What Do You Want?

Quite a question, isn’t it?

When was the last time somebody asked you, “What do you want?” I’m not talking about somebody at a restaurant either.

Seriously. Think about it. Can you remember when this wasn’t such a huge question? Can you remember being able to answer it pretty quickly? I think about the answers I used to give to this question, when I asked it of myself. Here are some of them, in no particular order.

1. I want ice cream.
2. I want to kiss a girl.
3. I want a regular family.
4. I want a Big Gulp.
5. I want to have friends.
6. I want something like a normal life.
7. I want my own room.

I could come up with these answers within a second of being asked, some years ago.

Today, I ask myself this question and either its meaning has changed or I’m more of a grownup than I thought. Because now this question is really, “What keeps you up at night? What makes you want to get up in the morning? What excites you? What are you doing all of this for?”

I don’t want a day job where I go into a desk or office every day and contribute to the organization’s goals and mission. But I DO want what that kind of job can do for my family and me. I don’t want a job where I have to manage multiple projects and my responsibilities are significant enough to merit a big salary.

But I absolutely want the peace of mind that a salary like this can bring. And I want that enough that I’m happy and even excited to pursue a career that enables me to manage projects, have high-stakes responsibilities, and be really dang good at what I do.

So I don’t want a really successful day-job career; I want what that career provides for my family and I want the peace of mind that it brings. I want the calm that comes with knowing that my family is in a good place and we are on track with the goals that we have.

This is what keeps me up at night. But it’s ALSO what makes it hard to get up in the morning sometimes, because when I really get to the heart of what excites me- what I’m passionate about- it’s simpler than all of this.

What do I want?

I want to change the world. What does that mean to me? Here, let me tell you:

I want to make the world a better place, a kinder place, a place of increased comfort and happiness and safety for as many people as possible. If my day job does that, I’m excited to get up in the morning and get to it. If my day job is just about money, I feel that in my soul.

I want to brings smiles to people’s faces. I want to move people to emotions that lift and transport them. I want to do this by helping. By loving. By serving. And by writing. I want to write stories that grab people and give them the chance to be with someone who’s trying hard, fighting hard– and by digging deep– is becoming a hero.

I’m vain. I crave validation. I want to get fame and profit from my stories. But at the heart of that desire for fame and profit is the fact that I know that said fame and profit will enable me and my family to do good in this world. One of my fondest dreams is to be able to foster kids. Lots of them. We can’t do that right now; we don’t have the financial ability to do so.

I want the validation for my stories because it can lead to success with my writing– and I just wrote what I want to do with that success. In my deepest heart, my fondest desire for my life’s work (beyond my spiritual journey and destiny) is to make the world a better place.

As a forty-year old husband and father of six, the question of what I want is far different than it used to be. But I need to think about it, really chew on it and focus on the answer. Not just because time’s a-wasting. Because at my stage in life, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the day to day, the grind, the race. And too often, that day to day leaves a person feeling empty.

But with the right vision for why I do what I do, even the grind can have value. Even the humdrum can bring fulfillment.

So now it’s on you. What do YOU want? What gets you excited? What gets you out of bed in the morning, beyond just your basic responsibilities?

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PitchWars, WriteOnCon, and Frustration

I’m involved in PitchWars this year. Here is what it is:

http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitch-wars/

I even posted a link to my bio here:

http://dcmorin.blogspot.com/2014/08/2014-pitchwars-contestant-hop-now-its.html

I’m hoping it will help me jumpstart back into writing regularly. Maybe it will just drive me mad.

I’m also taking part in an online writing conference called WriteOnCon. I hope to use it to learn better about pitching and querying. Here is that: http://writeoncon.com/

And I’m a little frustrated and kind of near my wits’ end. I had a nice email today from the very kind and competent agent who had 50 pages of my work. Here’s what that agent said:

Dear Jared,

Thank you for the chance to consider this work. While I think the subject matter is fascinating — and I’m very impressed by your ability to write so well about your own experiences — I’m afraid I’m not sure how I would place this in the market as a novel. I’m afraid that, for me, the narration felt a little too matter-of-fact and I wasn’t drawn in enough by the narrative. I’m sure it’s incredibly difficult to rework your own life story into a novel, and I think this still read a little too much like an adult memoir, not a YA novel. You’ve set yourself a challenging and valuable task, but I’m just not confident I’d be able to place this in today’s very difficult YA market.
Have you thought about writing this book as a piece of nonfiction? I wonder if it might not be more marketable as a memoir aimed at teen readers, about your life and overcoming the challenges of your childhood, than as a novel. There is some resurgence in the YA memoir market right now.

 

The problem: I’ve heard this before. I thought I’d fixed it. So I’m left wondering if I really do know what I’m doing.

So it’s not a YA novel. It’s an adult contemporary novel with a young protagonist. Can that even sell?

Doubtful.

So do I rewrite again, this time trying to add more narrative oomph, mostly via voice I believe– or do I give up on this and just stick to the non-fiction side of it?

