In which I wake up.

At 3 am this morning, I woke up and stared at the blank canvas of my bedroom ceiling. An allegorical reflection of my life. In a week and a half, I turn 34. Life has passed in the blink of an eye. There is a feeling that all this time I have just been staring out the windows, watching the world pass by. To date, I have one short story published that is in need of a 2nd edition, 17 short stories that are in an array of discord, one novel poorly half written, and the second novel is a silent film that continually plays in my head and has yet to be scripted. All the adventures that I long to take remain as scribbled words on a bucket list. I’ve only cross off 6 out of 297.

In the wee hours of this morning, something inside snapped awake. A tiny voice whispered in my head, In life there are no dress rehearsals. This morning, I realized that the state of hibernation that I have been suffering for the past two years was finally over.

This very moment, the one we are existing in now, is the only one that we tangibly have. We can plan for the next moment to come, hoping that it appears. Yet, it’s never guaranteed. Take a breath. Exhale. In the next breath, one of us could be dead. A life instantly terminated. We are only promised the moment we hold right now. And if we allow this moment to pass unfulfilled, we may not get the chance at another.

Since 2015, I have been dreaming of what I want to do, but lacked the propulsion and motivation to achieve those dreams. An era of dormancy was maintained until I took a trip to the Baltic states last summer. While wandering the remnants of a Cold Ware era prison in Tallinn, a spark of inspiration involuntary began a transformation within the core of my soul. The spark was so tiny that I barely felt the burn, but there was a slight movement on my part to extinguish the infinitesimal flame as the fear of failing crept into my heart. However, the nostalgic warmth of my former self reflecting in that flame was captivating. The flame was allowed to burn. It took several additional months before the flame was fed and ignited into a wildfire.

The appeal to become physically stronger, to eat healthier, to travel more, and to enjoy life intensified in January.  Suddenly, I found myself exercising everyday, gorging on vegetables and fruit, signing up to run a 5K & 10K race in April, organizing an excursion to New Mexico for May, and eyeing up a September 125-mile bike ride that begins in Quarryville, Pennsylvania and ends in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (those closest to me know of the ‘saudade‘ of the ride’s finish line location). And, I decided to take the final step in committing to train for a triathlon – today I bought swimming gear and made a pact to swim laps 2-3 times a week… at 5 am…

Oh, and the words! The words! At moment of my full awakening this morning, when the inferno of inspiration was set fully ablaze in my soul, I realized that the words were back. My muse rose out of the embers and all the motivation that I had for creative writing once again burned brightly. The new novel that had been brewing as a silent film in my sub-concise showed its purpose. Today, there is direction. During breakfast, the plot was feverishly started. Then an inkling began that my blog was in dire need of revitalization.  And so, here I am.

As insane as all of this sounds, it is like the ‘light switch’ on a transformation to become my true self finally flipped ‘on’. The most amazing part of this awakening is that a change elicited in my writing style and perception.

Dark fiction is a ‘genre’ that I’ll continue to enjoy.  Fear, which is evoked in characters who are placed in harrowing situations, is quite captivating as it is an emotion that reveals a character’s true nature. Yet, it is in that moment when truth is exposed by fear that I now want to leverage as a seed for strength and purpose, as opposed using fear as a tactic to break and destroy characters with a purpose to deteriorate their will to live.  I may still base a few short stories off this trope; however, going forward, I want to convey that one’s strength and purpose are revealed when one has lost all hope. And a will to survive overcomes fear.

These past two years have changed me. For a lack of better words, the time was a cataclysmic whirlwind. Personal negative situations aside, I’ve been fortunate enough to be granted with many opportunities to travel the world. I’ve seen wondrous sites, met the most soulful people, and sampled delectable cuisine. In these experiences I found renewed creativity and inspiration to thrive.

Life’s an adventure, and our next moments stand on precipice of excitement and wonderment! Reach out, take hold, and never let go.

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This picture was captured whilst visiting one of my dearest friends, Michelle Muller, in Tallinn, Estonia. She knew Patarei Prison would captivate me. She wasn’t wrong. This mural, which was hand painted outside of the ‘hanging room’, triggered the start of my transformation. The mural directed me to continue the journey of wandering and wondering. (c) Amanda Headlee 2016

 

Definition of ‘saudade’:

Saudade is ‘the sorrow of not having enjoyed that which was there to be enjoyed; it is the vehement but resigned desire to enjoy a thing we were deeply attached to; and also the yearning to see, or be in the company of, someone from whom we have reluctantly been parted.

(Quoted in Dalila L. Pereira da Costa & Pinharanda Gomes, Introdução à Saudade: Antologia Teórica e Aproximação Crítica (Porto, Lello & Irmão, 1976), p. 10.)

