Bigger Than the Whole Sky

Taylor Swift released her 10th studio album last week. I’m still working my way through the lyrics. While it has a very different feel than my favorite (folklore), I like the album. There are some songs that are a real sucker punch to the gut. In the years since Swift released 1989, I have only grown to enjoy her songwriting more. While it’s true that folklore meant more to me than I can explain, and heavily impacted the direction my novel took (so melancholy), there are some powerful moments on Midnights, that surpass the emotion of that album.

One of those is the song “Bigger Than the Whole Sky.” While I’m sure it may be disputed, many fans believe it is a song about miscarriage. I happen to agree. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss month and as I’ve seen a variety of posts about women’s stories, I’ve thought about my own loss.

I’ve shared about the grief of losing my son through circumstances I will never be able to share, at around the time our adoption should’ve been final. But I also lost a baby. I don’t talk about it much – if ever. If I’d given birth to her, she would’ve been 15 years old this past spring.

In Swift’s song she writes things like . . .

“Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye / You were bigger than the whole sky /You were more than just a short time / And I’ve got a lot to pine about / I’ve got a lot to live without / I’m never gonna meet / What could’ve been, would’ve been / What should’ve been you / What could’ve been, would’ve been you.”

“Did some bird flap its wings ovеr in Asia? / Did some force take you bеcause I didn’t pray?”

She also sings, “Cause it’s all over, it’s not meant to be.” The emotion that elicits, feels a little different today – than it might have five years ago or more. Today, the grief that bubbles up is co-mingled with knowing that I won’t have a chance to give birth. Our emotions are a weird, weird thing. And we can sometimes feel like our pain doesn’t measure up to that of others as we try to process the weirdness of our emotions.

I am learning how to grieve the loss of a child. I’m still trying to learn how to grieve what will never be. To make things stranger, the man I would have shared a child with, also passed away. That added a layer that I now know I didn’t properly grieve or deal with. But the body keeps the score. And recent losses are compounded by what I never worked through back then.

That does some things to a person. But my story, like so many others like me, isn’t always seen as a valid grief experience. The average person probably wouldn’t say that to a person’s face. Yet it becomes apparent in a myriad of other ways. Do we need validation from others about our experiences or pain? Certainly not. But I will tell you that a lack of validation does, in my opinion, slow (or stop) the healing process.

I think what songs like “Bigger Than the Whole Sky” do for people, is that they absolutely validate the pain that others don’t see. They validate that our own loss was real and that others understand. This is the power of story. I have believed this and known this for as long as I can remember. It’s what compels me to write. Our stories, whether they’re true, or the ones we may create – have tremendous power to impact, inspire, lead to healing, or encourage. Plus there’s that whole entertainment thing.

As I gear up for another year of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo), I was really struck by this “Pep Talk” by Kwame Mbalia, during this NaNoWriMo prep period. He says, in part, “Dice through the unnecessary. Trim away the fluff. Find the core, the kernel, the spark before the flame, that single instant of raw imagination, the chaos before the Big Bang, the heart just before it pumps. There is, for everyone, a singular moment in time when you recognized a concept within the millions of stimuli processed in your brain, and something formed. A character. An idea.”

I love this in particular, “…that single instant of raw imagination, the chaos before the Big Bang, the heart just before it pumps…” sometimes the heart of the story, which takes shape from images, memories, music, loss or whatever else under the sun, gets lost. It gets lost in word counts, fear, trying to accomplish a goal and turning writing into a task to check off a to-do list, etc. The story, the kind that makes you pen a song that helps others to connect with, and remember the life of a baby that was “more than just a short time,” deserves more than second best.

When that story has the power to help others to feel less alone, validates their pain, or opens the door to the hope of healing, it absolutely deserves my full attention. The story I hear in Bigger Than the Whole Sky, is another reminder of why I love to write. It also connects me to deeper levels of my own losses – which ultimately means that I’m drawing closer to healing. For those of us who grieve, there’s no way out – but through. Connecting to songs or other art/writing, other’s experiences, and allowing ourselves to feel the pain in the process, leads to healing.

Whatever Taylor Swift was writing about in this song – we know one thing to be true, if it causes us to face our own losses and pain, and helps us to feel less alone, that’s all that matters. As a writer, that’s the dream – that someday, the words I write will mean as much to others, as my favorite writer’s words mean to me.

“I Would Rather Sit and Talk to You”

If I owned the finest vineyard
I would rather sit and drink cheap wine with you
If I could live on the moon
I would rather stay in Tennessee with you
If I could sail across the ocean
The ocean would just be blue without you
If I could climb up Mount Everest
I would turn around and climb in bed with you
With you I can be myself
With you I don’t have to be somebody else
It’s like puttin’ on my favorite pair of shoes
If I could be like Albert Einstein
I’d rather just be dumb and be with you
If I could sing like Frank Sinatra
I would rather sit and talk to you
– Song by: Barry Jenkins / Hampton Andrew Jr Holcomb

No Hard Feelings

Doesn’t fit perfectly – but it works for me. There’s no hard feelings.

