Lourdes Mint's Mid-Life Miracle

Real-time memoir of the coming year (5/20/14 – 15) and the achievement of a life-long dream

Archive for the month “January, 2015”

Love letter, from a kind of bad guy to his beloved daughter

letterfrombadguy[Written in the spring of 1920, outside, in some hilly Tennessee woods]

To my dear daughter, Lucie,

I could not believe it when I got your letter! My hands shook so bad I put them and your letter into my pockets. I was careful not to bend the envelope. Then I went right out, into the yard and straight to my shed. I started rattling my things around like maybe I had something needing fixing. I would say I was in a state! But then I sat down and opened the letter.

Lucie, I haven’t let myself hope that such a thing as this could ever happen still for me. I’d expect better that a tropical bird might fly into my window here, sit on my knee, and start talking to me. “Hello Ned, silly old fool,” in a friendly like manner. But here your letter is in my hand! And your handwriting especially for the address is like mine as you might see for yourself. That was another surprise.

Thank you for writing Lucie. You may never know how much it means to me. Over the years I must have thought about writing to you at least one hundred times, but I could never think of what to say. You are much braver than me.

This morning, I went into the woods to write my letter to you. I believe I am sitting in a spot I might never been before, even though I come up here more and more these days. I don’t know why this feels like the right place to talk to you. I could find some place quiet enough and where I won’t be interrupted almost anywhere. You probably have some thoughts why this could be the right place for me to write this letter. You always were so good with your thinking and questions too. But I couldn’t ever think of the right answers for you, even when you were not much more than a baby. I make the point because it’s true and also because of what happened with your college school. I am so sorry what happened because I understand you are sad about it. But I know whatever made you leave that place, it cannot be that you are not smart enough. I would bet anything on that! You are the smartest person in that town. I would never doubt you had a good reason to leave.

Well there really is nothing to see in these woods but more woods. I tried many different ways through them and never came across anything worth telling to another person or to put in a letter to be carried for 700 miles to you. I wish I could describe a beautiful view for you, but there are too many trees in the way, every which way I look. Even if I could see through these trees, I doubt I could describe what I saw in a way you would enjoy. I see how good you are with words. But there was one time I saw a shovel that had become part of a tree. Someone must have left it there years ago and forgot about it, so that the tree just kept growing around it. What I mean is it was split at the blade and then came together again up around the handle. The first time I saw it, I was amazed. Now I pass right by it without even looking at.  Another day I found the stone foundation of what must have been a home for some of the very first people to settle here. This could sound very strange but I imagined you there! I imagined you and your sister and some of the others sitting around a table there, next to a warm fire. I could see in my mind what you might look like then, a beautiful girl at 12 years old or so. In my mind I also heard the sound of your voice, you telling a story just right, so that everyone was listening and laughing.

I never pass by the place without looking and imagining something of that scene. I stop there often and often I sit and eat my lunch on a good level stone. Sitting there I am just an arm’s reach from your table.

Weeks ago I saw a string of little blooms hanging from a branch. Someone made it for someone, by way of threading the stem of each into a tiny hole in the stem of the next. You know how to do this I remember, but a young lady probably doesn’t bother with that kind of thing much anymore. I don’t know why Lucie, but the sight of it out here startled me! The flowers were already wilting and nothing too special about them to begin with, but still  I stood there looking at them for a long time. They swayed a bit in a breeze and there was just enough daylight that the little petals had a glow about them. What is strange is how I can remember it so well but more like I heard it in a story, not so much like I actually saw it. The very next day I could not seem to recall even the colors of the flowers which were all of a kind. Another strange thing is as I was standing there suddenly my cheeks got hot and my hands started to shake just a little. The dog I had with me took off back down the hill without me! And I had this thought very clear in my head, that this beautiful thing was not for me to see or enjoy, so I turned and headed back down the hill too. I don’t know why. Maybe you’ll understand a reason Lucie.

This is all I can think of to tell you now, but thank you again dear daughter for writing to me. I cannot say I feel deserving of your kindness. I never thought something like this could happen for me still. And I could not believe it but for this envelope in my hand. If you want to write to me again I hope you will. I will write back to you every time unless you ask me not to. If you do write again please tell me more about all the animals, the little cousins, and especially your reading and writing. And please anything else you want to tell me.

