Strength through Struggle

Happy Saturday Hearthside Adventurers!

Many of you may be facing the first real cold of November- I hope you are staying warm. Here in NC it got down to 20 degrees last night. When I lived in NY I would think nothing of that temperature. Now…it seems so bleak! I wish that you could be reading this sitting by my fire. Ah well, perhaps you have one of your own!

I have been debating on whether or not to write this post for a while. However, I have decided to “man up” as my father constantly tells me. We all face struggles, and perhaps sharing the struggles that we have worked through will give strength to others who are also struggling.

Four years ago I was a naive and boisterous college freshman. I could do anything! Absolutely nothing held me back. I had been top of my class in high school. I was a runner, a dancer, and my father had been grooming me for Air Force ROTC.

I was so strong. I never had a moment when my body didn’t do what I told it. While I was at school I received intensive language training in Farsi. I was absolutely dedicated to my career path in the Air Force. However, budget cuts made it clear that I would not be accepted to field training, or given a commission. Bummer.

I followed my father’s footsteps and dropped out of college. My mother was completely horrified. I confidently strolled into a recruiter’s office and enlisted. I made it through MEPS and was completely set to take my place. I was going to live the dream. I was going to be an Airborne Cryptologic Linguist. I absolutely aced the DLAB (language aptitude test).

Then, slowly, getting out of bed became painful. I shrugged it off. I was used to muscle pain and found it to be satisfactory. It meant that I was getting stronger. It got worse. Moving became harder. Workouts that were simple became monumental efforts.

The doctor at MEPS had noted that I had one hip that was higher than the other. I moved just fine through processing and I didn’t think anything of her comment. When I went to the doctor complaining about back pain they brought it up again. One shoulder and one hip was higher than the other.

They sent me to get an MRI. It was March. I was set to leave for basic training in August. The results revealed that not only did I have scoliosis, but I had also worn out the cartilage protecting the discs in my spine, slipped several discs, and damaged many others. The scoliosis had lead to pressure being unevenly distributed so my exercise routine had more or less permanently damaged many places in my spine. Because the curves where the trouble spots existed were so tight, the neurosurgeon that I was sent to declined to operate. He said that the risk of paralysis was too great.

On top of this they had found a tumor on my thyroid. After several sonograms a thyroid specialist decided that it might be cancer and that it needed to be biopsied.

I was released from service. My career was over before it had started. The tumor on my thyroid turned out to be benign. However, the damage to my spine could not be fixed. I was doled out pain medication and informed that the condition would deteriorate over time.

No…things like this don’t happen to people like me. They just don’t. I completely spiraled into depression. I wore a trench in my mattress from the days that I could not be coaxed out of bed. I cried and mourned for my lost career like I had lost a loved one. The Air Force had been home to me. I had grown up on military bases and loved my childhood. It was the future that I wanted for my family. My parents and fiance  had no idea how to drag me out of the abyss I felt myself drowning in.

It was a future that no longer existed. It took me a year of mourning to pull myself back together- and even though after a year I was returning to education, my heart was still longing for what I thought should have been. I didn’t think that I would ever find the camaraderie that I had grown to love in ROTC and I yearned for that fellowship.

Time heals all things…and in the many dark nights that I lay awake I decided to do something that I hadn’t done since high school. I pulled out my laptop and started writing. I wrote poems at first. Then, one night I opened a blank document and a narrative just started flowing. I have been working on that story ever since. It has changed as I have. It has been given more depth as I gave it more thought. It languished for a little while- untouched- while I put myself back together. One day, I swear to myself that I will finish it.

I am no longer on pain medication, and even though pain is a constant struggle I finally adapted to my new life. I have found the brotherhood that I thought I would be deprived of in all of you! I have discovered that people who write absolutely love to talk shop with those who are eager to learn. Writers are such amazingly giving people who aren’t afraid to share the secrets to their success. We are a community. All of us.No matter what style, no matter what genre, we are united under one banner: we are writers.

I am so thankful for each and every one of you. I have read your posts. Many of you have written through your own struggles, and I have felt your pain. You share your joys and I have smiled with you. Life may take us down unexpected paths, but I am so happy to share the journey with a group as worthy as you!

Love,

Sarah

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The Murky Quagmire of Writing

Dear Novelists Who Neglected to Plan,

I have this novel that I have been coddling for the last two-nearly three-years. We’ve had moments where we were totally into one another…and moments where we lost touch so much that we didn’t even have anything in common anymore!

