I’ve written stories and poems since I could string a series of words together with a pencil in my Big Chief Writing Tablet. My first short story was about a girl, Miranda, and her horse. (Like many young girls, I really wanted, but would never get, a horse.) I wrote poems in my early teens that began:
No longer inspired
By childish games
Yes, a true prodigy.
Beyond short stories and poetry, I wrote in a journal for decades. I’ve got boxes of notebooks, most of them with hardback black covers, but some floral, leafy green, and one emblazoned with a sunset photo. (I’ve got a pact with a friend who promises to throw them away, without reading them, upon my death.) This blog, although anonymous, is as close as I’ve ever come to allowing my writing to have an audience. While I have shared short stories like the one of Miranda and her horse with friends and family, before I began this blog, I never shared my intimate writings.
I’ve thought for years about writing a memoir. Or thinly-veiled fiction. Some writers have to make up stories from whole cloth or use events from the lives of others. I have the opposite problem–too much material. What would my memoir include? I couldn’t include it all: unhappy childhood, drug and alcohol-filled teens and twenties, promiscuity, married boyfriends, alcoholic boyfriends, pedophile boyfriend, moochers, scammers, users, eating disorder, struggles with weight and body image, alcoholic father and two brothers, co-dependent mother, both alcoholic brothers dying in their 50s within less than a year of each other, death of my father sandwiched in the middle of that awful year, mother falling ill shortly thereafter and after four months of rehabilitation, being well enough to move into assisted living. And then there’s the fact that I’m 50, single, never married, living alone with three cats, and have a career in a male-dominated field that I sort of fell into and that now has attached itself to me like a giant barnacle because unfortunately, I’m good at it.
My life is one big passé cliché. How do you write a memoir with so much already-done material? Not to mention the distress it would cause my remaining family. Until I write my story as fiction, or retire and become fearless, this is my medium.
While some people may prefer cat stories and vacation photos, which I indulge in from time to time, my deeper desire is to reach out to a somewhat different audience. A woman out there sitting alone on her sofa on a cold, overcast Sunday afternoon, cuddled up with her cats under a faux fur blanket. A woman wondering whether she’s utterly lost, whether her childless partnerless life is devoid of meaning, whether loving her cats as if they were her children makes her odd. A woman who is thrilled that her recently-rescued stray is sitting on the arm of the sofa behind her head, purring loudly, while her step-sister is curled up on the faux-fur blanket on the other end of the sofa, napping. (Never mind that the third kitty is upstairs being unsociable, as usual.) A woman who, as she reads my blog, knows she is not alone in her aloneness. She knows that there are other single, never-married women out there who have endured the death of their parents and siblings alone. Who have vacationed alone. Who sleep, each night, alone (with cats). Women who, despite the tragedies and heartache they have endured, are content. And they are not alone.
Alone is not the same as lonely.
Exactly. In fact, at times I’ve felt acutely lonely with someone next to me on the sofa.
Oh oh oh I am sort of that woman sitting alone on my couch on a cold, overcast Sunday evening with my two dogs and my story isn’t yours but so much of it feels the same. And frankly, I’ve been wondering where you are because you haven’t written in like, forever, and while it’s nice to share your Great Bear Vacation with you, I like it best when you tell your story.
And by the way – the first story I ever wrote when I was a kid was about a girl, Amy, and her horse. I didn’t save it, but I do remember the first line: “Amy sat up in bed, hugging her knees in excitement.” And I remember it because the teacher asked me what the heck “hugging her knees” meant which I thought was pretty obvious, so I sat on the floor and showed her ;o)
So good to hear from you; I read what you write and I nod and I think, “yes, yes.” You’ve been through trauma I can’t imagine, but I can feel your heart through what you say.
I haven’t written forever. I was enjoying sharing the photos, and still have many spectacular images to share, but I missed writing. And connecting with you all. 🙂
“Hugging her knees” is obvious. Silly teacher. I had one accuse me of cheating because I used the word “azure” and because what I wrote must have surprised her. She quizzed me on the meaning of several words in the piece. Of course I knew them all. 😉
Thank you for feeling the connection. I feel it too.
Love the quote. I sometimes think fiction exists because people don’t want to believe real life ( which can be more complicated/harsh/odd/quirky than make-believe).
People are just different. The lucky ones are comfortable in their own skin – and know what works for them. What else matters? (The social ones never understand the ones who are perfectly content to be on their own)
One of my favorite movies is Stranger Than Fiction. It could be my life theme. Or how about More Dramatic Than a Drama.
I have always enjoyed being alone. My mother practically shooed me out the door with a broom on many occasion: “Go outside and play!” I just wanted to read my book.
Of course it helps to have a cat and/or dog in the realm. I need to see what RC’s been up to.
I feel the same…I’ve kept journals since I was 5, and have never felt comfortable enough to share my feelings or thoughts with others, which is why I blog anonymously. It gives you the freedom to be able to say exactly what you think and feel without worrying about stepping on anyone’s toes. Your blog has inspired me as well, and I always look forward to reading new posts from you. 🙂
Thanks! You’re exactly right–no self-censoring this way. You’ve got journals from when you were five? Neat! Born to write.
Some day I’ll take them out and see if there are any nuggets amidst the angst.