Robin and I, along with my nephew Daniel, are finishing the final edits of a draft manuscript for our book, Despair to Deliverance: A True Story of Triumph Over Severe Mental Illness. In the meantime, I have started my new blog and plan to continue writing about many topics there.
But, to continue telling the behind the scenes story of finishing and publishing our book, I have to write about a recent email exchange between Daniel and I. Daniel lives two hours away from the town where Robin and I live. I moved away to go to graduate school, and Daniel lives in the city where I grew up, along with his father (my older brother) and the rest of his family. To edit our book, Daniel and Robin and I have been sending chapters back and forth by email. He makes comments using the Microsoft Word editing function. A recent comment included:
“Too many spaces. This is something I have noticed, but I haven’t gone through and fixed. Your spaces between sentences tend to vary. Here it was three, usually it is two, but technically I think it is supposed to be one. This is a habit that I have had to break myself, as I grew up doing two. Remember that this won’t be double spaced in a book. From a design point, single spaced paragraphs with two spaces between sentences are called ‘holes.’ Not sure if the publisher will fix this or not, but I thought you should be aware.”
I was grateful he brought it up. It is exactly what he needs to do as our editor. That is, point out to his old aunt that she is still living in the dark ages…back when people actually put two spaces between sentences. My reaction at first, though, was like a grief reaction.
Denial: What do you mean,there is only supposed to be one space? I was taught it was supposed to be two. I’ve ALWAYS put two spaces between sentences. How could this be wrong?
Anger: Okay, honestly, I didn’t really get angry. Confused, yes. Angry? Not really. Maybe it’s a stretch to use the Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief analogy.
Bargaining: I actually emailed Daniel and asked if he knew for sure. I couldn’t believe the whole world had made such a monumental shift, and I knew nothing about it. Was this really true? He said he would “ask around.” I quickly emailed him back and told him not to worry, I would research it. I relied on my usual research method. I googled it.
Depression: It turns out, Daniel was right! I found many articles on-line confirming that this shift had, in fact, taken place without me knowing it. How did this happen? I had honestly never heard one thing about this apparent change in the way everyone in the world is supposed to write. It doesn’t even look right to me to have only one space between sentences. When I am typing, putting two spaces is automatic. How will I ever make this change? My whole world just shifted!
Acceptance: Thank God for the Microsoft Word function called “Find and Replace.” When I realized I could just write the way I write, and then at the end easily switch all the places where I put two spaces to one space, I resigned myself to the new reality.
Okay, I have accepted it. But I still don’t like it. I’ve spent almost half a century doing things one way. Writing is a huge part of my life. I can’t believe this change happened. Who gets to decide these things?
As a complete digression, I have to tell about a similar moment when my world completely shifted recently. It reminded me of the whole “two spaces is now supposed to be one space” shift.
I now work in long-term care facilities (nursing homes) doing diagnostic assessments, staff consultations, neuropsychological testing and some limited psychotherapy. A couple months ago I was talking to a very young, thirty-something year old resident who is there due to severe physical health issues. We were talking about the grief he experiences about living in a nursing home at his age, when he suddenly changed the subject. He was drinking Coke out of a can, and asked a question that caused my other complete world shift.
“I saw this on Facebook,” he said. “Do you know what the hole in the pop top that opens a soda can is supposed to be used for?” He showed me the little metal piece that is lifted up in order to pop open the can. It does have a hole in the part that gets lifted.
“No, I have no idea,” I said, studying the piece of metal just like millions I have seen and used before to pop open the multitude of Diet Coke cans I have consumed in my lifetime.
Without saying a word, he turned the little piece of metal, which was still attached to the can, around so the hole covered the opening in the top of the can. He took a straw from a nurses’ cart that was sitting next to him, and stuck the straw through the hole, right into the can.
It blew my mind. It was perfect! I had never seen this, or heard about it. But, of course, it made complete sense. I laughed, and told him he had shifted my whole world. He laughed and said, “I know, right?”
It’s amazing how one little shift can instantly and completely change the way we have viewed something for our entire lives.