Negativity Is in the Ear of the Beholder

People who tell me I’m negative make me feel . . . well, they make me feel negative, and for no good reason. I might not be a sunny person, always looking on the bright side, and I might not be one of those who believe you fake it until you make it, but I’m not negative. I’m pragmatic. A thinker. A truth seeker. And the truth is, people who call others negative often want things their own way and are peeved if the others don’t like it.

For example, a friend invited me to go to lunch, so I arranged my schedule around the time she chose. An hour before we were to meet, she called and changed the time. The new time would interfere with my plans for later in the afternoon, so I told her I wasn’t sure I could make it. She called me negative.

Another friend often emails me and asks if I’m available at such and such a time so we can talk, and many times I wait for a call that never materializes. If I express my disappointment or say I’d appreciate being informed of a change of plans, I get called negative.

The other day I mentioned I couldn’t do something, and a person I’d met a scant hour earlier, said, “I hate negativity. Don’t ever say you can’t do something in my presence again.” Huh? I couldn’t do it. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t try to do it or wouldn’t try to learn to do it. Nor was I being negative. It was a simple statement of fact. Being positive and saying I could do it would be a falsehood — a negativity — which is anathema to a truth seeker.

During those horrendous first days, weeks, months, after the death of my life mate/soul mate, grief would so overwhelm me at times that I would scream to the heavens, “I can’t do this!” And at that very moment, I couldn’t. Sometimes it took everything I had to simply breathe, let alone attempt one of the myriad end-of-life chores. Sometimes the pain of grief would well up, obliterating everything but raw agony and angst. But . . . I did what I needed to do. I used the heat of my anger and despair as fuel to accomplish such impossible tasks as clearing out his “effects” or boxing our things to be stored.

Two months after he died, I got up early, cleaned out the few remaining items I’d been using, packed my car ready for the trip to my nonagenarian father’s house so I could look after him. I walked through our rooms, remembering with what hope my mate and I had moved there, remembering the good times, remembering the more frequent bad times. Remembering his last hug, his last kiss. His death.

As I was shutting the front door, I thought of all that lay ahead of me. Pain welled up in me, and I cried out, “I can’t do this.” Then, it dawned on me: Yes. I can. Because I did. I got out my camera, and went through the house one last time, taking photos of the empty rooms to prove to myself that all those things I thought I couldn’t do, I did.

I still have times of screaming “I can’t do this” when life overwhelms me, but it’s not a sign of negativity. It’s merely an expression of the moment. And if someone doesn’t like my saying I can’t do something without finding out why I think so, it’s too bad. I can’t live my life to suit those who call me negative.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Finding My Place in the Publishing World

UntitledpI’ve been reading promotional materials (again!) looking for ways to increase book sales, and one of the articles, in a rehash of the idea of positive thinking, said that if you’re not satisfied with the way your writing career is going, don’t ever let it be known but speak and act as if you were a bestselling author.

In other words, don’t ever let people know the truth, and that goes against the spirit of this blog. I suppose it isn’t smart of me to talk about my struggles to find my place in the publishing world because it probably does show me in a negative light. In fact, one friend emailed me and said, “If you want to stop writing and pity yourself because you think you are a failed author, go ahead. That’s your choice.”

Regardless of how I come across, I am not negative or pessimistic. I have every intention of making my living as a writer, and if I thought claiming I were a bestselling author would get me there, I’d do it. Or maybe not. There are so many authors out there claiming to be more than they are that the world doesn’t need another one.

Despite the contention of my friend, I do not consider myself a failed author. In fact, I am a successful author. I’ve written five books that I’m proud of and that many people love. I just haven’t been able to turn them into financial successes yet.

I see myself on a writer’s journey, though I admit I’m going through a crisis of faith, struggling to find reasons to write. (I’m also struggling to find reasons to live, but that doesn’t make me a failed human being.) For some writers, writing is their reason for living, but although that isn’t my reason for living (I am not compelled to write; it’s something I choose to do), I have a hunch that my reason for living is tied up somehow with my reason for writing. (Writing fiction, that is. I do write every day for this blog, partly for the discipline of it and partly to help me figure out my place in the world, the world of grief, and the publishing world.)

I began writing fiction more than a decade ago as a means of bringing my dying life mate/soul mate in close. Someone who is dying drifts away until finally he begins to disconnect himself totally from life, and I couldn’t bear to let the disconnect from me happen sooner than it needed to. For several years, until he drifted too far away, I wrote at night, then read the passages to him in the morning, and he’d let me know if I nailed the scene, usually with a small, impish smile. If I didn’t get a passage quite right, I didn’t get a smile, but I got help figuring out where I went wrong.

That’s why I used to write — to see his smile. And that’s why writing has become such an angst-ridden subject for me. My reason for writing died when he did.

A friend (the same friend mentioned above now that I think of it) once sent me a snippet of a poem:

A voice calls, “Write, write!”
I say, “For whom shall I write.”
And the voice replies,
“For the dead whom thou didst love.”

—John Berryman

Maybe someday writing for the dead whom I didst love will be reason enough to write, but for now, I’m still searching for my place in the world and the publishing world. And if the search — or my angst — comes across as negative, so be it. Besides, when I start acting as if I am a bestselling writer, I want it to be for real.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+