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Archive for the ‘Friend’ Category

You sit down with and old friend you haven’t seen in years. As the two of you laugh, talk, and catch up on your lives, your friend says something you never expected them to. You learn something about them that changes your view of who they are, and you now perceive them differently. When the two of you part, memories of times with this friend flood your mind. Though now they feel different, based on this new information. You wonder if that’s a good thing or not.

Memories can be “tainted” by things you learn from friends. “Taint” in this case can be either good or bad.  For instance, you could come to get to know a friend better by learning something positive that’s happened to them recently that’s changed them. When you look back on the memories, the new knowledge gives you greater understanding of who they are in hindsight, and the great times become even better. You come to care for them more through your new understanding of the memories. Or, you can learn that someone isn’t who you thought they were, that they’ve done things you don’t agree with and you can’t come to reconcile that with who you previously perceived them to be. Thus, you search through the memories, now seeing the signs and wondering why you hadn’t seen this coming.

The thing is, there will always be times that we learn something about someone close to us that seems to taint the memories in a bad way. Every one of us has times in our lives we regret, and we’re scared to tell those we care about. Because we know that when we tell them, it’s going to change how they view us. But that doesn’t mean that the relationship will end.

We all have a choice in each of our relationships. We choose to continue pursuing a connection with that person or not. Often, this isn’t a conscious choice we make, but rather a choice made in the subconscious. However, when we learn something that drastically changes our perception of someone close to us, that choice is thrust into the conscious mind. We must decide whether or not to keep that relationship alive.

One thing we always have to keep in mind is that love is a choice. It’s more than a feeling. It’s a commitment to that person, regardless of whether they’re family, friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, fiance, or husband/wife. There will always be new things to learn about the people close to you, and they won’t always be good things. What keeps a relationship alive is continued commitment to one another by making the, sometimes very difficult, choice to continue to love them despite their flaws.

After all, they’ve made the choice to stick with us, right?

 

I know there is so much more that could be said on this topic, and that there are many different views and opinions out there. How do you see this choice working in your life?

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Something’s happened. Something big, and you have to talk to someone about it. You have to make a decision. You need advice, but of a specific kind. You scroll through a list of names in your mind, deciding. Which of your friends would be best to talk to about this particular issue? Who will help most in this situation?

These are questions we ask ourselves all the time, whether or not we’re conscious of it. When we’re dealing with something big, we eventually need to talk options over with a friend. We can internalize a lot of the struggle, but at some point we need an outside opinion. We want to be sure we’re getting the best and most level-headed opinion we can, so we’re careful about who we choose to talk with about it.

This is not a bad thing. You have a unique relationship with each and every person you know, and each one of those people will have a different perspective on whatever situation you need help with. As you get to know someone, you learn what areas of life they have great insight on, and from there you know what kinds of situations they’d be able to help you the most with. Sometimes, though, we go to the person we know the best, or the one we’ve known longer. When we’re dealing with a situation that’s important to us, we go to the people we trust the most because we’re more comfortable with them. We’re able to express ourselves better. We know we don’t have to hold back. And we know that those people will take the matter seriously and give us the best advice they can.

I must offer a disclaimer here, though. Just because we choose one friend to go to over another doesn’t mean that we don’t trust that other friend. And the same goes if one of our friends goes to someone else over us. We have to remember that there are lots of factors that go into a decision like that. We shouldn’t be hurt that they didn’t come to us, because there were reasons for that, and there’s no way for us to know what those were. Instead, we should be happy that our friend got good advice on the situation, whoever that advice ended up coming from.

Every relationship is different and is built on a different foundation. Every relationship will have a different structure and will include different things. And that’s the beauty of unique relationships.

 

Do you have certain friends you ask for advice over others? Share your thoughts or story in the comments!

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Fun and crazy expressions are always good for a laugh. As a reader, I’m very expressive, which can be entertaining for those in the room with me. But when it comes to personal struggles, I’m not very expressive at all. There are so many different expressions out there, and yet only a few make us worry. As a society that places a lot of value on outward appearance, we learn what faces to show to the world and which ones to keep hidden until we’re alone. We show these faces in many ways: through expressions, words, and body language.

But it’s often the expressions we never show, the words we never use, and the tiniest hints from our body language that show others what we’re truly feeling. And if we’re lucky, we’ll have those friends that we can show those faces. We’ll have friends who will pick up on the unspoken words and body language. We all want that kind of friend, because then we can share with them what we’re truly feeling. We don’t have to keep silent.

Yet there’s so much of the time we don’t know what’s really going on in a friend’s life until they decide to open up to us.

