed Zoloft.

Defining Depression

Depression is sitting in a dark cave, curled with with your knees to your chest and your arms wrapped around your legs. You’re terrified to move, because if you move, Things Will Get Worse. You don’t know how or why, you just know that they will. You’re curled up in this dark, dank, miserable place, and you cannot see an exit. Your eyes are wild and wide, but you cannot see even the faintest hint of light. You are incapable of movement. You are incapable of reaching out or calling out for help. Somewhere deep inside, you hope that someone will reach in and wrap their fingers around yours and tug gently. If that happened, maybe you could follow that gentle encouragement back to its source, back to the light and the warmth and the real. But very few people know how to reach in like that. And even if they do, you find that all you can do is twitch in response. You can’t actually move enough to follow them anywhere.

Depression is a dark cloud of doom that hangs slightly behind you and overhead, always just out of sight no matter how quickly you turn to confront it. It never goes away. It follows you everywhere. It blocks out warmth and light. It is an invisible, intangible jailer, and it mocks you.

Depression is like you’re trying to use one potato to peel another potato. *If* someone offers help and you accept, you find that they’ve handed you another potato.

Depression is Sisyphus.

Depression is running through a dark, foggy forest full of pitfalls and sharp rocks and trees that reach out to grab you. A black dog with blood in his teeth is chasing you. You can’t outrun him. You can’t outsmart him. You can’t hide from him. Every time you throw a terrified glance over your shoulder, HE IS RIGHT THERE, tearing at your heels. You scream, and he howls in triumph. You can feel his damp breath and smell the rot that follows him everywhere. And no one can keep him off you.

Depression is a sweet voice pulling you further into the darkness with seductive whispers.

Depression is a rough, gravelly voice that beats you down with the “truth” that you’re not good enough, you’re a terrible person, if people really knew you, they would hate you, you’re worthless.

Depression is the She-Hulk, a rage always boilling beneath the surface, and once she breaks her bonds, you can do nothing to stop her. She takes over, grows to insane proportions, and destroys whatever is in her path.

Depression is quicksand grabbing you around the knees and pulling you into its suffocating embrace, and you can’t apply the anecdotal “fix” of stretching out flat on top of it and “swimming” to safety.

Depression is a vast, sludgy ocean that sucks you down and contains no life, and you can’t see a shore or lifeline anywhere.

Depression is dark shadows overlaying everything you see. (For some people, this is literal.)

Depression is a demon that lives inside you, an invisible disease of your will and emotions. The demon makes you smile when you don’t feel like it. The demon makes you participate in activities you don’t want any part of. The demon uses your body and your face like a meatsuit, playing at human life with the goal of keeping up appearances. The demon doesn’t want anyone else to know it’s inside you. The demon acts human so that no one will find out that it’s devouring your internal organs, eating you from the inside out. Only sometimes does the demon show its true face — and then only when it knows that the witnesses can’t (or won’t) do anything to cast the demon out.

“Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn’t worth living.

“More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply ‘snap out’ of.

“A variety of factors may be involved, such as: biological differences, brain chemistry (neurotransmitters), hormones, thyroid problems, inherited traits, [and] life events.”

–Mayo Clinic

Dealing with the Demon

The day I got the prescription, I started taking Zoloft. My doctor warned that it would be weeks before I felt a difference, if I felt one at all. It could be months.

Maybe wishful thinking or psychosoma took over, but I swear I felt an effect within two-and-a-half weeks. There came a weekend where I looked back on the foregoing week and realized that I hadn’t cried or even felt like crying. Another week, and I found myself putting on real clothes and washing my hair and taking the toddler to playgrounds. By June, I wanted to be around people. In July, I found myself more active in our house church, and the sudden influx of family for a reunion didn’t send me into the fetal position.

Best of all, I was exercising patience with my child.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors “increase the extracellular level of the neurotransmitter serotonin by limiting its reabsorption into the presynaptic cell, increasing the level of serotonin in the synaptic cleft available to bind to the postsynaptic receptor.”

–Wikipedia

Zoloft is an SSRI: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor.

I remember learning about those in college psych classes. On exams, I never had trouble recalling anything I’d learned about them — because they sounded so poetic. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The words flow off the tongue in perfect sibilants and labials, consonants forming a lovely rhythm. The “reup-” diphthong encourages a perky, upward motion of the head as you speak, as though the word itself on your lips is part of the treatment. The entire phrase is a poem of the soul, designed to move forward, move along, move on, get past this, leave behind all the dullness and lack of melody.

These drugs I’m now taking, I used to think they were poetry.

I’m not a professional counselor, but I’ve had counseling training, and I’ve been in a position (by necessity) in which I’ve counseled others. Some of those others have suffered from depression. I took care not to offer anything in the way of “professional” advice; I always pointed those individuals toward the fully trained, the licensed, the practiced.

Still, I sat only on one side of the “desk.” I settled myself in the “chair” instead of on the “couch.” I functioned as counselor, not client. I was the listening ear and the shoulder to cry on — not the one to speak or to weep.

Now, suddenly, *I* am the one with the disease.

It is a weird and humbling experience, and I don’t like it.

It isn’t poetic or perky at all.

Suffering from depression represents yet one more fracture in my illusion of control. (All sense of control is an illusion; if you don’t believe this, you’re still in illusion’s grip. I recommend the red pill.) Maybe I didn’t offer advice…but as long as I sat in the chair instead of lying on the couch, I could at least fool myself into believing I was master of my situation. That belief, though ever tenuous, has now crumbled. I’m not adrift, as I remain in possession of my firm foundation, but I’m still at a loss to reconcile Who I Think I Am with this ill person who requires anti-depressants in order to function.

