Marion Roach Smith is the author of “The Memoir Project,” one of the best books I’ve read on the subject. I’ve started reading her website, too — it’s incredibly helpful if you’re a writer — and one of her blogs was entitled something like “Ten things I learned about memoir writing in 2017.” I thought it was a great idea, and it made me think about what I’d learned about memoir writing, too. Then it made me think about what else I might have learned that had nothing to do with writing. Looking back, here’s a few things 2017 taught me to do: [Read more…] about Three Things I Learned in 2017
Thirty years ago, on January 6, 1987, I hopped a plane, left my hometown of Tampa, and moved to New York. I had no job and I’d never met my roommates, but to me the risk was worth it — I wanted to do something exciting. I also wanted my long-distance boyfriend who lived in NYC to marry me and I thought proximity might move things along. [Read more…] about On Having an Epiphany
On September 4, my husband, Eric Masterson, and I celebrated our 18-year wedding anniversary. Two days later, he headed out on a six-month bike trek to follow the migratory path of the broad winged hawk from New Hampshire to South America, a journey that will cross 5 time zones, 40 degrees of latitude, and 5,000 miles — research for his next book. For some reason, I’m oddly calm about the whole thing.
Letting Go of the Known
Eric’s been thinking about this trip for more than four years. During that time, I tried to not-so-subtly steer him towards book projects that kept him closer to home and closer to me, in the delusion that proximity to me would keep him safe (did I mention I’m all powerful?) and the misconception that living together at all times was what married people did. We were already challenging that last idea — I’d begun spending several months away from home in Nashville working on my own creative endeavors and our marriage was surviving just fine, if not flourishing in a new way. Eric’s proposed trip, however, had a large element of physical risk. I am not good with physical risk. I also have some control issues.
One day, Eric looked at me and said, “Tricia, I know you worry about me being dead on the side of road in Guatemala, but if I don’t do this, it’s death by a thousand cuts.”
And that logic, if that’s what it is, I completely understood. I wrote and performed an 80-minute one-woman show, How to Draw a Nekkid Man, based on that very premise. In fact, the exact line in my show is, “I knew if I did this consulting work for much longer I was going to die. Slowly, but I was going to die.” Right after that line (and in real life), I left everything I knew and moved to Ireland to become an artist. From that perspective, a 5,000-mile solo bike trek to South America made perfect sense to me.
A dear friend once summed up both of us: “Neither one of you breeds well in captivity.” He was right. So after 18 years of marriage, we are finally figuring out that the best thing we can do for ourselves and our marriage is to give each other the freedom and space to grow, whatever that may look like. For now, while Eric’s cycling to South America, I’ll be back in Nashville working on my own creative projects. I’ll also be serving as mission control for Eric’s journey and peddling with him in spirit (goodness knows I don’t want to actually peddle. I’m more of a support vehicle kind of girl). As our friend Jack said to me, “Eric may be riding the bike, but you’re on the phantom tandem seat.”
Guardians of Our Solitude
Just last week, a good friend sent me some writing about marriage by the poet Rilke — something to strive for indeed.
The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.
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As most of you know, I’m married to an expert birder, Eric Masterson. This can have its comic moments (for instance, bats given sanctuary in our home) and its poignant moments as well, where my husband helps me realize just how resilient but fragile these beautiful winged creatures are, particularly during migratory season. His most recent newspaper column was so important, I wanted to share it with you. The article starts out sad, but ends with action we can all take to make a difference.
Most of the time, having an expert birder for a husband is a really wonderful thing. I often say I am a birdwatcher by marriage, and after 15 years of living with Eric Masterson, even I can (sort of) identify the backyard birds that flock to our feeder. But Eric, author of Birdwatching in New Hampshire, knows the stories that come with them — whether the birds reside in NH year round, or if they’re just refueling on a migratory route spanning thousands of miles. One fall night, Eric said to me, “Tricia, come outside. You can hear the birds migrating.” Knowing his hearing is downright otherworldly, I said, “No, honey, YOU can hear the birds migrating.” [Read more…] about So I Married A Birder