Hello, loves! I’ve been working with an ultra-talented book coach on my memoir over the past year. Her name is Suzette Mullen, she’s a coach for LGBTQ+ memoirists, and she has given me so much insight into the story I’m telling. With her advice, I’ve decided to completely overhaul the structure of my memoir. It’s a huge undertaking, but I believe it’s the key to unlocking the story that needs to be told. My brilliant development editor, Alice Anderson, suggested this to me years ago, but I was not yet ready to make those changes. I am ready now, and I know this memoir is finally reaching the place where it needs to be.
In celebration of the excitement I feel about these changes, I’d like to share a little piece of Hurricane Lessons with you today. It’s just a snippet (my mom’s favorite word) of a larger chapter, and names have been changed to protect the innocent (or not so innocent).
For those of you who don’t yet know, my memoir is my story of falling in love with my Pilates instructor at age 46, trying unsuccessfully to save my heterosexual marriage of 22 years, and finding peace with my authentic self in the process. This lyrical piece illuminates the overwhelming, obsessive feelings I developed for Claudia. I hope it encapsulates all the fear, trepidation, longing, and lust I experienced as I wrestled with my own heart during those unsettled days.
If you enjoy this little piece, please stay tuned for more. And if you know someone else who might enjoy my writing, please share my Substack with them. There are many of us out there who have experienced late-in-life same-sex attractions, and if my story helps someone else feel a little less alone, then I have, as “they” say, done my job.
Thanks for reading. XO
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An excerpt from Hurricane Lessons, Chapter 5 (© 2023)
No one filled, challenged, invigorated, exasperated, and illuminated me like Claudia did. She was breath and life and death rolled up in a beautiful package of gentle skin and kaleidoscope eyes.
She was always up for an adventure, unless she was ready for a nap. She was ready to climb a mountain or dive off a Jamaican cliff, unless there was a rerun of “The Gilmore Girls” playing. She was the epitome of opposite ends of the spectrum, her downtime as important as her risk-taking.
As much as she moved me, Claudia scared me. There was a volatility to her, an explosion simmering below the surface. Two ex-husbands, numerous ex-lovers, two lovely teenagers she adored and overindulged. One divorce decree that funded her extensive travel, her expensive homes, and her designer shoes. She was a mystery and an enigma wrapped in a cocoon of privacy. She’d give just enough to pull you in, then she’d slap you back where you belonged. Harshly. With zero remorse. Sometimes I’d text or say something to her—something I considered relatively benign, or kind, or funny—and she’d fire back with an unexpected, angry tirade. She misunderstood me often. Almost as much as she confused and intrigued and inspired me.
Claudia made me want to be bigger than I was. She made me wish for a larger-than-life existence. And so I, too, bought Stuart Weitzman heels that I could not afford and regularly drank $50 bottles of wine to expand my palate.
When we were not together—when we were on opposite coasts or opposite sides of town—my missing her was a living, breathing thing, another entity that existed in my very marrow. It stopped me short when I least expected it. It stole the air right from my lungs, a nimble, greedy thief. I wanted to lean over and whisper something, to brush her cheek with my fingers, to inhale her laughter, to grasp her hair, her slender fingers.
She was a phantom limb to me, not there, but still there. Always there. An electric current that held me, burning, burning, in its grip.
I could not break free.
I did not want to break free.
But I wanted both of us to be free.
We would have withered and died, of course, without our wings.
I would not clip hers.
I would not clip mine.
The missing-her ache that sat in my chest was palpable, though. It doubled me over, a fist, a punch, an awakening.
It was hard, sometimes, to love her more than she loved me. That teeter-totter of imbalance kept me dizzy and unsure, the ground beneath me not quite solid, the horizon, heat-buckled.
I thought about her all the time, minute by minute, second by second. I had to shake my muddled head free of her, to stop myself from calling, from texting, from being too much.
I am so often too much.
Even for myself.
But the pull. The lightning. The magnet. It all upended me, turned me inside out. She upended me, turned me inside out. My guts splayed in every direction, my heart split in two, vulnerable to vermin and disease and destruction.
But for her, I took it. All of it. Accepted it. Embraced it. Ingested it.
That is what we do for our own bones, our own limbs, our own hearts beating wildly underneath pale skin, barely contained.
We choose to survive. We choose to feed what is hungry, to clothe what is naked, to warm what shivers, to soothe what aches, to staunch the bleeding, to cool the fever.
Self-sacrifice. Self-protection. Self-preservation.
I felt her—always, everywhere—floating on each breath, running through my veins, settling into my bones, making her home inside me where it had been patiently awaiting her arrival since the moment these lungs first expanded, contracted, expanded, contracted.