Seven Ways t'DoL and His World has Blessed My Life
Reaching the twentieth anniversary of when I first 'met' t'DoL in February of 1993 brings me to a perfect position to look back over the last two decades and see what that encounter, and all that has followed, has done for my life. Truly, it feels longer than twenty years; it feels another lifetime entirely, those last months in high school when I found him, and those first fumbling years afterward.
There is so much to be thankful for, hence this essay. I find it far too easy to get caught up with whatever current project, frustration, heartache, or hindrance is in my path, and don't turn around quite often enough to stand and marvel at the tremendous blessings these twenty years have brought me.
I decided I would focus on seven, that being the avarii number, after all. Some are small, many are large, and some might be a little alarming. It is a blessing to have each and every one of them, even number eight at the end that isn't quite a blessing.
In somewhat random order, and touching random portions of the last twenty years, here they are:
Spelling and Typing
My spelling was deplorable in my school years. That was the one consistent area I would always score well below average on those standardized tests. Just because I had a sizeable vocabulary, thanks to my voracious reading in childhood, didn't mean I could bother to remember how to properly spell it. Not until I started writing. Not until I grew weary of being called out by the spell check on the same words over and over again, or having to look at the dictionary repeatedly, when my spelling was so off that spell check had no clue what I was aiming at. (Yes, that still happens at times, and I still think English is ridiculous, and needs a bunch of hyarmi set loose upon it to knock it into some semblance of order. I vote we get rid of the letter 'K' entirely, but I have biases there...) And it was fun to play games later on, with a point to me for every word I got right that spell check didn't know, and a point to it for every typo I failed to catch.
Anyway, my spelling is hardly going to win any awards now, but it is immensely improved from those days. I still get a disbelieving, happy glow whenever a coworker asks me to spell a word for them...
For typing, the same thing. Of course, I can't credit my writing alone for the increase in my typing speed, as I also do extensive typing in my journal, and with less hesitation than when I am composing a story. My wpm was in the vicinity of 30-35 at best after college, and around 50 a few years back. The test itself was overly easy, but I was shocked to hit 80 wpm when I took an online test last year. I only feel like I'm getting slower at times, and more clumsy, so that was gratifying to learn. And an aid as well, since having my thoughts run far ahead of my fingers and losing perfect lines or dialogue happened far more often in the past than it does now.
Life Purpose and Passion
I am so blessed. In writing the 'Defender Rising' essay five years ago to celebrate my fifteenth anniversary, I explained that I had no clue what I was getting into when I drew those first pictures, and even set down the first fragments of stories months later. I didn't really get it for a few years, and when I did, I figured I'd need to be committed for having the audacity to think that I could write a multi-volume fantasy series. Well, here I am, twenty years later, and two years past finishing the five Geren novels, with enough on my plate to keep me busy for at least ten more years, if not much longer. And I know that there is nothing else I would rather do, nothing else that gives me the same amount of fulfillment, or delight, or passion. No paying job comes close, or ever could, howsoever interesting. I am so blessed to have found, in meeting t'DoL and pursuing him, my purpose and passion and calling upon this earth. That I fail at it regularly, I have no doubt, and that I wish I could do better by him is a constant desire. Nothing I can create comes close to the wonder I behold in my mind. Whatever my skill and my experience, which thankfully have risen over these last two decades of work. I will keep laboring for as long as I can labor, until my mind rots away or my body fails me. So many do not know their passion or calling, or have not been able to train it and explore it, as I have. I am so blessed, so very blessed.
Reassurance of the Ability to Love
This is a more recent blessing, covering only the last six years, since the accursed hell year of 2007. So much betrayal, abandonment, rejection, defeat, and injury from months of major depression left me with the incapacity to feel much for years aside from immeasurable loneliness, endless torment, or persistent rage. I am so glad for the blessing of t'DoL and Geren in my life (and the silliness I mention in the next item below) because if it were not for them, I dread to consider how many hours, days, weeks, and months I would have spent agonizing over and tormenting myself about whether or not I was even capable of feeling affection anymore, after that cursed year. Many times I would have said that I was not...except for my precious characters, and especially my beloved Defender, who can make my veins run fire and my heart skip at any random moment. And the hyarmi, Hened, Hu-Harek, trapper Arun, so many others. I am still capable of affection and love, even if it has been very hard to feel it toward 'real' people in past years.
'Laffing' at Myself
I think it is important to not take myself too seriously, and to find things to laugh at, between the near-continual low levels of depression (dysthymia) and seasonal depression (summer SAD) that have been part of my life for so long, and a tendency toward pessimism. And, well, my love for my characters gives me plenty of fodder. I have all sorts of silly routines I can laugh at myself over. I have pictures of t'DoL and/or Geren on my monitor wallpaper, cell phone screens, mouse pad, and now keychain too, as well as blanket, tapestry, wall art. So I have plenty of opportunities to say inane things like:
"I want to take you home with me, right now." (Especially hilarious when I am home.)
"Have I mentioned in the last [insert random time interval here] that I love you?"
"I wuv you, I wuv you, I wuuuuuuv yooooouuuu..." (repeated ad nauseam)
And so forth. I also get to laugh at myself over drooling over some depiction of t'DoL. I call it 'drooling,' but salivating is more accurate, since I rarely drip on myself. If I ever do, of course, that's double the hilarity, but just having my mouth fill up with spit for some bizarre biological reason is entertaining enough.
