That Was the Year That Was
A roundup of my 2022 favorites.
Hello friends, the new year isn’t quite here yet so we’re still in the midst of the Holidays. I thought about skipping this roundup, considering what a year I’ve had, but through it all I wrote, I published, I bared my soul more than I’ve ever done publicly before, so after some minor soul-searching—and checking my posts—there are a few I’d like to share again.
Some of you newcomers may have missed them, and others of you may—miracle of miracles—want to read them again.
I’m doing something different this year. I’m incorporating posts from both of my newsletters—Constant Commoner and Writer Everlasting. Some may have appeared at both, but others are unique to each newsletter. And all are pieces I’m glad I wrote.
As always, I’m ever grateful to you, my subscribers, both paid and free, and to those who have let me know in some way—including in notes or comments—that some of what I’m trying to do here is making a dent.
It’s what every writer needs in order to keep going, and I try to pay it forward in my own way. It’s what we do as a community of readers and writers, and I’m proud to be a part of the Substack Experience.
So here they are, the earliest first. Feel free to share any of them, and, of course, to ‘heart’ and to comment. I’m here because of you. You are my guiding lights and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I posted this at the beginning of 2022. It morphs into a 2021 roundup of my favorite pieces from that year. Tricky, huh?
Soon after, I wrote a piece on a 100-year-old photo album I wanted to write about. I asked for advice here and got it. So the album sits, waiting for me to decide what to do. But it’s kind of an interesting story, so I’m repeating it here:
On what would have been my mom’s 104th birthday, I realized I’d forgotten her voice. I felt sadder than I ever had in years past. This is what I wrote:
On March 13 I shared the terrible news: that my husband, Ed, was in hospice with only days to live. It came on us so suddenly—we’d learned just days before that he had inoperable lung cancer—and he died three days after I wrote this. My life changed, and so did my writing. Looking back I’m surprised I could write about anything else, but I did. I started a section called Widow’s Walk, to include my posts on widowhood and grief. I tried to write them as honestly as I could, and as coherently, considering I felt as if every cogent thought had zoomed away, never to return.
But life goes on, and I’m ever the political animal, so this piece, written in April, became my promise. It told me that life would go on, and my emotions, battered as they were, could still build into something useful—at least for me.
By June I was working on finding my voice again. I was slowly rising out of the fog known as ‘Widow’s brain’, though I still had my doubts about ever thinking clearly enough to get back to what I could call ‘real work’.
This summer, while I was alone in my cabin up north, I spent days going through old files reflecting years and sometimes decades of published and never published work. They were strangely comforting, as if I’d discovered a part of the old me, far removed from this desperately conflicted widow who sought comfort in the here and now, afraid of what might be ahead. This is a piece of flash fiction I wrote for a contest but I didn’t win. There are parts of it I really like so I’m sharing it here again.
In July, Joni Mitchell made a stunning comeback at the Newport Folk Festival and, not for the first time, she enthralled us mightily. This was my take on it.
In September, friends and family made the pilgrimage to Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, where we buried and honored the love of my life and the light of so many others. It was just the kind of celebration my Ed would have loved.
And lastly, the story of how I ran away from home twice. I just noticed that I published this piece on November 14, the day after what would have been Ed’s 89th birthday. I could have written another paean to him the day before, on his actual birthday, but I didn’t. Instead, I wrote for the very first time as a woman making decisions alone. They weren’t always wise decisions, and sometimes they were downright wacky, but I’m only just now recognizing what a turning point it was.
So those are my choices for the year past. I’m looking ahead now but there are still no guarantees that anything I’ve promised, even to myself, will actually happen. I want to write more and write better in the coming year, but life, as I’ve learned, is the ultimate rule-maker. I’m at life’s mercy, it seems, but I’m still breathing and still fighting.
I hope you’ll come along with me into 2023. I think of us as friends, as a growing community, as a fun house, a comfort station—whatever we want us to be.
A note about the photo at the top. One winter as I walked the beach at Pawley’s Island, SC, I found a sand dollar almost split in half. As I handled it back at our apartment it broke open, and those ‘birds’ fell out. They looked like Doves of Peace to me, so I arranged them on a navy blue velvet shirt and took a picture. It was long enough ago that I could edit it with Picasa, so I added the letters and made it my Facebook New Year’s message. I’ve been using it ever since, and now I’m happy to be sharing it with you.
May this new year bring to each of us our own share of peace.
(Cross-posted at Writer Everlasting, my other Substack newsletter)
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