Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 ... May It Be

"May it be an evening star
Shines down upon you
May it be when darkness falls
Your heart will be true
You walk a lonely road
Oh! How far you are from home"
-May It Be, from Enya, Lord of the Rings Soundtrack

A verse in the song "May It Be", performed by Enya in the soundtrack to Fellowship of the Ring, has words that ring so true on many levels concerning the part of the journey I took in 2013, and the place I find myself at even now.

People who know me have asked why I am not a big celebrant of New Years.  It is probably because I don't celebrate the unknown, especially when it comes to the things of this world. Had I celebrated the arrival of 2013, I would have had an even greater burden in my heart today, as this year delivered a tremendous blow to my mind and spirit.

As difficult as it is to say, some things cannot be avoided.  For the first time in my life, I do not have a place I call home.

 A home is not a building, it can only exist in the heart.  Within my heart, I feel very far away from any sense of a home. 

In early June of 2013, one of the two individuals I loved most in this world, and the person who I was with from the very first spark of my existence at conception, passed away after enduring a very heart-wrenching couple of weeks in the hospital. 

The entire experience was a nightmare, from taking my mother in for what we thought was pneumonia, to finding the existence of a fast-moving, aggressive cancer, to the final moment holding her hand.  

I never prayed harder or more intensely for a miracle than I did that final night, without question.  

No miracle came.

The funeral was an experience in pure agony, just as it was when my father passed away. I wanted to give a tribute song for my mother, as I did for my father.  Father Frank Brawner, who buried both of my parents, accommodated me again in this request, being the living saint that he is.  

After considering a few songs, I chose "Into the West" by Annie Lennox for my mother. It was the same song I had played from me in tribute to my father at his funeral. I felt that the same song should be my tribute to them, as it was their deep love for each other that brought me into being. 

The song holds my deepest wish for both of them, especially when it comes to the thoughts of White Shores...

"Lay down your sweet and weary head
Night is falling. You have come to journey's end.
Sleep now. Dream of the ones who came before.
They are calling from across a distant shore.
Why do you weep? What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see all of your fears will pass away.
Safe in my arms, you're only sleeping."
-from Into the West, by Annie Lennox

I did do one small thing different with my mother's funeral. I had one of my best friends, Matthew Perry, work in a small element from Les Miserables just before the start of Into the West music. 

I share it here along with the full context, as it bears a timeless truth.

"Remember, the truth that once was spoken, to love another person is to see the face of God"
-from the finale of Les Miserables

I dream of the day that Tomorrow Comes.

My mother's passing capped a seven year period of very heavy emotional blows, starting with the death of my father in 2006, and the losses of two sweet four-legged family members that I was very, very close to in between. Grieving more often than not throughout this period, I watched my family whittle away until it is only my sister and myself left.  As the losses of my mother and father left me shredded me on the inside, such that it is hard to imagine much of anything in a positive light.

There are constant reminders of the new reality. For the first time in my entire life I had no Christmas dinner this year. It sounds like a simple thing, but it really drives home the burden that has been placed upon you. I am a person for whom family is everything, so the depth of the pain I go through is very hard to describe.

Imagine that.  A writer at a total and utter loss for words. Yet that is the way that it is. The closest thing I can say is that when those I love pass away, a part of me is torn away, as I am a part of them and they a part of me.  

Will those voids ever get restored?  Only reunion can do that, and  I dream of that happening.

Out of the dense fog of sorrow and heartache in the aftermath of suffering such a hard blow, getting your bearings is a herculean task.  At some point, you still realize you are alive and present in this state of existence, and you have a choice looming before you.

You can take a bow and leave the stage, or you can continue. It really is that stark. The fact that you are reading these words answers which of the two paths I chose to go on.

Even so, there is not much to hold onto. In truth, you feel entirely adrift, even as you grasp at every wisp possible for something, anything to give you some hold to move forward with. You have to face this fight alone, nobody can do it for you. 

If anything, you become adept at hiding much of what you are going through inside. Smiling when your soul is bleeding, looking attentive when your thoughts are far, far away.

The emotions are powerful, ranging from sorrow, to fear, and to anger.  You endure it by yourself.  There is nobody else to turn to most days and nights.  While you stand on your own, you do find some strength in doing so.

"Pull me under, pull me under 
Pull me under I'm not afraid 
All that I feel is honor and spite 
All I can do is set it right"
-from Dream Theater's Pull Me Under, off the album Images and Words

Moving through that heavy fog, I finally, somehow, reached the point where I found a spark inside me: that little edge that spurs me to stand and defy the entire world if need be. 

Angry that I was denied even the chance to show mom what I could become, angry that my sister wasn't able to complete her nursing boards with mom there to see her, which I know mom would be so immensely proud of, angry about the undetected cancer, angry about all the heartache that hit us, I decided that whatever dark force influences the tragic events in our lives wasn't going to get the pleasure of seeing me curl up into a ball and quit.  

My mother would want me to go forward with a vengeance, and that is what I held onto.

It was then that I was able to rouse myself enough to tackle doing the literary segment of Fandom Fest, start writing again, and start executing in full on my many tasks for Seventh Star Press. 

In regard to my writing, it was fortuitous that I had the two short story collections in a later stage of development, as I as able to get a couple of new releases out over the later August/September window. Hellscapes, my first volume of a horror-themed collection, and Chronicles of Ave, which features stories set in the same world as my Fires in Eden series.

