It’s been about two years since my writer friends at Women Writing the West presented their cases for my having a site of my own. There were many reasons I resisted, one of the main ones being that I didn’t have the energy for any new things. Late last year I finally understood why I always felt so drained. For more than a decade I had been preoccupied with worry about my husband and my father, both with severe health problems. Then they died—two weeks apart. After they were gone, I found my mind going multiple times a day to what they might need, only to stop myself with the shocking realization that I didn’t have to do that anymore.
I floundered, but I knew from my mother’s death years before that grief is a process and it’s worse if I ignore it or try to rush past it. I took December off and had it out with God. The Christmas Letter 2010 that is in the archive under Writings sums up the public part of what I learned.
I am now returning to work. Today I started on the first chapter of Eternal River III—the draft dated 10-19-09. I had most of the book blocked out when I took a swerve into guide dog school and then chose to write two books on that experience while it was so fresh. The first was A Gift of Dogs, eleven stories of blindness and how having a guide dog changed the life of the handler. Ten were from my classmates and one was mine. The twelfth story was a puppy raiser’s. Then I wrote Steady Hedy—my fight with the strong-willed black Lab that God and the trainers chose for me. It was not love at first sight.
My vision was so bad by then that I took another swerve, this time into an aggressive approach to health. I’ll write about that sometime, but for now I’ll just say that I did six months of Gerson Therapy and God. At the end of the ensconcement I had regained some peripheral vision (fairly remarkable in Retinitis Pigmentosa) and the Lord said I could go back to work, but only one thing at a time. So I worked on the last edits of Steady Hedy with nothing else to do. At first, the Lord instructed me to do only a chapter a day. This work schedule was so much less dense than my usual load that I treasured every moment I was allowed to write. A strange thing happened. I did eleven edits of the book and each time I understood more of what it was really about.
I’m telling you this because I now know what Eternal River is really about. As a six-generation group memoir, there is a whole lot of material. Volume III covers my college years, trip around the world, marriage, children, divorce, conversion, remarriage, and my father’s invention of microcurrent along with my parents’ travel adventures. Volume III could easily be 800 pages. Nobody is going to want to plow through that, no matter how interested they are in my family or my father’s inventions.
I can assure you that it won’t be 800 pages. I’m going into the chapters with machete swinging. I now know that I don’t have to keep everything. I was trying to—mainly because I was trying to keep him, my dad, and every scrap of memory about my children and my mom, though, by then, her voice was faint in the text because she had already been gone for several years when I began writing that book.
I’m going to be posting bits here and there as I slash my way through this long and ancient draft, knowing that articulating the process to you will help me clarify it better for myself. Plus, my father reminded me often that I was from six continuous generations of physicians and scholars and teaching is in my DNA. I love structural analysis and delight in sharing the process with anyone who is interested. If such things bore you, just skip those parts. I will be posting lots of stories from puppy raisers and other dog people as well as miscellaneous information in the “Just So You Know” category that you may be glad to know someday.
One of my reasons for resisting doing a site of my own was the time commitment. It’s not like dashing off an email. It takes time to make my words say what I really mean. But I think it’s something I need to do, for communication is connection. For ten years I was confined to a small, demanding circle that required most of my energy and attention. Now all three of my loved ones are whole and happy in Heaven and I am starting a new adventure—today.