Recently I was chatting with a close friend via the Internet and I was told of some deep, internal struggles in my friend’s heart. I was slightly surprised, because while we’ve often had serious conversations, the bulk of our interaction involves banter and light-hearted conversation. But this friend and I also happen to be in the same group chat, and my friend’s happy and excited responses to the group contrasted drastically to our one-on-one conversation. Seeing both ends of the spectrum at the same time like that really hit me. It made me think of the many faces we each hold, and how we pull out the “correct” face for the situation.

How many of us hide what we’re truly feeling from the majority of the world–including those who care about us? Especially via the Internet, it’s so easy to hide what we’re truly feeling. It’s simple to type a happy sentence, even if we’re falling apart inside. I’ve done that, too. I still do.

Yet when we do express our true feelings and things we’re struggling with, we apologize for it, for being a burden. But our friends should never feel that they’re inconveniencing us by telling us these kinds of things. The only way for us to get through life is to help each other out. We must help carry each others’ burdens. If we confide in someone, then we must also be willing to let them confide in us.

 

We can hide what we’re going through, but only for so long. We must learn to be unapologetic in sharing with the people who want to know. In order to survive, we all need this.

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Flight is one of those technological feats that still amazes me. I don’t get to fly often, but when I do I love to look out the window and watch the world below shrink and change. The earth’s topography becomes apparent and the clouds are a new kind of sea. As you fly high above the earth and among the clouds, it can seem that you’re hardly moving although you’re travelling at much faster speeds than the toy cars below.

Relationships can be similar to a flight spent watching out the window. There will be times when it seems as though a relationship has stalled, isn’t moving forward, or deepening as quickly as we’d expect. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but deep relationships are not instantaneous. They’re built over time. Sometimes they deepen quicker than we realize, and other times we realize just how quickly they’re deepening. It depends solely on the two people in the relationship and your perception of it.

On a flight, looking out a window can reveal three degrees of thickness within the clouds–the thin, nearly-transparent layer that allows glimpses of the earth below; the smooth, semi-opaque, semi-transparent white; and the completely opaque, fluffy peaks of hand-whipped cream. We all have these three degrees of thickness within us, whether as clouds or walls or something else. The degrees will vary from person to person, as will how careful we are about which layers of ourselves we allow others to see.

The thin, nearly-transparent layer of clouds are the parts of who you are that you show right away. It’s usually not a lot, but it gives those you’re meeting for the first time or don’t know well that first taste of your personality. They’re hints of that true person deep inside you. Through these layers, glimpses of the roots of who you are can be seen, though never clearly. The roots of who we are permeate our lives, and others are able to catch glimpses of that, like glimpsing the earth through the clouds on a flight.

The smooth, semi-opaque, semi-transparent white clouds usually sit lower in the sky. When we start to trust someone, we allow them to see this layer of ourselves. At this point, we are starting to trust that new friend with who we are, beginning to open up to them. It’s just enough of a taste that we can make a better decision on who to pull closer and who to keep at an arm’s length. At this point, we learn who is accepting of who we are and who might be skeptical or likely to use those things against us.

The opaque, fluffy peaks are the highest and thickest walls we build. We use these walls to keep most people from glimpsing who we truly are, keeping them at bay because we don’t know for sure we can trust them. We all have layers upon layers of these walls, building up as the peaks of the fluffy clouds do. One cluster of these walls we use to hide our deepest secrets, keeping them tucked away. Only a very select, privileged few get to see beyond these walls, to the heart of our fears.

Yet like a flight, like watching those clouds drift slowly by, relationships take time to develop and deepen. We must continue through regardless of the pace it seems things are going, because things we can’t see are always happening under the surface. We must take the time to get to know another person. The patience and time spent will be rewarded when you finally see the true person behind the mask. But relationships are not always smooth. They will hit some turbulence. You must expect both that and a little trouble throughout the flight, although these should not be long-winded. If you endure, it is truly all worth it in the end.

 

Yes, the world may tilt out of shape, may become first closer and then farther away or even disappear altogether, but beneath the trouble and those layers of clouds is something truly beautiful to behold and explore.

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Stories, when told well, are one of the most powerful forces in our world. They inspire us. They can help us discover ourselves, help shape who we become. And they can help us rediscover parts of ourselves, too. Even when we don’t know we’ve lost ourselves.

Here’s an illustration from my own experience: with a Harry Potter school event approaching, a friend mentions re-reading the series. I think it’s a great idea and decide to as well–I haven’t read them in years. Spring break is only a couple of weeks away, so I should have plenty of time. I borrow book 1 and begin reading. Then a week before spring break, my boyfriend and I break up–and we’d been talking of marriage in the future. As I continue reading the series, I’m readjusting my lifestyle and thinking patterns, processing our whole relationship.

