The Sublime Nature of Grief

Since the loss of my grandmother my life has been full of a lot of conflicting emotions. I’ve dealt with the loss as best I can, trying hard to honor her memory and move forward. One thing that is always painfully obvious when we lose someone close to us is that everyone deals with loss in their own way. What works for one person may not work for another, and one loss may not affect us the same as another. No matter how you handle the situation, sooner or later you will come to a time when you have to not only face the loss, but yourself.

This week I took some time on a particularly hard day and tried to do that. In an attempt to connect with myself, God, nature, and my grandmother I went to a local dam and nature area for some peace and quiet. If you’re unfamiliar with the summer season in the Appalachian mountains, we often have very hot days in the month of August. A number of summer afternoons often see some good thunderstorms or at least a nice passing shower or two. This, of course, can lead to amazingly beautiful foggy conditions. So much so that there is an old wives’ tale my grandmother used to remind me of often; if you count the foggy mornings in August that’s the amount of big snow events you’ll have that winter.

One of my favorite things in life is to find myself in the midst of a heavy fog, pondering the sublime mystery of the shrouded world around me. Is anyone else in the fog? Am I completely and utterly alone? What do the shadowy figures in the thick cloud represent? The feeling of floating in a cloud, the world around me oblivious of my own ideas and presence is marvelous. One of the best moments of my life has been in conditions like this. To say it has a special place in my heart and soul is a definite understatement.

When I arrived at my destination that evening, I had no idea the fantastic occurrence that awaited me. As soon as I rounded a curve in the road and my eyes fell on the river I was greeted with an amazingly thick, ghostly fog floating about a foot above the water. It snaked across the surface of the river like a living, breathing cloud. It rolled and swirled with the breeze, twisting like the spirit of the river itself. After a quick visit to top of the dam, I returned to the riverside and crossed a bridge to an island in the river, an island surrounded by fog.

I found a bench in the midst of this beauty and sat by the riverside, letting the sublime consume me. I communed with nature, God, my grandmother, and myself. I spent probably just under an hour there by the riverside, fog rising and rolling around me, taking photos and trying to find relief from my own strained internal presence. By the time I was ready to leave the fog had risen higher and was rolling over the top of the bridge that was my pathway.

Crossing this bridge, I was able to stand in the middle of the fog and feel the cool moisture settle on my skin. I breathed in the earthy mist and watched the world around me become veiled and reemerge anew over and over as the cloud rolled by. A sense of peace settled on me as this happened, bringing me some relief and allowing me to just enjoy the cool evening. It was a superb experience, and one that I won’t soon forget.

Before the loss of my grandmother, it had been years since I lost someone close to me. I haven’t dealt with loss in a way that other people do, depression and stress affecting me in a serious way. Because of this I feel like being able to express those issues and have experiences like I had this week are very important. If it has taught me anything it is that we all must find what works for us. Avoiding the mourning process and not allowing ourselves to grieve the way we need to is not helpful. It isn’t healthy. One thing that we have to admit and be aware of is that we may sometimes need more time than others to get over a loss. We may need time alone, or time with others, or even a mix. Whatever it is that you need in order to cope, you have to figure it out.

Embrace yourself, the world around you, and whatever helps make you more you. The things that bring you back to feeling like yourself are the things you need to cope with the loss. Don’t allow anyone, especially yourself, keep you from that healing magic. It can truly be life-changing. Honestly, it can be the difference between your own life and death.

Reach out to someone. Never be ashamed of your feelings, your hardships, your needs. Find the relief you need and make sure you are getting enough of whatever it is to help you return to the you you want to be. Accept yourself, accept your loss, but don’t let the grief and mourning consume you. Life can go on, if you find out how to let it. Happiness can return. Even if it’s just one step at a time.

Although I will never truly be over the loss of my grandmother, I now have an idea of what I can do to help me cope when things get tough. I will do what I can to make sure I am allowing myself the proper time and space to be able to let myself, and my grandmother’s memory, continue on.

If you are mourning, grieving, or otherwise in any emotional need, reach out to someone. I’d be more than happy to listen to anything you need. Find your method and make sure you’re returning your soul to its necessary health.

