The Start of Something New

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Fiction

I remember once when I was in third grade, sitting at a wooden desk in my bedroom and writing some kind of story on the sheets of a yellow legal pad that was more than loosely based on the Ewoks.  I don’t remember the plot now- I just remember sitting down and doing it.  Return of the Jedi made a large impression on me.  What can I say?

I think in the fifth grade, with a Shetland Sheepdog in the house for a muse, and a computer with basic word processing software and a green monochrome display at my disposal, I attempted to impersonate author Jim Kjelgaard, by writing a story almost exactly like one of his, but with our dog in it instead of one of his.  His book Snow Dog was one of my all-time favorites as a boy, right up there with Rinkitink in Oz and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

In freshman English class in high school, probably late in the same rolling twelve month period in which I read Hunt for Red October and The Aquitaine Progression, I chose to turn a free-writing assignment into a taut scene in an abandoned warehouse involving two middle-aged men of unquestionable physical fitness and decision-making prowess, with hand guns, one of whom was a Russian agent, the other an American.

In college I began as a physics major, because I enjoyed my physics class in high school, I loved to think about how the universe worked, and further, to think about what the-way-it-worked implied about who we are, but I decided I could enjoy most of the best parts of that passion without signing on for a decade of formal training.  I switched to engineering because I enjoyed solving problems and creating things.  Still, in a couple of committed spurts, in between digesting lectures on thermodynamics, heat transfer, and differential equations, I worked on “novels”.  One was a story of five characters who come together and undergo personal spiritual transformations en route to saving their world.  I don’t even think I have a copy of that effort.  The second was about two characters, Noah and Biggs, retired, who follow a highly passionate- e.g. crazy- person whose main objective is to thwart the Machine by establishing some sort of utopian community.  This effort, too, bogged down.

One of the desires that has resurfaced this year as I have started and maintained this blog is the desire to write creatively.  It has been probably fifteen or so years since the previous spurts of any real commitment.  The previous paragraphs are not intended to tell a story of fate or inevitability, but to simply acknowledge as I look back on my life that, yes, this desire has been within me.  This thread is there.  It is not, perhaps, with me now by accident.  Nothing is perhaps, quite by accident.  It is interesting to note it has not been the only bit of foreshadowing I could look back upon.  We are not one-dimensional in our explorations and tendencies.

You can see the roots of an engineering mind starting to form early on as well, when, also in the third grade, after an IBM PC Junior appeared in our home, I carried a binder with me to school that contained an alphabetized list of all the BASIC commands available to a computer programmer.  When I finished my assignments, I would pull out the binder and read about them, one by one.  I wrote an absurd (I would say, given my age) computer program that used at least a thousand lines of BASIC to paint the screen with rudimentary images from Star Wars, building the images out of basic shapes like squares, rectangles and circles, to play the sound track from the movie, to display text, and to receive simple user inputs.  It was a Choose Your Own Adventure game- or the beginnings of one.

So, anyway, I have been doing some creative writing this year and have arrived at the conclusion the next thing for me to do is share it.  I have set up a new page here called “Fiction”, and once in a while new stories will appear.  The first one is in position as we speak.  I don’t know how many or how often, but that’s where they’ll be.  I am at the beginning of “taking myself seriously as a writer”, as my friend Mari aptly puts it, so these efforts are what they are.  Efforts.  Practice.  Explorations.  They don’t do well hidden away, so I will set them out here on this site to cool.

One of the gifts I received for Christmas was a collection of the short stories written by J.G. Ballard, who Anthony Burgess describes on the jacket as being “among our finest writers of fiction”.  I have read about half of the stories, and am finding them indeed quite enjoyable.  I was struck, however, by where his mind went- to worlds dominated by over-population and cities so vast ‘free space’ was an altogether foreign concept, to characters seeking to remove the wasted time of sleeping from their lives, to a recurring reference to a tumbling metabolic rate of human beings over the past hundreds of thousands of years, as if we’re ‘winding down’.  Around the same time Mari was sharing her thoughts with me about a story I had written and asked her to read, and in which she was discovering these linkages to parts of my life.   I realized that I write what I write.  It is probably for all practical intents and purposes beyond my ability to “help it”, just as Ballard surely wrote and thought what came to him within the context of being J.G. Ballard.

