It seems like this has been a year when I've said goodbye a lot. In December, I said goodbye to my best friend, Pam, when she was deployed to Iraq. We worked together and played together, and between the two, saw or talked to each other almost every day. She is the person who always has my back and listens to whatever is on my mind, and I do the same for her. On a warm spring weekend, if I wasn't at the ballpark with my kids, I was hanging out on her deck, chilling and solving the problems of the world. What's cool about our friendship is the fact that we don't always have the same world view (I'm pretty sure we didn't vote for the same guy in the last election), but we're able to have reasoned discussions about things, and ultimately it's not our differences that define us. If I pick up the phone and say, "I need help," I know that barring a deployment to the opposite side of the globe, she's going to be there. Shoot, she'd probably find a way to help me from Iraq if I really needed it.
On Friday, I said goodbye to another friend and colleague. He's originally from Oklahoma, and when his family had the opportunity to return, they took it. I don't begrudge him the new and exciting opportunities that await, but I really hate to see him go. His leaving seemed to punctuate Pam's absence, and I was in a funk all day Friday.
I had an epiphany this morning as I worked on my manuscript. I've struggled with the midsection of this book. I'm behind where I wanted to be at this stage of the process, and I think I've figured out why. I've mentioned before that it's very difficult for me to let my characters suffer, even when it's the right direction for the story. I realized this morning I might be fighting the conflict in my story because of the goodbye I've had to say in real life. The sadness over Pam's deployment is always there. I'm not walking around in a deep depression or anything. I have lots of good things in my life, but there is a gaping hole without her.
Ironically, the story has probably taken its direction from the existence of that hole, and I've been fighting its natural progression. I wrote a hard scene the last time I really worked on the story, and then I came to a grinding halt. I've blamed my work stoppage on external events in my life, and certainly they've played a role, but the real reason I've stopped is I don't want to write what comes next. Yesterday, I went back through my entire manuscript, about 60,000 words at this point. The next steps are clear, and I spent the morning outlining them. Now I've got to write it.
Writing is a wonderful, terrible process. At its best, it's exhilarating, an addictive natural high. At it's worst, it's gut-wrenching, bringing you face to face with your own inner demons. In the end, it's fiction. I talked to Pam on Skype early Saturday morning, and she's fine. She gets to come home for a couple of weeks in late June. That's real, and I can't wait.