Monday, August 31, 2009

Anticipation is always more fun


It seems like I've been an avid anticipater my whole life. My personality profile suggests this about my preferred line of thinking: "What could be is always more exciting than what is." As a kid, the anticipation of any event almost eclipsed the event itself. Sometimes the buildup was so emotionally absorbing that the event almost felt anticlimactic in comparison.

I thought of the fun of anticipation the other night as I sat with some friends in my living room for Book Club. We read an old favorite, Pride and Prejudice, and had a good discussion. We also compared the book to the more prevalent movies released in recent decades. This led to a more general discussion about romance in books and movies, and one of my friends mentioned the fun of the buildup to that big kiss, the big embrace, the deliciousness of the tension and anticipation.

Remember when you were young and reading a book where the hero and heroine sat by each other, their fingers almost touching? Sometimes the simplest of gestures are the most satisfying. I remember being 13 and reading one of my beloved Trixie Belden books. Jim and Trixie HELD HANDS on a plane ride at the end of the story. Actually, she put her fist in his palm and he closed his fingers around it.

I was in absolute ecstasy. I must have read that book a million times for that scene alone.

I think there's a crucial element to a good love story that will work almost every time for me. Now, the fact that the book must be well written with compelling characters is a given. So ok, assuming those things are in place, the thing I want is tension. I want tension between the hero and heroine. By the time he finally takes her hand or they move in for that kiss, I want to be saying, preferably out loud, "Oh come ON already!" Make it worth my while. I want a story to be emotionally charged and the characters emotions to be deep and intense. I want the air around them charged and the passion intense with just a glance or a meeting of the eyes without a word even spoken.

Now, granted, I do not feel these things from reading Pride and Prejudice. The relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy is much more...subdued. At least on the page. My friend assures me that the Kiera Knightly version is much more grand and charged with love, drama and a fantastic music score. I have yet to see it myself, but it's on my list of to do's.

As a writer, I suppose my Ideal Reader would be the one who sighs at the end of my books, completely emotionally satisfied and fulfilled with the romance thing. My eternal quest will probably be to write the perfect book about the perfect romance that people will read again and again.

I suppose I should mention that my personality profile opens with this description: "If ever there was a personality destined to die for love, this is it."

Oy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

BTS Night

Aw yeah. Back to School night for both my daughters. Mark went with Nina and I took Anna. (And Gunder. Doh.) We talked to teachers, noted the required supplies, walked the crowded halls and said hi to friends they haven't seen for three months. Part of me was excited for Anna, and the other part wanted to throw up. I really did like school, but the drama with friends and hoping people would like me and wanting to look perfect, etc etc came back with a vengeance.

In terms of Anna's classes, I found myself being excited for her. The geography teacher said she needs colored pencils because they do a lot of maps. Natch. Ok, I so would have been all over that. I have a weird affinity for both colored pencils and maps. The math teacher was really cool and I think it'll be a good match for my daughter, and the English teacher was one I would have loved having as a kid. And she has the kids write something every day!

They're writing every day!

I think this is one of the most valuable skills that helps students across the board. If you can read and write, success in multiple subjects is much more attainable than otherwise.

I'm reminded of the line in "You've Got Mail," where Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan that he wants to buy "bouquets of sharpened pencils." Dork that I am, I love that. My favorite pencils ever are the Ticonderoga Tri Write. They are unbelievably sexy. Yes, I just said that about a pencil.

All things considered, as much as I will miss the freedom of summer, I am looking forward to reestablishing routine around here. I'm much more organized during the school year. Summer becomes a free-for-all.

To my sweet children, I wish you good luck and fabulous friends and good study habits. I hope that you'll learn many wonderful and useful things this year, and that your successes will be satisfying.

Better stop before I get all misty-eyed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Danger, beware!

"There's a danger in the word 'someday.'" --Henry B. Eyering.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the danger of Someday.

Someday I will take that trip. Someday I will actually ride that roller coaster. Someday I will learn how to sew something useful. Someday I will go back to school. Someday I will read that book sitting by my bedside. Someday I will be brave and befriend that new neighbor. Someday I will begin an exercise program. Someday, someday, someday...

The problem is that Someday often doesn't come. Someday doesn't make itself manifest until we create it. Oftentimes, the Somedays that we yearn for are secret longings of our hearts, things we don't tell another soul about but quietly wish we could or would do.

The problem with waiting is that none of us know how much time we're allotted here, and how sad would it be to get to the other side of life only to realize that while we did our best and what was required of us, we could have experienced a lot more, found much more enrichment and joy along the way.

Maybe I'm all introspective because I turned 40 last month and I'm now doing the whole Am I Where I thought I Would Be thing. Gratefully, I have accomplished much of what I envisioned when I was 18. I have waited, however, for other things that could have brought me joy much sooner.

For example, I've been a Someday I'll exercise person for years. I had a gloriously fast metabolism as a kid and then I hit 30. Oy. Those insidious pounds crept on one by one until I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered what had happened. Again, maybe because of the milestone birthday and maybe because I managed to lose a couple of pounds from a brief illness--whatever the reason, I decided to keep those few pounds off and begin melting away the rest.

I've exercised and eaten smart, and have lost roughly 20 pounds since May. My goal is another 20. It's gratifying to see real results and knowing it's coming because I'm working at it is that much more satisfying. Who knew I would come to look forward to jogging? I used to be winded climbing a flight of stairs.

Am I sounding like an infomercial for weight loss? I don't mean to. I just want to throw this out there, that I have a renewed sense of faith in our secret dreams. The only thing holding us back is ourselves. I know this to be true, because I've done it. I came across a quote the other day, and now I can't remember where I saw it, but basically it asked if we are hanging out in the rear mezzanine of life.

It hit me squarely. I don't want to be standing in the shadows of my own life. I don't want you to be standing in the shadows of your own life, either. Rabbi Zusya said, "If they ask me in the next world, 'Why were you not Moses?' I will know the answer. but if they ask me, 'Why were you not Zusya?' I will have nothing to say."

We are all unique, and we all have talents, some of the bizarre. Doesn't matter how weird or inconsequential we think they are; we have an obligation to ourselves and those in our realm of life to use those talents and pursue our secret dreams.

Take that class, go on that walk, take that vacation with your sister, do something carefree with your kids, read that book, write that book, learn to play that musical instrument, save a little pocket change for that silly froo-froo home decor thing you really want but don't really need. Love your family with abandon, their faults and all. Think of one good thing your spouse did for you last week and give him/her a big, fat kiss for it.

There is so much good in this world, and so many opportunities for us to do those things we want to, whether small or big. Beware of Someday and instead, reach inside to where you are uncertain or self-conscious. Rip that secret dream from its hiding place in your heart and put it down on paper. Smile.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Writer's Must-Have


So this book has been around forever, but it's new to me. Just when I thought I'd bought every writing how-to book on the planet, I found a classic at B&N that I'd always heard about but never read.

Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones is so, so good. I'm already implementing her suggestions and techniques into my writing day. The book has a decided Zen/Eastern slant to it, but even if you're not particularly appreciative of all things Zen, the principles contain truths and ideas guaranteed to resonate with even the most unZenlike writer.

Of course, now that I've raved about this book, you may want to take a look at Jennie Hansen's August 5th post, "Fantastic or Boring." What's good to one isn't always good to another.

But trust me. This book is good.