Late October 2020
Seismic Shift: Leaving New Jersey
I left New Jersey, my home state, in phases. There was the initial parting, going off to University, in Washington, D.C. And then there was the great leap, le grand saut, to California six years later.
The final farewell was one that I’d not anticipated, not planned, and certainly did not want to execute, not because I was backing away from it, but because I really did not know that it was necessary.
In the late 1980s, I was experiencing difficulties of many kinds in my personal and professional lives. As Dear Husband put it, I wanted to have another child in the worst way, and I managed to do just that! Seriously, however, I had hit a wall in terms of being able to write, fiction or otherwise. I shuddered to call it writer’s block. It felt more like a brick wall, standing right in front of me, no matter where I went, or what I tried to do. My physician at the time suggested something was there . . . in the sub-conscious.
“You leave my subconscious alone,” I warned him.
Which was my comical attempt to forestall the inevitable. This doctor was a man of profound perception, aware of aspects of my self that I’d yet to resolve, or even identify. I held a lot inside in those days. I held just about all of my personal cards close to the chest, and I guess I still do. Life-long habits are hard to break, especially if they have insured your survival, and even when they impede forward motion with your life. The double-edged sword is always double and sharply-edged.
I’d been sent a series of hostile letters from a few of my many older siblings in the Northeast. One, in particular, was the straw that broke that camel’s back. This Sister in Washington, D.C. was bound-and-determined to sue me for having taken my life into my own hands. She’d made a file, a dossier, on me. Her interpretation of my life-saving and defining decisions was that I had abused the woman who gave birth to me, by daring to live away from the appalling sickness of the group known as “family of origin”.
In lawsuit-happy America, I was being threatened with a family-injury lawsuit in an attempt to force me to kow-tow to Official Sick Family Policy. Another sibling had already called my office, very long-distance, to speak to my Supervisor, employing a Karen-tactic decades before the obnoxious behavior became Nanny-State sanctioned.
I was getting all kinds of phone calls at The Office in those days, during my entry into married life. The most laughable was from a former suitor who was not filing a lawsuit against me; he was simply, but obsessively, warning me, at least twice a week on the Office Phone, to move to a higher elevation because a Flood was coming.
My secretary truly pitied me. She questioned me as to whether these individuals had always had a screw or two loose, and I opined yes. It did flood in Sacramento, CA that year, however, in an historic way, so the screws might have been loose in that cranium but the mechanism was functioning on an accurately extra-sensory level.
Inspecting flood-control dams, about to burst or not, and checking spillways for cracks and erosion, were a part of my professional work. Privately, the same processes were underway.
I decided during the fall of 1989 to fly to New Jersey, 3000 miles away from Dear Husband and Dear Toddler Son. My goal was to try to bring as much “closure” or, at a minimum, resolution to a phase of my life that, I knew, would take at least a lifetime for me to resolve. My Muse was in on the decision. She was, in artistic fact, the driving force behind the strategy.
The weather when I arrived at Newark Airport in late October 1989 was very warm, sickeningly warm. The World Series was underway in the USA. It was the Bay Bridge series, complete with an earthquake. In northern northern New Jersey, I was experiencing my own seismic shifts within a creative mind that was doing a lot more work than my conscious one.
I did not contact any of the persons whom I had known during my childhood and adolescence. I’d come to say goodbye to places, not people. Those persons had already become a part of my past. I walked to the places of the heart that would become fertile fields for fiction. I remembered memories with the clarity of perspective, an attitude of distance that would serve me well, and infinitely, as I became a novelist.
I sought solace in the sadness of the truths that were there, awaiting me, during those several days in northern northern New Jersey. I requested of my Maker some of the answers to the questions that had haunted me from my years of not accurately having seen so many truths when I physically, though not necessarily emotionally, inhabited that region.
I wrote a poem in the hotel room where I stayed, a poetic form of stating where I’d been and where I wanted to be. It was called, “The Girl in the Mirror”. I no longer have the poem, but I have the results of the penning of it.
And I watched several tv ads of a very young Rudy Giuliani running for Mayor of NYC. The election was imminent. I thought Rudy would not win, but what a brave man he was — taking on that slime-ball Tammany Hall!
In late October 1989, as I intensely examined that political commercial, something inside of me said that Rudy would be the future of NYC. Somehow, someday, in some way, he would return, as Hero-Mayor.
By Halloween, I’d returned to California, never to physically walk the streets of NJ again. My daughter was born a little more than a year later. The life I’d been seeking so urgently, so passionately, to live — is a life out of the shadows of the past. That life had tentatively begun with the birth of my son. With the birth of my beloved female child, and through the miracle of life, I began to see the daylight of the future, my future.
Sometimes a person has to embark upon a mission that is filled with risk in order to arrive at the point, or points, of departure that have always been waiting for her — to take that step, le grand saut — into the future.
Take that risk — and live your life.