Posts Tagged 'chaos'

A Glimpse into the Chaos of My Life

I can’t believe all the things that keep happening — not only the mixed bag of categories, but the unrelenting succession of different distractions/ problems/ dilemmas that keep arising. If it’s not one thing, it’s another…

Which is, I guess, a good thing, because it’s all forcing me to trust my God more than ever, as well as to surrender my delusions about being in control of pretty much anything…

Anyway, because I didn’t get much sleep last night, I spent the time I’d allotted for blog writing this afternoon having a nap instead. Thus I’m going to post this excerpt from an email I recently sent to a friend — the only email of any substance I’ve sent to anyone in weeks.

And though this was written two weeks ago. I could write a similar one now, with all new subject matter. So here is my recitation of some of the things that befell me in April and early May:

“Just in the last month [April], there was a huge to-do at church when Pastor John threw out “rebound.” I’m fine with it, makes total sense… in fact, I’d stopped officially rebounding some time ago, more or less by default…others in our local assembly were not fine with it… so as I said, a huge to-do.

Then there was my step-mother who’s 92 and lives alone in California, falling and hitting her head and so her niece (who has power of medical attorney and is her “primary caregiver” in the sense of seeing to everything she needs) admitted her to the hospital for a pacemaker. Then a week after she was out, she had to go back in for shakes that turned out to be a diagnosis of “heart failure” in the sense that the muscle is no longer strong enough to pump her blood at the proper pressure, making her weak, easily tired and breathless.

This was followed by my hubby taking off for a wedding in Idaho, where he visited with his 93-year-old aunt/surrogate mother. Several days later, she was admitted to the hospital in Colorado for an infected leg that was going to need amputation. Except that after they put her on antibiotics via IV she improved so much they sent her home. Whereupon the infection, which had apparently gone septic, showed up in her liver and other organs and now she’s officially in hospice at home.

Then I got a call from Bethany House… the Christy Awards Board of Directors decided that authors can only win 4 awards, and after that will be inducted into a “Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame.” Since I’ve “got my four” as the editorial director put it, they’re inducting me. In St. Louis, at the end of June [insert another three or four paragraphs detailing all the ways this was more traumatic, distracting and time-consuming than exciting and welcomed. My first response was to say I wasn't going to go, but God persuaded me otherwise. Partly because I'd like to be able to publicly thank Bethany House for all they've done for my books and partly because it'll be fun to see friends I've not seen in years. Okay, and yes, it will be nice to get an award like this -- a gracious gift of encouragement from the Lord ]“

[[And as an addendum from the present, I am excited about it now for all the ways God has clearly paved the way... Once I gave the entire project over to Him, I've watched almost all the things I needed to do or figure out how to do fall into place in His timing. And  my work on Sky is actually finally going somewhere even with all the chaos.]]

“There was also stuff going on with my car, which had a dent in it after having been run into by a cyclist, and the repair shop finally had a loaner for me to use while they repaired it… [insert paragraph about going back and forth from home to the shop several times before the loaner showed up and other details of waiting around for calls to come and get it and several postponements...]

The event for last weekend was my hubby being gone to the mountains in northern AZ on a fishing trip with friends, where he’d be out of phone reception until his return Saturday evening. So Saturday morning I find the water pipe that connects the main with the house was leaking… my husband likes to do his own work so I knew calling a plumber was out of the question.

And if I turned the water off, not only would I be without a toilet but we have an evaporative cooler and the temps were supposed to be in the upper 90s… I asked the Lord to bring him home around noon instead of the 6pm or 9pm I was anticipating…  For an hour or so I  dithered over whether to call the water company to come turn off the water or not, finally called them  at 11:10am. They turned off the water at 12:01 pm.

Hubby walked through the door 39 minutes later. Awesome!

