Under Pressure…

I have 1484 ‘friends’ on my Facebook page. Whether I know all 1484 of them personally doesn’t matter. At some point we made a mutual agreement to become acquainted. One of us sought out the other one and said ‘hello.’ The other one responded by accepting that ‘hello’ and becoming friends.

Isn’t that how life happens, how friendships are born?

I find it interesting that we view total strangers as friends. I have never actually met, face to face, with probably 1300 or more of these friends. Still, those perfect strangers are my friends. But what I—and more than likely, you—fail to realize is on the other side of the device (where you are reading this right now) is a person. For me there are 1484 people looking back. Of those 1484 people, probably less than 200 of them actually interact with me. I’m okay with that.

Why?

Well, because they are all people and they have lives and cares and worries. They have dreams and ambitions. Some are sick and in need of prayer or comforting words. Others are fine and life is being very good to them right now. But all of them are people.

A little perspective if you will. On my friends list:

There are rich folks and there are poor folks and there are those in between.

There are folks from every state in the United States.

There are folks from England, Australia, Canada, Germany, Russia and, yes, the Middle East.

There are folks who work as lawyers and nurses and teachers.

There are folks who work as bartenders and taxi drivers and in retail stores.

There are folks who work in factories and in restaurants.

There are folks who work in the business of religion and others who work in the business of politics.

There are cops and firemen.

There are single moms and single dads raising their children the best they can.

There are married couples raising their children the best they can.

There are gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

There are straight folks, too.

There are musicians and voice instructors.

There are successful writers, as well as fledgling ones with dreams of writing for a living.

There are readers who love books.

There are Baptists, Catholics, Mormons, Non-Denominationals, Methodists, Nazarenes, Atheists, Agnostics and maybe even a Satanists or two. And yes, there are Muslims, as well.

There are liberals and there are conservatives.

There are folks who like heavy metal music. Others who like rap. Still, others who like classical, and some who like country and some who like bubblegum pop. There are those who like it all.

There are sports fans and there are folks who can’t stand sports.

There are those who love movies and television.

There are those who don’t care much for either.

There are those who love The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, and those who have never seen the first episode of one or both shows.

There are those who will only drive a Chevy or a Ford.

There are high school friends on here, too.

There are whites, blacks, Asians, and Native Americans.

Why does any of this matter? Simple: all of them are people. People with hopes and dreams, and people who just want to make it home to their loved ones at the end of the day. They, like you and I, have feelings. They, like you and I, have ambitions. They, like most of us, are saddened by events where people are killed recklessly and needlessly because of hate and fear.

During this week where America celebrated its independence, at least seven people died who should still be alive today. The key word isn’t black or cop. The key word here is ‘people.’ Seven people are dead and millions more are angry and some are even enraged to the point of…hate.

Today I sit at my kitchen table having not only celebrated my nation’s independence, but also my birthday. Seven people will never see another birthday. Their families are forever changed, and many of them are mad, not just at those who killed them, but at other people as well—people who have nothing to do with the events that unfolded this week.

There are those who want revenge and those who want to take away someone else’s freedoms and those who want justice now. There are those who will lump everyone into a category because of a few people’s actions. There are those who will scream and demand change, demand our government do something about this.

Here’s the problem with that: change will never come about until we, the people, change our way of thinking and change our hearts. We, the people, are the only ones that can bring positive change. Not our governments and not our laws. The people. The same folks I have mentioned up above can make a change, but in order to do so, we have to change our hearts, we have to learn how to be compassionate again. We have to learn to love our neighbor. If we can have total strangers on a social media site that we call friends, and some of which we come to cherish and possibly even love, then why can’t we do the same to the people we come in contact with every single day of our lives?

I’m reminded of the song Under Pressure, by Queen and David Bowie. At the end they come to the conclusion that it is love that can make a difference in every person’s life. But love is so old fashioned…

And love dares you to care for

The people on the edge of the night

And love dares you to change our way of

Caring about ourselves

The way I see it is, love dares you to look in the mirror, but we don’t want to do that. We want to lay blame somewhere else. We, as a people—not as a nation, as a people—need to step back and look at ourselves, and make a change, starting with ourselves. If we don’t, I fear for myself, my children, my friends, my fellow people. Because, the way I see it is if we don’t make a change in our hearts and our mindset soon, then we will never have true freedom again. We will all be prisoners to fear and rage and hate, and no one will be safe.

