“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
I’ve heard a million versions of this quote over the course of my life. It was among my mother’s favorites. Her version was a little more like, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” I can’t tell you the number of times I heard that growing up.
All of the things I am most proud of in my life so far, and all of the things I find the greatest joy in doing – are all at some point difficult, painful or effortful. Marriage, raising a family, high-level athletics, trying to master old or learn new skills, maintaining and growing meaningful friendships – just to name a few. One of my current painfully-difficult-effortful-worthy-joyous projects is writing a novel.
I read a book – as I often do. Only, this book was TERRIBLE. I mean…really, really bad. After finishing the final chapter I immediately logged onto my Amazon account and lamented I’d spent a whopping $2.99 on that piece of crap. Then I read on to learn the author had seven titles available for purchase – SEVEN!
In the quiet still darkness of my bedroom, after I switched off the glowing screen of my iPad, I could almost hear God taunting me. Now, some of you may try to argue God doesn’t taunt. Um…maybe he doesn’t taunt you? You see, The Big Guy and I – we have a very candid, honest, and (thankfully) forgiving relationship. I give him leeway when stuff happens that I can’t for the life of me understand. He extends unimaginable grace towards me for being a wholly and completely imperfect yet genuinely TRYING to improve hot-mess. That night, he was taunting. He tauntingly placed into my heart a yearning to put out into the world a story – one that I would allow others to read, and in doing so tap into some of the potential of my purpose He so graciously gifted unto me. That is not to say writing is my sole purpose, or that I’m even any good at it. BUT, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that when I sit down and weave a story, or contemplate an idea and orchestrate a written response, my heart goes pitter-patter and blissful giddiness runs through my veins as anticipation precedes the impending process.
Then it gets hard.
I began writing my novel in April of 2013. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never taken a class or even read a book about the art and process of writing. Never mind my complete and utter lack of expertise, I decided to try anyway. I finished the first version in about ten months. Taking full advantage of the brilliance of my friends – I asked one in particular to edit my draft. It went back and forth between us three times. After I thought it was ready (a full year into the process), I contacted a professional free-lance editor within the genre to see about having her edit my manuscript. She finished her first run in July. I’ve since delayed getting it back to her twice. My new due date for her second set of edits is in December. Today was the first time I’ve been able to make time to work on the manuscript since August.
Um, yeah…I have three kids, a husband, numerous commitments – like coaching, and board service to name a couple. What the heck were you thinking Big Guy? I ain’t got time for that! AND if a lack of time weren’t making it hard enough – turns out writing a full-length novel that doesn’t completely suck…is ridiculously hard to do.
Today, after several hours of excited keyboard taps, it became effortful, painful, and difficult. SO, here I am. Blogging with my precious “book-writing” time.
I won’t give up. I know I’m supposed to finish this. He – The Big Guy, BG, God, The All Mighty, won’t quiet his taunting until I do. Even if I could somehow squelch the drive in my heart, my lovely, beautiful, cheerleader supporters who know I’ve set my eyes on this goal wouldn’t let me quit either. (I think the BG might have something to do with that too.) They’ve been asking – sometimes gently, sometimes with gusto, “Can I read it?” It isn’t ready yet. It may be a lot longer still. But, I think I’m ready to share just a little piece. So, here it is – a few hundred words, my prologue to what will someday (I hope and pray) be a goal accomplished.
SEEING IONE: By Jansen Curry
Everyone is scared in hospitals. The deep purple imprints of fear cloaking the walls were evidence. The haze was everywhere I looked. No amount of ammonia or disinfectant would ever remove them. The choking sensation that had taken root in my throat several minutes ago tightened. I had to get out.
The doctor was still talking to me, but I didn’t know what he was saying. I’d stopped listening as soon as I’d heard him say the words, “…time of death”.
I ignored the echoing of his voice in my head. I headed for the elevator keeping my head down. By some miracle, the door was already open. In less than one minute, I would be outside breathing clean air instead of the sickening sterile scents of my dad’s hospital room.
