The message I wrote to my mom inside the blank writing book I gave to her.

(The message I wrote to my mom inside the blank writing book I gave to her.)

Christmas of 1976, I gave my mother an Abbey Press writing book titled SEASONS OF MYSELF.  Through the years, she penned several stories on the blank pages of her book, including one story about “Marrying The Right Man.”   In it she changed the names and some details, but the emotional truths stayed the same.   This was long before her dementia, and she had a talent for writing honest, compelling tales.

Mom had told me of her junior year in college, when two very different but equally wonderful young men wanted to marry her.   In the end, she of course chose the man who later became my father, but a great deal of solitary thought and prayer—and wondering What If?—had gone into her decision.   Reading the story and remembering her process taught me to pause with my own writing ideas and spend time considering the many possibilities of “What if?”

In response to her story, I asked myself what if Mom had chosen the “other guy”?   How would her life story have been different?   And what would have been my story, the stories of her grandchildren and great-grand-children…and so on? What if?  Hmm.

( What If?)

       ( What If?)

On the back cover of the “Write your Own Book,” the publisher offers suggestions for uses and also shares quotes of famous writers. My mother put two check marks by Catherine D. Bowen’s quote: “Writing is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living.”   Later in the journal Mom wrote that quote again and defined it this way:  “Double does not mean double dealing or double cross, but in having twice the usual size, strength, consideration and power for understanding.”

September 28th is “Ask A Stupid Question Day.”   Instead, maybe we should ask a smart question—What If?—and then write our own responses so we can experience the best kind of double living.

(The back cover of uses and quotes printed on the writing book, SEASONS of MYSELF)

(The back cover of uses and quotes printed on the writing book, SEASONS of MYSELF)

Top picture: Me holding Molly as a baby. Lower picture: Molly holding her baby, Grace.  What If? my mother had married the other guy?

Top picture: Me holding Molly as a baby.  Lower picture: Molly holding her baby, Grace. What If? my mother had married the other guy?



Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, special quotations, writing exercises

42 responses to “DOUBLE LIVING

  1. “What if?” Marylin, we hadn’t met through out blogs? I think there would be an inspiration void in my life. What a treasure you have in that note book of your mothers. I have a journal of my fathers and the handwriting itself is a cherished keepsake. My 9 year old likes to ask “what if” questions. I need to entertain her questions more and she and I can maybe create stories based on the “what if”.
    Thank you for always inspiring me to think and for at least the next week my thoughts will be drifting to “What if?”! XO

  2. juliabarrett

    What if? is the perfect question for an author. Double living. Interesting. I like your mother’s definition but for me it’s more like living multiple lives. Asking What if? leads one to open alternative doorways. Your family is so interesting.

    • Interesting is an understatement, Julia. There have been many times when I wondered WHAT IF? I’d had a sister instead of a brother, or lived in Italy instead of Kansas, and so on. But the deeper questions, too, as I’m sure you understand. You’re so right: What if? leads one to open alternative doorways. 😉

  3. If only you could see what the ‘Other man’ is doing now a lot of your What Ifs would be answered. And if the ‘What if’ had been true, you could now be imagining the ‘What If’ about your own father.
    xxx Massive Hugs Marylin xxx

    • Spoken like a true writer, David! Actually, though, if Mom had chosen the other guy, I wouldn’t be here at all, or at least certainly not as myself…plus I wouldn’t know “what might have been.” I wish now that when Mom told me about the “other man” in college, I’d asked her if my dad had “another woman” he would have married if Mom had said no. Now it’s too late; Mom’s dementia is so advanced that I can’t learn these answers. Hugs back to you, David! ❤

  4. Jane Sturgeon

    Your post reminds me of the wonderful film Sliding Doors..have you seen it? What if? All the layers of life in that question. Loving hugs and more love flowing to you Marylin. ❤ Xxx

  5. As a writer, playing the ‘What if’ game is one of my favorite things to do. I wrote a blog post last week on Inspyromance about the ‘What ifs’ in life. I love what you wrote in your mother’s book.

    • How did I mss that post, Jill? I’ll have to make sure I still get notices when you have a new post.
      It makes me smile when I read that inscription I wrote in Mom’s gift book back in 1976. When she gave me a hug and thanked me, she said softly, “I am so glad you believe in my writing, honey.” It was a special moment.

  6. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Marylin, what a rich heritage you have with your mom. Thanks for giving us these glimpses of it.

  7. I love how you use simple images to convey profound thoughts, Marylin. You said of your mother, “she had a talent for writing honest, compelling tales,” and so do you.

    Sometimes Cliff and I play the “what-if” game: What if my neighbor Paul didn’t live next door? What if I didn’t go to the same college as he? What if I had said no to a blind date?

    Thank you for being hypothetical in your post this week – very entertaining!

    • Thank you, Marian, for the sweet compliment.
      I’ve found that once we get started with the “What if?” game, it just takes on a life of its own. Reading through Mom’s stories again was amazing. Several places in the rough drafts in her other notebook, in the margin she wrote questions like, “But what if she’s overlooking something important?” and “What if he doesn’t deserve her?”
      When Mom’s dementia was just getting started, as we watched TV in the evenings when I visited her, during the commercials for “Murder, She Wrote,” we’d play the “What if?” game. It was a great thinking exercise.

  8. Don

    Your Mom must be a very perceptive and wise woman, Marylin. I just love her words, “Double does not mean double dealing or double cross, but in having twice the usual size, strength, consideration and power for understanding.”