What is your #cherished object?

Last month, the #CHERISHED blogfest was born. This weekend, bloggers across the world are invited to share stories about one little item that they possess which brings them joy. My little cherished item is a turquoise charm that I bought one year while traveling extensively all over the US. During my travels, I became worn out and sick. A dear friend of mine, out of deep concern, suggested I carry a piece of turquoise while traveling. She, being one who believes that nature provides all we need to heal, indicated that the stone’s properties are for protection, healing, and grounding. All aspects that I needed in my life at the time.

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Not owning any turquoise of my own, I stumbled across a little gem at the Baltimore airport during a long and unexpected layover. I was exhausted, cranky, and wanted nothing more than to just curl up in my own bed. As a distraction from my exhaustion, I decided to kill time by walking through one of those fancy jewelry stores that airports use to entice one to spend money… because one has nothing better to do while waiting for their connecting flight. Upon entering the store, I was immediately drawn to a little blue stone that seemed to emanate some kind of energy. A beacon that instantly drew me in.

I am usually not one to spend money on jewelry, but there was something about the blue of the turquoise that captivated me. Something inside my head said to splurge, and so I did.

As much as this necklace is a symbol of protection and health, as my dear friend Susan says it is intended to do, the stone actually means something more. I obtained this piece of turquoise in the midst of an eventful year traversing the US. And as such, this charm serves as a reminder. A reminder that there is a huge world out there, and I have only seen 15% of it. A reminder that I need to stop letting time pass by and achieve those dreams that I aspire to reach: Travel, publication, enjoying life to its fullest.

Everytime I look at this little blue charm I see our world, Earth, the planet that I yearn to explore and to write about.

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Are you taking part in the Cherished Blogfest? If you are, this weekend (24-26 July) please post about your cherished object, and visit others on this LINKY LIST. Share on all social media with the hashtag  #CHERISHED. If you haven’t signed up yet, you still can. The linky list is open for two more days. What is an object you cherish? What sort of memories does it bring back? What does the object mean to you? Write about your #CHERISHED object in 500 words or less!

Uncovering Literary Obessions

I never obsess over anything. Oh, um, I should probably rephrase that. My friends are rolling their eyes. OCD is something that I slightly suffer from. Some days it really causes havoc in my life. But this isn’t a post about my neurosis in making sure that when locking a door I check it three times. No, this is a post about an obsessions of things.

A minimalistic life is one that appeals to me. I can happily live the remainder of my life with what I have at this very moment in my apartment. I don’t have a lot and I don’t need a lot. So imagine my surprise that during my recent move, I uncovered something absolutely horrific about myself.

A few weeks ago, I moved into a new place. All boxes were packed by yours truly and about 85% of everything was carried with my very own hands (I am only so proud to state this because I spent the following week in utter pain). The first things to transition was kitchen stuff, then clothes, then cycling gear, and then random stuff from the basement.  At this point everything was gone but the furniture and 14 boxes. When I packed these specific boxes, I did not think there was really that many of them. It was just 14 boxes. And they only contained my most prized possessions, so this amount was not bad. However, when I went to lift the lightest box, and nearly snapped my back, it was then I realized I had a sickness–a secret obsession.

I am fatefully addicted to books. No! Cursed to be fatefully addicted to books.

They draw me in with their eye catching covers, earthy paper smell, and delicately inked pages. When I see a book, it whispers “pick me up… take me home”. There has never been a time when I’ve walked into a bookstore and walked out empty handed. It is a rare trip when only one book is purchased.

What a sickness. A heavy sickness (but I can’t give it up–I won’t give it up).

So to move these boxes, I had to break the 14 big boxes down into 20 smaller boxes, which I could still move on my own (but they were still dreadfully heavy).

I went through hell for my books and I would gladly do it again. I know I will do it again because I am a habitual mover. The only bad thing is that with each move, my obsession only hurts me more. The next move will be worse because there will be even more papery tomes to schlep to a new abode.

And before a single one of you asks–no, I will not switch fully to digital. Even if I move halfway across the world, my precious books will be at my side. There is something magical about cracking open the cover and smelling the pages. Inhaling the literature with your nose as well as your eyes. It’s addicting.

Now that I have admitted my obsession, there are four facts you should know:

  1. Don’t lend me a book. If I like it, you won’t get it back. If I hate it, I will probably still keep it and pawn it for a new book that I like.

  2. Don’t ever touch my books. Ever. Never Ever. I will break your hands and steal your fingernails.

  3. I have actually thrown away clothes on a trip to fit several newly purchased books into my carryon luggage.

  4. I have 4 boxes of books left to unpack and need to buy another bookshelf. Pictures of ‘Shrine 3’ are forthcoming.

 

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Shrine 1 – An ode to horror and comics (and The Walking Dead)

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Shrine 2 – My life long collection of literature

 

 

I Read Banned Books!