Stories are one of the most powerful unseen forces on this planet. Rereading Harry Potter, I found aspects of the story I never realized were there. I’ve read those books numerous times and I still discover something new every time I read them. This time, I realized truths about relationships and found comfort in that it took Harry months to get over Cho, to look at her and feel no pain or longing. I was reaffirmed in the power and strength of friendship.

And I rediscovered my inner child, a part of me that makes me who I am and greatly influences my perspective of the world. I lost that part of myself while I was dating, even as I grew in other areas of who I am. I rediscovered my passion for reading YA novels and my reasons for wanting to write to that audience.

And another story only reaffirmed many of these things for me, especially in my writing. By now, I’d started to settle back into being single and learned again to be just friends with guys. I graduated and said goodbye to many wonderful lifetime friends, found a summer job, and moved into my own apartment.

Whisper of the Heart has one of the cheesiest endings ever, but it’s the middle of the movie that inspires me.

Mr. Nishi: Wait a minute, I’ve got something to show you (retrieves a rock from his cabinet). I think you’ll like this (hands Shizuku the rock) – take a look.

Shizuku: It looks like a rock.

Mr. Nishi: It’s a special kind of rock called geode. Hold it close to your eye and look inside – that’s right, like that. (Shines small torch beside stone, which lights up the green crystals inside)

Shizuku:(gasps) Look at that!

Mr. Nishi: Those crystals are called beryl. There are pieces of raw emerald still inside.

Shizuku: Aren’t emeralds worth a lot of money?

Mr. Nishi: Sure, but they need to be cut and polished first. When you first become an artist, you are like that rock. You’re in a raw and natural state, with hidden gems inside. You have to dig deep down and find the emeralds tucked away inside you. And that’s just the beginning. Once you have found your gems, you have to polish them. It takes a lot of hard work. Oh, and here’s the tricky part – look at the crack in the geode.

Shizuku: OK (looks inside the top crack)

Mr. Nishi: You see the big green crystal there, you could spend years polishing that, and it wouldn’t be worth much at all. The smaller crystals are much more valuable. And there may even be some deeper inside, which we can’t see, that are even more precious …

This movie helped me realize that I’ve started to uncover the gems hidden inside me. Stories and relationships can do that, guys–uncover the gems inside us.

Stories often have more power than we realize. And the most powerful ones never leave us, but live on within us. Sometimes, revisiting a story we know well is what we need most. It can help us rediscover parts of ourselves.

And maybe we’ll learn something new, too.

 

What are some of the stories that have shaped you? Have you ever rediscovered a part of yourself through rereading a novel or series? Please share your thoughts below!

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Last week, I talked with you all about reader-character relationships. This week, we’re going to look at it from the author’s side. And honestly, I couldn’t have had a better day leading up to writing this post. Because my characters and I share bonds, and sometimes those bonds bring my own emotional baggage with them. But back to that later.

First, let’s explore the bonds that happen between writers and their characters. If you’re a writer, you have other people living in your head, telling you their story. And you listen. Whether you write down their story or not, those characters are there. And, in a sense, you talk to them. For some writers, this is just like having a conversation with another person. For others, it’s a little different, because you feel you’re just listening to their stories and aren’t really conversing with them. There might even be a third way out there I’ve never heard of.

I’m one of the latter, but as time’s gone on and I’ve been working on the second draft of a novel, I’ve realized that’s not necessarily true. We may not feel as though we’re actually conversing with our characters, but we do have a relationship with them, we do talk to them in a way. And we create bonds with them, however our brains work.

Throughout the past year, reading over the first draft of this story I wrote two years ago, I realized I’d learned a lot from these characters, from the story they’d told me. And when I was writing this draft, I had no idea that I’d go back two years later to read it… and realize I’d kind of been writing my own story. It’s different from what I experienced, but many of the things I learned and started to understand in the past year I wrote in that first draft. Weird.

As I’ve started to rewrite the novel, it’s been a fun process. And I figured I could use my own new relationship experiences to make the novel richer. At that point, I knew what it was to be in a relationship, but I didn’t know how it felt when that kind of relationship ended. But I didn’t think about it too much. I figured I’d deal with that problem when I got there.

Except my relationship ended much sooner than I got to that point in the novel. And now I’ve gotten to the point where two of my characters start a relationship. This is where I realized I had relationships with my characters, even though I’ve never talked to them like I’ve talked to a person. Because as I tried to tell their story, mine came to mind. And as I was thinking about that, I told them about it, in a way. And I’m going to be learning from them as I continue to push through writing this draft. I know that telling their story will help me come to terms and cope with mine.

