A Memory – Fuzzy Blue Lights

“If I could look across the country from California to New Jersey
then I would count the parks and lake resorts
and number all the jets and airports.
All those rather dreary rain clouds still bother me,
’cause I look through the camera eyepiece and cannot see.”

 

Whenever I hear the song Fuzzy Blue Lights by Owl City, I am immediately back on an airplane in January of 2012, exhausted, relieved, both happy and sad, about to land at MSP after a nine-hour flight back from Paris. I was listening to music because the sound of the constant, rushing wind was making me anxious. I was too cold. I’m pretty sure I was in the window seat and next to Josh. He was probably asleep. I sat up as I felt the plane really starting to descend and looked out at the sunset and the wing of the plane cutting through the clouds. Fuzzy Blue Lights was playing on my MP3 player and I started it over because, somehow, it captured all the emotions going through my 17-year-old body at that moment.

I had just been in Italy for eleven days with a group from my church. It was the longest that I’d ever been away from home. It was simultaneously the best and hardest thing I’d ever done in my life. I spent the first three days of that trip so homesick I thought I was actually physically sick. I didn’t know anyone in the group very well, I was so jet-lagged I couldn’t eat or sleep, I couldn’t find a phone card to call my family, I felt awkward and out of place – and, oh yeah, my purse got stolen on the beach in Nettuno.

That trip grew me so much as a person. I had been terrified to go, but I went anyway. I had so much fun and so many beautiful experiences in spite of the struggles and the growing pains. I got to see too many beautiful churches to count. I got to see the Sistine Chapel. I got to go to Mass down in the catacombs. I got to see Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI from only about six feet away. I discovered strawberry gelato and ‘walking pizza’. I learned so much about the history of the Church. I saw so many tombs of saints. I stepped into the ocean for the first time. I got to see the American-Italian cemetery in Nettuno. I wouldn’t trade away the good parts so the bad didn’t happen. I look back on that trip as the beginning of me becoming who I am now; so much braver and deeper of a woman because I was willing to try this big thing that scared me.

Which takes me back to Fuzzy Blue Lights. When I hear that song, I remember the way I felt when the plane was landing in Minneapolis. I remember that hopeful feeling of having done something in spite of fear and anxiety, which, for me, will always, always be a triumph.

If I was flying on a plane above your town
and you were gazing at the sky
somehow I’d feel intact and reassured
if you began to wave goodbye.”

 

Thanks for reading, God bless.

Clare

 

More Posts Like This:

Winter

Journal Entries 1

Shelving Being Daniel & What’s Next?

I promised an update on Being Daniel at the beginning of February, and here it finally is.

Like I planned, I started over and rewrote Being Daniel from the beginning. That process started out very rewarding and exciting and as I went, I thought, “Awesome! This is going to work!” But then something happened.

I got to the part that had really given me trouble in my original draft, the part that I had rushed because I didn’t know what to do with it; the nitty-gritty of why the relationship between the primary characters doesn’t work. I found that I still didn’t know what to do with it. But I kept trying. I had so many ideas and did more research to be certain I was portraying this emotionally abusive relationship as sensitively but authentically as possible.

Unfortunately, I’ve realized that now just isn’t Being Daniel‘s time. I’m not in a place where I am able to mentally or emotionally dig deep where I need to, but even more than that, there are elements in the story that aren’t fully formed in my head and heart. I’ve gotten feedback, tried writing my way through those underdeveloped parts and given it my best effort; the story just isn’t ready.

So now what?

Well, I’ve been asked to write a play for a local homeschool group! I wrote a play two years ago for them and it was such a fun experience watching them bring it to life. I’m going to focus on writing the best play that I can for them and see where I am after that. I’m hopeful Being Daniel will be a published book someday, but I’m at peace with shelving it for the time being.

Thanks for reading, God bless!

