The e-mail seemed to come out of thin air, and it was like being given clean, fresh air after breathing smog for days. It was five days after the breakup e-mail from Derek. But this e-mail was from someone I didn’t know, a person who was thanking me for my blog.
I had abandoned my blog more than two years earlier on the grounds that I felt it was becoming too didactic. The blog still had a fair number of visitors, mostly because of my 2010 posts on Peru, but I hadn’t even bothered to look at the statistics for a long time.
“I have read your beautiful prose on Living the Dream. What is so astonishing is how tightly my own marriage resembles yours with Howard.
“To the point that just reading your name brings grateful tears to my eyes.
“I only want to say thank you for putting a few stepping stones in front of me when I didn’t know how I could go on.
“Whether you agree or not, I see you as an angel, or at least a kindred spirit, and wish you all the best life has to offer for sharing so unselfishly your wisdom and courage.”
It was signed “Nancy.”
She might have been astonished by what she read in my blog, but my own astonishment in reading her message probably matched it. I had to know who she was and which post or posts she was referring to, so I hit reply and told her I wanted to know more about her and her journey. There was poignancy in her message, and I wanted to know the woman behind it.
In her next message, she revealed that her husband was dying of throat cancer. Home hospice was involved. She said that my story about my experience with Howard’s long illness and death had given her strength. My heart lurched out of my chest and joined her, wherever she was.
This felt very personal to me, and I planned to keep it to myself. But I found myself thinking about something my close friend Sally McDonald had said to me, years earlier. She had told me to write without worrying about who it touched or in what way. My job was to get the words out. I might never know if or how it had affected anyone.
“Years after you are dead,” she said, “someone may refer to something you wrote and say how much it has impacted their life. And you will be gone. You won’t know. And you don’t need to know. Your job is to write. Don’t worry about the rest.”
I also thought about something Marilyn Youngbird had said. Standing very close to me and employing that soft but penetrating look of hers, she said with force, “Your words have power.”
I didn’t recall what had prompted Marilyn’s pronouncement, but these many years later, I did understand that she had not just suggested that my words had power, but that everyone’s words have power, and we should remember that before opening our mouths to speak because their impact can help or hurt other beings. She had been talking about being conscious of the words I used.
I thought about all the people I knew and especially about all the writers I knew. I needed to share the e-mails that had just come to me. So I posted something on Facebook about my e-mail exchange with Nancy and said, “Those of you who write–and there are many of you I count as friends–this post is for you. I want to support you in writing from your heart, from your true self . . . because you never know who you might touch.”
One of my writerly friends, Helena Mariposa, commented on the post saying that she was waiting for me to write on my travels with an open heart. I had used the term “travels with an open heart” in a conversation with her as a way of describing what my online dating experience was all about.
“The travels with an open heart series, if I ever write that, will be very personal and very self-revealing,” I replied on Facebook. “The latest destination is pretty fresh on my heart. New ones unfold even now. I’m not sure I’m ready for it, and it didn’t even occur to me until your comment, but it’s a thought, my friend.”
“Like your grief memoirs weren’t very personal and self-revealing? Hmm . . .” she wrote back.
She had me there. All of my blog posts had been personal and self-revealing, but none more than those on my husband’s illness and death. And I had to admit that there was at least humor in the full contact sport of my dating experiences. My heart was open, but that didn’t preclude unexpected antics and the humor endemic in human experience.
Helena and I took the discussion off Facebook. She argued that there were a lot of baby boomers who were now single and would benefit from my experience, and she didn’t think many people were writing about dating over the age of sixty. And even if they were, she argued that my writing was somewhat unique because it was an extension of my shamanic work. She thought it woke people up to the possibilities.
I had no idea who was writing what about dating because I had not checked into it. And I didn’t know if my writing ever had the potential of waking anyone up. Who was I to do that anyway? I was just a pilgrim going down the same road as everyone else. What I did know I had to offer was a willingness to be real and transparent. But there were risks. Some of the men I dated might not like the idea of going out with a woman who blogged about her dating experiences, even if I promised to leave them out of it. And some men might drop the idea of dating me before it ever had a chance to blossom into an actual date because it would take only a little online research to find my blog. In essence, I thought blogging about my dating experience might scare men off.
But then, it might just weed out the men who didn’t have the kahunas (as opposed to the kahonas) to hang with me.
Derek had opened up one kind of Pandora’s Box for me; Helena was opening another–or at least, she was serving as muse. The more I thought about the idea of blogging about my dating experience, the more I felt pulled to do it.
So thirteen days after the breakup with Derek, I went back into blog land with my first post on dating, a post titled “Travels with an Open Heart.” I was on record with my journey. I felt naked, but strangely, it was a liberating kind of nakedness.
Whatever happened, I was pretty sure that I was meant to blog on this subject, though I really didn’t have a clue why. It didn’t matter. That first post was effortless and fun to write. Maybe I was on to something.
Note: The name Derek is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved. Nancy and Helena Mariposa are real names attached to real people I am blessed to know.
Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall