Why Open Another Box?

A unconditional conversation between mother and daughter...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fate In A Lovely Shade of Gray


I am very impressed with your science fiction story and know I couldn’t have written a story as well developed and focused as yours is when I was your age. You grabbed my attention right away with the time travel theme and kept it by staying focused on the main character’s direct experiences during the assassins’ successful attempts to kill famous people. You never wandered off the subject by having him explore other events taking place during each time period.

I think the introduction of Fate to the story was brilliant. Fate always is there whether or not we understand or accept it. Having Fate wink at the main character at the end was the perfect ironic conclusion. I loved it and would like to hear it again!

I can help you correct it line by line the way I used to if you want. I won’t try to change your story.

I’d like you to make noodles romanoff @5:45. Okay?

Dear Mom,

My fate is to be a writer. Could you have known this? Could you have known this when referring back to my story about the time-traveler and his run in with Fate? Could you have known it when you wrote “Fate always is there whether or not we understand or accept it?” I’ve spent far too much time in my life asking black and white questions like this only to discover the answers are gray. In my mind you live in a beautiful shade of gray where words and ideas are constantly blurring and taking different form to fit the moment.

Formerly, not only did I refuse to accept gray answers, they terrified me. Now I seek comfort in gray. I’ve found that it’s in the blurry places where the greatest possibilities blossom and grow. Finding this note from you in my folder of personal letters brings me comfort—soft gray comfort. If I looked at your words in black and white, I would not see them beyond face value. I would lack the ability to internalize a very important self-discovery. I wouldn’t have realized that my fate is sealed.

Of course I’ve always know from the time I was a small child that I loved to write. I have notebooks full of quirky characters, goofy plot lines, and even a science fiction story where my protagonist attempts to unlock the mysteries of a personified version of “Fate.” College-ruled-paper pages full of barely legible, insanely horrible grammar and spelling have waited years to not merely be acknowledged, so much as to be accepted as evidence of my fate. Fate always is there whether or not we understand or accept it.

You accepted my fate—my gift. You wrapped it in gray while I still clung to black and white. When all throughout my school years I circulated through one blasé teacher and instructor after another, my writing not so much berated by them as ignored or cast aside as mediocre (a much worse fate for a writer, believe me), you were my steadfast encouragement. I remember as a young girl, in my teens and tweens, sitting by your side. You in your recliner—the sick chair, and me in an uncomfortable dining-room chair—the petulant-child chair.

On rare occasion you and I would delight in sharing one of my literary creations, but mostly (and sadly) I recall complaining relentlessly at having to endure your editing sessions and commentary. The computer you so painstakingly used to communicate with was a menacing time-sucker that I became increasingly resentful toward. Oh but if I could turn back time … I would gladly sit by your side for hours, days, and weeks, sucking up every edit, suggestion, and comment you had to offer—Fate is always there whether or not we understand or accept it.

When you passed, 18 years ago this month (so hard to believe) I tried to outrun, outsmart, and deny my fate. For years I swapped pen and paper for liquid insanity and oblivion making sure everything was black and white—mostly black. Any hope for creativity was blighted by too much untreated sorrow and resentment.

It took two years of being clean and free of resentment before I could even consider the possibility of allowing fate to catch up with me. Anyone (including me) who seriously believes they have a jump start on fate is a fool. My fate has, was, and always is—with me … whether I accept it or not. Putting pen to paper was just like riding a bike again, but accepting my ability to put pen to paper was more like breathing fresh air after years of living underground. A long, long, long time underground.

As liberating as it was to write again I was consumed with doubt and insecurity. As fate would have it, however, someone who reminds me a little of you, someone warm, encouraging, and convincing looked me straight in the eye and told me (in her unmistakable Kentucky accent), “Honey, you are a writer!” I began to believe. I began to accept. I began to slip into the gray.

Since then days and years have passed. I’ve sat beside others who have offered edits and commentary on my writing. I’m grateful to each and every one of them. They have continued to be warm, encouraging and convincing. I no longer try to outsmart or outquestion my fate. Sometimes I still regret not having spent more time with you in the dining-room chair, saddened by all I could have learned, but then I remember—it’s not all black and white. What you gave me before you left was priceless and invaluable. You taught me how to not only see, but to live in gray. Fate always is there whether or not we understand or accept it.