Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When Life Gets In the Way of Living

The novel I'm writing is in two sections; the first book about Gideon and Magdalene; the second book about their children. One theme that runs through both halves is the struggle between living life and having a living, or sometimes just living at all. The main characters of the second half, Justice, Cherish, and Truth, struggle with this the most. Because of his charismatic personality and keen intellect Justice is pressured into running for political office, ultimately becoming the King; Bookish and free-spirited Cherish is swept into the world of Academia, moving from the research and teaching that she loves into the frustrating politics of leadership; in childhood it became clear that Truth is a 'seer', meaning that he can only speak the truth and he can see the truth in any situation, the perfect leader for the Church except that his gift has made him painfully shy. All three wrestle with wanting to have a 'normal' life, out of the spotlight, free to make decisions without wondering how the whole country may be impacted by their choices. This struggle becomes especially intense for Cherish when she falls in love with someone incredibly unexpected and rather inconvenient.

I didn't set out to write a novel about this struggle. I just started writing and I haven't stopped. It has morphed several times but this theme has been apparent throughout. The character I love the most is Cherish, she is the me that I want to be. She's witty, charming, incredibly learned, sophisticated, and graceful. But most of all she is determined. There is a breaking point in the book that causes Cherish to finally rise to the occasion and take her life back. She defines her life in her own terms and she stops letting the powers that be direct her life.

I, like Cherish, feel that I've been swept into a life that isn't one of my choosing. I let life happen to me rather than intentionally choosing the path I would take. Now the great thing is that God has been leading me through the paths of His choosing--paths which led me to my husband, ministry opportunities, and friendships. But I have to wonder--if I'd joined Him in the front seat rather than napping in the back seat, would there have been more opportunities, more blessings, a more rewarding path? But because I was just cruising, disengaged from taking responsibility for my life, I settled for the path that seemed easy, convenient, or 'only temporary'. God's not going to throw a sleeping person into an adventure.

Cherish seems to wake up one day and realize indignantly that she didn't choose her life. I have that same feeling every now and then. I wonder how I got here, like driving from home to work and not remembering the drive. I've gotten from Cuyahoga Falls to Wayne but I don't remember how I got here. This isn't about regret, but the realization that I've been sleeping through life. Or perhaps that life has gotten in the way of living.

Take a job because you need one, not because you love it. Before you know it life has slipped through your fingers and you haven't been living. Put off starting a family because there isn't money or time, and before you know, life has slipped through your fingers and you haven't been living. When we shelf our dreams and settle for less, even if we believe it's only temporary, before long life has slipped through our fingers and we haven't been living. That life has gotten in the way of living. e.e. cummings once said, 'being undead isn't the same as being alive'. Boy, ain't that the truth?

One reason I've kept writing the novel throughout the years is because it seems that if I can work out their issues, I can work out mine. That's how the whole thing started. A writing assignment in 11th grade. I made up a distopian world where the characters couldn't be together because he was too different from the accepted norm. At the time I was dating a boy my family wasn't a big fan of because he was older than me and quite different from what they wanted for me. In my story it all worked I kept writing, writing, writing. But it never worked out in real I kept writing. The story changed. I changed. As I've grown up, the story has grown up with me. But I still write to work out my own life on the page. I'm no longer Magdalene of the first story, the story I wrote at seventeen...I'm Cherish, the story I'm writing as a young woman.

In the story, Cherish doesn't change very much externally when she takes her life back, unlike her mother in the first book. She doesn't run away, quit her job, or change the world. But she makes it clear that now her job is of her choosing. She will love and be with the one of her choosing. She lives a life of her choosing, even if it looks very similar to the life that was chosen for her. She wakes up from her existence and begins an adventure. An adventure that doesn't take her any farther from home, but an adventure of the heart.

I'm tired of life getting in the way of living. I'm tired of realizing that life is slipping through my fingers and I haven't really been living. And I think the change comes in choosing something everyday. Choosing to sit in the sunshine, to go to the park and swing, to teach the dogs how to go down a sliding board. Choosing to color instead of clean, to sing instead of sigh. Choosing to write, to read, to dream. Choosing to take an opportunity when it comes.Choosing to make the most of my life in every circumstance.Choosing to find the adventure in the ordinary. Choosing to find the thread of my life that God has always been holding onto and follow it passionately, instead of mindlessly being woven in and out of other people's adventures.

I'm still working on the book. Like a coloring page, I've got an outline but I need to color it in. And as I color it in Cherish and her brothers will find their adventures...and I think I will, too.

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