Friendship on Fire

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There is no lack of stories on friendship going sour. Betrayal, emotional pain and scars can surround our every day. When we adapt all the time invested, how much one has put up with and the memories that were shared into an emotionally-charged play or script it can easily feel as though our life is a film or a TV series. I have mentioned in previous posts a friend’s betrayal and the incident still haunts me even though it happened more than 5 years ago.

Nevertheless, the years have been very kind to me and I did find genuine friendships. There is no lack of meeting and socializing with people from various stages in life. Some association may just be short lived while others last a long time. All in all, what I would really like is that any friendship would end not hastily nor harshly but in a genuine way where both parties would recognize that the path they are treading now goes separate ways.

So, I tried to imagine how a friendship can end amicably with no hard feelings on both sides. Then I realized there are no authentic friendships that end. Paths may take you separate ways but when you do get back together, then it’s like the separation only afforded you with more stories to exchange with each other.

Growing old together with treasured friends is one of my goals. The caveat: friendship is affinity between individuals. By choosing the right people to grow old with means the friendship is tested by many factors, including distance and time. I’m sure any friendship would be all the more endearing as the years pass by. So to those who have found genuine friendship, don’t let even family get in the way of that relationship. Keep each other’s heart true and look forward to time well-spent with your very dear friends.

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Here’s a flash fiction to end this post:

Rica threw the notebook on the wall and faced Seth. Her lips couldn’t even form the words she wanted to scream back at him. She felt unsteady as she glared at his figure facing her. The glare of the light behind him made it impossible for her to see his expression but she figured he has been mocking her all this time. Has it really taken her all these years to finally understand that he was just using her to fuel his comedy acts?

“Rica, those scripts have nothing to do with you.” Seth said.

Was that begging behind his voice? Why is his voice so serious now? Rica felt her voice get caught in her throat. She breathed deeply while her fingers clenched tightly. She begged her body for control as she went and grabbed the notebook that she flung earlier. DO. NOT. CRY!

“I think you have finally revealed the truth here, Seth. You have achieved what no one has ever done to me,” Rica replied slowly turning and walking towards Seth. She handed the notebook to him. Seething inside, she continued, “you prevaricate well.”

Taking the notebook from her outstretched hand, Seth replied, “Look, Rica, nobody would ever believe any of my stori–“

“It’s time to end this friendship, Seth. I do thank you for showing me that there are people in this world just like you.” Rica rushed out into the heavily pouring rain.

Copyright ©2018 Shela Laubach. All rights reserved.

Face the Pain

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Just like an itch aching to be rubbed except I couldn’t reach where it hurts, this pain torments me. Looking up from the sink, I saw how my face is reacting to this pain: my forehead scrunched, eyes watering, nose twitching and my lips twisted.

Who would want to go through this pain? There are alternatives out there. But I’m already here, I might as well face it.

“Do it,” I fortified myself.  Pushing my shoulders back, I re-positioned myself.

In 3… 2… 1!

Tightly closing my eyes, I pulled hard.

Finally, those stubborn nose hairs are out.

Copyright © 2018 Shela Laubach. All rights reserved.

This fiction is called a Drabble and should only contain 100 words. I was able to do it in less by two words. It’s difficult to practice brevity after having not written short pieces for a long time. Limited words also tested my creative writing in evoking the image of pain, enough that you’d feel it at the same time. The challenge of this exercise was quite good and I liked my friend’s reaction to it, “it goes in an unexpected direction.”  With this encouragement, I’ll try to post more of my flash fiction exercises for you to enjoy.

On another note, there is a very painful situation that resurfaced recently. When I was younger I have seen the same kind of situation drain my parents. Now that I am able to address it properly with them, particularly my dad, the pain feels like a knife slowly ebbing itself deep into my heart. I would have preferred betrayal by a friend than a family member. A friend is easier turned into a stranger than family.

