Steps In Between

Celaine Charles ~ My journey as a writer ~ Author site:

Growing Smaller: Write Through the Holes, Write Through the Homecomings

homecoming am I shrinking revised

The day I dropped my first daughter off to college was the day I grew smaller. I used to be five feet-seven inches, quite an average height. Now in my forties, the doctors keep measuring me at just over five feet-six inches. Of course, they encouraged calcium supplements and I got serious about my Pilates classes (check out The Balanced Life, by Robin Long, contact below). But I know it’s more than that.

homecoming Am I Shrinking

I know how I lost those fractions of an inch.

As a mother of three earthly children, I find I lose at least an eighth of myself with every release. I let go of my daughter’s hand all those years ago. Left the child I was responsible for and cared for all of her life, on the steps of a dorm building, in the center of an unknown campus. Alone. I didn’t stop crying even hours after returning home. Some days I awoke feeling a sense of accomplishment. My pride in the young woman she had become was great. Then I walked past her empty room.

homecoming bedroom door

At least she can still come back, I would think to myself. I knew others who had lost their children more permanently. I had no tears to match theirs. But I did have a part of me missing. An empty hole I patched together with phone calls, and text messages, and prayers.

homecoming wild horses

Life moves on, and somehow that hole wasn’t deep enough. So my second daughter graduated, left for college. Again the reigns I’d gripped so tightly flung out of reach. The horses ran wild. My younger daughter embraced her new freedom in a way that lit up the world. Possibilities glowed on the horizon for both her future and my older daughter’s; and even for me. This pain was familiar. I’d experienced it before. It hurt no less, but my shrinking self simply made room.

homecoming inch ruler parts

I’d lost another eighth of an inch. This time, however, I started to understand the idea that my children were never my own. They were on loan. I only lifted them up when they couldn’t reach. This didn’t have to be a sorrowful awakening. I could settle into myself again, no matter my new size.

homecoming time for new adventure

This is when I really began writing. A lot. I’d thought for sure these releases of control would make room for ideas and stories and poetry. And they did. Suddenly I was on a new level with my college daughters; one where we could discuss each other’s dreams and challenges. One where I was learning about a new world just as they were. I felt younger, in deed.

I began filling up the empty hole. I read books I had never had time to read before. I wrote poetry. I finished writing a book. It was a terrible first draft, but it was done! I started to embark on a new writing-feeling-creating me.

And then the Homecomings!

homecoming together again

Art by Nakisha Elsje VanderHoeven

My daughters returned from college to visit. Often. Summertime fun, holiday craze. A mix of adventures (some good, some bad) uplifted everything we thought we knew about ourselves. We grew into a new relationship that bound the edges of that painful hole I’d been carrying in my side.

All was well.

homecoming time speeds up

Until my youngest child, my son, began high school. Maybe it’s the universe’s way, the speed in which life spins. It gets faster as we grow older. I lost a sixteenth of an inch when I snapped the picture for his first homecoming dance. If this pace keeps up, I’m not sure how much smaller I’ll grow by the time he graduates and goes away to college.

I was taller in my younger years, though not nearly as full as I was to become. It hurts to leave parts of yourself behind, and the empty hole from those losses is always there (I believe). But, interestingly… magically, I’ve become more, even when measuring almost an inch smaller than before.

homecoming less is more

I know myself better with less of me there to recognize. And for this reason, I continue to write (and await anticipated homecomings).

Swiss cheese

Writing Advice: Fill in the Holes

I use the analogy of swiss cheese for my young writing class. We don’t want to leave holes in our writing because the reader will spend their time navigating their journey instead of living the intended adventure. They’ll finish (or sometimes not) and still feel hungry and unsatisfied.

Read something you haven’t read in a while. My poetry guru calls this, “Letting it cook.” Then, find the holes. Did your brain stop or catch anywhere? Maybe a fragmented sentence (like this one). Perhaps a previously understood concept now feels cloudy and unclear. Did you tell instead of show? Can you add or subtract anything to bring your reader into the mix of the character’s emotions?

Find your holes and fill them up. In real life, our personal holes remain physically empty. But spiritually and mentally, we can fill them up even fuller than before. In our writing lives, we can accentuate a character’s holes by giving the reader the emotions to feel them. Let your personal holes fill your writing pages.

Give it a go!

By Celaine Charles, October 21, 2018

photo cartoon pic 2

Image Links: (The Balanced Life Pilates) (Could I be shrinking?) (Winnie the Pooh quote) (inch ruler) (doors off hallway) (wild horses) (time for a new adventure) (bunnies art; The Reunion, by artist and author, Nakisha Elsje VanderHoeven) (time flies clock) (less is more) (swiss cheese)



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