Sunday, December 12, 2010

Daily Reminder # 195

Tonight is the fourth and final episode of what I have written so far of the Hagatharinda story.  Bug, Quilly, Argent, I can't think you enough for your wise and generous suggestions. I'm not sure I know how to accomplish what you suggest, but I know you are right. Hopefully you will have a suggestion for how to move out of the corner I wrote myself into and never left.  Anyone new to the story can go here for Installment 1, Installment 2 and Installment 3. I apologize for sharing again for sharing an unfinished story. I'm sure I have gotten more out of it than those generous enough to read and offer advice and I'm grateful for your kindness.

Amanda and the Cookie Witch
Katherine E. Rabenau

At church the next day, Amanda sat quietly observing the people around her, increasingly fascinated by what she was discovering.  She watched as various ladies from the flower committee came up and hugged her mother in greeting, realizing as she did that although the hugs and words were almost identical the feelings of the speakers were vastly different.  It was clear that Mrs. Johnson really loved Amanda’s mother.  Her face was soft, the hug they exchanged was solid.  Mrs. Martolini’s hug, on the other hand - though she said the same thing was very different.  Fascinatingly, both women said the exact same words and it was there that Amanda began to understand what Hagatharinda had been talking about.  When Mrs. Johnson spoke the words: “Honey, it’s so good to see you,” Amanda could feel the warmth and truth of it in her body.  There was a deep resonance to the sound that was unmistakable.  Mrs. Martolini’s voice simply didn’t have it. She said the words but Amanda could tell that she did not feel them.  Or at any rate not the way Mrs. Johnson did.  Being a thorough researcher, Amanda spent some time observing Mrs. Martolini, just to make sure that what she was hearing was about truth and not just that perhaps the pitch of one woman’s voice was more pleasing to her. Watching her greet a number of people Amanda was at first unsure of her findings.  It was only when someone presented Mrs. Martolini with a beautiful rose that Amanda knew she was correct.  Responding the beauty of the flower, Mrs. Martolini’s voice took on the same unmistakable resonance that she had experienced when Mrs. Johnson greeted her mother earlier.  She did not think that Mrs. Martolini’s “untruth” had malice in it - just that she was not comfortable with people in the same way that Mrs. Johnson was.  Amanda decided that she was shy and that her greetings were an effort to mask her shyness. The beauty of the flower and the kindness of the giver’s gesture had broken through her shyness - at least temporarily.  Human beings, Amanda was beginning to realize, were incredibly complicated.  She was clearly going to have a lot to talk about with Hagatharinda at their next meeting. 

There was someone else in the congregation, however, whose presence, now that she was paying attention to her feelings, really troubled Amanda.  She could not put her finger on why, but there was something about him that was deeply disturbing to her. It was beyond words spoken or demeanor or sincerity or anything she could put her finger on.  It was her body speaking and it was saying “danger.”  But this man was the assistant pastor and everyone loved him, so she could not understand why she felt as she did  - or why she had never noticed it before.  But thinking about it, she realized that she had felt it before, always when she encountered this man.  She had simply not been listening to her body’s “voice,” and had over-ridden its message because “everyone liked him” and because he was a pastor and therefore had to be a good person. She definitely had a lot to talk about with Hagatharinda.  This was creepy.

