Category Archives: Friendships
She ran the stone one last time along the edge of her sword, restoring its former sharpened perfection. It’d been a single year’s passing since it had been used. From such a distance it was of little use to her, hence the blade had become blunted. In the mountains that she left, there had been intrusions, events that had come to pass that were far from her control. The will that she could not bend darkened the forest even more than she thought possible. Her sons, who stayed behind, had seen a side of human nature that no child should ever see. It was time to stop the madness. Her youngest son, in particular, needed protection that she could not provide from that distance.
She stood, testing the strength in her arm. That, too, had become soft, but the memory of how to rule her kingdom was etched in her fibers, ready to be summoned at will. And now that time had come. He was coming home.
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Had it only been one year? He scrubbed his hand over his face. So much had happened in that time, most of which he’d rather forget. They’d be safe, she told them, until she prepared the way and summoned them, but no sooner had she left, than the shadow awoke. Without his mother’s protective energy, the darkness filled the crevices of the forest, threatening to steal his soul. The landscape had changed in a few short weeks after she had left. No longer were there stable paths lined with hope and promises of a beautiful tomorrow. The footing had become unpredictable, with no clear vision of what the next moment might hold.
If it were not for the quiet hum of her lingering energy pulsating beneath his feet, he would have fallen many moons ago. Oftentimes he would press his cheek to the ground and weep, struggling to drink in the light that she had left behind.
The shadow had raised its head time and time again, lashing out at him, crying out for her. Their savior, their strength. So far away.
The villagers converged and surrounded him, took him away, and offered protection when she could not. Though kind and generous, ‘twas not enough. He missed the connection, however frayed and blackened the threads were, for it was all he knew. Little by little he found his way back to the forest edge. But nothing had changed. The never-ending pulsating force still beat strong. Too many nights he sat, watching from afar as the shadow sat alone, tipping his head back, letting loose a soul-crushing howl, so full of sorrow, pain, and loneliness.
“It is not what we once knew,” his older brother said one night.
He clung to his brother, his only ally in the unrecognizable terrain. Though not much older, he still exuded stability and comfort.
“The forest is deceiving,” he continued to say. “The shadow hides well within the darkness. No, little brother. It is beyond repair now, and I would have you stay with me.”
So his brother led him away that very night.
“I miss her,” he said, blinking back the pain in his heart.
“As do I, but we will be as one, until we unite with her again.”
Displaced from the home they knew, they ventured out, and took to honing their skills of survival. Left to fend for themselves, their minds and shoulders broadened with seeking the truth and wielding their swords. No longer thin and timid, together they became a force to behold.
At long last, the summoning arrived. Settled now into his routine, he looked around. Could he truly leave everything and everyone behind? It had become a place he so desperately wished to escape, yet so desperately wanted to remain. He was strong now. He had proved that to himself. He could stay. But there was no choice. She had made that decision for him.
With heavy feet and saddened hearts, they walked together to the portal that would take him home.
“You’ve always been there for me,” he said.
“And will always be there for you.”
They clasped forearms and stood awkwardly for a few moments before pulling each other into an embrace.
“You behave yourself, little brother. Do not give her trouble.”
He swiped his sleeve across his eyes. “When will you join us?”
“As soon as I can,” his brother said, ruffling his hair. “I promise.”
He nodded. A shuddering breath and quivering lip betrayed his confidence.
“Go. She is waiting.”
Grasping the hilt of his sword, he was ready to face the adventure before him. There he would learn of different clans, different languages, a new way of life, completely leaving behind all that he has known.
The portal shimmered before him. His mother, the pillar in his life, stood on the other side, her image steadfast through the wavering fabric of worlds. A smile that promised a different path for him encouraged him onward. A smile that reminded him of her comfort, her strength, and that he would not be fighting battles alone.
Her arms extended into a welcoming gesture, beckoning him to join her. His shoulders squared in response, for though he was eager to see her, he was too old, too changed for such emotional release. Taking one step forward, he stoically reined in the feelings that unexpectedly bubbled to the surface. A sense of urgency swirled in his legs and feet and the corners of his mouth lifted against his will. The burden of the past, the nights of burning tears melted away into a lightness he had not known since he was a child.
He turned to his brother and removed his scabbard from his waist. “I won’t need this anymore,” he said, handing his sword to his brother. “I’m going home.”
