Quizzes and more

Monday, July 28, 2014

Five Years of Change: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Different.

All right, maybe not five. More like four and a half. But still. It’s been that long since my whole inner universe turned upside down and the stars exploded through my veins and insert more melodramatic claptrap here. Basically, I broke up with someone I’d been with for a long time. And then I moved to another state. And then my brother died. And things got scary financially. And also life and stuff and things and also insert Celine Dion’s All By Myself at the end of this sentence for some extra emotion.

Honestly, guys, ho-ly crap, though, it’s been a shit-storm. And all is not perfect, but that’s okay, because all is not bad, either. And that’s the first time I can say that with any real conviction in a long time.

When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, I didn’t know what to make of it. Sure, it seemed dramatically scenic, but could I call it beautiful? That word seemed to apply to something that had some kind of personal, positive emotional tie, and I didn’t feel any emotional ties to this region. How could I? I was born on the opposite coast, lived a decade land-locked in the middle of the country, I’d made my ties elsewhere. But I hadn’t made them here. And I had happy feet. I had a wanderlust that hadn’t been tempered, so I was prepared to give up on this place in search of something better on more than one occasion. Plus, when things hurt badly enough, sitting still feels like torment. No distractions, no epic adjustments…just you.

I’ve done countless “just me” things in the last several years. And as I sit here, I wonder what I know about myself that I didn’t know, say, five years ago.  Some major things pop into mind:

-For one, I feel best when I’m needed. And while this is rooted in compassion and a desire to see people properly taken care of, it can also suck at your sense of duty to yourself. It can mask self-neglect. It can foster a false sense of identity. Especially in women. I can’t give myself too much flack about this, though. I was raised in an old school kind of way, after all, and it takes a long time to counter those thoughts. But after feeling empty, after witnessing my sister enter the convent and my brother passing away, I was left wondering who’s left to take care of, to worry about…but myself. And that was a heavy, hollow thing to sit with. Who needed me? Well…I did, of course. So now I’m trying to understand how that works. I’m trying to be okay with that.

-For another thing, I had about a millimeter’s worth of understanding where my own potential was concerned. I’d only begun to scratch the surface of what I was capable of five years ago. I mean, I was utterly clueless. I had no idea that I was such a coward, but I had no idea I was so badass, either! It’s true. I’d done a few cool things, but some part of me still doubted, if thrown into a tumultuous ocean all alone, whether I’d survive it on my own. I mean, who the hell was I, anyway? When there was no juxtaposition of a significant other, or siblings to care for, when it was just me…could I drag my grieving ass off the muddy floor and learn to speak up for myself, learn to push myself and prove myself? Did I believe I had what it took? No matter how boss I may have looked from the outside, on the inside I was losing my shit. But now…all kinds of interesting things are happening to change my mind. Which leads to point three….

-What I want and what I’m good at. Did you know that I rock at marketing other people’s stuff? Did you know that I’m a natural born strategist? This is a ball of yarn that’s still unravelling surprises, but so far so good. I always had a strong pull toward marketing, and it’s been a big part of my life for many years (since before my first book came out). But the fact that it (as well as writing) has become a part of my day job, as well, is a pleasant surprise—and one I wouldn’t have had the chance to accomplish had I run away from my fears instead of standing to face them head on.  I mean, picture a shaking girl with one eye open and a big old bull running at me with the word “life” pinned to its chest…That was me. I had to play a game of chicken with life far too many times. And it turns out, even when life threw the most horrendous bombs at my head/heart, I didn’t die. I actually didn’t explode and then melt into a pile of bloody goo a la True Blood vampires. In fact, I’ve withstood life’s tragedies with more grace and more strength than a lot of people. And this shocks me more than anything else. Where does the strength come from when I need it? And don’t even get me started about dating. That’s a whole other post.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve blogged, but I guess I’ve just been trying to get my footing before I said anything else. This is the first time I can honestly say, in  2 ½ years of living in Seattle and double that since becoming single, that I’m starting to feel like I’m home. In my own skin and in Washington state.  And it’s about damned time.  

Turns out we can choose to swim instead of sink, which is a good thing, because I do love the water.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dreams and Runaway Trains

I never thought of myself as someone who has premonitions of things. I wasn't one of those people who dreamed about something specific only to have it happen the next day. I don't think I've ever really seen a ghost or definitive proof of anything otherworldly with my waking eyes.

