Writing through the draining bits of real life takes a bit of work and I’ve found it flavors anything put down on paper–which isn’t always a good thing.
Sometimes real life just plain sucks…but you don’t know it so you’re content to wade in the mire, happy that at least you’re not neck deep like the other fools around you. That is, until you look around and realize that you’re not only up to your neck, but you’re about to go under.
That story never ends, “Happily Ever After.”
However, just like in writing–you have to be willing to go there and experience, validate, and own every single emotion, frustration, and struggle, while pulling yourself up out of whatever it is you’ve gotten bogged down in.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is totally optional. While I write my way through the pain of my reality, I use my words to stave the suffering, and the entire process makes for enticing stories. Here is a work in progress that emerged from my head last summer. I’ve been holding onto it until I can get back into the same head space to get back into it.
A spring breeze gently wafts across the room, drawing me toward the large bay windows for the last time. This bare room was once both my studio and my most cherished part of the small farmhouse. Hearty timber shelves, painstakingly carved and fastened to the walls by my great grandfather, stretch from ceiling to floor and wrap around the entire room. Over the years, these antique boards housed countless cameras, art supplies, fabric swatches, and mountains of half-completed manuscripts.
Now the shelves expose their vast emptiness in front of a lone rocking chair, which sits vacant in the middle of the room. I desperately want to be alone for one more goodbye before the movers come to haul us both away.
I sink into my great grandmother’s rocker, embracing the smooth aged wood under my worn out fingers. A few loose strands of my thinning gray hair tickle my nose while I rock slowly back and forth. I survey the room, poring over the vast emptiness and settle on the open window, taking in the glorious site of the blushing pink gladiola bushes outside. As I watch, an old visitor flutters onto a flower.
“I love when I see you flutter outside these windows.” I whisper to myself.
“We know. We have flittered by your windows watching your family for a long time.”
I gape at the unusually large butterfly. Certainly, it did not just speak to me.
“Do you have a family?” I ask louder this time, curious to see if the insect will answer.
“Yes. My family is quite large actually,” The wings of the yellow and black butterfly gracefully float it to another flower closer to the open windows. “We are an ancient creature, born of a great desire and longing.”
My wrinkled hands fly up, covering my mouth. If I scream, someone is sure to enter the room and the beautiful creature may fly away. Slowing my breathing, mindful that hyperventilation is a real possibility, my gaze shifts to the intricate pattern on the wings of the great butterfly. If I am going crazy, it is a fine day to play along.
“How is it you are so colorful?”
“That is an interesting story. Would you like to hear it?”
“Yes,” I say, leaning forward in the rocker. “Please tell it to me.”
“Very well,” the butterfly says, stretching its wings wide to warm them in the sun. “A very long time ago a dragon captured a beautiful young princess. He was passionately in love with her and desperately tried to give her everything she could ever desire. The thing she wanted most was to be free. The dragon couldn’t bear that desire so he enchanted his castle to give the princess the illusion of being free while remaining his prisoner.
“One day, while the young princess was wandering through one of the dragon’s massive gardens, she began to weep. Her tears fell on the flowers at her feet and those very flowers transformed into the first butterflies. Her hope was renewed and from that day forward the butterflies filled her with the courage to persist.
“So you see—the first of our kind were born from a profound yearning to be free. The butterfly has a long memory. As we pass from generation to generation, our colors remind us to never give up our aspirations and they serve to fill others with the courage to carry on.”
“That was a lovely story,” I say, pressing my face closer to the window. “Is that why you and your family flutter around this house?”
“Yes. Naturally we are drawn to people who have lost their way. Your house calls to us.”
“I have lost more than my way butterfly,” I say, glancing around at the barren room.
“Will you have to leave soon?” the inquisitive butterfly asks. “My family can only stay for a short while; as you move on, we shall too.”
“I need you,” I whisper.
“We know. Do not be afraid. We have come to encourage you and to help you remember what it is that you want to accomplish.”
“Do you know what it is that I want?”
“Humans are similar to butterflies. We begin our life cycles as caterpillars. Changing as we grow, we eventually meet our crossroads where we must begin the next journey of our lives. It is for humans.” The butterfly spun in a neat circle atop the pale pink bloom. “You are now at your crossroad. You must decide the path you will take and that decision will take you to the next journey in your life.”
“You give me hope,” I say, straightening up in my seat.
“If we have managed to give you hope than we have succeeded…and so shall you.”