Monday, March 11, 2013

The "Sanctuary" That Is Writing

"Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.”
~ Langston Hughes
Our About the Authors Series continues with Ginger Murphy.
I have always been fascinated by the way we find and make meaning in our lives, especially when the inevitable tragedies remind us how little control we really have over what happens to us. Our choice comes in our response to this reality. My story in Slants of Light,  “Live Your Dream!” is about losing a job and with it all the hopes and dreams nurtured over many years of hard work. It’s also a tribute to the people who stand by us in our times of loss.

Women sustain each other with friendships that endure great distances, long years of no contact and the fact that we too often put others first – children, spouses, bosses, clients – anyone who needs anything we feel we can give. And when we’ve taken care of everyone else and we’re finally ready to put our feet up, our friends are there to talk but mostly to listen.

Carla and Serena, two friends featured in my story, have been together since college when they boldly imagined how they would make the world better by coaching and teaching kids. They felt confident and optimistic then. Now many years later, they are confronting the compromises demanded by making a living and the fallout of the Great Recession. Carla has been laid off in this economic aftermath and she is heart-broken.

While fictional, the genesis of this story comes directly from my own experience. I lost my job three years ago and with it my confidence, idealism and any kind of clarity about what my future could still hold. I was in shock for weeks. And I was very, very angry. I had done everything right. But stellar performance reviews, leadership positions and secured funding for my beloved program simply didn’t matter in the end.

To add insult to injury, when I started to apply for new jobs I experienced a bias against “mature” workers. Hard-earned years of experience now seemed like a liability instead of an asset. I hadn’t thought so much about my age since the days of being “carded” when I went out to bars as a college student! I found myself dispensing with my chronological resume and consulting my stylist about hair color.

Ultimately, I spent a lot of time in my garden – it was early spring when I was let go . . . pulling and digging and clinging to fragile strength gradually re-emerging along with the tender green shoots of those hardy spring bulbs. I took reassurance in this graphic reminder that life does go on.
As it turned out, I would meet new friends through the Women’s Writing Circle during this time. I would also rediscover an old friend in writing itself; it would become a sanctuary to reflect, explore, share and begin to find meaning again amid life’s bewildering events.

My character Serena is really a composite of all my friends who listened, encouraged, coached, laughed and cried with me during this time. Eventually I realized that while my lost job was a sad statistic, I didn’t have to become one too. I was still an intelligent and capable person who could again find meaning, a job and maybe even a new dream.

Ginger M. Murphy is a citizen advocacy coordinator, community organizer and true believer in the promise and power of civic engagement. She has worked as an English teacher, tutor and grant writer. She completed her undergraduate work in English at Wesleyan University and holds a Masters degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. “I like to explore how our voices begin to emerge as we dare to tell our own unique stories. I write to discover the deeper layers of my experience; to sift, sort and discover a reflection that holds personal and universal experiences all at once.” An avid hiker and photographer, she lives in Phoenixville, PA with her three wise feline housemates..
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