On Living in the Shadow of Death

Just found out I have an illness I could die from sooner rather than later. Now, let me say here that death doesn’t hold any fear for me. At least not in my outcome. I am confident in spending eternity with my Lord Jesus Christ. My sins are forgiven and I am not afraid. I do, however, have concerns.

There are so many things I will be leaving undone if my time should come up now. People depend on me for various things. That’s not to over estimate my importance in the world as a whole, but in my own small world my passing will make a difference. First and foremost, I have responsibilities that I do not feel comfortable leaving to others. But what can I do? What can anyone do except pick them up and go forward the best they can?

I have a book, a middle grade novel that I dearly want to complete and share with the public. As energy permits, that will take a greater place of importance than I have assigned it in the last few weeks. So many priorities bubble up ahead of the others like alka seltzer dropped in a glass of water. Time to reassess and get busy. Believe it or not, the hospital can be a great place to get a lot of personal work done if I don’t waste my time.

Well, enough ranting. Just wanted to share if anyone is out there to hear. Let me know what you think? What if you found out news like that? How would you face it? I would really like to know.

ON BEING BULLIED

Whoever refers to her childhood as the “good old days” must never have experienced the meanness of bullies. And the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” encourages a bully’s victim to stuff her feelings rather than acknowledge and deal with the very real pain.

Middle school presented the most difficult challenge of my young life. At that time, the foundations of my home suffered a major shaking as the adults in my family headed for an emotional earthquake. Looking back, even without actually understanding the situation, I was greatly affected by the undercurrent. As if this wasn’t enough, I was a late bloomer.

As a tall skinny scrappy kid with no breasts and the added flash of braces in an already plain face, I drew the unwanted attention of popular girls and the boys who wanted to impress them. My new name, Flat Tire, echoed down the hallways, and bounced off the lockers. Misery personified! All this stirred into the hormone cocktail raging through my adolescent body led to violent unrequited crushes and unfulfilled desires. Seventh grade played out as a nightmare, but it could have turned out worse.

A girl in one of my classes caught my attention. She wore her long blond hair in braids every day. Painfully shy, she averted her pretty blue eyes at any hint of attention. Mr. S, our handsome math teacher, pursued her relentlessly, shamelessly urging her to let down her hair and to meet him after school. She was mortified, I was envious. I longed for the attention she shunned. In retrospect, I escaped a potentially bad situation, but at the time all I saw was more rejection. I drew more into myself and away from hurtful uncomfortable situations at school.

My popularity, attractiveness to boys my age, and breasts all stayed frustratingly underdeveloped. My family moved to a new school district in the middle of my high school years, so I sort of got a new start. But the damage to my self-confidence prevented me from trying to make friends. The cafeteria terrified me, so I hung out in the classroom of an understanding teacher enduring hunger pains rather than risk certain humiliation.

I found an after school job and got to know people there. Way too easy I turned to a self-destructive life style. I embarked on a journey seeking love and affection with the heartbreaking result of receiving sex and rejection. My desire to fit in and be accepted as a person of worth became a losing battle. But how could anyone else give me something I couldn’t give myself? True love, unconditional love seemed beyond my reach. I would like to say that everything changed the day my eyes were opened and I became a Christian, but the long difficult learning process continues to this day.

Did my bullies determine my outcome? I used to think so, and it made me angry, bitter and miserable. Did my former bullies suffer from that? Of course not, I never even saw them again. It took a long time to come to the realization that I made my bad decisions, they didn’t. Therefore, I (not the bullies) am responsible for my consequences. It’s easy to blame others when things go wrong, but that’s a cop out.

What do you think? Did you live through being bullied? Are you being bullied now? How are you dealing with it? Maybe you are a bully and want to make amends. Tell me what you think.

LATE BLOOMER

We all have to start somewhere. In many ways I am a late bloomer and a bit of an oddball. Diagnosed with dyslexia early in life, the 1960s experts used physical therapy methods as a new way to treat my disorder. I was a guinea pig. The only thing I remember clearly is walking on a balance beam – there were other activities, but that was a long time ago and memory fails me. Apparently science has dismissed this type of therapy as ineffective, but I benefited greatly from it and was able to learn to read with no problem. I did, however, retain the unusual “skill” of writing backwards which served me well. A fifth grade teacher who angered me paid the strange price of having to use a mirror to read my homework. My dad thought I was brilliant, the principal not so much.

My love of reading began early and has grown through the years. Writing, however, was not a favored activity until much later. I much preferred to express my creativity in other outlets.

In time, I felt the unsettling desire to create children’s books. I expressed this to a close friend who soon discovered the Storywriter Studio and encouraged me to look into it. There I found a small group of people interested in creative writing and shortly my first project came to life. Characters, scenes and ideas sprung up like mushrooms overnight. Writing became a new passion and creative outlet.

Along the way in this brand new journey in the autumn of my life, I have discovered inspiration and encouragement in various places and activities. These are things anyone can do to stir up the imagination or creative muse for any type of artistic outlet.

  1. Explore local museums. Whether you are an artist, writer, teacher or just bored with the same old television shows, you can’t help but be inspired in some way by the things you see in a museum.
  2. Take a nature walk. Even in the city there are areas set side to invite people into a natural setting. Observe the trees and flowers. Listen to the birds. Smell the freshness. Feel the texture of different plants. Have a picnic to complete the five senses experience. If nothing else you will come away with a new perspective or clarity for a project you are stuck on.
  3. Visit the nearest aquarium or zoo. People and domesticated pets are not the only interesting creatures in this world. Take a long look at other animals and you may come away with a brand new idea.
  4. Sit for a while at the local mall and people watch. The variety and diversity of sizes, shapes, colors and styles may amaze you and spark creativity or wake the muse.
  5. Attend a live performance. Outdoor concerts, symphonies, theater dramas and children’s plays are a few ideas. The percussionists in an orchestra are the most fun to watch.
  6. Browse through a craft store. It’s amazing how many versatile crafts there are now. Ideas pop out everywhere. Let your imagination run wild even if you don’t buy anything. (Good luck with that!)
  7. Celebrate holidays by going to local events. Fireworks, fall festivals, corn mazes, parades, all sorts of events throughout the year can stir up creativity when you are stuck for ideas.

It’s way too easy to let the mundane things of life drain our creative energies and leave us vegging out in front of the TV (although I love to put my feet up and watch San Antonio Spurs basketball or a New Orleans Saints football game). Don’t let work, disabilities, lack of training or too little time prevent you from expressing yourself. Fan the embers of your dreams into flames and set a creative fire in your life. You’ll be glad you did – I am. I may be a late bloomer, but better late than never.

Were you a late bloomer like me? What are your favorite creative outlets? How do you stir up creativity or get unstuck on a project? What do you do to get yourself started on a new project? I look forward to hearing from you.