What I end up typing onto the screen is probably in some way unique, and sharing what I write, even if not ready for prime time, is probably a powerful way to share who I am, to provide a foothold for the discovery of who we are in relationship to it.  This realization helps assuage the part of the mind that grades all of one’s efforts on a strict pass-fail system, where pass means it is at least equivalent to the latest Nobel-winning piece of literature…  There’s a long-standing need to put that type of thinking behind me.

Anyway, as I was thinking along these lines, about the way sharing our invented stories is perhaps another way of sharing who we are, or at least sharing who we are wrestling with becoming, my WordPress pal Marga sent me this quote from Neil Gaiman, “Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams.”  That about clinched it.  Hopefully the windows, despite needing a washing or two, despite being of variable thickness and shape and thus distorting the view beyond, are still clear enough to transmit some of that pure light.

And if your particular way of viewing time involves rolling over a New Year tonight- may it be a good and blessed one.

9 Comments

  1. ~meredith says

    A quest! Oh, what an adventure for you… and a treat for the rest of us. 🙂 Yea! (and good for you.)

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    • Thanks, Meredith! I just read your Home Directory post and wish to congratulate you on your own adventure in healing and becoming! I have a close family member who had DID, and so I have witnessed the challenge and the beauty of this type of journey. Having come to your blog late in the game, it was great to find the summary and gain a better understanding of where you’re coming from. I look forward to what may come next!

      Very glad you have been visiting here!

      Michael

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      • ~meredith says

        Hi, Michael; I thank you kindly for your affirmations… and presence. I have to admit that I was quite surprised when I read your comment. I’ve never imagined, or had anyone tell me they had close ties to someone with DID. I think I sat very still for two lifetimes, wondering what it was like for you. I was very surprised to even sit with the thought… so thank you for validating that part of my story. It’s very strange thought form to realize, and waking up has kind of freaked me out.

        Life seems to be right at my feet every time I stop to look. I can’t believe I don’t stop and look more often. It’s always such a great moment. 😉

        Looking forward to the reads. Journey well.
        Meredith

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        • Meredith, I in NO way intend what comes next to either aggrandize or trivialize the challenge of living with and through such a challenging internal conundrum as DID. However, lately I have been on this kick of thinking about what every thing around us is “saying”, and I recall thinking once, a good while ago when I was in a similar mood, about DID, that it is such a beautiful metaphor for what we call the “separation”.

          I think about the miracle none of us can really quite wrap our minds around: of the One becoming Many, without losing the Reality of Being One. I see in DID, as in many aspects of this strange world in which we live, a distorted reenactment of something holy- distorted because it arises (typically?) as the result of great trauma or pain, and holy, because it is as if, as a last resort, the very power of Creation has stepped forward to offer a softer landing, a path back, a way that is both a delay and an answer.

          I cannot really imagine the pain or difficulty of clawing back to integration, but like so much that at one time or another we view as “awful” is revealed to have been something else altogether when we emerge from it and look back upon it, I think the same about this, about what it says about all of us, that we are perhaps fragments- Whole fragments- healing towards Wholeness.

          Michael

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  2. ~meredith says

    🙂 I think I wondered something much simpler, like: did you recognize it in your loved one? It was just something I always wondered about… how it seemed from the outside. The rest is… well… a different journey than I ever imagined. (reasons 1, 2, and three for showing up to every present moment I recognize).

    Thanks for such a thoughtful comment.

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    • I was able to recognize it in hindsight, but this was a person I grew up around, so as a child I didn’t really know anything different. My experience was that it is a pretty subtle thing most of the time, at least on the outside, until you knew what was going on and what you were looking for. But I don’t think I was ever “looking for” anything, so I can’t say as I examined it very much. Looking back, though, there are definitely things that make more sense through the lens of understanding the bigger picture…

      Michael

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  3. ~meredith says

    Yeah… that makes sense. I remember grade school, and how much I knew about my classmates’ home lives in some ways, but couldn’t quite comprehend. As an adult… it’s very different to sit with awareness.

    Thank you for your reply. It really means a lot to me.
    Meredith

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  4. I’m glad to have this bit of personal information. I’ve been wondering about you since your about page doesn’t really reveal many personal details.

    Since Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, when I was 13 and you were in 3rd grade, assuming you didn’t grade skip, you would have been 8, maybe 9. Which puts you about 4 or 5 years younger than I. I enjoyed physics a lot in high school as well…and biology…and chemistry. I settled on biotech in college. Combined all the things I loved. I was aggravated by my college physics professor and calculus III professor (no, I didn’t HAVE to take it for my degree, I wanted to, for the challenge, to see if I could do it). But it was a language barrier mostly…I could barely understand their accents. I hung out mostly with the math and engineering majors. My boyfriend of the time was EE, My husband (who I met in college but didn’t date til a year after I graduated) was an ME major.

