Carmine Carmichael smoked his last cigarette twenty minutes ago. The sun rose above the row homes on Sutter Street as he sat down on the marble steps at the corner. He hadn’t slept in three days, hadn’t eaten in two days and hallucinations had begun. His four-week-old blue jeans felt crunchy as he ran his hands up his shins, to his knees and then his thighs.
A dead leaf blew down the sidewalk, past his battered sneakers and he thought of how peaceful the dead leaf must have felt. It was, after all, devoid of all feeling. The leaf had lived its life on a tree somewhere as people passed it by without a thought.
Carmine knew exactly how that little leaf felt. Another leaf blew past and Carmine reached his filthy hand down and scooped it up with care. The weak stem felt dry in his fingers as he twirled it around, looking at the rips in the body of the little leaf.
“I’ll bet you were once so beautiful, little leaf, just like me. I was a strong man once, little leaf.”
The little leaf stood lifeless in his fingers and Carmine felt his eyes well up as he clutched the leaf to his chest. Little leaf pieces fell to the ground as Carmine sobbed.
Footsteps echoed in the distance and Carmine put his filthy hands back on his thighs and watched the leaf blow away in a dozen pieces. Carmine watched as shiny, pristine shoes stepped on and over the leaf.
As a kid, I loved the idea of telling stories and evoking emotions in people. As I got older, my life had such crazy, insane, ‘did that really just f**king happen’ events, I didn’t need to delve deep into my childish imagination to dish out juicy prose.
Come on, clown pajamas for a Halloween costume, throwing up in my reading book (in front of the whole class), and milk in my Puff the Magic Dragon Thermos were so traumatic I thought there was no way I could continue. And all that was in second grade.
Had I known my life would be a major story every year, I would have kept a better diary. I mean, all that and more happened before I turned eight years old. What was next?
Fantasy monsters, spaceships, and candy eating aliens are cool (and could happen) but I love a real life story because I can relate.
Right now I am writing a memoir and a novel based on events in my real life. I have a friend who is a psychic who gave me a free reading after my husband tattooed her. She told me my life would change after I told my story. I swear, there were no animal feet or blood used in the reading.
So why am I dragging my feet like a kid in a dentist office?
Fear of success.
It is a thing.
I have written the first half of my memoir (the juicy good part with all my screw ups) and then I just stopped. WTF?! Yes, stopped and moved on to something else. I do this often.
But, I always come back. Always… I use real life in a lot of my writing. I think we all do, right?
I was talking to a co-worker the other day and he was telling me a story about how once he had to hand out church flyers when he was about eight years old. Of course, he had better things to do than hand out flyers… so how could he get rid of these pesky papers? Well, wouldn’t you know, he passed a farm every day and at the fence of the farm were goats. He couldn’t believe it when he jokingly put a flyer in front of the goat that the goat started eating it!
Handing Out Flyers problem: solved.
I used this story as a scene in my latest novel. It fit so well, I couldn’t pass it up.
Take a trip through your memory and pluck out those moments from yesteryear that you might think were no big deal, or maybe you thought you forgot about them. But you didn’t. Write about it.
…Then write about it from another point of view and embellish it a little. Or a lot.
What you believe is your business. This is not a judgy post… This is about how the interpretation of my Higher Power changed around the year 2015. If you’re interested, read on my friend. If not, no harm… have a blessed day.
I was baptized Catholic and grew up in a place called Bridesburg – a small Philadelphia, Pennsylvania neighborhood tightly nestled in a corner between the Delaware River and Frankford Creek. Less than 10,000 people live there and while some moved out, generations of families linger like the smell of freshly smoked kielbasa.
This neighborhood, roughly five blocks by eight blocks, has eleven churches and three cemeteries (two are connected to churches – one is not). Two of the churches are Catholic, one is non-denominational, then there is a Baptist, Emanuel, Presbyterian, and Methodist church.
I left Bridesburg in 2005 and have visited less than five times since my bittersweet departure.
Anyway, I met this local guy when I was fourteen and his family was very Catholic. Like, so Catholic that they were all blinded by the God thing (when it served their purpose) and when I got pregnant at fifteen, we had to get married or the baby would be born out of wedlock and I’d go to hell. This chaotic, close-minded, archaic thinking would envelop me for the next twenty years of my life (even though that guy and I divorced when I was 24).
It was so bad (memoir-worthy, which I am writing) that one time (and only one time) I said ‘Bless You’ when my mother-in-law sneezed and the look I got, well, you may have thought I asked if she would be so kind as to stick her face in the garbage disposal.
“It’s not Bless You. It’s GOD Bless You. What the hell is wrong with you? Heathen. You’re a no good white trash heathen.” I mean, I had no religion. I didn’t know then that the word Heathen was not a nickname for the Devil. So, I basically thought she called me a devil… when I was a teenager. Oh, and she didn’t talk to me for two weeks after my blasphemic faux pas.
In retrospect, I should have gotten up and punched her in the face or maybe doused her face with her terrible homemade iced tea (way too many lemons), but I didn’t.
