Just a Story

The other day I ran into my friend’s mother, L. We’ve known each other so long and we have such a mutual affection, she is also my friend.  L is also a suicide widow — her youngest child was my daughter’s age when her husband killed himself. Her daughter and I became friends just after this happened and I recall the shadow of sadness that hovered over their home. But the other day when L and I stood in the bookstore parking lot chatting, she said: “It was 36 years ago. You know, now when I tell the story, I think ‘isn’t that terribly sad’ as if it were someone else”.  Time has turned an awful tragedy into a story she tells dispassionately.

For most of my life, I compulsively filled pages of my journal. I still have them all and sometimes crack a tattered notebook for a glimpse of what I was seeing and feeling during a certain time and place. But not much. I don’t really need to remember every joy or more likely, angst.  I recall wondering when I was in high school, why I felt the need to write things down, half-believing that if I did not record it, it didn’t really happen. Oh, if that were true! Now, when I think about writing — about N’s suicide, my bout with cancer, M’s premature birth — I realize for me, writing is a kind of alchemy.  As if by focusing on telling it, the once-unbearable loses the power to haunt me. The balm of time gets speeded up, a healing distance is created.  In telling the story, it becomes just a story. And perhaps, also remembrance.

One thought on “Just a Story”

  1. I so related to your musings about your writing. My journals have been such a purge over the years and I DO enjoy opening an old book randomly to see where I was at that time, to reflect on how everything turned out. I feel for the woman who wrote those anguished words…I wish she’d had the perspective of now…

    During menopause, I whined and ranted so repetitively about my search for purpose, my sense of not fitting in my own skin or my own life, that sometimes I’d start a scrawl and realize I was even boring myself….a good insight! But usually I feel fondness for the woman on the page…I do feel like someone outside of her as I look back…

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