Seeking Carolina is out in the world, to do whatever it’s going to do. I am over the moon. And that’s all I’m going to say. I’m just going to sigh serenely, and get back to writing.
Monthly Archives: October 2015
Anguish: 1. noun severe mental or physical suffering. 2. verb be very distressed about something.
Etymology: c. 1200, “acute bodily or mental suffering,” from Old French anguisse, angoisse “choking sensation, distress, anxiety, rage,” from Latin angustia (plural angustiae) “tightness, straitness, narrowness;” figuratively “distress, difficulty,” from ang(u)ere “to throttle, torment” (see anger (v.)).
3. Terri’s definition; finite but intense bouts of emotional pain so severe as to cause physical pain.
I know words. I love words, and really dig learning the history of them. I started thinking of my own definition of anguish just the other day, when searching for the word to go along with what was going on inside me. Damn, it hits me out of nowhere. And man-oh-man does it hurt. Physical, overwhelming pain. Then I pull it together and it eases.
I was surprised and yet not surprised to discover the etymology of anguish, only moments ago. Choking sensation. Torment. Related to anger. Upon reflection, I realized that anguish isn’t a prolonged sensation. Acute, yes. Recurring, ditto. But finite. Agony*, on the other hand, can go on and on. Maybe agony is what happens when anguish gets out of its box and won’t go back in.
Realizing that will keep me pulling it together whenever that sensation hits. The more you know, right?
*late 14c., “mental suffering” (especially that of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane), from Old French agonie, agoine “anguish, terror, death agony” (14c.), and directly from Late Latin agonia, from Greek agonia“a (mental) struggle for victory,” originally “a struggle for victory in the games,” from agon “assembly for a contest,” from agein “to lead” (see act (n.)). Sense of “extreme bodily suffering” first recorded c. 1600.
Seeking Carolina releases one week from today. Despite everything else going on right now, the joy of this is overwhelming.
I’ve gotten a few early reviews, all of them good (so far!) but two reviewers were disappointed that it wasn’t what they consider contemporary romance. They found it more women’s fiction. I can see their point. Definitely. And yet, I feel that if my story were categorized women’s fiction, readers expecting it to be so would be just as disappointed. What I’ve discovered is that my work straddles a line. Yes, it’s contemporary romance. The story of two people and how they come together is the key element. Happily-ever-after is assured. And yet, Seeking Carolina is also, in equal measures, the story of four sisters, and how they come to terms with their past. So there’s a strong romantic element, that makes it women’s fiction, right?
What my work is, from Seeking Carolina to Dreaming August to Waking Savannah, is both. It has all the elements necessary to contemporary romance, as well as those elements expected in women’s fiction. But there is no marketing category for romantic women’s fiction, or women’s fiction romance. Maybe there will be a few more readers disappointed when they read my book, expecting something they didn’t get. But maybe, like several readers I’ve heard from so far, it’ll be more than they were expecting.
Here’s hoping, anyway.
Yesterday was hard. Really, really hard. I couldn’t think. I cried. Constantly. Deep sobs coming up from my gut. Hot tears (tears of extreme grief really are hotter than any other tears) rolling down my face. Why? Well, other than the obvious. I had no idea. The later it got, the less I could function. My entire body felt like a collection of sandbags. Wet sandbags. Cold, wet sandbags. I couldn’t get warm. Finally, around 1:30, I couldn’t take it anymore. I got Frank’s fuzzy blanket from his chair, wrapped myself up in it, turned on the Food Network, and curled up on the couch.
I was asleep before the Barefoot Contessa came back from commercial-land.
Waking about an hour later, I had a few moments of clarity before the same wet-sandbag-grief scooped me up again–I was forcing myself to do something I just wasn’t ready to do. A local group for parents of addicts has been asking me to attend their meetings. I had planned on going to the one last night. It’s a great group, and one I’m wholeheartedly behind. I know it’s important for me to go, not just for me but for the other parents in my situation, or afraid they will be in my situation.
I want to help. It makes me feel better to be there for others. But I just wasn’t ready. Here, on this blog, I can say my piece and cry my tears, all from the sanctuary of my loft office. I can click out of a conversation, save responses for when I’m better able to handle them, and revise my words so that they don’t come out in the verbal-chaos I’m otherwise prone to. Being able to write my thoughts in a manner others find pleasing doesn’t necessarily equate to verbal eloquence. In other words, me don’t talk so good.
Realizing this, I made the decision not to go. I felt bad about that, but not as bad as I felt forcing myself to do so. Selfish? Damn straight. And I’m okay with that.
Today is much better. I woke feeling more positive. I had a day of writing ahead of me, then dinner with two of my dearest friends, followed by a book-signing for another friend. What a life, eh? Then a conversation with one of those friends this morning pushed me from positive into, well, happy. I’m feeling happy today. I’ll leave that there. It’s enough.
It’s crazy, how our bodies let us know things our brains don’t want to acknowledge. Another life lesson for me. I’ll be quicker to pick up on cues in the future. And I will attend this group at some point. When I’m ready. Not a moment before.
