Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Burn.
Very little in my life fits within any particular mold. Everything is undefined, especially my relationships. I’m not sure that will change. Ever.
It didn’t used to be like this. Until this past year, I lived my life like I hate to write my novels: with great and deliberate planning. I knew every nook and cranny and had everything planned out to the nth degree. Because I liked to be sure. I still do. Only I can’t be sure. I just have to move forward and see what happens.
My favorite way to write is to know the beginning and the end and some things that happen in the middle. Maybe I know several key points in each chapter. As I write, it’s free- flowing and I’m living it as I create it, never knowing what’s going to happen next or exactly how. I may have a pretty good idea of the next three chapters but the fun is in experiencing it fresh, even with an idea of how things turn out.
The best way to kill my enthusiasm for a novel is for me to sit down and write out a 40-page synopsis, complete with a huge plotboard and an Excel spreadsheet that shows every scene, how it unfolds, whose point of view, location, and bits of dialogue. By the time I’ve planned the whole thing out to that degree, there’s no sense in writing it. To me, it’s already happened, and I’ll never have that rush of excitement as the story unfolds moment by moment and word by word. It’s old news. It’s boring. Not worth living on paper.
Yet, that’s how I’ve lived my life. Via a huge plotboard, with every scene and location planned out. Until now.
But for as flexible as my life is right now, the most undefined magic of all is in my relationships. Two or three in particular, and one with a man.
They don’t fit any mold, but they’re intense. They’re not sexual. They’re not “just friends.” They’re not co-workers or ordinary. I can’t peg them. They’re not long-standing friend- ships, but they’re comfortable. They may not be here tomorrow, but they’re full of excitement and enthusiasm and they have meaning in this moment, whether they endure or not. I can hope they do, but I have no way of knowing for certain. They don’t fit within the norm of lunch meets or daily phone conversations or smooches over a pot of pasta in the kitchen.
At their very best, they’re undefined and in the moment, and they are at their very best. They’re stems, I think. Stems with blossoms, at least for now. Some with buds of promise, for later.
The last time I talked to Mark, he suggested I remember the story of the rose. The blossom, he said, is romance. The stem is friendship. If you separate the blossom from the stem, the blossom is beautiful, but it withers and dies and there’s nothing left. If you tend the stem, the blossom will still eventually fade, but with a strong stem and a lot of care, the stem may blossom again…and again…and again. Mark says it more eloquently, but the thought is still enough to make me teary. It’s a lovely sentiment.
I long ago lost interest in cut red roses from men—they flash a certain image of pretense that no longer appeals to me. I prefer any color but red, and if I’m completely honest, I prefer a rose bush, living and thriving, to cut blossoms. How wonderful to have a garden so tangibly reminiscent of a man’s affections! That’s another reason I like Mark’s story of the rose and the stem—it plays on my love of regeneration and cycles, and re- birth and abundance with a little attention, and I like thinking that good relationships can be like that.
Because whatever this thing is I have with these new people in my life, however undefined these relationships may be and for however long, they are truly treasured in my heart.