Tag Archives: fiction

Alone, Not Lonely

Consistent effort toward a goal is more reliable than a whimsical wish. (1)I have another dissertation for you. It’s one that I need to get out of my brain so that I can move forward. This subject has been tugging at me for a few months, and because it won’t leave me alone, I know I need to write about it. Lucky you, you get to read it. Or click out of this post and not read it – the choice is yours. The choice is always, always yours. Right?

So here goes.

I spend a lot of time alone these days. I think that for many, this way of life would be a problem. I will say that I definitely do not enjoy being “cooped up” and away from the world, but I do enjoy solitude a great deal. I tend to protect that solitude, as well, meaning that I can be pretty selective about who I let into my space. For me, it’s important to be able to settle down and just be quiet for a little bit. These moments of solitude bring a sense of calmness and clarity, and I remember envying those who had these moments when I was so wrapped up in a go-go-go lifestyle. I was right to envy. This has been very good for me.

There is something else, though, and this is what I need to tell you. I realized something in these last six months that I’ve been out of the go-go-go: Alone does not necessarily mean lonely. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, but it’s a very important realization for me.

Here’s where it gets super real (turn away, if you must).

So, as a regular reader or personal friend would know, I was married once before. The man that I am married to now is quite different from my first husband, and our relationship is of a completely different nature. It’s so dramatically different that I have sometimes wondered what, in heaven’s name, shifted so forcefully inside of me to allow such a relationship. I’ll tell you what shifted; it was my perception. It was the way that I looked at life, the way that I saw myself, and the way that I wanted the world to see me – and my marriage.

I lied a lot back then. I lied to myself, mainly, but I lied day after day to friends and family and strangers and the Internet, trying so desperately to convince myself and everyone else that every single thing was perfect. It wasn’t. The untruths weren’t the trivial white lies that most folks are good with, they were bigger than that – they were whole misrepresentations by way of skimming right over the terrible truths in order to only show the good and happy moments to the world.

I clung to the bright moments and brushed the bad ones under the rug as best I could, but eventually, that rug got awful lumpy. There came a point when I couldn’t lie to myself anymore, and that meant I had to tell everyone else the truth, too. I knew I hadn’t failed, but I truly felt like a fraud when it all came to light. After you’ve been telling yourself and the world that you have the perfect marriage for 18 years, what do you think the reaction will be when you let down the façade and say, “Just kidding”?

For much of the marriage, I was lonely. I was dreadfully lonely. There I was, surrounded by my little family, complete with two kids, dogs, a cute little house down the street from my parents, a rental property, a 401k, and a job I loved. We had dinner with my family every Sunday, we went out with friends, we took fun vacations. It was everything I thought you were supposed to have in order to be happy.

But I wasn’t. My then-husband and I fought a lot, and we fought fiercely. Our arguments were always about the same thing, and they always ended the same way. Even when we weren’t fighting over this one particular issue, it was always there between us, and it shaped our relationship very distinctly from the beginning.

I’m an optimistic gal. I see things in a way that most folks don’t. For many years, I forgave easily and tolerated irrational and seriously inappropriate behavior well – and not just from my then-husband. From everyone. I think that what I had done was build a wall around my heart, if you’ll allow me to be dramatic here in this space. Everyday, I was protecting myself, my heart, from harm. And that’s a damn lonely place to be.

After one particularly rough argument, I remember lying in bed and staring at the wall thinking one word over and over: Hopeless. I don’t even remember what that feels like now, to be honest. I haven’t felt hopeless or lonely since the day we separated, and I think that says a lot about what really makes us feel lonely in life.

First and foremost, I believe that we are responsible for our circumstances. If you’re unhappy, choose again. If something has brought you to your knees, stand up. When I hear folks say that they don’t “have a choice” in a matter, I find it so upsetting. Yes, you do have a choice – you just aren’t comfortable with what you believe a different decision may bring. Maybe you’re afraid. Heck, I sure was. Terrified, really.

