Please Make A Decision For Me

When I started this blog I had the idea that I wanted to write a book but needed to start with smaller writing projects. Snowbird of Paradise has been a good place for me to gain some writing practice, and I find that I like writing blog-size pieces about my life.

Foothills Hospital, Calgary via Wikimedia Commons

The book I wanted to write was about my husband’s illness. Geoff first became ill in November 1998 and he went through a couple of misdiagnoses before eventually being notified he had Thymoma. Then he went through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. He was ill for nearly eight years before he died, and in that time our two children grew through their teenage years and left home.

I was his primary caregiver and, aside from a few weeks’ leave of absence, I continued to work full time. Even though Geoff tried hard not to cause any more trouble than necessary, it was a very difficult time for all of us. There were times when we were not our best selves.

We were facing ongoing interactions with the medical world, many of which were bewildering and confusing, so I kept lots of notes. I also did a bit of research in the library and online. I wanted to be able to report back to family in the U.K. and to talk things over with Geoff and our children, and I wanted to get the facts straight.

I also wanted Geoff to keep in touch with his Dad and sisters, so I kept a lot of the emails that went back and forth. At key times in the process, Geoff received lots of cards and letters of goodwill, and I kept those, too.

After Geoff died in September 2006, I couldn’t bring myself to throw all those things away, so I put them in a box. Later, I thought the material would be a good foundation for a book, and the book would be a good way for me to get through what was, effectively, post-traumatic stress. I thought that if I wrote about the experiences, feelings, and difficulties, I could put it all behind me.

It is now almost twenty years since Geoff first became ill, and I still have that box of related documents. It’s in my furnace room on a shelf, waiting for me to do something with it. The trouble is that so much time has passed I don’t know if I can’t accurately remember how it all evolved. I also don’t know if I want to dredge up all those feelings.

On the other hand, it might be cathartic. It might even, in the best case scenario, be a book that would be helpful to other caregivers.

Today, I thought I would bring that box out and just shred everything. I wouldn’t read any of it. Just shred it all. If I stopped to read any of it before shredding I would only be upsetting myself to no purpose. But, I didn’t get the box out from the furnace room. I’m still conflicted about it all.

So, I’m leaving it up to you, dear reader. Here is a simple poll asking you what you think I should do. Thank you for giving this some thought.



  1. When you look at that box, what emotion does it bring up? Does it bring up curiosity or dread or sadness, or anger, or fill-in-the-blank? Losing my business of 23 years that we poured our hearts and souls into created a greaving process when it was over. The following weekend we had the historic Nashville flood which did fill our basement but not enough to destroy all of our paperwork. Lee suggested we use the damp paperwork as an excuse to dump it all, but I was still attached. It was still a part of who I thought I was, I wasn’t ready right then, and was sure something in there might be important to see again, to remember. But after a short time, I let Lee dispose of it all and I honestly do not miss it and never did. I hid my unacknowledged grief and I moved on. A couple of years later when I kept self-sabotaging any business endeavor I began I sought help, and I learned that my greaving needed to be allowed, etc. In my case, and I know full well that my loss was not comparable to yours other than it was a loss with boxes of paper memories which carried some PTSD. Anyway, in my case getting rid of the paperwork was a good thing, a weight and reminder lifted. I’m now left with some photos that bring back pleasant memories. The emotion I felt looking at those boxes was guilt and shame and no help at all in overcoming. I didn’t want to write a book, but I did want to document the story of it all, but now I want to write a different story, moving forward and not looking back.

    • Your opening question is a good one, Sally. My first reaction (which may be different an hour from now) is that my feelings when I look at that box are mostly guilt and regret, with a lot of other feelings thrown in.

      I had not realized that you experienced a flood within a week of losing your business! Oh, Sally, how awful. I’m glad you and Lee were able to work together through all of that.

      I like what you say about now wanting to write a different story. I’m going to think on that for a while. Thank you for your insight.

  2. I would never presume to advise another on such an intimate and important matter, but I think Sally’s response above is full of practicality and wisdom. The fact that you’re thinking about this box means you’re ready to either face it full-on or let it go. Give it time and listen to your gut, and I hope the path will reveal itself to you.

  3. Oh Anne, you still have this box even though you have moved house several times since all this happened. Think about what is in the box. Sadness, anger, frustration, guilt. Why oh why would you want to keep all that? If that were my box, you would be the first to say, start shredding! I do think you have a book inside your head, but this is not the one. Remember how you got rid of the ugly blue chair… time to do the same thing with the box.

    • Oh, wow. I had forgotten about the chair!

      Actualy, as I was writing the poll I could hear you in the back of my head saying “I’m going to come over there and burn it all.” I think you actually said something like that to me years ago.

  4. I think writing about the past can inform how you are doing in the present. If there is still grieving to face, writing can expose that, and provide opportunities for further healing. I think the story would be different after 20 years, and I think that’s fine. I have read 3 memoirs by women in their 30’s. I think their stories will sound different when they are in their 50’s because distance brings perspective changes.
    But, if you are not sure what to do, to me it’s because it isn’t time to take action. I agree with those who say to trust your intuition, your gut, your heart, whatever you listen to. (Even though it’s now okay, I still hesitate to end a sentence with a preposition.)

    • Thanks, Lorna. I don’t know what I’m afraid of but I’m still hesitating. If I do ever write about that time I will need help from those old documents because my memory is getting progressively worse as I age. Maybe I should just make it all up and call it fiction!

      • lol!!! That’s certainly an option! I have written some memories of childhood and shared them with my sibs. They all say I have a great memory, but they also help me sort out my inaccuracies. I think the facts are sometimes less important than the relationships and the essence of an event. Perhaps the facts provide a context, a bouncing off place, but are not the point of a story?

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