Introspection through reading and writing.
This will sound strange to some, but for a long time I could not bring myself to read my second book (In the Baron’s Shadow). Oh, to be sure, I spent a lot of time editing and fixing the thing after the first draft. I worked closely with the talented Jon Hrubresch on the final cover, and I have spent some (not enough) time marketing it. But once the final version left my hands, I didn’t want to touch it. And I didn’t until this week.
I was about two chapters out from finishing the first draft when my significant other at the time (Autumn 2016) left me. In hindsight, of course, it is best that this happened, because I ended up on a course that led me to the true love of my life, the woman I should have been with all along. But in the darkness of that Fall, I couldn’t see the course ahead of me. There was only the page, and my pain. By coincidence, the theme of Baron’s Shadow is pain, but never did I wish to have yet another source of it to draw on. Once I was done with the final draft, I did not want to visit that head space again. Memories are a funny thing, and I don’t claim to have what some refer to as a photographic memory in most respects. Our senses receive a huge amount of input, and much of the process of becoming an adult is figuring out what inputs to ignore and which to register. But there are moments, key emotional touchstones in my life that I can’t forget. I can put those moments in their proper place, to not let them affect me, but having perfect recall of specific times can be painful if allowed to dwell on it. I wrote a large chunk of Baron’s Shadow by hand, and there were many moments of that manual narration intertwined with someone who no longer has any place in my life, and does not deserve to. The writing was torturous, slow, and tedious, but I was encouraged to continue by the few who bothered to read me at the time. Even when I wrote electronically, my pace in completing this story was atrociously lethargic. It is shorter than any other book in the series but took longest to complete.
Opening this book again and allowing myself to read it was a step in the direction of finding myself once more. It was a step I needed to take on the road of self-forgiveness. It was something I needed to do in order to divorce my writing and my time with it from people who don’t deserve any of my thoughts or energy. It’s okay to have good memories and acknowledge that yes, I have a past, but it must come with acceptance that it is the past and is no longer a factor. Now with reopened eyes, with an understanding that something I wrote in 2016 doesn’t have to be forever tied to what happened in 2016, I can enjoy my work and embrace it. One can clearly see how I was in the same general writing mood in the first two chapters of Baron’s Shadow, as I was writing the last chapter of Year 200. After that, is when I believe I really found my voice. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the ride and my growth as a writer more, and I should have.
I have found me again. It isn’t always a pretty thing, but no one is without flaw. For the first time in years I feel the toxicity draining from me, from bad habits, bad relationships, stressful, unhealthy work, and a poor sense of self worth. In this moment of pause and reflection, the silence between waves of a major life change, I can ask myself, “who am I?” and “what have I allowed myself to become?” Beyond forgiving myself comes being able to like who I am, to improve the areas where I am deficient, yet to not put myself down at every given opportunity. I suspect that I will always have some trace of self-deprecating humor in what I do, as I have found that it is important to have a healthy sense of humor, and that when you are incapable of laughing at yourself now and then, you start running into problems. However this should never take over; the self-critic must be put in its place. There is no honor or distinction to be gained from beating oneself down into the ground.
The shadow cast by the mistakes and weapons of man. Also the spectre of myself waiting for illumination, to be seen and heard by a world that I hope is not yet too far gone.
Seldom is there quite so mean a punishment as that which we bestow on ourselves. Were we to cast the stones at others that we do upon our heads, what torturers and abusers might we be called? We don’t have to wait for the world to be almost over in order to save it, and we don’t have to wait for permission to forgive ourselves and treat our real inner beings, the real us, with the same respect we ought to give any other person.
As I turn the pages of this book that I am finally allowed to enjoy, I see the light of a new day.
After Terra: In the Baron’s Shadow on Amazon.com, available electronically and in print