Last summer, bits and pieces of a novel started floating around in my head. That’s often how it starts. A song, a flash of an image, a smell, a memory of the ocean, or camping in the Redwoods – whatever. Sometimes it’s a phrase that comes to me and then before I know it, a story forms.
It can (and often has) taken years for some of these to form. I have a file folder on my laptop with several different novels. I’ve mentioned this before. Because I can’t write them all at once, I write as much as I can – when an idea comes to me. I store it up, so to speak – for a time when I can finish writing the thing.
I’m a “seat of the pants” writer and don’t care much for outlining every little bit of a book. It’s in my head. But as a writer who writes character-driven novels, the plot is secondary to the development of the characters themselves. And so I find that the overall outline in my head is enough.
But I digress. In October I started writing A Thousand Years. And then in November, I wrote the bulk of the 50,000 word novel. It was complete – but not. As I began to edit it, I found some pretty serious issues. But far more importantly, the book just wasn’t coming together in the way that I expected it to. Something was missing.
I’ve had a really hard time letting go of it, however. Though I did consider throwing the baby out with the bath water. I started working on another novel to see if it would catch fire and I could set this novel aside. It just did not. A Thousand Years was still it. This novel is one that’s truly on my heart to write. I’ve prayed some quick, but desperate prayers to God – show me how to make this work – I asked over and over. Well, I think He has. And I am grateful.
I’ve yet to write a summary about this novel – but I’ve shared bits and pieces here, including some of the poetry or short fiction that’s found here. Any post with a tag of “A Thousand Years” fits somewhere into this novel on my heart. While many of the scenes I’ve shared here in the past, are now being altered to fit my re-write – the heart of the novel is the same.
And what’s the heart of the novel? It’s about the messy and complicated way our lives don’t follow a linear trajectory. In the midst of the mess – finding love, family, and healing is possible. One of my favorite gemstones is an opal. Opals are beautiful because of the cracks and fissures in their surface. The messy & complicated in life could certainly mar our lives if we allow it to. Or it could actually be what makes us the best version of ourselves.
I am excited to finish this draft and see what comes next for A Thousand Years.
When I was a little girl, my Grandpa Avalos doted on my Grandma. It hadn’t always been that way. He’d admitted to many mistakes in the type of husband & father he was when he was younger. At some point in his life, he made many changes. His faith became his foundation. He made up for lost time. He was so sweet to her. Even though he still had his Mexican way of being rough – he was a man that loved God, his church, and his wife and family.
While he did things for her before he retired, after he retired – every weekend, he went to mass on Saturday and Sunday – early – long before anyone was awake. Ever the social butterfly, he’d talk to friends after mass and then go to McDonald’s. Why? Because my Grandma had a thing for McDonald’s pancakes and coffee. He would bring in the food as we were waking. He’d get out her coffee, doctor it just right, get her food (pancakes with butter – no syrup), and the Orange County Register, and take it to her. Only after she was situated, did he get us up and settled with breakfast (when we were little and needed more help). She always came first.
She was a night owl. I take after her in that and in many other ways. She didn’t like getting up early. But she really milked it (as she should have – haha) after Grandpa retired. He did this, without fail – over and over and over again. It was decades of his life that he kept this tradition. It’s not the only sweet thing he did for her. He did other things – chocolates and flowers and trips to her favorite places (like Borrego Springs in the desert). He would cut gardenias (and sometimes roses) from their garden and make tiny bouquets for me. He was a special man.
I’ve known love. I have loved. But I’ve never quite found the man who would bring me my form of coffee in bed. I guessed those relationships lacked in many ways – including maturity. It doesn’t matter anymore. I do know that I will always hope this is possible, even if I end up alone. Every woman has her things. We all have our love languages. For me, as a words person, words of affirmation are my numero uno. A letter – a note that I find before my day begins – are a gift that would follow me all day. These, like thoughtful things my grandpa did for my grandma, are little gifts that fill you up – giving you confidence in your love as you also seek to love him in the way he best receives and understands love.
I was thinking about my grandparents recently while I re-read my novel, A Thousand Years. Though very different than my grandparents, there are personality traits of Birdie’s grandparents that are similar to mine. My grandma could be a real stinker. And even though she worried and stressed and did crazy things*, he adored her. And she knew it. Everyone knew it. What a gift it was to witness this as a child.
I may still end up alone. Who really knows what the future holds? But I do know that because of men like my grandpa and a couple other special people to come across my path, I know what I’m looking for. And if I’m so blessed to have this man show up on my doorstep, I can’t wait to spoil him. But no matter what lies ahead, I treasure the gift that seeing this kind of love, in my grandparents, was to me.
*like flipping off her grandchildren when we pissed her off & teaching us how to cuss without our parent/aunt knowing we were cussing (our own words).
The great thing about getting older is that you start to hone in on what really matters. If you’re seeking answers and determine to live authentically, that is. Because you could definitely chase poop that doesn’t matter, right on until your last days. But if you are truly seeking to live out your best life, I think you find with time, that some things just don’t matter anymore. And sometimes that means you’re okay looking like a fool to everyone else – while doing, saying, and living as you feel compelled to.
The older I get, the more certain I become about what I do & don’t want to give my time to anymore. I also know that I can’t stomach regret. Through therapy and some tough knocks the last couple of years, that is becoming even more clear. I’ve promised myself to live a life without regrets.
Recently, I went down a rabbit hole of regret when I was second guessing sharing my heart openly, with someone I cared about. I shared my heart with him and there was no response, (which is a response). It sucked. That’s the thing though, I don’t want to make space in my heart or mind for regret. I told him because I promised myself I wouldn’t live with regrets. I didn’t want to figure out what came next for me, without telling him how I felt. And while that didn’t really work out for me, what’s worse is always wondering. I have my answer through his silence.
We can trick ourselves, when things don’t work out the way we’d hoped, that maybe we’ve made the wrong call. But the truth is, sometimes the gift is in the practice of trying, stepping out onto the limb, or trying something we’re terribly afraid to try. The more we exercise this muscle, the stronger it becomes, and the easier it is – when those moments of self-doubt pop up – to squash them. We only have this one life to live. I can’t fill it with regret. You can’t fill it with regret. None of us should.
At 45, I’ve spent the better part of 20 years around a young crowd. I haven’t had kids of my own. And something about those two things, has kept me feeling pretty young in many ways. But where I am happily feeling my age is in figuring out what matters and where to focus my energy and time. Now more than ever, that means to live and love without regret.
So – as I look toward my future, there is freedom in choosing each day to live my one, wild and precious life. If I’m focused on living fully – no matter where it takes me (even if it’s in the city I least want to be in), I’m able to see the beauty in each day. Life is not some far out thing that happens “someday.” It’s now. I refuse to look back someday with the realization that life was happening all around me and I missed it. I just won’t do it. The older I get the more certain I am that our opportunities for the life we want are in the every day choices we make now.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” —Mary Oliver