Have you seen the ocean yet? Have you tried swimming?

Also, if there is a photograph you could send with your letter without too much trouble I would be very happy for that. I think I can imagine you pretty well at 16, all except the eyes. I don’t know why that is, but I am sure they are beautiful.

Your loving father

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STRATEGY versus BAM!

“Strategy” is a word like “acceptance” and “surrender” to me (along w/ some others I’d rather not mention, such as goodness [as in virtue, morality] and loyalty, success, happiness), in that I don’t feel I really understand it. I mean, I understand it on an intellectual level, in terms of its simplest “denotation.” But on a practical, day-to-day level, the whole me doesn’t really get it, can’t get inside it, use it w/ confidence, LIVE it — the word or the thing itself.

I look such words up sometimes (often), even though I know, I must know, pretty much exactly what I’ll read there — maybe even more. But “Strategy” and some of the others remain opaque, words that don’t talk to me (that’s how it feels). A neighbor likes to tell his kids, “Complaining isn’t a strategy.” I get that. I agree with it. But it’s not the kind of thing I’d say myself, or even think, because I’m not him and I don’t think or talk like that … oh, and also, I don’t really understand it. I’m more of a “winger,” which can be a beautiful thing when it works out, but oh when it doesn’t, watch out! No, I don’t seem to have some strategies or, if I do, I’m not aware of what they are or how to work them exactly. And my life is telling me I need to figure this out.

To me, accomplishing goals has always gone something like this — decide what I want or realize what I must do, PONDER and mull and discuss, wait till the last minute, and then:

1. Position the right amount of dynamite just so;

2. Light that match; and

3. BAM! (Done.)

4. Pick up the pieces later.

5. Never look back.

6. Yay! Party time.

(Best not to make too big a deal about things we’ve done right, esp. when we are not sure HOW we’ve done them. And at any minute, our successes MAY be revealed as flukes anyway, and … and … I know how all of this sounds.)

A while back, I was explaining to my six-year-old kid that he needs a “strategy” for how to handle situation X in case it arises again. What’s a strategy? (I asked. Not him.) “Strategy, yes. Well … a strategy will help you, uhhh. It’s a plan … that you follow … and it, um…” That’s what got me thinking about it, looking it up, etc., again.

The fact is I have bad feelings about the word. And I realize I have bad feelings about all of these words, some more than others, because they seem to be bandied about in a world that is basically foreign to mine, to roll easily off the tongues of people I may admire but know I can never truly “let my hair down” with — people who: go to bed at a reasonable time; dream sweet dreams; wake fresh, clear-headed; do what they’re f_cking supposed to do (and MORE) in a timely manner — check(!), check(!), and check(!); manage their readily manageable emotions consistently; make “good choices” consistently, w/ no big push-back from appetites/desires/yearnings/leanings that are immoderate, unwholesome, unusual — or how about abstruse? (There’s a word I’m sure I haven’t used since college, but I do know that lonesome feeling of not really being able to explain what exactly it is I’m toiling away at or why.) And back to these people, surprise!!!! They are not only successful (in the simplest AND MOST IMPORTANT sense of the word: they achieve what they set out to do) but also seem/appear to FEEL successful, competent, confident, etc. And this feeling, over time, this attitude, must be worth so much more than any of their individual accomplishments. That’s what I’m thinking about these people.

These people. I want to say, I’d love to say: well, they’re just like that, a different type of person all together, you know? They’re not like me … they’re less complicated, they had an easier transition into adulthood, had more straightforward expectations or aspirations, contain more of that salt of this earth, etc. But now I’m thinking that the real difference, at least one of them, is that these people had/have some seriously handy strategies — not just things they WANT and DESIRE and LONG FOR. But plans about how they would go about accomplishing/getting (some, even one, of) these things, given their resources and the way life goes. And these good, workable plans — I’m betting, based on such people I’ve known well — are not especially CLEVER or CRAFTY, connotations of Strategy that make it too easy for me (and my like) to disassociate from. Such plans are not overly elaborate or flashy, NOR are they rigid, more just “get the job done” kinds of plans. The STRATEGIC people I’m thinking of haven’t wed themselves to a perfectly defined GOAL (which seems to go against much of the popular wisdom re: goal-setting/achieving [e.g., so-called SMART goals]) or to any of the STEPS toward that goal, but seem to just sort of get moving — as the famous quote goes — in the direction of their dreams.

