Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – December 30, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – December 30, 2004 – I have two little stories left to write – this being one of them. Tomorrow night my keyboard will be eerily silent. I will have fulfilled my personal commitment to write “367 Little Stories From An Everyday Life”. I’m in a pinch-me “state of mind” – the heck with New York – this is Toronto.
I’ve edited and printed 365 of these narratives and they stand in four green, three ring binders (what else) on my office bookshelf. A one way dialogue of my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, frustrations, lessons I’ve learned, things I still need to learn, observations, dreams and memories.
What a ride it’s been! There were days when the words flowed like hot, swirling lava, enveloping my mind and my senses. I was alive with enthusiasm and the words couldn’t leave the ends of my fingertips fast enough for my liking, to appear like magic on the computer screen in front of me. I loved the sense of story telling, the memories evoked by my thoughts, the idea that I was writing something that might give another person some perspective on his or her life. Still always shyly wondering – “Is any of this at all good”?
Other days I felt like an imposter. Who was I to think I had anything of value to say? A writer? Will someone please tell this woman another joke. What was I thinking when I started this silly venture? Who do I think is going to read this and why would anyone care about my silly little remembrances of life? The reality is probably just this – no one will care and these four binders will stand, neglected, on my shelf.
I’m certainly not the first, nor will I be the last person to attempt to take on the mantle of “writer”. I’ve read excellent books and I know how they sound and feel. I understand plot, characterization, motivation, subtlety, resolution – the sheer beauty of the written word. That’s what writers do. That’s why people read their work.
Have I done this – created a work of great poignancy, dramatic storytelling and lasting value? No. What I have done is to prove a point to myself. I am more than I thought I was. I’m not just a real estate agent. I’ve answered a creative whisper, given it a voice and allowed it to blossom. I’ve recalled events in my life that have been clouded by the layers of time. I’ve blown off the dust and laughed and cried at the memories.
I’ve acknowledged and examined my own behaviour – some of it incredibly childish. I’ve seen myself react to hurtful situations, celebrate little victories, make changes, accept setbacks, set goals and deal with victory and defeat. I’ve lived a year on paper. It’s been exciting, daunting, challenging, filled with thoughts of dread and moments of elation. It’s time for another little pinch. I’ve done this while pursuing a hectic work schedule, maintaining a household, keeping up with my friends and family and looking after myself – mind, body (sort of – Howard has a different version of this) and soul.
Has this experience changed me at all? I have to answer yes. I didn’t really believe I had the backbone for it. I’ve made countless commitments in the past, and watched them slide down the proverbial “slippery slope” in short order. I liked to talk but I was short on the actual delivery. Last December 31st as I was getting ready to go out for New Year’s Eve, I wrote my first little story about being thankful that I had a bed. The next day while looking at a picture of myself as a fresh-faced three year old, I wrote about the wonder of a hot bath and owing it to the child in me to become all I am capable of being.
I’m not really sure when I decided to write everyday for a year. I remember that it was easy to say, but I never believed that I’d really do it. That would have been okay, I had good intentions. I’ve started things in the past that I didn’t finish. It was the year end – time for resolutions. This didn’t mean I’d have to follow through. Go to a gym on January 2nd and then re-visit it on January 15th – that’s how quickly resolve can be shattered. Human nature – nothing but a fickle flight of fancy. I was safe.
This time however, something in me was awakened and I made it past January 15th. Aptly enough, I called my first stories, those written in January – “Chapter 1”. What a concept. February could be Chapter 2. Perhaps I was on to something here. I decided on an index for the month and I recorded each story title beside the day it was written. By January 31st I seemed to have made a decision. Still, I didn’t believe it would last. I had eleven months to go, I was busy with work, I wanted to get back in shape, I had my book club to read for and besides I was cursed with a lazy streak. Then somehow it was the 29th of February – 2004 was a leap year. March was looming large and I still seemed to have something to say.
March and April passed by and I’d acknowledged the loss of both my parents. Mary in a six day story of her fight with Alzheimer’s Disease and my father in an entry called Charlie Heart Attack. Then it was May. My garden was growing green and it was time to build my pergola. I wrote about my struggle with panic disorder and anxiety in June and about being at the half way point of this madness. In July I penned stories about gargoyles, bad hair days and anger. August brought the tale of my computer crash and yet another new attempt at a daily exercise regimen.
