A Steam of Thought About Writing

I promised more about the #NYUMediaTalk, but this turned out to be more about me than the talk. Last night, I attended a panel about books to film or the big stage. There were three NYT best selling authors each of whom has written novels that became films or stage productions. While the panel was supposed to be about the differences in writing for each platform, what struck me was a stark contrast in each writer’s journey and how they all wrote for the same reason–to connect with an audience–to connect with people.
On the train ride home, I mulled over their stories and their parallels with my life. Like each of the panelist, books and libraries played a considerable role in my youth. I have vivid memories of my mother paying late book fees because of the quantity of book’s we’d check out and return late. For me, books were an escape from my life.
It’s not that I had an unhappy childhood. I didn’t. It’s that I grew up in a predominately white, Mormon neighborhood, and I was neither. Being neither had its advantages. I was free from having to conform to the conservative cultural norm. But it also had its disadvantages. Mainly exclusion. No invites to birthday parties and being unwelcomed at my classmates homes’ took a psychological toll. I had two friends in my neighborhood whose parents were always welcoming. Most were not. There’s one memory in particular that I’ve never been able to forget. A classmate invited over to her place after school. I must’ve been nine or ten years old. We were in her backyard playing on the monkey bars when her mother came out and asked me to leave. My classmate was visibly upset. As I was walking out the front door, I heard her mother say, “I don’t want you playing with people like her. She’s not like us. She doesn’t go to our church” I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. I didn’t like what I heard, and I was too young to fully process what had happened. What I knew is that I felt bad. My cure was losing myself in Nancy Drew’s love triangle with Ned and Frank.
Growing up, reading and writing were my modes of therapy. If I couldn’t find the words to write how I felt, I’d get lost in book’s where outcasts and loners were heroines. When I did write, I wrote for myself. I was drowning in emotions that needed an outlet, but it was just an outlet. Until about four years ago.
Four years ago, I reconnected with an acquaintance who quickly turned into a friend–arguably my best friend. For about two and a half years. We spoke just about every day from dawn-up to . . . er . . . well midnight. And through our conversations, I found inspiration to write about everything. I would sometimes write him stories for his morning commute. I revamped my blog and began writing weekly. I couldn’t keep up with the flurry of plots and storylines forming in my mind. I rewrote folklore, sent short stories and poetry to friends in mourning, to friends faced with unimaginable challenges, and to those that just needed a good laugh. Then we stopped talking, and the ideas stalled. The desire to write ceased. The friendship replaced by an unfillible void.
I bring this up because yesterday one of the panelists mentioned that he wrote out of a need to fill a void, and possibly, from a desire to please his father. Another writer said he wrote out of desperation, and the third said she wrote to connect. That she was a dramatist (a result of being a middle child), and it was her way of being heard. I found myself relating to each panelist.
Last night, I wondered if I write because I have an emptiness inside me that I’m desperate to fill. Sometimes, I think that’s true. But it’s not. Thinking back to that friendship and the flurry of writing that came from it, I realized that I’m the opposite of panelist number 1. Where he writes from an empty place, I feel compelled to put words on paper when I’m most connected to someone.
Maybe that’s because it’s the only time I want to be heard. The two and a half years that we spoke were the happiest years of my life. A friendship forged with a distance of three-hundred miles and based on digital communication filled a void I’d lived with my entire life. With the taxing feelings of anger, remorse, loneliness, and insecurity replaced by laughter, and encouragement,I finally felt free to be me in all my forms. And I liked the “me” that came out at that time. I was no longer chained down by my own dark thoughts. It was a nice time to be me. It was nicer to like me.
There was a time, near the end of our friendship that I was struggling with my finances, health, and a traumatic event. Coping with all three at once was toxic. One day, in particular, when I called him, needing a friend to confide in, he brushed me off with “You’re being a drama queen,” before I could get out what was eating me up inside. The comment immediately caused me to shut down. It has stayed with me for years. I felt hurt, shut down, unheard, but worst of all, I doubted whether or not my traumatic experience was traumatic at all. It was. But because I let that comment get to me, it took me almost a year to talk about it. It was a lesson in how words and how they are used matter. It was a horrible time to be me.
Listening to middle-child panelist yesterday, took me back to that moment, and caused me to reflect on the the term “drama-queen.” We use that term as a negative, without giving value to its meaning. Drama. Life would be boring without drama. Movies, plays, films, books none if it would sell as entertainment without drama. It takes talent to string words in a way that elicits emotions from an audience.
It was in that moment that I realized that the Universe had been yelling at me for years, but I had drowned it out. Refusing to listen. You see, drama queens are storytellers. They string words and emotions together with feelings so intense that it’s exhausting to listen to them. (Try being one of them). But they color our lives. Hearing that writer call herself a dramatist changed my perspective about myself. Not a drama queen, a dramatist. Someone who can draw people in with a story. That’s the me I liked to be.
The muse made a cameo appearance this fall. Like the final panelist, desperation equated to motivation. Having him back in my life, albeit briefly, opened the floodgates of ideas. I felt like in the middle of all this sadness and chaos; the universe negotiated. It said “I’ll grant you this friendship, briefly, but you pay it forward by connecting.”
I didn’t know what to write about at first. How do you connect with people on paper when you don’t know how to connect with them in person?
I decided to start with grief. I couldn’t let Felipe’s death be in vain. I couldn’t bare the thought of my grandpa looking down at me, side by side with my other grandparents, cousins, uncle, and friends. I couldn’t stand the thought of all of them meeting, looking through the window in the sky at my life and thinking, “It’s a shame that she’s not living up to her potential.” I needed to take baby steps. Which is where we are not.
Connecting with people is essential to survival. Some of us are social gifted, the rest of us connect through art. Some of us have a natural talent, the rest of us have to work a little harder at it. But what I learned yesterday is that with grit, practice, and a willingness to learn from failure, you can become the artist . . . or in my case, writer . . . that you want to be.

