The Best Advice

Snippet Four

Be kind.
I think that is the best advice you can give yourself or any other person. Two words– it is as simple as that.
People will try to argue this, to tell you that the world doesn’t allow for kindness; that you cannot be kind without getting hurt. So it follows in these people’s minds that they cannot be kind because the world isn’t kind, and will not be kind to them if they are kind.
This is circular reasoning– it is an excuse. Perhaps in the course of being kind, yes, someone will destroy me. But if I can inspire even one other person to be kind, it is worth it. For all I know, they may be more successful than I, and inspire one hundred people, or a thousand, to be kind. Or possibly, just like me, they will change only one or two others.
However– when you plant seeds, if even one plant blooms we count it as a success. And within that one plant is the potential of countless seeds, dispersed over a lifetime, and each one containing within themselves the possibility of growth and new life.
Patience is the key here. Changing the world, this world that people claim is too unkind to allow kindness, is not the work of a day, or a year. It is a slow process. But we must have infinite patience, for what more worthy task exists than tending to our own existence?
So be kind– no excuses, and with a brave, open heart. And commit yourself to being patient with a world that is just waiting to bloom.

Credit: Michelle Marshall Photography

Snippet Three: Not In Vain

I have been trying to write a book since I was twelve years old. But somehow, in the ten years since, I have never been able to. And while I have been unsuccessful in this long endeavor of mine, I think I at least have finally managed to discern what the problem is.
I have started a vast amount of stories; lack of ideas has never been the impediment. Instead, I have struggled with an overabundance of ideas. I will start and work on one story, but suddenly I will be struck with a new, brilliant idea, and I cannot seem to stop myself from veering off on it. But before I get too far, another plot comes to me and it is imperative that I work on it, and so on and so forth. For ten years.
I have never been able to figure out this flaw in myself. I have pondered a million reasons why—perhaps I was just afraid of commitment? Or maybe I was just too lazy. Or it might even be that I am a poor, delusional imbecile who was only fooling myself to think that I was actually a writer.
I think this is the inevitable fear of every writer, at least in the beginning, and the only way to truly overcome it is to simply decide that you are going to believe in yourself and your talent. So what was the problem, once I chose to think that I do have some ability? Why did I write something that seemed dynamic and poignant as I put it down, but when I went back and reread it seemed clumsy and juvenile? Why did a plot that seemed to spring to life in my head and develop rapidly and with a rich array of details suddenly go stagnant, and lose all interest for me?
Here is what I have come to believe the problem is—I keep changing.
Now, of course this is not some revolutionary, brilliant idea. The whole point of life is growth and change (at least I think that is what it is supposed to be). I mean, change is always inevitable, even if in no other way than the aging of your body. But somehow, in the course of ten years, it never dawned upon me that as I changed, so too would the stories inside of myself. And let me tell you, the ten years between twelve and twenty-two were rather crowded with life changes.
In the past three months, I have experienced the loss of two beloved pets, one whom I had for sixteen years and was my best friend, and the other a precious, lively spirit whom I did not get nearly long enough with. On top of the loss of my grandfather and grandmother within the last seven years, I have been slowly, and then quite suddenly, being forced to come to terms with death. And I think I have finally reached a change that alters you irreparably. As tired and cliché as it sounds, death makes you achingly aware of the fragility of life. I look around now, and the world seems so delicate, so unsteady. My time has now been shown to me to be undeniably finite, with no assurance of fairness or joy or longevity. With no assurance that everyone I love or care about will not be taken suddenly.
Perhaps this all seems very obvious to you, because you yourself have already experienced the irreparable change. You can never unknow the reality of death once you know it. Of course, I have been aware vaguely of these tried-and-true truths since I was very small—but I did not really understand them until now. If you let it, death can loom on your horizon at all times, larger even in your view than the rising and the setting of the sun each day. That has been my paradigm for the past few months, certainly.
However—I do not want the deaths of my loved ones to be in vain. For some reason, it always seems to help when you say, yes, they have died, but it was not in vain! Of course, this often only works for heroes in stories and the like, when someone dies so that someone else can live. How do you make the death of a cat or a dog to be not in vain?
This question is why I am trying desperately to effect a paradigm shift. Instead of anxiously fixating on that looming specter on the horizon, sickened and afraid of my newly cemented knowledge, I want to turn my eyes to the infinitely precious life around me. I want to grasp every moment with open hands and take charge of it, instead of letting them flow around me, always flinching in fear of each one because I know now, fully, what might be waiting within. Yes, death will always be there, undeniable, but I would like to keep only him in the corner of my eye, instead of dominating the view.
This is how I hope to make the death of those I love not in vain. Their loss has taught me an ugly but inescapable fact, that is true. It has taught me the wildness and vagaries of grief, the searing burn of injustice, the nauseating weight of terror, the clawing grip of anxiety. It has taught me sorrow, those fathomless dark depths.
But. It has also taught me about myself. I have come to know myself better, and I have gained an understanding of a fundamental characteristic of myself that has eluded me for years. Ever since I have started writing, I have been plagued by the doubt of an essential thread of my very self. Now I can say, even if you never write a book, you are a writer. Yet this new appreciation of life has kindled in me the fervent desire to boldly go forth and achieve my dreams, instead of just hoping that somehow, someday in a vague, dreamy future they will make themselves come true.
Yes, my loved ones have forced me to confront the bald-faced, ugly reality of dying. But, more than that, more importantly than that—they have taught me about living. They have died, but in doing so, they have allowed me to live.
And so I say, they have not died in vain.

