I’m a teacher and, believe it or not, I really don’t know everything. Shocker! I know! But, there’s the humble truth. I am not super smart. I just know some stuff about literature. Just a little. Not a lot. A wee bit.
So I’m back in Polishing the Bones. And I’ve added in a bit of a sub-plot for my main character. And though I sort of know what I’m writing about. I’m not that proficient in all of its nuances and subtleties. And a beta-reader asked me a few questions and I realized…uh oh. I gotta problem that needs some remedying.
So I started the research process. And, thank God, I have a couple of family members who happen to have the wealth of knowledge that I was lacking.
I will admit, though, I suck at keeping up with family. Too often, I sit in my quiet world and let the rest of the world do its thing and spin around me. Which means that when it’s time to connect with family, I feel incredibly self-conscious because I am the sucky relative who hasn’t been in contact with people in…years.
Yeah. I wrote that. Years.
Damn. I feel like a really bad relative now. Okay. Pity party over Time to push forward.
So I started with my niece (brother’s daughter) who is preparing to enter the medical field. A quick text. Wait.
And then I texted my brother-in-law (youngest one) who is also preparing to enter the medical field.
And then, my niece texted me back. And given that I can’t say or do anything without an overload of words, I asked her if I could talk to her.
And so, after years of quiet, I scrolled through my contacts and the years were shed and I heard her voice again. I haven’t talked to my niece in years. Years. Damn…I really am a sucky aunt. But the years and the missing time evaporated and that old love that I have for her surged forward and replaced my anxiety and insecurity. Because so much of who I am as a parent has been shaped by my time with my niece and her older brother.
She was the child who showed me how to wash hair without getting shampoo in the eyes and to take away the fear. She was the child with whom I made up silly animals. She was the young woman who introduced me to wonderful sci-fi fantasy writers. She was the woman who texted me when my short story was written and complimented me on the impact and importance of my writing.
I sat at my desk and asked my niece questions and took notes. I repeated back to her what she had taught me and the gaps in my novel started to close. And then, even though she is seriously busy, my beautiful and wonderful niece offered to be a beta-reader.
You see. Time has no meaning when set against family and love and compassion and acceptance. I could be my most insecure and vulnerable self and my niece held no judgment, just goodness and empathy and knowledge.
This afternoon, I chatted with my youngest brother-in-law about the same topic. Asked him the same questions. Learned more. Wrote notes and lists of information. And I learned. For an hour, my brother-in-law patiently walked me through the actions that would happen in a real setting. He gave me sentences and dialogue.
And I know this is going to sound really stupid. But he said my main character’s name. Like she was a real person. And as I write this, I remember my niece doing the same thing. Saying my character’s name. The character isn’t real. She is a collection of binary numbers and a lot of imagination. But I was given the dignity that I have craved as an artist. and I didn’t realize until right now how precious that is.
In the background, my brother-in-law’s daughter’s chirping laughter echoed through his home. I heard my youngest niece’s joy, her excitement at life, her precious innocence. I heard everything that is good and wonderful.
I am not as close to my extended family as I want or wish. I allow my introverted shyness to muzzle me. And I regret that I am so self-conscious. This flaw hampers my comfort level with my family, both sides, who are wonderful and loving and accepting. They are not at fault. They have no responsibility in my reticence.
But what I am so thankful for is that when I peel away my worries and my shyness, I have a family who loves me. Who supports me. Who cares enough to read my words or guide my words. Or become part of my words.