31 October 2018

NaNoWriMo Eve Resolutions

On this, the eve of my 15th National Novel Writing Month (I'm counting Camp in these numbers), I decided to make a few resolutions in order to ensure my novel can be the best version of itself.

- None of my characters will have a lung disease. None. ZERO.

- I will remember that Daniel Amos did not exist in 1957 and therefore I will refrain from having my characters quote the entirety of their discography in this novel when I get stuck.

- (The above resolution also applies to Prodigal, David Meece, and Crumbächer.)

- I will remember to eat more than once a day.

- None of my characters will develop even a temporary lung issue. No pneumonia. No infections. Not even a cold.

- My secondary character is allowed to have an interest other than the performing arts. Just let her be a scientist.
(Besides, it's necessary for the novel's plot.)

- I will not give my characters names starting with 'E.'
*looks at list of three main characters*
*FMC's name is Elisabeth*
(Everyone calls her Bette though, okay?)

- I will not get sucked into the abyss of baby name websites for two hours as I try to find the perfect name for a secondary character that DOES NOT start with 'E.'

- I will not spend my writing (or practice) time looking at 1950s decor on Pinterest.

- I will learn to type FMC's name without typing 'Beete' first and having to delete and retype every single time she says something.

- I will not spend more hours making writing playlists than actually writing.

- I will not write the death scene in the first ten thousand words and then have to filibuster for the next 40k because I'm out of plot.

- The director is not the bad guy in this novel. This is not Kyrie. Or Angel Falls.

- None of my characters will die suddenly at a young age... oh, wait, that's literally the entire centrepiece of my plot.
(Hey, they say write what you know...)

- Seriously. No lung diseases.

Onward to literary greatness!

28 October 2018

Day 31

They tell you grief is weird and unpredictable. You'd think I'd know this already, having grieved so much in the last three or four years.

One month and one day since M's death, and this one is not at all like the others. With the others I sobbed uncontrollably for weeks. I spent months in a fit of rage -- how could this happen? -- and literally could not function for a long time. I completely stopped writing and choreographing -- only very recently have I begun to take these things up again.

But this time it doesn't hit me in tsunami waves like it did with my cousin and with Brittney. It's not a crushing heaviness like it was with my grandpa. It hits me in little needling moments, death by a thousand cuts. I have shed tears over M, but not all at once in full-blown sob sessions. The tears this time have been a collective, unobtrusive effort -- one or two at a time, and you'd miss them if you weren't looking directly at me and if the light wasn't just right.

Today I was thinking about one of my writing projects. There's a character who does highland dancing and of course my first, instinctive thought was, I'll ask M about highland stuff... and then I realised I can't. There was a window of opportunity -- years of it -- where I could have (if I had thought of this aspect of the character sooner), and I thought that window would stretch on forever, but it didn't and that somehow blindsided me.

The question that keeps coming to mind is not why? I know why -- or at least I have a pretty good idea. I've been on the edge of that cliff. The wind just happened to push me the other way. (For now.)

The recurring question is: is this how the story ends? All that enthusiasm and vigor and energy and life -- is this the apex? Does it all end here? Apparently it does -- it already has, thirty-one days ago -- but somehow I'm still haunted by this question. Is this really it? Is this really the end of her story? This? It feels so incomplete.

It scares me a little how quickly I've been able to just continue with my life, so unaffected. On one hand I'm waiting for it to bowl me over, and this is a possibility -- I tend to not fully process things immediately. It took me a full three years to process my cousin's death (how has it been over three years?), to return to some kind of normalcy after literal years of being almost literally paralysed with grief and rage. But at the same time, M's death has so far has almost zero effect on me, though I was much closer to her than I ever was to my cousin. Have I just grieved so much for others already that I'm out of grief? Have I spent all my life's emotions? Am I numb now?

And then the next little moment hits me that I'll never be able to tag her in another writing or dance post on Facebook, or I'll never be able to ask her a highland dance question, or I'll never be able to be a part of her dance shows again, or that we never did do that dance video I had started teaching her choreography for, or we'll never again spend 25 comments on her Facebook status talking about music, and I feel a tiny twinge of that huge hollow breathless ache that I know so well. It reassures me -- at least I'm feeling something -- but it also scares me. I only catch glimpses of it, but it seems somehow bigger than I remember it, and should the curtain be fully pulled back, I don't know if I can stand under that much nothingness.

26 October 2018

NaNoWriMo Indecision

National Novel Writing Month is coming up. Is that a thing here still?

I'm not sure.

There are a lot of emotions surrounding NaNoWriMo this year. I haven't done it since 2016 -- and even then I didn't finish, for the first time since 2008 (too much homework, too much stress, was still processing/not over The Year of Hell -- I pretty well imploded that semester). I haven't had much for ideas really since 2014 (Kyrie). Even the fire for the old ideas still languishing in my notebooks and computer folders has largely died.

On top of that, my perennial writing buddy committed suicide last month. And NaNoWriMo is significantly less fun alone (never mind the grief involved...).