He stepped through the portal and quickened his footsteps until he found himself surrounded by his mother’s arms.
She looked to the portal and held out her hand, a question forming on her lips.
Her oldest smiled through simmering eyes and shook his head.
“Soon, Mama. Soon.”
I never thought it would happen to me, but there it was. I had known about it for six months, but assumed I could right the sails and keep the boat afloat. I got caught up in what many families are facing: The end to a well-paying, long-term job. During those six months, like a cornered animal, I got a tad cranky. I felt threatened. After 18 years of working in my bunny slippers, with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in hand, I had a wake up call. One I didn’t want to answer.
I was about to be thrown out of my comfort zone and into the world of *gulp* job hunting.
Which wasn’t easy. Especially in this small town where professional jobs are at a minimum and the lines are long for the rest of the jobs that open up. Small towns are awesome. Small towns create a sense of belonging. I love knowing everyone at the bank or the grocery store. I love the fact that one of our busiest streets really isn’t so busy after all.
But none of that matters when the well runs dry, when I’m faced with decisions, when I feel like a failure. A new plan was needed fast. The more I thought about it, the more I looked at the circumstances, the choice was clear. I needed to look outside of this town.
If I were to be honest, I’d been feeling as if my wheels were spinning and that I forgot who I was – still. I’d been talking about a finding new direction for awhile, but since I was swimming in my comfort zone, I had no reason to get out of the pool. Well, guess what. Losing my job was the kick in the ass that I needed to move forward.
What I hadn’t counted on, though, was that I would be going at this alone. The boys and I had been a tight unit and I assumed we’d move together. But ‘twas not to be. They wanted to stay with their father in Idaho for their own reasons. Reasons I understood, but still I felt I failed on many levels. Was I that bad of a mother that they didn’t want to be with me? Shouldn’t I sacrifice a few more years and stay here just in case they needed me? How much would this hurt them in the long run?
Infused with guilt, I spoke with my uncle who reminded me that, in the face of knowing we would miss each other, would miss the routine we’ve developed over the years, both boys made a very deliberate decision. Sure, they could have taken the easy way out and followed me, looking to me to handle things, but I’ve taught them to be free thinkers and to make choices based on what they felt was best for them. It had always been my intention to pass at least one morsal of something to them, and here I had my proof.
Feeling somewhat better, I chose to practice what I preach: Do something that is best for me. After putting my needs on hold for 25 years, now is my chance to follow opportunities that will further my choice of career. Opportunities I cannot find here in North Idaho.
I want to show my boys a side of me they haven’t yet seen before – the woman who waited patiently behind the mother. I want my sons to see me as a healthy and successful person, not the overbearing, overprotective mama bear who pushed them to realize heights I knew they were capable of, all while I was feeling frustrated because I wasn’t reaching my own potential. I want to be the best person I can be, to show them that my happiness is as important as theirs. My reasons for doing this, as painful as the process might be, will serve them as well as me.
And the timing is right. My job had allowed me to work from home for the last 18 years and over those almost two decades I’ve seen my oldest through to graduation and my youngest get through middle school. I’ve taught them as many life lessons as I have experienced myself, taught them social graces, and how to be kind to others. Now the rest is up to them.
Yes, I’ll definitely miss the little things, the daily routine, the chance to hug them when they’re feeling sad or happy, but through Skype, texting, phone calls, and Facebook, I’ll still be able to nag – I mean, guide – them through the trials and successes and celebrations big and small. The moments we share will be sweeter, the visits will be anticipated events.
The silver lining to all of this is that I will have the opportunity to discover who I am and what I need to feel whole, because when we become mothers and wives, so many of us lose sight of ourselves. It’s a continuous process, one I started two years ago. I have a very specific plan A, with no plan B, so there won’t be any falling back. Only forward movement. By expanding my horizons outside of this town, I will be able to bring more of the world to the boys. It’s the put-on-the-oxygen-mask-first-before-putting-it-on-the-children mentality.
My uncle also told me, “Go ahead and feel guilty if you must, but it would be a mistake not to try.”
So try, I will.
This song, The Reason, by Hoobastank, is for you, boys. You are my reason. I love you.