But. But then again, sometimes I think life's visions aren't so blatant. They're not so spelled out for us in neat, massive sky writing. Sometimes, when you dream things and they hit you hard or stick with you forever, I think those are important things...even if we don't know why for a long time.
So far in my life, I've had two such dreams. One I wouldn't understand until recently, and one profoundly and immediately obvious. For example, the week I was to leave Missouri for Seattle, my heart was breaking. It had been two years since I'd split with my long-time significant other, but we remained best friends and as close as family. We'd basically grown up together, and I knew that saying goodbye would be one of the scariest, most difficult things we would ever do. Still, I was determined to be brave and move on to this new stage, to wipe my chalkboard clean of old mental residue and figure out who I really was. I needed to go away.

I remember laying on a blow up mattress in my ex's living room the night before we were to drive to Washington state, and just as I was about to drift off, the black of sleep turned into a stream of running water, and then the stream branched off in two different directions, with the message loud, clear and emphatic. Heck, I could even hear the water running! In fact, it was so shockingly loud that it shook me fully awake and sent me scrambling for my laptop to write an email entitled, "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL THURSDAY" (the first day alone in Seattle) for my ex to read. In it, I said that I'd had a dream and I knew I was supposed to share it and it was loud and clear: When you truly love someone, it doesn't matter if you grow apart, because that person is in you, they're a part of you and they'll always be close, no matter what it seems like. It was exactly what I didn't know I needed. And I was incredibly grateful.

Fast forward a year and a half.  I'd been thinking about an old dream--one I'd had when I was just a young teenager and predominantly charged with the care of my little brother and sister.

In the dream I was holding a young John's hand (he was probably eight or so at the time), and pushing my baby sister in a stroller. We came upon some railroad tracks, and seeing a train speeding towards us, I rushed us from the tracks only to find that we were walking on another set of them, same scenario...rushing train. Starting to panic, I hurried them along, but new tracks always emerged, and a new train sped toward us. Finally, with five or six trains barreling down on us, I turned behind me in desperation for some escape. But instead of freedom, there was a brick wall.

So many trains, relentless tracks, and a brick wall...and me, thirteen or fourteen years old, with a toddler and little boy. In that moment, I knew there was nothing I could do. I remember saying, "God help me." And then, as the worst was about to happen, I woke up.

You never forget a dream like that, though I just couldn't understand what it meant. My need to protect my brother and sister ran deep and started young--quite without any alternative. I was their caretaker and teacher. It came with the territory and it would extend into my adulthood. I was willing to be a human shield if I had to, and, in a lot of ways, I was.

But, in the end, no matter how much I wished I could keep them safe, it would reach a point where this was out of my control. The pinnacle of this realization came this past winter when, at twenty-five, my brother left this world. I felt so helpless, I was so helpless, to protect them now.

Thinking about that old train dream again, I'm pretty convinced it was more of a warning than anything else. Things would be hard. Then they'd get worse. And worse still. And eventually, we'd run out of tracks and I'd have to admit that I couldn't protect them forever. That we couldn't keep running away from the things that hurt us. Eventually, I'd have to stop with my back to a brick wall, face those trains with courage and release it to God. We love, but we have to let go. We can only stand back and pray for the best.

Maybe that was just how it had to be.

Anyway, strange things, dreams. They don't take a psychic to understand, just some awareness, or perhaps a few decades. So don't forget those dreams. You know the ones. If they don't make sense now, tuck them in your back pocket for later. You never know when their time will come.

Here's hoping I dream of joyful things tonight. I wish the same for you.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sometimes I Pee...And Other Things Authors Should Know Their Editors Do