Clare

 

More Posts on Being Daniel:

Writing Alcohol

Being Daniel – 95 Days To Go

What I Wrote Today 1

What I Wrote Today 2

What I Wrote Today 3

Being Daniel Concept Art

 

A Love Letter to Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

We go way back. I didn’t know your name for a long time and I don’t remember exactly when we met, but I do recall when I was five or six, having that chronic fear of being lost, being locked in rooms or being locked out of the house. You stole a lot of fun and joy out of my childhood.

I got to know you better when I was twelve years old and became convinced that my chronic headaches had to mean I had a brain tumor. I still didn’t know your name, so every time you showed up, I just assumed you were a symptom of whatever was killing me. Finally, I found out that I needed glasses, and when my vision was corrected my headaches went away. But you stuck around in the form of that crippling fear of death, which took years to ease off.

And then, December 2014. That was your big breakout, wasn’t it? I was sitting on my bed and thought I was going insane from the all the thoughts and fears spinning around in my head. I felt so physically ill, I wondered if I’d caught a stomach bug. I grieved a relationship that wasn’t even over yet because you had me so, so, scared. I fought with you for six more months, and finally, I was able to get past you and make the decision I needed. With nothing I could love and lose to torment me over, you faded into the shadows.

But you’re still here. You got a good grip on my heart that night in 2014, and now it’s easier for you to sneak back up on me. (Kind of like heat exhaustion.) You keep flaring up whenever I have to do something new, whenever I fly on a plane, whenever things get too crazy at work, whenever I’m alone for too long, whenever I drink too much caffeine, whenever I perceive something wrong with someone, and whenever I care about something a lot. Could you stop doing that?

At the end of the day, you aren’t me. I believed that lie for a long time. But you’re not. You’re something that happens to me. I know you come from some weird survival instinct, this need in me to protect myself from getting hurt, to weigh the risk vs. reward before doing anything. I’m learning that it’s not my job to protect myself from everything because that’s impossible. At some point, after I’ve thought things through and done my best, I have to trust God enough to let my future be uncertain. 

You and I are probably going to spend the rest of my life together in some capacity. And that’s okay. I won’t live my life afraid of you. That being said, you better believe I’m going to work every single day to be stronger and smarter than you. My life is so much better when you’re in your proper place: keeping me from jumping off of bridges and away from possibly-rabid cats.

I’m choosing not to be afraid of you. Even when you jump me and pin me to the floor, sitting on top of my chest and asking me a million questions, I’m trying to choose not to be afraid of you. You drive me straight into the Garden with my God who was so anxious, He was sweating blood. He knows you better than I do, and you didn’t stop Him. You won’t stop me, either. 

As I wrote in my journal back on January 21st: “This is just anxiety. It’s just something that is happening to you. It will go away, and when it does, you will still be here. Don’t be afraid.”

Love,

Clare

Blogmas 2017 – Day 16/31 – Bible Verses

Today, I want to talk about two of my favorite Bible verses that have really spoken to my heart throughout 2017.

 

The first is one I’ve talked about before:

Matthew174

“Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” – Matthew 17: 4-8

I’d heard the story of the Transfiguration many times. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to a high mountain where he was transfigured, becoming bright as light, with Moses and Elijah on either side of him. I’d always heard people talk about this story, saying it taught us not to hold on too tightly to spiritual highs, that we need to go and live in the world, not just camp out on the mountain with Jesus, but this verse took on completely new meaning in May of 2016 when I was in Virginia visiting a childhood friend.

I had been so excited about this visit, but due to some strange, unexpected circumstances, I was left feeling anxious, lonely, and out of place. I was praying, telling God I felt like I shouldn’t have come at all. In the quiet, I heard Him say to me, “No, Clare. It is good that you are here.”

You can read the full story of that experience here.

Through this verse, God showed me that I matter, that my presence matters and that one of the most important things I can do is BE HERE, present, in every moment that He gives me.

I have prayed with this verse so much this year, I’ve started thinking about getting a tattoo of it. It has changed my life and changed me. My first published book was originally titled Defining Moment, then Trying to Be Here, but I ultimately chose to change it to Good You Were Here because of this verse and everything it had come to mean to me.

