Tag Archives: Thoughts

Reflecting on words.

29 Nov

Have you ever come across one of your previous pieces of writing and thought: Did I seriously write that? It’s SO good! That happened to me last night when I came across a blog post I wrote on October the 20th, titled The finding place of my words. As I read my own words, I was amazed. There were certain connections I made on that brisk fall day back in October that still apply to how I feel right now. I don’t know what it is with writers wanting to write about words or the creative process. However, in my case, it provides me with perspective, which is discussed in more detail in my blog post titled, The magic of first lines in literature.

Last Spring, as I was walking across the quad of my college campus to get to class, I had to stop and take in the scene that was unfolding before me. As I looked around, I saw tons of college students sitting on the quad reading. However, as is customary for Asheville, they were all different. Each student’s reading experience was unique. One guy was lying in a hammock he had strung up between two nearby trees, and his book rested lightly against his bent knees. I also saw a girl who was lying on her stomach on a flowery blanket with her bare feet casually in the air. She was holding a book out in front of her, careful to block the sun from her eyes. The third student I spotted was my personal favorite though. She was sitting in the grass with her back up against the trunk of a tree. Her long, dark hair covered the sides of her face, making it possible to only focus on her eyes, which were moving so fast across the pages of her book that I could tell she was a very focused reader. I think the image of the third student stuck with me the most because I could see so much of myself in her. As a reader, especially when it involves a book I am reading for pleasure, it takes a lot to break my focus. Often times, I get so absorbed in the words that I lose the ability to fully comprehend what is going on around me, outside of the world of words that I so often call home.

Though I don’t know whether the students that I observed were reading for their own pleasure or for a class assignment, I like to believe either they were reading something for pleasure or were at least reading something they were interested in. I enjoy sticking to this belief simply because it is very closely related to how I imagine myself when I am reading. In so many ways, words have always been my refuge, but they have also been the place I have returned to again and again if I need to re-evaluate something or find my sense of balance.

“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” – Ernest Hemingway

Not all words provide us with the strength to change or the reassurance that we are moving in the right direction in our lives. However, if a series of words can come together into a sentence that causes us to stop and read the sentence again and again, it’s almost like magic. Whether they fill us with a sense of happiness, loss, sadness, anger, loneliness, or hope…words matter. They have the ability to reach a place inside us that not many people can even describe. It’s almost as if the most precious of sentences we have ever read reside in a place so deep within us and so personal that it takes a certain kind of experience for the words to resurface.

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music the words make.” – Truman Capote

“One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.” – Hart Crane

Words matter. They are precious stones that have been washed by the countless waves of the sea, and they lie in the sand, waiting for us to uncover them. But the most precious words, the ones that are the rare deep blue stones, they are not so easy to find. They reside in the crevices of rocks, thrown to those places by the most violent of waves. But they have triumphed. They have overcome the turbulent waves of the sea, taking refuge until we are able to bring them out into the light. So don’t wait. Start searching.

It’s an everyday battle.

15 Nov

When I started writing my memoir of living with Cerebral Palsy last January, in the back of my mind, I think I believed that I’d be able to write everything out and then I’d feel tons better or that my past wouldn’t control my thoughts so much. No, my Cerebral Palsy doesn’t define who I am. However, I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t have a constant effect on my thoughts. When I first starting writing out the hard memories, it hurt, but it felt good too. It made me cry to bring up so many memories that I didn’t want to ever look at again, but it also brought me closer to those around me. My mom and I started getting along better. My friendships improved. For the first time, I could honestly say I was completely myself because I wasn’t allowing myself to hide behind the pain that dominated my life for so many years.

However, despite the beginning benefits of writing about my life, currently I don’t always feel like the benefits outweigh the pain that still lingers from my past. Truthfully, this wouldn’t be so hard to handle if things weren’t so physically hard for me lately. I’m falling more, but it’s not even the falls themselves. It’s the fact that I’m able to feel them before they come. My muscles get super tight, I start to walk on my tip-toes, and I get nervous. Since I know that I am about to fall, I become afraid to move. However, the more nervous and afraid I get, the more I tense up, which increases the likelihood that I’ll fall in a number of minutes. It’s heartbreaking, truthfully. Heartbreaking in the sense that I know I’m only 20 years old. I don’t even want to imagine how my muscles will be cooperating 10 years from now.

Even though I may have finally faced the pain and memories that dominated my past, will I be able to deal with the struggles that are in my present just as easily? Will I have to wait 20 more years before I can come to some kind of understanding? Truthfully, will I ever understand? Will any of this ever make sense? On the good days, the days that I’m happy and I have people around who love me, I’m able to stay pretty upbeat and optimistic about my situation. However, on the bad days, the days when I’ve already fallen 4 times and my back hurts, all I want to do is sit on my bathroom floor and cry. Though I know that may not seem like the greatest decision, what do you tell the person who’s been strong for so long? My entire life, the gusto has pushed through. My pure love of life has pushed through. However, as the years go by and the back pain and falls increase, it’s hard to carry that same level of strength. I’m trying though. I’m trying because I want to find enjoyment in my life, and I know there are so many people who love and support me and want to see me succeed.