That “in the direction” part is so important, and I’ve always known that, glommed on to that, though I was never sure why. Now I think it’s because I understood/believed it on some level. We don’t have to work out all the details ABOUT ANYTHING in order to make a move. We ALSO don’t have to be completely okay with ourselves, our lives, others in our lives … the world — any of it — before we make a move. If we wait for the conditions to be just right, optimal, conducive, whatever, then IT, whatever it is, will NEVER, ever happen. And yet I, at least, continue to contrive diagrams, frameworks, flow charts, tables, algorithms, etc., to help guide me, to delineate the precise alchemy of transformation, to relieve me of the burden of a given moment’s dilemma/decision (all the while knowing full-well that I will abide, adhere to, follow nothing [or very little] that doesn’t suit me exquisitely in that very moment).

Now, I’m thinking about something my friend Rachel said recently about successful (or was it happy? content? effectual?) people, something about how people who do well (we’ll say) generally have some sort of Plan B, or maybe several Plans B: acceptable alternatives to the ideal scenario, most hoped-for outcome, fondest dream. And this led me to read up on Strategy yet again, in all sorts of contexts. Even though the explanations still seem vague and sort of all-over-the-place to me, the words/concepts that keep popping up are: principle, policy, doctrine, etc. You might think: “ugh.” But really the idea, which to me is way beyond CRAFTY/CLEVER, is that you build a realistic plan — considering your present resources, circumstances, etc. — that keeps you as close to your North Star (the thing upon which you place highest value) as possible while helping you move in the direction of your dreams/goals/whatever. And it’s precisely this emphasis on one’s North Star, this most cherished thing (versus desired end result), that makes strategy strategic: it keeps your plan weather-proof, makes it hardy, and helps you stay on track, reminding you why you keep trying to do what you’re trying to do even when it seems impossible, that nothing seems to be going right, etc.

I think I finally get it. I like it. And I’ve long recognized anyway that “trying to figure it all out first” is a pretty obvious form of procrastination — putting off trying, putting off failing, putting off succeeding, putting off all of it. The hard part is this North Star business (which is how I summed up “guiding principle, policy, etc.,” probably not the most helpful way for me to think of it, given me). But I do think, even with this significant reservation, that I get Strategy well enough to work it. It’s:

  • Being willing to take action THAT FEELS IN LINE W/ MY DESIRED OUTCOME … with no assurances or supports (via solid track record or super-specific plan or goal); AND
  • Putting more of the planning-energy into what I’m going to do to stay on track when all kinds of sh_t doesn’t go my way (because THAT’s a given AND bitching, moaning, etc., has done nothing to help in the past) than into exactly what steps I’m going to take to move forward; AND
  • Considering Plans B (wow… how very novel, this one); AND finally
  • Figuring out/admitting to myself, and possibly others, what my “North Star” is… and then fully accepting/surrendering to it, letting it take its rightful place in my sometimes crazy, often chaotic life.

I’m glad I wrote this (though I’m sure it’s hell to read) because it helped me think through something important, but I doubt I’ll write anything like this again in my five more months of blogging. Who knows, though — whatever I think I need, I’ll do. I have learned a lot here, even when I haven’t commented or been commented on, liked or been liked. YES, even with all I’ve started but haven’t finished, haven’t posted, etc., I’m motivated to keep trudging along. I’m also inspired, so often dazzled, by what I see here in your blogs. And although I don’t think I’m a born blogger, I do think I’ll reach my blog’s goal.

Can not stomach … “prettying” up your piece(s) of sh_t anymore — after 17 years, NO MORE “COPY EDITING” 4 me (finally came up with a New Year’s resolution :))

I am done “WORKING MY MAGIC*” on your UGLY, f_cked up writing. I’m done “copy editing” (aka rewriting, as is often the case) your nonsense. Done pissing you off w/ perfectly sane questions about the CRAZY SH_T YOU put on paper, trying to make it UNDERSTANDABLE (oh, and maybe relevant?) to your intended audience and ALSO done explaining to you the concept of “your intended audience.” I understand that you’re good at what you do, that you’ve done good, important work in the real world**, but many of you have not learned (to bother) to communicate that work to others, a good many of whom (in our field) have an essentially life-or-death need to know. How is that OK? Well, it’s not. It’s an honest-to-gawd travesty, truly. And I at least am done trying to bridge that gap myself, a compulsion that has left me frustrated, exhausted, and worse: feeling like a complete Olive Oyl (i.e., one incapable of learning her lesson).