Remember in the beginning up there when I said the choice is always, always yours? I believe that with all of my heart. I made the choice to stay in that relationship because I thought it was the right thing to do for several really big reasons, though time and time again I was shown otherwise. Because of my choice and the circumstances that came with it, I felt lonely and hopeless. Only when I let go and was willing to be alone did I see hope. Only when I embraced the truth did that heavy blanket of loneliness lift.

Feels Like Home

Consistent effort toward a goal is more reliable than a whimsical wish.I really want to work on Baby Love right now, but I can’t seem to settle down. My mind is filled with these other little meanderings looking for a home. Are you home, dear blank page? Because these thoughts are seriously getting in the way of production. They’re clogging up the highway, so I really need to find them a permanent home. They’ve become so…. well…. loitery.

Author’s note: don’t use that word. I may have made it up.

This morning, my mind is filled with memories of almost four years in England. I struggle with the persistence of these memories, perhaps most of all. How can a place be missed even more than the human beings who inhabit it? I don’t know. I just don’t know. All I really do know is that when I close my eyes, I am so often there. The smell of damp air and trees and wet stone, and so many thousands of events imprinted upon any given space. The way the breeze was so cold coming off of the sea in November, or the rumble of fighter jets from the air base roaring overhead all day in the summer. I loved it there. I loved it there from the moment the door of the airplane opened and I first breathed Great Britain.

To be truthful, I wrote those first couple of paragraphs yesterday. Today I woke up with the word smitten on my mind, but that simple word brought me right back to England and that short period of my life where I felt at home. I was 100% smitten with England well before I was afforded the opportunity to live there thanks to the United States Air Force.

I was so genuinely happy there. I felt so at home, and I don’t understand why or how that is even possible. But the airplane door opened on December 7, 1998, and I saw that grey sky and that forest of tall, skinny, bare trees in the distant landscape surrounding RAF Mildenhall, and my heart was full. It was the strangest, strongest feeling.

They say that home is where your heart is, and I believe it. But why was this California girl’s heart in England? Okay, it might have been the mad crush I had on John Taylor (yes, of Duran Duran) when I was 13. But I don’t think so. I think there is something else, another reason that I haven’t yet discovered and may never know.

Tennessee reminds me of England. I have that same sense of home here, but I have begun to wonder if maybe that is because this is the first place that is ours. We haven’t made memories or plans or life here with anyone else; it’s just us. I’m so smitten with Nashville and all that it has to offer, but I’m more smitten with what we are together, no matter where we go. I’m beginning to think it isn’t Tennessee that feels like home. It’s him.

 

P.S. I’m also so so so smitten with Baby Love – and once this novel is complete, I hope you will be, too!

Jim is a Jerk

I’ve really fallen out of love with one of the characters in the novel. I mean, I feel a little bad saying that. It’s so early in our relationship. Sadly, though, ’tis true. He’s a bit of a jerk. No, strike that, he is a LOT of a jerk.

This morning, as I was writing about Jim, I could see that he was becoming the vessel for an assortment of bad traits that I have noted in real-life folks I’ve crossed paths with in adulthood. Like every fictional character, Jim is a made-up guy. But, also like many characters, he is a little similar to a lot of people that I have actually known. For some reason, though, I am struggling to find something good about him. For me, this is strange. I tend to see the good in everyone (this sounds sweet and lovely, but trust me, it can be so very, very bad).

As I was finishing up writing hour today, I finally realized Jim’s strength and purpose. It felt like a therapy session, or a really good talk with a friend where you have a breakthrough and finally know why something has happened – and, most importantly, what you need to do next. I felt energized and motivated, and then I also realized that Jim was a character who had me “on pause,” so to speak. I know so much about all of the key players, but this guy – I just kept thinking to myself, why is he here, why do I need him to be here, why can’t I just leave him out?

Today I realized that Jim truly does have to be part of the story, because he is essential to the resolution. He was vital to the initial conflict, and now he will become part of the resolution that will bring the story to an appropriate close. Jim is necessary.

That is so stupidly symbolic that I’m almost embarrassed by it.

Almost.

