Not everyone decides to follow the same path in life, and that’s okay. When many of my high school and college friends were having children and climbing the corporate ladder, I chose to explore the jungles in Mexico and crawl through abandoned silver mines in the Sierra Madre mountains. While I have no regrets, the road I chose made it difficult to make new friends: I had no parent-teacher meetings or soccer games to compare notes, and my potential gal pals couldn’t identify with being an adrenaline junkie.
Last week I saw a list on Facebook, and the instructions were to put a check mark beside the things you’ve done like had kids, been to Disneyland and sung in a choir. The list underscored how different my life has been from almost everyone I know. It also prompted me to put together a list of my own.
My list may give you an insight into why I’ve written a memoir.
First, I’ll show you the list on Facebook. The person who posted it said, “I have 40 Xs out of 59. How many do you have?”
I’ve put an X beside the ones I’ve done.
Been married X
Been divorced X
Fell in love X
Been to Radio City Music Hall
Been to Disney World
Been to Disney Land
Skipped school X
Watched someone give birth
Watched someone die X
Been to Canada X
Ridden in an ambulance X
Been to Hawaii
Been to Europe X
Been to Las Vegas X
Been to Washington DC X
Been to Texas X
Visited Florida X
Visited Mexico X
Seen the Grand Canyon in person X
Flown in a helicopter X
Been on a cruise X
Served on a jury X
Danced in the rain X
Been to California X
Been to New York X
Played in band/orchestra in school
Sang in the school choir
Laughed so much you cried X
Laughed so hard you peed X
Caught a snowflake on your tongue X
Had a pet X
Been sledding on a big hill
Been downhill skiing X
Been water skiing X
Rode on a motorcycle X
Traveled to all 50 states
Jumped out of a plane
Been to a drive-in movie X
Rode an elephant
Rode a horse X
Been on TV X
Been in the newspaper X
Been on the radio X
Stayed in the hospital X
Donated blood X
Gotten a piercing X
Gotten a tattoo
Driven a stick shift vehicle X
Been scuba diving X
Been snorkeling X
Lived on your own X
Ridden in the back of a police car X
Gotten a speeding ticket X
Broken a bone️ X
Gotten stitches X
Traveled alone X
Left to right: One of my oldest and dearest friends, me in my early 20’s, and my husband. We’d just survived looking for treasure in the mountains of Mexico. Usually minerals and crystals, but sometimes Maya artifacts. You can tell how scuffed our boots are. I still had Diana Ross hair, but here I’d pinned it up in the back.
Now here’s my personal list. I’ve done them all.
Been widowed twice X
Nearly strangled to death X
Tethered to the outside of a helicopter inflight X
Had an illegal abortion X
Saw six Dallas Cowboys naked X
Stalked for two days by the head of the Mexican FBI and his goons X
Raced Porsches for nine years X
Jumped out of a second story window X
Been alone in a room for two days with a serial killer X
Driven and fired an M-1 tank X
Had cancer X
Kidnapped in another country while traveling alone X
Good friends with a madam X
Flown in a sail plane X
Parented your parent until the day they died X
Did a cable-arrested landing and catapult takeoff from an aircraft carrier X
Traveled to another country, alone, to see the Rolling Stones X
Hacked through three-canopy jungles with a machete X
Flown in a stunt plane X
Fell 150 yards down a mountain X
Watch two men in another country put a dead body in the trunk of a car X
Watch three policemen carry a stiff dead body through an airport in another country X
Submerged to the bottom of the ocean in a nuclear submarine X
Stripped searched by Swiss customs X
Toured a Mexican prison while a prisoner masturbates in front of you X
Followed from one shopping mall to another by a man you didn’t know X
Flown an Air Force fighter jet X
Sat in front seat of super-secret SR-71 spy plane 20 minutes before it took off X
Had a wheel and tire come off the car you’re driving at 70 mph on the freeway X
Chased in two different countries by men wielding butcher knives X
Secretly ran a high-tech company in Silicon Valley X
Translated Russian and French scientific papers into English X
Had a bodyguard at two separate times in your life X
Had your BD present dropped out of an airplane, dangling from a parachute X
Trapped in the eye of a hurricane with a Mayan medicine man in his hut X
Slept under a dead squirrel that dripped blood on your forehead X
Singlehandedly did a hostile takeover of a public company in five days X
Flown on the Concorde X
Written a book X
Had sex in Albert Einstein’s closet X
And I sometimes wonder why I feel like I don’t fit in…
Looking for quartz crystals, I wandered off on my own and started feeling woozy. I took shelter out of the sun in this mineshaft but kept “greying out.” I knew my friend and my husband would never find me, so I fought hard to stay conscious and crawled out. Never made that stupid mistake again.
