When I think about life events, I’ve considered how they might change a person. I do this now, more than ever before. What hits us most hard are the occurrences that mean we must conform to something new. The death of a family member, friend or pet. A divorce. A marriage. The loss of a job, or the move into a new home. A pregnancy. A new job. All these and so many others permanently affect us as individuals.
With the more dramatic life events, I find death is the most difficult event to process. In the past decade, maybe a little longer, I’ve had two co-workers and a brother in law commit suicide. Three people. It astounds me I know three people who took their life by putting guns to their heads. I found the body of young man on the beach. That was back in 2001. My son and I were walking on the beach, talking. Up ahead I noticed a strange looking object that seemed, at first, to be lying on the sand. As we came a little closer, I could tell this brown and black object was in a tidal pool. I thought it was possibly driftwood, then I had the horrible thought it was a drowned dog, like a German Shepherd. I began running, and then slowed down. Oh. It was a person. He looked like he was just floating there, for pleasure. Except, a wave came in, a rather large one, and it was the lack of reaction that made me start running towards him again. A looseness which told me, something wasn’t right.
And, it wasn’t.
Later, I found out from his family he’d been fasting and praying after 9/11 and was too weak to fight the rip current from a recent hurricane.
As many know, in 2012, I lost my job at Nortel. That same month, I signed the contract with my agent. Veritable ups and downs. Then, a few months later, I had to euthanize my dogs, Bella and Kiwi. A friend’s child passed away at only six years of age when they had to make the horrific decision to take him off life support. He’d developed a fever which triggered seizures. The medical staff couldn’t bring him out of his drug induced coma because the seizures began again. He had a twin brother. What did this do to him?
And then there was Dad, who passed earlier this year. And I watched my mother shrink, actually becoming smaller, frailer, afraid. The paint strokes for that were broad and sweeping, dark and volatile, grays of depression, the ugly red of anger, all expressions of grief. It covered me. It covered all of us.
I am not who I used to be. No longer am I that crazy, cut-up with a love for unusual shoes, dancing (even though I couldn’t, not really), that spur of the moment sort of person. Nowadays, sure, I still joke around a little, but I’m more serious, and maybe I need the fashion police because I tend to wear flip flops (year round) and, haven’t seen a nightclub in almost twenty years, because I like being at home. Some would call this getting old. Maybe that’s it, but I prefer to just see it as who I am now.
The other day while I was running, the term “landscape of life,” came to me. It stemmed from the thought we humans are a lot like wet paint on a canvas. We shift our emotions, and ourselves in order to conform to pain, happiness, or sadness. Sometimes we become different versions of the person we used to be, before things happened to us. Like an artist who creates a mood on canvas by using various colors of paint or by incorporating different textures or a new technique, I think humans are like wet paint too. Our moods, our persona, is the landscape, meaning we adjust and transform ourselves over time. Maybe some aspect of our old behaviors are simply wiped away as we move beyond what we’ve experienced
I’d like to believe, and I hope, I can somehow use these life experiences when it comes to character development, or capturing a reaction accurately, turning it into a believable rendering a reader can actually relate to and feel.
Even though we may have lived it and breathed it, putting emotions into words and onto the page…it still doesn’t come any easier, does it?