Moving on: Today I also renamed and rebranded another character. Damien Bell doesn’t occupy a central role, but he is important, just the same. He is influential, we shall say. Damien took over the role formerly occupied by Charles. Honestly, I just couldn’t get into the character with that name. It felt wrong, and I don’t know why. Damien suits this character so much better, and as soon as I made the change, I could really see who he is. I could hear his dialect in my mind and see how he dresses. I could see his family life and the reason why he is the way he is. Ah, the mind is a funny, complicated thing. A simple name-change is the equivalent of the wave of a magic wand. *Poof* ‘Charles the Vague Idea’ becomes ‘Damien the Person.’

Goodbye, Charles. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.

Jim, you can stay. Even if you are terribly terrible.

In The Story

Something really interesting has happened as I work consistently on Baby Love. I’m struggling with the words to describe it, and oh wow, that just feels like a really big problem for a writer. Struggling with words! Gasp! But that is supposed to be your strength, she cries to herself. It’s true, though. I’m having trouble explaining what, precisely, is happening inside my heart and mind these days.

To be totally truthful, I’ve been aboard Ye Ol’ Struggle Bus as I’ve watched my friends and former co-workers engage once more in the lively world of racing. The season has fired up again, and so much is happening. We are approaching race two of 24 this weekend, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘they,’ ahem. There are so many things I would really enjoy being part of out there, but there is also so much that I am super grateful to have left behind.

I could harp on this forever. I probably will. You will tire of my lamentations, dear reader, of this I am certain. And so I will attempt to restrain myself from blah blah blahing you to tears with how much I miss that super-fast world and the thunderous excitement of drag racing.

I really do want to tell you about this interesting thing that has happened, so allow me to begin again.

Baby Love has meant something to me from the beginning, but it was always just this story that I wanted to tell. I felt compelled, I was driven toward expelling it from my mind and heart, and it was almost like it wasn’t something I could control. I had to write this story. No choice. It was going to come out of me at some point, like the alien that busts through that guy’s belly in that creepy 1979 movie. Hmmmm. That’s an analogy I really don’t feel very good about, now that it’s on paper. That movie gave me some serious nightmares as a kid, but hey, it’s a good visual, right?

Anyway. Baby Love was always just a story – until this week, when I somehow fell into it. I think I told you all before that the characters were beginning to feel real, which does sound a bit weird, except that I want them to be real for you. If I don’t believe them, why would the reader? The characters must be relatable and believable, and I feel as though through development I am achieving that, but I’m also seeing the story from the inside now. That’s a crazy feeling, but it’s crazy-good. It makes it so much fun, and I suspect I’m supposed to feel that in order for the book to be worthy of your time.

It’s like this: I have a very dear friend who is a writer but also works on racecars and has been a racecar driver, himself. He has been part of racing all of his life and is very well known in that world. This man is an incredible writer, but I am most fascinated by his presence on the starting line. I loved watching him watch the racecars, because he is so clearly in the run. He isn’t really observing the car power down the quarter-mile, he IS the car and the driver and the racetrack all at once. He lives the run as it happens, and you can see it by the way he moves with the car though his feet remain planted.

Lately, I have come to know what that feels like. As I have gotten to know the characters, I have actually felt sad about what I know is going to happen to some of them – but happy and excited, too, about the good things ahead. I can’t believe I’m the lucky fortuneteller who gets to lay it out for them. It’s a privilege to be here. I’m not a character, no, but I’m most certainly inside the book, feeling the feelings and caring about these people and their lives. I care about what happens at the finish line. I care about what happens after, and I can even see the next race now.

Before, the story was just an idea that I kept kind of trying to squint at and decipher. What was blurry and questionable is now very clear and defined, and I am grateful for this transition. I know it won’t always be this vivid, though. Writing is like that. Heck, life is like that. But right now I am very thankful to be in the story.

God’s Honest Truth

I’ve been waking up early every day this year to write. Okay, not every day. But a LOT of days, in my defense. Stop being so judgy. Sheesh.