Like I said. It’s humbling.

Which isn’t a bad thing. Humility is never a bad thing. And through this whole experience, I am learning greater sympathy and empathy toward others who experience depression. That’s not a bad thing, either.

It’s just such a strange thing to acknowledge consciously and intentionally that I have a mental illness.

I have a mental illness.

I have a mental illness.

Decision

I do not say that I’m mentally ill.

Mental illness is not something I am, it’s something I *have*.

Just like I *have* neurocardiogenic syncope, premature ventricular contractions, a milk allergy, arthritis, scoliosis, hypermobility, and chronic sinusitis.

I am not these (mostly invisible) diseases and conditions. I have them, but they do not define who I am. I must deal with them on a daily basis, but they do not determine the nature of my person. And they certainly do not decide what direction my life goes.

(Speaking of those other conditions, though, I’ve noticed a pleasant “side effect” to the anti-depressants: I haven’t been experiencing nearly as many premature ventricular contrations since I started taking Zoloft. Instead of three per day, I’ve been feeling maybe three per week. This lovely development has led my cardiologist and me to cut my beta-blocker in half, with the goal of eliminating it altogether within the next few months. Since beta-blockers have some fairly onerous side effects, I am all in on getting rid of them.)

So. I’m not mentally ill. I have a mentall illness. It’s more than just a semantic difference to me. It represents my acceptance of this but also my determination not to let it rule me. I am not subject to depression. I do not belong to depression.

The demon does not own me.

Direction

I am aimed at and headed toward healthy.

When my doctor gave me the Zoloft prescription, she said, “We do not call these your ‘happy pills.’ If anything, we call these your ‘normal pills’ — because we’re trying to get you back to what’s normal for you.”

With her help, I came to realize that I’ve dealt with depression for at least three years, likely longer. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I haven’t had some form of depression since the miscarriage in 2006.

When you’re just just trying to live your life from one day to the next, it’s difficult to step back and see the big picture (see: Forest for the Trees Syndrome again). It’s even easier to tell yourself this is just a temporary setback, I’ll get past this, it’ll be fine, tomorrow is another day, ad infinitum. But finally, I am seeing more of that picture and realizing that I’ve been treading water, close to drowning, for a lot longer than I’d realized.

The good news is, the dark cloud no longer hangs over my head.

The black dog no longer nips at my heels.

I have a potato peeler.

My organs are regenerating, and the demon’s presence has weakened.

I still have bad moments, bad days. In fact, as I write this, I am coming out of a particularly bad week. I missed some exercise days, and that has contributed to the lows. I also just published a novel 20 years in the making, and it took a lot of extra oomph I really didn’t have. But I gave it anyway, and then I crashed*.

The dark cloud no longer hangs over me, but I know it lurks beyond the horizon.

The black dog no longer nips at my heels, but sometimes I can still hear his howl.

My potato peeler isn’t always sharp.

The demon has weakened, but it’s still there.

I can hear it waiting.

And so, I do what I must to take care of myself.

I take time for me. Alone time. Writing time. Workout time. Friends time. These are all separate times, and I take them. It means being away from my family. So be it. I am a better mother and wife when I take time away from them.

I take my exercise. I run. I zumba. I don’t yoga as much as I’d like, but I’m working back up to it.

I take my meds. I’ve always had an aversion to taking pills. But I don’t mind taking these little blue ones at all. They make me feel that much better.

I take a step back. When emotions start to get the better of me, I take a step back and ask myself what I’m doing and whether I need to step out of the room. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Either way is okay.

I take these healthful resources because I need them.

This is where I am. No guilt.

I’ll stay here for as long as I need to.

PicsArt_1436986271278

*Vegging in front of the TV, watching “my boys“. They’re great therapy.
; )

P.S. I will see a therapist at some point, but I’m not quite there, yet. In time.

Depression and Creativity

The Depression Part

I’ve felt depressed lately.

Sad. Lethargic. Numb. Angry. Frustrated. Disinterested. Dark view of life. No hope. Blech.

I’ve blogged about depression before. And I’ve blogged about one of the main triggers of depression for me: not exercising my creativity.

When I realized that I was depressed, I said to several people who love me, “Hey, I’m depressed.” NOTE: Telling loving people that you’re depressed is helpful in starting the process of getting out of the depression.

Those several people who love me replied, “Hey, we’re not thrilled about this. Do you know why you’re depressed and/or how we can help?”

This was an excellent response for two reasons.

One, it let me know I’m not alone in this.

Two, it helped me figure out how to handle this.

You see, I had to answer them as follows: “There’s nothing that you can do, really. I have a baby whom I love dearly and deeply. I don’t resent her or begrudge her the time I spend with her. But the fact remains that when I’m taking care of her, I’m not writing. And when I do have time to write, I’m so exhausted that I fall asleep at the computer. There’s nothing anyone can do, really, to ‘fix’ this situation (which isn’t actually broken).

“However, having this conversation with you makes me focus on ways I can exercise my creativity in writing without sacrificing my daughter’s needs. So thank you for talking with me about this. That helped.”

The Creative Part, Pt. 1

And then I went and wrote a blog post, and I felt better. And then I invented a recipe for almond chicken, and while cooking doesn’t do a lot for me, it’s still a creative task, so I felt better after completing that, too. And then I reorganized two rooms and a closet, and the exercise in creativity required for that gargantuan task was a humdinger of a creative exercise, lemme tell ya. And then I made up a song about giraffes for my daughter and videoed myself singing it. After that, I was practically glowing.

