A is for Adoration

Adoration (n): deep love and respect; worship, veneration

I hold a powerful adoration for written discourse. Since the fateful day that I could decipher what the words on the page were insinuating, I was hooked.  It is an obsessive, unconditional love.  I pay no mind to how egregiously the words have failed me—and trust me, they have, we’ll get to that, eventually—I still come running back, searching for myself in the production and consumption of our language.  The words, in their most elegant and finished form—the book—has been a through-line in my life.

Some of my earliest memories revolve around this specific adoration.  I can rewind the tape in my mind, stopping at a key moment—completely mundane, yet wholly indicative of my life’s path.

Lover of both libraries and bows of all sizes and origins.

Lover of both libraries and bows of all sizes and origins.

Settle in, my friends. Let’s meet a little gal who loved the public library. 

I can see her. A third grade girl, sitting in between the children’s fiction stacks, trying to pick which books are going home with her that week.  She’s got quite a selection—there’s a few Babysitter Club Super Mysteries, a Goosebumps Choose Your Own Adventure, some DK Eyewitness books about Ancient Egypt, and some insanely advanced science books from the adult nonfiction section about rocks and minerals. Her father is standing over her, and you can just see the fog of mild impatience settling in.  He’s probably been waiting for awhile.  You see, this little girl has a rule to abide—ten books per week, maximum.  From her dad’s perspective, there’s no way the girl could read all ten in the seven days, anyways, and she will probably lose the books if she took anymore.  She’ll read them all by Saturday, though. Monday, if she can stretch them out.  She’s got thirteen books piled up, and three have to go.  This is the first of many times she’ll practice murdering her darlings.  

The little girl adores these Thursday library trips with her sister and her father.  They go once a week, without fail.  Of course, she owns plenty of her own books, too.  Visiting the library gives her another layer of experience, more than just going to the bookstore with her mom and buying a new paperback.  The best part about those nights in the library is the freedom.  It’s three floors tall, span in all directions, and is bulging over full with stuff to read.  Beyond the “ten book limit,” the rules were sparse: stay in the building.  Otherwise, she roams as she pleases—no books off-limits.  Within that sacred space, she is the queen of the castle, and the books have pledged their fealty to her.  There is a mutual adoration, a reciprocal veneration. If the books just stay on the shelf, and nobody opens them, their purpose remains unfulfilled. If she didn’t open the books, if she didn’t stuff herself with their knowledge? Her purpose would remain unactualized. 

Those Thursday nights at the public library were responsible for providing me with most of the knowledge I carry with me today—free and accurate information on how our government works, where Waldo actually was, and my favorite, all about periods. Yep—I first learned about the menstrual cycle from my “express lane limit ten” pile of books.  Anything I needed to know, no matter how stupid or salacious, was available to me there.  I gobbled that buffet up. 

While I was reading everything in sight, I’d write on and off.  Writing, though I loved it, seemed a bit too active, too involved.  I’d have to work on confrontation and fear and truth before I’d uncover my fossilized love of wordsmithing. Also, I was (and am, for that matter) so timid, that I scarcely thought my voice mattered in the grand scheme of things.  During my middle school years, I did open up a smidge, falling into a deep obsession with writing screenplays, centered around my love for a specific early 2000’s super group, N’Sync.  I don’t know where those notebooks are now, and I shudder when I think back to the plot lines.  (Spoiler alert: Every screenplay involved all five boys falling over their feet, fighting and declaring their love for me). Then, in high school, another interest implanted itself in my head—the Law, with a capital L, and that was that.  Reading and writing for fun was done.  

You would think a child like this, like me, would have naturally concluded where her purpose and passions lay.  Ha! So rarely do we pay attention to the pull of our childhood pastimes.  We are told to push them down and lay them aside and to grow up.  We are reminded that real adults have jobs, and that those jobs do not involve playing in fantasy lands where twelve-year -olds run a lucrative baby sitting enterprise, enterprising wizards go to boarding school, or board games come to life. 

