Why do you seek the living among the dead?

I try not to be a person who makes sweeping statements or who makes everything into a drama, but I can say—with absolutely no exaggeration whatsoever—that 2017 so far has, in a word, sucked. Let’s even use two words and say REALLY sucked.

The year is young, only one quarter complete, so I’m hoping with everything in me that the trend will reverse itself. And by the very nature of grief, it must. Yes, it could get worse, but I’m going with the law of averages here and assuming things will ease as the months go by, and my heart will once again soar on a regular basis.

I haven’t posted anything on this blog for so long that it almost feels like starting completely from scratch. The past couple years were a whirlwind of activity and life changes that took everything in me to keep afloat, and every time I started to draft a post, I would find it irrelevant by the time I got back to it, months later. This blog has always been my “dear diary” of sorts, the most personal version of myself, and many of the things I began to draft were not the type of thing that could even be posted, because sharing what I was struggling with would have only hurt others . . . not that any of them read this, but I would rather err on the side of grace when I can (great advice given to me by a friend and coworker).

Last year was especially hard on many fronts, so I was looking forward to that magical fresh start that always comes with the turn of the calendar page to January 1. To be fair, January actually wasn’t so bad. It was full of determination, introspective moments, busyness, silliness, promise, and a few surprises. I had some new experiences opening up for me for work (both jobs) and for personal growth.

But then in February, I lost a close friend. Not due to a death, though it’s just as permanent. One day things were fine, and the next, the friendship was ripped from me with no recourse on my part. I spent most of the next month reeling, denying that this was my new reality and trying to make sense of it in my mind. It still seems unreal in many ways. The sadness of not getting my birthday phone call or texts that start with “I have this great idea . . .” out of the blue only cemented the oh-my-goodness-this-nightmare-is-real feeling.

All the while, life had to go on. I still had to work. I still had to love and take care of my family. I still had to get up each day and function because there was only one person, my bestie, I could talk with to try and sort it out, so the hurt had to be kept a secret. Talking about it hurt too much, and holding it in hurt no less.

I tried writing out my thoughts and it only made me cry more. And then it made me angry. And then cry again. Angry. Crying. Angry. Crying. What an awful cycle. Toss in a lot of bewilderment and disbelief, and self-medicating was starting to sound really good, though I didn’t go that route. I wondered if my former friend was hurting as I was hurting—as I still am hurting—or if it was a simple thing to dispose of that part of life, to dismiss it with an “oh, well.” In my worst moments, I wondered if the friendship was only on my end, and that our rapport was not what I thought it had been.

But the single phrase that keeps going through my head (and has been for weeks, in fact) is this: Why do you seek the living among the dead? Straight out of the Bible, that one. Luke, chapter 24. In that passage, angels at the empty tomb are speaking to the women who have come to tend to Jesus’ now-absent body. He’s not there, and the angels even tell them, “He is risen, just as he said.” I was struck by the thought once again as Easter approached.

Why do I seek where there is only empty space? Why do I seek joy where there is only disappointment? Why can’t I turn away from what is irrevocably gone and look toward the good things? There is plenty of joy around me, and I bask in it. And yet . . . why do I seek the living among the dead? Looking harder only reinforces that there is nothing to be found, and creates more of a downward spiral.

In my case, I am still struggling with the “dead” part of it. I am looking for a friendship that is no longer a living, vibrant, fun and active part of my life. I am looking for what once was, because I simply cannot believe it no longer is.

There is life all around me, and though I am enjoying it in a compartmentalized sort of way, the times when I’m tired or alone with my thoughts are still a huge battle. I sincerely appreciate the good things—and there are many, thanks to a spectacular husband, great kids, a bestie who knows all of it from start to finish and still listens to me, and wonderful coworkers—and yet I still feel the empty space. I replay conversations. I remember good times. And I get angry at myself that the good things don’t always feel like enough, because they are. In fact, they’re more than enough if I allow them to be. In fact, I have to allow them to be, because I have no choice; this is my new reality.

But I think it’s kind of like when you lose a child . . . something I’ve had experience with. There are the other children, and they are a great comfort, but it doesn’t negate that there is grief to be processed and someone is still gone. Those who remain are no less essential, but they don’t fill in the space and replace that which was lost. They can’t. Each space, each person, each relationship, forms a specific shape in a person’s life, much like a puzzle piece.