So. I’ve felt depressed lately. But I’m on my way back up.

I still feel a ton of frustration that I nod off every time I sit down to continue my WIP (Elevator People). But at least I’m doing little creative things here and there. I think I just needed a reminder not to neglect that part of myself — and not to let exhaustion fool me into thinking I don’t have time for that part of myself.

After all…crippled, demented, or crushed: still, I will create.

The Creative Part, Pt. 2

And then, my friend J.T. posted the following on his Facebook status, and I thought it was utterly brilliant:

“Art is not about talent or skill. Art is about you. Spending time with you, getting to know you. Seeing parts of yourself that you love, some that you hate, but mostly parts that scare the very breath from your lungs. Art is not about technique or style. Art is learning who you are, and being brave enough to show the world. You can’t be bad at art, unless you are simply afraid to try. Art is a terrifying pursuit, because there is nothing more frightening than our own selves.”

~J.T. Hackett, artist

I’ll be blogging about J.T.’s ideas more in the near future. But for now, here’s how I’m relating his words to my depression:

I need to know who I am.

When I don’t know who I am, I get depressed.

When I am not creating, I am not spending time with me, not getting to know me.

When I am not creating, I am not seeing myself fully.

When I am not creating, I forget who I am.

When I forget who I am, I get depressed.

I could flesh this out a bit more, but I think it suffices for my current purposes. More than ever, I see the truth in my belief that I am created to create. To dig more deeply: I am created to get to know exactly who I am. If I am not doing art, I am not getting to know who I am.

If I am not doing art, I am neglecting a main purpose for which I was created.

No wonder that sets me adrift.

I am finding my anchor again.

Cures from the Past

"Castle in Her Coils" by Courtney Cantrell

“Castle in Her Coils” by Courtney Cantrell

"No More Room in Hell" by Courtney Cantrell

“No More Room in Hell” by Courtney Cantrell

"Sea Creature" by Courtney Cantrell

“Sea Creature” by Courtney Cantrell

"Redemption" by Courtney Cantrell

“Redemption” by Courtney Cantrell

Here’s a poem about sacrifice, depression, and empathy. I think.

Of course, you might decide it’s about something else entirely. Interpretation is entirely your prerogative.

Anyway! In celebration of National Poetry Month — which is NOW, if you must know — fabulous Edinatrix Laurie Laliberte (@LaliberteLaurie) is hosting a Poetry Slam on her blog. Today, she happens to be featuring a poem by Yours Writerly. You can probably guess that this really swings my verge and flips my bangerang switch.

So, head on over to Laurie’s blog and read my poem that might or might not be about sacrifice, depression, and empathy.

Feedback is always welcome! : )

a new hope (in the quiet, not in silence)

What a deceptive title.

One, because this post has nothing to do with Star Wars, at least not directly.
Two, because the hope I’m thinking of isn’t new in the conventional sense.

It’s more of a renewable hope. Or a continually-renewed hope.

I sit here in the final minutes of 2016 (it’s literally 5 minutes ’til midnight), typing on my laptop while the TV regales me with the blatherings of announcers, the poor enunciations of music artists, and the weird ramblings of a woman with green glitter lipstick worthy of Panem’s Capitol. I think of the illusory and foundationally meaningless construct of calendars and years’-ends. We humans get in such a tizzy at this time every year, never mind that flipping a calendar page from one month to the next or one year to the next has absolutely no connection to actual, tangible change.

I set my laptop aside to check windows for fireworks as 2017 A.D. rolls through the door.

The fireworks are audible from inside my living room, but I can’t see them from any of the windows. A quick call to my parents — one I make every year on January 1st at approximately 00:05am — sends love reverberating through the atmosphere. A good start to the new iteration of this particular human construct.

My husband went to bed at 22:35 (that’s 10:35pm); my four-year-old daughter trundled off to sleep at her usual time of 20:00. None of our friends were partying this year.

No one texts me.

This is probably the first time in 20 years that I’ve rung in the “new year” completely alone.

Shouldn’t this make me melancholy? I don’t know if it should (don’t should on me!), but it doesn’t. It’s kind of cozy, really. Until the timer turned them off a few minutes ago, the Christmas tree lights splashed a warm glow across my typing fingers; I’ve turned off the TV, so all is quiet, if not silence; I can hear my husband snoring, my clock ticking, my fridge chuckling. Sporadic fireworks still grace the night behind me, on the other side of the window.

I don’t type in silence, but I type in the quiet.

Ah. There’s the first ambulance siren of the year.

Peace. Peace for this year. Grace and mercy to those who aren’t starting 2017 in peace.

The clock is ticking.

The cat is sleeping under the darkened Christmas tree.

The year 2016 A.D. held so much grief.

Deaths of people I’ve long admired from great distances.
Death of confidence in the basic decency of humanity.
Death to idealism and optimism and other beneficent -isms — all of which are intimately connected with fellow humans-being.

I still like to think of myself as Eternal Optimist Woman, even though that belief has been sorely tried this year. I think the EOW has disintegrated into ash for the time being; I can only hope that, like the phoenix, she will rise from the ashes again.

She’s done it before.

And there’s that word again.

Hope.

I’ve pondered again and again whether or not I should wax political about the goings-on in the United States of America in 2016. And if I decided to wax that way, just what could or would or should (!) I say? But the emotional energy required take for such a blopgost (yes, blopgost) would be an expense I cannot afford.

The Babadook still lives in my basement*. He demands my intensive self-care, which includes not feeding my strength into something that won’t benefit anyone.

(*If this reference makes no sense to you, I recommend watching the movie The Babadook, which is basically a metaphor for depression.)