Luke1232

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds! Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” – Luke 12: 22-34

I suffer from a lot of anxiety, so the entirety of this passage speaks to me, but I remember discovering verse 32 almost ten years ago while just skimming through my bible. It jumped out at me and resonated in my heart.

Fast forward to this year. After one particularly good but hard counseling session a few months ago, I went to Caribou for some comfort. I was sipping my latte and praying about everything on my heart and mind, when this verse popped into my head. Praying with it brought me so much comfort and hope.

It seems every word was written directly to my own heart. “Do not be afraid any longer…” God knows I am actively fearful. “…little flock…” I am little and wayward and need a Good Shepherd to take care of me. “…for your Father…” God looks on me with fatherly love and care. “…is PLEASED to give you the kingdom.” It is the good pleasure of the CREATOR AND KING OF ALL THE UNIVERSE to know me, love me, and give me the best that He has — the Kingdom, here on earth and in Heaven with Him for all eternity.

Bible1

There you have it. I am always amazed how these words that were written 2,000 years ago still resonate so much in our human hearts. God’s word is alive and active and I know I am proof of that. What are your favorite verses? Is there a verse that has particularly spoken to you this year? Let me know!

Thank you for reading, God bless!

Clare

 

Check out the rest of Blogmas 2017!

Get a copy of Good You Were Here on Amazon

 

A Love Letter to God (Love Letters, 1)

Dear God,

Thank you. Thank you for loving me to here, for loving me into existence, for loving me first. Everything I have and am is because of you.

I am still only getting to know you and, even after a lifetime, I feel like I will still not know you very well. You are so deep and wide, so big, and I’m so little. I feel like I will spend my whole life mesmerized by the prints on your thumb, all the while thinking it was your face.

And yet, when I get to Heaven, when I see you face to face, I still believe I’ll recognize you. I may be afraid and trembling, but you’ll reach out and caress my cheek with your thumb, and I’ll know. All along, you were there, holding me.

I don’t deserve it. The perfect care you have taken of me all my life, your faithfulness, your sunshine and your stars — everything is a gift and all I can do is sit back and whisper, “Thank you.”

And somehow, it is enough. Somehow, I am enough. You see me coming from a distance and you run the rest of the way. You have waited through all of time and eternity to love me, so I will just stand still and let myself be loved.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Love,

Clare

 

ANNOUNCEMENT – Extending My Deadline

Some stories come easier than others, and Being Daniel isn’t coming easy. I finished my first draft on September 30th, and I was optimistic that I could get it polished up and ready to go in no time after that. That’s kind of how it went with Good You Were Here.

But there were several things I didn’t count on. I took a lot of time away from writing or even thinking about the book in October for a lot of reasons – flying to Virginia to be a bridesmaid in my childhood best friend’s wedding, family visiting, and wanting to wait for feedback from beta readers. I also got sick and had a lot of anxiety towards the end of October and that kept me from accomplishing much of anything.

I finally got enough feedback to reach a tough realization: While this story is really good, my execution is currently…bad. I kept telling myself done was better than perfect and while I still want to work with that mentality, I also want this book to be worth the money and time people will invest in it. So I’m going to remove the pressure of my December 14th deadline and give this book the love it needs. I won’t announce a new release date until Being Daniel is solidly ready to make its entrance in the world.

It’ll be worth it, I promise.

 

Writing Alcohol (1 of ?)

As I type this, I’m sipping a cocktail made of some sparkling Izze juice and pomegranate vodka. I enjoy very few alcoholic beverages, have only had one shot in my life, have never been drunk, and I can have just as much of a good time with or without booze. I feel like I’m obligated to enjoy it just because I happen to be a 22-year-old woman. I’m still waiting for that magical day when I ‘grow up’ and love drinking wine. Wine is so classy and sophisticated.

Yeah, I hate wine.

boozekermit1.jpg

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(Sorry, Kermit – and Mom.)