To lose a friend is no small thing. Not if that friendship was real. That puzzle piece is as unique as God created them to be. And only God can fill the empty spaces where no other piece fits. He has allowed me to be broken in many ways over the past few years, and this is now one more addition to the list. Have I mentioned that I hate being broken? It hurts like nothing else, at times a physical ache that rivals the heart-hurt.

The good news is that God’s pretty decent at brokenness. He’s waiting for me to give it over to him—fully—and believe me, I’m trying because I need to move on and stop looking behind me. I’m trying. I really am. I’m tired of feeling broken and I’m tired of not being myself anymore.

But Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells me this: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

In other words, he has given me a longing which nothing else can satisfy, except God. I can’t grasp his plan. I don’t need to. Because he knows me and is waiting for me to hand over what is dead so he can point the way to what is living.

You can find me (not) here

Hey, everyone! I realized (hopefully not too late in the game) that my A to Z Challenge comments left on WordPress blogs are leading everyone here, rather than my editing blog, Easy Reader, which is where all my own A to Z posts are located.

If you’ve ended up here by mistake, I hope it’s not an unpleasant experience for you. I have a few posts lying about for you to read if you feel like exploring, and I encourage you to browse at your leisure. I love hearing what people think, as long as they agree with me completely and are utterly devoted to me.

If you’re horribly put out by having to search for me, I’ll just apologize now and we’ll get past all that awkwardness. Cross your eyes at me, stick out your tongue, stamp your feet at the injustice of it all and then head on over to my other blog without a backward glance.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Many hugs and kisses (especially to those of you who were inconvenienced but who still love me anyway),

Lynda

Wait, what? It’s March?

It’s January, the holidays are officially over, my dear hubby is back to work, and I have mentally prepped myself for the winter re-start of school.

…um…okay, it’s not January anymore. I knew I hadn’t been posting regularly with this particular blog, but when I opened the draft I’d started, I was a little more than surprised to note that the draft had been abandoned over two months ago. TWO MONTHS.

Where have I been? I thought I’ve been right here, but I guess that’s not entirely correct. I’ve been…around. More specifically, I’ve been on my other blog, Easy Reader. When I first set up my blog, my intention was simple: get my thoughts out there while I learned my way around as a freelance copy editor. To some extent, it’s served that original purpose. However, it has evolved over the past nine months into something bigger and better than I’d envisioned. It has become a little community of its own.

Two people have been a huge influence in making this happen: Raymond Esposito and S.K. Anthony. Both are authors I’m now working with, and both have become friends I can rely on for good advice. Raymond has a phenomenal blog, Writing in a Dead World, and is a gifted storyteller, but he’s equally passionate about business. If I have a question—any question—that has anything to do with business planning, growth, or statistics, he’s better than Google. At the very least, he’s able to use it more effectively than I am. I barely get the question fully formed and he’s already provided a chart with facts and figures I can use.

I blame him for at least part of my other-blog busyness, because it was his idea that I start a regular blog post that provided tips for writers from an editor’s perspective. My Editor’s Notes have not only become something people read and comment on with regularity, but they’ve also helped me as an editor. As I research the information for each post, I learn more and more about my own job and how much attention to detail it requires. I’ve grown as an editor with each book I’ve worked on, and each subsequent book is getting the watchful eye of an editor who knows a little more than she did the week before.

S.K. Anthony has helped to turn my blog into something fun. We did an interview together in December that we titled, “Coffee Chat,” and it was so well received that we just never stopped. Every Thursday we’ve managed to come up with something new to talk about, from the ridiculous to the serious, all with a healthy dose of silliness thrown in. I should mention we’re entirely fueled by coffee. She’s also introduced me to a lot of great bloggers and I feel my horizons broadening.

What does this have to do with why I lost track of my real-life blog? Well…I’m not sure anymore where I was going with this one. I’ve been interrupted so many times while typing that I’m surprised I even remembered I was getting a post ready at all.

Because I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge with over 1400 other bloggers during the month of April, Easy Reader will have twenty-six short posts going up (every day except Sunday). And while that might sound like it will keep me even busier, I’ve actually gotten all my posts ready and scheduled. This should free me up to pay attention to this blog again in between book edits and regular life. (On a side note, I encourage you to check out the blogs listed on the A to Z Challenge page; whether your interests are books, gardening, travel, music, cooking, or anything in between, there are some great bloggers there who may have something that catches your eye.)