Beating the Monday Blues

Mondays suck. Lets face it. But that doesn’t have to stop us from doing great things. We, as artists and writers, really need to give ourselves a bit of a schedule to follow. Some authors will find themselves needing a more strict and rigid schedule. Throughout history there are some authors who have stated that they wouldn’t let themselves do anything else until they had typed X amount of pages or written X amount of words per day. This can be quite a daunting idea for some us and for others it can honestly be nearly impossible. If we don’t have a set schedule at work it can be very hard to try and have a set schedule with out writing. This can lead us to breaking any type of schedule we may try to set. That’s not good at all.

Other of us (myself included at times) don’t like trying to demand ourselves to meet a certain deadline. Granted we may sometimes be under contract and actually have a deadline, but that doesn’t mean that we can just force ourselves to vomit out a certain amount of work just because it’s what we say we need to do. Part of this can be fixed with the inspiration I so love to write about. Even while typing this I am listening to music on my old Mp3 player to make sure I stay motivated despite the feeling of inspiration that I’ve had today. I have used the music on this player to help me write and focus on my craft for so long that I’ve had to change players three of four times because I’ve worn some of the others out and just ran out of room on one.

But we do want to continue performing our craft at the level we are now and we do want to improve. We may find it hard, or even impossible to do that if we let the world get in the way of our productivity. Yes, it’s Monday, and yes that means we are going back to work and/or school and are feeling the typical mourning over the loss of the weekend, but Mondays can be positive as well. Mondays can symbolize the beginning of a whole new week of work. This can be the week where we tackle that hard chapter and vow to gain something from it. Or maybe this is the week we complete that particularly hard painting or song. Maybe it’s even just the week we convince ourselves to pick up the tools of our trade and produce SOMETHING. Mondays can be real downers. They can kill our spirit and motivation and bring us so low that we don’t even have the ability to produce anything at all that week. But they can also mean a lot. They can be the day we start the ending to our latest novel, or start that new painting, or the day we start writing our own music instead of just learning what has already been done. Monday may come at the worst possible time, but it can also bring us a never-ending realm of possibilities. Don’t waste them!!!!

An Incredible and Humbling Experience

Hey there friends and fans. I hope you are all doing well and that your craft and passion is going smoothly. My own work has been up and down as usual, leading me to feel a bit of self doubt and woe, made all the much worse by the fact that I have graduated college for the second time and still find myself having trouble getting full-time employment. But I digress.

As many of you may know or have remembered, this weekend brought one of the things I most look forward to in the year; the Appalachian Heritage Writers Symposium. I first started attending the symposium four years ago and quickly fell in love with it. The opportunities provided by this convention are almost endless. A large portion of the Appalachian Heritage Writers Guild are present every year. These individuals are all successful authors, many of whom have a good portion of publications under their belts. The symposium consists of two days worth of workshops where these authors are asked to present and teach about an element of the craft, a specific genre or something of the sort (publication, editing, etc…always something that will be helpful to other authors). Each year there is one, at least slightly more famous, author who is asked to be the keynote speaker.

My personal experience with this symposium is that it is wonderful. Each year I have left the events feeling more confident in my work, my abilities and my future as a writer. In fact, some of you may remember that it was the symposium itself that led me to creating this very blog. How’s that for awesome? Anyway, this year’s experience was one that stood apart from my three previous ones for a number of reasons. Lately I have been a bit worried that my work isn’t quite up to par, that I haven’t accomplished anything, that I haven’t done anything positive or made anything of myself. I now realize that is because I haven’t done it all yet. My list of accomplishments (please forgive me here, I’m not trying to boast. I’m merely trying to show you all that accomplishments aren’t just huge goals or obstacles to overcome) is fairly large. As a student I was managing editor of a literary journal for two years and head news writer for a newspaper for one, because people had confidence in my writing. I have completed two of the three (or four) novels in my Maverip series. I have met the love of my life and gotten engaged. The list goes on and on.

I came to this realization because of the symposium. This year was particularly unique for me for a couple of reasons. One; I was asked to present a workshop. Me. The guy who feels like he’s a failure at least half the time. Members of the committee asked me if I would lend my expertise in the field of the supernatural to do a panel on Zombies and the Un-Dead in relation to Appalachian Literature. I humbly accepted and worked hard on a presentation that I may discuss later this week.

