I have made it through the 5th week of being in a cast. I don't really want to write about the challenges that I've had this week so I won't. Instead, this week I wanted to write about the mind. The power of the mind. I also want to write about Shakespeare (more on that in a bit) and his power of using words, tying these two ideas together. Bare with me as I go down memory lane. Hopefully, it'll all make sense in the end.
I'm remember that when I was little my father used to beat my mom and I often heard lots of yelling and crying. To survive that as a kid, I retreated inside. I used my imagination to dream up things. One vivid memory that stays with me today is remembering the aftereffects of a big argument between my parents. He came into the kitchen and was angry on the dinner she had prepared him, shouting about how he had worked all day and she hadn't made him a good enough meal. He threw back a chair across the room and I remember the yelling and my mom crying and I remember afterward. I felt disparate and alone. I rode outside on my big wheel and could hear the neighborhood children laughing and playing.
I just remember my innocence melting away. I looked up at the trees on our blocked and felt the autumn against my skin and heard the leaves crunching on the ground as I drove over them. I was alone and had seen deep into the adult world and knew that there wasn't much anyone could do to help me.
I've often felt alone in my life because I've felt unable to take the creativity and vision that I have inside and to share it with another. That's probably why I like to write. In my teenage years, I often retreated in my imagination to help me survive my mom's second marriage. I retreated into my books and then began to write. I realized at a young age that I had two options:
- Bottle everything up inside and live like a rat in a cage.
- Use my imagination and share my creativity with the world.
I've published four books and a collection of short stories and each book has helped me along in a different part of my life. My books are journeys of the soul because I grow and learn when I write them. I go through each day and often think of what I'm building. What am I working toward? What is the vision that I build and wish to pass on to my children? And so I write. My imagination and creativity are still beacons of hope for me in which I can create worlds that no one can see, but can participate in. The words can open doorways and allow us to escape, if but for a while, the drudgery of our day to day.
For me, there is more to it than that. With my mind, I can travel, experience and be anywhere that I can imagine. I came up with the idea of "The Chronicler" for my Cinderella's Secret Diaries books. A Chronicler is a rare person who can travel through space and time through the dreamline. It's all fantastic and made up stuff, but I smile a bit because I believe writers are chroniclers. We see things that others choose not to put down in words.
That's why I wanted to focus on the mind this week. The power of the mind that can transport me beyond my temporarily injured body to other places and times and places that I've never been and with people I've not met. I remember a few years back that I was in a counseling session and I shared with my counselor that I had a tool that helped me through difficult times. I like to sit down and write. Just to let the words flow out of my head, through my heart and mind and down onto the page. The freedom that I have then allows me to recharge my batteries, enables me to accept and admit how I feel and then to let it go and move on. I shared this with my counselor thinking that my explanation of an important instrument in my psychological toolkit would be a starting point for a discussion on obtaining other good tools. Instead the comment made to me was that the writing didn't really matter. I do not remember if the words "So what?" were used, but I was extremely disappointed.
Connection for me through words (written or verbal) is one of the most secret and deepest forms of intimacy for me. I like to share memories and experiences through words because I see those times as the building blocks of new memories. My words are building a bridge with you and how we feel about that experience creates a bond of trust between another person and I. It's integral to my becoming friends (true friends and not "How are you doing?") with another.
And when I look back at my school days, and really think about it, Shakespeare comes to mind. He was able to transcend the page and his words made a solid connection with me. Today, I think Shakespeare has fallen out of favor a bit. Yet back in the '90s when I was going through school, he was all the rage because Kenneth Branagh and Franco Zeffirelli were making Shakespeare movies. Henry V, Much Ado about Nothing and Gibson being in Hamlet all come to mind. What I have loved about Shakespeare is that he wrote about everyday stories that transcend beyond any words that I could ever think of dreaming up. Hundreds of years later, I still feel transported when I see or read A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Shakespeare showed the heart of men in a way that we can identify with because it's true, beautiful and filled with such truth. The words that Shakespeare used can transport me and build that connection with me in an emotional and intimate way that forms that bond with me.
"We know what we are, but know not what we may be." (Hamlet)
Or how about this one:
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” (Julius Caesar)
We can journey any time we want to another place through words. And, for me, Shakespeare was a master of that. I'm a middle age man who looks around and believe that we can achieve such great things if we only try. But as is human nature, we have done both. We have created and invented the most amazing of things, but also performed atrocities.
But what about each of us? The words we use, the work we do and the relationships that we form? What will it all matter when we are gone and dust? That's the very thing for which I work so hard. I'm trying, like all fool writers, to build a bridge to you, to others and to the future. That someone can see into a tiny part of my world, experience it and to make an emotional connection with that person.
I am not the only person who grew up in a family with physical and verbal abuse. It's not about me, but the experience, the sharing of that moment when I was young, on that big wheel, seeing the world looming so great out in front of me and wondering, "Why? Why am I different? Why I am going through this suffering? Does anyone else feel this way? Does anyone else truly understand?" Yes, the answer is yes. You are not alone as I was not alone then as a kid.
I was too young to understand what was happening to my mother and to my family or to me. I grew up in a hard way, but I surely was not alone. Those experiences that I have had are in my books and my words are the life rafts to others who have experienced similar pain. We are not alone. We are like Shakespeare in how he uses words to cast the truth on what he saw in the people around him. And that hope of joy that sifts through his plays allows us to peer into the truth of it all. We are fallible and can fall, but we can also shine as bright as stars. There is such good and hope in each of us that it makes me smile.
I can't walk today, but I will in the future. Today I use my mind and am strong where my body is weak and still healing. What if each of us were a little bit like Shakespeare or Maya Angelou or Alice Walker or Margaret Atwood or Isaac Asimov or J. K. Rowling or John Green or George R. R. Martin or a whole host of other authors stretching all the way back to the first woman to draw pictures on a cave back in France? We wear our history on us like words. They're all around us in images and light and if we but trust and share some of those words with others, in a truthful and honest way, what a wonderful world we could build.
We all have fears. It's the sharing of them with others that allows us to overcome and grow. I'll end with a story that really touched me this week. Back in July, Cassidy Stay stood up at a memorial service for her slain family and read this quote from Harry Potter:
"Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."
A few weeks later J. K. Rowling had heard of Cassidy's story and wrote her personally. Rowling reached out to the 15 year old who had survived an unimaginable tragedy. We don't know the contents of the personal letter, but Rowing, who dealt with depression and wanting to commit suicide before her first book was published, took the time to reach out to make that connection to Cassidy. Rowling's words of darkness and light had helped Cassidy Stay.
Reading about this story gives me such hope that there is still good in the world. There are still people who care and use their actions and words to help others. To build bridges of trust and hope and faith for a better world today and into the future.
And as corny as it might sound, that is what I have pledged to do. If only one person is helped by my books or these blog posts, I will be happy. I will have helped another.
We are never alone. There is always the light. It might be buried inside, but it is there for all to see.