Don’t ask me to list the things I wish I hadn’t done, because I can’t. For starters, I don’t dwell on regrets, plus if I changed even one thing—good or bad—my life might be very different now, and I’m thankful to be here. I’m thankful to be anywhere!
I was standing inside a doorway in Mitla, Mexico. I loved how the light hit the pillars, the arches and the tiles on the floor. My original photograph was a 35mm slide I projected onto SX-70 Polaroid film and then manipulated the emulsion with tiny tools until I got the effect I wanted. I loved working with Polaroids.
Except for a small, tightknit group of friends—most people know very little about my life. If you’re long-term readers of my blog, then you know more than most. Truth be told, I haven’t included everything in the list I just gave you. Far from it. I had to save something for my memoir.
In case you’re wondering about my book, here’s a status report:
I’ve had input on my manuscript from several pairs of “fresh eyes” and a well-known NYC book editor who specializes in memoirs. She made suggestions—I’ve taken to heart—and I’ve deleted one chapter and written five more. Two weeks ago she read it again and now, over the holidays, I need to step away from blogging to work on it once more. Writing a book and a book proposal is a long tedious process, but the finish line is in sight. Hang in there with me, friends! I’ll be back. Remember… This book is for you. It’s what you asked me to write.
Are there things you wish you’d done in life? If so, what’s stopping you from doing them now?
You are a precious friend and helped me through some tough times!! I heard some of your stories firsthand and I am still amazed at the things you’ve experienced… You are my hero!! Love you so much and hope to get to see you one of these days!!!
Helping you helped me, Tammy! I was compelled by God or a force of nature… the same thing… to reach out to you, a total stranger. Funny how things like that work out. I met an awesome woman and a soul sister. I miss spending time with you sweet friend. Love, Brenda
Ohhhh… and I want to buy the first book!!!
Deal! xoxox, Brenda
We will miss you! Don’t stay away too long. Cannot wait for the book!
Thank you, Cindy! I hate to take my leave, but my brain can’t blog and write a book at the same time. Back soon! xoxox, Brenda
Most of my friends went to university for the Missus degree They all live in million dollar houses. I don’t. I retired early to take care of my parents. Own a manufactured in Bend OR. Had wonderful parents. I work 2 jobs at 67 yrs old. I feel sorry for no one. One ‘s life is what you make it. You’re fabulous.
You should be proud of yourself, Madeline. I love knowing these things about you. We have lots of time left to reach out and make life what we want it to be. Be well. Be happy. xoxox, Brenda
Cannot wait…..put me down for an advance copy….
Hello, Hilda! Love seeing you here! You’ve always been my memoir cheerleader! Thank you! xoxox, Brenda
WOW – now that’s a list! Playing in the school band pales in comparisson LOL Like you I try not to dwell on regrets. Easier said than done at 3AM. Looking forward to the book.
Nothing in our life pales in comparison to someone else’s life. OUR history is special. It’s ours and no one else’s, and we don’t know how easy or difficult life was for someone else. BTW… I’m not sure why kids who were in the band got so much grief. Do you know? Especially since we bought records of other band kids who just happened to be famous. Rock stars. Makes no sense. I had the biggest crush on a guy in the band at my high school, but he didn’t know I was alive. xoxox, Brenda
Can’t wait to read!
Thank you, Fifi! I’m having a positive attitude here… When my book is published, you’ll have to advise me about best places to publicize it in Dayton, NYC, Brooklyn and where you are now. xoxox, Brenda
When does your book come out!. never realized what a timid soul I am! I think on the first list I missed about 7 items. But the inclination just has never been there to do some of those things. So,you are impressive. Where is that BOOK!
Susan, Just because you didn’t deliberately set out to meet a serial killer doesn’t mean you’re timid. Actually I think it means you’re smarter than I am. When I’m done editing the book, I’ll start looking for an agent and a publisher. Fingers crossed I find them. xoxox, Brenda
Wow! I see a movie out of this book! Had no idea you were a pilot, or savvy silicon business woman! My hero and honored to know you! Can’t wait to read this!
You’re sweet, Joan! Actually I’m not a pilot, but I have done a lot of different things. I rode in the Air Force fighter jet and was able to get up close and personal with the SR-71 and their pilots when I was writing for Southwest Airlines magazine. I’m eager to get my book out and learn your reaction to it. Thanks! xoxo, Brenda
Oh my gosh – I can’t wait to read your book!!!!! It sounds like you are living a wonderful life!!!!! xoxo
Thank you, Susan! I appreciate you!! This is the quietest, least dramatic period in my life, and had Covid not been on the scene, I probably would have resurrected the adrenaline junkie in me. xoxox, Brenda
Long time follower, first time posting.
Girl crush and YES PLEASE book (very excited to read!!!).
