Thursday, May 28, 2009

Running against the wind

It has been a rough two days with very little sleep, several ocular migraines (not painful, just annoying) and too much work. I'm ready for another vacation. Reviews are caught up and I've been cooking and baking almost every day, but I still feel restless. I can't seem to sit still or work effectively and my attention span is about as long as a five-year-old on Ritalin overdosing on sugar. I've been working in spurts and doing practically everything in spurts: dishes, laundry, sleeping, showering, cleaning, etc. Problem is that I can't quite pin down the source.

The weather has been cool and rainy with periods of clear sunshine and that's my favorite kind of weather, next to crisp fall and winter days. I'm just not made for the heat. My life is pretty settled and Don finally headed home without having found a place he really wants to buy. I don't think he's really serious about buying unless I agree to marry him and that's not likely to happen, although after the past few days I'd almost be ready to give in and marry him just so I didn't have to struggle so much. Yeah, that thought lasts about 30 seconds until I contemplate the rest of my life without any freedom or time to myself, and I need time to myself. I feel like Carrie when Aidan moved in and was in her face from the moment she walked in the door. It would be worse for us because we both work at home. One good thing about that would be that I'd get out and walk more and probably start walking and never come back. The whole idea makes me want to take up a friend's dream of being a hobo.

No, I don't want to get married any time soon no matter what my mother says about dying alone or how much Don ups the ante by promising me financial security and time to write. If I don't get it for myself, I certainly won't be happy having someone hand it to me on a silver platter. It wouldn't feel right. I either make it on my own or win the lottery. There are no other options as far as I'm concerned. It's the reason I'm still poor. I've been offered many opportunities to be taken care of, and I've always turned them down. As much as I admire the high class working girl, it's just not me. I made my peace with that a long time ago.

Maybe my restlessness is due to having so many things under control and not having to struggle nearly as much. I'm used to being a little behind (not to be confused with the ample behind that follows two days behind me, that's another issue altogether) and not feeling deadlines looming like hungry buzzards circling the dying is a little too much for my system -- or a little too little pressure.

This should be a good time for me since things are starting to come together. I have the kind of relationship I want (mostly) and my manuscripts are getting good results with publishers. More of my work is being published and editors are offering to buy more articles. That's what's wrong. I'm used to running against the wind and with little or no wind I'm succumbing to the laws of physics and obviously about to fall on my face. Well, that and having people telling me that I have touched their lives in little ways. I can't handle the compliments; I'm used to criticism from every quadrant. See? Nothing to push against, no uphill battles, no harangues, no fuss and no tempests in teapots, just smooth sailing. I've become so used to the struggle I don't know what to do with myself when the struggle is over. I need a new hobby. Time to get back to learning French or something more difficult like Portuguese. Maybe Farsi or Hebrew or Mandarin Chinese. Yeah, that's the ticket.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Resistance is futile

My ideas about relationships have evolved from personal experience and from books. The kind of relationships that stayed with me as the epitome of perfection were the relationships I found in Andre Norton's books and it wasn't until many years later that I understood what she described was frightening to most people because of the initial feeling of falling into an abyss and losing all sense of identity and individuality at the outset.

In all of her adventures the one major theme was based on submission and submergence in order to find wholeness. In simplest terms, it is the story about the king who asked his twelve sons to each break a stick and then had twelve sticks bound together and asked his sons to break the combined sticks. It's easy to break a single stick and not so easy when the sticks are combined. It is the same with relationships, but first you give up being a single stick.

In the Witch World series, there were communities ruled solely by women and by men, both of them separating the genders to achieve a goal. In Estcarp, the witches were the central power reigning over the rest of the populace, picking the brightest and best and binding them to the community of witches to increase their power and control over the land and their enemies. There were also the Falconers, men who lived with their falcons in aeries, segregating their women in all female villages, similar to the Amazons who kept male children only until they were old enough to be sent to their fathers. With the Falconers, male children were allowed to live in the female villages where select males visited once a year to take away boys who had reached the age of five and to procreate. In Estcarp, when a witch had sex she lost her power and power was jealously guarded.

