I am writing a book. I wrote that out loud. It is a memoir. It has been hard for me to explain to others and myself what it is about.
At first, I didn’t know it was a memoir. I inadvertently discovered this genre of books. For my birthday a few years back, my husband gave me a book. I need to stop and clarify what a HUGE DEAL this is. He does not read books. His reading consists of emails, the sports page, and the business page. He has tried over the years, mostly during the months there is no baseball, to snuggle in bed and read. This definitely comes under the category of making huge efforts to make your marriage better. His attempts at shopping for books for me earns many more brownie points. He is as comfortable in a book store as an elephant in a china shop. Long ago, by choosing this wonderful man, I gave up the idea of a romantic date night being a nice dinner and browsing in a book store into the wee hours.
But, being a first born extroverted child of a hard working mid western family, means that he thinks he can do anything, and usually can. He asks people about books - he asks my mother, he asks friends, he asks strangers, he asks the book nerds (his word) in the book stores. When he buys me books, it is more than a gift. He has put effort into something he knows I love, something that is as far from natural to him as it comes. He does this wholly and completely for me.
The book he gave me that year was Jen Lancaster’s Pretty in Plaid. I hadn’t heard of the book or the author, but I picked it up and read it easily, laughing out loud along the way. I loved the way she seemed like a regular person, not famous, not rich, not from a well known family, not in politics, not an eccentric writer, not writing for a not so well hidden agenda. It was simply musings in which I could identify. My husband explained that the book that was actually recommended to him was called Such a Pretty Fat, but he wasn’t comfortable giving that for Mother’s Day/ birthday. He was scared of the repercussions. Maybe he had a point.
I read several others around this time in which I felt connected. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, Kelly Corrigan’s The Middle Place, and The Motion of the Ocean by Janna Cawrse Esarey stand out as some of the firsts. I fell in love with reading these stories of real people, people that I felt like were similar to me. While reading these books, I felt like I was having a conversation with a friend.
And I began to think that I could write a book like these. I still wonder if thats falling under the spell of the authors that make writing seem so easy.
The year or so before I turned 40, I started thinking about what I would do to mark the occasion. I didn’t want a big party. I wanted it to be meaningful. A beginning of a new part of my life. I wanted some time to stop from the day to day, the busyness of getting from here to there. I wanted to evaluate how things were going, and move forward according to my values. I wasn’t living life the way I had planned, or wanted. Outwardly maybe I was, but my insides were knots and I wanted them untangled.
I wondered if I could write a memoir from my perspective. A woman turning 40 plagued by the way life, calendars, email, voicemail, and other minute details were running my life. I had no tragedy, no before and after. I had no big trip, no grand voyage. But I haven’t been able to shake the fact that there are many out there struggling with the same challenges I am. Women, and men, who want to live life more fully, more according to their dreams and values, than expectations and calendars.
As I started the process, I realized I couldn’t quite define who I am. I couldn’t write the “about me” clip on my blog. It is so much more than mother, daughter, wife. There are some things that I really miss about my former life. And other things not as much. I have grown and changed.
So, the marking of my 40th birthday became to write a memoir. It is written from the belief that all of us have challenges to overcome, even if they aren’t visible, maybe especially if they aren’t visible. Even if we aren’t extremely wealthy or extremely poor. Maybe especially if we are plain middle class with no tragedies to help define us. It is written from the belief that we can make extreme changes and grow while staying in our marriages, and staying in our communities, and staying present in our lives.
My memoir is about remembering who I was, and meeting the person I have become, and making peace with the changes.
I am writing a memoir. I wrote that out loud.