From Sorting the Pieces of Your Life
A Woman’s Guide to Simplicity, Order, Renewal, and Trust
Hello Dear Friends!
This is the last chapter of my latest book, Sorting the Pieces of Your Life. From here on out I will be doing weekly articles on the general theme of this website — creating a life you love.
For the past 19 weeks we have been exploring how to clean out our closets and clean out our hearts!
We have talked about how physical chaos in our outer world is symbolic of unaddressed emotional chaos inhabiting our inner world.
Today, I share with you my back story as I have been writing this book for the past 20 weeks. I had no idea what would happen in my own life as each chapter has unfolded since January.
I couldn’t have been more astonished by the opportunities that arrived for me to emotionally sort the pieces of my own life. I have been revisiting a sobering experience I had nearly four decades ago which became both a blessing and a burden for the rest of my life.
It was 1976. I lived in Utah where I had just graduated from college with a degree in journalism and communications, and had started my first job as a reporter. Gas was 25 cents a gallon. Fleetwood Mac; Earth, Wind, and Fire; and disco were playing on the radio.
The most important news story of that year was the senseless murders of two young fathers in Provo, Utah, who were shot by an ex-convict named Gary Gilmore. He was quickly found guilty and then was given the death sentence. He chose not to appeal. An execution date was set for death by firing squad.
Just a few months before the murders of Bennie Bushnell and Max Jensen, The United States Supreme Court over-turned a 10-year moratorium on capital punishment. In January of 1977, Gilmore would be the first man executed in the United States in a decade.
While covering Gilmore’s arraignment, I met his girlfriend. Later, when media from around the world had descended on Salt Lake City to cover the story, I was the one she chose to give an interview. Gilmore was on death row and she was seeing him there every day. She was the only one who could answer the questions that plagued both the media and the public: Why had he committed the murders? Why wasn’t he appealing his sentence?
She gave me access to over 1,000 pages of a letters Gilmore had written her from Death Row, and a scrapbook full of his artwork. She also confessed to me that he had talked her into a suicide pact with him. (See 1/28/2013, Chapter 6, www.creatingalifeyoulove.net/we-are-all-creative)
When my stories came out they were carried in newspapers worldwide. My life changed. I was interviewed by the media, was approached by a major publishing company about writing a book, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
I also spent the night at The Utah State Prison, along with reporters from all over the world, to cover Gilmore’s execution.
What does all of this have to do with sorting the pieces of my life?
It wasn’t until the past few years that I fully began to understand how deeply affected and even a little traumatized I had been as a 22-year-old reporter covering this story. My own childhood trauma was activated by it and new layers were added. I have never told another living soul some of the things I read in Gilmore’s letters.
I spent two years exploring this experience and time in my life in a weekly consciousness-raising group. I ended my time in the group last November, with a resolve to write the book I have never written about covering the Gilmore story. For me it was a way to sort through what happened; expand my awareness; and gain clarity about how I lost, gained, and misused personal power during that time.
And then, one Monday morning this last March, I received a phone call from Lawrence Schiller, a famous producer and photographer, who bought the rights to Gilmore’s story. He produced the movie, The Executioner’s Song, (starring Tommy Lee Jones) and hired Norman Mailer to write the book of the same name, which became a best-seller and Pulitzer Prize winner. (I was interviewed by Mailer several times for the book.)
I had met and become friends with Larry during my time as a young reporter when he arrived in Utah from Los Angeles to meet with Gilmore and the other parties in the story. We hadn’t talked in 38 years. I couldn’t imagine why he was calling me.
It turned out that as part of a Norman Mailer Center writer’s colony at the University of Utah this summer, Schiller is hosting a journalists’ panel of reporters who covered the Gilmore story. Gilmore���s lone surviving attorney will also be on the panel. He wanted to know if I would be on the panel.
I accepted his offer and asked him if he knew where Gilmore’s former girlfriend was. She and I had developed an important relationship during the time I was interviewing her. I had been looking for her, without success, for years.
A week later I received her phone number and e-mail address in a message. She said she wanted to reconnect with me too. I hung my head and wept. The next day I traveled to meet her. The years hadn’t diminished our connection. The minute we saw each other we embraced, our eyes filling with tears. I realized why I had been so desperately seeking her. I needed to know if she was alright and I needed to know that everything was fine between us. I had made some mistakes with her in how I handled the story. She is doing very well in her life. Our relationship has deepened.
The journalists’ panel gives me an amazing opportunity to interview other people who covered the Gilmore story and a second chance to do some things differently than I did all those years ago.
Yes, I have been doing the physical sorting too as I have been writing—cleaning out closets and drawers and reorganizing. Releasing things I have clung to has made my life easier and created a stronger desire to live more simply.
But the emotional sorting is another story. As my history from my twenties has been re- activated, I have found myself delving anew into the ego-identity this part of my life created.
I have been exploring how I can more fully integrate parts of the life I lived then into the life I live now.
I am asking, what lingers that can be left behind? What is still alive in me that needs to die? What parts of myself have I cloaked that await new life?
These are questions for us all to examine about our lives.
With the principle of order we have wondered:
How do we allow chaos into our lives—emotionally, physically, and with our time commitments?
How do we bring order into our lives?
And what would it look like to be more centered even in the midst of chaos?
Considering renewal we have looked at:
What holds us back in life?
What emotional obstacles are still in our way?
What needs to be reclaimed?
These are all questions I have and am considering. As I have sought to be the teacher with these concepts, life has taught me that I am ever the student. I am finding my own way toward simplicity, order, renewal, and trust.
The journalists panel will be at 9:15 pm at the SLC Main Library, 210 E. 400 S. Salt Lake City, 84111, UT on Friday July 18th. It will be preceded by a showing of The Executioner’s Song at 7 p.m. If you are in the area please feel free to attend. I would love to meet you!