Here’s To a Life Of Insecurity, Uncertainty, Failure

Yesterday was a wonderful day. Not only did I have two separate and delicious get-togethers with good friends, I felt no sadness, no tears, no angst when I was alone again.

I seem to have turned a corner — maybe not with the sadness, because sadness seems to be a constant underlying theme of my life even when I am otherwise happy, but with the angst. At the moment, I feel good. Unconflicted. Accepting. Though to be honest, I don’t know what it is I am accepting. Maybe that uncertainty is an acceptable way of life — because, truly, any certainty we feel is a matter of hope over reality. That the unusual doesn’t usually happen helps fuel the fantasy of certainty, but anything can happen to any of us at any time.

A friend sent me the following text: So here’s to a life of insecurity, uncertainty, failure, and most of all adventure. And oh, that sounds so strangely wonderful! We tend to think that security, certainty, and success are all things to be sought after, but what if they aren’t? What if security lies in uncertainty and failure? What if certainty lies in failure and insecurity? What if success lies in failure, uncertainty, and insecurity?

I don’t know what succarouselcess is since it remains elusive. I don’t know what failure is, either, though I have suffered too much of it. Still, success sometimes brings unrealistic expectations, forces us into a role we aren’t comfortable with, or steals time from loved ones, and aren’t those all failures? Failure often brings knowledge of a sort, and isn’t truth a success?

Truth has always excited me, though the keys to life’s mysteries — life’s truths — seem out of reach. Each truth learned hints at greater truths, and so we truth seekers are always seeking. (Always failing, too, because truth can never be grasped.)

Although I miss my soul mate with all my mind and heart, when I am brutally honest with myself, I know we went as far as we could together in our search for truth. For us to have remained together would have stifled that glow of barely sensed knowledge, would have kept us tethered to ordinariness. But by his death, he took me to the ends of my reach, showed me emotions I didn’t know existed, let me feel the bonds of eternity and the bounds of the earth.

I sense something more for me in this life, sense . . . whatever it is that lies beyond the cone of my vision. I haven’t a clue how to move beyond my own grasp, though I sense that a life of security, certainty and success is not the way to do it. All of those are ties that bind, and since I am free and boundless for the first time in my life, I’m not about to tie myself in knots again, at least until life and age do it for me.

Sometimes I sense laughter deep within the universe. Sometimes I sense the playfulness that holds everything together.

Once a very long time ago when I was immeasurably young, my classmates were trying to read each other’s minds. They sat there, brows furrowed in concentration. My then best friend was one of the would-be-mind readers. I was bored with the whole thing, and played my own game of trying to break their concentration by shouting out gleefully anything I could think of. The gameplayers were so annoyed at me they blocked me out, so no one realized that I unwittingly shouted out the right answers whenever my friend was the one sending the thoughts.

So playfulness, laughter, uncertainty, insecurity — these are things to be gleefully and joyfully embraced. Oddly, I don’t know how to play, to be playful. Never did. I was a serious child, and except for moments here and there, I’m a serious adult. But seriousness will never get me what I want. Truth is a shy creature that can’t be hunted, only enticed with promises of play.

I’m being foolishly poetic, perhaps, but maybe, just maybe, I’m on to something. If nothing else, maybe I’ll learn to be playful.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter 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.

On Writing: Embracing Playfulness

My goal as a writer is to learn all I can and to be so accomplished and confident that I can write whatever and however I wish and be able to stand by it. Too many new writers think they don’t need to follow the rules, that they can set their own style, which is true up to a point, and that point is readability. What I want is confidence coupled with readability. Following the style others have set is not my way, but so far I haven’t found a distinct voice.

One way I am trying to find that voice is by embracing playfulness. When I’m trying to figure out where to go with a story or a scene, I brainstorm, stringing incongruities and absurdities together, the more ridiculous the better. Not only does it get my mental juices flowing, sometimes those ridiculous ideas are the perfect answer to the problem of what comes next.

Silliness has added some interesting twists to my books. My novel, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, is about a disease that wipes out most of the population of Colorado. About half way through the writing, I hit a wall. I tried brainstorming with a friend, and he had no interest whatsoever in my plight, so being silly, he said I should forget the book and write about zombies. I laughed at the suggestion, but the idea took hold. Since the disease was a rapidly mutating one, I had the disease go through a short spurt where the victims turned into zombies. Gave the book an interesting twist, mostly because even though the idea started out being silly, it ended up being spooky. Odd, that.

One thing I have not been able to silly my way out of is my habit of using too many pronouns. He did this. He did that. He went here. He went there. It’s the mark of an amateur, but more than that, I don’t like it. I should be able to come up with a better way of telling the story. And maybe someday I will.

Until then, all I can do is write, perfect the craft, and embrace playfulness.