I have mentioned my friend who is a single mother. And when I talk about her I say those words like she’s been doing it for a long time and hammered out all the kinks. The truth is
that her life was being turned upside down at the same time mine had been crashing to the ground. I remember when she told me what was happening in her life and feeling like it couldn’t be real. She had expressed the same sentiment when I called her from the Mayo Clinic to tell her that I was going into surgery the next day. “I feel like this is a joke” she had said and I had reassured her through choked back tears that it was not.
After my third surgery and recovery I spent a night at her house and we stayed up for hours discussing the struggles that we had endured unknowingly in tandem with one another. We have been friends for almost ten years now and have lived five blocks from one another for most of that time. She moved back to her hometown in Northern Kentucky almost a year ago so we now see each other less but our friendship remains as strong as ever. She is the type of friend that you can go a week or a month without talking to and when you finally make that time to call or visit you pick up right where you left off.
When I had finally recovered enough from my third surgery to travel I headed her way. I needed some friend time. Plus I wanted to check in and see how she was doing. We spent that night laying on her couch like old times. Eating frozen pizza, watching cheesy romance movies, gossiping about celebrities, the usual, but as the night wore on we began to discuss the trials of the past year. What struck me about our conversations was that even though our challenges had been very different, the struggle and the pain that we had felt was the same when we described it to each other. What also made me hurt was that we were only beginning to talk about it NOW, in retrospect. We had not reached out to each other when we had been in our darkest hours of need.
It was not a matter of trust, we each know the other’s darkest secrets, have seen the skeletons in the closet, and still love the other all the more for them. What was it? To this day I am disappointed in myself for not having reached out to her sooner. Not just for me but also for her. Because that night I realized that the more candid I was with her about what had happened to me, so was she. And the more that she talked the more I felt that she had needed this.
Had needed to hear and be heard.
To cry and also to console.
Perhaps it was the miles that were now between us that had made it harder to express what had been going on, I’ll never know. What I do know is that I learned something very important that night. That sharing your story can not only heal you but heal others.
A few days after I came back from visiting her I sent her an email that contained 10 pages of journal entries. All of them had been written from bed. From the California King in my parents house, laying next to my mother while she changed my bandages and we waited for biopsy results, from the hospital beds at mayo, with all of the tubes sticking out of me and those terrible compression boots, to the double queen room at the Hotel across from the hospital where I laid with my teddy bear and watched marathons on HGTV until it was time to fly home and try life again.
It was my story.
I wanted her to know all of it.
She wrote me a text the next day after recieving it that read, “lovie (that’s our pet name for each other) this is wonderful, just wonderful. Parts of it moved me to tears. You need to make this into a blog.” I laughed at the idea. I had sent these very personal essays to my closest friend to help her realize that she was not alone when it came to life’s struggles, they were not for vanity and as I said, they were very personal. The idea of having a “blog” seemed extremely cliche and self-absorbed. When I wrote her back I made a joke saying that I did not think that my life would turn out quite like that Julie and Julia movie so there was no need to post these journals in a public forum. “you sure? You never know, Your story could help people.” This idea made me pause. I remembered back to when I was at my lowest point and that what I had found most crippling was that feeling of isolation. That no one could understand me or what was happening. I also remembered that what had brought be back from the brink were the people around me. My “village.” The people who had helped me realize that I did not have to do any of this alone. That actually doing it by myself was impossible. That I needed to rely on the strength of others as well as my own. I told her I would think about it but that it would probably never happen. “It’s not like you have to promote it all over the place or even tell anyone. Just put it out there. If someone finds it, maybe they were meant to find it.”
This idea was hard to argue with. So one afternoon, I meticulously cut my journal entries up into chronological pieces and posted them on the internet. I decided that I would dedicate the story to my mother and after a few IT issues the site was up and running. I launched it on her birthday. I chose a quippy title and The Chronicles of Mayo was born.
That day a whopping ten people read it. I think I could probably name them all because they were in my immediate or extended family. But I was not disappointed. I had not expected anyone to find it or to read it. It was really a gift to celebrate my mom anyway.
It seemed like such a small thing. I thought I would post it and it would be over.
I was wrong.
The story didn’t end when I had left the hospital as those first 15 posts seemed to imply.
That was just beginning.
Writing my blog has became part of my story. Part of my journey back. It’s made me stronger.
And most importantly helped me move forward.