Unlike my previous life, these past thirty-some years have originated here in San Francisco, the city I chose after leaving Philadelphia in 1986. Previously I had lived in Firenze, Nurnberg, Wiesbaden, Geneva, Dublin, San Juan, and traveled extensively in the U.K. and New Zealand as well as in the U.S., where I was domiciled in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Chestertown on the eastern shore of Maryland. Quite an array of addresses, wouldn’t you say?
My travels have taken me back and forth six or seven times across the Atlantic and once across the Pacific to Australia and New Zealand. I was a world traveler and always packed my bags with small souvenirs and anticipation of what was waiting for me on the next leg of my journey.
Then came cancer diagnosed on my return from Albuquerque, where I had facilitated a workshop on addiction recovery issues in the desert. Chemotherapy and radiation met me at the door in the year 2000. It proved to be not the end but the beginning of my career presenting workshops on journal writing at hospitals, senior centers and colleges all over the U.S. Cancer became the focus of my re-invention of myself because I knew from my own years of journal writing that began in 1955 that it was an excellent catalyst for recovery from life-threatening challenges. I knew this firsthand from my own experience in life.
My space suddenly expanded to include a host of individuals I will call “survivors” of life’s challenges. Helping anyone who wanted a way out of being a victim into a productive model of recovery for themselves and others became my profession. My journey to all those cities and countries in my past was only prelude to this new adventure of bringing a life-saving technique accessible to everyone I could reach with the sound of my voice.
The Cleveland Clinic published my book “Write for Life: Healing Body, Mind and Spirit Through Journal Writing” in 2008. “Extending health literacy in the world” was the organization's goal when it selected my book, and this was going to be a wonderfully large space for me to fill. It was with the deepest regret that the Clinic decided to stop publishing any books and sold “Write for Life” to Kaplan Publications, which republished it only to then decide it would not publish any books that did not relate to a course offered by its university.
Limbo, that is where the book landed. And I can tell you from personal experience that limbo is a place of endless endlessness.
On my window sill is a chunk of rubble I rescued from a pile in front of the Hotel Kempinski in Berlin that was going to be used to pave the street. I do not know from which building it originated or which avenue it was intended for. All I know is that it is a tiny hunk of history that is mine now and the place from where I took it has recovered completely from the ravages it sustained to become a linchpin holding a continent together.
As for myself, what I am doing from my wheelchair is holding the page open for the next person to read who might have the slightest interest in discovering how I filled my space in the years 1932 to 2020 and where my journey has left me.