Breaking the Surface

Today I worked out in my water aerobics class without a safety belt.  We all wear this big, blue styrofoam wedge strapped around our waists to keep us from going under, or at least, make it harder to go under.

Different parts of the routine require raising hands and arms in the air, so it’s hard to tread water.  Other exercises have us pointing straight up and down—conducive to dropping like a rock to the bottom of the pool.

But today, I needed to see if I was strong enough to do the exercises without the belt.  I did—without panicking—even when I could only keep my face above the surface.  I was exhausted when we finished, but felt like I accomplished something—proved something.

All day today, I felt like my head had broken the surface—a slight sense of relief, a subtle shift of the eyes up and out to a wider view.  I drove to Ames after my water class, and found myself ticking off things I was grateful for as I watched the empty corn fields roll past—my sister, my mom, the way Emmett body-slams against my legs when he’s happy.  I was grateful for the money Mom gave me so I could gas up the truck, drive to Ames, sit in Panera with a bear claw and coffee, and write for four hours without worrying about how to balance my budget for this indulgence.

I broke the surface in my writing, too, noting how the Callinda rewrites are taking a completely different turn from the original story.  I saw how I kept trying to bring the story back around to the original, twisting it unnaturally and making it illogical.  Then, I remembered a woman from a writers’ group I belonged to years ago and her sage words: “Kill Your Darlings.”

All of a sudden my vision expanded.  I was able to look up and out.  I’d been trying to keep all the “good parts” of the old story—my darlings—when they no longer fit.  I went back over the whole story so far, all eighteen chapters, with this broader point of view, editing out the darlings and tightening the plot  (Those edits will be incorporated in the Callinda chapters posted here soon).

This has been a long and difficult episode.  I calculated it’s been 22 days so far, with some moments or days a little lighter than others.  Most of the time, though, it’s been a deep dive into the abyss.  That’s a long time to hold your breath.  It cramps perspective.  So, it was a gift to break the surface today.  Even if it’s just for today, I feel a little stronger, like I accomplished something.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathryn McCullough
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 18:20:21

    What great news! Truly, truly. I’m so happy for you. Love the way you’ve used the image of staying above water in this post. Well done on lots of levels.


  2. scribblechic
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 18:30:15

    Lovely undercurrents of hope and joy. Sounds like a beautiful day, worthy of reflection and celebration.


  3. Sheryl Mae
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 22:16:37

    Your images are so clear and explain things so well. I LOVE your writing! Wish I could think of something adorable to say about water, but I got nothing. Time for bed. Sissy


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