"I don't merely want to survive. I want to live..."~ Society's Foundlings, Ellie Lieberman
Survival vs. living is a theme commonly found in my books, including Society's Foundlings when resources and finances are limited or Solving for X when fear rules the world. It can also be found in my upcoming books, like Be (a prequel short story can be found in The Playlist Anthology).
When we first think survival, we often think Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. In a nice, geometrically organized pyramid, it lays the foundation for the necessities in life. First and foremost are the physical needs in this structure. Food, water, rest, etc. Next are the psychological, going in order of safety, social interactions, self-esteem, and the such. The idea is you can't get to the more complex psychological levels until the physical needs are met.
There is a truth to this. My grandfather always said, "Feed them first." Whenever anyone came to the door in need, the first thing he would do is offer them food, because it's easier to come up with solutions on a full stomach. Child Development shows this, too. If a child hasn't eaten breakfast before class starts, there is more difficulty learning. When one level is achieved it is easier to move up the hierarchy.
That being said, we often forget that we need all of it. If a physical need is not met due to poverty, for example, or a safe environment is not or has not been provided, whether through abuse or war or natural disaster or what have you, as human beings we crave all aspect of the pyramid, still.
There is often the idea that people who are missing one of these levels need solely that level. Kids in poverty just need food, often forgetting they are still kids. Yes, they need food for breakfast before class, but they are also kids who see their friends at school getting bags of chips and cookies with their lunches or coloring with sparkly crayons during free time. If you donate to charities or gift drives for kids in need, yes, necessities are essential (underwear, socks, toothbrushes), but also realize they need the magic of holidays and special events, too (toys, games, candy, things that allow them to be a kid despite limiting circumstance).
When a fire burned down my mother's house when she was younger, a friend of the family made shoe boxes of toiletries. It had tooth brushes, deodorant, etc, but it also had perfume and little extras that weren't necessarily a necessity. There's a reason why there are hairstylists that spend their free time offering free services to people who are homeless.
Sometimes what is needed when a lower level isn't achieved is what Maslow considered a higher level. Often times, Maslow's pyramid is the wrong shape. Like life, it cannot be so easily organized. Often times, what is needed is not survival, but living.
Earnest Hemingway said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
When I write, I truly write. There’s not only an investment in the characters and storylines. It is pouring heart and soul. It is knocking down the barriers of the everyday, exposing and vulnerable and naked on a blank page.
It is said that if there is no tears in the writer there will be no tears in the reader. From what I know of books like Chip Davis’s Angel’s Song in The Playlist Anthology and Barbara Lieberman’s To Miss The Stars (which comes packaged with tissues, by the way), there is truth in that saying.
Each week I revisit my manuscripts to participate in the local twitter event, 1lineWed, where writers share lines from their work based on a weekly theme. This week’s theme is Chaos and in Society's Foundlings, which was published two years ago, I came across this one line, “There’s a comfort in what you’re accustomed to. Chaos becomes its own sort of peace.” It amazed me how a simple line could still stir those same feelings in me as when I first picked up the pencil to write them.
2015 was a chaotic year, if not for external reasons, then for internal. In the years following the outward became its own sort of chaos. Now, I am in a much better place in both ways.
We have terms we use in my family for PTSD moments. Those little triggers that send you back to moments your body can’t seem to forget no matter how much your mind wants to. Those responses so ingrained in the brain, your breath catches, your heart seizes, the pain from that moment mere months or years ago is just as fresh and present now as it was then. But, revisiting this honest and sometimes brutal text that I created is different.
It’s as bittersweet as the story itself. I’m better. My world is better. The characters will forever remain frozen in that moment, in those conflicts, though. I have moved on and in a way, while there is hope on that final page, it is a final page. It is a scar, that indelible reminder, but it’s the scars that let the light shine through.
Gathering dust in the depths of my mind, random thoughts dusted off and put out there for the world to see...