October brings back so many memories. Never a particular favorite as far as months go (I’m more of a spring and summer girl), I learned to appreciate it when I moved to Texas twenty years ago. After 90 days of triple digit temperatures, October’s cooler days seemed like a blessed relief.
Then, I moved to Southern California where it’s always 70 degrees and sunny. Not really, but it’s a beautiful year-round climate. October still brought the usual delights, like Pumpkin Spice everything at Trader Joe’s and the Weiner Dog Races.
Until October 24, 2012. All of my hopes and dreams, longings and expectations vanished with the crack of a 45 caliber handgun. A widow at 52, my expected future was gone. Who would I be now?
Recently, I saw an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow on the occasion of her 50th (!) birthday. She captured my feelings about it perfectly: “We stop trying to be what other people are expecting us to be.”
These ten years have been an interesting journey of grief and mourning, of wandering and self-discovery. Because I am in charge of it, the road has been circuitous but not boring.
Having declared for years that I was going to write a book about the experience, I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last year. Never heard of it? It’s National Novel Writing Month, a (virtual) event that takes place every November. Writers, both aspiring and accomplished, commit to finish a 50,000 word work (in my case, a memoir rather than a novel) by writing 1667 words every day during that month. Making the commitment and the accountability of the group had me writing every day, even during a long Thanksgiving journey.
After writing a 86,704 word draft of a memoir about love, marriage, madness, suicide and moving on, I determined that I don’t want to be known for that. My life has been about so much more. Why should I be defined by someone else’s desperate act? That single bullet ended his life but not mine.
What now? Was the writing a waste of time? NO!
It was a journey of recovery, of finally taking a hard look at the beautiful life that existed, in large part, only in my mind. The difficult days of writing, even those that left me emotionally exhausted, were cathartic.
I have done the work, I have delved deep into what had me stay in a marriage that looked great from the outside but offered both heights that trilled and depths that challenged my own sanity.
Though the 86,704 draft is currently not destined to be a published work, the writing itself is a gold-mine of material for essays, short stories, articles and perhaps, even blog posts.
Today, I’m launching this new blog about my future. For starters, I’m now writing under my original name. The one I had back in 1970 when I wrote my first “book.” It’s covers were blue construction paper with a crayon drawing of a white horse. This was during my horse phase, meaning I read every pre-teen horse book I could lay my hands on. Marguerite Henry, Maureen O’Hara and Walter Farley were some of my favorites.
Exactly what I wrote about I can’t remember, but I would read every book in a series then daydream about what happened to my favorite characters next. I grew up in a working class family where no one went to college and a “career” was shaped by the jobs that were available nearby. I had no idea about how to become a writer. Just that I wanted to live in the world of the written word.
In my universe, there were three possible careers for girls. The preferred path, of course, was marriage and motherhood (in that order). Becoming a teacher or a nurse were the other two options. I dabbled with both of them, but ultimately ended up in the business world, where I’ve used my writing skills to craft marketing materials.
As I am not dead yet, I continue to hold out hope that my love of the written word doesn’t stop at being a consumer of it. That there is something I have to say, or write, that is meaningful to someone other than just me.
I’ve recently adopted the belief that the test of a writer is publishing. So now, after filling hundreds of notebooks with “Morning Pages” I’m committed to writing a daily post for the next 31 days. You can expect stories about my writing journey, and my (interesting) life here in Nashville where I live with my partner, Don Wall, who is a songwriter, musician and storyteller.