Fearing Fear Itself

December 20, 2017Life

This month, I faced two fears: the dreaded mammogram and potentially not having a car for the winter.

Truthfully, the mammogram itself didn’t scare me. I figured it would be an uncomfortable ten minutes and then I’d be done. What concerned me was the likelihood of getting a questionable reading that would later entail an ultrasound and biopsy, resulting in a scary diagnosis.

Although I am low-risk with no breast cancer in my family, I waited too long to have my first mammogram. Why? Inertia, fear, and no insurance (Pre-ACA). The more time I allowed to pass and kept putting off the mammo, the more fearful I became about the possibility of breast cancer.

With the urging of friends, family, and my GP, I made the appointment. All was good until I felt a soft, pea-sized lump in my right breast a week prior to the exam. I spent those seven days constantly reexamining myself. Sometimes I felt it and panicked. Other times it disappeared and I relaxed.

But something changed. This time, I didn’t want to put off the exam. I didn’t want to wait a week. I wanted to know now if I had a tumor and take care of it immediately. I didn’t care if that meant a lumpectomy, cutting off my entire breast, radiation, or chemo. I’d take anything that would get rid of the cells that could potentially kill me.

As it turns out I’m fine. What I felt was most likely a calcified milk node. My next mammogram is this time next year, and I don’t plan to put it off or fear it.

Unlike my breasts, the fear of not having a car this winter was forcing me to keep the Land Rover. Since August, I’ve been trying to set aside some money to make two major repairs, but extra cash came in spurts. I had a recent infusion of money and I thought that next month I would shell out $1,200 to get a U-joint and calipers. After those repairs, I’d have a vehicle that would be issue free. Ha! How I deluded myself.

The latest mechanical problem was a sticking clutch pedal. I called my mechanic and told him about this latest inconvenience. His response, “That’s gonna cost ya some big money. You really should get rid of it. You’ll keep on having problems with it all the time.” And that convinced me. I was done with Greg’s “Man Rover.” It had turned itself into a cancer and I wanted to be free of it. I found an auto salvage dealer to buy it and who will sell the parts. I didn’t get much, but I wanted that piece of costly junk to be gone. So now it’s back to hoofing it until I replace it with a newish vehicle.

No breast cancer and no more Frankensteined Land Rover. How do I feel? Relieved. I hated that car. When it ran well, I semi-convinced myself that I liked it, but I’ve come to the realization that like its former owner, it was manipulating me. “I’m paid for. You can use me to cart groceries around or take the dogs to the park. Think how handy I am when it’s raining or cold. For Pete’s sake, you’ll never own another Land Rover ever again!” Yeah, but you’ve cost more to repair than what was originally paid. Sorry, but I’m not paying for a new clutch. I don’t care about your so-called luxury status or name. Ta-ta.

So I end the year on a pretty good note. No more expensive vehicle to upkeep and repair, but also no more negative ju-ju that was attached to it. As for my breasts, I keep thinking back to that Seinfeld episode with Teri Hathcher: “They’re real and they’re fabulous.” But I’ll add this: “And healthy.”

Happy Holidays!


December 6, 2017Life

TIME’s Person of the Year cover came out today. I’m guessing the Predator-in-Chief probably feels cheated that he didn’t make the cut. However, in an indirect way, Donald J. Trump opened that door to making the public aware of the crap men—both powerful and ordinary Joes—have been getting away with for decades.

I’ve lost count of how many times men have made rude remarks, ogled, groped, and tried to force themselves onto me. The first time I was eight years old. A man—a total stranger—exposed himself, masturbated and ejaculated in front of me.

Another time I felt something was off was when a friend of my parents would always greet me with a kiss on the hand and a cordial “How do you do, Miss Schiller.” It was creepy, but my mother said he was charming. Was it charming when he made inappropriate remarks and ogled me at fifteen and eighteen? My mother finally got the clue that wasn’t charm, but predatory behavior.

I’ve been groped at parties. One man shoved his tongue in my mouth. The guy I was dating thought it was funny. I’ve had men on the street whisper obscenities in my ear and touch me. And I’ve had boyfriends who refused to accept no for an answer.

Since I was eight years old, I thought it was my fault. I did something to provoke the bad behavior: for being pretty, for wearing something too revealing, for being too flirtatious or that I wouldn’t be believed for telling the truth.

Every single woman I’ve known has experienced a sexual indignity in one form or another. Not once, but countless of times. Is it surprising we’re angry, we’ve had enough, and we refuse to remain silent?

I don’t have one ounce of sympathy directed at the men who have been accused. Lost your job and the respect of your colleagues, friends, and family? Too bad, but it’s still not enough. Live with the fear and the humiliation and then you’ll have an idea of what it’s like receiving unwanted sexual attention and the shame that goes with it.

Congratulations to the Silence Breakers for their bravery and not keeping silent. Thank you TIME Magazine for making these brave women our Person of the Year.

We will never be silenced again.

Making Progress on the Sagging Middle

November 26, 2017editing

My goal this November was to complete Julius, but I have fallen short. I planned to plow through my sagging middle but as I began to write, I realized I reached an important juncture in the story that needed less pantsing, but more planning. Thus, November has been spent refining plot and character motivation.

I’m not disappointed with what I’ve accomplished so far because I believe the story will be stronger, but I’ve noticed I have few chapters that are like fish out of water flopping about and gasping for air. I usually try to salvage these, but this time I’m saying adieu. They no longer work for this version of the story.
When I’m not writing, I’m honing my editing skills. I’m currently reading Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon and The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell.

On page three of chapter one of Manuscript Makeover, Lyon recommends that during the revision process writers should cultivate deep listening skills. Reading your story silently to yourself isn’t enough. Read it aloud—slowly and carefully—and you’ll catch all the clunky sentence structures, catch typos, repetition and graceless transitions. By reading in a straightforward fashion, you’ll be developing an ear for deep listening. I used the deep listening method when revising the two sequences of part one of Julius. I not only caught typos, but an inconsistent voice when writing from my MC’s point of view.

I purchased The Artful Edit because I was interested in the case study of  how Max Perkins and F. Scott Fitzgerald worked together to refine The Great Gatsby. Any insight to what turned that into a 20th century classic is definitely worth studying.

Both Lyon and Bell provide checklists at the end of each chapter so that you can review as well as practice exercises. I admit I’m impatient and want to finish the book, but I know it’s in my best interest to do the exercises and pinpoint and correct all the potential problems that I may have missed.

I figure now that I’ve gone this far, I can extend it for another few months until I begin to query agents.