Is it the sorrow that changed the flavor of food and drink? Is this pain that nicks my heart the cause of hollow sounds in my laughter? I turn to games, to books, to writing and all I could think of is how everything came around in full circle. Just like what my friend Anne-Cécile would say, don’t aim for a revolution but a forward evolution. There is no forward evolution if people stubbornly refuse to change. In that way this pain and my sorrow continues.

The Better Reader Pledge

“Quality over quantity” is such a common mantra, most of all in the business world. I just didn’t expect it to leap over the fence on becoming a better writer.

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To be a better writer one has to read…and read well.

Come to think of it, that mantra on quality over quantity is more of a way of living. Let me indulge you why I pointed this out.

I distinctly remember a time when stories were far more important to me than the author’s name. The worlds and characters introduced to me were far more compelling than the person who opened the door or drew the curtain away. Who can blame a young girl? Nobody has informed me early on who wrote many of the children’s tales that I grew up with. Moreover, I used to think that getting through as much books as I could cram in a year means I’m an excellent reader. Thanks to GoodReads I would challenge myself to go through an insane amount.

This all changed now that I want to write good stories and publish quality books. I imagined someday, once my published book sits on one of the shelves in the bookstore, that I would feel a huge sense of satisfaction–not only was a project complete but a world and its characters that I conjured are now open for others to enjoy.

Back to reading, everybody started with this basic step that would pave the way to writing. So when I am sorting the ideas in my head or struggling to convey the thoughts on paper, I would grab a book and read. Then it dawned on me that I should change my way of reading since I often breeze through books by speed reading (chunking and minimizing subvocalization). When I hold back, many of the style of writing becomes more visible.

So I am making a pledge to become a better reader because I want to become a better writer. Here are ways to honor this pledge:

1. Have a Book Journal. Name the book, recognize the author’s name, voice and writing style. Study the point-of-view (POV), the characters and their intentions. Jot it all down.

2. Be receptive to different books. It may be a different genre, unknown author or even the cover of the book that made me hesitate to pick it up but it’s time to keep an open mind. That doesn’t mean I won’t impose an exception to this rule.

3. Highlight what stood out for me. Whether its plot, content, the twists or any quotable phrases that caught my attention, I should take note of it.

4. Be honest in judging the book but not rude. I read to enjoy the book. When the book fails to make it enjoyable it is best to honestly inform others, however, do so with grace and humility. When someone else criticizes the book I publish I’d rather they do the same.

5. Share the book with others. A short review is enough to whet the appetite of a seasoned reader. There is no need to include a whole synopsis of the book or include spoilers. I read a comment recently on someone’s post on a list of good historical fictions where she stated the title of the book, the author and the reason why she is recommending it in just 25 words. It was enough to perk my interest and save it on “to-read” pile.

Contemplation for 2018

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Three weeks into the New Year and I’m contemplating on the previous year, the lessons learned and takeaways. I can describe the previous year as a slow and shaky walk up a hill. We bought our very own apartment. All the renovation projects and very strict schedule required us to work extra hard. We are at the last leg of the renovation and the results had us feeling satisfied. Yet as anyone with their own house or apartment would tell you, building a home takes time and money. Which is why a whole list of my ideas need to be put aside…for now. Back on point, I have several takeaways from the previous year for 2018.

  • The takeaway on Time. Time is irrepressible and constantly moving. Whatever I spent time on last year is over and done with. Having experienced what it’s like to have no goal, vision, or plan made me realize that it only made me lazy, unreliable and unproductive. I was often consumed with worries. After making a decision on what I truly want to do, it has been prompting me to move forward. It means not running around or trying to be someone I’m not.
  • The takeaway on Health and Strength. My body has not been at its peak last year. I find myself losing strength too fast because I haven’t been working out. I lost my rhythm since moving to Germany and have not been able to gain back the momentum in doing body strengthening. I don’t like focusing on body image. It is better to invest more on being fit and strong. The first method to do this is eat healthy and start adding good body strengthening routines.
  • The takeaway on Investments. Having mentioned where I will be investing part of my time this year, there are other areas that I also need investing in: character building, creativity, and productivity. Re-connecting with my dear cousin, who is like a very dear sister, reminded me that there’s always room in improving my character. We have been discussing a lot lately and it has been fruitful in seeing where I could change.

