In June, my family and I spent a luxurious week at the Paradise Village Resort in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, a much-anticipated and saved-for vacation. Our sunrise patio overlooked the yacht harbor. Our sunset dinners gave us a view of a Pacific expanse of purple skies, jagged mountain peaks, and a quiet surf. We sang along with the Mariachi band on Fiesta night and drank tequila out of little silly cups the resort staff hung around our necks on strings. We zip-lined over canyons, hiked in the rain forest, and swam in a cool stream famous for- of all things- being the set for the movie "Predator". My eight-year-old, with her hair done up in tight cornrows braided by an elderly Mexican woman on the beach, swam with me in the resort pool on our last day there, smiled broadly, and said "Mommy, this is THE LIFE."
In March I spent two weeks travelling in Ghana, West Africa for my work with Touch A Life Foundation. The capital city, Accra, teems with people; legless men sitting on modified skateboards dart through traffic, begging for cedis, the Ghanaian currency. Women carry baskets full of fresh bread, or bags of water, or shrimp, or hard-boiled eggs; they carry everything perched high on their heads in a Carmen Miranda-esque balancing act of both grace and danger. Their babies are tied to their backs with long swaths of fabric, safely sleeping, suspended there, legs wrapped around and feet pointing forward. People. Color. Sound. Everywhere. Everything smells, whether it's the sweet stickiness of body odor, the bursting blooms from the garden, old garbage, fufu cooking over an open flame, or the stench of open sewage. I work with children rescued from human trafficking -- kids who tackle me with hot and dirty hands and hugs and love every time they see me. I look around and say: "Wow. This is REAL LIFE."
In Texas, I have two dogs and a cat. I live in a neigh-
borhood of families who move silently in and out of their homes, and anything I could possibly want to purchase is within a five mile radius of my house. I have a husband who is crazy about World Cup soccer, the Tour de France, his children, and cooking (not necessarily in that order). My daughters do well in school, love to sing, play guitar, and play sports. I work full time (always have) and at night, when everything is quiet, I sit by myself, curled in a chair with my laptop, and I write. "Hmmm," I think to myself, "This is MY LIFE."
And it's all the same life. Writing is like this life too, whether it's an escape into a luxurious world we're not so sure we belong to, or something far-flung and foreign, or something comfortable and familiar. We can write about things we know, places we've been, and sunsets we've seen.
The important part is to connect -- to find the familiar, to write something that might mean something to someone. By writing this little blog, maybe you see my sunset in your mind's eye. You smell the streets of Accra with me, and you see me sitting here right now, in my quiet home, writing in the dark. We connect, ever so briefly, and share something together, without even knowing one another.
So pick your life, the one you live, and pick the one you write. Have your heroine swept away by that beautiful Mexican cabana boy or the handsome yet lonely stranger who owns the yacht in the harbor. Tell the stories of the scars on the bodies of the little boys rescued from slavery on the waters of Lake Volta, fall in love with a child who calls you "Ma" and leaves grubby smudges on your already sweat-stained clothes. Or write about the heartaches that go on inside every home on every street in America, where the hero lavishes himself with excess and still can't figure out exactly what he is missing in his life, because he already has everything that money can buy.
Just write. Write it all down and connect your story with mine. I'll connect mine, hopefully, with you. Choose your life and choose your story; just keep writing.