Sunday, November 4, 2012

Preface to My Swan Song

When something happens, and sooner or later, one day, we will all be there, but the day when you honestly don't know if you are ever going to see another day, things change. Even if you do, when that day comes, you do a whole lot of thinking. Waiting for the surgeon, the day I choked, I kept thinking I haven't finished my work. I was fixated on getting my work done, the list was running through my mind. How could I say good-bye to this earth when I wasn't finished with my work. It was right at a month before I left the hospital. Then I went back a couple times. I did try, but it was a while after the last hospital stay before I was honestly able to honestly get back to work.

Image Credit: Marek Szczepanek.
Image Credit: Marek Szczepanek
One of the things though, one of the things that hit me hard at that time, I don't know how many writers and/or journalists go through this. But early in my career, I had stumbled on this story, and actually I had a publisher that was going to run it. My first professional writing gig. I was getting bylines a plenty and getting paid for it. That was the life, or so I thought. In the process, I was able to do some amount of research and writing on things I felt were important. My inner behavioral scientist was most definitely happy and so was my inner activist.

The publisher was happy, too. I was on to something, he was going to break it. I was digging like countless other young investigative writers before me. But the more I learned, the more I wondered if I actually published that story, would I ever be taken seriously as a writer. At the end of the day, truth is definitely stranger than fiction, and I didn't make that one up. Somebody a whole lot older and a whole lot wiser than me said it first.

Anyway, there came a point with that story, I wasn't completely certain I wouldn't be labeled a conspiracy theorist, or maybe just a whacko, if I published it. And after spending the years when my kids were small as a stay at home mom, I was finally starting to get my own career in the direction I had always wanted. I was proud of my progress, and I wanted to hang on to what I had worked so hard to get. After much hard thinking though. I ate the research and I never published that story.

Could be I was lacking a little in the gumption department. Maybe, maybe not. It was always my intent, that when I got older and further along in my career, when it really didn't matter exactly what people thought about me, or maybe that I had enough behind me, I could withstand what would surely come my way, or I wouldn’t get fired and never work again if I wrote an unpopular story, the things people really did not want to hear. My intent was to do those stories when I was so old I no longer had to consider the other. Needless to say, I had done a whole lot of thinking along the way.

I'd been around long enough to have a pretty good idea what happened to the writers who not only wrote but published that kind of story. There were the ones who never worked in the field again, or at the least were never taken seriously, their name and reputation became a joke, but there were also others who never breathed again. I backed off. Killed the story.

It was always my intent that one day, I would come back and publish that story. In my mind, I would be quite old by then, in my dotage, and not so inclined to worry so much about what others thought. I sure didn't want my family to catch any flack about it either. And even I enjoy a nice cart of groceries on occasion. With time and years, it wasn't just the one, there were others along the way, other stories that waited, all with the intent, that one day….

Then suddenly, there in the hospital, I was remembering all those stories I had planned to write when all the other writing was done. My swan song, swan concerto is more like it. Rhapsody in writing.

We don't honestly know how many days we have on this earth, or exactly when we will enter our own personal days of fleeting and feeble dotage. We don't honestly know when the first bars of the swan song will really begin. It never occurred to me that I might miss the cue.

That first story I killed, I spent right at three months of solid research, really digging after I happened on that first piece of the puzzle. It was there all right, but something wasn't quite right, the puzzle pieces of life and truth that I suddenly realized did not quite fit. There were holes in the story, holes in reality. Didn't anybody else see this? Does anybody really care? I did. I was young and I cared. In some kind of way, I wanted to make a difference. I thought I could.

Then I really started digging. And I dug some more. Oh the things I learned. That one would have made a good X-Files episode. With time, and years, in the scheme of things, that story doesn't seem quite so important today, or maybe who cares anymore, the moment had passed, times do change. Along the way, there were a few others as well, the stories I didn't write, in different veins, some that a publisher perhaps said, well that is not exactly the story we want told, not our angle. But I cared and it bothered me.