I will say this, since it relates to hope: I don’t hope for anything Good to come from the USA’s current president-elect. “I hope for no hope from him…poor clown,” as Amalthea told Molly Grue. (Although I know I’m doing Schmendrick an injustice; still, allow me my nerdy references, would you?) He has proven himself ridicule-worthy, dangerously unbalanced, selfish, self-absorbed, greedy, incapable of empathy, ableist, racist, misogynist, bigoted, prejudiced, childish, fiendish, and just plain gross.

If I were to put him into a novel, readers would mock me for writing such a parody of a villain. He’s so much Chaotic Evil as to be unbelievable. No one would read him.

(“He lied in every word, that hoary [emotional-]cripple with malicious eyes….”)

I cannot describe to you how much it cost me to write the preceding two paragraphs. I feel completely exhausted.

But.

The point is, I have no hope for the next year regarding the president-elect of the USA, his cabinet, his advisors, his family, his decisions, his intentions, his cronies, his sycophants. I have so little hope regarding any of those, it has passed zero and dropped squarely onto the negative side of the axis. And on the negative side, my hope moves ever more rapidly away from zero.

Thank God — literally — that the Reality which gives me hope is no human construct or human system.

When I was 19, my atheist friend said to me, “Courtney, I don’t care if you believe in God or not — but if you’re going to believe, you have to be able to tell me why.”

I had no answer for him then.

Nowadays, I have answers squooshing out of my ears, but that’s another tale and shall be told another time. 😉

My thought tonight is that because of my faith and in spite of the Chaotic Evil that has created a safe place for so many other evils to reveal themselves, I still have hope.

A renewable hope.

A continually-renewed hope.

What if we humans had a leader who cared? Who empathized? Who accepted us all, every one? Who wanted to build something beautiful and glorious and beneficial, instead of promising dread and fear and harm? What if we had a leader who actually did represent us and count us in and protect us and serve us and live for us and die for us? What if we had a leader truly “for the people” and “by the people”?

What if we humans had a leader truly made of Love?

I know of so many people who profess to follow this man named Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One (that’s what mashiach–“Messiah” and “Christ” mean) — and yet, they are so terrified of someone misleading “their country,” they actually believe that a human construct could “close the doors” of their churches.

(Fellow believers, how could you vote Chaotic Evil when you claim to follow the Perfect Lawfree Good, which never restricts freedom?)

The Good News is that no matter what any man-made system decides or does, the house being built by this Jesus of Nazareth will never close.

After all, He is a carpenter. He knows how to build a house with uncloseable doors.

But it’s not about the closing of doors. It’s about the closing of minds, the closing of hearts, the tearing-down of the differently-opinioned, the shutting-down of empathy, the removal of “with” from compassion (which leaves only passion, and of an undirected, malignant sort).

(Compassion, in case you didn’t know, means “suffering-with”; to have compassion on someone means to enter into their suffering, to become part of it and to make it part of you.)

And this closing off and shutting down is coming from those who profess to own the One who personifie(d)s opening up, feeling with, suffering with, building up, welcoming in.

My so-called fellow Jesus-followers rejected his example and his indwelling Lifespirit.

That, in my very subjective view, is the real tragedy of 2016 A.D., for it leads to the suffering of humanity, most especially including the impoverished and the unbelieving.
In regard to so-called Jesus-followers, this felt more like 1016 A.D.

They have forgotten their hope.

They have forgotten that their hope can be “new every morning”

(great is thy faithfulness).

Jesus the Anointed One, Son of God Most High and Head of His Body (the collective of Different Ones [definition of “saints”] in this world) — He is building a house.

His house has nothing to do with physical buildings ornamented with made-up names and stained-glass windows.

His house encompasses the universe itself.

He will build that house with or without those followers of his who happen to name themselves “American” (for you can be sure that *he* didn’t name them that). He will build his house with the people on the street corners, the ones who actually hear his words and listen to them and respond (Matthew 22). He doesn’t care where these people came from; they listen, and they come to him, and he loves them and takes them in.

They take his Hope and they eat it. They chew it. They swallow it whole.

And his Hope has no relation whatsoever to the construct of human politics or calendars.

In the vastness of the universe and the multi-directional eternity of history, human politics are less than a footnote. I’m not sure they’re even mentioned between the covers of the entire book.

I have hope.

Because I’m a stone in a wall that’s going to last forever. I am a stone in Reality.

That Reality behooves and encourages and enables me to feel-with and suffer-with those who feel deeply and suffer. And it’s the kind of suffering-with that leads to action. Compassion leads to getting my hands “dirty.”

I’m okay with that.

His hands were “dirtier” than mine ever can be.

I didn’t intend for this blopgost to turn into such a revelation about my beliefs. I wanted to keep it simple, really. But it just seemed like the words wanted to come out exactly as they did.

There goes the second set of sirens of the New Year.

No one wants to read a sermon first thing on January 1st (at least, I don’t know of anyone who does.)

Also, I’m tired and starting to fade toward sleep. And starting to type in my sleep; I’ve already had to delete two sentences because they made no sense. 😉 So I’ll wrap this up. There really should be some more thoughts here, but I don’t have any.

I’m too tired.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everypony!

Peace.

social media away message

I posted a version of this on Facebook this morning.

CLARIFICATION

I don’t hate any one person.
I don’t hate any group of people.
I don’t hate any demographic.
I don’t hate.

I feel angry.
I feel hurt.
I feel concerned — not for myself, not for any religious institution, not for so-called “religious freedom,” but for non-white, non-gender-binary, non-straight, non-legally-protected –> READ: non-*privileged* people, a majority of whom went to bed last night and woke up this morning utterly terrified.