Meanwhile, today I finished an outline for a book in which the main character, Tony, is an alcoholic struggling to stay sober throughout the duration of the story. Here we face the challenge of writing what we don’t know! *Fireworks go off and fizzle out pathetically in the distance*

Not only am I a lightweight whom God did not create to dig the taste of liquor, but I don’t personally know anyone who I would consider an alcoholic – not even anyone who I would consider a reckless or stupid drinker. My older sisters are expert social drinkers and my mom is a wine snob, while my younger sister is an actual bartender.

So my knowledge of alcoholism is limited to TED Talks, Wikipedia, and Captain Jack Sparrow. Obviously, I’m not going to cut this element from my story. It’s part of the character, even if it’s not part of my personal experience. I’m just going to have to seek more sources and make sure I portray alcoholism – and recovery from it – as honestly as I possibly can.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – how alcohol and writing seem to have a very close-knit relationship. Many of the most famous authors in history were alcoholics. Ernest Hemingway is credited with the line “Write drunk, edit sober.” (although the internet tells me the quote is actually from a writer named Peter De Vries) My desire to write drinking and alcoholism into my story has nothing to do with wanting to fit in with the “writer aesthetic”, and everything to do with my desire to write authentic, human stories. Just because I don’t enjoy most alcohol and genuinely thought until like three years ago that everyone just pretended to like it because they liked getting drunk (don’t ask me how I developed these delusions) doesn’t mean that none of my characters will drink.

I’m blessed to have been raised in an environment where alcohol has always been used for celebration and enjoyment, and never viewed as a dangerous or sinful thing. When I was three or four, my grandpa would let me sip his beer. When I was fourteen or fifteen, my mom poured me my own glass of wine for Easter dinner. Even though I never really liked it, I was introduced to it in a way that made it seem like nothing more than a fancy adult treat – grown-up soda and juice, as it were. So, in spite of my own indifference towards booze, it’s definitely a part of my life and it finds its way into my writing easily.

For example, in my book Good You Were Here, drinking happens frequently, and for different purposes. Lazlo is drinking to try and numb his pain when he’s first introduced, but at another point, he’s calmly sipping a beer on his front porch. Evan drinks a beer on a picnic at the beach. Angela’s parents enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.

This is the first time I’ve tried to write a character who has a problem with alcohol. Everything is different now. No reference to booze can be casual because, for Tony, it’s anything but. He’s constantly battling with the temptation to drink, and ‘just one’ is never enough. It’s not fun to enter into the perspective of an addict and explore that painful enslavement, but, whether I like it or not, Tony is an alcoholic. I can’t change that about him. I mean, I could. But the funny thing about writing is that your characters tend to take on a life of their own, and you can tell when the author is making them do something that isn’t authentic to them. 

So, off I go into the process of writing a novel currently entitled Being Daniel, about a twenty-something who has hit rock bottom entirely due to his unhealthy relationship with alcohol. If anyone has any personal experience they’re willing to share about addiction and recovery, please feel free to contact me. I promise I will do my best not to sugarcoat or misrepresent this sensitive and serious issue. 

Thanks for reading, God bless!

– Clare

 

 

 

 

 

#goodyouwerehere #2

Is there someone who has touched your life? Someone you’re grateful for? Someone whose presence you want to acknowledge or appreciate? Tag them with #goodyouwerehere and share why!
My second #goodyouwerehere goes to Chuck and Grace, who took me in during my internship with Words Players Community Theatre in Rochester, MN in 2014-2015. They opened their home to me, fed me, included me as much as they could in their family life, made me feel welcome and loved, and never mentioned that one time I forgot to clean my hair out of the shower. I think of them as my second parents. Thank you for everything, Chuck and Grace. I love you very much and miss seeing your faces everyday. It is truly #goodyouwerehere 💕🙏🏻 #internship#wordsplayers #memories #love

