Tag Archives: Writing

Frozen in Silk: A Trip Down Poetry Lane

I’m trying something different today. Something that I haven’t dabbled much in. Something that, when I’ve attempted it, has thoroughly kicked my butt. I’m posting a poem I wrote.

Yikes!

While I’ve studied poetry, I never had too much interest in writing it. Those times I’ve had to for class, I struggled to put words together to create a dense, but flowing story, a story that was supposed to sound like music, but always seemed to clatter loudly.

This poem came together by piecemeal. After many edits, my fingers are crossed that the image and message I want to convey is received. Let me know what you think!

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Frozen in Silk

My love,

 

Do you dare shout?

Do you dare sing?

Do you dare breathe?

 

Or are you forever holding your breath,

staring straight ahead,

a living statue.

 

Do you ever dance?

Do you ever laugh?

Do you ever see me?

 

Or do you stare through me,

never seeing what I hold in my hands,

a heart that beats less and less,

a breath that is turning cold;

I am freezing with you.

 

Soon we will be together,

two statues, a Romeo and a Juliet,

frozen just before their time-shattering deaths.

 

Living, breathing,

encased in ice made of satin and silk.

One day the ice may break, and

we may be free to walk hand-in-hand.

 

But for now we wait,

sleeping an endless sleep.

 

(Photo courtesy of Shutter Runner.)

Gina with the Cross: A Vingette

I first came across vingettes when reading The House on Mango Street. This book is a series of vingettes. Instead of having a single plot, where each chapter flows in chronological order, this novel is more a series of photographs. Each picture shows a scene, a snapshot into a person’s life. In the case of The House on Mango Street, that life is of Esperanza Cordero, as she grows up in an impoverished Latino neighborhood that she’s determined to leave, only to discover that once she fulfills her dream, she’s drawn back through the need to once again see the people she left behind.

Intrigued with the vingette, I decided to try my hand and create a scene that’s more about conjuring meaning through imagery than plot:

Gina with the Cross

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Gina, petite squirrel girl with emergency red flare nails and gold cross necklace, one purple rhinestone and one missing because she liked to pick, was my girlie friend who loved to pray.

“All you have to do is ask for forgiveness,” she said, staring at me, her brown eyes wide. Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap and her elbows were going to leave indents in her knees.

Despite her whispering, her words charged down the pews, bouncing off the stone floor and the stained glass windows. Nail polish puddled around the purple rhinestone in her left index fingernail, trying to suck the stone down into the sea of red.

“Why?” I asked. My hair fell about my face, and as I stared at my friend, her face was cut into strips: pale, pink flesh divided between strands of coarse mud.

“If you don’t, you’ll be excommunicated.” She scooted closer to me, until our knees bumped against each other. “Just tell them what you did.”

I tugged at a loose flap of skin clinging to the edge of my fingernail, twisting it around and around and then yanking. A plum of pain stabbed into my flesh. I yanked again.

What I did? I wanted to breathe, to expel all the air from my lungs. Just shove it all out there and away, but my throat was constricting. A lump formed in it. My lump, a callous, lopsided chunk of lard and ash. Soot-coated and reeking, it slicked against my esophagus, twisting, trying to grind up the soft tissue there.

“I have nothing to apologize for.” I frowned. My voice had choked on itself, like some piglet trying to squeal, but who had its mouth taped shut.

“Don’t say that.” She grabbed my hands, squeezing my fingers until pain spiked up my wrists. “You’re going to Hell, if you don’t.” Her forehead bumped against mine; her breath burned my cheek. “Worse, you’ll be ostracized. What will your pa say if he knew? You’re going to give your ma a heart attack.” Her voice dropped, quivered. “What about me? What am I supposed to do?” Her head started shaking, almost as if it had a life of its own. “I can’t keep this secret.”

I ripped my hands from hers. “Then, don’t.” I rose. Pain spiked through my jaw. It raced down the side of my neck and made my ear throb, a double bass bashing against my eardrum.

