In which we have guests, part 4

For the second year in a row, I am turning over the blog to guest posters for the month of December. And for the second year in a row, we’ve had a great response–thirty-three requests for spots! For the next month you’ll be hearing from writers, editors, and other pros on a variety of topics. I always let the guest writers choose their own subject and give them carte blanche while they’re here. There are no limitations on topic or language, and this time we’ve got everything from favorite words to sexsomnia! Since I will be hunkered down doing revisions on the first of my new books for NAL/Penguin, I am turning comments off for the month. Most posters will include links to their own sites if you want to follow up with them. So, I wish you all the best of holiday seasons–peace, prosperity, good health, and a fabulous start to 2015. See you in the new year!

Today’s featured guest is Ali Trotta.

“The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.” ~Ted Hughes, in a letter to his son, Nicholas, circa 1986


The first time I read that quote, I felt such a shock of truth – a maelstrom of recognition. Why do we stay so very still sometimes? Why do we hold back, stay within the lines, and lead what Thoreau would call quiet lives of desperation? The answer is simple: we’re scared. And fear never really needs context, does it? It’s the monster in the dark. It’s the emotional equivalent of the Boogieman. (Boogeyman? That is one odd word. Moving on…)


Don’t mistake me: fear is real. It’s not a manufactured emotion. But like Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, the less you see it – the more you keep running – the scarier and more intimidating it gets. In fact, the only good thing to come out of a Victorian Lit class I took in Grad. school had to do with that Jabberwocky. The professor pointed out that Carroll painstakingly did not describe what it looked like, because the human imagination can conjure up something far more terrifying without visual constraints. Basically, once we’re left to our own devices, we’re spectacular at freaking ourselves out.


I’ve always been a big proponent of madness. Not the straightjacket kind. No, the absolutely ridiculous hope of total abandon. Of leaping directly into the fray with nothing more than a deep breathe, red lipstick, and a wide passion. I’ve never wanted to be that person whose heart was calibrated poorly. Or, worse still, restricted to a wretched degree. There are a thousand quotes from well-respected minds about being brave, going on adventures, and behaving with gusto. They’re often the quiet voice, in moments of difficulty, that whisper, “Yes, you can do this.” They inspire.


And I like that word, gusto. Life is too short to live it timidly – or, worse still, dictated by other peoples’ expectations. I re-learned this lesson especially well after my mother died. She didn’t pass away. I didn’t lose her. She died. The first is too simple a phrase, too quiet. The second implies she could be found again, like misplaced keys. I’m not going to get into the particulars, because I want to get to the point: her death reaffirmed (for me) that it is monumentally important to love and live every minute you’ve got. To not let fear keep you from yelling Geronimo! like Doctor Who taking an impossible leap of faith.


I never want to be the person who doesn’t say I love you, because it’s terrifying. I never want to be the person who doesn’t pick up the phone, who can’t bridge a gap after a certain amount of time. I never want to be someone who doesn’t love and laugh, behave ridiculously but with joy, or who is too busy doing dishes to actually live.


I think, too often, we get so caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day life that we forget how to do more than check off responsibilities. We go to work or school. Pay a mortgage or rent. Clean. We slip into the idea of living safely and maybe stop really living. With the Christmas season here and the world full of tinsel, cookies, and mistletoe – I think it’s time to remember how totruly give. To do the insanely scary things. To make sure that the people in our lives know exactly how much we care. Tell everyone you love, in whatever capacity, that you love them. Not because you want something in return. But because you want to say it – so that the other person knows. That’s a kind of gift, darlings – knowing that you’ve loved.


Anyone who has spent five minutes with me knows that I’m a hugger. And if I love you, I’ll tell you. I love the hell out of my family and friends. To quote Austen, “I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”


Consider this an invitation to be your most loving self during this holiday season. Let’s make the world a more brilliant, sparkle-y place by heaving love into it. Let’s calibrate our hearts for adventure and the widest breadth they can manage.


I’m in. *dangles mistletoe* Are you?


About me: I’m a dork, hopeless coffee addict, a writer, a poet, an editor, and basically a human CareBear. I blog over at – which occasionally includes TV recaps (currently focusing on Constantine). I also tweet (a lot) at @alwayscoffee. And I *do* have a book of poetry out, called I Don’t Love You Pretty, with cover art by the tremendously talented Dani Stinger (@maddarilke  on Twitter).