Eternal and Temporal Success

I recently had a short, non-fiction essay chosen to be put up on the “This I Believe” website: http://thisibelieve.org/essay/102962/ (I’m sure many people I know are tired of hearing about this, but, hey, I’m excited). Anyway, when I found out, I was ecstatic. Who wouldn’t be? I floated on air all that day, enjoying all of the comments and support that I received from friends and family.

Then the next day hit like one of those clown toys with the weight in the bottom. I woke-up feeling horrible (without trying to sound cliché, it was just one of those days), and it kept hitting me in the face the whole day. And this had me thinking about success. I think from an outsider’s perspective, at least this is what I have experienced as an outsider, when someone achieve success in their life or reaches a pinnacle moment, we, as the outsiders, tend to think that they have it made. But from experience, when ever I achieve something I think of as a success in my own life, it is never fully satisfying. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed it, the few times it has come to me in my writing life, but it always leads to another longing to achieve more, to be acknowledged yet another time. This is why this type of success should be second-class in our lives.

First, I believe that success needs to be reevaluated, redefined. There is wavering and unwavering success. There is the success that is fatal, that is temporary, the kind that we all long to achieve. And then there is eternal success, success that never fades, that never fails. I would argue that the latter is the type we receive from our relationships with friends, family, God, our dogs and cats, in talking to strangers, in helping strangers, in loving our enemies and all that good stuff. And yet we long more for the temporary, the kind that will be acknowledged for only a fleeting moment and will in the end, leave us alone.

There is a song, by the artist Gotye that I have been listening to, titled “Smoke and Mirrors,” which ponders the reasoning for one’s actions. It has had me thinking about the reasoning for my actions, why I do what I do. Is it for the temporary or eternal?

Nevertheless, success is amazing and enjoyable in both aspects. I just hope that we, including me, seek the eternal more so than the temporal because no one deserves to be left alone.

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Intruder Alert

So, guess what I am doing Friday after work…buying a gun. Now before you freak out, let me give you a little background information.

Last week, Jeremy, my husband, was working the night shift (he is a Chemist at Bayer). I was laying in bed, trying to get ready for sleep, watching a little HBO on my laptop. It was about 10:30 at night. I’m relaxed, laughing a little, my dog Scout laying in the bed next to me, when I hear three knocks on the front door. Instantly, Scout jumps up and barks incessantly. He’s a barker, a good watch dog, but for some reason, on this night, it heightened my fright. I laid in my bed, still, listening to see if I could hear any more knocks. Nothing followed.

I called Jeremy, and he pushed me to go look out the front door. At first, I refused. That’s how all the bad decisions are made in horror movies, right? I couldn’t help but think of the scary tales involving an innocent homeowner being wakened by a psychopath, only to be shot and killed, but first played with. Maybe I need to lay off the horror? Nah.

Anyway, I ended up calling my mom, and she came over on her horse to save the day (her horse being a Chrysler Crossfire). She diligently searched around the house like it was nobody’s business. I couldn’t believe how brave she was. All I could think was that I hope to be that brave for my non-existent kids one day, when they call me crying, scared for their life. Thankfully, the place was clear, Scout had stopped barking, and I went and slept over at my mom’s place.

With this story, I hope to explain the reason that Jeremy and I have decided to buy a gun. I have never been a gun person, even though I wrote a short story about the first time I shot one. Guns scare me. People say that it’s not the gun that’s bad, but the people who use them. And maybe that’s true, but until now, the thought of owning one seemed wrong, a sin. But I get it now. It’s a sense of protection. I know I would be helpless if an intruder came into my home. I have thought about the option of using a bat or a knife, but those weapons require force; force that I’m not sure I would have in that type of situation.

But yes, I admit it, my husband and I are going to buy a gun. What kind, I’m not sure. I don’t know anything about them. But there is one thing that I’m a little excited about…getting to shoot at a gun range. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Do you own a gun? What is your reasoning for having one?

It's gotta look good, right?

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A Day in the Life of a Receptionist

I know, I know, you’re dying to know what a receptionist’s life is like. Well here we are, and I am about to tell you. As Samuel L. Jackson would say, “Hold on to your butts.”

Most of my day is pretty monotonous, involving me sorting mail, logging in and logging out documents as I row through the sea of pointless spreadsheets, answering the two or three calls that actually come through the office, and refilling coffee and copy paper like it’s nobody’s business. I realize that this hasn’t hooked you, yet. It hasn’t hooked me either.