Instead, I clung to the notion that my life sucked because I sucked. I was a rotten human being and had done vile, unspeakable things that afforded me a lifetime of suffering and misery. I guess this is true if smoking pot and dropping out of high school is a heinous, shameful act.
Oh wait… I stole a pack of gum when I was seven. Shit.
My torment continued into my forties and into my sobriety in 2006, blaming every bad thing that happened to me on some unseen force that was displeased with my human nature. My drinking, lost jobs, lost relationships, everything that happened to me was because I was a bad person: A HEATHEN.
Then, a proverbial anvil hit me in the face in 2015. None of my bad choices were anyone’s doing but my own. When I stopped putting all my eggs in the sin basket and took responsibility for my actions; when I decided that while sometimes extenuating circumstances could creep in and mess up my day, I ultimately, am responsible for everything that happens to me – good or bad.
So, I did a test of sorts. I stopped praying to the Christian idea of God for a few weeks. And started talking to my higher power as I understood it. And lo and behold, nothing changed except for one thing.
My guilt had vanished. I no longer felt pangs of regret because I forgot to pray, or because I said ‘bless you’ instead of God Bless You, or because – gasp! I ate meat on a Friday during Lent!
The first time I ate meat on Lent (not on accident) was this year. And I have to say, I am still here to tell the tale. It was absolutely the best Buffalo Chicken Pizza I ever ingested in my life.
Again, I am not knocking Christianity… believe what you need to believe. That is your right as a human being. I believe in the earth, the universe, the elements. I believe in good begets good and evil begets evil. I believe that everyone has the right to pray to whomever – or whatever – they see fit.
“Sometimes shit is going to go wrong in your life. Sometimes, you’ll feel like everyone is stabbing in you in the back and you can’t catch a break. These are the moments to take a step back. Step back and ask yourself if you are trying to make something work that wasn’t meant to work for you… Sometimes things don’t work out because that path you’re on is just that: a path… that path is filled with ‘Stepping Stones.’ Some of those stepping stones are big, some small, some slippery, some beautiful, some painful. Those stepping stones are part of your life journey… and when you navigate those big slippery stones that are painful… that’s the universe telling you that you’re growing and it’s time to take the next turn.”
I joined Oprah’s Lifeclass a few weeks ago and I have to say… I love it. I am about ten classes in and am learning a lot about myself by answering thought-provoking questions that only I can see the answers to. There is also a Daily Life Question that we have the option of answering. It is linked to the users Twitter account.
As I read some of the answers (a lot of them anonymous) I shuddered at some of the things a lot of people have been through usually in great part by their parents. I saw remnants of abuse, both physical and sexual, mental anguish, alcoholism, abandonment… 😦
It just got me thinking.. like.. what the hell do I have to bitch about? Ok, yeah.. my childhood wasn’t the greatest.. I have always been socially awkward and put a lot of my worth on my physical beauty (but am too lazy to do any upkeep on it). I tend to talk way too much when I get nervous and yes.. I am an alcoholic.
BUT – I am sober! I AM beautiful! I grew up poor.. but I have character. I have small boobs.. but I have a great butt! I can be very indecisive, but when I know what I want.. no one is stopping me.
It is so important for me (and you!) to look at the silver lining in the dark, looming clouds that hover over our heads from time to time.
We have all been through our own share of hell. I remember years of self-pity, beating my head against the wall as I cursed and screamed “WHY ME?!”
Well, why not me? Bad things have happened to me because I have the ability to help others. If all I can do is take my experiences and share them with another, then whatever I have been through is not in vain.
I’ve read in a lot of books about writing that in order to get anywhere with writing it is necessary to write at least a page a day. I was at one time trying to break into the fiction market. I was writing at least five pages a day about whatever popped in my head and I would not stop until I reached five pages. This type of writing is called free writing.
I stopped writing for a couple of years. Life happened and I had to buckle down. Being practical superseded trying to live my dream. I am trying to break back into the market again. However, this time I am going down a different road. That is the article road.
I find this to be a lot more challenging than fiction writing. See, in fiction writing, I could write whatever I wanted. There is little requirement for facts in fiction writing.
Article writing requires a lot of facts. Facts are not hard to come by. Finding facts that are indeed facts and not an interpretation of the facts is the difficult part.
So I get out my notebook and I write a list of all of the things I would like to write about. Then I write facts in big bold letters next to each idea.
Sports, Motorcycles, Women, Abuse, Alcoholism, Running, Eating right. These are some of the ideas I have jotted down. Some of these ideas are articles in progress which may make it to my blog or may be a victim of the delete button.
I was fortunate enough to get a response when I posted a link to my blog here on my Facebook page. A writer guy I am friends with on there gave me some good advice. I have to love it and I have to keep writing.
Ideas come from living. I have to reach deeper and pull out some of the stuff that may make me a little uncomfortable to write about. This world certainly wasn’t built on playing it safe. My writing won’t be built on playing it safe either, it seems.