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Reading other writers........

Colleen Hannegan

I just finished reading the almost 900 page Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. The non-fiction story follows Theo, a sensitive and thoughtful boy who loses his mother in a bomb blast while visiting the Metropolitan museum with her in NYC. Theo survives (hence the story), mother does not. His alcoholic father had left home previously so Theo must learn to survive the devastation of his mother's death alone. Just before the bomb explodes, he meets an interesting man and young girl who will change the course of his life; and, he (barely) walks out of the museum unnoticed with the famous oil painting, The Goldfinch by the 17th century Dutch artist Carel Fabritius, under his arm. Together, Theo and the painting, begin an odyssey of hardship, foster homes, adventure, love, disappointments and  resurrection until the climatic end. You'll have to read the story to find out what happened to Theo and "his" painting.  Was the story deserving of 900 pages? I'll leave that up to you, should you decide to read it. Experts gave it a Pultizer prize! Who cares what I thought of it.

But this is my blog about writing and more, so here are my thoughts! Author Tartt's dedication to her craft of story-telling with an almost tsunami approach to details and description had me feeling overwhelmed and drowning frequently; glaze eyed at sections. I realize now, my preference for fiction of 300 words or less better suits my short attention span as a high energy, fidgety, impatient speed reader. My loss at times, I know. I judge myself here as a reader and as a memorist. My editor had me kicking and screaming to expand where descriptions and details were weak and a bit lackluster in my own story. I wanted to write in the way I enjoy reading....get to the point. It was and still is, very difficult for me to expand. The effort though, is completely rewarding.

Boredom to me is sheer torture. I'm always concerned my readers will feel like I do. Just tell me what happened!

What I appreciated about Tartt's work, is knowing she took seven years to write it and in doing so applied every descriptive paragraph and each detailed dialogue, leaving no adjective, simile or verb forgotten. Her in-depth characters were all stand outs. As I worked hard to be patient through her story telling, I marvelled at the discipline successful writers posses to work their craft of words and stories. I could not write a story like this. It's not in my DNA, to stay seated so long or return so often to the same seat.  

But here's the rub............ four years ago I read a 900 page novel based on true events in the authors' life.  Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts.  From the first sentence..."It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.",  until the climatic end, I rarely skipped a paragraph.

Hollywood is going to make a movie of The Goldfinch. I'm amazed Shantaram never made it to the big screen.

I've always chosen autobiographies, memoirs, true stories that inspire me. Only in the past four years have I found myself  enjoying reading novels regularly. Up until then, with occasional novels that found themselves on my nightstands, my reading time was all about discovering my spiritual path. Read it all. Twenty+ years later.....I don't feel I need more instructions. Seems I've graduated myself, along with those early eighteen years of religious education.

Get to the point! I cheer the writer, any writer, all writers, be it a 1,000 word essay, a two line poem or a 900 page story that takes us around the world and leaves us exhausted from the journey.... it's all about the story. The cheering on, the hopes and dreams and rise and fall, and heart pulling, devastating, life affirming chaos that has every reader wanting to know how will it end. And when it finally does, will the reader be better for having taken the trip and will the writer make us feel like we've read some of our own story within those pages? If you can answer yes, then every word was worth it. Every     single        word.

That's my point, exactly. 



A BIG new chapter.....

Colleen Hannegan

Certain birthdays seem to shake, rattle and roll you sort of like an earthquake. It comes on all of a sudden, even though you know you live in earthquake country and are as prepared as one can be. It just shows up one day and you want to roll under the nearest desk and cover your head with your hands until it goes away.

That best describes how my recent birthday felt. It was a big one, more than a little shake, it woke me up from a dream and smacked me upside the head. YOU ARE HERE NOW. No I can't be. YES YOU ARE!!     and................... you're going to be just fine.

My brother Brian told me when he needs to get a grip on how old he is, he imagines himself much much older, then looks back in time at where he is now, and says to himself....hey, I'm not this old yet! Ha! I can see how that may work for awhile until.............. you're REALLY OLD!! And time has run out. 

Many of us are CONSUMED with thinking about how not young we are anymore. Maybe that's an exaggeration. Maybe truer is, this society we live in is consumed with youth power. And it has always tended to underate the amazing power of  bright and healthy elder energy.

Maybe we're two worlds (Young vs Not Young)  trying to live in the same world and sometimes the overlapping of desires and comparisons brings negative judgment. "What do they know??" That can apply to either world.

As much as I refused to believe that getting to this age would not change anything about my life, I must be honest and say it has changed a few things. And to rail against being here now is fruitless, a major energy suck and idiotic. Youth cannot and maybe should not be worried or concerned about getting old(er). Life is for the living. And Living is all about being present in the moment. Being 16 or 60 should not alter what being HERE NOW means. THAT I would have preferred to learn in my youth!

So here's my list of what has arrived with my turning "seasca". (Gaelic)

~~ Realizing as hard as I work out and eat right, my body will never look like it did when I was younger. It's okay! I look really great for my age! (I repeat that to myself often.) And I have a good fitness plan weekly.

~~ Happiness is a daily choice over unhappy, doubt and worry. REPEAT OUTLOUD.

~~ I leave my house without makeup or wearing a bra as often as it works. Freedom!

~~ I listen to my feet when they say they're tired. And any other body part that is speaking up about how it feels. 

