“Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.”
― Madeleine L’Engle
I keep thinking this is happening to someone else, I told my husband in November of 2012. I keep wanting to feel sorry for whoever that may be… But then I remember: this is my story. This is happening to me.
On November 27th, 2012, two months after my husband and I had relocated to the US from Tanzania, Africa, my parents were killed in a car accident. I had just landed a new job, we had just received the keys to our first house, and I had just completed the manuscript for Liberty Hill. So many promising justs. Life was just beginning… right before it all came to a sudden and grinding halt.
There is nothing like death to make you feel like you are witnessing your life for the very first time. I was orphaned at 24, and almost immediately I began reevaluating everything. I asked myself, What the hell am I doing here? What did I believe about God, my marriage, my purpose, my dreams? Everything was turned upside down. I was suddenly a 65-year-old ghost dwelling within the shell of a young and talented woman. Things I had once loved were now distasteful to me, and things that had never held my interest became subjects of curiosity. My existence had been erased, so I went searching for a new identity; a refugee who needed to reestablish herself, to build a new home from the ground up. How does one navigate grief? There is no map. How does one manage so great a pain? The brain cannot even comprehend that which the heart feels. I was barely surviving; drowning, grappling with life, tearing it apart.
Six months after the accident, Liberty Hill was released to a mild amount of success. This did not come without consequences, because the book called for a sequel- one I had excitedly researched and outlined prior to losing my parents, but had suddenly become a poltergeist taunting me through methods of evasion and feelings of inadequacy. I was plagued with writer’s block, which was further agitated by a demanding full-time job and constant inquiries of, “When will Poverty Creek be out?” I spent hours and hours staring at the wall, drinking and listening to upbeat music. I was capable of little else.
In the beginning of 2014, I decided to shift my focus from merely surviving to actually living. I now understood that some things were completely beyond my control, but not everything. I dusted off my bucket list and looked it over carefully. What could I control? Perhaps I couldn’t write, but I had always wanted to play piano, so I bought a piano. I had always wanted to see my favorite band live, so I bought tickets to one of their shows. I learned how to make tiramisu. My husband and I went to Alaska. I dyed my hair blonde and started working out. My husband had always wanted to join the military, so the next time it came up in discussion, I looked him in the eyes and asked, “Why not?” He is now a uniformed member of the Armed Forces.
Life happens. Death happens. Stories happen, but since this was mine, I wanted to write as much of it as possible.
The writer’s block eventually lifted, but not without some work. I paid close attention to the fog that had descended along with my grief. With each little bit that receded, I filled the void with productivity. I started outlining stories, writing blogs, formulating short stories, and reading. I read a little at first, then voraciously… and there’s nothing like a great book to make a writer want to write.
Two and a half years have passed since the night that changed my life, and I still don’t know all the answers. There are many I think are better left alone, but I do know some things.
I am a native of California, a friend to Africa, an honorary Texan, and an Italian at heart. I am the proud wife of an American soldier and a brilliant entrepreneur. I am the daughter of an Austrian man named after Mozart, from whom I inherited a deep love of music and literature, and a Texas girl from whom I inherited a passion for art and adventure. I am the author of For He Is Summer, Liberty Hill, and the forthcoming Poverty Creek. I am an artist and a pianist, and this is my story.
Thank you for sharing it with me.