    I have to smile about the Sheltie. I have one now. She’s mostly white, with a smattering of brown and black. Blue eyes. She’s the runt of the litter and she’s a delicate thing.

    And I smiled again at the Choose Your Own Adventure books…I liked them when I was younger too.

    What I end up typing onto the screen is probably in some way unique, and sharing what I write, even if not ready for prime time, is probably a powerful way to share who I am, to provide a foothold for the discovery of who we are in relationship to it.

    Those Ballard stories are interesting. I like the idea of giving up on sleeping…wish I didn’t need sleep sometimes, but I’m awfully cranky when I don’t get enough.

    “I was thinking along these lines, about the way sharing our invented stories is perhaps another way of sharing who we are, or at least sharing who we are wrestling with becoming.”

    I like the way you said that. I like the works of Paulo Coelho, I think for this reason. He’s got a lot of themes in his books I’ve wrestled with, though I can’t say I’ve actually written a lot of invented stories. Most of my stories are memoir type. I’ve always thought truth has been stranger than any fiction I could come up with. Or maybe that’s simply because I lack the imagination for it. Idk.

    I find myself striving towards self-compassion and mastery over my inner contradictions. Who am I becoming? I’m not sure. I mean, I know generally towards enlightenment. I get frequently hooked by Ego.

    ***
    As an aside…I’m touched by the conversation between you and Meridith.

    On my own, I’ve informally researched DID and Internal Family Systems (and other intriguing things like manic-depression and borderline personality disorder) as part of my own healing journey. I’ve only known about one person to have been a true DID. He had 77 different alters and found integration through shamanic healing. We talked about it some online.

    Anyway, I just appreciate having found your blog. I’m growing rather fascinated with each post I read. Having a number of engineering friends in my life, I haven’t yet met one who was like you. To me, they’ve always seemed to not be very contemplative at all. It’s as if their minds were split off from their hearts…

    Thanks so much for sharing the view into yours.

    Casey

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    • Thanks, Casey. Lots of lovely adventures to choose from in your reply. Yeah… my About page is probably a bit bleak on personal details. I am slowly becoming more comfortable with sharing more of myself in this forum, as time and the wonderful responses I have learned to give and receive, such as yours here, inspire and move me.

      I’m also sort of a contradiction. I don’t feel like an engineer… whatever that means. I’ve slowly matured into acceptance of the inkling I had even as a child that I wasn’t exactly normal. I’m finding that I’m not normal, because I was predisposed, perhaps, to wonder if we weren’t all the same. I do think compared to many engineers, who often are people with a tendency towards left-brained thought, I have been blessed with somewhat of a balanced brain. I can never really convince myself one side or the other is the way to go… I remember reading a book in college that was written by Jose Arguelles, one of his early books I think, prior even to the Mayan Factor, that was all about the importance of both art and logic, of art and technology, of merging these two aspects of what it means to be human. It really stuck with me.

      There are times when the other happens, places where I’ve found my unwillingness to accept an illogical solution pins me into a corner. I have tried diligently on this blog not to be a source of controversy, but along these lines, a few years ago I bought a copy of the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, and I was really disappointed. I thought– what a completely flat argument for the non-existence of mystery, or the sacred, in the world around us. Science to me seems about being willing to ask questions, to be faced with data one cannot logically compile, and then to face the fact that there is something going on we don’t understand, something that doesn’t follow the rules we thought applied. I thought Dawkins conceivable versions of “God” were rather ridiculously shallow, and thus wholly unscientific. I am getting off track. That is an extreme case. But sometimes it happens, this unwillingness to concede the Creation must be logical drives me to embrace the notion that Love must be real. Funny how that works!

      I liked this line in your reply: “I find myself striving towards self-compassion and mastery over my inner contradictions. Who am I becoming? I’m not sure. I mean, I know generally towards enlightenment. I get frequently hooked by Ego.” I think I’ve given up on mastering inner contradictions. I’m slowly learning to savor them and let them develop. I design power plants. I write blog posts about Love. Truth is stranger than fiction, I agree…

      The joy of discovery is mutual.

      Michael

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