I was explaining to my son exactly why I went on a vacation to California, leaving him and his older brother in the care of their father.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. You’re going through a mid-life crisis.”
I spun around so quickly, I think I scared him. The only reason why my youngest boy didn’t receive my full wrath after that remark was because I figured he had been parroting the words of my ex. He had to have been. Who else would be so closely affected by me wanting to escape from responsibility for a mere week (out of 1,144 weeks that we were together)? The one man on this planet to have tried – and succeeded – to have guilted me from doing those things and seeing those people who really fed my soul. (Okay, so I allowed it, but still…)
“Mid-life crisis” is usually said with a judgmental and condescending tone. To me, this phrase smacks of negativity. As if reaching this point is a bad thing, as if we’ve stepped over to the darker side of the tracks.
Anyway, whoever whispered that choice little phrase into my son’s ear needs to hear what I have to say.
Self Discovery is the new Mid-Life Crisis.
“Mid-life crisis,” I think, is being in a place of self discovery. It’s when we look around and reassess our life and say, “Hey! There I am! I had no idea I would enjoy something like that.” So we start playing and doing things we’d forgotten to have fun doing. Stuff we’d stupidly put on hold for… what? Whatever we were doing that we felt took precedence over our own needs, could have been tailored to work around or with us. If we hadn’t shelved the fun or passion for so long, we never would have gotten to this point in the first place. And while we’re in this state of “confusion,” our loved ones sit back and patiently wait for us to “come back” to our senses. Will we ever come back? I hope not.
I believe those with the tsk, tsk attitude might be a tad frightened when people like me wake up one day and say they’ve had enough. I’m a threat. I can single-handedly shake their tree and leave them scratching their heads, wondering what just blew through their forest. I’m a break from their safe routine.
The reality is that this state of mind should be encouraged, for it is through the process of finding out what makes us happy, that this happiness will undoubtedly spill over into the outside world, not fester and breakdown, such as what happened to me not too long ago.
So, today, on my 50th birthday, I find myself still making up for lost time, and with a little help from my friends, the road to discovery has been over-the-top amazing.
The joy I’ve found and the joy I have yet to find will be for my friends and family as well. So, here’s to 50 more years of self discovery…. Cheers!
It’s a double-edged sword. A two-faced creature. The stuff that either makes dreams come true or shatter into itty bitty tears. It’s the glue between relationships – personal or professional. It’s what raises the bar for a lot of us or, if not met, can disappoint and crush.
No. It’s not love.
Expanding on yet another post I wrote almost two years ago about boxes and labels and expectations being a big part of that, I’ve come to another crossroads in my still-developing life. I’ve been willing to accept that I cannot be contained, cannot be categorized, and I’ve reveled in that freedom. But it wasn’t enough. Others still criticized and pushed their expectations on me to be a certain way and, though I stood my ground, I’d found old habits threatening to resurface. I felt guilty and wanted to bend to their will.
So this time around I’d made it perfectly clear. Do. Not. Expect. Anything. From. Me. I am who I want to be, not who you want me to be. Not my job to fulfill your expectations.
It was easy for me to wrap my head around the fact that their expectations were their issue. Not mine.
Some people complied, some people didn’t and that, honestly, annoyed me because, damn it. I expected them to respect my request.
Ahh, but I’d gotten caught in my own box of expectations, didn’t I? It didn’t occur to me until my cousin mentioned that she was waiting for someone to do something and it wasn’t panning out. She then added, “Oh well. That’s my expectation. Gotta let it go.” This ah-ha moment hit me like a nice 2 x 4 across my ego. I had to release the expectations I had of others. Yeah, I know. I said “duh,” too.
It’s brilliant. Obvious and simple, but brilliant. I’d thought of all of the little expectations I’d had of other people and I just had to laugh, starting with the expectation that others will release their expectations of me. A close second was how events or situations should turn out. Unpredictable at best with all of the possible outcomes, it was far easier to release that expectation then to try to control something I had no control over.
So, yeah. This expectation thing is a two-way street, a journey that if everyone took, could very well circumvent a lot of frustration. As much as we might like to, we cannot control and we cannot predict what another will do. We can only observe and try to respect.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I don’t know about you, but I love, love, love getting a letter or greeting card or email from my friends and family. I tend to get wrapped up in their daily goings on, or whatever person or event is causing them grief or joy. Sometimes I’ll hold on to the letter or save the email so I can read them over and over again just because of what is written, how it’s written, or just…because. I so adore my friends and family. I’d imagine some of you may feel the same way.
