A Few Things I Won’t Be Writing About

How the 20 something nurse assistant looked down at her clipboard during my appointment and asked me if I was sexually active. And the way I said no – with no qualifiers – no comments about the dating pool for women in their 60’s, or a joke about hormones, how I wouldn’t know one if I slammed into one. It was the simple way I said no, and how I wondered what it meant and whether I should do something about it. Had I crossed over into a new world, a one way passage into a nether nether land from which I wouldn’t return? And after a lifetime where being seen and desired by men had defined so much of my worth, what would this mean?

It’s my duty as a writer, as a person who pays attention, to recognize that moment, to part the veil, to sacrifice my facade on all the ways I’d rather be seen; smart, vibrant, strong and desirable – and to see it as a portal – a way to shine a light on all the ways I’m changing.

It’s not easy to write about this, but wasn’t that me who told the writers in class today that if there’s something you’re not writing about it will clog the channel, make all other writing nearly impossible, sometimes even making you sick? Aren’t I the one whose favorite jump off line is: A few things I won’t be writing about.

1. The post menopausal weight gain, the fogginess, the exhaustion, and how it reveals so many things I never wanted to experience or show; those shadowy parts of myself that I neatly tucked away because I felt that I needed to be fit, energetic, busy and productive.

2. How much I used to use the term bullet proof to describe my ideal self, and what a master I was at bucking up when I was sad or uncomfortable.

3. How content I was on Valentine’s Day when I was alone in a hotel in the mountains of Utah, surrounded by couples in a fancy bar with music and energy and laughter, and me, sitting alone in the corner with a scotch and some trout, eating slowly, content, not self conscious, but resting in my own company, even relieved not to be have to pay attention to anyone, or take care of them.

4. To remember the day last week when I drove to the gym, got out of my car, walked to the front door, then turned around and left because I didn’t want to work out, and how in all my life, I’ve never asked myself whether I wanted to workout or not. I just did it. For years and years and years.

It’s my job to report how after a lifetime of restrictive eating – lists of what I could or could not eat – it’s oddly easy to reach for what I’m actually hungry for – a scone, a sandwich – pie for dinner – food that I had to deserve before, but no longer.

It’s not a lack of willpower – it’s that I’ve come to the end of the road when it comes to rules. I’m just too tired to uphold them, and I’m actually noticing that when I say yes to what I want, I’m building trust with myself.

I’m reminded of that thing Gary, my old therapist, said a long time ago when I told him that I was falling apart. “No, no,” he said, “the parts of yourself that you don’t need anymore are falling away.”

I’m on a mission to notice the things that are falling away, and it’s not been entirely comfortable.

My ambition. My capacity. My get up and go. And much of what defined my identity for the past many years.

And how, since I was a kid I realized that the way other people saw you became who you appeared to be, and that being productive, busy and accomplished made you shiny, or at least hard to catch. And while much of what went into that busy life was beautiful, imaginative and helpful to others, it also compensated for all the things I worried I wasn’t – smart, vibrant, strong and desirable.

And so as these parts begin to fall away, I’m more in touch with what was also there, waiting patiently for me to not be so damn busy.

Some sadness. A shake up of identity – the way I knew myself. And also a sense that all of this may be right on time for me – an evolution, an opportunity to see what else is there.

How last weekend I finally had the courage to open up the manuscripts from the last couple of years, pour myself a cup of coffee and sit down and read them. It would be a lie to tell you that I loved what I read, that I got excited, that I knew exactly where to jump back in, but I didn’t, in fact I could hardly relate to any of it – like it was written by a different person, from a different life, a landscape of family and relationships and drama that all felt behind me now.

I’m not sure what to make of that. Was I naval gazing all that time? Working something out? Or is there something there, and I just can’t see it? Who am I if all those years of writing don’t become a book?

Today my life includes slow morning, waking up when my body is ready, and how good that feels, like an accordion that has been stretched to capacity for years, and is only now surrendering to its natural shape. My days include feeding the cat, picking up palm fronds that flew from the palm tree into the yard, texting one daughter to see if she got the job, texting the other child to find out what the doctor said, scouting for poetry, writing with students, thinking about workshops, taking a walk, then a bath, face timing my mother, and trying not to forget the line that kept playing in my head on the cranial sacral table last week, “you don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to do anything.”

My job is to tell you that after a life of so much striving to be special and lovable, I’m just not that person anymore. It’s scary, and requires a lot of compassion which is also starting to feel like love.

I remember the conversation with my friend, Kim, who had pulled back from a very big life. “What will you do next?” I asked. And she said, “that’s just it, I’m not asking myself that question.” What a revolutionary thing to say in a life that had been so full of lists and plans and accomplishment. How brave that was.

Listen to Laurie read this piece: