Thursday, July 9, 2015

Sticks and Stones

If you've been reading my blog from the beginning, or even just a few once in a while, you've probably heard me talk about a writer's conference called Re:Write and how things I learned there and the people I met changed me so much for the better. Well, what I haven't mentioned in my blog is the steps that came before that. The things that lead me to the huge weekend of self discovery that happened to me at this conference. Part of why I never mentioned these things is because until recently I wasn't even sure what started this chain reaction. It's hard sometimes, even once you've reached the end of a road, to look back and see the journey. The road snakes back on itself, sometimes parts of it are hidden. But sometimes it's good to revisit parts of your journey just so you can see how far you've come and learn new things from old situations.
Now, I'm not saying you should revisit everything, because there are certainly things that should remain only in the past, but there are still some things that you may appreciate more or learn more from now than you did when you first discovered them.
A few weeks before Re:Write, my sister shared a very impacting spoken word video on facebook.

I'm not sure if this began the domino effect of seeking myself and God in a deeper way, but I do .know it was an important domino somewhere in the chain. Emotional after watching the video and truly appreciating the idea that I recently realized would later evolve into the quote I shared in my last post about beauty, I decided to bare my soul to my large group of friends and acquaintances on facebook.

So, without further explanation, here is the video and the post that followed:

Growing up I was called obsessive, freak, crazy. Why? Because I was passionate and my mind moved a million miles a minute, causing me to have difficulty expressing myself and things that I loved in a "normal" way. Because of these names, I felt less than normal. At first that was okay. I retreated into my book, my fantasies, and my mind because I didn't even really understand myself.
Seventh and eight grade I saw people had friends, people shared what they were interested in and found people with common ground. I had been quiet and to myself for so long, I forgot. I forgot the labels they had given me. I spoke up. But still, I didn't understand me, not even to share who I was easily. So it came out in messy bursts of extreme emotions: excitement, anxiety, and passion. These things aren't normal. Or at least they aren't in middle school, where if you aren't painted in shades of the same boring gray as everyone else, you're abnormal.
Freak and crazy, some called me. But these didn't bother me as much as obsessed. I love words, I always have. And as a thirteen year old, I looked up the definition. "To think about something unceasingly or persistently; to dominate or preoccupy the thoughts or haunt persistently or abnormally"
There was that word again. Abnormal. So who was I then? I didn't belong to any bigger puzzle. I was not a masterpiece. I was abnormal. Broken. A discarded extra piece that didn't make sense.
Wanting to be loved and understood desperately, I put on a mask of shades of gray, hoping it would hide my crazy. But I found that I still couldn't relate to people, because I wasn't giving them me.I shut down emotionally to avoid the pain that came with the severe isolation I felt. I was lost in in a sea on shades of gray. I needed help. I was crying out for acceptance, but my mask had become so good at hiding who I was, that those around me couldn't even see I was in pain. Finally, through much pain, I threw the mask away, and exposed the deep emotional wound to the harsh air. Grace and love pored in. For the first time I had hope.
I was sixteen.
Since then, I've come to learn more about myself and how my mind works. It's a mess, and it doesn't make sense to even me sometimes, but I have found a way to harness that mess and turn it into something beautiful. I am writing a book. I do what some still call obsessive research and reading so I can improve my skills as much as possible. I'm still excessively loud, overly passionate, and into some things that aren't classified as "normal."
Although I'm not called these names that frequently any more, to this day, they still make me flinch. The way I thought no one understood me, or really saw who I was for so long affects how I think about my relationships. It still makes me second guess the genuineness of some of my friendships from time to time. I have to remind myself that those lies I once believed are not true.
What were your names?

I wrote this post six months ago. No longer do I flinch at these names. But watching this video and reading six months ago me's thoughts, I understand a little more about what I've been learning about myself, God, and beauty now.
After rewatching that video for the first time in six months, I was hit especially hard when the speaker said the line, "She's raising two kids whose definition of beauty begins with the word Mom."
And yet she still doesn't see her beauty because of the names she was called and the masks she wore to hide her pain. How many of us does this describe?
From the twenty years of life I've lived, it looks like too many. More than it should be, anyway.
I was one of these, I tried to cover myself up, because the names they called hurt too much and I couldn't bare to let the people see that my heart was nothing more than an unwanted flower trampled in the street.

And when I think about where I was, and where I still see people today, I can't help but identify with the last line of this poem, "Our lives will only ever always continue to be a balancing act that has less to do with pain and more to do with beauty," because if you think about it, that's what we were and are doing, isn't it?
We put on masks to draw attention away from the pain in our eyes at the cruel words spoken. We put make up on our scars and build walls around our hearts, because if someone saw our stories, lives, beauty, then maybe they would disapprove and call us names to make themselves feel less broken.
For isn't that all they are? The same as us. Broken souls in a never ending struggle with beauty.

So, just as I asked six months ago, what were the jabs made at your beauty?
What were your names?

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Language Of the Soul

Not so long ago, maybe a month or so, a few of my fellow fiction writers made a proposition to me. It went something like this, "Hey! We're going to start role playing characters from our books so we can get to know them better. Want to join?"

My head basically exploded.

