Fifteen years ago this weekend I packed up all my belongings, waved goodbye to Michigan and the life I knew, and headed west to San Jose, California.
I was truly a stranger in a strange new land. I knew two people in the Bay area: my brother who lived an hour north in the East Bay, and a long-distance friend who also lived an hour from my new home. I didn’t know the lingo — Silicon Valley buzzwords and acronyms filled a notebook I kept to try to make sense of it all. I got lost driving to the grocery store and dry cleaner (this was pre-SatNav mind you). I struggled to find my footing.
Gradually, with some trial and error — some of it quite embarrassing and awkward — I got into a good new groove and found a way to fit in. Today, I identify as a Californian.
I share this because it parallels a transition to another “new normal” — the one I write about here: pursuing a fresh start when nothing seems to fit, when the future looks murky, when life feels unfamiliar. It’s never easy to find a new normal when you’re in the midst of major change. It’s chronically exhausting and emotionally trying, but slowly, slowly you find your way. Before too long wounds heal and you’re back on your feet striding forward with confidence and purpose you never thought you’d find again.
I am reminded of how important it is to capture the full story of change — from the isolation and pain to the place of acceptance and peace — when I hear from Silent Sorority readers who only are beginning to understand the scope of the experience contained within it. You’ll see what I mean when you read this review posted yesterday on Amazon.com from the mother of a daughter struggling with infertility:
“I am deeply grateful to the author for writing this book. My stomach turned when I read some of the stupid comments made to encourage and give hope, the insensitive things said in ignorance or impatience, because I was guilty of saying them myself to my own daughter. I have a much better understanding of what she is experiencing. I have felt puzzled and helpless when I have seen her lose it with pregnant friends and family members, but knowing that every blasted 28 days she receives another reminder of loss and failure really brings it into focus. This is a cross no one should have to bear. It is more pain than anyone should have to endure. I now notice all the constant reminders that are all around us every day, all the time. A ceaseless reminder of the one thing she desires so much being beyond her reach. But the hope that Pam gives for finding her way out of the pain is beautiful. There is no recovery from this. How can one recover? It isn’t possible. I am going to send a copy to a family member who has been especially insensitive. She should have to go through the Twilight Zone.”
My heart goes out to the reviewer’s daughter and to the reviewer herself for recognizing how she can make the experience less isolating. In the words contained above I was transported back to the angst I once felt. Some memories will always prompt a deep emotional response and leave an indelible mark.
Fifteen years later when I drive by my old neighborhood and the dry cleaner that was once hard to find I still recall how it felt to sit crying inside my car because I felt so lost and alone in a strange new place.
Sometimes we roll the dice on a new life, and sometimes life rolls the dice for us. There can be great tension and anguish while we wait for those dice to fall. Either way, you can still come out a winner.