Monday, January 26, 2015

Novel Advice

When I flew to Chicago in October, I forgot my book(s) for the plane.

This was very out of character for me, and I'm still a little disgusted with myself for letting this happen.

But I think it was serendipitous, or part of my life's plan, or something, because I met a precious new friend in Chicago who gave me a book to read while I was there.

This book didn't fit my typical reading genre at all. It was close, as I'm a big fan of children's books, and it was young adult fiction. But it was science fiction, and I'll be honest, when the plot was first described to me, I thought, "Really?"

The book is "Life as we Knew It" by Susan Beth Pfeffer, and it's about an asteroid hitting the moon, thus throwing off the tides and all kinds of weather and creating chaos worldwide.

It didn't sound like me at all. The only thing that remotely sounded like me, sadly, was when my new friend twisted up his face and admitted, "It's kind of depressing." Depression is more my language. More so than asteroids and tides, that's for sure.

I accepted the book and politely gave it a secretly skeptical (I was being polite) whirl.

And then I was hooked.

I stayed in Chicago for several nights, and before I left town I was already gushing to my friend about the 100 pages I had already torn through.

"It's so scary!!" I said.

"Wasn't it so smart of [the character's] mom to buy all those groceries?!" he quickly answered back.

Others in the room were clueless to our literary enthusiasm.

I finished the book and quite loved it throughout. It kept me concerned, attentive, and worried, start to finish, but in a good way. If there can be a good way. I guess being wrapped up in something generally feels good.

Since then, I've checked out the sequel, called "The Dead and the Gone."

Seriously, if someone had suggested a book to me called "The Dead and the Gone," prior to my reading of "Life As We Knew It," I'd be like, "Pass."

I actually had to return this second book of the series to the library, since this has been perhaps my busiest January on record, and I have hardly been reading, and I am racking up fines at the LAPL and it needs to stop.

But before I somewhat regrettingly took the novel to the book drop, I looked over a particular page again.

The main character in this book, Alex, uses a technique on his high school debate team as well as in his own life, to kind of center himself and regroup.

What he does is this:

He makes three lists, side by side.

One is the "What I know" list.

The second is "What I think."

And the final one is "What I don't know."

This stopped me in my tracks when I first read it. And before returning my paperback copy, I had to jot down the three list titles on my bookmark.

Because that's good stuff right there.

Scary stuff, but good.

I'm one who has a lot of heart -- I think, I hope -- but whose head gets so damn in the way of her heart.

I overthink. I worry.

I can't tell you how many drinks I've had with friends over the years in which something along the lines of, "You've gotta quit worrying" has been uttered across bar stools, in my direction.

"I know," I nod. And continue to worry.

The mother of one of my friends once said to her daughter and I that we should never assume someone doesn't want to work with us. She was explaining how, unless we receive explicit verbal confirmation of such a thought, we shouldn't assume that someone discredits our work, or who we are.

I wrote that one down, too.

It's so easy to let what we think cloud what we know. And it's so easy to let what we don't know become a cloud so dark that we almost allow it to be translated into a false "What I know." (Example: you could be so certain, in your head, that you blew an interview, that you could convince yourself you know you didn't get the job, when in fact, plain and simple, you don't yet know if that's the case. Not until -- and unless -- you get that explicit confirmation that my friend's mom was talking about.)

I'm writing this at 2:30 a.m. because I'm awake and worrying about something.

Some things.

And here's what I know:

I have someone behind me, who's willing to listen while I figure things out.

Here's what I think:

That I'm afraid I won't be able to figure things out.

What I don't know:

Whether I will figure it out.

I also don't know how long the offer to listen will keep. I suspect it's quite a while, but I'm tempted to place in that "think" column that it will expire after X amount of time.

But that's probably an assumption that should remain here in this "don't know" column, and not meander over to the "know" column.

I'm realizing how powerful it is to honestly look at what I know versus what I think.

What we think is valuable, and can certainly be trustworthy and helpful and a guidance. But so much of what we think can hurt us, I think (ha -- I can't even have the thought without thinking about thinking).

In fact, if there's anything I do too much of, it's think. I've spent years battling it, or embracing it, depending on the moment, or my mood, or my fears surrounding my ever-changing moods.

I'm not here to publicly list all of my fears -- at least not at this moment. I realize I do share a lot of my fears here, and it is my aim to be transparent with you. But I just wanted to share this food for thought that I've been munching on lately, and plan to nibble on in days here to come.

This is very hard for me, as I imagine it can be for you. But I think, like separating out fibers for a worthwhile purpose, this exercise can serve us. Even if they're going to be woven back together, it's good to lay out before us what we're working with. You can knit together a beautiful multicolored item, but you can't work successfully with three wads of tangled yarn; the thread would never slip onto the needles, for the knots.

I have a lot of knots. I am realizing a lot of them all at once, which is very overwhelming, and has me questioning my instincts, trying to figure out what is an instinct and what is a fear.

And there are a lot of fears in my wads of yarn.

What I think:

I am scared that I won't have the courage, or the presence of mind, to properly untangle the knots.

I probably can't do it alone.

What I don't know:

What my final product will look like. A hat? A scarf? Something with stripes, or something kind of tie-dye looking? Something with three shades of the same hue?

What I know:

I have a listener who is willing to hear about the knots.

I have to untangle the knots myself, but I don't have to be alone as I do so. Because I have an offer, at least for now, that hasn't yet expired.

Good luck to you all with your knitting, and the sorting that comes first.

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