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Friday, December 19, 2014

An Open Letter to All of the Unread Books on My Shelf

It started, as most deep-ish thoughts do, with an

assignment: compile a list of your top books in 2014.

Notta problem.

As an undercover book addict (okay, maybe not so undercover) and as a post-graduate human no longer bound to the dreary confines of assigned reading from a syllabus, I've added a few fictional titles to my library. Scads from Amazon (bless it). Even more from my weekly coffee/reading dates with the fiance at Barnes & Noble.

After we'd been dating for about a year he (albeit, kindly) suggested that I should read some of the other books I'd purchased before I bought any more. Forgiveness is a strange and powerful thing: I purchased two books that day.

As I glanced at my shelf, I realized there were a bunch of books I bought this year that I started and never finished. Many of these I got pretty far along in. I'm a project hound. I love to finish what I start, especially when it comes to books.

If I don't I carry around this agitated, gnawing feeling. It's like mentally being unable to twist open a jar of jelly.

Back to the books: I got them because the author had a lot of Twitter followers. Or because their marketing campaign herded a lot of word-of-mouth. Or because, let's be honest, the front cover had imagery that appealed to my demographic.

But as I tried to collect a few to add to a list for my freelance editor I was stumped at some of the titles I'd collected this year. Other than my bank account and shelf space, what was it exactly that they impacted?

And then I realized: these books I collected over the year had succeeded in gaining a few dollars. A few blips of Amazon reviews. A few eyeballs to pages.

But in the end they weren't worth finishing.

I'd stopped reading them because they weren't good.

The comparison race is similar, don't you think?

In life, there are so many books on the shelves. So many pictures of vibrant authors with their fists pressed elegantly at the tip of their chin. But just because an individual has succeeded in gaining a formidable platform and convincing an agent to represent them does not necessarily mean their words start a movement.

It doesn't mean that their words are making a difference.

Most of the words that have impacted me this year have been from unpublished manuscripts. They've been written by talented women who have somehow captured the heart and soul of a character.

This is not to say that I did not weave my eyes through some delicious prose this year. Rainbow Rowell's the Attachments being the latest treat. They're the type of books that make you close the back cover and run your hand over the binding. Those words are a part of you now. That story is something that you've walked through.

There's a difference, it seems, between writing a book and writing what matters. My unread books taught me that appearances are vain. What good is a book that you can't squeeze your mind into finishing?

Life is the same way. Just because a woman appears to have her binding in order doesn't necessarily mean the pages beneath it are anything worth reading. Just because she has the Facebook friends and glamorous pictures doesn't always equate to having her soul fulfilled.

Some people accomplish both. They really do. Others only seem to.

This year I learned that I want to have more than just a book on a shelf. I want to have a book worth reading. Worth finishing one day. I'd like to be the sort of writer/person who is who she is beyond appearances. Who completes what she starts. Who is genuine from start to finish, from introduction to index.

I'd like to live my whole life, the whole mess of it, worth 


photo credit: dbtelford via photopin cc

photo credit: Gemma Garner via photopin cc

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Most Important Thing to Do When You Get Engaged

I'm still getting the hang of calling him my fiance.

It's a hard, wonderful word. First off, it's French. And it makes your mouth do some unnatural stretching. But it's more than just a loaded word or a title.

I'm learning it's a word that means it's time to expand. Time to link names and bank accounts and career trajectories and apartment clutter. Time for us to look for two-bedroom places so he'll have space for his guitar amps and I'll have room to write.

Time to go arm in arm into life. Not just as fragile cake top replicas, but a real husband and wife. Flesh and bone. Champagne, tuxedos, wedding gowns, bright blue bridesmaids dresses and Bruno Mars and 'til death do us parts.

It's joy followed by more joy.

This is an inclusive joy. It's a joy that begins as two knitting needles that wrap and coil around yarn making something beautiful: life, an outward symbol of our Christian faith, community.

It's a joy that doesn't discount the people who got you there. Who molded you into the sort of human another sort of human you're in love with would want to do life beside. The people who you studied (partied/sang/procrastinated) with in college. The people who knew you before he ever did.

No offense to him, of course. He's an important part of the story. He'll be the man you eat breakfast with forever. He'll be the last  person you say goodnight to. The father of your someday family. After all, it's awfully hard to have a wedding/marriage without a sunny-side groom.

Even though for years the groom was just an afterthought

in my wedding daydreams.

But during an engagement there is the temptation to leave other important relationships as the sideshow. Almost as afterthoughts. Though they should get top-billing in your story. They are the people right at the edge of that altar watching you make a vow. They are the men and women who are voluntarily helping you plan a big party.

They are the people you couldn't wait to call moments after your fiance put a round-cut sparkle on your ring finger:

"I knew it was going to happen today," one of my bridesmaids said when I shakily dialed her number to tell her the news. "I've been waiting for this call."

I could practically hear her smile strike through the phone line. How could she have possibly known he would propose on a certain day at a specific time?

Well. She asked him.

It was a spontaneous trip.

She decided only a few days before that she'd visit for the weekend. That visit included a threesome dinner date with the fiance (then boyfriend). Sangria, chips and tacos were on the menu.

And the moment I excused myself to go to the restroom (yes, females can go to the restroom alone) she got serious. Put both of her hands on the table across from him and said:

"So...you're dating my best friend. When are you going to 

marry that girl?"

Several aspects of this scene make me smile. First of all, I can only imagine the look of shock on his face, being interrogated by such a beautiful, sassy body-and-soul-guard. Second prize goes to the fact that my friendship with this girl is a walking sitcom.

Most of all, I could hug her forever by the way she fights in my corner. By the way she protects and asks very hard questions. By the way she can intimidate anyone (after a few sips of sangria), including a man in the U.S. Navy, if it means ensuring my heart's safety.

Keep these people forever-close. That's the most important thing you could ever do when you enter this season. Because while he may make a legal promise to love you forever, these best friends, these women (mothers, aunts, sisters best friends, undercover detectives) made no such vow.  They didn't have to.

They love you because. And just because.

I'm not naive. There's a reason why people disappear after they get married. I know that of all the changes and milestones of life this is one of the big ones. I won't discount the high emotions, high stakes of wedding day bliss/drama.

But these friendships can't fall by the wayside in the midst of Pinterest-plotting and menu tasting. They can't roll out with the tide of new chapters and new last names. After all, the word fiance is fleeting. It ends when we say, "I do." It's temporal.

Friendship and marriage is forever. Keep them both forever-close.

photo credit: T. Fernandes
via photopin cc
photo credit: Gabriel Li // StudioGabe via photopin cc
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