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.

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