The backs of my calves banged against the pew and the wood shrieked against the stone. A few parishioners swiveled around from closer to the altar, but I didn’t care.

I opened my mouth to shout: What are you looking at! You think you know me! You think you know who I am! But no words came out.

My gaze fell to Gina. She stared up at me; her lips parted in a stark O, her Bambi eyes bright in the dim candlelight. “Tell them whatever you want. Whatever makes you sleep better at night.”

My palms pressed against my jeans. My index finger poked through the hole worn at my knee. “You can even tell them that I wanted it. That’s a lie, but you know that’s what they’ll say. I asked for it.” The big cross gleamed in the background. Massive and golden, it hung heavily over the altar, waiting for the perfect moment when its cables would snap and it would crash, banging against the stone, and squashing whoever was standing beneath it. Perhaps I should stand there. Perhaps it would fall on me. “After all, our bodies know when to get pregnant and when not to.”

“Aislinn…” Her hand fluttered to her mouth. I hoped she could feel my eyes piercing her. I hoped they seared her ribs black. “I know you didn’t want it. I know you were forced – I believe you – but…you killed your baby.”

The lump grew larger, churning and elongating. It would turn my throat to stone. “It was never mine.” I spun around and abandoned the pew. My Keds squeaked against the aisle. One of my shoelaces was untied. The white flopped against the red of my shoe, and dragged along the gray stone. I glared at it, but didn’t stop.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Gina hadn’t moved.

Solid oak doors rose in front of me, stretching far above my head and arching. Iron bars locking them in place. I stopped and stared stupidly, my hands frozen at my sides, unable to press the bars. I’d been able to enter this place. I should be able to leave.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood. There were eyes on me.

My nails pierced the palms of my hands – there would be little crescent moon imprints that would refuse to fade – as I slowly turned, my heels digging into the stone. Great, golden eyes from a tilted head, encircled by jagged thorns, watched me. They shouldn’t be able to. The head was pointed down and to the side, the ribs jutting out against the flesh, the stomach caving in, but still the eyes were on me.

I could have been so many things. I’d wanted to be so many things. What was I now, to Him? To everyone?

Noise rose in my throat, shoving upward, scraping and clawing at my tongue and lips, trying to pry my jaw apart. An uproar about to burst free, shredding me from the inside out, but my lump wouldn’t allow it.

I steeled my hands – iron could only burn – and shoved open the doors.

(Picture courtesy of arbyreed.)

When Inspiration Surprises You, Don’t Gag (But You Can Grab Your Towel)

I’m normally not one to share bits and pieces from motivational books. So much so, that a friend and I have a running joke: if something she wants to post makes me roll my eyes and say, “That’s gag worthy,” then she knows it’s sufficiently inspirational. We call it the “gag check.”

But I was flipping through a magazine the other day and came across an excerpt from Agapi Stassinopoulos’ new book, Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life. If I’d only read the blurb on the back cover, I wouldn’t have given a second thought to this book. It begins with, “This is your year of self-discovery, a journey to create a life filled with grace, meaning, zest, peace, and joy,” continues on, “And you’ll learn to trust your creativity, keep your heart open, and connect to the bigger spirit that lives inside you,” and ends, “Use it as a tool to unlock your goodness, and wake up to the joy of you!”

It all sounds a bit melodramatic for my taste. And then, I read the excerpt in the magazine article. This comes from the Weightwatchers magazine (March/April 2017) I discovered laying in the middle of the dining room table at my mother’s house:

“Consider this:14993052203_0b32989fc6_k

  • “You have 37.2 trillion cells in your body (compare that to the 400 billion stars in the galaxy!).
  • “The cells that make up your body are dying and being replaced all the time.
  • “By the time you’ve read this sentence, roughly 25 million cells will have died, but you’ll make 300 billion more as your day unfolds.