In September I remembered childhood games and wrote about a new, improved plan for business. In October I created The Inukshuk 12 and had a couple of teeny-weenie emotional meltdowns, followed by November’s appreciation of a beautiful sunset and the ongoing saga of The Tooth Goddess. December meant I was almost home free. Thirty-one stories to go. I honestly didn’t know if I had it in me. I was very tired of the daily grind, trying to be creative, when I would rather have watched dust form into bunnies. I wasn’t having much fun with my daily jottings. But stopping wasn’t really an option.
On a slow day I’d sit facing the dreaded keyboard, the document open to the appropriate date and my mind as blank as leaves are green. It was awful. Then an idea would flutter past and I’d grab hold of it and hang on for dear life. Might there be a little story here? I sure as hell hoped so because nothing else was coming to mind. In the first weeks of last year, I tried to keep a file of writing ideas at the ready, but it didn’t work well for me. I’d open it up and read down the list and there wouldn’t be a thing there that inspired me. That idea fell by the wayside.
Now that I’ve almost finished I wonder about the things I’ve missed? Who and what have I forgotten? What else in life has amused, touched or motivated me? What have my friends meant to me? How have I touched the world, if at all? What have I learned about the process of living and how can I keep on growing as a human being? Will there ever be a time when I’m not afraid of my own shadow? Will I sell real estate until I’m tottering around with a cane or will I branch out into, an as yet unknown area of learning, and do something new? Will I ever follow my heart and if I did where would I end up?
I can’t answer any of these questions, but this year long practice of daily musings has made me ask the questions. So in answer to my earlier question – “YES” this process has changed me. I’m still afraid most of the time, but in spite of my daily misgivings about everything under the sun, I have a stronger sense of confidence in my heart and mind about who I am and what I’m capable of doing. I’m not a pushover. Sure I’m still wobbly from time to time, like a new born colt finding her legs, but I keep on getting up and I keep on trying. Come to think of it, I’ve been bruised, but I’ve never given up. I guess it’s in my nature, deep in my DNA, this need to stay on course, to go the distance, in spite of challenges and changes.
Outside my office window, the scenery has altered once again. The cold snap of the last week has moderated and the snow is melting. By Saturday, it’s supposed to be 6 degrees – balmy for this time of year. It will be 2005. Another winter will pass and give way to spring. Big will say, “I can’t believe it’s May” and then in October I’ll start to grumble about my damn Christmas dinner. I’ll threaten not to bother, but Dorothy (bless her soul) will offer to help. I’ll pick a date and tell people to keep that night open in December.
There are certain things that have become a tradition in my home and this dinner is one of them. It’s familiar, the people who come are dear to me and the atmosphere is one of relaxation, silliness and laughter. Time is passing by all too quickly and with its passage my life is changing. This year of writing was a milestone. A challenge, a stepping up to the plate. I did it. No one coached me, told me how to do it or gave me ideas. I told a few of my friends what I was doing but not many of them. Those I told were positive, supportive and generous with their encouragement.
I don’t know where the wellspring of motivation came from, but I’m glad it was there. It was a fitting project for a fifty-four year old woman who had long wondered if she’d ever find her voice. Even if she did, would she have anything to say? Last January there was a whisper. It’s December now and I’ve spoken. Not always well or eloquently but honestly and always from the heart. I’m ready to let this go. Tomorrow will be my last story. I haven’t decided what to write about yet but it will come to mind sometime during the day. I don’t think it will be about plans, schemes, goals, resolutions, business, motivation or change. I already know that the title for the day is “Saying Good-Bye”.
There is a finality to that, an ending implied. I’ve said a lot of good-byes in my lifetime. Some of them heart-breaking, others welcome, some said in anger, others with regret. This one will have a certain melancholy, but coupled with that will be a sense of tremendous pride and personal accomplishment. Endings almost always imply a new beginning. 2004 is passing from my view – 2005 is upon me!
2014 – All these years later – I read the stories again for the first time in 10 years. It was an experience re-living them and I’m still amazed that I achieved this goal.