For many years, I believed that the energies of Fate and Kismet were far more important than the energy of Preparedness. I believed that things happened in my life out of some mystical and strange force from elsewhere unknown that controlled my life's flow. It made me feel less guilty about not achieving what I desired and deserved; but also less in control, and less happy when my life didn't progress as I expected.
As I got older and experienced more of the world, I came to understand that Fate and Kismet, though part and parcel of how life is contrived, are inadequate without a good strong dose of Preparedness. If I did not prepare my body properly, I would not become healthy. If I did not prepare my mind, I would not learn, and grow, and become adaptable to life's changes. If I did not prepare a plan for my future - in all areas of my life: parenting, working, loving, recharging - I would not be comfortable enough in my own spirit to rejoice in all that Fate and Kismet brought to my doorstep.
There is something, surely, to be said for being in the right place at the right time, surrounded by the right people. However, if you are not well prepared, all of those wonderful resources will be wasted space, energy, and communion. Scar sang of it in The Lion King, but he didn't heed his own advice.
Scar had what he thought was a good plan... kill the king, take over the pride, live happily ever after. The thing he forgot was planning for the future. He was far too short-sighted to realize that poor resource management would eliminate his ability to stay healthy; that isolation from his peers would inhibit his ability to lead effectively; that fear is not enough to keep a new generation from testing limits and making their own plan. Scar was caught unawares and it became his banishment from a life he thought he had well in hand. He was incapable of maintaining his own security and stability. He had grown toxic, and no one came to his rescue.
I must not only collect the best tools and surround myself with honorable friends to assist in my plan - I must also have a plan! I need to Prepare a plan that will take me from step one to step one thousand and one - until my goal is reached. My plan must remain fluid, and designed with empathy and humility, with strength and conviction, with morality and accountability. I need to plan with a seven-generation view, abscond with tunnel vision, and become accountable to life's tracking mechanisms. I must never stop learning more effective methods of planning and doing, continuing to surround myself with those who support my goals and offer counsel without the consorts of fear and humiliation.
I must remember these points, and apply them to my desire to all attain my goals and dreams. If I do not Prepare myself in mind, body, intellect, and spirit to achieve the outcome that I most desire, it will never be, no matter how much I believe Fate made me a victim, or how much I believe Kismet conspired against me. If I am not prepared to adapt, change, and plan... my goals will become banished and I will become toxic; irrelevant in my own existence.
I love the English language. It is by far my favorite thing about having a brain. It is my soap box when I am feeling righteously indignant. I can stand on the eloquence of my forefathers and spew from the top of my lungs my political incorrectness and socially acceptable stances on such subjects as gun control, hunter’s rights, tax reform, higher standards for education, and health care reform. Whether my views and opinions are readily accepted by the masses or deflated with the fervor of another’s soap box; my voice can be heard in all its 26-letter glory.
The English language is my pulpit when I am feeling the moment’s expectation to preach compassion and equality to my fellow man. I can quote from parables and prophets; I can recite song and verse all toward the ultimate goal of bringing about a kinder, gentler approach to friend and foe. I can ease into confrontation with mutual respect and an acceptance of the right to free-flowing idealism.
It is also my podium to teach. It is my opportunity to enliven discussions in areas that I have special knowledge and experience. It is also the place from which I raise my hand with an inquiring mind and an eager soul. It is my chance to demonstrate my strengths and learn from my weaknesses. It is my gateway to remembering history and my toolbox toward not repeating it.
Nouns, adjectives, verbs, conjunctions… they all give me the eloquence to gently comfort a child in a moment of sadness and to celebrate with that same child in a moment of triumphant jubilation. The words, these phrases we use, offer us keys to unlocking the mystery of a perfectly delivered punch line and an equally revealing climax to a ghost story told by campfire light.
English language prose allows me the freedom to create new worlds, interesting characters, and captivating scenes to put them in. Story lines drip from my imagination in sentences and paragraphs leading readers down a murky path of intrigue… through the confiding vulnerabilities of a love triangle gone horribly wrong … or entangled with rapture through the under-the-table dealings of provocative political conspiracies.
There is no inherent leniency to what can be written… no limits to what can be said. No moral obligation or rule of law that dictates if we are to speak or to be silent. We are certainly fortunate to have this wondrous gift.