“Take a moment in reverence of the miracle of life you are.

“We have nothing to do with making this miracle happen; it’s working in spite of use, our inexhaustible life force. yet we take all this for granted. We worry that our breasts are too small, our butt too big, or our nose too long. If you ever feel insecure, insignificant, or inadequate, remember that there are more cells in your body than stars in the galaxy.”

The excerpt continues on in the article, but I found this part particularly interesting. I’d never thought about the human body that way. I’ve had my share of medical issues, and I’ve known others who’ve had theirs, and often I’m frustrated by how the human body can be both amazing–after all, human beings beat out all other similar lifeforms to survive to the modern age–and damaged. It can sometimes feel like our bodies are constantly failing us, and I occasionally wonder how human beings survived at all.

Then, I read this article, and it is incredible how complex our bodies are. We are dying and renewing every second of every day for all the years we’re alive.We’re not perfect, but we have a lot going for us. One of the biggest things is that we are capable of change. As a species, we might not like change because it’s challenging; it’s so much easier to keep the status quo, but we are able to alter our lives.

As Rob Reiner said, “Everybody talks about wanting to change things and help and fix, but ultimately all you can do is fix yourself. And that’s a lot. Because if you can fix yourself, it has a ripple effect.”

I think this can apply to writing as well, because writing can influence how people see the world. Not only your writing, but what you read. In my writing, I attempt to include deeper, more complex topics beneath the commercial plot, and most of my favorite books do the same. In terms of Stassinopoulos’ novel, just the excerpt made me think about my body differently. What I’ve been able to accomplish, while having medical complications, is amazing. My body is still going strong, despite what I’ve been through. My closest friends are the same way.

Take the time to appreciate your body and all the incredible things it does.

(Photo courtesy of Tom Hall.)

 

Character Sketches: How They Bring Fictional Characters to Life

9781270733_e3e28651e6_kCreating fictional characters can be challenging. You might get a glimpse of a character in your head, but when you go to write a story about that character, you discover that he is one-dimensional. Developing a character sketch enables you to purposefully design your character. It gives you the opportunity to brainstorm and then organize physical and non-physical characteristics, such as height, eye color, personality, the character’s backstory, and the character’s inner and outer conflicts.

Character sketches can be written in various ways. One way is in outline form, where you have categories and subcategories. An outline form works well for highly organized people, because it acts as list, like the partial character sketch example below:

Character Name: Marcelo (Marc) Meier

I. Physical Description

   A. Eyes

  1. Color: Caribbean Ocean blue
  2. Glasses or No: No glasses, no contacts; perfect vision
  3. Any striking features: His eyes are blue to the point where they seem inhuman, like he’s wearing colored contacts.

   B. Hair

  1. Color: Dark brown
  2. Style it’s kept in: Cut short and straight
  3. Any striking features: His hair usually smells like chlorine.

Sometimes an outline can seem too rigid. In that case, consider doing a character sketch in paragraph form. By asking questions about your character, you create a quasi mini-story, as if you’re describing your character to the reader. There’s no plot to this mini-story, but you learn in depth about your character and have more room for creative expression, as in the below example:

Character Name: Marcelo (Marc) Meier

What does your character physically look like?

“Water droplets flung free from Marc’s dark brown hair. It always amazed him that no matter how short and straight he kept his hair, chlorine seeped in and refused to budge. Not that he’d express that to any of his teammates. He didn’t want to be called a wuss and get rat tailed. By the time swimmers got to high school, they’d perfected the art of towel snapping.

“He was already nicknamed “pretty boy” because of his eyes. He couldn’t help that they were ridiculously blue. It irritated him anytime some girl mooned over how his eyes reminded her of the Caribbean Ocean.”