As the centuries continued, each segregated nation suffered from their practices. Fewer children were born to the people of Estcarp or to the Falconers' villages. When you skim off the cream, there's little vitality left. Things remained the same until one witch gave up her jewel of power and married an outlander. Instead of losing her power when she surrendered her jewel, she gained a new kind of power and set the stage for anarchy. The same theme of surrendering solitary power to love and gaining a different and more potent power recurs throughout Norton's work, and the surrender is seldom easy. It's the same in human relationships, although few reach that greater power because they fear surrendering and falling into the abyss.

The sense of being completely one with another person is frightening at first and few get past the initial vertigo. It's so much easier to choose short term lust and long term misery than to lose yourself in someone else. Such overwhelming passion is like walking boldly into a raging fire naked and unprotected, never realizing that the fire won't devour you. It's an adjustment to give up one's power even for a little while and it takes a strong will and stronger commitment than most people ever get near or understand. The result is convenient arrangements or emotional time shares that require little more than being present, which makes day to day life manageable only by compartmentalizing every facet of existence, and the walls are high and get stronger every year, isolating people emotionally and mentally as much as physically. Never give up and never give in. And people wonder why they live lives of quiet desperation.

Although it is a radical concept, the dominant and submissive lifestyle comes closest to a powerful and lasting relationship. I know how shocking that sounds because I was shocked when I was first approached. The idea that I would voluntarily allow another person to control me physically, emotionally and sexually was ludicrous and I'd never submit. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take a closer look. What I found was powerful and based on complete and utter trust. It's not the kind of trust that people exhibit when they close their eyes, fold their arms over their chests, and fall backward believing someone will catch them; that's a pale shadow of what really happens, but it does begin with falling.

For whatever reason, the world is arranged in pairs. Chromosomes are paired. DNA is a two-stranded chain surrounding a central core, a double helix. Noah filled the ark with animals of every kind, one male and one female. In the garden of Eden, humanity was created from Adam and Eve, the primordial pair. Coupling is the natural state. Even alternative relationships combine in pairs. That is not to say people are incomplete if they never pair off, just that we are more complete in pairs -- a bundle of sticks as opposed to a single stick. The earth is even paired with opposing poles and magnets wouldn't not work without an equal and opposite force combined to create a strong and resilient energy field. Neutron and proton. Good and evil. Light and shadow. Pairs, but the right pairs, and so comes the fall, submitting the self to become something more, stronger, better, happier, and we know when it happens.

It's not the initial blush of lust or a feeling of liking someone, but something more intense, an overwhelming feeling that at first feels like vertigo and drowning and happy beyond words to drown. Then the survival instinct kicks in and fear takes over, sending adrenalin through the blood and us thrashing for the surface. We aren't prepared to give up that much. We will not be devoured whole. And so we run and hide, still drawn to the fire, back to the edge of the abyss, teetering on the edge and yearning for what's waiting but not willing to fall. Falling is bad, our minds tell us, so we step back and bargain, pacing around the edge, taking tentative steps forward and rushing backward whenever the feelings are too intense, building walls to hide behind and driving anchors into the rock to hold us safely in place, in stasis, never going too far backward or too far forward.

It's the unknown that gets us every time, the feeling that we can submit a little, risk a little and still be happy, but it doesn't work that way. There is no strength in sticks that barely touch each other; too much is still left dangling. It must be full contact or nothing, complete submission and commitment or a taste that leaves us always hungry for more.