But how would you feel if you received a letter, addressed to you, from overseas, from someone you didn’t know? How would you feel? Wouldn’t you be curious?
Well, that’s what happened to Mr. G.L. Solomon, living in Sydney, Australia. In Naomi Bulger’s novella, Airmail, his very lonely, very mundane, very routine life takes a turn when he receives a letter from a woman he doesn’t know, who lives in New York. This odd, mysterious, quirky woman, Anouk, continues to write letters to him, confessing the random workings of her mind, and he continues to read the letters, still content in his life, sitting in his home halfway across the world. Until, that is, one day she writes him, claiming to be writing from “the other side.” Believing Anouk is in trouble, Mr. Solomon steps out of his comfort zone and into her world in New York, leaving all that is familiar to him, determined to help her in any way he can.
What happens from that moment on, can be nothing but life changing for Mr. Solomon.
Airmail is a brilliantly written novella by Naomi Bulger. It’s one of those stories that lingers in our minds long after the book is tucked away.
I had the opportunity to hook up with Naomi this week and ask her a few questions about the story, and I am thrilled to share our conversation with you!
I love the premise of Airmail. What inspired you to write it? Were the characters based on anyone you knew?
Thank you! If I’m honest, insomnia inspired me to write Airmail. I originally had a completely different story in mind, one in which a girl traveled the world writing letters to a stranger, and through those letters the stranger (and the reader) would learn about her adventures, her romances, her journey. But while I was writing I went through a particularly bad bout of insomnia, and I guess it really messed with my mind. It probably didn’t help that I wrote under a flickering fluorescent light a lot of that time, too. Before I knew it, the girl had a ‘reverse stalker’ and within a very short period of time, she was (or believed she was) dead! She never got to leave New York. I struggled for a while with trying to wrestle the book back to my earlier vision but, in the end, I gave up and decided to keep writing and see where the story would lead me.
To answer the second part of your question, the characters aren’t based on people I know, but the old man, Mr G.L. Solomon, was created in part by a close friend. I was struggling to write the character of an old man in a way that convinced even me, let alone anyone else. So I work-shopped him with my friend, an actor. I gave my friend a brief outline of the old man’s character, then started posting letters. I would hand-write the letters in the character of Anouk, and send them to my friend’s house (addressed to Mr G.L. Solomon) in airmail envelopes. I even pasted used US stamps onto them so they seemed to come from New York, rather than my Sydney house around the corner. After reading the letters, my friend would talk with me about the old man’s reactions. Things like, “He can’t read Anouk’s handwriting” came first. Then “He has developed a routine around how and when he reads the letters,” and, “He used to be annoyed when they came, but now he is curious to know more.” Together, we built up a picture of this curmudgeonly old man, who is so very real to me today.
How long did you take to write Airmail?
This was a quick book to write, I’d say only six weeks. But that was the first draft. Subsequent drafts and work with editors in both Australia and the US took literally years.
Is there a message in Airmail that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t think I wrote Airmail with a message in mind, it’s not a book that’s intended to teach. That said, I think the central message that came out of this book is to “own your own stories.” Things happen to us in life: the very good, the very bad, and a whole lot of everyday stuff in between. But if we try to edit any stories out of our memories, even the bad ones, we are not being true to ourselves. Everything that happens to you in your life helps make you who you are, that unique and special you.
Airmail has a very unique cover. Who did the design work?
I love the cover of Airmail, it was done by my publisher’s in-house designers. I talked with them about the kind of mood I wanted to create, for example the vintage postage feel, and sent them some Polariod photographs I had taken myself during my research for Airmail. But I was prepared for something completely different, and willing to accept their marketing know-how over my aesthetic. They came back with this cover, even using some of my Polariods on the back, and I just loved it.
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This is definitely a not-to-be-missed read. And….no book review would be complete without a giveaway! So go ahead and leave a comment below, be it a question or random thought, and I’ll put your name in a hat, from which a winner will be drawn and announced tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow, I’d love it if you would join me when I give you the low-down on Naomi. She so deserves a day of her own…Yeah, she’s that good.