The Consolations of Love

I’m blessed, I really am.

Surprised? Not expecting such mawkish sentiment on a site usually devoted to gloom-laden navel-gazing and bitter self-recrimination. You’re wary, suspicious of some kind of a misdirection or trick.

eye-cliff.jpgI assure you, I’m quite serious. Too often this blog has dwelt on the darker aspects of my character, my pride and envy placed front and center for all to see. Which has provided plenty of ammunition for people with a bone to pick–when it comes to showing my warts, I’m not shy.

But now I’d like to turn the tables. No more grousing (for the moment) about the glacial pace of my career, rants on the sorry state of the publishing industry and the useless bastards who—

Instead of going on and on about the indignities I’ve endured, I want to write about how I’ve managed to survive. Persevered through twenty+ years of putting pen to paper. Spasms of tantalizing promise and then (usually) crushing disappointment. Fifteen hundred rejection slips (minimum), at least a dozen phone calls from editors begging off. Two decades of waiting for my BIG BREAK. Waiting and waiting…

I couldn’t have managed without her.eye-sher.jpg

My wife Sherron is stalwart and courageous and true. Kind-hearted but nobody’s fool. Generous and imbued with genuine humility. Tough, strong…but never, ever mean. Sher is simply not capable of deliberate cruelty. One of the good guys. My reason to believe.

How many of you can say that you married your best friend, the finest, smartest, funniest, most creative and inspiring human being you’ve ever met? How many of you claim love at first sight?

Blessed.

It amazes me that we retain so such passion for each other…although now, perhaps, it is a different, more subtle and seductive kind of desire, deeper and so intimate I cannot speak of it without risking an indiscretion.

I am reminded of the woman I heard interviewed on the radio. Married for over fifty years and she admitted, with a little giggle, that even after all that time the sound of her husband coming up the front steps still gave her a little jolt of pleasure and excitement. Isn’t that lovely?

I have a hunch Sherron and I will be like that. We just celebrated our 17th anniversary. Seventeen years plus another six years dating and living together before that. Over half our lives together. So we don’t really make big deals about anniversaries and on several occasions have spent our special day apart, in different time zones. We’re at one mind on this: anniversaries, feh! Hallmark moments. Every day together is special—why discriminate?

Every day special, yes. And every day fun and new and exciting and filled with laughter. God, we laugh a lot. And we talk and we talk and we consult with each other and throw out ideas and cross-pollinate…

She reminds me that making art is a form of play.

Not to take things so seriously.

Get out of the house, go for a long walk, be sure to talk to people, re-connect, don’t stay cooped inside all day.

Try new things, don’t be afraid to fail and look foolish.

Sherron was the one who convinced me to give this whole blogging thing a go. I was pissing and moaning about how I couldn’t get my fiction to readers because the &%#@! editors and agents weren’t cooperating and (perhaps sick of hearing this tired refrain for the umpteenth time) she piped up: “So bypass them.” The more she talked about how blogging gave me complete editorial control and access to, potentially, millions of readers, the more the notion intrigued me.

diy1.jpg

Sherron found me WordPress and worked on the initial template with me. Showed me how I could import images to spruce up the text, create links, etc. etc. She’s my tech support, visual consultant and co-editor, all rolled into one.

She’s not a whiner (like me), she’s a doer. If she doesn’t know how to accomplish something, she has the guts to learn on the fly, improvising as she goes along. Completely fearless in that respect. Watching her operate when she’s in that mode is a breathtaking thing to behold. Turn her loose on something and she is a whirlwind of creative activity.

She has the unenviable task of being my first reader and editor. Sherron’s become very adept at critical reading, quick to spot typos, continuity problems, lack of clarity. I grumble when she points out a mistake but, invariably, she’s right and I make the change. She knows me well enough, my aesthetics, to comprehend what I’m trying to do when I tackle a story or poem or novel. When I fall short, she tells me in no uncertain terms. She’s absolutely fantastic at brain-storming and we’ve solved numerous plot problems and lapses in characterization by batting ideas back and forth.

Okay, it’s clear, she’s absolutely invaluable, the best thing that ever happened to me…but what about her? What did she get out of the deal? A neurotic, self-absorbed under-achiever with a nasty persecution complex. Sheesh. Talk about drawing the low card…

Well…we do all right. We manage, don’t we, sweetie? And along the way we’ve collaborated on a lot of projects, including plays and, oh yeah, a couple of big, smart, handsome sons. They’re something, aren’t they? Our oldest only about a half inch shorter than me and his bro closing the gap fast. Must be something they’re putting in the milk…

But they’re good lads, not bully-boys. Clever brutes too, always reading or writing and they’ve both done cool movies, you can check out their claymation shorts on YouTube, Twilight Kitten and Ride Through Mount Terror (and do leave a comment, they’d like that).

eye-liam.jpgeye-sam.jpg

Sherron and my sons are my main support system and centre of gravity; they keep me from flying off in all directions. Without them I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I have. No way. Because of them I can’t entertain the notion of giving up. They sustain me, their belief in me so absolute and unshakeable that it shames me to even consider the thought.

Mantra

Because I love her
and because I am an article of her faith
I will not betray her
today

Because she is good and kind
and I cannot bear the notion of hurting her
I will not betray her
today

Because her soul has never known darkness
and she does not wish to be acquainted with horror
I will not betray her
today

Because of her eyes and that smile
insisting all futures are bright
I will not betray her
today

Copyright, 2007 Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)

My family gives me the courage to explore the farthest places, knowing that I’ll always be able to return to them once my arduous journey is over. For solace and, if necessary, for healing. I draw strength from that circle of love; their life force never fails to restore me.

We are a loving bunch, very demonstrative, cuddly. I like that. Kisses make some of the pain go away. It may not be scientifically verifiable but it’s true.

We find it difficult to live within our means and would spend our last dollar on a book. We dream great, big dreams and aspire to lives of purpose and significance.

And if we fall short, if things don’t quite pan out as we’d hoped and expected, well, we’ll still somehow find it within ourselves to forge on. As long as we have each other, we can absorb any rebuff, any disappointment. If all else fails, we start over again from scratch, right, guys?

Don’t ever count us out.

Love moves mountains. It empowers us to achieve remarkable feats and inspires our kind to strive, to toil unflaggingly and, finally, incredibly, to prevail

clown.jpg

17 comments

  1. Matthew

    Thanks for the inspiring comments! After reading your words I feel lifted and compelled yet again to share with words. And yes I agree you are blessed!

  2. Håkan Tendell

    Captivating. Wonderful. A text that goes straight to my heart. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    By the way:
    Fifteen hundred rejections!
    I have only got fifteen or so yet. Now I know that I have nothing to complain about, absolutely nothing.

    Rejection have most likely been the brutal reality in the beginning for all of the big names out there, so I guess we are just walking in their footsteps, even though it might be a long journey before sunrise. But the sun always rises…

    Håkan

  3. Håkan Tendell

    Hi again!

    After I had made my previous comment to your text, I read about your history and found out that you have already been published several times… 🙂

    Well, that’s interesting for me to learn, that if I one day will succeed with a manuscript, that won’t mean that my dream or hunger will die.
    There will always be things to improve and new goals to aim for.

    Håkan

  4. Rose Ghost

    Thanks a lot. That is a very beautiful post but unfortunately I’m not in a mood to enjoy it (as my ‘love’ is absent from my life at the moment). Its quite reassuring to know that some men are capable of love, however…

    On the whole I think I prefer you as a cynic. 🙂

  5. dannywhitelock

    Charming sentiment!

    Reading of your rejections (that many?!) I had to send you this link: I can imagine the cynical you reacting in exactly the same way 🙂

    Danny

  6. birgit

    First time on your blog,Cliff.
    Such beautiful descriptions.
    I also feel blessed to have Sherron as my friend.

  7. J.S. Peyton

    I’m going to second all of the comments here and say that was absolutely beautiful. This is my first time here, so I don’t know this cynic everyone keeps talking about, but I do know that was the moving thing I’ve read in quite some time. The next time someone tells me they don’t believe in true love, I’ll point them here.

    I’ll be back myself, now too. I like sentimentality, but I’m a fan of cynicism too. 🙂

  8. Eve

    “…I am an article of her faith…”

    WOW. Just wow. That’s beautiful.

    And what a lovely post about your family.

  9. galadriel

    Hey Mr Burns,
    You have learnt that wonderful trait called gratitude. you count your blessings instead of screaming about injustice, griping abt things that don’t work out the way u want. Your soul is whole, Mr Burns.

    Everything that is truly precious in this world, you already have. What more can a man ask for? Love the impassioned yet unself-conscious way u write. I wish I would write like that.

    I thank your wife for making you a blogger. Otherwise I would not get to read you. Here’s the nice thing about blogging. It allows you connection with people from all over the world, with just your message, without the encumbrance of messenger personality.

    It allows someone like me to bare my soul without showing my face. You know how liberating that is to a writer-wannabe who is just taking baby steps into the world?

    Keep on writing. I love ur words.

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