Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Color of Sorrow Isn't Blue

How do you lose a child?

It’s not so hard, really. You simply make one irredeemable choice. You ignore the warning bell that rings in your head, because it’s not a bell at all, you know? It’s just the gnat of a thought that’s too easily brushed aside. But in the scheme of things, it turns out that it’s the mother of all bells, made up of all the noise in the universe. You just don’t happen to hear it. Can you imagine?

Since that first irredeemable choice was so easy, I’m planning another. But I’m finding the serendipitous ones, the ones that are completely spontaneous, are so much easier. It’s one of those mysteries of the universe, like blinking out your last contact lens into the sink just as the water is swirling down your vanity drain along with the toothpaste you swished out of your mouth. You could try to do the same thing on purpose for a hundred years and never manage to do it.

As David and I sit across from each other at the dinner table, he pretends not to enjoy his meal. He downplays everything on my account these days. He toys with every bite, as I do in earnest, but he manages to clean his plate, while I don’t even come close. I rebuke myself for every morsel I swallow, for going through the motions of normalcy when things are so colossally abnormal.

I try to remember what dinner was like a year ago, the day before that day, when a little girl’s laughter was always on the menu. I try to remember how much I loved the three of us at the table back then, together again after a day apart. What I remember instead is how much I hated being apart in the first place. When you’re trapped in the dark, it’s hard to remember the light. Still I try. Try to recall what our last supper was, and whether Kinsey liked it. I’ve wracked my brain for three hundred sixty days now to remember all the details of the last good day of our lives. There are so many gaps. It’s a puzzle I work at even in my sleep. Occasionally I find a missing part, and it’s like a gulp of air in my drowningness. I just want to remember the last 3:02 my daughter and I were together, the last 7:49. The glow of Kinsey’s skin in the last bath I gave her, the last bedtime story I made up—because made-up stories were the ones she liked best. Is that too much to ask, I ask? The detectives, who now call this a cold case—as they called the Martin case until this morning—tell us as kindly as possible to accept that our little girl is not coming home. Well. How do you do that? How the—

An excerpt from The Color of Sorrow Isn't Blue, by Sharon K. Souza, which releases October 8. Available at

Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm Taking My Wild Heart Outside

Roll with the punches.

Stay flexible.

Be dynamic.

It's exhausting.

I'm not rolling these days. On the best days, I bend a little, but mostly I just fold. Fold up for easy storage.

I need to get out of my head. Get away from myself and the stories I've convinced myself make me an artist.

My brain needs a break. I need to get outside and sniff the air. Look around and hear my heart beating for anything other than an industry that holds me in no regard. I'm okay with that: no regard. Likely wouldn't know what to do with it if I had it. Probably would leave in on the lap of a stranger sleeping in a doorway.

I'm a doer. Not a waiter. Waiting breaks my stride. Smears itself across my psyche until the most dynamic parts of me line up into a holding pattern, and I stammer and cry in public.

I am an artist.

I'm taking my wild heart outside. I can't be the creative firebrand if I stay inside the lines.

God help me shed expectation. Finally and forever toss aside the notion of success and instead let me touch the faces of the people I love feel the weight of eternity.

Show me how to travel . . .

Friday, September 26, 2014

Let Me Sleep

When I get to Heaven, I hope the first hundred years I may only sleep. I pray I will see you, yes, and that your hand will lay on my head and stroke back my hair. That you will understand, say "You are so tired. Just rest."

That you will know that I am only dust. The grass that fades away.

Let there be moonlight, and stars.

Please understand.

Please don't be disappointed.

This was a battle, wasn't it? And not just a sad trail of missed opportunities and wrong turns? Tell me I fought valiantly. Even if I lost.

Stroke my hair from my forehead, please. Tell me I served you. Tell me I did well.

I hope I did well. I hope

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Simple and Sincere Account

Thoreau lays his scalpel along my vein.

I...require of every writer...a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives.

I type one-handed and shield my soft underbelly with the other. I cannot permit it.  My regrets, my shames, my failures are my own.  Better to scratch at the ugliness of others than to reveal my own darkness.

The price is too high, and so my words are dreck, stale and tepid. There is no healing in them.   My words themselves are sick. 

I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.

Taking the scalpel in wavering hand, the ink flowing red, I lance the wounds that sicken me. The pain is only a phantom whose story has little power.  The feverish healing begins.

