Friday, November 6, 2020

Thursday Tales: The Last Chapter

Her fingers flew across the keys.

Chapter 49


Jane blinked quickly as she emerged from the innards of the mountain into the bright sun. How long had she been inside? How long had they all been inside?

Her friends followed her out, all blinking the same.  Her friends.  She laughed a little at that thought. They were such a ragtag bunch. Humans and elves and dwarves and dryads and... just all of them. Races that normally hated each other, who would have happily knifed each other in a barroom brawl, and yet... yet they had become her friends.  All drawn together by a common goal, a common enemy to vanquish.

She dropped her sword and slid down the side of the mountain into a near-crouch, ignoring the pain as the rocks dug into her skin, drawing a little blood as she went.  It hardly mattered now -- it just mixed with all the rest. She let her head fall into her hands and, just for a moment, allowed her thoughts to swirl.

A few years ago, they would have happily knifed each other -- it took the arrival of a lowly heretic wizard who drew on the fears and prejudices of the people to amass more and more power to change all of that. It had been so frustrating in the beginning. She couldn't understand why so many were drawn to someone who was so obviously not... good. Alec had told her that it was simply what they wanted, that everyone wants someone to believe in, sometimes just someone to give them someone else to blame.

Oh, Alec. Even closed, she could feel the pain of the heartache behind her eyes, and she opened them to shake it away.  But, not before Damian, on one knee across from her, saw it. He merely nodded.  He'd had his own losses -- they all had -- and he understood. They all understood.

She stood up, and opened her mouth to speak. No words came. What do you say after you vanquish the beast?  What do you say after your quest is over and you're not sure what comes next? What do you say when you're not sure the next step, where you go from here, and what there is to go home to?

She met Damian's eyes again, and whispered, "I don't know know what we do next." She felt like a failure of a leader in that moment.

He stood and put his hand on her shoulder in comfort. He was solid -- a man of few words, but meaningful when they were spoken. "Breathe, Jane."  He turned to face their friends, and she was grateful for his strength.

"My friends," he began.  "Our friends... a battle has been won. Take solace in that win. Take meaning from this moment. Breathe it in and know that this is what we have fought for --  but also, "he paused.  "Also, it isn't. The hatred amassed in that cave -- was drawn from our homes.  And it still rests there. The battle was the easy part. What comes next... will take us all. What comes next is the healing and the rebuilding."

Jane took strength from that. They all did. Yes. The quest was over, but there was more for her to do. More for them to do. 

There was yet light in the day.

THE END

The writer smiled and pushed back from her desk. She picked up her cup of tea, a little cold now, and wandered to the window. She was done.  Editing yet to do, of course, but she was done and it felt good to have the story out.

Yet, she couldn't help but frown at the world outside. Something was wrong with it. It was great! She should be satisfied! But, something was wrong with it and she wasn't really sure what.

She sat back down at her desk and stared at her screen. Carefully, she highlighted the files for Chapters 1-48.

Move to... New Folder.
"Back Story"

She reopened Chapter 49... erased the "49"... typed "1."

The vanquishing quest wasn't the story she wanted to tell.   The rebuilding was.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Tale of Two Selfies

 I am obsessed with these pictures.


The picture on the left is from 2004. I was 28 years old. We lived in Southern California, in a house just far enough from our friends to be lonely -- and way far from our families. My husband worked a lot -- and a good 60 minute commute away -- and I was home with our daughters -- two delayed 4 year olds and a 3-year-old. I was not doing well.

It was during this time that my friends started insisting that I see a counselor. Sitting on the stairs, shaking by 7am, was apparently not normal behavior. One of the first things my counselor tried to drum into my brain: "If you do not take care of YOU, there will be no YOU to take care of the people you care for most." I would go on to relearn that lesson over and over and over for years -- but I don't think re-learnt lessons are bad.  I think it might just mean that I'm stubborn.

I don't know what the number on the scale was -- we didn't own one.  But I wasn't happy with most of who I was.

The picture on the right is from two days ago. I'm 44 years old, though I continue to try to convince my children that I'm still 28. We live in Washington, in a well-lived-in house, closer -- if not close-- to our families. My husband still works too much sometimes, but is better about balance. I am still a probably-overly-involved mom, though at 20, 20, and 19, our daughters' needs are different, if not less taxing.

I have learned to embrace my natural curls, to apply make-up, and how to take a damn killer selfie.

But, mostly... I think that I just like me.




Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My Tender Times

There are certain times in my life that I hold in my memory with the utmost care and tenderness. They are precious beautiful times that I associate with golden periods of my life -- and mostly center around friendships from earlier times in my life that were grounded in youth and the process of maturing and faith and ministry.


One of these is time we spent in California -- especially the connections between the college we attended and the church that became our home. We were deeply rooted in that church, especially its youth ministry, and we built these deep wonderful friendships that I hold with such care in my heart and enjoyed these lovely groups of people who fed into us. In retrospect, I regret that I didn't appreciate this as much as I should have when I had it. I don't think I really understood then how rare it was, and I pined for a move to the NW so I could be closer to my family. I didn't realize that when God finally gave me what I asked for in that, I would always be searching for a copy of the family that I had when we were there. There is guilt that comes with that leaving that we did... Some of those friendships have crumbled, and sometimes I wonder if that was our fault.  If we'd stayed, would they have survived? Probably the answer is yes, they still would have deteriorated for the same reasons they did in reality.  Maybe not on the same timetable, but eventually. -- But I still hold the guilt anyway.

Another is the decade I was a WAH girl. We were women, young to a-little-less-young, who met and came together in the early days of the 2000s internet. Before Facebook, before Instagram, we had Yahoogroups. I was a very young mom, unsure of myself, opinionated anyway, both too strong and too weak of a personality at the same time.  God help you if you missed a day of messages because your inbox would be full to the brim. We loved each other and fought with each other and grew with each other and pushed each other. These, too, are friendships I hold with tenderness -- and with the knowledge that they know every piece of me.  The good things and the oh-so-ugly things. There is a comforting understanding in that, I suppose -- some of our friendships have survived, and some have not (I hold a tremendous amount of guilt and grief in this too -- probably more deserved)-- but even with that being true, I know that every single one of those women have been and continue to be a part of me -- and I wouldn't be who I am without them. I think about them, in some way, almost every day.

We built a ministry that sprung out of our friendships, and we found out yesterday that one of our girls had passed away. And it sort of feels like a piece of you passed with it, like the picture that was that time in our lives has fractured just a little bit more. And it leaves you broken in ways that are hard to explain, and I can only just grasp in my head -- and maybe you had to be part of it.

There will surely be more tender times in my life -- but it's hard for me imagine any that could come close.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Fandom: A Small Retrospective

 We were at a brewery a few weeks ago. There was this lady who clearly frequented regularly and felt like she thought that she owned the place. Not in a "you're in my seat" sort of way -- but more like "Let me tell you everything you didn't ask about and try to sell you on its glory." We found her to be annoying.



I think that I may have especially found her annoying because - well - I watched her and thought, "She would have really enjoyed being a Celtic Thunder fan." Maybe I saw a little bit of me in her.

Most of my 30s and a little bit of my 40s -- I was an Irish manband superfan. My friends knows this. I like to say that I just had my midlife crisis a little early.

In retrospect, it was a weird thing. At the time, I guess I knew that -- but it was also mostly a fun thing. As I look back, there are a lot of things I'm glad that I did -- some things I wish that I'd done differently -- and a few things that I wish I'd never done at all.

I enjoyed the music and loved the concerts -- but the marks that 10-year experience left on me lies mostly in people -- in the friendships and experiences that maybe only another fan can understand. Some of those rested in other fans, some in people within the business, some I only met tangentially but who filled important pieces in me.

Many of those people, I only talk to occasionally now -- some of them remain a beloved fixture. But we all shared a common experience, and they all fill a sweet scene in the friend tapestry of my life.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Fog bringeth Autumn


 
The fog lingers in the trees over the neighborhood swamp this morning, taking its time burning off before the summer day begins. It will burn off, but it's a reminder that a new season is making its way.


Spring was achingly hard this year. Summer as comfortable and lazy, as summer should be. What might Autumn have in store? What might I have in store for Autumn?

At WW, we provide a host of tools to help people with managing change. So many of them -- and the conversations we create -- center on the important of awareness. You can't change how you're eating if you don't know how you're eating. I think you can extrapolate that into so many places in your life.

I've always held the transition from Summer into Fall as a perfect time to reassess life and habits and intentions. Not really for any sweeping changes -- but little things tend to slide and slip in over the summer, and the new season and starting school year has always felt like a joyful opportunity to refocus on the things and people I value most. 

The fog has burned off now -- the morning clouds will follow. And as the late summer day lingers on, I'll be thinking about those things.