SherryLee, I’m thrilled to meet you and know you’ve been reading my blog! Thank you. I appreciate you more than you know. Girl crush… Blushing here… Thank you. Working as fast as I can on the book. Please leave me a comment again. xoxox, Brenda
I certainly hope you include a great many ‘X’s on your list in your book(s). I see at least a trilogy, or it will be too heavy to carry to the bathroom! Just kidding; can hardly contain my anticipation regarding your memoir. Break a… finger?
You’re funny, Mark. Thank you! Over half of these won’t be in this book (I am planning on writing another one). My challenge has been to narrow down the scope of my memoir and only write about those events, so lots of exciting and shocking things aren’t in there. I think it will still hold your interest. There are things I haven’t mentioned to anyone. Thanks so much, Brenda
Girl crush! Bad ass Supreme! Your list rocks me back on my heels. You’ve alluded to some of these in your blogs but girl……. I’m at a loss for words and that never happens! Yes… I want your book. Thank you for the courage and inspiration you’ve given me over the last few years. You make me see myself in a different way. Xo Barb
You’re a love, Barb! Thank you! Girl crush and bad ass Supreme! LOL! You make me see myself in a different way as well. For most of my life, these things were my normal, but writing about some of them in my blog has been very liberating. Most things I kept secret because I’m not sure most people believed me when I mentioned some of them. xoxox, Brenda
That FB list is a safe, boring, unadventurous list. Yuck.
Your list is mind-blowing! Of course you wouldn’t feel like you “fit in,” but, why would you want to? You’re a stand-out, lead-the-way woman! I cannot wait to read your book!
Long live courageous women!
No, Donna! The first Facebook list is a life well-lived. A well rounded life. A life most of us strive to have. I didn’t set out to live on the edge. It was like knocking over the first domino. After that, the others just followed. Doing one scary thing begat another and another, plus I was trying to impress my husband who was older. In many ways, I was his domino. He’d push on me and then stand back and watch. Thanks for your continued support. Love, Brenda
Brenda, you do fit in with me! My list seems ordinary and average compared with your list. People would doze- off reading my book. The Polaroid photo is a beauty.
No! I didn’t want to make anyone feel like their life was ordinary and average. In my message to Donna, I said, the first Facebook list is representative of a life well-lived. One we all hoped to life, but so many of us aren’t able to do even a fraction of the things on that list. I’m like a freak of nature. You couldn’t pay most people to live through what I have. It’s been exciting! You have no idea! It’s also taken its toll and been difficult. I’m glad you like my Polaroid. xoxox, Brenda
My first read through YOUR list made me so anxious for your book and the second read made me think as much as we thought we had in common when we’ve emailed, I am now realizing I pale in comparison. Cannot wait like all your lovely followers for the book, and then the movie. Be well, pace yourself, we will be waiting.
No one pales in comparison to someone else. We’re just different and our experiences, no matter how tame they may seem to someone else, may take all of the courage we have to get through them. How is your Annie? Mine is recovering from a torn ACL surgery. xoxox, Brenda
Fascinating list! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for years so I’m REALLY looking forward to your book!
Hi Sally! I always love it when I see your name here! You’ve been a reader for a longtime, and I thank you for that, and for the support you’ve given me about my book. Blessings! xoxox, Brenda
46 from your first list and a few, sadly, from your second one. Glad to have found you and will be following. THANK YOU.
Hi Carol, I’m sorry you’ve experienced a few of the not fun things from my list. That’s not good. I think I can imagine which ones. I’m happy you found me as well and I’m looking forward to hearing from you again and getting to know you. You already know there’s nothing I won’t talk about. Feel free to email me anytime. [email protected] Sending you my best wishes, Brenda
We will all be here when you are ready! Can’t wait to read the book.
Thank you, Deborah! I can’t wait to get back to all of you. Writing to you every week fills a much needed gap in my life. I feel like I’m saying things that are of help to some of you, and that’s a blessing… for both of us. xoxox, Brenda
I MISSED 14 on the FIRST LIST and I AM NOT GOING TO COUNT HOW MANY I MISSED ON YOURS!!!!!!!!!!
I HAVE DONE ENOUGH AND SEEN MORE THAN ENOUGH.
YOU GO GIRL………WRITE AWAY…………….SOUNDS LIKE POSITIVE FEEDBACK!!
That’s great news, Elizabeth! I’d say you’ve lived a blessed life, and not done too many really stupid things. And from here on out, what ever you do, resist any late urges to become an adrenaline junkie. There are no 12-step programs for that. xoxox, Brenda
Always a pleasure to read your posts! You’re amazing! Can’t wait to read your book. Keep up the good work, rest and be well!
Thank you, Yvonne! You make my heart smile:) Blessings. xoxox, Brenda
OMG! Your memoir will be amazing! Glad you survived all that.
Thank you Rebecca! I’m glad as well. xoxox, Brenda