Today a woman called who sounded distraught. She was calling because her child/student seemed to be having a nervous breakdown and wasn’t able to attend classes. It ended up that her call needed to be transferred to another office, but in the process of doing so, we got disconnected, thanks to my stubborn, small fingers. I felt awful. The woman sounded like she was about to pour tears and here I was, accidentally hanging up on her, ending her hopeful call, her chance to find some sort of release.

This call had me thinking about college life. When you think of a college student, you think of a young adult studying, racing to classes, laughing with friends, sometimes partying a little too hard. But it all seems doable and is for most. But there are students out there who find college life heartbreaking, who can’t seem to get it together, who are mourning for their childhoods so hard that they can’t seem to get out of bed, let alone make it to class.  These students are often forgotten. Maybe you see them at one class and never again.

The connection that I am trying to make here, which isn’t quite clear to me either, is that we need to be aware of others in our lives. So often we get caught up in our own problems, that we can’t see that the person next to us is swimming as hard as we are, trying not to drown. I recently had a realization that I need to work on my relationships: all of them. I realized that I need to make time to see people, to talk to people, to tell them I love them and hear it in return, even when I’m tired, especially when I’m tired. And this was made even more apparent to me from this student’s situation.

My main point here is that it’s important to make relationships and keep up with them, no matter how hard it is because we need people, the mysterious bond that is being a friend. Yes, there are some people who come and go, and that’s life. That’s reality. But there are always those important ones that we cannot let slip away, a lone paper flying in the wind. I just hope that this student, who can’t seem to cope just yet with reality, has friends and family, the back-up to help him along the way.

It’s interesting how realizations can come from a short phone call. I hope that you too remember that real relationships are hard to come by, and that even though they take work, it is worth it to have those people around you when your arms are tired and you can’t row the boat anymore.

Now forgive me as I get back to answering the non-stop silent phone calls that are ringing off the hook at my desk. And don’t worry, I found out that the mother who called was able to get a hold of the right person. Everything was solved. Something that could not have been done without the relationship of a mother.

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Fluent, Affluent, Highfalutin?

These definitions are brought to you by Dictionary.com.

Fluent: spoken or written with ease; flowing, as a stream.

Affluent:having an abundance of wealth, property, or other material goods; prosperous; rich.

Highfalutin: pompous; bombastic; haughty; pretentious.

I was pondering these three words last night. They all sound similar. They are words that I have used, but have never actually looked up the meaning of. Then last night I thought, oh, I will look in the dictionary, only to find that I don’t have a dictionary in my house. And I couldn’t help but wonder how I, a writer, could not have dictionary. So I began to wonder, does anyone have dictionaries anymore? Is everything looked up on the web? Is this a bad thing? What is the importance of having it in a text form?

I am still a big believer is having the actual texts in my hand, being able to turn that yellowed paper page, allowing the smell of the book to waft into my nose. It’s a process, an experience that cannot be had with a Kindle, or any other type of e-book reader. Perhaps I am being a bit romantic as I speak, “fluently” about the subject. No, I’m not trying to be “highfalutin” or think that I’m any better because of my convictions on the material book, but I do think that there is something that is to be said about it. There is the old argument that we cannot rely on electronics for everything because they can fail and usually will fail at some point or another. I do agree with that. But there is also something to remembering the past, to keeping books, magazines, etc. in place. We cannot forget the past. We can embrace the future, but what will it even mean if we no longer know about where we have come from. What can we reference to in order to show our prosperity, our climbing, our ability to invent.

In order to embrace new technology, we need to be “affluent” in the old, which was once new at one point. And I’m not just speaking about modern technology, such as the e-book or I-Phone, but also the idea of doing things ourselves. Now, if something is broken, we either throw it away or give to someone else to fix-it, rather than trying to do it ourselves, or learning how to do it ourselves. And I’m not saying this is wrong. I don’t know how to fix everything and often have to ask others to help me. But I’m speaking of the idea of it, of partaking in a history of people repairing, learning how to fix things and growing from it.

It may sound like I am rambling, and I think I am a bit, but I think it’s important to remember and partake in the past in order to achieve our future. What is the one thing that you prefer doing the old way, rather than the modern, technological way?

Now pardon me while I go invest in a hard-cover dictionary.

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Various Musings On Writing and “Silent House”

I went to see the movie “Silent House” on Saturday. I’m a sucker for horror movies. I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s twisted. And yes, there were some inconsistencies that bugged me a little, but over all, it was good.

