Monday, July 18, 2016

Mountain Climber

I’ve started a new chapter. I’m facing a new mountain. I’m not just talking in my novel, but in my life.  How many chapters does that make it now?  How many mountains are behind me? Let’s just say on Sunday I’m turning (45) forty-five.  Wow.  I don’t feel forty-five, and yet I feel like I’ve already lived a hundred lives.  How many times have I started over? How many mountaintops have I crested? I can break my life into several different segments, each filled with adventure and tragedy, love and hate, hurt and healing.  Some of it terrible, but some of it great.  I feel I’m both blessed and cursed.  Where am I now?  What new valley do I enjoy now?  What new mountain do I face to climb?

I look around me and I don’t recognize much of me.  I’m living in someone else’s apartment, surrounded by someone else’s things, in someone else’s town.  At moments, this reality is overwhelming and I cry for my space, I cry for my familiar things stuffed away in some storage unit.  I often feel my life is stuffed away, melting in the heat, locked away, confined, and forgotten. I had begun discovering myself, gathering things around me that were mine.   It’s always “soon” I’ll have my space.  “Soon” I’ll get my things back.  “Soon” I can get back to my life.  Yet, soon keeps getting pushed back one extended lease at a time.  It was just supposed to be for a few months.  In a couple weeks it’ll be a year.  In my experience… soon often never comes. I feel helpless, trapped and wonder how I got here, why I’m here, and how long will I have to stay?

Other times, I’m grateful for where I am, because I’m not alone and I know my best friend and roommate loves me and all the mess that I am.  The confined space is suffocating me, but her presence, her love, and her acceptance helps me when I fall into that panic mode.  I love having her around, I just wish we had a bigger apartment.  Being confined into small places stirs up childhood and other nightmares. Sometimes I can’t breathe and become filled with anxiety.  She also works from home, which means during her work hours (which are late afternoons) our small space becomes even smaller because I have to be quiet and stay in my room. It’s not so bad when I can go outside, go explore my new city, go enjoy the beauty of nature.  But it’s July in Florida and hotter than hell, and being outside during the daytime hours literally makes me sick.  I mean, puking-my-guts-out-and-getting-overheated-or-burned-to-a-crisp sick. My confinement becomes even smaller, and I feel like I’m locked away in a jail cell.  Sometimes I can literally hear the slam of a thick, metal door, and the sound of sliding steel as the lock catches.  Even the door to my bedroom gets stuck sometimes and is hard to open, which causes my feeling of confinement and panic to rise. I know it isn’t real, just a ghost image my mind uses to torture me, but I hear and feel it. 

I miss my things. I miss my space. I miss my kids. I miss the mountains. I miss the woods. I miss a lot of things.  But, I don’t miss the isolation, the feeling of being lost and forgotten and unnecessary. After 20 years of marriage, 18 years of church service.  After two decades of hard work to climb the corporate ladder.  After 25 years of motherhood.  I felt like none of it mattered, all the sacrifice I made was for nothing.  No one cared.  I had nothing to offer anymore, so I wasn’t necessary and became forgotten, tossed aside. I just wanted to be loved, but it seems I could never do enough to earn that from anyone. I walked away, and no one stopped me from leaving.  Then my body turned on me too.  I hit bottom a couple years ago, as low as one could go.  I faced death, and he almost won, but he didn’t.  I’ve been fighting to pick myself up from those deep trenches, ever since.  I can’t express or explain or even describe what it’s like to prepare to die.  I didn’t prepare, I imploded. But this blog post isn’t about staying in that dark place.  On the contrary, I’ve posted all the darkness above to lead to this point so that you can see the light.  There is light, there is hope, and there is freedom.  Yes, I’m still in a small confined place, and some days it’s very over-whelming.  BUT, I’m also in a good place because the doors are not locked.  I am not alone.  I will have my space, but this time it won’t be a place of darkness, of sadness, or of loneliness.  I just have to hold on for a little while longer, and “soon” will happen before I know it.  Yes, I’ll still have days of panic.  Yes, I’ll still have days of extreme anxiety.  But, I don’t have to face those days alone.  I still miss my kids, but they’re grown and living their lives without me and finding their way in this world.  My ex-husband has now remarried.  My ex-church has accepted the new couple and replaced me very easily.  My ex-in-laws now have a daughter-in-law in whom they can be proud.  Those chapters in my life are now closed.

