July 24, 2010
My friend Gabrielle Bouliane was born this day 44 years ago; she was less than two years older than me. She died this past January.
Having gone to the hospital to see someone about back pain, Gabe was diagnosed with late-stage cancer of the gallbladder. This was just last year. She was told that the odds of someone surviving another five years after such a diagnosis tended to be roughly five out of a hundred, if I recall correctly.
Quite frankly, I thought she had a pretty good shot at being in that five percent. She was otherwise healthy, surrounded by a strong network of love and support, and had all the usual things that people say help in these situations: reasons to live, strong will, etc.
Gabe kept in touch with her many friends via Facebook and CaringBridge -- an example of the good use that the social networks can be put to. We all were able to stay connected with her; share photos and memories and shout-outs and well-wishes; offer support when she was feeling down. Coordinate visits. Even send her gifts by way of her Amazon.com wish list.
I phoned her on January 29th to see how she was doing. Out of respect for her situation, I did not want to be one of her hundreds of friends to inundate her with calls, so I had waited until I thought the dust had reasonably settled. When I called, a good friend of hers answered the phone; Gabe was not doing well, but she'd let her know that I called. A few hours later, Missy phoned me to let me know that Gabe had died shortly after my call.
Gabrielle and I knew each other since my high school days; she and I were writers for a weekly student news magazine at the University of Buffalo. The friends I made during my time at Generation have had a lasting impact on my life. They taught me ways of seeing and thinking that influence me to this day. Gabe, like all of them, was fiercely intelligent and expressive; kind and thoughtful.
We encountered each other at several different stages of our unfolding lives. Buffalo. Boston. Buffalo again. Seattle. She became a nationally known slam poet, and I was emceeing a monthly open-mic poetry night in a suburb of Seattle when someone said I should see about having her as a featured performer. "Funny. I used to know somebody with that name. But her bio here says she's a red-head. The Gabe I knew had brown hair...." Yeah. It was her.
She was driving a Rambler Classic at the time, which she loved. She had changed her appearance and had gone through marriage and divorce and a few career changes and had a new kind of fire and vitality that I hadn't recalled from our previous lives... but she was still Gabe.
A couple of months before she died, Gabe performed her last public appearance on the slam poetry scene. I hope you'll take a few moments out of your day to listen to what she had to say:
For all that I knew Gabe on and off over the years, I never expected to be hit as hard as I was by her death. Once she got and shared the news, it brought us all together. And, I think, it made her passing that much harder.
I am taking Gabe's advice. I'm doing what I can to make my life better today. I'm stepping with more purpose. I'm fixing what needs fixing, holding onto what's worth keeping, and putting to rest that which can not (or should not) be mended.
And, what about you, my friends? Are you living the life you want to live? If not... what are you waiting for?
Gabe, I miss you terribly, and will always cherish your memory. Happy Birthday.
October 09, 2001
I'm having some difficulty advancing the many projects I'm working on these days. The problem is, they all demand a lot of time and attention, and I don't seem to have that much time or, quite frankly, that much attention.
What projects? There's finishing the novel (still tentatively entitled The Do Over, but that's likely to change), polishing several short stories that I want to send out, completing work on a new 10-foot-wide bookcase I've started building in my den, preparing the house for an upcoming house party, fixing up my car (needs a tune up and some maintenance work)... oh, and finding a new income stream with which to pay the mortgage.
That last one is a particularly tricky one. I'd assumed that once I left my place of employ, this could potentially mean more time for writing. Instead, it has had the net effect of *reducing* the amount of time I have to write. I'm not sure how that happens.
I still manage to write one new scene for the novel per week, but work on short stories has ground to a halt -- with the exception of getting one story sent out as a submission -- and the novel is not really any closer to being ready to send out to agents now than it was a month ago. October was originally when I'd hoped to send it out.
All I need to do, I have been reminded, it set aside time in my schedule each day to write. Set aside one hour. Everybody has an hour in their day... right?
Somehow, it's not working out that way.
I was able to be very productive at Clarion West because I'd managed to put pretty much my entire life on hold for four of those six weeks. Now, I can't get away with that.
Or... can I?
What if I took every other month and just disappeared to write? Hmmmm.
What are *your* thoughts? Any suggestions?
June 15, 2001
Tomorrow is my last day at work before taking off for Clarion West. I'm not ready.
"Oh, sure," you say. "Not ready to leave work. Yeah right." That's not quite what I mean.
I haven't read through all of the stuff that came in the info pack for Clarion West. I haven't packed. I've just started making a list of things to bring, for crying out loud.
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever."
I haven't had a chance to read samples of writing by each of my instructors yet.
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever."
I'm sleep deprived.
Okay. Yes, I'm pressed for time as far as preparing for Clarion goes. But, that's only part of what's really bothering me. The fact is, I'm not ready to leave work yet... not just because I am leaving behind projects unfinished (I am), but because I just discovered today that I have made an error in how I've been working with one of my fellows at the office. I've been treating this person terribly, in fact.
This is a major failing. Projects can be set back on track. Relationships (working, personal, or otherwise) are harder.
I think the error I've made is recoverable. But, I'm crushed that I could make this kind of mistake and I won't be able to fix it until, at best, after I return. *This* is the kind of thing I hate to leave "undone".
I've been so rude, and I won't be able to do anything about it.