Anyway, I’ve been waking up early to write, and I’ve been taking workshops and classes and reading my heart out because I am committed to Baby Love. I don’t want to write a mediocre novel; I want to write something worthy of print, you guys. I’m not trying to churn something out just so I can say to the world (and myself), “Look y’all! I wrote a BOOK!” Nope, nope, nope, I want to write something that people want to read, and then after they read it they think, Wow, let me see what else Natalie Novak has written that I can consume. Delicious! I’m on a mission.

God’s Honest Truth: I already wrote Baby Love. I wrote it in a creative writing class in college a whole bunch of years ago, but then it was just a paper for class – which I aced, by the way and of course. Now, Baby Love is a novel in the making, and I’m gonna let you in on a little secret about the way I told the story back then. There was some truth to it. There was a lot of truth to it, actually.

But now, as I am re-writing it in novel form, I have taken ginormous liberties, allowing the story to become a pure work of fiction. Very little truth is left on the page anymore, although as I am developing characters, I am finding that everyone I write about is somehow based on multiple people I already know. I recognize myself in some (a lot) of the characters, but I also recognize my sister, my high school best friend, my daughters, my ex-boyfriends. None of the characters in Baby Love, however, are based solely on any one person I know. There is a little bit of a whole bunch of folks all wrapped into every one. It is so strange to see it all coming together and to know that I’ve created these individuals who have such distinct identities. I feel attached to them, even though they aren’t living, breathing, flesh-and-blood people. I hope you do, too, when you read this book.

I’m not sure how to translate this post into something meaningful. I guess I just wanted to tell you.

I think a little part of me is afraid of what people will think (I’m so laughing at myself right now – “a little part of me is afraid.” Hello, understatement of the century). I’m finding that it takes a lot of courage to be a writer. I thought it would be so easy, doing what I love. But the truth is, writing feels far too close to a confession, or at the very least an indicator of the true depth of your creativity. Hey, we all want to be intelligent. Most folks think they’re pretty smart, wouldn’t you say? But believing that you also have enough creativity in your soul to be entertaining for more than 500 words is either really super brave or really ridiculously silly.

We’ll soon find out.

Are You Sleepy?

Or…. The One With All The Parentheses

Came across this today and it reminded me of when my dad insisted my verrrry slow-to-wake little brother (then in high school) start drinking coffee: Kids try coffee for the first time.

I grew up in a really weird family. Sometimes I wonder if everyone thinks their family is weird, but then I see how positively “normal” they all are in comparison and I just want to say, you guys. You have no idea. MY family was (is) weird. Super weird. The families I remember from my youth were loaves of white bread on a shelf full of like-breaded loaves. Lucky bastards.

I mean no disrespect. I really am jealous. What I would have given back then to be one of those spectacularly similar loaves. I just wanted to be like everyone else. Alas, we were oddballs and misfits, strange little standouts of human beings, and today we are all exceptionally unique individuals with creative souls who bloom in non-traditional ways.

Kinda difficult to be mad about that. We’re spectacular, too. Just not in any kind of a corporate-environment/widely accepted/typical-of-society/financially flourishing way. It’s okay. I like us (for the most part). It’s a good weird (sort of).

I think about this often. The four of us had no structure. Sure, we had plenty of punishment (more on this another time), but there was little discipline. Do your homework or don’t; whatever works for you, kid. Bedtime? Whenever (and wherever) you want! Dinner is make-your-own tonight (a handful of nights a week). What’s a curfew?

Let’s be honest. We were living the dream. We did what we wanted, for the most part, and even though I was envious of other families, I also secretly knew we had it pretty sweet. Our friends could crash on the couch whenever they wanted. In high school, my house was the sleepover house because yeah – no curfew. Even when there was a curfew, it was mostly ignored by all parties involved (with two noted exceptions – also another blog for another day).

This, too, must be said: For all of the turbulence in our little lives with a Mentally Unwell Momma (MUM), we sure had some fun. We did things as a family, including going out to dinner on borrowed dollars, burning swiped pallets at beach bonfires, taking trips funded by Grandma and Grandpa to amusement parks, occasional family vacations up north, and more. A lot more.

