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.

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 graduated college twice. 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!

Keeping Your Work

Have you ever let someone read your work and asked them for feedback and just be mesmerized by what they said? More specifically have you ever listened to their suggestions and just thought “that changes the whole meaning and purpose of the story, why would I do that”?

Those situations are among some of the ones you have to be most cautious about when writing. Your work is going to have to be something you make your own, no matter how different that makes it from someone else’s and no matter how many people you encounter who may not exactly prefer your style. There are over 7 billion people on this planet and there is certain to be at least one other person in the world who will love your work for what it is. That is your audience. That’s not to say that that is necessarily the person you are writing for, by any means. You are always writing first and foremost for yourself. The work you do is yours to do. The idea came to you, after all, didn’t it?

That is one of my biggest purposes with this post; to remind you all that your work is yours. I can never emphasize that enough. So many times young authors meet resistance or differences of opinion regarding their work and they just give up their ideas to conform to those of others. Originality is one of the most important things to strive for when it comes to the craft of writing. It has been said by many that there are no new stories, just new ways to tell them, and to an extent that may be true. But it is our job, or if you prefer, our blessing, to give every story a new twist and make it our own.

No one else can write our work for us. That is why the ideas came to us. They are our own, and it is our duty to write them and spread them to the world. That is why it is so important for us to not allow ourselves or our ideas to be compromised by the thoughts and opinions of others. They can’t write our work for us, if they could the ideas would have come to them and not us. Granted that is not to say that we should just ignore and blow off all criticism and feedback. We can’t do that either. The key is to find the proper median, and this time, that line is a bit more prominent than others. The limits are similar for every writer in this respect, if they hope to remain unique and individual and not just generic and over-used.

The line is really quite rock solid, but as usual is never as simply cut-and-dry as some may prefer. We must listen to our feedback, look at what we know about our work, and examine the work using the knowledge of our intentions and the thoughts of others. After this we must use our conclusions to either keep, tweak or change our work while keeping both our own wishes in mind and the opinions of our audience, but no matter what we absolutely can not change the real essence of our work. If we compromise our work by making it what someone else wants and losing what we want then we have wasted our gift and really compromised the sanctity of the craft itself. I will write more on this subject and a lot about maintaining the sanctity of literature with my next post. I hope this has been helpful.