Monday, November 12, 2007

My Self-Interview

As I've said before, a self-interview can be a good way to begin writing. When Nathaniel Briggs, founder of the eGenerations web site, for which I an a columnist, came up with six questions for members to use when interviewing themselves or other members, I decided to try them out. Here is what I wrote for my eGenerations journal in August, 2007:

When I was a teacher, I often suggested that other teachers should try out their own assignments. Few accepted that suggestion, and I can't say that I've always followed it myself, but right here and now, I'm about to try it. Actually, I'm trying out a suggestion made by the esteemed editor of this web site. He proposed that members interview each other on eGenerations as a way to get everybody writing. I'm all for that, although I've taken a more casual, less formal approach.

I've interviewed others in my journal, and most of you have already read more about me than you want to know, but here goes: I'm interviewing myself to test out the eidtor's six suggested questions. I could write volumes on some of them, but I'll try to keep it relatively short. And I assume that most of you would choose from among the questions rather than try to answer all of them.

1. What's your most challenging life experience?

My most challenging experience involved dealing with the final illness and death of my beloved husband, Jules, in 2000. He was a wonderful, active, healthy, gregarious 70-year-old who still rode a motorcycle and enjoyed life. Then he became ill, and his pancreatic cancer was diagnosed in late 1999. There was no hope, no effective treatment, no cure, and to make matters worse, he had seen his younger brother die of the same terrible disease a few years earlier and vowed not to endure aggressive treatment. He didn't.

I had retired only a few months before he became ill, and this seemed to be the end of our rather fortunate life together--and my own life, too. I have no nursing skills and was an inept caregiver, no matter how hard I tried. The disease ran its course; he had hospice help, and eventually died in late March, 2000, in a hospital because I couldn't handle him either physically or mentally.

I didn't really hit bottom until about five years later, when I finally realized that I needed to do something with my life. I began, or in a sense resurrected, my writing career, and "the rest, as they say, is history."

2. If you could re-do something in your life, what would it be?

I would change very little about my life. I might have tried harder to make more friends, but being a loner came naturally, and I've dealt with it. I would have skipped my first marriage; there was nothing wrong with my first husband except the dullness I perceived in him, so we parted, fortunately with no children to be affected by our divorce. Of course the real problem was with me, not with him. The marriage was simply a mistake.

I might have tried to do more writing earlier in life, but my work ethic told me to have a career and always remain self-supporting (hard for a writer to do), so my choice was right for me. Yes, I've made some mistakes, but I have accepted myself for who I am, flaws and all.

3. Have you done any traveling? If so, where?

My answer is yes, I've traveled virtually everywhere. I succeeded in visiting the last two in my quest to visit all seven continents, South America and Antarctica, in 2005. I visited Ireland earlier this year, but travel is getting harder for my arthritic knees. I'm glad I had a wonderful travel companion until 2000, and that we didn't wait for retirement to travel. We began in 1974, and I'd begun earlier than that. Some of my travels are recounted in my book. I wish I'd known more languages (I'm fluent only in English) and been able to communicate better.

4. What life lesson have you learned that is most important to you?

I've learned many lessons, but perhaps the most important is tolerance of others and their abilities, flaws, and ideas. I grew up in an all-white, mainly Christian rural environment, but when I finally encountered diversity, I embraced it.

5. What's your favorite passtime?

Of course it's writing. I write for the joy of it, not for money. I admit that I get a thrill from seeing my name and my words in print and on line, and I don't think I'm overly egotistical. It's hard to explain. I also enjoy reading, opera, theater, and travel. I sometimes enjoy just sitting in my recliner thinking--and I always have a pen and paper nearby. My body may not be very active, but my mind certainly is!

6. What "odd" thing about you don't most people know?

I'm not sure what people know about me now, but I suspect that some don't know that while I'm a loner, I'm basically shy rather than egotistical. I'll never be a "social butterfly," but that's o.k. with me. People may not know that I've survived breast cancer and a broken pelvis, as well as a broken leg and a broken arm. Life hasn't always been easy. A few of my older friends don't even know that I'm a blogger! I hope everyone knows that I'm fine now.

An afterthought: I guess many may not know that this stodgy old professor has toured the U.S. and Europe on the back of her husband's BMW motorcycles. We traveled through the Alps four times, and our final foreign trip by motorcycle was our fascinating trip to Russia in 1990 (see the photo above).

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Photo from the author's collection



storyteller said...

Seems to me that you're neither old nor stodgy! Love the photo and enjoyed reading your answers to these five excellent questions. Perhaps some day I'll make time to answer them for myself, but now ... Molly woofs impatiently. She's waited long enough and it's time to walk to Dog Beach where she can run to her hearts content, play in and out of the surf, chase birds and other fur-friends, and fetch & retrieve her beloved tennis ball greater and greater distances with the help of that "Chuckit" toy!

Jerry Waxler said...


This is a great idea to try your own assignment. Thanks so much for doing the exercise and sharing it. Life writing is for everyone, including life writing teachers! When I give assignments in my workshops, while I'm waiting for students to do their part, I write out an answer myself. I always learn from it, and it keeps me energized and in tune with my students.

Jerry Waxler
Memory Writers Network