To all the wonderful authors out there,
You know I love you. I am you. But I've seen some things over the last few years that suggest perhaps it's time to speak on behalf of my fellow editors--those often under slept, often underpaid soldiers everywhere when I say, please, writers of books...have mercy.  
Look, writers are needy people. Let's just be honest with ourselves. When it comes to one's work, I well understand that things can be stressful and emotional and that one's manuscript is a very significant aspect of their life. We've foregone sleep and fielded rejection and we want this damned book published yesterday already. I know this because I have three of my own books published to date, so I've been there and I'm still doing that. But, the previous being said, there are a few points I'd like authors to keep in mind during the editing process.
First, an author mustn't forget that they are not the only instrument in the orchestra, so to speak. And while each author is individually concerned about their own deadlines, an editor is concerned about many. And that doesn't just include the authors on their slate, but all those involved in the process of a book's publication, from detail editors to copy editors to font setters and so forth. If more revisions are needed, if things are taking longer than expected, it's not a decision made lightly. It's a necessary one that impacts all parties. So, if we're willing to slow our roll to do things right, you should be, too.
Second, please know that many editors have several faces--myself included--outside the realm of the editing world. I have an obligation to market my businesses, for instance. If you see me on Twitter or Facebook, please take a deep breath before the knee-jerk feelings of neglect set in. I have a boss and a publisher, too, after all, and these venues are major factors in marketing and public relations. Each one has its own allotted time in my life. They are necessary and they are mine. If it bothers you to see that your editor has a life beyond the notes in an email or the margins of a word doc, it's probably best to look away, unfollow, whatever helps you sleep at night. You are the center of your universe--but you are not the center of your editor's.
Along with these things, and with the unpredictable income this business allows, your editor will often maintain another professional position to help pay their bills, which makes for a juggling act and a half, let me tell you, resulting in many grossly late nights spent squinting in front of someone's manuscript because, by golly, it needs to be done. Sure we have other personal business we'd love to cut into, sure our kids are whining or the husband/wife keeps shooting us dirty looks for ignoring them and working 16 hour days for the third week in a row...but authors rarely see that. It's all about perspective. 
Also, and strangely enough, I confess that editors can and do choose not to edit every free moment of their lives. They even try to maintain a day or two for non-editing purposes. As a good editor pal of mine once told me, "the NLRB ruled that my employers are required to let me sleep and eat." I tend to agree. Most of the time, I try (and fail) to make my weekends a sacred writing time. Other editors will have a "family time" rule, while others will sneak a day in to just ignore their emails and keep from becoming a mentally off-balanced, self-neglected recluse. And this is good, because you do not want a burned out editor working on your manuscript. That will do it no justice.   
In closing, writer folks, remember that your eagerness to be published does not and must not determine the speed of the editing process. It's bloody cool that your book is being published at all, so throw back a shot of something strong, and whatever you do...think twice before sending your editor another email, or complaining when you've (stalked) seen them doing X, Y, Z and why would they ever be doing anything else but working on your novel?!
I beg you. Do not repeatedly poke the editor. I mean it. Seriously, they are obviously not in this for the glory. They're in it for you. They're in it because they love words, they love perfecting them and they love helping an author present a product beyond anything a writer could have imagined by its end. Many a wonderful editor has helped me grasp this with my own books. And I'll love them forever.
That's all, folks. Now, go out there and do what you do! Just do it patiently, huh?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Don't Look For It. Be It.

We would often say that the people in our lives are what create a sense of belonging and home. But, the more I consider how unreliable a method of security that can be, the more I wonder how wise it is to cling to someone else to make us feel that way. Human connection is fulfilling, without a doubt, but, through changes we may never see coming, circumstances always out of our control, life can remove people from our midst, one way or another, physically or emotionally.

Would we still feel safe then? "Home" then? And if not, maybe it's important to learn what makes us feel "home" wherever we are...in the presence of ourselves alone. To love without attachment. To feel fulfillment in living life and giving love without expectation, and trusting in the ultimate balance. It's a lesson meant especially for me, I think.

"Don't let your soul get lonely child
It's only time, it will go by
Don't look for love in faces, places
It's in you, that's where you'll find kindness."
Ray Lamontagne - Be Here Now

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What My Brother's Life is Teaching Me

As many of you know, my beloved younger brother passed away suddenly the end of November. And while I was given the option of speaking at his service, I felt that I wouldn't be able to handle it. And I was probably right. But that's okay, because what I had to say needed some gestating, and I think it's best shared with all of you, not only those who knew him. Because we're all connected, and the value of John's life belongs to all of us.

My brother teaches me something new every day. About myself. About others. It starts in a small city called Scranton, Pennsylvania, with an insecure little boy who, more than anything, craved to know he was safe, close, and loved. I never could miss that. No one could.

That trait is in all of us. But with John, it was easier to see. He had a vulnerability he could not hide. And that vulnerability made some people uncomfortable...John included. One might think, in knowing him, that John needed people. And of course he did. But the larger truth is, my family and all those who knew him needed him more.