At the same time, one of my other co-workers very kindly gave me a "come back soon" gift that was, well, very touching. Appropriate. Actually, it's touching because it's so inappropriate. It's one of those stress things that you squeeze, in the shape of a cow. Only, when you squeeze it... well, let's just say I haven't seen something this crude since I accidentally watched part of an Adam Sandler movie. You squeeze it, and a big brown bubble forms....
Nevermind. It's disgusting. It's hilarious. And, very touching. And, the effort this person made to reach out to me came right on the heels of realizing what a heel I've been to this other person.
I have a lot of writing to do. A ton of reading to do. I still owe my Grandparents a big fat phone call (by way of thanks for something they mailed me a couple of weeks ago). I never talk to friends anymore. I'm terrible about replying to e-mail. I'm sleep deprived. I'm about to take a leave from my job when there are so many projects left dangling... and, well, that matter of how I've been treating that co-worker. My e-mail and web servers have become unstable again and I am juggling getting them onto new machines. I stand at the threshold of an intense six-week writing program.
This, it seems to me, is where things start to get interesting.
May 29, 2001
Yeah, it's been a little while since I've written... partly because I've been so busy (readying for the public reading of my novel excerpt last week, trying to get a handle on some projects at work that have started to slip, trying to pull things together at home and work before my big six weeks away, etc.), and partly because I've been so wired.
Some would say I've been suffering from a bad attitude. The truth is, I've been kinda enjoying it. So, neener neener.
But, all that said, as busy as things can get (and have gotten), and as troublesome as some situations can appear to be (and are), sometimes ambiguity and time to think can be even worse.
Sometimes families only pull together when there's a tragedy. Sometimes, people only lend a hand when there's trouble. Then again, some people show their strongest support when there's nothing you really need help with.
When you're in need, there's nothing better than a friend who helps you out. When you're in fine shape, friends make the time even more enjoyable. It's sorta funny how, often, our friends fall into one camp or another (the fair-weather and the friend-in-need categories), and only a few manage to fall into both. I don't think that's a bad thing. But, it certainly is interesting.
I'm glad to have heard from a friend of mine tonight I haven't spoken to in over a year. And, my thoughts are going out to another friend who is dealing with ambiguity.
Here's to friends. I can only hope to be a better friend to you as I move forward through this life, learning what I can.
May 07, 2001
Wow. I've got lots to do. Naturally, there's the old work thang going on. There's working on the novel (I'll post an update shortly). We're wrapping up the third and final quarter (the third quarter makes a whole year? Yes.) of the Advanced Commercial Fiction writing class. This involves preparing our entries for an anthology and for the reading that will accompany its publication. There's getting ready for Clarion West, which includes a great deal of homework (I have about four books left to read in the six weeks remaining). Then there's beginning the search for a *new* job (you knew that was coming, didn't you?)... or at least the search for a new income stream. I need to do some marketing work for my parents' business, and I've been very delinquent thus far on that project. Cornell Class of '90 website stuff, likewise.
And so on, and so on. With all of these "DO ME NOW!" tasks on my Things To Do list, I've been even more negligent than usual on keeping in touch with people. Grace announced three months ago that she's earned her MA in Ed. I still haven't e-mailed or phoned to congratulate her. Monifa is changing her job situation. Radically. Have I gotten back to her about her resume? No. Have I returned her phone calls? No. Don't I still like her? Of course I do. I'm just lame.
Scneibs? Sorry, babe. It's me, not you. Dave and Melissa's new baby? We bought the gift, and still haven't sent it out. Dr. Judith Ricca! Spoke to her for the first time in fifteen years, and she sent me some info I'd asked for. Have I replied? No. :-(
My priorities are whacked and I know it. I'm not taking care of the wonderful people in my life. But, what do I do? What do I give up in order to spend the time on the people and things I really should?
Clearly, I'm going to have to give up my job.
January 02, 2001
I've heard it said that if you keep saying you want to do something, but you never get around to doing it, then what you have are "impotent goals." If you want to lose weight, for example, but you just can't seem to go to the gym or watch your diet or whatever your chosen method of weight loss might be, then perhaps you don't desire that weight loss as much as you thought when you made your little resolution. Your wishes are wishy-washy.
In the face of impotent goals, you can try to change your approach (maybe you find exercise more enjoyable than dieting, or visa versa) and see if the new path is more copasetic (sp?) with your intentions. OR, you can just flat out change your goals.
I discovered a couple years ago that while I wanted certain projects to be completed (like say, to get laughter.org up and running), I was not particularly well suited to be the person to actually finish the job. So, I could either move on and skip those goals, or I could pursue another approach. I decided to find someone else who is/would be more motivated to accomplish the task than I am, and pay that person. Seemed reasonable.
Alas, it has become obvious that the task wasn't compelling enough for other folks, either. So, we are left with the possibility that either I need to find someone *else* who would find the project compelling, or perhaps these projects (like laughter.org) simply aren't worthwhile enough to pursue.
Sometimes the toughest decision is to let go of your illusions (like the idea that you will EVER fit into your college clothes again, or the idea that your band will ever hit the big time). Then again... sometimes, it's just a matter of finding the right approach. I have a plan for how I'm going to pursue laughter.org. I'll try one last time to motivate the current webmaster. If that doesn't work, I'll try to enlist one more person's help. If *that* doesn't get this project moving, then it's time to cut that baby loose. There are too many other worthwhile goals to pursue.
Copyright (c)1998 - 2010 by Allan Rousselle. All rights reserved, all wrongs reversed, all reservations righted, all right, already.
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