As Amanada shared her observations with Hagatharinda during their next meeting, the old woman smiled thoughtfully.
“You’ve done an excellent job, Amanda. Your observations of Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Martolini were very thorough and you did not jump to any conclusions. You coupled your judgment with your compassion. I like to think of it as using the “eye of the heart.” I’m very proud of you.”
“But what about Pastor Williams? Why do I feel so creepy around him?
“Well, Amanda, that’s hard to say for sure since I don’t know him. There are people you will meet in this life who are predatory in one way or another. Most of these people are spiritually if not emotionally ill. There are men and women who have inappropriate feelings around young children. Even if they don’t act out on those feelings, you will probably sense them if you are paying attention to your instincts. Or there may be some other reason all together for why you don’t feel comfortable around Pastor Williams. For the purposes of this exercise, what is most important is to learn to listen to and trust your own instincts about people. You don’t have to be “right.” It is irrelevant whether Pastor Williams is the nicest man in the world or dishonest and predatory. What is important is that you learn to listen to your instincts in life and to honor them. Share your discomfort about this man with your parets. They may try to tell you that it’s your imagination. Or they may listen to you and take more careful note themselves.
“I’m kind of scared to talk to my parents about Pastor Williams. Everyone thinks he’s so kind and stuff. I’m afraid they’ll be mad at me if I say I don’t like him.”
“It’s always possible that they may be made uncomfortable by your discomfort. Like most of us in our society, your parents have probably been trained to override their own instincts. Still, it’s important for you to talk to them about this. Remember also, that just because you feel uncomfortable around someone doesn’t necessarily mean that they have ill intentions towards you or that they are a danger to you. It can mean that but there are many harmless reasons why we may not wish to be around someone as well. Again, be discerning. Listen to your body. If you are truly in danger, it will tell you. Our bodies are part of the sensory system of our souls. Just as the nerves in your fingers alert you to heat coming off the burner on a stove, so the so-called “sixth” sense of your body alerts you to more subtle dangers.  Sharing your reactions to this man with your family will help you to get clarity.  But be careful to share your feelings without adding any judgments or conclusions. And always be thoughtful about who your share your feelings with and how you do it. Gossip is not sharing. It is mean spirited and petty.
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean about it doesn’t matter if I’m “right” in my feelings. Isn’t it bad if I think unkind things about somebody and he isn’t bad?”
“There are no “wrong” feelings. A feeling is simply a response to a stimulus. In and of itself it is not correct or incorrect. It just is. If you shift the focus from emotional feelings to sensory feelings, it may seem more clear. Let’s say you walk into an air-conditioned  room and most people are comfortable but you feel chilly. Are you wrong to feel chilly? Of course not! Feelings are. It’s what you do with the feelings which is where things get more complicated. Using the temperature analogy again. You have a number of options. You could go turn the air conditioner off (not a good choice) even though everyone else is comfortable or you could put on a sweater. Or you could go outside. You aren’t right for feeing chilly and nobody else is wrong or right for being comfortable. Different people experience temperature differently, just as different people experience other people and situations differently. Your job is not to assess everyone else’s feelings but to take responsibility for your own and find a way to take care for yourself which does no harm to anyone else. 
“That’s funny, Hagatharinda. I like that analogy. But what about being angry. Isn’t it wrong to get angry?”
“Anger, Amanda, is just a feeling, and as we just discussed, feelings are fundamentally responses to stimuli. It is as impossible to go through life without ever feeling anger as it is to go through it without ever having an itch. What is wrong – well, let’s not say “wrong” – what’s unhealthy and unhelpful – is to get stuck in anger. We get stuck in our angry feelings when we get into the blame game. In the blame game your feelings are someone else’s fault; you are not responsible for them. That system of handling feelings never works, because while someone else’s actions may in fact be the stimulus for your feelings, only you are ultimately responsible for what you feel. And it’s ok to be angry. It’s just a feeling. 
“But Hagatharinda, other people shouldn’t do things to make me angry, should they? It’s not nice.”
“Being human is not a precise science, Amanda. Hopefully in this life we will be kind and loving with others, but it doesn’t always work that way. And very often our anger has less to do with another person’s behavior than with our own insecurities or fears. Remember how angry you were with me a while back? As we go through life we run into people who are genuinely thoughtless or cruel, but much of the anger we feel happens when people misunderstand one another’s intentions or have different life experiences which cause them to react differently to the same situation.”
“Well, what about somebody like Johnny Scarletti? He’s just mean! He does it on purpose!”
“There are people like that in this world, I’m afraid. With them, you need to decide whether you want to drink their poison and be as unhappy as they want you to be or whether you want to look at them and see them for the lost souls that they are. That doesn’t mean that you have to adopt them or try to rescue them from their pain.  There is a spiritual wisdom which says that nothing anyone may say or do to you is truly personal unless you choose to receive it in that way. If I say to you that you are short or ugly or stupid, no matter what my intention in saying it might be, it is really about myself. If you choose to believe it (to swallow my poison) you are choosing to make it about you. In truth, we are most prone to swallow poisons offered to us when they already exist in our systems. If you know you are smart and someone calls you stupid, you will not have the same reaction to the words that you would if you thought you were stupid. This is a very difficult concept to grasp because when someone goes out of the way to be unkind – or even if they hurt your feelings accidentally, it certainly feels personal, doesn’t it?” It is also difficult because most of us carry lots of ideas about ourselves which we then look to others to validate. 