I was probably what would be considered a professional activist. I did not pretend to be a journalist. There is no doubt, I wrote with a slant. But I sought truth and I wrote about issues that I felt were important. I learned much along the way. One wonders why our media is what it is today, but I too was subject to those strings. What exactly is the right angle when you are writing about equality and rights and the lives of people, the fabric of what I always thought made our nation and our world so great. Make no doubt, I love my country. I love my world, too. I am a proud citizen of both.

I always felt very strongly that it was important that we look out for each other. That somehow when we make it over the proverbial bridge, whatever bridge it is, that we look back, is there somebody behind us who could really use a hand to make those last long steps to the other side. Can we make a difference? What difference can one person make? That was a lot of my motivation way back when I started Magic Stream, what small part could I do, where do I fit in the scheme of life, but that is a story for another day.

Anyway, there were other stories in different veins, but the common thread was about things I learned along the way, about life and the way things are, that at the time, although I felt like the stories needed to be told, I would have very likely destroyed my career, or at least set back my ability to buy groceries, by publishing them.

It was always my intent that one day I would be strong enough to withstand what came when I told the stories that I really did feel needed telling. Then suddenly, instead of getting stronger, more confident in myself and my career, a freak accident put me on a shortcut to dotage. For us all, there comes a time when you realize that your days are indeed numbered. And then, as the saying goes, it is time to "get 'er done." If I ramble, I am getting on up there, could be it's a good excuse. Maybe I’ll just find a good empty chair and be quite trendy about it. Perhaps, I should call this post the "Preface to my Swan Song." But I am actually doing quite well. I finally feel like I really am recovering, but I sure have been doing a lot of thinking. Mostly about unsaid things. There are most definitely some things I got to say, the first is something about live every day like it is the last. I am indeed awake now.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Another Chance

I started with good intentions, but all I did was start. I opened the blog, and then life somehow got in the way. Or maybe it was death that got in the way — or it tried to. But this is not really about the blog. Sometimes, in our journey through life, by no choice of our own, we are forced to step back, to spend some time thinking, to reassess where we are, and what we stand for. Where are we really going?

In an instant, life as I knew it changed, and I was hanging, as if in some limbo thinking, I'm not ready. I got stuff to do. I'm not finished yet. It is seldom our choice as to when we leave this life. It could have very well been my turn, but a series of miracles brought me through that day.

I had a busy day planned, a list, a long list. I'd been down with a cold, and between that and work, hadn't got much done around the house — it was a mess — even by my standards. I was taking the day to get some cleaning done. I ate a quick toasted cheese for breakfast and got up to get busy. I took my vitamins, and then looked around, somewhat annoyed to realize I was still hungry and wished I had cooked a bigger breakfast. There was a packaged snack mix on the table and I didn't even stop, I grabbed a handful of that and turned to get on with my chores. 

Talk about too much of a hurry, I choked and I was suddenly hanging between life and death. My son was home; I got his attention, and he immediately performed the Heimlich. My recollection is a little blurred, but he also called 911, and the rescue team was there very shortly. In fact, by the time they got there, I thought I was okay and it was surely over. It wasn't. Within a few minutes of them leaving, I was vomiting blood. This time, I was pretty sure that meant I was pretty close to gone. Within minutes, they were back and I was in an ambulance discussing poetry with a paramedic on the way to the hospital. Although it was not that far away, that felt like the longest ride of my life and he kept talking and talking. I kept wondering, Who on this earth is so intent on poetry at a time like this? But he was doing what needed to be done. Things moved fast after we got to the hospital, then something about a surgeon, a new surgeon, does anybody know him? Oh, you ARE an organ donor aren't you? About that time, I was thinking, Wait a minute, and then I was out. 

It was a miracle on top of miracles that I survived that day. From the instant that I realized I had a problem, everybody in the process acted quickly and moved fast to do exactly what needed to be done at that point. From my son, to the rescue team, to the paramedics, the ambulance driver, the surgeon, and everybody in between, everybody in the process moved fast and did exactly what needed to be done next. They all got it right. And so I lived.