(In the scene that always flashes across my mind, I recall Olive’s undignified yelping — “Oh, oh dear! Help!!! Oh dear! Popeye!? Somebody!? Anybody!” — as her legs stretch to two or three times their “normal” length, while the space between the dock that she has one enormous foot on and the boat that she has the other on widens. I can’t find the exact image, but this one from “Seasin’s Greetinks” works just as well. See her face? The panic? The ridiculous predicament she’s gotten herself into, AGAIN? Yes, well that’s me, pretty much exactly, as I “copy edit” your crap, which I realize is really not your fault. But still, I’m done.)6925729252_f845e70457

Perhaps you believe that the universe of your work exists somewhere out there, beyond your words, with all its meaning (YOUR meaning) intact. And so if your writing comes close enough to what you want to get across, readers will be able to make it the rest of the way on their own, but I think you’re wrong. I know that even the most motivated readers will not discover your meaning because it’s not there. You have not worked it out for yourself. You have not made the case. You have not communicated. You have not finished the job. And I don’t want to help you fake it anymore with superficial fixes, clever headings, colorful graphics that mean ZERO, etc. — especially when the writing still sucks. Done, I say!

And I feel better now that I’ve realized, or rather admitted, this all to myself. You’ll feel better too, I’m sure, when I STOP asking you to clarify this or that, STOP pushing you to address the gaping holes in your argument, to square your claims w/ the supporting data, etc. I’m not going to panic — just as you’re not. It is, after all, just a New Year’s resolution and you know how they go, but still — here it is for now: no more “copy editing” for me as of January 2015. I like it! I like it a lot! And if I stick with it, it’s really no big deal for you. There are hordes of “copy editors” ready and willing to give you exactly what you want, much better than I ever could. And there are others like me, too, who’d be more than happy to stick it to you when you really need it, when you’re open to it, whatever. I’m done, though, I really do hope…

Yes, this is exactly what I would like for myself (a small but critical part of it anyway) for reasons very similar to those of anyone who makes a resolution. I think by NOT COPY EDITING your crap, I will —

** Be a better — yes, BETTER — person AND parent AND spouse AND friend AND citizen

** Be happier AND more attractive AND healthier AND smarter (or, re: this last one, feel freer to LEAN INTO the smarts I’ve got)

** Have a better attitude toward life’s ups and downs

** Have a much better chance of doing something more suited to me, my desires, my natural skills (I’m absolutely sure I wasn’t born to copy edit, edit, etc., and I do believe I’ve found just the thing … )

I also look forward to not having to pussy-foot around your and other people’s sloppy thinking, sloppier writing, sloppy F_CKING sloppiness. I am sick of saying, “He/she is great at what she DOES, but he/she is just not so adept at putting it into words,” sick of saying it because I usually don’t (IF EVER) mean it anymore, and if I don’t mean it, I shouldn’t say it, right? Right. What’s worse, I doubt it’s always even a question of your ability as much as it’s one of how much you care. And THAT’S the thing that’s really started messing with me: the gawd-awful, lonesome, foolish feeling of knowing, deep down, that I care more than you do about “your” writing. Pussy-footing and all that comes with it (slippery slope there!) = slow but sure soul death.

And taking this step, finally cutting the cord, will help me become a better writer myself, too — I have no doubt. (I’ve picked up some really rotten habits from you!) So I’m hereby dedicating my writing skills, my passion for words and for learning how better to use them and to MAKE THEM do what I know they can do, to the person who can benefit most from them now: ME (2015). I have only five more months to reach my blog’s goal and that work is in the works again! But I will need as much time as I can manage between now and then to even come close to achieving the goal — given my loves, my other priorities, etc.