My real/personal life and my virtual/public/work life have sort of blended in many ways. The lines are a little blurrier than they used to be, and instead of panicking, I’m getting used to it. I’m still going to try and post the non-bookish things here, and you won’t really find much of Lynda the Editor on this blog, but you’ll certainly find Lynda the Person on either blog.

I’ve gotta be me, after all.

The Politics of Persona

I know this isn’t my own writing, but I couldn’t have put it better myself. And it’s an easy way to get a blog post up. And I can always tell people I taught Raymond everything he knows about writing.

Seriously, who we are, deep down, shows in our online persona. I am drawn to people or I’m repulsed by them, based on the way they treat others in the virtual world where, it seems, there are sometimes no filters. Read on…

Writing in a Dead World

female-sociopath-mask-2I spent the last few weeks finishing my latest novel. While I was typing away in my semi-isolated little world, I missed some really great drama over on Good Reads. Now I’m no gossip or drama lover…wait…yes I am, but regardless I still have a decent point to make. The “debate” which had nothing to do with the thread topic, developed over some potential bullying. There was aggravation, accusations, anger, and hurt feelings. The merits of the arguments against or in support of the accused blogger is immaterial to the real issue at hand—Author Persona.

We all have personas. Billy Joel called them the Stranger. It’s really a matter of adaptation. Across the various levels of social intimacy we portray different aspects of our personality spectrum. It’s not a question of being “fake” nor an indication of your sociopathic tendencies, but rather an unwritten cognitive and social agreement We play…

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This year, I’m okay

January 20 has, for the past 11 years, been a lousy day in our house. January 20, 2003, is when we lost our almost-five-year-old son. Nothing alters a day on the calendar for the rest of your life like the day a family member dies. Each year from then to now, the Christmas and New Year holidays have come and gone, and all of a sudden, there’s January, in all its crappy glory. We’re all coming down from a sugar high, needing to get back into a routine, having to start up school again, fighting heavy snowfall, and dealing with full dark at 4:30 p.m.

And then comes the 20th. It wouldn’t be so bad if the day’s emotions were predictable from year to year. Unfortunately, emotions are neither predictable nor controllable. We’ve marked the day in a variety of ways over the years, from going out of town to watching videos of the kids to getting a small cake. Most of the recent years have been more of a quiet glance between Tim and me, sharing a thought here or there, or texts throughout the day. I’m not sure if the kids remember the exact day or not, or if they consciously think about it in the same way we do.

I find myself marking the day on the calendar in the same way I mark all our birthdays: with a heart drawn around the date. I’m not sure why I do that, since it’s not really a celebration per se, and I’m certainly not likely to forget it if it doesn’t have that heart around the “20”—but the new calendar gets put in place and there it is.

This year, I feel motivated to write about it, because I feel…okay. Not spectacular, but not struck (or stuck) with the usual January melancholy. In fact, I’ve felt joyful overall every time I’ve thought of Tig over the past few months because of so many wonderful benefits that have resulted from his short life, and yes—even through his death. It’s an odd perspective.

It’s shown me that no experience is ever wasted, whether good or bad, precise or all-encompassing. Treasure all of them; store them in your heart, because it makes the reflection that much more precious when the time comes.

The pain of losing him has never lessened, and I’m quite sure it will never go away; however, it’s blurred on the edges a bit, not because I feel it less but because (I think) I’ve learned how to deal with it better as each year has passed. Each day, each week, each month, each year has shown me how God used that time in our lives in a way that will never be duplicated; that revelation has turned my grief into wonder.

Psalm 30:11 says, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” (NIV)

I’m no dancer. You’ll have to trust me on this, because if you want proof, you’ll wish you’d trusted me in the first place. But my heart dances, in a way, when I sing, and I’ve been singing a pretty cool song in my heart lately.

This year—not last year, and maybe not next year, but this year—I’m okay. Maybe even better than okay.

A brief reflection

better person

As the end of 2013 approaches, I have had, much like many others, moments of reflection poking their way into my daily thoughts. Many people on the various social media have posted about accomplishments and goals, hoping to share their ups and downs with others or hold themselves accountable for future actions.