It was a success. People from all walks of life- at least one of whom was not the least bit interested in the topic until hearing me speak on it- attended and raved about the workshop. I had a number of people tell me how great it was and how much I made them think. One even thanked me for the ideas I had given her. On the second day I had people who had been unable to attend my workshop approaching me throughout the entire day telling me they’d heard such wonderful things that they wished they’d prioritized better. This made me feel like I was doing something right. I was beyond humbled to have these successful authors suddenly become my peers, while others became my temporary students. And the feeling that I was absolutely blessed only grew as I got the compliments I’ve mentioned. But one experience remains.

This year’s keynote speaker was the author Jeffery Deaver. For those of you who don’t know, Deaver is the author of the book The Bone Collector (and many more). I was able to get this genius’s autograph, speak to him face to face and even take a selfie with him. But the true humbling and mystifying part was that I got to be in a book signing with him. By that I don’t just mean that I fanboy’d and got his signature (which I did, obviously), but I was actually sitting at my own table, with some of my work in front of me, being asked for MY autograph. I literally signed my work while an international bestselling author was one table over signing his own. I’ve never felt anything like that.

I told you all of this because I was trying to make a point. I wasn’t trying to brag or exalt myself, I do promise that. My point here is this; We can’t let ourselves get down about things. No, I’m not a Nobel Prize winner yet. Not am I on the New York Times bestseller list. But I am an author. I am a good author (at least based on what I’m told). I have completed works, and even self-published some pieces on Amazon. Too often do we allow ourselves to believe that we haven’t done anything with our lives in one way or another. We are our own worst critic, and if we aren’t careful that experience can ruin us. If we wake up every day and tell ourselves that we are failures and haven’t or won’t achieve anything then we are setting ourselves ip for failure. We have to look at the things we have done, set minor goals and proceed. We are strong and we can do whatever we intend, whatever we dream. Don’t forget that. Stand strong, believe in yourself and try hard!

Support A Good Cause!!

Hey guys, I just wanted to give you all a reminder about UpLive. The site has been up and running strong since Sunday and has gotten a lot of positive feedback, but there are countless people out there who could use the type of inspirational messages we are trying to send. It’s going to take all of us working together to get it going strong and spread far and wide, so please make the effort. Go to the site, read the posts, share it with everyone you know. Share this post if you don’t want to do that. Just make sure that you help spread the message. There might be someone out there whose life really could be saved by the type of inspiration this site can give. It only takes a second to share, so come on guys, help us all out. In the meantime, whether you draw inspiration from it or not, I hope you will take the time to read the posts and appreciate the feeling behind them and the talent of those who have written them. If you like them, let the writers know. Feel free to comment and share. This is more for the public and those who need it than it is for us, either way. We don’t need gratification. We just want to help those who need it or could use it. Anyway, I hope you all had a great Memorial Day and a great first half of the week! The link to UpLive is below, please share and enjoy.

http://www.uplivedaily.com/

New Channel, Big Sale, Free Story!

Hello friends and fans! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and great start to your Memorial Day.I am working very diligently to find ways to bring you all the sort of advice and inspiration that you enjoy with this blog, and here are some ways that I have thought of. First off, I have finished reading the first book for my book club and I’m very excited to post my commentary video on Tuesday! I sincerely hope you will all join in on the fun and take part in the discussion. In the meantime I have decided to do a few things to help my work become more available to everyone who is interested. First off; my work “The Reaper and Other Tales” is now 50% off! That’s right, my bestselling work, a collection of short stories and poems spanning over three years worth of work is now available for half price! In addition to that, I have decided to put up another piece of my work here, for you all to have and (hopefully) enjoy! The story I’m posting here is one that was inspired by the big snow storms we had here in Southwest Virginia back in February.

Also, don’t forget about the new site, UpLive, that is now up and running. My first contribution to the site will be posted on Thursday, so don’t forget! The writers contributing to this site are some very talented people, and I am honored to work alongside them. Please share the site with everyone who could use a little pick me up or some inspiration. Here is that link;
http://www.uplivedaily.com/

I hope you will all take part in my book club and share it with everyone you know, also. This can really be a huge thing if we all pitch in and join the discussion! That link is here;
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC57mZlzf3sIL_rayJsxbFZQ

As for the sale I have begun, I hope you all enjoy the work and share it as well. If you do (or particularly don’t) enjoy the work, please give it a review. That is very important with this type of work. Here is the link to that book;
http://www.amazon.com/Reaper-other-tales-Damean-Mathews-ebook/dp/B00FSJX8DE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432567429&sr=8-1&keywords=The+reaper+and+other+tales

And finally, at long last, here is the story that I have decided to share with you all. Please feel free to comment on the work and give me any and all feedback on the blog and any of my efforts that you would like. Without further ado, here is the story entitled “The Last Survivor”.