My biggest wound was 

 (from Walden)

Friday, September 19, 2014

On Parts and Sums

(image courtesy of

Now, more than ever, I cannot get numbers to give up their powers. They are an old foreign language, growing more incomprehensible with every year. It is not just the algebra from high school that is fading away. In fact, I think I am forgetting how to add.

This summer I began to try to learn to sing alto in church hymns. Music has been another great mystery to me. I know there are four parts, but unlike my husband who sings the soprano reallyreally flat to emulate another part, I know they are all there. But they lurk in muddy harmony, like wriggling water snakes just beyond grasp. I cannot find them unless someone plays, charms each snake, each alone.

These two inacessibles, music and numbers, humble me. Ah, I say.

Ah, I see. I have learned great empathy for people who cannot make words yield their secrets, either.

Words still woo me. I am not the ragged claws, scuttling.

But. But-- today is a broom and dustpan I am using to sweep into the corners of myself to gather enough of me to

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dear God ...

How do you help someone in her situation? Lord, if you're listening, that's what I need to know. I pray, yes, non-stop, but I wish I had the perfect words to say to her, to eradicate this pain she can't navigate. But what do you say to an 18-year-old who's just lost a close friend ... a one-time boyfriend ... to suicide? So I pray. And I weep for this girl I love so deeply, for this boy I never knew, and for his family and the grief that will never leave them. Death like this creates a massive Before and After. It's a chasm you can't go back across.

God, I know you're good, and kind, and merciful. There's no end to the adjectives that describe you. Your compassion is fathomless; but, God, I have to admit you aren't always what I want you to be, you seldom do what I want you to do. I wish, God, I could be your advisor for a while.

I'd tell you what it feels like to be let down, to deal with disappointment so big it can swallow you whole. I'd say, Lord ... a lot like the sister of Lazarus said to you ... if you'd only been looking, this awful thing wouldn't have happened. I'd tell you that maybe you should use some of your omnipotence to prevent things like 18-year-old boys from hanging themselves. Or from feeling the need in the first place. There's a lot I could argue against free will. But the thing is, I want it when I want it. Okay, I know, I'm definitely too fickle to be the advisor to God.

But I have to say, believing in you -- and I do with all my heart -- but believing in you creates more questions as I pass through this dark night of the soul than if I didn't believe; didn't believe a benevolent God truly cares about and enters into the affairs of humanity. Because things often make so little sense with you in the equation. If I didn't believe in you, I could say when awful things happen, "Well, that's just the way it is. It's fate, or whatever." But because I do believe and I know you could have made a difference in so many situations ... and yet didn't, that creates a huge disconnect between what I see and what I believe. Yes, I know, that brings up the whole faith vs sight debate. But I'm hurting too much right now to debate.

So the biggest question of all, God, related to so many issues, is ...

why ...?

why do You

Monday, September 15, 2014

First One in the Lake

Being first up to write honestly about the dark night of my writing soul is a bit like being the first one in the lake at the beginning of summer.

I stand at the end of the dock, warmed by the June sun on my shoulders and squint into the glint off the water. It's a lovely picture, but if the lake is still deceptively frigid, the cold will squeeze my lungs with an iron fist.

Here's the funny thing: I thought I'd been honest all along. Now, poised to jump, I recognize that in the name of not being labeled ungrateful, faithless, a quitter (that one really stings), too circumspect, a party-pooper, or unworthy, perhaps not called at all or even talented, I barely know where to start with this truth business.

Perhaps it's enough to know I'm tempted to take a job at Taco Bell, clear the bookshelves of all writing books, and convert my office into (gasp!) a TV room with a futon. In other words, remove all that reminds me that I didn't live up to my potential.

The boxes of unsold books must go, too.

And yet, I write most days, plugging away at a story I'm convinced is absolute dreck. Still, I can't help but marvel at the accumulation of pages each day, and when I read from the beginning (as I just did), I'm surprised that the story is not quite as awful as I'd feared. But not as good as I'd hoped, either.

If storytelling were a drug, I would be a junkie.

It makes no practical sense for me to continue writing. I'm in debt to myself (actually my husband, but he doesn't keep track of these things like I do) for the release of my last book. Also, I'm an extrovert craving the company of people other than made-up characters. And I fear that my precious time on earth is being squandered dreaming up plot points, distilling a phrase to the most concise word, and researching the sound of waves under a pier.

There are lost people out there. Hungry people. Enslaved people. Angry people. Doesn't God

Cookies, as promised.