But then he had to dig up the back yard, and replace the pipe and [insert paragraph about all the confusion and vagaries that result from attempting plumbing repairs oneself]  then when he turned the water back on, the toilet broke…

I also had a guest post to do for Seriously Write last week, that will be out this Friday. [[ Note from the present -- this was the piece I mentioned in my post on May 9]] They wanted one between 200 – 500 words. My first draft was over 1000. When I managed to cut it to 800, it read like a laundry list and seemed pointless… I kept trying to get it right, finally gave up and asked if the word count suggestion was flexible. It was. I finished at about 900 words and she was happy with it… Not much work got done on Sky during that time, however…

I don’t think I’ve written a real email to anyone for weeks. Wasn’t doing any writing either… And I was going to put off replying to you yet again, but decided that I’d waited long enough and so you get this weird reply. But at least you know I’m alive if somewhat discombobulated…

(I went to the dentist this morning — made sure I had my appointment book and a book to read and some water, made sure my phone had the number of a sandwich shop I was going to order from afterwards… then forgot my purse. And I wasn’t even in a hurry! Fortunately the insurance covers our dental so except for driving without a license I didn’t need my purse…)”

So there you have it. A glimpse into my chaotic life.  Since I wrote this, many more things have happened… the trench is still open in the back yard, as my hubby works (today in fact) on finishing up his planned replacement of the rest of the piping in the line, seeing as all the original pipe is quite rusted. (Well, it is about 60 years old, so that’s hardly surprising.)

My shingles has come back yet again, so I’ve had to keep going to the eye doctor. And instead of forgetting my purse that time, though I had “carefully” thought out when I would have to leave for my 2:30 appt… somehow I translated it into a 3pm appointment and so I was late… I have NO idea how I managed to do that. But there’s my note to self for the 2:30 appt:  leave at 2:45 so I’ll have plenty of time to get there… Sheesh.

And we found out yesterday that the aunt who was in hospice for the infection in her leg went home to be with the Lord in the wee hours of Saturday morning. We haven’t decided if we’ll drive – with Quigley —  to the memorial service in Utah, or if just my husband will go.

Dismayed, Dissatisfied and Overwhelmed

Yesterday I noted some of the things that came in to interrupt and distract me from writing daily. Today I’ll note what happened on the days that I did write — which was four days last week and three days — so far — this week.

Last monday I got into the office at 7:41am!  Hooray.  At first I hardly knew what to do. I wrote in my Morning Pages journal (from The Artist’s Way) then got down to work — for almost all day. I have stacks of notecards and papers all over the place, so I took one of the stacks which was on my main character, Talmas, and used it to update my character file on him, then threw the stack away.

Tuesday I got into the office at 7:26am, but then had to intersperse writing with other stuff. In the end I did three pages of back story on another character. I had a bunch of different notes because I’d kept changing my mind about how things were going to go, and finally pulled it together and into line with the other characters’ storylines. I waffled a good deal — is this really the relationship and sequence that makes the most sense and will be believed? I wasn’t sure. Then I realized I just flat-out liked it the best, so I went with that. It doesn’t seem like much progress, but it took most of the day.

Wednesday I thought hard about the book and got nowhere. I was all ready to rail on in my current journal about my frustration, dismay, lack of progress and sense that there’s both too much here and nothing at the same time, then discovered that I’d already done that. In my journal entry from March 1, 2007

Ahem. That’s five years ago. When I was starting The Enclave. Which was mildly alarming — the fact it’s been almost exactly five years since I started a book. Of course it doesn’t seem like I’m “starting” Sky because I’ve been picking at it for about four years now in between all the other things, and do have seven chapters written.  But since it’s been more a process of two steps forward, one step back, maybe it just seems like I should be further along because of the time, not the continuity of work.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote at the start of The Enclave, 5 years ago:

“[This morning] I was bugged, condemned and dismayed because I’d started to look through my notes and was not only dissatisfied — it’s not right, it’s not compelling , it’s not going in the right direction, I don’t like it — but overwhelmed by all the ideas and info and possibilities, and at the same time clueless as to which to choose. When I finished wrestling with it — and by then it was only noon — I was exhausted!”