The witch gave up her jewel of power and found that by submitting herself to a man she was more powerful and a more formidable foe than when she carried the jewel for which she gave up living, loving and laughing. She gave up sterility and found fertility in power, in love and in life. She leapt into the abyss, embraced the fear and fell and landed safely. It's not the fall that kills us or the sudden stop, it's fear, mind numbing, overwhelming fear that kills us, draining away life and passion and power like a slow leak in a tire that eventually leaves us stranded and alone, isolated and shivering in the cold, resisting the warmth and power that lies on the other side of fear.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Parodies of life

Parodies are a time-honored way of getting to the funny side of serious subjects. Al Yankovich make a career out of it and Mad Magazine has spoofed more than its share of television and life, so I'd like to share a little parody of West Side Story with you. It's the West Slide Story.

That is all. Disperse.

A hand up, not a hand out

When I was in school, my mother routinely asked me to help Jimmy and Carol with their homework since she didn't understand how to do the new math and wasn't really a scholarly type of person. I helped but soon found that what was required wasn't my help but me doing their homework. They didn't want to be bothered and it was easier, they thought, for me to do it for them instead of listening as I explained and diagrammed what to do and how to solve the problems. I refused and they whined and complained to Mom whose response was always, "Just do it for them." I refused and was punished, sent to my room, which was really not a punishment as far as I could see. I could listen to records and read and write and be alone.

My boys were the same way. They didn't want to actually have to learn anything, but for me to do it for them or tell them the answers. I didn't let them get away with it either. I explained and assisted, but they had to do their own work. I am always willing to help someone learn how to do something for himself, but I will not do the work for them. The same holds true for aspiring writers.

I'm willing to discuss plot points, characterization, how to show and not tell and even do a little editing, but that does not mean I am a full service reference section ready to do the work for you. If I point you in the right direction, you should be able to get what you need and not keep asking me to check and recheck your findings, not if you're not paying me and I'm doing it as a favor. At that point, you are abusing my generosity and I will shut you down, as nicely as possible, but without leaving any doubt in your mind what I mean. Now I understand why professional writers get so cranky when aspiring writers keep asking questions. They've run into the same situation so many times they refuse to help at all to save themselves the trouble of explaining that the aspiring writer has become a pest abusing the writer's time and knowledge and is obviously too lazy to do the work.

Before any of you get your knickers in a twist, it isn't anyone on here -- yet. It is someone I made the mistake of encouraging and who has now become a lazy pest whining and whinging about not having enough money. Guess what? I don't have a lot of money either and you have flamenco-ed my last nerve until it is raw and bleeding. Yes, I am cranky and my responses are going to be quite terse from now on because you're not listening. I have given you all the information and resources you need to make money with your writing. Use them. Read them. Don't ask me any more questions because the answers are about to get flat out rude.

It is simple courtesy to ask a professional writer if they would mind reading one of your pieces. It is abusing the writer's hospitality to keep revising something and sending it over and over asking for an opinion. It takes time to read the work and make comments. To further trample the writer's hospitality by sending everything on your hard drive for an opinion puts you on dangerous ground and whatever common ground once existed is eroding past repair.

There are writers whose work I enjoy reading -- when I have the time -- and I consider it an honor to take a look at their work because they don't send me everything they've ever written and ask for an immediate opinion. There are writers whose opinion I respect and ask from time to time to read something, but it's not something I do often. I'm too busy earning a living and reading and writing and dealing with my own deadlines, and I know their work and time is just as valuable.

My time and work is just as important as a lawyer's or doctor's or any other professional, despite the fact that many people see writers as dilettantes who don't work for a living. I don't ask doctors or lawyers or any professional for free advice; I pay for it. Writers deserve the same respect and consideration. So here is a rule of thumb. It's all about respect.

If you want a professional writer's opinion on your work, hire them to edit, proofread or otherwise peruse your work. Have the courtesy to request some time, but don't expect immediate results. You weren't first in line. You don't work for free and neither do writers. If you cannot afford a writer, one will not be appointed for you by the court or the government or the local writer's guild. Learn to research and read. Join a writer's group. Get help. Don't take a professional writer's time or experience or attention for granted. You wouldn't like it and neither do we.

That is all. Disperse.