Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ESCAPE TO EAST GERMANY

Crazy title, I know. But it's how I've been feeling lately.
Full Disclosure: I drove down my rural road to take this photo of barbed wire. 
I want to go to a communist country enclosed by barbed wire. A republic you could be shot or imprisoned for trying to leave. A place that was riddled with secret police and neighbors who might rat on you if you dared to speak against the socialist party.

I have loved ones in this place. They are my characters. I want to be with them. But sometimes my life interferes. Even other peoples' lives interfere. 

And in some ways, that's the hard part. My life, I can mostly handle. But with a hubby in ministry I end up feeling the pain of a lot of other people. Lately I've been getting that feeling - not Calgon take me away, but I just want to escape to East Germany.

And then I stop myself and say, "That's no joke. What you're going through doesn't compare."

But the more I think about it the more I realize that, at some level, it's true.  And it's okay if I feel that way. I don't literally want to live in a communist country. Of course I don't. But I remind myself of several things. 

It was hard there. But it wasn't all bad. People had families who loved them. They had school and community picnics, and free transportation and jobs. They had outdoor play and sports and art and trips to the beach.

I live in this amazing place called the United States. I have freedom to travel to nearly any place in the world. I have green space around me - a backyard with a water feature and a garden with okra, sweet corn and ripe tomatoes. But being in the United States does not mean living in Utopia.
Evil exists here too. Some people endure horrendous things that I can't comprehend. We all know this. We see it on the news. We hear about it at work or maybe we witness it first hand.  

Sometimes, to be honest with you, I don't want to hear one more story of drug overdoses, murder, war, or abuse. It would be easy to look the other way. To grow hard. To let myself not care. 

Instead I retreat for awhile - to fiction. I always thought I wrote stories to be heard. To be understood and to process what I don't understand. But lately, I've realized I also write to escape. 

Wherever my characters are; that's where I want to be - holding their hands. Listening to their stories. I can't change people in the real world.  But there's a chance I can help my characters make good choices. I might not be able to give them a happy ever after but I can give them hope.  

And the truth is Communist East Germany no longer exists. Because lots of people hoped for something better and acted on their dreams, including my characters.

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. 
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
Viktor E. Frankl



20 comments:

  1. How blessed we are to escape into our imaginations. I've done this from the time I can remember ... and even now, when a story is percolating, I have to stop myself from daydreaming the morning away.

    As to the problem of evil, it has been with us since the angel of light fell. God allows it. And boy do we love our free will, no? Your garden looks so inviting. A perfect place to escape to.

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    1. Vijaya - just this morning I escaped to my backyard. Moved some plants around. Rearranging splashes of color and appreciating my green world as a source of soul care.

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    2. I do want to read more of your fiction, Vijaya. That sample I read at the conference hooked me!

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    3. Thank you, Joyce! I hope one day my longer fiction will be published.

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  2. This may be my most favorite post on your blog. The raw honesty coupled with authenticity and compassion really spoke to me. I'm glad you recognized that it's okay to feel exactly how you are feeling. I've learned that reality (even the reality of my feelings) doesn't need my acceptance in order to be real.

    I'm grateful for writers, like you, whom right to escape so that I as a reader can also sometimes escape into another world.

    Great quote - I've reread it five times already.

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    1. Well thank you! And yes, I am learning from you, Amy that what is, is okay. It's as it was meant to be. Not sure I always believe everything was meant to be but I keep thinking about it.

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  3. Go Joyce, go. To writing fiction that is, not to a communist country! Go to writing historical fiction, to be more exact. Thank you for caring enough to tackle tough projects.

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    1. Well, I would love to go back to the former East Germany. I do appreciate you cheering me on, Linda!

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  4. Thank you, Joyce, for your honest sharing. I have no doubt that you will always care and always offer hope.

    We live to disappear for a little while into the fictional lives of our characters. At our best, we become them.

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    1. "At our best, we become them." I like that, Clara. Happy disappearing to you!

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  5. This is great. I so want to walk with my characters and share their pain and joy. Lovely post. Thanks, Joyce.

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    1. Rosi, I hope you and your characters are cherishing the journey.

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  6. As I opened my computer for what I hoped would be 2 hours of uninterrupted writing time, I was even thinking--this is my escape. And no matter what we are writing about, our present trails and sorrows inform that work. I think I learned that from one special lady...

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    1. Thanks for the reminder, Carol. Yes, life informs our stories. I probably needed you to say that to me.

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  7. Joyce, now I'm all the more eager to have you finish this book! But take your time with it, and enjoy your escape. We writer's are entitled to that!

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    1. Nearing the end, Peggy! Thanks for your support!

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  8. I think we have to retreat sometimes, Joyce, and be grateful that we do live in a world/environment where we can. When I read the history of some other places and times, and when I listen to the news about people and places today--abroad and, yes, and here, I think some of the hardest parts must be not having a break in the bad, or the hard, or the challenging. How grinding, how exhausting. But, again, I don't see how we can deal with or help any of it if we don't allow ourselves that break. And thank goodness for both the writing and reading that gives us that.

    Beautiful post.

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    1. Thanks Becky - I must agree. The relentlessness of sorrow must be the hardest part of all.

      I hope you are having a nurturing summer.

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  9. A writer's gift is the escape their stories give.
    I love when a book is so good that I can
    immerse myself into the world along with the characters.
    Sometimes our day-to-day problems seem pale in
    comparison, but everyone goes through different troubles
    and different experiences, and that doesn't them any
    less valid. Thank you for such a thoughtful post, Joyce.
    I hope your summer is treating you well! :)

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  10. Thanks to you, Anna for your thoughtful response! Summer is going well. I've escaped quite a bit by listening to audio books while working on painting projects.

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