Too much joy?

cakeOne of my clearest memories is eating too much frosting as child. It tasted so wonderfully sweet all by itself that I couldn’t stop shoving globs of it into my eager eight-year-old mouth. As you might guess, I was incredibly happy for a short while, and now decades later I still don’t care much for the stuff.

click to like Your Beautiful Life

click to like Your Beautiful Life

I’ve had a bit too much emotional frosting the past couple of weeks and am suffering from a similar need to go lie down. A major family thanksgiving gathering was followed immediately by a birthday celebration that was followed by the graduation of a family member that was rolled into about ten straight days filled with food and drink and visitors and it all was very wonderful but I’ve got a tummy ache that makes me wonder if sustained joy is particularly healthy.

I think about the nature of happiness a lot, given that the ability to experience joy is one of the central themes of my novel y1.

One can wax eloquent about how we need valleys in order to have hills and while that is true, I don’t think this translates into a truth that one must endure intermittent horrible sorrow in order to feel deep joy. Perhaps it is only necessary that great times are broken up with quiet times and my problem is simply one of overload. Obviously we all need a break from rich food and alcohol, but I think that we also need a break from noise and conversation, and time to process input. No matter how much we live in the moment, at some point we need to step out of the joys of that moment and regroup. It’s a human thing.

click to like Your True Voice

click to like Your True Voice

We also need unstructured time, to do the silly and unplanned. Gatherings with loved ones can provide that, but let’s face it, they usually don’t. Groups need a certain amount of order, at least when attending functions together, and all that structure wears one out after awhile.

Joy. It comes at you lots of ways. Some weeks it’s your sister from across the country and your kids all home for a holiday and the best restaurant in Austin Texas. Other times it’s nothing but salad and fresh fruit for a day and time spent staring into the fireplace at night. Maybe even lighting a fire there first.

 

 

Celebrate!

cakeToday is a special day for me because it is the birthday of one of my children.  I really like this being a mother thing, and among other things I love all the extra celebrations it has brought into my life.

Beyond all the usual hugs and laughs and triumphs, my kids and husband have given me an extra helping of joy by agreeing to let me use each of them to inspire a book in my collection 46 Ascending. There are probably dozens of reasons why this was a bad idea, fraught with potential problems from the very beginning. The characters are fictitious after all. Bad things happen to them and they even all behave a little poorly on occasion. They curse, they think about and even have sex and they aren’t always happy with each other. The make-believe characters have some faults that are exaggerations of my own family’s less desirable traits, and then they have faults that are purely my own or absolutely made up.

Against all odds, these four people I share a nuclear family with have been mature and reasonable about this. In fact they complained a little about their character’s relatively minor roles in x0, the first book in the collection that centers on the mom in the family. My son acknowledged a bit of trepidation when he learned that the second book, y1, would feature the character inspired by him. As my writing went on, however, he confessed that it was a bit of high knowing that somewhere somehow parts of his personality were being spun into that of a superhero.

My husband refers to the third book in the collection, z2, as “his” book. Indeed, he almost wrote it with me, building replicas of my Maya boxes, reading civil war history as I wrote and even heading off to a re-enactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek in order to better research “his book”. The collaboration turned out well I think, producing something richer than I could ever have done alone.

I recently handed c3, the fourth book in the collection, off to my youngest daughter who is learning to be a social worker. Her studies and interests shaped much of this particular story. By tradition each family member gets to read “their” book first, and they know from the beginning that they have veto power over anything in the novel. This is my agreement with them; I do love each of them more than I love my stories. I was particularly concerned about c3, because my main character has some  horrific things happen to her early on in the book that later inspire her to become such a hero. My youngest child responded with the same grace that the rest of my family has shown. No one has vetoed anything yet, or even complained  once about anything I have written. Are these people cool or what?

celebrateToday, as c3 sits in the hands of my beta readers, I am starting the fifth book in the collection. This novel will tell the tale of a fiery hero inspired by my feisty middle child. The story has been growing in my head for years, and it’s time to get the basic building blocks down into the hundred or so bullet points that constituent a working outline for me. In real life, this daughter is probably the least patient person in my family (except for me), and it is unfortunate that her tale was destined to be the last to be told. That is just how the collection unfolded. I tell her that I saved the best story for last.

Next year on her birthday, I plan to publish the story she has inspired. The timing is entirely reasonable given my own pace, and if it happens as hoped for it will be a heartfelt way to celebrate her next birthday.  I do love celebrations. They make me want to dance for joy!