So, yes, I’m starting a new chapter.  As with every new chapter, it takes a little while before you get to the inciting scene, the moment when everything changes.  The beginning of a climb is often slow and the size of the mountain seems overwhelming and a huge obstacle.  It won’t be until I reach near the summit before I will feel victorious, but I have my eyes locked onto my goal, onto my target, and though it will be a difficult climb and push me to the edges of my strength and will, I will succeed.  Do you know how I know?  Because this isn’t the first mountain I’ve climbed, nor is it the biggest or toughest mountain I’ve faced.  The biggest difference …I’m not climbing on my own.  I have two wonderful people in my life right now that have their own climb to make and we’re climbing together.  This time, I’m there to lend a hand when they need it, and to grab a hand when I need one.  I don’t know what struggles tomorrow holds, and I’m sure there will be many, all I know is that I don’t have to face them alone. 

Till next time,

~Mountain Climber

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sleight by Sloane Kady

I promised this review a few weeks ago, but life got in the way and I’m late.  I apologize to author Sloane Kady for my lateness. I made a promise, so here I am.  Please visit Ms. Kady’s website here.

It’s actually hard for me to review this novel.  The first paragraph grabbed hold of me and I actually got a little scared to read any further. 

“I’m the daughter of two defective people.  They came off the factory line dented and chipped.  If you could pick them up and look underneath them, you’d see that they’re just hollow molds, meant to look like real parents, even sounding like them sometimes, but you know you can’t keep them because those chips left sharp edges that will make you bleed, and they’re not real, anyway.  No one wants a cheap knockoff.”

It was too real for me.  Too familiar.  Too raw.  Not from anything that’s happened recently, but with things I’ve put behind me many years ago.  I could feel the pain this author poured into this work, because I recognize it.  I haven’t read anything else by Kady, nor have I met her personally, but I do interact with her at times on Facebook because many of her posts speak to my soul.  Her writing does the same.  I’ve grown a great fondness for Ms. Kady.

Sleight is raw and not for the tender-hearted, yet tender-hearted is exactly what Bryce is beneath the tough, cold exterior.  She’s full of pain, full of loss, full of confusion and all of it together has her stuck… stuck in the pain of a past she can’t forget, stuck in the confusion of a present she doesn’t know how to handle, and stuck in the fear of not knowing which future to choose.  The anger she’s held onto for so long because of the things she once knew, is tossed into chaos as she struggles to re-identify herself as her father struggles to hold onto to his own identity among the identity-stealing grasp of Alzheimer’s.

“The woman looking back at me in my oval bathroom mirror is a stranger to me.  I can see in her eyes that she doesn’t know me, either.  I watch her, trying to familiarize myself with her shocking appearance.  Inside, I’m still casual girl, with my torn skinny jeans and black turtleneck sweater.  The woman in the mirror would pass me on the street and at best glare at me from the corner of her eye in contempt of having to share the sidewalk with me.”

When do we form that inner soul? Mine is still a scared little girl acting tough in a violent world. Even now, she is the voice that moves me forward, reminds me of what I’ve already overcome, and compels me forward.  It’s paragraphs like this that resonate with me, and why this author has a fan for life.

What I saw in this novel is the beauty and ugliness, but most of all the reality, of love.  The chaos of pain.  The consequence of pride. The scars of hate, prejudice, and ignorance. Oh, if we could only get out of our own way sometimes.

As an editor, I found the writing fluid, like it was poured directly from the heart.  The pacing was consistent, slow in the moments of reflection, and then fast in the heat of emotion.  The language was raw and real, which gave an authenticity to the character’s voice. 

I don’t recommend this book for those easily offended or those blind in their preconceived boxes.  It’s a must-read for those with minds wide open, who’ve experienced some shit in their lives, or those who aren’t afraid to face some raw truth and emotion. 

Good job, Ms. Kady.  I look forward to reading more of your work.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Published Author

Georgia Author of the Year Nominee

Editor at North Star Literary Agency