It was a fluke accident; the day had started like any other day. That day I was in a hurry, but I was always the one to eat right and exercise. So many times, I had prided myself and really did try to do things right when it came to my health. Nevertheless, before it was over, I had spent nearly a month in the hospital, and been back two more times before I could really say I was on the road to recovery. 

The one thing I learned though, as many times as we say it — about no guarantees in this life — knowing it intellectually and knowing it in the deepest part of your soul is a very different thing. It can all be over in an instant. That day, all I could think of was all the things on my list. I had work to do. I wasn't done yet. I didn't feel like I had completed my life. I wasn't finished living and I wasn't finished with my writing either. However, it was not in my hands. Nothing was in my hands.

Where I am today? It has been a long road and things are different now. I don't move nearly as fast as I used to, but I take nothing for granted. I have been blessed beyond reason, miracles on top of miracles, and a list of people, one after the other, stepped up and did what needed to be done to keep me alive that day and the days that followed. Then came the others, friends and family, and armies of angels in so many guises, the nurses, the doctors, the surgeons and techs. There were prayers, stacks of get-well wishes, and avalanches of Facebook greetings, support and love from so many friends online and off. Just when I needed it most, love washed over me from every direction. 

In some ways, I can't help thinking, Maybe it was my turn. I got another chance, but there are no guarantees and in the very deepest part of my soul, I surely know that now. With the realization that I survived, I most definitely remember beloved family and friends who went before and those who have gone since, and once more I am humbled to have another day to try to get it right at this thing called life. I am blessed.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Welcome to My Blog

I've been writing for many years now. In some way or other, I earn my living flipping words. More noble than I have cringed at the implications when I ask, "Would you like a verb with that?" Dreams come in many guises. It wasn't very long past the juncture when I had moved into the realm of, yes this is how I earn my living, I am a writer, a word smyth actually, I edit as well, and I even publish a website. If it has to do with the written word, that is my gig. The juncture was when I learned about strings, every young writer and journalist soon learns that lesson. Just as surely as I had reached for that goal, when I got it, it wasn't enough. It wasn't honestly what I wanted. What I really wanted was to be able to write what I wanted. This is assuming I have something to say, and those who know me, know that I generally do. Bills do have to be paid though, and somehow or other, we all have a boss. Over the years, the strings got longer, and it seems to me, they were not only longer, they were tighter, and they surely multiplied.

I have learned much. And I am well aware, in our world today, youth is cherished, as if you are somehow supposed to be ashamed or your age. I am not. I am a woman of a certain age, and with age comes wisdom, or at least a certain level of experience. What good is wisdom or experience if you take it with you? Not a whole lot – and I do have a few things to say. 

At times, over the course of my career, I have perhaps been somewhat critical of the media, the constraints that bind journalists, what is covered, and what isn't. What is the news? What is the real story behind the story? Why do we get this story and not that one over there? Everywhere you turn; there is something about those strings. They are everywhere.

Oh, the things I have learned. Even if you tell the story that you know deep in your soul is the story that must be told, how do you know you got it right? Who told you that? Whose side was it? What is truth? Whose truth is it? It didn't take me very long to realize, we all have a boss and bills have to be paid. Did I say that before? How many times have I written, feeling the strings tight around me even as I sought for the breath to bring voice to my words, and truth, as least the truth as I knew it to be? And so my dream morphed once more, until it was a burn in my soul that one day, when I wrote, the words would be my own, the stories that I felt deep in my soul needed telling. 

I am indeed a woman of a certain age. I have truly learned much. After much thought, much consideration, why do I write for this reason, or that publication? On whose time is what word? We only have so many days on this earth, and there are no guarantees. Liberation comes in many forms. For many years, I dreamed of the day that when I wrote, the words really would be my own. My own, my way. They are now. And thus, I blog…