Those who know me know my past. I don’t make it a secret. I don’t wallow or dwell, though I can’t help but carry it with me every day. I do my best to honor it, honor him, accept and learn. It has shaped me as a person, as a writer, as a mother and wife. As a daughter and sister. Embracing the tragedy of my past rather than shunning it, I believe, gives me the freedom to be truly happy. We can’t hide from what has been. It is my devout belief that pulling a positive out of any negative lessens the impact and the power of any tragedy. I have pulled, and continue to pull, positives out of every negative. The facets are as intriguing as they are beautiful. Maybe even divine.
Since the day he died, Brian has been part of every story I write in some way. Just now, I was working on Waking Savannah, and the absolute truth of that fact hit me right in the belly.
Slumping back in her chair, she blew out a deep breath. Drew in another. Let it go. If Benny and Johanna and half the town knew her story, she had been oblivious to it. No one brought it up, not even after her alter-ego became common knowledge. Conversation did not hush the moment she walked into a gathering.
It happened all the time after Brian died, whenever I walked into a room. All eyes turned to me, pitying and compassionate, and all conversation stopped. It never mattered if they were talking about me or not, because the result was the same. It hurt every time. I did not want to be identified as “that poor girl.” Years later, I would come to understand that from this negative, I pulled out the positive decision of not being her. I became the woman who survived, who thrived, who found happiness after grief. Brian’s children always knew him, and not because of tears and grief. He was Daddy-Brian, not just to his two biological children, but to the two kids I had with Frank. We remembered him with happiness, included him in our lives. How else does one honor the beloved deceased?
And still, that old feeling lingers to this day to a lesser degree, when someone first finds out I had a life before this one. That I was a wife and mother and widow before I turned twenty-two. The instant pity/compassion. The “that must have been really hard.” What does one say to that? “It was.” Plain and simple. But I always fluster, because that “poor girl” gets thrown off every time. “It was a long time ago.” “I try not to dwell.” “Shut the fuck up, you know nothing, Jon Snow.” Okay, so I don’t say the last one out loud, but sometimes…sometimes it’s hard not to lash out. I want to tell those kind souls who have no idea the nerve they’ve tapped not to look at me like that. I can’t stand the pity. I overcame my past to make a freaking amazing life. Don’t throw me back there again, dammit! Not even for a moment of heartfelt compassion.
Writing that line this morning really hit me, which is why I took a break from the story to write this post. I needed to get it out of my head. It’s not like I didn’t know I was writing this piece of myself into Savannah. Like all my characters, she has been a facet of me from inception. It was the visceral response I had to that bolded line above that got me, all these years later.
Unlike me, Savannah kept her past secret for many years, but will she continue along my path? Well, I know the answer to that; you’ll have to wait a year and five months. But I bet you can guess.