Survive or Thrive


I’ve found several new authors of late. My dry spell is over. Phew. These authors are self-published or published by small, independent presses. And it’s hard out there, I know. But, thankfully, quality rises to the top. 

My latest favorite author is Elliot Parker and her premier offering is Demon, Interrupted. The first book in a unique urban fantasy series focuses on Evangeline Lawson, one of the “Saint’s Kin,” who descend from Catholic saints and enjoy the miraculous powers associated with their holy ancestor. Evangeline is a descendent of St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost articles. As a result, she has the power to track anything, anywhere. This makes Evangeline—and the rest of St. Anthony’s descendants—a target for those who want to locate objects of power, hidden treasure, my damned car keys and other people’s property for their own selfish aims. So, she runs and she hides. Her whole life has been one if survival—run away and hide. Hide and run. Evangeline lacks human contact and her heart may be the only thing locked away so securely that even she can’t find it.

But when her foes find her, Evangeline is forced to seek and accept help. Unfortunately, the skills she’s perfected to survive alone in a hostile environment are antithetical to those required to thrive in a world with support and assistance. Evangeline learns that she has no clue how to be a friend or have friends. She doesn’t play well with others because she never learned to play at all. Her defenses are so high and so tight they would make a Marine’s haircut jealous. She is at a complete loss with respect to knowing how to interact appropriately with others or work together productively. Her survival skills are wholly inadequate for learning to thrive. It’s a demon’s dilemma. 

I know this dilemma all too well. So many of us grow up in homes where validation and support were absent, flimsy or ambiguous. I worry all the time that, despite my best efforts, I’ve done the same to my own children—although I’m aware that I’ve done a much better job than my mommy dearest, but that bar is low enough to let ants do the limbo dance. We give such mixed messages sometimes—“You’re so smart, how come you do the dumbest things?” is a popular refrain in my household, or words to that effect. And children learn to navigate these contradictory waters and, by extension, develop all sorts of weird concepts they perceive serve them. 

What the fuck am I talking about, you ask?  Well, all of us adult types grew up at some point, or at least got older. And we learned some skills along the way. Often, one of these survival skills is hardening our hearts against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, otherwise known as life. Others include shame, judgement, rage, and the ever-popular self-effacement—becoming invisible so as to avoid the attentions of less-than-stellar parental units, mean girls, bad teachers or bullies.

Circumstances forced us to decide between surviving and thriving. Which wasn’t really a choice at all—we did what we did to get through; you can’t thrive if you don’t survive. But coming through had its price. We missed important lessons. We lacked the instincts to know when it’s safe to lower our carefully constructed walls and let light and love shine in. We have no idea how to take down our walls, so we miss out on true intimacy and authentic connection. 

These days, interacting through walls is endemic. Most of us relate through the filters of our screens and few of our newest generations have any clue about how to engage without technology. We are surviving in a world that I fear won’t allow any of us to thrive because it’s getting harder and harder to learn how to thrive in a world determined to anesthetize us. Who needs alcoholic parents to teach us to distrust everyone and everything when opinion masquerades as fact?

It’s a mess. A big, scary mess. But it’s a mess some of us have bridged before. Those of us who, like Evangeline, have learned to overcome our survival programming in order to thrive. We’ve learned how. We can teach others. We can read awesome fantasy that showcases such demon dilemmas. We can make like Elliot Parker and interrupt that demon. We can find our way out of this devil’s choice and choose to survive and thrive. We can do it. Together.