Whether you know me or not, you probably don't know about my role playing addiction unless you were one of my role play partners in the past. But it really is no less than an addiction. So when I was invited to join them on this, excitement immediately filled me. I had a hard time containing it.
I knew the purpose of the sequence we were creating was to get to know characters better that we don't know very well, but I chose my most familiar character even though the character in my current work in progress could really use a lot of developing.
"Why?" might be your first question asked.
Well, it's because like role play, which I hadn't participated in in over a year, it had also been some time since I had written fantasy.
Fantasy's my jam. Fantasy's my passion. I eat, sleep, and breathe fantasy!
So even just the two short months I've spent writing something outside the genre has been killer for me.
So choosing Behmyn seemed like a no-brainer.

Now let me give you a little background on Behmyn before I get to want I really want to talk about.
Behmyn is a thinker. Behmyn is deep. He is broken. He has experienced many hurts in his past and has a poor tendency to blame himself for things he couldn't really have helped or stopped. But he is also loyal and protective. He tried to protect himself from getting hurt again, but he loves people too much to distance himself from them completely. He also loves animals and being outdoors. He is a hunter. He is also going blind.
Behmyn has been in my head for upwards end of seven years. First he was forming slowly. He didn't have a name, he didn't really have a form, but he was there. Then in September of 2010, I breathed him to life. He started as a character I role played online. After three and a half years really forming him into what he is now, I stopped role playing and moved him to a story I was writing. A trilogy. The first book of which is in my editor's hands.

All that being said, I didn't expect to learn anything from or about Behmyn in this little game we'd come up with. I would tell people we were doing it so they could get to know their characters better, except for me, because I was just doing it for fun.
Then he surprised me several nights ago with a speech about beauty.
Behmyn, like I, believes beauty is everywhere. In all honesty, I'm not entirely sure who believed it first. I'd like to say it was him, but maybe it was there in me, just buried where I couldn't see it until he brought it out. But through experimenting with a character who loves beauty, but can no longer see, I learned so much more about what beauty is and isn't than I ever did before Behmyn happened.
His view on beauty is the very core of his being. Without it, he does not exist, yet in all my years getting to know him, I have never viewed his passion in such a raw sense as he did in this speech.

He was talking with a young woman who was very deeply effected by the rules and standards of her society. A society that put people down and tried to keep them from feeling like they could express who they really are. After a while, she shared with him that she had never heard someone speak so openly about their inner thoughts before. She said that she, along with many others, were taught that beauty is dangerous and must be hidden at all costs.

Behmyn, and I along with him, ached deep within our souls. Because even though this was a fictitious event my friend and I were typing out, her character's words deeply reflected our own society.
We have taught young people in your society that beauty is not who you are. Who you are is scary, weird, or probably unlikable in some way, so you should hide yourself behind a pretty painted mask rather than showing your true heart and soul to people. It is something I notice every day. I have coworkers who are compulsive liars, making up stuff about their lives to try to make themselves seem, cooler, funnier, more interesting, etc. I hear people complain about them constantly, "And she told you this? You know she lies about everything, right?"
But while they see an attention whore, I see a broken spirit who's bought into the lies this society has fed them. Someone desperately wanting to be loved and accepted, but terrified that who they really are isn't good enough for acceptance.

So, when Behmyn, distressed over hearing people being taught to live like this, began his speech, it resonated deep with me, as with the rest of my friends.
The first thing he said was, "You can't hide beauty without damaging that which holds the beauty."
When I typed that sentence, I didn't even think about it. It just made so much sense. It perfectly described his distress over the situation and his inner passion about beauty. But in my time thinking about it since, I realize just how true his words are.

I mean think about it. Those people taught to hide themselves, the inner beauty of their hearts and souls, behind a mask soon become so damaged by the fear that comes with putting that mask on that they don't even really know who they are anymore. All they have is the mask, tied on by fear. Fear that someone will notice they're hiding. Fear that if their mask is disliked even after all their effort, that they could never love the person beneath the mask. Fear even when people approve of the mask, for the person underneath knows that the mask is a lie.
Pretty soon, even if they wanted to take off the mask, they couldn't. For unreasonable fear has replaced any desire of showing who they really are and crushed any hope of acceptance.

You see, beauty is not skin deep. I am deeply sad for whoever said so.
Beauty isn't something you see with your eyes or understand with your mind, but you feel with your soul. It is everywhere.
It's not just what you can see, but it can be heard and felt. For even with people like the one I just described, I can see glimpses of their beauty shining through the mask. I can see flashes of their passion, joy, humor, and heart. It's in their eyes, it's in their subtle doubts and fears that they don't know I've noticed. There is beauty even in their brokenness. Because out of their brokenness I see one thing, a soul longing to be seen, really seen, and loved deeply. And that is beautiful.

So like I said, I don't know who saw it first, but beauty is something I will always fight for. And hopefully in my own exploration of beauty through Behmyn's story and my own life, I will help others to learn this wonderful language of the soul called Beauty.

Note: I have been praying through Behmyn's story that it will touch those who read it in a special way. That they won't be the same after reading it. But before it can get into the hands of those who are meant to read it, it must be published. Like I said in my post, my manuscript is in the hands of my editor right now. 
But now I would like your prayers and support as I continue on this road of trying to get published. If you could pray for God's hand of guidance on this project and His perfect peace and insight on my current WIP, that would mean a lot to me.