This is the second in a series of occasional guest posts by authors and writers from around the world.
I asked Leila Summers if she would write what inspired her lovely memoir, It Rains In February. I had read the book last year and was touched by her story and her risk-taking in writing her pain and loss. This week Leila wrote me: "I want to thank you for this opportunity. Being that the anniversary of my husband’s suicide is this weekend, I think that this was a very good process for me to do. I sat down tonight to begin my blog post, and found that it was easier than I expected, as I just wrote from my heart."
I have always been a natural storyteller. My outlet was entertaining friends with stories over wine or coffee. A friend once joked that she found it fascinating that I could tell a 30-minute tale about going to the store and she actually found it interesting to listen to. People asked me why I didn't write my stories down, but I would only shake my head and chuckle, "I am not a writer."
You see, my husband was the writer. He, his sister, and most of his friends were artists, musicians, writers, or other creatives. I was the wife, the mother, and the friend. A person who could be just as happy entertaining someone with my stories at a party, as I could be sitting at home watching a film with my family. Somewhere along the way, I lost my ability to believe that I could still be anything or anyone I wanted. I had chosen my life, and my life was to be a good wife, a great mother and a valuable friend. And, I was happy. Then one day, everything changed.
On February 1, 2006, my husband, Stuart, arrived home from work and unexpectedly confessed his love for another woman. A married woman whose children were friends with my children. I thought there must be some mistake, a misunderstanding, or perhaps, he was having a midlife crisis. But Stuart spiraled down into depression, becoming obsessed with this other woman, and my perfect life began to unravel along with his sanity. I spent the following year torn between my own heartache and trying to save him. Every day I treaded lightly, juggling work, children, tears, and threats of suicide.
During this year, I kept a journal. I poured my heart onto the pages because there was nowhere else to empty it. I had to be the strong one for my husband, and for my two little girls. And so, I stopped being a storyteller for a while. I withdrew from most of my friends. I was needed at home. I had to try and keep it together, to make it okay, to save a life.
On February 24, 2007, I got the dreaded call. Stuart was dead. His father said, "It's over." But it wasn't over, for me, or for any of us. I was a widow at the age of thirty-seven, with two young daughters, aged six and four.
A month or so later, I picked up my journal and dared to read through it again. All the pain from the past year was there, as well as all Stuart's letters. I decided to type up the illegible tear-stained pages so that my children would one day have a record of the story behind their father's suicide. As I began to type, more words flooded out and the story expanded until I realized that I had the skeleton of a book.
Four years went by as I worked for hours every night, the story growing and evolving as I filled in all the spaces. Writing became a part of my healing process. There were many times that I wanted to forget the idea of publishing, but something kept spurring me on. It was as if the telling of my story was as important as putting it out there for the entire world to read. Only after my book was published, and I was forced to officially call myself a writer, did I discover that another part of the process was to find myself.
Stories race around my head all day, every day. They always did. I wake up writing and I go to bed writing. I wonder now, how I managed before writing. What did I do with all these ideas? Perhaps my world had simply become too tapered, and there weren't as many spaces for my dreams. I know now, that I didn't believe in myself. I didn't know that there was so much more to discover. I thought I was happy because I never questioned it. But my happiness was challenged in ways that I never imagined possible for my life, and in that churning, that profound and utter devastation and grief, I began a new journey, one of self-discovery. One in which I now find myself, a writer.
Leila Summers lives in a tiny country village in South Africa with her two daughters and entourage of pets. She spends her days reading, writing and dreaming. Leila has just started writing her second book, which she hopes to publish in early 2014.
eBook on Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0062EIRAI
Blog – www.leilasummers.co.za/blog