Morning everyone! Today we have a new-to-me author with us here at Women and Words. Marilyn Berman dropped in to tell us about her book, Travelling the Two-Lane.
Good insights here, folks.
Enjoy the read!
When I began writing Traveling the Two-Lane it was out of fear, fear I’d lived with my entire life. Much of this fear was due to my sexuality. I know, personally, the despair that hiding in the closet can cause. I lived knee deep in fear that my family or friends would discover my untold truth for decades. Though the world has become more accepting of homosexuality, many people still try to live the life others expect of them, and many children and teenagers agonize over being honest with themselves and others. I shared in this agony.
As a sixty-three-year-old woman traveling North America in a tiny van, my motivation for writing came from an intense desire to show that anyone could overcome their fears and anxiety of risk and failure. When you’re on the road alone for eighteen months, you begin to notice a striking juxtaposition in the collection of people and places you encounter. It is both terrifying and freeing; it makes you reexamine your world and yourself.
Once I was able to face that fear head on, I was free from that anxiety. That was the most valuable lesson I learned during my journey–how to be calm. During all of my years living in secret, I hadn’t realized how much of an anxious person I had become. As I traveled, though, I didn’t make an itinerary or a plan. I was able to stop where I wanted and when I wanted and take in the beauty of the world around me. I was able to say, “I’m going to relax now.” My journey taught me how to live a calmer life. I was able to come to terms with my past doubts and failures on my North American journey. My hope was, and still is, that my story can help others on their path to acceptance.
I’m twelve years old. It’s 1957, I’m with friends and we’re riding our bikes. Mickey refers to an absent friend as “queer.” I ask, “What’s a queer?” He tells me, sneering and laughing: “Boys who like boys or girls who like girls.” My breathing stops in mid-cycle; my eyes open wide and stick there. I think, Oh my God, I will never love a boy; I will never live like other people.
I have never considered this before. Now I have a name for it. I know now I’m queer. My easy childhood is over . . .
I remembered that long-ago bike ride, how the muscles in my chest and stomach tightened as if I were wearing my wide cinch-belt too tight. In the months that followed, shallow breathing and tight muscles became natural. Mental anxiety wrapped tentacles around my throat and body where they remained for more than half a century.
For the next decade, I lived one life, the queer one, in my head and the straight life in the real world. The only open homosexuals were, to our eyes, flamboyant: women who swaggered and looked like tough men, and men whose hips swayed as they walked. Gay pride—not to be born for several decades—was just a gleam in their eyes.
Alone at night, I relaxed only when sleeping, terrified my parents would discover my mortifying secret: I was a freak.
Years later, longing for calm, I studied relaxation techniques and explored new modes of thought: existentialism, Taoism, Native American philosophy. These were intellectually satisfying and led to lively discussions with like-minded friends, but the knowledge never traveled from my brain down the nerves to my muscles. I was unable to translate mental truths to physical reality.
I learned to relax temporarily—anxious or angry thoughts always returned. New upsets joined old, one after the other, like bugs drawn to an adhesive strip, refusing to die, sticking to me, wriggling and squirming.
Marilyn Berman received her PhD in Communication Disorders from the University of Michigan. She was a faculty member at Indiana University before accepting a position as Supervisor of Speech Language Pathology at the VA Medical Center in Atlanta and, later, Chief, Audiology and Speech Language Pathology. She also taught part time at Emory University and Georgia State. After her retirement, she was the first director of a Jewish-sponsored help center for the LGBT community.
Her website is www.travelingthetwolane.com. Her book is also available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Traveling-Two-Lane-Travelogue-Marilyn-Berman/dp/1610055586/, Barnes & Noble at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/traveling-the-two-lane-marilyn-berman/1121408131?ean=9781610055581 and BookLogix (her publisher) at http://shop.booklogix.com/Traveling-the-Two-Lane-5586.htm. Her twitter is @twolanetravel.