A third way to create a character sketch is much more fluid. It’s where the character speaks directly to the reader, and relates his personal story in a conversational manner. This type of sketch usually contains stream of consciousness elements, as in the following partial sketch:

“Hey, I’m Marcelo. (You can call me Marc.) I’m co-captain of the varsity swim team at Mount Crest High School. I’m seventeen. A junior. (Can’t wait to be a senior.)

“My best friend is Ana Arias. Yeah, my best friend’s a girl. Get over it. (And no, we haven’t done it. Have I thought about her naked? Once. It was weird. Like accidentally glimpsing my mom naked when I was ten. Not something that can be unseen.)

“I have this crazy ex-girlfriend. Hot as all get out, but nowhere near hot enough to stay with. My teammates think I’m the insane one for letting Vicky go. They say sex with crazy chicks is the best type. Seeing as how she’s the only girl I’ve done it with, I wouldn’t know. (She was flexible and had a thing for pinching. I always ended up with bruises.) Though there’s this girl Stephanie (Steph) Blake who likes me.

“Steph’s a sophomore. She’s pretty. Got a great butt. She likes wearing shorts that let half of her butt hang out. (Steph is biracial, and without sounding like a complete girl, she has the smoothest skin I’ve ever seen. Don’t think she’s ever had a zit. And to make me sound even more like a wuss, her eyes are beautiful: almond-shaped and hazel. Any guy should jump at the opportunity to get with her. She’s got this demure, Catholic girl thing; it’s like part of her personality is missing, and she lives by a literal interpretation of the Bible. I’m Catholic, but not that Catholic.)”

Character sketches are especially helpful if you have a large cast of characters. Too often it’s too easy to confuse characters or have them all sound the same. When your characters become living, breathing individuals with dreams, fears, and goals, they become unique and relatable. They become people that readers want to invest time with.

Have you created a character sketch? Did it help you visualize your character and his personality?

(Photo courtesy of Danica Saerwen.)

When No Monkeys Show Up: Why Creating Critique Group Bylaws Is Vital for Success

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Happy Monday, Everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your weekend, and if you worked, I hope that at least you weren’t bored out of your brain. Part of what I did this weekend was chat with some new friends about creative endeavors. Turns out we’re all writers!

This led to offers and agreements to read each others’ works, which got me thinking about my previous experiences with beta reading, specifically participating in critique groups.

While critique groups can foster a highly beneficial, symbiotic relationship, they can also be detrimental. It all depends on who’s in the group and how the group operates. But how can anyone know what a group’s expectations are, if there’s no document outlining the rules—well, more like strongly encouraged guidelines?

When I joined my first critique group, I knew that we were to turn in at the most ten double-spaced pages a month and that we had to attend most monthly group meetings. However, that’s where the rules ended, and it was all too soon that I wished there were more obligations. The meetings turned into social hours, and it wasn’t long before people were showing up late or not at all. One day, via a Facebook message, the group leader abruptly announced that the group was going to be online only and people could turn in work if they felt like it.

That was over a year ago. No one has turned in a single word.

My current writing group is very different. I founded it, and the group encompasses some individuals from my graduate writing program. The group’s name is “The Writers’ Syndicate” and we have bylaws. These rules state the group’s purpose, membership requirements and expectations, meeting scheduling, preparation, and structure, the addition of new members, and events/retreats.

While the final document can come across as strict, we’re a fun-loving group of serious writers, and because we all understand how easy it is to let writing fall to the side—everyone has other obligations, like full-time jobs, family and friends, etc.—we wanted to have rules firmly in place.

I’ve included my group’s bylaws below, if you’d like to use them as a reference for creating your group’s bylaws. Take a look!

The Writers’ Syndicate Bylaws

Purpose

The Writers’ Syndicate was created to aid in developing writers’ work through honest and rigorous feedback; to encourage and help writers to submit their work for publication; and to provide a supportive and encouraging environment and network. The critique group is based on the workshop style.