Exactly how I felt with Sky. And still do most of the time. Trying to get my head around the world, which is only partially conceived, and the characters and some kind of actual plot  is both overwhelming and confusing. Yes, that event would be an okay thing to happen, and that detail of setting is cool, and this conversation would be nice, and yeah, I did have the idea that he would rescue people, and then there are the Mole People, those are cool, but I have no idea how they relate… and the ma’el– Should that be their name or should I change it? — and the Artifacts – how do they fit in? And…

AAAARG.

So I went off to Good Reads, which I’d only just learned about and read some nice reviews about The Light of Eidon

Ahem.

But I did want to set down one more quote from that same journal entry in March of 2007  because it also applies to me working on Sky. I guess it’s not surprising that I would wrestle with the same personal flaws and tendencies every time, but it always seems Amazing and Startling to me when I discover that I do.

So, continuing from the March 1, 2007 entry:

“I realized I’d had unrealistic expectations (ie, “see the entire storyline in pleased and confident clarity”) and that of course it would be like this (chaos, too much to process, nothing that seems good) and I should have set some sort of specific and reasonable goal like, “look through the material and see if anything occurs to me…” rather than beat myself up for reasons that are absurd and even… well… insane…”

So that is what I’m trying to do. Just look through the material and see where God leads me. Without expecting it all to fall into place at once. Or even in a day. :-)

The Darkest Evening of the Year

In keeping with my theme for the week of dog related posts, I thought I’d put up my thoughts of that Dean Koontz novel I mentioned having read last week.

Published in paperback in 2007 Koontz’s The Darkest Evening of the Year is first off a paean to the Golden Retriever in particular (They sound like fabulous dogs — except for the hair) and dogs in general.

He also touched a bit on his “dogs are the way to redeem a wounded/wretched/evil soul” theology which I first encountered it in One Door Away from Heaven. That was more in passing. This is much more developed.

Not to say I didn’t enjoy the book. I did. (Quigley is SO not a Golden Retriever!)

Since Koontz is now on his second Golden, and works with the organizations that provide service dogs to people with disabilities, I am sure he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the temperament and behavior of the breed. I mentioned in my previous post about the Wonder Dog Chancer, that 70% of Goldens, Labradors and German Shepherds pass the service dog training course, whereas only 2% of other breeds do. I doubt any hounds would ever even be considered. I cannot imagine Quigley sitting patiently on the patio deck, unleashed, waiting for “permission” to join his friends frolicking in the water as the Goldens are said to do in this book.

The only time Quigley sits patiently is at dinner time when he sits between my hubby and me watching us eat, waiting for the moment we are done and the plates will go into the dishwasher whereupon he will attempt to get in a few licks…

But I digress. I read the book mostly in one day and finished it up the second night. I was never bored, I didn’t think it took too long to get into… in fact, I loved his wordcraft. Here’s the start:

Behind the wheel of the Ford Expedition,  Amy Redwing drove as if she were immortal and therefore safe at any speed.

In the fitful breeze, a funnel of golden sycamore leaves spun along the post-midnight street. She blasted through them, crisp autumn scratching across the windshield.

I especially like the way he turned “autumn” into a thing that scratches the windshield

I wept unrestrainedly during his depiction of the euthanasia of the above-mentioned Amy Redwing’s first retriever. The whole thing was so much like what I went through with Bear, it was like living it again… Very poignant. Very well done.

And despite Koontz’s weirdness regarding the spiritual efficacy of having a relationship with a dog, there was a place where, though at first his character ridiculed the idea of the Rapture, he nevertheless got the point of God’s perfect righteousness dead on:

…if God existed, a God of pure love, then for sure there had to be a purgatory, because you would need a place of purification before you dared go upstairs for the Ultimate Hug. Even a sweet woman like Mrs. Bonnaventura, rapturing directly from this life to God’s presence, would detonate as violently as anti-matter meeting matter, like in that old episode of Star Trek.”  (pg 173-4)

Cool! Exactly why Jesus had to become a man and go to the cross and why God had to create in us a new creature at the point of salvation,  give us His righteousness, and will make for each believer a new resurrection body for eternity. Because we ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God and there is none righteous, no not one. (Ro 3: 1o;23)  I’ve thought before that sin and God are sort of like matter and anti-matter… Except that only the anti-matter (ie sinful creature) would detonate when it came into contact with God because God is immutable.

