Friday, July 26, 2013

Compassion is Disruptive!

I heard this exact phrase this past weekend and I have to tell you, the topic of compassion instantly struck a cord.  If anything, as it applies in my life, it’s true--compassion is hideously disruptive.  And while I can admit that often times being compassionate means I get disrupted and inconvenienced in the moment (which leaves me grumbling under my breath), I would have said I did a bang-up job of hiding that fact to others.  But alas, it’s been brought to my attention by a few people I’m blessed love me so much that I don’t hide my emotions very well as they pertain to disruption.  No way!  Could that be true of me?

Sadly, it’s true.  If you know me very well, you know I’m an overachieving, type A personality that craves deadlines and organization and you also probably know I’m pretty insightful, especially when it comes to knowing myself.  For example, I know I don’t have the gift of hospitality.  Seriously, I don’t.  Have you ever been to my house for dinner?  See, not a speck of hospitality in sight.  So why is this, you ask.  1.  I don’t like to cook.  I think kitchen counters look best clean, not cluttered with messy things like dip and cracker crumbs.   2.  I don’t want my house to get messed up.  Which is to say yes, I know I’m a neat freak that trends heavily toward pretty moderate OCD tendencies.  While I might be self-diagnosed, it doesn’t make it any less true.  But oddly enough, one of the things I enjoy most is engaging in conversation and strengthening friendships over a nice meal out.  And I have no problem picking up the tab, either.  My invite, my treat.  Just ask my closest friends.  You might be planning a cookout when you call me, but when I call, you can bet we’re eating out!

So how does all of that relate to compassion?  I would have said my scorecard on compassion earned me high marks.  I pride myself on quickly responded to emails and texts when anyone in my inner circle needs a hand, an ear, a ride, a dollar, a friend or just needs to vent.  I try to never let a call go to voice mail from that same crowd.  I try to make myself available at any hour to those I’m blessed to share my life with and thankfully, they often do the same for me.  But I had no idea I was being so available with such a huff in my tone.  With all of this insight, how could I have missed that?

I had no idea when my mom called last week to ask my advice about a situation pertaining to one of my siblings battling addiction that I huffed when she politely asked what I was doing.  “Working!” I said in a rush.   I had no idea when my son interrupted my creative writing block over the weekend that I threw my hand out and growled.  Yep—he said I actually growled that I “needed just five more minutes before I could help him.”  Wow, where’s the application for Mother-of-the-Year?  Will someone grab it for me, please?

In my everyday world, compassion doesn’t usually carry the heavy overtones of suffering we’ve come to associate with the word.  Rather, it comes most often in the simple needs of others.  To me, compassion shows up first and foremost as the time I offer to share with someone.  And the last thing I want to do is offer that time with a scowl on my face and a growl lacing my voice.  That won’t do at all.  So I’m embracing the truth about myself--I have miles of room to change so I’m determined to stop the huffing and growling.  Promise.  And I’m also embracing a bigger truth.  Being compassionate may be disruptive, but it’s also exactly the kind of person I want to be.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Middle Ground

I recently participated in an author chat and shared that I was making a fundamental shift in my life, one that included making a change in my writing.  I went on to share that I was no longer writing graphic romance but was turning to inspirational romance.  It was at that exactly moment I'm certain the gasps were audible although the chat was hosted via an online forum. Seriously, I could sense people taking a step back.  "Great, so you're going to start preaching," one person stated.  "Be careful," another cautioned.  "That might be alright as long as you don't push your beliefs on anyone," a third offered.  To say the least, the comments were interesting.

But even more interesting was an email I received the day after the chat ended.  "Just aim for middle ground and you'll be alright."  While I appreciate the sentiment and agree the tip might work for someone else, middle ground is the last place I aim to be in any area of my life. 

I really don't want to be caught on middle ground as a person, mother, wife, daughter, friend, or writer.  If I aim to create characters that just hold middle ground in their lives, what would be the point?  Who wants to read about a hero who defies death only to get the stranded puppy halfway home?  No offense, but wouldn’t that be like going out for ice cream and just getting a cake cone?

The way I see it, inspirational fiction doesn't exist to preach or push morals.  In fact, it serves to do quite the opposite--to show possibility, introduce values that might not be found in other genres and to do so in a manner that doesn't highlight physical intimacy as the only glue in a storyline.  It relies on emotional sincerity and a measure of faith to illustrate there's more to this life than just living and dying.  In most cases, inspirational fiction pulls from real life struggles and models healthy conflict resolution.

In Hope 22, my debut inspirational release coming later this fall, readers will meet Brody Jackson.  Brody is a man struggling with loss and grief.  As a result, he's burdened with the overwhelming desire to make sure every step he takes in his life will honor those he's lost.  As you can imagine, that's no small task.  Nobody's perfect.  But Brody's wise enough to know he can't go it alone.  Contrast that with Whitney Roth, a self-made superstar who doesn't need anyone.  In fact, the more people offer to help Whitney, the farther she retreats.  Whitney battles low self-esteem set against the backdrop of terrific success and turns to food for comfort.  Massive amounts of food Brody quickly discovers.

I'll leave it to you to decide if you think I preach or force-feed morals.  I already know the answer ;)

A meaningful life is not being popular, it's not being rich, highly educated or perfect.  It's about being real, being humble, and being able to share ourselves and touch the lives of others.  --Unknown