Anyway, on the way home, the movie point-of-view had Jeremy and I discussing “reliable narrators.” This is a term that I heard people throw around in workshop classes in school, but I’m not really sure most of them knew what it meant. I sure as hell didn’t know what it meant. But the movie had me questioning the meaning of the phrase.

I have watched many movies where the main character that is followed ends up being crazy or sees the world in a different reality. But I like it, especially in movies such as “Memento” or “Shutter Island.” It never rubbed me the wrong way or came across as a bad thing. So I decided that reliability in a narrator is not about whether their point of view is straight forward, and that we as the viewers, or readers, know everything that is going on. The reliability lies in part with the believability that what this character/narrator is experiencing is believable. Here’s an example of a non-reliable narrator. Say you read a story or novel about someone going to war. War is an experience that only those who have been in it can understand. A good example of this could be “With The Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa” or Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front.” But a couple of years ago I read a story that was written from the point-of-view of someone in war, but had an overwhelming impression that they had never been through it. And it made the story lose it’s confidence, its “reliability.” And yes, I know, writers write about stuff they have never experienced all the time, but I use war as an example because it is such a private and personal experience that I believe cannot be faked.

Then, I went on the think about cheap tricks that are pulled in literature. An example that I heard in school was about a novel that in the end revealed that the whole thing was from the dog’s point of view. Now, I haven’t read this novel, and cannot truly criticize it, but my point is in the idea of the trick. From the description that I was given about the novel, the revelation that it was the dog did nothing for the story. It didn’t change anything or add anything. It was simply a trick to trick. And who likes a bad trick, right? Just like in “Silent House,” a twist or a trick needs to be pertinent to the story. It needs to play a role in how the character sees the world and why they see it in such a way.

All in all, “Silent House” is worth checking out. There is also the original spanish version that I would like to see. But in saying all of this, I think in writing, it’s important to consider how information is revealed. It plays a part in story-telling. And if writing about something that you don’t know about, make sure that it’ s believable. Not that it’s easy, but you don’t want some kid in an undergraduate writing workshop blabbing about how your narrator is unreliable.

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I don’t have a lot to say today, and I mean it.

I am signed up to receive these bulletins from the literary journal, “Glimmer Train,” in my gmail box. In these bulletins, writers that are going to be published in their upcoming issue or have recently won a contest are asked to say something about writing in general. Sometimes the small articles flop, but most of the time I am amazed at how well these fiction writers can put together their two cents in a moving, practical way. Below is a quote from one of the guys who will soon be published in their print publication. He’s new to the scene, but this one sentence stood out to me. Enjoy.

“Write to be read. But, first of all, live.” – Jonathan Freiberger

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It’s been awhile (and I can’t help but think of that old Staind song).

I didn’t really want to use this blog as a place for personal reflection, but that’s what’s on my mind, so I’ll get over it.

A little update…I had oral surgery on an abscess a couple of weeks ago. The surgery went fine, but I was prescribed a steroid to help with the inflammation. Big mistake. I experienced the “severe” side-effects. I am slowly but surely regaining myself again.

It was through the strong effects, which included a tight chest, like a knotted jewelry chain that you can never unravel, and severe anxiety and depression, that I came to a conclusion. I need to take control of my life and my situation. Yes this seems cliché, but for me, I have to be continuously reminded of this.

Having had a long struggle with depression and anxiety, I am prone to being easily manipulated by negative situations and stress. Therefore, I find myself having to climb out of the pits that either I have dug, or that my brain chemistry has dug for me every once in a while to regain reality. And it’s odd how each time this happens, I react as if the situation is new, as if I have never had to climb out before. You would think that I would leave myself a rope with a note on it or something. Yes, after climbing out, I do recover a little bit faster each time, but I can’t help but wonder why I can’t remind myself that I have been here before or why I can’t leave myself cookie crumbs to find my way home.

And every time this happens, I immediately think of it as a curse; a curse that has been put upon me through genetics, or God, or myself. But I have realized that in a weird way, my reaction might be a good thing because it always seems to remind me of how precious life is, how important my relationships with others are, and how much I need God.

In saying all of this, I can’t help but know myself and know that I won’t quickly remember this when the next episodic event occurs, as if I have become the guy from “Memento.” But hopefully I can remember that curses aren’t real and that nothing is ever is permanent. Everything is temporary.

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