It finally happened (or, Writing your way to happiness)

Well it finally happened, folks. We’re at a turning point.

I don’t want to write this sad stuff all the time.

Sad stuff is important, and we have to be able to talk about it – about loss and sadness and depression and everything, we have to be able to yank it all from the shadows and just be honest with each other and ourselves.

I feel that I’ve done that. And if I had to guess, I’d say you probably agree. You might even expect a better-than-fifty-percent chance of bawling into your keyboard when you venture onto this blog.

I no longer want to be the person who makes you bawl into your keyboard. At least not on a weekly basis.

In the winter several of you sent me the same clipping from The New York Times, a piece called Writing Your Way to Happiness. According to research, writing and re-writing your story can facilitate a reinterpretation of facts to find new meaning – even, and especially, in your most difficult or traumatic experiences. So... have I written my way to happiness?

Actually, maybe.

As I wrote and wrote and wrote, not only here on the blog but also the book I've been working on, I realized I've been carrying around guilt about Dad. Guilt for not appreciating him more. Guilt for making fun of him – which I did all the time. I teased his vanity. I teased him for refusing to wear a hearing aid when he clearly needed one. Then he'd get angry with me.

In the writing and rewriting, I had an epiphany about all that.

I was just a kid trying to navigate an ordinary relationship with her Dad.

I wasn't a bad person. I wasn't mean. I was human. I was a young human. I was, and am, imperfect. And so was he.

This is not a reason to shoulder the lumbering burden of guilt for the rest of my life.

And, wow. That feels – different. I can swing my arms. Skip in the sunshine. Unfold the memories of him, good and bad, without the rush of shame.

So I’m glad I wrote all that sad stuff, every word of it. I highly recommend the experience. But now I’m ready to venture into different territory, into the stuff that's beneath and beyond the sadness – I'm ready to crack open the nubby grey geode to explore the sparkling crystals inside.

Which makes this a turning point here on the blog. I’m going to continue to use these pages to write about loss, but not exclusively. As I've started to do a bit over the past several months, I’ll be broadening the scope. To the gooey stuff of life, like professional anxiety in the home office, and rejection, and why it is that I'm a twitchy nervous driver (Hint: Thanks, Dad!). Of course this is the stuff of life after loss – because it’s the stuff of life, and after loss we return to our lives, though we're forever changed.