Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A "Death" in the Family

OK – I missed a week, but I had a reason; I lost my hard drive. (I know, not a child, not a leg, not a house – just a hard drive) This shouldn’t be a major event, but I am numb with mourning.  Yes, I had backed everything up, but as Murphy so succinctly says, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” 

My drive started clicking – which they aren’t supposed to do.  Then it seized up, the mail program caught in mid-flight from the loading dock.  After my MacBook came back from the hospital, I was amazed at its recovery.  I reinstalled program after program.  I tried out new ones.  I celebrated the fact that all the flotsam and jetsam of a 5-year-old hard drive had scrubbed itself sterile.  Clean slate, new start, all that jazz.  I felt a little shaky, but I had my back-ups to hold onto and I was ready to go. 

Finally, the time arrived to put it all together again.  I got the external hard drive out of the safe and hooked it up. Its little orange icon obediently appeared on my screen and I took a deep breath.  It was going to be no easy task to import, sort and reorganize 5 years worth of a teacher/Bible student/writer’s documents. The drive held two-thirds of a novel I’ve been working on, several hundred poems, essays, short stories, Power Point presentations, entire units of study.  It held curricula for two college classes, letters, eulogies, and hundreds of Bible study lessons, all my e-mail contacts – well, I could go on and on, but the job that lay before me was a doozey.  It was also an opportunity to weed out piles of useless material; I’d put off doing that because the piles loomed over me like a range of mountains.  Now was the time to haul out the pickaxe and get to work. 

I double-clicked on the icon.  A new window appeared on cue.  I began scrolling down through the listed files; they rolled past my searching eyes -- .jpg, .jpg, .jpg, .jpg – and on and on and on.  Hundreds and hundreds of photographs.  Now and then a file that contained sound effects – where did those come from? – but no document files, no music files.  I felt my stomach scrunch up.  Surely there’s just something I don’t know about doing this. 

That’s a good theory – I’ve learned most of what I know about the cyber-world by guess and by golly; I’m too old to have been born knowing code.  My sweet, forgiving Mac gave me lots of elbow room, students pitched in to help me figure things out, my husband and my super, computer-savvy son untangled my messes.  Little by little I learned.  I knew to use the “search” slot on the finder window.  No results.  I tried different configurations. Nada. I made sure all my software was ready and usable. Nothing changed – just photos.

Finally, with my heart in my throat, I called in reinforcements.  My husband and his best friend came to my rescue, only they couldn’t slay the dragon, either.  I called my son – he suggested taking the old drive to a data-retrieval expert – more on that later.  I called the repair folk and they left one of those we-know-you’re-an-idiot messages – “Plug in the drive, click on the icon….” 

So far, four days later, no one’s been able to find anything but photos on that drive.  Tom found a few important things on his computer, but most of my last five years is gone.  I just got an estimate from a company that can for between $400 and $1000 recover some of my files.  Maybe.  They’ll only charge me if they can restore some of it, so it’s not a crap-shoot, but here’s the kicker – if they find something, then I have to decide what’s it’s worth to me to get it back.  Worth, in the $ sense of the word.  What’s the monetary value of an unfinished novel to an aging woman living off ever-dwindling mutual funds?  Per poem, what is each piece worth – in dollars and cents?  Gees.  I have never thought of my writing that way – which maybe is a flaw I need to correct.  I can bet that paying someone $1000 to retrieve my book may be adequate motivation to finish it. 

Hmm. But here’s another rub. Things happen for a reason – God does not play games with His people and He is all knowing, all-caring, and great enough to actually have a plan for a nobody like me.  If five years of writing is gone, what’s the point?  How am I to read this?

  • Am I to remember Job?  “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:22) Am I to assume that one way or another what I’ve had will be replaced and better than it was before?   That seems possible.  He can feed me ideas.  He always has. Perhaps this perverse external drive will eventually cough up the goods. 
  • Or – am I writing the wrong things? Spending too much time at it? Putting too much emphasis on it?  I think of Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Hmmm… 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ll keep writing until I can figure it out.  Maybe there’s another horse to ride whose hooves I haven’t heard yet.  But I know now what writing means to me. I know that in some way creating that body of thought expanded my heart, pulled me out into the world, and stretched my existence.   When I sat staring at that unhelpful screen full of .jpg files, it all snapped back into an emptiness I hadn’t felt for many years.  

------ But I can’t mourn for long – I have a lot of new writing to do. 


  1. Dee, I'm sick for you. I will ask around the office. It's mostly a PC world there but I know some have Macs so I'll ask. Just to clarify, you're saying that the EHD doesn't show anything but your jpg's, even though you had saved all file types there, or at least thought you had? What kind of EHD is it? What backup software. Email me all the info you can. I may totally strike out here, but I'll try.

  2. Thanks -- I sent both drives off with a local data retrieval guy this afternoon. He said that the EHD we had was notorious for having inadequate power which could 1)make it hard to find stuff that's there, or 2)make it likely that things didn't get saved in the first place. Oh great. He's going to try to make some magic happen with the old one, but he's doubtful about that too. We'll see.

  3. You asked an important question: "How am I to read this?" The implication there is that there IS more than one way to "read" it… but notice that there's an assumption here that it's a "clue" that needs to be "read" in the first place.

    But should we make such an assumption? If God wanted to get a message to you, would He do it in a way that could be so badly misunderstood? I'm convinced that when things like this happen, we're certainly justified to recognize it as a test which has a purpose. But I DON'T have any good reason to think that you're supposed to conclude that God doesn't want you to finish your novel. Neither do I think you're supposed to conclude from this that God DOES want you to finish your novel. You can interpret this disaster a number of ways… Is God going to give you instructions that could be interpreted in contradictory ways?

    For example… what about that recent trip you and Dad made to Bend where that moron almost ran you off the road. Should you have stopped right then and said "Well, I guess God didn't want me to go to Bend?" OR, maybe you should have concluded that SATAN was trying to thwart your trip to Bend, which might only serve to strengthen your resolve to make the trip. I guess if you REALLY WANTED to make it to Bend, you'd choose the latter and if you really would rather NOT go to Bend, you'd choose the former. But in either case all that is is a rationalization for what YOU wanted to do anyway, right?

    So now apply the same logic to the current crisis: You could say that God didn't want you to finish the novel. But why not consider the alternative? Maybe SATAN didn't want you to finish your novel, and God wants you to use this as, like you said, motivation to actually finish it!! How do you know which way is the right way? The point isn't to claim that it's the latter and not the former… the point is to say "Maybe NEITHER." To say it was neither is not to deny that this event had a purpose, it only means that neither God nor Satan are necessarily trying to give you instruction through this event… not instruction related to whether or not you should finish the novel, anyway. I'm inclined to say that you have the freedom to choose whether to finish the novel or not finish it and neither would disrupt God's will.

  4. Thanks for that fresh perspective. It's good to be reminded of how little depends on us. :-)

  5. This makes me so sad! You are taking it much better than I would have. :)

  6. Sorry I made you sad, but I really appreciate the commiseration. Thanks so much for reading. Next week I'll be more upbeat. :-)