A Heart Still Healing

Will you think of me when I’m gone?
When you’ve met someone–
When you’ve moved on?

Will you keep me near your heart?
Will we keep speaking–
While worlds apart?

Will you answer when I call?
When I need you to catch me–
Before I fall?

Will you still want to be my guide?
And if so, will you make the time?

Questions I once asked
In our past
Worst fears come true
Change came to0 fast.

I don’t know what you’re thinking
All I know is that my heart’s still bleeding
Wishing for a time and place
Before I acted with such haste.

Before the wall grew thick and tall
Before you heard her siren call.

I wish I’d known
What you were thinking
That night I confessed
To you my feelings.

Or that night you set my
Whole heart riling
Betrayal, that’s what
I was feeling.

How could you treat me with such disrespect?
How could you think
You were doing your best?

Our friendship you risked
You set us aside.
For a chance at forever
With her at your side?

Didn’t you know
If it were meant to be.
Nothing would’ve been threatened
Not by a call with me . . .

You’ve moved on
Didn’t event thing twice!
When you knew of my
Internal plight.

You’ve moved on,
Not thinking twice!
Of a friendship that
Once brought you delight.

On to her
Without a second thought
Of a friendship forged
When two lives were distraught.

What was I ever you?
But someone to accompany you
While you were blue.

Our friendship was nothing
But a farce
It was nothing to you
But its end tore me apart.

Here I sit
Heart still shattered
My soul left
Cold and tattered.

Hoping to someday trust again
Hoping the next one
Deserves the love I can give.

Hoping he understands
When I’m slow to let him in
Hoping he’ll be patient
I’ll wait to begin.

And hoping that one day you’ll call to mend
What we once had as friends.

Hoping that what we had was strong
Hoping one day you’ll prove me wrong.


La Llorona- A Prelude


Once, in a small village atop a steep gorge, nestled in the deep woods of Guatemala, lived a woman so beautiful that she was thought to be the direct descendant of a goddess.

Her hair, thick and dark as night, reached her heels and seemed to shine with the moonlight. Her eyes radiated all the joy of the world, and her smile was as luminous and warm as the sun on a lazy day. Her character was a reflection of her beautify. Good natured and kind, she seemed to find humor in all of life’s wonders. She was beloved by the village and coveted by many who wished to marry.

Her heart, however, belonged to a young farmer who had a tendency to rescue and heal all of the gods’ creatures. Her heart and his, both good and full of love for all, were indeed a match. Eventually, the two married and had a daughter whose spirit was as delightful as her parents. She had her mother’s beauty and her father’s talent with animals. They were a happy family and the pride of the village. Until the day the storm hit.

In hindsight, the villagers would say they should’ve known that they were in the wake of danger. Thick, ominous clouds had loomed on the horizon for weeks, each day growing thicker and darker. The low rumbling of thunder shook the earth, and the winds bent the trees as if in warning. But the villagers, who had always been protected by the forest from the windstorms and the river by the high cliffs, stayed in their homes, not knowing to fear nature’s wrath. By the time the rain began to fall, it was too late.