Also have to mention the whole 'fake cat' thing. Since my brain insists upon calling Trapper Arun in my stories, and the grey scaly Shado, the 'real' Arun and the 'real' Shado. Then where does that leave my cats, Arun and Shado? With another reason to laugh at myself that my characters are more real to me than they are, and the absurdity of a brain that tags them in such a fashion. Heaven forbid I ever get another cat and name him Geren...brain might short out, or that cat might suffocate from too much kissing...
So I've heard about the 10,000 hour rule, the concept that a person needs to spend that amount of time to become a master or expert at something, regardless of any innate talent. (Though it would take a lot more than that to make me a decent cook, heh.) I also recently read that a lot of younger people have thrown away that much of their lives playing video games, and I dread to consider how much has been washed down the drain watching television. Again, I am blessed, that my passion for t'DoL has kept me at this for twenty years, and certainly past 10,000 hours by now, though some years have been worse, and some better in terms of time given to my purpose and passion. I am blessed not only because all these years of writing and editing and learning have improved my skill, but because they have also increased my self-discipline (an aspect of self-control, which is the cardinal virtue of the hyarmi.) Right now the jury is still out over how much I regret my recent promotion, but I would never have believed that I could teach myself the basics of scripting in the months before applying for the position, or the insane concept of working weeks on end at 60 hours per week, had I not learned so much discipline already through being t'DoL's biographer. My own diligence, born of passion, has turned around and blessed me in a way I never foresaw.
Another unexpected side-effect, and precious blessing born out of being t'DoL's biographer is that I have fallen in love with more of the fruit of the Spirit. (For those unfamiliar with the term, they are from a passage in the Bible, Galatians 5:22-23, and I learned them like this: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.)
Going back to the age of 10 or 11, faithfulness/loyalty has always been the supreme virtue for me in my admiration and desire. I detest fickleness more than nearly anything else that exists, and have intensely valued loyalty for decades. But thanks to writing the Geren novels, Hope's Passage, and The Chronicles of Delarun, I found that I have fallen in love with other virtues besides. First and foremost, gentleness. I cannot esteem it more, and I have had a few faithless days of my own where it has supplanted loyalty from the top of my admired virtues (only a few days, mind ;). I have also greatly increased my love of kindness and goodness. Even patience, pesky aggravating thing that it is, I have grown to intensely admire.
This is a great blessing to me, because in my mind intellectual assent and admiration does not measure up to wholehearted enthusiastic affection. I love these things (peace/shalom I already fell in love with by the age of 15) and maybe some year I will gain a similar warmth for self-control and joy as well. But what I have already received is blessing enough.
Last and greatest, and without which none of the others would even exist. I don't tend to write about really bad days/events in my journal (more so in years past) because I have no trouble whatsoever remembering them, and don't need to aid my memory by rehearsing it yet again. Of course, that means that while I may never forget the event, I do forget when it occurred.
All that is a long and roundabout way of saying that I don't know whether the year was 2000 or 2002 when I had this revelation. Hyperventilating in a hotel room bathroom, and wondering if there was any reason I shouldn't charge out of that room and try to kill myself that very night. (Leaving aside the fact that is the stupidest way to go about things. Suicide plans should be pondered for weeks and months, and be made as foolproof and infallible as possible. I don't do suicide attempts.)
Regardless of whether I might actually have tried to go out that night, or more intelligently waited until I was back home, what I realized on that awful evening was that something was thwarting me. t'DoL, or more logically put, my love for him. That night remains in my memory not simply because it was awful, but also because it was illuminating: the Defender of Life is my Defender too. He always stands in the scales on the side of life against the suicide I have so often yearned for since 1992, and he can 'weigh' very, very much. I have realized that there have been two forces guarding my life these last fifteen years in particular: my devotion to God, and my love for the Defender. Each of them alone are not always quite strong enough, but both of them together have seen me through. Again, I am blessed.
Now to lighten the mood, and to be completely honest, even such a broad and many-faceted blessing as I have discovered over these past twenty years--even such a big bright 'silver lining' can have a cloud attached. This one is small and rather amusing (at least to me).
I hate eggs. I have always hated eggs--my mom had to feed me liver instead as a baby. The smell alone nauseates me. So logically, why would I buy eggs? I do eat them, when they're a part of food where I can't taste them, like baked goods and pasta. But to my amusement, I have found it increasingly difficult over the years to ever buy them, when I want to make a muffin mix or something of the sort. Ten years ago, I know I managed it; two-three years ago I restricted myself to no-egg-needed baking mixes, and last year I checked out egg substitutes and was frustrated to find that they also contained eggs. You may wonder what on earth this has to do with the topic at hand. Simply this: destroying eggs is the supreme taboo of the avarii race (they hatch from eggs), and as the years go by I can too readily visualize t'DoL's horror should I do anything of the sort. Even if we both know they're not fertilized eggs. It is still, to him, such an utter desecration of perfect innocence and helplessness. Can't do it. Just can't.
Of course, when it gets to the point that I can't even touch eggnog (which for some insane reason I love) then I know I shall have truly gone off the deep end.
And there it is. Seven blessings, and one not-blessing, to commemorate these twenty years. I wonder what there may be to add to them should I reach twenty-five, or thirty...