I think what many people don’t realize is that living with Cerebral Palsy is an everyday battle. It’s not as if I can say, “Oh, my past is behind me. The hard part is over.” Though that may be true and though I am relieved to not have to undergo any surgeries right now, that doesn’t mean things are “easy.” I wake up every morning with back pain. Though I fall asleep best on my stomach and I’m not a restless sleeper, it becomes a problem when I wake up with a stiff back and normally stiff legs. Some days, it’s hard to walk easily. On mornings when I wake up extremely stiff, I debate whether I should crawl to the bathroom rather than risk falling and getting yet another bruise. Even though the bruises normally end up in places that people aren’t able to easily see, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. Though living with Cerebral Palsy may be something that I’ve gotten used to just because I’ve had no other choice but to adapt, that doesn’t mean that it’s still not a struggle to simply be happy. In all actuality, it would be so easy to slip into pity and just curl up in my bed and cry. For me, every single day is a battle. But I get back up, even if it means that I’m still crying.

The magic of first lines in literature.

14 Nov

Throughout my time spent as a writer and a genuine lover of words and literature, I have been told over and over of the crystal importance of the first line. From a fiction summer workshop professor to a news writing professor, I have been told the same thing: The first line of any poem, article, short story, or novel is what stands between your reader picking up a different piece of writing or sitting down to spend the evening engrossed in your words on the page, so you’ve got to make it not just good…but damn good.

I remember the very first time a first line of literature completely pulled me in. It was Christmastime in South Carolina, and instead of playing outside with all the other kids on my block talking about what we hoped to get for Christmas, I was sitting in my room reading the very first line of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenburgs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

I don’t know what it was about this first line that grabbed me, but after I read it, I couldn’t help wondering who the Rosenburgs were and why they had been executed. Maybe it grabbed me because of how the summer was described as “queer” and “sultry,” or maybe even though I didn’t know why the main character, Esther Greenwood, was in New York, I wanted to find out just as much as she did. Or maybe I just liked the way each word in the sentence combined to form the perfect combination of sounds and emotions.

I don’t remember putting down the book that first night, after being completely hooked by the first line. I most likely fell asleep with the book in my hands, only to wake up the next morning and keep on reading. That’s when you know you’ve found an incredible work of literature: when life stops until the last page is turned. To this day, the beginning of The Bell Jar comes to mind when I think of first lines. However, is another first line that has held just as much impact for me as Plath’s words did. Here’s the first line of Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, which is also an incredibly amazing, though quite depressing read.

“When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy.”

Yes, I warned you it was morbid. However, first lines aren’t exactly supposed to make you squeal with joy. They are supposed to make you think. They are supposed to make you want to stay up late into the night just because you want to know what happens to a character that has entered your heart, though you have told yourself over and over that the character isn’t real. First lines are supposed to cause you to stretch your mind and question your beliefs. If first lines often stated things that we strongly believed in, they wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. It’s the first lines that keep us up at night that are the most powerful. Though we may not openly admit it, we like to be challenged. Being challenged allows us to open our minds to other possibilities, which helps us to grow as people and as a society. It’s the first lines that have you begging for more even after you have turned the last page that hold the most promise. And it’s those gripping first lines that push readers of all ages to come back to literature, again and again. It’s not just enough to read one book and be done with it. We must read them all. We must make each book a part of us, another world waiting to be discovered, another life filled with all new characters and places that we are ready to welcome home.

Photo Friday: Yearning for new insights.

12 Oct

Part of my driveway at home covered in fall leaves.

 

“I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of nonfeeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: to think and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.”-Sylvia Plath 

I’ll meet you there.

4 Sep

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” 

-Rumi

Shooting off in all directions.

30 Aug

I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.-Sylvia Plath

Let’s talk about the weather.

14 Aug

When I was in Ireland for my summer study abroad program earlier this summer, I took an Irish language class that met twice a week. I was hoping to learn some Irish phrases so that I could come back to the States and impress my friends and family with some Irish, or maybe an accent. Unfortunately, I came back with neither. However, I did learn one interesting thing: The Irish love to talk about the weather. One of my language professors said that in Ireland it’s typical to spend about 15 or 20 minutes every day just talking about the weather, as if it is as important as something that happened at work or an interesting conversation you overhead while standing in line at the grocery store. I found the importance of the weather as a conversation piece very interesting mainly because that’s not how the topic of weather is viewed in the States.