I want to honour her. A good way would be to keep writing, in her memory. I want to give her a cameo in this year's novel, but how, and where? Do I write the entire novel about her? A subplot? A passing glance in the fabric of the backstory?

Earlier this summer, as I was contemplating this year's NaNoWriMo, I had toyed with the idea of finally doing the sequel for one of my earliest stories -- it was a time travel story, and I had left space for a sequel (which I'd already sketched out at that time). The main character in that story was in fact loosely inspired by Brittney (who passed away four years after I wrote it, but not before reading and giving her approval to the rough draft), and I have yet to write anything in her memory. I still have all my notes ('all' = maybe half a page) for that sequel, but I don't trust myself to pull 50,000 words out of it. In my younger writing days, I could start with literally nothing more than a sentence and maybe two characters (not necessarily named) and get a decent novel out of it, but 2012 proved that I don't really have that ability anymore (that novel literally ended with multicoloured cows in a field singing karaoke. It was supposed to be a serious military drama). I need some kind of an actual plot idea, or at the very least a character voice (Kyrie came entirely out of a quarter-page character monologue that fell fully formed into my head one day. Even all my subsequent planning for Kyrie was written in that character's voice).

I don't trust myself to be able to pull off that sequel. I know that of course if I doubt myself I definitely won't be able to so instead I should just fling myself right into it without giving a care. The artist cannot put a brush to canvas doubting... (Milosz)

My other idea is a late 1950s theatre drama. I have three characters, but I don't know what the drama is, and that scares me. Five years ago, this would have been enough of a plot for me to start November with. But now, all I see is the terrifying blank space ahead.

Lately I've been fascinated by the modern-day parable. My last novel (2016) was that, and since then I've written a couple parabolic short stories as well. Not only does it give me sort of a direction to go in, it gives the story greater weight. The problem is I've run out of parables. I feel this blockage keeping me from both the sequel and the theatre drama -- I want to have a faint whiff of a parable somewhere in the background of my story this year, but I can't find the one for either of these stories.

If I'm honest, I don't really trust myself to write another good novel at all. Never mind the fact that my last novel, written in such a haze of stress and exhaustion that I literally do not remember writing it, is probably the best thing I've written next to Kyrie.

But I do feel like I need to write something this year. I took last year off of NaNoWriMo, but I think writing another novel is the next step in my slow healing. I haven't truly enjoyed writing since before the Year of Hell (2015), and I want to get back into it. I feel the time is right. But I've changed so much and I don't know if I really truly trust myself to be able to do this again.
It's just been so long...

16 October 2018

Deleting Humans

I'm having such a hard time deleting you from my life.

I've done this before -- too many times. A text comes through and you just sort of mentally scratch another person off your list of friends to call when something terrible or wonderful happens. You mentally note another anniversary. You read the obituary. And they just sort of fade out of your life -- just gone, irrevocably gone, incommunicado, with no explanation. You go back home and don't happen to see them and you think maybe next time.

Sometimes the funeral helps make it real. But yours didn't. It's still not real. I was there, in the pew, and I heard your brother and your teacher and your friends give the eulogies. I heard -- I felt -- the thundering bagpipe lift a mournful cry to the autumn heavens. I watched the still lifes of your now-still life float by me, mere pixels on a projector screen, trying and failing to capture and contain and give back to us the experience and essence of your life, the vivacious energy you carried. I watched the singers' faces crinkle, I saw them clasp each other's hands, holding tightly -- eyes closed, ribcages shuddering -- knowing they knew they could no longer take yours. I heard your mother weeping, howling like no creature in the world ever could -- the haunted, hollow cry of a mother's gutted heart.

And then I went out into the balmy fall day, into the coloured leaves and the blue sky -- I somehow assumed all the colour would die when you did. Maybe that's why my heart doesn't feel it yet. The world is still too bright for you to not be in it. How could you possibly be gone if the sun is still shining? I would think it's some dramatic trick for attention, but the echo of your mother's visceral sobs in my memory tells me otherwise.

I look at the pictures I have of you -- thank goodness I knew you during my take-pictures-of-literally-EVERYTHING phase -- and I study your face and I can't reconcile the fact that I will never see it again in real life. I can't remember your voice, but I remember the words you'd use on our Facebook chats -- I'd recognise your writing voice again in a heartbeat.

If only you still had a heartbeat.

I still do -- why don't you? How is it possible that I'll never -- truly, never -- see you again? How can I look at that face in the pictures, the face of my friend, and delete it from my life? That's so cold, so heartless, so final -- even though you've already deleted it from my life. It seems impossible to just take it as fact that I will never hear from you again. There's always hope, isn't there? The prodigal always comes home, don't they? Love conquers all, doesn't it?

How then can I look at you, that wildly expressive face, and say definitively that hope is gone, and you'll never return, and my love for you -- our love for you -- could not conquer your demons? To do so is to admit defeat. It means I've given up on you and I can't find it in my heart to do that to you; you who have been through so much and meant so much to me. You're not gone -- I just haven't seen you in a while. Like so many others in my far-flung life. They haven't died, they're just geographically far away. Can't you be the same? Can't I run into you at some gala twenty years from now and revert to overexcited fourteen-year-olds again as we catch up on shows, and men, and recent projects? I'll be waiting for that day.