So, with all this wealth of communication at my disposal, tell me, why is it so difficult to find just the right words to comfort a dear friend who has just been devastated by the mangling of his heart after twenty-five years of devotion and loyalty? Which are the right words to express my deep sympathy and simultaneous rage?
Where is the manual of style that permits me the strong supportive nurturing phrases while gently denying my complete disdain for the wrong perpetrated against him without slandering the one he loves? The simple phrase, “I’m so sorry” just doesn’t seem to convey enough of the emotional fortitude due him. My mastery of the English language suddenly reveals itself to be weak in its conveyance.
Yes, I am completely enamored with the English language. Yet I have discovered there are still many of its nuances left for me to discover and punctuate. And so, disappointingly, “I am so very sorry” will have to suffice … for the moment.
When I was a youngster, in our utility room pantry lived an old five-pound coffee can filled about three-quarters of the way up with keys. There was every style key imaginable in there...small padlock keys... medium sized house keys... skeleton keys from who knows where... car keys from automobiles that I'm sure no one had owned for at least a generation... and tiny luggage keys. Truly, any key you can imagine lived within the depths of this can.
It sat there for weeks, months, years, waiting for someone to need a key, haul it to the kitchen counter, and dump it out... searching for just the right one. Silver keys... Gold keys... Black keys... some had little paper tags attached with faded writing that you could no longer decipher... some had masking tape over them, again, with worn lettering... and some had little plastic pieces attached, color-coding them to one day reveal some deeper meaning that was all too frequently, never discovered.
When the day came when someone in the family found a lock of some sort... perhaps an old bike padlock... or a piece of luggage that held a tiny little lock on it's zipper... or when the teenager's car keys went missing and that teenager needed to find the duplicate... out came the can. It was dumped upon the kitchen counter with a great CRASH! Key's are loud!
Then the fun would begin. We started out by sorting through all the keys that were obviously not the right fit... too small... too big... the wrong shape... and they would get unceremoniously plunked back into the can. The remaining keys were spread out on the counter, as we went through each one... one by one... checking if a particular key fit the lock in question.
If the key fit, then, TA DA! The quest was over and the remaining keys went back into the can and the can was replaced on its shelf in the pantry.
However, if the key didn't fit, it got plunked back into the can with all the other misfits, and another key was tried in the lock. This process continued until the moment of TA DA! and the key was found.
My whole life, this is the parable I used to teach myself, my son, and my friends about rejection, especially in my writing life.
Sure, it can be frustrating when you can't find the right key as soon as you'd like... but the adventure of seeking out that special key for your special lock is well worth the time. Imagine all the really cool keys that you would have never known existed unless you went on the search! And later, when you come across another lock... you will already have some idea of what keys might fit, thereby perhaps shortening your search.
Seeking out the right key is never a personal thing... well, it kind of is personal because finding the right key for your lock is a pretty personal thing. No one is ever going to care about finding the right key as much as you are... but remember, you're the only one who will ever care THAT much about finding THAT key. If you don't find the correct key right away... don't sweat it. It's not a personal attack on your lack of matching skills... or a statement about your lack of intelligence to discern the proper features of the key you're seeking. It's just not the right key... YET.
Have faith... bank on your tenacity and never give up. Soon, you will find the key that fits your lock... and when that day comes, and you get to proclaim TA DA! it'll all be worth the deep digging into the can to come up with the key... YOUR key! And then you can sit there, at the kitchen counter, cup of cocoa at the ready, latching and unlatching the lock as often as you like, knowing that for at least this one lock, you have become a complete success!
Celebrate! You deserve it! Share the moment with friends, family and your community of supporters. And then... when another day comes when you discover a new lock without a key... rejoice in the adventure of seeking out just the right fit!
It was an interesting eighteen months at The Grey Wolfe Scriptorium; filled will joy, chaos, and good friends. I learned a lot along the way, and had some ideas and concepts validated, too. It was by far, the best "learning experience" my life has offered, outside of raising a child.
I relished in every day at the shop. There's nothing quite like having a dream held for forty years finally realized. I was fourteen when I took my first job at a small bookshop in a shopping mall. I remember begging my mother to sign my worker's permit so I could do it... working age in Michigan is sixteen at the time, but I really wanted this job. I didn't need it for the money, or for something to do after school and on weekends... I wanted to be with the books. When my mother said yes, I was over the moon with joy. I remember my first day, learning that bookshops were organized like libraries - by genre - which meant that I was already a pro (if only in my own mind). I'd spent a great deal of my childhood in libraries, and this seemed like the next logical step. I remember being entranced with each book as I stickered and shelved it, being a little sheepish about entering the "adult" section behind a red curtain (I kid you not)!
