Saturday, July 20, 2019

How to achieve an EXCEPTIONALLY worthwhile life

If, in fact, “the unexamined life is not worth living”—thank you, Socrates—then my life today must qualify as exceptionally worthwhile!

I’m re-reading letters written to friends long ago, retained by the recipients and returned to me years later.  I have two sources: ten-or-more years ago Margaret, whose acquaintance I made at my first job after college, returned letters I’d written to her in the ‘60s after she and her family moved to southwestern Washington; recently Tony, the son of my dear, deceased-friend Karen, sent me the letters I wrote his mom in the ‘70s after my family and I moved to Wisconsin. 
I also have a few taped memories: some are letters, retrieved in the ‘90s after my mother-in-law died, dictated on the then ‘newfangled’ portable tape cassette player; others are narratives made on a reel-to-reel machine and were transferred to a thumb drive (although much of the content is inaudible) in 2018. One of those reels contains Jay’s practice-session for a TV host job interview in the early 1960s and my critique of it. Both were excruciating to hear fifty-five years later.

Needless to say, I am reading and hearing things I had completely forgotten: depictions of family harmony and conflict, mother angst and worry, anecdotal joy and concern from high school through widowhood.

To this odd time-capsule comprising one-off narratives, then add a lifetime of hobby writing. Two weeks ago I had FedEx print out four hundred pages (just a start) of personal essays, poetry, and short-fiction pieces I’ve written, reaching back as far as the ‘50s. No wonder I feel bogged down in terms of my everyday, household routines. 

Reading over these pieces about both my families (one of origin and one of choice), relationships and friends, anecdotes and events, triumphs and disappointments, has created a very self-centered person for the moment. Silly things, sad things, and bad things in my life are depicted and have settled into the forefront of my thoughts. It’s all I can do to look up and look out . . .  beyond the me who has created all this.

I know—as most of us do—it’s only natural, while on a long road trip, to pull out the map to see  how far we’ve come. What started out as an unmapped journey can be traced by looking back, and it’s satisfying to see those long miles highlighted along the way—be they interstate highways or back roads. This look-back on life through memoir is like that, and it’s probably a good thing. But it feels almost incestuous to be so preoccupied with myself after thinking I was living as much for others as myself. If it weren’t for Socrates’s almost clich├ęd dictum, I might feel very guilty about the self-centered aspect of this experience. Yes, I know he was talking about philosophical examination, but I’m choosing to take the quote literally. Thus, you could say I’m just making my 'almost twenty-nine thousand days' worth living.



Friday, July 5, 2019

Jarring juxtaposition awakens a memory

Milwaukee Sentinel November 8, 1980
 Milwaukee Sentinel  
Recently I 'Googled' myself--that is to say, I put my name into a search engine just to see what would surface. About a dozen hits--mostly because of this blog and several links to my published articles online, plus some volunteer connections and donations made public by various non-profits I support. Nothing too surprising except for this: "Sara Glerum, Wauwatosa, Wis, Finds Bible Inaccurate."

Well, that got my attention!  I immediately clicked the link and rediscovered a letter I'd written published in the Milwaukee Sentinel on November 8, 1980, entitled 'The Value of Life.' The letter summary of someone else's letter was adjacent to my name, thus confusion of erroneously associating my name with that other letter (I added the big X for clarity's sake). Click on the link below the clip here:
Rereading what I had written The Sentinel in 1980 took me back to how indignant I had been at a front page story the newspaper had just published. But I'd also forgotten how thirty-two years later in 2012 I received my first-ever "Private Message" on Facebook. It was from a woman named Deanna--a total stranger to me. She explained that friend, Beth Umolac, was the woman who had been murdered in 1980, and how she, Deanna, was willing to keep on looking for the right Sara Glerum to thank, if I wasn't the  one.

I'd all but forgotten how hearing from Deanna made me feel then--sad, of course, remembering the story of a murder, but also gratified because apparently my letter had made Deanna feel a tiny bit better. I was incredibly touched that after more than thirty years, she was still wanting to thank me. That she searched me out and found me still strikes me a beautiful gesture and proves the adage, "What goes around, comes around."

I've written posts on this blog about people from my past finding me because of something I'd written on it, and it never fails to thrill me when a connection is made this way. Meanwhile, I do encourage my readers to 'Google' yourselves, and you might find yourself recalling things you'd all but forgotten. And besides, it doesn't hurt to know what's out there floating around with your name attached.