As Sparks Fly Upward
Debbie Reynolds (I added this on 12/29…after losing her daughter Carrie Fisher, Debbie told her son Todd she missed her and then she died herself).
Ricky Harris (comedian) – 54
Carrie Fisher – 60
George Michael – 53
Zsa Zsa Gabor – 99
(her stepson died due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident he was in the day she died).
Alan Thicke – 69
John Glenn – 73
Peter Vaughan – 93
Fidel Castro – 90
Florence Henderson – 82
Leonard Cohen – 82
Arnold Palmer – 87
Alexis Arquette – 47
Gene Wilder – 83
Garry Marshall – 81
Elie Wiesel – 87
Gordie Howe – 88
Kimbo Slice (Kevin Ferguson, professional fighter)– 42
Muhammed Ali – 74
Morely Safer – 84
Prince – 57
Chyna (Joan Laurer – professional wrestler for WWF) – 45
Garry Shandling – 66
Malik Taylor (Phife Dawg – rapper) -45
Rob Ford – 46
Nancy Regan – 94
Harper Lee – 89
Anthony Scalia – 80
Rene Angelil (husband of Celine Dion) – 73
Alan Rickman – 69
David Bowie – 69
The list seems endless (thankfully, there is only a few more days left of 2016, but we also lost Debbie Reynolds after I first posted this list). The celebrity deaths in the list above is lengthy, and most of us were probably saddened about the demise of at least some of these people, even if we didn’t know them personally. I wondered, as I was typing out this list, if they all fulfilled the goals and dreams they cared about most…probably not.
Yet man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.
When I was 42 years old, I was just beginning my long trek into adulthood. I may have been mature physically, but I was a Peter Pan until then, not even aware of my tendencies toward emotional immaturity. Getting married at sixteen and having a baby at seventeen doesn’t qualify, apparently.
Assembling the list above made me think over my own life. I wondered if I’d accomplished what is most important to me. I know I want to leave my footprint somewhere on this gentle green earth. That is not easy for someone raised in a the concrete jungle of a Los Angeles suburb, where the most important things were surfing, The Beach Boys, and Coppertone tanning lotion.
Near the end of 2014, I was feeling pretty satisfied with myself. Against all odds I had gone to college and become a psychotherapist, a lifelong dream. I had overcome a lot of physical obstacles and was sure I had fulfilled my quota for tragedy accrued during one lifetime. I believed the reason I had made it thus far was that I was fulfilling God’s call on my life. Then the unthinkable happened.
I had just finished writing the manuscript for my memoir. I had heard, “You should write a book,” almost any time I mentioned some absurd thing about my life. I didn’t know that this was a typical reason people write memoirs, because others told them they should. In some of the books on writing memoir I have read, it’s actually included as one of the reasons you shouldn’t write one (if that’s your only reason for doing it). Most memoir books mention that you might want to have a record of your life for your own family, but believe me, my family would not want to know half of this stuff. It’s not something you would read to your grandchildren during bedtime either.
No, I had one reason I found important enough to bleed my personal history out into the ethernet or onto the printed page; I wanted to give hope to people who found themselves in similar predicaments (found themselves in, or walked smack dab into on their own). And, the older I get, the more important it becomes to me to tell others about God’s amazing work in a life that was in ruins.
But back to writing the manuscript for the memoir. As any writer, I wanted mine to be “good.” I hired an expert to walk me through the process of developing the story and the themes. Each month for a year I submitted my work to her via the information super highway and we met by phone and polished it up together.
By the end of October, 2014, I felt satisfied the this book may really help some folks who felt stuck. I wanted them to know that even when life hands you a curveball you can recover; that no matter what happens in life, when you know God, all things are possible to you. I wanted them to know that anyone can “become what they might have been (George Eliot).” I had done it. So can you. That was my thinking.
I knew I had a lot of editing ahead of me, of course. Frank McCourt, Cheryl Strayed, Pat Conroy, these were people I admired for their respective abilities to turn words into beauty. I wanted to tell people I had reached for the stars and amazingly, God had helped me to fulfill my dreams. I had gone from a fourteen year old juvenile delinquent and high school drop out (with a little help from the underside of the principal’s boot), to a licensed psychotherapist with a thriving private practice. “We can do anything,” was my motto. “The world is in our hands.”
Then, once the manuscript was done and I was ready to start the editing process, something happened that changed everything. Suddenly, everything that I had thought I had neatly tied up in a bow was ripped off the boxes and strewn around the floor like so much gift wrap on Christmas morning.
Starting next week, I am going to be posting my manuscript on this blog so anyone can find it and read it…for free. I do not have the physical energy to help anyone, including myself, sell a book. 2016 has been a hard year for me, both physically and emotionally. It humbled me. It changed my thinking. I no longer believe that I can do anything I put my mind to. I have limitations. It has given me more compassion, both for myself and for others. I think of “God’s will,” and “God’s calling,” differently too. Some of the healing I have experienced this past year goes beyond the physical, and it changed my story, and therefore, my manuscript.
With so many famous people dying at relatively young ages, we are reminded that we do not know how many days we have to walk this earth. Over half of those listed died in their 40’s through 70’s. Carrie Fisher had just published her own memoir last month, The Princess Diarist. It makes you stop, and reflect. I hope my writing blesses you in some way, even if I cannot channel Frank McCourt or Pat Conroy. Most posts will be 500-700 words. This one is over 1000. Please let me know in the comments if you prefer to read more or less each week. And be a conversation starter. I would love to answer any questions you may have too. God bless.