As a result of this, I managed to skirt my passion—I managed to do so many things which were almost quite right, but just not “It,” with a capital I. 

Like I said, I started off crafting legal stories as a fairly successful participant in high school and collegiate mock trial for eight years.  My favorite part? Weaving masterful opening and closing statements, full of theatrics.  I thought this meant I was destined to work in law.  Until I joined a group of individuals looking to provide equal opportunity for education to all, which led to me teaching literacy.  I was interested in how the brain learned to read for understanding—the strategies and questions students could ask themselves to foster deeper comprehension. Then, I became involved in more specialized education, for students who had learning differences.  I discovered techniques to serve dyslexic students, and I worked unrelentingly to help kids who had brains that were wired a little differently find a passion for reading and writing. My aim during those seven years in education? To see these children discover an adoration for words—to guide them to the worlds that I spent so much of my own childhood visiting. Though this was closer to where my soul needed to be, I didn’t view my work with unfettered adoration.  It was providing partial fulfillment.  I was teaching students to consume written works, but I wasn’t actively creating.

Understand this: I believe every day I’ve existed on this earth has been a vital use of time. I do not ascribe to regrets, and I am entirely certain I needed to do all of those things to become who I am. Who am I?  I’m still not sure, but I have some ideas. 

I am a woman who sits in adoration of words.  I love how a poet can take five lines filled with a few sparse verbs and convey a lifetime of loss.  I love how a novelist can use 500 pages of flowery adjectives and barely scratch the surface of a vampire’s centuries-long love affair.  I love the effortless strategy of words. I love how an author can press the accelerator and combine the words together breathlessly; how she can take the reader and thrust them into a sense of tumbling urgency by making the executive decision to rip out the punctuation and continue to write regardless of whether or not anyone is even reading the sentence anymore—just to revel in the chaos of the breakneck speed and disorder she’s created, through the words, on the page. I love words in their grounded brevity, too.

Most of all, I love the undeniable strength of words.  They really do mean something to me. I love the power found in their nuance.

My life is collection of moments, a story of a girl who lost her love and has been fighting hardscrabble fights to reclaim it.  I’m sorry to say that the best stories have conflict.  They have journeys and challenges and situational distress.  They have villains and heroes and people in-between.  What that third grade girl on the ground didn’t know was that she was steeling herself, building her fortification.  She had just witnessed the divorce of her parents, but what she didn’t know was that many other Herculean challenges were lining up in the wings.   She was gathering the tools she would need, on that day, when she was ready to proclaim her purpose the world:

I am an author.

Granted, she’d say it in a small disbelieving voice, to herself, in a toothpaste-stained mirror.  But she would say it.  

She had spent the last ten years of her life helping others learn how to hold onto the words that made stories.  Now it was time for her to start putting her own story together.

She is a woman who has lived many lives, mostly on accident, and has now completely committed to living infinite more, with a critical difference.  These iterations of her evolution would be completely on purpose, with purpose.  She wants to wield her words to create more good in this world. 

She—me—I—am so excited to have you join along on this year of exploration.  As we march through the alphabet, I solemnly swear we won’t dwell on the past, too much.  We’ll submerge ourselves in it, spear in hand, to pick up the instructive lesson, and we’ll move forward. We can only hold our breaths down there for so long, after all.  I’ll also try to remain as faithful to the facts as I can—though I will warn that I do not possess a catalog of memories, organized and labeled.  My mind is full of post-it notes and pictures and snippets of conversation.

As for the heroes and villains? There will be scads of them, but I’ve found out that who they depends on what seat your sitting in, honestly.

I can’t promise each one of these stories will have a happy ending—not all do, and we must accept this.

What I will promise you is this:  I write for me.  I am selfish.  I need to make sense of my life.  But I also write this for “we.” Because while the details differ, once we strip those down, I reckon you and I will see the same plot line emerging.