I love this story. So much of me in it, but I took enough liberties that it’s also a dang good story. I love the end. Love it. Love the middle. Love the arc. I think the beginning still needs work.

Anyway, I guess I need to sleep on this, try to figure out what’s next. I don’t think there’s going to be an agent out there willing to give this a go, considering I’ve queried nearly 50 and had one nibble. And that nibble has passed now.

Those typical thoughts are back, too, by the way. Am I doing all of this for no good reason? All this emotional turmoil, all this angst, all this work, all this stress, all this time and in some cases money.

Is it even worth it? Am I going to succeed or not?

I don’t even have an 8-ball to answer that question.

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The Year of Job

Sometimes I wonder what we mean when we encourage someone going through tough times to “stay strong.” Or what do we mean when we feel like we have to be strong to help someone get through a trying time?

Do we mean that the person or people going through the trying time should try to keep quiet because we don’t want to be discomfitted by the real difficulty they’re going through? By “strong,” do we mean silent? Uncomplaining?

Maybe we mean ‘keep the faith.’ But if we mean keep the faith when we say “stay strong,” are we implying that we think the trial being experienced is one that could make you doubt your faith? Or that we think the sufferer’s faith is weak and we hope this doesn’t knock it down a lot? Are we telling the sufferer of the trial that we don’t want them to leave the community of faith over this?

I really don’t know what is meant by this phrase.

I ask this because this year has been one where I’ve been told, by others and myself, to “stay strong.” Mostly by myself.

What do I mean when I tell myself to be strong? The same thing as above? Do I want myself to keep quiet, not complain, be on my knees in prayer– not asking of course for relief from the trial but for a lesson I can learn from it (sorry, trying not to roll my eyes at that blathering platitude right now)– or just keep on keeping on and push through until it passes.

Because this will all be for my good.

I’m not rolling my eyes at that, because I do know that’s true. I don’t feel it right now, but that’s okay.

It’s hard to know when it’s okay to open up and lay out how damaged and broken we are by the events of life. We (read that as “I”) don’t want to make people think that we’re doubting our faith; we don’t want people to feel beholden or guilted into offering sympathy and the like; we don’t want to come across as needy.

I don’t want to do any of that. I don’t want to be needy. I don’t want to guilt anyone into feeling sympathy. I don’t want anyone to manipulate anybody into feeling like “Oh, poor Jared. Poor Garretts. Those poor people.”

I don’t need things to change; I don’t need pitying looks; I don’t need a response even. I simply have some things to say, and some damage to get out. Mainly because I think I need the emotional catharsis of the saying of these things.

This year started with a singular, extraordinary miracle. It was a miracle that turned my faith in revelation and the existence of God and the love of my Savior into certainty.

It was also a miracle that had a lot of emotional weight to it. A lot of heart shredding attached to a lost pregnancy and malignant carcinoma and the major surgery needed to remove the tumor and the kidney it was attached to.

Of note: that baby was due in July, most likely.

I spent probably too much time thinking about that last month.

So that’s how 2014 started for us. A pregnancy that was an act of faith, the result being a malignant tumor miraculously found. And a lost pregnancy.

It hurt. And my wife showed incredible might and grace through it. And it was hard.

I knew in my head and on a spiritual level that she would be okay. But my emotional state was raw and slashed. Cancer and I are not on speaking terms– not after all that it has taken from me. Or, I might say that all I have to say to cancer is endless angry swearing.

After the surgery, we waited three months and had a cancer screening. Given cancer’s abominable record with my family, my emotional state (again, remembering that I knew on a spiritual level that all would be well) was gibbering panic as we approached this next screening.

The results came back: she was clear. The panic subsided. For the meantime.

You see, it turns out that my default emotional state is fear of things that I have no control over taking away the blessings and happiness that I have somehow ended up with. I love and am daily grateful that my wife chose, and chooses every day, to work with me to make an amazing relationship. We have phenomenal kids. I love my life. I’m living my greatest dream.

I worry that I’m going to lose it somehow. I think this is probably a normal worry.

But I have to white-knuckle through this stuff. I don’t want to make things harder for my wife– she shouldn’t have to take care of me during times that are hard on her. Now, we did talk about the large amount of money that was involved in her care- and I don’t want her to feel responsible for that. The fact is that medical care costs money. It would cost even more money to try to fight back cancer that had taken deeper hold of her internal organs, so I’ll take it.

So the year went on and we tried to recover from the financial slamming. Some emotional healing happened, although as July rolled around, and I saw it coming, my heart turned to the baby I thought we would be holding. I kept quiet. And I tried to keep quiet and keep it together when people would ask me, totally unknowing, if we were going to try to have another kid. Almost as if to replace the one we lost.

Then I was laid off in mid-July. It came without warning. We have to use COBRA, due to the amount of money we have invested into our current plan, at least through the end of November. This costs a fortune. And I’m frantically looking for a full time position somewhere that will give us benefits quickly– because COBRA for my family costs a fortune. And nothing on the Healthcare Exchange is cheap enough to make up for the amount of cash we ostensibly save by keeping our current coverage through COBRA.

And my right foot is acting up again and I’m limping everywhere I go now.

Then my final grandmother passed away almost two weeks ago. It was expected to be soonish, and I know she’s in a better place but having this come on top of everything else makes me feel a little Job-like. Not to mention I had my first spider bite of my life about two months ago and it took over a month to heal and I kept thinking about flesh-eating bacteria. So sores.

Next, is my roof going to fall in? Nope, but we did have a little bit of flooding earlier. And since I’m venting now, I don’t get why my books aren’t getting any traction with agents or publishing houses. I have studied the craft and have put a lot of work into what I send out. I know it’s good. Not perfect- but in at least one case, pretty dang great.

This year has been tough. And I need to get through it. And I will. And I sometimes think I’m hearing that whisper heard in Carthage Jail. “know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? Therefore, hold on thy way… Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.”

But sometimes I need to be a weak complainer. Thanks for listening.

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A Poll About Relationships

Look over there >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I have put up a poll about what men need most in a relationship. The objective for me is to find out what people, both men and women, believe about this question.

I’m really not sure what I believe about this question, honestly.

Weigh in! If you have comments, make them on this post.

This will be much more effective if you share this post and poll with everyone you know. Help a brother out?

Thanks!

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Our Default Mode Is Love

There’s a lot being said about John Dehlin and Kate Kelly in Mormon circles these days. You know who these two are: John is the runner of the Mormon Stories podcast and Kate Kelly is the founder of the Ordain Women movement.

People have opinions on what John and Kate are doing. I will say that both of these people have done me a service: they, and the people associated with them, have helped me gain greater empathy, maybe even some charity, for my brothers and sisters. I’m a straight guy in the LDS church. Sure, I’m a convert, but I cut my long hair a while ago. But my experience in the LDS church and Mormon culture has been pretty straightforward, and having that experience disrupted by these folks has been of personal and spiritual value.

I think that is the case for many.

Do I agree with every thing that these two do in their movements? Nope. Do I agree with all of their methods? Nope. That’s not the issue here.

The issue here is that things have come to a head for John and Kate. They’ve both received letters inviting them to join in a council wherein their membership in the church will be discussed. Following that, Kate has in fact been excommunicated and she now intends to appeal that action.

I’m not going to talk about how disciplinary councils function in the LDS church and I’m not going to defend either the church or Kelly and Dehlin. I don’t have the entire story—in fact, I think it’s safe to say that very few people have the entire story.

What needs addressing is how the members of the church are reacting. Particularly my friends on Facebook and other social networks. You might have seen (or said) something similar to what I’ve been seeing. I quote:

“If they don’t like the church, fine. Good riddance.”

“They obviously don’t have a testimony, so why are they even here?”

“They need to find a different church that they actually believe in.”

“I’m glad they’re getting excommunicated.”

I brought this up in my Elders Quorum two weeks ago (disclosure: I’ve just been called to be the EQ pres—for the 2nd time) during a lesson. The teacher had prepared a lesson, I believe through great inspiration, on charity. I knew that Peter, our teacher, had been motivated by what’s been happening with Dehlin and Kelly, and many in the group were kind of talking around the issue. I took a moment to see if the Spirit approved and, feeling no reason not to, I decided it was time to say what has been on my mind about this.

Here’s what I said:

“You’ve heard about what’s going on with John Dehlin and Kate Kelly. Approve or disapprove of their questions and/or methods, there is a lot of stuff being said about their membership. Many are saying the church is better off without them. Many are saying they’re happy these two might be facing excommunication. Many are saying good riddance.”

I took a moment and caught some eyes, wanting to make sure I had their attention. This was important.

“No.”

I waited a beat.

“No, no, no. That’s not the spirit of Christ. That’s not the spirit of peace and love. The table of Christ always—always—has a place for them, should they choose to be there. It’s not now, nor will it ever be, our place to judge these two people. That’s Christ’s place and we will trust Him to do that in His own time and place.”

“Our place is to love. Always love. Whether we disagree, agree, are uncomfortable, have our own doubts, or whatever. We must love. That’s our duty. Because Christ said it was one of the greatest commandments, love is our default mode.”

Some silence greeted this. Then a brother said, simply, “Amen.”

We don’t have the whole story. Even if we know these two personally, we don’t really have the whole story. Who knows where lies and truth end and begin here? Not me. I have my suspicions, but I choose to behave like a mature adult and stand ready to get more information as it becomes available.

What I know and will repeat always is the certainty that contention and treating people as if the kingdom of God were some kind of exclusive club, or a popular clique, is not the way of Christ. We don’t tell people His kingdom has no place for them. We open our arms to all.

Or at least we should.

Our default mode, like His, should always be love.

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