Honing my creativity is off to a good start. My dear mother-in-law gave me several yarns to turn into a summer pullover. Then my sister asked me to make a baby blanket. Of course, there’s still the book that I’m currently working on. The Writer’s Guild that I’m a part of has been good at challenging me to keep working on this project. This blog itself is also a good pilot on sharing my writing because not all my ideas turn out good.

There is nothing like being around productive people to know that I have yet to become one. My friend ACG is a good reminder. I still don’t know where she hides her extra energy but I will find her secret sooner or later. Her influence at the latter part of the previous year was momentous to my writing. One of the first books I publish will be dedicated to her.

  • The takeaway on Embracing change. The discomfort of moving just proved that being temporarily uncomfortable is not such a bad phase. We have several photos showing how humongous the renovation projects were and then of several friends helping us move. We recall the hassle, the discomfort and the sacrifices yet it doesn’t cause us grief remembering. There were many good memories attached to it, including Josef staying longer to have my Lasagna even though he mentioned having other plans. So I ask myself now if I’m too comfortable right now that I try avoiding being uncomfortable. I am encouraged allow the temporary setback in since it will steered us to a better situation.

With all these things said, I’m sure there are several of us who have made resolutions and goals this year. Aside from the resolutions, I hope you remember valuable lessons from the previous year like I did so that it gets easier moving forward.  Let’s strive to make a better year!

The heart of a love song

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Lately, I’ve  been humming a particular love song aside from the usual Christmas music. If you heard of Miley Cyrus’ Malibu you know what I mean by how it catches you with its lyrics and cords. It makes me want to learn to play a guitar and sing-along. The real catch for me is the heart of this love song. There is an untamed power in the candor of being in love. Just look at how the song began:

I never came to the beach, or stood by the ocean
I never sat by the shore, under the sun with my feet in the sand
But you brought me here
And I’m happy that you did
‘Cause now I’m as free
As birds catching the wind

This not what you might expect posted during Christmas. I prepared three or four drafts ranging from family, gifts, forgiveness, to being a recluse during Christmas for posting. They all fell on the wayside. But this topic woke me up at 4 am. Perhaps it is due to listening to the song so many times just trying to capture the music and hoping to personalize the lyrics later. Perhaps due to feeling the same way about my husband and showing how significant he is in my life.

Many of our family and friends didn’t make it to our very intimate wedding celebration to witness how much I love this man. I still remember gushing about our engagement to family, friends and co-workers. My heart flutters just thinking of him even when he is right beside me. I wanted to share the sacrifices he has done for me, the surprises he has sprung up on me, the places we discovered together, and the lessons we are both learning in the relationship.

I remember, when I was young, asking the grown-ups how they know their spouse is the one. Their answers varied but what struck me is how many said “I just knew”. I could tell you the same answer came to me. I just knew that he is the person I am willing to take on this life’s journey, to learn more from, to be open and honest with, and to be in this relationship course. I can’t help but sing the chorus of the song Malibu while writing this part of the post.

But here I am, next to you
The sky’s so blue in Malibu
Next to you in Malibu

My thoughts then wandered back to the theme of this celebration. Could we understand that Christmas is the heart of a love song God wants us to hear? He sacrificed so many things to draw us back to him. We have to see beyond the curtain of religion and overzealousness of others to fully comprehend what Christmas is all about–a gift for a real lasting relationship with him. There shouldn’t be any reasoning behind it, it’s all about God giving an ultimate sacrifice because he loves us. He really does. So amidst the busy-ness of the holiday, let us hear the strings of the love song’s melody.

We are just like the waves that flow back and forth
Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning
And you’re there to save me
And I wanna thank you with all of my heart
It’s a brand new start
A dream come true
In …

Disclaimer: Any mentioned lyrics of the song Malibu that are all in italics are written by Miley Cyrus and Oren Yoel. I claim no ownership.