Thursday, May 9, 2013

Haunted by Other Monsters

by Amanda Earl

In 2009 I had an out of the blue health crisis which put me on life support in ICU and in an operating room where the surgeon told my husband I was likely to die. Against all odds and thanks to the herculean efforts of a crack medical team and the support of my wonderful husband and dear friends, I somehow survived. I had to slow down my life for a few years afterward while my body grew stronger again but now I am fully recovered. I'm amazed and grateful to be alive. I lead a very full and joyous life. I am fucking lucky to be here.

Consequently, I am rarely rattled these days by the small stuff. I have tried to write a piece for this topic a few times now and I've come up empty.

I have a good life. I have a husband who I'm passionate about and who is passionate about me in return. I am 100% healthy, both mentally and physically, with only minor aches and pains for the most part. I have the luxury of being able to write whenever I feel like it. I have a roof over my head and food in my belly. I have remarkable, fascinating and caring friends who were very good to me and to my husband when I was sick. 

I also understand very clearly that this good life could end at any moment. I feel the shadow of oblivion hanging over me and mine constantly. I shiver at the shadows. It's this tension between joy of life and fear of death which drives me to keep creating new work. I am simultaneously haunted and exuberant.

I'm a bit of a misanthrope so I tend not to compare my life with others' lives because I don't really give a rat's ass. If someone is biting their nails in jealous angst over my achievements or experiences, I've never heard about it or noticed. I don't share mainstream society's love of bright shiny objects, fancy cars, big screen televisions, pedigree cats, matching dinette sets or white picket fences. I haven't owned a house in more than a decade and I don't possess a driver's license. I am not much of a traveler. I love good books and good company, strong tea and coffee, the occasional drop of whiskey, a never-ending soundtrack of fabulous music, access to dark and playful art and long, lonesome walks by the river.

As far as my writing goes, I keep my head down and I write. I am working hard to learn how to write compelling and unique poetry and fiction. I grew up with a strong work ethic drummed into me. I was taught that anything I wanted, I had to earn. Those who envied others were considered by my parents to be people who mistakenly believed that the world owed them a living.  It did not. My mother said you make your own heaven and hell on Earth. These values were harped on to the point where it would never occur to me to envy someone else their success. Their version of success isn't usually mine anyway.

What I want these days is to be able to write and explore various obsessions through my writing and to write better. I am tremendously grateful when my work is published, but I can't say it's a primary goal. I am happy for the most part to dwell in obscurity with the occasional pat on the back in the form of publication or recognition from editors, publishers, fellow writers and friends I respect and the occasional writing grant to support and validate my creative explorations.

I don't think I've explored the possibilities of jealousy so far in my fiction. I've run through the list of stories I've written since 2004 when I started to write erotica and the only one that springs to mind with any kind of jealousy involved is the recent Daddy Complex where a main character's kinky taboo is threatened with exposure thanks to petty office rivalry.

I've wracked my memory to think of fiction where jealousy is an important plot point. I remembered there was something about jealousy in Flaubert's Madame Bovary. I never did read that French experimental novel entitled "La Jalousie" by Alain Robbe-Grillet, opting instead for the more approachable "On Love" by Alain de Botton.

Greek and Roman mythology is lousy with jealousy. Zeus' wife Hera took her feelings of jealousy over Zeus' non consensual non monogamy out on his children with his lovers. Poor Hercules.

The fact is jealousy hasn't really interested me or affected me. I feel sorry for those for whom it is an issue and I admire writers who are able to infuse their characters with such feelings. It's something to consider for future stories, but I'd need to become obsessed with it, to study it, to collect stories of jealous folk. Jealousy hasn't become an obsession for me yet and I don't think I want it to be.

I worry that this post is sounding hard or unsympathetic. I don't mean it that way. I understand that jealousy is complicated and can cause a lot of harm to those experiencing the feelings or being the object of those feelings. I just am not in that place.  I'm about to take a trip out in the sun to meet a dear friend for coffee and conversation. Life is sweet.


  1. Dear Amanda,

    It's a gift to us all that you recovered so well from your health crisis. Nothing like a brush with death to make one appreciate one's life.

    I remember reading (and enjoying) Daddy Complex. Was that in an anthology or on ERWA? Anyway, I remember thinking that you really nailed the nastiness that for some reason occasionally infects groups of women.

    Good luck in your quest to explore your obsessions!

  2. thanks, Lisabet. i feel the need now to seek connections with kindred spirits more than ever.
    glad you enjoyed Daddy Complex. it was published in the ERWA Gallery last year & is now in the Treasure Chest for Best of 2012.
    i should have said that i want to explore not only my obsessions but those of others too. obsessions is one of my obsessions ;)

  3. & while we're over here on our blog speaking of jealousy, Maranda Elizabeth, a zine creator & author is doing so as well. she includes links to books on the subject:

    1. Thanks for letting us know how you survived your health crisis, Amanda. I'm glad you're with us. Re obsessions, they make for a tortured life but great scenes in operas. :) I feel as if I've had more experience with jealousy than I ever wanted, yet I still don't understand it well enough.

  4. thanks, Jean. i look forward to your post on the subject tomorrow. i have always dreamed of being able to write a libretto, but alas.

  5. Ahh- What is it about crisis that makes us better understand what's truly important? You and I have talked about health before, Amanda, and we tend to see things in similar ways. In an earlier comment on this subject, I mentioned that jealousy doesn't occupy much space in my keppie. When I see how that emotion eats at people, I have to be glad I and others don't see it that way. IMO jealousy does make for good plot lines, though.

  6. yes, we have Daddy X. i came close to writing a post about compersion & polyamory, but realized i didn't have anything original or new to say on the subject.
    it is an excellent plot helper or character developer. perhaps you'll be inspired :) thanks to everyone for their comments. i'm currently having a lot of trouble writing for the next topic: Sex and Punishment, so i'm hoping everyone else's posts will inspire me...

  7. You have an excellent and stable life. One might well be jealous of that.



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