You have made a lot of progress in the last few years. Remember that stack of journals when things first started to happen? But it goes back farther than that. What about that 5 year journal with scattered entries, the one with the tiny lock you kept in your nightstand during your early teens? Last time you looked at it you wondered what all the abbreviations meant. M.A.M. for one. It might have meant “mad at mom,” or perhaps “mad at Marilyn.” You did remember the first M stood for mad. Most of the entries were short sentences, “I finished my book report,” “We had a pajama party at Vickie’s,” “I babysat for the neighbors last night.” More a calendar of life with little emotion.
There was a break from journaling for a few years, the need to write fixed in letters to Carol. You have the ones she sent to you. Does she still have yours? Probably not but you have a dozen years of response to your letters to her, each one dropping a small clue as to what was going on. They begin with happy memories but evolve into “come and visit me so we can talk about it” messages.
The journal writing began again in the mid-seventies, after the boys were born. Reflections of being a mother, trying to make things work, a few essays mixed in from that advanced English class at DVC. Another break and then the Tarot phase journal, followed by an AA step journal. You scanned them all a couple of years ago and threw away the actual papers not wanting anyone to find them. At least you had the sense to keep them in digital format. Safely tucked away in case you ever wanted to write a memoir.
The time has arrived. It’s been a tedious process to put those missives in chronological order and make some sense of it. Reading through the work brings mostly tears but a few healthy bouts of laughter. How minor the problems were in the beginning. Remember how many times you packed your bags thinking you would head back to Michigan and life would be easier? Learning about Jason’s addiction? Dealing with your own drinking, trying to decide – am I an alcoholic? “Fake it until you make it,” they said in AA. They meant for you to fake your sobriety but you turned it around, deciding if you faked your drinking experience, the program would work, a twisted attempt at denial of the real problem.
But when you sat down to write the book, it seemed to be all about Jason. Then the focus shifted to Chris. And then there was Eric. And now JJ. You told their secrets. That’s okay, it was a shitty first draft. You’re supposed to write it all out and no one needs to read it. But this is a memoir. It’s about you. You are the narrator. You told their story and now it’s time to make it yours.
Remember when you said, there is no resolution? And then someone in your tribe suggested resolution may come with the writing. Or, it’s possible that there may be no resolution. How disappointing that felt. You wanted that lightning bolt to zap straight into the manuscript, erase the past and manifest into a miraculous new life, what you thought would be a normal life.
Sifting through those first 90,000 words the patterns began to emerge. When you began this re-write, you were at a turning point of sorts. You began to feel like the hub of a shredded wheel, picking up the pieces in the freeway of life, trying to glue it back together. Were you the common denominator, and therefore the source of everyone’s misery? Did you lay out those spikes of disaster? Or were you drawn to the center of all adversities, never having to look at yourself? You think: It’s not you. It’s them. Why write that?
Dig a little deeper. Keep digging. The answer will come. You are getting closer. So close the theme is right there, within your reach. Just a little more energy, one chapter at a time, you can do it. Listen to the sages in your life. Follow their path. Forget about the results for now. It’s not a marathon that will end at the finish line. Growth continues, published or not. Write for yourself. Give yourself permission to self-publish that first shitty draft – just for yourself. Hold it in your hand knowing how far you have travelled. Accept what was and turn it into something powerful. Put it out there to make a difference for someone who still struggles.
You’ve got this. Push that inner critic aside (that would be me, you know).
Ten years ago today I said goodbye to my best friend.
We met in the sunset of our lives. It’s not an uncommon occurrence that two women become best of friends in the Red Hat Society. This disorganization of women over fifty has grown in exponential proportions since its inception only a few years ago. It fills the need for those women over fifty to gather together to celebrate life with fun and frivolity. And that is exactly what we do. We do it with whim and wit flaunting our age in shades of purple topped off with brilliant red hats.
When I learned about this society of women, I felt that my conservative and shy nature made me an unlikely candidate for such a prominent public display of splendorous glitz. Under the guise of a dare I coerced a few old friends into buying red hats, purple dresses, and showing up for high tea at a local tea room. We giggled under our bright red brims, a conspicuous spectacle of color amid the dainty pink and white décor. Due to a few inquiring ladies with sense of admiration we emerged a couple of hours later with our hats tilted with a new attitude (hat-itude). The next day I registered with Hat Quarters as Queen of the newfound RHS Molls.
The Molls chapter has now grown into an eclectic group of over sixty members and while I enjoy the exaltedness of being a queen, so contrary to my life before red hats, the biggest reward has been my bond with one special new friend. She walked into my life with a handful of silly purple clappers, the biggest grin ever, and the heartiest of all laughs. We had the same purpose in mind… pure fun. And fun we have, time and again.
Neither one of us had a single clue that the biggest problems in our lives would be our biggest bond. It happened a few months after we met when I shared with her a rather personal reason for my escape into this society of women. Her face dropped as she blurted out her reason. While our situations were different, we shared equally desperate challenges. The point is not what we suffered from but how we would take care of each other. We allowed each other the space to share the daily trials in our life and then we moved past that into fun and friendship. We learned that sharing the grief, with compassion and a good sense of humor lessened the burdens and intensified the fun.
This friendship that developed was far beyond the friendships of my youth. For me the young friends came and went as we grew apart in our individuality, moved on, or moved away. My life has been a journey with turbulent twists and turns. But as I settle into my second half of life and learn who I have become through these circumstances of life, the growing pains recede. I begin to let go of the past and enjoy a new set of friends; friends, who know and like each other for who we are today.
There is a new set of dynamics however in these recent relationships. Youth behind us we now realize the evidence of our temporary existence as friends, old and new, begin to pass on. And so, this special friend and I shared our last days together in sadness and in joy. Together, we cherished the journey and the gifts of each day.
Rest in peace my dear friend. I miss you every day.