*          *           *

I’ll admit I’m writing this today because of an Acknowledgment I received in a recently published article that — while “copy editing ” — I really sweated over. I went back and forth with this “author” who — it became clear — had not even read the piece, submitted by her “in-country” team. And she begrudged my every query, bumming over how the additional investigation required was going to IMPACT her holiday. I pointed out that she was free to ignore my questions and suggestions, but — good for her and OTHERS — she chose not to. And even though she gave me quite a bit of grief at first, she filled those gaps and w/ a lot of rewriting (mostly on my part), we were able to make good sense of the new data. As our collaboration drew to a close, she acknowledged VERY OBLIQUELY her previous unpleasantness and also how much better she felt the paper now was because I pushed as I did. And in the very, very end, in the published article, she acknowledged me for my “copy editing.” Pppfffffftt!!!

Do I sound bitter? I guess I do. Was what happened between this person and me in this instance that different from hundreds of similar situations over the years? No. The relationship between subject matter expert/author and editor is inherently, potentially very complicated. I know this. I’ve known this. I’ve been OK with this for a long time. I’ve done much more for an author with no acknowledgment at all and been OK w/ it. I’m not anymore. And a lot of that is on me, not them. It seems that once you’re more familiar w/ a certain subject matter, it’s more difficult — for me at least — to just “copy edit,” even when that’s what a client specifically requests (often, they don’t WANT you to dig around too much because they know they’ve given you crap). But I’m at a point where (at which…) I’m not satisfied to insert a comma here and delete one there when the whole thing makes no sense. And I can no longer readily switch out my copy editor’s hat for my substantive or developmental editor’s hat (or vice versa).

And that’s what has lead to my resolution, not so much my disgruntlement w/ this particular person in this particular case, but my awareness/realization that I can not stomach simply “prettying” up your piece(s) of sh_t anymore. No. That role is distinctly, definitely, definitively no longer satisfying to me. And while I don’t think the quality or value of one’s life (professional or otherwise) can necessarily be measured solely in terms of their (his/her…) satisfaction/fulfillment, I do think that if one finds this to be their lot, even in part, than that one owes it to herself and every one around her to take it seriously, work toward it, etc. And hip, hip! That one may be me. 🙂

Also, the kind of “copy editing” I’m talking about here, especially for someone who resents my input and ultimately doesn’t understand (or won’t own up to) what I’ve done for their writing, now takes much more from me than it brings. And over time, I think I’ve actually wronged something in me that I want to make right again, if possible, something I believe I need for my own writing, my own well being. Not 100% sure what it is yet.

Anyway, it hasn’t been all bad. Far from it. And there are a few pet points I’d like to bid a special farewell to before filing them away:

  • Vague and simple are not the same thing.
  • Simple –> good; simplistic —> not good.
  • Just because something happened, is factual and true, does not mean that it should be included in a given piece of writing.
  • Just because you say so does not make it so (hello Comp 101!)

Sweet, aren’t they? But, ohhhh, round and round I go here. Where’s my editor when I need one?

*          *           *

Anyway. And …

In conclusion, I do NOT find satisfaction or fulfillment rewriting your pieces of sh_t (that are then published) ONLY TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED for “copy editing” your pieces of sh_t. And if this resolution sticks, I do believe I’ll be better, happier, more attractive, more SUCCESSFUL, etc. By gawd, it’s happening already!!! And you’ll be fine too, fine as you ever was. Heh, heh. All the great work that was done, though, that you had something or other to do with, THAT may well slip into oblivion on the backs of the sloppy verbiage you persist in insisting needs little more than a light copy edit or “minor tweaking.” And THAT will probably never stop bumming me out when I think about it. I’ll need to remind myself that it’s out of my hands now (I’ve done more than enough, more than I should have probably, already***).

Possible resolution for 2016? Limit my bumming out about things that are out of my hands.

 

* WORKING MY MAGIC — Oh, how I’ve always hated this way (your way) of describing what I do. I am a trained professional, like you, and I assure you that I have no magic at my disposal, not when it comes to editing anyway. 😉 Good editing is hard work (that I’m now done with).

** It’s precisely because what you do is SO IMPORTANT that I’ve hung in there as long as I have with you, tried so hard to help. (But I’m done now.)

*** This is something that probably requires more explanation. Maybe later. For now, I’m done. 🙂

Hey, ho, happy 2015!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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