We needed John, not as a reminder, but as a wake up call. We needed his spirit with us--short as his human life was--to point out the obvious: That all the things we consider important, all the petty, material things, all the foolish wastes of time, all the ego-centric fears we give in to and the potential for love we completely miss, they were right in front of us the whole time, either begging to be released or begging to be seen. And we would have missed them, possibly for a lifetime, had my brother, and gentle, sweet-hearted spirits like his, not come to this planet to wake us up, to shake us out of the comfortable, the alienated and the small. To open our eyes completely to the abundance of love left to give and to receive, and the preciousness of each day together, each dream pursued, each "I love you" spoken without reserve.  While the sister in me would give anything to have him back, the spirit in me knows that he never left. And that every time I see someone in need of love, whether it's easy or difficult to give, I will think good and hard before neglecting to do so. It has already changed my behavior (in a tip-of-the-iceberg kind of way).

Nobody has to tell me now that life is short, that it's unpredictable, that there's no room for procrastination when it comes to going after those things that we're most passionate about. Not that it's easy--God help me--because it's not. But when I think of giving up now, a part of me yells, "No, you don't! You promised John you'd do your best, even if you fail over and over again. Don't you dare give up. He's not giving up on you, so don't you give up on yourself."

John's life has made me reconsider my motivations, as well. It's made me look, hard, in the mirror and reevaluate the path  and root of my own happiness. It's made me ask (and answer) questions like: Am I living my life, accomplishing things, striving for goals in an effort to seek acceptance? What does make me happy? What really matters? What will matter thirty years from now? And the truth is, some of those answers have surprised me. And some of them have changed. I was already in the throes of transition before John passed away, but now it's another level altogether. The things I'd have considered less significant before, the way I viewed people once, appear more flawed now. Some of the deeper reasons behind my pursuits erupted as out of sync with my ultimate, highest, best form of happiness. Was I striving for certain things simply to please others? To win an acknowledgment that traveled as far back as birth? It seems so. Have I re-envisioned what I actually want...sans so much pomp and circumstance and plus a simpler vision? Absolutely. The giant beach house and movie star husband and more money than I can spend, all of that is ridiculous, really. Give me a cottage in the forest with a good man and maybe a kid and a dog and manuscript to edit and my own hours, my own schedule. Freedom to live and love as it best fits me. Those are my dreams now. And anything else is icing on the cake. I just want to be happy--forget anything else. Thanks to my John, I understand that I have no one else to impress, no one else to please if I cannot do the same for myself, first.  And that there is love tucked away in every corner, to reveal and to let in, if only we would see it. If only we would wake up. Open our eyes. Understand the possibilities.

How could I possibly feel otherwise?

John's life---it's a million times more than his death. It's unthinkable in its worth and one day, when I embrace his light and his spirit again---I'll know the full fathoming of that story, of that gift on this earth. For now, though, the best way I know how to honor his precious human existence is to honor my own with hopefulness and determination, and to keep my heart open to those who would most need my love.

I'll be unraveling the treasure of John's life here for the rest of my own. May I do it justice and reflect his spirit well. I pray this for all of us.

Peace, and above all, shameless amounts of love,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Appeal to an Awakening Soul

    Perhaps you thought that you were brought here to find yourself, but you were wrong. You were brought here to remember yourself. This place, the new wilderness is only a guise, a catalyst to trigger the eruption of your soul’s force from the inside out. All that you have been is but a small part, a very mere bit of the potential of your life.
    We have come here together so that you might know, through virtue of your own pain, your own hopelessness, your own fear, your own darkness and the lie of powerlessness, the very actual power of your own will, of the will of your soul. No one can save you, Great Spirit child. No one—out there—can save you from this life’s lies. To be swooped up and carried away from your soul’s journey is a prize stolen, a wisdom deprived. You are better to dwell with it, to mourn and to weep with it, to scream through its pangs, even to drown beneath its weight, than to be carried away by some outside force before the transformation can occur. For within your flesh, deep within the center of your being, is the undaunted, waiting, longing, all-knowing. Is the ready, able, perfect. Within you, waiting its turn to emerge, piece by piece, with the dawn of every former test of trial and blackness, is the next unfolding, the great unfurling of wings, the re-forged backbone of a true Child of Light.
    Unbury her, God Child. Let the falseness of flesh burn away in a cleansing, agonizing fury like a Phoenix, another layer of illusion gone.  And without it, the remaining light of strength can glow more passionately forth, can trigger a spark of remembrance in those who have forgotten their own, and so that you, Gleaming God Child, may fly in the perfect knowledge of a capable universe, of a centered power, of a strong, bright, illuminated and joyful mind—the faithful passion of a child and the peaceful wisdom of an eternal spirit.
    Let the darkness find you if it must. Throw off the quick and tempting escapes, and seek help only from those who would teach you to grow, feed your soul, embrace your heart, but would not steal away your journey. With it, comes the gift of remembered power that, once felt, can never be revoked. 
    Your vision evolves as you allow it. From the lower to the higher places, from the outer delusions to the inner truths, peeling away the layers one rebirth at a time—forward and forward you go, flowing with the fear and terror of the moment, dying and dying a never-ending death in order to be born and born to new sight. And you will see. You will rise and rise and rise and rise beyond the great heavy mass of this life-veil. But only so long as you spread your arms to the waves and let them teach you to swim with the current. And when you break the surface, pulling for air, you will know its sweetness in a new way. You will be stronger than before. Always stronger.
    Choose strength. Choose to know who you are now. Why wait? So precious is this life—this gift—this temporary blindness. Burn and drown and embrace the false dark, then grasp the unthinkable height of resulting joy. For in the end, in the light of truth when the flesh is cast off, there is nothing but this.    
You thought that you were brought here to find yourself, but you were wrong. You were brought here to remember.