I feel strongly that these two collections contain some of my best work yet, and it was good to get something back on the map as the fourth book of the Rising Dawn Saga was going to see a delay as I worked to get back into the kind of mindset that a title from that series requires with all of its levels and themes.

Yet even the two new books carried their own pain with them, as they were the first books of mine that came out without my mom there to receive the very first copy, as I always did in the past with my other releases.

"The caravan thunders onward 
To the distant dream of the city 
The caravan carries me onward 
On my way at last 
On my way at last 
I can't stop thinking big 
I can't stop thinking big" 
-from Rush's Caravan, off of Clockwork Angels

Getting back around creative people during the fall, and entering a period containing a truly intensive work schedule, as I absorbed my part time broadcast job alongside the more than overtime schedule involving the press, my writing, and my freelance promotional work, I found myself looking to the horizons, considering new projects, and more. 

Writing wise, this took the shape of a new cross-genre series idea and a novella series involving my new character Rayden Valkyrie, who made her debut in Thunder on the Battlefield: Sword (editor James Tuck). In other areas, it manifested in the launch of Imaginarium, a new creative writing convention coming to Louisville in 2014. 
While not an enormous event like FandomFest, Imaginarium is a project near and dear to my heart as it is entirely focused upon writing. I truly hope to see a wonderful group of people heading with dreams in a mass caravan to Louisville, people thinking big, and inspired, the way I tend to be when I am most myself. Brought together, this is the kind of gathering out of which great things can happen, and the mere potential of it is exciting to me. 
A brand new weekly radio show, The Star Chamber Show, also coalesced and was born.  Involving 4 other wonderful hosts, all individuals I absolutely adore (Michael West, Selah Janel, Susan Roddey, and Alex Brown), the show brings a good energy and is a challenge to my creative side.  It is another new project that offers promise and high potential.
Finishing out the Keeneland run (the broadcasting work) from September-November was entirely exhausting. But getting back into that kind of rhythm was helpful in a process of helping me get a little more of a centering, inside. Make no mistake, the burden remained heavy inside, but that not-so-little part of me that is defiant kept telling me that I need to live, and not just go through the motions, in a full, personal sense.
"Stand up
Wake up
I won't give up
Cause here I come, here I come"
-from Trenches, by Pop Evil, from their Album Onyx.

Oddly enough, it was not long after this that I began to turn my heart toward things like letting the me that is inside shine brighter, as well as looking for someone to share the path with. I'm a work in progress at the time of this writing, but I feel that I have already made some great steps in the area of bringing the "real me" out. 
It is kind of like the song above encourages. Wake up, stand up, I'm not giving up, and here I come!  You are damn right I am!
The wonderful Rebecca, who has styled my hair for years, had a lot of fun with one recent visit I made there and my sister gave me a great new set of Harley-Davidson boots of a style I'd long-wanted, but those are just some accessories to a more profound change I'm undergoing that is still in motion.  It involves a lot of effort and hard work, that's for sure.  
I'll have to leave that shrouded in a bit of mystery, for the time being, but I feel better physically now than I have in a long while. ;)
Self-improvement is well-underway.  

"Don't think about all those things you fear
Just be glad to be here." 
-FC Kahuna, Hayling

As far as looking for someone to share the path with, I think I'm in the best state of mind and heart that I've ever been for taking the risk of sharing my heart. Hard moments like that suffered this past year have reinforced just how important life and those you love and care for are.  You can never, ever put a price on it.
I want to experience the world, but not alone. I seek to share that journey with someone who won't mind my rather unusual combination of rock and roll sensibilities mixed with a heartfelt sense of loyalty, appreciation, and a will to make every effort to forge a strong relationship. Life is too short and far too fragile to pass up a chance at magic, so if it means I have to drive a little farther, or make a few more sacrifices, I most certainly will.  It would be more than worth it.  That I know for sure.  
I've suffered some hard losses that have left some big voids inside, but as my mother taught me about the nature of love, your heart grows when someone new enters your world. There is infinite room for loving someone new, without ever diminishing what you have held for the others in your life.
Does being open to a new relationship mean you will be vulnerable? Yes. Does it mean you could be hurt? Yes. But the important thing is not to be thinking about all the things you fear, and to be glad to be here in life with a chance at the magic, to get at the meaning of the song above. I know my parents had that magic and maybe.. just maybe, I can find it too with a very special someone. 
So 2013 was not a year I would ever wish to celebrate, which is why I will not celebrate 2014 in advance either.  Yet as the year draws to a close, I am moving forward. I have taken concrete steps to get back on the road with my writing, as the 4th Rising Dawn Saga novel is on the horizon, I have launched new projects, such as Imaginarium and The Star Chamber Show, I have taken large steps in personal improvements, and gotten myself into a good frame of mind for more. Who knows what the future may hold?
I'm pretty sure the road ahead will be difficult at times, but for a kind of New Year's resolution I will turn back to the song that I began this post with.
I am adopting the title as my motto, for continuing on the journey forward into 2014. 
 Let's see life, love, and adventure manifest. 
2014... May It Be
"May it be the shadows call
Will fly away
May it be you journey on
To light the day
When the night is overcome
You may rise to find the sun"
-from May It Be, by Enya