Of course that wasn’t the direction that Koontz took the matter, but it’s exciting to come across a statement of truth like that when you’re not expecting it.

The story centers around the special Golden Retriever Amy Redwing rescues from an imminent beating at the very beginning, who was…

… …

SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

… …

…I guess, possessed or indwelt by the spirits? souls? of her long-dead first dog and baby daughter. At the end this special Golden with subtle supernatural powers resuscitates the heroes who have both been killed in their attempts to stop the villains.

Readers on Amazon didn’t like this and many complained bitterly, calling it a hideous Deus ex Machina. Except technically, I don’t think it was.

As I understand it, the term comes from the Greek dramas where everything would be going wrong by the end of the play, and then the god would be lowered in on a platform to clean up the mess and restore order. But in this case, by the time of the resuscitation, the story was over, the problems solved, the villains dealt with. Yes the resuscitation definitely made for a happy ending, but I think it also played along one of the main threads he’d been weaving through the story. That is, that there are forces beyond our ken, that there is divine grace and a purpose to this life.  There are second chances.

The villains were all about living in the moment because, they thought, there was nothing else. No God, no mysteries, no meaning, only self and satisfying self.

In that it fit right in with messages I’d been receiving from my pastor shortly before and while I was reading the book. About the old man, the one that’s been crucified with Christ, and how it’s only and always about self. What’s in it for me? How do I feel? What am I going to do? What did I do wrong? How can I do better? What do I want? What did I not get? Etc.

To be sure, the villains in this piece were not that introspective, but even that was more in keeping with their in-the-moment approach. They were more like, “I want to [have sex/ eat a sandwich/ torment a child/ go to the desert/ burn down a house] right now.” So they got up and did it. Now. They also thought way more highly of themselves then they ought, but that’s typical of villains.

Anyway, I think this last quote encapsulates one of the book’s main themes and one of the things I liked most about it:

“Born in a tornado, Brian had considerable respect for the chaos that nature could spawn and for the sudden order — call it fate — that was often revealed when the apparent chaos clarified.”

Which has kind of been playing out in my life lately – especially in my writing life!

Quote of the Day: Vinita Hampton Wright

“For some people, the beginning is a time of complete chaos. You see bits and pieces of what is before you. You have a sense of what it is you must set out to do. But nothing will form yet. When you sit down to write or paint or form movement, it’s like stepping over a cliff or into a dense fog. All you can do is trust that this impending masterpiece is going to somehow manifest itself as you work. But you do know that there is something specific ahead, and you feel the excitement of that.” ~ Vinita Hampton Wright , The Soul Tells a Story

Another Block-Breaking Quote

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have rediscovered one of my most helpful writing books over the weekend, Overcoming Writing Blocks through which I did quite a bit of dancing. Another highlighted section that leaped out at me was the following:

“… it is important to recognize that no creative process ever flows smoothly from beginning to end. There is always much backtracking and jumping ahead along the way. In fact, this pattern is not only normal for the writer, it is also an effective way of unblocking.

Ease in writing comes from flexibility and trust in yourself, which comes from learning to tolerate a certain amount of chaos. It’s entirely natural to feel confused and intimidated when you face any new writing task…

…It is also inevitable that you’ll begin with words that will need revision. And it’s equally certain that you will find yourself resisting going back to change the text once you’ve managed to pull it all together into a complete draft.

Because writing is such an experimental process, it may help you to think of it as a spiral rather than a straight line. As though the writer were climbing a spiral staircase, he ascends by circling round and round, rising just a bit higher with each circuit, but constantly passing over the same ground, touching on the same basic topics, ideas, images and phrases, in search of their truest expression.”

This is kind of what I’m been struggling toward for awhile now… being flexible, trusting my gift and my Lord and  learning to tolerate the chaos and uncertainty!

Today I moved into Chapter Two, to page 6, but as it is cobbled, chaotic and provisional, it will need a bit of work.


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