“I took a little time, tequila and therapy
And threw it in a blender with ice
I was more messed up than I cared to be
Spent a whole lot of lonely nights
I was mad at myself, pissed at the world
It was hard to get up, but I put one foot
In front of the other, kept on keepin’ on
Going through the motions until
There was no hard feelings
And no bad vibes”
No Hard Feelings – by Old Dominion

Road Trips to Asheville & Finding a New Path

Road Trips to Asheville & finding a new path . . . that sums up the first part of my week!

Blue Ridge Parkway, Craggy Gardens, Asheville NC, Blue Ridge Mountains
Craggy Gardens area of the Blue Ridge Parkway – Blue Ridge Mountains – outside of Asheville, North Carolina

I took a road trip this week. I didn’t end up in Charlotte as had been originally planned. It’s a long story. I spent two nights & three days in Asheville (and made a pit stop in Hendersonville). It was a really great few days away. But it was nothing like I planned or expected.

I stayed at the Log Cabin Motor Court – between Asheville and Weaverville. The Log Cabin Motor Court is a National Historic Landmark – originally opened in 1917. If I remember correctly, the cabins were built in the 1930s. These rustic cabins were a delight and if I go again, I might want to stay in one of the cabins with a kitchen. I previously stayed at the property next door (The Pines Cottages) and ADORE that place too, by the way.

Though my intention had been to spend Tuesday sight seeing & eating out at some restaurants I’ve been looking forward to trying, turns out I didn’t feel so great. But that ended up being a good thing. I rested in the cabin, wrote (more on that later) and napped. I didn’t turn on the TV or music (the entire time). It rained and it was a glorious nap – one of the best I’ve had in ages. 🙂 I didn’t eat out a single time. WHAT? That’s nuts. I literally ate what I could eat from my little log cabin. It was perfect.

sarah addison allen, other birds, magical realism

On Tuesday evening, I headed to UNC Asheville for the book launch of Sarah Addison Allen‘s latest book, Other Birds. Sarah is one of my favorite authors. This is her first book in 7 years and I’m thrilled she’s back! If you want a chance to win her book (not an autographed copy), you can enter a contest, here. Sarah’s writing is (though I don’t write magical realism) the kind of writing I aspire to. The way she writes the settings of her books is one such example. Her settings become a character themselves. I’m sure the “Dellawisp” is too. I’m looking forward to reading it this weekend (I started it before driving home yesterday).

The event, “Sarah Addison Allen in conversation with Wiley Cash” was a joy to be at. I was surrounded by huge Allen fans – who were just as happy as I was, to be there. Wiley Cash, who teaches fiction and literature at UNC Asheville, is now on my “TBR list” too. I look forward to checking out his books, too. He was hilarious by the way. I had a really wonderful night.

On my drive up to the mountains, I began to re-work my now finished novel “A Thousand Years.” As I drove and the closer I got to the mountains (where the book is set), the more clear it became – I had much to slash and re-write from this book. So much so that by the time I got to the event on Tuesday evening, the book didn’t even have the same name. I don’t know what it will be called, but it’s not “A Thousand Years.” My protagonist is the same, the name of her love interest may remain the same but it’s an entirely new character. The town remains the same – but much else has and will be different. I am 100% certain of this and I’m entirely confident in the new direction. So much so that while I was away (and last night before going to bed) I wrote more than I have in quite some time.

On Wednesday, I checked out of my cabin drove to the Blue Ridge Parkway, spent some time there, had a picnic at Craggy Gardens Picnic area and then made a pit stop in Hendersonville, before driving home. If I move, west may be best – for me. Western Carolina definitely seems more my speed. While I was up on the parkway, it was 62 glorious degrees. It made me long for autumn.

On my drive home, I stopped in Hendersonville, at Justus Orchard. It’s a lovely little spot. If you’re in or visiting NC, it’s a great stop if you’re in the mountains. They have some activities for the kids, goats, u-pick apples, a small store, and their famous apple cider donuts. The cider was delicious by the way. I’m looking forward to eating my honeycrisp apples!

This trip was definitely needed, restful, and honestly – enlightening. I had no idea that what came from these few days away is what would happen during this trip. It was a gift, in many ways. While I’d expected to interview for a job and consider a move, it became something else entirely. The writing boost was the icing on the cake.

Sometime this weekend, I want to share a few of the things Sarah Addison Allen shared in her talk – including the answers to one of my questions. For now, it’s time to sign off and prepare for a long weekend of reading (Other Birds, of course) and writing. I hope you’ve had a great week so far.