As for me, I think there’s something magical about the winding down of one year and the revving up of a new one. Even though there’s only one second that splits December 31 from January 1, it feels as if those two dates have a chasm between them. I always picture it as a long journey from the very bottom right-hand corner of the calendar all the way up and around to the topmost left corner; with that visual in my mind, it doesn’t seem feasible that I can exhale December air, and in the very next breath, inhale January air.

What is it about the start of a new calendar year that gives the feeling “anything is possible”? Is there something about January that makes it easier to start a diet, rather than trying on December 9th or November 28th or July 5th? Why don’t people make Memorial Day resolutions? “I will eat less hot dogs and more salads during the summer months” or “I vow to take time each day to sit under the tree in my backyard and read for an hour” would be terrific resolutions, in my opinion.

Something about the words “New Year” gives the feeling that goals are within reach of the common man; that the overindulgence and undisciplined nature of the holiday season will be nudged back in line; that wrongs can and will be righted; that a slate is being wiped clean.

I suppose I’m not much different than anyone else: I like to use each new year as a springboard for a fresh start. If nothing else, it provides me with a reason to sit down and make a list of what worked for me and what didn’t during the previous twelve months. My list usually consists of sub-lists because I am what would be considered a “list person.” I love lists. I love making them and I love crossing things off them. I rarely get things crossed off, but I love it all the same, and the lack of accomplishments has not in any way diminished my desire to make more lists.

Regardless of the pitifully small percentage of items that actually end up completed on my lists, I find I function better with one. I have a track record of distractibility and will often enter a room, forget why I went there, and return to the previous room in hopes of a memory trigger. I leave things sitting out so I don’t forget about them, even though I’d prefer to have them put away. I can only multi-task to a certain degree; for instance, I can sit and blink while drinking coffee but will completely forget I have something on the stove if I go to another room without turning on the kitchen timer to remind me to come back. I once caused a (thankfully minor-ish) flood on the kitchen floor because I placed my glass in the fridge door water dispenser to fill it and stepped into the pantry “just for a second” to grab something. I found what I was looking for, took it to another room, and proceeded to start another task…until my husband walked into the kitchen, saw a floor full of water, and asked what the heck was going on. Huh. To be fair, a list probably wouldn’t have helped me there, but standing still for thirty seconds might have. And on a completely unrelated note, may I just say thank goodness for teapots that whistle.

Back to the lists…  (I told you I was distractible.)

My lists for the new year used to be general, and focused solely on the physical. Always, always they started with the ever-present “Lose Weight.” As I got older, the goal became more specific with a certain number of pounds, frequency/types of exercise, or changing food habits. Changing one habit per month seemed to be successful because it didn’t set me up for complete all-or-nothing failure.

Lately, however, my lists encompass more than just the physical. Spiritual goals for growth were added. Two years in a row, I read through my Bible in a year. One year, I focused on all the Biblical ways to be a better wife; another year, I did a different word study each month on things I thought I needed to know and improve upon; yet another, I worked on memorization of verses.

Other types of goals on my list were focused outward: to organize my house, room by room; to donate to the food pantry once per month; to practice any one of the musical instruments in our house (there are a lot of them!) a minimum of ten minutes a day, with one particular instrument as the “main” one that received more practice time than the others at least five days per week; to make more time for spontaneity with friends; to have meals planned out a week at a time; to do something kind and unselfish (big or small) for someone in my family each day; to figure out a way to help financially, either by earning money or cutting expenses.

Some of the goals worked well, others were a bust, and the rest worked for awhile. (Some people see a list of New Year’s resolutions as a to-do list for the first week of January, and there’s a reason for that.) Still, as a result, I’m not half bad at the ukulele, though still mostly bad at the mandolin; I managed to make three months’ worth of meals before having to repeat any of them (seriously! I have a lot of good recipes); every so often I was able to do something nice for Tim before he did it for me—and that was a tough one, since he’s pretty quick on doing nice things for me long before I even have a coherent thought; I started copy editing and am now earning a small income for the extras and emergency needs that crop up from time to time.

The unmet goals were a bummer all around. I wasn’t able to fit in as much bike riding this summer as I did last year, with only a couple hundred miles on my wheels compared to the previous summer’s 1000+. Not only did I miss the enjoyment of riding, but my health & weight goals took a hit because of it. The house still needs another layer or three of clutter taken out, though to be fair, much of the space is taken up by books and guitars, so I’m going to have to focus on the non-musical clutter since we all know there will undoubtedly be more guitars, drums, etc., coming in the door throughout the year. And if you’d poll my friends, I’m pretty sure they’ll tell you I absolutely sucked at the spontaneity thing.

