I’ve done everything but start, so here I am.
I write for two reasons
My last time on a carousel was on our last big family trip. It was P. D. meaning Pre- Divorce. It was all 8 of us (2 parents and the 6 kids) in our E350 Ford Van -the 12 passenger one reserved for churches and prisons. We drove from Atlanta to Maine. Our 3 week road trip up the coast was our last hurrah before kids started going to college in rapid succession. This dreamy day was about half way through the trip. We puttered over to Martha’s Vineyard from Falmouth on a ferry and dared each other to feed sea gulls out of our hands from the top deck of the boat.
I rode the carousel because our youngest needed me and I wanted her to have this quintessential vacation experience. Mim has a disability and so trying new things is not her forte and she was still so little. I rode on the same horse as her anticipating motion sickness. And we moved through the humid air gleefully. She was just the right age to find it magical and thrilling. Rounding the pavilion, she would scan the watchers for her watcher. Her eyes darting through her tiny glasses while I pointed and waved to her Daddy and Aunt Sarah. Our kids on the other horses would be doing the same waving and yelling while pretending to race each other. We were loud tourists complete with chocolate ice cream drips on our shirts and souvenir hats.
The best part of a carousel ride isn’t the painted horsey with the ancient failing leather safety belt. The delight in the merry go round is when you gallop around and spot your person. The smile. The wave. What I’m looking for in life is fairly simple. I’m on the carousel riding around hoping to catch a glimpse of my people. And maybe if I am very very lucky, they will be there when I come around again. And again.
This dream come true of a full house and a full life comes with so many opportunities to royally mess up or to just run into a lot of trouble. My oldest has an eating disorder. My youngest has multiple disabilities. My dad is dying of leukemia. I have lived through and parented through Addy’s heart failing due to anorexia, Mim’s adoption, Mim’s daily needs, infidelity and then the regular hard stuff too, like school bullies, moving across the country, an empty bank account, drunk teenagers and lice. The experiences – the good and the bad- have brought a teensy weensy bit of serenity and I dare say wisdom to my life along with the occasional feeling that an elephant is sitting on my chest. The greatest triumph over the evils and the craziness is to come out on the other side of the darkest night and hold the hand of another who hasn’t found the light. I am somehow driven to put into my computer and eventually, out into the universe these private stories about myself, with the hope that you will see me waving from the carousel. And that you will wave back.
When I divorced, I was certain that no one had been in my situation. No one had six kids and a husband who cheated for 7 years of a 19 year marriage. No one could have been as stupid or as blind as me. But people showed up for me. They came and said “I survived” and “you will survive” louder and with more fervor than Gloria Gaynor.
Towards the end of my separation and the beginning of my divorce, I took a writing class. HUGE DEAL. I showed up with my homemade magazine collaged journal and I introduced myself as a mom of 6 and a special ed teacher.
The rest of the conference table introduced themselves as writers. The class was for nonfiction writing. This step toward joining the world of writing and being a person on my own (not a jilted housewife) seemed revolutionary and important. And it was. Drew Jabera, the teacher, wrote lots of memorable magazine pieces and a football piece, Last Chance U, for GQ that became a Netflix documentary show. My middle daughter BeBe introduced me to the tv show about a month before I saw the class listing so it felt like fate.
The writing class was more useful than therapy. My drunk on honesty vulnerability was rewarded. My classmates liked my writing and I was amazed by their talents. Jabera was such a wonderful encouraging writing teacher. To be seen as having valuable stories was uplifting and sustaining. To be seen as a writer or a peer to these other writers was just plain AWESOME.
I hid a little less. The elephant sitting on my chest got half a ton lighter. The stories of my life didn’t turn people away. The opposite- it drew them in. I was seen naked, stretch marks and all and the readers didn’t run away. They saw my joy and love for life existing right along side my pain. I wasn’t going to become the bitter ex wife. I could retain my “free to be you and me” warm, pudgy, two pony-tail wearing identity. And I will survive.
I’m blogging because I dream of being a memoirist. Or I am a memoirist- I just haven’t written the book. Yet. The blog is a step on the path of connecting and healing and aiming to be a person with a future.
I had assumed so much in my 19 year marriage. I counted on the idea of marriage lasting forever and growing old together and driving an Airstream around visiting the grandchildren. This new life I have after the divorce, A.D. feels so foreign. I am untethered. And slowly I am developing my new future. I can’t quite put my finger on what the vision is- but I know for certain that I should be writing all this down.