A serious post.

2014 is at a close, and I can barely believe it.

This year has sped by too fast in some places, too slow in others. 2014 was not an easy year for me and my family, but we weathered it, and I have hope 2015 contains fewer losses. It’s never easy to lose people, and this particular loss was a bad blow. Still, I am telling myself what I always tell myself: “we’ll make it.” That’s been my mantra all year, and somehow I’m still here and pretty much everything in my life is intact. In some areas, things are vastly improved. In others, I know exactly how far I have to go.

2014 had some major wins. I found some very awesome critique partners and discovered a writing soul mate I get to see this January. I had one request for a full despite a terrible market, and the rejection shaped a stronger draft. While AMoA got bandied back and forth in the very capable hands of my critique circle, I discovered what was wrong with THE WILD HUNT. I’d hoped to have that particular book finished this year, but I didn’t find the right draft until September. Now it’s tentatively titled IN THE HEART OF THE HOLLOW FOREST, and it’s going all kinds of dark and nasty places I was afraid to go before.

Here’s the truth about the things I love: they must eviscerate me. The things I love rip me apart with their truths and leave me in tears. Is that a sane, understandable reaction to “I REALLY LIKED THIS”? Probably not, but it’s mine. And what I discovered with the third draft of THE WILD HUNT was that I was holding back. I wasn’t going as deep and dark as I needed to, because a certain part of the story was too close to my heart.

I’ve never perfected writing from a distance. I pluck from the aether as much as I chop and tear from past experience. There is one rule that has gotten me through awful things, and that has been to make the suffering useful somehow. Use it to tell a story. To build a house. Make that pain into something you can smear across a canvas or arrange carefully on a plate. It doesn’t matter how you make it manifest, so long as it transforms into something that leaves you lighter. While you’re bleeding, guide the flow into something you can use later on.

Three years ago, I didn’t have any use for those wounds. I couldn’t approach them. It wasn’t until the worst had passed that I could even think about writing along those lines again, but now that I’ve crossed the frame and into that haunted place, I realize how necessary it was for me to do just that.

Writing has always been how I dealt with things. I couldn’t tell this story three years ago, because the worst wasn’t over yet. How can you channel a wound that’s still being torn and shredded? There was no way I could have told this story until I was sure the ground beneath my feet was solid again.

2011 nearly took my mom from me. 2012 was better, but it pitched into a nosedive again for most of 2013. It wasn’t until this year that I got my mom back. She calls me every day, and we go grocery shopping together, and we laugh over completely inappropriate jokes. I get to tell my mom I love her and wrap my arms around her because she’s still here, and that’s not something everyone gets to do.

It was deeply painful to stand with my husband’s family at his stepmother’s funeral, not understanding what stroke of fate took her from their lives when I was so certain for years they would have been the ones standing by my side at a grave site.

People say a lot of things about plans and order and fate, but in that moment, all I knew was how terrible it would have been if both our families had suffered the same loss. How grateful I was that my shoulders were strong enough to support family members who had to survive the thing I’d lived in terror of for years.

It’s uncomfortable to realize how thin and narrow the gap is between life and death. It’s something I circle around endlessly, trying to understand and make sense of, but I’m fairly sure I’ll never figure it out.

I don’t think any of us are meant to. I think what really matters is appreciating people while you occupy the same time and space. There’s no telling when people come or go. Tell them when you think to yourself that you love them.

Don’t hold back. You may never get that chance again.

I might not have arrived as a writer yet, but you know what? It’s pretty good to have my mom, a better draft, and a book that I feel stays true to what I’m eternally trying to say with my words.

A less serious wrap-up post of books, movies, and awesome albums is on its way later this week. Till then, hug the people you love. Enjoy the holidays, even with the chaos. Hopefully 2015 will see us all safe and sound.

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