In accordance with my daily-challenged faith, I will state my belief that Jesus is Lord of all, even this whole debacle.
But I will not forget that He was also Lord during the Dark Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, the Trail of Tears, the Holocaust, ETC. His being in control does not mean we humans don’t find a host of absolutely horrific things to perpetrate against one another.

His being in control does not excuse any of us — especially those of us who claim to follow Him — from doing everything we possibly can to prevent those horrific things. Including keeping other humans out of power who perpetuate those horrific things.

I feel sad.
I feel love.

I live out Love.

RELATIONSHIPS

Some of you are aware of my heavy heart after a former long-time friend unfriended me a few days ago over this whole debacle.
Some of you will call me a hypocrite because I unfriended someone over this whole debacle.

This difference is that I didn’t attack or question the faith of the one who unfriended me.
The one I unfriended was never more than an acquaintance, and he attacked me and questioned my faith.

I don’t need that kind of unhealthy connection in my life.

I want to retain connections in which I exchange life (Life) with others.

I’m not sure that’s a sustainable thing via Facebook.

There’s more to all this. But I don’t have the words right now. If I find them, I’ll holler.

VACATION

I am taking a social media vacation. It will last at least until the New Year.

I will pop onto FB to manage my author page (facebook.com/courtcanwrite/). But I don’t plan to interact there on my personal account.

I won’t be checking private FB messages. If you want to contact me, please email if you have my email address, text if you have my phone number, comment on my author page, or comment on my blog.

Until further notice, I’ll be interacting on Twitter (@courtcan) only to promote my books and talk about writing.

My main reasons for this vacation (from Facebook) are that I’m tired of being personally attacked, I’m tired of having my faith questioned by people who know little to nothing about my daily life or my beliefs, and I’m tired of providing a space where people I love and respect bicker with, yell at, and aim “friendly fire” at each other (necessitating my intervention).

I’m just weary. And this isn’t helping the depression I’m still in treatment for.

I love you all.

Facebook ya in January. Maybe.

 

In the meantime though, I’ll for sure be blogging here. Stay tuned!

in 2015 i read 47 books. what about 2016?

2015’s Reads, 2015’s Faves, and Projected Reads for 2016

Books I Read in 2015

I’ve starred the ones I enjoyed most, and following the list you’ll find brief notes on each of those faves. My goal for 2015 was to read at least 50 books. Missing that mark by 3 isn’t too bad. And I beat last year’s tally of 45, so BAM.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not important how many books I read, just that I’m intaking story and enjoying myself. But having a number goal keeps me focused on reading during the times when the sheer pleasure of it isn’t quite enough. I don’t know if other people go through phases like that, but I’ve been dealing with more of them since the depression hit. My yearly competition with my past self helps me get through the rougher patches. It’s a useful coping mechanism, keeping that little extra bit of joy in my life when I need it most.

Anyway, without further ado or adon’t, here’s my 2015 list:

1. Plague of the Dead by Z.A. Recht
2. More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon *
3. Queen’s Own (Valdemar: Arrows of the Queen, #1-3) by Mercedes Lackey (*)
4. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt *
5. Stellar Science-Fiction Stories, #7 edited by Judy-Lynn del Rey
6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle *
7. The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
8. From a Buick 8 by Stephen King
9. Legends II: Shadows, Gods, and Demons (Vol. 1) edited by Robert Silverberg (Robin Hobb’s “Homecoming” *)
10. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss *
11. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3) by C.S. Lewis
12. The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth *
13. The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia, #4) by C.S. Lewis
14. The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, #5) by C.S. Lewis *
15. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis *
16. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis *
17. Prophet by Frank E. Peretti
18. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King *
19. 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz
20. The Moonlit Mind by Dean Koontz *
21. The Lurker at the Threshold by H.P. Lovecraft
22. Beyond the Shadows (Night Angel, #3) by Brent Weeks
23. Resist the Devil by Watchman Nee
24. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
25. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
26. The City by Dean Koontz
27. The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy, #3) by Chuck Wendig *
28. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
29. Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin (*)
30. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
31. A Demon in the Desert (Grimluk, Demon Hunter Book 1) by Ashe Armstrong
32. Red Rain by R.L. Stine
33. Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
34. Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber *
35. The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum
36. Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, and Chuck Wendig *
37. House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker
38. Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score by Darwyn Cooke
39. The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree (The Outlaw King, #1) by S.A. Hunt
40. Protector by Becca J. Campbell
41. The Walking Dead: A Larger World (Vol. 16) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
42. The Walking Dead: Something to Fear (Vol. 17) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
43. Nightwalker (Dark Days, #1) by Jocelyn Drake
44. City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5) by Cassandra Clare
45. My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
46. Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland *
47. Hounded by Kevin Hearne *

The Faves

More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
–a great story with unexpected twists
–cramazing character development
–classic sci-fi
–a writing style that turns the reader’s imagination into a co-storyteller

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
–utterly engrossing and heart-breaking
–McCourt’s style is so vivid and immediate, I felt like I was right there living it with him through the whole story.
–made me keenly aware of my own privileged upbringing; expanded my world

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
–HOW did I never read this book as a kid?!?
–SO GOOD
–in the vein of C.S. Lewis, which means brilliance & excellence in imagination, theme, message, story

“Homecoming” by Robin Hobb in Legends II: Shadows, Gods, and Demons (Vol. 1)
–Hobb’s story gets my vote for best character-development of this year’s reads; I’m just a sucker for the redemption of the snobby, spoiled, rich-girl type 😉

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
–GAH THIS IS SO INCREDIBLE
–some of the best fantasy I’ve read in YEARS
–almost read this too fast; it’s truly UPDA
–can’t wait to read Book 2 this year!!!

