Friday, October 23, 2015

beyond ordinary understanding: a novel

In the summer of 2009 I had a dream. Actually, it was a nightmare. And it left me rattled. I dreamt my husband and I were shopping on the streets of Italy. We went into a shop that interested me, and at some point he decided to go outside and wait for me. When I left the shop I couldn't find him.

I never saw him again.

The feelings this dream invoked in my soul woke me and kept me awake the entire night. Which, if you know me, is no surprise since sleep is not something I excel at. I was entirely distraught, but that is not all. I felt something I have never felt before, a sorrow so deep inside me it affected me physically. I wretched over the toilet that night as I tried to pull from my sleepy stupor what was happening. Was I sick? No, I wasn't. I was sad. Profoundly sad. And all from a dream. I wept for my own imaginary loss. The entire night I wept, and into the next day. I couldn't even describe in words my melancholy.

I still can't. It was a wordless feeling.

I tried to process it, tried to convince myself it was just a dream. There was no way anyone could feel that much despair in real life. But, I knew that wasn't true, people feel that all the time. I had never felt it in real life myself, and I hope I never do. It was a gut wrenching sensation.

I tried to write about it. I sat on occasion and tried journaling this one feeling I couldn't seem to describe. I began entertaining thoughts of writing a story about it. Eventually that story turned into a novel. Something fictitious. Yet real.

Does that make sense? I didn't think so...

Over the course of the next two years I created in my head characters that were not only capable of feeling this type of pain, but also inflicting it. Thoughts on the subject came at random times and in random places. I took notes on paper, napkins, receipts, and in my phone.

One hot day, as I was driving the kids to the Okanagan to see my parents, I was deeply entrenched with the creation of this novel. As I drove I tried to fix into my memory all the thoughts I had when all of sudden we came to a dead halt due to construction. We did not move for over an hour and as we waited I typed madly into my phone. Notes upon notes. The plot thickened and grew and before I knew it I was giddy at the thought of writing this book. I was a woman obsessed with recreating that one emotion I felt inside a dream two years earlier.

For months I added to those notes. In church I would find myself distracted by the characters and their choices. I would take notes on the sides of church bulletins, on my hand, wherever I could find space. I collected these bulletins in my bedside table, next to my notebook and my scraps of paper and all those receipts. It was a hodge podge of crazy. I knew it was going to be a chore to organize, but I didn't care. It was growing into something of its own. Like I had no say in the matter.

Yet somehow I was going to be responsible if it didn't happen.

And then my husband and I went to Mexico. The hot Mexican sun, coupled with the spotty wifi, and its evil Mexican sorcery took my phone and deleted every single thing on it. All my pictures (even the awesome puffer fish I found), all my contacts, and...

...all my notes.

Everything was gone. Pages upon pages, and hours upon hours of thoughts, ideas and character quirks...gone.

I was ill about it.

It was so upsetting to me I had no choice but to put it straight out of my head. I went into total denial. I tried to let it go, like it never happened. But every now and then it crept back in. Little snippets here and there tortured me. Why didn't I email the notes to myself? Back the information up? Why didn't I protect my baby? I have no answers. I just didn't. I could barely look myself in the mirror. What a giant waste of time. I had given so much thought to this project, and through my own negligence it was just gone.

Over the years it has slowly been reborn. If my memory serves me, it is almost identical, minus a few strokes of brilliance here and there. I will make attempts to recreate those as I go.

I find myself at a crossroads in my life. I am done school. And as I look for a job that suits my family I find myself totally consumed by thoughts of this novel.

So it's time.

I mentioned to my friends that I wanted to get it out. I was looking into a weekend away to start writing it in the mountains, for the mountains are where ideas come to life, don't you know? My friends, who are nothing short of amazing, pooled their loose change and their collective genius, and said go go go. Go now! And before I knew it I had three nights booked at the Banff Centre in a self-directed writing residency paid for entirely by them.

And this is where I sit, telling you this story. On the side of a mountain.

These friends of mine are making dreams come true. Do they even know what they are capable of? These ladies are my army, my village. I hope they'll be gentle with me when they read the book. Because this is happening, people.

As we speak, this is happening.