Folks, I was informed today that a committee member I've been emailing for a week - and even scheduled for a meeting - died. I felt like such an idiot! At first I thought "maybe he's on vacation" and let it go. Then late last week, I wondered briefly if I could call but, of course, all manner of other things needed my attention and that thought flew away with the wind. I should have stopped for that moment and followed up on it, but I just didn't. And today when I sent out the meeting invitation one of the other committee members sent out a broadcast message that the guy died last week with a copy of the obituary.
I felt like such an idiot. I know, Rick told me I shouldn't. How would I have known, anyway? We haven't taken the newspaper in over 5 years and even when we did, we never checked the obituaries because, well, in our 30's why would we? But I still felt silly, and that little voice that told me to call last week has been saying "see? you should have done it!" all day.
Oh well, at least I didn't email him a copy of his own obituary. I did do that once and have to say that was more embarassing. At least I remembered the note to myself from that incident today: Update the email group list BEFORE you forward the message.
I won't lie to you - I'm one of those people that was heavy on the book sense and light on the common sense growing up. I was teased endlessly about it. In fact, I know the reason I get irritated with older people being helpless and getting duped is because these were the very same people that were telling me I needed to "wise up to the ways of the world or all that education isn't gonna do you a bit of good in the real world" 15-20 years ago. I graduated in the top of my high school class and graduated college with honors, but learning to drive was hell for me - so much so that Dad sat me down and had a talk with me about how I had to learn to drive because there's no public transit in this town, and "functional adults drive." It really was awful. On top of struggling with common sense I'm also helplessly clumsy, and getting coordinated enough to drive - it took me about a year to get it. Yea, a year. My friends got their permit and were driving like pros after 2-3 months, and it took me a year. And even longer to do it well, without scaring the hell out of everybody in the car with me. Don't even ask me abou the abuse I took for it too, especially in driver's ed. The teacher made no bones about the fact that I might be a whiz in the classroom, but he thought I was a dumbass in the real world. He really was a jerk, by the way. As were my classmates. But thankfully I'm too old for teen angst. I did grow up. And I did grow some sense too.
I credit three things with this: Marriage, home ownership, and a job in a regulatory agency. Those three things will give you plenty of experiences that lend to wisdom very quickly. Relationships take work - more than you ever realize! Home ownership is a huge responsibility that requires a certain amount of organization, practicality, and saavy. And a job working with applying legislation to real life? That will stretch your brain, because you spend as much time blockading the people looking to exploit every loophole as you do applying it to the cooperative people/situations. I still have my moments - like emailing dead people - but my peers and colleagues have them too, and we aren't embarassed about it. In fact, things like this just help you get wiser.
I think this is why I'm always putting the characters in my novels in situations where they have the book smarts but not the "street smarts" to know what to do when their conflict arises. Part of the journey that every one of my protagonists have gone through is a realization that others don't share their knowledge/beliefs/morals and they have to decide what to do about it. Many of their journies have paralleled my own and I believe it's because they're issues that all of us face at one point or another. Because eventually life is going to take that unexpected turn, and we have to decide whether to fight it, accept it, or mine it for possibilities that we might not have planned for but are willing to accept as greater opportunity. Or we'll have to deal with people doing something against our morals because it's easier than doing what's right, and they're going to ridicule us as an idealist if we don't go along with the game (or worse yet, agree to take the blame if it all falls apart - yep, I've been there). Or we'll have to decide if we want to step out and take a chance on achieving a dream, or let the fear of failure keep us stuck in place. And we all have to decide - are we willing to work hard to make our dreams come true and make some sacrifices, or will we stay where we are, hoping somebody or something will come along to give us a "big break"? Because, as a colleague said last week, nothing in life is free, except God's love and the DMV manual. And some ebooks in the public domain and written by generous independent authors.
I'm not sure where the DMV manual came from - perhaps because she had a daughter getting ready to apply for her driver's permit. But anyway ...
