I leaned into the open trunk of my Ford Probe and reached for a slim paperback spine-bound book of poetry. My first book, Driving Off the Horizon. I thrust it in John’s direction, proud of my accomplishments, eager to share my words, my feelings, my passion with my first true love.
He shook his head and waved the book away. “I told you I didn’t want you to write about me,” he said.
As I drove away from Paw Paw, Michigan, the halfway point between my Ferndale, Michigan first-floor flat and his Chicago walk-up, my drive was blurred by tears. I had said goodbye to John for the last time.
That was 10 years ago and though I’ve tried to find my college love online, I haven’t seen nor heard from him since. It’s just as well. Since we met in my junior-year living room over a back-to-school keg, we’d been pulled to one another like magnets. Over years, big-city moves, job changes, his bike ride across the country and my transformation into a religious woman, we kept seeking each other.
Maybe it was the feel of soft skin in the brown first light of morning. Maybe it was the way we always knew what to do, what to say, how to look right into the eyes and mean it. Maybe it was the idea of who each of us was more than who we really were. Something kept pulling us to PATH train platforms and East Coast bedrooms until Paw Paw.
Even still, John repeated his indignant refrain: “I don’t want you to write about me.”
And my answer, too, was repetition. “Date a writer, take a chance.”
I write to explore the meaning in my life. I write to understand. I write to find clarity. I write to investigate the world.
Perhaps it’s the world in my head or the small world around me, but sometimes it’s the world of words that makes living in the real world possible.
Several people have asked me since I started this blog why I’m not uncomfortable revealing so much of myself here. It may be more than most people want to share, but I think about what I write before I post it. I like who I am, so I don’t mind sharing that with you.
There are parts of me, of course, that stay in the shadows and only come out for certain people at certain times. I draw lines, even if they are not the lines that society might deem appropriate. I don’t live by rules other than what settles into calm waters inside me.
I’ve written a lot about John and I doubt he’s read any of it. I write about my children because I love them, I am proud of them, I am in awe of being their mother. I write about my family when they irk me and when they hold me up. I write about friends in good and bad times, and I’ve written a little about my ex-husband, but always at a certain remove. I don’t need to air dirty laundry.
It’s a chance you take. People talk about others they come across. They gossip. They reveal secrets they shouldn’t share in public. I don’t really do that.
But extrapolate the obvious – it’s always a risk to get involved with another person. Maybe not as risky as being written about in a blog disseminated around the world, but risky still to reveal your inner self, the feelings and frustrations few people get to see. I think it’s less scary to appear in print among someone else’s words than to share my vulnerable side face to face with someone I care about.
It’s easier than laying oneself emotionally bare and risk rejection. Someone wise once told me that words can be used as a sword and as a shield. Of course they can.
They can also be used as a soft tool plying its way into the tender heart of true love. They can be uttered under moonlight, in the soft breeze of a serene lake, or on the backyard swing as fireflies illuminate the night.
I write to elevate the everyday. It’s my way of stopping to appreciate the beauty that is all around me. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.