  9. Your mother had a dilemma which not many people are lucky enough to experience! 2 potential husbands! What if she had said No to both of them. 😀

    • Only you have turned the question inside out, Gallivanta! What an interesting What if? alternative. As the daughter who wouldn’t be here if she’d chosen the other guy–or neither guy–I can’t help but wonder who I would have been. This is another time when I wish Mom’s dementia would drop away for awhile and she could read some of these comments and respond to them. 😉

  10. A thoughtful post, Marylin.
    I think life is a series of “What Ifs.” I often think “what if” my parents hadn’t decided to divorce and my mom move us back east. Would I still have met my husband and had our wonderful daughters?
    I also remember liking the movie Sliding Doors, but there are many movies, shows, and books that have what ifs and alternate worlds. (And I usually like them, if done well.) 🙂

    • And there’s a romantic part to us, Merril, that makes us want to believe that even if the What If? had been different, we still would have somehow had our same wonderful families. I remember one of my college psychology professors saying that our hearts hold on to our deepest hopes even when our heads know they can’t happen. 🙂 I think my mother would say that whatever happens, we do the best we can and give it all our hearts, and it will all work out.

  11. “What If” is a very compelling question! Marylin, I marvel at your mother- two suitors to pick from- and what a daunting decision that must have been! I could ask myself many “what ifs?” but mostly I am grateful for the path that I have been led down. Love this post. xoxo Joanne

    • Thanks, Joanne. It is a daunting decision to consider, isn’t it? When you cuddle your darling granddaughter Penelope, what if her parents had each married other people instead of each other?
      I remember when my mother first told me of her two suitors and the careful process it took to make her decision, that I had the feeling when she made her decision and committed her heart and mind to it, she didn’t look back. She was grateful for the path she had followed, and whatever happened, it was what was meant to be. ❤

  12. Molly

    Wow! I sure am glad history turned out the way it did! I’m sure things would have been great with whatever Grandma chose, but I am pretty partial to the way things turned out! 🙂
    I wonder if Grandma would regret writing that history now, knowing some of the family read the full story when she didn’t plan it that way. I am not sure I would want to leave all that in writing for some of my family to read when I couldn’t explain it. I’m glad you know the full story beyond what you share here, and you confided in me. I also like the general What If question you share here in the post.

    • 😉😃😉😃😍😍😍😍!

    • If it weren’t for her dementia, I think your Grandma would gladly talk to you about the two choices and how she chose, Molly. You and she have always been so close, and so much alike, plus you had such a good sense of humor together even when you were growing up. You two would have been laughing about some of the details, I’m sure. Plus, she would have trusted you with the full story, I’m sure. ❤ ❤ ❤

  13. Mor-Mor my “What if” question is, What if we still lived in Canton, who would be be my friends?

    • That’s a good question, Gannon. You were still a baby when your family moved from Canton. Life there would have been different, but it would have been the same in other ways, too. Maybe it’s because you’re my grandson, but I think with your wonderful personality and sense of humor and kindness to everyone, you’d be happy and find friends wherever you live. 😉 ❤ ❤ ❤

  14. “What if….” is a good question to ask when you get stuck in your writing. I can’t imagine my mom being married to anyone else but my father. Thye just seemed so right for each other. She didn’t ever mention another consideration although there a fellow sweet on her, but she didn’t like him. Thank heaven, he was a bit of a goof. That was a very special book you gave your mother. ❤

    • Back in the 70s, Write Your Own Book was a popular item in the big book stories, Darlene. I picked the “Seasons of Myself” theme because it just seemed like my mother, but there were all kinds of choices, from funny to sad dark covers with only a few stars peeking through. Now writers can self-publish their writing, but I can remember Mom sitting in her chair by the front window, drinking a cup of tea and writing in her book. 😉

  15. Darlene, I just received your comment about making the pirate costumes that you posted on the previous blog. This is a terrific story, how you brought it with you to Spain, and how your 9-year-old friend can wear it when she comes over to visit. If you had a “Seasons of Myself” writing book, you could fill it with your stories! 🙂

  16. Marylin, I liked your moms definition of double. And I always like your family stories and photos. 😄👍

  17. What a fun post and lovely comments here, Marylin. I’m grateful for the Sliding Doors movie suggestion. The trailer looks good.

    My mother and I used to talk a little about some of her what ifs — boyfriends who might have become husbands. But it was clear to me that she never looked back and that she loved my father. That’s the best gift I received. Neither of them were perfect, but they gave me daily proof that love can continue even through difficulties

    The double life idea is one of the great gifts of writing memoir and perhaps fiction and poetry also. We live once in time. And then we live twice as we ponder the meaning of what happened and turn it into words.

  18. Thanks, Shirley. SLIDING DOORS is on Starz and pay-for-view, and it is definitely a good one to put on your list. It offers many interpretations and possibilities, and is also a terrific nudge for writing ideas.
    Anais Nin said, “We write to taste life twice,” and in my mother’s journal, writing about the two proposals gave her space to taste the possibility of both lives. I was so glad she talked to me in detail about difficult choices, and her process in making decisions …and then also wrote it all out in story form, too.

  19. Jim

    The “Seasons of Myself” book, complete with some of Mary’s own writing, is quite a find to add to our family’s heritage collection. Generating a blog post from the book has given your readers food for thought and a worthy challenge on the 28th. Good job, sweetie! ❤

    • I’m so glad we finally got it back after being “lost” all those years, honey. I especially love “Seasons of Myself” (since I gave her the book for Christmas that year). I remembered a lot of her stories, but it’s so nice to have her words to read again. 😉 ❤ ❤ ❤

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