Monday, August 28, 2017

Writing: Search and Rescue Along a Collective Journey

Yesterday I spoke to someone who had read our anthology The Life Unexpected. The book is a compilation of fiction and memoir by sixteen women. She felt taken aback, she said. “I didn’t realize others were thinking the same things I was. It was wonderful.”

In a world of unease and craziness this is what keeps me going as a writer. When a reader approaches you like that, you sense the impact of your work; feel renewed by the collective journey.

The writer’s journey is search and rescue, so to speak. I think about the folks stranded this week in Houston. We’re all stranded in a way … no matter the catastrophe or how you define catastrophe.

I spent Sunday afternoon with two other single women. One had just had knee replacement surgery. It was her second surgery; she had tripped and fallen on her knee and needed the new surgery to repair the damage. We sat with her in the rehab center near Reading, PA, a former glory town until shipping coal by railroad took a nosedive and poverty pervaded.

Two of us widowed and one divorced. Being capable and self-sufficient had become a way of life, trusting in our own instincts, believing in our choices, we said.

Even when it came to men we dated after the death or divorce, we knew when to cut our loses. Aging puts everything into new focus and reality. How to prepare for what is coming? Will you become a burden on your children ... grandchildren? How will you be supported? Cremation or burial?

No husband in old age. Maybe never falling in love again. Living alone. Then again, people bring baggage. So when it comes to Internet dating, my one friend nixed the idea. Maybe better to be alone. 

One day at a time. Church helps. The three of us go to the same little Episcopal church tucked behind gold and green cornfields as far as the eye can see. We had come to the rehab center to hand-deliver a profusion of black-eyed susans and homemade card signed by everyone in the parish.

The single woman's journey and the writer's parallel each other. We have confronted the difficult, the complex, the unspoken in polite company. A solitary and independent breed, we also identify with the collective journey; the need to give each other assistance.

Last week I wrote a flash fiction piece about a woman who travels to Nepal. I plan to submit it to a nonprofit anthology effort. Writing the story helped me feel less stranded, more grounded. I liked writing about her, her quirks, the sights, a story rich in detail.

A friend, another writer, texted me the other night. She had just ended a long relationship. She wanted me to know she planned to come to our Sept. 9 Women's Writing Circle read aroundWhat to do next? 

Write, I texted her. Writing keeps me sane. See you soon in the Circle. "Yeah!" she texted back in big letters with the sound of bells.

Your comments and thoughts are welcomed.

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