I'm going off topic today.
Before I was a wife, a mommy, a blogger, or even a brain-injury survivor. I was a writer. Most of my career consisted of writing in some form. I was a copy writer for several years and then a marketing director for a publisher. I was also constantly writing on my own time: journaling, writing articles for different magazines, and most significantly, I wrote my first book, Generation Ex: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain. I signed off on the final manuscript in October 2003, and sustained my traumatic brain injury in January of 2004. Generation Ex released in April 2004.
Due to my injury, I was not able to promote the book as much as I (or my publisher) would have liked. It sold a modest number of copies (slightly better than average) before going out of print a year later. I was fortunate to find a smaller publisher who reprinted it despite the fact that at that point, I had sustained my second TBI and was completely unable to market the book. Again, it sold a modest number of copies (slightly less than average) before again going out of print. Used copies have been available for the last nine years as the publishing industry has completely changed in the face of digital media. I have had countless requests for e-book versions of the book, not only for the convenience, but because many of my readers admitted that they covered the book so others wouldn't see what they were reading!
About a year ago, I started talking to the fine folks at Sozo Media, who have agreed to partner with me to release Generation Ex as an e-book! (Fun fact: Sozo also published my children's book, But I Don't Wanna Go to Bed).
Because Generation Ex is a pretty personal book--I share a lot of my story in it--and since we're coming up on ten years since I wrote it, we thought it would be fun if I added an epilogue to update readers on how my life has turned out since the last chapter. Easier said than done! My post-injury
brain does not do well on deadlines, even on very soft ones like Sozo gave me. The beauty of blogging for me is that on days when words aren't playing hide-and-seek, I can regain a little bit of my old life.
I have been trying, over the last few months, to write out my epilogue. I gathered a few thoughts and cobbled together a few phrases, but I was unable to conjure up the inspiration that fueled so many bursts of writing in the past. Finally, I had the idea that I would set aside a Sunday, when Niels was home to watch our son, and I would camp out at Panera and pound it out. This was the way I got things done in the old deadline days, and I hoped that the familiar setting would jumpstart my brain into action. Thank God, it did! My bottom was parked in that booth from 9am until almost 6pm, but I'm happy to say it is FINISHED!
It was rather a surreal day as I was free from all the things that concern me in my current day-to-day life. To find inspiration, I dug through the old neglected writing files in my computer. Thanks to my memory deficits, I read paragraph after paragraph of prose more as a reader than the writer. It bummed me out thinking of all the books in progress that I'll never finish, but I really love the life I live today, too.
What surprised me the most about my day of writing is the connection I made between the hardest chapter for me to write--about finding home for ourselves after our family home is dissolved--and my attachment to the home I currently live in with my family, this de Jong Dream House.
Today, the life I am most concerned with shaping is that of our son. At four, his greatest heartbreak is having to say goodnight to Thomas the Train. How I yearn it would always be so. With my brain-injury, his world has been pretty small up until now. He started preschool this year and I know that words like divorce are going to enter his vocabulary and understanding. I pray that words like love, family, trust, marriage, commitment, and home are more meaningful to him.
When I was writing this book, the chapter I struggled most to write was chapter 5 (Finding Home for Ourselves). I wrote that “While home is a place to others, home is memory to us.” Being married, being a mom, makes home a place to me again. It is a physical place, sure, but it is truly an emotional place, too. When I am with my husband and son, I feel at home.
Living with a brain injury means that I don’t get out a lot. The world is a loud, bright, fast-paced place. I can only handle it in small doses. A year ago, Niels and I built our dream home. We built it with the rest of our lives in mind. As we thought out our floor plan, we thought about what we needed with a young son, what we would need when Daniel is older, when he’s a teen, when he leaves for college. We considered what we would need if/when either of us had mobility issues and could no longer master the stairs. We thought about who else would use our house: our parents who may stay for weeks or months at a time, or Daniel staying with us during or after college as he establishes himself, or friends who visit or just need a place to stay on their way to somewhere else. We knew we wanted our house to be the one that our friends—and Daniel’s—wanted to come to and we designed it to be safe and quiet and with room do to all the things we like to do. When we moved in one year ago, there was such a peace knowing that we could live here comfortably for the rest of our lives.
At times during the process, and in the months since, as we have blogged about it , I have occasionally felt a little guilty that maybe I was being a bit too materialistic because I am so attached to our home. What I am realizing at this moment is that our house is the tangible evidence that I have finally found home for myself. It isn’t just the building, but the family, the memories we are making, the long-term perspective of our family being here over the years, the tangible “us-ness” of it. It is our dream house because for nearly forty years I have longed for and dreamt of feeling at home.
Ten years ago, I wrote Generation Ex in the wee hours of the night, scribbling down analogies and anecdotes in between a very full-time job, church and Bible studies, socializing with friends, first and last dates, and enjoying the ever-affectionate company of my Shih Tzu, Bailey. Today, I am enjoying life in the slow lane. A busy day means my son has to be driven to preschool, or I have a doctor’s appointment, or maybe we have company for dinner. But never all those things. I read books about trains, space shuttles, Curious George, and the Bible. At naptime, we all nap. My writing now comes in rare spurts, rare in frequency and rarely when it’s convenient. Our blog gives me an outlet for the little bits of creativity that manage to shine through. I have become domesticated. I love to cook and decorate our home. I may have an obsession with gallery walls.
One of my favorite word pictures from Generation Ex is “The act of de-mom-ifying or de-dad-ifying took away from us the very things we most yearned to cherish: the artifacts of our history. Ten years later, I now understand that putting photos on the walls of our family home is creating the artifacts of our son’s history.
This little blog may not have the reach or influence of my book, but I am so grateful for this little place on the web that connects my old and new lives. And I am thankful for the visitors who follow, read, comment, and make my new life so much richer.
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