Every single family adventure – big or small – always included at least one angry outburst followed by tears from the MUM, but we still had the adventures. We still made the memories. And eventually, we grew up and grew weird little families of our own.

One of my siblings was (is) extraordinarily intelligent with a passion for rationale. Two of my siblings were (are) incredibly industrious. I was (am) creative but also a wee bit overly emotional/sensitive and extremely shy. Oh, I’m much better now – but to this day, I’m still terrified of “getting in trouble.” We’re all characters. We’re all successful, and some of us are (surprisingly) really and truly happy.

Plus! Somewhere along the way, it became cool to be weird. So I guess now we’re cool, even though we didn’t have the designer jeans and meals every night around the table and ski trips with the Joneses and proper bedtimes. See? Everything works out.

712bb474897b051d09428544ff6cfc20Image borrowed from the brilliant Butterflies and Pebbles. Like her on Facebook here.

Tell The Truth

Last night I began to write about him. I’m not altogether ashamed to admit that there are many hims who could be written about. This particular him, though, is the one who could have been my fate had I so chosen. Instead, he is a page in a book, not even a full chapter. Just a page. But a rather important page.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about my husband is that he knows of and accepts each previous page. I’m tempted to say that he loves me anyway, but what I really believe to be true is that he loves me because of my true-life story. He loves who I am and understands that every letter, every word, every paragraph before has mattered, they have shaped my beliefs and actions, they brought me to him, they are the foundation for the story as it is right this moment.

The first thing I favorited about my husband was that he promised – and I believed – that I could in no way bring him harm. In our friendship, before it turned from admiration and good company to lust and finally to love, I confessed all of the ways in which I had delivered hurt to those who loved me. These confessions were, in fact, simply my magnified perception. I felt as though I was a wrecking ball, that everything that had ever gone “wrong” in previous relationships was my fault, that I was a purveyor of heartache backed by a lifetime guarantee.

I didn’t realize then that you cannot make someone feel a certain way. Everyone chooses their feelings, whether subconsciously or with full intent. On some level, you alone decide if you will feel hurt or happiness, ambivalence or sympathy, love or hate. Even if the chemical imbalance in your brain or nervous system is contributing to your emotion, it’s still your brain. Your nervous system. It’s still you.

I had never before in my life known that. I thought I had such power. Psh.

He set me straight in a hurry, this man who would become my husband. And so I write with freedom now. I write knowing that my words will not hurt. My truth is not a game-changer. These pages are real, and they matter, and they shouldn’t be hidden.

That is not to say that it is okay to be unkind or disrespectful. I didn’t write those pages alone, you know. There were others involved, and my co-authors are not all as strong-minded and resilient as my husband. This I know. There is a line to walk there, but such a large obstacle has already been removed simply because I have been fully accepted.

It would be so lovely if we could all

tell

the

truth.

The Professional

**SHORT STORY EXCERPT – FICTION**

She pushed him away, and she pushed hard.

“Get away from me. Just get away.”

She meant it, but only for a moment. Only for THAT moment. The truly terrible thing was that she knew she would push and push and push until he left – and then she would miss him so much that she would realize without a doubt that she had been wrong. But it’s a twisty mess, see? She already knew that she would later know she was wrong. But she felt so right in that moment. How does this make sense?

And people came to her for professional guidance on getting their lives together, their thoughts in order, their addictions under control.

For Sarah, love was not the answer. Methodically picking apart a problem and addressing each individual level of the issue was the only answer. A problem could not be loved away, but it could certainly be solved by rational thinking, a clear plan of attack, and dedication to the most important step: follow-through.

This was what she preached. This method had helped countless clients trudge through the depths of misery until they could see hope, make progress, and eventually become a functioning human being capable of great things – and yes, love. Healthy love. She knew it worked. She guided so many through the process and had seen the positive outcome. She had a list of names in the back of her notebook, as a matter of fact. A list that provided validation. Proof of success.

“Get away.”

She wouldn’t be adding her own name to that list anytime soon.