If you stop and look at it from a different perspective, Johnny Scarletti is acting as a teacher for you because his behavior is helping you to look at things which you believe about yourself. Other people are always mirrors for us, Amanda. Sometimes they are kind and loving mirrors, sometimes not. It is the eyes with which you look into the mirror that truly matter. When you look always with love, you will see beneath the surface and you will be beyond true hurt. Of course it’s a lot easier to say that than it is to actually do it.

Let’s look at your friend Johnny.  Why do you think he picks on you? There are lots of possible reasons aren’t there? It could be that he’s crazy or it could be that he’s jealous. It could even be that he is trying to get your attention because he likes you and wants you to notice him and this is the only way he can think of to do it. Stranger things have happened. Human beings as a whole are peculiar at times and young boys are particularly peculiar when they are around pretty young girls.
“Hagatharinda!” Amanda was giggling. “What an idea! Johnny Scarlatti hates me!”
“Are you sure of that, sweet one? It’s possible, of course, that you are right, but your lesson for this week is to practice some more observation. Set aside, if you can, the hurt you experience at Johnny’s words and observe him closely."

The end 
of the begiining....

Some things I'm grateful for today:
  • my furnace
  • my computer
  • my home
  • Ibuprofen
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • gogi berries
  • coconut oil
  • Angel and Tara Grace
  • indoor plumbing
  • my fuzzy robe
  • my fleece lined crocs
  • catalogs
  • Netflix
  • good movies - The Secret in their Eyes
  • my SSD
  • HEAP
  • sam-e
  • water
  • ear phones
  • readers and constructive criticism
  • my Bose sound system
  • my big Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes win
  • my new 22" vizio flat screen tv
  • my new dryer
  • winning lottery tickets
  • my Canon Power shot with lots of pixels and zoom
  • laughter
  • Bernie Sanders (senator)
  • Al Franken (senator)
  • beauty
  • birds
  • angels
  • Dennis Puffett
  • reiki
  • life



quilly said...

It seems to me that your agenda here is not to tell a story, but to teach a lesson. The more Hagatharinda preaches the less interesting the story becomes. And Amanda is way too smart for a young girl. She makes conclusions many adults would be hard pressed to come up with and asks questions that are far too astute.

I think you are in a corner because your teaching has taken over and the characters aren't important enough. You can choose to write a sermon or you can choose to write a story. Doing both isn't working. Your story can have a lesson, but it has to be a whole lot more subtle and it should be character driven.

I am certain you know the protocols of good story telling as well as I do. 1.) Your reader has to identify with a main character and become part of the story. You're not allowing the reader to anticipate or speculate what night come next, it is all laid out for him/her in linear fashion. 2.) Change has to take place. Sure enough, Amanda is changing, but she is doing so way too quickly and too easily. There is too little discovery in her lessons, and no trial and error. 3.) Story has conflict. Once Amanda was permitted to visit Hagatharinda at will, the conflict ended -- as did any reason for reading. "What's going to happen next" is what keeps us all turning pages.

I think you'll find your corner disappears when you let the characters take over and make telling a story your primary agenda.

Argent said...

Quilly's words are wise. If I were writing this story, I would dig into the pastor and Amanda's reactions to him more deeply. Everyone loves this guy so why does Amanda react so strongly to him? Is there actually anything 'wrong' with this guy? Maybe Amanda could do a spot of research. She's very smart, maybe she could be a little older than she is and she could use the Internet to find out about him. She could talk to her parents - what would their reactions be? Do they trust their daughter's instincts or just tell her not to be silly. Can she get a friend to assist her in her detective work?

What, in fact, is the story going to be about? I was getting quite intrigued about the pastor thing and then we moved on to this young lad. Is THIS the next stage of the story? Maybe she could find out abut him and he has an interesting back story?

I'm quite keen to get the rest of this story now and I think such faults as it has are perfectly fixable, so please do try to carry on and I hope we've given some help in getting out of your corner.

Carletta said...

Well, I see I need to go back a few posts and begin. :)
Meanwhile, you do have snow and cold don't you. Brrrr....
That icicle shot looks like hammered aluminum.

The Bug said...

I agree with Quilly & Argent. I actually started skimming the parts where Hagatharinda was talking today - but I'm MUCH more of an action lover when it comes to my books. I don't want to LEARN anything :)

I had a pastor once who gave off that creepy vibe to teenage girls - but everyone else LOVED him. I just steered clear, but it might have been interesting as a story to explore that somewhat.