I have found that attempting to write a book is so much harder than writing this blog. But here we go….I have other snippets written but I needed a place to start – some context to get me off the ground and into the air. The book is going to be about becoming a ballerina at 55. Of course, what I mean is that it’s about starting to dance, but in my mind, I’m a ballerina. Were it not for that delusion, I don’t think it would mean the same to me. We all need a beacon, and this is mine.
I always assumed that my life would build upon itself and grow, from the moment I stepped out on my own until my dying breath.
People in my family have tended to pursue new experiences. Always and constantly they’ve been off in some new direction. After my grandmother died, my grandfather pursued a degree in creative writing. He was an engineer and still worked odd jobs, but that was beside the point. He decided to write and he went back to college. He was beloved by some of the younger students, I suspect in part because he approached everything with so much intensity and zest. When my mother lost her second husband – it was very sudden and unexpected – she grieved hard for a little under a year and then met husband number three. Soon followed an early retirement, lots of travel, a little painting, years studying Italian and seriously…some pretty astonishing quilt-making. This is the woman who cooked her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, first, before the blog and the movie were made, and she’s never stopped creating masterpieces in the kitchen. Oh yeah, and she was a teacher who went to law school at night when I was growing up. On a whim.
No one in my family made loss and getting older seem like anything but a chance to do new things.
So, I imagined I would add on the layers: a husband and children, a home, animals, patients and friends. I imagined expanding and bringing into my circle more of everything that I loved and longed for. I didn’t expect it would be roses, but I never anticipated the heavy sense of loss that would begin to permeate every part of my life as I hit my fifties.
Not that I didn’t imagine loss. As a small child I would imagine my mother dying, and it would be so real and terrifying that I would cry and decide that I simply could not go on without her. I told my mother about this and she said, “Well that would mean I haven’t done a very good job raising you. It’s your job to go on.” My mother is practical and not prone to anything sentimental for more than five or ten minutes whereas I, on the other hand, have always been a blubbering mess – at least at times.
My marriage ended and both my father and my grandfather died, but still I felt I was moving forward, raising children, dreaming of one day remodeling the old big house we lived in, growing my medical practice. Everything continued to expand. I started a non-profit to help homeless animals and my children became teenagers and young adults. I lived with a man I assumed I would grow old with.
And then it all fell apart. Not everything. But the sense that I was building and growing and adding – that sense gave way to a permeating sense of loss. My relationship ended, my kids grew up and I lost my nonprofit in a hostile takeover. There was something about the way it all ended at about the same time that created a perfect storm that closed in and around me.
Since that time, I have struggled to remain afloat and to keep swimming. I have dated and blogged about it, played the banjo and taken ceramics, and given myself a zillion pep talks. I’ve continued to take care of children, and my medical practice has sustained me through all of this. Thank God.
The most recent injustice is that I finished menopause, had a hysterectomy and two years down the road, I’ve noticed my body aging faster than a freight train heading for the station.
In between all the picking myself up and the starting over again, I got really tired and found myself taking to my bed more and more at night and on weekends. The need to just rest became so overwhelming that when I met a nice man who wanted to be with me every chance he could, I eventually had to end it just to be on my own, and under the covers.
By the end of 2018, I felt ready to try again. I opened myself up to what might lie ahead, with no idea of what that might look like. I just decided I would get up, and try again.
And then I went to the ballet.
And now I am writing this book.
Because, I am my mother’s daughter.