I seek, I learn, I grow;
I dream, I hope, I desire;
I care, I risk, I fear;
I ache, I grieve, I weep …
I am fragmented.
I have longed,
oh so long,
My work in progress, A Retrospect in Death, begins with a man’s death. The reader is taken to the other side where the narrator encounters his higher self—the part of him that is immortal and connected to the creator. The protagonist learns (much to his chagrin) that he must return to the life-cycle. But first he must be “debriefed” by his higher self, and so they set about discussing the man’s previous life—in reverse chronological order: knowing the end but retracing the journey, searching for the points of fragmentation along the way.
He and I embarked on this journey in April, recently surpassing the halfway point. Perhaps the two most surprising lessons we’ve learned so far, he and I, is how fragmented we truly are and how much we yearn to connect.
I’ve been married once (divorced, no children) and have had, in the last twenty-two years, several serious relationships, all of which, after starting with promise (don’t they all start that way?), ended not so happily ever after. I’ve had my heart bloodied and bruised and have done the same. Not my best moments, these failures to connect (although I won’t take full responsibility—it does, in all such cases, take two to tango).
Yes, I think we all yearn to connect with others—even as we look for red flags (convincing ourselves we’re just keeping our eyes open), sometimes even manufacturing red flags to suit our purposes, to prevent ourselves from getting close to someone or allowing them to get close to us.
There have always been red flags and always will be red flags. In youth, we merely chose to ignore them; now, having survived the school of hard knocks, we’d rather raise the white flag of surrender than risk a red flag.
Wisdom may come alone through living; but there is something to be said about the ignorance of youth.
Maybe it’s that, in youth, we’re ever so much more resilient.
Consider that before birth we are one with our mother and thereafter, as we become self-aware, we seek to connect with others—friends, pets, employers/employees, lovers, husbands, wives, our children—for the remainder of our lives.
It’s strange what self-awareness and opposable thumbs can do to a species. We consider ourselves superior life forms; but oh what we could learn from babies and animals if we would but open our eyes.
Lower life forms openly display their affection—for their young as well as their mates. A baby, by instinct, desires touch, to be held; sadly, with self-awareness, we learn that it’s politically incorrect to show affection in public.
If we spend a third of our lives sleeping, we wear a mask fully half our lives during work hours, when we must adhere to policies of human resources and put forward our best professional foot. In dating, we don yet another mask because we want the other person to like us. Is it any wonder that love comes later, when the masks come off and we can see the other person—both the good and the not so good—and not look away?
I’ve always looked to connect with others through my writing, but more so in the last few years, since finding myself between relationships (does that sound hopeful about the future of my love life?)
A Facebook friend recently discovered my personal blog and signed my guestbook before sending me one of the nicest emails I’ve ever received. She wrote that she intended to sign my guestbook (as I’d asked, promising I wouldn’t spam her) but got caught up in one click after another. Soon she found herself on my memoirs page and before she knew it an hour had elapsed. She closed by thanking me for sharing parts of my life—some were painful, others more joyful. In short, she told me I’d connected with her. My life experiences had resonated with her.
I’ve always been a loner and writing is a solitary endeavor; but we are social animals, men and women, and depression often becomes a partner to those who spend too much time alone. I was never what you would call a social butterfly, even in my youth; but now that I’m over 50 I find myself much more accepting of couch tatering on any given night of the week to watch a ballgame or a hockey game or any one of a handful of TV dramas I’ve come to enjoy rather than going out to socialize.
That this arrangement doesn’t alarm me is perhaps reason for concern, save for my creative forays.
Despite containing more humor than all of my previous novel projects, A Retrospect in Death, as you might (rightfully) expect, is a dark write. I’ve cut deep into a vein and have bled profusely to create what I’ve been told is, thus far, a compelling read. More than once I’ve felt the pull of depression, but with the ending already written I know I will come out the other side, as early as next spring, if not as okay as my protagonist, at least better because of the experience.
I’ve started posting short excerpts from A Retrospect in Death on my Facebook page and links to my blog, where longer excerpts can be found, and, not that I need encouragement to finish this, my best work to date, the response has been great. I’ve had one Michigan bookstore owner ask me when it will be available.