Snippet Two: Two Months

He’d been sick for a few weeks, but finally her cat no longer seemed bothered by the illness that had been plaguing him. He watched her now through half-opened eyes, and she ran a hand lovingly over his fur.
After a few moments of soothing, she gently lifted and held him in her arms, still mindful of his recent frailty. She lost track of time as she cuddled him close, memorizing the smooth, soft feel of his fur against her fingers and feeling love in her heart. Eventually she tenderly nestled him into his box, covered him with a soft, brown blanket, and left him to rest peacefully.
The next day it rained. She stood outside and watched as the water washed away muddy clumps from the fresh mound of soft, brown dirt under the window, and the rain was her grief all around her, an inescapable storm.

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(Just a note, November 8 marked two months since I lost the love of my life, my precious cat of 16 years, Boo. It was truthfully a rough day for me, especially since someone I know lost their cat of many years that same day. All of the grief and anger and heartbreak of losing my boy came back to me, and then I was doubly upset because someone else I knew was going through what had happened to me. As I was curled up crying late that night, I ended up writing this, and somehow it helped.)

Snippet One: Fingerprints

When I graduated college, my friend bought me, among other things, a fancy pen in celebration of my English degree.
The pen is silver and very shiny, though not so shiny as it was before I first used it. Now it is slightly grubby with my fingerprints. I wonder what is says about me that I see my own fingerprints upon my own pen as grubby, instead of a normal mark of ownership.
The middle section of the pen is inscribed with fleurs-de-lis, a motif I have always admired. Perhaps I am drawn to it instinctively—my mother, a dedicated genealogist, tells me I have the blood of monarchs within my veins. Or maybe I am the reincarnation of some peasant’s soul, and am even now awed by a traditional symbol of royalty and my current right to profane it with my touch. Perhaps this is why my fingerprints seem grubby to me.
Either way I wonder how my friend happened to pick it out for me. Did she simply know me so well that she could look at it and identify that I would like it? Or have I mentioned at some point in the misty, murky past of the many years of our friendship that I love fleur-de-lis? They both seem equally likely.
The pen is elaborate, though still a practical ball-point. It is also wider and heavier than a normal pen, and holding it in my hand feels different; weightier. Almost as if it is heavy with all the ponderous, significant things I should write with it. And yet, so far all I have done is describe a pen.
I think the box it came in is worthwhile to mention—it is covered in phrases from great literary classics. Some I recognize instantly from books I love and books I hate; others, I can easily infer the source; still others, I am unsure.
It occurs to me that the box might have been designed with the intent of inspiring whoever would use its precious cargo. At least, I want to believe this, and I smile as I picture some passionate bibliophile like myself painstakingly sifting through literature and agonizing over which beloved words will make the final cut.
When you open it, the pen is nestled in some sort of springy foam, cut so there is a resting place for the pen. Truthfully, wedged is more an appropriate word than nestled. It is a bit of a challenge to get the pen out, and I like that. It’s as if you must truly be committed to using the pen, and again I smile as I picture some erstwhile Pen Box Designer with an earnest adoration of the written word.
I pause, and wipe the fingerprints from my pen again with one hand, even as I hold it clutched in the other. It is patently silly, and almost plebeian in its irony. I ponder that my provincial musings might not be far off. I begin writing again, feeling my fingertips leaving smearing fingerprints.
Briefly, the ink sputters, and I wonder if the Ink Filler was not as dedicated to writing as his fellow hypothetical collaborators, even as I panic. If my pen goes out, I will have to take the time to find a new one, and who knows what thoughts might dissipate forever while I do? What if while I am searching for a replacement pen, the thought that would become my masterpiece slips in one ear and out the other?
It hits me:

So much depends
upon

a silver ink
pen

emblazoned with black
fleurs-de-lis

above a white
notebook.

There is nothing from William Carlos Williams on my pen’s box, and I find myself regretting that. Perhaps that fabled Pen Box Designer also had a peasant’s soul, and he felt he had no right to ruin the poem’s format by putting it on a box lid. Still, I would have done it. I do not think William Carlos Williams would have minded.
Perhaps I am a royal, after all.

Just A Brief Word About “Snippets”

Helloooo, Readers.
I meant to post about this sooner, but I have sadly been without power for four of the past five days thanks to the storms. I was gettin’ reeeal tired of putting on makeup in the dark, but thankfully my power was restored this evening.
Today I would like to inform you of something different I am going to start doing on my blog. Obviously, I really enjoy sharing my life with you guys, and all the silly, random, strange, and wonderful things that happen in it. However, I am also a pretty dedicated writer, and I love to write prose and poetry as well. So starting now, I will be interspersing my regular blog posts with more artistic pieces I am calling “Snippets.” These will be short entries, and they can be either fiction or non-fiction, over any topic under the sun. I am doing this partially for my enjoyment, and partially just to encourage myself to practice more on what I consider to be my chosen craft. I cannot promise they will be interesting, or enjoyable, or even worthwhile. But writing is my passion, and I both want and need to do this.
Each snippet will be titled as such, with a corresponding number, ie “Snippet One”. I plan to categorize them only as snippets.
I am also thinking about doing something similar with some of my old poetry. I used to write it prolifically but rarely do nowadays. I might begin by posting some of my old favorites and seeing what you guys think of them. Then again, maybe I will chicken out and not do it haha.
So look for my very first snippet very soon, it’s already written and waiting. It just happens that I ate three of the brownies my mom made tonight while still standing at the stove, without getting a plate or anything. I need time to digest both the brownies and the shame before I throw an original composition out there, but it will be up shortly.
Hope you guys are as excited as I am, but not as terrified haha.

Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod,
Sara

PS Oh my god, guys, this website keeps coming up when I search for ways to say goodbye in different languages, and it keeps offering me ways to say “My hovercraft is full of eels” in various languages. I just really hope this is the legit way to say that in Welsh, my language of choice for the evening.