I love the quiet of winter and the start of a new year. A new year brings thoughts of new goals, plans, and resolutions. We all have a tendency to label a year, don’t we? A year of getting in shape. A year of quitting a bad habit. A year of doing that dream inside of you. A year of taking that first step of faith into something new. A new job. A new house. A new relationship.
As I thought about my 2016, this phrase came to me: Never lose your I wonder if. Not I wonder why. I wonder if. I loved it because I think I spent the last few years dwelling on a few I wonder whys. Whether loss, grief, bad things happening, unfair breaks, health issues, whatever, throughout my life if an I wonder why popped up I never let it linger. But one lingered after I lost my mom to cancer.
There is a passage in Essie’s Roses I absolutely love. Words shared by a character I adore, words that soothed me in areas where I was hurting and confused. Evie Winthrop, the thirteen-year-old daughter of a plantation owner, asks her Uncle James why bad things happen:
Evie: "Maybe I’d feel better if I could understand why. I asked Mama, but she can’t give me an answer."
James: "Evie, no matter how far we dig there’s some things we’ll never understand, and if those answers come, the ones we’ve been looking for, they still never make it right. You’re just left with hurting and questions. More questions than you had at the start." -Essie’s Roses, Michelle Muriel
I don’t let I wonder whys linger in my thoughts because they are most often associated with events I can’t control, the past that has nothing to do with my today. The things I need to let go of to move into the now.
I wonder whys put us in a state of uncertainty. I wonder whys zap our faith, strength, and momentum in moving forward in our lives. I wonder whys can leave us angry, bitter, jealous, in regret or resentment. I wonder whys keep us stuck in the past and often in pain.
I enjoy writing historical fiction because I love learning and staying curious about the world around me. History contains a treasure chest of lessons still relevant today. I’m not talking about wondering about the world around you. But those negative I wonder whys where no answer will satisfy the question.
Have you ever taken a minute, no matter your age or contemplating the hows, and asked yourself I wonder if?
Years ago, at a crossroads in my career, I asked myself that question. I said, "I wonder if I could write a novel?" I tossed it around for a while until one day a story came to me. A story that wouldn’t go away. Characters invaded, scenes played in my mind, and soon I sat at my computer filling blank pages with dialogue. It became such a strong desire and story inside of me I couldn’t ignore it; I felt as if I had to write it.
At first, my I wonder if was solely for me. And then I asked myself I wonder if anyone would enjoy this? And eventually, as I moved out of fear into faith, my I wonder if changed to I believe. I believe it is a story worth sharing.
The story of my first novel, Essie’s Roses, came quickly, but it was the craft of writing it well that took time. Life interruptions and discouragement interfered. Sometimes a journey of I wonder if can turn into a battle. Do you have an I wonder if you need to pick up again and see it through to the end?
I picked myself up and soon my I wonder if turned into I think I can. It wasn’t easy. Many challenges, distractions, and unfair things happened along the way, but something inside of me, that first inclination of wondering if I could do something, never went away until I saw it to the fullest to the end. Until my I wonder if turned into I believe I can.
I tossed out my age, time, and every other obstacle and excuse that came my way. In the face of rejection and self-doubt, this story pushed me along. And then my I wonder if turned into: this is possible. Soon: the possibilities are endless. There was no looking back.
I have a dear friend who decided to take a leap of faith into a new business she never imagined she would start. She raised her family, has a successful forty-year career, but had an inclination to cultivate her sewing talent into something more.
She wondered if she was too old to start a new business. She had little computer experience or knowledge about how to open an online store, generate sales, and find customers. Until one day, she asked herself: I wonder if I could sell designer bridal accessories?
She didn’t know where to begin, but she started anyway. She took some computer and business classes. She designed and created stunning accessories regardless of having an open store or not. She began to invest in herself, and her I wonder if turned into I can do this. I will do this.
I’m so excited for her. Her I wonder if turned to learning, creating, and doing. And it came at a time when she needed it most. The mere act of creating and following her I wonder if brought her so much joy and fulfillment.
The best thing about I wonder ifs is there are no limits other than what you put on them. No age or time limit. The possibilities are endless.
One of my favorite possessions is a painting in my office by a self-taught artist who was still painting and selling his artwork at age 90! It is never over. And it is most defiantly never too late.
I hope this is the year you ask yourself I wonder if . . .
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Michelle Muriel is the award-winning, bestselling author of ESSIE'S ROSES. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, magna cum laude, and after graduating, she worked as a professional actress, a member of Actors’ Equity and The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists for almost twenty years, doing theater, voice-over, and commercial work. She is also a songwriter and musician. Michelle lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and two quirky Border collies. She first developed ESSIE'S ROSES as a screenplay. This is her debut novel. She is currently at work on her second.