One minute … you can keep it together for one minute.
Not expecting the doors to open before I’d reached the lobby, I flinched when the electronic door-ding signaled. My heart raced as an old woman wearing a signature pink volunteer scrub top entered and stood too close to me. She smelled of baby powder and perfumed detergent. I leaned away from her instinctively and felt the cold stainless steel of the elevator’s interior push against my back.
“Are you alright, dear?” Her voice was clear – stronger than I would’ve guessed for a woman so small she teetered on looking frail. “Is there anything I can do?”
I couldn’t make myself look into her eyes. If her face was as tender and concerned as her voice, I’d breakdown for sure. My eyes locked on to the small tarnished gold crucifix hanging around her neck. It glowed with a soft apricot orange imprint color – comfort.
“No,” I scoffed. My voice cracked as I said it. My voice instead of hers sounded old and tired. Without permission, my eyes began to drop heavy, wet tears.
“Sorry,” I muttered. “No, there isn’t anything you can do. Thank you, though.”
A thin wrinkled hand covered in liver spots and glittering with freshly applied lotion extended a single tissue toward me. I tried to smile as I reached to take it. Habit took over and I peered into her delicate face. A calming sensation tickled my skin when our eyes met. It slid over my flesh and settled around me. I wanted to soak in it and stay there forever. The emotion reminded me of my dad – the one person, who knew me, completely, and I never had to pretend with…and then I remembered he was dead.
The thought struck like a sucker punch to my gut. A heavy exhale escaped my clenched lips, and tears began to fall faster. The tiny old woman closed the millimeters of space left between us. “There, there,” she whispered as the hand that had extended the tissue reached up to settle on my shoulder. I felt an ache in my bones compelling me to hide in her warmth, fold myself within the comfort she radiated. That wasn’t going to happen.
The door opened and I shot out of the elevator catching my shoulder on the opening as I rushed for the automatic glass doors leading outside. The cold, dry, evening air was a welcome change. I cleared the tears from my eyes with the heels of my hands, and used my forearm to wipe away the moisture and snot collecting above my upper lip. The sidewalk and parking lot were empty except for a few lonely cars and one red pick-up truck.
It was late, and the small town hospital on the outskirts of the city limits wasn’t where anyone would hang out on a Friday night – unless forced to by employment or, like me, miserable circumstance. It was at least two miles to the nearest stoplight and the empty streetlight-lined blacktop beckoned in open invitation.
I broke into a sprint. Within minutes, I found myself working to ignore the burning in my lungs and the aching in my legs. I could feel the tickling sensation of sweat as it trickled down my neck. My vision was distorted with a ceaseless cascade of tears.
The frustration of the last three months boiled to overflowing and I couldn’t contain it any longer. I’d watched him wither and weaken to the point of being unrecognizable. The invincible, Bill McCreery, the tough Wyoming cowboy, the only family I had in the world, he wouldn’t die. He couldn’t die. But – he did.
I’d seen it coming. I knew it before the nurse or the doctor. I didn’t see it like I perceived the imprints looming within the room. Instead, I’d felt it. Like the sun moving behind a cloud, one moment it’s there warming you, and in the next, it’s gone leaving only the memory of what it’d felt like to be warmed.
I tripped on a crack hidden by the dark shadows covering the street. Pitching forward I fought to keep myself from falling, grunting as I grazed my fingers on the asphalt. I recovered my balance, and screamed until the scratchy burning in my throat made me stop. Bending over to brace myself with my hands on my knees, I forced my sobs to slow.
He deserved better.
I felt shame – feverish, heavy and tight, creep into my chest as I looked back at the hospital. I’d left him there alone. He never would have done that to me.
Jenny would be back soon too. She would lose it if she walked into the room to find my dad had passed and I’d gone missing. She’d sat with me for most of the last three days only leaving when absolutely necessary. She’d been there for me through this whole mess – the only one who’d been there.
I stood and started walking back toward my nightmare come to life.