I must say, I’m addicted banned books.  Maybe it is because when I read one, it’s like giving the middle finger to all those who try to place restrictions on literature.  Banning books in schools is something that I never understood.  I’m privileged to have gone to a school district, where during my tenure, there were no literary restrictions.  While my school’s libraries were structured to conform to the reading and age level of students, I cannot recall any books within those levels ever being labeled as “banned”.

This was something that I took for granted.  In my naivety, I did not realize the gift that was bestowed in going to a school district that didn’t really ban books.  The first “adult” book that I ever read was Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.  They day I discovered this book is forever burned in my memory.  My school district’s middle school was 6th through 8th grade, and on the first day of school in 1994, a lucky band of new 6th graders were having school orientation.  One of the first stops was the library.  As the librarian was giving us a tour of the vast shelves of books and card catalogues, I spied on a shelf a white paperback with the trademark T-rex skeleton silhouette.  Before I even read the title, I knew what the book was.  The breath caught in my throat.  Up until this point I had no clue that this specific book even existed.   The only knowledge I had of Crichton was that he helped write the screenplay to the Jurassic Park movie.  How could I not have known that he wrote a book that the movie was based upon? (note: this was an era before the Internet)  With pure euphoria, I snatched the book off the shelf, checked it out, and devoured it the moment I made it home that afternoon.

Thinking back on that time in middle school with this specific book, by the standards of what is considered a “banned book”, Jurassic Park should have been listed.  But at my school district it wasn’t.  As a 6th grader, I had full access to read it any time it was available.  It existed along with a plethora of other books that helicopter parents and censorship leaders normally deem as “demoralizing” and “disturbing”.i_read_banned_books_-_button_pin_badge_1_1_2_inch_46ca04c4

To this day, Jurassic Park is my most read book.  And honestly, the content, at least during the 90’s, was very mature: visceral slashing of Velociraptor claws across fleshy human abdomens, crunching of bodies by the mighty jaws of a T-rex, the processes of being eaten alive.  Even the “F-bomb” was thrown into some strands of dialogue here and there.  As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, we were not wholly privy to this kind of violence or language.  It existed, we were exposed to it in moderation, but not like today where it appears in every day commercials and TV shows.  Children today are much more desensitized to these things, and yet they are the one who are having literature stringently banned.

My senior year of high school, in regards to the literary world, was eye opening.  It was during that time that I realized the brevity of the “book banning” situation that was being more strictly introduced in school systems across the United States.  It disgusted me, especially as a girl who was on the cusp of adulthood.  To an extent, I do understand not wanting certain pieces of literature due to violence / language / sex to be available for certain age levels of children.  However, the idea of this type of literature from being inaccessible to older teenagers is, quite frankly, ludicrous.  These teenagers are about to become young adults and move on with their lives, away from controlling school systems.

I don’t give my school district a lot of credit, however, in regards to literature during my tenure, there was no better place to attend.  And truly it was due to the English department, more specifically my senior AP English teacher.  This was a woman born of books and literature coursed through her blood.  She loved the written word so much, that she was inspired to create and produce a High School musical production of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.   This is the teacher who gleefully gave us 1984, Brave New World, Catch 22, The Catcher in the Rye, Siddhartha, The Sound and the Fury to read and dissect without giving any regard to the content of the stories.  Sadly, these specific books rarely grace the halls of schools today as they are at the top of the banned list.  It is such a shame these stunning, inspirational, and poetic works are being withheld from students.

Earlier this week, in the LA Times,  I read an article “The most banned and challenged books of 2014“.  Needless to say, this article sent me spiraling into a rant that is today’s post.  After a few days of grumbling, spewing, and cursing, I have finally calmed myself enough to eloquently write about my dissatisfaction of banning literature.

This is the 21st century and by some unrelenting force, we are being pushed back to what seems to be a “Victorian” era.  Why, in this age of expansive knowledge and technology, are books being banned in public schools?  The specific books listed in that LA Times article absolutely floored me.  First off all of those books, when read at the appropriate age level, are perfectly acceptable.  There is not one thing in those books that cannot be found on television at any hour of the day.  Granted the comic book Saga has illustrations that are sexually explicit and should not be seen by anyone under 18.  I agree it is not “school” material.   However, that being said, listing a reason for Saga’s ban is due to “anti-family” values is extreme.  If the censors are going to make that claim, then remove every one of Shakespeare’s plays from school textbooks, because the context of Saga is purely Shakespearean with a sci-fi twist.  The relationship of Alana and Marco in Saga are, in a way, a futuristic Romeo and Juliet without the suicide (at least as of issue #23 there is no dual suicide.  I am a little behind in reading).  The family lifestyle of these two couples have many similarities, yet Romeo and Juliet is allowed in schools with its anti-family values (and double teenage suicides) while Saga has this category marked against it.  Also, just to add fuel to the fire, Shakespeare’s work is so laced with tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendos that it, to a point, out does any graphic sexual imagery in the Saga comic art.