The asperity of the storm uprooted the trees, which seemed to scream when torn from the earth. The deluge of the river crept into the fields endangering the livestock.

The women’s husband, always the caretaker, swept into action–determined to rescue all the village animals. But his actions would prevail at the greatest cost. Just as he’d brought the smallest foal to safety, the river surged enveloping the man so quickly that even the strongest men couldn’t pull him from current’s vehement grip. By the time the water quieted, it was too late.

Days later, the woman found his lifeless body dropped over a log. Pale. Cold. Empty. It’s said her shrill scream was heard for miles and was so deafening and full of sorrow that even the trees wept with grief. She returned home, broken hearted.

Her hair turned white and wispy like heaven’s clouds. The joy that once shone from her eyes dissipated into a dark and soulless gloom and the warmth that once radiated from her smile became a rare flicker reserved for her daughter, who quickly became her life’s devotion.

From that day forward, the woman lived solely for her daughter–determined to protect her from her husband’s fate. But as life would have it, her efforts would be in vain.

The two became an inseparable pair and soon settled into a comfortable routine. Each day, rain or shine, the woman would walk her daughter to and from school. They would stop by a food stand for coffee and a tortilla in the morning and a tamale after school. It was during these walks that the woman almost appeared as her old self. Occasionally her hair would glisten, and her eyes would briefly radiate joy as her daughter gleefully recounted her daily adventures and spun around in circles, and chased after forest creatures, hands spread wide like children at play often do.

One day, during their walk home, a heavy rain began to fall. The darkness of night had already settled in and her daughter, fascinated by the moon’s reflection in the growing puddles, let go of her mother’s hand and ran jumping into a puddle after puddle, splashing water with felicity. Her mother, filled with unease, struggled to keep up. As the night grew darker, the rain became stronger and morphed into a sheet of water so thick that the woman could barely see her daughter. Anxious, she called to her daughter to stop. In that very moment, as the daughter looked back at the woman, she slipped and slid down the embankment and over the cliff. Horrified, the woman reached out desperately trying to clasp her daughter’s outreached hand, but it was too wet, and the squalling wind chose that moment to rise and pull the daughter down with it.

The roaring storm drowned the woman’s scream and her sanity. When the storm was over, the village set out in search of the daughter. From the beginning, there was little hope of finding her. The cliff from which she’d fallen was too high for anyone to have survived. The river beneath it roared with so much fury that even the deer stayed clear of it. There was no way she could’ve survived the fall. The villagers knew it. Most thought that the river had carried her to the ocean or that she was buried somewhere in the forest.

After months of searching, the villagers settled back into life and tried desperately to console the woman. But without a body, the woman would not accept her daughter’s death. When the villagers called off the search, the woman became engulfed in so much rage  and despair that it erased her beauty. Some say her face became that of a horses head. Others that it became that of a skinless skull, but the truth will never be known. Since that day no one has survived a glimpse of the woman’s face. It had become so frightful, that the woman draped her long thick locks over her face to cover it’s horror. Those who have dared to part her hair from her face have fallen dead in their tracks–their faces frozen in fear.

From that grief-stricken day, the woman, now know as La Llorrona or the Crying Lady, has roamed the earth weeping and in search of her daughter. To this day, in the deep woods of Guatemala, you can hear her cries. Like the howling of wolves breaking the stillness of the night, her cries are heard through the rustling of the leaves and carried by the slightest breeze into the darkest crevice of every parent’s heart.

A shuddering fear runs through their bodies when they hear her cry, for only those that hear her howling pain know the true depth of her sorrow and despair. Only they know the true risk to their children’s lives,  the length to which she’ll go to to find  or replace her daughter, and the fatal consequences the can arise from a child’s disobedience.

I Wish You Now Adieux

The time has come
To drift apart
To close the door
A brand new start.

Erase is what
I’d like to do
With every memory
Concerning you.

An option
I cannot afford
Motivation then
To cut the cord.

Someday you’ll look
Upon this day
And learn that
You responded too late.

All I asked
Was for your time
A one-time priority–
Not a crime.

Time, however,
Never found
My heart for you
Is not that bound.

Friendships true
Are not a balance
It doesn’t take much
To be somewhat gallant.

Action and inaction
Spoke louder than words.
It’s clear my friendship
You did not deserve.

A friendship gone
Too far askew.
I bid you now
A silent adieux

And softly whisper
I shall always love you.