Sara Whitman

Right or Happy?

Filed By Sara Whitman | April 10, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: autobiographies, child abuse, writing a book

I've been in a mood lately. I don't know if this book I'm working on is a good idea. Writing it leaves me in a miserable place. It sends me back to old places.

I don't want to feel that way anymore.

A friend sent me a quote from the book "Three Dog Life," by Abigal Thomas. It is a story about an older woman who is taking care of her husband who had been hit by a car and left severely brain damaged.

"When I was young, the future was where all the good stuff was kept, the party clothes, the pretty china, the family silver, the grown-up jobs. The future was a land of its own, and we couldn't wait to get there. Not that youth wasn't great, but it came with disadvantages; I remember the feeling I was missing something really good that was going on somewhere else, somewhere I wasn't. I remember feeling life passing me by. I remember impatience. I don't feel that way now. If something interesting is going on somewhere else, good, thank god, I hope nobody calls me. Sometimes it's all I can do to brush my teeth, toothpaste is just too stimulating.

The future was also the place where the bad stuff waited in ambush. My children were embarking on their futures in fragile vessels, and I trembled. I wanted to remove obstacles, smooth their way, I wanted to change their childhoods. I needed to be right all the time, I wanted them to listen to me, learn from my mistakes, and save themselves a lot of grief. Well, now I know I can control my tongue, my temper, and my appetites, but that's it. I have no effect on weather, traffic, or luck. I can't make good things happen. I can't keep anybody safe. I can't influence the future and I can't fix up the past.

What a relief."

Sometimes, I wonder why I'm trying to write this book. I can't fix the past. I can't change it. Nor can I stop any other children from being hurt the same way. The words sting and make me wince- I know it makes others wince, too.

Is that what I want?

Maybe my sister is right. Maybe I need to let it go, once and for all. Take all the pages and throw them in a fire. Shovel the ashes on rich ground and let life spring from it. Focus my life on the positives and stop trying to punish people who will never own up to their actions, never be held accountable.

Do I need to be right? Or do I want to be happy?

And yet the reality of being able to read stories like my own when I was going through the worst of it, made such a difference to me. I feel responsible to give back what others have given me.

I have no idea what the future brings. We are all in good health, with good jobs, and in a safe place. There is nothing I can do to make that continue. I can only enjoy it for what it is today.

Can I let go? Can I find that relief?

I don't know.


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Sara, I forgot to suggest another book on your blog. If you want a 180-degree mental-flip about how you (may) view ART, read "Music-Society-Education" by Christopher Small. Examining traditional African and Balinese music/art/dance may give you a new perspective on the PROCESS of writing. Highly Recommended for ANY parent of young children. Western Society has all but destroyed the spiritual aspect of the ART PROCESS (due to a severe PRODUCT-fetish).

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 11, 2009 9:04 AM

Having gone through the same process I say write the book. Get it all down, get the fury out on a page where you can evaluate it's imperfection importance or insignificance and let the naysayers live in fantasy.

You are doing a noble thing for yourself. Let it be purged and go on from there.