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.