The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth
I don’t talk a lot about my faith on social media. But I will say this: “high church” has done the world a disservice by painting women into a powerless, subservient, subjugated role for the past two millennia. Whether you’re a believer, an atheist, or an agnostic, Viola & DeMuth’s book challenges what you think you know about the Christian Bible’s treatment of women (especially in the New Testament). I can’t imagine anyone reading this book and not finding something that surprises or even shocks them — in a good way.
This book about women is a wake-up call.

The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, #5), The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #6), The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia, #7) by C.S. Lewis
–simply a pleasure to re-read as an adult
–beauty, truth, challenge

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
–classic King, thrilling and excellent from start to finish
–HOW does the man manage such perfect character development?!
–loved the female characters in these stories — such powerful agency!

The Moonlit Mind by Dean Koontz
–classic boy-and-his-dog-in-creepy-world Koontz
–dark and gritty, captivating and ethereal

The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy, #3) by Chuck Wendig
–another UPDA
–sucked me in from page 1 & refused to let go
–excellent wrap-up to the trilogy
–really hope to read more stories set in this cornpunk world!

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
–another non-fic that all of my fellow Jesus-followers need to read
–insightful, heart-breaking, heart-warming
–this book will offend a lot of Christians
–I loved it. 🙂

Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, and Chuck Wendig
–loved getting another *slice* of Miriam from Wendig
–perfect intro to Dawson and Hearne, made me want to read more of both
–cheese?!?
–delightful

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland
–thought I loved the first book in the series until I read this one
–rare that a sequel upstages its predecessor, but this one does
–fun, “fresh” (LOL) take on zombies
–MC Angel’s voice reminds me of Sookie Stackhouse
–will read more in series

Hounded by Kevin Hearne
–fun frolic of a druid story
–reminded me of Expecting Someone Taller by Tom Holt
–loved the characters’ voices
–at first distracting but then fun to puzzle out the Gaelic names as I read

Runners-up:

Queen’s Own (Valdemar: Arrows of the Queen, #1-3) by Mercedes Lackey
–rich, detailed world-building
–enjoyed seeing how the main character’s growth determined the intricacies of the plot

Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin
–yummy to read some classic sci-fi with a strong, scrappy heroine!

Q: What’s in store for 2016?

A: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LADIES.

Right now, I’m reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s a humdinger of a novel, penned in Jane Austen style (in A.D. 2004, mind you) and clocking in at 1006 pages. Uffda. I’m unused to reading this style of doorstop anymore, so it’s slow going and takes a lot of concentration. BUT it’s a fabulous challenge and a great read. I’m loving all the subtly sarcastic asides about early 1800s British culture. And reading these characters is like watching a movie. And it has magicians and fairies. Just fun.

Projected reads this year include: Jade Kerrion, Tana French, Susan Kaye Quinn, Marissa Meyer, Kiera Cass, most of the female authors listed here, Delilah S. Dawson, Cidney Swanson, Carrie Ryan, and Julie Hutchings. After these, I’ll turn some attention to Wendig, Gaiman, Hearne, King, Koontz, Yancey, and others.

Why all this focus on female authors? Because I realized some time back that I read mainly male authors, and I want to support my sisters of the written word. Plus, women’s voices simply aren’t heard enough, and I want to redouble my efforts to hear them. I’m exited to hear them, to discover the nuances of their words and imaginations, to let their sounds thread through my soul in new ways. The gentlemen will have their turn, but for now, it’s the ladies who get all my love. 😉

Happy reading in 2016!

i write because mirrors have voices

Hile, inkslingers, ne’er-do-wells, and sundry,

I’ve been neglecting the blog again of late. But I have good reason. A depression low-point struck, and I’ve been self-medicating with Netflix. Also, I was sick with another of my lovely sinus infections, so it’s taken me a bit to bounce back from that.

But I’m trying to get back to bouncy-trouncy-flouncy-pouncy-fun-fun-fun-fun-fun, hence my choice not to indulge in ST:Voyager tonight but wet my writing whistle, instead. (Ooh la la.)

“Here, drink this,” he says.

Last month, Herr Chuck the Wendigo (as I like to call him [read: I just made that up]) issued one of his weekly writing challenges: 1,000 words on why we write. Since I tend to drink up whatever the Wendigo hands me (and yes, this maybe should frighten all of us), I am taking that challenge and frolicking with it.

(Ooh la la.)

Why I Write

I write because mirrors have voices.

You can walk past a mirror and not even notice it. From the corner of your eye, you might catch a glimpse of movement, but it’s not enough to give you pause. You keep going, focused on wherever you need to be, whatever you want to do, whomever you intend to see. The mirror stays behind, hanging forgotten on the wall or sitting blind-once-more on the shelf or waiting silently in the windowframe.

(Windows and eyes can be mirrors, and we sometimes forget this to our peril. But that is another story and shall be told another time.)

You can walk past a mirror and barely register your own reflection.

But I write because mirrors have voices.

I walk past a mirror, and it screams at me.

LOOK.

Stop, writer, and LOOK.

See yourself. Stare into your own soul, and pull something out of there that you would prefer not to see. Turn that thing over in your hands. Feel it. Touch it the way you’ve never touched anything else. Dig your fingertips into it and feel the pain…

…because, oh yes, you might pull that thing out of yourself, but it remains connected to you as though by vital umbilical cord. That thing in your soul sends and receives, and so do you. You press that thing between your palms, and you set off an agonizing resonance. The thing in your soul that you don’t want to see, that thing is pain. But your job is to fiddle with it and poke it and prod it and see what makes it squeal.

