Last week a friend shared a very funny personal incident about eating chocolate in his car. I found myself reaching for my Snippets pad, a small spiral pad that I keep with me to write down funny words, or overheard conversations, ideas for writing. It was a reaction.
Two days ago in the dark humor of dealing with grief, a newly widowed neighbor shared the warning his 89-year-old friend gave him about “watching out for the chicken soup” that will start to be delivered by female friends. As he told the story, with greatly exaggerated drama, I reached for Snippets.
I was excited and pleased to be scribbling the ideas. I giggled more than warranted. The giggle was a combination of humor and relief. Because other than occasional blogs, I hadn’t been moved to do a creative piece of writing for months.
Five months ago I stepped away from personal writing activities that reached beyond my journal, clients, and my local writing groups. My beautiful stepdaughter was dying. Every waking (and dreaming) moment was of her and of her father, who was seemingly on an even keel but his inner rudder was a little bit wobbly. We reassessed what counted and it was to go back and forth to be with her, and to be with each other.
My world shifted as many of you who have experienced tragedy and loss know. Our world became smaller as my knowledge base of CT scans, treatments, cancer diets, and flight times to New Jersey expanded. And shifted again when she left us. The grief of knowing our Judy had died was acute, painful, and deeply sad. The mourning that began January 21 has been painful, sad, confusing, an emotional rollercoaster. Adapting to this new family mobile has been pretty shaky, and still is.
Getting up to see the sunrise, going out to see the sunset, and greeting the full moon, has been the scaffolding of my healing. I live in Tucson, land of endless skies, healing sunshine, and brilliant weather.
Going for walks in February, I focused on breathing and putting one foot in front of the other. Then when spring started showing hints of arriving I started taking photos again, getting a visual image of life and beauty.
I had thought about “getting back to my writing” for a few weeks but was waylaid by malaise, inertia, excuses. I was waiting to be “inspired” to have a burst of energy one bright Tucson morning, sit at my cleared desk, and CREATE! I think once you believe you are a writer, it gets almost hardwired into you. You don’t have to have written a book or published some work. For me that helped; I freely admit I still need outside acknowledgement for my inside feelings. No matter what happens, as a writer, sooner or later, you have to write.
The habit of carrying a Snippets pad for over ten years brought me back to writing through that ordinary gesture of reaching for my pad.
Today I ripped out the notes and stared at them. The actual Eating Chocolate in the Car and Chicken Soup, and even some Judy stories will come later. But the seeds have been planted. Today I began this newsletter. I’m back.
So happy to have you “back,” Ethel!
We have a lot of catching up to do.
I never say I can relate to someone else’s pain because I believe everyone is different.
All I know it can be absoutely paralyzing,as you have epxressed eloquently on occasion.
Anyway, glad to hear you back to writing-you have the gift!
Yes, you know how the process can go and then it has those levels individual to each person. I think compassion connects us when this happens. Hope to see you soon!
Wonderful, moving and inspirational piece. I’m very happy to hear the seeds have been planted and are taking root.
Yep, the ideas are coming fast and furious. Been out with friends and colleauges, and the snippets of conversations are rich!!!
I love to read your writing. It is so rich with all of the “sensory” words. This description of Tucson is the most perfect I’ve read or heard, “land of endless skies, healing sunshine, and brilliant weather.” Rather than carrying a “snippets” notebook with me, I carry a sketchbook. Whenever or wherever I find something of interest, I quickly sketch it. My favorite part of the day is just before I go to bed. As a way to slow down and “get into the zone,” I do a quick sketch of any household item that catches my eye. I am glad that you are back.
What a calming way to record your day!!
And I am so glad to “be back”
Welcome back. You have such a lovely gift with words. The world’s a better place with Ethel writing. You often inspire me, and always charm me. Can’t wait to read what’s next.
Thank you for those very kind words. I’m entering one of those ‘so many ideas, so little time’ periods in writing.
And I kind of like it!
Ethel, An eighteen year old granddaughter is the light of my life right now. She makes my heart soar, are my parting words to her. Your loss stopped me cold to reflect a bit on how fragile life is. In reading your comments it seems to me you are back to writing. Prayers are with you
“Makes my heart soar” Now that’s a blessing.
After many years of absence, you ‘visited’ Washington School again last night; your hair was yet another shade of reddish-gold, soft and flowing, shoulder length, with a slight sparkling glint. There was a smile of recognition upon your face and an old understanding present in your eyes, as we reaffirmed the sense of belonging we experienced at Washington School. (Oddly, you did have a small tablet and pen or pencil in your hand…………)
I am so sorry about your great and tragic loss.
JoAnne, It meant so much to me to see your name in the comments and your kind and poetic words. I would guess you are still using your talents for writing.
I read somewhere about grief being a catalyst for some writers and I think I belong among their legions. Dont’ get me wrong; I like to pen humorous essays, and my friends like to receive them, but some of my better writing is borne from loss because I’m forced to look inward all the way to the core of who I am. It’s a painful trip and sometimes what I learn is not edifying but disappointing instead, yet there it is and now I know. On a bright Carolina day in May, my sister called to tell me our father had died. She was devastated although he had been in hospice for two years lingering helpless and in the end, non-responsive. I felt relief not grief. In his eulogy I shared anecdotal stories – some touching and others not so endearing. This was how I grieved my father’s passing by peering into the slow glass of my life as his daughter. It’s complicated, but less so each time I write about it.
I think storytelling, whether oral or written contains a huge dose of comfort. It may start as a catalyst from an event of loss or tragedy, but maybe on some level the teller/writer has a glimmer of the relief of the outcome. Keep on writing.