My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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A Girl’s Story, Stolen Focus, a gratitude letter

Recently, because of the hoo-ha around looking for a new doctor, I thought back to our first family doctor in Toronto when we rented a house in Riverdale; she worked at a clinic on the Danforth and I liked her a lot. Though when we moved to this house we switched to a local clinic, I turned to this doctor when my marriage was falling apart a few years later and asked her to recommend a shrink or counsellor. She gave me the name of a Dr. O’Neil and told me, “You’ll like her. She’s fast.”

Remembering her words made me laugh, as I lay on Dr. O’Neil’s couch four times a week for four years and continued consulting her irregularly for decades. Not so fast after all! But extremely effective – a wonderful doctor who helped me survive a tumultuous time and figure myself out, my past, my parents, my ex.

I thought, I should thank that doctor. Googled – oh, the miracles of modern tech. She’s now living in rural Ontario; there was an address. So I sent her a letter, saying of course she wouldn’t remember me, but I wanted to thank her for giving me a name that changed my life immeasurably for the better. 

Only a few days later, I got this email: It was wonderful to hear from you. Such a thoughtful thing to do. I remember you quite well. I wish you’d been a friend instead of a patient. I see you’ve gone on to do such interesting things.   

I left Toronto in 2003 to work in a rural area.  I’m sitting in my cozy farm house in my little town watching the snow come down today. Different places – different spaces.

So kind of you to remember the tiny input I had to your life. It would be fun to see you if you are ever by this way. Let me know.

Beth – thank you.  

There’s a new friend out there. Hope we connect. Always take time for gratitude. 

I’m reading a phenomenal book that also might be life-changing — Stolen Focus: why you can’t pay attention – and how to think deeply again, by Johann Hari. I saw him interviewed and immediately ordered the book from the library. It’s wonderfully written, vivid and engaging, but with a vitally important message about how social media is colonizing our brains in many ways. I’m only a third of the way through and am riveted. Will report when I’ve finished. 

Just finished Nobel winner Annie Ernaux’s A Girl’s Story. She writes with excoriating honesty and clarity about her 17-year-old self, a sheltered convent girl arriving as a counsellor at a camp, subjected to a degrading sexual assault she not only allows willingly but is desperate to repeat. Reading it brought me back to several episodes from my own youth that I’ve consigned to the junk-heap of memory – frantic obsessions on the least likely candidates, abysmal insecurity and yet loud showing off, oh God, she brings it all to the fore. Gripping writing so candid, it makes a reader uncomfortable — unlike anything I’ve read before. 

Helena Bonham Carter, asked in a recent interview about her “issues,” replied, I’ve got so many issues, but as you get older you go: “Whatever.” The curse of being young is you take your complexes too seriously. Or you take your opinion of yourself too seriously. As soon as you’re older, you tell the demons to shut up because they’re boring.

Absolutely. Whatever. Shut up, YOU’RE BORING! 

A quiet Sunday ahead – snow is falling. Tiggy is sleeping nearby. I’ll dance with Nicky and gang at 10, finish this draft of the essay book, clean up my office, edit student work, cook with Eleanor at 3, and sit by the fire to watch PBS at 9. Touchstones. 

Grateful. 

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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