In the summer of 1993, my Aunt Helen lent me the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. When I returned it to her, I told her my biggest secret: that I had been sexually abused when I was a child. She said to me, as we both cried, “You’ve really lived a thousand lives, haven’t you?” and I said I had.
But another way to view it is not as many separate lives, but as all the parts of one life. This is my jumping-off point, with many thanks to the poet Adrienne Rich for writing those lines that have spoken to me so deeply for – at least a dozen years, and maybe more. I want to include updates and musings about my family and our day-to-day lives, yes, but I also want to be free to be as open and honest as possible about myself, and the forces that have shaped and influenced me – because after all, I’m the one doing the writing! The only perspective I have is my own.
As I get older, and have “dealt” with many of the issues of my childhood, it fascinates me to see how the pieces of the past continue to impact how I think and feel, and the things I do. I’ve spent many years trying to get beyond all the “stuff,” and am physically living far away from my hometown and all the people I grew up with, and yet it’s always with me, goes with me everywhere.
Today, I’m a wife, married for ten years to a very good man, a good father, and probably the only person who could put up with me for this long. I’m a mother to two handsome and healthy young sons, ages eight and nearly six. I’m a librarian – a job choice that first occurred to me when I was about eight years old, and I began to see that women could have jobs other than teacher or nurse, and I thought being a librarian would be THE BEST! I work for the Kansas Dept. of Transportation – some 3000 employees statewide, and one librarian. It’s a challenge, every day, but I love it, and having spent too many years NOT working in libraries, I appreciate the place I’m in now.
Some of the other “parts” are far in the past. My parents met as patients in a psychiatric hospital. I struggle with depression, except some days I’m too tired to struggle and I just go back to bed. I hated, hated school, and was truant from third grade onward. I was taken to court twice because I wouldn’t go to school. I dropped out of high school – FINALLY!!! – but later earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master’s in Library Science.
When I was an adolescent, I think reading and writing might have saved me. I wish I could write more often, and more successfully, but the time available to write, and then to edit and polish, is next to nothing. (Blanket apology here for blog posts that just aren’t as well-written as I’d like them to be.) I used to say that I felt stronger, more truly myself, when I had a pen in my hand, than any other time. I sometimes feel that way now about being at a computer keyboard. Sylvia Plath used to say that the typewriter was an extension of her body. I think typing is the closest I’ll ever feel to playing a piano.
And books… I can hardly begin to say what books have meant to me, and always will. A very good friend asked me, when we were teenagers, if my books were sacred to me. My friend was more religious than I, and I told him then, “Not in the same way that you mean, but yes, they are.” I don’t feel defensive anymore about books and reading. Of all the parts of my life, it’s one of my favorites, and gives me back a hundredfold what I put in. I am a Lover of Books, and of their Endless Kisses.