BUT…

But. There’s always a “but” in there. I count on it, in fact, to make things better. The “but” in this case is that January is only a couple days away. Top-left of the calendar. Fresh start. Revised goals. Clean slate.

New list.

Life lessons from Christmas movies

Our family owns a lot of Christmas movies. We began collecting our favorites when the kids were little and have gradually replaced the good ones with their DVD or Blu-Ray versions over the years, and we’re faithful about hiding them away after the Christmas tree comes down so we don’t get sick of them.

We’re not keen on all Christmas movies; there are some stinkers out there, and just because it has “Christmas” in or near the title doesn’t mean I want to own it. You won’t get me to even pick up something that has the words “The Christmas Shoes” on it, because that song was touching the first time I heard it and never again after that. Never. I don’t like Christmas “sequels,” either, like Rudolph’s Shiny New Year or Frosty Returns. Ironically, we own Frosty Returns because it came bundled with a bunch of other Christmas classics (because nobody would have shelled out for it otherwise), but no one in our house has ever wanted to watch it.

We have what I consider classics, both old and newer, ranging from A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Year Without a Santa Claus to Jingle All the Way and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Toss in the über-classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas and you’ve got a well-rounded collection to accompany the hot cocoa on a snowy night. I think we own somewhere around twenty-five Christmas movies (yes, we’re one of the families who considers Die Hard a Christmas-ish movie…on the fringes of the category, but still within the borderline), and we make it through most of them each December.

The other night, the whole family was home (a rare occasion these days), so we watched two movies back to back: The Santa Clause, followed by Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. As I watched Rudolph and the gang, the thought struck me that just about everyone in that movie is a jerk, including Santa. What kind of Santa tells a parent he should be ashamed of himself for producing a defective child? Indeed, what kind of parent forces a kid to hide whatever it is that makes that kid unique? The coach, well…no offense to nice coaches out there, but that guy reminded me of every gym teacher I ever had in school, belittling the non-conformists and encouraging others to do the same.

Hermey & Rudolph

I happened to have my laptop open at the time, so I posted a comment on Facebook about how the message of Rudolph’s tale seemed to be that it was OK to treat someone in an awful manner unless they could do something for you. I couldn’t believe how many of my friends felt the same way about this movie; more than one person admitted to never having liked Rudolph, and one person didn’t even like the singing snowman. Harsh. The sheer volume of comments and the varied viewpoints had me laughing out loud. Some of them are just too good not to share. I commented, “Even that dumb king on the Island of Misfit Toys is a jerk…Rudolph & Hermey say, ‘So can we stay here with you?’ and King Moonracer answers, ‘No. But when you go back, here’s what you can do for me…'” and this is what I got in return:

Moonracer was like a petty dictator of a failing nation. “Get off my land and come back with aid! You can’t use my country as a base but GIMME GIMME GIMME!” 

You can bet those misfit toys got nothin’ for air defense except a squirt gun that squirts jelly!

The entire “Island of Misfit Toys” is about what happens when people just sit around and bemoan their fate instead of striking out, as Rudolph did, to make something of himself. The toys were pathetic and just expected King Moonracer to feed them and shelter them until the Big Santa arrived with more handouts. 

I don’t believe the Misfit Toys ever asked to be placed on the island!! How were they to escape when the boat wouldn’t float??

Santa is like the Grand Wizard of the North Pole KKK. He was hating on everyone. I was waiting for him to berate minorities and the mentally disabled after tearing Rudolph and his dad a new one for having a red nose.

The abominable snowman still gives me nightmares.

As I was telling my husband about the responses, he began to imitate the whiny Charlie-in-the-Box, “‘Oh, boo hoo. My name isn’t Jack.’ Well, what the heck is stopping you from telling people a different name when they ask? Can’t your middle name be Jack, like C. Jack Box?”

I guess I’d never realized how many people don’t care for the Rudolph movie. I don’t think I’ll ever view it in the same way again. Maybe I’ll never even bother to watch it again, or will only put it on so I can make fun of it—sort of my own Christmas version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Now that sounds like fun.