The Last Survivor

Ice covers everything. Pain fills my body as the debilitating cold pierces all five layers I’m wearing, but I can’t stop. The cold is bitter, wind blowing in my face, drying my lips beyond repair. The frigid air chills and solidifies the blood that seeps from my cracked mouth. I close my eyes as I stumble on, feeling the sharp ice that has already formed over their bare, moist surfaces.

Opening them again, I see the bridge, my final destination and the stone river below it. There are no cars moving, their inhabitants long dead; murdered or frozen. The winter set in days ago, all forecasts seeing no end to the arctic freeze. I’m the last survivor of my group, possibly the last on earth. And I feel so alone. The railing of the bridge is coated in ice. I can barely climb on. Stripping off two coats, I prepare myself. The river below is frozen solid, the water still and unyielding.

The wind pierces my skin now as I lean forward, letting the frigid air swallow me up. Almost 1,000 feet below, the river rises up to meet me as the arctic air does its work. The ice takes my body as its own, I cannot move, can’t even blink away my nearly painless fate as one final thought crawls through my rapidly slowing brain. At least it will be fast…

The last survivor watches from his glass prison as the woman plunges downward. She lands ten yards from his ship, frozen in its place on the water, her body shattering into a million pieces as he feeds the last log onto the guttering fire. He can’t help but wonder, as his last few minutes of life are devoured by the flame, how long it will take for his own end to find him.

The Avoidance of Inspiration-killing Stress

Authors can seriously be crippled by the lack of a proper atmosphere. This is a huge helpful tip for anyone who hasn’t figured out the full deal for themselves, and a great pointer for someone currently trying to figure out how best to do their work.

Step #1; Find your happy place. Overlook the cliché of that statement, it holds vast truth and importance. You have to find where the you write best. It may be somewhere quiet, it may be somewhere loud, it may not even be the same place all of the time, but you have to use it when you find it. While the place may take some time to find, you’ll definitely know it when you do. It will be the place your writing comes most naturally and easily, and where the flow of your words is best. The atmosphere must be perfect to get optimum work, for a lot of people anyway. Granted that, as much as anything else, can vary from person to person, it is something that absolutely must be paid attention to. Your work area is your happy place, your safe place, your haven, and it must fit your standards to the finest points. Whether you like it quiet or loud, bright or dim, crowded or completely empty, it must be the place that most helps you do what you do best.

Step #2; You must find your time also. Most people can write at nearly anytime, but there will be a certain time of day (not necessarily an hour or minute per se, but more a generalization like morning, dawn, dusk, afternoon, evening, night) that they find their work absolutely at the top of its game. This must be taken advantage of. That is the best way to deal with your day, and can even be a great stress reliever in itself. Just finding what time works best for you gives you an idea of how you can literally schedule your entire day around your writing and get top quality work without having to edit as much (which always helps in the end).

Step 3; Utilize every second of your time. Setting up a schedule will definitely help this, especially if you have taken the time to follow the first two steps. Going to your ‘happy place’ at the time that you have found to be your best work period is going to make you feel you have become increasingly accomplished in the craft, and help to complete your project as quickly as possible.

These steps are probably fairly generic to most people, but they can still be very helpful to new authors, and we can all admit that it never hurts to be reminded of such things. Life can cut its way in on us and ruin our mood and inspiration. Stress has killed more books throughout history than book burning protesters have, most likely, and we have to do all that we can to fight it at every turn. These steps will help most authors on their way to success (or at least completion of projects), and I really would like to hear what you all think about them. If they have helped, let me know. And if they haven’t let me know also, and hopefully you’ll share why they have or haven’t. And if you have any more tips definitely leave them in the comments, and of course you will get all of the credit. I look forward to hearing from everyone.

-Damean