Membership Requirements

  • Members are fiction writers, either working on novels and/or short stories.
  • Members are serious about their craft.
  • Members are ultimately pursuing publication.
  • Members are able to receive criticism of their work, and are able to provide detailed and helpful criticism of other members’ writing.
  • Members are able to consistently attend meetings.

Note: Non-active members may remain a part of the group. However, their non-active status may last no longer than three months. After three months, their membership will come under review, to be decided if the member must become active to remain in the group, or due to circumstances can remain non-active.

Non-active members will not submit any work to be critiqued; they will not critique any other members’ work.

Meeting Scheduling

  • The Writers’ Syndicate meets one evening biweekly, from 6:00 pm to approximately 8:00 pm.
  • Meeting locations will be set to accommodate all members, and will be agreed upon by all members.

Meeting Preparation 

  • Two to three members’ submissions will be critiqued at each meeting.
  • Submissions will be no more than 25 pages apiece. (There will be a one or two page leniency to reach a chapter or story ending.)
  • Submissions for meetings will be sent out at least one week prior to the scheduled meeting.

Meeting Structure

  • The first 15-20 minutes having snacks/dinner, talking freely, and sharing any interesting and helpful writing tips or resources, books, or links discovered.
  • All members will participate in a verbal critique. Verbal critique times will be divided evenly between all works submitted at the current meeting.
  • The member whose work is being critiqued cannot speak during the critique. The member will have time after the critique to address any questions or concerns.
  • Each member will supply a written critique for each piece submitted at the meeting.

Member Expectations 

  • Members should strive to submit work and provide written critiques when appropriate, and to attend all meetings. Advance notification must be given when a member cannot meet the following expectations.
  • Members must be supportive and respectful of other members.

Addition of New Members

  • Active members may introduce potential new members to the group. But the group must unanimously agree on the new member, and the new member must meet all membership requirements.
  • Prospective new members must submit a writing sample to the group, and attend a critique meeting once each member has reviewed the writing sample prior to the prospective new members acceptance into the group.

Events/Retreats: 

  • Holidays: Members can bring holiday related treats to the meeting that takes place closest to a holiday.
  • Writing Conferences/Readings: Members are encouraged to attend at least one writing conference and/or reading during the year.
  • Annual group getaway: Attendance is encouraged, but not required. Members will plan a trip together, and the trip will focus on group bonding.

Note: Non-members may attend the annual getaway, as long as members are given advance notice.

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What do you think? Have you had a positive or negative experience with critique groups? Share in the comments section! I’d love to hear from you.

(Photo courtesy of Sally T. Buck.)

Writers Beware: Would You Rather Will Get Your Pencils in a Bunch

I hope everyone is enjoying the last few days of January! I’m currently in Minnesota and its weather is so different than Maryland. We had a snow storm, however, the locals said that six inches of snow wasn’t that big of a deal… In Maryland, we’ve had several seventy degree days this winter.

In the spirit of wintertime, I went ice skating with friends yesterday, am planning on going snowshoeing, and am disappointed I’m leaving Minnesota the day before the yearly ice bar opens. However, one of my friends in Minnesota with me lives farther south than I do. So, I dared her to go stand barefoot in the snow for five minutes (this is a type of extreme conditioning to acclimate your body to colder temperatures). She didn’t take me up on the dare, but it got me thinking about the game “Would You Rather.”

So let’s play! I’ll ask some questions and provide my answers. Feel free to comment with your answers or post these questions and your answers on your blog. Don’t forget to link back to me! I’m excited to know what you say.

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Would you rather live your entire life in a virtual reality where all your wishes are granted or in the real world?

This is difficult! On one hand, I’ve got some pretty hefty wishes I’d love to see come true, and living in a world where everything I desire is granted seems great. However, I believe that (1) if you don’t experience the negative sides of life, you won’t fully be able to appreciate and be grateful for the positive, (2) you can’t become a better human being if you don’t work, struggle, and compromise for what you want, and (3) there wouldn’t be a sense of achievement for accomplishing anything, because you wouldn’t have to work toward anything. Therefore, you’re more likely to have a flimsy layer of self-confidence, so that if things were to ever get tough, you’d give up before you really tried. Plus, part of establishing deep, meaningful relationships is working through the tough times, and how can you ever truly know yourself, if you never face hardship or your fears.

