Everything in our culture seems geared to those who are in their 20’s and 30’s and if you haven’t reached a certain stature in your professional life by the time you’re mature (I don’t dare specify the actual number here) then it seems like the deck is stacked. I won’t lie—it is stacked but I’m proof that it is possible to turn everything upside down and start over even at a “mature” age. I won’t pretend that it’s not for the faint at heart. There are plenty of days when I cry a lot at the end of the day and drink a little too much wine but I’m here as proof that it’s still possible.
I’ve spent a good part of my life in creative ventures—theatre, film and publishing. Some times it has been my own work—plays, scripts, acting, directing, producing, written articles and stories. However, much of the time it has been in the supportive role of encouraging Spouse #1 and Spouse #2 to be their very best and to showcase them at their very best. You do see where this is going, right?
About 14 years ago in the midst of providing Spouse #2 the necessary foundation for him to do his great work as the resident genius, I also began to research my grandfather’s literary legacy and discovered it was not just family myth but a huge life and legacy. The more I got into it, the more fascinated and entangled I became in my roots. Without a doubt, my interest had a lot to do with the proverbial absent father syndrome but I also simply fell in love with the genres my grandfather inhabited—pulp fiction and later the comics. It seems unbelievable to me at times because I’m your classic Jane Austen type of girl. The more I read and the more I learned and the more I got to know people in both fields the happier I became. Happier in that deep sense of the word—all the way to the core. With the help of a gifted therapist I finally realized I had to take responsibility for my choices in life and move forward with my work and my life.
So one year and seven months ago I made the first step. One of the good things about being mature (don't let that photo fool you) and in a particular milieu is that I had some options and I took them. I’m not going to apologize for that because I’ve been through plenty of hellish moments to be grateful to use whatever I had at my disposal. I moved down to the Gulf Coast family beach cottage I own with my brother to figure out what to do and how to do it. I spent the next six months organizing my finances, legal situation and plans for the future especially for my work, my writing and what I wanted to accomplish before it was too late. Once I had a plan I went back up north and started the separation from a marriage of over 24 years. I won’t discuss the issues of the marriage—nothing new to anyone who has been through it. I navigated the emotional and financial ups and downs and made the decision to head across the continent on my own and land in the San Francisco bay area specifically to focus on my work and to make some professional decisions.
My intention was to write a biography of my grandfather, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson who founded DC Comics among many of his accomplishments. Due to the difficulties I experienced with a few family members who suddenly decided there was gold in them thar hills and the fact that I wasn’t bankable material to the agents who interviewed me because of my age and gender, I realized the wisest thing for me to do was co-author with the right person who could help me bring this project to fruition in the best possible way. I interviewed several writers who had expressed an interest in the project and I went with my first date to the dance. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. He’s a good guy, he’s got a great track record, he’s a wonderful writer and he treats me with complete respect. We work well together, see the project in the same way and I’m learning so much through this cooperative situation. Yes, it is possible for some partnerships to work well.
I moved out to the bay area in late March on a wing and a prayer with my car loaded to the gills like the Joad family in Grapes of Wrath. It’s a roller coaster and that’s no joke but I’m doing okay. I’m healthier than I’ve been in years-riding my bike 22 miles plus at least 3 days a week and I’ve lost over 50 pounds. I have a wonderful little apartment in Berkeley furnished from craigslist et al that has unbelievable views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. And best of all, I have Virginia Wolfe’s Room of One’s Own. My life other than the divorce wars is calm, pleasant and functional. I have family and friends in the area who are supportive. There are definitely times when I feel like I can't breathe and when people tell me how courageous I am, I have no idea what they are talking about. I don’t think of myself as brave. I simply had nothing left except to choose life.
Because I’ve put in the years of establishing my credentials as a researcher and writer in the field and because I genuinely like the guys (and yes, they're mostly all men) in my genres, I have gotten amazing support and that helps a lot. I think the lessons to be learned from my story are that you have to put in the time, do the research, make genuine friends in your field, be unafraid to risk being open to a different publishing avenue than the one usually proscribed, let go of egotistical thoughts and be in service to the project and more than anything else simply be willing to jump off the cliff and trust that you can fly.