all my happy trails lead to Pretty


I Wonder if Columbus Kept a Journal

(chapter one from Four Ticket Ride)

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Five hundred years later in 1992 the maiden voyage of the Space Shuttle Endeavor began when the spacecraft was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Seven astronauts were aboard; the flight lasted nine days and was successful on several missions including the first time three astronauts walked in space together. 1992 was also an election year with President George H.W. Bush running for re-election in the U.S. against Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. The UK also had an election, but no news was more important in that part of the world than the breakup of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

The USA Mall of America opened its doors in August, 1992 at a time when the average income in the United States was $30,030 according to The People History. The Summer Olympics were held in Barcelona, Spain and the Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. The North American Free Trade Agreement better known as NAFTA was signed by President George H.W. Bush in December, 1992 a month after he lost his bid for re-election.

I was 46 years old when I voted for Bill Clinton in the 1992 election. I was in the third year of a new career path as a financial planner for Jefferson Pilot Life Insurance Company in Columbia, South Carolina, my home since 1972. In other words, I sold life insurance on a commission basis along with annuities and mutual funds to sweeten the deals. I was barely surviving financially and nowhere even close to the average annual income for U.S. citizens. I had to borrow money from my mother that year to pay my bills and keep consumer credit card companies happy.  Something had to give.

I was also madly, passionately infatuated with a pretty, fun, smart female client thirteen years younger than I was. We had loads of fun and sex whenever we were together, and that affair which began in 1991 carried an additional element of danger because we were both in long term relationships with other women. This, unfortunately, was a pattern I had established in my early twenties for my interpersonal connections that seemed to fit the sociological profile of serial monogamy. I was in my third long term lesbian monogamous partnership; the first two both ended with my infidelity. Add early onset menopause full of hot flashes to the mix, and I was truly a hot mess.

Recently I discovered a journal of mine from that time period. I was amazed at the contents. The entries were dated in the month of February, 1992. By this time my partner and I had split.  She had found my indiscretion at the end of 1991 through a phone bill that was clear evidence of what was going on in my affair. After six years together, she told me to get out and think about what I wanted in my life. One of our dogs, a Westie named Sassy, and I moved into an apartment not far from our house.

1992 was twenty-six years ago now so I have a few memory lapses, but I get exactly what was happening through the journal which was a day by day response to prompts from a self-help course taught by one of the popular gurus of the 1990s. Regardless of the creator of the course, I must have been desperate for help and unwilling or unable to consult a therapist. I would have been afraid to discuss my problems with someone who might judge me for being gay. I was out to some friends and family but not out at work and in many ways still struggling with internalized homophobia. The journal showed a gradual progression of self-awareness.

My journal was called the “Success Journal” – 20 days to success.

Day 1 – February 20, 1992

Two things to do that will improve my quality of life:

  1. Take bottles for recycling. *
  2. Buy 10 pound weights for exercise program*

 

*Done February 21, 1992 (with no noticeable improvement in my quality of life)

Day 2 – February 21, 1992

Four things I have not done that I want to do:

  1. Lose 12 pounds
  2. Separate from relationship (can’t do – see day 4 for revision)
  3. Coming “Out” to family and others
  4. Being financially wealthy

Days 3 and 4 were focused on Controlling my Destiny around the four things I had not done but wanted to do.

The losing 12 pounds never happened in the past twenty-six years although I faithfully made it my number one New Year’s resolution every year. I dishonestly changed wish #2 on Day Four to why I needed to stay in that relationship because I was afraid to make a change. Not too many days after Day 20, the Final Breakthrough Day, Sassy and I left the apartment and returned home where we stayed for twelve more years until my partner found someone new. Karma was alive and well.

I defined being financially wealthy in 1992 as buying new golf clubs, buying a new car, repaying the loan from my mother and paying off my credit cards (the order was vague); and having a maid, cook and gardener. I’m fairly certain I got the new golf clubs.

I will omit the discussion of empowering and disempowering neuro- associations, pattern interrupts, overcoming fears, and the next 18 Days to Success except for two poignant revealing passages in the journal.

Why I must come out to others:   (Day Four – February 23, 1992)

  1. I can be whole
  2. I can be honest
  3. I can be free of secrecy.
  4. I can be in control of my life.
  5. I can be healthier.
  6. I can be stronger.
  7. I can have energy for other parts of my life.
  8. I can be more at peace.
  9. I can be happier/more content
  10. I can know my friends.

As long as we are invisible, we are vulnerable.

The personal costs of the closet were the most important lessons I learned from my 20 Days to Success Program. I believe acknowledging those lessons in the winter of 1992 speeded up my coming out process that prepared me for the personal epiphany in the March on Washington the following year in April, 1993.

On Day 10, the day for Setting Goals, I wrote “I would love to write a book!” In 1992 that goal seemed as unlikely as having a maid, cook or gardener but in 2007, fifteen years later, my first book Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing was published.

Was my “Success Journal” a success? That’s a tough one for me. Are journals important for writers? That answer probably depends on the person, but journals indicate the compulsion writers have to record their experiences. This journal was only one of several I’ve started through the years, but periodically I open it to read about that middle-aged menopausal woman struggling to become a whole person.

(Thank goodness for Pretty who rescued me from myself 8 years later in 2000 and encouraged me to write that first book. Wow – all my happy trails lead back to Pretty.)

Stay tuned.

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is an essayist with humorist tendencies who periodically indulges her desires to write outside her genre by trying to write fiction and poetry. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike and Charly. Her Texas roots are never far from her thoughts.
This entry was posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, racism, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to all my happy trails lead to Pretty

  1. Wayside Artist says:

    Those journals serve as personal historical records, don’t they. I’m so glad your trail led to Pretty, your anchor.
    I often wonder how we survive the psychological trauma we put ourselves through navigating life. In the spring of 1992, coming on 32 years, I ended up in the psych unit of a local hospital for a month. The fallout from that experience colored my life until I was 54 and no longer under the influence of crazy hormonal swings. PMS was a lifestyle until the blessing of menopause.
    Weight loss surgery, Miss Pops and The Good Doctor reset my life. As did you and Pretty. The encouragement you both had in my talent gave me wings. Love you both so much.
    Happy trails indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s just something about surviving, isn’t there?
      I can only imagine your journey, and I trust you kept journals for those years that colored your life – I believe they must be a part of the colors you so beauifully paint today.
      Nothing like Pops and the Good Doctor for restoring your soul. You are beyond gifted, Ann – makes me happy to think our support helped with your vision of yourself as an artist.
      Pretty and I love you dearly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Luanne says:

    What a revealing and concise memoir this post is. Thank you for sharing something so personal that is so helpful to so many, Sheila. I’m grateful to Pretty for the current Sheila.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. candidkay says:

    Oh, journals are amazing and damning all at the same time, are they not? I enjoy seeing what my younger self thought and felt. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come. And it sounds like you’ve come quite far also. I hope you’re celebrating that . . .

    Liked by 1 person

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