Taking a Risk On Love
As a reporter most of my working life, I interviewed countless people. I became quite good at standing back, observing and then writing about the pain and heartbreak, the triumphs and tragedies, the challenges and defeats of other people.
A big daily newspaper like The Philadelphia Inquirer provided a window into life’s diversity and no two days were alike. By its very nature, journalism requires you stay objective, put your prejudices aside, stand back and observe. In some ways, my personal life reflected my professional one. Since my husband’s death, I had stood back, observed my own life with a certain detachment.
My stories at the newspaper ran the gamut. The young couple whose four-year-old son was dying of Tay Sachs, but refused to give up hope and channeled their energies into fundraising to help find a cure. A married couple who wanted to keep a flock of bantam chickens on their property, but was ordered by the local zoning board to remove the birds. I remember the headline: “We Refuse to Chicken Out.” A group of citizens who asked if I would write about their grassroots movement to preserve from development a Revolutionary War site where 53 American soldiers were buried. . . . a story that spanned five years and ended up garnering the attention of Congress.
But as life would have it, events and circumstances collided. I always believe and still do – life can change in a heartbeat. First, there was the loss of my career at the newspaper; then finding myself alone, a woman whose children were grown and gone; and finally the death of my mother.
I stood at the precipice of change wondering . . . where to go from here? The lack of direction terrified and excited me. I thought to myself: Now is your time, Susan. You can do what you want. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone . . . no one that is, but John.
He had always been there . . . my touchstone to honor and chivalry. I remembered when we first met under white dogwood trees; the way he looked at me with deepset dark eyes almost as if he knew me better than I knew myself. Although he had been gone over 13 years, he had never really left my side. Now that I was off the treadmill of work and raising children, I found myself drawn into reliving our love, our 16-year marriage, his heartbreaking and courageous battle with cancer that lasted – almost unbelievably – seven long years through the birth of our second son and ending just after our son’s 7th birthday.
I began searching for answers. Why hadn’t I been a better wife to John at the end? Why had I screamed at him as he was dying, “I wish I’d never met you!” I believe he knew before I did that losing him was almost more than I could bear. He never asked for an apology. It was myself I needed to forgive. So I began writing.
This was harder than any story I had ever covered or reported. I felt my throat choke up, the tears well in my eyes. Why was I putting myself through this? Some days I would get up from the desk, take long walks . . . but even then I couldn’t escape our story, his and mine. How best to express the emotions I needed to convey, which scene, which memory, which conversation?
I began to realize that if what I wrote helped other families cope with chronic illness and learn to forgive themselves for not living up to their own personal set of standards, then I was writing the most important story of my life. My days as a journalist had served me well. I knew how to craft a well-paced story, yet also keep some distance and find the compelling narrative. For me, it was about the loss of youth and dreams, the naïve expectation of a happily-ever-after, and then blaming my husband, not the cancer for my shattered life.
After Again in a Heartbeat was finished, I felt a weight lift. It had been the depth of my love for him that made me act the way I had. If I had loved him any less, perhaps, I could have been kinder.
Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again and its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, about my life as a writer and single woman on a quest to find new meaning, have opened doors to teaching writing workshops, editing books, and helping others find their “voice” through the Women’s Writing Circle. This is a group I started here in suburban Philadelphia three years ago to bring together a community of writers and offer a support system, as well as a creative lifeline in a world that is often isolating.
In many ways, I feel energized by this new “career” . . . pursuing my passion, which is writing and teaching and encouraging others to tell their stories. None of it would have happened if I had not made the decision to take a risk . . . to dive off that cliff and hope – beyond any measure of logic or reason – that somehow if I looked hard into my own heart I might not only survive, but come up renewed
Susan G. Weidener’s Bio: An author, editor and former journalist, Susan leads writing workshops and started the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. Susan has an undergraduate degree in literature from American University in Washington, DC and a master’s degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania. She is particularly interested in how women can find their voice through writing and storytelling. For more information about the Women’s Writing Circle and how to order Susan’s memoirs, go www.susanweidener.com. You can also connect with Susan on Twitter@ Sweideheart, Facebook
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Sonia Marsh Says: What a story of courage and re-inventing yourself after the loss of the man you loved, and the start of a new life. I am sure your memoir can help us feel “energized” and motivated to follow our passion, just as you did.
NEWS ABOUT DECEMBER
I shall be in Paris at a book signing on December 13th, 5-7 pm, at WH Smith (scroll down on their website) as well as visiting family and friends in Paris and London. (ANY SUGGESTIONS? WHAT ARE YOU INTERESTED IN? LET ME KNOW IN YOUR COMMENTS BELOW OR E-MAIL ME AT Sonia@soniamarsh.com)
Since we are all busy during the holidays, I shall post stories and photos from Europe during the month of December, and hope you take some time to write and submit your “My Gutsy Story.” Be the first one on January 7th 2013. Thank you.
Do you have a “My Gutsy Story” you’d like to share?
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