Bear with me. These pages are a place for me to put the things crowding my head. Sometimes they’re illogical, like this one is going to be. But I find if I don’t get them out of there, they bump around, get bigger. Kind of like sticky-tack. You know, for posters? Sometimes it sticks to the wall after the poster is down and you can try like hell to rub it off, but the only thing that actually works is more sticky tack. Picks it right up. That’s how the thoughts in my head work. They tend to collect related thoughts that only make the ball bigger, feel truer.
Some of those posts, I keep private. Some of them, I share. I’ve been told I’m courageous, that these posts help others in ways I don’t know. I’ll take your word for it. In turn, it helps me, because though writing it down does help to get them out of my head, shouting into a empty canyon only brings my own voice back to me. Going back over my words, editing as the writer I am, helps to order it all in my mind. I’m not looking for sympathy or for compliments. Maybe some love. Maybe some solidarity. Maybe just the knowledge that the sticky-tack isn’t going to make my brain explode, and neither am I talking to myself.
I’ve been contacted by many, because of these posts. Misunderunderstood, Misrepresented, and Maligned continues to gather hits months after it was first posted. They tell me I’m “an inspiration” and “courageous.” They want to talk to me, to share their stories and to feel less alone, whether they too have lost a child, or continue to struggle with a hurting child of any age. I offer my heartfelt support, my love, my own thoughts, and inside my head I’m thinking, “Why are you asking me? Mine died! I’m a fraud. I did everything. EVERYTHING! And he’s still dead.”
But I don’t. Well, I guess I just did. The sticky-tack ball of that thought has been gathering since the day Chris died. I shy away from mothering discussions. What have I to contribute? I lost one. Apparently whatever I did was wrong. How horrible a thought that is, because it’s so not true, and I have amazing children to prove that, including Chris. I know, absolutely, that we had Chris longer than we might have, because I never stopped fighting for him, fighting him, fighting all the demons overwhelming him when he just couldn’t do it any longer. The dichotomy inherent to grief makes no sense whatsoever. Knowing I did everything, that I would do the same things over again, doesn’t change the fact that it wasn’t enough. I know the fight was his. But I’m his mother. That logic doesn’t wash.
So I’m feeling a fraud. The courage people tell me I have, writing these posts, belies the futility always battling for a spot on that sticky-tack ball. Now it’s out. Maybe a new ball will form, but this one, I hope, has lost some of it’s power.
I want to see him, to ask him why he didn’t speak when he was the only one who could have changed this horror. I want to ask him why, if he loves me, he let this happen. I want to know what went through his head when he drove out to Waterbury, by request or not, and bought the heroine that would kill my son, his friend. Was it the money? Was it stupidity? Was it both? Yeah, it was both.
I want to see him, to tell him I know he never meant for this to happen. I know he’s devastated, and ashamed. My son paid for his bad decision with his life, and so did he. He has to live with knowing his actions resulted in a friend’s death. A friend he loved. A family he loved. He will forever have this riding on his shoulders. I want him to know he can become a better person, a smarter person, if he lets himself. I want him to know I might hate what he did, but I don’t hate him. I don’t want bad things to happen to him. I don’t want his life ruined. That won’t bring my son back, and he wouldn’t have wanted that anyway. That’s just who Chris was.
I want to see him, to rage at him and ask him why my son’s life was worth thirty bucks. All he had to do was say to me, “Chris is in trouble.” That’s it. Four simple words that would have saved a life. Two lives. Because even if my son spiraled out of control and ended up dead anyway, he would not have gone down with him. He’d have been a hero instead of a villain. I want to rage at him for my son’s death, and his own destruction, because he’s done in this town he was born and raised in, where his family is, his friends, whether or not he serves significant jail time.
I want to see him, to see if he’s the person I thought he was, or truly the monster I feared in the days after my son died. I’ll know the instant he sees me, by the expression on his face. By his eyes. It won’t matter what comes after that. That instant will say all I need to know.
I want to see him, for me. And for him. He is the one open end I can close. In my never-ending quest to pull positives out of negatives, I accept I’m the only real way he’s ever going to have a shot at a better life. He might not know that, but I do. I can make or break this kid. Me, alone. Because he called me Mom. Because I mattered to him. And so did Chris. It’s not my duty to him, but my duty to myself. To walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
I want to see him. I probably never will. Whatever I feel about him, the legal system has him now. It’s not about forgiveness. There’s no such thing in a situation like this. It’s not about doing what Chris would want. I’m his mother, and I get to be more selfish than that. It’s not about being noble or kind or foolish or sappy. It’s about me. All about me. This is who I am, good or bad. Right or wrong. I can’t be anybody else. And what I want more than anything is to make a difference, somehow, in a positive way, and by doing so lessen this huge and heavy weight. At least, I want to try.
Wanting and getting are not necessarily compatible. And I want too many disparate things to get any of them. Fabulous.