As an adult, the wonderful world of bookshop management was heavenly - for the most part. I loved every day surrounded by the sanctity of the written word, in so many of it's forms; hardback, paperback, even a few audio books on CD. I loved meeting new people and learning their reading preferences, how they read, why they read. It seems, no matter the genre, we all read for the same reasons... escape, education, entertainment, relaxation. The regular customers became new friends, and the new customers became welcome additions to my growing understanding of humanity.
I learned a great deal about small business management, too. I'd worked in the corporate world for years, and even run a small business before, but never a "brick & mortar" shop. It was a new experience for me. So often, we think, "I'll open a shop, it'll be fun"; and it is... but we don't always realize all the other stuff that keeps that shop afloat, aside from the fun. There's a great deal of responsibility and even a little bit of stress... paying bills, managing staff, inventory, maintenance, marketing, and always being the one who fills in when a staff member can't make it. It's a huge undertaking, sometimes an encroachment on personal time, and a lot of work. But my goodness, was it ever fun! When you love what you do, there can be challenges, of course; but it never really stops being fun... until the day you discover it must end, and you realize you have no control or influence over that decision. That, most assuredly, was not fun.
As I studied the metrics one must when one manages a bookshop, I was thrilled to discover that the trends are bringing us back to books - in a big way. We saw more customers come through the door each week, and each customer was spending more money on books, and they were doing it more often. E-readers have had their fifteen minutes of fame, and the book is back with a quiet persistence. In my experience, what I discovered was that those readers a generation older than me relied on "real" books more than e-books, although some used e-readers when they traveled, most regaled me with stories of where they were when they read a favorite title, how they felt comforted when diving into the pages, how it reminded them of their childhood when they turned each page and lived with the characters for a little while.
Readers of my generation said that although they loved audio books because it meant they still got to "read" when they were busy driving or attending to tasks that required their hands, or e-books when they were traveling; they still preferred "real" books. "I just love the feel of a book in my hands", they would tell me. And they passed that love to their children. The kids corner at the shop was frequently visited by parents and grandparents who would sit with little ones at the tiny table and read, choosing just the right book to take home with them that day. It was joyful to see.
I am grateful for all the customers who visited and found comfort in selecting books by authors they had discovered years ago. I am equally thankful for those who also took a chance on Indie Authors who were new to them. It's because of the readers continued support that those of us who live in this wacky literary world get to do what we do. We are humbled by their encouragement of our work.
The best part of my time managing a bookshop, though, without question, was the opportunity I had to meet and support so many Independent Michigan Authors. The diversity of their storytelling... the richness of their imaginations... the comfort of their presence... it was what I looked forward to most when opening the shop door and turning on the lights every morning. Launch parties and signing events, workshops and writing groups... so much happiness shared with people who loved books as much as me. From childhood, I knew that the literary tribe was where I belonged... it was nice to learn that what felt right for all those years, actually was right.
I feel honored that so many authors entrusted me with their books. I only provided a foster home for them until they found their forever shelves in readers' homes; but it felt fantastic to know that I had a small hand in connecting authors to readers. I was so thankful that these exceptionally creative people allowed me to gush about their books at events, and never once looked at me like I had three heads. Michigan really does have some amazing writers with stories that will blow you away! My TBR shelf still has yet to be conquered, and I'm okay with that. Certainly, I will always enjoy the classics... who doesn't love Poe or Shakespeare. And I will forever dive deep into the well of the bestsellers, just for the fun of discovering what a familiar author can do next. But there is an unmatched surge of excitement for me when cracking the spine of a book written by a friend. My own writing career is emboldened by their courage and creativity.
What's next for me? New stuff... four novels that need to be finished, three more that need to be transferred from outline to complete sentences, a new business with a goal to support more Indie Authors, and a little bit of travel - mostly to bookshops. I will always look back on my time at The Scriptorium with fond memories of friendship and learning. I was fortunate enough to visit the mystical realm of the written word, and live there for a time. For that, I will be forever grateful.
New literary adventures await! Huzzah!
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