What if you were asked to speak about the most important subjects in a human life? How would you answer?
If you were a child, you’d probably say playing gave you the most enjoyment, and you hated to be sick.
A young adult might mention meeting new people, potential partners, striving for that perfect job with a big salary leading on to parties and a great lifestyle.
In middle age, the most important thing might be health—and wealth. A good relationship would be an added bonus.
But what about people who have retired? What do we consider most important from the list of health, love, and work? In my case, it’s work. To narrow that down: writing.
Physical issues like pain drag me down when I’m participating in normal life. I have to juggle what I can achieve against how difficult it will be. I’m lucky enough to have a supportive husband who takes responsibility for the cooking, washing dishes, and shopping. I balance this with laundering our clothes and tidying the house. A cleaner comes in once a week for the hard stuff. That’s what life consists of when you’re over seventy, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t so.
And yet, when I’m writing, mundane problems no longer exist. I’m me—the me I’ve always been. The me of my brain—my soul. We are not simple creatures who exist only in the physical realm. I like to think we’ll go on, life after life, until we reach perfection.
For the last six months, I’ve concentrated on my early life by writing my memoirs. First, I wrote events by date. Then, I expanded each point—correcting and changing until a person spoke from the pages. I started with my child’s voice and worked my way to cover each age.
Here’s an example from my nine-year-old self:
#Mummy and Daddy divorced in 1951. But, for me, each warm, sunny day seemed the same as the last. I wished something else would happen—something I couldn’t identify which pulled me closer to understanding life. So many questions. How do girls change into women? Why are boys different than girls? I didn’t like the boys I knew, so why did young women like them?
I gazed out of the window at school, dreaming of my future as a beautiful woman until class finished. Maybe a ballerina like Anna Pavlova.
Instead of dancing when I got home, I trudged up our street to buy milk, stood at the counter of the dairy and passed over our lidded can. The shop lady filled my container with two ladles of milk. I carried the pail by the metal handle down the street. Taking great care, I opened the gate while I tried to balance the swinging tin. I trod the narrow path at the side of the house, stepped inside the open kitchen doorway, and stored the milk in the bottom of our metal ice box.
Being Friday, the iceman arrived in his cart pulled by a horse. He sold ice to all the neighbours. He hooked a big block with each hand, and carried the weight pressed against his leather apron. When it was my turn, I handed him some pennies. He carted two blocks right to our kitchen icebox and settled them in the top.#
It’s incredible how much I’ve learned about myself, the people who shaped my early days, and how each choice led to my maturity. I made a bad choice in my first husband. But who can concentrate on the consequences when they’re in love at seventeen?
Example from my seventeen year old memories:
#Children ran by squealing. I wanted to join their shouts of happiness. Graysen loved me. He wanted me. I’d never have to be alone again.
Heat burned inside me, competing with the rays on my skin. I’d forgotten my sun protection in my eagerness to meet him. “Let’s sit under the shade of the pine trees.”
He sprang to his feet as if I’d given him a command, reached for my hand, and pulled me to join him. My skin met his chest. So soft. His arm encircled me, held me close, imparting strength as well as tenderness. I never wanted to leave his protection. He bent to retrieve his towel. His other arm remained around me, and didn’t break contact until we reached the shade.
“I think I’m in love,” he said, pulling me down to join him on the grass.
“I think I love you too.” This longing inside me must be what everyone raved about. Love had hit me so fast. My whole outlook on life had changed. I’d sprouted like a seedling, from a stupid girl to a woman with a future beside a man. Now I knew what all the love songs meant.#
So my relationships shaped the way I developed.
But here’s the thing: I think we’re all here to learn lessons, to progress in the realm of the spirit. And so, hard as my life lessons were, I was meant to experience them. Like bamboo, I accept each shift of the wind and bend before the thrust. Strength comes from the constant flexing.
As for my memoir, I’ve chosen to make it a work of fiction based on the life of the author, rather than creative non-fiction. That way, I can exercise my author voice, and also, send each chapter to the Internet Writing Workshop for critique. My life has been so long. I couldn’t hope to do justice to every year in one hit, so I decided to concentrate on the forties to the seventies. I wanted to show the way people behaved, what they liked, and to impart a feeling of the era.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas
I’ve published nine books so far, four fantasy fiction, and five, co-written with Edith Parzefal, in the dystopian genre. Each novel features normal people handling extraordinary events. Their relationships are paramount, and lead to happiness. Of course, we can never guarantee ever after.
That’s what I’m attempting to show with my memoirs. I love writing. Love it, love it, love it. How else would anyone find out about me—a woman born in 1942 in Australia. I look back on my birth-land with bitter-sweet longing from my study here in Hertfordshire, England.
Writing is all about the mind, as is life.
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