Here if someone brings up the weather as a conversation topic, they’ve done it for 2 reasons: 1. The conversation is so boring or awkward that they’ve settled for discussing the weather or 2. Something big is happening in terms of the weather (i.e there’s a severe storm coming their way or it’s been unseasonably hot). Normally, I think that if the weather is brought up as something to genuinely discuss, the conversation has already been shot to hell. However, imagine how things would change if we put the same emphasis on the topic of the weather as the Irish do. Though we normally view the topic of the weather as a mundane discussion, taking the time to actually sit down and comment on the weather could help us slow down a little bit. It could give us a break, even a small one, to discuss something that seems as simple as brushing our teeth in the morning. When I was in Ireland, I noticed the slow and overall relaxed nature of the Irish. They don’t rush. If the bus is 15 minutes late, it’s not a big deal. The earliest classes begin at 9am rather than 8am. However, forbid them to go into their favorite pub as soon as they get off work at 5pm, and you’ve got trouble.

I know that if I took a few minutes every day to talk about (or at least observe) the weather, it would be a daily reminder to slow down. Though I know that it is a common saying to “Stop and smell the roses,” how many of us really stop and take the time to notice the little things? Maybe today each one of us could try to connect to our Irish roots (that we may or may not have) so that we can be reminded to take things just a little bit slower.

Walking down the empty streets.

13 Aug

“There is a certain unique and strange delight about walking down an empty street alone. There is an off-focus light cast by the moon, and the streetlights are part of the spotlight apparatus on a bare stage set up for you to walk through. You get a feeling of being listened to, so you talk aloud, softly, to see how it sounds.” – from The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I don’t know what it is about this quote that resonates with me, but I love it. I think it has something to do with the certain level of contentment that can be achieved through merely being alone. So many people have said that writing is a lonely business to go into. However, what about for those people who enjoy time to themselves to mull over their thoughts? Is it as lonely? Or does it provide a sense of delight that allows you not only to mull over your own thoughts, but to hear how they sound when they’re spoken aloud?

My favorite author, Jodi Picoult, has said that writing is an acceptable form of schizophrenia, and I believe that’s true in certain ways. However, as writers, we don’t view it as a negative thing. All we’re doing is trying to get on the same level as the words we’re writing in order to make sure that we are being as true and honest and authentic as possible. And what’s so crazy about that?

An Emotional Whirlwind.

30 Jul

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” -Henri J.M. Nouwen

I feel like I’ve been through an emotional whirlwind recently. I had a tough travel day on Thursday (even though I did finally make it home), I came home to find out that one of my dog’s has a tumor, Delta lost my luggage and I didn’t receive it until today, and a limb went through the windshield of my car and it has to be replaced (but thankfully I wasn’t in my car when the limb went through my windshield). For the past few days, it’s felt like nothing has gone my way. It’s almost as if anything that could possibly knock me over has slammed into me with full force.

However, the one thing that I am holding on to is the fact that I get to see my best friend Skidmore on Friday. I’m holding on to that one simple thing with every fiber of my being because if I know that if I give myself even a small chance to stop and think, I’ll just fall apart. Though I know that once I see Skidmore I’ll most likely finally break down, I’m trying to hold it together to some extent until then. Not because I don’t want to appear weak. Far from that, actually. I just know that if I give in to what I’m feeling right now, I’ll just start crying and I won’t be able to stop.

Maybe it’s stress. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t seen my friends in what seems like forever. Either way, this feels like the eerie calm before the storm. But waiting to break down until I get to Skidmore’s is exactly what I need. Though the waiting wouldn’t really change much, it would change everything all at the same time. Skidmore is the easiest person in the world for me to talk to, and I know that if I was talking to her through body-heaving sobs, she wouldn’t even say anything. She’d just hug me and wait until I was able to get out what I was feeling. I need that kind of patience, that kind of willingness to listen. For so long, Skidmore has been the one person that I’ve turned to for everything, and even though it’s never a good time to feel like your world has been flipped upside down, I feel like it couldn’t have come at a better time since I’m going up to see Skidmore this weekend anyway for her 21st birthday.

Either way, all of this is hard to grasp right now….especially the weight hanging on the fact that my dog, Roxy, has a tumor. My family put our oldest dog, Max, to sleep at the beginning of this summer, and the fact that Roxy may not be far behind is the most heartbreaking thing I can even imagine right now. I want to cry….and scream…and run…and throw things….and hold on to Roxy for as long as I possibly can. None of this is fair. I understand that losing a pet never is. However, it’s just as if all of this stress has hit me like a bulldozer, and I don’t even know what to feel. So I’m just hanging on for a few more days…hanging on until I can fall apart in the company of my best friend.

When in Ireland, dream of the Blue Ridges.

20 Jul

 

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.-John Muir

The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina are my home, and one week from today, I will be back among their beauty and serenity. I even believe that my coming home calls for a trip to Max Patch Summit, a grassy bald that offers a 360 degree view of mountains. It really is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I haven’t been to Max Patch in about 2 years, so it’s definitely time for another trip since Max Patch is quite literally the most inspirational place I know, the perfect place to go and think. The thought of sitting on top of Max Patch all day and just writing my heart out sounds like just what I need after being away from home for the past 5 weeks.