You don’t want others to see that thing, either.

But your job is to show them, writer.

Take that resonating pain and make them feel it, too.

They might not perceive it as pain, but it’s still your job to show it to them.

That’s the only way you’ll ever write something real.

That’s the only way you will ever be real.

I write because mirrors have voices, and they tell me to pull out the parts of my soul I would rather keep hidden and bare them to the world.

Everything I write is, in some way, a reflection of myself.

Every character I write carries around a little part of me. (This maybe should frighten all of us.)

(Sometimes the voices of the mirrors sound suspiciously like the voices of my characters.)

I write because mirrors have voices, and they tell me to dig deep and unearth what makes me real and use it to craft something real for someone else.

I write because mirrors have voices, and they insist that I Make Things.

* * *

When I ignore the mirrors…when I walk past them and stare anywhere else and refuse the glimpse of my reflected movement…bad things happen.

That thing in my soul? It turns surly when I ignore the mirrors. If I’m not writing, that thing in my soul goes dark and sucks in light. It sucks away joy and interest in life. It saps motivation. It leaches me of any desire to interact with other people.

When I ignore the voices of the mirrors, what happens to me looks an awful lot like depression.

* * *

During the times in my adult life when I wasn’t writing, I didn’t like myself very much.

* * *

I write to soothe the thing in my soul.

I write to Make Something Real in fiction, in the hope of touching people I would never be able to touch otherwise.

I write to like myself.

I write to be who and what I am created to be.

I write to quiet the characters who demand I tell their stories.

I write because mirrors have voices.

 

iheartwords

________________

Why do *you* write?

There’s nothing like a year-end post in the middle of January. Also: books I read in 2013.

So that’s why I’m doing my end-of-2013 post now. In the middle of January. Because there’s nothing like it. NOTHING. And you can’t convince me otherwise. So don’t even try.

Sorry. I’m having a health-crappy 2014 so far, and it’s making me combative. When I have the energy to get combative, anyway. Which isn’t often, so yay! But boo, this seems to be one of those times. I’m sure you can handle it, though, you thick-skinned things, you.

Anyway, my end-of-2013 post concerns mostly the books I read in 2013 and why there were so few of them. So here ya go:

Books I Read in 2013 — With Little *s to Mark the Ones I Enjoyed Most

1. The Cloud Roads (Books of the Raksura, #1) by Martha Wells*

2. Scalzi Super Bundle from Subterranean Press, by John Scalzi (The God Engines, The Tale of the Wicked, The Sagan Diary, How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story, Questions for a Soldier, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop)*

3. Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee

4. Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna*

5. The Vampire from Hell (Part 1) — The Beginning by Ally Thomas

6. The Girl from Tenerife by Bernard Schaffer*

7. Carnival of Cryptids: An Anthology of Strange and Mysterious Creatures edited by Laurie Laliberte and Bernard Schaffer

8. Passion, Power & Sin — Book 1 by Mike Wells

9. The Final Winter by Iain Robb Wright

10. The Walking Dead, Vol. 13: Too Far Gone by Robert Kirkman

11. The Walking Dead, Vol. 14: No Way Out by Robert Kirkman*

12. The Walking Dead, Vol. 15: We Find Ourselves by Robert Kirkman

13. Tiny Dragons 1: The Sky Dragons by Bernard Schaffer

14. Ava Delaney #1: Thirst by Claire Farrell*

Just because I didn’t give something a * doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. But the *ed ones were extra fun for various reasons that include well-flowing style, good characterization, attention-grabbing (and -keeping) characters, and excellent world-building.

So, those were my reads for 2013.

Why There Were So Few of Them

Exhaustion. Busyness. The occasional touch of depression. Exhaustion. The “need” to numb my brain via someone-is-wrong-on-the-internet type of internet stuff (which “need” is a surefire symptom of burgeoning depression in Yours Writerly). Exhaustion. Busyness. And did I mention exhaustion?

I have a now-16-month-old. This should explain most of my 2013.

I’m not blaming her, and I don’t resent her for my lack of focus on readerly and writerly pursuits. In this season of my life, I have to make sacrifices. I know, I know, I shouldn’t sacrifice what makes me me, because if I don’t take time to recharge, I won’t be the kind of mother she needs me to be. I get that.

And I live by it as much as I can. But when the baby only naps for 45 minutes in an entire day (this happens frequently), one arrives at the end of the day with two choices: read or sleep. And in order to retain one’s sanity, one chooses sleep. This, as far as I can tell, is an Immutable Law of Nature, the breaking of which results in black holes in my brain.

Plus, I’ve also been having some bad neurocardiogenic syncope symptoms. They’ve been quite troubling lately, and I’ll blog more on them in the near future. But I suspect they’ve been bothering me a lot longer than I originally thought, and that this is part of the reason for The Great Exhaustion of 2013. But, as I said, more on that in a future post.

2013. Tired. Not enough books read. Certainly nothing near my 2012 total of 55, or even my “dismal” 2011 total of 42. Hey, at least in 2011 I had life, the universe, and everything going for me. That’s saying something.

But enough rambling. I’m already off to a good start in 2014. January isn’t over yet, and I’ve already finished five books and have started on my sixth. That’s nearly half of 2013’s total in the first month of 2014. Statistically speaking, I’m on a rockin’ roll.

Let’s see what the rest of the year brings.

I’ve never been suicidal. Not really. But.

