12 March 2013

Are You Ready or Not? New Beginnings

By Molly Field

As a writer, nothing brings you greater satisfaction than penning that crisp sentence, flowing with the prose you not only create yourself, but with excellent writing offered by other authors.

Because we fancy ourselves a complex species, the opposite side of the same coin proposes that as a writer, nothing brings you greater senses of defeat and challenge than the words of other authors.

Spring is coming. The cherry blossoms on our neighborhood trees are pinking and peeking; the cardinals and robins are chatty, looking for wives. The sun is shining a little stronger and a little brighter every day. Spring, brings Macy's white sales and thoughts of purging, spring cleaning, new beginnings. I believe that many "New Year's Resolutions" should really be made on the first day of spring because in the winter, it's still too cold (at least where I live) to begin training for a marathon outside. (Yes, I am aware that not all NYRs focus on fitness.)

So for this month, we are encouraged to talk to you about new beginnings, fresh starts... This is a challenge for me because I am in the throes of a mental reorganization myself. But no time like the present, eh?

I didn't know what I was going to write about today. I get my prompt from our fearless leader, and sometimes I gnaw on a bone and other times I just bang one out. This time, I did a little of both. 

Without boring you to tears, I gave up Facebook for Lent. I'm not terrifically Catholic, but the opportunity was so well-timed and I wanted an out anyway, that I couldn't resist. It had all become too much for me.

My intention was to spend that time working on my book's drafts and edit it, which I have done, but not with the attention I paid to my Facebook "career." So clearly, I've got some work to do. The thing is though, that yesterday, my cousin sent me the cover art for her friend's new book, Flat Water Tuesday, a story about competitive rowing and young love. As an adult rower who hails from a renown rowing town, whose extended family rowed, whose parents met because of rowing, and whose brothers and cousins and now son row, the book has a no-brainer appeal for me.

It is not ironic (rather I consider it cosmically inspired) that when that cover art came to me, I was also on the phone being wooed by an exiting board member of my novice son's rowing club to be... yeah: president. I have attended one general membership meeting. They do have their ducks in a row over there, but my "pedigree" was undeniable and most of the board members are land lubbers. I said yes. (D'OH!) We'll see how it goes. It could be great. New beginnings, right?

The energy of these new starts, beginnings, etc., theme is intoxicating; it reminds me of when That Boy looked at me for the first time. The theme for today's post is coursing through me like whisky. I am simultaneously totally psyched and utterly petrified. 

It was one year ago this week, that I sat on my cousin's micro deck beneath the unseasonably warm sun in Buffalo where we talked about her friend's book. He'd just signed on with an agent; a publisher was totally interested. The energy was ramping up. They were talking contracts, money, real business. A part of me died inside when I heard all this. I thought, "I'll never be there... this guy's amazing..." and yet a part of me never died, because that summer I wrote my book. The one that needs the editing and the love I need to give it. I can't blame Facebook; I blame me.

I'm stuck now, just a little, but stuck enough to say this about new beginnings: I am considering writing my foreword now. However, I have this sense that I'm going to end up writing a whole new book, in fact the feeling that I will end up writing a whole new version of that book is undeniable. Is that so bad?

I am an Adult Child of Alcoholics, plural. We ACOAs don't have much luck or experience finishing things, but I know this: if I get started on something that I love, I never give it up. I push and push and push. And while I know that writing that first version of my book was cathartic and amazing, the next revised version, the one that spawns through this foreword, is going to be even better, even clearer. I just need six uninterrupted weeks. Why did I say yes to the rowing club?

But I have to be careful. As an ACOA I am constantly doubting myself, my intuition, my gut. I question the enthusiasm I have for something, I wonder if what I'm doing is enough or valuable. I get so caught up in the questioning of the act that I seldom act. It seems the only thing that fuels my fire to get up and keep going is a silent rage that is borne of the frustration that constant second guessing yields.