What I’m trying to say, is that while my knee-jerk response would be to live in a virtual reality, after some thought, I’d rather live in the real world. 

Would you rather go back to age five with everything you know now or know now everything your future self will learn?

Another tough question! Hmm… I’d rather know now everything my future self will learn for multiple reasons: (1) while going back to the past and being able to change my actions and responses to various situations is appealing that doesn’t guarantee that my life will turn out the way I want it to. (2) I don’t know what type of person I’d become if I changed my past. What if I didn’t like myself? I’ve had some dark times and awful experiences and relationships, but I’m more empathetic, understanding, and less judgmental for it. (3) It’d be challenging to grow up again with all that adult knowledge…what if knowing everything I know now royally screwed up childhood’s development process? It’s a lot of what ifs, and choosing to know now everything my future self would learn could also have horrendous results, but I wouldn’t want to relive my childhood. That’s in the past; I want to move forward, not back.

Would you rather everything you dream each night come true when you wake up or everything a randomly chosen person dreams each night come true when they wake up?

 While I tend to have nightmares instead of dreams, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a random person’s dreams each night coming true when they awaken. I have no idea what types of dreams that person would have, and if anything bad happened to that random person because I chose for their dreams to come true instead of mine, I’d have trouble living with the guilt.

I’d rather fight the monsters in my dreams. Heck, I’d have some fascinating stories to tell around the campfire.

Now, some questions specific to writing:

Would you rather publish one insanely best-selling novel and never write again or publish twenty average selling books over twenty years?

I’d rather publish twenty average selling novels over twenty years. I could spend my life being a full-time writer, which is my dream job. I wouldn’t be happy not having writing in my life. It’s part of who I am.

Would you rather read a novel that is written poorly but has a fantastic story or read a well-written book with a weak story?

Both weak stories and poorly written novels irk me. After pouring so much time and energy into creating well-written, strong stories, the writing in me turns into a pit-bull and goes on the attack anytime I see plot holes, flat characters, poor grammar, etc. But, since I have to choose one, I’d rather read a poorly written but fantastic story. The writing may be contrived and clichéd, but I could get lost in the story. Shallow, plot hole-ridden stories get my blood pressure up and I often end up rewriting the story in my head (and grumbling about how such a badly written book ever made it onto the market).

Would you rather write a book that changes a person’s life but receives no mainstream success or write a novel that is wildly successful in sales but that people don’t think about afterwards?

The literary and commercial halves of me are fighting over this question. But, the commercial writer knocks out the literary one. I enjoy writing commercial fiction, and I enjoy reading it. While it may not be the most enlightening experience, I still find myself transported. Plus, being wildly successful in sales could mean that I become a full-time writer. That would be awesome.

What are your answers to these questions? Do you agree with me or not?

(Photo courtesy of Kris Williams.)

The World, Forgiveness, and MLK: The Power of Words from the Man with a Dream

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! In honor of the non-violent civil rights activist’s birthday, I wanted to share three of his quotes, and how they’ve resounded with me. MLK helped show how words hold more power than violence, and with how today it seems that democracy is more like war, where the goal is to win at all costs, his words should be remembered and held as an example of how mortality can trump fear and how consciousness can quell hatred.

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“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

This resonates with me much more than the many years ago I first heard this quote. After ten years of friendship, someone I considered as a sibling betrayed me, and I felt an emotion I’d never experienced before: hate. It consumed me, completely turned my world upside down, and destroyed my empathy, a type of understanding and compassion I’d been proud of. I fell down a deep hole, so vast and dark that I lost all sense of myself. I enjoyed nothing, not even writing… I couldn’t write, because I detested everything I’d once believed in.