~~ Self-care is a part-time job that is more important than ANYTHING. An afternoon cocktail may be in order, or a visit to my esthetician for a beauty treatment.  A tough ride out on my mountain bike may be required. Whatever! 

~~ I'm MUCH more accepting of other people. Though I still wonder about the oddness, selfishness and stupidity of my fellow person, I'm much more likely to wonder where they hurt and be a point anyway.

~~ Great sex is the best vitamin. Lucky me I have a wonderful and engaging partner, that knows how to have fun. And, BTW, he's aging gracefully and that's a bonus.

~~ Girlfriends; more precious than gold. Way more precious than anything I own for that matter, The level of laughter highs and shared life journies keeps me going!

~~Sisters! Real ones. Got lucky there too. Supportive, all the way. They know the stories, all of them and rally for me when I'm down and know what to say to get me back on my feet.

~~I've looked over all I've lived and all I've achieved in life and came to the conclusion of late, that I've lived a successful life and many people in my life would miss me if I died. LOVE rules my world and when I forget that, I slip up. Guess there's more to be done since I'm still here. But I no longer feel pressure to perform. What's mine will come to me and I'm sure I'll recognize it when it shows up.

~~ I'm more open to trying new things without pre-judging  it's fun factor.

~~And, finally, I absolutely need to sign up for more outdoor, physical adventure. I have spent most of these years on adventures of the Spirit and Relationships and Mental Travels. It's time to pull out the paper passport and road map to new places and people. GO!

These days  I'm learning to balance being out in the world and being quietly at home. The joy of being quietly at home is feeling very good lately. But I hear the pied piper of future age playing the tune that enticingly sings.....enjoy this healthy life while you can!!! Get OUT THERE!!


A constant state of change.....

Colleen Hannegan

Today I splashed in the pool with two teenage nieces. We listened to Jack Johnson on my iPhone as we laid out and worked on tans. They made me laugh. I felt so happy. And in touch with some very special feelings of summer joy that have eluded me for some time.

No one's fault but mine.

I've been so busy being a grown up that I'd temporarily forgotten all I know about my fun inner girl and how she always waits and waits and waits for me to let go. So that she can show me the way to happiness. The read deal happiness. The kind that has no age, no time limit, no deadline. The Divine Happiness that knows Play is what we are here to do. It really is ALL a game.

So today, Lina and Raina reminded their Aunt Colleen that joy is best shared and happiness has nothing whatsoever to do with Doing........ it's all about BEing.

Happiness is a state of Being.

I have decided to move there.  Permanently.


Can you ever be 100% anything?

Colleen Hannegan

Doubt and me are frequent walking companions. My morning power walks in nature (sometimes I walk on concrete but prefer dirt), is my time for solo mind chatter. No human to dicuss my life with, no feedback from a sympathizer (girlfriend, boyfriend, sister, daughter), just me and SHE and doubt. I refer to the Greater Power than me, as SHE.

I find it's the best way to question everything. Oftentimes I talk it all out loud. Other times I'm just thinking, thinking, thinking. It may sound much like whining, (it could be), or praying, (help me help me help me,) but mostly I've started to become AWARE of how much of my early morning outdoor ramblings are doubt-based. 

So let's back up sixty minutes. When my sleeping mind transforms back to a waking mind and 5 a.m. stirs my soul. And my first thoughts are all about LOVE and healing and my deepest desires to connect with WOW POWER and G-D and the UNIVERSE. And I feel it from the soles of my feet  traveling up and through all parts of me.  And I know PEACE and faith and hope and the pure  deliciousness of being human and part of all creation. And I know how to receive it and spread it outward to my loved ones. Yeah, I know that's alot before breakfast.  But I've learned through the years, that I received a big dose of DIVINE KNOWING the day I was born. Lucky me. 

So here I am out on my walks, and I'm all about the doubt, 'bout the doubt, no kidding, I'm all about the doubt, 'bout the doubt. And I wonder why am I not 100% LOVE POWER AND ABSOLUTE SURENESS all the time, especially when my first thoughts are so juicy positive and powerful?  I don't know. All the time. 

So I decided to allow myself to doubt out loud as I start on my walks, but when it's time to turn and head back, I have to SHUT UP and LISTEN. What I've learned is, it's positively okay to be doubtful and look at the negative side of life and to vent and wonder and wrestle with my choices. It's part of my human experience. As long as I allow equal time for quiet trust, faithful reflection and acceptance. The listening is soooo rewarding.

By the time I get home it always feels like my daily doubt got left behind out there and recycled into something much more useful.

If it only lasts 24 hours, that's okay. Doubt and me go way back, but making friends with her has most definitely lightened my load over the years.


Freedom in Giving Up

Colleen Hannegan

The idea of surrender is always a tough pill to swallow for me. My (sometimes) huge ego always makes a stand for having things my way. Everything. That is, when I'm not in touch with my Inner Girl who knows to trust LOVE. The LOVE that oversees and cares for and gently guides me and everyone around me in the best direction when I listen. To the quiet. It's the only way I can hear Her reasssure me that I'm so LOVED that if I would continue to surrender to the FLOW of things, all my needs will be met. In fact I already possess all the gifts and talents I need to move forward....IF....I surrender to not ALWAYS having my way. That requires trust in powers bigger than myself and yet knowing all that power is within me. 

I just need to let go and F.L.O.W.

Foundation of LOVE. Leadership by LOVE. Organization by LOVE. And the Wonder of LOVE.

Freedom from freedumb. A daily process.