This I Believe

M. Carolyn - La Porte, Colorado
Entered on November 13, 2006

This I Believe: Life is a Do-Over

When I was in my late forties, I hated my life. I had been married for 10 years, had a frustrating creative career, and a husband who was prone to anger. I also had a love-hate relationship with my body and it retaliated with chronic health issues—insomnia, depression, an old ski injury that wouldn’t heal, an irritable colon, extra weight.

On my 51st birthday, I told my husband I wanted a divorce. I didn’t know what else to do. A week later, my father had multiple strokes. For nearly a year after that, I made regular treks home to be relief caregiver and watch my father die. In the time-outs between those trips, my husband and I entered what would become our final counseling sessions. My income dropped. I could not stop crying.

My husband and I eventually separated and I moved from the mountains I loved to a small apartment in the city, complete with noisy neighbors and a slim bank account. A month after our separation, my father died. No longer my father’s daughter, or my husband’s wife, no longer a home owner and barely a writer, I questioned what was left and whether what was left had any value.

An article in a writer’s magazine and a gut instinct led me to a graduate writer’s program that focuses on the use of language for healing. In it, I studied the stories of my parents. I also studied the stories of the larger culture and, especially, of my tribe of women. A graduate school assignment—to write my life story—led me to see how the immature beliefs I’d created as a child, and the unhealthy beliefs the larger culture had about my place in it as a woman, had led to my neurosis. I also saw how those beliefs—not necessarily mine at all—had embedded themselves in my body.

Over the next three years, I became an archeologist, out to discover the lost city of my Self. That journey mandated that I enter the very physical terrain of my body to unlock the stories held hostage. In the process, I dropped 30 pounds and most of my health issues vanished. I reclaimed my body, and my beliefs about it, from the patriarchy.

Today, I have the body I had when I was 20. The fashions of the sixties are in again and this time, unlike before, I wear them with confidence and pride, finally in love with this body of mine, even though it is aging. I am back living in the country, and date a man who celebrates who I have become as much as I do. I also lead life-story writing workshops.

I tell my students every story has a moral and their life stories are no different. Prior to turning 50, the moral of my story was that you are destined to live out the stories of those who came before you, no matter how oppressive they might be. But that is no longer true, at least for me. I believe life is a do-over. My own life story is a testament to that.