Anchoring the Happy

Accidents happen every day.  Just before Easter, a gust of wind caused a wall in Melbourne to collapse, crushing a brother and sister, aged 18 and 19, and another 30 year old woman.

People with their lives ahead of them.  Gone forever, leaving in their wake a wide network of grief stricken family and friends.

I’m fortunate never to have experienced this kind of grief.  But even the momentary unexplained absence of a loved one is enough to provoke the terrifying “What if?” of unexpected loss.

This is a central theme to Coleen Patrick’s debut YA novel, Come Back to Me.

ComeBackToMEWhitney is a young senior a semester away from graduation.  Her parent’s golden child, she has a scholarship and a bright future ahead of her, filled with happy, a best-friend and a bucket list…

At least, that’s how it was.  Before.  Before the accident that turned what should have been a momentary rift…into one big “morning after hangover” of regret and unresolved grief.

Come Back to Me is a story that explores the tough issue of grieving for someone who’s left you on bad terms.  It’s about forgiveness, letting go, and finding your path back to happy.

The topic is dark, yet Coleen infuses the story with a sense of humour and hope.  It’s perhaps her own experience holding onto happiness that shines through.

Coleen is no stranger to grief.  She lost her brother to a brain aneurysm, aged 31.  It was sorting through the pages of his life via his journal that she found the courage to write again.

“Life is for enjoying,” he wrote.
“Write, damn you. Write! Anything, something, Please!”

So write she does.

Last year she managed 72 blog posts, drafts on three different stories, and final edits on Come Back to Me.

Frankly, I’m in awe.

But there are other challenges, too.

For the past couple of years, Coleen has been struggling to find answers to a cocktail of unsettling health symptoms – neck pain, short term memory loss and nerve numbness.  “Kind of like trying to find Waldo”, she jokes.

Only when the doctors find Waldo, he turns out to be an ‘idiopathic’ neurological disease for which there are no real explanations or solutions.

What might be enough to propel me under the covers for good, Coleen greets with her usual sweet stoicism.

Honey soaked challah.

“A little sweet can go a long way,” she says.
“Just the idea of it offers up HOPE”.

There’s a scene in Come Back to Me where Whitney, as part of her rehabilitation, has to climb a rock wall.  She’s encouraged to see each carabineer as a clip that grounds her to the happy moments of her journey.

rockclimb

“What would I ‘clip’ in place as my anchor in order to move onwards and upwards?” she asks herself.

This is what inspires me about Coleen and her writing.  Whether it’s honey dipped challah or ladybugs, it’s the sweet little things behind her self-confessed smiley addiction that power her forward momentum… :) .

I ask her about the motivation behind her story.

When my brother died, that grief was very normal. It was shared and acknowledged. That experience made me think of times in my life when I’d felt a pain that wasn’t shared. Something I’m sure everyone has felt, but not everyone knows what to do with.

Many years ago, during a lecture in college, a history professor of mine said something along the lines of – you can’t help what you feel, but you can help what you do about those feelings. This has always stuck with me. I think it’s empowering, because it gives you permission to feel and then the opportunity to choose – even if that first step is simply acknowledging that your feelings are real. That opportunity allows room for hope – and hope is another part of the story’s inspiration :) .

ladybug

Come Back to Me is available now on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple i-Bookstore and Kobo.  Also, if you’re looking for a daily dose of smiles, I encourage you to check out Coleen’s blog.

What keeps you anchored to your happy?

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you, Alarna. :) It’s funny to me that I didn’t read your post until after I’d written mine. Kinda synchronized. Or maybe I’m just thinking about the same stuff all the time. LOL Really appreciate your support and thoughtful post. I’m trying to remember the Australian word you once told me for true blue friend. My brain is not helping, what was it again?? :)

  2. says

    I’m taken with the image Coleen offers of carabineers as clips that ground us to the happy moments of our journeys. What anchors me? Family, friends, pets. Here I take a lesson from Coleen: My youngest cat has gotten it into his head that me making the bed signals playtime. He pounces on the moving sheet and burrows under the quilt. As a result, the chore of bedmaking has become fun for me.

    • says

      I love the carabineers metaphor too, Pat! The little furry creatures are irresistible – I think if it were me, the bed wouldn’t get made – I’d just end up playing! But great way to get through a chore :)

  3. Rita Azar says

    I was reading the description of this book Alarna and I had goose bumps… Sound like exactly the kind of stories I like to read. Coleen also sound like a very inspiring person.
    I try to find pleasure in the simple things like reading, baking, knitting and spending time with family and friends. .

    • says

      It was a revelation to me when I started to get to know Coleen more and see what was really going on in life for her – and yet she’s always so on the bright side. Very inspiring indeed :)

      It is the simple things that can give the most pleasure. You’re another smiley one, always, Rita!

  4. says

    So much to think about in this post Alarna, and some profoundly moving quotes . What a wonderful person, guts and courage are what make a person so attractive, and she is in spades.
    beautifully written as ever, Alarna…

  5. says

    Thank you so much for this great piece of share, Alarna! I’m already became a huge fan follower of Coleen and her heartfelt write-up stuffs via this single post. :-D Have a great time there, dear one. God bless. Cheers.\m/ :-)

    Rahul

  6. says

    wow! lovely post, timely and deep thoughts expressed in a simple way. i so appreciate this… got to check Coleen’s writings, huh. thanks for sharing, Alarna.. for the thoughtful words and the hopeful writings. keep going :)

  7. liz says

    anchoring the happy. wow. what a powerful image for me right now. i admit that i feel like my happiness is fleeting, flying away. what can i do to anchor it? what anchors my happiness? very good, thought-provoking questions. i need them right now. even if all i want to do is hide under the covers.

    thank you, alarna, for giving me some words to cling to. xo

  8. says

    What a wonderful, heartfelt, inspiring post, Alarna. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Coleen’s book, but I so enjoy her blog and her output both as a person and a writer. She seems so joyous and buoyant all the time. Thanks for giving us another breath of her. :)

  9. says

    I need to go check out Coleen’s. Sharing in the writing and reading, what we live.

    The worlds I live and traverse, with the way they fall into what I write, my happy is always with me, even within the more sad, and blue moments of the brave.

  10. says

    I agree that Coleen’s carabineers metaphor is brilliant. She’s ultra talented, and I never would have guessed she was dealing with so much in her life if she hadn’t shared that with us.

    Thanks for this inspiring post featuring Coleen and her new book. I can see why Coleen considers you a Dinky-di friend!

  11. says

    What we do with those feelings is true. Life is all about choices and paths regardless of the obstacles. Looks like Coleen delves into this. Lots to think about and reflect on. So sorry to hear of her own health issues in the midst of anchoring the happy.

  12. says

    I’m always fascinated to learn about the connections between life and fiction. My fiction has deep roots in my life, and I suspect this is true for most people, even those who claim otherwise. Lovely post!

  13. Andrea says

    My dear Alarna… you always move me with your blog & everything else you do… I was so touched by “Anchoring Your Happy” so first thank you for your words on this important topic… As you know, I am involved with assisting ppl that are grieving on a weekly basis, where finding anything happy anymore seems impossible at times. You make me & so many others here happy bc of your grace & love… I thank you!

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