I'll be waiting a darn long time for that day.

12 October 2018

Music Day - Numb

This is a song that probably doesn't need much introduction -- one of the few songs in my library that other people would actually know. But I'm listening to it now and I'm dedicating this Music Day to the lovely but trapped M -- lover of performing and writing and rock music, victim of the hell that is perfectionism.

I loved her. I know her brain was sick and she couldn't receive it, but I loved her all the same, and I hate that I'll never see her light up a room again -- nobody could do it like she did and I daresay nobody ever will.

This is how I feel right now. My mind is screaming and clouded like the guitars, but my heart is numb.

Title: Numb
Artist: Linkin Park
Album: Meteora
Year: 2003
iTunes here; YouTube here.

And I know I may end up failing too
But I know you were just like me with someone disappointed in you...

07 October 2018

Upheaval and Music (A Snapshot)

Life has been in upheaval lately.

I am preparing to graduate this coming April (and none too soon, according to the powers-that-be...). I have planned several auditions for productions outside the college over the next couple of months -- hoping to hit the ground running so I don't experience the post-grad psychological crisis (because it's a real thing and it almost killed me last time). Also I actually managed to land an actual role with actual lines at the college (I know, I was shocked too). And I've now attended the funeral of a suicide (my very good friend -- a brilliant dancer and fearless writer).

I find myself re-evaluating my life quite a bit in the wake of all this. I am definitely ready to graduate -- not angry-ready, just ready. I sense I've more or less gotten all I'm going to get out of my current post-secondary stint and it's time to move on.

And my friend's death has redoubled my passion to live my life the way I feel called to rather than be pressured into spending it at some soulless desk job. I feel a bit of a burden in my spirit to live the life that she never will -- to dance just as brightly and passionately and to write with just as much verve and abandon as she did. It's up to me now to take up that mantle she left behind.

I don't know what any of this looks like. I guess I'll keep practicing and keep auditioning and keep performing. After all, that's basically the life I've always wanted anyway.

Tonight I'm listening to Michael W. Smith's brilliant album i 2 (EYE). This is the album that fits this night, this moment of my life, with its themes of providence and life (warts and all), and darkness and light and loss and sadness and camaraderie. As I've said before, where people cannot grasp the feelings in my soul, music can, and tonight this album is that music. I can't really describe it -- it's a strange mix of what MWS actually wrote coupled with my long bank of memories associated with this album and they all come together in this particular listening tonight. I wouldn't quite say it's bringing me comfort -- in fact as I Hear Leesha plays it's kind of ripping the hole left by my friend's death even bigger -- but it just fits. It makes emotional sense, on some deep subconscious soul level. It accompanies the upheaval with a sort of peace even at it brings me temporarily back to the times before everyone died, sitting in the Dodge Spirit in a Fabricland parking lot with my dad, playing this cassette over and over.

I'll help you find your way
When you're lost in all the madness
When you're blinded by your doubts
When you need someone to be there for you
I'll help you find your way...

01 October 2018

I Know The Drill

Do you know what I hate?

I hate being in my mid-twenties and getting a text saying that a dear friend of mine has died and knowing exactly how the next few weeks will look for me because I've done this all before. I hate that I know exactly which music to listen to and what to avoid. I hate that I know how long it'll take for the news to hit home. I hate that I'm planning a roadtrip for a funeral on Thanksgiving weekend. I hate that I'm so matter-of-fact about this because I know the drill -- I hate that I know the drill.

My friends are celebrating weddings and birthdays and anniversaries. They're going on dates and having children and going on vacation.
And I just keep attending a steady stream of funerals.

I came across a picture the other day featuring myself, my sister, Brittney, and one of my dance friends.
It's a candid shot (though Brittney had seen the camera and was posing), taken by my sister at my birthday party in 2012. And I looked at this picture and realised that two of the four people in that photo are dead, a mere six years later. Brittney, at twenty, was the oldest person in that photo. None of us should be dead, not yet. We're all too young, and yet we're dropping like flies. I've almost come to expect that everyone I've ever loved in going to die young and I'm going to outlive them all, lonely and angry.

When one of my good friends attempted suicide last year, I distinctly remember writing in my journal, 'next death, I die too. I'm not taking this anymore.'

That next death happened this past Thursday.

Yesterday morning one of my very good friends asked me how I was doing. I told her I wasn't doing great and she gave me a hug and there was this strange moment in my head -- both this friend and I have survived suicide attempts and here she is, comforting me in the wake of another friend's suicide. Why did the two of us live? Yet... how strangely beautiful that we did, and now we have each other. We have both been through Hell and back.

The moment reminded me of the old Burlap To Cashmere song...
You have one wing and I have another
Seeking shelter like sister and brother...
Hold my hand and we'll make it all right
From this hell that we live in...
It's a long and lonesome ride
When your friends have all gone home...
(Eileen's Song, Burlap To Cashmere, 1998)