People who don't know the world of an ACOA look at us when we talk about it as if we have three heads. "What do you mean you hid under your bed for hours listening for your angry parent to close their door for the night?" or "What do you mean you cooked your own food when you were five? Who does that?" or the other ACOAs in your life will nod knowingly. Either way, you end up talking about that stuff for hours until you can't anymore; you're either sharing stories with people who also survived it, or your busy trying to convince people that those memories were real. It can be taxing.

I'm writing about all this here, so candidly, because I can. It's my literary place under the bed. I'm 45 years old and I'm still worried that my parents will be mad at me if I write about my life. The spiteful kid inside me, my Peter Pan, says this, "Do you think for one minute they considered your anger feelings?" and I think for a moment, sigh, look into the distance and tell Peter, "I have no clue."

Just to be clear, I didn't grow up in tatters under a shanty on a mountainside; we had no want for anything material. My parents were well-educated, connected and intelligent people. I was constantly reminded of my potential, that I could be a concert violinist if I wanted, but I didn't want that. Because they are also ACOAs, my parents knew the damage that negative talk can do. However, it can sound cliché, but it was what they didn't say that spoke louder than anything they did say.

Right now, I can feel the energy ebb a smidge, but the passion is still there; the nagging thought that this foreword can be the jack to "unstuck" me must be attended to. It must be honored.

New beginnings are here for all of us. You don't have to be an ACOA to have them. You just have to be willing to leave the past in the past and if you can summon any ounce of courage from those crushing days that kept you going to today, use it to move you to tomorrow and get that book published.

We are writers. Let's do this.

come out come out, wherever you are. photo credit: me



  1. Awww Molly, I understand where you're coming from. My sister Winonah and I have both had a similar experience growing up where we dealt with more than should have been required. The problem we also often face is that when we share our experience we are often met with disbelief and blank stares.

    Who knows? Maybe this is what drives us to write. We want to be heard. The child neglected for a parent's addiction or just unwanted and left lonely, wants to connect. As a an adult that part of who we were is heard through our writing. Or at least that is our hope. We can share our struggles and our triumphs. I remember this meme on facebook that listed all things writers had in common. One of them was a traumatic childhood experience. I sincerely wonder if that is true. It certainly seems true for many of us.

    But, it's that juxtaposition of hope and harsh reality that makes great writing memorable. It heals all our pains and makes us feel less alone.

  2. thanks Carrie! it does heal and make us feel less alone. i am lucky i have that, the ability to write, to keep me company too.

  3. Molly, I love how your posts--both here and on your own blog--always throw off any pretense of bs and just get straight down to the truth. You have a real understanding, I've always felt, of balancing the point of something (new beginnings) with how the need for them has affected you your whole life because a new start doesn't mean the old stuff is gone, just that you're organizing it in a different way, realigning your priorities and thought processes. It's something so vital for writers as writers and simply as people, and I love how you've showcased that here.

    1. Thanks, Gayle. The shuffling and reorganizing sometimes feel like a shell game, but I know work is getting done. There's no other way to explain the at-times sheer exhaustion of, as you say (and as I do) throw off the pretense of BS. It's working. As Lillian (below) said to me privately, it means a rebirth / a bloom is nigh. I feel that's true.

  4. Sometimes it is best to start with the thing we least want to do. It often turns out to be the most important. If you find yourself resisting something go there first. I guarantee it will unstick you.

    I can relate to what Carrie says above too. I know I want to be heard because I did not have a voice when I was a child. I want to be acknowledged. I want to exist.

    1. Thanks, Lil!

      We exist, it's just hard at times to believe it when behaviors of those who were supposed to affirm it indicated otherwise. It's a weakness in them, not us, but it's hard to shake that sometimes. I just read a brilliant interchange between Carolyn Hax at the Washington Post and a writer about her own mother leaving her and her step-dad when she was a teenager. The story is sad but the future is bright. I'll likely write about it soon.