Chasing Tall Shadows
Trying to settle on what my PCT's (Positive CJ Thoughts) would be today, started me thinking about persistence and determination. I've come to value those qualities and so I'm going to share a little of where I found my example for those two things.
When I set out to write my first published novel, I asked a lot of questions of those who'd already walked that mile. One piece of advice I consistently got, was "write what you know." I'm a "Jill" of many things… and a master at none. I took a long look at what might qualify as "what I know." I've spent my adult life working in the field of emergency services. If it's on fire, I can put it. If it's leaking, I can patch it, dam it or capture it. If it's stuck in a high place, I can get it down, and a host of other emergent situations I'm trained for. On the other hand, I can tear apart a chainsaw and put it back together. I can pull the carbonator off the ATV and adjust it. I can make a mean chili or grill a pretty good steak. If it's a vegetable, I can grow it and if it's a weed, I can pull it. Another thing I know about-through trial and error- (more error than I care to admit).. is love.
As I started to craft the story I wanted to send for consideration, I needed it to have deeper meaning than just romance between two people. I needed it to have substance and optimism. Life shapes us by experience. More often than not, those experiences aren't always happy ones.
Loss is something that happens to all of us at one time or another.
There are different kinds of loss. Loss of some object or thought, loss of our eyesight or hearing, financial loss, or maybe the loss of good health. There is one loss above all others that can be devastatingly painful, the loss of a loved one through death. At twenty four, I lost one of the most important people in my life, my MaMaw Murphy. She was a woman who knew exactly what loss was in spades. She enduring more of it than most people would in three lifetimes. She taught me that I wasn't owed a thing in life, I had to earn everything through hard work and persistence. SHE taught me to never give up and to never be a coward.
Juanita Murphy's life was never easy. She was born to a farming family in Red Bay, Alabama, the oldest of seven children. As young woman, she lost first her father then her mother to cancer, leaving five young siblings with nowhere to go and no way to care for them. With less than an eighth grade education, she and one sister, traveled north for employment at Goodyear Aircraft. Their goal was to bring the siblings that had been forced into an orphanage out,-and they did. MaMaw met my grandfather on the assembly line, married him and moved to West Virginia where she went on to have three children, one of which would die two years after birth.
Her sister Millie, the one she'd traveled north with, died of cancer unexpectedly, leaving behind three small children that would become lost to the family until they were in their twenties because of their father.
MaMaw's husband, my grandfather, died in a bulldozer accident when I was five, leaving her a widow faced with picking up the pieces of their business and trying to not lose her home to debt. His mistress showed up at his funeral.
With no education to speak of, she worked in a corner grocery store for thirty years to pay the bills. She was robbed more than enduring a pistol whipping bad enough to require medical attention.
When I was twenty, they discovered she had breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy but refused further treatment only to see the cancer come back when I was twenty three, requiring a mastectomy. I took her to every treatment and helped cut her hair when it started falling out from the chemo. I worked midnight shifts so I could be with her during the day when she would need me most- when she would work circles around me no matter how much I tried to get her to rest. The woman could work me into the dirt while sick from chemo. When things finally looked like we'd turned the corner, she got passed out leading to the discovery that the cancer had moved into her bones. At twenty three, I said goodbye to the strongest woman I'd ever known and held her hand while she took her last breath. Through it all, she never gave up or admitted defeat until the very end.
Juanita Murphy was a survivor and left my world far too soon. Someone who made me laugh like no other and loved me ferociously. I know she's with me, watching over me. There are times when I'll be driving and get the faint whiff of unfiltered Camel cigarettes or smell Wind Song perfume, without rhyme or reason. She comes to me when I need her most, for a kiss on my temple or a kick in the ass. Many things from 'frame by frame' come from my life with her and she is part of the basis for 'Ree's" character from snapping beans to cutting a forsythia switch. I honestly can not ever remember her laying a hand on me.
I tell you her story because even now I have at least three close friends fighting breast cancer and another fighting metastatic colon cancer. Each of them is fighting a daily battle to live another day. I pray for their return to good health and yet I know it's possible I may not have them in the years to come. MaMaw taught me to live every day without regrets.
So I write….what I know.
I know about cancer in many forms, because I'm close to people going through it. I know about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, though I've never set food in a war zone. I've seen too much in my thirty plus years on the line and have too many s ghosts that drive me to do and be better.
My life, is incredibly rich for knowing amazing people who have fought courageously for so long and for those who continue to do so each day.
So, I write. My works aren't meant as self help books, but I try to include a positive message in a sometimes very dark world.
I write what I know…
I write about finding love that had no choice but to seek out its twin soul and about losing what I thought was love but certainly wasn't.
I write because the words of encouragement my characters, like Laurel and Va,l speak might help others step out from the darkness and into the positive light of day.
I write because it gives me a place to show how grateful I am for all the good things in my life and as a way to say thanks to those who have helped me to where I am.
I write because it feeds my soul and helps me chase the darkness that creeps in and cast shadows.
I write because the words I put to page, help purge the loss and help me remember the light from the amazing people I've known. I can only hope it does the same for others.
So… I write and it helps chase tall shadows away.
You can read more about Val, Laurel and Ree in my debut novel, 'frame by frame' https://www.amazon.com/frame-CJ-Murphy-ebook/dp/B077RSJJCM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516380612&sr=8-1&keywords=frame+by+frame+cj+murphy