This was supposed to be a post about the magical weirdness that is Allerton Park, but plans change.
I woke up to the sort of news I hate. Stephen Hawking has died, which everyone knows already unless they live under a rock. The fact that he outlived all expectations is small comfort; this man was one of my heroes. He was a genius, but this is not why I loved him and will miss hearing news about him or catching some cameo of him on random TV shows. My love for Stephen Hawking is that he proved over and over again what is possible. If you have the will. And it is that love which is made me look a little deeper and ask what I really want to write about. The answer went in a direction I hadn’t considered much before.
Last week, after an unpleasant encounter with a family member, I wrote out why I was so angry. I wasn’t irritated with her so much as her attempt to limit me to her version of who I am. The post got a wonderful response. I felt like I really reached people and helped them to understand that what others think about us does not have to become our reality. It was something I learned the hard way and wanted help others with. I like to think I convinced a few people to embrace their writing and not worry about what others say while they’re doing it. When I woke up to discover the world had lost Hawking, it put me in an introspective type mood, as death so often does. I took a long look at myself and my writing and asked why I write posts like last week’s rant – this is far and away not the first post I’ve written like that. Usually I write Facebook novels on whatever issue is twisting my hair curly. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they are angry, but they are always, always aimed at trying to convince people that all this blanket hate is unnecessary, they are worthwhile, and that they have every right to be happy. It is something I love to do. Which is weird because cheerleader has never been my style. At least, not unless the squad leader is Daria and Emily the Strange is her sidekick. But, odd or not, I’ve realized I want to start writing more in the direction of cheering people on and helping them dispel negativity.
No, I’m not giving up fiction. Breathe, CB. The end of The War for Inisfail will still be written and I’ve got short stories pouring out faster than I can write which will be shared here for free. I write so much my hand is always sore because I handwrite everything first. Anyone that knows a handwriting to text app or tool, please, for the love of all that is holy, help me. I’ve got several full sized gorilla cases full of notebooks. I’m going to have to start making furniture out of notebooks or make origami my newest hobby. Insert the Home Alone scream here. So, yeah, I’m still writing fiction and will continue to do so until death do us part. I did, however, start thinking about what I want out of my writing life and why it is so hard for me to keep a blog going when I am so darned passionate. About everything. The answer was simple. Because I want to help people and I’m not doing that with just my fiction. I try to put it in there, but a story isn’t the place for personal soap boxes unless it adds to it. People read fiction to escape from that sort of thing. At least, I do.
I haven’t had a perfect life. Name one person who has. I was born with a heart defect. I suck at relationships and I was bullied so much in high school it was easier to pretend I was dying of malaria than leave the house. That’s just a tiny tip of what’s happened to me, but I don’t let anything knock me down for real. If life wants to keep me down, it’s going to have to kill me. And I make no promises that will work. I bounce up like a Tigger with a double Ga-ur. And I like to grab other people by the collar and drag them back up with me. Because I can. Just like misery, joy loves company.
I’m a lifter. I am not going to spout off about two, three, or fifty kinds of people in the world because I believe shoving people into boxes and giving them any sort of title is a huge issue. Let me put it this way. If I put you in the ‘selfish melodramatic, bitter, and judgmental box, how hard would it be for me to notice when you do something positive? A lot of people do that to me. They think that I’m one way based on outdated information and never stop to think why I’m acting one way or another. Putting someone in a box makes it nearly impossible for them to change for the better because it is human nature to want to keep people and things where we put them. Because it is super hard to redirect our ideas about them. Don’t worry, I’ve done it too, despite my best efforts, which is why I try not to shove people under titles; when they do change, I can be happy for them instead of angry that they refuse to quietly sit in their container, forcing me to build all sorts of new beliefs about who they are.
Just because you might be a troll on the internet does not mean you’ve never stopped to help someone change a tire or saved a child from drowning. So you don’t get a box when you’re with me. Not that I’ll tolerate trolls, fyi. I will block you faster than a hunk of good cheddar because dragging people down is just wrong, and there is far too much of that. Try to get beyond your need to hurt others or get out. My rules are uber simple and non-negotiable. My site, my rules. But. If you want to be different, I will give you the chance to change and happily help you become the best you can be. I’m always going to cheer when you decide to make a positive change. And, on the other side of this, putting someone in the cheerful and helpful box is just as limiting. Ever noticed how nobody seems to know how to comfort someone like that when their smile dies? It’s because they are the one everyone else would send them to. Labeling takes an external moment in time and makes it an eternal name tag. You know. The sort that only peels off in tiny bits and pieces and leaves a patch of sticky glue that cannot be gotten rid of with a blow torch. This labeling bullshit causes way more pain than necessary.
