Once I got a sweet taste of my deepest heartfelt desires, everything else just left a bitter flavor in my mouth. Looking back now, it’s easy to recognize that writing about love had been there all along. Sometimes though, I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face.
At age eleven, I had a terrible crush on the guitar player from Huey Lewis and the News. Chris was his name and he sported thick dark brown hair and dreamy eyes. I genuinely adored him and spent countless hours daydreaming about how we would meet, fall in love and share our first soft kiss. Unable to contain our marvelous adventures in my head any longer, I pulled pencil and paper from my red backpack and began writing them down.
Creating those stories gave me tremendous pleasure until the day my mother stumbled upon the pages hidden under my pillow. I never realized they were missing until I heard her laughing with a friend as they came into my room cackling about my over active imagination. Shamefully I took the pages and later destroyed them. I would not write again from my heart until high school.
At sixteen, my best friend Shannon Williams was driving down a back country road with her little sister. She ran a stop sign and was t-boned by an old Ford truck going way too fast. Standing next to her hospital bed, I prayed with my entire being for the bright green line on the heart monitor to keep going. The triangular blips gradually became smaller and less frequent until all that was left was a flat line. My dearest friend, gone forever, and the pain inside my heart was unbearable. I wrote a series of poems to honor the love I had for Shannon. In the little churchyard cemetery where she was buried, I sat on the grass and read them to her.
I didn’t write again until much later in my life. I married and gave birth to a son and daughter within three years of each other. My husband and I were good friends, but nothing more. Loving my children too much to leave, as the years ticked by, I lived a solitary existence. Ashamed to admit I was miserable and slowly dying inside while keeping up appearances: to the outside world I had it all.
In bed at night, alone and empty I escaped into my head where a true love greeted me. The stories I created during the long nights, I later wrote down. The only time I felt safe enough to escape into my writing was on the numerous cross country flights required for my business. I passed the hours gleefully lost and madly typing on my laptop. But when the flight ended, so did my contentment. I left my heart behind and begrudgingly accepted my reality.
My experiences eventually led me back full circle to that kid who took the time to write down a love story she dreamed up. I no longer cared about the mother who laughed at me, the husband who ignored me, and the dozens of “friends” who judged and criticized me. If I didn’t follow my heart, without a doubt I would die.
I ran with all my might and jumped straight off the cliff of dreams. I was certain of my success and instead, I lost everything: my husband, home, career, horses, friends, two unborn babies, my pride and what was left of my self-esteem. That should have been enough to make me give up. It should have killed the fighter inside me who still dared to hope for a better life.
But it didn’t. Instead, I found the deepest strength like a fire in the blood running through every vein in my body. It burned hot and restless. I refused to be beaten. I refused to accept my fate. I refused to give up. I would survive and not just survive, but I would come back stronger and better than even I dared to believe. For the first time in my life, I made the choice to live.
I committed to pursue my dreams, and stopped apologizing for who I am. The day a random email announcing a fiction writing contest found its way into my inbox. Without thinking, I signed up. Minimum word count for entries was 50,000 and I had no idea if I could write that much. I ignored the fear and doubt. It no longer mattered that I was a single mother with three kids who had never truly been loved. I would never forgive myself if I didn’t at least try.
Amidst screaming kids, incessant demands, living with my sister and running out of money, I wrote The Upside of Hell. I certainly understood the hell elements of the book, but I flipped it the bird, turned it around, and dared to love big anyway. I still believed in true love and even if I never found that in a flesh and blood man, I could still be with him vicariously through my writing.
Turns out books are like tattoos and one wasn’t enough. I went on to author Jennifer’s Letters, existing purely on faith and dreams and ignoring criticism for not falling back into a “real” job. Doggedly, I just kept writing, believing, writing, loving and then writing some more. Slowly, over time I ceased to care about being alone in this world because a miracle happened and I found myself between those many pages.
It took thirty years for this full grown woman to figure out what a blonde, freckle faced eleven year old girl already knew. I was born to write and it could only be about love. I would never have discovered joy living an unexceptional life, ignoring what was really in my heart. I thank God every day that I never gave up.
Now, like all good love stories you may be wondering if I got the guy in the end.
Love never failed me. Not long after my second book was published, I met the man I had been dreaming about my entire life. The love I enjoy today blows every one of those fairy tales out of the water. He too is a writer so not only did I find a best friend and lover, I now have all the love, support and encouragement I ever wanted to pursue my desires but in partnership with a man who shares the same dreams as I do.
How could I ever write about anything else other than love with a story like that.