I am finally taking that leap to get the words and revisions of the book that I have been constructing, for the past few years, out of my head and onto paper. Friends, who find my life experiences interesting, have said to me countless times over the last decade that I should write a book. And as yet another unbelievable thing happens in my life, those in my closest circle help dissipate the big feelings by saying, “Well, now you have your next chapter in your book. ” And then they can’t help but add – “Although people will think that this time it’s too far-fetched.”
I start my book-writing process by creating a list of initial steps. The first step is to do research – jog my memory for experiences I have had and what I was thinking and feeling in those moments. I dig through boxes and clear out cabinets to gather all of my past diaries. I have a series of 5-year diaries where I have written a few lines every day on that date for five years in a row. It’s great to look back and see what I did in the previous years on that date.
The oldest diary is from 22 years ago. That’ll do. I hadn’t written every day. I wrote for the last half of 1998, on and off throughout 1999, and more sporadically throughout 2000. I’m not sure what the impetus was for stopping and then picking it up again, but I can guess that at times it just seemed too overwhelming and other times I really needed to process. I do remember why I didn’t use any diaries from 2000 to 2008. I had experienced what I deemed a failure at the time, and did not want to look back from the future, hearing the hopes and dreams I had for the endeavor, knowing how disappointed I’d eventually be.
In 2008 I started up again and I have written in a diary every day for the past 12 years. Today I look at the pile of books on my bed, take a deep breath, and open the first one – 1998 – 2000. I am pretty excited to see what I wrote. As I read, I become increasingly uncomfortable, starting to remember what my day-to-day life was like with two young children, and pregnant with the third by the end of 2000. 31 year old me was quite matter-of fact as I recorded my daily activities. 51 year old me is completely overwhelmed as I am reading this.
I am exhausted listening to how busy I was. I don’t remember most of it and I certainly can’t conjure up the energy needed, within a 24 hour time-frame, to host elaborate celebrations, attend work meetings, socialize with friends, run after kids at various programs during the day, and stay up all night when they were sick or needy. However, I do see my friends with younger families doing these things now, and I’m always amazed.
I had forgotten that my life was like that also. Throw in the husband who was battling serious dependencies and a new school that I spent years founding in all of my spare time, and now we’re having fun. I honestly don’t know how I did it. I could never do those things now. I am actually grateful that I didn’t know then what I know now because the innocence was necessary to keep that energy going.
When I’m done reading the diary, I find my 19 year old daughter, who I had been pregnant with at the time, and I share some of my thoughts with her. I relay to her that I know that on Mother’s Days of years ago, I felt completely grateful for my adored children. I truly loved those times as I was living them.
I also remember dreaming of a day, not believing it would really happen, when the little ones would be adults, the house would be only mine to disturb, and the choices I would have would be about what I wanted to do. As I stand there envisioning this, I am filled with an immense, emotional appreciation. My daughter actually witnesses a physical change in my being and cannot stop remarking that she feels honored to be with me as I have my epiphany.
I made it. Today, I am actually living the fantasy I used to dream about. I am surrounded by peace. I awaken and meditate. The food in my home is what I choose. I am in a healthy, loving relationship. The activities I do are for my enjoyment and self-improvement. My sleep is undisturbed. My children have become my dear friends.
I honestly can’t believe it. I lived for so long with very little serenity. I got by on adrenaline and optimism (and a supportive extended family.) I tolerated and rationalized my way through the most difficult circumstances.
Today I send hugs and reassurance back to the young mother, me. I don’t let her know how bad she has it because then she wouldn’t be able to make it through. I do whisper words of faith and I give her strength, courage, and wisdom because I know that she will need these to navigate more difficult times that are ahead. I wish I could give her more, but I know that the clarity is hers to find in her own time. I am in awe of who she was and how she lived her life. I am in awe of all of the parents at the elementary school where I work. And I say to the mothers, including my young self, Happy Mother’s Day. Enjoy now. Enjoy this time. And dream big – your time is coming.