Jennifer DeLucy

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Grandpa's Legacy to Me - Why I'll Always Love Christmas

Christmas for me as a little girl was kind of a time travel event.

I lived with my grandparents, you see, and so, even though I was a child of the 80's, my experience was far more accurately (and uniquely) one of the 50's. This could be annoying, for sure...just not at Christmas.

At Christmas, it was perfect.

I have the most beautiful feelings about Christmas, and it's because of those memories, which had little to do with presents and everything to do with my grandpa.

Every single year, my grandfather would happily drag out the dusty, old, homely fake fur tree--one they'd bought and been using decades before I was born--and he'd put it up, prickly limb by prickly limb. I'm not sure why he never got a real tree, but, it didn't seem to faze him. Clearly, my grandfather loved what he had, so who am I to argue?

It's a really vivid image in my head--him stretching those painted glass bulbs all over the floor and plugging them in. You know the ones, some shaped like thick tear drops, others were sharp and jagged and frosted and bound to end in a tetanus vaccine, while a third kind was meant to resemble a flame, all mismatched and random after years of replacing the burn outs. I'd watch him (mostly patiently) untangle the strings of mixed lights in long, glowing lines across the dark wood floor, and I can still smell that particular scent of warm, aged plastic and glass melding together. How old was the dust burning off those bulbs, anyway? How many Christmases had they clanked and clicked against the same wood floor in this same way, when his children were actually children? Surely I was feeling a drop of what he must have felt--a leftover essence, a resurrection of moments held in the time capsule of a plastic Santa or a creche with missing shepherds. The failing ornaments, half unspun of their colorful silken threads, and the tinsel strings that got everywhere. By the way, and for the love all that's holy, I can't imagine why people used that stuff, but it doesn't matter, because he liked it. And that was good enough for me.

We had this pretend fireplace cabinet with a green felted interior, a mirrored minibar and a record player built in and Grandpa was so proud of that thing. It was probably the coolest toy on the block when he'd bought it, but it was really just cheesetastic by the time I came around. Its record player, though--even more than clanky lights--was the solid core of my holiday experience. And no wonder, with Nat King Cole singing The Christmas Song, Bing crooning White Christmas, Alvin and the Chipmunks demanding promptness and hoola-hoops...it was impossible not to be drenched in the spirit of the season while listening to those crackly, wonderful tunes.

We also had a "second" tree, which I still can't decipher the purpose of. It was this garish silver limbed thing that my grandmother covered in cookies and popcorn balls. Just abominable, but it was the tradition in the DeLucy house when Grandpa was alive, and again, I never questioned it.

Fact is, when Grandpa was alive, so was Christmas, and after he passed (far too soon, when I was less than ten years old), no matter how hard things got, no matter how dreary, that love and loyalty to the holiday was so woven into my being that I fought to celebrate it, to feel it and to replicate it for my siblings, no matter the difficulty.

I eventually figured out, once adulthood found me, what my obsession with these memories was really all about, and it wasn't the shiny lights or even the record player. It was Grandpa's love of life, the enduring truth under the glitter and tradition. What I was really attracted to--what I truly loved to be around and what I vividly remember--is his spirit. His joy.

Here's hoping, whatever tradition you celebrate this holiday season, it has as much meaning to you as it does to me.