Always

The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers commences today, meaning that I will be posting every day in the month of March. This is my fifth consecutive year of participating.

I’ve learned a few things along the way about perseverance, creativity, and trust. Writing is, after all, an experiment in trust. You must trust yourself, trust that the words will come, that the Muse WILL show up. You take the plunge, trusting in the congenial ebb and flow of the writing community. You become a conduit of giving, of receiving. That is the power of story.

This year I am also experimenting with an abecedarian approach. Rationale: If I write around a word beginning with each letter of the alphabet…it will carry me through twenty-six days! That gives me five “wild card” days for the thirty-one in March. We’ll see how it goes. I could start with my word for the year, awe, but as I’ve written about that quite a bit since January, I will go in a different direction today.

I begin, instead, with always.

Always is cloaked in the aura of awe, anyway.

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It’s woven through every great love story. The unbreakable thread, even when knotted with pain and loss. It glitters in the brightest moments and in the darkest; it is anchored deep in the human heart. It is the pull of permanence in the face of impermanence, mortality, powerlessness.

It is the word Severus Snape speaks in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the moment we learn that he isn’t pure evil, that he has lived for years in his own personal hell, that he loved, and still loves, Harry’s dead mother. Snape will die protecting her son (which, if he’d made different choices along the way, might have been his own; the bitterness and self-blame run so deep). When this all dawns on the Hogwarts headmaster, Dumbledore, he asks, in tears, if Snape still loves Lily “after all this time.”

Snape says: Always.

He is, in that one word, redeemed.

It is the operative word of the song Dolly Parton wrote in 1973 when she left Porter Wagoner and his show to begin her solo career: I Will Always Love You. Bittersweet lyrics, wishing the best for someone as the relationship itself disintegrates…it’s not just about love. It’s about always. It reverberates with gratitude. And you’re likely hearing Whitney Houston’s voice instead of Dolly’s—the young, beautiful, vibrant Whitney, always alive in that iconic song.

It is a memory word, pulsating in the veins of our allotted days. What are the things, the moments, that you will carry with you always? The people, the songs, the stories?

Always is why I write. To remember those things that matter, to jettison those that burden, to sail on through the storms to the calm that lies beyond. It is always there. Morning always follows the longest night. Night is always necessary; it invokes sleep, opportunity for the brain to repair itself. A mooring, in order to keep powering on. Much like writing itself.

Then there are dreams…an always-fascinating phenomenon.

I’ve been paying attention to those of late, writing them down, especially recurring dream symbols: birds, notably eagles. Lots of vivid green in unexpected places. Water, which is a metaphor for life. Once I dreamed I was swimming at dusk in an unknown sea alongside a shore dotted with houses and twinkling lights. I knew my destination was still a long way off. Just as I felt I wouldn’t make it, a dolphin came to guide me onward. It stayed close to my side, occasionally leaping. I touched it. I felt its slick, smooth skin against my palm. On contact, an instantaneous infusion of comfort: I absorbed the dolphin’s inherent cheer; I could rely on its agility, its navigational acuity. See how even dreams lead back to trust. Dreams are not always good, but most of mine are, thankfully. Troubled dreams are often the psyche’s way of trying to problem-solve.

And that takes me back to my great love, writing—for it’s the ultimate problem-solving mechanism. Writing is the chance dream while awake.

Always.

Harry Potter fans know the symbolism of the doe…

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Another favorite ‘a’ word in addition to always and awe: Abide. I wrote around that last autumn. A new “a” word I’ve learned: Anaplastology. Ana = anew, plastos = something that is made, so, “something made anew.” It is the branch of medicine which deals with prosthetic rehabilitation of a missing or malformed body part.

March (writing) madness

slice-of-life_individual

I’ve just noticed how much the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life badge resembles a basketball.

I find this coincidence captivating, as today kicks off a special season of challenge for both: a month-long daily writing commitment and March Madness.

Bracket predictions are not my thing, but writing is, so I am fondly dubbing these thirty-one days March Writing Madness.

Truthfully, it’s almost madness for me to write a blog post every single day in March. A quality post, that is. I can’t share something until I feel I’ve hammered it into the best possible shape, and in a normal week, that comes to just a post or two. This daily venture is daunting. It’s expensive. I know what the Slice of Life commitment is going to cost me in time and energy. Sacrifices will be required.

But, oh, the payoff . . .

First things first: I started Lit Bits and Pieces in March 2016 as a means of stretching myself as a writer. As much as I enjoy teaching writing and coaching teachers of writing, I recognized the hypocrisy of encouraging others to write consistently if I wasn’t doing so myself. I needed to walk the walk . . . and so this blog was born. I set only two goals in the beginning: To write about whatever comes to mind and to make it uplifting to readers.

In the two years since, the blog has become a life-library for me.

I’ve relived childhood moments; I’ve explored the mysterious; I’ve turned events and things around in my mind, finding connections and analyzing meanings; I’ve tinkered with poetry, flirted with fiction, and captured precious, priceless experiences with students, colleagues, family members, and friends.

I knew when I signed up for last year’s Slice of Life Challenge—my first—that I would be pushing myself even harder, further, as writer. That was expected, desired.

The unexpected, greater payoff: My fellow Slicers. People whose powerful words kept my momentum going when I was almost out of steam, who valued what I wrote, who encouraged me to a degree that I can’t adequately convey. People to whom I owe a debt of gratitude and the honor of encouraging in return . . .

What a difference a month and a writing community make.

While the March Madness basketball tournament is about eliminating the competition (hence those NCAA bracketeers), the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge is about cheering each other on to the very end, so that all are victorious.

Today, as I take my place in the line-up, I celebrate you, Slicers, extraordinary individuals that you are, every one of you a champion, in this arena where the joy you get is also the joy you give.

That’s the buzzer, friends . . . time to write like mad.