By Marianne Delorey Ph.D.
Mother Teresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” And so, I have found one way to make my world better. I write. I did not always fancy myself a writer. My true love is elder care, and it is here that I have made my living. But several years ago, the Fifty Plus Advocate asked me to write a piece about affordable housing. I did. Then I wrote another. At first, it was the painstaking work harking back to English class in high school. It took me hours to come up with a topic. Once I had a topic, I had to actually write. This was like pulling teeth. I wrote about the elderly and affordable housing. I wrote about facts and how the elder housing world worked. Most of what I wrote was an effort to prove myself an expert – I quoted sources and piled facts on top of one another.
Over time, I developed my voice. I started speaking about the people more so than the programs. I talked about the elders I met and surprisingly, I talked about myself. I explained why I love working with the elderly. I talked about people who had impacted me on a personal level. I started seeing my writing as a way to make an impact. I write about the need to help those who are less fortunate. I write about the need for affordable housing and other social justice needs. I write about the elderly, especially MY elders. I write about their value to me and to our world. I write so people can see their beautiful souls through my eyes. I write so THEY understand their beauty, too.
I did not think that people cared about what I had to say, but I did start getting comments, mainly from the elders I served, but occasionally from complete strangers. The phone calls, the emails, and the actual letters showed that what I wrote actually struck a chord. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and I started seeing myself as a writer. People enjoyed reading what I wrote, and every once in a while, they found understanding in my words.
Another transition is happening now, and one I did not expect. Now, I am writing for myself. I am documenting more than the stories of the elders; I am documenting my life and the impact they have on me. I have pages of love and grief, heartbreak and gratitude that have become a memoir. I used to wonder (and still sometimes do) what people want me to write about, how to connect with my audience. Over the years, I have started to write to document the road I travel and invite people to share my journey rather than try to pull them along.
But yet, the audience is still a significant part of why I write. I wasn’t clear on how this worked until I recently read a quote by Maya Angelou that perfectly sums it up: “I do my best because I am counting on you counting on me.”
Thank you for sharing my journey, thank you for being part of why I write. Thank you for reading.