The day of goodbyes - that's how I've come to think of it. That was the day I began to write – to really write – not just journals, but a story of a life. I needed to know who I was and why I was that particular, unique person. I needed to be reminded of the woman I had been ten years before on that day sunshine filled day I had said “I do.” I needed to know the steps that had brought me eventually to that goodbye. I needed to find myself.
I wiped the tears … eventually … and with quiet determination ventured into the dark, cluttered attic, digging through decades of diaries, journals, sketch pads, photographs and memories, adrift and seeking some anchor for my soul. Sitting there surrounded by dancing dust motes and whispers from the past, I began to find my present and see glimpses of a bright future. I spent hours sitting on the back porch with my grandmother – sipping iced tea, sweet and cold – listening to the stories of the child I had once been and the adventures I had embarked upon. I heard of the fearlessness of a young girl full of determination and courage, tales accompanied by the backdrop of cricket song and cicadas humming in the summer evenings. I saw myself through the eyes of another – eyes wiser and richer than my own with memories and perspectives that had been lost to me. Hours were spent poring over photographs in the high school and college yearbooks, revisiting the years filled with teen angst and insecurity . . . remembering the dreams, the hopes, the possibilities and the magical sense of invincibility. Each story, each photograph, each memory brought not only recollection, but unexplored avenues – each full of opportunities to spread my wings and fly. I began to see not only the woman I was at my very core, but also the woman who could have been had any other forks in the road been chosen. I began to see the woman who could yet be.
Clare, the heroine of my first story, was born on the day of that goodbye those years ago. As she began to take shape in the words flowing from my pen, her story assumed a life of its own – gaining strength and volume and substance as my own journey progressed. Our paths intertwined and parted and met up again repeatedly. Then, in those days of discovery, the idea that others would read the words spilling out of my wanderings hadn’t yet formed. I was merely writing the path of a heart’s traveling. To be here today, knowing that those words are scattered across the globe, nestled here and there, is still almost surreal for me. Each and every step has been an amazement for me - that others would want to read the words – and that so many would so fully connect with Clare and her struggles to be authentic.
Clare is not me; we are not the same person, but we have travelled the same road, as have countless other women across the wide span of history. Looking deep within my own being, I recognized the spirit of women the world over living through the struggle for self and knowing - the same struggle I found myself embroiled in. In seeking to know who I was and to be authentically that person, I found a link of understanding woven through generations of mothers and daughters, wives and lovers – in a range of diverse cultures spanning the entire spectrum. Thoughts captured in written journals, spoken stories and uncovered memories were merely stepping stones to a broader, more generous sense of ‘What if?’ What if, as women, we fully grasped our potential and lived life fully determined to leave no stone unturned? Perhaps Clare is the woman I wish to be . . . perhaps she is the woman so many of us wish to be. Perhaps that is the heart of her appeal.