Monday, February 23, 2015

In Defense of Hope



At my day job, I represent the Department of Family and Protective Services in cases involving abused and neglected children. Lately, my job has been harder than usual.

We see terrible cases, terrible facts, facts where it’s almost impossible to believe that one human being could treat another that way, never mind an adult treating a vulnerable child they should be protecting in that way. And lately, the after-effects of that severe abuse has been in-your-face apparent in my cases. 

It’s heartbreaking.

It makes it hard to go on, to keep fighting and trying the cases, when by the time I get to fight for these kids, the damage is already done. 

And sometimes that damage seems irreparable.

Don’t misunderstand me. 

We slap on the bandages, and the tourniquets. We have hospitals for the malnutrition and broken bones. We try counseling, and residential treatment centers, medications, and group therapy for the psychological wounds. We find new, loving families for these children who have never experienced that simple right.

But sometimes, (more often than I can bear lately) it seems that no matter what we do, no matter how much plaster we slap on the cracks of the psyche, we can’t heal these kids. We can’t shore up the injuries they’ve already experienced. We run out of options, we run out of ideas, and so we just keep plastering over the cracks as they appear—suicide attempts=a stint in the state hospital, self harm = medication tweaks and more counseling, perpetrating the abuse they experienced against other kids in the new home = removal and counseling for everyone ad nauseum.

But these children deserve the effort, no matter how hopeless it seems. 

And sometimes, against all odds, they eventually heal. They find a way to live fully, to be happy, to recognize the wrongs that were done and somehow move beyond. 

That’s why I keep fighting beyond what I think I can bear, bucket of plaster and trowel in hand.

So how does this relate to writing? 

It has to, right? 

After all, this is a writing blog.


It’s simple. 

Sometimes, I feel like my stories are children. 

And sometimes, I feel like I’ve performed a disservice in writing those stories, that they’re flawed and riddled with cracks. The black moment is misplaced, the characters aren’t fully rounded, the writing is simple crap. 

Sometimes, I’m right, and I want to give up on the difficult stories, to shove them into that desk drawer we all have for hiding things we don’t want to deal with because they’re to hard to fix.

But these are my stories. They are an expression of the unique way I see the world, and because of that, they matter.  Your stories matter just as much. And really, stories are easier to fix than most things in life. We have all the tools. We have communities of wonderful writers willing to brainstorm, and spitball and beta read and help in every way they can. 

So I challenge you to drag out the story you’ve stashed. Pull out your mortar and your trowel and start fixing the cracks. Choose hope that you can make that story shine and get to work.

Your story deserves it.

17 comments:

  1. You do important work, my friend. Those kids need you, and they're lucky to have you.

    You also write good words, and I'm lucky to have you as a writing partner. Drew and Nina, and Robyn and Mac miss you, though...

    ~Margaret

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    1. Thanks Margaret. I'm just as lucky to have you as my writing partner--you have the patience of a saint some days. <3

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  2. Choose hope. I kinda needed to read that this morning. Thanks...

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    1. I'm so glad. I was really unsure about posting this--it just feels so visceral and personal. So thank you for commenting and letting me know you needed this too.

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  3. I'm working on one of those stashed mss right now. Really needed to read this.

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    1. Good for you!! I hope its going well, and when you hit those spots where it doesn't, just keep plastering. You'll get there.

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  4. Great post. Love the connection. I've heard people cal WIPs "book babies." Your post nailed it.

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  5. Beautiful and from the heart. Great comparison.

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    1. Thanks so much Mary. I appreciate your kind words.

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  6. Fixing stories and souls, one word and one case at a time. Great post! Keep up the wonderful work you do, both in court and on the page. The world needs more zombie apocalyptic fairy tales xo
    In gratitude,
    Marissa

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    1. :-) Thank you for the kind words Marissa. And I'll see what I can do about the zombie apocalyptic fairy tales.

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  7. Good luck with ALL of your babies! Sounds like they must keep you busy!

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    1. Thanks very much Pip. I do manage to stay busy most days. But I'm guessing I'm not unique in that. ;-)

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  8. (just catching up).........Good stuff, Merissa. I hear enough without being a counselor. My main female character in my 2nd novel does exactly what you do. I can't help feel for that character as if she were real, a friend. And do we give up on friends? Not if we are a true one. It's not just the story that needs fixing, but the characters we care about.

    Great topic too! ;)

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    1. Thanks Janice--
      You're absolutely right. Some characters just grab hold and never quite let go of you, don't they?

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  9. Merissa, wow.

    Thank you, thank you for what you do. We writers are such sensitive souls. I know how hard it must be for you. Just reading your words, hearing their stories, breaks my heart. I have two manuscripts, one a children's book, the other a women's fiction/chic lit, in dry-storage and am looking forward to revisiting both.

    Thank you for your beautiful post, I love having the human interest woven in,

    ~ Olivia J. Herrell

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