I will agree that common sense is important, but I'm still one that believes that the "education and experience" work together. The book sense gives you the foundation you need. Because we all know that life isn't fair, and that the unexpected happens, and that sometimes people just don't like you, and that if something can go wrong then it will, and at the worst possible time. The Bible even says "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Ecclesiastes 9:11) These truths we know - but it's wisdom that tells us what to do when we actually face these situations. What do you do when you're passed over for the promotion? What do you do when somebody asks you to alter this or that financial report 'just a little?' What do you do when a friend betrays you and throws you under the bus for a mistake they made, but they lied and made it look like you did it? What do you do when you're on a date and the guy yells the cop that pulled him over for speeding, which sets off that voice in your head that says "geez, he has a temper. I'm not comfortable being around him?" And then he asks you out on another date and you don't want to go, but he's already been pissed off once tonight and you're afraid to say no? Book smarts tell you it CAN happen. Common sense tells you what to do when it DOES happen.
And in closing - yes, I did have someone send a message to a dead person in one of my novels. It happened in Splinter, which will be released through Whiskey Creek Press next year. Tune in for that and more fictionalized shenanagins in the ongoing progression of my writing.
That's all today. Have a great week.
I'd like to expand on something I said in my last blog entry about how "the villians make the story." We don't actively think about, but it's true that without the villians there would be no story - not in real life or in fiction. That's one thing they share in common. After all, where's the excitement in just another day? There's not much, is there? In fact, we have a term for long periods of time without resistance. We call it a rut.
That's not to say that problems are desirable. Heck no. I could do with fewer "adventures" in my life, truth be told. But the fact of the matter is that we grow when we have resistance. It's the tough times, struggles, and pain in the butt people where we learn and grow the most. That's not a truth many of us want to face, but it is a truth. Look back over your life, and I'll be the times you learned the most were during your greatest struggles. It was true for me. I took a lot of lessons from those instances I described in my last entry. I learned how to stand up for myself, how to stand up for what's right, and how to deal with fragile egos (because frankly, a lot of those problems went to a root of fragile egos addicted to approval). I learned not to fear change and to have confidence in myself and my abilities no matter what other people thought or said about me, and that strength gave me the confidence to build a house, successfully move to and integrate into a new office, and to publish 4 books (and some inspiration for said books too). To put it bluntly, manure is a fertilizer and fertilizer makes things grow. If you learn from your experiences and use those lessons to better yourself then you will be prepared for greater blessings ahead. So think of the crap you deal with as the stimulus to grow your spirit and take you to new heights.
I know, that's not a pretty metaphor. Frankly, it stinks. (Oh, another bad joke). But it's relevant and you have to admit that it's not a cliche comparisome. And you won't forget it either, will you?
Anyway, back to the point ...
I believe the series finile of "Smallville" hit it close to the mark when Lex Luthor told Clark Kent "I used to think your friends defined a man. But it's actually enemies that define a man." I believe that's a bit extreme and one sided, but it has a grain of truth. Our enemies, or rather the people we find ourselves clashing with and struggling against, do have a certain amount of definition to our own lives because they are often dark images of ourselves. I've blogged in previous entries about how each of us tends to be a magnant for people that are our polar opposite and that the people we struggle with tend to have a common root issue - for example, with me it seems there are always jealous, petty people around. I can't seem to get rid of them. And the reason I struggle with them is because I want to be my best and help others be their best. Therein lies my own Lex Luthor. We all have one and if you look at the people you're in strife with, I'll bet you'll see that same dark image of yourself in them. The real story and lessons lie in how we deal with them. Do you fight to win, stand your ground, or swat them away like a bug and keep on keeping on. There is no one right answer becase it depends on who and what you're dealing with. I had to stand my ground and occationally fight the last ones in my life, but the answer for the present ones seems to be ignoring them. Just keep doing my thing and let them seeth and have their pity party all alone because I'm busy and have stuff to do.