This post isn’t meant to be a dissection on why certain literature is allowed and other literature is not, but merely a statement to ask “Where does the line get drawn?” if schools are going to continue this extreme banning of books.  In my opinion, there will never be a line.  More and more of these precious works will be banned for the most insignificant nuances because one parent is so upset that a book contains a lesbian or a Goddess or drug use or the word “damn” or someone farts.

Let’s stop this and stop it now.  Libraries in schools should be an area of freedom where any book, given the students age and reading level, is available for his or her reading pleasure.  Does it matter if the book contains magic or dinosaurs or homosexual parents or a single mom or an abducted teenager?  NO!  If you don’t want your child reading these kinds of books, then be a parent and tell your child what they are or are not allowed to read.  Other children should not have to suffer and have Harry Potter taken away from them because one child’s parents doesn’t want to see magical world of Hogwarts appear in their child’s school.

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I once had a dream and wanted to be able to say that I had a publication that made the banned book list.  It would have been a badge of honor, but I am changing that tune.  It is not what I want anymore.  My new dream is to see the ban of books in schools eliminated.

I hope I never make a banned book list, because I no longer want the ban on books to exist.

Mark you calendars:  Banned Books Week is September 27- October 15, 2015.  Make sure you celebrate the freedom to read!

Writing with the Dead

(c) TheBrassGlass

(c) TheBrassGlass

I found inspiration while sitting with the dead.  Their buried bodies beckoned me to join them and write.  The dead don’t impede while one is trying to concentrate.  They lie idly by, allowing masterpieces to blossom.  No comments, no critiques, no interrupting questions.  The dead provide a quiet, nurturing atmosphere.

Today is warm and sunny as I aimlessly drive through Bucks County–going nowhere and anywhere.  The act of writing, at this point, has left me.  It’s as though the spark that makes up my inner most self–my soul–has abandoned me on this blue-green, wayward planet.  The words no longer come, and I am anxious and agitated.  My life’s purpose has disappeared, leaving me empty and lost.

A small cemetery comes into view while traveling down a desolate, pothole riddled road with no dividing yellow line.  Something inside of my mind whispers to stop.  Instinctively my body takes control and steers the car off into the megar gravel parking lot.   Without a thought as to what was occurring, I exit the car and walk to the grass covered plots.

The landscape is speckled with headstones, which are old and hand hewn.  Green lichens and mold cling to the cool white stone.  Some markers stand as clean slates, the body’s identity wiped away by the hands of the weather and time.  This cemetery is ancient.  The dead have been here for many centuries.

It is well cared for, this small cemetery.  The grass is low and the surrounding trees are maintained.  It is picturesque.  Somebody truly loves it, devoting their time to care for the hallowed ground that houses these long dead people.

Sun filters through the trees creating little pockets of light among the shadowed darkness.  All is quiet and serene.  The only sound of life comes from the birds in the trees and from my own breathing.  Here in this land of the dead, a solace for the boundary of time, I find peace.  A peace that is limited by mortality.  A peace of knowing there is only one chance to achieve dreams.

And then they come to me, pounding into my head.  Reverberations and echos drown out the natural sounds of the cemetery.  Words.  They fill my brain and suddenly I find them spewing from my mouth.  I speak out loud stories–stories of my own creation–and they fall upon dead ears.  Quick!  A pen, some paper!  I hastily run to a sunny spot shining amongst the graves, fall to the ground, and pull my pen and moleskine from my purse.  In handwriting, illegible to anyone ‘s eyes but my own, I fill up a page.  Then another.  And another.  So on and so, the lined white pages of the notebook fill with loops and curls, all the while I sit in a fevered trance surrounded by the dead.

They watch me, quietly and uninterrupting.  This living being sitting atop their graves spilling words from her brain onto paper.  She has found herself while sitting among them.  But what will come of it?  The answer is unknown, but the dam has broken.  A flood is unleashed and the world once again seems brighter, happier.  There is a future.

The dead speak of these things to the living.  This life is unique and should be cherished.  It is the only time that this instance will be lived.  One must find inspiration and take hold of it with both hands.  Feel its invigorating life force, for once a life is over, the creativity for that person ceases.

I had to travel to the dead to find my reason to live.