#goodyouwerehere

Is there someone who has touched your life? Someone you’re grateful for? Someone whose presence you want to acknowledge or appreciate? Tag them with #goodyouwerehere and share why!
My first #goodyouwerehere goes out to someone who very much helped shape me in my faith – a lady named Pam, who was my 3rd grade religion teacher back at my parish in Iowa. She was a truly kind, generous woman who had the rare talent for making people feel her love. My most vivid memory of her is when she had us draw Adam and Eve on the whiteboard, and she laughed with us as we awkwardly debated on how ‘anatomically correct’ to draw them. She was as much a part of my childhood as my parents and my best friends. She died in April of 2012 after several years fighting liver cancer. Her funeral was standing room only. I wish I could have one more conversation with her – I wish I could thank her for helping to grow me into the person I am today. Thank you, Pam. It’s #goodyouwerehere 💕🙏🏻#gywh #memories

Sad Stories

Time for some brutal honesty and reckless vulnerability, because that’s who I am.

Two years ago, I was discussing my writing ideas with a friend, and we realized how gloomy my imagination had become. She and I were working on a short film that I’d written in which all the characters die, but all of my solo works-in-progress were also about death or grief in some way.

She said, “Someone would think you were going through a dark time in your life,”

That comment struck me to the heart, because that was exactly what was going on.

Back when I was a teenager, my stories were full of drama and conflict, but rarely tragedy. I loved rewriting fairy tales, wrote a whole book based on the song Hot Air Balloon by Owl City, and my first short play was a goofy, adorable story about a girl teaching a blind boy about color.

At the time of this conversation with my friend, I had moved away from my family to do an internship where I felt mostly useless. I was finally only 20 minutes away from my long-distance boyfriend of three years, but I had never felt further from him. I was working a job where, if the hours and the pay hadn’t been so wonderfully consistent, I would have quit in a heartbeat due to all the drama and financial issues going on with the owners. I had a brutal anxiety attack over my relationship in December of 2015, and I haven’t been quite the same since.

I was indeed going through a dark time.

After nine months, my internship ended, and I left all the friends and the people who had come to feel like family to move back home. Shortly after returning home, almost exactly two years ago, I broke up with my boyfriend. At first, I was grateful, motivated, and hopeful. I got a job in retail I absolutely loved for about three months, and then I hated it for the next five months I worked there. I got my current job as a secretary, which was great until I hit a truck and had to take out a loan for the repairs, which forced me to get my second job. Some days those two jobs leave me exhausted and feeling like a loser. I made efforts to make friends that only left me feeling more isolated and alone. The people I spend the most time with are my teenage brother and sister, who I love dearly, but am still 5 and 7 years older than. I still live with my parents, and too many days I feel like I’ve gone back in time to being 16.

Yeah. I’m still going through ‘a dark time’.

But – I wrote a book. I wrote a book and published it within six months. That is stupidly cool. Good You Were Here is undeniably a very sad story. But what these dark times have taught me is that sad stories are usually the most beautiful ones. They are the ones that comfort me the most. When I read The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and sobbed; when I watched Inside Out and cried my eyes out because I felt like I was watching my own childhood unravel; when I listen to Dear Evan Hansen and bawl because I relate to it so strongly it aches. Without the sad parts of those stories, I wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t remember them.

Tonight, I’m feeling incredibly sad. I feel lonely, hopeless, pretty pathetic. I don’t write this to get attention, to ask people to comfort me or reassure me. I write it to be real with people who I hope to connect with through my stories. Because what good am I doing this world if I write a bunch of happy, forgettable stories?

You know what the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read is? The end of A Tale of Two Cities, when Sydney Carton takes Charles Darnay’s place for the guillotine. I cried for about 45 minutes after I read that. But it changed me. It made my heart bigger; more open to beauty and hope and light. The more cracks in the heart, the more light can get in.

Like I said in my first post, life is a story made up of a billion little stories – story upon story upon story, overlapping between every person on earth. I write sad stories because they are human stories. And, as Tolkien put it, “We have come from God , and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour.”

Thanks for reading, God bless.

– Clare