Author Caryn Mirriam Goldberg is here today to share a guest post regarding her newest novel, The Divorce Girl.
A Letter to My Main Character, or
Telling My Younger Self What My Older Self Figured Out
With the perspective of time, and what I learned about my main character and myself while writing The Divorce Girl, here's what I would say to myself at that time as well as my main character, Deborah, who was a lot like me, only smarter and taller:
Hello back there in time,
It's hard to believe when you're 15 and the world is falling apart that it will ever be any different. That's because emotions are like arrogant, spoiled reality stars: they act as if they are the center of life as we know it, and whatever they are at the moment will never change. But emotions are more like weather: if you're feeling scared, depressed, overwhelmed, or hopeless, just wait an hour, do something to tilt yourself out of where you are, and things will change.
How can you tilt yourself out of where you are? Go swimming. Take a walk. Watch a funny movie (nothing depressing or involving a serial killer). Pick up a recipe book off the shelf, and try your hand at making muffins or, if you're really ambitious, bed. Take a long, hot bath. Put on loud music, and jump on your bed for 20 minutes. Call a friend. Pet the cat. Just take a break from the pushy reality-star feeling that keeps trying to push everyone off the stage.
What I also want to tell you is that life is so much imaginative and magical than you can see when you're in your teens, hormones are ruining your life, and everyone else seems to have it even more together (note to younger self: they don't!). Things will change in ways you can't imagine. You may well find a way, 10 years from now, to make a living doing something that doesn't even exist now (another note to younger self: you will learn about something called "the internet," and it will change everyone's life).
How imaginative is life? Well, get this, I'm living in Kansas. Bet you couldn't have seen that coming! I've also been married to a good man for 27 years (and he's kind of a hottie) and have three grown or almost-grown kids. I make a living as a writer, poet, teacher at a college in Vermont (through a low-residency program, which means I go to Vermont twice a year to meet with students and then work with them while writing long letters from coffee shops -- and coffee shops, by the way, will be huge in 2012). I'm also on good terms with family members I never thought I could make peace with, so anything's possible.
When it comes to making peace with yourself too, I want to tell you to believe in yourself. How do you do that? Basically, you fake it until you make it. Listen carefully to what you want, not what your parents or friends want for you. Get alone on a regular basis, and write, draw, wander to give yourself the spaciousness needed to hear what you really want and need at this moment in your life. Then, even if you're unsure of your strength or courage or talent or intelligence, act as if you are sure when you make important choices.
For example, if you feel called -- like our dear Deborah in the novel -- to be a photographer, follow where your camera leads you. Look for signs and wonders that affirm where you are or need to go. A red-tailed hawk lifting from a fencepost, a sparkling earring on a sidewalk, a gray rabbit stopping to look into your eyes can each be a little note from the universe telling you about your ability to fly, shine or make contact. Pay attention.
Whatever you need will come or is already around you. Trust yourself, look for support and resources, listen to your heart, and step into the big, imaginative world unfolding around and in you.
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the Poet Laureate of Kansas, and the author of 14 books, including a novel, The Divorce Girl (Ice Cube Books), a non-fiction book, Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other (Potomac Books); The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community & Coming Home to the Body (Ice Cube Books); the anthologies An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate (co-editor, Ice Cube Books) and Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems (editor, Woodley Press); and four collections of poetry. Founder of Transformative Language Arts – a master's program in social and personal transformation through the written, spoken and sung word – at Goddard College where she teaches, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-writes songs, offers collaborative performances, and leads writing and singing Brave Voice retreats. She blogs at www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com