15 June, 2009

Rocks, Walls and Epiphanies

A friend of mine, a film producer, recently asked me in an e-mail what was going through my mind when I wrote “Finding Emmaus”. He said, “I meet so many people who confidently tell me that their book or play or film is going to change the world. Invariably their works are boring and pedantic. My take is that we need to tell the best story we possibly can. If, after being exposed to our work, people are inspired to make positive changes in themselves or their communities, great. But that's a happy by-product. Story matters above all.”

People who know me now but did not know me just a few years back may be surprised by this but, prior to this huge ‘epiphany’ of mine nearly two years ago, I was about as unemotional a person as one could get. I didn’t cry at tear-jerker movies and I CERTAINLY never cried in front of anyone - ever. I used to be envious of my friends who COULD cry on their way out of the movie theater, friends who could then tearfully, joyfully, tell the people waiting in line what a wonderful film it was and how much they’d enjoy it.

These same high school friends, and then, later on, my co-workers, firmly believed I was hard as a rock and twice as strong and everyone loved to lean on me ‘cause I never shed a tear. I was the one to go to. I was Wonder Woman, Underdog and The Rock of Gibraltar all rolled into one. I resented, BTW, that everyone automatically assumed I was so strong that I never needed arms around me, but I kept my mouth shut because I was like that.

I clearly recall a time in my late 20’s when an incredulous friend said, “…YOU need help? But Pamela, you’re so strong. It never occurred to me you’d be weak.” One of those memories which pops up occasionally in living color and brings with it anger and resentment in waves.

I was NOT a rock, I was behind a wall. But I had no idea and neither, apparently, did anyone else…

Something changed one day - August 8th 2007 - and I don’t know why. I can remember the exact moment, where I was, what I was doing, and the photograph I was staring at which is now indelibly etched into my brain as the foundation - and the starting point - of this “Dream Quest” I’m on, this path of mine which I am now certain ‘has a heart’ (thank you Don Juan and Carlos Casteneda!).

From that moment on, I've become a different human being. At first, and for a long time thereafter, I thought I was losing my mind. ALL I could do was cry - over anything. A GE commercial could reduce me to a quivering bowl of Jell-O. I still cry easily, but at least now I’m not afraid it’s a sign of impending insanity.

That said, I can now answer Burt’s question.

The only thing on my mind when I created the town and the people of Duncaster / Weavers Bridge, CT, and then the story and then the book “Finding Emmaus” was an almost frenzied need to write it with everything I had in me.

That’s all I knew: just tell the story.

And the way I knew I had written a phrase or a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter just right, the way I knew I had ‘nailed it’, was my emotional response to it as I wrote. If I didn’t cry, I put what I had written aside and started again. And I’m not just talking about the sad or emotional parts of the story - I mean EVERYTHING. If it didn’t touch my heart, even if was only a paragraph to describe how the early Puritans identified which plants they could use to dye their cloth blue, it got rewritten.

I didn’t write “Finding Emmaus” to be famous or change the world or to impress anyone. I wrote it because I HAD to. Seven hundred and fifty pages came pouring out of a part of me I did not know existed and still have yet to locate.

Copyright © 2009, All Rights Reserved

09 June, 2009

What A Piece Of Work Is Man

The process of writing my novel, “Finding Emmāus”, of creating and then developing each and every one of its characters, made me think deeply about what I write, about what is vitally important in my stories, made me truly evaluate what goes on in the deepest, most secretive parts of human personalities, the differences and the nuances from one human to another. Their actions, reactions and interactions with other characters within the story had to be consistent with their personalities throughout the book. I had to learn to really look at what makes people ‘tick’.

And in the process, I learned as much about me as I did about them - perhaps more…

I've always known that life is precious, just as I've always believed human beings to be resilient creatures. But life is also a fragile thing and prior to this time (prior to writing “Finding Emmāus”) I never truly appreciated just how fragile.

I never really thought about what went on inside the walls of a hideous place like Bethlem Royal Hospital in the 17th century, or what the original settlers of this country went through when they lived day to day knowing their survival tomorrow quite literally depended upon every minute they spent today - - if they couldn’t make it or grow it or trade with the Native Americans for it, they did without it.

But I also know this: life, even in its most profoundly tragic moments, gives us a break - as in the way we humans will fondly recount an amusing story about a recently-lost loved one, even at a funeral.

Fragile and resilient, heroic and terrible, determined and pitiable - Hamlet had it right when he said “What a piece of work is man!”

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07 June, 2009

In Search of a Glimpse of Light at the End of This Tunnel

I lately find myself wanting to let all my friends and family know that, while I've been largely incommunicado within both of those communities - neglecting social engagements and phone calls and e-mails - I've not forgotten about anyone at all, even though it may look like that.

I’m having to divide my time and energy between writing my next book (which, in and of itself, can be a full-time job!), working with the publisher to bring “Finding Emmāus” to market, composing posts for this blog, managing my real estate holdings which I had on the market but, because of this lousy economy, never did sell, and Twitter (yes, Heaven help me, I’m a Tweeter!), which my literary agent was all but adamant I join and honestly, has become a huge boon for me and my future as an author.

Add that to church and elderly parents and a husband and a home and a son and a brother and a cat and a dog … (*takes a deep breath*) … and I'm seriously considering having myself cloned!!!

The majority of my communication/connection with the outside world, other than the occasional e-mail which invariably begins with “Dear So-and-So, sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you…” seems to be via these blog postings - at least they keep me feeling connected to humanity in some small way.

So I plod my way through this new, suddenly and dramatically reinvented life of mine, learning - one itty-bitty baby step at a time - how to balance it all, desperately hoping everyone understands or, at the very least, tolerates and forgives!

I've never been a published author before and I'm still trying to feel my way. And right now I spend lots of time feeling as though I'm in one of those absolutely lightless fun-houses… I love it but I'm not sure where I'm headed or when I'll catch a glimpse of light at the end of this very unsettling but absolutely trilling tunnel.

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05 June, 2009

Finding Emmāus - The Very Human Need To Fit

I’m not sure just how much of children copying the styles of other children is peer pressure (something which is external) or how much of it stems from the innate human need for community (something which I see as internal). I think humans have universal needs - needs which would not be “universal” if they originated from an external source. Among those are the need for acceptance and community.

Humans are not solitary beings. We’re not like bumble bees. We’re social creatures, preferring the herd. Are there exceptions? Of course. Some of us live out our lives in seclusion, others want the comfort of knowing friends and family are near but still require “alone time” on a regular basis.

But in general, most of us want to feel as though we are a part of something bigger than ourselves: a family, a place of worship, a social network, a neighborhood…

So, back to my earlier statement about children mimicking the behavior of other children. I’m not all that convinced it’s a learned response. I think it’s more likely an internal - and very primal - need for attention, for security, for love. The youngest of infants have those needs. No way that’s born of societal pressure.

Children learn very quickly that the road to attention, security and love is paved with approval, beginning with Mom and never truly ending.

If I buy a dress like yours or move into the same neighborhood as you or start listening to the same music you listen to or start following the same sporting events you follow, I have just made a public declaration that what you have or what you are or what you like or what you do is worthy of imitation - the sincerest form of flattery, right? And if you, in return, give me the approval (aka love) I crave, then I have just become a part of something outside of me, a part of you, a part of a community and I am therefore no longer alone.

Conversely, without that, there’s a huge hole in me - sometimes big enough to drive a truck through.

If I’m different - if I’m an Empath or if I’m bipolar or if I’m a witch- then I don’t get to have that acceptance, that feeling of belonging, that security, because people will go out of their way to avoid me. I will become isolated. People shun me because they’re afraid or they don’t understand or they just don’t know how to handle my “different-ness”, my uniqueness.

When you get right down to it, no-one really wants other people to be that different from themselves. I think people would prefer that others fall in line with what they consider to be the norm because that’s their comfort level.

This is the foundation of “Finding Emmāus”: two Empaths in two different centuries dedicating their lives to the celebration of those differences and to putting an end to the isolation.

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