We have no time to edit before sharing with the group, some of whom have performed one-woman shows in LA. One guy danced all over NYC in the 80s with Bob Fosse. One woman -- who has been a dear friend since 1985 -- is an A-list film editor. These writers are nothing if not comfortable with vulnerable.
Then there's me. I've been conditioned to be silent. I was once told over coffee "If you ever write about [your failed marriage/new relationship] again, I will not be your friend."
"Promise?" is what I should have said. Instead I groveled, "I won't."
"Although it would make a great screenplay in ten years," she allowed, just before organically fading out of my life.
That coffee was about a week before someone's proxy, who called herself a therapist, contacted my publisher and asked her not to publish me in her anthology. Thankfully, my publisher ignored her and called me.
"Do you know [this person]?" she asked.
"No, but I know who does," I responded. I keep meaning to mail the good therapist a copy of the book.
This was also about a year after the same someone contacted my employer to try to get me fired by way of false allegations. Thankfully, my boss, a small business owner, had walked in my shoes and understood Rumi's meet-me-in-the-field-of-no-judgment mandate. We empathized with the caller, but I got to keep my job which was great since the money I earned wasn't "extra." Rather, it put food on the table for our children.
It was also a year or so after someone else texted my now-husband: "Hey dude, get this worked out before ski week so we can ski together!" The same person texted me the following day: "I don't think we can be friends again ... BUT and this is a big BUT, people get sick and die. We'll see."
Since then, people -- like both of my parents -- got sick and died. We are still not friends. Because we never were. When I became a political liability rather than an asset, having presumably and catastrophically ended my first marriage, I was discarded. (He still sends the occasional breezy, funny text, whilst declining my Instagram follow request, thereby demonstrating a lack of courage and character.)
I wasn't allowed to feel angry, hurt, sad. Only contrition, humility, deep shame. I wasn't allowed to be human, fallible, vulnerable. Only flawed, selfish, blessed to just be banished from the kingdom, not drawn and quartered.
I was certainly not allowed to seek solace or sympathy in my zip code. "Try a support group well up the 101," my other former bestie said, just before calling everyone she knew to relish in my original sin and consequent anguish. After all, she had a job to do as the alpha. Her subsequent apology to my children ("I'm sorry I wasn't there for your mom") was swiftly retracted when I had the gall to write about my loss, my love, my journey.
Then there was the highly-medicated Marin mom, who asked that I not play Aimee Mann in my classes because it was "too triggering." She left the love of her life behind in Ireland, she told me, and chose to stay married to her "best friend." She made no bones about it: I should have done the same. (Too many assumptions to count.) Perhaps this is what she was thinking when she approached my daughter years later to let her know that she too had a "toxic, narcissistic mother," and would it be okay if she dropped a book off to her dad's house on the topic? My daughter, blindsided, declined her offer and called me. My ex had the sense (and grace) to take my call to discuss the damage wrought. He also declined this meddling mother's offer to drop off the bad-mother book. Her persistence was only eclipsed by her wholesale lack of self-awareness. Shout out to her -- the filterless harridan who made my daughter sob the night before her hardest final exam as a junior in high school.
Finally, one former friend never allowed me to apologize or explain, much less mend. Not even by phone. My actions cut too close to the quick, I suppose, for my former friend in a Marin shell marriage. She and I both know why.
"Emotionally constipated," is how one writer describes her.
And still, it took almost a decade (and moving out of the county) for the unresolved anger to come up and out onto the page.
But there it is.
* Details changed to protect the innocent/not innocent.