Anyway, what I’m saying is that I like to help people love themselves and their life. So I am going to start chasing that aspect of my personality. I’m not Pollyanna. Quite the opposite. I am someone who has spent their life suffering in one way or another – just like everyone else. Being empathic means that I am always looking at people from their shoes, or trying to. I shrink from cruelty because I know exactly how much words can hurt a person where it really counts. On the inside. I know how easy it is to fall down the Rabbit Hole of Despair and I know everyone has redeeming qualities. I believe that the universe runs on knowing it will get better. Suicide does not come from being sad. It comes from losing hope in finding the light and escaping the black hole. I’ve always thought that, if there were more people lighting candles instead of putting them out, then we’d have a significant drop in suicides.
It’s like this. Nobody can help you if you are determined not to see a solution. The business of getting out of the hole is on you. Happiness is inside you and is dependent on nothing – food, money, possessions, friends, or love – to be found and brought to the surface. Momentary happiness can be linked to these things, sure. This is usually caused by the release of dopamine into your brain and it is triggered by doing something that excites you. Like buying shoes or having sex. This kind of happiness is fleeting and, once it is gone, you are right back where you started, if not in a worse place. But there is another sort of happiness. It is wholly independent of emotion exists within you and it is always there, waiting for you to find it. So why aren’t more people happy? Because they live an external life and the spitballs life shoots at them cut deep, deep, deep. Which is why, sometimes, they need someone to come find them in the oubliette, light a candle, and show them the door was there all along. All they have to do is open it. I really, really want to be one of those people pointing to the door.
I’m good at holding up a mirror to people and saying ‘just look at how wonderful you are.’ I try to find the best in people and I enjoy it when I can turn hate to love. I am passionate about it. Does that mean I am always happy, helpful, or positive? No. Sometimes I fake smile and I wish someone would ask me what’s wrong instead of hurling insults because they’ve misread my actions. Sometimes I get angry and say really mean things and God help you in those cases because I am, truly, an angry redhead. But I try very hard to lift people up rather than kicking them down. I believe that everyone has something good to offer. And if you don’t know what your talent is, my idea of friendship is knowing it and pointing it out to you. If you are down on yourself and can’t remember anything worthwhile you’ve done, I’m going to remind you. Not because I want you to be grateful. But because I want you to see yourself as I see you. I am, for all my gothic darkness, someone who looks for the light in others. I want you to thrive. Which is where this whole post is going to (eventually) end up.
I created Darkwood to share my writing. However, I’ve been feeling there has to be more if it is going to remain active. I love ghost stories. I love fantasy and dragons and swords (no, really, I like sharp things). I am always going to write about them and I am going to share all the things I’ve promised. But I think I need to add something a little more. Something that allows me to shine a light for those who are lost in the dark. When I read about Stephen Hawking’s death and got to thinking about the remarkable life he’s led and the victories he’s won, I realized why I was feeling like I was falling a bit short on my blog. The cold medication might have helped me make that jump; I’m still a little sick, lol, but I realized I want more of this. I want more of helping people realize their worth and showing them the way to chase dreams. I want to light fires in others and watch them rise. It was something of a triumph for me to discover this; I’ve been wandering around rudderless for a long time, knowing I was missing some tiny little puzzle piece which would solve my inner dissatisfaction.
I call these moments rants because, well, it is usually negative thinking that sets me off. Or mean behavior. Or any number of things that are just morally wrong and turn me into an M80 looking for a trashcan to blow up. Today, it was the death of a man who contributed in so many ways, not just in science, but in inspiration. In reality, this is me trying to tell the world that it doesn’t have to be a dark and stormy night all the time… and that there is nothing weak about being kind. There is nothing wrong with trying to help people. And, yeah, sometimes it will come off as me shaking a fist at injustice and going into Hulk mode. But, hopefully, these posts will also help others. Be it realizing what is possible or changing a negative thought process, I want to give something to the world that is all about making it a better place for everyone. I want to help everyone else shine.
Remember to look up at the stars, not down at your feet.
-Stephen Hawking. RIP Sir. You will be missed.