Recently, I was asked by one of my clients to review a series of articles on “The Law of Attraction.” While I believe, quite strongly, in the power of positive thinking and living, I am not sure that I embrace this concept of just throwing out positive vibes and watching them grow into everything you ever wanted. What I do believe in though, is God. Specifically, I believe in an Abrahamic God and a Judeo-Christian saving grace.
The past few weeks have been extremely difficult for me. I am facing a very serious surgery, and it scares me. Most things just don’t. I have probably not admitted this too much out loud, but it would not be an understatement for me to say that I am “as tough as nails,” because it’s true. I am. I can be bold and unabashed in a polite and helpful way. I enjoy taking on risks and challenges, and I don’t have a problem defending the downtrodden or speaking up to a bully when he or she has threatened a person, a crowd, or an entire people group. My mother was tough as nails, my grandmother was a Marine drill sergeant during WWII. She was a tiny little half-Jewish woman from Brooklyn, and when Hitler threatened, she fought with the boys and won. That’s my example. I am generally unafraid.
But I have been a wimp lately, and it has robbed me of my sleep and some mental concentration on the “bigger picture.” I have focused on the, basically, inconsequential things, and I have cried at traffic lights and screamed at boring lunches. Yeah. Real important issues like that. And I did it, because I have been completely overwhelmed at the thought of having to slow down my life, one more stinking time, for a surgery or an illness. I just did not expect this at all.
I wrote a wonderful novel over the summer about a woman who is reeling from the loss of her fiance’ and about how a war-weary veteran helps pull her from her own loss. It’s just a great piece, and I am very proud of it. The characters make me smile. I created my goal and I completely saw it through to the end. I finally finished my degree in June, and it was not an easy one. I hold a BA in Cognitive Studies (which is a dual degree in Educational Pyschology and Neuroscience). I now have enough education credits to teach (which I do, for an online tutoring company) and to work as a special needs counselor (under certain circumstances). My minor was in Sociology, and I have enough credits in that area to work as a social worker, if I wanted to. I, also, studied English Literature at both Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania while I was completing my degree. I did not want my creative writing, or literary analysis skills, to lose their sharpness while I consumed all that APA style data. And they didn’t. I learned so much from the two years at both institutions. I would be obtaining my MLA in English at Harvard right now, but I would be required to attend at least three classes on campus, and Boston is about four hours away. That’s just a little too far, even for tough-as-nails me. At least for now it is. You never know what nutty nerdy thing my big Burnett head will come up with in the future.
All that work has made me tired, I think, and facing surgery halts everything. I completed Autumn Promises. It has been shopped and it is receiving some very (cross your fingers) great feedback from the right people. A Berlin Story is finally completed, and that was a difficult story line to conquer, but I did it, and, it too, has received a tremendous amount of exciting responses from small presses and such. I have three ESL students who I am working with to reach their English language goals, I successfully walked three school age children past their learning disabilities to develop academic strategies that would work for them, and I am working with two grad students with their dissertations – even if it is mostly just to encourage them to stay focused on that mountain of a task called the doctoral degree. My own children are learning and growing, despite the complexities of middle school and high school and elementary school. Even my son with Autism has made friends and is writing whole page reports BY HAND (due to preference!) this school year. So, surgery? That really sucks.
So, I am thinking about all of this when I am preparing for graduate school in the winter, and I become nervous. Suddenly, I am worried about money and student loans and actually moving from “This is great work!” to “You’re published!” and the mom brain just starts to spiral. Are my children depressed and hiding it? Is the creepy farmer next door a child molester? Will I die in a car crash this morning and never get to say goodbye to my family? Will there be another Hurricane Sandy while my lung has a tube stuck in it and trying to re-inflate itself? What if I forget to take my pets to the vaccination clinic and they get rabies? Is MRSA really a strong threat? Should I start bathing in antibacterial soap three times a day?
Yes, writers are crazy. It’s all true what you hear about us. Except that I am not addicted to anything. I am far too distracted for anything consistent like that. I am just overwhelmed, and while I was whining inwardly about all of this nonsense, I get the information that a dear, dear friend of mine has recently experienced an absolutely terrible loss and, suddenly, I am stopped. In between worrying about whether or not the Klan will make a comeback in my creepy little PA Dutch town and whether or not non-organic peanut butter really contains toxic mouse turds (as my Nine Year Old insists it does), I can’t stop thinking about my friend, because she has lost her child. I can’t stop thinking about her, because I know exactly how she feels, how it feels to experience a truly shocking event and not just a big pile of worrisome nonsense. I experienced a stillbirth 10 years ago and God has carried me so far away from the initial crushing pain of it all, that I forgot how all-encompassing God’s grace truly is.
In talking with my dear friend, I was reminded that it is not the Law of Attraction that heals all wounds and all trauma. In talking to her, my brain went through an involuntary review of all that my family has endured in the last decade (and some of it has been truly horrible – there is nothing as terrible as watching your children suffer) and was reminded that even when I feel that I cannot endure – I have. I am as tough-as-nails, because trials have come and Providence has provided peace and a solution. Without my faith, I would be an even crazier writer, with even weirder thoughts about car crashes and widespread rabid MRSA outbreaks.
Yes, I am afraid of this surgery, but not because it is especially difficult or anything. Just because I am me and I was not expecting this. Yes, I am worried about the ridiculous cost of higher education, but I feel that an MA in English is the right thing to do. I want to teach other people to become a crazy writer like myself. And, yes, I worry that one day, I will feel sadness again, but like I told my dear friend: Distance does soften the blow. With time, we all move on to other griefs and other blessings and many more moments of sheer, unadulterated joy, and through it all, God is present. Always present.
Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it. – Fyodor Dostoevsky