Fall is here again

It is my favorite time of year again.  If you have been following my blog for a while now, you are undoubtedly aware that I absolutely love autumn.  It is when the leaves turn beautiful colors, the temperature drops (I hate hot weather), and we celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Not to mention the mosquitos are finally gone, which is a big deal here in Minnesota.  Not one of these single aspects are what makes fall wonderful to me, not even all of them combined.

For me, fall has a certain feel to it.  It is a spiritually refreshing time of year.  Sure, everything I listed contributes to that feeling, but there is something deeper to autumn.  I see it as the annual climax in God’s creation before everything becomes white and brown.

Then there is Halloween.  Oddly, I used to hate that holiday as a child, a time in most people’s lives when they were actually excited for it.  I was easily scared as a child, and it didn’t take much to keep me awake at night worried something was going to get me.  Aside from that, Halloween was simply creepy and felt like it left a stain on my being.  Once I became an adult, things changed.  I began to enjoy dressing up and going to costume parties with my wife.  After some experiences in college, I also became fascinated by the Celtic origins of Halloween.  When I became a father, Halloween became even more fun.

As a writer, autumn is a very inspirational time of year, and it is difficult to pinpoint why exactly that is.  Perhaps it is the absolute freshness of nature, or the fleeting beauty that trees display only for a few weeks out of the year.  Fall is truly a beautiful time of year and so fleeting.  Take time out of your day to enjoy the marvel of nature before it is gone for yet another year, especially if you are a writer.  Your soul will thank you.

Three Years Ago

Have you ever met someone who felt off, but you had no reason at that moment to feel that way?  One particular person I knew gave me that vibe, and for a few years, I honestly didn’t like them much.  It wasn’t until around 2011 that this person confessed something they had done that put them in a tight spot.  I felt as a Christian it was my duty to be there for this person and decided that I was being paranoid and judgmental, so I shoved my reservations to the side.

Over the next year and a half, we grew closer, spending a lot of time talking on Skype and the phone.  There were red flags that I ignored during our friendship.  If I had something to address with this person, they would blow it off, turn it around, and blame me.  This person, among many other bad signs, made grandiose claims of prophecy.  Around this time, the off feeling came back.  Well, if I was honest with myself, it never left, but the warnings in my soul became so strong I couldn’t ignore it.  For the sake of privacy, I won’t say too much more on the situation, but this person did inspire a character in one of my up-coming novels.

When I began talking to a 3rd party about my situation, things started to clear up.  I was making excuses for this person in my head, this person who was emotionally and mentally abusive and manipulative.  In June of 2013, I first brought up my concerns to this person, which neither one of us handled very well. I admit that.  I gave this person another chance but with strict boundaries in place.  Again, the blame was completely placed on me from this other person’s perspective.  I do not claim to be perfect, but I always tried to treat this person with respect.

The 3rd party I was talking to about this situation told me in October of that year that I needed to confront this friend and tell them my concerns.  The person I talked with said I needed to do it in order to grow.  I was terrified, but a couple weeks later I did it.  I wanted this conversation to just be over.  To make a very long and complicated situation more concise, this “friend” didn’t like what I had to say at all.  This person even tried to get my wife to side with them on the issue.  Perhaps I didn’t handle things 100 percent the way I should have, but I do know I was gentle.  Confronting someone with serious issues like this is neither easy to say or easy to hear.  After my wife and I tried everything, suggesting someone else help resolve this and trying to talk about it, this person shoved us away. We let them walk away and resolved to never allow their manipulation back into our lives.

The point of this story is not to shame the individual involved.  I have no idea where they are right now, if they have changed, or if they truly know if they changed.  What I do know is that if you have someone in your life that is manipulating and/or abusive, you do not have to stand for it.  Even if that is the only friend you have in the world, you do not need that toxicity in your life.  Turning away from that doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you smart.  Friendship should be mutual.  The second it isn’t, the moment there is an imbalance of power and benefit, it may be time to rethink it.

This crazy experience, which was filled with more drama than I could ever include was too rich of a resource not to use for a book.  I wrote in a secondary character who becomes friends with the protagonist who is based on my former friend.  Unfortunately, even in an urban fantasy setting, things that happened still had to tone down because, frankly, my readers would probably find it unbelievable.  As a writer, every experience is fair game.  Those experiences, whether they seem real or not, are what make stories relatable.  Even if it is incredibly painful like this experience was for me.  All of life is for us to use.

Note: I chose to use the words “them” and “they” because they are gender neutral and increases the privacy of the person I am referencing.

A Sensitive Culture

In a world and a time when tolerance is demanded by culture, there seems to be very little of it. This isn’t a post about preaching tolerance because that is an ideology with several philosophical undertones. What I think is important to address is how volatile things seem. Some may blame the election, and perhaps that has a lot to do with it, but I think these feelings have been there for a while. What sort of feelings do I mean specifically? That we can’t seem to get to a point where we can agree to disagree and move on.

On all sides of the issues, this seems far too common. People who do not share one point of view with another group are evil or ignorant, and then the same claims are made right back from the other side. All the while this is going on, we have somehow become uber-sensitive. In some circles if you disagree with someone, you are a called a bigot or worse. The word bigot is thrown around so much that, from my point of view, it has lost its meaning. Colleges now establish “safe places” for students so they aren’t “triggered” by something offensive. What politicians, comedians, actors, authors and others say is often misconstrued even if the intent is good. Look, you have a right to be offended, and in a free society someone has the right to be offensive, intentional or otherwise. From what I’m seeing, most of the time when people get in an uproar over something, it wasn’t meant the way it was taken. What happened to being offended and just moving on or not supporting that artist? No, people in the public have to be overly cautious otherwise the “thought police” will hound them into submission. Why are we so sensitive? Why is it those who seem the most sensitive often say offensive things themselves?

I have my thoughts on right and wrong, politics and faith. I also understand that there are people whom I disagree with, but that is okay! I know other people aren’t going to see things the way I do. So often I see this mentality though: “if you don’t agree you are horrible! How can you be for (or against) that!? Friendships are broken sometimes due to this, and unnecessary strains are placed on families. This is called pride, and we need to think about what is worth debating and what is worth dying over. Even with the stuff we are willing to die for, we all need to realize there is a time and a place for that too. For instance, I know I’m not going to convince a bunch of strangers of my dearly-held views by debating them online.

Now since I try to keep this blog aligned with writing, what does this have to do with being an author? Well, as I said in other posts, it feels like writers and other artists have to walk on egg shells. People get offended so easily it seems, especially if someone simply disagrees with the other person. Anymore, merely having a different viewpoint can be seen as an attack. Disagreeing is fine, but such a singular mindset is immature. Why do some people go through life expecting everyone else to simply agree with them? Authors write what the characters lead them to put down on paper. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, a writer should never pander to over-sensitives in the culture.