That’s just my story though. I believe the adage all writers, and some readers, hear that says in each character is a piece of the writer, even if it’s the merest sliver. I saw that today. As I re-read some of my first draft, following my characters’ stories, I found some of myself in each of them. And I’m learning from them, because they’re still different from me.

I don’t believe any writer forgets any of the characters they’ve met that live within them, even if that character’s story never gets written down or published. Because that writer and character share a bond, a relationship. And by living within each of those relationships, we can learn something about someone else, another perspective, or even something new about ourselves.

 

Do you have relationships with your own characters? What’s your story?

Let’s help each other learn about the relationships that are out there.

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I’m going to switch tracks a little here, going to one of my favorite nerd fandoms. I just recently finished re-reading the Harry Potter series, and it’s been an amazing experience, as always. But I learned some new things about myself and about relationships throughout this re-read, especially since I have been struggling recently.

So, what did I learn? That not only can we have people-people relationships, people-pet relationships, people-God relationships, and so on, but we can also have reader-character or writer-character relationships. As a writer myself, I see the difference between the two. For this post, I’m going to focus on reader-character relationships, because they can be deeply impactful and wonderful learning relationships.

A lot of avid readers have a few books they’ll revisit over the course of their lifetime, re-reading and re-connecting with the characters in the story. When you first pick up a book, you as the reader are establishing relationships with each character you come into contact with, each character that impacts you. You’re also connecting and establishing a relationship, through those characters and that story, to the person who wrote the story. No matter what story you pick up, no matter now many books an author has published or written, there is at the very least a little bit of that author in each of his or her stories.

Because of my recent reading of Harry Potter, I am going to be using that for the illustrations throughout this post. For me, I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last year and a half, and it’s been ten years since I’ve read the series. I re-connected with the characters quickly, as if they were old friends. I followed them once more on their journey, bringing with me my own new experiences and perspectives. Thus, I was able to see more through the story, and more in the characters, than any other time I’ve read the series.

As I read the last word on the last page of the last book, closing the amazing journey, I realized I’d learned so much more than I’d expected to. I’d been reunited with old friends, friends who have now helped me through two tough transitions in my life. I understood Harry and his friends better, understood some of their struggles, saw through some of their lies and their fronts.

Anytime you open up a book and start reading, you establish a relationship with at least one, and probably more, of the characters in that story. You follow the characters on the journey, you laugh and cry with them, you feel for them. Sometimes, you go to them to escape whatever you’re going through at that point in life. And you learn about life from them.

I’ve always known that books can teach me a lot, even fiction. But I’ve only just realized how that happens. In any given story, you’re following a character, privy to their thoughts, emotions, and actions, both internal and external. And that’s as intimate as getting to know a real person. The experiences you bring with you, you unconsciously give to the character, and the character shares his or her struggles with you. It’s as give and take as any relationship between two people.

And because of this established relationship between reader and character, the reader can learn from the character: from the mistakes, the thoughts, the lessons the character learns. I know I learned tons from Harry, Ron, and Hermione throughout the series. Sure, I knew the plot, I knew exactly what was going to happen. But the parts of the story that hit me the hardest, I never expected to hit me as hard as they did.

A notable thing I learned from Harry, that I already knew but had been struggling with, was that getting over a relationship, getting over a person takes time and lots of it. Harry spent months getting over Cho, and though I know that his situation and mine are as different as could be, I was still able to learn. I’ve only been out of my own relationship for a month. It’s still hard, but Harry helped me understand things I knew but hadn’t comprehended.

Another thing I learned through this, within the last book, is how important it is to face oneself, to let go of one’s past mistakes. Because if you can’t do that, you’ll never be able to truly move on with your life. And you’ll never be able to face those fears you have, to trace them back to their source.

Honestly, I couldn’t even list how many new things I learned from Harry Potter on this re-read. But I do know one thing: anytime I need a friend, I can open the covers and reignite relationships with the characters in the story. It doesn’t have to be Harry Potter, either. I can open any book and establish new relationships with new characters, or feel welcomed home by old friends.

For me, I have established many relationships as I have read books, and many important relationships. Some of the hardest and most important things I have learned in life have come from reading about a character. We can learn from our fictional counterparts because there is always some truth within the stories we are reading.

We are always establishing relationships, even if we haven’t had human contact for a while. And you can learn just as much, and sometimes more or different things, from a relationship with a character as with a person.

 

What are some of your favorite relationships with characters? How have knowing different characters and reading their stories impacted your life, taught you things?

Feel free to share!

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