That's why every experience is different. It's because you can have the same situation and a different answer due to the context of the situation. The last jealous people I dealt with feared confrontation and avoided it, so fighting forced them to do something they found so unpleasant that they'd back off. But the ones in my life now live for and absolutely love the fight and the challenge it brings. They hate to be ignored - so I ignore them. As I said before, different context = different solution. And the same principle applies in fiction as in real life.
Yes, the villians do make the stories. It's provides the catalyst to grow and learn in real life. It provides the plot in fiction. Because without villians, there is no story. There is no growth. there is no spark to life.
So don't be too hard on those pain in the butt people. After all, they can be quite useful if you know how to utilize them correctly. In fiction and in reality.
That's all for today. Take care and have a good week.
Last night was the big, huge, series finale of Smallville - one of my favorite TV shows. You notice I said series finale, as in this is the last episode of this show they will make forever and ever. I worked my butt off all week to make sure all the chores and errands would be done so I'd be free to watch it because, of course, I've looked forward to this epic episode ever since they announced the date and that Michael Rosenbaum would return to reprise his role as Lex Luthor. So last night, I made supper and went to special efforts to feed the birds, do the filing, and take my shower before the show came on at 8:00.
At 7:55, the power went out. Surprise! We had an unforecasted thunderstorm. The power was out for nearly an hour, meaning we missed half the show. Then the weather service kept breaking in during the remainder of the show with alerts of storm warnings as the storm moved to counties to our east. So not only did we not really know why things got where they were, but we missed a good portion of what we were able to watch. And no power means no DVR so - there. Gone. Just like that.
Now before you say "But Sherri, you can watch it online!" stop. I've heard that 4 times already, so just stop right there because it really pissed me off all 4 times. They missed the fundamental point. I know they will not only post it online, but that an encore presentation is scheduled to air next Thursday (and I may be able to buy it from iTunes too). Having to wait a bit longer is a minor frustration. I'm frustrated because I was looking forward to having the experience of watching a new episode of one of my favorite TV shows one last time, and it was taken away from me. It's not that I missed the show. It's that I missed the experience of seeing a new episode, as has been my habit for years, for the last time. I'll never get that back.
If this were just one thing passing out of my life, perhaps I wouldn't be so upset. But considering all of the major changes I've seen in the past year and all of the things that have passed out of my life already, it's a bitter pill to swallow. It's not just this. It's this on top of everything else that's passed out of my life over the past year, much of which I also did not get to bid a proper farewell to because they passed out suddenly, unexpectedly, or not as I planned. That seems to be a pattern in my life.
The point of this entry is not to gripe, but to tell you to please be sensitive to people. If they're sharing something with you that seems trivial, it's not that simple to them. It's something that's hurting them on a deeper level because, after all, if the simple solution worked then they probably wouldn't bother to share it at all. To throw out the first thing that flies through your brain, while seemingly helpful, can be slapping a dab of ointment and a Band-Aide on a wound that needs stitches. So please, don't be dismissive with a plithy reply. It may be that they aren't looking for answers. They're looking for somebody to understand and respect the fact that something small hurt them in a big way.
I'm not upset because I missed a TV show. I'm upset because I missed having an experience for the last time. I am consoled to know they will rerun it Thursday. I don't understand why they can't do it over this weekend, but considering that CW has been wanting this show to go away for at least 2 years, I guess we'd better be glad they're being gracious enough to show it a second time at all. And since they used to run new episodes of Smallville on Thursday, this may be a better experience for me. It won't be the same, but maybe it will be good. At any rate, nothing better get between me and the TV Thursday night. Or Friday either, for that matter, since the season finale of Supernatural comes on then. I already checked the weather and the weather is supposed to be clear. Then again, they didn't call for anything but the possibility of a stray shower last night and we had a wrathful storm that knocked out power out, so I don't trust the forecast too much!
That's it for this time. A deep entry, but we're done swimming for now. I pray for better luck for the rest of the weekend and that your weekend will be a good one.