I have written and rewritten, but mostly I have procrastinated. You see-this novel represents my very first real attempt at finishing a book project. Who knows…it may even be my last. I jumped into this idea without even so much as a summary and I certainly didn’t have a plot map! Yikes! I know, you seasoned veterans who may be reading this are cringing. To be honest, I am cringing right along side you.

I don’t know where this story will go, or if it will go at  all. However, I have to say that since there was very little of this story that was planned, it seems to be writing itself. It has grown and developed and changed over time. I believe I may actually have hit the teenage years of this novel’s life because it is getting quite angst-y.

I cannot say that I regret this grave writing error. I cannot even pretend to be disappointed; because while my first draft is a complete catastrophe and certainly far from written-this novel has been one of the biggest adventures, most passionate relationship, and most soul-searching quest of my life.

I’m far from through my hero’s journey. There have been many dark nights for this writer’s soul. I have often felt like simply running it through a paper shredder. However, after 21,034 words I certainly can’t turn back now.

If you are an aspiring writer…and you have made the plan-free jump into writing your first book, I encourage you not to give up! You will hit road blocks. There will be many days-weeks even- that you do not know which way to send your hero (or antihero). But this story is in you, and it longs to come out. We may not have chosen the most logical road to writing, but it sure is an interesting one!

Love,

Sarah

Blogging Stage Fright?

Dear Blogger Afraid to Blog,

You are not alone.

You may have noticed, (since you are reading this) I have a blog. This blog has been around since July and yet is very sparse isn’t it? I have been grinding my teeth and sighing at this page for what feels like eons! A post here…procrastination…MORE procrastination…procrastination…post there. It’s an evil cycle that I cannot seem to break out of. Why? What if no one reads it? Or worse…what if someone does?? Am I witty enough? Do I have enough to share, to contribute to the daily lives of others, enough that it is actually worth taking a precious few moments of time to sit and read the drivel that comes flying across this keyboard???

Perhaps and also perhaps not. Do you want to know something? That is okay! Why? Because what we have here in the magical blogosphere is a community of people passionate enough to write about the things that they love. I find that even if I am not personally into scuba diving, it is the passion of those bloggers who are, that lead me to devour the words that they write. I may not give two hoots about learning more about photography, but I find, that if there is enough passion behind a blogger explaining his or her different lenses etc. it is enough for me to take my time to share in their passion for a little while.

The passion that you share with me as a blogger fuels my own passion for my own creativity. It makes me think that like you-I want to leave a creative and passionate mark on the world. So…you may not care that much about my love affair with tea. It may not be of great interest to you which chickens lay the best eggs (in my humble opinion). However, through our passions, through our hobbies, through our creativity we create a community that shares thoughts and ideas. We spread feelings and encouragement in each of our posts.

If you are reading this and you find that you have thought some or all of the thoughts that I have harbored about blogging, if you are suffering from blogging stage fright- write it out. Let it flow. Get rid of it however you can. Why? Because the world needs your passion. The world needs more people who care enough about life to share it in words and pictures. We need you…I need you.

Love

Sarah

It’s that time of year again!

When many of us think about how autumn is portrayed on Facebook, Instagram, or the Internet at large, many of us picture perfectly manicured fingers clutching Starbucks cups and long rants from impassioned fans about the virtues of the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Then there are those that spend most of October gearing up for one grand event…NaNoWriMo…aka National Novel Writing Month (this isn’t to say that novelists are not also pounding down the PSL). If you love writing (which I’m assuming most bloggers do) and you want to try your hand at writing a novel this is a great way to jump in head first! You don’t have to ever have been a novelist before, all you need is an idea. nanowrimo.org lets you track your word count, provides motivation, inspiration, and community for aspiring novelists. This is an annual event that is free to enter and takes place every November!

I actually had every intention of signing up this year, since I chickened out last year. However, I have come up with another excuse. I’m already knee deep into a novel. So I have decided that instead of trying to come up with a brand new novel for the sake of NaNoWriMo I am going to try to finish my current novel this November tracking my progress on my own. If I want to finish this book by the end of November I will have to write about 980 words per day. “That isn’t so bad” I tell myself…unfortunately…I have a severe procrastination habit…particularly when the waters of writing get murky.

In any case I challenge you to either sign up for NaNoWriMo or push yourself to finish whatever book you have in progress in celebration of National Novel Writing Month this November! We can do it! Leave a comment below if you are in the process of writing a novel and what the genre is, or if you have signed up for NaNoWriMo this year! Together we can provide encouragement and support. Fellow and aspiring novelists please feel free to introduce yourself below and tell us about YOUR greatest hurdles to sitting down and cranking out those words!

Love

SarahTheSpaz