This, well, this is how I see it. Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

A Change Is Upon Me

For the last seven years writing has been my life, my desire, my passion.

There have been moments of success. There have been moments of failure. There have been around four hundred rejections. There have been a little over a hundred seventy publications and I don’t know how many short listers. (Yes, I know lister is not technically a word. It is now.)

I’ve learned what I like and dislike about writing. I’ve learned about how to put stories together and to just let them breathe. I’ve learned how to edit, not necessarily my work, but others’. I’ve learned that everyone has their own tastes in things and not everyone will like what I write. I’ve learned just how tough this business is and how thick your skin has to be to survive.

I’ve touched a couple of people and probably hurt a few along the way. If you’re one of the ones I touched, then that makes me happy. If you’re one of the ones I hurt, the I’m sorry. And I mean that from the top of my heart.

Seven years.

That’s a long time to live and breathe writing, to wake up thinking about stories and to go to sleep with plots and characters on your mind.

It’s an investment of time and effort and determination and disappointments and the occasional joy.

I have had some nice things said about my work and then I’ve had some not so nice things said. A few editors have brushed me off and that’s okay. It used to bother me. Not so much now.

In those seven years things have taken a backseat from time to time. My wife. My kids. Sleep (not like I really did much of that anyway). My faith.

Yes, my faith.

(Okay, before you continue, if you wish not to hear the rest, which is partially about religion, go ahead and click the X button in the upper right hand corner. I’m not going to be preaching, but I also don’t wish to offend anyone who believes that God is a man made entity.)

I’ve always been a firm believer in Christ and what you’re about to read is, in my opinion, an intimate account of something that happened to me today. For the record, I wrote this as a letter to a couple of writers I know, two people I hold very dear to me in the writing world. I’m not going to give their names, but they know who they are. Both of them have recently gone through something similar and the need to share it with them bordered on urgency.

My letter reads (for the most part):

Today I was broken. Broken.

My heart hasn’t been in the right place for a long time.

Today, amid things going on in my life, God reminded me of a message I heard recently. A message about Judas, about how he betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins. The preacher man went on to say that there were some in that congregation that are like Judas, who will or have betrayed Jesus.

I sat in my office this morning, frustrated, sad, very much down. There was a hole as big as your first in the center of my chest. I sat to write a letter—it’s what I do when I need to work things out. In the middle of this letter I recalled the message.

Tears formed in my eyes.

I left my desk and started down the stairwell to see a friend of mine.

More tears came.

I reached the door to his floor and couldn’t go through.

More tears poured down my face.

I made it to his office and he wasn’t in there. I stayed there until he came back.

I broke down. I broke down and cried and we talked and I realized that my entire life I had believed in Jesus, prayed to him, but I had NEVER given him everything. We held hands and prayed and I cried and he cried and I cried some more.

When we were done, that hole was gone and I felt refreshed, though exhausted. I felt the burdens were lifted. They were still there, but I wasn’t carrying them by myself.

I just wanted you to know that I’ve given everything to God. Everything. A renewal of faith if you want to say. Me, personally, I think it was more of finally letting go and giving God control.

Thanks for listening.

A.J.

Does this mean I’m no longer going to write? No. Does it mean I change the way I write? No. Does it mean I might change certain things within my writing? Absolutely.

Is this the end of Type AJ Negative? I hope not, but I have a strong feeling I’m going to lose some followers. I’ll probably lose some friends as well, which is sad to say.

I still plan on interviewing people who wish to be interviewed. If you’re one of them, drop me a line at theunderwriter36@gmail.com. If you just want to talk, drop me a line as well. If you want to interview me, please do. I’m an open book.

I’m going to be honest here: I don’t know what this means for my writing career. I’ve got a lot of praying to do and after that, I have a lot of open eared listening to do. Not to friends or family, but to God.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you and I hope you come back. I’ve always thought I was a gracious writer, an accessible writer. That’s not going to change and if I’ve endeared you to my work or me over the last few years, don’t go away. My heart is in the right place. My soul is in the right place.

I’ve always been upfront with my readers. That’s not going to change.

I hope you stick around as I pursue a new path; one that I hope isn’t so splintered.

As I told my friend, Petra, earlier today: Life is a work in progress. It’s a manuscript that will never ever be perfect, but we have an editor that looks out for us, that helps us to polish our manuscript for the world to see.

Until we meet again, my friends…