The title of this post might serve as adequate warning. But. In case it isn’t, please note that this post concerns suicide. If reading about suicide is a trigger for you for suicidal thoughts, please don’t read this. Instead, call someone you consider a friend. Or call 800-273-TALK. Or click here for resources.

On the blog of Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, I read this morning that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. The goal is to raise awareness of suicide, reach out to those who are suicidal (which we all should be doing anyway!), and possibly help prevent more suicides from taking place.

In honor of this, Take 5 To Save Lives is asking everyone to light a candle near a window at 8:00pm, Monday, September 10th (today). The site also encourages us to read their warning signs of suicidal behavior — and to have the courage not to ignore it.

I can’t claim to know or understand what it’s like to feel suicidal. Certainly, when I was a teenager and miserable and felt as though the entire universe were aligned against me, I had moments of thinking, “I wish I were dead!” But those moments resulted only in bathroom crying jags and passive-aggressive behavior toward my parents.

For me, the I-wish-I-were-deads never led to thoughts of how I could go about killing myself. I never even used poetry, my avenue of most intense emotional expression (still), to delineate my frustrated misery.

Because that’s all it was: frustration and misery. Through it all, somewhere in the back of my mind and in the depths of my heart, I continued in faith and in hope. I knew — whether I felt it or not, I knew — that life would change (it did), things would get better (they did), and these feelings wouldn’t last forever (they didn’t).

As an adult, I haven’t had the I-wish-I-were-deads per se…but there have been times during which I looked around and saw the pain other were going through, and I thought, “God, I can’t bear to see this anymore. Help them…and if their pain doesn’t stop, then please, just take me so I don’t have to see this anymore.” And yes, I do recognize the hypocrisy and selfishness inherent in that prayer.

This, too, passed.

Depression lies. Through faith, in spite of the cloud of doubt and fear and sadness, I’ve always had that assurance and held on to it.

Suicidal people don’t have that assurance.

I can’t know how it feels not to have that.

I can’t know how it feels not to have hold of that faith. I can’t ever say to a suicidal person, “I know how you feel.” I can’t even say, “I understand,” because how can I understand an emotion I don’t have? It would insult you and invalidate your emotions if I claimed to know something about your feelings that I can’t possibly know.

All I can say is that, even though I don’t understand how you feel, I do understand that you feel this way.

I’ll never be the saving light at the end of someone’s tunnel; I’m not created to be that. (No human is.) But I can be a way station, a guidepost, a mirror that reflects the true Light. We can all be that for someone else at some point, I believe. We can all brighten the world by lighting our tiny corner of it.

Sometimes, that little tiny light, reflection of the true Light, is all a suicidal person needs to hold on for one more moment. And then one more. And then one more. Until they can see the Light that guides them out of the darkness.

Shine a little light into the darkness today.

Attention, Writer: Listen to Your Editor

Greetings, my lovelies. I know, it’s been simply AGES since you’ve heard anything from me here. Not to worry, neither have I perished, nor have I been abducted by various bad guys or sundry aliens. Granted, my body has been hijacked by a small being that seems determined to keep me alternately starving or nauseated, but since I volunteered as host, I can’t really complain.

Yes, you read that correctly: I am, indeed, with child. I’m also looking forward to the end of the first trimester, when, everyone assures me, the debilitating exhaustion and nausea should pass. And once it does, you can expect a post or two containing more tongue-in-cheek reflections on pregnancy and impending parenthood, &c.

But I Digress — On to The Stuff About Getting Edited!

Your editor will probably use more editor-ish marks than I've used here. But either way, you get the point!

Today, I’ve emerged from temporary hibernation in order to share with you the following quote I read this morning:

“If the editor is worth their salt, they will tear your work up in red, making many critical comments. That’s a good thing. It’s what you want. Without it, you’ll never know how to write well. Your friends value your friendship too much to tell you what they honestly think. If you are serious about writing, you simply cannot have thin skin. So hire an editor to give you some straight talk. You may go into depression for a few weeks following, but once you recover, you’ll emerge a better writer.”

–Frank Viola
in “On Writing: Part II – How Authors & Bloggers Can Use Social Media”

Let me repeat that: Without the tearing-up of your work via an editor, you will never know how to write well.

Why not?

Because here’s the truth of the matter: Your story doesn’t have the solid structure you think it has. Your grammar is not as perfect as you think it is. Your characters aren’t as distinct and multi-dimensional as you think they are. Your writerly voice does not read as clearly as you think it reads.

Basically hon, you’re not as good a writer as you imagine you are.

Welcome to Being A Writer.

By definition, we writers are all blind. We might be able to recognize a few of our own flaws, but we’re kind of like the story of the three blind men who all grope an elephant to determine what it is. We feel out a few problems here and there, but we never see the big picture. We can’t. We’re too close to it. We identify an unattractive hair or two growing out of an ear somewhere, but there’s no way we can see the wrinkles, the lines, or the flab hanging down to drag the ground.

Editors are amazing people.

They see things.

No, no, they don’t see dead people… Wait! Ha! They do see dead people. Dead story people, that is. They see the parts of your story that are afflicted by rigor mortis. They see where things have atrophied beyond hope of reanimation. They see where you need to nip, tuck, slice, and purge. And the good news is, unlike your best friend or your mom or your solicitous Aunt Bertha, editors aren’t afraid to tell you.

So, writer, take your editor’s advice: Suck it up and get to work. Your story will thank you for it, your readers will thank you for it, and your future writerly self will love you for it.

P.S. Lest you think I balk at taking my own medicine, here’s the one In Which Courtney Got Edited And It Hurt But She Didn’t Regret It.