Revision

I’ve been spending time revising my latest novel yet again, since I have time.

Words can’t describe how pleased I am to see my own voice emerging strongly. It draws heavily on my past life experiences but there’s not much of Phil about it at all, except maybe in some of the themes (it has a Sethian overtone in places).

On the other hand, Jack emerges strongly in a lot of ways. It’s clear that his memories, thoughts, and experiences are fresher and more clearly defined in my memory and as a result, I feel an emotional closeness to him that I don’t to these other lives I may have recalled. I can always entertain a healthy doubt that I was Phil, or Count William, but Jack’s life, if I were to be plainly honest, feels as real as anything that’s happened to me in this life.

I don’t know if Jack ever wrote anything. I have no memory of that. I assume, based on the norms of his time, he was at least literate and could read and write, but that doesn’t mean much. I keep holding out hope that some relative of his has a notebook full of poems, short stories, and philosophical musings but I shouldn’t hope too much.

At the same time, there’s an old English schoolboy elegance that comes out from time to time in my writing. Capturing and nurturing that without getting too mired in dated mannerisms has become my goal.

My last novel got praise for being conceptually good; this time I want praise for elegant and polished prose that lives and breathes and engages the reader like an old-fashioned raconteur.

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Not Okay

I’m not okay.

WW3 didn’t happen (Emmanuel Macron may have had something to do with turning it from WW3 to another smorgasbord for the war profiteers), but I’m not okay.

I didn’t have to flee the Portland area with whatever I could throw into my car, but I’m not okay.

That old angst is back. And now that I take a moment to really search myself past the dissociating I’ve had to do just to appear normal, I’m stuck again with so many emotions from long ago.

Maybe I did go to hell in 1915. This world, this timeline, isn’t right. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, with people ready to scurry for cover because the so-called leaders now have the power to kill us all in one careless instant. And yeah, it was like that in Phil’s day too. TWO LIFETIMES I’ve lived with this shadow over me.

If I could undo the last 104 years I would. If I could go back to that life knowing what I know now I would. I know it’s silly but part of me wonders, if I’d put my effort behind resisting the war rather than joining it, would that have been the one variable that changed the outcome of everything?

Too late to wonder or know, I suppose. I’m very tempted to publish the memoir of how I recalled these lives and donate the proceeds to some anti-war cause though.

Is This It?

The last thing I wanted was to die in another war, especially one I never wanted any part in.

But now there is a distinct chance the US has just started a war with Russia in Syria. My husband and I have been getting our things together to get out of town on short notice if needed.

I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t vote for Trump. I didn’t support bombing Syria. But I couldn’t stop it either. But if this escalates into nuclear war, what good will it do to die with a clean conscience? It’s still death.

Returned

I’m back from Holy Week. My knees ache and my back is a mess from so much kneeling and genuflecting but you know what? I don’t mind. These aches and pains just remind me that I’ve mortified the body to glorify what is incorruptible and I find a joy in that thought I never knew possible.

On Palm Sunday I was made a cleric. I now wear a white surplice with my cassock. In time the vestments will add up: the collar, the chausible, then perhaps one day if I am ever made a bishop (if I live that long) I will wear the mantle and mitre too.

I’ve returned somewhat to social media, though my presence on Facebook and Twitter will be a bit more limited from now on. For most of my readers this won’t be a problem but for the 1 or 2 of you who follow me on one or both sites don’t fret; I’ll still be around in some fashion for a while.

Still, I feel like I’m becoming steadily more ascetic. During my time away I spent a good bit of time studying, praying, serving in the mass, and generally living in a quasi-monastic way that felt strangely satisfying. I used far less cannabis (I still find it useful to treat my sleep paralysis but I was actually enjoying being sober for once), I tried not to worry myself with more grim updates from the news or anything like that, and I tried to put more effort into contemplation and focus than I normally do.

Also… I don’t know quite how to explain my reasons for thinking so without delving into details about my published work, but I now suspect I may have lived as a monk or canon in or near Wigmore Abbey at some point. This accords strangely well to details of a book I published a few years ago though I’ve yet to have any kind of hard confirmation, only a series of circumstances that adds up rather well.

At any rate, in our sacraments (the liturgy for which is adapted from a pre-Vatican II Catholic mass), I find deep comfort and familiarity, a sense of something profoundly right, a part of myself restored. When I walked away from the church thinking I was wasting my time I found the loss of this was like having cut off a part of myself and though I tried to embrace radical politics in its place, I never really felt the same certainty or rightness there. It always felt like the narcissism of small differences was closer at hand among the anarchists and socialists I kept company with. And while I’m still fairly left-wing politically (I suppose nominally I’m a mutualist), I’m not impressed with the way ego has subverted the discourse.

But “from each according to their means to each according to their needs” is in no way contradictory to an authentic Christian life; indeed if one considers Acts 2:44-46 and Mark 10:21-25, it should be imperative for Christians to live that way. But we don’t need the state looming over us to force that upon us; we should do it of our own free will or not at all. I will live these ideals with or without the political labels and bickering and infighting and everyone accusing each other of being a fed that I saw on the organized left. I don’t care about trying to save politics any more because I’m more concerned with living the best life I know how.

Detail I Hadn’t Noticed Before

On a listing of soldiers who landed at LeHavre between 4-6 February 1915 which I may have referenced previously (as it had a listing for Jack’s brother Albert being wounded in action), I noticed this when I looked again (emphasis mine):

7324 Pte. John, Harris, of Yeovil, Somerset & Hereford, Posted to 2/K.S.L.I. (K. in A.)

I didn’t think much of it because it was known that he was born in Yeovil and this had been listed on his CWGC page but thinking about it, he’s the only soldier whose birth home is listed.

What I know from records I’ve since obtained is that his brother, Albert. still lived in Yeovil at the end of the war and may have died there in the 1970s (having lived to the impressive age of 96). Albert was the one who signed off on Jacks’ epitaph. It is possible that Jack shuttled between family members in Yeovil and Hereford and never completely settled.

Incidentally, as a periodic reminder, if you are a relation of one John “Jack” Harris (1877-1915), or his brother Albert Harris (1880-1976), from Yeovil or Hereford, please use the contact form, I would like to hear from you.

Trying To Let Go

Trying to let go of the notion that I’ve lived before but I’m not doing so well.

I hadn’t even mentioned Phil in a while and I’d been pushing him from my mind until my husband mentioned him. But at least with him I feel like I’ve moved on. I’m a very different person now, not because I was always so different but because the changes are really starting to add up. My writing is improving to the point where I can say I’m honestly a better writer. I’m better at relationships too; my first marriage in this life has lasted more than a year and it’s holding solid. I’m less restless, less reckless, and more able to take responsibility for my own life and it’s starting to show.

But Jack lingers more. I think he comes through stronger in my writing nowadays. His emotional impression- that profound sense of longing for another time and place that I feel I was torn from- it looms over me no matter how normal I try to make my life. I need closure but closure evades me. I want to divorce myself from the notion that I threw away a life that was no less precious than the one I’m living now or at least come to terms with what I’ve done.

I’ll be honest. If I hadn’t promised to never use this account to get any sort of money or to deliberately give away my identity, I would have taken my chances to set up a fundraiser to go to Flanders and face all of this once and for all. As it stands I have only $2000 in savings and I can’t blow it on something like this because I might not always have that money for necessities. I went several years with nothing in savings and I don’t miss that insecurity.

If anyone would like to help me get this thorn out of my side though, use my contact form.