Monday, 30 March 2009


I am presently reading “The Mighty Queens of Freeville” by Amy Dickinson, an advice columnist in the USA. In it she tells the story of her life particularly following her divorce. I’m sure that once I’ve finished it, I shall be reviewing it in this blog. In the meantime and with the kind permission of both Amy and her publishers, Hyperion, I am reproducing below a short essay that Amy has written

Fresh Starts
by Amy Dickinson

I am something of a specialist in starting over.

I don’t reinvent myself when I start over, though sometimes I do get a haircut. What happens to me is that I embrace a new opportunity to experience joy. Happiness. A new haircut. A fresh start. All of that happens after the crying, of course. Preceding each fresh start there are periods of crying, wringing my hands, and not knowing what to do next.

Fortunately for me, when it comes to embracing new beginnings, I have a secret weapon – several of them, in fact. My mother, aunts, and older sisters showed me by example how it’s done. When my own father, a dairy farmer, left our family, he left my mother with four children and a barn full of Holsteins that needed to be milked twice a day. My mother stoically pushed up her sleeves, got her first paying job as a typist in an office, put food on the table and kept our household together. She occasionally leaned on her sisters – also single mothers – and they traded off propping each other up, encouraging, and lending each other money.

Women, I think, tend to experience many fresh starts. We embrace romance, we marry, we have babies, enter, leave and then re-enter the workforce. Sometimes, our romances fade. Our children grow and leave. Our parents age and need us. We start over.

After my own husband suddenly left our marriage, I started over as a single mother. I raised my daughter, Emily, the best way I knew how, with the women in my life watching my back. Emily saw me start new jobs, tolerate unemployment, and suffer through blind dates. We started over a few times, she and I. After living in London, we moved to Washington DC and then Chicago. Each time, we made a home for ourselves, complete with friends, pets, houseplants, and new job opportunities. In 17 years as a single mother, I learned how to roll with the punches, to make and change plans, and to embrace the possibilities.

When Emily graduated from high school and left home for college, I chose another new beginning. I moved back to my little hometown of Freeville, NY – back to the landscape of my childhood and back into the orbit of the inspiring women who raised me. I was there, ostensibly, to care for my mother, who was ailing, but what I received for myself was another fresh start. There, among my family, I became a caregiver – and, surrounded by the people of my world, I started again.

I was already happy, but then one day joy literally came knocking on my door. He was someone I’ve known my whole life, and after an old fashioned period of courtship, we submitted to our happy ending, and after 17 long years of single mothering, I got yet another fresh start.

While on my book tour, I’m frequently reminded of my own vulnerabilities. I miss my family and I can’t seem to find a fresh place to change my clothes. When I start to take myself too seriously, I remember that around every corner lurks a pack of mumbling 15-year-olds, prepared to waste me by rejection. But then I draw on the lessons learned by a long life of starting over – and I decide to keep going.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Great Site, I think your helping a lot of people cope.