The good news first, shall we?
I spent a huge part of yesterday in the planning stages for Gliese 581: Zarmina’s World.
I waded through my list of characters first. In each book I write, I maintain a list of characters as well as a timeline. The list of characters is a table which lists:
- First Name, Last Name and Maiden Name (if applicable)
- Hair and Eyes
- Born and Died
- Location (I only use this when I’m dealing with multiple locations – like Gliese, Earth and Mars)
- Notes – this might include information on their lineage, what they do, and their strengths
If I need to, I will add a character page into Scrivener as a sub-page of the character table. So far, I have added just one. A new character, Syn Travani, who is on Earth.
So yesterday was spent figuring out WHO was still alive (that plague was a doozy, after all) and where they were at. I listed the characters out and delineated whether they were on Earth, Mars or Gliese. I also added a handful of characters that I know I’ll need.
I also spent time re-acquainting myself with the story. This may sound silly to you, but I have forgotten a lot of what I have written. Which is always a nice surprise – I opened up the book, saw all of those neat words arranged on a page and got a satisfying, “I wrote that!” thrill. I’ll let you know when that grows old because so far, it feels GREAT every time I crack open one of my books.
I came up with some, but not all, of the major (and minor) plot points I want to weave into the book.
And finally, sore from sitting and typing and writing, I tottered off to fold laundry, read to Em, and then read a small bit for myself before I was off to bed.
Note to self: I really should re-read the entire Gliese book and take notes on avenues to explore in the new book.
The Not So Good
I woke up at 4 a.m. thinking about STUFF. In particular, I thought of my maternal line, one I swore I would do differently than generations before.
I will explain.
Growing up, my mother and my maternal grandmother were endlessly at odds. Mum (my name for my grandmother) would say something to Mom – it was usually judgmental, meddlesome, or downright manipulative. She would do the same to me and I hated it. I watched my mother wrestle with two opposing imperatives – be respectful to her mother and yet protect/defend herself.
As a result, Mum and Mom didn’t spend much time together. And when they did, it was strained and full of thick, tense air, words and deeds.
Mum has been gone for 16 years now. I wonder if her relationship with her mother was much the same. I know that my great-grandmother did not ever live with Mum. Instead, she lived with her eldest daughter, Beulah, until she died. I haven’t heard much, after all, it is poor form to speak ill of the dead, but I get the feeling she was a difficult person to get along with.
Growing up, and seeing this relationship (or lack thereof) between my mother and my grandmother – I knew I wanted different. I remember thinking, with the simple idealized hope of youth, that I could make things different. I would not have the same relationship with my mother. My daughters and I would not have the same relationships either. I would do better, I would be a good mom, maybe even a fun mom, and when my kids grew up, I would back off and not continue to try and parent (i.e. nag and judge) them forever after. I would honor their transition to adulthood and return to the sidelines and enjoy a new relationship with them based on respect and equality. I would not end up like my mom and grandmother.
Or so I told myself.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night, pregnant with my firstborn, in hysterical tears of fear, scared I wouldn’t be a good mom. My husband would laugh then, tell me I would do fine. Later, years later, even before I left him, he diligently remembered my fears and reminded me of them at every turn. “You’re an awful mother.” I believed it for years.
In the ten, now eleven years since my eldest turned eighteen, I have walked the razor’s edge. Do I tell her when she is with some guy I think has serious mommy issues or is dysfunctional? Do I say anything when she drops out of school yet again? Do I offer advice or stay silent?
I have chosen again and again to stay silent. Partly because I believed it would harm not help to give my opinion or unasked for advice. And also because, in the end, it is her life, not mine, to live. Perhaps it is best to kiss some real toads rather than have a parent giving you unasked for advice while seeing only half of the picture.
Even as I stayed true to my beliefs, as I kept my silence, my mother would make an appearance. She would tell me (without any prompting from me, thank you very much) how to live, what to wear, and send another wave of judgment my way. Just experiencing it kept me steady on my course. I would be different. I would be better.
And then I received a letter in early February from my child, doing the SAME THING that my mother had done to me all of my life, something that my mother’s mother had done to her, and god knows how far back. The letter labeled me, dispensed unasked for advice, and was generally dismissive of who I am and what I have done. And I was absolutely floored by it. She had lived with me for 18 months. We had been at peace through much of it, but the letter basically gave me two options: agree with her on her points and I don’t know, apologize for being so busy dealing with my unwanted father (the grandfather she hated) when he was at death’s door that I hadn’t come to visit her, or accept that I had somehow screwed up royally. And honestly? I couldn’t take it anymore. Not another human being, one that I had actually raised, sacrificed and provided for long after she was grown, telling me I was insufficient, that I was lacking, that I was LESS than the ideal mother she wanted.
Just like I couldn’t take my mother’s new and weird assertions that her granddaughters (especially the sweet little ten-year-old) didn’t want to spend time with her. Something I tried pointing out she would make a reality if she continued to voice it. There is nothing like being labeled, it makes the person want to be exactly what they are being called, after all, what point is there in being anything else? It isn’t as if you have disproved anything by living your life differently – others will believe what they want despite your best efforts.
I broke ties with both of them.
But it isn’t as simple as that. It never is. Do you excise the love along with the hurt? Do you make your heart a patchwork of No Trespassing signs and roads that you can no longer drive upon?
So here I was at 4 a.m., obsessing over mistakes I made when rearing my firstborn, fearing what seems like the inevitable curse of my maternal line, and I realized…
My fears – that fate has a far stronger hand in our future than I would care to admit – are what I write about and what I live.
I don’t want to continue the pattern. I’ve tried like hell to break free of it. I’ve consciously worked at being different for the entirety of my adult life, and despite my efforts, I find myself in the same position. I can’t help wondering what Em thinks of it all. What her internal dialogue is saying as she watches my relationship with her sister and grandmother teeter and falter. Does she promise herself the same thing?
“It will be different. I’ll make it different.”
Does she promise herself that when she sees me mourning the relationships I wished I had?
It also makes me realize that the Kapalaran Universe (kapalaran is Filipino for “fate”) is an extension of these questions. That, not unlike the Philosophy 101 test question I agonized over some 20 years ago is still bouncing around in my head.
Do we have free will? Or is some pre-destination involved?
I have always thought that I could change the paradigm. I believed it with the fervor of the newly baptized. I wanted it to be different, agonized for a new reality free of judgment, hurt feelings, and resentment.
Fate, if it exists, and exist it must because damned if I haven’t tried my best to shake it, is a many-tentacled bitch of a beast.