It took a long time for me to pull myself out of that hole, and there are still times where I regress to the precipice of that crevice. But hatred made me inhuman, and, today, I’m grateful to have regained my empathy.

Though I wish I’d never experienced hate, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to either, even though I know many do—sometimes it seems like hate has encompassed the world and made it uncompromising—going through that experience better opened my eyes to comprehend and share in the feelings of other, because I now have a deeper understanding of myself. I have seen the darkness within me, and rather than try to conquer it, I’ve accepted it. Through that acceptance I’m better able to defend against sinking so low again.

 

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”

Forgiving is not easy, especially when dealing with strong emotions or a lot of painful history. Hurt can quickly become a chasm. Through this fissure more hurt surges forth, and it’s easy for anger, denial, prejudice, discrimination, and hate to company it. The human survival instinct to hurt back, to retaliate suffering is very strong. So strong that forgiveness is too often left behind in the darkness.

It’s only when we make the determination to let go of resentment and revenge that we begin the process of forgiveness. It’s often a long and difficult journey, and doesn’t have a finish line. We can always forgive and then take a step back and return to the hatred. But we need forgiveness in order to thrive. We need it to meaningfully connect to others, even if we often disagree with those people. We need forgiveness in order to love.

I know how hard it is to forgive. The friend that betrayed me has never apologized, and never will. I did not want to forgive, because I yearned for this person to empathize with how I felt, to regret their actions, to realize the pain they’d caused, and in doing so help restore my ability to trust and love others. But I discovered that to recover I had to heal myself, and recovery meant forgiving that person.

I’d thought that forgiveness meant that person had power over me, meant that person was absolved of any wrongdoing, and meant that the wrongdoing must be forgotten. Believing this only led to more bitterness.

At first, forgiving this person was only words. But, after conscious intention and, sometimes, painful undertaking, I was able to genuinely forgive that person. Though, occasionally, the bitterness and anger and pain creep back and I must again consciously accept that I’m disappointed I’ll never receive the apology I desperately want, and then I must, once more, choose to forgive. I refuse to let hurt dictate my life; I will not be a victim to the inability to forgive. I am grateful for far more than I resent.

 

“He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.”

Love is essential to move forward in life. Love is necessary for compromise, for understanding, for peace. I remember watching the comedy “Miss Congeniality” with Sandra Bullock starring as Gracie Hart. The movie was about an FBI agent, who went undercover as a contestant in the Miss United States beauty pageant to prevent a bombing at the event. It was hilarious and I’ve watched the movie many times since.

One part that’s stuck with me is how the beauty contestants all answer “world peace” to the question “What is the one most important thing our society needs,” and how Bullock’s character makes fun of them for it.

At first glance, such an answer seems ridiculous. Surely, our society needs many other things before world peace. After all, our society doesn’t necessarily apply to the world, and, the society of each country has to think about itself before the societies of other countries.

But if I were asked that same question, I’d answer with world peace, because that means that all countries would work with each other. We’d learn to forgive the past and move forward to create a future where we can thrive.

World peace would mean that we’d learned to love each other more that hate, that we’d transcended past the often minute differences and accepted that we hold the same universal truths. If we achieved world peace, the possibilities for the future would be endless.

The human race is amazing. Our curiosity, our potential has enabled us to achieve incredible things, and also commit atrocities that make non-fiction read like fiction, but if everyone took the time to empathize—to forgive—the possibilities of what we, as a species, could accomplish are endless.

 

I leave you with one extra quote:

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

As I look at my country, and at other countries, I’m reminded of this quote, and so often I’m saddened by what I see in the world. I believe that there is other life in the universe, but that is not yet a fact. This world is all we have. We would greatly miss it, if it were gone, and greatly regret any of our actions that led to its end.

(Photo courtesy of Henk Sijgers.)