The Burden of Silence

Lately, I have been completely adrift when it comes to my writing. I’ve been stuck in the Sargasso Sea of wordsI have two manuscripts that need to be edited. I have several ideas bouncing around in my head. And yet… I do none of it. The world’s events have filled my mind with a swirl of worry, hope, despair, and joy. At times I worry about my lack of productivity, but I do know that eventually I will catch the wind again and tear across the ocean. It seems like lately, the sails have begun to ripple. The wind is rising.

But right now when I think about writing, my first thought is why. Why bother? What’s the point? The world is going up in flames. I can’t even focus on reading. Many others have told me they feel the same? So why write what nobody feels like reading?

I’ve written brief political posts, but then wonder if that’s the best thing to do. I know I can’t convince anyone. When I write it’s more to let those who see it the way I see it, know that they are not alone. Or perhaps, at best, sway someone who hasn’t formed a definite opinion by offering a perspective they may not have considered.

But does it raise the temperature or lower it? Cause more harm than good? When your friends and family don’t want to hear what you say, you only further the divide by speaking up. An enlightened person might rise above the petty concerns of politics and governance, only seeing the world beyond. I wish I were that enlightened. I’m not. What I am, is a culmination of my experiences.

Years ago, I took my first trip to Europe. I chose to visit the Netherlands, because I had a friend there who I could stay with and who would show me around. It was an amazing experience . I wandered Amsterdam, visiting the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. Like so many teens, I had read Anne Frank’s Diary. When I read she had hid in an attic, I pictured an attic like my house, only accessed through a small crawl space, filled with insulation and mice droppings. I was so surprised to realize it was actually a fully functioning apartment. Still, it was cramped, and I don’t know how anyone could spend months, let alone years hiding, never going outside. Walking through those rooms, I could only imagine what it would be like to have people want to kill you, just because you exist. Her words were often childish, and yet also often profound. The visit was sobering.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Anne Frank

Another day we went to Arnhem where a major battle of WWII occurred. It was a beautiful town full of flowers and quaint homes. We walked among the displays, looking at pictures of the bombed out ruins the city had been 50 years earlier. It was hard to believe this peaceful and beautiful town had been the site of so much death and destruction. And then there was a realization that it had been a peaceful and beautiful little down before the war too. A place of peace and beauty wasn’t guaranteed to remain that way. It only takes careless human beings to turn heaven into hell.

We also had tea with my friend’s father one day. We talked about what we’d seen at the museum, and he told us stories about when he was a boy during the war. He talked about how when planes fly overhead all these years later, he still flinches, waiting for the bombs to drop. And he told of a Jewish family that he would smuggle food to on his bicycle, knowing if he was caught, he would be shot. I was amazed that I was in the presence of someone so brave who risked his life for his fellow man. He was a hero. I more or less told him this, and told him how wonderful it was that he was brave enough to do this. He began to tear up and his voice broke as he shook his head and said, “It wasn’t enough. I should have done more. So much more.”

That reaction informed me of the cost of war, more than any museum could have. The pain. The regret. It never leaves. Germans who lived through the war though they never took part in the atrocities, had a great deal of regret. They didn’t take part, but they also didn’t stop it. They didn’t speak up. They stayed silent out of fear. They know they should have done more. And they know their silence was deadly for others. The pain is deep, even decades later.

Those experiences when visiting Europe, left a deep mark on me. In the face of inhumanity and injustice, the cost of not speaking…. of not doing enough, is far greater than speaking up, even if you pay with your life.

And so, I can’t stay silent. Perhaps someday I’ll evolve enough that I won’t worry about the things of the world, and can let it all go to hell in a hand basket while staying in my happy place. But that’s not where I am today. Sometimes my anger still gets the better of me. So today, on the eve of a possible wave of violence, I simply want to remind anyone who reads this where domestic terrorism leads.

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” 

Mahatma Gandhi

Because, if Timothy McVeigh were alive today, he would have been in that crowd at the Capitol. He would be pleased with where the country is today. So if you stand with the insurrectionists on the 6th, you stand with the man who caused the horror above.

There is nothing I can do or say to convince anyone the elections weren’t stolen. No matter how many judges throw out cases; no matter how many election officials explain the heavily edited tapes presented by far-right conspiracy theorists show nothing unusual and no fraud; no matter how many Secretary’s of State from both parties, whose reputation is on the line, verify the vote was fair, they will never accept that they’ve been lied to and truly lost. There’s no appeal to reason with people who are in, hook, line, and sinker. But maybe, just maybe, someone might read this and even if they still believe the election was stolen, might question the cost of violence. It could be your daughter or granddaughter being cradled in a firefighters arms next time. It might be your son, grandson, wife, husband, father, mother, brother, sister who dies, alone, in a wave of violence.

I hope we can step back before we create permanent evil. And if you think speaking up might stop someone from violence, please don’t stay silent. Trust me, you will regret it if you do.

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Boredom Update

By this time each year, most people have let their new year’s resolutions slide into oblivion. So, it made sense to wait six weeks before reporting on how my boredom experiment is going.

It’s been an abject failure.

Let me explain.

My life has improved dramatically in just a few weeks. Last year I read 16 books over the year. More than one a month. I considered it acceptable, though for a writer, less than stellar. This year, on Goodreads Reading Challenge, I committed to reading at least 50 books. With largely TV free evenings and weekends, I read 9 books in January. (So far, Beneath a Scarlet Sky – a true story of a 17 year old Italian boy during WWII, is my favorite.)

With more free time away from screens, I began meditating regularly again. I decided on the schedule of 20 minutes, twice daily. Yes, it meant getting up earlier, which I am loathe to do. There have been many mornings when I thought about going to just 1 evening session a day, but I wanted to stick with it until it was a habit — give it a fair shot. I’ve reached that point. I look forward to the time on the cushion, and am reaping the benefits of a regular practice, though some mornings, I would still rather sleep another 20 minutes.

It’s great I’m reading so much more, after all, I recently heard that every hour of reading is like an hour of studying writing. But, I also have a shelf full of writing books, many of which I’ve never read. It made sense to add more academic endeavors to my reading regimen.

After looking over the titles, I picked The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. In just the first chapter I saw things I could do to improve both books I’ve been working on. It felt like my opening chapter of Fear Unleashed didn’t grab the reader like I wanted it to. My intention was to create a slow build of getting to know the main character, but I don’t think that helped sell the story. It has inspired me to rethink much of my first novel, and since I have a lot of passion for those changes, I think I’m jumping tracks and letting my current work in progress go for a moment while I rewrite Fear Unleashed.

The truth of my boredom update is this… I have failed miserably at being bored in 2019. I now see that I already was bored and screen time was just a lazy way to fill the boredom. So I guess I am sort of breaking my resolution. I no longer resolve that 2019 is the year of boredom. Instead I resolve it is the year I switch boredom off and reengage with the things that give life meaning. It’s an easy resolution to keep.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Have you also tried less screen time? How is that working for you?

Read any good books lately? Please tell me about them, as I’m constantly looking for my next book.

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